Episode 156

Ken felt a throbbing ache in his temple.  Something was definitely not right with him.  He could feel it now as the aftershocks of his alcoholic binge worked their way through his system.  While he felt the coolness of his sheets surrounding him, he was acutely aware that he was back in his bedroom.  However, he couldn’t remember having gotten there.  That in itself was a bit of a mystery, but given the headache he had, he didn’t really much care to try to figure it out.
“Oh,” Ken groaned realizing that his dreams had ended all but too soon breaking forth into reality as the sun’s early morning rays struck upon his bare chest.  Shifting slightly, he tried to get more comfortable, but it was completely and utterly useless it seemed.  There was no way he’d ever be comfortable in his own skin--he knew that now and forever nothing would ever be right again.
“Just another day,” he groaned inwardly suddenly feeling the first moment of warmth beside him.  Almost immediately his eyes snapped open and he looked down to see the blonde hair spread out over his chest.  He dropped his fingers down hesitantly, wondering if he was hallucinating once again when he felt her breasts skimming in over his abdomen.
“This can’t be happening,” he thought to himself wondering if somehow he’d lost his mind completely.  However as the warmth above him, shifted, he could feel feathery light kisses upon his skin.  Unable to resist the urge, he slid his fingers into the golden tresses that swept over his body, feeling their softness as her lips continued to play over his skin.  Closing his eyes he thought about all the things he’d been dreaming about--thinking about and now, well now he reasoned it all had to be the truth.  Caitlin couldn’t be dead.  She was still very much alive and in bed with him.
“I love you,” he whispered feeling his body responding to her attentions.  He sucked in a sharp breath unable to repress the groan that swept over him as he felt her take him into her hand, stroking him eagerly.
“I love you too,” she mouthed in response, immediately causing him to snap out of the wishful thinking that had put him on a morning high.  Leaping out as if he’d been stung, Ken fell to the floor his eyes wide in horror as Susan knelt on the bed, curling her lips in a pout.
“What’s wrong baby,” she questioned offering her hand out to him while allowing the sheet to drop over her clearly naked form, “Have a bad dream?”
“What the hell are you doing here,” Ken gasped in horror, his gaze dropping down over his own bare assed form stumbling over on the floor, “why am I naked?  Furthermore, why are you naked?”
“Oh Ken, you can’t tell me that you forgot all about the good time we had last night,” she lay back down spreading herself out over on the mattress in a seductive pose, “I would’ve thought after how good it felt in us being together that you would be more enthusiastic this morning.”
“Enthusiastic,” he nearly choked on the word, “Susan, I hate you and I have no idea what you’re doing here naked in my bedroom, but get out!”
“That’s not what you were saying last night Ken and if you’ll come back,” she suggested running her hands up over her breasts shamelessly, “I’m sure that we can find a way to make you remember the fun we had.”
“Fun,” he repeated with a look of sheer repulsion, “Susan, there’s nothing fun about being around you.  I know for a fact that I didn’t have sex with you last night and if you don’t leave right now…”
“Then what?” she ached a curious brow, her gaze dropping down to the root of his masculinity.
He noticed the way her eyes had ate him all in and suddenly he felt very self conscious about being naked in front of her.  Reaching for a throw pillow that had fallen to the floor with him, he hastily covered himself up just enough to get her focus off of the places that he’d never wanted her seeing again.
“I’ll call security that’s what,” Ken answered sharply, his headache hammering away at him as he wondered if he’d truly been so lost in his drunken haze to have betrayed his love for Caitlin so horribly.  Sure, Caitlin might be dead, but there was no way in hell that he would ever allow himself to sleep with Susan, would he?  He couldn’t have been that far gone that he…
“You wouldn’t dream of it,” she sat upright sauntering off of the bed.  Wiggling her body with extra emphasis she approached him, “Kenny, you know better than to try to fight the attraction we have to one another…”
“There is no attraction Susan.  You repulse me and if you don’t get out of here in the next five minutes,” he began stiffly refusing to allow his own disgust with himself to show anymore than it already had.
“Ken, I know if you’ll just listen to me, then you’ll see that we’re so right for one another,” she reached out to touch his chest only to feel him seize her wrist in his hand.
“Susan, I’m warning you now, if you’re not out of here by the time I count to ten, then so help me God I will have your bony ass thrown in jail for trespassing,” he warned sharply, his dark eyes filled with complete and utter rage.
“And just what do you think security is going to believe when they come up here and find us naked together like this?” she arched a curious brow, “I don’t think they’ll believe anything about trespassing given our history Ken.”
“They’ll believe what I pay them to believe,” he growled at her shoving her away from him with extra emphasis.  She flew back onto the mattress, her eyes widening in surprise at the ferocity of his push.  She licked her lips anticipating a big finish that often came from their blow outs, but instead he walked to the door.  Not caring that he was naked he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway refusing to look back at her as he spoke, “You’ve got five minutes Susan.”
With that he closed the door behind him making his way into Brant’s room and letting out a breath of relief that it had been vacated this morning.  He rushed over to the closet ready to steal some of his brother’s clothes before he called security, but he was stopped by the image of his own reflection looking back at him.  Had he been that far gone that he’d done the one thing he was sure that he would hate himself the most for?  Staring at the empty, hollow brown eyes before him, he felt as if the walls came crashing down around him now that he’d sunk to his lowest.  If Caitlin saw him now, she’d be furious--she’d be disappointed and heartbroken, but not more than Ken was with himself.  Sinking to the ground Ken found himself overcome with tears at the nothingness that losing Caitlin had created in his life.  Nothing would ever be the same again…


“Could you just tell me what we are doing?” questioned Kyle sighing as he shut the hotel room door behind him.

“You will find out soon or later,” Sarah laughed watching him roll his eyes.

“We drove all the way out here for what?” he questioned raising an eyebrow in amusement over his girlfriend‘s secrecy.

“You’ll find out,” she stated watching him closely as he walked towards her.

“I bet I could find out right now,” he smiled touching her arm lightly as she shook her head.

“No, I don’t think so,” she refused to answer him.

“Fine,” he pulled her tightly to him kissing her deeply running his hand up her back. “What about now?”

“I don’t know. I might need to be persuade some more,” she smiled watching him nod.

“I have absolutely no problem with that,” he stated kissing her again pulling her closer to his body.

“You really think I am going to tell you, don’t you?” she wondered breathing against his mouth to see him back up.

“You mean your not?” he questioned watching her shake her head. “Oh come on…”

She laughed watching him pull out a t-shirt from his bag, “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sure you are,” he shook his head before pulling off his shirt and throwing it into the bag.

“That was a good way to try and get me to tell you though,” she grinned watching him grab the shirt that lie on the bed.

“It wasn’t good enough if I couldn’t get you to tell me now was it?” he questioned pulling the shirt down.

“I’m just stubborn,” she protested watching him slowly make his way towards her.

“You are just like your boyfriend then,” he informed her pulling her into another savory kiss as someone knocked on the door. “That’s four for the count.”

“What do you mean that?” Sarah laughed watching him walk towards the door.

“That’s how many times we have been interrupted,” he shrugged going to the door to see Blake and Seth at the door.

“You guys ready?” Blake wondered as her voice squeaked happily.

“Did you get anything out of her about what this is we‘re getting ourselves into?” Kyle questioned seeing Seth shake his head.

“I tried, but I had no luck.  You?” Seth shrugged as Sarah pushed him out the door.

“Not a chance, but I kept trying,” Kyle revealed as Sarah stepped up towards them.

“Let’s go,” Sarah said smiling pushing Kyle ahead.  “You’ll both find out soon enough, but for now move.”


Avery rolled over in bed, feeling an emptiness beside her as she opened her eyes to face another morning alone.  She looked to Russell’s pillow and thought of all the mornings they’d shared with one another.  Even now she could still hear his welcome voice.  Closing her eyes, she fell back to the memory that overtook her.

“Hey beautiful,” she heard Russell whispering warmly in the back of her ear, “It’s time to get out of bed.”
“Just a few more minutes,” she groaned kissing her eyes closed the back of her neck.
“Wouldn’t you rather savor the morning,” Russ nudged her once again.
“Why bother getting up to deal with the typical frustrations of the day, when I’d much rather spend this time with you,” Avery had finally opened her eyes to discover him just above her.
“Well, since you put it that way, maybe we can afford to be lazy a little bit longer,” Russ had teased leaning in to kiss her as they’d shared a few more stolen moments with one another.

“If I’d only known then what was going to happen,” she sighed heavily returning to the here and now.  Sitting up in her bed, she traced his side of the bed, wanting to cling to some deeper part of him for a while longer.  She brushed her fingers over the sheet thinking about the love that had surrounded their life together.  She couldn’t forget.  She wouldn’t forget and now, well now she swore she would hold onto whatever she could from their time together.
“I love you Russ,” she whispered choked up on her tears as the bedroom door opened.  Turning towards the direction of the sound, she watched Brant as he wheeled a small cart into the room.
“What in the,” she blinked back at him.
“I thought that today would be the perfect day for breakfast in bed,” Brant smiled at her, the warmth of the gesture bringing about a new emotion inside of her.
“Brant, you didn’t have to…” she paused taking in the tray before her, “What did you do exactly?”
“Well for starters I tried to make this in your kitchen, but then, well I just couldn’t maneuver my way around so I phoned in a favor,” he informed her honestly.  Wheeling the cart to her side, he took a seat beside her, “I hope you’re hungry.”
“I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you mention it,” she wiped at her face to erase the traces of the tears that had fallen moments earlier, “I could use a bite to eat.”
“I’m glad you feel that way because I have a little bit of everything.  Eggs, sausage, bacon, French Toast…” he started to list the things he’d gotten for her.
“I’ll pass on the bacon,” she wrinkled her nose at the thought, “that was always more Russ’s cup of tea.  He used to actually steal my bacon every time it was on my plate.  Of course when we were really little it was fine because my mother used to complain when I didn’t eat what she’d had the chef prepare for us…”
“It sounds like Russ was playing your hero even back then,” he nodded at the empty spot on the bed beside her, “May I?”
She looked a bit perplexed before finally nodding in agreement, “Yeah, he always was someone special in my life.  I can’t even remember a time before our first non-wedding when I was without him.”
“How long have you two known one another,” he questioned making polite conversation.
“Since Grady told me girls can’t play baseball,” Avery confessed with a small smile thinking back to her youth, “You see on the playground all the boys used to get together on those warmer fall afternoons to put together a game.  Granted it might’ve been a Catholic school, but they didn’t mind getting dirty, so why would I?”
“Gee, now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Brant chuckled in mild amusement, “You’re always one to get into the thick of things…”
“And that day I approached Grady it was no different,” she divulged with heavy reflection, “Grady was a bit older and stronger than the rest of them, so naturally I went to him and offered my services as a team player.”
“Which I’m guessing that is when he didn’t bite, huh?” Brant noted with a wry expression.
She shook her head, “More like he tried to tell me how wrong I was for even thinking I could join them.”
“Stupid guy,” Brant leaned in closer to her, “if I was team captain that day, I’d have made you my co-captain considering that you’re a force to be reckoned with.”
“Yeah, well I think everyone on the playground believed that to be true after I told Grady off,” Avery laughed harder than before, “I didn’t even realize it had gotten that out of hand, but I never took to someone telling me that I couldn’t do what I wanted to--that I couldn’t have what I wanted…”
“Another fine trait you and I share,” Brant added with a smirk.
“Yeah well Grady thought I was a complete pain in the ass after I’d embarrassed him like that.  Needles to say when I left that playground everyone knew that I’d put Grady in his place.”
“And where does Russ play into this one?” Brant questioned curiously.
“He walked me home--even offered to carry my books for me,” she laughed heartily at the memory.
“Let me guess, he was afraid if he didn’t, you’d beat him up too, right?” Brant teased watching her shake her head.
“In all honesty, I had no clue why he followed me home, but as we got to talking, I realized that he was really, really nice.  I didn’t even know his name and you know at six, I thought I knew everyone.  Needless to say by the time we arrived on my porch, he told me who he was and then left leaving me to wonder how he could be so wonderful and Grady could be so miserable,” she confessed with a small sigh, “It was only years later when I found out that Russ had walked me home that day because he hadn’t ever seen anyone challenge Grady before.  Being the younger brother, he’d never encountered that kind of retaliation against his older brother and he was intrigued…”
“By that and the fact that you had to be by far the most adorable spitfire on the playground,” he added watching the color rise over her features.
“Well, I was certainly something,” she explained thoughtfully, “and you know every now and then Russ would tease me saying that it was in that moment when he saw me fighting with Grady that he knew I was the one.  He said it was on that day he’d decided I would be the woman he wanted to marry.”
“Is that right,” Brant questioned in a bit of a neutral tone.
She nodded, “He said he could sense that we were soul mates even then.  Of course at the time I knew he was full of it when he said it, but still it’s a nice thought…”
“Soul mates is a really nice thing to believe in if you find someone who shares that belief,” Brant added with a pause before questioning her further, “So when did you know?”
“Know what?” she asked blankly.
“That you were in love with him--that he was,” he paused hating to say the words, “the one?”
“I guess I always knew in some ways.  I was just really stubborn and too determined to fall in love, but Russ, well he found a way to make that happen for us.  He challenged me in more ways than I ever imagined and by the time I’d realized that I was in love with him, I was so far gone that I knew that he’d be someone I could never be without,” she paused feeling her tears threatening.  She sucked in a slow breath, reaching for a piece of bacon despite her protests.  She held it up to just look at it thinking of all the bacon she’d passed off on Russ over the years.
“Avery,” Brant touched her arm gently beckoning her from her thoughts.
“You know, maybe bacon wouldn’t be half bad.  I spent so many years under appreciating it and when I think about what I wasted,” she raised it to her lips taking a bite.  Maybe it was because she’d missed it--maybe it was because because the baby was craving it, or maybe just because she’d missed Russ.  Either way, she’d savored the crispy piece she’d swallowed.
“Hey, you know if you want to talk like we’re doing, if you need someone, then you know that I’m…” Brant began hating to see her so upset.
“I know,” she smiled politely at him, trying to keep her composure despite the fact that her heart was breaking, “but enough about me.  What about you?”
“What about me,” Brant questioned curiously, his eyes still filled with concern for her.
“Tell me something real--something about what life was like for you growing up,” she suggested leaning back a bit on the bed.
“Hell, is that a simple enough answer?” Brant blurted out catching the slight glare that she threw him, “Okay, okay, so it wasn’t complete and utter hell, but it had it’s finer moments.”
“Such as?” she tilted her head to the side to listen to him.
“Such as there were times when Ken and I had a lot of fun.  We both got into a lot of trouble with one another growing up.  You wouldn’t be able to tell it now, but together we were both holy terrors.  Even now I can remember all the times we played a prank at the mansion which landed us both in prep school.  Of course the antics continued and nearly got expelled along the way,” he paused shaking his head, “and back then it was something I’d often done.  You know, nearly getting expelled.  I’d always said I’d hated it there, but it was the closest to stability that we’d ever had.”
“Oh come on, it couldn’t have been that bad,” Avery reached out to nudge his arm gently, “I’m sure there were some happy moments…”
“Mostly before my mother died,” Brant offered up a sad smile, “She was really special you know.  She just had this way about her--like over the holidays, she could make a room bright with her laughter.  I remember when we were younger--before school began--she used to bake cookies with us and of course Ken was at her side, doing his usual kissing up, but with me, well as much as I enjoyed the cookies, my favorite part was at the end of the day when we were in my room reading my favorite story--Cat in the Hat.  I remember how I used to beg her time and time again to ready that stupid book to me. I don’t know what the obsession with it was, but she never grew tired of it.  Each and every night she would read the book over and over again until I fell asleep and then there was this song she used to sing…” he stopped himself waving his hand dismissively, “This sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”
“No, not at all,” she spoke encouragingly, “You’ve never really talked about your mother that much, but she sounds like she was a wonderful woman.”
“Oh she was,” Brant confessed wholeheartedly, “and if she was alive today things would be so much different for all of us.  Life would’ve changed dramatically if she was around.  Hell, I might’ve grown up to be a man she’d be proud of instead of the bastard I’ve become…”
“Brant, you’re not a bastard,” Avery squeezed his leg gently, “You’re far from it.”
“You say that now, but I know better.  You’re just being nice now that I’ve whined to you,” he forced a teasing smile, “You don’t have to try to flatter me.  I know what the world thinks of me.  Kyle pretty much sums it up each and every time he’s around.”
“Kyle’s a bit of a pig-headed man.  He sees things his way and sometimes his way is wrong.  I know that he comes off as abrasive, but he means well.  He’s just protective of those he cares about,” Avery informed him honestly.
“Yeah, well maybe he’s right about me Avery.  Maybe I am no good for you.  Maybe all I’ve done is make your life miserable all over again by being here,” Brant looked away.
“No, Brant, that’s not what you’re doing at all,” she reached out to touch his cheek, bolding turning him to face her again, “You’ve never made me miserable.  Hell, if it wasn’t for you, then I wouldn’t have known that I was pregnant with my daughter.  I wouldn’t even be alive today if you hadn’t saved my life when Bruce tried to kill me.  I owe you so much for all you’ve done…”
“You don’t owe me anything,” he spoke in a low whisper, “I just wish I could’ve done more.”
“Brant, what you have done means more to me than I could ever express,” she confessed in a warm breath, “In having you here, well last night I told you that I didn’t want you around, but the truth is I wasn’t sure I could make it through the night alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’m weak and need a bodyguard, but after Russ died, well I’ve been having these nightmares--these visions and I’m just so afraid that…”
“That what,” he questioned watching her shift uneasily on the bed.
“That something horrible is going to happen all over again and I’m going to lose my daughter as well.  I’m so afraid that Bruce will come back and when he does…” Avery bit back on her tears.
“It’s not going to happen Avery,” Brant reached out to touch her cheek gently, drawing her in nearer to him, “I swear to you that he won’t be able to get near you.  I’ll protect you from anything he’s thinking of pulling and with that little girl of yours, well we’re going to bring her into this world and show her the kind of life you and Russ would both want for her.”
“Brant, I want that, but for you to keep spending your time with me when I know what is going on with the company and everything else.  I know that Ken has to be hurting over Caitlin and he needs you and with Blake…” she insisted her words shaky with emotion.
“Nothing is more important than my being here with you right now Avery,” Brant divulged sincerely.  He brushed his thumb over the hollow of her cheekbone, feeling the softness of her skin with his movement, “while I know it’s not the most appropriate of times to be saying this, the truth is that I care about you Avery.  More than I’m sure I’m supposed to…”
“Brant, don’t,” she started watching the way his eyes dropped down over her lips.
“Avery, I can’t help it.  I know that I can’t replace Russ and I don’t want you to think that’s what I’m trying to do--not by any means, but the truth to the matter is that you and this baby mean the world to me.  Avery, I know things didn’t work out for us when I asked you to marry me before, but that doesn’t change how I feel about you.  On that island, well I got to thinking about the future and I know now that my life is incomplete without you in it.”
“Brant, you’re very important to me too,” she began feeling his finger press in over her lips to silence her.
“Avery, I’m not trying to pressure you into anything because I would never do that to you, but I need you to hear this.  I need you to know that what I’m doing here isn’t because of some sense of obligation or need to be around to make up for something.  I’m here because I love you Avery…because I’ve always loved you from the moment I first laid eyes upon you,” he watched her move uncomfortably beneath his touch, “and while I know you don’t feel the same, I just…I just felt you had a right to know.  That you should hear the truth from me because I’m tired of playing games.  I’m not going to deceive you because you’ve already had far too much of that in your life already.  The fact is that I love you Avery and I’m always going to love you even though I know it won’t ever be a mutual feeling for us…”
“Brant, I just wish…” Avery started feeling him cup her face in his hands.  She tilted her head up to look at him, discovering that her words fell to silence.  Slowly she felt him easing in closer to her as if silently begging her for that one thing that she was certain had been on his mind since their time on the island.  Involuntarily, she leaned up towards him bridging the distance between them.  Closing her eyes, she felt her heart racing as she anticipated the kiss she was sure he was ready to deliver.  However, before she allowed him that one last request, she heard the ringing of the phone pull her back to reality.
“I’ll get it,” Avery announced shaking off the feeling before racing over to answer the phone.  Pulling it off of the base, she answered breathlessly, “Hello.”
Brant watched her from where he sat wondering what might’ve transpired between them before the damn phone rang.  He’d laid his heart out on the line and while he wasn’t quite sure why he’d done it, the fact was that it had been put out there.  He could only hope that Avery wouldn’t shut him out after dealing with the truth he’d given her.  He reached for a piece of bacon--trying to still his rapid, racing heart when he heard her voice again.
“That was Jade,” she explained quickly, “Seth is out of town, so she is coming over.  Last night she had a run in with Cameron and she’s pretty upset.”
“She what,” Brant blinked back in surprise, “What happened?”
“She didn’t get detailed, but she’s going to be coming over shortly,” Avery continued moving over to her closet, “I suppose I should probably get dressed.”
“What about breakfast,” he questioned in confusion looking to the tray before him.
“We have plenty enough to go around.  How about we relocate to the kitchen with Jade,” she suggested quickly retrieving a few things from her closet before heading into the bathroom. 
Brant watched her leave before he sank back onto the blankets thinking about the hand that fate had dealt him.  Sure, this wasn’t how he’d wanted to get close to Avery again, but now that it was happening, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to turn back.  He knew now that in admitting his love for her, he’d opened up a door that could possibly be the key to taking him under completely if he wasn’t careful.  Avery had his heart and it was up to her what she’d do with it.  He just prayed that it wouldn’t be the end of him.


Shannon yawned lightly as her eyes slowly opened catching a glimpse of the small amount of light passing through the blinds of her hotel room. She moved slightly to only feel an arm wrapped around her waist. She looked down to see the muscular arm that lay across her body.  He was wearing a ring. What the hell happened last night? She looked down to see she had ring on her finger too.

“Oh no.  No, no, no, no, NO!” she screeched jumping up and grabbing a sheet wrapping it around her body.  “This can’t be happening.  This can’t be happening!”

She brought her hands up over her head to try to will this situation away, but there was no such luck.  Looking down to the man that had been beside her, she closed her eyes tightly, “This is all a bad dream.  A really, really bad dream brought on by your drinking when you knew damn well that you shouldn’t have done it.  You’re hallucinating.  That’s all it is.  It’s a really bad hallucination and nothing more.  That’s it…that’s all it is!”

Reopening her eyes again she realized that the hallucination didn’t fade away.  She let out another pinched scream in spite of herself.  Finally she forced herself to calm down just a bit.  She looked at the guy and he seemed somewhat familiar, but she couldn’t remember what happened last night. She saw him yawn as his steel blue eyes opened.

“Who the hell are you?” she questioned seeing him run his hand across his head.

“Uh Don,” he stated closing his eyes from the enormous headache he had.

“What the hell are you doing in my bed, Don?” she wondered as he moved closer to her and she grabbed her tennis racket holding it up about to hit him.  “I’m warning you right now if you don’t start talking, then I’m going to let my racket do the talking for you!  So spill it!”

“Shannon, now come on you don’t want to,” he began watching her send the racket down on top of the bed in the space between where his legs were just below his knees, “Whoa, just hold on a damn minute here!”

“Start talking now, or I swear next time, I’ll hit my next mark and you’re going to be VERY unhappy,” she raised the racket again menacingly.

“Hey now,” he stated jumping up wrapping a sheet around him. “You don’t remember what happened last night, do you?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” she questioned watching him walk over to his pants that lie on the floor.  “I know I planned on being alone last night and you weren’t part of the packaged deal, so why don’t you tell me how the hell it is that you wound up in my bed?”

“Look I’m sure that we can come up with some rational kind of explanation for…  Look the night started out kind of well good I suppose, but then, I guess that one thing lead to another and…”” he started, but his words were thwarted by her swinging of the tennis racket again.  “Hey! 

“I think you should talk faster,” she sneered back at him, “Tell me what it is that you think I should be remembering.”

“Look what I mean to say is that I don’t remember anything either.  I mean there are bits and pieces but the rest…,” he insisted grabbing his pants and pulling them up as he buckled them.  “I remember us dancing and then your smile and…”

“I don’t get what you’re trying to say,” she stated watching him role his eyes.  “That somehow I invited you up here with me?  Because if that’s what you’re getting at, then I most certainly don’t think that I would just up and have you here because…”

“Shannon, your finger…my finger, I think I know what happened,” he sighed reaching into his pants pocket to read a paper. “And now I know I am right.”

“Right about what?” she glared at him.

“About what it obviously is that we’re doing together here like this,” he answered with a surprised look.

“Yeah, well whatever it is, I’m sure it’s all your fault considering that I didn’t even like you when I met you,” she growled seeing him frown.

“That was real nice to say. I’m glad you didn’t even know me and you judge me right away,” he frowned watching her roll her eyes.

“What’s that suppose to mean?” she questioned.

“It means I knew I was going to get into some trouble when I came to see if you were okay,” he shook his head lightly seeing Shannon run into the bathroom. “Shannon, wait.”

With the slam of the door, he knew that Shannon wasn’t about to be in a talking mood.  Still he noticed that she dropped the tennis racket.  In a rush he reached for it thankful for that small detail, but still as he looked at the ring on his finger he wondered just what the hell he’d gotten himself into with this miserable woman he’d just met. 


“Are you ready for this,” Ben questioned reaching for Diane’s hand as they exited the luggage area at the small airport.
“Do you think I’m ready for this,” Diane threw out a pointed look, “I’m meeting your parents and this can either make it or break it for a relationship.  I was reading in Modern Diva magazine that if you don’t hit it off with your guy’s mother that it can be fatal to the relationship.  If that first meeting goes bad and she hates you, then the romance is doomed.”
“Diane, I think you’re reading too much into this,” he gave her a pointed look.
“No, Ben, I’m not,” she shook her head at him, “I’m telling you now if things don’t go well together, we may as well call it quits because your mother will find a way to make you believe I’m all wrong for you.”
“Well lucky for you I very seldom take my mother’s advice,” he curled his arm around her slender waist, drawing her close to him in a tender embrace, “besides you’re not just any girlfriend.  You’re the woman I plan on spending the rest of my life with which is all the more reason that I know she’s going to love you.”
“You’re just saying that to try to make me feel better,” she replied as they parted.
“No, Diane, I’m saying that because it’s true. You and I are going to have our happily ever after and my parents are going to love you.  I’m sure of it,” Ben assured her once again leaning down to steal another kiss when his mother’s voice rose above the crowd with her shouting his name eagerly.
“And so it begins,” Diane mouthed under her breath, “This will be the make it or break it moment.”
“Diane, we’ve already had that when we were apart and we survived.  We’ve seen the worst and now, well now the best is yet to come.  Trust me,” he kissed her swiftly before taking her hand in his again, “they’re going to love you.”
“Time will tell,” she thought aloud watching as he stepped ahead to greet his parents.  She flashed back to their time apart feeling a tiny shudder pass over her when she thought of J.T.  Groaning inwardly, she pushed the thought aside and returned to the here and now.  Now was about focusing on charming Cassie and Alan Walters.  Taking in a slow breath, she painted on her best smile and hoped that it would pay off.
“And you must be Diane,” Cassie greeted her with a bright grin, her arms reaching out to embrace Diane in a bear hug, “we’ve heard so very much about you and I must confess Alan and I were beyond thrilled to meet the woman who won over our Ben.”
“Really,” Diane’s eyes widened with enthusiasm.
“Oh yeah,” Alan nodded in agreement, “Cassie hasn’t stopped talking about how excited she was going to be to have you around with us this week…”
“That’s because I want to learn all there is to know about my future daughter-in-law,” Cassie linked her arm in Diane’s, “Tell me Diane, do you enjoy shopping?”
Diane nodded before admitting, “Probably more than I should.”
“Oh sweetheart, one thing you must learn is you can never enjoy shopping too much,” Cassie waved her hand dismissively at Diane’s words, “and by the time you leave I’m going to shot you all the hotspots that Florida has to offer.  We’re going to have so much fun.”
“In other words you won’t be seeing Diane again until it’s time to leave,” Alan jabbed at Ben’s ribs teasingly.  “You know how your mother is once she gets started.”
“Just you hush,” Cassie grumbled at him before addressing Diane again, “Ignore him.  He always gets this way when I start talking about spending money, but he never complains when I bring him something home nice like a new set of golf clubs…”
“Here we go again,” Alan shook his head at his wife, “Let’s go get the rest of your bags.”
“Okay,” Ben agreed eagerly before exchanging a ‘told you so’ look with Diane. Sure she might’ve had her doubts, but he had a feeling that this trip would be everything he’d wanted to be and more.  He was almost sure of it and judging by the expression on Diane’s face, so was she.


Guy thumbed over the papers before him checking the time to see how soon he could slip out of the office without his mother asking too many questions.  This day felt endless--like an eternity and he was more than ready to just get it over with.  He thought back to leaving Gabe and Brittany alone and he hoped that somehow the two would manage. 
Of course Brittany had been more than eager to take the opportunity to play nurse to her father, but Guy wasn’t sure just how well the two of them would do.  Reaching for the phone, Guy decided to check in on the both of them and see how things were going, but he was stopped by his mother’s arrival in the doorway.
“There you are,” Brooke smiled at him enthusiastically, “I was hoping you were still in your office as we’ve got some company.”
“Oh?” Guy arched a curious brow feeling his jaw tighten with tension as Cathy sauntered into the room.
“Hey there sexy,” Cathy winked at him, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder, “Long time, no see huh?”
“Cathy,” he nearly gulped her name remembering how each and every time he’d been left alone with her she’d found a way to annoy the hell out of him.
“I’ll let you two catch up with one another,” Brooke winked at him knowingly before closing the door behind her.
“So, your mom says you’re working really hard today,” Cathy noted strolling over to the edge of his desk, “or is it hardly working?”
“I’ve been very busy and I have to finish a few things up before I leave,” he turned his attention to the papers again opting to play things cool and detached.  Maybe just maybe she’d get a hint after that.
“Well, I was thinking more along the lines of us starting something before you bury yourself in your work,” she spoke seductively, hopping up on the desktop in front of him.  Carefully crossing her legs in front of him, she lowered her foot into his lap in a blatant attempt to capture his attention, “What do you say?”
“I say I’m not interested Cathy,” he pushed her foot away from him before offering up a disgusted look, “Let me ask you a question.  Why is it that you think so little of yourself that you have to keep throwing yourself upon a man who just isn’t interested in you that way?  Do you have no self respect?”
“Oh I have plenty of self respect and self worth for that matter,” she slid forward dropping down onto the center of his lap unrepentantly, her arms frantically wrapping around his neck before she sought out his lips, “and I also know how much you’re going to enjoy me when you finally give in.”
“So it’s all about the chase for you then, huh?” he frowned leaning back in an attempt to pull away from her, “In that case, let me spell it out for you.  I’m not at all interested and this chase will only end up with you crashing into a brick wall.”
“Oh you’re interested Guy,” she eased her fingers around his collar teasing it gingerly, “You just are too much in a state of denial to realize it, but when you do, well that’s when the real fun will begin.”
“No, it won’t,” he remarked sharply, pushing himself out of the chair and knocking her down on the ground with the movement.  He noticed the bewildered expression on her face.
“You can’t possibly mean that,” she frowned up at him, “I know you want me Guy.”
“No, I don’t Cathy, but what I do want is for you to get out of my office.  Go find that missing part of you that doesn’t feel like she has to throw herself on someone to gain their attention.  You know if you stopped doing all this, you might find that people enjoy your company more,” he folded his arms in front of his chest.
“And if you’d stop being such a spoiled brat, you might see how perfect we would be together.  You and I, we’re one in the same.  Our union could only enhance what our parents want.  I don’t see the problem in us having fun together if it benefits causes that we both believe in,” she dusted herself off before eyeing him like he was dessert, “and I’m sure we could come up with some mutual interests between us.”
“Not in this lifetime,” Guy grumbled in response thinking about the only blonde that raised his interest who was waiting for him back home, “Cathy, it’s a lost cause give up on it.”
“So how are we doing in here,” Brooke questioned popping into the room with an eager grin.
“We aren’t,” Guy reached for his coat before brushing past his mother with a wild glare, “and just for the record Mum, don’t try to manipulate me like this again.”
With those words Guy left the office causing Brooke to raise her hand to her chest with obvious surprise.  She turned to Cathy, who had now taken to dusting herself off.  She tried to think of the right thing to say but came up empty.
“You didn’t warn me that he’s in such a wonderful mood,” Cathy rolled her eyes.
“He’s been a bit moody lately, but don’t give up on him,” Brooke pleaded with her taking a step forward, “He’s stubborn and he gets that from his father, but what this is about is just that he’s got too much pride to allow himself a chance for love.  He really would be happy with you.  You two would be good together, so please don’t let this little indiscretion get in the way of that…”

“Oh I won’t,” Cathy licked her lips with a newfound determination, “because this is far from over Brooke.  That much I promise you.”

Mindy entered the apartment thinking about her meal with Hunt.  While she’d been ready to write him off earlier in the week, the truth was that she’d enjoyed his company.  That was something she really had missed in her life given that she’d had such a bad run of luck with men.  Okay, so yeah he’d initially let her down, but she had to be optimistic about things to come.  Maybe Hunt being around could work for them after all.
“Mindy,” she heard Brittany squeal after she’d closed the front door.
“Hey kiddo,” Mindy greeted Gabe’s daughter brightly.
“How did your date go?” Brittany questioned with curious eyes.
“Date?  What date?” Mindy questioned with obvious surprise at Brittany’s words.
“I heard my dad mention you were on a date, so tell me, was he cute?” Brittany inquired a bright grin spreading over her features.
“Hey what do you know about cute guys?” Mindy gave her a strange look, “I thought at your age boys had cooties.”
“Oh please,” Brittany waved her hand dismissively, “that’s so three years old.  I know all about cute guys and I happen to like them very much.”
“Is that right,” Mindy laughed lightly bending down to scoop her up in her arms, “And just what does your father think about that one?”
“He doesn’t know yet because he just wouldn’t understand,” Brittany divulged with a mysterious smile.
“Oh he might understand more than you realize,” Mindy replied thinking about the irony of that particular statement.
“Even so, you can’t talk about that with him,” Brittany offered up a pointed look, “at least not until you tell me about your date.  Is he cute?”
“He’s very cute,” Mindy confessed with a thoughtful expression, “and very nice.”
“And he’s not here because why?” Brittany questioned bluntly.
“Because he had to go home,” Mindy laughed lightly setting Brittany down again.
“Well that’s too bad because he’s going to miss our tea party, but you’re just in time.  My daddy and I are getting things ready right now.  Come on and see,” Brittany reached for Mindy’s hand directing her into the kitchen where Gabe stood setting things up for the tea party.
“Daddy!” Brittany squealed with enthusiasm, “Look who came back.  Mindy’s going to join us.”
“Home so early,” Gabe arched a curious brow.
“That’s right,” Mindy slipped out of her jacket, laying it over the back of the chair, “but if I’m intruding…”
“No, not at all,” Gabe shook his head offering up a polite smile.
“Where’s Guy?” Mindy questioned.
“He’s at work at the moment, but he should be home shortly,” Gabe admitted feeling a moment of tension pass between the two of them.
“I’m going to get Mr. Pebbles,” Brittany announced sprinting out of the room to go collect her stuffed Bassett hound toy.
“So,” Mindy cleared her throat uneasily as she looked around the kitchen, “need some help with anything?”
“I think I’ve got it pretty much covered,” Gabe admitted before silence followed.  Finally he spoke up again, “Mindy?”
“Yes,” she turned to him.
“Look about this--I mean about my staying here, I just wanted to say that…” he started again.
“You don’t have to say anything,” Mindy waved her hand dismissively at him, “It’s Guy’s call about who stays here, not mine.”
“Yes, but about that,” Gabe inhaled slowly, “I know that you and I haven’t exactly had the best of relationships, but given how you’ve been with Brittany I just feel like I should say thank you.  She’s really taken to you and I’m glad that you’ve been so kind to her.”
“She’s an amazing little girl Gabe,” Mindy admitted with a smile, “I really like having her around.”
“As she likes your being her.  Her mother isn’t exactly the most warm or welcoming of women and she really hasn’t had someone to help her with things like you’ve done.  She just isn’t used to…” Gabe began to explain.
“I know,” Mindy nodded in complete understanding, “and even though my mom and I were close now, I know what that’s like.  She was so wrapped up in building her career and proving herself as a single mother that I did a lot of it on my own.  It was tough, but it taught me a lot…”
“Even so I know that you don’t have to…” Gabe offered in response.
“Gabe, I want to,” Mindy cut him off abruptly, “and look about the things that I’ve said and done in the past, well maybe we should just leave them in the past.  I see how happy you and Guy are with one another and I’m not going to get in the way of that.  You two were meant to be together.”
“That means a lot coming from you considering how important you are in Guy’s life,” Gabe replied honestly, “He thinks the world of you.”
“Yes, but he loves you and that’s the way it should be,” Mindy smiled in response hearing Brittany return to the kitchen with her faithful toy in her arms.
“Are we ready to get this party started,” Brittany questioned brightly looking between the two of them.
“You bet we are,” Mindy nodded in agreement feeling a bit of a weight lifted off of her shoulders now that she and Gabe had cleared the air.  Perhaps this was finally the first step in moving on with her life after Guy after all.


Ken looked up at Caitlin’s old apartment building a sigh escaped his lips. What happened today? No, he couldn’t think about that, not here. He walked up to her room grabbing the key she gave him that one time. He turned the knob slowly walking into her room, he missed this place. He walked over to her couch sitting down lightly feeling something under him. He stood up picking up the book that was below him and sitting back down. He ran his thumb around the journal opening it to the middle slowly. He recognized her handwriting as he looked through it slowly.

“I finally met the right person, the one who loves me for who I am. That one person who will love you no matter what.  He’s my soul mate and we will be together forever. I love Ken with all that I am and I always will. Every moment I have with him is the best times I have ever had in my life,” he read out her writing slowly dropping the book on the ground running his hands through his hair looking down.

“Doesn’t look like forever lasts very long,” he scowled feeling tears burn behind his eyes. He bit his bottom lip as his hands slammed the lamp next to him crashing to the floor into pieces.

“Ken,” a voice from the door came making him look to the corner.

“What?” he questioned seeing Zack at the door closing it lightly and sitting next to him.

“What are you doing here?” Zack wondered as Ken held up a key. “Are you okay?”

“I miss her,” Ken stated feeling a tear slide down his face as Zack pat him on the back.

“I know man she was my sister.  I miss her too,” Zack sighed as Ken looked up at him, his eyes red.

“I don’t think you understand, I loved her…more than anyone could have loved another person, and now she’s gone and she doesn’t know how much I cared about her,” Ken insisted as another tear fell down his face.

“She knew you loved her man,” Zack stated seeing Ken shake his head.

“I miss her so damn much,” Ken stated feeling Zack pat him on the back.

“I think you should keep this,” Zack replied handing him the journal.  Ken accepted it with sad eyes wondering how in the world his life could go from so very perfect to the nightmare he was living in.


“Thanks for letting me come over Avery,” Jade smiled up at her host, “With Seth out of town and Grady in jail, I wasn’t sure where else to go now that Cameron has decided to go around being an ass all over again.”
“Jade, you’re always welcome here.  You can stay in the guest room if you‘d like for as long as you need to,” Avery squeezed her hand gently, “We’re practically family and besides I could use your expertise on this one in preparing Grady’s case.”
“I think that would be great,” Jade clenched her fists together as she thought back to Cameron’s attempt to bully her around, “because I want to find a way to get him out of jail as soon as possible and then we’re going to find a way to bury Cameron.”
“So what happened,” Avery questioned as Brant returned to the living room with a few mugs of tea with him.
“I was at the office last night going over a few things and Cameron showed up,” Jade explained with a scowl, “He started shooting his mouth off again in an attempt to intimidate me--saying how this was my fault that Grady was behind bars--that if I would’ve given him what he wanted, then this would never be happening.  He basically implied that if I didn’t sleep with him, I’d never see Grady again.”
“What,” Brant nearly gulped on his word as he looked to her, “are you saying that Cameron’s doing all of this because he wants to get you into bed?”
Jade nodded, “Sick isn’t it?”
“It goes beyond sick and if he even thinks about touching you, well I’ll rip him apart,” Brant replied his words with tight with emotion.  He shook his head as his own anger roared, “I mean I knew the guy was a snake, but that’s crossing a major line…”
“It wouldn’t be the first one he’s crossed Brant.  There’s been a lot more going on with Cameron than we even realize,” Avery added thinking about Grady’s situation, “He’s got something big planned.  I can feel it.”
“Yeah well big or not, we need to find a way to put an end to it,” Brant decided firmly.
“Brant’s right,” Jade nodded in agreement, “Cameron can’t just come into town and think that he runs the show.  He pretty much laid it out on the table that a jury can be bought.  He went on and on to make comments about the justice system and I’m sure he’s planning something.  I have a feeling he’s going to try to stack the jury in his favor.  Maybe he’s got the ADA working for him and…”
“And if that’s the case I’ll make sure that she’s thrown out of that position,” Brant announced rising from where he’d taken a seat moments earlier.  “In fact, I think that I’m going to make a few phone calls.”
“Phone calls to who?” Avery gave him a sideways glance.
“To the people who can tell us everything we need to know about Cameron Stone.  While Cameron might’ve been the one in control of the reigns thus far, I think it’s time for us to even the playing field.  He’s not going to get away with trying to bully Jade around or rip Grady’s life away from him.  It’s just not going to happen,” Brant informed them point blank.
“What are you planning,” Avery questioned in confusion.
“It’s best if you two don’t know, but for what it’s worth, you might want to check in on Grady and make sure everything is okay.  I’m sure that little mishap that took place when he was in jail last time had something to do with Cameron,” Brant added with a frown.
“I know it was and when we can prove it…” Jade clenched her fists at her side once again.
“We’ll prove it soon,” Avery tried to assure her.
“And when that happens Cameron’s days in Coral Valley are numbered,” Brant tried to assure him as he made the first step in trying to deal with his enemy.  While he may have downplayed the situation with Stone Corp going up against BBK, now was time for action.  He wasn’t about to be played around by Cameron any longer.  This time was time for fighting back one way or another.


“Are we almost there yet?” questioned Kyle in the back of the car with his arm around Sarah as Blake drove.

“Man, you don’t have patience.  At least Seth does,” Sarah stated elbowing him lightly in the stomach.

“Actually, I am thinking the same thing…I just don’t want to get hit by you or Blake,” Seth shrugged with a laugh.

“You two trouble makers should have sat in the back, not me,” stated Sarah sighing.

“See that wouldn’t be fair for me then,” Kyle shrugged.

“What do you mean by that?” Sarah wondered as Kyle leaned down kissing her.

“I wouldn’t be able to do that,” Kyle smiled as the car came to a stop.

“Where are we?” Seth questioned jumping out of the truck as the rest did the same.

“Cedeno’s Orchard?” Kyle tilted his head looking at all of the trees in the back. “We’re at an apple orchard?”

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” questioned Blake jumping up and down.

“I have never been to an apple orchard before,” Kyle shrugged feeling Sarah’s arm wrap around his.

“It’s going to be fun,” Sarah insisted as Seth hugged Blake.

“Thanks, this is great,” Seth kissed her lightly before turning back to Kyle. “Believe me, it’s fun.”

“I’m sure,” Kyle nodded feeling Sarah enclose her fingers with his as he smiled lightly.

“Let’s go check it out now,” Sarah stated pulling Kyle along with her as his feet stumbled along.

“Hey careful, I hurt that arm a while ago,” Kyle insisted as she shook her head and he shrugged.

“You baby,” Sarah groaned in response.

“What?  I did,” Kyle reminded her as Seth hit him in the arm. “Ouch, what did you do that for?”

“Just checking if your arm really did hurt or if you were just pulling her chain,” Seth shrugged.

“Well, what’s the verdict?” questioned Kyle raising an eyebrow.

“He’s still hurt a little bit,” Seth nodded turning back, “Sorry man.”

“It’s alright, let’s just go so the ladies are happy,” Kyle sighed as Sarah pulled him along.

“Come on lets go,” Blake smiled wrapping her arm around Seth ready to begin their big adventure.

...to be continued...