Episode 290

“This is just wonderful,” Grady tapped on the wheel of his car slowly as he waited for the traffic to pass. He decided that today he would try to go to work to get everything off his mind. All the things that had been happening lately, including what had happened with Avery last night. It was a shock to him that not only did she not have any clue of what he was talking about last night, but she was feeling absolutely nothing for him.

A small groan of aggravation came out of his mouth as he pulled out of the traffic and into the parking lot of a bagel store that was a couple of blocks away from his work.

“I can’t stand all this traffic,” Grady turned the car off taking another look at all the cars on the road before letting out a small sigh. He would just take some time for the traffic to die down and then he would try and make it to work. “It might be nice to just relax for a while.”

Grady walked inside the bagel shop, taking a look around the crowded bagel shop. Everybody must have taken his idea about waiting out the traffic and came in here. He went to take a step forward only to feel someone knock into him from the side making him knock into a woman that was right next to him.

“Excuse me miss, the people seem to be a little bit pushy in here,” Grady grabbed onto the woman’s arm gently as he made sure that she didn’t fall to the ground.

“Tell me about it,” Deana looked up to see Grady standing before her as she let out a small sigh and shook her head slowly. “Oh, it’s you that ran into me on accident.”

“It was an accident, that big man over there just ran into me,” Grady pointed out towards the man that ran into him before seeing her roll her eyes at his comment. “Don’t believe me? I can prove it to you, I will just go up to him and politely ask him to tell you that he rudely pushed me aside and into you.”

“Stay here with me,” she grabbed his hand tightly seeing the smile that developed over his features. “I don’t need to take you to the hospital to stitch you up again. I don’t want to be spending more time with you then I need to.”

“Well, that’s too bad because I think you should just take a load of and relax with me for a while,” Grady held onto her hand, leading her over to one of the tables before holding the seat out for her, “My lady.”

“Grady, I think I should get going to work,” Deana tried to get out of the situation seeing the frown he was giving her, almost begging her like a dog to stay. “Grady--I can’t.”

“Please, I promise that if you are late I will go in there and I will get on my hands and knees begging them for forgiveness because I was the one that took your time away,” Grady informed her with a small smile as she took a seat and he sat across from her. “If you’re late, I will go in there with you.”

“I think it’s explainable that there was traffic out,” she pointed out towards the traffic through the window before shrugging her shoulders. “Anyways, those pants look too nice on you to get on your knees on that dirty floor.”

“You are too beautiful to have that frown across your features,” he replied with a small grin as he reached out to squeeze her hand in his tightly, “so why don’t you smile for Grady so you can lighten up this whole bagel shop.”

“Grady stop it,” Deana pulled away from him, feeling a warmness coming in over her cheeks as Grady let out a small laugh seeing the way she looked down towards the ground.

“Come on, what do I have to do to make you laugh?” Grady questioned with a small wiggle of his eyebrows before picking up one of the sugars from the center of the table. “Don’t make me throw this thing at you because…”

“Grady,” she snapped seeing the sugar package slip from his fingers and fly backwards, going back and hitting the big man that Grady had pointed out earlier right in the center of the forehead. “Oh my, Grady you just…”

“Look away from him,” he motioned her to look away as she let out a small laugh seeing the guy look around, searching for the person that hit him as Grady let out a small breath. “Man, he looks like one of those robots in those movies. Except like the prototype because it looks like the scientists screwed up that face a little bit and that hair…”

“Grady, stop it,” Deana swatted at his hand hearing him let out a small laugh before she shook her head slowly at the way he was acting. “You’re crazy I hope you know and speaking of crazy. Are you stalking me?”

“Good cover,” Grady snapped his fingers seeing her looking at him like he was crazy as he shrugged his shoulders, “I think you are the one that is stalking me.”

“Me? Stalking you? I don’t think so,” she shook her head slowly before letting out a small laugh. She felt her pager start to go off before getting up from her seat. “I have to get going to work now. Bye Grady.”

“Wait, before you,” Grady tried to catch her hand, only to feel her slip away from him and walk out the door towards her car. He let out a small sigh, finishing his sentence as he shrugged his shoulders. “I was hoping we could go out sometime.”

“Nice try buddy,” one of the waitresses patted him on the back before letting out a loud laugh, “you might want to let it go and give it up.”

“Very funny,” Grady frowned thinking back to Deana and how hard she was trying to be serious with him. “She likes me, I know she does and I will get her to go out with me at least once. I know it.”


“I can’t believe this happened,” Sarah threw her hands up in the air unable to refrain from feeling her world falling to pieces after the fire had done a number on her apartment. She reached for a book that she’d been reading earlier in the month and watched as the cover fell away from the contents into a charred mess on the floor. Groaning, she dropped the rest of the book she was holding and turned to Kyle, “How could something so wonderful become something so horrible?”

“I don’t know Sarah,” Kyle replied reaching out to embrace her.

While he knew that he should be saying something more--something that would erase all the upset she was feeling, he knew nothing could make up for what it felt like to have her have to sort through her things. It reminded him of what it felt like having to regroup so long ago when his parents had died. Of course that was different in it’s own way, but still he could understand what it was that was upsetting her. Kissing the top of her head he held her protectively in his arms.

“We’ll fix this somehow,” he promised running his fingers up over her spine in a tentative moment hoping to alleviate some of the worries that had carried over her.

“You’re too good to me Kyle,” Sarah breathed tipping her head up to look at him with sad eyes.

“Not nearly good enough,” he replied leaning down to press his lips to hers in a soft, subtle sweep. He wrapped her up further in his arms, hoping to put her worries to rest if only for a moment when a faint vibrating overtook the emotion between them. They parted and Sarah’s hand pressed in over his hip where his cell phone was in his pants pocket.

“I think someone wants you almost as much as I do,” she tried to make light of the call though Kyle could see she was still very much bothered by last night’s chaos.

“I can let it go,” Kyle suggested watching her shake her head.

“No, I don’t want you to do that,” she insisted taking a step back, “I need to see what it is that I can do around here and maybe there is something that isn’t all junk now.”

“Are you sure,” he asked seeing a distance behind her eyes.

“Yeah, go ahead and answer,” she replied quietly her own lingering thoughts returning to all of the mistakes she’d been making over the last few weeks. She glanced over at her singed bed thinking about the night she and Diego had experienced with one another and her face grew flushed. She brought her hand up to her cheek hoping to hide the guilt that burned at her core.

“Are you sure you’re okay,” Kyle couldn’t help but pick up on her uneasiness.

She nodded, “Yeah go ahead and answer. Maybe it’s the insurance company with good news since you let them take down your number.”

“Maybe,” Kyle looked to the caller id before a curious look swept in over his features. “It’s Russ.”

“Then answer,” Sarah placed her hand over her abdomen before turning around to survey her things once more.

With a heavy sigh Kyle answered his phone ready to hear what was going on with his friend, “Hey Russ, how’s it going?”

“It’s been better, been worse--a lot worse, but that’s irrelevant at the moment,” Russ answered honestly something uneasy in his tone, “What are you up to right now?”

“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” Kyle confessed turning around to watch Sarah once again. He could see how being in this place was only adding salt to the fresh wounds she’d experienced in nearly losing it all after their attempt at a romantic night went up in flames.

“Try me. I could use a good one right about now,” Russ replied catching the long hesitation from Kyle’s end. “Kyle, what is it?”

“It’s Sarah,” Kyle explained lowering his voice a bit, “her apartment went up in flames last night when a candle set her bed on fire. One thing lead to another and it was an inferno in here.”

“An inferno,” Russ repeated thinking about it, “Oh Kyle, I’m so sorry to hear that. She must be devastated.”

“Among other things,” Kyle answered simply not wanting to add to Sarah’s upset. “It’s been one of those days already…”

“Well, then maybe I can offer you the perfect solution,” Russ suggested after a pause, “I mean I’m sure you two can’t stay there given how the place is all torn apart.”

“No and we weren’t planning on it, but we thought we’d check things out this morning for a while to see what we could salvage,” Kyle stepped out into the hallway leaving Sarah alone for a minute, “though I have to tell you Russ, it doesn’t look like there’s really anything left for that.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s going through, but if you two need a place for the time being, why don’t you come on over here,” Russell suggested almost immediately.

“Russ, we can’t intrude on you and Avery. I mean after everything, I’m sure you both want to be alone. I know you both have been generous in letting me stay at the house, but with Erin coming home and…” Kyle began thinking about his friend’s offer.

“Nonsense, there’s plenty of room for the two of you where we’re at,” Russ explained matter of fact, “because we’re not at my house, but rather we’re staying with family and there is plenty of room.”

“Okay you lost me Russ,” Kyle started clearly confused, “If you’re not at home, then where are you?”

“I’m with family over at the Ashford Mansion,” Russ informed him point blank. “The doctors feel that the best thing for Brant right now is for him to be near those who love him and somehow they figure Avery factors into a major part of his recovery.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kyle practically choked on the idea, “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“I wish I were, but last night Avery, Erin and I were all transferred over here to cater to Brant. She’s got it in her head that she needs to be at his side helping him on the road to recovery from whatever made up issue he’s got in his head right now,” Russell’s voice was laced with obvious irritation, but still he kept his tone cool and even, “So since he’s throwing out all the stops, I’ve decided that now is the best time to embrace my roots so to speak.”

“You mean you’re going to actually own up to being an Ashford?” Kyle was stunned by his pal’s revelation.

“If it means that I get to be with Avery and our little girl, you’d better believe it. The way I see it, I have to find a way to spin this in my favor and with that in mind, I say the more the merrier. You wouldn’t believe how many rooms there are in this mansion and…” Russ continued to explain to him.

“Do you have any idea what you are getting yourself into Russ?” Kyle questioned with a small chuckle, “If Brant is playing this up to his advantage, then you know he’s not going to back down easily even if you are his brother.”

“I’m well aware of that and I’d rather spend a day with Brooke than admit that I’m his brother, but the way I see it, it’s in all of our best interest for me to do what I can to help my brother get back on his feet again. The sooner he does that, the sooner Avery and I can get back to our lives again,” Russ continued with a heart-felt tone, “So what do you say Kyle? You and Sarah in the mood to become guests over here at the Ashford mansion so that I don’t go out of my mind around the crazy people?”

“Well, since you put it that way,” Kyle grinned in response, “I suppose it would only be right for me to do my part and see what we can do to make the best of this most unfortunate situation.”

“There’s the spirit,” Russell’s voice beamed through the other end of the line, “I’ll have a room put together for the both of you. Any preference on what wing you’d like it in?”

“We’ll get to that when we get there,” Kyle replied with a small laugh hoping for Brant’s sake that he wasn’t faking any of this because if he was, then there was no doubt in Kyle’s mind that there would be hell to pay. Still as Kyle thought of all Brant stood to lose in Russ returning, he too found it hard to believe that Brant Ashford could somehow have a mysterious breakdown at the most of convenient times. It almost felt too perfect.


“Hey baby girl. How are we doing this morning? Did you sleep well?” Avery questioned picking up Erin, keeping her close to her as she sat down in a rocking chair set up in the nursery. Erin snuggled into her arms quite content after a changing. She watched Avery expectantly with wide eyes as Avery offered her a bottle. Erin greedily accepted as if she hadn’t a care in the world, though Avery suspected that she probably hadn’t had any other thoughts lingering other than how wonderful it was to wake up to such comforts.

While Erin had her breakfast, Avery looked around the room thinking about how she and Brant had put together this theme for Erin. It had been the place where they’d intended to raise Erin together, yet in thinking about all of the sudden changes that had taken place in Russell returning to life, this place felt foreign to her. Everything that she’d imagined she’d be sharing with Brant felt like a dream--like another life somehow.

“Good morning Bella,” Avery heard a voice call out to her. She looked up to see Augustus standing in the doorway with an oversized stuffed bunny rabbit toy in his arms. He moved forward setting it down near Erin’s bed, “I thought that she might enjoy something to play with, though I can see now that it’s bigger than she is at this point.”

“That doesn’t mean she won’t be willing to take it on soon,” Avery laughed lightly thinking about her daughter’s determination already. “She’s going to have a whole room full of toys from everyone spoiling her.”

“As far as I’m concerned she deserves nothing less than the best,” Augustus moved in to take a closer look at Erin. While he’d heard that Avery and Russ would be returning to the estate with Brant, he hadn’t been around to have some quiet time with Avery and Erin when they had settled in. Yes, he’d had an awkward meeting with Russ when Russ had come inside, but now after a night of reflection he found that he couldn’t stay away from his great-granddaughter.

“She’s a very lucky little girl to have so much love,” Avery smiled down at her daughter feeling Augustus move in beside her.

“We’re the lucky ones Bella,” Augustus whispered warmly leaning in to kiss Avery’s cheek gently, “Of course while I’d always welcomed the notion of inviting her into my family, I never imagined that I could be able to say that she was…”

“Was a part of your family in every way imaginable,” Avery finished seeing something behind his dark gaze. She noticed the love that was reflected beside her as Augustus kept his eyes on Erin.

“She’s my great-granddaughter,” Augustus replied with a bright smile, “and while I’d always planned on viewing her that way, now knowing that I not only have a great-granddaughter, but a grandson as well…”

“About Russ,” Avery started uneasily knowing that Russ hadn’t been exactly welcoming to Augustus upon his arrival at the Ashford Estate. “He’s taking this hard because…”

“Because his father left him no choice,” Augustus sighed thinking about the stories he’d heard about Nicholas over the last few days, “He made living with him and trying to love him damn near impossible. He was manipulative, calculating and yet his only redeeming quality was in the children he chose to ignore. He should’ve seen his treasures, but instead he sought to destroy. I could see very well how easily it would be for Russell not to welcome that part of his father into his life.”

“He had no idea that he was Nicholas’s son,” Avery started to explain to him although she was sure that he was well aware of that simple truth.

“And clearly my son was unaware of that fact himself because if he had known the truth, I can guarantee that he would never have tried to eliminate Russell from this world. If anything he would’ve tried to reach out to him--to reach out to him in his own twisted way,” Augustus frowned thinking about the source of the chaos, “My son’s greed was something that he could no longer control. Clearly he still cannot as it is that insatiable hunger for power and destruction that has done him in.”

“So then you still believe that he is out there,” Avery couldn’t help but ask wondering herself if Russell had been right about the man who had taken him away from her.

Augustus nodded and let out a long sigh, “I’m certain of it. Given what I’ve recently learned about Nicholas and your mother, there is no doubt in my mind that he is still very much alive. I’m positive that he is still out there waiting for the opportunity to cash in on what he believes I have slighted him with. I regret that his rage with me has lead to all of this pain and destruction…”

“I don’t understand,” she blinked back at him, “Why would he try to kill Russ if he was angry with you?”

“It’s a long story bella,” Augustus sighed his eyes returning to Erin once again, “and one that won’t have the ending he was hoping for. He thought he’d had everything figured out, but Erin changes that for him. However, I promise you that if he is still out there, he will never gain another opportunity to hurt you or your family. He won’t hurt Erin or Russ. You have my word on that.”

“But he’s already done so much. I mean look at Brant,” Avery sighed heavily thinking about the man who had cared for her in Russell’s absence. “I’m so afraid that Nicholas being alive has taken him over the edge. He went through so much with Nicholas and now…”

“I fear for him as well,” Augustus sighed heavily remembering the horrors his son had inflicted upon his grandchildren, “Had I known what Nicholas was capable with his children I never would’ve walked away when I had. I see now that I had made a mistake with them in leaving them to his ways.”

“Brant’s a good man,” Avery added knowing in her heart that Brant had grown to be so far from what his father was. “I know that he’s been through so much and for him to have to face all of this all over again.”

“Brant is a fighter,” Augustus explained to her squeezing her shoulder supportively, “I have no doubt in my mind that he shall find his way back. I am positive that he will pull his life together again and come out on top. That is Brant’s way. It’s always been his way.”

“Yes, but that was before…” Avery trailed off thinking about the mess she’d created in placing herself in such a tentative position.

“Before what?” he couldn’t help but ask catching her silence.

“Before Russ returned,” Avery revealed tearfully, “I promised Brant so many things. I swore to him that I would be there--that we would share our lives together…”

“Bella, I know that you are in a hard place right now with your heart torn between two loves,” he offered up supportively, “but even with all that is happening, I don’t doubt for a second that neither Brant nor Russell doubts your love for them. Each one of my grandsons have played very important roles in your life. The role in which they play in the future is entirely up to you, but know that even with all the emotional entanglements things will find a way of working themselves out somehow.”

“I wish I had your faith,” Avery offered up with a smile hearing Erin let out a loud burp alerting Avery that she’d finished off her bottle. Avery scooped her up over her arm with a small laugh, “I guess you’re ahead of mommy here.”

“May I hold her,” Augustus held his arms out to Erin.

“Are you sure?” Avery questioned watching his warm eyes, “She drank that pretty fast and…”

“And I think I remember how it’s done,” Augustus replied feeling Avery place Erin into his arms. He held her up against his shoulder and placed his hand up around her to support her.

“Such a beautiful little angel,” Augustus whispered kissing Erin’s tiny face as he found himself at a turning point in his life--a very important turning point with his great-granddaughter who was about to change life for everyone as they knew it!


Diego stood at his kitchen sink feeling the weight of last night’s events playing out over and over again in his mind. Leaning forward he turned on the faucet to finish cleaning up the mess that had been created after he’d tossed Cori out of his house. It had been anything, but pretty between them when he tried to coax her out of bed.

“What do you mean you want me to leave?” Cori huffed with a glare over at him, “Diego, you know you and I belong together. You love me just as much as I love you and if you weren’t blinded by that bitch…”

“Cori stop,” he tried to reason with her moving in to pick her clothing up off of the ground, “Don’t do this. You and I both know that it’s over between us and…”

“No,” she shook her head adamantly throwing the sheet off of her body to reveal herself to him in her complete nakedness. She curled her long legs over the side of the bed and sat up, teasing her fingers down over her breast bone before tossing her long, blonde hair back over her shoulders in a sultry fashion, “Just come to bed with me Diego and I can promise you that I can give you a million and one reasons to forget the girl that could never make you happy.”

Diego’s jaw flexed and he closed his eyes in an attempt to play things cool, but in seeing Cori before him, he couldn’t help but feel guilt ride over him, “Cori you have to leave. This isn’t happening.”

“Oh yes it is,” she sauntered out of the bed reaching out to slide her arms around his shoulders. She pressed up against him wiggling her body into his when she felt him push away from her touch.

“Cori get dressed,” he frowned down at her, reopening his eyes to shake his head at her, “It’s over. I’m sorry that I didn’t make myself clear before, but you and I, this can’t happen. We’re friends and that’s all I want for us.”

“Friends,” she repeated with a huff watching him move away from her. Placing her hands on her hips impatiently she glared up at him with her big, brown eyes, “tell me Diego, how many of your ‘friends’ do you find yourself sleeping with and promising forever to?”

“I was out of line when I did that,” Diego forced himself to face her again, “I never should’ve mislead you and I’m sorry for that.”

“Sorry,” she balked back at him with a sarcastic laugh, “oh no Diego you’re not getting off that easily. You can’t just be sorry for using me like you did. You owe me more than that. I deserve better.”

“Yes, you do,” Diego nodded in response, “you deserve a lot better than a guy like me.”

“You’re damn right I do,” she stomped her foot down before tossing her hair over her shoulders again, this time with a more defiant motion. She narrowed her eyes at him and took a bold step forward reaching out to collect the center of his shirt in her fist. She tugged him in closer to her with a surprising movement, “but regardless of what I deserve the fact to the matter is that I want you Diego--only you.”

“Cori, this is not the…” he started to explain to her only to feel her lips come crashing down over his kissing him as if she intended to steal the last breath of life from him.

Her arms and legs tangled around his body causing him to gasp for air while he struggled to peel her off of him. Eventually she toppled down onto the bed once he was able to shake her off, but it did nothing to discourage her enthusiasm for him. She circled her leg around his torso and yanked him roughly down on top of her.

“I’m going to have you again Diego,” Cori coiled her fingers through his thick, dark hair pushing her lips into his while her hand shoved at his chest slamming him back down onto the bed. Before he knew it her hands were ripping at his pants, tugging furiously at the zipper to get him where she wanted him to be.

“Cori stop!” Diego snapped at her, surprised by her aggressiveness. He tried to move her away from him gently, but there was no getting out from underneath her without a little force. Frustrated he shoved her away from him watching as she fell over into corner of the nightstand with a wince. Worried he sat up and looked at her, “Cori, are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay you son of a bitch,” she snapped holding her elbow after the rough collision it had made. She glared over at him with tearful brown eyes and snarled up at him, “What is wrong with you? I told you that I spent my whole life loving you, so why can’t you love me back? Why can’t you give me what I need?”

“Cori, you need to go home,” Diego replied feeling guilt tearing away at him, but he knew full well he couldn’t comfort her not when she was lost in her madness. He stepped off of the bed and picked up her clothing, setting it on the bed beside her. He moved over towards the door not bothering to look back at her, “Get dressed.”

“You son of a bitch,” she’d screamed throwing the vase that had been on the top of the nightstand at the door during his exit leaving Diego to realize that the nightmare was only beginning.

Opening his eyes again Diego looked around the kitchen seeing the remains of Cori’s tantrum once she’d finally taken a hint and gotten dressed. She hadn’t stopped at the vase in the bedroom once she’d realized Diego wasn’t coming back. She’d torn apart his bed, ripping the sheets to shreds and then she’d moved into the kitchen, where she’d opened up the cabinets and slammed the plates onto the floor, breaking each and every last one of them. He closed his eyes and thought back to trying to stop her, which landed him with a few bruises and an aching groin once she finally felt the zenith of her rage burst out at him with her knee to his groin. Diego still was a bit hazy about what happened after that, but after moments of grueling agony, he found himself laying on the floor surrounded by broken glass and an empty kitchen once again feeling like the biggest jerk in the world on top of all else.

Diego let out a long sigh surveying the mess he’d spent most of the night working on after Cori’s exit. He’d done pretty well in cleaning it up, but there were a few more things that he would need to do before his kitchen was in order again. Then there was the bedroom, which was something he really didn’t want to think about at a time like this. Of course he knew that sooner or later he’d have to face that mess too, but it paled in comparison to the mess he’d made of everything else in his life.

His thoughts started to return to Sarah and the way she’d dismissed him outside her apartment. He remembered the coldness in her eyes, the way in which she’d made him feel irrelevant and in that instant he couldn’t help but wonder what had possessed him to take things to the next level with her. Had his feelings for her been worth the price he was now paying for going against the very things he’d believed in. He was starting to realize that maybe just maybe in all of this he’d become the one thing he’d hated the most. He’d hurt people who were good to him and for that perhaps he deserved Cori’s wrath if not worse.

Moving for the broom again, Diego started to sweep up the last of the debris when he heard his doorbell ringing. Standing up straighter he felt his pulse quicken and his heart race with a moment of fear as he wondered if Cori had returned to finish kicking the life out of him. It would serve him right if she had, he decided resigning himself to his fate. He set the broom aside and walked over to the door ready to get the situation over with, but instead of coming face to face with a frazzled Cori, he found himself in front of a very happy looking Heather.

“You know you want to invite me in,” Heather smiled holding Charles close to her. Before Diego could say another word Heather stepped into the living room area and looked around. “Boy you look like a tornado hit in here.”

“Yeah, it sort of did,” Diego mouthed realizing that now was probably not the best of times to be entertaining, “In fact as much as I’d like to chat right now, I have a lot to do and…”

“You don’t have nearly enough to keep you from joining us,” Heather spun around to face him. She touched the side of Charles’s face and grinned up at him, “Charles wanted to thank you for helping me with him before Chris so rudely came in and insulted you. I was really upset about that and…”

“You don’t have to be,” Diego began uneasily, “It was really not a problem.”

“Oh nonsense,” Heather shook her head in response flashing him a small smile, “Chris was a complete and total jerk and I figure what better way to make up for it then to take you and Charles out to breakfast today.”

“Heather, I really have a lot of things I need to finish here,” Diego started again in an attempt to politely decline the offer, but before he could finish his statement, he felt Heather pushing Charles into his arms.

“Oh I’m sure you can fit it in,” Heather insisted reaching for his jacket from the coat rack and smiling at him. She walked over to him and tugged on his arm gently, “Come on. I’m not giving you a choice in the matter. Besides it’s my treat.”

“Fine,” Diego finally sighed realizing that maybe just maybe a little time away from the mess his home was would do him good especially since he was drowning in the memories that lead him to the here and now with disaster.


“What a stupid jerk,” Cori brought her right fist into the punching bag before her as she thought about the things that had happened with Diego last night. The way he had treated her was absolutely ridiculous and she didn’t like it at all. “He would rather have some nasty girl over me. What a loser.”

“Hey there slugger, I haven‘t seen you in a long time,” Rob smiled speaking up in a playful tone as he grabbed onto the punching bag that Cori was hitting. Once she saw Rob she had calmed down and took a minute to take a breather. “What happened today that has you angry? I can see you are about ready to take out my punching bag here and I think it’s suffering a little bit.”

“I’m sorry, I guess you could say I’m a little mad at a certain person right now,” Cori informed him with a simple shrug before a small smile appeared over her lips. “Other than that, I got a new tire for my car and since I was here I thought I would work out.”

“Oh, that’s a good thing,” Rob nodded slowly taking a step forward and folding his arms out in front of his chest. “So, are you going to tell me what happened or are you just going to leave me guessing?”

“About why I’m angry?” she muttered looking up into his blue eyes seeing him nod slowly before she shrugged her shoulders not quite knowing where to start off with her story. “Well, I saw my ex last night.”

“And from the way you are acting,” Rob paused for a second, gently hitting the punching bag that was next to him before giving her his full attention again. “I would guess that everything didn’t go the way you planned.”

“Not at all,” Cori shook her head slowly seeing Rob nod as she slowly took off the gloves that were on her hands. She held onto them tightly before glancing over towards the clock on the wall behind Rob, trying to look upset about everything that had happened. “I guess you could just say he was a real jerk after you dropped me off and left.”

“What did he do to you?” Rob frowned reaching out to squeeze her shoulder gently, seeing the way her dark and saddened eyes looked into his. “Cori, come on kiddo--you know you can talk to me. What happened?”

“Well, first he tried to get me into bed--promising to make things better with me,” Cori informed Rob seeing the frown over his features grow deeper as he listened to her side of what happened. “Then he tossed me out when he realized he could hurt me like that.”

“Something else had to have happened to make you this upset Cori,” Rob felt her pull away from him and turn away from him and something caught his eyes as he grabbed onto her arm. “He only threw you out?”

“Don’t,” Cori pulled away from him once more, turning to face him as his light blue eyes narrowed and watched her more carefully. “Okay, so he might have been a little more aggressive than I told you he was.”

“Did he hit you?” Rob couldn’t help but question after seeing the size of the bruise that was on her arm. “Cori, you’re like a daughter to me and I want to know--did he hit you?”

“Rob, I love him okay?” Cori felt her eyes becoming glossed over by tears as Rob took a step forward, wrapping his arms around her tightly as he felt her tears against his shirt. “I don’t know what I did wrong with him to make him hate me this much.”

“It’s not you kiddo, it‘s just how some men are. They can be real jerks sometimes,” Rob leaned back and pushed a piece of hair out of her face before letting out a small smile. “I guess you could say I’m lucky when I say my son Don isn’t anything like that. There are only a slim few like Donny in this world and that’s what you need kiddo. A good boyfriend that will take care of you. Not hurt you all the time like this guy you think you love has been doing.”

“It’s just hard to let him go,” Cori replied with a small sniff feeling his grip tighten around her as he hugged her tightly to his chest. “I don’t understand how people can just let someone go so easily.”

“You’ll be able to do it because you are going to find a great, nice guy,” Rob promised her with a small hush before letting out a small laugh, “A guy that will be a lot better than your last boyfriend. You’ll meet someone who is perfect for you.”

“I hope so,” Cori looked up at Rob with a small smile before feeling his grip on her loosen. “I thought he was my everything and then…”

“Uh, dad,” Lindsay’s voice broke up the conversation Rob was having with Cori as he let her out of his arms and looked over at his young daughter. “What are you doing?”


Cameron glanced up from where he sat in his office. He’d been waiting for a couple of hours for JT to show up at his home after the frantic call he’d received, yet it felt as if JT had changed his mind about coming over. That was until the door to Cameron’s study opened and JT staggered inside, eyes red and bloodshot. He carried a bottle in his hand before he weaved his way through the room over to the sofa set up on the far end of the room. Without a word JT fell face forward into the sofa with a thud.

“I take it you’ve been indulging far too much at work again, huh,” Cameron noted with a scowl hating his brother’s lack of discipline with himself. “How many times have I told you that drunk and disorderly doesn’t make for a good reputation?”

“But it’s with good reason,” JT held his hand up in the air, his face still buried in the couch cushion.

“And what might that constitute exactly?” Cameron’s frown intensified, “A night of reckless overindulging and partying with a handful of single equally drunken companions?”

“If only it were that obtuse,” JT sighed heavily finding the strength to pull his head up and face down his brother, “Last night was quite possibly the worst night of my life and the only person I had to share it with was myself.”

“I highly doubt it was the worst,” Cameron moved in beside his brother taking a long look at him. He watched JT drop the now empty bottle on the floor and he frowned, “So tell me JT, what is it this time? Gambling perhaps? Drugs?”

“On the contrary Cameron,” JT’s sad eyes reached out to him, “I had it all, but lost it all in the blink of an eye.”

“I don’t understand,” Cameron gave him a strange look.

“Diane was pregnant,” JT blurted out with a heavy sigh, “You remember Diane don’t you? The woman you were going to help me bring back into my life.”

“How could I forget,” Cameron nodded, “and I take it you were less than successful in your quest to recapture her attention, hence your showing up drunk on my doorstep today.”

“No Cameron. I’m here because last night Diane and her boyfriend ripped my world away from me,” JT forced himself to move upright on the couch, “Last night Diane lost the baby--my baby.”

“What?” Cameron’s tone shifted a bit seeing the pain behind his brother’s eyes, “But how?”

“They said she had a miscarriage, but I have to wonder if deep down she knew--if deep down she felt that child was mine and that’s why she went out of her way to keep me out of her life,” JT dropped his head down, his bitter words replaced by sorrowful tears, “Was it so wrong of me to want to love her? To dream of a family with her? To have a chance to be a part of my son or daughter’s life?”

“I’m so sorry,” Cameron took a seat beside his brother, “I had no idea…”

“No one did, except well maybe Diane,” JT tipped his head up once again, “Once she learned she was pregnant I’m certain she knew the child was mine. She kept lying and trying to hide what we shared, but now, well now that she and Ben are together again, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that she let this happen on purpose. She wanted to rid my presence from her life and she murdered my child.”

“JT are you sure of that,” Cameron watched him closely, “I mean if you aren’t positive…”

“When I learned that I was right--that my gut instincts were dead on all along,” JT paused for a long moment thinking about the phone call that had only intensified his grief, “The tests confirmed it was my child she was having. I know she felt that and I know that’s why she went out of her way to get rid of my child.”

“If what you say is true, then mark my words she won’t get away with this,” Cameron offered up supportively, “I promise you that if there is any evidence that proves she murdered your child, then so help me JT, I will make her suffer. Her and her boyfriend.”

“I knew I could count on you Cameron,” JT leaned into his brother falling to pieces over the sense of loss that overtook him. “You’re the only one that truly understands. You’re the only one that can help me…”

“I’ll always help you,” Cameron promised determined to get to the bottom of the latest disaster that had come upon his brother.


“There you are,” Zoë called out to her father seeing him stepping into the foyer off of the winding staircase. “This house is a zoo lately and I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever cross paths at this rate.”

“Of course we would,” Augustus replied trying to keep his lingering thoughts and worries about Nicholas under control.

“So what’s the story? I heard one of the gardeners telling me something is wrong with Brant. Then I heard the cook talking about Nicholas and…” Zoë began with a small frown, “so what’s the story?”

“It appears that your brother is still very much alive although no one has been able to pinpoint where he might be,” Augustus explained with a small frown, “Clearly he’s done a lot of deceiving lately and…”

“And you mean he could still be out there,” Zoë’s jaw practically dropped, “He’s alive?”

“So it would seem,” he nodded watching his daughter’s response go from confusion to worry.

“Does he know that I’m back here? That Kipp and I have reconnected?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“I’m not really sure what he knows at this point, but given what I’ve been hearing about him, I can’t help but be concerned about the future of this family. There are a few things that he and I left unsettled between us and…”

“And if he’s still out there I’m sure he will try to do what he can to make life miserable for Kipp,” Zoë decided with a frown realizing that her son’s future could be in jeopardy, “Kipp has worked so hard with his life and after what just happened to him, the last thing I would want would be for…”

“Excuse me,” Russell began approaching the both of them. He had on a pair of faded blue jeans, a sleeveless black t-shirt and a cup of coffee in hand, “Augustus right? Look, I hate to intrude, but I was hoping you and I could have a chat later. I know that you were upstairs with Avery and Erin for a while, but since I’m around now, I’d love to chat--that is if you can pencil me in.”

“Of course,” Augustus nodded glancing down at the strange looking Scooby-Doo slippers that Russ was wearing. “If you’ll just give me a second…”

“Sure, not a problem,” Russ glanced over at Zoë and waved at her brightly, “Good morning.”

“Good morning to you too sugar,” she couldn’t help but reply with a wide smirk, her thoughts of Kipp leaving for the moment. She kept her eyes on Russ watching him walk over to the staircase in a low, casual stride. Her smile widened as she took in his perfect body and a giggle erupted from behind her lips, “Gee, you didn’t mention that the kids were having some help around the house.”

“What?” Augustus questioned blankly catching the expression on her face.

“Well what I mean is wow, when did we start hiring hot gardeners in this family,” Zoë craned her neck further to take another look at Russell. “I mean he’s like an Adonis and he speaks English too, which can sometimes be a plus…”

“Um Zoë,” Augustus’s brow narrowed as he moved in front of her to block her view of Russell, “That’s not the gardener. That’s Nicholas’s son.”

“What?” her jaw practically dropped. She tilted her eyes up to her father and saw the seriousness behind his eyes. Immediately she straightened up, standing taller and she cleared her throat uneasily, “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not,” he shook his head noticing the color rush into her face.

“Wow, well that was really awkward and kind of sick,” she brought her hand up through her hair in an attempt to put the moment behind her. “I mean how is it possible that he…no, never mind. I think I figured it out. Nicholas was always a lying, cheating son of a…”

“Regardless he was your brother and Russell is a guest here at the estate,” Augustus explained with a heavy sigh, “He is family after all.”

“Yeah well thanks for clarifying that because in about five minutes I might’ve stepped into a really strange Greek tragedy,” she shuddered at the thought before refocusing again, “I mean that should tell you right there how long it’s been since I’ve had a really thrilling date--not that I should be saying this to my father, but you get my drift…”

“Of course,” Augustus nodded still a bit uneasy over the situation himself.

“You know on second thought I think I’m just going to head on over to Kipp’s right now,” Zoë blurted out in a haste, “but we can catch up later. I still need to speak with Blake and…”

“I’ll tell her you were looking for her,” Augustus nodded saying his good-byes to his daughter as he wondered just what lay ahead for the family now that Nicholas had unleashed a nightmare upon them all.


Grady sank into his office chair unable to concentrate on anything that lay in front of him on his desk. While he’d convinced himself that he had to get things in order--that somehow had to get back on track with his life again, it was as if he’d stepped into someone else’s shoes in a place where he’d never intended to be. He tipped his head up, his gaze drifting to the door and he found himself hoping above hope that somehow Jade would walk into his office and brighten his day like she had since the first day she started working for him those years ago. Of course back then he’d been stubborn and impossible about inviting her in, but now that he’d loved her and lost her, he couldn’t help but remember those times when they’d worked together putting the pieces of his work together in an elaborate display.

“You never cease to amaze me Grady,” he could hear Jade’s voice echo in his head.

Leaning forward he placed his hand over his forehead and let out a long sigh, “If you could only see me now Jade, you’d know how miserable life has been without you. Why couldn’t we have had another chance at happiness like Russ and Avery did? Why did things happen like they did for us?”

Hearing a knock on his office door Grady immediately sprang up wondering if somehow like his brother Jade would walk right through the door and back into his life. Sure, he’d made a lot of mistakes, but maybe if he wished hard enough, she would return to him. She would be there for him and they could find their happiness with one another all over again. However his dreams of happiness came to a crashing halt when the door opened and revealed the visitor on the other side.

“Grady,” Dorothy popped her head into the room finding him in a state of sheer misery. Without another word she moved into his office, her eyes filled with worry for him, “hey, how are you feeling?”

“I’d be lying if I told you I was doing well,” he confessed slumping further down in his chair, “I mean it’s been a strange few weeks here…”

“And it isn’t getting any easier for you, is it,” Dorothy took a seat across from him, her thoughts reflecting what she saw in his eyes, “I miss her too you know. The office just isn’t the same without her around.”

“It’s never going to be the same without her,” he sighed emphatically before shaking his head, “and maybe I was fooling myself to think that I could come back to this--that I could pretend that I could do this without spending my time thinking about everything that we shared here together…”

“Grady, Jade wouldn’t want you to give it all up simply because she was gone,” Dorothy offered up words of encouragement, “She loved you for all that you are--all that she knew you could be. She was very proud of you and the work you did here.”

“Yes, but in being here like this with her memory all around me, I honestly don’t know if I can keep pushing on Dorothy. Every time I take a look around--every time I remember what it was like to share all of this with her, I feel like I’m losing her all over again,” he confessed with a heavy sigh. He closed his eyes for a brief moment imagining what it was like back when he and Jade were with one another in this very office.

“Maybe you need to take some time to distance yourself for a while. I mean I hear that Russell is still alive--the news is buzzing about all of that right now and I’m sure that you would much rather be with your family then…” she began again in an attempt to help him pull through this rough patch in his life.

“I think I need to give Russ and Avery some time alone,” Grady replied guilt eating away at his stomach as a memory of making love to Avery flashed through his mind. That too had been bothering him a lot lately especially now that he was clearly the only one who had remembered the truth about the experience. Granted, he wasn’t expecting anything further from that night once Russ had returned, yet for her to completely lose that memory altogether…

“…so I really think you should take my advice and,” Dorothy paused catching the strange expression on Grady’s face. She waved her hand in front of his face pulling him out of the daze he’d worked himself into. “Grady, are you with me?”

“Huh? What?” Grady blinked back at her before shaking his head, “I’m sorry Dorothy. I guess my mind is just elsewhere at the moment. I know I shouldn’t be ignoring you but…”

“But nothing,” she waved her hand dismissively at him, “Take an early lunch. You’re the boss and maybe you can find some time to just relax and take it easy. I can see you’re not sleeping well and maybe some fresh air might help.”

“How do you know I haven’t been sleeping well,” he questioned catching her nodding over at his wrinkled clothing. He nodded as well, “Okay, so maybe I’m not, but…”

“But nothing. Grady Denton you look like you could use a good nap and a good shoulder to lean on there,” she offered up with sympathetic smile, “I’m always here if you want to talk you know.”

“I know,” Grady replied appreciatively, “but right now I’m just so messed up I don’t know where to start. I wish I could just let it out, but it’s just not ready to happen.”

“I understand,” Dorothy decided rising up from the chair she was seated in, “but just know if you need anything--anything at all I will always be around to help you.”

“I appreciate that,” he answered watching her give him one last look before leaving him to his thoughts. He reached for his top desk drawer pulling out a photo he had of him and Jade together from last Christmas. It felt like a lifetime ago, yet in the same breath he could remember it like it was yesterday. Frowning as he realized that being in his office wasn’t going to help him get any closer to shutting the memories out, he stood up and reached for his coat determined to give that early lunch a try after all. While he wasn’t sure where he would end up, he knew that there had to be something that he could do--somewhere that he could focus that wouldn’t lead him back to the lifetime of mistakes he’d made or to the love that he’d lost along the way.

Even now he could hear the girl at the bagel shop telling him to just give it up--of course that had been in regard to his running into Deana and speaking with her. How anyone thought he was flirting was beyond him, yet it wasn’t until that point that Grady had started to reflect upon his life. Here he was at a place where he should be settling down and having a family, yet after losing Jade and being given a second chance at life only to let go of it, Grady realized things needed to change starting now.


“So about last night,” Heather began clearing her throat uneasily as she realized Diego was quieter than usual. They’d been at breakfast with Charles for the last half hour and he’d barely said much of anything to her. She frowned before speaking up again, “I really want to apologize to you about what happened with Chris. He’s a real jerk sometimes and…”

“It’s okay,” Diego looked up from the plate he’d been focused on. He was picking at his eggs barely touching them when he noticed the worried expression on Heather’s face. “I mean I guess I should’ve known better than to let things get out of hand like I did. I guess I’m falling into a bad habit with that lately…”

“With what?” she frowned in response, “With having fun?”

“Look Heather we should have kept our game on a less personal level last night,” he started clearing his throat uneasily. “I didn’t mean to give you mixed signals, but…”

“But what?” she wiggled her brow at him, a wide grin spreading over her face, “You don’t want me to think that you liked being around me like that? Too late. I already know that you did.”

“Look Heather,” Diego started remembering the outburst that Cori had with him. “How about we just put it behind us for now?”

“That sounds good,” she nodded in agreement sliding in closer to the table and flashing him a sexy smile, “because I’d much rather talk about the possibilities of the future without Chris getting in the way.”

“He seems concerned about you,” Diego noted giving her a sideways glance. “Tell me, are you at all interested in him?”

“No,” she waved her hand dismissively and laughed. “Not like that at least. I mean sure he’s an okay guy when it comes to having a friend around, but he’s nothing like you.”

Diego cleared his throat uneasily, “Speaking of friends, have you talked to your sister?”

“Sarah,” Heather wrinkled her nose at the mention of her older sister. She sat up straighter taking note of the expression on Diego’s face, “No. Why?”

“Because her apartment burnt down last night,” Diego informed her with a small sigh.

“What?” Heather’s eyes widened in surprise. “When?”

“I’m not sure exactly, but when I left your place last night I saw all the fire trucks and I was worried about her. I went out to see if she was okay and…” he started to explain to her.

“And was she?” Heather questioned with a worried expression, “What about Kyle? Was he with her?”

Diego nodded feeling a jolt of guilt rush over him at the memory of how Sarah had responded to him in front of Kyle. Just seeing the two of them together again made Diego realize all the more that he was the odd man out. Sarah was finally with the man she loved and Diego was just…

“Diego,” Heather waved her hand in front of his face to recapture his attention, “are they okay?”

“Hmm, oh yes they both looked like they were okay, but Sarah really seemed very upset. I hated to see her so worked up,” Diego continued thinking about Sarah’s strange behavior, “She’s already been through so much this past year then to have her apartment burn down like that, well it just doesn’t seem fair. It’s as if fate just won’t cut her a break.”

“Won’t cut her a break,” Heather fought to suppress the laugh that built up in the back of her throat. “Um Diego in case you haven’t noticed Sarah is getting absolutely everything she’s ever wanted. Fate always seems to cut her a break. She gets the career she’s hoping for, the man of her dreams and…”

“And she was just in a situation where she could’ve lost her life,” Diego frowned looking over to Heather again, “Honestly you would think that you would show a bit more sensitivity to the fact that your sister’s world was just turned upside down.”

“That’s nothing new for her,” Heather couldn’t help but roll her eyes before muttering under her breath, “Sarah thrives off of that kind of stuff.”

“What?” Diego gave her a strange look seeing the way she looked less than thrilled to be discussing her sister.

“It’s nothing,” she waved her hand at him before redirecting her attention to Charles. “It’s just that whatever situation Sarah is, she’s like a cat if you will. She always lands on her feet.”

“She seemed really torn up last night,” Diego noted with a frown, “She’s been through so much.”

“And if I was willing to lay odds most of what she’s going through is something she brought on herself,” Heather blurted out honestly, a hint of irritation in her tone, “That’s just the way Sarah works. She loves to be in the middle of chaos and when it follows her, she feels complete.”

“That’s awfully harsh of you to say about someone who did her best to try to help you when fate delivered you a bad hand,” he reminded her pointedly, shaking his head at her.

“Sarah wasn’t doing what she did to help me. That’s one thing you should learn now,” Heather faced him fully, a sudden seriousness overtaking her green eyes. “I might have a reputation for being the bitch in the family if you will, but I never pretend to be something I’m not. With Sarah it’s never quite that simple.”

“What do you mean?” Diego couldn’t help but ask.

“While she might seem like she has some kind of altruistic purpose about her, the fact to the matter is that when it gets down to it Sarah is out to help one person and only one person alone,” Heather scowled at the thought of how her sister tried to work over each and every man that stepped into her life, “That’s herself Diego. She’s not the Little Miss Innocent that you think she is. She’s just mastered the art of perfecting that role to those who don’t know her.”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing you say that,” he frowned back at her, “After everything she’s done for you…”

“I’m lucky I’m still alive since it would’ve gotten me nowhere if I didn’t have myself,” Heather remarked her words laced with heavy animosity, “and if you’re smart you’ll stop wasting your time worrying about my sister because when it gets down to it, the only one she is concerned about is herself. Besides the only reason she’s friends with you is because she knows I have a thing for you.”

“I really don’t think that’s the case Heather,” he started to object seeing something flash behind her eyes.

“Of course you don’t,” she shook her head at him, “because that’s how she does it. She never makes herself obvious until it’s too late.”

“Too late for who Heather? For you?” Diego challenged arching a curious brow as Charles let out a small cry bringing Heather’s attention away from the situation at hand.

“You know Diego you can be a real idiot sometimes, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, see for yourself because one day Sarah is going to let you down and when that happens I’ll be here to say I told you so,” she replied getting up off of the seat to take Charles into the ladies room to get changed while Diego found himself alone and wondered if perhaps Heather was right. Maybe he had acted hastily and now he was dealing with the aftermath of Sarah’s not caring about what they’d had with one another. Could it be that Sarah was ready to toss him aside simply because she’d accomplished her goal of putting a wedge between him and Heather?

“No,” Diego mouthed to himself trying not to let what Heather said cloud his thoughts of Sarah, but the more he thought about it, the more he was left wondering if perhaps there was more happening than he’d realized.


“You can do this Zoë,” Zoë tried to assure herself as she sat her car in front of Kipp’s house, hoping that she could get the strength to go and talk to her son. There was always the small chance that Kipp would kick her right out and wouldn’t even take the time to listen to her, but she was hoping things would be different this time. “Just go in there and try to explain things to him.”

Zoë slowly got out of the car, walking up the sidewalk before realizing the last time she talked to Kipp it didn’t work out great. She turned back towards the car thinking that she should have called Kipp before coming.

“Don’t give up just yet, you can do this,” Zoë decided walking back up to the door and gently pushing the doorbell hearing a dog bark in the background and hearing a small laugh.

“I’m coming,” a voice yelled from inside as she heard something hit the ground before the person let out a small groan. “Tripsy, baby you need to be more careful.”

Zoë’s eyes widened as she saw a man open the door and it wasn’t Kipp. In fact, it was the man that had been over when she was here the first time. The man was holding his dog in his arms and he had a small white towel wrapped around his waist.

“Can I help you?” Kellen finally looked up to see who it was before him as he jumped back realizing that is was Kipp’s mother before him. “Oh, it’s you. Uh, come on in.”

“Thanks,” Zoë walked into the house as Kellen gently set the dog down before placing his hands in front of himself, feeling a bit uncomfortable being in front of Kipp’s mother with only a towel on. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”

“Oh, I’m Kellen,” Kellen extended his hand out to her only to see the glance she gave him, looking over his almost completely naked body. “Yeah, I’ll get Kipp in here.”

“Kellen, I told you to get rid of the company so we could finish up with,” Kipp came to a complete stop as he walked in the room to find his mother standing in front of Kellen. Kipp tied the ties to his pajama bottoms tighter before running his hand through his damp hair. “Mom.”

“Kipp, I came here to talk to you,” Zoë tried to explain before looking at Kellen who seemed to be turning as red as can be, “and I was talking to Kellen here.”

“Which reminds me,” Kellen walked over towards the hallway before pointing back towards the rooms, “I am going to go and do that thing I was supposed to do.”

“What were you supposed to do?” Kipp looked back at Kellen confused as Kellen searched for something to say, giving Zoë a small glance. “Kellen?”

“You know that thing…” Kellen muttered seeing Kipp’s eyebrows tense as Kipp shrugged his shoulders not quite knowing what Kellen was saying.

“What thing?” Kipp questioned once more seeing Kellen roll his eyes pointing over towards the doors again and looked between Kipp and his mother.

“I’m going to give you two some time alone and I’m going to go and feed my dog,” Kellen declared looking down at Tripsy before whistling and pointing over towards the bedroom. “Come on Tripsy, let’s go get you some chow.”

“Cute,” Zoë took a step forward watching the dog run after Kellen and into the bedroom as Kipp gave her small glance, watching her eyes return to him.

“Yeah, Tripsy is a real cute dog,” Kipp agreed with a small shrug seeing Zoë shrug as she took a look back at the bedroom door closing before letting out a small laugh.

“I meant Kellen, but the dog is cute too,” Zoë declared hearing Kipp let out a little laugh before he rubbed his hands together looking at her more clearly. “Cute kid, cute dog--it fit’s the both of them.”

“Yeah,” Kipp chuckled until feeling a bit uncomfortable around his mother talking like that. He cleared his throat uneasily seeing the way she looked at him before he shrugged his shoulders. “So, you came here to talk--let’s talk.”


“What’s going on?” Wendy questioned sitting down on the edge of the bed next to Ken as he let out a long breath, feeling her hand slide in over his shoulder gently. “You are all tense.”

“I don’t know, my family is just full of craziness,” Ken declared shaking his head as he thought about all the events that had happened over the last few days. “Brant claims to be the father of a baby he knows he’s not, we find out our father is still alive, and then Brant takes the fall.”

“It sounds like one of those cheesy movies you tend to see all the time these days,” Wendy tried to make a joke, gently pushing on his shoulder hearing him let out a small laugh, “I’m only kidding you know.”

“I know, it’s just so weird to see Brant like this,” Ken informed her with a small frown, thinking back to all the years that Brant had been so strong. “Brant was always stronger than me, he took things so much better, but now I have to be the strong one. I can't be the strong one because I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing.”

“Of course you can be strong, it’s in your blood,” Wendy tried to encourage him seeing the way he shrugged his shoulders, giving her a small glance as he thought back to what Brant had been left like. “I know my Kenny is a strong one. A hero in my eyes.”

“God, I wish,” he chuckled shaking his head as he tried to get past the thoughts of his family, but it was really too hard not to concentrate on everything that was happening. “Though, I really think my family is crazy. My father, we all know what horrible things he has done and can do. I don’t understand him, I really don’t. He just keeps on trying to do bad things to ruin everyone’s life. It’s like no one could be happy because the only thing that makes my father happy is chaos. He wants the world to be filled with chaos because that’s the only thing that makes him happy.”

“No one will ever be able to understand your father, but you can’t let him ruin your life,” Wendy pointed out standing up from the bed and standing in front of Ken. She reached for his hands, squeezing them tightly as he let out a small sigh. “You can’t give him that kind of power over you.”

“It’s not only my father, it’s my whole family that’s insane,” Ken chuckled shaking his head slowly as he thought about the stunt Brant tried to get Avery to stay with him. “Hell, I’m insane too. Why in the world are you with me again?”

“Well, who said I was with you,” she whispered in a teasing manner, tilting her head to the side to watch him as he pulled her down into his lap gently. “I didn’t realize that we were together.”

“We’re not together?” Ken questioned with a small laugh seeing her shrug her shoulders as his eyebrows tensed together. A smile appeared over his unhappy features as he reached out to push a piece of her hair away from her face gently. “I guess I should do something to make sure we are together, now shouldn’t I?”

“If you must,” Wendy played along with Ken feeling him lean up and press his lips against hers gently. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders loosely as he pulled away from her slowly. “Well, I guess it’s set then.”

“Is it really?” he flashed her a smile, wiggling his eyebrows up and down before letting out a small laugh. “I am going to make sure we are going to make the most of our time together. We have a second chance and it’s going to be the best times of our lives. Always and forever.”


“I was trying to make Cori here feel better,” Rob informed Lindsay with a small smile, rubbing his hands together as he spoke up slowly. “You remember the year I coached the championship game when I was coaching for basketball?”

“No, I think I was a baby back then, so I don’t think I remember any of that,” Lindsay replied with a small laugh before shrugging her shoulders. “I mean, you talk about it all the time though and what an accomplishment it was. Why?”

“Well, Cori here is one of the girls that was on the team,” Rob told his daughter with enthusiasm as Cori gently wiped at her teary eyes. “You see her boyfriend just broke up with her and…”

“That’s sucks when they do that,” Lindsay informed Cori with a small frown seeing Cori laugh as she spoke up, “most men are just big as…”

“Lindsay,” Rob cut Lindsay off before she could finish her sentence and he wrapped his arm around his daughter’s shoulders. “She has caught up with everyone today, haven’t you? My little fourteen year old.”

“Wow, you’re fourteen already?” Cori couldn’t help but gasp at the thought of what Rob had just said as Cori reached out to gently squeeze Lindsay’s shoulder. “The last time I saw you, you were just a little baby. Now I feel like the old one.”

“You don’t look old and anyways--I’m almost fifteen, my dad seems to be forgetting that,” Lindsay felt her father’s arm tighten around her before he gently kissed her forehead. Lindsay let out a small laugh before looking up at Rob with a small smile. “Dad.”

“Maybe my problem is that my little girl is growing up way too fast on me,” Rob frowned feeling Lindsay lean her head against his check gently as he let out a small laugh and pushed a piece of his daughter’s hair away from her eyes. “Excuse us for a minute, I’m going to talk to her for a minute.”

“What is it dad?” Lindsay questioned as her and her father walked away from Cori for a moment. Rob placed his arm on her shoulder gently as he looked over at Cori for a moment.

“I have to finish a couple of things around here and I was wondering if you would help me with Cori,” Rob looked down at his daughter once more, her blue eyes staring up into his, “I was hoping that you could watch her for a little while. She is really upset and I know you are in the whole peer mediation thing and you are my best little problem solver, so you think you can help?”

“Anything for my dad,” Lindsay smiled feeling him hug her once more before letting out a small laugh and kissing her head gently. “How long do you think it will take?”

“I’m not sure, but I know you can do it,” Rob glanced over at Cori for a moment before walking back over towards her with Lindsay at his side. “I’m going to go and finish some work around here, but while I do that Lindsay is going to stay with you and talk. Is that okay?”

“Sounds good,” Cori nodded looking over at Lindsay as Rob walked away down the back hallway. A small smile appeared over her lips as she let out a small chuckle. “How about I buy us some smoothies, my treat. How does that sound?”

“Cool,” Lindsay smiled walking over towards the seats with Cori, “so about your ex, was he hot?”

“His personality was, yeah,” Cori nodded slowly before letting out a small laugh, “but I realized there are hotter people in this world. A lot of hotter people, but enough about that. What’s going on with you? I want to know what has been up with you for the time I haven’t been around. We should catch up.”


Avery walked down the hallways leading to Brant’s room with a newfound determination. Hoping that somehow she could help pull him out of whatever it was he was stuck in at the moment, she kept Erin close to her wondering if perhaps Erin could help. Kissing her daughter’s head gently, she spoke up in a small whisper.

“We’re going to go check in on Brant,” Avery explained to a curious looking Erin, “He’s not feeling well, but I’m sure once he sees you that might be able to help him a bit. At least I hope.”

Avery carefully opened the door to Brant’s room finding him laying in the bed that they’d placed him in last night. His eyes were closed and Avery wondered if he could find peace in his dreams. Taking a small step forward she couldn’t help but ache for him knowing that this was obviously beyond overwhelming for him with Russell’s return and the knowledge that his father was still very much alive.

“He’s sleeping like a baby,” Annie’s voice surprised her. Avery turned her attention to where Annie had stepped out of the closet with pillow in hand, “I haven’t seen him this content in well…a long time…”

“I just hate to think that he’s this way because of me,” Avery replied with a solemn expression, “Things were going so well and then…”

“He’ll find a way to come back to us,” Annie noted with a small smile before motioning to Erin, “Would you like me to take her for a while so that you two can talk? Well, you know what I mean.”

“Russ should be on his way up soon,” Avery started not really sure she wanted to let go of her daughter just yet. Of course given that she should probably focus on Brant for a while she reluctantly turned Erin over to Annie, “I promise that I’ll check in on her in a few minutes.”

“She’ll be waiting for you in the nursery,” Annie promised with a warm smile leaving Avery to be with Brant.

Once Avery heard the door close behind Annie, she redirected her attention to Brant. He seemed so pale and exhausted especially now that he was laying there before her lost inside himself. At one time he’d seemed so spirited and so full of life, but now it was like he was a shell of his former self. Closing her eyes she thought back to a time when their relationship seemed so different, back before they were lovers and he was so very full of himself, yet even back then he’d proved how important she was to him.

“You were just trying to cut a deal,” Avery sighed watching Brant as he opened his briefcase pulling out the pages Steven Davies had signed earlier binding him to BBK.

“Even so, I’m not doing it at your expense,” he announced tearing the papers as Avery’s eyes widened and she rose from the chair in surprise.

“Brant, what are you doing,” she questioned blinking back at him in confusion as he tore the papers to shreds.

“Davies is out,” Brant announced tossing the fragments of the contract to the floor as he stepped in towards her, “and I swear to you if he ever lays a hand on you again…”

“Brant, you wanted this deal for so long and that…” she looked down the floor, “I can’t believe you just did that…”

“Avery, I told him that you were mine,” Brant stated matter of fact as he moved in closer towards her, “and if he wasn’t willing to accept that, then clearly he’s not the man I want to be in business with because no one tells me how to run the show.”

“But all that time and money…” Avery shook her head in confusion as Brant’s actions left her speechless.

“To hell with it,” Brant shrugged his shoulders casually as he tossed the last piece of broken paper from his hand, “I’m not in a position financially that I can’t recover from this and I’m sure eventually I’ll find someone just as eager as Davies to invest in BBK, as long as they realize that you’re off limits.”

“Brant, I…I don’t know what to say,” Avery confessed in an obvious state of shock, “I mean…”

“Shh…” Brant whispered pressing his finger over her lips to silence her, “what’s done is done and as far as I’m concerned, Steven Davies has no ties what so ever to BBK from this moment on.”

“But Brant…” she began again noting the look of determination upon his features.

“Avery, you mean more to me than his money does,” Brant confessed lowering his finger from her lips as he placed his arm around her waist drawing her in closer to him, “I’m not going to lose you because of this…”

“Brant, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere,” she admitted finding herself seeing Brant Ashford in a whole new light as the strength of his arm curled around her, holding her against him in a tender embrace.

“Good,” he whispered a breath away from her as a smile touched over his lips, “because I wasn’t planning on letting you leave me.”

“Leaving wasn’t an option,” Avery confessed sliding her arm around his neck as something strange was brewing inside of her, “it never crossed my mind.”

Opening her eyes Avery felt a heavy sense of sadness wash over her. If only she could’ve found a way to keep things less complicated for him. Yes, they had been attracted to one another for a long time and though their marriage hadn’t been one of the more traditional types of unions, she still couldn’t help but care for him--couldn’t help but love him in her own way. Sure, their love was nothing like what she had with Russ, yet it was still there.

“Oh Brant,” she leaned forward reaching out to tease her fingers through his dark hair, “I wish I could make you stop hurting. I wish that I could take this all away, but no matter what happens I know this is beyond my control. I just wish…”

Her words trailed off as she leaned forward to place a small kiss on his forehead hoping above all else that somehow he would be able to pull out of the place he’d drifted off to. Moving in beside him, she lay her head on his chest praying that one way or another everything would work itself out for everyone. However in the back of her mind she was certain that when everything was said and done someone would wind up disappointed and hurting and that was the part she’d hated about this the most!


“You wanted to speak with me,” Augustus cleared his throat stepping up to Russell, who had now been looking through the various books in the Ashford library.

“I did and I still do,” Russ turned around to face Augustus with a book in hand. He opened the cover seeing that there was an inscription on the inside to Augustus and he closed the book. “This yours, huh?”

Augustus nodded, “I was friends with the author for a great many years. If you like it, you’re more than welcome to have it.”

“As a consolation prize for being the newbie to the family,” Russ shook his head before putting the book back on the shelf, “I think I’ll pass. I don’t need gifts to soften the blow of my being one of you people.”

“You know as much as I’m sure you’ve heard about your father,” Augustus began with a small sigh.

“He isn’t my father,” Russell corrected almost immediately, “He may have played a biological role in my life, but he isn’t my father. My father is Elliot Denton and he’s a good man with a kind heart who taught me to have morals and scruples.”

“I understand,” Augustus nodded again, “and while I’m sure that Elliot has raise you well, I just want you to know that as a member of this family I would like to think that perhaps you and I can take the time to get to know one another on a more personal level. Avery has spoken well of you over the years and I feel as if I know you already through her.”

“But you don’t know me,” Russell replied stubbornly taking a step forward to face down his grandfather, “You know nothing about the man I am and nothing about what I will do to make sure that Brant doesn’t destroy my daughter’s life with his obsession with Avery. I’m not about to let my family be torn apart just because an Ashford has chosen to fall for my wife.”

“No one has said that you have to let that happen,” Augustus replied carefully seeing so much anger behind Russell’s eyes, “I too hope that this situation can be resolved as promptly as possible with as little damage that we can create.”

“In other words you don’t want the press to get their hands on yet another Ashford scandal,” Russell tossed at him skeptically, “I mean I’m sure that you’re just reeling in embarrassment now that you know about me.”

“Truthfully, I was a bit shell-shocked, but I’m not surprised. My son was a less than upstanding person all around and while I don’t understand or know the circumstances of his courtship with your mother…” Augustus offered up simply.

“It wasn’t a courtship. He manipulated my mother just like Brant is manipulating Avery into staying with him and if you really care about your family--if my daughter and Avery mean anything to you, then you’ll use your persuasions to get Brant to stop playing games with Avery. You’ll see to it that you do what you can to bring peace into this situation by letting Avery and I have our freedom from this nightmare you call a family.”

“Russell I…” Augustus found himself at a loss seeing so much hatred and upset behind Russell’s eyes, but before he could say another word a loud sound erupted from the hallway. Augustus frowned turning his attention to the doorway with clear cut confusion. He moved forward pushing the doors open to see a group of people moving through the hallway all bopping away to some kind of music that played through the estate. “What the…?”

Before Augustus could ask anymore questions Kyle popped up in the doorway with a mischievous grin on his face. He motioned over to Russ with a nod, the source of the sound coming from the radio on his shoulder as he stood before Augustus.

“What are you doing,” Augustus frowned over at Kyle.

“What? I can’t hear you,” Kyle shouted back at him dancing along to the music for a moment before he finally set the boom box down. He stood upright once again after turning down the volume just a bit. “Relax gramps I have every reason in the world to be here. Russ invited me. Didn’t you buddy?”

“Well yes I did, but…” Russell couldn’t help but show his surprise at the group of people who surrounded Kyle.

“Well, you know I mentioned that I was coming over and I invited a few friends and they invited a few friends,” Kyle explained before Russ could ask any further, “Given that you’re a new daddy and you’re still alive I thought that now was the appropriate time to have a welcome home party in style. I hope you don’t mind.”

Russell watched him for a long moment before finally nodding, “Well it does seem appropriate when you put it that way.”

“In that case pops,” Kyle bent down to hand his radio over to Augustus with a quick movement, “What do you say we get this party started?”



...to be continued...