By Carol Sandford


Chapter 04


It had been a shock walking into Antony Carstair’s plush office and seeing a framed photograph of Deanna - his Deanna, perched on the edge of his desk. A casual question as to who the beautiful woman was confirmed his worst nightmare; ’That, my man is the most beautiful woman in the universe, and I might add, my fiancee. We are to be married two weeks today. Aren’t I a lucky fella?’ he crowed, smugly.

Will nearly punched him.

Will had almost died on the spot. It had taken all of his strength to carry on for his reason to being there; he needed financial backing for his latest project and Carstair’s was just about his last resort, and in the same moment he’d found Deanna, he’d lost his other dream. It was a toss up to which was the worse scenario in the end. The two were supposed to come together; His reunion with his Imzadi, and his dream home. Now it looked like could lose both.

It hadn’t taken Will long to track Deanna down after that, purely by a process of elimination. He’d expected to find her name amongst the numerous psychologist come counselors listed in the phone book. He was surprised to find her under consultancy practises, specialising in bereavments. But then when Will sat and thought about it, he realised just how logical her move was.

And now she was here, with him in his jeep heading out to his home, hopefully to stay once he’d gotten her to listen to his side of the story and accepted his apologies - all of them.

He was abruptly brought out of his memories by Deanna’s sudden insistence that he stopped, "Pull over, Will!"

He was instantly panicked, but begun to slow the vehicle down, "What for, Deanna? You can hardly walk back to town from here, we’re miles away."

Deanna’s pleading eyes held a hint on disgust as she turned and faced him, "There are more people than you to consider, Will. I want to call Antony. He has a right to know where I’m going and who with, otherwise he will worry. You may not care about him, but I do. Pull over."

Will flushed beetroot at her tone, but acceded to her request. But then an evil thought spiralled through his mind; yes, this was not such a bad idea, Carstair’s knowing that she was off with her ex. Just might be the answer to a prayer.

By the time Deanna had gotten back into the jeep, her mood had reduced to sullenness drastically. She was scared before, but now she was terrified. Will watched her climb back into the cab, his feelings carefully masked, but even so, he couldn’t help asking her, "You okay, did you speak to...him?"

She glanced at him sideways, her face contorted into a sneer, her response was caustic, "Him has a name, it is Antony, and yes, everything is perfectly fine, thank you," and on an even haughtier note she added, "and Antony trusts me, implicitly."

But her silence after told another story. Deanna quietly fumed at her fiance’s flippant response to her revelation. In fact he’d seemed quite unconcerned; ’Okay honey-bunch, if you need to do this you have my blessing, just let me now when you get back okay?’ It wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She wanted him to blow his stack and demand that she return home, or even that he was coming to rescue her. It all only reminded her just how passionless their relationship was.

Deanna had met Antony two whole years ago when he was a patient of hers in her newly founded bereavement support group. He had lost his father a short while before, and along with the death of his father he had the added horror of taking on a massive business that his father had built up. Antony hadn’t known where to start, apart from accepting that he needed guidance to deal with his loss. Within weeks he and Deanna were an item.

Antony knew Deanna was carrying around a lot of baggage, but he liked to believe that they had been able to help each other. He also knew about her baby, promising her it would be the first thing they would concentrate on after they were married; a family. It was what Deanna wanted most of all. She’d lost Will, and lost his baby, but Antony was giving her a second chance.

The passion between them was, if not non-existant, then very dispassionate. But after Will, Deanna didn’t think she would ever know the kind of passion that they’d had. She didn’t even know if she even wanted to feel that way again. These days she was content with being content. These days she just wanted to belong, and Antony offered both of those too.

But now, the one man that caused all her pain, had turned up, and it was about to start all over again. Deanna didn’t know if she was strong enough to resist him. Lord knows she wanted to, but Antony’s indifference to her plight had thrown her, and with a growing dread, Deanna knew she was on her own.

The thousand questions that spun through Will’s mind got pushed to one side as he began to negotiate the road-less trail that led to his home. Purposely built for seclusion, views, authenticity and a burning desire to have all that, and more, had spurred Will on like a man possessed, until at last it had been completed. But on its completion came the cruel reminder that he had run out of money.

That was until a close friend and companion had come up with an idea and how Will had found himself in Carstair’s office.

Starfleet had been after Will’s expertise almost from the day he had resigned his commission. Now they were offering the chance of a little of both worlds. Admiral Drashnau wanted Will to be a test pilot, a job that entailed Will taking command of new ship - any ship, and putting it through its paces before being commissioned out to a full permanent crew.

The idea captured Will’s attention enough to agree to it which meant he had the opportunity of leasing his home out to the rich who wanted to escape it all and live in the wilds for a while. Everything was too good to turn down. Will couldn’t afford to turn it down, period.

But he needed money - fast, to complete the necessary changes to accommodate guests - like a road. As they bumped and heaved along the narrow, barely passable track, Carstair’s money couldn’t come soon enough.

As they continued the drive, Will had to give Deanna credit; she hung on without uttering one word as she was thrown around the cab like a rag doll. At least Will had a steering wheel to cling on to, poor Deanna only had her wits.

He didn’t know who sighed with relief the loudest when he at last pulled up in a clearing. As Deanna took in her surroundings, Will felt obligated to apologise, "Sorry about the ride, Deanna, but I do hope to have a road soon."

Hopping out of the jeep, he quickly trotted around to her door and swung it open, waiting patiently for her to step out. It took several long, tense moments before she did so, but it wasn’t for Will’s benefit that she finally did, it was for the panorama that spread out before her eyes.

She turned full circle in the same spot before stopping and uttering in awe, "Oh, Will, what a wonderful place!"

Will beamed and puffed up with pride as he came and stood beside her, taking in the same view that she was seeing, even though he’d seen it a million times, and if he saw it another million times, he would still never tire of it.The forest rose around the lodge like a sanctuary; blocking out the world, giving Will the peace that he craved. Almost. All he needed now was the woman who stood silhouetted by the dipping sun to share the rest of his life with.

"I know," he agreed. "I searched for a long time time to find the perfect place and found it here. I knew as soon as I saw it I had to build our new home here."

Will stopped breathing when he realised what he had just said, wondering if she had heard the remark too. But she seemed oblivious to his words, and before long, Will’s heartbeat returned to normal as he chided himself for being so stupid. What was he thinking!?

Instead he took her gently by the elbow and steered her towards the house, his boyish enthusiasm unmistakable and infectious, "Come and see inside. I’ve even got a couple of steaks in the fridge ready to throw on the barbecue. You, are in for the meal of your life, Deanna."

But even as they stepped through the heavy pine door, they were both already thinking about the conversation ’after’ the meal. They both wondered if they were even going to be able to eat the meal as simultaneously, their stomach’s tightened with tension.

Stepping into Will’s home was like stepping into another world. Deanna slowly took in everything around her; the highly polished pine floors. The intricate and brightly coloured native Indian rugs lay on the floor, and murals adorned the walls. Everything fitted even though it was modern. Will had spent a lot of time, effort and money getting it like it was. He was proud of his new home and rightly so.

"It's beautiful, Will."

He grinned at her as he worked his way easily around the kitchen area, preparing the meal that he had promised her, "Yeah, I think so too."

Pouring two tall glasses of something frosted, Will brought them over to her and handed her one, "Here you go."

Deanna muttered her thanks, feeling awkward as they both stood in the middle of the room unsure what to say to one another. It was Will who broke the awkward silence, "You changed your hair."

Deanna automatically reached up to stroke the bobbed length of now straight rich auburn hair, a fanciful attempt at changing her appearance along with everything else she had changed. She grinned ruefully at him before swinging her arm in a wide arc, her eyes following its sweep, "You changed your life."

He indicated for her to sit on the huge, plush, comfortable couch, large enough for them to sit beside one another without being in each others laps, "Yeah, I sure did that. Being cooped up on a Starship was driving me insane..." He didn’t have to add that she was the cause of his insanity. He seemed to want to talk so Deanna sat back and let him, "I came home only to find dad at deaths door, the house and land about to be sold. I had no job, no prospects and nothing to live for at the time...except to find you, that was my only reason for living back then."

Deanna watched the bad memories flit across his features but still kept silent knowing that there was more to come.

"Dad passed away." Deanna instantly reached out and touched his arm in condolence, Will stared at her slender hand, until Deanna realised it was the same hand that housed the sparkling diamond ring and she quickly pulled it away. He continued, "It's okay, he was suffering, his death was a release for him. Anyhow, I then found out about the deal to sell the house and the land. I was very angry about it at first, mostly for dad’s deception and insensitivity, but then once I had calmed down and thought rationally about it, it was the right thing to do. The house had ceased being my home the day mom died. It was just somewhere that I slept in and ate in, fought with dad in, then visited in between assignments. It wasn’t home, it was just a house."

"Anyhow, I agreed to sell it all on the condition that the homes built on it were met with my requirements, and they agreed to that too. Now there are twenty special needs lodges built on the land designed for the needy, and the disabled. Parents send their kids, or come with them and stay at the lodge for a week or whatever." Will beamed with pride again, "They have the time of their lives."

It was clearly evident that Will was proud of his achievements and rightly so. Deanna was proud of him too.

Deanna smiled at him tenderly and asked, "And now?"

Will let out a breath, "And now I’m back working for Starfleet as a test pilot for all the new ships and shuttles. Sometimes I’ll be busy, sometimes I won’t. The times I’ll be busy the lodge will be leased out, and when I’m not busy, I’ll be here, at home."

Home. It had such a lovely ring to it as they sat and basked in the word. It was what they had both always wanted and was probably the driving force for Deanna to leave the Enterprise and her old life. She knew she would never achieve her dream of having a home and a family whilst she was out in space, and she had wrongly thought that that was what Will had not wanted. Looking around her now, it was painfully obvious that it was. He craved a home life as much as she. Trouble was, it was probably too late for it to be done together. Time had moved them on; new careers, new lives, new relationships and new ideals.

Time slipped by as they quietly sipped at their drinks and watched the flames flicker in the grate that Will had lit as he’d told her about his life, until suddenly Will jumped to his feet and headed back toward the kitchen, "I’m getting hungry, take a look around if you like. You can have the bedroom to the right at the top of the stairs."

Now alert, Deanna came to a stand, her fear re-established once more at his innocuous words, "Bedroom?! Will, I’m not staying here! Antony is expecting me, and this is not a sensible thing for us to do."

Will put down the steak hammer and came towards her. Deanna found herself backing up against the bottom stair, "It's too late to take you home, Deanna, the track is far to dangerous to negotiate at night, and besides, what are you afraid of...Me?"

There it was; the challenge. Deanna thought quickly, her words spilling out even quicker as she bluffed her way out of the tense moment, "Ha ha, don’t be absurd, I’m not afraid of you, Will Riker. I know you wouldn’t dare lay one finger on me without my say so. And anyway, there will be a lock on the door won’t there?"

Will shook his head, his face alight with merriment, "Sorry, sweetheart, haven’t gotten around to those yet. And besides, who says I’m going to come in and ravish your body? Lady, right now, nothing could be further from my mind."

Deanna turned crimson at her hasty assumption that Will would come to her in the middle of the night. Then she turned crimson even more as she wondered why the hell not. She was still attractive. He clearly still loved her, while she, God help her, still loved him, but at that moment, it would be a cold day in hell before she would tell him it. She was going to marry Antony Carstairs in precisely five days time regardless of how she felt about William Riker.

She swallowed painfully,"Can...can I use your phone? I need to let Antony know."

Will shook his head again and moved back towards the kitchen, "Sorry, no phone. The only thing I have is a radio in case of an emergency. You said yourself that Antony trusts you, what are you worrying about? You know I’ll take good care of you, and besides, we haven’t had our chat yet."

His last word continued on into the prevailing silence; yet The word filled her with dread. She didn’t want to drag up the painful past. Nor did she want to talk about her lost child, a child that she had wanted so badly, it had almost destroyed her when it had been so cruelly snatched from her.

She tried to reason with him again, her one last attempt to reach his better judgement, "But, I don’t have time to stay here, Will. I have things to do. I still have to see the florist, and the priest. I still have to sort out the final arrangements with the caterer. Then there is the photographer, and the holographer..."

Deanna trailed off as the absurdity of her words hit deaf ears. Will had begun pounding the steaks with the mallet, effectively blocking her voice out and her plans. He didn’t want to hear about her wedding, or the damn photographer, or the caterer. Damn, he didn’t want to hear any of it. And somehow his anger filtered through to her because the next time he looked up, she was slowly ascending the stairs.

  Book index   Previous chapter   Next chapter