Episode 337

Moving forward through the hallways Shannon let out a small yawn, stretching out her arms as she woke up thinking that Don might have came in to take a shower this morning, but he never did. Maybe he slept out on the couch all night last night because of how he felt about the situation that happened.

“Where are you?” Shannon walked into the living room to not see Don on the couch like she had expected. It looked like no one was home until the sound of her brother’s voice erupted through her ears coming from the kitchen.

“Where did you put the ball Matt?” Nate questioned loudly as Shannon walked into the room to see Nate looking underneath the table to try and look for something that must have been missing. “You have to have that thing. Where did you put it?”

“I don’t know,” Matt chuckled as Nate stood up and picked Matt up in his arms and held him up high, reaching out to tickle Matt as he shook his head over and over again. “I don’t have it Nate.”

“Yeah right,” Nate chuckled holding Matt upside down carefully hearing Matt laugh out over and over again as Nate watched trying to see if the ball fell out of any pockets. Looking over to see Shannon watching him angrily in the corner Nate set Matt back down on his feet carefully. “I’m in trouble.”

“You really shouldn’t be playing with him like that,” Shannon reminded him seeing Nate roll his eyes before nodding slowly and Shannon shook her head at her brother’s actions. “In all honesty, you are so much bigger than him and you could have hurt him Nate. Does that mean nothing to you?”

“He didn’t hurt me thought,” Matt informed her with a wide smile reaching out to grab Nate’s hand in his, seeing Nate look down at him unsure of what Matt was going to say next. “Nate is very protective of me and I know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me.”

“See, he trusts me,” Nate grumbled sitting down in the kitchen chair and bringing Matt up to sit on his knees. Wrapping his arm around Matt he let out a small frown. “How come you don’t?”

“Look at yourself and then you try and figure it out,” she rolled her eyes walking over toward the refrigerator opening it up to get some milk out. “I was looking for Don, did he like go and sleep in your room last night or something?”

“No actually he already left for work,” Nate answered seeing the way that Shannon slammed the milk down on the counter, showing him that there was obviously some tension between Don and Shannon. “I think mommy and daddy are fighting.”

“We’re not fighting,” Shannon snapped looking back at Nate seeing his green eyes widen as he set Matt back down on the floor and stood up next to Matt. “You are such an idiot sometimes Nate, you think so immaturely sometimes.”

“I don’t think he is a complete idiot like you are making him sound,” Matt tried to stand up for Nate seeing the way that Shannon’s brown eyes look down toward him as he shrugged his shoulders. “I think he is a great guy.”

“Thanks little buddy,” Nate smiled leaning down to pick Matt up in his arms and pull him in close for a tight hug. Looking into Matt’s light blue eyes, he smiled widely knowing that his sister would never feel the same way that Matt felt for him. “At least you think I’m great.”

“He thinks your great because he is a child Nate,” Shannon pointed out seeing both their eyes get wide as Nate shook his head slowly. “Little kids tend to think someone who is an idiot, is great.”

“Did you just call me a child?” Matt questioned with a small frown, his nose scrunching up as he looked up into Nate’s green eyes as Nate shook his head slowly. “A child is a…,”

“Okay little buddy,” Nate put his hand over Matt’s mouth before he could shoot anything off to Shannon and Nate looked out at Shannon rolling his eyes at his sister’s actions. “We’re going out together.”

“Wait a second,” Shannon called out to Nate as he walked out of the room with Matt in his arms and toward the front door. As she followed him Nate turned around looking back at her with a confused expression. “Don is actually letting Matt go out with you.”

“We’re just going over to grandma’s house,” Nate replied seeing the way that Matt looked up at him with his blue eyes and Nate motioned him to be quiet for a minute. “Anyways, I know Don trusts me with Matt. I love Matty here like he is my little brother--I wouldn’t let him get hurt.”

“Fine then,” Shannon looked to Matt who was in Nate’s arms, his mouth still covered by Nate’s left hand. “Just make sure you are careful with him and take him straight to his grandparent’s house.”

“Alright,” Nate opened the front door uncovering Matt’s mouth as he did and he took a step out of the house seeing Matt look over at him slightly confused. “We’ll see you later.”

“Great,” Shannon saw the front door close and she went to the window to watch Nate get Matt in the car carefully before they drove off in Nate’s car. Walking back to the kitchen, Shannon went back toward the refrigerator to put the milk back before hearing the doorbell ring telling her that Nate must have left his house keys at home. “Now what?”

Walking back toward the front of the house Shannon marched toward the front door, hating how irresponsible her little brother could be sometimes with all the things that they did. Thinking her brother was at the front door she opened it up angrily before cutting herself off from any rude remarks seeing that it wasn’t her brother in front of her.

“We need to have a chat,” Angela informed Shannon folding her arms out in front of her chest angrily before stepping forward into the house seeing Shannon move back a bit. “Now.”


Don stood at the coffee machine in the on call room trying to think of a way to ignore the aching throb in his temple that had found it’s way into his neck and shoulders. He tipped his head to the left, then to the right and finally decided there was no point in hiding it. Not even the best aspirin in the world could get rid of the tension that he’d been carrying around inside of him after he and Shannon got into a war with one another the other night.

Closing his eyes he thought back to the last time he’d seen her this morning. He could hear her slamming things around in the kitchen in an obvious attempt to wake him more than an hour earlier than he had to be for work. Sure, he’d tried to get her to listen to reason, but it was useless, then to add insult to injury she’d made him sleep on the couch in his own home no less. That in itself was a whole new form of torture considering that he should’ve pitched the old thing out years ago with all it’s lumps and springs that he felt all night assaulting his spine. It was enough to make him want to scream.

“There you are,” a voice prompted him from his mental rehash of the morning from hell in avoiding his wife. He opened his blue eyes to see Deana standing in the doorway to the on call room with a smile on her face. “You busy?”

“For you,” he replied with a small nod curling his finger to urge her to enter the room, “never.”

“I know I probably shouldn’t be in here, but someone told me that you looked like you could use a friend,” Deana noted moving in to stand in front of him. She eyed him for a long moment before shaking her head at him, “Judging by the expression on your face I’d say the rumors aren’t all that off, are they?”

“Honestly on most occasions I’d lie to you,” he shrugged his shoulders, “but at this point in time why bother? I’m having a day that I’d just as soon get over with so I can begin again tomorrow, but at this point I’m thinking that it’s not going to get much better than it is now.”

“That doesn’t sound too promising,” Deana frowned up at him reaching out to place her hand on his arm gently, “Want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” he sighed heavily looking down to her hand on his shoulder, “but I will give you one word of warning.”

“What’s that?” she mouthed with a soft sigh.

“Never get married. It’s not worth the hassle,” he blurted out shaking his head and returning his half-hearted attention to the coffee machine once again. Reaching for the pot he started to pour himself a glass.

“Um Don, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Deana stopped him mid pour as he looked down to realize he was about to pour his morning wake up into a bed pan.

“What in the…?” Don dropped the bed pan to the floor with a resounding thud and took a step back nearly dropping the steaming pot of coffee in his hand in the process.

“Whoa there big guy,” she moved in to save him from burning himself with the coffee pot by taking it from his hands. She sidestepped the now spinning bed pan on the floor and set the coffee pot back down on the burner before turning to Don. “Maybe you should sit down and leave this up to me.”

“Who put that there?” he pointed at the still twirling bed pan. “That shouldn’t be next to the coffee machine. That’s just…nasty.”

“Nasty as it is, I’m quite certain that would be one morning coffee you wouldn’t have enjoyed if I didn’t stop you,” she turned to face him again giving him a stern look. “Are you on break?”

He nodded, “For the moment before I have meetings with Dr. Reynolds.”

“Good,” she reached out to him placing her hands on his shoulders and turning him around to bring his back to her. With a gentle nudge she guided him over to the sofa before pressing her palms in over his shoulders, “then sit down.”

“Deana, I really don’t want to…” he started to protest in a low, nasal whine feeling her fingers dig further into his shoulders.

“Don’t make me put you in a headlock to get it done Don because you know I will,” she warned with a hint of firmness in her soft southern accent. “Don you know I’ll do it if I have to.”

“I’m well aware of that,” he groaned grudgingly plopping down onto the sofa. Once he was seated he sank his head back against the top of the sofa and let out a small, pinched sound. “I just wish that this headache would go away.”

“Hmm, well maybe we should start by skipping over the caffeine and going to something a bit more uplifting,” she suggested walking over to the refrigerator set up in the far end of the room. She opened the door and bent down to pull out a bottle of juice before returning to him. “Here drink this.”

“What is it?” he opened one eye to a small squint before wrinkling his nose at her, “I’m not drinking that. You know I can’t stand that stuff.”

“Regardless you’re going to have it anyways. It’s good for you,” she shoved it into his palm despite his protests and moved in behind him. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she began to massage at the knot she could feel near his neck, “Man you are tense.”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you or trying to at least,” he closed his eyes letting her work her fingers over his hardened muscle, “though I have to tell you I could get killed for you doing that.”

“I realize most men say that they have died and gone to heaven when they have my hands on them, but I really don’t believe that’s going to be the case,” she couldn’t help but tease with a playful laugh.

“Keep talking like that and you’re going to get yourself into trouble spunky,” Don opened his blue eyes to tip his head back at her. His grin expanded before he shook his head at her, “Does Zane have any idea what a hot mama he has there?”

“No more than Matt knows what a horn dog you really are,” Deana mouthed with a simple shake of her head catching the look of protest that formed on Don’s open lips, “and don’t even start trying to deny the rumors because we both know that would be an outright lie.”

“I wasn’t going to deny them, but damn girl could you at least pretend not to know those things,” Don winked up at her before shaking his head, “The last thing I want is you spreading rumors about what a sex starved maniac I am.”

“I’m not spreading rumors, but you’re adding fuel to the fire here by the way you are this morning,” she noted in her business as usual tone, “So what’s really going on with you and Shannon?”

“I’m guessing that she’s probably out hunting down a good divorce lawyer right about now,” Don sighed feeling a heaviness in his chest. He glanced up at her once again, “Know any good ones just in case I might need one?”

“Honestly,” a frown touched over her lips and she scowled with a huff, “no.”

“Hey, don’t stop,” Don felt her move away from the massage she’d been giving him in order to take a seat beside him on the couch. He sat up straighter turning his attention to her and seeing something cloud over her otherwise beautiful features. Placing his hand on her knee he patted it gently. Feeling no response, he reached out to her curling his index finger underneath her chin to lift her gaze to his, “Come on Spunky, what’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she sighed heavily feeling a lump forming in the back of her throat, “at least not anything that you need to worry yourself with given that you’re already in a bad mood.”

“Hey, don’t you know by now listening to you and helping you makes me feel better,” Don patted the center of her nose before smiling, “It makes me feel like I can actually save the world.”

“So what? Now I’m your charity case?” she questioned with wide eyes.

“Nah, it’s just my doctor’s God complex setting in, so tell me what’s going on?” he urged her once again putting his full focus on her and what she was saying.

“I guess I’m just on stress overload now that Zack…Dr. Vaughn is giving me hell,” she offered up not wanting to get into her issues with Grady at that point in time. She met his concerned gaze, “but I’m handling it.”

“Handling it how,” Don started to frown again thinking about all he’d been hearing about Zack. “He hasn’t been hitting on you, has he?”

“I wish I could say he hasn’t been, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t lie to you. He’s like a dog in heat and it’s really pathetic,” she explained with a wrinkled expression, “To make matters worse every time I turn him down he comes up with a new complaint about me. He’s always trying to find a reason to kick me out of here and I’m starting to think it’s working. Don’t get me wrong I love what I do, but I just don’t want to have to deal with some sexist horse’s ass who can’t get a clue when a woman simply isn’t interested.”

“Deana please don’t tell me that you’re going to let someone like him talk you out of something that you love,” he shook his head at the tone in her voice, “You’ve worked hard to get where you are and the last thing you should do is let some jackass like Zack take your dream from you.”

“Don you know how I feel about nursing, but at the same time I came to Coral Valley to make a new life for myself, not to get caught up in the politics and the same old situations. I know how to deal with bullies, but honestly I’m tired of fighting especially now that I have to think about what’s best for Zane. If I wind up fired because a man who wants to run this hospital has a beef with me, then that’s not going to help Zane either.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Don reached out to bring his arm around her shoulders to pull her in closer to him, “Neither one of those things is going to happen because let’s face it I’m going to be the one running the hospital.”

“I sure hope so, but Zack is a viper,” she sighed leaning in against his strong chest and resting her head on it, “He’s making a name for himself around here.”

“Yeah one that isn’t going to get him any closer to where he thinks he’s going to be when it comes time to picking a new Chief of Staff,” he promised in a confident tone despite his sour tone earlier, “I’ll be in charge and when that happens no one is going to pick on one of my favorite girls around here.”

“Stop,” she swatted at his chest before shaking her head at him, “Don you can’t always protect me you know. Now you’re starting to sound like Jason.”

“That spoiled shit,” Don wrinkled his nose at her before shaking his head, “Please do not lump me in the same category.”

“Shame on you. If Stephanie heard you saying that,” she started to object to his complaint only to feel him press his hand in over her lips to silence her.

“She’d agree with me wholeheartedly,” he informed her point blank before letting out a laugh, “Hell if you told him what was going on, then he’d be here to take out Zack in the snap of a finger there.”

“And that’s the last thing I want,” she frowned back at him, “I’m not a little girl anymore. I don’t need him deciding who he can plow down to keep me out of harm’s way.”

“Hey, he’s just looking out for you like I am most of the time. I can’t fault him that,” Don added squeezing his arm around her again, “We just have to keep you close to us for our own protection.”

“Don’t you mean mine?” she gave him a pointed look.

“Nope I mean ours because if any guy messes with you, Jason and I would probably murder him without second thoughts and wind up in the slammer,” Don winked down at her with a small laugh, “but seriously for what it’s worth I hope you realize you can always count on me if you need me.”

“I know Don,” she replied in a small voice, “and believe it or not talking to you has helped.”

“Hey, what did I tell you?” he smiled over at her, “I’m the problem solver. I am the man you know.”

“So you keep telling me,” she smiled back at him ready to say something more when Barbara walked into the room.

“There you are. You’ll never believe just what arrived for you,” Barbara blurted out holding an oversized multi-colored bouquet in her arms.

“My someone must be ready to make up,” Deana noted with a teasing grin looking to Don, “Maybe you were way off about that whole divorce lawyer thing.”

“Oh they aren’t for him,” Barbara waved her hand dismissively setting the vase of flowers down on the table in front of Don and Deana. “They are for you and if I had to take a guess on who sent them, I would have to say it was a very sexy, green eyed lawyer that has taken to enjoying spending time with you lately. Want to read the card?”

“Not really,” Deana shook her head at Barbara’s urgings. She glanced down at the card her friend was holding out and frowned.

“Oh come on. Deana it doesn’t hurt to look,” Don poked her in the ribs seeing her being anything, but thrilled about the idea of checking it out.

“Fine,” she grudgingly accepted the card. She tore open the envelope, her brown eyes moving over the words before she stood up and reached for the vase. Without a word she picked it up and walked over to the trash bin. She deposited the flowers and exited the room without a further comment.

“Um okay, what just happened here?” Don questioned surprised by Deana’s reaction.

“I think there’s trouble in paradise,” Barbara explained with a confused expression of her own. “I don’t get it though. One minute Grady was all she could talk about. He was here with Zane and he seemed like the perfect guy and then the next…”

“Something tells me my talk with Deana isn’t over yet,” Don decided standing up off of the couch and making his way over to the trash can to see just what it was the card had to say that had Deana in an uncharacteristic state. If Grady had done something to hurt her, then he wouldn’t have to wait to hear it from Deana, Don would have a word with him all by himself and he could promise that with the mood he’d been in lately, it would get ugly for Grady!


“Kyle?” Sarah lifted her head off the pillow she was sleeping on after hearing a rustling behind her. Seeing that the shades were opened, she blocked her eyes from the sunlight getting in and let out a small sigh. Looking around the room she saw Kyle over in the corner of the room, a duffle bag on the corner of the dresser as he threw a few things into it. “Kyle, what are you doing?”

“Oh hey, you’re awake,” Kyle smiled seeing her sit up on the bed, rubbing her hand through her slightly messy hair. Kyle folded up a few more things before walking over to the closet to pull his leather jacket out of it. “I didn’t think you would be awake anytime soon.”

“Well, the sun kind of got me there,” she replied nodding over toward the window seeing the wide smile that had developed over his handsome features as she let out a small laugh. “What in the world are you doing?”

“I’m packing,” Kyle answered truthfully pulling his leather jacket on quickly before zipping up and walking over to zip up his bag setting it down on the ground. “Just getting everything together.”

“You really basically got everything, every little thing,” she noted looking around the room seeing Kyle nod slowly before shrugging his shoulders and sitting down on the edge of the bed next to her. “Are you packing for the honeymoon or something?”

“No sweetheart, I’m trying to be safe,” Kyle stated with a small wink reaching out to grab her hand in his and squeeze it tightly. Seeing the way her dark eyes looked into his confused he let out a small laugh. “I’m going to spend the night over at Grady’s house.”

“Why would you be doing that?” she questioned scooting in closer to him on the bed before moving forward to kiss him slowly, feeling him pull away from her before letting out a small laugh. “You should be with me today.”

“That would be bad luck for the morning honey,” Kyle got up off the bed before reaching for his bag and throwing it over his shoulder and letting out a small sigh. “Grady and I need to get a few things ready for the wedding anyways. You know us guys--always doing things at the absolute last minute.”

“Well, not always," Sarah got up off the bed seeing Kyle nod slowly before she looked over toward the bathroom seeing him take in a deep breath. “Did you get all your things out of the bathroom? Like your toothbrush and all of that?”

“No, I forgot that,” Kyle smirked walking over toward the bathroom and flashing her a bright smile. “Thanks for reminding me Sarah. If I would have forgotten that, I might have been lost.”

Walking into the bathroom, Kyle’s smile faded to a frown as he pulled open the drawer to grab his toothpaste and everything else he needed to get through the night. Grabbing the toothbrush, he put it between his teeth because he had no hands and walked out toward the bedroom.

“You look like you have everything ready,” Sarah caught Kyle’s attention as she stood in the middle of the room seeing the toothbrush fall out of his mouth and to the ground as he looked at her. “What’s wrong Kyle?”

“What are you doing?” Kyle gulped down setting everything in his bag before turning to see her again standing in the middle of the room with her nightgown around her ankles leaving him a full view of her. “It’s a little cold in here to be doing that, don’t you think?”

“Not for much longer,” she whispered moving forward toward Kyle reaching out to grab his leather jacket and tug it down his shoulders to drop it on the ground. Seeing the color drain from Kyle’s face she balled up the material of his shirt, walking him back toward the bed. “Tomorrow is our wedding and I’m not sure I feel close enough to my Kyle yet.”

“Sarah, honestly,” Kyle tripped over his own two feet falling back on the bed and feeling her get in over him as he gulped down uneasily. His back pressed in against the headboard as he looked up at her feeling her fingers moving in underneath his shirt. “I want to wait until we get married.”

“Until we are married?” Sarah laughed leaning forward to nibble at his bottom lip, giving it a small tug as she saw Kyle close his eyes feeling her settle in over his groin. “You wouldn’t wait that long, I know you.”

“Trust me Sarah,” Kyle tried to pull back from her but found himself caught into the corner as her fingers pulled apart his belt and he let out a shallow breath. “I really don’t think I could do this right now because I told Grady…,”

“Screw Grady,” Sarah whispered seeing Kyle look at her awkwardly for a moment before she unzipped his pants moving forward to nibble on his neck as she heard his uneven breathing fill her ears.

“I prefer not to,” Kyle muttered hearing Sarah laugh in his ear before her hand dipped into his pants grabbing a hold of him roughly and he let out a small yelp. Feeling her lips against his neck he closed his eyes letting out a small hiss before shaking his head slowly. “Oh no, late.”

“Ouch,” Sarah fell to the ground as Kyle pushed himself up from the bed and to his feat, quickly walking over toward the door to nod towards her when he grabbed his jacket and the bag. “Kyle, what are you doing?”

“We have to watch Deana’s kid too, so I have to go,” Kyle stepped back slowly and into the hallway, holding his bag tightly before giving her a small wink. “I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow on the big day.”

Moving quickly Kyle moved through the house and to the outside, throwing his bag into the back of the truck. Rolling his eyes he let out a long breath zipping his pants back up and pulling his jacket back on.

“I’m getting sick of all this,” Kyle whispered to himself getting in the truck and quickly pulling out of the driveway before turning on the radio. “Everything is going to work out perfectly, I know it.”


“So what do you think?” Kellen twirled around in front of the mirror checking out his appearance now that he was half dressed in his tuxedo. “Do these pants make my butt look big?”

Kipp barely looked up from the papers he’d been stewing over for the last hour or so. He set the page in front of him back down on the desk before giving Kellen a small dismissive glance. “Why does it matter Kellen? I thought that you weren’t interested in this wedding.”

“I wasn’t before, but then I got to thinking about it and now,” Kellen opened his mouth to say something further, but stopped himself. “I just need to look my best for this one.”

“Okay I’ll bite,” Kipp finally set his work aside and looked to his lover with a curious glance, “Kellen why do you care what you look like for this wedding? Why is it so important to you?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Heather sounded out from across the room where she’d just entered Kipp’s place. She had her arms folded in front of her chest and her eyes narrowed over at Kellen with obvious upset. “I thought that you were my friend there, not Sarah’s. So much for the crap you‘ve been trying to feed me for the last few months now, huh?”

“Heather Babes,” Kellen spun around to face her with a bright smile only to watch her hold her hand up in the air.

“Save it. I’m not here to see you anyways,” she directed her attention to Kipp going well out of her way to ignore Kellen. “I realize that you might be busy for a while, but I just thought I’d drop off my new cell phone number for you since I’m going to be busy through most of the day. I have a date and…”

“A date?” Kellen repeated with an obvious frown. “What do you mean a date?”

“You know the thing that single people do when they obviously have something better to do then sell themselves out by going to a wedding that they don’t approve of,” Heather snubbed him before handing Kipp the paper she’d written on. “If you need anything, anything at all, just give me a buzz and I’ll be here if something is wrong with Charles.”

“We should be fine,” Kipp assured her with a small nod.

“Good because I intend to have the time of my life today and the rest of my life for that matter,” Heather explained with a heavy emphasis on her words before barely looking over at Kellen. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

“Heather wait,” Kellen stepped in towards her ready to explain his strange behavior to her, “I think we should talk.”

“Why? So you can tell me what a mistake you were making in trying to push Kyle and I together?” Heather snapped at him, her irritation level rising by the moment, “No that’s okay Kellen I already get that one and rest assured I won’t be there ruining Sarah’s big day. She’s getting absolutely everything she wants and it’s real rich that my best friend who claims to hate her is going to be there to share it with her.”

“But…” Kellen began again a wounded expression on his face.

“Save it Kellen. I’m not in the mood for anymore games, so you enjoy yourself. You and Kyle can both have a fun time at the wedding and I hope you both get whatever you want out of it,” Heather snubbed him spinning on her heel and stomping out of the place before Kellen could get a word edgewise about the situation.

“Okay, now I really have to ask,” Kipp finally broke his long silence after what he’d witnessed take place between them, “Kellen what the hell is going on and why are you going to that wedding after all? Heather’s right that doesn’t make sense.”

“Well that’s because it’s a really simple explanation if people would only take the time to listen,” Kellen started again, his blue eyes drifting to the door Heather had just stormed out of.

“Good, then how about you start explaining it to me because I’d really like to know how you’re going to just stand there and risk the friendship you have with Heather by supporting this farce of a wedding between Kyle and Sarah,” Kipp blurted out ready to know what it was that had caused Kellen to do a complete turn around in the blink of an eye without any real reason to support his new decision.


“So are you going to tell me what the big surprise is?” Avery questioned from across the table where she and Russ sat with Erin. She looked around the romantic little restaurant where they’d spent a great many hours with one another enjoying the atmosphere of the place in the past. This time however there was a big difference now that they were sharing these moments with their daughter.

“Oh come on, where would the fun be in that,” Russ wiggled his brow at her reaching out across the table top to take her hand in his. “Besides I thought that you’d be taking this time to enjoy our surroundings. Feeling anything familiar about this place?”

“There are a lot of familiar things about this place,” Avery brought her hand up to the side of her face, before casting a thoughtful glance over at Erin, “but some of them we should probably reserve discussing about until later since Erin is here.”

“Oh come on. Not all of your memories lead down that road,” Russ tossed out a knowing look and laughed, “Okay so a few of them are a bit much for our daughter. Come to think about it, how about we just skip over those when we’re in public?”

“Smart thinking,” Avery laughed lightly feeling his hand squeeze hers gently. She returned the gesture before looking to Erin, “So what do you think honey? Do you like where your father’s taken us to dinner?”

Erin yawned alerting them that she really could care less about their meal, but she was still very contented in her seat they’d carried in. Russ reached for her offering up his finger, which Erin squeezed until another yawn followed.

“This is a very big day for her,” Avery noted with a small smile, “She’s been getting to see more of the town here starting with Uncle Grady’s office and now to go out to one of the nicest places in town for dinner…”

“She’s a very lucky little girl,” Russ noted thinking about how truly blessed he was to have his wife and his daughter in his life. Unable to repress the smile that overtook him he spoke up again, “You know I’ve been thinking about this whole wedding idea. When we’re able to I was thinking that maybe we should take Erin with us to the cabin, maybe rent out that little chapel out there and just have a private ceremony with our family. Maybe this time we’ll have your father there…”

“I’d like that,” Avery smiled over at him with a thoughtful expression, “I hate that he wasn’t there the first time we decided to give this a go. Not that our wedding wasn’t an absolute dream, but still…”

“I wouldn’t dream of leaving him out of it this time,” he promised squeezing her hand gently. “And just think this time we can have something more like what we’d always talked about--something that you were hoping for.”

“Like the day we started this out years ago,” she added remembering how long they’d waited for their big day to come. “Maybe this time we can even have Grady there and not worry about him objecting to the ceremony.”

“If he does I’ll deck him,” Russ teased with a small laugh thinking about how things had finally come full circle for him and his family. Leaning in across the table he kissed Avery gently before pulling back, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she sighed softly finding herself lost in his beautiful green eyes that were so full of love and warmth that had always put her mind at ease. Being with Russ again was like a dream come true and now she intended to savor every last second of it. It was the most beautiful, wonderful feeling in having him home. Their time together was something that…

“Hey,” Russ noticed the way her face seemed to tense up after a moment of silence. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she lied trying to ignore the man whom she’d spotted out of the corner of her eye. She sat up straighter, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear before looking to Russ again, “Let’s just finish dinner.”

“Avery we just got here,” Russ gave her a strange look before realizing that something wasn’t right. Turning to glance over his shoulder, he realized that Brant had just walked into the restaurant. He was headed over towards the bar and seemingly steering in a new direction until something made him turn around. Frowning Russ forced himself to turn around and look at Avery again with a warning tone. “Ignore him.”

“I would, but he’s coming over here,” Avery whispered in a muted tone, her voice shaky and clearly upset at the thought of having to go one on one with Brant again.

“If he says anything I’ll take care of it,” Russ promised hearing footsteps from behind him. He took in a slow breath hoping that Brant would wizen up and go away, but somehow he knew better. Brant wouldn’t make it that simple for them.

“Well isn’t this nice,” Brant spoke up in a sarcastic tone, “We have Ken and Barbie out on their dream date here. It’s almost like a sickening Norman Rockwell photo if you will.”

“Back off Brant,” Russ sprang up from his chair circling around to stare down at his long time enemy.

“And if I don’t,” Brant challenged getting up in Russell’s face, a wicked smirk on his features, “What are you going to do about it bro? Beat me up in front of everyone here and give me one more reason to take you down?”

“Listen you ass, now isn’t the time or the place, so back off,” Russ warned sharply, his green eyes narrowing down at Brant in one last attempt to issue him a silent warning.

“Relax Russ, I wasn’t here to bother with you two losers,” Brant glanced over at Avery and threw out a dismissive wave, “It’s not like she’s worth the time in getting worked up over. She was never nearly as interesting as she lead the world to believe anyways.”

“Back off,” Russ snarled at Brant, his hands curling into fists at his sides.

“Believe me I’d be more than happy to considering that she’s your problem, not mine,” Brant waved his hands in the air raising them in a defensive stance, “I wouldn’t waste my time with someone like her when I’ve got a real woman waiting at home for me now.”

“Imagine that,” Russ felt his stomach tighten at the thought of what Kevin had told him about Brant and Angela. “I’m not surprised that trash like you wouldn't take long to move on. It’s not in your nature to be loyal.”

“Last time I checked it wasn’t in hers either,” Brant taunted in a low, whisper of a tone making sure that only Russ could hear his words. “Take it for what it’s worth, she’s a decent lay, but she’s far from being one of the best. I’ve had better--much better.”

“You son of a…” Russ reached for Brant’s shirt collar ready to squeeze him at the neck.

“Russ,” Avery sprung up from her chair breaking her long silence. She touched Russell’s arm in an attempt to hold him back while trying to keep an eye on Erin. “Don’t.”

Russ opened his mouth to say something more, but repressed the urge to get himself in over his head now that Avery seemed to finally be starting to relax. If Russ and Brant got into it over Angela and Russ revealed his ties to Angela that would be the end of the mood that had carried over Russ and Avery lately. Finally he took a step back and shrugged.

“Don’t worry I’m not going to dignify this loser with any more time or energy. He isn’t worth it,” Russ quipped taking in a slow breath in an attempt to keep from losing his cool over the situation that was taking place in front of him.

“Funny, but I thinking the same thing about you,” Brant adjusted his tie before glancing over at Avery. His dark eyes lingered over at her for a second before he stood taller and spoke up in a pinched tone, “You two losers deserve each other. You’re both more messed up than anyone would want to have to deal with. I’m glad I’m finally done with the both of you.”

“This isn’t over Ashford,” Russ spoke up behind a clenched jaw, his body tight with rage.

“No I’m sure it’s not, but rest assured your little farce of a newspaper is going to be,” Brant’s eyes snapped over to Russ with a hint of menace behind his tone, “and not even the truth about your bastard blood is going to keep it from going under.”

“You son of a…” Russ lunged forward again causing Avery to grip onto his arm to keep him from causing even more of a scene. All eyes seemed to be on the three of them and Brant let out a wicked laugh.

“That’s right Avery, you hold him back,” Brant taunted her further, a spark of bitterness laced in his tone, “You’re good at doing that with the men in your life. I should know since I was stuck married to you for so long, but I guess it did have some perks along the way.”

“Get out of here,” Russ shoved Brant in the center of his chest causing him to stumble backwards away from the table.

“Believe me that’s just what I plan on doing,” Brant managed to break his own fall. He gave the both of them one more look before painting on a wicked smirk, “I’ve already wasted far too much time on you already. Oh and Avery, by the way you might want to clear the rest of your junk out of the office because if you don’t, I’ll just have someone take it out with the trash. Then again, I might just do that anyways.”

“You…” Avery’s mouth curled in protest and she released Russell’s arm opting to go after Brant herself. She felt Russell’s arm around her waist tugging her in against the warmth of his chest. Still her blood was boiling, heart pumping and a fury swept over her.

“You know, you should enjoy yourself tonight,” Brant taunted further giving Avery a very long once over, “She always enjoyed herself after a good fight. She’s good at that whole rage sex--that was about her only saving grace, but even that was pushing it.”

“You bastard!” Avery shouted in shrill tone causing both Brant and Russ to be startled by her voice. Her hands were shaking and it was clear that she wanted to tear Brant apart limb for limb, “I gave my everything to you. I devoted my life to your company--to helping you and…”

“And it’s a shame that’s the best you had to offer,” Brant cut her off with a dismissive tone, “but then again maybe it’s a good thing I fired you. That way maybe you can keep from making the same mistakes in being a complete failure like your mother was. Otherwise Erin’s completely doomed.”

“I hate you!” Avery shouted struggling against Russell’s hold on her, “and when I get my hands on you…”

“Don’t. Avery stop,” Russ hugged her closer to him knowing exactly what she was feeling considering that he was feeling the same thing himself if not more intensified at the moment. He’d hated Brant and wanted to see Brant taken down for all he’d done, but this was personal.

This was between the two of them, not with Avery. All she’d done was made the mistake of trusting Brant and Russ knew full well the insults were meant to upset Russ. Brant was hurt that he’d been dumped and he was lashing out those emotions. However, Russ wasn’t going to stand for it a second longer. Even if he had to kick Brant’s teeth down his throat, then so help him God…

Erin let out a cry reminding the room that she was still at the dinner table. Hearing her soft sobs brought reality crashing down on the moment. Avery’s focus turned to her daughter and Russ felt her wiggle out of his arms, moving over to check on Erin. Even Brant’s face softened as he watched Avery pick Erin up in her arms. There was something behind his eyes--something that Russ almost guessed was guilt if that was even possible from someone like Brant, but before either man could exchange another word, Russ turned away moving over to his family.

“Come on sweetheart, let’s get out of here. I think I lost my appetite and Erin doesn’t need this,” Russ suggested hovering over Avery and Erin, while watching Brant leave them alone at long last. He spotted Brant moving over towards the bar and keeping his arm around Avery’s shoulders, Russ spoke up in a low, soothing tone again, “Let’s go home.”

“Okay,” Avery nodded biting down on her lower lip in an attempt to keep her feelings about the situation under control, but it was obvious that Brant had struck a nerve. In his temper tantrum he’d managed to hurt Avery again and from that moment on Russ vowed that he would find a way to make Brant suffer big time for ever believing that he could get away with treating Avery like dirt. Even if Russ had to throw around his Ashford blood that he loathed so very much, he would do what was necessary to ensure that Brant was never a problem for him and Avery again!


“Oh, I like this dress,” Trisha walked out of the changing room to see Ria sitting there waiting for her as she modeled off the red dress she had just picked up. “I think it looks good enough to go to a wedding, but something tells me it is a little too much. I mean--does it show too much cleavage?”

“What does it matter?” Ria questioned with a small shrug of her shoulders standing up from the seat and walking over toward her younger sister. “I mean hey--as long as you like it, that’s all that counts, right?”

“You’re right my dear sister,” Trisha nodded in agreement looking at herself in the mirror before smiling widely. She moved her hand in over her stomach before flipping back her hair to try and determine if this truly was the dress she was looking for. “I really don’t care what everyone thinks because this is the dress. I love it.”

“Well okay then,” Ria whispered seeing Trisha walk back into the changing room and locking the door before Ria took a seat again to wait for her sister to get back out. “The hard part will be getting to find me a dress.”

“You will look great in all of them,” Trisha pointed out hearing her sister let out a long sigh as she carefully changed, making sure not to bump into anything while she was in there. “We just have to find something that Kevin would love to tear you out of right then and there. Which means it will be most likely everything.”

“Hey, it’s not always like that,” Ria chuckled hearing her sister let out a sarcastic laugh and Ria felt a blush in her cheeks rising as she thought about what her sister was thinking. “Well, okay for Kevin that probably is true.”

“Give me a break sis, you are the same exact way toward him,” Trisha pointed out hearing Ria let out a hesitant laugh showing Trisha that she was right on her accusation. “In all honesty though Ria, I have seen what he looks like naked and it’s purely yummy to say the least. How big do you actually think he is? I mean…,”

“Trisha,” Ria felt a bit embarrassed covering her eyes realizing that her sister should learn to talk about the right things in a public place instead of blurting out whatever she wanted. “You really need to stop right there.”

“Oh come on,” Trisha let out a small laugh knowing that this was embarrassing Ria, but she still couldn’t help to go through with all of it. “I know I would want to see him naked more than see him wearing clothes. Though, I still have to wonder how you are still walking straight.”

“Trisha, this isn’t the right place to talk like this,” Ria reminded Trisha seeing the changing room door open and Trisha ran into it letting out a small hiss. “You deserved that I hope you know.”

“These things are way too small to do anything,” Trisha rubbed her elbow looking out at Ria as she stood up slowly and picked up her purse, putting it over her shoulder. “When you see two people going at it in one of these in a movie, you know that is so fake.”

“Not really,” Ria replied seeing Trisha glance over at her as they walked back into the store area and Ria shrugged her shoulders. “Trust me, they are big enough to do something like that.”

“Oh my god Ria,” Trisha gasped looking over at her sister before shaking her head slowly seeing Ria’s dark eyes look over at her. “I can’t believe you. You and Kevin actually did it in one of those things didn’t you?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Ria laughed seeing her sister’s eyes widen as Ria bit down on her bottom lip trying not to laugh out at her sister’s interest. “I would have never done something like that with Kevin in a public place. There is no way.”

“Oh my god, you are such a liar,” Trisha pushed her hair back behind her ear before letting out a long breath thinking back to Kevin and how big he was. He was six foot six and in the upper two hundreds with all that muscle, it was a shock that him and her sister could have done something like that, but she believed that Ria really did have to do that with Kevin with how she was blushing. “You are so lucky Ria, I wish I could have had a piece of him when I had the chance. Damn, you are so lucky.”

“Trisha,” Ria shook her head slowly walking over to a dress rack seeing a black dress that seemed to stick out among the rest and whatever that could help change the subject would be great. “What do you think of this dress?”

“Fine, we’ll change the subject if you would like. I think the dress is something that Kevin would definitely like--it would fit you well,” Trisha replied seeing Ria put the dress over her arm and motion her to walk over toward the register. “You know, I find it a little bit strange that I’m going to a wedding where I really don’t even know the people in it.”

“Yeah, that is a little weird,” Ria agreed biting down on her bottom lip, thinking back to the other day when she had spent a couple of hours with Kyle getting to know the wedding day a little more. “I do know Kyle Houston though and he is great guy. He seems to be very polite and that’s always a good quality. I know Kevin likes Kyle even though they fight all the time, they have some type of connection where the friends always fight. So we promised to go and we’re going, but you aren’t going to pull out on me with this one sister. You are still going with me.”

“I know, I promise I’m going,” Trisha reassured her sister before taking in a deep breath and setting her dress down carefully on the checkout counter, looking back at Ria. “I wouldn’t break a promise to you sis, I swear.”


“Okay kid, where in the world are you taking me?” Kevin questioned looking out the window of the car as he reached for the radio, getting tired of sitting in the car for so long. “You said you had plans, so where the hell are we going?”

“Chill out Kev,” Chase chuckled pulling into a parking lot as Kevin eyed him over carefully. Shrugging his shoulders Chase let out another small laugh seeing the look behind Kevin’s light brown eyes. “What do you think I was planning on doing to you?”

“I don’t know,” Kevin shrugged taking in a deep breath before looking around the area before them. “You could have taken me to a spot where you would kill me and no one would find me.”

“I would rather kill myself,” Chase pointed out with a small laugh seeing Kevin nod before looking back out the window. Turning off the radio, Chase felt a bit of seriousness rise up in his voice as he furthered his point. “You just mean a lot to Trisha and Ria, so I wouldn’t want to end that.”

“I would like to think that I am pretty important,” Kevin began in deep sigh look over at Chase as he parked the car. Shrugging his shoulders Kevin found himself at a loss for his words when he thought about Trisha and Ria. “They could live without me though, I think I would die if I lost Ria though. She means everything to me.”

“You are blind I hope you know,” Chase pointed out pulling the keys out before looking out his window. Letting out a small laugh he pushed back his hair before taking in a small breath. “Either that or you are just stupid. It has to be one of the two if you actually think they could live without you.”

“Um, okay,” Kevin half laughed seeing the seriousness behind Chase’s features as he placed his hands against his knees uneasily. “I really don’t know how to respond to that because, wow.”

“I’m being serious Kevin,” Chase stated once again gripping onto the steering wheel tightly letting out a shallow breath thinking about all the times he had seen Kevin with the two women. “Trisha thinks you are amazing Kevin and Ria--oh my god. The way that woman kisses you, the way she looks at you--that right there is true love man. Her world would be lost without you in it, she loves you with everything that she is and I can see the same thing in you. You two are just meant to be together Kevin--you both would be lost without each other.”

“I’m glad you think we’re so perfect,” Kevin smiled proudly thinking about the relationship he had with Ria and how much he wanted it to last. There was a point in time when having another woman in his life other than Angie seemed so wrong, but with Ria she was so much better at making his life happy. When he was with Angie, she confused his heart to the point of no return, giving it that coldness it should have never gotten. When Ria dropped back into his life, he got that warmth back--the feeling that someone could actually love him again for who he really was. “I hope we’re together forever because I really do love her. She is my everything Chase and I hope she knows that. She means so much to me.”

“I’m pretty sure she knows it,” Chase assured him with a wide smile before nodding out towards the place they had parked in front of seeing Kevin look forward and eye it over slowly. “I know we both needed a little time to relax and do what we love so I figured the batting cages were a good place to go. You gushed so much how much of a great player you were, so I actually wanted to see for myself.”

“Oh kid,” Kevin opened the car door letting out a small laugh before stepping out and seeing Chase do the same thing. Placing his hands on top of the roof of the car Kevin shook his head letting out a small shake of his head. “You are going to get smoked in this whole baseball thing. I’m the bomb and no one is better than me at seven things. Those seven things being; writing, eating pancakes, surfing, boxing, soccer, and baseball.”

“That’s only six,” Chase pointed out to Kevin walking back toward his trunk to grab the baseball bats out of the back and holding onto them tightly as Kevin shut the trunk for him. “What’s the other one?”

“Well kid, I mean it’s something me and Ria share together quite a lot,” Kevin smirked seeing Chase laugh and glance over at him for a moment before shaking his head slowly. “I mean if you want the details I can give you a little.”

“Man, you are not like I thought you would be,” Chase shook his head slowly thinking about all the times him and his friend talked about Kevin after seeing him in one of his boxing matches. “I seriously didn’t think I could see you as a one lady kind of a guy.”

“Well, the world is full of surprises,” Kevin repeated the lines that everyone had told him all those times in the past as they got to the front and Kevin paid for them to get in before they got set up and into their proper spots. Kevin pulled his baseball cap further down before letting out a small laugh. “Anyways kid, I really wasn’t a one lady kind of guy. Just for two women I have been like that.”

“Oh, so the truth comes out,” Chase lightly chuckled before seeing Kevin get a tight hold onto the bat that Chase had brought for him. “How about we start you off on fifty miles per hour big man?”

“How about seventy little guy?” Kevin took in a sharp breath stretching out the muscles in his shoulders for a moment seeing Chase shrug his shoulders and crank the dial to what he wanted. “That’s just because I haven’t played in a long time.”

“Sure,” Chase sat back watching Kevin get into position before the machine made the clicking noises telling Kevin that it was coming up soon and when the ball shot out Kevin nailed it all the way across the cages hitting the other side of them. When the cage rattled Chase let out a half laugh not believing that Kevin was really as good as he said he was. “You weren’t kidding.”

“I told you I wasn’t,” Kevin pointed out pulling down the front of his baseball cap before getting ready for the next pitch and the next one came out and he hit that one too sending it toward the left of the cages and he let out a small hiss. “Damn that was a bad one, it would have been a foul.”

Moving over towards the dial Chase slowly turned it up to a ninety as Kevin waited for the next pitch not knowing that Chase turned it up so high. When the next pitch came out Chase expected it to fly passed Kevin, but he was wrong when he saw Kevin nail the ball and it slammed into the cages making an even louder knocking of the metal.

“Damn, you’re amazing,” Chase pointed out seeing Kevin smile before taking a few steps back and turning the thing off and motioning Chase to go over to his batting position, pulling his helmet on. “Alright, I’m going. I have to warn you that I’m not as good as you are.”

“Right,” Kevin turned the dial on to ninety as Chase waited for the ball to come and when it did, Chase fell to the ground thinking that it was going to hit him in the head. Kevin let out a small laugh before turning it down to a really low number. “You need to watch yourself man--let’s just practice on the low ones.”

“Fine,” Chase nodded wiping at his mouth as Kevin turned his dial down a bit too. Looking back toward Kevin he saw that Kevin was more prepared than he was actually. Kevin was in a tank top and shorts while he was in jeans and a t-shirt. “I’m sorry man, I didn’t believe you at first when you said you were great.”

“It’s no problem,” Kevin bit down on his bottom lip getting ready for the next pitch and hitting the ball all the way across the cages again, looking over to Chase seeing him hit the ball making it a grounder. “You have to get a better grip on the bat, if you hold it like that the furthest you will make it is second base.”

“Right, but…,” Chase noticed a few girls walking by and eyeing them over slowly as Chase shot them a smile before looking over at Kevin and wiggling his eyebrows up and down slowly. “How about me and you make a little bet.”

“If it’s about the girls, no,” Kevin shook his head slowly not wanting anything to do with that kind of stuff as he got ready for the next pitch hearing the clicking as he hit the ball into the cage at the other end again. “I told you--I’m a one woman kind of guy and you should be too.”

“I am man, but let’s just have some fun. The blonde one, first one to get her number wins, they look early twenties, it will be fine,” Chase offered up seeing Kevin look back before rolling his eyes and shaking his head slowly. “If you win, I’ll buy you breakfast at IHOP, if I win you have to wear a pink g-string the next time you are with Ria.”

“Alright kid, you’re on. Just remember that I love Ria and this means nothing to me,” Kevin whispered with a small laugh taking a look back at the girls who were standing behind them watching them in the group as Kevin let out a small laugh turning the machine off for a moment before setting the bat down. Chase turned off his machine and watched Kevin for a moment before seeing Kevin wiggle his eyebrows up and down. “Watch and learn kiddo.”

Kevin took off his baseball cap and put it up backwards before taking a small look over at the blonde and smiling at her seeing her wave at him. Looking back toward Chase he grinned and reached for the bottom of his black, tight fitting tank top and pulled it over his head slowly hearing the whistles of some of the girls behind them. Kevin set his shirt down on the grass and slowly fixed his shorts to where they were just hanging at his hips, showing his abdomen off fully.

“Gee,” Chase turned away from the girls moving in closer to Kevin, seeing Kevin’s brown eyes look back over at him. “Could you have made your pants any lower Kevin?”

“I could have, but then I would have won in two seconds,” Kevin winked going back and turning on the machine to a hundred and Chase rolled his eyes pulling off his helmet. Chase pulled his shirt off before Kevin stepped in over the plate and all the eyes were on him as the ball shot out and once again, Kevin nailed it right down the middle letting out a small laugh as he held his right hand in the air. “Beat that Chase.”

“Nice hit,” the girl called out from behind Kevin as he grinned and wiggled his eyebrows up and down slowly before reaching down to turn off the machine. Kevin motioned for her to come into the cages as she looked back at her friends. “You want me to come in there?”

“Come here,” Kevin motioned her to come in as she did so and he motioned her in over toward him as he handed her the bat, watching her look down at it uneasily. “Here, let me help you.”

Chase shook his head not believing what he was seeing as Kevin turned the dial down to thirty miles per hour motioning the girl in closer to him. Kevin placed his hands in over hers making her hold onto the bat as he stepped in behind her.

“It’s really easy you know,” Kevin whispered in her ear warmly as she let out a small breath, hearing the clicking of the machine Kevin helped her hit the ball down the middle on the ground. Letting out a wide smile Kevin saw her drop the bat and clap her hands. “See you did it, good job.”

It looked like the girl was going to say something more as Kevin heard Chase let out a long groan and grab his shoulder in pain. Kevin and the girl moved forward as they both saw him grabbing it in severe pain.

“What’s wrong?” she asked Chase rubbing his shoulder gently as he let out small hiss feeling her fingers caressing his muscles slowly and he leaned back into her touch opening his eyes and winking over at Kevin. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I think I’m fine,” Chase watched Kevin pull his hat down over his eyes to try and hide the fact that he was about to lose the bet and Chase let out a small groan. “I think I pulled a muscle.”

Shaking his head slowly Kevin realized that he was cheating, Chase was about to win and he would have to be embarrassed by the bet they just made. Looking up Kevin felt a sudden impact hit his thigh as he fell to the ground on his knees, only to feel another one hit him in the stomach making him fall face first into the dirt. After seeing the ball drop to the ground Kevin realized that he must have stepped in the way and got hit by the last two balls as the blonde rushed over to turn off the machine and all the girls surrounded him.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” the blonde pressed her hand in over Kevin’s stomach seeing his face red and pain filled as he fought to gain his breath back from his lungs. Feeling all of the other girl’s hands on him, Kevin tried to get up from the floor not liking being in this position as the blonde motioned him back down. “You should stay still for a minute. I think I should write my number down for you, just in case you need some help or something.”

“That’s a good idea,” a couple of her other friends wrote their numbers down for Kevin as Chase got in the middle of the crowd reaching out to grab Kevin’s hand and pull him up and Kevin clutched his stomach letting out a small hiss.

“He’ll be fine,” Chase grabbed Kevin’s shirt from the grass and led him out of the batting cages seeing the pain that was still developing over Kevin’s face as they continued to walk. “You know, you don’t have to still fake it, you won.”

“It wasn’t fake man, I really got hammered,” Kevin replied looking to his left hand seeing the pieces of paper in them as he rolled his eyes pulling away from Chase and limping over toward one of the garbage cans throwing them all in there. “I think I won times five.”

“Why did you throw those away man?” Chase chuckled seeing Kevin get into the car slowly after putting his tank top back on and resting back against the seat. “You just might need those one day.”

“No I won’t, Ria is the only woman for me,” Kevin pointed out once more before taking in small breaths to try and loosen up the pain in his stomach. Looking over at Chase, Kevin turned on the radio before patting on his own knee. “Now if I do remember correctly, you’re taking me to the IHOP.”


“I can’t believe she called me a child,” Matt grumbled folding his arms out in front of his chest angrily looking up at Nate as he drove and Matt reached forward toward the radio to turn it on. “A child does immature things and they like to watch cartoons while I like to watch the news. I am no child.”

“Hey, cartoons aren’t only for children,” Nate pointed out with a frown his green eyes glancing over at Matt for a second before he shrugged his shoulders and looked back toward the road. “Even so though, she is just in a bad mood. Don’t let her bother you.”

“I won’t,” Matt let out a long sigh still not believing that someone accused him of being a child that only liked things because he was young. “What is this pulling out on me though Nate? I thought we were going to go out and have some fun.”

“Little buddy,” Nate nodded over toward a building as he parked into a spot and pulled out the car keys. Seeing Matt smile and try to get out of his seatbelt, Nate helped him seeing Matt reaching for the door. “I told you I would take you, just wait. I'll help you out.”

“I’m okay I hope you know,” Matt opened the door seeing Nate reach for his hand as Matt grabbed a hold of Nate’s hand tightly and pushed the door shut behind him as rough as he could. “I’m old enough to take care of myself.”

“I know little buddy, but you see,” Nate picked Matt up in his arms and held him up close to him before playing with Matt’s hair. “You are so cute that I don’t want anyone to hurt you or take you from me. Without you little guy, I would be living in a house with no one cool. You mean too much to me little man.”

“Well in all honesty Nate,” Matt spoke up in a small voice as Nate opened the door and walked into the ice-cream shop. Reaching up Matt grabbed Nate’s hat off his head and put it on his own head as they walked up to the counter. “You mean a lot to me too.”

“How can I help you sir?” the woman smiled behind the counter as she saw Nate press a small kiss against Matt’s forehead before setting him lightly, looking down at Matt.

“What would you like Matty? The same old?” Nate questioned seeing Matt nod slowly before pushing back his short dark hair seeing Nate smile and give him a wink. “Could I have a banana split and one scoop vanilla please? Is that right?”

“Yep,” Matt smiled walking over toward the cash register with Nate seeing the other woman making the things in the back while Nate paid with the other person working there. After getting their things they walked over toward one of the tables to sit down and Matt sat across from Nate. “Thank you.”

“Hey no problem little buddy,” Nate whispered seeing Matt grab a spoon and take a small scoop of the ice-cream into his mouth and Nate reached out toward a spoon seeing Matt watching him carefully. “You want to see something funny?”

“Sure,” Matt smiled widely seeing Nate place the spoon over his nose before letting it hang there and he crossed his eyes hearing Matt let out a loud laugh. “You’re so stupid Nate.”

“Hey,” Nate frowned grabbing his spoon and letting out a small laugh before shrugging his shoulders and taking a bite of his ice-cream. “At least I’m your stupid big uncle.”

“You should really eat the cherries,” Matt pointed out after seeing Nate scoop out his cherries and put them on top of Matt’s ice-cream and Matt ate them up quickly. “They are sometimes the healthiest part.”

“I guess I’m not really the healthy kind of guy,” Nate winked seeing Matt smile and shake his head slowly before letting out a small breath. “I’ll have to change that in a few years when I get old an have the gut the size of an averaged sized pumpkin.”

“What in the world are you doing here?” a voice paused both Matt and Nate from eating their ice-cream as they both looked up to see Cori standing before them at the table. “Are you stalking me again or something?”

“Cori, this really isn’t the time,” Nate warned her shooting a glance over toward Matt to show her he was with a young boy and his green eyes pierced through hers. “Now if you would excuse me--I was talking to him and you interrupted us very rudely. I’ll see you tomorrow at work.”

“Fine, just don’t follow me anymore after today,” Cori snubbed Nate going to walk away before stopping and looking back at him. “By the way, having someone’s little kid with you doesn’t change the way I think about you.”

“She is kind of a nut isn’t she?” Matt questioned with a small frown, his nose wrinkling as he saw her walk over toward the counter and go to order something. “She seems like she has a few screws loose in her head.”

“I agree with you little man,” Nate watched Cori grab her order and walk over toward the door, shooting him a dirty glance before walking out the door. “Something is most definitely wrong with her.”

“You just got the glare of a lifetime,” Matt laughed seeing Nate shrug his shoulders and smile as Matt went to take another bite of his ice-cream. “Hey Nate, reach into your back pocket.”

“Why?” Nate questioned seeing Matt’s blue eyes stare into his, telling him to grab whatever it was he wanted now. Doing as he was told Nate reached toward his back pocket finding something that he most definitely didn’t put there. Pulling it out in front of him, his jaw dropped realizing it was the ball that had disappeared earlier when Matt did his trick. “How in the world--how did you do that?”


“I cannot believe how fast this is happening,” Sarah gushed thinking about the day ahead of her now that she was one step closer to finally having everything she always wanted. Turning to Blake she couldn’t help but feel her enthusiasm carry over her. “By this time tomorrow I will be well on my way to becoming Mrs. Kyle Houston and nothing can stop me from having that dream.”

“You’re sure about that,” Blake hesitated almost afraid to be the voice of reason and doubt, but still knowing her friend’s habits lately she wanted to make sure, “right?”

“Of course I’m sure about that,” Sarah boasted with a proud smirk thinking about all she’d done to ensure that she and Kyle would get married and live happily ever after with one another. “Everything is going to be perfect and I’ll have finally found the one thing that I’ve waited forever to have in my life.”

“I’m happy for you,” Blake finally decided to go along with her friend’s mood. “Kyle is a great guy and I know that you’ll have a fantastic life with one another now that everything is said and done. He’s really wonderful and…”

“You don’t need to sell me on that Blake,” Sarah laughed lightly waving her hand around in the air, “I wouldn’t be marrying him if I didn’t think that he was the one. Kyle and I, well we’ve had our share of ups and downs over the years, but I know that now that we’re together it’s going to be just like I always planned for us. I mean I’ve waited so many years to get to where we are and nothing is going to ruin that--not even all of those forces that have been working against us.”

“Such as?” Blake eyed her curiously before a thought occurred to her, “You mean Diego?”

“Diego is irrelevant,” Sarah waved her hand around in the air once more thinking about the deal she’d made with Cameron. By this time tomorrow not only would Diego Hernandez be someone she wouldn’t be worrying about, but Heather as well. Once Cameron followed through on his promise to get rid of Heather, Sarah knew full well she wouldn’t have to deal with anyone getting in her way again. Kyle would be all hers and there wasn’t a thing that would keep that from happening. Everything was finally working out as it should’ve all those years ago. Smirking Sarah looked to Blake again.

“I think a celebration is in order,” Sarah announced rubbing her palms together before looking around the room. “I mean there is no point in sticking around here tonight on my last night of freedom. I say we throw caution to the wind and have our own version of a bachelorette party before the big day.”

“Are you sure that you’re up for that?” Blake questioned taking a look around the room they were in. “I mean you’ve got a lot of planning and…”

“And I think we should do a little partying along the way. I have no doubt in my mind that Kyle is enjoying his last night of being single, so why can’t I?” Sarah reached for her purse and draped it over her shoulder. She stepped over to where Blake was seated and reached for her hand. “Come on Blake. I’m telling you tonight is going to be the beginning of all the great things that are ahead of me from here on out. Soon I’ll be Mrs. Kyle Houston and everything will be as it should be.”

“Well if we’re going to celebrate with that thought in mind, then count me in,” Blake decided springing up to her feet again. “In fact I know just the place we can head off to for the bachelorette party of the year.”

“Now you’re talking,” Sarah cheered excitedly ready to enjoy her last day of single life before she stepped into the role she was willing to play for her future with Kyle. It had been a long time in the making, but now she knew that everything was going to be even better than she’d planned on it all those years ago when she’d gotten rid of Heather the first time. Granted Heather played a hand in the situation when she’d decided it was time to skip town, but this time, well this time Sarah had a few surprises of her own. When everything was said and done Kyle would know full well who was the better sister after all!


Kyle stepped off of the elevator knowing that he couldn’t possibly make it through the next day’s festivities without telling Heather what was really happening in his heart. Feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders he headed down the hallway towards Heather’s apartment wondering how he could put to words what had been inside his head for the last few days, hell the last few months. Taking the turn towards her front door he inhaled a slow breath and vowed to find a way to explain to her what it was that was truly happening inside of him.

“You can do this,” he coached himself pressing the bell to alert her to his presence. He wasn’t quite sure how she would respond, but he knew that he had to do something--to say something that would clear up the confusion between them. He waited a moment before knocking on the door and ringing the bell for a second time. A few moments later he heard footsteps from the other side of the door. With a small sigh he prepared to do what he’d been thinking about for years. The door started to open and he knew this was his chance.

“Heather I,” he started to explain only to find himself facing a smaller, much older looking dark haired woman. He frowned back at her, “You’re not Heather.”

“No, I’m not,” she agreed with him, “I’m Elena…her housekeeper.”

“Housekeeper?” Kyle repeated with a strange look.

“That’s right,” the woman nodded taking note of Kyle’s size. She held onto the door beside her protectively as if wishing she would’ve had some kind of weapon with her at that moment, “but if you want to leave a message…”

“No,” Kyle shook his head solemnly, “No message. I’ll just be back later.”

“Are you sure,” the woman gave him a long look before seeing him now again.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Kyle replied with a heavy sigh realizing that while he’d come over here tonight with the full intentions of sharing what was happening inside of him with Heather it was going to have to wait until he dealt with the other things happening. He just hoped when the time finally came to be that Heather would truly understand what was really happening inside of his heart.


Brant sat at the bar nursing the martini that he’d ordered himself. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Russ and Avery leaving the restaurant with Erin and guilt plagued over him. While he’d intended to ignore the happy couple when he’d walked in, something inside of him snapped and he found himself behaving in such a way that still had him shuddering on the inside.

He’d never meant to be so insulting to the both of them, yet there was something about seeing how things just found a way to work out for them that made Brant sick. Sure he had Angela and he loved her more than anything, but damn Russ for having found a way to be in his life forever. Damn them both for making a fool out of Brant time and time again. It wasn’t fair that someone Brant had grown to hate had not only returned and stolen Brant’s wife, but in the process managed to claim Brant’s throne on the Ashford Empire. The irony was that Russ didn’t even realize the power he’d held yet.

“But he will one day,” a voice inside Brant’s head reminded him. Closing his eyes he sipped his martini again in an attempt to ignore the feelings that were eating away at him. Yes, he’d wanted to see Avery happy, but did they not realize that happiness was at Brant’s hand? He’s sacrificed time and time again to give them what they’d wanted and how did they repay them?

“By allowing some jerk of a reporter to slander your name and cause even more problems for your company,” that same voice reminded Brant in an attempt to justify what Brant had just done in hurting Avery like he did.

“That’s no excuse,” Brant muttered under his breath remembering the wounded expression on her face. He’d never wanted to hurt her like that--never wanted to break her inside like he had, but he knew now that he’d pushed the envelope too far. There was something behind her eyes--behind the way she was looking at him like she’d never seen that side of him before--like he was nothing like the man she’d made love to--the man she’d pledged her life to on their wedding day.

“Stop,” he told himself knowing full well he wasn’t upset that Avery wasn’t his. Hell, he’d thrown her out and he’d been the one to put things to rest, yet deep down the reality of the moment hit him. He was always her second choice. He was the one who would have ultimately been dumped. He’d just cut to the chase and let it happen first. Not only had he lost a lover, but a friend and one of the best lawyers in the state. Sure, having Hart working for him was great, but it just wasn’t the same without Avery there to bring him down from his ego-trip. It wasn’t like work had always been in having her bring about a miracle solution to his problems that were not threatening to rip his company apart. This wasn’t about him hurting that he’d lost a lover, but more so that he’d lost a friend--an important friend that didn’t seem relevant until now--until this moment when he sat at the bar like a spoiled brat drinking a martini and giving a whole new meaning to the word asshole just by his mere presence.

“A martini please,” a voice spoke up drawing him from his own self-loathing. He looked to the side of him and spotted Heather sliding into the barstool beside him. He sipped his martini again, “Well this is turning out to be my lucky day after all.”

“Cut with the sarcasm Brant,” Heather mouthed not bothering to look over at him. She kept her eyes glued on the mirror behind the bar in front of her and tapped her nails on the bar top impatiently, “I’m in no mood for it.”

“That makes two of us,” Brant informed her point blank returning his attention to his martini once again. He curled his finger to the bartender and pointed towards Heather, “Whatever she wants, it’s on me.”

“My aren’t you generous,” she rolled her eyes at his tone before turning to look at him. She spoke up in a less than enthused voice, “To what do I owe this honor?”

“Let’s just say it’s part of the honorary losers club,” he explained glancing over at her and saluting her with his glass. “I mean here I am wanting to bury a hatchet in my head for opening my mouth and saying the wrong thing…”

“That’s a classic situation for you Brant,” she reached for the martini that the bartender brought her. “That’s no where being new at all.”

“True,” he sipped his drink again before looking over at her, “but I just never thought I could be so cold to someone I loved.”

She tossed out a glare in his direction and rolled her eyes, “Oh right like your throwing me out on the street with only a sheet was a sign of your compassion and love.”

“You shouldn’t have slept with him in our bed,” Brant pointed out with a shrug of his shoulders, “It felt appropriate since I’d planned on burning the sheets anyways.”

“Rest assured I would have burned them myself if I was there long enough to do something about it,” she shuddered at the memory of the woman she once was. “It was a mistake doing what I did.”

“True. I won’t argue that,” he nodded in response taking another swig of the hot liquid.

“Oh you weren’t a saint. Face it Brant, you were just as horrible to me as I was to you,” she stated the obvious shaking her head at him. She took a long sip of her martini and groaned, “Though I guess it was just par for the course considering that you’re just one in the long list of a great many failures in my love life. I guess I should’ve known to stop while I was ahead with you.”

“People like us never stop while we’re ahead Heather. It’s part of what makes us, well us,” Brant eyed her once again before looking at the mirror behind the bar and letting out a long sigh. “Though you know it’s not too late.”

“Oh please,” she rolled her eyes slumping down in her chair, “Of course it is. The way I see it I’m just one of those people who are destined to be miserable in the world--kind of like you are.”

“I’m not miserable,” Brant corrected tipping his head to the side to look at her for a long moment.

“Oh right,” she muttered under her breath, “That’s just what you’re sitting here in this very spot getting drunk.”

“I am not getting drunk,” he explained in a cool and even tone, “I was merely taking the time to reflect.”

“Right,” she shook her head at him, “You’re such a liar.”

“It’s true,” he pointed out with an ironic laugh, “where I’m at I have things pretty good. Yes, Avery and I split up, but I found someone that’s perfect from me. Hell, I’ve never been happier in my love life and guess what, I’m going to be a father.”

“Come again?” Heather blinked back at him surprise registering behind her eyes.

“That’s right,” Brant grinned proudly, remembering all of the dreams he still had ahead of him for him and Angela, “I’m having twins actually.”

“Whose the unfortunate victim that you suckered into that?” Heather asked giving him a strange look.

“She’s only the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. She’s brilliant and beautiful and willing to seek pity on an idiot like me,” Brant couldn’t help but let out a small laugh, “She’s my dream come true.”

“Yet you’re here drinking a martini in the mid-day,” Heather had to point out once again before finishing off her drink. She swirled her finger at the bartender to bring another.

“Actually I’m only drinking because I realized what an asshole I truly am,” Brant decided with an ironic laugh, “I mean let’s face it I’ve done some really crappy things to everyone around me, haven’t I?”

“Are you sure you want to be asking me that question?” she replied with a small look of confusion.

“Probably not, but I guess you’ll do,” he nodded further, “though before you answer that, how about I give you a word of advice?”

“Given the epiphany you just made about yourself pardon me if I decline the offer,” Heather mouthed wrinkling her nose as the bartender took his time bringing her another drink. However he finally made his way over to her and set it down in front of her. She began to lift it to her lips only to feel Brant’s hand press on top of the glass preventing her from taking a drink.

“Heather if you listen to nothing else that I have ever said, you’d better listen to this one,” Brant warned reaching out to take the martini from her hand, “Don’t walk away from love because people like us, well we only get so many chances to get it right Heather. We’re not exactly on the top of cupid’s list and when the right person comes along, we’d be foolish not to do something about it.”

“Brant I really don’t think that…” Heather frowned watching him set her martini on the bar away from her.

“Heather, don’t make the same mistakes over and over again,” Brant added his dark eyes reaching out into hers, “If you really love him, then you’d better stop drinking and start thinking about a way to put an end to that wedding tomorrow. You shouldn’t be thinking about losers like me who made you miserable.”

“Who said I was…?” Heather began before giving him a strange look. “How did you know that…?”

“That you’ve got the hots for Kyle?” Brant wiggled his brow at her, “Let’s just say a little birdie told me so and from the sounds of it, he seems to have the hots for you as well. Don’t let him ruin his life by marrying the wrong woman when you’re the obvious choice for his Miss Right.”

“Brant, you don’t know the situation. You have no idea about what…” Heather began again, her voice uncertain and full of mixed emotions.

“Heather, stop being so stubborn. Love--real love only happens once in a lifetime and if you stop to think about the consequences of what allowing yourself to hold onto it can bring, you’re going to find that the moment has passed you by. You’ll wake up one day wishing like hell that you could steal back that chance that should’ve been yours,” Brant reached into his pocket and pulled out some money to toss on the top of the bar for their drinks, “Don’t let Kyle be that mistake that you can’t ever repair.”

“Brant I just…” Heather started again watching him slide her martini glass in front of her.

“You have a choice Heather. You can sit here and drown your sorrows in this or you can take charge of your life again. I know what I’d do if I was in your shoes,” Brant leaned in to whisper in the back of her ear.

“Yeah, well what do you know about love?” she scoffed her green eyes fixed on his reflection in the mirror in front of her. She saw the way Brant was leaning in over her, his mouth a mere whisper away from her ear.

“I know that if it was something I wanted, I wouldn’t let some idiot stand in my way. Neither would the Heather I used to love. She would fight for what she wanted and find a way to hold onto it at any cost,” Brant mouthed in urging.

“I’m not the same woman that I was back then,” Heather explained in a soft, sigh.

“Even more reason to keep fighting for what’s real in your life. You have better odds this time,” Brant finished before walking out of the bar and leaving her to ponder what she was doing there.

She looked down to the martini in front of her on the bar and let out a small groan. Shoving the glass away from her she realized that maybe Brant was right. Maybe it was time that she thought about what doing nothing would mean for her future. Could she really survive letting the best thing that ever walked into her life leave her forever now that she’d had a taste of how wonderful life could have been? Could she really walk away from any hope of a future with Kyle without a fighting chance?


“Pardon me if this comes out rude, but you are one of the last people I want to have standing before me trying to tell me about my husband,” Shannon held the front door open glaring over at Angela, “I really don’t know who the hell you are, but you have no business showing up at my home and telling me anything considering that you’re shacked up with a sick freak who has a thing for women who look like you.”

“This isn’t about Brant,” Angela threw out a look of agitation over at Shannon, “but rather I’m here to talk to you about the amazing husband you have. You’re a fool if you don’t see what you have in Don and…”

“And as I said before,” Shannon nodded towards the door again, “Get out. I’m not interested.”

“What is it about talking about your feelings for someone that has you in an uproar?” Angela darted in response folding her arms in front of her chest stubbornly. “Are you too afraid to actually take the time to care about someone to really open up?”

“Look lady you’re obviously delusional and just because Brant picked you up in an ‘Avery look-alike’ contest, the fact to the matter is that you’re no where near qualified to even come here today and start telling me what you think I should do with my husband. I’ve got big news for you and that’s simply I didn’t like Avery, so I’m not going to even bother wasting my time with her replacement here,” Shannon warned her sharply still unable to believe how twisted Brant must’ve been to pick up a dead ringer for the woman he was married to before. “You have to have a screw loose to be with Brant in the first place and…”

“And from what I’ve heard that’s something you and I have had in common,” Angela tossed back at her watching Shannon fall to a stunned silence. “Tell me something. Are you still so raw over Brant breaking up with you that you’re going to turn on what is more than likely the best thing that ‘s ever happened to you?”

“Excuse me,” Shannon blinked back at Angela. “You’re out of line…”

“No Shannon you’re out of line if you think that you can humiliate a guy like Don time and time again and that he’ll just keep running back to you. Yes, I realize that you and I don’t know one another well, but I can tell you that you’ve got a great guy there. The other night you were the one who was out of line and if you would’ve taken two seconds to listen to Don rather than blowing up like you did in front of the restaurant not to mention his child, then maybe just maybe right now you could be off enjoying a romantic moment with your husband instead of standing here arguing with me.”

“My husband is an idiot especially when it comes to Brant. There isn’t anything that man wouldn’t do to take Don down…” Shannon found herself arguing with Angela. “He’s trouble.”

“For who? For Don or for you?” Angela tossed back at her with a small glare. “Face it Shannon. The past is the past and you should leave it there. You should stop carrying the chip on your shoulder and start appreciating what you have.”

“I do appreciate what I have. It’s Brant that…” Shannon snapped back at her taking a small step forward.

“Is your scapegoat and you are too stubborn to see that what’s happening in the here and now could turn things around for you in a way that is going to leave you feeling major regrets. Don is a great guy Shannon and if you can’t see that one day you’ll find another woman will and she won’t waste any time in sweeping him up and away from you,” Angela warned seeing anger flicker behind Shannon’s eyes.

“Get out of here you bitch!” Shannon hissed at her balling her fists up at her sides. “I swear to god if you don’t leave right now…”

“Fine,” Angela held her hands up in the air, “have it your way, but if you don’t at least think about what I said, then you’re going to lose out big time.”

“I don’t need tips on my love life from someone who is clearly as clueless as you appear to be,” Shannon mouthed dryly watching Angela reach into her purse and pull out a piece of paper.

“Fine, then have it your way, but if you change your mind, here is a place where you might want to be later. It might be your one last chance to fix things,” Angela warned setting the paper down on the coffee table and walking past Shannon, “If you’re smart you’ll consider it.”

“And if you have half a brain in that melon head of yours you’ll get out of here before I arrest you for trespassing,” Shannon snarled at Angela before motioning to the door again.

“Okay have it your way, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Angela snubbed her nose over at Shannon before finally walking out of the front door.

“Good riddens,” Shannon mouthed to herself with a sour expression. She slammed the door behind Angela before letting out a long huff. Turning to the table, she spotted the paper that Angela had deposited. Taking a step forward Shannon reached for it ready to crumble it up and toss it, when she noticed the name and the number on the page in front of her. She stopped herself from destroying the paper as a thought struck a chord in her.

“Was Angela right?” she heard an inner voice nagging at her.

“Of course she wasn’t right. Don’s an idiot and you don’t need to tolerate him being stupid when Brant’s around,” Shannon reminded herself crumbling the paper up in her fist and taking it over to the trash all the while wondering if she really had taken the right approach with Don. Sure, she’d been furious when she’d seen him with Angela, but now that they weren’t speaking with one another, she was starting to wonder if maybe just maybe she was guiding them both down a road that was headed to nothing more than disaster--a big disaster!


“Okay what’s the real story?” Don asked cornering Deana over by the nurse’s station. He saw her look up at him with a bit of a frazzled expression and he couldn’t help but frown further, “Why did you toss the bouquet from Denton?”

“Because I didn’t want it,” she shrugged her shoulder simply turning her attention to work again. She felt Don reach out to touch her arm before urging her with him into one of the lounges. Once inside she looked up at him with an agitated expression, “Don, what are you doing?”

“Finding out what Denton did to upset you,” Don blurted out with a newfound determination in his voice. “If he hurt you in any way, then I’m going to kill him no questions asked. Just say the word.”

“Don he didn’t hurt me,” she sighed heavily thinking about the last time she’d encountered Grady, “At least not intentionally. It’s just that he’s…”

“That he’s what?” Don watched her turn away taking a small walk over to the windows.

“He’s emotionally unavailable, which tends to be the name of the game with me and men lately,” she informed him with a long sigh. Spinning around to face him again with sad eyes, she continued to explain, “He’s still hung up on someone else and while I thought that he and I had something going between us, it’s clear that his heart isn’t all there just yet.”

“He sounded like he was sincere in the card he sent you,” Don piped in thinking of the card and the flowers he’d fished out of the garbage can.

“You read the card?” Deana practically squealed shaking her head at him with heavy disapproval, “Why would you do that? Those were my flowers and my card there.”

“And you tossed them into the trash that made them public property, so what gives? Did he say something that made you think he was unavailable or did he do something?” Don couldn’t help but ask hating to see Deana so upset over the situation with Grady. “I mean I’ll be the first to admit that I really can’t stand the guy, but from what I’ve heard he’s been making you happy…”

“Yeah by living a lie,” she sighed again shaking her head in a futile attempt to banish the thoughts running through her mind. “The fact to the matter is that he can’t give me his heart when it belongs to someone else and it always will.”

“You mean Jade?” Don questioned feeling a light bulb go on inside his mind. He fell to silence and rubbed his hands together before speaking up once again, “Deana, look I know that this probably isn’t my place, but when a man loses someone he loves--someone he plans on spending the rest of his life with, that’s a wound that he can’t ever truly get over. It’s something that eats away at him for each and every day. It’s there with every breath he takes--in his dreams, in his waking hours and while it hurts like hell to keep pushing on, we know deep down that it needs to be done. However, in feeling the gut wrenching pain of losing the woman we love it doesn’t mean that we can’t find it in us to try to live again. It’s knowing that living is what our loved ones would want for us is what keeps us going…”

“It’s not about Jade,” Deana interrupted before Don could get caught up in the moment. She could see the sadness flickering behind his stunning blue eyes and she knew full well he was recounting his own pain over losing Stephanie. “If it was about Jade I could understand, but the fact to the matter is that I think he’s got feelings for another living, breathing woman and that made me realize that it just isn’t going to work for us. I was fooling myself into thinking that it would…”

“Someone else,” Don paused as a thought occurred to him. He could fully remember Brant’s concerns about Grady in the past--Brant’s thoughts about Grady doing his best to try to destroy Brant’s marriage. Suddenly another thought occurred to Don. “Is it Avery?”

“Look Don I really don’t want to get into this,” Deana attempted to walk away from him pushing one foot forward in front of the other.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Don caught her arm before she could walk away, “Deana, honey why didn’t you talk to me about this sooner?”

“Because what am I supposed to say Don? In the grand scheme of things it’s irrelevant. It was just a bad judgment call on my part, but I learned before I got in over my head. I’m done with it and…” she stopped herself feeling a lump of emotion forming in the back of her throat. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey it’s okay,” Don reached out to her sensing Deana’s emotional turmoil over the situation. He wrapped his arms around her hugging her tightly, “I’m here for you now.”

“I just hate feeling this way Don,” she embraced him in return, fighting to keep tears from threatening, “I just feel so stupid because I knew better than to get involved again, but…”

“But you were looking for another chance at happiness,” Don touched her cheek gently, urging her brown eyes to meet his concerned gaze. He curled his finger underneath her chin and tipped it up ever so slightly, “That’s what we are all hoping for in this world, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”

“I know, but…” she groaned feeling foolish for being upset, “I just wish it had. I just thought that maybe just maybe he could be the one…that…oh I don’t know.”

“I do,” he embraced her again keeping her close to his strong chest, “Face it kiddo, you’re a romantic at heart and even though life hasn’t given you the best shot at love, you can’t help but want for it in your life.”

“It sounds pathetic, doesn’t it,” she let out an ironic sigh.

“Nah, you’re looking at the biggest dreamer when it comes to love,” Don smiled down at her and offered up a small laugh, “I’m a sap really and that’s my downfall.”

“I think you’re an incredible guy Don and I can see why Stephanie loved you so much,” Deana added with a thoughtful expression, “You’re everything in a man that a woman could ever ask for and any girl would be lucky--beyond lucky even to have you. You’re a dream come true.”

“Oh stop,” he shrugged his shoulders, feeling a grin tickle over the corners of his lips, “You’ll make me blush.”

“That would be a first,” she teased in response letting out another laugh, “I don’t get that too often from you.”

“Yeah well if you keep it up I’m going to have to find a way to take this in a new direction,” Don squeezed her in his arms again with a bit of a playful intent.

“Don what are you doing?” Deana questioned feeling him pulling her up off of the ground.

“You’ll see,” Don’s grip on her tightened as he started to spin her around the room. She couldn’t help but laugh as he started to hum the theme song to Zane’s favorite cartoon all the while making silly faces. “Admit it Deana. You love this song.”

“You’re insane!” Deana squealed with a laugh wiggling in his arms in an attempt to get him to put her down when Zack entered the room and saw the two of them together.

“Well isn’t this nice,” Zack quipped with an air of heavy sarcasm, “Apparently a man has to be married or involved to get someone like you to put out for him.”

“Excuse me,” Deana blinked back at Zack feeling Don’s hold on her constrict protectively.

“Watch your damned mouth,” Don snarled over at Zack, spinning on his heel to face his adversary. “You better apologize.”

“And if I don’t,” Zack arched a daring brow aching to start a fight with Don.

“Then I’ll make you apologize,” Don vowed setting Deana back down on the floor before taking a step towards Zack in an attempt to get him to shut his disrespectful mouth from here on out.

“Bring it on Don,” Zack taunted adding fuel to Don’s fire of rage as Deana could see that this confrontation was about to bring nothing but trouble!


“Why are you getting all dressed up?” Kipp questioned seeing Kellen looking at himself in the mirror and fixing up his hair to where he looked extremely dressed up for something. “You look like you have some hot date tonight.”

“Nope, I’m just getting ready for tomorrow,” Kellen smiled proudly turning slighting and moving his right hand in over his butt slowly. “Does this make my butt look big? I mean these pants, do they look bad?”

“No, your butt looks fine,” Kipp laughed slightly seeing Kellen’s blue eyes glance back at him before Kellen shrugged and looked at himself in the mirror more carefully. “You know--I never expected you to be so excited about all of this happening. I mean, I know you hate Sarah, so it’s a little weird seeing you getting ready for something so early.”

“Well, let me just say,” Kellen spoke up highly before letting out a low breath, turning to face Kipp resting his hands on his hips angrily. “I absolutely hate Sarah and I think she is one of the worst people in the world that I have ever met.”

“Well now, you seem like you really like her,” Kipp pointed out seeing the seriousness behind Kellen’s face as Kellen walked back into the bathroom a couple of minutes leaving Kipp thinking for a little bit. “I don’t understand--if you hate Sarah so much, then why are you so excited?”

“It’s not that I’m excited,” Kellen walked out of the room with his shirt off as he folded his gray dress shirt up carefully and set it down on the bed. Reaching for the belt in his pants, Kellen pulled it apart slowly before tugging down his slacks slowly and setting them down on the bed. Looking back toward the closest Kellen fixed the waistband of his boxers thinking about what it was going to be like tomorrow. “I think that everything will be horrible at this wedding tomorrow, but I still want to look good.”

“Well, if I do say so myself,” Kipp stood up from the bed and wrapped his arm around Kellen’s waist, pulling Kellen in against him roughly. Kipp pressed his lips in against the side of Kellen’s neck feeling Kellen lean into his touch and let out a small sigh as Kipp pressed his fingers in over Kellen’s smooth back. “I think you are looking pretty good right about now.”

“Why thank you,” Kellen ran his fingers through Kipp’s hair slowly, gently tugging at his thick hair before meeting Kipp’s lips in a small kiss only to hear Charles start to cry alerting them that he was up. “We better get the baby.”

“Right,” Kipp nodded reaching for his coat on the bed remembering that him and Charles were supposed to run a few errands today, first off going to see his mother. “Come with me while I get him ready to go.”

“Okay,” Kellen followed Kipp into the room letting the thoughts of Sarah linger into his mind again as he thought about all the things he knew about her. “You know, I still can’t believe someone would want to marry Sarah. She seems like such a slut that would do anyone with a…,”

“Kellen,” Kipp hushed him quickly as they walked into the room to see Charles holding onto the bars, staring up at Kellen with his big brown eyes. “Don’t talk like that around Charles.”

“I’m sorry honey, but I think he would agree with me,” Kellen pointed out seeing Kipp walk Charles over to his changing table to sit him down and put his coat on him gently. “I mean after all the people she has been with, I would be scrubbing for hours after being with her. She is just so gross.”

“But for some reason, some ungodly reason--Kyle is marrying her, so we have to live with it,” Kipp pointed out firmly before picking Charles up and looking back at the clock. “We’re late, but I promise we’ll be home later. What are you planning on doing while I’m gone today?”

“Well, I just thought I would go over to Kyle’s and see how everything is going now that he is living in Russ and Avery’s old place,” Kellen explained seeing Kipp nod slowly before Kellen rubbed his hands together slowly. “I’m sure everything will work out perfectly and I’ll see you later honey. Call and check in with me later.”

“Okay, I love you,” Kipp moved forward placing a small kiss over Kellen’s lips before walking toward the door and stopping before he made it out. “Kellen, don’t try and make Kyle change his mind. If this is what he really wants, we can’t change that.”

“I wasn’t planning on making him change his mind, don’t worry,” Kellen informed Kipp seeing Kipp nod slowly before walking out the door and Kellen smiled widely rubbing his hands together slyly. “What you don’t know Kipp, is that Kyle is doing the best thing he could ever think of doing. He has the most amazing idea that even I wouldn’t have been able to come up with.”

Walking back toward the bedroom Kellen decided that it may have been the best idea to get dressed before stopping by Kyle’s in only his boxers. It might have made him a little bit uneasy and at that thought it made Kellen let out a small laugh.

“What in the world?” Kellen heard the doorbell ring a couple of times as Kellen quickly pulled on a pair of shorts and looked back toward the dresser to see if Kipp left his keys there. “Maybe he left them somewhere else.”

Walking toward the door Kellen adjusted the waistband of his shorts before opening the door slowly, expecting to see Kipp with Charles, but he was very disappointed with who it really was.

“Drew?” Kellen gasped looking into the blue eyes of his ex-boyfriend that had an obsession with him all those months back, the obsession he thought stopped in the last month or so. “What in the world are you doing here?”

“Kellen please, I’m nothing without you,” Drew pleaded with Kellen moving forward towards him watching as Kellen moved back slowly. “I’m just begging you to give me a few minutes to explain myself Kelly. I need one last chance and I want to prove it to you right now.”


...to be continued...