Episode 206

“Kipp?” Kellen questioned seeing his friend looking up at him with a worried expression. “What’s wrong?”

“Kellen,” Kipp got up quickly, “When you came in here did you see a woman walking away with a baby?”

“Not that I remember,” Kellen raised his eyebrow thinking back to when he entered the hospital, “Why?”

“Charles is missing,” Kipp informed him with a growl as he watched Kellen’s jaw drop.

“Did you ask one of the nurses if he was here?” Kellen questioned quickly seeing Kipp nod. “Well, we have to go find him…let’s go.”

When Kellen opened the door, a nurse stood before him before smiling widely with a baby in her hands.

“Never mind,” Kellen blew out heavily before smiling widely.

“Sir,” the nurse smiled walking in slowly, “Sorry about that, he just had one more test to take.”

“Thank god,” Kipp sighed walking towards the woman and taking Charles into his arms gently. “Thank you.”

“Thanks,” Kellen grinned shutting the door behind the nurse before walking over to Kipp and looking down at the baby, “So this is Charles?”

“Yeah, Kellen, this is my son Charles,” Kipp replied slightly turning the baby towards Kellen so he could see it.

“Well isn’t he a beauty,” Kellen laughed as the baby wrapped its tiny fingers around Kellen’s finger. “Kipp, you have an adorable son.”

“Thanks,” Kipp smiled looking down at his child who looked up at Kellen, “Looks like he likes you.”

“Well I guess I am just an easy person to get to like,” Kellen winked at the baby before looking up at Kipp, “The baby is very cute, I can see where he gets his looks.”

“He is a cutie,” Kipp agreed before sitting down in the chair, “I don’t know what I would have done if he was really taken away from me Kellen.”

“He won’t be taken away from you,” Kellen promised before smiling, “You are a great father and the arms this baby is in right now…that’s where he belongs.”

“Thank Kellen,” Kipp laughed before looking down at the little piece of him, “I don’t know what I would do without him.”

“Hey there little guy,” Kellen smiled looking down at the baby before tucking the blanket closer to Charles’s body, “You got a good daddy here. You are very lucky. Treasure him forever…he is really a piece of gold.”

“You’re not bad yourself,” Kipp replied before looking down at his child smiling at his newest friend. This was it…his best friend and the thing that mattered most in life. This was the best it could get for him right now.


“I think I can almost hear something,” Sarah whispered pressing her ear against the wall hearing the voices of Blake and Seth.

“Leave it alone Sarah,” Kyle called out from the shower as she ignored him trying to hear what they were saying.

She looked over to the nightstand where she saw a glass and she pressed it against the wall, but the talking still seemed muffled.

“That doesn’t work you know,” Kyle pointed out with a laugh as she turned around seeing him leaning against the doorframe only in his towel. Water still covered his body, outlining each muscle in his body perfectly.

“How do you know?” she questioned setting the glass back down on the table before seeing him laugh and begin to walk towards the bed where she had sat down.

“That always works in the movies,” he replied before shaking his head, “I’m a private investigator…I know what works the best.”

“What works the best when you are trying to hear someone?” Sarah questioned seeing Kyle laugh.

“You think I am going to tell you that?” he shook his head before picking up the remote and turning the television on. “You don’t need to know what they are saying.”

“Turn that off,” she frowned grabbing the remote from his hands and turning the television off.

“If you keep the television on, you can’t listen in,” Kyle repeated himself before seeing her shake her head.

“I just want to know if my friend is okay right now,” Sarah declared trying to get up as Kyle stood in her way.

“I don’t know where you think you are going,” Kyle smiled looking down at her, “You definitely are not going to their hotel room…I can tell you that.”

“What makes you think you can stop me?” Sarah questioned with a smug smile watching Kyle grin.

“Lots of things, sweetheart,” Kyle grinned before looking her over, “I don’t think you want to go out there in your robe too.”

“Yeah, that,” Sarah frowned before pulling her robe tighter around her body. “I can always change.”

“You can change, but you are not leaving this room,” Kyle repeated himself as she stood up frowning.

“I don’t know who you think you are,” Sarah scowled and Kyle raised his hands in the air.

“What do you want me to tell you Sarah? You want me to tell you…” he began before feeling the towel that was tightly wrapped around his waist loosen and fall to the ground.

“Uhh…” Sarah became stuck on what she was about to say seeing Kyle’s form before her. Her mouth became dry watching him grab the towel slowly and wrap it around himself.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen,” he apologized before noticing the look on her face, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she nodded slowly before taking in a deep breath, “It’s just really huge…I mean hot in here.”

“Okay,” Kyle laughed before seeing her walk towards her bag, “Is everything okay?”

“I am going to get some Tylenol from my big, I mean bag,” she stuttered before grabbing her bag.

“You know what? I am going to go get dressed…I’ll be right back,” Kyle informed her before seeing her walk towards the door. “You are seriously bad at that.”

“What?” she questioned turning towards him folding her arms in front of her chest. “You know you are really stubborn.”

“Me stubborn?” Kyle questioned with a laugh walking towards her slowly. “You think I am the stubborn one?”

“Yeah, I do,” she nodded slowly as he pulled her into his muscular arms.

“Is that right?” he asked seeing her nod as he leaned down kissing her passionately feeling the warmth of her mouth against his. “Am I still stubborn?”

“Just a little,” she answered against his lips before feeling him kiss her once more.

“Maybe I should try a little bit harder,” he breathed against her lips before smiling. “What do you think?”

“I think you are just trying to distract me,” she replied feeling his lips on hers once more.

“Damn right,” Kyle laughed holding her in his arms tightly.


Blake stood in silence watching Seth and wishing like hell she could turn him away, but the sad truth to the matter was that she was still very much in love with him. Even after the lies--after the half truths he must’ve told her, she still couldn’t forget the way he’d made her feel when they were together. Fighting her every instinct, she found herself listening to her heart as she sank down onto the bed overcome with mental exhaustion.

“You’ve got two minutes,” Blake replied in a weak voice feeling defeated by the way her wedding day had turned out.

“Blake, I know that this situation isn’t at all what we were hoping for between us, but,” Seth started dropping down to his knees before her. He reached for her hands drawing them close to his lips before he inhaled slowly, “With Valerie, it’s not what you think…”

“You keep saying that, but after what happened in that chapel downstairs,” she started poignantly, “Seth, how can it not be what I think it is given that she’s your wife?”

“I was very young when it happened,” Seth offered in explanation feeling the pain of the past resurfacing all over again, “I was eighteen at the time and it was right after Jade had been raped. I’d taken care of her during that period of time and she went through so very much. After the rape she was a mess physically and emotionally. It was torture and I had to sit there and watch it happen to her over and over again in her mind. I felt helpless--out of control, much like I do now and it all got to me.”

“I realize that,” Blake’s voice softened as she felt his finger tips press out over the palm of her hand, “But what does that have to do with that evil woman who broke up our wedding? How could you have married her?”

“Valerie and I were friends in high school. We’d always been friends and nothing more,” Seth admitted thinking back to his pained youth. “When Jade had been raped I went through a lot of emotions. There were a lot of experiences that I don’t even want to think back to, but during it all Jade and I had one another. That was it for so very long and it was so hard to hide it all--to keep the secret and protect my sister.”

“Seth I…” she started to speak up again but felt him place his index finger over her lips to silence her words.

“Jade was pregnant Blake,” he blurted out watching her blue eyes widen with surprise and shock, “One of those monsters got her pregnant and she was bound and determined to have the baby.”

“What?” Blake questioned surprised.

“I tried to get her to explore her options, but she wouldn’t hear of an abortion,” Seth continued painfully, “In a way I understood where she was coming from because I can’t see any woman willingly wanting to put an end to a life, but given how that life came about…well, to make a long story short we went through a lot during that time. I wound up giving up my scholarship and using the money I saved up to take Jade away--to take care of her and when she lost the baby…”

Blake watched him close up when a distance fell over his face. She could see the sadness of the painful secret he’d kept wash over him, delving deep into that part of him that felt responsible for his sister being hurt. She wanted to embrace him in that moment--make everything alright, but she sat frozen on the bed saying nothing.

“When Jade lost her baby, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any clue on how I could find a way to pull her through what had happened,” he sighed heavily, the weight of the memory taking it’s hold on him. “I couldn’t tell anyone about what she’d been through because Jade didn’t want anyone to know. Eventually the situation became overwhelming and one night I turned to Valerie. I’d known that she’d always been there for me--that we were friends and that maybe she’d had a small crush on me. Truth be told at the time I’d started getting these feelings for her as well…”

“Here we go,” Blake groaned pulling away from him. Her body tensed up, her heart sinking at the thought of what was coming, “Seth I don’t want to hear this.”

“You have to Blake,” he reached out to cup her face in his hands, “if for no other reason than to understand. Valerie and I went out a few times during a reckless phase in my life. After I’d let Jade down, I turned to other means of dealing with reality. I started drinking and well, one day I woke up in Atlantic City with a ring on my finger and Valerie in my bed. I’ll admit it wasn’t one of my finer moments in life, but it was the biggest reality check of my life. I knew I’d made a mistake and almost as soon as my hangover left me, I filed for a divorce.”

“So you’re saying that your being married to her was just a spur of the moment decision?” she questioned thinking about how they’d wound up in Atlantic City, “Kind of like what we were doing?”

“No,” he shook his head, “It was entirely different. With Val, she was my friend and I’d tried to convince myself it was more, but it never was like what we have. I never loved her like I love you and when we wound up married, well I knew it was a mistake. As soon as I sobered up, I called a lawyer--one that Ben’s father knew and he agreed to draw up the papers. Valerie tried to fight it at first saying that our being together was a sign that it was meant to be, but I saw it as a sign that I needed to start growing up and doing things right. I didn’t talk to her much after that and then she was offered a modeling assignment overseas. At the time I wasn’t sure how I felt, but I knew that I wanted the divorce. The lawyer I spoke with assured me that everything was filed, but now today when Valerie came in with that paper…”

“It was like the past came back to haunt you,” Blake finished for him taking in what he was telling her, “And your marriage?”

“Was nothing more than a farce--one night of drinking gone bad and if I could I would go back in time and change that…,” Seth shook his head bringing his fingers through his own dark hair, “You have no idea how much I lived to regret that impulsive move. It wasn’t at all what I wanted and from that moment on I swore that I’d never get myself caught up in anything even remotely like that unless it was love. I’d never get married to anyone unless she was the right woman.”

“But Seth now that this has come up…” she started fighting to suppress her tears.

“Blake, I thought that my marriage was over. I didn’t consider myself married long enough for it to count,” he reached for her hands squeezing them in his, “I never gave any woman my heart until you walked into my life. You’re my heart, my soul, my one true destiny and if I was forced to face the world without you…” his dark eyes pleaded with her, “Blake, I don’t know how I would make it through this--through any of this…”

“Seth, I just…I don’t know what to say. Knowing that you didn’t bother to tell me about a wife--that you didn’t just say that maybe just maybe,” she sniffled feeling her tears threatening.

“I thought I was divorced Blake. I thought that the marriage had been absolved. When I woke up, I booked from that hotel room and never looked back. I never wanted to look back and I still don’t want to. When Valerie walked into that chapel, she was the furthest thing from my mind. Even now I don’t care about her. It doesn’t matter to me what she did and what she said except for the way it hurt you,” he reached out to skim the pad of his thumb over her cheek gently, “Blake I love you and I wanted to make your dreams come true tonight. I wanted to make you my wife here and now. I still do.”

Blake offered up a poignant smile, “But that isn’t going to happen tonight, is it Seth?”

“I wish that it could,” Seth sighed feeling tension creeping in up and over his neck and shoulders, “but maybe when we get back to town I can call up Grady and he can help me end the farce of a marriage that I have. I want to marry you--only you Blake.”

“I want to marry you too Seth,” she threw her arms around his shoulders pulling him in closer to her, “Seth I love you so much and when I think of why we came here tonight--why we’re together now…”

“Blake I love you,” he moved in closer to her, his dark eyes connecting with hers. He eased his fingers through her long, blonde hair tenderly wanting nothing more than to show her how much she meant to him. He needed her to know that losing her would be the end of him--the end of life as he knew it and having gone through the pain of that once before, he didn’t want to go back to that place again, “Blake, please don’t let this be the reason to give up on us. I love you and when we came together again, this was right for us. It still is.”

“I know Seth, but…” Blake tapered off thinking about the smug expression on Valerie’s face when she paraded into the chapel ruining Blake’s big day.

“Blake, I’m so sorry. If I could take that one mistake back, then I would. I’d go back to that point in my life and never, ever…” Seth started to explain himself all over again when she leaned forward cutting him off with a kiss.

He felt her arms squeeze him tighter than before, urging him in up onto the bed beside her. Eagerly she kissed him over and over again refusing to let him go. It may not be easy, but she knew in her heart that Seth was the only man she wanted to be with--the only man that she ever truly loved. Feeling him slide in over her, the warmth of his body melding against hers, she eased away from the kiss, her blue eyes reaching up into his.

“Seth, I love you so much,” she confessed in a small whisper, “and I don’t want to lose you. I can’t let you go. Not tonight--not ever.”

“You won’t ever have to,” he promised stealing another tender kiss, “When we get back to Coral Valley I’ll put an end to this thing with Valerie.”

“And I’ll help you with it every step of the way,” she caressed the side of his face, “We can find a way to get her out of your life and we can begin again with ours.”

“There’s nothing I’d like more than to do than just that,” he replied tipping down to kiss her again all the while praying that his past wouldn’t continue to haunt them. Knowing Valerie this was only the beginning of trouble ahead, but Seth wasn’t about to let that keep him from the one person other than Jade that meant everything to him.


“Don, I really don’t know what you think happened with me,” Shannon began before looking up and noticing the anger behind his steel blue eyes, “But I have done nothing. Well, nothing that you seem to think I have done.”

“Oh come on Shannon,” Don hissed before laughing, “You can’t tell me that you never slept around with guys before. Hell, you slept with me after what? Knowing me two days?”

“Excuse me?” Shannon questioned raising her eyebrow in anger. “You don’t seem like Mr. Perfect either.”

“Define perfect Shannon,” Don smiled before cutting her off, “There is nothing that is perfect…so you are damn right…I’m not perfect.”

“Where is this coming from?” Shannon questioned noticing the change in attitude with Don.

“I’m tired of you treating me like this. I‘m tired of feeling like I don‘t measure up in your eyes when all I‘ve done is tried time and time again to show you a whole new world of happiness,” Don yelled before grabbing her hand and leading her into one of the closets.

“What are we doing in here?” she wondered as he turned on the light and rested his hands angrily on his sides.

“I don’t like to blow up in public especially when right now I feel like I could just…just…I can‘t believe that I could let myself fall for this--that I could just be so blind and stupid,” he replied with a groan finding himself struggling for the right words. He opened his mouth to speak and saw her do the same, but before she could say anything he cut her off from getting anything else out. He could see her questions and like her he wanted his own answers as well, “So what pushed you to do this to me?”

“What did I do to you Don?” Shannon questioned with a laugh before shaking her head. “I was just working for your information…you should actually find out what is really going on before you get so enraged. This kind of behavior makes you look oh so pathetic at times. I mean honestly maybe you should learn to take a step back and relax…”

“You really have room to talk,” he scowled before shaking his head and leaning against the wall.

“Listen, I would have no problem if you would have told me about your kid sooner,” Shannon protested throwing her hands up in the air.

“Really?” Don questioned seeing her nod slowly. “Then why every time I tried to tell you…all you did was say work was more important? Why did you never stop to listen? Oh, that’s right, because you never cared about me.”

“If that’s what you want to believe,” she shrugged before thinking of what to say, “Everything has to be perfect for you Don. Well I need to tell you something babe, I’m nothing like you want your life to be like. We have nothing in common and I’m not the picture perfect mommy material that you somehow have it in your head that I am. You know I can’t even take care of a plant let alone a pet or a child.“

“I didn’t say that you had to…” Don began flustered.

“Don all the signs were there. This bombshell was leading to something else--to that inevitable image you’ve been holding onto in the back of your mind and I have to tell you I can’t say that I share what it is you’ve worked out in your head,” she tossed back at him sharply, “You can’t live on something that was never really there.”

“I may be feeling something that was never really there,” Don began before walking towards her slowly, “But the only thing you live on from me was what happened in the bed. As much as you can tell me that it was all me, that’s what drove you on Shannon. That’s why you keep coming back for more, but when it gets to the real stuff--the intimacy and the grown up part of a relationship, it’s too intense for you. Sex is easy because it gives you a chance to be cold and emotionless, yet you know I won’t leave it at that. You wish I would, but I want something real with you. You on the other hand, well it’s not about anything more than your quick lust fix when the mood strikes and I was just the fool that crossed paths with you at the right time. That’s the only thing you want me to believe that you ever cared about with us isn’t it?”

“You,” she couldn’t say a word as all her anger built up and her hand came straight across his face.

“Nice one Shannon,” Don laughed before coming forward and tangling his fingers in her hair tightly. “Tell me you don’t want me. Tell me you never loved me.”

“Is it so hard to believe that,” she began before she felt his mouth pressed against hers tightly.

“I can feel it,” he declared with a growl against her mouth, “You have something with me, but you just don’t want to admit it.”

“I feel nothing towards you,” she replied as he his mouth covered hers once more and their tongues tangled with each others. “Still nothing.”

“Really?” he questioned lifting her against the door as her legs wrapped around his waist and her fingers ran through his short hair. “I could swear I can see something.”

“Nothing,” she repeated quickly discarding his blue polo shirt, “I don’t know where you would think of something like that.”

“I have no idea,” he smiled before demanding another hot and steamy kiss from her lips.

“Is the door locked?” she questioned seeing him nod before quickly unbuttoning the top of her blouse.

“You bet,” he answered feeling her fingers run through his hair as his lips ran along the soft, tender skin of her neck slowly.


Brant marched through the front doors of the Coral Courier offices not caring how stupid or irrational he’d seemed right now. When he’d tried Avery’s cell phone and gotten no answer, he’d felt a moment of panic. When he’d spoken with the driver he was informed that Avery had urged him off so that she could stay with Elliot Denton. While Brant was sure she was in fully capable hands with Elliot, he wasn’t about to take any chances. Now that he stood in the center of the newspapers offices, he scanned the room to see if there was any trace of Avery.

“May I help you,” Chris questioned walking out of his own office that still was a mess with boxes and papers all over the place. He sized up the man in front of him before offering up a bright smile, “Why Brant Ashford, what in the world are you doing in a place like this? Somehow the Coral Courier offices doesn’t quite strike me as a place where someone of your background and level of prestige would feel like frequenting.”

“I’m looking for my wife,” Brant remarked sourly remembering the reporter before him only too well. Back when Brant had met Christopher Foley, Chris was a much younger, much more ambitious up and coming journalist who’d been stuck in a dead end job at one of the sleaziest tabloids in the country. Naturally he’d long since re-established his career upon doing a piece on the Gulf War, but before that Brant remembered only too well the four page feature Chris had dubbed ‘Brant The Eternal Bachelor’. The article in itself had begun by casting a very detailed rundown of some of the women Brant had spent time with over the years. The piece had been exploitative, infuriating and needless to say it hadn’t left a lot of love for the man standing before him.

“Wife eh?” Chris leaned back to sit on the edge of the desk behind him, “You mean you actually settled down these days or is it one of many wives?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Brant wrinkled his nose at him before taking another look around, “What are you doing here anyways? Are you the new errand boy around here after you The Gabber refuses to take you back?”

“As a matter of fact you couldn’t be more far from the truth if you tried Brant, though with you, well it isn’t much of a stretch since a truth very seldom falls from your lips,” Chris quipped back at him with a sardonic smile, “So really humor me and tell my why you believe any wife of yours would stammer into these offices? Given that the women you take up with all share the IQ of a cucumber I would hardly doubt that they would wind up in here unless of course, well unless they mistook one of the sales ads in the paper for an actual opportunity for a shopping spree.”

“I’ll have you know that my wife owns this paper,” Brant puffed his chest out before taking another look around, “and if you’d quit wasting my time, I’d like to find her so that we can get out of here and go home. No, I take that back. On second thought I’d love to have a word with her and let her know that you’re lurking around in the hopes of taking her reputable papers and trying to…well, I don’t know what it is you’re trying to do, but I’m sure it can’t be good or intelligible since nothing you do seems to carry that air with it.”

“As if you know the meaning of intelligible since you date women dumber than dirt that…” Chris stopped himself a sudden thought dawning in upon him, “Wait a second. Did you just say your wife owns this paper?”

“That’s right,” Brant nodded enthusiastically, “and Avery would be less than thrilled to know you’re hanging around when she’s hoping to find a way to maintain the reputation this paper has worked hard to achieve.”

“You’re married to Avery,” Chris gave him a long once over before letting out a wild, roaring laugh, “Only in your dreams. A woman like that would never, ever give you the time of day. I might be behind on the times since I’ve been in Europe not keeping up on the trash talk, but I’m quite certain that someone of Avery’s caliber wouldn’t dream of wasting her breath on you let alone her life.”

“Is that right?” Brant glared at him, “Well how about when we bring her out here, she can set your facts straight and send you on your way since you clearly don’t belong here.”

“Actually, once again you are horribly mistaken,” Chris raised his hand to his chest feigning a heavy sigh before dropping his head down. He shook it once before eyeing Brant again with a wicked smirk, “Come to think of it being mistaken is something that you do oh so well.”

“And you’re wasting my time. I’m looking for Avery,” Brant frowned realizing he needed to be talking to this ex-tabloid reporter like he needed another hole in his head. Of course taking a gun and putting a bullet in the center of Chris’s forehead on the other hand, well now that had some very delicious possibility to it. He smirked at the thought.

“And if you continue the search, you’ll be wasting your time. She’s not here,” Chris called out after him, “She left with Elliot a short while ago.”

“How long ago,” Brant spun around to face him, “and why are you here?”

“Because I’m working around in my office for when the paper is fully functional again,” Chris took a bold step forward. He eyed Brant with intense scrutiny before speaking up again, “If you aren’t bluffing about what you’d just said about being married to Avery, then I should hope that she might’ve told you about our meeting earlier.”

“Your meeting,” Brant’s eyes widened in shock before he shook his head dismissively, “no way. You’re not the…”

“The what?” Chris arched a curious brow, “The new editor around here? Why yes, yes I am.”

Chris finished with a smug grin feeling a jolt of enthusiasm rack over him just by the expression on Brant’s face alone. It was priceless--worth far more than winning that Pulitzer prize back in two thousand. It made everything that built up to this moment all the more encouraging now that he’d finally was able to deliver a blow to the almighty Brant Ashford like Brant had delivered when Chris was fired from his reporting job with The Gabber.

“This is unbelievable,” Brant shook his head in a state of disbelief, “Avery wouldn’t have hired you in and if she did, well obviously you lied about your references.”

“She scouted me,” Chris boasted proudly, folding his arms in front of his chest, “which tells me she’s a woman of far too exquisite taste to be with a loser like you. Come to think of it, her husband recently passed away, didn’t he? I mean of course I know he did since that’s part of why I’m here, yet…”

“Yet what?” Brant frowned again.

Chris scratched his chin for extra emphasis before flashing a sarcastic smile again, “That must’ve been how you found a way to weasel into her life. Clearly a woman grieving the loss of the love of her life would be wide open for your kind of manipulations. She wouldn’t fully be aware of what it was that you were made of. Yes, now that scenario would make sense in terms of Avery marrying you--if in fact what you claim to be truth is in fact just that.”

“Listen you,” Brant stepped forward ready to tell Chris off before taking a step back. He took another look around the office for Avery, realizing that she must’ve truly left with Elliot. Glaring up at Chris, he attempted to play it cool by adjusting his tie and taking yet another step back, “On second thought you’re not worth it.”

Chris watched Brant storm out of the Courier office before he threw out an overenthusiastic wave, “Yes, it was lovely seeing you again Brant,” Chris mouthed with a roll of his eyes before letting out a small laugh.

While Chris hadn’t planned on running into Brant this early on now knowing that Avery was married to him, well that might prove to be useful indeed. Shaking his head once again when he heard the doors slam, he returned to his office vowing to do a little more research on what his favorite Ashford was up to while he’d been in Europe. Maybe just maybe Brant could be the key to the story that Chris had been researching where Augustus was concerned. It couldn’t hurt, Chris thought to himself before eyeing the stack of things before him waiting to be unpacked. He moved forward thinking about unpacking, but instead he stopped himself mid-step making his way to the newspaper archives instead. It was time to do some serious digging. Research was on the agenda for the night.

“It’s good to be back,” Chris mouthed to himself ready to delve into his next greatest masterpiece. In the past it had been for a paycheck, but this time, well this time this was for the sheer pleasure of being able to watch Brant Ashford squirm.


“I just don’t understand how life can be so cruel,” Grady began blankly, his green eyes staring off to space. He still lay on his sofa with his head in Avery’s lap, his gaze fixed on the ceiling above him, but Avery could see he was still so very lost in another place and time. “After everything Jade and I have been through with one another--why now? Why take her from me like this?”

“I don’t know,” Avery smoothed her fingers through his dark hair, “Grady I wish that this didn’t happen. I wish that I knew where she was--that I could help bring her back somehow…”

“So do I,” he closed his eyes taking in a long, slow breath, “I mean now that she’s pregnant. Avery, she’s having my baby. Jade and I created a life together…”

“I know,” she mouthed in a small whisper thinking of that way she’d felt when she’d discovered that she and Russ were having a child with one another.

“They need me Avery. They need me right now and I’m just sitting here doing nothing,” Grady’s eyes opened again revealing the pain behind their depths, “Avery, I should’ve been there to help her--to stop this from happening…”

“No one expected this Grady. I never imagined…” Avery trailed off remembering how hard they’d fought for his freedom once he’d been set up.

“I just can’t believe that monster would do this to her now--now that she’s pregnant,” Grady closed his eyes once again, “You know Susan was pregnant once…”

Avery’s eyes widened at Grady’s confession, but it wasn’t really the words that surprised her. It was the grim expression on his face when he revealed a secret he’d kept inside for so very long.

“That’s when things really began to fall apart for us you know,” he confessed his voice raw with emotion, “Things seemed to be going very well until one day Susan and I had this dinner…”

Grady choked up clearly lost in the past somehow. His eyes opened again and he looked at Avery, but she could see quite clearly that he wasn’t seeing her. His body might be there, but his mind and everything else was lost to the moment he’d returned to.

“It was right around our third anniversary. We went to this bed and breakfast and I made everything special for us. I wanted everything to be perfect--wanted to really show Susan how happy I was that we were together. We’d been a bit distant with one another for a few months leading up to that point. I wasn’t really sure how or why it had happened, but after all the fighting, I wanted to do things right. I whisked her away and we had this incredible night. We’d gone to this five star restaurant--we’d made love like first time lovers who were taking the time to rediscover one another,” he sighed heavily a tiny shudder passing over him, “and then after when I held her in my arms, I told her that I was ready for a family--that I wanted her to be the mother of my children. I said that I was ready, but that’s when she hit me with everything…”

“How so,” Avery asked watching his face twist with emotion.

“She told me that she’d been pregnant a few months earlier,” Grady confessed poignantly, “When she told me she was pregnant I was ecstatic. I pulled her into my arms, held her like I’d never let go and said that it was fate. Karma was giving us what we’d always wanted with one another, but that’s when she told me--when she explained that she was pregnant before, but not then.”

“Oh Grady,” Avery gasped watching his eyes mist over with tears.

“Turns out when I started feeling the distance between us was right around the time Susan discovered she was pregnant. Not only did she feel the need to keep that bit of information from me, but she also made the decision to terminate that pregnancy without telling me,” he closed his eyes again, “She said she didn’t have time to stay at home changing diapers. Her career was on the fast track and she’d be damned if she’d let me hold her back with something like that as well. Avery, she gave me hope in those few seconds only to rip it from me in the blink of an eye. Not only didn’t she give me a chance to be a father, but she killed my child without so much as giving me any warning.”

“Oh Grady, I’m so sorry,” she squeezed him in her arms knowing only too well the feel of losing a child. “I’m so sorry that she did that to you. She should’ve told you…”

“She felt she didn’t have to. It was her body and her choice as she put it,” Grady replied his jaw clenched with anger, “and it turns out that not only did I find out that she aborted the baby, but she’d also taken up an affair with Kenneth Ashford. She killed our child and then celebrated by taking him to her bed…”

“Grady, I’m so sorry. I had no idea that…” Avery found herself at a loss, “You deserved better than that. Your child deserved more than that.”

“Yes, but there’s a classic example of what you get and what you deserve,” Grady remarked sourly pulling himself up and out of her lap, “I didn’t have a choice in that just like I don’t have a choice in any of this now. If Cameron has done something to hurt Jade--if I never see her again…”

“You will see her again,” Avery watched him begin to pace around the room, “They’ll find her.”

“And if they don’t? If no one can track down where Cameron has taken her to, then what Avery?” Grady snapped back at her throwing his hands in the air, “Where does that leave me?”

“Grady, she’s going to come home,” Avery rose to her feet in an attempt to move closer to him, “She has to. Fate wouldn’t be that cruel to the both of you.”

“Oh that’s rich coming from you of all people. I’m sure that you didn’t think that fate would be that cruel to you and Russ either, right? Look where fate got you Avery. Look what it got for my niece,” his voice raised in frustration, “A big fat nothing.”

“What happened with Russ was horrible,” Avery fought to maintain an air of normalcy in her tone, “but that was different.”

“Different how?” he questioned back, “What makes you think that anything that happens from here on out with Jade now that Cameron has her is going to be any different?”

“Because they haven’t found her yet. There is still hope Grady and if Cameron has her,” Avery moved in closer to him, “Grady he’s not going to hurt her.”

“You can’t be sure of that. You can’t be sure of anything with that man,” he argued with her.

“No, we can’t, but this time, well my instincts are telling me that--that somehow she’s still alive. If Cameron has her, he’s not going to risk losing her when she’s what he wants. He’s made that evident time and time again…” she threw back at him.

“Avery, even with obsession there comes a point when you have to accept defeat. If he reaches that with Jade and he’s decided that if he can’t have her, then no one else will…” he shook his head, “I could’ve lost her forever.”

“But you didn’t. I refuse to believe that she’s gone,” she maintained, “and you can’t think that either because the moment you do, then Cameron wins. You can’t let him have that kind of power over you.”

“Avery, I’m fighting a losing battle with this one. With his connections and resources,” he argued further.

“To hell with his resources,” she snapped back at him, her dark eyes upon his. “Grady, you and Jade have the kind of love that even someone like Cameron can’t take away. She’s out there and I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before you find her. You have to hold out hope--you have to believe…”

“Avery, it’s just so hard when…” he stammered a bit.

“Grady, I’m telling you. You can’t give up on this--not when so many things are riding on this,” she reached for his hand taking it in hers, “It’s too important.”

“I’m just not used to being able to believe in things like this. I love Jade and she’s changed my life in so many ways. Before her I was a mess. You of all people know that. You’ve seen me at my worst,” his sad eyes reminded her.

She nodded, “But I’ve seen you at your best too and so has Jade. She loves your spirit and the fighter in you. In this situation it’s not any different. You have to keep the faith that she’s out there waiting for you to find her. Sooner or later Cameron will crack. With the right nudge, I’m sure of it.”

“Maybe you’re right,” he finally decided taking in a long breath, “I mean maybe I’m just being too melodramatic right now.”

“No, that’s not it at all. Grady I know you’re terrified and if I was in your shoes I would be to. I would be wanting to do everything and anything in my power to find the person I loved. Nothing would stop me--not even something like the police wanting to take charge of the investigation.”

“And that’s where I’m at Avery. I’m trying to follow their advice--to do what I’m supposed to do, but I feel like that’s worse than going out on my own and finding her,” Grady revealed desperately.

“Then follow your heart Grady because that’s the only thing that’s important. If you do that, then I’m sure it’ll lead you to Jade,” Avery replied biting down on her lower lip nervously, “I know a lot of people wouldn’t be happy with me saying that, but if there’s a chance--if there’s even the most remote possibility that Jade is out there, then you do whatever it takes. If someone had told me that Russ was still alive--that he was still out there, you can bet that I’d move heaven and Earth to find him. Nothing short of an act of God would stop me from searching for him. Nothing at all.”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right,” Grady nodded in agreement feeling himself empowered by a totally new set of emotions. He paced around his living room thinking about what Avery had suggested. He glanced over at her before rushing over to embrace her. He picked her up off of the ground before placing a kiss on her cheek eagerly, “You’re dead on with this one.”

“Well, good I’m glad,” Avery smiled briefly feeling him spin her around before he set her on her feet again. She looked up at him, realizing that they’d somehow turned another leaf with one another.

“I’m going to find Jade. I don’t care what I have to do, I’m going to find a way,” Grady explained keeping his arms around Avery’s waist, enthusiasm carrying over every inch of his body.

“If you need any help. If you need anything--anything whatsoever, then you tell me and I’ll do whatever I can to help you with extra resources or whatever it is that can help,” she vowed tilting her head up to gaze into his intense green eyes, “Grady I know you can do this.”

“You’re right I can,” he nodded in response a smile lifting over his features, “and while I was stuck feeling sorry for myself, I lost sight of what was really important--of what really mattered, yet here you were kicking my ass again and getting me back on track.”

“I wasn’t kicking your ass,” she argued patting him in the center of his chest before she felt his body stiffen.

“Yes you were,” Grady replied solemnly, lifting his hand to graze her cheek tenderly, “but given the whining I’ve been doing lately, it’s everything that I needed and more.”

“Grady I…” Avery started feeling a foolish blush rise in over her features. “It was nothing.”

“No, that’s where you’re wrong,” he smiled down at her nudging her cheek again in an attempt to get her to meet his eyes, “Russ would be proud.”

“I’d like to think so,” Avery smiled sadly before taking a step back, “I’d like to think that Russ was okay with a lot of the decisions I’ve been making lately, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m not so convinced that he would be…”

Avery’s words were cut off by the faint vibrating of her cell phone. She frowned before reaching into her pocket to fish it out. While she’d been ignoring it up until this point of time, something told her that answering might be a good idea.

“Hello,” Avery spoke into the phone quickly while holding her finger up to tell Grady to hold on.

“Avery, where are you?” Brant’s worried voice carried over the line, “I went to the paper and you weren’t there. Then I called the driver and…”

“And I stopped by to see Grady. I picked up my car and,” Avery paused thinking about everything she’d been talking about. She glanced over at Grady noting the expression on his face. She lowered her voice a bit before speaking into the phone again, “I’ll be home shortly.

“Avery, maybe I should come and pick you up. I don’t want you out there alone especially when…” Brant began to argue with her, “If you give me fifteen minutes, then…”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I’m on the road,” Avery promised offering up a quick good-bye before hanging up the phone.

“Having problems with the husband,” Grady questioned in a distant, less than enthusiastic tone.

“No, not at all,” Avery shook her head shoving her phone back into her pocket, “He’s just--well, he’s just being Brant.”

“Which can be a frightening thing,” Grady quipped before offering up a tiny smile, “I’m kidding Avery. Really…”

“I know,” she nodded finding herself distracted after Brant’s call. The fact that he was so insistent upon checking up on her reminded her of what had happened on the yacht and…

“Avery, what is it,” Grady frowned catching the change in her expression.

“It’s nothing,” she shrugged seeing the way his eyes seemed to reach right through her. “Really it’s…”

“Don’t lie Avery,” he warned simply wiggling his finger at her, “You’re a terrible liar.”

“I am not. I’m just…” she bit down on her lower lip again, “It’s just, well Brant and I have reason to believe that Bruce has resurfaced again.”

“What?” his eyes grew wide, “How?”

“It’s a long story, but we think he broke into the Ashford yacht when Brant and I were out of town on it and…” she shook her head refusing to do down that road, “I just don’t want to get into it.”

“It sounds like you should get into it. What’s he doing?” Grady asked worried.

“He just left this dead bird in a room and…” she shuddered at the thought, “I just don’t want to think about it. I just want to go home and…”

“And what? Avery, if the guy has been making a play at hurting you…”

“It’s not that. I mean I don’t know what he’s after, but…well I just don’t want to live my life in hiding,” she insisted firmly, “I’m not going to play a victim and if I walk in shadows having someone holding my hand while he’s out there, well that’s not really living at all is it?”

“Avery, remember what you said about obsession before,” Grady frowned shaking his head at her, “You and I both know how dangerous that can be…”

“And like I said with Cameron and Jade. Cameron’s obsessed with Jade and I don’t think he’s going to hurt her. With Bruce, I really don’t believe that…” she began trying to convince herself more than Grady that there was nothing to fear.

“Avery, the man tried to kill you once. Who is to say he won’t come back and try to finish the job when no one is looking? As much as I hate to say it, I think that Brant’s right in checking up on you,” he continued pondering the thought, “You’re not safe with him out there.”

“Grady, I’m going to be fine,” she reached for his hand offering it a light squeeze. “I’m just going to go home and relax. I’m going to unwind and put the day behind me. Bruce isn’t going to bother me. He’s just…”

“He’s evil Avery and if there’s a possibility that he’s out there waiting to snag you up,” Grady shook his head, “It’s not going to happen. I’ll just grab my car keys and take you home. You can leave Russ’s car here and…”

“No!” she snapped back at him, “Haven’t you heard a word I just said Grady? I’m not going to let Bruce steal my life away from me. I’m not a child and I’m not about to allow myself to be treated like one simply because I made a horrible choice when I was younger. It’s not happening!”

“This isn’t about being treated like a child Avery. This is about being smart and,” Grady reminded her with a frown.

“And nothing. I’m going home now and you’re going to work on finding Jade. You don’t need to be wasting any time worrying about me because I can take care of myself. I’m one iron-clad bitch and you of all people know that when I’m fired up, I don’t let any man bring me down. I’m not going to let Bruce get the best of me.”

“Avery, it’s just not…” he opened his mouth to argue.

“Good-bye Grady,” she stepped forward to embrace him tightly, “and good luck.”

“Same to you and just know if you need me for anything--anything at all,” he squeezed her tighter in his arms.

“I know who to call,” she nodded before patting his arm, “Now go find your destiny. Go get the woman you love and bring her home to you.”


“So where are we going exactly,” Nick questioned from the passenger side of Angela’s Jeep. He looked at the rain striking on the windows before them while the wipers pushed it away. The storm seemed to get worse, but Angela still continued to drive out away from their places.

“You’ll see,” Angela glanced over at him with a mysterious smirk, “I hope you’re not above a bit of an adventure today.”

“I’m always up for an adventure with you,” he replied taking a bold move in reaching out to touch her knee. He thought he almost saw her shiver at the contact and a smile lifted over his features.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Angela dropped her hand down from the steering wheel, bringing it in over his. Gingerly she fingered the top of his hand, enjoying the soft feel of his thick fingers beneath her touch. There was something about the brief contact between them that brought a sizzling sensation out from within. Glancing at him once more, she forced a small smile before returning her attention to the road ahead of her, “I think you’re going to like this.”

“Tell me we’re not going rock diving,” Nick finally added a bit uncomfortable after his last run in with the dive when Kevin was around.

She laughed lightly feeling a bit of disappointment wash over her when Nick removed his hand from her leg, “No, it’s not cliff diving, but I can promise you that it’s something that will give you almost the same kind of rush.”

“Then I look very forward to it,” Nick admitted watching her maneuver her Jeep off of the main road into a thick forest of trees before them.

“It’s kind of private,” she explained with a cryptic expression, “but it’s somewhere that I like to be when I don’t want to think about anything else other than unwinding.”

“So it’s your own piece of heaven, huh?” Nick questioned keeping his eyes upon her and only her.

“That’s right,” she nodded bringing the Jeep to a stop. She glanced over at him catching the expression on his face before she pointed to the clearing before them. “What do you think?”

“I think that it’s beautiful,” he replied not bothering to look anywhere but upon her face. He leaned forward skimming his palm against her cheek gently. “Very beautiful indeed.”

“Not me,” she pointed again urging him to look out onto the water before them. “Over there.”

“Over where,” he asked lazily wanting to take the time to absorb all of her and drink her in, but when he caught her agitated look he turned his attention to the water before them. The rain seemed to fall upon it at a more leisurely pace than the one they’d been met with on the road and yet even with the storm surrounding them it felt peaceful--almost serene around them.

“It’s very beautiful,” Nick announced turning to face Angela again only to discover she’d gotten out of the Jeep. Looking before him he saw her dancing around on the shore, circling around and around with her arms out up in the air. He decided he was going to join her and stepped out of the Jeep, “What are you doing?”

“Savoring the moment,” she shouted back at him over the rain. She curled her finger at him before flashing him a sexy smile, “Come join me.”

“Join you,” he replied watching her move towards the water’s edge, “You mean in there?”

“Yes, in here,” she nodded eagerly her eyes fixed upon his with each step she took towards him. Reaching for the bottom hem of her shirt, she pulled the rain soaked material up over her head before throwing it to the muddy beach beneath her feet. She kicked off her shoes, her eyes never straying from Nick before she shimmied out of her pants. “Come on.”

“Angela, I…” he started finding himself at a loss as she stood before him in a now transparent peach colored bra and panties set.

“Come on chicken,” Angela wiggled her brow at him, tipping her head back to soak up some more of the rain that surrounded her.

“I’m not chicken. I’m just…” Nick watched her twirl around again, his mind forgetting what it was he had to say when she unhooked her bra and eased herself out of it.

“Come on Nick,” she swung the bra around in her finger before throwing it directly at him. He caught it with one, quick movement before she stepped in closer to him.

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of being adventurous,” she mouthed, her words coming out in a low, throaty tone. She stepped in closer to him, dropping her arms down at her sides to reveal herself to him more completely. Inhaling nervously, she closed her eyes feeling the warmth of his gaze moving over her damp body.

“I happen to like living for adventure,” she heard him speak out in a low, sensual tone.

She felt him step in closer to her, heard his footsteps approaching and just when she thought he’d take her into his arms and kiss her like she’d never been kissed before, she felt something press into her hand. Opening her eyes to look at what was in front of her, she noticed a pile of clothing where Nick had once stood before her. In her hand she realized he’d deposited his boxers before a splashing sound filled the air that surrounded her. She spun around to see the waves that surrounded the place he’d dove into the water and with a smirk she discarded his boxer shorts and the rest of her clothing before going in after him.

The cold, abrasive feel of the water surrounding her sent swirling sensations over her from the top of her head to the tips of her toes once she’d gone under. Even now she couldn’t explain how right that felt when she’d taken the time to enjoy the water like this. It was a habit she’d started when she’d first returned to the island in her dips in the pond, but now, well now it was as if it was something she had to do to feel truly refreshed. Of course each and every time she’d come here before, she’d come alone and in bringing Nick here with her, she knew she was taking a risk--a big one, but something had her feeling as if it was one worth taking.

She swam forward, wrapping herself up in the waves that surrounded her--in the water’s welcoming embrace until she felt another hold upon her. Arms, strong and solid spread around her providing a warmth unlike anything she’d felt in this particular spot before. She began to rise through the water, the solid strength of Nick’s chest pressing in against her spine and as they surfaced she felt the first nibble he made over her shoulders.

“I missed you,” Nick replied his hands traveling over the lines of her body, reaching out to cup her breasts gently. “For a second I’d thought I lost you.”

“Now why would you think you’d go and do a silly thing like that,” she questioned with a husky breath, leaning back into his chest as his fingers played magic over her curves.

“Just fear setting in I suppose,” he mouthed warmly lips traveling over her neck in a seductive fashion.

“You worry too much,” Angela replied reaching for his hand and bringing it to her lips. She kissed the tip of his fingers before she turned her head to the side seeing the sheer lust that burned over his features. Smiling at him, she guided his hand down beneath the water again to the warmth between her thighs. Silently she felt him touch her, take the first stroke at her femininity and she arched into him.

“Angela,” he whispered her name in a low, guttural tone while his touch weaved it’s sensual spell over her.

“Nick,” she cried out tilting her head further to capture his lips in hers. The raw heat of his mouth melding with hers rocked her to the core, singed her body in ways that she’d only imagined until this point in time. Turning in his arms, she wrapped herself around him, her arms sliding over his shoulders and down his spine. His hands cupped her body lifting her up to wrap her legs around his waist as they kissed one another in the center of the pond. Their kisses grew more urgent until they finally parted.

“Is this like any of your fantasies,” she questioned her dark eyes burning with desire. She scratched her nails over his shoulders, learning the strong feel of him beneath her touch.

“No,” he shook his head his hands cupping her bottom as the water moved around them. He leaned in closer to kiss her once again, “this is so much better.”

“That’s kind of what I was aiming for,” Angela confessed her tongue teasing his while they floated along in the water. She could feel her own heart pounding in her chest, the promise of anticipation burning between them. She wanted him--more than anything and as she felt the evidence of his own arousal brushing up against her thigh, she knew there would be no holding back. Squeezing his shoulders again, she murmured into his mouth, “Nick.”

“Angela,” he replied hugging her closer yet to him.

“I want you,” she confessed hungrily, not bothering to hold back on the feelings that had engulfed her and threatened to take her under, “I need you.”

“I need you too,” he replied his excited skin reacting to her every touch.

“Then let’s get out of this water,” she suggested wanting to find a way to enjoy this in every sense of the word with him. She kissed him one last time before dropping down beneath the water’s surface and wiggling out of his arms.

He spun around to face her, seeing the ripple of waves follow her movements until she emerged from the water looking like a goddess bathed by the storm that surrounded her. He watched her move over to her Jeep pulling out a small blanket and placing it on the ground before sitting down upon it. Knowing that no further invitation was needed Nick swam to shore, catching the first glimpse of Angela’s beautifully brazen body before him.

“Come here Nick,” she wiggled her finger at him urgently before laying back on top of the blanket offering herself to him. He was mesmerized by the beauty of her, by the way her hands traveled over her own curves tempting him to join her--to give in to this overwhelming need to be with her. Silently he moved forward, dropping down onto the blanket beside her.

“You’re so beautiful,” Nick mouthed grazing his fingertips over her damp body, reveling in the ways she seemed to melt at his touch. She arched up to him clearly lost in the desire that surrounded them and with each soft cry that escaped her lips, Nick felt desire pouring in over him like the rain storm that surrounded them.

“Come here,” Angela urged reaching out to bring him in over her. Her lips collided with his, her hands learning the smooth, solid lines of his body--wanting to know more of them when her palm brushed up over the root of his masculinity. Feeling him fill her palm she let out another breath knowing that while she’d appreciated his naked form from afar, it was nothing like actually touching him, teasing him and watching his face grow twisted with desire.

“Angela, I don’t think you should…” Nick reached for her wrist stilling her touch before he spun out of control. “If we’re going to make this special then I think you need to quit that.”

She curled her lip in a pout before a seductive smile spread over her flushed features, “Only if you promise that I can feel you inside me. That we can lose control together.”

That did it. If Nick had any ounce of control he’d been holding onto, hearing Angela’s indecent proposal had been all the encouragement he’d had to unleash the beast that had been kept under wraps this long. He dove in for her mouth fiercely unable to get enough of her when she pushed him off of her. For a moment he thought that the connection was going to end, but instead of her offering a reason why this wasn’t going to work, she reached into the bag she’d carried out of the Jeep with the blanket and withdrew a condom.

“Just making this perfect for us,” she promised tipping over to kiss him heatedly before preparing them to go to the next level with one another.

“Angela,” Nick groaned her name feeling her touch seducing him further than he’d imagined they’d go with one another earlier when she’d arrived at the bar.

“I want you Nick,” Angela replied moving in over him, her thighs straddling over his body, ready to complete their union when a loud roaring sound surrounded them.

“Angela look out,” Nick gasped in horror collecting her in his arms just in time to pull her out of the way of the falling tree that came shooting down over them.

“Nick,” Angela cried out seeing the fallen limb now on the blanket where they’d almost made love. She felt his strong arms around her as they lay a few feet away from the wreckage that could’ve very well crushed them to death in a moment of bliss.

“Hey, are you okay,” Nick questioned reaching out to touch her cheek gently after he’d slid across the beach rolling in a haste.

She nodded, “Much better than we would’ve been if you hadn’t seen that tree,” she paused thinking about what was transpiring between them, “Nick, how did you see that coming?”

“I heard the thunder above and then the lightening,” he motioned to the clouds overhead, “much like that lightening.”

“Lightening,” she frowned tilting her head up to see that the storm had suddenly spun out of control overhead.

“Yeah lightening,” he added once again feeling the mood slipping away from them after the impending danger. He curled his arm around Angela’s shoulders feeling her shivering beneath his touch. Kissing the top of her head gently, he found himself filled with a moment of regret, but more so with a need to get her out of the situation before something else struck, “Hey, why don’t we get out of here before the next one decides to finish what the storm started?”

“Nick, I…” Angela began finding herself at a complete loss after this latest run of luck.

“I know,” he nodded not needing to say much more as the tree nearly crushing them to death pretty much said it all. He inched up to kiss her tenderly before pulling away from her, “Let’s get dressed and get out of here.”

“Okay,” she agreed quietly all the while wondering what it would’ve been like had she and Nick taken their relationship to the next level. She was still filled with an intensified need, an electricity that had fanned out over her body, but when she eyed the fallen tree limb again, she realized that it was a need that would have to wait to be fulfilled. One near brush with death was certainly enough to make her see that now was neither the time nor the place to make love with Nick.


“Where are you Seth?” Kevin questioned hanging up his phone for what has seemed to be the hundredth time. “I haven’t even been in Coral Valley for twenty minutes and I am still as confused as I ever was.”

He had already been to the hotel and checked in so everything was set up. What was he supposed to do now? He looked around the before noticing a 711 on the corner.

“I could use a cold drink right now,” he sighed before looking down at his watch, “I obviously have a lot of time to kill right now.”

As he walked into the store, he felt a sudden rush of chill feeling the air conditioning blowing in the store. Taking a glance around the store, he noticed that the fridges were on the other side of the store. He stopped in front of the fridges taking a look at the many choices before him.

“I guess a Dr. Pepper is good,” Kevin sighed going to open the fridge before elbowing a woman, “I’m so sorry miss…did I hurt you or anything?”

“No, I am absolutely fine,” she answered before rolling her eyes and flipping her blonde hair back, “And you could stop the act, I know you did that on purpose.”

“I just,” he began before she cut him off putting her finger over his lips then walking away. “I was just trying to say sorry. What a nice group of people around here.”

He took in a deep breath before grabbing his drink and then walking over towards the candy isle. He wasn’t really one for candy or chocolate, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kevin apologized once more as he reached down to grab something, but only rested his hand above a small feminine hand.

“Oh, it’s you again,” the woman scowled watching Kevin stand rise slowly, “Had to talk to me again, huh?”

“Listen miss…I didn’t mean to knock into you like that,” Kevin sighed raising his hand out to hers, “I’m Kevin…Kevin Adonis.”

“Right,” she nodded slowly before folding her arms out in front of her leaving him holding his hand out.

“Here, to make it up to you,” Kevin held out the candy bar that he hand picked up, “You could have the last one of this. I really shouldn’t be eating that.”

“One, I should have gotten it anyways and two…my name isn’t miss, it’s Cori,” she scowled before walking away then turning around quickly. “Oh, and one more thing.”

“Thanks,” Kevin laughed seeing her flick him off before shaking his head slowly seeing her walk away as he rolled his eyes, “What a friendly woman.”


Grady stood in his living room thinking about his talk with Avery. She was right. He needed to get out there and find Jade. Of course to make it happen he was going to need a plan of action--he was going to need something that got him where he needed to be without all the red tape to go through. If he was going to have a chance at doing this right--really doing this, then he would have to take her up on her offer to tap into some of the Ashford resources. As much as he hated Brant and Ken, he knew full well that they had what was necessary to take on Cameron. Their family and the influence that surrounded them would be the key to finding out the information he needed. With their help he could get into places that he wouldn’t be able to do on his own.

“But to do so I’m going to need some backup,” Grady decided aloud realizing that he needed someone he could trust. Kyle immediately came to mind and in that moment he decided it was time to call in yet another favor from his good buddy.

He took a step forward ready to make that important phone call when he felt something on the floor near his foot. Looking down Grady noticed a phone on the floor. He bent over to pick it up and immediately recognized it as Avery’s. Sliding it into his pocket, he moved across the room and dialed Kyle. He got no answer on the cell phone and as his fingers played over the phone in his hand, he decided that maybe now was the time to return the cell phone. Despite the fact that he and the Ashford family hadn’t been at all civil with one another, maybe just maybe now was the time for putting old grievances aside in the name of helping Jade.

“It’s settled,” Grady announced reaching for his car keys and stepping out of the house ready to return Avery’s cell phone along with making a plea to one of his enemies in the name of finding Jade and bringing her home once and for all.


Avery fumbled with the dials on the radio hoping to find a station worth listening to, but unfortunately Russell’s pre-sets in his car were nothing like what she would’ve chosen. Still the car in itself had a bit of a refreshing feel to it with her knowing that it was entirely Russ. Smiling at that thought she noticed there was a tape in the tape deck and she put it into the player. When the tunes of Frank Sinatra filled the air that surrounded her, she thought back to how Russ used to sing along extremely off key.

“It’s a gift,” he’d always told her, to which she’d argued.

“I think the talents weren’t sent in your direction with this particular music. Not that you don’t have a beautiful voice because you do, but this…well it’s just not you Russ.”

“Trust me. It’s all me,” he’d always wink at her, “It’s just an acquired taste if you will.”

“Acquired taste huh,” she’d usually laugh before teasing him relentlessly on how listening to this made him seem older than he was.

Now she’d give anything to hear him sing this song again. She’d pay any price to feel the warmth of his laughter in their debate, but she knew that it would never return to her. She’d never get that back and now wasn’t about looking to the past--just to the future.

“Speaking of which,” Avery mouthed to herself reaching across to the passenger seat for her purse. She dropped her fingers inside the center pouch feeling for her phone, but much to her dismay it wasn’t in there.

“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath remembering her promise to call Brant. Of course now that wasn’t an option since she couldn’t find her phone in her purse, but then an idea struck her.

“Your pocket,” she spoke to herself fishing around in her pocket for the phone she’d remembered putting in there. That too was empty and as she thought back to her good-byes with Grady, she realized that was perhaps where she’d misplaced it. She remembered putting it into her pocket--then arguing with Grady and…

“And it had to have fallen out,” she thought aloud remembering hugging him good-bye. Frowning she returned her hands to the steering wheel again, “I’ll just call him when I get back to the mansion and let him know that I left it there. It’s not a problem. Not a problem at all.”

Looking to the road in front of her, Avery turned off of the main road taking note of the long, winding street before her. In drives like these it was always peaceful to make her way to the mansion. It was up in the hills in Coral Valley and had one hell of a view. Even this road up to it was peaceful and serene devoid of the usual stubborn traffic that had carried away from the beauty that downtown had to offer. This quiet, tree lined road offered up a new sense of a calming effect and it was one of the few things that Avery had always appreciated about working for the Ashfords long before she’d married Brant. The sun was hidden behind the trees--falling to shadows when she rounded a corner.

“Now this is more like it,” she smiled seeing the clear road ahead when she heard a honking sound from behind. Looking into her mirror, she noticed a jet black Hummer with tinted windows approaching. The driver was still laying in on the horn and she rolled her eyes, clenching the steering wheel tighter.

“Just go around me jerk,” she mouthed with a scowl hearing the honking continue. With the road empty he could zip around her and be on his hasty way while she’d enjoy the road. She heard him honk again and she held her finger up to motion for him to pass her by when the road straightened out a bit. The driver seemed to speed up and just when Avery thought that he’d zip around her, she felt a slam into the back of Russell’s Camry.

“What the,” Avery gasped feeling the car get bumped again by the furious beast of a vehicle behind her. She strained to see the driver behind the tinted windows, but when he hit her car again with twice the force than the first few times, Avery felt the car spin out of control.

“No,” she cried out trying to get the car back on track, but with the bend in the road, she knew there was no avoiding the guardrail before her. She braced herself for the impact feeling the distinct slam that carried over her body upon impact.

The rest of what happened was in a blur--nothing more than a whirlwind of seconds weaved together until Avery felt the airbag slam into her face. She coughed feeling an ache sweep over her body, a moment of suffocation stealing her breath from her until her hands clawed at the airbag trying to pry it away from her. It was then that she felt the driver’s side door wrench open.

“Miss are you okay,” she heard a hollow voice carry over her from behind the airbag.

“I’d be a whole hell of a lot better if you knew how to drive,” she snapped once she’d realized that while she’d have one hell of a neck ache, she seemed to be almost completely unscathed by the accident. She looked up at the man before her ready to give him a piece of her mind when a gasp fell from her lips. “Bruce!”

“Miss me sweetheart ,” he questioned reaching into the car to try to yank her out of the front seat, “because I sure as hell missed you.”

Avery let out a pinched scream feeling his fingers dig into her arm. In his first attempt to pull her out of the car, he’d been stopped by the seatbelt she still was wearing, but when she felt his hands furiously working to unlatch it’s hold on her, panic swept over her.

“Not now. Not like this,” she could hear her thoughts over and over again, or was it the sound of her frightened voice? She felt him reach into the car shoving the airbag aside. His hands were on her--his fingers grasping violently in an attempt to take her away from the safety she’d been surrounded in. He’d unclasped her seatbelt and now…

“Come on sweetheart. Let’s make this easy on the both of us. You don’t want to fight me,” Bruce slurred as she saw the dark rage behind his eyes.

She felt the venom behind his touch and in that moment of panic she reached into her purse pulling out the gun that Brant had given her just in case. With shaky hands she struggled to aim the gun at him, but he was so very close. She could almost feel his breath upon her skin--his intentions loud and clear in the confines of the car.

“I won’t be a victim,” she told herself behind closed eyes. Finally she pulled together the strength to pull the trigger. She waited for a moment hearing a grunting sound before she opened her eyes. She saw Bruce laying flat on the ground and while she hoped that she’d fired exactly as she should’ve, she wasn’t about to wait around for him to get up. Sliding to the passenger side of the car, she strained to open the door, but it was stuck against the guard rail she’d driven into. Her pulse was racing--heart pounding out of control in her chest and in that moment there was only one thing that had swept over her--one need that consumed her--only one emotion and feeling that she carried from within--one thing she knew she had to do--escape.


“You are still interested in what they are saying,” Kyle pointed out releasing Sarah from his arms before laughing. “You can’t just let it be can you?”

“I can’t help it Kyle,” she frowned before seeing him laugh, “I guess you could just say I am…”

“Nosey,” he finished her sentence before running his hand through his wet hair, “I wish there was a way that I could actually get your mind off this whole thing. Instead of failing everything I have tried.”

“I can think of something,” she smiled coming up to him slowly pulling him down to her.

“Really?” he questioned seeing her nod slowly. “What might that be?”

“You tell me,” she whispered nibbling on his bottom lip slowly, “How do you plan on keeping me preoccupied?”

“I don’t know,” he answered with a smile before kissing her slowly, “What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know,” she smiled before feeling him kiss her, his tongue searching the warmth of her mouth.

“You could hear them perfectly right now you know,” he informed her pulling her close his body tightly.

“I could care less right now,” she replied grabbing his hands that held her close to him leading them to the front of her robe slowly.

“Are you sure?” Kyle questioned seeing her nod slowly as he looked into her dark eyes. “I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“I want to,” she whispered seeing his hesitation as she put his fingers to the knot in her robe watching him undo it slowly.

“Are you positive about this?” he wondered seeing her nod slowly as she let the material slip off her shoulder letting it fall to the ground.

“I want to be with you Kyle,” she began before loosening his towel watching it fall to the ground, “In every way possible.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he whispered letting his fingertips graze her skin slowly as he found himself reflecting upon all those nights he‘d dreamt about holding Sarah close to him, “I don’t want you to do something you really don’t want to do.”

“Don’t hold back Kyle,” she laughed seeing the worried look behind his eyes, “Believe me, I have wanted to do this longer than you think.”

“Okay,” he nodded slowly before picking her up in his arms and laying her down on the bed gently.

I trust you,” she whispered as he grabbed something before getting above her.

“I know,” he nodded slowly before taking a moment to look at her beautiful body before him.

“Kyle,” she urged him to go ahead as her fingertips ran across his lower back slowly.

“Are you okay?” he questioned grabbing her hand in his tightly after entering her.

“I’m fine,” she assured him as he leaned down kissing her lightly as the heat radiated from both of their bodies as they began to move in the same pace.

They always had too many things to worry about, they never had time with each other. This was how they could really get close. They wanted to be with each other so long and now they were finally doing what both of them wanted. They were together and now they could show each other how much love their really was.


“Knock, knock,” Cori smiled walking into Diego’s office slowly, “What are you up to right now?”

“Work,” Diego yawned before seeing her shake her head slowly, “Why? What’s up?”

“Wrong,” she shook her head before smiling widely, “You are going to come with me and have some fun.”

“I don’t think I can do that right now Cori,” Diego shrugged before leaning forward in his seat, “I mean one day it might be okay, but.”

“But nothing,” she cut him off with a wide smile, “We are going to go have some fun whether you want to or not.”

“Cori,” Diego groaned as she grabbed his hand trying to pull him up from his seat, “You are going to pull my arm out of my socket.”

“You wouldn’t have to worry about that if you would just get up and help me,” she insisted still trying to get him up.

“I have a lot of work to do,” he informed her before taking in a deep breath.

“I say,” she nodded before putting her hands on her hips, “You have problems you know that?”

“That hurts,” he laughed as she frowned, “Oh, don’t give me that look.”

“Come on,” she begged looking down at his work, “You obviously aren’t having fun and I need someone to hang out with. Please.”

“Cori,” Diego began before looking up at her and seeing her begging eyes, “Fine.”

“God, you are so great,” she giggled happily, “We are going to have so much fun. I have so many things planned.”

“Wait. You already have stuff planned and you didn’t even know if I would be coming yet?” Diego questioned as he slowly got up from his seat.

“Yeah,” she nodded before smiling widely, “I knew you were too gullible to tell me no.”

“Gullible?” Diego wondered if that’s what she had just called him seeing her nod. “I’ll show you who is gullible later.”

“Can’t wait,” she replied with a grin before pulling his arm, “Now if you don’t mind, we are kind of on a time schedule.”

“Oh, my bad,” he gasped grabbing his keys, “I don’t want to ruin that schedule.”


Grady drove up the road to the Ashford mansion wondering how he’d present his case to Brant. Sure he had an excuse in bringing Avery’s cell phone back, but even with her offer to help, he knew he was going out on a limb to think that the Ashfords would be willing to lend a helping hand. Still given what he knew about Brant’s helping Jade in the past after she’d been raped, Grady was hoping that he’d continue to carry on with that trend now that Jade needed saving more than ever.

“You can do this,” he tried to assure himself. He rounded over one of the steeper curves in the road, feeling a nervousness settle in the pit of his stomach. Somehow he’d hoped this would be easier, but he still had time to plan what he’d say, he reminded himself rounding another circular bend in the road when his eyes fell upon Russell’s broken down Camry no more than fifteen yards ahead of him.

“What in the…” Grady slowed down seeing the wreckage before him. He pulled his car to a complete stop knowing that car was his brother’s. Immediately worry coursed over his veins and he thought back to his conversation with Avery.

“I’m not going to be a victim,” he could hear her protests, but now he felt a sudden fear consume him.

Rushing out of his car, Grady ran to the scene hoping to find Avery alive and well within the front of the car. He noticed that the driver’s side door was wide open to all that came upon the accident, but what he saw next he was completely unprepared for. Next to the driver’s side there appeared to be a pool of blood leading from the door around the back of the car. He followed the trail around the back bumper to discover the back door on the passenger side was open as well.

His gaze traveled onto the ground again, into the grass that lead to the thick, dense forest of trees before him. The trail of blood seemed to fade into the thick darkness of the trees and in that moment Grady knew there would be no hesitating. He rushed into the woods bound and determined to find Avery before it was too late. He sensed danger around him once he’d been fully surrounded by trees. It was darker, less inviting and as his own worries spread out over him, he thought to Jade--to Russ and to all the others he’d failed in the past by not paying attention.

“Avery!” he shouted her name seeking out any signs of the blood pattern that had lead him into the forest of trees in the first place, “Avery, are you out here? Avery!”

His own voice echoed giving him no indication that anyone else was out there, yet he refused to give up. He ran further into the trees feeling the sun fade out more and more with the dense branches overhead. He strained to get a good look at more than a few feet in front of him, but in this place it was difficult--beyond difficult.

“Avery!” he shouted her name again, his voice pinched with emotion, “Avery, where are you? Avery!”

Nothing followed. Grady stopped for a moment thinking he’d heard the sound of something in the distance. He listened again locating the source of the sound before running off. He wasn’t sure what he’d find, but he wasn’t about to give up. Nearly stumbling a few times in the process, he jogged through the trees continuing his search.

He heard another noise from the left. Turning to look, he felt a branch snap underneath his foot. His ankle gave out in that moment and he fell face down into a puddle of mud beneath him. The moment went from dark to pure, goopy, blackness when he tasted the salty, thickness of the mud that passed beyond his lips. Sitting upright, he spit it out and wiped at his eyes hoping for clarity when he felt a gold metal press against the back of his head.

“If you move another muscle, then I swear I’ll pull the trigger without hesitation,” Avery warned, her voice raspy and cracked with emotion.

“Avery, it’s me,” he pleaded with her knowing full well by the sound of her voice she meant every word of what she was saying. He didn’t flinch at all though he’d found himself wanting to move away from the barrel of the gun. Instead he inhaled slowly trying to stay calm under the pressure, “Avery, it’s Grady.”

“Grady,” she repeated his name, the sound of his voice registering. He felt her lower the gun.

“Avery, are you alright,” he questioned stumbling a bit before finally pulling himself out of the mud. He spun around to see her standing before him, her body trembling like a leaf. He stepped in closer to her placing his arms on her shoulders to steady her, “Have you been hurt?”

She shook her head saying nothing.

“Avery…what happened? I saw blood and,” he began watching her burst into tears.

“It was Bruce. Bruce was following me--he ran me off of the road and…” she broke into sobs feeling her control slip away from her.

“It’s okay,” Grady wrapped her up in his arms trying to soothe the fears that rushed beyond the surface with her.

“I was so afraid and I shot and…” she gurgled between sobs.

“It’s okay. You’re safe now,” Grady replied in a soft whisper, his eyes surveying the trees around him. He hugged her closer to him before nudging her again, “Give me the gun.”

“What?” she asked looking up to him with frightened eyes.

“I said, ‘give me the gun,’” he repeated in a smooth and even tone, while listening very carefully for any signs of the son of a bitch that had driven her to this place, “We need to get out of here before Bruce catches up to us. I’m going to take you back to my car and…”

“And he was there. He was in a Hummer and he rammed me from behind. I ran off of the road and then, well I grabbed the gun--shot and…” she tried to recount the story while waving the gun around.

Grady reached out to grab her wrist. Carefully he pulled the gun from her hand. Once he’d secured his grip on it, he took another look around, “It wasn’t there when I showed up. The Hummer wasn’t by Russ’s car. I think he left.”

“But I shot him. I know that I did…well, I’m almost certain of it,” her lower lip trembled a bit.

“I saw the blood,” he nodded keeping his arm around her while his other hand clenched onto the gun. Slowly they moved through the trees, “I know he’s been wounded.”

“I just had to get out of there. When the door was stuck, I climbed into the backseat and I ran. I just kept running and running until I heard you and…” she explained breathlessly.

“It’s okay,” Grady tried to silence her while they made the walk back to his car. While he wasn’t quite sure what they would find when they walked out from the trees, with the gun in his hand he was more than ready for anything. If he even caught sight of Bruce Mathis, he wouldn’t hesitate to finish the job Avery had started in shooting him. Only this time, Grady would go right between the eyes and be sure that Bruce wouldn’t be getting up ever again.


Kevin had been walking along the streets of Coral Valley for over an hour waiting for a return phone call from his cousin, but still no luck. He was about to go back to the hotel when something caught his eye making him stop dead in his tracks.

“What in the world?” Kevin questioned turning around and picking up the paper to see Cameron on the cover of it.

“Would you like to buy that?” a man questioned as Kevin looked up at him slowly before nodding.

“How much is it?” Kevin wondered grabbing his wallet out of his pocket.

“That would be fifty cents,” the man answered as Kevin grabbed a five dollar bill handing the man the money.

“Keep the change,” Kevin smiled before leaning against the building and opening the paper to see what was up with Cameron and why he was on the cover of the paper.

He read the paper slowly before feeling a big anger grow up inside of him as he folded the paper back up.

“You’re in custody because you have something to do with the disappearance of my cousin,” Kevin licked his lips before looking down at the ground, “Boy Cameron, you really fucked up now.”

His mind was filled with things of what to do. Some part of him wanted him to be pissed at Cameron and let him rot there in his cell for what he did to his cousin.

“I have to go find out what is up,” Kevin sighed before looking down at his watch…it was time to give Cameron a little visit, “It’s what Angie would want.”



...to be continued...