Episode 208

“Don, honey,” Alicia smiled hugging her son tightly in her arms, “What are you doing here so early?”

“I just came to pick up Matt,” Don informed her before taking in a deep breath, “I just want to go home.”

“What’s on your mind honey?” Alicia questioned taking a seat next to him, grabbing his hand in hers. “Don’t tell me nothing because coming from you, that means a lot of things are going on. So why don’t you start by confessing everything to your wonderful mother.”

“I don’t know mom,” Don sighed in deeply before rubbing his tense neck, “I am just overwhelmed with everything and overly worked up so much so that I don‘t even want to think about it anymore.”

“Worked up and overwhelmed together means that this has something to do with Shannon, right?” Alicia questioned raising her eyebrow as Don turned towards her slightly shocked.

“How did you know that? I just,” he began before shaking his head, “Yeah, you’re right.”

“I know you better than you think I do,” she pointed out with a small smile; “I have to know how to read my baby boy.”

“That’s kind of creepy,” Don declared before looking down at his watch, “Do you have any idea when they are going to be back home?”

“Before they come home, me and you are going to have a little talk,” she replied squeezing his hand tightly, “It’s about time you told someone what’s on your mind.”

“There are too many things on my mind right now,” Don took in a deep breath rubbing his hand across his forehead, “I have the biggest headache right now.”

“That’s what being in love can do to you,” she stated only to hear him laugh out.

“Love? You call this love?” Don wondered looking up at his mother before standing up quickly. “Believe me, this is nothing like love. Nothing at all.”

“Then why are you so worked up over it?” Alicia questioned with a smile. “If you didn’t love her…why would you be upset with this whole situation?”

“I…I don’t know,” he shook his head quickly while pacing the room, “Are you trying to use some type of reverse psychology on me here?”

“Me? You are the doctor here, not me,” Alicia pointed out with a laugh, “I am just trying to point out the truth. So the real question here is…do you love her?”

“Mom, she is crazy,” Don yelled as he ran his fingers through his hair angrily, “I don’t know what her problem is, but I really don’t think I want to be part of her problem.”

“What happened exactly?” Alicia asked waiting to offer up any suggestions that her son might need seeing that his face showed how he really felt.

“I can’t really explain everything,” Don stuttered on his words as he thought of what he could actually tell his mother, “Well, I saw her today and we were talking. I thought things were going really well, when she just started acting crazy and I think I just lost it mom. I have never lost it before.”

“I see,” she nodded slowly before enclosing her hands together, “Tell me more about Shannon.”

“Well, what is there to say?” he questioned throwing his hands up in the air. “She seems to only care about herself, she wants to live alone, she never wants to be happy, and she loves to tear people’s hearts out.”

“You love her, huh?” Alicia questioned seeing Don drop down onto one of the chairs slouching over, resting his elbows on his knees.

“Yeah,” Don nodded slowly before looking down at the ground, “I don’t know why, but something in my heart still longs to love her. Something inside of me still wants to protect and give her everything she wants in life. I have to let that go though because if she can’t love me for me…then I can’t keep breaking my heart over and over again because of her. So From here on, I am through. I am through with everything.”


“I can’t believe him,” Shannon sighed closing the hospital doors walking out into the outside pulling out her cell phone. “I have to get a hold of someone. I can’t just sit alone this whole time.”

She thought for a second before thinking of the person who would probably help her out first, Kyle. She dialed his number only to here the ringing of his phone, but no answer.

“Okay, that’s a little weird,” Shannon shook her head before hanging up the phone, “He usually always answers his phone no matter who it is. I need to talk to someone.”

With that in mind, she dialed the number of Diego’s office, but again there was no answer.

“What is wrong with these people? Are they having some type of party I don’t know about?” Shannon questioned with a laugh before leaning against the cold brick of the hospital building. “Maybe I should call Dean.”

She pulled her phone out dialing Dean’s number before pushing the end button realizing she would be making a mistake if she did that.

“I have already caused him enough trouble,” she pointed out to herself before rolling her eyes, “I don’t understand men, I really don’t know why I put up with them sometimes.”

She knew it was a bad idea, but she had no other place to turn. It wasn’t exactly the religious way, but they did have a bar near by, maybe that would be a good thing to do. She nodded to herself before walking down the street until she reached the place.

“Well, I guess this it,” she sighed deeply taking a step into the bar taking a look at all the people around her. There were a couple of older men in the back telling stories and their words sounding a bit slurred as they spoke.

“Can I help you miss?” the bartender questioned catching her attention as she took a stool, taking a seat.

“Yeah, I will have a,” she began before hearing a rustling noise behind her.

“Come on baby, you want a real man don’t you?” she looked back to see Ken who had just kicked a chair across the room swaying along the floor, his voice sounding really slurred.

“Excuse me a second,” she held her finger up to the bartender motioning him to wait as she walked up to Ken pulling him back as he turned around quickly.

“Shannon, baby,” Ken smiled taking another sip of his drink, “Come her to have a little fun?”

“You call what you are doing to yourself fun?” Shannon questioned with a laugh seeing Ken shrug.

“I would say this is just an average day, all my days are fun,” Ken smiled widely before finishing the last sip of his drink. “I need another one of these.”

“I think you have had enough,” Shannon replied pulling him back as he looked at her angrily.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Ken questioned closing his eyes tightly, showing that he was having trouble seeing.

“Don’t you think you have caused enough trouble around here Ken? I mean really what do you think you‘re trying to prove in this reckless streak of yours?” Shannon questioned seeing him look at her blankly looking less than interested in hearing her before he looked away leaving her to grumble to herself. “Why do I even try with losers?”


“I’m whooped,” Kyle sighed falling next to Sarah on the bed hearing her laugh as she wrapped her arm around him tightly.

“I wonder why,” she laughed resting her head on his muscular chest snuggling close to him.

“I have no idea,” he shrugged with a smug smile before kissing the top of her forehead gently.

“I still can’t believe you threw your cell phone out the window,” she shook her head slowly before biting down on her bottom lip, “I wonder if anyone else has called you yet.”

“I could care less,” he answered back running his fingers through her silk blonde hair gently, “The only think I want to be answering right now…is you.”

“If you would only say that all the time,” she sighed snuggling in closer to his body.

“Sarah,” Kyle frowned as she looked up at him, her chin still resting on his chest, “No matter what goes on, you are always on my mind. There is nothing else I would rather do than stay home and see your beautiful smile every minute of the day.”

“But you have work to do and I understand that,” she finished what she figured he was going to say as she saw him frown, “Don’t feel bad, if I was in your same position, I would do the same thing. You are a good guy and that’s why I love you.”

“Is that the only reason you like me?” Kyle questioned with a smug smile seeing her shake her head.

“You are nice, caring, loving, cute,” she began before shaking her head quickly, “Scratch that, you aren’t cute, you are really sexy.”

“Me?” he questioned seeing her nod slowly with a small smile. “I know I am.”

“You really do think you are hot, don’t you?” she wondered seeing him nod agreeing with her. “So, what do you think about me?”

“I would have to say everything you said about me, but skip the cute and sexy part,” he joked feeling her start to tickle him while he tried to get her off. “You know, I’m ticklish…this isn’t fair.”

“Take it back,” she laughed watching him begin to turn red, “I’ll stop if you take it back.”

“Okay, I didn’t mean it,” Kyle repeated what she told him to say before she relaxed in his arms once more, “I think you are the most beautiful woman that walks this Earth and that’s never going to change.”

“I love you,” she smiled pulling him into a kiss, nibbling on his bottom lip gently, “I wonder how Seth and Blake are doing.”

“Honey, believe me,” Kyle began talking against her lips slowly, “If they are anything like us…they have more than made up.”

“I would guess you were right,” Sarah agreed with a smile as he pulled her closer to his muscular form still kissing her gently. She knew Seth and Blake would make up, but right now, the only thing she wanted to be concentrated on was Kyle.


Blake stood beside the hotel window gazing down at the world below. The sky had transformed from the blue color she’d remembered earlier in the day. She could still remember her high hopes for the perfect fairy tale wedding leading to the here and now where she and Seth were in the same room, yet still a world apart thanks to that bitch that had walked in on their wedding.

“Blake,” Seth nudged her gently stepping in from behind and placing his arms around her waist tentatively, “talk to me.”

“Are you sure that’s what you want,” she questioned with a small smile leaning into his touch, “given that I pretty much was all over the place with my emotions earlier, I figure the last thing you want is to hear anymore of what I’m thinking about. I think my psychotic break about a baby earlier was enough to have you less than thrilled about us talking anything out…”

“Hey, did I say anything even remotely close to that,” he asked urging her to face him once again, “Did I once tell you that I felt it was some kind of psychotic break?”

“You didn’t have to Seth. I could see it in your face,” she paused biting on her lower lip nervously, “though you’re right you know. A child deserves more than to be brought into this kind of situation.”

“It’s only temporary,” Seth replied reaching out to embrace her once again, “Before we know it I’ll be on the market again just long enough for you to make me yours and we’ll be together.”

“You really believe that, don’t you,” she asked, her face softening with the look behind his eyes. It was as if he knew what she was feeling--as if he sensed what it was deep inside of her that had been so hurt and wounded. When he touched her face, she felt him reaching into her. She felt his eyes offering up a warmth and tenderness that seemed to somehow put her troubled mind a bit at ease.

“I do,” he nodded in confession, his thumbs pressing out over her cheekbones, “Blake, I knew from the moment I met you that I was going to spend forever with you. It was the most frightening, yet wonderful reality of my life when I met you.”

“Frightening how,” she questioned seeing the way his eyes seemed to sparkle with some hidden magic that filled the air around them with warmth.

“I was frightened because I knew that when you walked into that auto shop my life was never going to be the same, yet in that same moment I knew I never wanted it to be either,” he confessed with a small smile, “Sure, I mean I knew you had a great pair of legs, but there was this spark--this immediate connection there.”

“I felt it too,” she replied eagerly, “I mean sure I was a bit bitchy--”

“A bit?” he wiggled a curious brow at her.

“Okay a lot bitchy, but that was irrelevant when we were in that pit together. When you were holding me and I felt the warmth of your arms, it was like I knew everything would be alright for us,” she moved forward leaning into him more completely. She sank her head against his chest, “Deep down I still feel that way.”

“Then that should tell you that we’re going to pull through this one,” he replied with a sad smile, “You’re always the one who keeps telling me to hold out hope and have a little faith, so now I’m asking for you to do the same.”

“That was different. This is…” she stopped herself silently cursing her insensitivity, “I’m sorry. I know that what was happening and is happening with Jade being gone is far worse…”

“It’s not an easy situation, but maybe just maybe, well this could be a sign,” Seth decided after a long moment of contemplation, “Maybe this was fate trying to tell us that we were rushing it.”

“That it wasn’t right because Jade’s not with us?” she asked gently.

“Can you tell me that it felt completely right without your family being here,” he watched her shift on her feet again, “Blake?”

“No, I can’t,” she admitted biting down on her lower lip gingerly, “but at the same time this was and still is everything that I want.”

“I know,” he curled his finger underneath her chin lifting her gaze up to his once more, “and it’s everything I still want as well.”

“So we can make it happen then, right?” she questioned still a bit uneasy.

“Blake, when have you ever stopped yourself from going after what you wanted? Hey, I’ve never seen you give up and I sure as hell hope that this isn’t the first time you decide to change your mind about that,” he added hopefully, reaching for her hand and lacing their fingers with one another, “The way I see it, we made it this far and we’re going to find a way to go all the way.”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right, but I will warn you. I can’t promise that I won’t claw Valerie’s eyes out there if she gets up in my face again like she tried to do earlier,” she warned him with a sudden seriousness.

“I can’t say that I’d try to stop you if you did. She was totally out of line and what she did was wrong--beyond it. She had no right to barge in there like that and when I saw her…” he shook his head before sighing. “I should’ve known that something was up. I should’ve figured there was some catch to her being in town.”

“You mean you knew that she was in town?” Blake gave him a strange look.

He nodded, “She was staying with Ria and she’d tried calling me. Given that I didn’t want anything to do with her, well I didn’t bother with returning any of her messages. The way I saw it, she was a part of my past that I simply didn’t want to revisit,” he finished with a frown.

“And what about Ria? Do you think she had any idea about this?” Blake asked tentatively thinking about Ria’s part in their wedding.

“No,” he shook his head, “Ria and Val might be friends, but there is no way in hell that she would’ve known about this. Ria’s not like that. She knew how much marrying you meant to me and if she had any idea that I was still stuck in the joke of a marriage with Val, then she would’ve taken me to file for a divorce myself.”

“Oh come on. I know Ria hates me,” Blake began doubtful.

“She doesn’t hate you Blake,” he argued with her motioning for her to follow him back over to bed. He sat down on the edge before pulling her onto his lap, “She knows how much you mean to me.”

“Even so, I know she never liked me. She and Zack were sort of pals and I could sense it back when I was young and stupid and following him around. I can’t blame her if she still thinks I’m the biggest jerk on the planet for leaving you for him back then,” she shuddered at the thought of how naïve she’d been to just ignore how much she loved Seth. Chasing Zack around had been a huge, stupid, moronic mistake that she never, ever would want to repeat in this lifetime. That in itself made her realize that she had to stop worrying about this Valerie situation. If Seth could hold out for her when she was at height of stupidity in her life pretending that she could actually enjoy a lackluster life with Zack, then she sure as hell could cut him some slack about the woman he clearly couldn’t stand having around.

“Actually I think it was something more along the lines of my being an idiot for letting such a pretty boy like Zack get in the way of what I wanted,” Seth shook his head at the memory, “And to think I was actually jealous of the guy.”

“Why?” Blake questioned turning to look at him once again.

“Because he had you,” he replied with a small sigh, “Just the thought of him having what I’d lost was enough to kill me there.”

“That’s just it Seth,” she curled her arms around him lovingly, “With Zack, well he never had me. He never even came close to having me because my heart was always with you.”

“I know,” he smiled squeezing her in closer to him, “Even though it was hard to admit, deep down I knew that we’d be together like this--like we are right now in one another’s arms.”

“Of course we would be,” she added feeling a moment of confidence spread throughout her body, “Besides last time I talked to Johanna they were off to New Guinea.”

“New Guinea,” he repeated watching her wrinkle her nose with obvious dismay.

She nodded, “Yeah it turns out he felt the need to go out there to one of those Doctors Without Borders programs just like Caitlin had always wanted to visit during her travels. After she died he felt very passionate about the cause there and while Johanna wasn’t sure it was the place for Cody and I can’t really blame her with Kuru going around and all…”

“Kuru?” Seth repeated giving her a strange look, “Blake I highly doubt that’s going to effect her or Cody for that matter given that they’ve given up the practice of cannibalism over there--unless of course there’s something about Zack that you never told me.”

“Oh no, no not at all…” she paused for a moment before scratching her head gently, “although he did have this obsession with ordering his steaks very rare back in college…so rare that, well I have to say he could’ve probably gone out and killed it himself in the backyard at that rate because…”

“Okay Blake,” Seth cut her off with a groan, “This is too much information and far too much talk about Zack.”

“I’m just saying,” she shrugged before facing him again, “He said it was all an experiment for class but…”

“But do we care?” he cupped her face in his hands.

“No, not really,” she decided with a small smile, “but maybe I should call Johanna once they settle in over there. Maybe if they have taken up that whole cannibalism practice again, we can convince Valerie that it’s the ‘it’ place to be.”

“That might be a thought,” Seth couldn’t help but laugh at her suggestion realizing that while this day had been shot for them, it was slowly picking up.

“What?” she questioned catching the way he was looking at her.

“You’re beautiful,” he confessed honestly, “that’s all I was thinking about. Watching you get excited like this, well it’s something I missed. I hate seeing you sad especially because of me.”

“This isn’t because of you,” she placed her hand on top of his bringing it to her cheek. “Seth, this isn’t either one of our faults and while we might not be husband and wife like we wanted to be, there is no way in hell that I’m going to let Valerie take this time away from us. We’re just going to have to make the most of it and have a ‘not quite yet’ honeymoon. What do you say?”

“A ‘not quite yet’ honeymoon?” he repeated issuing her another curious look.

“That’s right,” she nodded eagerly, “While we might not have the whole wedding ritual behind us, there was something about this place that I really, really wanted to go out and do for a while.”

“What’s that?” he asked watching her face light up.

“Did you take a look at that hot tub in the other room,” she wiggled her brow suggestively, “That looked like so much fun. I was thinking that maybe I’d bring out a few of the things that I packed in my teeny, tiny suitcase and well…maybe we’d crack open a bottle of champagne, have some strawberries sent up…”

“For this ’not quite yet’ moment we’re having?” he cracked a small smile.

“That’s right,” she eased her arms around his shoulders suggestively, her mouth hovering in just above his, “because I can promise you after this sampling of what married life will be like between us, well I’m quite certain it’ll get you on a jump start to working on that divorce.”

“I’m already there Blake,” he promised kissing her gently as he vowed to do whatever it would take to put the part of his life with Valerie behind him once and for all.


“Thanks for going with me today,” Cori smiled leaning into Diego’s shoulder seeing him smile down at her.

“If I do recall, someone made me tag along,” Diego pointed out with a small laugh, “So you should be thanking yourself right now, not me.”

“Oh come on,” she frowned looking up at him, “You could have stopped me from dragging you along today, so for that I really do thank you for coming and putting up with me.”

“Cori, I think I could put up with you forever,” Diego informed her before taking in a deep breath, “You are one of the only few people I can actually say that to.”

“Really?” she questioned seeing him nod slowly. “I feel honored, I really do.”

“Good,” he nodded slowly before looking around, “Want an ice-cream?”

“I would love one,” she laughed watching him hold his finger out telling her to wait where she was.

“I will be right back,” he informed her as she watched him run through the sand up to an ice-cream stand and come back with two cones in his hand. “You still a strawberry freak?”

“You remembered?” she questioned with a laughed seeing him nod slowly. “That’s pretty good you know.”

“How could I forget?” Diego wondered with a small smile. “You always made one of us run up and get you one all the time.”

“I did didn’t I?” she questioned with a laugh seeing him nod. “Well, thanks for doing that all the time.”

“I had no problem doing it,” he informed her with a small grin, “It was all worth it just to see you smile.”

“You’re too sweet,” she replied looking up at him seeing him shake his head quickly.

“I wish more people would say that,” Diego sighed before looking down towards the water, “How about me and you go sit by the shore and just talk?”

“I like the sound of that,” she agreed as he smiled walking out onto the sand.

“Well, let’s get going then,” he waved her on before seeing her quickly catch up to him. He really wished that all girls were like Cori, fun and understanding.


“You know it wasn’t really necessary to follow us home,” Brant began fighting to keep his agitation under control where Grady was concerned. While Brant knew full well that Grady’s interest in Avery wasn’t near the threat that Russell had once been, Brant knew only too well what could happen should Avery and Grady start to bond again. Okay, so maybe he was jumping the gun in thinking that Grady was going to cause any problems by reminding Avery of her past with Russell, but given that Brant had finally started to make some ground with Avery, the last thing he’d wanted was to let that slip out of his reach.

“Actually, I did,” Grady paused thinking about what had initially driven him out of his home other than Avery’s cell phone.

“Grady, what is it,” Avery questioned slipping out of her jacket and turning to face him, “What’s wrong?”

“I got to thinking about what you’d said earlier,” Grady confessed his gaze shifting between Brant and Avery before he spoke up once again, “and I decided that maybe I could use a little help in searching for the truth.”

“What truth?” Brant questioned noting the way Grady and Avery were exchanging glances.

“About Jade,” Avery explained simply turning to her husband, “Grady and I are convinced that Cameron knows where Jade is.”

“But he’s not about to give up that kind of information,” Grady added with a scowl, “Even in jail we can see he’s going to play hardball and while it might suit him and keep him from giving away too much, the fact is there’s no telling what the stalling he’s doing is going to do to Jade. The longer he has her, the more I fear we’ll never see her again.”

“And that’s where you come in,” Avery continued reaching out to touch Brant’s arm gently, “I told Grady that you could help him in his search--that you would be someone who has the power and ability to get in places that he couldn’t.”

“As much as it pains me to admit it Ashford, I need your help,” Grady pleaded with him, his green eyes full of desperation, “If you won’t do it for me, then do it for Jade. I know how you saved her once before and if we can do it again together this time…”

“Consider it done,” Brant decided without hesitation, “Whatever you need, just say the word and I’m in. I don’t want that son of a bitch to get away with hurting her or anyone else.”

“Oh thank you,” Avery threw her arms around Brant’s shoulders excitedly, “I know that together we can find a way to fix this situation and put Cameron back where he belongs.”

“Of course,” Brant offered up in an after thought, “if I help you with this, then I want something in return.”

“What?” both Grady and Avery repeated in unison.

“Look I’m all for being generous, but I need a favor in return--a favor that only you can help me with here,” Brant announced firmly catching the suspicious expression on Grady’s features.

“I knew it,” Grady huffed before shaking his head with sheer disgust, “Nothing comes for free with an Ashford, does it?”

“Brant, what are you doing,” Avery’s jaw dropped in surprise unable to believe the tone and the words falling from her husband’s lips, “I thought that you said you’d help and…”

“And I will help, but I need something in return from Grady,” Brant continued to explain himself, “If I recall correctly even though Cameron set you up for Kipp’s murder, you’re still acting council on his case against my company, isn’t that right?”

“Well, I’d said that I quit, but Cameron wouldn’t let me yes,” Grady nodded when a sudden thought occurred to him. His face shifted before a sly expression swept over him, “Brant are you trying to suggest that I…”

“What I’m saying is that as it stands I have my council beside me and with you representing Cameron,” Brant grinned widely before shrugging, “Well I got to thinking that maybe we could find some kind of resolution to the dispute between BBK and Stone Corp while your client is otherwise detained. He hired you with the hopes of having you do your best to represent him. Given the personal favors he’s done for you in having your ‘best interest’ in mind, perhaps it’s time to return the gesture. We can work out a little settlement outside of the courts and save the city some money along the way perhaps.”

“Brant, what you’re suggesting is completely unethical,” Avery’s eyes widened in surprise at the suggestion.

“And absolutely what Cameron deserves,” Grady piped in offering his hand to shake on it, “I say you’ve got yourself a deal Ashford. I can get the papers drawn up right away. I’m sure that we can come up with some mutual solution that will make us both very happy.”

“Sounds like my kind of plan,” Brant shook Grady’s hand, the feel of victory surrounding him.

“Brant as much as I hate to be the voice of reality on this one, with your making this arrangement with Grady like this without him consulting Cameron…” Avery frowned slightly.

“Cameron told me to do what I must do to get the job done,” Grady waved away her worries dismissively, “I have no doubt in my mind that Cameron would want for me to drop this ridiculous lawsuit at a time when his finances should be going into his defense. From the looks of things he’s going to need it.”

“And what better a way to focus on it, then to concentrate on helping himself instead of hassling me,” Brant continued triumphantly, “I think it’s absolutely brilliant if I do say so myself.”

“Somehow I have the feeling that I don’t want to hear any of this,” Avery shook her head at the both of them, “In fact I know I don’t want to. You two discuss whatever it is you want to discuss and I’m going to go get changed up. I’m not going to compromise myself more than I already have been.”

“Avery, you’re not doing anything wrong,” Brant offered up watching her move to the staircase.

“I’m well aware of that which is why I’m ducking out now,” she added turning to Grady, “Good luck and remember if you need anything…”

“I’ll call you and keep you updated on how this goes,” Grady promised watching her walk up the stairs.

“She’s an amazing woman,” Brant mused proudly watching his wife fade out of his line of vision.

“Yes, she most certainly is,” Grady added before glancing over at Brant, “which is why I should be up front about this now and tell you if I find out that you hurt her in any way, you can consider yourself a dead man.”

“Given that you just got out of jail yourself Grady, you probably don’t want to be issuing threats like that,” Brant frowned not liking Grady’s warning.

“It would be worth it to know that she’s safe,” Grady’s eyes narrowed at him, “Not that I don’t appreciate what you’re doing with me in helping in the search for Jade or even in what you did with helping me get out of jail, but let’s be frank here. I haven’t forgotten the hell that you put my brother through when he was alive. I know how important Avery was to Russ and I’ll be damned if I let you do anything to hurt her. She deserves a lot better than a life with you. She should be with my brother.”

“Yes, but your brother is dead Grady,” Brant reminded him sourly before adding, “and while I had nothing to do with that, it’s just the way the cards seemed to fall.”

“Even so, I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” Grady reaffirmed taking a step towards him, “I know the hows and whys of this relationship and it’s coming together. Avery might be charmed with you after you’ve worked to ‘rescue’ her, but she’s a smart woman Brant. If she senses anything dark going on with your agenda…”

“There’s nothing dark about my feelings for Avery. I care about her a great deal and only want what’s best for her. That’s always what I wanted for her,” Brant announced bluntly, “I love her.”

“Yeah, well for your sake I hope you treat her right,” Grady pondered how much his brother would hate the idea of Avery moving on with Brant. Even now Grady couldn’t help but wonder just what was going on with Brant and his ex-sister-in-law. Sure, he knew why they wound up wed, but something had changed. Grady was sure of it and as he glared up at Brant, he vowed to stay true to his brother’s wishes for Avery.

“I will and you need not be concerned about that,” Brant lifted a speculative brow, “because I think you have a bigger fish to fry with Cameron.”

“That I do,” Grady nodded returning to the matter at hand. He would use Brant to help him find Jade and then, well then Grady would focus on other things. He would do what he had to in order to appease Brant, but then, well, then all bets were off. Of course first things first. Cameron Stone was about to be going down once and for all.


Angela emerged from the guest room at Nick’s place wearing the oversized t-shirt he’d provided her with. It was a bit large seeing as it fell to her knees, but it was more than comfortable. Now as she entered the living room area she noticed that the lights were off except for a small battery operated candle that looked like a bit of a tropical nightmare with it’s flashing rainbow coloring.

“You like,” Nick glanced up from where he stood beside the light to see her standing before him looking as sexy as ever.

“Very much,” she nodded unable to take her eyes off of the broad expanse of his chest leading down to the top of the striped pajama pants he was wearing, “very sexy.”

“The light?” he gave her a strange look before watching her shake her head at him.

“No silly,” she wrinkled her nose, “the light is hideous. I was talking about you.”

“Is that right?” he couldn’t help but smile shutting the light off and tossing it back to somewhere around the area he’d spotted it at earlier. He stepped forward extending his arm out towards her before motioning to the coffee table. “I finished with the peanut butter and crackers and the drinks are still on ice.”

“You’re too good to me,” she smiled gently before taking his hand in hers, “It’s a real treat tonight you know.”

“Hmm, well in that case if I would’ve known you’d be so pleased with just peanut butter and crackers I wouldn’t have called Martha while you were in the shower and had a few things sent over here.”

“You didn’t?” she replied with a gasp before spotting the boxes of carryout on the table top.

“I wasn’t sure what you wanted, so I worked on a little bit of everything from the boneless buffalo wings to the Italian sampler and…” he informed her ready to watch her dive in when she threw her arms around him.

“Oh thank you Nick,” she squealed kissing him eagerly, “This is so awesome.”

“Awesome huh?” he laughed lightly before pulling her up into his arms and off of the floor in the embrace, “Now I’m really proud of myself.”

“You should be,” she assured him, giving him a quick kiss before wiggling out of his arms, “I was just being polite about the peanut butter and crackers.”

“I thought so,” he noted with a small laugh before watching her rush over to survey their meal.

“This looks so good,” Angela popped open the lid from one container to the next, “I don’t know where to even start.”

“How about you pick a couple of them and then we’ll kick back and watch a movie right here,” he motioned to the couch behind him before another thought occurred to him. “On second thought…”

She watched him reach out to move the table closer to the sofa. Once he was happy with the proximity between the couch and the food, he took a seat. His sparkling eyes rose up over her body before he patted the cushion beside him.

“Care to join me,” he asked in a sexy voice of sheer temptation.

“I thought you’d never ask,” she replied bouncing onto the sofa beside him. She felt the warmth of his body next to hers, barely brushing against her arm and the thoughts of food took a second seat to another hunger roaring inside of her.

“So where would you like to start now,” he asked rubbing his palms together while his eyes surveyed the cartons before him. He leaned forward ready to reach for one, when she stretched her arm out in front of his chest to prevent any further movement.

“How about right here,” Angela suggested pushing him into the back of the sofa before practically pouncing onto his lap. She hovered over him, leaning into the muscled contours of his body before devouring his mouth with hers.

Approvingly Nick reached out to touch her body--to grasp the wild energy of her as she wiggled over him. He felt the raw heat of her, the sheer urgency behind their sloppy kisses growing moment by moment and before he realized it, she’d shed the shirt he’d provided her with.

“Nick,” she mouthed his name, her mouth moving over his collar bone, teeth grazing his skin with a determined nip. She reached for his hands guiding them up over her breast to cup and tease her while she wiggled in his lap. She lifted her head, her dark eyes swirling with a hunger that went far beyond the meal that he’d prepared for them. Judging by the expression on his face she was fully inclined to make a meal out of him.

“Angela,” he began finding himself mesmerized by the feel of the woman in his hands. He squeezed her body, gently massaged her warmth and in that instant he realized that there wasn’t anywhere else in the world he’d wanted to be at then there.

“Lean back,” she instructed pushing him further into the couch cushions. He did as instructed, feeling the fire behind her touch as she reached for the tie on his pajama pants. She tugged the knot out before her hand dipped in beneath the fabric to test his readiness for her.

“Angela, dinner…I thought that…” he bit down on his words feeling his hips rise up against her urgings. There was something about her--something about the way she’d captured his full attention that went far beyond this seduction they were about to embark upon.

“Have I told you just how hot you make me Nick,” she questioned heatedly nibbling on his earlobe while continuing her explorations on his body, “How I couldn’t even begin to put to words what it was that I thought when I found you on the beach? How I wanted you then and there and even now…”

“Angela,” he reached for her hand bringing it up to his lips. He kissed her fingers completely. Taking his time to provide tender care to each and every digit before he spun her beneath him on the couch. She gasped at the movement, surprised to feel the eager warmth of him over her.

“I’ve wanted you for as long as I can remember,” he let out a small teasing grin, “You’re all I can remember…”

“You’ve just been dreaming about what I really shouldn’t be doing with you,” she laughed lightly tipping her head back to give him an unabashed opportunity to delve in the sweetness of her silken skin.

“If you really felt you shouldn’t, we wouldn’t be here right now like this, would we?” he questioned in a low persuasive tone feeling her leg curl around his body, pressing him harder against her.

“Who said I ever held back on what I should or shouldn’t do,” she replied with a flicker of naughtiness in her tone. She licked her lips, teased her fingers into his hair and dipped her toes in underneath the waistband of his pajama pants. With a firm, determined tug, she pushed the material down over his left hip. Sliding her other leg out from underneath him, she mirrored the movement this time using both feet to push the barriers between them down beyond his knees.
Tangling her fingers into his hair tighter than before, she commanded his attention once again. “Now about this situation we’re coming into with one another…”

“I have a feeling you’re about to make me an offer I can’t refuse,” Nick replied feeling the contact of her hips pressing up against his teasing his aching body with bold determined gyrations.

“You’d be a fool to even think about turning me away at a time like this,” Angela explained devouring his lips again. She felt his desire, his body rigid with lust and in that moment she knew that right now having Nick was all that mattered. She’d felt this at the pond--back on the beach, but now, well now this time she wanted more. There weren’t trees to crash down upon them--no storm raging over their heads to threaten to electrocute them--just the fire burning down inside of them eating them both alive.

“This wasn’t exactly how I planned all of this,” Nick confessed reaching out to caress the smooth lines of her bare hip now pressed up against his.

“Yeah, well you know they say that when you plan something, it’s often quite flawed,” she informed him with all seriousness before dropping her hand down to the ground to feel around on the floor. “There’s something to be said about being spontaneous.”

“Very true, but still…” he felt her shift beneath him again a frown pressing in over her features.

“Where the hell is it,” she scoffed under her breath feeling around the sofa, underneath the crack between the floor and the couch.

“Where is what?” he asked seeing her face twist with anger.

“The condom I brought out of the bedroom with me,” she replied with a huff, pushing him off of her before she leaned over the side of the couch. She searched the floor wanting to locate the very token she’d brought with her for their lust session, but now, well now she was coming up empty.

“You mean this condom? So you weren‘t all too spontaneous since this seems like it was a big planned adventure, right,” Nick questioned waving it around in the air with a sly smirk.

“Hey,” she sat up straighter snatching it from his hand, “where did you get this?”

“It fell out when you lost your shirt so to speak,” he teased with an amused expression before she shoved him back into the sofa once again.

“Well you could’ve said something sooner before you had me all tangled up like that,” she frowned tearing the package open before her gaze dropped down to his striking manhood. She licked her lips in anticipation before moving in closer to him.

“Hey,” he reached for her hand to keep her from adding too much fuel to the fire between them, “allow me.”

“No allow me,” she smiled leaning forward to kiss him again when her knee pressed in between the couch cushions and she felt something hard beneath her. Seconds later she heard Kevin’s voice resonate through the room.

“Hey it’s Adonis. I’m not here at the moment, but if you leave me a message…” his pleasant recorded message surrounded the both of them.

“Damn it,” Angela slid off of Nick’s lap, reaching down into the sofa to pull out her phone. She heard the tone beeping alerting her that it was too late to hang up. Straining to keep her voice smooth and even she spoke into the phone, “Hey Kev, it’s Angie. I was um…just calling to check in on you and um…well I hope you made it there safely. Call me back.”

She shut off the phone before throwing out an apologetic look in Nick’s general direction. The heat that had been there seconds earlier seemed to become an altogether different kind of tension once Kevin had inadvertently entered the room.

“I take it this is strike two,” Nick frowned slightly closing his eyes and trying to still the desire that pulsed through his veins.

“No, Nick it’s not. It’s just that…” she began biting down on her lower lip. Her gaze traveled over him readily and lust spiked from within. “I don’t think that this is…”

“It is,” he forced himself to admit before sliding away from her. He leaned forward to pull a blanket up from the floor and offer it to her, “You know this isn’t a race for us. We don’t have to rush into making love.”

“Nick, it’s not that we’re rushing. It’s just that…” she found herself at a loss.

“Come here,” he pulled her into his arms, covering her up in the blanket for both of their benefit. Once he’d had her wrapped up snugly, he held her against his chest, “I know that things have been really, really spiraling out of control between us, but maybe that was a sign that we’re trying too hard.”

“No Nick it’s not…” she stopped herself before thinking about what had just happened--about what kept happening again and again. Finally she sank her head into his chest, “Okay, maybe we’re pushing it a little.”

“But we don’t have to,” he fingered her dark hair before pressing a kiss on the top of her head, “I think you’re well worth doing this right Angela. I mean yeah, I’ll be honest and tell you that there would be nothing I’d like more than to have you here and now, but you deserve better. I mean hey I don’t want you thinking I’m like that creep Kevin wants to murder who got you pregnant and left.”

She let out an ironic laugh, “And here I am pregnant and remembering how stupid I was, yet I’m about to repeat the same stupid mistakes over and over again.”

“No, you’re not,” he shook his head, tilting her eyes up towards him, “Honey I’m not like that creep. I’m not like him at all and I don’t want you thinking that I’m in this for sex. I mean yeah, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s not on my mind--a lot, but I really like you--for you.”

“Nick, you don’t have to flatter me,” she blushed feeling a heat rise over her features, “You don’t have to put more weight on this than what it really is.”

“What do you think it really is?” he questioned urging her to meet his eyes again after she’d seemed to bottle herself up.

“Nick, look I’m not sure what I’m…I mean…” she inhaled slowly, “I mean I know that there’s something here, but…”

“But the truth to the matter is that I’ve fallen for you Angela. I don’t know how or why, but I have and now,” he offered up a half smile, “well the truth to the matter is I think I’m falling in love with you.”

“Falling in love with me,” she repeated with a gulp, pulling away from his embrace, “Nick, I don’t think that’s what it is. I just think that…”

“That what?” he arched a curious brow, “What’s so wrong with me falling in love with you? Would it be so horrible?”

“Nick you don’t understand,” she bit back on her tears clenching the blanket around her as if it was the only security she had from his words.

“Make me understand,” he reached out to her watching her pull away from him.

“Nick, you can’t love me. It would just be…” she stammered using all of her strength to rise up from the couch. She bit back on her tears, “You can’t fall in love with me. It would be the worst possible thing in the world.”

“No Angela it wouldn’t. It…” he attempted to reach out to her.

“No Nick, it would and it is,” she replied feeling a lump in her throat. She brought her fingers up through her hair nervously, “Look, I have to go.”

“Angela,” he called out after her watching her retreat to the guest bedroom with tiny sobs. Sinking back into the couch he found himself lost in a state of confusion wondering what it was that he’d done or said that was so very wrong.


“Get your hands off me Kevin. I‘m not about to sit here and tolerate this kind of behavior out of the hired help,” Cameron yelled feeling Kevin’s arm dig harder into the back of Cameron’s neck.

“I’m not stopping until I get some answers,” Kevin replied before pulling Cameron out of his chair and throwing him against the concrete wall making Cameron groan as a pain ran threw his back. “I am going to give you a second chance to tell me what‘s happened to Jade.”

“Kevin, as long as I look at it,” Cameron began with a small laugh, “Whatever happens to Jade it‘s out of my hands.”

“You son of a bitch,” Kevin growled slamming his fist into Cameron’s abdomen roughly. “What does it take to get you to do the right thing? Why can’t you just once do what’s right for those around you?”

“This is beneath even you Kevin. You‘re asking all the wrong questions when you should really be listening to what I‘ve been trying to tell you,” Cameron spat feeling Kevin’s foot catch his stomach sending him back a few inches as he landed on his back.

“Wrong answer,” Kevin smiled laying his foot across Cameron’s throat cutting his air slowly, “Do you know how disappointed Angie would be to see you like this?”

“Don’t take this to Angie,” Cameron hissed trying to escape from Kevin’s hold, “If she ever found out what you did, she would never forgive you either. In that sense we‘re very much in the same boat, yet in this particular instance I can very easily proclaim my innocence. We both know when it gets down to it, you couldn‘t do the same, now could you?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Kevin questioned taking his foot away from Cameron’s throat and grabbing him by his throat pulling him up.

“You know exactly what I am talking about Kev,” Cameron smiled devilishly, “You screwed her over and you know it. You took away the one of the things that meant the world to her and you did it all the while under the rouse of caring and being compassionate to her grief. She never even saw it coming where you were concerned.”

“I never screwed her over,” Kevin yelled slamming Cameron into the wall once more. “I was saving her.”

“Saving her? That’s what you call it?” Cameron questioned with a vivid smile. “I wonder what she would think if I told her about that little incident. Somehow I don‘t anticipate Angel’s patience or understanding being a reigning factor in your deceptions. Come to think of it I‘m positive that she‘d be very disappointed to see how you chose to step in and play god with her life.”

“You were just as involved with that as I was,” Kevin replied placing both of his hands around Cameron’s throat, not tightly.

“You think she would believe you Kev? Do you really believe that she‘d disbelieve my word? That she‘d ignore the obvious facts when they were presented to her?” Cameron antagonized Kevin with that question.

“I did it to protect her and you know it,” Kevin repeated tightening his grip on Cameron’s throat, “I wasn’t the only one involved with that either.”

“But you were involved with it. That‘s the deliciously wicked part of the truth. No matter how high up you sit in judgment you sit today with me, you‘re just as far down in this as I am. Angel isn‘t about to forget the pain she felt at your hands should she know the truth. If you continue to press this tedious issue about Jade, then I‘ll see to it first hand not only will you lose your position working for me, but Angel will know everything there is to know about her so called best friend. Now, we both know you don‘t want that Kevin, now do we?,” Cameron wiggled his eyebrow self assured before laughing.

“I’m getting tired of the threats Cameron. You know you‘re in no position to call any kind of shots. I‘m in control of this one and it‘s time you cooperate,” Kevin pulled Cameron around slamming him against the table, beginning to choke him quickly. “Soon all your air will be gone, so I am giving until the count of three. One…two…”

“I don’t know anything,” Cameron finally gasped trying to breathe as Kevin felt one of the officer’s grab him from behind turning him around.

“I think he has had enough,” Julian informed Kevin seeing him nod slowly.

“One more thing,” Kevin smiled turning around slowly punching Cameron in the stomach and then kneeing him in the groin seeing Cameron fall to the ground in pain. “Come on, it can’t hurt that bad. I mean what is there to hurt? Bye, bye.”

“You all set?” Julian questioned shutting the door behind them seeing Kevin nod. “I’ll leave you alone a minute.”

“Thanks,” Kevin sighed pulling out his cell phone checking his voice mail. “I can’t tell Angie about this, not yet.”


“You just don’t know when to quit, do you?” Shannon shook her head disapprovingly at Ken. “I mean honestly where do you think this is going to get you?”

“Oh that’s rich coming from a woman like you,” Ken rolled his eyes again before lifting his drink to his lips. He swallowed down the rest of his bourbon before glancing over at her, “What’s wrong? My brother get under your skin and then toss you aside like always.”

“This isn’t about your brother,” she glared down at him, “Brant’s my past.”

“I wish I could say the same,” Ken shook his head before signaling to the bartender once again, “Hey, buddy, how about another?”

“No, he’s fine,” Shannon waved at the bartender who was now approaching.

“I’m not fine,” Ken scowled back at her, “I want another drink.”

“You don’t need another drink,” Shannon snapped back watching him reach into his pocket and pull out a wad of hundred dollar bills.

“I said I want another drink,” Ken demanded slamming the money down on the countertop. The bartender smiled ready to comply to Ken’s request as he reached for the money before him.

“You even think about it and I’ll throw your ass in jail for reckless endangerment,” Shannon flashed him her FBI badge causing the bartender to take a quick step back.

“Sorry man, but I’m afraid she’s got a point. You don’t need anymore,” the bartender offered up apologetically before shuffling to the other end of the bar once again.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ken glowered over at Shannon, “Did I ask you to come over here and annoy me tonight? You can see that I’m not Brant, so why don’t you just scoot your bony ass elsewhere and leave me alone?”

“Because that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Ken, I know about what you’ve been going through. I know about how your losing Caitlin has caused you to do some pretty, well for lack of a better term here, shitty things. You haven’t been yourself and I’ve heard all about it. I know you‘ve been hurting--that you‘ve been out to destroy the world around you and yourself, but you‘re going about it the wrong way.”

“Well whoop-di-do,” Ken rolled his eyes at her, “Why don’t you just take a number and get in line to give me the morality lecture?”

“I’m not trying to lecture you,” she shot back at him watching the anger vibrate through his body, “but more so I’m trying to help you. I know the path that you’re taking--I know the road you’re heading down and it’s a very dark and lonely one Ken.”

“But it’s my road. It’s what I want,” he snapped at her, turning to meet her concerned eyes, “I didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion on what I’m doing because it’s none of their business.”

“You make it their business when you go around hurting other people. If you want to destroy yourself that’s one thing, but after I heard what you did to Dave or to Avery…”

“You hate Avery,” he spat back at her. He eyed her up and down before letting out a small laugh, “That was obvious from the moment you walked into the mansion ready to blast her for the Mathis murder.”

“I’ll admit I’m not fond of the woman, but that’s irrelevant to what you did to her. The fact that you manipulated her like you did and you betrayed her trust by,” Shannon started thinking about what Kyle had told her about Ken’s actions.

“She liked every minute of it,” Ken offered up a wicked smirk, “She’s just feeling remorse over the fact that Brant found out. She’ll tell the world that she thought I was Brant--that she didn’t want me, but she knew. She knew full well who she was making love to that night and it didn’t matter. She’s on the same path I’m on you know.”

“I highly doubt that Ken,” she shuddered at the coldness in his words.

“Is that right?” Ken arched a curious brow at her, “Then I suppose you haven’t heard all about her mother now have you?”

“Ken, I don’t want to talk about Avery and her family. I want to talk about you and what you’re doing to hurt yourself. This isn’t the answer. Why can‘t you at least try to hear me out?”

“You know you’re asking all the wrong questions,” Ken shook his head at her, “You shouldn’t be asking anything. What you should be doing is listening to what I’m telling you because I can offer you the crime of the century and the cover up that followed. You think Avery is so damned innocent, but the truth is that she and I are one in the same. We both lost those we loved and we both are dealing with anger in our own ways. I haven’t done anything more than what I needed to do to get by, but Avery, well, she’s nothing more than a ruthless, cold-blooded wanna be murderer.”

“Ken…” Shannon stopped herself when she caught the expression on his face.

“Now now Shannon,” Ken leaned forward pressing his index finger over the center of her lips, “You have to trust me on this when I tell you it’s one story you want to hear. It’s a story about greed--about lies and an attempted murder. It’s a real page turner and I’m positive that by the time I’m finished giving you all the juicy details, you’ll be on the top of the FBI’s list for promotion.”

“You know as much as I’d love to sit back and indulge in whatever tale it is you want to so obviously tell me,” Shannon pushed his hand away from her face, “the truth to the matter is that I don’t want to talk about any kind of business right now. I want to talk about you and what it is you’re doing to yourself.”

“Then you’re stupider than I thought. I’m about to hand you everything you’ve always wanted career wise, yet you’re wasting your breath on saving me,” Ken tossed some money onto the top of the bar. He shook his head at her before grabbing his jacket and starting to walk away, “It’s too bad Shannon. It’s a lost cause with me, but what I was about to give you, well it was gold. Nothing short of pure gold for you.”

“Ken, you’re making a mistake. If you’d just let me buy you a cup of coffee and,” she began rising up from where she sat as well.

“Coffee won’t fix my problems Shannon. We both know that,” he replied giving her one last look before walking out of the bar into the night.

“Unfortunately Ken I know you’re right on that one,” Shannon sighed shaking her head as it dawned in on her that perhaps Ken was far beyond any kind of help. She knew full well what it was like to be in a state of denial.

She’d been stubborn when her alcoholism got the best of her and even now, well she’d come to this trashy place tonight in the hopes of sinking back into old habits to deal with her problems with Don. Now as she looked to the glass that had sat before her on the top of the bar serving as a reminder of what she once was, she felt a shiver creep in over her. Getting up from where she sat Shannon threw some money on the top of the bar realizing that perhaps it was time to stop ignoring the realities of her life. Seeing Ken lost like he was tonight only reaffirmed the fact that this wasn’t the answer. Somehow it never was.

“Still reality can be a real bitch,” she thought aloud giving up on the notion of drinking her way into oblivion. Tonight she needed to be level-headed and really focus even if it drove her mad in the process.


“I’m not big on these places Cori,” Diego sighed as Cori pulled him into the doors of a dance club. He looked around seeing the flashing lights and the people dancing to the overly loud music.

“It will be fun,” Cori frowned before grabbing his hands tightly, “You need to loosen up.”

“If you think this will help,” Diego shrugged thinking of he would have never done this without Cori. His mind was caught off guard by the vibrating of his pager making him stop. “It’s my pager I have to take this.”

“Okay,” Cori nodded slowly watching Diego walk out the doors and to the outside as she took in a deep breath following him out the doors.

“Well this is a less than perfect end to a wonderful evening,” Diego groaned hanging up his cell phone before jumping feeling someone touch his arm gently.

“You have to go to work don’t you?” Cori questioned seeing the frown spread across Diego’s features. “It’s okay, I understand.”

“I don’t really want to go, but duty calls and…” he sighed seeing her shake her head slowly.

“You don’t have to explain,” she replied with a bright smile. “I understand that your job isn’t one that quits at five in the afternoon. People need you and you make a difference.”

“Even so I hate to end things like this. Maybe if I finish up early…” he began again.

“We can have a rain check. In fact I’m going to hold you to it,” Cori winked at him with a small smile.

“Good because I wouldn’t expect anything less out of you,” Diego couldn’t help but smile down at her.

“It’s okay. You just head on over to the hospital and do what you can to help your patient. I‘m sure they need you a lot more tonight than I do, well you know what I mean…”

“I know,” he nodded with a small sigh, “I am sorry to cut it short like this though.”

“It’s okay, I will just walk back to the hotel myself,” she assured him before looking around the street, “I will be okay.”

“I would feel more comfortable if I would walk you back to the hotel,” Diego informed her seeing her smile and nod slowly.

“Okay,” she agreed as they began to walk down the street close to each other.

“Well, I guess I should get going,” Diego sighed looking up at the big hotel after walking a few minutes.

“I’ll see you later,” she smiled hugging him tightly; “I am expecting an important phone call anyways.”

“Well, I will let you get to that,” Diego grinned as she let him go and walked to the doors, “Good night.”

“Night,” she waved walking in the doors and looking around the lobby. “It’s not the best idea, but it will do.”

She looked towards the hotel bar before smiling widely. She wasn’t tired, so this could be the best way for her to unwind.


Nick stood outside the guest room door feeling as if there was so much more he should be saying--so much more he should be doing, but after Angela’s retreat, he wasn’t quite sure how to react. Finally he mustered up enough courage to knock on the door. He listened for a few minutes before hearing Angela speak up in a broken sigh.

“Go away Nick,” she tossed out at him from behind the closed door.

He reached for the knob realizing she hadn’t locked the door and against her protests, he pushed the door open. Once inside he spotted her on the center of the bed, her face buried in the comforter while her tears overtook her. Feeling the need to stop this hurting inside of her, he closed the door behind him before making his way over to the bed. He watched her stiffen on the blankets before looking up to him with teary eyes.

“I said ‘Go away!’” she shouted at him with a bit more ferocity than before.

“I’m not going to go away,” he argued with her before plopping down beside her, “I just told you that I think I’m falling in love with you and you run away.”

“Because I’m doing you a favor Nick,” she snapped back at him wiping at her tears, “You don’t want to be in love with me. You don’t know me or anything about my life. I’m not what you think I am.”

“Of course you are. You’re everything that I think you are and more,” he reached out for her only to witness her pull away. She hugged the blanket around her body tighter than before all the while shaking her head.

“No, Nick you don’t have the first clue what kind of woman I am. If you did I can promise you that you would most certainly not be falling in love with me,” she shook her head in a state of denial, “and besides this isn’t about love for me. This is about sex--about the primal feelings that I get when you’re in the room.”

“It’s not just about sex. Angela, given that you’re feeling the intensity of it when we’ve never even slept with one another, well, I think that there’s a whole hell of a lot more to it than that,” he argued with her. “We both feel that…”

“No, Nick you have amnesia. You don’t know who the hell you are or what kind of life you’ve got waiting for you when you snap out of this,” she disagreed with him, her lips curved in a frown, “I just took advantage of that because I’ve been lonely--because I’ve wanted to feel desired again, but this, well this is just wrong.”

“No, it’s not,” he reached for her hand feeling her body tense up before she let him keep his hold over her, “Angela there’s more to it than what you’re trying to write it off as.”

“Look every time I let someone in on my life, they leave and I’m not going to open myself up to that again. I just let myself believe that since you had no past--that you didn’t pose a threat that maybe just maybe it would be different, but then you go and tell me you think you’re falling in love with me…”

“It’s because I am,” he insisted plainly, “I can’t help how I feel.”

“And I can’t help what I feel,” she sighed heavily, “Nick, there is a lot that you don’t know about me--a lot that you wouldn’t ever want to know.”

“Like what?” he challenged before eyeing her intently, “I know you’ve got a good heart, that you’re a wonderful, witty, intelligent woman, and I find myself completely captivated by you.”

“Yes, but Nick that’s not all of what I am. I’ve made mistakes in my life and…” she argued with him.

“And you married the wrong man. You found yourself in a fling with someone who wasn’t worth the time of day,” he cut her off abruptly, “Yeah I get it, but so what? What difference does any of that make given that it’s not who you are?”

“It’s a lot about what I am--about who I am,” she insisted bringing her hand over her abdomen, “Nick, I’m pregnant. I’m having another man’s baby and that in itself should speak volumes about what kind of woman I am.”

“Angela, that doesn’t matter to me. Given that you’re ready to be a mother--that you’re not letting how the pregnancy came about bring you down, well I think that’s very admirable,” he reached out to wipe at her tears, “You’re beautiful inside and out and anyone who knows you--who can spend time with you sees that.”

“But it’s only part of who I am,” she paused bringing a silence upon them again. She inhaled slowly, dropping her head down and closing her eyes, “Nick, I haven’t exactly told you everything about who I am--about why Kevin is with me all of the time. I mean sure he’s one of my best friends, but there’s more to it. There’s a reason why Kevin sticks around or why there are guys lurking around at the hospital.”

“I know about security Angela. I figured that…” Nick began realizing he hadn’t given a second thought to the people that had been around at the hospital.

“Nick, look there’s a lot more to it. Kevin isn’t just my best friend, he’s my bodyguard. He was hired by my father to keep an eye on me--to protect me because my father wasn’t exactly the most upstanding citizen out there,” she revealed bringing her legs up to her chest, “and when he died half of the world probably felt he had it coming to him, but that didn’t change how much I loved him--how much losing him hurt.”

“Angela, I’m sorry that you experienced that, but it has nothing to do with what’s happening with us,” he began still keeping the contact between them.

“Nick, it has everything to do with us. You don’t understand what you’re getting yourself into with me. Not only am I trouble, but there’s a certain danger that comes along with being associated with me,” she explained breathlessly, “Kevin understands the risk because he’s been with me since I was a teenager, but you’re innocent in all of this and…”

“And what?” Nick shook his head, “Angela I don’t get where this is coming from.”

“It’s coming from when we started talking about my father earlier. He’s dead because of the person he was--because of the business ties he made,” she faced him fully, her eyes filled with a profound pain, “He’s dead because he was murdered. Someone killed him to try to gain control of his empire. They shot him because they wanted what he‘d worked for all of his life and that wasn‘t the end of it. First Cary was murdered--then my father…”

“Oh Angela,” he pulled her into his arms, keeping her warm in his embrace.

“I found my father face down in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve. He’d been working late at his offices and I was trying to coax him into dinner, but he kept saying he’d be around sooner or later. He kept insisting that he’d be over soon, but soon never happened. Kevin told me he’d go check things out, but I went alone. I still remember walking into that room and seeing him lying there lost to me forever…”

He felt her break down in his arms, the pain of the past resurfacing. She held onto him feeling the weight of her loss overwhelming her even now.

“He was everything I had Nick,” she sighed keeping her eyes closed tightly, “He meant the world to me and even though he made a lot of enemies--even though he was perceived as pure evil, he was the world to me and I was the one who ruined his life.”

“I don’t understand,” Nick gave her a strange look, “From what you’ve told me your father’s murder had absolutely nothing to do with you.”

“It had everything to do with me,” she sat up straighter wiping at her tears, “Every person I’ve ever loved gets hurt because of me--because I take the time to care about them and let them inside. It started from the moment I came into this world and it’s something that continued all of my life.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Nick argued with her watching a distance build behind her eyes.

“It’s true. With my father, well he was married at the time I came into the world,” she explained in a low, hollow tone, “You see he’d had an affair with my mother while he was married. He had this whole other family and I ruined that by being a part of this world. When my mother died during childbirth, he had no choice but to take me in. He wanted me more than anything, but my step-mother, well my step-mother just couldn’t handle the fact that the great Cyrus had fathered a bastard child. She hated me--hated me with every breath that she took and she lashed out at him every opportunity she had over it.”

“It sounds like she was a nightmare, but it wasn’t your fault,” Nick tried to soothe the memory that had clearly taken the time to haunt her.

“Oh believe me, she lead me to think that it was and for a long time I believed her. I believed with everything I was that I’d been what ruined their family. His wife never took me in as her own and when she left my father for another man, well my brother--her son-- took it hard just like my father did,” she explained poignantly, “My father never fully recovered from the blow and while my father tried to pull the pieces of his life together, seeing his ex-wife flaunt her latest fling with a Hollywood mogul in his face only seemed to twist the knife deeper. He went into a deep, dark depression after that and…”

She stopped herself shaking her head, “You don’t want to hear this. You’re going to think I’m insane. Here you say you think you’re falling in love with me and I break down to this slobbering, idiotic mess. Here I’m trying to push you away and now you’re getting the whole back story on my life.”

“Hey, I want to hear this. In fact I think this is good for us. I don’t have a story to tell, but in hearing yours, well this is what we both need,” he smoothed his fingers through her hair, “Please go on.”

“You’ll wish you hadn’t said that,” she offered up a small smile before thinking to her childhood, “My father went into a deep depression and he started getting into risky ventures. Time and time again Cameron tried to talk him out of it--to get him to turn his life around, but he wouldn’t listen. He slipped further and further into these risky business ventures and then, well by the time he seemed to finally turn himself around, it was too late. He was dead and Cameron and I only had each other. After all my years of being impossible and rebelling, I’d lost not only my father, but my husband…who apparently married me simply because he was interested in getting a piece of my father’s empire. All he cared about was getting a stab at ruling the world of the great Cyrus Stone.”

“Cyrus Stone,” Nick repeated feeling himself struck with an uncanny feeling. A feeling tugged at his insides--one that told him that something about what she was saying should register, yet in holding her he tried to think about what she was going through.

“Yeah, Cyrus Stone,” she nodded with a sniffle, “Maybe you’ve heard of him. The rumors had him pegged as one of the most notorious underworld figures out east and when he died well Cameron took over his empire and that brings us to the here and now.”

“Cameron,” Nick repeated giving her another long look.

She nodded, “My brother and if he had his way, well let’s just say that he’d be less than thrilled about what we’ve got going on together Nick. He’d be furious to hear about what I did to end up in this position,” she glanced down at her abdomen, “and if he ever knew about you, well…I’d be afraid that I’d lose you as well. Nick, so you see if you fell in love with me--with Angela Stone, then you’d just be asking for trouble. It would be like signing your own death warrant because it leads to nothing more than dead ends for anyone that I’ve ever cared about in my life.”

“Angela, you can’t base what’s happening with us on the past. You can’t think that because of your family and your history that we’re going to fall apart,” he cupped her face in his hands firmly, “I don’t give a damn about your brother--about the ties your family has. What I care about--what means the most to me is you--and only you. I’m falling in love with you Angela Meloni--Stone or whatever else you want to call yourself and that doesn’t change now that you’ve spilled your soul to me. If anything it makes me want to love you all the more.”

“Well, then you’re absolutely insane,” she replied with a sniffle feeling him lean in closer to her.

“Then call me crazy Doc because I’m not about to walk away from you. Not now, not ever,” he leaned forward capturing her lips in a tender, barely there kiss before he felt her arms slide around his shoulders.

“Nick, don’t make promises you can’t keep,” she whispered in response longing to curl up into his arms and hide in the comfort and protection of his warmth. “No one can promise forever.”

“Fine, then what if I promise you that I’m going to hold you in my arms for the rest of the night--that we can spend as much time as you want just like this with one another,” he suggested feeling her melt into him.

“I say,” she opened her mouth to speak before nestling in beside him, “it’s a good start and for what it‘s worth, I do care about you Nick. I‘m just not good at showing it considering what I‘ve dealt with, but I have been thinking it…”

“I was hoping that might be what you were thinking because I care about you too Angela so very much,” he replied wrapping her up in his arms as he vowed to prove to her all the reasons why this thing that he felt for her was real. He just hoped that eventually she would break down her walls and let him in.


Brant knocked on the bedroom door waiting a moment or two before walking inside to discover Avery standing near the window looking out onto the gardens. Slowly moving in behind her, he felt the tension surrounding her after everything that had happened earlier in the day. Reaching out to touch her shoulder lightly he struggled to find the right words to soothe her.

“You know maybe I was asking for this,” Avery spoke up in a low, hollow voice, “Maybe I brought this on myself by lying about what happened with Brooke.”

“Avery, Bruce is insane. You and I both know that he would’ve done something like this whether or not we lied about what happened to Brooke,” he pointed out nudging her slightly in the hopes of getting her to face him again. She reluctantly spun around to reveal the sadness behind her eyes.

“Yes, but we were only tempting fate in trying to pin this on him. We knew how much of a madman he was, yet…” she felt herself growing uneasy at the thought of what could happen next.

“Avery, we did what we needed to in order to survive,” he cupped her face in his hands, “We didn’t exactly have a lot of time to throw an alibi together and if you think about it given his history with your mother…”

“That’s just it Brant,” she stepped away from him another thought weighing upon her, “I’m not so sure that he did.”

“How can you say something like that,” he frowned taking note of the strange mood that swept in over her.

“When he broke into my home--when he left that woman in my bed--in the bed that Russ and I…” she stopped herself refusing to focus back on that horrible, disgusting day that she’d felt completely violated by her ex-lover. Clenching her fists at her side, she spoke up again, “Brant, he left a tape. He left this message to Russ saying that, well that he didn’t do it. He went on and on about how he had nothing to do with Brooke’s kidnapping.”

“Yeah, well at this point I think someone like him would do whatever was necessary to try to get back in your good graces,” Brant grumbled in response feeling his hatred for Bruce resurface, “Even with what he did today, chances are that he really, truly believed he was acting out of love and loyalty rather than madness. His view on things are distorted and…”

“No, it goes beyond that Brant,” she shook her head adamantly, “With the way he said it--with the expression on his face, I’m just not so sure that…”

“Avery, he’s a sick, twisted psycho,” Brant stepped forward to reach out to her, “It’s far beyond us to try and decipher his manipulations.”

“But Brant you said yourself that you gave him five million dollars. With five million dollars he should’ve found a way out of town--a way to start a new life far from Coral Valley,” she argued back up at him, “With that kind of money, he could vanish and never look back.”

“Except you’re forgetting one key element in his plan,” Brant paused knowing full well that Bruce wouldn’t stop until he got the one thing he truly craved, “you.”

“Brant,” she bit down on her lower lip nervously, “there has to be more to it than this. I mean Bruce wouldn’t be crazy enough to stick around to get me…”

“He would because he thinks he’s in love with you. The level of his obsession runs deeper than anyone ever expected and…” he tried to reason with her.

“No,” she cut him off abruptly with a firm shake of her head, “Brant that’s not it. I mean yes, I know he was obsessed. I saw all the horrible, creepy things he did when we were together, yet…”

“What?” he watched her seemingly lose herself to her thoughts, “Avery, what is it?”

“Something about all of this just doesn’t feel right,” she confessed in a low, tight whisper, “Brant, when I ended things with Bruce, yes, he tried to kill me, but then for him to go after Brooke. He swore that he didn’t…”

“And I’m sure he failed to mention to you that he’s a serial killer too Avery, but he was, wasn’t he?” he threw back at her bluntly.

“Even so, I don’t think he kidnapped Brooke. I don’t think that he had anything to do with what happened to her especially after she’s gone out of her way to torture me lately,” Avery announced firmly, her dark eyes filling with determination, “She practically admitted at the hospital that she was trying to make me feel like I was losing my mind and then when she tried to kill my daughter…”

“Avery, your mother is demented, but I truly don’t think that she would set up something so cold and callous considering that…” he began again.

“That what? She tried to kill my daughter Brant. She jammed a needle into me telling me it was for the best that I let go of any traces of my life with Russ,” she shouted back at him, her voice rising with emotion.

“Avery, I’m just saying…” he started again.

“Brant, I don’t trust my mother. Yes, I know that Bruce is dangerous, but with my mother,” Avery brought her fingers up through her own dark hair, “I just feel like everything keeps closing in around me. It’s just one thing after another and…”

“And it’s going to be okay Avery. We’re going to find a way to put all of this behind us somehow. We’ll deal with Bruce and your mother and even my brother,” he promised reaching out to take her hands in his. “You believe that, don’t you?”

“At this point I don’t know what to believe,” Avery sighed feeling her fears resurfacing, “I mean Brant this isn’t exactly normal that surrounds us.”

“No, it’s not, but at the same time at least we have one another at a time like this,” he pulled her into an embrace, “that’s something very important to remember.”

“I know,” she nodded leaning into his chest and closing her eyes, “and that’s really the only thing that keeps me going there. If everything was as simple as things are when you hold me like this, then I think I’d be set for life.”

“Well, we can always use these arms to keep the rest of the world out for a while,” he kissed the top of her head gently. “Maybe we can go to bed, watch a little television and eat popcorn. Really buttery popcorn and ice-cream.”

“Popcorn and ice-cream,” she repeated giving him a strange look.

“Yes, they are your favorites, are they not?” he wiggled his brow at her watching the corners of her lips rise in a half smirk.

“You know me too well,” she sighed hugging him once again.

“I try to anyways,” he squeezed her in his arms before kissing the top of her head, “and I know if I throw chocolate into the mix, then you’ll be putty in my hands from here on out.”

“Ah, so there in lies the truth about all of this,” she teased with a wink, “You want me to get all relaxed and comfortable so you can take advantage of me huh?”

“Now sweetheart,” Brant slid his hands down over the back of her slacks before pulling her in closer to him, “if I wanted to take advantage, well, I’d be a lot more blunt and detailed about it. Tonight I just want to see you relax for a while and just enjoy yourself. After everything that’s happened this week, well I think that maybe your getting an opportunity to unwind in my arms is just what you need.”

“In that case I accept your proposal,” she snuggled in closer to him wondering if things would ever truly ease up in her life. While she had plenty of things to be thankful for, she couldn’t help but wonder about the things that kept going wrong for her and those she cared about.


Grady pulled into his driveway thinking about the exchange between him and Brant. While he knew full well that he’d never trust an Ashford, the truth to the matter was that right now he needed Brant’s help more than he cared to admit.

“I just hope this doesn’t cost me in the long run,” Grady mouthed to himself before putting his car into park. Snatching the keys out from the ignition, he walked up to his house ready to plan his next move of attack. While he wanted nothing more than to go and beat the truth out of Cameron, he knew that he’d have to go through things in a mature and well thought out channel. The question was, how would he be able to do that with any clarity if he found himself wanting to simply strangle the man who had terrorized him.

“You’ll just take a little time to put a plan together,” Grady reminded himself with a smooth, calming breath, “Just get it in your head and then the rest, well the rest will lead to bringing her home.”

“I’m going to find you Jade,” Grady spoke aloud opening his front door to take in the faint aroma of a meal. His eyes widened at the strong, tantalizing scent and in that moment he felt his heart leap in his chest--his mind was racing with a strong sense of hope. Could it be? Would it be that…

“Jade,” Grady gasped rushing into his kitchen ready to see the return of his dream, but instead he found that his worst nightmares were coming true. There standing in the center of his kitchen donned in only a lacy apron stood Susan. She was tending to the things she had cooking on the stove, but when she heard Grady her eyes lit up with anticipatory enthusiasm.

“Grady,” she squealed running into him and throwing her arms around his neck, “Honey you’re home.”

“Susan…” he gasped feeling her clench her arms around him.

“I missed you so much, but don’t you worry. Tonight I promise I’m going to give you a night you’ll never forget,” she exclaimed seizing his mouth in a hungry kiss much to his dismay.


“Thanks,” Cori smiled grabbing her drink from the bartender as he handed it to her.

“Cori, is that you?” she heard a familiar voice call out to her as she turned around seeing her brother’s friend before her.

“Ken?” she questioned seeing him smile and nod slowly. “I haven’t seen you in so long.”

“Wow, you’ve really grown up,” he smiled at her taking one, big staggering step towards her, “You’ve really filled out in a lot of ways since you left town.”

“Thanks I think,” she offered an uneasy smile, her eyes looking him over. Something seemed off, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“So what brings you to this place of all places,” he slurred offering up a goofy grin before sliding in closer to her.

“I guess I needed to unwind a bit,” she replied reaching for her drink once again, “I thought I’d come in here and kind of relax before I headed up to my room and…”

“And here you are,” his grin expanded, “It’s so good to see you again. You look great.”

“Thanks,” she smiled in response, “It’s great to see you Ken. I just got back into town and I saw Dave the other day and…”

“Good old Dave,” Ken snapped his fingers in the air clumsily, “Now there’s a man that I’ve had on the mind for a while there.”

“Why is that?” Cori took note of the sarcasm in his voice.

“Oh forget Dave for a while and give your old buddy Ken a hug,” he urged her extending his arms out towards her.

“I’m surprised it took you this long to ask,” she teased standing up to embrace him.

“Yeah well I have to admit I wasn‘t really thinking about asking when I saw you there on the stool. You looked good enough to eat,” Ken nodded as she hugged him before looking up at him.

“What?” she blinked back at him in confusion.

“I said you look delicious Cori,” he mouthed his grin widening.

“What is wrong with you?” she questioned seeing the gloss over his eyes. “You are drunk.”

“No way,” Ken shook his head before laughing, “So, I remember…you used to have the biggest crush on me right?”

“What is wrong with you?” Cori questioned as he began to run his hand along her hips slowly.

“Just trying to have fun,” Ken answered pulling her tight to his body, “Isn’t that what you always want to do?”

“Ken let me go,” she tried to get out of his grasp as he ran his fingers along her neck slowly.

“Come on Cori,” Ken laughed feeling someone grab his shoulder and turn him around.

“I believe the woman said let her go,” a muscular man before him repeated what Cori had just said.

“Who the hell are you?” Ken questioned angrily before setting his drink down on the bar table.

“You’re worst nightmare if you want to start something with me,” the man before him replied before seeing Ken go to hit him as he grabbed Ken’s fist twisting his wrist hearing Ken yelp in pain.

“Crap,” Ken yelled shaking his hand free, “What is wrong with you man?”

“You’re going to pay for that,” the man wiped his chin after feeling Ken’s pathetic shot at hitting him in the jaw.

“Give me your best shot,” Ken waved him on feeling the guy slam his fist into the side of his face. “That was a really, really good hit.”

“Look what you did,” Cori sighed in disgust after seeing Ken fall to the ground. “You knocked him out.”

“I warned him,” the man shrugged, his dark eyes looking into hers, “I was just trying to help you.”

“Who are you?” Cori questioned angrily bending down looking over Ken.

“Kevin Adonis,” he informed her before seeing her look up at him.

“Adonis, huh?” she wondered seeing him nod. “I think we need to find some help here.”

“I would have to agree with you there,” he took in a deep breath slowly, “People I tend to hit are knocked out for at least ten minutes. Him…maybe worse.”


...to be continued...