Author's Notes: Here's another story of mine that was previously posted on BWR. It's based on "Dear Emily and Richard," one of my favorite episodes, and contains some dialogue directly from show because of that fact. I like the episode so much that there was only one thing to do to make it even better - add Luke in! Hope you enjoy!

The chair wasn't too bad, Lorelai thought, cautiously sitting down in the overstuffed easy chair. She remembered all too clearly the hard plastic molded ones in the room when Rory was born.

From down the hall she could hear a newborn starting to wail. Soon, two or three others joined the first in an impromptu chorus.

In her arms, however, the alternate to the most beautiful baby in the world was studying her silently with eyes as deep as midnight. Lorelai's fingers couldn't stop rubbing the rose petal cheeks, or slipping under the little knitted cap to feel the downy whorls of curls, or softly pinching the tiniest little toes wrapped up under the thermal blanket.

"You don't look sleepy," she whispered to the new arrival.

The baby's fathomless eyes never left hers. They seemed to understand everything.

"Would you like me to tell you a story?" she asked. The baby's head tilted to one side, and she took that as a sign.

"OK," she said, settling herself even more comfortably in the chair. "This is the story about the night you got started. This is the story about how I found your Daddy."

She bent forward to press her lips against the baby's forehead, one last taste before she got started. "Well, I was at your Grandma's for dinner, and it was just me and Grandma, because Grandpa was out of town on a trip, and Rory was in Boston. Things were going amazingly well for once, but then my phone rang." She paused to take a deep breath. "And then things got interesting," she remarked, smiling down at the fascinated baby. "What until you hear what happened next..."

"Where are you going?" Emily Gilmore scrambled to ask. She dropped her napkin on the table as she rose from her seat, mirroring her daughter's abrupt movements.

"Sherry's freaking out." Lorelai moved quickly into the parlor where her coat and purse had been left on the couch. "Rory's the only one with her, so I'm going to the hospital."

Emily watched her pull on her coat with growing irritation. "You're going to be with Rory's father's girlfriend while she has his baby?" she demanded, phrasing it to sound as ridiculous as possible.

"Gee, Mom, I can't at all tell what your opinion on that might be," Lorelai said, the sarcasm of her words almost overshadowed by her impatience. She tugged her hair free from her coat collar while keeping on her quest to the front door.

"Why would you do this?" Emily followed at her heels, hoping to keep her daughter from making one more mistake. "This woman pulled Christopher away from you! Away from Rory! She destroyed any chance you may have had ―"

Lorelai spun to face her mother, the inevitability of being able to make her understand anything once again making her feel hollow and ignored. "Rory asked me to come, and that's what I'm going to do!"

"I don't understand what Rory's doing there either!" Emily protested.

"She's going to have a sister!" Lorelai's voice was strong enough to cover up the despair.

"Half-sister!" Emily had to point out.

It was useless. Useless. And Rory needed her.

"Thank you for a lovely dinner. I'll see you next week," she said with polite finality and walked out of the door, which brought her one step closer to her daughter.

The Jeep was navigating through downtown Hartford before Lorelai could take a deep breath and loosen her death grip on the steering wheel. Why did she always expect things to be different? Why did she always think that one day her mother would understand? Why did she always think that one day her mother would love her the way she loved Rory?

She knew her mother thought she was a fool for rushing to the hospital like this. Emily didn't understand that Rory was the center of her world. If Rory needed her, anywhere, anytime, she'd be there for her.

But Lorelai's reality was knowing that she'd never been anywhere near the center of her mother's world. She knew Emily would have never dropped everything and rushed to her side. Or if she had, Lorelai would have certainly gotten a lecture about her intrusion into Emily's careful schedule of D.A.R. events and themed cocktail parties.

Her throat tightened as tears from decades of frustration threatened to overwhelm her. She shook them off, her hair whipping her cheeks.

Rory. That was all that mattered now. She needed to get to Rory.

She'd deal with her mother and the incredibly awkward tension of helping Sherry deliver Christopher's baby later. Right now she just needed to get to Boston.

She made a left-hand turn and followed sparse traffic into what had at one time been Hartford's manufacturing district. The last several years had brought rejuvenation to the dingy buildings and empty streets. Newly opened up loft apartments looked down upon classy boutique shops, hot new restaurants, and a plethora of coffee shops.

Lorelai's concentration was distracted by a fire engine red abstract sculpture outside of a bookstore, so much so that she didn't realize for a moment or two that Jeep was no longer powering down the street.

"What? No. No!" The car was dead, completely dead. With no power steering, she used brute strength to force the pile of metal over to the side, stopping more or less within a parking space.

She jammed the gearshift into park and turned off the ignition, even though nothing was igniting anyway. "Come on, come on!" she urged, trying to get the motor to turn over. But there was nothing, not even the low growl of a powerless battery. All she heard was an ominous 'click' of despair.

She sat back, her mind whirling through options in an effort to keep panic at bay. She needed to get to Boston. How was immaterial. Maybe she could take a taxi. The figures from last month's Visa statement flashed before her and she shrugged. Maybe…she could get a taxi to take her to the train station. Yes. That was a plan. How didn't matter. All that mattered was getting to Rory.

Lorelai watched in the side view mirror for an opportunity to open her door. She exited quickly, locking the door and throwing the keys into her purse. She tightened the belt on her coat as she stepped up onto the curb because the night had gotten colder.

She kept her head down, heading for the first restaurant on her side of the street. She figured she could ask them to call her a cab.

She hurried by a vacant lot that had been turned into a parking lot for the nearby businesses. She was probably a few yards past it before her mind caught up to what she'd just seen. She backed up, not able to believe her incredible good luck.

It was Luke's truck. It had to be. How many ancient green pickups could there be in the state of Connecticut?

Her head swiveled around the block, trying to decipher where they'd be. Her sights settled on L'Bamboo, a trendy, sophisticated eatery Sookie had tried just last week. She was sure that the 'infused' flavors and plates full of smeared sauces were exactly what skinny high-priced lawyers would crave.

She dodged traffic and hurtled through the door. The maître d' gave her plaid coat and turtleneck a look of horror.

"I'm not staying," she quickly reassured the panicked man. "I'm just looking for someone who's eating here. Danes? Luke Danes? Or maybe it's under his girlfriend's name." She suddenly felt like gagging, but she rushed on. "Except I don't know her name. Nicole something. Can you check and see if they're here?"

She could tell he wrestled for a moment about checking the list for her, but then he realized that the sooner he helped her, the sooner she'd be on her way.

"There's no one here by that name," he sniffed, having discretely looked down the list.

She gave him her blinding smile. "I promise I won't be but a minute. Would you mind if I took a quick look into the dining room, just to make sure?"

He sighed and then acquiesced by just the tiniest nod of his head. Wasting no time, she ducked into the eating area.

It took a little while for her eyes to adjust to the moody lighting, but once they did she could see Luke was not there.

"Thanks," she told the maître d' as she rushed past. "Your place is very…atmospheric. You should be very proud."

Back out on the street she took stock again. She saw a restaurant at the end of the block called Squares, specializing in old-fashioned comfort food. She could imagine Luke being more at home in a place like that.

"Hi," she threw at the hostess just inside the door. "I'm looking for a friend of mine. Do you mind if I take a look around for him?"

"Go ahead, dear." The matronly woman pushed up her glasses and waved her arm towards the dining area.

Lorelai quickly made the rounds of the booths and once again came up Luke-less.

This time she shivered when she got back out on the street. She was wasting time and running out of options. Her eyes fell on another restaurant, this one a chain with manufactured charm and ho-hum food. She headed for it instantly.

First date. They wouldn't go to her choice or his. They'd compromise on the one neither of them really wanted to go to. She should have known.

She had her shtick down for the hostess by now, the third time. She breezed into the dining area and relief poured through her when she spied Luke's black sweater. Her feet skimmed over the wooden floor to reach him.

"Luke! Thank God!" She was talking long before she got to their table. "The Jeep's dead and I've got to get to Boston! Can you help me?"

He wouldn't have looked at her any differently if she'd been a ghost. "Lorelai?"

"Lorelai?" That was Nicole. Her fork dropped to the table and she fixed Lorelai with a you've-got-to-be-kidding gaze. "What's she doing here?" she questioned Luke, her voice straining to remain pleasant.

"I'm sorry," Lorelai said quickly, twisting her fingers. She smiled as nicely as possible at Nicole. "My car died, and I'm really in a jam. Luke, can you help?"

Luke's eyebrows tilted together and she could tell he was trying to remain even-tempered. He opened his mouth, but Nicole cut him off.

"I'm guessing you had this all planned?" Nicole threw her napkin on the table. "What, did you call her while I was in the bathroom?"

"What?" Luke tore his shocked gaze from Lorelai to stare at Nicole. "What are you talking about?"

Nicole stood up, her spine rigid. "All you had to do was tell me the date wasn't going well. You didn't need to call in your friend to save you!" She cast a sneering look over at Lorelai.

Lorelai's mouth gaped open. "Oh! Nicole, no, that's not ―"

"The date's going fine!" Luke protested. "I don't know what Lorelai's doing here but it doesn't have anything to do with us!"

"Of course not," Nicole fumed, snatching up her bag. "She just happens to be at the diner when I get there, she just happens to be your main topic of conversation, and now she just happens to show up here in the middle of dinner. Sorry, Mr. Danes, but the evidence tells me all I need to know!" She shoved her chair back with an angry screech against the wooden floor, then whirled around and marched towards the lobby.

"Oh, Luke." Lorelai was aghast at what was happening. "Luke, I'm so ―"

Luke jumped up. "Sit!" he ordered her. "Do not leave this table, do you hear me?" He rushed after Nicole.

Lorelai numbly sat down at what had been Nicole's place. She glanced around at all of the other diners who were trying not to stare at her.

"Um, sorry. Sorry," she said, trying to smile. "Try to pretend that this never happened. Like Richie Cunningham's older brother." She gave her arm a small twirl through the air over the table, hoping to dispel the scene she'd just caused.

She felt terrible. The last thing she'd wanted to do was intrude into Luke's date. In fact, she'd been doing her best not to even think about the fact that he was out on a date. That was just too weird to even contemplate. Luke. Date. The words didn't even belong together. Like Luke and lawyer. Like they were from two different languages.

She tucked her hair back behind her ear and stared down at the table, trying to make herself less obtrusive. If there was anyone who deserved to be out on a date, though, it was Luke. She didn't think he'd been out with anyone since Rachel had visited ― and that had been at least two years ago. She wanted Luke to find a nice girl to date. She really did. Just not this red-haired, skinny lawyer. Someday he'd thank her for bringing this date to a halt. He just didn't know it yet.

From the corner of her eye she observed that the people at the neighboring tables had all gone back to their meals, and she relaxed a little. Her eyes fell down to the untouched dessert in front of her, and she tried to restrain the sarcastic snort that wanted to explode out of her. Nicole ordered a dessert? Yeah, right. Trying to make the guy think that she didn't compulsively record every calorie from her plain vanilla yogurt on a daily basis. Riiight.

She leaned forward and sniffed appreciatively. It did smell really good. It was some sort of a crepe, with that sweet cheese in it. Mascarpone. That was it. She angled her head and looked closer. Chocolate chips were folded into the filling. And there was some sort of sauce drizzled over it and the plate. Stealthily she looked to see if anyone was watching her, then swiped her finger through the sauce.

Um, good, she thought, tasting the sauce on her finger. Bittersweet chocolate and…Grand Marnier. She nodded in approval. Hanging around with one of the premier chefs in the region had taught her a thing or two.

It seemed a shame to let such a dessert go unappreciated. She looked towards the lobby. And it did seem less and less likely that Nicole was coming back to eat it.

Casually she picked up a fork. She examined the tines and ran her finger over the raised design in the handle. She circled the utensil around the edge of the plate, coming ever closer and closer to the crepe itself. Finally, with a sigh of feigned nonchalance, she cut off a bite of the dessert.

With a huff of annoyance, Luke plopped down on the seat across from her, his face a thundercloud of irritation.

She dropped the incriminating fork with a clatter and tucked her hands under her seat. "Did Nicole leave?" she asked, knowing as soon as the words left her mouth that it was the wrong thing to say.

"Yes, she left," he said in a fake-pleasant tone that made her cringe, knowing that his anger was on the way. "She seems to think that we set her up. What are you doing here?" he demanded, leaning forward, his eyes blazing. "You couldn't leave me alone for one night? You tried to mess this up for me at the diner, and when that didn't work you followed me here to try again?"

"Luke, I'm truly sorry," she said, hunching her shoulders so she didn't have to meet his eyes. "I just didn't know what else to do. The Jeep died on me right in the street, and I saw your truck in the lot. Rory's at the hospital in Boston, and I'm trying to get to her, and when I saw your truck it seemed like the answer to a prayer. I'm so sorry."

She chanced a quick look across the table and saw that he looked stricken, and shades paler than what he had been just moments before. She tilted her head quizzically, trying to figure out his abrupt change in attitude.

He took a deep breath before he stood up. "Come on," he said tersely, motioning for her to follow him.

She stood up obediently, and trotted after him as he found his waiter and settled the bill at the front counter. He grabbed his coat, grabbed her arm and rushed them out onto the street.

"You should have told me that at once," he scolded her, holding her arm tighter as they started walking quickly towards the lot where his truck was parked. "Which hospital?"

She began to have a really bad feeling about this, and she planted her feet, stopping him from dragging her any further under false pretenses, however innocently she may have implied them.

"At the hospital, Luke. Rory's at the hospital. She's not in the hospital."

His eyes traveled back and forth between hers, checking her for truthfulness. Seeing it confirmed, he leaned his back against the brick wall of a bakery. He rubbed his face before he bent over slightly, putting his hands on his knees.

"Oh, God." He rubbed his face again. "Don't ever do that to me again."

"I didn't mean to." She moved to stand beside him and cautiously touched his arm. "She's at the hospital with―" her mind did a nosedive, trying to figure out how to describe Sherry "― someone," she hedged, "and that's what I said. I didn't mean to give you a heart attack about it. Really. I just have car trouble, and I need some help."

Luke was still trying to get himself calmed down. "I swear, Lorelai, you ever scare me like that again and I'll make sure you never get another cup of coffee from the diner ever."

"All right! I said I'm sorry!" she snapped. "Can we get past this, now? I need to get to Boston!" She started to drag him to the Jeep. "Come look at the car, will you? Maybe you can figure out what's wrong."

He smirked a little bit as her attempts to move him resulted in a lot of huffing and puffing from her and very little movement from him.

"Luke!" she whined.

"OK," he agreed, straightening up. "Where's the car?"

As soon as they reached the Jeep Luke pulled on the hood release, knowing where it was on her vehicle as well as on his own. "Start it up," he told her, propping open the hood and peering inside.

Lorelai dove into the Jeep as fast as she could and turned the key. Once again there was nothing but an ominous 'click,' and Luke instantly put down the hood.

"That's it?" Lorelai was stunned. "You're not even going to try to fix it?"

Luke shook his head as he made sure the hood was securely latched. "It's the fuel pump," he told her, dusting off his hands. "You're going to have to get it towed to a shop. It's not something I can fix."

"Damn!" she hissed, slapping the steering wheel. She was suddenly close to tears of frustration again, but once again she shook them off and scrambled out of the car. "Can you drop me off at the train station, then?"

"Train station?" He looked at her, not comprehending.

"Yes!" She was beyond trying to be civil and patient. "I need to get to Boston! Rory's at the hospital with ― someone, and she's alone, and scared, and she needs her Mommy and she doesn't care who knows it, and I'm going to be there with her because she needs me! If that messes up your big night with Ms. Stick-up-her-butt, I'm sorry, but I need to get to Boston! Now, are you going to help me or not?"

"I'll help you, lil' mama," a slurred voice replied.

She and Luke spun around to see two guys in their mid-twenties helping each other down the sidewalk, their TGIF celebrating obviously having gone a little overboard.

"I'll take you anywhere you wanna go," the sandy-haired one assured her, seemingly trying to wink but blinking at her owlishly instead.

"Come on, Brady," the less-impaired one urged, pulling at his friend's arm. "Sorry," he said, angling his head to see Lorelai's face as he offered the apology. One look at her had him dropping his pal's arm and standing up straight, his hand making sure his hair was still in perfectly-gelled shape. "But if we can help ―"

"Got this covered. Thanks," Luke broke in, his voice laced with the snideness she heard so often. His hand circled around her arm in a way that seemed more possessive than protective. "Wouldn't want to keep you guys from your Jello shots."

Luke turned them around and started them off at a brisk pace towards his truck.

"You'll take me? Thank you! Luke, really, thank you!" she chirped as they reached the vehicle and he helped her to climb inside. "You have no idea how much this means to me!"

"Yeah, yeah," he sighed, settling himself behind the wheel.

Luke started the truck and pulled out of the parking lot. Lorelai checked her phone to make sure she hadn't missed any further messages from Rory. She tucked the phone into her pocket as they turned onto another street and she bent over to peer up at the street signs overhead. She gasped in dismay.

"Wrong way!" she yelled at him. "The train station is back that way!"

His mouth tightened in disgust. "I'm not taking you to the train station. Do you really think I'm going to put you on a train to ride all the way to Boston with the same sort of drunken idiots we just encountered?"

She stared at him for a couple of beats of silence, trying to puzzle it out. "Then what are you doing?"

"Well, since my plans for the night have suddenly opened up, I thought I'd make sure you got there in one piece," he grumbled.

"You don't need to do that!" she insisted. "I don't want to be any trouble!"

"Right," he sneered. "You're never any trouble."

She flushed at that, initially from embarrassment, but that warmth was soon replaced by irritation. "All I need is to get to the station. For Rory," she reminded him, pointedly.

"And that's just what I'm doing," he fired back. "I'm getting you to Rory."

She bit back her instinct to argue with him and settled down into the old leather-trimmed seat that had long ago lost its ability to actually cushion passengers. She looked down into her lap and studied her hands. No matter how long she knew Luke, it never got easier dealing with him. Sometimes it really seemed like he couldn't stand her company. She always hoped that his sarcastic comments to her were meant to tease and not hurt, but sometimes she couldn't tell. And then, out of the blue, he'd do something so incredibly generous for her, like making her a Santaburger or driving her all the way to Boston. He'd do it with an extra helping of gruffness, of course, but he couldn't completely hide the niceness that she suspected made up the majority of his character.

Her eyes snuck over to the side and stole another glance at his profile, and to add to her irritation and confusion, her heart did that little flutter-step thing it did occasionally when confronted with his indisputable male hotness. Most of the time she was so busy sparring with him that she was able to ignore what a fine specimen of manhood he was, but tonight, seeing him in his one thousand-trillion percent off dress-up clothes and nicely shaved face, she couldn't deny the attraction. Too bad it was one-sided.

She sighed and clasped her hands, determined for one night, at least, to take the high road. "I appreciate this so much. I want you to know that." She reached over with her right hand and touched his arm. "Thank you, Luke."

He looked at her warily, but apparently caught her sincerity and gave her a brief nod before turning back to stare again at the pavement rushing at them. "It's fine," he shrugged. "Like I said, nothing else to do tonight."

She winced again at the reminder. "Luke, I am so sorry about Nicole! Somehow, I'll fix this for you. I'll call her! You've got her number, right? Right, of course you do. So I'll call her, OK? I'll explain everything. I'll make her listen. You know how persuasive I can be. So it'll be fine. I'll talk to her and she'll see ―"

"Lorelai, stop!" he barked. He took a hand off of the wheel and passed it over his face. "It doesn't matter, OK? It wouldn't have worked out anyway, so just let it drop."

"Why wouldn't it have worked?" she asked, frowning.

"Because..." He sighed and shifted uncomfortably behind the wheel. "I just don't think I'm cut out to do this whole dating/relationship/couple thing." His hand made slashes between the words. "It never feels right to me." His shoulders raised and lowered in resignation. "I just don't think I care enough."

"Luke!" she chided him, staring at him. "What do you mean, you don't care? You don't care if you end up alone?"

"I'd rather be alone than with the wrong person," he retorted. "And I can't see Nicole being the right person."

Lorelai couldn't argue with that. But still…

"How do you know? You didn't even give her a chance!"

He shook his head stubbornly. "I know. I didn't feel it. And if I didn't feel it was right, it wasn't there."

"Then why did you agree to go out with her?"

"Because she asked me."

Lorelai nearly got whiplash from her head snapping over to study him again. "She asked you? She asked you! What sort of reasoning is that?"

He muttered something under his breath. "Look. Women…flirt with me, OK? So I know that I'm apparently attractive enough, right? But it's not often that I care enough to flirt back. But Nicole, she came back. She asked me to go out. So I thought, why not? Why not see if this goes somewhere? But I should have stuck with my gut instinct."

She wouldn't let her gaze stray from the side of his face and he refused to look at her.

"So, women flirt with you, huh?"

His jaw tightened, and she could see he was already regretting his words.

"Who, Luke? Who are these women? Who flirts with you?" She was starting to enjoy this. "Name names, bucko! I want to know who they are! Is it Patty? Huh? Is that who flirts with you?"

He muttered something again.

"What was that? I couldn't quite hear that," she prodded him, cupping a hand around her ear as she leaned towards him.

His chin raised in satisfaction. "You, Lorelai. I said you flirt with me."

For a moment she floundered. It was the first time he'd ever called her on it. She glanced out the window while she searched for a response. Finally she turned to him with a cheeky smile.

"Yeah, I do," she agreed. When he looked over at her in surprise that she'd admitted it, her smile bloomed bigger. "And it's true. You are an attractive guy."

His shoulder closest to her jerked, as though he was trying to fend off her words. He stared straight ahead again.

"Maybe the right girl will ask you out sometime," she offered, trying to make peace.

"Maybe," he said, his voice flat. "But I wouldn't bank on it."

She started to disagree but he spoke over her. "So what's going on with Rory? Why is she in Boston?"

Now it was her turn to mutter. "Long story."

"Oh, man, it's not your dad again, is it?" Luke looked over at her with real concern on his face.

"No, it's not my Dad. He's on a business trip right now." She closed her eyes, willing herself to explain it all to Luke. "It's Sherry. Rory's there with Sherry."

"Who's Sherry?"

"Sherry is…She's Rory's dad's…She's Christopher's…Sherry."

"Oh." She could see Luke trying to figure out. "Oh!" He nodded grimly. "Her."

"Yeah," she sighed. "Her."

"Why's she in the hospital?"

"She's having a baby."

He tried to absorb that. "But why's Rory there?"

She was suddenly so tired. "Because the baby's her sister."

He made a face and looked away.

She chuckled bitterly. "Wow, you and my Mom would make quite a pair. She doesn't think Rory has any business being there, either."

"No, it's not that," Luke said quickly. "I get why she's there. It's just weird to me, to think of Rory having some other family. I mean, to me, you're her family. It seems wrong that anybody else could be a part of her, or has a claim on her, you know? I guess it shows how dumb I am, but somehow I never really thought about the fact that Christopher is her father, and that he has some sort of right to her. Or that she'd want to be involved in his life." He shrugged and shook his head. "Sorry. I don't know why this should be such a surprise to me."

"It's OK." She shrugged too. "Sometimes it smacks me upside of the head too, when he calls and she's eager to talk to him. Or something big happens in her life and she wants to make sure he knows. I forget sometimes, too."

"So we've established why Rory's there." She could feel him cautiously looking over at her. "So why are you going there?"

"Because apparently Sherry has no family around and all of her idiot friends have deserted her for their corner office jobs. Christopher is out of town and no one's been able to reach him, and Rory ― my brave, sensitive kid, who always wants to do the right thing ― is the only one there with her." Lorelai sat up in her seat and reached forward, pressing her hands against the dusty glove box. "Rory's terrified, but she's determined to be there for Sherry, and she needs me there. She's alone, and she's scared, and she needs me, Luke."

He looked at her with understanding. "That's a good enough reason for me."

"Good." She leaned back and let the faded headrest cradle her head. For some miles she sat silently, gathering up the strength she was sure she'd need before the night was over. Soon enough she felt like talking again. Especially to Luke, who she knew would actually listen to her.

"Being with my Mom tonight at their house and thinking about Christopher having another baby really brought back some fond old memories," she began sarcastically.

Luke looked over at her, which was enough of a response for her to continue.

"I was remembering what it was like, the day I told them I was pregnant."

"That had to be hard." His voice was casual but sympathetic.

She stared up at the liner that was starting to sag away from the truck's roof. "In some ways it wasn't any different than the million other things I'd already done to disappoint them. It was just further proof that I wasn't the daughter they wanted. Just proof that I'd screwed up yet again." She snorted a laugh. "Literally."

"Lorelai," he reproved her.

"That wasn't the worst night, though," she continued, her eyes flitting around the cab. "The worst was when Christopher's parents came over so all of the 'adults' could talk about the 'situation.'" She sat up, agitated. "His mother wouldn't stop crying. His father didn't understand why I wouldn't get rid of 'it.'"

She heard Luke inhale sharply. "Bastard," he muttered, not quite under his breath, making her smile in spite of herself.

"Then my father proclaimed that he had the solution. 'They will get married. They will live here. Christopher will join my firm,'" she said, doing a passable imitation of Richard's deep voice. "All he wanted was to save face. He didn't care what we wanted, or what was best for us, he just wanted to make it all go away."

"I guess I can understand that," Luke observed quietly.

"Christopher and I were huddled together on the landing in the stairs, listening to all of it. Nobody was asking us what we wanted to do. They were planning out our lives and we had no say in it at all."

"I'm sure you took that really well."

She grinned over at him, and after a moment he looked over and caught her eye, the slightest of smiles on his mouth, too.

"I had a million plans," she told him. "I could think of a million ways to make it work. But Christopher sat there and thought our parents were right. He was perfectly OK with doing whatever they told us to do." She rubbed her palms over her legs. "I should have realized right then that we weren't as much alike as I thought we were. I should have realized that maybe we weren't right together after all." She looked over at him, and he looked at her rather sadly, she thought. "Instead it took me about 17 more years before I understood that."

They were silent for a moment, and then Luke leaned over, his sturdy hand cupping over her knee in the most tender of touches, offering sympathy or maybe understanding, or maybe just an acknowledgement of their friendship.

"Let's get you to Boston," he suggested, clamping both hands back around the wheel and putting his foot down.

"Whether I want to or not," she said matter-of-factly as the old green Chevy roared through the night.