Richard stepped off the elevator on the floor of Kenneth Ashford’s office and slowly made his way down the hall. He’d known that his protégé would go far, and the respect with which people spoke of Ashford and Steiner law offices validated his initial impression of Kenneth. If only Avery had decided to pursue a private practice instead of corporate law, he sighed.
He continued down the hallway as he thought of Avery’s predicament. She had more problems on her hands than anyone should ever have, and the worst part was that Richard wasn’t quite sure how he could help her. Short of kidnapping her and sending her to Europe, he knew that Avery would never accept his help as long as she considered herself capable of making informed decisions. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure himself that she had that capability in the midst of Brant Ashford and her mother.
Brooke. The woman who had single handedly destroyed any hope he had ever had of living happily ever after. She had refused to divorce him, and despite his best judgment, he’d never forced the issue. From time to time, he found himself wondering why. After all the time and effort, he’d always come to the same conclusion…his ego. He didn’t want to admit that he’d made the biggest mistake of his life by marrying Brooke in the first place.
He continued down the hall and stepped into the office of Kenneth Ashford. He looked around the reception area and saw no one to greet him. Instead, the door to Kenneth’s private office stood open, inviting whomever dropped by to step inside.
Richard stepped into the office and knocked lightly on the door, “Hello?”
Kenneth looked up from a table in the corner of the room and stood with a smile, “Richard,” He said as he crossed the room and shook his mentor’s hand, “I’m glad you stopped by.”
“I thought I might get the chance to see the success of my favorite student,” Richard smiled as he shook Kenneth’s hand, “You’ve done well for yourself.”
“I like to think so,” Kenneth smiled as he led Richard across the room towards the table, “Richard Morrison, I’d like to introduce you to Judy Stevens, my legal secretary.”
Richard raised his eyes to see the woman Kenneth was introducing him to. He stopped as soon as their eyes met.
Judy’s lips fell apart, but she stopped herself short of openly gasping. It had been so many years…almost a lifetime had passed since she’d seen the man standing before her. Now, here he was, as handsome as ever, with the eyes that had made her melt so many years ago.
Richard cleared his throat as he stepped forward with a smile, “It’s good to see you, Judy. It’s been a long time,” He spoke with as even a voice as he could manage. He’d never expected to meet up with Judy Moore again, especially not in the office of his former student. And yet, as he looked at her, it seemed as if no time had passed between them, and only the fond memories remained.
“Yes it certainly has,” She replied as she stood and offered her hand to him for a handshake.
He took her hand in his and held her fingers in his palm as he met her eyes. Oddly enough, the feel of her hand upon his still sent his heart racing. If only he had married her instead of Brooke…what would his life have been like?
Richard lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed the back of her fingers, “You’re just as lovely as I remember you.”
Judy smiled slightly as a faint blush kissed her cheeks, “You always did know how to flatter a girl.”
“It was never flattery with you. I always spoke the truth,” He said as he raised his right hand, “So help me god.”
Kenneth looked between his secretary and his mentor, wondering just what information he was missing about the situation. He saw the easy repartee between them and was a bit taken aback by it. He’d never seen Richard so at ease with anyone…including his own wife.
“You two know each other obviously,” Kenneth said with amusement as he watched the two of them.
“You could say that,” Judy smiled as she continued to hold Richard’s gaze, “Richard and I go way back.”
“She knows all my dirty secrets,” Richard added, “No one knows me as well as she does.”
“I hardly know you anymore. We knew each other a lifetime ago,” She reminded him.
“You’d be surprised how little I’ve changed,” He flashed her a smile, “I had no idea you were working for my star student.”
“Obviously,” She grinned as she closed the folder before her, “Ken, it looks like you could use some time with your visitor, and I have some work to do.”
“Don’t leave on my account,” Kenneth urged her as he continued to be amused by the closeness of the two before him, “I’m only beginning to learn about you two.”
Richard smiled, “I’ll have to fill you in on the details later, Ken.”
“Please spare him some of the details. If he knew all my dirty little secrets, he might not let me keep my job,” Judy teased, “I’ll be at my desk if you need me,” She said quickly before stepping out of the room.
As she closed the door behind her, Kenneth’s grin grew, “Well, I’m a little bit in awe here. I had no idea you and Judy knew one another.”
“We go way back,” Richard smiled, “She hasn’t changed one bit.”
“Really? Do I sense a bit of a romantic past there?”
“Now you’re asking questions like a reporter,” Richard teased as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and took a seat.
“I don’t mean to pry, but I’ve never seen you be so playful with anyone,” Kenneth shrugged as he sat near Richard, “So what’s the story there?”
“Judy was the woman I wanted to marry when I graduated college,” Richard smiled as he recalled fond times spent with Judy, “She was absolutely the most amazing woman I’ve ever met.”
“So what happened? Why didn’t you and Judy get married after college?”
“Brooke happened to me,” Richard groaned, “But I can’t say that I have regrets. My life with Brooke hasn’t been outstanding, but I do love my children and they were worth whatever pains I may have endured due to Brooke.”
“Then everything still worked out in your favor,” Kenneth offered.
Richard nodded, “Yeah, I suppose it did,” He paused, “So, do you want to give me the run down on your latest legal case? I’m itching to get involved with something in this town where I can actually make a difference.”
Kenneth’s smile widened, “Now there’s an offer I cannot refuse,” He said before beginning to lay out the Henderson case to Richard. While he’d been awestruck at the moment between Richard and Judy, he was thrilled with Richard’s offer of help and would never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Caitlin unlocked the door to her apartment and stepped inside with Zack following behind her. She tossed her keys into a bowl upon the bar before shedding her cardigan, “You’ve been quiet since we left Ken’s office. So out with it, what do you think of him?”
Zack continued to look around the apartment for a moment before turning back towards her. He took a deep breath before he spoke, “I think he’s the first of your boyfriends that I’ve ever thought had potential.”
She smiled, “Somehow, I think there was something of a compliment in that statement.”
“I think he seems like a good guy. He’s definitely not what I expected.”
“You expected some snob, didn’t you?” She asked as she opened her refrigerator, withdrew a can of soda pop, and handed the can to him before taking one for herself.
“I’ll admit that I really did,” Zack said as he sat at her kitchen table, “But he’s not. I think he might actually be a guy I’d approve of.”
“You approve?” Caitlin asked with wide eyes.
“I didn’t say that. I said I think he might be a guy I’d approve of. I didn’t say I was ready to commit to that.”
“Ugh, sometimes you can be such a pain,” She groaned as she kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet under her, “What am I going to do with you?”
“You’re going to love having me here,” He replied as he opened his can of soda and gulped half of the can down.
“Zack, I need to ask you for a favor.”
“Oh boy,” Zack groaned as he placed the can upon the table, “I figured something was coming.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“It means that every time you’re being really sweet to me you want something.”
“I do not,” She declared in her defense.
“Remember when you were a senior in high school and you buttered me up all summer just so you could use my convertible in the homecoming parade?”
“I was a kid then,” She rolled her eyes, “Somehow I knew you’d never agree to do a favor for me,” She picked up her shoes from the floor and walked through the apartment.
“Wait, hold on. You can’t just walk away after that,” He said as he stood and followed her into the living room, “Cait…hey, what is the favor?”
“Why do you care? I’m only buttering you up, right?”
“Cait, why the hell do you always have to get so serious about anything? Here I am, trying to tease you, and you’re just so difficult,” Zack groaned.
Caitlin grinned, “Oh really? Who’s really the difficult one?”
“Cait,” He said her name as he shook his head and laughed, “I hate it when you do that.”
“What? Turn the game around on you?” She smiled as she dropped her shoes on the floor and sat down on the sofa. She patted the cushion on the end of the sofa, “Come here and sit down. I need to really ask you for a favor.”
“This had better be good,” Zack sighed as he sat down beside her and turned to face her, “What’s this mysterious favor?”
Caitlin tucked a tress of hair behind her ear before she spoke, “Have you ever heard of Cameron Stone or Stone Corp?”
“Stone Corp…don’t they own a line of pharmaceuticals?”
“Yeah, and Cameron Stone is their CEO. Anyway, to make a long story short, Blake found out that Cameron Stone was trying to get his hands on some microfilm. It turns out this microfilm has markings that label it as BBK property. The only problem is…none of us know what the hell it is.”
“And this is where I come in?”
“Yes, everything on the microfilm looks like some sort of chemical formula,” Caitlin touched his shoulder, “Ken and Blake don’t want their other brother to know about this yet. Brant can be unpredictable, and that’s the one thing they don’t need right now. They need to get all the facts before they can do anything about Cameron Stone.”
“So you want me to take a look at this microfilm?”
“Yeah,” She smiled, “Please…it would really mean a lot to Blake, Ken, and it would mean a lot to me.”
He took a deep breath and frowned, “I’m going to live to regret this, aren’t I?”
“Of course not,” Caitlin laughed softly as she leaned over and kissed his cheek, “You’re going to be very proud that you helped me.”
Zack’s frown deepened as he took another long drink of his soda pop. Somehow coming to Coral Valley wasn’t turning out to be the quiet getaway he had envisioned it to be.
Seth felt the warmth of the sun’s rays ticking in through the apartment
window as he held Blake closed to him kissing the back of her neck tenderly
as she spooned in against him. While they’d decided earlier to take
things nice and slow, Seth was no where near prepared for how good it felt
to have Blake in his arms and as they lay on his couch oblivious to the
world around them, Seth could feel a sense of nirvana washing over him.
“I could spend eternity just like this here in your arms,” Blake confessed as if she’d been reading his thoughts as a feeling the Seth’s arms surrounding her caused a soft sigh to escape from her lips. Just being this close to Seth sent her to places she’d never been before as her heart was his so completely. Even now after everything that had been thrown at him, she felt safe in the arms of love surrounding her.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he nuzzled the back of her neck dropping butterfly kisses over her skin, “because holding you like this is truly amazing.”
“I never want it to end,” she squeezed his arms around her tighter as she closed her eyes once again, “I just want to forget about Cameron, forget about the chaos and stay right here just like this.”
“I wish it were that easy, but we both know better,” Seth sighed allowing thoughts of the world around them to invade their private moment together, “Wishing it away isn’t going to take everything that’s gone wrong from our lives.”
“Even so it’s a nice thought,” Blake sighed turning in his arms as she faced him once again, “You’re really worried about this, aren’t you?”
“How can I not be considering that Cameron’s trying to destroy us both,” Seth answered a darkness sweeping over his handsome features, “We aren’t really sure what he’s after, but given the lengths he’s gone to in order to get his hands on that microfilm, it can only mean trouble.”
“We’ll get all our answers as soon as I talk to Zack,” Blake stated matter of fact, “The way I see it, we’ll see what he can make of it and we’ll work from there.”
“The last thing I want is for Cameron to get a hold of that microfilm, but putting Thea off, well that might take some work,” Seth thought back to Cameron’s overzealous associate, “She’s not so easy to fool.”
“As long as fooling her doesn’t involve you kissing her again, then we’ll work out something,” Blake’s eyes sparked with the faintest hint of anger, “I don’t want her lips, hands or anything else upon you from here on out.”
“I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen, though she’s going to be pushing,” Seth thought back to his encounter with Thea, “I think I bought us some time with my telling her that I was in the doghouse with you, but she told me to try to win you over…”
“That in itself could take a while,” Blake contemplated the notion for a long moment, “as I am an Ashford after all.”
“Which means?” he gave her a sideways glance.
“Which means I can hold a grudge,” Blake blurted out pointedly, “When someone betrays an Ashford, well they have hell to pay…at least that’s how the rumors have it, don’t they?”
“I might’ve heard a few of those here and there, but now after I met you…” Seth started as she put her index finger over the center of his lips to silence him.
“Forget what you know about me…forget that I love you and just hear me out,” Blake’s blue eyes sparkled with mischief, “I think I might have a plan that could get us some more time with Cameron.”
“Such as?” he mumbled against her finger as her face lit up with excitement.
“We break up,” Blake announced with a shrug of her shoulders, “it’s as simple as that.”
“What?” he blinked back at her, “What did you just say?”
“Seth, it’s the perfect solution to this,” Blake insisted as the wheels started turning in her mind.
“That we break up?” he shook his head at her, “Now how in the world is that going to help anything considering…?”
“We won’t really break up,” Blake explained quickly, “but since you told Thea that you were in the doghouse with me and she urged you to win me over, well I just started thinking. I mean I have the Ashford reputation for being stubborn and for being a bitch as well and considering that you put my photograph in one of the tabloids I detest the most, well it only gives me more reason to kick you to the curb…”
“But I didn’t do that and we both know…”
“Seth, stop being so damned logical and listen to me for a second,” she sat up as a rush of energy flooded over her, “I mean we both know that I know the truth, but Thea has no idea that I know that you were working for Cameron or that I know that you know that she knows that you were set up in that exclusive. The way I see it, if Thea thinks we’re apart and you’re fighting your way back into my life, then we can give ourselves a greater time frame to work with.”
“So we break up?” he sat up on the sofa scratching his head as she paced around the small living room area.
Blake nodded, “It’s the only way. I mean hey you can keep trying to win me over, but I can keep blowing you off in public so that the newshounds that like to cause a stir can see it and word can travel back to Cameron and Thea…”
“Blake, I don’t think they’re just going to accept that. I mean when Cameron brought me into this job, he thought I could handle every aspect and if I can’t handle it…” Seth began, “I just don’t know how much time this will buy us.”
“We’ll get as much time as we need out of it,” Blake decided pacing across the carpet, “I can call Kipp and let him know how horrible I think you are and it’ll only help get Cameron the information that you and I are apart. Maybe I’ll even go out with him again for dinner or something and talk about how much horrible I thought you were for betraying me…”
“No way,” Seth rose to his feet, “There’s no way in hell I’m letting you get close to that weasel. Blake, look I know you mean well, but Kipp is a snake and the farther you are away from him the better…”
“But if we want it to be believable,” she began with a deep frown.
“There has to be another way,” Seth decided firmly, “I’m sure we can work around this little white lie without raising any suspicions.”
“I wish it were that easy, but Seth,” she stopped as an idea rushed over her, “Oh my. I don’t know what I didn’t think about this before…”
“Think about what?” he questioned as she turned to face him fully, a smile touching over her features, “Blake, you’re scaring me. What’s going on in that mind of yours?”
“Seth, you’re not going to like it, but I have a really, really good idea,” Blake explained stepping in towards him. She wrapped her arms around him as her smile widened, “It’s a really good one and while it’s only a temporary fix, it just might work…”
“So what is it?” Seth asked wondering what Blake’s new master plan was now that she had the cryptic expression on her features, “I mean it couldn’t possibly be worse than our breaking up, could it?”
“Not exactly,” she shifted on her feet, “and I’m not really sure he’d go for it, but if he did, then it would be an easy way for me to get the information we needed without it looking suspicious and then…”
“Who’s he?” Seth questioned as Blake pulled out of his arms talking more to herself than anything.
“Well the way I see it, I mean if he’s willing to help with what we have, then he and I would be a perfect cover and no one would suspect. Plus it would make it look like you have some competition and that in itself would be a more believable roadblock than my just blowing you off…”
“Blake, would you stop rambling and just tell me what idea is spinning through your head right about now,” Seth questioned giving her a sideways glance, “I thought we were a team here, remember?”
“We are,” she waved her hand at him, “and Seth the truth to the matter is that this is perfect. It’s absolutely perfect and if he says yes, then…”
“Who says yes?” he inquired a bit frazzled, “Blake?”
“Zack,” Blake blurted out eagerly.
“Caitlin’s brother?” he questioned.
She nodded, “The one and only.”
“What does Zack have to do with this new idea of yours that you’re not sharing with me?” he folded his arms in front of his chest.
“Why it’s quite simple,” Blake blurted out with a confident grin, “You and I are going to break up and I’m going to start seeing Zack. It’s as easy as that.”
“Come again,” Seth blinked back at her.
“It’s a perfect cover,” Blake decided with a shrug of her shoulders, “Granted I might have to enlist Caitlin’s help in this, but Zack was always willing to help me out if I needed him and…”
“Now wait just a second,” Seth frowned in response, “You told me earlier that there was nothing to worry about with this Zack guy, but now you’re proposing that you start seeing him?”
“Not really seeing him,” she waved her hand in the air, “I mean it won’t be like we really broke up, but more so that you and I will be together, but not in public. I mean we’ll be able to steal a moment here and there without Cameron and Thea watching, but in doing so, well I can have Zack around in public and then he and I can figure out what’s going on with that microfilm and then we can work on the plan…”
“While pretending to be lovers,” Seth frowned deeply, “I’m already not liking this…”
“We won’t be pretending to be lovers,” she argued with him, “Just seeming like we’re seeing one another which won’t be that far off since he’s my best friend’s brother…”
“Which brings me back to my initial concern about the guy,” Seth added somberly, “Last night when you and Caitlin were talking about how easy it was for you to charm Zack, I couldn’t help but note the remarks you both made…”
“The ones about how he can’t resist you,” he added gruffly.
“Well he can’t, but then again no one really can when I want something,” she saw the look of disapproval build behind his features, “but Seth it’s not the way you’re thinking. Zack is more like a big brother to me and he really doesn’t see me as anything more than a kid sister. Believe me I tried to get him to think of me in another light years ago, but he just didn’t take the bait…” she bit on her lower lip almost as soon as the words came out as Seth looked anything but impressed by this new piece of information.
“So you had a thing for him?” his voice rumbled a bit with obvious jealousy.
“When I was practically a child,” Blake offered up wishing she hadn’t revealed so much about her crush on Zack. The sad truth was that in college when she’d been living with Caitlin, she’d thought Zack was the ultimate dream guy and she’d gone out of her way to capture his attention time and time again. She’d been absolutely shameless in her attempts to seduce him and not even Caitlin knew of the embarrassing things she’d done in her quest to try to capture some of Zack’s attention. Luckily Zack had let her down easy for the most part and they’d promised to keep her childish antics a secret between them. Even after the flames of Blake’s infatuated heart had died down, she and Zack were still able to get along with a comfort that was surprisingly nice even as though her ploys to win him over had never happened.
“I still don’t like the idea…” Seth’s words broke through her thoughts as she turned her attention to him fully stepping forward and lacing her arms around his muscular torso in a tender embrace.
“Seth, I love you and I swear to you that this isn’t going to make things worse. It’s not real, but what we have right here,” she lifted her hand to his heart, “this is the most real thing I’ve ever known in my life and I don’t want it to slip away because of someone like Cameron or Thea. I know that while this rouse we’re going to have isn’t going to be easy, in the long run, well it’ll be the one thing that will bring us closer together. We can take down Cameron and show him not to screw with either one of us and then we can be together.”
“Blake, I don’t know,” he found himself melting a bit against her embrace, “I still don’t like the idea of you spending time with some other guy even if it is pretending…”
“It’s not like it’s the real thing and Zack hasn’t even said yes yet,” Blake reminded him as she tipped up on her toes in an attempt to kiss him, “Besides, just think that while we’ll be putting the performance of our lives in the public eye, we can have some amazing moments behind the scenes full of passion and more,” she teased her lips over his, “It can be a real turn on…”
“That wasn’t how I’d had our romance played out in my mind,” Seth began to argue with her in between kisses as he pulled her up off her feet so that she met his eye level, “I’d wanted so much more.”
“We’re going to have so much more,” she promised throwing her arms around him, “and I know that when this is over, well, we’re going to have that kind of story book romance you promised me.”
“Still when I think of the danger Cameron can bring to this situation…” Seth began again.
“Shh…” Blake pressed her finger over his lips, “Everything is going to work out. We’ll find a way to stop Cameron and in the mean time, well you and I will have to find ways to savor our stolen moments with one another.”
“I’ll always savor you,” Seth promised kissing her tenderly as he wondered if things would be half as easy as Blake anticipated them to be. The more he thought about it, the more he was starting to wonder if the situation would blow up in their faces.
“So tell me,” Heather questioned snuggling into the warmth of Kipp’s
chest beneath the blankets of his king sized bed as the damp heat of his
body beneath her after their time together in his bed. She teased
her fingers over his chest in a seductive pattern as she turned her eyes
up towards him, “What was it like growing up with Douglas Mahoney as a
Kipp placed a kiss on the top of her head wrapping her up securely. He smiled down at her reaching out to touch her passion swelled lips before dropping another tender kiss on her forehead, “It’s not what you’d imagine it to be.”
“Oh I’m sure it is and then some,” Heather mused with a smile thinking of all the ways in which a man like Douglas Mahoney would be her key to having it all. He was the kind of man she’d fantasized about all of her life and now as Kipp held her, she wanted to divulge in the intimate details in the life of Douglas Mahoney and absorb as much of it as possible.
“It really isn’t what’s it’s cracked up to be,” Kipp answered in confession his finger tips lazily caressing the lines of her body, “He’s not what the press makes him out to be.”
“I’d imagine he’s much more than what they say,” Heather divulged thinking of her dreams of the future.
“In some ways yes, but in other ways,” he shrugged his shoulders as he thought about his last conversation with his father, “he’s a very stubborn man. He refuses to bend on some issues and that made life hard growing up in the Mahoney household.”
“I highly doubt that considering you have the world at your hands,” Heather shifted in his arms facing him fully, “Anything you could’ve wanted is yours with a few phone calls if even…”
“It’s not that simple,” Kipp admitted after a brief hesitation, “I mean yeah I usually get what I want without much trouble, but for everything I get, there’s always my father looming over my shoulder chastising my decisions--trying to dictate my life and lead me in his direction and it gets kind of old…”
“You mean like your taking part in the family business?” she questioned eagerly thinking about Kipp’s usefulness in her life thus far.
“That and we had other issues,” Kipp divulged shifting a bit uneasily beneath her, “though I’m sure you’d rather not hear about it right now…”
“I don’t mind,” she encouraged him brightly as she massaged his chest, “I really don’t…”
“Well,” he hesitated before letting out a long breath, “the truth to the matter is that nothing is ever right with my father. It’s either his way or there’s hell to pay. Even when I’d thought about taking over Mahoney Productions down the road, he didn’t feel I was responsible enough--that I couldn’t cut it in his world and he put stipulations on everything I could and couldn’t do to the point I decided to stop working to please him and I’d become my own man. Hence my going to law school.”
“So you became a lawyer to spite him,” she gave him a strange look, “That doesn’t sound like much of a rebellious thing to do there.”
“He hated the idea of me making it on my own as I refused to embrace all of his ways of thinking,” Kipp sighed thinking to his tumultuous relationship with his father, “Granted we are still very close in our own way, but when it gets down to my making a name for myself, I guess I just chose to do it outside of him…”
“While still getting the perks that come along with being his son, right?” she teased poking at him in a flirty fashion as he reached for her hand his tone turning suddenly serious.
“I’m not my father,” he spoke firmly before a sudden smile swept over his features, “but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be any less powerful one day.”
“Or that you’ll do anything in your power to make me a star, right?” Heather encouraged him brightly.
“You’re already a star in my eyes,” he touched her cheek gently, “but I’ll do whatever it takes to let the world see how wonderful you truly are.”
“Oh Kipp,” she giggled excitedly, “you absolutely must set up something between your father and I. I just know he’ll love me.”
“He’s not the easiest man to get along with,” Kipp began again thinking to his father’s sour disposition.
“I know you’ll be able to work your charm over him,” Heather teased her fingers down the center of his body, “if anyone can do it, I know it’s you. You’ll make me a star, won’t you baby?”
“You’ll be the biggest, brightest star there ever was,” Kipp promised leaning in to kiss her before wrapping her up in his arms. Eagerly he flipped her onto her back before hovering over her a daring smile overtaking his dark features, “So what about you?”
“What about me,” she questioned innocently as he leaned in to kiss her once again, “Are you asking if I’m excited about your making me a star because I think that’s fairly obvious.”
“No, that’s not what I’m asking,” he shook his head back at her as he dropped feathery light nibbles over her shoulder.
“Then what are you asking,” Heather gave him a strange look as she pressed her hands into his body placing a distance between them.
“I want to know more about you,” Kipp confessed kissing her once again, “I want to know the whole picture.”
“You already know enough,” Heather teased with a wink, “Given the morning we’ve had together, I’d have to say we’re about as intimate as it gets.”
“I’m not referring to this,” he motioned to the connection between them as a goofy grin rushed over him lighting him up all over, “Granted sex is great, but I was thinking more about the other things we kind of skipped over in our coming together.”
“Like what about your family,” he touched a lock of her blonde hair, “Clearly you’ve got a story to tell and now that you’ve listened to my spoiled woes I’d love to hear about your life.”
“You can’t be serious,” she chuckled in amusement before catching the expression on his face, “are you?”
“I’m very serious,” he nodded eagerly reaching for her hand and lifting it to his lips, “Tell me all about Heather and what it was like for her growing up.”
“You really don’t want to get into that,” Heather shifted uneasily beneath him as he rolled off of her moving in beside her.
“I most certainly do,” he opened his arms in invitation, “enlighten me.”
“Kipp, I’m not nearly as interesting as you are,” she began after a moment’s contemplation, “and I’m sure we could find much better ways to enjoy one another’s company.”
“Guarded huh?” he raised a curious brow as if he was sizing her up, “So there is more to this story.”
“No there’s not,” she argued with him, “there’s nothing to tell. What you see is what you get.”
“I don’t buy that for a second,” Kipp insisted pushing further, “I might love you Heather, but I know when you’re hiding something.”
“I’m not hiding anything,” she snapped back at him, “I already told you there’s nothing to tell about my childhood and it’s completely irrelevant to what’s going on now.”
“Do you really believe that?” he questioned in confusion reaching out to her, “Heather, I love you and I have very strong feelings about our future together, so what’s so wrong with me wanting to get to know more about you?”
“Kipp,” she drew in a breath taking her time as she felt a heat rush over her, “it’s not really a tale worth telling.”
“Yes, it is,” he insisted watching her shut down right before his eyes, “What are you so afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” she snapped back at him sitting upright as she pulled the sheet up over her body, “I have no fear.”
“Fine, then tell me something you haven’t told anyone else…” he urged again.
“I don’t see the point,” she huffed back at him, “This is ridiculous.”
“So now you’re saying I’m ridiculous?” he blinked back at her in surprise, “Is that what you’re trying to say?”
Heather fought the urge to tell him the truth about her feelings for him, but as she took in a slow breath, she spoke up again attempting to soften her tone, “I’m not saying that. It’s just that there are things that I’d rather not get into with you or anyone…”
“Heather,” his voice washed over her with the sentiment that had been burning behind his eyes, “please…just tell me something…anything…”
“Fine,” Heather decided gruffly as she folded her arms in front of her chest, “my parents are dead.”
“Dead,” he repeated as an immediate look of sadness washed over his features, “oh Heather, I’m so sorry to hear about that. No wonder you didn’t want to say anything…”
“I don’t like having pity parties for myself,” Heather explained with a heavy sigh as she looked down to the blanket she’d wrapped herself up in, “It’s not my style.”
“I can understand that,” he reached out to her enveloping her in his arms as he pulled her in beside her, “and I’m sorry I pushed…”
“It’s not like you knew,” she sighed leaning in against him as she closed her eyes taking in the warmth of his body beneath hers.
“Still I should’ve been more sensitive to the fact that you weren’t ready to talk about this…” he offered up poignantly.
“Kipp, it’s just…” she started feeling a change in him as she looked up to him once again, “You really are concerned about me, aren’t you?”
“Heather, how many times do I have to tell you that I’m falling in love with you,” he ran his fingers through her hair gently, “I love you--all of you and I know that clearly losing your parents must’ve been something that tore you up inside and if you ever want to talk about this…”
“I don’t,” she stated firmly as she forced herself to look away from him.
“Are you sure about that,” Kipp questioned with a gentleness in his tone that seemed almost foreign for him as Heather lay against him.
“What’s the point?” she groaned thinking of all the reasons why Kipp Mahoney was irrelevant to her life. Still she always could vent to someone and while Kipp was a loser, he tended to aim to please her. With that thought in mind, she offered up a bit more, “I was very young when they died and growing up in my house wasn’t exactly normal.”
“I don’t think childhood is ever normal, but to lose your parents so young,” compassion rang through his tone.
“You have to have something to lose them,” Heather let out an ironic laugh, “they were more interested in country clubs and being socialites to remember that they had a daughter,” she trailed off thinking about the family she’d left behind and pushed far out of her mind from the moment she’d met Brant. “Anyways they were gone and they left me a significant trust fund. A few months later I met William and the rest is history…”
“I see,” Kipp took her words in as he thought to the man that had introduced them, “You know Heather I’ve been meaning to talk to you about William. I mean I know he’s your agent and all, but well, honestly I don’t think he’s doing you or your career justice.”
“What?” she questioned giving him a strange look, “Why would you say that?”
“Truthfully,” Kipp hesitated before continuing, “I see him as an opportunistic creep who’s only interested in what you can do for him, not what he can do for you. I think he’s taking you for a ride.”
“Kipp, why would you say that considering he’s the one who set us up,” she gave him a sideways glance, “Don’t you think that’s kind of out of place considering?”
“Heather the mere fact that he set you up with me tells you right away what kind of sleazebag he is. I mean for all you knew I could’ve been a guy like Cameron. Neither one of you knew that…”
“I think you’re being a little over the top now,” Heather shook his words off, “I mean really things turned out for the best, didn’t they?”
“No thanks to William,” he pointed out with a scowl, “All I’m saying is that I don’t think he’s the right guy for you and if you give me some time, well maybe we can work on finding you someone else to represent you--someone who will give you the kind of roles worthy of you and your talent…”
“You mean like the lead in your father’s movie?” she asked suggestively.
“That and many more roles that feature you so that the world can see you as I do,” Kipp promised brightly, “You’re going to be a star Heather Gibbons and by the time I’m through with making your dreams come true, you’re going to show the world just what they’ve been missing out on. We’ll show every last one of them how amazing you truly are.”
“Oh Kipp,” Heather squealed with delight realizing that Kipp Mahoney would be the key to all of her dreams coming true. While he didn’t realize it, his miserable little existence would be the one thing that would take her over the top and soon she’d have it all with a promising career and a reunion with Brant as he wouldn’t dream of refusing her when she was on top. Things were moving into place and very soon she was certain that being on top was exactly where she would be. It was only a matter of time.
Shannon and Dave stepped into the state’s crime lab and signed the visitor’s list. After obtaining their visitor’s badges, they were led upstairs to a lab where a technician greeted them at the door.
“You must be Pryce and Warner,” The man said extending his hand to shake theirs, “I’m John Feldman. I have some interesting information for you.”
“On what?” Dave asked blandly.
“We were sent the video tape on the Mathis case. We were asked to enhance it for any images that could help your case.”
“I take it you were able to get some of those images,” Shannon began.
“Yes, we were,” John replied as he led them back to his station where highly technical video equipment abounded. He sat at his desk and began the surveillance video, “I’m told this is an image of your victim,” He said as he enhanced a picture.
“That’s Bruce Mathis,” Dave affirmed.
“I was able to get the license plates of several cars in the parking lot. Those might be useful,” John added as he took a stack of photos from his printer and slipped them into a folder, “These are for you. I have more copies made.”
“Were you able to get any faces who might have followed Dr. Mathis?” Shannon asked as she watched him focus in one area.
“I did. There are two sets of people actually. The first set is a group I sent over to the precinct yesterday,” John said as he pointed out Russell and Brant, “These two left immediately following Dr. Mathis.”
“And the other?” She asked as John began moving the focus to another area.
“There’s a dark sedan that followed both parties out of the parking lot. The windows were tinted, but I was able to get a partial license plate for you,” John said as he lifted another picture from the printer, “This is the picture. I’m sorry that there’s not much more I can do. I tried to alter the details of the car to perhaps get the shape of the individual inside, but this tape is of such poor quality that it only came up as a blur.”
“We understand. Thank you for your help,” Dave said with a smile.
“Thank you, John,” Shannon shook the man’s hand before she and Dave made their way out of the crime lab. Once in the parking lot, Shannon spoke of the subject weighing on her mind, “Who would be following Brant and Russell as they were following Bruce Mathis?”
“That’s a good question,” Dave replied as he thought for a moment, “Wait a minute. The press has been all over Brant lately because of this engagement thing. It could be one of the over zealous types.”
“Yes it could,” She agreed, “But if that’s the case, there’s no way to get any evidence from them. We are dealing with the freedom of the press here.”
“Plus if they had anything, it would have been on the front page of every newspaper in America the day after Mathis was found dead,” She added, “You know how they love to break the heavy duty stories right out of the gate.”
“I suppose you’re right,” He frowned, “So where does that leave us?”
“It leaves us with someone who was watching Brant and Russell that night. Someone out there knows more than they’re telling.”
“I guess this means we’re going back to the Ashford mansion, huh?”
“Not yet. I don’t want to go there without something concrete to throw at them. Let’s go back to the garage at the precinct. I want to take a look at the car Mathis was found in. There might be something there that’s been missed.”
“I don’t know how. Your people and my people have been over it. If there was anything to find, it would have been found.”
“Still, I haven’t seen the car yet, and I feel like I need to see it to have all the angles of this case.”
“Fair enough,” Dave nodded, “We’ll go to the garage and see the car.”
“Can we also get a look at all the fingerprints lifted from the car?”
“It was pulled out of the lake. I’m not sure that there’s anything left of any fingerprints.”
“If your techs can’t find any, perhaps I can call in a favor from Virginia. I know a guy in the forensic division of the Bureau. He’s a wizard with underwater cases,” Shannon informed him as they both got into the car.
“We may need a wizard because at this rate, we’re going to need all the help we can get,” Dave sighed as he started the engine and drove them back towards Coral Valley.
Russell smiled sweetly across the table at Brant knowing that all the
while both Brant and Brooke were plotting ways to get rid of him, but as
his grin widened, he refused to give them what they were hoping for.
Knowing that Brooke loathed him and wished nothing but the worst for him,
he decided to savor the moment playing it up for all it was worth as he
turned towards Avery motioning towards her half empty plate of breakfast.
“You going to eat that bacon,” he motioned to the discarded food at the
far left of her plate.
“Russ, you know I’m not big on bacon,” she answered with a shrug of her shoulders watching him lift the piece from her plate to his mouth taking a hearty bite. She wrinkled her nose at him, “I guess I don’t need to bother saying it’s yours now, do I?”
“Here, I saved my toast for you…even buttered it the way you like it,” he lifted the piece of bread towards her mouth as he winked at her playfully, “go on. It’s all for you…”
“Russell really,” Avery felt a heat rise in her features as he nudged her underneath the table, his fingers teasing over her thigh.
“You know you want to,” he urged again as Avery lifted her fingers up to collect the piece of toast before turning away abruptly worried that her mother or even Brant picked up on the obvious between them. Nervously she reached for her juice as Brant spoke up breaking his penetrating silence.
“Russell, as much as we love having you around,” he spoke sharply, his voice rich with sarcasm, “Don’t you have a newspaper to run?”
“You know I’m glad you asked,” Russell replied with sugary sweetness focusing on Brant, “because I was meaning to tell you about my latest project I had in my mind for my paper.”
“Oh really and what might that be,” Brant scowled back at him already wishing that Russell would just vanish completely as Brant cursed himself for not taking the seat beside Avery that Russell now occupied.
“Avery agreed to do an exclusive with me so that we could dive into the lighter side of BBK,” Russell continued eagerly feeling the weight of Avery’s surprised eyes fall upon him, “We figured that it would probably be nice to have some good press for a change and since Avery is such a fan of my paper…”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Brooke grumbled rolling her eyes as she voiced her opinion, “I’m sure while Avery was trying to be polite, she really doesn’t have time to do such a feature. After all we have a wedding to plan here…”
“Brooke’s right,” Brant nodded eagerly, “I don’t know how Avery would find the time to fit it in considering that there is a lot going on. You of all people should know that Russell.”
“I’m well aware of what’s going on here,” Russell replied a hint of darkness in his tone as he leaned back in his chair casually, “but at the same time I think that the story in the Courier is a wonderful idea and Avery’s already committed to doing it with me. Haven’t you Avery?”
“Well, we’d talked about it,” Avery began nervously as a heat rose up in her. Suddenly being this close to Russell she wanted to do nothing but strangle him as his finger tips tapered over her leg in a bold move considering that Brant was seated across from them. She took in a slow breath before forcing a smile as she dropped her hand beneath the table working to remove Russell‘s hand from her leg, “but we didn’t work out any details yet.”
“We could always get on it this afternoon,” Russell suggested with a smile, “as I’m open for lunch.”
“Well Avery’s not,” Brant interrupted voicing his displeasure with the idea, “Avery and I are going to be very busy today and I really don’t think she can fit it in.”
“Even with the promise of taking away from the negative press that’s been circulating lately,” Russell lifted a curious brow, “Brant this kind of media attention is the very thing BBK has needed for a long time. For me to run something in my paper of all places, well it’s bound to give you the turn around that you’re looking for.”
“Listen Russell,” Brooke piped in once again, “while I realize my future son-in-law is trying to be polite, the truth is that my daughter doesn’t have time for you or your tacky newspaper.”
“Brooke,” Avery hissed turning to her mother.
“Well it’s the truth and if you aren’t going to get to saying it, then I will,” Brooke waved her hand at Avery dismissively, “Avery isn’t interested in anything you could offer her right about now as she has other more important things to attend to.”
“That’s rich coming from you,” Russell snapped back at her, “considering that you couldn’t be bothered with her most of her adult life.”
“My daughter has always been my top priority,” Brooke feigned insult as she looked to Brant, “Are you going to tolerate his callous behavior in your home?”
“Maybe you should tone it down a notch,” Brant urged Russell as a frown touched over his lips.
“You say that now, but wait until you get to know her,” Russell continued his eyes narrowing at Brooke, “She’s just waiting for the right moment to strike and if you don’t do things exactly as she wants them, then she’ll be sure to let you know all your faults in her eyes…”
“Russ, don’t do this,” Avery pleaded realizing that things were about to get very ugly in the room between him, her mother and Brant.
“Well it’s the truth,” Russell continued, “I mean she can’t be bothered with anything outside her company unless it’s for her own personal gain. She doesn’t want to see anyone happy here, but herself…”
“Oh that’s rich coming from a man who did his damnedest to destroy my daughter,” Brooke glared at him throwing her napkin down on the table top before looking to Brant, “If you knew half the things about this low life that I do, you’d never allow him to step foot in this house again.”
“Brooke stop it,” Avery watched her mother stand up abruptly, “None of us need to listen to this.”
“Oh you need to listen and then some Avery,” Brooke glared at her, “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you as you see it fit to keep inviting this man into your life when he’s not needed. No one wanted him here this morning and just because Brant is choosing to be polite about it, doesn’t mean that I have to be.”
“Oh we wouldn’t expect that out of you, now would we Brooke?” Russell rolled his eyes at her, “Especially considering that you don’t know the meaning of the word…”
“Now come on,” Brant frowned deeply, “I’m sure we can find some way to resolve this without things getting ugly.”
“Not likely,” Russell muttered under his breath as Avery rose from her seat.
“Just stop,” she snapped at the group, “All of you. Mom, just put a lid on it. Russ, I’ll be more than happy to do the interview and I’m sure that Brant doesn’t have a problem with it, do you?” she looked to Brant realizing that while he’d taken the liberty of setting her off the previous night, he’d been the most reasonable one in the moment as he slumped down in his chair.
“I guess not,” he shrugged his shoulders in a pout, “but don’t think that in my approval that means that you can tear Avery away from me. She’s needed at the office.”
“She’s needed in a lot of places,” Russell began as Annette walked into the room taking a look around as she saw Brooke and Avery standing at the table.
“Was something wrong with breakfast,” she gave them a strange look.
“Breakfast was amazing,” Avery smiled politely at Annette doing her best to keep calm about the situation that was unfolding before her. “It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.”
“That it was,” Brant nodded in response turning his attention to Annette, “Would you care to join us?”
“I’ve already had my meal,” she answered giving the group a brief once over, “and I was on my way out to the grocery store, but this just arrived for you,” she handed an envelope over to Brant. “I just thought I’d deliver it on my way out the door.”
“Thank you Annette,” he accepted the envelope offering up one last smile at her before she turned to leave. He eyed the envelope curiously before adding, “I wonder who’s eager to get in touch with me this early on.”
“As long as it’s not the FBI, I think we’re in good standing,” Avery grumbled returning to her seat as Brooke looked around the table.
“I think I’m finished with breakfast,” Brooke sneered over at Russell, “The company has caused me to loose my appetite.”
“We’ll miss you,” Russell waved back at her as she let out a huff making her retreat from the room. He could hear the heavy agitation in her footsteps as she stomped out of the dining room and as he sat back further in his chair, he fought the urge to bask in the simple pleasure he that derived from irritating Brooke. Ah to savor the simple things in life, he thought to himself.
“You really shouldn’t do that to her,” Avery frowned interrupting his impending thoughts of victory.
“She was just asking for it,” Russell reminded her sharply, “You know if I hadn’t said anything, she’d have laid into me again.”
“Still she is enough of a headache without something like this making things worse,” Avery chastised as Brant hissed from across the table.
“What the hell is this,” Brant grumbled his eyes filled with anger as he scanned the page before him, “I don’t believe this.”
“What’s wrong,” Avery frowned turning her attention to him.
“I’m being sued…” he glanced up at her waving his hand out between them, “We’re being sued over at BBK.”
“By who,” Avery thought about the company for a moment, “Is it Davies?”
“No,” Brant shook his head simply, “That one I might’ve seen coming, but this one, well it’s Stone Corporation.”
“Stone Corporation,” Avery repeated giving him a strange look, “Why does that sound familiar?”
“Because Stone Corp is the one company that has about the worst reputation out there,” Russell added simply shaking his head at the thought, “The CEO is a real jerk off who takes pleasure in the destruction of those around him. Remember when I was doing that piece on low income housing back in New York?”
“Right,” Avery nodded in response, “the piece about that jerk who was purposely sabotaging the tenants…”
“Stone Corp was the link to the buildings. I did all that research on Cameron Stone and the man is nothing but trouble,” Russell turned his attention to Brant completely, “If he’s made some kind of claim against BBK, then you’re in for more of a headache than you can ever imagine because with this guy, well while he’s been rumored to have been in some major unsavory dealings, he always finds a way to wash his hands clean of the situation and come out spotless.”
“Not this time he won’t,” Avery decided firmly, “I don’t know what his lawsuit is based upon, but he won’t be getting a thing from BBK. You have my word on that.”
“Avery, I’ve done my research on this guy and if he’s going after you,” Russell frowned as a concern washed over him, “It’s probably not the wisest move for you to go in with the guns considering. More than likely he‘s got the slimiest, lowest of low representation just waiting to tear you apart…”
“Worse,” Brant piped in shaking his head in obvious disgust, “While it sounds like you’ve done your homework on the guy, it’s not good enough considering that your brother is the one representing him in this lawsuit.”
“What?” both Russell and Avery turned to him in unison.
“What did you just say?” Avery questioned circling around the table to take a look at the paper.
“It seems that Grady’s taken up the task of trying to destroy my company with this ill-founded complaint on the part of Stone Corp,” Brant continued as Avery plucked the papers from his hand ready to take a closer look.
“Grady wouldn’t do that,” Russell argued with him, “My brother might be a lot of things, but there is no way in hell that he would represent someone like Cameron Stone even against someone like you.”
“It would appear that you don’t know your brother like you claim to,” Brant paused with doubt evident in his tone, “unless of course you're in on this outrage against my company. Come to think of it, maybe you’re working for him…gathering information to ruin me by coming around here…”
“You can do that all on your own as your reputation speaks for itself,” Russell snapped back at him bitterly, “You certainly don’t need me or my brother to add to your miserable existence. That being said I know that you‘re wrong about my brother.”
“Grady did take the case,” Avery gasped reading over the papers before her, “Brant’s telling the truth.”
“What?” Russell glanced over at he snatching the papers from her hand, “Let me take a look.
“Damn him,” Avery cursed pacing around the room as her anger bubbled inside of her, “I can’t believe he’s doing this.”
“This can’t be right,” Russell blinked back at the page before him, “This isn’t like Grady.”
“Oh I’d say it is, but if you’re brother’s out for a war, well I’ll just take him down like every other miserable son of a bitch that’s gotten in my way. He tried to pull rank with me at the hospital during the quake and he saw where that got him and with this…” Brant started to rant.
“You’re not going to do a damn thing about Grady,” Avery interrupted her eyes narrowing with anger, “because I’m the one that’s going to kill him.”
“Avery,” Russell frowned back at her, “you don’t mean that.”
“The hell I don’t,” Avery sneered back at him her face growing red with anger, “There is only one reason your brother would do this and that’s because he wants a chance to get at me. That’s what this is about…”
“Grady isn’t like that,” Russell defended his brother, “He wouldn’t let his personal feelings get in the way of his job.”
“Oh so he’d just let a snake like Cameron use him for the sheer thrill of it right?” Avery snapped back at him shaking head angrily, “Russ, when are you going to get it? Grady’s doing this because he hates the fact that you and I reconnected. He hates me and he’ll do anything and everything in his power to make me miserable because of it, even if it means throwing morals out the window and representing this sicko.”
“I’m sure that there’s a logical explanation for this,” Russell began again.
“Yeah, your brother’s stupider than I took him to be because he’s making a huge mistake in going after my company,” Brant added sternly.
“This is one battle Grady’s not going to win and I’m going to set him straight on that from the start,” Avery marched over towards the phone, her anger overtaking her.
“Avery, what are you going to do?” Russell reached out to her, “Maybe I should talk to him and…”
“And say what? That you don’t want him taking me on? That you’d really like for Grady to push his personal feelings aside and be nice to me because it’s the way you want things to be? Russ, you say I’m the one living in some kind of dream world, but think about it. You told me before that Grady and Shannon are buddy, buddy. How long do you think it’s going to be before she comes knocking on the door with a warrant for my arrest now that Grady’s getting his nose in this?”
“Avery, he’s not…” Russell began.
“Grady and Shannon are working together,” Brant’s eyes widened in surprise, “It figures.”
“It doesn’t figure,” Russell spun around to face Brant again, “You don’t know a thing about my brother and…”
“Obviously neither do you considering that you say he’s such an upstanding guy and then he does something like this,” Brant challenged stepping in towards Russell, “unless this is of course as I said before part of the Denton master plan to ruin me. First you try to turn Avery against me and now your brother is going after my company.”
“I’m not trying to turn Avery against you, though when she opens her eyes, she’ll see that you’re clearly nothing more than a narcissistic, two-timing loser who isn’t worth the time of day.”
“Funny you keep saying that because I don’t see Avery running away from me,” Brant sneered back at him.
“That’s because you keep holding your position in your life over her head making her feel that she owes you something,” Russell spat back at him.
“Avery isn’t a prisoner.”
“Funny because with the media following her and your refusing to set the record straight about this farce of an engagement, it’s starting to feel that way,” Russell snapped.
“I’m not holding her hostage. Avery can leave anytime she wants
to, but the truth to the matter is that she chooses to stay because she
cares about me. Isn’t that right, Avery?” Brant turned his attention
to where she’d been standing only to find her gone.
“Oh please like she’d ever…” Russell looked over in Avery’s direction only to come up with the same grim discovery as he took in a breath.
“Where did she go,” Brant frowned at Russell.
“Maybe she wouldn’t have walked out if you’d have kept your mouth shut instead of fighting with me,” Russell argued with him pushing the issue further.
“Maybe it’s time for you to leave as Avery and I have business to attend to,” Brant folded his arms in front of his chest, “I think it’s safe to say that breakfast is over.”
“Fine because with Avery gone, there’s no reason for me to stick around this place with you,” Russell cut back sharply returning to the chair to retrieve his jacket only to discover it missing. “What the…”
“What now Denton?” Brant frowned back at him.
“My jacket’s gone,” Russell replied simply as an idea formed in his head.
“So what? I’ll mail it to you when we find it.” Brant grumbled back at him.
“No you don’t understand my cell phone was in there and given that Avery and my jacket are both missing…” Russell began to piece it together.
“You don’t think…” Brant began thinking of the theme of the conversation that had been taking place.
“Oh God I hope not,” Russell remarked realizing that the last place he wanted to be was in the middle of a war between his brother and Avery as with both of their feelings of animosity towards one another things were about to get very ugly.
Jenna stepped into the tiny coffee shop she’d agreed to meet Hart at
and she found him seated in a booth at the far end of the restaurant reading
a newspaper as she drew in a nervous breath. Somehow in coming here
to meet with him this morning, she thought to her mother’s warnings and
she realized that Dorothy was right. In even trusting Hart like she
had, she’d opened herself up to something that could blow up in her face
and it was time to throw out the guidelines of this partnership now before
things took a turn for the worse. Holding her head up high, Jenna
made her way over to the table Hart had selected and she cleared her throat
capturing his full attention before she slid into the seat across from
“I was hoping you’d be here soon,” Hart smiled politely as he folded his newspaper up and set it down on the table beside him, “I took the liberty of buying you a coffee. I hope Café Caramel works this morning as I‘d remembered you ordering it the last time we‘d met like this.”
Jenna’s eyes fell to the steaming mug before her feeling a sense of surprise rush over her as his gesture was something completely unexpected from him. Shaking the thought of how nice the gesture was, she turned her eyes to him once again, “You really shouldn’t have.”
“Hey, next time you’re buying,” he teased with a wink, his voice holding a playful tone as he looked to her, “Though I have to say you’d better drink it soon before it gets cold.”
Jenna opened her mouth in protest before the mug before her captured her attention. As much as she’d hated to admit it, Hart had found her first weakness as she could never turn down a good cup of coffee--especially one that held the sinful promise of sweetness along with it. Curling her fingers around the mug, she lifted it towards her lips before offering a polite smile, “Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome,” he leaned back in the booth across from her, his eyes sweeping over her appreciatively as Jenna sipped her drink. She felt the weight of his gaze as she shifted in her seat uneasily as she lowered the drink from her lips.
“How are you holding up this morning?” Hart questioned brightly as he reached for his own mug of coffee.
“I’m fine,” she answered in a guarded tone, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well, I just meant about last night,” he began seeing the hesitance behind her eyes as he leaned forward over the table top, “I didn’t expect to find you and Patrick face to face like that and when he was carrying on like that…”
“Look Hart,” she interrupted forcing her business as usual tone with him as their eyes connected, “While I know you meant well last night, the truth to the matter is that I could’ve held my own with Patrick.”
“Oh really,” he gave her a disbelieving look, “because from what I gathered between the two of you, there was another assault in the making there.”
“What you walked in on was Patrick being his usual jerk self, but I could’ve held my own,” Jenna repeated firmly, “Contrary to what you might believe about me, I’m not helpless and I don’t need you fighting my battles especially considering that you were the man who helped Patrick be in a position to harass me to begin with.”
“Jenna that was a lifetime ago,” Hart began in his own defense.
“No, it wasn’t and while it might’ve been just another victory for you, I have to live with it day in and day out,” she countered sharply watching as he opened his mouth to speak up once again, “and before you go spouting off about all your reasons for taking the case, you and I both know it was a clear cut decision to be malicious.”
“I already said I’m sorry,” he frowned back at her seeing that he hadn’t won any brownie points with her after last night’s exchange, “I realize it was wrong…”
“A lot of good it does me now that the FBI used that incident to press their issue about having me thrown out of my job,” Jenna scowled back at him before shaking her head, “Look I didn’t come here to fight about old battles with you.”
“It sure doesn’t feel like that right about now,” he lifted a skeptic brow as he leaned back in his seat, “It feels like you have a hatchet to bury in my head…”
“You could only wish to be so lucky,” Jenna’s eyes narrowed at him, “Believe me when I get my revenge, it won’t be something as simple and painless as a hatchet to the head. I’ll see to it that you suffer long and hard for your indiscretions.”
“We could always skip over that long term suffering right abound now if I tell you up front that I’m more than willing to turn myself over to you for a spanking,” he teased with a flirty smile as a groan spilled over Jenna’s lips.
“Oh God, what is wrong with you? Do you not hear what I’m saying?” Jenna shook her head at him in strong disapproval, “This is clearly why you took Patrick’s side of the case because all you men share the same brain. What part of I don’t find you charming and I don’t plan on sleeping with you or laughing at your corny jokes don’t you understand?”
“Jenna, I was kidding,” he replied noting the anger in her tone, “I was just playing around…”
“Well don’t,” she warned him sharply, “I’m not looking for a friend or anything along those lines. The only reason I agreed to even think about us working together is because I want my job back and I want to show those tightwads over at the FBI that I’m not going to bend over and take it from then and two because I don’t like those same previously mentioned buttheads thinking they can run into town pointing the finger at those who they deem evil without evidence or proof to back up their accusations.”
“Are you finished yet?” Hart questioned simply.
“Not by a long shot,” Jenna’s voice rose with anger, “While you think you did me some big favor last night, the truth is you didn’t because I could’ve handled the situation on my own. The fact remains that I still can’t stand you and I don’t like you. I won’t ever like you and I think you’re a slimy snake and when we get to the heart of the matter of what’s going on, I want absolutely nothing to do with you. Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” Hart remarked dryly reaching for his coffee mug once again, “Now is there anything else you’d like to get off your chest before we get to work?”
“I think that just about covers it,” Jenna slumped over in her seat.
“Okay so you don’t want me stepping in where Patrick is involved anymore,” Hart threw out back at her before shrugging his shoulders simply, “Done.”
“And you do realize that we,” Jenna pointed between them, “won’t be having any kind of comradery between us or friendship once this is said and done.”
“You hate my guts,” Hart nodded in response, “Fine, I get that. You’re not going to be singing my praise anytime soon and that’s how it’s going to be.”
“Exactly,” she shook her head in response reaching for the mug before her.
“Great,” Hart shrugged his shoulders before looking to the newspaper he’d brought with him, “Now can we move on?”
Jenna watched him for a long moment before finally nodding in response, “Fine.”
“Good then how about we get back to what we’re really here for in finding out what happened the night Bruce Mathis was murdered?” he suggested in his business as usual tone with her.”
“Works for me,” Jenna decided feeling a bit more at ease upon setting him straight, “That’s exactly what I want to do here.”
“Good then we’re on the same page,” he reached for a folder he’d brought with him.
“Right,” she added with a nod determined to stick to her guns about the situation no matter how nice Hart Steiner was being to her.
“Okay then,” he offered up the papers he’d brought with him, “then let’s compare notes. How does that sound for a starting ground?”
“It works for me,” Jenna reached across the table to the papers he had waiting for her inspection.
“Oh and Jenna?” he questioned as she looked up from the pages before her.
“Yes?” she gave him a sideways glance.
“About that whole hating me thing,” he waved his hand between them as he flashed her a confident smile, “I think we should work on changing that in the future.”
“Why bother?” she shook her head at him, “It’s a lost cause really.”
“Funny thing,” Hart winked at her, “I’m a sucker for lost causes.”
“You’re only going to be beating your head against the wall with me because the truth remains that I can’t stand you,” Jenna frowned in response to his suggestion, “I thought we just covered that.”
“We did,” Hart nodded appropriately as his grin widened, “but just the fact that you’re here having this conversation with me means that there’s hope.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Jenna grumbled turning her attention to the papers before her as Hart felt a tiny laugh bubble inside of him. He had to admit that Jenna had spunk and while she’d been a royal pain in the ass more often than not, he now had a new purpose with her. Suddenly the idea of her hating him fueled his fire all the more as he decided she was the perfect after hours adventure he’d been needing in his life. He’d been keeping far too busy with work and now with Brant’s defense, but Jenna’s constant agitation with him had amused him in ways he hadn’t thought possible when they’d crossed paths again. She was a spitfire with an unbending spirit and yet the most impossible woman he’d ever met in her determination to dislike him. That in itself made her an interesting specimen for his ego and as it stood he’d find a way to help her solve this mystery and then he’d find a way to win her over as there was no woman that could resist a man like him--not even the stoic Jenna Carpenter.
Ben sat at his desk thinking about the last couple of weeks at BBK.
Even now as he thought of checking his e-mail he knew what he’d find waiting
for him and that in itself brought a smile to his face. Diane’s presence
in his life was already turning into something incredible and the more
time he spent with her, the more he wanted to keep spending time with her.
He’d never met anyone in his life that had inspired so much inside of him.
She was beautiful, amazing and full of enough charm that there wasn’t a
person who wouldn’t be easily won over by her. She was the most fun
he’d had in a long time and now as he found himself wanting to focus entirely
on her, he started looking to all the reasons why they could never be.
“Oh Diane,” he turned on the computer monitor before him wondering how he was going to find a way to get himself out of the situation he’d found himself in. He’d been so determined not to lose himself in this situation, but with Diane, how could he not want to fall completely into her? With that thought in mind, he turned his attention to his mailbox noting that it was complete with a message from his favorite co-worker. A smile tugged at his lips as he read her message aloud.
“Hey handsome,” he read to himself, “I was thinking for lunch maybe we’d go for something sweet, spicy and very tempting and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. So what do you think, D?” he chuckled as he began to type away at his keyboard eagerly.
“Tempting me this early on,” he wrote shaking his head as laughter flooded over him, “what ever would your boss say if he knew that you were using your office hours for flirting? I ought to spank you right now for your naughty behavior, but then again you might like that too much, wouldn’t you? B.” He hit send as he sat back in his chair a smile over his features as he looked to the pile of things on his desk waiting for him.
As soon as he reached for the first item, Ben heard the familiar ring alerting him of new mail as he turned his attention back to the computer again. Sliding his chair over towards the computer he was pleasantly surprised to find a new message from Diane waiting for him, “Ah, so you’ve been waiting for me,” he smiled to himself thinking about her tenacious behavior. Oh how he enjoyed this woman, he mused to himself reading her latest message.
“What kind of answer is that,” he read to himself, “if I didn’t know better you were being evasive and that is a quick way to get you no where fast and as for the spanking, well I’m starting to think that maybe I’m the one who should be tying you up and showing you a thing about discipline considering that you’re being such a bad boy in avoiding giving me a direct answer. Don’t make me have to get wicked on you, *wink* D.”
“Well now,” Ben sat up straighter getting ready to pluck away at his keyboard with another message, “Hmm…I don’t know if I like where this was heading. The thought of lunch was tempting indeed, but if I’m going to be punished for my bad behavior, perhaps I should take the time to come up with something really naughty to do to you before I accept whatever punishment you have laid out before me. The question is, how wicked would you like me to be before you’re ready to dish out the full treatment? B.”
Ben hit the send button shaking his head as he found himself rather enjoying this part of the job. Flirting with Diane was one of the greatest perks around this place and it would be the one thing he’d truly miss if things wound up changing for him. That thought in itself brought him back to his previously sour mood as he sank back in his chair. The idea of leaving wasn’t fresh on his mind, but he was sure that one day it would come up as nothing seemed to last forever in his life. Just as soon as there was any kind of real adjustment, things were bound to change again. The ding of his computer brought him back to reality once again as tried to focus on his fun flirtations with Diane. He opened up her message skimming it over once again.
“Would you quit avoiding the subject and just agree to go out with me already? Surely you must be tempted to do spend some time alone together and continue with what we started yesterday…”
“You have no idea,” Ben confessed to himself ready to write her back as his phone began ringing. With a heavy sigh, he reminded himself that there was work to be done as he answered.
“Avery Morrison’s office, how may I help you?” he questioned to the caller on the other end of the line as he tried to push the distraction of Diane out of his mind.
“I was wondering when I was going to hear from you,” the voice snapped back at him harshly, “Ben, this wasn’t part of the arrangement for you to just vanish on us like this.”
“I’ve been busy,” Ben answered with a frown turning in his chair as he lowered his voice, “I told you that the other night when you called before.”
“No what you told me the other night was that you were working on it and that there would be some kind of progress for you to report, yet here we are days later and there’s nothing,” the woman demanded harshly.
“Avery’s been out of her office as has Brant so there isn’t much more to say,” Ben began in a tight whisper, “and I told you not to call me here. I said when the contact was to be made, I’d be the one making it. Calling here is against the rules.”
“Your getting too involved in what you’re doing and not being focused is also against what we agreed upon,” the voice informed him abrasively, “I trust you’ll stop playing around with the office fling you’ve been working on and you’ll get back to business.”
“What?” Ben began perking up as he looked around the quiet office.
“Don’t act innocent,” she snapped back at him, “I saw the two of you together the other night so don’t even bother with your saying you aren’t distracted by Brant’s perky secretary. Don’t forget your obligation to me in your little flirtation.”
“I haven’t forgotten anything,” Ben answered tightly as his fingers curled around the phone causing his knuckles to whiten. He took in a slow breath trying to keep his voice down as anger flooded over him.
“Good, then keep it that way and we’ll discuss this further on your lunch break.”
“I can’t,” Ben began looking to the message from Diane.
“Yes you can,” the woman informed him bluntly, “and you will,” she finished hanging up as Ben realized that there was no way out of this meeting.
Ben frowned deeply as he hung up the phone and as he looked to his computer once again, he found himself at a loss wondering what to say to Diane as once again life was starting to get in the way.
Shannon slipped on a pair of latex gloves as she studied the BMW before her. She’d seen plenty of crime scenes, but it never became a routine duty. Every crime was different, and the aspects of each crime were equally unique. It was imperative to note every aspect of the crime scene as if it were the most important and useful information in the world.
Once her gloves were securely in place, she opened the driver’s side door and looked inside the car. She crouched beside the car and surveyed every angle open to her view.
“When the car was removed from the lake,” Dave began as he read the responding officer’s report from the other side of the car, “Dr. Mathis was slumped over the steering wheel and leaned towards the right…almost laying partially over the gear lever,” He finished as he opened the passenger’s door and glanced inside the car.
“Something like this?” She asked as she got into the car and leaned into the position described by the report.
“Yes,” He nodded, “That looks exactly like the photograph from the crime scene.”
Shannon frowned as she sat back in the driver’s seat, “This scene was staged.”
“How can you come to that conclusion?” He asked dryly as he continued to watch her.
“Well the first clue, you moron, is that the coroner’s report shows that he was dead before the car went into the lake. He died from blunt force trauma, not drowning. So the body was placed into the car after he was already dead,” She said bluntly, “Secondly, you said the car went into the water directly with the front of the car straight down, right?”
“Right,” He nodded.
“The body is going to go with the most weight and slump forward,” She informed him as she demonstrated by slumping over the steering wheel, “Like this…not drift to the right side unless the car went towards the right.”
“So that tells us that the body was placed in the car. Not a big surprise there,” He frowned.
“No, but it does show that the killer didn’t care what the body looked like. The killer probably didn’t know the victim personally.”
“Because there doesn’t seem to be any remorse? Like there usually is in a rage killing?”
“Okay, so rage killings usually don’t show remorse, but you have to admit that it shows more force being used to shove the body into the car.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t get us anywhere further about who the killer is.”
Shannon frowned as she looked around the car, “What’s that?” She asked as she pointed out dark spots upon the upholstery of the passenger seat.
“Looks like blood possibly,” Dave said as he glanced over it, “It’s probably the victim’s. Since he was staged into the car and pushed in from the driver’s side, it’s possible blood spattered onto the passenger seat.”
She nodded, “Let’s get that tested just to be sure,” She said as she waved to a technician and pointed out the area. She got out of the car, walked around the vehicle, and crossed her arms as she studied the car, “Were any fingerprints lifted from the car in the initial sweep?”
“Yeah, we have several sets that are being put through AFIS,” He informed her, “We need to go back to the station and start looking through the license plates from the surveillance videos. We can run them through the DMV, and hey, who knows?” He shrugged, “We might get lucky.”
Shannon frowned as she watched Dave make his way out of the garage. She watched the technician taking the blood sample from the car and her frowned deepened, “Lucky? Not in this lifetime,” She sighed before following Dave out of the garage to begin another boring task in her investigation.
“I think you’re doing one hell of a job, and with the support of Russell’s newspaper behind you, I think you’re going to have an easy win with this case,” Richard informed Kenneth as they looked over the legal papers before them.
“I would have thought so until the name Cameron Stone popped up. I’m not quite sure why but I have a very bad feeling about that man,” Kenneth frowned and sighed, “But your confidence is reassuring.”
“You always worry too much, but you always do well for yourself in the end.”
Kenneth smiled, “I guess it’s the part of me who still worries about failing at making my own path.”
“You’ve definitely made your own path. You and your brother couldn’t be more different…unfortunately,” Richard frowned.
“You don’t approve of his relationship with Avery, do you?” Kenneth asked as he glanced at his mentor.
“No, to be quiet honest, I don’t. I know he’s your brother, but his reputation leaves a lot to be desired.”
“I can understand your reservations, and usually, I’d share them. I’ve never been Brant’s cheerleader, and I’m not about to start now. That being said, however, I believe that Brant wants the best for Avery. I’m not sure he knows what the best thing for Avery would be, but he does want her to be happy.”
“Be honest with me, Ken. Should I worry about my daughter’s engagement to your brother?”
Kenneth paused for a moment before exhaling heavily, “Let me put it this way. Even when Brant has been determined to make to the alter, he hasn’t. My personal opinion on his engagement is that it looks great in front of the press, but I don’t think it’s solid enough to make it all the way to matrimony.”
“That’s not a very soothing statement, Ken,” Richard frowned.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound like a broken engagement would be a good thing,” Kenneth shrugged, “It’s just that my brother isn’t known for his ability to commit to a long term relationship.”
“All the more reason why he’s all wrong for Avery. She needs someone who can crack the whip on her and make her see that a little stability in her life wouldn’t hurt.”
Kenneth grinned, “After all this time, she’s still your little girl, isn’t she?”
Richard allowed a guilty smile, “She’ll always be my little girl, and I’ll always want the best for her no matter how wrong it seems to everyone else.”
“Why do I get the feeling this is going to end up with a mention of your wife?”
“Because she thinks your brother is the proverbial golden goose,” Richard adjusted his tie upon his pressed shirt as he spoke, “And she is in love with the idea of Brant being Avery’s husband.”
“But you’re not,” Kenneth concluded, “And how will that effect Avery’s opinions?”
“Avery is her own woman, and I’ve never pressured her about her decisions. I’ll give her my input, but she’s an adult and she has to make decisions for herself. However, I would hope she doesn’t marry your brother,” Richard glanced up to his protégé, “No offense.”
“None taken. Brant needs to grow up, but I don’t think he’s ready to yet,” Kenneth sat back in his chair, “Then again, Avery might be the very person who can instigate that growth in him. Who knows?”
“I certainly don’t,” Richard shook his head, “I made my own mistakes, and Avery has to make hers. That doesn’t mean I have to like it though.”
“Spoken like a truly concerned father,” Kenneth grinned.
“Guilty as charged,” Richard allowed a smile before he slowly stood, “I enjoyed this, and I hope you’ll allow me to help you with this.”
“I’d appreciate any help you had to offer,” Kenneth assured him as he shook his mentor’s hand, “I’m glad you stopped by.”
“So am I,” Richard smiled as he excused himself from his protégé and stepped out of the office. Immediately he saw Judy sitting at her desk, hard at work. His smile grew as he closed the door to Kenneth’s office and slipped his hands into his pockets, “Coincidence? Or Karma?”
“What?” Judy asked as she watched him casually make his way to stand beside her.
“Was our meeting today simply a coincidence or do you think we’ve performed some great act which has led us to this chance to see one another again?” He asked as he sat on the edge of her desk and gazed down at her.
She chuckled in response as she covered her smile, “Does that kind of line work with the young girls you teach?”
“They wouldn’t know how to appreciate it. You, on the other hand, are a lovely sophisticated woman, and I would expect you to enjoy that line,” He teased, “I was surprised to see you working here with Kenneth. Didn’t you tell me once that lawyers were only above a roach on the evolutionary scale?”
“I did,” She admitted with a smile, “But I also learned that some people can overcome their career,” She leaned forward onto her desk, “You’re looking good, Richard. I would have thought by now that Brooke would have driven you to an early grave,” She reached out to touch his face, “Or does she have some of those horrendous cosmetics of hers plastered on you?”
“Very funny,” Richard said as he captured her hand and held it within his, “It’s nice to see some people still have a healthy sense of humor.”
“It’s about the only thing of mine that hasn’t aged since we last met,” She sighed.
“Are you kidding me? You haven’t aged a day.”
“You have…you must have grown cataracts,” She said with a roll of her eyes as she sat back in her chair.
“You’re just as beautiful as the last time I saw you. You still take my breath away,” He stated clearly as he met her eyes.
Judy drew her hand from his, “You shouldn’t say things like that.”
“Why not? Because it’s true?”
“For starters, because you’re married,” She declared bluntly.
“That’s just on paper, and everyone knows it,” He gently placed his hand upon her shoulder, “So why don’t you do Brooke’s attorney a favor and have lunch with me?”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because I need to look like a sleazebag who doesn’t want anything to do with my wife. Because I need to look like a man who is more interested in spending quality time with a vibrant beautiful woman than spending any amount of time with his wife. So what do you say? Wanna help me give Brooke some ammunition for a divorce?” He asked with a grin.
“You are impossible,” Judy chuckled, “You realize that don’t you?”
“Is that a yes?”
“I can’t,” She shook her head, “I have a mountain of paperwork here to deal with, and I have some research to do for Kenneth, and…”
“And nothing,” Richard said as he made his way to Kenneth’s door, knocked quickly and stuck his head inside, “Ken, I’m taking your secretary to lunch. She’ll be back when I’m through with her,” He flashed Kenneth a smile before closing the door, “That’s taken care of. So what’s your excuse going to be now?”
“I can’t believe you just did that,” She said with a gaping mouth.
“Yes, you can,” He said as he extended his hand to her, “And I know that you’d love to eat something wonderful. So come on. Let me buy you something expensive to eat.”
Judy couldn’t hide her smile as she lifted her purse from her desk drawer. She knew that she was probably getting herself in over her head, but she’d never known any kind of restraint where Richard was concerned. She placed her hand in his and departed with him for a lunch where she was sure that trouble would begin.
Zack flipped channels on the television, hoping to amuse himself since Caitlin had gone to pick up her messages at work. He’d thought about going to see some of the neighborhoods Kenneth had suggested, but he figured that Caitlin would kill him if he went apartment hunting without her. One thing about his sister, she was the only person in the world he’d let bully him around.
While he and Caitlin weren’t as close as they once had been, she was still his best friend in the entire world. They would talk for hours at night while everyone else slept, and they would share their deepest darkest secrets with one another. Sometimes, however, he knew that there were things that Caitlin kept from him, and he sensed a certain amount of anxiety in her whenever he pressed her for answers. He had learned that instead of pushing Caitlin away, it was always best to drop the subject and talk about something else. He wanted answers from her, but he knew that the only way he could get them was to be patient. Unfortunately for him, patience had never been one of his virtues.
He sighed and switched off the television just as a knock arose at the door. He silently thanked whomever had dropped by for the distraction as he made his way to the door. He opened the door and smiled as he met the eyes of a familiar face.
“Well, Blake Ashford, you’re definitely a sight for sore eyes.”
Blake met Zack’s eyes and a smile burst upon her features, “Zack! You’re here!” She exclaimed happily as she threw her arms around him in a hug.
“Yes, I am,” He chuckled as he hugged her in return, “And if this is the reception I get, I might just have to leave and come back again.”
“Don’t you dare,” She warned as she held him at arm’s length and surveyed his appearance, “God, you’re just as handsome as ever.”
“I know,” He said proudly, “It’s such a hard burden to bear.”
“Oh you,” She smacked his arm and laughed softly, “It’s so good to see you.”
“You too,” Zack smiled as he escorted her inside and closed the door behind them, “If you’re looking for Caitlin, she went to work to pick up some messages or something.”
“I was looking for Caitlin, but I think I can settle for you,” She teased as she sat beside him on the sofa, “It’s been so long. How have you been?”
“Good,” He replied, “I hear things are going pretty good for you too.”
“Has Caitlin been talking about me?”
“From time to time,” He said as he braced himself on the back of the sofa, “So how is your life?”
“It’s wonderful,” Blake smiled brightly before she paused, “Well, actually, it’s not all so wonderful.”
“Caitlin said something about this Cameron guy giving you a hard time. She said you could probably use my help.”
“Yes,” She sighed as she met his eyes, “Zack, I know I have no right to ask you to do something like this, but I really need this from you.”
“Hey, if all it takes to make you happy is to look at some papers from BBK, I’m your man,” He smiled.
“Actually, I have something else to ask you…and it’s a biggie,” She said as she nibbled her bottom lip.
“Okay, shoot,” He urged her.
“Well, this whole thing has gotten a bit complicated, and a lot of people’s lives are at stake here. It turns out that my boyfriend and I can’t really see each other right now because of Cameron, but it still needs to appear as if he wants me back and I’m being stubborn.”
“You have that down to a science. That’ll be no problem,” He teased.
“Zack, I’m trying to be serious here,” She said with a huff before a smile crept over her features, “Okay, yes I can be rather stubborn, but really I love Seth, and I want to be with him. It’s going to be pretty hard to pretend otherwise.”
“So how are you going to pull this off?”
“That’s where you come in.”
Zack eyed her for a moment before he raised a cautious eyebrow, “Now I’m worried.”
“I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend.”
“What?” He questioned quickly, “Are you crazy?”
“Zack, please. If it looks like I’m trying to move on, then maybe Cameron will give Seth a break.”
“And Seth is your boyfriend?”
“Yes, and Cameron is really putting pressure on him. It needs to look like he’s trying to get back into my good graces, but at the same time, I need to look like I’m giving him the cold shoulder. That way, Cameron can’t punish Seth for not hurting me.”
He frowned, “I don’t understand why it has to be me.”
“Because I trust you, and you’re one of my best friends. Besides that, we make a good looking couple.”
“Now there’s an argument I’ve heard before from you,” He reminded her.
Blake blushed slightly, “Please, let’s not go there. I know that I’ll owe you huge for this, and I’ll find someway to make it up to you,” She said in a slightly panicked voice as she took his hand, “Please, Zack, please pretend to be my boyfriend. I won’t ask very much of you…just a few dates out on the town so the media can show that I’ve moved on.”
Zack studied her facial expression for a moment before scratching his head and exhaling in surrender, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Oh Zack!” Blake exclaimed as she threw her arms around him in a tight hug, “Thank you. You have no idea how happy you just made me,” She said with a bright smile, knowing that her plan would help them all remain safe and give Seth more time to work his way out of Cameron’s clutches.
Grady sat back in his chair thinking about the day already behind him
as he noted the time. Already having accomplished so much since his
late start, a sense of pride washed over him. Now if he could find
a way to help his brother out without Russell being so damned stubborn,
he’d have it made. As the thought of his last conversation with Russell
haunted him, a frown touched over his lips as he hated the idea of his
brother ready to give up everything for Avery. As if it wasn’t bad
enough when Russell went through this obsession the first time, but to
be going through it again at a time when there was the threat of murder
charges hanging over his head. Just the idea of Russell’s blatant
stupidity, well it just burned Grady to no end as his light mood transformed
into that darkness that had been lingering over him.
Grady’s thoughts grew in intensity as did his worry about his younger brother, but as he was about to let the moment get the best of him, the faint ringing of his cell phone brought him back to reality. He looked to the caller ID recognizing the number immediately as Russell’s cell phone and a breath of relief fell over his lips. Maybe Russell was starting to wise up after all, he thought to himself answering the phone with a smug tone, “You ready to start talking now?”
“Oh I haven’t even begun with you Grady,” Avery’s voice spat back at him.
“Avery,” he blinked back in surprise not expecting to hear her on the other end of the line--on Russell’s phone no less, “Why do you have my brother’s phone?”
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” she ignored his question as her voice demanded something from him.
Immediately Grady felt a smile tug over his lips as he leaned back in his chair realizing that only one thing could get such a rise out of the woman that his brother held so near and dear. The lawsuit.
“I take it you got my surprise this morning, huh,” Grady couldn’t help but grin as her anger amused him. It was about time she started feeling some of the pressure she’d put upon his life, he thought to himself as he reclined further in his chair, “No thanks are necessary really…”
“Thanks,” Avery repeated with a huff, “oh only in your little world of delusion. Grady, what the hell is wrong with you? Honestly do you have no shame?”
“Oh that’s priceless coming from a woman who single handedly ripped my brother’s heart out and served it to him on a platter time and time again,” Grady remarked bitterly, “Not to mention the fact that you work for one of the least ethical companies to ever hit Coral Valley.”
“You’re one to lecture me on ethics considering that you’ve lost all of yours in taking this case,” Avery hissed in response, “Cameron Stone is a lowlife and you know it.”
“I’m going to have you and BBK for lunch and you know it,” Grady teased wickedly, “There’s no way you’re going to win this battle and that’s why you’re giving me this little call. Really, you shouldn’t get your panties in a bunch because Avery losing this one will be good for you. It’ll prove to you that you can’t manipulate everything that comes your way.”
“Manipulate?” she repeated with a sarcastic laugh, “Oh Grady, you haven’t seen me in action yet, but when it gets down to it, I’m going to tear you to shreds plain and simple.”
“Oh I’m so terrified,” his voice lacked any kind of rise he knew she was hoping for, “Avery, is that the best you can give me? Why don’t you just quit your whining and be a grown up and accept defeat in this situation?”
“If you think I’m going to lay down and take it from you or anyone else, then you’ve got another think coming,” Avery replied sharply.
“Gee, you didn’t have a problem laying down for my brother the other night while your fiancé was away…then again I lost track, were you engaged to Brant at the time or still with Bruce?”
“I didn’t realize you took such an interest in my personal life there considering that yours is a joke,” Avery retorted with a haughty laugh, “But then again I supposed you’d have to get your kicks somehow.”
Grady’s knuckles tightened as he sat upright in his chair, “That’s rich coming from the woman who’s toying with my brother’s emotion for her own sadistic pleasure. You know you really are a bitch Avery and I can’t wait to tear you and BBK into pieces.”
“Big words coming from such a little man,” Avery challenged her voice laced with animosity, “I’m sure you wouldn’t be full of such insults if I was there with you face to face.”
“Bring it on Avery,” Grady answered smoothly despite the anger racing through his veins, “I have no problem telling you to your face what a whore I think you are and how I’m going to bury you in the process of ridding my brother of that nasty addiction he has with you.”
“Really,” the door to his office burst open as Avery marched inside turning off Russell’s cell phone as her eyes narrowed down at him bitterly, “Then take your best shot Grady!”
“What the hell…” he stammered seeing her stomping towards his desk as he rose from his chair, “How did you get in here?”
“I walked in here you moron,” Avery rolled her eyes at him, “You’re not that damned important that I needed to bother with an appointment.”
Grady hung up his phone as his frown deepened, “You’re not welcome here.”
“Now that’s not what you were saying a few minutes ago,” Avery challenged folding her arms over her chest, “You were full of fighting words, so go on. Give it your best shot.”
“Avery, I…” he took a moment to look at her giving her a brief once over as he noticed the slippers, robe and jacket that strangely looked like Russell’s that she was wearing. He shook his head at her finding himself momentarily distracted as he quipped, “Where the hell did you come from? A slumber party?”
“Even better,” Avery flashed him an icy smile, “I was in bed with Russell when I got your papers.”
“It figures,” Grady grumbled immediately feeling the surge of anger flood his every synapse, “You would take a time like this to dick with him…”
“I’m dicking with him?” she repeated with a hiss, “I think it’s more like you’re out to make him miserable by going after me. I mean that’s what this is all about, isn’t it? You would rather see me burn than allow him to be happy with me, huh?”
“The only happiness my brother ever got from you was in the moment you walked out of his life as that was the best thing you ever could’ve done for him,” Grady shot back at her.
“Your brother loves me and despite the fact you hate it, that isn’t going to change,” Avery’s voice rose with anger.
“Oh yes it is. I’m going to show him what you are once and for all and when this lawsuit is over, you’re going to be nothing more than a bad memory in his eyes. You and Brant can ride off to the poor house together because this is one fight you’re going to lose.”
“You’re the loser Grady because I’m not going to tolerate this kind of ill-conceived bull…”
“If it was so ill-conceived then you wouldn’t be here, but the fact that you stormed into my office proves that you are well aware of the fact that my client has a good position in this lawsuit…”
“Your client is an ass much like his representation and I swear to you Grady if you don’t back down right now, then things are going to get ugly…” Avery warned him.
“Avery, you’re wasting your time because your words mean nothing to me. I’m going to win this case and you’re going to be out on your pretty little butt soon enough and hey maybe by the time I’m through with BBK, you’ll be put to so much shame that you’ll leave Coral Valley and my brother forever.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“You’re damn right I would,” Grady answered with an emphatic nod, “The last thing Russ needs is a self-centered, opportunistic, heartless bimbo like you…”
“What in the world is going on in here,” Jade demanded making her way into Grady’s office as she witnessed the standoff between Grady and Avery. She looked to the dark haired woman in the robe as a scowl touched over her lips.
“This is between him and I and you’d be best suited to give us a few minutes alone,” Avery answered sharply not bothering to take a look at the woman who’d entered the room as Jade marched forward.
“Like hell I am,” Jade snapped in response circling her way around Grady protectively as she glared at the woman before her, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but you have no business in being here.”
“Look missy,” Avery allowed her eyes to fall upon Jade, “I have some business with your boyfriend here, so why don’t you just back off? I‘m sure he can hold his own…unless he‘s lost that ability along with his morals…”
“I’m not going to back off you…” Jade began tightly feeling the urge to attack as Grady reached for her arm.
“Jade, she’s not worth it,” Grady started well aware of Jade’s growing anger as he kept a hold on her arm. “She was never worth it.”
“You’re the one who’s not worth it Grady,” Avery grumbled back at him before turning her attention to Jade, “If I were you, I’d steer clear of this loser because he’s nothing but misery waiting to happen. Just ask his ex-wife considering that he spent the vast majority of their marriage bombed out of his mind there…”
“That’s enough,” Grady snapped back at her as Jade wiggled out of his reach.
“Look I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but you’re not welcome here,” Jade launched an attack on Avery, “so you can take your insults and your cheap ass slippers out of this office and don’t bother to come back again or else…”
“Or else what?” Avery lifted a curious brow, “Now you’re going to be doing his dirty work too? This is just wonderful. Is there anyone you won’t whore out in your vendetta against me?”
“Oh you are so…” Jade lunged towards her ready to attack as Grady laced his arms around her waist pulling her away from Avery.
“Jade don’t…” Grady began turning his eyes to Avery, “Just get out.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you drop this ridiculous lawsuit against BBK because you know that it has nothing to do with your interest in what’s best for Stone Corp. This is because you can’t stand that fact that Russ and I are close again. You would rather take me on and destroy me than just give Russ a moment of happiness…”
“I’m not going to let you destroy my brother’s life and if this lawsuit against Stone Corp is going to keep you far away from him, then you can bet your ass that I’m going to keep it going full force.”
“Wait a second,” Jade blinked back at the sudden realization of what was going on. She looked to Avery for a moment, “You’re Brant’s lawyer and Russell‘s…”
“That’s right,” Avery hissed up keeping her eyes on Grady, “and I swear to you that you’re going down Grady. You’re not going to push me around into doing things the way you want them to be done. I’ll win this case and when I do, there’s nothing you can do or say about it or about my relationship with Russell. It‘s not going to change because you wish it away.”
“My brother is going to grow tired of you and hey maybe if I’m lucky, Shannon will see you as you are and throw your ass in jail so we can all be done for you,” Grady smiled wickedly, “that would be one much more savory alternative to the lawsuit as I‘d much rather work with the prosecution against you. Maybe then when you’re gone I’ll think about going lightly on BBK as you’ll be rotting away in a cell, but then again probably not…”
“As much as you’d like that, I won’t give you the pleasure as neither you nor Shannon have anything on me and you won’t because there’s nothing to tell. My one regret was calling you that night hoping that you could help me with what was best for Russell,” Avery argued with him.
“You wouldn’t know what’s best for him if it bit you in the ass,” Grady countered sharply, “because all you did in bringing him into your problems with Bruce was tear up his life once again. You get off on trying to destroy him, but if there’s any justice in this world, then you’ll get what’s coming to you when this murder investigation comes to a close.”
“I didn’t kill Bruce and you know it,” Avery snapped back at him.
“You may as well have as I know what you do to men that care about you. The way I see it, you may as well have been the one who took his last breath away from him and in this investigation…”
“This investigation will blow over even with your manipulations and then I’m going to bury you in this ridiculous lawsuit you have going…” Avery promised him.
“Keep dreaming Avery. You’re guilty as sin in your own way and I’m well aware of what you did to Bruce. I know how you toyed with him and how you’re toying with Brant by stringing him along and I won’t allow you to bring Russ into the mix. I don’t care what you say about this so called engagement to Brant because for all I care you both can go down together. What I am concerned about is my brother and I will not under any circumstances let you wiggle your way back into his life again. He doesn’t need a manipulative bitch like yourself tearing him apart like you love to do. He’s better off without you and the way I see it, the sooner he’s rid of you, the better…”
“That’s enough,” Russell’s voice roared through the room as Grady turned his attention away from Avery only to find Russell standing in the doorway taking in the dispute between the two of them.
“Russ,” Grady began surprised as he released Jade and he wondered just how long his brother had been standing there.
“Look I don’t know what the hell your problem is Grady, but it stops here,” Russell demanded making his way into the room as his eyes filled with a strange mixture of emotions and his voice took on a harshness that almost seemed foreign to his otherwise cool and calm demeanor.
“She’s the one who broke into my office,” Grady explained with a frown as Jade noted the obvious tension between the two men.
“I don’t care how it started,” Russell stepped up beside Avery in a stand off with his brother, “but it stops right now.”
“Russ,” Avery began as he raised his hand to silence her.
“Don’t,” Russell warned his eyes never straying from Grady as he prepared to face off against his brother in ways he never imagined as in arriving when he did, it opened up the door to something that he wasn’t quite sure he was ready to face, but he was certain there was no choice in the matter as he was about to make a stand in this situation between Grady and Avery once and for all.