Stand By You

~Sequel to Every Day~

Live or Die Series Final Part


Chapter 1


Bolting upright in bed, sweating profusely, her midnight blue eyes were wide in both fear and relief. 


Looking around the huge bedroom, Juliana suddenly remembered where she was and let out a trembling sigh, running a hand through her cropped shoulder length black hair.  She cut it shortly after Keira was born, her now nine year old daughter.  Nine years.  She still couldn't believe it'd been that long since her and Taker had been together, though Juliana rarely called him by his birth name.  He couldn't stand it, preferring Taker, though Keira melted him whenever she called him Daddy. 


It was the cutest thing to watch a nine year old little girl bring such a dominating and intimidating presence like Taker to his knees when she batted her midnight blue eyes at him.  Eyes that mirrored her mother's even though there was a hint of green throughout them, so technically she had hazel eyes.  Juliana slowly slid out of bed and frowned, wrapping her arms around herself, knowing she only had nightmares whenever Taker was away on another job, refusing to give up what he loved doing most.  He hadn't been home in two months and Juliana missed him terribly as she blinked back tears and went to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face.


Juliana stepped out of the bathroom upstairs of the two story house, the Texas heat not helping matters, though the AC was on.  She sighed and left the bathroom light on, wrapping her arms around herself, feeling a chill rush down her back.  Something wasn't right; she could feel it down to her bone marrow.


“You're being paranoid again.” She muttered and chuckled half-heartedly, knowing exactly what Taker would say if he walked in at that moment. “Calm down Jules, quit jumping to conclusions you fool ass woman.” Juliana mocked and began laughing softly while trying to impersonate Taker's deep rich Texan accented voice, missing it like crazy, a heaving sigh following.  Her ears perked up when she heard giggling coming from downstairs, eyes narrowing, deciding to go investigate.


Downstairs, on the XBOX when she should have been in bed, was Keira.  She was trying not to giggle, listening to her Uncle John through the headset she wore as they worked together -though from their own respective homes and systems- through the war game they were playing. “Two o'clock, sniper.” She narrowed her hazel eyes, grinning in a way that was reminiscent of her father, thoroughly evil, when John nailed the shot.


“And THAT, baby girl, is how you blow a motha's head right off!” John crowed, his enthusiasm spilling over through the set.


“I can't concentrate when you do that!” Keira, in her excitement, was forgetting that it was three AM and she wasn't supposed to be up…much less playing a war game on the XBOX with Uncle John. “You made me MISS, Johnny!”


“YOU GOT ME BLOWN THE FUCK UP, KEIRA!  You SUCK!” John groaned, waiting for the game to respawn itself. “You seriously got to work on your aim.”


“You can bite my backside.”


“I'm going to kick your little ass when I see you!” John growled when he heard her snickering, wondering how a nine year old could possess so much attitude. “I mean it; I'm going to put my foot so far up your ass you'll taste my shoe-”




“Oh FUCK!”


Startled, Keira began to scream, finally shutting it when the man behind the angry baritone stepped out of the doorway. “Daddy!”


“Good girl, suck up to him, save our asses.”


Juliana heard that tone and felt a shiver run down her back, knowing Taker had arrived home from whatever job he did for the mayor.  Taker was well known around town, especially with the authority since he saved the mayor's life on more than one occasion.  Now he was home and yelling at their disobedient daughter…and Juliana had a sinking feeling she knew why Keira was up at three AM instead of in bed like any normal nine year old.


“Keira, what the hell are you doing up this late?” Juliana demanded, stepping out of the shadows while the little girl slowly pulled the headset off of her head.  Juliana narrowed her eyes and stalked over, snatching it from her and could hear her best friend's voice on the other end. “JONATHAN FELIX-ANTHONY CENA, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING KEEPING MY DAUGHTER UP AT THREE AM IN THE DAMN MORNING PLAYING VIDEO GAMES?”


“You, bed.”


Taker pointed at his daughter, trying to keep the scowl firmly on his face.  It wasn't her he was really angry with but Cena, the moron ADULT who had a little girl up shooting Russian commies on the gaming console at three in the fucking morning.  Kids generally got into trouble; it was the adult’s job to keep them OUT of it.


Muttering under her breath, Keira gave him a hug before turning towards the stairs.  She knew better than to even look at her mother, instead opting to keep her head down and hope to make it up the steps with her backside in one piece.


“John, when I get my hands on you, I'll-”


Juliana blinked when the headset was snatched out of her hands, a pair of acid green eyes locking with midnight blue, all the anger suddenly draining from her.  A small smile crossed her face as he walked over to shut the game console off, setting the headset back on the stand.  John made the mistake of buying Keira a gaming system with a brand new forty two inch television and the works.  Juliana wanted to kill him, but one look from her daughter's shining bluish green eyes and she couldn't take it away, though at three AM in the damn morning she could!


Taker slowly turned around, letting out a breath.  He could feel the anger leaving him at the sight of his woman.  He loved his job, but at the same time he hated being away from Juliana and Keira for weeks at a time.  Of course, before leaving, he was usually glad to be getting out of the house and away from two females, not to mention the addition of Jule's adopted brother, John.  But that usually wore off quickly.  Returning her smile, he crossed the living room until he was in front of her, pulling her into his arms.


Juliana sighed in contentment, her legs wrapping around his waist as soon as Taker lifted her up, pressing her forehead against his. “I'm not going to ask why you're here, I'm just glad you are.” Especially after the nightmare she just had, Juliana needed his warmth and comfort, kissing him softly, missing him more than words could say.  Hard to believe they were finally content with life after everything they'd been through together, having a beautiful daughter in the process.


The fact that they were still together, with a beautiful daughter, and him resuming his old job spoke volumes to Taker.  He had once challenged Juliana to love him, to trust him, and the results had been...a very, very bad time for him.  He would have never thought that all these years later, they would be together, let alone have a daughter.  Holding her close, Taker rested his head on top of hers, letting out a contented sigh.


“I'm glad too.” He rumbled huskily.


“You better be.” She smirked and jumped when Taker slapped her ass, biting back a squeal of surprise. “Don't do that with prying ears nearby.” She ordered, her mouth right by his ear as she hugged him again, knowing Keira was already in her room. 


One thing Keira didn't do was disobey her father's orders, regardless of what they were.  With Juliana, she hardly listened and when she did, it was slim to none.  She ended up sneaking around doing what she wanted staying up at three A.M. playing video games with her godfather.  Juliana was going to kill John, but right now, all she wanted to do was be in Mark's arms.


“Welcome home.” She whispered and felt him slowly walk toward the stairs, nuzzling his neck.


“Good to be home.” He murmured, navigating the stairs carefully.


He knew his way around the house; he could navigate the house blind.  However, the variable was Keira.  He had once been walking upstairs, stepped on a Barbie car, and gone flying backwards.  Not one of his finer moments and not one he cared to repeat with Juliana in his arms. 


At Keira's door, he gently set her down and listened.  He half expected her to be awake and bouncing on the bed.  Instead, he heard the soft sighs she made while sleeping.  Smiling slightly, he began backing Juliana towards their bedroom, an evil predatory gleam shining in his eyes.


Keira was a sound sleeper just like Taker, hardly anything fazed the girl.  She could sleep through a tornado, Juliana would bet her life on it.  The look Taker suddenly gave her sent chills of anticipation through her body and Juliana couldn't help smirking, knowing he missed her. 


She slowly backed into the room, crooking her finger at him and watched with hungry eyes as Mark shut the door with his foot lightly.  The clicking sound let Juliana know two things: She was trapped and wouldn't be getting anymore sleep that night since Mark hadn't been home in two very long months.  Just to make his simmering blood and raging desire flare, Juliana purposely removed her nightgown, leaving her clad in just a pair of white panties.


And that was enough to make Taker want to adjust himself as the confines of his now too tight jeans was really uncomfortable.  It had been a very long two months.  He had never believed he would be the kind of man to be in a committed, exclusive relationship, let alone WANT to be in one, but here he was.  And now his cock was really suffering, not helped by Juliana's wicked ways and taunts.  Taking a moment, he tilted his head to the side, using the light coming through the window to study her, a low growl escaping his throat.


His growling always sent shivers down her back and it was no different this time, his eyes darkening to almost black pools. “Problem Taker?” Juliana asked innocently.


She smirked and slid into the welcoming cold bed that she'd slept alone in for two months, missing his warmth.  Taker was her furnace and Juliana didn't sleep well whenever he was away from her.  She didn't know if it was the fact they had a rocky past or maybe it was just her insomnia kicking in, Juliana shoved every other thought from her mind when Taker joined her in bed and yanked her against him, kissing the breath right out of her.


If the bed was cold, he didn't feel it.  All he felt was Juliana's body against his as his hands ravaged her, reacquainting himself with her curves.  He could feel goose bumps breaking out over his flesh as his large calloused hands skimmed down her ribs to the waistband of her white panties, not removing them just yet.  He broke the kiss only when it seemed they both would go faint from lack of air, trailing his mouth across her cheek to her earlobe and then down the side of her throat, savoring the feel and taste of her.




Hours later, Juliana lay in bed gently tracing Taker's tattoos with her fingertip feather lightly, coming down from the heights of passion only her and Taker experienced together.  She was so happy to have him back home, but knew sooner or later he would find another job and be away again.  Juliana didn't like the fact he still enjoyed being a bodyguard for a living, especially since she still considered him HER bodyguard in a way. 


He was her protector, her and Keira's. 


Another thing that bothered Juliana was the fact that Taker hadn't mentioned marriage since they'd been together.  At first she thought it was because he didn't fully trust her with his heart, which she didn't blame him for, but after having Keira and deciding they were in this for the long haul, the trust and love grew until it became unconditional.  Juliana wanted nothing more than to marry this man, but knew Taker wasn't the marrying kind and knew that if he really wanted to, he could up and leave her at any given moment without a second thought.


He was perfectly content to just lie there, enjoy the contented, languorous feeling that he felt every time they made love.  He loved the feeling of her in his arms, just lazily touching him as she always did; the woman had to have all his tattoos memorized by now.  When she hesitated for a moment, he knew her mind was probably quite active and kissed the top of her head.


“What're you thinkin' bout darlin'?” He murmured his voice a lazy husky drawl, something that only happened at night, when it was just them.


No secrets between them was one of the conditions Taker gave Juliana when they first got back together...after he came back from the dead and found out she was pregnant.  But there were some thoughts that Juliana still kept to herself and the marriage thing was one of them.  She was happy and didn't want to complicate things, though her and Taker still had their heated arguments followed by rough passionate make up sex.


“Nothing really, I'm just happy you're here with me.” She snuggled against him, her hand resting over his steady beating heart, her head resting on his arm and draped one of her legs over his.  She loved how Taker ran his fingers in circles on her back absentmindedly, the feeling always lulling her to sleep. “What are you thinking about?”


“I'm thinking about what you're thinking.” He replied with a smirk, catching her hand when she lazily swatted him, bringing her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingertips. “I missed you and Keira.” He murmured, placing her palm over his heart, resting his hand on top of hers. “I don't think I'll take any more jobs for awhile.” He missed his family and wanted to spend some serious time with them, to not be called away to protect some prick politician who probably deserved to be shot anyway.


Juliana's eyes shot open when he said that and she rolled to sit up a little, her black hair framing her face haphazardly while he still continued playing with her fingertips. “You won't?  But I thought you love what you do?” She hoped it wasn't because of her that Taker decided not to take any more jobs for awhile, though one look in his eyes told her the entire story.  It killed him to be away from them, from her, and that made Juliana's heart sore to the heavens. “You know I love you and I support you in any decision you make, right?”


“Of course I know that.” He replied simply, hugging her tightly against him for a moment before relaxing again. “I just want a break from it.  It's not like we're hurting for money.” She was rich, having inherited everything from her murdered father and insane psycho bitch, thankfully dead mother.  He was fairly well off too.  They could have travelled the world a few times without overly taxing their funds. “I want to spend time with my family.”


The biggest smile crossed her lips when he said that and Juliana moved to where she straddled him again, leaning down to kiss his lips softly, slowly, enjoying the feeling of his lips against hers. “Me and Keira having you all to ourselves?” Well, John was also a factor since he lived right down the road, but Juliana wasn't thinking about that at the moment. “Mmm the possibilities...” She laced their fingers together and laughed when Taker suddenly growled, rolling her on her back, hovering as their noses touched. “Keira is going to be VERY happy to hear that her daddy is staying home for awhile.” That little girl had Taker wrapped around her little finger and Juliana knew she was born a daddy's girl.


“As long as she promises not to try to convince me to let her drive the motorcycle.”


He chuckled, his eyes twinkling at the recollection of when she had been six.  Pleading for him to let her steer while he drove, ‘just a short trip, daddy, please', Taker could still hear her sweet angelic voice echoing in his head.  She almost had him convinced before Juliana had walked out into the garage and put a stop to it.  When it came to his little girl, Taker was complete and total mush.


“What about you, hmm?” He asked huskily, digging his hips against hers. “How happy are you to hear it?”


“Ecstatic.” She whispered, cupping his face in her soft hand as their lips touched again, her legs instantly parting for him without Juliana realizing it. “I can finally sleep normal again and get more than three hours of sleep.” When Taker frowned, Juliana couldn't help chuckling softly, knowing he worried about her insomnia and lack of sleep. “You already know when you're away I don't sleep well, but you're here now and I can catch up on sleep...” She trailed off, wrapping her legs around his waist, gasping when he brushed against her. “Just not tonight...”


Round two commenced after that and no other words were spoken.


Chapter 2


“Mom, I had this dream that dad came home and-” Keira had walked into the bedroom and was already crawling into the bed when she realized that her mother wasn’t alone, that her father was home and staring at her out of one half-closed, green eye. “DADDY!”



Taker caught her before she could actually jump and land on him, experience teaching him that kids were not so gentle about where their knees or other flailing limbs landed. “Princess, what are you doing up” He asked, glancing at the alarm clock on the side table.




Juliana slowly opened her eyes, her body tingling from head to toe from all the wicked wonderful things Taker did to her body earlier that morning.  They'd barely gotten to sleep by six and their loving daughter was already up at the crack of dawn because of cartoons. “Morning sweetheart.” She mumbled sleepily, snuggling against the pillow, keeping the blanket up so her daughter didn't see anything she was supposed to. “I thought for sure you'd sleep longer after staying up until 3 AM with your Uncle John...” When Keira bit her bottom lip, Juliana simply raised an eyebrow. “Was it his idea and don't lie.”


“No, it was mine.”


Keira sighed, sincerely hoping she wouldn't get punished for admitting this.  She was always told that liars wound up in trouble and telling the truth meant no trouble.  Sometimes, however, that wasn't the case.  Adults were funny and tended to change their minds at the drop of a hat.


“He actually told me I should be in bed, but...” She shrugged nonchalantly.  It was Uncle John, she had shot something and he forgot all about bedtime and was more focused on the game.


Taker was considering this, wondering if Keira would lie to save John's ass, arching an eyebrow at her.


“Honest Daddy!”


“John probably warned her she'd get in trouble and as soon as she started playing, his little pea brain focused on the game.”


Juliana yawned loudly, trying to wake up, but her body was deliciously sore from the multiple encounters she had with her incredible...boyfriend.  Was he even her boyfriend anymore or something more?  It was too damn early to decipher that as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose.


“I'm leaving the punishment up to your father, Keira.  If he thinks you don't need to be punished, then you won't.” It was Taker's turn to discipline their child; Juliana was tired of always being the bad guy. “You need to learn how to listen when I tell you to do something.”


When Keira turned those big hazel eyes onto him, Mark mentally steeled his resolve, damn that child and those large, adorable eyes. “No XBOX for a week.” He grunted, ignoring the way her tiny mouth turned down into a half-frown, half-pout. “And if you played over MY game, heaven help you.”


“I didn't play over your game...I beat mine.” She announced with a tiny hint of a smirk, shrieking when he growled and shot upright. “MOM!” She laughed, her face tingeing pink as she began laughing, being tickled mercilessly by her father.


Juliana STILL couldn't believe Taker actually ENJOYED playing the XBOX after cursing it to hell and back when John used to blare the TV while playing it.  John lived with them until two years ago when Taker finally couldn't take another man living in his house, which John didn't mind.  He had a small shack down the street now and it was fully paid off thanks to Juliana. 


When Taker protested it, she told him to deal with it because John was family and she as helping her family.  Taker shut up after that and they never spoke of it again, having always kept their finances separate.  It was almost as if they lived separate lives whenever Taker left on his trips, but now that he was staying home maybe all that would change and they could finally be a real family.


“Keira, guess what?” When her daughter's eyes moved to her mother hopefully, Juliana's smile widened. “Your Daddy is staying home for awhile now.”


Keira looked back and forth between them, wondering if this was some 'white lie' they were feeding her to make her not feel sad about Dad's eventual leaving. “Really?” She demanded with an arched eyebrow, looking skeptical.


Taker had seen that very same expression before, numerous times, on her mother and hid a smile, forcing himself to look solemn. “Yes darlin', I'm staying home for awhile.  I have to catch up on my game. “He ignored that damn little smirk. “Spend time with your mom...”


“And me!”


“Spend time with the dog...”


“Dad, we don't have a dog.”


“And the cat.”


“Or a cat, what about me?”


He grinned, laughing outright when she decked him.


Juliana couldn't help laughing when Taker faked being hurt, holding his arm, shaking her head.  She'd sat up in bed a little with the blankets still drawn up; knowing Keira wouldn't be leaving her Daddy's side for awhile.  They told her countless times that Taker was staying home and he always ended up leaving for business.  Juliana hoped he didn't go back on his word, though she wouldn't be surprised if he did because being cooped up in a house with her and Keira constantly was a lot for him to handle.  He was a great father though and Juliana loved him unconditionally, flaws and all.


“You do realize that once she's older, she could probably whip your ass right?” When Taker arched a slow black eyebrow down at her, that same smirk Keira had on her face moments ago was now on Juliana's face.


“See, this just isn't fair.” Taker had a playful side apparently, but it usually only came out for his daughter. “I come home and you two both gang up on both even give me the same damn look!”


Keira decked him again. “I am a young and impress...impressed child.”




“Yes, that.  Mom, pancakes?”


Juliana groaned, knowing she wasn't going to be able to sleep in because her daughter wouldn't stop pestering her to cook.  Taker couldn't make breakfast to save his life, but he could fry up a mean steak on the grill.  Typical male.  Juliana sighed and finally nodded reluctantly, watching as Keira bounded off the bed with a squeal of excitement.


“Go watch your cartoons and we'll meet you down there in a bit.  Daddy can watch cartoons with you.” When her big eyes widened with even more excitement, Juliana relished the look that came over Taker's eyes, giggling.  As soon as Keira was out of the room, Juliana slipped out of the bed before Taker could make a grab for her, shaking her finger at him. “Not right now, I have to feed my second bottomless pit.”


“And I have to watch cartoons?  Are you kidding me?” Taker growled, hauling himself out of the bed, not bothering with a sheet.  Knowing Keira, she probably already had the television on and was absorbed into whatever the hell she was watching.  Leering wickedly at Juliana, he followed her into the bathroom adjacent their bedroom. “Before I go downstairs, I need a shower.” He announced, smirking as he looked her over, getting a bit of a kick out of it when she raised an eyebrow at him. “I'd ask you to join me, but you got breakfast to go cook, woman.”


Juliana shrugged nonchalantly, deciding she would play the game since he wanted to be a tease. “I got plenty last night, enjoy your shower and remember cartoons are waiting for you!”


She winked and pulled out some cotton shorts with a matching tank top, slipping panties and a bra on while the shower started.  She giggled, hearing Taker grumbling through from the bathroom and brushed her hair, deciding she would take a shower after breakfast was done.  Juliana stopped short when she heard a squeal downstairs, groaning.






Juliana was now in hell.


“Keira, my little homie, what is crackin'?” John's overly exuberant and completely cheerful voice seemed to reach the entire house.  He had been up at the crack of dawn, had his morning cereal loaded with ungodly amounts of sugar and was now over for second breakfast.


“Dad's home.” Keira announced, grinning brightly as she moved over for him to sit on the couch with her. “He and Mom were still in bed though.  I think they're getting up.”


“What's Mom making for breakfast?”






Taker banged his head against the tiled wall, wondering if it was an act of god that he could hear 'wicked' all the way upstairs, in the shower, where he currently was.


“You have a lot of nerve showing up here after what you pulled last night, Cena.” Juliana stated from the doorway, causing both John and Keira to cringe, which made her feel a sense of accomplishment in itself. “You better hope Taker is lenient since you decided it would be wise to keep his nine year old little girl up until three AM blowing people up on the PS3.”


She smirked when John paled a little and headed inside the kitchen to start breakfast.  She wore a pair of loose black pajama pants with a matching tank top, her black hair pulled back in a clip of sorts since it was shorter.  She enjoyed it being shoulder length and decided she might be cutting it shorter the next time she got her hair done.


“Keira, do you want blueberry or strawberry pancakes?”


“XBOX mom, it's an XBOX!” Keira corrected exasperatedly, shaking her head and shared a look with John. “Strawberry please.”


“In my defense, I DID tell her to go back to bed...once...” John cleared his throat; glad Juliana went back to cooking, not so glad about Taker being home and possibly in a killing mood.  He wasn't about to be frightened off though…oh no, he had a niece to continue corrupting. “So while we wait for breakfast...”


“I'm grounded from the XBOX.”


“Jules, can Keira spend the day with me?” John asked sweetly.


“You already know what your father said, Keira.” Juliana reminded her daughter while stirring the pancake batter, sighing when Keira began whining.  It was her summer vacation, but Juliana didn't want her up at all hours of the night, especially when Taker was home.  They needed alone time and Keira staying up late would only make her think that once school started up again, she'd be able to continue staying up at all hours of the night. “Not to mention you're supposed to be spending time with Dad today by watching cartoons and then whatever else you wanted to do...besides playing the XBOX.”


John clutched his chest, his blue eyes widening tearfully and his mouth turned down into a pout. “That is just breaking my heart, Juliana.” He said, sniffling. “Who will I play with then?”


He was an overgrown child and admitted it.  That and he secretly, and not-so-secretly, liked annoying his adopted sister…sometimes.  Not so much her other half, he was deadly…literally.  John still couldn’t get over Juliana’s taste in men, though even he had to admit Taker was the best fit for her.  That and he protected her when John couldn’t.


“Hey mom, let's put Uncle John on, he could meet a lady friend!” Keira suggested amiably.


John rubbed his chin thoughtfully, considering it.


“I don't even want to know how you know about that site.” Juliana sighed somewhat wistfully, not believing how fast her daughter was growing up. 


It was scary really.  She remembered the day she went into labor and how Taker was moments away from missing the greatest moment in both of their lives: The birth of Keira.  He'd been away on business, but because of her condition, Taker instructed her to contact him as soon as her water broke and he'd be there before the baby was born.  He barreled through nurses and doctors to get to the room and made it minutes before Keira's cries filled the room. 


Juliana couldn't believe he actually made it and that made her fall even more in love with him.  They thought they would be having a boy because Juliana had kept having dreams about a baby boy, so they were very surprised when a little girl greeted them.  No little girl was ever loved as much as Keira was, especially when it came to her godfather Uncle Johnny.


“Well, I know about that site” Keira sang it like she was being paid to advertise it and did so cheerfully. “Because we have TV.  TV has a lot of commercials, and it shows a lot of lonely adults.  You guys need to buy some teddy bears and get some friends...”


John was just staring at Keira like she was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen, which...up to this point, she was.  He was smiling again, his blue eyes crinkled at the corners at he listened to her. “Do you even have any idea what you're talking about?” He couldn’t help asking, trying not to chuckle.




“She gets that from you.”


“I think that's a great idea actually.”


Juliana hated that John was alone, wanting him to find someone who could make him as happy as Taker made her...for the most part.  There were times where Juliana wondered how they got here and how much hell they'd been through to get to this point in their lives.  Then she thought back to when she witnessed Taker and John both being shot right before her very eyes, lying cold and presumably dead in the icy snow, while the brother she never knew about took her away to a secluded area.  She ended up setting the house completely on fire and had nightmares about it for months afterwards, even after Taker revealed he wasn't really dead. 


Lots of sleepless nights came and went, but Taker had stood by her through it all.  Once in awhile, like the night before, Juliana still bolted upright in a cold sweat from nightmares of her past.  She hated it and wished she could let everything go, but it that was clearly easier said than done.  She'd been so deep in thought that she hadn't realized Taker came up behind her until she felt his arm snake around her waist, causing her to jump slightly and ended up flipping a pancake right on the floor.


“Damn it!” She cursed, immediately bending down to clean it up, knowing John was keeping Keira preoccupied in the living room. “You are very quiet; I thought you were in the other room with them.” Juliana laughed it off, tossing the pancake in the garbage before beginning another one.


Taker had being quiet down to an art.  For example, he was very quiet about the fact that since he was RIGHT behind her when she had flipped that pancake to the floor, and then bent down to retrieve it, that her ass rubbed right against his fresh out of a cold shower crotch.  Planting a kiss on the side of her throat, he backed away and turned towards the table, eyeballing John.


“As much as the idea of finding him a woman appeals to me...I don't think we could pay a girl enough to date him.” He said seriously, though his green eyes twinkled. “Maybe if we could find one who's had a lobotomy...”




Chapter 3


Juliana couldn't stop the giggles from erupting out of her mouth and tossed a towel at Taker, knowing he wanted to wipe down the table before setting it. “Nah, I think he could find someone who would put him in his place, knock him down a peg or two...” She smirked at the thought of a woman putting John in his place, tapping her chin in thought. “Keira, can you get online and register your sweet Uncle on that site?” Keira was a computer whiz. “Make sure you put that he's looking for someone the complete OPPOSITE of him.”


“Whoa, whoa, whoa...what site?”


“” Keira sang, grinning sweetly when John growled at her.


“You want our nine year old daughter to go on a dating site?”


“And build a profile for me, to...wait a minute...” John rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Hey, Keira, let's go do it right now while your Mom finishes breakfast.”


Taker could only watch as they headed out towards the den, looking very confused. “Well what the hell...?”


“Can we upload that picture of me pushing you on the swing?  Chicks dig guys with kids.”


“Juliana, he's using our daughter to score!” Taker groaned, throwing down the towel.


“No, no, no...” Juliana sighed, knowing she'd have to pick out the picture. “I know the perfect one.”


She walked past Taker, knowing the pancakes would take a few minutes on the skillet and immediately lifted Keira out of the seat, taking her place.  A few clicks later and there was a beautiful picture of John that Juliana took while sitting on the beach.  He had a light blue shirt completely unbuttoned with baggy blue jean shorts, his hair spiked up somewhat, his hand shoved in the right front pocket.  He started out at the water deep in thought, a calm expression on his handsome face, blue eyes captivating.  She smiled triumphantly when John simply gawked at the picture and kissed his cheek, winking.


“THAT is the perfect picture.  You'll be getting responses in no time, bro.”


“Wow that is a really nice picture, Mom.  You should do that.”


“Do what honey?” Juliana became confused for a moment.


Keira rolled her eyes exasperatedly, sighing impatiently and pointed to the picture. “Taking pictures, whatever that's called.”


“Photography.” Taker supplied, taking the camera from Juliana. “And why do we have a picture like that of John?” He asked, having followed them, ignoring the look John shot him.


“Because I'm family?  Not to mention, fucking gorgeous, how could she not keep that picture?  Look at those abs!” John pulled up his shirt, showing off his well defined abs. “Check that out.”


Keira began to giggle.


Taker turned back to Juliana. “Just hurry up and get him a woman.” He said, not admitting right now, not while John was around, that she had taken a very good picture and it would be a good career option.


“I don't know why I kept it, it was a month ago.  We were on the beach with Keira and I saw John was in deep thought about something.  I just snapped a picture; I love how the sun is reflecting off of his face too.” She smiled, proud of her work and elbowed John when he wouldn't pull his shirt back down, smirking as he grunted. “Behave before I knock you down a peg or two myself.”


She then went back into the kitchen to finish breakfast, flipping the pancakes back on the skillet.  Unbeknownst to Taker, Juliana had a fair amount of him as well that she'd snapped without him realizing it, though she would never show him.  Those were hers to keep whenever he went away to keep her sanity intact.


When Juliana was back in the kitchen, John turned to smirk at Taker, flexing his muscles beneath the shirt. “She kept it because I am quite the specimen.”


“If by specimen, you mean annoying little prick of a bug that's going to get stepped on, then yes…Yes, you are.”


Keira was trying to flex her muscles.


Shaking his head, Taker headed back to the kitchen, setting out glasses on the table, even one for John. “You're awfully quiet this morning.” He commented, glancing over at Juliana through slightly narrowed eyes.


“Am I?”


When Taker nodded, Juliana shrugged absentmindedly, trying to hide the fact that she'd been troubled lately about the whole marriage thing.  Taker was not the marrying kind and Juliana thought she hadn't been either, but she wanted to tie herself to this man in every way possible.  She wanted to be his one and only, he was all she thought about besides Keira morning, noon and night. 


It scared her every time he left because Juliana was afraid he wouldn't make it back to her.  Being a bodyguard, that meant he would have to take a bullet for whoever he was protecting and that part terrified her the most, but she couldn't say anything to him about it.  Taker wouldn't change for anyone, not even her, and Juliana accepted him fully for who he was and what he chose to do for a living.


“Will you get a plate for me for these?” She asked, once again pulling out of her deep thoughts.


“Mmmhmm…” He did as she asked, knowing damn well she wasn't telling him the truth, but she wasn't actually lying to him either.


She was just not sharing what was on her mind.  Most likely because she either figured it was too minimal to bother him with, which nothing ever could be, or because she thought it would upset or hurt him.  That one, he could never make a promise on.  Nobody could ever promise to 'not get upset' and he thought people who did were fools.  Leaning back against the counter, Taker watched as she finished up, deciding that when he and Juliana had a moment alone, and they would, he would get the truth out of her.


“I'm glad you're home.” Juliana murmured softly, walking over to grab the plate from him, reaching up on her tiptoes to kiss him softly, lingeringly. “I love you and I made you an omelet.” Since she knew Taker didn't like pancakes all that much, Juliana wanted his first day back home to be perfect, flawless. “Breakfast is ready!” She announced, placing the eggs and bacon on the table along with a huge platter full of pancakes and Taker's gigantic omelet already on his own plate.  She helped Keira since the little girl wanted to do things on her own nowadays and finally sat down when everyone was content, sipping her orange juice.


“Mom, these are SOOO good.” Keira stated with a small, contented sigh, remembering not to talk with her mouth full when she got a 'look'.  Swallowing it down with a drink of OJ, she smiled. “Sorry.  Hey, you could be a chef, and then take pictures of the food!”


Taker grinned, glancing at Juliana.  He had a complete 'man' moment and allowed his mind to wander a bit on the X-rated side of that kind of job, draining his own glass of juice in one swallow. “Hot damn...”


“The pancakes aren't hot...” John frowned, very confused, and not seeing the glimmer in Mark's green eyes, it wasn't meant for him anyway. “How come you get the omelet?”


“Because he doesn't like pancakes that much and I wanted him to actually enjoy his breakfast after being gone for two months.” Juliana answered coolly before taking a bite of her eggs, having slathered them in syrup. 


They had a private workout area in the basement so Juliana kept her figure, which is why she could eat anything she wanted practically.  Keira was the same way and had Taker's appetite, which was both good and bad.  Good because the child ate healthy and bad because Juliana knew, as she grew older, her appetite would increase tenfold.  Juliana stood up from the table and opened the balcony doors that lead out to the veranda of the house, letting some of the fresh breeze in before sitting back down.


Keira kicked John under the table at the exact same time Taker did, her kick admittedly not quite as painful as her father’s.


John's entire face turned red and he lowered his head to the table, pushing his plate aside. “Must. Not. Scream. Or. Curse.” He muttered lowly.


Taker finished his omelet with a grin on his face, though his eyes were serious and constantly moving back to Jules.


Breakfast finished after the throbbing pain in John's legs finally stopped and Juliana instructed everyone to go watch cartoons with Keira while she cleaned up.  She collected the dishes and put them in the sink, wiping down the counters and whatnot, along with her favorite skillet she specifically used for pancakes.  They were Keira's favorite along with Juliana, though she preferred French toast above anything else. 


She could hear Keira laughing at the cartoons in the other room and smiled, knowing Taker was in hell right now and actually enjoyed it.  He needed to spend some quiet time with his daughter while John was in the other room talking to a woman who found his profile alluring.  Juliana just hoped John looked before he leapt, not wanting him to get hurt or used.


Taker hated cartoons with a passion, but endured them for his daughter.  He could not, for the life of him, understand what the hell was going on.  Why were the bugs talking?  Keira had once started explaining it to him, but when she had gotten to the part about the fat spider adopting a beetle and a bedbug, he had been totally lost.  However, at the same time, this was great because she snuggled up on his lap, with her head resting back against his chest, his chin resting on her head and that he definitely looked forward too.


“Hey Jules...Think if I go out on a date, we do a double or something?  In case this chick isn't know, real?”


“If I can find someone suitable to watch Keira, then yes.  If not then you're on your own. careful about it, John.  Get to know her first, don't just leap.”


Even though that's exactly what Juliana had done with Taker in a way.  Their relationship was more complicated though, way more than what John's would be hopefully.  Unless the girl he met ended up needed saving and John came to her rescue so to speak.


“And I'm not sure if Taker would want to go on a double date.  We haven't been on a date in...” Now that she thought about it, Juliana couldn't recall an actual date with Taker, immediately pushing that thought aside. “Either way, you'll be fine.”


John seemed to be reading her mind waves because he looked at her sympathetically, pushing away from the computer and followed her back into the kitchen. “You haven't ever been out on a date with Taker, have you?” He asked quietly; unless of course, they counted all those times they had been running for their lives or fighting off insane relatives of hers, then they had had several dates. 


Insane dates.


“It doesn't matter, we spend time together whenever he's home and he's always there for me and Keira.  In a way, we do have dates; we just don't go out anywhere, which again is fine with me.” Juliana honestly wouldn't have minded going out to a movie or even a ride on his bike, which Taker did when he wanted to get away from the house.  She felt John place his hand on her shoulder and Juliana closed her eyes briefly, setting another dish in the sink, taking a deep breath. “I'm fine John, really.  I'll talk to him about it; maybe he'll wanna go out on a double date in case you decide to make a complete fool of yourself.”


“Hey, I never make a complete fool of myself, just a partial!” John protested, knowing she didn't want to talk about it and if he tried to hug her, she'd probably sucker punch him. 


Over the years, Juliana had begun closing herself off a bit, as if building a wall.  He was kind of blaming that on everything that had happened to her, PLUS Taker.  The guy had a job as a bodyguard, as if he hadn't tempted fate enough, John was almost certain Taker had a death wish.  He was rarely home, he was a grouch...John scowled suddenly.  He felt like going out there, smacking Taker and telling him to quit running out on his family.


“I'm just joking with you.”


Juliana laughed softly, though it sounded more sad then actually cheerful like it should've been.  In truth, Juliana was happy with her life, she was just afraid it would all come crashing down after everything that happened.  She didn't want to lose Taker; that part terrified her the most and she had no idea John was thinking the same exact thing as her.


“He told me last night he's not going anywhere for awhile, that he wants to spend time with his family...” She said quietly, rinsing off another dish. 


How many times had he said that to her, only to run out whenever a call was made taking him away again?  Keira even doubted it when they told her earlier that morning that daddy was staying home for awhile.  That part broke Juliana's heart, though she hid it well, having mastered hiding her emotions over the years.


“Whatever time we do have with him I cherish; now help me dry these since you want to keep bugging me.”


“Oh yeah, caring about your emotional welfare is bugging you.” John snorted, though he did pick up a dish towel and begin to help, knowing where each dish went.


He wondered if Taker could have said the same.  If John didn't consider Juliana his sister or find the idea of boning his 'sister' completely repulsive -because of the whole sibling thing, not cause she was mangy, she wasn't- he would have probably tried going after her.  As it, not happening.  Plus, she loved Taker with everything in her for SOME reason John couldn't even begin to fathom.  Yes, the guy had saved them many times over.  Yes, he had his moments of being cool.  He just wasn't so good with the relationship/family thing.


“Oh stop it, you worry too much.” Juliana scolded, watching him arch an eyebrow at her and Juliana had to look away, hating how well John could read her. 


They'd been best friends for years and Juliana knew she would probably crumble if something happened to John.  He was her brother and the only person she could talk to about absolutely anything.  Maybe talking to him about the marriage thing wouldn't be a bad idea; Juliana decided she had to talk to someone about it before she blurted it to Taker.


“Look, I need to talk to you about something and I need you to keep an open mind about it, okay?  This is really important and if I don't talk to someone about it soon, I'm going to end up bursting.  I just want you to listen and support me, can you do that?” When John scowled, claiming he always did that, Juliana brushed it off. “Do you think I'm the marrying kind?”


Chapter 4


John almost dropped the plate he had been drying, recovering quickly and put it away to give himself a moment to think.  Finally, he turned to face her, studying her thoughtfully. “If you had asked me that nine, ten years ago, no.  Now…I think you are, but...” There was always that but and he really hated the quick hurt that flashed in her eyes. “But I think you kinda close yourself off and keep things to yourself, which makes me say yes and no.” He knew where this conversation ultimately would head. “You want him to commit, don't you, Jules?” He asked softly.


“Forget it, I don't want to talk about this anymore.” Juliana couldn't even fathom Taker not committing to her and decided this subject was better left alone.  She didn't want to think about it anymore than she already had to and shook her head when John went to say something else. “Don't.” She ordered, pressing her finger against his lips, silencing him. “Please, promise me you'll forget I ever asked that damn question.  Promise me right now, John Cena.”


She trembled slightly and took a deep breath when he stiffly nodded, turning back to do the rest of the dishes in silence.  She closed herself off for several reasons, Juliana felt in her mind and heart she had every damn right to do it too with everything that had happened in her past!  So maybe she wasn't the marrying kind after all...Juliana shoved it out of her mind, setting a glass on the towel laid out on the counter.


John regretted promising, though he hadn't actually said it either. “Jules, I'm sorry.” He ignored her warning shrug when he wrapped his arms around her from behind, bending down to rest his chin on her shoulder. “You are a wonderful mother, a beautiful person and a great friend.  You should let people in more; it's not healthy to keep everything bottled up like you do.” He was waiting for the elbow to the ribs and lord knew she had pointy elbows. “You are marrying kind, honey.” He kissed her cheek.


“What the hell are you doing?”


“I am doing the dishes while John here won't stop worrying about me like he always does.”


She did kiss John’s cheek though, letting him know she appreciated what he said silently, blinking the tears away from her eyes.  Deep down, John was right and Juliana knew it, but letting people in more was easier said than done.  She let him in fully because of how long they knew each other and she let Taker in almost all the way. 


There were certain things she just couldn't talk to him about though, like the marriage thing because he wouldn't understand.  She knew him well and didn't want to push him into anything, afraid she'd scare him away and she'd never see him again.  It was always that hidden fear of losing him and Juliana tried ignoring him, but again that was easier said than done.


“I thought you were watching cartoons with Keira or are you done with the whole talking bugs thing?”


“Commercial break, she's using the bathroom.” Taker shrugged, wondering just why Cena was looking so serious.  He knew the kid wasn't as dumb as he acted, or looked, but it was still fairly rare to see him looking this way. “Everything alright?”


“Peachy.” John got that 'happy go lucky idiot' expression on his face, snapping his towel at Jule's ass and bolted before she could retaliate.


Shaking his head, Taker walked over to take the idiot's place. “Everything alright, Jules?” He repeated, more softly this time.


“Of course it is.  You know how John is, Taker.  He's always worrying about me.  I think he's afraid I'm gonna end up a shell of myself again and that's not going to happen.  He'll just have to get over his fears or whatever the hell he's thinking.” It was partially telling the truth because John had openly told her that once while Taker was away on another job. “Will you put these away for me?” She asked, handing him the glasses with a smile on her face, sighing when he simply set them in the cupboard.  The tension between them was thick, but Juliana had to find a way to sever it and hopped on the counter that was dish free for the moment, pulling him down for a soft passionate kiss.


This was her using a very effective distraction tactic so he couldn't ply her with anymore questions.  And truthfully, the tactic usually worked, it wasn’t working this time though.  With great force of will, Taker broke the kiss, resting his forehead against hers. “Why would John think you're going to wind up a shell, Juliana?” He asked quietly, his piercing green eyes staring intensely into hers.  John wouldn't just think that out of nowhere; the kid wasn't that paranoid, even he knew that.


“Because I hardly go out and do things, but I'm a mother.  There's no reason for me to go out.  He actually wanted to go on a double date because he met a girl on that site already and I told him I'd have to talk to you about it first.  I don't know what he's thinking Taker, you know how John can be.  I think he's nervous about meeting a woman since he hasn't had a girlfriend in...Years...” Because of her, a pang of guilt shot through Juliana, but she immediately pushed it away instantly. “I don't know why he would think I'm gonna turn into a shell when I'm the happiest I've ever been.  You need to stop worrying too.  Between you and him, I honestly don't know who's worse.” She laughed softly, kissing him once more, this time softer and lightly, almost a brush and enjoyed the closeness.


“We can't worry about you?” He replied, kissing her lightly and pulled back. “In years?  How many years are we talking?”


When she rattled off her guess, Taker arched an eyebrow and actually felt pity for the guy.  That was a long time to go without a woman.  Then...he realized, with a feeling of guilt twisting his own stomach, that he could not recall if he had ever taken Juliana out.  A motorcycle ride probably didn't count with women.


“What kind...of date?” Hell, Taker couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been on an actual date, period.


“Knowing John, it would probably be a club or something like that.” She shrugged nonchalantly, seeing how hesitant Taker was and caressed his face with her hand, smiling. “We don't have to go, I already told him he'd have to go by himself more than likely.  He'll be fine, he just wants us along in case things don't work out with the gal, but he's an adult and can handle it himself.” She kissed him softly, needing to finish cleaning the kitchen up, but he wasn’t letting her move.


A club, yes that would be Cena's style and Taker could already envision the hell that it would be. “We should go.  Out, I mean.” He corrected himself when she gave him a 'are you serious' look, clearing his throat.  This wasn't familiar territory for him, but he wanted to go out with Juliana, she deserved it. “I'm sure we could find a good babysitter for Keira, it would be nice,” He didn't stumble over the word, mildly pleased with himself. “For us to go out.  And besides, if John's date turns out to be totally fucked up, I want to be able to laugh at him.” There, that sounded more like him.


Juliana blinked, wondering if she'd heard Taker correctly or if she'd have to clean her ears out. “You...You actually WANT to go?” When he nodded, Juliana was at a loss for words, not knowing exactly what to say.  He was doing this for her and Juliana didn't want him to do it just because she wanted it. “Taker, I'm fine with just staying here, I don't want you doing this because you feel you have to.” He'd never EVER taken her out anywhere, not even to a restaurant, so Juliana couldn't help feeling a little paranoid.  She went to say something else and Taker silenced her with first his finger then his lips, pulling her into his strong arms, melting her instantly.


He could have argued with her all day, insisted he wanted to do this and even if he had completely meant it, she would have still protested.  This was the quickest and best way of shutting her up.  When he had finished kissing her senseless and breathless, he pulled away, feeling pretty pleased with himself and showed it with a smirk.


“Find out from John when and where, go out shopping and buy yourself something to wear...Something that shows off those gorgeous legs of yours...” He ran his hands down her thighs.


Juliana flushed a deep crimson red, chewing her bottom lip, knowing Taker meant what he said and sighed at the feeling of his huge calloused hands caressing her skin. “Mmm that feels wonderful.” She whispered, feeling the heat even through the thin material of her pajama pants, pulling him closer as she began wrapping her legs around his waist. “I'm not going to a club, we'll compromise on where to go.” Her mouth right by his ear, Juliana smirked when he shuttered against her, nipping it lightly with her teeth.


“Daddy, where are you?”


Juliana laughed when Taker groaned, kissing him heatedly once more before finally peeling herself away to hop off of the counter, straightening herself out. “Cartoons a wait!  Since you're watching her, I'll go shopping with John.  It'll give you and Keira some quality time together.  I love you.” She smiled when he said it back and watched him walk back into what he considered hell as far as the cartoons went. “JOHN!!”


Taking a moment to get himself a cold glass of water, Taker inwardly adjusted himself and then followed his daughter back to the living room, grinning broadly when she began filling him in on what he had missed, resuming her spot curled up on his lap.


“Hey, Jules!” John was back at the computer, grinning. “What's up?” She was grinning, she was beaming; he was lost. “Uh...I don't look...weirdly thrilled…” Yes the paranoia was always there when it came to Juliana.


“Me and you are going shopping today while Taker watches Keira.  I talked to him about the double date and he actually wants to go!” Juliana was ecstatic, her heart beating wildly in her chest, having never really gone on a real date before.  She probably looked like a kid in a candy store or would once they got to the mall. “He wants me to buy myself something to wear and we need to find you something if you're going to present yourself properly.” She was already pulling him out of the computer chair, barely giving him time to bid the blonde on the screen goodbye before dragging him upstairs in excitement. “Oh and we're not going to a club because that's not mine or Taker's style, so we'll have to compromise.”


“Okay...I'm not doing a bar, Jules.” John replied seriously, wrinkling his nose.  He knew exactly where Taker's taste in bars ran and that was not his style at all. “Dinner?  Dancing?” He suggested, having already informed Evetta, his date, that it would probably be a double date, which she had been relatively cool with. “And stop dragging me, I can walk woman!” He followed her into her bedroom, watching as she began searching for clothes. “Any idea what kind of clothes you're looking for?” He always looked good, he couldn't remember the last time she went shopping for something besides jeans.


“A dress more than likely, I want to look...nice for a change.” She couldn't think of any other word to use, tossing things out of her closet. “So what’s her name?”




“Evie eh?  She sounds beautiful already.” Juliana smiled at the look in John's eyes, knowing he was smitten and they hadn't even met in person. “And dinner and dancing sounds fine with me, Taker doesn't really do the bars anymore.” She knew what John was thinking, remembering back when Juliana had to sew Taker up in the back of a scummy bar, after revealing her true self to him.  Faking having a cracked rib had been the best move she could make and Juliana hadn't regretted it, anything to get her out of that prison she had to refer to back then as home. “And you need to wear something nice because wherever we're going to dinner at is going to be elegant and classy, something out of the ordinary.  So dress pants with a nice dark blue dress shirt will work for you.  Blue is your color, keep that in mind, bro.”


“White Jules, I look wickedly awesome in WHITE.  Black dress pants, black dress shoes, and a white dress shirt.” He corrected her, seeing her scowl and knew damn well they'd be having a battle of the dress shirt later on, grinning at her evilly.  Shopping was fun, he liked to shop. “You need to wear a short little black dress, something that'll show off your legs and if Taker won't dance with you, then I will.” His grin broadened, knowing how well that would go over with Rent-A-Cop, chuckling at the memory of calling Taker that back in the day.


“You better behave and I have a feeling you'll be having your arms already full with Miss Evie.” She winked with a grin, the light in her eyes shining brightly. “And I'm not wearing black, I'll pick out my own damn dress thank you very much.” She rolled her eyes when John shot back with he was picking his own shirt out, causing Juliana to toss her hands up in the air. “Fine, wearing black and white, she'll think you're a goddamn cop or some shit.” She snorted derisively, changing into a pair of jeans with a black short sleeved shirt, pulling her hair back in a ponytail and slipped her white tennis shoes on. “Come on, I'm driving.” She walked out with John hot on her trail, laughing when he tried yanking the keys from her. “Do it again and I'll make you fly down these stairs.”


“Yeah, you do that and then you'll have no one around to give you an HONEST opinion about how fat your ass is in whatever you try on.” He shot back, jumping down the rest of the steps before she could shove him. “Alright munchkin, I'm taking your Mom out.”


“Where too?” Keira asked, looking both amused and curious, not budging from her spot on her dad's lap.


“Strip club.”


“What's a strip-”


“Cena, get out now before I murder you.”


Juliana gaped and slapped John hard upside the head, smirking when he groaned and could hear Keira's giggling laughter along with Mark's deep rumbling. “Love you both, be back soon!” She pressed her fingers to her lips and blew them both a quick kiss before exiting, ignoring John's grumbling. “A STRIP CLUB?  You've lost your goddamn mind, that is your goddaughter you moron!” She growled, stepping inside her blue Ford Focus and started the ignition, barely waiting for John to buckle up before peeling out of there. 


If John was smart, he wouldn't say anything about how big her ass was in whatever she tried on or she'd run his ass over with her car.


Chapter 5


John waited until he was reasonably sure Juliana wouldn't try to either push him out of the car or slam his side into something that would kill him before venturing speaking again. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said it.” He said contritely, wondering if now would be a good time to mention that Keira knew the best way to kill something was a headshot, and that technically, a strip club was a less dangerous pass time.  He mentally vetoed that. “So where exactly are we going?  The mall?”


They arrived at the mall about a half an hour later since they lived on the outskirts of the city.  She pulled into the parking lot, getting a relative close spot and stepped out of the car, waiting for John.  She still couldn't believe he told Keira they were going to a strip joint, Juliana knew Taker wouldn't forget it either and would make John pay for it when they were on their double date.  Juliana knew Taker better than probably anyone and sort of felt sorry for John, who was completely oblivious to the fact Taker was going to make his life miserable in front of his date.  She giggled quietly and waved John off when he demanded to know what she was laughing about, simply saying she still couldn't believe Taker had agreed to go on a double date.


“We'll shop for you first and then me since you already know somewhat the outfit you want to wear.  So pick a store.”


Shaking his head, and trying to stifle the curiosity about whatever had made her laugh, John led the way to the Brooks Brother store.  He wasn't interested in a suit, but they also dealt in dress shirts and slacks.  Though… “You know...” He mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully as he looked over some of the suits on display. “I would make a really handsome James Bond, what do you think?” He turned to look down at her, wiggling his eyebrows before bringing his hands up in front of his face, forming a gun with his fingers.


“Not even remotely close.”


Juliana laughed when John's face fell, trying not to laugh at his expense, but it was too damn funny picturing him as a James Bond.  Christ, the man was scared to death of guns because he'd been shot in the leg while trying to protect foolishly once.  She knew John would do it again in a heartbeat if necessary.  Now Taker dressed as James Bond...Juliana immediately shoved that out of her mind, needing to focus on the tasks at hand because they didn't have much time.


“Why don't you try the suit on and see what it does for you?” She suggested, deciding to let him pick out what he wanted to wear and would shoot him herself if he chose anything Hawaiian or gaudy looking.


John was considering it just on the principal that it would annoy Juliana and give him a good laugh in return.  But since this was their first shopping excursion outside of a Wal-Mart in quite some time...he wasn't in any hurry to end it.  He didn’t know if they would ever have this opportunity again.


“May I be of assistance?”


John turned to find a man, around his height, with light brown hair in a nice suit standing there.  He glanced at the silver name tag: Randy. “Um, something blue, pinstriped maybe?” He glanced at Juliana.


“He wants to look like...James Bond...only modern day.” Juliana had a hard time saying that out loud, laughing when John glared at her while the man named Randy pulled him away to sift through the many suits they offered. 


She was thoroughly enjoying this and decided John would be occupied for awhile, so she stepped out to make a call home, wanting to check on things.  When nobody answered, Juliana sighed and knew Keira probably had her father sucked into cartoons with the TV blaring, so nobody could hear the phone ringing.  She slipped her phone back in her purse and walked back inside just as John walked out of the changing room in...a pinstriped blue suit.


“Wow, you look INCREDIBLE in that!”


John was examining himself in a set of mirrors, brushing imaginary lint off his suit with a pleased smirk. “I do look fuckable if I do say so myself.” He chuckled lightheartedly.


Randy arched an eyebrow, his mouth curving up a little at that.  He remained standing off to the side, watching as they examined the suit.


“I will definitely take it, Randy.” John grinned. “I like you, any guy who has good taste in suits is alright in my book.”


Randy was wondering now, if this guy was always like this and if he had been dropped much as a child.


“I told you blue was your color.” Juliana smirked when John stuck his tongue out at her, simply folding her arms in front of her chest in a silent 'I told you so'.  She loved proving him right, which happened frequently. “Go change out of it before you ruin the suit.” She shoved him gently but firmly back toward the dressing rooms, still wondering what on earth she was going to buy to wear for the double date. 


Something sexy yet classy, Juliana didn't want to look like a whore after all


Huffing, and muttering under his breath about 'bossy, cruel women', John headed back to the changing room. “I'll bring the suit out, Randy.  I don't need any help with the buttons.”


“Is he always like that?” Randy had to ask, hiding his annoyance with that loud-mouthed, obnoxious customer, turning his piercing gaze onto the woman.  It was more than obvious that the pair weren't romantically involved, but they didn't look like siblings either.  He kept a lid on the curiosity.


“Twenty four hours, seven days a week.” Juliana answered without a moment's hesitation, smirking when Randy actually blanched at her. “No worries, he's like my big brother so I put him in his spot when needed.” She winked and giggled at the grumbling coming from the changing room. “Do I have to light a fire under you, Cena?  We don't have all day you know.” Juliana loved baiting him and burst out laughing when Randy couldn't help doing so, both of them fully enjoying John's discomfort. “I really hope your date sticks around otherwise Taker might have to pay her off in order for you to keep a woman.”


“Hey, if anything, I'll have to pay HER to stick around after seeing HIM!” John shouted back from the changing room, obviously not amused. “Ahh!”


Randy winced when it sounded like the other man had fallen.


“Don't come in!  I'm fine!  The suit is fine too!” John shouted in a panic. “Hey...this carpet is really comfortable...”


“Oh Jesus...” Randy rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Are you sure you don't need help, sir?”


“Only if you feel like helping me tuck my junk back in my boxers, dude.”


Juliana completely lost it as she doubled over, laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face.  When Randy handed her a tissue, she just laughed harder, dabbing her eyes and couldn't stop laughing.  John walked out and one look at him instantly made her burst in another fit of uncontrollable giggles, finally remembering why she put up with him for so long.  He was so funny and could make her laugh even when she felt the lowest, which had been earlier that morning.  They checked out and John walked out with his suit while Juliana contemplated which store to venture in order to find her outfit for the double date.


“So when are we going on this date exactly?”


John glanced down at his watch, still grinning.  He was fairly certain Randy had never been so happy to see a customer leave, the man had practically bowed them out the door.  John made a mental note to come back sometime, just to watch those elf ears go red.  Maybe he'd bring Keira, she'd find it amusing too.


“In about six hours.” He answered, groaning when she stomped on his foot. “What'd I do, Jules?” He demanded, hopping on one foot, holding the other one up and surveying the damage to his trainers.


“SIX HOURS?!  Christ, we don't have time to waste then!”


She grabbed his hand, ignoring his protests about his throbbing foot, and took off toward the first dress shop they could find.  She already decided she was wearing a dress, something out of the ordinary for her, and flat out refused to wear black.  She wore enough black in the bedroom, she wanted to look different and beautiful for him, smiling at the thought.  They walked in a small dress shop and Juliana immediately went sifting through the dresses, trying to find the perfect one.


“Anything except black and blue, I want something different.” She stated before John could ask what she was looking for, chewing her bottom lip at all the different cuts and designs, sighing.


John arched an eyebrow, wondering just what in the hell was wrong with blue.  Her eyes were blue, blue made them pop, much like him and blue.  However, he wasn't protesting it due to his still slightly throbbing foot.  Instead, he stopped her, held her at arm's length and surveyed her thoughtfully.


“How about something in a cream color?” He suggested after a moment, knowing damn well she'd probably shoot him down, but he could honestly see in her wearing that color and pulling it off.  With her skin tone and raven hair, she would be a vision.


Cream...Juliana kept searching through the dresses, finally finding one that really jumped out at her. “I'll be right back.” She said in a rush and practically raced to the dressing room, grinning from ear to ear. 


Not wanting John to see it until she was actually wearing the dress, Juliana changed quickly.  She finally took a deep breath, smoothing the dress out over her flat stomach, and turned around to stare in the mirror, her eyes widening.  The dress was a Patra beaded chiffon dress that flowed and rested just above the knees.  Soft chiffon twists were just below the V-neck, ruche on the bodice and brought flattering focus to the dress. 


There was shoulder and back straps that shimmered with bold sequin and beaded embellishments that looked like diamonds and rhinestones combined on the straps.  Juliana could only stand there and couldn't believe what was staring back in the mirror, slowly removing the tie from her hair, letting it frame her face and fan her shoulders.  When she heard John's impatient crowing, she finally stepped out slowly with a shy smile on her face.


“Please don't laugh.”


John had been half-heartedly browsing dresses, noting a few that were extremely skimpy, planning on asking Juliana to try them on. “Why would I laugh at you?” He asked, turning around and his jaw dropped.  It took him a full minute to recover and when he did, he was tempted to hug her, but didn't want to ruin the vision before him. “You look beautiful Jules.” He whispered, trying to remember if he had ever seen her in something like this, looking so radiant. “Wow.” Taker was going to be knocked for at least two loops, possibly three.


“What?  What's wrong?  Look you said cream and-” John immediately cut her off by pressing his finger to her lips, his blue eyes slowly giving her a once over, making Juliana blush from head to toe. 


If this was any indication then Taker's world was about to be rocked out of orbit.  Juliana felt proud of herself and actually had to admit John's choice in color wasn't a bad idea.  Juliana didn't realize it, but she looked like a downgraded bride at that moment, the color against her tanned skin making her breathtaking.  Factor in her black hair, she was a dark angel, especially with her dark midnight blue eyes.


“So this is the one definitely?” When John could only nod, at a complete loss for words, Juliana giggled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for your help, bro.” She then walked back behind the dressing room door to change out of the dress, not able to wait to go home and show Taker, though he wouldn't see it until she was actually wearing it.


John cleared his head enough to shoot off one of his comments. “So, do you need any help getting out of it?  Maybe as payment for giving you good advice?” He ducked when one of her shoes came flying over the changing stall door, picking it off the floor with a chuckle.  When she came out with the dress folded over his arm, he was smirking. “Let's go pay and get that dress in a garment bag, before you get pissed and choke me with it, thereby ruining both the dress and my good looks.” He kissed the top of her head “You did look really beautiful in it, Jules.”


“Thanks pervert.” Juliana chortled when John looked wounded again, elbowing him in the ribs while she paid for the dress. 


It wasn't exactly cheap, but to Juliana it was chump change as she simply gave the cashier her credit card.  She'd also picked out some matching dangling earrings and a simple necklace to accent the dress along with a pair of two inch black open toed heels that strapped up her calves.  They walked out of the mall about twenty minutes later and Juliana was all smiles, trying not to break the speed limit in order to get home so she could get ready for the double date.


“I hope Taker found someone to watch Keira or we won't be going, you realize that right?”


“It's TAKER, the guy could probably get access to the President if he really wanted too.” John replied with a snort.  He strongly suspected Taker could do just about anything he put his mind too.  That was the problem, he might not have found a babysitter because he might not have wanted to gone and scowled. “Does he have anything to wear?  Like a suit?” He asked, not about to be embarrassed if the guy showed up in his usual jeans, biker boots, and black leather vest.  Or see his date drool over the guy, for SOME reason, leather did that to women.


“Taker can wear whatever he wants and you will deal with it.” Juliana stated emphatically, refusing to make Taker even more uncomfortable than he probably already would be. “It's bad enough he's doing this because of me, John.  Just let him be comfortable in his own skin, alright?” She sighed when he huffed, reluctantly agreeing to it and Juliana patted his knee comfortingly, letting him know tonight would be go off without a hitch.  Now she had to figure out if Taker had found a babysitter and whipped her cell phone out, once again trying the house phone.


“HELLO?” Came Keira's extremely loud voice, giggling. “No Dad, not that one!  Try another!”


“Darlin', who is it?  And I liked that one!” Taker's voice sounded exasperated in the background.


“No, it looks all wrong, next.  Who is it?” Keira returned her attention to the phone.


“Keira, it's Mommy.” Juliana couldn't help laughing when Taker growled in the background, shaking her head. “Let me talk to Dad for a second please.” She heard some shuffling and Keira's exasperated groan before Taker's voice finally flowed through the phone into her ear. “Hey, I was wondering if you found a babysitter for Keira or should I call around?” Juliana asked, stopping at a red light, smiling softly at the sound of Keira's voice telling her father what he should and should NOT wear tonight for the double date. “Taker?”


“Hold on, Jules.  Keira, put those back, I don't even know how I got them!”


“Dad, they are PERFECT, they're dress pants!  You are wearin' them or you're not going!”


“Fine, lay them on the bed.” Taker sighed, trying not to smile. “I found a babysitter.  She has a great record.” By that, he meant that he had already accessed background information, as well as her history with the childcare service. “So...did John ever decide when?”


“Tonight in about four hours.” Juliana answered somewhat exasperatedly. “We're on our way back so if you want a shower, you better grab one now.  Love you and listen to Keira.” She giggled when Taker growled before hanging up the phone, tossing it in her purse and headed through the green light toward home. 


Four hours?  They were kidding...No, this was exactly like John to rush into things dick first, head second.  Shaking his head, Taker went back to scouring the closet, knowing Keira probably had already located the pair of dress shoes he had tossed in the back.


“Ooh, shiny...they still got the paper in them too!” She pulled out the crumpled tissue paper from the shoes. “Haven't you ever worn these?”


“Nope.” He was leaning into the back of the closet, rifling through the clothes he didn't wear but had, just in case, finally pulling out a shirt. “How about this?”


She nodded, staring up at him. “That is your color.”


Taker grinned at his nine year old daughter.


Chapter 6


John asked her a few questions about what he should and shouldn't do on the date, but all Juliana could tell him was to be himself.  She knew he was extremely nervous, finally taking his hand and squeezing it gently. “Any woman would be lucky to have you and if she doesn't feel that way, then she's not good enough for you.  Remember that.  So be goofy, loveable self and she'll fall at your feet.” She winked, causing John to grin, knowing she'd made him feel a little bit better, but that didn't do anything for Juliana's nerves.  The closer they got to the house, the more she wondered if wearing that dress was the best idea.


About twenty minutes later or so, Juliana finally pulled into the driveway of the house and cut the ignition, sitting there for a second. “I need a minute.” She whispered, closing her eyes and swallowed past the lump that suddenly formed in her throat, pressing her forehead against the steering wheel. “I know I've been with Taker for a long time, nine plus years, it wrong to feel completely nervous since this is our first official date together?” She glanced over at John, who looked just as pale as her, knowing he needed the comfort more than her right now. “Sorry, forget I said anything.  I'm fine, but we really are pressed for time.  Come on.” Stepping out of the vehicle before John could say much, Juliana grabbed her bags along with the dress, which was in a white zip up bag, heading through the garage and walked inside the house, John trailing behind.


John grabbed Juliana round the wrist -gently, he was a strong man after all- and pulled her back into the garage before Keira or Taker could notice they had arrived. “No, it is not wrong to feel nervous.” He said softly.


Knowing damn well nine years of being with someone and NOT having gone out on a date had to be some kind of sin, against the law or something.  He just hadn't dated period, which was lame.  Nine plus years celibate...he paled.  He really didn't need a sexual relationship right away though, he needed a lot of stamina building solo sessions first.


“Just...relax, and try to enjoy yourself.  I'll even behave.” He grinned encouragingly, swallowing down his own anxiety.


“Be you.” She whispered and kissed his cheek, hugging him tightly around the neck, knowing both of them were about to tread on unknown territory. “And if she does one thing to ruin this evening, I'll be running her over.” Juliana said in his ear, causing John to squeeze her tighter and they broke apart, knowing they were running out of time to get ready. “Come on, we have to get you all dolled up.”


Laughing as they both entered the kitchen again, Juliana slowly headed upstairs while John took the downstairs bathroom to get ready.  She stepped inside the bedroom and delicately laid the dress bag on the bed along with her bag with the shoes and jewelry inside, hoping this was the right decision.  Her palms became sweaty and Juliana was fairly certain her heart might burst out of her chest with how fast it was pounding.  She jumped when Keira's voice sounded behind her, causing Juliana to whip around.


“Keira, you really should wear bells child.  You scared me.”


“I'm practicing my sneaking.” Keira announced, eyeballing the garment bag. “So, let's see it then.  I helped Dad pick out his clothes, but you can't see them until you leave.  Even then, he might wear his duster just to hide it from you.” She looked pleased, grinning. “Is the dress pretty?  It is a dress, right?  Oh, I googled 'strip club', Mom.  You did NOT go to one, I'm going to go smack John for lying.” She shook her head, looking disgusted. “You adults do some really, really weird things.”


Taker poked his head out of the bathroom, arching an eyebrow, and then brushed water off his face.  His eyes went towards the garment bag on the bed, looking curious. “You going to show it to us?” He asked, though something told him Juliana wasn’t going to just as he wasn’t showing her what he was wearing until they left.


“You'll see it when I'm in it.” Juliana immediately snatched it from the bed, clutching like a lifeline, and smirked when Taker narrowed his eyes. “Don't give me that look and yes, my darling daughter, it is a dress and you have every right to go smack your godfather for saying we went to a strip club.” She was still contemplating running him over with her car after the double date ended, watching as Keira ran out of the room to go give her godfather a piece of her little mind. “Don't even think about peeking or I won't wear it.” She threatened when Taker took a step toward her, not caring if he seen the shoes and jewelry she bought, but the dress was a surprise. “Are you done with the shower?”


“Hmmm, maybe.  Unless you'd like me to come scrub your back?” He murmured suggestively, crossing the room until he stood in front of her in nothing but a towel that was draped rakishly around his hips.  Water droplets were still making their way down his chest from his wet hair. “Wash your hair...or anything else you'd like.” He purred, bending down until their lips were barely touching.


“You're evil you know that.” She breathed and sighed when he gently brushed his lips against hers, almost dropping the bag.  She could feel his arm snaking around her waist and Juliana knew exactly what he was trying to do, immediately stepping away. “As much as I'd love for that to happen, I want to surprise you with what I bought.  I hope you like it.” She flashed a nervous smile and walked over to grab the other bags, winking over her shoulder at him. “And I can't wait to see what you and munchkin picked out for you to wear.” The bathroom door closed and Juliana locked it, setting everything down before stripping out of her clothes, hopping into the shower.


“Hey, give me my bag!” He ordered, waiting outside the door until she opened it a crack, just enough space to pass through his leather toiletry bag, which contained his brush, razor, hair ties, cologne; all the stuff he was going to need.


“Dad, John is wearing a suit!  And-” Keira clamped her hands over her eyes and began backing out, reaching back with a hand. “And you should wear some clothes!  You never know when I'm going to barge in!”


“Give me a minute to pull on my pants, darlin'.”


“And underwear!”


She was not his daughter.


Even in the bathroom under the sprays, Juliana couldn't help laughing, feeling very blessed to have such a unique beautiful family.  It was almost too good to be true at times.  Juliana finished her shower and stepped out, having grabbed new under garments, which were also cream colored lace, flat out refusing to wear thongs or anything trashy.  She looked in the mirror, wiping it down before beginning the transformation. 


She parted her bangs to the side, which hung just to the middle of her cheek in a layered fashion, the rest of her hair hanging loosely just a little past her shoulders.  She slipped the strapless cream colored bra on with the matching panties and they were silk so no panty lines would show through the chiffon.  She put light black eyeliner on with cream colored eye shadow, bringing out her midnight blue eyes with clear gloss and foundation to hide any blemishes.  Her earrings were simple dangling rhinestone and diamonds that matched the dress's decor perfectly. 


Juliana had shaved her legs and knew she wouldn't need to wear knee highs or anything like that, knowing Taker enjoyed looking at her legs for some reason.  Juliana clipped the matching necklace on, which had a dangling rhinestone teardrop on a diamond chain.  It was just enough, not too elegant she hoped anyway. 


Finally, Juliana looked over at the bag and pulled the dress out, slipping into it and zipped it up in the back.  The reflection staring back at her was one that Juliana hadn't expected and she hoped Taker's fell to his knees at the sight of her, smirking before finally strapping her black heels.  She picked up her mess and made sure everything was as it should be before finally opening the door and walking out.


John was down in the living room, adjusting his cufflinks and admiring himself. “I am one handsome guy.” He said cheerfully, having even done his hair, as much as he could anyway. “Now if only your Mom and Dad were as gorgeous as me.” He informed Keira seriously, grinning when she kicked him in the shin. “Hey now!”


“My Dad is beautiful!”


That was a very nice thing of her to say if not entirely truthful.  Taker stepped out of the downstairs bathroom where he had finished getting around, wearing black dress slacks, the shiny shoes and a button up shirt that he had never even removed from the package.  His black hair was tied back into a ponytail with a black rubber band, shaved and trimmed his mustache and goatee.  He wore a simple silver chain around his neck, though tucked under the collar and a silver watch he had bought for some reason he could no longer remember.  He had cleaned up fairly nice.


“Hell...has just frozen over.”


“I'm inclined to agree with you on that, Keira, he is beautiful.” Juliana stated from behind, having entered the room unnoticed until three pairs of eyes turned around to stare at her. 


Juliana instantly flushed and could feel her heartbeat quicken again at the sight of Taker, her knees weakening.  The light grey buttoned up shirt hugged his muscular chest and arms perfectly, the first three undone.  Juliana had to learn how to breathe again as Keira instantly rushed over to her with big bluish green eyes, which were wide as saucers.


“Mom, you look...”


“Different I know.” Juliana smiled and bent down, smoothing out Keira's hair, being careful of the dress.


“No, you look incredible!  Dad, look at Mom!  She's all dressed up!” Keira was speechless, she'd never seen her mother look this way before.


He WAS looking at Juliana, he just couldn't make his mouth work.  Nor did he want too.  He just wanted to stare at her, though when it looked like John was about to snatch her up or something else unwisely similar, he stepped forward and extended his hand.  When she took it, he pulled her gently to him and bent down to brush his lips against hers.


“All this is worth it, just to see you like this, you're...stunning, Juliana.” He murmured, knowing that word did not do her the justice she deserved.


“So are you, Taker.” She whispered, reaching up to caress his smooth face with the back of her hand, the biggest smile on her face.  It was almost as if the entire world had disappeared around them and it was just them standing in front of each other, staring in each other's eyes, falling even more in love if that was possible. “I'm glad you like it, I was nervous it wouldn't be enough or too dressy...” She was busy fixing his shirt, running her hands down the material to smooth it out even more, trembling just the slightest. “I love you.”


“I love you too, darlin' and the dress is perfect.  Or rather, you're perfect.”


John was just watching this feeling mildly grossed out AND like he was snooping on a private moment.  He took Keira's hand and guided her towards the front door. “Let's go wait on the porch for the sitter, okay?” He suggested softly, giving her parents a moment alone.


Taker had to catch her hands to stop her from smoothing his shirt to death, bringing them to his mouth in order to kiss her fingertips. “Why are you so nervous, Jules?” He asked in a husky voice, his eyes locking with hers.


“It's stupid, it's really stupid.  No it's idiotic AND stupid because we've been together for nearly nine years.” She shook her head and sighed when Taker ran his finger down her cheek very gently, not wanting to muse anything. “This is our first official know actually going out in public instead of always staying in.  I told you it was stupid to be nervous about, but I can't help it.  This is my first date...ever...”


Taker had been the only man she'd been with, he'd taken her virginity and Ken hadn't taken her out anywhere.  Her and John had gone out to eat and to see movies together, but that wasn't a date per say.  Taker was the love of her life, the man she wanted to wake up and fall asleep beside and grow old with for the rest of her life.


It took him a moment.  She had been sheltered, somewhat, minus her sneaking, wild-child excursions with John which didn't count as dating as the two were nothing but friends.  And he had been with her ever since she had been forced to relocate from her father.  And he had never taken her out.  Other than a bar for a beer, which wasn't a date, he really was an asshole.


“I'm sorry, Jules.” He apologized, having never really given it much thought until now.


“I don't want you to feel bad about it because I don't regret anything that's happened between us good or bad.  You know I love you and if we never went on a single date together, then I wouldn't care.  I enjoy being home with you and Keira.  Please, I don't want you feeling guilty about this.” She brought his face down to hers, pressing their foreheads together, her heart breaking because she knew exactly what he was thinking. “You're the perfect guy or damn near close to it.  I only asked to do this because of John, he needs support right now.  I don't care about going out on dates or anything like that because what I have here is more important.  And I'm talking way too much, sorry.” She smiled tentatively, smoothing his shirt out once more before very softly kissing the part of his chest that was bare, sighing in contentment. “You smell good, just so you know.”


“You look good.” He shot back with a grin, stepping out of reach so she couldn't keep smoothing his shirt.  Once again, he found himself staring at her, thinking he should have taken her out years ago, seeing her all dolled up like this.  The color wasn't something he would have ever pegged her for wearing, it looked spectacular though. “You know, that almost looks like a bridesmaid dress or something.” He said thoughtfully after a moment. “Planning John's wedding already?”


Juliana paled for a second before the color returned to her cheeks, suddenly walking past him toward a closet that had a full length mirror in it.  She opened it and sure enough, the more Juliana looked at her reflection, the more the realization dawned on her.  She looked like a downgraded bride, the color...she was going to kill John.  He was definitely being run down with her car.  She finally knew why he picked the color and bit back a scowl, shutting the door with authority.


“He probably won't make it to his wedding.” She said sweetly, though it didn't reach her eyes as she headed outside to see what her daughter and sneaky best friend were up to.


Wondering what he had missed, Taker followed her.


Chapter 7


John and Keira were sitting together on the porch swing, John's suit jacket off so he didn't ruin it, his arm draped around her.  When he seen the stormy look in Juliana's eyes, he knew she had cottoned onto the reason behind his suggestion.  Well, part of the reason.  She really did look beautiful, that color was set off by her hair, eyes and skin tone.


“You two look...nice, together.” He wasn't going anything other than nice because, from him, anything else would have sounded either snarky, or worse, gay.


“They're beautiful!  Hey, the sitter, think she'll be nice to me?”


“She better be if she knows what's good for her.” Juliana stated coldly, shooting John a glare before taking a deep breath. “Me and you are having a long talk later.” She promised in his ear to where nobody could hear him, standing up just as a car pulled up.  A brunette stepped out that looked to be in her twenty's or a little older than that.  Juliana glanced back at Taker and knew she had to trust him considering his line of work, feeling his arm wrap around her waist. “Hi, I'm Juliana, Keira's mother.”



“It's really nice to meet you, I'm Evetta, but most people call me Evie.” She smiled warmly with chocolate brown eyes, her eyes moving to the beautiful little girl before her. “And what's your name little one?”


“Oh brother.”


Juliana nudged her daughter, flashing another smile, and went to say something when John suddenly stood up from the porch, his eyes boring into the woman. “Uhhh...”


“Mom...isn't she a little dressed up to be my babysitter?”


Evie was indeed a little dressed up, more so than what a babysitter should have been.  This was easily explained: she wasn't the babysitter.  She was John's date.  She laughed softly when she realized her few inches above the knee, blue and white pinstriped dress matched John's.


“I'm sorry.” She said, moving towards him when he stepped towards her, recognizing him instantly. “My picture shows me with blonde hair but I dyed it brown last week.”


“You are beautiful.” John informed her.


Taker crossed his eyes, trying not to facepalm himself and let out a breath when another pulled up. “That's the sitter.”


“She brought games!”


An elderly woman walked up, though she looked to be in her fifties and wore gaudy jewelry.  She didn't smell bad and had short curly grey hair with warm grey eyes, wearing a simple navy blue dress that had a pink belt around the waist. “Good evenin', are you Mark Calaway?”


Juliana smiled softly, already liking the older woman and stepped forward after she shook Taker's hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you...?”


“Just call me Momma Jean, deary and is this the little darlin' I'm watchin' tonight?”


Keira grinned from ear to ear. “I love Monopoly and it's the Disney version!  Mommy look!”


Juliana beamed, nodding at how excited her daughter was. “We'll try not being out too late, Miss Jean.”


“Take your time deary, she's in good hands I promise.”


Taker was very pleased with his choice in babysitters, ignoring the 'she used your birth name and you let her' look he got from Cena.  He wasn't about to demand this old woman call him 'Taker, he snorted.  That and he had wanted a babysitter who wouldn't let Keira play XBOX, stay up all night and get hopped up on caffeine.


Keira waited impatiently while her parents began leaving instructions. “Okay, can we go play Monopoly now, Momma Jean, please?” She asked politely when her Mom and Dad shut up.


Evie smiled, hiding it behind her hand.  This child was simply too cute. “She's adorable.” She murmured to John.


Now he was officially in love. “We ready?”


“I suppose.” Juliana was really nervous leaving Keira in this woman's hands, but she would be completely safe.  The house was locked down with the state of the art security system. “Be good for her alright?  We'll be home in a few hours.” She hugged Keira tightly, kissing the top of her head. “I love you Keira.”


“Love you too Momma and don't rush, have fun with Dad.  You two need it.”


Juliana sighed, knowing that was easier said than done. “We will.”


She stepped aside and let Taker hug her goodbye, giving her explicit instructions not to drink any caffeine and to go to bed no later than ten like he'd instructed Momma Jean.  She felt Taker laced their fingers together and he lead her over to the Chevy Silverado, helping her up in it while John helped Evie in the back.  Within moments, they were pulling away from the house, Juliana glancing back and smiled when Taker pulled her over to snuggle against him.


Taker had also told Keira were he kept his extra cell phone in case anything happened.  He had warned her against calling because the sitter was 'mean', he had stressed the 'emergency only' until she had scolded him for nagging her.  He had almost told her where the taser was, but...He had checked out the babysitter and was fairly secure in the knowledge that she was trustworthy, but just in case...He relaxed, feeling Juliana relaxing against him and smiled.  This might not be a bad night after all.  He glanced in the rearview mirror, John was actually holding a serious conversation; he was definitely impressed.


“So,” He murmured, pausing briefly. “Just where are we going?”


“I have no idea, talk to the man with the plan.” Juliana jabbed her thumb behind at John, who jolted out of his conversation with Evie, who looked as though she was already smitten with him.  When he simply said for Juliana to choose, she sighed and knew that was coming, trying to think. “How about that place that you can have a steak dinner and there's a dance floor in it?” She suggested, knowing it wasn't a club because it was for actual slow dancing mostly.


“Oh I know exactly what you're talking about.  I think it's called the Sizzle and the dinner there is fantastic.  It's not really a club with loud music and strobe lights, which I'm perfectly fine with.  Are you?” Evie asked, smiling when John just nodded.

Juliana was liking Evie even more.


Taker was liking Evie too, she had rendered John virtually silent.  THAT was the woman for John.  He decided he might even hold off on screwing with the kid just to make sure this date went smoothly.  He was beginning to see the possibility of less John around, equating that with more Evie.  He grinned, quickly dropping a kiss on the top of Juliana's head. 


With her giving him instructions, he quickly located the Sizzle, studying the place thoughtfully.  At least it wasn't a club, with horrible, deafening music and who knew what else.  He stepped out of the Chevy and walked around to Juliana's side, opening the door and extending his hand to her.


Juliana smiled and slipped her and into his, carefully stepping down out of the truck, moving her hair to the side a little bit.  She knew one of the many reasons they never went on an actual date is because Juliana's life seemed to always be in danger.  Not to mention she sort of faked her own death after killing Ken Anderson and her psychotic mother. 


It was the right thing to do to keep hidden for the past seven years, but no other danger had come their way so maybe it was safe to finally go on dates with Taker...if he wanted to take her.  The two couples walked inside the Sizzler with Evie talking about her career as a journalist for the local newspaper.  They sat down at a table and Juliana instantly snuggled into Taker's side again, both of them looking at a menu.


When Evie asked him what he did, John was at a bit of a loss. “Well...” He wasn't about to tell her his job consisted of playing video games and occasionally putting in hours as a gym trainer.  A benefit to that was he got to use the equipment for free, a body like his wasn't achieved by sitting on his ass.


“He works with me.” Taker supplied, actually feeling bad for the idiot, not looking up from the menu.


“In security.” John agreed, latching on. 


It wasn't really a lie, maybe an exaggeration.  He hadn't worked in years and he wouldn't actually count it as working because running for his life, trying to stay a few steps ahead then getting shot didn't really seem to qualify as a job.  He considered kicking Jules under the table when she smirked from behind the menu.


“Security eh?  Well at least I know I'll be safe if we work out.” Evie giggled softly, enjoying John's company immensely and glanced over at Juliana and the tall intimidating guy, not knowing his name. “So what is your name or should I just call you tall and dark?” She smirked when Juliana giggled more, folding her arms in front of her chest.


“Just call him Taker.” Juliana offered, winking up at him and sighed when he softly kissed her lips.




John was expecting a barrage of questions about that.  Usually the first one was: What kind of name is 'Taker?  But Evie didn't ask, she seemed to accept it immediately.  He glanced at Taker who was giving him a 'don't fuck this up' look.


“While we're waiting...would you dance with me?” He asked, pushing away from the table and extended his hand to her.


“I'd love too.” She smiled, allowing him to pull her to her feet and then out onto the dance floor.


“Plan their wedding.” Taker chuckled, shaking his head as he put down the menu. “She's definitely going to be a keeper.” He could see it now...they'd be able to sleep in again when school started up, without having to worry about John bursting into the house at ungodly hours.  He stared down at Juliana, noting the sparkle in her beautiful midnight blue eyes, bending down to kiss her.


On one hand, Juliana kept wondering why Taker was mentioning marriage when the subject hadn't come up between them in the past almost eight years they'd been together.  Then again, Juliana wouldn't mind planning John's wedding because he deserved to settle down with someone who completed him.  Evie seemed to fit perfectly in that category and John was already falling for her, Juliana could tell. 


She just had to accept the fact she'd never get married and be happy with Taker the way they were for the rest of their lives.  Marriage was simply a piece of paper and an expensive piece of jewelry, but deep down Juliana knew that wasn't how she felt about it anymore.  It was about committing to the one she loved and being together until the end of time.  She broke out of her thoughts when she felt Taker nuzzle her neck, instantly closing her eyes to relish the feeling, a moan escaping her.


“You had a faraway look in your eyes...” He whispered in her ear before nipping her lobe. “What were you thinking of, hmm?” She had been playing the 'let's not answer that question' game with him since he had gotten home, but he wasn't asking directly and outright this time.  No, he went with sneaky distraction and then murmured the question while she was enjoying the distraction.  Nobody ever said that he played fairly.


“Just the fact that I can actually imagine John standing at the altar in a wedding.” She lied smoothly, shivering when he continued playing with her earlobe, moving to her neck and felt him lift her to sit sideways on his lap. “Is this allowed?” She giggled when he simply shrugged, knowing Taker wasn't one to follow rules except his own.  She definitely wasn't complaining either, enjoying the attention he was giving her, snuggling even closer while his hot breath on her ear and neck lit her body on fire.


“What do you think they'll do?” He rumbled in her ear, one hand wrapped around her, with his palm flat against her belly.  His other hand was on her thigh, massaging slow circles against her through the dress, loving the material, though he loved what was underneath it even more. “Throw me out?”


That was laughable, he doubted anyone would even be able to work up the nerve to ask him to stop mauling his woman publically.  He might have dressed like a gentleman, that did not actually make him one and he was sure that fact had crossed someone's mind at least once tonight.  Other than Juliana's.  A gentleman wouldn't be running his hand up underneath the dress.


“Mmm, silk...”


Juliana grabbed his wrist before that large hand could caress her any further, trembling slightly against him. “Later, I want to at least eat dinner first.”


Her cheeks were a deep dark crimson red, her breathing ragged and kissed him soundly.  John and Evie were heading back to the table and Juliana really didn't want them witnessing Taker mauling her in the booth, slipping off of his lap reluctantly.  She straightened her dress and simply snuggled against his side, grabbing his wrist when his hand went to slide up her dress again.


“Evil.” She muttered with a smirk, smiling when John and Evie sat back down, both breathing heavily and their lips were slightly swollen. “Did you two kids have fun?”


“Yes.” Evie's eyes were sparkling. “You told me you couldn't dance.” She accused John, laughing when he just shrugged at her.


“Must've been you bringing it out in me.”


That was corny, he had to fight the urge to roll his eyes, wondering if anyone would notice if he adjusted himself beneath the table.  Now he remembered why he usually stuck with the relatively tight jeans.  Juliana tended to get a rise out of him.


John eyeballed Jules, concern in his eyes. “You're all flushed, are you alright?”


“I'm peachy, you're a little flushed yourself there, bro.” She shot back with a smirk, causing Evie's cheeks to join theirs. 


Taker was the only one who seemed calm as a cucumber, which didn't surprise Juliana in the slightest since he was giving her all the attention.  Juliana would be sure to reciprocate it later on once they were alone.  The waitress walked over and took their orders, which was steak with all the trimmings, Juliana having a craving for it ever since Taker came home.  When Evie and John went out dancing again, Juliana decided maybe it was time to ask Taker the burning question about marriage, but she didn't know how to go about it.


“Taker...” She sighed when their drinks were placed in front of them, instantly making her lose her nerve.


He hadn't missed the tone of voice, the way she had said his name and arched an eyebrow, taking a sip of his beer.  Hey, he was drinking it from a glass, that made it look better, though he was fairly certain he was losing points on his man card. “What is it?” He demanded, hazarding a guess that she had been working up the nerve to talk to him about something, probably the same thing she had been thinking about when she seemed to go off into la-la land.


Juliana had to think fast and took a sip of her wine, slowly setting the glass down on the table. “I'm just worried about Keira being with that babysitter.  Don't laugh.  I can't help it, this is the first time I've been away from her since she was born besides having John watch her to go to the store.” She decided to talk about motherhood, bringing up marriage would only complicate things and Juliana's fear of Taker leaving still lingered even after nearly ten years. “Is it wrong or am I being too overprotective?”


He was beginning to lose count of how many times she had either semi-lied about what she was thinking or changed the topic a bit in order to avoid actually answering him properly.  It was getting....irritating.  Taker took a long, slow sip of his beer before answering, considering her.


“No, it's not being too overprotective.” He said as he set the glass back down, his eyes meeting hers. “If you want, you can call and check-in with them.  I'm sure Keira is probably feeling a bit anxious as well.” He was going to go along with the distract and move on tactic for now.


When they got home, in their bedroom, it would be another matter entirely.


Chapter 8


“No, I already promised her I wouldn't call unless it was an absolute emergency.”


She hadn't realized that's exactly what Taker made Keira promise them, wanting her parents to enjoy themselves tonight.  She began moving her head when Thriving Ivory began playing over the speakers of the place, smiling as her eyes closed.  This was one of her favorite bands, trying to ignore Taker's tension that she could no doubt feel.  Did he know she was lying to him about what she'd really been thinking about?  He could read her better than John...Juliana fought not to pale glanced out at the dance floor, smiling at the sight of John and Evie snuggled against each other while they slowly swayed back and forth.


Considering he had a habit of 'reading her mind', Taker found it highly impractical of Jules to keep something from him.  He usually spotted dead-on when she was trying to hide something from him, or avoiding a topic.  Deciding a little more shock treatment -him coming out, dressing up probably had been the surprise of the century- was in order, he stood up and gently took her hand, pulling her up alongside him so their bodies were pressed together tightly.


“Dance with me.” He rumbled, staring down at her out of intense emerald orbs.


Juliana didn't know what to think of Taker's behavior, wondering when the man ever danced.  She didn't understand what came over him and wasn't about to question it.  Her father had made sure she took dancing lessons for the many banquets he threw in the Harrison mansion. 


She smiled as they twirled around the dance floor, getting lost in each other and he even dipped her a few times.  Her eyes never left his and wondered what Taker was thinking, wondering if he ever thought about the possibility of marriage.  When he twirled her and brought her in his arms again, Juliana finally decided to take the dive so to speak.


“What's on your mind, handsome?”


“You.” He replied with a smile slight, telling her the truth.


She was on his mind, she was usually on his mind, even when she shouldn't have been.  Her and whatever it was that seemed to be gnawing at her, something she felt she couldn't share with him, or maybe wouldn't.  The thought that she wouldn't suddenly sent his mind into overdrive, wondering what could be so bad that she didn't want to tell him.


Was she afraid of him?


Was she afraid of his reaction?


If that were the case, then it would of had to be something very bad.  He then began thinking of the relatively few things she could do that would totally piss him off, the top two being leaving him and running off with their daughter and cheating on him.  He knew she wouldn't attempt the first, he would be able to eventually find them.  The second thought both left him feeling like there was a knife in his heart AND pissed him off, his grip on her tightening for a brief moment.


“I love you.” Juliana could feel his apprehension and sighed inwardly, knowing she would have to talk to him about what had been on her mind for the past few months. 


Maybe John was right, maybe she should open up to people a little bit more.  She hated keeping anything from Taker, it wasn't fair to him because the relationship already had trust issues in the past.  She kissed his chest that was visible his fingers lightly graze up and down her back, the chiffon dress flowing every time he twirled her gently.


“There's something I need to talk to you about later tonight when we're alone, I don't want to do it right now.  It's not anything bad, I promise.”


She smiled when he reluctantly nodded, knowing Taker would be patient until they arrived home.  Then she would have no choice, but to talk to him about the marriage thing, just wanting to get it out in the open.  Before Taker could say anything else, people began screaming, causing her eyes to widen as John and Evie came rushing up to them.


“There was an explosion outside!  I think it was the truck!” Evie was trembling from head to toe, burying her face in the side of John's neck.




Taker had already let her go and was heading for the door, weaving around people effortlessly and those he couldn't get around, he moved out of his way.  He could hear John right behind him, Evie and Juliana following.  His green eyes narrowed when he seen that it was the truck that had gone up, the cars beside it also on fire.


“Run.” He ordered, knowing damn well this could lead to a chain explosion that came up close to the building, to them.  Ignoring the beginnings of panic as other people began to cotton onto that fact.  Literally snatching up Juliana and tossing her over his shoulder, he began to move away from the now extremely deadly parking lot and out towards the open.


John was following suit, though he had scooped Evie up against his chest, cradling her to him. “Some first date, huh?” He managed to get out as he and Taker both used their large frames to get the hell out of there.


Evie didn't know what to say, blinking and trembled against him as tears shined in her chocolate brown eyes. “John, what's going on?”


Juliana clamped her hands over her ears as the building began to shake slightly, knowing the explosions were already happening. “Taker...”


She blinked when people came rushing at them and knew Taker wouldn't let anything happen to her, feeling as though her heart might explode from how fast it thundered against her chest.  Keira!  What if something happened to Keira?  The truck was gone, how the hell were they supposed to get home?!  Juliana chanced moving her head and could already see Taker on his cell phone, trying to talk over the shouting people as another explosion happened.


John was sincerely hoping that the truck had had a leak or something and some retarded person had just flicked a cigarette down in the wrong place.  That was better than any other alternative that his mind was throwing at him.  He really hated being paranoid, but Juliana's history of attracting people who wanted her dead seemed to keep him on his toes and his nerves on edge, whenever something out of the ordinary -and this fucking qualified- happened. “I don't know honey, probably some kind of malfunction.” He managed to make himself heard, trying to soothe her.


When they were at a safe distance away, with nothing nearby to catch on fire in case the flames came this way, Taker slowly let Juliana down, turning to look at the inferno.


Juliana could only stand there and watch the flames, silent tears streaming down her face.  Who the hell had done this?  This wasn't coincidence, Juliana learned long ago that whenever exploding cars were around, bad things happened.  John nearly died, Juliana closing her eyes tightly shut as the memory washed over her, trembling from head to toe. 


Her voice screaming his name and the relief washing over her when she heard John's voice, letting her know he'd survived, but not without being injured.  Why couldn't people just leave her alone and let her be happy with Taker?  Was it really a crime for her to have a normal happy life?  This was why they never went out on a date together because in public something bad always happened.


“I-I have to call K-Keira.” She stepped away from everyone to take her cell phone out, trying to stop shaking, not wanting to scare their daughter.


“Hey Mom!” Keira answered cheerfully on the third ring. “Momma Jean and I are still playing Monopoly, she's really good!” She had absolutely no idea anything was wrong. “We were outside for a bit, she let me buy an ice cream cone when the ice cream truck came by, the guy was really nice and gave me extra sprinkles!” She was having a great time, completely unaware of the shaky, relieved sigh that her mother let out. “You should go out on more dates so I can be babysat by Momma Jean!  How's the date going anyway?  Why you calling?  I'm fine!”


Juliana clutched the phone as the relief washed over her, nodding, the tears not stopping. “It's going fine baby girl, I'm just calling to check in.  You know how I am.  I can't help worrying about you.” She said in a surprisingly calm voice, smiling when Keira squealed that she landed on what sounded like a good property. “Tell Momma Jean we're going to be heading back soon and make sure the house is completely locked up, okay?” When Keira agreed, Juliana was almost afraid to hang up with her. “I love you, Keira, Daddy and I will be home soon.”


“Okay, take your time!!  Love you too!!” The phone went dead.


She was perfectly fine, Juliana took a few more deep breaths and wiped her tears away, eyes narrowing slightly because she was tired of being attacked.  She took the earrings and necklace off, shoving them in her purse, having a small gun in there just in case.  Taker had taught her how to shoot a gun, not wanting her to be completely defenseless why he was away on business trips.


“Do you really think it was just some malfunction?” Evie asked, staring with wide eyes at the scene playing out before her eyes.  It was hard to believe that not ten minutes ago they had been dancing and having a good time in the building that was now being consumed by an inferno.


“Somebody could have been smoking and put it out too near a leaking vehicle.” John said reassuringly, trying to convince himself.  He was too fucking paranoid, not everything was about Juliana damn it.  She didn't have anyone left who wanted her dead. He glanced at her.  He hoped anyway.


“John's probably right.” Taker agreed, not entirely sure he believed that, he knew that things were rarely coincidental when it came to Juliana.  The woman was a walking magnet for trouble.


“How are we getting home, Taker?” Juliana asked, just wanting to be with their daughter right now, too freaked out by the sudden explosion of the Silverado.


“Wouldn't you have noticed if there was a leak though?” Evie wasn't that stupid, she was highly intelligent and looked up at John with wary eyes. “I could call my friend who can give us all a lift back home.  He's a limo driver...”


Juliana looked at Taker, waiting for him to tell them what was going to be done, waiting for him to take action like he always did.


“I already called for a rental.”


“That was awfully fast.” Evie said suspiciously, having absolutely no idea of his connections.


“You'll have to meet it though.” He pointed to the line of cop cars, fire trucks, and ambulances that was converging.


“Wait, what about you?”


John hadn't missed that 'you'll', and was trying to keep Evie from asking another question.  He really liked her, but she was a bit too smart for her own good.  Not to mention, if something was up...he couldn't be involved with her, that'd be putting her in danger.


Taker shot him a 'what do you think' look. “I'll be giving a statement.” He said evenly, having no such intentions.  He was going to find out just what was going on.


Evie frowned, not believing what an evening this turned out to be and sighed heavily. “Thank you for the ride, Taker.” She kissed John's cheek and rushed off toward the rental, knowing she'd be stuck in traffic for awhile.


“John...” Juliana watched him walk away from them and felt terrible, more tears starting to fall. 


She hated her life because it seemed to always be in danger.  This explosion was a sign, there was no other explanation.  It'd been nearly eight years since anything happened, but that didn't mean anything.  It took Cassandra's son four years to track her down, wanting her to feel safe and secure before striking.  Juliana watched as Taker walked over to speak with the police, heading over toward where John was standing.  She had no idea what to say to him and simply stood there, both waiting with bated breath.


John really hated Taker; the man had ordered two rentals, apparently anticipating Evie's immediate desire to get the hell out of there. “She was a nice girl.” He offered after five minutes of silence between them, not knowing what else to say as he tried to see what was going on.  He hadn't realized how far they had ran until just now, knowing it had been the extra fear and adrenaline that had caused it.  He could see, however, that the fires were slowly being brought under control. 


This was going to take hours.


“Maybe she'll call and text you...”


Juliana highly doubted it, feeling terrible for her best friend and could feel a headache coming on.  She didn't care if her dress was chiffon or not, the heels were killing her feet as Juliana walked over to sit down in the grass, resting her chin on her knees, her purse tucked on her lap.  She was keeping it close just in case she would need to sink a bullet in someone's head.


“I'm sorry John...for everything.” She whispered, closing her eyes as the guilt crashed over her, wondering when enough would be enough.


“Hey, hey...” John dropped down next to her, not really giving two flying fucks about his suit.  It was just a suit, it could be replaced.  People couldn't. “It's not your fault.  For all we know, they were after Evie.” When she snorted, he nodded. “Think about it, she was super smart, way too smart for me.  She could have been on the run from the mob, maybe she stole a shitload of money.” When he got another snort, he sighed and wrapped an arm around her, knowing his idiotic jokes weren't working. “Sorry.” He murmured quietly. “But this isn't your fault, Jules.” He squeezed her gently, resting his head against hers. “It's not, you got to know that.”


“Why isn't it John?  Have you even thought about the past lately?  First my psychotic mother comes back from the dead wanting me dead along with Anderson and then her offspring comes along four years later to try to end me as revenge for her death.  It's been nine years since anything has happened, but obviously someone else has found me and wants me dead.” Juliana could feel her heart shattering at the thought of them on the run again and this time with an innocent seven year old with them. “John, I need you to make me a promise right now.  If something happens to where I have to run again, you have to stay behind and raise Keira.” When his eyes widened, Juliana held her hand up, tears in her eyes. “Protect her...with everything you have...I don't want her involved in whatever crazy journey we're about to embark on.  Promise me right now, Jonathan.”


“Okay, okay, I promise.” He had to get that out first, knowing she wouldn't want to hear anything else right away.  When she looked relatively relieved by that, he cleared his throat. “Now don't take this wrong.” Which she probably would, given what had happened in the past and wasn't a believer in coincidences either, not that he blamed her. “But did you stop and think that maybe, just maybe, there's a small chance this has nothing to do with you?  Maybe it was some kind of accident.  Or maybe it's me someone is after.  I'm sure I broke a lot of hearts with the EHarmony thing.” He groaned when she elbowed him. “I know, bad time for a joke.  But...maybe this is just a...coincidence?”


“John, you're smarter than that, don't act dumb and don't try downplaying this.  This isn't just a coincidence.  Our shack was burned to the ground along with your car exploding, don't you remember that?  Exploding vehicles, especially OURS, is a BAD sign.” Juliana was realistic and wished she didn't have to be because John wanted to hear that maybe this was just one big accident.  Highly unlikely and Juliana wasn't about to bullshit him on it either. “I'm sorry, but deep down you KNOW this goes deeper than just a coincidence.” Taker walked over at that moment as she stood up from the grass, the tears having subsided for now.  Juliana would have a breakdown when she got home after seeing her daughter safe and sound, worried to death about Keira right now. “What's going on?”


“Well...” He settled himself on the grass alongside her, wedging her between him and John, feeling John retracting his arm as he slid his own around her. “They can't get too close to the cars because they're still pretty-”


“Hot and on fire?”


“Yeah, but given how bad the explosion was and the amount of damage, their guessing a bomb.” Which was his personal opinion as well, not that it needed to be said aloud.  He was already certain that Juliana and John had already reached that conclusion as well. “Evie leave?”


John nodded miserably. “Yeah, not that I blame her.”


“Sorry man.” Taker actually patted John's shoulder sympathetically.


Chapter 9


A bomb.


Juliana could already feel her stomach doing flips and they weren't good ones. “I want to get home to Keira, Mark.” She never used his birth name, only when Juliana wanted to get a point across to him as she stood up from the grass. “I don't know what's going on and I don't care right now.  Our daughter needs us, fuck the cops and fuck everything else.  We have to get home!” What if the damn house had a bomb in it and they were too late to save her and Momma Jean?  Juliana had to stop thinking like that because now her paranoia and fear had skyrocketed, which was never a good thing for anyone, especially Taker. “Please, I just want Keira in my arms so I know she's safe, so I can see nothing's happened to her...”


Nodding, he stood up and pulled her up by her hands, hugging her briefly.  He knew there wasn't any point in arguing -not that he would, he wanted to go home and see Keira as well- because Jules would either take the rental and leave them, or hoof it.  He wasn't having either.  He shared a look with John, following her to the car.


“You drive.” Taker ordered, pushing John away from the passenger door and opened the back door for Juliana, sliding in after her, pulling her back into his arms.


Juliana could only imagine what lay before them now, trying to hold it together until they got home and seen Keira was sleeping peacefully in her room.  The night had been completely destroyed and it was all Juliana's fault for even mentioning going on a stupid date. “I never want to go out in public again.” She muttered, meaning every word she said, knowing it was bad enough when she went to the grocery store for food.


No wonder Taker ever took her out anywhere, danger was always lurking behind every corner and Juliana was tired of running for her life.  Living in constant fear wasn't the way to live, but what other choice did she have?  No other words were spoken as John drove them back to the house, the only sound being the car turning and John's foot putting the pedal to the metal.


Taker really didn't want to tell her that if this bomb hadn't been by random choice that they were going to have to move.  He knew it would come to here within the next day or two.  He caught John's eye in the mirror every now and then, the man always looking at his adopted sister. 


Taker seen the worry and indecision flickering in John's eyes, wondering just what had him actually thinking so damn hard.  He felt relief flood through him when they pulled into the driveway, the house still in one piece.  Though, he wasn't relaxing or letting his guard down until he was inside and seen Keira.  Apparently Juliana had the same idea because she practically flew out of the car.




Juliana didn't stop to talk to Momma Jean, knowing Taker would take care of it and rushed upstairs to Keira's room.  She opened the door and saw her beautiful daughter sleeping peacefully, the window locked nice and tight with the shades drawn.  At her side was the taser Taker had given her, breaking Juliana's heart even more. 


She slowly walked over and bent down, brushing a strand of black hair from Keira's face, softly brushing her lips against Keira's forehead.  She took the taser and placed it on the dresser before reluctantly leaving the room, leaving the door completely ajar just in case something did happen.  She then headed to the bedroom down the hallway and walked inside, heading over to the windowsill, just letting silent tears slip down her cheeks.


‘When is going to finally be over?’ She thought brokenly, pressing her forehead against the cool glass window.


Taker finished with Momma Jean, trying not to be too obvious about hurrying her out the door, allowing her to tell him every little detail of the night, wishing the old broad would hurry the hell up.  He was grateful she had taken such good care of his daughter, but he needed her to leave.  Finally, after he had pressed several large bills into her hand, he managed to get her out of the house, ignoring her protests that she couldn't take so much money.


“Ma'am, you did a great job with our daughter, please.”


John made himself useful and helped the old woman to her car, soothing her rather miffed feelings.


Juliana watched as Momma Jean pulled away and finally stood up from the windowsill, closing the shades before beginning to slip out of her dress.  Exhaustion was creeping up inside of her and all Juliana wanted to do was lay down.  She didn't bother putting anything else on, wearing the silk bra and panties she bought and didn't bother hanging up the dress, honestly not caring. 


It was just clothing as she slipped under the comforter and curled up in a tight ball, the tears not stopping.  Having that nightmare was an omen, Juliana was sure of it now, but she couldn't tell Taker because he would simply brush it off.  The marriage conversation had also vanished into thin air because now Juliana was more worried about living then anything.


Sighing, he shed the dress shoes, and unbuttoned the dress shirt, making his way back upstairs.  He needed to get a hold of his contact at the local police department and see if anything new had come up, but at the same time, he also knew they probably wouldn't know anything for awhile yet.  They had to wait until they could get close enough without burning themselves on flaming hot, melted metal. 


Taker stopped in the doorway and stared down at the bed, making out a lump that was definitely Juliana beneath the blankets.  He could see her trembling and knew she was probably crying.  Sighing softly, he set down on the edge of the bed, reaching out to place a hand on the lump.


A hand came out from beneath the blanket and grabbed his, letting him know she was alright.  Juliana slowly sat up in bed, the blanket pooling on her lap, knowing neither of them would be in the mood for anything intimate tonight. “When are we leaving?” She asked quietly, already knowing it was coming and tucked a strand of a hair behind her ear, her voice low. 


She knew Taker hated tears and tried stopping them, wiping her face after releasing his hand, just staring straight ahead.  Juliana learned long ago that whatever Taker wanted to do was for the best, so she didn't fight him on almost anything he said when he came to being safe.  Lessons were definitely learned in the time span she’d known Taker, Juliana had finally realized that being irrational and running away was not the answer, especially when her life was on the line.


“I don't know yet, Jules.” He replied calmly, gently turning her so she was facing him.  Using the pads of his thumbs, he wiped away the remaining tears on her cheeks, bending down to kiss her forehead. “I want to make sure this wasn't random, just in case.” He knew it probably wasn't, some aunt or uncle had probably come out of the woodwork and found her and decided they wanted her money or something. “But I don't want to frighten Keira either by rushing off.  So maybe tomorrow morning, we'll discuss the possibility of moving with her, ease her into it as much as we can.  This way if and when we do, she won't be frightened or shocked.”


“She's not coming with us, Taker.” Juliana pulled away from him and slipped out of bed, walking over to the dresser to pull out a nightgown, feeling cold suddenly. “If we move, it's because we're going on the run again and I won't...I can't subject her to that lifestyle.  I asked John to watch over her, to protect her and raise her if we have to leave...” Her voice cracked, but Juliana knew this was the best thing to do for Keira, knowing it would kill her to leave all of her friends and school behind. “She doesn't deserve this...John promised...”


Out of all his planning, the possibility of leaving Keira behind had never crossed his mind.  Of course, Juliana was right, Keira couldn't be subjected to that, to being on the run, to being in constant fear.  He remembered when he had been shot, he had lain in a forest, covered in snow for days, almost dead. 


No…that wasn't for his daughter. 


But he couldn't see them being away from her like that, feeling a surprising clench of his heart and his chest tighten, actually letting out a small gasp of pain.  That was a first, parenthood had screwed him up.  He loved Juliana and would give up his life for her, but this was his daughter...and he knew Juliana felt the same way he did.


“We should...consider sending them away then.  They could be in danger here.” They could be used against Jules in other words.


Juliana nodded, feeling her knees weaken, but knew this was for the best for both Keira and John. “Do it, you and I both know that wasn't a coincidence and someone is after me again.”


There was no use in beating around the bush, Juliana would be running for the rest of her life unless she stayed hidden.  She was going to lose two of her lifelines, Taker being her third.  Keira and John were huge parts of her life and losing them...maybe Juliana would end up that same shell and if that was the case, there was no use in having Taker around to witness and deal with it.


“Send me away too.” She turned to stare at him, tears pouring down her face like two rapid streams. “You've been through enough, Taker.  You nearly died and I won't let it happen again.  I love you too much to subject you to anymore of this.” Separating was for the best, Juliana had to do this on her own without putting the people she loved most in danger. “Please don't fight me on this, you have no ties to me or anything besides Keira and we're sending her away to live with John.”


He considered smacking her for that, feeling anger beginning to course through him.  He had been with her for most of the past…ten, twelve years, longer?  Eight, nine years of peace and then the dark years before that.  Four years apart, between 'incidents', but he had come back when she needed him the most.  He always came back and now she thought he was just going to walk away because she told him too?


“And I love you too much to walk away, no matter what it costs me, so don't even THINK about it, Juliana.” He growled evenly.


“Why are you being so damn stubborn about this?  I'm not good for you, don't you see that?” She snapped, tossing her hands up in the air, the frustration building to a breaking point as the tears started up again. “Don't you want peace in your life, Mark?  Don't you want get married someday to a woman who is WORTHY of it?!  Who is not constantly on the run from lunatic relatives because of money and god knows what the fuck else?  I love you enough to know when to say enough is enough, you need to learn the same thing.  Because I swear to fucking god if I see another bullet enter your body like I did those nine years ago...” She didn't want to finish that statement, remembering what happened the last time she said she'd kill herself, trying to be rational about this, but all rationality flew out the window. “I just want you to be happy because you deserve it...”


“The ONLY woman I'm marrying is you.” He said firmly, grabbing her by the shoulders and dragged her up onto her knees, staring into her eyes; his own blazing with a mixture of anger, exasperation and love. “I'm happy with YOU, Juliana.  You and Keira are my life.” He had been planning on making this vacation home permanent, but hadn't known how to tell her, knowing she would think he was only getting her hopes up. “If I can't be with you then what the fuck am I supposed to live for?” He didn't let her answer him, instead covered her mouth with his, kissing her almost violently.  He was angry and a little frightened by her words, wondering if she would try to take off on her own, slip away from him.


The desperation, anger and passion in that kiss curled her toes and Juliana could only melt against him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.  Her heart had nearly stopped when he said the only woman he was marrying was her, wondering how long he'd been thinking about it.  Juliana couldn't breathe and didn't care as she clutched onto any part of Taker she could get her hands on, her back hitting the carpeted floor with him hovering over her. 


She enjoyed his weight, welcomed it and curled her legs around his massive thighs, her own desperation shining through.  Hell, Juliana knew the only way she would ever be able to leave Taker is if he did indeed send her away to a secluded place where absolutely nobody would find her, not even him.  It was impossible, she couldn't do it and whatever was coming for them or whoever, they would fight it together just like they had for the past twelve plus years.


She seemed to have put the fool notion of them separating out of her mind, which pleased him more than words could ever say.  Leaving Keira behind was bad enough, losing Jules as well...he wouldn't have been able to handle it.  He had never formed attachments with anybody, it had never seemed a wise idea given his profession.


Then one job turned into this...a love to last a lifetime and beyond.  It was beyond him how it happened, but he'd be damned if he lost it now, if he lost his family.  Hungrily, his hands roamed her body, feeling the silk undergarments she had worn beneath her dress beneath his palms, deepening the kiss as he tried to pour everything he was feeling into it.


“Taker, the door...Keira...” Her mumbled words were soon silenced by another fiery kiss that send her world spiraling out of control.  Neither of them cared about anything except each other at that moment as his lips finally left hers, rendering her speechless, feeling them trail down her neck to her breast, the nightgown disappearing. “Mmm Taker...”


She could barely breathe, he was suffocating her with his kisses and love, but it wasn't a bad thing.  Juliana's eyes nearly flew open when he ripped her silk panties off, unfastening her bra and completely took her for his own hungrily, animalistically and ardently.  All she could do was surrender and once again went to heights only she could reach with this man, enjoying every second of it.


Keira could sleep through anything, they both had agreed on that many times before, and now it was a confirmed fact.  With the door wide open, and the ungodly amount of noise they had made, if that child hadn't woken up...well, nothing could rouse her.  Except perhaps the scent of pancakes.


Chapter 10


“I love you.” He murmured, laying flat on his back, still on the floor, holding her close to him, but with enough distance to allow them both to cool down. “And you're not leavin' me.” He added darkly, rolling onto his side and staring down at her. “Understand?”


Juliana nodded, reaching up to caress his face as he kissed her wrist, holding her hand there as her thumb ran back and forth across it. “I love you too and I'm not going anywhere.  Keira isn't either.  We'll fight whatever and whoever is coming after us.  This is our family, splitting up is too dangerous.  I was just thinking irrationally like always and you pulled me back to reality.” As long as she was with Taker, Juliana knew she was as safe as she was going to be, same with Keira and John. “Though for safety purposes, we need to move John back in here temporarily unless we are moving somewhere else.”


Either way, John was following suit.


He considered that, stroking his goatee thoughtfully. “I don't know, Jules…you were kind of right when you suggested putting them together.” When she gave him a look, he held up a hand, silently urging her to let him explain. “Darlin', whoever did this had absolutely no qualms, no guilt, over it.  He or she blew up the truck, knowing the explosion would do more than just damage our car.  They knew the restaurant would probably catch fire too, with all those other people in it, and didn't care.” He was stressing this because obviously this psychopath did not care who was hurt, no remorse over it, and probably wouldn't hesitate to use Keira or John.


“What if we send them away together and they end up being used anyway?  Taker, I'd rather have them with us, splitting up is a horrible idea.  I'm sorry I mentioned it.” She sighed when Taker lifted her up, gently setting her on the huge king sized bed and pulled him on top of her, knowing he came willingly since he was three times her size. “I know whoever did this had no regret about those other people, but we have the greatest protector on the planet with us.  You're better than the Terminator, remember?  They won't be any safer than with us.”


“Yeah, but unlike the Terminator, I'm not made of steel and invincible flesh.” Taker reminded, tapping his chest where he still had a scar from the bullet that had almost pierced his heart. 


He knew he wasn't unstoppable.  He was the best, yes, but that scar was also proof even he could be subject to the flaws of being human.  Her faith in him was nearly overwhelming.


“We'll let John know in the morning, we'll get them ready.” He murmured, brushing his lips against hers.  He knew it would be hard for all of them to leave, they had built a peaceful life here.


“You're still the best in my book.” She murmured against his lips, sighing at the thought of leaving, but it really was for their safety.  At least they would all be together, Juliana didn't want to lose anyone, especially the man on top of her.  She pressed her lips against the scar on his chest, closing her eyes, knowing they were all taking a chance, but it was a chance they were willing to take. “Let's go to sleep, we have a big day tomorrow.” She whispered, knowing they were both exhausted, but apparently Taker had other ideas in mind as her eyes slowly rolled in the back of her head when he slipped right back inside of her. 


Sleep definitely wasn't on the agenda that night.


Well, for her it was.  When he had exhausted Jules, and was fairly certain she was sound asleep, he crept out of the bedroom, heading quietly downstairs.  He was not surprised in the slightest to find John curled up on the couch, still in his dress shirt and slacks, clutching a baseball bat. 


Shaking his head, he made his way to the den.  He had ID's to procure, new birth certificates, cash to transfer...he was going to do whatever he could to make sure his family was safe and started by giving them a new life as new people was the first step.  The second was killing whoever was doing this.




“My name is...You want to change our identities and everything?”


Juliana couldn't believe what Taker had been working on, having woken up a few hours after making love, having panicked because he wasn't beside her.  She found him downstairs in his office apparently already at work with changing everything about them.  They never had to change their identities before, Taker must've thought this was a very serious threat, swallowing hard. “My name is Jasmine and Keira's is...Kylie?” When he nodded stiffly, she was almost hesitant to ask the next question. “What about John's?”


“Anthony.  He should be able to remember that.” He snorted, sighing and cracked his fingers.  He had always had an issue with computers, mostly the tiny keyboards, but had discovered they definitely had their uses, providing one didn't leave an online trail.  And keyboards could be custom made, finger issue solved. “He's still your brother, he looks more like you then me.” He smiled humorlessly. “And I figured it would look weird to have a 'friend' with us wherever we wind up.  We can explain a brother away.” He glanced towards the living room. “He still sleeping with the baseball bat?”


“Do you blame him after what happened last night?” She watched him simply shake his head, walking over to wrap an arm around Taker's shoulders, kissing the top of his head. “I'm sure he'll love that name considering it's part of his middle name.  Jonathan Felix-Anthony Cena.” She smiled when Taker raised an eyebrow, causing Juliana to shrug. “So should we dye our hair, change our appearances or anything?” Whatever Taker wanted to do she was willing as long as all four of them could stay together. “And what are you calling yourself?”


“William.” He shrugged when she arched an eyebrow. “Not a whole lot of people out there that know my real name, Jules.  Definitely not anyone you might know.” There was a very good reason for that too, one he wasn't giving up at the moment. “I'll have to go out and pick up the ID's, I had them rush ordered.”


He smirked slightly, knowing the source was trustworthy, enough.  Just to be on the safe side though, he had every intention of leaving the guy with a concussion so he'd have a hard time remembering the transaction.  Dead would be safer, but it also wasn’t an option.


“Money has been transferred, and I'll draw out enough cash to last us a good long while so we're not leaving too big a paper trail.”


“Hurry back, I'll start getting everyone up and get to packing.” She turned the chair until he faced her, cupping his face in her soft hands and kissed him, pressing her forehead against his. “Please be careful.” She then walked out of the study and went to go wake up John, knowing she'd have to be careful since he had a baseball bat. “John?” She shook him, deciding to do it by the shoulders, sighing when he kept snoring. “JOHN!”


Startled, John shot up, swinging.  The bat almost connected, full force and that was considerable with knees first for Jules, only for a hand to intercept.  The sound of the bat smacking the palm was literally loud enough to clear John's mind and when he realized what he had done, he dropped the bat.


“Oh shit, I'm sorry!” He apologized, shooting up from the couch.


Taker shook out his hand, ignoring the stinging, fairly certain one of the little bones was broken, or chipped as he stared at John. “I'm trusting you to protect my family, not murder them.” He said venomously.


“That was my fault, I couldn't get him up.” Juliana stated, slowly standing back up since she'd ducked for cover when the bat came swinging her way. “Maybe sleeping with a bat isn't the best idea, Anthony.” She suggested and walked inside the kitchen to start the coffee, wearing a black silk robe that went to her knees, tied tightly since she wore absolutely nothing beneath at the moment. 


Of course Taker -William- didn't need to know that.


“Anthony?  You know I don't like being called that.” John called after her, apologizing again to Taker, and making sure he wasn't going to get his head knocked off as he edged towards the kitchen, needing coffee and she wasn't making it fast enough. “I was paranoid.  Exploding cars do that to me.” He added defensively.


Snorting, Taker walked up behind Jules, wrapping his arms around her and pulled her back against him, kissing the side of her throat. “I'll be back soon.” He murmured in her ear.


“I love you, please hurry.” She whispered, turning to brush her lips against his before he reluctantly pulled away to go out to the garage. “And you'd better get over your dislike of that name because that is your new name.” When John's eyes shot out of their sockets, Juliana sighed warily, pulling herself up to sit on the counter. “We're leaving and you're coming with unless you don't ever want to see us again.  We're changing our names, identities, everything.  I don't know where he's taking us, but I know one thing, we have to stick together.  My new name is Jasmine and Keira's is Kylie.  It was either that or send both you and Keira away somewhere secluded and safe, but I don't want you away from us.  I want to stick together.”


John considered that for a moment, having known this was fairly inevitable.  He hadn't acknowledged it maybe, but in the back of his mind, he had known from the minute that explosion happened they were going to go on the run again.  He knew he had a choice unlike them, he could just disappear and pretend he had never even heard of them.  But they were his family.  His sister, his niece/goddaughter, and...well, Taker was like the grumpy, dangerous, psychotic grandpa.  Family.


“Of course I'm coming, it's been awhile since I've changed my identity and gone on the run, could be fun.” Not like he was leaving anything behind, other than Evie, who was probably telling people about her really horrible first date and probably terrified of anybody on eHarmony.


The coffee cup slipped out of Juliana's hand as she visibly paled, immediately rushing after Taker. “STOP!” She screamed over the roaring engine of his bike, causing him to stop as she raced down the driveway, glad he'd heard her. “Taker stop for a second, we have another problem!!” He cut the ignition and simply stared at her out of somewhat bewildered eyes, wondering if Juliana was about to have another breakdown. “I just thought of this, Evetta was with us last night in public...when the damn bomb blew up the truck.  Don't you think whoever did this saw her with us?  So wouldn't that put her in danger as well?” John groaned from behind because Juliana knew she was right. “You need to make an identity for her, she has to come with us.”


Taker slid his sunglasses back over his eyes, so nobody would see him rolling them.  Yes, that thought had crossed his mind.  No, he hadn't really cared.  Yes, she was a nice woman, but his first priority was to his family and John.


“Alright, we'll make her John's wife.”


“What?!  Taker, seriously, the woman is going to probably be freaked out and pissed off enough WITHOUT adding marriage to the mix, even if it is fake.”


“Two couples traveling, it's called a family holiday.  One couple with two tagalongs is called a posse.  You want me to get her a ring too?”


“Oh yeah sure, buy her a huge fucking rock, and give her my undying love!”


“Alright.” He revved the engine again.


“Wait...he's joking right?  He knows I was- TAKER!”


Juliana bit her lip hard to keep from laughing at the stunned expression on John's face as Taker took off down the road. “He's not joking, come on we have a lot to get done.  First things first, we need to wake up Keira -Kylie- and then pack up everything we can take with us.  Then we need to go pay Evetta a visit...” Her words trailed off as Juliana stopped, turning to face John with hardened eyes. “If we have to kidnap her, it will be done so be prepared, bro.”


“Oh, gee, I'm going to be definitely getting this marriage off on the wrong foot.” John replied sarcastically, following her inside. “So, riddle me this, sis.  How are you explaining all this to...Kylie?” How did one explain to a nine year old that her name was being changed? “I'm going to have to run home and pack my duffel along with my duct tape and drug kit.  You know, the one I use on every unwitting bride.” He wiggled his eyebrows when she glared at him. “Hey, let me have my humor, I just lost my freewill.”


Juliana had no idea how they were going to explain to Keira what was going on. “I'm waiting for Tak- William to get back and then we're going to sit her down and calmly tell her what's happening without giving too much detail.” There was no other way to do it as she poured herself a cup of java, needing it desperately since she'd only gotten three to four hours of sleep. “You better go home now and get your things while everything is still dormant, just remember Evetta is our last stop and we have to make it fast.”


“Coffee first.” John said, pouring himself a cup and then added a few ice cubes from the freezer to it in order to make it tolerable to drink immediately. “So, what's the game plan with Evie?  Besides kidnap?” How did he explain to someone that because she went out on a blind date with him, she was now a victim in some kind of deadly game?  He drained the mug, ignoring the fact that the ice hadn't really done anything and shook his head. “I'll be back real soon honey, keep everything locked.” He bent down to kiss Jules cheek and left, groaning softly. “I'm sorry Evie.” He murmured aloud. “I think I just ruined your life.”


Juliana immediately checked every single window and door in the house, making sure it was locked nice and tight.  Then she set the alarm before going upstairs to change in a pair of skinny blue jeans with a long sleeved black shirt, leaving her hair down.  She brushed her teeth and began packing, knowing they wouldn't be able to take everything.  She let the tears fall because she'd miss this house, having brought Keira home from the hospital and had half her childhood within it.


“Mom, what's going on?” Keira asked tiredly, walking inside the bedroom rubbing her eyes, wearing a baby blue nightgown. “Where’s Daddy?” When there was no response from her mother, Keira frowned and tried again, becoming somewhat startled at the tears on her mother’s face. “Mom?  Why are you crying?” Keira climbed on the toilet so she was eye level with her mom, frowning and reached out to brush them away. “What's wrong?”


Chapter 11


Juliana sniffled a little and pulled Keira into her arms, hugging her tightly, but not enough to hurt her. “Something bad has happened sweetheart and when Daddy comes home, everything will be explained to you.” She pulled back to stare in Keira's confused eyes, brushing a black strand of hair away from her face. “Will you help Mommy by going to pack up your room as much as you can?” She asked, watching Keira blink and knew that probably wasn't the best thing to ask a nine year old. “Or why don't you help me in here instead?”


Keira was more than confused by that request and nodded, passing things from the cupboard over the toilet to her Mom, still yawning. “What about Uncle John?” She asked after a moment. “Is he coming too?  We can't leave him!” When her mom nodded, she smiled slightly, her stomach letting out a loud rumble. “I'm starving.” Keira announced, hopping down from the toilet. “I'm going to go get some cereal.” She started for the door.


“I come with donuts!” John announced from downstairs, having used his key to let himself in. “And all my spare boxers!”


“Uncle John!  Guess what?  We're moving!”


“What?  No, you can't leave me!” He teased, bending down to pick her up when she ran to him.  When she began explaining how he had to go with them, he hugged her tightly, unable to help himself.


“He's coming with us sweetheart, don't worry.” Juliana walked toward them, kissing John's cheek as a thank you for the donuts, before handing Keira over a chocolate one. “John, will you help her pack up her room while I finish upstairs?  We're not taking everything, we'll just have to buy new stuff.” They had plenty of money and Juliana knew John would probably request every gaming system on the planet, which they were taking with them so they wouldn't have to be replaced. “Taker should be back momentarily.” She got a second cup of coffee and ate a donut, listening as Keira chattered about Momma Jean to John.


“You had ice cream?  Without me?”


John looked hurt as they grabbed trash bags from under the sink.  They would pack her a duffel, had to have one of those, loaded with necessities in case things went even more insane and they had to book it in an instant.  John also knew that Taker would make sure there would be room in whatever vehicle he was procuring for Keira's belongings.  The man would want to keep things as comfortable for her as possible.


“Yeah, and the man gave me extra sprinkles, he said I had pretty eyes!” She chattered on excitedly, following him up the stairs.


“Kids...” Juliana chortled and set her coffee up on the sink, knowing they would have to handle the Evetta situation very carefully.  Kidnapping with a nine year old...Juliana groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose, deciding they would probably have to make a trip over to Evetta's in case they had to temporarily knock her out. “John?” She called while walking up the stairs, hearing him laughing with Keira, hoping that never disappeared. “John, can you come here for a second?” When he stepped out, promising to return in a few minutes, Juliana pulled him further away from the door. “Me and you are going to have to make a trip to Evetta's when Taker gets home.  If we have to kidnap her, that'll involve using ether and we can just tell Keira she's sleeping when we put her in the car.  Get what I'm saying?”


“Yeah, I already thought about that Jules.” He said after a moment. “I called her and asked if it'd be alright if I came over to talk to her, to apologize for last night.” He raised a hand when both her eyebrows darted upwards. “I didn't say it any way but normal and made it sound as innocent and inconspicuous as possible, in case the lines are tapped.  She even said she was sorry for freaking out, not that I blame her.  So…she'll be expecting me, which makes things...easier.” He finished lamely; kidnapping was not easy, and his niece wasn't going to see him do it either, he agreed with Jules on that.


“Good, I'll go with you because we're going to have to explain to her about everything that's happened up to this point.” Juliana stated, holding her hand up when John went to say something. “Maybe if she hears the whole story, she might be more reluctant to leave behind her life here and take an adventure with us.”


She couldn't call it anything else and walked back into the bedroom to finish packing her things.  Taker wouldn't like that they would have to venture out to Evetta's, but it had to be done and quickly.  Taker wanted to be on the road by early afternoon and it was already going on nine AM.


“Yes, explosions, homicide, bullet adventure of a lifetime!” John did not say this loud enough for Keira to overhear, though when a shoe came flying at his head, he knew Juliana had caught it. “Alright munchkin, you best have everything packed, even the dust bunnies!”




“Yep, can't leave them behind.” John informed her, his next sentence drowned out by the sound of the Taker's return. “Your Dad's back.”


Taker had made a pit stop at an out of the way pawnshop, browsing the rings.  He knew Jules ring size, and he was guessing that Evie was maybe a half size bigger.  He picked up a generic ring for Evie, and then devoted a little more time then he should have for Jules.  This was not the way he imagined ever giving her a ring, but...He paid for them, with cash, and went to finish business.  He wanted everyone out of town by afternoon. 




Juliana took a deep breath as she walked out with three huge bags, John helping her with two of them as they headed downstairs.  All of her and Taker's clothes, along with her new chiffon dress, though Juliana probably wouldn't be wearing it again.  Still, memories of their first date turned explosive disaster.  They watched as Taker lifted Keira in his arms, hugging her tightly before guiding her into the living room.  John caught something Taker tossed at John, which was a black velvet ring box, causing Juliana to smirk because she knew Taker wasn't joking.


“Come on Johnny, we have to go retrieve your wife and give her the surprise of a lifetime.”


“Wait, hold on.” Taker gently set Keira down. “Why don't you set up the XBOX, and we'll play one quick game before packing it?” He suggested, knowing damn well John wouldn't allow it to be left behind and watched her rush to the system. Taking Juliana's hand, he dragged her into the kitchen, ignoring John's 'you fucking suck, Taker' and turned to face her. “This isn't the way I ever imagined doing this, darlin'.” He admitted, realizing she was confused. 


Sighing at himself, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a second box, watching her face turn down to stare at it.  Slowly, he opened it and held it out, unable to really say anything.  Marry me sounded really stupid all things considered.  He wanted to marry her, just not while they were on the run, posing as different people.  He wanted to marry Juliana Harrison, not Jasmine Cole.


Her fingers trembled as she held the ring box, staring up into his beautiful green eyes before looking down at it again.  She knew what it was and took a shuttering breath before opening it, tears instantly pouring down her face.  It was a simple blue sapphire ring cut in the shape of a teardrop and set on a silver band. 


She watched as he slowly lowered on one knee, taking her free hand in his and the tears flowed even faster, laughing in disbelief.  This wasn't happening, he wasn't really proposing marriage to her was he?  Before he could even utter a word, Juliana pressed a finger to his lips and took the ring, slipping on her left ring finger and kissed him passionately, throwing her arms around his neck.


He had no idea what kind of reaction he was expecting, but this wasn't it.  He had almost thought she would be upset and think he was teasing her because of going on the run and posing as a married couple instead of being an actual married couple.  When the kiss broke, he rested his forehead against hers.


“When this is all over, I want to marry you, Juliana.” He said, using her proper name, making it known that he wanted the real thing and he would wait until he could have it. “So that's what I'm asking.  After I've made our family safe, will you marry me?”


“Yes...” She didn't trust her voice so it came out in a mere whisper, slowly pulling back before kissing him once again. “I'll marry you no matter what our names are.” She looked down at the ring and loved how the stone sparkled, which nearly matched the color of her eyes. “I love you so much, Taker.” She sniffled, wiping her tears away and knew they had no time to have a moment together because they were going on the run again. “John and I are going to get Evetta, will you explain to Keira what's going on?  I know you'll be able to handle it better than me.”


“What?  Are you kidding me?” He demanded, groaning when he realized she wasn't. “Can't I go commit the felony?”


“I wish.” John replied, walking in. “Jules, I put, in the car.  Can we do this before I regain my sanity?” He was staring down at the ring still in his hand, swallowing hard.


“It's not real.  The ring is, but the intent isn't, twit.”


“Coming from the guy who's been in a steady relationship for nine years solid, said to the guy whose first date in NINE YEARS ended in an explosion.”


Juliana cringed when Taker growled, knowing that was the wrong thing for John to say. “Just handle our daughter, we'll be back soon.  Come on before you end up dead, bro.”


She shoved John out of the door, winking back at Taker and slipped into the Ford Focus.  They had no time to waste and Juliana sighed when rain began falling, thinking it fit the moment perfectly.  They were about to go on another dangerous, deadly adventure and probably add kidnapping to their growing list of felonies.


John was thinking along the same line as her. “Do you think we're going to get into Heaven when we die, Jules?” He asked suddenly. “I mean killing, probably future kidnap, all that shit that's happened, do they make exceptions when murder is in defense?”



Sometimes, he actually did worry about this.  He was a believer, but he also sometimes questioned God's sanity.  A THIRD time?  They were playing the run and don't get killed game, a THIRD time.  Where the hell was the justice in that?


“I don't know, John.  Honestly, I think we all go up there when we die and anything that we've done is automatically repented.  It's my firm belief we're already living in hell.”


Juliana pulled out of the driveway, hoping they didn't have to resort to kidnapping John's 'wife', swallowing hard.  What if they couldn't pull this off?  Maybe Taker should've done it, but Juliana would rather have him with Keira while they took care of this matter.  She drove down the road while John stared out the window, silence forming between them, Juliana already having the address where Evetta lived on a piece of paper in her hand.


John was having a mental panic attack. 


Yes, he had done some very stupid things in his life. 


Yes, he had been in more fucked up situations then he could count on both hands. 


Yes, he had done some bad things in order to survive. 


Kidnapping a woman who had been twisted up in something she had no idea about...that really bothered him.  He wished Taker could have done this, the man hardly had attacks of conscience.  John shivered, remembering how Taker had acted like he had been on Ken's side, Juliana's now dead ex-fiancé, and had been okay with Juliana dying...Everyone had believed it.  Taker couldn't have a normal conscience, not if he could pull off a cruel act like that -even if it was just an act- and not lose any sleep.


Taking a deep breath as they pulled into the driveway of the small one story blue house, Juliana cut the ignition and looked over at John. “Come on, let's get this over with.  Don't forget the ring and bag of stuff in case things don't go well...”


She watched as John paled and sighed, hoping they could pull this off without completely screwing it up.  Juliana and John headed up to the front door, knowing when they returned Taker would already have Evetta's new identity.  If John lost his nerve, Juliana was probably going to run him over with her Focus.


“Knock.” She ordered in a monotone voice, waiting for the door to open.


When Evie heard the knock on the door, she hurried to answer it.  She had gotten home and calmed down, admitting she had been a bit of a fool.  But how many people went on a first date only to wind up standing near a field watching cars and the restaurant go up in flames?  She had panicked, plain and simple.  She was also fairly excited John had called, figuring she had majorly screwed that up.


“Hey, I'm glad you came.” She greeted when she had opened the door, not noticing Juliana right away.


“So am I.” John couldn’t keep the smile off his face, she was actually genuinely pleased to see him.  Oh, that made this worse... “Can we talk?”


Chapter 12


“Evetta, we have to talk and we don't have much time.” Juliana stepped in front of John, gently but firmly pushing the woman back into her house, guiding her to the living room.  They all sat down, John besides Evetta while Juliana remained standing, knowing she had to explain things rather quickly. “Evetta, your life is in danger.  Now if you want me to waste time explaining exactly why it is, I will.  That bomb last night wasn't a coincidence and the reason for that is, for the past twelve years, I've been hunted by different family members who've wanted me dead.”


Evetta felt her jaw drop and Juliana sighed, knowing she would have to go into the whole explanation, starting at the beginning with her engagement to Ken, Taker becoming her bodyguard and her psychotic supposed dead mother really being alive.  Then she went on about her never known brother, her mother's evil offspring, Alan, not leaving out the fact both Taker and John nearly lost their lives.  If Evetta was coming with them, which the woman really didn’t have a choice, then Juliana felt she at least owed a solid truthful explanation about why Evetta’s life wasn’t safe anymore.


“I thought I was going to have to raise the baby on my own, but Taker came back after lying in the cold snow for three days.  The bullet missed his heart by mere centimeters and he's very lucky to be alive.  He gave John his only bullet proof vest and saved his life.” Juliana began crying throughout the explanation, hating that she had to drag the past up, but it was necessary. “Now someone else is after me and we don't know why or who it is.  You were spotted with us and that means your life is now in danger too.  So with that being said...”


Evetta sat there in stunned silence, glancing back and forth between them.  Finally, a smile curved her lips. “I get it, this is a joke.” She said with a soft laugh. “This isn't some local show, some prank is it?” She stood up, shaking her head. “It really isn't that funny though, people died last night.”


John flinched, not needing to know that and slowly stood up.  He could already see where this was going. “It's no joke, Evie.” He said softly, pulling off his shirt and pointing to an old scar. Just a small thing really. “This is where the bullet lodged and got stuck. The vest slowed it down enough that it didn't go in to deep.” He waited while she studied it, then pulled his shirt back on.


“You are... either serious or insane.  And I'm inclined to go with insane.” Her tone was becoming angry. “Do you two have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?”


“Believe me, I wish it wasn't true, but it is.  All of it.  Taker is the best and he can protect you as well as all of us.  If you stay here, whoever is after me will come here and end your life.” Juliana knew she sounded somewhat cold about it, wiping her tears away, but they were running out of time. “This isn't a joke by any means.  We need you to come with us willingly and pose as John's wife.  We're all getting new identities and names, you have no choice in this matter.  So you can either come easily or we'll have to force you...” It wasn't the first time Juliana committed a felony and it wouldn't be the last. “Please don't make this any harder than it has to be.”


“You're insane.” Evetta said unequivocally, already moving towards the kitchen, where both the knives and her phone were. 


When she went to actually run, she was suddenly pulled back.  It was abrupt but gentle and she opened her mouth to scream, but a large hand cupped her mouth.  John had just reacted and was surprised he had done that, blinking.  He shot Jules an 'oh fuck' look.  The plan had just went completely south, just as he’d feared it would.


“Evie, please stop struggling.” He said as politely as he could, considering she had just elbowed him rather sharply.


“Evetta, I...” Juliana suddenly froze, her eyes widening and sniffed the air, swallowing hard. “ you smell that?” Her eyebrow furrowed, a worried look coming over her eyes. “Let her go.” She ordered, hoping the woman didn't run or else they would have to knock her out next time. “Evetta, are you cooking something?  Is something burning?” Juliana demanded, her heart pounding furiously in her chest and jumped when the house began rumbling a little. “What the fuck?!”


John inhaled, frowning.  He smelled something burning along with gasoline, not a very good combination.  When Evetta began really thrashing, her mouth moving a mile a minute beneath his palm, he knew she wasn't going to do anything quietly or peacefully.  She was getting pissed off, and probably terrified out of her wits.  When the house actually seemed to shudder, it struck him.


“The house is on fire!”


Behind his hand, she was screaming, her eyes widening.


John dived out of the way when the kitchen suddenly went up with a roar, flames spilling out of the archway and licking the living room wall. “Out!”


Juliana screamed along with Evetta, rushing toward the front door and knew John would take care of his 'wife'.  They barely made it out of the house and had to dive off of the porch as it went up in flames, exploding, shards of wood and debris showering over them. “FUCK!” She cursed, having been cut up a little, but nothing Juliana couldn't handle. 


John had ended up knocking Evetta out with a pressure point because the woman would not stop struggling.  It was a good thing too because she would've watched her house go up in flames.  Once they managed to get in the car, which had been parked far enough down the driveway not to be wrecked a lot, just dented, Juliana didn't waste a second and began speeding back home. 


They had to get out of town NOW!


John sat in the backseat with Evetta's head on his lap, staring down at her.  He was glad she was out, it meant she wasn't conscious to see the little cut on the side of her face or see the smoke billowing from what had been her house.  Glad he didn't have to see the realization of 'it wasn't a joke' in her eyes.  Or that they were insane and had done it on purpose. Sighing, he slid the ring on her finger.


“Hey Jules, I'm married.” He tried to use his usual goofy tone, to make a joke and couldn't even do that right now.  Taker was going to FLIP, John swallowed.  Whoever had done this...they were probably too close for comfort.


“Congratulations.” She muttered, trembling a little and floored it to the house as fast as she could, hoping no cops stopped them.  There was no time for that, they were out of time.  Five minutes later Juliana screeched the tires to a halt in the driveway and she hopped out, John carrying a knocked out Evetta in his arms inside the house. “TAKER!!” Juliana cried out, suddenly feeling the overwhelming panic attack overtaking her as she dropped to her knees, hyperventilating, not believing they were seconds away from being blown up AGAIN.


John unceremoniously dropped his 'bride' on the couch before grabbing Jules by the forearms, hearing 'Taker's calm, measured footsteps upstairs and his reassuring baritone saying something to a now panicky Keira. “Stop it!” He ordered gravely. 


He hadn't gone all to pieces after kidnapping a woman, she was not going to fall apart right here, with Keira coming.  She could wait and have her panic attack in private LATER.  Like he was planning on doing.


“Keira's coming, do you want to scare her?”


John was right, Juliana had to pull it together and slapped herself across the face as hard as she could, blinking before standing up. “I'm fine, fine...just fine...”


Evetta's house was blown to smithereens and they'd been there moments before it happened.  Was someone watching them and deliberately doing this or were they just damn lucky again?  Juliana had a sinking feeling they were being watched and swallowed hard, raking a shaking hand through her hair.


“Hey sweetheart.” Juliana walked over and lifted Keira up in her arms, kissing her forehead. “Are we almost ready to go?” The urgency in her voice wasn't missed as Taker made his presence known.


Taker had heard her bellow from upstairs.  It had been hard to miss it and he had explained to Keira that Mommy was just 'excited'.  Though how he was going to explain the passed out woman on his couch was another story entirely.


“Yeah, everythin' is loaded and ready to go.” He had been watching out the window with Keira, having packed and loaded the SUV, including a small arsenal of weapons.


“Uh... isn't that uncle John's date?” Keira asked curiously, staring down at the woman. Curiously. “Why is she sleeping on the couch?”


“She was so happy when we got married that she fainted.” John said seriously, showing off the wedding ring on Evie's limp hand.


“You got married?!  So she's my aunt?”


Taker arched an eyebrow, taking in the three's appearance. “Another one?” He asked quietly, not wanting to scare Keira by saying 'what the fuck happened'.


Juliana nodded, flashing a quick smile. “Since we're moving, Uncle John couldn't bear leaving the love of his life behind so he asked her to marry him.  We just got back from the ceremony, sorry you couldn't be there, angel.” God she felt horrible lying to her daughter, but it was the only way, hoping Taker was gentle about explaining things to her. “Excuse me, I need to go clean up a bit.” She walked past them and into the bathroom, knowing Taker would follow her while John preoccupied Keira and his newlywed bride.  Juliana turned the water on and splashed cold water on her face, finally letting a few more tears fall.


“What happened?” He had been right behind her, following her quietly up the stairs. 


Arching an eyebrow, Taker plucked a shard of glass off her shirt, which had been whole and clean when she left and now looked like she had been on the fringe of a war or something.  When she took a deep, he gently turned her around, staring down into her face.  It took him a few moments to realize it wasn't just water running down her face but tears, and he pulled her into a tight embrace.


“I'm here Jules, I've got you.” He murmured soothingly, running his fingers through her hair.


“T-The house...caught on fire...and exploded...” She said through sobs, burying her face in Taker's chest, wrapping her arms tightly around him as her entire body trembled from head to toe. 


It scared her to death.  Juliana was glad she'd gotten out of there in one piece and winced at her arm, pulling away from Taker to remove her shirt.  There was a huge gash on her arm from diving off of the porch, Juliana was lucky to be alive along with John and Evetta.


“Get me that sewing kit, we need to get out of here before whoever blew her house up comes here...”


“I'll do it.” He said, pulling the sewing kit off the back of the toilet. 


Quickly and as gently as he could, he rinsed the wound before gesturing for her to sit down.  They didn't have time to get her liquored up and nothing but aspirin for the pain.  This was going to hurt.


“What was that?” Keira demanded when it sounded like a foot coming down really hard upstairs, glancing at the ceiling.  Her Dad had indeed explained things to her, but she was still piecing some parts together.  That and all the adults were tense and nervous, it was wearing on her a bit.


Juliana had covered her mouth with her hand to keep her screams at bay, stomping her foot on the flooring until Mark set her on the counter, instead bringing her heel against it.  Tears streamed down her face as he continued sewing her up, wondering if this agony would ever end.  She needed to be knocked out and begged Taker to do it, but he simply shook his head, continuing the task at hand.  When it was done, Juliana leaned back against the mirror and coughed out through tears, closing her eyes as exhaustion overtook her, Taker pulling her shirt back on.


“Thank you...”


From personal experience, he knew being sewed up, without something to ease the pain, hurt like a bitch.  He had sewn himself up before, but then again, he had also been stabbed, shot, set on fire and a few other things.  He was pretty good about handling pain.  After she had her shirt on properly, he kissed her forehead.


“There's some Vicodin in the car in my bag.  You can take one when we're on the road.” He said softly, helping her to stand upright.


Juliana nodded and walked out of the bathroom, ignoring John's worried look and smiled when Keira came up to her, wondering why her new Auntie wasn't awake yet. “She will be in a few hours, angel.  Come on, we have to get going.” She watched as John grabbed his 'wife' while Taker pulled out a gun, going first as he lead them to the SUV. 


Juliana took the front while John and Evetta took the far backseats so Keira could lay down and sleep whenever she wanted.  She had her bag of things to keep her occupied.  Juliana waved Taker off when he offered the Vicodin, instead just leaning back and buckled up, saying a silent goodbye to the house that held half of Keira's childhood. 


About twenty minutes after they left, the house exploded, nobody in the SUV realizing.


Chapter 13


Silence reigned for the first three hours, all of them lost in their own thoughts.  Nobody asked him where they were going and he didn't offer up any information.  Taker was thinking of every place they had ever been, every place associated with Juliana or just the Harrison name in general.  Those were places they were staying far away from.  Of course, sometimes it was prudent to hide right out in the open where it would be least expected, but he wasn't taking any chances with his family.  He wasn't going to risk anything.


“She's waking... can someone pass me the ether?  She might try to kill me.” John said softly, a hint of panic in his tone.


Juliana was sleeping, the pain in her arm having gotten to be too much to handle.


“What is ether?” Keira asked, blinking when her new aunt began stirring, grinning from ear to ear. “She's waking up!!  Mommy!!”


Juliana jolted awake, bolting upright and whipped around, her eyes widening at the sight of Evetta's eyes slowly opening. “What do we do, Taker?” She asked, trying to wake up, her mind still fuzzy from passing out.


“Let her wake up.” He replied, glancing at her in the rearview mirror. “And if she doesn’t mind her manners, we'll pull over and I'll talk to her.” He winked in the glass at Keira, smiling faintly when she giggled.


Evetta rubbed her neck gingerly, frowning when she felt her hair catch on something and pulled her hand down, peering at it through the dim light.  Then she took in her surroundings, and the people, frowning.


“Hi, Aunt Evie, remember me?”


John smiled when her furious brown eyes flashed on him, and shrugged apologetically. “Surprise?”


“I really, really like her.” Taker commented off-handedly when Evetta smacked John.


Juliana winced, though she had to inform Evetta on something the woman still didn't have a clue about. “Your house is gone, whoever is after us set it on fire.  You can thank me later for trying to warn you.” She couldn't help sounding a little condescending, smirking when Evetta muttered something about suing when this was all over with.


“I can't believe you and my Uncle Johnny got married!!” The little girl squealed out in excitement.




Taker shot Jules a warning look.  Now wasn't the time to use that tone of voice, especially considering the woman in the backseat could probably go berserk and do some damage before she was restrained. “Save it for when we pull over.” He murmured, reaching over to take her hand, squeezing it gently.


“Yeah, Mom told me about the shotgun wedding.” Keira grinned, clapping her hands together happily. “I think this is great!  One big happy family!”


John was ready for the second hit, catching her hand in his. “Not in front of our niece, honey.” He said, his blue eyes warning her to just try that one more time. “Juliana and I tried explaining it to you.  Yes, it sounds like something out of a movie or a book, but it's not.  It's very real and I'm sorry that I got you involved.  I would have never gone out with you if I would have known what would happen.” He kept his voice low so Keira didn't hear him.


“Sorry.” Juliana whispered, feeling a little on edge and could remember when Taker used that voice with her a time or two. 


Why was it so different if she used it? 


That woman's life was in danger and they were saving it, even if they did kidnap her from an exploding house.  Hell it wasn't even kidnap in Juliana's eyes.  She glanced in the rearview mirror and watched as John spoke quietly to a fuming Evetta, who wanted to maim him.  Keira was completely oblivious and kept asking how the shotgun wedding was, causing both John and Evetta to purse their lips while Juliana supplied an answer.


“It was a southern bell wedding with jeans, cowboy boots and hats, sweetheart.  Now play your DS.”


“I would NEVER get married in jeans and a cowboy hat, or boots!”


“That would be very tacky.  A shotgun wedding is where a couple runs off to get married without anyone around, a quick wedding.” Evie said, scowling when John actually had the audacity to wink at her.


“So...when we get settled, can you have a real wedding?”


Thank god for his daughter, Taker thought as he choked on the water he had been sipping, putting the bottle back in the cup holder, laughing.


John and Evetta were both giving him the evil eye.


“What'd I say?!”


“Nothing sweetheart, Evetta's right, but they both were wearing jeans.” She winked back at them along with her daughter, trying hard not to laugh. “And yes, they can have a real wedding once everything is settled.  In the meantime, why don't you give your Auntie Evie a great big hug and welcome her to the family hmmm?” She watched as Taker shook his head over at her, snuggling up to him. “I learned my evilness from you.” She murmured, his arm snaking around her to press her even closer.


“Ooo we can play the XBOX, me and Uncle Johnny always play that late at night, but shhh don't tell my parents!” She whispered somewhat loudly, grinning with extended hands. “I want back there, Uncle please!”


Knowing damn well having Keira back there would deter Evetta from slapping him, he hauled her back across the seat and planted her between him and his 'wife'. “Sure thing sugar plum, you can protect me.”


“Aunt Evie, you have stuff in your hair.”


Frowning, she began picking tiny pieces of splintered wood and other things out of her hair.  When she pulled out a piece that was clearly burnt, the reality of what had almost happened hit her and she began crying.




Juliana knew that was coming and simply smiled in the mirror at her daughter. “She's just overwhelmed with joy to be married to your Uncle Johnny, sweetheart.  Show her your new game when she calms down.”


That's exactly how Juliana felt when she arrived back at the house, missing it already and could already feel tears burning her eyes.  Instead she closed them, envisioning where they would be spending the next chapter of their lives.  Evetta would be able to leave...once the threat was handled.


Letting Keira take over the handling of Evetta -it never failed to amaze him how adults could begin to calm themselves when it started affecting a child-, Taker turned his attention back to the road and his fiancée. “When you were at her house, did you notice anything unusual?” He asked softly. “Any strange people around?  Vehicles that looked suspicious?” So far, whoever was doing this was showing an affinity for blowing shit up, that was not a good sign.


“No, we were in a hurry to get out of there and we didn't smell the gas until we were inside the house.” She spoke quietly, sighing heavily and ran her fingers through her hair. “They love pyro, that much is obvious, but I honestly don't even know anyone who loves fire.” She looked up at Taker, who looked somewhat troubled, and chewed her bottom lip as something dawned on her. “Didn't you once tell me you were lit on fire and nearly died?”


Now THAT was a memory he had no intention of reliving. “Yeah, a long, long time ago.” He replied after a moment, frowning. “But I don't think this is about me, darlin'.  As much as I hate sayin' this, that second explosion happened when you were there, seems like you're the target.  This could be a hired person, someone who uses fire as a way to get rid of all the evidence.” All this fire talk...sucked and his eyes narrowed. “Got any other relatives we haven't thought about?”


“No, I never had any siblings besides that psycho Alan and my parents were also lonely children.”


Juliana wondered why the subject of fire made Taker edgy, deciding not to bring it up again.  She looked straight ahead, a gnawing feeling in the pit of her stomach that the fire would ultimately link them to whoever was doing this.  Obviously someone wanted her dead, why would anyone else come after them?  Closing her eyes, Juliana fell asleep to the sound of Taker's heartbeat, hoping they survived this next journey.


He drove for the rest of the day and all through the night, only stopping when they needed gas, or whenever Keira announced she needed a 'potty break'.  Juliana slept through it all and he hadn't the heart to wake her, promising himself he would stop for coffee when she did rouse.  He was a bit surprised when Evetta didn't try to run at the first stop.  Instead, she took Keira into the restroom while John stood guard at the door, ignoring the curious looks he was getting from the women coming in and out.


“Hey man, I'll drive.” John offered, poking his head up from the middle seat, careful not to disturb Jules. “You look dead, pardon the pun.”


“No, I got it.”


“Taker... get some rest, even you gotta sleep sometime.” John pointed out softly.


After a moment, Taker nodded and pulled over.


Juliana slowly opened her eyes and looked around, feeling Taker's arm tighten around her and yawned.  She slowly looked up, seeing she was now in the backseat with Taker and Keira while John and Evetta occupied the front.  They hadn't spoken hardly a word to each other, though Juliana had a feeling Evetta would warm up to them in time.  If not, this was going to be a very long journey.


“Where are we?” She murmured quietly, glancing over at Evetta, who was sleeping against the window while John drove.


“California, northern California.” John answered from his place upfront, checking the route Taker had given him. “We're almost to wherever it is we're going, Jasmine.” He winked at her in the mirror. “Want to stop for a coffee?  Maybe to take a piss?” He joked, glancing over at Evetta to make sure he hadn't woke her up.


“I need to pee...” Keira muttered tiredly from the backseat.


“Rest stop it is.”


Juliana stepped out of the SUV and stretched her sore limbs before cracking her back, not sure how long they'd been driving.  It'd been a few days no doubt and Evetta had finally stopped glaring at John...for the most part.  That was good, the woman was slowly coming around and Juliana knew she would have to apologize, but not right now.  She walked over to the drinking fountain, then thought better of it, opting for a bottled water instead out of the machine.  Keira walked over and grabbed her hand, dragging her toward the bathroom along with a still groggy Evetta.


“I'm not going to lie, a bed would be really lovely right now.” Evie yawned, attempting to salvage her hair in the mirror as Keira took one of the two free stalls, gesturing Jules on when she hesitated. “You've been sleeping awhile, I'm sure you need it more than I do.” At one of the previous pit stops, she had cleaned her face and tended the cut, not to mention changed out of her not so fantastic anymore shirt and brushed the debris out of her hair.  When Jules came out and approached the sink, she offered a hesitant smile. “Thank you, by the way.”


“I am sorry we had to drag you into this.” Juliana said quietly, washing her hands, the cut on her cheek slowly disappearing, but it was still visible. “John's not a bad guy, none of us are.  And you can leave as soon as the threat is dealt with.” She promised, knowing John wouldn't like hearing that, but they'd already taken the poor woman away from everything she'd ever known and forced her to change her identity.  She smiled when Keira walked out and immediately went to her side, slipping her small hand in her mother's. “I think we're almost at our destination and then all of us will have a bed to sleep in.”


“Good, because John and Dad both snore really, really bad.” Keira informed her, yawning again. “Evie makes funny little snorting noises and you talk a lot in you sleep, Mom” She observed and tilted her head up, surveying her mother curiously. “Who is Cassandra?” She asked inquisitively.


Juliana cringed when her daughter asked her that, not realizing she had talked in her sleep, groaning inwardly. “Just a lady I met in my past, nothing special to talk about.” She answered smoothly, bending down to brush her lips against her daughter's forehead. “Come on, you know Daddy and John aren't patient and I think it's my turn to drive.” They walked out alongside Evetta, who was turning out to be suspiciously understanding.  Juliana decided she'd voice her opinion to Taker about Evetta's calm behavior, knowing that couldn't be a good omen.


Keira waited until she was in the car before asking another question, knowing that John and Dad were impatient. “Who's Alan?”


John, in the process of passing back coffee to Evetta, spilled some over himself. “DAMN IT!”


Evie snatched napkins out of the bag of baked goods he had bought inside, mopping him up.  She had absolutely no idea that him spilling coffee was the result of his niece's question.  While she had been filled on what she needed to know, they hadn't given her intimate details, for which she was very grateful.


Taker shared a look with Juliana.


“Another meaningless person in the past you don't need to worry about, Keira.”


Juliana watched her daughter sigh exasperatedly, sharing a worried look with Taker and slipped behind the wheel.  Juliana decided she wouldn't be sleeping in the car or around her daughter anymore for awhile, not wanting her to hear anymore names from the past come back to haunt her.  The last thing she wanted was to open Keira up to those two horrendous people who were dead, she was just glad she hadn’t let the name Ken slip from her lips.


“That is NOT fair!  Why can't I know who they are?  I hate not knowing!” Keira complained, almost on the verge of whining. “Uncle Johnny, do you know who they are?”


Juliana shot him a look that clearly said if he said a word about Alan or Cassandra, she would kill him.


“Nope.  Not unless she's referring to the actor who played Night Crawler in X2.” John said, lying smoothly.  He was not about to get his balls chopped off or his tongue sliced out for telling Keira just who psycho-bitch and her psycho-spawn were.


“Night Crawler was pretty cool.” Keira admitted, still eyeballing them suspiciously. “But…”


“Keira, have you ever played a WII?”


Taker shook his head when the conversation turned to gaming, and reached for Jule's hand, squeezing gently.


“I got you some coffee with a bag of chips and a few other things.” She informed him softly, pointing to the coffee that was in the cup holder alongside her own.  She smiled when he kissed the back of her hand and pulled out of there while Keira discussed the different abilities of the WII with Evetta. “I love you.” She whispered, sighing when he leaned over to brush his lips against hers, heading in the direction Taker told her to go.  They were heading to Washington from the looks of it, which would be different since it was north instead of south.


Washington indeed. 


He had been there a handful of times.  He had picked it for the fact that the area they were going was fairly isolated, wild animals not counting.  Taker idly wondered if he could feed John to a bear or possibly a mountain lion, smirking slightly.


“Uh... that's a lot of trees.”


“No kidding.  Think we can get Wi-Fi out here?”


He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Turn right up here Jules.”


Juliana simply did what Taker told her, driving down the country road that was arched by huge trees, wondering where they were going.  She had a feeling Taker would put them out in the middle of nowhere, but had no idea it would be DEEP in the heart of Washington with huge trees that were hidden from virtually anything.  They were hiding out, waiting for the storm to hit, ball to drop, bomb to explode, however one wanted to word it.  She glanced in the rearview mirror, seeing John wasn't excited and Keira couldn't stop looking out the window, mesmerized by everything new she was seeing.


John was depressed, they were going to be camping!  That's what this was, camping in a house!  And while 'Taker might have been able to entertain himself by carving wood figurines or some shit, John's own attention span demanded a bit more than that.  Then he glanced at Evie, arching an eyebrow.  If only she actually liked him, that might've helped a little.


“Dad, Mom, can we make a tree fort?” Keira demanded, her eyes huge as she took in the trees. “We could even make on IN a tree!”


Taker stifled a laugh at that, glancing back at their daughter. “We'll see, darlin'.”


“Uncle Johnny will probably get bored out here so he can help you make one.”


Chapter 14


Juliana bit back a smirk when John gaped at her, feeling Taker's hand grab her free one as she kept driving down the road, knowing all of them were in dire need of some rest, preferably not in an SUV.  He squeezed her hand and Juliana glanced back at him, smiling with sparkling midnight blue eyes.  Everything would be fine, they had to believe that in their minds and hearts.  Whoever was after them, they would fight off just like everyone else and Juliana was ready, lacing her fingers with Taker, the gorgeous sapphire stone glistening on her left ring finger beautifully.


“Hear that Uncle John, we're making a fort!”


“That sounds like fun, can I help?”


John perked right up, deciding this could be interesting, maybe even fun and shared a grin with Keira.


“There it is.” Taker said as the house came into view, resting at the end of the dirt road, which in reality was a very long driveway. “That's...home.”


Juliana blinked at the size of the house, slowly turning her head to stare at Taker before locking her eyes back on what they all would call home.  It was a three story wide house that was painted an off white with black trimmings, which Juliana didn't mind too much.  It was just...bigger than what they were used to. 


She slowly pulled up to the front of the house and cut the ignition, slipping out of the driver's seat to stare up at it.  She had a feeling that John would end up having his own part of the house, probably the very top floor, so that way he wasn't always bugging Taker.  Unbeknownst to everyone except Taker, there was another two story house that was on the same land, which was several hundred yards away from the three story house and that was for the newlyweds.


“Ho-lee Hell...” Keira let out a whistle, ignoring the looks she received from the four adults, she was too busy staring up at the house. “That is HUGE...I want two rooms, can I have two rooms?”


“How'd you get THIS one?” John had to ask, every time Taker came up with a new property, it made John anxious.  The man never said if he bought it properly, stole it, murdered off previous owners, he always said the same thing.


“Took it.”


“I knew that was coming.”


Ignoring John, Taker walked around to his fiancée, taking her hand. “What do you think?”


“You never fail to amaze me, Taker.” She murmured softly, lacing their fingers together again as she continued admiring the house, already knowing when they walked in it was more than likely completely refurbished and set up with furniture.  She stared at the key that dangled from Taker's hand and took it, giving him a passionate kiss for payment, before heading up the stairs.  Juliana didn't move much when Taker stopped John and Evetta from advancing, her eyebrow slowly raising. “Taker, what-” Her eyes widened when another set of keys were tossed at John.


“What the hell?” John caught the keys, staring at them, before looking at Taker in confusion. “You stole TWO houses?  What the fuck is WRONG with you man, you can't just be stealing people's shit!”


“Wait, these houses are stolen?” Evetta wasn't entirely sure she knew what was going on, but was getting an idea that the houses weren't in Taker's, or whoever he was, name.  At least not his real name.


“The houses aren't stolen, sheesh.” Keira rolled her eyes, already pushing her way inside. “They're in MY name.”


“You bought houses under Keira's name?  Are you serious?”


He began laughing at that one, shaking his head. “Just...go away, you live behind us, through the woods, not far off.  Just stick to the path and you'll be fine.”


Evie was having another issue. “Wait a minute, you want me to go off alone with him?”


“Well, honey, we are married.” John winked at her, groaning when she smacked him. “I want a divorce, Evetta, this abuse is out of hand.”


Urging his family inside, Taker shut the door on the newlyweds.


Juliana couldn't stop laughing, not believing Taker actually bought both of these houses under their daughter's name.  It made her heart flutter at the same time though as the door closed behind them, the bickering muffled.  It was absolutely beautiful as Juliana's eyes stared at the winding staircase, one of the many things she always wanted in a house.


“Oh my...”


She slowly walked away from both Taker and Keira to explore the house, running her fingers over the freshly painted walls, not surprised by all the furniture set up already.  Taker definitely had connections.  Hell, the way it looked Keira could probably have a whole floor by herself.


He hadn't bought the land and houses under his daughter's real name, but under one of the fake aliases he had procured for her, one where she was obviously much older.  His paper trails were all messed up and would probably confuse anyone who was looking for them that way.  He grinned to himself, watching as Juliana and Keira explored.


“And upstairs-” He shook his head when Keira hauled herself up the stairs, her sneakered feet pounding on the floors.




“If it's the one with the flat-screen, NO!”




“Mind your father, Keira.” Juliana chuckled as they walked inside the room, which was no doubt a master suite with a king sized bed and even had a Jacuzzi garden tub in the master bathroom.  This was unbelievable as Juliana grinned from ear to ear, definitely deciding they would be very comfortable here.  It wasn't all about money to her, but at that moment, she couldn't help loving everything about this house. “Go show her what's in her room, I'm sure she won't be disappointed.” Keira grabbed his hand and lead him out of the master suite, leaving Juliana standing there to admire it alone.


Shaking his head, he escorted his daughter down the hall.  While the house was definitely large enough for her to have the entire third floor to herself, he'd be damned if she wasn't nearby when she was sleeping.  He was too paranoid for anything else.


“This is your room.” His green eyes twinkled as she took in the plain room, the standard bed, and bare walls. “What do you think?”


“It looks like a prison.”


“But your playroom is upstairs so-” He began laughing outright when she took off running again, soon hearing 'DAD, AWESOME’.


“You just love making her think the worst don't you?” Juliana remarked from behind, smirking when Taker pulled her against his side as they slowly ventured up to Keira's playroom, eyes widening at everything before her. “Oh my god, she's gonna be living up here, you realize that right?” It had a huge flat screen with every single gaming system currently made, controllers, games upon games, movies upon was every kid's dream come true and every parent's nightmare.


Now personally, he wasn't one for spoiling children, especially his own.  He had seen totally bratty, obnoxious, spoiled kids and swore he wasn't raising his like that.  And at their old house, she hadn't had all this, just the XBOX downstairs, but it wasn't just hers, it was everyone's. 


She had all this now because...he needed to keep her distracted from what would be going on around the house.  Like him working on figuring out whoever was doing this to them, knowing damn well that if they were holed up here for too long, they'd all become anxious.  It had happened before, it could and probably would happen again.


Spoiling Keira was a decoy, Juliana didn't want the little girl worrying about what was going on around them.  She decided she would be asking him later on about what exactly he said to Keira as far as the past went.  He didn't mention Alan and Cassandra because obviously Keira asked her about her dreams, which apparently Juliana had been talking in her sleep lately.  That wasn't good, she didn't want to dream about those psycho relatives of hers who made her life literally a living miserable hell.  Sleeping pills were going to be on her next shopping list.


Taker pinched the bridge of his nose when his cell phone -his new, freshly activated, under a different name cell phone- rang, knowing it could only be John.  They had purchased them the night before at a stop. “What?” He demanded, heading down the two sets of stairs again.  That was going to be hell, he should have rethought that one.  He wasn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.


“You are the fuckin' best, bro!” John said excitedly. “Evie is already in the kitchen, she fell in love with it and is cooking!  For us!  I mean, me and her, not you.”


“She's probably going to poison you.”


“I didn't think of that...”




Later that night, after they dragged everything packed in the SUV inside, Juliana lay in a relaxing garden tub full of bubbles smelling of lavender.  Her black hair was pinned up on top of her head, everything covered in bubbles from the neck down.  She loved the garden tub, it was one of her favorite things of the house because they also had one at the old house.  Juliana had candles lit and soft music playing to keep the atmosphere soothing and calm.  It'd been a rough couple of days and Juliana's muscles ached from Evetta's house exploding to packing, moving and driving for the past four or five days...she'd lost track.


He stood in Keira's open doorway, staring at her as she slept.  She was exhausted; hell, they all were.  That had been a very, very long trip and the day had seemed even longer.  But they were settled now, so tomorrow they would be able to relax.  As much as possible given the circumstances.


He and John had already made plans to go around the property and start setting up the security measures, knowing he would probably have to give the women strict instructions to stick to specific paths.  Unless of course they wanted to lose a leg.  Groaning, he peeled off his muscle shirt and tossed it behind his shoulder as he headed down the hallway and into their bedroom, arching an eyebrow when he seen the bathroom light on, inhaling deeply.




He could hear the swishing of water as Juliana lifted her hand out of the liquid to admire her ring, sighing.  Did he propose to her out of love or because she had to call herself Jasmine Cole?  Juliana didn't want to think about it and set it right back down as she leaned back, her eyes drifting shut, not hearing the door slowly being pushed open, the dark green eyes watching her every move.  She was completely content for the most part and could feel her attachment already growing to the rather large house.


“Why are you just standing there?” She asked when he didn't move, having felt his presence and slowly opened her eyes with a smile. “You look exhausted, Taker.”


He had been watching her examine the ring.  If he had known she would be affected by a ring so much, he probably would have bought her one years ago.  Shrugging, he stepped into the large bathroom, his eyes roaming her in the dim lighting, secretly despising bubbles and wondered how pissed off she would be if he poured all the bubble bath down the drain, smirking slightly.


“You do too.” He replied, unfastening his jeans and began sliding them off, taking his time because he was tired and...she was watching.


It didn't matter how many times she saw this man naked, he always took her breath away.  This time was no exception.  Juliana had to learn how to breathe again and felt the hunger within her body increase.  He always managed to make her forget about everything else


They hadn't been able to make love in at least five days, after being away from each other for two months.  They had one night, ONE NIGHT, alone and it all came crashing down because of this pyromaniac after them.  Juliana didn't want to think about that right now and slowly drew her knees up, the tub big enough to fit probably two of him along with her tiny frame.


“Anything I can do to help you relax?” She asked coyly with an innocent, eyes already darkening once his jeans were fully off.  The man went commando and Juliana definitely wasn't complaining, loving it.


Smirking slightly, Taker joined her in the garden tub, sighing contentedly as the still hot water surrounded him.  There was a perk to being filthy rich, being able to express ordered custom sized things…like this garden tub.  A regular sized one would never have lasted, not with them.  They would of had to replace it after one attempted joint bath.


“You can wash my back, darlin', if you want to help me relax.” He said to her, reaching back to unbind his hair, shaking it loose and felt the tension in his head beginning to fade.  When she arched an eyebrow, he shrugged again. “You asked.” He was teasing her, it was cute to see the way she reacted.  Sometimes she acted in a way he had predicted, other times she surprised him.


“Ass.” Juliana chuckled softly and slowly began running her fingers through his black hair, loving how silky soft it was against her touch. 


She moved it all to hang over his left shoulder and took the loofah sponge, squirting some of his body wash on it since he probably didn't want to smell like lavender.  She pressed a soft kiss to his broad back before beginning to run the loofah sponge over his skin, loving how the muscles rippled beneath her touch.  The temperature in the tub increased tenfold as she continued running the loofah sponge up and down before finally replacing it with her hands, enjoying touching him.  She missed him so much, Juliana hadn't really spent that much time with him since he'd been home and it wasn't fair.  None of this was fair to any of them, especially Evetta, who had to suffer John being...well...John.


His eyes closed, enjoying her ministrations, though when he felt her hand slipping around his waist and to his abdomen, his eyes shot open, a low growl escaping his throat. “Woman...” He rumbled cautiously, a hiss escaping his clenched teeth when her fingers slipped beneath the water.  Ignoring the water splashing up the sides of the garden tub, he whirled around as fast as he could and pulled her up onto his lap, drawing her legs around his waist. “See what you've done...” He murmured, arching his hips against her.


“No, I can't see through bubbles, so why don't you show me what I've done?” She challenged, slipping her hand between them to slide down his bare chest, running a single fingernail down the length of him. “Mmm let me feel you, Taker...” She nearly cried out as he filled her receptive body with his hardened shaft, making her thighs tremble instantly.  They'd only been together twice since he'd been back from one of his many jobs, so Juliana wasn't fully adjusted to him yet.  Hell, even after nine years, she STILL wasn't fully adjusted to him. “Taker...” She moaned out, her mouth right by his ear, hands gripping his huge biceps as he began gliding in and out of her beneath the water, whipping her head back as she moved in time with him before attaching her lips to his neck.


With as many times as they had made love, or flat out fucked, it never failed to surprise 'Taker just how tight she was or how her body molded to his so perfectly.  It was like she had been designed just for him.  That thought made him growl possessively, one hand moving up her spine to grip the back of her neck, bringing her head up to meet his, his mouth claiming hers in a demanding kiss.  His free hand moved to her hip, kneading her flesh, urging her on as he rose up to meet her each time she came back down on him.


Who would've thought Juliana would end up with the same man who nearly raped her while trying to protect her? 


She often thought back to that night, remembering how terrified she was of him when he ripped her shirt directly down the middle along with her shorts.  Taker was a volatile man and Juliana had learned to accept it, even though he was very gentle with her.  It still baffled her the first time they did make love together, it'd been after the whole Cassandra/Ken fiasco.  Taker had returned after Juliana thought he'd disappeared on her again and they spent the entire night making love, letting him take the one thing that meant more to her than her own life: her virginity. 


He was the only man she ever slept with and there was nobody better out there, he was her perfect match.  Stars exploded behind her eyelids as Juliana and Taker came together as one, clinging to each other for dear life.  She trembled against him while he simply held her, maintaining control, suddenly lifting her up out of the tub to continue in the bedroom.  Again, there were no complaints as Juliana welcomed her fiancé with open arms.


“You know...” Taker said afterwards, not allowing her to move off him, perfectly comfortable with her being sprawled out on his naked body, threading his fingers through her hair thoughtfully. “When this is all over, I think we should try for a son.  I would really like a boy.” When she shot him a look, he grinned and leaned forward to kiss her, shutting up any comments she might have had.


Chapter 15


“You can't make me sleep on the couch, Evie.” John was tired and he wanted a bed.  He wanted the bed that was made up, the huge king sized bed.  Not the full sized guest bed.


“Guest room, John.” Evie replied, sitting on the edge of the bed, brushing her hair out, staring at him intently.


Yes, they weren't actually married or hardly knew each other, so she had a right to be worried, but he wasn't like THAT.  While he wouldn't say no to a round or two -when he was so dead his dick was probably lifeless- he wasn't going to force it from her either.  Grunting, he stormed over to the bed and snatched up a set of the pillows.


“Fine, if that’s what you want.” He was a gentleman; he was giving her the only bed that would fit him properly and hated himself right now.


“Look, I understand that you can't comprehend what's going on because all of you are fucking psychos, so I'll make this easier for you.  I'm NOT sharing a bed with you and we are NOT married.  I don't care if I have a damn ring on my finger, it's all for show.  And another thing...” She squealed out when he suddenly DIVED on the bed, stomach first, plopping right down with a small grunt.  Evie reacted instantly, jumping off of the bed and glared at him angrily, tempted to throw her brush at him. “Asshole!”



Her mouth had honestly gotten annoying and now John was beginning to understand why Taker had been so...cocksucker-ish to Juliana during the Ken and Cassandra incident.  She had been a pain in the ass while the man was trying to protect her.  Of course, John wasn't evil like Taker was, fortunately for Evie.


“You know, I think I WILL sleep in here.” He said, folding his arms beneath his head and stretched out comfortably, the bed large enough for both of them. “YOU can have the couch or the guest room...wifey.” He couldn't honestly resist that last bit.


If looks could kill, John would be dead on the bed as a cold corpse.  Evetta threw her brush at him out of anger and blinked when it clocked him directly below the belt, his roar of pain telling her it was time to leave the room. “Kidnapping asshole!”


She spat before rushing out of the room, slamming the door behind her and stormed to the guest room, tears in her eyes.  She hated it here, they took her away from everything she'd ever known.  And Evetta had a feeling it was going to be a long time before anything was right in her life again.


John made it as far as the hallway before he realized he had every intention of wrapping his hands around her throat and squeezing until she passed out.  Groaning, John leaned against the wall, one hand moving to cup himself, not believing she had just done that. If he really was a psychotic kidnapper, then she would have been dead or worse by now.


Cursing under his breath, he inhaled deeply and finally straightened up.  He stared at the guest room door, wondering if he should go in there.  He was half expecting her to try to escape, and shrugged, walking downstairs to set the alarm.  If she tried, she'd REALLY hate him.  He couldn't have her running around outside the house, knowing Taker there were probably some really nasty traps out there to tide them over until they have set up the security system.


John was right, Evetta had planned on running away that night and already had her bag packed.  She didn't want to stay in this house with a psycho she'd met on  She was going to sue them as soon as she got out of this, that much was clear. 



Scowling, Evetta pulled on her black pants and black zip-up hooded sweatshirt, pulling her brunette hair back in a ponytail, knowing it was going to be a long trek to the next town over.  There she could possibly get a hold of someone from Texas, one of her friend’s maybe, to come take her away from this hell.  When Evetta knew John was sleeping, she slowly crept out of the guest room and headed downstairs, cringing when the few steps creaked and hoped John was a heavy sleeper.


John wasn't sleeping at all.  He was pretending to be, having faked some pretty realistic snores just to see what she would do.  He should have warned her, but he was curious.  He was watching on a handheld monitor, using the controls to switch between cameras, wondering just how Taker managed to do all this. 


But he had learned a long time ago the man had his ways, probably involving Satan and harvesting souls for limitless power.  When she made it out the front door, John shook his head and rolled out of bed.  If she didn't stick to the path, she was screwed, and it was dark as hell out there, security lights weren't installed yet.


“Damn it...” He sighed, knowing he was going to have to go after her, and probably wind up in agony for it.


Not wasting a second, Evetta took off running as fast as her legs could carry her, having been an all-star runner in high school in track.  She was in shape, her body seemingly molded to perfection.  She had nothing on her, no cell phone -there wasn't a need for one considering there was no reception where they were at- and she had no idea where she was.  She could hear her name being yelled and knew instantly it was John, making her run even faster.


“Fuck you asshole.” She growled, refusing to be a prisoner and dove into the deep woods, knowing her black attire would camouflage her for the most part.  Maybe trekking through the woods would be better, anything was better than that two story prison, even though she loved the kitchen it had.


John was catching up, sadly used to having to run through impossible areas and conditions, mentally making a note to thank Taker for the lovely scenery.  When he darted through a patch of moonlight that made it through the trees, he seen Evetta up ahead, and something silver along the ground. “STOP, EVIE!” He shouted in pure panic, knowing it was probably something that would wind up killing or decapitating her.


Taker was a sick man and took no chances.  When she actually hesitated, he sighed out in relief, only for the hesitation to end and she was in motion again.  Pulling on some inner strength he would always claim he didn't have, he managed to cover the ground to her and grabbed her by the arm, shoving her out of the way when she tripped the wire.  John heard something snap and tried moving his own ass to safety, groaning when something came flying out of a tree.  Pushing the now standing up Evetta again, out of the way, he threw up his hands in time to prevent his head getting knocked off, but heard and felt a finger or two break.




Evetta's eyes widened in shock, stumbling over another wire, seeing John was holding his throbbing hand with the broken fingers. “JOHN, WATCH OUT!”


She immediately shoved him out of the way when a huge log came out of the tree and clocked her right in the head, having taken the blow for him.  Her body crumpled to the ground in a heap, the log having split her forehead wide open so blood was pouring down her face along with hot tears.  Her body hit the ground hard, mere centimeters away from another wire as her eyes closed, not moving.


Cursing John grabbed his two broken fingers, took a deep breath and straightened them out, letting out another 'son of a bitch', knowing later he would have to actually tie them in place or something.  This was Taker's field, not his.  His was comedic relief, not hero antics.  He gingerly bent down and picked her up, carrying her back the way he had come, keeping an eye open for anything that might knock them off, really hating Taker at the moment.  Really not liking Evetta either, damn woman. 


Was her house blowing up not proof enough that this was fucking serious?  He followed the path back to the house, knowing he was on it because it was smooth and worn.  When he reached the porch and the dim light, he seen the damage to her head and paled, knowing he had to contact Taker immediately.


Juliana was busy with Taker's head between her legs, crying out in sheer ecstasy, when both of their cell phones began blaring.  They ignored it, too busy being consumed in their passion, but they wouldn't stop ringing.  Taker started growling and it was out of pure anger, not passion, ripping the blankets off.  Juliana swallowed hard, trying to learn how to breathe and watched as he silently pointed to the phone while gritting his teeth.  Sighing, Juliana reached over and yanked the cell phone from the nightstand, flipping it open to be on speaker phone.


“This BETTER be a life or death situation or I swear to god, John, I'll KILL you.” Her voice was deceptively calm, cheeks flushed.


“It's a life or death situation.” Came John's voice in a very serious, grave tone, which wasn't normal for him. “Evetta tried bailing and...let's just say Taker has some really murderous traps about this place.  Her head is split open like a fucking watermelon, get over here!” He hung up.


Taker had already gotten up and started dressing at the mention of 'traps', cursing under his breath.


John stared down at Evie, who he had laid on the couch, not daring to move her anymore.  He had used a clean, damp towel to stop the bleeding from her forehead, but he couldn't patch her up, not with his broken fingers on the hand he relied on.


Juliana bolted out of bed and immediately took the jeans Taker tossed at her, not even wanting to know what that was out there that had split Evetta's head open.  She swallowed hard and could already feel the tears burn her eyes, hating that they had to live like this.  It didn't matter how nice and big the house was, they were prisoners and that was no way to live.


“What about Keira?” She asked, knowing their little girl was sleeping peacefully in her bedroom, staring at Taker when he stopped dressing. “Mark, what about our daughter?  I'm going to wake her up, we can't leave her here alone.”


“So get her up and bring her over.” Taker said impatiently, not about to let Evetta die on his watch.  So far his track record was...mostly...spotless, one incident that was many years ago but since then, no deaths. “Carry a flashlight and follow the path, it runs straight through to the other house.” He pulled a bag out from under the bed, checking it quickly to make sure everything he would need was in it, which was basically everything as he didn't know just what trap they had encountered, hoping John's 'like a fucking watermelon' comment was an exaggeration.


“You expect me and Keira, your FAMILY, to venture out there at night after hearing about what happened to Evetta?  Have you lost your goddamn mind?!” Her voice rose considerably high, not believing what he was saying and knew his instinct as a bodyguard was kicking into high gear. “You know what?  Go alone, I'm not risking my life or my daughter's just so you can run to another woman's rescue.” Snorting, Juliana stalked past him out of the bedroom and growled when he grabbed her arm, yanking it away from him instantly. “Don't touch me!  Just go Taker, GO!” Juliana was going to stay with Keira, knowing the little girl would probably have a hard time sleeping that night in a new house anyway and didn't want her being alone.


Running to another woman's rescue? 


Was she fucking serious? 


He did not have time for this and snorted, his eyes flashing green fire as he slung the bag over his shoulder and took off, thundering down the stairs.  As for asking his family to venture out there, he knew damn well Juliana wasn't stupid enough to stray from the path if she was told not to, whereas Evetta had fucking RUN and ignored the warnings.  Cursing under his breath, he grabbed a flashlight from the counter and headed down the path.  When he came back, he and Juliana were going to have it out.


Juliana could only watch from the window of Keira's room as he charged to John's, shaking her head sadly.  Sometimes she wondered what Taker loved most: His family or his job.  She knew deep down she was being irrational, but everything about what was going on was irrational. 


Why did it have to be this way? 


Why did he have to have deadly traps around their supposed new home? 


Juliana sighed heavily and stared down at Keira, who was surprisingly sleeping peacefully. “Sweet dreams, angel.” She whispered, walking out and once again leaving the door ajar, going to make sure the house was locked up tight.




“What the fuck, Cena?  You were supposed to be watching her!” Taker bellowed when he seen Evetta, beginning to dig out what he would need from the bag.  He was already in a piss poor mood, this was just the icing on his shitty cake.


John knew that and felt bad about it without 'Taker adding his two cents in. “What the fuck do you got LOG TRAPS and TRIPWIRES out there for, idiot?”


“Let me think, oh yeah, because someone's already tried killing us TWICE!”


“You said you were putting in a REAL security system!”


“TOMORROW, I SAID TOMORROW!” He bellowed, threading a needle after cleaning the wound.


“Oh god please...please stop yelling...” Evetta groaned out, her head feeling as though it might explode, tears already sliding down her cheeks.  The pain was excruciating and Evie couldn't believe she was still alive, trying to open her eyes. “The light...” She mumbled, already slipping back into unconsciousness, the darkness welcoming because it meant no pain. “ out...” She went completely limp, her heartbeat weak from the loss of blood, hoping John was alright.


John sat down on the floor, his blue eyes wide and buried his face in his drawn knees. “I knew I shoulda just used ether to knock her out...” He rumbled, he should have never let her leave the master bedroom.  He should have tied her down.  Her being tied down, pissed off and murderous was way better than this.


Not replying, Taker tended the wound, finally finishing and eyeballed his work. “Hand me the syringe.” He ordered gravely.


“The what?” John hesitantly reached into the bag and pulled out a loaded syringe, still in its wrapper. “I don't want to know HOW you get this shit, but what is it?”


“She'll be pain free when she wakes up, let's put it that way.”


Just as Taker was about to plunge the needle in her forehead, an ear piercing scream echoed throughout the small two story house as Evetta's eyes shot open.  That just made her throbbing head intensify in pain and Evetta instinctively backed up on the couch, her vision blurry. “GET AWAY FROM ME!!” She screamed, her heart pounding faster than a jack rabbits and stumbled off of the couch, scooting back on the floor.  Not realizing she was beginning to rip the stitches a little as a trickle of blood oozed its way down her nose.


John seen the completely murderous look on Taker's face, again, and knew he had to catch Evetta and calm her down before she wound up with that needle jammed in her ass.  Not putting it past the somewhat insane bodyguard to do it.  Ignoring her screams and feeble kicks, he scooped her up in his arms and began making soothing noises, trying to calm her down.


“I've got you, Evie. I've got you, you're safe.” He crooned in her ear, shooting Taker a 'back off' look when the man approached. “Just...leave it on the table or something, go away.”


“You're going to actually do it yourself?” His eyes gleamed almost sadistically, knowing John was... squeamish.


“Uh... sure…”


Evetta began crying her heart out, clinging to John, unable to stop because of the pain.  She slowly calmed down, trying to block out the pain, clinging to John even more. “J-John?” She slowly reached a hand up to touch her nose, breathing even heavier when a small smear of blood covered it. “Oh god I'm bleeding...” She said it in a softer voice, slowly pulling away from him, knowing she had to see how deep the gash was. “Let go of me, I'm a goddamn nurse!” She snapped, shoving away from him when he refused to let her go and past Taker, her vision somewhat blurred. “Fuck I have a concussion...How deep is the cut and did you get hurt, John?”


John could only stare at her.  The woman had just taken a log to the skull and was now back to being her usual cheerful and loving self, mentally smacking himself for his mental sarcasm. “Broken fingers, I can-” He let out a groan of pain when Taker fixed that for him. “Thanks, buddy.” He wheezed, cradling his now throbbing hand to his chest.


“Anytime.” Taker smacked him on the back, fixing Evetta with a look. “I wouldn't go straying around the property anymore, not until I have a chance to get out tomorrow and tear all that shit down.”


“Yeah, please do because I really don't want another log killing anymore of my brain cells, dude.” She snorted when he simply arched an eyebrow, shaking her head. “You know, you all are out of your goddamn minds.”


Chapter 16


Evetta winced when she touched the stitches and shook her head, not believing what a piss poor job the sewing job was.  She took the bag Taker brought and sifted through it, beginning to remove the stitches one by one, rolling her eyes when John simply gawked at her. “I'm a nurse, I graduated from medical school a few years ago and I've been working at the hospital at night in the ER, but eventually I want to open my own practice.” She began sewing herself up again, pulling the skin tighter, nodding and knowing she would probably have one hell of a scar, sighing.


John heard Taker leaving, surprised he hadn't tried doing something wicked and cruel to Evetta for damaging the work.  He wondered if her tinkering with the stitches, then redoing them, was going to leave an even worse scar.  That and she was doing this all without any pain medication, she had to be a super mutant or something.  John decided he wouldn't be telling Keira that, just in case Keira tried to test that theory.


“Um...doesn't that...hurt?” He asked lamely.


“You didn't seriously just ask a nurse a question like that, did you?” When he lowered his head, Evetta couldn't help shaking her head at him as she continued stitching herself up. “My first year in med school, I cut my hand on a saw that's used for amputation and...well I nearly sawed it off.  I didn’t want anyone knowing about it so I had to sew myself up.  It was good practice.” She had the scar on her right hand if John didn't believe her, focusing in the mirror. “This doesn't hurt as much as you may think it does, but then again I'm not a pussy.”


He was going to assume that nearly sawing it off had been an exaggeration, not wanting to picture her with her hand flopping from her wrist, dangling from skin.  Knowing she wouldn't have been able to reconnect tendons and bones...he was going to make himself ill if he didn't stop thinking that. “Pussy, no.  Idiot, yes.  What the hell did you go running for?  We TOLD you not too, anything off the path is...well, dangerous, and likely to decapitate your head.” He shuddered at the thought of what ELSE was out there Taker had concocted.


“I ran because I'm scared.  I don't know any of you and I feel like I'm a prisoner here, which I am.” Evetta explained while continuing the task at hand, needing to stop when she came to a very sensitive area on her forehead, taking a couple deep breaths before starting again. “But I also can't help believing everything Juliana said about her past, especially since my house exploded, which I know neither of you would do.  I panicked okay?  I thought I could get away and go back to my life the way it was, but nothing is ever going to be the same again.” Tears stung her brown eyes as she took the small scissors and snipped the last of the thread off, beginning to wrap the white bandage around her forehead to keep it covered so it could heal.


John just watched her, though when he realized that the syringe was still just sitting there where Taker had left it, on the coffee table, he picked it up and checked to make sure the little covering on the needle was firmly in place.  Just in case...he wasn't about to have her stab him with pain killers.  This time she probably would have been smart enough to stick to the path.


“Uh, Taker left some meds if you want them, want me to give them to you, I mean...” The woman was twisted; she had just stitched her forehead up. “Wow...”


“What?” She couldn't help laughing softly at the bewildered look in his eyes and on his handsome face, wincing a little since laughing made it hurt more. “Fuck pain killers, if you've got some aspirin that'll work fine.” Not to mention having a concussion didn't mix well with pain killers and Evie enjoyed staying awake instead of falling into a permanent slumber.  She walked over and sat on the couch, watching as John walked over to the cabinet to grab the aspirin along with a glass of water.


While he was at it, John smashed the syringe and disposed of the broken pieces, making sure to kick the bag gently away from her.  While he liked her -somewhat-, he no longer trusted her.  One, she had run off after being warned about the shit out there -not that they expected it to be backwoods traps meant to kill and not detain- and two, she had stitched herself up without medication, which reminded him of Taker.


That also meant he couldn't trust her because she might have been related to the guy.


“I need to stay awake for at least three hours.” Evetta announced, smirking when John nearly jumped out of his skin, having snuck up right behind him.  Her brunette hair still had leaves poking out of it and she had dirt on her face, but other than that she still looked like the knockout John met through “So can I ask you a question?” She slowly began backing him into the kitchen, raising a slow eyebrow. “I don't bite John, I just want to know whose idea was it for you to meet a girl on”


She did really remind him of 'Taker; it was scary as hell and what made him even more worried was the fact that he STILL found her really hot, not wanting to delve into that one. “Um, Keira did actually.” That was embarrassing, sort of, but when she arched an eyebrow he shrugged, reaching out to pull some leaves from her hair with his good hand. “She realized I hadn't been on a date for…as long as she could remember and wanted me to make a profile.  So she and Jules did, and...” John realized how pathetic he sounded, clearing his throat.


“That's cute in a very disturbing way, I'll have to ask Juliana and Keira how long you've been without a woman...” She smirked when his eyes locked on hers, immediately lowering them to his hand, frowning. “Your hand.” Evetta remembered hearing him yell out, swallowing hard and immediately brought it into the light. “Stay right here.” She ordered and rushed to find the bag, which he'd kicked clumsily under the coffee table and pulled out a stint with medical tape. “Come with me now.” She ordered, not giving him a choice and pointed at the couch. “Do not make this hard.”


“Taker already put them back in place.” John hadn't flexed them or anything and he had been intending on doing what she looked like she was fixing to do, but he had forgotten when she started talking to him. “I can handle it.”


He had broken them stopping a log from taking off her head, wincing at the memory.  When she rattled off another 'don't make this hard' line, he had to snort.  He was quite a bit bigger than her and 'strong as an ox', though...she got a gleam in her eyes that told him to test out the 'is she a female Taker' theory some other time.  He dropped down onto the couch


“Be gentle with me.” He half-joked.


“Shut up and take it like a man, don't be a pussy.” Evetta chided with a smirk, shoving him back with a lot of force for a tiny person and straddled his lap, taking his hand in front of her. “He didn't set them right.” She sighed and snapped them on the other side, causing a stream of cuss words to come out of his mouth. “Wow such a dirty mouth.  Did your mother ever teach you manners when you're in the presence of a lady, boy?”


“I think she had a specific definition of lady, Evie.” He replied without thinking, groaning when she drew the bandage a bit tighter than necessary. “Alright woman, you made your point!” She was a vicious little thing, that first date hadn't really shown off what she was like that well.  He tried reconciling the woman who had fled in tears with the one straddling his lap and torturing him, shifting… “Goddamn...” He muttered under his breath.


“What was that dear?” She tightened the bandage more, smirking when he grunted something about his fingers hurting. “Of course they will, they're broken idiot.” She snorted and continued wrapping the bandage, scooting further back on his lap to where she straddled his thighs, keeping his fingers as straight as they possibly could go. “You know, you should feel lucky to have met a woman who actually knows what she's doing when it comes to medical attention.  And we're married on top of it supposedly.” She still wore the gaudy diamond ring on her left ring finger, looking sickened by it because it was a gold band.


John arched an eyebrow at that, staring at her ring when he seen the expression on her face. “What? You don't like it?  I didn't pick it out.”


He mentally smacked himself for that, realizing how bad it sounded.  They were 'married' but he hadn't been the one to pick out the ring.  He was definitely not good at this husband thing, figuring if he ever did really get married, this might actually be a good time for some practice.  When she shifted again on his lap, he wondered if this 'marriage' came with all the benefits that a real one had.  Of course, he knew that probably wasn't something he should be thinking, but damn it...he was a man and it had been a very long nine years.


“I know you didn't, you don't seem like the type to pick up a gaudy looking thing like this,'ll suffice since we're not technically ‘married’.” She did the quotations with her fingers and finished his hand, sliding her fingertips gently up his arm to make sure the sling was fully intact, locking eyes with him again. “I won't run again, I promise.” That was as close to an apology as he was going to get after everything he'd put her through.  So if he'd accept it and they'd move on from this fiasco that she caused, though again Evetta wasn't admitting that. “Go to bed, you're exhausted.”


It was probably a good thing John didn't know what Evetta was thinking because he would have strangled her.  Then again, it was also a good thing she didn't know what he was thinking because she would have broken all the rest of his fingers. “You have to stay up, and I'm not going to sleep while you're...awake.” He might've been a fool, but not a complete fool.  Yes, she had said she wasn't going to run, but...He didn't know her all that well, especially since she had shown him she wasn't as sweet and demure as he had first thought, she'd knocked his ass for a loop. “I'll stay up with you.”


Evetta shrugged and slowly slid from his lap, extending her hand to him silently.  When John hesitated, Evie lost her patience, rolling her eyes. “Oh for heaven's sake!” She grabbed his good hand and pulled him up from the couch, though she knew John helped with it, pulling him back to the master bedroom. “Since you're going to be stubborn about it, we can at least be comfortable and maybe get to know each other a little better.”


After all, Evetta never broke a promise and that meant she was going to be spending a great deal of time with her new 'hubby'.  She walked over and pulled out a baby blue nightgown from the dresser, turning her back as she slipped her pants and sweatshirt off before pulling it on, giving him a glimpse at exactly what kind of body she had.  When she turned around and caught him staring at her chest, Evetta smirked.


“My eyes are up here, Johnny.”


The woman had just stripped in front of him, and even with the broken fingers, his body was reacting to the sight.  HIs body was beginning to tell him 'fuck her already, moron', and his eyes had darkened to a deep, stormy blue color. “I know where your eyes are, Evie.” He replied, his voice low and husky, not bothering with looking at her eyes.


Instead he allowed his gaze to move down her body and then slowly back up, visually feasting on her.  When he did finally meet her eyes, he was ready to throw her on the bed.  The way he devoured her made Evetta hot in a very good way, though she would never admit it.  Instead, she simply walked over to the other side of the bed and slid on top of it, her beautifully tanned legs very visible, the nightgown riding up her thighs as one of the spaghetti straps fell down her shoulder.


“How long has it been for you, John?” She asked in a somewhat coy voice, scooting a little closer to him with a smile on her face, ignoring the pain in her head. “Hmm?  How long has it been since you've been touched?”


She was screwing with him and he was going to let her do it.  What the HELL was wrong with him? “Nine years.” He admitted gruffly, he had to be the most pathetic man in the world.


Taker had been threatening for years to have his man card pulled and, for once, John could finally agree with him.  Folding his arms over his chest -or attempted too with the sling-, he tried not to stare at her legs, wondering what he had done to piss god off so much he would devise such a beautiful vision, but in reality was probably hell?  Evetta let a tsk noise escape her lips as she moved even closer to him, slowly running her hand up and down his muscular thigh, the hunger in her eyes as much as it was in his.


“You know what I think would be the perfect way to stay awake?” She asked, already swinging one leg over the other, straddling him once again as her long brunette hair fell over her shoulders and down her back, already feeling him rise to the occasion. “What I think we should do for hours and HOURS on end?” It was official, she was having too much fun with him.


Swallowing hard, John could only shake his head, his good hand moving to rest on her waist, leaning up from the headboard so his face was closer to hers.  She was teasing him, she had to be, oh god if she moved one more time he was going to explode in his shorts.  And the thought of that humiliation put the beast on a leash, though he had a feeling if she kept giving him that look, with those bedroom eyes, he was going to be screwed and lose control.


Moving in closer to where they're lips nearly touched, Evetta suddenly smirked wickedly, brown eyes gleaming. “I think we should eat ice cream and watch a movie.”


She slapped his chest playfully and bounded off of him, knowing exactly what she did to him.  Nine years...the poor man probably couldn't have sex let alone a girlfriend with everything he'd been through.  Oh well, it wasn't her problem.  Evetta headed to the kitchen to get her ice cream and let John cool off, giggling.


Letting out a string of curses that would have impressed Juliana, John banged his head back against the headboard, wincing and reached back to hold the spot.  Though it did distract him from the pain that was his raging hard-on.  That little cocktease!  John was actually entertaining thoughts he had never entertained in his life and they all included doing things that would probably get him prison time.  Still cursing, he rolled off the bed and walked out the door, heading for the bathroom.  She was lucky he didn't jerk off on her clothes or something.


“Damn it!”


Chapter 17


While John was having a hell of a time with his new wife, Juliana currently waited for Taker to return and had slipped back in bed.  She refused to leave the master suite just because he was a jackass to her earlier.  Juliana knew she had a point and so did he, they clashed frequently and she hated fighting with him. 


The ring on her finger wasn't the real thing, they weren't really married and he could leave whenever he damn well pleased.  She couldn't shake that worry and eventually managed to fall asleep, only to wake up when the front door downstairs slammed shut.  She immediately shut her eyes again and pretended she was sleeping, hearing deliberate footsteps coming down the hallway.


He paused in the doorway and cocked his head to the side, hearing Keira's light snoring from down the hall, before quietly closing the bedroom door and walking over to the bed, making sure his footsteps were heard.  He reached down and ripped away the blanket. “You can quit pretendin', Jules.” He grunted, staring down at her, nudging her over as he sat on the bed and began pulling his boots off. “Evetta got her head smashed in by a flying log and John's fingers were broken.” He informed her, wondering if she still was having whatever issues she'd had earlier.


“Well that's fucking wonderful and for your information, I WAS sleeping until you decided to slam the front door shut downstairs.” She stated coldly, pulling the blankets right back where they were and laid back down, turning her back to face him.  If he was going to be an asshole then she was going to be a bitch.  She didn't want to talk to him when he was in this type of mood because she was likely to try hurting him with his smartass remarks.


Rolling his eyes, he stood up and peeled off his clothing, kicking those and the boots aside so they wouldn't be tripped over in the morning.  Staring down at the bed and his still in fully fledged bitch mode, peach of a wife, he smiled slightly.  He slid beneath the covers with her, reaching out and pulled her back until they were spooning, resting his palm on her stomach.


“I love you too, darlin'.” He murmured in her ear, feeling how tense she was against him.


No matter how angry Juliana became with Taker, that didn't stop her from loving him any less. “I love you too, but I'm still mad at you.” She stated, not pulling away because being in his arms felt too good.


Even though she felt like elbowing him in the jaw.  She continued staring at the wall and closed her eyes when he rolled her over to lay on her back, staring up at him with narrowed midnight blue eyes, folding her arms in front of her.  She wore a simple black nightgown that barely covered her ass, just something to slip into because she didn't like sleeping naked alone.


“Well, I'm still pretty pissed off with you too.” He informed her, not about to tell her that he had been so pissed he probably hadn't done Evie's stitches or John's fingers right.  That was a first for him and he wasn't very pleased with it.  This woman drove him insane; sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so good. “But we both think we're right and neither of us are goin' to apologize, so...I love you, go to sleep.” He leaned down and brushed his lips against hers.


“It's not about who's right and who's wrong.” Juliana wasn't about to let him off the hook that easily and accepted his kiss, sitting up to face him fully, immediately lowering her eyes. “I just can't believe you wanted me to bring Keira out there with all of your death traps after what happened to Evetta.  It makes me wonder sometimes if you even think about our welfare or if you do what you think is best no matter the circumstances.  I know you love us and I know you want to protect us the best you can, but is it really necessary to have all of those death traps out there to where our daughter can get to them, Mark?” She wasn't accusing him; it was a simple question and Juliana knew he'd probably fly off the handle at her.


“Darlin’, you were the one who said you were goin' to wake up Keira.  I would have left you both here; there was no point in all of us going over there for that.” That is how it had wound up anyway, but at first she had said they weren't leaving Keira alone in the house and she was going to wake Keira up.  There hadn’t been time for him to linger while Keira was woken up and dressed to go outside. “And I told you about the path, you would have been fine.  Keira knows not to be wandering off until I get out there and take all that shit down.” He really did not like explaining himself, but for her he would.


“I was worried about John and Evetta!  Dear god, her head was split open by a fucking log and you wanted me to just stay here?!” Juliana growled, sounding exasperated and laid back down, pursing her lips tightly together.  In truth, Juliana knew he was right, but she had too much pride to admit it, knowing she had to put their daughter before John.  Even after seven years, Juliana still had a hard time doing that. “I just...I react whenever something happens to him and I wanna be there like he's been there for me.  He's my brother and I know it's not easy for him to pretend to be married to Evetta.  Hell, I know what it's like being felt like you're a prisoner...”


Considering this was the third time they had to retreat into an unknown location, he could understand that.  He also knew she was too proud to say she was wrong, just like he was too proud to apologize whenever he screwed up, usually. “You can see them tomorrow, I think it was a good thing you and Keira didn't go.  When Evetta woke up, she began freaking the hell out.” He didn't mention that he had also been holding a syringe near her head at the time.


“I don't know what you want me to say, Taker.” Juliana sighed tiredly, the night completely ruined that started out so promising. “I don't want to argue with you about this anymore, I'm tired, you're tired.  Let's just go to bed.” She went to roll over only for him to stop her again, staring up into his eyes.  Juliana was dying to ask him the one question that burned on her tongue since this whole ordeal began, but refrained, knowing it wouldn't do any good. “I hate fighting with you.” She whispered, reaching up to caress his face with her hand, tears building in her eyes. “I hate this...”


“So quit fighting with me.  This is pointless, it's over and done with.” He replied, in a calm and rational tone, knowing that was probably going to irritate her, but he couldn't help being matter-of-fact about it. “Juliana...” He breathed when she frowned, bending down to kiss her. “I love you and I don't want to fight with you either.  You're tired and you're right, I'm tired too.” He was really tired and had been since earlier, but she had been so tempting in the tub… “Go to sleep darlin'.” He murmured, pulling her against him.


“I love you too.” She accepted his embrace, breathing in his scent, all of her anger vanishing. “I'm sorry for what I said, I didn't mean it the way it came out.” She knew it was cruel when she said he was going to save another woman, feeling stupid for even saying that. “I was angry and-”


She sighed when his finger pressed against her lips, quickly replacing it with his lips, instantly melting against him.  Juliana felt terrible for saying that and buried her fingers in his hair, trying to make it up to him somehow, someway.  He was everything to her and more, but the one good thing about fighting with Taker was the making up.


The making up after a fight was very good indeed and, sometimes, he picked fights with her just so they could make-up.  Growling softly in the back of his throat, he rolled onto his back and pulled her with him so she was straddling his waist.  His hands moved to rest on her hips, feeling the warmth of her body through her nightgown.


“You're beautiful, Juliana.” He murmured, staring up at her, his eyes adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom. 


She was cast in darkness and shadows, his dark angel.


“You're impossible.” She murmured and pulled back to remove the nightgown, not wearing anything else beneath, smirking down at him when he growled again. “No more fighting.” She knew that wasn't going to happen considering each of them had their own unique quirks and tempers. “I love you.” Juliana pressed her lips to his, moaning as he rolled her over on her back, hovering over her, her knees bending instantly and pressing against his muscular sides. 


It was going to be a very long night for them both.


Long night, but pure heaven.


Though at the rate they were going, neither of them were going to catch up on sleep, not that he overly minded.  It was really hard to bitch about lack of rest when there was a beautiful women laying beneath him, all flushed and trembling, with her black hair mussed on the pillows and that smoky, pleased look in her eyes.  If this was the price he was paying for not sleeping, he would gladly continue paying it.




“So let me get this straight: She straddled your lap and made you hot and bothered, all because she wanted ice cream?” Juliana blinked when John scowled at her, holding her hands up, seeing he got little to no sleep.  Juliana tried so hard not to laugh, but her face turned completely red and she simply couldn't stop herself from snorting, trying hard to hold it in. “I'” That was all she could get out before bursting into full fledged laughter, tears stinging her eyes.


“Thank you, Jules.” John said stiffly. “I'm glad my pain and suffering amuse you.”


He hadn't slept all that well.  Usually, he didn't have any problems in that department, nothing some solo time wouldn't take care of.  But then again, other than Jules, Keira and clients when he occasionally put in time working as a gym trainer, he hadn't spent much time in female company.


Juliana stopped laughing eventually and hugged John, knowing he was going through a very rough time right now.  Kidnapping a woman he met on and watching her have her head split open by a log would make any guy's time rough. “How is she doing?” Juliana asked seriously, arching an eyebrow when John merely shrugged. “Let me guess, you came here as soon as you got up and you haven't even talked to her today, correct?”


“No, I talked to her this morning.” John said with a slight smirk. “She asked me how my night went and I told her I was fantasizing about the many ways I could crush her spine with my hands.” He dodged when Jules went to hit him. “Hey!  If it makes you feel any better, she laughed at me!  And for your information, if she's feeling any pain, then she's like your hubby and hiding it.  The broad sewed her forehead up after tearing out his crappy stitches without using anything for the pain.”


Juliana stared at John and wondered if he was joking or if he was serious.  The look in his eyes told her what she needed to know, causing her to swallow hard. “So...she's a female version of Taker?” When John nodded solemnly, that just made Juliana laugh harder, not able to help herself and stopped John from getting up to leave. “Oh come on!  Seriously?  You're sitting here telling me that your 'wife',” She paused, doing the quotations with her fingers. “Is a female version of Taker, Rent-A-Cop and you expect me NOT to laugh?” She actually punched him gently in the arm. “My god, you were destined to be together for sure!”


“NO, NO, NO!” John roared, shaking his head. “HELL NO!  I could never be stuck with someone like him, are you insane?  He terrifies me half the time, how'd that work out with a woman?  I don't want to be in a relationship with a female Taker!  I'd be worrying about what she'd do to me if I pissed her off or something!  Probably destroy my balls or something!  Quit laughing, Juliana!” If his fingers weren't broken, he would have lunged for her.


“She'd definitely be able to put you in your place!” Juliana laughed harder, tears beginning to fall down her cheeks as she clutched her stomach, not believing the turn of events.  John was 'married' to a female version of Taker, the love of her life. “I can't wait to have the real shotgun wedding.” She jumped when John went to lunge for her, sticking her tongue out. “Man, can you imagine having babies that have both your blood and her blood running through their veins?  They'd be WORSE than Keira, myself and Taker combined!” Juliana couldn't help baiting him, payback was indeed a bitch after all those years of John baiting her about spiders and anything else that came to his mind.


“Fuck you, Juliana.” John said quietly, watching as she continued laughing at him.


He loved her, he couldn't hurt her.  That did not mean she wasn't going to find several spiders -and possibly some miniature guns- in her bed one day.  He had spent all this time living alone. He was her brother, the godfather/uncle of Keira and occasionally could be considered Taker's buddy, when the man was desperate enough for the company of a male he wasn't supposed to be protecting.  The first woman outside of his family that he got to know... turned out to be one hell of a cosmic prank on him.


“Hey, I will have you know I like Evetta.  She's got fire and spunk, she doesn't take your shit and she's not afraid to leap.” Juliana stated, once she stopped laughing again, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Maybe you should stop thinking of her as mini-female Taker and start, oh I don't know, treating her like a WOMAN.  I know you have it in you, Cena, you just have to reach deep down inside and pull out the gentleman I KNOW you can be.” She grinned when he flipped her off, blowing a kiss to him in response. “I love you, but sometimes you're blind to things that are right in front of you.  Leap, I did with Taker and now look where we are.”


John scoffed at her. “Yeah, look where you are, unhappily unmarried and constantly freaking out that he'll leave you.” He shot back, shaking his head. “I am not you, Juliana. I'm not the blind one, I know what's in front of me.” A woman who was out to drive him completely insane whether it be by getting her skull bashed open or turning him on and then leaving him cold because she apparently found torturing him and being a cocktease amusing.  John looked away from her, running a hand through his short brown hair.


The laughter died instantly from Juliana as she stared at John, not believing he just said that. “So you're saying I'm blind?  That I don't know what's in front of me?  For your fucking information, Cena, I AM happy with my life!  Unlike someone who hasn't had contact with the opposite sex besides a woman he considers his own sister for the past nine fucking years!  Why don't you look in the goddamn mirror before passing judgment on someone else, asshole?”


She stood up and walked out, effectively ending the conversation, tears burning her eyes.  Juliana wasn't unhappily unmarried, she was just happily unmarried with a healthy fear that Taker would leave her again like he did last time.  Throwing that in her face broke Juliana's heart and all she wanted to do was curl up in bed and have a good long cry.


“Screw her.” John muttered angrily, feeling too miserable for his own self to feel miserable for what he had said to her. 


Growling, he headed upstairs, planning on sleeping in the guest room, or at least trying too.  He didn't need women, all they did was fuck you up!  Him, passing judgment?  Well wasn't that the pot calling the kettle black?  Sighing, he ignored Evetta when she poked her head out of the master bedroom, closing the guest door behind him and dropped onto the bed, sighing when it buckled slightly.


“Just my...” He winced when the bed collapsed, knowing he shouldn't have tested his weight on the damn thing. “Luck.”


Chapter 18


The entire walk back to her own house, all Juliana could think about was John's words, tears streaming down her face.  Of course she was scared Taker would leave!  He had no other commitment to her besides Keira and even then, that wasn't enough.  She glanced down at the ring again and that doubt entered her mind, wondering why Taker proposed to her just before they had to leave Texas?  Sniffling, Juliana clutched her zip up sweatshirt to her body tighter, the wind whipping through her hair and tried drying her tears before she got home.  It was getting colder outside and she knew they would be getting snow soon, sticking to the path Taker showed her just in case he didn't get rid of all the death traps.


“Mom!” Keira shouted, walking towards the path from the woods alongside her dad, who had taken her out with him. “I learned all about tripwires!”


Taker grinned slightly. “She even saved my ass from-” He frowned, realizing her cheeks were tear-stained, slinging the sack with broken wires and triggers over his back. “What happened?”


“Why is Mom crying?”


“Nothing I'm fine, it's cold out here.” Juliana flashed a quick smile at her daughter, seeing the worry etched in Keira's face, rubbing her arms up and down through the thick sweatshirt. “I'm going back to the house, I'm not feeling well.” She walked past them and kept trekking down the path Taker laid out for them, refusing to get rid of his death traps.


Shrugging, Taker just exchanged eye rolls with Keira.  He was playing it cool for his daughter, but wondered what was honestly going on.  He hesitated, glancing towards the garage and then back to where Jules was walking quickly away from them.  Sighing, he continued with his work, knowing next was installing the new security system.  No more swinging logs from hell or tripwires, in came the state of the art technology.  All terrain and condition ready cameras, silent alarm triggers...he wasn't getting anymore midnight calls for broken fingers and split heads.


“Can I play with your knife?” Keira asked, reaching for the sheath on his belt.


“Only if you want your Momma to whoop both our asses.”


There was no way in hell Juliana was telling Taker what John said to her, knowing how Taker's temper could be.  He'd end up busting John's head open worse than Evie's.  As much as she wanted John to hurt for what he said, she couldn't stand by and allow Taker to destroy him.  What John said was true and the more Juliana thought about it, the more she knew she was screwed.  She had a ring on her finger that wasn't attached to anything except the man who gave it to her out of sheer convenience. 


Why hadn't he proposed to her sooner?


“Damn you John.” She whispered, deciding to cook a big dinner because it would help get her mind off of things...hopefully.


“Momma!  I'm starving, feed me!” Keira shrieked as she ran through the kitchen door, her cheeks rosy from being outside all day.  Grinning, she shrugged off her coat and hung it up, walking over to the stove, being led by her nose. “MMMM...What's that?  Can I have some?  Uncle John and Auntie Evie are coming over for dinner by the way.” She said this all in one great big breath. “Did you SEE Aunt Evie's head?  It's all torn up!  And John's fingers are broken, I didn't know and I kinda grabbed them and...”


“He screamed like a bitch.”


“Yes I saw her head.”


How in the hell could John show his face after what he said to her earlier?  Juliana was going to stick her spatula up his ass if he walked through her front door.  But then she seen how happy Keira was that her Uncle Johnny and Aunt Evie were coming over for dinner, knowing she couldn't tell them to send John packing.  Evetta was more than welcome to stay, but Juliana was angry with John right now, livid even as she began stirring the batter for her pineapple upside down cake.


“We're having ham for dinner with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, cheesy veggies, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and dinner rolls.  Cake for dessert.” She turned her back to both of them as she continued stirring, having been cooking all day.


“Everything but the asparagus and Brussels sprouts sounds good.  Can I lick the bowl when you're done?”


“If you don't eat the greens, you'll never grow to be taller than me.” He had caught the fleeting expression on Juliana's face, wondering what was going on.  John had been abnormally quiet, even after Keira had invited them over.  If that moron had upset Jules...Taker was going to break the rest of his fingers one by one. “Need some help?” He offered, washing his hands at the sink.


“Yeah, can you get the apricot glaze out of the fridge for the ham?” Juliana was busy pouring the cake batter into a pan, smiling down at her daughter. “You can have the spoon, I don't want you getting sick.  There's raw eggs in here.”


“But Mom!!  That's what kids do!  I'm a kid, I want the bowl!”


“No, I've worked very hard on this meal and you're not going to spoil it by licking the bowl.  Now why don't you go play until dinner's ready?” She suggested in a final tone, handing over the spoon and sighed when Keira just tossed it on the floor before bolting out of the kitchen. “Kids...”


“Keira, get your ass back in here and pick it up!” Taker roared, watching out of narrowed green eyes as she trudged back in and did as she was told, well aware she wasn't looking at him or her Mom.  When she darted back out, he shook his head. “That girl has an attitude on her.” No idea where she got it, he was such a sweet and mild-mannered man.  Snorting, he got the apricot glaze from the fridge and passed it to Jules, catching her by wrapping his arm around her waist and pulled her against him. “Everything alright?”


“Never better.” She answered quietly, closing her eyes when he bent his head down to run his nose along her skin, making her break out in goose bumps.  Juliana kept a firm hold on the bowl of glaze and shivered involuntarily when his mouth was right by her ear. “Taker...” She made the mistake of turning her head and brushed her lips against his, midnight blue staring into acid green. “I'd better glaze the ham.”


She pulled away from him and set the bowl of glaze down on the counter, putting her oven mitts on and pulled the ham out on the huge rack.  Taker had a really horrible, lewd comment to make about her glazing things, but refrained from making it, groaning softly as he turned away from her.  Making himself useful, he began rinsing out the dishes in the sink and placing them into the dishwasher.


“John seemed awfully quiet this morning, even considering what happened last night.” He said conversationally, glancing at her from the corner of his eye.


“He probably feels bad about what happened to Evetta.” She said in a monotone voice, really not wanting to discuss John at the moment, pushing his words in the far recesses of her mind.  Juliana cooked this big meal for a reason and now Taker was in here trying to find out what was going on.  She couldn't win for losing. “Can you take the corn and drain it for me in the strainer?” She was already hanging over the huge pot of boiling hot water, waiting patiently for him to slip some mitts on so he didn't burn himself before beginning to glaze the ham.


Knowing better than to keep on pushing while handling boiling hot objects, he slid on oven mitts and did as told, turning his face from the steam that rose up from the sink.  He would just see how the rest of the night went before jumping to anymore conclusions.  If John and Juliana weren't acting normal, maybe he'd just beat John's head in to cover bases.


“They're coming!” Keira announced excitedly.


“Go get the door then.”


“Would you stop moping and try to enjoy the evening?” Evetta glared at John when he simply shot her one, folding her arms in front of her chest, wearing a simple pair of jeans with a long sleeved red shirt. “Taker, I need liquor.” She demanded as soon as the door opened, immediately cringing. “Sorry doll face, where's your mommy and daddy?” She walked inside past Keira, heading for the kitchen. “What the hell is the occasion?”


Juliana shrugged nonchalantly. “I just wanted to cook a big meal, first one in the new house and all.” She lied smoothly, having a glass of wine and offered one to Evetta.


“No hard liquor I take it?”


Juliana actually smirked, raising an eyebrow when Evetta simply down the first glass of wine. “How about after dinner we'll have a few shots of Tequila Rose?  It's my favorite.”


“Nah, I prefer the hard stuff like straight Tequila over that pink shit.”


“Well no, she said hi.” John corrected, the first smile crossing his face at the indignant look on Keira's.  She usually got bucket loads of attention from her parents and him, she was indeed a bit spoiled.


“She walked right on by, after mussin' my hair!” Keira protested, stalking into the kitchen, a scowl on her face.


Taker turned, arching an eyebrow when Keira looked like she was fixing to have a conniption fit. “What's got your feathers ruffled?”


“She's feeling neglected.” John appeared in the doorway, looking over Juliana and Evetta quickly before turning his attention back to Keira.


“I'm sorry kiddo, I didn't mean to ignore you, but that amazing smell caught my attention.” Evetta said smoothly and bent down to be eye level with Keira, winking. “You know you're still my favorite right?” She'd gotten to know the little girl on the ride here and became completely enthralled with her. “Forgive me?”


Keira considered her and finally nodded with a smile, hugging her Aunt Evie around the neck gently. “How's your head?”


“Never better, doll face.” She stood back up and watched as John headed into the living room, scoffing. “Would you two just make up already?  Jesus, you'd think you're the ones who are married.”


Juliana physically cringed when Evetta said that right in front of Taker, folding her arms in front of her chest, scowling now. “Not until he apologizes to me first.”


Arching an eyebrow, Taker instructed Keira to go annoy John, which she did with a grin on her face.  He reminded himself to find it adorable later, right now he was more curious about whatever Evetta seemed to know that he did not. “What happened?” He asked in a calm, almost careless sort of way, knowing damn well Juliana would clam up if he sounded as irritated as he actually was.


“They had an argument this morning and-”


“It's between me and him, nobody else.” She directed that at Taker, knowing he would kill John if he found out what was said between them.


Both Evetta and Taker stared at her as Juliana turned her back, causing the woman to stare up at Taker exasperatedly. “You're as stubborn as he is, he said the same damn thing to me earlier when I asked him what the hell was going on.  I heard some of it, not all.”


“Evetta I like you, I really do, but if you tell him one damn thing that was said between me and John, I will personally take you out.” Juliana promised with a sweet smile, though it didn't reach her eyes. “Now drop it, new subject.”


“Well screw this.” Taker stalked away, shouting. “JOHN!”


“Fuck off, Taker!”


“Oooh, Daddy is gonna whoop your butt for that!” Keira giggled from her place beside John on the couch, a controller between her hands. “Dad, do it AFTER I beat him, we're playing Blur.”


Taker left the women in the kitchen, knowing Juliana and John had argued.  Now he wanted to know what it had been about.  That would determine how badly he had to beat John’s ass.


“Uhhh sorry?”


Juliana tossed her hands up in the air and threw the towel down on the counter, knowing the ham still had to cook for a little bit and everything else was pretty much done. “Thanks a lot.” She stormed past Evetta and into the living room, standing between Taker and John. “Enough, we had a little argument and everything is fine now right John?”


“Uhhh?” Keira blinked at the adults, looking up at them.




“Oh yeah, peachy keen.” John replied sarcastically, not even looking at her, busy taking advantage of Keira's lapse in attention to drive her right off the track and into a cop car.


“You cheatin' wiener!” She growled, nudging him in the ribs with her elbow.


“What were you fighting about?”


“None of your fucking business.” John snapped while continuing to obliterate the game. “Believe it or not, we do have arguments and don't need you butting in.”


Apparently, that argument had fucked Cena up in the head because Taker knew he couldn't be in the right frame of mind talking like that and arched an eyebrow.


Juliana crossed her eyes at the way John was speaking to Taker, trying to keep the peace between the two men, letting out a slow breath. “John, I'm sorry for what I said about you being with a mini-Taker.” She jumped back when he bolted off of the couch, pressed against Taker's chest, knowing she had to bait him. “But you had no right to say what you did to me.  I was just joking around with you, you took it too far...”


“Who is a mini-Taker?” Evetta folded her arms in front of her chest, having been listening in the doorway, arching an eyebrow.


“I told John that you reminded me of Taker because of your pain threshold, according to him.”


“Oh that?” Evetta waved it off with a soft laugh, shaking her head. “I'm a nurse and I had to stitch my hand up one time, that doesn't mean I'll take a bullet for someone.  Taker is way more hardcore than me.”


“So, you're not upset that I compared you to Taker?”


“I take it as a compliment, he's one mean tough SOB.”


“If you would have stopped before 'judgmental' I wouldn't have gone off on you.” John replied, his blue eyes narrowed, his gaze darting between her and Taker.  Knowing if it weren't for the fact that she was currently in the man's arms, Taker probably would have ripped his head off. “As it was, I found it a bit...hypocritical.” He wasn't going to repeat what he had said earlier.  He was still a bit...peeved with her for earlier, but not enough to bring that all out, knowing damn well it would have led to Jules and Taker fighting opposed to him and Jules.


“I am so lost.” Keira announced, staring at the adults from over the couch.


So was Taker.


Chapter 19


“You know how I feel about that, John!  And you were being judgmental by saying that shit!  So I don't regret saying what I did about Evetta because it's the damn TRUTH!” Juliana snapped, not believing they were fighting about this, tears stinging her eyes. “As if I haven't been through enough lately, why would you say something that cruel to me?  I've done NOTHING except be there for you and support you since day ONE and you've done the same for me, but it's not my fault you decided to go on and ended up with a woman version of Taker!  So stick it up your ass, we're done here!” She stormed away from Taker, not caring if he beat the hell out of John or not and went to check on her ham.


Evetta stopped John from going after Juliana, blocking his entrance. “Why is it so wrong for me like him?  Is he really that bad?  Am I really that bad?”


“You're the one who fucking put me on that stupid fucking site so fuck off, Juliana!” John shouted, not bowling Evetta over like he could have done, frowning when he realized what she was asking him. “No.” He grunted, turning around with a resigned sigh.


“You and me, outside.” Taker ordered, not about to whoop his ass in front of his daughter.


“Yeah, fuck you too.” John growled, storming outside, throwing aside the sling for his hand, knowing Taker would probably try to choke him with it.


Keira jumped when the door slammed behind the two men, the house shaking from it. “Aunt Evie...?”


“Goddamn it!” Evetta couldn't let Taker kill John, even if she wanted to ring his neck herself and headed outside, seeing John was trying to dart past Taker. “STOP IT BOTH OF YOU RIGHT NOW!” She shouted, causing both men to stare at her and stormed over to where her hubby stood with his broken fingers. “Look, I know you're pissed off at him, but fighting isn't going to solve anything.  Juliana is upset, why don't you go in there and console her while I handle pissy pants out here?” She suggested, already pulling John away from Taker, standing in front of him. “Or better yet, we'll leave and you can have a peaceful meal with Juliana and doll face.” Evetta was already backtracking John down the path, her eyes never leaving Taker's. “Knock it off if you want to live you asshole.” She growled quietly when John tried getting past her. “We're leaving, come on.”


John seriously had enough and stopped letting her move him.  He arched an eyebrow when she let out a grunt of surprise when she wound up pushing on his chest and nothing was happening.  People who knew him usually forgot that he was tall and built, it was probably because he was generally happy go lucky and joking around.


“Woman,” He growled down at her. “Get off of me.”


If he hadn't been so surprised over Evetta butting in, Taker might've been inclined to applaud John's sudden growth in balls.  As it was, he stormed back into the house, heading straight for the kitchen, AFTER telling Keira everything was fine and John was alright.  John was a lucky man having someone like Evetta to stop him from having a match gash like Evetta had.


“Don't growl at me you big stupid Neanderthal!  You completely ruined dinner and my chance at hard liquor, thanks asshole!” She stomped on his foot for good measure, hearing cuss words stream out of his mouth moments later, having worn her two inch steel toed boots before heading back to the two story house.  She would have to make dinner and miss out a feast with Juliana, having wanted to try making things right between her and John. “Damn it...”


John could actually envision himself punching this woman, and the only woman he had ever laid hands on in a violent manner was Cassandra.  He figured that did not count against him because Cassandra had been a psycho bitch who had tried to gouge his eyes out AND had been trying to kill Jules.  He let her storm on ahead of him, leaning against a tree and took several deep breaths, trying to ignore the pain in his foot.  He had ruined her chance for liquor...oh, the poor dear.


Juliana was busy finishing up dinner in the kitchen, setting the table, not caring if John and Evetta left.  John had pushed her too far and it was all because he was pissed off that he was stuck with Evetta.  He's the one who chose her on that website, he would suffer the damn consequences.  Juliana actually met the love of her life in person, even though he'd been originally hired as her bodyguard.  When Taker entered the kitchen, Juliana didn't look at him and held her hand up when he came toward her.


“I don't want to talk about it.  I want to eat dinner peacefully and quietly.” If he couldn't give her that, Juliana simply would be eating upstairs in their bedroom as she turned to set another dish on the table, tears stinging her eyes, quickly blinking them back.


He could see she was in no state to discuss what had happened.  To be honest, he was feeling drained from it, just from seeing the pain she was in.  All his anger seeped out of him and he stepped forward, waiting until she had put the dish down before turning her around and pulling her into his arms, burying his face in her hair.


Juliana couldn't help letting a few tears slip down her cheeks as she buried her face in his chest, inhaling his scent, trying hard to stay strong until after dinner.  Then she could take a bath and cry her heart out alone, though she had a feeling Taker would try joining her.  That wasn't a good idea because Juliana wasn't in the mood to have sex, make love, have a romp, whatever one wanted to call it.


“I'm okay.” She whispered, feeling his hands run up and down her back, trying to soothe her and Juliana appreciated it, simply standing there while he held her close.


Gently, Taker tilted her face up in order to wipe the tears away with the pads of his thumbs, his green eyes staring down at her intently, tenderness evident in them.


“Okay, can someone tell me what that was all about?” Keira demanded as she walked into the kitchen. “I tried to talk to Johnny and he just patted my head-” She scowled, beginning to find that gesture very annoying because everyone did it. “And told me to go eat.”


His daughter and her impeccable timing.


“Don't worry about it, angel.  Let's just eat.”


Juliana hadn't forgotten about her cake, popping it in the oven while she finished setting the table.  She would have to tell Taker about the argument and felt sick about it, her stomach churning at the thought of what he might say or even do.  She didn't want to think about it and sat down at the table, wiping the rest of her tears away and handed Keira a plate after Taker.  She let Keira make her own plate along with Taker, wishing the dinner hadn't been a total disaster.


Because her parents were obviously not in their right frames of mind, Keira loaded up on everything except the Brussels sprouts and asparagus, arching an eyebrow when she realized her Dad was piling them on his plate. “Uh, Daddy?” She cleared her throat to get his attention.


“Hmm?” He glanced down at her, having been staring at Juliana.


She pointed at his plate. “Don't you think you've grown enough?”




Juliana started laughing out of nowhere and it was actually joyful sounding, not able to help herself.  Sure enough, she looked over and Taker's plate was covered in sprouts and asparagus, causing her to laugh harder.  She stood up and took his plate away to help him with it, knowing he was very distracted, kissing his lips.


“I got it,” Juliana giggled against his lips and felt his arm wrap around her waist, reaching over to make him a proper plate of food.  She looked at the sprouts and asparagus and started laughing again, shaking her head before kissing him once more, pressing her forehead to his.


Keira was yet again confused, wondering what in the world was going on.  Adults were crazy, they never made sense.  When she grew up, she was NOT going to be crazy.  She was definitely not going to eat a bunch of nasty foods either.


His own mood picking up drastically, Taker began spooning Brussels sprouts on Keira's plate, his eyes twinkling wickedly. “Eat up, kiddo.”


She scooped it with her spoon and popped it in her mouth, making a face. “There, I ate one, no more!” She gagged, reaching for her glass of milk.


Laughing, Taker reached over to take Juliana's hand, bringing it to his mouth for a kiss.


“Not at the table!”


Juliana could remember back before Keira was born how her and Taker would eat at the table together with her in his lap.  They would feed each other and Juliana had several ideas about what she wanted to do with the apricot glaze.  Taker could be a complete gentleman like he was at that moment and it warmed her heart, the doubts temporarily killed.  She loaded her plate up, holding Taker's hand the entire time while eating with her free hand, knowing neither of them minded.  The ham was delicious along with everything else, Juliana finally feeling better about everything and nodded when Keira asked if she could be excused.


“I'm stuffed worse than a turkey on Thanksgiving.”


Juliana nodded, trying not to laugh at her pain-filled daughter's face.


“Good, let's cook you and see if you taste like a turkey on Thanksgiving.” Taker teased, watching her glance at the oven as if considering it. “I'm teasin', why don't you go wash your face, you got glaze all over your cheeks.” He waited until he heard water splashing in the bathroom before pushing his chair out and pulling Juliana onto his lap, chuckling when she laughed. “You got glaze on your lips, darlin'.” He murmured, bending down to kiss them. “Mmm.”


“So do you.” She murmured against his lips, stroking his face with her hand and pressed her forehead against his. 


Was he happy with her? 


Juliana always wondered that in the back of her mind, trying her best to make him as happy as she could without overdoing it.  So much love, tenderness and worry resided in his green eyes that it made her chest constrict painfully.  When he tapped her nose with his finger, she couldn't help smiling and fed him another bite of ham.


“That wasn't what I wanted, wench.” He growled playfully after chewing and swallowing, bending down to capture her lips again, smirking slightly as he pulled away. 


He could have spent all day and night just kissing her, minus the sex.  The sex was definitely a bonus, but he loved to kiss her.  Taker eyeballed all the food on the table and gently set her upright, standing up as well.


“Why don't you go draw yourself a hot bubble bath and I'll clean up down here and get Keira settled down for the night?” He suggested, brushing his knuckles down the side of her face.


“Are you sure?” She sighed gently when he pressed a finger against her lips, letting her know everything would be taken care of. “My cake, don't forget to take it out.  I don't want it to burn.” When he assured he had it all taken care of, Juliana couldn't help bringing his face down to hers, kissing him passionately and deeply. “Thank you.”


He kissed her forehead and Juliana reluctantly pulled away from him to walk upstairs, feeling exhausted after fighting with John.  She wondered if they'd ever be the same again now that she knew how he truly felt about everything.  John never did like Taker so why did this hurt Juliana so much to actually know John had doubts just like her?  Tears stung her eyes as she drew the bath she longed for and poured the bubble bath inside, trying not to start crying again.


Completely oblivious to the fact that his future wife was upstairs trying not to cry her heart out, Taker began putting away leftovers and straightening up the kitchen, not wanting Juliana to come down tomorrow and feel like she had fed a pack of hogs.  He even recruited Keira, knowing some responsibility wouldn't hurt her.  The girl didn't mind work; she just didn't like 'normal' work.  Like today, she had helped him with the security and loved it. 


She was an odd child. 


Then he got Keira around for bed, having her go take a bath.  Then, after she had dried off and dressed in her Princess PJs, Taker sat her down between his legs as he brushed out her hair, listening as she talked about whatever floated through her mind.  He hated the situation, but at the same time felt very blessed for his family.


After having a good cry alone, which is what Juliana needed more than anything, she finally washed her hair and body, feeling like a wrinkled prune.  She stepped out of the tub about an hour later and wrapped a towel around her body, staring in the mirror, seeing the crow’s feet beginning to form at the corners of her eyes.  She sighed gently and brushed her hair and teeth before changing into black cotton panties with a matching bra, slipping a blue nightgown on that went to her knees and had Alice on it from the new Alice In Wonderland movie.  She shut the light off and walked out, seeing Taker hadn't made it up to the bedroom again and ventured out to see where he was at.


Taker was laying on Keira's bed, his legs dangling off the edge of it, with Keira resting curled up next to him, her head resting on his arm.  His black hair had come undone, covering one shoulder and part of his face, his eyes closed.  On his chest was the book they had been reading: Charlotte's Web.


Making a little snort, Keira unconsciously reached down to pull her comforter up, snuggling back into his side.


Juliana's heart instantly melted at the sight before her, tears shining in her eyes and knew she couldn't wake them up.  Keira had missed her father being around and deserved to fall asleep against him.  She shut the light off and covered them up a little more before exiting the bedroom, heading back to the master suite.


‘I'm such a fool.’ She thought and slid into bed beneath the comforter, curling on her side and clutched his pillow, knowing Taker would probably sleep with their angel all night and she was fine with that.


Chapter 20


John was drinking.


Evetta's hard liquor had stuck with him and he had done a thorough search on the house.  When he had explored the basement, he hit pay dirt with tequila.  He had no clue what his 'wife' was doing, but he was sitting in the kitchen, wearing nothing but a pair of denim shorts with the bottle before him.  He hadn't even bothered with a glass, he didn't need one.  Keira had asked them over and he had totally screwed that one up. 


He was the one who didn't blow up, so what had he done?  He'd blown up.  Given how moody Juliana could be and psychotic Taker was, he figured he was the relatively stable one of the circle of adults.  But...that could have also been the tequila talking.


Evetta walked into the kitchen and could see through the darkness John had a bottle of liquor in front of him, drinking heavily.  She didn't say a single word and walked past him to get a glass of water, wearing just a baggy shirt with panties underneath, nothing fancy.  Her long brunette hair was damp from a shower and hung down her back, brushed. 


She wanted to ask John if he was enjoying himself, but refrained because they'd been through enough fighting for one evening.  He hated her and made that perfectly clear, which hurt Evetta, but she wasn't going to let it get her down.  So what if the man she was supposedly married to didn't like her?  There were plenty of other fish in the sea once she was out of this hell hole.


He didn't hate her. 


John hated the fact that she unnerved him in a way that thoroughly reminded him of Taker.  It was bad enough that he felt like half a man whenever Taker decided to show him up; he didn't need that from a woman he was attracted too!  That and he hadn't need said woman to screw with him and give him blue balls just because she apparently had a cruel streak.  All he had done was try to protect her and, like his relationship with Jules, he had totally messed it up.  Groaning, he let his head drop to the table with a loud thud.


“Damn it.”


She'd barely stepped out of the kitchen when she heard that thud, knowing John was very distraught over his fight with Juliana.  They were close, she could clearly see that and Evetta wanted to help.  She reluctantly walked back into the kitchen and watched as John took another swig from the Tequila bottle, sighing heavily.


“That's not going to help.” She said softly, padding over to stand right behind him, her hands resting on his shoulders as he set the bottle down harshly on the table. “I know we haven't exactly seen eye to eye since this whole ordeal, but we do live together and I want to help you, John.” She began massaging his shoulders, loving the fact he enjoyed walking around shirtless. “Just tell me what to do to make this easier for you.”


It was going to help, she had that so wrong.  It was going to make him pass out and then wake up with a hangover so hellacious, he wouldn't be able to even think about Juliana, or the fact that Keira had seen all that.  That's how it was going to help. 


He snorted at her 'tell me what to do to make this easier for you', wondering if she was about to play another round of 'let's tease the man' on him.  Though, he was relaxing under her massage, reaching for the bottle again and hesitated.  Grunting, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her around, dropping her down onto his lap.


“Have a drink.” He set the bottle in front of her.


She sat sideways on his lap and Evetta had to admit it was very comfortable, staring up into his glossy blue eyes.  She didn't say anything at first and simply took the bottle, taking a healthy swig of it and loved how the liquid burned down her throat.  She slid the bottle down the table enough to where he couldn't reach it, moving to straddle his lap, moving her hair to hang down her back again.


“I want to help you, John.  Let me help you, I promise you can have your way with me if that's what it's gonna take.” Evetta whispered and pulled back enough to remove her shirt, letting it fall beside them to the floor.  She was in a simple pair of tan panties and a black bra, never one to match her garments.


John simply stared at her through the darkness, feeling what she was doing and then watched as she let her shirt drop to the floor.  He was drunk, but not so far gone he wasn't affected by a beautiful, partially naked woman, on his lap.  It took a moment for her words to penetrate the haze that both tequila and lust had cast over his brain.


“You'll let me have my...way with you, if that's what it's gonna take.” He echoed, snorting and stood up, her legs going around his waist and gripped her tightly against him.  Somehow keeping his balance, John carried her to the living room and dropped her unceremoniously on the couch. “I realize I kidnapped you...but have I given the imp... impression-” He stumbled over his words. “That I'd take advantage?”


“No!  That's not what I meant, John!” Evetta was wording it all wrong and sat up on her knees in front of him, chewing her bottom lip thoughtfully.  He kidnapped her yes, but it was only to save her life, knowing she would've died had he not shown up when he did with Juliana. “I know you wouldn't take advantage of me, you're not that kind of guy.” She was trying to calm him down, slowly moving from the couch to stand up, his insane deep blue eyes piercing her. “I don't even know what I'm saying or doing anymore.” Grumbling, Evie knew this was hopeless and headed back to the kitchen to get her shirt.


John's chivalry ended right there.  He was a man who had been relatively lonely for quite some time and fueled with alcohol, though the adrenaline rush the anger had given him was lessening that.  Before Evetta could get even two steps away, he reached out and grabbed her wrist again and whirled her right back around, pulling her against his bare chest.  His arms firmly holding her in place, he bent down to kiss her starting out slow, methodic.  When he felt her body pressing against his, he deepened the kiss, once more lifting her up until her legs were back around his waist.


Evetta squealed out in both surprise and excitement when he lifted her, loving how strong he was and knew he could've given Taker a run for his money.  His arms were ridiculously huge and Evetta had to wonder briefly if he did steroids.  It didn't matter because the man could kiss, instantly returning it as her arms wrapped around his neck, burying her fingers in his soft brown hair.


“Thought you didn't want to take advantage?” Evetta couldn't help baiting him a little more, moaning when his lips caressed her neck and ears, gripping his shoulders as her nails gently dug into his broad muscular shoulders. “Mmm John...” He slowly began backtracking back to the bedroom and Evetta wasn't surprised they hadn't made it there, her back pressing against the wall, completely melting against John.


“If this is taking'd better stop me now.” He informed her huskily, feeling her hands gliding over his arms again, his muscles flexing automatically.


John was one hundred percent natural, helped by his love of working out and maintaining his body.  From the way she was groping him, he was assuming she was enjoying his years of hard work.  It took a lot of willpower to finally pull her away from the wall, not about to do this in the damn hallway.  The minute he had her on the bed though, all bets were off.


“Why on earth would I do that?  You're already half naked, but I'm wondering what kind of package you have...” Smirking, Evetta slid her hand down his chest to grope him through the baggy jean shorts, licking her lips. “Mmm you seem big enough to satisfy me...” Evetta commented, hearing his low growl in her ear and shivered from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. “Take me anyway you want, I can handle it.” She winked and felt her back collide with the soft bedding, her hands exploring his body everywhere she could possibly reach.  Reaching down as Evetta's nearly blackened eyes locked with smoky blue, her hand unsnapped his jean shorts and pushed them down expertly with her feet.


Evetta was sending his mind reeling; he had never heard a woman talk the way she did.  Surprisingly, it was turning him on all the more, if that were even possible.  Pushing himself off of her, he surveyed her.  She still wore the bra and panties.


“These, definitely have to go.” He stated in a low, husky voice, the look in her eyes setting his body on fire.


Watching as she hooked her hands in the waistband of her panties and slid them down an inch, John knew she was teasing him.  Shaking his head, he decided to help her along and did the honors himself, throwing them over his shoulder before caressing her calves.  Slowly inching his strong hands up her toned, beautiful legs, John couldn’t help loving the feel of her soft skin against his touch.


Not able to resist, Evetta giggled seductively as she sat up to unclasp her bra, pulling it off, letting it drop to the floor before pulling John on top of her.  For a man of his stature to go so long without female companionship, Evetta felt for him and wanted him to feel nothing but ecstasy between them.  Her nipples hardened as soon as his chest brushed against hers, parting her thighs willingly for him as he captured her lips in a heated kiss, sending both of their minds spiraling out of control.


“John...” She barely managed to moan his name out, arching her back as his lips trailed down her jaw line to her chest, paying special attention to each pert nipple, her fingers once again gripping his hair. “Mmm that feels so good, you're lighting me on fire, baby…”


He loved hearing that because honestly, all things considered, John had no idea if he was going to be able to last very long.  So the least he could do was make sure he got her off beforehand.  There was no hell on earth like a woman who's man came before her and didn't finish the job, even he knew that one.


“Good.” He chuckled huskily, trailing his kisses down her stomach, feeling her holding her breath in anticipation as he went lower and lower. “Let's see how hot you get...hmm?”


Her cries in sheer pleasure echoed off of the bedroom walls as Evetta rested her legs over his shoulders, his hands gripping her waist to pull her even closer to him.  The way he devoured her whole took her breath away.  Evetta could only grab the comforter below, not wanting to hurt him by ripping his hair out of his skull.


“John please!” She howled out pleadingly, wishing he would stop the torment as her body flooded with a newfound heat she'd never experienced before with a man. 


He definitely knew what he was doing in the bedroom as he began lapping at her juices that flowed from her very willing body, tasting every inch of her.  When he suckled on her swollen bud, Evetta nearly screamed out as another orgasm tore through her body, actually bolting upright on the bed before collapsing.  She coughed, trying to catch her breath, not knowing how much more she could withstand.


That was his cue to stop and let her get one breath in before taking it all away again.  Feeling fairly pleased with himself, John kissed his way up her trembling body, finally reaching her lips and kissed her, letting her taste herself on him.  He settled himself between her legs, resting his body against hers so they were pressed tightly together, but was mindful not to flat out crush her either.  Running his hands up her arms, he guided them above the pillows and held her wrists in one large hand, the other moving back down to draw her leg up over his hip, letting her feel just how ready for her he was.


Evetta whimpered, wanting to touch him while he took her, but John wasn't allowing it. “John please...” She gasped and shut her eyes, panting, not believing how incredible he felt sliding past her wet folds. “Please...oh fuck me!” Evetta squirmed beneath him, trying to press herself closer to him as their eyes locked.  When he snapped his hips forward and buried himself to the hilt inside of her, Evetta cried out in both pleasure and pain, his size stretching her to her absolute limit. “John!!”


He finally let go of her wrists, feeling her hands instantly sliding around his neck and then her nails on his back, knowing she was leaving marks but didn't honestly care.  If anything, it only added fuel to the flames as he gave her the briefest moment to adjust to him before setting the pace.  Their eyes locking, he moved back so he was in a kneeling, almost reclining position and pulled her with him.  She was astride him now, his incredible strength holding her up and moving her with him, bringing her down to meet each upwards thrust.


“You're so fuckin' tight, Evie...” He said through gritted teeth, feeling sweat beading over his body.


“Mmm you feel fuckin' incredible inside of me.” She moaned out, meeting him for every single thrust, not believing how explosive this bout was between them.  She didn't know if it was the Tequila or just the fact that they both hadn't had sex in a long time.  Evetta didn't care as she leaned her head back as John's mouth sealed to her chest, feeling his strength pulsating through every part of his rock hard body, her moans soon turning to cries. “Mmm fuck me John, fuck me as hard as you possibly can...I need it baby please...” She was begging and pleading with him, pulling away only to get on all fours in front of him, looking over her shoulder, shooting him those bedroom eyes again. “Take me, show me your power...”


Growling, he moved so he was kneeling behind her, gripping her hips with his hands hard enough to leave fingerprint shaped bruises and pulled her back against him. “Is this what you want, hmm?” John demanded, one hand leaving her in order to rub the head of his cock against her soaking wet slit, hissing softly when she wiggled against him, lightly slapping her ass. “Hmm, Evetta, do you want me to fuck you?” He teased her, sliding into her receptive body, only to pull back out and then do it all over again.



“YES!” She practically screamed out, her entire body trembling at how much he teased her, knowing in the process he was torturing himself. 


When he slammed inside of her after tormenting with his throbbing cock, Evetta dug her nails in the bedding as he began pounding her pussy into oblivion, once again meeting him for every thrust.  The velocity was so great that they ended up bouncing off of each other as the lethal sounds of flesh smacking flesh echoed off of the walls.  That sound mixed with their cries in the throes of passion was enough to send her flying over the edge as Evetta's walls began milking John for everything he was worth, cumming in waves.


Feeling her walls locking down on him in a vise grip, and then letting up only to happen all over again was enough to send John's already tentative control over the edge. “Evetta!” He rasped, pulling her back against him and held her still while he slammed into her, cumming in her almost violently. 


When it felt like his entire body was completely empty of fluids, he let her go, feeling her grinding slowly against him as the waves of pleasure slowly lessened from the almost terrifying intensity they had reached, running one hand gently down her spine.  Evetta couldn't hold herself up and collapsed stomach first on the bed, completely spent and satisfied by what just happened, trying to learn how to breathe again.  She felt John's hand run up and down her back, slowly forcing herself to turn around on her back and pulled him down to lay beside her.


“That was amazing...” She whispered, snuggling against his side as she nuzzled his neck with her nose and mouth, both of their heated bodies slowly calming down. “Do you feel better now?” She asked after a few minutes of silence between them, moving to hover halfway over him while he simply stared up at the ceiling, smiling tentatively.


John studied her thoughtfully, no longer drunk, not even buzzing.  He did have a pleasant high feeling, but i