It took five minutes for Cassandra to calm her jangled nerves. The phone beeped the broken line message; Cassandra hung up, then called information for the Dallas Police Department. An apology she had the information that the injured had been transported to Dallas Medical Care and yes, a message had been left for his sister, Karen. She caught Carla and left a message for Karen that she'd be leaving for Dallas as soon as she could get ready and would be calling again when she had more information. Two phone calls later, one for round - trip tickets to Dallas on the red-eye flight and the second to a twenty - four hour taxi service, she threw an overnight bag together. A last phone call to Annie so her daughter wouldn't worry and she was ready when the taxi drove up.

Dressed smartly in a powder blue skirt, silk blouse and jacket, she blended in at the airport with other travelers, most headed to Dallas on business. After checking her bag, she sat thumbing through a newly purchased magazine awaiting the boarding call. The magazine remained unread as her mind thought of Jay. The Dallas Police Department had no information on who had been injured or to what extent. The only good news was that no fatalities had been reported. That fact left a lot of traumas for her imagination to play with. She had an active imagination. The boarding call came and Cassandra claimed her seat.

"Mr. McCarey, room 412, check in the nurse's station." The Candy Striper receptionist manning the information booth was young and pretty. She flashed a tired Cassandra a friendly smile.

"Thanks." She made her way toward the bank of elevators. A taxi had taken her to a motel close to the hospital on her arrival. After checking in and freshening up, another taxi had deposited her at the front entrance of the Dallas Medical Center. It seemed she had waited all night: waiting for Jay's phone call that never came, waiting for the taxi to take her to the airport, waiting for the boarding call, waiting for the taxi to take her to the motel and now waiting for an elevator. She felt sick at heart of waiting.

'Ping,' the lift announced its arrival on the fourth floor. She stepped out and stopped, orienting herself and observing the disciplined chaos. Nurses dressed in white uniforms went about their duties, doctors in white smocks and carrying clipboards went about their rounds. The room was set up with patient rooms surrounding the nurse's station in the middle of the room. With a confidence she didn't feel, Cassandra approached the nurse's station.

"May I help you?" The nurse acknowledged her presence without looking up, continuing to make notes in a fat chart.

"I'd like to see Mr. Jay McCarey, please." It was a disconcerting to be talking at the top of the nurse's head. She was in need of having her roots colored but Cassandra decided this was not the time (or place) to point that overlooked face. Besides, it had been a while since she herself had been to the hairdresser.

"Immediate family?"

"No, just a friend." Maybe she would drop a hint of this rude behavior.

"Doctor's orders, immediate family only. Doctor doesn't want all those enthusiastic fans showing up and disturbing the patient."

"But I'm not a fan, well yes, I am a big fan, I just want to see how he's doing." Cassandra ignored the urge to throttle a certain nurse. And a certain doctor. "May I talk to Mr. McCarey's doctor?"

"Doctor is doing rounds. He may talk to you after he finishes rounds. Your name, please? You can wait in there." The tip of a pen pointed the way to a crowded room.

"Cassandra Fox."

Cassandra added this reason for waiting to other reasons to wait. She would like to just walk into Jay's room and kiss him soundly. A kiss of eternal love, slightly tinged with reality. A pitch of sexy mischievousness she injected with a sly smile. Of course that action would only get her banned from the hospital. But wouldn't a taste of eternity be worth being banned? Or damned without said kiss?

"Mrs. Cassandra Fox?" Time had flown and Cassandra jerked at her name being called. The man before her was slightly older than her son, Brad. "I'm Dr. Carter."

"Is Jay...excuse me...Mr. McCarey...is he alright?"

"The broken arm is no problem, Mrs. Fox. It's the back injury that I'm concerned about."

"He did mention he took a spill on ice before Christmas but he didn't go into details."

"Nurse said you were a friend of Mr. McCarey. If I may ask, how close of a friend? Could you keep an eye on Mr. McCarey when he goes home?"

"I'm in hopes there will be a ring in the near future, Doctor. That be close enough? You said a back problem, how will that effect the tour?"

"I'll require staying on his physical therapy regimen, exercise and bed rest. Until we can take care of the back problem, he's off the tour. Think you could help with that, Mrs. Fox?"

"My kids thought I was a slave driver, you can count on it, Dr. Carter."

"Come with me." They traversed the room back to the nurse's station. Same nurse in the need of a root procedure paid attention when Doctor Carter stopped in front of the desk.

"Nurse, this is Mrs. Fox. She has my permission to visit Mr. McCarey anytime and for as long as she wants. I'll make it a standing order if needed."

"There is one more thing, Mrs. Fox," the doctor turned his attention to Cassandra, "invite me to the wedding?"

"Cassandra please, Doctor. I'll see you get an engraved invitation."

All the waiting was over as Cassandra opened the door to Jay's room. She had been warned about the broken arm and expected to see the cast, she wasn't ready for how pale he looked. He appeared to be asleep, lying on his back, the uninjured arm resting on a small pillow. She stepped forward, dropping her purse on the floor. She leaned over the bed, brushing his lips lightly. Pulling the one chair in the room closer, she sat holding his hand. Tears sprang freely from her eyes as she heard him moan, trying to reposition himself into a more comfortable place. He seemed to be somewhat successful in this as he became quiet, his facial muscles relaxing in slumber.

"I'm here, Jay, I've missed you. I love you and have so much to tell you. What am I going to do with you?"

"Marry me?" His eyes flickered open, coming to rest on her.

"Faker! Is that your idea of a proposal?"

"I seem unable to get down on one knee and if I did I doubt I could get back up. So will you marry me?"

"Of course I will. I was afraid I'd have to ask you." She showered his face with kisses, finally landing on his lips. Eternity didn't taste half bad.

Later, after the nurse had interrupted them with Jay's medication, he had drifted off to sleep. Cassandra waited until she was sure he wasn't faking before she left. Stepping off the elevator, she was surprised at who was entering the front doors.

"Karen! Have you had lunch?"

"Not unless you count a bag of peanuts on the plane. How is Jay?" She didn't seem astonished to see Cassandra at the hospital.

"Jay is fine. He'll be asleep for several more hours. Come on, we'll have lunch and have a nice sister to sister talk. We have a wedding to plan."

"What do you mean 'sister to sister talk'? What wedding?"


Part 2

"You're a beautiful bride, Mom." Annie adjusted her mother's veil. Five months had passed since Jay's impromptu proposal. It was June and Cassandra tried to stand still as minor adjustments were made to her gown.

"I'll just be glad when this day is over. It's been a very busy five months." It had been a very busy five months from Cassandra selling her house and moving in with Jay. Jay had improved and had gotten down on one knee to propose, placing a ring on her finger. Wedding plans had included everything from invitations, (engraved for a certain doctor in Dallas), to selecting a cream-colored gown.

"Five minutes, girls." The voice from outside announced.

"Jay had better be having a bad time as me. Annie, is Brad ready?"

"He's ready, Mom. He'll push Grampa down the aisle with you, then take his place with the rest of the wedding party. You better get in place, it's almost time." Annie gave her mom a last hug before taking her own place as Maid of Honor.

Cassandra stood beside her father's wheelchair, ready to walk down the aisle. Jay looked so handsome in his black tuxedo; it made her heart skip several beats. Only moments to wait now. The church was packed by a combination of their friends and family.

"I wish your mother could be here today." Her father's words brought her thoughts back to the present.

"So do I, Father." Any other conversation was suspended when the wedding march music began. There was a rustle of clothing filled the sanctuary as everyone rose, turning toward the bride. Brad pushed the wheelchair, glancing often at his mother. That certain smile that curled her mouth into a contended smile said it all.

"Who gives this woman to this man?" The priest intoned when they were in place.

"I do, Father." Her father nodded his head and Cassandra stepped forward, taking Jay's hand. As practiced they moved to stand before the priest as man and woman. Some forty - five minutes later they stood in the same place as man and wife. Cassandra Fox had walked up the aisle but it was Cassandra McCarey who lifted her veil and received her first kiss.

The demons of the past had been put to rest. Now, as they had made their way to the church, the future beaconed with the bright lights of love, hope and faith.

Later, the duties of the reception and first dance fulfilled the new couple stood before their home. Cassandra broke the easy silence, "Jay, I don't want you carrying me across the threshold. I have plans for your back tonight and none include taking you to the E. R."

There is a fire that burns deep in a person's core. The fire is never fully extinguished; it lay dormant, nothing more than ash covered coals, waiting for new fuel. This fuel may be a certain look, a certain smile, a hand slipped inside a house, or like tonight, the unzipping of a wedding dress. At that point, the fire burns hot, flames building higher with each touch, caress or kiss. Cassandra felt this fire, its warmth consuming her from the inside out.

She cried out, arching her back as sparks exploded in a beautiful fireworks display.