Episode 236

“I’m coming,” Don groaned as he walked towards his front door. He had been woken up by the doorbell ringing a couple of times. Today was supposed to be his day to rest in, but obviously--that was never happen for him. “What is it?”

“Did I wake you up?” Shannon questioned worriedly as he shook his head slowly. Blinking a few times, letting his eyes get used to the light from the sun.

“No, you’re fine,” Don assured her with a small yawn as he grabbed the door handle, “What’s up?”

“I was just was wondering if we could just…talk or something,” Shannon shrugged her shoulders, with obvious features that showed she was feeling bad.

“What’s wrong Shannon?” Don wondered with a small frown, reaching out to run his fingertips along her cheek lightly as he felt her lean into his warm touch.

“It’s just the night I have had,” Shannon let out an exhausted sigh as Don nodded slowly, “I just--I guess you could say I am a little overwhelmed.”

“Mixed with me upset,” Don nodded slowly, reaching out to hug her in his arms tightly, “I heard about what happened last night. I am so sorry that all this happened. I wish it could have been different.”

“You know what really kills me inside though?” Shannon questioned, resting her head against his chest as he held her in a tight embrace.

“What’s that?” Don kissed her forehead lightly before seeing her look up at him with her big eyes.

“The fact that I saw all my friends breaking down right in front of me,” Shannon declared, shaking her head slowly. “You should have seen everyone last night.”

“I can only imagine how they were feeling and acting,” Don sighed, letting her out of his grasp as she took a step back and looked down towards the ground.

“I never would have imagined that this would have happened Don,” she frowned, biting down on her bottom lip. “You should have seen everyone. Seth was breaking down. And Kyle, he was blaming himself for this whole thing. He was going crazy. I don’t think I have ever seen him like this before. Even worse, you should have seen Grady.”

“Really torn up?” he questioned seeing her nod slowly. “I know what kind of position he is in right now. It’s hard--really hard. The pain kills you inside. I know.”

“You do?” Shannon looked up at him seeing him nod slowly. “How so?”

“Long story,” he breathed out slowly, taking a glance behind him, “would you like to come in to talk about things? Maybe I could cook us some breakfast. How doest that sound?”

“Sounds great,” Shannon smirked as he led her into his house and motioned her to wait for a second, “Where are you going?”

“I think I should get changed,” he pointed out, looking down at his pajamas. They were a present that Matt had gotten him for his birthday. Scooby-Doo pants. That was Matt’s favorite cartoon. “Somehow, I don’t think Scooby will be very entertaining for you.”

“No, don’t change,” she shook her head quickly as Don looked over his shoulder and towards his room, “You look cute. I think the tank top and Scooby make a cute mixture.”

“If you think that,” Don shrugged with a small smile, “then I guess Scooby it is.”

“So, what is Scooby planning on making me for breakfast?” Shannon questioned, eyeing him slowly as he shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he smirked, folding his arms out in front of his chest, “Scooby really doesn’t know what Shannon likes to eat for breakfast.”

“In that case,” Shannon grabbed onto Don’s hand, leading him towards the kitchen, “Let’s go find things that I like so Scooby will know in the future.”


Valerie opened the front door to JT’s apartment whistling a tune. Last night had been heavenly--divine in so many ways. While she’d been quite preoccupied with getting Seth back, well Cameron had easily found a way to get her forget about that quest for a night. Perhaps she would extend that beyond a night, she mused to herself with a proud smirk knowing only to well how a man like Cameron could offer her heaven if she played her cards right. There was just something about a dark and dangerous billionaire that was enough to get a girl’s spirits boosted.

Walking past the kitchen she noticed JT seated at the table with a newspaper and a mug of coffee in hand. She stopped just beyond the kitchen door contemplating whether or not she should gloat. She was almost tempted to say to hell with him, but remembering his foul mood from the night before, she decided to give him a hard time. She stepped backwards entering the kitchen with a grin.

“Well hello crabby,” Valerie greeted him smugly making her way over to inspect the pot of coffee he’d put on. She reached for it, holding it up to take a quick whiff of it before opting to pour herself a glass. She walked over to the cabinet reaching for a mug before glancing at him once more, “So tell me, did you wake up on the right side of the bed this morning?”

“As long as you weren’t in it, it’s always the right side Val,” JT groaned in response not bothering to look up at her, “but then again I suppose my brother can’t count the same blessings in that respect, now can he?”

“Your brother is absolutely divine,” she sighed dreamily filling her mug. She lifted it to her lips, taking a smooth sip of the steaming liquid before speaking up once again, “Who knew that there was someone with charm and manners in your family?”

“I believe the correct term you’re reaching for is moron,” JT glanced at her casually looking completely bored with her, “because that’s something I consider my brother to be after last night. The mere fact that he was taken by you only proves that being in jail has made him desperate and needy--two things that never seemed to mesh well with Cameron.”

“I’ll have you know that he’s far from being desperate and needy. He’s powerful, passionate and by far one of the most erotic lovers that I’ve ever been with,” she stepped in closer to him taking another sip of her coffee, “I’ll have you know that he has a great many talents that you yourself would be best suited to pick up on.”

“Please, I just finished breakfast,” he groaned dropping the paper down to make a twisted, gut wrenching expression, “I don’t need to throw up here.”

“Oh please,” she rolled her eyes pulling out the chair across from him before taking a seat, “you only wish you could claim the same privilege that your brother had with me last night.”

“Now that’s where you’re the one lost in the land of delusion,” he groaned back at her, casting another bored and useless glance in her general direction, “I’d rather give up sex altogether than take a ride on the express train with you.”

“Right,” she scoffed finding herself agitated by his lack of response to her bragging, “you’re so in denial JT.”

“And you’re so full of yourself,” he eyed her once again, “which surprises me because from where I sit you have a lot to improve upon.”

“Ah, so you’re saying that I don’t hold a candle to your precious Diane then yes?” she questioned leaning in over the table top, “That I can’t be as much of a plain Jane as she is?”

“On the contrary, Diane is extraordinary, but you are,” he frowned over at her again, “well…something I’d rather not discuss this morning. It might conjure up all the wrong horrifying images and we can’t have that…”

“Well, whatever. You’re so lost in your own little world of stupidity JT,” she grumbled in response. “You know you want me.”

“Yeah about as much as I’d like to have another hole in my head,” he laughed mildly amused with her. He set the paper down before sliding it across the table at her, “but while you were off shagging my brother, I must admit you were missing out on the opportunity of the lifetime--that is if you still consider Seth to be your opportunity there.”

“Why do you say that?” Valerie questioned her eyes lingering over to the newspaper. She caught a glimpse of the headline and her jaw dropped in horror. She eyed JT once more, “Is this for real?”

“That’s very for real,” he nodded back at her, “Destiny was giving you a bond to work with while you were having a nasty old time with Cameron…”

“I just can’t believe,” she looked to the paper again, “I mean with Jade it was just so…”

“Unexpected,” JT finished reaching for the sports section. He stood up giving her another once over before shaking his head, “and if you were smart you’d know what to do with this.”

Saying nothing more JT walked out of the room leaving Valerie to stare at the headline. She picked it up, reading it over as her thoughts became suddenly clear. Oh yes, she more than knew what to do with this one. She was going to see to it that Seth knew as well.


Trisha opened her eyes hearing a distinct rumbling sound coming from outside of Ria’s guest bedroom. She popped her head into the hallway looking around in the hopes of discovering the source of the sound, but the apartment fell to silence again. She paused momentarily trying to see if she could hear Ria, but once again there was still silence around her. Thinking she must’ve imagined it, Trisha turned around ready to return to the guest room when the rumbling sound returned. She stood frozen just listening for a long minute before turning around again.

“Ria?” she questioned in a low, raspy whisper hesitating before making any further movement, “Ria is that you?”

There was no response--no other sound except for the pounding of Trisha’s heart. She thought she’d imagined the noise for the second time, but right now she wasn’t about to take any chances. Inhaling slowly she started down the hallway ready to see what could be waiting for her near the kitchen. Sure, she might still be shaken from what had happened, but she wasn’t about to be a sitting duck. If someone was in the apartment, then she was going to seek them out and try to take control of the situation. She stopped briefly at the broom closet pulling out some sort of feather duster Ria had inside. It wasn’t much, but the long pole might hurt like hell if she slammed it into someone’s head.

Tentatively Trisha peered her head into the kitchen discovering it empty. She felt a breath of relief escape her lips before she moved towards the living room discovering it empty as well. She lowered the feather duster, but then she heard another noise. She spun around to look at the front door wondering if her mind was playing tricks on her or if it was something more. She stepped in closer to the door rising up on her toes to look out the peep hole. She didn’t see anything, but at the same time she didn’t quite trust herself enough to go out without protection. Back pedaling to the kitchen, she pulled a knife out of the drawer.

“If you’re here for me you son of a bitch, then I’m not going to make this easy for you,” she vowed reaching out to the door now armed with a knife and a feather duster. She stepped out into the hallway taking a look around. She saw nothing, but continued to take another step further. It was then when a new sound swept over her. The distinct slamming of the door from behind!

“No,” Trisha cried out spinning around to try to fight with the door. Somehow it had been locked and when she closed it, she’d managed to lock herself out. “How can this be happening? Please…just open.”

The door refused to comply with her wishes and Trisha let out a pained cry. She hit the door again, her heart pounding in her chest. Her fears mounted as she looked around the hallway fearing what could be lurking out there now that she’d locked herself out of Ria’s apartment. Fear consumed her. Her mind returned to when she’d been held up in Bruce’s hotel room and in that moment she turned to the door pounding on it wildly.

“Please open,” she begged behind a pinched cry dropping the duster, yet still clenching the knife in hand. She reached for the door knob struggling with it.

“Are you alright,” she heard a voice call out from behind her. She felt a hand on her shoulder and she spun around ready to attack. The man behind her saw the knife and jumped back hurriedly.

“Hey, look I’m sorry,” he stammered moving another step backwards. “I didn’t mean anything…”

“No, it’s not you,” she replied realizing that she looked threatening with the knife. She struggled to get her words out, but they were a small whisper, “I thought I heard a noise in the apartment and I locked myself out… I was just worried and…”

“And I didn’t help anything by sneaking up on you like I did,” he looked to the knife. His eyes traveled to her neck seeing the bandages on it, “but fortunately for both of us I moved before you could hurt me. You know you really shouldn’t play with knives.”

“I wasn’t playing. I was trying to protect myself,” she threw her hand up in the air, “but I guess it doesn’t matter now that I’m locked out.”

“Do you have a key,” he questioned curiously.

“If I did I wouldn’t be standing here,” she glared up at him with obvious annoyance.

“Well,” he scratched his chin lightly, his handsome features fixed on her, “I suppose we can go back to my place and you can call the super. He probably has a key…”

“I suppose, but…” she bit down on her lower lip nervously, “This isn’t my place.”

“I figured as much considering that Ria lives here,” he nodded in response. “I’m assuming she’s not home.”

“No, she’s not. I thought she would be, but when I woke up she was gone and…” she started again feeling a breath catch in the back of her throat.

“You must be Trisha,” he replied with a knowing expression, “I’m Michael. Michael Winston. Ria mentioned that she might be having her sister with her for the next few days or so when I caught her on the elevators this morning.”

“She did?” Trisha added curiously. She took a long look at this man before her wondering how in the world she’d been to Ria’s apartment and missed him before. Of course here she was with bed head and looking like death warmed over, but she still couldn’t help but notice how cute he was.

“Yeah, she did,” Michael nodded with a small smile, “and truth be told Ria has locked herself every now and then as well, but she’d probably never tell you that.”

“No, she wouldn’t,” she replied feeling a bit more at ease.

“So I’ll tell you what,” he leaned back against the wall motioning to the door across from where Trisha stood. “My place is right over there. You can go and call the super and then we can wait for him out here together if you like.”

“Really?” she questioned surprised at his generosity considering that she had to look like a zombie in her oversized t-shirt and bandages.

“Yes really,” he nodded politely, “I’m sure he won’t take too long and I don’t mind you coming on in to use the phone. In fact I can call if you’d like.”

“Thanks I’d appreciate that,” she raised her hand to her throat fingering the bandage over her torn flesh.

“Not a problem,” he turned towards his apartment moving one step forward before looking back, “You can come with me you know. Just as long as you promise not to stab me with that thing.”

“Huh?” she remembered the knife, “Oh yeah I promise.”

“Okay, then it’s this way,” he pointed to his door leading the way as Trisha took another look around the hallway wondering if her past would be finding a way to haunt her again. She could’ve sworn she’d heard something and with Ria being gone it frightened her, but maybe in finding Michael she could be able to relax--at least for a little while once the super came up to let her back into the apartment. Maybe then she’d try to find out where the hell Ria went without telling her.


“Maybe you should rest,” Blake suggested, seeing the way Seth just seemed to be staring out into space as he thought. “Seth?”

“I can’t,” Seth shook his head slowly, still not taking his gaze away from the door. “You know, right now--I am just wishing that somehow Jade is going to walk through that door. She is going to come back to me.”

“Seth, you have to stop killing yourself over this,” Blake stated, taking a seat next to him. She grabbed his hand in hers as he closed his eyes shut tightly.

“Don’t worry,” Seth made a sarcastic smile, shaking his head slowly, “Someone already has died. Unfortunately is was Jade and not me.”

“Jade wouldn’t want you to be feeling this way,” she frowned, lying her head on Seth’s tense shoulder, “She would want you to be happy.”

“Jade never knew what she wanted,” he shook his head slowly, thinking back to his sister when they were younger. “We used to spend at least twenty minutes in front of an ice-cream truck. She always had trouble picking what she wanted. I remember that Kevin and I would get so irritated. Kevin would be the one paying, so of course the total would keep changing. Now that she is gone, I realize that those moments keep slipping away from me.”

“Nothing will slip away from you,” Blake hushed, rubbing his tense back lightly, “The only way all those memories slip is if you let it happen. Jade is always in your heart.”

“I don’t want her in my heart Blake,” Seth yelled out, standing up from where he was sitting, “I want her in front of me. I want to hold my little sister in my arms. I want to continue being her big brother for the rest of my life.”

“Seth, you will always be with Jade,” Blake tried to convince him as he shook his head slowly.

“You know, I remember when we were younger--I used to always get mad at her,” he chuckled, thinking back to when they were younger again. “I was on a baseball team--the same one as Kev. We were going to have this big game and we went downstairs for a minute to get something to drink. And while we were down there, Jade thought it would be funny if she glued our gloves shut. During the game we were so embarrassed. Kevin was right under the ball and instead of him catching it--the ball bounced off his glove and hit him right in the face.”

“Sounds like a funny moment,” she pointed out seeing him nod slowly. It was nice to hear him let out small laughs. It was hardly going to happen anymore. “What happened after that?”

“We lost the game,” Seth nodded slowly before laughing. “Kevin had got knocked unconscious--it was great. I look back at it and I find it funny. The only thing I keep thinking about is how I yelled at her all night long. I blamed her for us losing the game. As I think of it now--that was something adorable that she did. I just wish I could have just spent more time with her--loving her than yelling at her.”

“I’m sure she knew you loved her,” she insisted as he shook his head slowly, “Don’t keep killing yourself Seth.”

“I can’t just let it go Blake. My baby sister is gone and I will never be able to see her again,” Seth felt his eyes begin to burn as he heard a knock at the door. “Could you get that? I don’t feel like seeing people right now.”

“Alright,” Blake nodded slowly, opening the door to see a worried Kevin and Ria together. “Kevin.”

“Kevin?” Seth questioned as Kevin walked into the apartment and Seth walked over to his cousin, wrapping his arms around Kevin tightly. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“I know,” Kevin hushed, his eyes still sore from when he heard the news earlier, “Just let it out cuz. I understand, I’m going to be right here.”

“I can’t believe she’s gone Kevin,” Seth felt his eyes begin to become tear filled, “She gone Kevin and there is nothing we could say or do to change that.”


Cheryl entered the Denton living room carrying a tray in hand. She looked to Elliot, Brant and Avery who were all now seated around the coffee table all looking forlorn. She noticed Grady was still not a part of the crowd and that had her concerned.

“Still nothing?” Cheryl asked turning to Elliot.

“He’s not answering the door,” Elliot sighed worried about his son now that the news about Jade’s death had a short time to register. He’d never seen his son so lost before, but now it felt like there was another huge chunk missing in the family.

“I wish that he would come out and talk to us. I hate to think of him holding it all in like this,” Cheryl added motioning to the tray she brought with her. She set it on the center of the coffee table, “I brought some tea if everyone wanted anything to drink.”

“Thank you,” Brant replied politely reaching for a mug. He looked around seeing that neither the Dentons nor Avery looked very interested in taking any. He half contemplated leaving the mug on the tray, but opted to be different. He could only imagine what Grady was going through at a moment like this. It had to be one of the most heart wrenching experiences to lose the love of your life, yet in this moment in time Brant felt rather awkward at the Denton home with reminders of Russ all around him. He sipped his tea looking to the wall and seeing a photo of Russ and Grady together. Looking a bit further he noticed a wedding photo for Russ and Avery.

“Look away,” he silently told himself turning his attention to the conversation or lack there of it going on with the Dentons and Avery.

“I just wish that he’d let us in,” Cheryl lamented with a heavy sigh, “It’s not like him to just close everyone off like this.”

“He’s hurting and he needs time. This isn’t something that can just be fixed,” Elliot hung his head low, the words sinking in for him as well. It just didn’t seem right--didn’t seem fair to think that someone so young and full of life could have it all ripped away from them in a senseless act of violence.

“I think I need some air,” Avery announced breaking her long silence. Brant could see that she was upset--that the news of Jade’s death was hitting her hard as well and he suspected that it had something to do with the memories of losing Russ in a similar fashion. He set his tea cup down ready to join her, but she reached out touching his hand gently and speaking up, “I’ll be back shortly.”

“Are you sure,” he questioned searching her sad, dark eyes.

She nodded, “I’ll just be out front for a few minutes. Stay here just in case they need anything.”

“Alright,” Brant nodded reluctantly watching her leave the Denton living room. He turned to see Cheryl and Elliot seated beside one another worried about their son. He reached for his tea again taking another sip.

“We can’t just leave him in there Elliot,” Cheryl tried to appeal to her husband once again. “I know he’s hurting, but holding it all in isn’t going to help anything.”

“I realize that, but right now I think he needs time. He needs to be able to come to terms with this in his own way,” Elliot decided wondering what his son must be going through after all of this.

“I still don’t like the idea of him being in there all by himself,” Cheryl sighed heavily.

“You could always break the door down if he doesn’t answer,” Brant piped in eliciting strange looks from both Cheryl and Elliot. He let out a small gulp before speaking up once again. “It was just a suggestion.”

With that he fell back to silence feeling like an idiot with Avery’s former in-laws around him. There was just something to said about sitting in the living room of the family of a man who was once your biggest rival for your wife’s attention. It caused one hell of an uncomfortable silence. Right now Brant really believed he was hurting rather than helping the situation. The Dentons were hurting, yet here he was thick in the middle of it.

“This just hasn’t been our year,” Cheryl started turning her attention to Brant once more. He was surprised that she even considered speaking with him knowing full well how out of place he was, “Our family hasn’t had the best of luck and now for Grady to have to deal with this…”

“I can’t even begin to pretend that I understand the way he’s feeling right now,” Brant offered up sympathetically, “To have loved someone who was so obviously evil and then have that same person tear your world apart, well…it just goes without saying how horrible that is.”

“It is horrible,” Elliot added further, “No one saw it coming with Susan. We never suspected.”

“I always knew there was something that wasn’t right about her,” Brant frowned thinking about the evil she carried with her, “When I think of how she nearly killed my brother…”

“Your brother was a fool to get involved with her in the first place. If he hadn’t stepped in and spoiled Grady’s marriage like he had, then perhaps Susan wouldn’t have snapped and Grady wouldn’t have gone off the deep end like he had,” Elliot shot back at him icily.

“Elliot,” Cheryl gasped in surprise at her husband’s tone.

“Well it’s the truth Cheryl,” Elliot frowned back at her, “We don’t know how any of this would’ve gone if things would’ve worked out for Susan and Grady.

“Do you honestly believe that something positive could’ve come out of it?” Brant couldn’t help but ask, “Considering all that Susan has done, do you really believe that had she not had an affair with my brother that Grady would’ve been any better off? Susan’s clearly evil and that isn’t something that a simple affair brought about.”

“There’s nothing simple about an affair,” Elliot snapped back at him, “but then again to someone of your kind, I suppose an affair means nothing--that the vows of marriage mean little to nothing to someone like you. It’s not about love or happiness, but about how much you can take and keep taking. You don’t care if two people are happy in love--just that you get what you want--what you feel you deserve.”

“Elliot stop,” Cheryl pleaded with him, her eyes filled with worry and concern as her husband stood up.

“No Cheryl I’ve spent most of my life listening to the Ashfords dictate the way it should be when the rest of us are down and out. I’ve seen them take and take and tear a person apart. They don’t care who they hurt or what they do as long as they benefit,” Elliot glared down at Brant, “Deep down they are all the same.”

Without another word Elliot stomped out of the room back into the kitchen. Cheryl looked over at Brant apologetically finding herself at a loss.

“He doesn’t mean that,” Cheryl started quietly, “He’s just upset and worried about Grady.”

“You don’t have to explain,” Brant raised his hand to stop her, “I know how your family feels about mine--how you all think the worst about us.”

“It’s just a hard time you see…” Cheryl tried to explain further.

“Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that when the battle lines are drawn it’s always the Ashfords versus the rest of the world, isn’t it?” Brant remarked with complete understanding, “I mean it’s easier to blame us for what’s wrong rather than for those to take a long, hard look at their own lives--at the things that brought us all to where they are. In fact, I can see I‘m not welcome here, so maybe it‘s time I go.”

Cheryl watched Brant stand up, seeing the hurt behind his eyes as she spoke out to him. “Brant wait. Please. My husband is a proud man and he just doesn’t understand why things are as they are. He knows as well as we do that Susan is a wicked woman, but right now, he’s upset. He’s saying things that he simply doesn’t mean…”

“Oh he means them. It’s just that tragedy is the time when the truth comes out. From where I stand I can see your husband feels that I’m not worthy of Avery--that an Ashford isn’t clearly capable of loving like Russell was,” Brant added tightly, “but regardless of how little you both think of me, I do love her. Her happiness means a great deal to me as does that of her daughter.”

“I know that,” Cheryl nodded, “and believe me this isn’t about you. There were wars started long before you were ever born. The Ashfords and the Dentons, they just have history and…”

“And history never truly erases itself does it,” Brant shook his head at her, “I guess as it is right now I’m the enemy and I’ll always be that. I know Avery wanted me here, but this isn’t my place. It’s not my family and I’m sure it’s never going to be a situation that any of us are comfortable with.”

Cheryl watched him turn to leave and she felt the urge to say something further, “Brant, I know that you try. I know that you want to make things work with Avery. I can see that you care about her. In that sense you’re very much like your father.”

“What?” Brant stopped where he stood turning around to face her with a look of disbelief, “How can you say such a thing?”

“Because I knew the man he once was,” Cheryl added in a small voice color rising over her features. She stood up glancing over to the kitchen before speaking further, “Brant, I used to work for your father long before you were born. I knew Nicholas in ways that no one else ever could. Yes, he could be a hard man to live with and I won’t pretend to believe that he was an honorable or upstanding man. My husband will tell you a great many horrible things about your father, but deep down I knew he had a strength. He had something about him that wasn’t entirely evil. He had a lot of good in him for a while, until he chose to bury it. You on the other hand, well I’ve heard the stories, but I can see the truth behind your eyes. I can see it in the way you’ve helped Grady--in the way you care for Avery. You have the best of your father in you and you’re another reminder that there was once a depth and a soul in him. You were blessed with the greatest gift he refused to hold onto.”

“My father was a miserable man,” Brant let out an ironic laugh, “and since he died all I’ve heard about was what a son of a bitch he was. There hasn’t been one person in this world who has said one positive thing about him--myself included.”

“Yes, well unfortunately you weren’t able to know the man he once was. He had a passion and a heart in him. He wasn’t cold and calculating when I knew him. He was kind and gentle and I’m sorry that you have to keep having his sins thrown in your face,” Cheryl took a step closer to him, “There were a few good things he did in this world and you’re one shining example of that. You’re a good man Brant and while my husband may be upset right now, he really doesn’t mean it. He’s not angry with you. He’s angry at things that none of us could control--the things that we can’t change.”

“Even so by my being here I’m not helping anything,” Brant confessed looking over to the wall where Russ and Avery’s wedding photo hung dutifully, “That’s the life that everyone wished had been.”

“What we wish isn’t what happened and as much as we all wish we could’ve changed things, we can’t take it back,” Cheryl followed his gaze looking to the photograph of her son as a memory returned to the back of her mind. She eyed Russell’s photo intently thinking about the spark she saw behind her son’s eyes--the way his crooked grin reminded her of a time in her life when things felt hopeless--when she and Elliot had been in a crunch and…

“I know that,” Brant replied turning to her, “and for what it’s worth, I’m truly sorry for all of this. For the way it’s all turned out for everyone.”

“So am I Brant. So am I,” Cheryl sighed heavily wondering if this wasn’t anything more than payback for the sins of her past. Time and time again she’d tried to ignore the way fate had come full circle to take away her happiness, but now there was no ignoring the fact that her sons had suffered far worse than she’d ever imagined due to the fact that she’d broken one of the most important vows of her life. She’d slipped and in that moment life as she and Elliot knew it had fallen to pieces and she feared that with this latest loss it would never truly fall back into place again. Russell had lost his life. Grady was suffering and now, well now she had no idea what the future could hold in store for any of them.


Grady sat in his old tree house thinking about the warmth and comfort he’d felt in this place growing up. While he’d gone into his old room to retreat for a while, he realized that he couldn’t just stay in there. The walls were closing in on him and nothing would take away the pain that filled him cutting him down to the core. He looked around this small tree house knowing that maybe he was regressing a bit, but even now when he thought back to his childhood he could remember the good times he had shared in this place with Russ.

“I’ll trade you,” ten year old Russell decided holding a baseball card up and out of the cigar box he’d faithfully carried with him.

“Not a chance,” Grady shook his head holding his own cards protectively. “I wouldn’t dream of making such a foolish trade. You’re on your own Russ.”

“Awe come on Grady,” Russell frowned up at him, “You already have three of them. Why not share with me?”

“Because I don’t like to share,” Grady argued with a small huff, “There’s no way that I’m giving them to you. Besides if we traded you’d just be giving them to Avery anyways.”

“Would not,” Russell argued sticking his tongue out at his brother.

“Would too,” Grady leaned forward to nudge Russell slightly when there was a knock on the door underneath the tree house. Both boys looked to the center watching the door fly open without any further prompting. A freckle faced Avery popped her head in before she wiggled up to join them in the cramped surroundings.

“Hey guys, what’s going on,” Avery questioned sliding in between the both of them, crossing her legs in front of her. “Your mom said you both were in here, so I thought I’d see what you were doing.”

“Can’t you read goober?” Grady grumbled over at Avery, “No girls allowed. This is a tree house for boys.”

“And don’t you know anything stupid,” Avery rolled her eyes at him, “Girls have equal rights in this country. They can do whatever it is boys can do if not better. Your sign isn’t legal and it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law so therefore I can be in here anytime I want to. Plus Russell gave me permission, so there.”

“You didn’t,” Grady turned to look at his brother before letting out a small groan, “Oh Russ, why would you go and do something stupid like that?”

“Because I want Avery to be a part of our secret club,” Russell explained firmly, “She’s cool enough Grady and you know it. She’s way more fun than most of the boys around here and I want her here.”

“Well I don’t,” Grady replied stubbornly, “besides if she wants to be in, you and I both know she won’t make it past the test. She can’t live up to the challenge because she’s a girl.”

“And just why not,” Avery questioned making a small sound, “Why is it you think that I can’t do anything that you can do Grady Denton?”

“Because you can’t,” Grady added with a hint of mischief behind his tone, “Although if you really want to prove yourself then you have to go through initiation. That is if you’re man enough for the challenge…”

“Oh I’m up for the challenge,” Avery replied smugly before adding with heavy emphasis, “I’m plenty of woman to get it done and be better at it than you are.”

“We’ll just see about that,” Grady rubbed his palms together thinking about all the ways he was going to enjoy torturing his brother’s latest playmate.

Now as Grady sat in the tree house remembering the ways in which he, Russ and Avery had spent most of their days during the summer and after school in this very place after initiation day, he found himself almost wishing that they could go back to that. He wanted to return to the time when things were simpler--easier--when things weren’t so complicated. When the love of his life wasn’t dead at the hand of a woman he’d once pledged his life to. It just wasn’t right.

He found himself choked up on his tears when there was a knock at the door in front of him. He looked down to the floor watching the creaky hinge open up to reveal Avery’s dark head popping up through the floor.

“Can I come in,” she questioned watching him wearily.

“That has to be a first,” he replied seeing her wiggle her way up through the entrance, “You never asked before.”

“Yeah, well I wasn’t sure if you were ready to stick me with the no girls allowed rule,” she added sliding in carefully maneuvering herself around the small space. She closed the door gently before looking to him again.

“Hmm, well I could enforce it, but then again I think we had to abolish that rule once you passed initiation,” Grady couldn’t help but crack a half smile at the memory.

She wrinkled her nose before glaring at him, “I still can’t believe that you made me do that. That was just cruel.”

“Hey, it was innocent enough and you were ballsy enough to give it a try,” he shrugged his shoulders feeling a moment of lightness between them.

“Yes, but making me eat a worm was a little extreme,” Avery huffed in response, “and I’ll have you know that I never forgave you for Brooke making me go and get my stomach pumped after I came home and told her that I ate five worms to be in your club.”

Grady chuckled a bit further, “Ah yes and then I was grounded for a month for tricking you into doing such a horrible, nasty thing.”

“Yeah, well you deserved it after my mother unnecessarily tortured me for being a kid,” she scooted in beside him seeing the sadness behind his eyes as the memory faded, “but even when you were at your worst Grady, you never deserved any of this.”

Grady fell silent once more, his thoughts returning to all the dreams and plans for a future he’d made with Jade. Unable to hold back on his tears he looked to Avery, “I just don’t understand. How could this happen? How could I lose her when we were on the verge of everything?”

“I don’t know,” she bit back on her own tears, “but it wasn’t right. None of this was right…”

“How could Susan do this?” Grady questioned painfully, “How could a woman I once loved with everything I was not only kill my brother, but the love of my life. She hurt Kyle and now with Jade…”

“I’m so sorry Grady,” Avery reached out to embrace him feeling his pain moving in over her, “I wish I could take it back.”

“I just don’t understand how she could’ve said she loved me--could’ve pretended to care about me only to take it all away from me,” Grady’s tears fell freely, “First our baby when she had the abortion and now Jade and our baby. I feel like she’s torn my heart out from my chest and it’s never coming back. Avery, all I ever wanted was to have a life and a future with Jade, but now…now I have nothing. I am nothing.”

“No you’re not Grady. You’re something--something wonderful,” Avery touched his cheek gently seeing the depth of his pain burning behind his green eyes.

“No, without her I have nothing left. Susan took it all away from me and I can’t get it back. I can’t ever get it back,” he fell into her arms overcome with sobs as Avery found herself lost in a whirlwind of tears. This horrible tragedy brought forth so many emotions--so many memories of losing Russ and as she and Grady held onto one another both lost in their painful reality, she knew that life would never be the same. Their future would never, ever be the same again as they were both missing the other half of their hearts and there would never be any getting that back.


Sarah’s eyes opened as she let out a small yawn, it had been a long night for the everyone. She turned around to go and feel Kyle’s warm body next to hers, but instead felt the cool sheets next to her. She got up and wrapped her robe around her before looking around the room. Kyle’s shirt was still on the chair, which meant that he was obviously still here. The question was, where could he be now?

“Kyle?” Sarah called out his name as she heard a sound coming from the library as she walked over towards the room. She saw Kyle standing above the desk, studying something before him. “Kyle, what are you doing?”

“Looking,” Kyle replied, never taking his eyes off the papers before him as she walked over towards him, “I need to find her.”

“Find who?” Sarah questioned, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as he bent down to pick up a paper. “What is that?”

“A plane schedule,” he answered as she let go of him and took a step back, “I have every train schedule, plane schedule, and everything else that could help me find Susan.”

“Kyle this isn’t your job to do this,” Sarah let out a small groan as he looked through the papers, “You aren’t going to be able to search through all those things.”

“I already have,” Kyle replied, grabbing another paper off the table, “I will find Susan--I am going to find her and when I do…I am going to get her for what she has done.”

“Don’t talk like that,” she frowned as he set the papers back down on the desk before turning to face her, “What exactly do you mean by getting her?”

“I mean, I am going to do whatever it takes for us to get payback,” Kyle stated, biting down on his bottom lip as he thought about what was happening with Susan. “She is killing Grady inside Sarah and she is going to pay for what she did to him.”

“What about what she did to you Kyle?” Sarah questioned, holding her hands up in the air. “Or are you forgetting that she has hurt you. Are you forgetting that you could still get sick from what she did to you.”

“What did she did to me is just minor,” Kyle pointed out with a small scowl, “She killed all those people Sarah--without a motive. She just killed them. Most of the people I was closest to in my life, she took away from me. She took away Russ, he was like my little brother Sarah. I grew up with him and I loved him like he was my brother. Do you know how much that has been killing me inside? And now Jade, believe it or not--I cared for her too. She was one of the people that were actually pretty decent in town. She was my friend and I was proud to call her my friend.”

“Many people lost her Kyle,” she added with a small nod as she saw he was going to continue to go on.

“Yeah, but what you don’t understand is how many people she hurt in the long run,” Kyle insisted, shaking his head quickly. “Look at what happened to Avery. Another one of my close friends, her life is taking twists and turns now that Russ is gone. And my best friend in the whole world, is going to have to live a life without the person he loves Sarah. Grady will never be able to see Jade again, just like Avery. Two of the most important people in my life, will never live the life they planned on living.”

“What you have to be thankful for is what you still have,” Sarah hushed as Kyle folded his arms out in front of his chest angrily. “You have to be happy for what you still have.”

“Sarah, Jade didn’t deserve any of this. She was a good person,” Kyle gulped down thinking to what had been happening lately to all the good people in town. “Susan needs to pay for what she has done to Jade, Grady, Avery, Russ, me, and everyone else that she screwed with. That woman doesn’t deserve to be free of worry.”

“Kyle, you should really calm down and take everything slower,” Sarah suggested, seeing him grab his stomach in pain, “You are going to make yourself sick.”

“I’ll be fine,” he retorted with a small groan before going on, “Even what she did to me. I’m never going to be the same again. She screwed me up Sarah and I don’t think I am ever going to be the same again.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Sarah questioned worriedly as he bit down on his bottom lip in pain, trying to hide his pain from her.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Kyle snapped, shaking his head slowly, “I’m just not going to let something so small like this stop me from finding Susan. She isn’t going to get away from me. And no one, not you, not Grady…no one is going to stop me. Got it?”

“I…” Sarah could hardly get out another word as Kyle quickly walked out of the room and she heard the bathroom door slam shut. She walked over to the bathroom and from the sounds of his coughing and gagging, she could tell that he was getting sick. “Kyle, open the door.”

“I’m fine,” Kyle coughed, turning on the water so she couldn’t hear him. He felt like he had the flu right now, his stomach was bothering him so much.

“Kyle open up,” Sarah ordered, hearing the water turn off and him unlock the door. She looked in the room to see him sitting on the ground with towel in his hand as he wiped at his mouth. She let out a small sigh before sitting down next to him on the floor. “You got sick, didn’t you?”

“I am sick Sarah,” Kyle replied with a small groan, grabbing onto his stomach, “I don’t know what’s going on Sarah, all I know is that I am screwed up. I’m not sure what this drug does Sarah, but I feel like I treat you so bad. I’m sorry that I was getting all angry--it’s just that…”

“Don’t worry,” Sarah hushed, pulling him into her arms as she rested her forehead against his and ran her hands along his smooth back slowly. “I could never be mad at you Kyle--never.”

“I know,” Kyle frowned, tightening his arms around her and pulling her into a stronger embrace. “I think the only reason I feel so strongly about this is because everyone I love is dying. Every single one of them. It all began with my parents Sarah. Someone killed my parents and there was nothing, not a damn thing I could do about it. I lost my parents when I could have been there for them.”

“Your parents would be very proud of the man you turned up as,” Sarah assured him as he let out a small laugh.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Kyle nodded slowly before shrugging his shoulders, “I just always wonder--If I wouldn’t have run off to find you, if I would have been there to save them. Just forget about it though. I just lose everyone I love. My parents, Russ, Jade, and the only thing I keep thinking is how I am somehow going to get you taken away from me. I love you so much--so much and I know that I don’t deserve to be happy.”

“Kyle, I love you no matter what is happening,” Sarah hushed, running her hand along the side of his face gently, “You aren’t going to lose me.”

“Just promise me that you will never leave me,” Kyle sighed, kissing her gently, “Please don’t ever leave me.”

“I won’t leave you Kyle,” Sarah promised, kissing him once more, “I will never leave you. I will never let go of you Kyle. I promise.”


“Cori, you actually came,” Dave smiled widely as he opened the door to see Diego and Cori before him. He reached out and wrapped his arms around his sister tightly, “I’m so glad you came.”

“I would do anything for you big Dave,” Cori replied, letting go of him as she folded her arms out in front of her chest, “Which is why I am going to tell you that I think you are making the biggest mistake of your life.”

“Here we go again,” Dave rolled his eyes at his sister’s comment as he leaned against the wall, “What is it this time Cori? What is your complaint now?”

“You act like it’s a burden for me to care for my brother,” Cori shook her head slowly before going on, “I just don’t want to see you the way you were when she first left you. Dave, you were a total mess and how do you even know that little girl is yours?”

“Cori, have you seen her?” Dave questioned before realizing he could answer that himself. “Yeah you have, which means you should be able to see how much she truly looks like you when you were younger. She looks a lot like you.”

“It could be just a coincidence Dave,” Cori protested seeing Dave shake his head slowly.

“I don’t think so,” Dave replied looking towards Diego who just seemed to be standing there and listening to the conversation, “What do you think Diego? Does Kayla look like Cori when she was younger?”

“I really don’t know,” Diego stuttered, shrugging his shoulders, “I really haven’t caught a long glance at Kayla.”

“You tell me when you see her,” Dave saw Diego nod slowly before turning his attention back to his little sister, “Just please Cori--don’t ruin this. This is one of the happiest moments of my life and I don’t want anything to ruin this.”

“I won’t ruin anything,” Cori began, about to protest before hearing the someone coming down the stairs.

“Mommy, look,” Kayla smiled, quickly walking down the stairs as Carly followed, “It’s Cori. She came to see us. Cori, do like this outfit?”

“It looks adorable on you sweetheart,” Cori smiled as she bent down and gave Kayla a hug, “You look very beautiful today.”

“Thank you,” Kayla giggled looking up at Diego, “Who are you Mr. Man.”

“My name is Diego,” Diego replied, bending down to Kayla’s height, “You look very pretty today.”

“Thank you Lego,” Kayla smirked before turning back around towards Dave and Carly, “Are we going soon? Are we? I can’t wait to go. I am finally going to have a daddy.”

“Yeah, we are going soon,” Dave nodded, looking up at Cori and Diego, if you want two want to follow us--we are going to the downtown courts.”

“We’ll be right back,” Carly and Kayla walked off into the kitchen and Cori was about to say something more before Diego pulled her aside.

“Before you try to convince your brother anymore,” Diego paused before thinking a second, “Yeah, she does look like you. I remember.”

“Oh this is just great,” Cori rolled her eyes before seeing Diego look at her intently.

“Think about it,” Diego began, shaking his head slowly, “Kayla is happy about this whole thing. At least think about that.”

He saw as she thought it over for a second. As she saw the three get ready, she never said a word. This was going to be different.


“So you live here by yourself?” Trisha asked taking in an inventory of Michael’s lavish apartment. While it wasn’t much bigger than Ria’s she noticed that he’d had a few expensive looking antiques around and near the kitchen area he had an oversized aquarium built into the wall.

“Yep, other than them,” Michael nodded in confession motioning to the fish that were inside his aquarium, “Scooby and Shaggy are my roommates, but that’s it…”

“This is a really nice place,” Trisha spun around to face him again seeing him near her. She couldn’t help but notice the sexy smile on his face or the way his eyes seemed to light up beside her. How she’d never noticed this hunk living so close to her sister was beyond her. She tilted her head up to eye him more intently, “So what is it you do Michael?”

“I’m a medical researcher for BBK Pharmaceuticals,” he explained matter of fact before letting out a small laugh, “which translates into my spending most of my life in the lab pushing paperwork and ideas that take a while to formulate into reality.”

“Sounds…um interesting,” Trisha struggled for the right word.

“In other words not exactly what you were expecting,” he replied with a knowing nod, “Yeah a lot of women think it’s a pretty boring career.”

“No I didn’t say boring--just interesting…” she paused watching him turn to his aquarium, “I guess I’m just not used to being around so many smart people. I mean I guess I should be considering that Ria’s a doctor and all, but still…”

“So what do you do Trisha?” Michael questioned glancing over at her once again. He watched her shift on her toes uneasily, nervousness balling in the pit of her stomach.

“Well, I was going to nursing school, but it just wasn’t for me. Now I don’t know what I’m doing. I guess working on getting my life together,” she shrugged her shoulders, “That probably sounds pretty stupid and shallow huh?”

“No not at all,” he shook his head, “I don’t think any of us ever truly have it together--at least not for a while. And those of us who say they do, well they’re lying through their teeth. I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“You don’t seem like a guy who is still figuring it out,” she noted eyeing him intently, “I mean you seem pretty together here.”

“You’d be surprised at times,” Michael let out a small laugh, “although I have to admit that this is probably the most of a conversation I’ve had with anyone in a long time out of work. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve even spoken to Ria as much.”

“Well I’m just a big old chatterbox. I’d keep talking and talking and probably talking even more if I didn’t have to worry about my stitches,” she explained bringing her hand up over her throat.

“I see that,” he opened his mouth considering asking her about the stitches when there was a knock on the door. He looked over to it, “That must be the super.”

Without another word he walked over to the front door inviting the small man in. After explaining the situation the man readily agreed to help Trisha get into Ria’s apartment again. Trisha followed the superintendent to Michael’s door, but stopped just before she left.

“Thank you,” she smiled up at him.

“It was my pleasure,” he nodded before offering up a smile of his own, “and remember if you ever get locked out again and I’m around, well don’t hesitate to come knocking on my door.”

“I won’t. I mean it’s not like I’m planning on getting locked out, but still…I appreciate your offer,” she added nervously, “thanks it was nice.”

“Yeah it was. Good luck Trisha,” Michael waved at her. “Hopefully I’ll see you around.”

“I’d like that,” she replied with a wave giving him one last look before leaving for her sister’s apartment. While she hated to go, she found herself wondering if maybe being at Ria’s wasn’t so bad after all. She turned back to look at Michael’s door, but much to her dismay he’d already closed it. Still, the day had gone from terrifying to a promising start. Meeting Michael had been the highlight of her week--maybe even her month and it gave her something positive to focus on other than the nightmare she went through. Yes meeting Michael was a godsend indeed, she smiled to herself vowing to find more excuses to have more run ins with him from here on out.


“We have to hold her in our hearts Seth,” Kevin hushed, holding onto Seth in his arms tightly as Seth fell apart in his arms, “At least we know she will be our guardian angel.”

“I don’t wanted her to be my guardian angel Kevin,” Seth stated, biting down on his bottom lip, “I want to hold her in my arms. I want to be able to see her.”

“I know Seth,” Kevin hushed, feeling his own heart skip a beat like it was splitting in two, “I wish I just could have been here longer. I could have been with her.”

“She always knew you loved her Kevin,” Seth replied, falling back to the couch as Kevin sat next to him, “There was never a doubt in her mind. You were like our older brother, sometimes like our father figure.”

“If I could have been here though,” Kevin began to ponder taking in a deep breath, “I just wish that I could have spent even more time with you two. I could have been here and maybe this would not have happened.”

“No one is to blame for this you two,” Ria squeezed both of their shoulders lightly, “No one could have stopped this from happening.”

“There is always something that could have stopped this,” Kevin pointed out with a small sigh, “There is always a solution for something.”

“This isn’t one of those things,” Blake pointed out, hearing the doorbell ring as Ria stepped forward.

“I’ll get it,” Ria assured Blake as she opened the door and frowned at the sight before her, “Don’t you think you have caused enough trouble?”

“Oh, you have to be kidding me,” Blake frowned, walking in behind Ria to see Valerie standing before them, “What in the world do you want now?”

“I came because I am upset too,” Valerie stated, taking a step forward as Ria held her hand out--not daring to allow her in. “I came to see how everyone was doing.”

“Why don’t you just leave,” Blake frowned taking a step forward before Ria held her back.

“No, leave it to me,” Ria scowled, taking a step forward--trying to make some type of an intimidation.

“Both of you move,” Kevin ordered, standing up as they moved out of the way of the door, “What in the world is wrong with you Valerie?”

“I don’t get what you are saying,” Valerie frowned, seeing Kevin shaking his head slowly at her dumb act.

“You know, Jade just died,” Kevin felt a bit of sadness and rage inside his body, “this isn’t some step in a game that raises you up. How could you be so inconsiderate Valerie? You are acting heartless and hateful. Thinking that you can just waltz right in her because Jade is gone. You think it is going to get you more points? I can’t believe you Valerie, people actually loved Jade. She was my cousin and Seth's sister. You would think you would at least have a little more respect.”

“Kevin,” Valerie frowned, acting like she was on the verge of tears as she saw a muscle tighten in Kevin’s jaw from anger, “I loved Jade to. Ask Seth, he knew that I was close to her.”

“Come on Val,” Kevin rolled his eyes before hearing Seth call out from behind him.

“Whatever…” Seth sighed, leaning back into the couch, “If she wants to stay, let her stay. I don’t really care.”

Ria and Blake watched as Kevin shut the door and Valerie walked over to the couch and sat down. They were both obviously thinking the same thing. What had come over Seth? The look that Kevin spotted on Valerie’s face made him believe what he thought about her was even more true than he thought. Valerie thought she had just won some kind of victory, but she was far from it.

“Valerie,” Kevin whispered in her ear, bending down from behind the couch, “If you make one wrong move--just one…I will have no problem sending Ria on you? Got my point?”

“Right,” Valerie nodded slowly as Kevin back away with a small smile.

“I’m glad we understand each other,” Kevin sighed, sitting between Seth and Valerie. There was no way that Valerie was going to be thinking she won some brownie points because she didn’t care about anyone, but herself.


“So, let me get this all written down in my mind,” Don began with a small laugh, “You like omelets--ham and cheese ones that is. You hate onions and you like ketchup on your eggs.”

“Yep, that’s me,” Shannon nodded slowly as Don set up the plates on the table for them. “I am kind of weird if you haven't noticed. Like an odd bird.”

“I think I noticed a tiny bit,” Don joked, setting some more things out on the table, “I think we all have our little weird things that make us who we are.”

“Well, that is true I guess,” she agreed, sitting down in the seat that Don held out for her, “I really haven’t found your big weirdness though.”

“You’ll know some of them eventually,” Don promised with a small laugh, taking a seat across from Shannon, “I have some pretty big things you don’t know about me.”

“I’m sure,” Shannon rolled her eyes before taking a bite from the food he had made, “Oh--I just found one thing you are good at. Cooking. You are good.”

“Thanks, I think,” he shrugged with a small laugh before thinking for a second, “I guess I have just been cooking breakfast for Matt so long--that I am kind of just used to it.”

“What about Matt?” Matt questioned, entering the kitchen and letting out a big yawn. “Shannon, you’re here.”

“Hey Matt,” Shannon smiled, seeing Don get up and help Matt into one of the chairs for breakfast, “So, how are you feeling this morning?”

“I am just tired,” Matthew yawned once more, “You are eating breakfast with us today?”

“Yep,” Don answered for her, sitting back down in his seat, “She’s staying here for just a little bit.”

“Are you going to eat breakfast with us everyday?” Matt excitedly questioned seeing Shannon’s eyes get wide. “Even better--are you going to be with us everyday? For lunch? Dinner?”

“Slow down little guy,” Don chuckled, looking up at Shannon with his intense blue eyes, “One step at a time. She needs to take it all in one big step before taking all that in.”

“Can she step any quicker?” Matt questioned with a frown, looking over at her. “I like playing games with her, so it would be fun to have her around all the time.”

“You’re right,” Don agreed, as Shannon’s eyes looked away from his, “It would be perfect.”


Brant pulled the car into the drive noting the silence that still hung over his wife. He thought back to when she’d walked back into the house with Grady at her side. He wasn’t quite sure where they’d come from, but shortly after their return Avery had suggested that they leave the Denton home and go back to the mansion. It wasn’t a suggestion that Brant could argue with given how uncomfortable he was in Elliot and Cheryl’s home, but now as he looked to Avery, he couldn’t help but wonder what it was that she was thinking. He knew she was upset about Grady, yet she hadn’t said a word.

They walked into the mansion and Brant reached out to her, touching her shoulders gently. Saying nothing Avery turned around to face him again tears burning behind her eyes.

“Hey,” Brant spoke smoothly pulling her into an embrace. He felt her break down into tiny sobs over his chest as he held her.

“I just don’t understand how someone could be so cruel and heartless,” Avery cried out holding onto him as if she’d never let go. “How could Susan take the world away from all of us? Why would she do something so awful? So evil?”

“I don’t know, but I wish that there had been a way to stop her. I wish like hell that you and Grady weren’t hurting like this…” Brant began sympathetically.

“I hate to see him like this. He loved Jade so much,” Avery confessed tilting her head up to look at him, “She was having his baby. They were going to be a family, but Susan took that away from them just like she took Russ away from me when she planted that bomb at the airport. I can’t understand how she would do that. What was she possibly thinking in doing such a horrible thing?”

“I don’t know Avery,” Brant brushed his thumb over her cheekbone wiping at her tears, “I wish I did, but even in knowing why she did what she did doesn’t erase her sins. They’re something that none of us can erase no matter how hard we wish we could.”

“I just think…” Avery stopped herself tilting her head up to see the concern behind his dark eyes, “Brant, I hate to see Grady like this.”

“So do I. I hate thinking what’s happened to him. I hate to even imagine what it is he’s going through, but more so I hate how this has hurt you,” he held her cheek in his hand, “I hate to see you so upset Avery. When I think of all the trivial things that were happening between us before this happened, well it makes me feel guilty as hell over it. I feel like a complete and total jerk for acting the way that I did. When I think of how I lashed out at you--how I treated Grady so coldly…”

“It’s in the past,” Avery looked away.

“Even so it’s put a strain on us. Avery, I’ve been inconsiderate and self centered about all of this. When I think about what Grady’s been going through--about how he must be feeling about losing Jade, well, I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel in losing you like that. It would be the end of me,” he paused feeling guilt sweep overtake him, “and like Grady I would try to move heaven and Earth to find a way to get her back. I wouldn’t stop fighting to have you back home again and I can’t fault you for wanting to help him with that…”

“A lot of good it did,” she let out a small sniffle, “now that Jade’s gone there’s no turning back. We can’t help him…”

“Maybe not like we wanted to, but we’ll be there for him. We’ll both do what we can to ease him through this,” Brant promised squeezing her in his arms again. He kissed her temple feeling her tremble in his arms.

“Just hold me Brant,” Avery pleaded with him keeping her arms around him, “Let’s just forget about everything else and hold onto one another. I need that tonight. I need you to make me believe that somehow, some day everything will be okay again.”

“It will be,” he promised curling his finger underneath her chin to lift her eyes to his. “It won’t be tomorrow, but one day things will find a way of turning around for us again--for all of us.”

“That seems so far away right now,” she replied with a small sigh feeling the warmth of his arms around her, “I’m so afraid Brant. When I think of all that’s happened--of what Grady’s going through…”

“We’ll be there for him,” he promised her leaning in to kiss her tenderly, “We’ll do what we can to help him.”

“Even though it may never be enough,” she thought to herself holding onto her husband. She closed her eyes listening to the sounds of his heart beating beside hers as she said a silent prayer that one day life would be easier on all of them. That one day all the pain and misery would somehow see light at the end of the tunnel.


Grady sat in his old bedroom long after he’d convinced his parents that he would be alright for the night. It took some heavy convincing on his part, but now as he sat alone in his room, his thoughts lingered to the time when he’d brought Jade home with him for Christmas--then it felt as if their lives had happiness and lots of promise waiting around the corner for them.

“What are you doing over there?” Cheryl asked in a soft voice as she closed the distance between them.

“I was just watching Grady sleep,” Jade admitted with a smile as she looked back to the man in the bed, “He’s so peaceful when he’s sleeping. I just like to watch him.”

“I used to watch him when he was little,” Cheryl smiled as she directed her gaze to her son, “I guess I can pass that torch to you now.”

“Can’t a guy try to sleep here?” Grady grumbled in a teasing tone as he turned and glanced back towards the women watching him.

“Merry Christmas,” Cheryl greeted with a smile.

“Merry Christmas,” He replied with a smile before he focused his eyes on Jade, “To you too.”

Jade smiled as Cheryl glanced between them.

“Coffee will be ready when you two are,” Cheryl spoke softly before she stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her.

“Come here,” Grady requested as he extended his hand to her.

Jade stood and placed her hand in his as he pulled her onto the bed along side him. He hugged her close to him as she giggled softly. She squeezed him in return and smiled, “You’re feeling very warm and fuzzy this morning, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I suppose I am,” He confessed with a happy sigh, “But holding you like this makes everything in the world seem perfect this morning.”

“Hmm,” She grinned as she raised her face to look at him, “I could get used to this side of you.”

He eased his fingers across her cheek, “I love you, Jade.”

“I love you too, Grady,” She spoke as she searched his eyes for some sign of what was going on within his mind.

He smiled as he gently lowered his lips to hers. He caressed her lips with his, lightly teasing her with the soft stroke of his tongue. Jade eased her fingers through his hair as she accepted his kiss and invited more from him.

If only things could’ve stayed that way for them. If only he hadn’t lost her, but now as he lay back on the bed thinking about the way it felt to be holding her at Christmas time the only thing that he could think of was the emptiness he’d felt in knowing that the woman he loved was gone and she was never coming back. Nothing he could do would ever make it right again. He’d lost the one and only woman who ever truly made him want to become a better person. Closing his eyes he thought back to all the times they’d shared with one another and he allowed him to weep for the past he’d cheated them out of in his bitterness--for the present when he’d missed her like crazy and for the future he knew he’d never have with her and their unborn child.


“I can’t believe that I am actually going through with this,” Cori groaned as she saw Dave waiting for Carly as they took their seats, “How could I let him get himself into this?”

“Because you love him and you want him to be happy,” Diego pointed out, still talking to her as Carly joined Dave’s side with Kayla at her side. “You want that little girl to be happy too.”

“Of course I do,” Cori agreed in a whisper, looking at Kayla grab onto Dave’s hand tightly, “I just don’t want my brother getting hurt. Kayla is adorable and I would love having her as a niece, I just don’t know what’s next.”

“That’s the thing,” Diego pointed out, hearing Dave begin to say his vows, “Life takes so many twists and turns--never letting you know what’s next. One day you could be in love with someone and then the next you could wake up and realize that you love someone else. It could happen.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cori frowned, looking towards the front as she saw the two face each other.

It was time when the priest asked for objections and she thought long and hard about it. It was a little long, but if Diego wasn’t there--it wouldn’t have been that hard. She thought it over for a second before seeing the way Diego was looking at her. She couldn’t ruin this for her brother.

“You may kiss the bride,” the priest announced as Cori and Diego watched on, seeing Dave lean forward and kiss Carly lightly.

“I love you,” Dave whispered, leaning his forehead up against Carly’s before picking up Kayla in his arms, “I love you so much too.”


...to be continued...