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Ten years later
Sandra could hear the phone ringing. Why did it always happen like this? she wondered, trying to juggle the bag of groceries she carried, her handbag and getting the door opened.
Fortunately, things were on her side. The door clicked open. She pushed it, entered, closed it and raced into the house, dumped the bags on the table and grabbed the phone, realizing that it was Carla calling.
"Sandra, it's Carla. I'm so glad I caught you. I know that it's Saturday and you usually go to the supermarket after work."
"Hi, honey. In fact, I just got in from grocery shopping. It's so good to hear you. I wondered when you were going to give me a call. It's long overdue." She kicked her shoes off, walked across the room and lowered herself into the softness of the sofa. Immediately, her weary body started to relax.
"I know," Carla replied. "Unfortunately, I'm not calling to chitchat. I'm calling to ask a favor."
"A favor?" she replied.
"Yes, Shayne and I are going on a Mediterranean cruise in two weeks and we'd like you to take care of the kids for us."
"Me? Are you crazy, Carla? I have no idea how to take care of kids." She rose from the sofa and walked over to the window. She hadn't heard Carla correctly, had she?
"Of course I'm not crazy. You're good with the kids. When you were here last summer, they couldn't stop talking about Auntie Sandra. They've already given their seal of approval and are excited about their godmother coming to spend time with them."
"They already think I'm coming? That's not fair," she exclaimed, her gaze focused out the window where a ruby-throated hummingbird sipped from a flower. "You haven't given me a choice. But what about Tamara?"
"I did ask her initially, but I really can't ask her to take care of my two and her two. Four kids under ten years are a bit too much for one person to handle. One of her kids came down with chicken pox. None of mine has had it, so the likelihood of that happening is definitely there."
"You know it's pretty busy around here right now?"
"Sandra, I wonder why you're trying to find excuses," Carla said, a hint of reprimand in her voice. "You know that you can just drop everything and the travel agency will be taken care of. You have a good manager and staff. I know you don't need to be there. Isn't that what you tell me? And there is no need to be scared of the kids. They are generally good."
"Generally? That sounds promising."
"Oh, come on. It's almost a year since you've been here."
Sandra hesitated. She knew exactly what Carla was thinking.
"Worried about Troy?" Carla's words confirmed her suspicion. "I thought you'd agreed to stay away from each other. I don't think you've seen each other more than once a year. Last year, he wasn't even here when you visited."
She hesitated for a moment, watching as the hummingbird flew away. She smiled, knowing that tomorrow it would be back.
"Of course I'm not worried about running into Troy," she finally said, hoping that her voice did not reveal her true feelings. "We see each other when I'm there, but besides polite conversation, I try to keep away from him. In fact, he's the furthest thing from my mind," she said, a bit too emphatically.
Sandra knew she was not telling the whole truth. The sexual tension between the two of them was still there, but she'd forced herself to stay away from him. "Shayne is fine with this arrangement?" she asked, shifting the conversation away from him.
She moved from the window, headed back to the sofa and sat. She hated when people made her think about him. Tonight, she knew she'd find it difficult to sleep.
"Definitely. In fact, he was the one who suggested I ask you. I think it would be a great opportunity for all involved. Of course, they've already told us we have to call them every day. It's the first time we're not taking them with us, but it's our anniversary and Russell and Tamara have had this all planned for months."
"That's so nice of them. How are Russell and his new wife doing?" Sandra asked.
"They're doing fine. It's almost a year already. No kids on the way yet. Both of them are too busy working, Tori with her singing and Russell globetrotting for CNN. But they both love what they're doing."
"Yes, I noticed Tori's new song debuted at number one on most of the charts. And the video is awesome. I love the fact that she filmed it on the island."
"Yes, she's doing well. Says they are both planning to visit in a few months."
"That must be great. I haven't seen them since they came to Atlanta a few months ago, but Tori always calls."
"Yeah, she likes you."
"I know. I like her, too. She's good for Russell. I'm glad he and Shayne have finally resolved their conflict."
"Yes, me, too. The Knight men are a stubborn bunch."
"Does that mean Darius, too?" Sandra asked.
Carla laughed. "Yes, he is. At ten years old, he has a mind of his own. Sometimes, he seems a bit too mature for his age, and at other times, he's the typical little boy."
"I remember well. I haven't forgotten that trick he played on me last year," Sandra replied, laughing at the memory. "So when do you want me to arrive?" Sandra asked.
"We leave on the thirtieth of June and will be back on the ninth of July. Ten glorious days of sightseeing without a care in the world."
"Sightseeing. I'm sure that's not all you and Shayne are planning," Sandra said slyly.
"I assure you it's not." Carla giggled.
"Just no more kids if you are going to want me to do this babysitting thing again."
"I promise, no more. But look at it like this. This is good practice for when you get your own."
"Me, kids?" Sandra protested. "I'm not sure if that's going to happen anytime soon. I'm wary of men."
"I still believe that you and Troy would make a wonderful couple."
"And here I was thinking you would stop with this matchmaking. Troy? You know how I feel about doctors. They are all alike."
"Sandra, you're being irrational. Just because your father did what he did, doesn't mean all doctors are like that," Carla reasoned.
"I was engaged to one, remember?" she reasoned, unable to keep the bitterness from her voice. "Plus, I've heard enough stories to last me a lifetime. I'll trust a doctor with my physical body and my illnesses, but when it comes to matters of the heart, it's a big no. I have no intention of dealing with what my mother did. My father broke her heart and she never recovered."
"You've heard anything about him?" Carla asked.
"My father? The last thing I heard, he was still working at the same hospital, but that's about all I've heard. I just hope he's cheating on the bimbo who married him. Once a cheater, always a cheater."
Carla laughed. "It'd be poetic irony if you end up married to a doctor one day. Don't be surprised if it happens."
"Yes, Carla, my dear," Sandra said, her tone dripping with sarcasm, "Troy and I will have four beautiful kids and live happily ever after."
And as she said it, an image of Troy lying on top of her, his body joined with hers, flashed into her mind.
Carla's laughter halted the erotic slideshow.
When she disconnected the call several minutes later, she did not move.
What had she gotten herself into?
Hopefully, her days in Barbados would pass quickly and she'd return to Atlanta without having to deal with the man who even now continued to haunt her dreams.
Dr. Troy Whitehall stepped out of the meeting room and glanced down at the "missed call" that had registered on his cell phone.
It was Shayne. Something must be wrong. Shayne never called him during his work hours unless it was an emergency.
He quickly hurried to his office at the hospital and pressed Reply on his cell phone.
Shayne answered the phone immediately. "Troy?"
"What's up, bro?"
"I'm sorry to disturb you at work, but I have a favor to ask. You know that cruise I told you about?" Shayne asked.
"Yes." Troy replied.
"Well, Tamara can't take care of the kids anymore."
"Shayne, you know I don't have that kind of time."
"No, Troy. Carla and I have asked Sandra to come take care of the kids while we're on the cruise. Carla just said that Sandra has agreed. However, I want you to keep an eye on them for me while we're not here."
"Me?" Troy asked. He couldn't believe that Shayne had made such a request.
"I know how you and Sandra feel about each other, but I wouldn't have asked you to do this if it wasn't important. Though the plantation is pretty secure, now that the harvest is over, it will be fairly quiet. With Gladys gone to spend some time with her sister in New York, it'll be only Sandra and the kids in the main house. I want Sandra to know that you'll be there to help her when she needs you. Put your differences aside and think about the kids."
"Okay, man. I'll do it," he said without hesitation. "They are my godchildren, so that does make them my responsibility. I'll still be at the hospital, but I'll make sure I check in each night. I'll try not to annoy the lady."
"I still can't understand what's happened with the two of you. I would have thought you would be perfect for each other. I remember seeing the two of you at my wedding and thinking how comfortable and relaxed you seemed with each other. And of course, I could feel the sizzle."
Troy wondered if this would be a good time to tell Shayne what had happened that night, but he backed out again. He'd planned on several occasions to tell him, but pride had stopped him. He didn't usually fail with the ladies.
"You're still trying to get me hooked up? I'm focused on my career. That fellowship I did in the U.S. last year has me on the fast track to being one of the best neurosurgeons in the Caribbean. I have no immediate plans to give that up. Not even for love."
"Hard words that you may come to regret someday. Never say never."
"I have no problem with spending the rest of my life by myself. I'm content with what I have. I'm happy with my own companyand I have you and George."
"But are you happy? Really happy?"
Troy hesitated. "Yes, I am," he said.
They continued to talk for a while, but when the call finally ended, Troy sat in his office quietly.
He'd lied. He knew he wasn't happy.
But that was life. One didn't have to be happy to have a fulfilled life.
Shayne smiled at his wife as she stepped from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her.
"I hope we didn't make a serious mistake which will only make matters worse," he said. "Getting both of them to take care of the children while we are away makes sense, doesn't it? They are the obvious choices. With Gladys in New York and Tamara indisposed, we didn't have an alternative."
"That's true, but I know you were thinking that getting the two of them together is a great idea," Carla commented.
"Well, it did cross my mind. I still believe they belong together and whatever is keeping them apart needs to be resolved. Getting them together is the first step. I know both of them will place the kids before their feelings for each other. We have nothing to be worried about."
"I just hope our little plan doesn't backfire."
"Backfire? Don't you see the heat between the two of them whenever they are near each other? That's why I'm glad we have these family functions at least once a year. Forces them to deal with each other. I look at the two of them and it's like they want to eat each other up."
Carla sat on the bed. "I see it, too. It reminds me of you and me."
"Definitely not the situation. But the heat. Yes."
"Also, not the most romantic of situations."
"Yes, but I can remember making love to you many times over that weekend. You left me quite fatigued. It took me weeks to recover."
"I remember I was so angry when I woke up and found you gone."
"But you came back. Four months later. Pregnant."
"Yes, with Darius. When I look at him now, I can't believe that he was born premature. I have to look at the photos of him during that time to remind me of the beautiful miracle God gave us."
"Yes, he's our miracle."
"And a handful, but I'm sure Sandra and Troy can handle him. We do spoil them a bit at times."
"We do. I'm sure Darius will show them his sad, brown eyes and they'll let him do whatever he wants."
"Just like we do," Carla stated.
"Like you do. I always put my foot down."
"Sure you do. I thought we'd decided he won't be getting that Wii."
"He did get an A in the math test at the end of term. And I did promise him anything he wanted."
"Shayne, you know when it comes to your son, you're like a lamb."
"And you are so strict and firm."
They both smiled.
"This has been good for us. We've done well."
"Yes, and still love each other, too."
"Want to show me how much you love me, Mr. Knight?" she purred.
"Definitely, I've been wondering how long you're going to keep talking when I'm feeling as horny as a teenager."
And he set out to show her just how much he loved her.