Episode Thirty

Russell stepped into the police station looking around the corridor wondering what was going on with Avery as a panic swept over him.  Just the idea of her being harassed by Shannon Pryce about Bruce’s untimely demise was enough to set his blood to a boil as he knew in his heart that this was the last thing Avery needed.  Now spotting Brant up ahead, he forced himself to maintain an air of level-headedness as he took in a slow breath remembering that acting on impulse would be the last thing Avery needed.  With that thought in mind, he bit back his frustration as he saw Brant speaking with Brooke and Hart.
“What’s going on in there,” Russell questioned interrupting the trio as he noted they all seemed fixated on one room in one particular.
“Avery’s in there because they have some ridiculous notion that…” Brant started immediately turning to see Russell standing before him as a frown touched over his lips, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“I heard that Avery was being harassed by Shannon from a reliable source,” Russell explained matter of fact, “so I thought I’d come down here.”
“I wish you hadn’t,” Brant frowned alerting him of his strong disapproval, “I have this under control.”
“Avery’s still in the damned interrogation room, isn’t she?  I’d say this isn’t under your control,” Russell shot back at him bitterly, “and knowing that Shannon has a chip on her shoulder only makes things worse.”
“I said I can handle it,” Brant growled back in response, “but you on the other hand shouldn’t be here.”
“If Avery’s in any kind of trouble, then I should be here,” Russell added his voice full of determination as he stood taller.
“If my daughter is in any kind of trouble, then there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re behind it somehow as you’re always doing your best to make the worst of her life,” Brooke hissed as she turned her attention back to the new arrival, “You have no place here.”
“I’m not going to argue this one with you Brooke,” Russell answered dismissively pushing his thoughts about her aside as he focused his attention on Brant, “Why did they bring her down to the station?”
“I don’t know,” Brant admitted with a sigh, “We were just having dinner and then Shannon showed up.”
“And said what?” Russell probed further his agitation getting the best of him as what was happening behind the interrogation door became his first priority, “I thought we both agreed that we’d keep her safe…”
“I’m working on it and Hart‘s assured me that whatever is going on in there won‘t be continuing much longer, but you really shouldn’t be here,” Brant pointed out his lip curling in a frown, “She is my fiancée after all.”
“Your fiancée or not, we both know the truth,” Russell reminded him sharply, “and that in itself is all the reason enough for me to be here.  I’m not going to leave Avery stranded…”
“She’s not stranded.  She has me, Denton,” Brant grumbled shifting his anger onto the man before him, “She and I are fine without your popping in all the time.”
“Really,” Russell lifted a curious brow, “then if things were really that fine, why is she being questioned right now or better yet…if everything was so fine, then why do you feel threatened by my being here?”
“I’m not threatened in having you around,” Brant offered up a hollow laugh, “Believe it or not as much of a thorn in my side as you are, Avery thinks that doubly of you.”
“I sincerely doubt it,” Russell quipped a heat rising over him as his anger stirred inside of him, “There’s a lot about Avery that you don’t and won’t ever know.”
“And let me guess, you’re just the man to enlighten me on what I’m missing out on, aren’t you,” Brant glared at him.
“On the contrary, you wouldn’t ever be that lucky,” Russell replied tersely as Richard entered the small lobby.
“What’s going on here,” Richard questioned with a scowl, “Russ, when did you get here?”
“A few minutes ago,” Russell looked to Avery’s father seeing his own concerns about Avery mirrored in Richard’s eyes, “How long have they had her in there?”
“Too long and while I trust Kenneth is doing the best job possible for her, this interrogation is about to end as Agent Pryce is about to have more problems on hand than she’d ever imagined possible after this obvious harassment…” Richard promised turning his attention to the interrogation room.  “She’s crossed a line and it’s going to end immediately.”
“What have you done now,” Brooke questioned noting the anger behind her husband’s eyes as she turned away from questioning Hart on what he’d done in the interrogation room.
“I’ve made sure that this investigation won’t be biased any longer by that woman,” Richard explained simply with a shrug of his shoulders, “After I phoned in to my contacts at the FBI, Agent Pryce is going to find that…” his words were interrupted as the door to the interrogation room opened and Avery stepped out looking forlorn with Kenneth right behind her.
“Avery,” Brant called out to her rushing to her side as his brother reached out to him.
“Brant, we need to talk,” Kenneth started seeing that Dave and Shannon were still in the room, “like now.”
“Not yet,” Brant shrugged away from his brother reaching out to Avery, “Are you alright?”
“Brant,” she began her voice a bit shaken as her tone was just above a whisper, “whatever happens….”
“Avery,” Russell joined the duo as he reached out towards Avery, “hey are you okay?”
“Russ,” a gasp fell from her lips as her pulse raced in her chest, “you shouldn’t be here.”
“I couldn’t leave you like this,” he explained touching her arm gently, “I heard they brought you down here and I was so worried…”
“Please tell me that neither one of you did anything because of me that you’ll live to regret,” her eyes begged as her voice was barely a whisper, “I can’t lose either one of you.”
“Avery, you’re not going to lose either one of us,” Brant tried to assure her as Shannon stepped out into the lobby with Dave at her side.
“Ah, just the duo I was hoping to speak with,” Shannon’s eyes darted over the group, “and how touching to have a reunion it would seem.  Good thing you‘re here Mr. Denton as it saves me the trouble of making the call to have you down here…”
“What’s this about,” Russell questioned giving her a strange look.
“This is about murder,” Shannon answered matter of fact, “and finding the truth…”
“Put a lid on it Shannon,” Brant grumbled back at her before turning his attention back to Avery, “Come on.  I’m going to get you home.”
“You aren’t going anywhere,” Shannon announced approaching the group, “Not by a long shot.”
“Excuse me?” Brant blinked back at her, “Just who the hell do you think you are?  First you harass my fiancée and now…”
“Brant, this is official business,” Dave added breaking in between the two of them as an air of seriousness hung over his tone, “We need to speak with you and Russell about your whereabouts the night of the Mathis murder.”
“This can wait,” Brant waved his hand dismissively, “I’m taking Avery home.”
“No, you’re not,” Shannon snapped back at him stepping forward.
“Yes, I am…” Brant declared, “and if this is about your pathetic need to get back at me, Shannon get over it.  I have and taking out your anger on Avery isn’t going to accomplish anything.  What we had wasn’t that special.”
“Brant,” Kenneth piped in touching his brother’s arm lightly.
“Well it’s true,” Brant insisted seeing the anger building behind Shannon’s eyes at his smugness.
Dave stepped in feeling the tension in the air as he cleared his throat, “Brant, that’s enough.  We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
Hart stepped forward, “Whatever this is about, Brant isn’t going to say a word until we have a few minutes here.”
“Fair enough,” Dave decided as he looked over to Shannon.  While she hadn’t said much in the last few seconds, he could see that look upon her face ready to tear Brant apart and with that thought in mind, he looked to Hart, “I’d like to have a word with Brant in interrogation room one and Shannon would like to talk to Russell in room two.”
“This is ridiculous,” Brant argued with him, “I can’t believe that you two are set on making this more than it is.”
“Brant, just get in there,” Hart urged taking a step forward, “The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can all go home.”
“Whatever,” Brant groaned shaking his head as he reluctantly stepped towards the interrogation room, “I’ll be back soon,” he promised Avery as Dave followed him into the room.
Avery looked over to Russell thinking of the tape that Dave produced and suddenly she’d wished that he’d stayed far away from this place--far away from her as somehow she feared that he and Brant had done something stupid that could cost them their freedom.  With that thought in mind, she approached him wishing he could read her mind as she said a silent prayer that she was wrong--that Dave and Shannon had nothing on him and Brant--that somehow they weren’t behind what happened to Bruce.  That this hadn’t happened because of her.
“I’m not saying anything until I speak with my lawyer,” Russell explained exchanging looks with Avery as he noticed the trepidation consuming her otherwise beautiful features.
“Fine, then I’ll dial for you,” Shannon offered thinking of the surveillance video she’d taken a look at earlier, “because you and Brant both have a lot of explaining to do starting now.”
“Not without proper representation Agent Pryce,” Richard piped in his voice firm and authoritative as he made his presence known to the FBI agent, “as we wouldn’t want you to go out of your ways to bend the rules more so than you already have this evening.”
“Daddy,” Avery began seeing the anger and determination behind his eyes as she immediately recognized her father’s tone as one she’d grown up to admire and appreciate when he’d been in full on lawyer mode.
“Princess call Grady and tell him what’s going on.  Have him get over here as soon as he can, but until then,” Richard urged her briefly before turning his attention to Russell, “I hope you don’t mind my offering my services right about now, do you?”
“Not at all,” Russell agreed with a nod giving Avery one last look as Shannon lead the way to the interrogation room and Avery watched the men in her life being taken away.  She just prayed that after Shannon and Dave’s questioning that she wouldn’t be losing them forever.


Jade knocked lightly upon Grady’s door before stepping inside. She placed a cup of coffee upon the desk with a small brown bag, “Breakfast.”

“Thank you,” Grady smiled, “You’re here early.”

“I thought it was probably a good idea to leave my place as soon as possible this morning,” She admitted as she sank into a chair across from his desk.

“Why?” He asked as he opened the cup of coffee and focused on her.

“Oh you know, Seth and I went about ten rounds last night when I went home.”

“It wasn’t over me again, was it?”

“Not just about you,” Jade frowned, “When I got home last night, Thea was there with Seth.”

He almost choked on his coffee at her words, “Excuse me?”

“Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction as well,” She shook her head, “I don’t understand it at all, and Seth won’t explain anything about her.”

“Why would she visit your brother?”

“That’s a very good question, and then he evaded every question and instead turned everything around on me. He kept changing the subject back to you.”

“I don’t suppose you had the chance to ask him about dinner.”

“I mentioned it but he didn’t seem willing to discuss it.”

“Do you think you might give it a second try?”

“I could I suppose,” Jade frowned, “But I really don’t think he’s going to be very receptive.”

“We have to give this a try,” Grady assured her, “I don’t want to be a bone of contention between you and your brother.”

“That’s very sweet of you,” She smiled, “But I just really think that Seth is hopeless.”

“We’ll have to give it a try,” He flashed her a smile, “But for now…we have work to do.”

“Ugh, work,” She groaned before her smile returned, “So what’s on tap for today?”

“I’ve left a message for Cameron Stone at his office. I’ve got all the papers prepared and ready for his signature. He’ll need to sign them in Dorothy’s presence so she can notarize them. We’ll file them with the clerk of court this afternoon, and get this case moving. The sooner we’re done with Cameron Stone, the better.”

“You’ll get no argument from me on that one,” She agreed, “Anything else?”

“Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with Russ, but I kind of have the feeling that he’s going to be up to his eyeballs with this thing with Avery. I may have to leave to be with him and…”

“Hey,” She spoke as she stood and placed her hand upon his, “I’ll hold down the fort here. There’s nothing going on that I can’t handle. I’ll deal with it, and you can go help your brother.”

“I don’t want you to think I’m abandoning you.”

“I’m not. I know that Russ needs you,” She smiled, “It’s okay. I can handle this.”

“And if Stone comes by and I’m gone?”

“I’ll deal with him,” She sighed before shrugging, “I won’t like it, but I’m sure that I can get through it.”

“Jade, if you don’t feel comfortable with it, I can take the papers to his office for him to sign.”

“No, it’s okay. He can come here. This gives me a chance to show him that I don’t want to be with him in a setting where I feel comfortable. I’m safe here, and I don’t want to face him unless I feel safe,” She met his doubt filled eyes and patted his hand, “Trust me. I’ll be okay.”

“I just don’t want you to have to face him alone.”

“I won’t be alone,” She pointed out, “Dorothy is here, and I can always call security. I really don’t think he’ll be a problem here.”

“Jade, don’t underestimate him. I don’t trust him.”

“I know you don’t, and truthfully neither do I. But this is our turf, and I will not let him upset me here.”

“Okay, but if you feel threatened…even for a minute…”

“I’ll call security,” She rolled her eyes, “I’m a big girl. I can handle this.”

“Brave words. I think I’ve heard you say them before.”

“Okay, I’ll admit that I got myself into this situation, but I’ll also say right now that I’ll get myself out of it as well. I’m not going to let him intimidate me.”

“Fair enough,” Grady said as he leaned forward to capture her lips in a soft kiss, “Now I think it’s time to get to work.”

“Okay boss,” Jade grinned before kissing him once more. As their lips parted, she turned and left his office, more than ready to face whatever the day could throw at her.


Seth stepped out of the bathroom barely having had enough time to dry off as he quickly tied a towel loosely around his waist.  Whomever was at the door was damned persistent and in the mood he was in, they’d better have hoped they had a good excuse for showing up when they did otherwise heads were going to roll.  After dealing with Jade and having to face her wrath, the last thing he wanted was company, but the insistent pounding carried through the apartment making his jaw tense with anger as he threw open the door with a growl.
“What,” he hissed as he looked down to find Blake standing before him, her blue eyes wild with anger as she shook her fist at him holding something in between her fingers that appeared to be some kind of magazine of sorts.
“Don’t you dare give me what,” she shoved her way past him into his apartment as her tone took on an accusatory note, “Just who the hell do you think you are?” she demanded her blonde hair cascading around her features as she looked up at him bitterly.
“Well hello to you too,” Seth closed the door behind her seeing her beautiful features twisted with rage, “What’s got you going this morning?”
“You’ve got me going,” she stepped towards him, her voice tight with anger as she waved her hand out towards him, “How dare you do this to me?”
“Come again,” he questioned giving her a strange look as she began to strike him with the magazine she carried with her.
“Of all of the dirty, rotten things that you could’ve done you son of a bitch,” she continued to throw the magazine into his chest furiously with each movement of her hand, “I trusted you and you did this to me…”
“Blake, hold on a second,” Seth raised his hands in an attempt to defend himself as she lashed out at him her voice cracking with emotion as she pounded at his chest.
“I trusted you,” she repeated shouting as he grabbed her arm stopping her next thrust of her fist as her blue eyes met his confused features.
“Blake, what are you talking about,” Seth questioned not sure where this was coming from as she pushed her free hand into the center of his chest shoving him away from her as Seth released his hold on her wrist.  The magazine went flying into his chest as Blake stumbled back onto one of the chairs her blonde hair cascading over her features as she let out a huff.
“Don’t you dare play innocent with me,” she pushed her hair back from her face trying to regain her bearings as she took in his appearance for the first time since her arrival.  Now as Seth stood before her wearing nothing more than a teal colored towel, she felt her pulse race in her throat at just the very sight of him.  The lines of his body brought a heat right through her as she noted the droplets of water over the smooth contours of his chest.
“Blake, I honestly don’t know what’s going on here,” Seth started again as she seemed a bit less physical now that she’d fallen into the chair.  He slipped his fingers in beneath his towel in an attempt to tighten it up a bit before he motioned to the magazine in his hand, “What is this?”
Suddenly distracted Blake clenched her fists as his words finally reached her and she pushed her way up off of the arm of the chair planting her feet firmly on the ground as she glared up at him, “That is just how little you think of me.”
“Blake, I don’t understand where any of this is coming from,” Seth started once again watching her look at him in a way he’d never imagined possible before now.
“Why don’t you turn to page three and then you can see what I’m talking about since you still choose to play games with me,” Blake urged standing taller as she placed her hand on her hip impatiently, “I’m sure that’ll refresh your memory there.”
“Blake, I don’t know what…” he saw her frown reach over every irresistible inch of her as he suddenly knew she’d meant business.  Reluctantly taking a look at the cover of the magazine, he let out an inward groan wondering what in the world Blake was doing with this kind of tabloid trash as he slowly turned to page three only to discover his photograph of Blake spread out on the page before him.
“Well, now do you have an explanation,” Blake demanded harshly, “or is it just another lie that you’re trying to come up with since you seem to be good at those?”
“Blake, I don’t know how this got here,” Seth started in confusion as he held up the page skimming over the accompanying article.
“That got there because you put it there.  You took those pictures that day with the full intention of ruining my life and exploiting me for your own twisted pleasures, didn’t you Seth?  When I thought I could trust you…hell that I thought I was actually falling in love with you, but then you do something like this.  This was all a game to you, wasn’t it?  It was just some sick and twisted get rich quick scheme that you decided to pull on a stupid little rich girl because it’s not like she has any feelings…not like she has a heart that can be broken by something like this…” she fought to keep her words even as she bit on her lower lip silently urging herself not to let him see her cry.  Anything, but letting him know how hurt she was.  She couldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing just how hard this shock had hit her.
“Blake, I didn’t do this,” Seth’s brown eyes pleaded with her as he set the magazine down, “I didn’t send them this article…”
“It’s got your name on it,” Blake took a step away from him as he reached out to her, “It’s your picture unless you have some evil alien clone out there who was with me that night…”
“Blake, I’m not denying that it’s my photograph because it is, but I swear to you that I didn’t submit that to the magazine nor did I give them this ridiculous story.  It wasn’t me.”
“Right, just like it wasn’t you in Los Angeles when you decided to destroy Kipp Mahoney’s life, right?” she continued hating herself for being played for a fool as she collected her purse as it had fallen in the chaos, “Seth, I know your type and I thought you were different, really different, but I was wrong about you.”
“Kipp Mahoney,” Seth gave her a strange look, “Blake I never met Kipp Mahoney before I came to Coral Valley.  He works for some guy that hired me for a job,” he started suddenly thinking to Cameron’s threats as Thea’s visit was fresh on his mind.
“Right,” Blake replied disbelieving, “I called the Los Angeles tabloid that ran the story about Kipp.  They told me all about your eagerness to submit the photos to their piece of trash.  How you were one of the best photographers they had and how you were paid generously for what was one of their best celebrity exploits ever.  I know all about you Seth, so there’s no point in denying it.”
“There is when I didn’t do it,” Seth argued with her stepping forward as he reached out to her, “Blake you have to believe me.”
“I don’t have to believe anything and I won’t believe anything that comes out of your mouth because you’re nothing but a liar.  A deceitful, cruel, manipulative liar,” Blake screamed at him smacking his hand as he reached out to touch her, “and I hate you.”
“Blake no,” Seth watched her walking away from him as a panic swept over him, “Blake please…just hear me out.”
“The truth speaks for itself in that,” Blake answered tearfully unable to contain the hurt he’d put upon her.  He’d made her feel vulnerable and weak and she’d hated what she’d become in trusting him.
“The truth is nothing that magazine has to offer,” Seth pleaded with her tugging on her arm, “Blake, please look at me.  I swear to you that I didn’t do those things you think I did.  All I was trying to do was to help my sister, to save her from the horrors that my father inflicted upon us, but I swear to you I would never, ever betray you this way.”
“Spare me the sob story,” Blake wiped at her tears as she forced herself to look at him once more, “It won’t work on me again, Seth.”
“Blake, it’s the truth,” Seth pleaded with her refusing to let go of her arm as she gazed up at him with such raw hatred and pain, “I never did any work for any kind of tabloid not here in Coral Valley and certainly not Los Angeles.  I’ve never been to Los Angeles and never really planned on it before…”
“So you’re trying to tell me that the person I talked to out there was lying to me?  That this article they ran on Kipp was all a fabrication even though it’s in print?”
“Have you seen the article with your own eyes,” he challenged seeing the traces of doubt passing over her features, “Have you looked at these so called photos?”
“I don’t need to see them as I already talked to the editor and I see the proof of your betrayal right there,” she motioned to the tabloid on the floor, “That is all the truth I need.”
“Blake, think about this for a second,” he urged further, “Kipp Mahoney is the son of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.  I’m sure that he could find a way to get anyone to say what he wanted them to say.”
“Oh right, he just happened to go back in the tabloid archives and change all the prints to say that you sent in the photos that ruined his life and took him from the woman he loved,” Blake shot back sarcastically, “Sorry to burst your bubble Seth, but those of us born into money aren’t gods.  We don’t have that kind of power, though you’d like to believe we did just so it justifies your hatred for people like Kipp and I.”
“You aren’t like Kipp,” Seth insisted his eyes desperately seeking out a chance to reach her as she scowled up at him, “You’re a good person with a kind heart and anyone who knows you can see that.  Kipp isn’t that kind of person.  He works for a man named Cameron Stone--a man that I took some photos for once upon a time.  Cameron’s got an agenda and…”
“Oh here we go again,” Blake interrupted with a roll of her eyes, “Always ready to take the blame and put it on someone else, right?  You can’t just own up to the fact that you’re a piece of scum who’s only purpose in life is to manipulate people who are foolish enough to trust you.  It’s like some kind of drug for you, isn’t it Seth?  I mean first you find some sap and then you reel them in with beautiful words and fairy tales and then you destroy them only for your twisted purposes, but I have news for you.  I won’t be someone for you to manipulate any longer because I never want to see you ever again, so you and your damned camera can stay the hell away from me from this moment on,” she pushed him away as she ran out into the hall overcome with emotion as Seth looked down to the discarded tabloid on the ground.
Somehow Cameron had found a way to hurt Seth as promised as suddenly the idea of losing Blake tore him in two.  Just the idea of having to be without her was more than he could stand to bear and as he heard her running away from the apartment, he looked to the door determined not to let her walk out of his life forever.  Not caring what he looked like or who saw the situation taking place, he marched into the hallway finding Blake racing down the hall as he quickly caught up to her tugging on her arm with one swift motion.
“Let go of me!” she screamed as he spun her around to face him.
“No,” he answered pressing her up against the wall as her fists pounded into his chest.
“Leave me alone,” she shouted raising her voice with each enraged punch into the heart of him, “I don’t want you near me.  I hate you, Seth.”
“No you don’t,” Seth used his weight to keep her stilled beside him as he touched her face urging her to look up at him, “Look at me, Blake.”
“No,” she answered tearfully fighting him on the issue as he leaned in towards her.
“Blake please,” he begged of her, his voice tight with emotion as her tears caused an ache to run deep inside of him, “Blake, please look at me and tell me that you see the horrible person you want to believe I am.  Tell me that you hate me to my face--while looking in my eyes and only then will I believe you’re ready to let go of me.”
“I already told you,” she started feeling his finger tips press over her cheek wiping at her tears as she closed her eyes trying to ignore the way being this close to him tore her apart inside--the way his touch mesmerized her and made her foolishly want to believe in love and romance and in happily ever after.
“Tell me again,” his voice was a mere whisper above her as she turned her eyes up towards him seeing the same warmth of him that had captured her heart from their first meeting.  Since then she’d been beside herself about the way he’d made her feel, but now as he looked into her reaching deep into her soul, she was afraid of revealing too much…afraid of showing him just how much he’d hurt her, but more so afraid of letting him go and never feeling this alive again as she’d thought of the ways he’d managed to reach her.
“Blake, I love you,” Seth leaned in closer to her his voice smooth and steady as his fingers tapered off into her blonde tresses, “and regardless of how you feel about me in this moment, you need to know that much.  You need to see that I would never, ever betray you like that and that despite the fact that I don’t deserve you or your love because of the mistakes I’ve made, this wasn’t one of them.  You can believe anything you want from here on out, but know that I love you,” his lips hovered over hers causing her heart to pound furiously in her chest as she pressed back into the wall afraid she’d sink into his arms as his eyes penetrated her core.
Blake took in a nervous breath fearing that her body’s eager response to him would give her away as the thought of losing him tore her apart inside.  Despite the fact she’d been furious with him and still questioned his actions, there was a part of her hanging onto hope.  A part that wanted him and needed him and couldn’t bear the thought of losing him and as she spoke up, she fought with her heart hoping that it wouldn’t betray her.
“I hate you,” Blake began trembling beneath his touch as he held her refusing to let her walk away as they stood together in the hallway outside his apartment in this moment together, “I hate what you’ve done to me and I hate you for making me believe that there was someone in this world worth trusting and most of all I hate you because even after you did this to me, I still want you…” she dropped her voice to a whimper as his thumb brushed up against her cheekbone, “I still need you, Seth.”
“I need you too, Blake,” he captured her lips in a feathery light kiss as his hands slid down the wall curling around her waist as he pulled her fully into his arms, “I need all of you.”
“Oh Seth,” she broke into tiny sobs unable to contain herself a moment longer as his kiss had broken her allowing her heart the freedom to hold onto him as her love for him was the one emotion she couldn’t run away from.


Caitlin walked across the floor of the newsroom, watching reporters beginning to trickle in as the beginning of the work day quickly approached. She had set herself a goal for the day, and she was going to do her dead level best to meet that goal. If it meant ignoring everyone and everything, then so be it.

“Hey Caitlin,” Mindy smiled as she saw the reporter approaching Russell’s office, “The boss isn’t in yet.”

“He probably won’t be either,” Caitlin informed her, “He’s tied up with some personal business down at the police station,” She glanced past the secretary and then around the newsroom with a particularly innocent look upon her face, “Think he would mind if I commandeered his office for a while?”

“What for?” Mindy asked, her insatiable curiosity piqued.

“Well, I am doing research for a story I’m working on, and I could really use his computer since it’s the fastest in the entire building,” Caitlin glanced at Mindy and smiled, “And I could actually use your help as well if you’re not too busy with Russ’s stuff.”

“Actually I’m not,” Mindy smiled, “What can I help you with?”

“Well first of all, let’s get into his office,” Caitlin smiled as she followed the young woman into Russell’s office and placed her bag down alongside his desk, “We’re going to need to do a search on Stone Corp.”

“Stone Corp?” Mindy repeated, “The conglomerate?”

“That’s the very one.”

“I thought you were doing a story on Midlands Utilities.”

“I am,” Caitlin nodded, “But I found out that Stone Corp has bought out most of Midlands stock. That means that basically the lawsuits will fall into the hands of Stone Corp.”

“Which also means that Kenneth Ashford is going to have a huge fight on his hands,” Mindy nibbled her lip, “I’ll go down to the archives and see what I can find on Stone Corp.”

“In the meantime, I’m going to call some of Russell’s sources at city hall and down at the capitol building. If Stone Corp is really as big and powerful as it appears to be, there has to be a few skeletons in their closet,” Caitlin informed the secretary before she left the office to get started on their mission.

Caitlin began thumbing through the rolodex upon her boss’s desk, looking for the number of his contact at city hall. While Russell probably wouldn’t like her borrowing his sources, he would be proud of her and her article when she was done. Besides, if he were here, she could have asked him for his help, but since he was busy with other things, she would just take the liberty for herself.

She found a name with a star by it and smiled. She’d heard Russell mention his source only enough to recognize the name. She only hoped that the source wouldn’t spook by being called by an unknown reporter.

She dialed the number before sitting back in Russell’s cozy leather chair and listening to the ring tones. After a moment, a soft male voice answered.

“City Records.”

“Is this Mr. Augustus?” She asked softly.

“It is. Can I help you?”

“My name is Caitlin Vaughn. I’m a reporter with the Coral Courier. Russell Denton is my boss, and he thinks very highly of you. I’m working on a story, and you were recommended as a reliable source.”

“I was? Did Russell say that?”

“He did,” She lied as she silently hoped she’d be forgiven for a white lie, “I’m not going to name you in my story, but I was hoping you could help me get some information.”

“What kind of information?”

“Stone Corp has recently set up a new office in town, and I was hoping I could get my hands on any information they may have filed with the city.”

“Such as?” Mr. Augustus asked.

“Business filings, building permits, any legal documents concerning Stone Corp,” She paused as she let him absorb the type of information she wanted, “Would that be possible?”

“According to the Freedom of Information of Act, yeah that’s all possible, and I might be able to give you a little more than that. Can I just messenger the information to the Courier?”

“Yes, and Mr. Augustus, I’ll have to buy you lunch one day soon. You’re a godsend,” Caitlin’s voice beamed with generosity.

“I just hope I can help. I’ll get the information to you as soon as possible.”

“Thank you so much,” Caitlin smiled as she hung up the phone. She opened her document bag and began sorting through articles she had collected the day before as she heard the office door open.

“Russell, where the hell are you?” Heather demanded as she slammed the door closed behind her.

“I hate to burst your bubble there, Heather, but Russell isn’t here,” Caitlin said as she leaned onto Russell’s desk and smiled mockingly, “I’ll be sure to tell him you dropped by though.”

“What are you doing in his office? Trying to move up in the world without earning it?” Heather asked as she eyed the other woman with contempt.

“Oh please spare me, isn’t that more your line of work?” Caitlin asked as she crossed her arms.

“Why are you here anyway?”

“I think that’s a question better asked of you,” Caitlin said as she raised a curious eyebrow, “Why are you here?”

“That’s none of your business. I’m here to see Russell. Where is he?”

“He’s busy with other things. I guess that means you need an appointment, Heather,” Caitlin said with pleasure, “Shall I pencil you in?”

“I don’t need to take any lip from some lackey,” Heather snorted as she turned and opened the door to leave the office. She stopped and glanced back towards the reporter, “No, I’m not going to just leave it like that after all. I want to know where Russell is, and I want to know right now.”

“And you think that I’m going to just give over to your demands?” Caitlin chuckled, “You’re not that important.”

Heather raised a bemused brow before sitting on the edge of the desk, “You’d be surprised at just how much power I do have,” She said as she glanced at Caitlin, “And what I can do with it.”

“Spare me your idle threats. If you do anything, you would have done it already. So just spare me,” Caitlin rolled her eyes as she dismissed Heather with a flick of her wrist and began sorting through her files again.

“Really? And if I called my friends over at the Inside Track…” Heather paused, “What do you think they’d say about a certain reporter dating an Ashford heir while trying to curry favor with her boss?”

“What do you think they’d say about a certain model slumming it by trying to get the attention of a certain editor?” Caitlin countered, “Don’t threaten me, Heather. I will not be intimidated by a airhead like you.”

“Airhead? How dare you?” Heather shrieked, “You have no right to say such vile things to me.”

“I have every right when you’re threatening me. So why don’t you do us both a favor and just get out?”

“Only if you tell me where Russell is,” Heather suggested, all the while glaring at Caitlin.

“Fine, you know what…he could probably use the distraction and besides, if he gets tired of you, at least he’ll be in the right place to bring charges of harassment,” Caitlin sighed, “He’s down at the police station.”

“Why would he be there?” Heather softened her tone in an attempt to gain more information.

“Why don’t you just go down there and ask him, Heather?” Caitlin frowned as she shot daggers at the model with her eyes.

“I think I will. I have important business with him anyway,” Heather stated before traipsing from the office.

Caitlin groaned as she sank back in her chair. Maybe if Russell were in the midst of the police, he would be able to deny the urge Caitlin got every time she saw Heather…the urge to choke the life out of the blond bimbo.


Kipp knocked lightly upon Cameron’s door before stepping inside. He paused as he watched Thea leaning over Cameron’s shoulder pointing out important points on a document before him. While he had never quite understood the relationship between Cameron and Thea, he knew better than to interrupt his boss when he was busy with his assistant.

“Ah Kipp, come in,” Cameron said as he spotted his attorney, “I got your voice mail. Care to explain what you meant?”

“I went to dinner with Blake Ashford last night,” Kipp began as he unbuttoned his jacket and sat across from his boss, “I don’t think she was very happy with Seth Alexander by the end of the evening.”

“Why?” Cameron asked as he focused on the attorney.

“Thanks to Thea’s resourcefulness with the picture in the Inside Track, I was able to paint a very disparaging picture of the photographer,” Kipp explained, “By the end of the evening, I had convinced her that Seth was only interested in exploiting her for money he could earn by photographing her.”

“And you’re certain that she bought your story?” Thea asked, her doubt echoing in her words, “Somehow I doubt it.”

“Trust me. She was very upset by the end of the evening.”

“If I had to spend that much time with you, I’d be very upset as well,” She pointed out as she sat on the edge of Cameron’s desk.

Kipp rolled his eyes as he focused his attention back to Cameron, “I was able to call a few friends in LA who will verify everything I told Blake. Quite frankly, she’ll have no choice but to believe me.”

“You’re rather cocky, aren’t you? You do know that pride goeth before the fall,” Thea warned.

“I will complete what has been asked of me,” Kipp assured her before meeting Cameron’s ask, “Have I ever failed you?”

“No,” Cameron admitted causing Kipp to smile before continuing, “But you’ve never been given such an important assignment before either.”

“You won’t be sorry for entrusting me with this.”

“Those are famous last words,” Thea pointed as she glanced back to the lawyer, “I want some proof that she bought your little story.”

“Such as?” Kipp questioned, his frustration growing by the moment.

“Such as another date for you and the little heiress. If you really have succeeded in destroying her burgeoning relationship, then it should be no problem for you to spend time with her again,” She smiled as she crossed her arms, “Think you’re ready to test the waters?”

“I can and will have Blake Ashford in every way, and you,” Kipp turned to Cameron, “Will have everything you’ve wanted. Nothing will stop either one,” He declared before turning and leaving the office.

“What do you have against Kipp?” Cameron asked with amusement.

“He’s a brownnoser,” Thea shrugged as she slowly walked across the room to pour herself a glass of water from a freshly drawn pitcher, “And I have no use for him.”

“He is useful…in his own ways,” He shrugged, “Still, his attention isn’t focused properly. His primary objective should be to complete his task with Blake Ashford, but I feel he’s still much too involved with his devotion to Heather Gibbons.”

She slowly turned to look towards him, “Any ideas about how to encourage him to focus?”

“As a matter of fact,” Cameron grinned, “I do have a few, and who knows? They just might turn out to be fun for me as well,” He said before settling back in his chair, a dastardly smile sparkling through his handsome features with dangerous intent.


“Why are they taking so long,” Avery muttered under her breath pacing around the police lobby as a frown touched over her lips.  Just thinking about Brant and Russell in the interrogation rooms set her on edge as she looked to the doors hoping that somehow they could come out of the rooms without consequences, but as Avery thought back to the tape she’d heard Dave and Shannon speak of, her fears mounted.
“You really should sit down, Avery.  Though I did warn you that opening the door to have that man back in your life was going to lead you down a dark and dangerous path that would one day destroy you as his kind always does, but do you listen to me?  No, of course you don‘t.” Brooke frowned watching her daughter’s movement like a hawk as her scowl deepened, “You have a wonderful man in your life and still you’re falling back into old and unsavory habits and for what?  For that Denton boy to land you in trouble once again?”
“Shut up mother,” Avery glared at her feeling her anxiety level heighten to a fevered pitch.
“I’m just calling it like it is,” her mother grumbled up at her as Avery shot her a scathing look.  “Just because you prefer to keep making the same mistakes over and over again doesn’t mean that I’m going to sit back and let you do that.  If you think for one minute that Russell Denton is going to somehow become the kind of man you need in your life…”
“Stop it,” Avery warned waving her finger at Brooke impatiently, “Now is not the time for you start with me on this.”
“It’s never the time, but now is as good as any since your father isn’t around to offer up his bleeding heart sympathies for your poor clouded judgment.  Avery, that man is nothing but trouble for you and he’s always been trouble.  I mean my God you’re in a police station no doubt due to some stupid thing that Russell did.  More than likely he was the one that saw to give poor Bruce his untimely demise because Russell couldn’t handle the fact that you’d moved on in your life to bigger and better things after I convinced you that marrying him would be the worst possible mistake of your life.”
“Shut up,” Avery repeated trying to keep her tone even as her anger rose with each passing moment.
“Avery, with the mess you and Russell made together last time, I refuse to let you put yourself in that kind of position again when you have your whole life ahead of you and you have Brant.  He’s one in a million and I’m not going to let you go slumming again in order to keep yourself from the only good decision you’ve made.”
“Please, I’ll ask you this once again,” Avery looked around the lobby seeing the uniformed officers that were not so casually keeping an eye on the both of them, “Now is neither the time nor the place for any of this.  I just want this to be over with and then I want to go home and forget that any of this ever happened.  That’s my only request so if you wouldn’t mind keeping your thoughts to yourself for a while…”
“Fine,” Brooke threw her hands in the air in frustration, “but I swear I don’t know why you don’t use your head for once Avery.”
“I am using my head,” Avery replied firmly as she took a seat away from her mother, “and my heart which is something you know nothing about…”
“Your heart got you in over your head and I refuse to let you do the same stupid things over again,” Brooke insisted her tone growing more antagonistic by the moment as she reached for her purse opening it and skimming through it’s contents, “You should know better than to behave so foolishly especially in front of your fiancé.  If Brant knew just how obsessed Russell Denton was with you, then I’m certain he’d find a way to keep him out of your life forever seeing as you’re too stubborn and foolish to do it yourself.”
“You can’t pick and choose my friends, mother,” Avery sneered back at her, “I’m not sixteen anymore.”
“You were impossible back then too,” Brooke reminded her sharply, “and don’t think I was unaware of how you defied me all those years with that hoodlum.  Avery, you’ve come so far and you’re so close to having the perfect dream come true, but you’re also very close to blowing it.  If you even consider keeping Russell in your life, you’re going to find that Brant will discard you and you’ll be missing out on the greatest opportunity of your life…”
“My life or yours?” Avery challenged raising an arched brow, “I mean what is this really about?  You’re not interested in my happiness any more than you’re interested in my father’s happiness.  All you care about is what everyone else can do to feed into your ego.  That’s all it was about for you.  All those years you forced me to do that stupid modeling and you tried to dictate my life, it only made me want to get as far away from you as possible.”
“So you thought that latching onto a low class nobody like Russell Denton was the answer?” Brooke snapped pulling a compact out of her purse and taking a quick look at her appearance, “Avery if you would stop being so stupid and quit trying to defy me, you’ll see that I’m right about this.  You were only headed down a road towards misery if I’d sat back and let you marry that man.”
“I might’ve been happy,” Avery sighed running her fingers through her dark hair as her exhaustion was taking it’s toll on her.  After the interrogation with Shannon, the last thing she wanted to get into was an argument with her mother, but damn it anyways, Brooke wasn’t about to let up on her obvious hatred for Russell.  Avery’s eyes darted to her mother as Brooke applied a new layer of lipstick to her perfectly lined lips, “I realize that’s a foreign concept to you, but Russ made me very happy.  We had something that you could never come close to with daddy because you don’t have a heart…”
“I gave my father everything I had and he sucked away my youth taking the best years of my life because I allowed it to happen and I refuse to let my daughter make the same ludicrous mistakes even if she continues to loathe me for it.”
“I’m not going to listen to this,” Avery sprung to her feet again, “In fact I don’t have to listen to anymore of this.  You can just leave as soon as we get out of here and go back to your company and to the things that really matter in your life because it certainly isn’t me.”
“I’m trying to make you the best you can be,” Brooke stood abruptly reaching out towards Avery, “which reminds me you really look like hell right now and a little blush might help fix that.”
“I don’t want any blush,” Avery shrugged away from Brooke’s doting reach as Brooke held the compact out towards her once again.
“At least put on some lipstick for God’s sake.  I can’t believe that any daughter of mine would want to be so sloppy in her appearance considering…”
“I’ve been at a police station all night,” Avery reminded her bluntly, “This isn’t a Beholder Ball we’re having here.  It’s more like a nightmare and quite honestly I don’t give a damn what I look like right now because I’m beyond fed up.”
“That’s just what I’m talking about,” Brooke scowled back at her as she reached for a makeup brush waving it at Avery, “You always turn into nothing but a brat when you’re around Russell and I know that this is his fault somehow.”
“Mother, Bruce is dead,” Avery pushed the blush brush away from her face as she shook her head at her mother in strong disapproval, “While that might not mean anything to you, we’re in the middle of a police station and in my opinion it isn’t the type of situation where I have to get all made up.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to look nice for Brant when he gets out of this ridiculous questioning he’s being put through,” Brooke motioned towards the door, “Clearly this town has some sloppy police work going on here because an Ashford would never have had to be subjected to this kind of ridicule before…” she trailed off noting the apprehension behind Avery’s features, “Then again an Ashford never had to deal with the love of his life slumming around with a Denton before either when she has everything a woman could dream about in the palm of her hand.”
“Enough,” Avery blurted out sharply raising her voice as she noticed a few officers stopped what they were doing to turn their attention to the both of them.  She rubbed her palms together hoping to will the tension mounting in her shoulders to just go away as she took in a slow breath.  Turning her attention back to the interrogation rooms once again, she was struck with a sinking feeling that this nightmare wouldn’t be over for quite some time as she decided to go get herself a coffee.  Granted, Russell wasn’t around to talk her down or keep her from killing her mother, but it could be a moment of coffee time nonetheless.  After all if she didn’t step away, she feared she might give Shannon Pryce a reason to lock her up for good with the way her mother was carrying on.  She gave her mother one last contemplative look before heading towards the area the vending machines were in, but before she could turn the corner in the hopes of getting a moment of peace and quiet, she was met face to face with one of the only other women in the Coral Valley that could make her blood boil--Heather Gibbons.  Suddenly her day was going from very bad to much worse.


“What exactly do you hope to accomplish from this?” Richard asked as he watched Shannon close the door to the interrogation room.

“I hope to catch Bruce Mathis’ killer,” Shannon said simply before pointing to the chairs at the table, “Please have a seat.”

“I’ll answer whatever it is you want to ask,” Russell replied with a sigh as he sank back in his chair.

Shannon looked between Russell and his lawyer before she began, “Okay, then where were you the night Bruce Mathis was murdered?”


“This is absurd,” Brant groaned as he glanced over to Hart, “Can you believe the stupidity of this question?”

“Really, how many times does my client have to answer this? He’s already told you that he was at his home with his fiancée and their mutual friend, Russell Denton,” Hart reminded them, “Do you need us to draw you a diagram about that?”

Dave cut Hart a nasty look before he glanced at his notes, “And your client didn’t leave the house at any point during the night?”

“No,” Brant exhaled.

“Really?” Dave asked curiously as he peered over at his prey.


“Yes, really. Avery was shaken up with all the press attention she’d received since it came out that she and Brant were engaged,” Russell frowned, “Why is that really so hard for you to believe?”

“Oh I don’t know,” Shannon replied as she studied Russell, “It could be because I know you’re lying to me.”

“Mr. Denton doesn’t have to sit here and be insulted, Ms. Pryce. Either ask your question or he’s leaving,” Richard advised pointedly.

“Fair enough,” She opened a manila folder before her and slid a photograph towards Russell, “Can you tell me what is in that photo?”


“That’s Russell and myself,” Brant shrugged, “So?” He asked as he slid the picture back towards Dave.

“So?” Dave repeated with questioning eyes, “That still was taken from a surveillance video from the Cadillac Ranch on the night Bruce Mathis was killed.”

“You must be mistaken,” Brant shook his head.

“Oh there’s no mistake here,” Dave said with a cool smile as he settled in to his role as interrogator, “The only mistake is your false alibi. Do you care to clarify it now? Or should we just go ahead and arrest you before figuring out what the truth of the story is?”


“That’s it,” Richard declared firmly as he stood from the table, “Mr. Denton isn’t going to cooperate any further.”

“Fine, then he can sit in a holding cell until he decides to talk,” Shannon said as she stood to match Richard’s movements.

“You either charge him now or he’s walking out of here,” Richard warned.

“Okay, we’ll just start with hindering prosecution,” Shannon declared as she moved around the table to handcuff Russell.


“You’re not arresting him,” Hart declared as he stood and glared down at the police chief, “Not until you find some probable cause and a damn good record of evidence.”

“How’s lying directly to a questioning officer?” Dave asked as he stood to meet Hart’s offensive posture, “If he won’t answer my question, then I’m afraid I’ll have to arrest him for obstructing justice.”

“You’ll never get that to hold up in court.”

“Really?” Dave snorted, “Watch me,” He declared, moving around the table to cuff Brant.


“Whoa, hold on just a minute,” Russell said quickly as Shannon hauled him out of his chair and began cuffing him, “Can’t we talk about this?”

“Are you going to stop lying to me and tell me why you were at the Cadillac Ranch the night Bruce Mathis was killed?” Shannon asked as she watched him closely.

Richard shook his head at Russell, “You don’t have to answer anything.”

“That’s true. You can just go directly to jail,” Shannon said with a false smile as she pulled Russell towards the door and began making her way towards the holding cells.

A moment later, Dave opened the door to the interrogation room he had been using and led a cuffed Brant from the room.

Brant glanced around, thankful that Avery wasn’t in the immediate vicinity before Dave un-cuffed him and shoved him into the cell behind Russell who was already rubbing his wrists.

As Dave locked the cell door behind them, Brant grabbed the bars and seethed, “I’m going to slap you with a wrongful imprisonment suit, and I’ll own you.”

“Brant,” Russell warned, “Don’t piss them off. We’re already in this up to our eyeballs.”

“Only because they’re so incompetent,” Brant grumbled before turning to face Russell, “Why are you looking so smug?”

“Smug? You think this is smug?” Russell asked incredulously, “Right now, I’m pissed off and concerned. How you can possibly get smug from that is beyond me.”

“You boys just have a good time. We’ll start your paperwork,” Shannon smiled from just outside the bars.

“I bet you’re getting a big rush out of this, aren’t you?” Brant sneered as he looked at his former lover, “Have your enjoyment while you can because I’m going to break you once I get out of here.”

“Hmmm, seems like I’ve heard these same threats before, Brant. I think you need new material,” Shannon flashed him a bright smile before turning to go about her work but instead meeting the familiar face of a man she actually respected, “Grady Denton, what the hell are you doing here?”


Diane looked out the window at the world below hustling and bustling outside of the walls of BBK pharmaceuticals and suddenly she felt as though she was a caged rat stewing away for some prize that certainly would never come within her reach.  Okay so maybe her negativity had stemmed from the fact that Ben had completely blown her off last night during dinner and she was still feeling the aftershocks of his hasty retreat.  Still when she thought back to the promise and anticipation that dinner had held for her, she’d been filled with an eagerness, a feeling of accomplishment that this time, well things were going to change for her.  Sure, they’d gotten to dinner, but after that, well there was no prize at the end of the road and that in itself made her very grouchy.
Now slumping over in her chair, Diane turned her attention to her computer monitor half expecting to find some cute apology note from Ben about his hasty retreat waiting for her perusal, but alas she was met by the empty mailbox reminding her that today was going to be yet another long day in the BBK offices as she turned her attention to the scattered pages on her desk.  Maybe she’d clean things up or call the Ashford mansion and see just what exactly was keeping her eccentric boss out of his office without so much as word of what was going on.  Not that it was any surprise as all the tabloids were running the story on Brant’s engagement.  They all had their version of things and Diane realized she’d be more than happy to offer her two cents if anyone was seeking out the truth, but no the tabloids knew better than to be snooping around this office.  Still, it would prove to be something better than the nothing of the morning she’d had before her.
“So much for this day breezing by,” she frowned inwardly reaching for her half empty coffee mug as she opted to take a coffee break.  After all it wasn’t like Brant was going to get on her case for making the journey now was he?  With that thought in mind, she started towards the coffee machine thinking of all the things she could do to fill her time today as the elevator doors opened and Ben stepped inside looking a bit frazzled.  She quickened her pace ready to meet him head on as she greeted him cheerfully despite her sour demeanor.
“Good morning handsome,” Diane greeted him in her usual playful tone, “Rough night?”
“Not particularly,” Ben cast a quick glance over in her direction as he motioned towards the coffee cup in her hand, “Is that for me?”
“Dream on,” she shook her head at him, “considering you cut things short last night, you can get your own.”
“Gee and here I thought we’d ended on a good note last night,” Ben half teased as he headed over towards his desk, “I take it Brant and Avery are still off this morning.”
“It seems to be the ongoing theme around here,” Diane shrugged her shoulders quickly stepping in beside him as she met his pace, “Although you know since they are away, perhaps we should follow up on last night say in Brant’s office.  I mean just because Brant has taken the day off doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of our time together right here and now while the higher ups are missing in action.”
“As tempting as that is,” Ben smiled casually as he looked to her once again noting the sexy blouse and plaid print miniskirt she’d selected for this morning’s attire.  How she’d brought forth so many wicked and wonderful ideas to him he thought as he continued with an air of disappointment, “I have some phone calls to catch up on.”
“Avery’s not here either, remember,” she pointed out stubbornly, “It’s not like she’s going to know what time you made the calls or not.”
“Diane as much as I’d love to lose myself to the day with you,” he paused thinking to the world laid out before him, “I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t,” she frowned back at him stopping mid-step, “So how did the emergency go down last night?”
“It went,” Ben shrugged his shoulders circling around his desk as he set down his briefcase, “but luckily the crisis has been averted.”
“So what was the crisis again?” Diane leaned in against the corner of his desk tossing her hair over her shoulder.
“It wasn’t anything major,” Ben insisted reaching for a few things he’d had on top of his desk.
“It seemed important enough for you to run out on dinner without a second thought, so I’d have to say it was pretty major,” Diane raised a skeptic brow, “After all not many things make a man run away from an evening of romance and excitement that quickly.”
“I’m really sorry about that,” Ben apologized thinking it over, “I really hate that dinner was cut short considering that it was something I was really looking forward to.”
“Then make it up to me in Brant’s office,” she suggested with a playful wink, “We can order lunch in and have a picnic in there and maybe it could lead to something even more exciting than what I had in mind last night…”
“Diane, believe me it’s very tempting,” Ben’s gaze lifted over her savory curves as his libido was doing flip flops at the idea of being able to explore her fantasies with her, “but the truth is that I have to get into these things right away or else I’m going to be really behind when Avery does return to work again.”
“She’s not sweating it,” Diane circled around his desk, “so why are you?”
“Because someone has to,” he watched as she stepped in closer to him leaning down as her arms caged him in his chair.
“And tell me again why that someone has to be you,” she lifted a curious brow her hair tapering down over her shoulder as it brushed up against him in an unintentional moment of seduction.
“Because I have a responsibility to this company…” he began again feeling his breath catch in his throat at the scent of her perfume.  The way she was looking at him, eating him up with her soulful eyes, it was enough to drive even the most together man crazy, but as he thought to what he promised he’d do at work, he tried to distance himself from the distraction she’d posed for him.
“What about your responsibility to us,” she questioned further, “I’d have to say that’s something that is well worth exploring.”
“You never give up, do you?” Ben couldn’t help but smile as he tilted his head up towards her.
“Not when I know what I want,” she answered simply as she bent down bringing her lips just above his, “and I want you Ben Walters which means you don’t have a choice in the matter.”
“I don’t, do I?” he lifted a curious brow.
“No you don’t and in this particular situation the only decision that is to be made is the time you’ll be meeting me in Brant’s office for our one on one that you owe me.”
“You’re not taking no for an answer,” he mused with a hint of a smile, “I guess that means it’s settled then.”
“That’s right,” she slid her index finger over the center of his chest, “You just hurry up with those phone calls of yours and I’ll get working on our private lunch.”
“Hmm, in that case, I should probably get to work quickly,” he watched her tug on his tie, her wicked smile widening as her eyes feasted upon him.
“Don’t be too long,” she whispered just above his lips, “because I hate waiting for what I want.”
“There’s something to be said about anticipation,” he reminded her with a hint of a smile.
“And there’s also something to be said about giving in to pleasure,” she breathed her lips brushing against his cheek faintly before moving in over his earlobe and offering a tiny nibble, “and I can assure you the pleasure principle puts your anticipatory promise theory to shame any day.”
“Diane,” he gulped her name feeling her lips scorch him as she placed a hot kiss over the nape of his neck before pulling away with a bright smile looking as beautiful and spunky as ever.
“Meet me at noon,” she winked back at him lifting her coffee mug up from the corner of his desk, “and don’t be late.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Ben promised watching her walk away as he realized that suddenly with Diane around to tempt him he was getting in way over his head.


Seth’s kisses scorched Blake to the core as the power of his passion swept over her wrapping her up in a wash of love and tenderness as he hoisted her up against him.  Her resolve had slipped away completely as her heart carried her over into this moment with Seth showing her that there was no turning away from the man she’d craved from the first moment she’d laid eyes upon him.  Her arms wrapped around his shoulders holding onto him with all that she had as she longed to lose herself in the safety of his embrace.  He squeezed her against his hardened body refusing to let go as he carried her back to his apartment lost in the moment as they held on to one another.
“Seth,” she whispered his name feeling him kick the door to a close behind them as she touched his face gently wanting to memorize every perfectly sculpted line of his features, “I need you so very much.”
“I need you too,” he confessed lavishing her with kiss after tender kiss as he carried her into his bedroom carefully lowering her onto the blankets as he moved in over her wanting to lose himself completely within the arms of the woman he loved as she held onto him.
“Blake, I would never, ever try to hurt you like that,” he promised his fingers fanning out over the lines of her body as she bent her leg up towards his touch feeling the divine ways in which Seth’s magical hands poured their power and passion over her every synapse.  His lips devoured hers, tasting her completely as her fingers sank into his darkened hair keeping him against her as she cried out against his touch.  She felt his heart pounding above hers mimicking the same force and intensity as her arms eased around him drawing him against her.
“Seth,” Blake threw her head back feeling his lips taper off over her neck devouring every inch of her as her hands dipped down over the towel he was wearing tugging at it eagerly while his hand cupped her bottom lifting her up against him, “oh Seth…”
“Blake,” he murmured her name over and over again as his kisses traveled over her collar bone, down over the swelled flesh revealed from the top of her neckline, but as he felt her tear at his towel once again, he pulled back abruptly, “Blake wait…”
“What is it,” she questioned breathlessly as her swelled lips curled in confusion, “what’s wrong?”
“We need to talk,” Seth struggled to be the voice of reason as his every synapse wanted nothing more than to bury himself completely in Blake, to show her just how much she’d meant to him as he held her.
“I just want you to hold me, to make me believe everything is going to be okay again,” she confessed scratching her nails over his body as an urgent gasp spilled from her lips, “Make love to me.”
Seth kissed her heatedly unable to resist the way she‘d made him feel as her desire flooded over him tearing him apart inside, “Blake, I can’t…”
“Please…” she began again, “Seth, I don’t care about before.  I just need you.  I need you more than ever…”
“Blake, what you need,” he propped himself up on his elbows putting a distance between them as he fought the obvious chemistry building between them, “is honesty and I owe you that much before we do something like this.”
“Tell me you didn’t send the article in to the tabloid,” she pleaded with him, “Tell me that there was some kind of mistake with that photo…”
“Blake, it wasn’t put there by mistake,” Seth confessed reluctantly tearing away from her as he pulled himself up off of the bed.  He saw the confusion behind her eyes as he quickly slipped into a pair of jogging pants needing to find a way to be level headed in a moment like this.
“But I thought you said…” she blinked back in confusion, “Seth, what’s going on?”
“It was in there to teach me a lesson about defiance,“ he blurted out taking a seat on the edge of the bed as he reached out to her urging her to join him as he realized there was no more hiding from the truth, “Blake before I met you, I found myself in a bit of a bind.  I told you my father did horrible things in the past--things that put my life and Jade’s in jeopardy.”
“I remember you told me he was a horrible man,” Blake nodded collecting herself as she sat up a bit, “but what does that have to do with the story in Inside Track?”
“Everything,” Seth confessed shamefully as he drew in a nervous breath, “Blake, when I was younger, my father did things…things that put him in over his head and when he disappeared he owed people for his acts of indiscretion.  These weren’t people who took kindly to being ripped off and when they wanted what they felt was rightfully theirs, they took it back at all costs.”  He turned his eyes to her once again, “Blake a few months ago I ran into a man that my father had wronged--a powerful man that my father was greatly in debt to.  He’d come to me at a poker game with the guys.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, but as soon as he’d spotted me, he’d made his presence known and at the time, he laid a deal on the table for me.  It was a deal that he claimed would erase the debts my father owed him and in the process I could find a way to get out of the life Jade and I were put in because of my father.  At the time I didn’t think that it would be that bad as it was a lot better than the others seeking retribution against my father.”
“Who was he?” Blake questioned noting the darkness behind his eyes, “Seth, what happened?”
“All I had to do was take a couple of pictures and this man promised me that he would do his best to keep Jade and I away from any more of my father’s demons.  At the time it sounded like a good deal, but then I met you,” he paused reaching out to touch her face gently, “Blake, I never would’ve agreed to this if I’d known you like I do now.  At the time I was filled with so much bitterness and hatred to the world around me that I was blinded by the beauty the world had to offer, but then the night of the quake when you walked into my life, things started to change for me.  I found myself wanting to be with you, wanting to spend time with you and the more time I spent with you, the more I realized that you weren’t anything like I’d imagined you to be.”
“I don’t understand,” Blake blinked back at him, “What does any of this have to do with me?”
“Cameron Stone, the man I told you that Kipp worked for, well, he asked me to take a few photos of a painting that your brother Kenneth has.  There was something about it that he wanted to know about and I didn’t have a choice in the matter,” he braced himself for her reaction.
“So you were using me,” she frowned anger rushing over her as she began to scoot off of the bed.  He reached out to her taking her arm and keeping her beside him.
“No, I was never using you,” Seth’s voice pleaded with her, “Cameron asked me to take a couple of pictures.  He promised he’d pay me for them generously and then all the things that my father had done would be erased.  When I got to know you I tried to get out of doing the task for him.  I told him that I wanted nothing to do with whatever it was he had in mind for your family, but then he threatened me.  Blake, he was going to destroy Jade.  He had these pictures and…”
“And what?”
“Blake, he was going to hurt her,” Seth answered honestly, “My sister has been hurt in the past by things that my father did…things that no woman should ever have to experience and after she worked so hard to get through that time in her life, Cameron told me if I even tried to back out of the job he’d asked of me that he’d find a way to hurt her and you,” he touched her face gently, “He swore to me that he’d find a way to make you and Jade pay for my refusal to give him what he requested and I couldn’t bear the thought of him doing anything to hurt you.”
“So you gave the pictures of me to the tabloid,” she questioned tearfully, “You thought that would make things better?”
“I didn’t give them anything,” Seth admitted thinking to his repeated visits from Thea, “but Cameron has people working for him--people who have one purpose and that’s to destroy.  When I gave Cameron the photos I took of your brother’s painting, he must’ve found a way to get a hold of one of the ones I took of you.”
“But if he wanted you to get close to me, then why would he do something like that?”
“Because he knew that if you thought I was betraying you, that I’d get his message,” Seth frowned deeply recalling his less than savory encounters with Cameron, “He wants me to do another job for him, but I refused and he’s trying to persuade me into doing it.”
“What does he want,” Blake questioned taking in his tale.
“There’s some microfilm in the back of your brother’s painting.  I don’t know how or why, but it’s of great importance to Cameron.  They wouldn’t tell me any details about it other than I had to retrieve it or else…”
“And are you going to do just that?” Blake asked feeling her stomach tied in knots as she noted the turmoil expression on his features.
“If I don’t, he’s going to go after you or Jade and I can’t live with that,” Seth admitted freely thinking to the bind he’d found himself in, “After tonight I could see how easy it is to lose it all and I can’t lose you--not because of Cameron Stone.”
“But why would he go through all this trouble?”
“Something tells me that the answer is on that microfilm and until he gets it, Cameron is going to try his hardest to make sure that I don’t defy him anymore.  This article was just a warning and after that…” he trailed off thinking about Thea’s threats.
“There won’t be an after that,” Blake decided firmly, “We’ll get the microfilm and see what it is he’s after.”
“Blake, I can’t ask you to…” he started turning to look at her.
“If you’re telling me the truth, then there’s something very powerful on that film for a man like this to get you to…” she stopped herself when suddenly she thought back to the night she’d encountered Jade with her date, “Oh my God.  I’ve met him before.”
“What,” Seth blurted out noting the expression on her features.
“He was here not too long ago,” Blake began to piece it together, “That night I came here looking for you and I ran into Jade.  They were together and he was really creepy.  He started coming on to her and I could just see how uneasy she was about the situation…”
“Why didn’t you say something,” Seth frowned deeply.
“I didn’t think it was my place and besides I’ve dealt with my share of creeps in the past.  I didn’t exactly like when Brant and Kenneth laid into them when I felt I was clearly capable of handling them on my own.  I didn’t want Jade to feel that I’d betrayed that trust we started to almost have between us.  I figured he was just some jerk trying to make a play at her, but…”
“Blake, he’s a dangerous man.  I tried to warn Jade about him, but she can’t know what I told you.  I don’t want her to get hurt more than she’s already been,” Seth explained firmly as his dark eyes laced with something Blake couldn’t quite identify, “I can’t let Cameron get to her again.”
“Then we have to find a way to stop him together,” Blake decided perking up as she reached out to him, “and the only way to do that is by getting a hold of that microfilm and seeing what’s on it before you hand it over to Cameron.”
“Blake, I can’t ask you to get involved with this as it’s far too dangerous.  Just seeing what he’s done to hurt you already…”
“Nothing could hurt me more than your keeping this from me,” Blake explained matter of fact, “just knowing that you’ve kept it all in all this time, Seth, I wish you would’ve told me sooner.  I could’ve helped you and after dinner last night with Kipp, I could’ve pushed for information…”
“You had dinner with Kipp,” his eyes widened in surprise, “Why?”
“When you didn’t call, I just didn’t know what to do with myself.  I figured I must’ve upset you and you wanted an out…”
“Blake, that wasn’t it at all.  I did call you, but I didn’t get through and then when Thea showed up…” he explained simply.
“Who’s Thea?”
“She works for Cameron,” Seth shook the thought, “Look it’s a long story, but you have to stay away from Kipp.  If he’s the one who built you up for this today, then it only makes sense that Cameron wants him to pick up where I left off.  I kept refusing, but maybe he’s brought someone else in…”
“No one else is going to get a chance to get that microfilm,” Blake announced getting up off of his bed, “Come on.  We’re going to the mansion…”
“But Blake…”
“No buts,” she shook her head at him emphatically, “Whatever Cameron Stone wants, well he’s going to have to wait because you and I are getting our hands on it first and when we do, we’re going to find out exactly what he’s after.”
“Blake, he’s a dangerous man,” Seth began to argue with her.
“And I’m an Ashford which means he’s in a hell of a lot of trouble in messing with my family,” Blake declared boldly tossing her hair over her shoulder, “and if he thinks he can try to manipulate any boyfriend of mine to do his bidding, then he’s got another think coming.”
“Blake, he’s a madman,” Seth rose to his feet again reaching out to her, “I’m not going to let you get swept up in this.”
“I’m already swept up in this Seth.  I love you and I want to help you.  You keep saying you want to protect me and Jade, but now it’s my turn.  Let me help you so that we can find a way to get the upper hand on Cameron.”
“Blake what you’re even suggesting…” Seth began to argue with her once again.
“Look one way or another I’m going to find that microfilm.  Now you can either come with me or stay here.  The choice is yours, but I’m not changing my mind about this.  Is that understood?”
Seth eyed her closely thinking of the woman he’d fallen in love with.  While he’d thought of her as being fragile and in need of protection in so many ways, he’d almost pushed aside that fire he’d found in her upon their first meeting.  Blake Ashford was a tiger in her own way stubborn to the core and suddenly as her own confidence built around her, he realized that she was stronger than he’d given her credit for.  Reaching for his sweatshirt, he quickly pulled it over his head offering up a determined now, “You’re on,” Seth decided realizing that maybe together he and Blake would have a shot at ending Cameron’s reign of terror once and for all.


“Grady, what are you doing here?” Shannon asked as she met the eyes of her one time friend. She extended her hand and shook his with a smile.

“Didn’t you happen to catch the name of the man you just jailed?” Grady asked with a wry grin.

“Ashford? Yeah well,” She rolled her eyes and shrugged.

“No, Denton,” He corrected, “Russell is my brother.”

“He’s…” She glanced back towards the occupants of the holding cell before she looked back to Grady, “I didn’t make the connection.”

“Well, not only is Russell my brother, but he’s also my client. So, do you want to tell me what’s going on here?” He asked as he sat back on the corner of her desk and crossed his arms.

“I’m sorry to say that your brother is hindering prosecution,” She explained as she stepped around him and sat in her chair.

“Did he hide a witness?” Grady asked of her with a bland tone of voice.

“No, but…”

“Did he destroy evidence?” He asked as he met her eyes.

“No, but he’s lying about his alibi.”

“Oh…lying to the police, that’s certainly something new,” Grady rolled his eyes, “Come on, Shannon, that’s not hindering prosecution, and you know it.”

“No, it’s plain and simple harassment,” Hart spoke as he joined them, “You’re just trying to get even with my client and anyone even remotely involved with him.”

“This isn’t about Brant,” Shannon clarified, “This is about a man’s murder, and the fact that no one is telling the truth about the man’s final hours.”

“No, this is about your vendetta against my client,” Hart shrugged, “And I fully intend to prove that when I take you to court for malicious prosecution.”

“Malicious prosecution? How the hell do you figure?” Shannon scoffed.

“Not only have you harassed Mr. Ashford and his fiancée as well as their friends, but you have also booted people off the case who you knew would work to exonerate those innocent of these charges,” Hart explained.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Jenna Carpenter, the city’s medical examiner. You do remember her, don’t you?” He said haughtily, “She was forced away from the case despite her excellent record on homicide cases.”

“What are you, her attorney?” Shannon groaned as she sighed and tried to focus on paperwork in front of her instead of Hart’s ramblings.

“Actually no, I’m not, but I do know she does excellent work in her field. The very fact that she’s been booted off the case says that there is bias involved,” Hart declared before Richard joined them.

Richard shook Grady’s hand before looking towards Shannon, “I’ve spoken with some friends of mine, and they agree that there is bias involved in this case. I fully expect you to be removed from this case by the end of the day.”

“And the hits just keep on coming,” Shannon groaned as she stood and looked between the lawyers, “I didn’t take this case because I wanted it. I was assigned here and even after I was assigned, I requested a transfer because I knew these very issues would be raised. I did not want to be here, but I am here and I’m doing the very best I can to conduct this investigation with the utmost professionalism. If you three have a problem with that, I suggest you take it up with my bosses because I serve at their pleasure. Understand?” She said as she glanced between the attorneys, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have paperwork to take care of.”

“I wouldn’t get too involved if I were you,” Hart said with a grin as he watched the door to the police station, “It looks like your bosses are here to make a change in the case.”

Shannon glanced towards the door way and saw her immediate superior waving for her to join him. She groaned as she stood and made her way to speak with the upper level agent.

“Think this means she’s off the case?” Grady asked as he watched from across the room.

“I don’t think we’re going to be that lucky,” Richard admitted, “Something about this case doesn’t make any sense, but I can’t seem to get any answers from anyone. When people are tightlipped on such a high level, it usually means trouble.”

“Great, just what we didn’t need any more of,” Grady replied as Hart glanced towards the cell where Russell and Brant were watching the happenings with interest.

“I think your brother appreciates your being here,” Hart said as he nodded towards the cell.

“He’d better,” Grady said as he watched Shannon approaching them once again.

“I’ll be releasing your clients but only with the understanding that the truth needs to be forthcoming,” Shannon explained before quickly grabbing her keys and unlocking the cell door. She released Brant and Russell before she left the squad room for more private settings.

“What happened there?” Russell asked as he joined his brother and the other attorneys.

“That’s a good question,” Grady agreed, “But I have a feeling that things aren’t going to get any easier in this case,” He met his brother’s eyes, “You need to start telling the truth.”

“Who’s side are you on, Grady?” Russell frowned before making his way out of the squad room.

Richard watched the interchange before stepping closer to Grady, “Why do I feel like there are facts that I don’t know but probably need to?”

“Because it seems to be the trend around here. I don’t know everything that is going on with this, Richard, but I don’t like what I do know,” Grady informed the highly respected attorney, “I get the feeling that there’s a lot more to the story that I’m not being told.”

Richard frowned as he considered the situation and vowed that no matter what the truth was, he would not let Avery be hurt and would do his best to protect those in her inner circle…even if it meant helping a man whose lack of morals repulsed him…Brant Ashford.


“What the hell are you doing here,” Avery grumbled glaring at Heather as a sigh spilled over her lips as she was starting to wonder if someone on a higher level was trying to torture her.
“Don’t they have you locked up yet,” Heather rolled her eyes as her words were laced with heavy sarcasm, “because right now the only place you belong is behind bars you murderess.”
“Murderess?” Avery repeated with a haughty laugh, “Have you been inhaling nail polish fumes again because each time I see you, your IQ drops a few points it seems…then again I wasn‘t ever really sure if you‘d made it high up in the double digits there considering...”
“Your words don’t amount to much because even with your fancy law degree, you’re still going to be someone’s idea of prime meat in prison, Avery,” Heather folded her arms in front of her chest, “unless of course by some small miracle and twist of fate, you happen to get the death penalty.  In fact, now that I think about it, that does sound like a much more electrifying alternative for such a sour puss like yourself.”
“Heather, you can step out of the land of delusion because clearly it’s rotted away your last remaining brain cells,” Avery scuffed back at her with an angry glare, “Then again seeing as you’re so quick to point a finger in my direction and cry out murder, perhaps we should be looking into the way you’re determined to get me out of Brant’s life.  From what I’ve seen, you’d sink to any level there in your quest to make me look bad in his eyes.”
“You do that well enough on your own,” Heather let out an ironic laugh before her eyes narrowed at Avery, “You’re not pure as snow and one way or another I’m going to show the world what you really are.”
“Oh I’m terrified,” Avery feigned concern rolling her eyes, “Heather, why don’t you go find a new hobby or a life for that matter?”
“I have a life and it’s with Brant,” Heather stated firmly tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder, “As soon as he sees you for what you are, then you’re going to wish you were never born because the day you crossed me missy was the day you went over the line and I don’t take too kindly to others coming in and trying to take what’s mine.”
“Um, reality check,” Avery waved a hand in front of Heather’s face, “you can’t claim something that’s not yours to begin with.  Brant wants nothing to do with you.”
“Brant wants everything to do with me and the way I see it, he and I will be together.  It’s only a matter of time,” Heather promised with a wicked smile before shoving Avery aside, “but I really don’t have time for you as I’m here to talk to Agent Pryce.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Avery spun around to watch her once again, “Coming by to stir up trouble since your life has left you on the outs lately?”
“I don’t need to stir up trouble because I’m looking at trouble,” Heather paused taking a moment to think about the situation before her, “Although considering that you’re here, it could only mean one thing and that’s the fact that Brant is nearby, isn’t he?”
“Like I’d tell you anything about Brant,” Avery scowled back at her balling her fists up at her side as she could feel the beginnings of a migraine rushing over her, “You can just stay away from him and Russ for that matter as well.”
“How dare you tell me what to do,” Heather rolled her eyes dismissively, “Just because you may have been the flavor of the week at the mansion, doesn’t mean that you’re anything more than the low class trash you’ve always been.  Even a law degree won’t take the whore out of you, now will it?” Heather offered up a wicked hint of laughter, “Even poor Bruce saw that before you destroyed his life.”
“Why you,” Avery lunged forward ready to attack Heather head on as she felt the overwhelming urge to lash out at someone, anyone after the last few days she’d experienced, but as she saw the glimmer behind Heather’s eyes, she stopped herself mid-motion.
“What’s wrong Avery?” Heather taunted her, “Did I say something true that you just don’t want to here considering you’re so bent on playing the role of the good girl?”
“You’re so not worth this,” Avery decided shaking off the feeling of rage building up inside of her as she took in a breath and stepped away from Heather.  “Then again you never were.”
“Like hell you‘re going to walk away,” Heather snapped reaching out to grab Avery’s arm as she tugged her back towards her, “I’m not finished with you yet.”
“Let go of me, Heather,” Avery’s brown eyes darkened with anger as she looked to Heather’s perfectly manicured nails curled over her arm.
“I’m not finished with this discussion,” Heather explained annunciating each word with emphasis as her voice issued a challenge to Avery, “Not by a long shot.”
“I’m giving you to the count of three to get your skanky hands off of me before things get ugly,” Avery warned her sharply, “One, two…”
“What’s the matter Avery?  Can’t stand to hear the truth about what you are?” Heather taunted further seeing the anger reflected in Avery’s eyes as she continued to keep her at bay hoping that sooner or later the police officers in the building would take notice of Avery’s less than civilized behavior.
“You don’t want to irritate me today,” Avery warned sharply pulling out of Heather’s grasp, “I’m not in the mood for you or any of your pathetic ploys for attention.”
“Hmm, I did strike a nerve didn’t I,” Heather chuckled watching Avery ball her fists up at her sides once again, “You know, the way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before you become someone’s hot little number in jail.”
“Heather, I’m warning you,” Avery began again this time unable to keep a lid on her anger as she scowled at Heather.
“Oh, I’m terrified,” Heather feigned horror as she shook her arms out in front of her chest mocking Avery, “What are you going to do?  Kill me like you killed Bruce Mathis?”
“That’s it,” Avery announced unable to keep her cool as all of her instincts told her to just take the leap and knock Heather senseless.  She lunged forward ready to tear into Heather completely as rage got the best of her and she heard the distinct sounds of footsteps approaching.
“Whoa,” A voice spoke up from behind Avery as she felt a hand on her arm pulling her away from Heather, “I don’t think you want to do that.”
“Oh go on and let her bury herself,” Heather offered as the handsome stranger spun Avery around to face him.
“You really don’t want to lose control like that,” the man explained as Avery looked up at him blinking back with instant recognition.
“Diego?” Avery gasped in surprise as his concerned eyes fell upon her.
“Avery, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t think that this is the time or the place,” he explained simply as he glanced over in Heather’s direction, “Could you give us a moment alone here?”
“Whatever,” Heather rolled her eyes offering up a shrug of her shoulders as she remembered she had better things to do now that she knew Brant was at the police station.
Avery watched Heather walk away as her anger rumbled inside of her.  Fighting to keep herself under control with every fiber of her being, she turned her attention back to the man before her.  She drew in a slow breath trying to keep herself calm as her pulse was still going wild with the animosity she’d felt toward Brant’s ex.
“Hey Avery,” Diego reached out to her as Avery tried to turn her attention to the psychiatrist that had managed to keep her out of a bind, “Focus for a minute.”
“I’m sorry,” Avery confessed running her fingers through her hair, “I really am.  It’s just that woman…”
“Hey, I don’t know what was going on,” Diego began glancing over in the direction that Heather drifted off to, “but whatever it is, well I don’t think it’s worth starting a rumble in the police station.”
“You’re right,” Avery nodded in agreement, “I know you’re right, but things have been really tense…”
“I heard about Bruce,” Diego replied with a somber nod, “My condolences as he was a good doctor.”
“Yes he was,” Avery answered thinking of one of the few things Bruce hadn’t tarnished about himself in her eyes.
“You know,” Diego paused pondering his words as he saw the look of obvious tension behind her eyes, “I don’t usually offer up any unsolicited advice here, but I can see that things are clearly taking their toll on you.”
“Is it that obvious,” Avery grumbled thinking about her mother’s latest attack on her topped off with Heather’s attack.  “I’m usually better at hiding it.”
“Hey, even the strongest person tends to crack under pressure,” Diego spoke soothingly as he reached into his pocket pulling out one of his business cards, “I know this might not be the appropriate time considering I get the feeling you’ve been down here a while, but if you ever need anyone to talk to, well you can always call my office…”
“I appreciate the offer, but right now, well it’s just been a very emotional week,” Avery politely began to decline his offer as she thought of her mother’s intrusion upon her life and she changed her mind reaching out to take his card, “On second thought, maybe I’ll keep this in handy just in case.”
“Don’t feel that you have to come in and see me,” Diego began with a comforting smile, “because I know that spending any significant amount of time in a place like this tends to take it’s toll on anyone, but if there’s more bothering you about what happened with Bruce or anything else that’s on your mind, my door is always open.”
“I truly appreciate that,” Avery smiled up at him as he motioned to the coffee machine down the hall.
“Can I get you a coffee?” he suggested with a soft smile as Avery heard the sounds of her mother rumbling through the police station.
“Maybe another time,” she felt her frown returning to her features as she silently cursed her mother’s return to Coral Valley, “but I might take you up on that offer to talk.  My mother’s in town and that’s enough to drive anyone to therapy,” she paused noting the curious expression on his face, “You know what I mean…”
“Of course,” he nodded politely watching her take off as he took in a long breath.  After spending his time at the station talking to one of his patients who‘s been in lockup, he was ready to call it a night…or morning in this case as he made his way towards the exit.
“Excuse me,” Heather rushed to his side touching his arm gently as she flashed him a dazzling smile, “I didn’t get a chance to thank you before for your rescue.”
“There was no rescue,” Diego turned his attention to the sexy siren before him as the first hints of a smile swept over his features, “I just didn’t want to see something escalate in a place like this.”
“Even so, I can’t thank you enough for stepping in like you did,” she curled her fingers over his arm patting him gently as her smile widened, “A girl can’t hold out hope for many heroes these days.”
“I’m not a hero,” he shook his head as she held her hand out towards him smiling brightly.
“Oh yes you are,” Heather continued eagerly finding herself more curious than ever to learn about the man Avery had run into.  With any luck, perhaps he was a police officer and she’d be able to help sway the investigation in Avery’s direction once again with a little coaxing, “I’m Heather Gibbons.”
“Heather, it’s a pleasure,” he smiled politely extending his hand out towards hers.
“And you are?” she lifted a curious brow flashing him one of her million dollar dazzle them until they worship your feet smiles.
“Diego Hernandez,” he answered smoothly as he lifted her hand to his offering a polite shake.
“Well Diego, it’s your lucky day,” she boasted taking a step closer to him, “as you look like a man who could use a good drink right about now.  Can I tempt you into coffee?”
“As tempting as it sounds, it’s been a long night and an even longer morning,” Diego replied simply, “but perhaps some other time.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Heather watched him take a step back as she threw out a flirty wave knowing that she’d soon find a way to handle him as well.
“I look forward to it,” he gave her one last look before leaving the police station as Heather vowed to find out more about Avery’s latest pal.  One way or another, she’d find a way to damage the bitchy lawyers reputation and prove to the world what she really was, but now, well it was time for Heather to find Brant.  That in itself put a smile upon her face as she headed into the station taking a long look around hoping to catch Brant in her survey of the less than savory place.
As Heather quickly scanned the room ready to take one step closer to her destiny, she suddenly felt as if fate had played a good hand for her as another sign was sent to her.  She blinked once, twice, three times unable to believe what good luck she was having as there before her stood the one woman in the fashion industry that any aspiring actress like herself would dream of encountering.  Suddenly the environment didn’t matter as Heather’s eyes lit up with excitement at the prospect of meeting Beholder Cosmetic’s founder and CEO.  That in itself made this trip worthwhile as Heather took in a breath and made her way towards the woman before her.
“Excuse me,” Heather began calmly as she looked to the woman in front of her, “I don’t mean to bother you, but my name is Heather and I just so happen to be your biggest fan.”
“Oh really?” Brooke turned around to see the beautiful, blonde woman before her, “And you are?”
“Heather Gibbons,” Heather announced proudly, “and I must confess I’m exactly the new face you’re seeking out for your new line that I’ve heard so much about and if you give me five minutes, well I’ll explain to you just why you need to bring me on at Beholder,” Heather began ready to take one more step towards making all of her dreams come true.  First Kipp arrived and she was well on working towards getting her movie career in motion and with the greatest name in beauty standing before her, she had a feeling that happily ever after was in the bag for her after all.  Today trouble in Coral Valley.  Tomorrow she would rule the world.


“Thanks Manny,” Jade said with a smile before hanging up her phone. She had been doing research all morning for the upcoming case against BBK Pharmaceuticals. The sooner the case was cleared, the sooner she would be free of Cameron’s presence in her life.

Having just spoken to the firm’s contracted forensic accountant, she was sure that the case was in good hands. While math had never been her best subject, she had been assured by the accountant that reviewing the financial records would be no problem. It was only one more step towards getting Cameron out of her life.

A knock at her door interrupted her work as she glanced up, “Come in.”

The door slowly opened, revealing Cameron as he stepped into her office. He allowed a slow smile to creep across his features as he closed the door behind him, “Good morning.”

“Morning,” She said simply, steeling her professional façade for the meeting with the man who made her so nervous, “I have some papers for you to sign,” She began as she sorted through the files in front of her.

“Straight to business? Can’t we take a moment for us?” He asked as he slowly made his way towards her desk.

“There is no us,” She assured him, “Now if you’ll just take these papers right down the hall, you can sign them in the presence of our notary.”

Cameron smiled as he sat on the corner of her desk, “Jade, you really must make time for other things. All work and no play makes Jade a very unhappy lady.”

“Right now, nothing would make me happier than to get these papers signed,” She pointed out as she stood, “Come on. I’ll walk down the hall with you,” She said as she began to step around him.

“Hold on just a minute,” He said, pulling her back into his arms, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to call it a day and spend some time with me?”

“What part of no don’t you understand?” She asked as she tried to pull away from him. After a moment of trying to get away, she sighed and relented, “Why won’t you just let me go?”

“Because I told you once, Jade,” He said as he gently eased his fingertips across her cheek, “I want you, and I always get what I want.”

“Not this time,” She said firmly as she brushed his hand away from her face, “I’m not available.”

“Yes, you are,” He said as he took her hand in his, “There’s no wedding band here, and that says that you’re free.”

“I don’t want you, Cameron. I’m not interested in you in that way. Why can’t just accept that?”

“Because I don’t believe it for a minute,” Cameron said as he placed his hands upon her arms and forced her to look at him, “You and I made a connection when we first met, and I know that you felt it too.”

“I thought you were a nice man and handsome to boot, but I’m having serious doubts about that nice part,” Jade snapped as she wiggled her way out of his reach. She quickly stepped across the room, “I’m involved with Grady.”

“Really? Does he know that?” He asked as he crossed his arms and positioned himself comfortably on the edge of her desk.

“What is that suppose to mean?” She asked quickly.

“My assistant says that she knows your boss…intimately.”

Jade crossed her arms tightly as she glared at the man at her desk, “I’ve heard, but I really don’t care.”

“Then that makes you a remarkable woman with such a capacity to forgive,” He said as a slight smile teased his lips, “How can you be so forgiving?”

“That’s none of your business,” She pointed out before she glanced to the papers in her hand, “Come on. I want to get these papers signed and notarized so I can get you out of my office.”

“Jade, I think you’re rushing things just a bit.”

“And I think that this has gone on long enough,” She declared as she looked up to meet his eyes once more, “I’m not interested, I’m not available, and I will never be what you want me to be for you.”

“Yes you will,” He assured her as he closed the distance between them. He slowly reached out to touch her cheek, “I’m not going to stop until I have you, Jade, and once we’re together, you’ll wonder why you ever refused me.”

“I doubt it,” She said dryly, refusing to back down from her rigid stance.

“Oh ye of little faith,” He said with a grin before he dropped his lips towards her. She turned away from his intentions, but he instead lowered his lips to her throat and pressed a soft kiss upon her skin, “I will have you. Nothing can stop it. Nothing,” He said as he plucked the papers from her hand, “I’ll sign these down the hall,” He said with an arrogant smile as he left her office.

One second after she heard the door close behind her, she visibly shivered from Cameron’s actions. If she had thought she would be more comfortable on her own turf, she was wrong. Nothing about the situation with Cameron allowed for comfort, and she could only hope that somehow she would be able to help Grady complete Cameron’s case against BBK before the discomfort she felt became pain or even worse…destruction.

...to be continued...