Episode Ten

Heather sat in the cab, staring out at the darkness. She focused on the street lights which broke the black mask of the night. At the moment she would focus on anything that wasn't Russell.

How could she have kissed him like that and not had the first clue that he wasn't Brant? Shouldn't she have known Brant's kisses above those of any other man? Well, of course she should have. Obviously the daiquiri she'd indulged in at the party had jumbled her senses more than she realized.

"Cat got your tongue?" Russell asked with a grin as he slipped his arm around Heather and drew her closer to him. While he'd been mistaken for Brant twice tonight, the second time had proved rather amusing. Perhaps the stories about the relationship between Heather and Brant were true…they spent more time romancing other people than each other. That would have to be the only explanation for the way Heather had kissed him and not known he wasn't Brant.

But that didn't explain Avery. What was that woman thinking? Had she really meant what she said about going back to the hotel to finish what they'd started? Surely, she wouldn't sleep with Brant.

Russell's grin faded as he thought about Avery, "Crashing the party wasn't such a great idea."

"It was yours not mine," Heather said quickly as she tried to ignore his closeness. Why did he insist on making her uncomfortable after what she'd done? He really was having too much fun at her expense. With that in mind, she turned and pushed him away, "Get on your side of the car, bub."

Russell eyed her closely, "Hey, you're the one who kissed me, lady."

"You didn't have to let me," She bit out, "And what's the big idea of sending a waiter to tell me you were on the balcony? Was that suppose to be funny?"

"I didn't send anyone after you," He corrected quickly, "So don't be blaming this fiasco on me. You're the one who charged out there and kissed me without even giving me a chance to tell you that I wasn't Brant."

"I only did that because the waiter said that Brant was expecting me," She argued, "I never would have kissed you like that willingly."

Russell leaned on the car door and rubbed his chin gently as he thought about the events of the evening, "Someone wanted you to think I was Brant."

"Who?" She asked as she turned to glare at him.

"Either Brant spotted us," He frowned with more intensity, "Or Avery figured out I wasn't Brant and decided to turn the tables on us."


"I stopped some schmuck from attacking Avery on the balcony. She thought I was Brant. At least I thought she did," He groaned, "She figured me out and did all of this just to irritate me."

"Doing a good job then, isn't she?" Heather pointed out as she shook her head, "It doesn't matter. I'm not going to let her get Brant in bed with her. I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn't happen."

"Avery getting Brant in bed? Don't you mean that the other way around?"

"Oh come on, Russell. Surely you can see by what she's done to us tonight that she isn't helpless. She's not some poor little lamb that's going to be taken to the slaughter by the big bad wolf. She knows exactly what she's doing with my fiancé."

"Your fiancé? Are we back to your delusions again?" He took a deep breath as they arrived at the hotel, "You need to figure out how to get Brant and Avery apart, or we're both going to lose in this mess."

Heather stepped out of the car and felt a breeze sweep through her. She watched Russell pay for the cab before she turned back to him, "Shall we try the direct approach or something more unconventional?"

"If you're talking about charging upstairs, busting down the door and pummeling Brant to a pulp, I'm all for it," He shrugged, "But I'm not much up for going to jail."

"Then we'll just have to see what we can do about getting around that," Heather smiled, "Come on, Russell. I have an idea."

"You? An idea? Are you kidding me?" He teased as they walked into the hotel.

"Don't act so cocky. Your plan got us no where but chasing our own tails, but I'll get them apart."

"You really think you've got something up your sleeve, don't you?" Russell asked as they boarded the elevator.

"Just watch me," Heather assured him with a smile, knowing that she could and would succeed in keeping Brant and Avery from ever being intimate with one another.


Avery’s breath escaped her lips as the furious pounding of her heart took control threatening to reveal her as Brant’s arms wrapped securely around her.  Suddenly feeling defenseless as his lips beckoned hers, easing her into him, she realized his touch was fueling a fire deep inside of her as she held him close to her.  Something about the way he embraced her, the way he enveloped her in his strong arms set her soul ablaze as she opened herself to his kisses tasting nothing short of magic behind the man she’d fought for so very long.  Now as he held her, she felt light as air as his touch awakened so many feelings she’d struggled with for so very long.
“Brant,” Avery gasped finding herself damn near breathless as his thumb brushed over her bottom lip gingerly.  She felt him press his forehead against hers as he drew in a shivering inhale mimicking her own shallow pants as the moment between them amplified engulfing her.  Her racing pulse guided her into his arms--into the warmth of the man she’d fought for so very long.  Now as his dark eyes looked into her, seeing into her soul, she felt a tiny tremble inside her stomach as something had changed between them.  She’d been so angry earlier, but now in these unspoken moments of understanding…his lips tasted like fire and his touch had ignited a passion she’d run from for so very long.  She knew she should escape, should run away, but as his touch caressed her soft skin, it awakened that hidden part of her and she found herself immobilized.
“Avery,” he spoke her name in a soft whisper as his fingers tapered off into her hair, “you’re so beautiful.”
“Brant,” she answered, her voice barely a whisper as he leaned in closer towards her, his lips a breath away from hers as her arms wrapped around his powerful shoulders and the sheer force of his strength pulled her up off of the ground fully into his arms, “what are we doing?”
“Meeting destiny full force,” he divulged hoisting her against him securely as his tantalizing lips dropped hungry kisses over her, “Avery, let me make love to you…”
“Brant,” she opened her mouth to protest, to throw out the words her head certainly wanted her to say, but as his tempting mouth collided with hers in another wild and reckless kiss, she felt her resolve slipping away as she sank into him.
“I promise you won’t regret it,” Brant assured her as his tongue found hers making sweeping, swirling motions within the warmth of her sensual mouth.
“Please don’t make me regret any of this,” she begged of him as he carried her into the bedroom and she gave in to the insanity that had taunted her for months.  Now in his arms, she felt a fear consume her--a fear of his touch, a fear of losing herself to the passion he’d promised her, a fear of revealing to him just how much he’d effected her all this time, but more so a fear of walking away and never having this moment again.
Gently, Brant lowered her to her feet again as his hands slid over her curves.  His lips dropped feathery light kisses over her skin, down the back of her neck as he turned her in his arms and he stood behind her squeezing her body to his in a firm, yet tender movement.  His ravenous mouth placed kiss after savory kiss over the curve of her shoulder as Avery dropped her head back feeling the slow agony of his desire rush over her every synapse.  His palms fanned out over her center, touching her flat abdomen as soft sounds of desire escaped her parted lips.
“I’ve wanted you for so long,” Brant confessed as she seemed to melt against him, giving in to his touch.  He traced her curves wanting to learn every inch of her as he gently kneaded and stroked her aching breasts watching as she sank into him, turning her head into his chest as he saw the passion alive inside of her bursting from within.  He leaned forward drinking her soft cries of longing as he turned her in his arms once again holding her securely.
“Brant I…” she murmured against his mouth as it collided with hers drinking any thoughts of protest that haunted her.  She pressed her hands against his chest, feeling the firm musculature of his body beneath her fingers as he began to slide open the zipper on her costume, freeing up her vulnerable flesh to his touch.
“Just touch me.  I need to feel your hands on me,” he pleaded with her feeling her fingers unknot the cape attached to his costume as it fell to the ground in a swift whoosh.  In a blink of an eye somehow Avery had pulled off the top half of his costume, leaving the hard, warmth of his chest open for her to explore with her enchanting touch.  She leaned forward placing a tender kiss over the center of his chest as the smooth power of his muscled arms cradled her against him.  He slowly parted the black material of her costume drawing it down over her body as she took a step back, her eyes burning with desire as he lowered the material over her soft curves, easing it down her arms wanting nothing more than to consume her as more of her was revealed to him.
Avery took a step back just out of his reach, noting the hunger behind his expression, the raw heat behind his eyes as she took a seat at the bottom of the bed.  She kept her eyes on Brant watching his face as she leaned forward, unzipping the boots she’d been wearing as she took her time removing them.  A smile touched over her lips as she watched Brant reciprocate the gesture kicking out of the boots he’d worn during the party.  Now as she rose from the edge of the bed, she flashed him a sexy smile before she slid her costume over her rounded hips revealing herself to Brant Ashford at long last.  As the costume pooled at her feet, she kicked it aside now feeling a sense of power rush over her at the way his eyes cast over her body caressing all her curves with just a look.
“You’re incredible,” Brant blurted out unable to take her in fast enough as he thought of how amazing she truly was.  He’d dreamt about this moment for so very long with her, wanted to explore what it felt like to touch her, to taste her, but now as she stood before him in her black lace bra and panties set, his breath caught in his throat as he realized that Avery Morrison was more than he’d ever imagined.  He’d wanted her for so very long, always seeing her as the impossible dream, but as she stood before him, revealing herself at long last, he wanted nothing more than to hold her, to cherish every moment with her as this moment with her meant everything to him.
“Are you going to stand there all night,” Avery questioned, a playfulness in her tone as she curled her finger out towards him, “or are you going to stop gawking long enough to come over here and show me what you’re made of?”
“Do you even have to ask,” Brant shook his head, a smile touching over his features as he watched her sink back into the pillows sprawling out on the bed as he stepped forward sending his black costume pants plummeting to the floor as he crawled in over her.
“I was starting to wonder,” Avery let out a tiny laugh as she wrapped her arms around him kissing him voraciously as she vowed not to let this moment pass them by.  Despite the twists and turns that they’d taken down this road to one another, the fact remained that she wanted Brant Ashford and as the strength of his body lingered over her, filling her with a heat unlike any she’d ever known, she vowed that this time she wouldn’t fight what it was he’d touched inside of her.  Tonight she was going to lose herself to all the pleasures and desire that Brant Ashford had to offer.


Blake walked into the kitchen and yawned as she saw Caitlin's silhouette in the window. She switched on a light and watched her friend turned to face her, "What's wrong?"

"I'm restless," Caitlin said with a frown, "Did I wake you?"

"No, I wanted a glass of water, and I went to check in on you," Blake explained as she made her way to the refrigerator, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"How about a cup of tea?"

"Chamomile?" Blake asked as she opened a cabinet to remove a tin of tea.

"That sounds like it might be just what the doctor ordered," Caitlin smiled.

Blake smiled as she put the kettle on the stove and prepared two mugs for tea, "Do you remember when we used to do this in college?"

"Yeah," Caitlin smiled as she sat at the counter, "Our midnight snack attacks."

"I think we did more snacking and talking than we ever did studying," Blake mused as she leaned onto the counter and looked at her friend, "I guess some things never change, huh?"

"So it would seem," Caitlin smiled, "Are there any snacks in this house or do you guys only eat healthy?"

Blake chuckled as she walked over to the cupboard and removed a bag of marshmallows and a bag of potato chips, "Okay, pick your poison. Salt or sugar?" She questioned as she returned to the counter.


"Me too," Blake smiled as she opened another cabinet and removed a pillar candle, an electric lighter, and two barbeque skewers. She lit the three wicks of the candle before extending a skewer to Caitlin, "Just like in college."

"Oh my god…toasted marshmallows by candlelight," Caitlin giggled, "Are we pathetic or what?"

Blake laughed softly as she skewered a marshmallow and raised it over a flame on the candle, "You know what's really pathetic? There were so many nights in college when this seemed like a feast to me. I mean, don't get me wrong I liked the food at the campus cafeteria, but this was the best meal I'd ever had because it was with someone I could really talk to and be myself with."

Caitlin smiled, "That is so sweet. You big sap," She teased as she tore a tiny bit from her marshmallow and tossed it at Blake.

Blake laughed softly as the kettle began to lightly whistle, "I know that sounds crazy with my being an Ashford, but it was nice to just have a simple snack and talk with someone," She explained as she poured the steaming water into each mug.

"We did know how to have a good time, didn't we?" Caitlin smiled as she looked at her marshmallow, watching the edges grow a soft shade of brown, "I miss those times, you know."

"So do I," Blake smiled as she placed a mug in front of Caitlin. She moved around the counter and took a seat, lifting her marshmallow over a flame once again, "It's nice having a gal pal in town."

Caitlin smiled as she plucked some of the gooey marshmallow from the skewer and licked it from her fingers, "I think I'm going to like it here."

"Even after tonight?" Blake asked candidly.

"I'm determined to make my life here. I'm not going to let anything ruin it for me," Caitlin declared as she looked to Blake, "Just like you've done."

"What's that suppose to mean?"

"You're living under this roof, and yet you're not letting the Ashford reputation get in your way where a certain injured party is concerned."

Blake looked to Caitlin with a bewildered look upon her face, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Seth Alexander, Blake. Don't make this difficult for me. I want the details, and I want them yesterday," Caitlin said with a grin.

Blake smiled despite herself as she thought of Seth, "Well, you know, there aren't really that many details to give."

"Somehow that goofy smile you have on your face says otherwise."

"He's a good guy…the kind that it would be easy to fall in love with."

"Is this love at first sight?" Caitlin asked with amusement, "Didn't you tell me one time that love was for suckers?"

"Oh please don't make me remember I said that," Blake chuckled as she took a sip of her tea. When she placed the mug back upon the counter she spoke again, "I've seen it work for other people. I just want it to work for me."

"So you think this Seth guy is the one who could make it work?"

"Yeah, I do. He's really considerate and tender," Blake said as she thought back to his touch, "And his kiss makes the world spin around."

"His kiss, huh?" Caitlin grinned as she took another nibble of her marshmallow, "And just how many of these kisses have you tried in order to know that the world spins?"

"Enough to know," Blake grinned as she pondered her marshmallow, "I'm telling you, Caitlin," She shook her head with a sigh, "I can't seem to get enough of him."

"Now this does sound serious. So when are you moving in with him?" Caitlin teased before Blake nudged her, "Seriously, are you guys going to go out or what?"

"We might," Blake said cryptically, "What about you? Are you going to find romance in this town or what?"

"I don't know," Caitlin frowned as she finished off her marshmallow, "I don't think I believe in romance any more."

"Oh no, don't start getting cynical on me now."

"Excuse me? Who spent every night while we were in college expounding to me about the evils of romantic love? It seems to me that was you," Caitlin pointed out before picking up another marshmallow, "So just because you've been struck with some virus that's made you delusional about love at first sight, don't think that means you have to convince me that it's out there for me."

"But it is, Caitlin. You deserve to find your knight in shining armor more than anyone I've ever known. I want you to be happy," Blake said firmly as she touched her friend's arm, "I want you to be safe and happy."

Caitlin smiled as she watched the flame on the candle flicker for a brief moment, "Do you remember the days when everything in the world was safe? At least, we were too dumb to know that it wasn't back then."

"The world can be safe."

"Can it really?" Caitlin asked doubtfully.

"Yes, it can. All you have to do is believe."

"I don't know that I have it left in me to believe, Blake. I really wish I could say that some part of me wants to, but I don't. I just don't think that true romantic love exists. I've been burned too many times."

"That doesn't mean that there's not a good man out there just waiting to sweep you off your feet. It just means you've been through your share of bad guys. It's time for you to find a good guy."

"Do they really exist?" Caitlin asked with a slight laugh, "I don't think so."

"I know they do. Just think about this. I've met Seth, and Kenny's a good guy. I've met plenty of good guys."

"Then why aren't you with them?" She asked pointedly.

"Because I wasn't interested, but now I am. Seth has really caught my eye, and I think that when the time is right for your dream guy to come along, you'll know it and fall head over heels for him."

"Blake, Blake, Blake," Caitlin said her name as she glanced over at the mug Blake held, "What the hell did you put in your tea, girl?"

Blake laughed out loud before tossing a marshmallow at Caitlin, "You are impossible, but I do love you."

"Well I love you too, but I really think you're being delusional about love. There are no perfect guys."

"I didn't say perfect, but there are good ones."

"How come I've yet to meet one?"

"Because you're not looking in the right places," Blake said as she nibbled on her marshmallow, "Hey, you never know. He could be right around the corner, and you just don't know it yet."

"I seriously doubt it," Caitlin said as she sipped her tea.

"What are you two doing up at this hour?" Kenneth asked as he leaned against the door frame, scratching his head.

Blake grinned, "See there. What'd I tell ya?"

Caitlin turned her head and giggled, trying to stop herself from bursting into laughter in front of Kenneth.

"Did I miss something?" Kenneth asked as he crossed his arms and watched two women.

"Nothing," Blake shook her head, "Not a thing. We were just having a midnight snack. Want a marshmallow?" She asked as she pointed to the gooey substance on the end of her skewer.

"I'll pass. You know, Caitlin really needs her rest."

"Okay Dad," Blake rolled her eyes, "Party pooper."

Caitlin chuckled as she finished her tea, "I think your brother has a point. I'm feeling as if I could rest now," She said as she placed her mug back upon the counter.

"This was fun," Blake smiled as Caitlin began to leave the room.

"Yeah it was," Caitlin smiled before she left.

Kenneth watched Caitlin leave the kitchen before he spoke again, "I think you should call it a night too, little sister."

"Ken, you really need to lighten up and have some fun," Blake lectured as she set down her empty skewer and snuffed out the candle. She hopped off the stool she had been perched upon and approached her brother, "Good night, Ken," She pecked him upon the cheek before leaving the room, feeling that the night had been worthwhile. After all she'd had the chance to chat with Caitlin and gush about what she was feeling for Seth. Things might have finally turned around in her life.


Seth sat at the bar, staring at the beer before him. He'd ordered it and taken a few sips, but if he drank any more, he'd probably be back in the hospital after mixing alcohol with his pain medications. He usually wasn't a heavy drinker anyway, but he needed to get out of the apartment for a while so he could think about what he had to do for Cameron Stone. It was no longer something he could change his mind about. He had been drafted into the service of Cameron Stone, and he could only hope that he wouldn't hurt anyone with what he could be called upon to do.

A man in a navy suit sat at the bar near Seth momentarily distracting Seth from his beer.

"What can I get ya?" The bartender asked as he wiped off the bar in front of the new customer.

"Bourbon, straight up," The man ordered as he glanced over at Seth, giving him a friendly smile before turning back towards the bartender.

"I haven't seen you here in a while," The bartender spoke as he poured up the drink.

"I've been busy," The man sighed, "It's been one thing after the other."

"Got a new woman in your life?"

"No, not really. There is one though," The man admitted as the bartender placed the drink in front of him, "She is really testing my resolve."

"How so?" The bartender asked as he leaned upon the bar to listen to his friend.

"I work with her, but she wants to take things to a whole other level."

"And what is the problem with that?"

"I worked with my ex-wife," The man frowned before he took a gulp of his drink.


"Haven't you ever heard that you don't dip your pen in the office ink?"

"Yeah, but…"

"But nothing, some things are better left untouched."

"Amen," Seth agreed as he looked over to the men, "Sorry, I couldn't help but hear your conversation. Sometimes the women that are easily accessible are the ones that could burn you the most."

"Now that sounds like experience," The bartender said as he looked to Seth.

"Not really. It's just that I've recently met a woman who could be the key to all my dreams," Seth paused, "Or she could be the ticking time bomb that blows my life all to hell."

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. You look at these women, and they look like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Then again, they can turn your world into the worst nightmare you've ever dreamt of," The man agreed.

"How do you know the difference between the two?" Seth questioned as he looked between the bartender.

"Hey, don't ask me, pal," The bartender pointed to his wedding band, "I just got lucky."

"Don't ask me. I got screwed," The man frowned as he finished the drink and pushed it to the bartender for a refill, "My ex-wife ripped me a new one when she left, but the woman in my life now…sometimes, she gives me hope."

"Sounds like she could be the one that is the pot of gold," Seth pointed out, "You might not want to let her get away."

"I don't know. She keeps pushing all the right buttons. Sometimes all I can think about is her."

"Then why not take the plunge?" The bartender asked as he refilled the man's drink, "You should give it a try."

"So what about you?" The man said, dismissing the advice and looking to Seth, "Think your woman is the pot of gold?"

"Yeah, I think she is," Seth admitted, "Which makes me wonder why she would ever waste her time on me."

"Don't we all wonder that very same thing," The man shook his head as he raised his glass, "Here's to the women in our lives being better than we deserve."

"Here here," Each man raised his glass before taking a drink.

"I should be going," Seth said as he laid a few dollars upon the bar, "Good night," He said before leaving.

The bartender took the money from the counter, "So who is this woman who's trying to woo you, Grady?"

"Someone I shouldn't have on my mind," Grady said as he finished his drink and placed some bills upon the bar, "Good night."

"Good night," The bartender said with a smile as he took the money from the bar and cleaned his work area, completely loving his job.


Jade slumped over at the bar thinking about the day behind her.  Somehow she couldn’t stop thinking about Grady and the ways in which he was just too damned stubborn for his own good.  If only he’d open himself up to the possibilities of what they could have with one another.  She knew he wanted her--knew that it was something that he was fighting, but what she didn’t understand was why he was fighting her so hard.  Things could only get better for them if they explored their chemistry and took things to the next level, but no, Grady Denton refused to just give in and that was enough to put Jade in a sour mood.
“Men,” Diane Stevens blurted out slouching over in her chair as another sigh erupted from her lips, “I mean what more do you have to do in order to get them to just get a clue?”
“I don’t know anymore,” Jade sighed in response sipping her cosmopolitan as she stewed over Grady’s behavior, “I mean one minute you think you’re giving them exactly what they want and then…”
“They are pulling away like having what they want isn’t really what they want,” Diane finished shaking her head in dismay, “I mean take Ben for example.  Things are going pretty strong for us and I think hey, the boss is away, so why not have a little fun with it, but instead he starts to act like we need to maintain some kind of professional conduct--like the fact that we want each other is somehow wrong and shouldn’t be happening because it could get in the way of other things at work.  I mean if that isn’t the biggest copout I’ve heard, I don’t know what is.”
“Tell me about it,” Jade shook her head as her lingering thoughts took her back to Grady, “I mean I’ve done everything I can think of.  Absolutely everything Diane, but he still insists on fighting me every step of the way.  One night I thought we were making progress because he had that look in his eyes,” she turned to look at her friend, “you know the look…”
“Oh believe me honey,” Diane replied emphatically, “Do I ever know the look.”
“I mean I can’t possibly have made this any easier for him,” Jade frowned simply as she finished off her drink, “but does he take the bait?” she questioned waving her hands in the air, “No, of course not because he’s my ‘mentor’ and he’s trying to do the moral thing…as if being with me is a sin.  I mean, what is so wrong about him exploring his wild side once and a while?  It wouldn’t hurt for him to loosen up and have a little fun, now would it?  I mean I’m attractive enough, right?”
“Jade, girl you could have any guy you want,” Diane added supportively, “you always could.”
“Then why is Grady Denton being such a stick in the mud?  Why can’t he just see how right we are for one another and just give in to what I know he’s feeling for me?” Jade sighed inwardly, “I know he wants to, but he’s fighting me so hard on this.”
“Well maybe you shouldn’t try so hard,” Diane thought it over for a moment, “I mean maybe if he thinks he’s the only one on your plate, then he’ll keep stringing you alone because he knows you want him.”
“Diane, I even tried toning down what I wore,” Jade confessed thinking to her last encounter with Grady, “I played it cool and behaved like there wasn’t this obvious chemistry between us, but still while I thought maybe just maybe it would prompt a reaction out of him, he still seemed so distanced.  It’s almost as if it’s,” she paused as a frown curled over her lips, “hopeless.”
“Now wait just a minute,” Diane blinked back in surprise, “tell me I didn’t hear what I think I just heard.  Tell me you didn’t just say that.”
“I’m starting to feel that way,” Jade admitted hating to own up to defeat, but as she thought of the many attempts she’d made at getting a rise out of Grady, she was starting to feel as if her attempts had been in vain.
“Jade, you’ve never given up on anything a day in your life,” Diane reminded her long time pal, “remember in first grade when Johnny Norton was determined to beat you in that spelling bee contest?”
“How can I forget,” Jade laughed lightly at the memory, “I beat the pants off of him when he couldn’t spell pneumonia.”
“That’s right,” Diane nodded encouragingly, “or what about that time you set out to be student government president despite the fact that Shelly Chambers was kissing up to anyone and everyone that would listen to her?”
“Diane, I know what you’re saying, but in dealing with the race for student government president, well it’s just not the same as dealing with Grady Denton,” Jade shook her head in resignation, “that man is truly the most stubborn man on the planet.”
“All the more reason for you not to give up on him,” Diane smiled back at her, “after all when you do finally win him over, well it’ll be a great victory indeed.”
“Hey, now wait a second,” Jade turned to look at her friend with a skeptic eye, “a few minutes ago, you were agreeing with me that men are impossible.”
“I know what I said, but at the same time, I know how much you want this guy,” Diane shrugged her shoulders simply, “I mean even with Ben, well I like to complain, but that doesn’t mean that when I head into work tomorrow that I’m not going to try like crazy to get him to finally make that move.  I want him and I know he wants me, so I‘m not going to let him dance around the issue any longer--just like you shouldn‘t let Grady keep doing that with you.”
“You’re right,” Jade decided after a moment’s contemplation, “you’re absolutely right.  I’m not going to give Grady the easy way out.”
“There’s the spirit,” Diane encouraged her.
“I’m doing to make him face the fact that he wants me and eventually,” Jade smiled proudly as the thought of winning Grady over encouraged her spirits, “he will be mine.”
“You go girl!” Diane sipped her drink as a flood of laughter swept over the two of them.
“Now if only I could get him to get his nose out of his work long enough to make it happen,” Jade muttered as an afterthought as she slumped over again.
“Jade, don’t do this to yourself,” Diane hesitated as she scanned the bar, “you know maybe you should find a distraction for a while…”
“I already told you.  My mind is made up and Grady is it.”
“Even so, perhaps you could give fun a try,” Diane scanned the bar, “you know maybe pick up someone else, someone who might prove useful in getting you one step closer to Grady.”
“Diane, I don’t know,” Jade frowned slightly, “I don’t think I could just outright use someone like that especially knowing that no one else stands a chance with me.  Grady is what I want…”
“I know that, but Grady doesn’t,” Diane thought it over, “I mean he sees you as someone chasing him around, but maybe if you weren’t available to chase, well perhaps them he’d turn the chase on you.”
“I don’t know,” Jade thought it over, “He doesn’t seem the kind of man who would be into games.”
“Don’t look at it as a game,” Diane offered with a smile, “think of it more so as means of an end in the quest to get what you want.”
“You’re trouble,” Jade couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on her friend’s features, “you know that right?”
“Hey, I just call it like I see it,” Diane sat taller, a bright smile crossing over her features as she motioned for the bartender, “hey how about another round over here?”
“No problem,” the bartender winked at the both of them, “I’ll get right on it.”
“Oh he’s cute,” Diane whispered to Jade as both girls let out a tiny giggle.  The bartender approached the duo and offered a sexy smile as he set the drinks down on the bar.
“Anything else I can get for you,” he asked as someone stepped in behind Jade and Diane and set down a few dollar bills.
“Those are on me,” a voice interrupted as Jade turned around to find a man standing behind them.  She looked at him for a long moment trying to place the familiarity in his face as he smiled down at her.
“Jade right?” he questioned flashing her a bright smile as he extended his hand, “I’m Cameron Stone.  We met at Irvan's the other day,” he replied as it came back to her.
“Oh right,” she smiled accepting his hand, “how are you?”
“Better now that I see a friendly face,” Cameron offered with a soft smile.
“Oh well you know the longer you hang around Coral Valley, the more you’ll find friendly faces,” Jade stated brightly as she motioned towards Diane, “Cameron, this is my friend Diane Stevens.  Diane, this is Cameron Stone.  He’s new in town.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Cameron extended his hand out to Diane as she smiled up at him eagerly.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Diane offered as he kissed the top of her hand politely, “so Cameron what brings you to Coral Valley?  Business or pleasure?”
“A little bit of both,” he offered simply with a shrug of his shoulders, “though I’m finding that at this moment it’s taking a bit of adjusting in town here with not knowing anyone and all…”
“Trust me that will change for you very soon,” Jade smiled up at him.
“I sure hope so,” Cameron’s gaze returned to Jade as he motioned to the seat beside her, “is this seat taken?”
“No it’s not,” Diane blurted out encouragingly, “take a seat.”
“Thank you,” Cameron smiled down at her as he moved in to take the seat beside Jade.
Jade flashed her friend a curious look as Diane winked at her.
“I think I’m going to take a trip to the ladies room,” Diane announced getting up from the chair she’d been seated in, “but I’ll be back shortly.  However, you two should take the chance to catch up on things, get to know one another better--you know whatever comes to mind.”
“Diane, what are you doing,” Jade mouthed quietly as she shot her friend a glare.
Diane leaned forward pretending to reach for her purse as she whispered to Jade, “Think of this as bringing you one step closer to making Grady Denton all yours.”
“Diane,” Jade spoke her friend’s name as she watched Diane step through the crowded bar leaving Jade alone with Cameron.
“She’s not known for her subtlety, is she,” Cameron let out a tiny laugh as Jade turned in towards him once again.
“I’m afraid not,” Jade admitted with a chuckle, “but then again she wouldn’t be Diane if she didn’t have her way about her.”
“She seems nice enough,” Cameron motioned towards the direction Diane headed off in, “but truth be told I was hoping she’d give us a moment alone.”
“Oh?” Jade arched a curious brow.
“That’s right,” Cameron nodded as Jade noted the curious expression on his face.  Could it be that he was nervous about something?  He opened his mouth to speak once again as he tapped his fingers on the bar top nervously.
“Is something wrong,” Jade inquired as curiosity got the best of her.
“Yes,” he nodded simply, “there is something very wrong here.”
“There is?” she repeated in confusion.
“Yes, you see the other day when you and I made our introductions I wasn’t exactly forthcoming with you.  You see I had been watching you for longer than I’d like to admit,” he confessed with a soft smile as he leaned in towards her, “and I was working up the courage to finally speak with you.  I know it sounds foolish, but when I saw you standing there, I thought you looked like a beautiful woman that I was just destined to meet.”
“Really,” Jade’s eyes widened in surprise, “well I’m flattered.”
“I’m the one who was flattered that you took the time to speak with me,” Cameron confessed, “in fact after we’d encountered one another I was afraid that I wouldn’t have the chance to meet up with you again and I was cursing myself for not asking you what had really been on my mind from the moment I first laid my eyes upon you.”
“Oh and what might that have been?” Jade smiled politely.
“Well, seeing as I’m new in town and not really familiar with things, I was looking for someone to show me around--you know to show me the hot spots and give me a grand tour of all the things that Coral Valley has to offer.”
“Well I’m sure there are plenty of people around here who would love to do just that,” Jade added simply.
“I wasn’t looking for just anyone,” Cameron reached for her hand brushing his fingers against hers gently, “I was hoping that the someone would be you specifically.”
“Me?” Jade’s eyes widened again, “Oh I don’t know.  I mean I’m not really one to give tours and besides…”
“Jade, it’s only a day,” Cameron interrupted voicing over her protests, “it would be a day of sight seeing and maybe dinner.  That’s it.  After that day you wouldn’t be bound to anything more with me,” he flashed her a sexy smile, “so what do you say?”
“She says yes,” Diane’s voice interrupted as she stepped up to the duo returning from her brief trip to the ladies’ room, “Jade’s a little shy, but she’d love to show you around town.”
Jade looked up at her friend throwing her a glare as Cameron reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen.
“Excellent,” he replied jotting down a number before handing the piece of paper to her, “I trust you’ll give me a call so we can set something up.”
“Of course she will,” Diane added nudging Jade to accept his number as Cameron rose from the bar stool.
“I hope to hear from you soon,” he flashed Jade another killer smile before he nodded towards Diane, “it was nice meeting you, Diane.”
“Likewise,” she waved at him as she took her place beside Jade noting the scowl over Jade’s features, “don’t give me that look.”
“Just what did you think you were doing,” Jade chastised.
“Helping destiny out,” Diane motioned towards Cameron, “Once Grady sees that you aren’t waiting around for him to make the first move, he’s sure to put his priorities in place.  Once he gets a glimpse of you and that hottie out on the town with one another, he’s sure to see that you’re not going to pine away for him waiting for him to make up his mind about things.  He’ll realize that you’re young, beautiful and full of life and if he’s always going to run away from that, then he’s going to miss out.”
“Diane, I just don’t know…” Jade looked down to Cameron’s phone number in her hand.
“Just trust me,” Diane offered encouragingly, “Soon you’re going to thank me because this is going to be just the thing you needed to get one step closer to making Grady yours.  I’m sure of it.”
“I wish I had your faith,” Jade sighed curling up the piece of paper and tucking it into her purse as she wondered if Grady would fall for this latest ploy should she take Cameron up on his offer for dinner and sight seeing.  Either way, she was determined to find a way to make Grady hers.


“Heather, just what exactly are you hoping to accomplish with this,” Russell frowned as he stood on the fire escape a few steps below Heather wondering what in the hell had possessed him to go along with her on this mission in the first place.
“Just trust me,” she waved down at him, “I’m going to make sure that slut keeps her hands off of Brant once and for all.”
“Avery’s not a slut,” Russell frowned deeply as he cast a glance up at her once again--his gaze drifting over her shapely legs.  Well, there was one perk to being on the bottom this time, Russell mused as he tried to ignore the blatant stupidity that carried over him at the thought of being on a fire escape outside a world renowned hotel in an attempt to, well, he wasn’t quite sure what Heather’s plan was, but he was certain it wasn’t going to work out just like she’d hoped for.
“She’s so got you fooled,” Heather paused a frown touching over her lips as she repositioned herself on the ladder.  She lifted a leg, pulling off her shoe before dropping it down to the world below.
“What are you doing?” Russell questioned harshly just barely missing the heel of her shoe as it flailed to the ground beneath them.
“I need to be able to move better and these shoes aren’t cutting it,” she explained matter of fact as she carefully lifted her other leg and she plucked the shoe over his head making sure to catch the side of his head on the way down as a victorious smile pressed over her beautiful features, “oops, did I do that?”
“Heather, you’re this close to having me throw you off the side of the building,” Russell growled up at her realizing that this was certainly not how he’d envisioned saving Avery from Brant.  This was nothing like his ideas of getting the problem solved, but yet again Heather had blindsided him and he followed her miserable scheme yet again.
“You’d have to catch me first,” she spat down at him kicking her foot close to his face before darting up the ladder as Russell shook his head vowing that he’d never listen to one of Heather’s ‘brilliant’ ideas ever again after today.


Avery felt Brant’s intoxicating kisses press over her swelled lips, the fire of his desire pouring into her as she touched him, allowing her hands to explore the steely contours of his spine.  This was crazy, she began to reason as his finger tips danced over her excited skin.  Scratching her nails lightly over his spine, she saw the desire behind his eyes as he gazed into her, sending a warmth flooding all over her as she could feel him reaching deep inside of her, touching a part of her she’d kept locked away for so very long.
“Brant,” she whispered her name, hearing the frailty behind her voice as his eyes suddenly made her feel vulnerable, made her feel something that she was certain she shouldn’t be feeling for him as he touched her.  Wanting him was something she’d fought for so very long, but now as his touch glided over the hollow of her waist, over her shapely hips, her pulse raced building her up with so many twisted, tremulous emotions as his lips called her out from within.
“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered against her skin as his lips grazed her shoulder, gently nipping over her shoulder blade before brushing against her collar bone.
Avery closed her eyes feeling his mouth pour liquid heat over her body as his kisses traveled lower dipping in over her breastbone.  A breath escaped Avery’s lips as she felt his thick fingers press over the front clasp of her bra.  A flood of air caught in her throat as she anticipated his heavenly touch over her breasts, the feel of his hands over her, caressing her throbbing flesh, but much to her surprise Brant’s hands tapered off over her waist as his feathery light kisses dropped over the swell of her breasts lavishing her with tender sweeping caresses of his tongue.
“I’ve waited so long for you,” Brant whispered heatedly against her skin as his palm cupped her breast, shaping it with his touch, “I want to savor every inch of you,” he confessed his fingers fanning out over her hip as he gently urged her onto her stomach.
Avery opened her mouth in protest as she felt Brant pull away from her, but moments later, she felt him over her, his lips traveling over her spine as he placed a butterfly kiss over the dip in her waist, tapering off over her hip bone before he turned his attention to her long, sexy legs leaving Avery in a position to do nothing more than bask in the attention he was giving her.  She dropped her head into the pillow, a tiny giggle building inside of her as his lips teased over her thighs, catching one of her hot spots with his tongue.
Brant smiled seeing her reaction to him as he blew over her skin, watching the goose bumps form over her flesh.  There was no denying that she wanted him and truth be told, he’d never wanted any other more than he’d wanted Avery Morrison in this moment.  She was breathtaking--every erotic inch of her, he reasoned as his lips pressed over her every curve wanting to impress all of her in his memory from this moment forward.  She had certainly been worth the wait, and even now as he took his time learning every savory inch of her, he wanted to take forever with her--exploring his every dream of her.  Slowly, he crawled in behind her laying beside her as his fingers curled around her body, encircling her as he gently stroked her warm tingling flesh, feeling her body throbbing with need as she threw her head back into him, arching herself into his hands.  Sliding his fingers within the black lace that kept her hidden from his eyes, he felt the heat of her arousal as his thumbs skimmed over her taut peaks rolling her nipples gently as she cried out writhing her body back against him as desire rushed through her like a white hot rush of lightening.  Her hand captured his wrist as he held her, teasing her with his skilled touch and she lifted one hand to her lips dropping slow sensual kisses over his finger tips as she drew him into her mouth suckling upon him as his other hand stroked her body driving her to new heights with his caress.
Avery fanned her fingers out over his thigh squeezing him against her as the electricity of their connection was almost overwhelming.  Unable to refrain from touching him, Avery turned in his arms, capturing his mouth in a wild and wanton kiss as her hands reached out to him desperately, wanting nothing more than to ride the wicked and wonderful waves of pleasure that Brant had awakened in her.  She eased her finger tips over the elastic of his boxer shorts as he unclasped her bra.  He parted the material watching as her breasts spilled excitedly into his exhilarating touch.
“Brant,” she reached out to him tasting his promise of passion as he touched her, caressed her soft curves before drawing her in tight against him.  He slid his hand over her shoulder easing the strap of her bra away from her skin as his lips tasted her warm, glistening flesh for the first time, “oh Brant,” she purred as she thread her fingers into his hair, finding herself falling back into the mattress as his tongue flicked her tortured peak as he pulled her up against him.  She dropped her head back feeling herself melt in his arms as he teased her, taking her to heaven with every wicked and wonderful movement.
Avery’s lips parted as the pleading words spilled over the tip of her tongue, her body craving Brant unlike anything she’d ever dreamt imaginable, but as she began to offer herself to him completely a blood curdling cry broke through the moment causing her to leap away from him in a panic.
“What was that,” Avery questioned suddenly on edge as she looked over to Brant.
“I don’t know,” Brant frowned sitting up on the bed as he looked around the room, “Did you turn the television on?”
“When did I have the time,” Avery gave him a pointed look as she suddenly was aware of the state of her nakedness.  She felt Brant’s eyes taper off over her bare breasts and in that instant something sent a chill rushing over her spine as she covered herself.
“Avery, what’s wrong,” Brant frowned watching her shield herself from his gaze as he reached out to her touching her cheek gently, “I thought that we both wanted this…”
“I thought so too, but now…” she hesitated as another scream flooded through the bedroom coming from outside the window, “Brant someone’s out there.”
“Avery, don’t be ridiculous,” Brant shook his head, “Do you have any idea how high up we are,” he questioned seeing the look of disapproval on her face as he rose from the mattress, “Here I’ll prove it to you,” he marched across the bedroom throwing the curtain open as he saw a pale hand clinging desperately to the side of the balcony, “What the…” Brant threw the door open as he rushed outside to find someone was dangling from the balcony.
“Brant, what is it,” Avery wrapped herself up in a sheet as she waited for word from him.  She felt her heart pounding, her head silently cursing her body for allowing her to let things get this far with Brant, but as her mind was flooded with a great many conflicting emotions, she heard a pounding on the door to the hotel room, “Brant, someone’s here.  Brant!”
“Avery, call for help,” Brant looked to the hand desperately holding onto the side of the railing, “now.”
“Brant,” Avery called out to him again unable to hear what he was saying as he was a muffled jumble of sounds.  The pounding on the hotel room door continued and Avery let out a frustrated moan as she stepped out of bed, reaching for one of the robes the hotel had provided them with.  She marched over to the door wondering who the hell was pounding so furiously.
“What,” she grumbled throwing open the door as her gaze fell upon Russell as he stood before her.
“Avery,” he looked to her in confusion, or perhaps something more as his gaze swept past hers and he reached out to her shoulder shoving her aside, “move,” he ordered as he rushed into the hotel room leaving her baffled and angry at the door.
“What the…” Avery questioned as she marched after him and her eyes fell upon the scene taking place on the balcony.
“You’re going to be okay,” Brant spoke soothingly to the woman dangling from the balcony, “just hold onto me and let me pull you up.  Come on,” he tugged on her arm hoisting her up further, “we’re almost there.  Just a little bit more…” he urged pulling her over the edge of the balcony as she collapsed into his arms shaking.
Russell stopped at the door leading to the balcony as he let out a relieved sigh, “Thank God.”
“What the hell is going on here,” Avery demanded joining the trio as she realized that Heather was now tucked away safely in Brant’s arms.
“I could’ve died out there,” Heather sobbed into Brant’s chest, wrapping herself around him as he held her, “but you saved me,” she turned her eyes up towards him, “Brant, you saved my life…”
“Heather?” he questioned looking to her in confusion as he released her taking a step back, “what the hell are you doing here,” he demanded his voice shifting from a tone of concern to that of a rage.  His gaze swept over towards the door to the balcony as he saw Russell Denton watching him as well, “and you, what are you doing here?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Avery folded her arms in front of her chest, her anger pouring out of every synapse as she glared over at Heather.
“This can all be easily explained,” Russell defended as Heather reached out to Brant once again.
“Brant, I knew that you couldn’t bear the thought of losing me,” she chased after him as he made his way back into the hotel room, “I knew that you wouldn’t leave me to die.”
“Had I known it was you, I certainly wouldn’t have lifted a finger to help you,” Brant marched over to the bar deciding that he needed a drink as he was frustrated and irritated as hell.  He reached for a bottle as the trio behind him remained silent for a long moment.
“What in the world did you two think you were doing,” Avery demanded her hands on her hips as she turned her attention to Russell.
“Saving you from yourself clearly,” Russell noted as he looked down at the robe she was wearing, “if you think for one minute, that I’m going to let you ruin your life with this jerk…”
“Jerk,” Brant laughed turning around to face Russell, “just who the hell do you think you are, Denton?  What right do you have to burst into my hotel room and speak this way about me when you weren’t invited here?”
“It doesn’t take much to call an Ashford on what they are,” Russell stepped forward puffing out his chest in anger, “and the way I see it, you don’t give a damn about Avery as you don’t know what she wants or what she needs.  You only want to possess her because you can’t have her.”
“Oh please,” Heather stomped towards Brant, “don’t you dare speak to him that way. Brant is not chasing Avery.  It’s the other way around,” she explained matter of fact, “She knows that Brant is off limits and that is the only reason that she’s sinking her hooks into him.”
“My hooks?” Avery lunged towards Heather, “the only hook of mine you’re going to get is a right hook straight across your face…”
“Avery,” Russell reached out to her tugging on her waist as he pulled her back, “Heather’s not the one to blame for this.”
“You’re right,” Avery took in a breath as she turned to face him, “I blame you.  What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Wrong with me?” Russell blinked back at her, “I’m doing you a favor.”
“I didn’t ask you to protect me Russell,” Avery hissed up at him, “I told you to butt out of my life.”
“I’m not going to butt out of your life especially when you’re hell bent on destroying it with this bozo.”
“You don’t know the first thing about my relationship with Avery,” Brant defended as he moved in towards Russell, “you have no idea what is going on between us.”
“I know all about you, about how you use women for your own selfish purposes and then when you’re done with them, you toss them like they’re garbage,” Russell spat back at him as he reached out tug on Avery’s arm, “and she’s not garbage.  Avery is a brilliant, beautiful woman and she deserves better than you,” Russell pulled her towards him, “Come on Avery.  Get dressed because we’re leaving.”
“Like hell you are,” Brant reached out to grab Avery tugging on her other arm as he yanked her towards him, “she’s staying with me.”
“No she’s not,” Russell demanded jerking Avery in his direction.
“Yes, she is,” Brant announced firmly as he pulled Avery towards him again.
“I’ll stay with you Brant,” Heather blurted out with a bright smile, “you know we could catch up on old times together.”
“Shut up Heather,” Brant grumbled at her as he tugged on Avery’s arm once again, “Avery and I came here together and we’re leaving together.”
“Over my dead body,” Russell pulled sharply as Avery let out a pained cry.
“Let go of me,” Avery snapped back at them as they carried out their tug of war, “Both of you stop it.”
“Oh would you just shut up,” Heather rushed towards her anger sweeping over her features as she raised her hand to strike Avery, “This is for that remark at Russell’s office the other day…” she started driving her hand down towards Avery as Brant released Avery causing Russell to topple backwards with Avery as he’d continued pulling on her.
“Don’t you even think about it,” Brant seized Heather in his arms, anger overwhelming him as he tore her away from Avery.
“She’s had it coming for a while,” Heather seethed with anger as Russell and Avery fell to the floor and Brant continued to hold her.  Suddenly realizing she was in Brant’s arms, she feigned as though she was trying to escape from his grasp, but more so she relished the feel of his arms around her as he continued to restrain her in an attempt to keep her away from his precious Avery.  Things were certainly looking up.
Avery felt the breath escape her lips after she’d fallen onto the ground above Russell.  She looked down at him seeing the surprise in his eyes as he’d torn open the front of her robe now exposing her nearly naked body to his confused eyes as she pulled away from him.
“Avery,” he reached out to her as he saw her eyes dark with rage.
“You bastard,” Avery began as he reached out to her trying to help her cover her breasts as she threw her fist out, punching him square across the jaw as she cursed the day she brought Russell Denton back into her life.  Somehow her night of magic with Brant had turned into nothing short of disaster and she had only Russell to blame.  Damn him, she cursed under her breath as he fell to the floor and she crawled off of him turning her attention to Brant and Heather.  She felt her anger spew over her as she opened her mouth to speak, but thought twice as she threw her hands in the air before stomping off into the bathroom as she realized her life was turning into a nightmare--one that she’d just as soon avoid as she slammed the bathroom door upon struggling to leave the insanity of everyone out in the other room behind her.

...to be continued...