Blake sat on her bed as tears of misery ran down her face. She couldn’t
believe she’d just lost one the most important things in her
life. She wished things were different. How could she have
done that to Seth especially now. She loved him, or did
she? She was so confused right now. As she sat there she heard a
rustling noise behind her. She turned around to see Annie coming in
with a basket of clothes and setting them down.
"Blake, what’s wrong?" Annie asked noticing the tears falling from her
"Seth and I just broke up, Annie," Blake said taking a deep sigh.
"Why, what happened?" she asked sitting down next to Blake.
"Well, today I got a call from Ken, he told me that Zack and Johanna
are married, and I got upset," Blake said looking down.
"Well, what went wrong with you a Seth?" asked Annie putting her hand
on Blake’s shoulder.
"Seth saw me crying and he believes that I am still in love with Zack.
He told me that he loved me, but he didn’t want to be the second man in
my life. But, he isn’t my second, at least I don’t think he is. I’m so
confused, Annie," said Blake starting to cry harder.
"Who do you love?" asked Annie.
"I…I don’t know," said Blake confused.
"You see that’s what you have to do, you have to look deep down in your
heart and see who you really love," said Annie.
"How can I tell, I care about them both," said Blake.
"See that’s the thing, while you care about the both of them, deep down
I know you only love one of them. Sure, on some level you might
love them both, but when it comes to that forever kind of love,
sometimes you have to look at who you would want to be with the rest of
your life and who it is that makes you feel as though you‘re exactly
where you were meant to be. Someone who is going to be there for you no
"See that’s the hard part, I can’t tell who wants to be with me and who
I want to be with. I mean Zack is married to Johanna, but we had
something wonderful for a while and Seth, oh God Annie, I can‘t even
begin to tell you how amazing he is."
"Well, I can’t tell you what to do, but recently you’ve been happier
and I have to say that when I look at Seth, I can see the true love he
has for you in his eyes, Blake. You can tell he wants to be with
you, that he’s in love with you. If you truly love him, go find
him before it’s to late. With Zack I know he loves you as well
regardless of what‘s happening with Johanna, and it’s not to late for
you two either. You have to choose with your heart, whom do you
love more? If you make the wrong decision, you could be living your
whole life with the wrong guy. You’d be wishing that you picked
the other one. So make the choice if that’s what your heart is
telling you. It will guide you to what is right."
"I have an idea, but how do I know?"
"That’s something I can’t answer sweetheart, you have to find that
"I have to think, this is so hard."
"You can do that, just make sure that you decide what you want in your
life before it’s to late."
"No problem. If you need me you know where to find me," said Annie
getting up and walking out of her room.
Blake sat there thinking about what Annie just said. She was right she
had to find the right one before it was too late. Blake had to
think, she needed a push to help her along. Then it popped in her
mind, her mother’s diary. Maybe something in her mother’s diary
could help her along. She got off the bed and went to her
dresser. She opened the second drawer and grabbed the
diary. She got back on the bed and took a deep breath. She
took a deep sigh and opened the cover ready to see if perhaps her
mother could find a way to reach out to her once again and help her
through this latest disaster in her life.
Seth felt a chill rush over him on this otherwise calm and quiet spring
evening as he pushed his way through the door to Alexandria’s
café. While his first instinct had been to go home and get
plastered after things had fallen so completely apart with Blake, he
promised himself that he wouldn’t let himself fall down that dark and
dangerous road as he was well aware how Grady’s alcoholism had caused
his sister nothing but grief in the past. So after he’d vetoed
that thought, he’d contemplated just spending the night at home, but
instead he kept on walking once he’d made his way to the apartment.
Sure, he could’ve gone upstairs, but with the thoughts that were
spinning in his head, there was no way that he could pretend that he
wasn’t lost in a fury. He needed some space--needed a way to get
outside of himself for a little while and walking seemed to do
it. Sure, he’d thought about calling Ben, but he figured that Ben
would’ve been busy with Diane, doing the things that those in love
would often do on a romantic night such as the one he’d felt slip
away. So while he was really feeling quite miserable, he couldn’t
bring himself to ruin his best friend’s otherwise calm and quiet
evening with the woman he loved.
Seth had also thought about going to the hospital as he’d passed it on
the walk over to Alexandria’s, but alas that didn’t seem to pan out
either as he didn’t want to upset things more than they had already
been lately. Of course then there was the whole issue of checking
in on Jade he‘d still pondered, but Avery Denton had called and
informed him of what was going on with Jade and Grady and he realized
that he was no longer needed in that situation either for the time
being, so the walk continued until finally Seth happened upon the small
café that had certainly seen better days in the past.
Now as Seth looked around, he wasn’t quite sure he wanted anything at
all as he took note of the wiry looking man standing upon the small
stage set up in the corner of the room as he read what appeared to be
his approach to modernistic poetry. While Seth tried not to let
it show, he couldn’t help but wonder if that guy too was off his rocker
just a bit as the man seemed to have stepped out of a Rocky and
Bullwinkle cartoon, which given Seth’s sour mood almost seemed
appropriate as Seth made his way over to the bar area taking a seat on
one of the stools pretending to have some kind of interest in what was
taking place on stage.
Unfortunately for Seth the only thing going through his mind was the
way in which he’d fought his every instinct to keep from running back
to Blake and taking her back into his life with open arms. What
had he been thinking in letting her go like that when she was
everything he’d ever dreamt about in his life? How could he have
just so impulsively thrown that away?
“Because she’s not in love with you like you love her,” he reminded
himself poignantly thinking about Blake’s desperate reaction to
learning that Zack had married Johanna. While he’d tried to tell
himself that he could be the better man--that somehow he could find a
way to overlook the fact that she still cared so very deeply about a
man whom Seth had grown to despise, it just wasn’t happening as the
longer he held her listening to her tears over losing Zack, the more
the knife seemed to plunge into his heart over and over again.
Okay, so maybe he’d known from the start that things weren’t ever going
to be the way that he’d wanted them to be, but he wanted something more
from Blake--something that would be able to stand the test of time--not
something that she’d just opt to settle for once Zack had been
Thinking back to the first time he and Blake made love with one another
Seth couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps he’d been wrong about what
they’d meant to one another. He’d tried to force himself to
forget that she’d just been hurt by Zack and for a little while it
appeared that he’s been able to do so, but now he was back to square
one wondering if a rebound guy was all he’d ever been since he and
Blake had reconnected. Clenching his fist on the top of the bar,
he tried to keep from losing himself to the misery that had engulfed
him since he’d done the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life in
leaving the only woman he’d ever truly loved.
“Can I get you something,” the woman behind the counter questioned as
Seth realized that he really hadn’t had anything in mind when he’d
stepped into the place, just needing some kind of distraction from the
world around him.
“What’s good?” he questioned realizing he hadn’t bothered to even take
a look at the menu before him as he suddenly felt foolish for being so
lost within himself.
“Truthfully, not much,” the woman confessed with a tiny smile, “but if
I were going to take a guess at what you might enjoy, I’d say a
Café Caramel might be right up your alley. It’s rather
Seth let out a tiny chuckle, “That’s exactly what my sister says about
those things, so why not? I’ll have one of those.”
“I’ll be right on it,” the woman nodded flashing him a playful grin as
Seth turned his attention to the stage once again listening as the man
he’d dubbed Boris was now spouting about the woes of love. While
sick and twisted, it began to be something that Seth could relate to in
it’s own sardonic way as he turned to discover the waitress had brought
his drink over to him.
“Thank you,” Seth smiled at her, “how much do I owe you?”
“Given how miserable you look tonight, it’s on me,” she offered up
watching as he began to reach into his pocket to pull out some money.
“Oh no I insist,” Seth began again.
“Believe me anyone who pretends that he’s interested in what Trent has
to say is in some serious self-loathing, so really it’s on me,” she
pushed his hand away as he began to offer her the money for his drink,
“Besides, you might hate the drink.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Seth offered up a half hearted smile, “as I’m
sure it’s fine.”
“I’ll come back and check on you later and see if that still holds
true,” she threw back at him going to attend to some new arrivals as
Seth stared down at the drink before him. It was topped off with
whipped cream and shaved chocolate pieces and yet all he could think
about was how it was something that Blake would probably enjoy.
He could see it now as she would gingerly tease her finger through the
whipped cream to get a first taste of it before licking the sweet
confection off of her finger and perhaps offering him a taste along the
way that eventually would lead to a kiss.
“Enough,” Seth pushed the drink away standing up from the drink as he
realized that this wasn’t helping anything either.
“Hey watch it,” a pinched cry rose from behind him as Seth realize he’d
damn near ran over a petite woman who’d been approaching.
“I’m sorry,” Seth began to apologize noting the tears that had
seemingly been falling down her features as she wiped at her face
stubbornly ready to push past him, “Hey, are you okay?”
“Do I look okay,” she questioned sarcastically throwing out a glare as
Seth wondered what had brought her to feeling so miserable on a night
like this one--not that he wasn’t there himself, but still.
“No really, what’s wrong? Don’t tell me it’s because of me or the
bad poetry that you’re all worked up,” Seth started again attempting to
make a light-hearted attempt at humor as the woman glared up at him,
before throwing her hands in the air in defeat and storming out of the
Feeling immediately worse than he had before, Seth chased after her
hating to see someone as miserable as he was on a night when the rest
of the world seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even Trent was
doing a bang up job of entertain himself and it didn’t seem fair for
Seth and the new arrival to be the only miserable souls in the place,
Seth reasoned reaching for his drink and exiting the small
café. Upon stepping onto the sidewalk, he noticed the girl
he’d bumped into moments later slumped down on the pavement.
“Hey, I really didn’t mean to upset you this bad,” Seth offered up
holding out the drink he’d been given a few minutes earlier, “Here,
have this as a peace offering. The waitress just gave it to me,
but it‘s not really my idea of a good time, but you might like
it. I haven‘t tasted it yet or anything and if you‘re worried
about my trying to pull some kind of line or something, then I just
want you to know that isn‘t why I‘m out here as…”
“I know it’s not you,” she threw her hands in the air with another
exaggerated groan, “It’s just…well, have you ever had one of those days
where it felt like the whole world was against you? Like everyone
and everything was ready to just dish out their worst and make you feel
like the smallest, most insignificant thing out there?”
“I think it’s safe to say I know the feeling,” Seth nodded watching her
accept the drink as she waved it around with an animated motion.
“Yeah well try having a life like that,” she sighed inwardly wiping at
her face as she flung the drink around again, “I mean first I fall in
love which is supposed to be this completely natural, wonderful thing
and everything felt so right, but no, could it stay that way? Of
course not as I find out that not only does the guy I’m so deeply head
over heels in love with not love me back, but he’s gay!! I mean
all that time I thought he and I had something special, but in the end
it turns out that he’s gay and I’m the one thing that helped him make
his decision. I mean sure okay lots of women have gay
ex-boyfriends I think, but they don’t still spend their time pining
over the gay ex-boyfriend that walked away. They move on with
their lives and they find other means of happiness, but not me. I
make a date with someone and he doesn‘t bother to show up. I sat
there like an idiot for over an hour hoping that this too good to be
true guy will walk through the doors and does he? Nope, not even
close. I mean hey, I’m not unattractive am I?”
“Of course you’re not,” Seth took a chance as he sat down beside her
needing to find a way to do something other than sulk himself for a
bit, “Not at all.”
“Then why does this keep happening to me? I mean first with Guy
and now with Hunt…” she groaned emphatically burying her face in her
hands as another cry erupted from within.
“Maybe you’re just spending your time with the wrong men,” Seth
suggested, “as if they were really worth your attention, then they
wouldn’t be putting you second place in their life. They wouldn’t
make you feel like this and they certainly wouldn’t leave you in a
position to be sharing coffee with a stranger on a night when you could
be enjoying life.”
“Exactly, but hey, that isn’t what’s happening for me as I can’t find
the guy who is going to give me that. I can’t find anyone who
cares enough to say hey, ‘Mindy, you’re a great gal, so why don’t we
take the time to explore the possibilities between us?’”
“Maybe that’s because you are seeking out all the wrong men, Mindy,” he
stated plainly as he thought about the situation she was laying out
before him, “You said your ex was gay and yet you set yourself up for a
heartbreak again with him. Maybe the reason you were opening
yourself up to feelings for the guy is because it was safe--because you
knew what to expect and that ultimately you weren’t looking for a
“That’s ridiculous,” she huffed in response, “that isn’t it at all.”
“Okay, maybe it’s not, but maybe I might be on to something. You
said you knew the guy was gay and you still decided to indulge in this
notion that things would have a way of working themselves out.
Maybe fate is trying to tell you that there are bigger, better plans
for you,” Seth added watching a mask of confusion and contemplation
sweep over her features.
“I seriously doubt it,” she groaned lifting the cup of coffee up to her
lips and taking a drink, “I mean really, I don’t think there’s anyone
else as unlucky in love as I am.”
“I think we all feel that way at times,” Seth confessed thinking about
Blake again, “I mean hey my girlfriend and I broke up tonight and up
until I met you I was thinking that I’d hit rock bottom--that I didn’t
have anything else to look forward to now that I’ve lost my heart and
the woman I love.”
“What happened,” Mindy inquired curiously noting the sadness that crept
in over his otherwise handsome features.
“Like your ex-boyfriend, she was unobtainable. I thought that we
had something special, but the truth to the matter is that she’s in
love with someone else,” Seth sighed hating to admit the truth aloud as
his head sunk down, “I tried to pretend that I wasn’t aware that she
cared about the other guy, but the truth to the matter is that I
haven’t come close to what he is to her. I’m not what she wanted
and now that I see that, well I can’t pretend any longer that I can
live like that.”
“Is that what she told you?” Mindy questioned curiously, “That she
loved another man?”
“She didn’t say it, but I sensed it for a long time,” Seth divulged,
“and while I’ve tried to ignore it, that wasn’t doing anything, but
giving me more time to fester over the situation.”
“So you just decided to call it quits like that huh,” Mindy eyed him
“I didn’t feel like I had any other choices, but now, well now I’m
wondering if I did the right thing. I mean sure, I know that this
will be for the best eventually, but right now it hurts so damned
much…” he stopped himself shaking the thought, “but this isn’t really
about me as I came out here to check on you.”
“I appreciate that and the coffee, but you really didn’t have to,” she
paused giving him an ironic look, “You know I don’t even know your
“It’s Seth--Seth Alexander,” he offered his hand out to hers.
“Mindy Carmichael,” she accepted his handshake as a pathetic smile
spread over her features.
“As in Judge Carmichael?” he arched a curious brow. “Any
“She‘s my mother,” she nodded with a sigh, “but I really would rather
not focus on that oh say for the rest of my adult years.”
“Fair enough,” Seth agreed watching her take another sip of the drink
he’d given her, “So Mindy, tell me something.”
“What’s that?” she asked feeling her tears die down.
“How would you be interested in going back inside with me and listening
to some really bad poetry?” he suggested with a soft smile, “I hear the
food is awful in there, but maybe just maybe together we could find a
way to pretend that we aren’t miserable tonight.”
“I am a little hungry since my date didn’t bother to show up before,”
Mindy admitted with a nod.
“Great, though I will warn you the guy on stage might cause you to lose
your appetite if you give him too much of your attention,” Seth rose up
from the sidewalk offering his hand out to her, “So what do you say?”
“I think that’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Mindy confessed allowing
him to help her out as she said a silent prayer that at least she
didn’t have to spend the night alone and miserable like she’d planned
on when she’d made the trip over to Alexandria’s. Sure, she
wasn’t looking on finding any company, but Seth seemed nice enough and
maybe just maybe she could find the time to enjoy some good
conversation for a while before she Donna arrived for her shift at the
café. Maybe things were looking up a little bit as she
realized that perhaps there were other people out there going through
some of the same situations that she’d been having lately.
“Just what Brooke,” Judy questioned once again noticing the way in
which the color seemed to drain from Brooke’s features as Brooke waved
her hand around her face with an exaggerated motion.
“It’s so loud in here Judy that I really can’t hear what you’re
saying,” Brooke insisted starting towards the direction of the exit as
she prayed that she could pull Judy away from the impending revelation
she was certain that Richard’s other woman would love to discover, “How
about we take this outside?”
“How about we don’t and we just finish this right here as I’m very
curious to see how it is a woman near her death bed is out and about at
a country western bar on a night like this,” Judy’s eyes threw out a
challenge as she placed her hands on her hips, “Does Rick have any idea
“Of course he does,” Brooke stood up taller not about to have someone
like Judy take her down, “He’s well aware of my being here as he’s the
one that suggested we come to this place tonight as a means of starting
anew. He wanted to take the time to celebrate our good fortune
and what better way than to do it in rediscovering our youth.
However, had I known you’d have followed us here, then I wouldn’t have
even indulged in his idea, but I can assure you that once he’s finished
up in the rest room, I’ll see to it that we leave right away.”
“Don’t bother on my account,” Judy glared back at her looking wounded
upon Brooke’s words.
“Oh believe me I wouldn’t dream of doing anything for your benefit,”
Brooke hissed wanting nothing more than to wound Judy with her words as
Hunt approached the two women, smiling as he held a drink out to Brooke.
“Your drink,” Hunt announced offering the glass over to Brooke as he
was clearly oblivious to the situation taking place between her and
As he stood beside Brooke, giving her an expectant look, she could see
the way in which Judy’s eyes widened as if the day had been her lucky
day as she’d seemingly caught Brooke in a trap she’d set for
herself. However there was no way in hell that Brooke would let
Judy get the best of her. Not tonight and not ever, she vowed to
herself slowly turning her attention to Hunt as she lifted her glass
from his hand before reaching into her pocket to hand him a quick flash
“Thank you for being so prompt with the drinks as my husband and I are
sure to enjoy them,” Brooke added quickly pushing the money into his
hand as she snatched up his drink as well, “Here’s your tip.”
“What?” Hunt questioned in confusion giving her a strange look as he
eyed her and Judy for a long moment before understanding set in upon
him. His face seemed to drop with disappointment as he took a
step back nodding accordingly as he tucked the money into his pocket,
“Don’t mention it.”
“Thanks again,” Brooke waved her hand at him dismissively praying that
he didn’t give her away as he seemed to understand the silent message
she was giving to him.
“Yeah sure, have a nice night,” he offered up turning around and
walking away from the women as Judy watched him for a lingering moment
wondering if there was something going on beneath the surface between
Brooke and the waiter as their behavior had seemed tense. Then
again maybe it was Judy who was tense as the last thing she’d wanted to
do on a night like tonight was see Brooke and Rick together again
living it up.
“Well, is there anything else I can help you with Judy or have you
finally decided to back off on being the home wrecker and stay the hell
out of my marriage once and for all?” Brooke challenged in a menacing
tone watching as Judy took a slow step back.
“The only one who caused the problems to your marriage was you Brooke,
not me,” Judy answered flatly feeling her anger and frustrations mount
as Deidra approached the two women.
“There you are. I was starting to wonder where you drifted off
to,” Deidra began as her eyes fell upon Brooke Morrison and instantly
her smile faded, “Oh.”
“Yeah oh,” Brooke glared at Deidra as well, “It would seem that your
mother was lost, but now that you’ve found her, I’m going to go collect
my husband. I’ll tell him you said hello Judy.”
“Go to hell Brooke,” Judy answered tightly watching as Brooke pranced
on over to the restroom area leaving Judy feeling far worse than she
had before Deidra had suggested they go out for the evening.
“Mom,” Deidra began not knowing what to say as she placed her hand on
her mother’s shoulder.
“I don’t want to talk about it sweetheart,” Judy stated plainly
fighting to contain the tears she felt burning inside over the thought
of Rick reconnecting with Brooke in such a way after the things he’d
said to her. It just didn’t make sense even if Judy had pushed
him away. She’d hoped that despite her words things could work
out for the two of them as she’d wished that she could finally have
that happiness with Rick that had escaped them all those years ago, but
tonight proved that there would never be any chance for that.
“Mom, are you sure that…” Deidra began again as Judy through her a
“I think it’s time we head on home,” Judy got out feeling as if the
walls were closing in around her as she headed back to the table that
she and Deidra had been at earlier. Quickly she collected her
things as she found herself wanting nothing more than to push this
night and the silly notions she’d had of having found a second chance
with Rick out of her life forever.
Brooke felt a sigh of relief wash over her as she’d watched Judy and
her daughter exit the bar. While she hadn’t been planning on a
confrontation with Judy, she couldn’t help but gloat about how well it
had gone as she could just imagine the tears of misery that Judy would
be sobbing to her daughter on the ride back to Coral Valley. Not
that the little witch deserved anything less than pain after the ways
in which she’d warped Richard’s mind lately, but as she could see with
Judy’s swift departure, she realized that things were finally falling
into place as she was going to enjoy rubbing her newfound reunion with
Richard in Judy’s face. Things were working themselves out after
all it seemed.
Silence surrounded Russ and Avery as Russ unlocked the door to their
home allowing Avery access inside before he followed her in through the
front door. Making sure to take the time to lock the door behind
them as he listened to Avery taking a brief look around their home, he
couldn‘t help but feel himself fighting the feelings of conflict that
were still eating away inside of him. He let out a heavy sigh
reaching inside to turn on the lights as he found his home just as
they’d left it the day before when they’d rushed to the hospital
fearing the worst about Grady, but now as they were home again with a
whole different set of circumstances surrounding them. He’d tried
desperately not to let the situation get the best of him, but as he
thought of what he was about to do, he felt his heart sinking as a
sense of loss filled him up inside.
“Hey,” Avery reached out to him touching his shoulder gently as she
could see him buried inside himself, “talk to me Russ.”
“What more is there say? I mean what’s done is done, right?” he
questioned poignantly wondering when he would be able to see his
brother again after the plan that they’d concocted to get Cameron to
slip up had come into play.
“This isn’t the end as we’re going to do what we can to prove that
Grady is innocent Russ,” Avery urged him on again trying to keep him
from sinking down to the despair that had seemingly overtaken him since
he’d said his good-byes to his brother, “hey, this isn’t forever.”
“What if it is? I mean what if this blows up in all of our
faces? What if Grady never gets the chance to reclaim his life
and this is the only alternative we’re left with?” Russell questioned
miserably, “then what Avery?”
“Russ, I swore to your brother that I was going to do everything in my
power to make sure that we cleared his name and this doesn’t change
that. It only gives us more time to find the truth while Cameron
has his guard down,” Avery tried to remind him seeing that this night
wouldn’t be the night to get into how this could benefit their family
in the long run as the wounds were still very raw now that Russ and
Grady were forced to have yet another a distance between them again,
“He’s going to pull through this you know.”
“I realize that, but after we almost lost him, well you’d just think
that he’d be better off in Coral Valley with his family instead of
heaven knows where while the world believes he’s dead,” Russell
continued thinking of his talk with his brother. “I mean I know
what this is supposed to be like in theory, but in reality, it sucks.”
“I know it does, but had Grady stayed here, we both know that he’d be
locked up in jail in no time. The law wouldn’t protect him here
in Coral Valley and he needs time to heal without fear that Cameron
would step in and take away what progress he’s made thus far.”
“Even so, I hate how men like Cameron have the power to take so much
away from us,” Russ found himself fuming as he thought of the last few
months of his life, “First Bruce and now Cameron. I’m just
starting to feel like it’s never ending for us Avery. I mean what
“We find a way to clear your brother’s name and we work on getting back
to where we’re supposed to be Russ,” she stated boldly making her way
towards him as she reached out to cup his face in her hands while
urging him to look down at her, “and that’s back to us Russ.
Things will blow over.”
“I always wanted to believe that, but now…” he admitted with a heavy
sigh as Avery released him seeking out one of his hands and bringing it
up over the beginnings of her newly rounded abdomen.
“Believe in this Russ,” she pleaded with him, determination brewing
behind her dark eyes as she held his hand in place over the reminder of
their unborn child, “believe in what promise we have for our future
with one another. There was a time when even this felt like an
impossible dream, but now, well this speaks for itself.”
“I know it does,” he sighed in confession turning his attention to
where she’d laced their fingers in one another over her stomach, “I
guess that sometimes things just get so overwhelming that…”
“I know baby,” she stepped in towards him laying her head against his
chest as his arms instinctively wrapped around her, “but we have to
believe in the best that there is out there. After all that’s
what you have been saying all along and it won me over, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, I guess in it’s own magical way it did,” he touched her cheek
gently urging her dark eyes up towards his, “I love you Avery. I
know I probably haven’t said that enough lately, but I really do.
I don’t know what I’d do without you in my life.”
“That’s something that you’re never going to have to worry about Russ
because you and I, well we’re like forces of nature bound and
determined to find their way to one another and beat the odds,” she
tipped up on her toes to steal a kiss from his lips, “and we will you
“I know,” he murmured against her mouth taking the initiative to lift
her up off of the ground into his arms fully before laying another
exploratory kiss upon her soft, supple lips.
“See, now doesn’t this feel a little bit better,” she questioned
hugging her arms around his shoulders as he continued to hold her.
“This feels amazing, but when I think about Grady,” he trailed off
thinking about his brother’s words.
“He really worked a number on you tonight, didn’t he,” she couldn’t
help but ask as she thought to the change in her husband after she’d
given him and Grady some time alone with one another.
“He just reminded me all over again how much I needed him in my life,”
he confessed earnestly as his eyes fell upon hers once again, “and
about how much I needed you as well.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Avery promised him kissing him again as his arms
dropped down over her spine squeezing her in against him gently.
“That’s why we’re both here daddy.”
“Daddy,” Russell repeated with a smile as his thoughts lingered to the
child he and Avery had fought so very hard to make a reality for
them. Slowly setting her on the ground again, his gaze settled in
over her abdomen, “speaking of which, how is my little one doing?”
“Why don’t you ask him or her?” Avery suggested feeling the mood
lighten up a bit as she placed her own hands over her body as if trying
to decipher the things that the baby was telling her in the moment, “Oh
Russ, you should really listen to this as our baby has a lot to say.”
“Is that so,” he questioned arching a curious brow as he watched her
“Oh yeah,” she giggled feeling something happening as she reached for
his hand again, “come here.”
“What is it?” he questioned as she guided his hand up underneath her
shirt to feel the tiny twitching that was going on beneath the
surface. While Avery still had a ways to go in terms of growing,
Russ could feel the way in which her body had already adjusted to their
child as he eased his fingers over the soft swell of her abdomen.
“Do you feel that,” she questioned eagerly suddenly struck with what
felt like another movement from within.
“Where?” he asked again letting her guide him to the place where she’d
felt some kind of reaction.
“Maybe we should sit down for this,” Avery suggested guiding him over
to the couch as she leaned in against the cushion attempting to
pinpoint the movement the baby was making inside of her.
“Here, let me help with this one,” he suggested popping open a few
buttons at the bottom of her blouse taking a good, long look at her
body as a smile tickled over his lips. While he’d hated to admit
he didn’t want to miss a thing with their child, just the sight of
Avery took his breath away as she was far more beautiful than he’d ever
remembered her being as she searched for some kind of movement with
“Right here,” she insisted with a tiny giggle clenching his hand in
hers as she placed his fingers down decidedly over the center of her
abdomen, “Do you feel that?”
Russell’s eyes lit up as there was no mistaking the movement coming
from beneath the surface. There was certainly something happening
and as his green eyes returned to Avery’s a proud smile spread over his
features, “Do I ever!”
“Isn’t that the most incredible thing you’ve ever experienced in your
whole life,” Avery questioned unable to contain her tears of joy as the
reality of the power of their love fell upon her in all it’s moment of
wonder as their baby was quite adamant about making his or her presence
known to the both of them.
“You’re the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced Avery,” he
confessed leaning in to kiss her forehead gently before he collected
her in his arms realizing that while he hated to let go of his brother
at a time like this, Grady was right. The things that mattered
most were right before Russell as he held onto his wife and interacted
with their unborn child and he knew in that instant that he was going
to do everything in his power to hold onto them as his family was the
very key to his survival.
After her tears died down, Blake thought about Annie’s words realizing
that maybe there was more to the situation than she was allowing
herself to see in her current state of mind. Surely, there had to
be more to life than just her mini-dramas about the men she was giving
her heart to. She was in no position to make any kind of decision
even if she wanted to at this moment in time and now as she sat alone
in her room, she wondered if that in itself was a sign of how horribly
flighty she was.
“I wonder what the rest of my family would think of me now if they
could see what a disaster I turned out to be,” Blake muttered aloud
turning her attention to the journal that she’d kept out on the bed
Now thinking about what she’d briefly read with Seth the other night
about her mother’s private thoughts, Blake felt compelled to step out
of her own world of misery for a little while and just focus elsewhere
for a little while. Reaching for her mother’s journal, she opened
up the cover to take note of her mother’s pristine writing as it seemed
as though her mother had taken great care in her writings. Sure,
she probably never imagined anyone having come upon her most private,
inner thoughts, but at this moment in time Blake was desperately
seeking out the comfort that only her mother could provide her at a
time like this. Pushing to the page where she’d left off the
other night, Blake opened the book to read one of the entries written
out in bright, blue ink.
“And here I sit tonight wondering if I’m making the right decision,”
Blake read aloud as she sank back into her pillows to get more
comfortable, “I love Nicholas with all that I am. I truly do, but
I’m not sure if I’m making the right choices anymore. I thought I
was sure, but then when he came to me…when he begged me to run away
with him instead of staying in Coral Valley with Nicholas, I was almost
tempted, but how could I be thinking such absurd thoughts?
Nicholas is to be my husband--to be the man I’ve spent my life waiting
for. He can provide a good home and a stable environment for our
children in years to come. He loves me and he’s been good to me
and that is really what this all boils down to. Nick is
everything I’ve ever needed in my life and to throw that away on
impulse is nothing short of insane. No one would be able to
understand if I left this life behind--no one would dare think it
possible for me to be so foolish and yet I can’t seem to pull myself
away from the hold he has on me. When we’re together it feels as
if time is irrelevant and it’s only him and I--where we belong…”
“Him and I,” Blake repeated biting on her lower lip as she wondered who
her mother was talking about. Skimming over the page, she flipped
it quickly curious to learn more about this mystery man her mother was
writing about, but alas all she could find were references to he and
him--no name of the other man her mother was seemingly swept up in.
“Today I did the hardest thing imaginable. I told him that we
could never be together--that my heart was with Nick and as he stood
before me, I could almost hear his heart breaking when I turned
away. I fought like hell not to run to him, to go back willingly
to his open arms and pledge the truth in my heart, but I know that
isn’t possible. It will never be possible again as I’ve made my
choice and I can’t look back. I won’t look back!”
“Oh mom,” Blake sighed feeling her heart breaking with her mother’s
words as she thought to her own situation realizing that perhaps she
wasn‘t the only Ashford woman in a state of turmoil in her life, “what
did you do? Who did you leave behind and more importantly, why
did we never know?” she questioned aloud realizing that she’d suddenly
opened up a door that she was never meant to find into her mother’s
past. It seemed that the woman she’d heard a great deal about had
a secret life--one that Blake couldn’t help but delve into as she
fought to push her own problems aside in the name of discovering the
woman her mother truly was.
Hunt sat outside in the parking lot next to the bar wondering why he
hadn’t just gotten inside his sedan and driven off as is seemed that
the only company he’d had worth keeping was the night sky above.
Even with the crisp spring breeze and the millions of stars above, he
was beginning to feel as if was the only soul in the universe destined
to have been put in such a disastrous position as the scene with Brooke
replayed in his mind again and again.
How could he have thought that she’d truly be ready and willing to
finally come out of the shadows and be true to her word on her
intentions where their relationship was concerned? How could he
have been so stupid to think that there was actually a future between
them for that matter when it was painfully obvious that Brooke wasn’t
going to ever take what they had with one another seriously.
Tonight when she’d suggested the country western bar, he’d thought that
she’d finally been willing to take a chance, but when he’d happened
upon her with that other woman, well that pretty much summed up how
naïve Hunt had been about things changing for them.
Now as Hunt sat alone on the hood of his car leaning back against the
windshield, he could smell the faint aromas of stale beer and fried
foods in the air as the laughter continued inside the bar, but they
were a mere blip on his internal radar as he thought to what a fool
he’d been lately when it came to Brooke. Sure, it had started out
innocent enough as they’d had a flirtation with one another that
gradually grew into more. Brooke had been the first woman to
actually treat him as if he was someone of great interest--someone of
value and as he’d learned so many useful things from her, he’d found
himself falling harder for the woman who’d been the ultimate
representation of what he’d needed in his life. She was charming,
beautiful, full of character and had given him an opportunity to jump
into a life he hadn’t known to be possible until they’d crossed paths.
Of course, in retrospect Hunt could think of a few names that they’d
give to a man in his position as it seemed that sex and seedy meetings
between him and Brooke were all that remained of a relationship that
had once felt like the one thing he’d waited a lifetime to happen
upon. Here he’d had high hopes that he’d had a future with
Brooke, but his gut had been telling him for months that this wasn’t
where he was meant to be in his life--that this relationship was
heading nowhere, but until tonight he’d been avoiding that inevitable
truth as the fact remained that Brooke wasn’t ever going to be leaving
her husband--not now, not ever.
“There you are,” Brooke’s voice beckoned him through the darkness as he
could hear the sounds of her footsteps over the pavement. While
he’d tried to ignore the all to familiar scent of her perfume, he could
feel the warmth of her presence beside him as he kept his eyes up to
the sky. “I was starting to think I’d lost you.”
“You can’t lose what you’ve never really had Brooke,” Hunt offered up
in a pensive tone as he brought his arms up behind his head to support
him a bit better while he maintained his gaze over the nearly cloudless
“What is that supposed to mean,” she questioned with obvious distain as
he felt her manicured fingers taper off over his abdomen in a teasing
fashion, “Hunt, come on. Don’t be angry with me. Look at
“What good will that do Brooke?” he questioned forcing himself to eye
her as a frown pressed over his lips, “Honestly, what will any of what
you have to say accomplish?”
“I know that what happened back there wasn’t something that you’d
imagined having to deal with, but…” Brooke began desperately, sliding
her palm down over the center of his body teasing her fingers in over
the front of his belt before he pushed her hand away.
“But nothing,” he grumbled reaching into his pocket and throwing the
money she’d given him back in her face as he pushed himself off of the
hood of his car, “I’m not your personal whore, Brooke.”
“I never said you were,” Brooke exclaimed watching him circle around
the car, “it’s just that things are complicated and…”
“And what you did to me tonight just reminded me all over again why
I’ve been making the biggest mistake of my life in trying to pretend
that you could actually give a damn about me. You’re not ready to
face what our relationship means, nor do I really think that it holds
any kind of value to you. I mean, this is just one of those
flings for you before you go rushing back to Richard, right?”
“Hunt, that is never what I intended on it being for us and I still
don’t, but you have to understand that woman has tried to ruin my life
repeatedly. I couldn’t very well have her running back to Richard
and telling him about you. If she had done that…” she started
desperately reaching out to touch him again as he backed off rather
“Then what? Then he’d know that you’ve found someone else who
makes you happy? Someone who gives you what you’ve been missing
out on and needing in your life or were those just lines, Brooke?” he
questioned painfully shaking his head dismissively, “Though it doesn’t
really matter what they were because it’s over Brooke.”
“Over,” she repeated with a gasp, “oh Hunt, you can’t possibly mean
“I do,” he folded his arms in front of his chest vowing to be firm
about the decision he’d made since he’d walked out of the bar ready to
throw his fist into something to take away from the anger and
foolishness he’d been feeling. However, he’d opted to use his
better judgment for the first time in what felt like two years as he
was starting to see what a fool he’d been.
“Hunt, you can’t just be willing to give up what we have with one
another,” she started stepping in towards him once again.
“And what is that exactly Brooke?” he challenged with a frown, “What is
it that you think we have together?”
“Something very special and if you’d stop and think for a second, you’d
see that you really don’t want to end this. We both have so very
much invested in our relationship and…” she reached for him again this
time touching his hand as she tried to rekindle some kind of connection
“Brooke, you only want to be with me when you’re certain that no one
you know is looking at us. You haven’t told your family or more
importantly your husband about what’s going on between us and the more
I think about this, the more I see it’s going absolutely no where,” he
snapped in response feeling the reality of what he’d willingly put
himself into setting in.
“Hunt, I’m trying to do what’s right by this relationship, but you have
no idea what kind of pressures I’m under. If I just up and walk
away from everything now, I lose it all. I’ll lose my company and
the reputation that I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to build
for myself. Richard will see that he takes away everything that
I’ve spent my life working on and I can’t let that happen,” she
continued squeezing his hand urgently, “Hunt, you know how much my
company means to me.”
“That’s funny,” he let out an ironic laugh, “because at one time I
thought I knew how much I meant to you, but I suppose those days have
“You mean a great deal to me, but you have to understand that I need
time,” Brooke pleaded with him, “if you can’t give me that, then…”
“Then we really have no choice but to end it now before we realize that
we’ve only been fooling ourselves into thinking that this was real,”
Hunt finished with a heavy sigh.
“Hunt, we don’t have to do this. We can find a way to just…” she
began again as he shook his head at her.
“We’ll only be fooling ourselves if we do Brooke,” he sighed again
feeling his heart shatter into a million pieces, “but for what it’s
worth, I think it’s for the best.”
“Well I don’t. I don’t think this is going to benefit either one
of us as I can’t imagine my life without you,” Brooke admitted
tearfully reaching out to the center of his shirt and clinging to him,
“Hunt, I do love you--more than I thought I’d be capable of after the
nightmare of a marriage I’ve had with Richard, but you have to see
where I’m coming from.”
“Brooke, I’ve tried to do that, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard
for you. Your children are grown up and you have established
yourself in the fashion world. You won’t have to worry about not
having that to carry with you and as for money, well I’ll do what I can
to keep us in the kind of life you’ve grown accustomed to. I know
I might not have much now, but one day…”
“Hunt, I can’t burden you with that kind of responsibility,” she
pressed her finger to his lips to silence him, “not now after all
you’ve done for me. You deserve more--we deserve more and soon I
promise you we’re going to have that. I’ll find myself a good
divorce lawyer and then, well then we can be free to be together.
I promise you that.”
“Brooke, I wish I could trust that, but…” he started again as she
pulled him into a desperate kiss.
“Believe in me Hunt,” she mouthed against his lips holding him tighter
than before, “I’ll find a way to make your dreams for us a
reality. I’ll prove to you that I can be what you need if you
just give me another chance…”
“Brooke, I can’t keep going through this again and again,” he began to
argue as she cut him off with another kiss.
“This time it will be different. I promise you that this time
things are going to change for us. In fact, I was waiting until
later tonight, but I suppose now is as good a time as any,” Brooke
parted from him, grinning eagerly, “The loan for your company has been
approved. I did a little speaking with a few of my investors and
they were very interested in putting forth the finances to get the ball
rolling on your vision for the world of interior design.”
“You mean?” his eyes widened in surprise as she’d found a whole new way
to shock him.
“You’re about to be running the show instead of being the guy who has
to follow the rules that are beneath him,” she nodded encouragingly,
“Hunt, you’re about to have that company that you’ve always dreamt
about owning and when it takes off like I’m certain it will, then I
promise you that we’ll work out everything between us. Things
will be as you want them to be.”
“Brooke, I…I don’t know what to say as you’d mentioned that your
investors were reluctant to enter such a risky venture, but now…” he
trailed off at a loss.
“I managed to persuade them into seeing just what a hot item you truly
are,” she informed him proudly, “now the rest is up to you. They
want to meet with you in New York sometime next week and then we’ll get
the ball rolling.”
“I don’t believe this. I mean I do, but well I just never
thought,” his anger was replaced by enthusiasm as he threw his arms
around her kissing her excitedly, “Oh Brooke, this is amazing. I
mean I just know that you’re not going to regret taking a chance on me
as I’ll show you that I can do this--that I can really make something
“I know you can and for the record I have never regretted a moment of
the time I’ve spent with you as you’ve been the first person in my life
to ever truly get me Hunt,” she offered up batting her eyelashes at him
as her fingers fanned out over his chest, “When you’re with me, you
don’t see all the other things that the world sees and you love me for
“How could I not Brooke as you’re by far one of the most wonderful
women I’ve ever known,” he confessed melting as he touched her cheek
tenderly thinking about all she’d done for him in their short time
together. As he thought to the risk she’d taken to make his
dreams a reality, he realized that perhaps he’d been hasty in his
decision to end things.
“Does this mean I’ll get another chance now?” she questioned coyly
tugging on his shirt to pull him in closer to her.
“I think we can work on making that one happen,” he whispered kissing
her gently as Brooke threw her arms around him proud of herself for
having avoided two would be disasters in one evening. Clearly she
was getting back on her game again. She continued to kiss Hunt,
she was full of ideas on how she would work on repairing all the other
problems that had arisen within her family as it was only a matter of
time before she had things exactly as they should be once and for all.
“Okay, so tonight hasn’t been a complete disaster,” Mindy finally
admitted unable to contain her laughter as she turned to Seth seeing
the way in which he’d somehow had her on the edge of her seat as he’d
spent most of his time finding flaws in the dark poets that had taken
to the stage at Alexandria’s earlier in the evening. Now as the
café had started to get near closing time, she realized that she
and Seth were one of the few couples still seated inside enjoying the
late night perks the coffee house had to offer. Of course the
live entertainment had been replaced by some long-cancelled reruns of a
police themed show on television, but it was still far more comforting
than Mindy had imagined it being for her.
“No it hasn’t,” Seth nodded in agreement as he lifted his half empty
coffee mug to his lips again, “though I must confess that I was pretty
much planning on spending the night miserable and alone.”
“Funny thing,” Mindy flashed him a quick smile, “so did I, but
apparently fate had other plans.”
“Which didn’t involve us drowning our sorrows in our vices,” Seth added
motioning to the bag she’d carried with her, “Now aren’t you glad you
didn’t drown yourself in the Metal Bands of the 80s CD you said you’d
“I knew that was a mistake in showing you that one,” she shook her head
while fighting to suppress the groan she’d felt building inside of her
as she thought back to when she and Seth had started pondering who was
more pathetic on a night like tonight.
“It’s okay,” Seth couldn’t help but laugh lightly, “I probably would’ve
turned on my sister’s Air Supply CD and got drunk thinking about how
horrible things ended up with Blake.”
“Blake,” she repeated arching a curious brow, “as in Blake Ashford?”
“You know her,” Seth questioned noticing the expression that crossed
over Mindy’s features.
“I know of her although…” Mindy paused eyeing him intently before a
gasp fell from her lips, “Oh my God. I knew I’d seen you
before. You’re the guy in the tabloids with her--the one who did
that really racy photo shoot…”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Seth covered his face in mock shame.
“Why not? It was a rather eye opening expose if I do say so
myself,” Mindy added thinking back to the headline that had captured
her attention at the grocery store, “although I must admit it probably
could’ve been so much better if you and I had met a few weeks earlier.”
“Is that right?” Seth lifted his head up to look at her once again.
“That’s right,” she nodded confidently, “as the paper that I work for
would’ve been far more classy about it.”
“So the truth finally comes out,” Seth remarked curiously, “You’re a
“A reporter in training,” Mindy nodded eagerly, “and while I’m still
gunning for my big break sooner or later it’s going to happen.”
“Hopefully not in the form of the story about Blake’s latest ex,” Seth
threw out a warning glance.
“I think you didn’t understand that part I’d said before about the
paper I work for being classy,” Mindy pointed out with a small huff,
“Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s the Coral Courier.”
“Oh I’ve heard of it,” Seth nodded quickly, “as my sister’s boyfriend’s
brother runs it.” he paused thinking about what he’d said as a tiny
laugh fell upon him, “Wow, that’s a mouthful.”
“I’ll say although that would mean,” Mindy thought about it for a long
moment, “Your sister is dating Grady then.”
“Yeah, she is,” Seth answered thinking about what that mere fact had
brought to his sister’s life as it seemed that nothing but problems had
come from their relationship. Still he couldn’t quite blame Grady
for all of that as it seemed that Cameron Stone had his own agenda
where Jade’s happiness was concerned. Frowning as Seth thought to
his sister, he wondered where she could be at a time like this and
about what she might be doing.
“Speak of the devil,” Mindy noted breaking through his thoughts as her
eyes were glued to the television screen above them. “Seth, have
you taken a look at this?”
“At what,” he questioned in confusion watching as the news story on the
screen spoke of Grady’s ‘death’ while rehashing all the horrible,
torrid details of his arrest leading up to the stabbing that ultimately
stole his life from him.
“Oh my God. Grady’s dead,” Mindy gasped in horror feeling as if
the wind had been knocked out of her as she turned to Seth, “This is
horrible. I mean for Russ to lose his brother and for your sister
to lose the man she loves. I can’t even begin to imagine what
she’s going through right now--what any of them are going through and
now, well now I feel pretty stupid for feeling bad about my date not
bothering to show up tonight when the Dentons are truly experiencing a
loss. I never thought that Grady would die…that he could ever be
in a position to wind up a victim of such evil…”
“So you know about the dark forces in town, huh?” Seth questioned, his
tone darkening as he thought of the man that threatened to take away
the only peace Seth had ever known in his life with his manipulations.
“You mean Cameron Stone,” Mindy blurted out seeing the acknowledgement
in Seth’s weary eyes, “Yeah, I’ve heard all about the nasty stuff he’s
done and I don’t doubt for a second that he’s behind all of the things
happening in town. The police say that there’s no way that he
could be, but I think the police are idiots about a lot of
things--especially that. I’ve been doing research on the guy for
Russ and he’s bad news.”
“You’re telling me,” Seth let out an ironic sigh as he turned his eyes
to the television again saying a silent prayer that whatever the future
held in store for his family that it wouldn’t result in Cameron
destroying Jade’s life completely as that was far too great of a price
to pay to a man who deserved nothing less than a taste of his own
medicine. Now as Seth reflected upon the phone call he’d received
from Avery, he just hoped that Jade knew what she was doing as it
seemed that no one was safe as long as Cameron was still calling the
shots in Coral Valley.
Russell lay on his side for a long time watching his wife as she was
lost in the inner peace that her dreams seemed to provide her with
while life had given them far too many obstacles to deal with.
However, as Avery slept beside him, Russ couldn’t help but smile as he
thought to how beautiful she truly was. She was his heart and
soul and his one true destiny and as he thought of how far they’d come
with one another in their relationship, he realized that he’d never
felt as fortunate as he did in this moment in time knowing that they’d
beat the odds with one another. They truly had an epic romance
and as Russ reflected on just how far they’d come with one another over
the years, he found himself desperately praying that things would
continue to keep going down a positive path leading them closer to
exploring all of their dreams with one another as their family had
given them a new hope for the future.
On the outside it appeared that Russ had it all with Avery in his life
and in a great many ways he was certain that he’d now been complete for
the first time in a long time, but as he looked around their bedroom
thinking about how easily that serenity had been penetrated by a man
like Bruce Mathis or even Cameron Stone. In fact, the longer he
stewed over the situation, the more it felt as though those threats
were still very strong and alive outside the walls that surrounded
them. He’d tried to pretend that he could forget for a few hours,
but now as the evening settled in he found himself drifting back to
those same worries that had been hanging over him since the chaos
began. Sure he was home with Avery away from it all, but he
couldn’t quite ignore the nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach as
he thought of the things that were happening in the world around him.
With that thought in mind, Russ sat up in bed, carefully slipping out
from beneath the thin, white sheet that he’d been covered in seconds
earlier. Turning around to take one last long look at Avery, he
found himself remembering all the more reasons why his urgency to make
some kind of move against those forces couldn’t wait. There were
dangers lurking and if for no other reason than to keep his family
protected, Russell had to act upon getting to eliminating the source
them one way or another.
Tiptoeing out of the bedroom and carefully closed the door behind him,
Russell made his way into the living room with quite motions as he
hoped to keep from awakening Avery. Once he’d entered the
darkened living room, he moved over to his desk area reaching out for
the small lamp to turn it on and give himself a little light as he
prepared to make the next step towards securing his future with his
family. Sitting down in his desk chair, Russell opened the top
desk drawer, finding the piece of paper he’d tucked inside in the far
left corner just before he and Avery had gone to bed.
While Russ had made no attempts at telling Avery the extent of his
conversation with Avery at the hospital, the truth to the matter was
that Grady had gotten Russ thinking. The two brothers had both
agreed that Cameron was trouble and with Bruce lurking in the shadows
ready to make a move to hurt Avery again, Grady had been aware of the
double threat that his brother had been caught up in. Russ had
tried to reassure him that he could take care of himself, but in true
brother form, Grady had insisted upon Russ getting someone to aid in
Russell’s quest to beat Bruce at his own game before it was too
late. At the time Russ had tried to blow of his brother’s words
of warning, but now as Russ found himself remembering what Bruce had
done the last time he’d come around the Denton home, Russ couldn’t help
but be concerned about what would happen next.
With that thought in mind, Russ unfolded the tiny piece of paper taking
note of the number on the page before reaching for the phone and
dialing. He heard the phone ring once, twice, three times and on
the forth Russ was ready to call it a night, but just before he opted
to make that decision a gruff sounding voice carried over the line.
“Hello…” the man seemingly yawned as Russell took in a slow breath.
“Kyle,” Russ spoke his name simply, “is this Kyle Houston?”
“Who wants to know,” the man questioned sharply as if he too was weary
of Russell’s intentions.
“Someone who used to know you a long time ago,” Russell continued
exhaling a slow breath, “It’s Russ. Russ Denton.”
“Russ,” Kyle’s voice changed as it seemed that the abrasiveness in
Kyle’s tone evaporated upon recognition of the caller on the other end
of the line, “How the hell are you?”
“I wish I could say great, but that’s not really the case,” Russell
confessed with a heavy sigh, “though I really would rather not get into
the details over the phone if you don’t mind.”
“Why do I somehow get the feeling this isn’t a social call,” Kyle
questioned after a moment of silence.
“I wish it was, but there’s something I need you to do for me.
Grady gave me your number and…” Russ began.
“Grady,” Kyle repeated cutting him off, “how’s he doing? Still
spinning his old war stories about how he let me save his butt in the
All Star football game back in college?”
“Every chance he gets,” Russ couldn’t help but laugh thinking about his
brother’s long time college buddy, “but right now, well Grady’s not
spouting much of anything as he’s…”
“He’s what,” Kyle questioned sensing the hesitance in Russell’s tone,
“Russ, what’s going on? What aren’t you telling me about Grady?”
“Look Kyle, how about we do this in person? Grady mentioned that
you were staying close to Coral Valley…that you’d gotten a place just
outside of town and I was wondering if I could talk you into coming in
sometime this weekend as I have a job for you.”
“Any hints on what it’s about?” Kyle questioned curiously.
“It’s about things that have been going on with my family.
There’s this guy that has been harassing Avery and he’s, well he’s a
lunatic and when I say that I mean it in the purest sense of the word,”
Russ paused thinking about the weight of the situation with Bruce.
“Avery huh,” Kyle spoke her name in a contemplative tone, “I take it
then she’s not on the top ten hit list anymore, huh?”
“She never was Kyle. That was Grady, not me and just to let you
know, she’s my wife now,” Russell continued to explain realizing that
it had been quite a while since he’d spoken with Kyle.
“Well hot damn, it’s about time,” Kyle replied enthusiastically, “I
knew that sooner or later you’d get the opportunity to finally get that
girl to settle down.”
“Easier said than done, but when it happened, well it was one of those
moments that Hollywood movies dream about making magic with,” Russ
confessed poetically thinking about his fantasy wedding.
“I’m sure I’ll hear all of the details over lunch on say Sunday?” Kyle
“Sunday would be great as long as that works for you,” Russell agreed
“I’m actually doing a job in Coral Valley currently, so I don’t think
it’ll be a problem at all,” Kyle divulged with an air of mystery to his
“Alright, then how about Irvan’s say about one?” Russ suggested
thinking about the necessity in seeking out Kyle’s help.
“That sounds great kid and hey, give your wife a kiss for me,” Kyle
teased him with a tiny chuckle.
“Oh I’ll be kissing my wife, but I can assure you that it won’t have
anything to do with you,” Russell offered up in response as Kyle
couldn’t help but laugh at him.
“Yep, you’re still whipped,” Kyle’s voice resonated with laughter
before the two men said their goodbyes, “See you Sunday Russ.”
“Sunday it is,” Russ agreed hanging up the phone as he thought to the
meeting he was having with Kyle. While he’d wished it was under
more social circumstances, he knew that it would be vital to his future
to have Kyle working for him as Bruce Mathis was one threat that
couldn’t be ignored.
“There you are,” Avery’s voice rose through the darkness as Russell
spun around in his chair to discover her standing in the hallway,
leaning up against the wall as she had one hand up over the front of
her robe holding it together loosely, “I was wondering where you
drifted off to.”
“There was something that I needed to do,” he admitted honestly tucking
the paper back inside the drawer as his eyes returned to her once
again. Watching as she strode across the room, he couldn’t help
but be mesmerized by her as her robe followed her every movement
painting her with moonlight from the sky outside as she seemed to glide
over to him. She was truly a beauty and the fact that she was his
wife added all the more to her mesmerizing quality as she stood before
“And it couldn’t wait until morning,” she questioned doubtful as she
arched a brow down at him, “Russ, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, nothing’s going on,” he shrugged as he reached out to her
pulling her down into his lap as his lips collided with hers, “except
for my thinking about returning to bed to hold my beautiful wife for
the rest of the night.”
“Very smooth,” she murmured breaking away from the kiss, “but I’m not
buying it. There’s more to the story than you want to tell me.”
“You’re right. There is, but tonight, well the truth to the
matter is that I don’t want to talk about it,” he confessed with a sigh.
“Because you don’t trust me with the information you’re playing around
with or because you yourself can’t be trusted?” she questioned in her
best professional tone as Russell suddenly felt as if he’d stepped into
the middle of an interrogation.
“Avery, it’s just not worth getting into. It’s late and with
everything that’s happened today, well I was hoping we could put it off
until tomorrow,” he offered up in response.
“The question is will you be anymore compelled to share it with me
tomorrow than you are tonight since it‘s rather obvious the secret
you‘re harboring must be something you‘re working very hard to keep
hidden if it involves your sneaking around in the middle of night so
that I won‘t notice,” she added with a pointed look.
“Avery, I swear to you it’s nothing,” he began again catching her look
“Russ, don’t start lying to me now as you were never good at it and it
only winds up getting you in trouble,” she huffed curling her lip in a
pout as she curled her arms around his neck.
“Just like your curiosity tends to do for you,” he countered catching
her unimpressed glare.
“Russ, you’re not winning any points here,” she pointed out with a
“And you’re not getting any information from me other than what I’m
doing, I’m doing because of us--because I love you and I don’t want to
lose you ever again,” he swore to her hugging her body in over his,
“You do trust me on that, don’t you Avery?”
“Of course I trust you, but I hate the idea of your feeling you can’t
tell me things now Russ? I mean after all we’ve been through
you’d think we could have anything be open territory,” she pointed out
once again attempting to get him to crack as her finger tips pressed in
over his bare chest.
“I’ll tell you, but not tonight,” he let out a frustrated sigh feeling
her working her charms over him as he squeezed her closer, “because
right now all I want to think about is how much I love you.”
“I love you too,” she tipped down to kiss him gingerly, “and if you
promise me that tomorrow you’ll clue me in on what’s brewing behind
those sexy green eyes of yours, I’ll let you off the hook temporarily.”
“In that case, it’s a deal,” Russell murmured in agreement shifting
restlessly beneath her.
“One that perhaps we should seal with a kiss,” she suggested cupping
his face in her hands as her lips devoured his once again.
“I was thinking that it may take more than just a kiss to distract you
tonight,” Russell whispered moving his mouth in over her neck as he
listened to the familiar rush of breath that spilled over her lips when
he’d teased his mouth over her hidden hotspot.
“Somehow I get the feeling you’re trying to work overtime to put me off
tonight,” Avery deduced with another soft sigh.
“I was thinking more along the lines of turning you on since we haven’t
had much time for that lately,” he confessed pulling away just enough
for their eyes to reconnect long enough for him to reveal his growing
hunger for her.
“Are you sure you’re up for that tonight considering everything that
we’ve been through with Grady,” she questioned taking note of the
vibrancy in the depths of emerald colored eyes.
“What do you think,” he replied boldly capturing her mouth with an
intense expression of his emotions as he rose up from the chair
carrying her down the hallway leading to their bedroom as he vowed to
devote the rest of the evening to loving his wife as he was quite
certain he was doing exactly what his brother had asked him to do in
living in the moment.
“So this is home for a while,” Jade thought aloud closing the curtain
before turning to Grady to offer up a tired smile.
“Apparently so, although you know you could’ve easily just stayed back
in Coral Valley as I’m sure that you would’ve been better off if
you’d…” Grady began feeling the weight of his injuries bringing their
toll upon him as he remained in the bed wondering just how things had
gotten so far out of the realm of normal for him.
“And be without you?” Jade questioned with wide eyes moving in closer
to be near him, “Not a chance as the only place I’m meant to be is with
“I’m glad that you’re here and don’t think that I don’t appreciate the
gesture, but if Cameron ever finds out that I’m alive and he comes
after you,” he began with worry evident in his tone.
“Grady, Cameron’s not going to know anything until we’re ready to let
him know the truth. We’re going to take him down and prove that
you never shot Kipp Mahoney. I have complete faith in Russ and
Avery and I know this is only temporary,” Jade’s gaze lingered down
over his bandages as a tiny shiver raced over her body, “and besides,
you’re going to need someone to help take care of those for you.”
“Dave will no doubt have someone checking in on me as I’m not exactly
free and clear here,” Grady pointed out sensing the apprehension that
Jade still carried with her, “if you’d rather go back home…”
“No, that’s not what I want at all,” Jade shook her head adamantly, “I
love you Grady Denton and with you is where I want to be even if that
means being in a place like this.”
“It’s not exactly as charming as I would’ve liked for our first
romantic trip out of town together to be,” Grady offered up a sheepish
grin as Jade couldn’t help but be tickled with laughter.
“Maybe not, but I’m sure we can find a way to work some kind of
romantic theme into the atmosphere around this place,” Jade suggested
as her eyes skimmed the small cabin they’d been transported to, “It has
some potential I would imagine.”
“But not enough to be what I was hoping for when I’d finally gotten the
chance to sweep you off of your feet and out of Coral Valley as I was
thinking about something tropical and full of sunshine. You know
the kind of place where we could lay in the beach all day drinking
frozen drinks and we’d be there with my admiring you in that sexy
bikini I just know you have tucked away for such an occasion. Of
course there would be a time when I’d get the opportunity to help you
with the suntan oil in between our making love with one another…”
“In a hammock,” Jade added enthusiastically settling in beside him as
she carefully draped her arm around him snuggling in closer to his
warmth, “and it would be there that we’d watch the sunsets together
dreaming about our future while planning out our next skinny dipping
adventure the next morning.”
“Somehow I get the feeling you’ve put a lot of thought into this
fantasy as well,” Grady couldn’t help but tease as he looked down at
“Maybe just a little,” she answered sheepishly bringing her fingers up
in a tiny pinching motion to emphasize her words, “but truth be told
when I thought I was going to lose you, I just prayed for another
opportunity to be able to hold you like this. I didn’t care where
we were just as long as at the end of it all, we were together.
It could’ve been on an island paradise, in a snowstorm in an igloo or
in the middle of your backyard, just as long as we were together.”
“All I could think about was returning to you as I couldn’t bear the
thought of losing you without letting you know how much it was that you
mean to me,” he carefully tucked his finger underneath her chin lifting
her eyes up towards his as a smile touched over his lips, “I do love
you Jade Alexander.”
“I love you too Grady Denton and that’s why I know that things are
going to work out for us. We’ll find a way to make it and
together we won’t let anything destroy what we have--especially not a
man like Cameron,” she sighed snuggling in closer to him as Grady
kissed the top of her head praying that one day her words would hold
true as it seemed that they had a long road ahead of them before that
day would come.