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Oops! I just realized that I had forgotten to post updates for this on LJ. SORRY!!!!

Anyhoos, this will give you all plenty to read now. :D

Chapter 4

Pictures of Natalia Rivera fanned out in front of Alan Spaulding. There was something off that had teased at the patriarch’s brain about her since the moment she had arrived in Springfield mooning over his long-lost son, Gus. Alan didn’t buy the story that Natalia had been looking for the father of her son, Rafe. Why now after all these years did she finally go looking for Gus? If the point was to give Rafe some fatherly influence, the time for that would have been when Rafe was a child, not now when Rafe’s almost a grown man.



Alan had tried his usual methods of intimidation, but Natalia had been virtually unflappable. While the striking brunette could be charming on a dime, her cool and distant demeanor had thrown Alan and that wasn’t something many people were capable of doing to him. If Natalia was as poor as she made out to be, that kind of charm and steely resolve didn’t come naturally but was learned, usually only by those who had the money and means to do so, who had the experiences to back up that type of strength. Supposedly, she had neither and that was what had set Alan off in learning more about the mysterious woman.

Up until now, her background had checked out. No matter how much money he threw at private investigators there was nothing suspicious in her past. Alan was savvy and knew that no one was that pristine. Not even nun-like Natalia Rivera.

Leaning back in his expensive high back leather office chair, Alan steepled his fingers in front of him and tapped them thoughtfully against his chin, contemplating Natalia’s recent disappearance and subsequent return. “What are you up to, Natalia Rivera?”

His suspicions were aroused and her strange behavior lately only made that feeling more pronounced. If it only involved nefarious affairs with Olivia, he wouldn’t care one iota. Hell, he’d even encourage that!
However, there was a part of him that was willing to let the mystery go. Almost. It was the part that loved and cared about Emma. The little girl was beyond happy, but Alan was leery of Natalia’s involvement in his granddaughter’s life.

Fortunately, for now, it looked like Olivia had no intentions of making amends with Natalia. To Alan, this was good news. Unless something changed, there would be no need to make a scene. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t keep a watchful eye.

***

Natalia nervously watched Frank as the news sank in about the miscarriage. Whether it was her first lie to cover up the truth or the hundredth, she always worried that this time would be the time someone wouldn’t believe her. The good Catholic girl ruse though worked well for her in Springfield. Nobody wanted to believe that innocent Natalia could ever do anything bad like lie, have a baby out of wedlock, or want to sleep with another woman.

She let out the lungful of air she had been holding when Frank finally shook his head sadly and pulled her into a hug.

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“I’m so sorry,” Frank muttered as he held her. “I never should have…we…never should have.”

She pulled back and quickly shook her head as well. “No, don’t say that. There’s no blame here.”

In all honesty, Natalia didn’t want to remember that night. The fact that she didn’t end up pregnant after all was a blessing. A baby would not have fit into her life very well at the moment. It was hard enough to try to figure out how to have a life with Olivia and Emma. She was still puzzling that one out.

Awkwardly, Frank shuffled around on the couch and shrugged his shoulders. “If there’s anything you need or anything I can do…”

She smiled a little. There was still a part of her that felt guilty that she didn’t feel anything for him. Frank was just a victim in the game. The fact was that all of them were victims. Natalia feared that none of them would come out unscathed, and the thought terrified her. “Thanks, but I think I’m okay.”

She wasn’t supposed to fall for Olivia or get attached to Emma. Do your job and get out…that’s the motto at the Sanctuary. Rafe was right about her involvement with Olivia. She couldn’t know but how was she supposed to have a life with Olivia without telling her. Natalia sighed as a headache began to build behind her eyes.

“So,” he shrugged again, trying to make conversation, “have you talked to Olivia? Have you told her about it?”

Natalia looked down, idly straightening a magazine on the table, just to have something to do. It felt strange to talk to Frank about Olivia. She knew it had to feel weird for him too. “Yeah, I did.”

“And?” Frank pushed for more information.

She didn’t have anyone to talk to about Olivia. Rafe was barely being civil to her, and Blake was biased toward Natalia. She didn’t want validation for what she had done to Olivia. There was no validation for leaving the way she did. She had hurt Olivia and had been lying to her. There was no justification for that, even if the intention was to keep Olivia safe. She just wanted someone to listen. Sighing, Natalia decided that Frank was as good as anyone to lend a listening ear even though she could only tell the partial truth. “I’m lucky she stood still long enough to hear me say it, to let me apologize. She couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

Frank nodded his head in understanding. He knew Olivia’s defense mechanisms well. “When Olivia is mad and hurt, she’s pretty unforgiving. She has a tendency to lash out.”

“I know,” Natalia mumbled sadly, tears beginning to prick at her eyes.

“That’s not a bad thing,” he added, taking her hand in reassurance. “The angrier she is, the more she loves someone. If she didn’t care, she wouldn’t be angry.”

Natalia looked up at him, relieved and pleased by his caring. “Really?”

He nodded and squeezed her hand a little. “Give her time, Natalia, and don’t give up on her. Everyone gives up on her so don’t. She’ll come around.”

A huge wave of relief washed over Natalia, and she had an idea suddenly come to her. If Olivia cared as much as her behavior showed, then Natalia needed to match that intensity. Natalia needed to woo her.

“Thank you,” Natalia told Frank gratefully and gave him a quick hug.

***

To clear her head, not only from the drinks with Doris but from the near stupid mistake of sleeping with Josh, even if Doris had implied that she needed to find someone else to get over Natalia (okay, so she’d chosen to hear that implication in her head), Olivia decided to take a long walk. She was on the far side of the lake in town, and on an impulse, she took a left down a rarely used dirt road. A small bridge crossed the river and there she stopped to look down at the water trickling over the rocks. The sweltering heat of summer had dried up the meager amount of rain that had swollen the river only a month ago.

She was lost in her thoughts when she heard a shuffling of feet and a familiar snort of derision coming closer.

Turning, she saw the smug countenance of Rafe Rivera strolling toward her. “Great,” she muttered to herself, “just what I needed.”

Sauntering cockily up to the older woman, Rafe decided that if Natalia couldn’t put bring herself to do the right thing, then he’d put the ball in motion himself. “Hey! You!”

Olivia shook her head. “What? You come here to kick me while I’m down?”

“She’s not going to be with you. She can’t,” he pointed at her. It was the truth. There was no room in their lives for family or relationships. Natalia knew this when she joined the Sanctuary, but now she had gone and fallen for Olivia, drawn most of the town into their day-to-day lives, and even Emma was at risk. More than anything else, that pissed him off. Emma was just a little girl and she deserved a childhood. Not this.

“Why? Because you say so? Because the church says so?” Olivia pointed back at him, giving as good as she got, but barely fighting the tears that threatened.

He wanted to say more, to tell her that it just wasn’t possible…to tell her the truth. In spite of what he said or how he acted, Rafe actually liked Olivia and loved Emma, but keeping them at a distance was for their own good. Natalia simply refused to accept that fact. He thought that when Natalia took off that would end matters, but no, she returned and now she’s back with a vengeance ready to win Olivia back. Back to what though? For what?

Frustrated by his train of thoughts and the position he was now in because of Natalia’s stubbornness, he opened his mouth to speak but before Rafe could get any words out, Olivia cut him off. “No, you listen. You had your go at me at the ballpark, and you don’t get another chance to take cheap shots at me.” Olivia stood and pointed at the smirking face of Rafael Rivera. “All you need to know is that Natalia loves me. She wants to get back together, but I told her no. Got it? I did. So, I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. It’s done.”

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He saw the tears threatening in Olivia’s eyes, and he had to look away. Turning back, he swallowed hard and put on his requisite tough guy attitude. “Good. Because she can’t be with you. She just…she can’t.”

Faced with the pain that flared out in waves off of Olivia, Rafe found it hard to verbalize any better than that. The woman was a force to be reckoned with for sure. It was either that or he was just a shitty agent, and that latter option, he didn’t really want to think about too hard.

Olivia sat back down on the bridge railing, chuckling sadly at Rafe’s pathetic attempt to be intimidating. “You got what you wanted. Happy?”

He shook his head and backed away, the need to remove himself from Olivia’s presence stronger than his need to prove himself to the older woman. If only she knew. “Just stay away from us, okay. Both of us.”


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