Chapter 1: Hold Me

Her motorcycle wasn't going fast enough.

Zoe 'Blue' Washington didn't care about the fact that she was speeding and she was violating other assorted road laws. She didn't care that she would probably die if she lost control or was in any accident. All she really cared about was reaching her parents' house in time and she didn't even know what she had to be in time for. She just knew that she had to be there.

Over ten hours ago, everything had been fine. She'd been editing a document for work in her cousin's dining room and enjoying a plate of Oreos when her cousin's son, Oliver, came into the room to show her a picture he drew for her. She thanked him as she went to the fridge to refill her glass of milk but Oliver already disappeared back into the living room. She sat back down in front of her laptop and resumed where she left off as her cousin, Elizabeth, came in to ask her a question.

She answered her cousin's question with a laugh but quit laughing when a weird feeling suddenly came over her. Ignoring Beth's questions, she grabbed her things off the table and raced upstairs to the room she had recently claimed. She grabbed a backpack, threw anything within reach into it, and closed it before shouldering it and running back downstairs, pausing only to grab her keys before going outside.

Still paying no mind to her cousin's questions, she swung her leg over her bike and started the engine. She was already backing out of the driveway and speeding towards the interstate by the time her cousin's husband came outside. Her cell had vibrated against her leg incessantly for what seemed to be days but she never answered it.

Now, as she spotted the welcome sign to the town of Eugenia, she thanked God and raced towards her parents' house. She fought off waves of nostalgia and fatigue as she maneuvered her way through the familiar streets. She frowned nearly fifteen minutes later when she pulled up in front of the house she had grown up in and saw that a wild party was going on.

Although her parents were out of town, she knew her younger siblings were home and that Luke, her cousin slash half-brother, was supposed to be watching them. She called the police before storming into the party and loudly announced what she had done to everyone who booed and called her names. They left though without too much fuss after that and when the last few people were gone she began searching for her cousin.

She growled in frustration when she couldn't find him and took in the damage caused by frat boys and sorority girls he knew from a nearby college he attended. She made a noise of disgust and headed for the stairs to find her younger brother and sister. As she walked closer to the stairs, her attention was drawn to a photograph of her and her friends in their graduation garb. A smiled formed before transforming into a frown as she took a closer look and saw a boy staring at them.

It had been a year since she had stepped foot in Eugenia and four years since she had moved away. She was twenty-two now, had a bachelor's degree and a good job, was working on her master's, and was planning to enlist into the Air Force before she was too old to do so. Now more than ever, she finally felt like a true adult. But as with every time she thought of this small military town, she felt like a seventeen year old kid who'd just had their heart broken for the first time.

The boy in the picture was Kristoffer 'Hawthorne' Young, her first love. They had dated for a bit in the last few months of their senior year but had broken up two weeks before prom. It had been bad enough that she constantly saw him afterwards with the mother of his child, the woman he truly loved, but what had made it even worse was that everyone in town knew why they had broken up and loved talking about it. Because of that, shortly after she had celebrated her eighteenth birthday with her friends, she bought a bus ticket and left.

No one had known where she was going, not even her parents. She had sent them a letter two weeks after she arrived at her destination and they had come to see her, demanding that she come home. For hours she and her parents had alternated between arguing and talking while trying to make each other understand how they felt. When her parents realized that she wasn't going to go back, they sighed and asked if she had a plan.

Before they left, she asked her parents how Kristoffer and his young son, Jude, were doing. She still loved Kris greatly and she knew she would always love Jude and was concerned about them more than anything else in Eugenia. The answer her parents had given her caused her to feel so conflicted about her decision to stay that she could only nod and make a comment about the weather.

She was pulled from her memories by a scream. It was a loud prepubescent scream that could have only come from her eleven year old sister, Evelyn. She raced upstairs to Evelyn's room and tried to open the door but it was locked. Running to her old room, she frantically searched for the slim screwdriver she used to use to open her siblings' rooms but couldn't find it.

Angry and muttering every profane word and phrase she knew, she ran back down the hall and tried to kick in and shoulder open her sister's door instead. She didn't know how long it took her and she ignored her discomfort as the door finally flew open. Feeling more upset that she had in many years, she took in the scene in front of her and felt adrenaline coursing freely throughout her.

An intoxicated man was slamming her eleven year old brother, Evan, into the nearest wall as he tried to protect Evelyn who the guy was trying to get to. He was yelling at Evelyn calling her a 'slut' and telling her to stay still so that he could 'screw her and get it over with'. She yelled to get the man's attention and stormed into the room.

The next thing she knew, she was being held and a police officer she remembered vaguely was in her face telling her to calm down or he would have to arrest her. "How the hell can I calm down?" she demanded. "That bastard was trying to rape my sister!"

She struggled to get free but stopped when the officer brought out his handcuffs. She looked away from the officer and over at the guy who was saying something as he was curled up in a ball on the floor. The officers holding her loosened their grip on her and Blue pulled away. She opened her arms to her sister who flew into them. She grabbed Evan who was holding his cheek.

"Are you okay?" she asked and he nodded. "Let me see."

The right side of his face was swollen and red. She told him he was going to have a nasty bruise later and told the officers she was going downstairs before leading the twins to the kitchen. Finding a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer, she grabbed it and instructed her brother to hold it to his face. She sat Evelyn down in one of the chairs and pulled out her cell phone.

She ignored the missed calls and began dialing. Before she could hit send though, someone called her. It took her a moment to recognize the number and frowned when she realized that it was the Ramsey County Jail.

"Hello?"

"Hey, you got to come and get me." Luke told her in slurred speech and her frown deepened. "And bring some money because I don't know if you'll have to—"

"You threw a party in my parents' house while you were supposed to be watching little brother and sister, you idiot! You almost got my sister raped!" Blue interrupted, her voice steadily rising. "If you stayed in there until the day you died it wouldn't bother me! Call one of your frat buddies because I'm not coming to get you!"

"I got caught streaking and they're saying something about public intoxication." Luke said as if she hadn't spoken at all and she hung up on him even though she knew she wouldn't let him stay in jail.

She dialed her best friend's number and waited until she answered. "Hey Augustana, I really need some help. I need you, Cardigan and Amethyst to come over to my parent's house right now." she told her and waited for a response.

"You're back." Augustana Mills said groggily and slowly after a few minutes passed.

"Augustana! Wake up!" Blue shouted.

"I'm up, what's up?" Augustana replied sounding a bit more alert. "What are you doing home?"

"My parents are out of town, Luke threw a party and now he's in jail for streaking and public intoxication. My annoying conscience won't let me leave him there even though I should so I need you guys to look after Evelyn and Evan. Evelyn is freaked out because this drunken frat kid tried to rape her so the cops are here arresting him now."

"What?" Augustana yelled and Blue knew that she fully awake now. "We'll be over as soon as we can."

"Thanks." Blue said to the dial tone and she looked at Evelyn. "Come here."

Evelyn flew at her again and clung to her. "Don't leave me. I'll go with you just don't leave me!" she cried and Blue ran her fingers through her hair.

"Don't cry. It's okay Eve. No one is going to hurt you. Not when I'm here. All right?" Blue told her and she nodded slowly. "I need to go get Luke. Augustana is coming over with Amethyst and Cardigan so you'll be safe."

Evelyn nodded but still didn't let go or loosen her grip.

"Are you okay Evan?" Blue asked and he nodded. "Evan will take care of you Evelyn. It's okay. The cops have him, he won't hurt you."

The doorbell rang nearly ten minutes later as Blue decided to just take the twins with her and she peeled Evelyn off her, handing her to Evan before going to the door as one of the police officers answered. Her three best friends pushed past him and immediately surveyed the damage. Evelyn immediately latched onto her again but loosened her grip when she saw who it was.

"Thank God your parents are out of town." Cardigan Wainwright said and Blue nodded.

"Excuse Miss…"

"Washington." Blue supplied.

"Miss Washington we're going to have to ask you a few questions."

Blue answered all his questions the best she could, got everything cleared up about the party and drunk college kid, and received a lecture on how damaging her temper could be and how it could get her into trouble. She even convinced them to let her be the one to call her parents and not them. She watched as they escorted the bruised frat boy out to their squad car and moved in front of Evelyn so she wouldn't see him.

When they were gone, Blue found the keys to her van that she had left and went outside to see if it still worked. It did. She told her friends she was going to get Luke and would be back soon. Ushering Evelyn and Evan into the car, she thanked her friends for coming over and left.

As she pulled into the parking lot of the jail and got out with the twins, she spotted her Aunt Morgan walking towards her car with Luke. "Hell." Blue muttered and she tried to get the twins back into the car. "Hurry, now!"

She didn't know what her aunt was doing in Eugenia since she lived in Georgia but she certainly didn't want to stick around to find out. Just as she was sliding into the driver's seat, she heard her aunt call her name and let out a string of four letter words. She watched as her aunt stalked towards her.

"Zoe Esther Washington! You should be ashamed of yourself, letting my baby…" Blue tuned out her aunt and nodded every so often to make it seem like she was listening.

Finally, she just got fed up with her aunt belittling her and slammed her door shut. "It's not my fault your moron son is an effing pothead and a likes to go streaking!" Blue yelled and Morgan stood, shocked. She drove away before her aunt had time to recover.

When Blue pulled up in front of her parents' house, Amethyst and Cardigan were cleaning up the outside. She got out and began to help Augustana inside after sending Evelyn and Evan up to her old room. What seemed to be years later, everything was cleaned up and all traces of a party had almost been erased. Blue and her friends collapsed in the living room from exhaustion.

"Thanks for everything. You guys are the best." Blue muttered and her friends made various noises as they drifted off to sleep. "Don't fall asleep down here, go to the guestrooms."

They all made noises again and she helped them each of them to the guestrooms before going to her old room. Evan and Evelyn both were sprawled across her bed and she had to smile. They looked like they did when they were toddlers and would come into her room to take a nap while she was doing something else.

Grabbing a pillow, she pulled her old sleeping bag out of her closet and laid it out in front of the door. Before she closed her eyes she whispered, "Goodnight midgets. I love you."

Four hours later, Blue woke up and found that she was the only one awake so she decided to make breakfast. She looked in the fridge to see what was in there and frowned when she found it nearly empty. She opened the pantry and found that to be lacking as well. Going back to her room, she woke up her siblings and she told them to get dressed before leaving notes on her friends' faces, asking Augustana to take her bike for her.

She patted her Ducati as she passed it and unlocked her van. The twins came outside a few minutes later and locked the front door before getting in the van. She headed east towards the military base after backing out of the driveway and ten minutes later they arrived at the gate. She showed her military ID to the person there and was glad that she still had base privileges.

She walked into the commissary between Evelyn and Evan in an old shirt that had once been Kristoffer's and a pair of her father's old camouflage pants that she'd cut into knee-length shorts. All three looked tired as they walked towards the produce section with a basket. Blue noticed the surprised looks as she walked past some shoppers who religiously showed up every Saturday to get their shopping done and flashed them a tired smile.

"Evan, Evelyn, why don't you two go and get another cart like this one and fill it with everything that the three of us will eat?" She looked down at their apprehensive faces and smiled in reassurance, reaching into her pocket a pulling out a cell phone. She gave it to Evelyn and pulled both of them into a hug. "It's okay; I'm not going to let anyone hurt you. I promise. You're safe here. If I didn't think you were I wouldn't be letting you two out of my sight, okay?"

They nodded but Evelyn clung to her tighter. Blue ran a comforting hand through her hair sister's hair before taking off her jacket. She helped Evelyn into it and zipped it up. "Nothing is going to happen to you Evelyn. Evan will protect you and so will I. It's okay."

"Promise?" Evelyn asked sounding much like she did when she was three years old. It hurt Blue to hear her sister so vulnerable. "Do you promise Zoe?"

"I promise that no one will physically harm you as long as I'm around. Evan would never let anyone hurt either, would you Evan?"

"No. She's safe with me." Evan said earnestly as he pulled Evelyn into a one armed hug

Blue nodded and showed them her own cell phone. "Call me if you need me and I'll be right there."

"Okay." They chorused although Evelyn was a little hesitant. Blue watched as they went to go get a basket and then watched as they walked seven aisles away.

Blue began gathering the fruits and vegetables before moving to the deli. More waves of nostalgia rushed at her as came closer. She placed an order for a pound of ham lunchmeat sliced thin. She took in all of her surroundings her with a smile on her face but frowned upon seeing Jude's birth mother, April, cooing into her cell.

It hurt to see April. Pushing aside the hurt, she looked around for Jude but couldn't find him. She studied April as she continued to wait for her order and laughed to herself when she realized April hadn't seen her yet. Then again, April only cared about herself so she wouldn't care who was around unless they were trying to kiss her or were about to spill something on her.

When her order was finally done, she grabbed it and put it in the basket. April finally recognized her as she walked past her and gave her an icy glare. Blue just gave a discreet one-finger salute and smiled sweetly.

Blue walked down the first aisle picking up whatever she thought her parents needed. By the time she reached the seventh aisle, her cell was blasting 'Flagpole Sitta' as loud as it could. She reached inside her pocket and opened her phone.

"Hello?"

"Where are my babies?" demanded the voice on the other end and Blue winced at her mother's tone. Barbara Washington wasn't someone you wanted to talk to when she wasn't happy. "Why aren't they answering the phone?"

"Hi Mom, how are you?" she asked, trying to decide what cereal to pick up.

"Zoe, where are my children?"

Blue pulled the phone away from her ear and winced. She was tempted to put the phone on speaker but decided not to since the townsfolk were nosy gossipers. "I'm fine thanks for asking. The twins are with me."

"Zoe Esther, you are trying my patience! Where are they?"

"Grocery shopping with me at the commissary and then later we're going to take turns riding on my motorcycle without helmets!" She threw a box of Lucky Charms into the shopping cart. "Your precious babies are fine Mother. Thanks for asking how I am though."

"They're only eleven Zoe. Get over your issues, this isn't about you. Don't always make it about you! You have attention issues that you need to work out because I'm tired of the antics you pull for attention!"

"You mean getting on a Greyhound bus and going to Ohio without telling you where I was? Is that what you're talking about? What's up with you Mom? You haven't treated me like this since I was seventeen years old."

"I'm treating you like this because you are twenty-two years old and you're acting jealous of two eleven year olds. Grow up and stop taking your jealousy out on them. You haven't really liked them since they were born and you found out they were twins."

"Make no mistake Mother that I love them. And while you are out in Vegas celebrating your anniversary, I rode my motorcycle for over ten hours from Ohio to get here because of this feeling I had. When I get to your house at two in the morning there are cars everywhere.

"It turns out that your oh-so-responsible nephew threw a party and got arrested three blocks away for public intoxication and indecency because the pothead went streaking. But while that was happening, I'm at the house and have called the cops and am kicking everyone out."

"Oh my goodness…Zoe where is this going…Did something—"

"It gets worse Mother. Before the cops get there, I hear Evelyn scream. I race up the stairs to her room and when I get there her door is locked. I had to kick it in just to get in by the time I did, this drunk is throwing Evan out of the way. Now on the stairs, I had been pissed but when I saw that…I can't even describe what I felt at that moment. I think I blacked out for a few minutes because the next thing I know there are cops restraining me and threatening to arrest me and the pervert is a mess on the floor.

"After this, I calm down Evelyn and Evan and call my friends to help me because Luke called me from the county jail. I end up taking the twins with me to go get Luke and do you know who I see coming out of the police station with Luke? Yep, you guessed it. Aunt Morgan. And we all know how much she hates me and how much of a mama's boy he is. She starts screaming at me about letting her baby sit in jail with—"

"Let me talk to them Zoe! Let me talk to my babies! I don't really care that my sister yelled at you right now, just let me talk to them!"

"Call Dad's cell then. He left it at home so I gave it to them when I sent—"

"You're letting them walk around alone? What is wrong with you? How could you be so irresponsible?"

"If I thought something would happen then they wouldn't be out of my sight. I'm not going to let anything happen to them, I promise." Blue said earnestly.

"If any man ever decides that he wants to marry you and goes through with it, I pray he has more sense than you because if he doesn't your children will surely suffer from the lack of judgment in their lives!" Barbara told her angrily. "I'm glad your father got a weird feeling and we decided to come home. We'll be at the commissary in twenty minutes so go and find my children."

"Yes ma'am." Blue whispered to the dial tone. Her phone rang again. "Hello?"

"Where are you?" Elizabeth demanded loudly, causing Blue to wince again. "You can't just bolt from my dining room table, jump on your bike and speed away like death is coming for you! I almost called the cops but Gray wouldn't let me! Don't ever do that again Zoe!"

"I'm sorry Beth. I just…I had this really weird feeling like I was needed back in Eugenia." Blue explained and she heard Beth sigh.

"Yeah well, you scared me to death and…yes I'm talking to…Gray give me the phone!"

"DEMON!" screamed her cousin-in-law, Grayson Alexander.

That made Blue smile. She had known Grayson since she was knee high to a duck. He was just like another but lighter big brother to her. He was the one who gave her the nickname Blue Demon, although he and everyone else only called her Blue now.

Grayson was in a world famous rock band whose name was taken from her nickname. Everyone in the band Blue Demon went by different names, color names. Grayson was known to the public as Wolf Gray. The rest of the band—Jet Black, Ruby Red, Carnation Pink, Dandelion Yellow, Hunter Green and Mahogany Brown—had also known her since she was a little girl.

Her cousin had met Gray and the rest of the band when her roommate's boyfriend had left her on the side of the road on the highway in the snow. Gray believed it was fate that he had stumbled upon her in the snow. Beth didn't like to talk about it because she all she could remember about those hours on the bus was saying the word a four-letter curse word several times. Everyone knew though that she believed it had been fate.

"GRAY!" Blue said laughing. "How is my favorite cousin-in-law?"

"Good. I'm trying to get Beth to go on tour with me but she doesn't want to take Oliver on the road with us just yet. Make her come with me, she listens to you." he said in a perfected whine that he had copied from her when she was younger. Blue smiled when she heard a loud smack. "Ouch, that hurt woman!" She heard another smack. "Here's Beth, my wife, whom I love so dearly and will always remain faithful to."

"You are so whipped." Blue joked as she spotted an old high school classmate shopping with their homeroom teacher from freshman year.

"I'm not whipped." Gray said indignantly and Blue heard Beth laugh. "I'm not!"

"Go wake up our son from his nap and make dinner." Beth told him and Blue heard him say 'yes dear'. "So, what the hell was with you yesterday morning since you explained why you left that evening?"

"Did I just hear my square cousin Elizabeth say a bad word? Lord save her from the evil that is dwelling within her." Blue said teasingly as she turned onto another aisle. "Cleanse her Holy Father and make her pure again."

"I'm not going to let you get me riled up just because something is bothering you. Besides, I blame it on Gray. He's a horrible influence on me but I love him so much." Beth waited for Blue to say something smart-alecky but the comment never came. "Okay seriously, what's wrong?"

Blue hesitated.

"Tell me what it is Blue or I'll call your older siblings." Beth threatened. "Who knows what I'd tell them."

Blue hesitated again before saying, "She's doing it again."

"Who is doing what again?"

"My mother. She's treating me differently again." Blue said turning down an empty aisle and tears filled her eyes. "I get that I upset them when I disappeared and that I lost their trust and that I'm an outsider because of what happened but still. She used to treat me in a manner that gave a semblance of normalcy."

"Maybe something happened. Maybe he got out and she's afraid that he'll come for you." Beth told her.

Blue sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I hope not. I don't need him. I already have a dad. I don't need a father as well." she replied and it was Beth's turn to sigh. "I don't want to talk about this anymore so I'll call you tomorrow. Okay?"

"All right. Bye." Beth said softly and she hung up.

Blue wiped at the tears that were running down her cheeks and took deep breaths to calm herself down as she told herself that she was only crying because she was running on empty. When she was finally calm enough to move, she saw Evan and Evelyn at the end of the aisle talking to a boy who looked older than them. When the boy pushed Evelyn, Blue started walking towards them and began to run when Evan punched the kid. The boy clutched his nose and grabbed at Evan who went to swing again.

"Evan, no!" Blue yelled and she pulled Evan away from the boy as Evelyn moved behind her. She forced Evan to look at her. "You do not punch people! Period! Do you understand me?"

"But he—"

"I don't care what he—"

"—called us niggers."

"He did what?" Blue screamed as she let go of Evan and turned to the boy who was cowering near some cereal. Blue turned back to Evan. "Still, it's not right to hit people. I'll deal with you later though."

She turned back to the boy who was still clutching his nose. "I didn't mean it. I swear!"

"You wouldn't have said it to them unless you meant it. Where do you get off telling to kids that? How old are you?" Blue demanded.

"Fourteen." the kid answered.

"You should know better than that then. Where the hell do you get off calling my little brother and sister a nigger?"

"Merriam Jackson Wickham!" yelled a woman behind them and Blue turned, recognizing. The owner of the voice walked towards them, frowning but smiled when she recognized Blue. "Miss Washington."

"Master Sergeant Lee." Blue replied in acknowledgement. "Pleasure to see you again."

"You too. I love the pictures you took of my wedding. You should consider honing your skill and opening your own shop." Patricia Adams Wickham Lee told her. Patricia then turned her attention back to her son. "Merriam where did you learn that word?"

"Everyone knows it Mom." he said to his feet before looking up at her. "Besides, Dad says it all the time."

"I knew he was a bad influence on you. You're not going to see that man anymore. I'll make sure of that." Patricia said and she grabbed her son by the ear. She turned to Blue. "I'm sorry this incident occurred. He will be punished accordingly."

"So will my little brother. He shouldn't have struck your son." Blue replied and Patricia nodded before walking away.

"Evan, Evelyn!" someone called and the three of them turned as their parents raced towards them. "Thank God!"

Barbara swept her youngest children into a hug as their father, Charles, waited for his turn. Blue smiled at him and stepped towards him for a hug. "Hi Dad." she said but he seemed to ignored her and hugged Evan and Evelyn who had been released from the clutches of their mother.

Blue watched as her parents fussed over the twins and walked away further into the store as tears began to congregate in her eyes again. She walked into something and frowned when she heard a cry. Looking down, she saw that she had knocked down a little boy. He looked awfully familiar but she knew that she'd never seen him before.

"I'm sorry." she said gently and she picked up the boy who couldn't have been more than three. "I didn't mean to make you cry."

"I want my brother." he cried softly and she hugged him.

"Kristoffer Robin! Where are you?" called a voice and Blue froze. The little boy in her arms started squirming at the name and she sat him down as she spotted the owner of the new voice. "Kristoffer?"

"Jude?" she said quietly and the boy calling for Kristoffer Robin looked at her. "Jude…"

"Blue!" Jude raced at her and she picked him up, hugging him tightly. "You came back! I told Dad that you would come back!"

She let her tears roll down her cheeks freely as she hugged him and kissed his head. "I missed you so much. I'm so sorry that I left." she told him and he smiled.

"I want you to meet my brother. His name is Kristoffer Robin 'cause Dad says you used to call him that but we call him when he's in trouble. Any other time we call him Robbie." he said as she put him down.

She kneeled down in front of Robbie and held out her hand to him, "Hi, I'm Blue." Robbie surprised her and hugged her tightly.

"He likes you." Jude said with a laugh.

Blue stood and picked up Robbie as Jude grabbed her hand. "Why aren't you with April?"

"That woman left us." Jude said angrily. "We've been looking for her so I called Dad and he said that he'd come get us. This isn't the first time either."

"Did your father…did he marry April?" Blue asked, already knowing the answer before Jude nodded.

"I hate her." Jude said. "Robbie doesn't like her either."

"She's your mother, you shouldn't—"

"You're right, she is my mother but you're my mom. Dad says that I have to call you Blue though." Jude told her and she laughed to herself. He was practically in the same situation she was in. "Don't leave again. Please."

"I won't sweetie. I love you." She kissed his head again before kissing Robbie's fat cheeks. "And I already like you a whole lot."

Robbie just giggled.

"There you two are! Did I tell you to stay in the front of the store and who are you…Blue?" said a raised voice behind them and they turned around. "You're back!"

Blue opened her mouth to speak but closed it when Kristoffer Young gathered her in a giant hug. When he finally pulled away, she smiled. "It's good to see you too."

"Don't you ever do that again! You had me worried sick!" he told her and she shrugged, bouncing Robbie.

"To be honest with you, I didn't think you would notice."

"Why wouldn't I notice? One minute you're there and the next you disappear and no one knows where you are, not even your family! Where did you go?"

"To stay with my cousin in Ohio." she replied and she read his shirt. "You're one of Uncle Sam's misguided children."

He nodded, cracking a smile. "You always said you liked marines. I felt I owed you something."

"Not your life. What if you had been sent to war?"

"I was over there for a year. It was pure hell. Robbie was born while I was away."

She smiled.

"What?" he asked with a smile of his own.

"I always knew you loved it when I called you Kristoffer Robin."

He just laughed before turning serious. "You look really good Blue."

"You too." she told him, letting her eyes rake over him appreciatively and he blushed. "Don't do that. You know what happens when you blush around me and I can't do anything because you're a married man."

"She's cheating on me anyways." he said huskily.

She shook her head. "Two wrongs don't make a—"

He silenced her with a tender kiss and she felt him take Robbie from her. He pushed her back into shelf and closed the space between them. "You've grown some baby. You've filled out very nicely." he whispered.

"The USMC has done you some good." she replied, hugging him tightly and they finally pulled away from each other when they heard gagging noises. When the reality of what just happened caught up with her, she covered her face and cursed. "I'm sorry that I did that. You're married and I have to respect that."

"You didn't do anything. I did." She opened her mouth to object but he shook his head. "I'm the guilty one here. I just…I've missed you and this. I wanted to kiss you again."

"I'm still in love you Kris and I want you to know that so you understand I am very conflicted when it comes to you. Even when I was engaged, I was still completely in love you." she said and he immediately looked down at her hand. "I called off it."

"Because you still love me?"

"That and because he was cheating on me. He told me that he didn't really love me. He just wanted to get me in bed, which is something we never did. He told me that he wasn't the settling down type."

"That bastard!" Kris exclaimed as Robbie hugged his legs. "What a tool! How could you date such a guy?"

"He seemed nice but he was army so I should have known." Blue replied and Kris grunted.

"So where's he now?"

"Married with two kids."

"Son of a—"

"Not in front of your kids." Blue interrupted and Kris raised an eyebrow. "I've had two years to get over it and come to grips with the fact that maybe I'm just not someone that people want to settle down and be in love with for the rest of their life."

"That's not true." Kris told her and she smiled sadly.

"You were always in love with April." Blue said quietly.

"I care about you a lot, Zoe. Now more than ever and I'm sorry that I ever let you go. I was an ass and you were just…you didn't deserve anything I said, did, and caused you to feel four years ago. I'm still beating myself up for all of it because I hate myself for doing that and treating you that way."

"I forgave you four years ago when I realized that April would always hold a special place in your heart. She's Jude's mother, not me. I wish I was his real mother. You have no idea how badly I wanted to be a part of your family, to be with you all the time."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It wasn't your fault." Blue told him and he looked away. "I have to finish shopping and find out where my parents went."

He nodded. "I have to get the groceries home." It was her turn to nod. "I'll see you around?"

"Maybe."

He paused, as if he were going to say something but nodded again instead and picked up Robbie before taking Jude's hand. "I'm glad that you're here, even if it is only for a little while."

"I'm glad that you're glad."

He smiled and she watched as they walked off. She sighed and slumped against the shelf, rubbing her eyes. She felt someone hug her and recognized the cologne to be her father's. She turned around in his embrace and hugged him tightly.

"I love him Dad. I can't help it."

"I know. Love is a strange thing sometimes." Charles said and she pulled back. "Why'd you run off?"

"I spoke to you but you ignored me and hugged the twins." she replied and he frowned. "It's okay, you know. I get that they're more important than I am."

"None of your siblings are more important than you and vice versa. You know that. When your mother told me that someone had tried to rape Evelyn and hurt Evan, once I saw them I just wanted to get them in my arms so I knew that everything was all right. I looked for you after I hugged them but you were gone." Charles told her.

"Sorry." Blue muttered. "I'm just tired and overly emotional right now."

"Don't be sorry." Charles said. He wrapped his arm around her again. "Do you need help shopping?"

She shook her head. "I got it. Besides, I need some time alone to think."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah," she replied. "I just need to be by myself."

"All right then. I'll see you at home." Charles said reluctantly, not wanting to leave her alone.

Blue seemed to read his thoughts and said, "I'll be fine, don't worry. I love you Dad."

"I love you too sweetie."

Blue finally finished shopping nearly two hours later. Most of that time she had spent thinking about her kiss with Kris and how powerful the sparks had been when they touched. She paid for the groceries and went out to her van. She wasn't too surprised to find him waiting for her. Without a word, he put up the groceries into her car and then pulled her into his arms. She hugged him back tightly and closed her eyes, ignoring the warning bells going off in her head.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly, his lips against her temple.

She shook her head slowly. "Can you just hold me for a few minutes?"

"Sure." he replied and he pulled her closer.