Episode 210

“Are you going to be talking anytime soon?” Kellen questioned nervously looking at the expression on Kipp’s face. “Because I am really freaking out right now.”

“I don’t really know what to say,” Kipp answered looking up at Kellen and setting the bottle down.

“That isn’t a good sign is it? I knew I shouldn’t have done that,” Kellen cursed to himself seeing Kipp shake his head slowly.

“No it’s okay, don’t blame yourself,” Kipp sighed before looking towards the television. “I think we both got really excited with the Star Wars and we are obviously drunk. Those mixed together can make you do some really weird things sometimes.”

“So you’re not mad at me?” Kellen questioned seeing Kipp shake his head. “I am so glad that you are so nice. If that would have happened with other people, they would have been out of here in a matter of seconds.”

“No,” Kipp shook his head understandingly, “I’m not like that. I know we are both drunk. It happens.”

“Thank you,” Kellen smiled happily before leaning forward and hugging Kipp tightly. “That doesn’t change anything between us does it? I mean we are still friends right?”

“Like I said,” Kipp began with a laugh looking towards the television, “I’m not mad at all…I understand.”

“Good,” Kellen sighed sitting back down where he originally was, “I don’t think I have ever met someone like you before.”

“You mean you have never met such a Star Wars geek like me before?” Kipp questioned with a laugh seeing Kellen shake his head slowly.

“You see, people look at me and treat me like I am nothing because of how I am,” Kellen started before taking in a slow breath, “You have been nothing but nice and understanding to me. Why?”

“Because you are a great person,” Kipp pointed out rolling his eyes, “I can’t believe that you don’t think you are cool. You are like the only person I have ever met that is as crazy as I am about Star Wars. You are a really great friend Kellen.”

“I’m glad I met you,” Kellen informed Kipp with a small grin, “I have never had someone make me feel that good about myself over Star Wars.”

“Well, Star Wars is a pretty big thing,” Kipp laughed before shaking his head slowly, “And you see…you have been missing Han Solo this whole time. We can’t have you missing any of him or Kellen as we know will be doomed.”

“Hey, I’m not that obsessed,” Kellen blushed looking away from Kipp only to hear him laugh.

“I was,” Kipp informed Kellen with a small sigh, “I had so many action figures of him, probably all the ones that were made. I thought he was the coolest guy around.”

“He was the bad guy that was a good guy,” Kellen nodded before smiling, “You can’t tell me that people don’t want to be like that. If you aren’t a little bad, you will never have any fun.”

“Fun is a good thing,” Kipp agreed with a small grin, “Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced a lot of that lately.”

“Well, I think that is really going to be changing,” Kellen declared grabbing the bottle from the floor, “If you are with me, you are going to be doing a lot of fun things.”

“I can’t wait,” Kipp grinned before looking towards the television, “How about we restart this and forget about everything that happened?”

“It’s a little hard to forget about something like that,” Kellen stated seeing Kipp look towards him, “But yeah, we can restart it. I don’t want to miss any Han Solo.”

If this was alright, how come it felt like Kipp was uncomfortable around him? Everything was definitely not alright.


“I don’t know what the hell your problem is,” Ken sneered trying to shove Brant away from him as the two men entered the mansion, “I didn’t need you to come and embarrass me like that.”

“You were embarrassing yourself in acting that way Ken,” Brant scowled at his brother, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Like you care,” Ken snarled in response shooting out an icy glare.

“You’re right,” Brant finally released him watching Ken stumble backwards, “I don’t care--especially not about you, but when you threaten to take down this entire family, I have choice, but to react.”

“Ah, so we get back to the heart of the matter. It’s all about what matters to you, right Brant?” Ken laughed uproariously. “It’s all about keeping from tarnishing the Ashford name, but you know dear brother in case you haven’t noticed it’s too late to be worrying about that. Our father more than opened the door to that one.”

“And you’re just right up there with him continuing to do the job, right?” Brant replied clearly disgusted with his brother’s behavior, “Honestly, when will it end Ken?”

“When you’re finally ready to admit to what you are--to what we all are,” Ken threw his arms out in the air wildly, “Face it Brant. We’re nothing but the way he made us. We’re just destined for disaster, so why try fighting it any longer?”

“Ken, this isn’t like you. None of this is you,” Brant argued with him, “and it has to stop. You have to quit doing this.”

“Oh please,” Ken rolled his eyes at him, “You didn’t want anyone to tell you to stop when you were out having fun.”

“Ken what I did wasn’t right for you. Even I didn’t go this far,” Brant insisted firmly, “I never ever…”

“Oh but you did time and time again. You enjoyed life. You found a way to indulge in all the pleasures of the world without consequence, so why can’t I? Why is it inappropriate for me when you’ve gone and done it all Brant?” Ken challenged harshly, “There’s no written law saying that I can’t have it all as well.”

“You have nothing Ken. The more you try to become something you’re not, the harder you’re falling,” Brant shook his head at him, “but you’re too blinded by your anger and rage that you can’t see it. You can’t face what you’re really doing here because it’s easier to hide behind this game you’ve started. Of course what you don‘t realize Ken is that you‘re hurting people--you‘re upsetting a lot of lives that don‘t need this.”

“Don’t lecture me on morality Brant because you are by far the last person in this world to even dare to believe you’re up for such a task,” Ken snarled in response, “I don’t owe you any answers or explanations. I am what I am because that’s what the world made me--what our father made me…”

“No,” Brant shook his head at him while taking a step forward, “You and I swore that we wouldn’t turn into what he was. We both agreed that we’d find a way to rise above it--to turn everything around, yet here you are falling faster by the second.”

“So what,” Ken replied stubbornly, “It’s not as if any of it matters anymore.”

“No?” Brant arched a curious brow, “Then what about Blake? What do you think she’s going to say when she finally sees what’s been happening? What happened to our promise to protect her?”

Ken grew silent, darkness spreading over his features.

“Well?” Brant challenged further, “What do you think she’s going to say? How do you think she’s going to feel when you leave me no choice but to tell her everything that we fought like hell to keep from her? What do you think this is going to do to her in watching you fall to pieces like this? What then Ken?”

“You just leave her out of this,” Ken waved his finger in Brant’s face, “Don’t threaten me with Blake.”

“It’s not a threat,” Brant replied sharply, “it’s just what’s bound to happen after everything you’ve done. Everything we tried to keep her from learning about our family--everything we tried to make sure she would be untouched by this…”

“If you haven’t noticed Brant she’s already been touched by this,” Ken cut back with a glare, “Her boyfriend’s sister was raped by our father. I think that’s more than enough to show you that we failed.”

“So you’re going to be willing to fail her even further at a time when she needs us more than ever?” Brant questioned painfully, “You’re willing to break her heart all over again?”

“Don’t try to guilt me Brant,” Ken finally replied tightly, clenching his fists at his side, “because it isn’t happening.”

“Ken, I’m just trying to help you see that…” he started once more only to watch Ken turn his back to him.

“You’ve done more than enough in trying to help me,” Ken snarled in response before marching up the stairs.

“Ken,” Brant moved forward in yet another attempt to try to reason with his impossible brother, but instead Brant felt a hand on his arm.

“Let him go,” Augustus spoke up from where he’d been standing in silence watching the exchange between the two brothers. “He’s far too drunk to take in any of what you’re trying to tell him.”

“But how did you…” Brant began turning to face his grandfather.

“I could smell him when you both entered the room,” Augustus explained poignantly, “and while I was certain I should’ve stepped in and tried to aid you in your attempt to reach him, I felt that I’d only be making things worse.”

“At this point, I’m not sure how much worse it can get,” Brant sighed heavily, “Ken’s so far gone that I’m so afraid he’s never going to be coming back.”

“I’d really like to believe that wasn’t the case,” Augustus sighed tilting his eyes up towards where he heard the sound of Ken’s bedroom door slamming.

“Yeah, well with each new day I see him turning into the thing he hated the most. I mean I’d honestly thought he’d hit rock bottom when he did what he did to Avery, but now I’m seeing that there are new levels of hell he’s dropping himself into,” Brant replied feeling the frustrations of the night mounting over his neck and shoulders, “I just don’t know what more I can do at this point.”

“Unfortunately I think for Ken to change, he’s going to have to want to do it for himself,” Augustus confessed hating to face the reality that surrounded him, “He needs something to put his life back into perspective. He’s clearly lost that since the woman he loved passed on.”

“Yeah, but I just don’t get it,” Brant admitted with a simple shake of his head, “I mean I know he cared about Caitlin, but their relationship was short-lived in the grand scheme of things. He and Wendi were together for years and when she left, he took it bad, but he bounced back so much faster.”

“Wendi’s leaving felt like a betrayal for him given that she left town, but on some level I think it didn’t hit Ken as hard because he’d always felt that she had to do it for her family,” Augustus tried to decipher his grandson’s actions, “but with this other woman, well death was the ultimate finality.”

“Even so, I find it so hard to believe that his love for Caitlin outweighed what it was he had with Wendi. They were so close to happily ever after with one another, yet with Caitlin…” Brant began with a frown.

“Brant, you and I both know that you can’t compare two loves like that. If your brother loved this Caitlin with all of his heart, the time they were with one another is irrelevant to the pain he’s feeling in his heart,” Augustus sighed heavily before facing Brant once again, “and now is the time for healing--for finding a way to push forward and move beyond this destruction he feels he needs to inflict upon the world around him.”

“Yeah, well if someone doesn’t do something soon, it could cost all of us everything we worked so very hard to obtain in our lives,” Brant added feeling a sense of panic rush over him, “I just can’t stand idle and let that happen Augustus. I mean I see that he will be the only one who can force himself to change, yet...”

“Yet?” Augustus replied watching a strange expression cross over Brant’s features.

“Yet maybe it’s time I played a hand in destiny,” Brant announced a sudden determination sweeping in over him, “I think it’s time that I give Ken a reason to change.”

“Brant, what is it you think you’re going to do?” Augustus couldn’t help but ask.

“I’m going to give Ken something to think about,” Brant promised ready to take the next step in turning his brother’s life around before Ken wound up taking the whole Ashford family under.


Avery glanced over at the clock checking the time briefly before reaching for the phone. While she’d promised Brant that she’d try to relax there were a few things that were still on her mind from earlier. Dialing the familiar number she waited for someone to answer when the answering machine picked up offering up a brief message.

“Hey, this is Grady. I’m not able to get the phone at this very second, but if you leave a message…” the machine began it’s oh too familiar message before Avery heard the beep.

“Hey Grady. It’s Avery. I was just calling to check in on you and…” she started only to be met by a piercing, squealing sound that the machine seemed to make.

“I’m here,” Grady answered breathlessly surprising Avery by the tone behind his words.

“Grady hey,” Avery paused for a moment, “you weren’t sleeping, were you?”

“No, not at all,” he replied taking in another sharp breath.

“Is something wrong? You sound like you were about to run a marathon there--or rather that you were half way through running it.”

“Not exactly,” he hesitated before speaking up again, “Susan was here earlier.”

“What?” she questioned sitting up straighter on the bed, “When?”

“When I came back after leaving the mansion,” Grady replied with a frown, “She was in my house--working around in my kitchen as if she belonged there.”

“And I’m hoping you’re going to follow up this story with your calling the police and having her thrown out of your house, yes?” Avery spoke up again.

“I didn’t need the police. I took care of the job myself, but given how comfortable she was around here, well I started thinking. My guess is that she knows more about what’s going on with Jade than she’s offered up before now,” Grady explained with an air of doubt in his own voice, “When she came to my house wanting to help, I could tell that something was up, but now, well now I have to wonder if she’s been playing us all along.”

“You mean you think she’s in on Jade’s disappearance herself,” Avery questioned with a shake of her head, “No forget I even asked. Given how Susan is I wouldn’t doubt that she’s played a hand in all of this. She’s made no secret that she’s still ready to pick up where you two left off with one another the day your marriage ended.”

“No she hasn’t held back on that at all,” he frowned thinking back to the time Susan jumped him while he was in jail, “She’s always working an angle and I’m sure that this time is no different.”

“So did she reveal anything about what her agenda is? Do you think she can lead you to where Cameron has Jade?” Avery questioned further, “I mean if he’s enlisted her help in all of this…”

“I’m not going to bother with Susan. She’s just another wild goose chase and I’m not about to get caught up in all of that,” Grady admitted with another pause, “I’m going to find the answers my own way if I can.”

“Meaning what,” she curled her finger around the phone cord tightly, “Grady, what do you have in mind?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” he assured her, “but I just want you to know if something winds up happening to me…”

“Happening to you?” she repeated with a squeal, “Oh my God Grady what are you planning on doing?”

“That’s not important,” Grady dismissed the worry behind her voice, “What is important is if I fail at what I’m about to do that you find a way to keep searching for Jade.”

“Grady, you’re talking crazy. If you’re about to do something stupid,” Avery threw her legs over the side of the bed to get up, “On second thought, forget all that. Whatever it is you have planned, don’t do it. I’m on my way over and…”

“No,” he cut her off abruptly, “Avery I don’t want you involved in any more of this than you already have been. I need to do this on my own and…”

“And you need to get your head on straight before you wind up in over your head and,” she continued with a frown, “Just let me come over and we can talk this through and…”

“And nothing. I didn’t tell you to worry you. I just told you because I need to do this. If you want to help me, then just pray that I don’t get caught there. That’s what I really need right now.”

“Get caught doing what? Grady, if you’ve come up with some kind of plan, then you know that Brant and I are more than willing to help you with it,” Avery insisted firmly, “If you just give me a few minutes to get on over there and help you…”

“Avery, that’s not necessary. I know what I need to do and if you come over here and try to stop me…” Grady began again.

“Grady, please don’t go and do something stupid to get yourself killed. If you think Cameron is using Susan in all of this, then there’s no doubt in my mind that they are trying to bait you again. Whatever it is that they’ve done to Jade is obviously their way of trying to hurt you--of trying to…”

“Avery, you just have to trust me on this one. Whatever it is that they’ve planned. I have to put a stop to it,” Grady replied thinking about the woman he loved, “Jade has been away for too long already and I’m not about to risk losing her forever. I have to find a way to put an end to this nightmare tonight.”

“Grady, you have to be careful. You have to…” Avery started only to discover she was met by a silence on the other end of the line, “Grady?”

“Damn it,” she cursed hanging up the phone after she realized that Grady had done the same. Sure, she knew full well that Grady wanted to find Jade more than anything, but given the desperate tone behind his voice, she knew that there was something more happening. She and Brant had promised to help him--they’d offered their assistance, yet she realized Grady wasn’t about to wait to make things happen. Whatever plan he’d formulated, he was going to act on it tonight which meant she had to find a way to stop him before he got in over his head all over again.

“I’m sorry Grady,” Avery rushed over to the closet looking to get dressed quickly as her worries mounted, “but I can’t let you do something stupid tonight. If you screw up and Cameron discovers what you’re up to, then not only could it cost you everything, but it could mean the end of Jade as well.”


Shannon looked around the hospital hallway waiting to possibly see Don. She didn’t want to talk to him, but something inside of her just wanted to see if he was okay.

“Shannon?” someone called out her name making her turn around hoping it was Don.

“Diego,” Shannon smiled seeing her friend before her, “How are you doing?”

“I’m doing good,” Diego replied nodding slowly before smiling, “It looks like I am doing a whole lot better that you. What’s up?”

“Nothing unusual,” Shannon sighed leaning against the wall thinking about what had happened earlier between her and Don, “Just another fight between...”

“You and Don?” Diego questioned seeing her nod as he folded his arms out in front of him. “What about this time? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged taking in a deep breath, “It’s hard to explain.”

“Well how about me and you go into my office so we can talk,” he suggested with a small smile, “Not everyone out here needs to know everything.”

He led her into his office shutting the door behind him. He leaned against his desk watching her take a seat on his couch.

“So what really happened today?” Diego wondered hoping to try and help this relationship get ahead. He hated seeing her relationship always getting messed up.

“Well, I will leave out some details,” she smiled suggestively thinking back to what happened in the closet before laughing.

“Spare me at least that,” Diego nodded walking over towards her and taking a seat next to her.

“Well, it always seems like everything might me going okay and then something happens,” Shannon informed him taking in a deep breath, “I don’t understand it though.”

“What do you mean something happens?” Diego wondered leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

“Well, one of us usually gets mad at the other one,” she sighed shaking her head slowly, “God. I probably seem like one of your patients now.”

“No, you are more than that,” Diego insisted with a small grin, “You are a friend. Just keep telling me what’s up.”

“Well, that’s basically it,” she shrugged before running her hand through her blonde hair, “Nothing seems to settle between us.”

“Do you love him?” he questioned seeing her eyes widen as she looked down towards the floor. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“I don’t know if I would call it love,” she sighed shaking her head slowly, “It just doesn’t seem right.”

“Did he tell you that he loves you?” Diego wondered seeing her lean back into the couch. “Did he ever say the words, I love you?”

“Yes,” she answered slowly before thinking for a long minute, “But he hardly knows me. I hardly know him.”

“You don’t need to know everything about someone to know that you love them,” Diego pointed out with a small frown, “You can just tell when you are with someone that you love them. That is if you aren’t afraid of loving someone.”

“Are you trying to say that I am afraid to love someone?” she questioned seeing him shrug.

“That depends,” he began slowly looking up at her worried expression, “Are you?”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head slowly, “How am I supposed to love a person who lied to me?”

“You never lied to him?” Diego questioned seeing Shannon tense her eyebrows.

“That is completely different,” Shannon protested shaking her head, “I have lied about little things…he never told me that he had a son. Out of the blue one day I followed him back to his house and I found out on my own that he had a son.”

“Okay, that is a little harsh,” Diego agreed before shaking his head, “Did you ever give him a chance to tell you?”

“Kind of,” she frowned before shrugging, “What am I supposed to do Diego? I really don’t know what to do.”

“I can’t tell you what to do…all I am is an opinion,” Diego replied with a small sigh, “To find the answer that you are looking for, you have to find it in your own heart.”

“I’ve heard that before,” she stated before shaking her head, “I want to know what you would do.”

“If it were me,” Diego began slowly thinking for a second, “I would make the relationship try and work. I would try and get that person to realize how much I really do care, not matter what happens or happened. I wouldn’t want to be alone forever.”

“Thanks for all this Diego,” she thanked hugged him gently, “This really means a lot to me.”

“No problem,” he smiled standing up from the couch walking over towards his desk.

She couldn’t just forgive Don like that. Sure, what Diego had just said sounded really nice, but how could you love someone that lied to you. It would be so hard to trust them again. She couldn’t let Don in…not yet.”


Angela snuggled into Nick’s arms feeling the warmth of him and the blankets surrounding her. Somehow while she hadn’t imagined that they’d wind up in this position with one another after she’d practically tossed him away, there was something that just felt so very right in being this close to him. Kissing the center of his chest appreciatively, she let out a small sigh reflecting on the moments of bliss they’d shared with one another.

“Thank you,” she murmured against his skin, tasting the saltiness of his body burning beneath her lips.

“Thank you,” he repeated giving her a strange look, “for what?”

“For this,” she cuddled in closer to him longing to feel the connection between them now after their love making session had tapered off into something altogether different between them. “For not giving up on me when I was ready to throw all of this away without a second thought.”

“Now we both know that wouldn’t have happened,” he replied tracing her spine with his fingertips gently, “because I’m far too stubborn to even let you think you could get away with that.”

“Okay good point,” she laughed lightly keeping her arm around his waist, just above the place where the cottony sheet fell over his all male form. She glanced down at the way the material seemed to frame his body, resting perfectly over his hips all the while leaving a hint of mystery about what it was he was hiding below. A smile crept in over her lips at the thought of just how skilled he’d been in using that secret part of himself and with that memory, she felt flushed all over again.

“So then I take it you’re not going to be telling me that any of this was a mistake from here on out,” he questioned bringing her back to the moment and far from her wayward thoughts of ravishing him all over again.

“Oh I’m sure somehow it was a mistake,” she shifted in his arms tilting her head up to smile at him with a genuine warmth, “but it was one I think is well worth repeating for us. If you’re really willing to face the wrath of Kevin armed with knowing who I am…”

“I know who you are,” he pulled her up so that her mouth was hovering over his, “and I love you for the woman you are.”

“Nick,” she spoke his name, feeling the distance between them melt away with a tender kiss.

“I do love you,” he mouthed turning her onto the mattress so that he could move over her. He inched away slightly catching a glimpse of the way she seemed to glow with the beauty of the moment. Gingerly he tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ear watching as a breath escaped from her lips. “I hope I’m not crossing too many lines in saying that.”

“Well, usually it’s a woman who gets all mushy after making love, but in this case, well, I think it’s a very refreshing change,” she confessed with a small sigh. “The last guy I was with, well he wasn’t exactly open with his emotions.”

“His loss,” he replied catching note of her sudden silence, “Angela?”

“I’m sorry,” she tilted her eyes up to his once again, “that was completely inappropriate to talk about another lover when you and I just made love.”

“In most cases, yeah I think I might’ve felt a bit wounded by that, but given that the last man you were with is the father of your child, well I think we’re going to have to deal with the after effects of his presence in your life sooner or later since I plan on sticking around for a while here,” he inhaled slowly closing his eyes for a brief moment, “Of course while I might’ve picked later rather than sooner, now that the floor is open…”

“No,” she shook her head adamantly, “No way. There’s absolutely not going to be a conversation about him tonight--not after you and I shared something amazing with one another. Nick, you’re an incredible lover. Never in my life have I felt like I did when we were making love. It was as if you knew my body more than I knew myself. What we shared before…”

“Was only the beginning of what we’ll have in the future,” he reached out to urge her in closer to him. He curled his finger in underneath her chin to tilt her eyes up towards him, “I hope you realize that this is just a small step for us.”

“I’d hardly consider this a small step given what we just shared with one another,” she smiled up at him appreciatively. Her fingers tapered off over his powerful shoulders, down over the smooth expanse of his chest leading down over his abdomen beneath the blankets, “This was really something special.”

“And entirely unlike what I’d been planning on for us,” Nick sighed closing his eyes at her touch. He savored the warmth of her fingers playing over his skin before his gazed upon her once again, “I’d hoped for something a bit more romantic than just a casual move like this.”

“Nick,” she smiled lightly feeling a laugh build behind her lips, “sweetheart, this was perfect.”

“You keep saying that, but I promised you a world of romance after all of our disasters,” he brought his hand out to touch her face gently, “Tonight wasn’t romantic in the least. It was nice, but when it gets down to it, it was just lust at it’s finest.”

“I have nothing against lust,” she confessed with a small grin, “especially not after knowing the way it feels to have you with me caught up in the heat of it.”

“Angela,” he spoke her name in a small warning tone, “if you keep talking like that people are bound to issue you a reputation for being a naughty girl.”

“That’s quite alright with me,” she slid her arms around his bottom cupping the warmth of his body over hers, “because in case you haven’t noticed, I am a very, very naughty girl.”

“Mmm…” he leaned forward kissing her heatedly. He shifted over her feeling her touch beckoning the fire that stirred inside of him again. He felt her legs wrap around his torso before she placed a hand firmly in the center of his chest shoving him back onto the mattress. In the blink of an eye, he felt her over him, her body pressed in against his abdomen.

“I think it’s time I remind you all over again that it’s okay not to be all about romance and everything about lust for a little while,” Angela whispered warmly leaning forward to press her lips over the center of his chest. She dropped hot, wet kisses over his skin before reaching out to collect another condom from the dresser. Sitting upright, she eyed him intently before grinning widely. “So what do you say Nick? Care to explore the more primal side of romance for a while?”

“I’m all yours,” Nick replied savoring the moment between them as Angela gave a whole new meaning to the word lust in her own provocative seduction. Still as fun as this was, Nick made a mental note to find a way to prove himself and his love to her in the not so distant future. For now, well now he’d give her whatever she wanted--whatever she needed to feel safe with him, but sooner or later, he vowed to show her a whole new meaning to the word romance.


“This is so cool that you two are with me tonight,” Brittany giggled jumping up and down, “We are going to be having so much fun.”

“Of course we are,” Mindy smiled watching Hunt pick Brittany up in his arms.

“So what do you want to do first?” Hunt questioned with a small smile. “Get into some make up and make Mindy look like a monster?”

“No,” Brittany shook her head letting out a small giggle, “Let’s sing together.”

“Sing?” Hunt questioned seeing her nodding. “What do you want to sing sweetheart?”

“I have a tape,” Brittany informed him as he let her down watching her run to the television and come back with a tape in her hands. “It’s Disney.”

“You’ve got a friend in me,” Hunt read the title before grinning up at Mindy, “How did you know this was my favorite song?”

“It’s mine too,” Brittany laughed watching Hunt walk to the VCR, putting in the tape.

“I better hear some singing,” Hunt stated with a smile seeing Brittany pulling on Mindy’s hand.

“Will you sing with me?” Brittany questioned with a whisper after Mindy leaned down to hear her.

“Of course I will,” Mindy agreed and Brittany pulled her up to the couch seeing Hunt watching them with a small smile before holding up a finger motioning them to wait.

“You need you microphones,” he informed him with a small smile pausing the tape and running into the kitchen.

“Microphones?” Mindy questioned seeing Hunt run back into the room with bananas in his hands.

“These are your microphones,” Hunt smiled handing them to both of the girls and running back to the television, turning the tape back on.

Mindy blushed seeing Hunt watch her and Brittany jump up and down on the couch singing the lyrics to the song.

“You’ve got a friend in me,” Mindy sang before losing the gripping at her feet making her trip to the floor.

“Oh great,” Hunt frowned walking towards her, picking up the banana that was dropped and now squished, “You broke the microphone.”

“Bad me,” Mindy laughed shaking her head slowly watching Brittany jump into Hunt’s arms.

“The real star here is Brittany,” Hunt smiled setting Brittany back down on the floor.

“Can I eat this now?” Brittany questioned with a small smile holding her banana up.

“Of course you can,” Mindy answered with a small laugh seeing Brittany take a bite of the banana.

“Who knew that these singing things tasted so good,” Brittany giggled taking another bite from her banana.


“Guy,” Gabe called out his name making him turn around not yet entering his mother’s hospital room.

“Gabe?” Guy questioned noticing him walking up towards him. “What are you doing here?”

“I came here to see you,” Gabe informed him with a small grin, “I had to know how you were doing.”

“Not so good seeing my mother like this,” Guy replied with a small sigh.

“You shouldn’t be here all the time,” Gabe frowned touching Guy’s shoulder gently.

“I can’t leave the hospital Gabe, I just can’t do it,” Guy shook his head quickly, “I have to be here for my mother. She needs someone to be here for her. I can’t go home.”

“But staying here is going to make you feel even worse,” Gabe pointed out as Guy shook his head and shrugged.

“Then let me feel worse,” Guy blurt out, biting down on his lip, “I can’t leave my mother, I won’t.”

“Alright,” Gabe finally agreed before running his hand through his hair, “I don’t know what you are expecting to do here, but at least sit with me for a little bit so we can talk. You know, at least let me know you are doing okay.”

“I can do that for a little while, but I have to get in there soon,” Guy informed him as Gabe led him to the seats in the lobby.

“Just stop worrying for a couple minutes at least do that for me,” Gabe pleaded seeing Guy nod.

“Alright,” Guy took in a deep breath not knowing if he could really be sitting here much longer.

“I love you,” Gabe smile leaning forward and kissing Guy gently, “How is your mother?”

“Long story,” Guy sighed not wanting to get Gabe stuck in the middle of everything.

“Well, I have a long time,” Gabe pointed out sitting forward in his chair as Guy thought for a moment. It was going to be a long night.


“Coming,” Judy called out hearing constant knocking at her door. “I said I was coming.”

“I heard you,” Richard smiled as she opened the door, her expression slightly surprised. “I just thought these needed some water soon.”

“Richard,” Judy gasped with a wide smile seeing the flowers he held out before her, “They are absolutely beautiful.”

“Just like you,” Richard winked as she let him in, shutting the door behind him. “I needed to see you.”

“I thought you would be with Brooke every minute,” Judy replied before grabbing a vase, putting water and then the flowers into it.

“What makes you think that I wouldn’t have time to come and see you?” Richard questioned with a frown walking towards Judy and pulling her into a gentle embrace.

“I don’t know,” she sighed as he held her close, “I just thought with the accident and everything…well, I thought she would finally have you away from me.”

“That would never happen,” Richard promised with a tiny smile assuring her that he still cared for her, “I would never leave you.”

“Are you sure about that?” she questioned slightly worried seeing him nod.

“Of course I mean that,” he nodded slowly, “Even though I have to take care of Brooke, I still want to be with you. Everything inside of me loves you and you just can’t change love.”

“I love you too and I never want to lose you,” Judy informed him as he hugged her tighter.

“You are never going to lose me,” he hushed her with a small sigh, “I would never let that happen. You mean too much to me to let that happen.”


There’s never going to be a perfect time for this, Dean reasoned shaking his head. This is never going to be easy. This isn’t ever going to be what you want, yet here you are ready to make the most moral decision of your life or the biggest mistake, Dean thought to himself with a sigh. No, he realized, this wasn’t about choices anymore. This was about what needed to be done and that’s what was killing him.

Dean took a long, hard look at himself in the mirror knowing that this was the part that ate away at him the most. Leaning forward against the bathroom counter top he could see the guilt riding at him from behind his dark eyes. He had to tell her. He had to be honest with Deidra and there was no more skirting around the issue. When she’d put that necklace on, he’d found it hard to keep from losing it at the sight of her before him. Time and time again he swore he’d get rid of that thing, yet when she’d found it at the cabin it had taken him by surprise. He wasn’t sure how to react back then, but he’d thought that he’d carefully maneuvered himself around the situation. Of course that was just an illusion he realized as he pressed his head to the mirror and inhaled slowly.

“I have to tell her,” he repeated over and over again to himself in the hopes that it would make what he needed to do all the more easier. Oh who was he kidding? This was anything but easy and by the time he was done sharing the truth with Deidra, he was certain she would hate him. She’d never forgive him for the deceptions he’d presented her with. He’d lose her forever. Everything he was starting to feel for her--starting to realize about the kind of future they could have with one another was falling to pieces right before his eyes.

“You can’t keep lying to her,” he reminded himself knowing that as much as this was going to hurt, Deidra deserved the truth. Turning on the faucet once again, he bent down splashing some water on his face before taking a step back. He reached for a hand towel, taking in a long, slow breath before turning towards the door ready to reveal the very thing he was certain would take Deidra from his life forever.

Stepping out of the bathroom, Dean turned down the hallway ready to meet up with her in the living room. Even now he couldn’t help but reflect upon the way it felt to hold her--to dance with her earlier when they’d felt so right in one another’s arms. It was like a dream come true, but that dream, well it just wasn’t his for the taking. He knew that he had to make his decision and in delivering the truth to Deidra, he was well aware what he was going to lose after tonight.

“It’s now or never,” he insisted rubbing his clammy palms against the side of his leg before walking into the living room ready to tell her everything.

All of his courage however left his body the moment his eyes fell upon the roaring fireplace before him. He felt his mouth go dry, his eyes widen and his heart sour up into the back of his throat at the sight of her laid out before him on the floor. She sat in a tempting pose looking like a centerfold amongst the plainness of his home. His living room was tawdry, boring and lacking any kind of zest--that was until he’d walked into the room seeing Deidra looking as if she’d stepped right out of his dreams and into what had to be the worst possibly nightmare of his life. Her fingers dipped into a bowl of fruit she had beside her. Dean couldn’t help but watch the way she carefully selected the piece she would savor--the grape that now touched her lips in ways that Dean had only dreamt of until now.

Damn it, he thought to himself. Why now? Why tonight? How in the hell could the world be so cruel to offer him temptation on a platter only to let his obligation tear him away from it. It wasn’t fair. It couldn’t be fair for him to just deny what it was that he had before him. He wanted her. Hell, he needed her, yet he knew what this burden would carry with it if he didn’t give in to duty. If he didn’t do what was right, then he was going to burn. He was going to fry for his actions and now, well, now it was too late. She tilted her eyes up to find him staring at her and that was all it took to send his resolve spiraling into the great unknown.

“Dean,” Deidra spoke his name, a small gasp escaping from her now parted lips as she felt the intensity of his eyes upon her. That casual confidence Dean had witnessed seconds earlier when she’d been unaware of his presence seemed to melt away transforming to a sort of coy bashfulness. She sat up straighter pulling her legs up towards her chest with a sense of vulnerability--the vixen in her being replaced by the more cautious, careful Deidra that he‘d grown to love. Love, yes he was sure that was that was happening here, but even now he found himself racked with guilt over the secret he’d kept from her. He knew he should let her go--he should walk away and give her a chance to move forward with her life, yet with nothing more than the flickering flames of the fire covering her body, there was no mistaking what possibilities had conjured up in his mind about the two of them together. Their eyes connected immediately and Deidra sat up straighter flashing him a killer smile that melted his heart.

“I was wondering if I was going to have to go look for you in there. You just sort of disappeared on me and I was worried,” she confessed batting her eyelashes up at him before curling her finger out for him to join her on the rug. He watched the movement her finger made down over her collar bone leading a tempting trail down over her body to what lay beyond the top of her knees. “Come here.”

“Deidra I,” Dean felt his words thick with anticipation, his heart thudding in his chest as he weaved through the living room to take a seat beside her. His gaze traveled over her curves leisurely, unable to help but want to see more of the beauty before him. He reached out to her needing to touch her so desperately, but before he gave into the feeling he withdrew from his attempt at touching her. He knew that if he started to give in, it would never be enough. Being this close to her wasn’t close enough.

“I missed you,” she confessed reaching out to pull the bottle of champagne from the bucket just beyond where she sat, “I hope you don’t mind my getting this ready while I was waiting.”

“Of course I don’t, but…” his gaze dropped down over her body again, his eyes greedily trying to seek out more of her savory curves. As if she sensed the primitive lust burning from deep down inside of him, she slid her toes out over the carpet revealing herself inch by inch to him until the top swell of her breasts shimmered in the shadows of the flame created over her.

“But what,” she questioned with a haughty laugh before leaning forward, “is something on your mind Dean?”

“Actually I,” he felt his collar constricting around his neck. The air seemed to be sucked from his lungs, his breathing erratic and while he knew full well what he needed to do, the thought of being this close to a naked Deidra and not doing something about it had him out of his mind.

“Do I make you uncomfortable,” she asked leaning forward to pop open the top button on his shirt. She watched the way his eyes widened before she flicked open another, “Dean?”

“I’m feeling very uneasy right now,” he blurted out his thoughts wishing like hell that this was another place in time--that they were together under different circumstances.

“What about now,” she replied sliding her toes out further to reveal her body to him more completely. She heard a small sound in the back of his throat and a laugh bubbled over her. Tipping her head back, she shook her hair back over her shoulders before meeting his lusty gaze again.

“Deidra, you have no idea what it is you’re doing to me right now, but,” he tried to maintain an air of rationality--of sensibility, but all that went out the window the moment her hand brushed up against his thigh.

“I’d like to know what it is I’m doing to you,” she confessed with a small sigh, sliding her hand up over his thigh in a firm, determined motion, “Just like I’d like you to know what it is you’re doing to me right now.”

“Deidra I,” he sucked in a sharp breath. He closed his eyes feeling his body tensing up at the glorious feel of her touch surrounding him. How he’d love to lose himself in the pleasures he was certain only Deidra could provide him, yet he thought back to his deception--to the way he’d kept her in the dark about so many things.

“I don’t want to talk about the movie anymore,” she confessed moving onto her knees and crawling in towards him, “I don’t want to think about the weather or about bowling or about anything other than our coming up with a solution to our problem we seem to be experiencing with one another.”

“Problem,” Dean repeated forcing himself to face the fire smoldering from the hints of amber behind her dark eyes.

“That’s right,” she nodded leaning in closer yet, “you see I find myself in a position where I can’t think of anything else, but this sudden vulnerability I’m feeling. You see here I am completely naked and you are, well you’re a tad bit overdressed.”

“I wasn’t aware that there was a dress code for tonight,” he laughed nervously trying to make light of the inferno threatening to burn out of control beneath the surface.

“That’s just it,” she replied flicking her finger in beneath the material of his shirt. Her words seemed to melt against his earlobe before her voice transformed to a low, intense whisper, “there isn’t. In fact it’s a no clothing required evening, so perhaps it’s time we get you out of these things.”

Dean opened his mouth to speak, but found himself silenced by the way her touch grazed over his skin. Within a matter of seconds, he felt her over him, straddling his thighs all the while tugging his shirt down off of his shoulders, past his elbows to pin his arms where they were beside him.

“Deidra,” Dean opened his mouth to speak, feeling her nails scratch lightly over his chest.

“I’ve been more than patient and tonight, well tonight Doctor Carlisle, I’m not going to be taking no for an answer,” she blurted out boldly leaning in to devour his mouth heatedly.

That was all it took for Dean to lose any semblance of control. He shook his arms wildly, fighting to get the shirt off of him just enough for him to be able to use the arms that longed to hold her. He wanted to feel her--to taste every inch of her tonight and regardless of how wrong he knew this was, he couldn’t hold back. Finally free to hold her, Dean wrapped her up in his arms, his lips moving frantically over her neck, tasting the silken skin before him while his hands cupped her soft curves.

“Dean,” she mouthed his name, her fingers threading through his hair as she claimed his lips again.

“Deidra you have no idea how bad I want you,” he confessed feeling her shift over him. With each movement she made over him, he felt his lust threatening to tear him apart at the seams. Squeezing her in his arms, he held her carefully before rolling her back onto the rug beneath him.

“I want you too,” she confessed, her dark hair cascading around her face as he hovered over her, “I don’t see what’s so wrong with that. We’ve been patient long enough…”

“Deidra,” he reached out to drag his thumb over her bottom lip, so many emotions tearing away at him. He knew he should stop--knew he should walk away from this, but as she looked up at him, her eyes full of love and fire for him, he knew he couldn’t just end this. He couldn’t let go of one of the best things he’d ever experienced in his life. Brushing his thumb over the swell of her bottom lip again, he spoke up in a low, desperate whisper, “I just don’t want to hurt you.”

“How can this hurt when it feels so right,” she asked not wanting to overanalyze what was happening between them. Teasing her fingers down over the muscled planes of his spine, she felt him shiver beneath her touch, “Dean, I know you can feel this too.”

“Deidra, this isn’t about that. It’s about,” his gaze dropped down to the locket she wore around her neck. That brought him to his senses all over again and he pulled back, “I can’t do this.”

“Why?” she questioned feeling the walls go up around them almost immediately. She felt him untangle himself from her arms and in that moment a sense of confusion swept over her, “Dean, what is it about me that keeps you pushing me away?”

“It’s not about you,” he ran his fingers through his thick, dark hair all the while trying to find some sense of focus from within, “It’s about me.”

“I don’t understand,” she shivered at his rejection, feeling completely vulnerable and foolish as he moved away from her. “I thought that you wanted me.”

“I did. I do,” he spoke tightly hating that he had to push her away to keep her safe, “but Deidra, we can’t do this. As much as we want to, I can’t do this.”

“Why?” she demanded a frown touching over her lips, “Is this because of Andy? Because of my divorce?”

“No,” he shook his head mustering up the courage to face her again, “This is about my need for you not to regret this.”

“Dean, I don’t regret anything about the way I feel for you,” she felt a lump build in the back of her throat, “I care about you so very much.”

“And I care about you too, but I don’t want to put you through another nightmare. You have so much happening with Andy and then when you went through what you did with Bruce…” he stammered to find the right words.

“Bruce,” she repeated surprise registering behind her eyes, “You mean this is about Bruce?”

“Deidra, I think it’s best if we just…” he began again hoping to somehow buffer what felt like a rejection.

“I don’t believe this,” she squealed in response pulling herself up off of the floor, “I thought that you of all people wouldn’t hold that against me--that you wouldn’t think less of me because of what I did…”

“I don’t…” Dean argued with her seeing the anger replace the lust behind her eyes. “It’s just that…”

“That what? That you can’t get it out of your mind that I was stupid enough to have sex with a serial killer? That stupid, vulnerable Deidra was so blind to the man in front of her that it didn’t matter where she got her comfort, just as long as she was able to carry on her pity party somewhere?” she demanded her voice cracked with emotion, “Face it Dean. No matter what excuse you’re trying to come up with right now, the truth to the matter is that you think less of me because I slept with him. You see me as damaged, don’t you?”

“No, Deidra that’s not it…” he began again.

“No, it’s worse than that isn’t it? What? Aren’t I enough for you?” she questioned unable to contain the tears that burned behind her eyes, “Is that it? You and Shannon were together the other day and I kept wanting to believe that nothing was happening, but now…”

“Damn it Deidra this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me,” he threw his hands up in the air in frustration, “I don’t care about what happened with you and Bruce other then I wish like hell I could’ve found a way to prevent it from happening. If I could go back in time and spare you that fate…”

“You can’t go back and do that, but tonight,” she took a bold step towards him, her insecurities falling back inside of her for the moment, “Well tonight you can give me what I want--what I need…”

“Deidra, I’m no where near the man you need in your life. There are so many things that I need you to know--things that I have to tell you about me--about what I’m doing here in Coral Valley,” he started again guilt rushing over him.

“I don’t care about that,” she cut him off abruptly, “Dean all that matters to me is the way I feel when I’m around you. When I lost Andy I never thought that I would ever be able to recover from that. When I was with Bruce, well, it wasn’t because I cared about him. It was because I felt so useless. I felt like this unwanted, undesirable thing and he saw that in me. He used my emotions against me and I let him. Maybe on some level I knew what was happening, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to care after I lost everything that ever mattered to me in this world.”

“Deidra, I…” he started once more watching her face her own demons before him.

“No Dean let me finish,” she pleaded with him, her eyes clouded over with tears, “I thought that my world was over after that. I’d hit rock bottom and on some level I think I wished that Bruce would come back and find me--to finish the job that he’d started when he found me on that island. I thought about what would’ve happened after I did what I did--about how he could’ve killed me and the thing that frightened me the most is that I didn’t care. It didn’t matter what kind of danger I was in because I didn’t feel like I had anything worth sticking around this world for. I know that sounds pathetic and insane, but it’s what I was feeling before you walked into my life. Dean, I wanted to just forget everything--to fade away and then that night when Bruce found me in that parking lot, well I really believe it was over, but then there you were. You came out from the shadows and you saved my life. That night in the parking lot I began again. I started over becoming the woman I always wanted to be--with you.”

“Deidra,” he spoke her name softly watching her bridge the distance between them. She reached for his hand placing it over the center of her chest to give him a chance to feel her heart pounding from within.

“Dean, I don’t know what it is about me that has you pushing me away, but this is real,” she confessed bringing her hand up over his tightly, “What I feel for you goes beyond anything I’ve ever felt before in my life. I love you. I really, truly love you and that’s why I did all of this. That’s why I’m here tonight needing you more than ever.”

“Deidra, I just…I just don’t…” he felt his words fail to convey the message his heart was trying to send to her. Reaching out to brush his left hand against her cheek tenderly, he felt a sigh escape from behind his lips, “Deidra I love you too which is why I don’t want to make you think that I’m like everyone else. I don’t want you to be mislead by…”

“Just tell me that you love me,” Deidra pleaded with him, “Tell me that I’m not crazy and you feel this too. That you and I could have something special together--that there’s something between us and you feel it too.”

“Of course I feel it too which is why I just don’t want to hurt you,” Dean admitted cupping her face in his hands, “Deidra more than anything I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Then why won’t you let me in,” she pleaded with him, “Why push me away when it’s obvious that you and I should be together.”

“Deidra, I just…I wish that…I want…” he broke up with obvious strain as he fought to contain his emotions, “Damn it. Deidra I want you more than I can even begin to imagine, but if I give in to that--if I lose focus and fall into this…”

“Then what? Dean, what’s the worst thing that could happen?” she questioned pleadingly.

“We could make love and I’d only hurt you,” he confessed painfully, “If I did that and you ever looked at me like you did tonight when I pushed you away…”

“I’m not going to look at you that way Dean. Can’t you see? Don’t you know that you’re all that I want?” she pleaded with him desperately.

“That’s what scares me Deidra because I feel that way about you as well and I know that I shouldn’t. I know that I should just walk away and let you be happy without me. You deserve so much more than…” he confessed feeling his heart caught up in turmoil.

“What I want--Dean all I need is you,” she reminded him all over again leaning up on her toes to kiss him as if she’d never let go. She felt him slide his arms around her--his body burning beside hers as their kisses intensified with each passing moment. He pulled her up more completely into his arms, not wanting to sever the connection between them.

“I love you,” he whispered carrying her back over to the floor where he’d found her moments earlier. While all the warning bells were going off in his head--screaming out in the back of his mind about how he couldn’t let this happen, with one look at the woman in his arms--with one taste of her kiss, he knew that there would be no turning back. Tonight he couldn’t escape what it was that Deidra meant to him. Tonight he had to push everything else aside because in holding her the only thing that was left to guide him was the love he felt for her in his heart.


“Do need some more advice?” Diego questioned answering his door thinking it was Shannon to come back and ask him a question, but he was surprised to find Shannon’s husband before him.

“Can we talk a second?” Don questioned seeing Diego open the door a little bit more to allow him to come in.

“Have a seat,” Diego motioned Don to sit down before taking a seat at his desk. “What can I do for you?”

“I was hoping that I could talk to you about Shannon,” Don sighed enclosing his hands together.

“Of course that’s what you want,” Diego said under his breath before shaking his head, “What was it you want to talk about?”

“I was wondering if you knew why she hated me so much,” Don replied seeing Diego lean forward, resting his elbows against the desk.

“You think she hates you?” Diego questioned seeing Don nod slowly. “I don’t think she hates you.”

“Then what would you call it?” Don wondered going on not even letting Diego explain. “We are having a good moment and then she has to make a comment to hurt me. That’s all she seems to want to do.”

“Why are you coming to me for this?” Diego asked seeing Don shrug and tense his eyebrows.

“You are friends with her and you probably know her the best,” Don pointed out before thinking back, “And I just saw her leave the room a little while ago.”

“Alright,” Diego took in a deep breath running his hand along the back of his neck, “I’ll tell you what I think after talking to her a little while ago. I think she is afraid to love someone, let alone trust someone.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Don rolled his eyes before shaking his head, “But do you know why she won’t even get me a chance?”

“She mentioned something about a son,” Diego informed Don seeing him laugh.

“I tried telling her about him all the time and all she ever did was say something about work and leave,” Don stated thinking back to all the times he tried to tell her, “I tried to tell her over and over again.”

“Maybe you two should talk with each other,” Diego suggested seeing Don shake his head.

“I try to talk to her and then something happens,” Don coughed before sighing, “It’s like she wants one thing from a relationship and nothing else. I love her Diego and I don’t think she really sees that. I don’t know why I love her, but I do.”

“Of course you love her,” Diego repeated nodding slowly, “I can tell by the way you are talking about her that you love her. All I think you need to do is show her what love really is.”

“How am I supposed to do that if she won’t even let me by her?” Don questioned seeing Diego shrug.

“That’s totally up to you,” Diego pointed out with a frown, “Try and show her what she would be missing if she didn’t have you in her life. Those kinds of things.”

“I’ve tried, but I guess all I can do is keep trying,” Don frowned looking away slightly disappointed how much he had really fallen for Shannon and she didn’t even feel the same way.

“That should be the only way to keep looking at it,” Diego nodded before sighing, “Until then, all I can give you is the best of luck.”

“Thanks,” Don slightly smiled getting up and walking towards the door, “You are really good at this by the way.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Diego sighed after Don shut the door.


“I think you had a little too much to drink,” Kevin frowned as Cori tried pulling him out to the dance floor.

“Me?” Cori questioned taking his hands in hers tightly, “No way. I’ve never been drunk before.”

“I think you just broke never,” Kevin slightly laughed as she got him to the dance floor, “I take it you want to dance.”

“Of course I do,” she nodded wrapping her arms around Kevin’s neck, “So you are a boxer?”

“Ex-boxer,” Kevin nodded slowly seeing her smile, “I quit a long time ago.”

“Did you ever kill someone before?” Cori wondered smiling widely seeing him shake his head.

“Why would you want to know something like that?” Kevin questioned seeing her shrug.

“I just think that would make you seem really hot,” she replied looking over the muscular man before her. “You still got the looks though.”

“Thanks,” Kevin titled his head slight, “I think.”

“You have really big muscles,” she smiled squeezing one of his biceps, “Probably among other things.”

“Yeah, I really think you have had too much to drink Cori,” he repeated what he had said earlier before seeing her smile up at him.

“You remember my name?” she questioned seeing him nod slowly. “How sweet.”

“Yeah,” he looked around the room before looking back down at her, “I think I should probably take you back to your hotel room.”

“And end all this fun?” she questioned with a small sigh, her legs slightly giving out on her as Kevin caught her.

“Are you okay?” he wondered seeing her nod, “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Who cares,” Cori growled pushing his hand out of the way, “They are just fingers anyways.”

“Come on,” Kevin frowned wrapping his arm around her waist helping her walk towards the door, “You have your key?”

“Depends,” she smiled circling her finger around the center of his chest, “What do I get if I give it to you?”

“A good night’s rest,” Kevin replied taking the key from her hand and looking at the number, “You are on the same floor as me. You think you can make it to the elevator by yourself?”

“Of course I can,” she nodded as he let her go and she almost fell before he caught her again.

“On second thought,” he began looking towards the elevator, “I’ll just help you up to the room. Just wait for the elevator.”

“It’s open,” Cori smiled widely watching Kevin looking towards an elderly woman before them as they entered the elevator.

“You okay?” Kevin questioned almost in a whisper seeing her nod only to hear the beep of reaching a level.

“You two make a cute couple,” the elder woman smiled before leaving the elevator.

As the doors shut, the elevator bumped making Cori fall in closer to him.

“You are so strong,” she grinned running her fingers along the back of his neck slowly.

“We are on the floor,” he informed her walking down the hallway, still holding onto her so she didn’t fall, “Here is your room.”

“Thanks,” she sighed as he opened the door for her, seeing her almost fall as he caught her once more.

“Here,” Kevin sighed shutting the door behind him, “I’ll get you a glass of water or something.”

“Why would you want to do that while we are here?” she questioned pressing him against the door and covering her lips over his rubbing her tongue up against his.

“What are you doing?” Kevin questioned with a laugh pulling her back as she ran her hands up his muscular chest. “You are really drunk.”

“I know what I like,” she smiled grabbing the top of his shirt and ripping it open seeing the buttons fall to the floor.

“Great,” Kevin rolled his eyes still holding her back, “I liked that shirt.”

“You won’t like it as much as you are going to like what’s going to happen,” she winked before seeing him shake his head.

“Nothing is going to happen,” Kevin replied with a small laugh, “You are just going to go to bed.”

“Far from it,” she smiled running her hands up his abdomen feeling the ripple of muscle underneath his heated skin, “How long were you going to hide this? You have tattoos too?”

“Yeah, I do,” Kevin nodded as she ran her fingers around his bellybutton, “That would be a flame.”

“I like it,” she whispered leaning forward running her lips around his chest hearing him laugh and move her back once more. “Do you not like me or something?”

“No, I like you,” Kevin nodded slowly before laughing, “But I don’t know you at all. I don’t even know your last name or anything.”

“Why would you need to know something like that?” she questioned as he began to help her towards the bed.

“I think what you need is a good night’s rest,” Kevin insisted before feeling her push his back onto the bed.

“I think you need to just have a little fun,” she grinned getting above him and grasping him through his pants.

“Oh my god,” Kevin gasped swiping her hand away from him as she pinned him down to the bed.

“I guess I was right earlier,” she smiled going towards his belt, “Your muscles aren’t the only thing that’s big.”

“Okay,” Kevin laughed flipping her over and getting above after she unbuckled his belt.

“You finally ready to have some fun?” she questioned trying to kiss him as he turned away getting up from the bed. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to get you that glass of water and then I am leaving,” Kevin replied walking towards the sink.

“Party pooper,” she frowned lying back onto the bed.

“Hopefully you get better soon,” Kevin sighed walking back towards the bed seeing that her eyes were shut and she was already asleep. He shook his head setting the glass down on the side table and then taking the blanket, tucking it close to her. He felt her forehead once before walking towards the door. “Goodnight.”

Kevin shut off the light before leaving the room and shaking his head slowly.

“Hopefully she isn’t always that forward,” Kevin sighed buckling his belt back up and looking at his shirt. “Damn, I really liked this shirt.”


Nick walked into the kitchen leaving Angela sleeping in bed after he’d found himself awakened by another haunting dream. This one wasn’t as vivid as the last, but the bits and pieces he’d remembered left him unsettled. He could recall a masquerade ball of sorts--a celebration surrounding him, yet he’d been caught up in a sense of doom and gloom. He’d been upset by the circumstances--lost in this sort of depression and it came to a heightened moment of misery when he’d watched Angela in another man’s arms.

The rest of the dream was a blur leading up to him and Angela making love--only the intensity of what was happening felt so real, so powerful and he couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was that was driving him. Sure, he’d felt the intensity of Angela in the bedroom earlier, but in his dream there was something more--something deeper that was bringing him to her. It was as if his whole life depended on their making love in his dream. His mind was wanting her--needing her in ways that he couldn’t even begin to explain tonight.

He’d awakened in a sweat, desperate to make sense of the dream that had haunted him, yet as he stood in the middle of his kitchen, he could still feel something was missing. There was a piece of the puzzle that kept evading him. It had driven him to Angela, yet…yet there was the unmistakable craving still burning inside of him for clarity.

“I thought I heard you get out of bed,” Angela spoke up groggily causing him to spring back to the moment. He spun around to see her leaning up against the archway wearing his night shirt. She caught a glimpse of his expression before stepping forward, “Nick, what is it?”

“I don’t know,” he confessed feeling a shakiness behind his tone, “I just…”

“Just what,” she questioned moving in closer to him, “Nick, what is it?”

“I had another dream,” he revealed not really sure what to make of it, “You were with me, but at the same time I was afraid of losing you--that another man had come in and threatened what we had together.”

“Nick that’s crazy,” she offered up reaching out to touch his arm gently, “It was just a dream.”

“No,” he shook his head firmly, “It was more than that.”

“Nick, that can’t be possible. I mean if you think about it…” she watched him walk away, his eyes clearly lost in whatever his dream had been.

“Angela, it was intense and it felt so real. When I saw you with him, I went into a jealous rage and I kidnapped you. You had given up on us, but I wasn’t about to walk away. I needed to reach out to you--to show you that we were meant to be together,” he confessed rehashing the details of his dream aloud, “I was driven by this unmistakable need--this fear of losing you…”

“Nick, it was just a dream. It was,” she stepped forward finding herself worried by the intensity of his reaction to his dream.

“Angela, it felt real. I knew then that if I didn’t find a way to show you that I loved you, that I could lose you forever,” he blurted out turning to face her once more. Instinctively he held his hand out to her caressing the side of her face gently, “It all was crashing down around us and if I didn’t act fast…”

“Nick, it was just a dream,” she repeated herself watching the intensity behind his eyes, “That’s all it was. It was no doubt your subconscious talking to you about what happened tonight--about the things we’d discussed and what we shared…”

“No, there was more to it,” he shook his head urgently, “Angela, you were with someone else. He’d found a way to pull you away from me and…”

“And what,” she watched him fall to silence.

“It was him,” Nick replied with a gasp. “He was the one you were with.”

“He who?” she questioned uncertain by his expression.

“The father of your baby,” he blurted out worried, “He found a way to come to you and convince you to forget about me. To forget about what we have with one another…”

“Nick, that’s not going to happen. In fact from where I stand it’s an impossibility that he and I are ever going to see one another again,” she argued with him feeling an unsettling, nagging ache in her abdomen, “He’s the past. You’re the future.”

“In my dream he was…” he started to explain only to feel her press her index finger to his lips.

“Nick, you have to trust me on this one. He’s long gone,” she explained firmly, “We had a fling at best and I’m pretty certain that after it ended, he’s never looked back. He’s never thought about what we shared--much less came back to find me or this child we’d created with one another.”

“But Angela it was…” he argued once again, his words muffled from behind her touch.

“Nick, he’s married,” Angela blurted out shamefully thinking about the painful realization that had hit her just when she started to find herself falling for Brant, “We tried to play it casual during the length of the affair, but on the last day we were together there was something about him on the news--something I didn’t get the whole story about, but when it got down to it, there was something about him and his wife on the report.”

“What?” he questioned feeling her take a step back.

She rubbed her hands up and down her arms before circling around the island in the center of the kitchen. She let out a small laugh, “The ironic thing was that just when I started to really think that there was hope for some kind of future for him and I, he had a wife. They didn’t show much of her in the report, but from what I saw she looked a lot like me.”

“You mean…” he watched her close herself off to him. She finally faced him again tears burning behind her eyes.

“I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me--you know my own personal way of sabotaging the relationship before it started, but then when the newsperson started talking about him, well, it turned out that he was married,” she revealed unable to keep her tears from falling down her face. She raised her hand to wipe at them stubbornly, “As I said I only caught a glimpse of her and maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but for the briefest of instants I envisioned myself at his side. Instead of seeing the woman he was married to, I saw me and then foolishly I’d felt like he was everything I wanted--everything I needed and exactly what I never should’ve welcomed into my life. I threw him out and I never, ever looked back.”

“Oh Angela, I…” he stepped forward reaching out to her, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that…”

“That what? That I was stupid enough to get wrapped up in some kind of extramarital affair with some guy who couldn’t get his kicks from wedded bliss?” she questioned harshly before shaking her head again, “Well now you know. You know all about the home wrecker I am.”

“No, don’t say that,” he frowned feeling her tears hitting him harder than he’d imagined.

“But it’s the truth,” she replied with a small sob, “Not only did I go off and have this ridiculously stupid fling with a married man, but I’m having his child. Can you imagine what I’m going to tell my child when he or she is born? What am I going to say about his or her father when the subject comes up?”

“You’re not going to say anything more than you love him or her with all of your heart and so does his or her father,” Nick insisted bridging the distance between them. He reached out to wipe at her tears, “That’s all the little one needs to know.”

“Nick, we both know that’s entirely not true,” she frowned up at him, “Especially considering that…”

“That what?” he questioned cupping her face in his hands, “Angela, I meant it when I said that I love you. If nothing else this dream tonight proved to me that I don’t want to be without you. When I found myself thinking that there was a chance that this baby’s father could come back and take you away from me…”

“Nick, you hardly know me,” she reminded him poignantly, “You say you love me, but from what you know…”

“I don’t need to know anything more to know that I want to share the rest of my life with you,” he confessed leaning in to kiss her tenderly, “I love you Angela and I don’t want to risk losing you--not again.”

“But Nick,” she blurted out parting from his kiss, “What about your past? About the life you left behind?”

“I’m convinced that it’s something that I was meant to leave behind me. If I was truly destined to remember what happened before you found me on that beach, don’t you think that I would’ve found a way to put the pieces together before now?” he questioned brushing his index finger against her cheek gently, “Don’t you think it would’ve returned to me?”

“But Nick, there’s no telling what it is you went through before I found you. For all we know you could have this whole other life that is waiting for you to return to it,” she frowned slightly thinking about the reality that surrounded their romance.

“That life clearly wasn’t the one that I was meant for,” he argued with her, easing his thick fingers into her dark hair, “not when what I’m feeling for you is this strong. What we have is something that I can’t even begin to explain. It’s this insatiable, irrational hunger burning inside of me that leads me to you, yet when I follow my instincts they are telling me that this is it--that you and I are meant to be together just like this.”

“Nick, do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?” she asked unable to help herself. “You and I both know that while we have an attraction between us, there’s this whole world of issues that we’d have to explore before we could even consider taking any of this seriously.”

“I have been taking this seriously. From the moment I first saw you I knew that you would be my saving grace and I can’t walk away from that,” he confessed his voice wrapped up with emotion, “Tonight when I made love to you, it wasn’t about lust, but more so it was about this undeniable force that keeps me coming back to you. Angela, I love you and I’m not about to let the past get in the way of that.”

“Nick, I…” she started to argue with him only to feel his kiss in over her mouth. She felt the intensity of him, the depth of his emotions pouring out from within. In that moment her knees seemed to buckle from beneath her.

“I love you,” he murmured against her mouth kissing her again and again.

“Nick, you can’t say something you’re not sure of,” she tried to argue with him--to put a distance between them, but before she knew it, she felt his arms around her keeping her closer to him than ever.

“I’m sure of it,” he replied his eyes reaching down into hers, “and if you look inside yourself you’ll see that you love me too. That tonight wasn’t just about lust, but about what it is you’re trying to deny about your feelings for me.”

“Nick, don’t do this,” she turned her eyes away from him, “Don’t make this something that it isn’t. Don’t take a perfectly good evening and turn it into a disaster.”

“Fine. I’ll stop all of this. I’ll quit saying this to you when you tell me flat out that you don’t love me--that you don’t feel for me what I feel for you,” Nick replied firm in his decision not to let go of her.

“Nick stop,” she wiggled out of his arms finding herself uncomfortable in the situation they’d found themselves in. Shaking her head at him, she marched over towards the door, “I’m going back to bed and when you calm down, you should probably do the same.”

“So that’s it?” he questioned sensing her retreat, “Angela, what the hell are you so afraid of? Why can’t you just be honest with me for a minute? Why not be honest with yourself and just tell me how you feel about me?”

“Nick, this is just ridiculous,” she shook her head at him, “You had a bad dream and now you’re spouting off about…”

“About the way I feel for you. I hardly consider it ridiculous,” he folded his arms in front of his chest, “and when we were making love earlier, I know that you felt it too.”

“Nick, it was just sex,” she spat back at him spinning around to face him fully. Her jaw was tight with tension, her eyes wild with conflict, “That’s all there was to it. We had a good time and that’s all we should take from it. Tonight was something that we both wanted simply because we were both begging for some kind of release.”

“No, that’s not it,” he shook his head at her, “I refuse to think that’s all there was to this. Angela, something else was happening between us and you know it as well as I do.”

“Nick, just stop,” she hissed back at him clenching her fists at her side, “I don’t need this in my life right now. I don’t want to get caught up in this.”

“I think it’s a little too late to be saying that now Angela because in case you haven’t noticed, we’re already caught up in this,” he took a bold step towards her, his green eyes fixed upon her, “I love you and I know that you love me too. This isn’t happening between us because of some trivial fixation or need for release. We came together tonight because our making love made perfect sense.”

“Nick, it wasn’t what you’re making it out to be. It was nice--okay more than nice because I’ve been lonely for so long, but for you to go out on a limb and start proclaiming your undying love,” she shook her head, “Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?”

“No more than your trying to deny that you do care for me,” he argued with her, “No more than your trying to convince me that you don’t love me.”

“Nick, I can’t say I love anyone at this point in my life. I know full well what love does to people. It twists and it destroys everything that it touches. I’m not about to allow it to do that for us. I refuse to put you in that category,” she snapped back at him, her words growing louder with her emotions.

“Love isn’t something that’s going to destroy you. It’s something that will set us free,” he reached out to her, “Angela if you just trust me…”

“Trust you?” she repeated with a huff, “Do you have any idea how foolish that would be? I know nothing about you other than you make decent company and you’re amazing in bed. Why in the hell would I even think about letting you in?”

“Because you know there’s more to us than that,” Nick insisted watching her take another step backward.

“No Nick, there’s not,” she outright lied to his face feeling herself terrified by his proclamations of love, “The truth to the matter is that I was looking for someone to lean on after all of this started. You were just there at the right time and now that we’ve gone and done what we wanted to do, I think it’s best we stop this before it gets even more out of hand.”

“Angela, what are you saying?” Nick blinked back at her in confusion.

“I’m saying that as nice as tonight was Nick,” she bit down on her lower lip nervously, “the truth to the matter is that I don’t ever want to see you again. This was a mistake.”

“No, Angela it’s not a mistake. This wasn’t,” he reached for her once again feeling the force of her retreat.

“Yes it was. It was a big mistake Nick and I’m putting a stop to it here and now,” she blurted out rushing out of the kitchen in a hurry to get away from the threat he was posing to her future. She didn’t need him--didn’t want him to feel for her like she did. If she looked at this situation from an objectivity that she’d ignored from the first moment she’d met him, then she’d see that she was only fooling herself to even consider starting something with him. Tonight was nothing short of disaster.

“I can’t do this,” she blurted out running into the bedroom and slamming the door shut behind her. She closed her eyes feeling her heart pounding in her chest, her pulse leaping out of control in her throat as Nick’s words swirled around over and over again in her mind. He was in love with her. He wanted to be with her, yet…

“I can’t deal with this,” she announced opening her eyes again only to look upon the bed that they’d given into passion with one another on time and time again. Even now she could still feel the memory of his touch imprinted upon her--the heat of his kisses burning over her body. It had been intense--passionate and damn him, he’d touched something inside of her that she’d tried to bury for so very long. Even now she could still feel the pull he had upon her.

“No, you can’t give in,” she argued remembering the last time she’d considered giving her heart to someone. She’d found herself on the losing end each and every time she took a gamble on love. First with Kevin, then Cary, then with Brant. Nick wasn’t going to be any different. He wasn’t going to be the man to change her luck. Tonight was just another mistake in the long list of stupid things she’d done in her life. Still just the thought of what it felt like when they were alone together…

“I love you,” she could hear his words echo in the back of her mind. The way he’d said it--the way his eyes reached out to her appealing for her to listen, it had proved to be something more than she’d wanted to face. She didn’t want to admit that there was a connection there--didn’t want him to see that he’d gotten to her--that he’d become something in her life that she found herself unwilling to live without. Still that was friendship and companionship, certainly not love.

“Love,” she repeated with an ironic laugh. If only Nick knew what that word could do to a person. It could destroy. It could alienate and yet as she stood in the center of his bedroom wanting to run like hell from the reality that surrounded her, she knew full well that it was love keeping her against the door. That it was love that she’d been trying to keep from feeling when he walked into her life and it was love that had forced her to keep him at arm’s length.

“I have to do this,” she tried to reason with herself listening for the first time to hear if Nick was following her. She waited wondering what he must be thinking at this moment in time. Had he taken her up on her words? Was he giving her the space she’d requested or was something else happening?

“Just walk away,” she told herself wanting like hell to just leave and never look back, yet when she felt her fingers press in over the doorknob she knew it was too late.

She stepped out into the hallway feeling her heart betraying her. With each step she took towards the kitchen she’d just run from, she felt her heart urging her on--daring her to take a risk that she’d kept herself from for so very long. It was now or never. She had to do this. She had to be honest with him--with herself if for no other reason.

She turned around the corner leading to the kitchen seeing him standing near the sink. His head was tilted to the side and he seemed frozen with emotion. She knew full well that he was upset, but she had to say something--had to do something to make things right between them.

“Nick, look about before…” Angela started taking in a long, slow breath.

“Not now,” Nick muttered biting back on his words.

“Yes now. Nick about before,” she took another step forward ready to tell him about what it was that she’d decided when she felt something else in the room that surrounded them.

“Angela, get out of here,” Nick pleaded with her, tipping his head towards her once again with a desperate, pleading expression.

“Nick, I’m not about to…” Angela started catching movement out of the corner of her eye. She felt her eyes follow the shadow, but just as realization dawned in upon her, she felt an arm wrap around her neck squeezing her backward into a solid form behind her.

“You picked the wrong time to say hello sweetheart,” a low, raspy voice explained clenching her tighter against the hard, muscled body behind her. “You should’ve listened to your boyfriend about staying put.”

“Let go of her,” Nick warned, his eyes narrowing with a controlled rage, “This isn’t her concern. This is between you and I.”

“Nick, what’s going on,” Angela questioned with obvious confusion at the choke hold over her neck.

“Shut up,” the voice behind her snarled. She felt a gun press firmly into the side of her head before the voice made more demands of Nick, “I came here tonight to do a job and I’m not leaving until it’s done.”

“I said, ‘Let go of her’,” Nick warned again taking a small step forward, “I’m warning you…”

“And I’m telling you don’t move!” the man shouted glaring up at Nick, “You might’ve escaped once, but I’ll be damned if I’m about to let you ruin everything now--especially when the boss is so very close to getting what he’s wanted.”

“The boss,” Nick repeated with a strange look before covering, “Well, you wouldn’t want that, would you?”

“No, we wouldn’t,” the man insisted again, “You’ve already caused too many mix-ups here for us and we can’t risk that again. I can’t let you get off of this island. I need to take you back and…”

“Back where?” Angela questioned with a gasp watching the blank expression behind Nick’s eyes. She had no idea what this was about, but something told her that neither did he. Still this man who had his arm around her seemed to want to come off as intimidating. “What do you want with Nick?”

“Nick,” the man repeated with a wild laugh, “Oh now that is priceless. Is that who he told you he was? Nick?”

“Let go of her!” Nick moved in closer yet watching the man’s face carefully, “If we have a score to settle with one another, then we can do that, but not with her here. I’ll give you anything you want if you just let her go. Just let her walk away from this untouched and I’ll give you whatever it is you’re looking for.”

“See now there’s where the problem is,” the man replied sharply, “because the only thing I could want from you is to see you dead once and for all. As long as you’re still alive, well there’s always going to be a threat to the plan and the boss doesn’t want that happening.”

Angela felt the man’s grip on her loosen upon completion of his words. She sensed something was about to happen and in a matter of seconds she found herself on the floor hearing the movement above her. She looked up to see the man point his gun at Nick. He tugged on the trigger ready to shoot when Angela lunged forward pushing at him in an attempt to prevent disaster from happening.

“No!” she shouted tackling the man and catching him off guard. She heard the sound of his gun going off, but it was nothing in comparison to the fear that consumed her. She elbowed his ribs hearing him grunt and groan before the gun slid across the kitchen floor.

“You son of a bitch!” Angela shouted scratching at the man’s face. She punched at him again ready to continue her attack, but instead she felt the man slide out from beneath her. In the blink of an eye, she felt his weight upon her, the wild rage behind his dark eyes. He was a man on a mission and now that she’d put herself in his way, she knew full well that she was about to face another wrath.

“Get off of her!” Nick’s voice roared from above. He yanked the man off of Angela and another battle ensued. They rolled around on the ground, both men seeking out the gun. Before Angela could cry out to warn Nick, she saw the other man grab the gun.

“Nick!” she shouted his name hearing another piercing blast from the gun. “No!”

Silence followed and the scene replayed itself in slow motion. Angela looked to the two men entangled with one another. She felt her breath escape her lips--the slow vibrations of the moment weighing down upon her. Then she saw the blood.

“No, oh God no!” she cried out shuffling across the floor to where the two men lay together in a heap. She reached out to grab the invader’s shoulder--to peel him off of Nick, but rather than putting up a fight, he fell back easily.

“Angela,” Nick spoke up, fear shining behind his eyes as she moved in over him.

“Oh God, you’re bleeding,” she replied with a gasp. She tore at his shirt desperate to seek out the wound and help him. “Just sit still.”

“It’s not me,” he explained hurriedly, “Angela, it’s not my blood.”

“What?” she questioned ripping the material of his shirt only to discover he was telling the truth. “But…”

“I’m fine,” he replied still reeling from what had happened. While he hadn’t expected to discover that he wasn’t alone in he kitchen, nothing had him prepared for what had followed. He hadn’t recognized the man who’d launched this surprise attack, but it was clear that the man had recognized him. It was obvious that the past wasn’t as buried as he thought.

“Oh thank God,” Angela threw her arms around him holding him as if she’d never let go, “When I thought he’d shot you.”

“I’m okay,” Nick promised keeping her close to him as he wondered if this blast from his past was a sudden sign that he needed to get as far away from Angela as possible. Looking up at her he felt his heart pounding in his chest. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head in refusal, “No, I’m fine. Scared as all hell, but I’m fine.”

“I’m so sorry,” Nick replied painfully, “I don’t know what he wanted but…”

“But nothing,” she looked to the man’s body beside them on the floor. She reached out to search for a pulse.

“Is he…” Nick began uneasily.

“Dead?” she finished turning her dark eyes up to him again before nodding. “Yeah, he’s dead.”

“Oh God,” Nick gulped looking to the gun that lay beside him. “For a second there I wasn’t sure if it was going to be him or me.”

“I’m so glad he wasn’t you,” she confessed hugging him as if she’d never let go, “If I could’ve lost you tonight--after all the horrible things I said…”

“Angela, it’s okay,” Nick replied pulling back ever so slightly, “I deserved those things and this proves it. You were right.”

“No, I was wrong,” she insisted with a frown, “Nick I shouldn’t have said what I did. I never should’ve tried to push you away like that…”

“I’m dangerous,” he cut her off abruptly, “Not knowing my past is obviously something that is going to be a problem for me. I don’t want it to be a problem for you. Tonight is a shining example of what could happen.”

“No,” she argued watching the way his eyes fell upon the man beside them, “Did you know him?”

“No,” he shook his head before pausing, “At least I don’t think I did. I can’t remember.”

“It’s okay,” she hugged him tightly, “none of that matters right now. At least you’re safe.”

“Angela,” he began fearing for what his presence in his life could mean to her.

“You’re safe and that’s all that matters,” she replied burying her head in his chest while making a promise to herself that after tonight she’d stop fighting her heart.

“Angela if this is a sign about the man that I am--if this is a clue to my past,” Nick began worry evident in his tone.

“Then we’ll get through this together,” she promised pressing her finger to his lips, “We’ll find a way to make sense of the past in our own way.”

“I can’t put you through this. I can’t ask you to…” he started again knowing that he had to keep her from ever being touched by any of this.

“You didn’t. I want to. I need to Nick. For the future,” she replied biting back on her words, “for us.”

“But…” he started again.

“Nick, I love you,” she blurted out. “I love you so much that when I thought I was going to lose you tonight, well…it terrified me.”

“It terrified me too,” he replied wiping at her tears before drawing her close to him again. “which is why I can’t put you though this. I can’t…”

“Yes you can. Nick I’m not about to let you walk away now,” she insisted firmly. “I can’t let go of you now.”

“But Angela if this guy was here to kill me--to come after me for something I did in the past…” he began to reason with her.

“That doesn’t matter,“ she argued with him. “I don’t want to think about that.”


“Don’t leave me Nick. Don’t ever leave me,” she repeated burying her head in his chest all the while vowing that she’d stop trying to push Nick away now that it was obvious that they needed one another more than ever.


Avery searched the room for her car keys wondering where in the hell she could’ve put them. While she was well aware of the fact that the last car she’d driven belonged to Russ, there was still her own car to deal with. Of course that was if and only if she could figure out where she put those damned keys. Okay, so maybe she could’ve called for a car, but then in doing so, well that would clue Brant in on what she was doing and to worry him unnecessarily seemed so trivial and…

“Hey, what’s going on?” Brant’s voice rose from behind her.

Too late, she thought to herself before standing up taller. Slowly she spun around to face him revealing that she was now fully dressed. She offered up a small wave in his general direction, “Hi.”

“Hi,” he returned the wave before his eyes fell upon her once again. He eyed her with a curiousness before speaking up, “Going somewhere?”

“Well actually,” she contemplated anything that might sound good at this point in time, but no lie seemed fitting. “Yes I am.”

“And just where might that be?” he questioned taking a step forward. He watched her shift on her feet before she looked away.

“Just out for a bit,” she shrugged again.

“Out where,” he frowned sensing that something was up, “Avery?”

“Oh alright,” she huffed throwing her hands in the air, “I called Grady earlier and I think he’s about to get himself in some kind of trouble. He’s ready to take on Cameron and by the way he was talking, well it just got me thinking that maybe just maybe he’s up to trouble and I’d really like to stop him from getting in over his head. I mean yeah I know he means well and all and he’s determined to find Jade, but there was something in his tone and…well, I just can’t stand back and let him do whatever it is that he’s planning to do. He’s only going to get into trouble that way.”

“So let me get this straight,” Brant folded his arms in front of his chest taking in her words, “Grady’s about to get himself in some kind of trouble and you decided that you were what? Going to sweep in and rescue him before he did something really stupid?”

“Well yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of it,” she nodded quickly before marching past him, “So now that you’re up to speed on this one, I’ll chat with you later.”

“Not so fast beautiful,” Brant reached out to link her arm in his. He spun her around to face him a frown intensifying over his features, “You don’t really believe that I’m just going to let you walk out of here just like that.”

“Well actually I wasn’t really thinking about what you’d let me do or not because last time I checked I was a fully capable, rational adult clearly able to make her own decisions,” she cut back sharply, her eyes daring him to defy her.

“Ah yes, I know this one well,” he let out a small laugh before shaking his head at her, “You are a fully capable, rational adult Avery, but I should also add that while you’re clearly able to make your own decisions as you so bluntly put it, it just so happens that it wasn’t that long ago that oh a certain serial killer decided to come out of hiding and make his way to seeking you out. I believe that he not only decided to make his presence known to you, but he also chased you through the woods and scared the hell out of you. Any of this ringing a bell?”

“Well,” she started uneasily turning her attention to the floor, “I guess I sort of remember something along those lines.”

“Then do you also remember that the said serial killer is yet to be in custody,” Brant pointed out watching her move around again in an attempt to deny that he was right about what he was telling her, “Given that the police don’t have many leads, well I think it’s safe to say that he could be just waiting in the shadows looking for the perfect moment to strike.”

“I shot him Brant,” Avery grumbled in response, “I think that in itself is reason enough for him to stay away.”

“Not when he’s out for you,” he reminded her bluntly, “The man has made it clear that he’s not about to walk away from Coral Valley without you. That in itself should have you thinking about the severity of this situation Avery before you go and run off after Grady.”

“He needs my help Brant. If I don’t try to talk some sense into him,” she curled her lip in a pout.

“Let me get this straight,” he scratched his chin lightly, “Just so that we’re on the same page here. You obviously talked to Grady earlier, yes?”

She nodded, “We were on the phone when he came up with some half-cocked idea to go off and do something stupid,” she explained with a frown.

“And just what was it he was planning to do?” he inquired.

“Well, he didn’t quite say, but I’m certain that it wasn’t good. He had this air about him--this unsettling tone and…” she continued to plead her case.

“And let me guess. He told you not to worry about him and he hung up on you,” he paused watching the way her face scrunched up at his words, “I’m right, aren’t I?”

“No, you’re not right,” she pouted folding her arms in front of her chest, “I mean okay so yeah maybe you were sort of right, but you have to believe me when I tell you Grady’s in over his head. Not only is he behaving reckless and completely irrational, but…”

“But he’s doing exactly everything that you’d expect Russ to do right?” Brant noted catching the expression on her face, “Right?”

“Look, I just know Grady. In some ways he winds up getting into so much trouble and…” Avery began to argue with him once again.

“And knowing Grady, he’s going to find a way to get out of it. I mean what can he really do that can get him into trouble considering that Cameron is in jail,” he challenged watching her face twist again in contemplation.

“Well he…he just…” she shook her head stubbornly, “I just know he’s going to do something that’s going to land him in hot water.”

“And when he does, I’m sure that you and I can ride to the rescue, but tonight, well it’s obvious that Grady’s made it clear he doesn’t want you involved in whatever he’s getting himself wrapped up in. I might also like to add here that I’m not too thrilled at the notion myself given the day I’ve had, so why don’t we just quit while we’re ahead and leave Grady do whatever it is he’s going to do?” Brant suggested noting the displeasure that swept over her.

“Brant, you know that I can’t just…” she started to argue feeling him reach out to hold her.

“Tonight you can,” he insisted pulling her more completely into him arms, “You have to trust me when I say that I have a feeling that Grady’s going to be okay.”

“I know you are saying that simply because you don’t want me going chasing off after him, but Brant I’m telling you…” she insisted once more only to feel his lips descend in over hers cutting her words off with an abrupt kiss.

“Avery, I love you,” he mouthed as they parted, “and I know you mean well, but don’t you think that for tonight--for just tonight we can forget about Grady--about Ken and about every other situation that’s bound to come up outside of the two of us long enough for us to just enjoy some time together?”

“Brant I’d be lying to you if I tell you that anything that happens tonight will be without my worrying about Grady,” she confessed a seriousness spreading over her features, “I won’t be able to get my mind off of anything other than the worries I have about Grady getting in over his head and…”

He placed his hand over her mouth to silence her, “If I drive you over to his house to check in on him, will that make you happy?”

“I can’t ask you to do that especially considering that you just came in after dealing with Ken and I’m sure that you want to rest and…” she began to argue with him.

“No, by all means it would be my pleasure,” Brant replied forcing a small smile, “and besides it would be a good way to keep my eye on you and make sure that you’re safe.”

“Aww, honey I didn’t know you cared,” she teased nudging at his ribs slightly.

“I care about you more than you can even begin to imagine, but promise me one thing,” he began curling his arms around her and squeezing her closer to him.

“Anything,” she nodded.

“Good because when we get home all I want to do is unwind with you in my arms. Do you think we can find a way to make that happen for us? Maybe we can share a tub and then we can…” he started suggestively feeling her press her index finger over the center of his lips.

“Anything you want, it’s yours,” she replied tipping up on her toes to give him a quick kiss before stepping back, “Now about Grady. We really should get going before he winds up doing something really stupid.”

“Since when doesn’t he do something stupid,” Brant muttered under his breath watching Avery rush out of the room as he wondered just what it was that her ex-brother-in-law was getting himself into this time.


“Good night sir,” the cook waved to Franklin before reaching for his jacket, “Will there be anything else?”

“No, not while the master is gone,” Franklin waved his hand dismissively before looking around the large kitchen. While he wasn’t quite sure what was going on with Cameron, he had made a solemn promise to hold down the fort while Cameron was otherwise incarcerated. Moving in towards the back door Franklin punched in the security code before moving to turn off the lights. He took one last look at the kitchen area, shaking his head at how empty things had felt with Cameron no longer around.

“To better days I suppose,” he sighed aloud before leaving the kitchen and it’s surrounding silence.

“Oh believe me better days are yet to come,” Grady mouthed pushing open the pantry doors after hearing Cameron’s butler leave the kitchen. Fortunately Grady had been able to sneak into the house with a few contractors that had been doing some renovations in the house. Now that he knew he was alone in the kitchen, he realized this was only the beginning. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the architectural plans for the house that he’d been able to dig up after a few well thought out phone calls.

“Let’s just see what secrets you’re hiding here,” Grady mouthed under his breath fishing around in his other pocket for his pen flashlight. Smoothing out the quazi-map of the house on the counter top, he skimmed it over thinking about all of the places below the house that Cameron could’ve easily swiped Jade into. This house had history and secrets that Grady was certain had drawn Cameron to it, but now, well Grady viewed those secrets as Cameron’s Achilles’ heel and it was only a matter of time before the truth revealed itself to Grady.

“If you’re here Jade, I’m going to find you,” Grady vowed hearing the sounds of footsteps from the hall again. He glanced over to the doorway before turning his flash light off. He stepped back into the shadows, placing his hand against the wall when he felt a loose panel. Pressing into it with the bottom of his palm, he felt the wall behind him slide open.

“Bingo,” he cheered victoriously before looking back to where he’d heard the sounds approaching. There was silence, but Grady had a feeling that if he didn’t move fast, he wouldn’t be alone for much longer. Quickly walking into the darkness that lay beyond the wall, Grady stretched his fingers out over the grooves of the panel searching for the latch to close the compartment once again. Within a matter of seconds he found it and not a moment too soon he realized when he heard a cough from the other side of the wall.

“Where did I put that stupid thing,” Franklin scoffed before his eyes surveyed the kitchen. He sensed something in the darkness, something in the shadows and when he spotted movement over near the far corner of the room he frowned. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Grady felt his skin crawl, prickles of fear and paranoia icing over his veins, but just when he’d thought he was discovered he heard the sounds of a soft meowing from the other side of the wall.

“I thought I told you that you weren’t allowed inside the kitchen area you lazy cat,” Franklin scolded picking up the oversized tabby cat that lurked around the estate, “How ever did you find your way in here?”

The cat meowed again before Grady heard the sounds of Franklin taking the cat to the back door. He waited a couple of minutes before the footsteps faded out again. Patiently Grady stood in silence wondering if this latest move of his would lead him to the truth about where Cameron had stashed the woman he loved. If Jade was here or if there were some kind of hint as to where Jade had gone, then Grady was sure that he’d find it tonight.

“I’m not leaving without the truth,” Grady vowed snapping on his small flashlight again. He noticed the long staircase leading to the world below the mansion and in that moment he felt a shiver creep in up over his neck and shoulders. Whatever was down there could be ugly. There was no telling what skeletons Cameron had in his closet, but tonight Grady was determined to uncover each and every one of them. His future depended on it.



...to be continued...