After the helicopter landed at the hospital, the Hall’s were quickly taken inside to be examined and treated. It was a small hospital and not accustomed to handling the massive flood of media that descended on them after word was out that the Halls had been found. Security was struggling to keep the media contained to just the lobby and placed a call to the local police department for more assistance.
Noah requested that he and Sharlee share a room. The doctor examined them and both Noah and Sharlee were extremely dehydrated. Sharlee was especially drained and they were immediately given intravenous fluids. Skylar was perfectly healthy. Sharlee had taken good care of her. The nurse had Sharlee express some milk for bottles and then another nurse picked Skylar up to take her to the nursery. Sky started crying, kicking her little legs and calling for Noah and Sharlee. “Da!” What she called Sharlee wasn’t clear, but they knew she was trying to say “Mom.”
“Can you bring in a crib so that she can stay with us?”
“No, I don’t want a sedative.”
“Babe, I got this. I’ll take care of Sky. You need to relax and go to sleep.”
There was a knock at the door and then Alissa and Dale entered the room. They would have been there sooner but there were no flights available until after the storm had cleared. Alissa and Sharlee looked at one another, and they both burst into happy tears. Alissa rushed over to her and wrapped her arms around her. Dale came over and wrapped his arms around them both.
Noah realized that he was finally earning Dale’s respect. He hadn’t realized that having Dale’s respect mattered to him, but he was glad that it had happened. Not just for Noah’s sake, but because Noah knew that Dale’s negative view of him hurt Sharlee even though she never said it. He and Dale still weren’t friends, but at least they respected each other now.
“Thank you, Dale. That means a lot to me. Though Sharlee did just as much if not more than I did.”
He told Dale about what Sharlee had done to that wolf.
“Noah, are you alright?”
He answered Alissa. “I’m fine.”
Sharlee was so relieved to hear her father say that. She finally felt completely relaxed now that her parents were there to take care of Skylar, and Noah felt better too. Dale had already spoken with the doctor about their physical condition. He knew that Skylar was in good health.
The nurse went to confer with the doctor. Since Dale was a pediatrician himself, the doctor agreed that Skylar could be released from the hospital into their care. The nurse brought them Sky’s snowsuit and Sharlee’s milk so that they could make bottles for her.
After Sky was dressed, Alissa brought her over to Noah. “Give Daddy a kiss goodbye. You’ll see him later. You’re going bye bye with Nana and Granddad!”
Sky kissed Noah on the cheek and then Alissa let her give Sharlee a kiss. Sky was used to spending a few hours from time to time with her grandparents and so she wasn’t upset about leaving with them. She was glad to see them!
Alissa told them, “I love you both, and I’ll call the nurse’s station later to check on you. I know you’ll probably be sleeping.”
Dale knew they’d likely sleep through most of the next day as well, but he didn’t tell them that.
As soon as they left, the nurse gave Noah and Sharlee their sedatives. They talked together for a little while about how helpless their experience had made them feel and how much they loved each other and Skylar. Then before long, Sharlee fell asleep.
Noah looked over at her as she slept, and he smiled. She continued to surprise and amaze him. He still didn’t know how it was possible, but he loved her more and more each day. The thought of losing her or Sky made him feel a sharp pain in his chest. He pushed the unbearable thought away and finally drifted off to sleep.
Dale and Alissa were taken out a back entrance of the hospital to avoid the press. The police officers had them leave the hospital lobby, but they were still out at the front of the hospital demanding a statement on the Hall family’s condition. Harley representatives and Noah and Sharlee’s agent conferred with Dale and Alissa. They decided to have Gene go and speak with the press at the hospital for the family.
“The Halls and their family have asked me to speak in their behalf. They are in doing well and recuperating. They want to thank everyone who participated in the search for them and thank you all for your prayers and thoughts. They ask that they be allowed some privacy so that they can have an opportunity to recover from their ordeal. That’s all for today. Thank you!”
Dale and Alissa found a store and picked up some things for Skylar. They were glad to be able to stay in the same suite that they’d had before at the lodge. Skylar did ask for Noah and Sharlee a few times, but Dale and Alissa distracted her with other things. She was used to spending time with her grandparents and so she wasn’t very upset. Her parents always came to pick her up. Sometimes, it was even after she’d gone to sleep. They made sure to give her cereal in her dinnertime bottle that evening, and she went to sleep even though she fought it. Thankfully, she slept through the night.
During the night, the nurses came in to check on Noah and Sharlee, taking their vitals. Noah and Sharlee barely stirred; they were sleeping so deeply. Early the next morning, a nurse removed the IVs because their fluid levels were back to normal. Sharlee was the first to awaken. She could see that it was daylight, but she was still very sleepy. She looked over at Noah and he was fast asleep. She got out of her bed and climbed into bed with Noah, snuggling up close to him. He wrapped his arm around her, and they both went back to sleep.
“You’re alright, Baby. You’ll see Mommy and Daddy later. Are you hungry? Do you want Nana to give you a bottle?”
Dale heated up a bottle for her and Alissa fed her when it was ready. Then she gave Skylar a bath and dressed her.
This time, Noah awakened anyway. He smothered Sharlee’s face with kisses. After she was fully awake, he gave her a real kiss. Then he intended to take a shower and see if he could get a razor. He was dying to get rid of the beard.
“Get the hell out of here!”
Security officers came into the room and one took the paparazzi into custody and the other took the camera. He removed the card from the camera and handed the card to Noah. Then he carried the camera from the room while the other guard took the paparazzi out. After that a guard was stationed outside of Noah and Sharlee’s hospital room.
Sharlee called Alissa to check on Skylar.
“Skylar it’s Mommy on the phone.”
Alissa put the phone up to Skylar’s ear and she smiled as both of her parents talked with her.
The doctor came in as they were finishing talking with Skylar. She went over the results of their tests and told them that they could be released that evening. It was good news to both Noah and Sharlee. They wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible.
However, she had also reviewed the x-ray of Sharlee’s ankle. She didn’t feel that surgery was indicated, but Sharlee would be on crutches for the next couple of weeks as the ankle healed. She also advised Sharlee to see her own doctor so that her doctor could monitor her progress. They were both instructed to drink plenty of fluids over the next few days and not to over-exert themselves.
“That’s great sweetheart! Your car was located, and your belongings have been sent here to the lodge. Why don’t we all stay here tonight and then get a plane out tomorrow?”
Sharlee told Noah her Dad’s suggestion and he thought it was a good idea. Later when Sky saw her parents she gave a huge smile and they took turns holding her and receiving her sweet kisses.
“I think that was the best steak I’ve ever eaten! No offense to you, Babe!”
Noah went over to her and gently stroked her head. He sang softly to her, “Baby’s boat’s the silvery moon, sailing in the sky. Sailing over the silvery sea, while the clouds float by. Sail baby sail out upon that sea, only don’t forget to sail, back again to me!”
Alissa told them that Noah’s mother had kept in contact with her during the time when Noah and his family were missing. She’d asked Alissa to notify her when they were found. Noah wondered if his mother had done that because she thought it would be expected of her. The fact that she hadn’t contacted him since their return made Noah believe that it hadn’t been because she suddenly cared about him. He felt no need or desire to contact her. He still had another week left on his spring break, but after that Sharlee needed help because she was still on crutches. So her family took turns helping out until Sharlee was back on both feet.
At first the press honored the family’s request for privacy, but things changed two weeks later. Noah and especially Sharlee and Sky had become even more popular with the press, and their pictures were suddenly in great demand. Of course, Sharlee and her family hadn’t realized what that meant for them.
Sharlee was shopping with her mother and sisters. She was glad that she no longer had to use the crutches and could comfortably carry Skylar again. They were in the infant’s department buying some new things for Sky and then they planned to buy some things for Joy and Cara. All three girls had hit growth spurts and outgrown much of their old clothing.
Alissa was angry because Santa Fe had always been a place where she could enjoy raising her family. It was one of the reasons why Matthew had urged her to move there and why he’d chosen to set up his production studio there. It wasn’t like LA or even New York city where celebrities were fair game for the press or for the dreaded paparazzi.
“Look! This isn’t a press conference. Leave us alone or I’m calling the police!”
They fired questions at Sharlee. A sales associate called security and they led Sharlee and her family from the store and out to their car. They quickly left the shopping center. Thankfully their home addresses were not published, and so they went home without incident.
A few days after that, Sharlee left out of the grocery store and went to her car. She’d loaded the groceries inside and had just buckled Skylar into her carseat, when the paparazzi were around her again. She called the police and she was told that the paparazzi weren’t breaking any laws. So there was nothing that the police could do. Sharlee pushed her way into her car and again quickly left the shopping center.
This time they followed her home.
Sharlee got out of the car and closed the door behind her. They couldn’t get clear shots of Sky because of the window tinting, but they shot pictures of Sharlee. She was furious!
They ignored her and some even asked questions as though expecting her to answer. Someone rode up to the house on a motorcycle. At first, Sharlee thought it was Noah, but then she was shocked to see that it was Dean. He immediately saw that Sharlee was upset and that the reporters and photographers were ignoring her demands for them to leave.
After they were gone, Sharlee took Skylar from the car and hugged her. Then she looked at Dean. She appreciated his help in getting rid of the paparazzi, but she didn’t want him there at her home either!
“Thank you for making them leave, but why are you here?”
Dean looked at her expression. He could see strong dislike in her eyes as she stared at him. No, her feelings toward him had not softened at all. For his answer, he pulled a photograph from his pocket, and showed it to her. It was of a cute blond haired little boy about two years old.
“That’s my son. While I was still in the pen, a girl I dated informed me that I was his father! A condition of my parole is that I pay child support and stay straight. I’ve been out for over a month and I can’t find anything! No one wants to hire an ex-con. I heard about Noah opening up a dealership and I was hoping he could help me out. I’m sorry for what I did before, Sharlee. I’m not gonna lie and say that I’ve suddenly become super Dad. Honestly, I don’t like brats, not even my own. I’ll pay the child support but it’s best for him and me if I stay away.”
Yes, it was cold, but Sharlee wasn’t about to be alone with him inside her house. She made sure that the blanket was covering Skylar to keep her warm.
He continued speaking. “I’ve seen you in those commercials and in magazines. You still look even better in person. Maybe a little bit heavier, but I think it suits you. It’s in all the right places to emphasize your assets!”
Cara took Sky, and the others carried the groceries into the house for Sharlee. Sharlee walked inside the doorway and Dean followed behind her. He started to close the door.
“No, you can leave it open.”
Sharlee laughed at his expression. “Alright, Shawn can you order some pizzas? The number is still on the fridge.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Noah will be home soon. So you can go ahead and order the pizzas.”
Noah laughed when he heard Aidan’s voice instead of Sharlee’s.
“We’re all at your house. It’s Mom and Dad’s date night. Shawn is going to order some pizzas. Are you coming home soon? There’s some guy here and you might not have any pizza left!”
Noah asked him who the guy was.
Noah was finished with his final class and had been planning to go check out the building site for his dealership. Work had begun, and he wanted to see the progress. However, that could wait.
“Tell Sharlee I’ll be home in a few minutes, and tell Shawn to order plenty of pizza because I’m really hungry!”
Aidan told Sharlee that Noah was on his way home.
“His name? It’s Nicky.”
“Oh, is that short for Nicholas?”
He sat on his bike for a few more moments trying to use all of the calming techniques that Sarge had taught him over the past year, but it was very difficult. He felt a strong impulse to put his fist through Dean’s face! However, he knew that he couldn’t do that. His daughter, wife and young in-laws were inside the house, and he couldn’t take a chance on them getting hurt during a fight or confrontation with Dean. He’d succeeding in controlling himself with Kristian, and he’d try even harder to do it with Dean.
He forced himself to calm down and then went inside the house. Sharlee smiled in relief when he came through the doorway. She gave him a quick kiss and then she went into the kitchen to prepare a salad to go with the pizza.
“I know this is a surprise, but you’re my last hope, Noah!”
He told Noah the same story that he’d told Sharlee. Noah didn’t believe him.
“What are you talking about!”
“Is it one of your older brother’s children?”
Dean didn’t answer. He’d taken a shot and it hadn’t worked. Noah didn’t believe him, and Dean didn’t think that Sharlee was completely convinced either.
“You thought correctly that there was no way in hell that either Sharlee nor I would want to help you, but you remembered how tenderhearted Sharlee is. You knew that she would want to help a child, and so you concocted that jacked up “bull s@&t” story. We both know that paying child support would not be a condition of your probation. Child support is a separate action!”
Noah swallowed hard and fought for patience! The old Noah would have slugged Dean long before now! However, he knew that Dean must be trying to go straight or Dean wouldn’t still be looking for a job. He sighed. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen and a card. He wrote a name and number on it. Then he handed the card to Dean. The pizza delivery came as Dean looked at the card.
“That’s the name of a guy I know in Bridgeport. I worked for him at his club as a bouncer for a while. His old club was closed down, but he’s opened another one. He’s trying to be legit this time although the same can’t be said for all of his customers. He always needs bouncers. It’ll be a start for you and pay the bills while you build up work experience again. Come inside and I’ll write you a check, enough to tide you over until your pay starts.”
“My shop is still months away from being finished! That job at the club is the best that I can do for you.”
Dean was staring at Sharlee, following her every move in the kitchen with his eyes, and he wasn’t even trying to hide it. Dean clearly wanted Sharlee to know that he was watching her. Noah knew for sure then that Dean hadn’t changed a bit!
Sharlee was glad to know that she wasn’t the only one who felt that way about Dean.
“He used to be one of Noah’s friends, but not anymore.”
Sky called to Noah, and he went over and spoke with her.
“Hi, baby girl. I’ll be back in just a few minutes.”
Noah asked Sharlee to put a few slices of pizza into a container for Dean. Then he handed them to Dean.
He told Dean, “That’s to go! I’ll walk outside with you.”
“Dean this is it for us. We’re not “Bros.” anymore, and I’d better not see you anywhere around my family again. My wife and baby are happy and I’m not going to let anything or anyone change that. I’ve fought and worked hard for what I have, but I have had some breaks too. So that’s why I’ve helped you as much as I’ve done but don’t come back here again.”
“Are you still sore over what happened in Bridgeport! I would never do that again!”
“No, we aren’t the same now, and we never were even though I used to think so too. I would never have gone after your “shorty” and most definitely not your wife! I am never going to take a chance like that with Sharlee again. You’re out of our lives. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I’ve gone straight that I don’t have any more “juice”. I was nice this time but next time I’ll really finish it. I still have old “dogs” in Bridgeport.”
Dean saw a flinty, cold look in Noah’s eyes and knew that Noah was deadly serious. He knew some of those old “dogs” of Noah’s. Noah didn’t make empty threats. However, Dean didn’t like being threatened. Threats usually just made him even more determined to do whatever he wanted to do. No one ruled him and especially not Noah!
Sharlee sure was look’n hot, even hotter than he’d remembered! There was just something different about her, something special. She had a sensuous magnetism that just drew him to her. He hadn’t forgotten how it had felt to have his body pressed up against hers. He didn’t understand why she disliked him so intensely. He was used to getting any woman any wanted. He didn’t realize that maybe that was one of the reasons why Sharlee appealed to him so much. She wasn’t easy to get like the other girls he’d known.
If not for his promise to his mother that he would be legit now that he was sprung from the pen, he’d stay here in Santa Fe and show Sharlee what she was miss’n! His mother’s tears during her last visit with him while he was serving time in the pen came back to him. No, she was right when she’d told him that he was too old to keep making the same mistakes. Juvie was bad enough, but the big pen was unbearable. He never wanted to go back to prison again. That didn’t keep him from fuming over Noah’s attitude though. If he wanted to come back to Santa Fe, he would!
He climbed on his chopper and took off. Noah knew this might not be the last time he’d see Dean, but at least he’d given Dean a warning. If Dean didn’t listen, then Dean would have to face the consequences.
“I think that there has been a misunderstanding. While it’s true that we can’t intervene on public property, if the press comes into your yard and don’t leave when requested, then they are breaking the law!”
Noah had a bad feeling. For the first time since they’d moved into this house, he worried about leaving Sharlee and Sky alone there.
The last straw came for Alissa when Aidan and Joy rushed into the house upset, afraid, and Joy was crying. They had been out riding their bikes home from their cousin Devon’s home just down the street. Something they had done for years without incident, but today they were harassed by paparazzi!
Alissa and Matthew had been careful to keep the children out of the spotlight. While it was true that they were public figures, Alissa’s children were not and the press had always seemed to respect that fact. Now that had changed and Alissa wasn’t going to standby and just let her children be endangered and hounded! The paparazzi were now constantly roaming through the neighborhood, trying to get pictures.
Alissa and Matthew met with the homeowner’s association. For years they had been discussing making their small community gated with a security guard monitoring the entrance. They decided that now it was time to do so for the safety and privacy of all of the residents. Alissa didn’t intend to just stop with that! She wanted more done to protect her family and the families of other celebrities who might decide to make Santa Fe their home.
For Noah and Sharlee, things came to head when Sharlee was almost forced into a car accident while being chased by photographers. Thankfully, she didn’t have Skylar in the car with her that time, but the experience had still shaken her badly. Their neighbors were also complaining about the overwhelming presence of the press in the neighborhood. Besides Alissa’s neighborhood, there was only one other gated community in Santa Fe and Noah knew that they could not yet afford a home there. It was a very upscale neighborhood although not quite as expensive as the Stallworth’s.
Alissa and Matthew went to talk with their agent who also represented Noah and Sharlee. He was appalled at what was going on. He too had chosen Santa Fe because of the security and the privacy. He’d suggested Santa Fe as a great location to live and work to Matthew and to Matthew’s partners. The three of them came up with a plan. In the short term though, something would need to be done to protect the Halls as well. He called Terry to see what Harley wanted to do about the situation.
“I didn’t know companies did that!”
“Yes, it’s done all the time especially for celebrities.”
They talked a few more minutes and Sharlee was dying to know what the call was about. She could see that whatever Terry had told him had seemed to relieve Noah’s tension.
“Great news, Babe! Harley is going to buy a house in Chupadero for us, and we can rent it from them for the same amount that we’re paying here. That way we can still save to build a house like we planned, and we’ll be in an even nicer gated community!”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes, Terry said it’s done all the time. Usually they do it for executives and celebrities. He’s going to call a realtor tomorrow to have her scout some choices for us and then we get to decide on which house.”
Sharlee was so happy and relieved too. She had begun to feel like prey being hunted and was worried about the affect on Skylar. At least they would be safe at home again.
Matthew, Alissa and their agent met with an attorney and they came up with a plan of action. They had meetings with the mayor and city council. Some new regulations and laws were proposed to the state of Santa Fe in order to safeguard the privacy of celebrities and their families . Alissa was selected to speak before the state legislators to discuss the proposed changes. She spoke eloquently and from her heart about the negative impact the behavior of the paparazzi had on her children and the rest of her family. She spoke about the loss of revenue to the city of Santa Fe and to the state if a large employer like Matthew’s studio decided to relocate to another state.
She ended by asking, “Aren’t my children entitled to the same security and carefree childhoods as are your own children and grandchildren? They are not public figures or celebrities. They are just my children, my babies.” Her voice broke as she thanked them for the opportunity to speak with them.
The rules and ordinances were passed and enacted giving Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico the most stringent laws of any other state and city for the press and paparazzi. California, New York and other states were considering enacting some of the same laws in their own cities where celebrities resided.
Alissa and her family were happy to be able to once again lead their normal day to day lives. There were still a few more instances with the paparazzi, and Terry felt that it was best to follow through with the purchase of a more secure home for Noah and Sharlee. So they selected a home and settled in comfortably.
All of the pictures are finished and added to this version! 🙂