Episode 264

Ken tried to pull himself away from Don’s grasp, but Don was just too strong. Whatever Don was trying to pull wasn’t going to work. He felt Don’s hands squeeze at his bottom lightly.

“Get off of me,” Ken finally pushed Don away from him as he wiped at his lips disgusted, “What is wrong with you Don?”

“How can you ask that when you know what is wrong with me?” Don questioned, a frown developing over his lips as he tried his best not to laugh. He couldn’t believe that he just pulled that off, but somehow he did and in a way it almost looked like Michelle was buying it. “Ken, you know what is wrong with me.”

“Yeah,” Ken nodded slowly, taking a step back and away from Don, “You need therapy, that’s what’s wrong with you. You need some help.”

“The only thing I need is my baby back,” Don declared, looking over at Michelle who seemed to be stunned and disgusted at the same time. “We’re lovers Ken and you can’t take what we have away. What we have is forever baby.”

“What we have is nothing,” Ken stated with a small shake of his head. Ken’s eyes met Michelle’s in a worry as he stepped forward and closer to her to try and explain himself. “Michelle, what he is saying isn’t true. He is just trying to play some sick prank on me. That’s all this is.”

“Sick prank?” Don questioned with a small gasp, placing his hand over his chest gently. “How can you stand in front of this woman and lie right to her face?”

“Don, Ken does have a point,” Michelle declared, looking over Don slowly before shrugging her shoulders. “You are married to Shannon of course.”

“Well that’s the thing,” Hart piped in, wrapping his arm around Don’s shoulder as he tried to help Don out a bit. “Shannon agreed to be Don’s wife so Don wouldn’t have his reputation ruined. She knows all about Ken and Don, I’m surprised you haven’t found out yet sweetheart. Hell, I know almost all of us back home do.”

“That’s so not true,” Ken repeated once more, glaring between Don and Hart. “Why are the two of you doing this? What are you trying to pull?”

“Ken,” Hart began, a frown developing over his lips as he tried to play the best he could in this, “Stop lying to Michelle and be yourself buddy. That’s all you have to do. Let the real you come out and just be yourself.”

“I’m about to let the real me come out alright,” Ken decided, taking a step forward and closer to Don. He poked at the center of Don’s chest as he spoke. “You need to stop before you get hurt.”

“Baby,” Don squealed as he grabbed onto Ken’s wrist tightly and squeezing it roughly, “That hurts.”

“Don, I swear if you keep doing this,” Ken muttered, feeling Don’s grip tighten on his wrist. “Don--just leave.”

“Baby, are you trying to tell me that the whole time I’ve thought you loved me, you really have?” Don questioned quickly, knowing that Ken would come back with a quick response.

“Yes,” Ken answered quickly before realizing what he just said, “I mean, no. No, I don’t love you Don.”

“See, he even said it himself Michelle,” Don pointed out with a small shake of his head, resting his hands on his hips as he spoke. “Why don’t you just tell the poor woman before she finds out in the future Ken. It’s the only way.”


“This is unbelievable, how long is it going to take?” Kevin whispered to himself, taking a seat in the waiting area of the airport. When they had told him that his plane was going to be a little late, he figured that the most it would go on for would be at the most ten minutes. Now it was going on at least twenty-five and the more he waited, the more eager he was to get back to the island.

Kevin had to get back to the island to set things straight, to stop any possible hurt that may have already been caused. He couldn’t let Angie go through with this marriage to some guy she didn’t even know one thing about. Nick wasn’t who Angie thought he was and he had to stop this whole engagement nonsense.

“If Nick hurts her, I swear I’ll…” Kevin muttered to himself before shaking his head slowly as he cut himself off. His mind was filled with what he was going to do to Nick or Russell. Whatever is name was. When he got back to the island, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do to the guy. He just knew that he wasn’t going to let Angie continue to go on with this whole engagement.

There was nothing else he would rather do then give this guy a piece of his mind or maybe even his fist. When it came to Angie, he never wanted her to be hurt. He wanted her to be safe and happy, but with this Russell guy, that wasn’t going to come even close to happening. Russell would eventually get his memory back and Angie would be hurt again, just like all the other times.

If what Kyle said was true about the man in the picture, then Nick isn’t anything like Angie thought he was. Nick was a dangerous playing field and Angie was about to get hurt and he couldn’t let that happen again. He had to stop this thing before it went any further.

“Finally,” Kevin sighed getting up from the chair he was sitting in after hearing the call that his plane was there.

In a little bit he would be back to the island and he would be ready to tell Angie everything about Nick. But the only thing that kept running through his head was how he was going to tell her. What was he going to say to her to make her believe him?

“I’ll find a way to get her to believe me,” Kevin assured himself as he grabbed his bag up from the ground.

Angie might be hurt hearing about his news, but Nick was a married man and if she did end up getting married to Nick, he would be nothing but more trouble and hurt in Angie’s life. That was the last thing that Angie needed right at this point in her life. And that was the last thing Kevin was going to let happen.


In a matter of moment’s Russell’s life flashed before his eyes. He could clearly remember his family, remember growing up in Coral Valley and loving Avery with all that he had in him. He could still see her smile, feel her warmth around him after they’d come together again upon learning that they would be parents. He remembered following her to the island--to this very spot where they were married right before the holiday ready to begin their lives together. He closed his eyes remembering that fateful day that their lives changed forever at this castle.

“Avery,” he whispered her name as though it was a heartfelt promise from the deepest part of his soul allowed to break through the surface at long last, “I’ve spent my whole life loving you and now as we stand here before God on this island pledging our love to one another, well, I think it’s only fair that you know that there has never been anyone, but you in my life. When I saw you that first day on the playground in your plaid skirt and pigtails you took my breath away and I knew then that you’d be the one woman I’d spent the rest of my life with,” he smiled as he saw the tears glistening in her eyes. Reaching forward, he brushed at a tear that slipped down her cheek as he continued, “I know that our life together has been on a winding road that’s given us a great many ups and downs, but now that we’re standing here together at long last, I know in my heart that nothing else in this world will complete me the way your love has. With each breath I take, I fall more and more in love with you and I know in my heart that through the years, we’ll have it all together. Through the laughter, the tears, the joys and sorrows that may come to us, I know in my heart that our love will strengthen and through the years when we’re with our family, that I will always think of you as the one woman in this world that I was destined to find. My heart is yours and I give you all of me as you’re everything to me. I love you with all my heart Avery and I pledge my heart and soul to you, uniting us as one from here on out as with you is the only time I feel free…alive and knowing that we’ll have the rest of our lives to love one another, it gives me a sense of hope that I thought had left me a long time ago. Avery Morrison, you are my heart, my soul, my one true destiny and it is here before God that I pledge my all to you for the rest of our lives on and beyond as you’ll always be my forever love.”

“Oh Russell,” she cried out unable to contain herself as he held her hand to his chest over his racing heart as she felt her own heart filling with love for him.

“I love you Avery,” he offered up tenderly.

“I love you and I hope you realize I was completely unprepared for this one,” she whispered behind blurred vision as she spoke up hoarsely.

“I think it’s okay this time,” he spoke up encouragingly, “You can wing it.”

“I hate having to wing it,” she answered with a tiny sniffle as her smile widened and she took in a breath, “Here it goes. Russ, you are by far the most stubborn, impossible man to live with, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ve given me more headaches than I ever could’ve imagined with your always proclaiming to know what was right for me. Time and time again I told you that I didn’t need you to play my white knight…that I didn’t need your rescuing me, but now as I look back on those days, I see just how wrong I was. You weren’t doing what you did because you were out to annoy me, but because you saw what I didn’t. You reached deep down into me and you sought out my heart and in a way you saved me from myself. You taught me how to love and from the first time I slugged you on the playground, well I knew that I wouldn't be able to get rid of you,” she offered up with a teasing laugh as he couldn‘t help but smile at her, “but somehow I knew I never wanted to either. Time and time again I let circumstances get in the way of what I felt for you and even now when I think of how close I came to losing you, well I know now that a life without you is one that wasn’t meant for me. It’s true that I gave up on love a long time ago, but with you, you’ve opened my heart to that again. You forced me to face my inner demons and you loved me in spite of them. You always saw me for me and just when I think I can’t go on, there you are like a beacon in the night bringing me safely to shore--back into your arms and the love that’s made my life so very complete. You’ve given me the greatest miracle in my life and I know that I’ll never be able to show you all the ways in which you’ve turned my life around. You always talked about soul mates and happily ever after, but I never truly believed until you forced me to face my fears--until you showed me that it was all out there waiting for me with you. Russ, time and time again I’ve foolishly blown off what we’ve had, but now, well now I can’t help but embrace the love you’ve given me. You hold the key to my heart and my soul belongs to you as it should’ve been long ago. From this moment on, I swear to you that I’ll be everything you’ve ever dreamt of and I won’t run from the things that truly matter in our lives as you are my once in a lifetime. Russell Denton, you are the only man in my heart and when I think of spending the rest of my life with you, I know in my heart that just being able to do that makes me the luckiest woman alive as you’re the most incredible man I’ve ever known,” she reached for his hand bringing it up over her own pounding heart, “You were my first kiss, my first real love and now I know that you’re the only love that was meant for me. I love you so very much…oh how I love you and I know now that loving you is where I always want to be…forever…”

“Oh Avery,” he leaned forward kissing her as the man before them opened his mouth in protest before shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.

“I give up,” he chuckled as Russell and Avery separated and he looked down at the both of them, “Would you care to continue this?”

A blush fell over Avery’s features as she nodded quickly and Russell squeezed her hand in his supportively letting her know that things would only be better for them as they took this leap with one another.

“Now for the rings,” the man before them explained as Avery’s eyes grew wide with panic.

“But we don‘t…” she started as Jane stepped forward with a pillow that contained two golden wedding bands upon it.

“Yes we do,” Russell winked at her before offering a tiny chuckle, “didn’t I tell you I had it all covered?”

“Yes, but…” Avery shook her head in resignation, “I don’t know why I ever doubted you.. What was I thinking?”

“You’re much smarter than that now,” he reached for one of the rings bringing it to her finger as he drew in a slow, staggering breath. Avery looked to his hand noting the way it was shaking as he held her wrist. She could see the nervousness behind his eyes as she too realized the step they were taking with one another.

“I suppose I am,” she whispered watching as he began to ease the ring upon her finger.

“The wedding ring is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two loyal hearts in endless love. It is a seal of the vows Russell and Avery have made to one another. Bless O God these rings, that Avery and Russell, who give them, and who wear them, may ever abide in thy peace. Living together in unity, love and happiness for the rest of their lives,” the man before them explained as Avery’s lower lip trembled with emotion as she watched Russell standing before her, looking so blown away by the moment as he pushed the ring further over her soft skin.

“Avery, I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. With it I wed you, and give you my body, soul, and heart. I love you,” he breathed keeping his hand over hers as his sensational green eyes seemed to glisten in the moonlight.

“Oh Russ,” Avery bit on her lower lip struggling to keep from coming undone as she reached for the ring she’d had for him. Sliding it upon his finger, she spoke up choked on emotion, “I give you this ring as a symbol of our love. With it I wed you, and give you my body, soul, and heart forever.”

Russell lifted his hand to Avery’s face touching her cheek gently as the tears spilled down her face and as he listened to the faint sounds of the clock striking midnight, he barely could contain himself as he waited for those fateful words he’d waited a lifetime to hear.

“In as much as you have each pledged to the other your lifelong commitment, love and devotion, I now pronounce you husband and wife, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.
Russell, You may kiss your bride!”

“I love you, Avery,” Russell whispered sweeping Avery into his arms kissing her excitedly as his love for her poured over the both of them as they’d finally done it.

“I love you,” Avery murmured against his lips throwing her arms around him as she hugged him against her savoring the magic of the moment between them they were married at long last.

“Avery,” Russ whispered her name feeling as if he’d finally come to life again for the first time since he’d been caught up in that explosion. There were still so many things that were filtering into his mind, but nothing was clearer to him than the love that he felt for the woman he’d spent his life longing to be with. She was his heart, his soul and his eternity. He’d almost had that taken from him in the blink of an eye, but now that his mind no longer held him captive he could feel the world within his reach again. She was still out there--waiting for him remembering what his mind had failed to hold onto after the accident.

“There you are,” Angela beckoned him from his thoughts as she stepped out onto the balcony. She closed the door behind her, her dark eyes filled with the laughter that fell from her lips, “and here I thought that you had snuck out on our engagement party just when the guests were starting to arrive.”

“Angela,” Russell’s eyes widened as he spun around to face her knowing full well what had happened during the time when his mind had not been his own. Suddenly the reason why he was standing in this very spot came back to him and a guilt hung over his head. He saw her move in closer to him, her smile fading ever so slightly.

“Nick, is everything okay,” she questioned gently, her arms encircling his waist.

He felt the movement, remembered the love behind her eyes, but as she touched him, he knew that he couldn’t give in to the embrace. He stepped back watching the pained expression on her face. It was then that he discovered how he’d been able to make a mistake. She was so much like Avery. She looked exactly like her other than she’d kept her hair shorter than Avery had at the time he’d last seen her. They were both filled with the same beauty, the same warmth, but Avery was his heart--his home--his wife.

“Angela I…” Russell stammered not sure how to break the news to her about what he’d uncovered. Still remembering all that was waiting for him in Coral Valley, he knew that he couldn’t afford to waste anymore time. He wasn’t really even sure how long he’d been gone, but Avery was pregnant. They were about to have a child together and…

“Nick what is it,” she asked again making another attempt to reach for him only to feel him pull away from her once more, “Nick, what’s wrong?”

“Angela,” he inhaled slowly feeling the breath filling his lungs. This moment was weighing down upon him suffocating him with the harsh reality of what his amnesia had brought into his life. Not only had he lost the greatest love he’d ever known, but he’d found a woman so very remarkable--so much like Avery, yet so very different and now he knew he had to break her heart. That knowledge damn near killed him, “We need to talk.”

“Nick, what is it?” she asked again bringing her hand up as if she was going to reach for him, but she thought twice of it lowering her hand. “Is everything okay?”

“No, everything’s not okay,” he shook his head at her, “Angela I have to leave.”

“What?” she questioned her jaw dropping at his admission.

“I’m sorry, but I have to go,” he replied painfully.

“Now? Nick, everyone is just arriving and…” she started finding herself at a loss.

“I have to leave tonight,” he continued desperately knowing that he had to get back to Avery as soon as possible.

“But Nick all of our friends are here and…” she struggled to understand what was happening to the man she’d grown to love. She took a step towards him reaching out for him only to feel him pull back again.

“Angela my name isn’t Nick,” he blurted out seeing the confusion behind her eyes. In that moment he felt the world as he’d known it as Nick Smith crashing down around him as he realized he had to be honest with Angela about who he really was and where he’d come from before he’d washed up on the island. He owed her that much!


“Dean,” Shannon knocked on the hospital door to the room that Dean was sitting in. His eyes looked up and met hers as he motioned her to come in. “Are you okay to talk for a minute?”

“Of course,” Dean assured her with a small sigh as he watched her step in closer to him. “Do you want to know what happened, or did someone else already fill you in?”

“I got filled in, but I got the half story,” Shannon explained, folding her hands out in front of her chest. “I think I would like the story better if you would tell me what happened because no one seems to have the story straight.”

“Well, I don’t know how Bruce got in here or how he got away,” Dean began, taking in a deep breath as he thought about the events that had taken place earlier. “All I can tell you is that I saw the guard that was put on Deidra in the hallway without her. He told me that she had been in there a while and I got suspicious.”

“Right,” Shannon nodded slowly before thinking something over to herself, “Did this guard even see any sign of Bruce?”

“I guess not,” he answered before thinking back to what had happened with Deidra. “I ran inside the bathroom and Deidra wasn’t in there, but the other door was open so I ran out into the hallway. I heard Deidra scream and I followed the scream.”

“And Bruce had her?” Shannon questioned seeing Dean nod slowly. “How did you get him to let her go?”

“Well, I tried to get him down so Deidra could get away and started to fight,” Dean remembered before shrugging his shoulders, “I guess my attention was somewhere else and he stabbed me in the same place I was injured in a while back. All I can say is that Bruce is at the point of no return Shannon. There is no stopping him. We would have found him if he was at a low in his game, but it is just showing that his game is at an all time high.”

“I know what you mean,” Shannon sighed as she put all the details together in her head. Everything that has been happening, with Deidra and all the others was going to lead to something. “If he came back for Deidra, that means one things. Avery has to be next.”

“Does she know about this?” Dean questioned with a worried expression as he stood up from where he was sitting. “Does she have protection?”

“Yeah, she had Grady Denton with her,” she informed Dean with a small sigh, “I have to call them to check in. To see how they are doing.”

“That would be for the best,” Dean agreed with a small nod, walking towards the door for a minute, “I’ll go see if I can get any more news while you call them. I’ll be right back.”

“Okay,” Shannon nodded slowly, pulling her cell phone out of her pocket as she dialed Grady’s number. She listened to the long ringing before his voicemail came up. “That can’t be good.”

She put her cell phone away before feeling worry begin to overcome her. She walked out into the hallway and stopped one of the officers as they walked by.

“Listen, I need some help,” Shannon began, taking in a deep breath as she thought things over for a minute, “I need someone to find out where Grady Denton is. I don’t care who, but we have to find them as soon as possible.”


Diane stood outside Ben’s door thinking about all the reasons why she shouldn’t be here, yet she couldn’t help but find herself drawn to him. She hadn’t heard from him in a while and regardless of whether or not he wanted to be around her, she had to see him again. She knocked on the door to his apartment praying that he was home and furthermore that he would answer. She was about to give up when she heard a clicking sound on the door lock.

“Ben,” Diane spoke his name seeing him open the door to stand before her clad only in sweatpants. He looked tired and pale as if he wasn’t feeling all that well, “hey.”

“Diane,” he gave her a strange look, “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you,” she confessed holding out the container she’d brought with her. “I made dessert…it’s mock chocolate-éclairs.”

“Diane I really don’t think that you should…” he started to speak only to let out a small hiss. He clenched his hand over his stomach before turning away, “I’m going to be sick.”

“Ben, what’s wrong,” Diane questioned stepping in closer to him only to feel him push away from her holding his hand up in front of him.

“Don’t get any closer,” he warned immediately seeing the hurt behind her eyes, “Not because of what’s happened with us, but rather I’ve got a major bug or something coming on.”

“Oh Ben, you look terrible,” she reached out to him ignoring his protests as she felt his forehead. “You’re burning up.”

“I don’t know what it is, but earlier I had some Chinese and I think it’s coming back to haunt me,” Ben groaned again closing his eyes as he tried to will away that nausea that had overtaken him.

“Obviously,” Diane pushed her way into his apartment not bothering to wait for him to protest, “We need to get you into a shower. You’re burning up.”

“Diane, I’m fine,” he replied with a small groan, his throat dry as he felt a round of chills sweep over him.

“Yeah right and I’m Santa Clause,” she set the dessert she’d brought with her down before reaching for his hand, “Come on. We’re getting you into the shower and then you’re going to try resting. We’ll see what we can do to bring this one down.”

“Diane, I’m fine. Really,” he clenched his stomach feeling a sudden stabbing pain.

“Yeah right,” she remarked disbelieving, “Ben whether you like to admit it or not, you’re sick. You need to start taking care of yourself and…”

“And if I’m really sick, then the last thing you need is to be here with me. If for no other reason than the baby,” Ben’s eyes filled with worry as his gaze dropped down to her abdomen involuntarily.

“Trust me. I have an amazing immune system,” she assured him with a small smile, “and besides that I did almost sort of kind of train to be a nurse once upon a time.”

“I realize that, but…” he offered up in protest again before a gurgling sound rose up from the bottom of his stomach. Unable to say anything more Ben ran into his bathroom closing the door behind him in a haste.

“Yep, you’re sick,” she sighed heavily looking around his apartment. While she and Ben might not have been on the best of terms given that he was upset with her, she knew full well how much he needed her at a time like this. Even if they were broken up, she wasn’t about to let him hurt himself by being stubborn. Whether he liked it or not, she was staying at his place until he was on his feet again. Nothing he could say would convince her otherwise.


“I can’t believe all this is happening,” Seth shook his head slowly after hearing the news on what had happened to Deidra earlier. “Bruce won’t stop, will he?”

“He’s crazy,” Blake stated with a small shrug of her shoulders, “From what I remember hearing about him, he’ll do whatever he can until he gets what he wants.”

“Well, what exactly is it that he wants?” Seth questioned with a worried expression. Bruce hurt so many young women that deserved to have a life. They never had a fighting chance when it came to getting away. “He’s crazy and you’ll never know what he wants until he does get it.”

“And when he does, he usually leaves hurt people behind,” Blake added with a small shake of her head before thinking things over. “I just can’t believe how crazy life has been for everybody lately. This town is never full of luck and happiness. It’s like someone is always out to hurt others.”

“I know what you mean,” he sighed, leaning back further into his seat as he shook his head slowly. “It’s like ever since Jade’s kidnapping, everything has seemed to gone downhill.”

“I’m sorry about that Seth,” Blake apologized, reaching out to place her hand over his gently. She hated to see the pain that was still inside of him, tearing at his heart. “If I could change everything, I would.”

“Sweetheart,” Seth smiled warmly as he reached out to embrace her gently, “I know you would do anything for me. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that you wouldn’t.”

“I know, but maybe if I could have…” Blake began as Seth loosened his grip on her and let her move back from his embrace. She saw the frown that developed over his features as he shook his head slowly at her comment.

“Blake, there is nothing you could have done to change this,” he pointed out, reaching out to caress her cheek gently. “None of us ever came close to seeing what was really happening before our eyes. We all fell into the game, but not a person is to blame.”

“I know, but I wish things were different. I know everyone wishes that things were different,” Blake pointed out with a small shake of her head before touching Seth’s hand gently. “I guess all we can try to do is make the most of things.”

“I guess that’s all we really can do,” Seth agreed, trying to think of something that would cheer him up, but he was unsuccessful. “What would you have in mind?”

“I know a perfect way to cheer you up Seth,” Blake assured him with a small smirk, reaching out to grab his hands in hers tightly, “I have a perfect idea for the two of us.”


Avery stepped out of the shower seeing the thin layer of steam that now clouded the mirror in front of her. Wrapping the towel securely around her she stepped forward careful not to slip on the tiled floor as she moved over to the mirror. Reaching for it, she ran her hand across the top portion to see her own tired face staring back at her. Somehow this was getting anything, but easier as there was an obvious drain in her features. Her eyes looked tired--too tired for words and she could feel the tension still in her neck and shoulders. How things had ever spun this far out of control for her she had no idea, but she knew full well that she had to get some kind of clarity before she drove herself crazy. Closing her eyes Avery thought back to another time when she and Russ were at the cabin in this very room with one another.

“Quit hogging the mirror Russ,” Avery nudged him in the ribs watching him take great pleasures in taunting her, “I need to get ready before we meet with your parents.”

“We still have time before they get here,” Russ teased with a playful wink reaching out to her, “besides I thought that this was about our taking time to enjoy ourselves.”

“We can still enjoy ourselves and get ready while we‘re doing it,” Avery wrinkled her nose at him.

“I like the way you think,” he leaned down to nibble on her neck lightly causing her to bubble over with laughter squirming in his arms.

“Russ, knock it off. We need to focus,” she tried to warn him behind the round of giggles that he’d brought out inside of her.

“I am focusing,” he whispered warmly, his breath skimming in against her neck in a tantalizing fashion, “focusing on you that is.”

“Russ,” she mouthed his name giving in to the warmth of his arms as they shared a moment with one another.

Returning to the here and now Avery couldn’t help but smile thinking about how this place had held so many wonderful memories for the both of them. In spite of the ups and downs of their relationship, this place had often served as a safe haven for them. It had brought them together when their worlds were falling apart and it always carried with it an air of love and happiness. Even with him gone, she could still feel so much of him surrounding her--so many memories keeping her at ease.

“I miss you Russ,” Avery sighed heavily wiping at the mirror again only to hear a sound from outside of the bathroom. She stiffened thinking about the idea of being alone with Grady under these quarters. While she was certain that nothing else would happen between them here, she knew full well that they still had a lot to talk about with each other.

She drew in a long, slow breath turning around to retrieve her clothes when she discovered they weren’t in the room. Frowning she took another long look around the bathroom knowing full well that she’d grabbed one of Russell’s old t-shirts and jogging pants to get dressed in given that he’d always kept them here just in case. She’d thought she’d hung them up on the hook beside the shower, but they weren’t there. They hadn’t been on the floor either and as Avery felt a gasp fall from her lips, she realized that just about the only thing she had right about now to keep her from being naked was the towel that she clenched against her chest.

“I don’t believe this,” Avery mouthed feeling a heat rise over her features. She knew full well that going out into the other room with Grady there dressed like this would be a problem in itself. The very thought of being close to him in this state of undress would open up a whole new world of issues for them. Still, she couldn’t hide in here forever. She held her chin up, pushed her shoulders back and felt her damp hair strike against her back.

“You can do this,” she mouthed tucking in her towel carefully hoping that it would serve as a barrier long enough for her to find the things she’d picked up to wear. Reaching for the doorknob, she felt her heart pounding in her chest as she stepped out of the bathroom into the bedroom.

She closed her eyes for a brief moment preparing to hear whatever came to mind from Grady, but much to her relief she was met by silence. She reopened her eyes and looked around the room half expecting to see him standing there, but the room was empty. Another relief, she thought to herself. She walked over to the bed thinking that she’d left the clothing there, but much like what she’d discovered in the bathroom they weren’t around there either.

Another thud filled her ears. Spinning around Avery took a step forward, her heart now a steady thud-dud in her chest. Her face was no doubt flushed and as she stepped forward seeking out the source of the sound, she was struck with an uncanny feeling. Shifting gears she moved over to the window looking out to see Grady’s car still parked out in front much where it had been when he’d left earlier. He must be back. Still he hadn’t tried to reach her yet. Unless of course he was trying to give her some very long overdue privacy.

“Wrong again,” she mouthed hearing the sound of footsteps approaching. She clasped her fingers over the front of her towel securely knowing full well that in a matter of seconds he would be getting another vulnerable glimpse of her. This was certainly the last thing she’d wanted to be wearing when he returned, yet it didn’t look like she had much of a choice in the matter. Spinning around she faced the doorway ready to do what she had to in order to make this less uncomfortable for her.

“Grady, I’ve been thinking about what you said and…” Avery started half expecting to see him standing there before her, but instead she found herself face to face with another man with a pair of deep, threatening dark eyes.

“Sorry baby, but Grady won’t be joining us today,” Bruce replied with a wicked smirk seeing the first rush of terror that swept over her features.

“No,” Avery gasped one hand over the front of her towel as she tried to make her way across the room for her purse knowing full well she had the gun Brant had given her inside. She felt him reach out to her waist and she pushed back elbowing him in the ribs. He staggered backwards a bit with a groan as Avery practically leapt over the bed to where she’d had her purse earlier. She found it quickly and began to reach inside for her protection.

“Looking for something,” Bruce questioned with a mild chuckle waving the gun in front of him. His eyes lit up with the promise that was before him with his latest catch. Seeing panic flicker behind her eyes he aimed it right straight at her, “Now Avery, while I realize that I owe you one, I’d really like to avoid that unpleasant experience altogether. Unless of course you leave me no other choice.”

“What do you want Bruce,” Avery questioned attempting to remain calm as her towel seemed to be falling over her curves. She pulled it over herself while crawling back on the floor knowing that now that he’d had her gun she was in a position of being held captive for the moment.

“Why it’s quite simple Avery,” Bruce waved the gun at her once again, a thunderous roar of laughter overtaking him, “you.”

“Is that right,” Avery replied taking in her surroundings. She spotted a lamp on the corner end table. She was only a few feet away from it from her place on the floor and if she was smart about the situation she could use it to overtake Bruce. She slid a bit further backward.

“Oh sweetheart, you didn’t think that I would forget about you? Especially after all that we shared,” he made a small tsking sound. He took another step forward, his dark eyes narrowing over her. “You look beautiful--almost as if you were expecting me.”

“Only in your dreams,” Avery shot back sourly not bothering to try to convince him of any kind of sentiment. Sure she knew full well that he was a cold-blooded killer, but thus far he’d been unable to take her down. He hadn’t killed her yet. The mere fact that he hadn’t shot her when he’d got the gun told her that he had a reason for hesitating--a reason to want her to stay alive. Banking on that, she continued to press backward on the floor feeling her towel tugging down with the movement ever so slightly.

“I’ve had many of them about you,” his eyes perused her savagely, a man fueled with a hunger that went well beyond what he’d once been before the real Bruce had emerged from within. Still Avery was not to be deterred. She crept further backward as he continued on, “Time and time again I’ve dreamt about this, but never was it more perfect than it is right now to see you there before me looking so helpless and vulnerable.”

“I’m not helpless,” Avery explained noticing the way his eyes seemed to be focused on her breasts barely contained from inside the towel.

She inhaled slowly seeing that the lamp was so very close and in that moment she opted to take a gamble. Letting the towel drop to her waist, she gave him a chance to see her body and just as she’d hoped, it had distracted him enough to give her time to grab the lamp. She pulled it from the table and tossed it at him striking him right across the head. He fell back the hit clearly causing him some pain as the gun went flying across the room.

Knowing it was do or die, Avery leapt towards the gun reaching for it. She had it right within her reach when she felt Bruce on top of her pushing against her. He grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking on it roughly as his body covered hers. He sent her head forward in against the carpet again and again. She struggled to get out of his hold to get him off of her, but he had her arm pinned behind her back pulling it up as if he would snap it if she didn’t behave. Suddenly her life flashed before her eyes--her future seemed to be fading away and in that moment more than anything she wanted to get free--to get out of the situation for her daughter. Bitter tears stung at the back of her eyes as he slammed her head in against the thinly carpeted floor again. She opened her mouth in a pinched squeal trying to scream in the hopes that Grady would hear her--that he would return and save her. “Grady!”

“Grady’s not coming sweetheart. I’ve made sure of that. It‘s just you and me now,” he explained thickly in the back of her ear slamming her head into the floor one last time before the world faded to black around her upon impact.


Russ stood outside the front door to his home thinking about everything that had happened since he’d set foot in Coral Valley. While he knew full well there would be a lot of explaining to do, what he’d caught on the news during the flight home about Bruce Mathis had him more than worried. Remembering full well his mission to save his wife from the evil that surrounded their lives Russ rushed up to the door ready to help her before it was too late. Nothing else mattered.

Russ stopped on the porch seeing that the front door was partially open. A flash of memory returned to him and he thought back to the airport--to the mystery surrounding Bruce Mathis and who was keeping him in Coral Valley--of who was helping him. The details were still a bit hazy, but he knew that Avery was in trouble--knew that their future with one another was on the line if he didn’t hurry.

Pushing open the door Russell found himself surrounded in a state of chaos. The house was ripped to shreds--things broken and torn on the floor. His collections destroyed, but that didn’t matter. Finding Avery was the only thing of importance at the moment. He had to see her--had to find her and get her out of here before…

He heard a sound causing him to stop. He listened for a moment hearing it continue and he rushed down the hall in search for his wife. Panic had his blood pounding through his veins, his thoughts running wild in his mind. His wife needed him. He could feel it. He could sense she was in trouble, yet he couldn’t find her. Couldn’t see…

“Avery! Avery, where are you,” Russ shouted his worries mounting by the second. He passed by the nursery seeing it was still as he’d remembered it. Everything now becoming clearer to him, “Avery! Avery, are you here?”

Russ surveyed the room running over to the closet and opening it in the hopes that she’d be hiding inside. No luck. He moved to the master bedroom still coming up empty. He was just about to return to the hallway when he noticed a shadowy figure before him.

“Avery?” he questioned seeing movement beyond the half opened bedroom door. He was about to step forward when the door pressed open and he spotted a battered-looking Kyle standing in front of him. “Kyle?”

Kyle blinked back at him clearly confused with what he was seeing. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped, nothing but a small hiss coming from his lips. He held his hand out in front of him, a tiny gasp repeating itself over and over again. Kyle began waving his arm out in front of himself frantically.

“Russ what are you… How are you… How can you be…” Kyle tried to make sense of what was happening. He brought his hands up to his head and let out a harsh groan, “Oh God. Kevin must’ve kicked my ass harder than I thought if I’m hallucinating and seeing you…”

“Kyle, where is Avery,” Russell ignored his friend’s strange behavior moving in closer to him, “Where is my wife? I need to see her and…”

“You’re dead man,” Kyle shook his head still trying to process what he was seeing.

“Kyle, where is she,” Russell demanded again reaching out towards Kyle only to watch him fall back onto the ground. Kyle scooted backwards on the floor a panic burning behind his eyes.

“Don’t touch me man. Don’t touch me. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean any of it. I’m sorry about Grady. I know you wanted me to look after him and Avery, but…” Kyle started uneasily, his eyes filled with a sudden terror, “There were circumstances and…”

“And what? Kyle what are you talking about,” Russ questioned not understanding what was going on behind his friend’s eyes.

“This isn’t real,” Kyle mouthed to himself over and over again picking himself up off of the ground. He stumbled over his feet and let out a small whimper looking to Russ again, “I’ve lost my damned mind. I’m insane. I’m nuttier than a fruitcake. This is all getting to me and… Oh my God. If I‘m seeing you, then it means I‘m dead. It means that my fight with Kevin was more intense than I thought and… He killed me. That son of a bitch killed me! Not only did he put up a good fight, but he murdered me and left me here. That bastard. When I get my hands on him--wait I can‘t get my hands on him. I‘m dead. Oh God, I‘m dead. That means no more living--no more breathing. No more Sarah. Oh God Sarah. What is she going to say when she hears that I was just murdered at your house because some punk went postal on me? She‘s going to lose it completely and…”

“Kyle, you’re not making any sense,” Russ stopped moving to give him a strange sideways glance.

“You’re telling me. This can’t be happening. It can’t be,” Kyle mouthed moving backward right smack into the chandelier in the room behind him. He fell down over the table top and face forward onto the kitchen floor as Russ found himself wondering what in the hell was going on in his home!


After what felt like an eternity, Ben staggered out of the bathroom feeling as if he’s gone ten rounds in a boxing match and gotten the life beat out of him in the process. Leaning up against the wall, he closed his eyes wishing that there was some way to make the ache inside of him just disappear. His legs felt heavy, his body weak and ready to just collapse, yet as he heard the sounds of rattling in his kitchen, he stood up straighter. He returned to the moment remembering that Diane had come over to pay him a visit. He could distinctly remember asking her to leave, but the more he thought about it, the hazier that conversation they‘d had seemed to be. He sighed and forced himself to go see what she was doing when he heard another sound.

“Diane,” Ben groaned leaning up against the wall for support. He slowly made his way towards the kitchen moving in small steps in the hopes that he didn’t wind up back in the bathroom again. Right now the last thing he wanted to think about was food or anything even remotely related to it. All he could think about was crawling under the thick blankets on his bed and dying right on the spot.

“Ben is that you?” Diane questioned walking out to discover him hunched over in the hallway, his head now pressed against the wall. “Hey, I thought I told you to take a shower.”

“I can’t think about the shower…not when I can barely move,” Ben murmured in agony unable to hide how he was feeling now that his lunch had come back to haunt him.

“You will be able to once we get you in there,” Diane instructed reaching out to him. She curled his arm around her shoulders before using herself as a crutch for him. She guided him back towards his bathroom half expecting him to protest, but instead he leaned into her looking absolutely pitiful.

“You really shouldn’t be here,” Ben slurred in a low, raspy tone watching her open the bathroom door. “I’m sick.”

“Which is why you can’t be alone right now,” Diane eased him in against the bathroom wall. She reached out to the drawstring on his jogging pants feeling him stiffen when her nails scratched lightly over his abdomen. Feeling a tiny shiver race over her as well, Diane knew full well this wasn’t about anything more than helping him. She had to stay focused. She tilted her head up to see the first sound of protest forming on his lips. “Ben, I need to get you in the shower. Trust me I’m not trying to take advantage of this situation. I just want to help you.”

“Okay,” he nodded pressing his head back into the wall as she worked the material of his pants down over his hips. She bent down doing her best to ignore his beautiful body before her. It was hard not to notice it, but if she got caught up in the idea of him being naked before her, it would ruin what she was trying to accomplish in helping him. Finally ridding him of his clothing, she turned her attention to the shower.

She adjusted the water making sure that it was at just the right temperature for him. Running her hand beneath the cool spray she felt a tiny race of tingling sensations over her palm. Perhaps she could afford to go a little warmer, she decided leaning forward to adjust the dials only to hear Ben let out another groan. She glanced over her shoulder through the cascade of hair that surrounded her face only to find him now crouched on the floor in agony.

“Come on Ben,” Diane spun around doing her best to help him up off of the ground. “Just give me five minutes. That’s all I ask.”

“I think I’m going to die,” Ben replied with a small whine knowing how pitiful he must’ve sounded, but right now it didn’t matter. Right now he didn’t care about anything other than wanting to make the horrible sick feeling go away.

“You’re not going to die,” Diane sighed kicking off her shoes before looking to the shower. While this was one of the last things she’d wanted to be doing, she knew that Ben was going to need a little help once he got inside. She carefully maneuvered him towards the shower, pulling open the door before nudging him ever so slightly inside. She took in a slow breath before following him in herself.

When the first spray of water crashed over her shoulders she let out a squeal realizing that it was still too cold. However, much to her dismay Ben leaned in forward towards the steady stream letting out a relieved breath.

“Oh that feels good,” he mumbled leaning up against the shower wall and closing his eyes, “Very good.”

Diane hesitated feeling her fingertips starting to go numb, but still this wasn’t about her. It was about being there for Ben. She reached out to him pulling him over to the water’s icy blast once again. “Come over here. Just a little bit closer.”

“Here,” he asked in a small voice, his eyelashes fluttering open as he looked to her. His lazy expression seemed warm in a way that went beyond the fever he had. He seemed to be lost in a moment of thoughtful haze--off in his own world. She held him up trying her best to let him soak up some of the water in the hopes that it would help break his fever just a little bit.

“Diane,” he whispered her name as she held onto him firmly.

“Yes?” she questioned tipping her head up to see his tired eyes fixed upon her.

“Why are you doing all of this,” he couldn’t help but ask, his shaky fingers sliding in against her cheek. She almost jumped at the chill that the contact of his damp fingers made against her skin, but the warmth in his eyes filled her heart in such a way that she couldn’t help but savor the connection between them.

“Because I love you Ben,” she answered honestly thinking about how that hadn’t changed even in their separation. “Even if you hate me I don’t want you to be hurting--not like this--not ever.”

“Diane,” he paused closing his eyes again before he leaned forward pressing his forehead against hers. She could feel that he still had a fever, but she was almost convinced that it could be going down a bit.

“Don’t talk,” she urged him gently. “Just try to focus on feeling better.”

“I’m trying, but before I do,” Ben mouthed leaning in to rest his head on her shoulder. She felt his arm slide around her waist hugging her to him in a small embrace. “I think there’s something you should know.”

“What’s that?” she asked running her fingers up over his wet skin, feeling the smooth lines of his back as she held onto him.

“Even after what happened, the truth is I’ve never stopped loving you,” he whispered in her ear squeezing her again with a little more clarity behind the movement.

His lips skimmed in just beneath her earlobe as she fought to maintain her hold on him and not buckle over by what his words meant to her. She opened her mouth to speak, but found herself at a loss as he placed a kiss against her neck tenderly.

“Even if you asked me to, the truth is that I would never stop wanting to love you. That hasn’t changed for me,” he mouthed dropping his head down on her now soaked t-shirt as they held onto one another.

“It hasn’t changed for me either,” she confessed hugging him as if she’d never let go. While she was sure it was in part the fever that had him saying such things, it gave her all the hope she needed to think that maybe just maybe she and Ben could have a future together after all. Perhaps once he was feeling better they’d be able to give their love another try. Given that he’d just confessed how he felt about her, Diane felt a renewed hope that maybe just maybe things would have a way of working themselves out for their relationship after all.


“So this was what you had in mind,” Seth smiled to himself, looking around the carnival that Blake had took him to. Everything here was like an old story to him. So many memories came back to him when he was here.

“Do you remember why this place is so special?” Blake questioned with a small grin, reaching down to squeeze Seth’s hand in hers gently.

“Of course,” Seth assured her with a small laugh before shaking his head slowly. How could she think that he would forget about something so important to him? “This was where we had one of our first dates Blake. How could I forget something that is so important to me?”

“Well, I didn’t know,” Blake shrugged as he looked down at her with his eyebrows tensed. “Men sometimes tend to forget things and I didn’t know.”

“Well, I guess you could say I’m not like most men then,” Seth pointed out as the began to walk through the crowd at the carnival. “These type of things bring back so many memories.”

“Like what?” she questioned, seeing the look behind his eyes when she asked him that. There was a silence coming from him and she knew what it was about. “It might be better to talk about it you know. Jade would want you to remember.”

“We just spent some much time here,” Seth pointed out with a small sigh as he thought back to when he was a child with Jade. They had so much fun together and now that he was back at this carnival, he wished that everything he had could come back to him. “No matter how many times I took Jade here, she loved every second of it. I figured by a certain age, she would get sick and tired of it but she never did. She was always appreciative of what she could have, she didn’t care about what she couldn’t have.”

“That sounds like Jade,” Blake laughed, feeling Seth wrap his arm around her shoulders tightly as he looked around at the rides before him.

“Thank you for bringing me here Blake,” Seth took in a deep breath as he thought about all the things that had come back into his mind when he got here. “This means a lot to me.”

“I figured it would,” she sighed, leaning into him as they stopped in front of a certain ride. “I would do anything to make you feel better. Anything.”

“I know that,” Seth assured her, leaning forward to kiss her forehead gently. His eyes looked at the ride before him as a memory of Jade popped into his head from when they were younger. This was the ride that Jade had always begged him to go on. “You know, this was her favorite ride.”

“It was her favorite?” Blake questioned, seeing Seth nod slowly as she tugged on his hand. “We are going to go on it then.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” Seth eyed Blake over slowly as he saw her nod once more before tugging on his hand again. “It goes a little high and it does move really fast.”

“I’ll have you to protect me,” she pointed out with a smile as they got in line for the ride. “That’s enough for me to feel comfortable.”

“If you insist,” Seth laughed as they were led to the place where they would be seated. “I hope you can hang on. Jade always liked the fast rides.”

“As long as you can hang on to me,” Blake started as a small smile crept through her lips, “Then I think I will be just fine.”


“Don, you need to stop now,” Ken ordered, more anger growing behind his features as he saw Don standing there as if he was shocked. “You need to leave.”

“I need to leave?” Don questioned, shaking his head slowly as he began to mutter something to himself. “You’re my soul mate Ken and if we can’t be together…”

“We were never together,” Ken snapped, throwing his hands up in the air as he pointed over at Hart, “You guys need to leave before this goes any further.”

“And of course you are going to try to lie to him too,” Don added with a small shake of his head, “I can’t believe you Ken. Think back to all the moments with us. Think back to all the moments we shared together. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“All I am thinking about is this moment right now,” Ken informed him with a small shake of his head. He held his hands up in the air as Don’s determined blue eyes met his. “I am getting really pissed Don, you need to stop.”

“The wedding has to stop,” Don insisted, hating the way that Ken wasn’t caving in and getting the point. “You have to stop this wedding Ken. All I keep thinking about is when we made love and you said you would love me forever.”

“What?” Ken questioned disgusted as he looked over at Michelle who seemed to be falling a small bit for what Don was saying. “Michelle, I never…I never made love to him. I never even touched Don in anyway. He is lying.”

“Oh sure, you say that now,” Don rolled his eyes, resting his hands on his hips as he spoke, “but you used to be telling me that I was the best you ever had.”

“That is so not true,” Ken blurted out, pointing over toward Hart, “Hart you have to say something. You know he is lying. Tell the truth before this thing goes too far.”

“Why should I admit the truth when Don has said it all?” Hart questioned with a small frown as he rested his hand on Don’s shoulder gently. “How can you turn away from someone you have loved for so long?”

“That’s it,” Ken scowled as he noticed two security guards in the hallway. He had to think of a way to get rid of Don and Hart and that seemed to be the only way to do it. “Security.”

“Yes sir,” one of the guards stopped and walked back towards the room as the other one followed. “What can I do for you?”

“Get these two men out of here,” Ken ordered as the security guards came up from behind Don and Hart, “The both of them are acting ridiculous.”

“Get your hands off me,” Hart snapped feeling one of the security guards grab him. “I said get your hands off me.”

“Excuse me,” Don looked over at his shoulder where the security guard had put his hand on his shoulder. Don looked at the hand for a moment before letting out a small smile. “Where will you be putting your cast on after you break it?”

“Excuse me?” the guard questioned, removing his hand from Don’s shoulder as he held his hands in the air. “I think you and your friend should leave.”

“I think you,” Don began, pointing at the guard that had a hold on Hart, “should let go of my buddy there.”

“Thank you,” Hart straightened his shirt as the guard let go of him. Hart walked over to Don and stood next to him as he heard a groan come from behind them.

“Can you please just get rid of them,” Ken begged as he shook his head slowly in disbelief. “This is unbelievable.”

Another slam of the door being pushed open was heard clearly when everyone turned to see Brant walking towards the group.

“This wedding has got to stop,” Brant declared walking up to the group as he saw Ken roll his eyes and hold his arms up in the air.

“Not again,” Ken groaned, resting his hands on his hips as he thought about all the people that had come to try and ruin his happiness. “I can’t win, can I?”

“Actually,” Brant turned around and looked at the door as a woman walked into the room and Ken felt his throat go dry as he noticed the face before him.

“Wendy,” Ken whispered seeing the woman before him nod slowly. “What are you doing here?”


Kevin quickly pulled into the driveway to Angie’s place as he turned the car off. He had to talk to Angie before it was too late. A quick rush of worry ran through his body as he got out of the car and ran up to her front door.

“Angie,” Kevin knocked on the door over and over again until finally getting tired of it. A small sigh escaped his lips as a memory came back to him when Angie had given him a key to her place. “I’ m sure I still have that thing.”

Kevin quickly pulled his keys out of his pocket and searched through them before finally coming to the right key. He fumbled to get the key in the lock before finally getting the door open.

“Angie are you here?” Kevin called out into the house as he looked around the downstairs. Where in the world could she be right now? There was no sign of her downstairs as he threw his hands in the air. Maybe he could find something upstairs.

Kevin ran up the stairs and searched in every room before stopping at her bedroom and going in. He looked in the room and saw no sign of her. He looked in the bathroom and there was still no sign of her.

“Where can you be?” Kevin questioned with a small groan, walking back into the bedroom to see an invitation on the dresser. He read it over before realizing what this went to. It went to the engagement party for Nick and Angela and that’s when he realize what he had to do. “I have to stop her before she can go through with this whole thing.”

Kevin ran down the stairs and ran outside as he pulled out his car keys as quickly as possible. He had to talk to her no matter what the costs were for him.

Something caught his eye when he saw a familiar Jeep coming down the street. He stood there for a moment before realizing it was her. She pulled into the driveway as he approached her slowly.

“Angie,” Kevin whispered as Angela got out of the Jeep and turned around to face Kevin. She look towards the ground as Kevin reached out to touch her shoulder gently. He reached his finger under her chin as he motioned her to look up at him. “I have to tell you something.”

“Kevin,” Angela looked up at Kevin with her upset eyes as he stared back at her with worry. She felt her tears begin to return as Kevin reached out to embrace her in his arms as she cried. “He’s gone Kevin. Nick is gone.”

“It’s okay sweetheart,” Kevin hushed, holding her tighter in his arms as he felt her rest her head against his chest. Her sobs began to fill his ears as he felt his heart begin to ache with the feeling that he knew she was hurt.

He felt her tears against his shirt as his hand caressed her back gently. There was no need for him to tell her what he knew, because from the way she was crying right now, showed that she knew everything he knew.

“It will be okay honey,” Kevin assured her, leaning down to press a small kiss against her forehead gently. “Everything is going to be okay Angie.”


“What’s wrong with you,” Russell bent down to help Kyle off of the ground, “What happened to your face or my house for that matter? What’s going on here? Where’s Avery?”

“I don’t know where she is. You’re the second person looking for her, well the first ghost that is, but…” Kyle paused feeling Russell’s hand on his arm. He stopped talking looking up at him with a strange expression.

“Kyle, where is she?” Russell repeated wondering what was going on with his pal. Was he on some kind of drug or something? “Where’s Avery?”

“She’s…” Kyle stopped himself bringing his own hand over Russell’s fingers. “Wait a second. I can feel you.”

“Of course you can Kyle,” Russell shook his head feeling Kyle’s hand travel up over his arm, to his shoulder further towards his face to smack the side of his face lightly.

“Son of a bitch I can feel you!” Kyle slapped at Russell’s face again.

“No kidding,” Russell launched his hand out to strike Kyle across the jaw in response hoping that it would knock some sense into him, “I’m right here man.”

“You are. You really are,” Kyle’s eyes lit up and a grin pressed over his features. Unable to help himself he reached out to embrace Russell in a bear hug practically taking him down to the ground with him. “You’re alive man. You’re alive, aren’t you?”

“Not for long if you don’t ease up on me,” Russell attempted to push his friend off of him long enough to make sense of the situation, “Kyle, where’s Avery?”

“I don’t know. She thought you were dead. We all thought you were dead. There was the fire--the airport explosion and…” Kyle paused tilting his head to the side, “How can you be standing here Russ? How can you be alive and how can I be talking to you?”

“It’s a long story, but right now I need to find Avery,” Russ continued to inform him using his strength to pull Kyle up off of the ground at last. “You need to tell me where you think she could be.”

“I’m not sure I…” Kyle paused thinking about what his friend was asking, “She might be with Grady.”

“Grady,” Russell repeated with a breath of relief, “Do you know where they would be? At his house?”

“No, I mean I don’t know…” Kyle offered up again hearing his cell phone ringing. He reached into his pocket answering it uneasily half expecting to hear Susan on the other end at this rate.

“Kyle, hey,” Shannon’s voice breathed into the line, “have you heard from Grady?”

“Grady,” Kyle repeated blankly, “No why?”

“Because I’ve been trying to reach him for a while. I talked to him earlier and he said he was with Avery. I spoke with him about Bruce Mathis being back in town and…” she paused hearing his breath grow ragged, “Kyle, are you okay?”

“Yeah I’m fine,” Kyle nodded still in awe of the fact that Russ was standing in front of him.

“Look I just asked him if he’d check in with me. I left him a voicemail to tell him that Bruce had attacked Deidra Byrne and…” Shannon explained.

“Bruce attacked Deidra Byrne and what? You think he might be after Avery,” realization dawned behind Kyle’s eyes, “Oh my God…he could be after Avery.”

“That’s right and I told Grady to go with Avery somewhere safe. He said that he was taking her somewhere--somewhere that they’d be okay, but when I didn’t hear anything from him…” she continued.

“What is she saying?” Russ asked worriedly, “Where is Avery?”

“She’s with Grady,” Kyle mouthed holding his hand up over the phone, “Shannon said that Bruce is in town and Grady said that he’d take Avery somewhere safe--somewhere that Bruce couldn’t get her. Shannon said Grady was supposed to check in, but she didn‘t hear anything back from him and…”

“Damn it,” Russell rushed over to the door.

“Kyle, who are you talking to?” Shannon asked hearing the sound behind his end of the line.

“I’ll have to call you back,” Kyle rushed off after Russ chasing him into the front yard. “Russ, where are you going?”

“I have to get to her. If Bruce is around, then she’s in trouble--big trouble. He’s going to hurt her and…” Russell started in a panic remembering what he’d uncovered about Bruce before the bombing.

“Okay, we’ll get her but…” Kyle tried to reason with him.

“But nothing. If Bruce is out there, she’s not safe. She’s in trouble Kyle. Big trouble,” Russ informed him point blank, “The kind of trouble that was responsible for my not being here.”

“You mean Bruce Mathis was the one who killed you?” Kyle’s eyes widened in response. “Well, not killed you, but did whatever it is he did…you know what I mean…”

“Not exactly, but I can’t get into it right now,” Russell shook his head adamantly holding his hand out towards his friend. “Kyle, give me your car keys.”

“My car keys?” Kyle repeated blankly before shaking his head, “No way man.”

“Come on Kyle. I need to get to Avery. If she’s with Grady and he took her somewhere safe, then I’m guessing that they’re at the cabin--at my parent’s place just north of here,” Russell replied thinking about the one place he and Avery had returned to when things were going wrong in their lives.

“How can you be sure about that? Shannon said that she wasn’t sure where they were, but just that Grady was keeping her somewhere safe,” Kyle reminded him pointedly.

“Trust me. I’ve just got this gut feeling that she’s there--that it would be the place Grady takes her to when she needs to feel safe. It’s what I would do,” Russell informed him point blank before holding his hand out again, “Now the keys.”

“No way man,” Kyle shook his head, “I mean if you think they are there, then we’ll go see, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to let you drive.”

“Why not?” Russell frowned at him, “I know where we’re going and you can call Grady’s cell phone while we drive up there and…”

“No way. You can try to call Grady because the way I see it, there’s no way that I’m letting a dead man drive my ass around town.”

“Kyle, I’m not dead,” Russell protested with a frown.

“Even so, you’re not driving my car. I already had the first one demolished and I’m not going down that route again,” Kyle informed him bluntly hopping into the driver’s side of the car before Russell reluctantly hopped into the passenger side ready to find his way and keep her safe from Bruce once and for all.


A harsh, throbbing ache carried over Avery’s head as her eyelashes fluttered open. She thought she saw stars as she tried to focus on what was in front of her. The white spots of light were surrounded by blackness--dancing around in front of her face. She let out a small groan knowing that whatever had brought her here was anything but pleasant. She felt a moment of uncertainty sweep over her keeping her in a groggy state for longer than she would’ve liked. She strained to remember where she was--to think about what could’ve happened before she blacked out, but nothing was happening.

Suddenly her thoughts were filled with the night she’d shared with Grady--of saving his life and their making love. It all came to her clearer than she’d hoped for. As she felt the pillow beneath her head she realized she must be still with Grady in his bed lost in the aftermath of their love making.

She closed her eyes again trying to come to terms with what had happened along with attempting to will this headache inside of her away, but it was too strong. Somehow whatever she’d been through earlier had caused a strain upon her leaving her eyes to feel as if they could explode inside of her head. How she could wind up in such a painful state after a night at this place was beyond her, but when she felt a finger tip brush against her shoulder gently, she knew that she had to say something.

“Grady…” Avery breathed his name feeling a damp cloth press in against her face, “what’s going on?”

“You’re about to embrace destiny,” the words swept over her face, causing her to shiver when it became suddenly clear it wasn’t Grady beside her. Her eyes snapped open and she saw Bruce beside her holding a blood-stained washcloth in his hand. She let out a yelp attempting to move away from him, but much to her dismay she felt ropes around her wrists and ankles holding her down. “Miss me?”

“You son of a…” she started to protest watching him bring the washcloth down towards her face again. She turned away not wanting him to touch her--to be near him after her head filled with memories of his taking her by surprise. Another rush of panic carried over her as she felt his fingers curl roughly underneath her chin forcing her to face him again.

“Would you just sit still,” he snarled down at her plunging the cloth against her nose and mouth causing her to scream louder than before. He laughed with mild amusement before pulling it away to show it to her, “I’m just washing you up. You were bleeding and I thought I’d stop it from ruining your pretty face after you made me hurt you like that.”

“Bruce what are you…” Avery tried to lift her head feeling an overwhelming sense of nausea wash over her at the movement. She tried to see beyond where she lay, but flashes of color danced in front of her causing her to drop her head back.

“Doing?” he arched a curious brow, a smile lifting over his lips as he dabbed the cloth against her face again. This time he was pleasantly rewarded by her compliance after her exhaustion seemed to settle in, “Why Avery, I’m doing what it was you and I talked about doing for a very long time.”

“Bruce, you can’t do this,” Avery began worry evident in her tone. She tried to lift her head again, to see what he’d done to her, but the spots returned to her eyes.

“All I’m doing is pushing destiny along as it always should’ve been,” he promised his fingers tapering off over her collar bone.

Avery turned her head to the side fighting to repress the groan that spilled over her lips. His hand dropped down to over her breast and fear swept over her thinking about all the horrible things he could do to her before he killed her, but instead of fondling her as she’d expected him to, she felt him pull something up over her body. Using all of her strength she lifted her head again to see herself in a soft, white gown that looked very much like a hospital gown of sorts. She turned to face him again confusion settling in over her.

“We’re here today to make up for the past mistakes we’ve made. Avery, I know we’ve hurt one another, but I promise you from here on out I’m going to be the man you need,” Bruce stroked her face gently, “You and I both know that there’s a lot that we had ahead of us before life got complicated. I stopped trusting you and you felt that. I know that’s what happened to tear us apart, but I need you to know that everything I’ve done, I’ve done it to protect you. It was for your own good.”

“How is terrorizing me for my own good?” she spat out at him, refusing to let him see the fear he’d instilled in her.

“I wasn’t terrorizing you. I was saving you from yourself--from the world around you,” Bruce replied reaching out to push her hair away from her eyes, “Can’t you see what she was doing to you before we came together? She destroyed your child. She murdered your baby and she was going to keep hurting you again and again. I knew that she’d drugged you--that she’d caused you to lose your baby, but it wasn’t until I met you that I understood what it was I was meant to do in life…” he paused clearly lost in his own delusions as he looked to her with apologetic eyes, “Had I known you before she’d contacted me, I would’ve saved you sooner, but after the damage was already done, I knew that I had to keep you untarnished by her evil. I had to protect you and make you see how pure you truly were. You weren’t like the rest of them. You were always my beautiful little angel. So innocent and trusting when the world around you threatened to take it all away from you. I couldn’t let that happen Avery. I couldn’t let her steal that light from your eyes…”

Avery tried to make sense of what he was telling her, but the pain in her head overtook her. She gritted her teeth fighting to stay conscious as he spoke up again.

“I knew that Brant would do the same. He wanted to tarnish you and seduce you into becoming what he wanted. He wanted you to be a whore, but you’re not a whore Avery,” Bruce teased his index finger over her lips to silence the soft cries that rose over her. “You’re a beautiful, vulnerable angel and while you’ve been touched by their evils, I’m here today to cleanse your soul. I’m here to take away their dirty influence and make you whole again. To make you free…”

“Bruce where’s Grady,” Avery questioned thinking about her companion. Remembering that his car was in the driveway, she feared for what might’ve happened to the man who had been with her. Thinking about how crazy Bruce was a worry for Grady started to consume her

“He’s been taken care of,” Bruce continued to dab at her face clearing up the last traces of blood. He squeezed her face in his fingers turning her head from side to side before standing up with obvious approval of his work. “Much better.”

“What did you do to him?” Avery asked again, fear settling in over her stomach. She turned her head ever so slightly feeling pain vibrate over her as she spotted Bruce out of the corner of her eye.

“I’ve made sure that he won’t hurt you any longer. His madness can’t pervert you any longer. He won’t bother you,” Bruce promised looking over his shoulder at her before returning his attention to the table in front of him. “While he tried to seduce you--to tempt you I saw how it only hurt you. I know how his touch sickened you much like it did with Brant and even with Russ. None of them deserved you and now it’s time to rid their influence from your life forever. I’m going to free you today Avery and then you will be pure again. You will be my perfect little angel and we can be together. Grady won‘t bother you any longer. None of them will…”

“What did you do to him,” Avery asked again, her voice growing wild with anger and frustration. She tugged at her restraints once more trying to shake herself loose, but the harder she tried, the worse the ropes seemed to burn at her wrists and ankles.

“Avery, it’s useless to fight fate,” Bruce warned spinning around to face her again. His eyes swept over her body before he held up the syringe in his hand, “and once this is over, I promise you that you’ll be free again.”

“What are you doing,” she questioned stilling in her restraints to see what he was carrying, “What is that?”

“Your first step towards freedom,” he explained matter of fact reaching out for her arm. “While I know that this won’t be the first time you’ve gone through this, I have no doubt in my mind that it won’t be any less painful. Don’t worry though once it’s all over, you will have me like you did before. It will be our chance to start anew. We can have that life we always dreamt about when I save you again.”

“Save me again,” she repeated a horror flashing behind her eyes. She watched him press the needle in against her arm and she wiggled underneath him. “Bruce no!”

“It’s for the best,” he used his free hand to stroke her face lightly. Seeing her fear, he leaned forward placing a kiss on her forehead before jabbing the needle roughly into her arm. He emptied it’s contents into her before smoothing his fingers through her hair again, “Soon it will all be over and we can be together again--together like we always should’ve been.”

“What have you done,” Avery cried out turning her attention to the small drop of blood on her arm.

“I’ve started the process of your rebirth,” he explained in a smooth voice, “Soon you’ll be feeling some pain, but rest assured that’s natural. Those will only be your body’s way of getting rid of that little problem growing inside of you.”

“Problem,” she repeated watching in horror as his hand dropped down over her abdomen. His fingers glided over her swelled form before his eyes glazed over with pride.

“Once we’ve gotten rid of the last trace of them--rid of that last hold that Russ has on you, then we can be together. We can be free to share our lives with one another without the burden he left you with,” he grinned eagerly setting the needle on the dresser beside her. “Soon you’ll go into labor and then your body will do what is needed to make sure that child won’t ever be a problem for us again.”

“No,” Avery cried out struggling to break free once again. “No, you can’t do this. Bruce, you can’t…”

“It’s okay,” Bruce placed his hand over her mouth to silence her. He pushed her in against the bed further watching her squirm beneath his touch, “Rebirth is always hard, but trust me. This will be what will cleanse your soul and make you who you always were meant to be.”

She screamed against his hand biting him in a firm, clamp. Her teeth squeezed his flesh in her mouth causing him to shout out in agony. He used his other hand to slap her across the jaw forcing her to let go of him. Still she was relentless in her attempt to get away--to stop the process of cleansing her from happening.

“Help me. Someone help!” Avery screamed just long enough for Bruce to reach for a pillow on the bed and press it in over her face. He held it against her mouth, against her terrified screams until she fell to silence. Pulling the pillow away he smiled seeing how peaceful she looked before him--just like his perfect little angel. Yes, she had fallen to slumber again and she never looked more beautiful. He touched her neck searching for her pulse and when he was satisfied that she’d merely just passed out he stepped away from the bed.

“Very soon we’ll get rid of that problem in your life and then we will be together again. Just like it was always meant to be,” he vowed with a wicked smirk ready to finally leave the evils of the world behind now that he’d committed himself to saving Avery again.


...to be continued...