Episode 199

Brant opened his eyes feeling the warmth surrounding him as he looked to the beautiful woman laying in his arms. In that moment all the very vivid, very special memories of the previous night came to mind. Tentatively he brushed his fingertips over her bare spine, feeling her snuggle into him further. Life just couldn’t get any better than this, he thought to himself before closing his eyes again. Taking in the soft scent of Avery, he felt a warmth spread out over him. Today was the beginning of the rest of their lives together and it was simply put--perfect.

“You awake,” Avery murmured feeling Brant shift beneath her.

“Barely,” he replied with a small yawn, “You can stay right where you’re at all day if you like.”

“Is that right,” she half smiled tilting her head to gaze up at him lovingly.

“That’s right,” he nodded in response enfolding her in his arms more completely. He pulled her in further over his chest before touching her cheek lazily, “Unless of course you have some kind of objection to that.”

“No,” she shook her head, her grin expanding with the moment, “no objections. I’m rather content right here in these arms of yours.”

“You have no idea how glad I am to hear it,” he replied kissing the top of her head. “Sleep well?”

“Very well,” she nodded again, her hair tickling over the center of his chest, “In fact, I have to say that the kind of exhaustion that I had by the time we finally did go to sleep was the best kind.”

“And what kind might that be,” he questioned with a knowing grin.

“The kind where your mind and body are at complete ease after you’ve experienced some of the most earth-shattering love making known to man or woman for that matter,” she replied with a tiny giggle swirling her index finger out over the center of his chest playfully.

“It was pretty good, wasn’t it,” he boasted feeling a warmth spread out over him.

“It was better than good and you know it,” she added pressing a small kiss in the center of his chest.

“Okay, so I’m guilty as charged, but part of the reason that it was so amazing was because of you Avery,” he replied pulling her up to drink the first kiss of the morning from her lips. As they parted he eased his fingers into her dark hair gingerly, “It’s always only because of you.”

“Well as much as I’d like to take all the credit, I’m afraid what happened in here last night was something that simply couldn’t be achieved if I was the only one in the room,” she eyed him suggestively, “As much as I could’ve tried to recreate the fireworks in here, I’d have fallen flat here on my own.”

“Of course you would’ve,” Brant rolled her over in his arms pinning her down beneath him on the mattress, “because you know I’m the best you’ve ever had.”

“I can’t argue that,” Avery confessed throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him heatedly. Soon the spark between them expanded, fanning out over both of their bodies.

“Of course you can’t,” Brant added pulling back ever so slightly to gaze into the eyes he’d lost himself in over and over again the previous evening. Only instead of seeing what he’d seen when she’d lost herself to pleasure, he felt something change. Her hair, her eyes--that look was there and suddenly…

“Why must you keep fooling yourself Brant,” she questioned stroking his cheek gently, “As nice as last night might’ve been, you and I both know that she’s not really what you want. Sure, Avery might be what you think you need, but we both know you’re only making it worse for yourself. You know where you belong and it‘s not with her.”

“Angela,” Brant blinked back with a small gasp opening his mouth to speak before she claimed his lips in a kiss full of sinfully scorching passion. He felt her hands roam over his body calling forth the wildly exotic spell she’d weaved upon him at the beach house at Christmas time and suddenly…

“Brant,” Avery nudged him slightly bringing him out from the dream that had consumed him, “hey…Brant…”

“Huh? What?” Brant’s eyes opened with a surprised snap. He glanced around the room seeking out the woman who’d stepped into his most intimate dream of his wife. Turning to Avery he stared at her blankly before reaching out for her, “Angel…”

“Angel,” she repeated with strange sideways smirk before a small laugh spilled over her lips, “well I might’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but that, well that’s different from you.”

“Avery, I…” Brant began feeling his almost slip up that came from his mouth when he’d first seen her. Instinctively he pulled Avery in close to him, urging her to lean into him, to give him that connection he’d been dreaming about with her before Angela had somehow invaded his thoughts. Closing his eyes he held her tighter yet, “Avery. Avery…”

“That’s right Brant,” she replied a bit uneasy at the way he was squeezing her. Turning in his arms, she placed her palm over the center of his chest, feeling his breath a bit uneven as his eyes remained shut tight, “Brant, is everything okay?”

“Of course everything is okay,” he replied in a rushed breath. He opened his mouth to speak, but realized that he was clearly not making sense to himself let alone his wife. Opening his eyes again he found Avery’s dark, concerned gaze upon him.

“Are you feeling okay,” she questioned touching his cheek gently, “Did you have a bad dream or something?”

“No, why would you ask,” he answered quickly--perhaps too quickly as he felt a moment of guilt wash over him. Here he’d had one of the best night’s of his life with Avery--living out his fantasies and yet he’d found his subconscious bringing back a face with a name he’d never thought he’d be speaking again.

“Because you were tense,” she eased her hand out over his chest down over his shoulders sliding over the length of his arm, “You still are.”

“I guess I kind of had a bit of an unnerving moment,” he confessed revealing a little of the truth to her. “It was just a very unexpected dream.”

“Care to talk about it,” she questioned rolling over to her side and propping herself up on her elbow from underneath the sheet.

“No, not at all,” he shook his head, his gaze traveling lovingly over her body. He could see that she was now wearing something that looked a lot like his flannel shirt. He motioned towards her, “What’s that?”

“I was a little chilly this morning,” she confessed with a small shrug of her shoulders, “I didn’t think you’d mind.”

“Of course I don’t,” Brant attempted to draw the covers back a bit to take a look at her. He noticed the way his boring pajama shirt looked sexier than ever as it hung loosely over her the hemline falling to just above her knees, “although I really hope that you didn’t plan to be wearing that for very long because I’d like it back.”

“You what?” she questioned blankly. “Right now?”

He nodded licking his lips as he turned in towards her ever so slightly. He inched in closer to her, his mouth moving dangerously close to hers, “That’s right. I want you out of it right this instant.”

“Are you cold,” she asked reaching out to curl her fingers over his shoulder, feeling the ripple of muscle flex beneath the touch.

He shook his head, “No, being cold is the furthest thing from my mind because seeing you like that was more than enough to heat me up.”

“So then why do you need it,” she challenged with an arch of her brow, feeling his hand drop down beneath the blankets to stroke her thigh gently. She let out a small breath, her pulse quickening as his touch traveled up and over her thigh.

“Because with you wearing that it leaves me in a bit of a hard spot,” he began watching her face remain fixed in the same questioning expression. He dipped down nibbling over her lower lip before teasing his way over to gently bite on her earlobe. He spoke up again in a low, throaty whisper, “Besides it‘s also keeping me from exploring all the places on your body that I want to taste.”

“Brant,” her eyes widened in response feeling his hand glide in between the warmth of her thighs. She bit down on her lip, closing her eyes at the feel of his skilled caress over her body before his other hand wrenched open the buttons on his shirt, freeing her up to his attentions.

“Much better,” he mouthed approvingly before his mouth skimmed over her collar bone in a painstakingly slow movement. He felt her inhale sharply while his fingers pressed in over her femininity once again. He stayed over her, watching her body respond to him, her every sensual impulse burning to break out from within.

“Brant I…” she stammered a bit, arching her body up towards his touch, her resolve weakening as he moved in over her. She reached out to touch him, to hold onto his shoulders, but instead she felt him catch her wrist mid-movement.

“Not so fast,” he shook his head disapprovingly. He ceased all movement over her, watching her expression shift from tortured to frustrated all in a split second. Her eyes opened to reveal their chocolate depths. Before she could say a word he placed his finger over her lips to silence any protest that may come from within. “This morning is all about you sweetheart as I plan on making a meal of you alone.”

“Brant, we promised Heather that we would…,” she began to remind him feeling him cut her off with a lustful, demanding kiss. She kissed him in return knowing first hand the power of her husband’s persuasion. Still she knew that they had a job to do this morning--one that simply wouldn’t go away in the name of passion.

“Heather can wait,” Brant instructed in a firm, yet faint whisper, his dark eyes commanding her complete attention. He knew what he wanted--knew what he needed and as he felt her resisting, he vowed to put an end to such a silly notion. Reaching out to the pajama shirt he’d tossed haphazardly to the other side of the bed, he felt himself filled with another wicked notion.

“But we said that…” she started feeling his lips devour hers again. She moved to touch him, to squeeze the rigid expanse of his body, but instead he held firm on her wrist bringing it up over her head. Within a matter of moments she felt the flannel material catch over her skin. She opened her eyes feeling his lips break away from hers as he reached for her other wrist. “Brant, what are you doing?”

“Teaching you to unwind a bit--to relinquish all your control and inhibitions for a little while with me,” Brant replied securing her wrists to the headboard using his shirt to keep her restrained. He pulled back slightly seeing the protest that teased over her lips, the words of retraction that she was about to convey, but before she had the chance, his fingers slithered down her arms, moving in to palm her breasts.

He watched her open her mouth again to make yet another request no doubt, but he wasn’t about to let her wiggle out of his morning plans for them. Leaning in to taste the breath of her words, he felt her pull slightly, as if seeking out some kind of escape from the position he’d pulled her into. Still as their kiss continued, Brant knew he’d find a way to persuade Avery to let go of what was keeping her from enjoying the morning.

“I want today to be all about you--not about Heather or about anything else outside this room,” he spoke in firm, definite words, the heat of his breath spilling over her now flushed features. He teased his finger over her lips, feeling the warmth of the blood that had rushed to their kiss-swelled beauty. “You work too hard on being everything to everyone else, so don’t you think it’s time for you to focus on you? Entirely on the kind of pleasure you know you deserve.”

Avery’s eyes fixed on his and for an instant he half expected her to suggest he release her arms, but instead of dishing out that request, she took his finger between her now parted lips--suckling on the them. Her tongue teased over his flesh, gently nipping at the tip before her eyes gave him the encouragement he needed to continue on his path of seduction.

“Good girl,” Brant replied with a smile, humming his words over her body. His lips began a hot wet trail over her neck, caressing the swell of her breasts before he placed a gentle kiss over her abdomen. He could see the goose bumps forming over her flesh, the tiny shiver that rushed over her. He eased her thighs apart making enough room to settle in over her before he tipped his head up to see the lust burning behind her eyes. Smiling inwardly Brant leaned forward delving in for the first taste of her. Instinctively she arched up towards him, a whimper rising throughout her body, the sudden twisting of her causing her to slide up over the sheet. Holding her securely in place, Brant cupped her hips, drawing her in closer to his ravenous mouth.

“Brant,” she cried out his name, twisting and grinding as he nudged her closer and closer to rendering her beyond the point of no return. She’d had so many thoughts of what they’d spend their day doing--how she’d approach the things that were waiting for them outside of the bedroom, but now as she closed her eyes, she gave herself completely to pleasure--to the feel of what he was doing for her.

“You’re so beautiful--so very beautiful,” she could hear his muffled words rise up throughout her body, bringing her every synapse to attention with the coiling ache growing from within. She opened her mouth to speak, to say something, but instead soft cries erupted from within. A tiny whimpering sound expelled from her lips, leaving her no place to run to--no longer room to hide as the first waves of ecstasy spread throughout her body. She closed her eyes tightly feeling the warm wash of bliss spread throughout her body, over her limbs down to the tip of her toes and in a flash she felt him reposition himself over her, sinking his body into hers.

“I love you,” he mouthed in her ear, riding the waves of her trip to the heavens with every thrust he made from within.

She cried out, feeling her body spiraling further and further into desire as they were one body, one breath, one spirit. She felt the material of the shirt sliding out over her hands that now ached to touch the man who’d taken great liberties to please her. Opening her eyes she found the intensity of his gaze overwhelming--the raw, unadulterated movements of their bodies together crashing over her. The passion was undeniable--the unmistakable mark of two lovers clearly meant for one another.

“Brant,” she murmured his name, leaning upward to kiss him as if it was the only thing that would keep her from truly falling from the edge of the cliff he’d taken her to.

“I love you Avery,” he whispered over her mouth, the buzz upon her lips sending another thrill over her.

“I love you,” she replied feeling him pull back ever so slightly to reveal the sudden shift in the eyes that now fell upon her. Their rich brown color were suddenly filled with the unmistakable jade color that she’d lost herself in time and time again. He smiled down at her before felt him drop his head down over her shoulder.

“Russ…” she managed to speak his name as her breath came out in short, uneven gasps.

“What did you just say?” Brant questioned pulling up off of her, stilling their movements. He remained a part of her, watching the twisted expression that replaced the pleasure that had driven his own hunger for her.

“Brant, I…” she blinked repeatedly as if to register the man she’d been with. Suddenly things felt awkward--inappropriate and in that moment she could feel things coming to a screeching halt between them.

“Did you just call me Russ,” Brant asked in a labored breath finding the strength to pull out of her and roll to his side of the bed. Falling onto the mattress he closed his eyes tightly replaying the second the fantasy came to an abrupt ending for them.

“Brant, I’m sorry,” Avery apologized still feeling her body tight with the ache he’d awakened in her. Pulling for the sheet, she started to cover herself knowing that the heat in her cheeks gave her away. “I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s okay,” Brant tried to still his breath, to calm the racing of his heart--to slow down his every impulse to ravish her as the word she’d spilled still stuck him right square in the chest. “I just…I can’t believe you called me Russ.”

“It slipped,” she replied regretfully, seeing the pain that crossed over his features. Bunching the sheet tighter to her chest, she felt tears threatening. “I didn’t mean to, but for a minute there…”

“You found yourself making love to your dead husband, right?” he questioned harshly needing a moment to distance himself from the situation. He threw the cover back and got out of bed with a small stomp. He kept his back to her, not really sure what to do or say after this Freudian slip. He wanted her--needed her and more than anything he felt like hopping back into bed, ignoring the word he was certain he was never meant to hear and ravishing her all over again, but he couldn’t. He knew he should’ve returned to her full force--showing her all the reasons why Russell Denton didn’t even come close to the passion they’d shared with one another, but instead he found himself reminded of the dream he’d had earlier. Of the mistake he’d almost made when he’d first seen her upon waking up.

“Brant, I’m so sorry,” Avery started reaching out to touch his shoulder. She felt tears burning behind her eyes at the stupidity of where her mind had taken her, “I never meant to…”

“It’s okay,” Brant inhaled slowly pulling together the strength to face her again. He could see that she’d began crying and as she clenched the sheet tightly around her body, he reached out to her.

“Come here,” he suggested guiding her back over to the bed. He took a seat before bringing her down to sit in his lap. Smoothing his fingers through her hair, he watched a small sniffle rise from within. “Avery, hey it’s okay.”

“No it’s not,” she shook her head adamantly, “I shouldn’t have been so thoughtless--so careless and now…”

“And now I know that as convinced as we were last night that you’re ready for all of this,” he touched her cheek urging her to meet his dark eyes before wiping at her tears, “we were wrong. We’re pushing this too far too fast between us.”

“No, we’re not,” she argued with him, “Brant I meant what I said last night about wanting you--about loving you…”

“I know you did,” he nodded trying to be understanding, “I believe you love me, but I also know that you are still hurting over what happened to Russ.”

“Brant, it’s just that…” she struggled to find an explanation.

“The man was a part of your life for most of your life,” Brant cut her off in his best attempt to be compassionate, “you can’t just ignore that you still loved him with all of your heart when he was taken from this world.”

“It’s just so hard,” she bit down on her lower lip nervously, “Brant, I wish I could say that I didn’t think about him--that I didn’t still love him, but…”

“But nothing,” he placed his finger over her lips to silence her, “You don’t have to explain your heart. I know that you and Russ had something special. Your daughter is always going to be proof of that…”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you,” she replied painfully. “Brant, when we were making love just then--when you were with me…I really, truly wanted to be with you. I was thinking about you--feeling everything about how right we were together, but then just for a second…”

“You thought about Russ,” Brant watched her lower her head to gaze down at the floor. He curled his finger in underneath her chin to urge her to meet his eyes again, “Avery, you aren’t betraying me by caring about him--about missing what you once had together just like you aren’t betraying him by loving me.”

“I do love you Brant,” she replied her lower lip trembling with the words, “more than I ever imagined possible.”

“And I love you,” he confessed leaning in to kiss her tenderly, “which is why I don’t want to push you. You’ve already had enough of that in your life and I don’t want to add to making you uncomfortable.”

“You weren’t making me uncomfortable at all. Not by any means, but I guess that somewhere in the back of my mind, well, the past came back to haunt me for a second and…” she tried to explain herself again.

“It’s okay,” he pulled her in closer to him, feeling her lean in against his chest, “Avery, we’ll have plenty of other mornings to get this right. Hell, despite it’s not so great ending, I think we were doing pretty good there for a while.”

“We were,” she nodded in agreement closing her eyes and listening to the solid, steady sounds of his heart beating beside her, “Brant, it’s just that with me and…well with all of this. I mean I’ve only…well other than when I was with Russ, well I’ve never wanted someone like this. I’ve never felt this attraction--never felt safe enough to let loose with anyone else, but…”

“But Russ,” Brant finished for her noticing the guilty expression that swept over her, “Hey, Avery, don’t let that upset you. The fact that you deem me special enough to let me in, well that speaks volumes about how you feel for me.”

“I know, but I just wish…” she started again turning her gaze to him, “Brant, you deserved more than what you had back in bed.”

“Avery, I have everything I could possible want in this world,” he replied with a small shake of his head, “What happened back in bed was small potatoes. I mean for a minute there, well I was thinking about ham and eggs and I came this close to calling out oh bacon…”

Avery gave him a long look before a half smile erupted from within, “You so did not.”

“I did too,” he teased in an attempt to make light of the situation. “I mean for a second there I was afraid I’d sound like a food addict at drive thru there. First it was bacon, then pancakes and a cappuccino, but somehow oh cappuccino, oh cappuccino just seemed to make me sound insane…”

“Oh please,” she swatted at his chest lightly, another laugh rising from within, “Brant, you’re terrible.”

“I made you smile, didn’t I?” he nudged her slightly, “That’s what really counts.”

“Well whatever it is,” she paused before eyeing him appreciatively, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For this…for everything,” she shrugged her shoulders, “but most of all for being as wonderful as you are.”

“Hey, what can I say, when you’re good, you’re good I guess,” he teased with a small wink before placing his hand over her abdomen gently, “You know as much as I hate to say it, maybe breakfast is a good idea. This little one needs something good to eat as does her mother I’m sure.”

“Breakfast does sound nice,” Avery admitted feeling the small movement he made over her abdomen. She watched his gaze drop down to her stomach and a strange expression crossed over his features. She eyed him intently before asking, “What?”

“Nothing,” he shrugged before offering up a sheepish expression, “I just…well…never mind…”

“No, what is it?” she probed further, “I can see you’ve got something on your mind.”

“Well, I was just…just thinking about the little one,” he revealed with a small smile, “You know about what it’s going to be like having her around.”

“Having regrets about all of this already,” she questioned feigning lightness though she wondered if he’d reconsider wanting the responsibility he’d pushed upon himself in marrying her.

“Not on your life,” he shook his head firmly, “Believe it or not I can’t wait until she’s with us. Truth be told this is something I’ve thought about for a long time.”

“Really?” she questioned surprised.

“Yes really,” he nodded back at her, “I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to be a father and while I know Russ is her daddy…”

“He is, but Brant you’re going to be a father to her as well,” Avery laced their fingers with one another, “We’re a family now and…”

“And it’s everything I’ve always wanted,” he confessed keeping her close to him, “For a long time I thought that something like this was impossible. That I’d never find the right woman and have all of this, but here it is. I’m living out all of my dreams with my beautiful wife and our child on the way. I mean your child…”

“Brant, you’re every much a part of this now as I am,” she insisted with a small smile, “After all you’ve done to save us, well I welcome the thought of my daughter growing up to have you in her life as her stepfather. I know we’re both in good hands with you…”

“I hope so,” he nuzzled her neck gently, “and who knows? Maybe one day we can give her a little brother or sister to play with…that is if you’d consider us maybe well…”

“What? Having another child together?” she watched the sheepish expression spread over his features when he nodded.

“I’m not trying to say that your daughter won’t be the most important thing in the world to me because I swear to you I’ll be a good father to her. I’ll seem like I really am her dad and even though I’m not Russ, she’ll never want for anything. I’ve got so much love to give and I’m sure that together we can give her the world. I have every intention of spoiling her. Anything she wants--anything she needs, she’ll have it.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Avery leaned in to kiss him tenderly, “and truth be told I think a brother or sister would be good for her. I know how important it was for Guy and I growing up to lean on one another. If God’s willing, then I’d love to have a baby with you Brant.”

“Really?” his eyes widened with a sudden eagerness.

She nodded before offering up a teasing grin, “I mean that could change when I get in the delivery room this time around, but…”

“Well then that will be the point in time I’ll remind you that Russ put you in that position,” he added with a small smile before reaching out to her, “though if you really mean it about us having a baby…”

“Of course I mean it. Brant you’re a wonderful man and in a way well you’re going to be the only father that my daughter knows in her life. I mean naturally I’ll want her to know all about Russ--about the man he was and about the love he and I had with one another, but with you, well you’re giving us that chance at having a family. That’s the most wonderful feeling and I know between the two of us we have a lot of love to give. I don’t see why we couldn’t have another baby one day.”

“Oh Avery,” Brant leaned in to kiss her excitedly, “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

“Hmm, I don’t recall at the moment, but you can tell me again if you’d like,” she teased back with a wink.

“How about I just show you,” he suggested pulling her back onto the bed with him with a small laugh.

“I knew you’d get back to something along these lines,” she laughed feeling him throw his arms around her before kissing her.

“I do love you Mrs. Ashford,” he mouthed laying beside her, in awe of his beautiful bride.

“I love you too Mr. Ashford,” Avery replied leaning in to kiss him when the sound of someone at the door stepped in on the moment. Shaking her head Avery pulled back ever so slightly, “It would seem that reality has come calling.”

“We could always ask reality to leave a message,” he teased back before catching her pointed look, “Oh okay, go get dressed. I’ll see who is there.”

“Are you sure,” she questioned watching him nod.

“Yeah, but hurry up. I’m eager to get into that love affair with bacon,” he teased watching her disappear into the bathroom before he slipped into his pajama pants. Making his way over to the door, he half expected to find Heather standing before him, but instead it was his grandfather.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” Augustus began cautiously.

“No, not anymore,” Brant answered gleefully before opening the door just a bit more, “Avery’s getting dressed and we were just on our way down to breakfast in a few minutes.”

“Before you do that I think there’s something you should know Brant,” Augustus hesitated, lines of worry evident behind his dark eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Brant questioned as Avery reentered the bedroom.

“Augustus, I thought I heard your voice,” she greeted him cheerfully, “Good morning.”

“Good morning to you as well,” Augustus smiled at her watching her take her place beside Brant. He noticed the newfound closeness between them as Avery curled her arm around Brant’s waist leaning in against him.

“So what’s on your mind,” Brant questioned looking to his grandfather once again.

“Well, I just wanted to tell you…” Augustus started, but was unable to finish telling him his news the moment Ken walked on by beating him to it.

“Well isn’t this just lovely,” Ken sneered rolling his eyes at the sight of Brant and Avery before him, “It looks like a regular family portrait except for the fact that your wife is having someone else’s baby Brant.”

“Ken, what are you doing here?” Brant frowned, his mood immediately darkening.

“It’s my home,” Ken reminded him with an icy glare before directing his attention to Avery, “I take it you decided to ruin your life with Brant huh? Unless you were just missing me, right Avery?”

Avery eyed him intently falling to silence. She felt Brant stiffen beside her and in that moment she knew that something big was about to happen. The fact that Ken had returned home again meant trouble, but how much trouble it would be, well, that still remained to be seen.


Kevin walked up to Angela’s place knowing full well that she was still probably wanting to keep some distance between them, but after his talk with Nick the previous evening he realized that maybe it was time to set a few things straight. He knocked twice before wondering if maybe she was still asleep.

Leaning over to pull the spare key out from the potted plant that sat near the door, Kevin let himself inside. Once inside he looked around to discover that the lights were still off--the coffee maker still unplugged and off showing him that Angela still clearly was asleep. Making his way past the kitchen, he headed down the hallway to the bedroom hoping to catch Angela in a moment where she’d be more open to listening to reason.

Tiptoeing into the bedroom, Kevin noticed that the blinds were still shut tightly giving off a darkened impression of the room around him. Still, while he’d hated to intrude upon Angela’s resting, he really just wanted to talk to her. He set the spare key down on her dresser before making his way over to her bed. Quietly he kicked out of his shoes before moving in onto the bed beside where he could make out her form laying beneath the blanket. In the darkness he could sense that she was still sleeping, but he couldn’t let that stop him from saying what needed to be said.

“Angie,” he whispered her name sliding in closer to the warmth beneath the blankets, “hey, I see you’re being a sleepyhead this morning huh?”

She said nothing, only shifted a bit beneath the blanket before Kevin slid his hand up over to the top of the blanket to touch her shoulder, but instead he stopped himself mid-movement. Dropping his hand down again, he lay back on his back staring at the ceiling. He wondered how he was going to tell her why he felt the need to protect her--how he was so certain that Nick was going to hurt her like the last man she’d let in, but in this moment he found himself at a loss. He knew she wouldn’t like what he had to say, yet he had a right to protect his best friend. He had a right to spare her some of the grief he felt was coming, didn’t he?

“Look, don’t say anything. Just listen,” Kevin began turning to his side, His eyes fell upon the pile of blankets before him as he continued, “I know that you think this Nick guy is interesting and could be something special, but remember the last time you thought you found something special? He left you brokenhearted and pregnant and before you tell me to shut up, just think about this. Is this guy really worth all the grief you’ll be feeling in the end when he winds up showing his true colors? Look Angie, I know the type and he spells trouble. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know that he’s someone who is only going to hurt you. You deserve better than that and I just wish that you’d take the time to at least hear me out.”

Kevin fell to silence before watching her shift a bit underneath the blankets.

“I’m taking your silence as a sign that you’re either ignoring me because you’re not interested in hearing what I have to say, or you’re finally thinking about what I’ve been telling you all along. Angie, my instincts are pretty good most of this time and this guy, well this guy just seems like something that you can do without. Yes, you might write it off as jealously--as my being an overprotective jerk like you’ve been doing, but deep down I know you can sense it too. I know that you hate it when I’m right, but Angie, my gut instinct is telling me that this guy is all wrong for you. You deserve better. You deserve someone who is going to step up to the plate and be there for you and your child when the times are good and bad. You need a man who can love you and is looking for more than a quick fling. Angie, I’ve told you time and time again, but that won’t stop me from saying it again. You need someone who isn’t going to hurt you--someone who can love you like you need to be loved and Nick just isn’t going to fit the bill. I can see that now.”

Again nothing, but silence followed. Kevin frowned wondering if he was going to get anywhere with her. He’d heard a change in her breathing a few moments ago alerting him that she’d been awake, yet she’d remained uncharacteristically silent. Leaning in closer to her, Kevin wrapped his arm around her body, snuggling in beside her.

“Angie, I’m only telling you this because you’re my best friend and you told me time and time again that if you would’ve had the chance to keep me from hurting like I did when I married Michelle that you would’ve tried to do that for me. You made me promise that if push came to shove, I’d do the same for you and that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to keep you from falling into another heartbreak. That’s what this is about,” he lay his head against the edge of her pillow squeezing her in his arms when a sudden thought occurred to him. “Angie? Have you been working out lately?”

“Not nearly as much as I should’ve, but if you don’t get your arm off of me right now, then I’m sure I’m going to get a great workout kicking your ass,” a very male, very agitated voice grumbled as Kevin felt his jaw drop in shock.

“But Angie…I…” Kevin gulped feeling the lights snap on overhead as he found himself face to face with a bare-chested Nick. Both men screamed and scurried to opposite ends of the bed in a frenzy before Kevin squealed a horrified remark. “What in the hell?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Angela blurted out, shock spreading over her features as she saw Nick and Kevin in bed with one another. “What are you two doing?”

“Not what it looks like,” Kevin gulped sliding back enough to take a long look at the man beside him, “What are you doing here?”

“It’s none of your business,” Nick glared at him, wrenching the blankets to his side of the bed before looking to Angela very concerned, “Does he always make a habit of climbing into bed with you?”

“Not lately,” Angela replied with a disapproving frown before shaking her head, “but that’s beside the point. Would either one of you care to explain to me what you’re doing in my bed--together?”

“It’s not what it…” Kevin started again before he turned his gaze to Nick once more, “I don’t believe this. How in the hell did you wind up here? You’re supposed to be at your place and…”

“Kevin,” Angela interrupted snapping her fingers to recapture his attention, “talk to me.”

“Angie, it’s not what…” Kevin started watching her march forward.

“You already said that. Let’s skip over that and cut to the truth, shall we?” Angela’s dark eyes demanded as she stood at the foot of the bed in her hospital uniform, “Nick?”

“Hey, I was just sleeping,” Nick threw his hands in the air innocently, “After you got up, you told me to rest and that’s what I was doing here.”

“I can’t believe you Angie,” Kevin shuffled out of bed nearly falling to the floor in his haste. “You slept with him?”

“That’s none of your business,” Angela snapped before turning to a very frazzled looking Nick, “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” Nick shuddered before glaring up at Kevin, “I think that would depend considering in about five minutes I think Kevin over here was going to get a whole hell of a lot closer to me than I’d ever wanted.”

“I was not,” Kevin argued turning his attention to Angela, “I came over here to talk some sense into you about this creep, but obviously it’s too late now that he’s here in your bed. Angie, what are you thinking? How could you go off and just screw this guy knowing as little as you do about him? Don’t you have any hint of common sense left in that brain of yours or did that last idiot you hooked up with suck that out of you as well?”

“It’s none of your business Kevin,” Angela marched in towards him, “Who I take to bed with me is none of your concern and if Nick and I enjoyed one another’s company last night, then who the hell are you to judge?”

“Only your best friend and a man that has dedicated his life to making sure that you don’t wind up in situations just like this one. What do you think Cameron would say if he knew anything about any of this?”

“Like I give a care what Cameron has to say about my sex life. It’s none of his concern,” Angela reached for his arm before offering up a hearty shove and pushing him towards the bedroom door, “Just like it’s none of yours either. Get out!”

“But Angie,” Kevin pleaded with her, feeling her push him out into the hallway. He opened his mouth to speak again before he felt the wind press in over his features after she’d slammed the door in his face.

“Kind of harsh, wasn’t it?” Nick questioned bringing his fingers through his dark hair. He watched the anger mount over Angela’s beautiful face as she leaned up against the door in an attempt to control her state of upset.

“This is none of his business,” Angela mouthed doing a silent count to ten before she lost all control.

“Maybe not,” Nick scratched his head, “but you could’ve been a little bit more reasonable with the guy.”

“More reasonable?” she repeated, her eyes snapping open with a frown building over her face, “You’re going to tell me to be more reasonable to him when he hopped into bed with you.”

“As much as I hate to say it, I think he came in here to warn you about me,” Nick sighed watching her walk over to the bed and slump down beside him.

“I don’t need Kevin’s warnings,” Angela huffed stubbornly, “He’s not going to tell me how to live my life. It’s so not happening.”

“Well, as much as I hate being the object of this animosity, he may have a point,” Nick frowned himself thinking about the small piece of the conversation that he’d heard Kevin begin with when he’d awakened.

“No, he doesn’t,” she shook her head at him, “He’s only here because that’s what he’s been hired to do. He’s kept an eye on me since I was a child and I’ve never been able to just be myself. Between him and Cameron…”

“Cameron,” Nick repeated with a strange expression, “Who is that?”

“He’s no one,” she waved her hand at him dismissively.

“He must be someone,” Nick slid in closer to her, “seeing as he was mentioned twice in the last five minutes.”

Angela turned to face him, her face a mask of frustration as she spoke out to him, “He’s just another man who thinks he can tell me what I can and can’t do with my life. I don’t need any parenting. I’m a grown woman and I had a father already. I don’t need more of them popping up especially when it comes to my personal life.”

“So you’re just going to let Kevin sit out there hating on me thinking that I slept with you last night,” Nick questioned with a shake of his head.

“It would serve him right to think that we had mind-blowing sex last night,” she nodded stubbornly, “Maybe he can take that with him and report to Cameron.”

“Is that what you really want,” Nick asked gently, his voice smooth and even as he propped himself up on his elbow. He watched her fall back into bed beside him before turning to face him.

“It would’ve happened if I wasn’t called into work I’m sure,” Angela replied, a blush rising over her cheeks before she reached out to touch his face gingerly, “I mean that’s kind of the direction we were headed in, right?”

“Well yeah, but things didn’t get to that point,” Nick reminded her thinking of how their heavy make out session was brought to a screeching halt by a medical emergency. “Still, I know Kevin’s a pretty important person in your life. You might be mad at him now, but you said it yourself. He’s your best friend. I hate to see you two at odds with one another because of me.”

“Kevin’s going to hate any man that’s around me simply because no one will ever be good enough,” she groaned inwardly before falling back to the pillows once again, “Ever since I told him I was pregnant, he’s been on security overload watching my every move and trying to dictate what I should and shouldn’t do.”

“So he cares about you. Can you fault him for that?” Nick questioned with a shrug.

“Hey, he’s been hating on you, so why are you taking his side? Did he somehow beat the hell out of you while you two were in bed together or is there something else I should know about?” she replied suggestively.

“I’m just saying,” he paused fighting for the right words, “It’s like this. I have these feelings for you--these really intense, really undeniable feelings that I’m not about to ignore, but with Kevin, well maybe before you and I are free to act on what it is we’re feeling with one another, well maybe I should try to talk to the guy. Maybe I can find a way to win him over and then…”

“Nick, it’s never going to happen,” she argued, “When Kevin makes up his mind about something, it’s not about to change.”

“You can’t blame a guy for trying, can you? I mean hey, what’s the worst that could happen,” he threw out simply.

“He could try to beat your ass again,” she reminded him thinking back to the last time Kevin had burst in on them in an intimate position.

“Yes, but if I don’t at least try, Kevin could come in at an even less appropriate time and spoil the mood. We’ll never be able to give this thing between us a try if we don’t at least try to make peace with him,” he insisted reaching out to sweep his fingers in over her cheek, “Don’t you think we can at least try to make this work somehow?”

“Kevin’s not going to just bend on this because we’d like him too. He’s stubborn and…” she started to argue only to be silenced by the feel of his finger over her lips.

“And I want you more than I’ve ever wanted a woman,” Nick leaned forward to steal a kiss from her lips, “there’s something about you that keeps me coming back for more--even with the threat of death hanging over my head.”

“But it shouldn’t have to be like that,” Angela replied with an emphatic sigh.

“No, it shouldn’t, but maybe I can find a way to fix it so that it isn’t that way. Maybe we can work this out so that we can have the best of both worlds,” he suggested moving in over her, “We’ll find a way to win over Kevin and then…”

“Then we can pick up where we left off last night,” she half questioned curling his arms around his shoulders.

“That’s the general idea,” he nodded bending down to kiss her long and hard. He felt her immediate reaction to him and as they lay with one another, he found himself thinking of all the reasons being close to Angela seemed to make perfect sense.

“Oh okay,” Angela sighed breathlessly as they parted, “but we need to find a way to fix this soon because eventually I’m going to stop worrying about what Kevin thinks and start focusing on this--on us…”

“It’ll happen for us,” Nick promised with a small smile, “but for now, what do you say to breakfast? Maybe I can try to whip something up for you in the kitchen.”

“You cook?” she asked curiously.

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?” he shrugged his shoulders again.

“It sounds like fun, but I really have to get back to work. I just stopped by because I left one of my patient files here,” she explained with a frown. “I was only stopping in when, well when all hell broke loose…”

“Then I’ll just have to take a rain check,” Nick decided helping her up and out of bed. “You go to work and I’ll think about ways to start working on Kevin.”

“It’s not going to be easy Nick. Kevin’s stubborn,” she warned.

“I’m up for the challenge,” Nick promised knowing that he’d find a way to make Kevin Adonis accept him in Angela’s life one way or the other.


The persistent ringing of the phone roused Carly from her slumber. She turned over in bed haphazardly reaching out to snag the phone off of her nightstand. Bringing it up to her ear, she let out an exaggerated groan that spun out slurred words.


“Carly, is that you,” Andrew Byrne’s voice questioned a bit unsure from the other end of the line.

“Andy,” she yawned his name before sitting up straighter. She ran her fingers through her hair giving her eyes a moment to focus, “What time is it?”

“It’s early,” Andy paused for a moment, “and I’m guessing I woke you up.”

“No, you didn’t,” she hesitated for a moment before confessing, “okay, so maybe you did, but it’s really no problem.”

“It’s only not a problem if there’s not someone there with you,” he grew quiet again for a brief couple seconds, “You are alone, right?”

“Why does it matter,” she questioned laying back down and stretching out in her bed.

“Because I’ll be extremely jealous if you aren’t,” he teased with a flirtatious laugh.

“Spare me Andy,” she rolled her eyes at his comment, “From what I’ve heard you’ve been making your rounds in Florida there.”

“Ah, so you’ve been talking to Deidra there,” he made a small tsking sound, “and here I was hoping you’d see my side of things when I called you before.”

“I heard your side of things and I know you well enough to know you’re full of shi--” she started with a hint of a smile before he cut her off.

“Hey now, is that any way to talk to your friend,” he objected.

“Only when my friend is a certified snake,” she interjected.

“I hope that isn’t your way of telling me that you’re dumping me as a client now after the message you left with my secretary,” his voice pleaded with her.

“As much as I’d like to say I’ve kept my scruples in tact and I’m declining the opportunity to represent you, the truth is that I really would like to help you get this one over with,” she revealed thinking about her confrontation with Deidra.

“Now there’s the Carly I know and love,” Andy seemed to light up over the phone line, “Dave doesn’t know what a gem he’s got in you.”

“At this point I’m a free agent,” Carly replied with a poignant sigh, “but I’m working on changing that.”

“With the police chief who is more clueless than my wife,” he hesitated again, “Speaking of my wife, is your Dudley Do Right Dave still pining away over her?”

“It’s not really relevant to why you called today, now is it?” she countered not wanting to get into it with him.

“It is if it helps my side of things in the divorce,” he replied with a hopefulness in his tone.

“I think you’re just going to have to take your changes as they are right now Andy. This isn’t about hardball. It’s about putting an end to the mistake you and Deidra made with one another,” Carly pointed out firmly.

“The mistake will be letting her get everything I worked for in my career. I’m not about to sit back and let her steal my life’s work from me. Of course, she’s been reluctant to sign the papers thus far,” he contemplated the situation, “which makes me wonder if she’s hoping for a reunion.”

“Are you planning one anytime soon?” Carly had to ask.

“Not a chance. I’m enjoying being a bachelor far too much,” he revealed with a small chuckle, “and before you say it doesn’t surprise you, I have to say you should come out to Florida. We can kick back together for a few days and I can show you all you’ve been missing in wasting your years on Dave Warner’s list.”

“Andy, I’m not dumb enough to do something like that,” she reminded him with a small laugh of her own, “I might be a free agent, but I’m not desperate or seeking to become another notch on your bedpost.”

“You’d be one of the best notches I’m certain,” he flirted again.

“Yeah, well keep dreaming Fido because it’s not happening. Now try to make yourself respectable before we have to get this case moving. I’d hate to have to hand all of your assets over to Deidra’s lawyer because of your less than savory behavior.”

“Oh I can assure you it’s very savory. Delectable even,” Andy hinted at something far more sensual than what they were chatting about.

“Good-bye Andy. I’m hanging up now,” she announced setting the receiver back on the base again. She shook her head at Andy’s blatant attempts at flirting. It hadn’t moved her in the least, but it would provide her some tools to work with as she tried to put things together for his upcoming divorce. Falling back onto her pillows once again she couldn’t help but smile knowing full well that if Deidra was about to play hardball, she’d have a good time sticking it right back to her. This case was just the beginning.


“Hey there,” Dean smiled seeing Deidra enter his office slowly with a folder in her hands.

“I think I need your help with something,” Deidra informed him as he turned away from his computer giving her his full attention.

“What is that you need me to do?” he questioned quickly before seeing her frown.

“I just thought that maybe you should take a good, long look at that,,” she informed him with a cryptic smile as Dean nodded. “It is for a friend of mine.”

“Sure,” Dean nodded quickly before looking through his papers, “I think I can do that. Just let me finish up here and then I will take a look at that for you.”

“While I know you’re probably busy,” Deidra motioned to the papers once again, “Why don’t you just take a quick look at them before I leave?”

“Alright,” Dean nodded opening up the folder to find a big, red heart splashed over the page before him with the writing ‘Consider Yourself Mine Tonight’ in a bold type. He glanced up at Deidra catching her sexy smirk before he leaned back in his chair and smiled, “This looks very important.”

“I thought you might see the urgency in it doctor as I’ve got a patient who is needing a good doctor to help her with this sudden fever she gets when he walks into the room,” she wiggled her brow at him.

“Well since it sounds like such a dire condition,” he winked at her, “how can I refuse?”

“You can’t,” she replied with a small laugh, “so as it says consider yourself mine tonight.”

“These arms are all yours and anything else you’d like,” Dean promised eagerly thinking about how good it would be to spend an evening alone with Deidra.

“Good, I like the sound of that,” she added before her pager went off. She looked to it seeing that she had to go. Frowning she looked up at him ready to explain.

“Someone else wants you right now huh?” he asked with a knowing expression.

“Unfortunately duty calls, but tonight I swear it’ll be just you and me,” she assured him tucking her pager back into her pocket.

“In that case, I’ll be sure to take advantage of that particular situation,” he offered up with a sensual expression giving her a brief once over.

“Oh how I hope you do,” she blew him a small kiss.

“Believe me I have every intention of doing so,” he agreed watching her grin before walking back towards the door to exit. “Until tonight.”

“I’ll be waiting,” Dean promised before watching her walk out of his room.

He turned back to his computer before his phone started ringing. He looked at the number as a frown spread across his features.

“Great,” he groaned before answering the phone. “What do you want? I told you that I can’t get calls here.”

He was silent for a moment as he looked at his watch listening to the person on the other end talk.

“Alright, I will meet you out there in a little bit, but I have to make it quick,” Dean hissed before hanging up the phone quickly. “I hate doing this.”

He quickly got out of his seat and walked out of the room hating the way he felt controlled. This deception was going to be the death of him if he wasn’t careful about how he did things. Looking out to the world beyond the hospital walls he wondered if he’d ever break free of the secret that kept him distanced from Deidra. If she ever found out the truth, she’d never forgive him, yet he couldn’t be honest with her at this point in time. He knew better than that.


Shannon took in a deep breath trying to think of what she should do next as she turned in her chair uneasily.

“Why can’t I think right now?” she questioned angrily before standing up from her chair and walking towards the window taking a quick glance out.

She hadn’t seen or heard from Don in the last day and she really needed to know what it was that he wanted to tell her.

“Each day, you make me grow more eager to know what it is that has you tied in knots,” Shannon sighed shaking her head slowly, “Why won’t you just tell me what it is so we can get this whole thing over with.”

She lazily sat back down in her chair before grabbing her pencil trying to finish her work, but was distracted by the thought of Don crossing her mind once more.

“How come I can’t get you out of my mind?” she questioned uneasily before tapping her pencil roughly on the table. “Why am I so upset about you…about this?”

She never seemed to want to worry about Don, but this whole thing was starting to make her worry about him. What was wrong with him?

“I just hope you start telling me what is going Don,” she frowned before shaking her head slowly and going back to work.


“Ken I really don’t think that this is the time or the place,” Augustus Ashford began seeing the rage burning behind his grandson’s eyes, “The doctors said…”

“I don’t give a damn what the doctors said,” Ken replied stubbornly still glaring at Brant and Avery, “It’s none of their business.”

“They only want you to get back on your feet again,” Augustus began again hoping to dissuade Ken from causing more problems for Brant and Avery.

“Yeah so why don’t you go back to wherever it is you came from,” Brant waved his hand at him dismissively, “Go find another place to get ‘back on your feet again’.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Ken declared emphatically taking note of his brother’s mocking tone, “especially since I know you’d just use that as an excuse to get Avery off of her feet all over again and into bed, but from the looks of things it didn’t take her too long to hop from one brother to the next, does it?”

“You son of a…” Avery lunged forward unable to keep her silence as Ken stood before her. She felt her every instinct heightened, her anger and rage towards him pouring out of her with the way he eyed her.

“Don’t,” Brant insisted catching her arm before she could get any closer to Ken. “I’ll handle this.”

“Oh look at this,” Ken rolled his eyes at his brother, “Ever the hero. What are you going to do this time Brant? Kick me while I’m down again? I mean that’s more your fighting style isn’t it seeing as you weren’t man enough to engage in a fair fight the first time, right?”

“That’s it,” Brant moved forward ready to stomp his brother to a bloody pulp regardless of the consequences that would follow.

“That’s enough,” Augustus stepped in between the twins, the powerful force behind his thick accent vibrating through the room, “This isn’t going to be happening today. Brant, back off and Kenneth, you apologize.”

“For what?” Ken questioned motioning to Brant and Avery, “For the fact that his wife chose me before she’d even think about going to him?”

“That’s a lie and you know it,” Avery shot back icily, “You tricked me.”

“Oh please,” Ken rolled his eyes, “Do you have any idea how many women have tried to use that excuse between us over the years? Go on and tell her Brant. Tell her all about the women you’ve tossed to the curb for doing what your precious wife did with me.”

“You’re so full of yourself Ken, but from where I stand you’re nothing. No, I take that back,” Brant spat out at him, ignoring his brother’s goading, “you’re less than nothing.”

“Hmm, well then maybe I’ve finally reached your level,” Ken glared back at him before addressing Avery, “and you, well you know you might think you’ve got it in order with your life, but you don’t. Brant’s only looking for the big score and that’s what you were to him. You were the untouchable and now that he’s had you, well sweetheart, your days are numbered. He’ll dump you so fast your head will spin and when he does, I’ll be the one saying I told you so. You’ll have whored yourself out to him and destroyed the memory of your life with Russ for nothing. And to think Russ actually once believed you were a woman of character. What a joke that is.”

“That’s enough,” Augustus snapped not bothering to remain calm any longer. He brought up his arm, using it to shove Ken out of the doorway. Slamming his grandson into the hallway wall behind him, Augustus threw out a firm warning glare, “This is finished Ken. You will not disrespect Avery in her own home.”

“Ah yes, that’s right, she’s enchanted you as well,” Ken rolled his eyes before looking over his shoulder at Brant, “I guess I’m not your only competition where Avery is concerned. She‘s really making her rounds.”

“I said that’s enough,” Augustus warned shoving Ken once again, “You know better than this. You grew up better than this…”

“See now that’s where you’re wrong. I grew up down in it and it’s just my upbringing coming back to haunt me--to haunt us all, but then again Brant knows all about that. Don’t you Brant?” Ken snapped back over in his brother’s general direction.

“Brant, take Avery downstairs. I’d like to speak with your brother,” Augustus never turned back--never made any move to glance in Brant’s direction. He knew full well that Brant was no doubt in an uproar and rightfully so after the things that Ken had said, but Augustus was not about to let another repeat of what had happened before his arrival take place.

“Grandfather I…” Brant started to protest.

“I said now Brant,” Augustus warned, keeping Ken pinned to the wall as Brant reluctantly passed through the hallway with Avery close beside him. Once the two had vanished down the long, winding staircase Augustus released Ken. “You have a lot of growing up to do and you’d think being in the position you’re in, well, you’d think that you’d realize you’re walking on thin ice around here.”

“I’m every bit as much as an Ashford as Brant is. I have every right to be in my home and just because he can’t control his slut wife,” Ken started venomously watching the expression on Augustus’s face.

“You will no talk about her that way. From where I stand you’re lucky that she hasn’t leapt to press charges against you yet. It would seem to me that Avery’s giving you an opportunity to change your ways and if you’d take her up on that…” Augustus tried to explain to him.

“Ah yes, Avery the patron saint of virtue around here,” Ken rolled his eyes once again, “I suppose you’re going to tell me I should get down on my knees and beg her for forgiveness--for redemption for my sins, huh?”

“All I’m asking is for you to use your head for a while,” Augustus sighed heavily, “You know better than this.”

“I know what I saw from Nicholas--” Ken spat out at him, “From the son you left to ruin our lives. You knew full well what kind of monster he was and if you stand there and judge me, you have to look from within--at yourself. If you really believe I’ve sinned, well the truth is I’m just a product of my environment. I was left at his mercy for years--left to carry the burden of the Ashford curse…”

“You’re better than that Kenneth. You were always so strong. You knew the difference between wrong and right…”

“I knew how to love, but I also learned how to hate,” Ken spat back in a chortle, “Nicholas taught us everything we needed to know about life. I fought it for so very long. I struggled not to give into it and for so very long I was under the foolish notion that I could rise above it. The sad truth is that I was wrong. The Ashford curse--the darkness is running through my veins and the reality is that no one can escape it. There’s no rising above it because the reality is that there’s no way out. I’m a product of it in it’s purest form. I am what you let your son make me into and I’m done fighting that.”

“Ken, you are a good man. You have so much to give this world and…” Augustus tried to remind him poignantly.

“I’m done trying. I gave this world my all and in the end I lost everything and everyone that ever mattered to me. I’m finished with the game and what you see is all that’s left. I’ve stopped fighting who I am and if you resent me for what you see, well you have no one else to blame but yourself. You left us with Nicholas--you raised him to become what he was and we’re all a product of that,” Kenneth pushed away from him with a look of pure hatred, “If you want to blame someone for what happened that night with Avery, then blame yourself because if you would’ve been man enough to control your son, then none of this would be happening. This never would’ve happened--none of it.”

“Kenneth,” Augustus called out to him watching Kenneth make his way towards the back staircase.

“I’m done here. Tell Brant he hasn’t won because I’m not finished with him,” Kenneth replied throwing a look over his shoulder, “but right now I’m leaving. You sanctimonious losers make me sick. Judge me as you will, but when it gets down to it, we’re one in the same. Sooner or later being an Ashford will take every last one of you under. That much you can be sure of.”

Augustus opened his mouth to speak--to say something to try to talk some sense into his grandson, but instead he found himself at a loss. There were no words to convey the pain in his heart at seeing how far Kenneth had fallen. Unfortunately as Kenneth’s words stung at the old man’s heart, he feared that there was some truth behind his words. The Ashford curse had returned and with it had come a time of pain--a newfound misery and anguish that Augustus feared would have the power to take his family under if he didn’t find a way to put a stop to it once and for all.


Before hearing a few knocks on his door, Diego finally got up walking towards the door quickly.

“I’m coming,” he shouted before opening the door finding Cori standing before him. “Cori?”

“Last time I checked,” Cori nodded with a smile before feeling him wrap his arms around her tightly, “Now this is the kind of welcome I was hoping for. Diego, it’s nice to see you too.”

“When did you get into town?” Diego questioned happily letting her go before motioning her to come in as he shut the door.

“A day ago,” she informed him before taking a seat, “I just finished with a job and I figured I would come back home to visit my closest friends.”

“Did you go and see Dave?” Diego wondered before seeing her nod. “God, his heart must have stopped when he saw you.”

“What do you mean by that?” she wondered with a slight giggle before seeing him shrug.

“I know it hasn’t been that long, but you look different,” he tried to explain stuck on his words trying to figure out what was different.

“Is it a good different or a bad?” she questioned as she shook her head quickly.

“It’s a good, you look very beautiful,” he answered before starting up again, “So what trouble have you gotten into lately? I haven’t seen you in so long.”

“Oh, you know the same old thing…always getting in trouble,” she laughed before shaking her head, “Enough about me though, how are you doing?”

“Well, I guess you could say I have been better,” he shrugged before frowning; “Forget about that though, you are here now and I‘d rather catch up on what‘s been going on with you rather than focusing on the boring things that have been going on in my life. How long are you going to be in town?”

“For a long time I believe,” she informed him with a wide smile, “I was hoping that maybe we could hang out a lot. You can take me around town since I don’t have many friends left in this town. Of course while they‘re gone, that doesn‘t mean that I can‘t appreciate the finer aspects of what is still here with someone special such as yourself.”

“God, I would love to,” he nodded quickly before smiling, “By the time you get settled in Coral Valley, you are going to have a million new friends. Everyone is so friendly here lately.”
“Yeah right Diego,” she half rolled her eyes, “I haven’t been gone that long. I remember what things are like around here.”

“Okay so maybe things haven’t changed that much,” he conceded with a small smile, “but it’s a nice beginning in having you back in town.”

“I hope so,” Cori giggled before standing up, “I was wondering if you would like to go to lunch or something?”

“I would love to,” he quickly stated grabbing his keys from his desk, “Maybe I could show you a few things around town too.”

“That would be cool,” she nodded before frowning, “You won’t get in trouble with work or anything will you?”

“No way,” he shook his head quickly, “Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter because I am with my good friend. Come on let’s go.”

“Alright, if you insist,” she shrugged with a small laugh before following him out the door excited about the day she was going to spend with her good friend.


Cameron slowly tapped his fingers along the cold table waiting for his new guest to come in. He smiled hearing the door open as he looked up and his smile grew larger.

“Mr. Houston,” Cameron laughed as Kyle shut the door slowly, “What pleasure do I owe for this visit?”

“I don’t know if you would like to call this very pleasant,” Kyle scowled before walking towards the table, “So where can I find Jade?”

“Why would I tell you that Kyle?” Cameron questioned with a smile. “Giving it away would just end all the fun.”

“Fun?” Kyle questioned angrily grabbing Cameron by the collar of his shirt, pulling him out of the chair. “You call this fun?”

“Get your hands off of me,” Cameron hissed pulling back from Kyle, “You can’t touch me like that.”

“I can do whatever I want Cameron,” Kyle replied before leaning against the table. “If you know anything about Jade, I think now is the time to tell me before anything bad happens to you.”

“That’s funny Houston, it really is,” Cameron laughed before seeing Kyle approach him. “You can’t touch me and I know it.”

“You know that?” Kyle questioned with a laugh before pulling Cameron towards the table and slamming his head down onto the table. “I don’t quite know the rules around here, so I think I can do what I want.”

“Houston, I think we have a problem,” Cameron laughed feeling Kyle’s arm wrap around his throat tightly cutting off his air, “What do you want to know?”

“Where is Jade?” Kyle questioned once more before slamming Cameron’s head against the table once more after hearing silence. “Tell me now Cameron…I don’t think you know what I can do when I get angry.”

“I know more about you than you think,” Cameron growled before feeling Kyle pull his head back once more, “Alright.”

“Excuse me, I didn’t hear that,” Kyle stated shaking his head slowly, “What did you just say.”

“I don’t know where she is,” Cameron answered his question before feeling his face slam against the table once more. “I am telling the truth.”

“Yeah, just like you didn’t hurt Heather,” Kyle scowled before shaking his head slowly, “Tell me the truth.”

“I’m telling you the truth,” Cameron spat before feeling Kyle push him roughly to the ground.

“Hey,” Julian Kurts grabbed an angered Kyle around the shoulders holding him back from Cameron, “I think he has had enough.”

“Yeah, you hold your dog back,” Cameron laughed wiping the blood from his lip with his hands still cuffed.

“Very funny,” Kyle sarcastically laughed before shaking his head slowly, “I prefer pit bull myself.”

“You are going to pay for this Houston,” Cameron spat watching Kyle shake his head slowly.

“Seeing that you’re in jail now,” Kyle scowled getting out of Julian’s grasp, “I think that is going to be a hard thing to do.”

“Come on,” Julian sighed grabbing onto Kyle’s arm trying to pull him out of the room.


Carly looked around her apartment thinking about the chain of events leading to where she was right now in her life. Closing her eyes she thought back to the painful confrontation she’d had with Ken. Why she couldn’t just put an end to it, she didn’t know. She’d fought like hell to try to ignore this ‘thing’ she still harbored for him. Somehow it didn’t seem to get out of her system like she’d been hoping for and yet she had so many other things to concern herself with.

“Like figuring out what you’re going to tell Chavez,” she reminded herself out loud. Looking to the time she decided that maybe she should head on over to her old office if for no other reason than to clear out the rest of her things.

“You can do this,” Carly instructed remembering to be strong about what she had to do. With thought in mind, she reached for her purse ready to take on the world, but before she even made it out the door she was met by a familiar face.

“I was hoping I’d find you here,” Ken’s dark eyes pleaded with her as he took a staggering step forward.

“Ken,” she gasped, her dark eyes widening in response to seeing him before her. “What are you…what are you doing here?”

“What no kiss,” he teased with a half smile before leaning in against the doorframe, “Carly, come on. Lighten up a little bit. Truth to the matter is that I broke out of prison and I was kind of hoping you’d harbor a fugitive.”

“Ken, I’m serious,” Carly frowned tapping her foot impatiently.

“So am I,” he stood taller, staggering a bit towards her, “Can we talk?”

“I don’t think it’s a really good idea,” she replied stiffly trying to ignore what seeing him again did to her. “You should go home.”

“Home,” he repeated with an ironic laugh, “that’s a joke if I’ve ever heard one. No one wants me there.”

“Ken, I…” she began again uneasily.

“Carly please,” he begged of her, “I don’t have anywhere else to go and half the world hates me right about now. I know that I’m not on the top of your list, but despite your disappointment in me, well I know that you care about me. I know that you haven’t totally written me off yet.”

Carly remained silent for a long period of time before opening the door wider to reluctantly let him inside, “I wish that I had. It would make all of this a lot easier.”

“So then there’s hope that maybe one day you’ll forgive me then, huh?” Ken pleaded with her desperately.

“Today won’t be that day,” she replied firmly closing the door behind her, “You’ve got a few minutes Ken, but that’s it.”

“Carly, come on,” he reached for her hand watching her keep away from him, “Look I screwed up. I screwed up everything and I know what it is you must see when you look at me.”

“You have no idea what I see when I look at you,” Carly admitted with a small sigh, “If I only saw you the way you think I did, then we wouldn’t be having these problems in the first place.”

“Well, if you don’t see me like I think you do, what is it you see,” he asked tentatively taking a small step towards her.

“I see the man I fell for, but at the same time I know what it is that you’ve done Ken and that changes everything,” she informed him point blank before breezing past him. “You really shouldn’t be here.”

“I know that, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Carly, you’re the only person in this world that understands me. You know what I went through and…” Ken begged reaching out to her, “Don’t shut me out.”

“How dare you?” she questioned harshly, her eyes narrowing with anger, “After everything you’ve done, how can you stand there and ask me not to write you off? You’ve hurt so many people and…”

“And I can’t take it back,” Ken brought his fingers through his dark hair, “I can’t shut this thing off no matter how hard I try. I went back to the house you know. When I was released from the hospital I went to the mansion and ran into Brant and Avery…”

“And?” she folded her arms in front of her chest.

“And I blew it. I’m always blowing it Carly. Since Caitlin died nothing has been right for me. I seem to be doing everything I can to destroy myself,” Ken confessed painfully, “I’ve made so many mistakes…”

“Including what you did to me in playing with my emotions to get to Dave,” she added with an impatient huff.

“Yes, I’ll admit that’s what was happening when I first started seeing you. I was hurting and so were you. Then when we continued with it, yes, I thought about trying to get to Dave, but then, well Carly…something changed inside of me,” he brought his hand up over the center of his chest.

“Yeah, you turned into a cruel son of a bitch that hurt so many people,” she threw back at him coldly.

“I deserve that. I know that I do, but Carly, you’re the only one who can keep me from going under. You’re the only woman who can save me from falling off the edge completely. I know that it must sound like nothing to you given what I’ve done, but the truth is that I love you. I need you and I want you in my life…” he began desperately.

“Well I wanted you too Ken, but that didn’t stop you from doing what you did to Avery,” Carly insisted not wanting to listen to his heart-felt pleas.

“And you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t have bypassed what we had for one last shot with Dave, can you?” he questioned bluntly, “I mean you were so eager to reunite with him that I’m sure you would’ve slept with him if it came up.”

“Ken, that’s not the same,” she shook her head at him.

“No, it’s not, but at the same time, well you weren’t nearly as invested in our relationship at the time this all took place. Neither you nor I were looking for something serious, but somewhere down the line that changed for us. You started to feel something real for me and I for you. As crazy as our being together was, it made sense. Carly we make sense and if you turn away from that now…”

“You turned away from it Ken. You’re the one who screwed it up and there’s no going back. Even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I’ve moved on with my life,” she explained matter of fact standing taller.

“Moved on?” he blinked at her incredulously, “How so?”

“Dave and I have talked about things and we want to make us work again,” she blurted out firm in her resolve to put an end to her past with Ken.

He laughed at her words, “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not,” she shook her head, “I’m very serious about this. Dave and I want to give our relationship one more try. He knows about what happened between us and he’s forgiven me for it. He’s ready to move forward and so am I.”

“No you’re not,” he stepped forward calling her bluff, “because as much as you think you want to go back with Dave, the truth to the matter is that you’re in love with me. You still want me and I want you.”

“No, I don’t,” she shook her head adamantly.

“Yes, you do and not even Dave can change that,” he moved in closer, bridging the distance between them, “Face it Carly. You can try to run from what we have with one another, but the truth to the matter is that you and I are meant to be together. Hiding behind Dave won’t change that.”

“I’m not hiding behind anything,” Carly argued ready to direct him to the door when he pulled her into his arms, laying it all out on the line in a kiss that rocked her down to the core. Sure, she was ready to end it, but Ken wasn’t about to give up. He vowed to make his own rules each step of the way as the kiss continued in the hopes that he wouldn’t lose the last good thing that still remained in his life.

“Ken stop,” Carly shoved him away from her, feeling her anger surface once again. She saw the hunger behind his eyes, the desire that had baited her in time and time again, but this time, well she wasn’t about to fall for it.

“You don’t really want me to stop Carly,” he replied boldly reaching for her once again, “Face it, you might hate how you feel, but you love me and need me just like I need you.”

“No, I don’t,” she shook her head, feeling tears threatening, “I don’t love you Ken.”

“Yes you do and I’m going to prove that to you,” he vowed taking her into his arms in one swift, sweeping movement determined to find a way to fix what went wrong between them.


Dave whistled a tune to himself as he got off of the elevator. He looked down to the bouquet of daisies he had in hand thinking about how the flowers symbolized a new beginning for him and Carly. Sure, they had their share of strains, but after he’d had his talk with Ken the previous day he was sure that the past would soon be behind them. Today he wanted a fresh start--wanted to have a quiet breakfast with Carly and maybe just maybe they could work on trying to fix the damage that had been done to their relationship.

“Happily ever after begins today,” Dave thought aloud remembering the cheesy horoscope he’d read in the morning paper. While he never believed in astrology, he had a feeling that maybe this morning it was well worth taking a look at. Now as he stood outside Carly’s hotel room, he knocked on the door gently finding himself met by the soft swish of the door opening upon impact.

“Carly,” he spoke her name looking around the hotel to see if she was still there. It wasn’t like her to leave the door open, but when he thought to how easily it had swung open for him, panic struck. Setting the flowers down on one of the tables by the door, he reached to his side pulling out his gun.

“Carly,” he spoke her name again hearing the soft sounds of rustling coming from the bedroom area. Moving forward Dave thought he’d heard some kind of grunting coming from behind the door and in that moment his body tightened with panic. He knew he had to be calm--to remain collected if there was a crime taking place. He couldn’t let his emotions get the best of him.

Dave pushed open the bedroom door ready to tiptoe inside, he prepared to face down the criminal lurking in her hotel room, but what he found rendered him speechless. He kept his gun out before him as his eyes fell upon Ken and Carly wrapped up in one another’s arms. She stood against the wall with Ken hovering over her, their tongues tangled in an explicit kiss. Dave felt as though the wind was knocked out of him as her leg curled around Ken’s body, drawing him nearer to her as his hands roamed wildly over the curves of her body. She let out a slow whimper dropping her arms to her sides as Ken began pawing at her blouse touching her in the most intimate fashion.

Dave saw the frenzy behind Ken’s movement, the wild aggression pouring out over him and Dave prepared to intervene, he felt himself frozen in the moment. Instead of going inside and tearing Ken apart limb for limb he felt his heart skin at the reality that was playing out before him. Carly clearly wasn't ready to put Ken behind her. It was the same situation all over again and in that moment Dave realized that he’d been wrong about everything. His heart sank as Carly scratched her nails down Ken’s back before Ken pressed in against her rubbing hard against her.

Dave slowly lowered the gun knowing that as angry as he was right now, he had no business being here. If anything, the longer he held the gun he found himself wanting to use it on himself. Silently he stepped out of the room walking away from the relationship he vowed to save. Sure, he’d thought that what he and Carly had with one another was worth fighting for, but now, well now he knew he’d only been kidding himself. Looking to the flowers he’d carried with him, Dave picked them up off of the table before dumping them in the trash can. He took one last look in the direction of the bedroom listening to the sounds rising up from behind the half opened door and in that moment Dave knew it was over. Any thoughts he’d had about a reunion with Carly were gone forever. Once again he was the odd man out and nothing would ever change that.


Kyle roughly shut the door behind him before kicking one of the chairs over.

“You really shouldn’t let a jerk like that get to you,” Julian stated before shaking his head, “All he is to us is scum.”

“I don’t care, that son of a bitch is lying and I know it,” Kyle scowled before looking through the glass seeing Cameron slowly rise to his feet.

“And we have to prove that first,” Julian reminded him before patting him on the shoulder lightly, “Believe me, I would love to go in there and take a few shots at him myself, but we have to make sure this whole thing is because of him.”

“Yeah, I know,” Kyle nodded slowly before Julian walked towards the door.

“I will let you go back in there if you just calm down,” Julian offered seeing Kyle shake his head, “Are you sure?”

“I don’t need to go back in there,” Kyle assured him before watching Cameron lean his head back. “I will shut the door behind me when I leave.”

“Alright,” Julian nodded before sighing deeply, “Take it easy Houston.”

“Yeah,” Kyle laughed before looking back at Julian, “See you later Kurts.”

Kyle picked up the chair that lay on the ground before him before taking a seat in front of the window.

“What if this jerk is really telling me the truth?” Kyle questioned leaning forward in the chair. “Do I really have to leave with Susan to find Jade?”

So many things ran through his head as he looked towards Cameron once more.

“He didn’t break and he really sounded like he was telling the truth,” Kyle contemplated before taking in a deep breath. “Someone is lying here…all I need to know is who that is.”

Kyle took one last look at Cameron before standing up and walking towards the door.

“For some reason, I don’t believe that Cameron is the one that did it,” Kyle told himself before walking out of the room quickly, his thoughts still swarming in his mind. What was he going to do about this whole thing?


Dean slowly walked out the back door of the hospital before looking back to make sure no one was around. He walked forward as a figure approached him.

“What is it?” Dean questioned angrily reaching the person. “You shouldn’t be coming here.”

“Just a little paranoid Dean?” the person questioned with a strong laugh.

“You know what? I came out here risking a lot in the process…so I think you should just give me what you wanted to give me so we can get this over with,” Dean hissed as the person glared at him for a moment before pulling something from their jacket.

“You need to lighten up Dean,” the person replied as Dean quickly took the package from his hands, “That attitude could get you in trouble one day.”

“Yeah,” Dean rolled his eyes before walking back towards the building as the person grabbed his arm pulling him back.

“Aren’t you going to look inside of it?” the person questioned eagerly before seeing Dean shake his head.

“Unlike some people think, I have other things more important to deal with,” Dean answered angrily before pulling his arm out of the persons grasp. “I am also trying to get back before anyone notices I am gone.”

“You can’t be that important,” the person rolled their eyes before Dean snarled.

“Actually, I am,” Dean informed him with a scowl, “Now if you will excuse me…I must get going.”

“Fine,” the person shook their head slowly, “Dean, be careful…you don’t know when something bad can happen.”

“Right,” Dean rolled his eyes before reaching the hospital door, “You will be hearing from me later.”

“Don’t forget to take a look inside of that little thing,” the person reminded Dean before seeing him nod.

“Of course I won’t,” Dean stated sarcastically before shutting the door behind him. He was starting to get annoyed by these little visits.


Kevin pounded away on the keyboard feeling his anger reach a boiling point. When Angela threw him out, that was the icing on the cake--the moment when Kevin was certain that she was out of her damn mind. He knew that she was in for heartache, yet she continued to fight him every step of the way. Sure, maybe it wasn’t his concern, but she was his friend--his best friend and surely his council should’ve counted for something with her. Clearly judging by her shoving him out of her bedroom she didn’t seem to think so.

“To hell with her,” Kevin mouthed in a full scowl looking to the words on the computer monitor before him. Even in his writing he could feel his mood shining through as his two characters were tossed into the midst of an argument. His frown intensified as he looked over the words before him shaking his head, “This is never going to work.”

Kevin moved to hit the delete button before he heard a knock at he door. He looked up to see Nick standing in the doorway of his office. Quickly Kevin put the page down before sitting up straighter and glaring at Angela’s latest boy toy.

“What are you doing here,” Kevin questioned gruffly.

“I came to talk to you,” Nick hesitated before taking a step forward, “to talk about what happened this morning.”

“I think what happened speaks for itself,” Kevin scowled looking to his computer monitor again contemplating whether or not to turn it off. “You turned my best friend against me.”

“No, I really haven’t and if you feel that I have,” Nick continued to approach him, “then I should apologize. That wasn’t at all what my intensions were or are. I care about Angela.”

“How can you be sure about that Nick?” Kevin growled at him before leaning back in his chair a bit, “From where I stand I see a man who has no sense of his past, no history and nothing to offer a woman like Angie. She’s had more than her share of problems over the last year and with you complicating things…”

“I see where you’re coming from on this. Kevin, I really do and yes you have absolutely no reason to trust me, but when I tell you that my feelings for Angela are sincere, well that’s coming from my heart,” Nick started bringing himself to stand across from Kevin at the desk, “I feel very strongly about her.”

“You feel very strongly about getting laid and you see Angie as a free ride there,” Kevin shook his head disapprovingly, “I know the type Nick and whether or not you can remember what kind of man you are, I can see through you. Hell for all I know you could be faking this amnesia to get close to her.”

“I’m not,” Nick insisted, “Believe me I want to know my past more than you do at this point, but all I can see when I try to find it is Angela. There’s a reason I’m drawn to her.”

“Yeah, it’s because you want to hurt her,” Kevin remarked sourly.

“No,” Nick cut him off once again, “that’s the furthest thing from my mind and if you’d give me a chance to prove that to you, then I’m willing to try to do just that.”

“Why does it matter what I think of you? Angie already told me that she’s not interested in hearing it. Her throwing me out was a pretty good indication that you’d turned her against me,” Kevin added spitefully.

“I’m not trying to turn her against you and for what it’s worth,” Nick paused debating whether or not to tell Kevin the truth, “nothing happened last night.”

“Yeah right,” Kevin rolled his eyes, “Like I’d almost believe that.”

“It’s the truth. Check the hospital records. Angela was called over to the hospital shortly after I went back to her place with her. I spent the night in her bed simply because I was there and she told me to stay. Nothing happened with us.”

“Are you for real?” Kevin eyed him with intense scrutiny, “Or is this just a line of BS you’re trying to feed me?”

“I’m not going to tell you that I didn’t want things to go further or that I wasn’t disappointed that things ended up like they did, but the truth is that nothing happened. She left and I fell asleep. I only woke up when you were trying to molest me,” Nick explained with a huff.

“I wasn’t trying to molest you,” Kevin argued with him, “I was trying to talk some sense into Angie and…”

“And as I said, I’m being honest with you. I’m trusting that you’ll believe me like I’m going to believe you about this morning,” Nick interrupted with a tiny shudder, “That was, oh how do I put this? Less than comfortable waking up next to you, but I’m going to try to forget it. I’ll put it out of my memory if you can.”

“Believe me it’s already in the recycle bin to be deleted,” Kevin wrinkled his nose.

“Good, then how about we do the same with everything else that’s happened?” Nick suggested offering his hand out to Kevin, “What do you say?”

“Do you really think I’m just going to let you off so easy and give you a chance to destroy Angie?” Kevin eyed Nick’s hand wearily.

“No, not at all. If you did that, then you wouldn’t be the Kevin Adonis that’s taken good care of Angela over the years. I know better than to expect your trust, but I’m hoping that one day I might be able to gain your respect. What do you say?” Nick kept his hand out towards him.

“I say you’ve got yourself a deal…for now,” Kevin finally reached out reluctantly offering his hand to Nick. However, before he could reach the other man’s hand, his arm knocked over the mug of coffee he’d had on the desk. The dark colored liquid began to spill over all of Kevin’s notes and Kevin shuffled to salvage some of his work while cursing in the process.

“Let me help you,” Nick suggested plucking up a few of the pages as Kevin rose to his feet in a panic.

“No, that’s okay. Give me those,” Kevin pleaded, but it was too late as Nick’s eyes fell upon the page. He could see the strange expression on Nick’s face before Nick looked to him again.

“Are these yours?”

“They’re none of your business,” Kevin swiped the pages away from him before attempting to find a way to clean up the rest of the mess that the coffee had made.

“No?” Nick questioned with a curious brow before cracking a small smile, “because that’s pretty good stuff--for the most part anyways.”

“What do you mean for the most part?” Kevin replied turning to face him once again.

“Well I think the adjective you were looking for there would be better in that phrase in the third paragraph if you used quivering instead of shaking. There’s just something to be said about the word quivering after a kiss. It adds more of a heightened emotion to it--not to mention there’s a certain visual effect as well.”

“Quivering huh,” Kevin seemed to ponder the thought before scratching his head lightly, “Well whatever. As I said these are none of your business.”

“Fine,” Nick shrugged before turning to leave, “but just think about what I said, okay?”

“Yeah whatever,” Kevin nodded before slumping down into his seat again. He heard Nick leave before he turned his attention to the computer monitor before him. Pulling up the file up once again. He hit the backspace button before replacing the word as Nick had suggested. Just as he moved to hit the save button Nick reentered the room.

“I knew it!” Nick replied with an amused chuckle, “You were the one writing that, weren’t you?”

“What? Huh? No, I don’t know what you’re…” Kevin attempted to shield the words on his computer monitor, but it was too late. Nick had uncovered his deepest, darkest secret.

“You’re Donna Nevik, aren’t you?” Nick concluded with a triumphant expression, “I thought I recognized the style.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kevin lied feigning a blank expression despite the heat rising over his features.

“I knew that something felt familiar when I saw that page,” Nick continued to reason, “and last night when I was skimming over Angela’s library, I found a lot of romance novels by Donna Nevik. I had to say I was a bit curious and I perused a few of them--you know just to get a feel for the kind of reading literature she was interested in.”

“Look man, what Angie reads is none of my…” Kevin started nervously.

“You’re pretty good, you know,” Nick sat on the edge of the desk before motioning to the computer again, “I mean normally I’m not a romance reader--at least I don’t think I am, but still last night I couldn’t put the stuff down. You had a great way of weaving mystery and romance into the plot and I really think you have talent there.”

“You got all that from the pages you just picked up and skimmed over?” Kevin tilted his head to offer him a strange look.

“Well, that was a start since I recognized the style of writing,” Nick nodded again before cracking a full blown smile, “but last night when I read Passions Paradise…well I have to say that one blew me away. That was truly a masterpiece there.”

Kevin couldn’t help but blush before revealing, “That was one of my earlier works. I thought it was a little raw and unpolished.”

“No, it was great and if you thought that was unpolished, well I can’t wait to see what you’re working on now.”

“It’s another bit of a murder mystery of sorts. There’s intrigue, suspense and romance all weaved into one and,” Kevin stopped himself realizing what he was getting himself into, “Look Angie doesn’t know anything about this and if you breathe a word to her about it…”

“How could she not know,” Nick’s jaw dropped incredulously.

“She just doesn’t okay?” Kevin’s voice more so demanded then questioned, “No one knows about this.”

“Why not?” Nick eyed him curiously, “You’ve got a gift man and I don’t think you should hide it. It’s great stuff.”

“Yeah and the world loves Donna, but not Kevin. Do you have any idea how much it would kill my career if word got out that there was a man writing romance novels like this?” Kevin questioned bluntly, “It would be the total end for me.”

“Okay, fine, I won’t say a word, but I think Angela should know since she seems to be a fan. She has at least half a dozen books at her place there,” Nick pointed out with a surprised look.

“Yeah, well she’s a fan, but I’m not about to tell her it’s me. Do you have any idea how humiliating that would be?” Kevin groaned inwardly.

“Nah, I don’t see it as humiliating. Most women would find that to be a total turn on that you can capture a female lead character so well,” Nick encouraged him with a small smile, “It’s really good stuff.”

“You’re just saying that because you want me to like you,” Kevin threw back a pointed expression.

“Well yeah I want you to like me, but that’s not why I’m saying it. I’m saying it because it’s the truth. It really is good stuff. I’m impressed and hey if you ever want to shoot a few ideas around with someone, well I’m here for that.”

“Look you don’t have to kiss my ass simply because…” Kevin started to protest.

“I’m not trying to do that. Not at all. If I hated it, I’d tell you even if I knew you’d probably pound me for it,” Nick teased with a tiny chuckle, “but seriously it’s good stuff and I’d be honored to look at what you’re working on there. I don’t mind at all.”

“Really?” Kevin gave him a long look, “Well okay, but you have to swear to me what you see doesn’t leave this room.”

“It’s a deal--that is if you’re willing to give me a chance to prove myself to you--to show you I’m not the jerk that you think I am,” Nick held his hand out to Kevin, “Do we have a deal here?”

“I suppose,” Kevin shook Nick’s hand wondering if the man before him could truly be trusted. Now that Nick had uncovered Kevin’s secret, Kevin realized that perhaps this mishap would be the ultimate test to find out if Nick was truly a man of his word.


Thea looked around Cameron’s study thinking about his request for help. While she wasn’t quite sure what she could do to pull the rabbit out of the magic hat figuratively speaking, she was sure she would give it a try. Eyeing the contents of his desk very carefully she moved in towards his computer when she heard a sound from behind her. Standing up straighter, she looked over her shoulder trying to locate the source of the sound.

“Franklin?” she questioned wearily waiting for another sound, but instead she heard nothing. Turning her attention to the computer again, she pressed the power button before taking a seat. It was then that she’d heard yet another noise.

“Franklin?” she asked again lifting her gaze to see the shadowy silhouette before her. Her lips curved in the beginnings of a frown as the man emerged from the shadows.

“Where’s Cameron,” he questioned gruffly, his face dark and cryptic as he came more plainly into view.

“He’s not here,” Thea replied with a lack of interest in her tone, “Haven’t you been keeping up with the news?”

“I’ve been laying low,” he replied with a sneer, his dark eyes filled with nothing but contempt.

“Clearly not as well as you should’ve,” Thea snapped back at him, “You have no business being here Bruce--or is it Harold? I forget which?”

“Look bitch,” Bruce sneered at her, “I came to see Cameron because I’m tired of laying low. I’m not going to just keep hiding when what I want is being pulled away from me more and more each day.”

“That’s not my problem,” Thea shrugged her shoulders before turning her attention to the computer monitor, “but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll go back to that hotel room and stay there until Cameron calls of you.”

“I don’t follow Cameron’s orders,” Bruce explained sharply, his eyes narrowing at her, “or yours for that matter.”

“Look you twisted piece of trash,” Thea barked back at him, her irritation brewing beneath the surface, “Cameron’s the only thing that’s kept you from being on the FBI radar and you owe him more respect than what you’re giving right now.”

“I might owe him that, but not you,” Bruce replied with another glare, “I’m done waiting this out. I want what’s mine and I want it now.”

“You’ll have it when Cameron’s good and ready for you to have it,” she stood up pushing the chair she’d been seated in aside, “You listen to what we tell you and that’s all there is to it.”

“No, I’ve tolerated what you two have been having me do, but don’t ever think that I’ve done any of it because I’ve felt compelled to listen. I’ve merely offered up the illusion of control for the both of you, but the fact to the matter is that I’m done playing games. I’ve wasted my time long enough and I want what’s mine.”

“You’ll get what’s yours when it’s the right time, but until then…” Thea watched him step in closer to her.

“I’ll have what’s mine when I want it,” he cut her off abrasively before his eyes traveled over her lecherously, “Your know there was a point in time when I’d have had no problems in tearing a woman of your character to shreds. In fact I know that I’d revel in the pleasure I’d derive from it.”

“You aren’t that lucky Bruce,” she spat out at him, “because you wouldn’t get the chance. Remember, you’re not the only one around here that is capable of murder.”

“Yet I’m the only one who can truly appreciate the art behind it,” his eyes cast over her once again, “and in delivering you such a blessing, well it would truly be an exquisite work of art.”

“You aren’t man enough to take me out of this world. If you tried, you’ve find that you simply don’t stand a chance,” she hissed in response, her dark eyes fixed over his, “Now get the hell out of my face before I decide that you’ve lost your uselessness around here.”

“This isn’t over Thea,” Bruce wiggled his finger in her face before taking a step away from her, “I’ll be back.”

“Great,” she rolled her eyes waving at him dismissively before returning to the computer in the hopes of finding a way to fix this situation Cameron had wound up getting himself into.


Dave stood in the middle of a bar not quite sure what he was doing. He couldn’t stand the pain anymore; all that Carly ever did was hurt him. It was finally time to give up her once and for all. He slowly walked towards the bar before taking a seat.

“What can I get you?” the bartender questioned approaching Dave seeing him shrug.

“The strongest thing you have,” Dave answered before seeing the bartender nod slowly.

“I know just the thing,” the bartender left before coming back with a drink watching Dave guzzle it down quickly.

“Can I get another one of these?” Dave questioned wiping his lips with his sleeve before seeing the bartender nod.

“Hard night?” a woman questioned taking a seat next to Dave seeing him nod.

“I guess you could say that,” Dave nodded with a laughed before looking towards her.

“Poor you,” she frowned before resting her hand on his leg, “And it’s not even happy hour yet.”

“I’m sorry, what was your name?” he questioned with a smile as she shrugged. “I’m Dave.”

“Christy,” she smiled extending her slender hand out to him as he gently rubbed the top of her hand with his thumb.

“Can I buy you a drink?” he questioned as she nodded slowly. “What would you like?”

“Whatever you are having,” she answered as he whistled out to the bartender.

“Hey, make that two,” Dave shouted over the people seeing the man nod and return with two drinks.

“So,” Christy began before taking a long sip from her drink, “You have a place around here?”

“Yeah,” Dave choked feeling her hand run up his leg slowly. “You want to see it?”

“Do I?” she questioned drinking that last bit that was left in her drink. She leaned in closer to him flashing him a suggestive smile before placing her hand on his leg, “What do you think?”

“I say I buy you another round of drinks and then we’ll get talking to about what comes next,” Dave replied finishing off his drink before motioning to the bartender once again. One way or another he would find a way to push Carly out of his heart and mind forever even if it meant cozying up to Christy do to it.


...to be continued...