Chapter Eight

A week later, on a cold December day, Frank and Callie pulled up to the home of Eliza and Robert Newbern. Eva was home spending a wonderful afternoon and night with Callie's parents. Callie and Frank were spending the night at the Walnut Creek Bed and Breakfast. Frank had requested the same room again.

Eliza and Robert's home was situated five miles outside of Walnut Creek. A big, red barn loomed beyond the house. Snow covered fields lay to the west and a fenced meadow lay to the east. Eliza had told Callie that she and Robert were farmers. It was how they made their living. They sold eggs, milk, cheese, and butter, as well as homemade pies and bread.

"Please, call me Eliza," she had insisted on the phone. "I don't go by Elizabeth. Haven't in fifteen years."

As Frank turned off the engine, Callie pondered the questions she had for Eliza and Robert Newbern. Truthfully, Callie was still amazed at how easily Eliza had agreed to this meeting.

"I've waited fifteen years for this day," Eliza had explained. "I'm not sure if I'm ready for it, but I know it's time. It's time for people to hear my story. I read the article you wrote, Ms. Shaw, and I realized that people haven't forgotten me. Apparently, I'm something of a legend in Walnut Creek. And now, there's a ghost showing up in town pretending to be me. Well, it's time for the truth to come out and, just so you know, I'm not a ghost."

Callie had laughed. "Well, I didn't think you were. A ghost. The ghost is probably teenagers putting on a show at night – you know, to try and scare people. Oh, and by the way, I'm married. My married name is Hardy. I write under my maiden name Shaw." It was a small quirk that Callie possessed. Her writing career – however great it might one day be – would be done under her maiden name.

So, here they were, Callie and Frank, walking to the front door of Eliza and Robert Newbern's house. The door opened as Callie and Frank ascended the porch steps. Callie looked up and into the smiling face of Eliza. She was thirty-two and very pretty. The years had been kind to her. Her long coffee colored hair was pulled back into a braid. Her clothes were modest and old-fashioned – something a farmer's wife from the 30s or 40s might wear – a housedress and apron.

"Welcome and come in," Eliza said and pushed open the door.

Callie saw Robert Newbern standing inside. He was tall, broad shouldered, and dressed in faded overalls. He stood somewhat hunched, looking somewhat subdued. No welcoming smile graced his face. Defeat or wariness would best describe his expression. Callie thought, Eliza is ready to reveal the truth to the world, but Robert is not, or at least he is not sure it's a good idea.

After introductions were exchanged and coats taken, the two couples moved to the living room. A fire crackled in the stone hearth. The house was warm and cozy. Wooden beams lined the ceiling. Callie noted a handmade quilt on a chair and handstitched pictures on the walls. Eliza displayed the same creative talent as her mother. Blanche worked with flowers and Eliza worked with fabric.

Coffee was served with cookies and everyone settled back into their seats – Eliza and Robert on the couch, Frank and Callie in matching chairs across from them. A handmade, wooden coffee table separated the couples. Callie suspected Robert had made it.

Callie's notepad and pen lay ready on her lap. She eased into her questions, feeling her way, and encountering no resistance from Eliza. The woman was truly ready to tell her story. Eliza reached over, covered Robert's hand with her own, and their fingers entwined. Eliza peered into her husband's deep-set eyes as if asking for his assurance. He hesitated a second and then nodded. With that final confirmation, Eliza turned to Callie and Frank and told them what had happened that rainy night fifteen years ago.

A month before that fateful October night, Eliza had discovered she was pregnant. Fear was her first response. Her mother would be upset … disappointed … angry … beyond mad. Her mother did not like Rudy Glynn and had made that very clear countless times.

Eliza imagined her mother's words, "I told you no good would come from being with Rudy Glynn!"

Much more hateful things were sure to be said. Eliza wanted no part of it. Her mother had made her position very clear for the past year, from the moment Eliza and Rudy had started dating. No, Eliza could not go to her mother with this news. Instead, her mother would never know that Eliza was pregnant. Eliza would leave. Disappear. Be thought dead. It felt as if she were already dead to her mother.

Eliza had lain awake at night thinking about her future, about her life and what she wanted. She was pregnant and should be happy. Yes, she was young, too young, but she was in love. In her heart, it was true love. Rudy had said the same thing. He told her he felt the same way.

A child was a blessing, a gift to be cherished. Eliza did not think her mother would be able to see that, not in this situation.

Eliza and Rudy spent days discussing their situation. Rudy admitted he had been shocked at first upon learning Eliza was pregnant. He should not have been. They had not been diligent about using birth control.

In those early days, Eliza feared she and Rudy would break up. Perhaps, the thought of a child to support would scare him, cause him to leave town, to leave her. What would she have done then? Who would she turn to? Certainly, not her mother. Eliza would have been all alone.

As it turned out, Rudy was a decent man and loved Eliza with his whole heart. He was willing to do whatever it took to support her and their unborn child. He wanted the three of them to be together, to start a new life in a new town where no one knew them. His cousin lived in Evertville, maybe he and Eliza could move there.

The couple made plans. A clean break from Walnut Creek. They didn't want the police looking too hard, or too far, for Eliza or Rudy. A suspicious drowning or a possible suicide seemed the easiest solution.

Eliza went to school that October day as usual. Rudy picked her up in the afternoon and they went to a burger place for takeout. These were all the usual things they normally did. They sat in Rudy's apartment and finalized their plan. They almost canceled because of the forecasted rainstorm, but then Rudy said it would actually be helpful. The rain would delay searchers and wash away footprints and evidence. And it did.

"My sister was involved," Eliza said, surprising Callie. "I had confided in Rose soon after I found out I was pregnant. She was always good to me and willing to help Robert and me get out of town. She met me outside the Walnut Creek Bed and Breakfast that night. She brought my favorite jacket and the new backpack I'd bought and hidden in my bedroom. I'd stuffed it with a few new clothes I'd bought over the past week and my toothbrush and things like that.

"Rose and I hugged good-bye and then she walked home. I watched her leave, thinking I may never see her again. I almost changed my mind, but didn't. I had to do this.

"It was getting cold so I put my jacket on. Then I took my backpack and headed to the creek trails. I had two backpacks. One on each shoulder. One would be left behind on the creek bank and one I would keep.

"The rain was coming down by the time I got to the spot where Robert was waiting for me. I'll never forget him standing there with a penlight and the rain pelting his rain jacket. Until that moment, I wasn't sure if we were really going to go through with this … with the plan. I-I wasn't sure he would be there .. waiting for me." She looked at her husband, tender-eyed and ashamed.

He lifted his head and peered into her eyes. "I hate that you doubted me," he said softly. He breathed in deeply and straightened. Callie saw an inner strength surface. Robert wasn't a man who left the woman he loved. No, he was a man who stayed and protected her … and their child.

Eliza squeezed Robert's hand and said, "I hated that I doubted you. I never should have. You've never given me any reason to."

Callie and Frank exchanged glances and grins. It was nice to see a couple truly in love.

Eliza returned to her story. She told how she took off her shoes and jacket, laid them on the ground beside her school backpack and crouched over them. Robert handed her a pocket knife and she sliced her wrist. She let the blood drop onto her jacket and shoes. The couple figured the blood would make it appear like an attempted suicide or maybe even a homicide. They didn't care which one, either one deflect from the truth, the fact that Eliza and Robert were leaving town.

Eliza spent the next two nights at a friend's house. A friend of Robert's from the gas station where he worked. On the third day, Robert's cousin and his wife came and got Eliza. They took her to their home in Evertville. She stayed with them – Robert visiting on the weekends – until Robert skipped town and joined them.

The cousin's wife worked in a lawyer's office. She was able to get Eliza and Robert new social security cards and IDs. The story was that Eliza and Robert came from a different state and had lost everything in a house fire.

Eliza and Robert married at St. Paul's church the day she turned eighteen, six weeks after she went missing. Eliza's sister Rose came to the wedding. Eliza and Rose had kept in touch by phone, mainly text messages. But as the years marched by, their correspondence grew less frequent.

"Our lives became too busy," Eliza said with a heave of regret. "Now, I only hear from her on holidays and birthdays."

Callie laid down her pen. She had listened quietly and taken notes, but now, she had an important question. "Does your sister know you live here, so close to her house and your mother's house?"

Eliza bowed her head and stared at her hand still safely locked in Robert's rough one. Finally, she lifted her chin and Callie saw the sadness on Eliza's face. It was etched into every feature.

"No," Eliza said. "I never told Rose we moved here. I .. I had grand plans about telling her and then mom. It never happened. That was the whole reason for the move. I wanted to make amends. Reclaim my old relationships with my mom and sister. Then I started doubting the wisdom of revealing the truth. I-I thought I'd break my mother's heart. After all these years and her not knowing that we were just a few hours away in Evertville and then here. I asked myself, how would she take the news? Would she hate me even more?

Eliza picked at a loose thread on her apron, a small distraction to settle her emotions. "We've been so close. How could my mother ever forgive me for not telling her we were here, just miles away?" Eliza lifted her head and stared at Callie. "I don't know if I deserve forgiveness."

Frank spoke for the first time. "I think your mother would like to know. Callie and I visited her. It's clear she still loves you. The first thing she told us was that she had no problem with people looking into your disappearance. She said she welcomed it. I took that to mean she still wants to know what happened to you and that she might even hold out hope you're alive."

Eliza gave Frank a sad smile.

Frank leaned forward and gently added, "Your mother said the three of you – you, Rose, and her – were like three peas in a pod."

Eliza wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. "God, she used to say that all the time when Rose and I were little. I'd forgotten that."

"She hasn't forgotten you," Frank said. "And I'm confident she'd like to know that you're alive and well and that she has a granddaughter."

Callie saw Eliza squeeze Robert's hand.

"How could she ever forgive me for keeping that a secret?" Eliza asked Callie. "I don't know if she could ever forgive me for what I've done?"

"You'll never know until you tell her." Frank's voice was calm and reassuring. "The people you sometimes think are the least likely to forgive can often be the most forgiving." After a pause, he added, "What do you have to lose? Think about what you'll gain, a grandmother and aunt for your daughter. More people for her to love and get to know .."

Callie couldn't help herself, she interrupted, "Excuse me, but does your daughter know that her grandmother and aunt live nearby?"

Before Eliza could answer, the front door swung open and in walked a teenage girl. She was tall and lanky with long, dark hair that fell over the puffy shoulders of her winter jacket. As she pulled off the jacket and hung it on the coatrack, her dark eyes darted from her parents to Callie and Frank.

Eliza and Robert rose. Callie and Frank did the same. The teenager slowly walked into the living room. Confused contorted her features. Callie guessed it was rare for Isabelle's parents to have guests. For surely, this was Isabelle and she was beautiful just as Lillian Harper had said.

"Isabelle." Eliza reached out and enveloped her daughter in a brief hug. "I'm glad you're home."

Isabelle didn't react to the hug. She stood, arms at her sides, staring mutely at Callie and Frank. Robert stepped in and gave his daughter a quick, fierce hug. Then he searched her face as concern clouded his. His thick brow lowered and he shot Callie and Frank a hostile glance indicating their presence had disrupted his quiet little life which, indeed, it had.

Eliza said, "Isabelle, this is Mr. and Mrs. Hardy. Mrs. Hardy works for a newspaper."

Isabelle came out of her stupor and pointed a finger at the Hardys. "I know you. Both of you. You're the truth seekers."

Callie and Frank looked at each other. Truth seekers?

"I saw you," Isabelle explained, "at the white cross. You were there." She pointed at Callie. "You touched the flowers I'd put there."

"You?" It was Eliza who spoke, her voice sharp, a note of alarm sounding loud and clear. She spun Isabelle toward her. "You put flowers on the white cross? How do you even know about the white cross?" The questions came rapid fire and with an edge of accusation.

Isabelle shrugged off her mother's hands and stepped back. Anger flushed her cheeks. "I know everything mother. I've known for a long time." The words were laced with rancor and heat. She looked at her father standing there, grief and fear settling over his weather lined face. Then back at her mother. "I know all your secrets. Yours and dads. I know how you both disappeared because of me, because you were pregnant and didn't want anyone to know. You've hidden me away. You've kept me from a grandmother I've never gotten to meet." The last sentence was said with particular ire.

Eliza gasped and her jaw dropped. She put a helpless hand to her chest. Callie could see that the woman had never imagined this scenario. Never fathomed this was possible. Never thought her daughter would discover the truth and respond with anger.

The air in the room was electric. Hidden emotions were bubbling up, threatening to change the course of lives. Callie had to stop it. She couldn't bear to see this family torn apart. It was her fervent wish to bring them together. All of them, Blanche, Rose, and Eliza. These three women needed to be made whole again.

Callie touched Isabelle's arm. "Isabelle, please, I have a question for you."

The teenager's eyes widened in surprise. "How do you know my name?"

"I met a friend of yours. Mrs. Lillian Harper," Callie said. "She and I had a lovely chat a few afternoons ago. She sends you her love and said to let you know that she misses you terribly."

"I-I miss her, too," Isabelle stammered.

"My question is," Callie said, knowing she had to tread carefully, "are you the ghost that has been haunting Walnut Creek?"

All eyes in the room focused on Isabelle. The teen scanned each person's face trying to read their mind. Callie saw the teen considering her answer, wondering what the best thing to say was. Callie, and everyone in the room, needed the truth. Lies had gotten everyone to this point, a point where a grandmother had not seen her daughter for fifteen years and had no idea she had a granddaughter.

Callie spoke gently to Isabelle, "I think it's time for the truth. Your mother invited me here today because she wants the truth to be told. She's given me permission to write an article for the newspaper telling the truth about what happened fifteen years ago."

Isabelle's gaze cut to her mother. "Good. That's all I ever wanted. The truth. My story .. well, it's .. well, I'm part of their story." Isabelle waved a hand at her parents. "Their story is my story. I want it told." Her eyes met her mother's teary ones. "It's time mother. I'm glad we agree."

Eliza nodded and embraced Isabelle. This time, Isabelle hugged her mother back wholeheartedly. Callie breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis averted.

The group soon found themselves seated again. Frank and Callie in the chairs; Eliza, Robert, and Isabelle on the couch. It was time for Isabelle's story.

Yes, she was the ghost. She had been 'haunting' Walnut Creek for the past eighteen months. The idea had come to her shortly after she and her parents moved to Walnut Creek. Her hope had been to stir up interest in her mother's disappearance and get the case reopened. That way the truth could come out.

"How did you know I was Elizabeth Lancaster?" Eliza asked her daughter.

A blush of embarrassment colored Isabelle's cheeks. "I listened at your bedroom door when you and dad went to bed at night."

Eliza appeared horrified – as did Robert – but both held their tongues. Now was not the time for recriminations.

"Some nights you guys weren't exactly quiet," Isabelle said as a way to defend herself. "And I only did it after you guys started talking about moving. Neither of you would ever give me a good reason for why we were suddenly moving. You were forcing me to leave all my friends and Mrs. Harper. I kept asking you to wait until after I graduated high school. I told you I'd be happy to move then."

Eliza nodded her heard clearly remembering those discussions.

"So, I decided to listen at your door. I wanted to find out the real reason we were moving. I heard you and dad talking about the past, about what you'd done. How you'd left Walnut Creek because you were pregnant."

"I'm sorry," Eliza said her voice barely a whisper. "I'm sorry you had to find out that way. That's not how I hoped to tell you."

"It's okay," Isabelle said with no malice. "It's not the worst thing a person can find out about her parents." She shrugged and then became somber. "Mom, I heard you talking about your mother and sister and realized I had a grandmother and aunt you'd never told me about. That made me kinda mad. There was family out there that I'd never known about. I wondered what else you'd hidden from me. What else didn't I know? I wondered how you could do that to me. Keep me in the dark and keep me cut off from my family. Then, I realized, you'd also done it to yourself. You had cut us all off from family. From your family."

Isabelle looked at her father. "Not yours though. Your family must know the secret."

It was a pointed remark and Robert responded. "Yes, my family has always known about our past. They helped your mother and me move away and start a new life with new names."

Isabelle mulled that over for a second before saying, "So my last name isn't Newbern. It's Glynn?"

Robert looked miserable as he nodded. "Yes, it's Glynn."

"How do you know all of this?" Eliza asked.

"Old newspapers at the library. All those times I borrowed the truck to go to the library to do research for school reports, well, I wasn't just doing schoolwork. I was doing research on you and dad, too. The story of your disappearance was in the papers for months. Elizabeth Lancaster and Rudy Glynn. You guys were the talk of the town." Isabelle's expression said it was the simplest thing in the world. Read a newspaper and learn the facts.

Isabelle went on to admit that – since their move to Walnut Creek – she had been sneaking out of the house late at night and using the truck. She took a lantern from the barn and put it in the truck with an old white nightgown. These were the props for her midnight run along the creek.

Frank asked, "What about the shrieking? How did you make that gawd-awful noise?"

Isabelle cocked her head and grinned at Frank. "I Googled 'shrieking' and found a Youtube video. I played it on my phone when I neared the Bed and Breakfast. I wanted to wake people up. I wanted them to look out their windows and see me. It didn't make any sense for me to run through the night if nobody saw me."

Frank smiled, as did Callie.

Isabelle turned to her parents. They sat at one end of the couch and she sat at the other. Isabelle clasped her hands together in her lap, drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Since I'm confessing all of my sins, I have one more to tell," she said.

Eliza and Robert held hands and traded worried looks. What more could their daughter possibly confess?

"I've seen grandmother. I've been to her house," Isabelle said.

Eliza and Robert were stunned. They sat mute for a full ten seconds.

Finally, Eliza found her voice. "Wh-what are you saying? Have you talked to my mom? Does she know who you are?"

Isabelle held up her hands. "No, no, no. Sorry, that's not what I meant. What I meant was, I've snuck around her house. I've peeked over her fence. I wore the white nightgown so if she saw me she'd think I was the ghost."

Eliza shook her head to clear her mind. "How in the world did you find out her name and address?"

Isabelle gawked at her mother. "Her name was in the old newspapers along with your sister's. Blanche and Rose Lancaster. All I had to do was search the internet. You can find almost anybody on the internet. Grandma was easy to find. She's never moved. She lives in the same house she lived in when you lived with her."

"You are quite the little sleuth," Eliza said, her tone sharp and slightly disapproving.

Callie sensed it was time to leave. Eliza and Robert needed time alone with their daughter to discuss everything they had learned today.

Callie and Frank rose, expressed their gratitude for the visit, and wished the family well on reuniting.

Eliza walked Callie and Frank to the door while Robert stayed behind with Isabelle.

On the porch, Eliza said, "I'm going to call my sister this evening and make arrangements to meet my mother. I think it's best if Rose breaks the ice. I'll let her tell mom that I'm alive. If I called out of the blue, mom might have a heart attack."

"Heavens," Callie said, "that would be awful. However, I agree, it's best to go gently. Ease your mother into the news. I know she will be overjoyed to learn that you're alive and well and have a wonderful husband and daughter." Callie laid a hand on Eliza's arm. "Please, let me know how the reunion goes."

Eliza nodded and pressed a hand on top of Callie's. "I will. You can write an article about it. Call it the Family Reunion Fifteen Years Later. That would make a nice story, wouldn't it?"

Callie smiled. "It'll make a wonderful story and would be perfect for the Christmas edition of the paper."

Callie left the Newbern's home with two articles waiting to be written. She was sure Mr. Calabrese would be ecstatic when he heard the news. What had started as a fluff piece for Halloween had grown into a series of articles. Now Callie had the resolution to the ghost story and the solution to a decades old disappearance. Not to mention, the final family reunion story. Callie's future as an investigative journalist was looking brighter.

That evening, Callie and Frank celebrated by going to the expensive restaurant, the Chalet. The food and atmosphere was just as intimate and relaxing as the first time they had dined there. Callie floated back to the Bed and Breakfast. Two glasses of wine had that effect on her.

Frank started the gas fire and Callie turned down the bed. The couple indulged in each other. It was like a second honeymoon. Clothes dropped to the floor and kisses lingered. Callie and Frank took their time, delighting in the touch and taste of one another. It was well after midnight before Callie and Frank gave into sleep, both sated and fulfilled.

# # # #

One week later, Callie was in the kitchen putting away the remains of lunch when Eliza called. Eva was playing in the living room near the Christmas tree. Callie could hear Eva talking to her dolls. Mostly gibberish at this stage.

Callie put her phone on speaker and listened to Eliza. Eliza said her mother had taken the news she was alive in stride. Oh, there had been a bit of admonishment, but it hadn't lasted long. Blanche even accepted some of the blame for Liz and Rudy (she refused to call them by their new names) running off. Blanche admitted she had said things in the past that she regretted and acknowledged she would not have taken the news of the pregnancy well. She would have tried to drive a wedge between Liz and Rudy and probably would have succeeded in driving Liz and Rudy away. Something they did on their own before she had the chance.

But now? Now, she was all for forgiving and forgetting. The past was the past and should stay there. Gone and forgotten, she said. Blanche had a granddaughter to get to know as well as a son-in-law.

Yes, Blanche was warming to Robert, Eliza said with relief and delight.

Callie was happy for Eliza and her family and told her so. "I'll send you my article on your family reunion as soon as I finish it so you can proof it. I may need to call you for more information. I hope that's okay."

"Of course," Eliza said. "I feel so relieved and blessed that my life is back on track. I sort of floundered for seventeen years. Oh, don't get me wrong, I had a good life and Robert and I were, and are, deeply in love. It's just that .. well, I missed my mother and sister. We were three peas in a pod. I guess the old saying is true, you don't know what you have until it's gone. I didn't know how much I missed my mom and sister until I had them back in my life."

Callie dried her hands on a towel and picked up her phone. "I'm glad you all are back together and I think you all have something very special that few people have. You have a true appreciation for one another because of what you've been through. Hold on to that special love and nurture it."

"I love how you said that." Callie could hear the emotion in Eliza's voice. "You have a special way with words, Callie."

Callie chuckled as she peeked into the living room to check on Eva. "Well, I'm a writer. Words are my life."

Callie thanked Eliza for the call and wished her a Merry Christmas. It was nice to know that things were going well for Eliza and her family. Family was so important especially, at this time of year. Christmas was only two weeks away.

Callie laid her phone on the dining room table and joined Eva in the living room. She sat on the carpet and ran a hand lightly over her daughter's soft, dark hair. "I love you, little one."

# # # #

Christmas Eve. Callie's Family Reunion article was the lead story in the Evertville and Walnut Creek newspapers. Every article Callie had written about Elizabeth Lancaster and her family had met with success. People begged for more news on the family and their story. Mr. Calabrese had given Callie a raise and told her, "Anything you want, or need, for your next story, just ask. It's yours! Anything at all."

Callie had laughed. She didn't know what she wanted or needed. The whim of fate would lead her to her next story. For now, she was going to enjoy the Christmas break. Frank was home this week and at the moment, he was sitting in the easy chair in the living room with Eva on his lap. She was fresh and clean from a bath, her hair a damp halo around her head. She wore her favorite pajamas, the ones with the pink lambs. Frank was reading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' and Eva listened with rapt attention.

Callie carried two mugs of spiced wine into the living room and set them on the coffee table. A treat for her and Frank once Eva was in bed.

Frank read the last line of the book, "Happy Christmas to all and to all, a good night." He closed the book and kissed the top of Eva's head. "It's bedtime, Sweetie."

"No," Eva whined and rubbed her eyes. "Mo, dada. Mo."

Frank handed the book to Callie and stood up, Eva in his arms. "Now, now. It's time for bed. You're sleepy. You can barely keep your eyes open."

Callie put the book away on a shelf while Frank patted the back of a sleepy Eva. Sleepy but not quite ready for bed.

"Mo dada. Peas."

"I don't know," Frank said and looked over at Callie. "We'll have to see what mommy says."

Eva stretched her little arms toward Callie and the bookshelf. "Mama. Peas, mama."

Callie's heart leaped for joy. "Frank, did you hear that? She called me mama!"

Frank laughed. He knew how much Callie longed to hear Eva say mama. Time to encourage the little darling. "Mama," he said to Eva. "That's right. You have to ask mama if we can read another book."

"Mama, peas."

Who could resist that precious angel? And those sweet words? How could Callie say no? And why would she want to?

"Of course, you can hear another story." Callie smiled tenderly at Frank. "It's Christmas Eve, Frank. That only comes once a year. One more story won't hurt." She kissed Eva on the cheek and ruffled her hair. "Then it's bedtime, little one."

# # # #

Callie rose on tip-toes, wrapped her arms around Frank's neck and kissed him. She tasted the spiced wine and smelled his cologne, unmistakably masculine. Unmistakably Frank Hardy. Unmistakably her husband.

She broke the kiss and drew back her head. "Merry Christmas, Sweetheart."

Frank glanced at the bedside clock, saw that it was a minute past midnight, and returned his focus to his beautiful wife nestled in his arms. "So it is. I hope all your wishes come true today."

"They already have." Callie ran a hand along the strong line of Frank's jaw.

He frowned. "They have?"

"Yes. I have the man I love in my arms and my daughter called me mama tonight. I'm the happiest woman in the world. How about you?"

"I'm married to the woman of my dreams and I have the cutest daughter ever. Life doesn't get any better than that."

"We're two of the lucky ones," Callie said and meant it with all of her heart.

Then End

A/N: I must apologize for the long delays in posting. My original thought was to start posting this story in October and finish by December. Clearly, that did not work out. LOL But in spite of my neglect, many of you left me wonderful reviews and I'm very thankful for you and your kind words. I think many of you probably guessed the solution to this mystery, but I hope you still found the ending satisfying. Thank you all again!

P.S. I have another story in the works. It's set in the same universe as "Shadow Games" and features F,N,J, & V. However, this next story will focus more on F&N's relationship.

Take care everyone, Jilsen