Blake stepped into the back doors of the Ashford estate, taking a long
look around before pulling Seth in behind her. Letting out a
breath of relief, she threw her arms around his neck tipping up on her
toes to bridge the distance between them to give him a quick kiss.
“The coast is clear,” she explained in a quick breath.
“I didn’t realize we were worried about anyone knowing I was here,”
Seth gave her a cryptic look.
“Well, we aren’t, but well, I just…” Blake bit down on her lower lip
nervously, “I guess given everything that this household has had going
on lately, I just figured that the less of a stir we make, the better.”
“Why Blake, are you saying you’re ashamed of me,” Seth questioned
easing his arms in around her waist to lift her up to his level.
Keeping her up off of the ground, he couldn’t help but wink at her, “or
afraid that your brothers might find out what we were doing last night?”
“Let’s just say I want to see to it that you’re alive to make it to the
altar,” Blake laughed lightly leaning in to kiss him gingerly.
With the first luscious taste of his ever so kissable lips however, she
found herself more than eager to sample a bit more of her fiancé.
“My you two start early, don’t you,” she heard Brant groan from the far
end of the kitchen.
“Busted,” Seth mouthed with a tiny laugh lowering Blake down to the
ground once again only to discover her brother standing there shaking
his head at him.
“Please just promise me that I’m not going to be subjected to this each
and every morning leading up to the wedding day,” Brant wiggled a
“You’re damn right you’re going to be subjected to it,” Blake laced her
fingers in Seth’s, “because you’re going to need to get very used to
the fact that I’m about to become Mrs. Seth Alexander.”
“Hmm, well in that case, as I said before, congratulations,” Brant
offered up with a simple shrug before going over to the coffee pot and
pouring himself a glass. Continuing with his casual approach he
spoke up once again, “And Seth, just for the record given that I saved
your life the other night, well if you even think about hurting Blake,
I’ll have no qualms about taking it from you.”
“Brant,” Blake gasped her brother’s name in horror, shaking her head at
his words, “Don’t you even…”
“No, your brother has a point Blake,” Seth squeezed her hand gently,
“You deserve nothing less than the best and I’m going to try to be the
one to give you that. I realize that there is a lot more that
Brant and I need to know about one another before we’ll learn to trust
“That might take a bit of work, but as long as she keeps smiling like
that, well let’s just say I don’t have to pull out the big guns,” Brant
added with a hint of teasing in his voice before the half smile
disappeared altogether, “Understand?”
“Completely,” Seth nodded feeling Blake step forward. Pushing his
hands into his pockets he drew in a nervous breath.
“Good, then we’re level,” Brant decided motioning to the coffee pot,
“Can I get you a drink?”
“Actually a coffee sounds great right about now,” Seth nodded in
response watching Brant make an effort to be polite. Feeling as
if he had to say something, Seth stepped forward, “Getting back to your
saving my life…I never really had a chance to say thank you…”
“You can do it by keeping Blake happy,” Brant insisted handing over a
mug to him, “That’s really what’s important to me.”
“And he’s doing a great job on that,” Blake boasted bringing her arms
around Seth emphatically, “I feel like I’m on top of the world
right about now…”
“Hmm, you’re glowing,” Brant noted tilting his head to the side, “You
seem to have this certain air about you. I didn’t notice it
before, but now, well the signs are there with your flightiness and the
way you’ve been gallivanting around here lately. Blake, are you
“What?” she blinked back at him, her jaw dropping down nearly to the
“Is that why you two are rushing into this,” Brant questioned bluntly,
“because if it is, then I’m going to have to insist that this shotgun
wedding at least go through me first considering that…”
“Brant, I’m not pregnant,” Blake explained quickly, “at least…not yet…”
“And we haven’t thought about rushing things just yet,” Seth added
watching the crease that formed in Brant’s brow. Not wanting
Brant to want to kill him right off the bat, Seth attempted to smooth
the waters, “We’d like to take the time to explore our time together
before we rush into anything…”
“So now you’re saying that you don’t want children,” Brant put on the
full on fatherly mode.
“No, that’s not what we’re saying at all because Seth and I would like
to have lots of children,” Blake interrupted, “but for now we’re taking
“That’s not the vibe I got last night when I caught you sneaking those
condoms out of your room,” Brant shifted his focus between the two of
“Brant, that’s none of your business!” Blake squealed bringing her hand
up over her cheek, “And I can’t believe you’re even doing this.
Why must you insist upon embarrassing me in front of Seth, when we all
know that you’ve got far more sleazy stories that could be told about
you and your exploits.”
“Oh, so now it’s getting below the belt huh,” Brant couldn’t help but
tease her further, “Though really I’d just like to see what I can do to
keep my sister’s virtue in tact…”
“Blake’s virtue is still very much in tact,” Seth offered up after a
long silence thinking about all the wonderful things that he loved
about his fiancée.
“Hmm, well I guess that depends on what your definition of virtue is,”
Brant gave his sister a very pointed look knowing full well that she
and Seth were hot and heavy with one another.
“Blake’s an incredible woman,” Seth proclaimed solemnly, “and I love
her very much.”
“So ha,” Blake stuck her tongue out at him. “He loves me.”
“He’d better because I’m warning you…” Brant waved his finger at Seth
“Just let it go already,” Blake groaned in response, “because if I have
to keep putting up with this until my wedding day, then I’m going to
lose my mind.”
“Wedding day,” Ken’s voice arose from the doorway, “what wedding?”
“Ken,” Blake nearly leapt out of her shoes before turning to face her
brother once again, “hey, how are you doing?”
“I’m alive,” Ken offered up bringing his fingers up through his tousled
hair. He blinked a few times taking in his surroundings before
turning his attention to Seth. “So what is this about a wedding?”
“Blake and Seth are getting married--that is if we allow it to happen,”
Brant teased again only to receive a quick jab in the ribs from Blake.
“We are getting married,” Blake insisted firmly before facing Ken
again. It didn’t take much to see the tired expression on his
face and the bloodshot eyes that now revealed the misery that had
“Then I guess it’s time for a celebration huh,” Ken smiled weakly
attempting to put on his best face despite his own pain.
“Ken I…” Blake started struggling to find the right words when the
phone rang. She stopped herself watching Brant answer before he
handed the phone over to her.
“For you,” he explained as Blake reached for the phone.
“Hello,” she answered surprised to hear Johanna on the other end of the
“Hi Blake, it’s Johanna. Listen I know this might not be the best
of times, but I was hoping you could come down to the hospital
today. There’s something I wanted to say to you and well, I just
think it would be better in person.”
“I don’t know if now is such a good time,” Blake admitted turning her
attention to Ken once again.
“I realize that, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in Coral
Valley so…” Johanna started up again. “It would really mean a lot
to me if we were able to have a few minutes together…”
“Well, I can see what I can…” Blake began again watching Ken cross the
“I’m out of here. I have work to do,” Ken announced making his
way to the backdoor and walking out of the mansion without so much as a
wave to anyone else.
“Blake, are you there?” Johanna questioned again.
“Yes, I’m here. I’ll be there in a little while,” Blake caved in
before saying her goodbyes and hanging up the phone.
“Who was it,” Seth asked lightly placing his hand on her shoulder.
“Johanna,” Blake admitted with a slow breath, “She wants me to come
down and see her at the hospital.”
“Hmm, well it sounds like you’ve got a full day ahead of you,” Brant
deduced finishing off his coffee, “so don’t let me hold you back.
Just don’t get into too much trouble.”
“But…” Blake watched his retreat as well before turning to Seth,
“What’s with my family?”
“I think they just aren’t in the mood to stick around this morning,
which it sounds like that’s a good thing considering that Johanna asked
to see you.”
“She did, but I don’t know what she wants,” Blake curled her lip in a
pout, “I mean okay so we’re on so-so terms after I helped her, but
still…Seth, I don’t know if I want to go over there.”
“I’m sure she just wants to thank you for what you did,” he offered up
supportively, “It can’t be that bad, right?”
“I don’t know,” she paused with yet another frown, “It’s just if she
and Zack are there together…”
“Is that going to bother you,” Seth searched her eyes.
“Not for the reason you’re thinking,” she threw out a pointed look,
“It’s just that I’d really rather not…”
“How about I go over with you?” Seth suggested after a moment’s
contemplation, “I have to pick up a few things from the studio anyways
and if you want, you can come with me. We could swing by the
hospital and then go to the studio if you want to…”
“Yes, it sounds perfect,” Blake decided quickly, “I like that idea.”
“Blake, are you sure?” he searched her eyes.
“I’m positive,” she nodded again, “and for the record this isn’t about
me and Zack. I’m sure that’s the question going through your
mind, but you can rest assured that I mean it when I tell you that you
are absolutely the only man for me.”
“I know that Blake. Despite the ups and downs we’ve had together,
I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life. After
yesterday when I gave you that ring, well I was certain that we were
meant to share our lives together,” he hugged her in closer to him once
again, his dark eyes penetrating hers, “I know that nothing will ever
keep us apart again. We belong together.”
“Forever and always,” Blake whispered moving in to brush her lips
against his in a tender, barely there kiss knowing full well that her
past with Zack was just that. Seth was the one and only future
she’d waited to find in her life and nothing was ever going to ruin
that for her.
Ben let out a groan feeling his limbs aching, but it didn’t stop there
as he stretched out on Ria’s sofa. It extended from head to toe,
he realized with another groan. Stretching out, he wondered if
he’d even have the strength to sit up after last night’s dancing
“Here, try these,” Valerie’s voice pulled him from his
semi-consciousness as she stood beside him with a couple of pills in
hand, “They’ll help with the muscle aches and the hangover.”
“I’m not hung over,” Ben protested with another dull moan, “Okay, maybe
I am a little bit, but not enough to matter.”
“Sure, sure,” Valerie shook her head at him, “Ria said you looked
absolutely pathetic this morning when she left for work.”
“Ria was here,” Ben’s eyes widened at the mention of his friend.
“Yeah, that’s right and she said she didn’t realize that she was
working her life away to turn her apartment into a halfway house,”
Valerie laughed lightly, “You know Ria and her usual sarcastic wit.”
“I really didn’t plan on spending the night on old faithful here,” he
tapped the side of Ria’s couch lightly before forcing himself to find
the strength to sit up. He took the pills from Valerie’s hand
before reaching for the glass of water she’d carried with her.
“Yes, well no one plans on that, but after you tried to be John
Travolta last night,” Valerie couldn’t help but tease once again.
“Only because you were instigating me,” Ben reminded her with a frown.
“And I’m glad that I did because it was one of the best workouts I had
in weeks,” Valerie boasted with a glimmer behind her eyes.
“And you’re not feeling the aftereffects of this at all, are you?” he
eyed her intently.
“Not a one,” she shook her head at him, “but you have to remember that
I’m working out in every moment I’m not in a shoot or around the world
in a show.”
“Yeah well, just warn me the next time you decide to test my
limits. I’m not as young as I used to be,” he admitted with a
“Well you know we could’ve talked about what was bothering you, but
given that you were taking the path leading to clear cut avoidance…”
she reminded him with a slight frown.
“I figured it wasn’t worth getting to especially after I talked to Seth
about things earlier in the night,” Ben divulged thinking about the
words he’d exchanged with Seth.
“You saw Seth,” Valerie’s brow lifted with obvious interest.
Ben nodded, “Yeah, I kind of went over to the Ashford mansion to see my
aunt, but I ran into him and Blake instead. I suppose fate was
trying to get me to tell someone what was going on and poor Seth got to
listen to it.”
“So the rumors are true then huh?” Valerie continued with curiosity
brimming over her.
“What rumors?” Ben blinked back at her.
“The ones about Blake Ashford sinking her claws into him,” Valerie’s
face darkened with the words.
“I wouldn’t exactly put it in those terms, but yes, they are together,”
Ben nodded in confession, “They’re engaged in fact.”
“Engaged,” Valerie practically choked on her words, “You’re kidding?”
“Nope,” Ben shook his head, “I just found out yesterday.”
“And Seth’s happy with that pampered princess?” she wrinkled her nose
in disgust, “I thought he wasn’t into the whole glam and whine type.”
“If that were true, he never would’ve hooked up with you,” Ben replied
in a teasing tone.
“I wasn’t all about glamour and if you recall it was my need to be in
the spotlight that turned Seth off. I thought he was into a
private, more serene life,” she continued with an obvious pout, “So why
“There’s a lot that you don’t know about. Things have changed
since you’ve been gone,” Ben informed her honestly, “Seth’s not the guy
you remember him being.”
“No one can change that much,” she argued with him, “Not even Seth.”
“Well, the point is that he’s happy now and I’m really glad. It
took him a long time to recover after you…” he stopped himself dropping
his head down as if to rethink stepping into dangerous waters.
“After I what? Left town,” she finished for him, “Ben, I didn’t
have a choice. I needed to do what was best for me. My
career was telling me that I had to leave. Seth could’ve gone
with me, but he…”
“He stayed here,” Ben nodded in response, “Yeah I know the story, but
that doesn’t really matter now. He and Blake are good
together--really good together and I see this being the thing that he’s
needed in his life. He loves her quite a bit.”
“Hmm…” Valerie nodded pondering just how much to delve into with Ben.
“But that doesn’t really apply to my being a miserable mess, now does
it,” Ben shook his head solemnly, “I mean honestly, what’s the point in
talking about our ex’s right?”
“Actually you mentioned my ex, not yours,” Valerie reminded him simply,
“though I’m guessing that your ex is the reason you were so messed up
“I think I’m just messed up in general,” he answered with a half smile,
“At least that’s the way I’m feeling lately.”
“So who was she? What did she do to break your heart?” she
inquired thinking about the mood he’d been in.
“I think she was the one, but things--situations just got in the way,”
Ben sighed heavily, “I mean I thought I knew where things were going,
but then life threw me for a loop.”
“You want some advice,” Valerie reached out to pat his leg gently.
“Do I have a choice,” he laughed lightly.
“Not on this one you don’t,” she shook her head adamantly, “the truth
is if you’ve found someone who makes you happy--really, truly happy,
then you should hold onto her Ben. It’s hard enough to find
someone you kind of like these days, but with love, well love is so
rare that once you have it, you need to hold onto it with all you
have. Once you have it within your reach, you should never let
“Spoken like a woman with experience in the matter,” Ben noted the
expression on her face.
“More like a woman who learned from her mistakes too little, too late…”
she sighed again, “Don’t turn out like I did Ben. You deserve so
“I think you turned out pretty okay kid. I mean hey, it’s not
everyday I get to sit with a superstar,” he teased poking her in the
arm while eliciting a smile from her.
“And don’t you forget it,” she punched his arm right back all the while
wondering if she could truly regain the thing that she lost in Coral
Valley. When she came back, she set out to recapture the love
that she’d lost, but she hadn’t banked on their being any kind of
competition. Still, no matter. Blake Ashford wouldn’t be a
problem for her in her quest to win Seth back. She’d make damn
sure of that.
A rush of nausea passed over Diane, bringing her crashing into the
waking world around her. While last night wasn’t much more than a
blur, the throbbing in her head wasn’t about to let her forget the real
world now. Turning over in bed, she fell flat onto her back with
a groan. Why in the hell did she think it was a good idea to
drink like that? Then again, why did she drink like that to begin
Diane could remember a beer, another one and then some really loud
music and Patrick. Groaning again at the thought Diane made a
sudden vow not to go out with him again. She’d find another way
to help Jade--one that required less drinking and more information
seeking. Yes, that certainly was the better idea, she reasoned
closing her eyes once again after having subjected herself momentarily
to the sun’s blinding rays. Her head felt like someone was
hammering upon it, her body aching as if she’d spent the night
kickboxing. It was then that she felt it.
Snapping her eyes open once again, Diane gazed down to see the arm that
she felt draped over her body. Gasping in surprise, she peeled
back the sheet just enough to see her naked form along side of the man
who lay behind her. Suddenly very fearful to turn her head in his
general direction, Diane said a silent prayer before pulling the sheet
back a bit further. That was all it took for her to catch a full
glimpse of the very naked man beside her. As if that wasn’t bad
enough, seeing him naked was bad, but discovering that all too familiar
tattoo was a hell of a lot worse.
“Oh God,” Diane gasped in horror sitting upright on the mattress,
feeling her stomach tied in knots. She turned to look down at
J.T. and in that moment she had sudden flashes of the previous
evening. She remembered seeing Ben and his mystery woman--feeling
upset and leaving the bar leading up to.
“No,” Diane’s jaw dropped. She brought her hands up to her head
in a desperate attempt to try to wake up from the nightmare she’d
“This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening!” she chanted
over and over again in an attempt to just make J.T. go away. She
closed her eyes tightly, only to be met by the images of how they’d
gone at it with one another like two lust driven, sex-starved
Now not only did Diane want to crawl under a rock and die, but she felt
as if she’d finally sunk lower than low. Carefully sliding out
from underneath the blanket that covered her, Diane sought out her
clothes vaguely remembering leaving them in J.T.’s living room when
they’d first slipped into madness. She heard him move as she
stood in the bedroom doorway, but much to her relief he stayed
sleeping. He rolled over onto his side, away from her and she
hurriedly rushed into the living room ready to just get the hell out of
“Where are you,” Diane questioned spotting her dress across the room
all the while cursing herself for her stupid, impulsive, desperate
move. She and J.T. were a thing of the past. They didn’t
have anything going between them--not even friendship and for her to
leap into bed with him. Well, it just went against everything
that Diane was these days. Okay, so maybe at one point in time
she and J.T. were able to have no strings sex together, but by this
point in her life, she’d thought she’d evolved past that--that she’d
“But no, you had to see Ben and that woman,” she could hear the voice
in the back of her head scolding her, “and in turn you slept with
him. Real smart Diane. Good one.”
“It’s not like I planned it,” she snapped back at that inner voice, “I
didn’t want to have sex with him. Well, okay maybe on some level
I did, but at the same time if I was sober, I wouldn’t have done
it. J.T. and I are so not meant to be together.”
“That didn’t stop you from coming together last night, did it?” her
inner voice mocked her, drawing her attention to the mirror before her
in J.T.’s living room, “Face it Diane, it’s been a long time since you
were wild and free and you loved every irresponsibly, untamed moment of
being with J.T. last night.”
“The hell I did,” Diane scowled bending down to pick up J.T.’s shirt
and throw it over the mirror. In a frenzy, she searched out her
shoes spotting one on top of the couch, the other inside the fish
tank. That caused her to stop dead in her tracks. She
contemplated fishing it out, but instead of taking the change of having
J.T. wake up, she opted to leave it behind--to get out of there as soon
as possible. With that thought in mind, she swiped her purse off
the floor, prepared herself for the morning ahead of her and got the
hell out of the apartment before she would die of even further
“So what do you say we take it easy this morning,” Hart suggested
helping Jenna into her apartment, “You know we could watch a
movie--maybe the Star Wars DVDs and see where that goes…”
“Actually,” Jenna replied with a soft sigh, “right now all I want to do
is just sit down, relax and try to forget that I’ve just been through a
“In that case, I’m just the man to do that for you,” Hart pulled Jenna
up into his arms, carrying her into her living room, “So where would
you like me to put you?”
“The couch would be fine, but I supposed bed would be better,” Jenna
decided taking note of the wicked expression that built upon his
features, “And no don’t start thinking all dirty just yet because I’m
“I’m sure you are,” Hart replied with a nod carrying her to her
bedroom, “which is why I’m going to make sure you sleep.”
“Always the perfect gentleman,” Jenna teased with a tiny laugh before
laying her head on his shoulder, “How in the world did we come to this?”
“I don’t know, but in all honesty I’m relieved that you haven’t decided
to kick me to the curb there,” Hart admitted easing her down on her bed
before moving in to take a seat beside her.
“Why would you say that,” she asked giving him a sideways glance.
“Because of Beth…because of what Cameron told you about Sam,” Hart
confessed with an uneasy expression, “Jen, I was so afraid that when
you found out, you wouldn’t be with me. That you’d hate me for it
“And what? I’m supposed to pretend that you don’t have a
past? That you didn’t have a life before I was in it,” Jenna
questioned blankly, “Hart, if I spent my life judging everyone, then
there wouldn’t be much room for me to see things as they truly
are. Besides, my father is Douglas Mahoney and the fact that you
still want to be with me after knowing that says a lot about the man
“Jen, I’m being serious here,” he sighed in frustration, “I know this
“It does, and I’d be lying if I told you I was completely okay with the
idea that you have a daughter out there from a woman that I’d like to
string up, but at the same time, well Hart, it just…” she paused
thinking about something for a long moment, “The truth to the matter is
that we never know how fate is going to turn out. I could’ve died
not so long ago in that bombing…you could’ve died and we could’ve lost
one another. Sure, I could be upset and have a fit that you have
a daughter, but what would that accomplish other than making us both
miserable? I love you Hart and your having a daughter isn’t going
to change that.”
“Thank God,” he couldn’t resist leaning in to kiss her gently.
She leaned into the embrace, cupping his cheek with her palm before
pulling away from him.
“Though we can’t ignore the fact you have a daughter Hart, especially
considering that she’s dating my brother,” Jenna pointed out hating to
bring reality to the moment once again.
“Jen, I…” he paused trying to find the right words before taking in a
long, slow breath, “Sam doesn’t have any idea that I’m her
father. She’s spent her life believing that Travis Callaway is
her father and who am I to go in and change that for her?”
“Hart, she has a right to know. It was unfair that Beth lied to
you all these years. It was wrong and very hurtful, but with Sam,
well she’s just as innocent as you are in this. She needs to know
the truth,” Jenna began surprising herself with her own words.
“And then what? Jen, I saw what happened to you when you learned
about Doug. I watched him break your heart time and time again
because you wanted to believe that he could be something that he’s
not. He wasn’t what you wanted him to be.”
“That still didn’t change that fact that I had a right to know the
truth. I spent my whole life believing that my father wad dead,
but he wasn’t Hart. You have no idea what that did to me,” Jenna
sighed heavily thinking about her years of yearning to know her father.
“Yes, but Sam has Travis just like you had Preston. While I hate
that son of a bitch, the fact remains that he’s been a good father to
Sam. He’s treated her right even after he left Beth and how can I
come in and shake up everything she’s ever known,” Hart paused
reflecting upon the ups and downs that Jenna had faced since she’d
learned of Douglas Mahoney’s being her father, “Can you tell me that
you’re happier now that you know the truth?”
“I was miserable when I found out that I was lied to,” Jenna insisted
refusing to see his point about things, “Hart, if Beth was so quick to
blurt the truth out to you, then whose to say that she won’t up and do
it in front of Sam to spite Travis? Knowing her, she’ll find the
worst moment to hurt Travis and Sam for her own personal pleasure…”
“I don’t think that she’s hurt Sam like that considering that…” Hart
stopped himself remembering Beth’s attitude with him.
“Look I’m not trying to tell you how to run things with Sam, but at the
very least you need to think about this before you wind up doing
something that you live to regret,” Jenna touched his face tenderly
urging him to meet her eyes, “I won’t think any less of you for trying
to have a relationship with your daughter. I’m not about to make
you choose between her or me because that’s not how I work. Nor
do I think Beth stands a chance at making us miserable because I love
you. I love you so very much that I know in my heart that there’s
no reason to worry.”
“You have no idea how much that means for me to hear you say that,”
Hart let out a breath of relief pulling her into his arms.
“Just wait. It gets better,” Jenna smiled up at him, “because
being in the hospital gave me a lot of time to think about
things--really think about things and the truth to the matter is that I
was weighing out my options about us living together.”
“Oh?” he arched a curious brow, “and?”
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m really ready to give up all my independence
yet given that I have these issues about my mornings and about my being
grouchy, but I’m willing to try to make it work should we take that
next step together,” she smiled in response.
“Are you saying that you’ll consider moving in with me?” Hart’s eyes
widened in response.
“I’ve considered it and well, your place is just too much of a bachelor
pad. It’s not exactly what I think we want to have going
together, but if you’re willing to make the leap into moving here,
well…I think we can most definitely work it out,” she confessed with a
wide smile, “That is if you don’t mind making a move.”
“Considering that I spend most of my time with you here anyways, nope I
don’t mind at all,” Hart couldn’t help but laugh, “though I have to
tell you that my bags are already packed.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Jenna laughed lightly leaning into
him and closing her eyes while thinking about just how far they’d come
with one another. Sure, she knew that they had problems to deal
with, but unlike what she’d done in the past, this time she was going
to try to stay calm--to try to make them work and maybe just maybe in
taking that approach life wouldn’t sneak up on her again with anymore
“Thanks,” Sarah smiled grabbing the bag that the man hand out in front
She turned around feeling someone’s hand on her shoulder and her smile
faded to a frown.
“What do you want?” she scowled starting to walk out the door as the
person followed her.
“I want to talk about Heather and the baby,” Cameron started before she
“Listen, you are going nowhere near my sister and my nephew,” she
pointed out holding the bag in her arms tightly.
“I wish you would reconsider that because, I hope you do know who I
am,” he smiled glaring a hole right through her.
“I know you who you are and that’s even the more point that I’m not
letting you see them.”
“You see, I don’t think you know what your starting here,” he said
stepping in front of her folding his arms.
“Cameron, I’m not afraid of you…and nothing you can do can make me
change my mind,” she assured him as he stepped in closer to her in an
“That I’m sure is wrong,” he scowled before she shook her head.
“Nice try asshole, that’s not going to work. I’m not like my sister who
can be pushed around and take that crap. Nothing you could do or say
can change my mind,” she reminded him before he kicked the wall.
“You see I think you’re wrong, you see I can hurt your boyfriend, badly
too,” he smiled with certainty in his eyes.
“Kyle? Have you seen Kyle? Don’t make me laugh…if you will excuse me I
have somewhere to go…and that somewhere doesn’t involve you,” she
stated pushing her way past him.
“You’ll hear from me again and promise that!” he yelled sharply before
she turned around.
“I’m sure I will, but the question you should be asking yourself is,
will I listen because from my point of view I really don’t care what
you have to say,” she shrugged turning back to walk away.
“Avery, I really don’t like the idea of leaving like this,” Richard
began with worry evident in his voice, “I know that Cheryl and Elliot
said that they’d be back after they went to visit Grady, but…”
“Dad, you don’t have to continually baby-sit me,” Avery offered up once
again, “Besides, I’m not going to be staying here much longer
anyways. I said I’d take a trip down to the jail to see Grady so
that we can work on his defense and…”
“And you need to slow yourself down. If you keep pushing on like
this Avery, well I’m just not sure what will happen. Honey, I
know you’re upset and you’re trying to keep it all together, but…”
Richard reached out to touch her cheek gently.
“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that this situation hasn’t
gotten to me, but dad I need to keep pushing on. I know what’s
what Russ would want,” Avery explained with a poignant smile, “He
wouldn’t want me to let Grady’s life slip away. He’d want me to
keep on fighting…”
“Fine, then let me help you with this battle. I can call the
office back and…” Richard began with obvious concern for his daughter.
“Daddy, I’ll be fine,” Avery tried her best to convince him despite her
own concerns about things, “You can’t ignore this case you’re working
on. I know how important it is…”
“Not nearly as important as you are,” he reminded her honestly, “You’re
my daughter and you always come first.”
“Then believe me when I tell you that I’m going to be okay. Last
night I was just upset--I was wound up about everything, but today,
well today I’ll have so many things to do that I won’t have time to
flip out like that,” she reached out to squeezed his hand gently,
“At least let me give you a ride over there,” Richard suggested wishing
that there was so much more he could do to ease the pain his daughter
“Dad, I’m going to take a shower and then I’m leaving. To make
you wait here for me to get ready would be unfair and besides,” she
forced another smile, “I need to do this. I need to be able to go
through my normal day to day living without having someone watching me
all the time. If people start treating me like I’m an invalid,
then I’m going to start believing that I am.”
“Avery, now you know that’s not what I want…” Richard sighed heavily,
“Fine, I’ll go, but if you change your mind…”
“I know you’re only a phone call away,” she nodded reaching out to
embrace him, “Thank you for that.”
“Avery, sweetheart, you know I just want what’s best for you,” he spoke
up once again, his eyes full of worry and concern for her.
“I know you do daddy and eventually, well eventually I hope that one
day things will be right again. For now, I have to work on saving
Grady. That’s all I need to focus on right now.”
For a few minutes longer, Avery exchanged words with her father hoping
to make him believe that all was okay. Finally he’d listened and
he took off to work on the things he’d had waiting for him with
work. While she knew full well that she was laying it on thick,
after last night she wasn’t about to let anyone else in on the truth
she knew to be true. Sure, maybe they would want to help, but
none of them would understand. Russ was still alive and she
“I’m not crazy,” Avery mouthed leaning up against the front door once
again. Closing her eyes she could remember clearly seeing her
husband in the yard. He was there last night. He was with
her and no one would convince her otherwise. She felt it last
night and even now she knew her husband was out there.
“Now to make everyone else believe that,” Avery thought aloud making
her way to her bedroom. Turning her attention to the bed, she
felt her face grow flushed at the great many memories that she and Russ
created with one another in that very room. Smiling again, she
quickly threw her nightshirt off over her head before making her way
into the bathroom.
“I will find you,” Avery vowed tinkering with the water dials before
stepping into the shower to get ready for the day ahead of her.
Closing her eyes, she felt the warmth of the spray send it’s massaging
fingers up in over her body, putting her more at ease.
“Not if I don’t find you first,” she felt a warm whisper in the back of
her ear. Slowly, enthusiastic fingers spread out over her
abdomen, before the altogether familiar lips teased over the back of
her neck. “Did you really think I’d miss a morning like this with
“I knew you wouldn’t stay away too long,” she mouthed keeping her eyes
closed for a second longer. Spinning around in the shower, she
curled her arms out around the hard body beside her. Finally in a
heated breath, she reopened her eyes to see Russell before her.
“Baby, I could never stay away from you,” he skimmed his thumb over her
bottom lip gingerly, his intense green eyes burning down into her, “Not
when we have so much ahead of us.”
“Oh Russ,” she replied throwing her arms around him, kissing and
holding him as if she’d never let go.
“We’re never going to be apart again Avery,” he promised her offering
up the answers to her prayers in these moments they shared
together. He was home again…really home and nothing would take
that away from her.
Brant stood outside Avery’s house contemplating whether or not he
should go inside. While he’d thought about going directly to the
office, there was something inside of him that wouldn’t allow him to
let go of what she was experiencing. Sure, he’d heard what Ken
had said in a fit of rage, but if Avery was experiencing nearly half as
much grief as Ken was, then Brant didn’t want to leave her out on her
own. He just prayed that her family wouldn’t kick him out on his
ass for trying to be there.
“You can do this,” Brant coached himself on making his way up onto the
front porch. He extended his arm out about to knock when he
noticed that the front door was open. Pushing on it gently, he
saw that it had easily moved with little to no effort.
“Something isn’t right,” Brant thought to himself feeling the warning
bells going off in his head. Making his way into the living room,
he looked around to see that things appeared to be alright, but still
he had a sinking feeling in his gut.
“Avery, are you here?” Brant questioned only to be met by silence,
Looking around, Brant noticed a framed photograph before him on the
table top. Stepping forward, he caught a glimpse of Russ and
Avery together on what appeared to be their wedding day. She was
dressed in a long white gown, almost as if she’d stepped out of a dream
and as she held onto Russ, there was no denying the happiness behind
her eyes. The happiness that Brant had always wanted to share
with her--the love he’d hoped they could experience together, yet she
was feeling it with another man.
“Oh Avery,” Brant spoke her name once again before hearing a loud,
thumping sound coming from the far end of the hallway. Taking a
long look around, Brant wondered what he’d stepped into, but rather
than thinking about it, he moved forward rushing down the long hallway
leading to the master bedroom. The door was opened a crack and he
could hear the sounds of water running from inside the master bathroom.
“Avery, are you in here,” Brant called out to her again, once again met
by an eerie silence. “Avery…”
Hearing no response, Brant advanced to the master bathroom feeling
momentary guilt. He felt like a sudden voyeur for having crossed
the line into Avery’s personal space--to the bedroom that she shared
with her husband, but still he had to be sure everything was
okay. He gazed down at the floor seeing a pale arm sprawled out
across the tile. That was all it took to get him inside the
bathroom, no questions asked.
“Avery,” he spoke her name again horrified to find her sprawled out
across the floor, with the shower door wide open spraying water across
the bathroom aimlessly. Brant knelt down, reaching out to her
only to discover the small gash across her forehead, now bleeding
before him. He searched for her pulse, ignoring the fact that she
lay completely naked before him. Upon discovering it, he hoisted
her damp body up into his arms carrying her out of the bathroom with
“Avery, can you hear me,” he questioned again watching her features
twist and tighten with obvious dismay. He set her down on the
bed, taking a long look at her. That cut on her forehead didn’t
look right at all he realized moving in for a closer inspection while
still trying to pull her from the state of unconsciousness she’d
“Avery, talk to me,” he watched her eyes open before him, there was a
glazed expression that overtook her in those moments he continued to
speak to her, “Avery, look at me…”
“Russ,” she questioned in a clear cut state of confusion and disarray
before her eyes closed once again.
“Stay with me Avery,” Brant pleaded with her realizing that she’d
pushed herself too fast, too far. She should’ve never been able
to leave the hospital, he realized not knowing what to do.
Touching her shoulder gently once again, he tried to rouse her from the
altered state of consciousness that surrounded her.
“Avery, hey,” he pressed his hand against her arm gently, seeking out
her pulse once again when he noticed another small wound upon her arm.
“What the…” Brant began noting the thin line of blood pooling around
her vein area. While most might not have noticed it, given that
she’d been in the water, the area was still bleeding and red--looking
as if she’d…”
“No, oh God no,” Brant feared that she’d done something to hurt
herself--to hurt her daughter and in that moment nothing was more
important than their safety. Reaching for the phone he called for
an ambulance Hugging her in his arms, he did his best to keep her warm
while waiting for help to arrive, “Just hold on Avery. Keep
holding on,” he whispered praying that Avery hadn’t done anything
stupid to her or her child. Still when he thought about Ken, he
found himself more terrified than ever as he knew full well that grief
was an evil emotion that when not properly channeled could take you
under. He just prayed it wasn’t too late for Avery.
Kyle sighed turning into the dearly deserted parking outside the
“Hunter’s café”. It took him at least thirty minutes to get
there because he got lost at one point in time after taking a wrong
turn, thus leaving him in a sour mood. He pulled into a spot and tried
to get out of the car, but it was stuck. He quickly jammed the door
with his shoulder and it came to a quick open.
“Damn car,” he scowled slamming the door shut with force behind the
He walked up to the door opening it slowly as he walked in. He looked
around and there weren’t many people there. Just a few in the corner
talking and some guy sitting at the bar. He turned his head only to
feel some touch his arm.
“What the…” he started before he saw the face of Shannon, “Oh, it’s
“Don’t sound too happy to see me,” she stated watching him pull the
sleeve of his leather coat down.
“Let’s just say I’m not happy at all,” he sighed as she led him to the
table. “So, what did you call me here for?”
“I found some information that might help out Grady,” she started
folding her arms out on top of the table.
“Okay, so what are you waiting for?” he questioned taking off his dark
shades and putting them in his pocket.
“You see, I was able to locate these papers,” she started taking out
some files from her bag handing them to him as she saw his eyes looking
over it, “In that it says that Kipp wasn’t really dead after he got
shot. Granted we all knew about the coma he was in, but from the
time of his release from the hospital I‘ve been unable to locate any
death certificate. That in itself is something to go on.”
His eyes trailed back up looking at her, “So that means Grady
didn’t kill him? Is that what you want me to go on? No
“There’s a point I’m getting to,” she informed him simply.
“Okay, so get to it,” he urged her on.
She watched him look back down to start reading again, “Well, if you
look in that you will see when he was in the hospital, Susan Hastings
took him out.”
“That’s weird. I‘d thought that only family could have the
authority to do that and given what I‘ve heard about Douglas Mahoney,
well I have to say he‘s probably having a royal fit about this one,” he
lightly said raising an eyebrow to set the papers down.
“Oh he is, but it gets even better,” she motioned to the page before
him watching him read.
His eyes popped up seconds later, “Do you know where she transferred
him or do they have any death records?”
“See that’s what I found odd, they didn’t. The only thing I know is the
place they took him to which was a mystery until tonight,” she started.
“Where might that be?” he questioned rubbing his slight beard.
“You see this is also weird…it doesn’t have a name, it’s right in the
middle of this town though,” she pointed to him as his hands grabbed
the map and looked.
“I should do some searching up here,” he sighed grabbing his jacket and
zipping it up.
“What about me, do you need anything else?” she wondered as he helped
“Yeah, just keep looking okay? I’ll call you if I find anything more on
this lead, I promise you that,” he nodded putting back on his shades.
“Alright, I will try best to help you out, that’s the best I could do
so far,” she shrugged.
“Believe me that was enough for a start, thanks this means a lot to
me,” he sighed pulling her into a hug as she froze.
“Uh, it’s not problem,” she stated patting his arm as she raised her
eyebrow in confusion. First, this guy was a hot head with her and then
he is hugging her.
“Thanks a lot,” he smiled as he let her go, “I have to get going, but
you will be hearing from me later.”
“Okay,” she nodded seeing him walk out the doors.
Blake took in a long breath exchanging a few words of support with
Seth. He squeezed her hand gently, giving her one last kiss
before she took the first bold move making the step inside to Johanna’s
hospital room. Much to Blake’s surprise Johanna was alone.
Luckily Zack wasn’t anywhere to be found. Drawing in yet another
calming breath, Blake tried to keep her composition about her.
“Johanna,” Blake spoke her long time rival’s name not knowing quite
what to expect.
“Blake,” Johanna greeted her with a polite smile, “I’m so glad you
could make it. I know it was rather short notice, but…”
“No, I don’t mind at all,” Blake lied trying to remain polite and in
control despite the fact that her stomach was tied in knots.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Johanna nodded in response, “because I really
think that we should have a talk.”
“Yeah, I think we should,” Blake nodded in agreement folding her arms
in front of her chest not really knowing where to start.
“Look Blake,” Johanna attempted to break the ice, “about what was going
“It’s in the past,” Blake waved her hand dismissively, “I know that’s
not probably what you were expecting me to say, but the truth is I’m
not going to be a problem for you and Zack. I don’t know if he
told you or not, but we said our good-byes. In fact, well Seth
and I are engaged now, so in it‘s own way this all worked out for the
best. You and Zack won‘t have to worry about my trying to destroy
“Actually Zack wasn’t really what I wanted about,” Johanna admitted a
bit nervously, “Granted, I won’t lie and tell you that a part of me
wasn’t concerned about the bond you and my husband have with one
“We’ll always have a bond Johanna, but I love Seth. He’s the man
who I was meant to spend my life with, just like you and Zack,” Blake
paused biting down on her lip for the briefest of moments before
forcing a smile, “you two belong together.”
“Do you really believe that one Blake?” Johanna arched a curious brow,
“Is that honestly how you feel?”
“Before the bombing,” Blake shook her head honestly, “No, I didn’t
think that you two were meant to be together. I’d already made up
my mind about Zack and I not being right for each other, but with you,
well I still had trouble believing that you were the one for him.
However, that all changed when you were fighting for your life--for
your baby’s life at the airport. Johanna, I won’t lie to you and
say that I ever thought highly of you, but when you fought like hell to
bring your little boy into the world, well I saw something that I think
Zack sees in you. I saw that you were more than I gave you credit
Johanna nodded taking her words in, “And I didn’t think too much about
you either Blake. In all honesty, I resented you for being the
one to have captured Zack’s heart like you did. I didn’t think
that I could compete…”
“It’s not a competition now,” Blake reminded her, “You have that dream
you’ve always wanted and I have mine.”
“Yet if you weren’t there that night, well I wouldn’t have had my dream
and for that I feel as if I should say thank you, but even that…well
that doesn’t even seem like it’s enough,” Johanna explained opening her
mouth to speak up once again before a nurse stepped into the room with
Cody in her arms.
“Hey mom, we’re back,” the nurse explained weaving her way through the
room towards Johanna before Seth popped his head inside the doorway as
“I know I should be waiting out in the hall, but when I saw the little
one,” Seth explained sheepishly, “well I had to take a closer look.”
“Come on in,” Johanna waved him inside with a bright grin, “as I was
hoping that Blake would be able to have a more formal meeting with Cody
since she’s his guardian angel.”
“Oh I wouldn’t go that far…” Blake began nervously, her eyes falling
upon the baby boy she’d helped bring into the world.
“Oh I would,” Johanna continued looking to the nurse, “In fact, why
don’t you let Blake hold him?”
“Oh I don’t know if I could…” Blake stammered a bit uneasily. She
opened her mouth to protest, but stopped herself when the nurse brought
Cody over to her.
“Of course you can,” Seth urged her on touching her shoulder gently.
“You think,” Blake’s questioning eyes tipped up to look at him before
Johanna spoke up encouragingly.
“It’s alright. He knows he’s safe with you,” Johanna smiled at
her giving her the green light to hold Cody. With the nurse’s
help, Blake accepted him into her arms. Immediately she fell in
love with the small boy in her arms. She could see so much of
Zack in him already and yet in just holding him she felt a sense of
pride sweep over her upon knowing that she helped bring him into the
world. That in itself had bowled her over with emotion.
“You look good with a little one in your arms,” Seth whispered moving
in behind her, resting his chin on her shoulder to get a better look at
Cody, “Hey buddy, how’s it going?”
Cody cooed in response before snuggling in closer to Blake.
“I think he likes you,” Johanna added with an encouraging smile, “and
who could blame him given all you’ve done for us?”
“I’m just glad that he’s okay,” Blake confessed with a smile seeing
that fate really did have a purpose for things after all. Turning her
attention up to Seth, she couldn’t help but grin wider not ignoring his
comment at all, “Think we may have to go back on what we told Brant
about a shotgun wedding there?”
“Nah, I think we’ll just push up the wedding date so that we can get a
jump start on a family of our own,” Seth whispered leaning in to kiss
her cheek gently just as Zack walked through the doors.
“You’re getting married. Since when?” Zack blurted out, surprise
evident in his voice as he looked to the both of them with questioning
eyes ready to hear the one thing they’d opted not to mention to him in
their previous conversation.
Diane entered her apartment complex feeling like the lowest of low
after she’d rushed home in the middle of the pouring rain. While
the day had started out nice enough, just about five minutes ago, a
great downpour hit when she was almost home again. On the walk
from J.T.’s place, she found herself lost in self-loathing more and
more with each passing second. Last night she set out to help
Jade, not to fall back into the destructive patterns that had dictated
her wild youth. She didn’t love J.T.--didn’t really even care
about him beyond annoyance, yet somehow she’d fallen into the same old
trap that had dictated her youth. Even now she shuddered at the
thoughts of what she’d done. Okay, so maybe some of it was
clouded by the alcohol, she’d consumed, but this was no doubt one of
the biggest mistakes in her life.
“One that you’ll never repeat again,” she vowed finally just tossing
the one shoe she’d carried home with her after realizing that walking
with one high heel on wasn’t going to cut it. Watching the show
fly around on the ground, she let out a hearty groan. Deciding
that right about now all she was going to do was lay down and die,
Diane headed up to her apartment.
“As if things could ever get any worse,” she silently cursed again
wishing that she could erase the last twenty four hours.
However, before she could work on erasing those hours that had clearly
marked a regression back to a part of her life that she’d long since
let go of, she found herself faced with an entirely new
situation. Her eyes widened as she noticed Ben seated on the
floor outside her apartment door. His knees were propped up as he
leaned forward, head in hands. She could see from his posture
that he was upset, but was it with her? Was it over what had
happened between them? In that moment she had so many questions
and no comfortable answers. Taking in a slow breath Diane found
the courage to approach him.
“Ben,” she spoke curtly, keeping her guard up after what she’d
witnessed with him and the brunette on the dance floor last
night. While she knew full well that she was no better than he
was now that she’d bedded J.T., she vowed not to let that show however
much it might’ve in that moment in time. Clearing her throat
again, she watched his eyes lift up over her body.
“Diane, what happened to you,” he questioned springing up to her feet
to reach out to her shoulder with obvious concern, “Are you okay?
Did someone hurt you?”
“No Ben, I…” Diane started before refusing to offer up any room to hang
herself, “That’s none of your business. What are you doing
here? Why are you outside my door?”
“I’m outside your door because I think it’s time for us to talk
Diane--really talk,” Ben explained in a cryptic tone, his eyes a mask
of seriousness as Diane wondered if somehow he knew what she’d done
last night. If that was the case, then there was no mistaking
she’d lost him for sure!