Episode 226

"I came over here to apologize for yelling at you last night--for acting like such a witch, but obviously I know why you did what you did." Trisha lashed out at Ria, hurt evident behind her eyes at what she saw before her. Trisha looked to Kevin seeing the surprise register behind his eyes as she stepped in closer to them, “And you! Where the hell do you get off doing this with her? I thought that you liked me. That you and I could…”

“Trisha, sweetie, I like you, but not in the way you were hoping,” Kevin began apologetically feeling guilt eating away at him at the look on Trisha’s face. He held the sheet close to him before he glanced over at Ria, who looked like she too was on the verge of tears.

“Trisha, Kevin and I didn’t plan this. We were just together and…” Ria stammered still not knowing what to say to her younger sister. While Ria had never, ever intended to break Trisha’s heart in doing what she did with Kevin, Ria could see that it was something that had happened--harder than she’d ever thought possible.

“Sisters don’t do this to each other. They support one another and try to encourage them to find happiness,” Trisha spoke up in an accusatory tone. “I could’ve had that if you wouldn’t have stepped in and did this. Ria, how could you?”

“Trisha, I can explain. If you’d just…” Ria begged of her attempting to get up off of the floor without losing her sheet as Trisha ran out of the room. “Trisha wait!”

Kevin watched the scene unfolding before him and in that moment he felt like he’d just stepped into a nightmare. He he’d been basking in the afterglow of one of the greatest lovemaking moments of his life, yet when Trisha had walked in all the rules changed. Bringing his sticky fingers through his damp, dark hair, Kevin let out a small groan.

“Well you really managed to mess this one up didn’t you Adonis,” he muttered aloud feeling like hell about what had happened. Yes, he hadn’t been at all interested in Trisha in any way other than being her friend, but when he thought about how she’d come onto him so strong--how she’d kept chasing him and how he’d tried to break it to her gently, he realized he’d failed in getting his feelings across to her. Then there was Ria. She was beautiful and wonderful and right about now she was the one woman he wanted to keep beside him, yet she’d been hurt by her sister’s surprise visit. Neither one of them had wanted this, yet fate had put them into a bit of a tight spot with one another.

Kevin looked up from where he still sat on the bed only to discover Ria returning to the bedroom looking rather upset. He cleared his throat uneasily before offering to speak up, “Did you find her?”

Ria shook her head, “No, she was gone before I even stepped out of the apartment.”

“I’m sorry about this--about all of this,” Kevin pressed his arms out, using their strength to pull him up from the mattress. He looked over at Ria, noting the way that she kept her eyes on the floor. “I never meant to cause you any trouble like this.”

“You didn’t cause me any trouble Kevin. I just wasn’t thinking and…” Ria finally faced him, her eyes clouded with tears, “I just didn’t want her to see us like that. I didn’t think she’d ever know--that she’d ever find out that we…”

“Neither did I,” Kevin admitted realizing that there was truth in that statement despite the way he felt about Ria. He watched her break into tears and in that moment his heart sank. He stepped in closer to her, pulling her into his arms and holding her as if he’d never let go. He kissed the top of her head gently, “Ria, I’m so sorry.”

“So am I. I hate that I hurt her,” Ria admitted behind a strained tone. She shivered in his arms before her dark eyes met his once again, “but more so I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.”

“Come again,” Kevin gave her a strange look, concern flooding over his features.

“Kevin, I never, ever meant to hurt my sister, but the truth to the matter is that I can’t regret this,” Ria blurted out in a raw, tense tone, “If I said I was, then I’d be lying. I’m not sorry about what happened between us and even though I know Trisha is upset, I don’t want this to end. How selfish is that?”

“It’s not selfish at all,” he assured her leaning down to kiss her gently, “because truth be told I was feeling the same way.”

“So what do we do now,” she questioned feeling his forehead press in against hers.

“Well, I think that maybe we should get dressed and go look for her,” Kevin suggested with a small sigh feeling tension creeping in up over his passion-spent body, “Maybe if we can explain to her how and why this happened, then maybe she’ll see that I’m not the one for her. I mean she doesn’t even really know me as anything more than someone who used to play around with her when she was a child.”

“I know that, but with my sister, she’s very passionate about things. She doesn’t do them halfway and if she felt that you could be the one, well I’m sure she’s already got this scenario painted in her head about the two of you,” Ria informed him with a small breath of worry in her.

“Then I’ll have to set her straight. Trust me on this one Ria,” Kevin curled his finger underneath her chin once again, “We’ll find a way to fix this one. I promise you we’ll make things right with Trisha.”

“I really hope so because I hate to think that I’ve hurt her like this,” Ria offered up with a small sigh, “You’re right though. We’ll just find her and talk to her. We’ll explain this and hope she understands.”

“It might take some time, but sooner or later she’ll understand,” her tried to assure her hoping that his words would ring true. “We’ll find her tonight and explain everything to her.”

“This isn’t going to be easy Kevin. I’m warning you now, I’ve never seen her so upset,” Ria blurted out worry hanging over her.

“We’ll find her and then when we talk to her, well I think you and I need to have a talk of our own,” he hesitated before taking in a breath as he contemplated his words, “about us.”

“Us?” she repeated with a small gulp. “Why do I suddenly get the feeling that isn’t such a good thing?”

“Believe me it is,” Kevin leaned in to kiss her once again, “at least it will be for us, but I can’t say the same about that boyfriend of yours.”

“Kevin,” she opened her mouth to speak again, but felt him silence her with another kiss.

“Later,” he reminded her before taking a step back. He took her hand in his and motioned towards her bathroom. “Now about that shower…”

“I think you’d better go ahead on your own,” Ria sighed heavily, “I don’t want to cloud my judgment before we talk to Trisha. If I go in there with you, then I know I’ll be sidetracked.”

“Point taken,” Kevin nodded giving her a long once over, “but promise me we’ll have a rain check on that shower together.”

“I promise it,” Ria squeezed his hand once more before releasing him. She watched him walk into her master bathroom before she looked around her room. The bed was a complete mess after their little breakfast in bed, but it was nothing in comparison to the mess she was sure she’d made with Trisha. Reaching out to bunch the sheet up in her hands, Ria walked over to her dresser and pulled out a few things to get dressed in. She heard the water of the shower through the bathroom door and found herself half tempted to jump in there with Kevin and join him.

“No,” she warned herself with a sigh, “You need to stay focused right now.”

With that thought in mind, she grabbed a few more things from her drawer and made her way down the hall to the other bathroom to get herself cleaned up. She just prayed that eventually she would be able to find a way to do the same with her sister. She knew Trisha had to be hurting right about now and she’d find a way to fix that somehow. Of course while Ria felt guilty about hurting Trisha, she also knew full well that in coming up with a solution to the problem at hand, letting go of Kevin was not an option. It didn’t even factor into the equation at this point and if Ria had her way, it never would again.


“Carly,” Dave called out her name as he reentered his office, seeing Carly playing with Kayla by his desk, “I have a few things that I really have to take care of over here.”

“Is everything okay?” Carly questioned worriedly as the expression on Dave‘s face changed. She looked down feeling Kayla’s hand grab hers tightly, “Is someone hurt Dave?”

“No, well yes,” Dave answered, nodding slowly as he thought to both Kyle and Ken. They had both been hurt by Susan, but it was nothing that she really should have been worrying about. She would be fine not knowing--right? “But they are going to be okay. It’s really nothing to be worrying about.”

“As long as the person is going to be okay,” Carly sighed, before leaning back against his desk.

“Who is hurt?” Kayla wondered, tilting her head up at Dave after hearing the conversation between Dave and Carly. “Do I know the person who is hurt?”

“No sweetheart, it’s just someone that I know pretty well,” Dave answered with a small frown before turning his attention back to Carly, “If you would like to, you two can go back to my place if you would like.”

“If that’s what you would prefer us to do,” Carly started, shrugging her shoulders, knowing that he wasn’t tell her something straight up. Whatever was going on had him a little upset and she could tell. “I guess we could do that and wait there for you while you are finishing up work…”

“Okay,” Dave nodded slowly, pulling his keys from his pocket quickly and handing them over to her, “Just go in and make yourself comfortable. If you need something, just look around I will probably have it. My home is your home so have fun.”

“Kayla honey, go get your stuff before we leave,” Carly smiled down at Kayla seeing her walk off towards the desk. She looked up at the expression on Dave’s face, it wasn’t a normal look she would see while he was usually working. Something about the way he was acting made her suspicious. “What’s wrong Dave? I can tell something is going on.”

“No, nothing is going on,” Dave replied with a small frown--thinking of something to say to her. He didn’t really want to tell her the truth, but he came up with something close to the truth. “Someone was just hurt pretty bad and I really need to help out in this case. They need my help.”

“I can tell you’re lying about something--I just don’t know what it is right now,” Carly pointed out, shaking her head slowly at the way he was acting, “You can just tell by the expression on your face. Something is bothering you pretty bad. You should tell someone how you are feeling.”

“You know, I’ll tell you more about this whole situation later when I come home,” Dave promised, folding his arms out in front of his chest. He didn’t really want to explain everything that was happening right now. She would probably freak out herself and she would be a wreck. “I just really need to get to work right now to try and get things settled.”

“Alright, if you don’t want to tell me now what is bothering you,” Carly frowned, looking back towards Kayla who was picking up a few little things at a time, “I will be right back. I should help her out with all the stuff.”

Dave had pondered about telling Carly about Ken, but he decided that right now wasn’t the perfect time to do it. Yeah, he should have done it, but he had so many things to do and he would probably tell Carly about it later. Then again, if he told her now--it would be much easier and he would get it done easier.

“Okay, we’ll meet you back at your place later tonight,” Carly smiled, hugging Dave before walking towards the door.

“Carly,” Dave got her attention before she walked out the door. Maybe he should really tell her--it was the better thing to do. “I need to tell you something.”

“What? What is it Dave?” Carly questioned, noticing the silence coming from Dave after she questioned him. “Dave? What is it that you wanted to tell me?”

“I wanted to tell you that…” Dave thought for a second before nodding, “That you don’t have to wait up for me. Just make yourselves comfortable and I will call you if I get caught up over here.”

“Okay,” Carly winked before walking away, leaving a slightly worried Dave in the office.

He should have just told her about Ken, but he didn’t. It was something that he should probably hold out for just a little bit longer. That is, until he really had to tell her.


Blake walked into Ken’s room at the hospital seeing him laying on the bed in front of her. He seemed so pale and lifeless even though the machines alerted to the contrary. She stepped forward, her blue eyes fixed on her brother as her heart sank. How could this keep happening to him? How could her family be fated to such a horrible run of luck?

“Hey Ken,” Blake spoke up pulling a chair beside him. She sat down in a chair beside his bed thinking about how they’d missed out on so many things with one another lately. Yes, they’d just had a talk and he’d been there for her when she needed him, but now in seeing him like this, it just broke her heart. She reached for his hand holding it close to her.

“You need to get better you know,” Blake spoke up in a small voice, “You promised me that things would work out for the best, so you have to be around to make me believe that. I know that’s what we agreed to and you never break a promise--at least not to me.”

Blake leaned forward laying her head on the side of the bed as she thought about everything that was happening these days. Life seemed so much simpler when they were younger--so much easier when she, Brant and Ken were young and still the best of friends.

“Hey wait for me!” Blake could hear her small voice in the back of her mind as she thought back to her youth. She could see herself racing through the halls of the Ashford mansion chasing after her older brothers.

“Blake, we’re going to be late,” a twelve year old Brant warned her with a frown, “Ken already put us behind and…”

“You’re the one who put us behind,” Ken stuck his tongue out at his brother before turning to Blake, “Come on. I’ll take you with us.”

“I can’t wait,” Blake squealed excitedly, “This is my first riding competition and I’m really nervous.”

“Don’t be nervous,” Ken scooped her up into his arms before putting her on his back. She wrapped her arms around his neck, “You’re going to come home junior champion today just you watch.”

“That’s right because you’re the best there is at this Blake,” Brant spoke encouragingly, “You’ll go in there and wow them.”

“What if they hate me,” Blake questioned with a small frown, her arms still locked around Ken’s shoulders as he gave her a piggy back ride.

“Blake, you’re a beautiful rider and one of the best out there. All the judges will see that. They’ll see how special you are and when they do, well you’re bound to win. Only good things will happen today,” Ken promised before making galloping noises, “Now how about we get going? The best is still yet to come…”

Now sitting beside her brother Blake thought about Ken’s words of encouragement. While she wanted to believe that was in fact the case for them--that the best was still yet to come, she found herself being tested in that belief each step of the way.

“Hey you,” Seth spoke up in a small whisper squeezing her shoulder gently. “You okay?”

She nodded tilting her head up towards him to see his concerned brown eyes. She placed her hand on top of his and smiled weakly, “I’ll be alright eventually.”

“I know,” he nodded before pulling up a chair beside her, “but I thought that maybe you might want to have some company--that is if I’m not intruding.”

“No, you’re not intruding,” she replied laying her head on his shoulder as he moved in beside her, “In fact you’re exactly where I would want you to be right about now.”

“And here is where I’m going to stay,” he promised wrapping his arms around her as they sat at her brother’s bedside hoping for miracles that may never come in both of their lives.


“Thank you,” Grady began lifting his head up off of Avery’s shoulder after his tears of frustration began to die down.

“For what?” Avery questioned with a small smile squeezing his hand gently, “You know that if you needed me, I’d be right here with you. That’s what friends are for.”

“Avery, you’re more than that to me,” Grady confessed still choked up on his emotions. Tentatively he reached out to push a loose strand of her dark hair out of her face, “Given everything we’ve shared together over the years I’d think by now you’d realize that you mean a hell of a lot more than that to me.”

“I know and you do too, which is why I hate to see you hurting. I’m worried about you Grady and right now I know this is difficult, but…” Avery spoke up again, her dark eyes filled with worry and concern.

“But we’ll pull through it,” he nodded knowingly his hand remaining close to her. He turned the underside of his palm in against her cheek tenderly, “Having you here helps. It means so very much to me that you still have faith--that you’re still willing to believe and hold hope for better things out there. Even when I’m at my lowest, you’re still here kind of like my annoying little pep squad refusing to let me give up and throw in the towel.”

“That’s because I’m smarter than you think. I know how you’re hurting, but I also know how hard you’re fighting for what you believe in--for what you love and I don’t want to see you give up and accept defeat. I can’t bear to watch you go under when I know that something good is still out there for you Grady,” Avery replied leaning into his touch. Her lips curled in a small smile as she spoke up once again, “I still believe that miracles can happen for us if we keep believing.”

“You make me want to believe in them all over again, which is something I haven’t felt since we were kids,” Grady admitted in a small whisper, his eyes fixed upon her as a silence fell between them. He found himself thinking about the way he’d treated her--about how he’d tried to view her as an enemy for so very long, but now she seemed to be his biggest supporter in the quest to find the one woman in his life that he’d ever truly loved. Russ had always said that Avery was special--that she had something about her that could put his mind at ease and Grady was now starting to see that.

“You’ve always believed in miracles,” Avery corrected with a tiny grin, “but you’re just too damn stubborn to admit it.”

“I guess it’s just easier that way. I don’t get my hopes up for things that won’t ever be happening,” he replied in confession, “It keeps me from losing something that I really care about if I don’t admit how I feel about the situation…”

“Even if you don’t admit it, you’re still risking losing it all. As long as you’re in denial about your faith in what you believe, you’re only making it worse for yourself,” Avery added watching something shift behind his green eyes.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s time that I start facing some of the truths in my life about what it is I want to hold onto,” Grady nodded in response, his fingers sliding into her dark hair. She patted his knee gently, opening her mouth to say something more when Brant’s voice cut through the silence.

“There you are,” Brant announced loudly moving in beside Avery after he’d seen more than enough happening between her and Grady. She shot up from the front row of the chapel as if she’d been burned by the seat and in that moment Brant knew full well he was in for trouble with Grady.

“Brant, hey,” Avery threw her arms around him in an embrace, “Have you heard anything on Ken?”

“He’s going to pull through,” Brant explained his eyes fixed on Grady as anger and jealousy crept in over him, “He’s been through one hell of an ordeal, but he’s going to make it. Don said he’s not sure of the long term effects of the drug Susan gave him, but…”

“Wait a second,” Grady’s eyes widened at the thought, “Susan drugged him too?”

“That’s right,” Brant nodded, “Your bitch of an ex-wife not only attacked Kyle last night, but she made my brother a target as well. She drugged him and it made him spin out of control.”

“I had no idea that…” Grady blinked back at Avery before taking it all in, “Is he alright?”

“He had a heart attack last night and he’s got a long road to recovery, but I honestly don’t know if he’s going to be alright. With what Susan did to him, it turned him into a monster,” Brant continued in a steely tone, his eyes narrowing at Grady, “Once that woman stepped foot in Coral Valley she was nothing but trouble and thanks to her madness my brother almost died, Kyle was attacked and almost suffered the same fate and Avery was violated as well.”

“What?” Grady questioned blankly turning his attention to Avery.

“You mean you didn’t know,” Brant added further a scowl pressing over his face, “That bitch you were married to is to blame for what Ken did to Avery…”

“Brant not now,” Avery started tugging on his arm, “Grady doesn’t need to hear about this.”

“No, I think I do. What’s going on?” Grady asked with clear cut confusion.

“Well, while your ex was off on a rampage after you dumped her, she drugged my brother and he in turn raped Avery,” Brant tossed out at Grady in an accusatory tone, “It looks like you really brought a lot to Coral Valley by inviting her into all of our lives.”

“Brant stop,” Avery frowned up at him.

“Wait a second,” Grady blurted out looking to Avery, “Is it true? Is what he’s saying true?”

“Grady, I really don’t think that now is the time…” Avery started her dark eyes filled with embarrassment and upset. He opened his mouth to say something more, but just judging by the expression on her face he knew he didn’t have to ask anything else. The truth was there.

“Oh it’s beyond time. Here I was thinking my brother should suffer for his sins, but then I hear that his sins are purely a result of what your ex-wife did to him--of what the woman you married decided to do to him. Not only did she destroy his life time and time again, but then she found a way to hurt Avery.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Grady inquired seeing the strain over Avery’s features, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because it wasn’t important. It didn’t matter considering that we were looking for Jade and…” Avery started to explain her silence.

“Yet even after everything Avery’s been through she let you drag her down in the mud. She let you take her into danger by your using her as a pawn in your game to get back at Cameron,” Brant lashed out at Grady angrily, “First you, then Susan, and now Cameron. When is this attack on her going to end Grady? Don’t you think you’ve put her and everyone else through enough?”

“I--I didn’t know…” Grady stammered a bit, a struggle building over his face.

“Grady, this isn’t your fault. What happened was Susan’s fault, not yours…” Avery tried to reason with him, but it was too late.

“I think I…I need to go. I really should get out of here for a while,” Grady moved out of her reach his eyes filled with obvious upset. “I need some time to think.”

“Yeah, that probably would be good for you,” Brant spoke up encouragingly, “and then maybe you’d like to meet with the head of my security department. He’s agreed to get more men on this search for Jade for you.”

“Yeah sure,” Grady replied with a nod throwing out one last look at Avery before leaving the chapel.

Avery watched his retreat before she took a step forward to follow after him.

“Hey where do you think you’re going,” Brant questioned tugging on her arm gently to pull her back towards him.

“I don’t think he should be alone right now. He’s upset about what happened to Jade and to Kyle and for you to just say something like that about Ken to him,” Avery shook her head at him disgust riding over her, “How could you do that to him?”

“I thought he knew,” Brant shrugged his shoulders, “I figured that he knew enough about the situation that he should see Susan for what she really is.”

“He knows what she really is Brant. He doesn’t need to believe that he’s to blame for her actions you know,” Avery chastised him, “I don’t understand how you could stand there and throw out accusations on him like that.”

“Hey, I was just telling it like it is. As much as we don’t want to think about it, Ken never, ever would’ve manipulated you like that if Susan didn’t play a hand in the situation. She’s the real monster here and if you want to be technical, she wouldn’t have had that chance to be in any of our lives if Grady hadn’t married her,” he added defensively.

“You don’t know that. None of us know that Brant and with you trying to make him feel worse…” Avery snapped back at him.

“How the hell do you think I feel? My brother is laying in a hospital bed after damn near losing his life because of that woman and here you are with Grady trying to mend his wounds,” Brant snapped at her before throwing his hands in the air, “I don’t get it Avery. I really don’t. Here I am needing you more than ever and there you are ready to chase after Grady and apologize for the fact that he’s the one who brought Susan into our lives.”

“Susan did what she did all on her own. Grady had nothing to do with that. All he wanted was to find the woman he loved again and be with her,” Avery reminded him sharply.

“And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Avery I love you and I feel like I’m losing you more and more each day. Here I am lost inside myself, feeling like the walls are closing in. I feel more alone than I’ve ever been considering that I can’t bring it in me to let anyone else know what this feels like, yet when I need you, you’re nowhere to be found. No, I take that back. You’re with Grady and you’re ready to fix all his wounds, but with me, it’s another story.”

“That’s not true Brant,” Avery insisted with a heavy sigh, “I knew that you were upstairs and…”

“And what? That didn’t matter because Grady’s too busy hating himself for bringing that woman into all of our lives?” Brant frowned down at her, “Well he should feel guilty. If he wasn’t off playing by his own rules Kyle never, ever would’ve been over at her apartment. None of us would’ve been touched by any of this and maybe right now my brother would still have his sanity.”

“Brant, you can’t blame this all on Grady. It’s not his fault. It’s…” Avery tried to reason with him once again.

“Tell me something Avery. Who is your husband again? Who is the man you’re supposed to be comforting and supporting right now?” Brant tossed out at her callously, “because the last time I checked I thought I was that man, not Grady Denton.”

“You are that man, but Brant when you’re wrong I can’t pretend that I won’t call you on it. You had no right to attack Grady--to tell him about Ken hurting me…” she explained angrily.

“Hey, he seems to be the one you’re confiding in these days, so I just assumed that he knew already. I figured he was more than ready to comfort you and heal all your ills,” he countered venomously, “I mean that’s what keeps happening, doesn’t it? I saw you two when I walked in here Avery and it looked like a whole lot more than just two friends with one another.”

“My God, we’re not back to this again, are we,” Avery threw her hands up in the air, “Brant take a good, long look at where we are. Look at the place we’re in.”

“Avery this is not…” Brant stopped himself realizing that they were in the chapel.

“We were married in here. I pledged my life to you in this very spot and now you’re telling me that you don’t believe the words I said to you--that you don’t trust in me or my love for you,” Avery shook her head at him, “Brant, why does this keep coming up? What is happening to us?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Brant replied softening his tone a bit, “I mean sure I knew that deep down I’d always play second fiddle to Russell Denton, but I didn’t think that would also hold true with his brother.”

“It doesn’t,” Avery sighed heavily dropping her hands down at her sides, “It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like? Why is it that every time I see you two together you’re at his side wrapped up in his arms?” Brant questioned painfully, “Why can’t you just be with me when I need you? Why can’t we hold onto one another the way you want to keep holding on to Grady?”

“Brant, I…” Avery dropped her head, a breath filling her lungs before she looked up to him again noting his wounded expression. Silently she took a step forward, feeling as if there were miles between them with each movement she made towards him. Saying nothing she threw her arms around his shoulders hugging him as if she’d never let go. He was unresponsive at first, but after a moment or so she felt his arms squeeze her in against him.

“I love you,” he mouthed against the side of her neck, “I love you so much Avery and I don’t want to lose you.”

“You’re not going to lose me,” she promised solemnly. “You’re never going to lose me.”

“Then why do I feel like you’re slowly slipping away from me,” Brant questioned excruciatingly feeling the weight of his worries still hanging over him.

“I’m not,” she pressed her hand in over his cheek affectionately, “I’m not going anywhere Brant and I’m sorry if I’ve been making you feel like I am.”

“I just want you to be here for me when I need you instead of always running off to Grady. Is that too much to ask?” Brant asked with uncertainty feeling his heart sink, “Can’t I just have you with me now that everything is falling apart?”

“Of course you can. I’m sorry that I made you feel as if you couldn’t,” Avery apologized holding onto him and closing her eyes to listen to the sounds of his heart beating. “I love you and I’m sorry that I made you feel like you were second place in my life.”

“I’m sorry that I said what I said to Grady. I was out of line and I didn’t mean to do it. It just happened. I just let it out because I was jealous and hurting…” Brant confessed kissing the top of her head.

“I know,” she nodded, “We’re all just hurting right now.”

“I just want it to end. I just want things to be normal,” Brant admitted breaking down into an emotional moment, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted was something normal in my life. Is that really too much to ask?”

“No, it’s not,” Avery shook her head, “but at this point, what’s really normal anymore?”

“I wish I knew,” Brant sighed thinking about all the things that had fallen upon the Ashford family. It seemed as if there was no end to the madness in sight anytime soon.


Deidra walked down the hallway to Dean’s office feeling as if she needed to reach out and kiss him after the day she’d had. First learning what had happened to Ken had been upsetting, but now after her talk with Diane, she started to put things into perspective. Yes, she’d been unsure about things with Dean. She’d been uncertain about a great many things about him, but now after she’d talked to Diane, she found herself even more certain that none of those previous worries mattered anymore.

Deidra loved Dean and that’s all there was to it. There was no questioning that--no doubting that emotion. It was just the way things were. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that she wanted to be with him, which made all her previous worries seem trivial and foolish.

“And I’m going to tell him that,” Deidra decided making her way into the office area leading to Dean’s office. She spotted his secretary at her desk. “Is he in?”

“Yeah, he’s in there,” the woman nodded before getting up and grabbing for her purse, “I’m on my way out for a break. Can you let him know?”

“Sure,” Deidra nodded with a smile feeling even more enthusiastic now that she and Dean would be alone for a while. That in itself offered up so many enticing possibilities. With that thought on the front of her mind, she moved to the door tapping on it lightly before opening it up. She was about to speak up when she heard Dean’s gruff voice coming from his desk area.

“Look I don’t care what you have to do, I want it done. Yes, I know what you’re saying to me, but I don’t want her to know any of this. I don’t want her to suspect what’s going on here. No, that’s not what I want. I won’t do it,” Dean mouthed sourly as Deidra spotted him over by his desk. She stepped back a bit pulling the door back a bit to hide her presence.

“No. I told you once and I’ll tell you again I don’t care what it takes. I haven’t lost my perspective in any of this. I’m not falling from the assignment,” Dean grumbled back into the phone, “I know what my obligations are, but as for what you’re proposing, it’s no one’s damn business. I’ll get it done when it gets done.”

Without another word Dean slammed the phone back down onto the base without even bothering to say good-bye to the person on the other end. Deidra watched him for a moment thinking about the strange tone in his voice. It almost hadn’t sounded like him for a moment as his accent had changed. It sounded a bit like something from New England--Boston perhaps, yet…yet here she was standing in the doorway like an idiot spying on her boyfriend when she’d just wanted to come in and say hello.

Pushing her doubts aside Deidra tapped on the door just a bit before easing it open to alert him to her presence. She smiled at him, “Got a minute?”

“For you I’ve always got a minute,” Dean perked up bringing his head up a bit. He stood up from his chair and greeted her with a smile. “To what do I owe the honor?”

“Well I came to tell you I was having a horrible morning, but from the tone in your voice just now, I would guess you were having a worse one,” she noted with a small, sympathetic smile.

“My voice,” he repeated strangely.

“On the phone,” she nodded.

He threw out another strange look, “You mean you were here when I was on the phone?”

“Not long enough to hear what you were talking about, but your tone, well, it was different for you,” she continued to explain, “It sounded like you were upset.”

“It was just a disagreement between colleagues,” he revealed of his conversation, “Things got a bit heated when we had a difference of opinion on the methods needed to solve a problem.”

“I hope it wasn’t too serious,” Deidra eyed him intently.

“Not too serious that a kiss from you won’t make it all okay,” Dean hinted at a smile before reaching out to her.

“I think I can find a way to fit that into the equation,” Deidra decided curling her arms around his neck. She leaned up on her toes to kiss him tenderly, “Better?”

“Much,” he smiled down at her, “So what’s on your mind?”

“Well I had a really long morning, and afternoon if you want to be technical,” she sighed before her eyes fell upon his once again, “but when everything was said and done I knew that I could forget all about that if I came down here to see you.”

“And now that you have? Did it work?” he kissed her once more his own tension melting away with her kisses.

“It’s getting there,” she murmured against his mouth, “though I’m sure if we lock the door and take our breaks with one another, it’ll be a surefire way to make it all okay.”

“Hmm, well that does sound tempting, but…” Dean started contemplating the idea.

“Your secretary is out on her break and furthermore,” she blushed as a wicked smirk spread over her features, “I already locked the door.”

“In that case,” Dean scooped her up into his arms before carrying her over to his desk, “I think my break is long overdue.”

“I thought you might feel that way,” Deidra replied reaching out to him in the hopes that she could show him all that ways in which she’d been missing him like crazy all day long.


Diane walked into the house after what felt like the most overwhelming day she had ever had. The things that Deidra had said to her kept replaying in her mind. She really should tell Ben about the whole thing that was going on, but it was going to be so hard to do. Sure, it would make it a whole lot easier by not telling him, but that was just the wrong thing to do. She couldn’t keep lying to Ben like this.

“I’m going to tell him, and I am going to tell him tonight,” Diane told herself over and over again. She was determined to fill Ben in on everything that she was worried about. Ben was a good guy, he would understand. Right?

“There you are,” Ben smiled widely, standing quickly to his feet, “I was wondering when you were going to be coming home. I have a surprise for you and I think it is something that you are really going to like.”

“Ben, you really shouldn’t have done something like that,” she sighed, watching him grab something from behind the couch and hide it behind his back.

“Of course I should have,” Ben assured her with a small smile, “I am supposed to spoil you, that’s what people do for the person they love.”

“Right,” Diane nodded slowly, feeling a big ball of guilt building up in her body. She had to tell Ben, sooner than later. “Ben I need to tell…”

“Surprise,” Ben pulled the thing he was hiding out from behind him, showing her the big teddy bear that he had bought, “The teddy bear is for the baby when it’s born. It will be the baby’s first stuffed animal.”

“It’s completely adorable,” Diane laughed, taking the bear into her arms, only to feel something rough tied around it’s neck, “Ben, what is this?”

“That is the surprise I had for you…I hope you like it,” Ben winked at her with a wide smile as she held the metal key in her hands lightly, “You should take it off his neck since you are going to be using it later.”

“What does it go to?” Diane questioned with a small uncertainty to where this key went to. What did Ben have up his sleeve now? She knew something was up, just by the way that he was looking at her right now.

“That, would be the key for our new house Diane,” Ben informed her, hearing a gasp pass her lips. He stood there thinking for a moment. It was just a normal gasp and it didn’t look like she had any special expression on her face. “Is that a gasp of disappointment or a gasp of excitement?”

“Excitement,” she answered quickly, looking up into his blue eyes, “But how did you do this? I mean…”

“I talked to my mother and we are working on a deal for a beautiful home,” Ben began to explain what he had been working on before shrugging his shoulders, “I mean, if you don’t like the idea of us getting a new house--then I guess I could just take my offer back.”

“No, don’t do that,” Diane shook her head quickly before wrapping her arms around Ben tightly, “What is the house like? Have you seen it yet?”

“Well, it’s not the biggest house,” Ben explained, holding her closer to him as he thought back to the house he was planning on buying for them, “but it is a good start out home for us. It will be perfect--I promise.”

“Ben, I don’t understand how you could afford this though,” Diane sighed as she shook her head slowly and looked up at him intensely, “How did you do all of this Ben?”

“I took the money out of my savings,” Ben told her before shaking his head, knowing where she was going with this. She was worried that he was wasting this money on them. But it wasn’t wasting, it was something he really wanted to do. He wanted their family to be perfect. That’s what they were going to be together. Perfect in all ways. He loved Diane so much that money didn’t even matter to him. She was well worth all of it. “The house used to belong to a distant relative, so I am sure that you are going to love it.”

“You’re absolute the best Ben,” Diane sighed, biting down on her bottom lip as she thought about what he did. He did all of this for her and that showed that he really did care. “I am so happy that you did this.”

“It was no problem,” Ben hushed, tensing his eyebrows remembering that she was trying to tell him something earlier before he gave her the teddy bear, “I interrupted you earlier--was there something that you wanted to tell me?”

“Oh, it was really nothing at all,” she lied through her teeth, resting her head against his chest. After all this happened, she couldn’t break the mood. Ben made things so special, she couldn’t ruin this moment.


JT rolled over in bed finding himself ripped out of the fantastic dream he’d been having about his night with Candi and Mandy the previous night. He’d been excited to learn that they were roommates and when he’d ditched Valerie to go back with them to their place for a little intimate exploration, he’d found himself well on the way to recovering from his dry spell after Diane’s absence. Okay, so there was the flight attendant too, but sex in an airplane was in a different category altogether. Last night had been an adventure to say the least and now, well now he’d been rehashing it in his dreams--that was until the loud Britney Spears music roused him from his slumber with it’s nauseating, unrelenting beats.

JT rose up from the bed, a scowl pressing over his already agitated features. He moved to his bedroom door taking note of the time. Okay, so maybe it was late in the afternoon, but still, he’d had a long night last night and he’d wanted to recover for another romp with the two roommates later tomorrow. Pulling the door open with a huff, JT found himself assaulted by the deafening sounds of the music.

“What the bloody hell is going on?” he muttered to himself storming down the hallway to see Valerie in the center of his living room clad in tiny pink workout gear. She seemed to be jumping and kicking to the music--following the instruction of some clearly repressed man in pink tights on the screen. He let out a groan before marching directly over to the CD player. He snapped it off causing Britney Spears to finally quit screeching in his ear.

Valerie seemed to notice as she stopped moving. She spun around to face him with angry eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Trying to sleep, which obviously you’ve taken the liberty to decide isn’t important now that you’ve started your squatting in my apartment,” JT glared at her, annoyance flooding over him along with a throbbing headache.

“These aren’t squats,” she motioned to her workout video, “It’s kickboxing and…”

“That’s not what I was referring to you moron,” JT snarled over at her, “I’m referring to your setting camp in my apartment just thinking that our being roomies is going to fly. It’s not. In fact I don’t even want you here. I have no clue why you can’t get that through your head. If I really wanted someone to live with me, then I’d have someone living with me.”

“Oh would you quit being such a poop,” she waved her hand at him dismissively, “I was going to do this in the early morning, but since you were in bed, I thought I’d be nice and wait a while. I went shopping and bought myself a few things and…”

“A few things,” JT repeated with wide eyes seeing the plethora of things now cluttering up his living room. He stepped forward to inspect her purchases before shaking his head at her, “These aren’t a few things Valerie. You look like you bought the whole damned store out.”

“They were having a sale, which reminds me,” she took a sip from her water bottle before moving over to the counter between the kitchen and the living room, “Here’s your charge card back. Mine was a bit maxed out after the flight we took to Atlantic City.”

“Wait a second. You stole my charge card,” his eyes opened incredulously, “Why in the world would you think that you could do something like that?”

“Because you said that you wanted to help me in my quest to get Seth back and now here is your chance,” she motioned to one of the bags, “Check out what’s in that one over there. Seth is going to love it.”

He moved forward to look before stopping himself, “Look Valerie. This isn’t going to fly. I don’t want you here, but obviously you’re not going anywhere so we need to set some ground rules for the time being.”

“Oh don’t be such a poop,” she waved her hand at him before turning to the television once again. She pressed play on the VCR and began her workout all over again.

That did it. JT marched over to the television, stopped the tape and pulled it out of the VCR. Before she could protest he threw it onto the ground and stomped on it over and over again breaking the tape into tiny pieces.

“JT, what are you doing?” she squealed in response, “Do you have any idea how much I paid for that?”

“Don’t you mean how much I paid for that,” he snarled back at her all the while ignoring her words of protest, “As I was saying before, we’re going to have to set down a couple of ground rules if you’re going to keep staying here. First rule is you never, ever take my charge card again. If you even think about it, then you’re going to have to answer to me and it’ll get ugly. Very ugly.”

“Chill out,” she wrinkled her nose at him before waving, “It’s not like I maxed it out or anything.”

“You still had no right to take it,” he warned her with a frown, “and second don’t you ever, ever wake me up again to something like this. When I’m in bed it means I don’t want to be bothered. If you break that rule in particular then I’m going to have to hurt you.”

“Yeah, I can almost see that,” she yawned bored by his threats.

“Val, you’re not getting it. I’m not joking about this,” he stated firmly, “You’re pretty much staying here rent free and I think it’s high time that you more than make up for that especially now that you’ve run up my charge bill.”

“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes just as he reached out for her water bottle taking a long swig of the water.

“Don’t whatever me. Just do it,” he finished off her water before handing her an empty bottle. He brought his fingers up through his dark hair, “and now that you’ve made a mess in here clean it up. I don’t want my apartment looking like hell.”

“That might be a problem seeing as it looked that way before I even bothered to move into it,” Valerie answered snidely. “You should be thanking me for adding my beauty to it.”

“Beauty? Is that what you call this mess?” he wrinkled his nose at a blouse he pulled out from one of the bags. He used it to wipe at his face before tossing it at her, “It’s junk.”

“That was a thousand dollar blouse,” she squealed at him seeing the way he’d just chucked the blouse across the room.

“Yeah, a thousand dollars that I paid for,” he reminded her with a sneer, “which means I can pretty much do whatever I damn well please with it. If I want to use it as toilet paper, it’s my god given right at this point in time.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” she sneered at him.

“Watch me princess,” JT warned seeking out the blouse again.

“If you even think about it…” she began with an angry glare.

“Clean up my living room and the blouse is safe,” JT dangled it in front of him, “If not, then you’re going to lose this thousand dollar beauty.”

“You jerk,” she muttered under her breath at him watching him slip down the hallway.

“Oh and yeah, while you’re at it, make me something to eat. Now that I have a headache from your horrible music, I think I could use a shower and then some food,” JT mouthed walking away from her.

“Make it yourself,” Valerie piped in with a snarl.

“What did you just say?” JT spun around to face her once again. He held the blouse up in the air threatening to tear it into pieces as she watched in horror.

“Do you really think you can manipulate me into doing your bidding just because…” she watched him begin to tear at the blouse, “JT that’s imported.”

“And now it’s about to be deported in the toilet,” he announced ripping it in half. He marched forward reaching for another one of her bags, “Now about dinner…what do you say…”

“I’m not doing it,” she argued folding her arms in front of her chest as he reached for another blouse, “JT that’s from Italy.”

“Hmm, well I’ve always wondered what Italian imports were like,” he shrugged tearing at the fabric again. This one ripped easily--better than the last and he reached for another enthusiastically. “Now where were we Val?”

“Put that down. Please just put it down,” she warned making a small step towards him. He seemed to laugh before he ripped this one. He reached for another.

“What was that Val?” he brought his hand up to his ear, “I didn’t hear you before?”

“I said, ‘Put it down,’” she squealed watching him tear up her two thousand dollar blouse. “JT please…”

“Please what?” he arched a curious brow.

“Please let me make you some dinner,” she replied grudgingly.

“Well if you insist,” he set the bag he’d swapped down on the floor. He looked to her with a satisfied smirk, “That’s an awfully generous offer Valerie. Thank you.”

“Bite me,” she lunged towards him to swipe her broken clothing before taking the bag away from him. Once they were safe, she spat back at him, “I’m not doing it. Make your own damn meals.”

“Wrong answer,” he marched towards her, knocking the piece of clothing from her arm. He reached out to her hands on her shoulders as he forced her to look at him, “Look Val, this has to be a partnership, not a dictatorship on your end. You might’ve been able to bully your old boyfriends before, but I’m not a boyfriend, nor do I even like you very much. The way I see it you’re indebted to me and if you don’t earn your keep around here, then you’ll have to pay up in other ways.”

“What other ways?” she asked wearily, “because I’m not about to make you dinner.”

“Fine,” he released her before taking a seat on the couch. “Then I think it’s time we talk terms here with one another.”

“I’m not cleaning your house either,” she folded her arms in protest. “It’s not happening.”

“So then leave. You can go and that will work too,” he suggested with a shrug.

“No, I’m staying here and that’s final,” she announced with a huff.

“Okay then, if you won’t cook and you won’t clean, then you’re going to have to service me in other ways,” JT wiggled his finger at her motioning for her to join him. “Come here.”

“What?” she asked watching him lean back on the couch.

“The way I see it, you’ll make me something to eat and clean up your mess or else,” JT brought his fingers to his pajama pants popping open the top button, “you can get on your knees and start paying for those things you charged on my card today.”

“What?” she blinked back at him in astonishment, her eyes tapering off over his muscled chest, leading to where his fingers were waiting to continue opening his pants.

“I said put your mouth on where the source of your money came from and start paying me back,” JT spoke sternly before nodding to the center of his pants again, “I strongly suggest you get over here and get to work before I change my mind and withdraw the offer for repayment Val.”

“No damn way.” she shook her head in refusal, “I’m not going to do that…not on your life.”

“The way I see it, you’re very indebted to me and you have to earn your keep around here. You have one of two options, you can either a, get into the kitchen and make me something to eat along with your cleaning up your crap in here or b, you can get over here and show me that your mouth is good for something other than bitching all the time.”

“I choose option c,” Valerie replied stiffly. “None of the above.”

“Good, I’m glad that you mentioned that because while I’m sure you were thinking you were pulling a fast one on me in not taking either choice I had for you, option c is I call the police and tell them about how you stole my charge card and tried to make me go for broke. They don’t take too kindly to fraud there Val and the way I see it you’ll be servicing your cellmate instead of me if you take that choice.”

“I’m not going to bring my mouth anywhere near you. The thought repulses me,” Valerie shuddered at the thought as her eyes fixated on his chest once again. Sure he was cute and all, but to think of her being forced to pleasure him, well, it was never going to happen. She didn’t take orders from any man.

“Fine, then have it your way,” he shrugged before getting up off of the couch. He took a step towards her watching her eyes grow wider with each passing second, “Since you’ve turned down option b, and I’m assuming that you don’t want option c, you’d better get your sweet little ass into my kitchen and make me something to eat for when I’m out of the shower.”

“And if I don’t,” Valerie challenged as they stood face to face with one another.

“Then I’d expect you’d either be gone out of my apartment or you be ready for your police escort out of here,” he threw out at her sourly before marching towards the bathroom.

“You jack-ass,” Valerie reached for her half empty bag that now contained some of her broken clothing. She threw it at him in a half-hearted attempt to lash out at him.

“And remember, I like my bacon extra crispy,” JT snickered ignoring her lashing out at him. “Oh and yeah, if you even think about poisoning me in any way, option c will still be on the table.”

Valerie groaned watching him slip into the bathroom and closing the door behind him. She hated him more than words could even begin to express, but at this point he was really her only option. She just needed to stick it out long enough for Seth to get his brain back. Frowning, she grudgingly stomped into the kitchen ready to make a meal for JT that she hoped he’d choke on when he got around to eating it. Maybe he might be calling the shots now, but when she was reunited with Seth again, he was going to pay. Big time!


“Well, I guess my day has been on overload,” Cori took in a deep breath, looking up into Diego’s tired, dark eyes, “I guess I should get going soon.”

“Okay,” Diego nodded, looking back down the hallway to try and see if anyone was out, “Everything has been really tense over here I guess you could say. I think this will be one of the days I will never forget.”

“I think I might second that one,” Cori agreed, reaching her hand out to touch Diego’s lightly. He had obviously had a hard day and knowing that made her worry. He could have been injured a few hours ago, but he really didn’t care as it seemed. It was like he tried to forget it even happened. Like he never really was hurt. “It might be one of those days you might want to forget too. I know it’s something that Kyle wouldn’t want to remember for the rest of his life.”

“I know,” he frowned, thinking of all the things that Kyle must be feeling right now. The way that he was drugged and forced to be someone he wasn’t had to feel like he was a nothing. Kyle had done so much for people and this was how he was getting repaid by Susan. It was really such a sad thing to see happen. Kyle and Grady were both good guys and the best of friends, but they were always getting hurt in more ways than one. “Poor guy. He probably feels like he can’t do anything anymore. I wish I could have stopped this before it even happened.”

“I bet everyone does too,” Cori pointed out before shaking her head slowly. The way that everyone had been acting so tense, showed how important this Kyle guy really was. When everyone else was worrying, it also made her worry. Kyle sounded like a really nice guy and there weren’t a lot of guys like that these days. “I guess this was just something that no one saw coming, but I am sure Kyle is going to be okay. From what I heard, he is doing pretty good right now.”

“Hopefully,” he sighed, shaking his head slowly. Don had said that Kyle was doing pretty good, but you never really know. He hadn‘t seen Don in a couple of hours and things could change in a matter of minutes alone. “I think I am going to stick here just a little while longer to make sure everything is going fine. It was a little crazy earlier, so I should probably just check in and see how everyone is doing.”

“Okay, I will probably get going now,” she informed him, taking a step forward to hug. She felt bad that he was always at the hospital. He just needed some time to take a step back and relax. She could only imagine how Diego must be feeling right now seeing his friend like that, “Give my best wishes for everyone and hopefully everything goes well.”

“Will do,” Diego agreed, leaning down to give her a quick peck on the lips to say goodbye before something else passed through his mind that was supposed to happen the other day, “About the dinner that was supposed to happen tonight…”

“Forget about it,” she let out a little laugh, shaking her head slowly. It really didn’t matter that they didn’t go--some things are a little more important than a date. “Diego, I think what happened here was just a little more important than a dinner date between us. It’s really nothing.”

“No, I think it is something,” he protested, taking in a deep breath. They had wanted to go out and they were stopped by everything that had happened. Sure, he didn’t want to leave the hospital without seeing how Kyle was, but they still were supposed to be going out with each other and their plans got a little screwed up, “I think it would have been something really special between the two of us. So, how about we take a rain check on our date and I will let you choose where we go.”

“I would love to take a rain check,” Cori smiled, arching her eyebrow at him at his last comment. He wouldn’t want her picking the place, he made that very clear the other day when they were together, “So, you’ll let me pick where we go?”

“Okay, scratch that,” Diego frowned, shaking his head slowly, remembering the last place that she had taken him, “Knowing you--I will probably have to eat at some poisonous sushi shop, so no way. I will just surprise you next time on where we go. How does that sound.”

“I think that sounds wonderful,” she replied, kissing him one last time before walking towards the elevator, “Call me and let me know how you are doing later.”

“I will,” Diego promised with a sigh, watching her step onto the elevator. He sighed watching the elevator doors close, this had been a hectic last few hours. Hopefully Cori was right, everyone was going to be okay.


“I just don’t understand,” Ria sighed stepping into Kevin’s hotel room after they’d searching around for Trisha, “Where would she go? She’s not answering her cell phone. She’s not at mom’s and none of her friends have heard from her.”

“She’s probably blowing off some steam,” Kevin replied tossing his hotel room key on the table beside him, “Which is probably what you need to do right about now.”

“Kevin, I’m worried about my sister,” she groaned inwardly, “It’s not just like her to up and vanish like this. She’s angry with me and…”

“And she’s going to be okay. I know Trisha remember? She’ll be upset and she’ll probably go off cursing the both of us for awhile, but eventually she’s going to get over it. She’ll come back home and you’ll be able to catch her,” Kevin tried to assure her, bringing his large, thick hands in over her shoulders and massaging them gently. “Sooner or later she’s going to turn up.”

“I know, but you know how I am. I’m one of these people who just likes to deal with things up front. I live in the now and try to get resolution to problems as they come my way,” Ria explained with a frown.

“I know Ria, but you have to look at it this way, Trisha needs to come to terms with this in her own way. Neither one of us wanted to hurt her and when she really takes the time to think about that, then she’s going to see we aren’t in the wrong here,” Kevin explained in a cool and even voice. He leaned down to kiss the back of her neck before his hands went back to work on her shoulders once again.

“I’m just worried about her,” she sighed closing her eyes and losing herself to the heavenly feel of his fingers working out the knots in her muscles. She let out a small murmur, “Oh you’re good.”

“I think we already established that last night and this morning and…” Kevin began catching a scathing look from her, “I’m just saying.”

“I know you are,” she turned in his arms, “and normally I’d pounce on that with a witty comment of my own. Hell, I’d pounce on you after that, but with Trisha…”

“She’s going to be okay. Right now she just needs some time and we need to give her that,” he paused thinking about the search they’d been on for her sister, “In fact, I think that we need to try to forget about Trisha for a while and focus on getting you something to eat. You haven’t had anything since pancakes this morning and…”

Ria’s face grew hot at the memory. Even now she could still taste the sugary sweet combination of strawberries and his luscious skin. The mere thought on it’s own had her suddenly very on edge. She looked up at him with amused eyes, “It was divine.”

“Even so, you didn’t get much to eat in the experience--at least nothing that could satisfy that kind of hunger,” he reminded her, a wicked smirk teasing over his lips, “So I was thinking maybe we could order a little room service. Perhaps you’re in the mood for something good…besides me that is.”

“Cute,” she couldn’t help but offer up a small smile, “What do you have in mind?”

“What tempts and excites you,” Kevin questioned with another grin, “Aside from me of course again.”

“You raving egomaniac,” she shook her head at him, her amusement growing by the second. “Actually right about now I could really go for some pizza right about now.”

“Pizza?” Kevin gave her a strange look. “Um, Ria honey, I don’t think they make pizza here.”

“So, we'll order out,” she shrugged her shoulders, “We will get pizza from some place that delivers and if you're so hung up on getting room service…then you could order some fruit for desert.”

“Fruit, huh?” Kevin thought it over for a moment. “I suppose that could work.”

“Of course it again,” Ria decided making her way through his hotel room towards the sitting area, “Oh, yeah and while you’re at it, make sure they send some whip cream up with that too.”

“Whipped cream?” Kevin amused with a grin. “Now we’re talking.”

“I thought you would like that,” Ria replied with a flirty expression. She opened her mouth to say something else, but before she could say something to flirt with Kevin any further, her cell phone rang. She fished through her purse quickly to pull it out before answering it. “Trisha? Is that you?”

“Trisha?” the voice repeated, “No Ria, it’s me. I was hoping that you and I could have a talk after what happened last night. I realize that you were upset and…”

“And what are you doing calling me?” Ria frowned turning away from Kevin as she spoke into the phone. She knew she shouldn’t try to keep the conversation private, but a moment of awkwardness pressed in over her at the thought of Kevin hearing her fighting with her former lover. Still she could feel Kevin’s eyes upon her as she spoke into the phone. “I thought I made myself clear last night on where I stand.”

“You did, but the truth to the matter is that I really don’t believe that this can’t be fixed with us Ria. I care about you and I know that you care about me. If you just agree to meet with me tonight, then…” her lover appealed to her.

“Look, I’m kind of busy right now and…” Ria started in an attempt to give him the brush off when Kevin marched forward reaching for her phone. Before she could protest he lifted it to his ear and spoke up in an all male, all possessive tone.

“Look jackass. She’s not interested. She never really was and she never really will be again. Ria’s moved on to bigger and much better things I can promise you,” Kevin mouthed with a sneer before hanging up the phone. He handed it back to her with a shrug, “Problem solved.”

“Kevin, I can’t believe you did that. You have no idea who I was talking to or what I was…” she started in protest, a frown curling over her lips.

“It was your boyfriend…or rather I’m hoping it’s your ex-boyfriend there,” Kevin paused wondering if he’d overstepped his boundaries. He looked at her for a long moment of contemplation before he took a step back, “Unless I am drawing the wrong conclusions here.”

“No, Kevin, it’s not that. It’s just that…” Ria found herself at a loss now that her lover had called and added tension to an already tense night.

“That what?” he questioned gently, taking a seat beside her. He searched her eyes for a long moment, “Do you love him?”

“No,” Ria admitted freely with a smile, “It was never about my loving him.”

“Then what was it about,” he couldn’t help but ask even though he was certain he didn’t want to hear the answer.

“It was about someone wanting me--about someone seeing me as more than just another tomboy. No one ever really thought much of me other than one of the guys, so when I met him, well he was different. We met a little over a year ago and he was charming,” Ria confessed feeling a bit guilty for discussing her boyfriend with Kevin, “He said all the right things at the right time and we started something with one another. He was a bit older and more worldly than I was, yet it had a certain appeal to it. We started seeing one another casually at first, but then it became more frequent. I really thought that maybe just maybe I’d met someone who might be different…that is until he made a big deal about not wanting to get involved in my life. I mean other than the secret meetings we’d have with one another at some sleazy out of the way hotel he wasn’t all that interested in me. He didn’t bother to meet any of my friends and he had no intention of ever making that step with me.”

“So it was a dead end relationship, then?” he asked hoping like hell that was what the relationship was leading to. In that moment he thought about the possibility of letting go of Ria and that was very unsettling.

“Pretty much,” she nodded in confession, “and I was really stupid not to end it sooner. Last night I was at my wit’s end and then you arrived…”

“And added a whole new world of complications to the mix,” he sighed heavily, “I’m sure you’re feeling like our running into one another was a bad thing, huh?”

“Bad for who? For my boyfriend?” Ria couldn’t help but smile, “Oh believe me it was very bad for him, but very good for me. Very, very good for me.”

“You really think so?” Kevin tipped his head up to see the thunder behind her dark, stormy eyes.

“I know so,” she nodded leaning forward to crawl into his lap. Her thighs settled in outside of his and she ran her fingers through his dark hair, “because you’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a very, very long time.”

“Even though Trisha’s not happy,” Kevin half questioned just wanting to reaffirm that she really, truly felt that way about their finding one another.

“I’m hoping Trisha can forgive me because the way I see it, being with you has been the only good thing that’s happened to me in a very long time,” she leaned in to nibble on his lower lip gingerly, “You’re charming, handsome, fun to be with, a little irritating and yet so very irresistible.”

“Ria, I know that you weren’t expecting any of this,” his hands roamed in over her spine crushing her in towards him, “and I know we agreed to keep this between us, but when we did that I didn’t expect you to feel like I was a replica of that jackass you were dating.”

“You’re nothing like the jackass,” Ria’s hands dropped over the buttons on his shirt, pulling one open one by one, “You’re strong and sexy and you make me feel things that I haven’t felt in a very, very long time. I like being with you…I like all the things that we do together in and out of bed and elevators and just about any place else we can think of. I’ve always really, really liked you Kevin Adonis.”

“And I’ve always really, really liked you Ria Merhan. So much so that I can’t help myself when you’re around,” Kevin confessed sliding his thumb and index finger in around her slender waist. With one quick movement, he pulled her shirt up and over her head before dropping it to the floor, “When I’m with you, I can’t seem to get enough of you.”

“Then, I think we have a problem,” Ria sighed, her lips teasing in over his collar bone. She tugged his shirt down over his arms, feeling the strength of him caged beneath her touch, “because when I’m with you I feel the same way.”

“The question is what are we going to do about it,” Kevin met her eyes daring her to deny the obvious chemistry between them.

“We’re going to forget about room service for a while and focus on all the right things,” she nipped at his neck before letting out a small growl. Her hot, wet kisses made their way over to his earlobe, “I am, after all, a free woman now.”

“Hmm, well I guess now this opens the door to a new experience seeing as you were taken before,” Kevin teased with a mocking tone, “I mean what if the thrill’s not there for us anymore now that we can be together?”

“Oh I think the thrill will be more than there,” Ria’s lips moved in over his chest as she slid over his body. She dropped her hands down to the center of his lap seeking out the root of his masculinity through his pants before she licked her lips eagerly. “Can’t you feel it?”

Kevin bit down on the groan building in the back of his throat. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, “Oh I can most certainly feel it.”

“Good, then how about we stop talking for a little while and get down to business,” Ria spoke up suggestively, “since I do suppose that we really should think about that room service here. I mean it sounds tempting and I do believe you have some whipped cream to order.”

“Coming right up,” Kevin promised ready to do what he could to rush room service upstairs. He reached for the cell phone once again ready to make the call when Ria pulled it from his hand and tossed it across the room.

“On second thought I changed my mind again. Room service can wait, but I can’t,” Ria announced going for the gusto and kissing him like she’d never stop. Sure, the whole world might be in an uproar right now, but Kevin was the perfect way for her to remember everything that was right about her life especially now. This was exactly what she wanted and fortunately for her, she was with the perfect man. Last night and this morning they’d spent their time indulging in a few of his fantasies of her, but now, well she was going to make damn certain that they embraced a few of her fantasies about him as well. Oh yes, the evening was full of so many possibilities.


Trisha pushed open the heavy front door to the Cadillac Ranch hearing her ears being assaulted by some peppy Shania Twain song. Normally she might’ve jammed along to it enjoying the upbeat tune, but when she thought back to her sister and Kevin being together, the only thing it did was enrage her further. So much for being part of the whole strong and independent woman era. Right now she wanted to be downright uncivilized and claw her sister’s eyes out. How dare Ria stoop so low after giving her a lecture on Kevin? It just wasn’t right.

“He should be with me,” Trisha huffed making her way over to the bar. She slammed her hand down on the top of the bar motioning for the bartender to come over.

“May I help you?” he questioned giving her a once over.

“Yeah, I’d like a drink like now,” Trisha announced catching the strange look he’d given her. She knew that look only too well. Reaching into her purse she pulled out her identification, “See I’m perfectly legal, now how about that drink?”

“It’ll be right up,” he nodded. “What can I get for you?”

“Whatever is the strongest thing you’ve got,” she decided with a huff.

The bartender nodded taking her order and walking away. Trisha looked around noting the music had changed to something sappy and romantic. Gee, normally that would have her inspired too, but now all she could think about was Ria and Kevin and that sickening display of…

“Well hello,” A voice spoke from behind her. She looked up to see a man standing close to her, “I couldn’t help but notice you when you walked in. I saw you from across the bar and thought that maybe I might be able to interest you in a dance.”

“Yeah, well why don’t you do you do us both a favor and go over to the other side again because I’m not interested,” she huffed back at him.

“Oh come on,” he reached out for her, “What’s one dance going to do?”

“No thank you,” she turned towards the bar again only to feel him reach out for her roughly. “Hey!”

“She said she wasn’t interested,” the man who had been seated beside her at the bar explained firmly. He stood up and shoved the unwanted man away from her with a firm warning look. “Back off.”

“You back off,” the man snarled at her sudden hero.

“Wrong answer,” the man beside her hauled off and hit the man who’d been bothering her. The man lunged forward in an attempt to attack Trisha’s mystery hero, but her hero kicked his foot out tripping the man before he could make another move. Shortly after a crowd gathered and the bartender returned with Trisha’s drink.

“Thanks,” her hero replied pulling a few dollars out of his pocket before motioning to Trisha, “What do you say we go out back to talk?”

“I say that sounds great,” she nodded ready to get out of the situation before the man on the ground stood up again. She followed her hero out onto the back patio watching him weave through the crowd until they were finally out into the night beyond the music.

“Your drink,” he turned around to smile and hold it out for her.

“Thank you,” she replied accepting it readily, “thanks for what you did back there too.”

“Hey I don’t like to see a jerk pawing at a beautiful woman like that,” he explained modestly, “I was just doing my gentlemanly duty there in saving you.”

“Well I appreciate it,” she lifted her drink to her lips, “What was your name again?”

“I didn’t give it,” he replied with a smirk reaching for her hand. He raised it to his lips to kiss the top of it before speaking up smoothly, “but it’s Ray. My name is Ray.”

“I’m Trisha,” she replied taking a long look at the man before her. Granted he was no Kevin Adonis, but he seemed handsome enough. She saw the first flashes of Ria and Kevin reenter her mind as she smiled at Ray, “You come here often Ray?”

“Not nearly as often as I used to,” he admitted with a small smile, “What about yourself?”

“This was my first time,” she confessed with a tiny grin, “I guess I just wasn’t bold enough to see what this place was about before.”

“And now that you have?” he arched a curious brow.

“I find I’m not interested in it, well other than in maybe meeting you that is,” she paused shifting on her feet uneasily, “So what brought you here tonight Ray?”

“I was hoping for a little excitement and I think I found it,” he teased with a small laugh.

Trisha remained silent for one more moment before taking a bold step forward. She reached out to him placing her hand on his chest before raising up on her toes to collect a kiss from his lips. As they parted she noticed the look of surprise on his face. She smiled liking the way he seemed to be caught up in that kiss.

“I just thought I should thank you properly,” she replied in a low, sultry whisper thinking about what her sister was probably doing at a time like this.

“Hmm, well in that case, let me offer up a proper you’re welcome,” he replied tugging her in to him again. Their mouths melded together in an instant spark of electricity. She coiled her arms around his waist, rubbing in against him as she found herself wanting a reason to forget what she’d walked in on with Ria and Kevin.

“I think I should be thanking you again,” she mouthed as they parted, “as it’s not every day I get rescued by such a hot, sexy stranger.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Ray replied with a small smirk.

“Not yet, but it will be if you take me somewhere private where we can share a drink together,” she flirted up at him, “What do you say? Want to leave this dump?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” he grinned from ear to ear clearly excited by the idea of being alone with her. She wrapped her arm around him before motioning to the parking lot.

“You have a car,” she questioned suggestively.

“Yeah it’s over there,” he nodded leading her along as Trisha vowed that tonight she’d find a way to forget all about Ria and Kevin. To hell with worrying about the one that got away. She’d make the most out of the time she had with the one she was with right now.


Grady got out of his car after stopping it on the side of the road. Right now, he was in that place where his nightmares began to flare. The place they found Jade’s car. He walked down the hill and towards the water before sitting down a large rock. He couldn’t believe that this was happening to him. His life was supposed to start all over again after he had been set free, but it seemed to be getting worse by the moment. There were too many things going through his mind right now. He needed to be alone--to think about things.

“What the?” Grady questioned feeling a piece of paper hit him in the head from blowing in the wind. He grabbed the paper and looked down at the art before him. It was an add for Hulk Hogan and he couldn’t help to smile seeing this. Something like some wrestler shouldn’t make him laugh, but there was something about Hulk that made him special.

“You sure that you’re not looking,” Grady asked again from the kitchen while popping his head out to catch Jade eagerly looking around the living room area. “Jade, come on.”

“Okay fine,” she brought her hands up over her face, “happy now?”

“It’s a start,” Grady decided stepping out into the living room and reaching for her hand, “Now keep your eyes closed.”

“Fine,” Jade accepted his hand allowing him to guide her into the kitchen, “but I really wish you would’ve let me help you with whatever you have going on in here.”

“No you don’t,” Grady contradicted her leading her into the kitchen. Unable to suppress the pleasure he took in keeping her on her toes unaware of his plans for the evening with her. “Right this way.”

“I’m all yours,” Jade promised eliciting a smile from Grady’s lips.

“You have no idea how wonderful that truly sounds,” Grady replied making his way around the table after helping her into her chair, “okay, now you can open your eyes.”

“Alright,” Jade replied opening her eyes to find a candle burning before her. She glanced at it for a moment turning her focus to Grady before looking to the candle again, “What in the world is that?”

“Believe it or not, it’s a vintage Hulk Hogan candle,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh at the audacity of the only candle he’d been able to locate in the place they’d been sent to. “Someone must’ve been a fan or was hoping to keep that for sentimental value.”

“That has to be it because that thing is hideous,” Jade couldn’t help but laugh at the canary colored yellow wax figure before her of the wrestler. He was posed in a way to show off the muscled wax bumps that must’ve been the creator’s attempt at strong arms.

“Tell me about it and to make matters worse, I just about marked out when I saw where the wick started from there up his well…,” Grady chuckled in obvious amusement, “The guy never had a fighting chance on that one.”

“Let’s just hope he doesn’t fart while he’s on fire,” Jade couldn’t help but tease finding herself more amused than intended as they scrutinized the wax figure before them.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but before we let Hulk kill the mood with his own personal problems, how about we focus on the main course,” Grady pulled a lid up off of one of the plates before him to reveal a pileup of macaroni and cheese and a couple of corndogs, “I know it’s not what we’re used to, but given what we had to work with…”

“It looks delicious,” Jade admitted reaching out for one of the corndogs, “Truth be told I’m starved even if Hulk there was starting to make me lose my appetite.”

“You know, why don’t we skip on Hulk altogether,” Grady suggested reaching for the candle and blowing it out. Rising up from his chair, he shook his head at the repugnant face before him while wondering why he’d even bothered with it. Opening one of the drawers in the kitchen, he gave the pitiful figure one last look, “Sorry Hulk, but you’re killing the mood tonight buddy.”

Jade laughed lightly watching Grady interact with the candle. Seeing him up and joking was enough to make her feel more at ease as she watched him tuck Hulk away for the night.

“No more distractions,” Grady announced “Ah, so where we?”

“You were telling Hulk how he didn’t have a chance with a girl like me,” Jade reminded him with laughter.

“Oh well, you know I couldn’t let him take all the credit for my hard work,” Grady teased back.

He closed his eyes, shaking his head slowly. He couldn’t believe that Jade was not with him. She was the most important thing in his life and she was taken away from him so easily. He reopened his eyes, taking in a deep breath. He remembered the day Kyle had found Jade’s car here with him. It was like a whole scene playing back in his head. Kyle was standing by the shore with him while they were waiting to hear the news. Kyle was there for him and that was the only thing that really kept him sane. If Kyle wasn’t there to keep him calm he would have probably given himself a heart attack. Everyone was worried that night and it’s surprising now that they have more to worry about now than they ever did. He knew that is was possible that he would never be able to see Jade again. It was depressing how things were brought up. His dreams were ripped away from him in just a matter of minutes. The only thing he could keep hoping for, was that they would find Jade.


“Kayla, honey calm down,” Carly pleaded seeing Kayla jumping on the bed in Dave’s bedroom, “Do you want to go and see your bedroom?”

“Yeah,” Kayla nodded quickly, jumping down from the bed and running towards the door, “Which one is it mommy? Which one is the room that I am staying in?”

“The one on the right there sweetheart,” Carly pointed to a door seeing Kayla open the door quickly and run in the room, “I’m coming.”

“This is so cool,” Kayla declared looking around the room. Seeing the color of the wallpaper. It was a very pretty room and she was going to love being here. Dave was so cool and this was all so perfect. “Is Dave really going to be my daddy? Am I going to move in with him? What’s his last name? I have to know his last name if he is going to be my father.”

“You shouldn’t think so fast, it’s getting me confused,” Carly laughed before thinking of what to say to Kayla. Kayla had just asked her so many questions, it took her a second to even think of what to answer. “With Dave being your daddy, we will talk about that when he is here with us and his last name is Warner.”

“Kayla Warner,” Kayla whispered, thinking a moment before smiling widely at the sound of the name, “I like the sound of that. Kayla Warner.”

“Yes, it does sound very, very pretty,” Carly agreed, seeing Kayla run towards the window to look outside in search of something, “What are you doing?”

“I’m just thinking,” Kayla stated, looking back at her mother with a wide smile, “Are we going to get a puppy? I think we should get a puppy if we are going to be a family. That would make our family complete.”

“Slow down Kayla,” Carly chuckled, sitting down on the edge of the bed, seeing the excitement behind her daughters eyes, “We have to take everything one step at a time, but it could be possible that we could get a dog.”

“Really?” Kayla questioned happily, clapping her hands, “I can’t wait to move in here and be a big family. What about a pony? Do you think we could get a pony?”

“That might be pushing it just a little bit Kayla,” Carly pointed out before seeing Kayla shrug, “I don’t think you would be able to take care of it. Where would it stay?”

“In here with me,” Kayla answered quickly, “He could sleep in the same bed with me. I would take care of him. I know I would. He would be the perfect pet.”

“Carly?” someone questioned, making her turn towards the door to see Dave’s sister before her. “Cori? Wow, it’s been a long time since I have seen you.”

“Real long,” Cori agreed before looking towards Kayla, “Might I ask what you are doing at my brother’s house while he isn’t here right now?”

“He told us to meet him here,” Kayla told Cori taking a step forward, towards Cori and she stared up at Cori, “We are staying the night with him.”

“Who is this?” Cori questioned, raising an eyebrow in amusement.

“Dave is my daddy,” Kayla answered as Carly saw the shock behind Cori’s eyes.

“Would you like to explain this to me?” Cori questioned looking over towards Carly. “I come here to talk to my brother, so what are you doing here?”


Ken opened his eyes feeling like he’d been run over by a truck. Straining to figure out where he was, he found himself lost in the sounds of machines beeping. His vision was a bit hazy and as he strained to turn his head to the right, he noticed Deidra standing beside where he lay.

“Deidra, is that you?” he questioned groggily.

“It’s me,” she nodded reaching for his hand, “You’re in the hospital Ken.”

“The hospital,” he repeated disoriented, “What am I doing in the hospital?”

“You had a situation yesterday. You passed out and then…” Deidra started as Ken groaned, “Ken, are you alright?”

“My head hurts and I feel like I got the crap kicked out of me. What happened?” he questioned gruffly.

“You were at your house and then you passed out. You were brought in here because you’d had a drug induced heart attack,” Deidra began to explain the details of what was going on to him.

“Drug induced? What do you mean drug induced?” he blinked back at her his throat dry and achy.

“Ken, do you remember anything--any situation in particular when Susan was alone with you? Where she could’ve had an opportunity to do something with you when you were out of it?” Deidra probed further worry burning behind her eyes.

“Susan,” he repeated with a strange look, “I haven’t seen Susan in a long time especially not in the sense that…”

Ken’s fell to silence once again, closing his eyes as a memory popped into his mind. He could see himself in bed--drunk and out of his mind and Susan was there. He’d thought it was a dream, but then he thought he was with Caitlin. He could remember the pain and the agony of losing Caitlin. His grief was so profound and then Susan popped into his bed. She had her arms around him, her naked body with him and then he’d passed out. He’d fallen to darkness, but not before he’d felt a distinct stab in his thigh.

“Oh my God,” Ken gasped as the memory came rushing back to him, “Susan drugged me. She was in bed with me and she stabbed me with something. I don’t know what it was, but…”

“You weren’t the only person she did this to. She drugged Kyle Houston as well and he was brought into the hospital tonight,” Deidra explained noticing that he was breaking into a sweat. She reached out to touch his forehead gently, “I would’ve been in here to see you sooner, but I was consulting with a colleague and I got a little carried away.”

Ken tilted his eyes to look at her, “How could this happen? How could she do that to me? I mean yes, I wasn’t interested, but for her to drug me…for her to…”

“Ken, you need to relax. You need to just calm down and try to relax. It’s not good for you to be…” she began worriedly.

“Deidra, do you have any idea what I’ve done? Any idea of what’s happened to me? And Kyle? Is he alright? Did she hurt him? Is he okay,” Ken asked worriedly, “Did he have the same thing happen to him?”

“They were able to isolate the drug since he was brought in right away, but with you, well we’re not sure what the long term effects of it will be. You pulled through your body’s attack last night, but…” Deidra started to explain.

“Just be straight with me Deidra. You said I had a heart attack,” he spoke up in a raspy tone, “Are Kyle and I going to be okay or is something else going to happen? You mention that you’re not sure of the long term effects but…”

Deidra opened her mouth to answer him, but instead she was stopped by the sounds of someone from behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to see Dave standing there looking rather forlorn. Ken followed the direction of Deidra’s gaze and he found himself at a loss.

“Hey Deidra,” Dave waved at her quietly, “I was hoping I could have a word with the patient for a minute or two.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a…” Deidra began uneasily knowing Ken and Dave weren’t on good terms with one another.

“It won’t be long,” Dave repeated himself.

“It’s okay Deidra,” Ken urged her on, “I don’t mind having a word with Dave. In fact, I think now is better than any time.”

“Alright,” Deidra replied uneasily wondering just what was about to transpire between the two men. Of course now that Ken had been to hell and back around again, Deidra couldn’t help but wonder if he felt he’d had nothing else to lose in facing Dave.


“I’ll be right back, I have to check on the crazy girl,” officer Jenson held up his finger, standing up from his desk, “She has been really quiet. Hopefully she knocked herself out.”

“You wish Jenson,” another officer laughed before seeing Jenson begin to walk down the hallway.

“Hastings?” Jenson yelled almost reaching Susan’s cell, “Are you up in there?”

Officer Jenson took quick look before feeling his heart begin beat faster.

“Hey,” Jenson yelled for another officer to come over, “Get someone over here. The girl isn’t in there. She‘s gone.”

“What do you mean she isn’t in there?” one of the other officers ran up. “Where did she go?”

“I don’t know, but get someone over here,” Jenson demanded looking down the hallways. She has to be here somewhere. She just couldn’t get out that easily.

“I’ll go get someone right away,” the other officer agreed before running off to get help.

“Where could she be?” Jenson questioned, opening up her cell and looking around. There was no sign of her anywhere.



...to be continued...