The Storm

    Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters in my fan fic!


    Chapter Nine

    “Colin!” Greta exclaimed happily until she saw his expression. She stepped back from the doorway in trepidation. She was extremely nervous about conversing with him. He looked absolutely furious. In her nervousness about this meeting, Greta completely overlooked the fact that Colin was carrying a rolled-up tabloid.

    “Princess Greta,” Colin spat at her as he brushed by her into Greta’s hallway. He bowed disrespectfully to her as he closed the door. “I congratulate you, I really do,” Colin continued mockingly as Greta stared at him with mute shock. “You certainly played me for a fool. Another Brady downed by a DiMera.”

    “No,” Greta denied heatedly as she realized the full extent of Colin’s anger, “it wasn’t like that! Colin, I…”

    Colin angrily interrupted her as he laughed harshly. “You can make all the excuses you want, but the truth remains. You knew you were that man’s daughter! And you kept it from me!”

    Greta tried to validate her reasons for keeping her father’s identity a secret. “Knowing I am Stefano DiMera’s daughter is tough. I haven’t been able to come to terms with it myself! How could I expect you to?”

    “Instead you merely hid that little bit of information from me! F@ck, if I had known this, I would never have given you a second look! I’d have known you for the heartless **tch you are!” Colin’s true fury was revealed as he glared at her.

    Greta’s face revealed her ravaged emotions as she tried to respond and overcome Colin’s anger. “Why are you acting this?” she asked bravely, momentarily overlooking the horrible name he had called her.

    Colin whirled around on the woman he had recently pledged his undying love to. “I can’t believe the stupidity you just revealed to me with that remark! I shouldn’t even justify it with an answer, but…here goes.” He continued to gaze at the beautiful princess with disdainful disgust is his eyes. “You are the product of Stefano DiMera, the man who has caused my family incredible pain and heartbreak. You are that man’s daughter! You perpetrated a deception on me and all of Salem by keeping that knowledge a secret.”

    Colin paced furiously through the hallway as Greta watched, stunned speechless by his anger and insensitivity. “Sh@t, and to think that I actually believed I loved you! That’s no longer true. There’s no way I could ever look at any DiMera without disgust and hatred. No DiMera is ever innocent. You’re all evil, clear to the bone.”

    Greta made a move to touch his arm in order to prevent his hurried pacing and try to reach him, but he was far, far beyond it. Colin responded by flinging her hand off of him. “Don’t touch me!” he hissed at her. “I can’t bear to be touched by a damn DiMera!”

    “Colin…” Greta tried again to reach him through his anger, hoping to salvage something of their relationship.

    Colin sneered at her again. “You must have thought that I was such a fool! Falling in love with DiMera’s daughter! I bet you planned it.” He nodded in satisfaction. “I can see it now. Your father used you as another way to hurt a Brady. Well, it didn’t work, Princess!”

    Chloe watched the ugly scene unfold below her, shocked at the amount of insensitivity Colin was displaying to Greta. She wanted to go down there and kick his a@@, but she thought she should stay out of it, for now. I’ll help her when this is over, Chloe thought as she continued to view the scene with mounting concern.

    Greta was so in shock at Colin’s awful behavior to her that she didn’t know how to react. “Colin,…” she tried again. The phone started to ring shrilly but Greta ignored it due to her shock at Colin’s uncalled for behaviour.

    “What can you say?” Colin sneered at her again. “You proved that you are a DiMera at the deception you played on me and all of Salem. You are exactly like your father!” Colin then flung the tabloid he had been holding on the ground. “And now Salem knows it, too.”

    Colin stomped to the door as he glanced over his shoulder at the devastated princess. “By the way,” he said as he opened the door, “we’re over.” He closed the door louder to punctuate his meaning.

    Greta felt the tears start to finally flow freely over her face as the numbness began to wear off. She hugged her arms to herself tightly as she sank to the ground, letting out loud sobs.

    Chloe hurriedly walked down the stairs to her sister. She was shocked at the amount of insensitivity Colin Murphy had displayed. What an f@cking a@@hole, she thought as she neared her quivering sister. Chloe kneeled down beside Greta, holding her tightly to her as she released her heartache.

    Greta turned into her sister’s embrace, grateful for her support. “I didn’t hide it; I didn’t!” Greta tearfully explained to Chloe. “Why couldn’t he see that I’m the victim here, not him? Why couldn’t he see?” Greta could feel the recent love she had so enjoyed feeling begin to dissipate into thin air.

    Chloe hugged her tighter, not sure what she should say to Greta. Chloe stared off into the distance, remembering how happy Greta had been last night when they met in the women’s restroom. “He’s wrong,” she said finally as Greta’s sobs started to subside. “Completely wrong. Greta, you did nothing wrong here. Nothing! That man is an insensitive a@@hole!”

    Greta smiled slightly through her drying tears. “He certainly proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt, didn’t he?” She brought her hand up to wipe her tears from her eyes. “Damn, my taste in men is awful!”

    Greta then looked deeply into Chloe’s eyes, shocked to see the concern reflected in them. I am not the only one that’s been destroyed, Greta thought, and she took a deep breath. “You’re right, Chloe. He is an a@@hole! And he is wrong. Totally wrong. We may have DiMera blood running through us, but that’s all. Our hearts are pure.”

    Chloe stood up and assisted Greta up from the floor. “Come on.” Chloe said as she led her devastated sister to the kitchen. “I’ll go make you some tea.” Neither one noticed the tabloid that Colin had thrown in fury on the floor.

    Chapter Ten

    Brady couldn’t believe it. He had finally found Chloe! He slowly walked up to her, unable to believe his eyes. The gazebo was the perfect setting for Chloe’s unusual beauty. “Chloe, oh god, I…” Brady was stunned speechless by Chloe. She didn’t react, just looked at him out of her extremely large sapphire eyes. He reached for her and pulled her to him, repeating over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Finally, Brady turned Chloe’s face up to his to receive his soul-searching kiss. They were interrupted by an incessant pounding nearby. “What the hell?” Brady murmured as he looked up from Chloe.

    Brady suddenly sat up from his bed, extremely disoriented. “Chloe?” he questioned, looking around for her. Then, realization sunk in. She wasn’t here. It had just been a dream, a wonderful dream. Brady dropped back onto his pillows, wondering if he would ever see his Diva again. (I bet some of you are wondering, too. Don’t worry, they will meet…in a few chapters!! Sorry, I love the melodrama!! Hang in there!!!)

    Brady broke out of his reverie when he heard loud voices downstairs. “Now what’s going on?” Brady wondered as he pulled himself off of his bed. Before he exited the room, Brady glanced one more time at his bed, praying that his dream would really come true.

    “Calm down,” Marlena was saying soothingly to someone as Brady headed down the stairs. “Take it slow. Now, tell us again. What has happened?”

    “Come on over,” Brady heard Belle to someone on the phone as he passed her door. “I’m sorry, Shawn. I’ve got to go. Something’s going on downstairs.” Belle hung up the phone and raced out of her room. “Brady!” she whispered loudly to him. “What on earth is going on?”

    Brady turned to face his sister. “Tink, I don’t know. Let’s go find out.” The two hurried down the Belle met Brady before they reached the landing. They peered down into their living to witness a very distraught Nancy and an upset Craig explaining something to their parents.

    “Maybe it’s about Chloe!” Belle said as she followed Brady down the curving stairs. She was aware that Brady still hadn’t been contacted by Chloe. She was starting to feel very annoyed at her best friend for allowing Brady to float in such anguish. “I hope they know where she is!”

    Brady turned as he neared the last step and looked meaningfully into his sister’s eyes. “I know.”

    Brady and Belle joined the chaos of the foursome as Nancy and Craig both tried to explain what had happened earlier this morning.

    “Calm down,” Marlena repeated. “Take a deep breath. John, will you please recap for Brady and Belle what the Wesleys have told us so far?” Marlena asked as she noticed their entrance into the chaos.

    Nancy glanced hopefully at Brady, ready to anxiously ask him about Chloe. Craig knew her well. He put a restraining arm on her before she could go off into another round of hysterics in the Black’s living room. Granted, she had every right to be hysterical. But, they needed to calm down if they were going to solve this problem.

    “Let me get this straight,” John began as he noted Belle’s and Brady’s arrival into their group. “An official from the adoption agency visited you this morning and reported that Chloe was not your daughter.” Nancy nodded tearfully. She opened her mouth to expound on his statement but Craig stopped her again. “After she left…”

    Nancy interrupted uselessly, “Craig threw her out.”

    John held onto his patience with effort. “All right. After Craig threw her out, DiMera came by. He wanted to see Chloe, but she wasn’t there.”

    “DiMera went to your house?” Brady asked incredulously to the Wesleys. “Man, he has some nerve.”

    “That’s not even the beginning of it,” Craig said. “We haven’t told you everything yet.”

    “No, we haven’t told you what that awful man did! He…” Nancy was about to begin a very longwinded dialogue.

    Craig interrupted his wife gently, knowing her tendency to exaggerate anything. He wanted to make this as simple as possible. “Let me tell what happened.” Nancy stopped but nodded her head agreement. “When we told him Chloe wasn’t at home, he dropped veiled threats to us. He wanted us to make Chloe leave our house for good.”

    All of the Blacks’ faces dropped open in amazement. “Oh my god!” Brady exclaimed in astonishment. “That man is truly evil!”

    “We couldn’t believe it either. Of course, we wouldn’t let Chloe leave. That’s her home.” Then, Craig took a deep breath as he replayed the worse part of the scenario. “Chloe must have heard what had happened. We never saw her, though. Nancy went up about an hour ago to check her room again. We were hoping Chloe had snuck in. Anyway, most of Chloe’s things were gone and we found this letter on her bed.” Craig handed the letter to John.

    Brady leaned over John’s shoulder as he read the first communication he had access to since Chloe’s world had been destroyed. When they finished reading the letter, John passed it to Marlena and Belle. Marlena fluttered her eyes dramatically while she read the letter. “Oh, no!” she breathed. “Do you have any idea where she could be?”

    Nancy looked tearfully at Craig before she said hesitatingly, “We were hoping Brady or Belle might know.”

    Belle looked up sadly from the letter. “I haven’t talked to Chloe since last night at the ball. I don’t know where she is.”

    Brady also admitted, “I’ve been looking for her all over Salem, but I haven’t found a trace of her yet.” He couldn’t help feeling that he needed to find Chloe, fast, before something else happened to her.

    “I think I might have an idea,” John said as a light bulb went off in his head. He remembered that Greta had gone after Chloe. “I’m gonna go make a call.” John left the group and headed towards his study, without any explanation.

    There was a loud knock at the door. It startled the group that was huddled in the living room. “Oh, that’s Shawn!” Belle exclaimed as she remembered their earlier conversation. She ran towards the door, opening it quickly.

    “Hey, Belle,” Shawn said as he entered the room. A surprised look came over his face when he surveyed all of the people in the room. He carried a tabloid in his hands.

    Belle noticed the tabloid. Maybe that’s what’s got him all upset, she thought as she said, “Come on in and join the party.”

    John came out of the study as Shawn greeted the other people in the room. “I didn’t get an answer,” he began as all eyes turned to him. He held up his hand to ward off the questions he could almost visually see tripping off of her tongue. “I could Greta’s house to see if Chloe was with her. I left a message. Greta’ll call back.”

    “That could be where she is,” Brady said as he, too, remembered how Greta had promised to take care of Chloe last night. Then he noticed the tabloid in Shawn’s hands. “What’s that?” he asked curiously.

    Shawn answered bitterly, “You really don’t want to know.” He handed it over to Brady anyone.

    Brady looked quizzically at Shawn as he accepted the tabloid. Belle, Marlena, and John looked eagerly over Brady’s shoulder as he opened the tabloid, “Private Eyes.” “OH MY GOD!!!!” Brady exclaimed loudly. Could things get any worse? he wondered. John, Marlena, and Belle looked at each other worriedly as they eyed the tabloid.

    “What is it?” Nancy asked as Brady grimly handed her the tabloid. “Oh, Craig….” she began as she, too, was shocked by the headlines.

    Chapter Eleven

    An evil laugh came from behind he man as he read the magazine in front of him. Things couldn’t be going along any better, he thought with cruel satisfaction as he perused the contents of the infamous tabloid. He picked up a glass of brandy as he continued to enjoy his next victory.

    The door opened to his study, and in walked his daughter. “Father!” Lexi exclaimed as she approached him at his desk. She carried something under her arm. “I was at Salem Place earlier and look what I found!” She held up a copy of the tabloid, “Private Eyes”, for his inspection.

    Stefano laughed again. He was feeling supremely confident in his maneuvers right now. Greta and Chloe were aware of his relationship to him, all of Salem now knew, Hope continued to be seriously estranged from her family, Chloe was out of the Wesley house…The list could go on and on. His objective was to alienate Chloe and Greta from all of Salem. He included Hope in his scheme in order to please Lexi. Lexi wanted Hope completely and totally shattered, and Stefano was more than willing to assist in her desire.

    “It’s amazing,” Lexi said as she smiled triumphantly at her father. “I can’t believe that the story has hit the press so soon. Wow, this is really going to affect Chloe, Greta and Hope. They’ll be lucky if anyone in Salem wants to associate with them!”

    “Lexi, Lexi, Lexi,” Stefano chided softly. “I can’t believe that you think the tabloid happened by accident. I arranged for it all, with a hefty payment to the owner of the “Private Eyes.” He was extremely grateful I came to him for the story and was more than willing to allow me to have the final say on the story. He even brought me the first copy, hot off of the press.”

    Lexi smiled admiringly at her father. “I should have known!” she said happily. “This is going to be the final nail in Hope Brady’s coffin. I only wish I could be the one to give her this wonderful piece of journalism!”

    Stefano placed his finger on the picture of Hope on the front cover. She hadn’t been his prime target, but he would do anything for the happiness of his family. “This should definitely cause Hope unending heartbreak. Her son, Shawn, will never want to look at her again.”

    Lexi gracefully perched herself on the edge of her father’s desk. She leaned over and gently kissed his cheek. Greta and Chloe don’t know how lucky they are to have him as a father, she thought in twisted admiration. “I am so grateful! My mission in life is to make Hope Brady’s life a living hell! This should definitely do it.” She fingered the headline above her Hope’s face.

    Stefano pointed to the picture of Chloe and Greta underneath the headline, “Salem Royalty! Revealed at last night’s Christmas Ball…” The photographer had caught the exact expression on their faces as Stefano had revealed his news to them. “Greta and Chloe will not be able to hide from their true identity now,” Stefano pointed out with obvious pleasure. “Greta has denied my right to her for too long. She will never be able to anymore.” He trailed his finger as the headline continued above Hope’s face. It read, “…As their father’s ex-lover looks on.”

    “Father, you are absolutely brilliant!” Lexi said proudly. “You will achieve your objective in no time at all.” She sighed as she happily contemplated the anguish her ex-best friend would soon be feeling. “I would love to see the expression on Hope’s face when she reads this. Her life will be completely ruined! Shawn or Bo will want nothing to do with her. I doubt if any Brady will. Oh, what sheer bliss!”

    Stefano watched his daughter fondly. She was a true DiMera, an asset to the family name. “I can barely wait to see what happens next.”

    Chapter Twelve

    Hope knocked on the door to Greta’s house. When she didn’t receive an answer, she said, “Hmmm. Greta must be home. Her car is in the driveway.” She experimentally tried the door handle. The door opened easily as Hope poked her head through the doorway. “Greta?” she called questioningly as she entered her house. She closed the door behind her. “Anyone home?”

    Chloe called loudly in response to Hope. “We’re in the kitchen, Mrs. Brady.”

    Hope’s eyebrow arched as she heard Chloe’s voice. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised Chloe’s here again, she thought as she walked to the kitchen door. Hope walked through the kitchen door and stopped in surprise. “What on earth…” she said as she took in Greta’s ravaged features.

    “Oh, Hope,” Greta said pitifully as tears welled up in her eyes. “You’ll never believe what just happened here! It was the most awful thing!” Greta then started to sob tearfully again. Chloe patted her shoulders as she looked at Hope with sorrow in her eyes.

    Hope dropped her purse on the floor and kneeled down on the floor, meeting Greta squarely in the eyes. “Oh, honey, what happened?”

    Greta tried to stop sobbing as she said, “Colin……”

    Chloe stood up from her stool and made eye contact with Hope. I’ll let her talk to you privately, she communicated to Hope with her eyes. Hope nodded in understanding as she continued to sooth Greta.

    Chloe leaned against the kitchen door after it closed behind her. “One day,” she murmured quietly to herself, “one day has completely ruined our lives.” She started away from the door, intent on collecting her bags and unpacking in her new room when something caught her eye.

    “What on earth?” she asked inquisitively as she bent to retrieve the tabloid that Colin had flung furiously on the floor. She opened it curiously. Chloe’s eyes widened in anger as she took in the sensational headlines. “What the hell is this?” she exclaimed angrily.

    Chloe and Greta’s faces were caught in an expression of complete shock at the moment Stefano revealed his news to them. The Blacks were in the background, looking on with dawning horror at the drama Stefano had enacted for Salem. Chloe’s eyes focused on Brady’s face, which showed both his anger at Stefano and his astonishment at the news. Chloe’s finger traced his face lovingly as she wondered aloud, “What are thinking now, Brady? I’m too much of a coward to find out. What if you hate me now? I don’t think I could live with that.”

    Then, Chloe’s eyes traveled to the inset next to the article. “Oh god!” she breathed out as she reacted to the words above Hope Brady’s face. “…As their father’s ex-lover looks on.”

    “Oh, god, oh god, oh god,” Chloe repeated in an expression of horror. She thought about the courageous Hope Brady and how much this news was going to devastate her. Then, she thought about Shawn and his father. How would they react to this piece of news, spread out in this ugly fashion?

    Chloe turned slowly and looked at the kitchen door. Should she show it to them now? She wondered, weighing the pros and the cons. She closed her eyes in resignation as she realized they both HAD to know now, not later. At least if they knew about this news, they could prepare themselves to face the world of Salem.

    Chloe entered the kitchen door, surveying the scene in front of her. Hope was at the stove, making tea for Greta. Greta held on tightly to a tissue, which she was starting to shred in a display of nervousness.

    “That man is an a@@hole!” Hope angrily stated as she clanked the teakettle loudly on the stove. “He had NO RIGHT to treat you that way, Greta. None of this is your fault. Damn him!”

    “In my head, I know you’re right,” Greta agreed tearfully. “But my heart! Oh, my heart hurts so much right now, more than it ever hurt over anyone else. Eric, Austin or Jack.”

    Chloe was loath to enter the scene but she knew she had to, sooner or later. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said slowly.

    Both Greta and Hope turned to face her. “You’re not interrupting,” Greta exclaimed. “This is your home now.” Hope arched her eyebrow in surprise, so Greta quickly explained. “Stefano threatened Nancy and Craig, so Chloe moved out.”

    “Really? The Wesleys made you leave their home over this?” Hope asked, completely misunderstanding. “That wasn’t very thoughtful of them.”

    Chloe shook her head negatively. “No, no, that’s not what happened. They didn’t want me to leave. I left because I didn’t want them to become my father’s target.” She fairly spat the word “father” out of her mouth.

    “Sacrifice,” Greta said philosophically. “All three of us are truly beginning to understand that word.” Each briefly reflected on the sacrifices Stefano had forced them to into so very recently.

    “Anyway,” Chloe said, breaking into their depressing thoughts, “Dr. Murphy left something here. I don’t really want to show it to you, but, dammit, we all really need to see it.” Chloe walked over to the kitchen counter and laid the tabloid on it for Greta and Chloe to read.

    Hope’s eyes widened with absolutely livid fury as she read the headlines. “Dammit!” she yelled in frustration as she realized the importance of the headline. “I canNOT believe this! Where does this rag get off printing this sh@t!”

    Greta’s hand covered her mouth in horror at the next disaster that had come into their lives in the short manner of twenty-four hours. “My god!” she gasped as she looked into their eyes. “Who would do something like this?”

    The answer came readily to Hope’s mind. “That damn DiMera!” she answered, wishing he was here so she could inflict some serious bodily harm on him. “He’s trying to ruin our lives!”

    “He’s doing one hell of a job,” Chloe said. “With the rate he’s going, no one in Salem will want to be seen with us, let alone talk to us. With every move he makes, he’s alienating us from the people we love even more.”

    “I HATE that man!” Greta said emphatically as she realized the veracity of Chloe’s statement.

    Chapter Thirteen

    Finally, the start of a new day in Salem!!! What will it bring? And will it continue forever? (I wonder about that every time I watch Days! Do you remember how Jennifer wore that same outfit (white shirt/camel-colored pants) for nearly a month straight, with that stupid necklace? I nearly threw a party when THAT day was finally over!!)

    Chloe woke up in her new bed the next morning, a bit disoriented about her location. “What…?” she asked groggily as she sat up, stretching her arms widely and yawning. And then it hit her. Stefano’s threats against Craig and Nancy, Colin’s tirade against Greta, the ugly tabloid story targeting her, Greta, and Hope…She flopped back down on the bed, wondering if she really wanted to face another day in unpredictable Salem. “My life feels like a soap opera!” she exclaimed as she punched her pillow hard.

    After Hope and Greta read the tabloid last night, the three of them had been pretty dejected. Hope had stayed late, and the three women tried hard to comfort each other, but it had been a losing battle. Later on in the night, Greta had checked her phone messages. Chloe had listened in shock when John Black’s voice came on, wondering if Greta knew where Chloe was.

    Chloe had begged Greta to tell John that she didn’t know anything about Chloe’s location. When Greta returned John’s phone call, Greta had admitted that Chloe had stayed with her the night of the ball, but that she hadn’t seen her since. Chloe knew that, if Greta had told John, Brady would have been over there in a New York minute. After witnessing Colin’s horrible accusations to Greta and reading the ugly tabloid story, Chloe wasn’t certain if she was ready to face Brady yet. She still felt too emotionally disturbed. And small part of Chloe wondered if Brady would react like Colin did, completely blaming her for this mess. She wasn’t ready to find out.

    An idea popped into Chloe’s head. At first she dismissed it as she looked up at the ceiling but the idea suddenly had more allure. “I know exactly what I am going to do today!” Chloe said as she jumped out of bed excitedly. “I’m going to start putting my life back together!” And hopefully be able to talk to Brady afterwards, she added silently, when I have finally been able to settle this!

    An hour later, Chloe approached the impressive door in front of her. She breathed deeply before knocking on it. “This is it! No time for second thoughts now,” she whispered as the door opened promptly.

    Illeanna met the young woman in front of her with a blank stare. Then, when she realized who was in front of her, her eyes widened. “Miss Lane!” she greeted her, secretly hoping that the young woman would turn around and run as far as her feet could carry her away from this house. This was not the best place for her to be. She knew exactly what Stefano DiMera was capable of, and wished this young innocent far away from her place of employment.

    The corners of Chloe’s mouth pulled up into a travesty of a smile as she cocked her head to one side. “Hello,” she said in response. Chloe waited patiently on the doorstep.

    Illeanna blocked the door, not wanting to let the young woman in.
    “Illeanna?” Lexi called as she came down the steps. “Who is at the door?”

    Too late, Illeanna thought, as she answered the annoying daughter of her employer, “It is Miss Lane.”

    The widening of Lexi’s eyes was the only thing that revealed Lexi’s shock as she quickly composed the rest of her face. She pushed Illeanna aside roughly and said, “Well, this certainly is a surprise! Come in, Chloe.”

    Chloe eyed Lexi warily at the semi-warm greeting she had received. She had expected Lexi to demand that she leave the premises. Chloe entered the large hallway, while Illeanna closed the door behind. “I had to come,” Chloe said simply in her defense to her half sister.

    Lexi stood close to her sister, watching her closely. Why is she here? she pondered as she tried to make conversation with her. “I definitely did not expect you to come here today,” Lexi began, trying to probe for the reason why Chloe was here.

    Chloe met Lexi’s gaze unfailingly. “No, I don’t suppose you did.” Then she turned from Lexi, gazing around the inside of the mansion. “Beautiful home,” she commented slightly.

    “Father designed it,” Lexi said proudly. She had also inherited the love of possessing lovely and unique things from her father, as well as his manipulative streak. “He loves to have beautiful and exotic things around him.”

    Chloe turned back to Lexi, the woman she blamed for ruining Hope Brady’s life. And she is my half sister! she thought in concealed disgust. “I suppose he does,” she said evenly. On her way over here, Chloe had decided that the only way she could explain to Stefano that she would NEVER by his daughter was calmly and rationally. “Is he here?”

    Lexi’s eyes widened again, this time completely revealing her shock. “You have come to see our father?” she asked in disbelief. What a turn of events! Lexi thought that Stefano would have to had force Chloe to come to him!

    “Believe it or not, I have. I have a lot I need to say to him.” Chloe would not, ever, refer to that man as her father. In one short day, he had caused her more heartache than her life with her foster families and in the orphanage. He had also caused so much pain to many people that she cared deeply for. She would not be his pawn in his evil games, and she wanted to make that clear to him. She believed she was ready to corner the lion in his den.

    “I’ll take you to his study,” Lexi said in surprise. I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Lexi thought, wondering what would happen when Chloe met with their father. And I’ll bet anything that Father knew she would come to him, Lexi concluded as Chloe followed silently in her wake.

    Lexi knocked lightly on Stefano’s partially open door. “Father?” she said inquiringly. “You have a visitor.”

    Stefano looked up from his desk as Lexi pushed the door open more. “I love visitors,” he said to Lexi. He had a terrific guess about who would be admitted into his den shortly. And he was right as Chloe entered his domain.

    Come into my lair, said the spider to the fly! Stefano thought in triumph as she came in. He couldn’t have been more pleased. I predicted she would seek me out later, Stefano thought. My daughter has managed to surprise me!

    Chapter Fourteen

    “Have a seat,” Stefano invited his surprising visitor as he motioned for Lexi to leave them alone. Lexi did, with an annoying look at her father. She wanted to find out right away about this visit, but she did as her father did, like usual, and closed the door behind her on the meeting between father and daughter.

    “I’d rather stand,” Chloe challenged in a small show of defiance. She intently studied the man who had caused so much damage to her, as well as many people in Salem. “The Phoenix”, she mused, the man who rises from the ashes! Hope had filled her and Greta in on more of Stefano’s history last night.

    “Then we shall stand!” Stefano agreed jovially, extremely excited about this visit. He had the outcome of this visit already calculated. She will do what I want, one way or another, he thought as he concealed a secretly triumphant smile. He would prefer his first option. But, Stefano was ever resilient and resourceful. If she wouldn’t fall for his first plan, there was always the backup.

    Chloe watched her father as he stood up from behind his desk and walked towards her. Her first instinct was to step back, but she knew she would need to stand her ground against him. Chloe stood tall and firm as she searched for the best way to begin this conversation. “Why did you reveal your identity to me at the ball, in front of Salem?” she finally began, deciding to put Stefano on the defense.

    It didn’t work. “I want you to accept me as your father,” Stefano started to explain. “Greta has had two years to accept me. Instead, she has hidden it, acting ashamed of her heritage. I decided I would not give you that same opportunity, my dear. Both you and Greta need to face the truth, to yourselves and before all of Salem.”

    He was agreeing with the plan Hope and Greta had unraveled the other night. Not a surprise, Chloe thought. “So, you decide to force Greta and I, in public, to come to terms with our “heritage”?”

    Stefano nodded in agreement as he moved a chess piece on the game board, his favorite pastime. “Of course. I did not want you to hide the knowledge, not from anyone. That is the reason why I disclosed it in such a public manner.”

    “You really don’t care about us, do you?” Chloe inquired bravely, trying to get Stefano to reveal his hidden emotions.

    It worked. Stefano’s eyes blazed as he looked at his youngest daughter, who was staring defiantly back at him. “Never doubt my feelings for you or your sister. You’re mine. And I will do anything to make you realize that.”

    Chloe didn’t know where this courage was coming from. Probably from emotion Brady had helped her reveal. Just thinking of Brady made her feel stronger. She laughed in DiMera’s face. “You have messed up my life, Stefano!” she said sneeringly. “I will never acknowledge you as my father!”

    Stefano calmed down, chalking her words down to the foolishness of youth. “I wonder about that, Chloe, my dear. I have been able to get my other children to turn to me for, ah, assistance. They were equally stubborn at first. What makes you so different?”

    “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I happen to value truth, integrity, and honor!” She fairly yelled at him. “I have been pushed around so much in my life. I will NOT be pushed around by you, of all people.” Chloe stopped to get her breath as she continued, “I despise you, and the pain you have caused to me, and so many people I know and care about. You are pure evil!” With that, Chloe turned to flounce in anger out of the room.

    Stefano stopped her by placing his hand on her shoulder. Chloe recoiled at his touch and shook his hand off of her. “Learn to speak to me with respect,” he warned her chillingly. “I will make some allowances for your behavior, but not many.”

    Chloe eyed this evil man who was her father with disdain as she pressed back against the closed door. It felt good to feel the hard, solid wood against her back as the monster who was her father gazed at her with concealed anger. “Respect? Respect? How can I show you respect? You have threatened my parents, destroyed Hope Brady and her family, leaked that awful story to the tabloids, and caused unending pain to so many people! How can I respect you?” she repeated angrily.

    Stefano’s eyes glinted at his impetuous daughter. Maybe it won’t be so easy bending her to my will, he thought. But then he smiled slightly at her. The smile sent chills up and down Chloe’s spine. If she won’t accept my first option, there is always my backup plan. “Really, Chloe, I would watch what you say to me.” He held up his hand to silence her when he saw that she was ready to perform another tirade. “Stop, and listen to what I have to say.”

    Stefano picked up a pawn from the board, a sign of what he was about to make Chloe become. He would rather have had her as a partner, more of a queen, but he was willing to sacrifice her in his game. So young, brave, and incredibly stupid and foolish, he thought as he contemplated her response. “What is your biggest dream, my dear?” he asked in all innocence.

    Chloe’s face revealed her surprise at the abrupt change of subject. “That has no bearing on this conversation!” she insisted, not wanting to reveal her inner dreams to this man.

    “No matter,” Stefano mused as he twirled the pawn in between his fingers. “I remember that night in Europe very well. When you sang opera for me? I was very pleased when I found out you were my daughter later on. That night touched me. I am proud that my daughter,” he stressed slightly, “is so talented.” He nodded in satisfaction when Chloe closed her eyes in recollection of that night. “Your biggest dream and desire in this whole world is to become a successful opera singer.”

    Chloe did not show the truth of this statement to DiMera. She was beginning to doubt the intelligence of coming here, to face her father, alone. When have I ever been this stupidly impulsive? she wondered, a little too late.

    Stefano began to dangle the carrot in front of her, the same carrot he had used on all of his children. “Opera means everything to you. What would you say if I could get you into any music school you would like? You definitely have the talent to become a huge sensation. Of course, after your rude behavior today, I would need an incentive from you.” He briefly pondered what that incentive would be as he snapped his fingers when the idea hit him. “Of course! I would see that you get into any music school you like. Your talent will take care of your success. In return for one small thing.”

    Chloe wondered where this was leading, so she prompted Stefano when he paused dramatically and continued to play with the pawn from the game, “Oh? And what would that be?”

    Stefano smiled in pure pleasure as she moved closer to his trap. “You would simply need to accept my name, nothing more or less. Become a DiMera, and I will open the music world to you. Chloe DiMera! What a nice ring to that name!”

    Chloe could feel a cherished dream start to diminish at the cruel hands of her father. She would never accept his offer. “And if I’d rather be a Lane?”

    This time, Stefano smiled in fake sympathy. “Then, my dear, you will receive rejection at every turn. No one will accept you, even though you do have that amazing voice. You will never be able to train that magnificent voice of yours. Or share it with the public. I will make certain of it.”

    Chloe closed herself to her disappointment as she managed a cynical laugh. “Basically, I would have to sell my soul to you, in order to get what I want! Sorry, Stefano, but no dice! I am not as weak as Lexi. I’m not willing to give myself up to you.” She turned to leave again, hoping this would be the end of this disastrous encounter. I won’t think of the end of my dream, not right now, Chloe thought wildly as she tried valiantly to compose herself. She didn’t want to fall apart in front of this man.

    “I am not really surprised, Chloe,” he said mournfully when she reached for the door, purposefully waiting for Chloe to think she would be getting away with only one dream damaged. “So you refuse to become a DiMera. I am not too surprised. I realize that you are very strong. You would never fall for my offer of assistance.” On to plan b, he thought, contemplating the next few minutes. Chloe Lane was about to learn exactly who she was dealing with, he thought with satisfaction. I would have preferred my first option, but I am flexible. Stefano’s eyes watched Chloe’s movements like a hawk.

    Chloe’s hand was on the doorknob. She almost stopped but opened the door. She was nearly out of the door when Stefano murmured, as if to himself, “Of course, I wonder if Brady and the rest of the Blacks will be able to survive what I have planned for them.”

    True fury erupted in Chloe’s eyes as she whirled around angrily. The death of her dream was forgotten at this new threat. She stalked over to her father and ordered him, “Stay the HELL away from Brady and his family!”

    “How will you stop me from doing what I want?” Stefano goaded his daughter, leading her blindly towards her pitfall.

    “Dammit, I will not let you hurt them!” she yelled furiously at him, her eyes shooting serious sparks at him. “I’ll stop you from it, I swear I will!”

    So easy to manipulate, Stefano thought with satisfaction, when something that is really important is at stake. Stefano enjoyed her show of bravado. “Oh? And what can you, little Chloe Lane, do to stop me?”

    “Anything!” Chloe continued to yell at him recklessly. “I’ll do anything to make you leave that wonderful family alone!”

    Stefano continued to roll the pawn between his fingers as Chloe became his unwitting next one. He felt bad about sacrificing his daughter, but she was completely closed off to him. Stefano was very resourceful and realistic, so he knew exactly what role he wanted Chloe to fill now that she had completely rejected him, at the expense of her singing career. “I have an idea. Yes, this might work. How much do you care for Brady Black?”

    Chloe answered rashly, unaware of the trapdoor that was about to spring on her, “I love him! I will not let you hurt him or his family!”

    Stefano smiled slightly at his angry daughter. “Let’s make a deal,” he said in a parody of Monty Hall. He laughed when he saw the wariness enter her eyes and thought, Too late now, my love. You’re mine. Whether you want to be or not. “I am perfectly capable of releasing mayhem on the fine Black family, as you have witnessed firsthand for yourself. However, I will prevent the mayhem if you do one tiny, insignificant thing.”

    “What?” Chloe snapped back at her father. “Accept your name? I don’t think so.”

    “No,” Stefano said as he waved his hand in the air, “the ship has sailed on that one. It’s quite simple, really, just a small sacrifice on your part.” He paused before he continued, “Very small. All I want you to do is cut all ties with Brady Black. No daughter of mine will ever date a Black.”

    Shock coursed through Chloe’s body as the words Stefano said penetrated her mind. She shook her head violently and rejected the idea vehemently, “No! I could never do that!”

    Stefano nodded his head in resignation and sighed, “Then I guess I will have to implement my plan. It shouldn’t take too long before I ruin their lives. And think, Chloe, you could have prevented it with a small sacrifice on your part. Farewell, Chloe, my dear.” Stefano turned around to hide his Cheshire cat smile. He knew what Chloe would do next.

    Stefano’s words struck Chloe on a vulnerable spot. She knew how Stefano could affect someone’s life, quickly and deadly, like the bite of a rattlesnake. She reviewed the pain he had caused her, Greta, and Hope so rapidly and recently. “I won’t let him do that to Brady and his family!” she whispered fervently as she came to a decision, the hardest decision in her life. “I’ll do it,” she said brokenly, unknowingly revealing her heartache to Stefano.

    Stefano glanced back at her, satisfaction written clearly across his face. “Good.” After Chloe left the room, he placed the pawn on the board. “Checkmate!” he said merrily, uncaring that he had completely crushed his youngest daughter.

    Chapter Fifteen

    Chloe paced the pier in agitation, wondering how she was going to get through the next hour. She flashbacked to the telephone conversation that had occurred with Brady earlier this afternoon when she finally had called him from Greta’s empty house. Chloe had been very grateful that Greta and Hope had not been at the house when she returned. She didn’t have to share with them Stefano’s latest, and most devastating attack, on her life.

    “Hello?” Brady said as he answered his phone. He sounded hopeful on the phone, like he was waiting for her, and only her, to call.

    “Brady?” Chloe asked, feeling overjoyed at hearing his voice, even though she knew that in awhile she would be the most heartbroken person on this earth. But, for now, she could pretend that everything would be all right.

    Brady’s surprise and delight came through the phone line as he exclaimed, “Chloe! Oh my god, Chloe! I can’t believe it…I’ve been looking for your everywhere!”

    “Really, Brady?” Chloe asked, surprised that he had been seeking her out. He wouldn’t have cared! she realized with blinding clarity. Oh god! “I’m sorry for making you worry. I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

    She’s ready to come to me, Brady thought in pure bliss, remembering the advice Phillip, of all people, had given him about Chloe. Finally! his heart breathed. “Chloe, we can get through this,” he began assuring her. “God, I want to see you so much right now! It’s been hell not being able to talk to you, to see you. And to find out how you’re feeling.”

    Chloe fingered the necklace he had given her the night of the ball for strength. Oh, this is going to be so hard! she thought as she put some enthusiasm into her voice. “I know what you mean, Brady,” she couldn’t resist adding, even though she knew she would end up hurting him more with that revelation.

    “Where are you?” Brady asked. “I want to see you, now.” He was eager to hold her, to kiss her, to let her know how much she meant to him. Then he would scold her for the worry and anxiety she had put him, and her friends and family, through while she had dealt with this blow alone.

    “I can’t right now,” Chloe said without expanding on it. “Why don’t we meet this evening, at the pier. Say, around 7:00?” Chloe felt like a coward for putting this off, but she wanted a few more hours of being Brady’s treasured girlfriend, even if it was only in her mind. She also believed in symmetry. She and Brady had unofficially started on the pier. It was a logical place for them to end.

    Brady was so joyful he would have agreed to anything. For the first time, he did not pick up on the weird vibes coming from Chloe, his soulmate. “Our special spot?” he assumed when she suggested the pier. “You know, where we first met? And where we sang “The Marriage of Figaro”?”

    “Of course,” Chloe said. That is where we began, she thought again. Symmetry.

    “I love you, so much,” Brady said as he was about to hang up. Chloe hung up slowly before she could respond to his statement. She held the phone to her cheek, and whispered, “I love you, too, Brady, more than you will ever know.”

    “He’ll be here soon,” Chloe whispered to the night air after she had remembered the phone conversation. Chloe continued to stare out at the water, nervously waiting for the first time she would see Brady since that disastrous evening that had sent her life into an unstoppable tailspin. She began to prepare herself to sacrifice her love, her heart, and her soul for the future happiness of Brady and his family. “Damn you, DiMera!!!” Chloe screamed to the water in complete frustration.

    Chloe watched the fog roll in off of the water, dreading the coming moments. She mentally prepared herself for doing the hardest thing in her life. Letting Brady Black go.

    Belle laughed as she watched Brady prepare for his anticipated meeting with Chloe. Brady, usually so calm, controlled, and collective, was as nervous as a teenage boy readying for his first date. “Belle, this has got to be perfect! Which shirt, the red striped one or the black pullover?”

    “I never thought I would see the day when Brady Black would ask me for fashion advice! Didn’t you once tell me that you created your own fashion?” Belle flippantly teased her brother, so happy for him. When Brady looked at her in annoyance, Belle rolled her eyes and said perkily from her perch on his bed, “The black one, Brady.”

    Brady returned Belle’s smile as he slipped the black pullover his amazing chest. He had a sudden flashback to the day this past summer when he played basketball with Chloe. He grinned as he remembered her reaction to his chest.

    “Hello? Earth to Brady!” Belle snapped her fingers to get his attention. Man, love certainly had opened Brady up to his feelings! Belle was so happy for Brady and Chloe, grateful that the two of them had found each other.

    Brady shook his head as he cleared his thoughts. “Sorry, Tink, just reminiscing.”

    “Oh, ick! Just don’t tell! It’s hard enough to see you and Chloe together holding hands, let alone kissing or hugging!! Yuck!” She giggled when Brady attacked her with a pillow, releasing some of his nervousness about his upcoming meeting with the love of his life.

    “Stop!” Belle said finally, out of breath. She gasped as she looked at his alarm clock. “Look at the time, Brady! You had better get going.”

    They both stood up from his bed. Brady smiled as his sister gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “For luck,” she said when he looked at her quizzically. Belle watched Brady as he walked out the door. Then, she called out to him. “Don’t forget. Let Chloe know how much she will always mean to you.”

    Brady looked back from his bedroom doorway. “I won’t have any trouble doing that.” And with a wink and a grin for his favorite sister, Brady exited through the his bedroom door, confident in the outcome of his meeting with Chloe.

    Belle watched Brady leave the penthouse from the top of the stairs. John and Marlena joined her. “I’m so excited Chloe is meeting Brady!” Belle bubbled over with happiness. “Now things can go back to the way they are supposed to be.” John and Marlena smiled in agreement. They were all confident that Brady and Chloe would be able to work everything out.

    ****(warning: EXTREMELY Sad Broe will be coming now and continuing into the next chapter!!!! Please don’t tar and feather me!!!!)****

    Chloe could feel Brady’s electric presence even before she heard his footsteps echo off the boards of the pier. She quickly brushed a tear away from her eye, hiding her devastation from Brady. She was finally thankful for her time in her foster homes and the orphanage. She had learned how to hide her feelings well.

    “Chloe,” Brady breathed out when he saw her silhouetted against the night sky, facing the water. She simply took his breath away. As usual. And she’ll always continue to do that, Brady thought as he waited for her to turn around. She’s my diva.

    Chloe turned around to face the love of her life, the man whose heart she was about to break to save him and his family from her father. “Brady,” she answered.

    Chapter Sixteen

    Brady’s whole face lit up with a sheer blissful smile while his eyes feasted on his soulmate, Chloe Lane. He couldn’t see her features very well, due to the poor outside lighting, but he could imagine them. She’s so damn beautiful! he thought as he waited for Chloe to continue. And she’s mine. Guaranteed.

    Chloe stayed by the edge of the pier. It felt like a rusty knife was plunging repeatedly through her heart. The only thing that kept her from running straight into Brady’s arms was the image of her evil father, laughing as he casually destroyed Brady and his family, while she looked on, knowing that she could have prevented it with a “simple” sacrifice. That won’t happen, she thought fiercely. I can never let Brady know why I am really doing this. He would simply say, “To hell with DiMera!”, and try to face him on his own. He would lose. DiMera always wins.

    Brady felt a small shiver of apprehension run down his back as Chloe continued to stare at him silently. He didn’t know that she was unconsciously memorizing every detail about him, to hold close to her heart during the lonely months and years ahead of her. “Chloe?” he prompted questioningly, wondering why she had reacted to his presence yet.

    Chloe didn’t make a move to go towards him. “I’m grateful that you came to meet me,” she began, choosing her words slowly and carefully. She couldn’t let the joy that was bubbling in her heart at seeing him again flow out; that would counteract what she had to do tonight.

    Brady grimaced as he interrupted Chloe, “Grateful? Why would you be grateful?” Why was Chloe being so reserved, so aloof? he thought as he waited for her reply. This was their first meeting since Stefano’s revelation at the Christmas Ball and it was not going the way he thought it should.

    Chloe sighed inwardly. Dammit, this was going to be nearly impossible. How do you break the heart of your soulmate? she wondered, even if you are trying to save him, and their family. “Yes, grateful,” she said haltingly. “Brady, we really need to talk.”

    The weird vibes were finally starting to penetrate Brady’s euphoria over seeing Chloe again. Something definitely was not right here. Then, like a lightning flash, it hit Brady. “Chloe,” he said, “you’re right. I need to explain to you about the night of the ball.”

    This time Chloe interrupted him. She put her hand up towards Brady, trying to stop his flow of words. She didn’t want to hear what Brady would say next. It would only cause her more pain and hurt. “No, that’s not….”

    Brady motioned with his hand to stop Chloe’s next words. “Yeah, that’s it. I’ve regretted not following you immediately after DiMera’s announcement. I didn’t stay because I didn’t want to see you. I stayed to make DiMera prove his allegations. You are completely innocent in this farce, Chloe! I know it, and so does my family.” Brady came a step closer to Chloe, who was looking surprisingly vulnerable to him as the thin moonlight danced slowly across her face. “Unfortunately, he was able to. The second he did, I raced after you. You were gone by the time I got down to the parking garage.”

    “I went with Hope Brady and Greta,” Chloe said mechanically, wishing she had waited a few more precious minutes until Brady had found her. That meeting may have prevented this soon-to-be horrible scene. “I stayed with Greta and Mrs. Brady that night. We helped each other through it.”

    “And I searched for you, all night.” Brady continued with his recollection about that night. He wanted Chloe to see, to feel, to understand the depths of his feelings for her. “I went everywhere I thought you would be, but I couldn’t find you. Then, I continued to search for you the next day, and today, until you called me. Listen, Chloe, I…” He moved another step closer to Chloe.

    Chloe interrupted him again, before he could tell her how he still felt and unknowingly break her heart all over again. Stefano DiMera had already done one hell of a job of shattering it and gleefully scattering the pieces. “Brady, that’s not what I meant when I said we needed to talk. I understand completely why you stayed behind. And that’s fine with me. I don’t hold that against you. I needed to come to terms with all of this myself, anyway, before I could see you again.” Chloe turned away, pretending she hadn’t seen how Brady had just reached for her.

    Brady’s eyes began to reflect his puzzlement at Chloe’s weird behavior, especially when he suspected that she had just rejected his touch. “Please continue,” he asked her, wondering where this conversation was leading. It certainly wasn’t headed in the direction he wanted it to. He put his hands in his pockets, eyes staring intently at Chloe, in a classic Brady pose.

    Chloe kept her back turned to him as she gazed out of the water, praying for the strength to continue. She took an inaudible deep breath and brushed another tear away from her face, out of Brady’s sight. Hold it together, Lane, she ordered herself. “I used the past few days to accept my new identity. I’ll never see that awful man as my father, but I have to admit that he is my father and that I carry his tainted blood in me.”

    She paused to prevent any wavering in her voice. She had to carry this off perfectly, or else Brady would know something was up. Pretend you’re on stage, she thought, singing a tragic opera to millions of adoring fans. Lord knows your life could certainly equal the most tragic of operas! “And I kept remembering everything he has done to your family, Brady. I also remembered how strongly you and all your family despise my father.”

    “Come on, Chloe!” Brady broke in impatiently. “You’re nothing like him! We all know that you and Greta are the victims here!” He placed his arm on Chloe’s shoulder and, even in his continuing frustration, turned her gently around.

    Chloe’s eyes revealed none of the inner turmoil her heart and soul were experiencing. She worked very hard to conceal her emotions, to present a blank look to the one person who could read her as easily as he read a book. “God, Brady, isn’t it you who told me that no one who was related to Stefano DiMera was completely innocent? That evil runs in his family? Look at Kristen, Peter, Lexi…my newfound siblings?”

    Brady couldn’t understand what Chloe was getting at. “Yeah, they all turned out bad, but you’re nothing like them. You are special, unique, strong! Their hearts had been touched by DiMera.” He tried to meet Chloe’s eyes but she refused. Again. “Your heart is pure, Chloe.”

    “No, it’s not,” Chloe argued as she finally met Brady’s eyes. He was shocked at the determination he could finally read in them. “We can’t change the truth, as Stefano DiMera so recently proved to us. I am his daughter.” She paused slightly, to gather her remaining strength around her like a cloak. “And he is the sworn enemy of your family.”

    Brady couldn’t comprehend what Chloe was saying or meaning by this conversation. “Chloe, no one holds this against you,” he reiterated again.

    “Oh yes, they do!” Chloe insisted strongly. “Look at that damn tabloid! It’s printed stories yesterday and today about “Salem’s new royalty”! Salem won’t ever be able to forget that I am DiMera’s daughter! He won’t allow it.”

    Brady caught onto Chloe’s thread of fear for DiMera. “Are you scared about DiMera?” he asked, hoping this was the root of Chloe’s problem. He could definitely help her here. “I’ll protect you, Chloe. He would never be able to hurt you.”

    Chloe walked away from Brady before he could take her in his arms in comfort, which she knew would be his next move. He would want to give her comfort, to ease her fears, to be her rock, her foundation of stone, her guiding force. Never again, she though mournfully. “Brady,” she began again, feeling her composure starting to crack, “look at me. What do you see?” She pointed to herself.

    Brady approached her slowly this time, trying hard not to scare her off. He tamped down on his frustration as he answered, “I see an angel, a beautiful, courageous angel.”

    Chloe drew herself up, trying not to let herself react to his loving and caring words. “I’m not,” she disagreed heatedly. “I am a DiMera, a product of that evil man. Your whole family believes that everyone related to that man is inheritantly bad. You all admitted it to me, the night of the ball. I can’t, no, I won’t let myself see the love reflected in your eyes turn to hatred, Brady.”

    Dread was starting to rise up and steal Brady’s soul and gleefully smash his heart, his heart that had started beating again so beautifully when he had connected with his soulmate. “What?” he asked unbelievingly.

    “I couldn’t stand to see you stop wanting to touch me, to hold me, simply because I am a DiMera,” Chloe continued, trying not to react to the pained expression on Brady’s face. She carefully hid the pain from her eyes. “Brady, things between us can never go back to what there were.”

    “God, what is wrong with you?” Brady shouted in disbelief at the woman who seemed to be so casually destroying his soul and trampling his heart. “I love you, dammit! I don’t care who your father is!”

    “If you don’t now, someday you will!” Chloe insisted angrily back to him, as her heart continue to shatter into minute pieces. “When he goes after your family again, destroying their lives, you will look at me and part of you will think I’m responsible! Dammit, Brady, I can’t go through that! I wouldn’t be able to stand seeing hatred reflected in your eyes, where there once had been love! I couldn’t stand to see you start to despise me because of my father!”

    Brady watched in disbelief as the woman he loved slipped further and further away from him. He couldn’t find the key, he realized, to reach her and keep her with him. She was hiding the key from him, not letting him get close to her for the first time ever. Brady swore he could actually feel his heart starting to crumble. In order to hide his sudden vulnerability, Brady fell back on his favorite defense mechanism: he found release in blessed anger. “So, what are saying, Chloe? It’s over?”

    Chloe looked at Brady as her hands competently unhooked his mother’s necklace from around her neck. He never knew the effort Chloe exuded to prevent her hands from shaking. She handed it silently to him, being careful not to make contact with his hands as she simply said, “Yes. It’s over.” She knew that handing the necklace back would signify to Brady that they really were over, and that there would be no reconciliation.

    Brady’s face looked grim as he stared into her eyes, which still revealed no emotion to him. He would have expected to see sadness, anger, frustration, any appropriate emotion in her eyes. However, there was nothing in them. “Fine!” he said angrily to her in defense. “But, I wouldn’t have cared about DiMera, Chloe. All I wanted was you. Now, dammit, I don’t think I can stand to be near you anymore.” He turned away and started to walk away from Chloe. His hurt and anger made him turn back and say to Chloe as he reflected on her lack of emotions during this heart-wrenching scene that had driven a rusty stake through his heart, spreading pain throughout his entire being, “I once accused you of being heartless, Chloe Lane. But I never truly believed it, until now.”

    Chloe sucked in a deep breath slowly as she walked Brady turn and walk away, away from her, away from the love they should have shared for the rest of their lives. Only after he was gone did she allow the emotions swirling through her to be reflected on her face. Chloe weakly slipped down to the boards of the pier, bringing her knees close to her as she huddled on the pier, trying to warm herself when she felt so suddenly, bitterly cold and empty. “I deserved everything he said,” she murmured as tears continued to fall unheeded down her face. “But my father will never hurt you now, Brady. Or your family. I can be grateful for that much.” Chloe looked up into the sky as her heart continued to bleed, “Oh, Brady, how will I live without you?”

| Page Three |

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