Life Renewed (Final Chapters)

bright-life-renewed.jpgLife Renewed
Final Chapters

By StefB

Sara Collins had finally come to terms with the changes that occurred to her on her eighteenth birthday and built a comfortable life for her and her son but seeing the twin sister of the woman who turned her world upside down brought on an onslaught of painful memories.
Her life changes drastically afterwards but through the joy and the pain she sees the chance at a life renewed.
This story takes place within my Goddess Realm

This is the final part of a new storyline taking place within my Goddess Realm. It is not necessary to read Saved by a Goddess or Saved By a Goddess: Gifts to enjoy this story but admittedly it does help and is recommended.

Thank You LorasPa6 for your wonderful help editing and being there to bounce ideas off of.

Chapter Twenty

I looked over at the couch and there they were, my past. My past was in my future’s office, sitting on the very couch that Adam and I had made passionate love on so many times.

There they were, members of Annihilation, all looking as shocked to see me, as I was to see them.

Razor strolled back into my life about six months after we had been changed. At first he was so nice, sweet and gentle with me. We shared an uncommon experience and I could talk freely with him. I mistook the joy of gaining even a glimpse of my past self for love. I was totally devoted to him and he used my loyalty to his advantage at every turn.

The bastard almost ruined my life.

I spent a few years traveling with Annihilation while I was dating Razor. Razor, whose real name is Reginald Van Burke, was the lead singer. He used to be gorgeous. He was not very tall, standing five foot eight but back in the day he had a full head full of long black hair instead of the thinning mane he now hid behind a bandana. His once sparkling blue eyes, that at one time, captivated my heart are now so pale. His once ripped six-pack that I spent many hour rubbing my body over had been replaced with a keg.

He used to carry himself with such a swagger that I found irresistible. He now looked angry and unsure and it repulsed me. The years had not been kind, causing him to be a shell of his former self. I knew I should be glad to see him like this, but all I could feel was pity. It was hard to fathom that my entire world once revolved around this short, bitter, fat man.

He stood to greet me but I turned away, the thought of his touch made my stomach turn. He did not deserve another second of my attention.

Tim Simmons, or Skit as his fans knew him played drums and he had barely changed at all. His long blonde hair was still there but was in a more up to date style. Time had left his playful green eyes untouched. He was more muscular than he used to be which went well with his six foot one inch frame.

Jesse Storm, or Ax to his fans, was the lead guitarist. He also looked the same, still tall and still thin. His brown hair had not changed one bit, he maintained it exactly as he did back in the day. His brown eyes were still so full of life. The only difference between him then and now was a few well-earned wrinkles.

Matt Jones, the bass player was missing. Matt was my best friend in the band. Back in the day he had the best hair of them all. It was long, brown, and curly. His eyes were the shade of chocolate. With his perpetual tan, fit body, six foot three inch height and amazing personality he could have probably had any girl he wanted, myself included, but girls were not his forte. That was one of the best-kept secrets in rock.

Other than Ellie, Matt was the only person I kept any contact with since I left for New York. We shared many tears over what would become of our lives. I owed Matt my life. Sadly, as with most friendships, we have drifted apart in the last year or so. We used to talk two or three times a week but last I heard from him he was taking a sabbatical with his new boyfriend James, who shared a similar past as a closeted member of a successful band that left it all behind to be himself.

There was a young blonde haired guy sitting with them that I didn’t recognize. He must have been Matt’s replacement.

"Hi Tim, Jess" I finally managed to say brightly. I paused before coolly continuing, "Razor." I then added sarcastically, "I never thought I’d see you three sitting together again, where's Matt?"

Tim and Jess both jumped up to embrace me, each lifting me off the ground alternately while Razor continued staring at me. I didn’t know how to take his look. He almost looked happy to see me but there was also an undercurrent of anger.

"Oh my God Belle, it’s been ages. How have you been keeping yourself? I don't know how you did it but you look better than ever. Damn girl, you are smokin' hot. I'm loving the brown hair." Jesse said while removing the pencil and running a strand through his fingers.

I knew there was a reason I always liked Jess. "I’m good, you look great. Love your hair too."

"Do you ever talk to Pixie anymore?" Jess asked. Pixie is what everyone called Ellie back then. Jess and Ellie had a thing for each other once upon a time.

I nodded. "Yeah, everyday. She lives here too."

Jesse looked surprised. "She does? I’d love to see her."

Jesse might be the one person able to break Greg's spell over her. "I’ll let her know you're around. She may swing by tomorrow."

"Cool." Jesse said before asking the question I didn’t want to hear. "How’s that boy of yours?"

My mood immediately darkened, as I muttered, "Not now Jess, OK?" I cut my eyes to Razor.

Jesse sensed my mood and nodded knowingly.

I tried to put my happy face back on as Tim hugged me.

"It’s so good to see your sexy ass, I've often wondered what happened to you after you skipped off to New York."

I playfully slapped Tim’s shoulder. "You know I had to leave. I never thought I’d see you guys get back together? Where's Matt?"

Tim’s eyes lit up. "Well, you know, money talks."

I nodded as he continued.

Tim pointed toward the skinny blonde kid. "That’s Aaron he took Matt’s place. Matt said they couldn’t print enough money for him to be stuck on the road with some of us." He cut his eyes to Razor, I nodded to let him know I understood before he continued. "He’s living in the Bay area with his partner James. James is a great guy. You should see him now. He’s chopped all his hair off. He’s doing well. He’s happy."

I quickly realized that Matt had kept his promise and never told the guys he knew where I was, so I acted as if I knew none of what Tim was telling me. "Make sure to tell him I said hi next time you see him for me please."

Aaron stood and extended his hand, "Everybody calls me Grind, it's so nice to meet you, I'm a huge fan."

I smiled graciously, "Nice to meet you Grind."

"Matt be fucking pissed he missed you." Jess added.

I laughed. "I’m fucking pissed he missed me."

"Fucking fag." Razor mumbled from the couch.

Jess, Tim and I turned giving Razor evil looks.

"I see the years haven’t changed your attitude. You're still a fucking asshole. Matt's three times the man you ever were. I have to wonder if you are still happy with how everything turned out? Is your life everything you thought it would be?" I snapped.

"Damn Bumpkin the years have changed yours, when did you become such a bitch? You're probably what turned him gay." Razor snapped back.

Jess grabbed me around the waist to keep me from attacking Razor. I was still trying to get to his sorry ass as I hissed at him. "Don't call me that you bastard. I became a bitch on July eighteenth Nineteen Ninety-nine. I'm sure you remember the day since you were there."

Adam stood with clinched fists so I broke away from Jess and ran around Adam's desk to place myself between him and Razor. I placed my head on his shoulder as we embraced. He proceeded to give me the hottest kiss I believe I ever received. I knew he was staking his claim to me for Razor’s benefit but I didn’t care. I finally had a good man and I didn’t care who knew it. I was Adam’s and he could claim me whenever he wanted. If at that moment Adam had bent me over his desk I would have just smiled and told Razor to take notes so he could learn how a real man satisfied a woman.

"Why didn’t you tell me?" Adam asked after we ended our display.

I shrugged. "I don’t talk about that time."

Adam shook his head and smiled, "They said you couldn't sing again. I can’t believe you're Belle. How did I not realize it?"

I looked him directly in the eyes and shook my head emphatically. "I’m NOT! Not anymore. That was a long time ago. Can we talk about this later when we don’t have an audience?" I cut my eyes to Razor and the guys.

"Sure Baby, anything you want." He leaned in and kissed me again.

I stepped back and turned toward the door. "I’m going to go home, I’ll see you when you get off. Love you babe."

Adam nodded his head. "I love you too."

I turned to go. "Great to see you guys again."

Jesse looked alarmed. "You’re not leaving are you?"

I squinched my nose. "Yeah, you guys are busy and I need to finish up some projections for work tomorrow." I lied but I had no desire to be in the same room as Razor.

Adam jumped from his desk and joined me at the door. "Excuse me guys, I’ll be right back."

As soon as we stepped out of the office Adam looked at me intently, "Are you ok?"

I was quivering as I shook my head no. "You remember me telling you of the past you reminded me of?"

He nodded. "Yes, I remember that conversation very well."

I sighed, "That past is in your office."

Like a light tuning on, he made the connection to my tattoo. He reached under my skirt and rubbed inside my thigh, "Razor?"

I nodded my head.

"Hunter?"

I nodded again and began to cry.

"Does he know what hap…"

I cut him off. I knew where he was headed. "No and he doesn’t deserve to know. He didn’t care then, why should he care now?"

Adam's large arms and body formed a cocoon around me. "I understand. Just remember Baby, that's all in the past. I'm your future, I'm not going to hurt you and I won’t let anyone else hurt you. Do you hear me?" He tugged at my chin so we were face to face. "I love you Sara Liberty Collins, I loved you before I even knew you."

I pulled my head from his hand and laid it on his shoulder. "I love you too. I think I’m going back out front and have a drink or three. Did you drive the Evoque or the bike?"

Adam kissed my hair. "It was calling for rain so I left the bike at home."

"You mind if I ride home with you tonight?"

Adam laughed lightly, "Of course not. You should know you don't have to ask. I won't be too much longer."

As I moped back out to the bar I fished out my phone and called Ellie.

"Hey girly"

"Hey" I murmured.

"What’s wrong?"

"You won’t believe who is in Adam’s office?"

"Who?"

"Annihilation"

"NO SHIT, What the fuck are they doing there?"

"Apparently they are one of the surprise guests at the retro show at the arena tomorrow night."

"Where are you?"

"I’m still at Anthracite. By the way Jess said to tell you hi."

"I’m on the way."

"Okay" is all I said as I hung up.

Jane looked at me with concern etched all over her face as she slid me a margarita. "I tried to get you to stay out here."

"Can I get a shot of Petron?" I asked solemnly.

"Um, yeah. Sure. Are you okay?"

She handed me my shot and I downed it. "You remember that past I don’t talk about?"

She nodded, "Yeah."

"It’s in Adam’s office right now."

Jane stared at me sadly as she refilled my shot glass. "I know."

She had my full attention. "How did you know?"

Jane slid the shot in my direction as she laughed, "I've met you before and you are kinda unforgettable."

I sighed as I downed the drink. "How long have you known?"

Jane thought for a moment, "I'd had my suspicions for awhile but that night you fought those two sluts that I knew for sure."

"What do you mean?" I asked as I drank down the margarita she had given me with one gulp.

"Aren’t you driving?" Jane asked as she turned to fix me another drink.

"Adam's going to take me home then I can catch a cab tomorrow to get my car."

Jane stared at me as if I'd lost my mind. "You're not leaving the Porsche here overnight are you?"

I shook my head. "It looked like rain so I'm in the Mini tonight."

"Okay then, another strawberry margarita coming up."

Jane finished making my drink and handed it to me when I saw Ellie barreling up the stairs. She engulfed me in a hug as soon as she reached me. "Are you ok?"

I held my drink up. "No, but I'm getting there."

She frowned. "I can see that."

I sighed and looked at Ellie helplessly. "Jane knows who I used to be."

Ellie glanced at Jane who was staring at me with deep concern. She had not left my side since bringing my drinks.

"You already knew?"

Jane nodded her head. "Yeah, but sometimes I just can’t believe it."

Ellie stared in Jane's eyes. "Does Adam know?"

Jane shook her head. "I don't think so."

I spoke up as I took another drink. "He does now."

When I didn't say anything else Ellie looked at me expectantly. "And? What did he say?"

I shrugged. "He didn't really say anything. It's not like we could have a heart to heart in front of the guys." I turned to Jane. "How did you figure it out?"

"Fifteen years ago I took Adam to a concert at Freedom Hall."

I nodded my head. "I know, he's told me. You and another girl waited with him for Belle to come out and when I saw him he froze. "

Jane nodded again. "Yeah, I know he told you the story about his tattoo, but he couldn't have told you what Belle whispered in my ear where he couldn't hear could he?"

I shook my head as my eyes widened. "No, he didn't even know I said anything cause I turned to you when I had him in a hug."

She nodded. "Exactly, there is no way he could have known you told me that I wasn't saying new about you and to let him have his moment and quit being such a bitch." She started to smile. "You said almost that exact same thing to that girl the night you kicked her and her friend's butt. When you get mad your accent comes back full force and I knew it was you."

I laughed. "Why didn't you say anything?"

Jane shrugged. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."

I laughed again, only louder. "It didn't have anything to do with the fact you said all those nasty things to me?"

Jane started to blush. "That could have had something to do with it."

Ellie was intrigued. "Now I have to know. What did you say Jane?"

Jane shrugged again. "It was nothing. I was a stupid girl."

I grinned mischievously at Jane, "No no, you have to tell her. What was it you said? Oh yeah, you called Belle a… let's see… a tramp, a slut, a bitch and said you hated her. Did I get that right?"

Jane nodded, her embarrassment was obvious.

Ellie laughed. "Ouch, that's abit harsh there Jane. Jealous much?"

I quickly spoke up to defend Jane. "She has a point. Belle was all those."

Ellie spun around in anger. "You were none of those things. Even back then you were loyal and sweet, it was only the haters who said all that trash."

Jane jumped in. "You were right to say what you did to me. I was being a bitch and ruining one of Adam's proudest moments. After the accident I always wanted to see you to apologize. You gave him focus and helped save him without even knowing it."

Ellie stared at both of us confused.

I waved my hand. "I'll tell you about it later."

Jane decided to change the subject. "How did you get the name Belle anyways?"

Ellie started to speak before I tapped her shoulder. "I got this."

I turned back to Jane. "What’s my middle name?"

Jane’s eyes widened, "Oh, Liberty Bell"

I nodded before I continued. "When I first moved to L.A. the modeling agency insisted I go by Liberty Blue, they said it would make me more recognizable. When I started waitressing at The Tipsy I still had a thick southern accent, it was worse than yours. I was also sickeningly polite, it bordered on being annoying but it was how I was raised. All the guys used to make fun of me saying how I was so prim and proper, they said I was a true southern belle. Between my name and them thinking of me as a southern belle everyone started calling me Belle and it stuck."

"Oh, that makes sense." Jane said before asking, "What all happened when you were out there?"

I sighed again. "Look Jane, I know Adam's going to ask the same questions and I don’t want to tell this story twice. Why don’t you come with him to my apartment tonight and I'll tell you both everything. I'll answer any question you have. I really only want to tell this once if it’s ok."

Jane nodded. "I understand."

Ellie then jumped back in the conversation. "Are all the guys here?"

I shook my head. "Tim, Jess and Razor are. Matt didn’t return because he said they couldn't print enough money for him to be in the same room as Razor. Plus he's living life on his terms and doesn't want the intrusion into his personal life."

Ellie gave me a confused expression.

"He’s out and proud." I explained further.

Ellie laughed. "Oh! It's about time. Good for Matt. He’s a great guy."

I nodded emphatically. "Yeah he is. He's always been a great friend."

We all turned our heads when we heard someone yell, "Is that Pixie I see over there?"

We looked up to see Tim standing with a wide grin on his face.

"Tim!" Ellie squealed as she ran over to greet him.

Jane looked at me and raised her eyebrows. "Pixie?"

I laughed "We all had nicknames back then. She’s tiny and casts a spell over every man she comes in contact with. They started calling her Tinkerbell but it was just weird having a Belle and a Tinkerbell so she became Pixie."

Jane laughed as we watched all the guys walk from the back.

"I’ll be damned if it’s not my little Pixie!" Jesse said smiling.

"Jess!" Ellie squealed as she launched herself in his direction wrapping her legs around his waist as he caught her.

Adam looked over the scene with a combination of shock and awe etched on his perfect face.

"Looking good Pixie." Razor said as he walked past her.

Ellie glared at him with contempt. "Fuck you Reginald, you look like shit which is kind of fitting since you're a piece of it."

Tim laughed. "You have a way with the ladies tonight Razor."

Razor huffed. "Let’s get out of here."

Tim and Jesse responded almost in unison. "You go ahead, we’ll catch up."

Razor didn’t look happy but left as the rest of us all starting to gather around the bar to catch up on each other's lives. Adam walked up behind me and swallowed me into the safety of his arms as Razor walked past.

In the incomparable way he had of making me smile no matter what was going on, he whispered in my ear. "I think you could take him."

I peered up to the man who had become so focal to my life, commanding his lips to meet mine, he got the hint and lowered his head. "Thanks, I needed that." I stood and made Adam sit. I needed his warmth and security as much at that moment than I had at any of point. I rested myself on his knee waiting for everyone to get settled.

When the guys took seats flanking Adam and I, Tim finally broached the subject I had been dreading all night. "Belle, how’s that boy of yours? I bet he's grown."

The tears came so swiftly that I couldn’t respond. Adam wrapped me even tighter into his comforting embrace.

Thankfully Ellie was there to step in, She reached across and patted my hand gently. "Hunter was killed in a car wreck last September."

Both guys leaned over and pulled me away from Adam and into a group hug.

"I am so sorry Belle, I had no idea" Tim’s voice dripped with sincerity.

Jesse added, "Me too Belle, if I'd known I'd have been here for you. I've always considered you family. You've always been like the fifth member of the band. We wouldn't be where we are without your help."

Tim nodded in agreement to Jesse’s words.

I finally gathered myself enough to speak. "No, it’s ok. I didn’t want to bother you guys. Mainly I didn’t want someone showing up to make a scene."

Ellie spoke up looking as if she were about to cry herself. "I'm sorry guys, it's my fault. She was out of it after it happened and I didn't even think to call anyone. I was so worried about her that it never crossed my mind that you'd want to know."

The guys offered me a sympathetic look and Adam looked on with understanding while Jane and Grind stared at us with confused expressions.

After the painful topic of Hunter was behind us the rest of the evening was very enjoyable. It was the first time I had ever seen Adam laugh so much in such a short span of time as the guys regaled him with stories of my crazier days. The guys loved it when Adam told them about my "minor encounter" with the two girls who voiced their plans for him.

They laughed even harder when Jane told them about me charging a guy half-naked who was about to attack Adam from behind. Even Adam laughed and his eyes held a small measure of awe, since he had not been aware that happened.

In a calculated move I occasionally brought up stories from the happier times when Ellie and Jess were together. I couldn't help but to notice a certain amount of attraction was still there between them.

Ellie and the guys left a couple of hours later but not before making me promise to attend the after party and since it was a slow night Adam and Jane decided to close early. Once we were back at my apartment and sitting around the couch Jane addressed the elephant in the room.

"So, will you now tell us the entire story?"

Chapter Twenty-one

I inhaled a deep breath while trying to muster the courage to talk about things I spent most waking hours trying to forget. I quietly walked to bookcase and pulled out a few photo albums I had not looked at since Hunter wanted real answers about who his father was when he was nine.

I snuggled in next to Adam and sat the albums at my feet before I took a sip of the drink Jane had mixed for me when we walked in. With a deep sigh I started to bare my soul wide open. I started with my early life because there really was not that much of a difference in my actions other than the gender change.

"I was a wide eyed wild child. I'd always been taller than the other girls and had been made fun of my entire life, especially after these showed up larger than I wanted them to be." I motioned to my chest.

"My parents were separated, Daddy was in jail and Mom drank too much to be bothered. At first I tried to be a model child, hoping I could take care of her but nothing was ever good enough for my mother. I'd get a ninety-nine and she'd slap me saying it wasn't a hundred and Daddy would glance at it through the little window when I went to see him and offer some meaningless platitude. I knew neither cared so eventually I gave up trying to please anyone."

Adam and Jane laughed after I handed them a photo album from my teenage years. "I dyed my hair solid black, I don't think I owned anything that wasn't black and I was all about music. Music was my life. The problem was, music didn't allow me the freedom I wanted so badly. Needless to say, I skeptical when a guy at the mall asked me to come in for a few test shots but jumped at the chance when a modeling agency offered to move me to Los Angeles."

I smiled in acknowledgement to their gentle teasing about my Goth phase. When they finished Adam encouraged me to continue so I did. "Some friends I had back then could make a mean fake ID, of course my friends thought I was crazy when I asked for a new one saying I was eighteen instead of twenty-one but I didn't want to push my luck and ruin the one chance I had to escape."

Jane stared at me quizzically. "Your parents didn't try to stop you?"

I laughed ruefully. "No, they were in their own little worlds of misery and alcohol. I think it was a relief to have me out of their hair. So long as I called occasionally to let them know I was still alive they were okay with it."

Adam shook his head sadly as I continued. "I arrived in LA with the promise of a wealth and fame only to find the jobs few and far between. The modeling agency didn't like the Goth look and convinced me to change my name and look. They made me hit the tanning bed religiously and made me color my hair back to my original blonde. They started dressing me more provocatively and I became Liberty Blue; so instead of a girl who stood out at home for being so unique, I suddenly became average in a sea of tan Amazonian blondes. I was so lost."

That also was fairly true. They did make me change back to blonde and they also tried to make me dress in a manner they found sexy. They did not like what they considered my dated rocker look.

As I handed them a photo album filled with old modeling shots Jane and Adam looked from the album to me a few times.

"She looks just like her." Jane mumbled.

"Looks like who?" I asked.

Adam started speaking before Jane had a chance to respond. "I used to have all these pictures memorized. You still look the same yet you're different. So you are actually two years younger than everyone thought you were. I guess that's why I never made the connection"

I nodded. "I was barely making any money as a model and had a very hard time surviving until I got a job as a waitress at a small shit hole of a rock club. Turned out that club was one of the places to be. All the biggest rock stars of the day hung out there. It was like this place was made for me. It allowed me to make great money and be around people who loved music as much as I did. I gave up on trying to be a model and lived in the moment The Tipsy provided."

Adam gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze to let me know he understood.

I took a deep breath to steady myself so I could recall the painful memories that followed as I handed them my photo album from my days as a waitress. "I dated quite a few guys from different bands but nothing serious. It was mainly just sex but it was fun. I was meeting people I never imagined I'd get the chance to meet, much less sleep with. I mean, my God, I was only eighteen by then. I was completely overwhelmed and over my head." I sighed sadly. "But that all stopped after seeing a gorgeous guy with piercing blue eyes up on stage singing during battle of the bands for new talent. The band lost that night but at the time I thought I won."

I cut my eyes toward Adam. "This was a guy who was so gorgeous that he had women throwing themselves at him. A guy who had his choice of any woman he desired, and yet he chose me. He wanted to know everything about me. I thought it was too good to be true."

Adam pulled me close. "That explains a lot."

I kiss his cheek before I started again, "The lead singer was Razor and the next thing I knew, he was telling me how beautiful I was, how smart I was, how talented I was and I truly believed he meant it."

I made my way over to the bar for another drink. "It was great at first but before I knew it I had the entire band crashing at my apartment. At times it was fun so I didn’t mind that much. Ellie moved out to join me after she graduated which made it better. The guys and I would write songs together. I would help hammer out melodies and if you look at their first two albums I had a writing credit on every song. I talked my boss into letting them become regulars at the club. They were all about their music and since I was the only one working a real job, I was supporting all of them. I didn't mind cause I thought I was helping."

I knew from Adam's expression he was shocked. "Their first two albums were their best. The third only had like three songs I liked."

I walked over to my closet and dug into a box of old compact discs and tossed him Annihilation's third album. He read the liner notes and gasped, "You wrote those too. Hell, it says Sara Collins how did I miss that?"

I laughed, "Yeah, I've written quite a few songs. At first Razor tried to keep me from getting any credit whatsoever but the rest of the band refused. Even with the guy's insistence I was hesitant. Razor had me so fucked up mentally that I didn't want a lot of people to know so I used my real name." I walked toward my back office that I never let anyone in. "Come on in here."

They followed me into the room that, in no way matched the rest of my apartment. It was a dark burgundy color with gold carpet and many platinum albums and guitars lining the walls. A few statuettes lined the brass and glass desk that rested in the middle of the room.

Jane started to squeal when she walked in. "Holy shit is that a Grammy? And that's a platinum record!"

I smiled, "Yeah, after the guys became popular a lot of artists recorded my songs."

Adam sat me down on my black leather couch. "Nice effort, trying to distract us with shiny objects. Finish telling your story."

I sighed, "The only problem back then was money. I made great, I mean really great, money from the bar but it wasn’t enough. I let Razor convince me that the band needed to focus on their music and he talked me into working for a friend of his who owned a strip club. It was very difficult at first and I wanted to quit but he convinced me that I needed to do it to help him make it big."

Tears fell down my cheeks as I leaned into Adam's side. "He told me if I truly loved him, I would do it. In hindsight I should have ended it right then but I was young, dumb and head over heels for my very own personal rock star plus he kept making promises I should have known he'd never keep."

I paused as I remembered how he told me he was trying to build up a nest egg for our future together because neither of us would have the opportunity to make that kind of money once we switched back.

Realizing they were waiting for me to finish my story, a shudder ran through my body as I continued. "I never got used to everyone touching me. It really bothered me and I turned to alcohol and drugs to help numb me to it. I found it helped to imagine the guys grabbing me were Razor."

Jane gasped in surprise and squeezed my knee. "That's why you have such issues with guys touching you?"

I nodded as I took another large drink and glanced at Adam who was staring with an anger I hoped wasn't meant for me.

"That's part of it. The other part is that one night I was taking a coworker home and my car broke down in a bad part of town and bad things happened. That's all I want to say about that."

Adam pulled me close, his support gave me the strength to press on. "A lot of the bands came to the strip club and started asking me to be in their videos. I only agreed because I needed every dime I could get my hands on to support mine and Razor's growing drug habit. Plus if I had said no I knew I would be in for a beating."

"Because of the videos and MTV, I developed quite a following and that made Razor jealous. I thought I was in love with him and would do anything he asked of me, I wanted him to tell me to quit but he’d always say we needed the money. I was making great money by then but he resented the fact I had a larger fan base than he did because of my being recognized from all the videos."

"Was this all before they had a record deal?" Adam asked me.

I shook my head. "In the beginning they didn't, but by that time Annihilation had been signed. Their album hadn't been released yet so they were still broke since they partied away the advance. I would come home from working noon to six at the strip club then seven to close at the club or from a video shoot and he would constantly belittle me. He knew the reasons I had low self-esteem so it was easy for him to break me down to the point that I thought he was the only person who could love me. I no longer felt worthy of his love or anyone else’s."

Adam grabbed my hand. "You know better now don’t you?"

I leaned over and kissed him "Yes honey I do. Thanks to you."

I continued, "The record label knew when they signed Annihilation that I was Razor’s girl and demanded I be in their videos. The label played up the fact I was his girlfriend in the press and demanded I go on the road with them as a dancer and backup singer. I was happy to do so as I believed I was helping his career plus it kept me close to him. It also kept me from having to strip but Razor resented it, he said I was riding his coattails. The more famous he grew, the meaner he became but I always blamed myself for making him angry."

A tear started to form but did not fall. "I was so stupid and totally in love. I gave up both my jobs and took off going from dive to dive and quickly we worked our way up to opening acts for more established bands and then eventually they headlined arena shows."

I glanced at Adam, he was obviously uncomfortable but he was still by my side and not running for the hills. I gripped his hand tightly as a silent thank you. "They had a top ten album and sold out wherever they went but even then he wasn’t happy. The guys in the band were always great. They treated me like their kid sister.

I continued to help them write songs from time to time but Razor accused me of fucking all of them, even Matt! It got so bad that my writing with the guys had to stop. I wasn’t allowed to look at anyone but him. If he thought I might have even peeked at someone else I had hell to pay."

Jane squeezed my arm for encouragement.

"On tour I had become friends with another dancer, Gracie and we would joke around singing and dancing. A record exec heard us one night during a sound check just goofing around on some songs I'd written and offered us a contract on the spot. At first I balked because I was afraid of Razor’s reaction but Gracie and the guys in the band convinced me that it was something I needed to do."

Talking about everything felt strangely informative for me. This was the first time I really ever discussed those crazy times. I thought about them often but sadly I had grouped those two wonderful girls and the guys from the band into the dark memories instead of the happy ones where they deserved to live.

Actually talking out loud was extraordinarily liberating.

"I think the guys wanted me away from Razor. No, in hindsight, I know they wanted me to break free of him. They convinced me that maybe he needed some space cause I was smothering him. I finally agreed on the stipulation that we would tour with ‘Annihilation’ whenever we could. I thought agreeing was good for our relationship."

"The record company approved of my conditions but I think they only agreed because they knew I already had a built in following. I mean, even back in the early days of the internet I had a huge fan following with pages of nothing but pictures of me that were getting tons of traffic."

Adam laughed. "You mean from horny kids like me?"

I grinned and nodded. "Gracie and I along with another friend, Liz, formed ‘Bellero’. Gracie and Liz were more talented and prettier but because of my popularity that they made me the main focus of the group."

Adam beamed at me. "I disagree. You were, by far, the most talented. They never achieved the same success after you left."

I patted his arm. "Of course you'd say that."

Adam grinned, "I knew you sounded like a professional when I saw you sing that one night, I even told you so."

I couldn’t help but to chuckle at him. "I know Baby but I couldn't tell you."

Jane sat back grinning. "I told you the first night we met when I caught you singing one of your songs."

I started laughing at the memory "Oh yeah, I remember that. I guess now you know why I sound just like her."

Adam looked to us for an explanation.

Jane gave him a cliff notes version of that night.

She turned back to me. "How long were you with them?"

"Only for the first two albums but I left before the second one was released. We recorded them between tour stops and on breaks when we were shooting the movie the label execs talked us into starring in. It was a crazy time. We were a completely manufactured group. The label had us initially as a novelty act to bring in the guys so they would see the main acts but then we took off. Nobody could have ever guessed our music would be so popular."

Adam's eyes opened wide as he looked through the photo album. He held up the page with a picture of my Porsche. "I didn't realize your car was that old. It looks brand new."

I took the captured memory from him to get a better look. "Yeah, I only agreed to do the one album initially. I wasn't sure I wanted to do another and if I did there were a few other labels trying to woo me so the execs tried to bribe me with a brand new car." I laughed, "And it worked too. I agreed to go back to the studio the next day."

Chapter Twenty-two

Adam took the photo album from my hands and sat it in his lap. "I'm sorry for interrupting. What happened with Bellero?"

"The label pulled me off Razor’s tour for awhile to support the album and to make the movie but I traveled to wherever he was every chance I had. The label would pay for my trips if I agreed to perform with the band. Razor hated it and he didn't even try to hide his disgust when I would come out on stage. He would steam every time the crowd would erupt louder than at any point of the night. He always claimed I had more fame than he did, which in retrospect, I guess I probably did. What I could never get him to understand was I didn't want the number one records or the fame. I didn't even care about my past anymore. I just wanted him. Things continued like that til I became pregnant with Hunter."

I felt myself shudder from the memory and Adam pulled me close to him again. An uncontrollable sob escaped. "I had just finished shooting the movie and a couple of videos that would accompany the theatrical release. The entire time I was shooting I constantly felt sick or tired but pushed myself to get through it. After shooting finished I gave in and saw a doctor, thinking I was just overworked but he told me I was expecting."

"As soon as I was told, I booked a flight to the middle of nowhere so I could inform Razor. I was scared to death. Becoming pregnant was not something my brain had been wired to even consider. I was not equipped to handle the news and carried a crazy hope that Razor could help me sort things out."

Jane smiled as she reached for my hand again. "Sis, no woman is prepared for a surprise pregnancy. It sounds to me like your reaction was totally normal."

I nodded and felt slightly comforted by her words. "That's good to know because I was freaking out and needed to hear Razor tell me everything was going to be okay but he went ballistic when I told him. He accused me of sleeping around even though he'd been the only guy I'd been with since the day we reconnected. Nothing I said could convince him I'd been faithful. Then he claimed I was doing it as a ploy to ruin his life. He went crazy and forced himself on me while at the same time beating the hell out of me. He had hit me before but this time he left me for dead."

Adam and Jane could not control their tears as I continued.

I started to shake while the understanding man I loved so much held me tightly in his safe arms. "Matt was the one who found me and rushed me to the emergency room. I spent seven days in a hospital in the middle of Montana and almost lost Hunter. It was a miracle we survived. I didn't dare call Mom and Dad cause I was afraid of what they would say. The other guys in the band were all wonderful but everyone had to continue with the tour so they couldn't stick around and Ellie, Gracie and Liz were still in LA so it was just me until I was well enough to travel."

I rested my head on Adam's shoulder. "My priorities changed after that and I decided to quit. I moved in with Ellie until right after Hunter was born. The record company said I had a career ending vocal injury and that was why I retired. They paid me off not to press charges and keep my mouth shut to the press. I took the money I received, became Sara Collins again and moved to New York."

"I begged Ellie to move with me but she stayed in LA. I had a new nose and lips from the reconstruction so I dyed my hair brown, got brown contacts, toned down my look and always made sure to hide my tattoos. Soon after I got settled in, I found a dialect coach to lose my recognizable accent and left Belle behind to start a new life and never looked back until tonight."

Jane appeared confused, "How did you get from there to here?"

I smiled at the memory and dug out my frequently browsed album of Gabe and Anna. "I met an older couple living on the same block I did soon after moving in. Hunter couldn't have been more than a month or two old and I had him in a carrier strapped to my body. We were walking to the store when I saw this proper lady carrying a paper bag of groceries. She carried herself in a manner that I envied and I couldn't help but to stare. If I was going to turn my life around, I wanted to be like her."

"I felt so bad for her when the bottom fell out of her bag causing all her food to scatter everywhere. I rushed over to help gather everything and offered her the canvas bag I always used. She graciously accepted and we started talking."

I began to laugh as I ran my finger lovingly over a picture of her and my sweet child. "She noticed Hunter and, like everyone that met him, instantly fell in love. After that we became friends and since she couldn't have kids of her own, she and her husband sort of adopted Hunter and I as family.

Gabriel taught me how to manage my money and gave me a part-time job with their firm and Anna watched Hunter so I could go to school and get my GED. I was able to live comfortably because his advice on how to invest the payoff as well as the royalty checks from the songs I'd written for Annihilation, not to mention all of the songs for ‘Bellero’ and other artists. They insisted I go to college and after graduating Gabriel gave me a full-time job and allowed me the opportunity to work my way up."

Adam appeared confused. "Did anyone know what happened to you?"

Once again I nodded. "After I moved to New York, Ellie and Matt were the only two who knew where I was and they swore never to tell anyone. My mind was so twisted that I honestly thought nobody else cared so I never looked back. Later I regretted my actions but I felt the damage had been done and since I had no desire to return to that life I let sleeping dogs lie. I stopped listening to the radio, stopped watching anything music related, and didn't even look at a magazine rack in a supermarket checkout."

I closed the photo album and smiled. "I shut it all out and started a brand new life and became a brand new Sara."

Jane pulled me away from Adam to embrace me herself. "I’m so sorry girl, no wonder you never talk about it. I had no idea. You are so brave, I admire you more than ever before."

I smiled at her, "Until tonight Ellie was the only one who knew everything. My parents don't have a clue about half the things that happened. They think I went straight from modeling to Bellero but think I had to quit because I became pregnant. They know I dated Razor but nothing more than that."

Adam asked a question that I could tell he had been holding in for a few minutes. "What was the deal with Zack that night?"

I remember the awkward moment while trying to get into the VIP section.

"Zack was originally a bouncer at the Tipsy, then a roadie for Annihilation who had always been protective of me. When the label started noticing mysterious bruises on me, I lied and said that overzealous fans didn't like me being with Razor. They unofficially tasked him with keeping an eye on me while we were on tour. This position eventually became fulltime when Bellero was formed but I had not seen him before that night at the club since the night I was taken to the hospital."

Adam nodded. "It must have been eating him up from the way he reacted when he saw you."

I started to cry again. "Yeah, it took everything I had not to grab him and tell him everything was okay but I couldn't risk destroying everything I've worked so hard to build. I didn't want to take the chance of him telling someone and it getting back to Razor where we were. I had to pretend I didn't know him."

Adam decided to steer me away from that topic and asked another question I knew he had stored away. "Is that why the band broke up? I remember them splitting around the same time you left Bellero."

My stomach knotted up. "After Matt rushed me to the ER they told him about my condition and what all happened. He went and found Tim and Jess and told them what was done to me before they went to confront Razor.

When they found him he was in bed with a groupie. The guys beat the shit out of him. They tried to quit but the record company said they were contractually obligated for one more album. They cancelled the rest of the tour dates and did a quick greatest hits before going their separate ways."

While it was refreshing to finally tell everything, the fear of rejection was my prevalent emotion. Who could love someone with a past like mine?

I looked to Adam. "I hope you can still love me after knowing all this."

He pulled me to his comforting chest. "You should know this doesn’t change anything except maybe I love you more than before. You are so strong, stronger than you know. You are also just as beautiful as you ever were. In my opinion you're even more so now."

It felt good to share everything. I had no secrets from Adam. He knew my worst and still loved me.

Jane sensed Adam and I needed some time alone to talk one on one so she stood and stretched. "I think I need to get home, it’s late."

I stood and hugged her as she whispered in my ear, "I love you girl. Thanks for telling me. You have been through some crazy stuff and emerged a better person. I am proud to have you as my best friend."

She turned to Adam and hugged him, "See little brother, you two are made for each other. I think she'll understand you better than anyone can."

Adam returned her embrace. "I know sis. I must have done something right in a previous life to deserve her."

After walking Jane to the door, I sat down next to Adam on the couch utterly exhausted and anxious to feel his love but I felt guilty he still did not know everything.

I rested my head on his shoulder as I whispered, "I love you. I wish I could tell you the whole story."

"What does that mean?" Adam asked.

I tried to think of a way to tell him that would not break the rules. Finally I said one word. "Polina."

Oddly it was like Adam understood. "She did something to you didn't she? She blocked it so you can't talk about what she did."

I nodded as a tear escaped.

He reached into his pocket for his phone before hitting one of the speed dials.

"Hey Cali I need a huge favor if you can…Polina did something to Sara didn't she?...Can you make it where Sara can talk to me about it?...Do you need to be touching her to do it?...Oh, I didn't know it worked like that…so you can do it?... No?.... What do you mean only to you? I need to know… Dani can do with your help? That's great…I owe both of ya little sis… Can I tell her about me?... You are actually going to let her remember us from back then?..." He started to chuckle a little. "Oh yeah, how could I forget that?... she will definitely remember it…Thanks, I love ya… Bye."

As he hung up from his friend I felt a small charge flow through my body.

Adam smiled. "You can talk freely now. Do you remember my friends Cali and Dani?"

I nodded. "The short red head and… The one who looked like her." My voice laced with contempt as I said her.

"Anyways…." He said to avoid my disdain. "Dani is Polina's sister, she has the power to lift the part of what Polina did to you that made you keep everything in. I know better than to try and defend Polina to you but Cali and Dani are really good people who only want to help. They understand your anger and said I am to give you their number if you ever want to talk."

I timidly opened my mouth to speak and the truth spilled from my worried lips. I nervously told the man I loved about how I had spent the first eighteen years of my life as a male and started crying as I shared the events of the first months after I was changed.

Adam stayed silent as I recounted everything. At no time did he express anything that made me believe he doubted me.

I also told him the truth of why I stayed with Razor as long as I did and how I held out hope longer than any sane person should have in the hopes that he would agree to switch back.

I ended my confession with telling him how he was the only man that had ever made me glad I was a woman.

My anxiety was overwhelming as I worried that he could not handle what I had told him. I was terrified as I held onto him. "I promise you I am all woman and I love you with all my heart."

Adam kissed me again with soft lips. "I never doubted you were and I love you too Baby. Now that you've told me your secret, I need to tell you something about myself. You are probably the only person on the planet who would believe me."

Adam started telling me how he used to be a stuntman named Ryan Crews. He told me about how his friend Cali used to be his best friend Ty and that they were two of the most respected stuntmen in Hollywood.

He explained how Ty was married to Dani and how their love endured after Ty became Cali.

He told me of how he had died in someone's attempt to harm Dani and how the man who murdered him tried to brainwash him into helping the man harm Ryan's friends.

My love became emotional as he spoke of Cali breaking through to him and bringing his mind back from the hellish prison it had been trapped in. He told me about how he ended up helping save his friend and this new life was his reward.

His eyes filled with tears as he spoke of parents he could never see again but they brightened as he spoke of his sister Renee who recently eloped and moved back to the small east Tennessee town in which they were raised. He told me that Renee knew of his past life but Jane did not.

We shared a laugh when I realized his sister had worked for me for a month before she quit to move away.

I was surprised when I found out her new husband was Cali's brother.

I waited for him to mention his sister's transsexual status but he never did. He talked as if she had always been a woman and that single act told me more than anything that he really did not have an issue with what had been done to me.

He told me about having a mind full of two sets of memories and both felt real to him. He said it was as if he had lived two completely separate lives. He told me his love for Jane was every bit as strong as what he felt for Renee and that his sense of loss for Adam's parents was stronger than what he experienced concerning Ryan's parents because he knew Ryan's parents were still alive and well and they were moving on because they thought he was dead.

The last thing he mentioned set my mind at ease. He explained to me how that, even though Cali possessed all of Ty's memories, he saw his best friend as one hundred percent female because that was what she was now.

He kissed me tenderly as he told me what happened in my past was just that…in my past.

After he finished we cuddled together in silence as my mind wrapped around what he had told me. What I experienced was bad but at least those that cared about me were still in my life.

What happened to me could have been worse.

"It sounds like we walked the same ground but at different times." I said as I thought it odd that two people from small Tennessee towns found their way to Los Angeles.

Adam smiled. "Actually you met me when I was Ryan. It was one of the very first movies Ty and I worked on. I did the stunts for the lead actor and Ty did the stunts for Liz."

I stopped him. "Wait, you were the cute blonde and Cali was that angry little smart ass?"

Adam laughed. "I guess that would be one way to describe us. You mean you actually remembered who we were?"

I nodded. "It's weird but for some reason I've been thinking about working on that movie a lot since I first met Cali. Now I know it is because she doesn't really look that different, only shorter and more feminine. She looks like she is her own sister. You were always so friendly and funny and your friend always had such a chip on his shoulder."

I laughed as I brought the memory into focus. "If I remember correctly, you had a way with the ladies back then too." I leaned back with a jealous brow raised. "Didn't you hook up with Liz on that shoot?"

Adam blushed slightly. "I didn't because I am Adam now but yeah, Ryan did date Liz for a minute. It wasn't that I did not want you because I did but it was common knowledge on the set that you were hopelessly in love and hitting on you was useless."

I laughed. "Yeah I was so stupid. I also remember that we were warned to keep our distance from Ty because he was known to be unstable. I think it was Zack who learned the hard way when he hit on Ty not realizing he was a man."

I snapped my fingers as realization hit. "I know it was Zack because then to save face, he made a joke to Ty about his size and having to work in a dress. The poor guy was limping for a week after Ty was done with him. I have never seen someone move so fast and with such fury. I can't believe that angry little man is that sweet woman."

Adam smiled warmly. "The difference is what I called the Danica effect. Dani calmed Ty and gave him focus. You are right, Ty did have a chip on his shoulder back then but it was because he had it so rough growing up. When Tyler and Dani got together Ty no longer had to prove anything to anyone. He finally let everyone see the great guy I had known my whole life."

Listening to Adam explain the effect Dani had on Cali mirrored how I believed Adam calmed me. With Adam in my life, nothing else mattered.

I hugged my man tightly. "Baby, I'm sorry you had to go through that but in a way I'm glad you did. If neither of us had changed, we wouldn't be here like this right now. Ryan was cute but you are all I could ever want."

Adam leaned down to place a soft kiss on my lips. "I couldn't agree more. It is like we were made specifically for each other."

After a few minutes of making out, Adam pulled away. "Do you feel up to going tomorrow? I think you need to, just so you can put all this behind you." Concern was evident in his voice.

I buried my head in his chest. "I don’t know. It could be fun seeing all my old friends but I need to have you there with me."

"Of course, you know I'm always here for you."

I grabbed Adam’s hands and placed a loving kiss on his knuckles before staring up into his eyes. "Do you think you can handle the stories you'll hear tomorrow? A lot of them will probably be true."

Adam’s face twisted as he pondered my question before he lit up. "Yes, I think I can. Tomorrow will be what we make of it, so let’s make it fun."

"Can you promise me one thing?" I asked.

Adam gazed at me sincerely. "Anything, you know that."

My tone became cold as ice. "Keep Razor away from me."

Adam nodded. "I think he needs to stay away from both of us. If I had known about all this I would've never invited him to my club, much less asked him to perform. I may smack him when I see his sorry ass on principle alone."

He stood, pulling me into his muscular arms "Let’s go to bed, you have to be up early and it's gonna be a long day tomorrow."

As we headed to my bedroom I leaned into him, "I worked late tonight so I'm way ahead of schedule. I think I'll work from home tomorrow so maybe we can stay up a little later."

Adam nodded warmly but appeared anxious. "Being the boss has its advantages but why do we need to stay up? Do you still need to talk?"

I kissed my gorgeous man. "Well, my body does have a few things it wants to tell you."

Adam lifted me into his strong arms and carried me up the stairs. "I love those conversations."

Chapter Twenty-three

The following morning Adam went back up to his place to finish planning everything for the after party. I called the office to inform Jill I would be working from home for the next two days and that if anything came up I could be reached on my cell or by email.

Jill asked if she could leave early because she wanted to go to a concert. I laughed inwardly hoping that she didn’t come to the after party. I informed her it shouldn’t be a problem and told her to have fun.

As I looked through my closet I realized I didn’t have anything to wear so I called Jane.

"Hello" She answered groggily. It never crossed my mind she'd still be asleep since I figured I had been up later than her. Still, I felt bad knowing I woke her.

"Why aren't you up yet?" I asked playfully.

She groaned. "I couldn’t sleep, you gave me a lot to process last night. You sound awfully cheery, you must have slept well."

I giggled thinking about the multiple conversations Adam's body had with mine. "Yeah I did but I had some help."

"EW EW EW, I don’t wanna hear about you and my baby brother doin' the horizontal bop."

I was laughing so hard at that point I had to sit on the corner of the bed. "It wasn't all horizontal. There was some vertical going on too."

"Did you call to brag about your sex life? If so I'm going to go back to sleep and hope for a wet dream."

I was laying across my bed trying to catch my breath. "No that's not why I called. You want to go shopping with me today? I need a new dress."

Her mood suddenly improved. "Heck yeah, you want to pick me up?"

"Um, I was too drunk to drive last night, remember? I was hoping to ride with you and you can drop me off to get the Mini afterward."

Jane laughed, "Oh yeah I forgot. Give me about an hour."

"Cool, just call when you head out and I’ll be waiting out front."

---

Once we got to the mall Jane dragged me to a high end dress shop that was known to be a favorite of the female stars in town and began going through the racks. Most of the dresses she looked at were appropriate for someone ten or fifteen years younger.

I gasped. "Jane! I’m not wearing these! I'll look like one of those old women who try too hard."

Jane laughed at me. "You will not, you've got it so flaunt it. All that running you do has your body rockin'. Come on it'll be fun. Let me play Barbie on you tonight."

"You're trying to give your brother a heart attack!"

Jane wiggled her eyebrows. "No, I'm trying to give him a HARD attack."

I smirked with satisfaction. "He doesn’t need help there."

Jane put her fingers in her ears. "EW EW EW, I already told you about that!"

As I was laughing I pointed out the obvious. "You brought the subject up! It’s your fault this time."

Just then a dress caught her eye. "Ohhhh just go try this on. This looks HOT!" Jane shoved it at me and pushed me toward the dressing room.

It was a really short electric blue strapless bandage dress with silver foil panels zigzagged down the right side. I became excited thinking of Adam's reaction to seeing me in it. "I like this too, be right back."

I stepped into the dressing room to try it on. It looked amazing. It hugged every curve I had just right and somehow managed to make my small C cups appear even larger. When I proudly stepped out to show Jane she squealed in delight. "Yes, oh heck yes. You are so getting that dress. You can wear those Jimmy Choo’s you're so proud of with it."

I couldn’t agree with her more until I saw the price tag. "I'm not paying seven hundred and fifty dollars for a dress."

Jane was insistent. "I'll pay half but you have to get it. That dress was made for you."

I watched myself turn in the mirror. She was right. I could spend the next week shopping and not find a dress I liked more. "I'll pay for all of it. That way you can't borrow it and show me up by looking better in it."

Jane lightly slapped my shoulder. "As if. I don't run like you do and…" She poked her finger in my right breast. "God didn't put quite as much milk in my jugs as he did yours so I don't have the body for it."

Our next stop was a jewelry kiosk to pick out some jewelry.

"Dang girl, I think your neck is as long as my legs." Jane exclaimed as I tried on a black multi row faceted necklace.

I stared at her. "What the Hell? You make it sound like I'm a giraffe. That's mean."

Jane laughed at me. "No, it's a good thing. I've always wanted a long neck."

I walked up to the register to pay. "Oh okay. I don't know why, I've always been self conscious about it."

Jane skeptically raised her eyebrows as she walked toward the door. "What are you not self conscious about? I know you have issues but let's be real for a minute. Most women would slap their mama to have looks you beat yourself up over. It gets really old hearing you whine."

I rolled my eyes at her and abruptly she stopped to face me. "Stop, just stop it. I love you but I could wring your neck sometimes. You're tall, unbelievably gorgeous, and if that's not enough you have some freakish trait that makes you look years younger than you are. Plus you whiny bitch, you have a boyfriend who would walk over hot coals to get to you. When we met I thought it was sweet you were so humble but now it's fucking annoying. Yes, you have been through some shit but show me anybody who has really lived that hasn't."

I froze dumbfounded not having any words to argue with her with so she continued. "Sis, I'd say I'm sorry but I'm really not. Just stop with the self loathing okay?"

Still unsure of how to respond I simply nodded. "Um, okay."

Jane, acting like she had not just given me the verbal slap down of my life, placed her arm in mine and started walking again. "Thanks."

We made a few more stops to get some odds and ends. I asked Jane what she was going to wear but she informed me she was going to be in her standard club tank and black shorts.

On the way home I decided to ask her about what she said to Adam the night before. "Sis, what did you mean when you told Adam that I'd understand him better than anyone."

Jane shifted nervously. "It's not my place to say. That's a conversation you need to have with him."

"What do you mean? Is it bad?"

Jane shook her head but she wasn't as convincing as she attempted to be. "No, not at all but it's still not my place to say."

"You're not going to tell me are you?"

Jane sighed and looked at me with an expression that told me she was in the middle of something she didn't want any part of. Her right eyebrow lifted, "What, in the time that you've known me makes you think I would?"

I laughed timidly. "Nothing at all. You keep secrets like nobody else."

Jane gave me an ironic smile. "You've managed to keep a few of you own."

I nodded. "That's true." I noticed Jane was headed back to the apartment. "Don't forget my car's at the club."

With an abrupt U-turn that caused her tires to scream and scared me half to death Jane laughed. "Shit, I forgot. Thanks."

After dropping me off at my Mini she rolled down her window. "I’ll be by your place at six to help you get ready. Adam's opening and I'm closing so I have time."

"See you then, I had fun today. Love ya." I blew air kisses in her direction.

"Me too, Love ya too."

The tires squealed as her bright green Camaro took off.

---

At six on the nose Jane was ringing my doorbell. I had just stepped out of the tub and only had on my black strapless lace bra and matching thong panties that I bought as a surprise for Adam. I reached for my robe before heading to the door. I hadn't had time to dry my hair so it was still wrapped in a towel around my head.

I opened the door and she rushed in. "Oh good, your hair's still wet, that'll make it easier."

She wasted no time as she pushed me up the flight of steps to my bedroom and placed me in front of my vanity before covering the mirror with the towel from my head. "I'm giving you a complete makeover tonight. This is gonna to be fun and I don’t want any of your sassy lip."

Her excitement was contagious as she started working on my primer and foundation then started on my eyes. She glued extensions on my lashes before applying light shadow above and below my eyes then adding liberal amounts of kohl black around my lids. I looked at the black container she placed on my vanity. "I hope the mascara is waterproof."

Jane grinned and started applying pink blush and frosted pink lipstick. "Don’t worry, I thought ahead."

Once done with my face she started on my hair. My poor follicles had not been treated like that in years. Between her curling and crimping, I swear she used two cans of hairspray before she finished.

Jane refused to allow me to get a good look at myself. She grabbed my dress from the bed and handed it to me. "Get dressed before you look, I want you to get the full effect."

I did as instructed and wiggled into my strapless dress then sat on the bed to slip on my heels. After I stood, she led me to my full-length mirror.

I gasped upon seeing my reflection. "Holy Hell Jane! Everyone's going to know who I used to be! Damn, you even gave me the same hairstyle."

Jane smiled triumphantly. "I know right, Adam is going to shit a brick when he sees you."

I continued to stare at a brunette version of Belle. The eyes of the woman I saw were full of panic. "You know how jealous he can be. He has to work, he’s gonna to be too worried about me to get anything done. I can’t do this."

Jane's voice took on an intensity that was hard to ignore. "Yes you can and you will!"

I shook my head violently. "No Jane, I can’t. I buried this girl thirteen years ago."

She glared up at me. "No you didn’t. If you'd properly buried her Adam wouldn't have had to order more Petron today after your binge last night. You need this, you need tonight to give her closure."

I started to tremble. The fear of the unknown was beginning to consume me. "I’m not sure I can do this."

Jane put her arms around my waist. "Do you trust me?"

"Of course."

"Do you trust Adam?"

"Implicitly."

"Do you trust Ellie?"

"With my life."

"We will all be there for you. You can do this and you WILL do this."

I knew I wasn't going to win this argument. Jane was as strong willed as they come. Fighting with her was worse than with Ellie. I made my blue eyes appear as large as possible and gave her my best sad puppy dog look. "Me looking like this could be a problem."

Jane appeared confused. "For who? I guarantee Adam will love it."

I again looked in the mirror at the person I spent the last thirteen years running from. "No, for me. I'm not sure I can handle it."

Jane approached me and put her arm around my waist. "There ain't no problem that can't be forgotten at the bottom of a glass. I'll just make sure to keep you topped off if that's what it takes to get you to go through with this. You need the closure." She grabbed my arm and tugged me toward the door. "Come on, I don't want to be late."

After we arrived at the club Jane shuttled me unseen to Adam’s office. While she went to get him from the VIP area in the back I fidgeted in the corner nervously anticipating his reaction. I had no idea how he would respond but I couldn't imagine it being good and was seriously regretting letting her talk me into this.

Jane pushed Adam through the door startling me. He froze in his tracks as his eyes were drinking me in. I posed nervously and attempted to smile.

It felt like an eternity before he spoke. "Wow, uh yeah wow."

Not quite what I was expecting. He's usually more articulate.

Jane punched him in the ribs. "Damn baby bro. All that work and all you can say is wow?"

Adam shook his head and looked at me again appreciatively. "I really don’t know what to say. You look… you look like you stepped out of my dreams."

My relief was great as I rushed to his arms with such force he fell against the wall. I smothered my wonderful man with kisses before asking, "So you approve? I was worried you wouldn’t like it."

Adam rubbed his hands over my hips and cupped my behind, "What's not to like? Don’t get me wrong, you always look fantastic but tonight… wow."

Jane was beaming. "See, I told ya he'd like it."

She quietly slipped out of the office.

I looked into Adam’s eyes "Are you sure you’re going to be ok with what'll probably happen tonight?"

Adam kissed me deeply before he spoke again. "You mean, that everyone is gonna know I'm loved by and in love with the hottest woman in the place?" He smiled brightly and nodded his head. "Yeah I think I’m ok with that."

I giggled and looked deep into his dark eyes. "That’s not what I mean and you know it."

Adam sighed and rested his forehead on mine. "I know and yes. I'll be completely ok with any story I hear. I realize everything I hear tonight is about Belle, not you."

I gave him a sideways look. "Not me?"

Adam grinned. "Both of us have past lives. Sean was before Belle and Belle was before you. Much in the same way Ryan was before me. You're my Sara and as you so vehemently told me last night, you're not Belle anymore, but I know the life you had then combined with everything afterwards made you the woman I fell in love with."

I beamed at this glorious man who meant so much to me. "I love you Baby."

Adam clasped his hand over mine and tugged me to the door. "I love you too. Let’s go. I want to show you off!"

Chapter Twenty-four

Adam led me out into the bar and Jane met me with a margarita. The gasps from the regulars was unnerving, I shifted nervously from foot to foot and licked my lips before I searched for the bottom of my glass. Adam leaned into me, "I love it when you do that but don’t be nervous. I’m here for you and it'll be a great night."

I looked across at him bemused and squinched my nose. "I’m not nervous."

Adam smiled at me "You're lying and we both know it."

I attempted to change the subject, "You like it when I down a drink?"

Adam laughed heartily. "No silly, I like it when you lick your lips."

My cheeks flushed. "Oh, I didn’t realize I'd licked them. You want me to do it again?" I leaned closer and caressed my lips seductively with my tongue.

He instantly pulled me close and kissed me again.

Jane kept her word because I had no more finished my drink before she handed me another which I made short work of as well.

My second margarita finally allowed me to relax and I started to check out the club. They had posters of all the bands that were advertised to be performing at the arena along with a few that I didn’t remember being listed.

I gasped as I viewed a poster of ‘Bellero’. It was a collage of the many incarnations of the group. I noticed myself in the right top and bottom left corners of the poster. I walked closer so I could get a better look.

"Hey Baby," I looked to Adam as he had stepped behind the bar to get me another drink. "Why is there a picture of my old group?"

Adam’s eyes blazed with a mix of disappointment and mischief. "No reason."

I pursed my lips to let him know his excuse did not impress me. "You expect me to believe that?"

Adam chuckled and handed me another margarita. "They're one of the surprise guests at the show. I planned it before I knew."

He shook his head in amazement. "I've had that poster in my office for a week and never made the connection. They are gonna to be here tonight, I wanted it to be a surprise."

My eyes widened with excitement. "Liz and Gracie are going to be here?" I hopped up and down as Adam grin told me they were. "It'll be great to see them, do they know I'll be here?"

Adam shrugged his shoulder. "I don’t know. It depends on your friends. I haven’t said anything."

I clasped my hands and rubbed them together. "I hope not, I can’t wait to see the look on their faces."

I became sidetracked from my excitement when I noticed Adam had a sharpie in his pocket. I couldn't help but to giggle as I asked him, "Hoping to get some autographs?"

Adam blushed but said nothing.

I laughed again at seeing my sexy confident man acting like starstruck fan. "Oh my God! You are!"

Adam's face turned an even deeper shade of crimson as he slightly nodded his head.

I grabbed the marker from his pocket. "You want mine?"

Adam tried to stop me before I ran over to the poster. I uncapped the Sharpie and signed the poster above my picture.

All my love for my biggest fan.

In case you didn't know

I'm your biggest fan too.

I Love You Always,

Belle

AKA Your Sara!

Adam got over his embarrassment as soon as he read what I wrote. He grabbed the marker from my hand laughing. "Now I'll have to get this framed."

An idea suddenly came to mind and I told him. He grinned and agreed to help.

I noticed the club starting to fill up and realized Adam wasn't at his usual perch at the bottom of the stairs.

"Why aren’t you at the door tonight?"

"I hired extra help for tonight since it's going to be crazy. I've got a lot to do up here plus I didn’t want to miss the show, but the main reason was I wanted to be here with you, be here for you." Adam smiled and pulled me to him.

How did I get so lucky to have a man like this?

Adam tilted his head toward the stairwell. "I think there's someone who would love to talk to you."

I looked over and saw my old bodyguard Zack entering the bar. I smiled gratefully, "You’re right, you want to come with me?"

He shook his head. "Only if you want me too. I remember how he looked that night and I'm not sure he'd be comfortable with me hovering."

I nodded. "You're probably right." I kissed his cheek. "I don't know what I did to deserve you but I'm glad I did it."

He smiled and released me so I could go make amends. "I'll be over here if you need me."

I didn't even make it half-way before his strong arms lifting me off the ground. "I thought that was you last time I saw you but you made me believe I was wrong."

I sighed as Zack sat me down. "I'm sorry Z. I don't have an excuse. You caught me off guard and I wasn't ready for that life to find me here."

Zack's arm remained over my shoulder. "Don't sweat it girl. That bastard messed with your head pretty good so I understand you not wanting anyone to know you were here. I'm just happy to see ya."

I hugged him again. "I'm happy to see you too."

His voice started to break. "I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am. I never imagined that bastard was the one who was hurting you. If I'd known I wouldn't have gone out with my friends and left you alone that day. I thought you were safe."

I caressed his cheek. "It's okay Z, I never blamed you. I never told anyone what he did to me. I wanted to tell you that night I saw you but couldn't do it. I'm the one who is sorry. Can you forgive me?"

He smiled. "I forgave you the second I saw you."

"Damn Girl, what the hell!" Ellie screamed above the music playing.

I turned and found Ellie staring. She was full on Pixie tonight in a yellow halter dress with matching heels. Her hair was styled similar to mine causing me to shake my head and giggle.

Zack laughed as he beamed at me. "I'll catch up with you in a minute. I'm going to get a drink, you still drink strawberry margaritas or have you completely switched to sex on the beach?"

I laughed. "You know me too well. I still love my margaritas."

He smiled as headed to the bar and I rushed to Ellie before pulling her close. "Looks like I’m not the only one who decided to step into the time machine."

Ellie laughed. "Yeah but everyone knew I’d do it. I can’t believe you. You look great! All you need is the blonde hair."

I smiled warmly, "Adam, Jane and I talked last night after we went home and we decided I needed to exorcize my demons and I needed to embrace Belle one more time to do that."

Ellie stared at me apprehensively "You told him everything?"

I nodded as I leaned in so that only she could hear. "I told him and Jane both. They know. I love him and he needed to know."

Ellie looked nervously over in Adam’s direction. "He seems to handling it okay."

I shrugged. "So far he does, the test will be when everyone shows up."

Ellie grinned in understanding. "Good thing you weren’t like me back then. I made Greg stay home."

I pretended to be puzzled but inwardly I was doing a happy dance that he wouldn't be here casting a judgmental eye at me. "Why couldn’t Greg be here?"

Ellie smacked me on the back of my head. "You were ever only with Razor. You knew everyone but I knew everyone."

I laughed because in her mind she was right. "Sorry, I might not be blonde anymore but I still have blond moments and just so you know, I might've dated a few guys before Razor. You just didn’t know because it all happened before you moved out there."

Ellie gawked at me, "Why didn’t you tell me? I always thought you'd only been with Razor."

I wrung my hands together as I slumped my shoulders. "I was embarrassed, plus by the time you got there I was all about him and didn’t even want to think of what happened before he came into my life."

"Anyone famous?" Ellie pressed.

I lifted my brows. "Maybe but I’m not getting into it now. We'll talk about it later."

Zack returned with my drink and playfully shoved Ellie. "I have a bone to pick with you Pixie, you've known all this time. I tried telling you she was in town and you said you knew exactly where she was and said Belle was nowhere near here. You convinced me I was crazy."

Ellie laughed. "Well, you are crazy Zack. In my defense though, she hasn't been Belle in a long time so I wasn't lying."

Zack shrugged. "Whatever helps you sleep at night." He then smiled at me again. "We need to grab some lunch or something and catch up. God I've missed ya girl."

I smiled back at him. "Sure, that sounds great but you'll need to clear it with my boyfriend."

Zack faked his horror. "Damn, I guess this is the only chance I'll get to talk to you then."

I was still laughing when I noticed Liz and Gracie come in the back and head to the VIP area close to the stage. I tilted my head in their direction with a wide grin.

Zack released me with a grin. "I guess you have some catching up you need to do."

Ellie smiled warmly. "As soon as I saw them take the stage I knew you were going to be beside yourself."

I gave Zack another hug before I gripped her hand and dragged her to Adam who was talking to some of his friends. They stared in amazement as I kissed his cheek. "Hey Baby, Liz and Gracie just got here you know what to do."

Adam grabbed my hand. "Sure babe, let’s go."

Ellie appeared confused as Adam grabbed the poster from behind the bar and approached my friends. I grinned wildly at her. "Watch this."

I made sure to stay out of their line of sight as Adam walked up to Liz. "Excuse me, I'm Adam Carson and I own the club. I was wondering if I could get you to sign this poster."

Liz smiled graciously. "Of course." She looked over the poster to figure out where to sign when she stared at Adam. "This is really Belle's signature. How did you get it?"

I stepped toward her and smiled. "Hey Liz. Long time no see."

Liz jumped up in shock and ran to me. "Belle! Is it really you?"

Liz still had her platinum long blond locks and her sapphire eyes glimmered with excitement. The years had been kind to my friend, she looked just as beautiful as she ever did.

I smiled as I ran to greet her with a hug. "How ya been? I've missed you so much."

Liz looked to my side and pulled Ellie in, making it a group hug. I bet we were quite a sight with me towering over both of them since Liz was only an inch taller than Ellie. "Hey Pixie, it’s great to see you as well."

Ellie smiled. "Hey Liz, you too."

I reintroduced Adam and explained to Liz that he really did want her autograph. She laughed as she signed and said we had to go get Gracie.

Liz grabbed Adam's arm and dragged him to her table with me hiding behind his back. Liz handed the poster and marker to Gracie. "This is Adam, he owns the place and wants our autograph. He's already gotten the impossible signature and wants ours to go with it."

Gracie looked at Liz as if she was nuts. "What's the impossible signature?" She looked at the poster and gasped. "He knows Belle?"

Liz pulled me from behind my man. I was met with amazed stares as she announced. "Everyone, I think you all know who this is."

They all seemed to know who I was but I only recognized Gracie, who froze with her mouth dropped.

We were the same height and she had perfectly complected dark brown skin, with big beautiful brown eyes and gorgeous long black hair. If you were to look up beauty in the dictionary, you would find her picture. She hadn’t aged a day.

"Hey Gracie" I said as I walked over to hug her, ignoring everyone else in the group.

"Belle." she whispered. "I never thought I’d see you again. I just heard about Hunter, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you but I just found out. I'm happy to see you."

Tears started to form her eyes, which caused them to form in mine. We were saved when a very cute red headed girl with green eyes walked over extending her hand. "Belle it's great to finally meet you. Liz and Gracie have told us all so much about you. My name is Hannah."

"Hi Hannah, nice to meet you too. I hope they only told you the good things."

Hannah laughed. "I don’t think they've ever said anything bad."

I was introduced to everyone and as Liz, Gracie and I were catching up someone asked to take a picture so we all posed and smiled.

I never realized how much I missed these crazy girls until I saw them again. These two were my sanity in an insane life.

I was welcomed with open arms as everyone from the show started arriving. I was having a wonderful time catching up with the members of various bands that found their way in. They seemed to be as happy to see me, as I was to see them.

I made sure to introduce Adam to everyone and included him whenever possible. He looked to be on cloud nine and didn't even get angry about the hugs I received from many of the guys.

Adam did everything in his power to make the night special. He seemed to know a few of the guys, I assumed it's from his time as a traveling musician. Anytime someone started to tell a story about him he shut whoever was talking down and turned the focus back to me. He loved hearing all the stories he wouldn't have heard had he not been standing at my side. He laughed especially hard as one of the guys told about me tossing a drink in one particular rock legend’s lap when said legend’s hands started to roam freely.

My sexy anchor politely excused himself explaining that the bands were about to start and he needed to make sure everything was ready.

"You have yourself a hottie, look at that ass." Liz said to me as we watched Adam saunter away.

I grinned at her, "Yeah I do, I still don’t know how I got so lucky."

"If you ever get tired of him make sure to send him my way." Gracie joked.

"Hell No" I laughed, "You find your own sex god, that one's mine!"

Paul, one of the guys that worked for Adam, approached and whispered something in Gracie’s ear and she nodded her head.

"We have the first set so we need to go change." Gracie gave me a hug. "See you in a few. Don't go anywhere."

I nodded as Liz, Gracie, Hannah and the rest of their group walked away to one of the many rooms in the back.

I worked my way back to my normal perch next to the bar to wait for the girls to start. Jane slid me a drink but didn’t have time to talk as she was swamped with people wanting a drink before the bands began playing.

Soon Zack was by my side scaring off anyone who dared come near me. We spent the time catching up until Adam stepped on the stage.

"Welcome everyone to the Anthracite after-party. We have some wonderful acts lined up tonight. The first of which was the subject of almost every teenage male fantasy, especially mine." He knew exactly where to find me when he winked. "Would everyone join me in welcoming one of my personal favorites ‘Bellero’ to the stage."

I looked longingly as the girls all ran out on stage remembering the times we shared. It somehow felt wrong to see them up there without me but it was my decision to walk away. I did what was best for my son and it was the right thing to do.

Jane noticed the tear escaping my eye and gently squeezed my shoulder.

Liz stepped up to the microphone. "Thanks everybody for being here tonight." she screamed. "Anyone ready to party?"

The crowd erupted as they always did when she asked that.

"Everyone ready to rock it out?"

Once again the crowd let her know they were.

Liz glanced to Gracie and Hannah before she counted to start the first song of the night, "One, Two, Three, Four!"

The band started into a song from their third album. I was thankful because I still wasn't sure how I'd feel watching them singing a song we shared together.

I smiled and danced along as they played, remembering what it was like to be playing with them. Every once in a while Liz or Gracie would catch my eye and smile to me as they played.

Once the song was over it was Gracie’s turn to talk.

"This next song is off our first album. It was written by one of my best friends." She looked me directly in the eyes. "She was the one who sang it on our album and during our first tour. We've never done the song justice since then."

I felt a knot form in my stomach as I realized where she was headed.

"She also happens to be in the audience tonight and I think it's only right that she should perform it for you all, what do you think?"

Once again the crowd went nuts. I shook my head no to Gracie but she just smiled at me.

"Belle, would you care to join us on stage?"

After I moved to New York I had sworn that I would never, ever sing publicly again. In my mind, nothing good had ever come from my singing but if I was being honest with myself, I really missed it.

Adam, my dear sweet loving Adam. The man who assured me he would be there for me directed the lighting guy to my whereabouts. I was blinded as the light hit my eyes before it dropped to my feet, leaving me illuminated for everyone to see.

I continued to shake my head no.

Gracie smiled again. "I think she needs some encouragement."

Once again the crowd erupted as I suddenly felt hands on both sides dragging me to the stage.

I looked to see Zack on one side and Ellie on the other. Before I knew it I was up on the stage. The experience of being with my friends and hearing the crowd roar got the better of me. I relented and nodded my head yes.

Liz and Gracie both embraced me before they dragged me to the center of the stage. A stagehand walked over and placed a guitar over my shoulder. I looked down in shock as I realized it was my old guitar, the one I used when I was with the band.

I looked over at Gracie puzzled and she leaned into me. "I could never part with it. I always use it when I’m writing songs or missing you."

I beamed at her then looked over at Liz as a coolness washed over me. "Let’s do this!"

I confidently walked to the microphone.

"Hello Nashville!" I screamed and the crowd was reaching a fever pitch.

"Did anyone miss me?" I asked the crowd and the positive reaction caused me to take a step back.

"Whoa. I'll take that as a yes. Is anyone here up for a ‘Girl’s Night Out’?"

I didn’t give them a chance to respond before I began playing the guitar solo that started the song. I still knew it because I played it often when I was home alone and in need of some musical therapy.

It felt as if I had never left. Everything just flowed naturally as we drifted back in time. I was singing and dancing as I remembered the rifts and lyrics perfectly. I flirted with the crowd to get them worked up to insane levels. I searched for my friends in the sea of people and they were positively radiant, as was I.

Once the song ended Liz leaned into me, "Up for another?"

I grinned at her, "I’m up for anything at this moment."

Liz and Gracie were glowing as they said in unison. "We only have time for two more songs. I think you know the two we should do."

I smiled "I think we need to do three, I have connections with the owner, I think we'll get away with it."

They both nodded.

"Let’s do it. Belle this is your show now. You take the mike."

I was overcome with emotions and hugged them again before we started the second song.

After finishing the third I stepped back up to the microphone and waited for the crowd to quiet down so I could speak.

"Thanks everyone for indulging me tonight."

Suddenly a group in the back of the crowd yelled. "We love you Belle."

I laughed and responded. "I love you all too!" The crowd erupted again before I continued. "We were originally only supposed to play four songs tonight. I hope the owners will indulge me because I have one last song I want to sing."

Everyone laughed as we heard my man's booming voice. "You can sing as many as you want Baby."

I shook my head still beaming at him. "No, one is all I need. I've been through a lot in my life but this past year was by far the worst. Things got so bad that I wasn't sure how I was going to survive. This is a song I wrote for someone I thought I loved but I now know this song was written for a man I had not yet met. A man who has since pulled me ‘Out of the Dark’."

I scanned the crowd until I found my man standing in the lighting booth. I blew him a kiss.

"Adam this is for you baby. I love you."

I looked at him again and I could tell he was wiping away a tear from his eye as he smiled so lovingly at me.

Night is closin around me

The cloud of loneliness is all I see

I wish someone could stop the pain before it starts.

Jack and Jim are my only friends

They are always there when my day ends

They always help numb me to the pain in my heart.

Try as I might

I can’t find the light

Will anyone lead me out of the dark?

I saw you from across the room

Just a glimpse made my heart bloom

I could tell right away that you were the one

Who could lead me to the light.

I made my way through the crowd

I yelled to you but the music was too loud

You never saw me because you were focused on her.

I think I found you but it was all a blur.

I tried with all my might

But I can’t find the light

Only you can lead me out of the dark

The next night I found you on your phone

It sounded like you had fight with some girl named Joan

I just wanted to help

You just wanted to be left alone

Your mood was dark and weary

My approach had you leery

I just wanted to help

You just wanted to be left alone.

I tried with all my might

To help you find the light

But you wanted to stay in the dark

You began to realize I only wanted you to love me

That was my intention and I finally got you to see

I just want to help

I no longer want you to be alone

It was when I finally kissed you

That our gray skies turned to blue

The sun shone bright around us

We were finally out of the dark

I tried with all my might

And finally we found the light.

Together we walked out of the dark.

The crowd erupted after the song finished and the girls embraced me before we took our bows and stepped off the stage. I walked into the arms of Adam, who was waiting with tears in his eyes. "Baby, you were great up there. I love you so much."

I stared at him with all the love I held within. "I love you too. I hope you know I meant what I said on stage."

He kissed my forehead. "I do, I really do. Thank you."

Our moment was interrupted when Liz and Gracie joined us.

Gracie handed me a guitar case, "Here Belle, This is yours, you need it back."

I smiled and shook my head. "No Gracie, I can’t. You've taken care of it for so long, you keep it."

Gracie was emphatic "No, absolutely not. I now have your number, I know where you live and I can come see you. I have you again so I don’t need it anymore. You keep it and write me some songs on it."

I pulled her into a hug "Thank you. I never realized how much I missed you. I love you."

I reached out to Liz who was standing to the side and pulled her into our hug, "That goes for you too girl."

Adam grabbed the guitar. "I’ll put this in my office so it'll be safe, we can get it on the way home."

I gave him another kiss, "Thanks babe."

Chapter Twenty-five

Ellie ran up to me as I walked back into the bar area. "You were amazing. It's like you never quit. I'm so glad you broke your oath."

Gracie came up to my side pulling me close. "I know right, me too. She was amazing."

Liz put one arm around me then her other around Gracie. "It was like she never left."

It was then that I noticed Hannah behind us smiling. In all the excitement she had been kind of tossed to the side.

"Oh Hannah, I'm sorry. Please forgive me I didn’t mean to step on your toes. I got caught up in everything happening."

She gave me an understanding smile "No worries Belle, it was a real treat to see you up there with us. I think I may have learned a thing or two. That was incredible. I've never seen anyone get a crowd worked up like that. Now I understand what all the fuss was about."

I blushed. "Thank you for understanding. I guess I finally had the good bye performance I've always wanted to give."

I leaned back toward Ellie. "Tonight has been beyond my wildest dreams."

Ellie smiled. "It has for me too. Just seeing you back on stage did it for me."

Out of the corner of my eye I almost didn't recognize my secretary Jill in tight jeans and a low cut tank with her hair pulled back. She was clearly arguing with another girl but was mostly on the receiving end of whatever the disagreement. As I looked on, the other girl stormed off leaving the sweet girl who worked for me standing alone appearing as if she was about to cry.

"Oh shit" I muttered. "Will you all excuse me? I need to check on someone. I’ll see ya at the table in a few."

They all nodded and Ellie recognized Jill, "Is she okay? I’ll go get you another drink, you're going to need it I think."

I walked over and placed my hand on Jill's shoulder startling her. "Hey Jill, is something wrong?"

Jill looked up suddenly before adopting the smile I saw so often. "No, I'm fine Ms. Collins."

I could tell she was lying. There was sadness in her eyes I recognized all too well from my own mirror. I knew I had to get her alone later to ask about it at some point during the night but decided not to push the topic for the moment as there were too many people walking up to congratulate me to have a meaningful conversation. "I didn’t think you'd be here. I would've thought this music was before your time."

Jill couldn't hide that she was nervous but also in awe. "You were great up there Ms. Collins. I have older brothers who kinda raised me on this."

I laughed. "Call me Sara please, we aren’t at the office."

"Yes ma’am, I mean yes Sara. Can I ask you a question?" Poor Jill was a bundle of nerves.

"Of course you can."

"Why haven’t you let anyone know about this? I hear all the office gossip and I've never heard anything that would've made me believe what I just witnessed."

I smiled at her question. She made a valid point. "Jill, this part of my life was a long long time ago. I try not to dwell on my past and I'd appreciate your discretion at work about this."

Jill nodded her head. "Of course, I’d never say anything, you have my word. May I ask you another question?"

I smiled warmly, "Yes, ask anything you wish and you don’t need to request permission beforehand."

"Are your tattoos why you always wear some type of jacket or wrap with anything that might show your back regardless of the weather?"

I nodded my head laughing.

Jill’s face lit up. "I just thought you were modest. I think you've become one of the coolest bosses ever!"

I thought of a way I could cheer her up as I waved my hand toward the VIP area. "Would you care to join my friends and I over at our table? Who are you here with?"

Jill’s eyes widened. "Are you serious?"

I looked around the room. "Yes, where are your friends anyways?"

Jill laughed but there was a hint of sadness. "Oh, I came with a friend but she didn't like the music and couldn't handle the crowds. We usually do whatever she wants and I knew it was a mistake to invite her but did anyways."

Just when I thought she might talk to me about whatever was going on we were distracted when Adam walked up behind me and placed his arms over my shoulders and around my neck as he leaned in to give me a kiss.

I tilted my head to meet his kiss before motioning to Jill, "Honey, this is my secretary Jill. Jill this is my boyfriend Adam."

Jill’s eyes grew even wider. "Aren’t you Zeus?"

My expression instantly became puzzled as I peered up into his dark pools. His sexual prowess must be infamous.

Adam looked at her sheepishly "Yes I am. Nice to finally meet you, Sara's told me a lot about you but I prefer to be called Adam."

Jill was acting all giddy.

Why's she giddy to meet my boyfriend?

She continued to stare at my man, "I was so broken hearted when you left Xenolith. You were always my favorite."

I looked at Adam astonished. "You never told me you were in Xenolith honey."

Adam had told me that he used to be in a band and that he got burnt out from the road I just never realized it was one of the hottest independent bands out today. They were almost a throwback since their style showed a heavy mid nineties rock influence. I felt like a fool because I loved their music and owned all their albums even though they didn’t have a big U.S. following. They had achieved a cult like status among the indy faithful and were huge in Europe.

An uneasiness started nagging within but I pushed it aside for the time being.

Adam shrugged, "The subject never came up."

Jill looked astounded. "Sara, you didn’t know?"

I shook my head embarrassed.

I leaned back to Adam and gave him another kiss. "Looks like we need to have another talk about our pasts. You've caught me listening to your music and never said a word. Is that why Jane said that to you last night?"

Adam smiled his shy smile and nodded his head. "Mostly, yes and to be fair you never said a word about my tattoo so I think we're even on that front. Come on, let’s go back to the table."

As we walked to our table in the VIP section I was being stopped for autographs and pictures every few feet when Jill leaned into me, "You are now, without a doubt, the coolest boss ever!"

We were all in our seats as the rest of the line-up took their turns on stage. Adam loved all the stories he wouldn’t have otherwise heard. Ellie loved seeing everyone again. Thankfully Jill's mood appeared to be lightening and it was obvious she loved the chance to be in the VIP area meeting so many people.

I, like Ellie, loved seeing old friends.

Tim and Jesse came by for a while and congratulated me on my set saying how it felt like old times. I squeezed Adam’s hand and looked at him lovingly before telling them this time was better.

I excused myself and eventually found my way to Jane who looked totally frazzled. Her ponytail was a mess and the front of her black Anthracite tank top was soaked from using it to protect her hand while opening beer bottles. She had to yell to be heard over the music. "Damn I'll be glad when this is over. I'm busier than a one armed monkey with two peckers."

I couldn’t help but to laugh. "Not me, I am having too much fun!"

She smiled with pride. "You were great up there!"

I beamed at how wonderful of a time I was having. "I felt great up there!"

She turned to wait on a customer and I made my way back to Adam and everyone else as ‘Annihilation’ took the stage.

I yawned as the crowd started going nuts. This gesture didn't go unnoticed as everyone but Jill laughed at my inside joke.

We were all caught up in conversations until we heard Razor start to talk after their fourth song. "The next song is about loss. I lost someone very important to me back in September."

I jerked my head toward Adam and Ellie with a questioning look. I could feel my blood start to boil.

"This next song is dedicated to my son Hunter."

Tim and Jess glared at Razor and everyone in the VIP area turned to me in a mixture of shock and disgust.

I jumped from my seat ready to storm the stage and kick Razor’s ass as he started playing a song I had written for that band right after finding out my grandfather had passed away. It was about the tremendous guilt I felt because I wasn't with him at the end.

Adam grabbed me in a tight embrace. In voice that did little to hide his fury he told me. "Not here, not now honey. Wait til he comes off the stage and I'll help you beat his ass."

"Me too." Ellie added.

"And us." Liz and Gracie joined in.

"Us too." a lot of the guys at the nearby tables spoke up.

Zack stormed over. "Count me in. I've wanted a piece of him for years."

Jill started to join us but I stopped her explaining, that for her own good, I didn't want her to witness anything that might happen. Jane rushed to our side and I asked her to keep an eye on Jill for me and to make sure anything she wanted was on me.

As Jane led Jill to the bar, Adam escorted the rest of us to a room right off the stage and instructed us to wait. He promised to bring Razor in as soon as he left the stage.

After the song ended I heard Razor whisper loud enough so everyone could hear. "I love you and will always miss you son."

I was beyond livid at that point. I had reached a level of fury that scared everyone in the room. I violently shrugged off any attempt to calm me.

Within minutes of the band saying goodnight to the crowd the door opened and Adam dragged Razor in by the back of his shirt with Tim and Jesse following. Aaron tried to come in the room but the guys pushed him back. Jesse punched Aaron while cursing him about having a big mouth and locked him out. The look on the faces of Tim and Jess showed they were almost as mad as I was.

Almost.

"Dude, what the fuck" Razor yelled at Adam.

I stomped over and slapped Razor with all the ferocity I was feeling. "Who in the fuck do you think you are?"

"What the hell is your problem bitch?" Razor yelled at me while grasping his cheek.

I shoved my finger in his face. "How dare you go on stage and talk about MY son you sorry son of a bitch!" My finger moved to his flabby chest and I started poking him. "You NEVER claimed him, you NEVER gave a shit about him, you NEVER helped him out in any way. Hell Razor, you beat the shit out of me and left me for dead just for becoming pregnant with him." I clinched my fist and punched him in the face. Blood began to pour from his nose.

"He was my son too You fucking cunt." He reached up and slapped me before Adam intervened and clamped down on Razor’s arm, twisting it behind his back.

I was so mad that I didn't even feel it before I slapped him again. "No he wasn’t your son you good for nothing piece of shit. He was MY son. You were just a sperm donor! I raised him on MY own with NO help from YOU. You never even attempted to see him and you have the balls to act like you give a shit! If his name EVER crosses your lips again I WILL kill you."

I kicked him between the legs before a few people attempted to pull me away. With all the adrenaline coursing through me, I tossed them all off me as if they weighed nothing. I stepped back to Razor punching him in the gut a few times releasing thirteen years of anger in my punches.

Jesse jumped in at this point, he pushed me away and got in Razor’s face.

"You had no right doing that to Belle. She was the best thing to ever happen to you and you know it. Having the perfect girl who adored you wasn’t enough was it? You always had to hurt her to build yourself up. We would've been nothing had it not been for her! You're so stupid. What a fucking waste. Think about it dumbass, you weren't shit before you met her and you weren't shit after she left. Even now you're surviving on what she helped create."

Jess then looked at Adam. "Dude let him go. I want his hands free for this!"

As soon as Adam released Razor from his grasp Jesse released a flurry of punches to his body as well as his face. His last punch ended up knocking Razor to the floor.

Tim pulled Jesse off then looked at Razor with contempt. "Jesse's right, we owe everything to her. You're a sorry excuse for human being. I'd hoped you changed but you'll never change. You were a selfish bastard then and you're a fat selfish bastard now."

Tim then turned to me. "Belle, I'm so sorry for everything that happened, not only tonight but all the stuff back then. Can you forgive me?"

I nodded at Tim before he turned his attention back to Razor kicking him in the ribs. "That’s for Belle and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the band is DONE. There's no amount of money worth being around your ungrateful, no talent ass."

Razor retrieved something from his boot as he tried to get to his feet. He was laughing as he spit out some blood and started to speak.

"Well hell Bumpkin, looks like you succeeded again in breaking up my band. I guess since you could not convince me to let you have your old life back you had to make sure mine was hell. You know what, maybe my next tribute on stage will be…" He lunged in my direction with whatever he grabbed from his boot, "to you. You Fucking Bitch!"

I felt some stinging in my stomach as I fell into the wall behind me and watched as Adam pulled Razor backward and crashed his fist into the side of Razor’s face with everything he had.

I noticed everyone screaming while Adam kicked a knife from Razor’s hand. Razor appeared to be unconscious and Jesse screamed out the door for security and for someone to call an ambulance.

I placed both hands on my stomach to try to sooth the stinging and was shocked when they became wet. I looked down as the bottom of my new dress was turning red and my hands were covered in blood. The seriousness of the event didn't sink in as I spit at Razor. "You Son of a Bitch this dress cost seven hundred and fifty dollars!"

Everyone rushed to me and I heard Ellie scream, "Oh my God Libs, are you OK?"

I nodded but suddenly became too fixated on the blood on my hands to look at her.

Soon security entered and Adam instructed them to hold Razor somewhere else til the police arrived. He removed his shirt and rushed to take me in his arms. "Sara, talk to me Baby, are you ok? An ambulance is on the way. Just sit here with me. Talk to me Baby, are you ok?"

Jane burst through the door and I knew in one look I was in trouble because she started screaming at the top of her lungs. Adam instructed some of the guys to get her out of the room.

Adam made most of the people leave the room and started talking to me in a soothing voice as he held his shirt against my stomach and we slumped to the floor with me in his lap.

All I could do was nod when he asked me if I was ok. I couldn’t seem to form any words. I was too focused on my blood-soaked dress and the metallic taste forming in my mouth.

I heard Ellie telling someone to take off my shoes and give them to her.

I laughed and coughed up some blood when I heard her say, "She'll kill us all if anything happens to them."

Everything started to spin and I looked up at Adam, who still had me in his arms and placed my bloody hand on the side of his gorgeous face.

"I love you Baby!" is all I managed to say before darkness surrounded me.

I could feel I was moving and as my eyes focused, it appeared as if I was in an ambulance. I looked around and saw a man on one side of me and a woman on the other. I tried to sit up but couldn’t move. I noticed an IV in my arm.

The man looked at me with worry etched on his face. "Sara, are you awake?"

I nodded and attempted to sit up again. "Where's Adam? Why can’t I move?"

The woman leaned over to me. "Sara, you have a severe abdominal laceration. We strapped you down to make sure you don’t move and do more damage."

I tried to look around. "Where's Adam? Are we going to the hospital?"

The male voice answered me. "Yes, we're headed to the hospital. I’m not sure I know who Adam is Sara."

I wanted to look at him but he was just out of my line of sight. "Tall guy, long hair, tattoos, probably covered in my blood. Last I remember I was in his lap. You couldn’t have missed him."

He moved into my field of view and smiled. "Oh yes, I know who he is, don't worry. He's right behind us."

I felt very tired and wanted to go to sleep. "Can you wake me when we get there?"

The woman shook me slightly. "Stay with us Sara, you have to stay awake. You've lost a lot of blood."

Next I heard the man’s panicked voice. "Shit we're losing her!"

The woman gently shook me again. "Sara, stay with us. You want to be awake so you can see Adam don’t you?" the woman’s voice sounded soothing even if it was laced with panic.

I did want to see Adam, and I wanted to see Ellie and Dad and Jane and all my friends.

I didn’t reply when she spoke again. "Sara, we're almost there. Just stay with a us a few minutes longer."

The next sight I saw made me smile.

In front of me was the only person I wanted to see more than anyone.

"There’s my boy. I've missed you so much!"

The man screamed to the driver of the ambulance. "Hurry, she’s not going to make it!"

Chapter Twenty-six

My baby boy looked glorious. He was just beautiful as I remembered and basked in the view of him playing guitar with some musical legends in a lush green pasture with a glorious bright light behind him. If possible, Hunter was more magnificent than I remembered. His layered brown hair shined without a strand out of place and his already breathtaking eyes glowed a brighter blue than I had ever seen. The solid white shirt, pants and shoes only added to the awe-inspiring sight.

I was so happy to see him that I ran to his side. "What is that song? It's wonderful."

He was in the zone. Just like his mother, he always got that way when he was writing a new song. He didn't even look up. "Just something I'm working on with my friends Mom. I was inspired after seeing you onstage tonight so we're trying to hammer it out."

Hunter suddenly looked up alarmed as he sat his guitar down. "Mom! What are you doing here?" As soon as his guitar went into the stand both the instrument and his friends disappeared.

"I've come to see you baby." I said as I bent to hug him.

Hunter stepped back and shook his head, "You aren’t supposed to be here."

"Why not? I’m supposed to be with you. I love you." I ran my nails through his hair and scratched the back of his head.

He leaned his head back into my hand and showcased perfect teeth when he smiled as he was enjoying my show of affection. His precious eyes swiftly filled with panic and he jerked away. "I love you too Mom but you aren’t supposed to be here yet. You have to go back. It’s not your time."

I looked down on him with a puzzled look. "What do you mean it’s not my time?"

He hugged my waist tightly. "Mom, you're supposed to live. I’m not supposed to see you here yet. You're not supposed to here for a long long time."

I frowned at him. "Aren’t you happy to see me baby?"

He never let go while staring up with his electric blue pools flooded with tears. "Yes Mama I'm always happy to see you but not like this! I don’t want to see you like this! You have to go. It’s too soon!"

I leaned down so we were face to face and kissed his perfect cheek. "I’m not leaving you. I lost you once and can’t go through that again!"

Hunter stomped his foot. "You have to go Mama, you have too! Tell Granny and Papa and Nonna and Nonno and Aunt Ellie I love them and tell Papa it’s not his fault. I can hear him when he goes to the river where he took me fishing. It makes me sad when Papa cries at our happy place. I enjoy it here, everyone is really nice. A few new friends take care of me. I miss you but I know I'll be with you again someday."

I started crying. "I don’t want to leave baby. It's not fair! I don’t want to lose you again."

Hunter tugged on me til we were face to face. "Mom, you never lost me! I'm always with you. I know you visit my body every day, you don’t have to do that. I’m not there." He placed his hand on my chest. "I'm in your heart."

I smiled at my greatest accomplishment. "You've always been in my heart sweetheart."

He nodded his head and looked at me with so much love he glowed. "I know and I always will be. Please don’t cry for me anymore Mama. It makes me sad when you cry. Promise me you will stop crying for me. Promise me Mom."

I tried to smile and squinched my nose. "Ok baby I won’t cry."

"You're lying. Think of all our good times, we had a lot of those. I want you to smile when you think of me like I smile when I think of you. Promise me you'll do that."

I knew I couldn’t refuse him, I never could. A genuine smile finally crossed my lips. "I promise to do my best sweetheart."

Hunter smiled. "Your best is all I can ask for. One more thing before you have to go. Please tell my sister about me after she's born."

Shocked, I gazed at him. "What do you mean Hunter? I’m not gonna have a baby."

A woman coughing behind us caused both my son and I to jump.

Hunter sighed. "I'm sorry."

A woman I initially thought to be Polina dressed in a gorgeous white dress smiled as she walked to our side. "It is okay Hunter, just be careful not to say too much."

Hunter nodded. "I was not planning on it Goddess."

The woman patted my son on his perfectly coifed head. "We never plan to make mistakes they just happen from time to time. I am not upset child but can you give your mother and I a moment alone?"

He nodded again. "Yes ma'am."

As my son walked out of earshot the woman turned to me. "Hello Sara my name is Zaria, I believe you know my daughter Polina and have met my other daughter Danica."

"That is correct." I replied, not really knowing how to act around the majestic woman.

She led me to a small bench. "First I need to apologize to you for what my daughter did to you. She was playing with gifts she did not have permission to use. I was not made aware of the situation until recently and by then it was too late to right her wrongs. To do so would have removed your wonderful child from existence and I do not believe anyone would want that."

I glanced at the woman. "Then why did you take him from me?"

She frowned. "That was not my doing. Fate answers to no one and works from an agenda that even I do not understand."

"Fate is a bastard." I muttered angrily.

Zaria chuckled as she nodded. "That he is. However I was able to step in after the fact to ensure that your child will forever be happy. Hunter wants for nothing here in the Elysian Fields, his every desire is met and every curiosity is indulged, which leads me to the reason I wished to speak to you."

She turned slightly and took my hands in hers. "Your time on earth is not done. Your premature passing is a direct result of my daughter's actions and as such you must return. As a mother myself, I understand your desire to stay with your child but that is not an option."

"Your home in this place has been reserved but you may not check in for a great many years. You have one of two options. I can return you to the life Polina took from you but please understand that nothing is guaranteed, nothing would be familiar to you because your life would have been dramatically different had you not received any gifts and remained male."

She was offering me the very thing I had often prayed for but now that it was within my grasp, the idea of losing my friends did not hold the slightest hint of appeal. I knew I could not lose Adam, I loved him too much. If given the choice between him and my son I would choose Hunter but since that opportunity was off the table, nothing could keep me from Adam.

I raised my hand to stop her from explaining further. "I want my life back just as it is now. It might not be what I wanted initially but now I would not trade it for anything."

Zaria smiled as she waved my son back to our side. "Very well. I will allow you a few more moments with your child before you must return. Your recovery will not be easy but rest assured, you are surrounded by many who love you. Do not be too proud to ask for assistance."

She started to walk away before she paused to look at me again. "Please deliver a message for me. Tell Adam he can no longer delay what needs to be done if he wishes to move forward. Wealth can easily be rebuilt, trust cannot."

I nodded. "I will. Thank you."

Zaria paused again. "I know you harbor ill will toward Polina but please know she fully understands the depth of her actions as someone has since forced her into a situation beyond her control. She would love nothing more than to apologize to you but feels that your seeing her again would be too painful for you."

I nodded again. "She would be correct. While I am glad she feels remorse and sad she had to endure someone forcing her into something she did not want, I have no desire to see her again."

The statuesque goddess stepped into a rapidly forming bright light and disappeared.

Hunter launched himself into my arms as Zaria took her leave.

"So are you really happy here?" I asked as I held him.

He nodded his head with a wide grin that warmed my heart. "Yes, it is great Mom. Everyone takes great care of me."

He paused momentarily before he said. "You seem much happier these days. I wish Adam had been my Daddy, I like him, he’s nice to you. He's better than that man who hurt you. I just wish you had met him before I had to leave, it would have been cool to tell my friends that my mom was dating Zeus.""

Hunter looked over his shoulder as if he heard something. "They say I have to go Mom. Don’t forget to tell everyone I said hi and tell Papa I am happy and it wasn’t his fault. I love you Mom."

I pulled him tightly to my chest not wanting to ever let go. "I love you too Baby. I love you so very much!"

Hunter pulled away from me and walked toward a light but stopped and turned his head toward me. "Oh Mom, I almost forgot, Sarah asked me to tell you to tell Jane she loves her and to tell her she's happy too. She said to tell Jane a sister's love is now even stronger than..." He looked over his shoulder at something I couldn't see. "What was that?"

He listened before he turned to me again. "Tell Jane Sarah said a sister's love is stronger than the hope tomorrow brings and it's not her fault."

I looked at Hunter confused. "I don’t understand baby."

"It'll make sense later. Do you promise you'll tell her?" Hunter asked as he walked back toward me.

I rushed to him and embraced my treasured boy one more time as I smiled, "I promise I will. I love you baby."

His embrace became tighter. "I know you do, I'm one of the lucky ones because I always knew. You have to go now. I love you!"

I ran my fingers through his hair again. "Will you come sing your song to me in my dream sometime?"

Hunter gave me a kiss. "You will be the first to hear it. Maybe you could record it for me. I love you."

He started to walk away again before he looked over his shoulder. "Can you do me another favor Mom?"

"Anything baby, you know that."

His smile was so glorious it almost hurt to witness it. "Promise me you'll start singing again. Music means as much to you as it does to me, it hurts to think you gave it up for me."

I reached out to pull him back into my arms and hug him tightly. "Oh Baby, I didn't give it up because of you, never think that. I gave it up because nothing good ever becomes of it."

My son shook his beautiful head. "You're wrong. You inspire and comfort others with your voice as well as the words you write and it's selfish to hide your gifts. My mother is not a selfish person so the next time someone asks you to sing I want you to say yes."

I sighed. "I don't know."

He smiled and hugged me again. "I do. The closest I can get to you anymore is when you play or sing. I am always with you when you sit at the piano, they let me come down so I can learn from the best. They say you have to go so will you at least consider it as a favor to me?"

I smiled. "I'll do anything for you. I will be sure to sing to you everyday just so you know how much I love you." Suddenly it felt as if I was being ripped from my son's arms with such force that I closed my eyes in fear.

---

I opened my eyes to a bright light.

"Welcome back Sara" I heard a voice say.

"Where am I?" I asked in total confusion.

"You're in a hospital, we thought we'd lost you. Actually we did lose you a couple of times. You have a major laceration in you abdominal area. You were in surgery for seven hours. We've stitched you back together and now that you're awake and stable we are going to take you to your room where a lot of anxious people are waiting to see you."

The waiting area was packed as I was pushed to my room. I saw everyone, all my friends, both old and new huddled around nervously. I asked the orderlies to stop.

Adam sprinted to me first. "Oh Baby, I thought I'd lost you. I'm so sorry I didn’t see the knife sooner. I love you so much."

I brushed his hair back "Shh, I’m ok sweetheart. I love you too."

Ellie ran to my side crying. "Oh my God girl. I've never been so scared. Are you gonna to be ok?"

I nodded, "I think sit ups will be out of the question for awhile." I tried to laugh but it hurt too much.

Jane almost shoved Ellie out of the way to get to me. "Are you going to be okay? Please tell me you are going to be okay. I can't lose another sister. I love you."

I placed my hand on the side of her cheek to calm her. "I'm going to be fine sis. I'm not going anywhere."

The nurses started to push me toward my room again but I stopped them when I saw my parents.

"I thought I'd lost you without you knowing how much I love you, and I know I've been...." Mom could not finish what she wanted to say as she burst into tears on my shoulder as she gingerly hugged me.

"I know. I love you too Mom." I replied as tears started to fall. Her words were all I had ever wanted to hear and having her say them to me was overwhelming.

Daddy grabbed my hand. "Honey, losing Hunter almost killed me but just the thought of you being gone is more than my heart can take." It was obvious he'd been crying as well.

Before I could respond, everyone else rushed to me as the nurses stepped in the fray telling them I needed to get to my room. They explained that once I was settled I could have two visitors at a time until I got tired.

As the nurses started to push me down the hall I realized that what Polina had given me truly was a gift. I had many people who cared about me, I had the chance to be the mother of an amazing son who never doubted he was loved. I had an insanely gorgeous boyfriend who, if my son was right, was going to give me a beautiful daughter.

I waited for that tiny voice within me, the one that belonged to Sean, to speak up and tell me life would have been better if I had not changed but to my surprise he was quiet.

Sean was never stupid, he knew as well as I did that I had a fresh chance to live my life without regrets.

I had a life renewed.

Love Renewed coming soon.



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