Flame Turns Blue

Chapter 1

"Penny for your thoughts."

Zander jumped at Emily's voice so close to his ear, then he smiled as he felt her arms wrap around his waist from behind, her breasts pressing up against his back, her chin on his shoulder, her breath warm on his cheek. "My thoughts are worth much more than a penny," he chided her, teasingly. "I was thinking about you, which means they're priceless."

Emily laughed softly. "You always say the most beautiful things, Zander."

"I just say the truth. You are priceless, Emily." Zander turned around so that he could enfold her in his arms. "I still can't believe you're back and that you're with me. After that stupid phone call I made...I thought for sure you would write me off for good."

"I could never write you off, Zander. I love you too much."

Zander closed his eyes against the hot sting of tears. He couldn't believe how much it meant to him to hear Emily say she loved him. "I love you too. More than you will ever know." He loved her more than life itself.

Emily pulled back to smile at Zander, then she kissed the tip of his nose. "Hey...can we sit and talk for a while?"

"Sure. We can do anything you want." Zander let Emily take his hand and lead him over to the bed. They were in her room and they crawled up on the bed and sat facing each other, their fingers interlaced. "What do you want to talk about?"

"I ran into Gia today at Kelly's. She asked about you and then she let it slip about your dad and your overdose." Emily locked eyes with Zander. "My mom had told me that you had hit a rough patch and that you were a bit messed up when you called me. But she didn't tell me any details. But Gia did."

Zander sighed and freed one hand to run it through his hair. "Emily...I'm sorry. I should have told you myself, but...I'm not really proud of what happened."

Emily reached out to smooth a lock of hair out of Zander's eyes. "I need to know something, Zander. Did you want to die that night?"

"No!" Zander pulled away from Emily and slid off the bed. He didn't want to talk about this. He wanted to forget it had ever happened, yet everyone kept bringing it up. "Look...I was freaked when I saw my Dad. I lost it when all the stuff about Pete and what happened came rushing back. It hit me like a ton of bricks, Em. I couldn't deal with it so I took a pill. Then I started missing you so much...I called and made a fool of myself...got arrested...my Dad showed up...he said some things that set me off again. I took more pills, drank some beer...I wasn't thinking...I just wanted to feel numb. That's all. It was just a dumb mistake. I wasn't trying to kill myself. Okay?"

"Okay." Emily slid off the bed and moved to hug Zander.

He tried to relax against her. Holding her and feeling her arms around him was like sanctuary. It felt perfect, and she was a perfect fit. Zander sighed. "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to jump all over you. It's just been irritating having everyone ask me that. You...Ned...Dr. Baldwin."

Emily kissed Zander's cheek. "Will it bug you if I ask how the sessions are going?"

"They're going." Zander shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I don't get the point of having them. I'm not suicidal...and I admit I messed up, but it was just me not dealing well with emotional overload. It happens. I did my usual something stupid in reaction, and it's over. I just want to forget about it and move on with my life." Zander cupped Emily's face in both hands and kissed her gently. "I've changed, Emily. I really have. I'm out of Sonny's world for good, I'm working hard at ELQ. I've cleaned up my act....for real."

"I know you have. Have I told you how proud I am of you?"

Zander chuckled. "Once or twice. It's nice to hear. But then...you were always proud of me. It was knowing that that helped me get my life on track. I did it for you, Emily. I know I messed things up between us, but I couldn't shake the hope that maybe someday you would come back to me. And you did. And I'm happier than I've ever been. You are the reason I have a future, Emily. You are the reason my life is worth living."

Emily kissed Zander until they were both breathless. Then she pulled him back to the bed and made him lie down with his head on her chest. "I'm happy too, Zander," she whispered. "We've wasted so much time being apart...I don't want to lose another minute."

"We won't." Zander felt her fingers combing through his hair and he would have been content to lay there forever. "We've got the rest of our lives to make up for lost time, Emily. We're together again...and that's all that matters."

"You make it sound so simple."

"It is simple. We love each other. It's been us against the world for a long time, Emily. But the world isn't against us, anymore. And even if it was...it wouldn't matter. Together we can survive anything."

Emily's fingers curled in Zander's hair and she tugged gently to make him look at her. "What about you and your dad? You can't just pretend nothing happened? Seeing him again was the catalyst that almost cost you your life. I almost lost you, Zander."

He pushed himself up so that he could kiss away the tear that slid down her cheek. "You'll never lose me, Emily. Don't worry about me, okay? I'm good. Really. I'm in therapy...and as for my dad and me," Zander shrugged and made a face, wanting to reassure Emily and to make her smile. "We've never been father and son, so it's no big deal."

"It's a big deal to me, Zander." Emily pushed him over until he was on his back and she was draped over him. "You deserve so much more than what life has given you. It's not fair."

"I don't care about the past, Emily. I would suffer through every rotten moment of my life again and again, so long as I end up here. With you." Zander held the heavy fall of Emily's hair back with both hands. "All I care about is you. I don't deserve you...but I'm so grateful that you love me. The rest doesn't matter."

Emily didn't say a word. Her only response was a kiss.

* * * * *
Zander listened to Emily's laughter as they whirled around and around in the moonlight. They were in the park, dancing in the moonlight, as Zander had promised they would do when she walked again. And it was better than he had dreamed it would be. Better because it was real. Emily was home, she was walking and she was in his arms. "I love you," Zander whispered, as they stopped dancing and tumbled down onto the grass. Zander ended up with Emily on his lap. He didn't want to move again. Not ever.

"Right back atcha," Emily replied. "Thank you for this, Zander. It's perfect. Better than I imagined...and I imagined it as being pretty damn wonderful."

"Reality is always better than fantasy, Em."

She nodded. "This reality sure is."

Zander wrapped his arms around her and rested his ear against her chest. He could hear her heart beating. It was more beautiful than any melody could ever be. And he could feel his own heart beating in the same rhythm. "What do you want to do next?"

"Just sit here for a while and feel you against me. Is that okay?"

"It's perfect." And Zander meant it. So they simply held each other as they gazed at the stars. After a time they stretched out on the grass and Zander almost dozed off. He felt so content. But his subconscious mind was not so serene. Zander heard the crack of the gunshot echoing in his ears. Heard his father's cry of anguish as he knelt next to Peter's lifeless body. Zander could see the blood staining Peter's shirt, he could smell it's coppery scent. He could feel the cold chill of horror that wrapped around his spine. He felt his knees buckle but locked them into place. He covered his mouth with one hand and felt wetness. Pulled his hand away and almost gagged. His palm was covered in blood. Peter's blood. He'd killed his brother.
"NO! NO! NO!"


He jerked at the sound of Emily's voice and his eyes flew open. She was leaning over him, her eyes wide and shining with worry. Zander felt himself shaking, heard his own ragged breathing. He sat up slowly and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to force himself into calmness. "Sorry…sorry..." Zander whispered. He could still smell the blood in his nostril as if Peter were lying dead next to him. Zander shuddered and felt Emily's arms wrap around him.

Emily rubbed his shoulders. "Are you okay? What's wrong, Zander? You're shaking."

"Nothing's wrong. I just...I must have dozed off and I kinda got disoriented. I'm…I'm fine." Zander could hear how strained his voice sounded and he couldn't hide the tremors that shook his body, or the sheen of cold sweat that slicked his skin.

"I think we both fell asleep. Did you have a bad dream?" Emily smoothed Zander's hair off his forehead. "You were screaming."

Zander shrugged and avoided eye contact. "I don't remember. Whatever it was...it's gone now." A blatant lie but one he felt justified in telling. Emily would only worry about him and there was no reason for her to do so. He was fine. The dreams meant nothing. Zander had survived them in the past and he would survive them now. They had started up again when his father reappeared in his life. But none had been quite so vivid as this one. Still, Zander forced his breathing to slow and he could feel the shaking ease. He pulled Emily into a hug. "Hey...want to go get some ice cream? My treat."

Emily stood up then held out a hand to pull Zander to his feet. "You're on. Then maybe we could go see a movie?"

"Sounds like a plan." They joined hands and began walking.

"Know how I want to end this perfect evening?" Emily asked, a twinkle in her eyes.

Zander mock-glared at her, feigning suspicion, then he chuckled. "I give up. How?"

Emily swung around so they were face to face, then she kissed Zander while her free hand groped his ass. "I want to make love to you till dawn."

"I like the way you think," Zander whispered, capturing Emily's face in both hands so that he could kiss her properly. He was becoming lost in the kiss when he felt fingers pinch his butt and he squeaked. "Hey…what was that for?" Zander rubbed the sore spot.

"Sorry…I'll rub it for you," Emily offered, pushing his hand away to caress him.

Zander groaned. "You're killing me...you know that?"

Emily smirked. "But in a good way?"

"In an incredibly good way." Zander pulled her hand off his butt. "No more PDA's from you. Got it? Or we're going to miss the movie."

"Ice cream first…you promised." Emily pretended to pout.

Zander kissed away the pout until they were both panting. He pulled back and gulped in air. Then he combed his fingers through his hair, shrugged on an air of complete control and said, "Well...what kind of ice cream are you going to get? I think I'm in the mood for peppermint."

A wicked glint danced in Emily's eyes. "I think I'm in the mood for a Zander flavored Popsicle," she drawled.

"Okay..." Zander placed a hand over his heart and staggered dramatically. "Forget the ice cream and the movie. You…just…killed…me." That said, he swooped Emily up in his arms and strode off. Determination in every stride.

"Where are we going?" Emily asked.

Zander grinned. "Home. We're skipping ahead to the *Making love until dawn* part of the program."

Emily buried her face in Zander's neck, nuzzling him as she replied, "I like the way you think."

Chapter 2