Episode 150

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 curious brow.
“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 one another.”
“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 pregnant?”
“What?” she blinked back at him, her jaw dropping down nearly to the ground.
“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 things slowly.”
“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 them.
“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 once again.
“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 haunted him.
“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 line.
“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 kitchen.
“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 endeavor.
“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 heavy sigh.
“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 Blake Ashford?”
“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 last night.”
“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 go.”
“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 much more.”
“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 with? 
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 stepped into. 
“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 psychopaths. 
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 there.
“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 grown.
“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 humiliation.


“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 bombing.”
“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 really tired.”
“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…”
“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 you are.”
“Jen, I’m being serious here,” he sighed in frustration, “I know this complicates things.”
“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 dangerous surprises.


“Thanks,” Sarah smiled grabbing the bag that the man hand out in front of her.

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 laughed.

“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 intimidating way.

“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, “Trust me.”
“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 was in.
“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 wasn’t crazy.
“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 you Avery?”
“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, “Avery?  Anyone?”
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 obvious concern.
“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 slipped into.
“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 slam.

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 you.”

“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 death certificate?”

“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 her up.

“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 on before…”
“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 your family…”
“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 another…”
“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 for being.”
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 well.
“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!


...to be continued...