by Laurie

Chapter 12: The Ties That Bind

A ' * ' denotes a persons's thoughts.

"Guys, wait up!" Amy called from behind them. Matt and Jeff skidded to a stop.
"Look, Amy, I think it would be better if you stayed here," Jeff said.
"Better yet," Matt chimed in, "ask Paul and Stephanie to take you to the hospital. Iím sure they wonít mind."
Amy looked at the Hardys angrily. "Look, Iím not a little child and Iím going with you," she said determinedly.
"Fine, whatever," Matt said with a roll of his eyes. "Come on, letís go," he said impatiently. He grasped her elbow gently, as he steered her out the door.

Meanwhile:
"Nora!" Chris exclaimed in surprise.
"Sit down!" the girl ordered Chris. "Donít get any ideas," she said as she pulled a small blow gun from behind her back. "These needles are dipped in a very effective sleeping aid," she said wickedly. "Now that we are ready to have our little pow-wow, why donít you tell him Jess," she said sweetly.
"Chris, sh, she is your half-sister."
"What! That canít be, thereís no way!"
"Chris, Chris," Nora said soothingly, "just listen okay."
The blond-haired kidnapper looked bitter as she started to tell her story. "My name is Monica and I was born to your father and Noraís mother.
Chrisís jaw dropped, "Whoa, whoa, my parents never had any other children. Wait a minute, what are you saying, that my dad had an affair! His voice was rising steadily. So your his illegitimate daughter?" he accused.
"Chris, would you shut up!" Nora said in exasperation. Chris looked at her in surprise and sullenly shut his mouth. Ignoring him, Monica continued with her story.
"Before both your parents were married to their now wives and husbands, they were married to each other. Chris, your dad was married to Noraís mom for a year. One month after their marriage they became pregnant with me. Her tone once again become bitter. They were not wealthy, and didnít have the money to raise me, so they gave me up for adoption. Three years later, both your parents and Noraís found each other. Obviously, neither one of you were ever told about me.
"Is this true?" Chris said staring at Nora dumbfounded. Nora nodded somberly.
"I wish our families would have told us," Nora said sadly.
"Why did you kidnap my wife and Nora? None of this is their fault." He said angrily.
"Revenge, anger, jealousy," she replied. "I know my family was poor at the time, but you have no idea what I went through!" she said, her voice rising. In my first foster home I was verbally abused. I stayed with them for a year. That was one year too many! I was seven when I was put with another foster family and was treated like a slave. Love, hah! The one family that loved me disappeared in an airplane crash. My aunts and uncles didnít want me, so back to the orphanage I went. For the next seven years I was bounced in and out of foster homes."
"What are you going to do with us?" Jessica asked tiredly.
"I donít know," she said in a flat voice. She lowered the blow gun. "I guess I just wanted to get even for what happened to me," she said sadly. Chris lunged for her. Instantly, she brought the blow gun back up and pointed it at his chest. Jess let out a hoarse scream. "Donít push me," she growled, "I will use this."
"Okay, okay," he said. He put his hands up slowly and sat back down.

Meanwhile:
Matt made the left turn onto Deleon street. Taking a deep breath, Amy cradled her ribs once again. *If I can just hang on a little bit longer,* she thought. As if reading her thoughts, Matt stared into the rearview mirror for a second, concern in his warm, brown eyes. "You okay back there?" he asked.
"Iím fine," Amy lied. Matt frowned, but continued driving.
As Matt pulled into the parking lot, Jeff said, "Amy, call 911, Chrisís truck is here."
As they got out of the car, Amy said, "Okay, now what? I called the police and they are on their way. Should we wait?"
The brothers grinned slightly, "Nah," they said simultaneously.
"I knew you guys wouldnít let me down," Amy said with a small grin as they headed towards the warehouse.
Once inside the warehouse, they could hear voices coming from the right. They barged into the room. The next thing Matt knew a dart whizzed by his left ear. Someone shoved him in the back. "Get down," Amy hissed. He was face down on the floor with Amy on top of him.
"Alright, everybody up," an unfamiliar voice said. The cocking of several guns could be heard.
*The police,* Amy thought, theyíre here. She breathed a sigh of relief, and slowly rolled off of Matt. Amy could see in the dim light that the culprit had been handcuffed by the police.
"Let go of me!" Monica cried. She put up quite a struggle.
"Amy?" Matt questioned. He leaned over her, his hands at her sides. "You okay, babe?" he asked anxiously.
"Iím good," she said.
"Thanks for saving me," he said, "and no, your not." He straightened up. "This time your not going anywhere," he said firmly to Amy. "Oh, and next time remind me to knock," he said to Amy with a teasing grin. Matt caressed her hand lightly and she gave him a small smile. Everything faded to black.

At the hospital:
Amy opened her eyes, only to have the bright light hurt them. "How do you feel?" a voice asked gently.
"Like Iíve been run over by a Mack truck," she said bluntly. "Ah, the hospital, my home away from home," she said sarcastically.
"Home sweet home, huh?" another voice said from the other side of the room. She opened her eyes again in surprise.
"Steve?" she asked, surprised, "I thought you were taking the week off."
"Aw, I was, but when I heard what was going on, I thought Iíd come down and see ya."
"Deborah doesnít mind you taking a break from your vacation?" she asked.
"Nah, she understands." Just then, she heard her hospital door open up.
"How ya doing kiddo?" Chris asked. She looked at Matt questioningly.
Matt took a deep breath, "The doctor was surprised she held up as long as she did." He turned to face Amy, "You have 3 cracked ribs, plus a bit of a concussion," he said somberly.
"From last nightís fight," she said with a sigh. "How long am I going to be out?"
"The doctor said it shouldnít be any more than a week," Matt said.
"Howís Jessica?" Steve asked.
Chris ran a hand through his hair, "The doctor wonít let me see her until he has finished checking her out."
"Sheíll be okay Chris," Amy said reassuringly. "Hey, where is Jeff?" Amy asked.
"With Nora," Matt said with a smile.
"Ah," Amy said knowingly. Once again, the door burst open.
"Hey, Amy girl, how are you feeling?" Jeff questioned.
"Never been better," she said sarcastically.
"I know," he said softly. He ruffled her hair.
"Iím going to go check on Jessica," Chris said softly. "If youíll excuse me," he trailed off and quietly left the room. He knocked softly on Jessicaís door.
"Come in," a quiet voice said. Chris reluctantly peeked his head around the door.
"Is it okay if I come in now?" he asked.
"Yes," Jessica said with a laugh.
"How are you feeling? Are you okay?" He reached out to touch her cheek. She grasped his hand.
"The doctor said Iím suffering from a little dehydration and exhaustion."
"Oh, is that all," Chris said sarcastically.
"Weíre fine really," she said soothingly.
"Are you hungry? I can sneak you in some food," he said conspiratorially.
"Actually, I could go for a cheeseburger, Chocolate milkshake, French fries," she stopped, and looked at him quizzically. "Whatís the matter?"
"What did you just say?" he asked, looking at her in surprise.
"Iím hungry," she said.
"No, no, before that."
"Oh, so you caught on, huh?" she said with a grin.
"Youíre sure?" he asked excitedly.
"Positive," she answered, smiling. He wrapped his arms around his wife and kissed the top of her head. "I love you."
Still enveloped in his arms, Chris heard a muffled "Gotch ya," against his shirt.
"I always knew you would," he said with a chuckle.

At the restaurant the next evening:
"Table for six please," Jeff requested. Bedecked in a royal blue, scoop-necked dress, Nora linked her arm through his. She noticed the soft glow coming from the candles on the table.
"This is nice," she said, impressed, as he pulled out a chair for her.
"Nice!" he exclaimed. "Well, you're much better than nice!" he assured Nora as he sat down beside her.
"You donít look so shabby yourself," Nora said with a grin as she took in his black slacks and red linen shirt.
She feeding your ego, Jeff?" Chris said, grinning, as he pulled a chair out for Jessica.
Ignoring his comment, Jeff asked, "How are you feeling Jessica?"
"Tired, but good," she replied with a soft smile. Jeff and Nora gave her an odd look.
"Actually, we have something to tell you," Chris said, glancing sideways at Jessica.
"Hey guys," Matt and Amy said. Chris looked down and noticed Mattís arm wrapped lightly around her velvet clad waist. Chris caught Jeffís eye and smiled.
"How are you feeling Amy?" Chris asked.
"A little sore, but better. This is a nice restaurant Jeff. The soft, colored candlelight everywhere is romantic. How did you know about this place?" Jeff looked over at Matt, a sly grin on his face.
"Well, why donít you ask Matt. He can tell you."
Matt was emphatically shaking his head no, when Amy turned her head toward him expectantly. "I, uh, Iíve just been here a few times thatís all."
"Uh, huh, I bet you have," she said, giving him a look. Matt squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. Jeff laughed heartily and soon everyone else joined in.
Turning serious, Jeff asked, "So, is Monica really your half-sister?" Nora looked at Chris, who gave a barely imperceptible nod. Nora took a deep breath.
"Yes, she is. I talked to Mom last night and Chris talked to his dad. They never told us we had a half-sister, because they thought it would open up a new can of worms. At the time, our parents didnít have enough money to raise a child. They barely had enough for just the two of them. So, they gave Monica up for adoption, thinking she would have a better life than what they could give her. They were appalled at how Monicaís home life had turned out. Ironically, the reason they gave Monica up for adoption is also why the marriage ended: money. If Monica will allow them, they would like the opportunity to get to know her and help set things right. Chris and I were annoyed that our families did not tell us, but we are dealing with it and keeping the communication lines open with our families. She has been sentenced to jail for six months on kidnapping charges. Honestly, I would like to visit her in jail and help her- if sheíll let me," Nora said hopefully.
"Youíre amazing, you know that," Jeff said.
Nora shrugged, "Itís who I am," she said humbly.
Jeff couldnít stop himself from staring into her cornflower blue eyes.
His mind started wandering, *You could get lost in them. The eyes are the windows of the soul.*
Matt cleared his throat, breaking the moment, "Um, the waiter is here."
After everyone ordered their food, Chris picked up the conversation again, "Nora, if anyone can help Monica itís you. Besides, some really good things have come out of this," he said, stealing a glance over at Jessica, who smiled. "One: I now have two sisters to boss around." Noraís head shot up in surprise, and Amy smiled over at Nora and Chris. "Two: we are going to have a baby!" Gasps of surprise went up among the group. Chris and Jessica were flooded with questions, such as: how far along are you, is it a boy or a girl, have you decided on a name for the baby yet, etc. "Hold it," Chris said laughing. First of all, Nora, both you and Amy are considered Aunts of the baby."
That shocked both Amy and Nora, but Nora was the first to find her voice, "Chris, Iím honored, in fact Iím grateful, but Iím, well, Iím not your flesh and blood."
Chris shrugged, "So, the way I look at it, we have a half-sister that binds us to one another. I like to think of it as the ties that bind, donít you?"
Noraís bright smile lit up her whole face, "Yes," she said firmly.
With a sly grin on his face, Matt asked casually, "So, Chris, how did you find out that Jessica was pregnant?"
"Iím fielding that one to Jessica," Chris said with a laugh.
For Noraís benefit, Jessica explained how her and Chris bantered back and forth all the time. "Heís always managed to top me," she finished, "but this time I got him!" she said triumphantly. Everyone cheered. "Thank you, thank you," she said bowing slightly.
"Iím feeling adventurous tonight," Chris said to Jessica. "Milady, would you do me the honor of having this dance," he said. Chris stood up and took her hand.
"Why yes, kind sir." She stood up and curtsied slightly. Chris put his arm around her waist and led her to the dance floor.
"Um, honey, how far along are you anyway?" Chris asked.
"Would you like to dance?" Jeff asked Nora. She smiled and nodded her consent. Jeff took Noraís hand and led her onto the dance floor. "Do you know how adorable you look when you turn a shade whiter?" he asked Nora.
She looked at him strangely, taken aback. Nora smiled, "No, tell me more."
An awkward silence hung between Amy and Matt. Matt looked at Amy, really looked at Amy. *Sheís gorgeous!* he thought. He looked at her red curls cascading over her bare shoulders. She had a small section of her hair done up in a little bun at the back of her head. *Iím falling in love with her,* he thought. Itís been a long time coming too.* "Do you feel up to dancing?" Matt asked Amy. Amy looked at Matt in surprise.
"Um, yes, Iíd like that," she said with a smile. She got up and gasped softly, putting a hand to her ribs.
"You okay?" Matt asked, eyeing her sharply.
"Iím fine, Iím fine," she reassured him. He put his hand on the small of Amyís back and led her out onto the polished Mahogany dance floor.
"You look really pretty tonight," Matt complimented. Eyes shining, Amy fingered the velvet texture of her off-the-shoulder green dress.
"Thank you," she said, her eyes looking into Mattís.
Changing the subject, Amy asked "Why did you ask me to dance?"
"This is your favorite song," he replied. She cocked her head to the side and listened. A curly red tendril fell in front of her eye. Distracted, Amy didnít even notice Matt gently push the lone strand of curly hair behind her ear. She heard "Stranded" filtering through the speakers.
"Oh, yeah," she said with a smile. "Itís seems like forever since Iíve heard it."
Matt continued, "I also wanted to talk to you," he said as they started to dance. She frowned and opened her mouth to speak. "Please, I need to get this off my chest Amy," he pleaded. "Iím sorry for the way I treated you when I was talking with RTC that night in the parking lot."
"Itís okay," she said.
"No, no itís not." He reached out and gently stroked her cheek with his index finger. "I hurt you, I could see it in your eyes. Going undercover was not worth hurting you. Forgive me."
She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. "I missed you," she whispered, her voice breaking.
Surprised, he wrapped his arms around Amy, drawing her even closer, "I missed you too," he said softly. As they danced they could still hear the streams of "Stranded" fading into the background.

The End. The sequal: Shakedown-is coming soon!
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