Episode 238

“How dare you just walk into my house like you own it,” Kipp let out a disgusted scowl. “You can’t just prance into my house like you own it because plain and simple--you don’t.”

“I don’t really care what you have to say,” Heather held her hand up in the air before looking towards Kellen, “Or what he has to say because Charles is my son too and you can’t keep me away from him.”

“The hell we can’t,” Kellen hissed as Heather placed her hand in the middle of his chest and pushed him aside before walking towards Charles’s room. “He is sleeping Heather, don’t wake him up.”

“Would you look at that,” Heather smiled, walking towards the crib, seeing Charles lying awake. “He’s awake.”

“Heather,” Kellen growled as he caught a sight of her picking Charles up in her arms, “What do you think you are doing? You should just leave Heather.”

“I’m holding my son,” Heather answered, holding her son tightly in her arms as Kipp entered the room. “And no, I won’t leave until I at least have some time with my son.”

“Kipp, aren’t you going to do something?” Kellen questioned with a frown, seeing Kipp look over towards Heather. “Kipp?”

“Just let her see him,” Kipp sighed, leaning against the wall as Kellen frowned looking between Heather and Kipp, “He is her son and in some way she really does deserve to see him.”

“Deserves to see him,” Kellen nodded slowly, tensing his eyebrows as he looked back at Heather. She really did have Kipp wrapped around her finger. “Right.”

“Oh, our baby is absolutely beautiful Kipp,” Heather insisted, sitting down in the chair as Kellen leaned against the wall never taking his eyes off of her. “He has your hair color right now--whose eyes do you think he is going to have?”

“I have no idea,” Kipp shrugged with a small smile, walking up towards Heather and Charles, “It looks like he might get mine, but either way--he is going to have nice eyes.”

“I can already tell he is going to be a babe magnet,” Heather stated with a small laugh, shaking her head slowly, “I can’t believe I missed so much already. He looks so much bigger.”

“Yeah, he is growing by the second,” Kipp agreed with a small chuckle reaching out to squeeze Heather’s shoulder lightly.

“Yeah, Kipp and I have spent a lot of time with that little guy,” Kellen pointed out, hating to see the way that Kipp just seemed to fall into Heather’s charm. “We have been taking care of him for a while.”

“I’m assuming that Kipp is a great father too,” Heather pointed out looking up towards Kipp as he nodded slowly. “I never had a doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t be.”

“Yeah, he is one of the best dads that I have ever seen in this world,” Kellen stated as Kipp looked up in Kellen’s direction with a wide smile.

“Thank you Kellen,” Kipp grinned, looking between Charles and Kellen, “I don’t think I could have done all this without you. Which is why I am glad that I have you.”

“That was very nice of Kellen to be here,” Heather began, glaring up at Kellen as he eyed her over, “but now you don’t have to worry anymore because mommy is here for good.”

“This is starting to become stupid between Kipp and Heather. Heather really thinks she had it all set in her mind, but she doesn’t.” Kellen thought to himself. The more that Heather kept trying to kiss up to Kipp, the more that Kellen could just see right through her. Heather was a no good person and he knew it. He was going to prove to Kipp that Heather was bad--one way or another.


Deidra looked around her apartment thinking about what she could’ve possibly forgot to pack. Sure this was only a weekend trip, but given that Dean was full of surprises she wasn’t quite sure what to take with her. She looked to her nightstand thinking about the box of condoms she’d had inside. Moving forward she opened the top drawer pulling them out along with her bathing suit as she was certain both would come in handy for such a trip.

“There we go,” she mouthed depositing her last finds into the suitcase before she heard her bell ringing alerting her that Dean had arrived. She quickly zipped up her bag before rushing to the door and opening it to see him standing there looking sexy as ever in a pair of jeans and a black form fitting t-shirt. She couldn’t help but lick her lips at how delicious he looked. In fact, she decided leaning forward to kiss him heatedly, “hello sexy.”

“Hello to you too,” Dean mouthed wrapping her up in his arms, “how are you?”

“Much better now that you’re here,” she revealed with a bright smile thinking of how good it would be to just enjoy being alone with him for a while, “You ready to go?”

“Sure,” he motioned to her oversized suitcase, “Is that yours?”

“It’s not too much is it,” she questioned catching the expression on his face, “because if it is I can take it back and…”

“No, it’s fine,” Dean shook his head stepping forward to reach for her bag, “I mean you probably won’t need most of what’s in it, but hey, you can bring it if you like.”

“Are you sure? Because if it’s really too much,” she shifted on her feet nervously.

“No Deidra it’s fine,” he tried to assure her. He glanced over his shoulder at her seeing how beautiful she truly was. He hated the idea of breaking her heart, but eventually he would have to. He knew that and it made everything worse, but for now, well now he was just going to enjoy the promise of the weekend. He would do what he could to imprint the memory in his mind forever before…

“Are you sure,” she asked again, “because I can really put some of it back if I need to. You weren’t really specific about what I needed and…”

“And I’m sure we’ll find a way to make everything in here work for us,” Dean decided with a small smile, “I’ll just load it in the car and then we can get on our way.”

“Sounds good,” Deidra reached for her keys watching him pull her suitcase into the hall.

“Wow, this is kind of heavy,” he teased back, “What did you pack in here? The kitchen sink?”

“Dean, if it’s really too much,” she frowned eyeing him curiously.

“Just kidding,” he teased pulling the suitcase up over his shoulder before turning to her. “Ready to go?”

“Am I ever,” she nodded locking the door ready to immerse herself in a weekend of pleasure and excitement. Taking one long look at Dean she knew that she was going to find all that and more.

“Now, you aren’t the slightest bit curious about everything I have planned are you,” he asked looking back to her as the elevator doors opened for them to step inside.

“Well of course I am, but I trust you,” Deidra added proudly thinking about her tiff with Dave. Remembering her best friend’s refusal to give up on checking up on Dean had Deidra less than thrilled. Sure, maybe she’d initiated his snooping around, but now, well now she was fully confident that Dean was perfectly fine. He was the man who’d saved her from danger--the man she’d found it in her heart to fall in love with and this weekend he would be the man she would take her time sharing herself with over and over again.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Dean smiled nervously reaching into his pocket as his cell phone started buzzing. He eyed the number suspiciously before shutting off the phone.

“Who was that?” Deidra questioned curiously popping out of her thoughts of Dave.

“Nothing important,” Dean shoved his phone back into his pocket before reaching out to pull her into his arms again, “Nothing nearly as important as you are that is.”

“Well good,” she eased her arms around his shoulders, ”because this weekend I intend to be your top priority from here on out.”

“Yes madam,” Dean laughed lightly bending in to kiss her as today was the beginning of a weekend that neither one of them would forget.


Avery snuggled into Brant’s chest feeling the warmth of him still surrounding her after the fire had finally burned out in the fireplace. She placed a kiss over the warm, muscular planes of his hair-dusted body thinking about how intense their love making had been. Even now she felt herself still buzzing with satisfaction after the experience they’d shared together. Sure, they’d made love in the past, but today was different--there was something far more sensual, more emotional involved and as she held onto him, she found herself thanking the heavens above that she’d been fortunate to have found his love in her life.

“What are you thinking about,” Brant questioned lazily running his fingers up and over her spine as they lay together underneath a throw blanket.

“How amazing you are,” she answered freely, her words vibrating over his damp skin.

“Well, wouldn’t you know I was just thinking the same thing,” he teased lightly unable to repress the mood he was in, “I am pretty damned amazing, aren’t I?”

“Brant,” she swatted at his chest shaking her head at him before a laugh spilled over her lips, “oh you…”

“Hey, what can I say? When you know you’re the best, why try to hide it,” he shrugged his shoulders another laugh filling him up inside before he turned suddenly serious, “Although I have to admit right now I was thinking about wonderful you are.”

“I’m not wonderful. I’m far from it, but I’m working on it,” she sighed heavily thinking about all of the things that had transpired between them lately, “I know I haven’t been the wife that you’d wanted…”

“No,” he interrupted catching her surprised expression at him agreeing with her. His fingertip teased off over the back of her neck sliding up into her hair, “you’re more than what I wanted Avery.”

“And you’re more than I deserved,” she confessed knowing that she was quite fortunate to have wound up with a man who loved her so very much. At the time they’d wed, she hadn’t been thinking about finding love again, but now she found herself grateful that Brant hadn’t given up on her--fortunate that his belief in their love had been stronger than she’d been willing to believe in at the time.

“See now there’s where you and I are at a difference of opinion Avery,” he replied in a small whisper, “I don’t happen to think that at all. I knew from the moment I first lay my eyes upon you that you were the one. I knew that you were someone special and that when I had an opportunity to prove myself to you that you’d feel the same way about me as I always have about you.”

“I’m just sorry that it took me so very long to realize that Brant,” Avery stroked his face affectionately before guiding her lips to his again in a soft, sensual sweep. Everything about the moment felt right--meant to be. Their lips collided in another hungry union alerting them both to the passion still lingering between them, as it was evident that their earlier love making was just a taste of things to come. Unfortunately for them however, whatever passion they were feeling was going to have to be put on hold. That was made plainly obvious when Ken’s voice sounded out throughout the living room.

“Well I’m glad to see there’s no longer trouble in paradise,” Ken announced causing Avery to practically jump off of Brant and out of his arms.

“Ken,” Brant spoke up behind gritted teeth, moving the blanket ever so slightly to keep Avery covered the best he could under the circumstances, “what are you doing here?”

“I live here, remember?” Ken threw out a pointed look at the both of them. “But don’t worry I’m not going to be bothering you both long.”

“I thought you were still in the hospital,” Brant began at a loss noting his wife’s uneasy silence after they’d believed they were alone at the mansion.

“Well, I was, I mean I was going to be until I could find my way out of there, but then I started thinking about it,” Ken explained further opting not to be concerned with Brant and Avery’s uneasiness about him walking in on an intimate situation between them. “I talked to the doctors and they told me that I was strong enough to get out of the hospital, so I checked myself out.”

“And you’re going to be on your way to rehab now,” Avery spoke up in a small voice attempting to have a cool and casual conversation despite the fact that she was clearly naked underneath the blanket. When she thought of how close Ken came in to catching her and Brant in an even more compromising position, her face grew hot.

Okay, so maybe he caught them in a very intimate moment as well, but still, she was trying to initiate some kind of pleasantries if for no other reason than to ignore the embarrassment she felt in the situation. She looked to Brant seeing him coming off as more agitated than anything else. In that moment Avery couldn’t help but wonder if Ken had walked in on Brant in similar situations with other women at other times. No, now was most certainly not the moment to think about that. She clutched the blanket closer to her chest as she attempted to remain cool and rational.

“Actually, see now there’s the thing,” Ken stepped in closer to them, his dark eyes passing back and forth from Avery to Brant, “I was going to go to rehab, but now I don’t have to.”

“What?” Brant’s jaw practically dropped, “but I thought that we agreed that rehab was best for you. Given what Susan did to you…”

“I know what we agreed on, but I’m going down a different path. You see I’ve found something else that will be far more productive for me. You see starting tonight I’m changing my life. I’ve found a group right here in Coral Valley that can offer me all of the things and more that rehab could. It’s a spiritual awakening of sorts and I really believe more than anything else that’s what I need,” Ken explained matter of fact.

“And just where do you intend to get such a so called spiritual beginning Ken,” Brant asked skeptical.

“With me,” Michelle announced proudly sauntering into the room to stand behind Ken, “At New Beginnings. Isn’t that right Ken?”

“That’s right and I can’t wait to go to my first meeting,” Ken blurted out causing Avery and Brant to exchange worried glances as it was now painfully obvious that something fishy was going on.


Carly hung up the phone a frown touching over her lips as she looked to her husband. He shrugged his shoulders before moving over to crack open the bottle of champagne.

“I’m sure everything is fine,” Dave offered up with another small shrug, “Cori’s good with children. I’m sure Kayla is fine. She must’ve taken her out for a while or maybe they’re still sleeping. We all kind of had a late night last night.”

“That we did,” Carly couldn’t help but agree, “of course Kayla loves watching her cartoons though…”

“I’m sure they’re fine,” Dave offered up again reaching out to touch her shoulder gently before offering her a glass of champagne, “Now about this whole honeymoon we’ve got going here.”

“Yes, our honeymoon,” Carly nodded in agreement sipping the champagne, “I guess we got a little carried away dancing together there, didn’t we?”

“I didn’t mind,” Dave smiled at her thoughtfully, “just being able to hold you like that, well it does a man good.”

“Is that right,” she turned in towards him watching him take a seat on the bed beside her.

“That’s right and knowing that I’ll be able to spend the rest of my life doing that very thing, well it gives me hope for the future,” he confessed sliding his fingers into her dark hair, “for the dreams of you and I together. There’s nothing keeping us from happiness anymore. You, Kayla and I are really a family now…”

“We truly are,” she smiled at him a warmth sweeping in over her where his touch traced over her shoulder.

“Of course there is one small request I do have for us,” Dave’s eyes traveled lovingly over her body thinking about all the things yet to be between them.”

“What’s that?” she questioned quietly, her dark eyes fixed on his. A smile lifted over her lips as she placed her fingers tentatively over his thigh, tracing a circle pattern over it.

“I’d like us to work on having a little brother or sister for Kayla,” he leaned in closer to her, “Or at least let us have a chance at practicing up for that.”

“Hmm, well now that you mention it,” she slid across the top of the comforter, “I do think it’s entirely in the realm of possibility for us to work something up along those lines.”

“Think your mother will approve now that we’re married,” Dave questioned his touch dropping down to the thin strap of the silken slip that clung to the curves of her body.

“Absolutely not,” Carly shook her head with a playful laugh before crawling into his lap. She curled her fingers over his shoulders before her eyes found his again, “but at this point, I really don’t care what my mother wants.”

“There’s the spirit,” Dave nodded approvingly reaching out to release the clip that held her dark hair up on the crown of her head. The long, dark curls fell around her face framing it beautifully. He eased up towards hers, tilting his head ever so slightly to taste the sweet temptation of her mouth over his. Her hands wandered eagerly over the lines of his body carefully opening his shirt, exposing his warm body to her touch.

He reached out to her in return, feeling her silken skin beneath his touch. He slowly released the straps on her nightgown feeling the shimmering, white material fall to her waist releasing it’s hold on her curves. His eyes dropped to her sexy, sensual body and immediately there was a fire stirring up inside of him. He dropped his hands to her waist, nudging her up towards his eager explorations. His lips glided over her skin, hands relearning the curves that had excited him over the years. He cupped her in his hand, feeling her body meld into his touch.

“Dave,” she sighed his name, dropping her head back, her hair falling freely with the movement.

His lips tasted the soft sweetness of her lavishing up her warm curves. Taking control of the situation, Dave rolled her back onto the bed easing the material of her nightgown down with the movement. She fell back into the pillows her dark hair all around her as Dave took a step back. He took a step back feeling a breath get caught in his throat at the reality of the situation. Here he was with Carly again together and stronger than ever only this time, well this time they were husband and wife. He looked to the ring on his finger thinking about how many times he’d dreamt of their being together just like this.

“Come here,” she instructed after he’d disrobed. She tugged him in closer an urgent yearning filling her throughout. Their mouths met in a heated frenzy, tongues tangling and teasing one another with the promise of passion. Carly pushed Dave onto his back moving in over him as her lips claimed his again and again. She scratched her nails over his chest, reveling in the tiny shivers that crept over his body at the nearness of her. His lips were parted, eyes fixed on hers and as they were joined as one, making love as husband and wife for the first time, they both knew it was the beginning of a great many beautiful memories to come.


“I am so thirsty after playing fort,” Diego heard Kayla giggle as he walked into the kitchen after cleaning up the room all by himself so that nothing was messy.

“What in the world are you two doing?” Diego questioned, seeing a goop of mess all over the floor and inside of the blender he could see a mixture that looked like puke. “What in the world is that?”

“This would be my specialty shake,” Kayla replied with a small laugh, grabbing a banana and throwing it in there unpeeled. “Just a few more ingredients and it will be done.”

“Kayla that may not be a good idea,” Diego called out seeing her crack an egg in it. He watched her grab a pickle and then some maple syrup. Diego looked towards Cori who just seemed to be standing there watching Kayla carefully. “Um, don’t you think you should maybe tell her to stop that?”

“Nope,” Cori shook her head, quickly answering his question with a wide smile, “Dave made his own mess here, so he can clean it up himself. Kayla, how about I help you out a little bit more. What do you think about Ketchup and mustard?”

“Sounds great,” Kayla replied with a small giggle as Cori grabbed the bottles and squirting them into the blender. She let some drip out onto the floor as Diego shook his head at her. Somehow, he began to remember the real Cori when she was younger. It seemed at this point she really didn't change one bit.

“All we have to do is turn it on,” Cori stated pushing the button and hearing the mixing begin. And now, it’s done.”

“Yay,” Kayla clapped her hands together before looking towards Diego. “I want you to taste it first. I need you to be my tester.”

“Uh, I don’t think so,” Diego protested before feeling Cori nudge him in the ribs, “Well, I guess I could try it--for you Kayla.”

“Thank you Diego, thank you so much,” Kayla smiled, seeing Cori pour some into a glass and hand it to Diego. “Well, go ahead. Drink it all up.”

“Well, here it goes,” Diego raised it up to his nose, taking in a smell of the drink--it smelled so bad at this point. Without trying to make it too obvious, he raised it to his lips and pretended to drink it. After a second he rubbed his mouth with that back of his hand and watched as Kayla smiled. “Oh, it’s delicious.”

“Really?” Cori questioned with a weird expression over her features as she watched him nod slowly and wink at her. “I guess I should probably taste it myself then.”

“You know,” Diego tried to stop her as she took a sip of it. He let out a small chuckle as he saw the look on her face after she swallowed. “Well, what did you think of it?”

“Really good Kayla,” Cori lied to her before setting the drink back down on the counter, “Just a little too rich for me. I’m not really big on thick shakes.”

“I’m sorry,” Kayla frowned, looking towards the drink she had mixed together, “I tried to make it good, I’m sorry it’s not.”

“No sweetheart,” Diego began, bending down to her height as he smiled, “It was a perfect shake. We just think it’s a little to strong for us big people. We don’t really have good taste when it comes to things.”

“Isn’t that the truth?” Kayla questioned with a small laugh as she looked up at him. “My mommy has horrible taste. She makes me eat spinach. I hate that stuff.”

“Don’t worry,” Cori winked, bending down next to Diego, “With us around, you are never going to have to eat any yucky food like that. Right Diego?”

“Uh, right,” Diego nodded slowly, looking between Cori and Kayla, “Don’t worry. With us, all you are going to have is fun.”

“I think I already like the sound of that,” Kayla clapped her hands together before smiling, “So what’s next?”


“You feeling better?” Kevin questioned, squeezing Seth’s shoulder lightly as he saw Seth nod. “Is there anything I could get you? Anything at all?”

“No,” Seth shook his head slowly, taking in a deep breath. “I’ve been thinking you know--Jade. And as I thought, I realized that we are going to have to make funeral arrangements. We can’t wait that long for her.”

“We shouldn’t be worrying about that right now Seth,” Kevin hushed, watching Seth get up from where he is sitting. “Seth, you just need to relax.”

“I can’t relax,” Seth protested, shaking his head slowly before looking for the phonebook, “I need to be strong. I just need to find the number and I will be all set.”

“Seth, you shouldn’t be doing this,” Blake urged him away from the phone as he looked at the big book in his hand.

“I’m sorry, I just need to be alone right now,” Seth dropped the book to the floor and walked away into another room.

“Seth,” Valerie called out, hearing him shut the door behind him and leaving everyone behind him.

Kevin noticed Valerie getting off the couch as he grabbed her by the hand and pulled her back down onto the couch where she was originally sitting.

“Don’t even think about it Val, just back off right now,” Kevin ordered angrily before standing up slowly, “I’ll go talk to him right now. I think I can make him feel a little bit better.”

“We’ll be here,” Blake replied, watching Kevin walk towards the bedroom and knock before entering.

“Cuz?” Kevin shut the door behind him, noticing that Seth was sitting down on the floor and leaning against the wall. He slowly took a seat next to Seth on the floor. “You okay?”

“You want the truth?” Seth wondered, seeing Kevin nod slowly and look at him with worry. “Well, I wish I could say I was doing fine, but I am far from it. I don’t think that I will ever be the same.”

“Come here,” Kevin frowned as Seth leaned forward and he hugged Seth in his arms tightly. “You know, I always thought of you as my little brother and Jade like my little sister. So, you know this is killing me inside seeing this happen. You two deserved nothing but the best in life.”

“There is no more best Kevin,” Seth replied, feeling his eyes burning as they heard someone else enter the room.

“Hey there buddy,” Ria smiled, closing the door behind her as Seth let go of Kevin, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” Seth lied, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand slowly before trying to get up, “I need to look through that book. I have to make a date for the funeral.”

“No,” Kevin refused, pulling Seth back down to the ground lightly, “I’ll do it okay? You shouldn’t be doing things like that. I’ll do it all.”

“Maybe that’s a bit much for both of you,” Ria pointed out with a small sigh. She knew that Kevin was trying to be the strong one here, but he was torn at the heart too. Kevin just wanted to be supportive for Seth, but she knew that once he got on the phone he would just break down at the thought of it. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll do what I can for this here and I will give you both information each step of the way.”

“Thanks Ria,” Seth half smiled, feeling her squeeze his shoulder lightly, “I appreciate that.”

“No problem,” Ria replied, seeing Kevin get up and then help Seth up off the ground, “If you two aren’t happy with my works, we can work on something that will work for all of us. Okay?”

“Sounds great,” Seth agreed, kissing Ria on the cheek lightly, “Thank you for being here for me Ria. I don’t know what I would do without you and Kevin.”

“It’s no problem really,” Ria assured Seth before looking up at Kevin, “Is that okay with you? Are you alright with me doing the plans?”

“Of course I am,” Kevin nodded slowly, leaning down and pecking her on the cheek lightly, “I trust you with my life when it comes down to it.”

“Alright, well,” Ria began, taking a step back from everyone, “I will go see what I can come up with and you guys can talk in here. I’ll make sure that you will be alone for a while.”

“She’s great you know,” Seth stated after Ria left the room, “I don’t think I could have wished for a better friend.”

“She’s perfect,” Kevin agreed with a small sigh as he looked back at the door, “I think she is a great person and we are lucky to have her with us.”

“Yeah,” Seth nodded slowly before letting out another sigh, “If we are making the plans for the funeral--we should call Grady and tell him everything. He deserves to be a part of all this too. He cared for Jade a lot and he meant everything to her. I can only imagine what he is feeling right now.”

“Probably really bad just like everyone else is,” Kevin declared, tensing his eyebrows as he thought for a moment, “You know, I have been thinking. I want to meet this Grady for the first time. I want to know what he’s like.”


“Are almost ready to go to your grandparents house little guy?” Don questioned, crouching down to Matt’s height, “You grandmother should be here soon.”

“Yeah, I just have a few more things I want to get daddy,” Matt replied with a small smile, “I’ll call when you I am done. It might take a while.”

“Don’t take your whole room, I want you to come back home to me soon,” Don squeezed his son’s shoulder lightly before walking out of Matt’s room and into the living room, seeing Shannon sitting out in front of his computer looking something up. He walked behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder, making her jump. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Shannon assured him, biting down on her bottom lip before looking back behind her to see Don looking at the screen, “I hope you don’t mind, but I had a few things that I wanted to check out.”

“Um, I guess not,” he shrugged with a small sigh before letting out a small chuckle, “Just make sure you don’t go through my files, you might find out what kind of man I really am.”

“I already did,” she replied with a tiny smirk looking back at him with a smile, “It seems like all the things on here are sites for Matt and work.”

“Alright, so the type of guy I am is boring and a good father,” Don declared, leaning against his desk as she continued to scroll down and read something. “So, what is it exactly that you are looking at?”

“Well, I am doing some work,” she began to explain as she scrolled down a little bit more, “on Bruce Mathis and this whole case. I don’t really get what is going on. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“What doesn’t make sense?” he questioned, tensing his eyebrows as she looked back at him and enclosed her hands in her lap. “The fact that Bruce is crazy? Or the fact that he is back?”

“I meant,” Shannon thought of how to explain her crazy thinking before coming up with an easy way to answer Don’s question. “Bruce attacking Trisha Merhan makes no sense. No sense at all. Bruce is a serial killer, he doesn’t screw up. It’s a sign that he’s getting sloppy somehow.”

“Well, he is crazy,” Don pointed out with a small nod before thinking for a second, “And, we really don’t even know if it was Bruce. It just fit his profile, maybe he got a clue and will never come back. Not that I believe that, but we should always look up in this.”

“Well, Trish said that he was a handsome, dark haired man,” she remembered, letting out a deep breath as she tried to remember everything that had gone through her mind. “It fits Bruce’s profile.”

“Well, if she only said dark hair and handsome,” Don began, arching his eyebrow as he tried to explain his feelings, “That could be anyone. I mean that could be even me if I was that crazy--which I’m not, but still.”

“No, that wasn’t the only thing she described him as though,” Shannon informed him with a small frown as she remembered Trisha’s report, “Everything she said had Bruce Mathis all over it. It couldn’t have been someone else. I almost wonder if possible, Bruce has an accomplice or he’s finally snapped and lost his mind completely.”

“Each one is a possibility,” Don agreed before folding his arms out in front of him, “I can give you my opinion and advice on this one if you would like.”

“Shoot,” she motioned him to go on, watching him think for a second before finally speaking up.

“You see…” Don was soon cut off by his son pulling a bag along the floor as he entered the room.

“I’m ready to go daddy,” Matt stated with a small laugh, “I want to go see grandpa before he leaves for work.”

“Alright little guy,” Don smiled, sitting up and walking towards Matt, “We’ll finish this up later Shannon.”

“Alright,” Shannon nodded slowly with a small sigh, “Maybe you could help me out later or something.”


Deidra eyed the long and winding road before her suspiciously. She tilted her head to the side feeling the sun’s ray sweeping down over Dean’s car as they drove to their destination. She glanced to the side of the road again seeing the thick, dense trees that surrounded them and she felt a moment of fluttering in her stomach. Looking to Dean again, she couldn’t help but ask.

“So where is it you’re taking me again,” she wondered aloud.

“I thought you were up for surprises,” he replied with a cryptic grin not ready to divulge anything about their trip just yet.

“Well of course, but when you’d mentioned we were going somewhere,” she noted the terrain in front of them again realizing pavement gave way to gravel, “I just assumed that it would be something a bit more civilized.”

“Civilized?” he repeated with an interested smirk, “Is that your way of saying that you’d rather back out of this?”

“Well no but,” she paused searching for the right words, “I guess I kind of thought that we were doing something a bit more around the big city. The woods is just different than I thought. I mean I’ve got nothing against them, but I haven’t gone camping in a long time and…”

“We’re not going camping,” he promised her with a reassuring glance, “at least not like you’re thinking we are. Don’t worry we’re almost there. I know it’s a bit rustic, but I promise you’re going to love it.”

“I’m sure,” she nodded in response taking in some of the fresh air. Okay, so maybe being out in the peace and quiet wasn’t all that bad. It had been a while since she’d enjoyed the great outdoors. Plus if worst came to worst she could always snuggle up in next to Dean and enjoy the cool nights that the wild often brought with them. That in itself caused her to smile. Her thoughts painted a portrait of a very intimate night by the burning fire, but just when things were getting good she felt the car come to a stop.

“Ready,” Dean asked as she surveyed the area. Somehow he had pulled off the main road and they were now in the thick of the trees shaded over by their heavy leaves. She eyed him with confusion after she’d noted there wasn’t a place in sight that seemed to be where they could possibly be heading. Of course there was no lack of shrubbery, but still…

“Where are we?” Deidra questioned wearily. “Is your place far from here?”

“Not far,” he shrugged getting out of his car and walking around to the trunk. She eyed him through the rear view mirror before getting out herself.

“Dean, are you going to tell me exactly what you have on your mind or,” she walked around to the back of the car seeing him filling up a backpack of sorts.

“Why don’t you do me a favor and decide what from this you’re going to need,” he motioned to her suitcase before pulling out another small backpack. “Take only what you need and we’ll come back for the rest later.”

“Later, what do you mean later?” she asked seeing him pulling a few water bottles out of the cooler, “Dean what are we doing?”

“Going on a little bit of an adventure,” he promised walking around to the front of the car again.

As she stood at his trunk she looked to the backpack he’d offered her. It didn’t give her much room for anything really. Reluctantly she opened up her suitcase looking inside. She grabbed a few essentials and before she knew it the backpack was close to being full. She spotted the condoms in the corner of her suitcase just as Dean was returning. Quickly she tucked them into the backpack before closing it.

“Have what you need?” Dean questioned curiously, a mysterious smile over his face.

“For now, but I do expect you to clue me in on what we’re doing,” she replied watching a piece of his dark hair blow in the gentle breeze.

“Well, we’re going up the mountain,” he explained holding his finger out to show her their destination.

She looked up seeing the spiral of land before her. How she hadn’t noticed it earlier was beyond her, but now as she looked at the trees before her, she realized that she’d never seen such a beautiful place before. The green and the blue were in perfect contrast offering up a vision that was truly breathtaking.

“We’re going up there,” she asked breathlessly.

“That’s right,” he stepped in behind her wrapping his arms around her waist, “but unfortunately we can’t take the car any longer. We need to hike it to where we’re going because that’s the only way to get there, so I thought we’d just park right here and get started on our adventure.”

“You mean we’re going to go hiking?” she replied with wide eyes, “Dean, I wasn’t exactly prepared for…”

“You look fine,” he assured her before noting her shoes, “although those might make it a little rough. Did you pack anything a bit more versatile perhaps?”

“These are it for me,” she motioned to the smart and sensible flats she’d brought with her. She had thought about her sneakers, but given that she didn’t expect to be doing anything truly strenuous or adventurous to this degree she had voted against bringing them. “I didn’t think we’d be out in nature like this…”

“Well,” he contemplated her shoes, “I suppose they’ll do for now, but if your feet start to bother you we can rest.”

“Is it a long way up,” she couldn’t help but ask.

“It’s a bit of a jaunt, but trust me it’s totally worth it,” he assured her leaning in to kiss her quickly, “ready for the adventure to begin?”

“Sure,” Deidra nodded a bit uneasily as she looked to the mountain in front of her. Yes it was beautiful, but suddenly she felt like she should’ve dressed down for the occasion. The shorts and t-shirt were okay for the adventure, but her shoes, well regardless of how smart and sensible they were, she began to see that they had lost any real purpose or practicality. Still she wasn’t about to be one of those women who complained when fun and adventure was staring her in the face. She held her head up high and nodded encouragingly, “Well, what are we waiting for?”

“After you,” Dean stepped aside, ready to give Deidra the weekend of her life as they began their journey to paradise.


Ria hung up the phone after speaking with the funeral director. She explained the severity of the situation and the need for things to be put in order in such a way that it softened the blow of the loss. Of course now as she sat looking at the things she’d jotted down on the notepad, she knew there would be no way to soften the blow of losing Jade. Her death was an unexpected, unwelcome horror upon the family and nothing that could be done would erase the pain that followed. Granted Ria had dealt with death in her line of work, but it grew harder each time especially when the patient was someone that she’d known personally. Of course Jade’s death hadn’t been in the hospital, but still that didn’t take away from the somber feeling inside of her. To think of Jade’s last days of being locked up it made her sick to her stomach. It just wasn’t right.

“Look, why don’t you just go do something,” Blake scowled over at Valerie, “We don’t need you here.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Valerie argued with her, “Seth said I could stay, so I’m staying. Jade was my friend you know.”

“Yeah right,” Blake rolled her eyes at her, “Somehow I seriously doubt that since women like you don’t have any friends. You only take and take and…”

“Enough,” Ria threw her hands in the air having heard enough of Blake and Valerie’s bickering. She stood up from the chair she’d been seated in and gave them both a firm warning glance, “You two need to let go of this vendetta long enough for you to realize that’s going on here. Jade’s dead and in case that point was lost on the both of you, it might suit you well to have some consideration for those of us who really did give a damn about her.”

“I care about Jade,” Blake replied with a wounded expression, “She was going to be my sister-in-law and…”

“And she’s my sister-in-law, so I wouldn’t be banking on using that little reasoning there Blake,” Valerie glared over at Blake, “Seth’s never going to marry a self-centered, manipulative witch like you.”

“Obviously he’s had his experience with dealing with nasty witches since you’re a shining example of it,” Blake countered furiously, her blue eyes narrowing with a rage.

“Okay that’s it,” Ria stood between the two of them, “Separate. Blake go in the kitchen and see if you can put something on or clean something up.”

“But…” Blake opened her mouth in protest before letting out a harsh sigh, “fine.”

“Thank you,” Ria replied watching Seth’s fiancée walk away. She directed her attention to Valerie, “and you…”

“Hey, you know I loved Jade. You can’t argue that with me Ria,” Valerie tried to defend her presence at the apartment.

“Look Val, as much as I’d truly like to believe that’s why you’re here, we both know better about your motivations,” Ria frowned over at her one time friend knowing only too well what kind of master manipulator Valerie was, “And unlike Seth I’m not as nice about things in that respect. I know how to call your bluff and I’m warning you now if you even think about making this worse than it is, you’re going to have to answer to me.”

“Gee, and here I thought that friendship meant loyalty,” Valerie rolled her eyes at Ria.

“Friendship is doing what’s right for those around you and in making you shut up, that’s what I’m doing right here. Seth doesn’t need to be dealing with this now. In fact, you should really go home Val,” Ria warned her firmly.

“Ria, I’m just doing what I can to help ease the pain of the situation. I know Seth is hurting and he’s my husband. I want to be there for him at a time when he’s needing me more than ever. When he sees that I love him and I’m still here for him, then he’ll realize that we were meant to be together and…” Valerie started in her own defense.

“That’s it,” Ria bent down reaching for Valerie’s purse. She shoved it into the center of Valerie’s chest before motioning to the door, “Get out!”

“But Ria you can’t demand I leave. It’s Seth’s place and…” Valerie curled her lip in a pout.

“Watch me,” Ria tugged on Valerie’s arm sending her out into the hallway with a firm shove. She wiggled her finger in Valerie’s face, “and don’t even think about coming back tonight. Let Seth have some peace if you really, truly care about him.”

Valerie opened her mouth in protest, but her words were lost as Ria closed the door in her face. Ria exhaled slowly wondering how in the hell Valerie had managed to get her priorities so messed up. Turning around she saw Blake standing behind her with surprised eyes.

“I guess you meant it when you said you weren’t taking any crap from either one of us,” Blake blurted out astonished.

“I just don’t think that now is the time for dealing with that situation. This is about Jade and doing what’s right for her,” Ria moved forward thinking about the plans she’d made for the memorial.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Blake replied uneasily, “and regardless of what you think about me, I did mean what I said. Jade was a good person and I hate that she’s gone. I liked her a lot even if she and I didn’t get off on the right footing with one another.”

“I know,” Ria nodded offering up a small sigh as tension mounted in her neck and shoulders, “She liked you too. She knew that you made Seth happy and that was very important to her.”

“I just hope that I can make him happy again,” Blake paused seeing Ria shuffling with the papers she’d jotted notes down on, “Just like you make Kevin happy.”

“What?” Ria’s eyes practically bulged out of her head at Blake’s declaration. She spun around to see Blake staring at her with a knowing look.

“Oh come on,” Blake couldn’t help but smile, anyone with eyes can tell something is going on. So how long have you two been…um, together?”

“What?” Ria felt a blush rise over her features, “I don’t know what you’re trying to imply.”

“Oh it’s more than an implication,” Blake took a step forward noting Ria’s uneasiness, “It’s plainly obvious to anyone who sees the two of you together that something is going on there. Although I don’t think Seth has a clue, but still I picked up on it right away at the hospital.”

“I think your imagination is getting the best of you Blake,” Ria tried to blow her off before looking away again.

“Oh I think it’s more than my imagination there, although I will say I’ve got a pretty good imagination when it comes to those things. There‘s just something about two people in love that‘s so very obvious even across a crowded room,” Blake paused noting Ria’s long silence, “Don’t worry I’m not saying a word if that’s what you want.”

“Blake I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. Kevin and I are just friends,” Ria lied keeping her eyes on the papers in front of her and away from Blake’s scrutinizing gaze.

“Okay, say what you will, but I know that’s so far from the truth it’s not even funny. If you and Kevin are just friends, then I’m the Easter Bunny,” Blake prompted a bit further before retreating in her quest for details, “but for the record, you’re very lucky. He’s hot and any woman would love to have him look at her the way that he looks at you. It must feel pretty good to be in those shoes there considering what a great catch Kevin is. If I wasn‘t completely in love with Seth, I‘d almost be jealous, but then again I guess sexy and romantic and overwhelmingly too perfect for words must run in their family. Anyone who is able to pick up on that and experience that is very lucky indeed.”

Ria said nothing only hearing the sounds of Blake walking back into the kitchen once again seemingly giving up on questioning her any further on her relationship with Kevin. Ria honestly didn’t know what to say about the situation, but as she thought about what Blake had said about her being lucky to have someone wonderful like Kevin in her life, Ria couldn’t help but smile feeling a warmth spread out over her as she whispered the words to herself, “I know. I’m very lucky indeed.”


“This is the place?” Kevin questioned as he pulled up to the place that Seth told him to stop at.

“Yeah,” Seth nodded before motioning Kevin to get out of the car and follow him, “Just follow me--he might not be home.”

“Alright,” Kevin sighed, locking his car up before running to catch up with Seth as he walked towards the front door. Seth knocked a few times before looking back at Kevin. “Do you think he is home?”

“I really don’t know,” Seth shrugged with a small frown, knocking on the door one more time, “I guess that would mean he isn’t home right now.”

“Well, maybe we could check back later,” Kevin declared as they began to turn around and go back to the car before hearing the front door open.

“Seth? Is that you?” Grady’s voice questioned as he opened the door slowly. Seth turned around to face a horrible looking Grady. Grady took a step out of the house to walk up to Seth and the man with him. “Who is this?”

“I’m Kevin Adonis,” Kevin extended his hand out to Grady’s, shaking Grady’s in his lightly, “I’m Jade’s cousin.”

“I know who you are,” Grady sighed, taking his hand back slowly before shoving them in his pockets, “Believe it or not--I’ve heard about good old Kevin before. It’s nice to meet you Kevin.”

“It was nice to finally meet you too Grady,” Kevin felt a bit awkwardness between the three of them as they stood outside with each other.

“Come on in you two,” Grady motioned the two to follow him in the house, “I guess we could talk a little bit--for a while at least.”

“So,” Seth began as Grady shut the door and walked across the room to take a seat on the couch, “How have you been holding up? Are you doing okay?”

“I’m sure I feel like the two of you right now,” Grady let out a deep breath, shrugging his shoulders, “Pain is pain--no matter what form it’s in.”

“The only thing is,” Kevin began, taking in a deep breath as he saw Grady’s saddened eyes look up to his, “None of us should be in pain right now. Jade should be here with us.”

“Well I guess what should be just isn't what is going to happen for us as much as we wish it could,” Grady frowned, watching Seth take a seat in the chair. “You can sit down you know. I won’t kill you for talking to me.”

“Um, okay,” Kevin nodded slowly before taking a seat next to Grady, “I wasn’t trying to be rude, I was just trying to be…”

“Don’t worry,” Grady hushed, shaking his head slowly as Kevin look over towards him, “We all lost one of the most important people in our lives. Just one second Jade was there and then she was so far out of my grasp.”

Kevin looked between his cousin and Grady. They both looked miserable and truthfully--he felt the same way. He just had to be strong for everyone, this whole thing was killing him inside. Kevin took a look towards Grady, seeing the ways his eyes just seemed to gloss over and turn red as he stared straight out. The first instinct of being a good person overcame him as he saw Grady begin to break down.

“I shouldn’t be doing this,” Grady sniffed, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand slowly, “I should be strong for Jade. Damn myself for not doing that.”

“Hey,” Kevin frowned, as Grady turned towards him and Kevin hugged him in his arms lightly, “You can’t act like nothing happened Grady. It will kill you if you don’t let this out.”

“God, I must seem like such a loser right now,” Grady half laughed, noticing that Jade’s cousin who he hardly even knew was hugging him right now.

“I understand Grady,” Kevin assured him with a small frown, patting his back lightly, “Believe me, I understand.”


“Here is your shake young ladies,” Diego smiled, walking back the table outside that Cori and Kayla were seated at. He was carrying three shakes in his hands before he set each one down slowly. They had gone to a real ice-cream shop because the shake that Kayla had made turned out to be horrible for everyone. Cori and Diego thought it might be nice to take Kayla out for a real shake instead of being left with the taste of the one she put together. “A chocolate shake with two cherries for Kayla and a strawberry shake for Cori.”

“Thank you,” Kayla giggled, taking a sip of her shake before nodding slowly, “This shake is so much better than the one I made. That one was horrible.”

“I’d have to sadly agree with that one,” Cori agreed after taking a sip from her shake, “I guess I was dumb enough to take a big sip from it. Boy, did I need some major TUMS about ten minutes after trying it.”

“I tried to warn you,” Diego began with a small laugh, shaking his head slowly, “You weren’t supposed to really drink it. You were supposed to fake drink it.”

“You mean you didn’t drink some?” Cori questioned seeing Diego laugh harder as she looked towards Kayla. “Did you drink any of that shake you made?”

“No, are you kidding me,” Kayla squeaked, shaking her head slowly, “I was just doing all that for fun. It looked so bad, I wasn’t going to taste something that looked that nasty.”

“So, I guess you are the blonde when it comes to this one Cori,” Diego declared with a small chuckle before shrugging his shoulders, “But what can you say? You never really were anything, but a blonde.”

“You know what,” Cori frowned, grabbing her cherry that was placed on top of the shake before throwing it at Diego. She let out a small laugh as she watched it slide down the side of his face, leaving a whipped cream remainder on his cheek.

“That’s funny,” Kayla giggled, grabbing one of her cherries and throwing it at Diego. Kayla clapped her hands together after seeing the cherry hit Diego right between the eyes.

“How did I just become a bull’s-eye?” Diego wondered, wiping his face off before seeing Cori shrug. “Tell you what, since you did that--I think you deserve a little pay back.”

“What do you…” Cori began before feeling whipped cream smeared across the front of her face and over her eyes. “Diego, I am going to kill you.”

“Oh no Kayla,” Diego jumped up from where he was sitting, running around behind her, “Hide me. She is going to hurt me.”

“Hey, you did it,” Kayla shrugged as Cori got up and began to
chase Diego around the table.

“I guess it’s a good thing that we are outside because I can always out run you,” Diego pointed out, hiding behind Kayla again as Cori picked up her shake and bent forward quickly dumping her shake over his head.

“I think I’ve got my revenge,” Cori laughed as she saw the strawberry ice-cream drip from his hair and down his face slowly. “Your hair looks good pink, maybe you should keep it that way.”

“That’s it,” Diego replied, bending down to whisper something in Kayla’s ear, “How about we make Cori’s hair become brown?”

“Yeah,” Kayla squeaked, grabbing her shake after Diego grabbed his, “We're going to get you.”

“What? She’s on your side?” Cori questioned as Diego began to make her circle around the table. “This isn’t fair.”

“Fair or not,” Diego began with a wide grin as he cornered her, “We will get you.”


“So, Kellen,” Heather began, setting Charles back down in his crib after Kipp walked out of the room to go get something, “What are you doing hanging out with someone like Kipp?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Kellen questioned, taking a step forward where he had been staying to himself. He tried his best to keep quiet the whole time, but if she was directing something towards him he was going to answer.

“I mean,” Heather took in a deep breath, resting her hands at her hips, “Shouldn’t you be off making more money with all the others?”

“Would you give up on that,” Kellen spat, shaking his head slowly, “I gave up on that a long time before you did. And unlike you, I became successful because I worked my way up to where I am.”

“Right and who did you have to,” Heather started, feeling Kellen press his hand in over her lips before she pushed him away, “What in the world are you doing?”

“You know, how dare you just think you could judge someone you don’t even know,” Kellen scowled as he looked forward at Heather.

“Believe me Kellen,” Heather’s eyes widened as she looked at the man before her, “I know you very well.”

“Heather, I couldn’t stand you back then and I still can’t,” Kellen stated, clenching his fists at his side, “I gave everything up a long time ago.”

“Like I was heaven when I was around you,” Heather shot back as Kellen rolled his eyes at her remark, “Roll your eyes all you want, but you weren’t little hero back then were you? Wait, does Kipp even know?”

“You stay away from Kipp,” Kellen ordered, shaking his head slowly, “He’s a good guy and he doesn’t need someone like you ruining his life.”

“Oh, I’m not going to do anything to Kipp,” Heather pondered for a second before snapping her fingers, “He must not know about it does he?”

“Heather, if you tell him I swear I’ll,” Kellen started before she cut him off as she held her hands up in the air.

“What are you going to do to me Kellen?” Heather questioned with a small frown. “You can’t do a thing to me Kellen. God, I could only imagine how that scene would play out.”

“No scene is going to play out Heather,” Kellen snapped, shaking his head slowly, “You aren’t going to say anything. You are too nervous to say anything.”

“Nervous?” Heather questioned with a small laugh, shaking her head slowly. “If I was nervous, I wouldn’t be threatening to tell him would I? You know, it’s funny--I was worried about Charles before with Kipp, but now that he is spending time with a pervert like you--I am going to be doubly concerned about my son’s welfare.”

“Is that right?” Kellen eyed her slowly as she nodded slowly. Heather really was the person that he had her thought out to be, but never did he know how bad she really was.


“So as you both can see I’m on the road to recovery thanks to Michelle,” Ken explained proudly wrapping his arm around his latest confidant’s shoulders, “Speaking of which, are you ready to go?”

“Of course,” she grinned widely, “We don’t want to be late.”

“No we couldn’t have that,” Ken decided looking over to Brant and Avery. He offered up a small wave before grinning, “You two enjoy yourselves and be happy because you don’t have to worry about me any longer.”

“If only that were the case,” Brant muttered under his breath hearing Michelle and Ken’s exit. He looked over to Avery noting that her earlier embarrassment over Ken and Michelle finding them naked with one another had faded and worry clouded her mind instead.

“I can’t believe that he’s buying into that bull,” Avery blurted out unable to refrain from vocalizing her thoughts, “I’ve read some write ups on those kind of things and they are nothing but money making schemes…”

“For some dumb sucker to finance them,” Brant finished her thought a frown creasing over his lips, “My brother might be down and out, but that Michelle knows full well what she’s doing.”

“I don’t trust her,” Avery admitted with a sigh, “She seems shady and…”

“Completely untrustworthy,” Brant nodded in confession, “She’s only out for one thing and it isn’t helping cleanse Kenneth’s’ soul and helping him find spirituality.”

“You say that like it’s a given. I mean I thought it too, but you sound as if you know first hand,” Avery saw the anger bubbling behind his eyes.

“That’s because I do,” Brant pulled himself up and off of the floor. He searched around the room for his pants before attempting to locate Avery’s things. He gave up on the search and handed her his shirt hoping to offer up some kind of covering for the moment should Ken and Michelle return for a part two.

“How?” Avery questioned wearily remembering her brief moment of contemplation about Brant’s past flings and liaisons.

“It’s not what you’re thinking,” he replied noting the expression on her face, “Michelle was one of the women who spent some time with my father when he was still alive.”

“Are you sure about that,” Avery asked sliding her arms into his shirt while keeping the blanket around her.

“I’m positive. Although I don’t know if she was calling herself Michelle at the time,” Brant scratched his chin lightly, “I didn’t really keep up with the names since there were so many of them, but I do remember clearly that she was one of the girls he used to toss tricks around at his gatherings.”

“You mean one of the perks for the clients,” Avery shuddered at the thought of his father and the way he’d once run business.

“Among other things,” Brant nodded in response a groan spilling over his lips, “Although I do believe he’d taken a personal liking to her. I remember her being at the mansion before and I think he had a very big appetite for her.”

“Which means she’s already got some history with your family,” Avery paused thinking about the woman Ken had latched onto, “but why Ken?”

“Because he’s a sucker right about now. He’s hit rock bottom and usually when you reach that point you hold onto whatever else is lurking around down there,” Brant answered icily his fists curling up at his sides, “She’s obviously the thing that hooked onto him and now she’s working to suck the life out of him.”

“You’d think that he’d realize sooner or later that…” Avery started getting up and off of the floor.

“He’s not going to. She’s very smart and it wasn’t until after she’d bilked my father out of a fortune that he’d found his taste for her to be soured,” Brant finished zipping up his pants, “but I’m not about to let her take my brother for a ride like that. Ken may be an idiot, but he’s also an idiot playing around with my money as well.”

“Do you really think it’ll get to that? That she’ll be able to get him into handing her over a fortune,” Avery asked thinking of the way Michelle had laid out the speech about her good intentions and support group for them.

“You bet I do,” Brant nodded in confession, “but it stops tonight. Michelle and her New Beginnings can take a flying leap for all I care because Ken is so not going to be sucked into it. He might be wanting to find a new reason for life, but that most certainly isn’t it. She’s a manipulator and I think it’s time that I take action towards putting this farce to an end.”

“What are you going to do?” Avery questioned touching his arm gently, “You can’t just ride in there and call her on her bluff. Ken will lash out at you and given what he’s just been through…”

“He’s down, but not out,” Brant reminded Avery thinking about his brother’s condition, “I don’t take a direct approach, but I think that maybe it’s time I take security matters into my own hands in order to ensure that my brother doesn’t wind up following in my father’s footsteps. If that were to happen, the results could be devastating for everyone.”


“So that will conclude our talk about the new community center,” the women in the front of the room finished rubbing her hands together. “And tonight I’d like to draw your attention to one of our new members. Ken if you will…”

Ken stood up uneasily taking a long look around. He felt Michelle’s hand in his and he found the strength to speak up, “Hi everyone. My name is Ken and I’m a recovering addict. Well, I’m not an addict in every sense of the word, but I’m a man who has lost his way. You see my fiancée died in the airport bombing not long ago and I let it destroy me. I lost my faith and it took me down a dark and dangerous path. I nearly killed myself, hurt those I cared about and by the will of God’s grace I’ve found my way to be here tonight. I’m hoping that in being here I can make a difference and find a reason again.”

“You will Ken,” the woman at the front of the room promised, “We all understand what it is you’ve been going through, but the lord will help you find the clarity you need--the strength to move on. Welcome Ken.”

“Welcome Ken and may the lord be with you,” the others around the room offered up in welcoming before each and every person around the room took a turn at sharing their tales. One man was a recovering alcoholic who had lost his best friend in an accident, another was a single mother who’d been turning tricks to get by until she’d found the group. Another was a widow who had been without faith, but now was coming to terms with his own mortality after his wife’s brush with cancer. All the tales were heartwarming and enough to convince Ken that he was at long last in the right place.

“And remember everyone we’ll soon be getting things together for the center,” the meeting supervisor reminded them at the conclusion of the meeting, “Every donation counts no matter how small.”

“Well what did you think?” Michelle asked watching the donation basket moving it’s way around the crowd, “You think this is a good place to start again?”

“I think it’s better than good,” Ken eyed the basket for a moment or so, “So tell me this community center, what will they be doing there?”

“Well for starters it’s going to be a place where we can hold our meetings instead of this run down backroom lounge,” the woman who had conducted the meeting explained. “We’re hoping to use our faith to put together a place where faith can come together in celebration. Time after time a great many of us feel as if the system as a whole has shut us out, so we‘re offering reprieve for those who cannot find another hand to hold onto. We‘re hoping to integrate it into the community and really make something special for those who have lost their way and gone down the wrong path.”

“I think it’s a wonderful idea Mother Candice,” Michelle added readily reaching into her purse and pulling out a few dollar bills to add to the basket.

“A wonderful idea indeed,” Ken reached into his own pocket pulling out his checkbook, “How is the project coming along?”

“Not nearly as good as we’d been hoping for, but we have faith that soon the word will spread around the community and all will want to get involved,” Candice explained seeing Ken writing out a check, “Oh Ken, you don’t have to donate. I know it was your first night tonight and we don’t want you to think that we have you here just for that…”

“Consider it a thank you for opening my eyes to another alternative to the path that I‘ve taken with my life. You have no idea how much being here tonight means to me,” Ken replied ripping the check out of his checkbook and handing it to her.

“Thank you,” Candice smiled at him before placing the check in the basket, “We’re glad to have you here and we hope that you return to be with us again.”

“Oh I most certainly will,” Ken promised looking over to Michelle with eager eyes, “Are you ready?”

“Just a minute,” Michelle replied with a small smile, “Why don’t you get the car and I’ll be out there in a second?”

“Sure,” Ken nodded in response before waving to Candice, “Thank you for everything.”

“We’re just glad that we could reach out to you and make you feel welcome,” Candice replied as one of the other members approached Ken and walked with him to the door. Candice turned to Michelle, lowering her voice just a bit, “Where did you find him?”

“He’s great isn’t he,” Michelle grinned eagerly, “and what he failed to mention is he’s Kenneth Ashford.”

“The Kenneth Ashford,” Candice’s eyes widened as she looked over to Ken again, “Are you serious?”

“Very serious,” Michelle licked her lips eagerly, “and he’s just realized how much he’s needed someone like me in his life. He’s practically eating out of the palm of my hand.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Candice looked over to Ken again, “Do you have any idea how much hot water you can get yourself into if he figures things out? I mean before it was just small potatoes, but now with and Ashford…”

“Trust me Candice,” Michelle reached into the collection basket pulling out the check he’d written. She spied a peek at the amount he’d written it for before tucking the check carefully away into her purse feeling victorious, “This one is it. He’s going to be the big score.”

“You’d better be careful. If he catches on,” Candice warned touching Michelle’s arm.

“Oh he won’t,” Michelle promised confidently, “because the way I see it Ken’s mine all mine and nothing is going to stop him from doing what I want. Nothing at all.”

“You say that now, but…” Candice spoke up uneasily turning to see Ken chatting away with one of the other ‘members’.

“Trust me honey, this one’s in the bag,” Michelle promised knowing full well that this particular Ashford was going to be the key to making her dreams come true at long last. Ken was most certainly a keeper--well, until the money ran out that was. Until then she’d sweet talk him and give him what he felt he needed--yes, that was most certainly the key. “now if you’ll excuse me Ken needs me.”

“You’re terrible,” Candice shook her head at Michelle, “but don’t forget my cut.”

“I won’t, but for the record,” Michelle closed her purse with a snap, “I’m not terrible. I’m good--very good and don’t you forget it.”

With that Michelle marched over to Ken slinking her arm in his eagerly, “Are you ready now Ken?”

“Of course,” he smiled down at her accepting her arm in his as Michelle realized that yes indeed she’d finally found herself the perfect score. It was brilliant. Truly.


...to be continued...