From Chapter One, Knotted.
Los Angeles, California.
The call came early on the morning of August tenth. At Sydney Bristow’s house, things were tranquil, still. Coats were hung in closets, TVs were off. Cell phones were put on silent so they would buzz discreetly. Already they had murmured three times, but they were unheeded by their owners. In the bedroom, two figures entangled in the comfortable bed were at rest, and they were so ensconced in sleep that the insistent buzzing did not disturb them. Sydney awoke first, sensitive to the sound of the phone ringing beside her. She leaned over the prone, half-naked form of Michael Vaughn and picked it up.
“Hello?” she said, her voice throaty with sleep.
“Sydney? Hey girl.” Nicole Smith’s conversational tone came through on the other side of the phone and had Sydney sitting up as sleepiness drifted away. Hers was not a voice that Sydney was expecting to hear at four thirty in the morning. Fear’s cold fingertips traced their way down her spine.
“Hey. Is everything all right?”
Nicole emitted a weary chuckle. “Well, if you wanna call Isabelle going into labor all right…”
Isabelle. Labor. Oh shit. Sydney inhaled without thinking, her mind putting together a list of tasks that needed to be carried out before panic consumed her. First, Vaughn needed to be roused. The two of them needed to get showered and dressed. They needed to get on a plane to Spain. Then they needed to find the hospital. And lastly…
Vaughn’s sleepy voice slowed the barrage of thoughts going through Sydney’s head. She looked down at him as he blinked up at her, hand covering the receiving end of the phone. “It’s Nicole on the phone. Isabelle’s in labor.”
Vaughn sat up abruptly, his eyes wide with anxiety. “What?! Isabelle’s in labor? When? When did it start? How long before—?”
“Sounds like MV’s up,” Nicole said in Sydney’s ear, chuckling. “Tell ‘im to take a chill pill. It just happened. Her water broke two minutes ago and we’re en route to the hospital. The doctors told her that it’s possible the labor would be protracted since it was her first.” She paused. “Could I speak to Vaughn?”
Sydney silently gave the phone to Vaughn and slipped out of the bed. She went to her closet and pulled out a suitcase. As she pulled out clothes and toiletries from drawers and tabletops, Vaughn talked to Nicole. He sounded more rational now, but Sydney could hear the strain in his voice that indicated that he was trying to keep his apprehension under control.
It was hard to describe how Sydney Anne Bristow felt at the moment. She was excited that new life was being brought into the world, especially since the coming bundle of joy was the blend of two people she cared about. Of course, since one of those aforementioned people was sitting in her bed at the moment, the excitement was tinged with worry and resentment. No matter how adult and mature one could insist she was, how in the world could one stand watching another woman having her boyfriend’s child?
“We’ll be looking for James at the airport then,” Vaughn was saying. Nicole said something that had him smiling. “Right, save a cigar for me.” Pause. “Even if the baby isn’t a boy, smart ass.” A sigh. “Yes, Nicole, I love you too. Take care of Isabelle until we can get there. Bye.” He ended the call, and even before the phone had settled on its cradle he was on his feet.
“We both need to take a shower,” Sydney remarked, trying to get the practical things out of the way. “It’s going to be a long flight.”
Vaughn sighed and stretched. “You go on ahead. I’ll call the airport and start packing while you shower.” He shook his head. “I should have had her come back to L.A. during her last trimester…”
“If you’re worried about missing the birth, Nicole assured me that it would probably be protracted since it is her first. Unfortunately for her, she might be in labor twenty hours or more.”
“It’ll take us that long to get to Valladolid,” Vaughn remarked. “But I’m not worried about missing the birth. I have a feeling she’s not going to let me miss a moment. I just wish…”
“You merely wish she were close enough to watch.” Vaughn stared at her, relieved that she understood.
Valladolid, Spain. Capital of Castile and Leon.
After being in transit for twenty hours, Vaughn and Sydney were thankful when they finally landed in Valladolid. They were used to having to jet off at a moment’s notice to the far corners of the earth, but today seemed different. Today they were away from home for a matter far more meaningful than tracking a terrorist or acquiring some ancient artifact: a baby.
“Are you nervous?” Sydney asked Vaughn as they were retrieving their luggage from the baggage claim.
Vaughn gazed at Sydney, face somber. “To tell the truth, Syd, I’m terrified. My stomach is filled with butterflies.” He lifted the handle of his suitcase but hesitated a moment before stepping away with it. “What if something happens to her…?”
“Isabelle will be fine,” Sydney assured him. She placed a hand on his shoulder, a shoulder that she had spent more than enough time crying upon. She knew it was strong, but it seemed that he had forgotten his own strength for a moment. “I don’t think you should worry about her, or the baby. They will come through all right, Vaughn.”
Vaughn nodded and opened his mouth to thank her, but it seemed something occurred to him then. Something in his eyes changed, softened them. Sydney’s eyebrows furrowed at the change.
“There he is,” Sydney announced as she shifted her bag strap on her shoulder.
James Flannery turned at the sound of his name being called. He was about Vaughn’s height with a muscular stature usually reserved for baseball players. His mixed Puerto Rican and Spanish heritage whispered to onlookers through his features, and both Vaughn and Sydney noticed for the third time that he looked nothing like his older sister.
“Hi guys,” James greeted them. He noticed Sydney shifting her bag strap again and added hastily, “Here. Let me take that from you.”
As Sydney relinquished her bag for James to carry, Vaughn remarked in an ironic tone, “I think I’m the one who’s supposed to be carrying that.”
“You need to save your strength for the main event,” James told him, a hint of humor in his tone. The side of his mouth turned upward as they started their exit from the interior of the airport. “Izzy’s still in labor. And the way Nicole is talking, you might be Izzy’s right hand man when the fun starts.”
“How is she?”
“Waiting for you,” James responded. Then he looked at Sydney meaningfully. “And you.”
Sydney frowned, taken aback. “Waiting for me? Why would she be waiting for me?”
James merely smiled. “You’ll find out soon enough.”