"You've only known the man a short time, Jennifer ... are you sure you want to marry him?"
"Mom, I'm sure. He's the one ... the only one for me. Please, no more lectures ... let's just plan the wedding, okay? Please?"
Jennifer looked over at her father, she could tell by the look on his face that he wasn't a happy man. She knew that she would always be daddy's little girl, just as she also knew that her decision to marry was just so perfectly right.
Daddy just has to understand that his little girl can take care of herself, but it is so much nicer with a man around. And if that man is one Jonathan Hart...well so much the better.
"Jennifer, I don't see why you can't wait a few months before you get married. At least let us meet him first." Stephen yelled across the room.
" Well, of course you will meet him. He is coming over for dinner tonight...And Pa be nice...I really do LOVE him and he is the right choice for me."
Stephen was not happy but he would pass judgement on the man after he meets him.
Jonathan was not any more eager about the dinner than Stephen was. Oh there was no doubt that Jennifer Edwards was the woman he waited a lifetime for...the woman he would marry. That's not what made him nervous or fearful. It was her father.
"Max! Max where are you?"
"I'm right here Mr. H. What's the problem?"
"The problem? the problem is Max that I am going to meet Jennifer's parents tonight. For the FIRST time!"
Max smirked at his longtime friend and employer. Here was THE Jonathan Hart, a man wo had single handeedly built his own empire and yet was so nervous that his words couldn't keep up with his thoughts! 'Yes, this time Joanthan has found the one,' Max thought.
"Mr. H, you have to relax already. You're marrying a great lady and I am sure she didn't get that way by accident. Why would you even think that meeting her parents would be anything but good?"
Jonathan runs his hand through his hair and paces nervously. "Max I am marrying their daughter on a whirlwind romance. And no matter how old Jennifer is, she is still her father's daughter. Father's don't like men like me. I wish Jennifer would meet me so I wouldn't have to arrive alone."
"That's funny Mr. H and this isn't high school. What do you think Miss Edwards' father would think if she had to go and pick you up?"
Jonathan's thoughts drifted to Jennifer. His nerves back in tact, he couldn't wait to see her in the flesh. His fears quickly returned as Mr.Edwards had somehow managed to appear in his daydream.
"Max! I need a drink...make it a double...then I need to call Jennifer!"
"Miss Edwards, it's for you" said Walter after answering the ringing telephone. "Mr Hart."
A huge grin spread across Jennifers face as she walked over to take the call.
"Maybe he's got cold feet," muttered Stephen under his breath. Unfortunately it wasn't quite quiet enough and the comment earned him a 'don't even go there' look from his daughter.
"Hi darling," she said taking the phone from Walter. She wished she was staying with him at the hotel, but between them they'd decided that wasn't the greatest idea. It was going to be hard enough to get her parents to accept this marriage without alienating them further.
"Hi sweetheart. I miss you. I just needed to hear your voice before tonight. How are things?"
Jonathan question was met with a guarded 'fine'.
"That good eh. Listen just remember how much I love you and we'll get through this okay."
"Okay I'll see you later. I love you too."
Stephen tutted across the room. "You've known this man less than a week. How can you be in love? I don't think this is a good idea Jennifer. I want you to reconsider, I really don't know if I can give you away if I feel like this."
Tears welled up in Jennifers eyes as she left the room before saying something she knew she'd later regret.
Jennifer! Come back here!" But she kept going, unwilling to let him see how his unreasonable attitude had upset her. Stephen had seen the tears well up and knew he had been pushing his luck. His daughter was so very much like him, fiercely independent and more than a little stubborn. He could see that he had pushed her to the limits of her patience and regretted the situation had to come to that but someone needed to shake her up enough so she would think with her brain and not her heart. The very idea of his level headed, intelligent daughter marrying someone she had known for so short a time was unthinkable. Why, the man could be any sort of cad. In her current state Jennifer was in no condition to judge his character. Somehow he would have to make her see the dangerous position she was placing herself in.
Yes, Jennifer was angry with him and if he was any judge of life around the Edwards home it wouldn't be long until he was also in hot water with Suzanne. Drat them both! Couldn't they see that he only wanted his little girl to have the best life possible? And that running off to marry this total stranger was not the best way to insure that happiness. Being a father was not easy sometimes. It broke his heart to have his precious daughter upset and angry with him but if it came down to breaking his heart or hers, he knew which one he would gladly choose. The moment she had shared the news about being engaged he had contacted an investigator to check out this Jonathan Hart. They would soon know what kind of man they were dealing with. Obviously he was a smooth operator, sweeping Jennifer off her feet that way, but he wouldn't find Stephen Edwards so easy to charm. Stephen looked out on the terrace to check on his daughter. She was still there and he could tell by her stiff posture she was still angry. Sighing heavily he gently touched the window and sent her his love, wishing he could make her understand that he was only doing this because he loved her more than words could express.
Jennifer was fuming. How could he do this? Why was he being so stubborn? I am an adult and I have a little bit of sense! Surely he can't think I haven't considered my options. Jonathan wasn't like the other men she had dated. He was right for her and she WOULD marry him even if she had to find someone else to "give her away."
That thought almost brought her to tears again. A wedding without her parents there to share her joy? It was unthinkable. She just had to trust that their love of her and Jonathan's charm and integrity would join in some strange alchemy to sooth their worries and let them share the happiness she had found. She knew that their reaction was due to shock and surprise . After all, sometimes she was still surprised at herself. She also knew that they were worried for her future but they didn't know Jonathan. When they met him they would see that he was perfect for her.
The tension in the house was thick enough to cut with a knife. She had to do something to ease the stress before Jonathan arrived. Her parents wouldn't be able to give him a fair chance if they met him in anger as well as shock. She reined in her pride and turned to go find her father. As she turned to go back inside she saw him looking at her through the study window with such love and concern on his face that her anger melted away.
He was still standing at the window when she reached his study. "Dad?" she said quietly? He turned and she broke across the room to gather him in a big hug. "I'm sorry Daddy. I know you're just trying to look out for me and take care of me. Sometimes I don't make that easy, do I." She laughed and let him go. Pulling him over to the sofa she motioned for him to sit and then sat next to him. "I do come by my stubborn streak naturally, you know." She paused, waiting for him to give the traditional response, "Yes, from your mother!" He said it and they shared a nostalgic smile.
"Seriously Dad, I know that I have made some choices in the past that haven't pleased you but this time it is different. I am "using my head" like you always tell to do. Is it so wrong a thing that this time my heart and head are in such total agreement?" Before he could get going with his response she stopped him. "I'll make you a deal. I want very much for you and Mother to be comfortable and happy about this. I will listen to all your objections and concerns and I will give them serious consideration. Tomorrow. What I'm asking in return is that you give Jonathan a fair chance. Meet him tonight as if he is a nice man and someone you might want to know instead of someone who is out to hurt your little girl. OK? That's not to much to ask, is it?"
"I'm sorry, Jennifer ... I don't intend to hurt your feelings or doubt your ability to make sensible, solid choices. But, after Elliott ..." No words could explain how much he detested Elliot. He knew he'd promised, after the Elliott episode, that they would never discuss it again. How could he keep that promise when the detective he'd hired to check out this Jonathan Hart learned that Elliott and Jonathan were 'associates.' If this Hart guy had any similarity to Elliott, even ONE, he would NOT let this wedding happen . . .
"Oh Dad, how could you?" The tears that had been threatening since she'd arrived home began to fall as she calmly pulled her hands out of his, stood and quietly left the room.
Suzanne had been keeping a discreet ear on her "children" as they discussed matters. Stephen and Jennifer had a long tradition of verbal battles. They could rail and shout at each other all day long and come up smiling but when they went quiet things got serious and feelings got hurt. When she couldn't hear them anymore she came to see what they were up to. That was when Jennifer walked by her with tears on her face. "Jenny? Baby, what happened?"
"Mama, Jonathan is a good man. He's not anything at all like Elliott and if Dad doesn't think anymore of my intelligence than to think I'd make THAT mistake again, well, maybe he's right and I should go find someone else to give me away!" Suzanne gasped at that. She hadn't realized matters had deteriorated so far. She knew that it would just about kill her husband if Jennifer got married without them there. "I guess we should have eloped. I came home because I wanted you to share my joy and happiness and all we've done is fight" She looked so unhappy that Suzanne wanted to cry herself.
"Hum, Mrs Edwards, Miss Jennifer..."
"Yes Walter ?!" Asked the two women. Suzanne's voice was nearly inaudible. On the contrary, Jennifer was nearly yelling. "Mr. Jonathan Hart is here, waiting in the living room," answered Walter a bit confused by what was going on since a few days.
Oh God, she was shouting so loud that she didn't even hear the door bell. Jennifer felt a knot in her stomach. "Well now, are you going to welcome Jonathan or not ?" Jennifer was talking to her mother, but she knew Stephen was listening. And finally he slammed the room's door.
"Is that my father's answer to my happiness ? Ok mama, I know what I have to do now."
Then she ran downstairs where Jonathan was waiting, leaving her mother speechless, torn between a stubborn husband and a daughter in love.
Jonathan, stood in the foyer anxoiously waiting to see Jennifer and in nervous anticipation of meeting Stephen and Suzanne Edwards. What happened, next was something he never expected. Jennifer came storming down the stairs, and in one motion, pulled him out of the foyer and right out the front door.
"What is going on?" he asked in shocked disbelief. "We're leaving" Jennifer said half sobbing and half angry. After being pulled about 20 yards out the front door, Jonathan, stopped in his tracks, forcing Jennifer to stop with him. "Jennifer, what is wrong?" "Well it seems that my parents think you are another Elliott Manning".
Jonathan stood there puzzled. Tears welled in Jennifer's eyes, as she stood there shaking. Jonathan put his arms around her and held her close, and suddenly nothing that happened inside that house mattered to Jennifer. She knew there would be no one else in her life except Jonathan, whether or not her parents accepted him.
"Jennifer why is Elliot Manning even coming into this conversation?" Jonathan asked puzzled. "Oh, Jonathan, he did something so terrible to me, my parents don't seem to trust any man, especially someone who had dealings with Elliot." "Do you want to tell me what happened?" Jonathan asked. "Not really, Jennifer answered, but I will because I know I can tell you anything. Jennifer linked her hand with Jonathan's walked away from the house as she began to tell him about her relationship with Elliott Manning.
"He did what!" said Jonathan stunned at what Jennifer had just told him. Anger boiled up inside him to think that one human being could do that to another, but to do it to Jennifer, the woman he loved with all his heart. Jonathan dropped Jennifers' hand and ran his fingers through his hair trying to take it all in.
Jennifer wasn't sure if she'd said too much too soon. She trusted Jonathan implicitly and knew in her heart their relationship could take anything that had happened in the past, after all that's what it was the past, before they'd known each other.
"It wasn't my fault you know," she said in almost a whisper.
"Oh god Jennifer," said Jonathan turning to her and taking hold of the tops of her arms. He looked directly into her still watery eyes "I know, truely I know. I just wish there was something I could say or do to take it all away."
"Time is a great healer you know and having you here with me now is all I can ask."
Jonathan pulled her into his arms and held her tightly to him. "I'll always be here for you, whatever," he whispered into her ear. Jennifer sighed and relaxed in to Jonathans warm comforting body, resting her head against a shoulder. She felt relief at telling him everthing, as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Jonathan pulled back and placed a soft kiss on her lips.
"I can understand why your parents are so wary though, we just have to convince them I'm nothing like Elliot."
"After what's been said tonight I don't care what they think," said jennifer remembering her earlier conversations.
"Jennifer, I know that's just your anger talking. You love and respect your parents. They only want the best for you, and I really do think we should go back up to the house so I can meet them, but if you want to go that's fine. It's your call."
She smiled him. "Oh Jonathan, why is it that this is the only place in the world that I find myself acting like a 13 year old spoiled brat? I should have known you would do just the right thing when you got here. They just threw me a curve bringing all that up again. They promised they wouldn't mention him anymore. I've made great progress putting it in the past and forgetting him all together. "
Jonathan wondered about that, since she'd gotten so upset about having to think about the creep but it didn't matter. She was his now and from now on he would be there to sooth her fears and keep jerks like Manning as far away from her as possible. She was the greatest treasure life could offer him and he intended to guard her well. Right now, he was concerned about her relationship with her parents.
Having grown up without a family he couldn't bear the thought of Jennifer losing hers this way, especially over him. All the way back to the states she had regaled him with stories about her parents. He could tell that she loved them very much. All her tales about growing up in a loving family made him hope that by joining Jennifer's life to his he would be able to experience a little of that kind of love as well.
"Now that I'm here to defend myself do you think you are up to storming the castle and getting it over with? We'll have to do it someday. The sooner they realize that they are stuck with me as a son-in-law, the sooner they'll start getting over it." He laughed at her indignant sputtering response to his little joke.
"I hate to admit it but I am almost afraid to go back into the house. Dad and I both said too many things in anger this afternoon. What if we can't get beyond that?" she worried.
"Jennifer, Sweetheart, if he loves you anywhere near as much as I do he will forgive you anything. Besides, we can't stand out here all night and if we leave it would be like admitting we have something to hide."
Jonathan's stomach grumbled loudly and they both were startled into giggles. "Are you trying to tell me something?" "Yes," he replied, "I was so nervous about this dinner that I didn't manage to eat anything all day!"
"Oh dear! I was so busy arguing this afternoon I don't even know if anything was done about dinner! Shall we go see?" She hugged him again and smiled as he tightened his embrace. She felt so safe and secure in his arms. He really was the most wonderful man in the world. Her guardian angel must have been with her in that bar at the Ritz. A pretty strange place for an angel, admittedly. She was just glad hers had nudged her in the right direction
Meanwhile, back in the house ...
"Don't you start in too..." Stephan took a long drink from his glass.
"Start what?" Suzanne said quite innocently. "You and Jennifer seem to have started and finished all on your own."
"God da..." Stephen pounded his fist to keep from swearing in front of his wife. While he didn't mind showing anger, some how swearing in anger showed a level of being out of control. And one thing about Stephen Edwards, he was always in control...or almost always. "He's worked with Manning," he stated simply when he'd reined in anger.
"Guilty by association I suppose."
He hated how she did that. How could she be so calm and reasonable? "Sounds like you are on her side."
"There are no sides Stephen, don't you see?" Suzanne went to her husband, placing her hands on his shoulders. "She doesn't need or want our permission. She wants our blessing but she will marry him with or without us. What kind of parents would we be if weren't at our only child's wedding?"
"I can't agree to this."
Suzanne looked into his eyes, holding their gaze. "I think she's moving too fast too. But Jennifer is smart and strong. It was she who broke away from Manning... all by herself." Suzanne looked thoughtfully at her husband. "I think we owe it to her to at least meet this man before we pass judgement. I meand the rest of the world seems to like him if the press is any indication ... perhaps we could too."
"I don't want to," Stephan grumbled feeling his resolve wane.
"Then I will have your dinner sent to you here in the study. I am going down to meet the man who swept my daughter off her feet."She waited and when he didn't respond she turned to leave. She opened the door to find Jonathan Hart getting ready to knock.
"Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, I'm Jonathan Hart."
Jennifer stood close behind Jonathan wanting him to know she was there for him. Whatever was or wasn't said over these next few minutes or hours, it didn't matter, she was his forever and no one was going to come between them.
Suzanne smiled graciously, ever the hostess. She knew her daughter thought she was in love, but this was still going to be difficult. She could at least give them the benefit of the doubt though.
"How do you do," she said holding out her hand. "I'm pleased to meet you."
Jennifer knew her mother well, and politeness would always intervene in any awkward situation. She looked over at her father who hadn't moved since Jonathan had introduced himself. Suzanne seeing the look on Jennifers face decided to force the issue. "Won't you please come in."
She opened the door fully so the couple could enter.
"Stephen, aren't you going to welcome our guest"
Walter suddenly appeared ... "Mr. Edwards, there's an important phone call for you?" Judging from Stephen's expression Suzanne thought it must have been quite a relief to him to NOT have to welcome their guest.
"Thank you, Walter. I'll take it in my office."
Suzanne apologized to Jonathan for the interruption of Stephen's phone call and they chatted amicably anticipating Stephen joining them. As suddenly as he had disappeared, Stephen reappeared, suitcase in hand.
"Where this time, Stephen?" asked Suzanne with an annoyed sigh.
"South America ..." replied Stephen as he walked out the door with little more than a nod toward Jonathan, no hug for Jennifer, and no kiss for Suzanne.
As the three of them exchanged rather dumbfounded glances, the front door re-opened and Stephen re-entered. Stephen shook Jonathan's hand and sternly said, "Sorry I have to go ... We WILL talk when I get back." He kissed his wife and took Jennifer in his arms. "I'm sorry about this Jennifer, but I really do have to go." With that he left ...
"Is there some emergency?" asked a rather befuddled Jonathan. "He can't dislike me that much ... can he?"
Suzanne assured him that this wasn't unusual. Stephen always had a bag packed. Jennifer explained, "My father's an art dealer. When the estate of an art collector becomes available, anywhere in the world, he's there ...
Jonathan had known many art dealers and Stephen's urgency to leave seemed a little odd to him. Jonathan was sure it had more to do with him than with art. "He really dislikes me," Jonathan thought.
Despite the departure of Stephen ... or maybe BECAUSE of his absence ... the evening went quite well. When Jonathn left, Suzanne was delighted to inform her daughter that she enjoyed Jonathan's company. "Although I'd still prefer you wait a few months before you marry him, Jennifer, I think he's the man for you.
Jennifer awoke that night with a taping on her window. Getting up she opened the window to find Jonathan tossing pebbles up to get her attention.
She smiled. "Hello Romeo."
Jonathan smiled back up. "Can you sneak out, Juliette?"
Feeling a bit like a school girl, Jennifer grinned. "I'll be right down." Jennifer slipped on some shoes and threw on her robe. Tip toeing through the house she met Jonathan on the front porch. "Couldn't sleep?"
Jennifer noticed the crease in his forehead. "Somethings bothering you. You have that look."
"You know, that look that something isn't right."
Jonathan took her hand and began to walk. "I've never known an art dealer to leave like that."
"You've never known my father. He's always done that." Jennifer stopped an looked at Jonathan. "You think he used this as an excuse so he didn't have to meet you don't you?"
"It has occured to me."
Jennifer slipped her arms around his neck. "He's stubborn but he loves me. When he sees how I am with you, how completely happy I am, he'll come around."
"Promise?" Jonathan wasn't so sure but with Jennifer in his arms, it was hard to not to feel reassured.
"Promise." Jennifer sealed it with a kiss, slow and deep. "So," she said when she pulled away. "Is that the only reason you came by Romeo?"
Jonathan smiled sheepishly. "I admit I wanted to steal another kiss."
"Just a kiss?" Jennifer asked pressing her body to his.
"I don't want to be greedy," he replied knowing his body was already begging for more, so much more.
"It's okay, be greedy." Jennifer took his hand and led him to the stables.
"The proverbial roll in the hay?" he asked.
Jennifer smiled ferally, "There's a blanket in the tack room."
He took her into his arms. "I never realized how adventurous you were."
"I hope you don't mind ... I enjoy a good adventure."
"Mind? I'm thrilled." Grabbing the blanket from the tack room he returned and swept her into her arms. As they settled on the blanket, wrapped in each others arms, Jennifer placed her hands on Jonathan's cheeks and turned him to look at her.
"I love you Jonathan, so much. My parents are understandably concerned. It is afterall very quick. But there is no doubt in my mind that we are meant to be and they will see that."
Jonathan smiled. "I won't disappoint you or them. There will be no doubt in their minds as to my love for you."
Their lips met, tongues danced, and bodies pressed together until sated, they slept.
Jennifer could hear her name being called. Waking she found her self in Jonathan's arms. Then it hit her, they were naked in the stable as her mother seemed to be calling her as she headed towards the stable.
She punched Jonathan lightly to wake him up, but he seemed in no hurry to move. "Jonathan!! Darling, please!! - get your clothes on." Jennifer pleaded.
The look on Jonathan's face was priceless as the situation suddenly dawned on him. He grabbed his clothes and threw them on. He had just finished putting his shoes on when Suzanne walked in.
"Jennifer?" She called. "Oh there you are. I should have known you'd be down here."
Very carefully standing on the other side of the room from Jennifer, Jonathan cleared his throat to let Suzanne know he was there.
"Jonathan! You're certainly up early after that late evening we had. I 'm surprised you two aren't still in bed. I thought I'd have to drag Jennifer out for a morning ride and here you all are ahead of me. Jennifer, are you alright?"
Jennifer had broken out in a coughing fit that left her red and breathless. Jonathan came over to help her and Suzanne was surprised to see he was red faced as well.
"You two are both flushed. I hope you aren't coming down with something." She felt Jennifer's forehead and brushed some stray hay from her hair. "Good heavens Darling, I haven't seen you covered with this much hay since you were little girl. Whatever have you been doing?"
Jennifer started to answer and stopped to take a closer look at the twinkle in her mother's eye and the look of studied innocense on her face and knew they'd been had.
"You said a morning ride, Mother? What a wonderful idea. We'd love too wouldn't we, dear?"
"Well sounds great to me." said Jonathan with a mischeivous glance at her.
The three of them headed back to the house for more appropriated clothes. The sun was warm, this was the perfect morning for a ride with Jonathan thought Jennifer. She wanted to show him where she spent her childhood, all the places and people she loved. Maybe she could take advantage of her father's trip. She would have enough time to introduce Jonathan around here and show everyone how nice he was, then let those same people speak very highly of Jonathan to Stephen ! Yes she could do that. But then Walter rushed on the front porch, waving Suzanne to hurry.
"Mrs Edwards! Mrs Edwards! On the phone, for you, Scotland Yard !" Once in the hall, Suzanne picked up the phone.
"Mrs Edwards speaking."
Jennifer, Jonathan and Walter were standing next to her very worried about what the call could be about. It was a one-way conversation, Suzanne nodded but remained silent, finally she put slowly the phone down.
"What's happening mom? Who was on the phone?" asked Jennifer very concerned.
"Stephen, I, I mean your dad..."
"What? Something's happened to him? Where is he? Mom, please tell us!"
"The man on the phone said he was from Scotland Yard. Stephen left the house without telling where he was going, now I know. He was in London."
"Why do you say was in London? He's no longer in London?"
"No darling, he's not, he's dead" and Suzanne dissolved into tears.
"That CAN'T be true, mom. He did tell you where he was going. He said South America," retorted Jennifer with conviction.
"She right, Mrs. Edwards. I know he said South America. There must be some mistake," agreed Jonathan.
"Yes, He did. He did say South America, didn't he. The gallery he is working for. Was working for? ... was. Oh God. Jennifer, what am I going to do?" Tears overwhelmed her once more and she collapsed into Jennifer's arms. Even though Jennifer was believed that this was some mistake she was having a hard time convincing her heart. Sharing her mother's pain and facing her own fears at the thought of a life in which she could no longer be "Daddy Girl" brought tears to her eyes as well. Catching Jonathan's eye over her mother's shoulder she drew strength from his gaze.
Jonathan went out to tell Walter what had happened. The trusted retainer was shaken but was determined to do what he could to ease this time for the ladies. Then he called Max to come to the house to help out.
When he went back into living room. Both women had calmed down so he gently asked, "Mrs. Edwards, do you think you can tell us what the man from Scotland Yard said?"
"I think so. The gallery he was working for is based in London. He went there first to be briefed and plan strategy or something. I don't know what. Anyway, after that meeting he boarded a plane for Argentina. That's where the estate jewelry he was supposed be buying is located. In Viedma, Argentina."
"The Inspector said that the plane landed in the middle of a guerilla attack on the airport. According to the military contact there the passengers were made to get out of the plane and then, then they were simply lined up and shot. There were no survivors."
She sat staring at her hands, tears softly flowing down her cheeks. "I'm afraid I stopped listening then. You might be able to find out more if you call them back." Panic filled her eyes once more. "I'm sorry but I didn't get his name. I don't know who to tell you to ask for."
"That's OK Mama. Jonathan will figure it out." Her confidence and trust in him, especially at a time like this, warmed him like hot cocoa on a cold winter night.
At Scotland Yard Inspector was glad to speak with Jonathan. He had been afraid that Mrs. Edwards had not taken in all of the information he had for her.
The Yard was involved because even though the incident had occurred on Argentinian soil and Mr Edwards had been an American citizen, the plane had been British and Mr. Edwards' business visa had been issued to a British firm. While there had been no physical identification possible it was known that Mr. Edwards had boarded the airplane and all persons aboard were killed. Unfortunately it would be almost impossible to claim and return his body to his due to the heat and the circumstances the bodies were buried as soon as possible. Included in the indentification cards recovered from the bodies was the passport of Stephen Edwards of Hill Haven, Maryland, USA.
"Thank you for the information Inspector" Jonathan said.
"You might wish to contact you State Department. They may be able to tell you more."
"Yes, I'll do that."
Jonathan moved over and sat next to Jennifer and picked up her hand. "Well, I'm afraid it doesn't look too good. The airline knows he boarded the plane and everyone on it was killed. They have eye witness testimony, and his identification papers. Apparently he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The leftist rebels were assaulting the city and the airport. The pilots had no choice but to land because of engine failure and a torn fuel line. The Inspector suggested we contact the State Department to see about getting his personal papers back and to ask about recovering his body but he didn't seem to think that part would be possible due to the conditions. I'm sorry."
Suzanne broke into tears again and Jennifer wasn't far behind. When she stopped to think that so much of her last day with her father had been spent in bitter arguments it ripped her heart to pieces. She wished so much just for one more chance to say "I'm sorry" and "I love you."
Jennifer was closest so she picked it up.
"Jennifer! Let me speak to your mother!"
"Daddy!" She dropped the phone. Suzanne dove after it.
"Stephen is that you? Where are you? Are you OK?"
"Yes, my love, it's me. I'm all right. It appears that the reports of my death are exaggerated. Or at least premature."
"There was an attack on the plane but the leader thought I looked like a rich man and decided to hold me for ransom. The army just finished chasing the terrorists down and after the battle they saved me." "Stephen this has taken years off my life. When will you be home?"
"As soon as they let me out of this hospital I am getting on an airplane."
"Hospital! I thought you said you were OK?"
Now, dear, I am just fine. It's just a little bullet hole."
"Now Suzanne, I must hang up now, doctor's orders. I'll be home before you know it."
"We'll be here waiting for you, all of us."
I can fly him home," Jonathan said when Susanne got off the phone.
"What?" Susanne asked.
"I have a plane and trusted contacts in South America. I can arrange for him to fly home."
"Oh, that is so kind of you Jonathan but I couldn't impose."
"Its no imposition. Besides you are practically family." He grinned.
Jennifer looked to him and smiled. God she loved him.
"Well, I would feel better if he was home," Susanne admitted.
"Let me make some calls."
By the next evening, Stephan was home resting in his own bed. His wife was doting on him which he found annoying and yet comforting as well. Even more annoying was that Jonathan Hart arranged for his return. How could he hate him now? It certainly wasn't something Elliot Manning would have done. And damn, he'd never seen Jennifer look so happy. Nor had he ever seen anyone look at her the way Jonathan did.
It was late at night. While Jonathan was now staying at the Edwards home, he was in a different room from Jennifer. Somehow it was even worse that he was in the same house as opposed to a hotel miles away. He wondered if he could get her out to the stable again. He heard a creaking in the hallway. Getting up he saw Jennifer tiptoeing downstairs.
"Not meeting another Romeo are you?" He asked when he found Jennifer in the kitchen.
"Oh, Jonathan you scared me. I thought you were sleeping."
"Its been difficult."
"Isn't your bed comfortable?"
"No bed is comfortable without you in it with me."
Jennifer smiled. "I know how you feel."
Since it was late, Jonathan felt it was safe to go to her. He pulled her into his arms. "I have wanted to hold you all evening but, I didn't want to push my luck."
"My father likes you," Jennifer said knowing Jonathan's luck was tied to her father.
"And it annoys the hell out of him."
Jennifer laughed. "Yeah, well my father isn't here now."
"No he isn't." Jonathan took advantage, capturing her lips with his. Using his tongue he traced her lips, teasing her mouth open to accept his kiss more fully.
Jennifer gave into him. Her hands fisted in his hair, her body pressed into his, and with a slight wiggle turned up the heat between them.
Jonathan lips trailed kisses down her neck. He pushed the strap of her nightgown aside as his lips continued their journey onto her shoulder.
Jennifer sighed, savoring the feel of his lips against her skin. Her hand reached into his shirt, caressing his skin. She thrilled at his sharp intake of breath as her hand grated across his nipple.
"Jennifer," he whispered. "I won't be able to stop..." God help him, if they didn't stop, he'd make love to her in his future in-laws kitchen.
"Don't, oh don't stop."
His lips traced her collarbone and headed down, caressing the swell of her breast. His hand tugged her gown further, revealing the pink puckered nippled aching for his touch.
All time froze. Jonathan knew he blocked Jennifer from being exposed however, his position and the flush of her face left no doubt as to what was going on. Slowly he raised his head. Holding Jennifer's gaze he pulled her nightgown back up.
Jennifer bit her lower lip and smiled tentatively. "Pa?"
Stephen fixed his daughter with a penetrating gaze. "What exactly is going on here?"
Jennifer tried to remain calm. "Nothing, we were...hungry!" The next few moments seemed like an eternity as Jonathan and Jennifer awaited Stephen's response. However, instead of the expected explosion, he mearly turned and retraced his steps, watched by his astonished daughter and her equally astonished fiancee.
Stephen pulled back the sheets and climbed into bed. "That man is a sex maniac!"
Suzanne fought to remain straight faced. "Who are we discussing, cherie?"
Stephen folded his arms across his chest. "Jonathan Hart! I just caught him trying to ravish our daughter in the kitchen! I wouldn't mind, but she wasn't exactly trying to fight him off!"
Suzanne giggled. "They're in love and relationships move a lot faster these days. After all, it is the 1970s!"
Jonathan and Jennifer seemed to be unusually interested in the contents of their plates at breakfast. Neither could meet Stephen's angry gaze and the idea of talking to him seemed slighly less appealling than stripping naked and running across Tower Bridge. It was Suzanne who broke the silence and unintentionally made the situation worse.
"Did you two sleep well last night?"
Colour rushed to Jennifer's cheeks and Jonathan longed for the floor to open up and swallow him.
"We...er...I...slept very well thankyou, Mrs Edwards!"
Stephan drained his cup of coffee. "I didn't realise the kitchen table was so comfortable!" he observed drily.
"Tsk, Stephen!" said Suzanne with a twinkle in her eyes. "How could you forget?"
He looked at her, then he stared at the table as a slow blush spread across his face. "Well, yes, I suppose I di....Suzanne! That is not the point!"
She smiled broadly. "Jonathan, Jennifer, I'll have the Blue Room made up for you. I think you'll find it much more agreeable than your present rooms.
Stephen almost choked on the croissant he was eating. "But that's a double room!"
"Exactly! Jonathan and Jennifer obviously want to be together and it seems silly to try to pretend that they aren't having a physical relationship!"
Stephen winced. He'd just been given far more information than he wanted to know.
After a day of somewhat strained conviviality (at least on Stephen's part), everyone retired to bed.
As promised, the Blue Room had been prepared for Jonathan and Jennifer. Vases of flowers had been placed strategically around the room and the top sheet of the large four poster bed had been neatly turned down. As he slid between the soft sheets, Jonathan noticed with considerable amusement that a basket filled with an assortment of condoms had been thoughtfully placed on the bedside table.
Stephen was trying to read a glossy auction catalogue, but his mind was elsewhere...next door to be precise. It felt odd knowing that his daughter was in the next room with her fiance, sharing a bed (and goodness knew what else) with him.
Jonathan had intended to go straight to sleep, but Jennifer wasn't going to let this priceless opportunity go to waste. "Darling, we have the biggest double bed in the house and enough condoms to stock a drug store! I think we should avail ouselves of the facilities!"
Jonathan grinned wickedly. "Since you put it like that, how can I possibly refuse?" He rolled over on top of her, pinning her to the bed.
Giggling, she ran her fingernails down his back and gave his rear end a playful slap.
"Ooh, you're all heart, Mr Hart!"
Stephen glanced up from his auction catalogue when he heard the sound of creaking bedsprings. He tried to ignore it, but the sound grew quicker and louder, punctuated by occasional moans and gasps.
Suzanne leaned across to switch off her bedside lamp. "Cherie, I think we should get some sleep!"
Stephen tossed the auction catalogue across the room. "How can you possibly sleep, knowing that our daughter is being ravished in the next room?"
Suzanne smiled serenely. "Don't worry, cherie, I'm sure Jonathan's using a condom!"
"Ahhhhh!" Stephen bolted upright.
"What is it darling?" Susanne asked concerned about his health.
Stephen looked around in the darkness and strained his ears listening for what, Suzanne didn't know. "I had a nightmare," he said getting out of bed.
"Oh, about the ordeal in South America?"
"Worse," he said putting on his robe. "Jonathan was .... sleeping with Jennifer in our house."
Suzanne could barely hide the smile particularly since she knew they had used the barn instead.
"Don't smirk at me like that," he snapped.
"Yes dear. Where are you going?"
"Downstairs for a drink of water."
Suzanne shrugged and went back to sleep.
Creeping down the stairs, the home was quiet. But as he reached the landing he could hear muffled sounds. "Oh, no," he thought to himself. He headed towards the kitchen but then realized the sound was coming from the living room. Tentatively, he snuck closer.
"I brought you something," Jonathan was saying to Jennifer.
"You did," Jennifer grinned up at Jonathan. She sat between his legs as he leaned against the couch. Jonathan had built a fire and Jennifer poured wine for a cozy interlude for two.
"I indended to give it to you earlier but there didn't seem to be any time." With that Jonathan produced a magnificent diamond ring.
"Jonathan," Jennifer gasped. She looked at him in awe.
"I should have had it when I proposed but there wasn't time then either. And I suppose a part of me was afraid you'd say 'no'."
Jennifer looked into the ring: Two Harts Entwined Forever.
"Jonathan...." she didn't know what to say the moment had so totally overwhelmed her.
"I love you," he said as he took the ring and slipped it on her finger. "I've always loved you ... was always waiting for you Jennifer." He placed his palm on her cheek, using his thumb to wipe away a tear. "I don't have the knack for words like you do. I'm not sure the words exist that could adequately express my feelings for you."
"I love you," she whispered.
Jonathan leaned forward and sealed their bond with a kiss so tender and sweet, Jennifer felt as if her heart would burst from the love that filled her.
Stephen watched a moment longer before retreating back up the stairs. There was no denying that Jonathan loved and charished his daughter. He was grateful that she found someone to love as deeply as she desearved. Still... he didn't have to let Jonathan know he approved just yet...
Next morning, after another breakfast of shy blushes and glowering looks, Jonathan approached his future father-in-law.
"Mr. Edwards, I think it's time we had a talk, privately." Stephen gave a look, nodded in agreement and led the way to his study.
"Sir, I know you are having some problems giving Jennifer and I your blessing to marry. That blessing is very important to Jennifer and therefore to me. Let's take this time to see if we can't iron out any misunderstandings. I want you to be as comfortable with this union as possible. You should know that I intend to make her my wife. Nothing and no one on this earth can stop that but because I love the daughter you raised, I would like to deal with any issues that could stop us from respecting each other. These past few days I've seen the kind of family life that I always wished I'd had. I don't want to do anything to disrupt that."
"All right, let's start with that. How does your family feel about your marrying so precipitously? Surely they must have some doubts as well."
"Mr. Edwards, i thought you knew. The only family I have is Max. My mother and father were killed when I was merely an infant. I was brought up in an San Fransisco orphanage, for many years, and then I met Max. You see Mr. Edwards, Jennifer is all I've got. She's beautiful, caring, and kind. Do you think that I would ever hurt her? I'm in love, Mr. Edwards, and so is your daughter. We have found love in each other, and nothing will ever change how we feel about each other. What I have seen over the time I have been here, is love and affection between you and your family. It is something I have never known, until now. The people who I have lived with for most of my life, have never shown any feelings towards me. However, Max has shown me how to live. How to love someone, and the person I love is Jennifer. Mr. Edwards . . ."
Jonathan is quickly interrupted by Mr. Edwards. "Please, call me Stephen. It's less formal"
"OK . . . Stephen. . . I have been getting the impression that you don't like me, and don't want to accept me as a member of you family. I would never give up Jennifer, not even for all the money in the world. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
"Jennifer thinks the world of you. She worships the ground you walk on, so please, for her sake, do the one thing she asks you. Say the one thing she wants to hear. Tell her you approve. Just one sentance can make her so happy, and deep down I know you want what is best for her.
Give her the one thing she really wants, happiness."
"Everyone needs to be loved Stephen, and believe me, I can offer Jennifer that all day every day."
Stephen is ready with a quick response, "I'm sure you can."
Jonathan replies with a laugh, "Not in that sense Stephen."
"I know Jonathan"
Jonathan finishes off what he has to say. "Stephen, I think that for all our sakes, we should agree, because it looks as if we are going to know eachother for a long time yet, and the least we can do, is approve of each other. I saw Jennifer when she thought you had died. She was so hurt. She felt so bad to think that her last words with you could have been cross ones. So I ask you. Son't let your daughter down when she needs you most. Give us your blessing, and make me the happiest man on the face of this Earth"
Stephen sits for a few minutes; Jonathan's heart leaping waiting for a response. "Well Jonathan, you obviously are in love. After hearing your side of everything, I can now look at you in a different way.
"You are nothing like Elliot, and judging by how much you love my daughter, you will protect her and love her until the day you die. Jonathan, I approve of you marrying my Jennifer. I would be proud to call you my son-in-law"
Meanwhile, Jennifer is standing outside the door, tears streaming down her face. She had been overwhelmed having heard Jonathans words. She thought to herself that she had found the one.
She wanted to get married to Jonathan Hart, and her father approved. It was the happiest day of her entire life. Jennifer walked into the room. She walked over to Jonathan and kissed him on the lips. She walked over to her father and kissed him on the cheek.
"The two men in my life, friends at last."