“Are you okay,” Seth questioned sliding his arm around Blake’s waist as
they stood outside the church where Caitlin’s memorial was about to
Blake nodded, “About as okay as I’m ever going to be considering what
I’m going to have to do today. I just can’t believe she’s gone.”
“I know sweetheart,” Seth curled his arm around Blake drawing him
nearer to her. Kissing the top of her head gently, he felt a
slight breeze sweep up around them as Zack and Johanna arrived with
“Blake,” Zack spoke her name to capture her attention. When she
pulled away from Seth to look at him, he offered a sad smile.
“Thank you so much for being here today.”
“Given what this is for, there’s no place I’d rather be,” Blake
confessed taking a step forward to embrace Zack as Seth and Johanna
watched the exchange, “Caitlin was like a sister to me.”
“And you were that to her,” Zack whispered in her ear squeezing her
closer, “She loved you, you know.”
“I know,” Blake nodded in confession taking a step back as she looked
to him, “I loved her too. I still miss her like crazy.”
“We all do Blake,” Zack replied a lump forming in the back of his
throat at the thought of what they’d all come here to do. He just
wondered if he had the strength to keep it together in saying his final
good-bye to his sister. Taking a step back, he turned his head
towards where Johanna stood seeing that Cody was getting a bit fussy in
her arms. “Here, let me take a try at it.”
“He’s a bit restless this morning,” Johanna admitted handing her son
over to her husband, “I don’t know what it is, but he’s just not happy
“It’s because he’s mourning for his aunt as well,” Zack replied readily
taking his son into his arms, “but it’s going to be okay. Aunt
Caitlin would be so very proud of him being here.”
“She’s be very proud of you too Zack,” Johanna touched his arm
supportively as Blake stood back at bit letting the family have some
Turning to Seth, Blake reached for his arm, “Let’s go inside.”
“Alright,” Seth nodded in agreement following her into the church as
they prepared to pay their respects to an incredible woman.
Brant opened the door for Avery, helping her out of the passenger side
of his car. While he’d agreed to come here with her today, he was
having his doubts on how everyone would feel to see him at Caitlin’s
memorial given their history. Somehow he felt truly out of place
and as he helped Avery to her feet, his apprehension was clear about
“Thank you for doing this,” Avery offered knowing how hard this must be
for him, “I realize that you and Caitlin weren’t friends, but I felt I
owed her this. She was so good to Russ and I and…”
“And you cared about her,” Brant nodded in complete understanding, “She
and Russ were good friends.”
“Very good friends,” Avery added thinking about how important Caitlin
was in her husband’s life. “She also helped me in a great many
ways and I can’t believe she’s gone.”
“It’s truly shocking to see what that bombing did to tear up everyone’s
lives around here. Never in a million years did I imagine that
something like this would happen,” Brant noted bringing his arm in
“Neither did I, but today, well today isn’t about that. It’s
about paying tribute to a woman who gave so much to the world around
her,” Avery added wondering if she could make it through this memorial
without being haunted by the thoughts of the man that she’d loved and
lost. Taking in a slow breath, Avery stepped forward hoping that
she wouldn’t be haunted by what might’ve been now that she’d lost what
mattered most in her heart.
Mindy looked to Hunt as they approached the church before them.
Clearing her throat, she spoke up uneasily, “I’m sure this wasn’t what
you had in mind when you asked me out again, huh?”
“It’s okay,” Hunt replied lost in his own darkened thoughts, “I think I
needed some time to put things into perspective and there’s nothing
like a situation like this to do just that.”
“Yeah, well this whole thing kind of creeps me out,” Mindy confessed
ceasing movement, “I mean Caitlin was one of the nicest people I’ve
ever known. When she started working at the paper we became
instant friends and now with her and Russ gone…”
“Mindy, it’s okay,” Hunt reached out to embrace her noticing the tears
that filled her eyes. Immediately he squeezed her in closer to
him, “I’m so sorry…”
“I just don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Mindy confessed in a
tiny sob, “With Caitlin and Russ gone it’s like life is all
wrong. Things aren’t at all like they should be and when I think
about what we’ve all lost…”
“It’s never easy to lose someone you love,” Hunt offered in an attempt
to help her, “I know when my parents died, I thought there was no way
that I could pull through this. I fought like hell to hold it all
in, but there was no avoiding the grief.”
“Your parents are dead,” she questioned tearfully, tilting her head up
to meet his sad eyes. “Both of them?”
He nodded, “I was with them when they’d died. We were coming home
from my little league game and this drunk driver was behind the wheel
of this rig and…” he paused choked up on emotion, “they said my parents
never had a chance. The mere fact that I survived is a miracle
they say, but sometimes I wonder about that. I mean what was so
damn special about me that I was the one who had a chance to survive
when they didn’t…”
“Oh Hunt, I’m so sorry,” Mindy replied wrapping her arms around him
tighter than before, “I had no idea.”
“That’s because I never clue anyone into that. When anyone asks I
always tell them that my parents are the Lockharts. They adopted
me a few months after the accident and they were incredible. They
are incredible and they’ve been the only family I’ve known since I was
seven. I guess in that sense I was very fortunate.”
“I’m so sorry that I brought it up--that I made you take me here
considering…” Mindy began apologetically.
“Mindy, it’s okay,” he revealed touching her cheek tenderly, “the truth
to the matter is that I can relate to what it is you’re feeling right
now. If nothing else I learned in losing my parents so young that
time is precious and you need to find a way to make the most of things
because if you don’t, well one day you’re going to find you’re all out
of options and time…”
“Hunt, I…” she started to speak, but as his thumb skimmed gingerly
against her cheekbone, she felt his gaze shift. His breath
cascaded like a blanket of warmth over her features and in that
split-second of sadness, she found herself wrapped up in the one thing
that she’d thought about since they’d first met when his lips skimmed
gently in over hers.
Mindy tilted her head up, accepting the kiss with readiness as the
gentle ease behind it put her mind at ease, causing her heart to
flip-flop in that moment he held her. Tasting the sweetness of
his lips mixed with the saltiness of her tears had sent her stomach
into a tizzy, tying her up in knots and exciting her at the same time
until they parted once again. Her dark eyes reached up into his
with so many questioned, but instead of giving her the answers she
craved, Hunt just wiped at her tears gingerly before motioning to the
church just beyond where they stood.
“I suppose we should get in there, huh?” he offered with a soft,
“You’re probably right,” she nodded feeling him reach for her hand as
she found herself falling harder for Hunt Lockhart than she’d ever
Ken adjusted his tie while sitting in the front seat of his car.
He’d been parked just outside the church for over half an hour, but
somehow he couldn’t find the strength to take that bold step forward
into the place where he’d say his final good-byes to the woman he
loved. Somehow none of this felt right. He hadn’t been able
to shake that, but in this place he’d found himself in a state of
turmoil afraid for what would come knowing that it would never be how
he’d wanted it to be.
This morning when Ken had awakened, he’d found himself alone in Carly’s
hotel room with a note saying she’d call him later, yet that note
hadn’t prepared him for the guilt that would be riding him all morning
long. How could he have slipped into bed with her like
that? How could he have so blatantly ignored the promise he’d
made to love Caitlin and only Caitlin for the rest of his days?
Sitting in the church parking lot, he dropped his head down on the
steering wheel trying to justify his actions, but in that instant of
hurting, he found no relief to the ache inside of him.
“This is about Caitlin,” he reminded himself knowing that he couldn’t
put this off forever. Looking in his rearview mirror once again
he spotted her parents near the door of the church preparing for what
lay ahead of them. While Ken had seen them a few times since
Caitlin’s death, this wasn’t like that last encounter he’d had with
them. Today things were different. Life was different and
he had no idea how he was going to be able to stand up in front of the
church pouring out his heart when in reality his heart and been ripped
from him the moment she’d been taken from the world.
“You can do this. You have to for Caitlin,” he tried to convince
himself, but it was no use. He knew now that he wasn’t the man
he’d been when he’d had his life with her. That wasn’t ever going
to come back to him and he’d accepted that. Yet, now as he
prepared to put his happiness and the life he’d dreamt about behind
him, he wondered if he’d be able to fake it for one more day.
Could he get up there and say all the things that had haunted
him? Could he be man enough to live up to his promise? He
had doubts, fears and guilt over how he’d fallen to pieces without her.
“Oh Caitlin,” Ken spoke in a hoarse whisper, bringing his hand over the
journal of hers that Zack had given him. He’d found it in his car
this morning when he’d left Carly’s hotel room and yet as he clenched
onto it, he wished like hell he’d been able to have another piece of
her. He’d give anything to turn back the hands of time and make
this pain disappear, but he knew better. He knew that miracles of
such proportion didn’t happen and today wouldn’t change any of the
reality he’d had thrust upon him. It was a moot point.
Hearing a knocking on his window, Ken nearly leapt from where he
sat. Turning towards the source of the sound he noticed Annie
outside his car with a worried expression on her face.
Reluctantly he opened the door stepping out into the parking lot.
He looked over to the church noticing that Caitlin’s parents had
already gone inside.
“Ken, I’ve been worried sick about you,” Annie threw her arms around
him in a motherly gesture, “I would’ve thought that I’d seen you at the
“I’ve been busy for the last few days,” he answered with a heavy sigh,
“I’m sorry, but…”
“Ken, I understand how hurt you must be, but you can’t lock everyone
out. I’m here for you,” Annie added squeezing his hand gently,
“We’re all here for you.”
“I know,” Ken nodded accordingly seeing Joseph at Annie’s side.
“I’m so sorry Ken,” Joseph offered with a handshake as Ken did his best
to hide the demons tearing him apart inside.
“Thank you,” Ken mouthed going through the motions knowing that if he
truly intended to make it through this day that was exactly what he had
to do. He had no other alternative.
“My daddy would never let me do any of this stuff,” Brittany smiled
holding onto her pillow tightly.
“Well, I had fun,” Jade smiled sitting up straight.
“We got to do girl talk,” Brittany started with a light squeak, “I
can’t do that with my daddy.”
“Well, why not?” Jade questioned standing up and Brittany stood up
right after her.
“Because he’s not a girl silly,” Brittany laughed dropping her pillow
on the couch.
“Silly me, I should have known that,” Jade simply shrugged with a smile
seeing Brittany run into the kitchen.
“I’m going to get some cereal,” Brittany smiled skipping to the kitchen
as Jade looked out the window seeing the sun peak above the morning
The ruffled behind her making her turn to see Gabe walking through the
“Daddy!” yelled Brittany running over to him and jumping into his arms
as he hugged her tightly.
“Hey baby, how were you last night? I hope you were good for Jade,” he
winked before putting her back down.
“Of course I was good daddy,” she laughed as he kissed her cheek
“What are you up to right now?” Gabe questioned looking at his
daughters excited face.
“I was getting some cereal,” she shrugged seeing him nod.
“Well, you get your cereal while I have a talk with Jade, okay?” Gabe
questioned seeing her nod.
“Okay daddy,” she nodded skipping into the kitchen and Gabe walked over
“How were things at the hospital?” Jade wondered seeing Gabe sigh and
drop to the couch.
“I don’t know, but Guy is really worried. When he is worried, it just
makes me more worried about everything else that is going on and him,”
Gabe sighed feeling Jade’s hand pat his shoulder lightly.
“I know exactly how you feel,” Jade half shrugged, “I feel the same way
“Well, I think your situation is worth worrying about,” he pointed out
making her shrug.
“All you can do is wish for the best,” she sighed looking down as he
“So, what were you and my daughter up to all night?” he wondered as she
laughed lightly thinking of all the events that happened while he was
Guy’s breath was taken away every time he looked at his mother and the
way she was. What kind of cold hearted soul would do this to her? She
didn’t deserve this, how could he go on if she wasn’t there for him?
“Mom, please wake up,” Guy begged as a tear slid down his face and he
ran his thumb around the top of her hand. “I can’t believe this
happened to you, I mean after everything you have been through. I still
have to tell you everything.”
The thought of possibly never being able to see his mother again got to
him, like nothing else ever had. She was one of his main priorities in
life…how come he never saw that before?
“Mom, if you wake up,” he started kissing her hand lightly, “I promise
I will never keep anything from you again. No matter what.”
Sure it was a lot of words spoken right there, but he meant every word
of it. Whoever did this to her had to have no heart; they couldn’t even
understand the pain the family would go through.
“I don’t know how you made it mom, but you did,” Guy sniffed before
thinking about those fifteen stories and how horrifying it must have
been for her. “You made it this far, you can’t stop now.”
Not that his encouragement was going to work, but it made him feel
better to try and actually let her know that he was going to be by her
side and be there for her throughout this thing.
“I hope everything is going to be okay,” he hushed himself resting his
hand on hers thinking of all the possibilities of living without his
mother…he just couldn’t take it.
“Thank you all for coming here today,” Timothy Vaughn began in his best
attempt at keeping his words from getting the best of him, “I know that
Caitlin would have been happy to know that so many of you have come
here today to honor her memory. My daughter was so very full of
life and spirit and what mattered the most to her was her friends and
family. She always said that the most important thing to her were
those people in her life who’d touched a special part of her and today
as I look out at all of you, I can see now just how special Caitlin was
to each and every one of you. My daughter had a lot to give to
this world--far more than she was able to, but today I hope that all of
you will take her memory with you and find a way to keep giving as
Caitlin would’ve wanted you to.”
Tim paused for a moment feeling himself caught up in the emotion that
consumed him as he bit back his tears. Finally he found the
strength to speak up again, “You know one time when I was much younger
and a whole less wiser, I remember when Caitlin was learning how to
ride her bike. She was so determined to learn that we practiced
night and day. She fought like mad to find a way to break free of
the training wheels, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get
at it. She never gave up though and I remember one morning in
particular when she went out on her bike and had a nasty spill.
There I was running down the street hoping like crazy that she hadn’t
really hurt herself, but when I got there, she just looked up at me and
smiled. Despite the cuts and bruises and the stitches she needed
later, she just said to me, ‘Daddy aren’t you proud of me? I can
ride my bike,’ and it was in that day that I truly understood my
daughter’s spirit. Caitlin never gave up--she never stopped
fighting for what she believed in and as a father I feel very blessed
that my daughter found some happiness in her life,” Tim’s eyes were
directed to Ken, “She loved you son. You gave our daughter
something that she’d wanted her whole life and I’m proud to say that I
know in my heart there was no better man for her. You gave her
happiness, love and I know in my heart that you did all you could to
make Caitlin’s last days on this earth beautiful and full of
love. I thank you for that.”
Timothy then went on to say a few more things about the special people
in Caitlin’s life before he offered Ken an opportunity to talk.
In that moment he felt himself go numb. He’d sat there watching
Caitlin’s parents, Zack and Blake talk about Caitlin and all the while
he’d thought about how he’d lost so much in her death. He’d
thought about the dreams he’d had and how they’d never come to
be. Caitlin still surrounded him, still haunted him and as he
forced himself to go up to the front of the room, he wondered if he’d
truly be able to do this.
Finally as Ken reached the podium, he eyed the people before them all
there to honor and pay their respects to Caitlin. In that moment
he felt the hardest blow of all and immediately he was choked up on
“I…I don’t know what to say,” Ken confessed holding onto the podium for
dear life, “I wish that I could say that I have the right words to say,
but I don’t. I wish that I could tell you that I’m all those
things Timothy just said I was, but I’m not. The sad truth is
that when Caitlin needed me the most I wasn’t there for her. I
promised her time and time again that I would protect her--that I would
keep her safe and I didn’t.”
Ken looked to Caitlin’s parents, his heart breaking further with each
word he spoke, “Julia, Timothy, I wish I could stand here and tell you
I was the kind of man that Caitlin needed in her life, but I was far
from it. I’d made her so many promises--shared so many of her
dreams with her, but when it came to the moment when I should’ve
protected her the most, I failed her. I let you down and most of
all I let her down. I don’t deserve to be here today and I never
deserved Caitlin in the first place,” Ken blurted out tears burning in
his eyes, “All I can say is that I wish that it would’ve been me that
died that day. Caitlin should still be alive right now and if I
had been man enough to be there when push came to shove, she still
would be. All I did was let her down and for that I’m
sorry. I’m so sorry…” Ken finished stepping away from the podium
and making his way out of the church in a haste amidst a great many
“I’ll be right back,” Brant explained to Avery quickly rising from his
seat. Blake stood up to do the same before Brant passed by her,
touching her shoulder gently. “Stay here. I’ll take care of this.”
Blake nodded in agreement not quite sure what to say, but knowing that
after what she’d witnessed that Ken was never going to be okay
again. She could feel the guilt he’d been carrying and today when
she’d watched him fall apart before Caitlin’s friends and family, she
knew that the hard part in all of this was just beginning.
“Ken, wait up,” Brant chased after his brother watching as Ken made his
way over to his car, “Ken, slow down.”
“I can’t,” Ken shook his head refusing to look back at Brant, “I need
“No, Ken, you can’t leave like this. Ken, please stop,” Brant
called after him once again watching as Ken refrained from
moving. Once he’d bridged the gap between them, Brant sped up to
move in along side of him, “Ken, you can’t just leave now.”
“Yes, I can,” Ken argued tears glistening in his eyes, “Brant, I don’t
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Brant insisted, “Ken I know you loved
Caitlin. I know that she was the world to you and I also know
that she wouldn’t want you to be doing this.”
“I failed her Brant. I promised her the world and in loving me,
she had it taken from her,” Ken replied painfully, “I told her that I
would protect her--that I would keep her safe, but I couldn’t. I
didn’t and now she’s dead…”
“That wasn’t your fault. It was a horrible, tragic twist of fate
that you had no control of. You weren’t the one who planted that
bomb Ken. You couldn’t know. None of us could’ve known,”
Brant reached out to him, “Ken, but if you leave right now... If
you walk away like this, well I know you. You’re going to regret
this for the rest of your life because this is where you belong.
This is where Caitlin would want you to be.”
Ken stared at him blankly before he finally spoke up, his words hollow
and empty matching the expression on his face, “I already regret it
Brant because I tried to be something that I wasn’t. I lied to
Caitlin and I lied to myself. I never deserved her. I
wasn’t at all what she thought I was and now, well now I have to do the
last honorable thing. I need to give her and her family peace by
staying away. I can’t remind them of how she lost it all by
“Ken, this had nothing to do with the love between you,” Brant insisted
hating to see his brother so upset.
“It had everything to do with what we had. Hell, look at it from
my perspective Brant. Wendy left and now with Caitlin,” Ken shook
his head somberly, “They loved me and as a result it brought them
nothing but pain and suffering. I refuse to do that any
longer. I know now that I’m just like him…I’ve brought this on by
trying to be something I’m not…”
“Him? Ken, what are you talking about?” Brant tilted his head
confused by his brother’s comment.
“I always thought that you were the one who had to be kept under
watch. I always feared that you’d be just like Nicholas, but
after taking a long, hard look in the mirror, I see that the reason I
wanted to see it so badly in you was because I knew that it was deep
inside of me. I know now what I am and it sickens me, but I can’t
change it. There’s no point in trying anymore,” Ken finished
leaving in a haste as Brant stood speechless watching his brother’s
“No, Ken wait,” Brant finally snapped out of his daze, but it was too
late. Ken was gone and with the screeching of the tires before
him, Brant realized that the Ashford curse had succeeded to take Ken
under as well. Ken was overcome by the guilt and pain of losing
Caitlin and now…well, he hated to think of what came next for he feared
what it could mean to his brother’s future.
Blake wiped away a tear from her face after leaving the doors of the
church. She just couldn’t believe that Caitlin was really gone, no
going back in time. There was no way to be, nothing to do. All she had
was the man next to her as he pulled her close to him comforting her as
another tear ran down her face. She felt a hand on her arm making the
both of them turn around.
“Blake, Seth,” Zack nodded with a slight smile looking down and folding
his hands out in front of him.
“Zack,” Blake started with a sigh, “You must be feeling really bad
“Yeah, well, I’m holding up,” Zack slightly laughed holding back the
sadness that he should be letting go, but just holding it back with
everything to worry about. He wouldn’t let everyone know how he felt,
which was pure sadness.
“I’m sorry man,” Seth sighed holding out his hand to shake Zack’s
lightly before it fell back to his side.
“Listen, I just wanted to say that I appreciate you two being here
today,” Zack declared running his hand along the back of his neck. “I
know Caitlin would have appreciated it.”
“She was my best friend Zack, of course I would have been here for her
no matter what,” Blake pointed out seeing him nod.
“There is another thing…we’re leaving Coral Valley,” Zack sighed seeing
“Why?” Seth questioned unsure of why he chose to do that.
“Too many sad memories that I just have to let go,” Zack started
leaning forward and hugging Blake. “I just wanted to say good bye and
good luck with everything you two do…I wish you both the best of luck.”
Seth smiled shaking his hand once more as he nodded, “Same goes to you.
I wish the best for you, JO, and that little baby.”
“Will do, thanks,” he nodded before waving goodbye for the last time in
Avery stayed near the back of the church waiting for Brant’s return,
but after neither he nor Ken returned for the end of the service she
found herself worried about what was happening outside. Fearing
the worst, she collected her purse ready to leave, but found herself
stopped by Johanna.
“Avery, I was hoping I could have a word with you,” Johanna began
“What about,” Avery questioned thinking about the time when she and
Johanna had been rivals for Russell’s attention in the years gone
by. Thinking about all the hate they’d had between them, Avery
felt some of the old lingering bitterness rush forward, but she stifled
it knowing that this was neither the time nor place.
“I wanted to talk to you about Russ,” Johanna watched the expression on
Avery’s face before she spoke up again, “It’s not what you’re thinking.”
“Right now I’m not sure what I’m thinking Jo,” Avery replied honestly,
feeling overcome by so many emotions, “Today has been very hard on all
“Yes it has,” Johanna nodded in agreement before casting a glance in
the direction of Zack and Cody, “but that’s all the more reason why I
wanted to talk to you. I’m leaving Coral Valley. Zack and I
are going back to Seattle.”
“You are?” Avery questioned with a strange look.
“You seem surprised,” Johanna noted.
“I am a little bit, but at the same time,” Avery couldn’t help but
offer a polite smile, “I’m glad that things worked out for the both of
you. You look very happy.”
“I am,” Johanna admitted with a genuine smile, “I love Zack and he’s
given me so many wonderful things in my life. He’s my own miracle
and I feel very blessed in having had a second chance at a new
beginning with him.”
“I’m sure,” Avery nodded thinking about her own situation.
“Listen, that’s not why I pulled you aside,” Johanna began desperately,
“I just wanted to clear the air between us. I’m not going to
pretend that you and I ever really liked one another and I know in the
past that we had our shares of ups and downs, but I just wanted you to
know that…with Russ and I…well, Avery as much as I’d wished that
something was there, it never was. He was an incredible man and I
cared very deeply about him. The time that we shared together was
very special to me and… ”
“Johanna if this is the part where you want to rub it in my face about
your relationship with my husband, then I think it would be best if we
pass on that one,” Avery explained simply, “I don’t want to hear about
that…actually I’d rather not even think about it.”
“No, Avery, that’s not what I’m trying to say at all. What I’m
telling you is that no matter how hard I tried to gain Russell’s
attention, there was always one woman on his mind and that woman was
you,” Johanna informed her point blank, “Russ and I…we never…I mean it
never got to that point between us. Not for lack of trying on my
end, but still…he loves you…only you and I know now that you two were
meant to be together. I spent so many years hating you--wishing
that you and Russ would be apart, but Avery, I never wanted this for
the two of you. I never thought that he’d be gone and…”
“Neither did I,” Avery confessed stung by her own emotions, “I never
thought that I’d see the day when Russ was gone from my life and he
wouldn’t be here to share our daughter’s birth with me. We had so
many plans and dreams together.”
“Dreams that you were cheated out of. Avery it’s so unfair what
happened to Russ and I’m so sorry. You have no idea how much it
hurts me to know that he too was a victim of this tragedy,” Johanna
admitted with tears behind her eyes.
“Yes, yes I do,” Avery softened a bit, finally letting go of the past,
“As much as you and I never saw eye to eye, I know that Russ respected
you and he cared about you. You were special to him.”
“But not as special as you are and always will be,” Johanna offered
with a sad smile, “You were his everything Avery.”
Avery just nodded unable to say much more as she wiped at her tears.
“Look, I know this is really bad timing, but with Zack and I leaving,
well I couldn’t help but notice you were here with Brant today,”
Johanna began after a moment’s hesitation.
Avery nodded, “I didn’t want to come here alone.”
“Even so, because of Russ, I feel as if I should warn you to be
careful,” Johanna started her words shifting with the moment, “Brant’s
not what you think he is Avery.”
“What’s that supposed to mean,” Avery frowned stiffening at Johanna’s
“Look,” Johanna hesitated again, “I know this isn’t the right time, but
there’s something I think you should know. When I came to town in
the first place, well I came here because I offered Russ a job working
“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” Avery nodded, “but what does that have
to do with Brant?”
“Brant paid me to offer him that position,” Johanna divulged
shamefully, “He arranged for me to fly out here and offer that position
to Russ so that Russ would leave Coral Valley and you behind forever.”
“What,” Avery’s jaw dropped in shock before she shook her head in
refusal to accept Johanna’s words, “That’s ridiculous.”
“It’s true Avery. He paid me a lot of money to get in between you
and Russ, but it didn’t work. It didn’t happen because it
couldn’t happen. I saw the bond between you and Russ was too
strong to break and I found my own happiness,” Johanna looked to Zack
again, “the only reason I’m telling you this today is because I
should’ve been honest with Russ about it in the first place. I
owed him more than I gave him and I can’t take that back. I can’t
make my stupid decision go away, but what I can do is stop you from
making an even bigger mistake in trusting that arrogant jerk.
Brant Ashford is trouble and the farther you can stay away from him the
better. You had to trust me on that one.”
“Given what I know about you Johanna, I find it hard to trust anything
that comes out of your mouth,” Avery snapped back defensively refusing
to think the worst about a man who’d come to her aid time and time
“Fine, then believe what you want Avery, but don’t say that you weren’t
warned because this isn’t on my shoulders anymore,” Johanna remarked
sourly, “And for your daughter, well I might consider what I just said
to you if you ever want her to have a real chance at happiness.
Brant Ashford is trouble and if you get sucked in by him, well then
you’re only setting yourself up for disaster.”
Johanna finished her warning before turning away and heading back to
Zack leaving Avery to think about what she said. There was no way
that Brant could’ve been up to something so shameless--so sneaky.
He couldn’t have sunk so low, could he? Avery tried to dismiss
the thought, but judging by the expression on Johanna’s face she had
her doubts. Feeling the heat inside the church getting to her,
Avery turned to leave, but she found herself met by Brant
“There you are,” Brant let out a breath of relief touching her arm.
“Where’s Ken?” Avery questioned attempting to forget what Johanna had
“He’s gone,” Brant sighed heavily, “I tried to stop him, but he left
and…never mind. Avery, can we just get out of here? I think
I need to try to look for him or at least try to figure a few things
“Yeah me too,” she nodded in response letting him guide her out of the
church as she wondered if there was any truth behind Johanna’s
words. Brant couldn’t have done such a nefarious thing to keep
her and Russ apart, or could he?
“I suppose you two stayed up all night, huh?” Gabe questioned pulling
Brittany into his lap and tickling her lightly.
“What would give you that idea daddy?” Brittany laughed as Gabe smiled.
“The simple fact that Jade isn’t telling me anything, so a father has
to expect the worse,” Gabe winked before hugging her in his arms.
“Daddy, why do that? We were fine, in fact we went to bed five times
earlier than I usually do,” Brittany nodded with a slight wink towards
“Five times, huh?” Gabe questioned with a grin. “Is that right, Jade?”
“Of course it is dad, I mean…why would your little girl lie to you? Why
would I lie?” Jade wondered with a simple smile.
“Something tells me this isn’t right, but I will believe you because I
am suppose to,” Gabe declared before hearing the doorbell ring and
getting up to get it.
“It worked,” Brittany whispered with a slight smile, “Now if I could
only get him to believe me on the other nights.”
“I think you might have to work on that, parents are smart,” Jade
assured her before seeing her nod.
“What the…” Gabe gasped pulling a paper out of the envelope and sitting
down on the couch.
“What? What is it?” Jade questioned slightly confused and worried.
“It’s a note for sole custody, Noelle wants to take Brittany away
from me forever,” Gabe gasped before running his hands roughly through
his short hair in aggravation.
Blake stood at the front of the church thinking about the day that had
unfolded right before her very eyes. Ken was clearly taking
things harder than anyone had realized and when Brant hadn’t been able
to stop him, Blake’s worries had leapt into overload. Now as she
began to light a candle in Caitlin’s memory, she felt her hands shaking
“Hey,” Seth stepped in closer to her, “Blake, let me do that.”
She nodded allowing him to light the candle as her own eyes clouded
with tears, “I just can’t believe this is happening. First with
Caitlin and now Ken…”
“He’s in a lot of pain right now,” Seth agreed hating to see Blake’s
family in such a state of turmoil, “but we’ll be there to help
him. I’ll do all that I can…”
“I know you will,” Blake tilted her head to look up at Seth before
smiling tenderly, “It’s part of why I love you.”
“This is going to get better. It has to,” Seth continued reaching
for another candle, “In fact, let’s light another one and say a prayer
for things to come.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Blake nodded in agreement helping him
light an additional candle as she said a prayer that somehow her family
would be untouched by anymore misery than they’d already had.
However, little did she know fate had other plans for each and every
one of them.
“I just don’t understand why he isn’t picking up his phone,” Brant
frowned after slipping his cell phone back into his pocket, “I mean
this isn’t like him to just not answer.”
“He’s hurting Brant, you can’t just expect him to act like he would
normally,” Avery reminded him taking a seat on the couch in the middle
of her living room. She looked around the house seeing so many
reminders of her life with Russell there. It was heartbreaking to
think that their dream had come to an end. Looking to Brant, she
watched as he tried to call Ken again and in that moment Johanna’s
words swirled in her mind.
“Brant Ashford is trouble and if you get sucked in by him, well then
you’re only setting yourself up for disaster.”
“Damn it,” Brant cursed hanging up the phone again. He started to
pace around the living room restlessly, “I should’ve tried to stop
him. I should’ve gotten his keys from him or at the very least…”
“Maybe he needed time to think. Ken just lost the love of his
life and he’s hurting right now. What he needs is to find a way
to try to resolve this within himself,” Avery offered up thinking about
her own situation, “Guilt is tearing him up inside and if you had any
doubts about that, today he showed us all that he blames himself for
what happened to Caitlin.”
“But it wasn’t his fault. It was that person who planted that
bomb who is to blame. That sick monster took away his dream and
now he’s letting it destroy his life,” Brant cursed kicking at the
floor while clenching his hands at his side, “It never should’ve been
like this. This never should’ve happened.”
“No it shouldn’t, but in the same sense we can’t go back,” Avery noted
with a slight frown, “We make our mistakes and we can’t change them,
Brant stopped what he was doing, turning to eye her intently. He
noted the strange expression on her face before taking a step forward,
“Why do I get the feeling that we’re not talking about Ken anymore?”
“Because we aren’t,” Avery confessed with a heavy sigh, “I wasn’t going
to say anything because I know how worried you are about Ken, but I’ve
“Avery, I’m sorry if I haven’t been here for you like I promised but
with my brother…” Brant offered apologetically, “I know that you have
the trial coming up and we need to work on our alibis and…”
“I’m not talking about that,” she argued rising to her feet again,
“Brant, I had a talk with Johanna at the church.”
“And?” he questioned in confusion.
“She told me everything Brant. She told me how you paid her to
come to town and break Russ and I apart,” Avery blurted out point
blank. She watched his face drain of all color as she threw the
words out at him, “She told me that you hired her to break Russ and I
“Avery I can…” Brant took a step towards her watching her mirror the
movement in taking a step back.
“Oh God, it’s true isn’t it,” she gasped in horror, “You really did
hire Johanna to break Russ and I up, didn’t you?”
“Avery, I swear that if you give me five minutes, then you’ll
understand why I…” Brant pleaded with her, reaching out for her once
“Don’t…just don’t…” Avery shook her head at him, “Don’t try to cover
for it. Tell me the truth. For once in your life forget
about cover stories and be honest with me Brant. Say it to my
face although I can see it in your eyes. You really did do it,
“Yes,” Brant revealed shamefully, “Yes I brought Johanna back to town
to have her break you and Russ up. Are you happy now?”
“You sick son of a bitch,” Avery marched forward to slap him right
square across the face, “I hate you.”
“Avery, I didn’t do it because of what you’re thinking. At the
time I was just trying to help you and…” Brant attempted to get close
to her once again.
“Save it!” she shouted at him, reaching for her finger and wrenching
the wedding ring he’d given her off of it. She flung it at his
face, her eyes wild with anger and emotion. “Just get out!
Go and don’t come back! I don’t want you or your help in my life
“Avery wait,” Brant pleaded only to be met by her angry stomp down the
hallway to her bedroom. As she slammed the door to her room,
Brant looked to the wedding ring in his hand realizing that the
honeymoon was far from ever happening between them.
Ken sat in the front seat of his car feeling the scene at the church
replay in his mind over and over again. Today was nothing like
he’d expected it to have been and now that he was lost in the
moment--remembering how he’d done everything wrong, he knew that there
was no other choice. He’d sunk to an all time low today and this
couldn’t be fixed. He couldn’t take back what had happened.
He couldn’t make this pain go away and that was the hardest part.
“She’s gone, but you’re not,” he could still hear people telling him
over and over again, but that didn’t matter. None of it
did. Now as he sat alone in the front seat of his car across from
the bar, he felt his guilt and pain eating him alive. He was
drowning in the sorrow and there was only one way to erase this ache
inside of him. Opening the car door, he stepped out into the
evening knowing that there was only one thing to do. He’d have to
find a way to forget and this was just the place to do it, he vowed
making his way into the bar ready to put all his hopes and dreams of a
life with Caitlin behind him forever.