Episode 274

Trisha leaned against the brick wall of the coffee house she said she would meet Chase at about ten minutes ago. She looked down at her watch to see the time was passing quicker than she thought and it seemed like Chase might have bailed out on her.

“This is ridiculous,” Trisha rolled her eyes, turning around to start walking down the street before she saw a red rose appear in front of her as an arm wrapped out in front of her.

“Hey there beautiful,” Chase’s voice filled her ears as she turned to face a smiling Chase. “Sorry I took so long, you wouldn’t believe the line up to get this.”

“It’s okay,” Trisha smiled, grabbing the rose gently from his hand. Sure, she was angry for a while but seeing Chase’s smiling face made her feel better about the subject. “Don’t worry about it.”

“You really are the perfect woman,” Chase smiled, pulling his sunglasses off and sliding them into his pocket slowly. “Most women would have snapped at me for being late. But you--you’re more than perfect.”

“I’m not that great,” she felt a blush rising in over her cheeks as she saw Chase reach his arm out to her as she took it and he led her down the street. “So, where are we going?”

“To have fun,” Chase informed her with a small wink as he saw her look up at him with her big eyes. “I told you to dress comfortably for a reason.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Trisha eyed Chase over slowly before seeing him let out a small laugh. “You aren't going to like take me and kill me are you?”

“That depends,” he chuckled, looking down at his watch as he saw her look up into his eyes. “How deathly afraid of heights are you?”

“Why?” Trisha glanced over at Chase as he simply shrugged his shoulders. “Why are you asking me that?”

“Because, I have a plane scheduled to meet us right about here,” Chase stopped to the field they had came upon as Trisha looked over at him. “Ever hear of extreme sports Trisha?”

“You have to be kidding me,” Trisha let out a nervous laugh seeing Chase look at her with his light blue eyes. “You aren’t kidding.”

“It’s time to live a little Trisha--I promise, it will be fun,” Chase grabbed her hand in his as he led her over to the plane that Trisha took a nervous glance at. “Don’t worry it’s going to be okay.”

“I don’t know about that,” Trisha got onto the plane, feeling the plane lift off the ground as she looked down at the land shrinking before her. “It may not be that fun if I get splattered against the cement.”

“Don’t worry--I won’t let anything happen to you,” Chase promised, reaching out to wrap his arm around her shoulders tightly.

“Great,” Trisha took a look at the land before her, letting out a small gulp. She hardly even knew Chase and now she was taking a chance at sky diving with him. What in the world was she thinking?


“You are never going to believe this,” Heather blurted out pushing her way into Chris’s hotel room without even bothering to say hello to him. She spun around to face him once she was inside, unable to curb her enthusiasm for what was going on around her, “This is like the best news ever.”

“Dare I ask,” Chris gave her a strange look eyeing her from head to toe as the grin on her face pretty much said it all. She had news--good news at that and given the cat that ate the canary look on her face, he was certain she wasn’t about to wait to deliver it to him.

“Well, I suppose you could,” she shrugged her shoulders in a half-hearted attempt unable to quell the excitement racing through her, “but I figure I’ll just tell you. Charles is an Ashford!”

“What?” Chris’s eyes grew wide with astonishment, “You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, not at all and here’s the beauty of it,” Heather took a triumphant step forward her eyes dancing with possibilities. “This newest bit of news has absolutely nothing to do with Brant.”

“Okay, now you’ve lost me,” Chris scratched his chin lightly, “I mean I know that you and the spoiled prince were engaged so it’s only natural to think that with your boisterous declaration that you would be sharing paternity that’s come about from some sick and perverted union between you and Brant.”

“Normally one might imagine that, but I’m afraid to have to bust your bubble because Charles’s father is still Kipp Mahoney,” she explained matter of fact, the corners of her lips upturning in a smile, “but alas Kipp had a little secret of his own. Kipp’s an Ashford.”

“Since when?” Chris’s jaw practically dropped at the revelation.

“It turns out that Douglas Mahoney is an even bigger liar than one could’ve even started to imagine. Kipp’s mommy dearest is none other than Zoë Ashford, which means that by his birthright my son is a true Ashford,” Heather beamed unable to contain her energy about the situation, “Do you have any idea what this means?”

“Um that you’re going to have one hell of a messed up family reunion?” Chris replied with a strange glance.

“No you idiot. It means that Augustus can’t go back on his offer to try to destroy me. Charles is his grandson which means if he wants to be a part of his life, then the Ashfords aren’t going to keep kicking me down. They’ll be kissing my butt to take part in Charles’s life. Kipp and I have sort of worked things out and I have him wrapped around my finger, so the last thing he’s going to want is to keep my from my son.”

“Who says that Augustus is going to agree with that? That man is very firm about what he wants and he usually gets it,” Chris added giving her a pointed look.

“Let him try because this time, I’m the one who is victorious. I am part of the Ashford’s life whether they like it or not,” she explained proudly moving over to take a seat in the chair when she noticed the box in it for the first time. Glancing up at Chris again she noticed that the whole room was filled with them. A puzzled expression crept in over her face, “What’s this all about?”

“I’m moving,” he shook his head at her, “which is something I would’ve told you if you’d given me two seconds to talk about myself instead of your celebration that your son was born into a family of lunatics and self-absorbed, delusional, over-rated snobs.”

“That’s so far from the truth,” she wrinkled her nose at him, “You’re just jealous because you wish you were an Ashford.”

“If I was, would you be jumping at the chance to sleep with me instead of using me to get where you want to be,” he arched a curious brow.

“You could never be an Ashford,” she wrinkled her nose at him.

“I could very so be one perhaps in another life, but why would I want to stoop that low,” he shuddered at the thought before crossing the room to inspect one of the boxes, “Who needs to be part of something so twisted that this town would just ignore them rather than embrace their presence in Coral Valley?”

“In case you haven’t noticed Chris, the Ashfords pretty much own Coral Valley and I deserve to be a part of that. Brant might’ve screwed me out of it when we were engaged, but this time, well there’s no chance of that happening. I will have my piece of the empire whether they like it or not,” Heather boasted proudly, “There’s no stopping me now.”

“Until Zoë discovers what you’re really like in which case she will probably team up with Augustus and Douglas to find a way to get you out of Kipp’s life forever. At that rate you’ll be lucky if you ever get to see Charles again by the time they’re finished with you,” Chris snarled in response rolling his eyes at the thought, “Face it Heather. You’re in a no win situation and the only place you’re going to end up is screwed.”

“My aren’t we the cynic today,” she frowned back at him, “What bug crawled up your butt and died today?”

“Actually I was in a wonderful mood today. Here I am putting all my things together to move into my incredible new place, and it’s the first step in really sinking my teeth into my latest project,” he mused with a proud grin.

“Which would be what exactly considering that you’re supposed to be helping me with my little plan here?” she arched a curious brow at him, “Don’t tell me you’re backing out of our deal.”

“On the contrary, I’m just getting myself more settled so that we can really take the reins on this one and make it what we’re hoping for. In fact,” he reached for a small box setting it into her arms with a proud grin, “you can help me with the move.”

“Um no thanks, but in case you haven’t noticed manual labor isn’t at all my scene,” she tried to place the box back in his arms, but he shook his head at her.

“If you want my help, then you’re going to have to earn it,” he plopped the box into her arms again, “Besides, I can listen to you gloat while we move everything. Then when you’re done maybe I’ll give you a few tips on how to use Charles being an Ashford to your full advantage there. Maybe I know a few tricks and tips that you haven’t pondered just yet. Granted I feel horrible for the kid to be stuck as a member of that family, but perhaps I can help you help him rise above it.”

“Why would I want him to,” she scowled glancing down at the box in her arms.

“Trust me Heather. If you want your kid to have any chance at a normal life, you’ll run like hell starting now,” he paused eyeing her intently, “Well not right now, but eventually since you’re mine for the afternoon.”

“And if I refuse,” she shuffled the box from one arm to another.

“Then you’ll never know the delicious plan I cooked up last night. It’s up to you,” he explained giving her one last look before moving to the hotel door and walking out of it with a box in his arms.

Heather looked down at the package she was holding wondering if it would be better for her to duck out of the hotel or grin and bear it with the move Chris was making. While she wanted to leave to avoid any kind of work he had in mind for her, she had a nagging feeling that maybe just maybe something good was brewing in that ever twisted mind of his. Besides, if he was just lying to get her to help him move, she’d find ways to give him hell later, she thought to herself following him out of the hotel room door still excited about her son’s newfound family background.


“Come on Diego,” Cori tapped on Diego’s face gently, seeing his eyes start to flutter open as he let out a small groan placing his hand over the red spot on his head. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Diego groaned, feeling both Sarah and Cori helping him up into a sitting position. “I didn’t think I would ever wake up with the both of you over me like that.”

“Well, if it wasn’t for Ms. Brilliant over there you wouldn’t have been knocked out,” Cori informed Diego with a small scowl as she saw Sarah’s dark eyes glare out at her. “She tried to kill me Diego. Like seriously. She tried to nail be in the back of the head with a metal tray. She is insane--she really tried to kill me.”

“No she didn’t,” Diego rolled his eyes, slowly getting up to his feet and resting his hand against the table. He felt both Cori and Sarah place their hands on his back to try and help him stand up straight as he let out another small groan. “This is ridiculous.”

“I can take care of my own boyfriend,” Cori snapped looking over at Sarah as she saw Sarah smooth her hand in and over Diego’s shoulder. “He doesn’t need your help because he has me to help him.”

“Help him with what?” Sarah snapped, letting go of Diego as Cori did the same and Diego fell against the table trying to keep himself up. “Give him an even bigger headache? You know every time you play like this, you make Diego hate you even more. Sooner or later he is going to hate you big time and then what are you going to do about that?”

“I think it’s time that you should get out of here Sarah,” Cori declared seeing Sarah take a step forward towards Cori before Diego stopped her and put his hands on Sarah’s shoulders.

“She’s right,” Diego stated taking a small glance back at Cori before letting out a small sigh. “I’ll come check on you in a little bit Sarah. I think I need some time alone to talk to Cori.”

“But,” Sarah began to protest before seeing Diego nod slowly. “Alright, I’ll see you later.”

“I’ll come and find you after I’m done,” Diego promised looking back towards Cori once more seeing a smirk appear over her lips. “I need some alone time with her.”

“I understand,” Sarah whispered looking at Cori as she stepped in closer to Diego and placed her hand on his shoulder lightly. “I’ll talk to you later then.”

“Come on Cori, I think we need to talk in my office,” Diego motioned Cori to follow him towards the elevators before looking back at Sarah once more. He had to get something off his chest right now.


“That’s bull and we both know that,” Russ waved his finger at Brant finding himself increasingly disgusted by the insinuations Brant was making about his daughter. “Erin could never, ever be your daughter and we both know that. She’s my flesh and blood.”

“Then you won’t have a problem putting that assertion to the test,” Brant challenged in a daring tone seeing how furious Russell was getting at his bold announcement.

“Oh I know there’s no need to put it to the test,” Russ replied in a low growl, “so I’ll do it, but I warn you Ashford when everything is said and done and that paternity test shows you all over again that you don’t have a hold on Avery, then I’m going to take great pleasure in picking up where Kyle left off with you in stomping your ass to the ground.”

“When the test results come back, I can assure you that I’ll be the one taking pleasure in the truth because it’s the truth that will set Avery free of you and your hold on her. She and I are meant to be together. We’ll be a family with Erin and there isn’t a thing that you can do to change that,” Brant mouthed with a wicked smirk, “and when that moment in time comes into fruition, I’m going to enjoy every second of having you hauled out of here and out of Avery’s life forever.”

“Only in your dreams Ashford,” Russ snarled attempting to lunge towards him once more as Kyle held him back.

“He’s not worth it. Let me deal with this slime,” Kyle replied still wanting to snap Brant’s head from his neck and crush him like a bug. However, that wasn’t going to help Russ and they both knew it. Taking a step in front of his friend Kyle faced him eyes full of concern, “Just make sure that everything is on the up and up in that lab. We don’t want anything funny going on.”

“There won’t be,” Barbara announced stepping in between the two men, “because I’ll be taking care of this one. I’ll take the swabs and I’ll make sure that I have a witness with me to prove there’s nothing funny going on.”

“Great,” Kyle stepped aside glancing over at Russ briefly.

“Then let’s do this Barbara,” Russell pressed forward moving past the security guards that Brant had surrounding them.

“Yes let’s,” Brant moved forward as well leaving the rest of the group to deal with the aftermath of what was going on.

“On second thought I don’t want to be anywhere near him,” Brant announced glaring over at Russ. “I’d like to have a private room of my own. Someone else can run the test with me.”

“No, I’ll do it,” Barbara explained glaring at the both of them, “and I swear to you if either one of you gets out of line, then you’re going to have to answer to me. Got it?”

“Sure,” both men grudgingly answered despite the fact that the war had just begun and there would be no stopping it from here on out until the truth about Erin’s father was out in the air once and for all.


“Hey Leveski,” Kyle yelled out catching up to Don in the hallway as Don stopped walking to turn and face Kyle. Don rolled his eyes as he saw Kyle step in closer to him. “I want to talk to you a second before you run off.”

“What? Do you want to beat me up again?” Don questioned sarcastically as Kyle stepped in even closer to him, his eyes glaring into Don’s.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with you,” Kyle began seeing the way Don’s eyes glared right back at him. Don was trying his best to stand up to Kyle, but Kyle could tell that there was some type of fear behind Don’s eyes as they stood right in front of each other. “I respected you and now…”

“I don’t care if you respected me Houston,” Don snapped, pushing Kyle in the center of his chest, making Kyle slightly stumble backwards. “And get out of my face.”

“Do it again Donny boy,” Kyle smirked, moving his hands up in the air and shaking his head as he spoke. “Come on, try and push me again. I dare you to.”

“You are stupid, I hope you know that,” Don pushed Kyle back again only to let out a small yelp as he felt Kyle grab onto his wrist tightly. He felt Kyle squeezing his wrist in his hand as tightly as he could, slightly twisting it to the side. “Let go of me you psycho. You are going to break my wrist.”

“Listen to me,” Kyle’s talked in a serious tone, his angered eyes stared into Don’s while Don tried to get his wrist away from Kyle. “One, don’t ever touch me again because if you do--I will break every bone in your body starting with your legs. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Fine,” Don snapped feeling Kyle let go of his wrist as he held onto it tightly. “You need to take a chill pill man.”

“You need to gain some brains man,” Kyle mocked Don with a small scowl before shaking his head slowly. He folded his arms out in front of his chest, letting out a small laugh. “Although, I don’t think they make pills for the severe case you have, so I guess you are just screwed.”

“Yeah, screw you Kyle,” Don hissed feeling the pain in his wrist starting to grow as he saw Kyle let out a small laugh.

“Yeah, I know that’s what you probably want to do with me Leveski, but I don’t swing that way man,” Kyle shrugged seeing Don take a step forward towards him. “Go ahead, hit me. If you do, I promise you I will do exactly what I said I would.”

“You really think you’re funny don’t you?” Don muttered seeing Kyle nod slowly before letting out a small smirk. “You’re not funny. You and your friends…”

“What about me and my friends Don? I can tell you I pick them out a lot better than you do,” Kyle pointed out, seeing Don’s blue eyes look up at him. “But of course, I guess assholes just have to stick together somehow.”

“Do you have a problem with me Houston?” Don snapped standing up taller, not going to let Kyle talk to him like this anymore. It was getting older by the second and Kyle shouldn’t be able to talk to him like this at all.

“No, I’m just here telling you what an asshole I think you are because I really think you are best person I have ever met on this Earth,” Kyle replied sarcastically, rolling his eyes at Don’s question. “I think you should know something that I did to help you in the past Don. It’s about your wife.”

“Don’t keep bringing my wife into this Kyle,” Don snapped throwing his hands up in the air as Kyle rolled his eyes at him once more. “She is my wife, not yours. She may be your friend, but if she had to choose between me and you--I would win every time.”

“And you want to know why that is?” Kyle questioned in an angered tone as he took a step in closer to Don. “She didn’t even register you into her head until she talked to me. Do you know how many times she came to me to talk about what an idiot you were? And here I was, dumb enough to believe that you were good enough for her. I tried to convince her that you were a good guy Don. I said you would be perfect for her and now I realize how wrong I truly was. She wouldn’t even be thinking twice about you right now if it wasn’t for me Don. And how do you repay the person who might have helped you the most in life? You just prove you are an asshole and would do anything to hurt people. I swear if you do anything to screw up Russell‘s happiness and his future, I’ll kill you.”

“Wait just a second,” Don went to say something else before seeing Kyle walk off over towards Grady who was standing on the other side of the hallway. “Freak.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Hart came up from behind Don, placing his right hand on his friend’s shoulder. “All we need to focus on is how we are helping Brant. We are here only supporting him.”

“Only supporting him,” Don whispered the words before shaking his head slowly. What would Hart do if he knew what it was Brant asked him to do? No one knew how hard it was to even go on with this.


Richard entered his daughter’s room ignoring the warnings that had been issued to him about his daughter not up for having company right now. Still nothing was going to keep him from seeing his little girl and he dared anyone to try to stop him at this point. Carefully closing the door behind him Richard looked to where Avery was laying on the bed in front of him. Her eyes were closed and she looked so very pale as he saw the lines of her heart monitor bouncing away beside her bed. Stepping forward he moved in beside her, feeling a pain in his heart at seeing her in such a state. Still he refused to let his worries take the best of him when it was his strength and support that Avery needed more than anything.

“Hey Princess,” he smiled reaching for her hand after he took a seat beside her. He smoothed his left hand out over her face pushing her hair away from her eyes, “I’m here now. I’m sorry that I wasn’t around earlier, but once I found out what was happening I rushed over here to see you.”

Richard paused thinking about all his daughter had endured at Bruce’s hand, “Guy is here with Mindy and everyone else who loves you is outside eagerly anticipating your waking up and giving us a piece of your mind.”

Avery remained silent making no movement upon hearing his words if she could in fact hear them.

“Hey, I even saw my granddaughter earlier. She’s beautiful--just like you were at her age and I have to tell you I am so proud of you Avery,” Richard explained with a soft smile, “Erin is incredible just like you are and when I saw Russ, well I have to tell you I realized that miracles really can happen sweetheart. I know how hard you were hurting when you thought that he’d died, but now he’s here. He’s come back to make each and every one of your dreams come true and I’m certain that he will be able to provide you and Erin with the kind of life you both have always wanted.”

Richard paused for a long moment before letting out a sigh, “Of course you do realize to make that happen princess you’re going to have to wake up and let everyone know that you’re not out of the game just yet. Bruce was a horrible person, but I promise you he won’t be able to hurt you anymore. Russ and Kyle saw to that. In fact I’m pretty sure that Russ is going to see to it that everything is okay from here on out. And I’m here too whenever you need me. I know I’ve been spending far too much time away with work, but that’s all going to change. As soon as you open up your beautiful brown eyes I promise that you’re never going to have to go without me.”

Richard felt choked up on his emotions, “You know this reminds me of the time that you went to the hospital to have your tonsils out. Do you remember how that went? You were so afraid that something would go wrong with surgery--that if you had your tonsils out something would put you on this downward spiral, but I promised you that nothing bad would happen. Hell, I even swore to you when it was over with that I wouldn’t give you any grief about spending time with Russ ever again,” he paused searching her features, “Do you remember that?”

She said nothing and he squeezed her hand gently.

“You wanted to go to prom with him so very badly and your mother had given you so much grief over your wanting to do that. I remember when you found out that you had to have your tonsils out a few weeks before prom you were devastated and wanted to keep putting it off fearing what would happen, but then things turned out alright,” he squeezed her hand again, “You were able to not only come out of surgery brighter and better than ever, but you were able to go to prom with Russ…or at least lead your mother and I to believe that you were at prom when we both know that wasn’t where you wound up. I remember how furious I was when I found out that you were in Atlantic City with Russ, but then after a while I started to see that I couldn’t hold onto you and keep you from love any longer. I knew that you were growing up and that you would have to find your own dreams--your own happiness and I couldn’t keep you from love.”

“Avery what I’m trying to say is that when you were younger you braved a great many obstacles to be with the man that you loved and now that he’s home again, I have no doubt in my mind that you’re not going to give up this time either. I know in my heart that you’re going to be awake and with us soon enough sharing each and every moment of Erin’s life with her. I’m sure of it,” Richard replied leaning down to lay beside his daughter in the hopes that his strength would radiate into her and awaken her again so that she could begin living out the dream that she’d waited so very long to have in her life.


Brant adjusted his tie making his way down the hallway after the paternity test. While Barbara had been insistent about keeping Russ in the room while she took his DNA sample, Brant knew that there was nothing to worry about. Everything would work out the way he wanted it to even if Russ had no idea just what Brant had over him at this point in time. Everything would wind up the way it was always meant to be.

“And that’s with the three of us being a family,” Brant mouthed turning his attention to the nursery in front of him. He could see little Erin from where he stood outside the glass. Images of holding her and being with Avery danced through his mind. It was the perfect dream. It was his dream of happily ever after and there was no way in hell that he was ever going to let anyone take that away from him. Russ might try, but he’d never win in taking away the life that Brant had built for himself.

“She’s beautiful,” a voice spoke up from behind as his eyes were glued to little Erin.

“Yes, she is,” Brant nodded a smile creeping in over the corners of his lips, “She’s a knockout like her mother.”

“And she has her father’s nose,” the voice replied making a small step towards him, “which is why you should stop this nonsense before it starts and leave that family alone.”

“Excuse me,” Brant spun around to see Shannon standing behind him. He rolled his eyes almost immediately returning his focus to Erin, “I should’ve known.”

“I heard about Kyle kicking your ass and about what you’re doing to that family,” Shannon snarled up at him, wondering how in the hell she could’ve fallen for such a narcissistic jerk considering that he was far from the man she’d once cared about, “They have a chance to be happy at long last and here you are being stubborn and a complete jerk about the situation.”

“Whether or not your pal Russ likes it, Avery is my wife,” Brant answered tightly glaring over at her before looking at Erin again.

“And there’s no doubt in my mind that is his little girl in there,” Shannon motioned to Erin once again. Seeing that Brant wasn’t acknowledging her words she reached for his arm, “Are you listening to me?”

“No,” Brant mouthed icily, “and I don’t see a reason to start right now considering that there’s never been anything of substance that comes out of your mouth. Unless of course we reflect on that time you couldn’t seem to get enough of me…”

“Screw you,” she snapped at him, her eyes narrowing at him.

“Yes, that was what I was referring to, but unfortunately for you that’s never going to happen. I’m happily married these days and poor Don, well you most certainly pulled the wool over his eyes, haven’t you? Here he is thinking that you’re someone he can fall in love with--someone who could be good for Matthew, but that’s so far from the truth. We both know that, don’t we Shannon?”

“Maybe I’m not good enough for him and Matthew, but I know that you’re the last thing that Russ and Avery need right about now. She almost died at that cabin. Bruce Mathis almost destroyed any chance of them being a family and for you to start this now…” she shook her head at him, “Brant it’s just not right.”

“Since when did you start to give a damn about Avery?” he snapped back at her looking down in a state of disbelief, “The last time I checked she ranked little to no importance on your list.”

“Maybe that’s still where she ranks, but I know full well that she loves Russ with all of her heart and he loves her. They have something special with one another and if fate hadn’t stepped in and pushed them apart like it did, we both know that you wouldn’t be standing here right now as her husband. She wants to be with Russ and not you. Deep down you and I both know that,” Shannon shot back at him icily, “Plus no matter how much I hate Avery, the last thing in the world that I would ever wish upon anyone is to be stuck with such a cruel, cold, calculating manipulator like you. You’re no good for anyone and the sooner you get that through your head, the better off this world will be.”

“Shut up Shannon!” Brant snapped back at her having heard enough, “Don’t presume to know what’s in my wife’s heart. You know nothing about Avery!”

“I know enough that if she was awake right now she’d be begging you to stop acting like a jerk and let her be a happy family with the husband that she loves more than life itself. She would ask you to stop giving Russ hell and just let Erin have the father that she’s always needed in her life,” Shannon sighed knowing full well how stubborn Brant was, “If you give a damn about that little girl, then you’ll let her have the family that she was meant for. You’ll let her have the father that she needs and you won’t pervert her life the way the rest of your family has done to yours. You’ll give her a chance at some kind of happiness that she would never see if you were the one raising her. Let her have what she deserves by giving her and Avery their freedom from you. Let her go Brant before it’s too late for you to turn this thing around.”

Brant stiffened at her words listening to her stomp off. He closed his eyes inhaling slowly, his breath catching in the back of his throat. Shannon’s words swirled in his head over and over as he thought about what had brought him up to this point in time. Yes, there were so many things happening all at once--so many emotions that were creeping in over him, but as he opened his eyes peering through the window at Erin in the nursery, he knew in his heart he couldn’t back down now.

“Erin will have a father,” Brant mouthed under his breath his hands balling into fists at his side, “She’ll have the father that will be able to give her and Avery everything they could ever need and that father is me.”


Angela leaned back into her chair as she let out an exaggerated sigh. So many things were on her mind right now, making her so confused. There was Cameron inviting her to Coral Valley and there was her and Kevin fighting.

“Great,” Angela heard a knocking on her door as she lazily got out of her chair, only to hear the knocking continue. “I’m coming. I said I’m…”

Angela opened the door to have a dozen white roses in her face. She took a step back as she reached out to grab them, seeing Kevin smirk as she held onto them.

“Hey,” Kevin smiled, seeing Angela look down to the roses with a small bit of curiosity. “They are for you. I figured I had to get you something to say I’m sorry.”

“They are beautiful Kevin,” Angela informed him with a small smile as she brought the flowers up so she could take in a smell of the beautiful fragrance. “You didn’t have to get these for me.”

“I guess I kind of just felt bad Angie,” Kevin explained, walking into the room and shutting the door behind him. He saw her walk over and set the flowers down on the desk before turning back towards him. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to ask you so many questions--I just want you to be safe. I don’t want you hurt. And if you are still mad at me, I‘m sorry.”

“No, you don’t have to apologize,” she shook her head, throwing her hands up in the air as Kevin went to say something else. “We were both out of line and the both of us said some things that shouldn’t have been said. And I’m sorry too. You didn’t have to get me the roses though.”

“Oh, so you don’t like them?” Kevin questioned, seeing her turn to look down at the flowers on the desk. He pulled something from behind his back, seeing her turn back towards him. “Well, then I guess I can just take this back.”

“Wait a second,” Angela called out to Kevin as he started walking towards the door. “What’s in there? I mean, there is no use in taking it back once you already paid for it.”

“Well, since I didn’t need to get the flowers--I don’t need to give you this stuff either,” Kevin shrugged, pulling the bag in closer to him before turning towards the door again.

“Wait just a second Adonis,” Angela quickly rushed over towards Kevin, grabbing him by his sleeve before he could walk away. Kevin turned to face her, letting out a small laugh as she tried to look in the bag in his arms. “You are playing with me Kevin and I don’t like it.”

“What do you possibly mean Angie? I mean, why would I be playing with you?” Kevin smirked, feeling her poke him in the shoulder lightly making him step back to let out a small laugh. “You mean you want to see what’s in the bag?”

“Well, duh,” Angela rolled her eyes, watching Kevin walk over towards the desk to set his bag down knowing that Angela would be following right behind him. “So, what’s in the bag?”

“If I said it was one of those beer hats, would you still want it?” he eyed her over slowly, seeing her roll her eyes at his slowness. Kevin reached his hand inside the bag, slowly pulling something up. “Would you still want it? Because that’s what I got you.”

“Yeah right Kevin,” Angela laughed, reaching out to poke him in the shoulder again. Kevin took a step back, shaking his head at her as he slowly pulled the first item out of the bag and set it down on the desk. “What in the world is that?”

“It’s a flashing monkey,” Kevin chuckled seeing the laughter that had overcome Angela as she looked at the stuffed monkey before her. “Just press the button--go ahead.”

“Are you serious?” Angela looked over at Kevin seeing Kevin grab her hand in his. He led her fingers to the button before letting go of her hand. When she pressed the button music came on and the stuffed monkey started shaking his hips and then pulling his robe open to where he had heart boxers on. Angela burst out in laughter as she looked over at Kevin. “Where in the world did you get something like this?”

“That’s my own secret,” Kevin winked, looking at the monkey and then beginning to shake his hips side to side. “Although, I think the monkey gained it’s skills from me.”

“Right, keep telling yourself that,” Angela joked, seeing Kevin frown and look at her with his deep brown eyes. “I’m going to keep this on my desk. It’s adorable.”

“I knew you would like it,” he reached back into the bag and pulled out a bag of chocolates. “They say chocolate cures everything. It may help you.”

“Yeah, it may help me get fatter,” Angela grabbed the bag, tearing it open before grabbing a piece. She opened it up before motioning Kevin to come over towards her. “If I am going to get fat on chocolate, so are you.”

“Angie, I have a very strict work out and diet…” Kevin began, only to feel her put a piece of chocolate in his mouth as he started to talk. Kevin chewed it before swallowing it down. “And obviously that doesn’t matter.”

“No, it doesn’t,” she replied, motioning him to open up his mouth as she placed the chocolate against his lips. “Because if you can eat pancakes and stay fit, you can eat chocolate and stay fit.”

“Technically,” Kevin started to say something before feeling her shove another piece of chocolate in his mouth. “Fine, I’ll shut up. But if I keep eating the chocolates I won’t be able to give you the last gift.”

“Don’t play with me Kevin,” Angela warned seeing him raise his hands up in the air like he did nothing wrong. “I know you are trying to play with me--so give it up. What did you get me?”

“Careful with this one--it’s breakable,” Kevin took out something that was wrapped in thin paper. Kevin carefully handed it over to her before sitting on the edge of the desk to see her opening it up slowly. “I saw it and I thought of you.”

“Wow,” Angela pulled out a snow globe that had a mother sitting in a rocking chair and holding two babies in her arms. She looked over the object before noticing something fell to the ground. “What’s that?”

“That would be the story that goes with this,” Kevin answered for her, reaching out to grab the snow globe from her to set it down on the desk. “You might want to read the story--you might end up liking it.”

“I’m not one for stories Kev,” she stated, holding the paper up so she could read the words. She read along the paper feeling a lump grow in the back of her throat as she reached the bottom of the of the very short story. She walked over towards the globe to pick it up in her hands, feeling Kevin get behind her.

“The man took a step in behind the woman, wrapping his arms around her waist,” Kevin whispered the last part of story, doing the same thing that the story had said. He wrapped his arms around her, reaching out to hold the globe with her hands in his. Kevin began to go on with the rest of the story he memorized as he felt Angela’s fingers slide in over his. “I may be gone from your life and this is my last time to ever say the words I feel so deeply for you in my heart, but I’m not going to say them. Because deep down, I know that your heart knows the truth. I may not exist in your view anymore, but I will live on throughout you. My love--our happiness, it will stay in your heart forever. Knowing that my last moment with you may have been close, I had to make sure you remembered me in a way no other could. Every time you feel like you are lost and have no where to go, shake this globe and you will be reminded of how great you are and all your worries will go away. If you feel like there is no other way to go on, shake this globe and the pain will be raised from your body. The only promise I need you to keep is for you to shake this globe every morning, so you could get the strength I used to be able to give you. And when you get that strength, I want you to pass it on to the twins.”

Kevin gently pressed a kiss on her cheek, feeling her fingers squeeze his tighter as he kissed her on the cheek once more. He had to have planned this out perfectly because he memorized all the things that had gone on in the end of the story.

“This may be my last time to say this, but I never stopped…” Kevin whispered in her ear, kissing her cheek once more as he held her tighter in his arms. “I wish I could finish, but I can’t--I have to go now.”

“Why?” Angela read the woman’s line before feeling Kevin let her go when in the story the man disappeared from the scene.

“The woman placed her hands over her stomach gently and promised to the heavens above--she would never give up on her children and herself,” Kevin ran his hands down, over her growing stomach and caressed it gently with his hands trying to make her as comfortable as possible. “She may not have had the will power to go on, but for her children she would. She would never give up on the strength that her and her lover had built. She would always stay strong for her children and she would never give up that hope. No matter what it took, she would make sure she stayed there for her children making sure that everyday she would be the one to see the children because the love in the heavens would never give up on her as long as she still had hope and believed.”

“Kevin,” Angela’s hands were now shaking because of the way Kevin had written the story and read it aloud to her. His hands slid up and over hers, noticing that they were shaking. He held her hands sturdy against the globe, making sure she wouldn’t be able to drop it. “How did you come up with that Kevin?”

“I have to give you a way to not give up hope Angie,” Kevin shrugged his shoulders, feeling her rest back into his chest as he let out a small sigh. “This was what I came up with. I took all the writing ability I had and came up with a story. The thing about her lover might be sad, but it makes you believe that there is someone who will protect you and always be there for you.”

Angela said nothing, just leaned forward and set the globe down on the desk and turned to Kevin as he saw the tears sliding down her face.

“Angie, I’m so sorry,” Kevin apologized, reaching out to push some of her tears away with his thumb gently. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m just trying to let you have that hope for your babies. I can’t let you give up Angie because once giving up--you can‘t stop. And eventually you are going to give up on everything and I can‘t see my best friend go down like that.”

“I just don’t know what to say Kevin,” Angela began, feeling him pull her into his arms as she rested her head against his chest. “I guess it was just so beautiful.”

“I don’t like you crying--it wasn’t supposed to make you cry Angie,” Kevin frowned, hearing a song on the radio that Angela had on. He slowly slipped her out of his arms as he looked down at her. Kevin went over to turn the radio up as he held his hand out to her. “Dance with me. It will make you feel better.”

“Kevin, come on--not here,” Angela chuckled seeing Kevin shrug his shoulders as he looked around the room before looking back down at her. He gave her his best puppy eyes as she let out a small sigh. “How can I say no to that look?”

“Exactly, it’s not like there is anyone here,” Kevin pointed out, holding his hand out to hers and pulling her in closer to him. He wrapped his left arm around her waist gently, feeling her wrap her around his neck. Kevin’s fingers laced in with hers as he slowly led her to dance with him to the song he remembered dancing with her to a long time ago.

“I can’t believe you did all this for me,” Angela smirked, looking up into Kevin’s brown eyes seeing him simply shrug. “It was very sweet of you Kevin.”

“I couldn’t let you give up hope on the fact of having a family and those twins. One day, I want to have children with the person I love,” Kevin declared, thinking back to Ria and their relationship. Sure, he wanted a child so bad, but there was an uncertainty that Ria might not be comfortable with having a child so fast. “I want to have a family that I am happy with and if my best friend gives up--then what I am supposed to do? I need someone to look up to when it comes to parenting.”

“Look up to me Kevin? I hardly think you should look up to me. I think you are just trying to lighten the moment,” Angela pointed out with a small smile as she removed her hand from his and wrapped her other arm around Kevin’s neck. She felt Kevin’s hands slide in against her hips as she let out a small sigh. “You are such a great friend Kevin.”

“And that’s all I want to be,” Kevin whispered, seeing the glance she gave him as he shrugged his shoulders. “What?”

“What does that mean?” Angela eyed Kevin over slowly as she saw him shrug and think about the answer for a moment.

“I mean I want to be good to you and I just want to be your friend that’s here for you. I‘ll be the friend that‘s never going to leave your side,” Kevin answered, thinking back to Ria and all the dreams he had planned out for him and Ria. The words he spoke were true in every aspect--he would have been stupid to even think he didn’t love Ria because he did. He always did and the future and family he wanted was with Ria. There was always that hope he had for so very long for him and Angie to be together and have the family they were supposed to have, but he had to give up on that hope. He couldn’t go back and change the past to bring back his child and make everything better. Sure, he wished like hell that he could do that, but there was no chance he could ever have the one thing he wanted most back into his life and that was his child. With Ria, he could sooner or later have that family he was supposed to have. “Let’s just say--I think we both have bright futures ahead of us.”


“Are you two about ready to go?” Trisha heard the pilot call out to Chase as she felt her heart skip a beat. What was she going to do? This scared the crap out of her, plain and simple.

“Yeah, we have to suit up first,” Chase answered back, slowly getting up off the ground and reaching his hand out to help her up off the ground. “You okay?”

“Can I ask you a question?” Trisha uneasily began as she saw Chase grab some things from the floor. “Isn’t this illegal? I mean, doing this.”

“Depends on how you look at it,” Chase shrugged, pulling a coat on as he handed one to her. “Here, you might want to wear this. Things might get a bit chilly.”

“Chase, this is crazy,” she worried looking down at the jacket before shaking her head slowly. There was no way she could go through with this, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing. “I don’t know how to do this. I can’t do it.”

“That’s why I am going to have you harnessed to me,” Chase informed her as he pulled the pack over his shoulders and then clipped it together making sure everything was tight. “Don’t worry Trisha, I know what I am doing. I have a license for this, so you are going to have to just trust me? You trust me, don’t you?”

“I…I guess so,” Trisha answered with a small sigh, pulling the jacket on as she let out a small sigh. This was so stupid, why was she even thinking about doing this? Never mind, that was a dumb question. She liked Chase and she couldn’t help but trust him. Maybe it was his blue eyes that made her fall into him. “So when are we doing this?”

“In about a minute,” Chase informed her, motioning her to step in closer to him. He got in behind her, helping her get harnessed in before pulling her in the tightest he could against him. “Once the pilot gives up the okay. Are you okay? Tight enough?”

“Yeah, it feels tight,” Trisha answered a small bit out of breath as she felt the harness digging into her. “I think.”

“Now remember, if you get scared,” Chase began taking a few steps forward, making her take a few steps forward, “just tell me. You aren’t going to get hurt. I promise.”

“It’s about time guys,” the pilot informed them as Chase got hooked up to jump.

“Are you ready?” he questioned seeing the look behind her eyes as he let out a small laugh. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” Trisha lied as they got towards the opened door as she let out a small gasp once they reached the edge. “No, I changed my mind--I’m not ready.”

She tried to go back, but it was too late because Chase had already jumped from the plane and she felt herself falling down with him right behind her. She brought her hands up and over her eyes wishing to god that this would be a dream. A very weird, messed up dream.

“You have to see this,” Chase raised his voice so that she could hear him as he placed his hands over hers and moved her hands away from her eyes. He could tell she was nervous, who wouldn’t be on their first try? “Here.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Trisha yelled, trying to keep herself under control, but she couldn’t help having a panic attack as she saw the land before her spinning. “I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”

“No you’re not,” he laughed, grabbing her hands in his as he leaned forward making them go more at a straighter diagonal. He enclosed his fingers with hers as he spread her arms out straight with his. “Just glide. It’s like you’re a bird. Forget about the fear and feel everything that is great about this.”

“I can’t do that,” Trisha yelled, slightly fidgeting under his touch wanting this to be over with as she felt the land becoming closer and closer, but it was still to far away. “Chase, I can’t do this.”

“Yes you can, clear your mind,” Chase tried to encourage her as he saw her close her eyes. She became looser as she opened her eyes and did everything he told her to do. “Good girl. What do you think?”

“This,” Trisha began, feeling the cool wind against her face as she felt her hair brushing up against her face. “It’s incredible. This is so cool.”

“I told you that you would like it,” Chase promised feeling a small smile appear over her lips as he saw her smile once she got used to everything that was going on around her. “I have to pull on the cord, it’s going to give us kind of a jolt. You going to be okay?”

“Yeah,” Trisha quickly answered feeling her and chase get jolted back as the parachute opened and made them slow down their pace--making them glide smoothly through the air. “This is incredible Chase.”

“I told you I wouldn’t let anything happen to you,” he smiled to himself, feeling her arm wrap around his as they got closer to the ground. “Five, four, three…”

They gently hit the ground as he fell down and brought her on top of him. She fell forward against his chest as she let out a small laugh.

“I think you missed two and one,” she informed him with a small smile as he reached up to push some of her hair behind her ear. “I feel like refreshed. It’s different, it’s like my heart is beating really quickly, but I like it.”

“Does that mean you will do this again with me?” Chase arched his eyebrow up at her as he saw her think things over for a moment. “What’s the answer?”

“Well, not today,” she began before letting out a small laugh, “but when it comes to any other day--oh yeah.”

“Good,” Chase chuckled, getting up off the ground and unclipping himself from the parachute. He reached out to help her up off the ground before pulling her in closer to him. “I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks,” Trisha grinned widely as she felt him kiss the side of her cheek gently. Maybe Chase wasn’t turning out to be that bad after all.


“Wow, is this really your place?” Heather couldn’t help but ask taking a long look around at the building that surrounded her.

“Do you really need to ask,” Chris questioned setting the last box down. He walked up behind her noting that she’d been immediately drawn to the door wall leading out onto the lake. It was a beautiful sight indeed especially with the way the sky was lit up with an array of colors before them.

“Well I just assumed,” she glanced over her shoulder at him catching the grin that spread over his features. She paused thinking about all she’d learned about him in the short time they’d spent with one another, “I mean I guess I just never assumed that class and style fit into the program with you.”

“There are a lot of things that you don’t know about me Heather--things that might surprise you,” he traced his finger over her shoulder for the briefest of seconds before turning towards the bar, “Can I interest you in a drink? A brandy perhaps?”

“Sure, that sounds great,” she nodded her eyes still fixed on the scene outside of his place. “Don’t get me wrong Chris. I mean I knew you said that you were moving on up out of that hotel, but I never imagined that you’d have a place this posh. It’s really…”

“Fantastic,” he finished stealing the words from her mouth as she spun around to face him. He poured their drinks before smiling at her, “You’ll be amazed at where my career has taken me. I’d like to think that I’ve made it in my own way there.”

“You most certainly have,” she nodded in agreement accepting the glass from his hand, “This place is remarkable and I haven’t seen anything other than the first couple of rooms.”

“In that case, let me give you the grand tour,” he suggested holding his arm out to her.

She eyed him wearily, her gaze dropping down to his outstretched arm, “Now tell me is this about business or pleasure for you?”

“What would you like it to be,” he inquired feeling her lace her arm in his.

“I think you know what I want Chris,” she mouthed matter of fact feeling his hold on her.

“Unfortunately for the both of us I do,” he sighed leading her through his house, “though I do have to tell you that Dr. Hernandez really isn’t worth your time. I mean really if I this guy passed you by there Heather, then why grovel and hope to recapture his attention? He should be the one chasing you down and trying to get you to notice him. Not the other way around.”

“You quit worrying about my love life and just show me around your place,” she suggested with a small smile, “I’m sure that we’ll get along much better that way.”

“If you insist,” he lead her into the study, which had a very impressive oversized aquarium on the far left wall. Unable to help herself she detangled her arm from his and moved in for a closer inspection.

“Wow,” she couldn’t help but gasp, “this is amazing.”

“I have a thing for tropical fish,” Chris explained readily watching one of the multicolored fish swim past Heather, “When I saw that I knew that this was the place for me. I’ve picked up quite a taste for the exotic and I don’t think it gets more exotic than that.”

“I don’t think it does,” she let out a small laugh, “Why I remember when I was younger I thought I really had it all when I had a little goldfish in this juice glass. I mean it wasn’t much considering he was just some feeder fish that I’d picked up with the money I’d earned after my mom worked a double shift.”

“Did he happen to have a name?” Chris questioned stepping in closer to her.

“As a matter of fact he did,” she nodded glancing over at him with a thoughtful expression, “His name was Ollie and I loved him for the whole week that I had him as a pet.”

“A whole week you say,” Chris arched a curious brow.

She nodded again, “Yeah like I said he was a feeder fish and then after the week was up, well he just didn’t make it. We wound up flushing him down the toilet after Sarah and I had our own memorial for him. It was pretty lame, but I guess at the time we thought we were doing something wonderful for him.”

“I’m sure Ollie appreciated it,” Chris smiled down at her thoughtfully, “I think that I would’ve even appreciated having you give me a tribute like that.”

“Stop making fun of me,” Heather curled her lip in a pout.

“I’m not making fun of you,” Chris reached out to touch her cheek unable to help himself. He pushed a loose strand of her long, golden hair from her face before offering up a smile, “I’m sure wherever Ollie is he’s happy to have been able to spend that whole week of his life as your companion.”

“I really wasn’t much of a companion,” she shrugged her shoulders her eyes falling to the aquarium again, “It was no where near as nice as this was.”

“Maybe not, but you know maybe we can help the spirit of Ollie live on,” Chris suggested reaching for her hand and pulling her in closer to the aquarium, “Why do you see that fish right there?”

“Which one,” Heather watched a swarm of them swim past her.

“That one right there with the orange spot on his tail,” Chris pointed out once again, “Why I was just talking to him a few hours ago and you know what he told me? Why he told me that his great, great, great grandfather was your very own Ollie.”

“Chris,” Heather gave him a look, “please.”

“I’m serious,” Chris continued with a coy expression, “His name is Jebediah which is a name he’d really rather not get into given that he wasn’t quite happy being the fish dubbed Jebediah especially after his father lost a bet during a card game one night…”

“Come on,” Heather groaned inwardly watching him point to the fish again who now swam around in a zigzag pattern.

“I swear it’s the truth. You see earlier Jeb and I were chatting it up and he was telling me all about his great, great, great grandfather Ollie and how Ollie was quite a ladies man. I’ll have you know that he had over three billion children in his short time on the planet and fortunately for Jeb here, well his great, great, great grandmother happened to be one of the lucky few that caught his eye. Ollie just had a thing for redheads you see, so you know one thing lead to another and…” Chris continued his fish tale as Heather let out a laugh.

“You’re insane. You know that right?” Heather shook her head at him.

“It made you smile didn’t it,” he replied the laughter fading from his voice, “which by the way that’s something that you should do more often considering how beautiful you look doing it.”

“Chris, come on,” she wrinkled her nose at him, “while I appreciate the gesture, we both know full well that old Ollie is by no means related to Jeb.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not,” he shrugged his shoulders before leaning in closer to her, “but if we don’t clue him in to anything to the contrary, he can live out the rest of his days feeling like a blessed man to have been a part of Ollie’s life somehow if only by the tales passed down through the years.”

“Well I suppose we don’t want to crush him,” Heather decided turning her attention to the fish in front of her, “I would hate to break his heart.”

“Then let’s not do that. Let’s just lead him to believe that life is perfect and wonderful and peaceful,” he stepped in closer to her.

“But then we’d be lying to him,” Heather tipped her head up suddenly very aware of how close to her Chris was.

“Would we really be lying by trying to be so kind to a fish like Jeb,” he questioned sliding his finger around to curl underneath her chin. He watched her mouth open, saw the way her lips parted in anticipation and he knew it was time to make his move. Leaning in towards her, he could feel her breath wash over his, her lips a fraction of an inch away and just as he started to close in on her, there was a sound alerting him that he had a new email in his box.

“What in the world,” Heather jumped back snapping out of the daze they’d seemingly been put in with one another. She wrapped her arm around her torso carefully before searching out the source of the sound. “What was that?”

“I’m popular,” he shrugged his shoulders sliding his hands into his pockets before motioning to the computer on the desk at the other side of the room, “I have e-mail.”

“Well aren’t you going to check it,” she questioned arching a curious brow.

“I’m sure it’s not all that important,” he shrugged catching her uneasiness after their almost kiss, “but I could look.”

“Sure, why don’t you,” Heather turned around directing her attention to the flat screen television in front of her. She reached for the remote turning it on to see the perfect digital image before her as Chris let out a small laugh.

“Well I’ll be damned,” he chuckled clearly amused with whatever was in front of him.

“I take it you were expecting good news,” Heather finally glanced over her shoulder at him.

“Not like this, but this is really good,” he rubbed his hands together his eyes scanning the message in front of him eagerly.

“Well, what is it?” she couldn’t help but ask stepping in closer to him.

“Just an old friend trying to catch up,” he explained cryptically closing his e-mail program down right before she could spy on him. “Nothing major.”

“It isn’t nothing major judging by that expression,” she eyed him suspiciously, “Who was it?”

“No one that you need to worry about,” he deflected ready to say something more when a news story flashed on about Russell Denton being alive.

“Oh my,” Heather reached for the remote turning it up again as she found herself mesmerized by the tale unfolding before her eyes.

“This one sure takes the cake doesn’t it,” Chris couldn’t help but add getting in for a closer look considering he was certain he was seeing the beginning of the end for Brant Ashford. Yes, this return of Russ spelled trouble for Brant indeed, but somehow Chris found himself enjoying every second of it, even if Russell’s return would probably no doubt effect his life as well.


Diego closed the door carefully behind him, his face still reeling from the blow he’d been delivered downstairs in the cafeteria. He closed his eyes for a brief second feeling the breath pour out from his lungs to the back of his throat before finally falling from his lips. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but this was something he couldn’t put off any longer. Opening his eyes again he saw Cori standing in the center of his office. Saying nothing he walked around to his desk opening the top drawer and hanging her a towel to wipe herself off with.

“Diego, I’m sorry about what happened down there, but Sarah was asking for it. The way that she was all over you drove me crazy and,” she started her lips crunched up in a tight, pinch, “I just didn’t like it all.”

“We were just talking Cori. Sarah is my friend and,” Diego started feeling guilt riding over him at the knowledge that he and Sarah had somehow inadvertently crossed over the line of being just friends with one another not so long ago. Still he couldn’t let that distract him from what was on his mind.

“And she’s a manipulator Diego. She knows that we’re happy and she wants to destroy that. She wants to find a way to turn you against me and…” Cori started to rant all over again twisting the ends of the towel he’d given her. He watched her curl her fingers around the towel twisting it and turning it as if she could tear it right then and there into pieces.

“Look Cori,” Diego cleared his throat uneasily knowing full well that this was the last thing he wanted to get into with her, but he needed to be honest about something. If he was ever going to be able to live with himself, then he needed to start owning up to his sense of what was right and wrong. He couldn’t hold back any longer. He had to get it out. “We need to talk.”

“Diego, I said I was sorry,” she began again her lips curling into a pout. She released her death grip on the towel and took a step towards him, “I didn’t mean to get you stuck in the middle of that, but…”

“But I think that I brought what happened on myself by not being honest about everything,” Diego sighed heavily fighting to find the right words. He let out a small breath before continuing to speak up, “Cori, I like you a lot. I always have…”

“But why do I sense a but coming up?” she eyed him with wide eyes, “Diego, I said that I was sorry. I mean if you want me to apologize to her, then I suppose I can, but…”

“No, I don’t want you to apologize to Sarah, but I do feel as if I owe you an apology Cori. I mean I really thought that I was ready for something like this--like I could give you what you need, but the truth to the matter is that I’m not where I thought I was in my life,” Diego sighed heavily hating himself with each word.

“Diego…” she spoke his name a worried expression on her face.

“Cori, the truth to the matter is that I think I made a mistake. I think I pushed for us to have something more than either one of us was ready for,” he replied guilt riding over him, “The truth is that I’m just not boyfriend material right now. You deserve so much more and…”

“Are you dumping me Diego?” she gasped her eyes as wide as saucers as she watched him closely, “Please tell me that you’re not dumping me. I swear that I can change. Whatever I did wrong, I can make it right. I can change…”

“No Cori,” he shook his head poignantly, “This isn’t you. It’s me. I’m a horrible boyfriend and I can’t believe that I did all that I did. You deserve someone who is wonderful and can treat you like a princess. You need someone who can put you first and…”

“You do all of those things for me Diego,” she pleaded desperately throwing her arms around him, “You are so good to me.”

“Not good enough,” he mouthed detangling himself from her arms, “Cori, you’re a wonderful woman. You’re beautiful, charming, exciting and an amazing person to be around, but right now I just don’t think I’m ready for anything more than friendship. You’re a great friend of mine and that’s why it hurts me to be saying this to you, but I can’t keep leading you on giving you hope for something that simply isn’t ever going to happen for us. I’m sorry, but I think it’s best if we stop seeing one another.”

“What?” her jaw dropped.

“Cori, I’m sorry but,” he began again knowing how feeble his reasoning sounded.

“Oh you’re going to be sorry alright because I’m telling you right now Diego it’s not happening!” she snapped at him, her eyes narrowing in anger, “You’re not dumping me. This is not happening!”


Kyle let out a small groan as he reached his hand up to touch his forehead gently. He had the biggest headache right now from all the problems that the three losers had been giving him. Not only did he have a headache, but his thigh hurt from the shot that Don had given him earlier.

“I’m going to get him one day,” Kyle scowled closing his eyes as he rested his head against the wall. He felt someone touch his shoulder as he let out a small frown figuring that it was probably one of three idiots coming to harass him again. “What?”

“Sorry,” Sarah apologized seeing Kyle look over at her with his dark eyes before letting out a apologetic expression. “I didn’t mean to bother you, I was just…”

“You’re okay, it’s not you,” Kyle sighed turning to face her as he placed his hand over his thigh. “It’s just, almost everyone I know is turning out to be disappointing.”

“I’m sorry,” Sarah reached out to touch Kyle, but stopped when she realized that her hand still had some of the food Cori had thrown on her earlier.

“What the hell happened to you?” Kyle questioned finally noticing the goop that was in her hair, on her neck and her clothes. “It looks like you got into fight with the whole cafeteria.”

“I know,” she frowned feeling Kyle reach up to wipe something away from her cheek before looking down at her fingers.

“I appreciate you wanting to bring me some lunch sweetheart, but I think on a tray would have been nicer. And I could have done without the pudding--I’m lactose intolerant, you should know that.”

“Very funny,” Sarah smirked, watching Kyle grab something from his pocket to wipe his fingers off. “Even though it may seem funny, it was actually kind of upsetting.”

“I can see that,” Kyle nodded slowly simply shrugging his shoulders as he spoke. “It seems pretty sad because it looks like the food won.”

“Kyle, stop it,” Sarah chuckled, reaching out to poke him in the chest lightly before looking down towards the ground. “It’s nice to see you joking you know.”

“Well, what can I say? I’m not really joking,” Kyle pointed out with a small smirk as he saw her look up at him. “I actually think it’s kind of funny seeing you covered in that. I think you dressed up in food looks great.”

“Well, you’ve seen be dressed in less,” Sarah stated seeing Kyle smirk and look down towards the ground.

“Yeah,” Kyle uneasily got out before looking down to his watch. He cleared his throat before speaking up again, “I have seen you like that.”

“Are you okay?” Sarah questioned seeing the way that Kyle had gotten quiet once she had said that. “Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing is wrong,” Kyle tried to assure her, letting out a small shrug as he thought about what went up. When she said that, for some reason he felt very uncomfortable. In a way that he had never really felt before.


“I can’t believe this,” Russell threw his hands up in the air, anger flaring over at the thought of what Brant was trying to pull in a desperate attempt to keep him away from Avery, “After everything that’s happened for Brant to try something like this, well it’s a whole new low for him.”

“Does it really surprise you though Russ?” Grady questioned with a frown hating to see his brother so worked up.

“Truthfully no,” Russ shook his head throwing his hands up in the air, “This is just like an Ashford to try to manipulate and destroy the lives of those around them. I don’t know why Avery would think that marrying him was a smart idea.”

“I thought Kyle told you why she did what she did,” Grady sighed bringing his fingers through his own dark hair, “She was trying to protect Erin and I.”

“I get that part,” Russ paused thinking about what Kyle had told him, “No I really can’t say that I do. I mean I understand that she was in trouble--that some kind of situation arose with Brooke, but…”

“But nothing,” Grady frowned at his younger brother, “Brooke tried to kill Erin. She tried to hurt Avery and at the time I was up for those murder charges. Half this town thought I was guilty of murder and Avery knew if she wound up in jail that neither Erin nor I would have a fighting chance. She saw an opportunity to save us all and she took it. You can’t fault her that.”

“I’m not saying that I do, but…” Russ sighed heavily, “Grady, it’s Brant Ashford we’re talking about.”

“That’s right Russ and she thought that Brant could protect her. She really, truly believed that he would keep her out of jail and despite all of his many faults, he did accomplish that,” Grady pointed out with a frown, “Look I’m not saying that I was happy about it either little brother, but she did what she had to do. That’s what we’ve all been doing in order to survive. We didn’t have any other choices…”

“Yes, but Brant,” Russ shook his head letting out a long sigh, “I’m sure Jade loved hearing about that one since I’m sure you were in an uproar over Avery and Brant.”

“Yes I was, but when she explained to me what Brooke did, I knew that she was doing what she could to save Erin. She had no choice,” Grady repeated himself remembering Avery’s tear-filled confession, “She never stopped loving you Russ, but when she thought you’d died she was vulnerable…”

“And Brant just rushed into that one, didn’t he?” Russ sank into the chair in the waiting room, “He just found a way to weasel himself into her life and take advantage of everything.”

“Russ, you don’t know what it was like for her--for any of us,” Grady took a seat beside him, “Here we were all hoping for some slice of happiness, but then it was ripped away from all of us. First with you and then with Jade…”

“Jade,” Russ replied giving him a blank expression, “What about Jade? Come to think of it, why isn’t she here? You told me that she was upset, but I hope that doesn’t mean that you being worked up over Avery and Brant signaled the end for the both of you. It’s not like her not to be here after you nearly lost your life trying to save Avery…”

“Russ,” Grady took in a long breath not quite knowing what to say about the situation, “there’s no easy way to put this. Even now it’s been hard for me to face the reality of the situation, but…”

“But what?” Russ searched his brother’s eyes, “Grady what is it?”

“Jade’s dead,” Grady blurted out solemnly trying to hold it all together as he filled his brother in on what was happening in town since his disappearance, “Susan kidnapped her not so long ago. She was crazy and before I was able to get cleared of the charges against me, she took Jade. None of us knew where she was and then Susan…she…”

“She what,” Russ couldn’t help but ask fear sweeping in over him.

“She left Jade in this building and there was an explosion,” Grady shuddered at the memory thinking about the love he’d lost. He dropped his head for a moment feeling the pain of the memory hit him all over again, “She didn’t even have a fighting chance. Susan planted some kind of bomb just like she did at the airport and…”

“At the airport,” Russ repeated horrified, “You mean she was the one that…”

“That caused the explosion,” Grady nodded painfully, “Susan was responsible for the loss of so many lives, but she didn’t stop at that. She didn’t stop until she took everything away from me. First with you and then with Jade…and now…”

“Oh Grady,” Russ began finding himself at a loss at his brother’s obvious pain, “I’m so sorry. I had no idea that…”

“How could you? I mean there you were somewhere out there and none of us thought that you were alive. We all believed that you’d died in that explosion at the airport. We thought that you’d died and…” Grady explained as Russ found himself drifting off to where he’d been during the time he’d been away. He could remember clearly the time he’d spent with Angela. The moment he’d washed up on the island and suddenly another shocking memory hit him.

“Russ, what is it?” Grady questioned seeing the flash of realization in his brother’s eyes, “What’s going on?”

“I remember,” Russ turned to Grady a horrified expression on his face, “I remember being at the airport and meeting with that woman. We were in her car and then the door opened and…”

“And what?” Grady’s eyes widened with obvious interest.

“Someone was there. I felt a hand around my neck someone placing something over my mouth and then,” Russ closed his eyes feeling a blurry vision overtake him. He could see some kind of male form lingering over him dragging him through the parking lot. He could vaguely remember reaching out, tearing a piece of paper from a document that he’d been carrying earlier. There was something about that paper that…

“Russ where were you? What was happening?” Grady couldn’t help but ask his brother noticing that the color had drained from his face completely.

“I washed up on an island. I had amnesia and…” Russell felt a flash of his making love to Angela spill over the other memories that had been coming to him. Guilt poured over him at all the times he’d spent with Angela in an intimate setting when Avery was here in Coral Valley lost in a world of misery. She’d been hurting and he hadn’t picked up on it. He hadn’t felt it. Hell, he couldn’t even remember it and now…

“Russ talk to me,” Grady snapped his fingers in front of his brother’s face trying to keep him focused, “What happened while you were gone?”

“Grady I…” Russ found himself at a loss knowing full well that what had happened on the island was something that he couldn’t push out of his mind no matter how hard he’d wanted to. Yes, he hadn’t remembered his life--hadn’t remembered his family, his life and love with Avery in Coral Valley, yet somehow he knew he should’ve. He should’ve been able to push past the uncertainty--to find some clarity instead of living his life on the island being someone else. He should’ve been brought into a place where he could be Russell Denton again and not Nick Smith. Not…

“Russ talk to me,” Grady urged him once again, “What is going on with you?”

“Nick,” Russell blurted out almost immediately realization dawning in upon him. Suddenly all the blurred lines began to make sense to him.

“Nick?” Grady repeated giving him a strange look, “Russ, what are you talking about?”

“Nick. Nicholas,” Russ blurted out recalling full well what it was that he’d been desperately clinging onto. He saw the print before him flash over and over again. Suddenly the picture was painfully clear and in that moment he knew that he had to find a way to get in and see Avery before it was too late--before something else happened to her due to forces that were beyond any of their control now that the dead had returned to power.


Don took a quick look around the hall hoping like hell that no one would see what he was getting himself into. Hot water was probably the best term for it, but he knew that he had to play his part in Brant’s attempt to hold onto his happiness or else it was curtains for Brant’s marriage. Right now Don was certain that would drive his best buddy over the edge and that was a fate that he wasn’t about to let Brant face. One way or another Russ had to be eliminated and if this was how it had to be done, then so be it.

Taking in a small breath Don pushed open the door to the lab seeing the tech standing before him. The small woman was hunched over a microscope looking at something when Don walked in.

“Hey Shelby,” Don waved at the woman seeing her peer up from behind her thick glasses. While Don hated to act like a jerk, he’d known for years that Shelby had been one of the many who’d had a small crush on him. While they weren’t at all compatible Don had flirted with her every now and then in the hopes of making her feel special. Now he was about to do the same thing for an altogether different reason, “How’s it going?”

“Doctor Leveski,” she stumbled backward nearly knocking a rack down in the process, “hi.”

“Hey you’d better watch yourself Shelby,” he spoke her name with a smile seeing the goofy grin that spread over her awkward features, “You don’t want to hurt yourself.”

“Of course not Dr. Leveski,” she nodded bringing her hand up to her now red face, “I’m not usually so clumsy, but…”

“It’s okay Shelby and please call me Don,” he grinned wider watch her heart do flip flops as he prepared to make his move, “So what are you working on?”

“Nothing really,” she shrugged trying to be casual about the things she had going on, “I mean there is a little bit of this and that.”

“Just a normal day huh?” he arched a curious brow.

“Pretty much,” she nodded before a gasp spilled over her lips, “although there was that whole matter of Brant Ashford’s paternity situation…”

“Paternity situation?” Don feigned innocence, “What do you mean?”

“Well it turns out that his wife might have had another man’s baby,” she explained leaning forward to spread the juicy gossip to him, “It’s turned into quite a rumor around here at the hospital.”

“And let me guess,” Don leaned in closer yet to her, “You’re the one that they brought in to put that rumor to rest.”

She grinned widely, “That’s right, and believe me I’m going to. I’m about to crack the big mystery around here. I was just about to work on it now and…”

“Can I take a look,” Don questioned reaching out to touch her hand. He saw her shiver at the contact.

“Well I don’t know,” she frowned slightly, “I was given explicit instructions not to be sharing the results of the DNA test with anyone else until they were ready and even at that…”

“Oh come on. We’re friends, aren’t we Shelby? You can let me in on this one, can’t you,” Don wiggled his brow at her hearing the giggles that broke over her from that response.

“Well I suppose just for you it wouldn’t be such a big deal considering…” she started hearing the buzz of her pager going off. Frowning she reached for it taking a long look at it, “It’s upstairs.”

“Hmm, I wonder what they want,” Don leaned back innocently watching her move over to the phone.

“I’d better find out,” she explained calling back to get the message that was sent out for her. Seconds later she hung up with a small squeal, “There’s a package for me at the front desk. Something about roses and…”

“Wow, it sounds like you have a secret admirer,” Don mouthed with a wink, “Perhaps it’s someone you know around here.”

“Maybe,” she nodded, “Although it seems a bit strange. Still…”

“You’re curious to check it out, aren’t you?” he wiggled his brow at her.

“I really shouldn’t, but…” she shifted on her feet uneasily.

“Go ahead. I’ll keep an eye on things around here. It’ll be our secret,” Don promised watching her eye the door excitedly.

“Okay, but I won’t be long,” she promised giving him one last look, “Thanks Dr. Leveski.”

“Don,” he replied watching her leave. He let out a small breath knowing full well that she would be caught up in the delivery he’d called in for her. Knowing that she was the romantic type he’d ordered an oversized bouquet from her secret admirer to have her swooning for long enough to get what he needed to get done.

“Now to work,” Don moved over to see the results of the DNA test printing out on the page before him. It was amazing how fast Brant got something when he wanted it done. What would normally take forever would take a fraction of the time when and Ashford was involved. However in this particular scenario it was going to take a few minutes longer, Don decided reaching for the last page of the results and taking it with him over to the shredder.

“Sorry Russ, but I can’t let you ruin something that Brant’s been working for here,” Don explained holding up the papers to take a quick look at them just for the hell of it when his jaw dropped. He felt the papers slip out of his reach and quickly he shuffled to the floor to pick them up. Unable to believe what he was seeing, Don lay the papers down on the countertop finding himself at a loss when the reality of the situation swept over him. Sure, he’d come in here to help a friend, but with what he was seeing, it suddenly put a new spin on the situation--a spin that was about to change everything from here on out!


...to be continued...