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The Price of Love
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The Price of Love
by AshleyTara

CHAPTER 3
Graceís Shop

Ivy slowed her cream Mercedes convertible to a stop in front of Grace Bennetís little shop. She had put her light blue vintage Mustang convertible back in storage the day after the prom disaster. That was the first time she had had the Mustang out in twenty years. Ivy could never bring herself to use the car because of the painful memories it held of her and Sam. Yet it was those same painful, but beautiful memories that kept her from parting with it. She got out of the car approached the door of the quaint shop.

As usual with her commanding presence, she made a royal entrance into the shop where none of the country club set would ever think to look for Ivy Crane. Her blonde hair was pulled into a neat French roll with her signature strand of hair floating down the side of her face. Her nails were perfectly manicured and she had very small, understated cream pearls hanging from her earlobes. She was wearing a pale blue high waisted, knee length skirt with a matching cropped jacket, a cream silk blouse, and designer cream heeled sandals. To complete her ensemble was a wide brimmed cream hat with pale blue ribbon and flowers the same shade as her suit and a cream handbag. But her locket was safely hidden under her blouse. Yes, Ivy Crane was definitely not someone you would expect to find here when it was a perfect afternoon to be shopping and lunching with the other ladies of the country club. Nonetheless, she was here and on a mission.

"Ivy," Grace greeted her with a wide smile, "itís so good to see you! Thatís a fabulous hat youíre wearing. Itís so becoming!"

"Thank you! Itís good to see you too Grace, dear. Ethan never lets me leave the house without a hat since that day Sam was over and I fainted from being out in the sun without one. I figured I might as well wear one in style," Ivy responded with a genuine smile, even though she knew the reason she fainted wasnít because of the sun.

Grace gave a small laugh of admiration, "Well, it certainly is marvelous. I wish I could wear a hat like that."

"Well Grace, how are you? I havenít really gotten to talk to you much since that winter weekend at the ski lodge."

"I know weíve all been so busy. Especially you with Ethanís wedding coming up. Did you and Julian enjoy your weekend as much as Sam and I did," Grace asked innocently hoping what she had heard about Julian wasnít true for Ivyís sake.

Ivy nervously brushed the question away, "Iím sure not. I heard that you came back positively glowing. Wasnít it supposed to be your second honeymoon?"

"Yes, and it was nearly perfect, except for the strange, paranoid dreams I had about Sam being with another woman while we were at the lodge. I know it wasnít real, but I felt better when Sam reassured me that I was just dreaming."

Ivyís conscience almost got the better of her by trying to make her cringe with guilt, but she stopped it before it came and felt it gather into a lump in her throat.

"Anyway Ivy, enough about me, what is it you need help with?"

"Well, as you know Sheridan is out of town with Luis. Theyíre trying to gather more information and clues as to the murder of Martin Fitzgerald and if Sheridan had any part in it. Julian and Alistair know sheís out of town, but they think sheís doing some shopping and getting some rest after the whole Paris incident. They donít know Luis is with and Iím just praying that they wonít find out. But to get down to the point, I know Sheridan has been upset about the whole situation lately and been a little down. I thought Iíd get some new nick-knacks and things here to redecorate her cottage a little bit to cheer her up and I want you to help me."

Graceís eyes teared up a bit at Ivyís thoughtfulness and sincere wish to help her sister-in-law. "Of course Iíll help you, Ivy!"

They spent the next hour picking things out for Sheridanís cottage and bringing them to the large counter at the back of the shop. As they were wrapping things up and putting them in boxes and bags, they began talking again.

"You know Ivy, I just want to let you know what a wonderful thing I think it is that youíre doing for Sheridan. There arenít many people who would go out of their way to cheer up their sister-in-law. You are truly a kind, thoughtful, generous person. Iím so blessed to have people like you and Eve for friends."

Ivy stopped wrapping the candlestick she was holding and looked Grace in the eye with at first guilt and then a kind, thankful smile. "Grace, thatís probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, but donít worry, I wonít hold you to it," Ivy replied and looked down shamefully.

Grace was surprised, "What do you mean?"

"Oh Grace, I know what the people of Harmony think about me and my family. Most of them despise us and have good reason to. I know that they call me, ĎPoison Ivyí and ĎThe Ice Princessí behind my back. It means a lot to me that you would consider me one of your friends. I really donít have any true friends except for Pilar. The ladies that I lunch with from the country club only care about wealth, marital status, and social standing. You can be sure that as soon as you leave theyíll have something bad to say about you. Iíve seen it happen," Ivy rambled so that Grace could not console her, furthering her guilt.

"Ivy, I really Ė"

"Grace, what Iím trying to say is, I really appreciate your selfless gesture, but good people like you arenít friends with someone like me. I donít deserve your friendship. I know youíre just being kind in offering it. Thatís the kind of person you are. But if we see each other in public and you donít talk to me, Iíll understand."

Ivy looked away and started re-wrapping the candlestick sheíd been holding throughout her whole speech. Grace was shell-shocked.

"Ivy, I meant every word I said," cooed an astonished Grace. "The people who say those things donít know you at all. No matter what the rest of your family may be like, I know the truth about you, and I consider you a friend. I promise Iíll always talk to you, no matter where we are."

Ivy smiled, "Thank you, Grace. Iím honored that you would consider me a friend."

Trying to lighten the mood, Grace changed the subject. "So, Ivy how is your family?"

"Oh, Ethan is just wonderful. Heís preparing for his marriage to Gwen. Theresa has been helping him while Gwenís out of and she really is God sent. Sheís so helpfulÖI donít know how we would have gotten the wedding off the ground without her." Ivy continued, "The girls are still off at boarding school. I wish they didnít have to be so far away from me. But they are coming home for the wedding. Theyíre young women now and Iíve missed seeing them grow up, but the Crane family wouldnít have it any other way. Youíre so lucky to have your girls at home with you, Grace."

"I know I am but, Noah is still away at school. I miss him terribly. You know how it is with your first-bornÖyouíre just a little more protective of them, even if youíre first born is practically a grown man." Then Grace remembered something she thought Ivy would find humorous. "You know what else amazes me? How much Ethan reminds me of Sam and Noah."

Ivy stopped short. "Really? How so," she asked nervously.

"Well, I just think itís odd how people from two completely unrelated families could be so much alike. They all have the same eyes, but itís more than that. I know how much Ethan loves you, Ivy. That he would protect his family, and especially you, to death from whatever could be threatening you, just like Sam."

"That is strange, isnít it," Ivy laughed cautiously. "But it certainly is true."

"It is. Well, I think thatís everything," replied Grace, gathering up the bags. "Iíll just send the bill up to the mansion tomorrow when I get it figured out."

"Thank you so much again, Grace for your helpÖand everything else."

"Itís no problem, Ivy. Remember, weíre friends and if you ever need someone to just listen to you Iím here. I know you and Julian arenít very close Ė"

"I appreciate that, Grace. Have a lovely evening," Ivy said as she slowly closed the shop door.

This was all so hard. She genuinely liked Grace. Grace was a good person and Ivy had no reason to hate her. After all, Grace hadnít even been in the picture when she and Sam were together. That was the whole problem. Now it was Grace who had Sam and Ivy didnít want to hurt her, but she wasnít sure she could live without Sam.

As she got in her car and drove off toward the mansion, she made a promise to herself, "I am going to forget about Sam. Itís the best thing for all of us." She got a little more confident as she gave herself a pep talk. "I lived without him in my like for twenty years and didnít have any contact with him. I never even had a relapse. At least I was functioning." All of a sudden Ivy began to weaken, "Then he just showed up at the mansion one day and everything changed. Since Sam walked onto the estate last summer, I havenít been able to think about anything else. Well, better my happiness that is sacrificed than that of Ethan and Sam and Graceís family. Iíve learned to live without it. After all, Iím the one who left, even if it was to protect themÖ.í

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