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Monday, January 26, 2015


A month after and completely recovered from her illness, Carly was sitting in a wicker chair on the patio, Starr in her arms. 

The baby’s tiny pink lips sucked on her bottle and for the umpteenth time Carly marvelled over her precious daughter, more than grateful they both made it through their ordeal. She had no recollection of what happened the fateful day Melanie found her unconscious in bed and when she saw her stomach was flat her first reaction had been panic until Bo soothed her, assuring her their baby was alive and well.
‘Twinkle, twinkle little Starr; no baby’s more beautiful than you are,’ Carly said softly. During her pregnancy she’d worried about the baby’s health and though prepared well for either sex, had felt deep in her heart it was going to be a girl. And what a beautiful little girl she had, this time no one was going to snatch her away.
Carly was aware of the changes that went on during her coma. While she and Melanie had long made peace and forged a good relationship she couldn’t help noticing how her older daughter seemed to have evolved to a mature and more patient young woman; even more solicitous and devoted to her. Carly didn’t know how it came about, except maybe the fear of losing her but welcomed it and warmly gave her blessing to her and Brady when they asked for it; honouring the same request from Nicholas and Abby. Not only was she thrilled John and Isabella’s son was dating her daughter, she saw that Brady was far more dependable than Phillip and a great influence, he and Melanie were a perfect foil to each other.  Nicholas and Abby… they made a great couple.  Abby influenced Nicholas with her gentle strength and firmness when needed and he obviously loved and welcomed both from her. Right now, the Alamain mansion was under thorough renovation as he was going to remain in Salem, running the Alamain conglomerate from there. Abby understood there would be times he would have to make business trips but there would be trips to Europe with him as well. Frankie went back to D.C a few days after she was discharged from the hospital but they communicated often; Molly likewise. She missed them both, just like she missed Shawn Douglas whom she was ecstatic to see again after so many years, deeply touched by his firm  avowal that he never stopping loving her. He too left Salem but promised to come back with Belle and Claire to visit her.
Melanie was in the kitchen, fixing lunch. Brady had asked her to move into the loft with him but she was reluctant to leave Carly and Starr just yet; promising him she will give him an answer soon. Since Carly’s recovery, she waited on her hand and foot, ignoring Carly’s protests that she wasn’t an invalid and she, Melanie, was doing too much. As far as Melanie was concerned, it was the least she could do. The doorbell rang and she went to answer it. ‘Hi Caroline,’ she greeted, making way for the older woman to pass.
‘Hello dear. I brought this parcel for Starr, some baby things I knitted for her.’ Caroline gave it to her. ‘And I came by to see Carly too, is she upstairs in her room?’
‘No, she’s at the patio with the baby.’ Melanie told her where to go.
 For a few minutes Caroline Brady stood there watching Carly and Starr; wondering how she could get through to her. Since coming out of the coma Carly’s behaviour towards both families has been rather lukewarm. She wasn’t cold nor hostile towards them, instead rather guarded; as though she was afraid of getting rejected again if she got too close. It was worse with Bo. She was grateful he came back for her- told him as much- but showed no interest or willingness  to discuss anything that had to do with them. Her son’s frustration more than she could bear, Caroline decided to take matters into her hands. She walked forward and Carly raised her head in surprise, getting up from the cushioned wicker chair. ‘Caroline.’
‘No, no… don’t get up dear.’ Caroline kissed Carly on the cheek, smiling down at Starr who eyes were already getting heavy with sleep. ‘Hello darling.’
She looked up to see Carly was watching her warily and inwardly sighed. ‘Melanie let me in. I came over because I want to talk to you.’
Carly indicated a similar wicker opposite hers and Caroline sank into it. ‘What about?’
‘About the present situation. Carly…’ Caroline hesitated, hoping she’ll be able to do this properly. ‘It’s only natural for any person to feel some resentment and difficulty to be around the people who wronged them so much. I was especially unkind to you, you could barely look me in the eye at the hospital whenever I came to visit. I don’t blame you, dear; what happened should never had happened at all. We mishandled things, all of us.’
‘Caroline, we’ve been through this already.’ Carly replied quietly.  ‘Everyone’s been giving me apologises and I accepted them, I just want to forget everything that happened.’ Kayla was especially remorseful, begging her to return to the hospital, more than willing to step aside as Chief of Staff.
‘You want to forget yet you’re shutting us out, including Bo.’
At the mention of Bo, Carly’s face clouded. ‘I don’t know what you mean by that,’ she said stiffly. ‘We’ve been seeing each other, he’s been coming by to visit us both. And if it’s the matter of forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive.’ 
‘You’re actually saying there’s nothing to forgive, yet you won’t let him talk things out?’ Caroline asked.
‘I don’t know how I can make you understand,’ Carly’s eyes were now hard, tears pricking the corners. ‘I want to forget. What’s done is done; I don’t ever want to talk about it.’
‘You can’t heal if you don’t. Carly, I know where you’re coming from, I do understand. I know you’ve been hurt and I’m so sorry, we all are. So is my son. He wants to make amends, not cause more pain. Can’t you at least give him the chance to talk?’
‘What is the point of talking about it? Things can never be the same between us.’
‘If it’s closure you want instead,’ Caroline replied, although her heart sank, ‘then talk things out with Bo all the same. And please… don’t keep shutting us out. A lot happened while you were in a  coma, Carly. We realised what we did and we want you to be a part of the family again.’
Did you get Hope’s permission first? Carly couldn’t help thinking with cynical bitterness, which was unlike her. If it was hard being round the family, being with Bo was an ordeal. If he had reconciliation in mind, it was because Hope was with another man now and she’ll be damned before she was to be used as a fall-back again. The last time still stirred very unhappy memories. But Caroline was right. Their relationship had an unnatural ending, she definitely needed the closure. Hence her gruff reply, ‘I'll talk to him.’
Caroline prayed the long needed talk would prove fruitful for both of them.
Somehow or other Stefano DiMera had gotten word the ISA were closing in on him as he fled Salem without warning. But the ISA will catch up with him eventually and lock him away forever. His empire was finally on the rocks and Salem was at last free of him. Roman and Abe wanted him to return to the force but Bo was actually considering opening and running a private detective agency again. Being on the mission had brought back his P.I days with Isabella to mind and he wondered if he could be one again after so many years as a police detective; choosing his cases and applying his own methods of operation. It appealed to him far more than returning to Salem P.D and if he could get financial backing and hire at least two more detectives, he’ll be in business.
Bo thought more about it as he did some yard work and then thought about Carly. Whenever he tried bringing up a discussion about them, her face would cloud over and then she put up walls, shutting him out completely. It frustrated and upset him very much. He’d spent months missing her badly and planning how he would make it up to her but he needed to explain a lot of things to her too. And how will he be able to do that when she wouldn’t let him in? Angrily, he went into the house to wash his hands. Of course he wasn’t going to give up on her, no chance. This was a fight for love, a fight he was going to win, however long it took.
The doorbell rang just as he was getting a beer from the fridge and he went to answer, a smile of pleasure spreading across his face when he saw who it was. ‘Hi.’
Carly smiled back, albeit faintly. ‘Hi, Bo.’
Taking her arm, he led her into the house. When he offered to take her jacket, Carly handed it to him in silence. Her illness caused her to lose her voluptuous  figure leaving her thin but thanks to being able to eat properly again, her figure was now  more  attractively svelte. With her recently highlighted hair, she looked ten years younger.
‘I’m glad to see you,’ Bo said, moving near her. ‘What would you like, coffee?’
Carly shook her head resolutely. ‘I came over to talk, I think it’s time we cleared the air and resolve things.’
‘Oh,’ Bo was surprised she’s finally agreed to it. ‘Come sit then.’
Carly moved to the couch, discomfited when he sat next to her; a little too close. ‘So…’ she cleared her throat. ‘Where do you want to begin?’
‘For starters,’ Bo replied, ‘I understand why you didn’t tell me you were pregnant before I left town. But were you planning on leaving Salem again?’
Carly nodded and Bo sighed, looking down at his hands. ‘ It wasn’t just because we broke up; it was what happened afterwards, wasn’t it?’
‘What other reason is there, Bo? I might as well have been invisible with the way you went on as if nothing happened. Why on earth would I believe our baby would have a place in your life?’ Carly replied, doing her best to keep the old hurt and resentment she was feeling from her voice. ‘Yes, I wanted to leave. I wanted to give my baby and myself some relative peace and not allow her be branded “Bo Brady’s bastard”, born to “his whore.”’
‘For god sake, don’t call yourself that!’
‘Isn’t that what everyone saw me as? Whore. Home-wrecker. Trash.’ Carly went on bitterly. ‘I wasn’t going to subject my baby to any of that. The only reason why I didn’t go right away was because Melanie needed me. But if you really want to know the truth, I won’t be sitting here if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would’ve left after Starr’s birth. If you’d only been man enough to just admit you really wanted Hope back the whole time; I wouldn’t have felt so used, so angry, so betrayed… by you.’
She got up, unable to bear his proximity a second longer. Arms folded, she averted her face. He wanted to thrash things out so bad, well… she’s given him an opener.
Bo got up too, filled with pain at her words. ‘Princess,’ he replied quietly, moving closer to her, ‘Hope and I reconnecting was unexpected, it wasn’t what I wanted the whole time like you thought. It just happened. She’s my first love and we had so many years together. But it tore my heart out the day you walked out that door.’ He had wept, feeling so sad and sorry he’d forced her to break off their relationship, knowing despite her brave words she was really hurting inside.
He went on, ‘I asked you for a fresh start because it was what I really wanted with you. Falling back in love with you was inevitable, even though I kept telling myself a lot had changed since we last saw each other. We were so happy, you and I and Shawn D; how could I help it? But helping Hope brought back our own memories and even though I knew I loved you; I couldn’t deny my past with Hope. You said it yourself after you saw things had changed; that it was the right thing to do- Hope and I getting back together. Even though, I really wanted to take you home with me that day.’ ‘You told Hope I was a mistake.’
Carly turned round, arms still folded. ‘I overheard you at the docks. I saw you kissing her and pledging your love to her… the same spot you told me you loved me. Do you have any idea what it did to me, seeing that and hearing what you said about me? About what we had?’ her voice shook.
You weren’t the mistake, Carly. Promising you a future before really sorting things out with Hope was the mistake. All we did was fight instead of thrashing things out and reaching an agreement. Not you, never you. I came by the hospital that day because I had to see you; you wouldn’t return my calls, I couldn’t stop thinking about you  and I knew you well enough to know you were hurting even though you tried so hard to hide it.’
‘Yeah, you know me, stoical Carly.’ Carly whispered. ‘Just as you know some things get too hard to hide. What I heard that day almost killed me; I wanted to die.’
Bo stared at her, sheer grief and remorse on his face. ‘I’m so sorry you heard all that. And I want you to know right now, after I saw you I knew… I knew I still loved you... very much. That’s why...’
‘You began avoiding me and pretending what happened didn’t happen at all.’ Carly guessed correctly. ‘From then on, I didn’t exist.’
‘I felt it was the best thing to do. If I never saw you, I wouldn’t think of you and focus on Hope and Ciara.’ Bo admitted. ‘Part of me hoped you would move on... perhaps with Daniel but I just couldn’t stand the idea of you two getting together either. And... In the end, it was you I kept thinking about, all the time; wanting to hold you and protect you, love you.  But I couldn’t be around you.’
‘So... part of the reason you left was because of me.’
‘Mum needed medical attention and Stefano needed to be taken down finally. I also needed to think. I didn’t want you to be blamed for anything again; Carly. You have no idea how I felt when I got Mel’s message; the first thing on my mind was getting back to you and beg your forgiveness.’ Bo moved nearer, taking her hands in his; looking deep into her eyes. ‘I want you to forgive me. I want you to give me another chance. Let me spend the rest of my life making it up to you.’
Carly’s eyes filled with tears as she stared back, her mouth trembling. ‘I don’t have anything left to give.’ she said at last. ‘I… I don’t feel the same way you do.’
‘Carly, we love each other…’
‘Love isn’t always enough, Bo.’ Slowly, Carly drew her hands away from his grip. ‘I don’t have the courage to start things again. We share a daughter now; the last thing I want is for Starr to get caught in the middle of more drama. And to be honest, I can’t expose myself to more pain by being with you and keep wondering who you’re really thinking of.’
 ‘Why would you say that?’ Bo demanded.
‘Because Hope will always come first. You may keep denying it but that’s a fact; face it.’
‘She’s moved on with someone else, I thought you knew that.’
‘If she hadn’t, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.’
‘That’s not true!’  
‘Please Bo, let’s not do this. It seems you’ve always operated on the assumption that it’s okay to be with another woman if Hope makes it clear she doesn’t want you. I will not be used that way again.’
‘Things are completely different now!’ Bo protested. ‘ I told you while I was away, I had more than enough time to think and I realised it was you… you, that I wanted to be with and that was before I even got Melanie’s email. Please princess, I’m telling the truth,’ he cupped her face. ‘I love you,’ he said softly. ‘I want to be with you always, I want to marry you.’
Carly’s heart clenched at the word “marry” and more tears rolled down her cheeks. ‘Don’t…’
‘Marry me,’ Bo pulled her closer. ‘Let me spend the rest of my life making it up to you. Say you will, Carly!’
‘I  can’t…’ Carly sobbed, trying to disentangle herself from his grip.
‘Why?’ he demanded, keeping hold of her. ‘You can’t forgive me, is that it?’
‘This isn’t about forgiveness! This is about fear of getting hurt again! All those months of agony, imagine it, Bo! Before I found out I was pregnant, I went through hell; watching you so happy with Hope and thinking of the promises and plans we made! Melanie, Nicky and Daniel not speaking to me, being shunned left and right. Only Adrienne really tried to comfort me but it wasn’t easy watching her happy with Justin and feeling so alone, the odd one out.’ She finally broke loose, tears still pouring down her cheeks. Upset, Bo tried to take hold of her again but she turned away, sniffling. She  never planned on telling him her most shameful secret but it was something he would confess to her if he was nursing such a secret himself. ‘There came a point when things got so… dark that I…’ she gulped, ‘I decided to kill myself.’
‘No…no!’ Bo grasped her arm, turning her round to face him. His brown eyes were filled with shock at the idea of Carly taking her own life.
‘It’s true.’ Carly said quietly, chin raised. ‘I felt I had no reason to live, things were so terrible and dark I didn’t even think of my brother. Maybe I was so out of my mind and living in a void at the time that I imagined he would side against me too, God forgive me.’ She ran her fingers through her hair. Her “dark period”, when she thought no one loved or wanted her and wouldn’t miss her when she was gone. She’d wanted to leave all the pain behind forever.
‘But I ended up not doing it; I got a call from Daniel that Melanie  had suffered a miscarriage; divine intervention one would call it, I guess. I didn’t even know she was pregnant in the first place. Just when I felt I had a reason to live  after all- after she and I made up- I found out I was carrying your child.’ Pause. ‘I was shocked at first, then so happy about it but I didn’t know what to do. The first instinct was to leave and start over somewhere else but I couldn’t leave my daughter behind. So I stayed but kept reminding myself I couldn’t stay here for good. Then you left town without even saying goodbye. That just sealed my resolve to leave after the baby came. But night and day… I missed you so much!’ her voice broke.
It was more than he could bear. Bo pulled her back into his arms, stroking her hair as she sobbed. He knew the feeling of living in sheer darkness and wanting to end it all. But Carly had always  managed to withstand the trials in her life; from anyone else he would never believe she contemplated suicide. But even the strongest person reaches the much dreaded breaking point, he thought in anguish, pressing a kiss on her head.
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered as he held her tightly. ‘I’m so sorry princess, I honestly  never meant to hurt you,’ he felt his own tears creep from his eyes. ‘You went through so much, so much you didn’t deserve.’
Carly pulled away, wiping her eyes. ‘So much has happened, Bo. We can’t turn back the clock.’
‘We can’t but we can move on, together.’ Bo took her hand again. ‘Give us a chance, princess. I’m not asking for Starr’s sake but for the sake of the love we still have for each other. It’s still there, you and I both know it.’
Carly said nothing and he cupped her cheek. ‘Please Carly. You’re my life. I don’t want to be without you again. Never again.’
Carly knew she loved Bo too; excruciating, awe-inspiring love. She’d thought she was dreaming when she opened her eyes and saw the familiar piercing brown eyes looking down at her, his handsome face unshaven and deeply tanned from his travels. But for the sake of shielding her heart, she had to hold it back and not give in to her emotions. He was saying all this now but he could change his mind. Yet… looking deep into his eyes, she felt herself giving in. Abruptly, she pulled away from his touch.
‘I can’t think straight right now, Bo. It would be best if I left town for a while.’
‘I need some time to myself, to think and I can’t do that here.’
Bo shook his head, a scowl now on his face. ‘You’re not going anywhere.’
‘Listen Bo Brady, I don’t need your permission to do anything!’ Carly snapped.
‘I presume Starr’s going with you, isn’t she?’
Carly glared at him. ‘Yes, so?’
‘So I’m her father, I have rights which means you can’t take her out of town without my say so.’
Carly uttered an expletive in her native German, something in all the time he’d known her never heard her do, so it really startled him. ‘I can’t believe you’re taking this attitude with me. Of course you have rights, I’m not disputing that. It’s not like I’m taking her away permanently…’
‘That’s what I’m afraid of!’
Carly was now confused. ‘What?
Anger gone, Bo’s face was now wearing a look of fear and desperation. ‘I’m afraid you won’t come back. You could very easily walk out of my life; you just told you were going to leave if you hadn’t gotten sick.’ he took her hands again, his eyes pleading. ‘I’m not too proud to beg. If you want time and space to think, you’ve got it… I won’t bother you. But, at the risk of sounding selfish, don’t leave, please. I won’t be able to sleep nights if you and Starr are that far away.’
Stunned, Carly saw Bo was in earnest and strangely enough, couldn’t describe his request as selfish. The pleading look on his face was almost her undoing and for a minute she felt like succumbing by kissing him. With supreme effort, she pulled herself together.
‘Okay, I won’t go.’ She said at last.
Bo exhaled with relief. ‘Thank you. Take all the time you need princess, I’ll be waiting.’
Meanwhile, Caroline Brady left the bank, the item she retrieved from the safety deposit box in her purse. Initially she had long planned to leave it to Ciara in her will but due to the recent events, it was unconditionally going to a new owner. And once Bo explained the message behind the item that wary, guarded look on Carly’s face that still haunted Caroline will be gone for good.
The following afternoon, Carly and Melanie went for a walk. Pushing Starr in her stroller, Carly told Melanie about her visit with Bo, not leaving a word out.
‘I just don’t know, Mel. How do I know things will be different this time? Twice we tried and  then ended painfully.’
‘But you love him, Mum. It’s just a question of faith. And trust.’
‘I’m lacking both right now.’ 
Melanie said nothing until they got to the Horton Square, where they found a bench to sit on.  ‘You know...’  she began, ‘ while you were in the coma; I found out a lot of things about you. It made me understand you a lot better.’
Carly looked at her.
‘I understand Bo better now, too. Reconnecting with Hope but keeping you in his heart; he was torn in between. You let him go because you couldn’t stay with Bo knowing he wasn’t over Hope. Just like... just like you were torn between him and Lawrence all those years ago. Or rather, the James illusion he put up when you had the amnesia.’
Carly was stunned. How on earth did Melanie know about that? ‘How....’
‘It doesn’t matter how I found out about that, Mum.’ Melanie said forcibly, wanting to put her point across. ‘He let you go because he loved you. You let him go for the same reason. You’re both are so alike, Mum. You told yourselves you were right where you wanted to be and you made the right choice but, sometimes the right choice isn’t made without a lot of pain and regret involved.’ A tear rolled down her cheek. ‘I married Phillip knowing I wasn’t over Nathan. And I took it out on him... I was nasty to him half the time, I couldn’t be around him and I kept telling myself I did the right thing but I was only lying to myself. And when Nathan came over to propose after I lost the baby, I sent him away. His love and loyalty just reminded me how much I ruined my life by choosing Phillip over him in the first place. I told him to forget all about me.’
Melanie took her mother’s hand, squeezing it. ‘People fall out of love and go their separate ways. But there aren’t many couples lucky enough to find each other again. You and Bo... you’re more in love than ever. He hurt you and you’re scared of trusting him again, I get it. But don’t hold your love back and  don’t throw his away.’ Her daughter’s eyes were pleading. ‘You have the right to finally be happy  with the man you love. Forget the past and move on. Please Mum, don’t throw away this chance  of a happy ending. Just think about it.’
And that was Carly did do for the next several weeks, aside from tending to  Starr, working in the garden and exchanging  emails with her brother, Molly, Shawn Douglas and Kimberly who was told of Starr’s birth and visited with Nicholas.  Part of her longed to run to Bo and tell him she was willing to give their love yet another change, the other part reminded her remained very frightened and wary. As Bo was intent on fulfilling his promise of giving her time and space, Melanie always took Starr over to his house to visit.
There came a letter from the hospital board. They wanted her back; offering to up her salary if she wanted. Being an heiress Carly wasn’t interested in a large salary and she wasn’t keen on going back to work just yet despite Kayla and Daniel’s  prodding; wanting to take care of her baby girl full time. She was bombarded by visitors; aside from Caroline Maggie came often accompanied by Julie. Jennifer too came and slowly Carly found herself warming up to her best friend, seeing how Jennifer was obviously anxious to be close to her again.
Victor made no move to get in touch with her and Carly let him be. If he wanted to hate her and probably her child until the day he died, that was his choice; the last thing she did was lose sleep over it. But Maggie was upset with him over it, which led to another fight. This time Maggie didn’t procrastinate; before evening she’d moved her things to the Horton house and Victor was far too proud to go after her.
Pushing the door to The Cheating Heart open, Carly entered the familiar, bustling bar, glad she gave in to Melanie and Nicholas’ urging. Some couples were already dancing to the music coming from the jukebox. She soon spotted Melanie and Abby, watching Nicholas challenging Brady in a game of darts and from the  incensed  scowl on Brady’s face, Nicholas was beating him squarely. Daniel, John, Rafe Hernandez and Roman were playing pool, pausing their game to greet her warmly.  
‘Where’s Starr?’ John asked.
‘At Caroline’s.’ Carly waved at the children who cheerily waved back.
‘Hi Carly! Good to see you out for once,’ called Jennifer who was seated at the bar with Marlena and Adrienne. ‘Join us.’
‘Yeah, come on,’ Adrienne beckoned.
John put a hand on Carly’s arm when she was about to join the women. ‘At the risk of butting my nose where it isn’t wanted,’ he said, ‘please take a chance at happiness while you still can, Carly. I’m not saying this just because Bo’s my brother and friend but because you deserve to be happy.’
‘Thanks for the concern, John. It means a lot to me.’ Carly replied. Turning to Roman and Rafe she asked, ‘So… how does it feel having Bo back in Salem P.D?’
Rafe made a face. ‘I wouldn’t say he’s back exactly.’
‘What do you mean? He’s going off on another mission?’ Carly asked, feeling her heart sinking at the thought.
‘God no.’ Roman replied. ‘He wants to be a P.I again and open an agency,  didn’t he tell you? After years of being a cop and making Commissioner; he’s taking several steps back and going private.’
Daniel looked intrigued. ‘So Bo was once a P.I? I can easily imagine  that.’ He chuckled. 
Carly raised her eyebrows at Roman’s criticism of his brother. ‘Why shouldn’t he be if that’s what he wants? And what made him decide to leave Salem P.D in the first place?’
‘Something about being fed up with the bureaucracy and all that.’ Roman snorted, a look of disapproval on his rugged face. ‘I know Bo’s real reason, he’s done with the rules of authority.’
Carly couldn’t help smiling. ‘As I recall Rom, you weren’t exactly thrilled the day he told you he wanted to  join the force. You thought he was too much of a hothead and a total non-conformist. I was the one who had to cope with his sulks at the boat.’
‘Yep, that sounds like Bo all right.’ Daniel laughed, Rafe laughing as well.
‘Leave him be, Roman; you can’t change his mind when he’s bent on something.’ John said. ‘You and I both know that he would rather work his way.’
‘Whatever.’ Still put out by his brother’s decision, Roman resumed his game.
‘He’s really having a hard time with this, isn’t he?’
Rafe shrugged, twirling the cue stick in his hand. ‘He just thought things will be back to normal when Bo came back. Not in your case of course,’ he added hastily.
‘Thank God for small mercies,’ was Carly’s acerbic reply.
‘Hey,’ Daniel put an arm round her shoulders. ‘Seen Bo lately?’
Carly shook her head.
‘What’s going on with you two so far?’
‘It’s complicated and I really don’t want to talk about it. Excuse me, guys.’
‘Remember what I said, Carly.’ John reminded.
Nodding, Carly joined the women at the bar. About to order a beer, she suddenly changed her mind. ‘A glass of white Zinfandel,’ she said to one of the  bartenders.
 ‘If I didn’t know any better I would think you’ve been avoiding us.’ Marlena commented, sipping on her own drink. ‘This is the first time in ages  everyone’s actually seen you in public.’
‘I have a baby to take care of,’ Carly replied defensively. And I needed time to think.
‘That’s motherhood for you,’ Adrienne said, ‘You think of nothing except tending to the baby; separation even for a minute is hard.’
‘Take it from a woman who had two of her children taken away from her, I’m loving every minute of motherhood,’ Carly took a sip of the drink handed to her. ‘I almost changed my mind about coming here when I dropped off Starr at Caroline’s but then I thought, screw it… I deserve a few social hours.’
‘Hear, hear…’ Jennifer raised her glass, smiling at her.
‘Is everything okay now… between you and Bo?’ Adrienne asked tentatively.
‘Yeah, we’ve been wondering about that.’ Marlena said.
Carly shrugged, reluctant to discuss it with them either.
‘Come on Carly this is us,’ Adrienne urged.
‘Please…’ Carly begged. ‘it’s hard enough as it is! It’s between Bo and me so I would rather you all just let things be, thank you.’
Marlena patted her arm soothingly. ‘If you need to talk, in a more formal capacity, just let me know.’
As she spoke Hope entered, her arm tucked into Aiden’s. She stopped short on seeing Carly from across the room, Carly and the others staring back at her. The young couples were still absorbed in their game, while the men playing pool didn’t notice.  Whispering a few words to Aiden who looked rather astonished, they left abruptly.
‘Well, at least we know how your cousin still feels about me,’ Carly said to Jennifer, her tone bitter.
‘It’s not what you think,’ Jennifer placated. Wincing at  the look of scorn on Carly and Marlena’s  faces and the sound of  Adrienne’s derisive snort, Jennifer added quickly. ‘It’s really not what you think Carly; I swear. Hope’s moved on and she really feels sorry for what happened… it’s just that she has trouble facing you right now. She told me this herself. What you saw just now was  guilty conscience, not animosity.’
‘I find that hard to believe.’ Carly said coldly.
‘It’s true.’ Jennifer persisted. ‘I know she came across to you as a bad person but she’s really not. She just made some selfish mistakes and was unfair to you, she’s realised that now. And if it’s because of her you don’t want to be with Bo again, you’ll be making a mistake. He loves you very much.’
‘And they’ll always be connected, that’s what you told to me.’
‘I had no right to say that and I’m sorry.’ Jennifer replied, touching her arm. ‘And yeah, they will be but not in the way I implied back then. Things have changed and he knows what he wants now. And everyone now knows that happiness and love comes first, not what they want. Please Carly, it’s not just Bo who deserve another chance, it’s both families. Julie and Maggie feel you’re still being  kind of distant with them and they really want to be close again.’
Carly felt rather ashamed as Jennifer was right. ‘I didn’t  mean to be.’
‘Of course you don’t mean to be, it’s only natural you want to be on your guard after everything.’ Marlena said in her defence.
‘But don’t let the past keep haunting you,’ Adrienne added. ‘Remember what I told you once, Time eventually heals wounds.’
Carly was touched at the sisterly counsel she was receiving from all sides. During the “dark period” it was only Adrienne who really cared and understood how she felt, now she had the warm happy feeling of being fully back in the former circle.  ‘Thanks.’ She smiled.
‘Hi Mum!’ Melanie appeared, pressing a kiss on her cheek.
‘How’s the game going?’
‘Well, so far it’s Nicholas 6, Brady 2 and if things go on like this they’ll be coming to blows next.’ Melanie wrinkled her nose. ‘Some of the guys here are already placing bets.’ The women looked over and sure enough a small crowd was gathered at the corner where the dart game was going on.
‘Oh, I want in on that,’ Scrambling off her bar stool, Adrienne hurried over to the throng, followed by Marlena and a giggling Jennifer. Rafe and Daniel were there already, putting down five bucks on Nicholas.
Melanie sat on a stool next to her mother. ‘You okay?’
Carly nodded, signalling the bartender to  pour her another glass of wine.
‘But you look preoccupied.’
‘I have a lot on my mind, honey.’ Carly replied. ‘Mostly, thinking over what you said at the square. And everyone’s pretty much told me to give Bo another chance. I love him… I can’t deny that. Letting go of my fear and all that hurt is just real hard to do.’
‘I know,’ Melanie said sympathetically. ‘I told you that day it’s a matter of faith and trust that Bo will never hurt you again. You’re a different woman from Hope, Mum. You love him enough not to keep him in limbo like she did before she,’ air quoting with her fingers, ‘came to her senses. And I believe Bo knows deep in his heart you won’t do that to him. It’s not a matter of him being so sure of himself but of that bond which kept you connected all these years is still there.’
Once again, given the stark truth, thought Carly.
‘Remember, you’re paying.’ Kayla said as she and Bo entered the bar.
‘The first two drinks, after that you’re on your own,’ Bo reminded.
‘Look who’s finally made an appearance,’ John paused to shake Bo’s hand and kiss Kayla on the cheek.
Roman only glared at Bo and continued with his game. ‘Still sore about my decision I take it?’ Bo asked John.
‘Pretty much.’ John lowered his voice. ‘If he knew I offered to  be your silent partner, he’ll slit my throat for sure. Give him time, he’ll come round. By the way, your lady’s here.’
Turning to where John was pointing, Bo saw Carly seated beside Melanie and talking to Kayla. She looked lovely in black jeans and a red cowl neck  sweater; her hair fashionably tousled. Kayla said something to her and she turned to meet his eyes, vivid green eyes locking with piercing brown ones. She looked very beautiful and Bo could feel the flames of desire running through him.  As promised he’d kept away but it hadn’t been easy at all. But the end will justify the waiting. He knew exactly what he wanted; her heart, her mind, her trust… and her body.
‘Our cue to melt away,’ Melanie murmured to Kayla, grabbing her beer and Brady’s club soda as Bo approached them. Kayla managed to scramble off her stool and follow Melanie without spilling her martini.
‘Hi,’ he said softly, inhaling her crisp but utterly feminine perfume.
‘Hi, Bo.’ Was Carly’s equally soft reply. Black jeans, black shirt, he looked beyond handsome. And the beard was still there, he hadn’t shaven it back  to the goatee. But then again she had always preferred the rugged sailor look. She’d loved everything about him… until he betrayed her.
He loves you.
Things are completely different now.
Take a chance at happiness while you can.
 You love him enough not to keep him in limbo like she did.
‘I miss you, you know that right?’
‘I know. And… I miss you too. I’m sorry for doing this to you...’
‘You’ve got nothing to apologise for,’ Bo chided, interrupting her. ‘And I’m giving you the time that you need because I love you. Remember that.’
He went  back to Roman and John at the pool table.
‘Why aren’t you over there with her?’ John asked in surprise.
‘Giving her some space,’ Bo replied, taking up a cue stick to play.
‘Are you kidding?’
‘It’s what she wants and considering what I did, it’s the least I could do.’
‘Sure, when the woman I love almost died, it’s best I take things slow!’ Roman retorted, looking up.
Bo glared at him. ‘Lay off me, will you? It’s nobody’s business anyway.’
‘Hey Bo, we’re just saying… you’ve given her enough space. Don’t you think you should do something else instead, like making some kind of gesture to show her how you feel? You love her and want to respect her wishes but it’s time you took the bull by the horns.  Show her, fight for her.’ John urged.
Bo looked at Carly’s direction. Make a gesture… what could he do to show her just  how sincere he was? He proposed and she said no. But John was right… he should show her. But how?
The idea came to him when someone put money in the jukebox and The Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody  filled the air. Some of the men led their girlfriends to the dance floor, Brady and Nicholas following suite. Putting down the cue stick, Bo strode over to the bar. ‘Princess.’ Looking deep into Carly’s eyes, Bo held out his hand to her. ‘May I have this dance?’
Carly stared up at him. The love he had for her was in those beautiful brown eyes, so deep felt and crystal clear that she found herself unable to hide behind her walls any longer. Taking his outstretched hand, she followed him to the floor.
Dancing with Brady, Melanie saw them and grinned. ‘Nick, Abby… look.’
‘Well, it’s about time!’ Nicholas exclaimed.
‘I just knew she wouldn’t keep him waiting  any longer,’ Abby smiled, very pleased at Bo and Carly’s progress.
Anger gone, Roman joined John in indulgently watching the couple; Marlena, Kayla, Adrienne, Daniel and Jennifer  happily watching too. It was more than obvious to any stranger how much the man and woman dancing loved each other, raw emotion on their faces.
Bo moved in time to the music with Carly in his arms, savouring the close contact of her soft and pliant body with his. For Carly, she felt she was finally back where she belonged.  Her arms round his neck, she breathed in his tangy aftershave, unable to stop looking into his eyes. Succumbing to the mood, she reached up to stroke his lower lip with her fingers. Breathing hard a little, Bo’s hands moved down her lower back, pressing her harder against him as he lowered his head to kiss the side of her neck.
‘I swear if people weren’t here, they would be doing it right now,’ Roman said.
‘Exactly,’ John agreed.
Okay… too intense, too intense,’ Nicholas looked the other way while Abby giggled at his sudden prissiness.
Carly trembled with sheer longing as Bo’s lips moved across her sensitive skin, aware of how deeply he loved and desired her, yet was holding himself in check, or at least trying to. ‘I love you, sailor,’ she whispered, feeling the tears creeping from her eyes.
Raising his head, she saw he was crying too. Not trusting himself to speak surrounded by other people, he grabbed her hand, leading her outside.
‘Love you too princess,’ he choked, holding her face between his palms. ‘I wish what I did to you never happened, it’s haunted me for a very long time...’
Carly shook her head firmly, reaching up to hold his face. ‘Neither of us will ever think of that time again. We can’t turn back the clock but we can move on…’ more tears, ‘ make new memories and be together for the rest of our lives. I love you sailor! I love you… and I forgive you!
Their lips were about to meet at last when the unbelievable happened. Bo and Carly found themselves wet from rain drops pouring down on them from the sky. Neither of them had even noticed it was drizzling when they hurried out of the bar. Watching them from the windows, Melanie and the others couldn’t keep themselves from laughing at the lousy timing and the stupefied looks on Bo and Carly’s faces as the rain drenched them.
After the first shock, Carly started laughing heartily, not caring what the rain was doing to her Ann Taylor sweater. ‘Did a higher  being  suddenly decide we needed cooling off?’ she gasped as Bo, who was also laughing pulled her back into his arms, pressing kisses on her wet face.
‘Maybe the heavens are just happy we’re together again,’ he smiled down at her. ‘And that’s how we’re going to stay. Forever.’
Forever,’ Carly repeated, pulling his head down. The rain was cold but their kiss was fiery, deep and eager; leaving them both breathless, clinging to each other as they kissed and kissed some more.  
All right, Bo!’ Melanie yelled joyfully, joining the others in their exuberant applause, whistles and cheers for the reunited couple.

By the time they got to Carly’s house, the rain was pouring down in buckets. Carly found her key and let him and herself in,  shivering in her soaked clothes as they went up the stairs to her room and found the dimmer switch. Sneezing, Bo turned on the heat. ‘We look like a couple of drowned rats,’ he joked as she walked up to him.
‘Uh huh…’ she smiled, slipping her arms round his waist. Bo kissed her again, his hands moving under her wet sweater. Their eyes met, both remembering their kiss in the rain of long ago. If he hadn’t been very ill at the time he would’ve carried her into the cabin and made love to her all night long.
‘We better get out of these wet clothes before we catch our death of cold.’ She murmured, blushing under his heated stare, leading him into the adjoining bathroom.
‘Allow me,’ Bo pulled at her sweater and she raised her arms so he could pull it over her head. Carly helped him with his shirt, pressing kisses on his hair matted chest. Growling, Bo lifted her face to deeply kiss her again, fingers finding her bra clasp and kneaded her breasts after getting the damp garment off.
Leaving their clothes in the bathroom, they went back into the room, feeling warmer. Carly glanced at Bo, feeling shy all of a sudden as she clutched the towel against her chest, her need for him so much she could barely stand.
He felt the  same. ‘Come here,’ Bo whispered, pulling her hard against him. She closed her eyes as his lips moved down her neck, his beard sensually grazing her skin before moving up for another heated kiss, his fingers moving over her body.
‘Bo….’she whispered. ‘Turn out the light.’ She didn’t want him to see the ugly scar from Starr’s caesarean birth.
‘I want to see you, all of you,’ he whispered back. ‘Don’t hide from me, princess.’ As he spoke he peeled the towel off her, both towels hitting the floor. Pushing the quilt on the bed aside, he scooped her into his arms and lowered her onto the warm sheets.
Carly ran her hands over Bo’s muscular back; loving his weight on her and the sensual feel of his hairy chest on her breasts. Kissing the sweetness of her mouth, Bo moved to the side of her neck then lower; taking a hardened peak into the hot cavern of his mouth, savouring her cry of pleasure before giving the other his attention.
Carly parted her thighs when she felt his hand slide between them, his fingers stroking the tender flesh, the burning ache inside her by degrees and leaving her trembling with the excruciating need to be joined with him.

‘I can’t be gentle, princess.’ Bo rasped against her lips as he moved her thighs further apart to receive him. ‘I’ve wanted you for so long.’ With one swift thrust he was inside her, kissing her fiercely as she wrapped her legs round his hips, her fingers digging into his shoulders. ‘Oh darling…’ Carly gasped as she felt him move powerfully, hotly and fiercely reclaiming her, taking her with him deeper and deeper in the vortex, eagerly giving herself to him; her passion matching his in their primitive mating. Then suddenly, their mutual climaxes shot through them like lightening. Gasping her name Bo grabbed her hand, tightly entwining his fingers with hers as they succumbed to white-hot pleasure, their bodies quivering with the aftershocks of their wild, untamed loving. 

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