Episode 229

Avery snuggled into the warmth beside her feeling a comfort that she hadn’t known in months upon her. A sigh spilled over her lips as she curled in closer to the strong chest she lay upon. Her eyes were closed, but her senses were brought to life with a sudden awareness when the scent of the familiar aftershave captured her attention.

“Hey beautiful,” she heard the melodic voice whisper in her ear. She tilted her head upward, her eyelashes fluttering open and in that moment she felt herself met by a pair of familiar green eyes.

“Russ,” she spoke his name, unable to believe what she was seeing as he smiled down at her with that same sexy warmth that had captured her heart all those years ago. Practically leaping out of his arms even though it felt completely right, she tried to make sense of what was going on, “Russ what are you doing here?”

“I came to see you,” he confessed reaching out to her and drawing her nearer to him once again, “Baby, I knew you needed me. I tried to reach you sooner, but…”

“But how…” she questioned blinking her eyes as she feared that the moment would fade away. She touched the lines of his bare chest, her heart racing as the warmth of him filled her palm. She eased her hand over his chest unable to come to terms with what she was seeing before her. “Russ, they said you were dead. They told me that…”

“It wasn’t true,” he whispered invitingly, placing his index finger over the center of her lips to silence her. His smile expanded, filling her insides with a long forgotten sense of longing and desire for the man beside her. He seemed to pick up on her immediate reaction to him. She pressed a kiss over his finger lightly fearing that it would all come to an end if she questioned it any further. He smiled again, snaking his arm around her spine drawing her in against his powerful chest once again, “It was all a lie. I was never gone Avery. I’ve always been here, but it took me a while to find you again.”

“Russ, where have you been?” Avery questioned tears burning behind her brown eyes. She reached out to stroke his face gently, “I’ve missed you so much. I’ve needed you…”

“I need you too,” he mouthed leaning up to steal a slow, sensual kiss from her surprised mouth. His hands traced over the lines of her body warming her up to him in ways that hadn’t happened since he’d been gone. “I’ve always needed you and now I’m home again.”

“Please don’t ever leave me again,” Avery murmured in a broken sob, feeling him roll her over onto the mattress. “Don’t ever make me think I lost you. I was so afraid…”

“Don’t you worry. You’ll never have to be afraid again,” Russ promised sealing his words with another kiss. His lips teased over her neck, tapering off over her collar bone before his mouth meshed with hers again. She felt his hand caress the soft fullness of her breast and she cried out under his touch.

“Russ,” she murmured his name, arching her head back invitingly as his sinfully sweet kisses tapered off over her body. She could feel the hot fire burning between them--the passion she’d believed had left her forever in his absence. His damp kisses glided over her body in feathery light motions, his breath a heavenly warmth over her skin. His hand eased up underneath her shirt, tracing her silken lines.

“I love you,” she mouthed lost in the renewed passion between them. She curled her fingers through his hair feeling his growing kisses over her skin, filled with yearning and desire--a desire they haven’t experienced with one another in what felt like an eternity. She tugged on his dark hair urging his mouth to hers once again--wishing like hell that she could savor the taste of him forever and ever.

“I love you,” his words vibrated off of her lips before his tongue sought out hers, tangling and teasing in the most exquisite torture. He was now completely over her, his hard body pressed between her thighs offering up the first hints of his hardened ache for her. She let out a small moan and as her eyelashes fluttered open, and she found herself gazing up at the most sensational pair of green eyes that she’d ever…

“Grady,” Avery gasped in horror realizing that she’d been sleeping. Now as her fingers were tangled up in the thick, dark hair before her, she felt another sensation spilling over her body. Her face grew flushed as he too seemed to be in a momentary state of shock as his hand was distinctively positioned underneath blouse.

“Avery,” Grady gulped stumbling backward flat onto the floor. She heard the thud, but it was nothing in comparison to the rapid pounding in the center of her chest. Her face was tingling as though her blood was liquid gasoline and as she heard him groan realization dawned in upon her. She sucked in a sharp breath, her mind and body remembering how good it had felt to be on the verge of making love to Russ, but now…

“What are you doing here?” Avery squealed in horror, bringing her hands up over the center of her chest. She turned to her side seeing Grady now half under the coffee table, a pile of magazines now fallen around his head.

“I live here!” he snapped back at her, his own face red with embarrassment, “What are you doing here?”

“I was just sleeping and having a dream about Russ and then…” she shot up off of the couch faster than she’d thought possible, “What time is it? I can’t believe I fell asleep here. What was I thinking?”

“I don’t know, but…” Grady struggled to find the right words. One moment he was swept up in a fantasy about Jade, then the next, well, he wasn’t even about to begin trying to explain the next. He could still feel the memory of Avery beneath him and a small groan spilled over his lips. He ran his fingers through his dark hair, “You fell asleep last night when we were talking.”

“What?” she gulped before she remembered feeling exhaustion carry over her. She and Grady had talked about Jade, about what was going on with Kyle and Ken and then the next thing… Okay, so she couldn’t remember much more before waking up to making out with Grady, but still. That was simply unacceptable on so many levels.

“I tried to wake you, but you wouldn’t budge,” Grady replied quickly embarrassment carrying over him, “I guess I must’ve dozed off when you were sleeping on my shoulder.”

“Well I…” Avery stepped around the couch putting an even greater distance between them. She opened her mouth to speak. Closed it again, then opened it once more. She caught the first hint of color in Grady’s face and as her gaze lingered to his lips, she knew she had to be a matching shade of crimson herself. Unable to think of anything intelligent to say after such a monumental mix-up, she spun on her heel and made her way into his kitchen in a haste.

“Avery, where are you going?” Grady called after her watching her hasty retreat.

“I’ve got to call Brant,” Avery pushed on the door ready to hide away until the color faded from her face.

“Wait,” Grady appealed to her causing her to stop where she stood. She held the door in one hand before slowly, cautiously turning around to face him. He’d picked himself up off of the floor and now as he was standing before her, his shirt unbuttoned halfway down over his chest, his hair tousled after she’d ran her fingers through it, she felt her stomach in a big ball of nerves. This wasn’t at all what Avery had anticipated waking up to. She hadn’t even imagined that she’d ever get that close to Grady, especially not when her thoughts were of Russ.

“Yes,” she questioned uneasily wanting to duck out of his back door.

“You might want to use the phone in my study. It’s a bit more private and I’m sure you’ll want to explain to Brant that you were caught up over here,” Grady suggested quickly, “and when you’re done maybe we can have some breakfast.”

“Yeah…breakfast,” she nodded, “That sounds great.”

“Okay, then I’ll get something going in the kitchen,” he cleared his throat uneasily before his gaze drifted to the couch again, “and um, about that thing before that we were…”

“Forget about it,” Avery waved her hand at him dismissively before rushing into his study not wanting to give it another thought.

Grady watched her retreat wondering how in the hell he’d wound up losing himself like that to her. His thoughts had been with Jade--his dreams had been haunted by visions of her homecoming, yet when he woke up, there he was ready to pounce on Avery. He could still see the horrified look on her face and he’d imagined that his was almost exactly the same. To think that they’d wind up being so careless and stupid without realizing it.

“It’s like your worst nightmare come to life,” Grady muttered to himself with a dry laugh before his eyes dropped down to the front of his pants. It was then that he realized just how crazy the situation was. He quickly buttoned them up before hurrying into the kitchen to make breakfast. Anything to avoid thinking about that blunder that had thrust him and Avery into one another’s arms. Talk about disaster in the making!


Nick felt the warmth of the sun over his back as he reached out across the blankets to pull Angela closer to him. However, he wasn’t able to find her. He opened his eyes only to discover that her side of the bed was empty. He remembered having held her last night, but now, well now there was nothing more there surrounding him other than the sheet.

“Angela,” he questioned with a yawn sitting up straighter. He brought his fingers up through his mussed hair listening for a moment as laughter flooded into the bedroom. Curiously he stepped out of bed, his feet touching the ground in one small step. Another flood of laughter spread through the beach house alerting him that Angela was still here, but she wasn’t alone. Judging by the other laugh that followed hers, he was pretty certain Martha was with her.

Reaching for his pajama pants, he quickly got dressed before walking out into the living room only to discover himself surrounded by party streamers and flowers. His eyes widened as he saw Martha and Angela buried in the thick of it.

“What is all of this?” Nick questioned watching Martha lift up a small silver bell and ring it.

“You know what this means, don’t you?” she questioned before looking to Angela. She waved her other hand at Angela. “Go on honey. Show him what it means!”

“I think I can do that,” Angela uncurled her legs out from under her with a smile. She stood up walking over to Nick and placing her arms around his neck, “It means it’s time for your morning kiss.”

“Hmm, well if that’s what that means,” Nick pulled her into his arms dramatically before his lips descended upon hers. He slid his arm around her waist using the momentum in the movement to sweep her up into his arms completely while Martha roared with enthusiasm.

“Way to go Angie,” she cheered as Nick set Angela down once again.

“That was nice,” Angela replied wiping her thumb over Nick’s lower lip before flashing him a sexy smile. She rubbed her hand over his bare arm before embracing him once more, “It’s nice to have you join us.”

“I didn’t realize we were having company this morning,” Nick explained in a small whisper. He looked over Angela’s shoulder and waved at Martha, “Hey Martha.”

“Hey yourself,” Martha grinned up at him. She nodded towards Angela, “You know if this is what you wake up to each morning, then I can’t say I blame you at all for feeling like you’re the luckiest girl on the planet. Hell if I got to sleep next to that every night, then I’d feel like the luckiest girl in the universe.”

“I already feel that way,” Angela confessed leaning back against Nick’s chest. He wrapped his arms around her affectionately dropping his chin down on her shoulder.

“So what is it we’re doing with the living room this morning? Trying out some redecorating in here?” he asked kissing Angela’s neck before resting his chin on her shoulder again.

“Not exactly,” she confessed tipping her head back to look at him, “We’re kind of sort of planning for the decorations for the main event.”

“Oh, so this is what all of this is, eh?” Nick pushed at one of the balloons in front of him.

“These are just one example of something we could do,” Angela explained stepping out of his embrace. She reached for his hand and guided him over towards where she’d been previously seated. “You see Martha and I were going through all of those bridal magazines and you wouldn’t believe how much this stuff costs. It’s almost robbery.”

“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Nick replied moving in beside her on the ground, “So what do you have for me?”

“Well, for starters we saw these,” Angela explained lifting up one of the magazines to show him some kind of trinket with ribbons and white lace. “They are really beautiful…”

Nick’s eyes widened when he saw the attached price tag, “For that price, they’d better well be. So what are we talking about here? How many are we looking at?”

“Well, if we were going to have a semi-big ceremony I was thinking that we’d need about thirty at a minimum,” Angela informed him watching him practically choke on the thought, “but rest assured that we’re not getting them.”

“Well that’s a relief--sort of,” he paused, “though if it’s something you really want…”

“It is, but Martha and I have devised a plan,” Angela motioned towards Martha, “Tell him.”

“Okay sweetie,” Martha held up a favor that mimicked the photo Angela had shown him, “What do you think?”

“It looks like I’m too late,” Nick reached out for it, his eyes inspecting it curiously, “You’ve already ordered?”

“No,” Martha shook her head as another laugh erupted from her lips, “but it looks like a damned good replica doesn’t it?”

“You mean you…” Nick started.

“We’ve been working on them all morning,” Angela interrupted proudly, “and they’re a fraction of the cost.”

“How much of a fraction,” Nick couldn’t help but ask.

“Enough that it’s not going to break you--at least not entirely,” Martha waved her hand dismissively, “But don’t worry it’ll be coming out of your next few paychecks.”

“Well that’s refreshing,” Nick offered up a small smile.

Angela’s lips curled in a pout, “You’re upset aren’t you? Because if you are…”

“I’m not,” he shook his head catching the disappointment behind her eyes, “I’m really not. I promised you a wedding fit for an angel like you, so of course I’m ready to do whatever it is you need to make this big day nothing short of a dream for you.”

“Yes, but if this isn’t what you want…” Angela started again.

“Ang, it’s not about what I want. It’s about what I want for you,” he touched her face gently, “I want you to be happy. That’s really all that matters to me on our big day.”

“Just having you as my husband will be all I need to be happy Nick. We can have a big wedding or a wedding with just the two of us. The fact that we’re going to be together from here on out is all that matters to me,” she leaned in to kiss him.

“Oh how romantic,” Martha smiled at them. “Although you two better damned well have a big wedding and reception because I’ve already made a hell of a lot of calls to get the ball rolling on the big day.”

Nick laughed, “Well then if we’re at the risk of upsetting my employer, perhaps it would be best to continue this full speed ahead. I mean since in a round about way, she’s the one funding it.”

“Exactly,” Martha cheered reaching out for a collection of bridal catalogues, “and since we’re on the same page, how about we get started on finding more things to work with here?”

“Well, since you put it that way,” Nick held the magazines in his lap. He looked to Angela with a thoughtful expression, “You show me what it is you want and it’s yours.”

“I want it to be something we both want,” she settled into his lap. “That’s what would make me happy.”

“Then in that case, how about you show me what it is that’s caught your eye and we’ll see if it’s something that can suit us both,” Nick suggested squeezing her in closer to him.

“In that case, you’re on,” Angela beamed with enthusiasm as Nick settled into the morning of wedding preparations. He just hoped that whatever they came up with would be something that Angela would remember forever as one of the happiest days of her life.


Ria yawned, stretching her arms out as she woke up to the sun peeking past the blinds. It took her a minute to realize where she was right at the moment. It then hit her where she really was. At the hospital in Trisha’s room. She had been there all night long. She wished this whole thing would have been a bad dream, but it wasn’t going to be. Something bad was always bound to happen around her. Ria rose an eyebrow in curiosity, feeling someone’s coat placed over her. She smiled noticing that it was Kevin’s jacket. She must have gotten cold last night because she had the jacket over her and he was sitting in a chair next to her sleeping.

“God, that looks comfortable,” Ria laughed to herself, noticing the chair that Kevin was sitting in looked like a pain in the butt--literally. She grabbed his jacket and placed it over his shoulders as he moved a little bit in his chair, but was still asleep.

“You know, you two look really do look cute together,” Trisha pointed out, surprising Ria. Ria didn’t know Trisha was awake, but she was glad that she was. “I can really see why he went for you and not me there.”

“Trisha, I…” Ria began to explain what had happened between Kevin and her the other day when they were together and Trisha busted in, but she was cut off by Trisha stopping her in the middle of her sentence.

“Don’t worry,” Trisha hushed with a small smile, her throat a little dry from being in this place for so long. She hated the feeling of being vulnerable in one of these places. After a while of thinking about her life in the hospital, she was ready to change her whole world around--starting with Ria. “I won’t get mad if you want to be with Kevin. I really don’t anymore.”

“Thanks Trisha,” Ria smiled, shaking her head slowly--not really knowing how to respond to that one. She just said the first thing that came to mind when it came to the subject. “That takes a lot for you to say that.”

“Yeah, well Kevin is a true Adonis, but,” Trisha shrugged her shoulders, pondering what to say that wouldn’t seem too mean, “he is just way too old for me anyways.”

“I resent that,” Kevin groaned opening his eyes slowly, sitting up straighter in his chair after hearing what she just said. He had been awake for a while listening to their conversation, but he just had been pretending to be asleep because he didn’t want to interrupt anything. “I am not old.”

“Kevin, I didn’t know you were awake,” Trisha laughed, seeing the expression on Kevin’s face after she just said that about him, “I didn’t know you were going to hear that.”

“Obviously,” Kevin shook his head, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, “Though, you do have to admit, I do look really good. You wouldn’t guess that I was a day over thirty.”

“Keep telling yourself that Kevin,” Trisha rolled her eyes, seeing him frown at her comment. He really did look good and he did look younger than he was, but she loved to tease him. It always worked every time.

“You better watch,” Kevin grinned, standing up slowly to stretch out his legs after being in that horrible chair all night long, “You don’t want to get me mad now.”

“Please Kevin, you wouldn’t hurt anyone in this room,” Trisha declared seeing him arch his eyebrow at her.

“Is that so? I think I can teach you something I have never taught anyone,” Kevin informed her, taking a few steps towards her hospital bed. “I am an Adonis that loves hugs. Sadly, it’s very true--so right about now, I think I deserve one.”

“That I can do,” Trisha nodded, slowly rising up from the bed and wrapping her arms around Kevin’s neck lightly.

“It’s good to have you here Trisha,” Kevin sighed, squeezing her tighter in his arms. He didn’t know what would have happened if this guy that hurt her, really had killed her. He would blame it all on himself, not as if he didn’t already. Ria would have been a wreck and everything would have went down hill from there. He was trying to think of something to lighten the moment before coming up with a stupid comment. “I knew I taught you good when you were younger. When protecting yourself from a guy, always kick them in the…”

“Yeah, I know,” Trisha laughed, shaking her head slowly, “I remember Kev. You taught me very well. I remember even trying it out on you when you weren’t looking.”

“That wasn’t funny,” Kevin declared shaking his head slowly, hearing her light laughter, “That really wasn’t funny.”

“Yeah it was,” Trisha insisted, remembering back to when he taught her self defense, “From that moment on, I always knew how to take a man down to the ground.”

“Yeah, even though it hurt like I can’t even explain,” Kevin began to explain with a small laugh, “I’m glad I taught you because you may not have been with us right now and I couldn’t live with that.”

“I know Kevin,” Trisha sighed, looking towards the hospital room door, I guess I thought I was so mad that I was actually dumb enough to believe that the man was a nice and sweet.”

“And that’s where I feel bad,” Kevin pointed out, letting her go from his arms before sitting down on the edge of her bed, “You wouldn’t have gone there if you wouldn’t have been upset about what I did.”

“Hey, it wasn’t what you did,” Trisha placed her index finger over Kevin’s lips gently, not letting him speak anymore, “I was the one that was being irrational. You guys didn’t have anything to do with the choice I made. I was being a jealous jerk and I did that because I thought I was mad, but I’m really not.”

“We we’re just worried about you,” Ria frowned, sitting up from her seat and walking towards Kevin and Trisha, “When I got that call about you being hurt, all I kept wishing and hoping was that you were okay.”

“I am okay, I will be fine,” Trisha promised, taking in a deep breath after realizing how much she really did scare Ria and Kevin. They really were good to her and she acted like that. “I really am sorry about everything Ria--and you too Kevin. I realize that you two really are great together and I don’t want to take that away from you because you two look so good together.”

“Oh, that’s because I’m just so hot,” Kevin winked playfully, feeling Ria gently nudge his shoulder making him laugh, “I was just playing.”

“No you weren’t,” Trisha replied, shaking her head slowly, “You are just really conceited Adonis.”

“Is it a problem that I am confident of myself?” Kevin wondered, making a sad look with his dark chocolate eyes.

“No, in fact,” Trisha began, looking up at her older sister, “I think a guy like you would be great for Ria.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Ria questioned with a small laugh seeing Trisha arch her eyebrow.

“You know exactly what I mean,” Trisha declared before lightly grabbing Kevin’s in hers, “I need to talk to you big guy.”

“Uh oh,” Kevin smirked, running his thumb over the top of Trisha’s hand, “Am I in big trouble?”

“Not yet, but you could be soon or a later,” Trisha answered, looking between her sister and Kevin, “I know it probably would never happen, but if you break my sister’s heart--I promise that I will break you in two.”

“Sounds like a threat,” Kevin playfully stated, biting down on his bottom lip, “I better not do anything bad then.”

“Don’t underestimate me Kevin,” Trisha snapped her fingers with a small laugh, “I can get out of this hospital bed right now and show you what I mean about snap in two.”

“Hey now I was only playing with you,” Kevin insisted scooting away from her with a small chuckle, “I promise, I will never hurt Ria. If I do, I give you full right to--break me in two.”

“Good,” Trisha nodded slowly, “I can already tell that you make her happy so I don’t think I have anything to worry about.”

“That’s right,” Kevin agreed, reaching out to squeeze Ria’s shoulder gently. Kevin would never hurt her, not now.


“What in the world?” Diego questioned, feeling an ache in his back as he woke up, finding himself on the office floor.

Diego slowly rose up to his feet, taking a look over Cori who was laid out over the whole couch--which means she probably kicked him off the couch last night when they were laying together.

“Cori,” Diego whispered, touching her shoulder lightly as he tried to wake her up, “Cori? Are you up?”

“What? Where are they?” Cori questioned, sitting up quickly and looking around the room before calming down. She looked over towards Diego who had a stumped look on his face.

“What was that all about?” Diego wondered, arching his eyebrow in curiosity. “That was just a little bit weird.”

“I was having a bad dream,” she mumbled, running her hands through her blonde hair, “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” Diego shrugged, looking down at her as she tiredly tried to wake herself up, “We all have bad dreams a lot. Obviously you had more than one during the night because when I woke up I was on the floor.”

“Oh, I am so sorry,” Cori apologized, biting down on her bottom lip, “I guess you could say I am sort of a restless sleeper. I should have warned you before we went to bed.”

“Hey, it’s no problem,” Diego assured her before pointing towards the ground--thinking of a way to tease her further, “I think the floor was a very comfortable place to lay. I mean, what a feeling I had in my back when I woke up.”

“That’s not nice,” Cori frowned, as he reached out for her hand to pull her up into his arms, “You made me feel bad.”

“Don’t worry,” he hushed placing his index finger over her smooth lips, “All is forgiven.”

Diego leaned in to kiss Cori before jumping back hearing his door slam open and hit the wall.

“Heather?” Diego questioned, gulping down as he saw her step into the room and slam the door shut behind her. “What are you doing here?”

“You know what?” Heather questioned, holding her hands in the air. “I come back to town and I expect to have everything I had when I left, but no. When I get home, Kipp has my son and he wants to try to go up against me to see who gets custody of my son.”

“Heather, is this really that important?” Diego wondered seeing Heather’s eyes drift off to Cori who fell back to the couch when the door slammed open.

“Who the hell are you and why the hell are you in this office?” Heather questioned Cori, angrily placing her hands on her hips. “Well?”

“Excuse me?” Cori choked, looking between Heather and Diego. “Who the hell are you?”

“That doesn’t even matter who I am,” Heather brushed off the question before snapping her fingers, “Why don’t you just go away. Diego obviously is done with your services now, so I need him right now.”

“Excuse me?” Cori questioned, her eyes widening by the way she was being treated right now.

“Cori,” Diego frowned looking down at her before looking back at Heather, “Don’t mind Heather, she just…”

“Don’t worry Diego, I‘ll take care of this,” Heather cut him off in the middle of sentence, “Sweetheart, why don’t you go find another client right because now after he’s gotten laid, I need his full attention right now.”

“Who the hell do you think you are,” Cori quickly stood up for herself, getting up towards Heather, “I don’t think you know who you are talking to.”

“No, I really don’t care what your name is,” Heather pointed out with a small shrug, “I don’t think anyone really does. What’s your street name? Candy cane?”

“I beg your pardon?” Cori questioned, not believing what she was hearing. She was never treated this badly before from someone she never met. “I’m not the one who barged in here with a bitch after bitch. If you couldn’t tell, the two of us were in the middle of something.”

“Honey, it’s morning,” Heather pointed to the window where the sun was peaking through, “Your job ended a few hours ago. I think you are no longer in the middle of something.”

“That’s it,” Cori snapped, taking a quick few steps towards Heather, only to see Diego put his hand in front of her to stop her from getting any closer. “Come on Diego, just one hit.”

“Cori, stop it,” Diego ordered, looking between the two women, “Heather this Cori Warner and she is someone very important to me so would please reframe from saying things like that?”

“Very important to you?” Heather questioned, feeling a bit of curiosity behind her features. “Are you like an everyday client or something?”

“Cori,” Diego yelled as Cori tried to get around him and towards Heather, “Cori is a teacher at an elementary school.”

“Yeah and I am his girlfriend too,” Cori informed Heather, seeing the look of confusion cross over Heather’s face.

“Is that true Diego?” Heather questioned, raising an eyebrow at Diego, wanting the true answer.

Diego looked between the two woman, realizing that either way he went…the both of them together would equal trouble.


Kyle yawned as his eyes adjusted to the lightness of the room when he woke up. His body still ached like you wouldn’t believe and he felt like something was attached to his back.

“What in the world is that?” Kyle questioned to himself, feeling something drop down to his side. He turned slowly around to see a sleeping Sarah next to him making him smile.

He had been in this place for so long and never even noticed how exhausted Sarah truly was. She was so worried about him yesterday, that she must have jumped in bed with him last night instead of going home. Even though part of him wished she would just go home and take care of herself for a little while, part of him was glad that she was still with him. He wouldn’t have wanted to be alone all this time in the hospital. Some day, he was truly going to make it up to her. He was glad that after all this time that she was still there for him. After what Susan had pulled, she believed that he would never do something like that to her and she protected him from what was going on. She was there for him when he needed her the most. It was funny how life was turning out, everything seemed to be turning to hell in Coral Valley. It was like everyone was doomed to live a life they didn’t want. But, no matter what happened to him there was always one thing that he knew he would hold onto and that was Sarah--no matter what happened.

“Good Morning,” Kyle smiled, running his fingertips along Sarah’s cheek gently as she slowly opened her eyes, “I didn’t expect to find you sleeping with me in the morning.”

“Did I wake you up?” Sarah questioned, letting a yawn escape her lips before seeing Kyle shake his head slowly.

“I was just watching you sleep while I was thinking about stuff,” he informed her with a small sigh, seeing her look up at him with her dark eyes.

“Stuff? What kind of stuff?” Sarah wondered seeing Kyle shrug as she ran her hand along his arm gently. “Anything you want to share with me?”

“I don’t know,” Kyle shrugged, pondering if he should ask her the question he had been wanting to know for quite a while, “Can I ask you a question Sarah?”

“Of course,” Sarah nodded, grabbing his hand in hers tightly, “Anything at all.”

“How did you know that Susan did something to me?” Kyle questioned, trying to think of some way to explain what he was asking her. “I mean, the first instinct when you saw us--did you think that I was with her…like I did it myself instead of her raping me?”

“To tell you the truth, the first three seconds I was shocked as can be,” Sarah told him, thinking back to what happened before shaking her head, “There was never a thought that you would do that to me. I knew she did something to you, I knew it from the moment I walked in.”

“So you never thought that I would do something like that to you?” Kyle questioned once more seeing her think for a moment.

“Kyle, you see there is something that you and I have with one another,” Sarah explained, grabbing his hand and placing over her heart, “Every time I am with you, my heart speeds up because I love you so much. And when I feel your body next to mine, I can feel the same thing happen to you. Just the way that you look at me Kyle, I know you would never do something like that to hurt me. Never. I love you Kyle Houston and I would never lose my faith in you.”

“I love you so much,” Kyle smiled, pulling her into a gentle embrace before kissing her slowly, taking in the way it felt when he kissed her. She was the one thing that he wanted to hold close to in his life and he was never going to let her go. “I don’t deserve you Sarah.”

“That’s where you are wrong,” Sarah ran her hand along his shoulder lightly, “I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you because you are the most caring, gentle, sweet man I have ever met and I love you with all my heart.”

“How did I get lucky with you here with me?” Kyle questioned, pulling her tighter in his arms. He never wanted to let her go.


Diane opened her eyes hearing a muted whisper rising up from the blankets. She tilted her head to look towards where Ben lay beside her, but instead of his head on the pillow next to hers she felt him shuffling near the middle of the bed.

“Ben?” she questioned, her eyes opening a bit further. She uncurled her fingers reaching out to him and tugging at his shirt. “What are you doing?”

“Shhh,” Ben whispered lifting his head up and bringing his finger to his lips. “I’m not finished just yet.”

“Finished with what,” she questioned propping herself up a bit by bringing her arms behind her. She looked over the blankets to see his head near her abdomen.

“Reading,” Ben explained holding up a children’s book.

“Ben, why are you…” Diane gave him a strange look before he pulled on the blanket once again.

He rubbed his hand over her abdomen, a thoughtful expression on his face as he leaned down to place a kiss over her nightgown. Leaving his left hand on her stomach, he reached for the book again carefully positioning it against the pile of blankets before him.

“And so, they found their way back to the castle and they lived happily ever after. The end,” Ben finished closing the book and setting it aside. Leaning in closer to Diane, he whispered over her skin the warmth of his words reaching deep down to the heart of her, “but I promise you that there will be much more where that came from. Daddy loves you.”

“Oh Ben,” Diane felt her heart melt at the sight of him wanting to bond with their child. Guilt tugged at her insides after she remembered her talk with Deidra. Last night she’d wanted to come home and tell him about JT. She really, truly had wanted to, but he’d prepared a romantic dinner and now, well now seeing the sparkle behind his eyes, she knew that she just couldn’t do it. “I love you.”

“I love you so very much,” Ben rubbed her tummy once more before settling in beside her. He kept his hand over the silken material of her nightgown as he inched in closer to her, “and I’m so happy that I’m going to be a father.”

“Ben…” Diane started feeling tears threatening.

“Diane, you have no idea how much this means to me. When I think of how far we’ve come with one another over the last year, well, words can’t even begin to express how much all of this means to me. I mean when I think of when I first came to BBK determined to get a job done, I never ever anticipated that I’d meet someone so wonderful, so amazing that…”

“Ben, you don’t have to say that,” Diane turned in towards him.

“No, I do,” he kissed her gently, “Diane, you have no idea how much being with you means to me. You’ve changed my life in so many ways and I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be right now if you hadn’t found your way into my life.”

“Ben, I feel the same way too,” she admitted with a small smile, tears of joy causing her to choke up.

“I know that we’ve had our share of ups and downs, but knowing that we’re about to embark upon something wonderful together--that we’re going to have a baby together, well, I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. Diane, I can’t wait to share each and every moment of this pregnancy with you. Our child is a part of my heart and my soul and as I experience this with you, it reminds me all over again of how I’ve truly been blessed,” Ben snuggled in closer to her, “I know that we talked about planning out this big wedding and having all our friends and family there after everything was settled with Jade, but I got to thinking last night after you told me that you are really pregnant…”

“You did,” she questioned with a small gulp wondering if there was something waiting around the corner to ruin this moment for them.

“I did and the truth to the matter is that I don’t want to wait. I know we said we wanted to, but Diane I think we should get married sooner rather than later. I think we should get serious about coming together and creating a strong and steady foundation for our child. I want our son or daughter to come into this world knowing how much we love one another--about how special they are,” he kissed her tenderly, “I want us to do what we can to reaffirm our love for one another in front of God and those around us.”

“I want that too,” Diane sighed leaning into his touch as everything she’d ever wanted was well within her reach.

Ben was the man of her dreams--he was everything she’d ever wanted and never thought she’d have. Yes, she’d made mistakes, but why should one little mistake take away her happiness? Why should she risk everything they had together to tell him about a moment in time that could wind up being nothing more than an unpleasant memory? As far as anyone other than Deidra knew, there was no reason for anyone to think that there was a possibility that Ben might not be the baby’s father. JT was drunk that night and while he might like to taunt her, he was harmless. He wouldn’t find a way to destroy this for her, would he?

“No,” she thought to herself. JT wouldn’t want to do that considering that he’s the last person in the world who would want to take responsibility for a child. He ran from domestic situations faster than an Olympic sprinter. There was no way that he’d want to be associated with this pregnancy in any way, shape or form and if by some chance he thought that he could be the father, well Diane would just set him straight and warn him to stay out of her life forever. Yes, this could work. She could forget about JT and be happy with Ben. It was everything that she always wanted--all that she needed and now she found herself fighting like hell to hold onto it.

“It won’t end. I can’t let it end,” Diane mouthed lost in her own thoughts.

“What?” Ben gave her a strange look. “What did you say?”

“Huh?” Diane blinked back at him upon realizing her blunder.

“You said ‘It won’t end. I can’t let it end.’ What’s that all about?” Ben asked tilting his head a bit, “I was just asking you about the wedding and…”

“And I was just thinking about how I don’t want this wonderful feeling to end. I think that it’s the most amazing thing for us,” Diane breathed in response reaching out to touch his shoulder lightly, “I want more than anything in this world to be having your baby. That’s my greatest wish for us.”

“And it’s a dream coming true more and more with each day,” Ben assured her with a smile, “Which is why I think we should step up the plans for the wedding. We should tell your mother about the baby and…”

“My mom?” Diane’s eyes widened, “You want to tell my mom?”

“Well, I think that she’d be happy to know she’s going to be a grandmother, don’t you?” Ben questioned further, “I know I can’t wait to tell my parents now that we’re sure.”

“Ben, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea considering that…” Diane began a hint of worry building up in the pit of her stomach.

“Of course it’s a good idea. Everything from here on out is going to be just perfect,” Ben assured her moving in to take her into his arms completely with a loving kiss.

As Diane held onto him, she found herself wishing that he was right. Everything was going to be perfect. They would be happy. No problems in sight for them. The past was the past. Unfortunately as much as she wanted to believe that, she found herself fearing that the worst was right around the corner. If she could only find a way to get JT out of Coral Valley, she’d be safe, but until then, well she’d just have to do what was necessary to make sure that her dream didn’t come to an abrupt end. Not now. Not ever.


“My god,” Don jumped after closing his office door, to see Brant sleeping on his couch.

Brant fell off the couch and to the ground after hearing Don enter the room. Brant quickly sat up and stared up at his friend before shaking it off.

“What in the world are you doing here?” Don questioned, dropping his bag to the ground as Brant got up from the ground and sat back down on the couch.

“I was here all night,” Brant explained, running his hand through his hair slowly as he took in a deep breath, “Sorry if I scared you man.”

“It’s okay,” Don assured him, grabbing his bag from the ground and setting it on his desk, “It looks like I paid you back when you fell off the couch.”

“Right,” Brant slightly laughed, blinking a couple of times as his eyes tried to adjust to the light that Don had just turned on. Brant looked towards Don as Don took a seat next to him on the couch and leaned back into it, “I have a question.”

“Shoot,” Don nodded, tiredly looking towards his friend seeing Brant circle his hands around, thinking of something to say, “What’s on your mind Brant?”

“I was thinking about this whole thing with Ken,” Brant thought for a second, tensing his eyebrows, “Do you know anything about the lasting effects of this drug? Like, do you have any idea of what it can possibly be?”

“Honestly?” Don breathed in deeply, shaking his head slowly. “I really have no idea.”

“Well, I guess it was worth a try,” Brant frowned, leaning back into the couch, hearing his friend let out a big yawn. “Someone sounds tired. Have an exciting night?”

“Exciting, right,” Don rolled his eyes, letting another yawn escape past his lips, “Believe it or not--Shannon and my mother kept me up all night long.”

“Okay, I understand the Shannon part,” Brant nodded slowly, looking over at Don, with a weird expression over his features, “But what the hell was your mom doing there why you two were doing that?”

“Come on,” Don groaned shaking his head slowly, “That’s not what I meant. You always have had a disgusting mind man.”

“Well, I’m sorry. That’s just what you made it sound like,” Brant pointed out with a small chuckle, “So why don't you explain it to me correctly so I can understand more.”

“Nothing much to understand,” Don answered, letting out a deep sigh, “I went to work and asked Shannon to watch Matt while I was gone.”

“Are you serious?” Brant questioned seeing Don nod slowly. Shannon was the type that was a good babysitter. “And what did she do?”

“She stayed,” Don replied, thinking back to what his mother had told him last night, “I guess my mother came over when Shannon and Matt were playing together. They said they started talking and get this--they were talking about they wanted to redecorate my house together.”

“Shannon? No way,” Brant quickly shook his head seeing Don nod slowly. Something must have been wrong because Shannon wasn’t that type of person. “What exactly happened there?”

“I don’t know,” Don shrugged, holding back another yawn, “All I know is that I didn’t get more than five minutes of sleep. It was horrible man. They want to change the color of my carpet and my walls and everything.”

“That kind of sucks,” Brant chuckled shaking his head slowly, “I hope you have fun with that one.”

“Well, at least Matt likes her,” Don pointed out, with a small shrug, “I guess that’s a good thing because if Shannon ever really does come around--maybe Matt will already like her.”

“Don, man, I want you to be happy,” Brant began, taking in a deep breath before going on, “But if I were you--I wouldn’t get my hopes up when it came to Shannon. Just make sure you don’t get hurt in the process.”

“I know,” Don assured him before thinking back to Shannon, “I know how to handle her now. Everything will be okay.”


“So how’s the patient doing today?” Deidra questioned stepping into Ken’s room. He looked up from where he lay seeing her standing before him holding a bouquet of flowers. She smiled at him before setting them down on the table beside him, “I thought I’d give you something to brighten the room.”

“They’re great,” Ken smiled at her with a thoughtful expression, “Thank you though I don‘t know what I did to deserve them.”

“You’re very welcome,” she replied brightly, “and you deserve them because you’re still here. You’re alive and you’re still fighting. That in itself deserves a little something special.”

“Now you’re just pampering me,” Ken replied appreciatively, “but given that most of the world hates me these days, I do appreciate it.”

“They’ll come around,” Deidra reached out to touch his face gently, “They just need time to see that you’re working on changing.”

“I just hope that’s possible,” Ken leaned into her touch, “You wouldn’t believe how much time I’ve had on my hands to think about my life and where it’s gone lately. I went from the guy who had it all together to the guy that the world wished would just drop off the planet altogether.”

“That’s not true,” she frowned, “Ken, you have a lot of people who love you and support you and want you to get better. You have to remember that.”

“I try, but after I think about all that I’ve done, I can’t understand why anyone would want to be by me. I don’t even want to be by myself half the time,” he admitted honestly, his eyes fluttering a bit with guilt. “I screwed up big this time Deidra.”

“You did, but your friends and your family love you enough to try to help you help yourself,” she ran her fingers through his dark hair, “and who knows? Maybe one day you’ll start believing like the rest of us do that you’re someone to believe in.”

“I highly doubt that day will come because I’ve got a lot of making up for my mistakes to do,” Ken groaned inwardly, “and that won’t be easy.”

“No, it probably won’t, but when you’re finally back to being yourself again, you’re going to find that things will have a way of falling into place again,” Deidra offered up encouraging him to keep pushing on.

“She’s right you know,” another voice sounded. Deidra spun around to see a tall, very leggy blonde woman in the doorway with some kind of potted plant. She took a step forward, her shiny black bodysuit she was wearing matching her movements with a determined squeak. “Everything is going to fall into place for you all over again Kenny baby.”

“Kenny baby,” Deidra repeated turning to give Ken a strange look.

“Deidra, I’d like you to meet Michelle Sprite. Michelle, this is my dear friend Deidra Byrne,” Ken explained in a low couch half wondering himself why Michelle was here at the hospital.

“It’s a pleasure,” Michelle nodded towards Deidra. She looked down to where Deidra held her hand out to greet her, but instead of shaking Deidra’s hand, Michelle handed her the plant.

“Gee um…” Deidra started blankly throwing out a ‘who is she and what is she doing here’ look to Ken.

“Michelle is a um…” Ken searched for the right words.

“Friend of his,” Michelle continued before moving in to gush on Ken, “and when I heard about what had happened to him, I knew that I just couldn’t stay away. I had to find him and make sure that nothing horrible had taken him from me especially when we left off with one another on such bad terms. Ken, you have no idea how horrible I’ve felt about everything that happened between us at your office. When I think of my shameful behavior back there…”

“Well, I can see that you two have something you want to talk about,” Deidra replied uncomfortably watching Michelle peel off her jacket to reveal the halter type top that accompanied the rest of her trashy outfit. She glanced over at Ken, “If you need me, just call for the nurse.”

“Of course,” Ken nodded, his eyes traveling back to Michelle even though he knew they shouldn’t. She leaned forward, her cleavage up in his face as she began to fluff his pillows.

“I would’ve been here sooner, but I had my own situation to deal with and when I heard the news, well you can rest assured that you were the first thing on my mind,” Michelle started with an exaggerated sigh, “Ken, I know that things were on shaky ground with us, but the truth to the matter is that I made all the wrong impression on you. I lead you to think all the wrong things about me and I’d like for us to find a way to fix that.”

“Michelle, I don’t think that…” he spoke up only to feel her silence him with a pleading look.

“Ken, I realize that now might not be the best of times for all of this, but when I’d heard you were hurt, well I got to thinking about what it would be like to never see you again--to never get a second chance at making this work and that frightened me. I was terrified at the thought of never being able to make up for my callous behavior. I was wrong and I needed you to see that I was completely out of line.”

“You weren’t the only one Michelle,” Ken added with a tired sigh, “I’ve been the king of making mistakes lately in case you haven’t heard the rumors.”

“Well I say rumors be damned,” she threw out with a casual wave, “because all they are really amounts to crumbs of gossip for those who have nothing better to do with their time.”

“Unfortunately it’s a bit more than that. I’m not exactly who you thought I was Michelle,” Ken started to explain to her again.

“Neither am I Ken and if you give me an opportunity to prove myself to you, then I promise you that I won’t let you down. If you’ll only give me another chance,” Michelle threw out a pleading look in the hopes that Ken would see that she had more to offer him than what she’d presented him with before.

“Michelle, I don’t know if…” he began again.

“Ken, just hear me out. I know I was a bitch, but there’s more to this. I was wrong and I really, truly like you. I care about you and if I can’t get one more chance to show you that, then I don’t know what I’ll do,” Michelle reached for his hand squeezing it in hers, “I won’t fail you this time.”

“I wish I could believe that, but right about now Michelle, I don’t know if I can hold you to that considering that I’m not sure that I won’t fail you or anyone else…” Ken sighed feeling as if the struggle was just beginning for him in his quest to reclaim his life again.


Brant stepped into Don’s office again wanting to get a moment’s privacy instead of being out in the hallway trying to call Avery. His cell phone had lost it’s power earlier in the morning and while he would’ve been more than eager to try using it, one of the nurse’s had given him a stern lecture about even thinking about it. Normally he might’ve argued the point with her for a little while, but right about now he could go for a nice, hot shower and a long nap. Plus he really wasn’t in much of a fighting mood.

“Another time,” he’d told himself as he sat down at Don’s desk reaching for the phone. He dialed the number awaiting some kind of answer, but there wasn’t anything, but the machine picking up. He tried Avery’s cell phone, but found himself met by her voice mail message.

“I wonder if she’s still sleeping,” Brant thought to himself making another call to Annie. After three rings she picked up.

“Oh hey Brant, how are you?” Annie questioned with a smile, “I just got back from my morning walk. I was on my way over to see Ken in a few and…”

“And he’s doing fine, but I have a question for you. Is Avery doing alright? She was supposed to call me when she got home last night and I never heard from her,” Brant explained simply feeling tension rise up over his shoulders. He looked around Don’s office taking in his surroundings before speaking up again, “I know she might be sleeping, but…”

“She’s not here,” Annie informed him after a moment’s hesitation, “I just assumed that she was with you since neither one of you came home last night.”

“You mean she’s not…” Brant stopped himself worry suddenly flooding over him, “Alright Annie. That must mean she’s on her way over. Thanks for letting me know and I’ll see you soon.”

They said their good-byes as Brant left Don’s office thinking about Avery not going home. She’d seemed so tired and worn out and that’s why he’d suggested she’d leave in the first place, but now he found himself worrying about what might’ve happened. It wasn’t like Avery to just touch base with him, but then again maybe she’d gotten sidetracked and no one really heard her come home. Yes, that had to be it. She must’ve got in late and left early, which meant she was on her way over.

“I’ll give her twenty minutes and then I’ll go looking for her,” Brant decided ready to turn back around and go into Don’s office again to leave another message on her voice mail. He was halfway there when he spotted Julian up ahead.

“Julian,” Brant called out to the police lieutenant finding himself suddenly distracted at the thought of what was happening in the search for Susan. Granted Brant had tried not to cause too much of a scene when he’d discovered that the woman who had drugged and damn near killed his brother had escaped, but now he found himself far more agitated than he’d been last night.

“Brant,” Julian nodded tucking away the pad of paper he was writing on, “What can I do for you?”

“You can start by telling me that you found Susan,” Brant growled in his general direction, “Tell me that someone is doing their job and she’s in custody.”

“I honestly don’t know,” Julian sighed feeling his own tiredness weighing down upon him, “I’ve been busy with other things.”

“What could be more important than finding that menace?” Brant frowned, “I thought that finding her would be your top priority.”

“It might’ve been if Bruce Mathis wasn’t back in town,” Julian quipped in response.

“What?” Brant questioned. “Did you just say Bruce?”

“That’s right,” Julian nodded poignantly, “Last night he was making his rounds and he found another victim.”

“What?” fear carried over Brant, “Please don’t tell me he got to Avery. That…”

“It wasn’t Avery. It was another young woman. Only unlike most of the others she fought back and lived to tell the tale,” Julian continued to inform him, “They brought her in late last night and she was pretty shaken, but the ID she gave us of this guy pretty much matches Mathis to a tee. I’ve got some of my best men on it and…”

“And what? Are you just going to stand there and talk when you should be out looking for him?” Brant’s voice raised with worry, “My wife is out there and I don’t know where she is. I sent her home last night thinking she’d be safe, but if you’re telling me that Mathis is still running around Coral Valley…”

“What do you mean your wife is out there?” Julian questioned, “As in she’s home or…”

“I haven’t been able to reach her,” Brant explained worriedly, “I tried, but I got no response. She isn’t answering her cell phone and…”

“And what time did she leave last night?” Julian asked pulling out his notepad again.

“It was late… I don’t really remember the exact time, but when I called home they’d said that she didn’t show up there. If he’s got her…” Brant’s face drained of all color. “I’ve got to find her!”

“Brant…” Julian called out after him, but it was too late. If there was a chance that Bruce could’ve gotten to Avery, then Brant had to find her. He had to do what he could to keep her out of harm’s way. There was no choice in the matter.


“Did you get a hold of Brant?” Grady questioned looking up from where he was seated on the couch in his living room with breakfast waiting for Avery.

“No,” she shook her head, “I tried his cell phone, but it said he was out of the service area, which means he’s probably still at the hospital. I called over there to have him paged, but no one could seem to find him there either.”

“Maybe he’s taking a break from it all,” Grady shrugged. He motioned to the coffee table before him and she seemed to take an interest.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” she pondered the thought for a moment knowing that Brant might’ve gone for some air. She eyed the tray of food Grady had whipped up for them and she felt her stomach rumble. She stepped in closer to him ready to sit beside him on the couch when she found herself met by the uncomfortable memory of waking up to him wrapped up in her arms. Taking a step back she opted to sit in one of the chairs, “He’s probably out of his mind with worry about Ken right about now.”

“I don’t doubt that, though I’m sure that things will work themselves out,” Grady watched her reach for a bagel from off of the tray.

She broke a piece of it off, bringing it to her lips when his words suddenly registered with her. “Wait a second. Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Are you actually being an optimist for once?”

“What can I say,” he shrugged offering up a small, hopeful smile, “this morning inspired me to have a whole new outlook on things. I woke up feeling like I was on top of the world in a strange way.”

Avery’s eyes widened and there was another uncomfortable moment between them. She looked away paying attention to the bagel in her hand. Yes, it was by far the most fascinating cheese bagel she’d ever had in her life.

“I mean that…” Grady cleared his throat uneasily. He fingered the collar of his t-shirt that he’d thrown on earlier after he found himself burning up in the button down shirt. How he’d wound up with his shirt wide open and himself wrapped up in Avery’s thighs had him thinking he’d lost his mind for sure. “Look Avery about this morning…”

“I’d really rather not talk about it,” she cut him off abruptly. She tilted her head up to meet his gaze with a business as usual stare. “It was just a misunderstanding. I was just dreaming and…”

“I was dreaming too…” he nodded encouragingly, “about Jade and…”

“And we were both full of wishful thinking,” she blurted out off the top of her head, “I was just thinking about the past and…”

“I was thinking about the future…about what it’s going to be like when Jade gets back home,” Grady let out a nervous laugh, “The fact that we were like that when we…”

“Grady,” she spoke his name in a stern warning tone.

“I mean it’s not like what we talked about the other night influenced any of that,” Grady watched her face grow hot with color, “I mean what I’m trying to say is that even though we were kind of…”

“We weren’t really kind of,” Avery argued with him, “We weren’t even remotely close to kind of there Grady. It was all just a huge…”

“Misunderstanding,” Grady nodded encouragingly reaching for a bagel himself. He tore off a piece and raised it to his lips, “I mean it’s not like I was thinking about having sex with you there…”

Avery choked upon his statement, unable to keep from gasping for air, finding that she couldn’t get it in fast enough. “That thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

“Well good because it didn’t cross mine either,” he paused uneasily, “I just thought I’d get that out of the way and clear the air between us.”

“Good thinking and I’m glad that you did,” she replied with a small cough.

“Juice?” he questioned reaching for a glass on top of the table. He held it out to her and she hesitated before finally reaching for it.

“Thank you,” she was careful not to let their fingers touch as she pulled the glass in towards her protectively. “Thanks for this.”

“You’re welcome,” Grady smiled at her, still a bit on edge about what had happened. “I mean it’s the least I can do for you after all you’ve done to help me look for Jade.”

“And I plan on doing a whole lot more,” Avery piped in encouragingly, “We’re going to find her and bring her home again.”

“That is my mantra here,” Grady added thinking about the woman he loved, “I realize that we hit a bit of a setback over the last couple of days…”

“But that doesn’t change anything. We will find her Grady and when we do, well, we’re going to find a way to get things back to where they should be for all of us,” Avery promised as she looked beyond him to the table near the sofa. Leaning forward she reached out to collect it for inspection, “What’s this?”

“What’s what?” Grady asked seeing the frame in her hand, “Oh that.”

“Yes, this,” Avery couldn’t help but laugh as the faces before her were so familiar, yet oh so young. She held it up to show Grady before another chuckle took her over. “Where did you find this?”

“I was going through a few things in the attic the other day when I couldn’t sleep,” he confessed catching a glimpse of the fading photo in her hands. “I just couldn’t resist putting it up as kind of a reminder of the good times.”

“They were the best of times,” Avery sighed fingering the glass covering of the photo. There before her was an image that had been taken on the road trip she, Russ, Grady and Kyle had decided to take when Russ had still been going around town in his ‘bad boy’ phase. There outside one of the biker bars they’d dared to visit was the group with a couple of extra ‘locals’ who were decked out in leather at their sides. The group was positioned around the motorcycles.

“It might seem kind of silly considering,” Grady watched her expression closely.

“Considering what?” Avery felt a smile fill her up inside, “That it was one of the most incredible times for all of us? Hell, I still remember how terrified you were when Butch here almost kicked your ass.”

“Hey, he did not almost kick my ass. Kyle was the one who pissed him off and,” Grady motioned towards the big, burly looking man who stood behind him in the photo. Grady could recall how he’d grudgingly posed for that photo after the man had terrified him inside the bar.

“Sure, sure,” Avery shook her head in disbelief before her eyes fell upon Russ. Just looking at him back then made her pulse quicken. Even in the faded photo, he was sexier than ever with his long, dark hair tied back behind his neck in a neat ponytail. He’d protested to wearing one almost as much as Avery protested to his long hair, but when it got down to it, she’d appreciated that phase in his life. She could remember quite well it’s silken feel and the way he looked all rugged and daring on that bike. It was during his ‘reckless phase’ if you could even call it that. Avery had thought it was a bit of a rebellion simply because he was the ultimate boy scout, but then again, it didn’t really matter because she’d loved every single second of it.

“I can’t believe we did that. Russ was insane when he suggested that we just hit the road on those bikes,” Grady let out a small laugh, “Somehow I just couldn’t see myself doing that.”

“But you did because Russ asked you to,” Avery reminded him pointedly, “He and Kyle were so enthusiastic about the trip.”

“And you and I kind of got sucked along for the ride,” Grady laughed lightly.

“No, I volunteered when I knew it would be just the three of you on the road together. The last thing I wanted was for some biker babe to move in on Russ,” Avery refocused on the photo again remembering all the wild and reckless nights she and Russ had spent together underneath the stars making love during the side trips they’d taken when Grady and Kyle were off exploring.

“Avery, you’re so full of it. You went because you wanted to be a part of the action,” Grady shook his head at her, “because we all know full well that Russ only had eyes for you. You could take him to a strip club and buy him a lap dance, yet all he’d think about was you and the way that he wanted to come home to you and surprise you with this or that…”

“You bought him a lap dance?” Avery’s eyes widened with surprise, “When?”

“I’m just using an example there,” Grady waved his hand dismissively, “I know it was extreme but…”

“But what? Is there something that you’re not telling me here?” she perked up a hint of jealousy creeping up at the thought of some skanky stripper writhing and bumping in Russell’s lap. Grady remained silent only adding fuel to the fire that burned her curiosity, “There is, isn’t there?”

“Unfortunately no,” Grady finally blurted out, “Even at his bachelor party, Russ was a saint. Kyle and I on the other hand…”

“Oh please,” she groaned inwardly, “spare me the details. I already know how scandalous you are.”

“Scandalous?” he repeated with an arched brow, “Isn’t that kind of harsh?”

“For you,” she offered up with a long, dramatic pause, “no. You’re capable of being just plain wicked at times.”

“I think my feelings are hurt,” Grady began with a mock pout.

“The hell you are,” Avery reached for the pillow beside her tossing it at him, “You’re not at all hurt by my saying that because we both know first hand how you single-handedly made my teen years a living nightmare.”

“I did not,” Grady argued with her.

“Yes, you did,” she insisted again, “You liked to torment me and I think in some strange, twisted way you still do.”

“I do not,” he paused contemplating his words, “Okay, well maybe a little.”

“See, I told you that you did,” she shook her head at him unable to refrain from teasing him, “and you know I still haven’t forgiven you for some of the things you’ve done. In fact the more I remember the past, the more I think I shouldn’t even bother being nice to you.”

“And just why is that?” Grady replied.

“Simply put, I remember what a jerk you were,” she leaned forward, “Like the time you thought it fitting to humiliate me in front of half the football team.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he feigned innocence fighting to keep from cracking a grin.

“The hell you don’t,” Avery glared at him, “You know exactly what I’m talking about with that swimming pool incident.”

“Swimming pool incident,” he leaned back on the couch, “No I don’t know the first thing about what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do,” she wiggled her finger at him, “You had half the team over when you came home for break. You were done with exams early and you thought it best to come and torment Russ and I.”

“I was keeping an eye on you and Russ,” he corrected, “My parents didn’t want you two getting into trouble.”

“You were the only one getting us into trouble,” Avery glared at him, “When you thought you’d be cute and embarrass me in front of your friends simply because I wasn’t interested in playing Marco polo…”

“Oh please,” he rolled his eyes at her, “Don’t tell me you’re going to hold that against me forever.”

“It was humiliating,” she folded her arms in front of her chest, “To think that I had to endure teasing after that one once you stole my bikini top and swam around the pool with it.”

“Hey, if you were paying attention, you wouldn’t have lost it,” Grady broke into a chorus of laughter, “Besides it was one hell of a show watching you walk around with those little floaty things there in an attempt to keep everyone from seeing you naked.”

“It wasn’t funny at all,” she huffed at the memory of chasing him around the Denton pool only to wind up the subject of unwanted attention once Grady’s buddies caught him in the act of torment.

“Hey, I thought it was pretty great,” Grady shrugged with an afterthought, “It was a fun show and you really didn’t have anything to be embarrassed about.”

“Other than everyone thinking I was some kind of slut,” Avery shook her head at him. “It was mortifying to think you could do that to me.”

“Yeah, well when Russ decked me for it, I think I more than learned my lesson,” Grady rubbed his jaw remembering his brother’s inability to find humor in the situation. “Besides, you didn’t have anything to be embarrassed about there in the being naked department. You still don’t. You’ve filled out quite nicely.”

“Thank you…” she paused for a moment feeling a strangeness for the briefest of seconds, “I think.”

“You’re welcome,” Grady shrugged his shoulders, “and I can say that simply because I knew you before the whole adolescence thing kicked in. Besides in the long run, I think you liked it. It gave Russ a chance to play your hero and you enjoyed him doing that.”

“I so did not,” Avery argued with him, “I didn’t want him to feel like he always had to defend me all the time with you. I hated when you both fought over me.”

“I fought with him because I really thought he couldn’t see you as you truly were,” Grady admitted with a small sigh.

“And how was that?” she questioned almost afraid of the answer.

“Then or now?” he replied.

“Now,” she decided after a moment’s contemplation, “We look towards now and never look back at how you hated me.”

“I didn’t hate you,” Grady confessed seeing a flicker of pain behind her eyes, “I never hated you. I just couldn’t understand what it was that you had over my brother--what power it was that you carried with you that would have him so ready to go after me for teasing you.”

“He wasn’t trying to go after you. He was just being Russ and standing up for those he loved,” she explained to him as her eyes dropped down to the picture again, “That’s what he always did you know? He even defended you when it was important.”

“He gave me a lot more than I gave him since I only offered a lot of grief for so very long,” he sighed wishing like hell he could have his brother back again, “and I hate that. I hate how I let him down.”

“You didn’t,” Avery shook her head feeling herself fighting the tears that threatened at the mention of Russ. “Deep down he knew you loved him and you were trying to do what was best for him.”

“By keeping him away from the love of his life?” he raised an arched brow, “Yeah I’m a real gem.”

“Grady, it wasn’t your fault that you didn’t think I was worthy of Russ. Hell, I don’t know if I ever truly was, but the fact that I was able to love him--that I was able to have him in my life--that a part of him is still in my life,” Avery got choked up on the moment. She dropped her hand to her abdomen thinking of all the beautiful words she wanted to say about Russ and how he’d turned her world around. She wanted to tell Grady how much she loved Russ and how being with him had been the greatest thing she’d ever known, but instead she felt her pain surface over losing him. Her mind wandered to the photo from days gone by and the memory of what they’d once had. She thought to how it had felt to hold him, to kiss him and to just be with him when she needed him more than ever. It was all of those things that prompted her response. “I miss him like you can’t even begin to imagine. I’m so lost without him.”

“Avery…” Grady’s face twisted as he watched her go from smiling to sniffling. “Hey…”

“I’m sorry,” she tilted her eyes up to look at him. She wiped at her face, “I don’t mean to be like this when we were talking about finding Jade and looking forward and…”

“Hey,” Grady moved up from where he was seated to step in beside her. Kneeling down in front of her, he looked into her sad eyes and spoke up gently, “no one is asking you to pretend that you don’t miss him like crazy.”

“It’s just when I think about how much we’ve lost with one another--about all the dreams I wanted to share with him and our daughter,” Avery lost control of her tears unable to keep them caged within. She burst into tiny sobs as Grady leaned forward pulling her into an embrace.

“I miss him too Avery,” Grady whispered hugging her as they both thought back to the better times--to the moments when life was easier, happier and when one of the most important people in their lives was still with them sharing the love and laughter that life had offered them once upon a time.


“So what do you think? You like?” Angela held out one of the last magazines still left on the table for Nick to look at.

“They’re great,” he nodded for the fifth time in the last ten minutes.

“Great huh?” Angela tilted her head to give him a sideways glance, “And if I said that I wanted to rip your clothes off and make you my boy toy for the next few hours, what would you say to that?”

“Uh-huh. That’s great,” Nick nodded again, “Whatever you want.”

“Nick!” she squealed his name bringing him back to reality. “You’re not paying attention at all, are you?”

“What? Huh?” he finally looked at her seeing the upset behind her eyes, “I’m sorry. I guess I’ve just been off in my own world today.”

“I noticed,” she nodded placing her hand over the center of his chest tentatively, “but it’s been more so since Martha and I started talking about all the wedding stuff. I thought that you wanted to do this.”

“I do and what I said before still holds true. I want you to have a perfect wedding,” he hesitated feeling his worries surface, “but at the same time I feel like this isn’t how it’s supposed to be for us Angie.”

“What do you mean?” she gave him a strange look. “Are you having second thoughts about us getting married Nick?”

“No,” he shook his head, “It’s nothing like that. It’s just that with your being a doctor and my being a, well whatever it is that I do for Martha, it’s kind of not balanced for us.”

“Nick, I don’t understand,” she said watching him closely.

“What I’m trying to say is that I don’t want you to feel like this wedding is going to be totally on your shoulders--that I can’t contribute something for it. I mean sure Martha jokes about it coming out of my salary, but with half of what we’re planning, well I think I’ll be in my retirement years before I’ll be able to pay this off. I can barely cover the decorations you two want to make for the reception,” Nick touched her cheek gently, “and I don’t want to lead you to believe that I can’t provide for you--that I can’t somehow give you the good life.”

“That thought never crossed my mind,” she admitted with a small smile, “Not once.”

“Yet, here we are planning for our wedding and I don’t have nearly as much to offer you as I should. In being your husband I should be the one to take care of you and…” he began feeling her place her finger over his lips to silence him.

“Nick, you do take care of me. You take care of me in the ways that truly matter,” she assured him, “And besides it’s not like I’m hard up for money here. I have the trust that my father left me and…”

“And I don’t want you to think you have to be the one supporting us. I want to be able to give you more than what I have at the moment. I mean sure it’s cute to say that your boyfriend dances on bars and serves a mean margarita, but when it gets down to it, your husband should be more than that,” Nick sighed heavily.

“When I think about what my husband should be, I know in my heart it should be exactly what you are--as you are,” she reached for his hand squeezing it gently, “I love you Nick and that isn’t going to change whether or not you’re making millions of dollars or we’re barely getting by.”

“Even so, you deserve so much more. You deserve the life of a princess,” he leaned in closer to her, his hand playing over her dark hair.

“I’ve had that life Nick and I hated it,” she confessed heavily, “I don’t want to be the pampered princess. I want to be the woman who knows how to live life to the fullest--to have the great love of her life with her raising their children together. I want the fairy tale, but I don’t need the riches that come along with it. Trust me they are often more a source of misery than happiness anyways.”

“Even so, I just want to make our wedding special for you. You deserve nothing less than the best,” he kissed her lovingly, “You deserve the world.”

“I have the world when I’m in your arms like this. You make me happier beyond my wildest dreams Nick. As far as I’m concerned all I need is you,” Angela whispered kissing him again as Nick wondered if he would ever be able to give Angela the kind of life she truly deserved. He hoped so, but his head was clouded with doubts about how much he truly had to offer in being a man with no past--no history for them to build upon with one another. He’d like to say that was a bonus, but in the back of his mind he feared what would happen if he didn’t at least contemplate what it was that he came from.


“Yes Heather,” Diego nodded, gulping down after waiting a few minutes to answer her question, “I am with Cori and I am dating her.”

“Why would you go and do something dumb like that?” Heather questioned with a scowl, looking Cori over. “She looks like the type of woman who has been with thousands of guys that she picked up at the mall. Aren’t you afraid she is going to give you something?”

“You know what?” Cori tried to get around Diego again, but he was still holding her back with most of his power. “You know, you don’t look like quite the angel either. How many men have you been with in the last day or so? About ten?”

“Don’t even go there,” Heather snapped taking a step forward, only to have Diego hold her back too, “Where did you find this nasty little girl? She is such a piece of pathetic work.”

“Pathetic work?” Cori questioned angrily, tensing her eyebrows. “What kind of comment is that supposed to be?”

“It means,” Heather pointed over Cori’s features, “Your face is a little screwed up and your body--well it could use a lot of work you know.”

“A lot of work?” Cori let a sarcastic laugh before shaking her head slowly. “I guess that is coming from the queen of plastic surgery.”

“That’s it,” Heather pushed forward into Diego trying to get towards Cori, “Let us just handle this on our own Diego.”

“You want to go up against me you idiot?” Cori questioned, taking a few steps forward. “Please, I bet you can hardly even hit hard enough to hurt someone..”

“You want to see how hard I can hit?” Heather wondered seeing Cori nod slowly. “Fine, just bring it little girl.”

“No one is bringing anything,” Diego ordered, but he was too late because when he took a step forward, both women popped him right in the face with their fist when they tried to hit each other.

“Diego,” Cori gasped as he fell back into the couch, holding his jaw, “Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Great, look what you did,” Heather hissed taking a step forward to look Diego over as she flipped back her hair away from her face.

“Your face is,” Diego mumbled, still holding both sides of his face, “It’s…”

“I know, I am beautiful again,” Heather smiled proudly, taking a step back to flaunt off the work they did, “Augustus Ashford helped me along the way.”

“Good, great,” Cori snapped turning around after trying to care for Diego‘s jaw, “Now why don’t you get the hell out of here and find him, while you are at--tell them to finish the job with fixing your personality too.”

“You snotty little…” Heather went to take step forward before hearing Diego yell out.

“Would you two stop acting like children?” Diego begged shaking his head slowly and moving his jaw around. “I don’t think fighting is the best thing that we need right now.”

“Well,” Heather bit down on her bottom lip lightly, “Who at least hit you harder?”

“Heather, leave,” Diego demanded, not being able to take both of them in the same room at that same time, “Seriously. Leave.”

“But Diego,” Heather frowned seeing him shake his head slowly, “I need to talk to you.”

“Later, Cori was here first and I need to talk to her,” Diego replied pointing towards the door, “Leave.”

“Fine,” Heather angrily stomped off, slamming the office door behind her when she left.

“I am so sorry about that,” Diego apologized, feeling Cori’s fingers run gently along his jaw line lightly, “Sometimes Heather can be a little…”

“It’s okay,” Cori hushed shaking her head slowly, “I guess you could kind of say I was kind of instigating her back so it isn’t all your fault.”


“Are you still worried about Trisha?” Kevin wondered, seeing the look on Ria’s face as she kept looking back at the hospital room door while the doctor was in there with Trisha.

“I can’t help it Kevin,” Ria sighed, feeling as if her whole body was just a big ball of worry at this point, “I am worried about her. I mean, what would have happened if those two kids wouldn’t have found her? She would be gone right now and I couldn’t handle that.”

“She’s not gone though,” Kevin replied, holding her hand in his gently, “You know that she is here with us right now and that’s the best way to look at it. She was lucky enough to get away and she is going to be fine. I promise.”

Kevin pulled her into a gentle embrace, holding her tightly in his arms. He hated to see Ria this worried, she meant a lot to him and he couldn’t let her handle this alone.

“Oh look at the cheesy couple that finally got together,” a woman said from behind Kevin as Ria looked up and laughed at who she saw.

“What are you doing here Michelle?” Kevin questioned, turning around slowly so that he was face to face with his ex-wife. “You come here to torment some more people. Or are you here to pick your next victim?”

“I have a better reason then you two do here,” Michelle protested, folding her arms out in front of her chest, “I actually have someone in the hospital that I care about, I’m not in the hallways making out with another person.”

“Probably because when you went to kiss a person in the hallway, he turned around and puked,” Kevin made something up, hearing Ria chuckle from behind him, “Which means he probably checked himself into the hospital.”

“Real funny Kevin,” Michelle sarcastically laughed before changing her attitude, “You know, you always had a bad sense of humor.”

“I thought it was pretty funny,” Ria pointed out with a small shrug, “Kevin was always one of the funniest people I knew.”

“Then you definitely didn’t know the real Kevin,” Michelle stated, rolling her eyes after looking at Kevin.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kevin apologized in a sarcastic tone, “Did you hear my jokes after you cheated on me every night? Or was it when you came to me and said you were pregnant because you wanted me to marry you--which ended up being a lie anyways. Oh, I got it. Was it when you were trying take every dollar I had away from me? There were so many good times we had together that I really can’t remember a single one.”

“Oh, come on Kevin,” Michelle sighed in disgust shaking her head slowly, “I always knew you had something going on behind my back. You know, I knew Ria was one of them.”

“How was Ria one of them Michelle?” Kevin threw his hands up in the air angrily. “Oh, I can see on account of I never left the stupid island. You know, first it was Angie and now you think it’s Ria. Michelle, when I exchanged my wedding vows with you, I never broke a promise. I was the one who was always home at night, waiting for you to get home. I was the one who would cook dinner and you wouldn’t show. And I was the one who would show up in the middle of you going at it with some guy while we were married--about five times. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Come on Kev,” Michelle laughed, not taking a single word serious coming from him, “You know you always wanted to be with one of those sluts. Including Ria over here.”

“Forgive me Kevin,” Ria bit down on her bottom lip taking a step forward.

“For what?” Kevin questioned, tensing his eyebrows as she took a few more steps forward and nailed Michelle square in the jaw, sending Michelle flying to the ground. “Holy shi…”

“That,” Ria answered Kevin’s earlier question before smiling, seeing Michelle slowly rise to her knees.

“Adonis,” Julian Kurts called out, making Kevin turn around and nod slowly, “Is Trisha available right now?”

“Actually the doctor is in the middle of a checkup,” Kevin informed him before hearing Michelle’s whining coming from behind him as she got to her feet.

“Officer, I know you just saw that because you were right behind Kevin,” Michelle pointed out, grabbing her jaw that was stinging with pain, “You are going to do something about that aren’t you?”

“Nope, I didn’t see anything,” Julian answered, looking between Ria and Kevin, “I’m not even going to touch this one. If you will, I will be right back.”

Michelle stomped her feet before letting out a tiny squeal and walking back down the hallway. Ria breathed out deeply before looking back at Kevin who seemed to laughing quite a bit.

“I feel a lot better now,” Ria smiled, taking in deep breaths seeing Kevin continue to laugh.

“Next time I go to the gym I think I want to take you with me so I can show you off in front of everyone,” Kevin joked playfully with her before shrugging his shoulders, “That was one of the best hits I have seen since my boxing days.”

“What can I say?” Ria questioned, squeezing his bicep in her hand. “I learn from the best.”


Sarah walked back into Kyle’s hospital room after getting some coffee for the morning. He insisted that she go because he needed some time to think. When her eyes went to his hospital bed, she noticed that he was out of the bed and standing up.

“Kyle, what are you doing?” Sarah questioned coming over towards him and making him sit back down on the bed. “You should be resting.”

“Sarah please,” Kyle groaned, sitting up in the bed, “I want to get the hell out of this place. I can’t stand it anymore Sarah, it is getting to me.”

“Kyle, you can’t push yourself,” Sarah replied, not letting him stand up, “I don’t like the fact that you were trying to get up when you know you shouldn’t even be trying that.”

“Sarah, I don’t think you get it,” Kyle bit back his anger before shaking his head slowly, “Sarah, I’m not a victim and I am not going to just sit back and act like one.”

“You aren’t acting like a victim Kyle,” Sarah hushed him, placing her finger over his lips so he couldn’t talk, “You could get really sick and we don’t want to watch you get hurt. We want to make sure that you are okay before you are let out.”

“I am feeling fine,” Kyle lied grabbing her hand in his so he could talk before seeing her roll her eyes, “I can handle a little pain Sarah. I always have been able to do that.”

“A little pain Kyle?” Sarah questioned with a laugh, shaking her head slowly. “Please, you are in a lot of pain, you are just too afraid to admit it to me Kyle because you are afraid that I am going to be worrying about you all the time.”

“That’s not the point,” Kyle tried to protest, but he knew nothing was going to work with Sarah. She was just too smart. With Sarah, he was like a glass window. She could she right through him. “Sarah, Susan is still out there and I am going to go out there and find that bitch. If I have to, I am going to drag her by her hair to the jail myself if I have to.”

“I’m sorry Kyle, but I’m not going to let you leave the hospital,” Sarah shook her head slowly, seeing Kyle’s reaction wasn’t a happy one, but he sat back and listened to her. “She will get what’s coming to her Kyle. Don’t worry.”

“Kyle Houston,” a delivery guy peaked his head through the slightly opened door as Sarah stood up, “I have a flower delivery for a Mr. Kyle Houston.”

“That’s me,” Kyle nodded as the guy handed Sarah a paper to sign, “Who are they from?”

“I don’t know,” the guy shrugged before taking the paper back after Sarah signed it, “We deliver it, the people tells us where to take it.”

“Right,” Kyle rolled his eyes after the guy left as Sarah brought the flowers to Kyle who grabbed onto them in his hands. “Who do you think they are from?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah shrugged looking around the flowers, “Look for a card.”

“Oh, here it is,” Kyle pulled it out, reading over the writing on the card. Sarah gasped as Kyle let go of the flowers and let them dropt to the ground.

“Who is it?” Sarah questioned as Kyle dropped the card down and looked towards the door. Sarah’s eyes traveled down to where the signature was. “Susan.”



...to be continued...