"What the hell is your problem?!" Caitlin shouted as she leapt out of her chair towards Heather.
"My problem? That's my fiancée you're out with," Heather challenged as she backed away from Caitlin.
"Hey," Kenneth stepped into Caitlin's path to stop her, "She's not worth it."
"Brant, why are you doing this with her? Why would you want her when you can have me?" Heather begged as she placed her hands upon Kenneth's shoulders.
"Whoa, hold it," Kenneth said firmly as he turned to look at Heather, "I'm not Brant. You have me confused…"
"What is going on here? Why are you trying to attack Heather?" Kipp questioned as he joined the commotion.
"Attack Heather? Maybe you didn't see everything that just happened," Kenneth countered, "Heather attacked Caitlin."
"I saw this woman charge after Heather," Kipp said as he pointed at Caitlin, "I will not let you attack her further."
"Attack her?" Caitlin screeched, "You just wait. I'll show her what I really think of her."
"Whoa, let's not," Kenneth warned as he turned back to her and held up his hands, "Heather's not worth it. She was involved with Brant…which tells you exactly why she's not worth worrying about."
"What?!" Heather shrieked, "How can you say that about me? Brant, I don 't know why you're doing this."
"How many times does he have to tell you? He's not Brant," Caitlin declared, "He's Kenneth, Brant's twin, you nitwit."
"Let's just calm down here," Kipp said as he looked to Kenneth, "Why are you instigating this fight?"
"Me?" Kenneth questioned, "Look, pal, I don't know who you are or why you're involved with Heather, but you'd be better off leaving this fight alone."
"Don't tell me what to do," Kipp ordered, "I'm Kipp Mahoney, in house counsel for Stone Corp. I don't have to stand here and take this. Come on, Heather. Let's get you away from these cretins."
"Cretins?" Kenneth rolled his eyes, "Look, Mr. Mahoney, I'd assume a man in your position would be wise enough not to get involved in a very nasty situation which is exactly what Heather will get you into. You see, I'm Kenneth Ashford, brother of Brant whom Heather was engaged to before he found her in bed with another man."
"That's slanderous," Heather screeched.
"It's not slander if it's true," Caitlin informed her, "God, woman, are you mentally unbalanced or something?"
"Don't start hurling insults at me, Blondie," Heather bit back.
"Oh I'll do one better than that," Caitlin spoke before grabbing Kenneth's glass of wine and throwing it on Heather's dress, "Now we're even."
"Okay, let's just all take a step back, shall we?" Kenneth said softly as he attempted to discharge the situation. He looked to Kipp, "Would you mind taking her somewhere to calm her down?"
"We're not going anywhere," Kipp declared, "You should leave before I have to take legal action."
Kenneth rolled his eyes before he broke a smile, "The only legal action would be a minor charge of assault and perhaps disturbing the peace for Heather. Don't start a fight you can't win, Mr. Mahoney," He said as he escorted Caitlin aside.
"Why did you do that? Why won't you let me give her a piece of my mind?" Caitlin seethed with anger, "That bimbo needs to have someone shut her up, and I'm feeling the urge to do it for her."
"Caitlin," Kenneth said her name as he placed his hands upon her shoulders, "Trust me. Heather isn't worth the time and effort."
"What is her problem?" She groaned.
"She wants my brother to give her some attention, and since he isn't, she tries to get attention anywhere she can," He shrugged, "So let's not give her the satisfaction."
Caitlin took a deep breath, "What do you say we just have them make our food to go and go back to my place? I don't think I want to share the same space with that woman."
"Fair enough," Kenneth waved for the waiter to join them. He informed the waiter of their plans to take their food to go as Heather seethed across the room.
"I want that woman to know exactly what I think of her," Heather declared as she attempted to make her way towards Caitlin.
"No," Kipp stopped her, "Let's not let them ruin our evening."
Heather felt her blood boil as she glared at Caitlin, but Kipp's hand upon her arm reminded her that there were must larger things at stake tonight. She turned her attention back to him and flashed him a smile, "Of course…you're right," She said as she followed him back to the table, knowing that some day in the future, she'd get her chance to show blondie exactly what she thought of her.
Brant expelled a heavy sigh as he looked to the time noting that this
ten minute conversation with his financial advisor over at BBK had turned
into more of an evening long venture as there was just no getting through
to the man. Clearly the idea of walking away from the Davies deal
had been one that no one expected at BBK, but Brant realized there was
no alternative. He wouldn’t allow that man to be a part of the company
despite that the timing was all wrong.
“Look as I said before, Avery and I are seeking out other prospective deals,” Brant explained simply, “Davies was a risky venture that I wasn’t sure about and in the end it wasn’t worth taking.”
“Brant, we’re talking about a profit margin that…”
“It’s my company last time I checked,” Brant snapped back at him before letting out a breath, “look Sam, I know you mean well, but Davies was only going to lead us under.”
“Brant have you taken the time to really look at the numbers lately,” Sam paused heavily, “Granted it’s not as bad as it could be, but if you continually push investors away because of your girlfriend…”
“This has nothing to do with Avery,” Brant snapped anger rumbling in his tone, “My personal life doesn’t come into play on decisions like this and as you recall Avery was working night and day drafting the contracts…”
“Look all I’m saying is that blowing the Davies deal was a gamble and there’s no telling…”
“Sam, I’m Brant Ashford,” he interrupted, “when I want something, it gets done and this too will be done. We’ll find another investor, the patent will go through and all will work out better than the Davies deal ever could have been. Case closed.”
“I wish I had your confidence,” Sam’s voice hesitated.
“You’re paid to be my worries,” Brant reminded him with a tiny laugh, “but in this case, I think you’re getting ahead of yourself.”
“Maybe I am,” Sam agreed as Brant politely took the opportunity to duck out of the conversation.
As Brant hung up the phone, he turned the desk lamp off and sat in the dark as his thoughts lingered to Avery. The Davies deal was a big one, but he’d have made the same decision over again after the way the man had treated her. Sure, it bothered him that Davies had blatantly gone out of his way to defy Brant even knowing that Avery was his fiancée, but still, there was more to it. Just the idea of another man with Avery, touching her--it drove him mad with jealousy as he wanted to be the one and only in Avery’s life. Seeing her with Bruce, she’d been so miserable, but now, well now he had a feeling that perhaps things were looking up for the two of them. Fate had clearly opened a door for him and Avery to give things a try and he refused to let that opportunity pass him by.
Looking to the phone, Brant reached for it unable to resist the urge to dial Avery’s apartment as he thought of their conversation earlier in the morning. He let it ring a few times before her machine picked up and he decided to hang up the phone wondering where she could be. Certainly she wouldn’t have wanted to sit home as it was a Friday night and she‘d mentioned that she‘d had dinner plans, but still he’d hoped he’d catch her by now. Wishful thinking on his part he supposed, but still the idea of them giving things a try between them gave him a feeling of hope and a feeling of excitement that didn’t quite fit in with the way things had been most of his life.
Most women were clearly for the thrill of the game, but Avery, well Avery was
the greatest prize of all as clearly there was more to her than met the eye.
Sure, he’d wanted her--really wanted to make her his latest and greatest conquest,
but as he spent more time with her, he realized that wouldn’t be enough.
Making love to her wouldn’t be enough when there was so much more to Avery
than he’d imagined. He wanted to learn it all and he wouldn’t settle
for anything less.
Brant felt a smile tug upon his lips as he contemplated their dinner date for the next evening. He’d have to be sure to come up with something incredible as she deserved nothing less. Certainly he could find a way to wow her without scaring her away…at least he hoped he’d be able to pull that off. Then again maybe he’d ask Kenneth for ideas. He shuddered at the thought realizing that Brant Ashford would never go to his brother for dating advice, but since Avery was clearly exceptional, he’d be sure to give it at least a second thought as Kenneth was always clamoring about the joys of romance. It couldn’t hurt, he decided leaving his office as he heard the doorbell.
Brant sighed making his way to the front door as he’d given Annie the evening off. As he approached the door, a breath of anticipation filled him as he wondered if perhaps Avery was as eager to see him as he was her. Perhaps her dinner had been cut short and she’d decided to take him up on his offer after all. Surely that had to be who was visiting at this hour. Taking a breath, Brant opened the door flashing a sexy smile as he was saw a man standing before him.
Brant’s smile faded as he looked to the man before him, “Who the hell are you?”
“Is Blake around,” the man answered a bit confused as Brant’s scowl pressed upon him.
“Who are you,” Brant repeated the question as the man offered his hand.
“You must be Brant,” he smiled extending his hand towards Brant, “I’m Seth.”
“Seth,” Brant repeated the name feeling as though it should register as he assessed the guy for a long moment, “Seth who?”
“Alexander,” the man replied a bit impatiently as his smile faded and he dropped his hand, “Is Blake around? She and I are supposed to have dinner tonight and…”
“Oh you’re Seth,” Brant interrupted as the name finally dawned in on him, “you’re the guy she said she was engaged to at the hospital…the one who was on his death bed,” Brant gave him a disapproving once over, “you don’t look like you’re dying to me.”
“I guess you could say miracles happen,” Seth answered tightly as his eyes narrowed with annoyance.
“If you can call it that,” Brant shrugged his shoulders before opening the door wider, “Come on in.”
“Thank you,” Seth looked around noting the darkness in the foyer as Brant motioned for him to follow. Seth said nothing, just kept behind Brant as Brant lead him to the library.
“Would you care for a drink,” Brant questioned heading towards the bar as Seth looked around the darkened room.
“No thank you,” Seth answered simply, “I was hoping I’d catch Blake and we could be on our way.”
“Actually,” Brant began to make himself a martini, “Blake isn’t home, but I was hoping we could have a word with one another considering my sister’s sudden fixation upon you.”
“Is Blake returning soon,” Seth questioned as Brant faced him again, his eyes scrutinizing Seth once again.
“Have a seat,” Brant motioned to one of the chairs as he poured two martinis, “Seth, I realize that we don’t know one another, but I’m a man who likes to be straightforward wit things as I’ve learned in my line of work that it’s the only way to be,” Brant dropped olives in the martini glasses before stepping around the bar and extending a glass out towards Seth, “so I’ll get to the point. What are you intentions with my sister?”
“Excuse me,” Seth blinked back at him.
“Where do you see things going with my sister,” Brant questioned as Seth took the martini taking a slow sip as Brant crossed the room taking a seat in one of the chairs.
“Blake’s a wonderful woman,” Seth began taking another swig of the martini as an inquisition by Brant Ashford was the last thing he’d expected for the evening.
“Yes, she is and I would hate to even think about someone hurting her,” Brant’s voice held a menacing tone as he casually sipped his martini, “why the other night at the hospital when she was upset about your condition, I must confess that it left me rather unsettled myself. You see Blake is the world to me and I hate it when she’s hurting…”
“I wouldn’t care for that much either,” Seth answered drawing in a nervous breath, “as I said before Blake’s amazing…”
“She is and I also know my sister well enough to know that she’s got a very trusting heart,” Brant continued simply, “She’s very vulnerable when it comes to judging one’s character and I would hate to see her affections ill-placed. I don’t know how the two of you connected with one another, but if you have any kind of agenda, well I just would like to advise you that because Blake is an Ashford, hidden agendas tend to create an air of nastiness around here. Often too many times Blake has picked up the wrong cause and it’s haunted her.”
“Look I care about Blake,” Seth defended, “and the other night at the hospital, well with the quake emotions were running high, but I will tell you that if I was in the position I’d been in that night with her, I’d have done it all the same. I would’ve risked my life for her again because I wouldn’t want anything to ever harm her.”
“Good,” Brant nodded accordingly, “because Blake’s happiness is very important to me. Given that our father has passed away, I tend to make her happiness a priority in my life and when Blake is unhappy,” his words intensified as his dark eyes penetrated Seth’s gaze, “then I’m extremely unhappy. You do get where I’m going with this, don’t you?”
Seth nodded after a moment, “I would never hurt Blake. She means a great deal to me.”
“See to it that you don’t,” Brant finished off his martini setting the glass down as he threw out a warning, “because should anything upset Blake in any way, you can consider yourself a dead man,” Brant rose from his chair making his way towards the doorway, “I trust I make myself clear.”
“I appreciate your concerns, but I think that they’re misplaced in this situation,” Seth defended as he set down the martini glass Brant had offered him, “with all due respect, you don’t know anything about me or about my relationship with Blake.”
“I know enough to see that if you’re playing games with her in an attempt to get a piece of the Ashford pie, well you’re going to be in for a letdown because it won’t be happening.”
“You’re wrong about me, Brant,” Seth rose from his chair, “and because I do care about Blake, I’m going to pretend that we didn’t have this conversation. I will however offer you this though to carry with you,” Seth approached him, “I don’t take too kindly to being threatened and if you would like to see us get along in the future, then I would strongly suggest you keep your accusations to yourself or else we might have a less than hospitable relationship with one another.”
“I don’t really give a damn one way or another what you think about me, Seth,” Brant stated simply, “but I do care about what Blake is feeling. As I said before, if you hurt her, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of the Ashford wrath and you certainly don’t want that. Mark my words.”
“I think we’re finished here,” Seth took in a breath struggling to keep his cool as Brant’s words struck him, “Tell Blake I stopped by.”
“Of course,” Brant escorted Seth to the door opening it for him to exit as he flashed Seth an icy smile, “Oh and Seth, it’s been great talking with you,” Brant finished as Seth stepped out onto the porch with Brant’s warning fresh in his head.
Jade felt Cameron's hand upon her shoulder as he led her up the stairs to her apartment. She had tried every excuse in the world to dissuade him from walking her to her door, but he had insisted. One thing was for certain, Cameron didn't take no for an answer and that frightened Jade to her very soul. She was almost certain he knew that he frightened her, enjoyed it even, and now she could only hope that Seth would be at home to help her get out of the very messy situation she had somehow landed herself in.
She stepped out of the stairwell and spotted the blond hair down the hallway. If Blake was here, that would mean she wouldn't be alone, and Jade would finally have a way to get rid of Cameron.
"Blake?" Jade questioned as she proceeded down the hall.
Blake turned, spotting Jade with a man she didn't recognize. The way the guy had his hand on Jade's shoulder and the look in Jade's eyes sent Blake on edge, "Jade..."
Jade turned her eyes towards Cameron without moving her head, hoping to give Blake some clue, "Why are you here? Has something happened?"
Blake noted the paleness of Jade's skin and noticed her trembling fingers clenched tightly at her sides. Whatever the man was about, it was obviously terrifying Jade. Not an easy task, Blake thought to herself before she spoke, "Actually yes, I think you'd better come with me."
Jade quickly spun on her heel and looked at her escort, "Cameron, I'm sorry, but we have to call this an evening. Nothing is more important to me than my family, and I can tell by the look on Blake's face that this is pretty important."
"I didn't realize you were family," Cameron said as he glanced towards Blake.
"Oh yes…actually…she's engaged to my brother," Jade blurted out, "So if you don't mind…we'll just say goodbye here."
Cameron coolly looked back to Jade and settled his eyes on her, "Not goodbye. Just good night," He said as he took her hand and placed a kiss upon her skin.
Jade retrieved her hand from him as he turned and walked down the stairwell. Once the door to the stairway was closed, she trembled openly and exhaled in relief. She reached into her purse and fumbled for her keys.
"Jade?" Blake spoke her name softly as she reached out to touch Jade's shoulder, "Are you okay?"
"No," Jade admitted as she slipped the key into the lock, "But I'm better now," She said as she opened the door to the apartment, "Come on in," She invited Blake inside as she crossed the room to the kitchen and drew herself a glass of water from the kitchen faucet. She gulped the cold water for a moment as she closed her eyes.
"That guy…he really scared the hell out of you, didn't he?" Blake said in surprise as she placed her purse down on the arm of the sofa and approached the kitchen, "Jade, did he hurt you?"
"Not yet, thanks to you," Jade said as she met Blake's eyes, "I never imagined I'd have to say thank you to an Ashford for anything, but thank you for that. You probably just saved me from facing Cameron's wrath."
"Why?" Blake questioned, "Who is he?"
"His name is Cameron Stone, and he seemed like a nice enough guy. But he doesn't take no for an answer, and he thinks he can have anything he wants just because he wants it."
"Even me," Jade nodded as she refilled her water glass and made her way to the sofa, "I've got a really bad feeling that he's not going to let me go no matter what I say to him."
"There has to be a way," Blake assured her as she sat on the far end of the sofa from Jade, "You don't have to be afraid of him."
"Like hell I don't," Jade sighed before she focused on Blake, "What are you doing here anyway?"
"I think your brother and I had a miscommunication somewhere along the way. We were suppose to go out tonight, but we appear to have missed each other," Blake smiled softly.
"Please don't hurt my brother."
Blake's eyes widened as she looked at Jade, "I have no intentions of hurting Seth at all."
"He's a great guy, and he tries to do the right thing by everyone. I just don't want him to get hurt," Jade said as she looked back to her glass of water, "We've been through a lot together, and he's not just my big brother, but he's my best friend."
"I understand," Blake nodded, "And I can promise you that I don't want to hurt your brother. I've been hurt more times than I can count, but your brother gives me hope that it doesn't always have to be that way."
Jade glanced to Blake for a moment, pondering the possibilities of a relationship between the blond and her brother, "In that case, I hope you both find what you're looking for," She said as she felt another shiver travel down her spine, "Damn that man. I haven't been shaken up like this since…" She trailed off, glancing to Blake nervously before she shook her head, "Never mind. Let's just say that the sooner I can cut Cameron Stone out of my life, the better."
"If there's anything I can do to help you, all you have to do is ask," Blake said with a smile.
Jade smiled, "Thanks," She paused as she glanced to the cellular phone stand on the kitchen counter, "Seth has his cell with him. I could give him a call and let him know that you're here."
"Would you? I'd appreciate that," Blake smile reached all the way to her eyes.
Jade reached over the back of the couch to the phone and dialed Seth's number. Despite her reservations about Blake Ashford, she had saved the day for Jade. Maybe Jade could cut Blake a little slack for a while…at least until her suspicions came true or were proven completely groundless.
A breath escaped Avery’s lips as she collapsed against Russell, sinking
into the warmth of his damp chest as they lay in his bedroom in the midst
of tangled limbs and tousled sheets as their passion had taken them to
new heights together. Closing her eyes, she could hear the furious
pounding of his heart matching her own as his arms closed in around her
hugging her against him.
“Feeling better,” he questioned a satisfied smile creeping in over his handsome features.
“Much,” she confessed drawing lazy circles over his chest as her body was still tingling with the pleasures he’d provided her, “that was even better than before.”
“It was, wasn’t it,” Russ mused a proud grin washing over him as she lifted her eyes to his. He reached out to her touching her cheek simply as he motioned towards the empty ice cream containers and condom wrappers on the floor, “I’d have to say we both worked up quite an appetite tonight.”
“We did, didn’t we,” she couldn’t help but smile as his fingers teased through her hair.
“Dinner was a good idea I’d have to say,” he teased lightly as she shot him a scathing look.
“I knew you were all about sex tonight,” Avery frowned up at him.
“Oh admit it, you liked it,” Russell blurted out seeing a blush rise over her features, “especially when I…”
“Just you hush,” she pressed her finger against his mouth, “I’ll admit that there was something extraordinary every now and then,” she teased rolling off of his body as he reached out to her.
“It was more than every now and then,” he argued with her kissing the back of her neck as she turned away from him. His hand collected her breast massaging it gently as she curled into the warmth of his body, “and I have the marks to prove it.”
“You do not,” she tilted her eyes to look back at him.
“Wanna make a bet,” he motioned to his shoulder as she faced him again, “I think you were out for blood.”
“I was not,” she swatted at him as she eyed his shoulder closely noting the raw scratches over the contours of his back, “Oh that’s nothing…”
“You were just leaving your calling card, right,” he teased as his fingers teased over her body.
“That’s right,” she pinched at his nipple, “and you enjoyed every second of it.”
“Damn right I did,” he lifted her fingers to his lips kissing her hand gently as his lips pressed in over the ring on her finger. He raised her hand slightly inspecting the deep, crimson colored gemstone on her finger, “This is new.”
“It’s nothing,” Avery withdrew her hand from his as she shifted beneath the sheet.
“That sure looks like a whole hell of a lot of nothing,” he reached for her hand once again inspecting the ring, “when did you get this?”
“It’s an old family heirloom,” she lied wanting to kick herself for still wearing Brant’s ring tonight of all nights. She’d forgotten about it after the initial shock of it wore off, but now as Russell’s eyes cascaded over it with curiosity she felt on edge. The idea of Brant filled her mind momentarily as she remembered her promise to have dinner with him the next evening. Suddenly dinner seemed to have a whole new meaning as Russell squeezed her closer to him once more.
“This came from your family,” he pressed a kiss upon her hand once again, “now that is a surprise considering how your mother is. I’m amazed you were even able to get something like this from her…”
“My mother has her moments,” Avery pulled her hand away from him once again as she rolled over him wanting to dissuade him from thinking about the ring, “though I think my mother would highly disapprove if she knew what I was doing right now.”
“Hmm, you think?” he teased as she poked him in the ribs.
“Russell Denton, if she ever knew how many times you and I were fooling around under her roof, she’d die on the spot,” Avery laughed lightly thinking back to their wild youth.
“Yeah your mother was always hoping that you’d wed someone who wasn’t me I might add after she found out that I was the man who ‘deflowered’ you,” Russell mocked her mother’s antagonistic tone giving her a pointed look, “She was out for blood herself when she found out about us.”
“My mother is delusional,” Avery shook her head thinking to her mother‘s strong dislike for Russell, “She didn’t really expect me to stay away from you back then--not when I couldn’t resist you.”
“I’m sure it really was a bite in the butt for her when she realized that even with all the Catholic schooling, you were still a wild tiger,” he squeezed her closer to him, “even now, you’re ferocious as ever.”
“She just didn’t want me to wind up pregnant at seventeen and stuck with my high school sweetheart like she was,” Avery sighed leaning in against him, “She always wanted more for me than a house full of children and a loveless marriage.”
“If you would’ve gotten pregnant, it wouldn’t have been like that for us,” Russ assured her as his finger tips traced over her spine gently, “We’re nothing like your parents.”
“Even so,” she closed her eyes losing herself to the softness of his touch as she listened to his beating heart, “when I think of the joke of the marriage they have, I know I don’t ever want that. I don’t want to be lost in a relationship that has all the passion and emotion sucked out of it.”
“That begs the question then of what prompted you to leave me and turn to Bruce?” he began as a long silence fell over them.
“Russ,” she turned her eyes to him once again seeing the hurt building on his features, “Bruce was a mistake,” she openly admitted, “I was terrified and I made a mistake.”
“Terrified of what,” he questioned reaching out to touch her cheek, “Avery, I wouldn’t have hurt you.”
“Russ, I loved you,” Avery blurted out thinking back to their time together, “I loved you with everything I had and it scared the hell out of me. When I saw us together ten years down the road, well, I knew that we’d hurt each other. You were looking to be the great American novelist living in a cabin in the woods with your wife and your two point five children and I wasn’t ready for that,” she tore her eyes away from his, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that.”
“Avery, it’s not as bad as you make it sound,” he pointed out a sigh spilling from his lips, “Our being married could’ve been a good thing--a really good thing…”
“Russ, you and I wanted two different things,” she reminded him poignantly, “we still do…”
“Do we?” he challenged reaching out to touch her once again as their gazes collided, “Do you really believe that, Avery?”
“I believe that we shouldn’t be doing this,” she sighed feeling uneasy as she shifted in his arms, “You promised we wouldn’t do this...that we wouldn’t analyze what was happening here…”
“We’re not,” he shook his head in resignation, “we won’t. It’s just…never mind.”
“Russ, if my being here is too much,” she started pulling away from him.
“It’s not,” he coaxed her against him once again, “let’s just…well, let’s forget about where we were headed and let’s talk about the good old days.”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Avery began doubtful.
“Hey, we had fun together, didn’t we? I mean your parents wanted us to spent time away from one another, but still our connection was always there,” he squeezed her gently as he tried to return to the lightness between them, “Of course as you mentioned before your mother did always try to find a way to keep us from exploring that.”
“She really did,” Avery agreed thinking back to their youth once again, “why that time she and my father were out for the evening and we…” she stopped as her eyes lit up with excitement.
“Yes?” he asked lazily as his finger tips traced over her spine.
“Well you remember,” she gave him a pointed look, “you know that time when we were playing around with those handcuffs…”
“Oh that time,” he grinned at the wicked and wild memory, “I thought your father was going to kill me when they came home early.”
“Hiding you was quite a chore,” she chuckled as she snuggled in over him, “and then when I dropped the key to those things…”
“I thought I was a dead man for sure,” he recalled thinking to how Avery did her best to hide him from her parent’s disapproving eyes as she buried him in a mound of blankets and stuffed animals leaving him in her bedroom for over a half an hour captive and frustrated and fearing her father’s shotgun.
“But you survived,” Avery let out a hearty laugh before the memory washed over her, “although, we never did get to indulge in that fantasy after that…”
“It was a great fantasy,” he quipped remembering her enthusiasm as his hands eased over her soft skin.
“Yes it was,” she nodded in agreement tipping down to kiss him again, “and actually, I have to admit, that it’s the one fantasy that I always wished we’d been able to explore more in depth with one another.”
“Really,” his eyes widened as he noted the mischievous expression on her features.
“Yes really,” she confessed her lips curling into a smile, “although seeing as I’m sure you don’t have any spare handcuffs laying around…”
“Not the last time I checked,” he frowned as she massaged the warm lines of his chest, her touch still burning over his every synapse as she tipped down to capture his lips in a naughty kiss. “Perhaps we can improvise,” he suggested.
She pondered the thought as her eyes lit up once again, “I’ve got it,” she announced pulling away from him as he tugged on her arm.
“Avery, where are you going,” he questioned watching her lean over the side of his bed giving him an eyeful as she pulled open one of the drawers of his nightstand. A moment later she returned to his side holding up a black and red polka dot tie.
“Well,” she wrapped it around her wrists tugging on it as if to test it‘s strength, “what do you say?”
“I think I’ve created a monster,” Russell confessed with a smile reaching out to her as he vowed to entertain any notions Avery had about the two of them together.
“Wasn’t that your intention when you’d extended the dinner invitation,” Avery teased back as he tugged her down beside him.
“It was something along those lines,” he confessed nibbling on her lips leisurely, “though I hadn’t imagined you’d accept…”
“I really hadn’t planned on it,” she admitted honestly as the warmth of his body covered hers, “and I certainly didn’t expect this.”
“You’re a horrible liar,” he laughed lightly seeing the fire behind her eyes, “you knew exactly what you were walking into when you came over here in that seduce me dress.”
“I would never…” she feigned innocence.
“You would and you did,” he chuckled tracing her features languidly, “though I must confess, I’m glad you did.”
“I just bet you are,” she eyed him closely.
“Avery, I just know a good thing when I see it,” he shrugged his shoulders tracing the curves of her body with his finger tips stirring the flames of desire once again, “and we have a good thing.”
“Russ, we have something that could quite possibly be labeled as disaster,” she pointed out as a frown hinted over her lips.
“See now that’s where I tend to have a difference of opinion with you,” he palmed her breast massaging it gently, “we have passion, chemistry,” he dropped kisses over her flushed skin, “sexual heat…”
“Russ…” she breathed his name her body betraying her as his tongue flicked over her. She threaded her fingers through his hair, forcing him to meet her eyes once again, “sexual heat is nothing when we can’t even carry a conversation with each other.”
“I think we’re doing quite well in this conversation,” he dropped his lips over her body once again, “very well.”
“That’s because you’re getting your way for once,” Avery purred as she sought out his mouth, kissing him roughly.
“I’d like to think we’re both getting something out of this,” he murmured against her mouth seeking out her hands as he laced their fingers together.
“Is a night of pleasure really worth risking what we have…” she questioned as he lifted her hands above her head, “Russ, I don’t want you to hate me in the morning when the thrill of this wears off.”
“I wouldn’t hate you,” he promised a wicked smirk pressing in over him, “I could never hate you…”
“Swear it,” she pleaded with him, “swear to me that tonight won’t make things worse for us. That our making love like we‘ve been doing won‘t…”
“Avery, as you can see,” he silenced her with a kiss, “it hasn’t and it won’t,” he breathed sliding the material of his tie out of her palm, “now about that fantasy…”
“Russ,” her eyes narrowed as she tugged on the end of the tie, “I’m serious.”
“And I’m being very serious as well,” he met her eyes once again, “Avery, this isn’t going to hurt…at least not in the ways you’re worried about,” he wrapped the tie around her wrist as a wicked smile pressed over his lips, “although I was thinking perhaps we could try a variation to this fantasy theme we’ve got going.”
“Not a chance Denton,” she shoved her hand into his chest, sending him back onto the mattress, “I’ve waited years to get you where I wanted you,” she explained hovering over him as she sought out his hands, “and now that I have you there, I‘m not going to settle for anything less.”
“I always love a woman with determination,” he chuckled giving himself over to Avery as tonight was proving to be far more than he’d ever imagined possible between them.
"I cannot believe she had the audacity to do something so rude," Caitlin grumbled as she stepped out of her bedroom, having changed into blue jeans and a Henley tee shirt. She stopped in her tracks as she spotted Kenneth.
He stood across the room, having discarded his jacket and tie as well as unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt. He'd unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled his sleeves up his forearms. He smiled at her as he lit the candle sitting upon the coffee table, "I thought a little atmosphere couldn't hurt."
The smile swept over Caitlin's face involuntarily, "Atmosphere is good."
"Then why don't you have a seat and we'll enjoy this dinner?" He suggested. They both took seats upon the sofa before beginning their meal, "See, the evening can be salvaged after all."
"Do you want to explain to me how exactly you managed to make me smile despite the fact that this evening was pretty much a disaster?" She asked before taking a bite of her pasta.
"I just threw some pixie dust into the air and charmed you," He teased with a grin, "You know, I didn't know you had it in to get so angry. I mean I've seen your stubborn streak in action with the elevator escapade," He commented before taking a sip of wine, "But when you're angry…you're a force to be reckoned with."
"Well, yeah," Caitlin smiled as she swirled her wine, "I don't get angry often, but when I do blow my top, I really blow up," She chuckled softly.
"So I saw," He grinned, "I thought you were going to take Heather's head off."
"I would have if you hadn't stepped in the way," She frowned, sipping her wine, "So what is her problem anyway?"
"She's a very confused woman," Kenneth shook his head, "If it weren't for her good looks, I don't think Brant would have given her the time of day."
"Do you and Brant share the same taste in women?"
"No, thank god," He chuckled softly, "We feud constantly over other things. If we had to argue over women," He shook his head, "It'd be world war three."
"That's good. Sibling rivalry can destroy even the best relationships," She said with confidence.
"That sounds like experience talking," He said before taking another sip of wine.
"Well, my sister and I have fought over the same guys from time to time," She smiled, "But we're still sisters. The guys came and went."
"Are you and your sister close?"
"Not so much anymore," She shrugged, "Time and space between us, you know," She spoke before sipping her wine.
He watched her for a moment, seeing her mood shift with the mention of family. He sensed her need for a change of subject, "What do you say we watch a movie?"
"Does it have to be an action movie?" She teased with a smile as she picked up the remote control.
"Not necessarily," He replied with a smile, "Just as long as it's interesting."
"Fair enough," Caitlin smiled as she switched on the television and began to switch channels in search of a movie they could enjoy. She tucked her feet under her as she tucked a throw pillow between herself and the arm of the sofa. After finding an Alfred Hitchcock film on a classic movie channel, she placed the remote aside and focused on the television.
It was odd that she felt so comfortable with Kenneth to simply sit and watch a movie on television. She hadn't felt so comfortable with a man in a long time, but with Kenneth it seemed as if it were the easiest and most common thing in the world. He had saved her from herself at the restaurant by stopping her attack on Heather, and his simple action of lighting a candle for ambiance had spoke volumes about the man he really was.
She smiled as she thought about Blake's teasing barbs about the date she'd shared with Kenneth. She had no doubt that Blake would tease her mercilessly about her evening spent with Kenneth, but Caitlin really didn't care. It was nice to share time with a man without fearing his temper or irrational bouts of fury. It was nice to see that a man really could carry on a conversation without belittling her. It was simply nice to know that a good man still did exist in the world.
She lifted her glass to her lips to take a sip of wine as she continued to watch the movie on the screen. She hadn't really been paying attention to the movie. She'd been thinking about Kenneth, about the way he smiled at her, about the way he asked questions of her and expected an intelligent answer. Then there was the way he met her eyes. It was as if he wanted to see honesty, wanted to be able to sense her truth as well as hear it from her lips.
She placed her wine glass back upon the coffee table before glancing to the man who had been the focus of her thoughts. She couldn't help the smile that spread across her features as she looked at him. His head was tilted back upon the sofa cushions, his arm folded across his chest, and his eyes closed as he gently slept.
If she had any doubts about his comfort, the very fact that he slept so peacefully on her sofa beside her told her that he was just as comfortable with her as she was with him. She watched him for a while, simply observing every inch of his handsome features.
When the movie's ending credits began to play, Caitlin switched off the television with the remote before she cleared the coffee table of their food and wine glasses. She snuffed out the candle before removing it from the coffee table. She returned to the sofa and watched as Kenneth slept.
Caitlin smiled before gently slipping her fingers under his neck and easing him to lay down upon her sofa. She lifted his feet onto the cushions and slipped his shoes off, dropping them onto the floor beside the sofa. She lifted a crocheted throw blanket from the back of her recliner and draped it gently over Kenneth's frame.
Caitlin locked the door of her apartment and switched off the light. She walked to her bedroom door and switched on the light inside. She glanced back to her den and smiled as she could see Kenneth's silhouette in the shadows. Yep, Blake would definitely have something to say about their evening now, Caitlin smiled to herself before stepping into her bedroom to call it a night herself.
“I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that,” Kipp apologized as he guided Heather into the limousine after their dinner had been spoiled by their less than savory encounter with the couple across the restaurant, “they had no right to treat you that way.”
“You’re right about that,” Heather looked to her dress, a frown spilling over her lips, “She’s going to pay.”
“You’re absolutely right about that,” Kipp nodded encouragingly, “you just tell me where I can find her, and we’ll make sure she pays for your dress and the dry cleaning,” he shook his head as a frown touched over his lips, “though if it’s any consolation, you still look beautiful.”
“I feel like a wet poodle,” Heather frowned as her thoughts drifted back to Caitlin and all the many ways she was going to make the twit pay for daring to challenge her. Certainly that woman was up to no good and it showed back in Russell’s office when he’d kicked Heather out to spent time with that bimbo, but Heather would see to it that good old Blondie wouldn’t get another chance to rain on her parade.
“I’m sure some seltzer water could get that out,” Kipp interrupted her thoughts as he reached for a napkin dabbing it against her dress.
“Kipp, it’s fine,” Heather frowned shoving his hand away as she noticed the wounded expression on his face. Forcing a smile, she reached out to take his hand in hers lifting it to her cheek, “I mean I wouldn’t want you to worry about little old me like this…”
“Heather, how can I not worry about you,” Kipp’s tone softened as his fingers tapered off over her skin, “I wanted you to have a wonderful evening and when that woman tried to ruin it…”
“She is nothing,” Heather smiled politely turning her lips towards the palm of his hand offering a tiny kiss, “because the way I see it, I’m with the best part of the evening right now.”
“You are,” Kipp’s eyes widened with excitement and his tone rose an octave before he took in a breath trying to downplay his enthusiasm, “I mean yes, you are and the night is still young.”
“So it is,” Heather curled her lip in a pout, “though with my dress being soaked like this…”
“I’ll buy you a new one,” Kipp offered enthusiastically, “anywhere you want to go, we’ll go and buy you a dress--one that makes this one suffer in comparison.”
“You’d really do that for me,” Heather feigned surprise knowing full well that Kipp would bark like a dog if she’d asked it of him--still getting him running like Rover wouldn’t draw her any closer to the goal she had in mind if she was looking to land the leading lady role.
“I’ll buy you ten dresses,” he confessed sliding his fingers into her hair as he leaned in closer to her, “anything you want, it’s yours.”
“Anything,” she repeated feeling a soft smile curl over her lips as she could feel her Academy Award well within her reach. She slid over the leather seat in closer to him as her lips sought out his, taking him by surprise in a daring kiss. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, curling herself into his lap as Kipp returned her kisses enthusiastically--more than likely thinking it was Christmas for him after all, Heather reasoned as she offered a very well thought out moan.
“Heather,” he breathed her name, the desire present in his eyes as his voice grew tight with obvious anticipation. She curled her fingers in his hair, claiming his mouth in another kiss teasing him with the powers of her seduction before she purred against his mouth encouragingly.
“How about we work on the dress problem tomorrow,” Heather suggested a hint of seduction in her tone as she rubbed in against him, “because right now all I want to do is get out of this old thing.”
“Alright,” Kipp agreed with a tiny nod, “we can do that.”
“How about we go back to your place and get more,” she teased her fingers down the center of his chest feeling him on the edge of his seat beneath her, “comfortable with one another?”
“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Kipp agreed impatiently as he informed the driver of their change of plans. Once he returned to her, Heather threw her arms around him ready to give the performance of her life to Kipp Mahoney as tonight she would be one step closer to getting everything she wanted. First, the career opportunity of the lifetime and then, well once she’d shown Kipp how talented she truly was, then she’d see to making both the Blonde bimbo and the lawyer pay because Brant would be all hers once again. That much she was certain of.
Seth stepped into the apartment hearing the last sound he’d expected
to hear as laughter surrounded him. Looking to the sofa, he found
Jade seated beside Blake as the two seemed to be sharing some kind of inside
joke with one another. He stood frozen for a moment, blinking twice
as he wondered if he’d stepped into an episode of the twilight zone.
“Hey Seth,” Jade waved up at him casually, “we thought we lost you.”
“Normally I might be worried about taking my time,” he closed the door behind him, “but tonight I get the distinct feeling that my being late isn’t such a bad thing.”
“Not in this case,” Blake piped in, “Jade was just showing me some of your baby pictures,” she motioned to the album in her lap, “Seth, you were adorable.”
“She didn’t,” Seth turned his eyes to his sister as confusion swept over him.
“She said she needed a good laugh and since we both did,” Jade shrugged her shoulders simply, “we thought we’d turn to you for that.”
“But my baby pictures,” Seth’s eyes widened in surprise. “I think that would be a last resort considering…”
“You should be in front of the camera more,” Blake held up a tiny photo of Seth riding an old toy horse, “you’re adorable.”
“I tend to like to stay behind the lens,” he plucked the photo away from her fingers as he looked between Jade and Blake watching as another soft giggle fell between them, “Okay, what am I missing here?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Jade shrugged her shoulders, “and since you’re home, well I can get to bed,” she rose from the sofa, “Blake, it’s been a pleasure.”
“Likewise,” Blake smiled at her as Jade stepped out of the room leaving Seth with a million and one questions about what had taken place.
“Care to share?” he lifted a curious brow.
“There’s nothing to tell,” Blake shrugged simply as she too rose from the sofa, “however, it would seem that you and I got our lines crossed somewhere since you weren’t here.”
“I stopped by the mansion,” Seth admitted with a frown, “Brant was there.”
“Oh God,” Blake’s jaw dropped, “what was on his agenda tonight?”
“He thought he’d do the big brother thing and ask me about my intentions,” Seth admitted thinking back to his less than savory exchange with Brant.
“He’s harmless,” she offered throwing a soft grin in his direction as she stepped forward placing her arms around his neck gently, “He likes to come off as being the big, bad Ashford, but really he’s a pussycat.”
“Are you sure we’re talking about the same guy,” he asked giving her a sideways glance.
“Brant’s really harmless,” she tried to assure him, “He just wants to protect me in his own way, but once he sees you like I do, well he won’t be so abrasive,” she reached for his hand lacing their fingers together, “however, as much as I’d love to stay here all night, I should be getting home.”
“So soon?” his lip curled in a pout.
“I do have to work tomorrow,” she offered with a nod before throwing out a teasing wink, “you didn’t really think we Ashfords were all play, did you?”
“I was starting to wonder,” he laced their fingers together tighter, “so tell me, what does Blake Ashford do in the day time?”
“Other than dream about you,” she teased lightly leaning up on her toes to kiss him, “I work for my brother.”
“No,” she laughed in response, “Kenneth. I’d kill Brant if we worked together, but Kenneth, well he’s more level headed and we get along great.”
“So you work on the lighter side of things, huh?”
“That’s right,” she nodded, “and I’ll tell you all about it if you walk me to my car.”
“Hmm, well with such a tempting offer,” he wrapped his arms around her slender waist, “how can I refuse?”
“You can’t,” she tipped up towards him collecting his mouth in an impromptu kiss.
“Still, I feel awful about tonight,” he began thinking about his meeting with Brant, “I wanted to show you a nice evening.”
“So make it up to me with breakfast,” Blake urged him as she trailed her fingers over the center of his chest, “Ken isn’t expecting me too early and if you’re free…”
“Where you’re concerned I’ll always find time to put you in my schedule,” he confessed lifting her up off the ground as he captured her lips in a tender kiss, “Breakfast it is.”
“Excellent,” Blake beamed with excitement, “then it would seem that tonight wasn’t a total waste especially now that I get to see you in the morning.”
“It does sound like a nice opening to the day,” he hugged her against him, “are you sure you have to leave so soon?”
“As much as I’d love to stay, there are a few things I need to attend to at home,” she sighed hating to walk away from Seth as his arms felt like heaven.
“In that case, I’ll do my best to savor the time we have left together,” he reluctantly set her on her toes once again as he kissed the top of her hand, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, but hey you do get to walk me to my car,” Blake offered confidently, “you can see the one that’s still working.”
“How many cars do you have?”
“More than I care to admit,” she confessed with a tiny giggle, “but I think you’ll like this one. It seems to be more your type.”
“You’re my type,” he reached out to her again offering one last teasing kiss as they headed out of the apartment together savoring a few more minutes with one another.
As soon as the door had closed behind Blake and Seth, Jade dug in her purse for her cell phone. The evening she had experienced proved that Grady's suspicions had been well founded, and she had to let him know about Cameron and his less than romantic gestures towards her. She paged through the numbers in her on screen phone book before finding Grady's number and calling his home. After five rings with no answer, his voice mail picked up.
"Grady, it's Jade. I thought you'd be at home, but since you're not, I'll try your cell. I just wanted you to know that you were right about Cameron. I've got a really bad feeling about him, Grady. Call me when you get this message."
She hung up before scrolling down the list of numbers to Grady's cell phone and dialing the number. She listened as the ringing tones buzzed over and over again in her ear. When he didn't answer, Jade hung up her phone and frowned. She had no idea where on Earth Grady could be at this hour or why he wouldn't answer his cell. She could only hope that he was okay and would return her call sooner rather than later.
Thea smiled as she held Grady's cell phone in hand, listening as it rang once more. She switched off the phone mid ring and dumped it beside a pair of trousers that were piled haphazardly upon the floor. She untied the sash on her robe and slipped it off her body, allowing the silken cloth to pool at her feet before she slipped into bed. She smiled as she eased her hand across Grady's chest, listening to him sleep peacefully. In the morning, he would wake up to find himself naked in her bed without a clue as to how he got there, and Cameron would have the ammunition he needed in his quest to have the very best Coral Valley had to offer.