“What in the world is going on here,” Dave announced stepping out from the library where Cameron had urged him and Shannon to wait while chaos seemed to bust loose in the adjoining hallway.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound good,” Shannon admitted following Dave out of the room only to discover Diego and Cameron engaged in a struggle on the staircase before them. Her eyes widened in response as she watched Cameron pushing Diego over the side ready to push him over the two story ledge beside him. Immediately her instincts hit her full force and she withdrew her gun.
“Let go of him right now Cameron,” Shannon ordered in a harsh authoritative tone.
“He broke into my house uninvited,” Cameron blurted out hesitant to comply with Shannon’s request. He glance over in her direction for a brief moment to discover her gun aimed right at him. That was all it took for him to let go of his choke hold he had on Diego. He took a step back and adjusted his tie before looking to Dave, “I want this man arrested for breaking and entering.”
“Just pipe down,” Dave frowned watching the obvious hostility still burning between both men, “How about we start by talking about what’s really going on here?”
“He broke into my home and caused an uproar. You saw yourself how things happened,” Cameron began to defend his actions.
“He’s holding Heather here against her wishes,” Diego blurted out, his eyes filled with venom and raw hatred for the man beside him.
“That’s a lie,” Cameron insisted with a huff, “Heather’s my wife and I wouldn’t dream about doing something that she hadn’t wanted.”
“Oh right,” Diego sneered, “Just like I’m sure you’re going to go on saying that she asked for you to rape her too, huh?”
“I would never do such a horrible thing to my wife,” Cameron feigned innocence, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The hell you don’t,” Diego lunged forward ready to tear Cameron’s throat out before Shannon raced up the stairs to intervene.
“Diego don’t,” she pleaded with him using her strength to hold back Diego’s rage. While she wasn’t sure what was going on, the last thing she wanted was for Diego to make a stupid mistake in assaulting Cameron.
“Get out of my house,” Cameron commanded in an uproar.
“I’m not leaving until I see Heather,” Diego insisted firmly before looking to Shannon, “He’s holding her hostage against her will and he’s hurting her.”
“Diego, I’m sure that you think that, but…” Shannon started in a slow, calming tone.
“It’s the truth,” Diego’s dark eyes pleaded with her, “She’s trapped here and if I don’t do something to help her…”
“This is ridiculous,” Cameron rolled his eyes before motioning to Dave, “You’re not actually going to make me stand here and listen to this nonsense here any longer.”
“I suppose there’s one way to clear all of this up,” Dave suggested in a smooth and even tone, “Where’s your wife Cameron?”
“She’s resting,” Cameron informed them with a huff, “and I’m not about to wake her because this lunatic won’t get a clue.”
“It seems like you don’t have a choice in the matter,” Shannon piped in sensing that there was more to the story happening than Cameron was telling them. While Shannon might be on the outs with Diego, she trusted him and his instincts a hell of a lot more than she’d ever trust Cameron. “How about you go and wake her up, or if you’d like I could do the honors myself?”
Cameron glared at Shannon with obvious irritation before letting out a reluctant sigh, “Fine, but once I bring her out here, I want you two to take him,” he emphasized the word while pointing at Diego, “out of here.”
“Let’s talk to your wife first,” Shannon ordered allowing Diego’s instincts to guide her actions as Cameron stepped out of the foyer, making his way towards the room Thea had gone to with Heather. Once Cameron left the area, Shannon spun around to face Diego with wild eyes. Frowning she spoke up again, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Saving Heather from the monster she married,” he stated matter of fact taking note of the expression on her face, “Shannon, I’m not crazy. I know that Heather’s not exactly your favorite person and that you have no reason to believe in me, but I’m not lying about this. Cameron’s hurting her and if I don’t help her…”
“Coming in here like a wild man isn’t going to help anything Diego,” Shannon tried to get him to calm down, “especially not when it could land your butt in jail for this.”
“It would be worth it if I can save Heather from the likes of him,” Diego confessed praying that there was still a chance to save Heather from the life she’d fallen into with Cameron.
“Let go of me you bitch,” Heather shouted struggling with Thea while her anger fueled her reactions. In a matter of seconds she and Thea were on the ground wrestling with one another in one of the greatest power struggles of Heather’s life. Feeling Thea hovered over her, Heather’s sense of inner fears threatened before Heather shoved Thea off of her. Throwing Thea across the room with that simple action, Heather watched Thea slam into the dresser across from her giving Heather a distinct advantage.
Shuffling off of the floor Heather raced to the bedroom door, fiddling with the lock. She thought of her grand escape and as she ripped the door open, she started out into the hallway only to be thwarted by Cameron.
“Going somewhere,” Cameron questioned in a wicked, menacing tone seizing her shoulders and forcing her back into the room.
“Let go of me!” Heather cried out struggling against him. She felt his iron-clad grip upon her and the way he’d tried to keep her from leaving. Panic began to set in as Heather brought her knee up into his groin to render him immobile. He began to buckle over in agony upon her swift thinking while a groan spilled from his now parted lips.
“To hell with you Cameron,” Heather sneered down at him taking the moment to kick at his abdomen in a fury. However, as her foot lodged into his stomach, she felt a pair of hands yank at her shoulders, dragging her down to the ground. Looking above her in a disoriented state, she noticed Thea climbing over her with eyes of fury.
“You’re not going anywhere because I’m not finished with you,” Thea threatened leaping on top of Heather ready to attack when Cameron’s voice roared through the madness.
“Thea stop,” Cameron ordered pushing his assistant aside. His dark eyes burned with madness as he reached out to Heather’s arm wrenching her up off of the floor despite his own frazzled state. Gripping her tighter than before, he shoved her towards the bed forcing her to take a seat upon it. “I think it’s time you and I had a talk.”
“I have nothing to say to you,” Heather spat up at him, “I hate you.”
“I’m glad to hear it Heather, but you and I made an arrangement with one another,” he sneered towering over her, “One that you and I aren’t getting out of this easily.”
“I want a divorce,” Heather snapped in response thinking of all the hatred she felt for the man who’d torn her world apart.
“You’re not getting one Heather because I am going to raise that child you’re carrying. I’m going to keep that baby and if you continue to challenge me or my position in your life, well then I’ll see to it that the world finds out just how unfit of a mother you truly are.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Heather gasped in response suddenly thinking about her child’s well being.
“Oh but I would,” Cameron inched in towards her, “and how far do you really think you would get without me? You have nothing. You came from nothing and you’ll always be nothing Heather. I own you. Your life is mine and it’s because of me you’re where you are today.”
“In hell that is,” Heather hissed in response clenching her fists at her side as she tried to think a way out of the current situation. She eyed Thea standing to the right of her just waiting for an opportunity to attack before her blue-green eyes returned to Cameron.
“Hell or not, it beats what you were doing on the streets of Los Angeles now doesn’t it,” Cameron threw out a wicked expression.
“I’d much rather be stuck in that than here with you,” Heather remarked sourly.
“Well, you don’t have a choice about the matter,” Cameron seized her arm violently, “and besides, the way I see it, if you even think about walking out this door, your life is over. Not only will I take your child away, but I’ll see to it that Diego Hernandez is a dead man.”
“You don’t scare me Cameron,” Heather challenged with a fire burning behind her eyes, “I’m not afraid of you.”
“You should be,” Cameron warned her in a low, tight whisper, “because there is so much more I can do to you starting with putting you behind bars for the rest of your days.”
“The hell you can,” Heather tried to wrench her arm free of him.
“You don’t believe I can make it possible,” Cameron let out an amused chuckle, “Then how about we talk about your former agent William Steed?”
“What about him,” Heather questioned trying to formulate some plan to get her out of the room and away from Cameron.
“Haven’t you heard,” he reached out to touch her cheek forcing her to meet his eyes, “He’s been murdered and soon well, soon the authorities will be sniffing around all the shady details of his life Heather. Sooner or later they’ll find out all about the little films he had you starring in and it’ll place you in the light of the prime suspect in the case.”
“I didn’t do anything to him,” Heather hissed up at him.
“It’s not what you did to him, but with him,” Thea chuckled breaking her long silence. She took a step forward reveling in the sheer delight of what she’d known for quite some time, “William loved to talk and share his own private collection Heather. Any jury would love to see just what you and William did with one another in your quest for fame and fortune…”
“No,” Heather shook her head in refusal to listen to the both of them, “That’s not true.”
“Heather, I can place you very easily at that crime scene,” Cameron continued with a wicked grin, “You’ll lose everything. Your freedom--your child and your life as you know it. You won’t be able to make a move without having the authorities breathing down your neck and by the time I’m finished with you, I’ll paint you as the manipulative, gold digging whore you truly are. In comparison to what you’ve gone through with Douglas, I’ll be so much worse.”
“Why would you do this to me?” Heather questioned in confusion thinking of how he’d been when they were first wed. Now as he stood before her having tortured her on end for the last few weeks, she found herself face to face with a stranger--a madman who was a mere shadow of the person she’d married.
“Why it’s simple sweetheart,” he leaned in closer to her, his mouth just above hers. She could smell the overwhelming scent of his cologne overpowering her senses as his fingers fanned out over her shoulder. She felt the smirk building over his lips as he continued to speak to her, “It’s because I can--because you gave me the power to control your life for you.”
“This wasn’t what I wanted,” Heather replied unable to fight the raw emotions tearing away at her.
“It’s not what any of us wanted, but it’s the reality you’ve put us in with one another Heather,” he replied lazily tracing patterns over her bare arm, “and now that we’re in this place, well it’s time that you and I come to terms with what is about to happen next.”
“What do you mean?” Heather questioned in confusion feeling a shudder race over her body at the nearness of him.
“I’m about to give you a choice, but I’m warning you this will be your last opportunity to make things right. If you blow it today, then you can consider your life nothing more than a desperate memory to cling to after the hell I’ll drop you into,” he warned her sharply ready to get Heather to comply to his wishes about the way things were going to be from here on out for them.
“You can’t talk me out of it Jade,” Diane informed her point blank, “My mind is made up on the matter and that’s all there is to it.”
“Diane, I’m not about to let you get wrapped up in something dangerous considering that’s been going on for far too long around here,” Jade frowned unable to mask her obvious concerns for her friend, “How many times do we have to go through this before everyone understands?”
“Jade, do you remember when we were kids on the playground and that boy--oh what was his name--Jaime Orton was bothering you?” Diane pointed out with a strange expression.
“How can I forget? He was the worst thing that happened to me at age eight,” Jade groaned unable to mask her heavy annoyance.
“Exactly which is why when he started to make you cry that one day, I decked him and turned the tables on him. He squealed and cried and ran like a girl away from me. For the rest of the year not only did he leave you alone, but he stopped bothering each and every one of us girls in the class,” Diane reminded her proudly.
“Yeah, but dealing with an eight year old bully is a lot different than taking on someone like Cameron Stone,” Jade frowned in response, “That man is pure evil and there’s no telling just how far he would go to make misery in our lives.”
“All the more reason for me to see what Patrick knows so that we can be one step ahead of the game,” Diane tried to convince her, “That way Cameron can’t make you miserable.”
“Diane, you’ve just found happiness in your life with Ben. You have everything you’ve waited for. Don’t try to spoil that just because of me. I won’t allow you to throw away your future with Ben just to save face for me. It’s not worth the price you’d have to pay,” Jade pleaded with her.
“Pay for what,” Ben questioned entering Diane’s hospital room. He looked between the both of them sensing the sudden silence that swept over them. He gave them both another look before turning to eye Diane intently, “What’s going on?”
“Mindy, are you here,” Guy questioned entering the apartment after the long night he’d spent helping out with some of the happenings at the Beholder office in Coral Valley.
“In here,” Mindy replied from the kitchen, her voice sounding a bit perplexed despite the fact that the apartment was unusually silent.
Guy followed the sound of her voice discovering her up to her neck in pots and pans while she had the oven going full force. Along the counters he noticed a vast array of cakes and cookies, brownies and pies and in that instant he found himself utterly confused by the site before him.
“What in the world is going on? Having a dinner party with Betty Crocker?”
“Worse,” Mindy confessed with a heavy breath while pushing a loose strand of dark hair out of her eyes in the movement, “There’s a charity auction there tonight that my mother is hosting.”
“And this explains the baked goods why,” he gave her a strange look before eyeing the chocolate chip cookies she’d had laid out on the top of the stove. He stepped forward reaching for one only to be swatted at by her.
“Don’t you dare,” she warned him harshly, “the baked goods are up for auction and the benefits from tonight will go to helping the homeless.”
“You’re baking to help the homeless,” Guy gave her a strange look, “Are you sure that your mother knows what she’s getting into in enlisting your help on that matter considering that the last time I checked you and baking didn’t go anywhere near hand and hand.”
“Bite me Guy,” she stuck her tongue out at him before tending to the latest round of peanut butter cookies she was working on. Reaching out for the cookie scoop, she paid no attention to Guy’s snatching one of the chocolate chip cookies anyways--or so he thought.
“You’re going to have to bake the next batch of those now,” Mindy demanded glaring over at him briefly before placing a perfectly neat row of cookies out on the tray before her.
“In that case, I may as well indulge a bit before I get stuck doing manual labor,” Guy decided with a simple shrug popping another cookie into his mouth.
“Get your butt over here and start helping instead of eating all my hard work here,” Mindy ordered with a tiny growl.
“Hmm…you’re being all bossy,” Guy winked at her before stepping in beside her, “Has anyone ever told you how sexy you can be when you start shouting out orders?”
“No, but I’ve heard what a bitch I can be when those I ask for help continue to dwindle around and work against me,” Mindy threw out an icy glare before setting her latest tray of cookies in the oven.
“Point well taken,” Guy nodded appropriately before tending to the cookie dough before him, “So tell me, are you going to be attending this charity event tonight?”
“Is that your way of asking to go with me,” Mindy gave him a sideways glance noting the way in which he started working on the peanut butter cookies.
“It might be my way of returning the favor since you’re joining me at my mother’s soiree,” Guy nodded in confession before cocking his head to the side to look at her, “Do you have a problem with that?”
“Only if you’re going to keep lying about what we are with one another,” Mindy stopped working on the pastry she’d just pulled out of the oven during the cookie switch, “Guy, you can’t keep hiding from the truth about who you are.”
“I know that, but Gabe thinks that we should wait a little longer,” Guy admitted with a heavy sigh, “I told him that I was going to share the news with my Mum, but he thought we should wait until after the party.”
“Did he now,” Mindy arched a curious brow thinking about what she’d uncovered about Gabe and Marc Ashley, “And what prompted that from him?”
Guy shrugged, “I guess he figured that my mother didn’t need any added stress in her life.”
“I’m sure he did,” Mindy remarked with an exaggerated sound. She stepped aside taking her pastries with her while she walked over to the table.
“Hey, what is that supposed to mean,” Guy questioned in confusion definitely catching something in her response.
“Nothing,” she shrugged her shoulders focusing on the sweet treats before her.
“Don’t give me nothing,” Guy moved in closer to her, “I know you Mindy and I can sense when something’s up.”
“Nothing is up,” she paused contemplating sharing what she’d discovered about Guy’s lover. She faced him again before taking in a slow breath in an attempt to find a way to approach things, “It’s just…well, don’t you find it a bit odd that Gabe has been pushing you for honesty since he came into town, but now, well now he’s saying it’s okay to be deceptive for a little while longer.”
“He’s just thinking about my mum’s well being. He knows what she went through with the kidnapping and I’d imagine he’s just trying to do what’s best for all of us,” Guy informed her simply, “He doesn’t want to cause an uproar when my Mum is so close to having all her business dreams turning to a reality.”
“Or maybe he’s just having second thoughts,” Mindy suggested thinking about the intimate image she’d discovered of Gabe and Marc with one another, “Maybe he’s just lost interest in what you have and he’s trying to let you down in his own way.”
Guy frowned at her suggestion, “Why would you even think something like that Mindy?”
“I just call them like I see them and I think something is up with Gabe,” Mindy insisted with another pointed look.
“I think you’re just feeling sour grapes about the situation here,” Guy informed her with a sigh.
“I’m having sour grapes,” she repeated her voice rising with the first hints of anger, “Guy, I’m the one doing you the favor, so I wouldn’t even start on me if I were you.”
“Yes, but there was that small period of time when we,” Guy began thinking about their tense relationship as of lately.
“Guy, believe me I think you’re incredible, but you’re not that damned incredible,” Mindy threw back at him giving him a brief once over, “I mean yes, I was hung up on you for a bit, but I think I’ve gotten over that phase in my life and not a minute too soon.”
“Gee, I feel loved,” Guy groaned inwardly.
“Sorry honey, I hate to burst your bubble, but despite the fact that I couldn’t get enough of you when we were younger, I have evolved,” Mindy replied with a proud smile thinking to her vow to move forward with her life, “The last couple of weeks have been very therapeutic.”
“Therapeutic you say,” Guy eyed her with intense scrutiny, “That could only mean one thing. You’ve met someone!”
“I never said that,” Mindy couldn’t help but smirk as her thoughts lingered to Hunt. Sure, she’d told him to go to hell, but he had been someone else to focus on for a little while. It might’ve been brief, but that was long enough for her to keep from focusing on Guy and all of his problems.
“You don’t have to,” Guy probed further, “I can see it on your face. So who is he?”
“No one that you’d know, but I do have to say he’s incredible,” Mindy divulged unable to contain her thoughts about the man she’d met and discarded before it even began, “That’s irrelevant to our conversation though.”
“No it’s not,” Guy shook his head at her thoughts, “I want to know more about the man whose spending time with my girl.”
“For starters I’m not your girl,” Mindy handed him a container she’d packed full of cookies, “and second of all, my personal life is off limits.”
“Now wait just one second,” Guy began to protest watching her walk past him, “How is it that my love life is open territory, yet yours is a mystery to remain as so?”
“Because you practically begged me to leap into your albeit twisted love life,” Mindy reminded him simply, “but you can rest assured that I wouldn’t dream of doing the same with inviting you in on mine.”
“Now where’s the fairness in that,” Guy gave her a pointed look wanting to know more about the source of the smile that still lingered over Mindy’s features.
“There isn’t any, now start baking or else I’ll have to fire you,” Mindy urged him on deciding that for now she’d refrain from bursting his bubble about the man he loved. Sure, she wasn’t exactly high in the luck department when it came to romance, but there was no point in making Guy miserable this early on. He’d seemingly forgotten about her remark about Gabe and for the time being that would be enough. She’d discover more about Guy’s lover and his relationship with Marc Ashley. If it didn’t pan out to be more than ancient history, then she’d let it go, but if somehow she found out something about Gabe’s intentions with Guy, she vowed she’d bury the man before he even had a chance of breaking Guy’s heart.
Gabe glanced around his hotel room thinking that he’d best be suited to start looking for somewhere a bit more permanent if he truly was going to immerse himself in a life here in Coral Valley. Sure, he hadn’t planned on staying long term, but once things had gotten a bit more hectic in his and Guy’s life, the tables had turned leaving him to wonder if they’d ever make it back to Europe to resume their lives with one another. Taking a seat in one of the chairs, Gabe let out a long sigh reaching for the newspaper that room service had delivered up to him. He began to peruse the pages hoping to seek out something worth reading.
“Terrorist threat on alert,” he read to himself skimming over the main headline about some speculated attacks in the near future, but before he could absorb the material before him, he was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing. Reaching for it, he answered in a cheerful tone hoping that Guy was calling to check in with him, “Good morning.”
“Daddy,” Brittany squealed overjoyed at the sound of her father’s voice.
“Sweetheart,” Gabe replied feeling his mood lighten as he set the newspaper down, “How is my beautiful little princess doing this morning?”
“I’m doing okay,” Brittany explained with a tiny giggle, “I just finished with my riding lesson this morning and mommy says later I can go over to Marcia’s house to spend the night. Next week we‘re having a championship and my trainer says that I‘m big enough to ride in the competition this time.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Gabe sank into his chair thinking about his beautiful little girl.
“It’s okay,” Brittany paused for a brief moment, “but it would be even better if you were here.”
“Is that right,” Gabe felt a smile tickle over his lips at his daughter’s request.
“I’d love to have you here daddy,” Brittany’s voice softened a bit, “I miss you.”
“I miss you too sweetheart and you know I wouldn’t miss the championship for the world,” Gabe decided realizing that despite his own issues he’d been having in Coral Valley, the thing that mattered most in his life was on the phone with him.
“That’s awesome,” Brittany squealed with obvious delight, “I can’t wait to tell Mommy that you’re actually coming. She said that you wouldn’t want to come and see some stupid horse show that I was having.”
“She did, did she,” Gabe frowned at the thought of his wife’s obvious trash talking him again, “Well, in this instance your mother had entirely the wrong idea about me.”
“I knew she did,” Brittany laughed lightly, “and I can’t wait for you to see it. I even got a new riding uniform and Copper is really excited this year as well.”
“I’m sure he is,” Gabe replied thinking about his daughter’s new pony that she’d insisted upon having earlier in the season, “Have you been taking good care of him?”
“Oh I have. He’s had plenty of carrots and other things on his diet, but our trainer says that I can’t give him so much or else he’ll get fat. Though I don’t really see him getting fat,” Brittany continued to explain to her father, “He’s really beautiful and I think carrots make him strong. Don’t they daddy?”
“Well, I’m sure they do, but if you give him too much of anything, it might make him sick,” Gabe replied hearing a silence on the other end of the phone.
“I don’t want to do that. It’s no fun being sick,” Brittany informed him with a groan, “I remember the last time I was sick when my tonsils were out and you were here. Do you remember that daddy? We stayed up all night and watched My Little Pony cartoons and ate Popsicles?”
“I remember,” Gabe nodded thinking about the bond he and his daughter shared with one another, “You kept me up all night and when I fell asleep you still stayed up.”
“I wasn’t tired,” Brittany laughed in her small voice, “You were just a bit sleepy head.”
“That I was,” Gabe agreed with a smile, “the sleepy time bug got me.”
“No it didn’t,” she chortled, “You were just being lazy.”
“Hey now, I’m not lazy,” he insisted.
“Yes you are, but I still think you’re the bestest daddy in the whole world,” Brittany informed him in a heartfelt tone.
“And you are the bestest little princess in the whole wide world,” Gabe replied wishing that there wasn’t so great of a distance between the two of them.
“I love you daddy.”
“I love you too princess,” he replied hearing a rustling on the other end of the line.
“Mommy wants to speak with you,” Brittany informed him in a rushed tone before Noelle took over the other end of the line.
“Making promises to our daughter that you can’t keep once again,” she questioned in a harsh, abrasive tone.
“Noelle, don’t start,” Gabe frowned thinking about the ever growing animosity between him and his ex-wife.
“I’m not starting. I wasn’t the one who ran out on our marriage remember,” Noelle threw back at him harshly, “I’m not the one who continues to ruin our daughter’s life by parading around across the continent with their lover. Speaking of which, how is the little home wrecker?”
“Guy isn’t a home wrecker. He had nothing to do with what happened between you and I,” Gabe reminded her with a heavy sigh.
“It doesn’t matter if he did or he didn’t,” Noelle sneered in response, “as it all amounts to the same thing doesn’t it? You’re never here when either one of us need you.”
“Noelle, I’ve been trying to do everything in my power to…” he started with another sigh.
“Save it Gabe. I caught wind of the papers your lawyers have drawn up and I’ll tell you right now that it’ll be a cold day in hell before I let you get out of your obligation to Brittany and I,” she finished slamming the phone down as Gabe was met by a dial tone.
Hanging up the phone, Gabe’s emotions bubbled to a fire as he realized that things weren’t going to get any easier with Noelle. While he’d tried to remain civil with his ex-wife, he knew that it just was no longer an option for them. She wanted a fight and she wasn’t going to stop until the battle went her way. Unfortunately Brittany was dragged into the middle of it being used as a pawn by Noelle. He’d hated that Noelle had turned this into something ugly and in some ways he felt guilty for the way things had turned out, but he couldn’t change who he was.
Rubbing his temple as he sank back into the chair, Gabe realized that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better. Still, he couldn’t let Noelle’s actions influence his being there for Brittany. He’d made a promise to his daughter and he intended to keep it even if it meant sparring with Noelle over it. Reaching for the phone once again, he dialed the airport ready to take matters into his own hands as there was no way he would miss such a landmark moment in his daughter’s life--not for the world!
“So really, what’s going on,” Ben eyed both of the girls for a long moment before letting out an ironic smile, “Please don’t you both speak up at once. What were we talking about?”
“We were talking about my being away,” Jade lied not giving Diane a chance to even speak another word on the wild suggestion she’d made in the name of helping Jade.
“Oh Jade,” Ben’s eyes dropped upon her words, “I completely forgot about that. How are you holding up?”
“I’ve been better, but I’m surviving,” Jade admitted rising to her feet once again, “I suppose we all are.”
“Yeah well listen if you need anything, don’t forget that Diane and I are here. If you need us for anything at all,” Ben began supportively.
“Thanks, I appreciate it, but just knowing that you two are happy means the world to me,” Jade replied thinking about the happiness her two friends had found in their lives, “I’m just sorry to hear that your trip was taking a detour so to speak.”
“Yeah well while it is a setback, I’m just thanking God for the miracles I’ve had in my life,” Ben confessed making his way over to the bed to lean over and kiss Diane. “I brought back that ice-cream you were begging for.”
“Oh you are heaven sent,” Diane reached to draw him to her a kiss once again, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“How about we not think like that,” Ben suggested with a tiny grin, “Although Dr. Carlisle might have my head if he catches you with this.”
“And what might that be exactly,” Dean questioned as if entering on cue.
“Oh Ben was just talking about how he’d like to have his way with me just as soon as you quit stalling and let me leave this place,” Diane announced with a coy grin.
“Hmm, well in that case I should see what I can do on trying to get you out of here,” Dean couldn’t help but tease her, “After all I see no reason to stand in the way of romance here.”
“Oh now you’re talking Doc,” Ben couldn’t help but laugh.
“See why this guy is the best,” Diane blurted out with a bright grin.
“Lucky girl,” Jade laughed lightly, “the last time I was here as a patient, my doctor was less than polite.”
“Then you were entirely in the wrong hands,” Dean added turning to smile at her, “And you are?”
“Jade,” she held her hand out, “I’m her best friend and I think I should be thanking you for saving her life.”
“It was a pleasure, although I must confess she’s a fighter,” Dean glanced over at Diane, “Not only did she make it beautifully through surgery, but she also managed to take it upon herself to start ordering the staff around here telling them how things should be done.”
“What can I say? I like to keep things proficient,” Diane shrugged her shoulders.
“In that case, I think I’d like to do another quick examination before I get you out of here. Think you’re up for it?” Dean questioned.
“As long as you can get me out of here sooner, then I’m all for it,” Diane exclaimed excitedly before Dean looked to Ben.
“Think you can spare us a few minutes,” Dean questioned with a smile.
“Hey as long as you think you can handle her, I don’t mind at all,” Ben confessed with a teasing grin.
“In that case, we’ll be waiting out in the hall for you to finish up in here,” Jade decided tugging on Ben’s arm before pulling him into the hallway with her.
“Ready,” Dean questioned watching Diane practically leap off of the bed.
“More than you can imagine,” she nodded hoping that she could find a way to get things back on track again now that she was one step closer to that dream vacation with Ben.
Mindy surveyed Avery’s kitchen seeing that she’d more than exceeded her quota for the night’s event. While she’d had to do some last minute quick thinking, she was ready and armed to do battle in her quest to make some profit for her cause. She’d just about had enough time to get cleaned up and in proper attire for the night ahead of her it seemed when Guy reentered the kitchen again.
“I think we should salute ourselves on a job well done,” Guy announced with a few plastic bags in hand, “Here I thought we weren’t going to be able to get all of this finished up when you told me how much we were making.”
“That’s only because you are a pessimist,” Mindy teased snatching one of the bags away from him.
“I’m the pessimist,” Guy gave her a strange look, “Since when?”
“Since I said so,” Mindy declared with a proud grin. She carefully set the boxes into the bag before glancing over her shoulder at him, “Well, what are you waiting for? Help me out.”
“I was working on it,” Guy couldn’t help but chuckle in response.
“Yeah sure you were,” Mindy shook her head at him before adding, “slacker.”
“I’ll give you slacker,” Guy mouthed stepping up from behind her reaching out to tickle her sides mercilessly.
“Guy,” Mindy squealed feeling the assault of his fingers on her body while she shifted and writhed against his endless torture, “stop.”
“Not until you apologize for being so bossy,” Guy informed her with a sinful laugh of his own. He continued to poke at her sides causing her to wiggle excitedly while her laughter consumed her.
“Guy stop!” she insisted unable to contain the tears that formed behind her laughter filled eyes. Shifting in his arms, she spun around to face him ready to reciprocate the attack. She launched her own defense, dropping her fingers up underneath his shirt, feeling the steely contours of his muscled body beneath her touch. His laughter vibrated through the kitchen, bringing them both deeper into the moment of teasing until Mindy stepped back bracing herself on the edge of the kitchen table.
“Not a chance,” Guy responded reaching out to fight back with his fingers when the table suddenly shifted beneath Mindy, unsteadying her legs beneath her. Her eyes widened in the moment before she reached out to the table behind her trying to keep herself from dropping to the ground, but the damage had already been done. The table behind her came crashing down to the ground sending the boxes she’d carefully set upon it flying in the whirlwind of chaos. Reaching out desperately for the front of Guy’s shirt, she brought him tumbling down with her, but that did nothing to save their hard work from becoming a part of the flooring.
“Mindy,” Guy spoke her name when they fell to the ground just barely missing the table’s violent end. He lay over her, feeling her shaken form beneath him. Her fingers curled into his shoulder, clenching him tightly as their eyes connected. There was a long silence between them when Guy noticed the expression that swept over her features. There was no denying the fear behind her eyes.
“Guy, all of our work,” Mindy squealed feeling her heart thumping in her chest. She’d taken the day to get things together and now, well now her hard work was becoming a chocolaty part of the floor surrounding her.
“This can be fixed,” Guy tried to assure her while tipping his head up to assess the damage that had been done.
“How?” Mindy questioned unable to mask the worry that now consumed her. She tilted her head back to see her pastries and other sweets scattered all over the kitchen.
“Trust me on this,” Guy decided thinking for a long moment about the situation they were in with one another. While Mindy had done her hardest to make things perfect for the night ahead of them, he knew that it couldn’t end this way. The charity event couldn’t be marred by such a horrible twist and with that thought in mind Guy pulled himself up off of the floor. Extending his hand out to her, he helped her off of the ground.
“Guy, we can’t possibly fix this,” she replied full of frustration.
“Yes we can,” Guy promised her while surveying the area, “In fact, come with me.”
“Wait, where are we going,” Mindy questioned feeling him tug her out of the kitchen.
“To save the day,” Guy promised her reaching for his car keys as he vowed to find a way to salvage the night ahead of them one way or another.
Gabe dialed Guy’s cell phone for the third time still getting no answer. While he’d hated to leave town without touching base with his lover, there was no denying that he couldn’t keep avoiding the obvious with Noelle. With that thought in mind, he finally decided to leave a voice mail message for Guy when the tone picked up.
“Guy, listen I hope you come in tonight before I have to go, but well, Brittany needs me and I have to go be with her. I know this is rather sudden, but there is an equestrian championship Brittany’s in and I hope that you understand,” he paused thinking about the things that had been happening between them lately, “I know I promised I would be there for your mother’s party, but I can’t say when I’ll be back. I was hoping that maybe I could coax you into joining me, but well…this can’t wait. Call me if you get this or if you think you might want to fly out with me.”
Hanging up the phone, Gabe lay back on the bed behind him. While he’d hated to leave things so open ended like this with Guy, Brittany came first. There was no doubt about that fact in his mind even if it meant putting things with Guy on the backburner for now. Stretching out across the comforter Gabe took a few moments to put off his finalizing his flight plans. He just needed a few minutes to think--to clear his head before he was off again. Just when he thought he’d have that brief clarity, his cell phone rang bringing him back to reality. Smiling as he figured that Guy had gotten his message, he answered the phone.
“Hello love,” Gabe spoke smoothly into the phone.
“Why hello Gabriel,” Marc’s voice brought Gabe’s dreamy state to an abrupt halt, “I was so hoping you’d lighten up where we were concerned.”
“I didn’t think it was you,” Gabe answered flatly.
“I’d assumed as much,” Marc remarked in a neutral tone, “though I was so hoping that you’d given my proposal some thought.”
“I hadn’t thought about you at all since our last unfortunate encounter,” Gabe informed him sourly.
“That’s rather poignant to hear considering that I haven’t stopped thinking about you,” Marc confessed with a hint of laughter in his tone.
“That is your problem, not mine,” Gabe remarked sourly sitting upright. He rubbed at his neck and shoulders finding himself on edge now that he’d unknowingly walked into a conversation with Marc, “I don’t have time for this.”
“Make time,” Marc urged him on, “especially now that I hear you’re leaving town for a while. I was so hoping that we could catch up at the Beholder party, but I suppose Europe will be a good place for us to do so.”
“Europe,” Gabe repeated in confusion.
“That’s right. I heard all about Brittany’s tournament and I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Marc informed him with an arrogance in his tone, “Why I still remember the day Cathy came home with her first trophy.”
“You stay away from my daughter,” Gabe snapped in response unwilling to allow his past to interfere with his life.
“Oh now Gabriel, I don’t see the problem in my catching up as I always found Brittany to be so very charming,” Marc continued to taunt him, “She’s grown so very much over the years and I’d hate to miss a moment of it.”
“Leave my daughter alone,” Gabe warned him firmly.
“I don’t intend to hurt her at all,” Marc tried to assure him, “though I suppose while I’d love to see her tournament, I could just as soon skip it altogether if you came over to see me before you left. I don’t think that’s too much to ask considering our history.”
“I’m not going to go anywhere near you Marc,” Gabe informed him sharply, “It’s over.”
“Over or not, I think it would be your best interest to head on over to my place here in Coral Valley tonight. I trust you can locate the address by doing a simple search,” Marc’s voice grew cryptic as another laugh followed, “Say around seven?”
“I’m not showing up,” Gabe answered tightly.
“Of course you are Gabriel,” Marc laughed dismissively, “and bring your appetite as I’ll have something very special lined up for us.”
“Marc, I…” Gabe began again only to be met by a dial tone. Hanging up the phone he clenched his hands into fists. First he’d been irritated by Marc, but now that Marc had brought Brittany into the situation, this was war.
Silence surrounded Seth and Jade as he drove her over to Russ and Avery’s home. While she’d explained the circumstances bringing her home to him, she found that he wasn’t taking things quite as well as she’d hoped for. At least that’s what she’d initially thought the problem was, but with her brother’s deafening silence, she found herself wondering if there was more going on than met the eye.
“Seth, talk to me,” Jade pleaded with him, “What’s going on with you?”
“You mean other than my being worried out of my mind about my sister,” he cast a quick glance over in her general direction before turning his eyes to the road once again.
“Seth, don’t even try to pull that one on me,” Jade scowled back at him, “I know there’s more than that going on right now.”
“Not really,” he shrugged his shoulders taking a turn on the road ahead of them.
“Seth please,” Jade begged of him, “I know that you’re not happy with the decisions I’ve been making, but…”
“Jade I’m terrified for what could happen,” Seth divulged thinking about the threats Cameron had issued in the past, “Do you have any idea how afraid I was knowing that I couldn’t speak with you? That I couldn’t know what you were doing or where you were for that matter?”
“I was safe,” Jade pointed out with a frown.
“But for how long? I mean now that you’re back, whose to say that Cameron won’t pick up right where he left off,” he questioned impatiently, “You said it yourself that the guy is insane so…”
“I’ll be safe staying with Russ and Avery. We won’t be in town long and by then, well maybe the police will see that Grady is innocent. They already uncovered the truth about the man who tried to kill him,” Jade stated the obvious hoping that would lead her one step closer to the freedom she and Grady were longing for in their lives.
“Jade, the man who stabbed Grady died before he could say anything about Cameron,” Seth pointed out with a frown, “Pardon me if that doesn’t instill a sense of security in me there.”
“Seth, I understand your concerns, but you can rest assured that…” she started again.
“I can’t rest assured of anything Jade and that’s the problem,” Seth answered flatly, keeping his eyes on the road ahead of him.
“Ria told me about the job opportunity you were given,” Jade blurted out thinking about what her friend had informed her of at the hospital, “She also mentioned that you and Blake have been over for a while.”
“She shouldn’t have said anything to you about that,” Seth frowned at Ria’s tendency to gossip about his life.
“Why not? I could tell that something was bothering you when I walked into the apartment and you can’t deny that. It was obvious that you were upset so when I asked Ria…”
“She still shouldn’t have told you,” Seth insisted trying to block the conflicting thoughts that had surrounded him since he’d walked out on Blake.
“I’m glad that she did because Seth, we really need to talk,” Jade informed him watching as Seth pulled his car in front of Russ and Avery’s home. He put the car in park and turned to face her.
“What,” Seth questioned not wanting to get into yet another argument with his sister after she’d been gone so long already.
“Seth, you can’t keep putting your life on hold for me,” Jade informed him honestly reaching for his hand, “You’ve already done so much for me in being my protector all these years.”
“But it wasn’t enough, was it?” Seth questioned guilt riding over his features, “I mean I wasn’t there to protect you when you needed me the most.”
Jade cringed at the memory before exhaling a slow breath, “Seth, that wasn’t your fault. You have to forgive yourself for that because you weren’t the one responsible for hurting me. I made my own decision to follow around after our father like a foolish little girl and ultimately it was my naivety that lead me to that hotel with him.”
“But I should’ve stopped you,” Seth sighed in agony thinking about all his failures over the years, “If I’d only convinced you not to listen to his lies…”
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” Jade squeezed his hand supportively, “Seth I hated what happened to me, but never once did I blame you for it. I know it wasn’t your fault--it wasn’t either one of our faults and while it’s taken me a long time to realize that, I have and I’m ready to move on.”
“But with Cameron…” Seth started to protest.
“I can deal with Cameron, but what I can’t face is the fact that you’re going to give up the chance of a lifetime to worry about me,” Jade informed him with a heavy look of disapproval, “Seth, you have a talent and a gift and the last thing you should be doing is putting a lid on it. You make magic with the images you capture and to hold yourself back would be a crime.”
“Jade, you aren’t the only reason that I’m not going to take it. I just can’t leave town with so many things unfinished…” he started to reason with her.
“You mean with Blake,” she noticed the strange expression that overtook his features, “Seth, come on. Don’t hold back on what it is you’re feeling.”
“I know that I let her go because of the fact she was in love with Zack, but that doesn’t change things Jade,” Seth closed his eyes thinking about the woman he’d left behind, “You have no idea how many times I wish I could go back and change the outcome of that night…”
“Then why haven’t you,” Jade questioned hating to see her brother in so much misery.
“Because she doesn’t love me,” Seth answered behind gritted teeth forcing himself to face the facts about the life that had been presented to him, “I’m everything she could do without in her life and she doesn’t love me--at least not the way that I want her to.”
“Oh Seth,” Jade reached out to embrace him feeling his heart breaking with each word he spoke, “I’m so sorry. I know how happy you were.”
“I just wish that it would’ve lasted, but I guess I lost that opportunity to find that special love in my life a long time ago,” Seth let out an ironic laugh, “Maybe I waited too long to make it happen for me.”
“Which is all the more reason why you shouldn’t stop yourself from moving forward,” Jade informed him point blank, “If space is what you need or hell even a new beginning, then you should take the job. You should at least check it out and see if it’s something that feels right for you.”
“Leaving this life behind isn’t exactly what I had in mind either not when so much is happening to you,” he pointed out once again with a heavy sigh.
“Seth, I can hold my own against any adversary that comes my way, but with you, well if you don’t at least check this out, then you’ll always wonder about what might’ve been. Besides, maybe this is the new start you need to get beyond the failures that have followed us this far. This could be what you’ve been moving towards your whole life and if you turn it away…”
“It would be yet another mistake I’ve made,” he nodded in understanding.
“Exactly, which is why you can’t hold yourself back. You need to see where this takes you and just know that wherever you are, we’ll always be together,” Jade squeezed his hand supportively, “We’ll always be there for one another when it really matters.”
“I know we will,” Seth nodded in response giving her one last hug before releasing her, “Just take care of yourself if I decide to go check things out, okay?”
Jade nodded, “I promise I will, but only if you do the same.”
“I will,” he promised watching her step out of his car and walk up to Russ and Avery’s front door. Once she was safely inside, he reached for his cell phone taking in a slow breath as he prepared to take the one step forward that would ultimately change his life forever.
“Diego, you need to calm down,” Shannon repeated watching Diego’s eyes burn with the flames of bitterness. “You can’t let your anger get the best of you when this piece of trash thinks he’s calling the shots.”
“You don’t know what he’s capable of,” Diego remarked with a scowl, “He’s pure evil and while he tries to pretend that what he doesn’t isn’t wrong, it’s beyond horrible.”
“Diego, I’m not fool about what kind of man he is, but you have to let the authorities take care of this,” Shannon started to explain hating to see him so wired up, “If you start taking justice into your own hands…”
“Then I’d be the only person taking action at all,” Diego snapped back at her unable to contain his anger. He took in a slow breath wanting nothing more than to find Heather and leave, but as he waited his patience wore thin. Turning to Shannon again, he spoke in a lower, less exaggerated tone, “You’ll see what I’m telling you when Heather comes out here.”
“I wouldn’t put all my faith in Heather. She’s not who you think she is Diego,” Shannon began hating to see Diego’s loyalty to a woman she knew didn’t have a loyal bone in her body.
“Shannon, I…” Diego started to explain himself when they were interrupted by the sound of Thea’s arrival.
“My we have quite a little party going on out here, don’t we?” Thea greeted the group with an icy smile before her eyes fell upon Diego, “Dr. Hernandez, as always it’s a pleasure.”
Diego said nothing while he watched her parade around the foyer.
“Where’s Heather,” Dave asked the one thing that was on everyone’s mind.
“She’ll be right out here with her husband,” Thea explained in a matter of fact tone watching the way Diego’s face twisted upon her words. Hearing the sounds of heels clicking on the flooring, she spun around to see Heather and Cameron approaching, “Speak of the happy couple.”
“Heather,” Diego stepped forward, his face clouded with worry and concern for her. He could see how tired she looked beneath the makeup that covered her features. Sure, she was dressed in a simple white robe, but there was something off about her overall appearance.
“Diego,” Heather spoke smoothly, her eyes darting towards him, “what’s going on?”
“Mrs. Stone, we’d like to have a few words with you, if you don’t mind,” Dave explained in his best professional tone.
“What about?” Heather questioned in confusion turning to address Dave, “Is there some kind of problem?”
“You tell us,” Shannon piped in watching Heather closely.
“As I told you before my wife was sleeping,” Cameron reached for Heather’s arm in a protective movement. Still Diego wasn’t buying any of what he was seeing, “I hated to awaken you darling, but they are under the strange misconception that something is wrong here.”
“They are,” Heather replied blankly, her gaze immediately shooting over to where Diego was standing before her.
“Tell them the truth Heather,” Diego stepped forward in an attempt to show his support for her. His eyes never strayed from hers now that he stood before her. He tried to reach out to her silently in the hopes that she wouldn‘t hide from the truth, “Tell them what he’s done because they’ll lock him up. He won’t hurt you anymore if you just tell them what he’s done to you.”
“Diego I…” Heather started feeling a lump forming in her throat. She turned away from him dropping her gaze to the floor. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her mind was reeling with the possibilities of what might happen should she make the wrong decision.
“Well,” Shannon questioned breaking through Heather’s contemplations, “Is there something going on here that we should know about or not?”
“Actually…” Heather started taking in a slow breath as she prepared herself to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. She just prayed that when it was over with that she’d be able to make it through her choice.