Episode 151

J.T. took a long look around his apartment thinking about the night he’d had with Diane.  It was almost too good to be true, he thought to himself remembering oh too well how wonderful they truly were with one another.  Sure, he’d been with other women since they’d split, but nothing could ever truly quench that desire that he’d had for her.  Last night had opened the door to his ache, offering up a supreme fulfillment for him and now he knew there would be no turning back. 
Of course he hadn’t really been surprised to wake up alone as he knew that it always took Diane longer to figure things out.  That’s just how they worked.  He would try to convince her that they were made to be together and she’d run off to find some loser of the moment to convince her that he was what she needed.  In reality however the end was always where it was meant to be--with her in his arms.  Last night wasn’t the first time she’d succumbed to what they felt for one another and he was quite certain it wouldn’t be the last either.
“You’ll be back Diane,” J.T. smiled noticing her shoe in his fish tank.  He chuckled as he stepped towards it wondering how in earth he should even start on getting it out, “and when you do, well this time nothing is going to keep it from lasting.”
Whistling a tune to himself, J.T. passed on the shoe in the fish tank, instead making his way over to the kitchen area.  He could use a good drink right about now to erase the lingering side effects of his dry throat.  Surely last night had given him enough action for now, but after a good breakfast, he knew exactly where he was going to head out to.  Diane might be reluctant, but he’d win her over.  Last night was a good indication of that.
J.T. stepped into his kitchen surveying what he had laying around his nearly empty fridge, when he heard a knock coming from his front door.  Standing up straighter, J.T. couldn’t help but grin proudly.
“So you’ve come to your senses sooner this time,” he mused ready to enjoy this moment of victory.  Closing the refrigerator door, he stepped over to the entrance to his apartment and drew in a slow breath preparing himself for the moment he’d waited quite a long time for.  Opening the door in a confident, cocky air, he allowed his grin to widen, “I knew you’d be back for me.”
“Well, it’s nice to know you don’t believe I’ve written you off,” Cameron noted with a curious expression, “but something tells me that you weren’t expecting it to be me on the other end here.”
“Let’s just say that I was hoping you’d be the lady I spent the night with last night,” J.T. opened the door further inviting him inside, “but I’ll catch up with her later.”
“It sounds very promising,” Cameron eyed him intently, “Care to share?”
“Well, let’s just say that my plans are moving faster than I anticipated.  Diane’s no longer in denial about the fact that we’re meant to be together,” J.T. boasted before heading into his kitchen once again, “You could say that fate had a plan for us last night.”

“Plans that clearly included something very interesting and arousing huh,” Cameron noted the shoe in the fish tank.
“And then some,” J.T. nodded returning with a beer in hand, “Want one?”
“I’ll pass,” Cameron shook his head in response watching his half-brother take a seat on the chair before him, “So I take it you’re not interested in my help any longer.”
“Are you kidding,” J.T. blinked back at him, “Cam, I’m always interested in whatever it is you’re offering.”
“Well what if I told you that your alliance with Diane could benefit the both of us,” Cameron took a seat on another one of J.T.’s broken down chairs.  “What would you say to that?”
“I’d say that I’m listening,” J.T. added curiously, “What’s your angle on this one?”
“It turns out that not only is Diane the object of your affection, but she happens to be close to mine,” Cameron grinned wickedly.
“She’s friends with your wife,” J.T. blinked back in confusion before giving Cameron a strange sideways glance, “Cam, what kind of woman did you marry?”
“Not the kind you’re thinking about, but I’d like to,” Cameron informed him point blank, “You see my wife is well…she’s means to an end.  Perhaps I should start by saying that she just delivered her son recently--or rather I should say Kipp’s son.”
“Kipp’s son,” J.T. practically choked on his beer, “No kidding.  I’m surprised that little weasel could even get laid…let alone by your wife.  Come to think of it, what’s up with that?”
“My wife is a gold digging aspiring model who was under the strange misconception that being around Kipp could advance her career,” Cameron explained with a dismissive sigh.
“But Douglas came to town to make sure that wasn’t going to happen,” J.T. nodded in complete understanding, “but still…how is it that you are married to her?”
“Douglas hates the idea of my playing step-father to Kipp’s child, but I really don’t give a damn,” Cameron shrugged.
“Now that’s where I know you’re lying,” J.T. replied wiggling the neck of the beer bottle between his fingers, “You’re loving every minute of it, if it means that Pops is miserable.”
“Okay, so I’m guilty as charged, but that’s irrelevant to what’s going on right now with you,” Cameron leaned forward in his seat, “You see your girlfriend happens to be best friends with a woman named Jade Alexander.  Perhaps you’ve heard of her…”
“Heard of her,” J.T. laughed lightly, “Oh I’ve more than heard of her Cam.  She and I knew one another when we were younger.  Hell there was this one time when…well, never mind…”
“When what,” Cameron’s eyes widened with obvious interest.
“It’s not really important,” J.T. waved his hand in the air dismissively before catching the expression on Cameron’s face.  Finally he let out a reluctant sigh of honesty, “Let’s just say that Jade and I know one another on a rather intimate level.  Can we leave it at that?”
Cameron’s face immediately darkened before he cleared his throat, “As long as it stays that way J.T. because I would hate to have to see our understanding fall to pieces.”
“So let me get this straight,” J.T. eyed his brother with obvious interest, “You’re hot for Jade and your wife is…?”
“Irrelevant,” Cameron blurted out with a heavy frown, “Jade belongs to me and as it stands there is this particular problem that keeps getting in my way…”
“Such as?”
“Grady Denton,” Cameron explained seeing nothing register in J.T.’s face, “He’s the lawyer she’s dating…”
“Oh wait, I think I heard the name.  Isn’t he the guy that they’re saying shot Kipp and…” J.T. questioned after a moment of silence.
“He’s the one,” Cameron nodded, “and while I’ve done everything I can to try to persuade Jade into coming to me freely, she’s having a bit of a problem with that.  Her loyalty to Grady is a bit of a bother that I’d like to see eliminated.”
“And you’re asking me to do what exactly,” J.T. gave him a sideways glance.
“To just keep your eyes and ears open.  From what I’ve gathered Diane is Jade’s best friend and if by some chance Jade happens to pass information onto Diane…” Cameron trailed off.
“You’d be happy if I just so happened to bring it to you as well,” J.T. nodded in complete understanding before taking another swig from the bottle in hand, “Yeah, I think I can handle that one.”
“Good because I think your taste in women might prove quite useful to me in this particular cause along with another one that’s been on my mind involving BBK Pharmaceuticals.  That one can wait for a little while as I have it covered for the time being, but still…”
“Of course,” J.T. nodded once again, “Anything you need, you know all you have to do is ask and I’m there for you bro.”
“Somehow I knew you would be,” Cameron replied with a pleased smile, “You didn’t take after your pathetic excuse for a father in that department.”
“Thank God,” J.T. chuckled before his face grew suddenly serious, “though Cam…there is one more thing I was hoping we could talk about.  I was going to wait, but since you’re here…”
“What’s on your mind,” Cameron questioned sensing J.T.’s need to ask him something of importance.
“With Diane, well we’re just getting back into the swing of things, but like your situation with Jade, well there’s this guy and I just don’t think that…” J.T. shifted the beer bottle around in his hands for a brief moment.
“That you want him being around to pose a problem with you and Diane?” Cameron arched a curious brow.
“Something along those lines,” J.T. nodded, “Think you might be able to help me out in that department?”
“Tell me his name and I’ll see what I can do,” Cameron agreed quickly.
“Ben.  Ben Walters,” J.T. explained a sudden seriousness in his voice, “and as far as I’m concerned I want him out of Diane’s life--permanently.”
“Consider it done,” Cameron promised adding fuel to the fire in J.T.’s quest to make Diane his all over again.


Diane watched Ben for a long moment, feeling her heart pounding in her chest while fear raced over her every synapse.  If Ben discovered the truth--if somehow he knew about last night, well it would spell disaster for her in ways she hadn’t even really thought of until this moment in time.  Still, there was something about the expression on his face that had her hoping that maybe just maybe she was reading too much into this.  Immediately on the defense, she stood up straighter.
“Why should I listen to a word you have to say,” Diane challenged stubbornly hoping to convey a message that showed him she wouldn’t break down.
“Because I think we owe it to one another to just quit with the games and have a little honesty between us,” Ben stated bluntly, his eyes reaching down deep into that part of her that was overcome with raging guilt.
“Honesty,” she balked back at him deflecting from her own nagging worries, “Yeah, like you’d know the meaning of the word.  Tell me Ben, why are you really here?  Come to lecture me on Deidra once again?”
“No, that’s not it at all,” Ben shook his head at her watching her pace around the hallway, “Listen, can we just do this inside.”
“No,” she stomped her foot down, spinning around to face him again, “we’ll do this right here and now because I’m not sure I even want to let you into my apartment right about now.”
“Fine, but just remember I wanted to take this inside,” he replied with a slight frown, “Diane, I came here to see you this morning because these past few days without you have been hell on me.  I know that you seem to have it in your mind that I’ve been moving on without you, but the truth is that I’m miserable without you.  I wish to hell that I didn’t feel like I do, but the truth is that without you, well without you…”
“You’re quite content seeking out life’s pleasures from someone else, right,” she shot back at him icily catching the wounded expression on his face, “I mean that’s really it, right Ben?”
“Diane, for God’s sake would you just listen to me about what you saw the other day?  Carly is a co-worker of mine.  Chavez was breathing down my throat about not getting her the information fast enough and Carly and I were just touching base on the subject…” he explained himself.
“Oh right and touching base just happens to take place over a romantic, intimate lunch, huh?” she folded her arms in front of her chest.
“Diane, what you walked in on was a business meeting.  There was nothing more going on.  I’m not interested in Carly or any other woman, but you for that matter…” Ben continued with obvious desperation in his tone.
“Sure,” she balked back with a shake of her head, “You just expect to keep feeding me these lies all morning, don’t you?”
“Lies,” Ben blinked back at her, “Diane, it’s true.”
“Okay, so say I believe you about that one, then explain what I saw last night,” she challenged with a heavy frown, “Who was the bimbo you were making out with on dance floor?”
“Dance floor,” he repeated before understanding settled in over him, “Diane, you have to be kidding me.”
“I’m not joking in the least Ben.  I saw you with her practically going at it on the dance floor,” she continued biting down on her lower lip as tears stung at her eyes.  It was bad enough that she had a hangover and endured sleeping with J.T. in a moment of drunken stupidity, but now to have to think about what she saw Ben doing last night, well it was just too much.
“I don’t believe this,” Ben blinked back at her in confusion, “You mean you were there last night at the bar and you didn’t try to talk to me?”
“How could I when you and Miss Thing were all up on each other?” she shouted, her voice raising with emotion, “I think that pretty much told me what our relationship meant to you.”
“Diane, I was with Valerie last night,” he informed her point blank realizing that it didn’t register behind her dark eyes, “Valerie Madison…”
“Valerie Madison,” she repeated blinking back at him before a gasp fell from her lips, “You mean Seth’s Valerie?”
“The one and the only,” Ben nodded at her before offering up a shrug, “Granted she and Seth obviously aren’t together anymore, but she was staying with Ria.  I went over Ria’s last night to talk to her about what was going on with us.  When I got there, I discovered that not only had Ria been called in for another shift at the hospital, but that Valerie was staying with her.  Apparently Valerie had some big shoot nearby and Ria offered her a place to stay for the time being.”
“But why were you with her then,” Diane questioned in confusion, “Why go out dancing?”
“I didn’t want to, but Valerie twisted my arm.  She said she was having cabin fever from being locked up in Ria’s place all day long, so I took her out.  I didn’t think anything about it considering that I’ve known Valerie about as long as I’ve known Ria…”
“But she looked so different,” Diane insisted with a shake of her head, “The last time I saw her, she was…”
“Very different,” Ben nodded thinking to the woman who had at one time held his best friend’s heart, “Though I guess you can see what touring the world does to a woman…”
“But still for me not to recognize her and then to think…” Diane’s jaw practically dropped as she thought back to the moment in time she’d asked J.T. to take her home.  Turning away, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest, leaping out of control now that her worst fears were becoming a reality.  All the things she’d thought about Ben were completely untrue, but with what she did…
“Diane, I love you,” Ben blurted out from beyond the thoughts swirling around in her head, “and I know what I said to you before, but I was wrong.  While I won’t pretend that I’m happy about the way you treated her the other day, the fact remains that I can’t hold that relationships against you.  I had no right to issue an ultimatum like that and I’m sorry.”
“You are,” she questioned with obvious surprise spinning around to see him standing right behind her.
“Yes, I am,” Ben touched her cheek gently, “Diane, I love you and while I know that you weren’t feeling that the other day, the only reason I said what I did was because I hate to see you so upset.  When I heard what you were saying to Deidra…”
“I was angry and hurting,” Diane replied unable to hold back her tears, “but I never, ever wanted that to be the thing that caused me to lose you.”
“I’m sorry that I made you feel as if you had,” he spoke in a soothing tone, wiping the tears from her face before cupping her cheeks in his hands gently, “However, after everything was said and done, I realized that I couldn’t lose you.  I’m not the same without you and while I’m sure that puts me in a position to be committed in a padded cell, the truth to the matter is that I’m head over heels in love with you Diane Stevens.”
“Oh Ben,” she broke down into full blown tears throwing her arms around him and refusing to let go, “I love you so much.  I love you.  I love you.”
“I love you too,” he whispered against her hair squeezing her in against his chest, “and I’m sorry that things had to take a turn for the worst before I set my priorities straight.”
“No, I’m the one who should apologize,” Diane replied pulling back just enough to meet his eyes, “I never should’ve gone that far with Deidra.  I was just so angry and words kept flying and…”
“It’s over Diane,” he placed his finger over her lips to silence her, “I hope that one day you and Deidra can resolve this issue between you, but that isn’t up to me.  You have to do it in your own time and place…”
“Ben, it’s just that…” Diane paused too choked up on emotion to continue.
“Diane, it’s okay,” he brushed her tears away from her face, leaning down to kiss her tenderly.
“No, it’s not okay,” she shook her head unable to refrain from sobbing, “Ben, I’ve spent my whole life being this incredible screw up.  I’ve always been second best when it came to my family.  Deidra was the one who did everything the right way--the one that everyone was proud of, but I…well I wasn’t all of those things.  No one did for me what they did for Deidra…and overtime, well I guess I just accepted that I was different…”
“Diane,” he spoke her name seeing some of her old animosities breaking through the surface to reveal their true beginnings.
“When I had that thing for Andy, he really made me believe that I was the only one.  I really thought that I was special when he was around, but when he married Deidra,” she sniffled, “It just showed me all over again that I was only second best.”
“You’re not second best Diane.  You’ve never been that way,” Ben offered up hating to see her so upset.
“No Ben, I was.  I always have been--that is until you came into my life,” she admitted freely, “You didn’t care about all the other things that were wrong with me.  You loved me for me--in spite of my flaws and you gave me a chance to really feel like I was the most beautiful woman alive.  Ben, I love you so very much and when I thought I lost you…when I thought you were going to walk out of my life forever…”
“I would never do that Diane.  Yes, I was stupid and hasty in making a really bad decision, but I swear to you that I’ll never do it again.  I’ll never walk away from you at a time when you need me,” he vowed descending in closer to her to steal a kiss from her lips.  Tasting the saltiness of her tears upon her mouth, he gently caressed her lips to sweet surrender.
Diane whimpered at the contact realizing how very close she could come to losing him and in that moment nothing mattered more than holding onto him.  He was the only man who really understood her, who ever loved her like she’d wanted to be loved and she couldn’t let him go.  Throwing her arms around his shoulders, she felt him pull her up off of the ground into his arms.  Their kisses grew in intensity until she found herself fully in his arms.
“Ben,” she spoke his name, her hands running wildly over the contours of his body.  Their mouths parted as their passion-filled gazes locked in a moment of desperation, “don’t leave me.”
“Never again,” he swore to her devouring her lips again with a newfound intensity.  Sliding her legs down over his body, Diane put her feet to the ground again before her palms pressed in underneath his shirt, easing it up over his perfectly sculpted torso.  Within a matter of seconds things between them had heated up to a fevered pitch with no moment of cool down evident between them.
“Diane,” he spoke her name as his palms cupped her bottom, aggressively pulling her flush against him.  He began to nibble on her neck, feeling her skin ablaze with passion as he held her.  Gently he whispered into her ear, the warmth of his words like fire grazing her flesh with each clear word, “maybe we should take a bit slower.”

“And miss out on the time we could spend making up,” she tossed back at him in a low, sultry tone, allowing her long hair to sweep back over her shoulders.

Ben stood in silence for a long moment realizing that she had a very good and valid point.  Shifting in against her, he lowered his lips to taste her skin again before offering up yet another tantalizing round of kisses, “At the very least we should probably take this into your apartment.”
“I think you’re right,” Diane nodded in agreement fumbling for her purse.  Seconds later, she found her keys, but not before she threw her arms around Ben, ready to savor each and every moment they shared with one another.  Now that they were together again, she made a promise to herself not to screw this up--not to do or say anything foolish.  She loved him.  He was her one true destiny--her soul mate and nothing could keep them apart again…not even a mistake like J.T. 


Blake blinked back at Zack surprised by his tone as he entered the room to glare at her and Seth.  She stood taller, holding Cody closer to her as Zack moved in towards her and Seth.
“When did you two decide to get married?” Zack questioned again clearly shell-shocked by the news he’d just received.
“Since when did it matter to you,” Blake replied sharply, not liking his tone.  Glancing over across the room at Johanna, she could see that Johanna too was surprised by Zack’s demeanor.
“Since I kind of figured we all cleared the ice and got everything out in the open,” Zack admitted with a slight frown before taking a step back.  He held in his breath before speaking up again, “I mean I guess I just didn’t think that you two would be engaged yet.”
“Do you have a problem with that,” Seth questioned gruffly making no mistake about the fact that if Zack said the wrong thing, the situation might be getting rather ugly rather fast.
“No,” Zack answered quickly shaking his head with the word, “not at all.  It’s just that…well, I guess I wasn’t expecting you two to be moving so fast after everything…”
“I actually think it’s wonderful that Blake and Seth were reunited,” Johanna piped in from her hospital bed across the way, “It shows that true love can win out against the odds after all.”
Zack’s attention returned to his wife and almost immediately that flicker of emotion that had passed through his eyes disappeared.  He nodded before looking to Blake, Seth and Cody again.
“Yes,” he spoke up, “I suppose that is what I’m seeing…”
“Seth and I are very happy together,” Blake blurted out in a strong warning tone that let Zack know under no particular circumstances that she wasn’t about to let him rethink the talk he had with her and Seth in the hallway a couple of days ago.
“I can see that,” Zack nodded again letting go of that instinctive feeling to get worked up about the situation, “and I also see that my son is working his way into charming you.”
“He doesn’t have to work at doing it,” Blake replied focusing on Cody once again, “It comes naturally with him.”
“He gets that from his father,” Zack boasted.
“Yeah right,” Blake and Johanna said in unison before exchanging curious looks with one another.  Finally the two let out small laughs unable to control themselves.
“I think Cody has his mother’s eyes,” Seth added still weary of the situation with Zack.  “He’s a beautiful boy.”
“Thank you,” Johanna smiled in response, “I happen to think he looks more like his father, but I’m hoping that in the future he’ll have my temperament.”
“If that happens, then we’ll all be doomed,” Zack teased before extending his arms out to Blake, “Let me see my boy.”
“Alright,” she nodded taking a step towards Zack, “Here we are.  Here’s your daddy Cody.”
“Come here son,” Zack hugged Cody in his arms before exchanging one last look with Blake.  Finally Blake took a step back smiling at him.
“Well, I think we’re about finished here,” Johanna noted feeling herself a bit unsure about the obvious situation before her now that Zack and Blake were face to face again.
“I think we are too,” Blake nodded in confession, shifting her focus to Johanna, “And Johanna, thank you for calling me over here today.  It meant a lot that you had me come over and see Cody.  He’s an amazing boy.”
“Who had an amazing woman bring him into the world,” Johanna added with a soft smile.
“Yeah and he gets to call her his mother,” Blake informed her with yet another smile, “because in all honesty Johanna as much as you’re giving me credit for this one, you did all the work.  I just freaked out and happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
“For all of us,” Zack added, “and I don’t know how we can ever repay you for what you’ve done.”
“Just be happy together,” Blake curled her arm around Seth’s waist, “just like we are.”
“We’ll do that,” Zack promised watching Blake and Seth exit the hospital room.  Once they were gone, he looked to his wife again.
“So, tell me Zack, now that you know about Blake and Seth, is this the point in time when you start asking me for a divorce,” she questioned, clearly shaken by what she’d witnessed between Blake and Zack.  “Is this the part where you tell me you made a mistake and that you want to go after her?”
“No,” he shook his head adamantly carrying Cody over to the bed with him.  He took a seat beside her, his eyes shifting between her and their son, “Jo, this is the part where I tell you that you and Cody are everything I’ve ever wanted in my life and that no matter how hard you try to get rid of me, it’s not going to happen.  I won’t let you push me away.”
“But about before…when you came in here and heard Blake and Seth talking…” she blinked back at him in confusion.
“They’ve been through a lot together,” Zack confessed with a heavy sigh, “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think that they were jumping the gun there, but in the same breath, I can’t tell Blake what to do with her life.”
“But you wanted to,” she added catching that distanced look behind his eyes.
“Yeah, I did, but you know what, it’s not my place any longer,” he sighed heavily, “My place is with you and Cody.”
“Because you want to be here or because you made a promise to own up to your obligation,” Johanna asked stiffly, still refusing to think the best for the both of them.
“Because I love you Jo.  Because I love our son and because I want to have a future for us,” he reached out to touch her cheek gently while holding Cody close to him, “I’m here because this is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life and now that I have it with you, I’m not going to blow it ever again.  Jo, I’m not going to make the same mistake twice in a lifetime in losing you again.”
“And Blake?” she arched a doubtful brow, “What happens when the day comes when you feel that way about her?”
“As much as I felt for Blake, it doesn’t change what I feel about you.  Jo, when we got married, I know it wasn’t under the best of situations.  I know you didn’t believe I was sincere about this commitment we made to one another and maybe at the time…well maybe I wasn’t nearly as into it with my whole heart as I should’ve been.  You deserved a day of magic and romance and I slighted you on that.  I never should’ve had you feeling like you were second choice in my life.  Johanna Vaughn, you are my heart, my soul and the one woman I was meant to love in this lifetime.  In fact,” he paused a wide grin spreading over his features, “When you, Cody and I get home again, well I think maybe we should work on making you believe how true those words really are…”
“Zack I…” she paused thinking about what he’d just said, “Home?”
“That’s right,” he nodded in response, “I know we talked about the possibility of going back to Seattle with one another…”
“Yes, but we didn’t ever really come up with a conclusion about…” she began only to be cut off by his lips descending down upon hers.
“We didn’t have to,” Zack whispered as they parted from their kiss, “I put in my two weeks notice today.”
“You what,” she blinked back at him, “but why?”
“Because I know that back in Seattle is where we were meant to be.  You have your career out there and with the hospital, well hey, they were tossing out offers left and right to keep me.  I was stubborn, but I talked to Tom the other day and he’s offered me a position--much more lucrative I might add, for when we return.”
“You mean we’re really doing this,” she questioned with wide eyes.
“Yes Jo, we’re really doing this,” he replied bending down to kiss her once again, “because as I told you before my heart and my home is with you.  You and Cody are everything to me and I’m sure that this is the right decision.  Hell, it’s the only decision…for all of us,” he finished sliding in beside her to share a moment with their son knowing full well that fate had brought him exactly where he was meant to be.


Kyle opened the doors of the Coral Courier walking in slowly. He looked over towards Mindy’s desk walking behind her as he put his hands on her shoulders.

“Oh my god,” she stood straight up in a hurry, “Kyle! You scared the crap out of me!”

He laughed feeling her hit him lightly, “I’m sorry, I just need some help.”

“With?” she questioned raising an eyebrow seeing him smile.

“I need to use the computer in Russ’s office, for some research,” he stated taking off his shades.

“Sure, but what for?” she questioned following him into Russell’s old office.

“I need to do some work on Grady’s case, for Russell,” he sighed walking over to the desk.

“You miss him don’t you?” she questioned seeing him look down to a picture of Russell and Avery lying lightly on Russell’s desk.

He picked it up in his hands and rubbed his head lightly feeling that pain run through his stomach, “Yeah,” he nodded setting the picture and sighing.

“I miss him too, I really do,” she started walking towards him wrapping her arms around his big torso.

“I know,” he whispered wrapping his big arms around her and he rested his chin on top of her head.

“I can’t believe he is gone,” she sniffed hugging him tighter.

“I know,” he started, “Which is why I have to look after his brother for him.”

He let her go and went to the computer turning it on, “You looking up the files on Kipp?” she questioned resting her hands on his muscled shoulders.

“What ever I can find will help out,” he stated opening up Russ’s files.

He skimmed them over until he found the files on, “That doesn’t seem right.”

“What?” she questioned.

“You see they say Grady shot him, but he left the place and Kipp and him had a verbal fight.”

“Every murderer does that,” she shrugged seeing his turn to look at her before shaking his head and looking back to the computer.

He pulled up another file seeing it involved Susan, “That’s interesting,” he shrugged reading what was before him.

“What?” she questioned.

“Do you need to know everything?” he questioned with a grin.

“Hey, if you don’t want me to know, then don’t say things out loud,” she stated leaning towards the computer.

“Alright,” he laughed, “It says that Susan Hastings had involvement with Cameron Stone.”

“What does that do to help you out?” she wondered.

“It tells me that my sources are looking to be in the right track,” he sighed getting up and turning around to face her.

“What did your sources say?” she questioned touching his arm.

“Well, it says that Kipp’s murder or disappearance may have something to do with Susan,” he started getting up and taking off his jacket throwing it on the chair.

“Okay,” she nodded.

“I need you to help me out with a favor,” he stated folding his arms in front of him.

“Sure, what do you need?”

“Well, I’m not really good with these computers, so I was wondering if you want to help me look some thing up,” he shrugged as she walked over to the chair.

“Sure,” she started pulling up to the computer, “What do you want me to search up?”

“Anything you can find having to do with Kipp’s murder, Susan Hastings, and that airport incident,” he sighed, “I have to find out who killed my best friend.”

“Okay, it’s no problem…I don’t mind helping you out,” she touched his arm lightly.

“Thanks, really,” he smiled kissing her cheek lightly, “This is really going to help me out a lot.”

“It’s no problem, alright lets see what I can pull up,” she started looking through the files.

“Let’s just see how good you are,” he smiled resting his hand on the desk watching her look through all the files.

Brant paced the long, white hallway wondering what was going on behind the closed doors with Avery.  When the ambulance had arrived he’d stayed with her--gone on the ride to this particular place, but once she’d been taken in to see the doctors he’d been in this very place for what felt like forever.  Even now he could feel his palms sweating, his stomach tied in knots and nothing seemed right.  Why hadn’t someone spoken with him?  What was taking so long?  Was Avery and the baby alright?  Where were the answers when he needed them?

“Brant,” Don Leveski called out to him from the room just off the left.  Seeing his long time doctor friend before him, Brant raced over to his side.
“Don, give me some good news here,” Brant pleaded with him knowing that his friend was less than thrilled about this sudden out of the blue visit to the small private hospital.
“Brant, now you know I don’t normally do this and considering that this was a last minute favor…” Don’s eyes narrowed with a slight frown.
“Don, look I couldn’t take her to the regular hospital.  I mean yeah I suppose I could’ve, but given what she’s been through--well I just wanted a second opinion and you’re one of the best,” Brant stopped himself, a sudden seriousness sweeping over him, “Don, just tell me straight.  What’s going on?”
“I was hoping you could give me more answers on that one,” Don replied honestly, “I mean for her to come in like that…what was going on leading up to the fall?”
“I don’t know,” Brant admitted honestly thinking about what he’d walked in on, “but what about the baby?”
“Everything checks out Brant.  Avery and her daughter are going to be fine, but I’m sure that her regular doctor could’ve told you that,” Don informed him point blank.  “She needed some stitches but…”
“But what?  What about that wound on her arm?” Brant questioned unable to contain his fears that had been overwhelming him since he and Avery had been separated.
“She must’ve got some glass wedged in it during the fall,” Don offered up in response, “You said it was a glass, shower door, right?”
Brant nodded, “So then it wasn’t…”
“Self inflicted,” Don finished for him knowing too well where Brant was headed with his questioning.
“Not that I’m saying she would, but her husband just died and…” Brant began worry evident in his tone.
“In my professional opinion what happened was just a result of the spill she took out of the shower.  Avery doesn’t really remember anything more than waking up a little while ago.  She mentioned something about saying good-bye to her father and wanting to get a jump start on her day, but that’s about all I got out of here.  Given the trauma she’s been through and the grief you mentioned she was experiencing, her fainting wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.  It’s just something that you might want to keep an eye on.  I ran a tox screening on her just in case.  If anything shows up, I’ll tell you…though at this point I’m guessing that nothing is there since the first round came back looking pretty good.”
“Thank God,” Brant let out a relieved sigh, “So, is she awake?  Can I go see her?”
Don nodded, “She’s awake and she’s a bit shaken up, so just be gentle with her.”
“Okay, I’ll do that,” Brant replied reaching out to shake his friend’s hand, “And Don, I owe you one.”
“You owe me about a hundred, but we’ll take it up at the next stockholder’s meeting at BBK given that I’ve heard about the competition you’ve got going with Stone Corp.  It’s beyond brutal what they’re doing right now to try to sabotage you,” Don shook his head sympathetically.
“Yeah well I’m not taking it laying down…speaking of which,” Brant paused for a long moment, “How would you feel about coming in to speak with the head of my research team?”
“Me?” Don blinked back at him.
“Sure, why not,” Brant nodded in response, “I mean Michael is brilliant, but he could use some advice--maybe some help on getting things moving…”
“You mean faster than Stone is doing so that you don’t lose out on this particular profit potential,” Don arched a curious brow.
“More like I’d rather know that things can be moved quickly and smoothly.  If Michael had you working with him, then maybe some of your talent and expertise would pour over into his efforts,” Brant suggested again.
“Now I know you’re just trying to kiss up to me,” Don shook his head at him, “but given that I like you so much Ashford, I may just stop in and see what I can do.  After all, being on the board does have me curious about my investments.”
“Somehow I knew I could tempt you,” Brant offered his hand once again before the two men shook on it, “And listen thanks again for what you did tonight with Avery.”
“I didn’t do anything, but work up a few stitches.  The rest of the healing is going to be hard on her and more than anything she just needs someone to be there to listen,” Don continued honestly with a troubled expression, “Given what I know about Avery, well this is going to be anything but easy on her.”
“You’re telling me,” Brant sighed saying his good-byes to his friend before Don left to check up on the rest of Avery’s blood work. 
Taking in a slow breath, Brant focused upon the door in front of him.  He wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he entered the room.  Still his worries about Avery guided him inside.  Opening the door, he took a long look just beyond where he stood to see her laying in the hospital bed, looking out the window at the day just beyond the four walls that surrounded her.  Carefully Brant closed the door behind himself, noticing the Avery appeared to still be lost in her own, silence.
“Avery,” Brant spoke her name making his way up to her bedside.  Slowly, her gaze shifted from the window to him revealing the clearly broken emotions that weighed down upon her.  Her eyes were glazed over with the tears she’d clearly been trying to suppress and in that instant, Brant couldn’t help but reach out to her.
“Brant, how did I get here,” Avery questioned in confusion, “I mean one minute I was at home and then I woke up and they told me that you brought me here…”
“I went over to the house to see you--to make sure that you were okay and I found you in your bathroom passed out on the floor,” he confessed taking a seat on the edge of her bed, “I panicked and I brought you here instead of the other hospital.  My friend Don…well, you know him.  He’s one of the best and I knew that he’d figure out what is going on…”
“You mean he’d figure out how I got this,” she motioned to the bandage over her arm.  Her dark eyes returned to his again as she inhaled slowly, “You were afraid I did this on purpose, weren’t you?”
“Avery no,” he started to lie to her knowing full well that she would be able to read him like a book.  Finally he nodded, “Yeah, I was kind of worried about that.  I know how upset you were about losing Russ and when I saw you like that, well…I was just afraid…”
“That what?” she blinked back at him, “That I’d just kill myself and my daughter because people choose to make me think my husband is dead?”
“Avery, I know how much stress you’ve been under and…” he started once again.
“Brant, I didn’t try to kill myself.  In fact last night I saw him,” Avery blurted out in all seriousness, “I saw Russ last night.”
“You what?” he questioned in confusion.
“He was calling to me.  No one wants to believe me, but I heard him.  He was there outside our home.  I saw him with my own eyes and even today,” she paused, her head tipping down to look at the sheet she now had tangled around her fingers.
“Today what,” Brant asked sensing there was something more to what she wasn’t saying.
“I saw him again,” Avery informed him with a muted voice.  Turning her eyes up to him again, he could see the tears forming behind her eyes, “He came to me again.”
“When I was in the shower he was there,” Avery insisted, her voice shaky with emotion, “He came to be with me and then…well…then…”
“Then what,” Brant questioned.
“Then I woke up here, but Brant I swear to you Russ was there.  He was with me,” Avery’s voice rose with emotion as she noted the sad, pathetic expression that crossed over his features.  She knew that look only too well.  She’d seen it with Cheryl and with Elliot and even her father earlier in the morning.  Feeling suddenly defensive she sat up straighter, “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”
“No, Avery, I don’t think that at all.  I know you’ve been under a lot of stress lately and for you to have to deal with losing Russ on top of everything else…” he began.
“Brant, he’s not dead.  I’m telling you that I saw him with my own eyes.  I felt him holding me…felt him kiss me before I blacked out,” Avery continued adamantly, “He wanted me to be with him--to go to him, but…”
“But what…” Brant touched her shoulder gently, watching her tears consume her.
“But then he was gone.  He disappeared and I couldn’t find him.  Brant, my husband is alive.  I know it, but something is keeping him from me…someone is trying to tear us apart…to make me believe the worst when I know in my heart…” she stopped herself, choked up on emotion as her tears consumed her, “Oh God, I am going crazy, aren’t I?”
“No, Avery you’re not crazy,” Brant shook his head immediately pulling her into his arms and hugging her with all he had in him, “You just want to believe.  You want to see things the way you hoped they would be.”
“I just don’t understand how he could be there one minute and then the next leave me like that,” she sobbed into his chest, “Brant, he knows how much I need him--how much our daughter needs him and now he’s not here.  He promised he would always be there for us, but he’s gone.  He’s gone Brant…I‘m all alone and Russ is…he‘s…Brant, why won‘t he just come back?”
“I wish is was that simple,” he whispered in a soft, soothing tone.
“Why can’t he see how much we need him?  How much I need him?  Brant, I just wish…oh God, why is this happening?  Why can’t I just shake this feeling that’s come over me?  Why…” she drifted off overcome with tears all over again.
“Avery, I know this is hard, but I promise you that you’re not alone,” he spoke soothingly, hoping to find a way to help her through this difficult time.
“If he’s gone, then yes, yes I am.  I mean if I’m really going crazy then this is only going to get worse,” Avery continued poignantly, “If Russ is really dead and I keep seeing him, then something is clearly going on inside my head.  I’m losing my mind and…”
“And you’re overwhelmed.  Your heart so desperately wants to believe what you know to be contrary.  You and Russ had something special together and you want to believe that it could last forever,” he reached out to touch her cheek, urging her to look up at him, “In some ways it will last forever Avery.  Even after what happened, he’ll always be here…”
“But…” she started thinking about the vivid images of her husband she’d been having.  They just seemed too real to be hallucinations.
“Avery, he’s still very much alive inside of you.  He’s there with that precious baby girl of yours and he would want you to find a way to keep pushing on,” his thumb skimmed over the tears upon her soft skin, “he wouldn’t want you to forget that.  He would want what’s best for you and your daughter…”
“But it’s so hard without him here.  I just don’t know if I’m strong enough to keep going if he’s really gone…if I can keep pushing forward with any of this,” she confessed openly, overwhelmed by her emotions.
“Avery, listen to me.  You’re not alone and Russ will always be with you.  I know right now he’s watching you and he’s hoping that you and your baby girl will stay strong.  He waited a long time to have this with you and you need to think about that…”
“Don’t you think I have been,” she snapped at him, her eyes flashing with anger, “Don’t you think I’ve been worried about my little girl?  About what I went through the last time I was pregnant?  Brant, when I lost Russ like that…well, if he’s really gone, then this baby is the last piece of him I still have with me.  I can’t let anything happen to her even if I failed her as a mother…”
“You didn’t fail anyone,” Brant shook his head at her, “Avery your daughter loves you very much.  Russ loved you very much and what happened wasn’t your fault.”
“But if he wasn’t going off after Bruce,” Avery choked up on emotion, “That’s where he went that night you know.  He had a lead on where Bruce might be and he went off to see what was going on…”
“You mean he…” Brant’s jaw practically dropped.
“He was trying to save me--save us from Bruce and in the end it cost him everything,” she sobbed once again, “I lost my husband because of a mistake I made years ago…because I chose to be with a man that I never should’ve been with in the first place.”
“No, Avery, that’s not true.  Russ wouldn’t want you to think like that.  I don’t want you thinking like that,” he curled his finger underneath her chin to have her look at him, “Bruce Mathis was a madman and that wasn’t your fault.  None of us saw him for what he truly was, but I swear to you if he had anything to do with what happened to Russ, then he’s a dead man.  I’ll kill him myself.  I made the mistake of letting him go once, but I won’t let that happen again…”
“Brant, it’s not your fault…” Avery watched his jaw tighten with obvious rage.
“Bruce is a monster and he was bound to do something sooner or later,” Brant frowned heavily, “if I would’ve killed him that night instead of pushing him away from you…”
“Then you would be in jail,” Avery informed him honestly, “Your life would be over because of me…”
“But him hurting you was reason enough for me to move in.  When I saw him choking you, I wanted to kill him…” Brant spoke behind clenched teeth.  “I should’ve done more.”
“Brant, you saved me that night,” Avery reminded him with a sigh, “It’s no more my fault than it is yours in what Bruce did.  I see that now, but you need to see that if you hadn’t arrived when you did, I wouldn’t be here right now.  I wouldn’t be alive and my daughter wouldn’t have a chance at making it into this world…”
Brant eyed her for a long moment of silence, his eyes trailing over her features as he thought about how much they‘d been through with one another already.  While he had so many things he wanted to say to her, nothing felt right in this moment in time.  Finally he smoothed his fingers into her hair urging her in closer to his warm embrace, “Avery, we’re going to make sure your daughter has more than a fighting chance to make it into this world.  We’re going to see to it when she’s born that she has everything that Russell wanted for her and more.”
“Brant, I don’t expect you to…” Avery blinked back at him with obvious surprise in her voice.
“Look, I’m not going to lie.  I know that Russ hated me and I can’t say I really blame him, but one thing I will say is that you mean the world to me.  I meant it before when I told you I would always be there for you,” he paused feeling his heart pounding in his chest at the thought of what he was saying to her, “Look, Avery I’m not trying to take advantage of this situation and I don’t want you thinking that, but right now, well I know you can’t do this alone.  I know how upsetting this is and I’d like to be there for you.  To help you through what’s happening…”
“Brant, I…” Avery started feeling his finger press in over her lips.
“Don’t tell me how it wouldn’t be right or how you don’t want me to help you,” Brant pleaded with her, “because this isn’t about my trying to make an inappropriate move on you Avery.  I care about you…probably more than I should and to see you in this much pain, well it’s killing me.  I know if I just walked away and let you go this alone that I’d be no better off than Bruce Mathis.”
“You’re not even in the same category Brant,” Avery confessed in a tight whisper, “I know that.”
“Yeah, well, then why do I feel guilty as hell that I’m the one here holding you when it should’ve been Russ,” he questioned with obvious emotion.  His fingers gingerly pressed in against her cheek, meeting her brown eyes with sheer honesty, “Avery I’d give up everything I had right now to bring him back to you, but I know that I can’t.  I know that all I can do is be the kind of man that you need in your life to help you.  I want to do whatever I can for you and your little girl and in being your friend, I hope you’ll allow me that…”
“Brant I,” Avery started finding herself at a loss.  She opened her mouth to speak once again before finally laying her head on his chest and giving him her silent answer to his pleas.  Curling his arm around her, he felt her tears soak through his shirt, but in that moment he vowed the he would do everything in his power to keep her from ever feeling this kind of pain in her life ever again.  She needed someone to protect her--to save her from the nightmare that had overtaken her life and in that moment Brant knew that he was the man who was put on this earth to do it.


Dave looked up from his desk hearing the distinct slam of the door in front of him.  He nearly gulped at the whirlwind that surrounded Carly when she marched over to his desk.  Her dark eyes were full of fire, her crimson colored lips curled in an obvious pout.  Unable to hide his amusement he leaned back against his chair putting his arms up behind his head.
“So Carly, what might I ask prompted you to come in here looking like you’d like to string me up,” he asked not giving her the opportunity to go off on him.
“You just can’t take a piece of advice when it’s coming right at you, can you Dave?” she shook her head at him adamantly.
“Look Carly as much as I love seeing your face each and every day, you’re going to have to be a bit more specific before I can muster up a proper reply to your accusations,” he answered with a casual sigh.
“Dave, I’m talking about the special treatment you’re giving Grady Denton,” Carly’s eyes narrowed down at him, “What’s this I hear about him being given special treatment around her?”
“Come again,” Dave feigned innocence.
“Not only do you have him separate from the other criminals awaiting trial but then to allow him to have his girlfriend spending the night with him…” she began.
“Now Carly, before you start to tell my how to run my precinct, maybe you should think about where you’re coming from here.  You’re not my boss--not even close to it and before you read into some rumor, you should just think about this for a minute.”
“I have thought about this Dave and Chavez wants your head for this.  When the news hit our offices,” Carly began in a huff.
“First of all, as you said before it’s a rumor, not news Carly.  I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but clearly it’s someone who would like nothing more than to get your feathers ruffled.  Clearly they did a great job of it too,” he added giving her a curious once over.
“Dave, I’m being serious,” she frowned back at him.
“So am I Carly.  Yes, I’ll admit that Grady is separated from the others, but that’s only because the last time he was here, he was stabbed by someone who managed to penetrate the station’s security and I’d really rather not see it happen again,” Dave continued firmly.
“Yes, but after that you allowed him to just walk out of here as if he hadn’t done a thing wrong to begin with,” she snapped in response.
“As far as we both know he hasn’t Carly,” Dave countered catching her look of heavy disapproval.
“Dave, it’s not your place to be assigning guilt or innocence.  Your job is just to bring them here to await trial and…” Carly started again with obvious irritation.
“And what?  Pretend that they should be condemned just because your offices are looking for a big victory?” Dave rose from his seat.  “Tell me something Carly, is Douglas Mahoney funding Chavez’s campaign for re-election there?”
“Douglas Mahoney has nothing to do with this, but Kipp Mahoney does.  He’s the victim and I want to see justice for him,” Carly added with another frown.
“So do I Carly, but you’re barking up the wrong tree.  What your offices should be doing is investigating Cameron Stone.  I really think that’s where the real truth will start to surface,” Dave offered up thinking about what he knew about the man who’d pulled so many strings around town.
“Yeah well, you know the last time I checked Grady Denton was an employee of Stone’s,” Carly folded her arms in front of her chest, “and that in itself raises the bar for suspicions where he’s concerned.”
“Carly, I think you’re getting ahead of yourself, but then again you always did,” Dave shook his head at her, “In fact, come to think of it, that was one of our major problems with our relationship.”
“And your relaxed, take things as you think they are attitude was just enough to drive me insane,” Carly groaned in response, shaking her head at him, “David, this isn’t just some game.  We’re talking about a man’s life…”
“Exactly which is why I’m not about to let Grady be put in jeopardy just because someone wants him eliminated,” Dave piped back at her, “Sure, okay Carly, I know that your boss wants a conviction, but aren’t you the least bit curious to know what really happened the night of the shooting?”
“Your police officers showed me what happened that night.  Dave, I’ve seen the case file,” Carly explained with another sigh, “that in itself has me convinced that Grady is guilty.  That and the overwhelming evidence…”
“Carly, it was planted,” Dave blurted out unable to believe his own certainty about the situation.
“Oh Dave, please don’t tell me you’ve taken to siding with the bad guys now.  Are you really that ready to lose your career?”
“It’s not about losing my career.  It’s about the truth and I really believe it’s Cameron Stone who has worked hard to keep the truth from ever coming out.  In fact,” Dave paused taking a moment to contemplate the situation surrounding their confrontation, “if you’re willing to hear me out and listen to my theory on what’s going on, then maybe we can work something out between us.”
“Dave, that’s not what I came here to talk to you about.  I stopped by to see if you’re really doing those things that Chavez was told about,” Carly explained with a sideways glance, “I just don’t want you to lose it all over this case.”
“Fine, then give me time to explain everything to you,” Dave suggested with a cryptic smile, “Say over dinner?”
Carly remained silent for a long moment before letting out an ironic laugh, “Let me get this straight.  You’re asking me out to dinner after I wanted to know about what you’ve been doing here at the station?”
“Well if you want to know what is driving me and my decisions,” Dave smiled back at her, “then we’ll do it in a much more casual setting after you’ve cooled down.”
“Dave, what am I supposed to go back and tell Chavez?” she blinked back at him, her lips curling in a slight frown.
“Tell her that you’re researching into things,” Dave suggested with a sexy smile, “and then tonight, well we’ll research the topic together.”
“You really haven’t changed, have you,” she couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Carly, if I was still the same I would’ve thrown you out of my office the moment you rushed in here,” Dave pointed out rubbing his hands together.
“No, you wouldn’t have,” she shook her head at him, “You would’ve argued with me for a little bit and then opted to toss me out.  You haven’t changed.”
“And still she argued with me about my intentions and behavior,” he laughed lightly, “It never changes, does it Carly?”
“Just like I was telling you,” she winked at him, “and for now, well you’re off the hook, but tonight I’d like some answers.  Deal?”
He nodded, “I’ll let you in on what I think is going on.”
“It had better be good Dave because as it stands I’m ready to go to trial and see that Grady Denton doesn’t flee from justice yet again.”
“Then you’ll be taking down the wrong man,” Dave tried to appeal to her once again.
“Only time will tell, won’t it,” she finished giving him one last look before walking out of his office leaving him to wonder how in the world he was going to be able to help Grady out of this predicament he was in when most of the evidence so clearly placed him in the guilty light.


Jade stood outside Ria’s door thinking about the night she’d spent with Grady.  It had ended far too soon for her liking, but when Dave had come in earlier in the morning and suggested she sneak out before anyone found her, she knew that she couldn’t argue with that.  Saying good-bye to Grady was one of the hardest things she’d ever have to do, but she had to believe that it wasn’t forever.  Of course she was sure that Avery thought the very same thing the moment Russ had said he was going back to the car and now…
“Don’t think like that Jade,” she instructed herself, “Grady will be free and everything will work itself out.”
At least that’s what she had to believe in order to make it through the day, she reasoned before taking in a long, slow breath.  Closing her eyes she tried to remember the way it felt to have Grady’s arms around her.  She had to stay strong--to remain positive and if living in denial was the way to do it, then so be it. 
Drawing in one last breath, she knocked on her friend’s door needing someone to help her keep her mind off of the situation for the time being.  Seth wasn’t around so Ria seemed like the perfect one do to it.  Plus, Jade had a few questions about Kipp Mahoney’s shooting herself and she knew that maybe just maybe Ria would be able to tell her more about what happened that night since Ria was at the hospital at the time it happened.  Knocking once again Jade figured that Ria must’ve been out and about and she turned to leave feeling a moment of frustration overwhelm her.
“Yes,” a voice questioned nearly stopping Jade in her tracks.     

Spinning around, Jade’s eyes widened in shock to see Valerie standing before her in Ria’s doorway wearing a loose-fitting oversized gray sweatshirt that was now falling off of her tanned shoulder.  Blinking once, then again, Jade’s jaw nearly dropped as Valerie stepped out into the hallway with a bright smile.
“Jade is it really you,” Valerie smiled back at her with wide eyes.
“Val,” Jade offered up a sideways glance, “what are you doing here?”
“I’m in town on a shoot and…” Valerie rushed over to her, embracing her eagerly, “Jade, it’s so good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too,” was all that Jade could manage to get out, “but I guess I just never thought that I’d see you in town again…especially not after you left.”
“Well, I had an assignment that brought me back and Ria was kind enough to let me stay here,” Valerie explained taking a step back, “though I have to admit I didn’t imagine I’d see you popping by today.”
“I guess we’re both surprised then.  I was hoping I could get a few words in with Ria, but I’m guessing she’s not here, huh?” Jade noted with a curious expression.
“No, she’s at work, but you know if you want to come inside and catch up…” Valerie began.
“I’m actually kind of busy, but maybe some other time,” Jade replied suddenly feeling a bit tense about the situation she’d walked in upon.  “I mean I was only going to stick around for a few minutes and then…”
“Then what,” Valerie questioned giving Jade a once over, “Jade, you wouldn’t be making excuses to leave because you’re uncomfortable, would you?”
“No, that’s not what I’m,” she paused before letting out a slow sigh, “Yeah I kind of am.”
“Because of Seth,” Valerie answered knowingly.
“Look, Val, I know we were friends and all, but given that you and Seth…” Jade started again.
“Jade, just because Seth and I didn’t end up on good terms doesn’t mean that we have to hate one another.  Besides,” Valerie offered up a wide grin, “I hear Seth has moved on, so why should we hold any of that old animosity?”
“Well, I suppose you’re right about that, but still…” Jade paused again, “Does Seth know you’re in town?”
“No, not yet,” Val divulged, “but I had been thinking about it…”
“Yeah well, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.  This hasn’t exactly been a good couple of weeks for him,” Jade replied thinking about the hell her brother had endured.
“Oh now here I would think that he’d be on top of the world in being engaged and all,” Valerie simply shrugged her shoulders.
“Engaged,” Jade repeated with wide eyes, “Seth?”
“Yeah, at least that’s what Ben told me last night,” Valerie nodded in confession, “I must admit I was shocked to hear it myself, but…”
“But it makes sense in it’s own way,” Jade thought aloud, “I mean I knew something was up but…”
“But what?” Valerie stepped in closer to her, “Jade, why don’t you come on inside and we can talk about this?  I’d love to hear how you’ve been and how things are going with Seth.”
“Actually,” Jade began thinking about the awkwardness of the situation.  She pondered her brother’s happiness and what he was hoping for with Blake.  Somehow Valerie’s return didn’t quite seem to be something that would exactly thrill Seth.  Suddenly concerned with her brother’s future, she realized that if she was shaken about Valerie’s return, then he’d be far more shell-shocked.
“What is it Jade?” Valerie questioned breaking through her thoughts.
“I just remembered something,” Jade explained clenching her purse over her shoulder, “I’m sorry, but we’ll have to continue this later.  It’s nice to see you again.”
“Likewise,” Valerie nodded watching Jade leave the hallway.  Unable to contain herself, she was certain that she knew where Jade would be headed.  Sure enough Seth would know about her return before this day was over and that only meant one thing.  She would be seeing him soon--very soon because there was no way Seth would be able to resist her.


“What’s wrong?” questioned Blake watching Seth toss his keys carelessly on the table.

“Nothing,” he sighed.

“Now don’t tell me that,” she started walking towards him enclosing her fingers with his, “You have been acting weird since the hospital.”

“You know me too well,” he smiled kissing her lightly.

“Hey, let’s not change the subject now…what’s wrong?” she questioned seeing him roll his eyes.

“Just something about that guy,” he started before she interrupted him.

“What guy? Zack?” she raised her eyebrow looking into his deep brown eyes.

“Just something about that guy tells me that he still has feelings for you.  I mean it‘s like even though he said what he said the other day, he‘s really not meaning it.  I know he hates me Blake and I‘m sure that he‘s plotting ways to keep us apart considering that he had no problems stepping in and winning you over while we were apart.”

“Seth I can’t believe that you’re saying that….” she blinked back at him.

“Blake, I know that you cared about him and hey why wouldn’t you considering that he’s a doctor and someone who has a lot of the things that I won’t be able to give you…”

“That’s not important to me Seth.  Don’t you know by now what I want from this life?  Don’t you know where my heart is,” she reached out to touch his chest gently.

“I know what you’ve said, but I saw the way he was looking at you.  The guy is still clearly in love with you and…” he began feeling her place her finger over the center of his lips to silence him.

“He can have as many feelings for me as he wants, but I wont have any for him,” she smiled kissing him again.

“Well, I know…” he started off with a sigh from Blake.

“Believe, I don’t feel that way about Zack anymore…you’re my only man, the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with,” she reminded him tightening her grip on his fingers.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Of course I am, Zack was the biggest mistake I ever made because we were only meant to be friends--nothing more.  You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I want to be with you for the rest of my life, Zack isn’t in my life anymore…I don’t want to be with him, I want to be with you and only you,” she reminded him as he wrapped his arms around her.

“I am so glad to hear those words come from you,” he whispered kissing her forehead lightly.

“Seth, I love you and I always will.  Zack and Johanna have their future and we have ours.  That’s what makes me smile--that’s what makes me so very happy Seth.  It’s that thought of us together that makes live worth living.  I mean hey, did you see how cute Cody was?  He was so adorable and he has his family together.  Zack and Johanna can make his life perfect and I know that.  I mean hey can you imagine when we are going to be parents and how cute they are going to be,” she smiled looking up at him as he smiled.

“You are already thinking about kids?” he laughed.

“Well, I think you have to think ahead of time,” she shrugged with a grin upon her features.  “Besides, I don’t think either one of us would really mind practicing with that either, right?”

“Not at all,” he laughed lightly before growing suddenly serious, “Thinking ahead is always a good thing, but I mean really you want to chase after a bunch of little ones?  You know the whole late night feedings?  The breaking up their fights over the little things?  The moments when you kiss sleep good-bye in the name of being a good parent?”

“Come to think of it yes, I do,” she smiled as he pulled her into a kiss.

“Good because I can’t wait for it either,” he confessed in a low, sensual whisper, “Every second of it.”

“Then it’s settled, we’ll have to get working on that family of ours together,” she offered, her words swirling into the warmth of the kiss she presented him with.

“I want you to have everything perfect,” he smiled wrapping his arms around her completely.

“I already do, I have you,” she stated as he hugged her closer to him knowing that somehow all of her dreams of happily ever after were now well within her reach.


Diego smiled seeing Sarah walk through the hospital doors and he walked towards her.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he wondered seeing the irritated look on her face. “Or better yet, what’s wrong?”

“Just, I don’t understand what the hell is wrong with my sister. She marries that asshole of a guy,” she sighed.

“Did Cameron hurt you? If he did I swear…” he started before she cut him off.

“No he didn’t hurt me, he was just trying to tell me that I need to let him be with Heather and I told him to basically screw. I mean really what is wrong…” she started before Diego cut her off touching her arm lightly.

“I bet I have some news that can make you feel better,” he smiled as she raised her eyebrow.

“What might that be?” she wondered seeing a grin spread across his face.

“Heather is awake.”

“Really? How is she? Is she okay?” Sarah asked quickly.

“Well, why don’t you go find out yourself,” he insisted grabbing onto her hand.

“I don’t know…” she started.

“She needs you Sarah,” he stated as she nodded.


They walked down to her room and opened the door to see Heather lying down. Sarah walked towards her bed touching Heather’s bed lightly only to have her turn quickly around.

“Heather, it’s me…Sarah,” she smiled to only have a frown over come her features seeing a scowl develop over her sister.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Heather questioned with a scowl surprising Diego as it was apparently obvious that seeing Sarah was anything but inviting where Heather was concerned.  Somehow Diego had the feeling that things were about to take a turn from bad to worse for the two sisters.


...to be continued...