Episode 348

“So we went out on this hill that he took me to and it starts pouring,” Trisha explained to Mindy seeing her smile to show her that she was listening. Pulling her legs up to her chest Mindy stared on watching Trisha lay back and hold her hands up in the air. “He steps by the edge of the hill and right like that he slips and I swear it was like a waterslide with mud as I looked over the side and there I went. It was actually kind of fun as long as you didn’t mind getting a little bit dirty, which I really didn’t mind.”

“That sounds like it was fun,” Mindy pointed out seeing Trisha nod slowly and sit up, leaning her back against the arm of the chair. “You two sounded like you had a lot of fun, I’m not quite sure I want to hear the after part, but I’m sure it was.”

“It really was a great,” Trisha took in a deep breath thinking about the time they spent in the woods before closing her eyes and reaching for the pillow behind her head. Sitting up she saw the look in Mindy eyes and pulled the pillow in against her chest tightly. “I love Chase so much, but I would really love to hear your stories more.”

“I really don’t have a lot of stories like you,” Mindy shrugged thinking about her and Hunt, realizing that their relationship wasn’t anything like Trisha’s with Chase. They were more settled together and Trisha and Chase seemed to have more smoldering feelings and--well, dangerous things in their relationship. “We are just kind of simple when it gets down to it.”

“That doesn’t tell me anything,” Trisha frowned leaning back against the arm of her couch before reaching out to turn the television off with the remote. “I want to hear a story or something, something that can show the relationship between you two.”

“Well,” Mindy went to say something before hearing a rapid knocking at the door and she looked back to shrug her shoulders. Looking back toward Trisha she saw Trisha get up slowly and Mindy shook her head. “I guess you aren’t going to hear anything right now.”

“Whoever it is, it must be important,” Trisha motioned Mindy to wait a second before she walked toward the door and looked out to see Kevin. Opening the door she felt him push his way in quickly and he looked around the room slowly. “Kevin?”

“Where is she Trisha?” Kevin looked around the room walking down the hallway to go find Ria, pushing his way into the rooms and Trisha grabbed a hold of his arm. “Where is Ria? Where is she? I have to talk to her.”

“Kevin, no,” she shook her head slowly seeing his brown eyes staring into hers and she saw him step forward. Taking in a deep breath she shook her head slowly. “She isn’t here Kevin, she isn’t anywhere in this house.”

“She has to be here, she isn’t at her house,” Kevin muttered running his fingers through his hair angrily before shaking his head over and over again. “Trisha tell me where she is right now. I need to talk to her.”

“Kevin, she doesn’t want to see you,” Trisha informed him seeing the way his brown eyes stared into hers and she took in a deep breath hating to see that look from anyone. “Kevin, I can’t tell you anything, she told me I couldn’t.”

“Trisha, please this is the woman I love,” Kevin whispered seeing her shake her head again as he bit down on his bottom lip and slid to the ground resting his back against the wall. Covering his face with his hands he let out a long shallow breath. “I love her Trisha, I can’t lose her now, please.”

“Trisha,” Mindy walked into the room seeing Trisha’s dark eyes look back at her as Mindy stepped in next to her seeing Kevin shaking before her and Mindy shot Trisha a look. “Kevin, are you okay?”

“No, I’m an ass,” Kevin muttered running his fingers through his short hair and looked up toward Trisha before letting out a small laugh. “I can’t believe this is happening, I gave up so much to be with her and she’s my world. I can’t lose her Trisha, I love her so much and I know I have made mistakes, but when I see her I feel normal again Trisha. I feel and see that someone actually loves me and she is the only one I have ever felt the same way toward. Just please, don’t let me lose the one thing that is the most important in my life right now.”

“Kevin,” Trisha kneeled down seeing him staring out at her for a minute before she saw him move forward and wrap his arm around her and she held onto him tightly feeling him shaking in her arms as she frowned looking up at Mindy. “She’s at the airport Kevin, go get her now. Go.”

“The airport?” Kevin questioned seeing her pull away from him and she tugged at his arms to get him to stand up and Kevin stared out at her. Touching her cheek softly Kevin focused on Trisha’s eyes before nodding slowly. “Where? Why?”

“She’s going on this thing for work,” Trisha walked into the kitchen and grabbed the note that Ria had written earlier with the airport information and quickly gave it to him. “Go to her and tell her Kevin, no matter what it takes. I would feel lucky if I had someone like you, so go now.”

“Thanks,” Kevin smiled moving forward to press a small kiss against her cheek and giving her a strong hug before walking toward the door. Stopping for a moment he turned to look at her as Mindy stepped in behind her. “Trisha?”

“Yeah Kevin?” Trisha watched him closely not quite sure knowing what else he would have to say now that she gave him the time schedule and everything. Since he was on a time limit she couldn’t see him stopping for this.

“I’m sorry about all the time you walked in on Ria and me, you know,” Kevin paused clearing his throat before nodding slowly seeing the way Trisha let out a small laugh and so did Mindy. “I finally know how you feel when you see that and I am truly sorry about it.”

“It’s okay Kevin, get your butt out of here,” she chuckled seeing him nod slowly before quickly walking out her door and she closed it behind him. “I guess when he says he knows how I feel, he must’ve thought whoever he walked in on was hot.”

“Trisha,” Mindy hit her in the shoulder gently before seeing her laugh and Trisha shrugged her shoulders. “You’re right he is cute, I’m glad you told him. I would have hated to see him cry, it’s good you did the right thing Trisha. I’m proud of you.”


Elliot opened the front door to his home surprised to see his son standing before him. It was clear from the expression on Russell’s face that something was wrong--horribly wrong and a worried Elliot opened the door to let his son inside.

“Dad, I don’t know what to do,” Russ admitted not bothering to wait for his father’s questioning about his arrival, “Avery threw me out and…”

“What?” Elliot’s eyes widened in response closing the door behind Russ and walking over to speak with his son, “Russ, talk to me what’s going on?”

“Dad I blew it,” Russ admitted dropping down onto the couch in the living room burying his face in his hands. He shook his head poignantly and let out a long groan, “Here I thought that things were finally getting on track for us again, but then tonight…”

“Son, I don’t understand,” Elliot couldn’t help but worry as he noticed the way Russ seemed to be lost inside himself. “I thought that the three of you were finally on track with one another again. Did Brant do something else?”

“No,” Russ shook his head, a heavy sigh spilling from his lips, “this time I have no one else to blame for this other than myself.”

“I don’t understand,” Elliot started moving in closer to his son. He heard the sound of footsteps in the hall and when he looked up he saw Cheryl watching the both of them with one another. Elliot waved his hand at Cheryl to give them a moment, but rather than walking away she stood in the hall masked in the shadows.

“Dad, I did something horrible--something that I don’t think Avery will ever forgive me for,” Russ admitted tears burning behind his sad green eyes. “I still haven’t forgiven myself for it.”

“What is it?” Elliot couldn’t help but ask taking a seat beside Russ.

“When I was on the island--back when I had amnesia I had this whole other life,” Russ started with a tiny shudder thinking back to the time he’d been locked away inside his mind and away from Avery and Erin. “I was someone else and I lived this whole other life and during that time there was…”

“Was what?” Elliot questioned tentatively.

“Another woman,” Russ blurted out painfully dropping his head in shame, “I don’t know how it happened, but when I washed up on the island there was a doctor there. She saved my life and tried to help me. She was there for me at a time when I didn’t have the first clue who I was and when I finally woke up from the situation I was in--when I was in that hospital room her face was the first one I saw, but I wasn’t seeing her. I know it sounds unbelievable, but when I opened my eyes I saw Avery.”

“Okay you lost me,” Elliot replied with a puzzled expression. “I thought you said that you couldn’t remember anything.”

“I couldn’t, but this woman…the one that helped me. Dad, she looks just like Avery. I don’t know how in the world I managed to cross paths with someone who looked identical to the woman I love, but I did and to make matters worse I think in my subconscious I felt like I had found my way home--that I was with Avery again only she wasn’t Avery,” Russ threw his hands up in the air in frustration before getting up off of the couch. He began to pace around the living room. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but something inside of me had me convinced that I was meant to be with this woman--that she was where my heart was even though deep down I should’ve known I was meant to be with Avery. It’s just when I looked into this woman’s eyes--when I saw her, I must’ve thought… I mean it doesn’t matter what I thought, but what I did was unforgivable and to make matters worse I didn’t tell Avery about any of it.”

“Son, wait a second,” Elliot thought the situation over, “So you met someone who looked like Avery and you thought you had something with her…”

“No dad I had something with her,” Russ blurted out painfully frustrated by his previous actions, “I kept trying to find a way to get close to her because I really believed she was the woman of my dreams. I had no idea that my subconscious was trying to explain to me what I was missing from my life. All the dreams I had about Avery and I, well, I took it as something that I was meant to have with Angela and I pursued her relentlessly trying to make her fall in love with me like I believed I was in love with her.”

“So you and this woman were…” Elliot finally realized what his son was saying. Surprise registered behind his eyes before he tried to cover, “Well if she looks like Avery like you say she does, then it would only make sense that…”

“I should have known. Damn it. I have spent my whole life loving Avery and only Avery. I’ve always been able to hold onto that part of who I am, but for that period in my life I blew it. I wasn’t able to feel what I know in my heart has always been there for Avery,” Russ cursed himself over and over again, “Instead of having that connection bring me back what I’d lost, I complicated things by being with another woman--by being with someone I never should have found in the first place. Dad, I almost married her because I foolishly believed that it was where I was meant to spend the rest of my life. Had she and I not decided to get married at the castle where Avery and I were at with one another, then I don’t know if I would’ve ever found my way home. Bruce would have killed Avery and Erin and…”

“Russ stop!” Elliot urged seeing Cheryl retreat back to their room so that he could speak with their son alone. “You overcame some impossible odds to get back home and save the both of them. It was your love for Avery that brought you back to us and what happened before that was not your fault.”

“Dad I should have known better,” Russ explained bringing his fingers through his hair, “and more than that I should have been honest with Avery about what happened. I knew I had to be honest with her when I came home, but then with everything that happened with Brant I was so afraid that I was going to lose her. I was so worried that she would find out about what I had done and that she would choose him over me because of it. I was convinced that she still wouldn’t want to be with me after I’d almost married another woman that I didn’t tell her.”

“Russ, your whole world was ripped away from you. It’s understandable that you weren’t ready to shake things up even more than they had already been,” Elliot pointed out with a sympathetic look, “Bruce almost killed Avery and Erin while you were held captive somewhere. Obviously you fought like hell to get out of that nightmare Nicholas had put you into. Then you get home to find out that Avery and Brant were married and I know how that had to kill you. He has been nothing but trouble for you and then…”

“Dad those are all excuses,” Russ refused to give himself any slack. “I still should’ve been honest with her. I should have held true to who I was instead of wanting to find a way to get rid of Ashford from her life.”

“Son, your mother and I didn’t help this situation when we kept the truth from you,” Elliot began guilt riding over him, “If we had been honest with you from the start about that family, then maybe just maybe…”

“You were just trying to protect me,” Russ sighed heavily, “because you knew if I was aware of mom and that monster, then I would lose it.”

“We still never should’ve taken that away from you,” Elliot answered poignantly, “because if you had known the truth, then you would have been better prepared for battle against Brant and…”

“Dad you did what you thought was right and I was upset when I learned the truth. I know that neither one of us intended for things to go this way,” Russ explained after a moment’s contemplation. “Yes, you should have told me before I found out like I did, but I cannot criticize you for holding that from me considering what I’ve held from Avery. I thought that if I kept putting it off that maybe just maybe it would help her…like if after the shock of everything wore down it would somehow make the truth easier on her. I thought that Avery wasn’t ready to deal with another situation like this, but when it gets down to it, I should’ve realized that neither she nor I like being left in the dark about things. My finding out about Nicholas happened in the worst possible way just like her finding out about me did. If I could go back and change things, then I would, but now, well now I feel as if I’ve lost her forever. I made a huge mistake and I’m worried that I may never be able to get what we had back ever again because of it.”


“Jason?” Deana walked into the hallway expecting her brother to be waiting for her in the position she last saw him but he wasn’t there as she finished buttoning up her blouse and looked the other way still not seeing Jason. “Jason, where in the world are you?”

Walking into the living room she saw Jason laid out on the couch eating a sandwich that he had obviously made while her and Grady finished up getting dressed as quickly as possible. Letting out a sound of disgust he looked up to meet her glance and a small smile appeared over his lips.

“I didn’t think you would mind that I was hungry after the plane ride here. I figured you weren‘t very hungry,” Jason cleared his throat finishing off his sandwich before talking with his mouth full. “Considering I just walked in on you eating the grossest, oldest…ouch.”

Looking to the ground he saw the remote she had thrown at his head and he reached down for it, grabbing a firm hold of it in his hand. Taking a small look over at her he tossed it back at her only for her to move out of the way and it hit Grady in the center of the chest.

“That hurt,” Grady rubbed at the center of his chest seeing the way that Jason got up from the couch and fixed his shirt and Grady held his hands up in the air. “Listen, I know we started off to a bad beginning and I know you don’t like me, but don’t try and kill me okay?”

“Sorry, I was aiming for her head,” Jason shrugged his shoulders knowing that Deana would have moved and he would have never hurt her, but still he couldn’t help and antagonize. “It’s weird, I never knew of a man getting dressed slower than a female, but you are old so that figures.”

“Jason, you need to shut up,” Deana brought her hands into her brother’s chest seeing him stumble back and shake his hands up in the air. “I swear you if you even try to start something here, I’m going to kill you and I know I can.”

“Let me think about this, have you known him for longer than a year?” Jason questioned seeing her look away from him as he let out a small gasp. “That’s what I thought, you are basically screwing some old, crusty, stranger that you hardly even know.”

“I’m not really a stranger, we have been with each other for a while,” Grady interrupted seeing Jason’s blue eyes meet his and Grady shrugged his shoulders. “And I would really like you to stop saying I’m old because I’m really not.”

“Sure, you’re not,” Jason rolled his eyes and looked out at Grady and shook his head slowly. Folding his arms out in front of his chest he shrugged his shoulders. “I guess when you are as old as you are, everything seems long in a relationship. Five minutes is five hours, I mean honestly Deana. Doesn’t he even last two minutes.”

“Jason, I swear,” Deana stepped forward seeing Jason hold his arms up in the air and shake his head slowly as the sound of a cell phone ringing echoed through the air. Looking back at Grady she saw it was his cell phone ringing and she backed away for a moment. “You are so lucky little brother.”

“I’m so scared short sister,” Jason taunted her seeing her go to hit him as he stepped back and grabbed a large picture frame in front of him so he wouldn’t get hit. “I’ll get you in trouble if you hit me.”

“I’ll be right back,” Grady half laughed kind of amused with the way Deana and Jason were acting right now even though he really shouldn’t have been. Sure he knew that in a matter of moments Jason could probably kill him with how strong he looked, but still he found the relationship kind of amusing for twins. Pulling his cell phone in toward his ear he walked into the kitchen and looked back for a moment. “Hello?”

“Grady, it’s your mother,” Cheryl’s voice echoed through his ears as he turned toward the window taking in a deep breath and he heard the worry behind her voice. “Listen, your brother is here and he is upset and…,”

“Russ?” Grady questioned looking down at his watch knowing that if he was at his parents house something was seriously wrong. “Okay, I’ll be there in a little bit. Just try and talk to him while I’m not there, but I’m coming.”

“He isn’t in much of a talking mood,” she informed him with a deep sigh thinking back to her son and the state she last saw him in. “He’s really upset.”

“Don’t worry mom, I’ll be there in a little bit. I love you,” Grady said his final goodbyes before hanging up the phone, walking back into the living room to see Jason on the other side of the coffee table holding his hands up in the air. “Guys, I’ve got to go see my brother. Something is going on and he needs me.”

“Okay,” Deana walked over toward her wrapping her arms around his neck and tipping up on her toes to press a small kiss in over his lips as she heard Jason gag in the background. Quickly she turned around and hit him in the side of the face hearing him gasp out. “I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Take care,” Grady walked over toward the door grabbing his keys before taking a look back at Deana who was glaring over at Jason almost ready to kill him. “And take it easy on him, remember he is your little brother. By two minutes or whatever, but still your little brother.”


“So this is what you had in mind when you wanted to get away?” Heather let out a small breath hearing Kyle’s heartbeat underneath her as her head rested against his bare chest. “I thought you would have done something a little different, but I like this.”

“What could be better than a night out under the stars with the woman I love?” Kyle smiled seeing her look up at him, her green eyes staring out into his as her fingers pressed against his chest and she leaned up to kiss him lovingly. “Sure, we’re in my truck on an air bed, but hey--you can’t get something like this at any hotel.”

“I would have been fine going anywhere with you,” Heather pointed out running her fingers in over his abdomen looking to the blanket he brought that draped over his waist in the smallest way. “Just as long as I could have you next to me.”

“It’s going to be like this for along time sweetheart,” Kyle promised with a smile of satisfaction as he grabbed a hold of her fingers loosely, looking over the ring that he had given her. “Now that you are going to be my wife and all.”

“So, it’s always going to be like this?” she looked up at him with her green eyes feeling his arm wrap around her shoulders tighter as she met his lips in another small kiss. “You’re always going to be by my side no matter what?”

“No matter what,” he answered with a small nod seeing her eyebrow arch up at him and he shrugged his shoulders, his right hand moving in over the side of her arm. “Baby, I work for you so no matter what I’m going to be with you. Nothing is wrong with that though, the only thing I’m really excited about though is that this was the perfect way to get away from Kellen. This way, he can’t walk in on us and stare. I hate it when he does that.”

“That’s mean,” Heather half laughed hitting him in the center of his chest lightly and his eyes met hers in a small glance. Seeing the expression on his face she knew he was right, Kellen was her best friend, but still he was a very nosey person. “He just really likes men.”

“And obviously I’m at the top of his list,” Kyle pointed out with a small laugh seeing her shrug her shoulders and he slowly moved away from her resting up on his elbows. “You can’t tell me I’m not near his top because you know that he has it out for me bad. I see the way he looks at my butt and my…just forget about that. He’s a creep when it comes to me.”

“Well, he talks about you, Kevin, Russ, and Kipp all the time too,” she informed him resting up on her elbow, holding the blanket close to her body with her free hand. “You’re not the only one he gushes on, but you are probably the one near the top.”

“I can see why he thinks the other two are okay, but why the hell would he like Kevin?” Kyle questioned with a disgusted look on his face as she rolled her eyes and fell back against the air mattress. “He’s just muscular and just--no. That guy is…,”

“Is pretty good looking and if I do recall you're muscular too Kyle,” she stated with a small shake of her head seeing him frown and she covered her eyes letting out a long breath. “You need to be nice. I don’t know what it is about Kevin, but there is something I remember about him.”

“Yeah, probably those disgusting tattoos,” he blurted out feeling her playfully hit him in the stomach and he let out a small groan knowing that she was getting upset with him making fun of someone so that was the time to stop. “You know, it’s amazing that this thing still didn’t pop yet.”

“Are they supposed to pop?” she rolled over pressing her hand in against his chest and resting her chin against the back of her hand. Seeing him lean back again and nod slowly she pressed her hand against it. “I know we’ve been pretty rough and all, but it seems to be a good air mattress.”

“Yeah, considering the truck was moving earlier I’m surprised it didn’t,” Kyle let out a small chuckle feeling her hit him in the chest again before getting in over him and grabbing a hold of his wrists, pressing them back against his truck. “What are you doing?”

“I think you are letting this get to your head. I mean yes, I’m more than excited that you fell in love with me since I have always been in love with you. It’s still hard to believe that I’m actually with you right now, so I feel like the luckiest woman in the world right here in your arms,” Heather informed him letting go with her left hand and she shook her head slowly moving forward to press her lips against his, feeling his free hand move in against the back of her neck. “But I think you’re being very cocky.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that either,” Kyle muttered against her lips arching his hips up against her before feeling her fingers tighten around his one wrist more. Looking down he saw her hand press in against the side of his abdomen and then a sudden pop filled through the air making him let out a small gasp as the bed sunk to the floor. A loud laugh escaped his lips as he saw the look on Heather’s face as she fell against his chest. “What did you do?”

“It wasn’t me,” Heather let out a small laugh trying to move her hand before pulling it up and looking over her finger to make sure the ring was still okay. “I think the ring got the bed, it just made it pop and all I did was skim it.”

“You bad girl,” Kyle teased sitting up carefully pulling her in over him before letting out a small breath, kissing her again quickly before taking a look at the ring seeing that it seemed to be fine. “The ring looks good, but the bed looks like it’s gone. I should call that number, it wasn’t very good.”

“Now you’re not being very nice,” she insisted feeling his hands move in over her hips and she placed her hands over his shoulders partially pulling away from him seeing the frown that formed over his handsome features. “We can’t do this right now.”

“Why not?” Kyle reached out to push back her blonde hair hearing her let out small laugh as her hands pressed in over his chest and she shook her head slowly. “Heather, seriously.”

“I’m not going to hurt my back now that this thing is popped,” she replied thinking it over for a moment before looking down at him and pushing his shoulders back against the floor, seeing his eyes staring up at her. “I won’t risk my back, but what about yours.”

“Well,” Kyle felt her settle in over his hips and he closed his eyes resting his head back a bit before looking up at her again. Feeling her fingers fanning out over his chest he let out a long breath. “I’m sure I’ll be fine. When the thought comes up, I really could care less about my back right now.”


“Hear you out?” Angela blinked back at Brant in astonishment watching him stumble forward in her room with mud covered clothing. “You’ve got to be kidding me, right? Do you really believe that you have anything to say that would make me even want to consider listening to you right now? Are you out of your mind?”

“If you can honestly say that you can’t think of at least two reasons,” Brant’s gaze traveled down to her swelled abdomen serving as a painful reminder of what they still had very much alive between them, “then I would have to say that you are the one out of your mind. Angela, I realize that we had a lot of things thrown at us outside that church, but regardless of what Cameron said you know I love you.”

“Brant I know what I saw,” Angela answered tightly holding her hands in fists at her sides. She closed her eyes and thought back to Christmas when she’d found her father face down in a pool of blood in his office. “I know what I walked in on.”

“And so do I,” Brant took a tentative step towards her hearing the shakiness in her voice, “because you told me about that pain you experienced. You shared that part of your past with me--that hurt you carried around inside of you, but I swear to you that I had absolutely nothing to do with that. Regardless of what Cameron told you, I’m not a part of that.”

“Why should I believe any of that?” she questioned her eyes snapping out of the daze she’d been in. Her cold, dark eyes narrowed in on him betrayal washing over her while her lower lip trembled. “Cameron told me that you’ve been playing me from the start--that everything from our first meeting on was nothing but a plan you and Kevin came up with to trick me. You both were trying to hurt me.”

Brant groaned inwardly, “Angela think about that one for a second. Kevin has laid his life out on a limb for you time and time again. He’s probably the best friend you have ever had and I highly doubt he would ever hurt you. Hell, I know it’s the truth. Yes, you two might have friction between you right now, but he cares about you--he loves you. He loves you like I love you.”

“Brant stop,” Angela raised her hand in the air as if to fend off his words, “Don’t say that.”

“What? You don’t want to hear the truth?” he questioned making another forward movement, “Angela, I love you and Kevin loves you. We both would give anything to make you happy and you know that.”

“All I know is that Cameron wouldn’t lie to me. He’s been trying to protect me since our father was murdered,” she answered sharply, the sting of that moment vibrating over her. “He’s always been there for me and…”

“Your brother is a cheat and a murderer himself. Hell, he hired Thea Valentine to try to murder Kipp. He owns a company that caused a child to have cancer,” Brant tried to reason with her thinking about the things that Cameron was capable of, “He tortured his ex-wife and the list goes on and on. The man is trying to destroy me, but he’s been unsuccessful thus far--that is until tonight. He knows if he turns you against me, then I will truly lose everything. He knows I love you and…”

“Stop saying that!” she shook her head in refusal to hear him out, “Brant I know that you murdered my father. You were the one who put the gun to his head and…”

“If I really did that, then why would I be with you? Why would I fall in love with you after hurting you in such a way? What would I have to gain by having you pregnant with my children?” Brant challenged arching a curious brow.

“You never planned on me getting pregnant,” she placed her hand over her abdomen protectively, “We both know that.”

“Even so I have loved you from that first night I knew you,” Brant marched forward reaching out to pull her into his arms regardless of how upset she was with him, “I have moved heaven and hell trying to find you again and if this was all about revenge, then you know full well that I wouldn’t be standing here right now trying to plead with you with my heart.”

“You’re just afraid that I’ll believe my brother--that you won’t be able to finish whatever sick and twisted game you started,” she insisted firmly tears threatening to overtake her while a lump formed in the back of her throat. “You just want to hurt me and…”

“Angela I love you,” he cut her off abruptly squeezing his arms around her as his brown eyes met hers in a desperate gaze, “and I know you love me too. I know you want to be with me just like I want to be with you. We have a family ahead of us and…”

“You destroyed mine when you killed my father,” she answered sharply no longer able to mask the tears behind her eyes.

“No,” he sighed heavily shaking his head at his thumb skimmed over the side of her face brushing at a tear, “I swear to you I never knew your father. Yes, I’ll admit my father is a monster--and I’m not proud of that, but I swear to you that I never, ever had anything to do with what happened to your father. I didn’t have any idea that…”

“Brant I can’t believe that. I just can’t…” she started to argue ready to pull away from him when his lips came crashing down over hers in a desperate, agonizing kiss.

His fingers tapered off over her spine holding her closer to him while his tongue teased between her now parted lips. He could feel her heart beating beside his as he squeezed her in his arms praying to the heavens that she wouldn’t ignore what it was that they still had between them. His lips tasted hers again and again feeling her melt into him as he thought of how much they stood to lose at the hands of Cameron’s lies.

“Brant, I…” Angela started breathlessly ready to say something more when she felt him press his index finger against her lips to silence her.

“You love me,” he mouthed in a confident, whisper of a tone, his finger teasing over her swelled lips, “Just like I love you.”

“Brant you and I both know that…” Angela stopped mid-sentence when she heard footsteps outside in the hallway. Her brown eyes widened in a panic and she heard another sound from outside her window. Tipping her head to the side, she gave Brant a strange look, “Is that Don barking down there?”

“He’s on the lookout,” Brant nodded in response glancing over to the window, “He is keeping an eye on things, but now that I’m in here with you, we can go somewhere else and talk and…”

“No I can’t,” she shook her head listening again when she heard something outside of her room. Yes, this time she was certain someone was out there. With a small shove she pushed Brant back over towards the window, “You have to leave.”

“What?” Brant’s eyes widened in response, “Angela I’m not going anywhere without you.”

“You can’t stay here,” Angela pleaded with him a worried expression on her face, “If Cameron finds you in here, he’ll kill you…”

“Let him try because I’m not leaving without you,” Brant announced firmly planting his feet in the ground, “You’re going to be my wife whether he likes it or not.”

“I can’t be your wife if you’re dead,” Angela pleaded with him a desperation carrying over her.

“So then you still love me?” Brant couldn’t help but grin thinking about her worries. “You know I’m telling the truth, don’t you?”

“I know my brother is going to kill you if he sees you can I can’t let that happen,” she explained pushing him over into the window.

“Angela wait,” Brant tried to reason with her, but before he could say anything further, he felt her shove him again in the center of his chest causing him to fall backwards out of the window down to the world below.

“Brant,” Angela gasped leaning forward in an attempt to keep him from falling once she’d watched him buckle over the window ledge. She leaned forward just in time to see Don rushing out from behind the bushes.

“I’ve got you man!” Don promised breathlessly holding his arms out as if that alone would buffer the fall for Brant.

Don moved a bit to the left while Brant fell and Angela watched with a horrified expression. However before Brant could spill to the ground completely Angela heard the sound of the door behind her. She spun around to see Cameron standing before her.

“Angela, we need to talk,” Cameron began giving her a long look. He noticed the open window and frowned, “What are you doing?”

“Getting some fresh air,” Angela explained turning around to take a quick look out of the window only to discover Brant and Don both on the ground with Brant laying over Don. With a breath of relief she closed the window and turned to face her brother again, “Why?”

“I thought I heard you speaking with someone,” Cameron explained curiously.

“No, I wasn’t speaking with anyone at all,” Angela lied praying that Brant would just get off of the property before her brother decided to act out his promise to kill Brant.


“You alright man?” Don questioned in a muffled voice from beneath Brant once the aftermath of their impact with one another had taken it’s toll on them. Don had seen Brant’s fall and had executed a perfect catch in keeping his friend from dropping to the ground with a thud that could break a bone or two, but what Don hadn’t planned on was the slipper, wet grass beneath his feet that sent them both shooting down to the ground. Now laid out beneath Brant and feeling his back ache Don fought to suppress the groan building in the back of his throat.

“Yeah, you’re a lifesaver man,” Brant replied in an equally pained voice thinking about Angela’s tossing him out of the window. He arched his head up in an attempt to look over to the window, but found the curtains were drawn.

“You sure nothing’s broken?” Don asked wondering the same question about himself.

“I’m fine except for…” Brant started to explain when he felt a distinct vibrating in his thigh. His eyes widened as he looked down to Don with a curious expression, “Don that had better be your pager in your pocket…”

“Believe me,” Don stifled a moan that built up in the back of his throat as Brant rolled off of him and onto the ground at his side, “I’m not that happy to see you.”

“Thank heaven for small miracles,” Brant inhaled sharply thinking about Angela’s mixed reaction to him. “I think I made some progress in there, but then she freaked out on me and…”

“Oh no,” Don gasped bringing Brant out of his thoughts. Turning his head to see that Don’s face had drained of all color Brant found himself worried.

“What’s wrong?” Brant couldn’t help but ask.

“It’s a page from Matt. He paged me with a 911 and…” Don rolled onto his hands and knees and pulled his drenched cell phone from where it had fallen onto the grass. He tipped it onto it’s side and watched the water pour out from within while his blue eyes flashed with another panic.

“My cell phone is back in the car,” Brant explained wondering what his godson was up to now that he’d paged Don with a 911. Brant turned his attention to the window he’d fallen out of once again, but knew full well that tonight wasn’t going to give him another chance to reach out to Angela. Looking to Don again, he motioned to his friend, “Come on let’s get out of here and see what’s wrong with Matt.”

“This isn’t like him to page me with a 911,” Don mouthed pushing himself off of the ground as worry crept in over his every synapse.

“It’s going to be okay,” Brant tried to assure his friend, but his own thoughts were on Matt and what kind of trouble he could be in. Ignoring the potentially dangerous situation Don and Brant were into, Brant rushed with Don across the Stone Estate back to Don’s car in the hopes of uncovering what was wrong with Matt.

“I’ll drive,” Brant decided catching Don’s keys in the air after Don had unlocked the car door. Sliding into the driver’s side, Brant pointed to where he’d discarded his phone. “It should be over there.”

“I don’t see it,” Don’s voice rose with worry. “Brant, I don’t see it.”

“It should be over there,” Brant explained worriedly before eyeing the road in front of him. “He’s at home right?”

Don nodded, “With Shannon’s brother and I knew that wasn’t a smart idea, but now…”

“Hey I’ll be at your place in less than five minutes,” Brant assured him, “Trust me on this.”

“If anything is wrong with my son, then so help Nate…” Don mouthed under his breath all the while searching for the phone in the hopes that his son would be alright and that nothing was really wrong.


A long nervous breath escaped Kevin’s lips as he looked toward the clock knowing what time the plane was supposed to be leaving at and he had to be there before it took off or he could lose Ria forever. Reaching for his cell phone he kept a firm hold of the steering wheel with his left hand and his right hand shakily typed in the numbers to Ria’s cell phone. Putting it to his ear he listened to the ringing over and over again until hearing her voice and his heart quickened at the sound only to realize it was her voice mail.

“Ria, please answer your phone,” Kevin begged biting down on his bottom lip feeling a lump growing in the back of his throat knowing that he could say much on a phone. “Ria, listen to me. Please don’t leave, I love you so much and I know I’ve made mistakes, but falling in love with you was never one of them. I know you’re upset and everything seems to be falling apart but baby, I only love you and that’s the only way I want to keep it. You complete me Ria and without you I’m nothing. I knew I always loved you, but when I was young, I was scared. I was scared that I wasn’t good enough for you and I know you deserve better than me, but I’m willing to change. Anything for you because I love you and I can’t lose you. If you would just wait for me I would show you that you’re my everything and I love you so much, just please don’t leave me. You’re my everything and without you I’ll never be whole. Ria I love you and…,”

Hearing the phone cut out on him Kevin let out a long breath looking down to his phone and shaking his head slowly throwing his phone on the seat next to him before grabbing a firm hold of the steering wheel. Looking behind him he made sure that no one was there and quickly sped up knowing that he wasn’t that far from the airport.

“Come on,” Kevin gripped the steering wheel harder knowing that he had to speed up if he wanted to catch her. Turning onto the exit he let out an angered groan seeing the traffic before him knowing that it would take a while. “I can’t lose you.”

Trying to look ahead he saw a glimpse of what seemed to look like Ria walking into the airport with her bags in hand and his heart skipped a beat knowing that he had to get to her. Pulling along the side he drove to the side of the curb in front of the airport and got out of his SUV quickly.

“Hey, you can’t park there,” Kevin heard a voice from behind him and he stopped to listen to the guy for a second. “You heard me big guy, move this car right now or I’m going to have to give you a ticket.”

“Then give me a damn ticket because I’m not moving the car,” Kevin spat running off into the airport leaving his car behind not caring what he had to pay in the after parts of today as long as he got to Ria before she left. Pausing in the middle of the big crowd he looked around, pushing between people to try and find Ria, but was unsuccessful as he looked toward the front desk. Quickly moving over toward it he placed his hands on the front of the counter. “I need to know where flight two-sixty is.”

“The plane is supposed to leave soon,” the woman behind the counter informed him as he rolled his eyes and looking over the size of him she let out a small breath. “Do you need to buy a ticket sir?”

“No, I don’t need a ticket,” Kevin grumbled looking down at his watch seeing that the time was flying like nothing and he had to do something to get to her. “I just really need to find out where that flight is.”

“Well, the only way you can get on the plane is if you have a ticket,” she informed him seeing the way he looked away from her for a moment before slipping his hand inside of his back pocket for his wallet telling her he was going to buy one. “The only one we have left is first class though and it’s expensive.”

“I don’t care if it’s expensive,” Kevin blurted out throwing money onto the counter before quickly grabbing the ticket hearing her call out to him holding up his change as he shook his head quickly. “Keep the change or something.”

Dashing forward he came to a stop looking for something to show him which way to go and he quickly started off toward the right knowing he was far from the spot, but if he got there quick enough he might be able to catch her. Trying to avoid people he moved in and out trying to not to have a collide with someone when a cane caught his foot from an older man sitting on one of the benches.

“Shit,” Kevin cussed spilling out on the floor and sliding forward feeling his knee tighten up against the impact of the hard ground as everyone surrounded him to make sure he was okay as he stood up quickly pushing through the people. “I’m fine, don’t worry.”

Coming to a stop he saw the people before him and saw them waiting at the metal detector before getting to the next place he had to be at. Reaching inside his pocket he pulled out his wallet and his keys knowing that he would have to get out of there quickly. Moving up to the metal detector he set his things down before moving under it ready to leave before hearing it go off.

“You have to be kidding me,” Kevin groaned looking down to see what else he could have on him that was making it go off. Looking down to his watch he took it off quickly and set it down before walking back through hearing it go off again. “You have to be kidding me.”

“Sir, I’m sorry,” the woman standing next to the guard apologized as he looked over his body patting over his cloths as she pointed toward his belt. “It could be that.”

“Right,” Kevin nodded unbuckling his belt and pulling it out of the loops before setting that down too and walking back to walk through again hearing it go off once more. “Damn it.”

“It could be the work boots,” she pointed out seeing him nod slowly before quickly kicking off his boots and picking them up to set those down too. Walking through once more it went off again and she could see the upset expression behind his eyes. “I’m sorry sir.”

“Looking,” Kevin pulled off his shirt so that he was only in his tank top and he started to unzip his pants thanking god that he never took his shorts off earlier and just kept them on. Setting his clothes down he walked through hearing it go off again as he threw his hands up in the air. Pulling out his pockets he turned toward them showing them he had nothing. “I have absolutely nothing on me.”

“Well,” she looked him over seeing the look behind his eyes as her glance went to the chain that draped around his neck and the charm and ring that hung at the bottom. “Maybe it’s that.”

Quickly unhooking it he dropped it with the things on the table before walking through hearing no noise come from the machine and knowing that he already wasted enough time took off running again wanting to keep up and make sure he got on the plane. It didn’t matter what happened to his things, he just had to get to her. Looking toward the number he finally reached it going to move forward only to feel someone place their hand in the center of his chest.

“No more people buddy, I’m sorry,” one of the men dressed in a red jacket held Kevin back, looking him over slowly seeing that he was just in his socks and barely dressed. “Sorry, sir.”

“Come on,” Kevin turned away from him throwing his hands up in the air angrily before looking down at the man before him. “Listen, I really need to get on this plane. The woman I love is going to fly away forever if I do get on that plane. I have a ticket,” Kevin patted himself down realizing that he left his ticket in his pants before letting out a long breath. “Great.”

“Sir,” the man went to say something else before seeing the pain behind Kevin’s eyes and he nodded slowly stepping to the side. “If you hurry up you can get to the doors, just I didn’t let you past.”

“Thank you so much,” Kevin casually touched the guys shoulder before taking off down the hallway and a noise erupted through the air making him stop and turn to the window seeing the plane taking off and flying off into the air as he banged his hands against the window. “No. Oh god no, Ria.”

Falling to the ground he covered his head with his hands feeling his emotions overtake him as his breathing increased and he felt the burning at his eyes. Feeling a hand press in against his shoulders Kevin looked up wiping at his eyes.

“You okay?” Kevin noticed the woman that had been at the metal detector earlier with all of his stuff in her arms as he shook his head slowly. Seeing her set his stuff down he saw her take a seat next to him as he breathed in heavily biting down on his bottom lip. “What happened?”

“I just lost the only thing good in my life,” Kevin informed her grabbing his things and let out a small whimper feeling a pain build up in his chest from heart break knowing what it felt like from the many times before in his life. Standing up he held onto his things tightly trying to hold back his emotions enough knowing that he didn’t want to break down in front of someone, especially a stranger. “I’ve got to go.”

Moving back through the crowd he walked out the doors toward his car again, reaching for the ticket on top of his window before getting in. Dropping his things in the car for a moment he brought his fist into the steering wheel before feeling his chest rise and fall over and over again.

“Why did this happen?” Kevin questioned resting his head against the steering wheel before feeling his emotions overcome him again. Looking up at himself in the mirror he reached for the phone again he dialed Ria’s number again knowing that he would get her voice mail. Hearing it come up he let out a long breath before wiping at his eyes again. “I tried to change Ria, I really did.”

Dropping his phone he grabbed a hold of the steering wheel not knowing what to do now that the only person that ever accepted him for who he was walked right out of his life.


“I can’t believe how great things have been lately,” Trisha announced plopping down on her stomach on the couch in the middle of her sister’s living room. “I mean yeah okay so maybe Ria’s life is falling apart and I feel for her, but I’m sure she and Kevin can work it out.”

“I don’t know,” Mindy shrugged her shoulders before thumbing through the magazine that was sprawled out on the ground in front of her, “Kevin seemed pretty upset.”

“You should have seen my sister. She’s got a wicked temper on her,” Trisha shook her head before letting out a small laugh, “but knowing her and Kevin it probably took them five minutes to work their way to some quiet baggage area where they started ripping one another’s clothes off and going at it with one another.”

“Oh please,” Mindy couldn’t help but laugh at the thought, “They wouldn’t really do that…would they?”

“Trust me my sister might seem reserved but when it comes to Kevin I think she’s even more hot for sex than I am,” Trisha giggled rolling onto her back and letting out a long sigh, “though who could blame her with a man like Kevin? I’d probably be ready to go twenty four seven too if I had him.”

“I’m sure Chase would love to hear you saying that,” Mindy groaned reaching for a throw pillow and tossing it up over at Trisha.

“Hey, I’m just being honest,” Trisha caught the pillow before it hit her. She giggled again before wiggling her brow at Mindy, “You can’t tell me that you don’t think Kevin’s hot.”

“He’s okay,” Mindy shrugged her shoulders before looking to the magazine in front of her, “I mean yeah he’s good looking, but he’s not my type.”

“Of course not. You’d rather go for the enigmatic hero type, right?” Trisha replied seeing the color rise over Mindy’s face. “Yeah, that’s more your style. I’m sure that you’ve got your own dream guy in your mind.”

“Yeah and he doesn’t involve being my sister’s lover,” Mindy rolled her eyes at Trisha ducking to avoid the pillow Trisha had tossed back at her.

“That’s because you don’t have a sister,” Trisha couldn’t help but laugh, “and besides you can’t tell me that you’re so smitten with Hunt you don’t look at other men.”

“I look, but I don’t touch,” Mindy informed her point blank before shrugging, “and yes I’ll admit there are a couple of guys I’ve noticed, but when it gets down to it I think that Hunt’s it for me. I know it sounds crazy, but after being burned by love only a million times I think it’s safe to say that I’m ready to hold onto the happiness that I have.”

“That sounds like you’re trying to convince one of us of that,” Trisha arched a scrutinizing brow, “The question is are you trying to convince me or you?”

“Don’t do that,” Mindy warned sitting up on the floor and folding her legs underneath her, “I love Hunt. I do.”

“But he just doesn’t do it for you like say someone like oh I don’t know maybe Guy would,” Trisha wiggled her brow suggestively catching the protest building on Mindy’s lips. “Don’t even try denying it because I know you still love him.”

“Love him yes, but am I in love with him,” Mindy paused contemplating that statement herself, “no I don’t think I am. I mean yeah there was one point in my life when I really, truly believed he was the one, but that was a long time ago. Now with Hunt, well he’s just so romantic and caring and…”

“And the perfect package right?” Trisha teased mildly, “Admit it Mindy. He’s great, but there are some things that you’d like to change…”

“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Mindy admitted with a proud smile, “For the first time in a long time I’m happy and it’s with someone who loves me like I love him. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.”

“Yeah I guess I know what you mean,” Trisha pondered the thought for a minute, “I mean sure Kevin Adonis is hot, but Chase does have this little dance he does to get me all hot and bothered and…”

“You’re beyond pathetic,” Mindy groaned again shaking her head at her friend, “I mean really you have a one track mind.”

“It always leads me down the right road,” Trisha shrugged ready to say something more when Mindy’s cell phone started to ring. Immediately Trisha recognized the familiar ringer. “Well, what do you know? It’s Prince Charming.”

“Oh be quiet,” Mindy waved her hand at Trisha dismissively before answering. “Hey babe.”

“Hey you,” Hunt’s voice cheered into the phone, “I hope this isn’t a bad time.”

“Not at all,” Mindy rose to her feet shaking her head, “You saved me from giving Trisha a long lecture about her lack of values.”

“Sounds intense,” Hunt noted with a moment of hesitation, “Look I don’t mean to intrude, but I was kind of hoping I could see you tonight.”

“Really?” Mindy replied with a puzzled expression. She turned around to see Trisha blowing mock kisses into the air. “Afraid that Trisha is going to be a bad influence on me tonight?”

“Actually I was kind of hoping that we could have some time to talk,” he paused with another long silence, “alone.”

“Why is something wrong?” Mindy couldn’t help but ask worriedly, “Did something happen?”

“No, not yet,” Hunt’s voice seemed to lack the usual confidence as there was a shakiness in his tone, “but this really can’t wait.”

“I don’t understand…” Mindy started hearing the sound of someone at the front door to Ria’s apartment.

“I’ll get it,” Trisha announced springing up from the couch to open the door and find Chase in front of her.

“Hey you sexy thing,” Chase pulled Trisha into his arms in a big, bear hug, “Where’ve you been all my life?”

“Waiting for you to come on in here and ravish me baby,” Trisha leapt into his arms wrapping her legs around his waist when he caught her. Her lips plummeted in over his while her fingers tangled in his blonde hair.

“And here I thought you’d be disappointed that I crashed the party,” Chase laughed lightly as their lips parted. “I know you and Mindy were planning a slumber party, but…”

“But I think you two can have a night alone to do whatever it is you do,” Mindy interrupted walking across the room to retrieve her coat. “I know I promised I’d stay here tonight, but Hunt wants to meet up with me. He asked me to go back to my place and…”

“Right now?” Trisha questioned half listening as her fingers played over the side of Chase’s face. “That’s too bad.”

“I’m sure it is,” Mindy rolled her eyes shaking her head at her friend’s obvious desperation. “You’d better watch out Chase. She’s in a strange mood tonight.”

“I’m just fun,” Trisha stuck her tongue out at Mindy, “and if you’re smart you’ll follow in my footsteps when you see Hunt.”

“I don’t think anyone could follow in those footsteps Trisha given how out there you are,” Mindy shook her head at her friends before motioning to the door. “I’ll just let myself out.”

“See you,” Trisha waved before focusing on Chase again. As an afterthought she looked over his shoulder back at Mindy, “I’ll call you in the morning.”

“It’s a deal,” Mindy waved before leaving the apartment and giving Trisha and Chase some time alone.

“So what are you doing here baby?” Trisha couldn’t help but ask still wrapped around Chase’s torso. “I thought you were working with your dad in the morning.”

“We had to reschedule it,” Chase explained carrying her over to the couch and dropping down to take a seat, “and besides I figured you might want some company now that you’re alone. With Mindy leaving…”

“How did you know she’d be leaving?” Trisha questioned pulling back just enough to search his eyes. “Okay, what aren’t you telling me?”

“Let’s just say that Hunt and I had a talk and tonight he’s got a pretty big question that he’d like to ask Mindy. He said he’s been toying with the idea for a while, but after I convinced him to seize the moment he decided not to wait,” Chase grinned proudly, “I let him see that love isn’t worth risking time and chance. I figured that he shouldn’t wait if he had his mind set on asking…”

“Asking,” Trisha’s eyes widened in response, “you mean as in asking the question? As in the “M” word?”

Chase nodded, “Yeah and you know I have to admit I never pegged the guy for the romantic type, but he’s completely hooked. Why right now I have no doubt in my mind that he’s getting ready to issue Mindy one of the most memorable moments of her life and it’s all because I encouraged him to follow his instincts. In fact, by this time tomorrow I would guess we’ll all be celebrating their engagement.”

“I don’t believe this, well, I do, but still. It‘s not what I thought I would be doing tonight and I‘m pretty sure Mindy won‘t see this coming,” Trisha couldn’t help but smile, “but I know she’ll love it. She’s been looking for something wonderful and I know this will be the icing on the cake.”

“I hope so. They both deserve to be happy especially after all the things they did to save you so that I could find you,” Chase squeezed her in his arms their gazes meeting for a long moment.

“I’m so very thankful for that,” Trisha traced his lower lip with her index finger, “Though I have to tell you there are a few other things I’d love to discuss with you tonight--things that maybe I could show you to prove just how very thankful I am that you’re around tonight.”

“Hmm, sounds tempting, but this is your sister’s place,” Chase looked around the living room. “Maybe that’s not such a good idea considering that…”

“I like taking risks,” Trisha cut him off with a sultry kiss. Her fingers teased over the front of his shirt, “and besides Ria’s out of town for a while. I think it’s safe to say that tonight this place is all ours.”

“Well since you put it that way…” Chase smirked in response, “then again maybe we should just…”

“Be quiet and let me show you the time of your life,” Trisha encouraged him once again ready to enjoy the perks of having her boyfriend with her for the night now that Mindy was off to find her happiness with Hunt. Sure, the whole marriage proposal and happily ever after sounded nice, but right now all Trisha wanted to focus on was the sexy man right in front of her. Oh yes the night was certainly looking up!


“How is your back right now?” Heather questioned finishing pulling his shirt in over her as she looked to him seeing the way he looked out at her. Feeling the truck move a bit as he jumped down to the ground motioning her to do the same. “I guess that means it’s good.”

“I’m willing to risk any part of my body for you,” Kyle finished buttoning up his jeans before motioning her to grab his hand as he held onto it tightly pulling her into his arms when he helped her down. Caressing her cheek gently he tipped up to press a small loving kiss against her lips feeling her fingers curl in over his shoulders. “I love you too much to hurt.”

“I love you more,” she teased seeing him shake his head before smiling and softly setting her to the ground as his hand grabbed a firm hold of hers. Starting to walk she looked over at him seeing that he was still shirtless because she was in his shirt. “Don’t you think people are going to be a little curious as to why you are shirtless?”

“I don’t think people will be really looking out here this late,” Kyle replied before shrugging his shoulders and looking down at her smiling at the thought of having her holding his hand. “Don’t you think people would find it weird that you are wearing such a big shirt?”

“Touché,” she nodded slowly holding onto his hand tightly before seeing him offer up a small smile and she took a look around remembering all of the times they had spent together here in their earlier years together. “So tell me, why did you bring me here instead of some other place where we could watch the stars?”

“Because I have something I want to show you,” Kyle nodded over toward a tree seeing her green eyes staring out at it as if she was confused. Letting out a small laugh he led her over toward the tree and walked in behind her wrapping his arms around her waist. “Read this and then tell me if you remember.”

“KH loves HM forever,” she read remembering how long that actually took him when they sat there one day. It was weird seeing her old initials since she had changed her name in the past and she felt his lips press in against the side of her neck. “I love you Kyle.”

“I love you too,” he muttered feeling her turn around and he wrapped his arms around her tightly, feeling her head rest against his chest as he pressed a small kiss against her forehead. “I’ve always loved you Heather, the world just gave us some time apart, but I’ve always been in love with you.”

“Me too Kyle,” she smiled looking up at him and reaching up to touch the side of his rough cheek seeing the way he stared out at her with his hazel eyes. The dim light from the stars and the moon reflected from his eyes as she felt his thumb run in over her bottom lip and she pressed a kiss against the pad of his finger. “I’ll always love you.”

“That’s a good thing,” he muttered dipping down to kiss her again and again, glad that for once this wasn’t just a dream and that everything he was having with her was real for once. “I have something else I want to show you.”

“Something else,” she muttered seeing him pull away from her and she frowned placing her hand over the center of his chest. Her bottom lip curled into a pout as her fingertips teased over his heated skin slowly. “I thought we could go back to the truck and finish what we started.”

“We’ll finish,” he promised leaning down and teasing her with the thought of kissing her before his hand slipped into her hair, feeling her leaning into his touch. “First we really have to see this through. Sarah has seen it before, but okay, if you don’t want to see it.”

“Of course I want to see it,” Heather blurted out seeing him go to leave as she grabbed a firm hold of his wrist not wanting to miss out on something that Sarah saw over her. “What is it that she saw and I didn’t?”

“Well, if you would follow me over here,” Kyle grabbed a firm hold of her hand motioning her to quickly keep up with him and he pulled his keys out of his jeans pocket. Motioning her toward a dark area he opened one of the doors as she let out a small gasp. “What? You think I’m breaking in or something?”

“Well,” she began walking into the room looking around her and slightly remembering something that looked like this when they were younger. “Have I been here before or something because I am having some serious flashbacks or at least I‘m trying.”

“Of course you're trying because this was the place you loved the most when we were younger, it’s the clubhouse Heather. I remembered how much you loved it and I bought it and cleaned it up a little bit,” Kyle pointed out making her look around the room as she saw all the arcade games before her and the pool table. “It’s the place where I always and I mean always beat you at pinball.”

“You liar,” she gasped seeing him smile and shrug his shoulders as she walked over toward the pinball machine patting the top of it lightly. “Let’s put it to the test we’ll see who the real champion is right now.”

“Right now?” Kyle questioned arching his eyebrow up at her before seeing her nod and he moved forward folding his arms out in front of his chest. “Since you put the whole champion word in. I’m obsessed with the golden name of the championship, so okay, but you go first.”

“It’s a deal,” she smirked hitting the button for it to start and started to play seeing Kyle step in next to the machine and she gave him a small glance. “Don’t you dare try and screw me up.”

“I would never want to do that honey,” Kyle watched her realizing that she really was good, maybe he didn’t remember how good she actually was, but she was honestly going to kick his butt if he didn’t try. “You got better at this.”

“I had a lot of free time on my hands,” she answered truthfully trying to pay attention to the game until her last ball was done and she let out a small groan. Looking at her score she jumped up and down pointing to Kyle. “Now try and beat that.”

“I won’t try honey, I will,” Kyle offered up a sheepish grin before walking over and putting the game to a start feeling the warmth of her body behind him and he gulped down slightly. “The secret is that I’ve been practicing too.”

“You have?” she pressed her palms in over his back gently sliding them along the sides of his torso before sliding them in over his hard abdomen. Reaching for the buckle in his jeans she fingered over his zipper pulling it down slowly. “I’m sure you’ve been practicing a lot.”

“Heather, you’re cheating sweetheart,” Kyle’s breathing intensified as her hand dipped inside his pants, her hand cupping his body as he let out a small groan. Feeling her fingers caressing him over and over again he pressed his palms against the top of the pinball machine. Grabbing a hold of her hand he pulled it out of his pants and quickly turned grabbing a firm hold of her seeing the way her eyes stared up at him with pure lust. “You won, I quit.”

“I never knew you to be a quitter Kyle Houston,” she muttered feeling his hands tug down her pants as they pooled around her ankles and she stepped out of them. Feeling him grab a firm hold of her and lift her up, she wrapped her legs around his waist tightly as he set her down against the top of the pinball machine. His fingers tugged at the shirt she was wearing when she lifted her arms up for him feeling him moving in closer to her after dropping it. Moving her hands in over his jeans she pushed them down his muscular form before wrapping her arms around his neck tightly. “It’s quite a shock.”

“Well I have plenty of shocks for you sweetheart,” Kyle promised pressing his right hand against the top of the pinball machine and his other arm wrapped tightly around her waist. Pressing his lips up against hers heatedly, he pulled her body closer to the edge before pulling back again. “Because I’m sure I can pull off a lot of shocks here baby and they will all be just for you.”


“How can you treat someone you don’t even know like that?” Deana questioned pushing at her brother’s chest again before shaking her head slowly. “You are such a low life loser, I swear. You should just go back home, I don’t want you here anyway.”

“Well too late little woman,” Jason spat out throwing his cowboy hat to the couch before resting his hands on his hips. “I’ll tell you now that the place down south is empty. All my things are here sweetheart, I’m here to stay.”

“Great,” she grabbed a hold of his hat crushing it in her hand before throwing it to the ground and stomping on it over and over again. Hearing him gasp out she looked up into his blue eyes and she shrugged her shoulders. “It looks stupid on you anyways.”

“Yeah well if I would have walked in on you ten minutes later I’m sure I would have seen something all over you too,” Jason reached down wrapping his fingers around Deana’s ankle lifting it up and grabbing a hold of his hat. “And like my hat it would have been white, but it would have made me barf, but I’m sure you would have savored the moment.”

“You little prick,” Deana went to hit her brother again before seeing him duck and he let out a small laugh holding his finger up in the air to tease her about missing. Bringing her fist into his jaw unexpectedly she heard a small hiss escape his lips as he tripped over his feet and fell onto his stomach. “Give me your damn hat, I’m going to tear it to shreds.”

“Don’t you dare,” Jason warned feeling her get on top of his back as they both reached for his hat and not wanting her to get a hold of it, he flipped her over onto her back and grabbed a firm hold of her wrists. “Look who is the higher position now. I always beat you at this when we were younger.”

“Yeah, well Jason,” she took in a deep breath looking down to see he was on his knees as she brought her knee up into his groin seeing his eyes cross before he fell to the side of her, his hand clasping over the front of his jeans. “That didn’t hurt as much when we were kids.”

“Why you little jezebel,” Jason’s thick accent carried out over the air as she reached for his hat going to get up only to feel a heavy weight roll onto top of him. She started to roll over him feeling him do the same as they both ran into the stand she had in the corner of the room and a few things fell out on top of the two. Pushing a few books away from his body Jason looked over at his sister with his blue eyes before seeing her do the same. A moment went before the both of them both burst out laughing and Jason stood up slowly, reaching for his sister’s hand. “That was intense. That would be the point when we were little that mom would come in and say…,”

“I thought I told you two,” Deana muttered seeing his lips do the same and she let out a small laugh remembering what their mother sounded like when they were little. “You don’t wrestle in the house because you can break things.”

“And it looks wrong with a boy and a girl fighting,” Jason replied in a mocking tone before grabbing a hold of his hat and walking over toward the couch to take a seat. “Though I never really understood you know. You could always kick my ass as a kid.”

“I know,” she half laughed walking over toward the couch seeing him set his hat down on the table before nudging him in the side gently. “You know that hat looks ridiculous on you right?”

“I really love it, but you know what? That thing in your mouth looked scary,” Jason felt her hit him in the shoulder and he let out a small hiss frowning over at her before looking down at his hat. “I can’t let this one go. Remember Don got it for me? It was my first one ever, I’m too attached to it to let it go. Kind of like your mouth was too attached to…,”

“Jason, you’re really pissing me off,” Deana stated with a firm frown as he rolled his eyes and stood up from the couch brushing off his jeans looking down toward his hat. “I swear one more time and I will kick you out of this apartment.”

“You know what, I think someone is about to have that girly month problem,” Jason pointed out with an accent his eyes widening as he shook his head slowly. Walking over toward the door he grabbed a hold of it. “I’m going to get some ice-cream right now to relax because I’m not going to touch on this subject. Don’t touch my hat or I’ll be really ticked.”

“I won’t touch your stupid hat,” she replied seeing Jason walk out the door and leave her alone as she looked around the room letting out a long breath. “Great, now I’m all alone.”


“Come on in,” Cheryl suggested in a muted tone opening up the back door to her home for her oldest son, “I didn’t mean to bother you, but…”

“Where’s Russ?” Grady questioned instinctively worried about his brother after his mother’s phone call.

“He’s in his old room,” Cheryl explained with a heavy sigh worry evident behind her eyes, “and while I know he was just talking with your father, I’m sure that you’re someone who might be able to help him better through this.”

“I’ll do my best mom,” Grady promised giving her a brief hug before moving down the hallway towards the room he knew to find Russ in.

Standing outside of the door Grady tapped on it for a moment to alert Russ to his presence before he turned the knob and pushed the door open. Inside Grady found his brother seated on the bed in the far corner of the room thumbing through a photo album much like he’d done in the past when they were younger. Carefully closing the door behind him, Grady moved in closer to Russ hoping to help him shed some light on a solution to his problems.

“Hey Russ,” Grady took a seat on the edge of the bed noticing that his brother hadn’t even bothered to look up from the album he’d been fixated on.

“She threw me out Grady,” Russ explained in a hollow tone, “and strangely enough I don’t blame her. I mean if you think about it, she’s right. I’m not the man I was before this all happened.”

“Hey, Russ I’m sure whatever you two have going on between you right now, Avery will cool down and,” Grady stopped speaking when Russ looked up to reveal his confused, troubled eyes.

“Grady ever since I came back my life hasn’t been mine,” Russ offered up in a low, hollow tone, “My life was taken from me and I can’t get it back. My wife isn’t my wife and my family…well I lost my father and gained a monster…”

“Dad is still your father,” Grady frowned not liking the direction of his brother’s thoughts, “He’s always been our father.”

“Yes, but unlike you Grady I’m an Ashford,” Russ shuddered at the admission turning his eyes towards the window that looked out over the yard, “I’m one of those people we have damned time and time again. I am a part of that family and now, well I’ve sunk to their level. I’ve turned into a liar and a jerk and…”

“Stop,” Grady watched his brother rise up from the bed.

“It’s the truth,” Russ paced around the room, tension sweeping in over him. He ran his fingers through his hair before turning to Grady again, “Do you know that I not only slept with another woman, but I withheld that information from Avery in a weak attempt to convince myself that it was what was best for her?”

“Wait a second,” Grady’s eyes widened in surprise, “Are you telling me Avery threw you out because you…”

“Slept with someone else,” Russ threw his hands in the air, “and the more I say it, the worse it sounds. I met her on the island and she looked like Avery and…”

“Wait a second,” Grady waved his hand in the air again, a newfound crease settling in over his brow. “Avery’s pissed because you slept with someone else? I don’t believe this considering that she married Brant and she was with…”

“With what?” Russ questioned seeing Grady’s jaw flex with tension.

“Someone else when you were gone,” Grady covered realizing that the last thing Russ needed to hear at a time like this was that Grady had slept with Avery as well. With an uneasiness settling in over him Grady stood up as well and started to walk around the room, “I mean she married your worst enemy. You’d think that she would accept that you were with someone when you had amnesia--I’m assuming that’s when it happened.”

“Of course that’s when it happened, but damn it I should have known,” Russ shook his head furiously, “I mean I keep giving myself excuses for not telling Avery, but when it gets down to it I owed her the truth. She was up front with me about Brant and she never tried to lie about what happened when I was gone. I knew that she’d been to hell and back with Bruce and…”

“And you were trying to pull things together for you both given that Bruce practically killed the two of you--not to mention Erin,” Grady pointed out with a frown, “Russ while you were gone all Avery could think of was you. She wanted you back more than anything…”

“And here I am, but I’m not the man she fell in love with. I’m no where near being the guy that was in those photographs with her. I’ve changed and it’s not for the better,” Russ explained with a painful expression, “I’ve turned into the one thing I hated the most and now, well now she doesn’t want me around anymore.”

“I hate to sound like a jerk here, but quite honestly when it gets down to it, it doesn’t matter what Avery wants right now,” Grady couldn’t help but roll his eyes at Avery’s blatant dismissal of Russ. “In case she’s not paying attention the fact to the matter is that you two have a daughter that needs the both of you very much so she’s going to have to learn to grow up and stop acting like a spoiled brat. She’s no saint and honestly is the last person to judge you Russ.”

“Grady, she’s the woman I love. She’s my best friend and I’ve always respected her and treated her like an equal, but when I didn’t tell her…” Russ started in frustration thinking about what he’d suppressed.

“You were making a smart move considering that she had Brant pulling her by the strings,” Grady interrupted once again thinking about his brother’s situation. “You did what you had to do because you and I both know that Brant would’ve manipulated what happened in his favor. He would’ve tried his hardest to use it against you so that you and Avery couldn’t be happy together. It would have been a cheap shot, but we both know he wasn’t above using it.”

“I still should have told her,” Russ tried to argue with his brother wanting to condemn himself for not doing the right thing.

“No Russ what you should do is stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself. You should get your things and go back to your home and tell Avery like it is,” Grady encouraged him with a newfound determination in his tone, “You tell her flat out that you both need to behave like adults and do what’s right for Erin. Yeah, so you made a mistake, but she makes them too and what happened in the past doesn’t change how you feel now. You love her and she loves you and no matter what issues you have in front of you on the table nothing is going to change that. We all know it and deep down so does she.”

“Grady it isn’t that simple,” Russ sighed heavily plopping down on the bed once again.

“Yes it is. You love her and she loves you and you both have a daughter that needs you two together,” Grady interjected disappointed by his brother’s stubbornness. “You know maybe you have changed. Maybe you’re right about your not being the man you were before because the Russ I knew wouldn’t sit back and accept defeat. He wouldn’t let anyone keep him from following his heart and his dreams. He would stand up and fight for what he believed in. He would keep going after what was in his heart, but if you’re willing to walk away without a fight, then you’re right. You’re not the same at all.”

“Grady it’s complicated,” Russ started with a groan.

“Yeah and it always is Russ. That’s never going to change,” Grady offered up with a determined tone, “but take it from someone who has made a life of walking away from good things and inviting misery in. Don’t lose what you have with Avery because it’s something that you both need more than anything right now. You both need each other and it’s about time that you stopped dwelling on the trivial things and start taking care of what’s important and that’s each other!”


“Matt?” Don quickly pushed open the front door to his house looking around as Brant followed him not far behind. Hearing Brant close the door quickly Don ran down the hallway toward his son’s room pushing the door open. “He’s not in here.”

“Not in the bathroom,” Brant informed him looking back toward Don only to see a shadow walking toward him. “Wait a second, step back a minute.”

“I was wondering when you were going to get here,” Matt walked over toward Brant and Don with a phone in his hand when the shadow went from making Matt look huge to making him look like his normal size. “We have quite a deal on our hands.”

“What’s wrong buddy?” Don kneeled down seeing Brant do the same as Don pressed his fingers in against his son’s face seeing the way Matt smiled. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine guys,” Matt let out a small laugh hearing a small groan come from the other side of the room and Brant and Don looked at each other for a moment before looking back at Matt. “Now there is our problem.”

“It sounds like a dying bird,” Brant pointed out with a small laugh hearing another squeal coming from the kitchen as Matt covered his eyes and shook his head slowly letting out a small laugh. “Matt, did you let a bird in the house or something?”

“Or a duck,” Don listened carefully only to hear Matt let out another small laugh, feeling Matt place the phone in his hand and Don rubbed softly at his son’s hair. Wrapping his arms around his son he let out a small sigh. “I’m so glad you’re okay, you scared your old man.”

“We both were worried,” Brant pointed out once Don let go of Matt he grabbed a hold of Matt standing up and holding Matt in his arms tightly as Don stood up with him. “You’re godfather was scared here.”

“What is that noise?” Don questioned again hearing another squeal as he saw Matt let out another small chuckle and Don looked back behind him. “On second thought, where is your uncle Nate?”

“That would be the problem,” Matt pointed over toward the kitchen as Brant and Don gave each other a small glance and walked over toward the kitchen. Walking into the room they spotted Nate over by the sink, his feet moving side to side over and over again as he let out another hiss. “Nate got his hand stuck in the garbage disposal.”

“Why in the world would you do that?” Don questioned quickly walking over toward the sink to look at the face Nate made when he walked over toward him. Grabbing a hold of Nate’s arm Don tried pulling hearing Nate let out a loud hiss. “Why did you put your hand in here? What made you do that?”

“Um,” Matt raised his hand as Don looked over at him and Brant’s brow arched up as they both looked to Matt for the answer after Brant set him down. “I might have possibly told Nate that you stuck a hundred dollars down the sink and I didn’t think he would believe me, but he did.”

“And now it hurts,” Nate informed them hearing Brant and Don start laughing as Nate shot Don an angered glance and frowned. “Stop laughing at me, I could break my wrist you know.”

“I have a way you won’t break your wrist,” Don walked around Nate and over to the other side of the sink reaching for a switch. “It won’t break your wrist, but it might hurt a little. It will get your hand out though.”

“Oh man no,” Nate gasped over and over again whimpering seeing the way that Don looked back at him with his blues. “I will never ever drink your milk or eat your cookies again if you help me out of this. Please.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Brant chuckled reaching for the big bottle of dish soap from the side of sink and motioning Nate to turn toward Don as he poured the soap over the sides of Nate’s hand and motioned Nate to rub it in. “Now turn on the water and tug.”

“Oh god,” Nate pulled his hand out and looked down at his hand before wrapping his arms around Brant hearing him let out a small laugh as Nate shook his head over and over again. “I owe you my life man, you’re the best.”

“You better go clean up Nate,” Don pointed out seeing that Nate had gotten quite a few things over his clothes from freaking out while his hand was in there. “We’ll be here while you get cleaned up. And Nate, be careful not to get your foot stuck in the heater or something. Or your head stuck in the window.”

“Bye Nate,” Brant let out a long laugh seeing Nate nod and walk out of the kitchen as Brant bent down to one knee and reached out for a hand shake from Matt. “Very well done little man, I think that’s one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.”

“Are you kidding me?” Don snapped seeing Matt look up at him with his blue eyes before Don’s smile expanded and he bent down setting his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Next time tell him it’s a thousand. It’ll work every time and he‘ll try digging further.”


Avery walked around the living room thinking about how foreign this place felt without Russ beside her. They had come together in this home to start over again--to begin anew, but after Cameron’s confession it seemed that wasn’t going to be a part of the plan. Closing her eyes she thought back to learning that Russ had almost married another woman--a woman who looked so very much like her. None of it seemed to make any sense.

What was worse is that when she’d asked Russ to leave she hadn’t meant it. She’d never thought he’d leave much less walk out when she’d been screaming at him. Okay, so maybe she had asked him to leave her, but deep down she hadn’t thought he’d listen. They had their share of problems and they were both stubborn, yet…

“Oh Russ,” Avery sighed sinking down onto the couch to think about what she’d done. Was what had happened on the island when he’d lost himself really worth losing the best thing that she’d ever had in her life? Was it worth having him back again to push him away and lose everything she’d wanted for so very long? Furthermore, was what she’d done with Brant any less hurtful to him than him being with someone else?

“Russ loves me,” Avery closed her eyes thinking about the way it felt to be in his arms again, to have him holding her and loving her. She could feel shivers rush over her body at the memory of his touch burning over her.

Yes, he’d lied, but that wasn’t enough to keep them apart. She’d had her own share of lies and she’d hurt him far worse than he’d ever hurt her. She walked out on their wedding years ago. She was the one who had hooked up with Bruce Mathis and almost cost them their daughter’s life. She was the one that had denied them happiness again and again and if she pushed him away now she’d be doing the very same thing, but it would be so much worse.

“I can’t lose him,” Avery decided her gaze fixed on the phone in front of her as she made the decision to do what she had to in order to get her and Russ in contact with one another. She had to talk to him again and try to behave like an adult for the first time in a long…

Hearing the sound of someone at the front door, Avery immediately perked up. She thought she heard Russ outside rustling with his keys and her heart started to leap in her chest. Springing up off of the couch she rushed to open the door, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him as if she’d never stop. She tangled her fingers through his hair, her lips teasing him mercilessly in the hopes that he would see just how much she wanted to work things out between them, but when she felt him unresponsive, worry swept over her. She started to move back when she found herself met by a pair of very confused dark eyes.

“Kevin?” she gasped realizing that when she’d attempted to pull Russ into the house with her, she’d only managed to jump their friend again. Suddenly a blush fell over her face, “Kevin I’m sorry I…”

“It’s…,” Kevin cleared his throat uneasily, bringing his thumb up over his bottom lip and dragging the pad over it instinctively, “alright.”

“I thought you were Russ and…” she stopped feeing her heart hammering in her chest, “What are you…what are you doing here?”

“I’m here because,” Kevin began wondering the same thing himself as his heart sank, “because Ria left me and I don’t have anywhere else to go. She’s gone and I…I just don’t know what I’m going to do without her…”

“Oh Kevin,” Avery mouthed reaching out to embrace him as he fell to pieces in her arms lost in the realization that love had walked out on him all over again.


Mindy sat in the middle of the empty living room thinking about Hunt’s cryptic phone call. While he hadn’t revealed much about what had been on his mind, she could tell that he had a nervousness in his tone. He seemed to be on edge about something and that had her a bit concerned after their perfect night with Chase and Trisha. Pacing around the room she found herself half tempted to call him and see what was going on, but instead she turned on her heel and moved in the opposite direction.

“He’ll be here soon,” she reminded herself walking over to the stereo and turned it on just in time to discover one of her favorite songs playing on it. Smiling, she turned up the music and began to dance around the room in the hopes of keeping worries and questions from lingering in her mind. Dropping down to the couch again she closed her eyes and thought back to a time she and Hunt spent with one another.

“So tell me,” Mindy could hear her own voice echo in the back of her mind, “Ever spend a night in a tent before?”

“Honestly,” Hunt laughed looking to the stars above, “no, at least not since I’ve been over the age of five. Camping wasn’t exactly at the top of the list for my family--I mean with the Lockharts.”

“No?” Mindy frowned tipping her head to the side to look at him, “Why not?”

“They weren’t exactly woodsy people,” Hunt looked at the crackling fire in front of them, “but I have to say that I like exploring this new side with you.”

“Believe it or not I’m not as campy as I look,” Mindy chuckled thinking about what she’d just said. “I mean yeah sure my mom took me camping when I was younger, but once she started working towards becoming a judge, well she lost all interest. I used to tag along with my neighbors and hope that they would take me with them each summer. They did, but mostly I think they did it out of pity. As soon as I was old enough I decided to start camping on my own and made a point to do it.”

“I can see why,” Hunt looked to the night sky above and sighed, “It’s beautiful out here.”

“Yeah it is,” Mindy felt a shiver press in over her. She kept her gaze locked on the stars above until she felt Hunt’s arm wrap around her shoulders.

“Although there’s something out here even more beautiful than the night,” Hunt whispered warmly in her ear. She tilted her head to the side finding his lips just a breath away from hers.

“It wouldn’t happen to be the tent we’re going to sleep in would it,” she laughed lightly nodding towards the beat up, tattered tent that she’d found in her garage.

“It has character,” Hunt laughed lightly knowing full well that the tent would be lucky to stay up all night at this rate.

“Character huh,” she teased in response letting her hair fall back behind her shoulders.

“That’s right,” he nodded sliding his finger along her jaw line before reaching out to trace her lower lip gingerly, “and I have to say that there is something about character that really gets me right here.”

“Where?” she arched a lazy brow, her gaze dropping down to his lips.

“Right…here,” he spoke up in a slow, warm tone his lips colliding with hers in a soft, sultry movement as the night transformed into something warm and romantic despite the chill in the air.

Now opening her eyes again, Mindy couldn’t help but smile as she remembered the night she and Hunt had spent in one another’s arms, holding onto one another in the tiny tent. It had been incredibly romantic and something special even if it hadn’t been what she’d anticipated when they agreed to go camping. That was a surprise and it was a beautiful one. Now as she waited for Hunt she realized that maybe just maybe the surprise he had in front of her for tonight would be just as incredible as that one was. With that thought in her mind, she looked to the clock hoping that he would arrive soon.


Jason put his car into park taking a look around the nearly empty lot surrounding him as he started thinking about what he’d witnessed when he’d decided to surprise his sister with an impromptu visit. Sure, Deana thought she knew what she was getting into and her stubborn attitude seemed to reflect her misguided belief that she was right in doing what she was doing, but Jason knew differently. His sister was bull headed and reckless and it was bound to get her in over her head.

Stepping out of his car and making his way to the building in front of him, Jason couldn’t help but notice the change of pace in Coral Valley than where he and Deana had come from. They’d lived in a place that the only thing open this time of night was the local pub, where pretty much most of the town hung out just to blow off some steam. Sure it was lame by most standards, but it felt like home and not so quiet and impersonal as things felt thus far in Coral Valley.

Stepping into the store, he surveyed it realizing that it was a lot larger than he’d anticipated. He took a step forward glancing over at the twenty something year old man behind the counter who appeared to be reading some kind of gentleman’s magazine with a bikini clad blonde on the cover. Frowning Jason shook his head and moved over to inspect just what this store had to offer since it was clear the clerk had no interest in anything than the breasts laid out in front of him in print.

“Yo, can you tell me where you keep the ice-cream?” Jason couldn’t help but question seeing the lines of freezer rows in front of him. Rather than darting down each one of the aisles he decided to bother the absorbed man in front of him.

“To the left,” the man waved his hand with a bored movement keeping his eyes glued to the page he’d been focused on.

“Gee thanks,” Jason rolled his eyes noting that all the frozen foods were to the left and with a groan he walked over to the freezer area determined to find the ice-cream he’d had in mind. Spotting a sign that indicated he was in the right direction, Jason couldn’t help but smile.

“Finally something is going right,” he mused to himself starting to whistle a tune as he thought of what he was going to need to do in order to get Deana to start using her head where men were concerned. He opened up the door to the freezer reaching in to pull out the container of peanut butter chocolate chip ice-cream knowing that his old favorite would be the thing that would get him through his sister’s stupidity, but just as he grabbed the last container, he felt someone reach for it.

“Hey, I was going for that,” the man beside him frowned as Jason looked to the ice-cream container in his hand.

“You know what they say,” Jason shrugged his shoulders to look at the blonde man before him, “He who hesitates is left out in the cold, or in this case without the container of cold ice-cream.”

“Look man I know this is going to sound really stupid, but I need that ice-cream,” the man in front of him explained reaching into his pocket and pulling out a wallet. “I’ll give you twenty dollars for it.”

“Twenty bucks?” Jason repeated with a questioning look, “Are you serious?”

“I need that ice-cream,” the man explained desperately his eyes growing wider as he reached into his wallet again, “How about twenty five dollars?”

“Whoa, hold up,” Jason held his hands in the air blinking his blue eyes at the man in front of him incredulously. “Are you trying to tell me that you’ll give me twenty five dollars if I hand over this half pint of ice-cream to you?”

“That’s right,” the man held his money out in the air waving it in a tempting motion, “so what do you say?”

“Are you some kind of addict or something,” Jason questioned with a worried expression on his face. Sure in the big cities he’d heard of drug addicts, hell even on Oprah he’d seen something once about sex addicts, but ice-cream addicts…well that had to be a first.

“Look man,” the guy explained with a small sigh, “I’m not some kind of wacko or anything if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Quite honestly where I come from people who are sane don’t want to pay five times over for an ice-cream they could get somewhere else for a lot less,” Jason kept the container snugly against his chest, “besides this is my favorite and after the day I have had even the money isn’t worth giving it up.”

“Look, I’m sorry if this sounds irrational, but I have this thing planned tonight and I need that ice-cream,” the man pleaded before bringing his fingers through his blonde hair. He took a step back and another calming breath before speaking up, “You see tonight’s the night I’m going to propose to my girlfriend. She and I have something really special and I need that ice-cream.”

“What are you going to do? Bury the ring in the ice-cream and hope she doesn’t choke on it?” Jason tipped his head to the side giving him a strange look, “Man that is whacked if that’s what you think you’re going to do. It’s not safe and…”

“It’s her favorite ice-cream,” the man explained with a heavy sigh, “I bought her some pink and white roses, which are her favorite flowers, I brought a CD with her favorite songs on it and a few other of her favorites. The ice-cream is her absolute favorite and I wanted to bring that too so that everything would be perfect.”

“It sounds like a lot of thought went into it I suppose,” Jason noted watching the man reach into his pocket again.

“It did,” he held out a small box opening it up to show him the diamond ring inside, “I even got the perfect ring.”

“Whoa,” Jason raised his hands in the air taking the ice-cream up with it, “You know you probably shouldn’t be flashing that around in this place. This town doesn’t exactly seem to be up on civility if you catch my drift.”

“I know that,” he replied with a sigh, “but I’m taking a chance that maybe just maybe you’re not like most people. I’m hoping that I can talk you into selling me that ice-cream so that I can show Mindy a night she’ll never forget.”

“Mindy huh?” Jason pondered the thought for a moment before scratching his chin, “Well if this Mindy is as special as you say she is, then I suppose I would be willing to give this up and that says a lot considering the day I’ve been having.”

“I’ll owe you huge,” the man nodded before holding out his hand, “The name is Hunt.”

“Well Hunt, I sure hope that your dream girl says yes,” Jason finally handed over the container to him, “because you make a good case for your cause. It would be a shame to let the ice-cream go to waste if she said no.”

“I’m pretty sure she won’t,” Hunt smiled over at him before offering the money once again.

“Nah, I don’t need it,” Jason shook his head dismissively, “After all I’m a believer in true love.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it,” Hunt nodded before turning down the aisle and making his way towards the front of the store again.

“Glad to know someone’s happy tonight,” Jason laughed lightly under his breath before his thoughts turned back to his sister, “though knowing what I’ve seen so far in this town, he could have an eighty year old girlfriend at this point.”

Laughing to himself Jason reached for the freezer door ready to find himself a substitute for what he’d been really been craving with the peanut butter chocolate chip ice-cream. Sure there were plenty of other choices, but nothing felt quite right until…

A piercing sound shot through the store and as Jason looked to the glass in front of him, he realized that there was a bullet that was lodged in the center of the splintered glass. Another sound shot out through the store and Jason ducked down to his knees listening again as he tried to make sense of what was happening around him. He looked up to see the tall row of toilet paper blocking him from any obvious danger, yet when he heard a gruff, commanding voice from the front of the store, worry poured over him.

“Give me all your money sucker,” the man at the front of the store shouted in a shrill voice followed by a slamming sound that Jason took to be the shooter hitting the cash register.

Jason wasn’t sure how many people were in the store or how many had guns, but panic swept over him and he reached for his cell phone. Immediately he dialed 911 and heard the operator on the other end of the line.

“I’m in a store and someone is shooting,” Jason tried to crane his neck around the side of the row. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I think it’s safe to say it’s a robbery.”

“Okay sir you need to calm down and stay put,” the operator explained as Jason heard another shot fired out through store.

“Lady, would you want to stay put when someone is firing at your ass?” Jason couldn’t help but ask when he heard the sound of someone crying out in what sounded like agony. Shuffling on his knees Jason moved forward to peer around the aisle and he noticed the container of ice-cream that he’d given to Hunt splashed out across the floor. No more than ten feet in front of that lay a now bleeding Hunt while the man with the gun aimed it at the clerk.

“I said give me your money,” the man shouted again slamming the gun into the clerk’s chest. “Now!”

“Damn someone’s been shot,” Jason gasped realizing that the clerk was about to get it too when his gaze turned to Hunt again. Hunt was laying face forward, a short, hissing sound coming from his lips or was it his chest as blood pooled over the floor. “Shit!”

Without a second thought Jason sprinted forward watching the gunman bury two bullets into the clerk’s chest before he reached for the cash register. Without a second thought Jason leapt on top of the man, hitting him on the sides of the head with the hot container of nacho cheese he’d pulled with him off of the counter next to the register. The large man fell to the floor with a thud, a groan spilling over his lips while bullets splashed through the air from his gun. Jason shifted out of the way before tackling the guy.

Jason heard another sound and when the bullet sprung out from the gun, he realized that there was something warm burning beneath him. Looking down he saw the gunman’s eyes wide with a shocked expression, yet he made no movement. Jason winced and pulled off of the man only to discover that the gunman had shot himself in the chest. Fearing that someone was outside, Jason looked out to find the man’s car empty knowing that if the man wasn’t alone his companion must’ve split. Suddenly Jason’s thoughts turned to the other two in the store.

“Damn it,” Jason cursed under his breath getting up to find that the clerk had lost half of his face in the gunman’s random shooting. It was clear he hadn’t made it out of that battle alive. Next Jason turned his attention to Hunt on the ground. Rushing forward Jason reached out to him hearing a sound still coming from Hunt and alerting Jason that Hunt was still breathing. Jason knelt down and reached out to him.

“Help is on the way,” Jason tried to explain as he watched the color drain from Hunt’s face. “Just hold on man. Please just hold on! Help is on the way!”


...to be continued...