Episode 215

“Are we almost at your house yet?” Cori questioned leaning over and kissed Diego’s neck gently hearing him sigh deeply.

“Yeah almost,” Diego answered biting down on his lip as her lips awakened things inside of him that he‘d kept repressed for a very long time, “We will be there in a couple of minutes.”

“Good, I‘m glad to hear it,” she whispered running her fingers through his dark hair making him smile as it sent a sensual shiver racing over him, “You have a nice place?”

“It’s fairly nice,” he nodded feeling her fingers pulling his tucked in shirt out from the top of his pants, “I’m sure you will like it.”

“I’m sure I will,” she smiled scraping her nails up against his abdomen gently as he gulped down.

“It’s right here,” he informed her as he pulled in front of the house and stopped the car.

“We’ll go inside in just a second,” she grinned climbing over the seat and getting above him onto his lap, “I just have to do this first.”

“Do what?” he questioned running his hand along her leg gently, feeling her hands squeezing his shoulders slowly.

“This,” she stated leaning forward, tempting him with another heated kiss, “I can‘t even begin to tell you how many fantasies I had about taking you just like this. I wanted to do this with you since I was younger.”

“I‘ve wanted you too Cori even though I told myself time and time again that we shouldn‘t,” Diego agreed pulling her back down and kissing her deeply, tangling his fingers in her hair gently.

“That’s silly logic,” she mouthed nibbling on his lip eagerly, her hands roaming over his chest in a heated frenzy.

“Are you sure we should be doing this in the car?” Diego questioned at the first touch of her hands moving below the belt on him.

“We aren’t doing anything,” she replied running her warm mouth over the heated skin of his neck.

“This is something Cori,” Diego laughed, tilting his head feeling an intoxicating sensation come over his body, “I don’t think that people would feel comfortable seeing us out here like this.”

“Let them watch. It might give them something good to think about in their first step to getting over being prudes,” Cori shrugged looking up at him, seeing the frown across his features, “Alright if you would feel more comfortable in the house, let’s go.”

“Good,” Diego smiled opening the door and letting her out first, “I can promise you one thing, once you are in the house…you will really like it.”

“How so?” Cori questioned raising her eyebrow in curiosity seeing him close the car door shut. “What are you up to?”

“This,” he grinned picking her up in his arms kissing her gently, “Now let’s get going.”

“Lets,” she nodded wrapping her arms around his neck tightly feeling his lip brush up against her neck slowly making her close her eyes.

“Diego,” someone stood up from in front of his door making him jump back and lose his hold on Cori making her fall to the ground.

“Shannon what are you doing here?” Diego questioned before looking down at Cori who was trying to get up. “Oh, I am so sorry.”

“Ouch,” Cori frowned as he began to help her up from the ground, “Is this your girlfriend or something?”

“Afraid not,” Shannon informed Cori, holding her hand up so Cori could see the ring on her finger, “I am a married woman.”

“Are you okay?” Diego wondered seeing Cori rub her back gently, seeming to be in pain. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” she shook her head, a small laugh escaping her lips, “Other than my butt stinging a little, I’m okay.”

“Good,” Diego smiled before looking over towards Shannon, “So, why are you here?”

“I need to talk to you,” Shannon replied with a deep sigh, “There is just a lot of things on my mind and you are the only person I can really let my feelings out with.”

“Is it really important?” Diego questioned, looking between the two woman. “We were kind of busy.”

“I promise it won’t take a lot of your time,” Shannon assured him before shaking her head slowly, “And then you two could get back to whatever it was that you were going to do.”

“Fine,” Diego agreed as he pulled his keys from his pocket, “Come on you two.”

“Thanks Diego,” Shannon sighed as he closed the door behind her and Cori, “This won’t take very long.”

“Alright, just take a seat,” Diego offered, he sat down and Cori sat next to him, “So what is it that you need to talk about?”

“Well it’s Don,” she answered seeing him take in a deep breath and wrap his arm around Cori’s shoulder, “I really need help. I am still really confused about what I should do with this whole situation.”

“Why do you go to him and have a talk?” Diego questioned, suggesting what he thought would be a good idea. “I think that would work better than you asking me what to do.”

“Well, I have tried,” Shannon assured him before shrugging, “But every time I try to talk with him, we always end up fighting.”

“In your opinion,” Diego began, taking a look at his watch before continuing, “Who do you think is in the wrong? You? Or him?”

“I don’t know,” Shannon frowned thinking about Don, “I just don’t know what to do with him.”

“Listen Shannon,” Cori spoke out, “I think what your problem is that you don’t believe that you are in love with this guy. I think that the answer you are looking for really lies in your heart. Do you love the guy or don’t you?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Shannon pointed out seeing Cori shake her head quickly.

“Nothing really complicates love,” Cori stated seeing Shannon look up at her, “You see you know you love someone when your body tells you. Whenever you are around this guy, you will feel if you love him or not. There is always a spark when you look into his eyes. You just feel something in your stomach that makes you think…wow, I really do love him.”

“You really know a lot about love,” Shannon declared seeing Cori shrug, “You must have been in love for a long time.”

“Not a chance,” Cori shook her head before shrugging, “I just read a lot of romance books.”

“That explains things,” Shannon slightly chuckled before taking in a deep breath, “I don’t think I can feel what you are talking about. I don’t know how it is supposed to be.”

“Here,” Cori leaned forward, folding her hands out in her lap, “Tell me about this guy. Give me your history.”

“I couldn’t do that,” Shannon shook her head with a small laugh, “I mean, why?”

“Because, if you tell me,” Cori began, biting on her lower lip gently, “Maybe we both can tell if you love him and if he loves you. Don’t get off subject, just tell me.”

“I guess if you insist,” Shannon shrugged seeing Cori nod slowly, “Alright.”

“Go ahead,” Cori smiled looking back at Diego who seemed to be shocked by what she had just done, “I want to hear how you two met and everything.”


“Home at last,” Don groaned dropping his keys onto his desk and then falling back onto his leather couch. It felt like he hadn’t been home in weeks.

He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath trying to clear his mind of everything, but it wouldn’t work. There was always going to be one thing sticking in his mind for a long time.

“Why couldn’t I just tell her?” Don questioned to himself with a small sigh, “I wish I didn’t even meet her.”

The way he felt for Shannon almost made him regret that he had ever met her. Once the woman he thought was the love of his life had gone, he never thought he would be able to fall for anyone again.

“How wrong was I,” Don laughed sitting up in his seat slowly, “I don’t know why I fell for someone who doesn’t even love me.”

The moments of all the times they got into a fight with each other replayed in his mind as he shook it off.

“Why I am still in love with her,” Don began as he stood up from his couch slowly, “I don’t know.”

He walked to the kitchen and grabbed a drink from the fridge. He leaned back against the counter, taking a gulp from his drink before noticing a drawing on his freezer.

“Poor little guy,” Don smiled setting his drink down on the counter before slowly taking the drawing off of the freezer door. It was a picture that Matthew had drawn him a few weeks ago. It was labeled with the words daddy and his own, Matthew.

He took one more glimpse at the picture before putting it back away. A sudden memory of why he was so mad at Shannon ran through his mind. That memory was how Shannon reacted when she found out that he had a son. Personally, it really didn’t make him happy the way she acted. Something inside him thought she was different, but he knew he was wrong.

“I need to talk to someone who knows more about Brant,” Don sighed walking over to the phone and dialing Brant’s phone number, “Hopefully he can meet up.”


Blake stepped into Seth’s apartment taking a long look around. While nothing inside the apartment changed, she knew full well that life as they knew it had taken a crash course towards disaster and it was only a matter of time before Valerie came back popping up to put yet another crimp in their plans for happiness.

“Can I get you a drink or something,” Seth questioned tossing his jacket onto the back of his couch before looking to Kevin.

“Given what we’ve all just been through, you’d better keep us all on tap tonight,” Kevin groaned thinking about how the hits just kept on coming in town.

“Somehow I thought I might have to take that action,” Seth nodded before walking into the kitchen leaving Blake and Kevin alone with one another.

“So that was your brother huh?” Kevin questioned remembering the awkward ride home on the Ashford jet.

She nodded, “Yeah, Brant can be a little rough around the edges, but he’s a good guy.”

“I’m sure,” Kevin nodded opting to keep his own opinions about Blake’s brother to a minimum. He watched her return to silence and as he heard Seth shuffling around in the kitchen, he could sense that she was still far more upset about Seth and Valerie being married than she had been about ending up in jail. Hoping to come up with some kind of witty response to get a laugh out of her, Kevin racked his brain for a long moment, “You know it could be a lot worse than it was today.”

“Somehow I sincerely doubt it,” Blake groaned inwardly.

“No, it really could’ve,” Kevin tried to encourage her further, “I mean you could’ve been stuck in jail and remained cell mates with Valerie for the next few years.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” she groaned again, shaking her head, “It’s starting to feel pretty damned hopeless right about now.”

“Nothing’s hopeless,” Kevin stepped in closer to her. He took a seat on the edge of the couch by where she was seated, “I mean from what I see Seth loves you and you love him. That’s all you need to get through this.”

“No, what I need is a miracle or an exorcist,” Blake grumbled dropping her head down.

“Well, I’m not really all that much of a miracle worker, but I can give it a shot. If that doesn’t help, I suppose I could find you an exorcist or two, but I’ll be honest and tell you the ones I’ve met scare the hell out of me,” he replied with a seriousness in his voice.

“You actually know an exorcist?” she asked with wide eyes.

“Yeah, I mean how else do you think I would be able to make it with a cousin like Seth all this time,” he teased watching the smile that spread over her face.

“Oh come on Kevin,” she shook her head at him.

“I’m being dead serious,” he insisted with a small nod, “You didn’t know Seth growing up. I mean he was beyond rough around the edges. In fact if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t be half the man he was today.”

“Spreading lies about me once again, are you Kev?” Seth asked making his way back into the living room to see Kevin and Blake by one another. “Please don’t tell me that he’s trying to fill your head with his fairy tales already.”

“They aren’t fairy tales. They are the absolute truth,” Kevin placed his hand over his chest, “I swear it.”

“Yeah right,” Seth rolled his eyes, “like she’d believe anything you’d have to say considering you make a living on bullshitting…”

“Is that right?” Blake questioned catching the color that rose over Kevin’s features. She turned to Seth curiously, “What am I missing?”

“Go on Kevin. Tell her what she’s missing,” Seth prodded further, “I mean Blake is practically family there.”

“Well, I don’t know if…” Kevin began uneasily.

“Oh come on. You can tell me,” Blake tapped his leg gently, “You’ve already seen me at my lowest of low so anything you can say couldn’t possibly be as embarrassing.”

“Well,” Kevin shrugged his shoulders finding himself in contemplation, “since I was trying to make you smile and this could probably give you a good laugh, well maybe I can tell you.”

“What’s this maybe stuff?” Seth shook his head at him, “Tell her. I think she’d enjoy knowing.”

“Since she is family,” Kevin decided looking to Blake again. He watched her open her mouth to correct him about her not really being part of the family yet. He reached out to squeeze her leg gently, “and that’s what you are Blake. You’re part of this family. Valerie’s just a deluded bitch that doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction. She’s living in her own warped dream world that’s never going to happen.”

Blake couldn’t help but smile at that comment, “Thanks Kevin. I really appreciate your saying that.”

“I said it because it’s the truth. As I said before I taught Seth everything he knows about women and never in that did the cheap and trashy type come into play,” Kevin reached for her hand placing a kiss on top of it, “which is why I know he’s meant to be with a classy, beautiful, amazing woman like you. Valerie’s just like fruit flies buzzing around that you need to spray down with RAID. Yeah, they might fight it at first, but eventually, well they’re nothing more than an unpleasant thing of that past and that’s what she’ll be soon.”

“Not soon enough,” Blake sighed once more before shaking her head again.

“Hey, someone as beautiful as you are deserves to smile, not be so sad,” Kevin reached out to curl his finger underneath her chin. Once her blue eyes met his, he smiled at her, “I have no doubt in my mind that you are the love of Seth’s life and nothing can get in the way of true love. Destiny has a plan for all of us and you have to have a little faith Blake.”

“Now you sound like a romance novel,” Blake couldn’t help but laugh lightly.

“Kind of like a Donna Nevik novel,” Seth half questioned catching the glare that Kevin offered him.

“Now that you mention it,” Blake sat up a bit straighter, “I could see a little of her inspiration in that quote. Though I didn’t know you were a fan Seth unless of course you were looking at some of the novels I had and…”

“And Seth’s more of a fan than he’s willing to admit,” Kevin joked with a knowing grin, “He’s read just about every one of her novels whether he wanted to or not.”

“That’s because they’ve been force fed to me most of my life by my overbearing, insecure cousin there,” Seth replied with a small chuckle, “I keep telling him to pawn it off on Jade, but no, he’d rather make me be the first reader on his latest romantic endeavor.”

“Wait a second. Are you trying to say that…” Blake looked between the two men, “Kevin, are you really…”

He nodded a blush rising over his features, “It’s one of the best kept secrets in the family…that is when Seth isn’t opening his big mouth.”

“Oh my gosh,” Blake’s jaw practically dropped, “Not only are you sexy, but you’re romantic and oh my gosh. You’re my favorite author. I loved Love On The Run. That one was like beyond amazing…”

“Okay, now you’re just being flattering,” Kevin waved his hand dismissively, “I thought it was kind of rough considering…”

“Considering that it was beyond romantic. It was beautiful and it made me laugh, made me cry and by the end of that novel I wanted to be Amelia,” she continued to explain.

“Blake, sweetheart you’re far more amazing than Amelia ever could be,” Kevin insisted with a bright smile, “and far more beautiful too. Seth’s a lucky man. Why if you two weren’t already engaged, then I’d have no problems…”

“Don’t you even think about it Kev,” Seth stepped forward staking his claim on Blake. He wrapped his arm around his fiancée’s shoulders squeezing her closer to him, “We might not be married yet, but it’s going to happen. When it does I don’t want to have to worry about you trying to whisk her away with your words and good looks.”

“Damn and here I thought I was going to have a chance,” Kevin teased snapping his fingers together with a small laugh, “but since I won’t be able to sweep Blake away and romance her, I suppose I’ll just have to do the next best thing and hire a hit man to get rid of Valerie once and for all.”

“Now you’re talking,” Blake couldn’t help but squeal enthusiastically, “If you do that, then I can promise you that you’ll be number one on my list.”

“Hey, what about me,” Seth curled his lip in a pout.

“I meant to say number one after you,” Blake rose up to embrace him, “but hey you have to admit you should be happy that I’m enjoying Kevin so much. He’s a wonderful addition to the family and I can’t wait to get the chance to know him better.”

“You can’t wait to get an advance copy on his books admit it,” Seth teased nuzzling his nose against the side of her neck before placing a soft kiss there.

“Do you think he’d really do that?” she questioned glancing back over at Kevin, “Are you working on something new now?”

“I am,” he nodded a broad smile spreading over his handsome features, “a friend of mine back home is helping me piece it all together, but I think when it’s finally out on the page, it’s going to be the best of them all.”

“I can’t wait to see it,” Blake announced with a grin letting Kevin know that he’d more than accomplished his mission of taking her mind off of Valerie.

“In that case, I’ll tell you what. Once we deal with this situation with Valerie and find Jade, I’ll have you and Seth come out with me to the island I’m staying on and you can read it. It’ll be my honeymoon gift to the both of you because I can promise you’re going to love it. Who knows maybe you’ll find some inspiration of your own in the process? What do you say?”

“I say it sounds like a plan and I’m going to hold you to it,” Blake extended her hand out to him to shake on it.

“It’s a deal,” Kevin replied kissing the top of her hand once again in the hopes that he could find a way to help Blake and Seth find some happiness in their life with one another as it had been far too long since anyone in their family was happy with the one they were meant to be with. Knowing how fragile love could be, Kevin vowed not to let his cousin suffer the same fate that Kevin had suffered years ago in losing the woman he loved. This time Seth would have his happiness and hold onto it no matter what it would take with Kevin lending a little helping hand.


“How much did you pack?” Kyle groaned lugging her bag into the house seeing her shrug. “It feels like you put thirty bricks in here.”

“How did you know?” Sarah questioned with a small laugh seeing him set the bag down on the ground before rubbing his ribs slowly. “You still hurt?”

“A little tender, nothing big,” Kyle assured her before gently kicking the door shut.

“So, Seth’s cousin is really nice,” Sarah stated seeing Kyle nod, “Him coming to his cousin like that…he was very generous.”

“Generous,” he laughed, leaning against the wall seeing her frown, “He’s a very good cousin.”

“What happened between you two?” Sarah wondered walking over towards him, running her finger along his chest gently.

“Nothing happened,” Kyle replied with a small smile, “We just met. Never seen him before in my life.”

“Right, so what did you mean when you told Brant that he broke you?” Sarah questioned seeing Kyle shake his head.

“You must have heard wrong,” Kyle answered with a small grin seeing her shrug.

“Too bad I didn’t meet him earlier,” Sarah sighed walking away from Kyle, “He was really good looking. I wonder if he is dating someone right now.”

“Excuse me?” Kyle questioned, thinking he was just hearing wrong. “Did you just call that guy good looking?”

“Well, I guess his last name just fits his character,” Sarah declared with a small smile, “He really is an Adonis. There aren’t a lot of guys that look that good anymore.”

“Please tell me that I am hearing things,” he frowned seeing her shrug, “I mean, I think I am hearing my girlfriend say that some other man is an Adonis.”

“I did,” she pointed out seeing him shake his head slowly, “What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing,” Kyle smiled quickly wrapping his arms around her, as they both fell to the ground, “Tell me your sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” she questioned as he began to tickle her, making her laugh out.

“Tell me that you are sorry for trying to get me jealous,” Kyle demanded as he began to tickle her harder, “Say it.”

“I’m not going to say it,” Sarah giggled trying to push him off and surprisingly, it worked.

“Ouch,” Kyle groaned covering his nose after he hit it on the table, “God, you are strong.”

“What did I do?” she wondered getting above him as his eyes closed tightly.

“I just hit my face of your table,” Kyle informed her taking in a deep breath, “Nothing big.”

“Did you break your nose?” she wondered trying to see through his hands as he shook his head.

“Like it’s really hard to break my nose,” Kyle laughed seeing her frown, “I’m okay. By the way, you have twenty-one messages. I saw that as I hit the table.”

“Fine,” she pouted getting up from the ground and pushing play on her answering machine, “If you won’t show me, then fine.”

“What the?” Kyle questioned sitting up on the ground hearing the sound of Susan’s voice.

“Hi, I was just wondering if you knew where Kyle was,” Susan’s voice began to play as Sarah pushed next.

“Wow,” Kyle rolled his eyes before moving his hands away from his face, “No blood, I’m okay.”

“I’m glad your okay, but I am starting to get a little mad here,” Sarah pointed out pointing towards her answering machine, “It’s at fifteen and all of them have been her asking for you.”

“That’s crazy,” Kyle groaned as he stood up, “Keep going through them, they all can’t be her.”

“Okay,” Sarah nodded going through all of her messages and sure enough they were all Susan, “I can’t believe that woman. What is she thinking?”

“Herself,” Kyle answered seeing the look on her face, “Sarah, are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay,” she shook her head quickly before taking in a deep breath, “I have her obsessed over my boyfriend and I don’t like it.”

“Hey calm down,” Kyle hushed running his fingers along her cheek gently, “I’m with you, not her. You don’t have anything to worry about because I love you.”

“I know you do,” she sighed as he hugged her in his arms tightly, “It’s just the thought that can’t make me stand it.”

“Well, maybe we should get your mind off things,” Kyle suggested with a small smile before pulling her into a heated kiss, “What do you say?”

“I say, I like,” Sarah answered, grabbing the bottom of his shirt and pulling it up his muscular body.

“Good,” Kyle whispered picking her up in his arms after she threw the shirt to the ground.

“You have the best ideas,” she winked as he walked towards the bedroom.

“Yes,” Kyle agreed with as he kicked the door shut behind them, “I do have really good ones.”


“She’s asleep,” Carly whispered tiptoeing out of Kayla’s room and carefully closing the door behind her.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Dave replied with a small smile, “She’s had a really big day.”

“I think we all have,” she admitted with a small sigh of her own. “I can’t believe how much you can fit into one day.”

“Neither can I,” Dave reached for her hand, “but I’m glad we did it all. She still has a lot more she wants to see before the week is over.”

“And you’re totally spoiling her,” Carly felt his fingers laced in hers as he lead her out onto the deck out back. She could see the faint glimmer of her mother’s office light from where they stood outside, but other than that all was quiet on the star-lit evening outside of the house.

“Today has been amazing,” Dave confessed watching Carly look up to the sky.

“It really has,” she nodded in agreement her gaze returning to his again as a slight breeze passed over her.

“It’s actually been more than amazing,” he revealed reaching out to touch her cheek gently, sliding his fingers across her soft skin before urging her to meet his eyes, “Spending this time with you and Kayla, well it’s really done something for me.”

“I know,” she replied with a small smile of her own, “and I’m sorry that I didn’t do something about it sooner.”

“I wish you would’ve, but in a way I understand why you did what you did. Believing what you believed when you left, well I could see how difficult for you it must’ve been learning you were pregnant like you did and…” he began watching her smile fade away.

“Dave don’t,” she tensed up taking a step back. She brought her hands up over her arms rubbing them gently before looking to the night sky again, “Today has been so wonderful that I don’t want to think about what things were like back then. Kayla’s so very important to me and today, well, today it got me thinking about how it should’ve been--how we should’ve been.”

“You mean together like this?” he watched her turn her back to him. Taking a step forward he reached out to bring his hands down over her shoulders, “Like a real family?”

She nodded fighting to contain the tears that threatened to overtake her. Finally she spoke up again, “Today was really so very special Dave.”

“It was and it made me realize something,” Dave confessed urging her to meet his gaze once again as he turned her in his arms to face him.

“What’s that?” she questioned biting back on the lump building in the back of her throat.

“That I don’t want it to end,” Dave confessed leaning forward his lips grazing hers in a soft, tender sweep. His fingers slipped into her dark hair, urging her closer to him yet as the kiss continued with a gentle, lingering sensation. Finally as the two parted Carly glanced up at Dave with curious eyes. He brushed his thumb over her lower lip gingerly, “I still don’t want it to end.”

“I know you say that now, but once we get the results back and…” she started to protest only to be met by another kiss. Unable to contain herself she threw her arms around his neck kissing him greedily as it felt like all of her hopes and dreams of rekindling the flame between them was coming true all over again.

“Right now I want to forget about the results--to forget all about what may or may not happen and just focus on you and Kayla,” he confessed his gaze dropping down to her lips once again, “That’s all that I want to think about right now…all that I want to focus on…”

“Are you saying that you’d like for us to give, well, us another try,” she questioned seeing the sparkle burning behind his eyes in the moonlight.

“I’m saying that I love you,” Dave whispered cupping her face in his hands, “I know I should’ve said it sooner, but after spending the day with you and Kayla I realize that I needed you to know that. Regardless of what else happens in the future, I just want you to know that there was always a part of me that never stopped loving you.”

“I love you too Dave,” she whispered in response, “and the fact that you wanted to come out here with me and meet Kayla…”

“She’s beautiful and I love her too Carly,” Dave replied honestly thinking about the bond he and Kayla had already begun to form with one another. Just the thought of her little face brought a smile to his lips and a warmth in his heart. He gazed down at Carly once again, “There’s nothing that I could want more in this world than to be here like this forever with you and with Kayla.”

“Dave I…” she started thinking about what they still had to face knowing that the results of the DNA test would be coming up sooner than either one of them wanted.

“I know what you’re going to say Carly, but not tonight,” he shook his head at her silencing the reality she threatened to bring to the situation. He leaned forward kissing her once again before murmuring against her lips, “Tonight let’s just focus on all the things that are right about the here and now.”

“I’d like that,” she replied with a soft whisper tilting up to kiss him once again and savoring this moment between the both of them in the hopes that only good things could come in the future for them.


Avery felt the car pull to a stop and as she opened her eyes she was surprised to find herself in Grady’s driveway. She let out a yawn before turning to see Grady who was pulling the keys out of the ignition and taking off his seatbelt.

“Grady?” Avery spoke his name groggily feeling another yawn from within, “What are we doing here?”

“I called the mansion earlier and Brant wasn’t back home yet. As far as anyone knows he’s still in Atlantic City and I thought that maybe you didn’t want to be alone right now.,” he explained turning to face her a sudden seriousness overtaking his features. He inhaled slowly before speaking up once again, “Okay, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t want to be alone right now. It just hasn’t been the same without Jade around. I mean first being locked up in jail and now…”

“Hey,” she reached out to touch his leg gently before offering up a small smile, “I don’t mind coming over. In fact you’re right. I don’t really want to be alone right now.”

“Good, then how about some coffee,” he suggested with a small smile, “I still make a mean cup of coffee when inspired to do so.”

“Grady your coffee tastes like motor oil,” she threw back at him pointedly, “but if you really would like some coffee, we can do that if and only if you let me take care of making it.”

“And give you the honors of thinking you can be one up on me,” he shook his head at her, “never. You’re just going to have to grin and bear my miserable sludge.”

“Or so you think,” she wrinkled her nose watching him get out of the car and circle around to open her door for her. She stepped out of the car giving him a firm look, “I swear Grady if you even think of force feeding me that in any way, shape or form…”

“Believe me Avery whatever happens inside will be anything, but forced,” he smiled at her before motioning to his house again, “So what do you say?”

“I say I’m going to show you a thing or two about making coffee,” she quipped in response tucking her purse strap over her shoulder before following him up to the front porch.

“Tell me something are you always this difficult or just for me?” he asked popping open the lock to the front door before letting her into his house.

“Oh well you know, I don’t really see it as difficult, but more so as my being assertive about my likes and dislikes,” she threw back at him with a proud smile, “You should be used to it by now.”

“Oh I’m used to it, but I don’t have to like it,” Grady wrinkled his nose at her tossing his car keys onto a table top before he spotted her moving to his kitchen ready to stake her claim on the coffee making. He swiftly followed, “Hey, what did I tell you about…”

“Well, it looks like you’ve been busy in here,” Avery noted the pots and pans all over the kitchen. Clearly it appeared as if someone was making some kind of grand feast of sorts.

“This was Susan’s handiwork,” he groaned inwardly shaking his head at the mess she’d left behind of his kitchen, “I told you she was here the other day trying to make amends.”

“I didn’t realize that involved tearing your kitchen apart,” she frowned reaching for a sticky pan before her, “What in the hell was she doing in here?”

“Cooking I think,” he shrugged his shoulders watching her drop the pan again, “though knowing her I’m sure she had her meal laced with cyanide or something.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Avery agreed spinning around to face him again, “although how did she get in here?”

“Unfortunately she still has a key,” he frowned deeper than before as he thought about the situation he was stuck in, “Legally she can come and go around here anytime she wants given that Judge Carmichael hates me.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Avery asked.

“She thought it fitting to have Susan and I share the house somehow in the midst of our divorce. That was one biggie that Judge Carmichael managed to stick it to me with when everything was said and done,” he groaned again, “Susan made well to find a way to worm her way back into the house after she returned armed with that piece of knowledge.”

“So you’re saying she can do things like this whenever she pleases,” Avery replied thinking about what he was saying.

“Much to my dismay yes,” he nodded, “but rest assured that I do have locks on the bedroom door.”

“Like that makes a difference to someone like Susan,” Avery muttered under her breath thinking about the hassle that Susan had become in most everyone’s lives lately.

“You know here I thought when she and I split, I’d be done with her--that I’d never hear from her again, but wouldn’t you know it? She’s like a nagging cold that simply won’t go away no matter how hard you try,” he announced shoving one of the pans into his oversized sink.

“Yeah, well maybe if you try some flea powder or something, she’d get a clue,” she wrinkled her nose in response collecting a few other dishes for him and taking them to the sink.

“Or at the very least you’d think she’d harass Ken instead of me since he was what she wanted during our marriage. I mean he’s not seeing anyone right now, is he? That guy always struck me as hard up to get whatever he could by anyone desperate enough to pay him any kind of attention. Since rumor has it, he‘s into cheap and easy Susan would be an easy lay for him, which is right up his alley.” Grady scoffed in response catching the stiffness that overtook Avery. Her face seemed to drain of all color before she dropped a dish that was in her hand.

“I’m sorry,” she bent down to pick up the fragments of the plate that she’d dropped, “I didn’t mean to do that. It slipped and…”

“And it’s okay,” Grady knelt down in front of her helping her collect the pieces before he noticed her hand was shaking. He reached for her wrist, stopping her from grabbing another piece when her eyes tipped up to his, “Hey, what is it?”

“It’s nothing,” she lied biting down on her lower lip nervously, “I guess all this talk about Susan has me a bit unsettled.”

“No, that’s not it,” he watched her closely, “I know you better than that. What’s wrong Avery?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” she snapped back at him rising to her feet again. She carried the pieces she’d collected to the trash can before dropping them inside. “Why the hell would anything be wrong?”

“Because of that,” he frowned watching her rigid movements. “You were fine just a few minutes ago and then when I talked about Ken and Susan…”

“Hey, you’re the one who was married to her. She’s the one who broke your heart by doing what she did with him, so I don’t know why in the hell you want to bring Ken into any of this,” she snapped back at him, her hands still unsteady at his remark, “It’s just not worth drudging up all the old wounds.”

“Hey, I know you happen to like the guy and think he’s pure as snow, but the fact is that he’s a dog,” Grady insisted firmly with a shake of his head, “Here I thought he was pretty upstanding and moral, but all he could think about was screwing my wife. Rumor has it he’s returned to old habits and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out there nailing someone else’s wife for sport.”

“I said enough Grady!” she snapped back at him, anger evident behind her dark eyes, “I don’t want to hear it already!”

“Fine, but all I’m saying is the man is a real jerk,” Grady paused thinking about the pain that he’d felt in the past when he’d learned about Susan and Ken’s affair, “though in some ways he did me a really big favor I guess. I mean I really never knew what was right for me until he destroyed my life. Once he and Susan did that I hit rock bottom and I really, truly believed that was it for me. I remember taking the news about them so hard that I couldn’t think straight. I was angry, hurt and above all else I’d felt betrayed.”

“I can understand how that is,” she nodded taking in a slow, calming breath.

“I wanted to just forget it all and say to hell with everything,” he admitted painfully, “It was like my heart was ripped out of my chest and everything that I knew and believed in this world ceased to exist, but now in retrospect I guess it wasn’t until that point in time that I was really able to see myself--my true self with full clarity. I found myself in a position I didn’t want to be in, in a life I never asked for and yet, well I learned how to cope with it and keep pushing on.”

“That’s all you can do in a situation like that,” she nodded thinking about her own issues with Ken, “You think you know what’s going on, but when you’re thrown for a loop, you see that the only thing you can do is try to move beyond the hurt and keep pushing on.”

“Exactly,” he agreed with her, “and while it hurt like hell at the time, losing Susan was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me my freedom and it brought me to Jade. In letting go of that part of my life, I was able to open myself up to real love and that’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Avery added feeling a moment of queasiness overtaking her. Placing her hand over her stomach she threw out an apologetic smile, “I think I’m going to run to your bathroom for a minute and leave you in charge of coffee.”

“You sure you want to do that given how much you hate my attempts at putting together a good cup of java?” he half teased watching her make her way to the archway at the kitchen’s entrance.

“I think I’m willing to risk it this time,” she replied with a small smile before heading to the bathroom all the while wondering just what other risks she’d opened herself up to with everything that had happened over the last few months.


“Come on. It’ll be fun,” Angela tugged on Nick’s arm dragging him into Martha’s bar despite the long day they’d had at the police station. She could see that he was still on edge about their decision to ignore the past and look to the future, but still she wasn’t about to let what happened the other night ruin the here and now.

“How many people can say they go to work to have fun?” Nick replied throwing out a pointed look in her general direction as Martha approached them.

“They sure as hell better be saying it about this place if they are employees here or else they won’t be getting a raise,” Martha warned before cracking a big smile and extending her arms out to embrace Angela, “Hey sweetheart, how the hell are you?”

“I’m doing incredible, but unfortunately I can’t say the same for Nick. He needs some cheering up,” Angela explained motioning to the man at her side, “Think we can work on changing that for him?”

“Oh I know we can sugar,” Martha walked over to Nick lacing her arm in his, “How about we get you behind the bar mixing drinks?”

“And this is supposed to cheer me up how?” he teased back with a small smile.

“I could’ve told you to take your top off and get up on the bar and start dancing since it‘s Lady’s Night,” Martha threw back at him with a wink before patting him on the arm, “Then I know we would be selling more drinks tonight.”

“Somehow I think I prefer option A there to getting up on top of the bar,” he confessed with a small laugh, “besides who would want to see me get up there and shake it when you could do the job yourself and get all the guys in the crowd in an uproar about what they can’t have?”

“Oh honey, they could more than have it if I was twenty years younger, but right about now I’d settle for a hot, young thing like yourself getting me some extra cash around here. I say you get up there and dance,” Martha prodded him further watching the wicked smirk that spread over Angela’s features.

“Martha’s right Nick. You should do it,” Angela squeezed his arm gently before leaning into him, “Kevin would.”

“Now wait a second,” Nick turned to look at Angela, “You’re telling me that you’d be perfectly fine with me getting up on top of that bar and doing a dance in front of everyone?”

“Sure why not,” she shrugged her shoulder before reaching out to collect the front of his shirt as she tugged him near her, “In fact I might find it a bit sexy.”

“Is that right,” Nick stepped in closer to her.

“That’s right,” Angela nodded in response a smile sweeping in over her face, “The way I see it, you’ll be showing all the ladies in the crowd what they won’t be going home with tonight and I’ll be happy knowing that I’m the one you’re with.”

“I don’t believe this,” Nick looked between Angela and Martha, “Just what kind of establishment have I started working for?”

“One that’s going to be quite popular once you get up there and shake a tail feather,” Martha gave him another nudge, “Go on sweet cheeks I’m sure that they’ll eat it all up.”

“I can’t believe this. You’re going to pimp me out just to sell drinks,” Nick eyed Angela with heavy disapproval, “and you, you’re just going to stand back and let her do it?”

“If you dance good enough, I might give you a tip later,” Angela replied suggestively leaning up on her toes to kiss him.

“Mmm…you do make it sound so very tempting,” Nick mouthed taking a step back before turning to Martha and wiggling his finger at her, “I am so getting a raise after this one Martha.”

“We’ll see how much of a rise you get out of the crowd and if you’re as good as I think you are, then we’ll talk about it later,” Martha replied clapping her hands together.

“Oh he’s as good as he looks and then some,” Angela replied in a sultry tone, her eyes sweeping over Nick as if she could eat him alive right there and then.

“In that case, I’ll go cue up the music,” Martha decided scurrying off over towards the bar to alert the crowd to the newest form of entertainment.

“You’re so going to owe me for this one,” Nick added reaching out to pull Angela into his arms. He kissed her quickly before leaning in to tease his lips against the side of her neck. Feeling her warm skin against his touch, he placed a flirty kiss just beneath her earlobe, “I don’t see how this is going to get my mind off of what’s been going on.”

“When you’re taking it off, it’ll get your mind where it should be later tonight when we‘re alone again,” she whispered with a small sigh.

“In that case, consider this a prelude of things to come,” Nick tapped her nose before making his way over to the bar where Martha was now giving him a hearty introduction.

Angela laughed lightly watching him pull off the black cowboy hat that Martha had been wearing and place it on the top of his head. Leaning up against the wall, Angela watched the patrons by the bar lift their drinks off of the top of it while Nick took center stage so to speak. The room went quiet, all eyes on the man Angela had found herself completely intrigued with and as the short, pounding beats of the country song began to fill the bar, Angela watched Nick move stiffly on top of the counter. He seemed a bit unsettled as Martha hooted and whistled encouraging him further.

“Come on sweet stuff. Show us what you have,” Martha bellowed over the music as Angela moved forward.

“I can’t believe he’s doing this,” Angela couldn’t help but laugh knowing full well that she’d baited him into this, yet she wasn’t sure if he’d go for it.

A few women up front by the bar whistled and clapped their hands on top of the bar, while a couple others wiggled dollar bills at him frantically. Nick seemed to get more comfortable in his own skin moving around and dancing as Angela weaved through the crowd. Once she made her way up front, she caught his eyes over her and it was then that he began to unbutton his shirt. She watched with clear cut interest as it came open button by button until he’d finally shed it in a slamming movement causing the crowd to go into an uproar.

“He’s sure something, isn’t he?” Martha stepped in beside Angela nudging her in the ribs with obvious approval.

“Oh he’s something,” Angela laughed lightly as Nick continued to work the audience taking them to the point of no return with his well thought out movements. Even as the music shifted, he didn’t miss a beat and Angela had to admit herself that he looked sexy as hell dancing like that. He moved in towards her, pulling his hat off of his head before leaning forward to kiss her.

“Hold onto this,” he mouthed depositing the hat on top of her head before going back onto the center of the bar continuing to tempt and tantalize the crowd all the while making Angela feel like the luckiest woman in the world to be the one he was leaving with at the end of the night.


“Remind me again why we’re out,” Kevin spoke up over the loud music that surrounded him now that he, Blake and Seth were right smack in the center of the bustling activity at the sport’s bar Seth had suggested that they go out to for dinner.

“Because you’re a guest and I have absolutely nothing in the fridge to eat,” Seth shouted out over the music, a small smile pressing in over his lips, “I can’t let you spend the night with an empty stomach given how much you did in coming out of your way to help us in Atlantic City.”

“Hey, it was nothing,” Kevin shrugged his shoulders, his attention turning to Blake as she seemed to be slumped over in the booth, her face clearly showing signs that she was anywhere but with him and Seth as they took in the atmosphere. Sitting up straighter, Kevin decided to try to find a way to pick her up, “Of course now that I think of it, there is something that I’d like for payment.”

“What might that be?” Seth questioned taking a swig of his beer from the long neck bottle.

“A dance with Blake,” Kevin replied watching Blake’s head perk up a bit at his suggestion.

“What?” she blinked back finally returning to the conversation.

“I said I’d like a dance with you,” Kevin motioned to the dance floor where there were people dancing to the country western song playing, “That is if you’re up for it.”

Blake exchanged glances with Seth before offering up an enthusiastic nod, “Sure, why not?”

“In that case little cuz,” Kevin began rising up from where he sat and offering his hand to Blake, “We’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be here,” Seth replied watching Kevin take Blake out for a dance.

While Seth had thought about doing the very same thing himself, he hadn’t wanted to make Kevin feel abandoned. Of course now that Seth watched Kevin twirl Blake around on the center of the dance floor, Seth realized that might’ve been all Blake needed to be cheered up for a little while.

Seth watched them for a minute or so, all the while sipping his drink as he wondered how in the hell he was going to find a way to get the joke of a marriage to Valerie done and over with. Sure, he’d planned on calling Grady and getting his assistance in the situation, but at this point, well, at this point Seth was well aware of the kind of trouble that Valerie was going to give him about this. He knew damned well that Valerie wasn’t even remotely close to being in love with him, but now that he’d found happiness in his life, he was certain she wasn’t going to stop making him miserable if she could help it.

“Just another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into,” he mouthed to himself with a groan. He took another sip of his drink realizing that while most people could be civil and talk about things, that wouldn’t be the case with Valerie. Given the display she put on at Seth’s almost wedding to Blake, he was sure that she was only going to add more of her trademark Valerie drama that Seth had really hoped he’d never have to deal with again in his life.

“If only you didn’t get drunk that night,” he heard an inner voice inside his head chastising him. He lifted the bottle to his lips again hearing that same phrase echo in his head and immediately he set his beer down on the table top. Okay so maybe drinking wasn’t such a smart idea.

“Hey handsome,” Seth heard a voice whisper in the back of his ear as hands clamped in over his eyes from behind. He felt the softness of fingers gently pressing in over his eyes and in that moment anger flared through him.

“Don’t you get a hint? I said leave me alone,” Seth sneered pushing the hands away from him. He spun around ready to lash out at Valerie, but instead he found himself face to face with one of the last people he’d expected to see. “Trisha?”

“Well hello to you too,” Trisha Merhan wrinkled her nose at him. She shook her head before letting out a small groan, “And here I thought you’d be happy to see me, not so damned rude.”

“I am happy to see you. I just thought that you were someone else…” he began apologetically.

“Obviously,” she rolled her eyes before letting out a small shudder, “and judging by your reaction to her, I’d imagine that I’m very lucky not to be here.”

“Very lucky indeed,” Seth nodded rising up from his chair to offer up a big bear hug, “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I was having a good time before you tried to give me a verbal lashing, but since you’re playing nice now,” she smiled up at him with a hint of laughter in her voice, “I guess things are getting better after all.”

“Better as in you’re hoping to sweet talk me enough that I’ll forget what I asked you in what you’re doing here?” he threw back at her pointedly.

“Gees Seth,” she groaned up at him, “you’d think that you’d forget for like five minutes that you’ve always treated me like your kid sister there instead of my being Ria’s sister.”

“Ria is like a sister to me and so are you,” he reminded her pointedly, “and besides last I heard you were out west studying for that Bachelor’s degree.”

“Yeah and um, they do have this thing called vacation, remember?” she threw back at him with a frown, “Or are you finally too old to remember what it was like being young?”

“I’m not too old to remember quite well what kind of trouble it was I got into when I was your age, so you may as well fess up and get it off your chest before I have to hunt the guy down that you’re with,” Seth folded his arms in front of his chest giving her a firm stare.

“You know you so suck,” she rolled her eyes at him, “and for the record I am twenty-one after all.”

“Yeah and I remember you at sixteen which means the world is in for big trouble now that you can legally get into these places,” he shook his head at her, “In fact, what would Ria think?”

“Who cares?” she grumbled before puffing her chest out and standing taller, “I’m not a little girl anymore and in case you haven’t noticed I’m not anything like my sister.”

“That’s a pity because I happen to think the world of your sister,” he shrugged his shoulders.

“Yeah, well you didn’t think enough to date her, now did you?” she tossed back at him with a sarcastic smirk. She stepped forward placing her finger over the center of his chest in an obvious sultry attempt, “I mean sure, she’s nice enough but she never did it for you in that department, did she?”

“And neither did you Trisha, so you may as well save the charms for the loser you brought here tonight,” Seth scanned the bar for a long moment, “Where is he?”

“He’s outside,” she replied with a small scowl, “We were on our way out when I spotted you all by your lonesome over here.”

“I see,” he nodded, “So you told him to run while you said hello.”

“Pretty much,” she laughed up at him, “because while I might be considered crazy at times, I’m not insane enough to ruin a good thing by having you give my date the third degree.”

“Maybe next time then,” he suggested catching another scathing look from him.

“You wish,” she shook her head in response, “besides don’t you have a date of your own to bother or something? Ria told mom that you’d gone and gotten yourself engaged.”

“That I have,” Seth remarked proudly before motioning out to the dance floor, “You see that beautiful blonde out there dancing with Kevin?”

“Kevin’s here? Wow, I didn‘t realize you had him with you. Then I must say hello…” she repeated with a small squeal as her eyes immediately went beyond Blake. She started to step out onto the dance floor ready to claim Kevin, but Seth caught her arm.

“What about your date?” he questioned eyeing her intently.

“To hell with my date,” Trisha wrinkled her nose, “There’s no way in hell I’m leaving this place without saying hello to Kevin.”

“Big surprise there,” Seth released her with a small laugh. Leaning in closer to whisper in her ear he offered a few words of encouragement, “but remember he’s even older than I am there.”

“And smarter hopefully,” Trisha stood taller, tossing her long, dark hair over her shoulder before making a beeline to the center of the dance floor in an attempt to capture Kevin’s attention. She spotted him dipping Blake and seconds later she reached out to tap on his arm.

“May I cut in?” she questioned in a low, sexy voice doing her best to bat her eyelashes at him. She smacked her lips together, tasting the cherry vanilla of her lip gloss and in that moment when Kevin turned to face her, she felt her heart skip a beat.

“Trisha?” Kevin’s eyes widened in surprise immediately registering the woman’s face before him. Without another word, he scooped her up into his arms hugging her tightly.

“I take it you two know one another,” Blake couldn’t help but note seeing the way the petite woman in Kevin’s arms seemed to squeeze him as if she’d never let go.

“I tried to stop her from making a scene,” Seth announced stepping in behind Blake and curling his arms around her waist to draw her nearer to him, “but unfortunately that’s never in the cards for Trisha.”

“Bite me Seth,” Trisha stuck her tongue out at him before looking to Kevin again, “God, it’s so good to see you. How long have you been in town?”

“A couple of days. What about you? I hear you’re going for that master’s degree soon. Thinking about being a doctor like Ria?” Kevin asked still keeping his arms around her.

“Are you kidding? I’d like to be able to enjoy my youth instead of slaving away in medical school. That’s so not my scene,” Trisha blurted out enthusiastically before Blake cleared her throat as she realized she was the only outsider in this scene.

“Oh right,” Seth cleared his throat as well before his gaze lingered between Blake and Trisha, “Blake, this is Trisha Merhan, Ria’s little sister and Trisha, this is Blake Ashford, the love of my life.”

“So you’re the lucky one to finally snag Seth,” Trisha offered her hand to Blake, “You have no idea how many girls are going to be so envious of you.”

“Oh believe me I know,” Blake replied feeling Seth’s arms still around her as she thought to the things Valerie was trying to pull to keep them apart, “and they’re going to have to stay jealous because there’s no way I’m ever letting him go.”

“Smart girl,” Trisha nodded approvingly before looking to Kevin again, “So can I buy you a drink?”

“Hey, wait a second, are you even old enough to be in here?” Kevin tipped his head to the side and giving her a long once over.

“I’m older than you remember,” she stepped in closer to him, offering another flirty bat of her eyelashes, “So what do you say?”

“I say that you are most certainly trouble,” Kevin couldn’t help but laugh at her obvious attempts to entice him.

“Trouble that has a date waiting for her,” Seth pointed out leaning in closer to Trisha, “I’m sure he’s getting lonely in the car.”

“So let him wait,” Trisha enfolded her arm in Kevin’s, “because I’m going to buy Adonis a drink and show him just how little I’m not these days.”

With those words, she urged Kevin towards the bar again while leaving Blake and Seth to watch Trisha’s hopeful retreat with Kevin.

“She’s sure not shy, is she?” Blake noted with a small smile.

“Not at all,” Seth shook his head before spinning her in his arms, “but unfortunately she’s going to find out the hard way that Kevin is much too much of a good guy to see her as anything other than the kid he used to play hopscotch with.”

“She doesn’t seem to think so,” Blake remarked catching the beginnings of Trisha’s flirting with Kevin once they were standing near the bar. “She’s sure nothing like Ria, is she?”

“They’re like night and day, but Trisha is a good kid--that is once she quits with the flirting routine,” he shrugged spinning her in closer to him as they moved to the music.

“Think she’ll lighten up on Kevin soon there?” Blake questioned with wide eyes, her body moving to the music with him.

“Sure and if she doesn’t, well Kevin’s a big boy,” Seth decided before leaning in to kiss her, “Let them have their fun because right about now I’m interested in what’s happening right here, right now.”

“Funny thing,” Blake eased her arms around Seth’s neck, “so am I.”

“Good. I’m glad to see we’re on the same page,” Seth mouthed leaning in to hold her tighter yet as he vowed to take the time to enjoy this alone time with Blake.


“Can you believe that?” Kellen questioned in disgust as they walked out of the room where the new Star Wars movie had just ended. “That was such a good movie, but it made no sense at the ending.”

“What do you mean by that?” Jenna wondered seeing him shrug. “You mean how he became Darth?”

“No, I mean that woman believed she had nothing left to look forward to in the future? I don‘t see how anyone could think that way,” Kellen shook his head, “I think someone should have smacked her because when you have children in your life, there is nothing more that you should fight for. They should be your number one priority, not some loser who is pushed into second place in your life. They should always come first even above your own grief and emotion.”

“I have to agree with him,” Kipp pointed out with a small nod, “Her babies should be important enough for her push the pain of the betrayal behind her.”

“I see what you mean,” Hart agreed before wrapping his arm around Jenna’s shoulder tightly.

“If I do recall, they also rewrote some of the history, didn’t they?” Jenna questioned seeing Kellen nod.

“I hate when they do that,” Kellen sighed with a frown across his features, “It just makes the movie seem less important.”

“It was still a good movie,” Kipp declared as the group nodded, “All the guys looked really bad in that though.”

“I know, they are usually pretty good looking guys,” Kellen stated seeing Jenna nod.

“I know, Obi Wan just doesn’t look good like that,” Jenna agreed as Hart began to point towards something. “What in the world are you pointing out?”

“Look, you can take a picture with Darth,” Hart answered seeing her look around until she finally saw it.

“Oh cool,” Jenna smiled before feeling Kellen touch her shoulder gently.

“Why don’t we go get a picture of the whole group together,” Kellen offered with a wiggle of his eyebrows seeing Jenna shrug, “It can’t be that bad.”

“I don’t know if Sam and Wayne would want to do something like that,” Jenna thought of something before Kellen cut her off.

“Guys, do you mind if we go and take a picture with all of us together?” Kellen questioned seeing Wayne and Sam shake their heads.

“I think that would be a good idea,” Sam pointed out with a small smile, “It would be cool.”

“Yeah, that would be cool,” Wayne agreed seeing Kellen nod, “I think we should.”

“Come on Jenna,” Kipp laughed grabbing her arm gently, “Darth won’t bite you. He might get you with his light saber, but he wont bite. He can’t bite through his helmet, so come on.”

“Okay,” Jenna agreed as the group began to walk towards the crowd.

“Would you look at this,” Kellen laughed wrapping his arm around Kipp’s shoulder, “We’re like a big, happy family. I mean, we are all like a family on the movie.”

“I knew what you meant,” Kipp smiled as they got in line, “This will be a keeper.”

“That it will,” Kellen agreed looking at the group of people, “We have a really great group of people here.”


“You know,” Kyle took in a deep breath as he pulled the blanket tighter to his body, “I think I am happy that we went with Seth and Blake. Some pretty good things wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t go.”

“Pretty good?” she questioned with a small laugh, running her fingers along his bare chest. “I can only guess what you are talking about.”

“I know,” Kyle took in a deep breath, pulling her closer to him, “I am a very hard man to figure out.”

“Right,” she rolled her eyes before feeling his lips cover hers, “I never get tired of you kissing me.”

“Good,” Kyle whispered running his hand along her arm gently, “Because I am going to be doing it all the time.”

“Sounds good,” she smiled snuggling in closer to him, “So, have you called Grady lately, to see what’s up?”

“No,” Kyle shook his head as a small sigh escaped his lips, “I have been with you the whole time. Which is where I want to be. Anyways, if he tries calling my cell phone…I don’t think I am going to be answering it anytime soon.”

“I still can’t believe you did that,” she laughed seeing him shrug, “I liked that phone.”

“I can always get a new one,” he pointed out with a smile, “Anyways, I can believe I did it because I would do anything for you.”

“Anything?” she questioned, raising her eyebrow seeing him nod before the phone began to ring, “Hold that thought.”

“Okay,” he laughed as she leaned over him picking up the phone, “Hello.”

“Where have you been?” Susan questioned as Sarah rolled her eyes in disgust. “I have been calling you.”

“I noticed,” Sarah laughed as Kyle’s lips began to travel up her neck slowly.

“Well, can I talk to Kyle?” Susan questioned with a deep sigh as Sarah shook her head.

“No, you can’t,” Sarah answered as Kyle’s lips brushed up against hers, “His mouth I think is too preoccupied to talk right now.”

Kyle laughed out hearing her say that as Sarah motioned him to be quiet.

“Funny,” Susan scowled spinning her finger around the cord, “Now in all seriousness, can I talk to him?”

“I was being serious,” Sarah declared seeing Kyle smile before kissing her once more, his tongue brushing up against hers.

“What is going on with him anyways that won’t allow him to talk?” Susan questioned with a frown.

“Well, let’s just say its something I am getting that you never will,” Sarah stated with a small laugh, “Now if you will, go get a life Susan. Kyle wants nothing to do with you.”

Before Susan could say anything else, Sarah hung up the phone making Kyle laugh out even more.

“That was great,” Kyle shook his head slowly before seeing her shrug, “My mouth is a little busy right now.”

“Yep,” she nodded with a small smile, “Your lips are all mine right now.”

“That’s all I want them to be right now anyways,” he winked before pulling her tightly to his body, “I want to always be yours and nothing more.”

“Good,” Sarah smiled nibbling on his bottom lip gently, “Because I wont let you be with anyone else.”

“I never will be,” Kyle promised before kissing her gently, “Now getting Susan out of our mind, how about we go back to what we were doing.”

“Sounds great,” she smiled as she thought to herself. Susan really was crazy.


“So you see, we have been fighting over his son,” Shannon finished her story seeing Cori nod slowly.

“So how do you feel now?” Cori questioned seeing Shannon shrug. “Did you find your answer?”

“Well, I kind of feel the same,” Shannon answered with a frown, “I don’t think I found an answer yet.”

“Well, let me ask the question,” Diego offered up seeing Shannon nod slowly.

“Okay,” Shannon agreed seeing Cori sit back in her seat and wrap her arm around Diego’s arm.

“Do you think that Don loves you?” Diego questioned, a small sigh escaping his lips.

“I know Don loves me,” Shannon answered nodding slowly, “He has made that very clear, but I don’t know why he feels the way he does about me.”

“Did you ever ask him?” Diego wondered seeing her shrug. “Did you two ever just sit down and have a talk?”

“Well, we never really did talk,” Shannon remembered seeing him nod slowly. “I just don’t think he loves me, truly.”

“Believe me,” Cori began with small groan, “When a guy tells you over and over again that he loves you…that usually means he really does. And if I were you, I would feel lucky to have him because most men aren’t like that.”

“Then why don’t I feel lucky?” Shannon questioned seeing Cori shrug and think of what to say.

“Maybe you are just afraid to love someone,” Cori pointed out seeing Shannon quickly shake her head.

“Don said the same exact thing,” Shannon replied before taking in a deep breath, “That’s not true.”

“Well, you keep denying it so maybe it is,” Cori suggested, hearing Shannon go silent. “You should go try and talk to him. That would be the best thing to do.”

“I can’t do that,” Shannon shook her head as Cori sighed deeply.

“Why not?” Diego questioned with a frown. “I know Don would give you some time to talk.”

“I know he would too,” Shannon agreed before frowning, “I just don’t know where he is at this point.”

“Well, maybe you should call him,” he offered up seeing Shannon shake her head.

“I’ve tried that,” Shannon replied beginning to talk once more. “I just don’t understand this.”

Diego looked down at Cori, seeing her roll her eyes as he laughed under his breath. This was obviously going to be a long night.


“Thanks for meeting me man,” Don smiled as tapped his fingers along the table they were sitting at the bar they agreed to meet up at, “I just need to talk to some right now.”

“No problem buddy,” Brant sighed with a small shrug, “Anything for you. So, what is it you wanted to talk about?”

“Well, it’s about Shannon,” Don answered hearing Brant laugh out, “What? What’s so funny?”

“You are kidding right?” Brant questioned with a deep laugh seeing the look on Don’s face. “You’re not?”

“No, I’m not,” Don replied with a slight frown, “I don’t know why I am attached to her man, but I am. I think I am in love with her Brant.”

“Oh great,” Brant rolled his eyes before looking towards Don, “I told you not to get close to her man.”

“Like I can stop myself from falling in love,” Don frowned seeing Brant nod.

“You could have,” Brant pointed out seeing Don glare up at him, “I told you she was all trouble.”

“Well, coming from you,” Don began with a small frown, “Sometimes you overreact.”

“Well, let me tell you now,” Brant started as he ran his hand through his short hair, “The only thing that Shannon wants is what she can get from inside your pants and that my friend would be a good screw. And by the look on your face, I would assume that’s what has happened so far.”

“Well,” Don thought of something to get off the subject, “I just want to know why she won’t love me. I love her, but she just doesn’t love me.”

“That’s the thing about that woman,” Brant hit Don’s shoulder lightly, “She doesn’t attach to anyone or anything. It would be a miracle if Shannon fell for someone.”

“Which means she is never going to love me?” Don questioned seeing Brant shrug. “Well, at least in this lifetime anyways.”

“What has you so upset over her anyways?” Brant wondered looking around the bar. “I mean, you could be with other women if you wanted to. I mean look around here, I bet there isn’t one of these woman that wouldn’t want a piece of you.”

“Gee when you put it that way Brant,” Don rolled his eyes at him.

“Don I’m being serious. You need to forget about Shannon and move on. Any lady here would be happy to have you with her. You’re a great catch and most women would love to find herself in good graces with a doctor like you,” Brant urged him on further, “Women have a thing for a man of power and authority.”

“I don’t know,” Don frowned, taking a sip from his beer, “None of them are really as good as Shannon. I really did love her.”

“What did she do to upset you so much?” Brant questioned with a small frown. “I haven’t seen you look so bad in a long time and quite frankly, I don’t like you looking like this.”

“It’s just, I think she didn’t want to be with me anymore when she found out about Matt,” Don informed Brant seeing him nod slowly.

“So she left you because you have a kid,” Brant took in the information before shaking his head, “What a bitch.”

“Don’t call her that,” Don sighed seeing Brant shrug, “I don’t think anyone should be called that.”

“I wouldn’t like someone who wouldn’t accept Matt,” Brant pointed out seeing Don nod, “I am his godfather and he is the best kid around. Anyone would be lucky to have him.”

“You’re right, he is the best,” Don agreed before taking another sip from his drink. His mind was still pondering what he was going to do about Shannon. He still wanted to be with her, but he loved Matt more than anything in this world. More than her and nothing was going to change that.

“Listen man,” Brant took in a deep breath as Don looked up at him, “If Shannon can’t be what you need, then just forget about her. She doesn’t deserve you if she treats you like that anyways.”

“Thanks Brant. You might be onto something,” Don grinned taking in all the information Brant had just told him. Brant was right, if she couldn’t be what he needs, he should just forget her and that’s what he was going to do.


“Feeling any better,” Grady questioned walking out into the living room with a tray in hand.

“Yeah, I’m fine now,” Avery nodded sitting up straighter to see what it was he was bringing with him, “What’s that?”

“My alternative to you having to deal with my coffee,” he explained setting the tray down on the coffee table before her to reveal two glasses of milk and a plate of Oreo cookies. “You still like these don’t you?”

“Are they double stuff?” she questioned already reaching for one before waiting for an answer. She popped one into her mouth and made a small, pleased sound.

“But of course,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh at her impatience, “as if you needed to ask.”

“I was just making sure,” she replied with a bite still in her mouth. Embarrassed she brought her hand up over her mouth to cover her sloppy chewing before Grady let out a laugh of his own.

“How could I forget when you’re so amusing with the way you eat them,” Grady noted swiping a cookie for himself. He took a seat on the couch beside her, “Although I don’t quite recall you just diving in for one like that. Usually there’s this whole intense scrutiny process you work your way through.”

“There is not,” Avery glared at him before reaching for another cookie. She pulled the top off of it before setting it back down on the tray. Raising the bottom cream covered cookie to her lips she took a first lick.

“Yep, there’s the Avery I know and love,” Grady laughed again seeing the way that she licked at the cookie in an attempt to finish off the filling.

“Hey, what can I say? I have a system,” Avery shrugged not bothering to argue about it before she took the now bare cookie and placed it on top of the other one. She crunched both pieces together before raising it to her mouth to take a bite.

“So I’ve noticed,” he laughed lightly reaching for another cookie of his own.

“Oh like you don’t,” she shook her head at him, “So tell me where’s the marshmallow cream?”

“What?” Grady gave her a sideways look, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“The hell you don’t,” she wiggled her finger at him before pointing, “It’s in your pocket, isn’t it?”

“Now why would it be in my…” Grady started to protest only to feel her hand reach out across his shirt and into his pocket. Seconds later she held up the small container of marshmallow cream that he’d brought with him.

“You’re such a horrible liar,” she wrinkled her nose at him before setting the jar on top of the table, “I knew you couldn’t give that one up.”

“And I knew it was only a matter of time before you were going to start seeking it out,” Grady watched her pop the lid off of the top of the jar, “You always had it in you to steal my marshmallow cream.”

“I don’t see it as stealing. I see it as sharing,” she insisted sticking her tongue out at him before she held her hand out expectantly, “Now I know your mother taught you more manners than that.”

“Okay, so maybe she did,” Grady reached into his pocket again to pull out the spoon he’d had as well, “but can I help it if I like teasing you?”

“Well you could, but I don’t see you ever wanting to,” she swiped the spoon from him before dipping it into the thick, white cream, “You always did thrive on annoying me.”

“And you enjoyed making it too damn easy for me to do so,” he continued watching her take the cookies that she’d previously smashed together. She pulled them apart and began to fill them with marshmallow cream.

“Believe me I never tried to make it easy for you. You just didn’t know when to let up,” Avery shot a glare at him before motioning to the tray of cookies again, “Well are you going to just sit there or eat some?”

“I’m working on it,” Grady shrugged his shoulders before pulling a cookie up off of the tray. He peeled it apart setting one half of the cookie down before lifting the other half to his lips.

“Sure you are,” Avery shook her head at him before dumping a spoonful of marshmallow cream on top of the discarded cookie. She glanced up at him watching him deposit the other half of the cookie into his mouth. “Ugh how can you go and do that?”

“Do what?” he asked reaching for the marshmallow topped other half of his cookie.

“Do that,” she motioned to the half of the cookie he was about to eat, “You’re supposed to get the cream off the other half and then put them together again.”

“No, I eat one half and have one kind of treat, then get another one by doing it this way,” Grady chomped down on the cookie. He continued to speak to her even with cookies in his mouth, “and if you weren’t so obsessive-compulsive you’d let loose and do the same thing, but no you have to be so damned orderly all the time.”

“I do not,” Avery argued with him peeling apart another cookie and lifting the cream filled side to her lips. Mimicking Grady’s cookie eating habits, she swallowed down that piece before taking the other marshmallow topped cookie that Grady had created for her. Opening her mouth wide she plopped the whole cookie into her mouth biting it quickly before swallowing. “See I did it.”

“And you hated every minute of it,” he nudged her ribs, “Let’s face it Avery, you can’t deal with getting messy.”

“I can too,” she protested shooting a glare at him.

“You cannot,” he shook his head at her while leaning back on the couch, “In all the years that I’ve known you, you’ve always been prim and proper. You’ve never learned how to let loose.”

“You’re so wrong,” she argued, “that just shows how much you don’t know about me.”

“Don’t know about you?” he turned his head to the side to look at her, “Avery, from the first time I met you, you had to be perfectly proper with your pigtails in your hair down to the last barrette. Nothing was ever out of place. You always looked like the kid who leapt out of the magazine advertisements.”

“And you never had any problems teasing me about that, did you?” Avery questioned bringing her legs up underneath her as she turned to face him, “You just loved making my life miserable because I tried to do things right.”

“There was nothing wrong with doing things right, but all the time,” he winkled his nose at her before motioning to the cookies on the table, “well it just makes for a very boring life.”

“I am not boring,” she argued pulling the plate of cookies up into her lap. She grabbed the marshmallow cream and handed it to him before continuing to work on the cookies, “I am so far from boring that you can’t even begin to see how very wrong you are.”

“Yeah right,” he laughed lightly before sitting up straighter, “then tell me what was the most wild and crazy thing you ever did?”

“Well I…” Avery started to defend herself.

“Without Russ around,” he cut her off abruptly, “because that doesn’t count.”

“And why the hell not?” she curled her lip in a pout.

“Because I know my brother is wild and crazy about you, so none of the rules apply with him on the scene,” Grady wiggled his brow at her daring her to disprove his theory, “So what is it Avery? What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

“You first since you think you’re Mister Excitement,” she tossed a marshmallow topped cookie at him, “You tell me all that you’ve done that makes you so much more of an expert on fun than I am.”

“Avery, I could tell you plenty, but you’re still not old enough to hear half of it,” he teased with a small laugh.

“Oh now you’re just making excuses,” she glared over at him, “because we both know that I’m plenty old enough to hear it.”

“Yes, you most certainly are,” Grady replied in an appreciative tone before his eyes swept over her.

Avery shifted on the couch a bit before clearing her throat again, “Well since you’re being all secretive or rather needing time to think up a good story, I’ll tell you mine.”

“Remember no Russ involved,” he handed her over a cookie, “because that doesn’t count.”

“Oh I know already,” she waved her hand at him dismissively before thinking it over for a long moment. “Well I cheated on a test once…”

“Oh like that’s fun,” Grady rolled his eyes at her, “Please that’s nothing. If that’s the height of your crazy experience, then you are every bit as doomed as I said you were.”

“Fine, then what about this one,” she sat up straighter making herself more comfortable on the couch, “One time when I was in college, I was pledging for my sorority and as you know when you’re new in a sorority you have to do certain things--things that you wouldn’t normally do on a day to day basis.”

“Right,” he nodded encouraging her to go on.

“Well, there was this one night that we were visiting this one fraternity house and well a lot of the girls had to flirt with the fraternity brothers there--you know really get into it with them and take things a little too far if you catch my drift,” she threw out at him knowingly, “but I wasn’t really on the up and up about all that fooling around with a random stranger there, so I opted to try something else instead.”

“Such as,” he leaned forward dropping some marshmallow on a cookie before handing it to her.

“Such as a lingerie pillow fight,” she replied lowering her voice a bit as his eyes widened, “You know like they do on television sometimes in those wrestling matches you might see.”

“Oh I know what a lingerie pillow fight is,” he nodded encouragingly, “but somehow I don’t quite see you in that kind of scenario.”

“Well I was,” Avery continued to inform him, “and I had this little black and red lacy two piece number which was pretty much next to nothing. My opponent had this little white and pink thing with lots of bows and it got pretty nasty. There was this pit of Jell-O and…”

“Stop,” Grady held his hand up in the air clearing his throat uneasily, “I think I’ve heard more than enough.”

“I thought you wanted to hear about the craziest thing I’ve ever done since you say I’m a total prim and proper bore,” Avery threw his words back at him.

“I did and I do, but something tells me this is one story that not even Russ has heard and I don’t think it’s really fair for me to be sharing in the visuals when…” Grady began to explain shifting on the couch a bit uneasily.

“When what?” she leaned back against the back pillows on the couch, “Did you honestly think I wouldn’t tell Russ about something like that?”

“You mean you did?” his jaw practically dropped in astonishment.

“He was my husband and the love of my life. Do you really believe I wouldn’t tell him about something like that,” Avery threw out at him once again.

“Well I just…I mean it just…” Grady stammered a bit as images of Avery in that kind of situation had him suddenly very hot and bothered which was for damn certain something he’d never, ever wanted to revisit again. He reached for his milk on the table top taking a long swig of it, “I guess I was just surprised to hear that from you.”

“Yeah, well as you can see I’m not such a prude after all,” she stuck her tongue out at him, “Even if you were expecting a lot less from me.”

“Yeah well, what can I say,” he shrugged his shoulders, “I have no doubt in my mind that those fraternity brothers could thank my brother for your making such a bold move like that.”

“Probably,” she confessed with a small smile, “because I wasn’t about to sleep with any of them especially knowing that Russ was the only man I wanted.”

“Yeah, well good for you,” Grady replied encouragingly before taking a drink of his milk once again, “Russ would’ve been proud.”

“I’d like to think so,” she nodded before swatting at his arm lightly, “So now what about you?”

“What about me?” he asked blankly.

“You had me tell you about the craziest thing I’ve ever done, so why don’t you tell me yours?” she suggested popping a cookie into her mouth.

“I married Susan. That should speak for itself,” he threw back with an ironic chuckle.

“That’s not what I’m talking about Grady and you know it,” she swatted at his shoulder gently before throwing out a firm expression, “Come on. Fess up.”

“Oh alright,” he shook his head at her, “I don’t know why I’m even bothering telling you about this.”

“Because you like me and because if I wasn’t here right now you’d be worried out of your mind thinking of all sorts of ways to get into trouble,” Avery added with a sideways glance.

“I think having you here is turning out to be lots of trouble for me,” Grady revealed with a small sigh.

“Even so, fess up. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done Grady Aaron Denton?” she challenged with a wiggle of her brow.

“Oh, so now we’re into middle names. I know you mean business now,” he laughed at her attempt at authority.

“Come on. Quit stalling,” she reached for a throw pillow swatting it at him.

“Oh alright,” Grady caught the pillow before she could hit him again, “there was this one time in college…”

“But of course. It’s the place where most youth are corrupted,” she teased with a small giggle.

“Do you want to hear this or not?” he glared at her.

“Please go on,” Avery waved her hand at him encouragingly, “Tell me your deepest, darkest secret…”

“Honey if I told you that I’d have to kill you,” he leaned forward his green eyes gazing into her, “so you’ll just have to settle for one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.”

“Well if I must,” she sighed leaning back again and waving her hand at him to start talking.

“Okay, well, when I first started college--my freshman year, I was in this psychology class and…” he paused tilting his head to read her expression, “You don’t really want to hear this do you?”

“Start talking Grady,” she picked up another throw pillow ready to launch it at him if he didn’t comply to her request.

“Okay okay. I was in this psychology class. Human sexuality to be exact,” he confessed with a small smile, “and there was this T.A. and she was hot. When I say hot I’m talking H-O-T and there was just something about her. All semester long I kept thinking to myself what it would be like to get her into bed…”

“Oh gee, that’s romantic,” she rolled her eyes at him, “Well put Grady.”

“What? It’s the truth,” he threw his hands up in the air defensively, “All men are thinking about ways to bed a beautiful woman and if they aren’t, well they’re either gay or they are lying about it. I mean it’s just the way things are.”

“For you maybe,” she groaned inwardly.

“Oh come on, you have to admit yourself that my brother always went into an immediate state of arousal when you were around,” he threw back at her, “and don’t even try to tell me he didn’t because we both know that you’d be lying.”

“Contrary to your belief Grady, not everything is about sex,” she frowned at him holding the pillow to her chest.

“Maybe not so much outwardly these days, but when you’re younger you can’t help but show it. As men get more mature, they just like to be more subtle about it. Face it Avery, there’s not a man in the world who doesn’t at least once think about the ways in which they’d like to get a beautiful woman alone in a room with them for an hour or so.”

“That is so sexist and yet so entirely you,” she rolled her eyes at him, “You’re such a dog.”

“No I’m honest and that blunt honesty is something that most people can’t stand. Hell, you can’t tell me that hasn’t happened to you because I’m sure it has,” he tossed out at her.

“No way. Not a chance,” she shook her head at him.

“Liar!” he accused.

“It’s the truth,” she argued further, “Just because that’s how the world works with you, doesn’t mean everyone else is the same way.”

“Right and you’re going to tell me that you’ve never found yourself sitting with an acquaintance or a co-worker and you’ve never wondered what he’d be like in bed,” he challenged watching the color rise over her features, “See I told you that you did.”

“I did not,” she insisted with a pout before throwing his words back at him, “though if we go by that theory, then you’re saying that every woman you meet is a potential candidate for your fantasies as in the back of your mind you’re undressing them and imagining what they’d be like in bed.”

“In theory, yeah that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he nodded without an afterthought, “All men are like that.”

“So then right now I could be sitting here with you and you could be wondering what kind of bedmate I’d make then, huh?” she arched a curious brow watching color rise in his cheeks. Her jaw dropped in horror, “Oh my God you are, aren’t you?”

“Not exactly,” he cleared his throat uneasily, “because I don’t think of you like that…”

“But you are, aren’t you? When I started telling you about that lingerie pillow fight, it got you thinking about…” she gasped in astonishment.

“Hey, I’m not going to even bother to deny it. Yeah I was thinking about it imagining what you’d be like in that particular situation and truth be told, I think it was probably sexy as all hell,” he blurted out feeling immediate embarrassment at his words. “I mean…”

“Yeah, I know what you meant,” she bit down on her lip in an attempt to keep things relaxed between them, “According to your theory any woman in that situation would be an instant turn on for you.”

“Exactly, and that’s my point,” he smiled proudly, “See now you’ve got it.”

“So if say Susan was in that situation?” she challenged with a wicked smirk.

“That would be enough to keep me from thinking about sex for a very long time,” he groaned inwardly dropping his head back onto the couch, “See there you go again ruining a perfectly good moment.”

“What can I say I’m a bit of a buzz kill,” she joked tossing the pillow at him once again, “Besides I know how your story was going to end. You wound up nailing the T.A. and getting an A in the class, right?”

“How did you know?” Grady pulled his head up to see the way she was looking at him.

“You aren’t as secretive as you think you are,” she replied cryptically moving in for another Oreo.

“Russ told you, didn’t he?” Grady questioned eyeing her intently.

“Kyle did,” Avery plopped the cookie into her mouth once again, “He was completely horrified at first to find you two together since she was his T.A. as well, but once he got an A as well he was rather enthusiastic about it.”

“It figures,” Grady shook his head, “Leave it to Kyle to go in and say something about a perfectly good moment in time.”

“For you maybe. For Kyle, well I must say I can’t blame him for wanting to get out of school and that dorm room as soon as possible,” Avery teased throwing a cookie at him.

“Ha ha very funny,” he picked up another cookie and chucked it back at her, “You think you’re cute, don’t you?”

“I know I am,” she stuck her tongue out at him before tossing another cooking in his direction. This time he caught it with his hand and dropped it into his mouth.

“If you say so,” he remarked appearing disinterested.

“Hey, you’re the one who was thinking about what I’d be like in bed,” Avery threw out at him pointedly.

“Only because you were throwing your sexuality out on the table like that,” Grady argued with her, “when you mention lingerie pillow fight most men wouldn’t think about anything but…”

“Yeah there you go again being a sexist. You always have to assume what just because a woman is comfortable in her own skin that she’s somehow throwing her sexuality out at you,” she rolled her eyes at his remark, “You know that kind of thinking is so archaic and…”

“Oh would you just shut up Avery,” he pulled cookie up off of the plate and shoved it into her mouth mid-sentence. “You always have to make more of an issue of things then they really are.”

“You’re the one who started it,” she mumbled behind cookie-coated words.

“Even so I don’t think it’s going to help us out of this situation now is it,” Grady sighed thinking back to what they hadn’t accomplished over at Cameron’s place, “We can’t just throw sexuality out on the table and get Cameron talking about what he did to Jade, can we?”

“Maybe we can,” Avery sat up once again, “I mean with the way that guy looked at me earlier. Maybe there’s a chance that, well that, we could test your theory and see how it works on Cameron.”

“What do you mean?” he asked watching her face light up with an obvious idea.

“Well you said it yourself the way that man looked at me and behaved like he knew me was something that clearly indicates Cameron must be close to someone that must look a little bit like me,” she continued to explain, “When he saw me at the police station that day he appeared to be shell-shocked and maybe just maybe there’s a reason behind it. At first I wasn’t sure what that could be, but if he knows someone who looks like me--even remotely close to what I look like, then maybe there’s a way we can use that to our advantage. Maybe I can pay him a visit and…”

“No way,” he shook his head at her, “there’s no way I’m going to put you out as bait for him. That’s not going to happen.”

“Grady, if it can help us find Jade, then who is it going to hurt? He’s in jail,” she threw back at him, “What is he going to do to me?”

“Avery, it’s just not a good idea and I’m sure that Brant would absolutely hate it if he even heard you thinking about it like this,” he frowned shaking his head at her.

“Since when do I let a man run my life?” Avery arched a curious brow, “Brant might be my husband, but he doesn’t control me. I make my own choices and decisions and…”

“And you almost got yourself killed the other day when you were on your own with a madman,” he argued.

“Bruce was different. It was in an uncontainable environment, but Cameron isn’t. If there’s a way that I can somehow manipulate him into giving up the information on where Jade is, why not at least try to go for it?”

“Because the man is a lunatic that’s why,” he reminded her bluntly.

“Lunatic or not, he’s no match for the feminine mystique…at least that’s what you’ve made apparently clear to me tonight,” she wiggled her brow at him suggestively, “I guarantee if I’m onto something here, then we might be one step closer to finding Jade.”

“Actually maybe…” Grady started thinking about the photo he’d found with Cameron and a woman that could clearly pass for a dead ringer of Avery. He contemplated sharing that piece of information with her--contemplated showing her that missing piece of the puzzle that he’d kept to himself thus far, but as he thought about everything else that was happening, he knew that might be pushing the envelope too far.

“I’m not going to let you stop me Grady. I’m going to find a way to wiggle the truth from Cameron whether you and Brant like it or not,” Avery finished defiantly as Grady realized that maybe she was onto something indeed. Maybe Avery paying Cameron a visit was the best thing for all of them. He just hoped that if and when it happened Avery was ready for whatever consequences could result from such a risky venture.


“He sure is something, isn’t he? Of course I was hoping he would keep going and take it all off, but I suppose that might‘ve been pushing the envelope too far.” Martha chuckled thinking back to Nick’s performance on the bar. Even now after the moment had passed, she could see that there were still eager customers hoping for a repeat performance. “He’s got charisma for sure. ”

“He’s got more than that,” Angela smiled proudly thinking of the man she’d grown rather fond of.

“So I take it you’ll be getting more of a sneak preview than what we were given with him up there,” Martha poked at her knowingly.

“I’d sure like to think so and then some,” Angela admitted a color rising in over her face.

“So I wasn’t wrong when I thought that you two had something going on,” Martha nodded seemingly unsurprised by what was going on between Nick and Angela, “You are one lucky gal.”

“Don’t I know it,” Angela mused with a proud grin thinking about all the ways she was going to remind Nick of how happy she was to have him in her life all over again when she felt a pair of arms snake around her waist pulling her backward. Immediately she felt the warmth of pure muscle behind her.

“Thanks for holding that for me,” Nick questioned pulling the hat off of Angela’s head and resting it over his own before he tipped down to kiss the back of her neck, “Miss me?”

“Immensely,” Angela mouthed turning around in his arms to face him. She slid her palms over his smooth chest up and over his shoulders before rising up on her toes to kiss him heatedly.

“Oh just what I like to see young love,” Martha squealed excitedly watching the two of them with one another for a moment. Her grin expanded as she thought of how long it had been since Angela had seemed even the slightest bit happy, yet Nick had changed all of that for her. They were really good for one another and Martha couldn‘t be happier.

“Well, I suppose I should leave you two alone to do…whatever,” Martha waved her hand at them ready to make her escape, but Nick pulled away from Angela and reached out to Martha.

“Actually, Martha, I was hoping I could have a word with you for a second,” Nick confessed with a sexy smile.

“Honey if it’s about a raise, you’ve more than got it,” Martha assured him with a small laugh.

“Actually it’s about something else,” he glanced over at Angela before holding his finger up, “Give me one second.”

“Sure,” she nodded watching him walk a few feet away with Martha beside him. She noticed he leaned in to whisper in her ear and while Angela was curious to know what they were talking about, she just stood patiently awaiting his arrival.

“You’re serious?” Martha questioned above the crowd, her face lighting up like a Christmas tree before she nodded eagerly. “You’ve got it sugar.”

“Be right back,” Nick promised over the music as he looked to Angela.

“Nick?” she spoke his name seeing him and Martha making their way over to the bar again. Curiously she couldn’t help but follow as she tried to figure out exactly what was going on.

“Excuse me ladies and gentlemen of the crowd,” Martha spoke into the microphone she’d had with her for the rare occasions like tonight, “but it seems that Nick would like to do an encore performance.”

The room was overcome with enthusiastic cheers as Martha handed the microphone over to Nick.

“Don’t get too excited because it’s not what you’re thinking,” Nick informed the crowd as he stood up straighter on top of the bar. “The truth to the matter is while I’ve had my fun pleasing all of you tonight with my little dance, there’s one special lady in the crowd that I’d like to make even happier. Now if she could come over here with me…”

Angela’s eyes widened in shock as Nick curled his finger at her. She stood frozen in her spot by the bar until she felt Martha nudging her through the crowd.

“Angela. Oh Angela,” Nick slurred a smile creeping in over the corners of his mouth, “Paging Dr. Meloni.”

“Go on sweetheart. He’s waiting for you,” Martha encouraged Angela to take another step forward.

“Come here you,” Nick leaned down to offer his hand out to Angela before he pulled her up onto the bar with him. He could see the color rising in her face, but in that moment he had to stay focused even if he knew all eyes were on them.

“Nick, what are you doing?” Angela mouthed in a pinched whisper feeling him take her hand and lead her to the center of the bar.

“Just trust me,” he replied giving her a look that made her heart melt. She nodded feeling him lead her wherever he wanted to go.

“Now everyone, I’d like you all to meet Dr. Meloni. I’m sure a great many of you know her already, but for those of you who don’t you’re truly missing out. Not only is she an amazing doctor, but an incredible woman as well. In fact, this beautiful lady beside me is the woman I love and while I put myself up here on the line once tonight, I have decided that there’s one more risk I need to take before this night is over.”

Angela watched Nick set the microphone on top of the bar before he got down on one knee and reached for her hand. Her eyes widened in astonishment as he placed a kiss on top of her palm.

“Angela, I know tonight was supposed to be about saying good-bye to the past and whatever comes with it. We both agreed to start thinking about the future--about our future and I realized that there’s no better way than to do just that by taking this leap of faith with one another,” he began his words laced with emotion as his green eyes looked into her, “When we met we were strangers to the world, but to each other, we’ve always felt something more--something deeper than either one of us could explain and that’s how I know that our being together is exactly where we should be. I’ve loved you from the moment I first laid my eyes upon you and in getting to know you--in getting to be close to you, that love has only grown exponentially. You are the first thing I think about in the morning when I wake up and the face that haunts my dreams at night which is why I’m certain that our starting a future with one another is the right thing for both of us.”

“Nick I…” Angela gulped watching as he took her hand in his.

“Marry me Angela,” he blurted out, his green eyes sparkling with that same temptation she’d found herself swept away by from the first time he looked at her.

“What?” she blinked back at him not sure if she was hearing this right.

“He asked you to marry him,” a voice in the crowd shouted over the silence that now surrounded them.

“If you don’t marry him, I sure as hell will,” another female voice piped in causing Nick to laugh lightly.

“Thanks for the offer,” he smiled out at the woman, “but right now the only one I want to share my life with is the woman standing before me. So what do you say Angela? Do you think we can just say to hell with the past and just go for it?”

Angela felt his fingers brush in against her palm, the weight of his words reaching down deep inside of her to a place where she’d kept herself closed off for so very long. Things were happening so very fast, yet there was something about being with him--something about the atmosphere and the moment that had her caught up in the romantic spell.

“Well, what do you say?” Nick wiggled his brow at her nervously awaiting an answer.

“I say,” she paused biting on her lip nervously before speaking up again, “Let’s go for it.”

“Really?” he questioned making sure he’d heard her correctly as she nodded.

“Yes really. Let’s get married!” she blurted out throwing her arms around him and kissing him as if she’d never stop. The crowd went into an uproar as their kiss continued and in that moment in time nothing could ever be more perfect than the promise of things yet to come.


...to be continued...