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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“What about breakfast,” he questioned in confusion looking to the tray
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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’s very cute,” Mindy confessed with a thoughtful expression, “and
“And he’s not here because why?” Brittany questioned bluntly.
“Because he had to go home,” Mindy laughed lightly setting Brittany
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“See that wouldn’t be fair for me then,” Kyle shrugged.
“What do you mean by that?” Sarah wondered as Kyle leaned down kissing
“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.