Episode 308

Kevin looked at himself in the mirror pulling his dress shirt up his arms before letting out a small frown. He hated wearing suits like this, the only other time he had to wear these kind of suits was back in the day when he was working for Cyrus. He hadn’t worn suits past that day other than funerals and weddings.

“I hate these stupid things,” Kevin scowled buckling his belt and glancing at himself in the mirror. These kind of suits were always hot and there was no use trying to get him to like them because he was more of a t-shirt and shorts kind of guy.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ria questioned with a small laugh hearing Kevin let out a small growl of frustration behind her as she turned around to see him fall back against the bed. “Don’t give up now Kev, you still have the party to go to.”

“I don’t understand why I have to dress up like this,” Kevin pondered what he said before shrugging his shoulders and looking over at her with a small frown. “Okay, so I know why I have to dress up like this for the party, but it doesn’t mean I like it.”

“You look hot in these things Kevin,” Ria assured him reaching her hands out to his and pulling him up from the bed slowly. He looked down at her with his chocolate brown eyes and smiled as she started to button his white dress shirt slowly. “You are going to go to this party and everyone is going to think about how great you look.”

“I would look just as great in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts,” Kevin offered up feeling her hit him in the center of his chest lightly making him let out a small laugh. “I’m serious about this Ria, I really hate wearing these things.”

“Watch this,” Ria led him over towards the mirror and grabbed the black pin striped coat he had set out on the bed. She motioned for him to hold his arms out in the air as she slowly slid the jacket up his shoulders. “So far, I think you look amazing.”

“Of course you do honey,” Kevin turned around to face her, snaking his arm around her waist as a smile appeared over his features. “You are supposed to love every style I have, that’s your job.”

“You’re right, it is my job to think you always look hot. I think I have been doing a pretty good job of that ever since I was younger,” Ria agreed before leaning up to steal a quick kiss from his lips, sliding her hands up into his thick dark hair. “Kevin, did I tell you that you could turn around yet?”

“Well excuse me,” he chuckled to himself turning back around and folding his arms out in front of him. He gave her a small glance in the mirror and smirked at how she was looking at him. “Are you going to just stare at me or you going to do something?”

“I was just thinking about how hot you looked in and out of these clothes,” she informed him taking a step in behind him and leaning up to press a small kiss up against the side of his neck, giving his heated skin a small nibble. “I think you look great in any way I can have you.”

“Well then,” Kevin cleared his throat and reached his hand behind himself to grab her arm to wrap it around his abdomen slowly. He turned his head to meet her lips in a passionate kiss. He felt her other hand run down the front of his abdomen, shaping the lines of his muscles with her fingertips. “You know Ria, I have a good idea. How about we just ditch this whole party thing and stay home so we could have a party of our own.”

“Nice try,” Ria laughed patting him on the shoulder gently before walking over to his dresser to get his hair gel that he had set there yesterday morning. She stepped in behind him squirting some of the gel onto her hands and reaching up to smooth it in his hair. Motioning him to face her she saw Kevin let out a small laugh as she fixed up the front of his hair. “There we go, I just have one more thing to add to this.”

“I am not going to wear a tie, I‘m just letting you know that right now,” Kevin protested only to see her reach for his dark sunglasses he had set out on her dresser. He watched her hand it over to him as he put them on, a sexy smile appearing out of the corner of his lips. “How do I look honey?”

“Perfect,” she answered and quickly reaching for the tie that she had set out for him earlier. “You know baby, you really should wear one of these things.”

“I would rather hang myself with one of them Ria,” Kevin groaned falling down onto the edge of the bed and pulled down his coat so she could put the tie on him. “It’s not going to look good on me, I’m not the type of person that matches with these tuxedo things.”

“You’ll look fine honey,” Ria hushed him placing her index finger over his lips gently, feeling him press a small kiss up against the pad of her fingertip. “Now that I helped you, do you think you could pull the zipper up on the back of my dress?”

“Of course I can,” Kevin smiled standing up from the bed and adjusting his jacket before stepping in behind her slowly so she could feel the heat of his body behind her. He let his fingers graze up against her skin gently while his lips centered in over her shoulder. “You look beautiful tonight.”

“Kevin,” Ria smiled feeling his words buzz against her skin and it sent a rush of heat throughout her body, feeling his lips now pressed against her neck as his fingers pulled up the zipper of her dress slowly. “Thank you.”

“Anything for you baby,” Kevin adjusted his sunglasses before leaning down to kiss her once more, hearing the doorbell ring and he made the first movement towards the door. “There is Trisha and Chase, I‘ll go get the door.”

Kevin shook his head and laughed for a moment before walking out of the room and towards the front door to let Trisha and her boyfriend in.

“Oh wow,” Trisha gasped as soon as Kevin opened up the door and greeted her with a bright, wide smile. She reached out to hug him in her arms tightly as her hand ran down his back slowly. “You look really good today Kevy, I think you should wear these things more often.”

“That’s what I have been trying to tell him,” Ria informed her younger sister walking into the room to see Chase standing behind Trisha. A small smile appeared over Kevin‘s lips as she stepped in behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I think both the men look great tonight.”

“He’s not wearing a tie,” Kevin pointed out with a small frown seeing Chase look down towards the center of his chest before simply shrugging his shoulders. “I thought you said everyone would be wearing one when I went to the party.”

“Stop complaining Kevin,” Trisha gently hit him on the arm seeing the look that Ria was giving Kevin at the moment. “You look really good tonight and you are going to impress a lot of people at the party. Everyone is going to see a side of you most people don’t get to see and if you do see it, you would be considered very lucky. When the people there see you they are going to point at you and say wow, that guy is really hot. Most of them will probably be girls and hey, maybe some of them will even be guys.”

“Stop right there, I think I have heard enough talk about this monkey suit,” Kevin chuckled to himself before patting Chase on the back and nodding towards the door. “I would say we are all about ready to get going, so let’s just get this thing over with because the faster I get there--the faster I get to take this thing off.”


Angela smoothed out the lines of her dress taking in the silken material of the black colored gown she’d be wearing to the party tonight. It was lined with tiny gemstones and lace and it was truly a vision, but what surprised her the most was the fact that Chris had picked it out for her. It was as if he’d read her mind when he’d suggested that she buy it for the evening. Of course wearing it would bring back so many memories of the parties and the times she’d spent being the center of attention at her father’s galas. Only unlike those times tonight she wanted to go undetected. She wanted to pass by without anyone paying her any kind of extra attention. She couldn’t afford to get caught at her game before she found what she needed.

Still she couldn’t help but find herself remembering another time and place when she’d been to a party similar to the one she’d be going to with Chris.

“Kevin, we need to talk,” Angela tugged on his arm knowing full well that her father’s men were watching her every move, yet she couldn’t help but find her way to him. She felt his body tense up beneath her touch as his dark eyes gazed down upon hers painfully.

“Not here Angie,” he motioned over to Craven, seeing the way that Cyrus Stone’s right hand man was watching his every step. After the talk that they’d had earlier, Angie knew that Cyrus would be trouble, but she couldn’t stay away from Kevin--not tonight.

“I need to talk to you,” Angela pleaded with him reaching for his hand in the briefest of movements before stepping back. Her dark eyes filled with tears, “Kevin please…”

Kevin’s eyes scanned the room knowing full well what kind of risk he’d be taking especially on a night like tonight. He spotted Cyrus standing near the corner of the room speaking with some of the guests at his gala, yet in seeing Angela in tears, Kevin couldn’t help but want to reach out to her. He nodded before tipping his head to the side.

“Meet me out back in five minutes. I’ll slip away when Craven isn’t paying attention,” he whispered as she nodded grateful to have the time with him.

After that the night was a blur, until she found herself standing face to face with Kevin underneath the stars, the music from the party carrying out into the night. His dark eyes searched hers knowing that something was wrong before she’d spoken a word.

“Angie, what is it,” he asked, his voice softer, more concerned as she’d faced him. She’d thought she’d had the strength to do this--to tell him about the way things must be between them, but before she knew it she found herself lost in his arms.

“Kevin, I don’t care what everyone else wants for us. I want to be with you--to share my life with you and only you. I want for us to be together and I don’t care if we have to run away to make it happen,” she pleaded with him catching him off guard as his arms slowly wrapped around her. “The stakes might be higher now, but we need to find a way out of this. We need to break free.”

“Angie, what’s gotten into you?” Kevin couldn’t help but ask notice she was trembling in his arms, “Angie?”

“Kevin, I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby,” she blurted out feeling the world spiraling out of control around her.

Now as Angela stood in Chris’s house holding the dress, she couldn’t help but feel herself jolted out of the memory before it engulfed her. That night had changed so many things and the following months had lead her to believe in hope and happiness for her future only to leave her empty and hollow without all that she’d longed for. Placing her hand over the center of the dress, she stared at her reflection wondering how in the world she was going to be able to pull all of this off on her own. This time it wasn’t Kevin’s children she was bringing into this world, yet she’d always kind of hoped that she’d have her best friend at her side helping her through anything. The rules had somehow changed on her and she couldn’t keep up with the game.

“Stop this,” she cursed under her breath not letting her feelings for Kevin interrupt the matter at hand. She knew full well that he’d moved on and so had she, yet in bringing up their daughter it had opened up an old wound that had never healed. Much like the pain she’d encountered in growing up motherless, she felt the double punch of it rock over her as she thought of the daughter she’d lost. It was as if fate had dark plans for her again and again. If she couldn’t find a way to change things, she would find herself without all over again and that was a fate she feared more than anything. She couldn’t become her mother or face the loss of another child.

“Don’t worry you’ll look radiant,” Chris’s voice brought her out of her own turmoiled thoughts, “and I’m going to feel like the luckiest man in the world to have you as my date.”

“There you go again in flirting to make me more comfortable about things,” she couldn’t help but smile at him setting her dress back up on the hanger before turning around to face him. “I hope tonight turns out like we’ve been planning because I’d hate to find myself wrapped up in another disappointment.”

“Trust me Angel. Disappointment will be the last thing on your mind because well, for starters I’m your date and for an added bonus, I have this,” Chris explained pulling out a small round tube-like package from behind his back.

“What is that,” she couldn’t help but ask giving him a strange look.

“This my dear,” he motioned for her to follow him over to the bed where he opened up the tube and laid out papers before her, “is a blueprint to where we’ll be tonight.”

“A blueprint,” she repeated with a curious expression. “Chris, why do you have a blueprint?”

“Well I figured I’d do give you a sneak peak at the places that people will want you to see and the places they don’t,” he replied curling a finger at her in an attempt to get her to come over and join him. “Take a look at this for yourself.”

“Chris, as much as I’m excited about tonight, I really don’t think that looking at blueprints is going to help me find out what I need to know about my mom. I mean sure it’s a different idea, but…” she offered up with a small frown.

“Trust me it’ll be all that you need especially considering that I stumbled upon this,” Chris pointed to a small drawing on the page in front of him, “as this my dear holds the key to the answers you’re seeking. This right here is a room that only someone like myself could have privy to.”

“What do you mean?” she gave him a strange look.

“These aren’t the original blueprints Angela. These are the ones that were issued specifically to your father. They are the blueprints with the details for the secret room he’d had put in.”

“Secret room,” her eyes widened with surprise, “but how could…”

“He had some renovations done after his first stay there and I’m guessing that whatever lies in this room holds the key to the answers you’re hoping for,” Chris kept his finger on one particular spot on the page. “I’m guessing that once you get in there, you’re going to find everything that you’ve been hoping to learn about your mother. Maybe more.”

“You mean…” her eyes widened at the prospect of what he was telling her. She reached out to embrace him, “Chris, you’re brilliant.”

“Of course I am,” he hugged her in response, “and who knows? Maybe you’ll finally find the truth that you’ve been waiting for.”

“I truly hope so,” she confessed turning her attention to the page in front of her again wondering if this party would be the key to unlocking the past at long last.


Avery entered the nursery feeling her blood boiling in her veins at the way Brant had just treated her. Never in her life had she been subjected to such treatment from Brant. Even at their worst with one another, he’d never made her feel like she was just another fling--never made her feel as cheap as he had when he’d taken the liberty of firing her like that without considering what that could mean for her. Even now she wanted to tear his head off, to lash out at him for his using their personal situation to demolish her professionally, yet in the back of her mind she heard a warning voice going off telling her ‘I told you so’ over and over again. She knew this was only the start of it all and that was what she hated.

“There you are,” Russell looked up from where he’d been seated in the rocking chair with Erin in his arms. He was feeding her a bottle and judging by her eagerly gulping it down, she was in heaven in her father’s arms enjoying the moment. “I was afraid I’d lost you.”

“I’m sorry I took so long,” Avery spoke up trying to keep her voice even and neutral despite the raging fire burning inside of her. She inhaled slowly trying to keep her emotions under control, but knew she was failing miserably when Russell’s eyes flashed upon her once more.

“Av,” Russell eyed her intently, “what’s going on? You look…upset.”

Avery tried to bite back her tongue, but before she knew it she was exploding at the seams, “I am upset. I just had a run in with Brant and he had the nerve to fire me after everything.”

“What?” his eyes widened in disbelief, “Wait a second, are you telling me that…”

“That he said given our personal situations he has no choice, but to let me go from my position at BBK. He said it would be far too difficult for us to work with one another after the divorce goes through and he’s already asked Hart Steiner to replace me,” she blurted out unable to fight the tears that had carried over her in her frustrations.

“Now wait a second,” Russ started to stand up realizing that Erin was still eating in his arms and he let out a long sigh, “Avery honey he can’t do that.”

“He can and he just did. I threatened to sue him if he tried to follow through on it, but then he lashed out at me warning me that he’d bury me professionally if I didn’t accept his little proposal for getting me out of the business,” she continued more and more flustered by the moment, “Russ, I can’t believe he’s doing this.”

“I can,” his lips turned downward in a frown, “and while I can’t say that I’m sorry to see you leave the job for my own reasons, I hate that this happened to you. I know how vital you were to that company and you’re the best person Brant could have working for him. There has to be some way to keep this from happening considering how much this means to you. We‘ll find a way to fix this so that you can keep your job and…”

“I don’t think it’s going to be able to be fixed. He doesn’t care about what I want because he’s angry and bitter with me and…” she paused giving him a long look, “Did you just say we’ll find a way to make sure I keep my job?”

“Yeah,” he nodded shifting Erin in his arms before rising to his feet and moving in closer to her, “I did. While I have to admit that having you around Brant is the last place in the world that I want you, I know how important your career is to you and he can’t steal that from you simply because you chose to be with me. He knew going into your marriage how you felt about me and if I wasn’t gone like I had been, then you would still be working for him and…”

“He hates me Russ. He hates us for how I hurt him,” she sighed heavily realizing that the war was far from over between the three of them, “I did this to us and…”

“Just stop,” Russell pleaded with her, “he’s not going to get away with this. I’m not going to let Brant fire you when this was always your dream.”

“Russ, I just…” she looked to Erin seeing so much in her daughter’s small face. Immediately she thought about the twists and turns that life had been giving her, “Maybe Brant’s right. Maybe working with BBK would be a bad idea for me now.”

“What do you want Avery?” Russ asked searching her eyes, “What is it that would make you happy?”

“I just want to go home,” Avery decided with a heavy heart, her eyes fixed upon the man who had haunted her dreams for months when they were apart, “I just want to be with you and Erin. I don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Okay, then let’s get going,” Russell suggested offering Erin over to her as a sound rose from behind the two of them.

“Giving up that easily,” Augustus questioned making his presence known. He stepped further into the room looking between the both of them, “Avery, I have never known you to give up on the things that mattered to you. Are you really throwing in the towel?”

“How long have you been standing there?” Russ questioned giving Augustus a long look.

“Long enough to know that Brant isn’t thinking rationally. He would be wise to retract his hasty decision and I’m sure when he starts to come around, he’ll see the error of his ways--that is if you’re still interested in maintaining your job,” Augustus offered up glancing over at Russell once more, “Although I do think that if Brant is foolish enough to let you go that I’d be more than happy to pick you up for myself.”

“Augustus,” Avery couldn’t help but smile at him, “I appreciate the offer, but…”

“But what?” Augustus replied giving her a long look, “You think that this old man wouldn’t be a good enough boss for you?”

“No, that’s not it. It’s just that…” she started again feeling Russ standing beside her.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about it,” Augustus let out a small laugh, “because I wouldn’t be your boss. She would…”

“What?” Avery questioned noticing the way he looked at Erin.

“She’ll be your boss. I meant what I said before to you and Russ. Erin is the one who has complete control of my other companies and my stocks with BBK. She’s the one who has free reign of a great many of my assets and seeing as she’s a minor, well I think it’s only fair that I let her father step up to the plate for her for the moment until she is old enough to run things,” Augustus explained with a twinkle behind his eyes.

“Stocks at BBK,” Russell repeated his interest perked at where he sensed Augustus was headed with this conversation, “How much stock?”

“More than fifty percent of the company, which would make anyone who holds my shares a person with great influence--so much so that my grandson might feel compelled to rethink some of his recent decisions especially when family is involved,” Augustus couldn’t help but smile at Russell.

“Are you saying that you’re going to try to help Avery? That you’re going to let me walk in there and bully Brant?” Russ couldn’t help but ask in a state of shock.

“We might not see to eye to eye Russ, but I don’t really believe you’d bully Brant. More so I think you’d just remind him of where his priorities should be,” Augustus explained warmly before adding, “I wouldn’t expect anything less from a grandson of mine.”

“No, Augustus. We can’t make this a family war. This is between Brant and I and…” Avery started again with a worried expression.

“No, Augustus is right,” Russell decided interrupting her words, “I think it’s time my brother and I had a few words with one another over how he’s running the company. I would hate to think that he’s letting something minor become a problem for something that should remain a legacy for us and future generations.”

“Russ, I really don’t think that…” Avery glanced down at Erin, seeing that her daughter was in her own little happy world unaware of the power she held in her small hands.

“Tonight Blake is hosting a party and I think it would be a good time for you and Russ to show your support for the family businesses,” Augustus informed Avery with a small smile, “I have made quite a considerable donation to the cause and I was hoping to present it tonight in Erin’s name if that was alright with the both of you…”

“Augustus, I don’t know if…” Avery started still trying to wrap her mind around what Russell and Erin being Ashfords meant to the future.

“I’d be honored to do it under one condition,” Augustus’s gaze snapped back to Russell, “that tonight when it’s presented to the committee that you’re the one to hand it over.”

“Me?” Russell brought his fingers up over his chest in surprise.

Augustus nodded, “Yes, because I think it’s long past time for my grandson to take his place in the family--no matter how grudgingly it may be.”

“Augustus, I don’t know what to say. I mean we were going to go home and,” Russell started up again.

“I’ll baby-sit,” Augustus suggested with a warm smile, “I’d be delighted to watch Erin and I’ll bring Annie on over with me. She and I would be more than happy to keep an eye on her at your place unless you’d like to keep her at the mansion until the party is over.”

“I’m not really in a partying mood,” Avery thought it over for a long moment. “So much has happened and…”

“And tonight I think it would be very important for you to think about all the reasons why you belong at that party Bella,” Augustus explained with a small smile, “You deserve to be there tonight. This is something that you and Russ should do if for no other reason than to enjoy one another’s company. I think a night out would be good for you especially when it’s for a good cause.”

“He has a point,” Russell found himself agreeing as Avery looked to him with a curious expression.

“Since when did you like parties?” she wrinkled her nose at him.

“Since I’ve decided that it’s time to celebrate my return to life and to the woman I love,” he confessed wrapping his arm around her shoulders and kissing her gently, “Besides, I think this will be good for you.”

“Well,” she paused searching his green eyes before finally nodding, “okay. I guess we can make an appearance.”

“Excellent, then I will get everything in order for you both,” Augustus rubbed his hands together before saying a few parting words. After he left Avery looked to Russ with a puzzled expression.

“Do you really want to do this?” she couldn’t help but ask knowing how far Russ had gone to avoid the whole Ashford empire.

“If it means that we can find a way to get you your job back, then yeah, I’m willing to submit to being one of them for a little while,” he replied touching her cheek gently, his warm gaze falling upon her, “because the last thing I would want for you in this world is for you to be punished for loving me. You deserve far more than that Avery.”

“Loving you was and always will be the greatest thing I’ve ever known,” she confessed tipping up on her toes to steal a kiss from him as Erin let out a small sound. She looked down to her daughter and couldn’t help but smile, “And of course how could I forget about you sweetheart?”

“You didn’t forget,” Russ squeezed Avery in his arms further, “You’re just stating all of the reasons why we’re perfect together and Erin’s at the top of that list.”

“She truly is,” Avery nodded in agreement hoping that when everything was said and done she, Russ and Erin would be able to have that happiness that they’d always longed for with one another.


Brant entered his office at BBK unable to quell the fury and frustration that had mounted in his neck and shoulders after he’d gotten off of the phone with his employee. It was bad enough that Brant had dismissed Avery from her position at the company just before the call, but what made matters worse was now that Brant was looking at another major setback with his company.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” Michael apologized following Brant into his office, “but I thought you should know about what happened. One minute I thought everything was fine--that we were ready to put the testing to the next level and then…”

“Your research assistant runs off with all of your data and suddenly starts working for Stone Corp,” Brant’s anger rumbled through the office as he spun around to face Michael, “How could you let this happen? How could you not see what she was doing?”

“I thought that she could be trusted. I thought that…” Michael dropped his head down sullen and exhausted after a night of dealing with all of the previous day’s frustration, “I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t even begin to cover it, but that’s really all I can say. If you’d like I can clean out my desk and…”

“No,” Brant shook his head trying to tone down his rage, “I just don’t know how I could’ve not seen this one coming. I thought we had all the bases covered, but clearly we didn’t. We’re going to have to find another way to fix this. Brenda stealing our research isn’t going to happen. Regardless of whatever contract she has with Cameron Stone, she’s not taking my property and handing it over to his company. That belongs to BBK even if she decided to leave…”

“I know sir, but she’s already taken the data and…” Michael restated the obvious, “Stone Corp is already issuing a press statement in the morning about their miracle drug and…”

“And I’ll find a way to do damage control,” Brant decided taking in a small breath, “but I need you to keep working in the lab. You told me on the phone that other than you and I knowing the details of what went down it’s been kept from your other team members.”

“Yes, but I can’t keep it from them for long especially considering that they’re going to wonder what happened with Brenda,” Michael added further with a frown.

“Do what you can to keep things quiet for another day and I’ll see what I can come up with,” Brant suggested following up with him for a few more minutes before settling in at his desk. His first instinct was to call Avery, to get her working on something that would be the proverbial magic rabbit pulled out of a hat, but then he remembered the way he’d tossed her aside downplaying her worth with the company. Sure, he could call Hart right now, but Hart would need more information and…

“No, I’m not calling her,” Brant decided hearing another tap on his door. He looked up half expecting to see Michael had returned with more bad news, but instead he found Diane staring at him expectantly.

“What are you doing here?” she asked tapping her foot impatiently, “Given that Blake is hosting the party of the century tonight I’d think that you’d be at home.”

“I’m not going home when,” Brant paused not wanting to tell Diane about the latest blow to the company. All he needed right about now was for the rumors to start swirling. Instead he changed direction of the conversation, “What are you doing here? I thought you had some time off.”

“I did, but well, I couldn’t just sit at home,” she explained an uneasiness behind her eyes, “It was eating me alive to be left by myself to think about things…”

“Diane,” Brant paused thinking about what he’d heard from those on the way in, “about your baby, I’m so sorry.”

“I appreciate that,” Diane nodded not really knowing what to say to her boss, “The flowers that everyone sent me here was a nice touch.”

“If I’d learned sooner, I would have sent more,” Brant offered up with a small sigh, “and you know if you need more time off, then…”

“Trust me Brant. Working has been the best thing for me,” she cut him off with a quick smile trying to seem bright and cheery, “Ben and I both wanted to get some hours in before the party tonight. Speaking of which, why aren’t you at home getting ready with Avery?”

“Actually,” Brant paused giving her a long look before finally admitting the undeniable truth, “Avery and I are getting divorced.”

“What? Why?” Diane couldn’t help but ask making her way into his office and closing the door behind her, “How did that happen?”

“Russ is back,” Brant explained seeing the surprise behind her eyes, “I take it you didn’t hear that one yet.”

“Truthfully,” Diane paused for a moment color rising in her cheeks, “I know I’m known for being the gossip queen, but I really haven’t been keeping up lately since life has been a bit well, crazy for me.”

“Tell me about it,” Brant sighed sinking back into his chair, “To make a long story short, Russ is still alive and so is my father.”

“Your father,” Diane’s eyes widened further, “but how?”

“I don’t know,” Brant shrugged his shoulders before glancing over at the framed photo of him and Avery from their rushed wedding, “but now that they are both still alive all the rules have changed for all of us.”


“Why do you think he asked me of all people?” Deana pondered what had happened earlier with Grady and how he asked her to go to the party with him. It was such a small notice, but she really had no choice if she wanted to go or not because Barbara had already answered for her. “You should have given me a chance to think things over with Grady before I actually agreed to going.”

“Sweetheart,” Barbara watched Deana lean back against the counter as a smile spread out through Barbara’s light features. “You had no time to think things over. The party is tonight and this is an actual chance to have fun. Even with a cute guy like Grady.”

“Yeah, but I don’t really know him,” Deana pointed out with a small sigh watching the way that Barbara’s blue eyes watched her carefully. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a cute guy and everything, but I hardly know what to think about him. One day I met him out of nowhere and now we are going to go on a date together.”

“Enjoy it Dee,” Barbara patted Deana on the shoulder gently before shrugging her shoulders and thinking things over for a moment. “Grady is kind of an open book, you will get to know him more after going out with him a couple of times.”

“Who said I was going to go out with him more after tonight?” Deana let out a small laugh thinking about Grady and how many times she had run into him over the last month or so. “I said I would go to the party with him, I never said that I would actually go out with him more than once. I still can’t believe you set me up with Grady like that. You didn’t even give me a second to think about it.”

“If I would have let you take a while to think about it, you would have backed out of the whole thing,” Barbara shook her head knowing that Deana would have wanted to go, but would have pulled out of it in the end. “You wanted to go and I know you did, this is a perfect way to go. With a new interesting guy that is really hot. This way you will get to open up more and have fun. Get to know more people in Coral Valley so you don’t feel so out of place.”

“I’ll trust you for now,” Deana hushed Barbara for a minute before shaking her head and walking over towards the window in the corner of the room. “I swear though, if Grady doesn’t turn out to be the great person you make him out to be, I will blame you forever.”

“Don’t worry about it little one,” Barbara laughed seeing Deana’s dark eyes glance back at her, her young features seeming to be slightly worried. “You are going to have fun and I think that now you should just go home and get ready. You should be able to have fun and go ahead--just leave right now. Tell me all about it later.”

“I guess that’s a good idea,” Deana walked over towards the door giving Barbara one last glance before shrugging her shoulders. “Hopefully this night will be a good one, it could give me a day to relax and just have fun for once. I will see you later.”

“Bye,” Barbara waved goodbye to Deana seeing her walk out the door. A small gasp escaped her lips as she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder and she turned to face the dark eyes behind her. “Hey Diego. What are you doing?”

“That was very nice of you,” Diego pointed out seeing Barbara’s blue eyes looking into his. He shrugged his shoulders and offered up a small smile before looking over towards the door. “She’s new in town and it’s nice to see people trying to help her out. The world would be better if they had more people like you in the world.”

“Wow Diego, thanks,” she smiled reaching out to rest her hand against his shoulder before watching him carefully. There was something in his dark eyes that made her wonder about something. “Hey Diego are going to the party tonight?”

“Me?” Diego questioned seeing her nod carefully as he shrugged his shoulders and backed away from her slowly. Sure, he had been asked by Heather to go, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to face some of the people there. “No, I’m not going.”

“Well why not?” Barbara questioned elbowing him in the ribs gently seeing him shrug his shoulders as he thought about her question. “You know, maybe we should go together. I don’t have a date, you don’t have a date. We could go together.”

“Us?” Diego’s eyes widened as he thought about her offer and shrugged his shoulders. Heather had asked him and he really didn’t feel like going with her for obvious reason, but would he really want to go with Sarah there with Kyle? “Why would you want to go with me? I’m not someone that you would have a lot of fun with.”

“Well, I really want to go, but I don’t want to go alone,” Barbara informed him with a small shake of her head and folding her arms out in front of her chest. “I guess you are just the only person I really know well enough to ask. So please, will you go with me?”

“I guess I could do that,” Diego nodded slowly thinking about the situation, a small smile appearing over his lips. “We can go as friends and I really wasn’t going to go, but sure--why not?”


“Kellen, you are taking forever,” Kipp groaned bringing his knees up to his chest while he sat in the corner of the bedroom watching Kellen continue to work on Heather’s hair. “It’s just her hair, how much more can you do with it?”

“Kipp, you have to understand this,” Kellen took his time to look back at Kipp with his blue eyes. A smile appeared over the corner of his lips as he looked at how cute Kipp looked tonight in his black tuxedo. “The hair is the most important part of the night. I mean, the make up is a big thing and the dress has to be beautiful, but the hair honey--the hair means everything.”

“Kellen, come on,” Kipp groaned standing up from where he was standing seeing Heather’s green eyes look into his as he slid his hands into his pockets. “I think she looks perfect as do you. Are you about ready to go?”

“Give him another two minutes,” Heather hushed seeing Kellen’s blue eyes gazing at her hair in awe. He played with the barrette for a moment before rubbing his hands together and nodding slowly. “I think he is done.”

“There you go honey, take a look,” Kellen nodded towards the mirror so that Heather could look at what he did with her long blonde hair. “I think it looks beautiful honey and you know what? It took me less time to do your hair then it took me to do mine?”

“How long did it take you to your hair?” Kipp looked up at the spiked up hair style Kellen usually always had. Kellen offered up a small shrug as Kipp ran his fingers through Kellen’s dark hair. “It’s all gelled up, I like it when it’s normal.”

“Have you seen him with no hair gel?” Heather let out a small chuckle seeing Kellen’s blue eyes narrow in over at her. She held her hands up in the air before shaking her head slowly. “Kipp, with no hair gel his hair goes over his eyes. Kellen needs hair gel to even see where he is going.”

“I was about to yell at you for making fun of my beautiful hair, but I actually kind of agree with you,” Kellen pointed out with a small shrug looking at himself in the mirror and leaning forward to play with his dark hair. “I would have to get a haircut if I wanted to actually put no hair gel in it, but I like the way it is now. It makes my blue eyes stand out more.”

“He has a point you know,” Heather added seeing Kipp's dark eyes look over at her and a small smile appeared over the corners of Kellen’s lips. “Kellen has at least the second prettiest blue eyes I have ever seen. The best has to belong to one of Brant’s friends.”

“Oh, so you don’t like any other colored eyes?” Kipp questioned folding his arms out in front of his chest and arching his eyebrow at her in curiosity. “I mean, you don’t like any other color. Just blue eyes?”

“No, that’s not it. I like some brown eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes,” Heather cleared her throat uneasily before shrugging her shoulders and looking at herself in the mirror. “The prettiest eyes other than Brant’s friend and Kellen is kind of like a hazel color. They are like green on the outer part and brownish in the inner part.”

“Really?” Kellen watched her nod slowly and fix up her make up in the mirror. He folded his arms out in front of his muscular chest and watched her carefully. “So, who do these eyes belong to honey?”

“I just saw them once, that’s all,” Heather blew off the question before hearing the doorbell and nodding over towards the door. She tapped on Kellen’s shoulder gently and spoke up in a small whisper. “You need to go answer that so Kipp doesn’t kill Cameron.”

“Will do Heather Babes,” Kellen winked at her before quickly walking around Kipp and over towards the door. He opened it to see Cameron before him at the door with a small smile spread over his features. “Wow Cameron, who actually knew that you could clean up so good.”

“Oh, well you know--a good shave and some nice clothes could always change a person’s appearance,” Cameron stated with a small smirk watching Kipp and Heather walk into the room and Kellen motioned him to come in.

“It may be true about the appearance, but it doesn’t change a person’s personality,” Kipp pointed out with a small scowl seeing Cameron fold his arms out in front of him before offering up a small shrug. “You better be careful tonight Cameron.”

“I know Kipp,” Cameron looked over at Kipp for a moment and then turned his attention to Heather. He saw her green eyes look up into his and he reached his hand out to her. “Are you ready to go?”

“Just a second,” Kellen grabbed Cameron’s hand in his and pulled Cameron to look at him. “Before we go, we have a few rules we have to get by.”

“A few,” Kipp rested his hands on his hips and shook his head at the thought of actually having Cameron going with Heather. He would have never accepted it if Kellen had not have convinced him. “I don’t even think I am happy with you going with her Cameron. I’m still not so convinced with you.”

“I told you once…,” Cameron went to reply to what Kipp said feeling Kellen tug on his arm and Cameron turned to face him with a small frown.

“I just want you to know that we are all going together tonight Cameron, I’m driving,” Kellen informed Cameron seeing the way that his eyes widened, knowing that Cameron didn’t want to be going to the party tonight like that. “We are going to be with the two of you every step of the way.”

“And we aren’t going until the babysitter shows up,” Heather informed everyone only to hear the doorbell ring and Kellen motioned Heather to take Kipp with her so they could talk to the babysitter. “We’ll get that.”

“What else do you want me to know?” Cameron questioned folding his arms out in front of him and shaking his head at the way everyone was shooting rules out at him. “If I dance with her do I have to have a five inch rule or something like that.”

“Not what I was going to say, but yeah--I like that,” Kellen nodded his blue eyes narrowing in at Cameron as he shrugged his shoulders. “We are going to buddy up tonight because it’s the right thing to do. I just have one warning for you now, if you mess with Heather, I will beat you within an inch of your life. If you don’t believe me Cameron, just take a look at me and think about back in the day. Back when my brother was working with you and look at me now. I’m not like Cary, I fight back and I have a good soul.”

“I never said you did and Cary definitely wasn’t like you. You are a really good person and I believe that you want to protect Heather,” Cameron cleared his throat uneasily before eyeing over at Heather and Kipp. “I guess I didn’t know we were all going together and maybe I’m not looking forward to it, but it will work.”


“Are you even ready for this thing tonight?” Kyle questioned walking out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist after having to take a shower in the guest house. Sarah and Blake kicked him out of the room in the mansion and he was forced to come dress down in the guest room with Seth. “I mean, all this happened so fast.”

“That it did,” Seth agreed reaching out to grab his shirt from the bed and watching Kyle grab his bag from the corner of the room. Seth pulled his shirt on and fixed the cuff of the shirt before glancing out the window. “Blake has really been looking forward to it, I’m just surprised she didn’t want to share the moment with me you know.”

“Don’t blame her, I really think it’s all Sarah,” Kyle pointed out pulling out his pants and a belt from his bag. “Don’t get me wrong, I know how most women work together, but this one I think is all Sarah there.”

“What makes you think that?” Seth rose his voice as Kyle walked into the bathroom again to go change. Seth buttoned up his shirt before sitting down on the bed and fixing his dress shoes. “I know that you said Sarah has been acting weird lately and all.”

“Acting weird?” Kyle walked out of the bathroom again finishing up with his belt before shaking his head slowly. “She is crazy Seth, she decked me this morning. She slapped me right across the face because I said something stupid.”

“What did you say?” Seth questioned with a small laugh realizing that when he had gone apple picking with the two, he never imagined that they would be having problems. They always seemed like a perfect couple and boy, he must have been wrong. “I mean, what made her do that?”

“I asked her if it made her jealous that I was giving her sister attention, in a friendly way,” Kyle answered truthfully, shrugging his shoulders and reaching down to pick up his black, silk shirt. “I was helping Heather with something and it made her go crazy.”

“Why?” Seth reached for his jacket seeing Kyle shrug his shoulders and pull his shirt on carefully. Seth stood up from the bed to go look out the window and up towards the bedroom he knew they were in. “I mean, Heather is her sister.”

“Right,” Kyle nodded grabbing his tie and jacket from the bed. He put them both on quickly before going to adjust them in the mirror. “I guess Heather and Sarah have this hate for each other that I will never, ever understand.”

“I don’t know,” Seth shrugged seeing no movement by the window as he gave his attention back to Kyle, seeing the way he fixed his tie. “Sometimes everyone in this world has me worrying.”

“Oh well, just forget about the crazy people,” Kyle brushed off the thoughts of Sarah and how crazy she had been towards him lately. She was always trying to jump him and it never crossed his mind the answer why. They truthfully had only done it about two of three times at the most. In all honesty, what she really wanted from him wasn’t at all what he wanted in the relationship. “What about Blake? How excited about this is she? This is her big day and I proud of her. She has been waiting for something like this for a long time.”

“She is over the top excited,” Seth answered with a small smile, thinking about all the times she had talked about this during the night when she couldn’t sleep. She was just too excited last night and continued to talk about what was going to happen or what would be happening. “I’m just glad that she is actually getting something she wants for once.”

“I’m glad that this is happening for her,” Kyle stated with a small sigh walking over towards the dresser to grab his watch and then fixing his silver chain necklace in the mirror. “I suppose someone needs to be happy around here and I think it’s great that she gets to be the one. I just hope this goes good for her like she is hoping.”

“It will, I’m sure,” Seth pointed out with a small frown, seeing the way that Kyle seemed to be not really eager to go to the party tonight. “Maybe Sarah will about what she has been doing and make the night easier for you, so the party might actually be good.”

“I highly doubt it, but maybe,” Kyle shrugged fixing his tie in the mirror once again, not liking the way it matched with his black suit and shirt. “I guess a lot of people say that they are usually really cranky when they are on their period or when they are pregnant. I just guess it’s an all time thing for Sarah there.”

“Man, she really isn’t making you happy lately is she?” Seth watched Kyle offer up a weak smile before grabbing his wallet and looking through the pictures he had in there. “What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know anymore man,” Kyle let out a deep breath before shaking his head slowly and looking up at Seth with his hazel eyes. “I suppose I will find out sooner or later.”


“So, what are you trying to say?” Blake started finishing up her hair in the mirror as Sarah sat on the edge of the bathtub, already done with everything. For the last half hour Sarah had been blabbing on and on about Kyle and what jerk he was this morning. “Are you going to break up with him or something?”

“Are you kidding me? That would be a death sentence for sure,” Sarah pointed out rolling her eyes at the comment, knowing that she could never let go of Kyle. He was supposed to be the good future ahead of her and he was supposed to give her the normal life. “I just don’t understand why he won’t be--intimate with me.”

“You know, he was just stabbed in the thigh a while back,” Blake added to Sarah’s thoughts seeing Sarah shrug her shoulders before shaking her head. “You never know Sarah, Kyle could just be more of a religious man now that he has almost been killed. He could believe that everything should wait until after marriage.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s right,” Sarah thought about what Blake said for a minute, realizing that there were absolutely no signs of that with Kyle. “I just think his attitude has changed a lot over the last few months. And to top it all off the stupid hospital hasn’t even called me back yet.”

“They will, don’t worry about it so much,” Blake hushed Sarah, watching Sarah’s dark eyes narrow in over at her as she shrugged her shoulders. “I’m going to guess that you are.”

“What makes you think that?” Sarah stood up looking at herself in the mirror and running her hand over her stomach carefully. “Do I look like I am getting any bigger? If I do, I don’t see it at all.”

“It’s not about getting bigger,” Blake’s blue eyes glanced over at Sarah for a minute before walking back into the bedroom to grab her light jacket from the chair. “It’s about your attitude around everything and everyone.”

“What do you mean?” Sarah wanted to know what Blake was talking about as Blake shook her head and walked back over towards the bathroom. Sarah threw her hands up in the air before nodding slowly. “Come on Blake, I want to know what you meant.”

“I just don’t get it sometimes,” Blake took in a deep breath thinking about Sarah’s history and everything she had ever done when they were together hanging out. “For so long, I thought Kyle was it for you. No matter what happened, I always thought he was the last and the only. Now I come to the realization that Kyle is nowhere near the last or the only one. Do you know how many times you have mentioned Diego tonight already? Sometimes I just don’t get it because I believed that you wanted to make things better with Kyle, I just thought that you might have had it in you.”

“I do,” Sarah stopped Blake from going any further as she took a step forward and rested her hands against the counter. “I will keep this Diego thing from Kyle if it’s the last thing I do. Kyle will never find out about this thing Blake. I promise you that.”

“Sometimes never is just around the corner,” Blake warned eyeing Sarah over carefully before picking up her necklace and putting it on slowly. “Kyle is smarter than you seem to believe. I mean, he’s how old? A year younger than you and a year older than Heather right?”

“Yeah,” Sarah nodded not quite knowing where Blake was going with the situation of what they were talking about. “I don’t get where this is going.”

“Kyle graduated a year ahead of you Sarah, he has made a real impact on his own life,” Blake stated remembering all the things about Kyle. “I mean, he does what my family does. When you have nothing, find something that gets you ahead. He is very successful for what he does and Kyle is a smart man. You don’t think he will figure it out when his job is to figure these kinds of things out. He is a private investigator--he gets paid to do things like this Sarah.”

“Kyle is too washed up in everybody’s life to care about his own,” Sarah chuckled to herself folding her arms out in front of her chest and thinking about every time Kyle had to be the hero. Every time he had to be the one doing the saving and to tell you the truth, she was getting sick of the act. “He is blind when it comes to his own life.”

“Well, just forget about it,” Blake tried to get Sarah off the subject as she shook her head slowly. “Just try and think about something else so you can have a good night. You need it just as much as all of us do.”


“Go ahead, I’ll be waiting right here,” Dean parked his car right in front of the apartment building to Deidra’s place. He watched her get out of the car before leaning back down to look at him. “We might be late for the party, so go get ready real quick.”

“Alright, I will be right back,” Deidra quickly walked into the building and over towards the elevator. She had forgotten the right shoes to go the party and everything had to look great tonight.

Deidra stepped onto the elevator alone as a shock spilled throughout her thoughts. She didn’t know what it was she felt but something was obviously wrong, she could just feel it.

“What is wrong with me tonight?” she asked herself as the elevator stopped and she walked out into the hallway only to be greeted by Dean when she walked right into him. “How did you…”

“I got bored,” Dean answered with a small wink watching her blink up at him with her dark eyes a few times before shrugging his shoulders and leading her towards her apartment. “I just took the stairs because I feel really awake right now.”

“I’m glad,” she cleared her throat uneasily as he opened the door for her and led her over towards the bedroom as she placed her hand over her heart. “I don’t understand it, all of a sudden I just got this worried feeling.”

“Don’t worry about it honey, it’s obviously the party,” Dean hushed her grabbing her in his arms and pulling her closer to him, wrapping his arm around her waist. He pressed a small kiss in against her lips before bringing his left hand up over her shoulders. “It’s the butterflies because you are excited about the party. I get them all the time, don’t worry about it.”

“I think I would know if this was about the party,” she mentioned before shaking her head slowly when he let her go. A small sigh escaped her lips while she thought to herself what might be wrong. “Can you get the shoes for me? They are at the top of the closest.”

“Sure,” Dean nodded quickly walking over into her closest and holding out a pair for her. “Are these it?”

“No, they are the black ones in the right corner,” she informed him with a deep breath as he came out with the right ones and motioned her to sit down on the bed. He carefully put each shoe on before siding up to her and kissing her on the lips. “Thanks.”

“Not a problem,” Dean winked grabbing her hand in his tightly and motioning her to follow him when he helped her off the bed. “You should stop worrying because we are almost at the party.”

Deidra followed Dean out of the apartment and as soon as the door shut the phone started to ring.

“Just forget about it,” Dean pulled her towards the elevator, “Whoever it is can wait.”


Diane hung up the phone angrily after realizing that her sister must have not been home. There was no doubt in her mind that Deidra would be going to the party tonight and she had to be there on time to talk to Deidra. To tell her what was going on and to make sure she was on the look out.

“Honey?” Ben knocked on the door lightly before entering the room and looking down at her with his blue eyes. “Are you ready to go yet or do you need a few minutes.”

“No, I’m ready I guess,” Diane stood up from her seat and walked over towards him before realizing she left her purse on the side of the desk. “Hold on a second?”

“What’s wrong?” Ben questioned noticing that something seemed to be bothering her as she walked back towards him with her purse in her hand. “I can see that something is on your mind.”

“I just called Deidra and she didn’t pick up,” Diane informed Ben with a small frown before shrugging her shoulders and walking back over towards the window. “I know I wanted to go tonight, but I am worried about her and about tonight.”

“Why is that sweetheart?” Ben watched her over at the window and he walked in behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders gently and feeling her body shiver underneath his touch. “What is it?”

“It’s just the thought of Andy being back in Coral Valley,” Diane just shivered at the thought of him actually coming back to start trouble. He came back with a plan and the plan he was going to get no matter what other people did. “I just wanted to let her know about Andy and what he was up to.”

When she saw Andy the other night, she knew that he came back to start trouble. The only time he would ever think about coming back was when thoughts of hurting others was on his mind. There were only certain things she knew about Andy, but she could tell by the look in his blue eyes that something was up with him.

“I just don’t want him to hurt her,” Diane pondered the thought further seeing Ben’s blue eyes looking into hers as she continued to worry further about her sister and what she might run into at the party. “I know Andy is up to no good and I don’t want him to hurt her.”

“Let’s get going so we can meet her there,” Ben held out his hand to her as he led her outside to the car so they could leave and be able to get to the party quickly.

There were so many things running through her head now and obviously now that Andy was back in town things were going to get much worse. Andy could only bring one thing to everybody in town and that was pain.

When she saw Andy the other night, she saw something different in him--something that she had never seen before and whatever it was, the only thing she could read from his eyes was the word revenge and hurt. Hopefully she would be able to pass it on before it was too late. If Andy truly was at this party tonight, only one thing could happen from it and that was disaster!


“Are you about ready to go?” Gabe questioned fixing his tie in the mirror as Guy stepped in behind him and pressed a small kiss against his cheek. “What was that for?”

“Just to let you know that I appreciate everything you have done for me over the last week,” Guy answered with a small shrug as he saw Mindy walk past the door and he whistled to get her to walk back. “I need to talk to the both of you for a second.”

“Okay,” Mindy stepped next to Gabe cautiously and looked up at him maybe knowing what this was all about. When she saw him shrug his shoulders she looked back and watched him carefully, knowing that he had something important to say. “What’s up Guy?”

“I have been thinking about the way I have been acting lately and I realized one thing,” Guy cleared his throat uneasily before watching Gabe and Mindy nod slowly. “I realized that I was acting like nothing, but a big old jerk and I wanted to say that I was sorry. Sorry about everything that had happened over the last few days. I can’t tell you how much ya'll being here for me helped me and I don’t think I will be able to repay either one of you.”

“Hey, all that matters to me is that you are feeling better,” Gabe hushed Guy stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Guy tightly before motioning Mindy to step in closer to them. “Group hug?”

“Thanks guys,” Guy smiled feeling Mindy pat him on the back as he squeezed the both of them in his arms and offered up a small smile. “I really don’t know what I would do without the two of you here with me. I think I would just stop and not be happy anymore. You two make everything right.”

“Hey, don’t forget about Brittany, I know she is over at the next apartment,” Mindy pointed out taking a step back from the two boys and folding her arms out I front of her. “That doesn’t mean she isn’t good for you too.”

“Of course Brittany too,” Guy smiled fixing his tie as he heard the doorbell ring and they walked over to the door but Mindy quickly ran over to it. “That’s got to be Hunt.”

“Hunt,” Mindy smiled opening the door and wrapping her arms around his shoulders gently, feeling him wrap his arm around her and kiss her gently. “I’m glad you could make it tonight.”

“Anything for you honey,” Hunt pressed a small kiss in against the side of her cheek before looking out at Gabe and Guy, a small frown appearing over his lips. “Where is Brittany?”

“With the neighbors kid, she is babysitting Brittany tonight,” Mindy tugged on Hunt’s hand as Guy and Gabe followed them out. “Now, let’s get going so we can all have a fun night together.”


Don adjusted his tie taking a long look in the mirror before letting out a sigh. He knew that tonight was about having a good time and enjoying the good cause that surrounded them, yet when Don thought about the pain his best friend was going through, he couldn’t help but be worried about Brant. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a cell phone and dialed Brant’s number.

“Ashford,” Brant answered sounding more than perplexed over the situation.

“Brant, hey it’s Don,” Don explained knowing he didn’t have to, but still he could hear the sound in his friend’s voice that alerted him that Brant was about to be fit to be tied. “How’s it going?”

“I’d be lying if I said I was having a great day, but it’s, well it’s almost over,” Brant confessed with a heavy sigh.

“Not yet,” Don added with a slight hesitation, “I mean you’re going to Blake’s party tonight, right?”

“I’d thought about it, but right now I don’t think I’m in much of a partying mood. I have this situation at work and…” Brant began to explain to him.

“Nonsense. Shannon and I are picking you up in forty-five minutes and I don’t want any lip over it,” Don decided taking a move towards helping his friend turn a new leaf now that Brant was about to be single again, “We’re taking you to the party with us and if you play your cards right, I might hook you up with a hot date for the occasion.”

“Don, no offense, but right now I’m really not in the mood to party or to go looking for a date,” Brant tried to argue with him, “I’m backed up at work and…”

“And I know full well that you’ve got a tux stashed away in one of the closets there, so get dressed, get ready and prepare to have one of the best nights of your life,” Don added not allowing his friend a moment to sulk, “Trust me pal this is for your own good. Besides Blake would kill you if you weren’t there tonight.”

“Okay, point taken,” Brant finally decided grudgingly, “I’ll see you in about an hour, okay?”

“Deal,” Don replied with a bright grin, “and who knows? Maybe tonight will turn out to be like the good old days. You remember how wild those nights were when we got together to party, don’t you?”

“I don’t think I could ever forget,” Brant couldn’t help but laugh at his friend’s attempt to lighten the mood, “Though I have to tell you now that you’re married and I’m, well, I’m in between it probably won’t be as fun as it used to be.”

“Oh it’ll be fun--even more fun,” Don promised with a small chuckle, “Trust me. Tonight is going to be a night you’ll never forget and by tomorrow you’ll be wishing that you would have had your freedom sooner. I’m sure of it.”

“Yeah, well I’ll have to take your word for it Don,” Brant sighed again his voice darkening a bit, “I suppose I should get ready if you’re planning on picking me up here.”

“You can count on it and hey just think tonight is about new beginnings, not about looking back, only forward,” Don piped in encouragingly.

“Right,” Brant remarked hanging up the phone and leaving Don to wonder how he was going to perk up his best friend. Knowing full well how upsetting the idea of letting Avery go was to Brant, Don vowed to see to it that tonight Brant was able to find a way to push his upset about Avery aside--at least for a little while.

“Don, honey are you almost ready,” Shannon questioned stepping into the room to see that Don’s tie was still undone. She frowned slightly, “I thought that you were working on this.”

“What can I say?” Don shrugged his shoulders slipping his cell phone back into his pocket, “I guess I’m a bit of a butterfingers guy when it comes to doing this. I’ll admit that I’m not good at the whole tie thing. Most of them are snap on for me.”

“Which is pathetic,” Shannon shook her head at him before curling her finger at him to join her, “It’s a good thing for you that I grew up with all guys around me. My brothers always had me doing the tie thing for them more often than I think even they care to admit.”

“Yeah well when we had all of these black tie affairs in the past, I always made Steph take care of all the details. She was so much better than I was,” he trailed off a moment of uneasy silence falling between them as Shannon continued to work on his tie.

Finally she tipped her head up to meet his blue eyes, “Don, why don’t you talk about her more? I mean we’ve been married for a while now and despite the fact it hasn’t exactly been a traditional kind of romance for us, I never really heard you saying much about her. I mean your mother has said a few things in passing, but I guess I would’ve thought since she was Matt’s mom…”

“I guess I figured you wouldn’t really want to hear about it,” Don confessed feeling her finish with his tie as he took a step back, “I figured I’d just leave things as they are for now.”

“Well you know you don’t have to hide your past from me for my benefit,” she offered up seeing pain flicker behind his blue eyes, “I mean I know how wonderful Matt is and I can’t help but wonder about the woman who gave birth to him. She must’ve been pretty special if you loved her.”

“She was an incredibly special woman,” Don replied with a thoughtful expression, “and I knew from the first moment I saw her that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her--only I guess fate had other plans for us.”

“Don I…” Shannon trailed off not knowing what to say as his eyes clouded over with emotion.

“She was great and a really wonderful woman. She tolerated my bullshit and put me in my place, which was something I need,” Don confessed with a tiny laugh, “Yet even with my faults she always said that there was no where else in this world that she’s rather be at, then with me. In that way, I guess we both kind of were in agreement on that. It was really wonderful and I hate that it ended so soon which is probably more than you wanted to hear.”

“No,” Shannon shook her head reaching for his hand and taking it in hers, “because if she made you feel wonderful like it’s obvious she did, well then I’m happy that you had her. When I look at Matt and see how much she gave you, Don, I wouldn’t want you to feel that you had to pretend that part of your life didn’t happen. I wouldn’t want you to think that I was trying to take her place in your life or Matt’s.”

“I know,” he nodded before offering a small smile, “and I know if Steph could see where Matt and I are now, she’s know we were in good hands. She would’ve liked you Shannon.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” Shannon replied with a warmth filling in her face. She opened her mouth to say something more when a crashing sound vibrated through the room. She spun around to see Nate standing there with a scowl on his face.

“There is no way in hell that I’m doing this Shannon!” he protested stomping into the room with a waiter’s uniform on that was clearly at least two sizes too small for him. “I don’t care how many days I have to spend in jail for not doing this because I refuse to go out in this monkey suit.”

Shannon scowled, “Nate, you don’t have a choice in the matter. You’re going to have to work off your community service somehow and this is better than some of the other things you could be doing.”

“This sucks. I mean seriously,” he pinched at the arms of his jacket, “I refuse to lower myself to this level all because some loser at the police station couldn’t get his facts straight about what I was doing that day the accident happened.”

“Look Nate, like it or not, you’re going to that party and you’re going to work it like the judge ordered,” Shannon glared down at him catching his mouth opening in protest, “Don’t make me shoot you because I will.”

“Hey, go for it. Then I’d get out of work,” Nate suggested with a bright grin.

“On the contrary, I’d only make it a minor flesh wound that Don could sew up so that you’d still have to work tonight,” she placed her hands on her hips with a huff.

“You really think you can bully me into going tonight, huh?” Nate stepped in closer to her, “Well you’re wrong.”

“Am I?” Shannon dared reaching into Don’s pocket and pulling out his cell phone. She started to dial a number as Nate’s face grew pale.

“Shannon, what are you doing?” he gulped in response watching her bring the phone to her ear.

“I’m calling mom,” she taunted knowing that would be just the bait she needed to get him to stop.

“You so aren’t fair,” Nate grumbled stomping out of the room in just as much of an uproar as he’d entered it.

Shannon let out a small laugh, “Works every time.”

“You’re evil,” Don couldn’t help but laugh at the interactions between the two siblings.

“Don’t I know it,” she chuckled further, “but one way or another I will teach my brother about responsibility whether he likes it or not!”


“Are you almost ready?” Carly questioned walking into the bedroom to see Dave barely in his dress shirt, “Dave, we’re already running behind. What’s taking so long?”

“I guess I was just thinking about everything about tonight,” Dave shook his head before letting out a long sigh, “I know that we weren’t planning on this party, but…”

“But it’ll be fine,” Carly replied reaching out to help him finish getting ready, “My mom is already having a great time with Kayla. She’s glad that she was able to fly in and show her a nice night. They already are at dinner and we should be out the door to get Cori and…”

The doorbell rang.

“I’m guessing that’s my sister ready to yell at me too for taking so long,” Dave laughed lightly reaching out to kiss Carly, “Tell her I’ll be right out.”

“Deal, but don’t make a liar of me,” Carly warned wiggling her finger at him before opening the door to see Cori standing on the porch looking a bit flustered.

“He’s not ready, is he?” Cori questioned walking into the room with a huff, “You know this is just like Dave never to be able to get anything done on time.”

“I’m working on it sis,” Dave’s voice echoed through the hallway as he slipped into his jacket. Seconds later he stood in the living room seeing his sister dressed in a slinky red gown, “Well now, don’t you look like you’re ready to be the life of the party?”

“One of us has to be,” Cori waved her hand at him before looking to Carly, “Where’s Kayla?”

“My mom flew into town to be with her tonight,” Carly explained with a small smile, “and Kayla is over the moon being with her grandmother again.”

“Well, then I guess it’s all settled,” Cori clenched her purse closer to her, “Let’s get this over with.”

“Hey, where’s your date,” Dave couldn’t help but ask her, “I thought that you’d said that we’d meet this mystery man of yours tonight.”

“He’s out of town,” Cori replied with a tight scowl, “but rest assured sooner or later you will meet my Prince Charming and when you do, well you’ll see why I’m so very much in love.”

“I can’t wait to meet him,” Carly smiled brightly, “He must be something special if he makes you that happy.”

“He’s incredible. The best man I’ve ever met,” Cori piped in enthusiastically.

“Yet he couldn’t even take the time to be with you,” Dave eyed her suspiciously, “He doesn’t sound all that wonderful Cori.”

“I told you Dave. He’s out of town,” Cori glared at her brother before adjusting her blonde hair, “but when he gets back you’ll all see how wonderful he is. Now can we just go and get this whole party thing over with?”

“Of course,” Carly nodded watching Cori walk out of the door with a small frown. She felt Dave tug on her arm and stop her from following Cori.

“Something about this doesn’t feel right,” Dave frowned slightly.

“What about the party? Or about Cori?” she couldn’t help but ask seeing the crease in his brow.

“This mystery man of hers. I have to tell you it reminds me of that time in high school when she…” Dave started hearing Cori whistle at him to open up the car door so they could leave.

“When she what?” Carly questioned curiously.

“I’ll tell you later,” Dave replied with a heavy sigh ready to push his worries behind him long enough to enjoy the party tonight. Still with Cori raving about a mystery man, he couldn’t help but wonder if his sister had found herself in another situation that was over her head like she’d done in the past. For her sake he sincerely hoped not!


Deana looked at her reflection in the mirror trying not to talk herself out of what was ahead for the evening. Zane was already asleep and she’d been able to get a hold of Grady and tell him it wasn’t really necessary for his parents to watch him since the girl in the apartment down the hall that Zane seemed to have a crush on offered to do it instead. Deana could see her out of the corner of her eye doing her homework and she let out a small smile wishing that she’d been more concerned about homework back in high school.

“And remember if you need anything else,” Deana explained again to Jackie the babysitter, “I have my cell phone.”

“I know,” Jackie looked up and smiled at her, “and my mom will be home tonight so you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong. We’ll be okay Ms. Sherman.”

“Well, I was just saying just in case…” Deana began again hearing the doorbell ringing. She felt her pulse leap into her throat as she looked to the door fearing it would burn her just for opening it.

“Are you going to get that?” Jackie questioned curiously with wide eyes.

“Oh right,” Deana cleared her throat uneasily before smoothing out her gown and moving towards the door.

“Don’t worry you look great,” Jackie spoke up encouragingly as Deana opened the door to see Grady standing before her with a bouquet of red and white roses in hand.

“For you pretty lady,” Grady smiled at her handing the flowers over to her to reveal the bright smile on his face. He was dressed up in a tux and looked more handsome than Deana could remember him being up until this point in time. “I was hoping this would serve as a peace offering for us.”

“They are beautiful,” Deana stepped back inviting him inside for the moment, “Let me put them in some water.”

“Wow,” Jackie’s jaw practically dropped upon seeing Grady. She tilted her head to the side before mouthing to Deana with a bright grin, “he’s hot.”

“Thanks,” Grady blurted out catching Jackie by surprise. Her face turned red and he couldn’t help but laugh, “I appreciate the approval.”

“Oh my…” Jackie gulped burying her face down in the books once again before she could say anything further to upset things.

“I think I can take it from here,” Deana moved out of her kitchen with a smile, “I take it you’ve met Jackie. Jackie, this is my date Grady Denton and Grady this is Jackie Kurts.”

“As in Julian Kurts?” Grady couldn’t help but ask watching Jackie nod helplessly.

“He’s my dad,” she replied with a sheepish expression.

“He’s a good man,” Grady offered up knowing that she was still embarrassed by his catching onto her words. Trying to take the pressure off of her, he returned his focus to Deana, “You look fantastic.”

“What in this old thing,” she waved her hand dismissively ignoring the fact that she’d shelled out a good three hundred dollars this afternoon to find something that would be stunning and an eye-catcher. The way the soft blue hugged her body only accentuated the positives and it’s classy, yet sexy shimmering material only added to the feel of the night. Grady had promised magic and she was hoping that would truly be the case.

“You two have fun,” Jackie piped in once again, “because I know I would if I were in your shoes.”

“Call me if you need anything,” Deana replied turning to look at Jackie once more.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Jackie smiled brightly, her eyes fixed on Grady once again, “Have a good time.”

“Oh we will,” Grady offered his arm out to Deana, “You ready for this?”

“Honestly, not really,” Deana offered his arm, “but hey that hasn’t stopped me in trying new things thus far.”

“Good because after tonight I can promise you I’m going to have you trying new things over and over again,” Grady offered up reassurances hoping that tonight would prove to be a new beginning for the both of them--one that would be far from disappointing in both their eyes.


...to be continued...