Chapter Seven: If You Ask
Sheridan could barely believe how quickly time had passed
from the dreadful Christmas disaster to Luis’ birthday. Christmas night they had gone to Luis’ house and spent
the evening with his family. Ethan had been there as well and it had been a memory she would never forget. Pilar
had given her a hand made quilt for her bed and Theresa a new nightgown that she saw in Victoria’s Secret. Sheridan
had laughed when Theresa suggestively added that it might make a nice gift for both her brother and Sheridan. After
exchanging presents and singing carols, the family watched old movies from past Christmases. Sheridan watched as
they laughed together, filling her in on the action and then as they all became silent and pensive when Martin’s
smiling face filled the screen. She remembered that night so clearly as she held Luis in bed.
Luis placed his head on Sheridan’s stomach, her
hands smoothing down his wet hair. They had taken a relaxing bath together upon Sheridan’s suggestion. She had
noticed how tense he had become. Carefully, she caressed his cheek and then returned to smoothing his hair as she
rested back against the pillows.
"Why don’t you tell me about it, Luis?" she whispered, hoping he would open up to her.
"I miss him," he whispered against her stomach.
"I know, darling," she continued her caresses.
"He used to tell me I was going to be something. He told me I’d be the first Lopez-Fitzgerald with a chance
at college…a chance at a white-collar job." He moved closer to her. "He said he loved us."
"I’m sure he did, Luis. I’m sure he still does…wherever his is."
"I wanted him to be there for me. I was so angry with him when he disappeared. Then Antonio…they left me here
to deal with everything, Sheridan. I was just a kid. I didn’t know what to do and I was scared, but I did it…"
"And it made you the better man," she felt a tear hit my stomach.
"I loved my father."
"I know, baby."
"I wanted him to be here for my birthdays, my wedding, my children…I wanted him to be a grandfather to our
She didn’t miss his use of the word our and smiled slightly. "Luis, he might still be alive. We might find
"But he isn’t here now," he cried, turning his head into her stomach. "He hasn’t been here in years
and my mother has suffered since he left. I need him, now more than ever."
She caressed the back of his head, wishing there was something she could say to make it better. She knew what it
was like to be without a parent and she only wished she could make his pain go away. "Come here, sweetheart,"
she whispered soothingly.
Luis slid up so that his head rested on her chest and he was cradled in her arms. Holding him close, she rubbed
his back. "I know it’s hard, sweetheart, I really do. I know what it’s like to be without the one you love.
Remember, I lost my mother. I wish now more than ever that she could be here, Luis. She would have loved you."
His tears continued to fall, but he replied weakly. "Really?"
"Yes. She would have found you to be the very best thing in the world for me…just as I do. Luis, your father
is here in your heart, just as my mother is in mine. When she passed away, I didn’t know what was happening; I
just knew that things would never be the same again. At least your father stands a chance of returning home someday."
"Maybe," he sniffled.
"Shh," she kissed the top of his head. "I’m here for you, Luis, I’ll always be here for you. If
you ever want to just lean on me and cry, I’ll be here."
Luis sniffed again and could feel a few stray tears being to fall again. Sheridan held him as close as she could,
allowing him to feel her love. She listened as his tears slowed and when she looked down, he was asleep in her
arms. She smiled and kissed his head, closing her eyes and allowing her own sleep to overcome her.
That next morning Luis had thanked her with breakfast in bed and they just lounged around there all day. They kissed
and talked, watched movies and made love; all their favorite things. For the first time in months, they truly felt
bonded, both having lost someone they loved dearly. Luis had shared more stories of his childhood while he rested
his head in her lap and then Sheridan would tell a few about her years in Paris. She finally felt as if they were
a couple and it was a wonderful feeling.
New Years had been a somber holiday. Sheridan and Luis had remembered the details of the prior year. The scene
above the Seascape would be forever etched in their minds and Luis wasn’t sure he wanted to leave the cottage because
of that night. Sheridan had convinced Luis that she would be perfectly safe and that locking themselves away wasn’t
necessary. After all, he did have to go check on the Youth Center ball that was taking place thanks to Sam and
Grace Bennett. So, Luis and Sheridan had stopped in that night at the center and shared a slow dance to one of
Chad’s favorite tunes. Afterwards, Sheridan had insisted she was only running to the car to get her forgotten purse
while Luis caught up with Sam. Grace had even walked her to the door and watched her cross the short distance to
the car. That didn’t stop the black sports car from speeding towards the center, a gun pointed out of the window.
Nor did it halt Luis from getting the sick to his stomach feeling that alerted him of impeding danger. He arrived
in time to knock Sheridan out of the way, the bullet grazing his arm as they both fell to the ground. Angrily,
Luis had forced her into the car and taken off for the cottage before the car could return for another shot. Sheridan
could remember the conversation they had once they were tucked safely away in the cottage.
"I told you not to go. In fact I begged you
to let *me* run to the car to get your purse," Luis slammed the door as they entered the cottage. He wasn’t
exactly angry, Sheridan could tell that, but he was hurt and disappointed. As he threw his coat onto the chair,
she could see the blood soaked into his shirt and the bandaged wrapped around his bicep. He collapsed onto couch.
She walked to his side and placed her hand on his arm.
He looked up at her. "There are getting to be more and more of these petty arguments, aren’t there?"
she asked him.
"This isn’t a petty argument, Sherry angel," he sighed. "This is serious. We’ve let our guard down
and almost paid with your life. I’m not willing to pay that price, Sheridan."
"And I’m not willing to lock myself away in this dreadful place so that we can be sure I’m safe. Luis, I want
to get out and live my life. I have that right you know!"
"And it’s my job to protect you, Sheridan."
"Are we back to that again?" she sighed exasperatedly. "Am I just a job?"
"You damn well know you are more than that, Sheridan. I love you with every fiber of my being and I would
do *anything* to protect you. But I can’t protect you when you insist on being so free."
"Free? Luis I ran to the car to get a purse!" she was angry now.
"And I asked you not to go! You knew that it wasn’t safe. I told you it wouldn’t be safe!"
"Damn it, Luis, I knew it wouldn’t be too," she jumped off the couch. "I knew deep down inside that
something was going to happen but I refused to let that fear consume me again. I lived in fear for so long, especially
those days after you were shot. Don’t you think I worry every day that something may take you from me?"
Sheridan hadn’t noticed the tears that had begun to fall down her cheeks until Luis stood and wiped them away.
She collapsed into his arms and sobbed, her body shaking with her sadness. "I hate that you have to protect
me because I know I can never protect you from them."
Luis rubbed her back in soft circles. They had been so disappointed to learn that the French man caught months
ago was just another hit man on the list. He refused to turn in his bosses or his American partner and they were
back at square one. Now they were dealing with more attempts on her life. He held her close, his own tears pooling
in his brown orbs. "Sheridan, I know this is hard for us, but we’ll get through it. We always do."
"I can’t lose you, Luis."
Sheridan sighed as she sank into the blue chairs, sipping the coffee Luis had made. He was outside speaking with
his sister about his birthday. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t known it was his birthday. Then again, they had
never actually discussed their birthdays before. Watching through the window of the cottage door, she could see
him talk animatedly with Theresa. He was smiling; that was a good sign. She smiled as an idea for the perfect birthday
present came to mind. Rushing to the phone, Sheridan dialed the main house line and called Pilar.
"Crane Residence," Pilar’s light voice answered.
"Pilar, it’s Sheridan. How fast can we get a party together for tonight?"
Pilar laughed. "Knowing you, Miss Crane…"
"Sheridan," Pilar amended, "we can have it done in a few hours."
"Perfect. Have the kitchen staff cook up all of Luis’ favorites and then bring down a list of numbers we can
call." Seeing Theresa head for the main house, she laughed. "And get Theresa to help. I want this to
be the best birthday Luis ever had!"
"Well, it is a milestone…"
"What?" Sheridan asked.
"He’ll be thirty today," Pilar laughed. "My baby is certainly grown up."
"Thirty," Sheridan gushed. "Pilar, send Ethan to the cottage too when you finish. I’ll need him
to occupy Luis so we can decorate."
"If you insist."
"Of course I insist," Sheridan was giddy. A small party and then tonight she would break the news to
Luis; she wanted to be his wife and was ready for his proposal. Then she would order his presents and be sure to
have them delivered for this evening. It would per perfect…it had to be. Thirty! She couldn’t believe it. "And
"Yes?" she asked, jotting down some of the things they would need on a nearby notepad.
"Tonight will be the night…"
"You’re going to tell him?" Pilar grew excited as well.
"Yes, tonight I’ll tell Luis that I’m ready to be his wife."
"Dios Mio! Tonight truly is going to be a special night!"
"Oh no, he’s coming inside. I’ll talk to you later, Pilar," she hung up the phone.
"Whom were you talking to? Your boyfriend?" Luis teased, closing the cottage door behind him.
"How did you know?" Sheridan teased back. Luis chuckled.
"Who was on the phone?" he walked over to her.
"Your mother. I needed to ask her a question. Must you always be so nosy?"
"Only when I know you have something up your sleeve."
"Me?" she batted her eyes innocently.
"Oh, like that’s even *close* to the truth," he pulled her into his arms.
"Some days it is," she laughed. Turning serious, she looked into his eyes. "When were you going
to tell me it was your birthday?"
"You heard Theresa, didn’t you?"
"I didn’t want you to make a big deal out of it…"
"Because you’ll be thirty today?" she laughed.
"Damn, Mama told, didn’t she?"
Sheridan nodded. "It is a big deal, you know," she smiled. "You only turn thirty once."
"Just like you only turn one through twenty-nine once. Look, Sherry, I don’t really want you to get all excited
about my birthday. I know how that head of yours works…"
"You can fight me all you want on this, Luis, but once my mind decides what it wants to do, it will do it."
He sighed. "Don’t I know it."
"Better," she laughed. "Play along, just this once?"
"Fine, fine. Just this once." He kissed her lips. "I guess you want to get rid of me so you can
make the plans for whatever it is you need to plan?"
"In fact, I do. That’s why you and your future brother-in-law are going out for lunch and some drinks and
bonding while I get to work."
He sighed. This was going to be a long day.
"Thank you for doing this, Ethan," Sheridan smiled at Ethan as they waited for Luis to come out of the
"No problem, Sheridan. Though I’m reluctant about leaving you unprotected…"
"Luis has Crane security watching me and I’m not planning on leaving the estate. Pilar, Theresa and I will
be right here calling people and preparing the cottage," she smiled.
"Preparing the cottage for what?" Luis came out of the bedroom.
"Nothing," her eyes twinkled. "Now you go and have a good time, birthday boy," she pecked his
lips lightly. "I’ll see you later tonight."
"All right," he kissed her gently. "Love you."
"Ditto," she giggled and watched him leave with Ethan. Theresa popped her head in from the kitchen.
"Are they gone?" she peeked around.
"Yes, come on in," Sheridan smiled.
Theresa entered the living room. "Ok, so what are we planning?"
"A surprise party…we’ll need a cake and balloons and presents and guests and…"
"I think I’ve got the picture," Theresa laughed. "Mama will be down in an hour and Ivy has given
me the day off to help you with this. I think I can get Whitney here to help too."
"The more the merrier," Sheridan was glowing. "Theresa this all has to be perfect."
"Why?" she asked, sitting in the nearby chair.
"I’m…I’m going to tell Luis that I’m ready."
"For marriage?!" she asked excitedly.
"Exactly," Sheridan giggled. "I want to be his wife."
"Oh Sheridan!" Theresa jumped up and hugged her. "You’re going to marry him! We’ll be sisters!"
Sheridan laughed. "So his birthday party has got to be the best ever. I want it to be perfect."
"It will be," Theresa immediate got on the phone. "Let’s get some extra help!"
Luis was surprised when Ethan took him to the country club for the day. He felt completely out of place here. His
faded jeans and polo shirt were nothing compared to the suits and ties around him. One glance and he knew he was
the only non-white there as a member. Not that he expected there to be a lot of rich Latino men around.
"Thanks for bringing me here, Ethan, I really appreciate it," Luis sighed as they settled at a table.
"Well, I couldn’t think of anywhere we could go while Sheridan does whatever it is she is doing," Ethan
laughed. "She truly does love you…"
"And I love her," Luis replied.
"So I’ve noticed," Ethan smiled and sipped his cup of coffee.
Luis prayed that someone else would be around in a pair of jeans, but he didn’t actually expect it. He was starting
to feel uncomfortable, everything around him reminding him that Sheridan had money and he didn’t. "Ethan,
do you mind if I go call Sheridan…make sure she’s ok?"
"Not at all, Luis. Would you like to use my cell?"
"I’ve got mine," he got up and walked away from the table. Dialing the number, he waited for her to pick
"Theresa?" Luis asked.
"Yea, hold on, I’ll get Sheridan," she replied.
"Hey, baby, what’s wrong?" Sheridan asked concerned. She could hear the slight tremble in his voice.
"Sherry, I don’t fit in here," he sighed, looking around at the grand hallway he was standing in. "Ethan
brought me to the club."
"Oh, Luis, I’m sorry. I hadn’t meant for him to bring you there, I knew you’d be uncomfortable."
"You know what I mean…we both know how you feel about those stuffy, snooty rich snobs…"
"Like you," he teased.
Luis sat on one of the couches in the hall and sighed. "I miss you."
"I miss you too baby, but you won’t be away from me long. Look, why don’t you go ask Ethan to take you to
the Book Café and visit with Beth or something?" she asked, the phone balanced on her shoulder while
she scribbled something on a piece of paper for Theresa to do.
"I don’t want to hurt his feelings," Luis sighed again. He could tell she wasn’t really paying attention.
"Sorry, baby, I’m talking to your sister too. Sweetie, Ethan will understand. I know that you don’t like the
club and I don’t blame you. I’m not really fond of that place either. Look, just tell Ethan the truth. You two
can bond over coffee at the Café. I really need to go darling."
"Luis, I’ll see you later. Love you."
He sighed. "Love you too."
"Bye babe." She hung up.
Luis sighed one last time and returned to Ethan. "Ethan, can I ask a huge favor?"
"Not to be disrespectful or ungrateful, but I really don’t fit in here and…"
"Ethan!" the cheery voice of a young gentleman called. "Socializing with the help are you?"
"If it isn’t Matthew Mitchell," Ethan stood and shook the man’s hand. "It’s been years."
"Just returned from England. I was helping Father with the business, you know how that goes."
"Indeed," Ethan smiled.
"Uh, Ethan," Luis cleared his through.
"Oh, Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald, this is Matthew Mitchell, a good friend of the family."
"Pleasure," Matthew smiled. His brown eyes alit with wonder.
Luis looked the man over. He couldn’t have been more than twenty-two with short brown hair that was parted and
slicked back. His suit had been tailor-made and fit him as if it was a second skin. He looked the rich preppy.
"Nice to meet you," Luis nodded.
"So how do you know, Mr. Fitzgerald?" Matthew purposely left out part of Luis’ name.
"He’s Sheridan Crane’s body guard," Warren’s voice interrupted.
"Warren," Ethan turned and shook his hand. Luis tensed.
"Sheridan and Luis have been inseparable for months, Matthew. In fact, I’ve phone her often and been told
she’s unable to leave the grounds." He turned to Luis. "Is she here today? I’d love to see her."
"I’m sure you would," Luis grumbled.
"So is she here? I mean if you’re around…"
"She isn’t here," Ethan replied. "Luis is going to be my brother-in-law and I asked Sheridan if
I could take him out to get to know him."
"That’s right," Warren laughed, "you’re marrying the maid’s daughter. I can’t believe you passed
up something like Gwen Hotchkiss for a piece of riff raff…no offense Officer."
Ethan could see Luis’ temper rising and watched as his fists balled. He was going to deck Warren and soon. Luis
tried not to let his temper get the best of him and dug his nails into his palms. He couldn’t believe the nerve
of these people.
"Take it back, Warren," Ethan felt his own temper rise. The longer he thought about it the more he, too,
wanted to deck Warren.
"Yes do," Phoebe’s voice joined in. "I hear Latins make wonderful lovers," she slithered up
close to Luis. She couldn’t believe her luck. This man was one she would love to get her clutches into. ‘Sheridan
doesn’t know what she’s missing,’ she thought.
Ethan’s eyes widened at how friendly she was. "Do you two know each other?"
"Mm," she grinned and placed her hand on Luis’ stiff arm. "We met in July. Luis is a fabulous kisser."
She grinned. Fabulous didn’t begin to express how well he kissed.
"Really?" Ethan asked.
"It’s a long story," Luis replied through gritted teeth.
"Oh yes," Warren laughed. "A long story. But I’m sure he doesn’t kiss as well as Sheridan. And her
tango!" Warren laughed. "Not that someone like you would know, would you, Officer?"
"Actually…" Luis started.
"Oh please, Sheridan wouldn’t give someone like you the time of day. I mean, look at you," Matthew laughed.
"Sheridan is a Crane…an heiress to a fortune. What are you the heir to? The family piggy bank?"
Luis looked hurt and angered. He swallowed hard and continued to dig his nails into his hands. They were right.
Everything they were saying was right. He couldn’t believe how stupid he felt right now. He fought back the pain.
His mother taught him better than that.
"Something you wanted to share, Officer?" Warren teased.
"Ethan, I’m going to be leaving." Luis shook Phoebe off.
"Luis…" he tried.
"I’ll be at the Youth Center," he turned and left. Once he was away from them he took off into a sprint
and didn’t stop until he was outside of the gate.
"Excuse me, would you?" Ethan ran out to find him, but Luis was gone. Pulling out his cell, he dialed
"What now, Luis?" Sheridan sighed into the phone.
"It’s not Luis," Ethan replied.
"Ethan? What’s going on?"
"I lost Luis."
"What?" she was shocked.
"We ran into Warren and Phoebe and Matthew Mitchell and well…it was bad."
"Ethan! Why didn’t you just take him to the Book Café, you know Luis hates the club." She was
"I’m sorry," he sighed. "Sheridan, he’s really rather hurt, maybe I should just bring him home."
"NO!" she yelled. "Ethan, we’re not done…I want this to be a surprise. Please, just see if you can
find him and bring him to the Book Café."
"Sheridan, you don’t understand…they insulted him. I swear he looked ready to cry."
"Oh no. Ethan, come and pick me up, will you? We need to find him."
"Sheridan, it isn’t safe for you…"
"Listen, Ethan, if the scene was as bad as you say it was, then Luis needs me. He’s not going to want to deal
"All right, I’ll be there in ten minutes."
"All right," she hung up.