Richard smiled as the waiter filled their wine glasses before leaving the table. He leaned forward, raised his glass and smiled, “Here’s to aging gracefully.”
“You are crazy, and I should know better than to go anywhere with you,” Judy said as she shook her head, “I shouldn’t be drinking. I have to get back to work after this.”
“Ken won’t care. Besides, he might think it’s cute if you’re a little tipsy,” He said as he winked at her.
“Rick,” She said his name in a sigh as she smiled at him, “I can’t believe we’re here like this.”
“Why not? Isn’t it okay for two old friends to enjoy lunch together?”
“We’re a lot more than old friends, and you know it,” She said before sipping her wine.
“True, but still, I’d like to believe we’re friends now.”
“We are. I didn’t mean we aren’t. It’s just…”
He held up his hand to stop her, “You’re about to get into semantics with a lawyer. Are you sure you want to proceed?”
“You always were hard to argue with,” She smiled as she placed her glass upon the fine table cloth and met his eyes, “I’ve read about you and your career. It’s impressive to say the least.”
“My career has been,” He nodded.
“And that wife of yours…she’s really something else.”
“Let’s leave her out of this, shall we?” He suggested as he leaned forward, “So tell me about you. What’s your life been like?”
“I’ve had a good life. I have two beautiful daughters, and they keep me busy.”
“And a husband?”
“I’m single again.”
“Single? So…what happened to your husband? Did you get tired of him and kick him out?”
“No, fate had other plans and with the dating pool it seems like the men I've dated enjoy finding a prettier, younger woman.”
“Some men might go for younger perhaps, but she could never be prettier.”
“Rick, stop that.”
“What?” He asked, looking as if he didn’t know what she was talking about.
“Stop flattering me.”
“It’s not flattery. You are a beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated woman, and any man who would leave you for anyone is a fool.”
“You did it,” She reminded him.
“And I was and I’m a damned fool now. I should have married you.”
“Isn’t that kind of presumptuous of you?” She asked as she gazed into his eyes, “Who says I would have married you if you had asked?”
“You would have,” He assured her as he took her hand in his and gently eased the pad of his thumb over her soft skin, “Because there was a time when you would have done anything I asked.”
“Times change,” Judy pointed out softly as she inhaled a deep breath, “People change.”
“And yet chemistry always remains,” He spoke softly, lifting her hand to his lips and pressing a kiss to her skin.
“Rick, please,” She said as she exhaled brokenly.
“I’m sorry,” He said as he slowly withdrew his touch, “That was incredibly rude of me. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” She said as she shook her head, “I started this,” She reached out to him and took his hand in hers once again, “It’s just that there’s been a lot of time that’s gone by. It’s not like we’re still kids.”
“No, we’re wiser, more mature adults, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy life. I don’t know about you, but I’m damn sure not ready to put my name on the waiting list at the nursing home of my choice. I want to live. I want to relish life, and I think I see that same desire in your eyes.”
“Maybe,” She agreed, “But what does that have to do with any of this?”
Richard smiled as he eased his finger over her index finger in a gentle caress, “We both still want to experience the best life has to offer. So why not go after that brass ring together?”
“We’ve been through this already. You’re married, Rick.”
“But nothing. Married is married, and for me, that’s no simple technicality.”
“Judy, come on. Don’t you want a chance to see what could have happened if I hadn’t been such a stupid green kid all those years ago?”
Judy nibbled her bottom lip, “Actually yeah, I would, but that can’t happen while you’re married. I won’t be the other woman,” She paused before adding, “At least I won’t do that again.”
Richard frowned as he rubbed the bridge of his nose, “And if I file for divorce?”
“Don’t do that on my account. I don’t want to be the reason your marriage ends.”
“You wouldn’t be. My marriage was over years ago, but Brooke has always been too damn stubborn to allow me an escape from her.”
“And what makes you think you could manage an escape now?”
He shrugged, “I’m really not sure that I could manage such a feat, but I’m willing to give it a try…if it means you’d go out on a date with me.”
Judy chuckled softly, “Would you listen to yourself? You’re talking divorce and I haven’t even agreed to a date. And a date…what are we…back in college?”
He smiled, “I wouldn’t mind feeling that way again, would you?”
She couldn’t hide the smile that he’d inspired as she gazed into his seductive eyes, “I’ve never understood just what kind of hypnotic power you have over me, but you’ve done it to me again.”
He smiled, “Is that a yes on the date?”
“It’s a maybe,” She clarified, “You’ll have to prove to me that you really want something like that from me, but I swear to you, Rick, if Brooke tries to blame a divorce on me, I may have to seriously injure her.”
Richard’s smile grew as he kissed her hand, “Then I’d just have to defend as I wouldn’t want anything to jeopardize our second chance to find happiness,” He said as he caressed her hand gently with his thumb, thanking the fates for bringing Judy into his life once again along with the chance to immerse himself in real love.
Heather couldn’t stand the parks of Coral Valley. They certainly weren’t anywhere near the likes of Central Park in New York City, but she had to deal with what she was given. While she could have used the hotel’s gym, she always enjoyed jogging out doors to the monotony of a treadmill. She made her way through the curvy path and collided with a solid object.
“Whoa,” Heather shouted as she hit the ground. She groaned as she sat up and looked up to the object in question, “Cameron…why are you here?”
“This is a public park, Heather,” Cameron replied in amusement as he extended his hand to her to help her stand up, “Why are you here?”
“I was taking a jog. So if you’ll excuse me,” She attempted to brush by him but he seized her arm and pulled her back to him.
“I won’t,” He said as he met her eyes, “We need to talk.”
“About what?” She huffed.
“About what you’re suppose to be doing for me,” He squeezed her arm gently, “You need to get to work.”
She met slowly lifted her eyes from his hand upon her arm to his menacing eyes. She lifted an undaunted brow, “Is that a threat?”
“No, merely a reminder,” He said with a cool smile, “You and I have a deal, don’t we?”
“We did, but I’m beginning to wonder if maybe you aren’t just a little intimidated about going after the ring yourself. Why send me in to do your dirty work, Cam?” She said as she took the liberty of shortening his name. She lightly placed her hand upon his on her arm, “Do the big bad Ashfords scare you?”
“No one scares me,” He said as he shoved her away, “And I don’t need you for anything.”
“Oh really? It seems that we’re in a Catch 22 here, Cam.”
“Don’t call me that,” He demanded.
“Why? Did I hit a sore spot?”
“It’s simply not my name,” He informed her, “Now, why do you think we have a Catch 22?”
“Because I’m your only way to get that ring back, and I’m not feeling very motivated to do so.”
“Only way? Then you severely underestimate me. I have plenty of outlets I can pursue to get what I want.”
“Really?” She asked with a grin, “Because it seems to me that if you were going to send in someone else, I could always tell Brant what you’re up to and he’d make sure you never got anywhere near that ring.”
“And you think Brant would believe you? From what I’m hearing from my sources, he isn’t very keen on the very sight of you. So why would your word mean so much to him?”
“Because he knows that I would do anything to protect him,” She declared.
“And that’s why you’re helping me? To protect Brant?”
“I want him back, and that’s my priority but I won’t do anything to put him in danger. So why don’t you let me in on why you really want that ring?”
“I’m not in the practice of sharing my reasons for things with the hired help.”
“I am not your hired help,” She snapped, “And I’m not doing a damn thing until you explain to me why you want that ring.”
Cameron took an step towards her and towered over her in an intimidating stance, “You’ll get what’s owed to me, or I’ll make damn sure that you’ll never get Brant back…ever.”
“Are you threatening him?” She asked, suddenly realizing that Cameron was very angry, “Don’t you dare threaten him!”
“Then I think you need to make good on your end of our bargain,” He said tightly.
Cameron’s gaze snapped around to the person who had snuck up on their conversation.
Diego met Cameron’s harsh gaze and calmly spoke, “I think you need to leave the lady alone.”
“Lady?” Cameron chuckled, “Obviously you don’t know her. Now, why don’t you move along? This is none of your business.”
“Actually, it is,” Diego said as he stepped forward and took Heather’s arm gently, leading her out of Cameron’s immediate vicinity, “Now you’re the one who should be moving along.”
Cameron’s glare focused in upon Heather, “This isn’t over.”
“On the contrary, I believe it is,” Diego said with finality before Cameron turned and walked away. After Cameron’s departure, Diego turned towards Heather, “Are you okay?”
“I was, but now I’m not quite so sure,” Heather huffed as she glared at Diego, wondering just why he had intervened and who he thought he was. No one intruded on her life…no one…and she was about to give Diego a piece of her mind for thinking he could do so.
Avery felt the tension in the room as she turned her attention to Russell
seeing the dark expression that had overtaken his features. Even
at his worst, he’d never seemed that upset and now as she witnessed the
way he was glaring at Grady, she knew that nothing but trouble would follow.
Suddenly feeling on edge, she reached out to him touching his arm gently
as a fear passed over her as she wondered if he was about to explode as
nothing about him felt familiar in that moment.
“Russ,” Avery began gently, not sure how to approach him as he slowly turned his eyes to her once again. For the briefest of instants she saw a hint of the man she’d grown to care about over the years, but almost as soon as she recognized that spark inside of him it faded and was replaced with the fury that had followed him into the room.
“I’d like a moment alone with my brother,” Russell answered tightly as Avery could feel the tension racing over his body as her fingers pressed in over his arm.
“Russ, really…” Avery started immediately regretting her decision to stop by to pay Grady a visit as she was certain something ugly was about to happen.
“Jade, maybe you should take a walk with Avery and give Russ and I a moment alone,” Grady’s voice mirrored Russell’s as Jade looked up to him with concerned eyes suddenly unsure how to react to the way Grady looked in that moment in time.
“Grady, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea considering…” Jade began immediately on edge as she looked between the two brothers.
“She’s right,” Avery added an unsettling feeling building in the pit of her stomach, “maybe we should all just take a moment to cool down and…”
“I want to talk to my brother alone,” Russell admitted sternly as he glared over at Grady.
“Russ, I don’t think that now…” Avery began again tugging on his arm, “Considering what you just walked in on was…”
Russell turned to look at her once again drawing in a breath as he reached out to her touching her hand briefly as his eyes penetrated her, “I need to do this,” he explained struggling to keep his voice even as he looked down at her.
“I don’t want you to do something you’ll regret,” Avery’s voice lowered shamefully, “not with Grady and certainly not because of me…”
“Avery, this isn’t just about you…” he whispered tightly as he drew in a labored breath struggling to keep from blowing his top. He touched her face for a brief moment before dropping his hand to his side and balling it into a fist, “I think you should go wait outside for me now. This is something I need to do and it can‘t wait a moment longer.”
“Russ…” Avery started realizing there was no getting through to him as she looked over at Grady.
“He’s right,” Grady piped in his jaw set with anger as he kept his eyes focused on his younger brother, “I think we have to set things straight right about now.”
“Grady, I really don’t think that now is the time considering that…” Jade began again reaching out to him as her breath caught in her throat. Somehow seeing Grady like this was the last thing she’d expected as in working for him all this time, he’d never, ever lost his cool as he had in these few moments in his office with Avery and now Russell. Something was off and the idea of leaving him and Russell alone with the obvious rage between them expanding by the moment, was terrifying her, “Grady please…”
“Jade, take Ms. Morrison out into the lobby and I’ll talk to you later,” his voice was professional and distanced as his eyes never strayed from Russell.
“Grady, don’t lose it over something like this,” Jade pleaded with him lowering her voice as she stepped in towards him, “This isn’t worth what will follow if you and your brother lose control.”
“My brother lost control a long time ago because of that woman and I’m going to set him straight once and for all,” Grady’s eyes shot daggers at Avery as his voice rose with obvious disgust, “Get the hell out of my office, Avery. This doesn’t concern you.”
“The hell it doesn’t,” Avery stood taller puffing out her cheeks with anger as a frown touched over her lips, “this is between you and me and…”
“It’s between me and my brother now,” Grady answered tightly, “so get out.”
“You made this personal with me and…” Avery started as Russell reached out to her tugging on her arm before she could get worked up again.
“Please wait for me in the lobby,” Russell urged again, “I might need you to drive me home after I talk with my brother.”
“Russell don’t…” Avery pleaded with him.
“Jade, keep an eye on her would you,” Russell motioned towards the woman standing protectively at his brother’s side. He could see her reluctance to leave Grady as clearly her feelings for Grady were taking over her actions, “I won’t be long in here…”
“Russell, I don’t really think that now is a good time to leave the two of you alone considering…” Jade began.
“It’s alright,” Grady spoke smoothly keeping his tone even despite the anger flaring behind his eyes, “We’ll be fine in here.”
“Grady,” Jade began again with a sigh realizing that there would be no getting through to him as she reluctantly stepped forward, “If you think I’m going any further than outside that door, then you’re both out of your mind because if I hear anything at all that gives me reason to come back in here…”
“We’ll be fine,” Grady instructed as Jade reluctantly lead Avery out of the office hating her obedience on this issue considering that things were less than okay between the two Denton brothers. Almost as soon as she and Avery stepped into the lobby, she heard the door slam to a close behind them and the clicking of the lock only added to her fears as she spun around to face Avery with animosity burning behind her eyes.
“I hope to hell you’re happy now because you just did the worst possible thing for those two. You have no business wrecking their relationship just because you have a chip on your shoulder,” Jade sneered at Avery, clenching her fists at her side as her fears for the man she loved consumed her.
“I didn’t want this,” Avery defended her position, “Grady was the one that made this personal in going after me like he has.”
“Grady is doing his job and doing it like a professional…that is until you showed up and made a fine mess of things,” Jade shook her head at her, “You know they’re going to kill one another in there because of what you’ve done in throwing your temper tantrum.”
“You have a lot to learn about Grady little girl,” Avery huffed back at her, “This isn’t about being professional or about being the great lawyer you believe him to be, this is about getting a jab in at me because that’s what Grady lives for. He’d rather see Russell in misery rather than allow the two of us to have a moment of happiness together…”
“From what I’ve heard about you, you’ve been nothing but heartache for poor Russell and what kind of woman are you if you’re going to tear apart a family that cares very deeply about one another,” Jade challenged placing her hands on her hips expectantly.
“You don’t know half the story, but given that you’re smitten with Grady, I’m sure you’ll never get the facts on the way things really are,” Avery answered fighting to keep her voice even as she defended herself to Grady’s latest play thing, “There’s a lot of history with the three of us and despite the tales that Grady’s spun out to you about what a wicked witch I am, the fact remains that Russell and I have something real together and while Grady isn’t ready to face it or accept it, he’s not going to change the way things are.”
“Grady doesn’t have to spin tales about how horrible you are as your actions speak for themselves,” Jade retorted motioning towards the door, “and if anything horrible happens in there, well this all lays on your shoulders as you’re the one to blame for causing this,” she finished unable to take the waiting as she stomped towards her office needing to find a way to calm down before impulse took over and she decked Avery.
Avery watched Jade’s retreat as her words sank in. Slowly she spun around to look at the door wondering what was going on inside Grady’s office as a fear rushed over her. She’d never seen Russell so angry and upset looking like a bottle of untapped rage and that in itself concerned her more than she’d ever imagined. Feeling a sick feeling building inside of her, she wrapped her arms around her abdomen as a chill licked over her every synapse suddenly causing her to feel the clammy sensation of a gagging reflex building inside of her. She drew in a slow breath trying to stay calm, but as a hand pressed on her shoulder she turned around with a gasp finding Brant standing behind her.
“Hey, it’s just me,” Brant flashed her a bright smile before noting the expression on her features, “What’s wrong?”
“Brant, it’s a mess…it’s just…” she paused for a moment, “What are you doing here?”
“I drove Russell here considering that you stole his car along with his jacket,” he reminded her with a frown, “and then trying to park around here…man you’d think this office space would be getting the least amount of traffic in Coral Valley, but considering how long it took to get a spot by the meter…not to mention that one person cut me off on the way into the spot I found and then, well then Brooke called and I was tied up longer and…” he continued to recount his tales of woe in getting in the Denton offices as Avery felt a sick feeling building up inside of her.
She let out a groan as she clenched her stomach tighter realizing that nerves were getting the best of her as she looked to the door again.
“Avery,” Brant reached out to urge her to look at him once again, “are you okay?” he questioned gently as he gave her a strange look, “You look a little green around the…”
“I’m going to be sick,” she announced with a groan turning towards the ladies room nearly knocking down a passerby on her way out the door.
Brant stood there for a moment watching Avery flee as the woman she nearly ran down gave him a strange look and he offered up a simple smile, “Don’t you know it’s national Wear Your Pajamas to Work day,” he explained as she offered up a nod before going on her way. Now as Brant looked around the offices finding himself surrounded by silence, he wondered just what had taken place in Grady Denton’s office as things clearly didn’t seem to sit right in the moment.
Dave placed a cup of coffee in front of Shannon as he sat beside her in the conference room at the police department, “You should take a break for a little while.”
“Are you?” She countered quickly.
“No, but I didn’t have a first class hangover this morning,” He pointed out with a slight smile before sipping his coffee.
“Don’t remind me,” She groaned as she continued down the list of records from the DMV, looking for a connection to Bruce Mathis.
“So, have you found anything that sets off fireworks?” He asked, watching her as she continued scanning names.
“Well, this just backs up what we already know,” She said as she sorted through more numbers, “This is the tag number of Russell Denton’s car.”
“So is that all we’re suppose to get from this? That just makes us walk around in circles.”
“Wait a second,” Shannon stopped as she removed one picture from the stack and checked it against the list once more, “This is one you’d better take a look at.”
“What is it?” He asked as he placed his coffee mug upon the table and moved closer to her to look over the information.
“Does that name ring a bell for you?” She asked as she looked at him directly, finally acknowledging the coffee he had delivered to her. She sipped it as he continued to look over the information.
“He never said anything about this,” Dave frowned, “And he definitely should have.”
“So maybe we should ask him some questions about what happened at the bar that night.”
“I think we definitely should,” He frowned as he walked to the door and shouted into the squad room, “Sharpe! Get in here!”
Dave made his way back to the table and waited for the lieutenant to join them.
Lieutenant Patrick Sharpe stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, “You wanted to see me, Chief?”
“Yeah, sit down,” Dave said as he pointed to the end of the table, “We just wanted to clear up some things.”
“Forget that,” Shannon declared as she slammed her hands down on the table and stood, “Why didn’t you tell us you were at the Cadillac Ranch on the night of Bruce Mathis’s murder?”
Patrick sat back in his chair, “Because I didn’t know anything about his murder. So why would I have to report my whereabouts the night of his murder?”
“You know that all actions of the victim nearest the time of his death are important. If you were in the vicinity of Dr. Mathis, you have an obligation to report his demeanor, actions, acquaintances, and anyone who may have left the bar immediately following him,” She demanded, “So tell us what happened that night.”
“I don’t know anything about Dr. Mathis. I was there at the bar. I had more than a few, and I don’t quite remember everything that happened that night,” Patrick replied looking towards Dave, “Can I go now?”
“Patrick, I have to tell you that this leaves a lot of questions to be answered,” Dave began softly.
“Actually it makes it look like you’re trying to cover something up,” Shannon declared as she slowly made her way around the room, “And I’m not interested in the slightest about your good ole boy system of protecting your own. All I care about is getting to the truth and right now, I’m wondering if you’re hiding that truth.”
“I am not hiding anything,” Patrick said as he glanced towards Shannon.
“Then what aren’t you telling us about that night?”
“I was there with a woman…a married woman,” Patrick looked away from Shannon and focused on Dave, “If it got out that she was there without her husband,” He shrugged, “It could get ugly.”
Dave took a deep breath and looked towards Shannon with a nod, “I believe him.”
“I don’t,” Shannon glared at him.
“Look, what is your problem?” Patrick asked as he stood up and faced her, “I don’t know why you’re being so nosy. Just because you don’t have any kind of nightlife doesn’t mean that the rest of us who do are all murderers.”
Shannon started towards Patrick before Dave stood and placed himself between his officer and Shannon, “Sharpe, you’re dismissed.”
Patrick glared at Shannon once more before he left the room and slammed the door behind him.
“Why didn’t you say something to him?” Shannon snapped.
“You started with the attitude on him. Don’t get pissed because he decided to reciprocate the gesture,” Dave warned, “Besides, I believe him.”
“What? Why?” She demanded.
“Because Sharpe has a reputation for being stupid where women are concerned. It wouldn’t shock me to find out he’s sharing time with a married woman.”
“Still, why wouldn’t he have shared this before now?”
“Because that’s just how Sharpe is,” Dave met her eyes, “Hey, we wanted to know and now we do. Let’s get back to this case and figure out who really did kill Bruce Mathis.”
“Fine,” Shannon seethed with anger, making a mental note to keep an eye on Patrick Sharpe as she had a distinct feeling that he wasn’t telling the whole story about his night at the Cadillac Ranch.
Thea sat in Cameron’s chair looking out the window to the world below
as a twisted smirk built upon her features. Surely things were only
going to get better now that the ball was rolling on Cameron’s quest to
take down the Ashfords. Certainly there was a lot more going on,
but it was a good start, she reasoned as she held Cameron’s paper weight
in her hands curling her fingers around it. Grady Denton had proved
to be exactly what they’d hoped for and more and now as the lawsuit against
BBK was beginning in full swing, it seemed that the wheels were turning
nicely. Soon they would be able to move onto their next project and…
Thea’s thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the office door as she heard Kipp’s voice beckon her, “Cameron, do you have a minute?”
A scowl touched over Thea’s features as her fingers curled over the glass paper weight crunching it in her fingers as the sounds of it shattering filled the office catching Kipp by surprise as Thea thought she’d heard him jump.
“Is this a bad time,” he questioned wearily as Thea slowly spun around in the chair to face him, her eyes narrowing with anger as she sized him up in that moment while keeping her focus away from the shards of broken glass in her hand.
“What the hell are you doing in here,” Kipp scowled back at her, standing up taller as he adjusted his tie, “Where’s Cameron?”
“He’s busy,” Thea opened her palm, turning her hand over to allow the pieces of glass to taper off into the trash bin beneath her as her eyes remained fixed upon Kipp.
“When will he be back,” Kipp questioned his stare lingering off to the blood dripping down her hand as she dangled her fingers over the trash bin. “You’re bleeding you know.”
Thea turned her attention to her hand casually as a droplet of blood plopped down over the side of the trash can. A wicked smile pressed over her lips as she lifted her hand towards her face for closer inspection. “So I am,” she mused with a smile as she dipped her finger between her crimson colored lips sucking on it momentarily as Kipp’s eyes widened in surprise. Slowly she rolled her tongue over her finger before pulling it out of her mouth seeing no traces of blood remaining as her smile widened.
“All better,” Thea grinned wickedly before reclining back in Cameron’s chair, “Now Kipp, about that talk you were going to have with Cameron. Perhaps we could work on getting to that between us.”
“I’d rather not,” he frowned back at her, his voice wavering with discontent as his eyes fixed on her, “This is more so something that he and I need to talk about one on one.”
“I surely hope you didn’t come in here to talk about the little assignment he gave you with Blake Ashford, because if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t even bother showing up with a report since it could only reflect how miserably you’ve failed with her…” Thea sighed leaning back further as she propped her legs up on Cameron’s desk, “and you know how he detests failure.”
“Failure?” he blinked back at her, “What world are you living in because I’ve done nothing but bring success to the project at hand?”
“Success,” she repeated with a haughty laugh, “Kipp, this isn’t pre-school and you’re doing less than adequate work and less than adequate is unacceptable.”
“Nothing about my performance for Cameron has been unacceptable,” Kipp defended with a frown, “I did what he asked in capturing Blake’s attention and keeping her occupied…”
“Ah yes, I’ve heard all about your pathetic attempts at keeping Blake amused,” Thea shook her head back at him as laughter rose up in her, “and given how pitiful you are, it’s no wonder that you haven’t managed to maintain any significant amount of her attention either.”
“I’ve got Blake eating out of the palm of my hand…not that it’s any of your business,” Kipp boasted proudly, “I’ve done exactly what Cameron has asked of me by getting close to Blake…”
“And in keeping Seth from Blake’s good graces?” Thea raised a curious brow.
“That was the plan,” Kipp nodded eagerly, “and I’ve done a great job with it I might add.”
“Well I suppose if you look at it in those terms,” she lowered her legs from the desk top as she sat upright in the chair before making her way to a standing position, “then I could see how you’d skew the situation in your favor to mirror some kind of element of success, but given that you’ve managed to put a pause in Cameron’s getting what he’s required out of Seth, I can’t see him finding your work anything more than sloppy at best.”
“Cameron’s getting what he wants and I’m not the one hindering that,” Kipp snapped back at her raising his voice a bit boldly as he watched her cross the room.
“Aren’t you?” she arched a perfectly sculpted brow, “He hired Seth to get him that microfilm and with your interference, Blake has pushed him out of her life. He’s no longer in a position to get his hands on that microfilm that Cameron wanted and the way I see it, that’s only because of your incompetence.”
“I did what Cameron asked of me,” Kipp defended with a scowl.
“What you did was set Cameron behind longer than he’d hoped for and when he finds out about your incompetence, well I can assure you that you’re going to have hell to pay,” Thea warned with a glare, “and that is the last thing you want.”
“I don’t have to listen to you,” Kipp replied dismissively turning to leave as Thea stepped forward slamming her hand out against the door to block him from leaving as her fingers curled over his tie jerking on it as she forced him to face her again.
“I’m not through with you,” her voice hissed back at him as she clenched on his tie once again drawing him in closer to her, “You’re not going anywhere.”
“You don’t scare me,” Kipp struggled to keep his voice even as he met her dark, sadistic eyes, “I know you like to think that Cameron has you as his favorite, but the sad reality is that he sees you as a joke. Sure, he likes to have you do his dirty work, but when it gets down to it, you’re not better than the rest of us,” Kipp challenged feigning an air of confidence, “Sure you might be his whore, but when he gets what he wants with Jade, then you’ll lose your purpose as well around here and you’ll be nothing once again.”
“Listen you little peon,” Thea hissed back at him, “While you might think that your father’s name gives you a little bit of leverage around here, the truth to the matter is that you’re expendable and nothing is secure for you. At any time, you would be wise to keep your eyes open and watch your back as there are many unfortunate situations that could come your way given your inept behavior.”
“I don’t think it’s wise to threaten me,” he tugged on his tie trying to pull away from her as she squeezed her fingers tightly around his tie reopening her wound again as blood trickled down over the material.
“That isn’t a threat,” Thea’s jaw clenched tightly as her words struck him violently, “That’s a promise and you’d be wise to watch your step around here or else you and your little model girlfriend might be on the receiving end of something less than savory to put it mildly.”
“Don’t you even think about going near Heather…” Kipp snapped back at her.
“Don’t make me have to,” Thea warned shoving him back into the door as she released him, “because if it comes to that, then so be it.”
“Heather has nothing to do with what I’m doing here,” he began again.
“Ah, but the way I see it, she does. If you weren’t so busy flaunting your father’s name in her face, dangling the possibilities of a future in front of her, then you would be doing a better job around here and then maybe just maybe things wouldn’t have to be so,” she paused a wicked smirk pressing over her features, “tense around here.”
“Heather has nothing to do with my work and you know it,” Kipp blurted out with a frown.
“Well if you don’t fix the problem you created, I’ll see to it that Heather isn’t an issue ever again,” Thea warned sharply, “and you know enough about me to know that I can make it happen if need be.”
“This isn’t over,” Kipp warned clenching his hands at his sides in a fist as he fought his instincts to challenge her any further.
“Oh but it is and if you don’t fix the mess you’ve made, then I can assure you it’ll be over for you,” she plopped down in Cameron’s chair turning her attention to her hand again as she didn’t bother to acknowledge him with her final words, “You’re dismissed.”
Kipp gave her one last look, taking in a breath before turning out of Cameron’s office hating Thea more than ever. Still as her words haunted him, he started to wonder just what was going on with Cameron as he recalled Cameron’s visit to Heather. Could Cameron be trying to sabotage him via Heather? If that was the case, then Kipp would have to find a way to stop it from happening as one way or another, he refused to let Thea or anyone else take away the most important thing in his life.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” Heather snapped as she stepped away from Diego, “You had no right to do that.”
“No right?” Diego asked as he crossed his arms, “Pardon me if I’m wrong, but that man was harassing you.”
“I can handle Cameron,” She declared, “You shouldn’t have interrupted.”
“If I hadn’t, you might have been injured. Pardon me for attempting to save you the bother.”
“What is your deal? Do you walk through the park looking for conversations to interrupt?”
“Is it really so hard for you to say thank you?”
“For what?” She asked with wide eyes.
“For saving you from harm,” He observed her for a moment, “Why are you threatened by showing appreciation?”
“Oh please,” She rolled her eyes, “I am not threatened by anything least of all showing appreciation. It’s simply that there’s nothing for me to show appreciation for.”
“Not even for preventing that man from doing you some physical harm?”
“I can handle Cameron just fine,” She informed him firmly.
Diego smiled slightly as he slipped his hands into his pockets, “So that’s what this is really about.”
“Excuse me?” Heather asked flippantly.
“The real issue for you is being in control,” His smile grew a bit, “A lovely woman such as yourself has no doubt had to fight her own battles to become successful, and I’m sure that lends itself to other aspects of your life.”
“Oh god…spare me the psycho babble,” She said as she placed her hands on her hips, “You’re a shrink, aren’t you?”
“I’m a psychotherapist at CCR,” He said simply, “And from the look of things, you could benefit from some therapy yourself.”
“Are you calling me crazy?” She countered quickly.
He chuckled, “You’re about as far from crazy as it can get. I do, however, believe that you could benefit from some self exploration. It might do you good to find the source of these issues in order to change your reactions to them.”
“Speak English for pete’s sake,” She groaned.
Diego extended a business card to her, “Why don’t you stop by my office sometime? I’ll give you a complimentary visit so that we can explore your control issues.”
“I do not have control issues,” Heather declared adamantly.
“I won’t argue, but this is my card,” He said as he placed the card into her hand, “If you’re feeling like there’s something you might want to talk about, call me. I don’t judge. I only attempt to help you overcome your issues.”
“I don’t have any issues,” She replied as she rolled her eyes.
Diego shook his head, “Just keep me in mind. You never know when something will come up that might require some introspection.”
Heather watched as he walked away from her. She glanced back at the card before her and wondered if somehow she couldn’t use Diego to her advantage. She absolutely didn’t need any therapy, but if she could find some help to ruin Avery Morrison, she would take it in an instant.
Seth showed up at the Denton legal offices stepping into the lobby as
he saw Brant Ashford sitting on one of the couches much to his surprise.
Thinking about his earlier meeting with Brant at the Ashford mansion, a
tension rose up over him as this was the last place he’d wanted to see
Blake’s judgmental brother. Still, the fact that Brant was here at
Grady Denton’s law office somehow signaled trouble as Seth hoped Brant
didn’t notice his arrival. Too late, he frowned inwardly as Brant
turned his eyes up towards him.
“Seth,” Brant greeted him as Seth fought to suppress the grimace building up inside of him, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Of course,” Seth took in a breath turning his attention to the man before him, “How are you Brant?”
“I’ve had better days,” Brant stood up adjusting his tie as he eyed Seth in a scrutinizing fashion, “How are you doing with whatever it is you’re doing?”
“I’m just fine,” Seth nodded appropriated wanting nothing more than to find Jade and disappear in that instant as Brant struck up a conversation with him.
“And my sister?” Brant raised a curious brow, “I trust that she’s more than fine right about now as well?”
It was in that instant that Seth realized Brant hadn’t gotten wind of the headline in Inside Track and he nodded quickly, “Blake’s very happy.”
“That’s just what I wanted to hear because if I ever get a contrary review of the situation,” Brant’s tone held a hint of threat in it as Jade stepped out of her office seeing the two men standing beside one another.
“I can assure you that won’t be happening,” Seth promised as Jade stepped forward clearing her throat.
“Seth, what are you doing here?” she questioned in confusion giving him a sideways glance as she hoped her brother’s arrival could distract her from her worries about what was going on in Grady’s office behind closed doors.
“I got done with my shoot a bit early and I was hoping I could get a few minutes with you,” Seth explained eager to get away from Brant as he smiled down at his sister, “Have some time for your big brother?”
“Of course,” she nodded wondering what Brant and Seth were talking about as she motioned for him to follow him into her office.
“It’s been real,” Seth waved in Brant’s direction before following his sister into her office. Once inside he closed the door letting out a breath of relief, “Thanks for the save back there Jade.”
“Dare I ask what’s going on,” she questioned lifting a scrutinizing brow.
“You don’t want to know,” Seth explained with a breath of relief, “and lucky for me, Brant doesn’t have the first idea either.”
“Why do I suddenly not like the sound of this,” Jade inquired rubbing her hands together nervously as she tried to keep her thoughts from lingering back to Grady.
“Believe me it’s better that you don’t know anything about this,” Seth tried to assure her as he thought about the situation he’d found himself in with Blake and Cameron. Now as he watched his sister, he noticed that she seemed tense, almost filled with apprehension as her gaze kept drifting back to the door behind him, “Jade, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she replied forcing a fake smile as she tried not to think of the harsh words or worse things that might be exchanged in Grady’s office, “So what’s on your mind big brother?”
“Jade, I know that look,” Seth watched her make her way over towards her desk area as he noticed the way she kept rubbing her palms together nervously, “Something’s on your mind.”
“Seth, I’d really rather not talk about it,” Jade spun around to face him again, “So what’s going on? Why make the trip to work like this to see me?”
“Well I was thinking about the way things have been lately,” he began taking in a breath as he contemplated his words, “and the truth to the matter is that while I’m not happy about the situation, I’m even more miserable with the idea of what’s going on between the two of us.”
“Is that so,” she sat down in her chair wiggling her fingers as she searched her desk trying to find a way to occupy her thoughts as Seth spoke to her.
“That’s right,” he nodded simply, “Look Jade, I’m not saying that I’m going to agree to this thing you have going with Grady because that’s not why I’m here…”
Jade frowned, “Then why are you here?”
“Because I hate the idea of you being mad at me and if you weren’t so stubborn,” he began with a scowl.
“I’m being stubborn?” she blinked back at him with a huff, “Seth, you’re the one who practically stormed in and beat the hell out of Grady without knowing the facts about what was going on. Not that you were entitled to them to begin with, but still…”
“Jade, I’m just worried about you,” he stated firmly thinking about the lengths he’d gone to in order to protect her.
“Seth, I’m not a little girl anymore,” she sighed running her fingers through her dark hair as she looked to her office door again, “You should know that…”
“That doesn’t mean that I’m any less concerned about you,” he admitted with a frown, “Jade, while I know that you mean well and that you want to move on because you think Grady is some great guy, well it’s just that I know how things tend to go when you put your heart into someone who’s not worthy of your attentions…”
“That’s just it,” Jade remarked emphatically, “Grady’s worth all that and more. He’s a wonderful, amazing man and if you took the time to get to know him…really give him a chance, then you’d see what made me fall for him in the first place…”
“Jade, I don’t like the idea of you and a man like Grady considering…”
“Seth, I’m trying to live my life. I’m trying to find some hint of happiness and Grady does that for me. He makes me feel alive and when I’m with him, well I don’t dwell on the way things once were,” Jade sighed thinking of the long road behind her, “I don’t worry about how my life has gone or about the way things were wrong. I feel hope and when I’m with Grady I feel like there’s a real chance for happiness in my life again. I just wish you’d come to understand that…”
“Jade, I hear what you’re saying, but at the same time…” he began again with a heavy sigh.
“You’d rather me be miserable and dwell on things that I can’t erase?” she snapped back at him shaking her head in strong disapproval, “Seth, I’m tired of living my life with the past coming back to haunt me. I’m so sick of having to face all the horrors that have come my way and with Grady, well he makes me see that the future isn’t as bleak as I’d imagined it to be. He’s someone that makes me feel good about me and he’s a good man with a great heart. If you’d only give him a chance…”
“Jade, you know that I can’t just welcome him with open arms…”
“Of course you can and if you’d stop being so damned stubborn, then you would at least try for my sake,” she pleaded with him, “Seth, you know that I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t absolutely one of the most important things to me…”
“Jade, if you’re even thinking about me sitting down and offering up my approval about Grady…”
“I wouldn’t dream of demanding that from you because I know how impossible you are,” she shook her head at him raising her hands in the air dejectedly, “this is a stupid idea.”
“Even trying to talk to you,” she grumbled back at him, “and for me to even listen to Grady about this considering how pig headed you are…”
“Grady? What does he have to do with this?” he frowned back at her seeing the look that swept over her features, “Well?”
“He had this stupid idea about us going out to dinner…” she grumbled reaching for some papers on her desk as she began to straighten them out a bit. “He thought that maybe just maybe you’d be willing to the experience and that you’d open your mind up long enough to at least give him some kind of opportunity to show you what kind of man he is. I knew that you’d never go for it because you’d rather stand there in judgment of him and make things miserable, but he still insisted…”
“Grady wants us to all sit down and have dinner?” he blinked back at her in surprise, “What is he hoping for? Some kind of big, happy family?”
“He knows you mean a lot to me and unlike you with your stubborn side, he’s trying to make me happy,” Jade snapped in response feeling the weight of the morning’s chaos lingering over her, “He’s a good man and with your not even willing to give him a chance, it just shows me how horrible you can be.”
“Jade, I’m not going to just sit back and let this man ruin your life…”
“He’s not ruining my life and furthermore it’s not your decision to make,” Jade hissed up at him, “Seth, I’m a grown woman and I care about him and I won’t let anything or anyone get in the way of that…not even you.”
“So that’s how it is now, huh?”
“That’s exactly how it is,” she placed her hands on her hips as she rose from her chair, “and if you don’t like it, then tough.”
“Are you saying that it’s him or me? Is that what we’re getting to here?” Seth frowned as her words began to sink in.
“It’ll be that way if you make it that way, but as it stands I’m trying to include the both of you in my life. You both mean a lot to me and I want nothing more than for the two of you to find a way to get to know one another. I realize that you’d rather just close the door in his face than try to give him an opportunity to get to know you because in your mind, it’s what you feel you must do.”
“Jade, I’m only trying to protect you. I don’t want you hurt again and…” he started with a sigh as he reached out to her.
“Seth, stop acting like my protector and start behaving like the brother that I know you to be. Forget about trying to save me from the world and just start behaving like someone who wants to see me have the best in my life…”
“You know that’s what I want for you…”
“If you truly mean that, then stop trying to sabotage my happiness with this ridiculous animosity towards Grady,” she pleaded with him thinking about the two men in her life and how both held a great importance to her, “If you’d just take the time to get to know him, then you’d see how wonderful he really is.”
“Jade,” Seth began taking in a breath as he saw the sadness sweep over his sister’s features, “This means a lot to you, doesn’t it?”
She nodded eagerly, “More than you can imagine.”
“And if I do dinner, then you won’t push the issue anymore? Even if it pans out that I don’t see this side of Grady that has blown you away?” he questioned wearily as she stepped forward, “I can still reserve my right not to change my mind about him?”
“If you have dinner with the two of us, I’m certain that you won’t see Grady in the same light as the one you’ve been keeping him in,” Jade confessed taking in a slow breath, “You might learn that not all older men in my life are the nightmares you believe them to be.”
“Jade, it’s just that I don’t want you hurt again. If anything happened to you like before…” he softened his tone as her pain flashed over her features, “I can’t live like that…”
“You won’t have to,” she stepped towards him reaching out to embrace him, “Grady isn’t like the others.”
“For your sake I hope not,” he sighed in resignation, “because you deserve a lot more than what you were given.”
“We both were and maybe just maybe if we keep an open mind about this, then we’ll see that life is picking up again,” Jade offered with a sad smile, “I mean it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?”
“No it doesn’t,” he replied reaching out to embrace her, “Come here you.”
Jade accepted the embrace hugging her brother as she felt the love behind the gestures, “Does this mean you’ll have dinner with Grady and I?”
“Despite my reservations on the subject,” he inhaled slowly as he thought of his sister’s hopes about the situation, “well, I’ll consider it.”
“Oh thank you Seth,” she hugged him tighter, “I promise you won’t regret this as I’m sure that it’ll be just what we all needed.”
“I hope you’re right about that,” he sighed in resignation hoping that his sisters hopes and faith weren’t misplaced as she clearly had her heart on the line with Grady Denton. Seth just hoped that he was worth all the effort as the last thing he wanted was to see his sister with a broken heart and torn apart all over again.
The heavy silence filled the room with it’s suffocating tone as both
Denton brothers stood face to face each one harboring their own set of
mixed emotions as this talk would clearly change the course of the future
between them. Grady watched his brother closely not knowing where
to begin as Avery’s impromptu visit had opened the door to something that
he wasn’t quite sure what to make of as Russell glared at him. Still
with his younger brother seething with rage, he realized that something
had to be done about the situation sooner or later as Russell opened his
mouth to speak up at long last.
“Just where the hell do you get off on talking to Avery that way,” Russell demanded harshly as his eyes narrowed in anger.
“She came here asking for trouble,” Grady defended with a frown realizing that somehow with Russell it would always be about Avery as his brother was so smitten with the woman who’d done nothing but made him miserable over the years, “and if you’d open your eyes for a moment and stop thinking with your libido you’d see that she’s the one to blame right now.”
“She’s to blame,” Russell repeated in disbelief shaking his head at his brother, “Because you blindsided her with this bogus lawsuit and you wished her nothing but the worst?”
“There’s nothing bogus about the lawsuit going on against BBK. I’ll have you know that my client has a very solid case and it has absolutely nothing to do with Avery other than the fact that she has the poor taste to work for that shameless company,” Grady answered flatly folding his arms in front of his chest, “She was the one that came in here making a scene because she felt she couldn’t handle facing me in a courtroom…”
“That’s not what this is about and you know it. I know for a fact that you wouldn’t dream of taking on a case like this working for a man like Cameron Stone unless there was something more to it and just the idea of getting at Avery is enough to get you going, isn’t it Grady?” Russell sneered in response struggling to keep his anger under control about the situation as Grady’s face left no opening for emotion at Russell’s words.
“Avery’s nothing but trouble and ever since you left her back into your life, that’s all you’ve been surrounded with,” Grady defended thinking to his brother’s impossible behavior over the last few weeks, “You refuse to think with any sense of logic and even with this murder investigation over your head, you’re still thinking about her and forgetting about what you should be doing for you in this situation…”
“That’s because I love her,” Russell blurted out in an impassioned tone.
“Which makes you all the more the fool for trying to play her white knight,” Grady chastised him, “She couldn’t give a damn about you or about your sacrifices for her because she never did. She doesn’t love you and she never will and if nothing else, I’d just wish you’d open your eyes to that, Russell.”
“What I’m opening my eyes to is the fact that you can’t accept my happiness because you’re clearly miserable,” Russell shot back at him hatefully, “Even at Susan’s worst, I never spoke to her the way that I heard you speaking to Avery. What you did to her a few minutes ago was simply unacceptable.”
“Maybe if you would’ve opened your mouth to Susan like I did with Avery, then one of us might’ve been spared some of the misery that comes with women like her,” Grady spat back at him with a fire behind his words, “She’s only going to bring you down and the sooner you get over this obsession you have with her, the better off you’ll be…”
Russell watched him closely before a grumble fell from his lips, “I see what this is about. This isn’t about Avery or even about your need to look out for my best interest. This is about the fact that you’re miserable and just because I’ve found some happiness with the woman I loved once again, you’re unable to accept that.”
“You’re being delusional, but then again when you’re around Avery, that tends to be your mode of operation,” Grady rolled his eyes at him.
“No, I think I’m on to something here,” Russell watched him closely seeing the twinge of something behind Grady’s eyes, “You and Susan were the dream couple and you thought you had it all with her, just like I thought Avery and I had it all, but then when Susan left you, you realized that there wouldn’t be a way to fix it. You wanted to find some way to bring her back in your life, but when it didn’t work out, you just shut down. You became bitter and miserable and you refused to open yourself up to love again and in your own way that’s what you’re trying to do with me. You see that the love of my life is back again and unlike Susan she hasn‘t turned her back on me. She‘s opened her heart up to me and that eats away at you because you don’t understand how it could happen for me and not you when you felt what you had with Susan was so solid.”
“This is ridiculous. I’m trying to look out for your best interest and when you’re around Avery, you’re making mistakes…fatal mistakes…” Grady began again.
“No, when I’m around Avery, I’m finally doing something right,” Russell argued with him simply as his jaw clenched with tension, “Grady, she’s not Susan and she and I aren’t like the two of you were. Sure, Avery and I made mistakes…we both did, but they were ours to make and if fate found a way for us to be together again, then I’m going to hold onto that chance with everything I have and I refuse to allow you to take that away from me.”
“Taking a murder rap isn’t going to be what you think it is as in your quest to save your precious Avery, you’re only going to be destroying what little you have left in your life. She stripped you of your heart and your pride once over, so why open yourself up to it again when you know that she’ll leave you out to hang for Ashford in a moment? It‘s time to face the facts that she doesn‘t love you and she‘s never loved you, Russ.”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” Russell argued with him as his fingers clenched into fists, “She does love me and we will find a way to be together…”
“When you’re behind bars?” Grady grumbled in response, “Wake up Russ. She’s only playing you so that she has someone to take the fall before she leaves on her road to happily ever after.”
“Grady for the thousandth time, she’s not Susan,” Russell raised his voice bitterly as he saw the pain reflected behind his brother’s eyes, “She’s not what you want her to be just because you’d like to blame someone…”
“She’s worse than Susan ever was because at least when Susan and I were over, I knew when to quit…”
“Grady, I love her,” Russell sighed in frustration bringing his fingers through his hair, “I’ve tried to move beyond it, but that hasn’t changed and I know now that it never will.”
“She left you on your wedding day. She walked out on you and left you hanging there to pick up the pieces while she moved on with another man. Russ, it doesn’t take much for someone to figure out how she played you,” Grady grumbled back at him, “and if you’d get over this ridiculous obsession with the idea of being in love with her…”
“Grady, Avery and I both made mistakes and you know as well as I do that Brooke played a hand in what happened on our wedding day…”
“But Avery ultimately made the decision to leave,” Grady reminded him sharply, “and she always leaves you Russ…that is until she suddenly needs you again and she turns your world upside down.”
“She’s terrified right now,” Russell argued with him, “She’s just watched her world turn upside down and she’s got the FBI breathing down her neck and…”
“What about your life? What about what happens for you when Avery’s through with you this time? How is it going to be when she decides to move on again? Russ, you’re only setting yourself up for a fall and the sooner that you realize that…”
“Your calling her a whore and attacking her like that isn’t going to help anything…” Russell reminded him sharply, “and I swear if you ever think of talking to her that way…”
“Oh this is just wonderful,” Grady scowled in response, “There you go again choosing her over your family. Damn it Russ. Wake up before it’s too late. You‘re forgetting what matters--about the important things in your life.”
“Grady, you sold your soul just for a chance to stick it to her,” Russell countered back at him, “You have to know what kind of man Cameron Stone is.”
“I know he’s a man with a valid claim against BBK and that’s why I took him on as a client…”
“Grady, you’re smarter than that. You don’t just take clients on a whim without researching the issue in depth and given that I know that much about you, I know that you wouldn’t just leap at this opportunity unless there was something in it for you…something that you couldn’t get anywhere else,” Russell cut back sharply, “and knowing how much you hate Avery…”
“This isn’t about Avery,” Grady argued with him, “Believe me I could find easier ways to go after her if need be.”
“If you even thought about it, you’d be making the biggest mistake of your life,” Russell warned simply, “I won’t tolerate you attacking her and it would be in your best interest not to test my patience.”
“Is that a threat?” Grady arched an enraged brow.
“That’s a promise,” Russell answered flatly, “and one I have every intention of following through on if you continue down this path of destruction.”
“I’m not backing down from my case as I promised my client that…”
“Your client is a thief and a murderer,” Russell interrupted bluntly, “The man does nothing but sabotage anyone that crosses his path and he’s pure evil. Clearly you have to have looked in on his past. He’s done things that would make your skin crawl and for you to be standing here pretending that what you’re doing in defending him is okay…”
“My clients aren’t your concern,” Grady answered simply folding his arms in front of his chest.
“They are when they put the two people I care about most in the line of fire,” Russell sighed feeling his anger dissipate a bit as he thought back to his initial wanting to talk to Grady, “The man is evil…pure evil and he’s not worth getting wrapped up in even with this ridiculous obsession to get back at the Ashfords…”
“Just because you’ve switched sides doesn’t mean that I’m going to just drop the lawsuit and for you to even expect it…”
“I don’t expect it, but what I do expect is for you to use your head,” Russell frowned deeply as he thought to his brother’s involvement with Cameron Stone, “If you want a future with Jade--really want to do something to be proud of, then you’ll walk away from this case and never look back.”
“Gee, is this the concerned brother talking or Avery’s lover?” Grady commented dryly his eyes narrowing as a frown touched over the corners of his mouth.
“I think you already know that answer and if you don’t, we’ll then clearly we’ve got more going wrong between us than your intense hatred for the woman I love,” Russell answered flatly pushing his hands into his pockets as he fought the anger building up inside of him.
“Russ, you’re making a mistake with Avery,” Grady sighed in resignation, “and if you can’t see that now…”
“What I see is something worth holding onto,” Russell confessed as a breath escaped his lips, “I’m being given a second chance to do what I didn’t do before and now that I have it, I can’t walk away from it. I can’t live with the thought about what might’ve been and what I should’ve done…”
“Even if it costs you your freedom?” Grady lifted a curious brow wishing that somehow his brother would just open his eyes for once.
“Grady, it won’t come to that,” Russell blurted out before taking in a slow inhale, “Listen, if you really want to know what’s going on, then I’ll tell you everything…”
“Just like that,” Grady questioned doubtful, “Somehow with the way you’ve been carrying on, I don’t think that the truth is anywhere in sight…”
“I told Avery everything last night,” Russell confessed thinking back to the moment he’d had with Avery, “and I saw that she was worried sick about what possibilities were stewing in her head. She made me see that maybe in keeping my silence I was making things worse and maybe I should get to telling you the truth as well.”
“Avery made you see all that?” Grady gave him a skeptical look.
“In a round about way,” Russell nodded in confession, “but before I even think about opening up to you about that, you have to promise me that you’ll think about this lawsuit you’re heading here…”
“I’m not changing my mind about the lawsuit,” Grady explained matter of fact as his anger slowly began to transform into something else, something far less volatile, “The wheels are already in motion on that.”
“Then at least ease up on this grudge you have against Avery,” Russell pleaded with him, “She’s got a lot going on right now and if you’re going to attack her in the courtroom, don’t make this personal. Don’t turn this into something about me because she deserves more respect than that…”
“I don’t owe her anything,” Grady reminded him bluntly as a darkness pressed over his features once again.
“Maybe not, but the least you can do is stop this for me,” Russell insisted once again as he ran his fingers through his hair, “Grady, my heart is telling me that she’s the one and if you keep pushing this…”
“I just want you to be happy,” Grady explained thinking of the misery Russell had been through in his years without Avery.
“She’s the only true happiness I’ve ever known Grady and I was lost without her,” Russell blurted out honestly as the sentiment behind his words broke through the surface.
“I wish it didn’t have to be that way,” Grady sighed realizing that his brother was somehow lost in the ideas of having a happily ever after with Avery Morrison much to his dismay.
“It is what it is and nothing is going to change that,” Russell pointed out simply, “but that doesn’t mean you have to fight it every step of the way. I know you think you’re doing the right thing, but this is my life and I have to live it the way my heart asks me to.”
“Russ, I’ve been in your shoes and I know what being so completely buried in something like this can do to you…” Grady admitted poignantly as he sat on the corner of his desk taking in his brother’s words, “I just don’t want to see you in the kind of misery I was in after everything was said and done…”
“She’s worth it Grady,” Russell admitted as he slumped down into a chair across from his brother’s desk, “I’d endure a lifetime of misery if it meant that I could hold her and just be with her for a few precious moments. If only I could have the chance to love her…”
“Oh Russ,” Grady replied with a heavy sigh realizing that his brother was far more lost than he’d ever imagined. Now as he looked down at his younger brother, he realized that there was far more going on than he’d ever truly imagined. If only he could spare him the misery that he was certain would follow. If only there could be some way to talk sense into him…to somehow…
“So now as it stands,” Russell broke through his thoughts, “We can do this one of two ways. You can shut me out completely and continue with the way things were going before I arrived or we can try to find some kind of reasonable resolution here. The choice is yours,” he finished looking to his brother wondering what would happen next as things were out in the open and on the table for the time being.
“Russ, I just wish…” Grady started realizing that one way or the other, things would have to come to a conclusion as this conversation had somehow taken a turn in a direction he’d never expected between them.
Avery took in a slow, steadying breath as the latest wave of nausea
seemed to pass over her. Now as she looked at her dark eyes starting
back at her in the mirror, she silently cursed herself over and over again
for having made her way down to Grady’s office to begin with. What
had she been thinking, she chastised herself as she took a long look at
her appearance. Not only had she started a war between Russ and Grady,
but she hadn’t even bothered to take a moment to collect herself.
Now as her eyes drifted over the ridiculous looking outfit she was in having
been donned in Russell’s jacket, her robe and black slip, well the sad
truth was that she looked pathetic at best.
Wearily Avery looked to the door of the ladies room realizing she couldn’t have possibly made more of an ass of herself if she’d tried today, but damn Grady for driving her to do it. What was he thinking in trying to challenge her in such a irritating fashion. Seeing the smug expression on his face only reaffirmed the fact that he wasn’t nearly as interested in his client than he was in trying to bury her. He was going to make life impossible on top of everything else and she could see that now, but even with her anger towards Grady, she really hoped that somehow he and Russell weren’t killing one another. The last thing she’d wanted was for Russell to walk in on what was happening between them and now knowing that he had, well it had made things difficult. Her nausea was clearly a sign of it, as she tried to dismiss the thoughts running through her head.
Now as she took in a slow breath, Avery did her best to adjust her appearance as she zipped up Russell’s jacket and she made her way towards the door leading out into the hallway once again. Her eyes skimmed over the room wondering if Russ and Grady were done with their discussion as she noticed Brant seated on the sofa inside the lobby of the Denton offices. Taking in a soothing inhale, she reached for the door making her way into the lobby as she looked down at Brant noting that he’d been skimming through a magazine haphazardly in her absence.
“Sorry about that,” Avery began apologetically as his gaze lifted upon her.
“Feeling better,” he questioned lazily tossing the magazine aside as he rose to his feet.
She nodded quickly, “I guess I let my anger get the best of me this morning.”
“So I’m seeing,” Brant watched her closely before he reached out to her touching her shoulder gently, “Are you sure everything is okay?”
“You mean other than our being sued?” she questioned with a sigh.
“Well that withstanding,” Brant shrugged his shoulders, “I was thinking more so about what was going on here.”
“What do you mean,” Avery questioned turning her eyes up towards his.
“Well for starters, when you’ve been on the attack in the boardroom before, it’s usually involved your smart mouth and savvy wit, but never has it involved you showing up to go ten rounds with the opposing council in your bathrobe,” he motioned to her outfit, “Or to stealing a car for that matter.”
“I guess this time I got carried away,” she wrapped her arms around her body snugly, “It was personal this time.”
“So I’m noticing,” Brant nodded appropriately as he watched her, “Care to tell me why that is?”
“Brant, Grady’s representing some sleazebag that’s trying to take a sizeable piece of your company away from you,” Avery reminded him sharply, “I hardly think that’s time to be polite.”
“I never said that, but at the same time, I don’t understand the need to come over here and stomp on him right now like this,” Brant explained simply. “It’s just…well it’s just not like you…”
“Grady didn’t take this case because he is in the mood to help Cameron. He did it because he has some vendetta against me,” she began thinking of an easy way to explain the situation to Brant.
“I got that much before you left the mansion,” he motioned for her to take a seat over on the couch where he’d been seated moments earlier before he returned to the spot himself, “and while I’d asked Russell for details, he wasn’t feeling rather in the mood for any disclosure on this situation either, so what gives?”
“It’s complicated,” Avery sighed slumping down beside him realizing that perhaps being in the middle of Grady’s office wasn’t the best place to get into this, but still as she turned her eyes towards the closed door, she couldn’t help but worry about what was going on inside between Grady and Russell.
“So make it uncomplicated,” he urged further as his dark eyes continued to remain fixed upon her, “Tell me what’s going on considering that it’s my company on the line.”
“Brant, this really isn’t about BBK or about you,” Avery began nervously as she shifted on the sofa, “You see Grady and I go way back. We have a history with one another…”
“Please don’t tell me that you were sleeping with him at one point in time too,” Brant wrinkled his nose in disgust, “because I really don’t think I could deal with that one.”
“Heaven’s no,” Avery shook her head with a groan, “I wouldn’t have touched him if he was the last man in this universe. It’s not like that.”
“Then what’s it like?” he questioned patiently awaiting her response as she tried to think of the right words to explain the situation to him.
“A long time ago, things happened with Russell and I…” Avery began slowly bracing herself for how this conversation would go as Brant let out a heavy groan.
“Please let’s not go down this road again,” Brant suggested curtly, “because I really don’t want to think about you and Russell together in any kind of setting even if it was one that happened years ago.”
“Yet you expect me to deal with what’s going on now with Heather and Shannon and be okay with watching them throw themselves at you?” Avery gave him a strange look, “That’s cheap.”
“Avery, they meant nothing to me. I’ve told you time and time again that I never loved them, but if I even had to dwell on the idea of you and some other man that meant something special to you once upon a time, well I’d have no choice but to go mad with jealousy.”
“I don’t believe I’m hearing this,” she grumbled back at him, “How is it you manage to always turn something around to you again even when it’s something completely unrelated to what’s happening around you? You know maybe if for just one moment you’d step out of your own little world, you’d see things as they are.”
“Avery, it’s my company on the line or have you forgotten that?” Brant raised a curious brow, “While I do appreciate you coming over here to take on our opposition, I pay you to be my attorney not my hit man…hit woman depending on how you look at it…”
“Look it’s just,” Avery sighed in response, “Grady’s upset about the way things have been going down since Bruce’s murder. He’s worried that Russ is in some kind of trouble and since I’m the reason that you and Russ went after Bruce to begin with…”
“Don’t tell me he’s doing this because he’s pissed about that,” Brant grumbled in response, “No one twisted Russell’s arm that night and last time I checked Russell was an adult perfectly capable of making his own decisions.”
“Exactly my point,” Avery nodded in response, “and Grady just doesn’t get that. He’d rather wage war against me because he thinks I’m going to ruin his brother’s life, but in reality he’s only making things worse.”
“I’ll second that,” Brant offered up supportively, “though I do have to wonder about one thing though.”
“What’s that,” Avery replied turning her focus back to him once again.
“Why is he so sure that you’re going to be the one to be Russell’s downfall? I mean sure the guy seems to keep popping up everywhere we go, but that really is his choice. You’re not asking him to stalk you and you keep telling him to go away…which is something too that I wanted to talk to you about,” Brant hesitated adjusting his tie before clearing his throat, “You know on our trip, Russell and Heather couldn’t be any more irritating as they kept bothering us, but now it seems like Russell is always around and he’s always popping his head into our business. Why is that?”
“He was always around,” Avery began uneasily as she looked to the door to Grady’s office.
Brant nodded in response, “True, but before things were, well…different…”
“Brant, the two of you went after Bruce together,” she lowered her voice to a tight whisper, “You both decided to do whatever it is you did together and we worked from that…”
“I realize that, but in the same sense, I’m seeing that when he’s around, you’re not as hostile towards him as you once were,” Brant paused scratching his head lightly, “I mean even in your stealing his car and taking his jacket…” he turned his eyes in the direction that Avery was looking in, “and even now, I have to wonder what we’re still doing here outside Grady Denton’s office now that you’re out here with me.”
“I have the keys to Russell’s car,” Avery explained quickly rubbing her hands together as she forced herself to face Brant again, “and I have his cell phone and his jacket…”
“All things that you could leave with the secretary on our way out,” Brant prompted further turning to face her fully on the couch.
“Even so I promised Russ that I’d wait for him,” Avery defended looking to Grady’s office door again.
“Just like you promised you’d do an interview with him and that you’d have him over for breakfast each and every morning,” Brant paused as Brooke’s words of warning rushed over him, “Avery, is there something you aren’t telling me? Something that might be of some importance here right about now?”
“Brant, why would you ask that,” she gave him a sideways glance as she felt her chest tighten in the moment.
“Avery, look if there’s something going on that you need to talk to me about, something that you’re worried about, well you realize that you can open up to me,” he reached out to her touching her cheek gently, “I know I haven’t made life easy, but if you need someone to turn to--to talk to about what’s going on, I’d like to try to be here for you.”
“Brant I…” Avery began nervously realizing that there was no sense in dragging out the obvious as she prepared to open up to Brant about the situation that had been taking place.
“I mean I see things clearly,” Brant broke through her thoughts as he continued his fingers pressing in over her skin as his gaze dropped down to her lips, “and Avery while I realize he’s your best friend, the truth to the matter is that you can trust me. I know you’re afraid of getting close to someone especially after your almost marriage, but…”
“My almost marriage,” Avery gasped in surprise, “Who told you about that?”
“Russell did and I must confess I was surprised at the time, but now seeing how you’re turning to him for things and opening up to him, well it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why you’re doing it,” he stated simply leaning back on the couch, “I mean at first I was blind to what was going on, but now, well now I see things clearly for the first time in a long time.”
“You do?” she blinked back at him in surprise.
“Yes, I do,” he nodded, “I picked up on it this morning over breakfast and now, well now I see it clearer than ever…”
“Really?” she gave him a sideways glance noting the lack of emotions running over his features as she tried to decipher where he was going with this.
“Yes really,” Brant replied with a simple nod, “and I feel it too.”
“Yes, I do and the truth to the matter is I realize that you’re turning to Russell all the time because you’re afraid of what’s going on between us,” Brant blurted out confidently, “and even after last night when I blew it, it didn’t take away from the fact that you’re feeling it too. Russell told me you were almost married to some loser and you were afraid of love after that, but Avery, you don’t have to be afraid with me. I’m not like the man that let you walk away and I swear to you that whatever mistakes he made, I won’t be making them. I want a future for us and I want you to see that I’m dedicated to making this relationship between us work. I’ll do whatever it takes to show you that my feelings for you are as real as those you’re having for me…”
“Brant, I…” she began as he pressed his finger over her lips to silence her.
“Avery, it’s okay,” Brant continued tenderly, “I know how you’re feeling even if you’re not ready to say it just yet, but when the time is right, I know you’ll be ready to face what we have together. I know that you care about me and that you believe that we have something together. I also realize that you’re talking to Russell about this because you’re not sure whether you should trust your heart with me, but the truth to the matter is that I won’t break your heart like that other man did. I care about you Avery and I think if we really work on giving this a go, then somehow we can find a way to make this engagement between us into something more--into something real and maybe must maybe we can find a way to get you believing in happily ever afters again,” he winked at her as he cupped her face in his hands. “I mean hey, it’s worth a shot right?”
“Brant, I just…I…” Avery began at a loss struggling to find the right words to respond to the heartfelt declaration he’d made to her as her lips parted forming some kind of audible sound when she heard the sound of the doors to Grady’s office opening and suddenly the moment slipped away as she rose from the couch hoping above hope that she wouldn’t be picking up the pieces of Russell on Grady’s office floor now that they’d had their words with one another.
Richard arrived at the mansion ready to check in on Avery as he thought
to the wonderful day he’d already had behind him. Somehow in reconnecting
with Judy, it had given him a new lease on life. Maybe now would
be the time for him to finally press Brooke a bit further for that divorce
as there was far more ahead of him than before. He rang the bell
as he stood on the front step to the Ashford mansion and a moment later
he found himself face to face with Brooke.
“This is just wonderful,” she grumbled in response to seeing him as she started to close the door in his face, “Go away.”
“Believe me knowing that you’re here would be all the motivation I’d need to want to do that, but I’m here to see our daughter,” he pushed his way inside the mansion looking around as he couldn’t resist the urge to tease her, “Tell me, are you on staff here in the hopes of trying to win Brant over since he’s got you answering doors?”
“Brant isn’t here,” she scuffed in response glaring up at him, “and neither is my daughter.”
“Our daughter,” Richard corrected as he gave a quick look around, “so where is Avery anyways as I’d really like to have a word with her?”
“Like I’m going to offer up anything to help you after what you did to me last night,” Brooke sneered back at him, “if you think for one minute you’re going to be able to get away with what I’ve done, well you’ve got another think coming. In fact I’m half tempted to call my lawyer up now and start working on those divorce proceedings after all…”
“Really?” his eyes widened with enthusiasm, “Now that is something. I should dump you off on the side of a road in the middle of no where more often if it inspires those kind of thoughts in you.”
“Dick, you’re not funny,” Brooke glared back at him watching as he circled around her smiling.
“I wasn’t trying to be,” he shrugged his shoulders simply, “I am however seeing that perhaps it’s about time that you and I put an end to this mess. I know we’ve been going on and on about this situation for years, but really we aren’t accomplishing anything in being together because well we aren’t really together and we haven’t been together for years,” he faced her a bright tone rushing over him as he offered up a goofy grin, “So let’s just do it.”
“Excuse me?” Brooke blinked back at him wrinkling her nose in disgust, “What are you babbling on about this morning when clearly you should be in jail for what you did last night leaving me to die out there in the middle of no man’s land.”
“You’re still alive, aren’t you,” he gave her a pointed look, “and given how wicked you are, I’m sure you’ll be around for years to come, but I’ve decided that my life is far too important to waste it on this dead end joke of a marriage we have, so I’ll just cut to the chase,” his tone shifted as a seriousness clouded over him, “Brooke, let’s stop playing games with one another. We’ve done this time and time again for years and there’s no point in fighting the inevitable. We’re miserable and it’s not going to change because the truth is neither one of us want to change it in the ways it takes to make a marriage work, so how about you just stop fighting me on this issue and let’s just go for the gusto? Let’s get divorced and be done with it.”
Brooke blinked back in surprise, her face a mixture of emotions that Richard couldn’t quite read as she brought her hand up to her chest in a surprised gesture, but still a silence hung over her as she remained frozen before him.
“Wow, I never thought I’d live to see the day this would happen,” he commented as she seemed too stunned for words, “Do I take this as a sign that you’re ready to give up this ridiculous obsession with keeping our marriage alive on paper?”
“What this means,” Brooke began regaining her composure as she stood taller, placing her hands on her hips, “is that you’re by far the most selfish, insensitive man to ever walk the face of this earth. Our daughter is going through some major events in her life and you come here today to prod me into granting you a divorce when we should be putting Avery’s well being first…”
“Avery’s well being has always been the lowest priority on your list, well maybe just above mine, so I know that isn’t what you’re worried about,” Richard countered with a frown, “and as for Avery, I don’t think our divorcing would hurt her. She knows how miserable we are together and maybe in her seeing that we are willing to learn to accept defeat and move on, it might help her with the conflict she’s facing in her heart. She might feel a little less weight on her shoulders if we…”
“Don’t you dare use our daughter as means of your manipulating this situation,” she struck back harshly, “There’s only one reason you’d be asking for this now. Clearly you’re seeing someone else…”
“So what if I am,” Richard remarked bitterly, “It’s not like I’m unaware of the live ins you’ve had over the last couple of years. Brooke, I’ve been patient and I’ve been quite reasonable about this, but I’m tired of being reasonable. I want a divorce.”
“Too bad,” Brooke declared with a huff, “because you aren’t getting it.”
“The hell I’m not,” Richard growled back at her.
“If you think for one second that I’m going to cave in and give you what you want, then you’ve got another think coming,” Brooke hissed in response as she shoved him towards the door.
“Don’t think you can keep skirting around the issue,” Richard demanded as she shoved him once again, “I’m not going to stop until I get this divorce.”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I give you anything that you want this much especially after the way you’ve been,” Brooke pushed him out of the mansion slamming the door behind him as she vowed to find out what Richard’s sudden urgency was about and when she located the source, she’d make double sure that he never got what he wanted out of her for as long as she was Mrs. Richard Morrison, then she held all the power.
“So is this Seth guy really worth all the trouble you’re going through to keep him?” Zack asked as he placed a soda pop in front of Blake.
“I definitely think he is,” Blake smiled, “He’s not too keen on the idea of you being involved,” She said as she watched him take a seat beside her at the table.
“So he’s possessive, huh? You know guys like that are never good news, Blake.”
“Like you’re one to talk. I seem to remember that girl…what was her name?” Blake thought for a moment, “Oh yeah…Hilary…you were so possessive of her that you got defensive every time we talked about seeing her at the cafeteria. You freaked out wanting to know every little detail about who she talked to and who she was with. Don’t start lecturing about guys being possessive, Zack.”
“Well see there, there you go. You don’t want a guy like me.”
“I did,” She said in a very matter of fact manner.
“So is that what this is really about?” Zack said with a sly grin as he leaned onto the table towards her, “Are you trying yet another attempt at getting me?”
“No,” She groaned as she blushed, turning her face away from him, “I’m not.”
“Are you blushing? That’s so cute,” He grinned, “I love a woman who blushes.”
“Please don’t flatter me,” She said as she looked back to him, “The last thing I need is for you to make me like you.”
“So you don’t like me?”
“No, I don’t,” She said as she flipped her blond hair from her shoulders, “You’re just convenient.”
“And so why were you blushing?”
“I wasn’t blushing,” She said defensively.
“Yes you were,” Zack grinned, “It’s really kind of cute. I never did tell you I thought that was cute, did I?”
“No, you didn’t, and it’s just as well. God only knows what I would have done if you’d given me that kind of encouragement,” She rolled her eyes, “I already have enough embarrassing memories where you’re concerned thank you very much.”
“Why would you be embarrassed about anything that happened between us?”
“Nothing happened between us. You always made sure of that.”
He touched her arm gently, “And I’m glad I did. You’re like a little sister to me, and I’m glad we have this kind of friendship. Just think if we’d gotten together, you would have hated me by now,” He said as he lightly touched her chin.
She smacked his hand away, “Zack, would you cut this out? We’re suppose to be catching up here instead of you having delusions of grandeur that I would have given you any more than a one night stand.”
“Are you insulting me? I think you are,” He said with his jaw dropped though a smile tickled the sides of his mouth, “You just said that I wouldn’t be worth more than one night.”
“You wouldn’t,” She shrugged, “Besides I’m with Seth now, and I want to focus on him.”
“So he’s why you’re here to draw me into this little plot you and he have going,” Zack nodded, “And I’m just supposed to fall in line and do what you want when I’m not even sure this guy is right for you? That’s asking a lot isn’t it?”
“I’m not asking for your approval, Zack. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re not really my big brother, okay? So you don’t get a choice in whether he’s right for me or not,” She paused as she thought about it, “Actually, neither do they for that matter.”
“Do I even get to meet this guy?”
“No, not with that attitude, you don’t,” Blake said with a frown, “Besides, if he sees you, he may feel like he needs to beat the crap out of you, and I couldn’t live with that on my conscience.”
“Why would he feel the need to do that?” He asked with wide eyes.
“Because he’s very possessive, and you’re kind of cute. The two just wouldn’t mix very well.”
“Kind of cute?” Zack asked with amusement, “It seems to me that you used to call me incredibly sexy.”
“I grew up,” Blake smiled brightly, “And so did my taste in men.”
“Hey, now that’s getting personal,” He teased as he reached over to tickle her sides.
“Knock that off,” She said as she smacked his hands away with a laugh, “Right now, we need to get together with Caitlin and figure out a plan.”
Zack frowned as he looked at the clock, “Cait should be here by now. I wonder what’s keeping her.”
“You know Caitlin,” Blake shrugged, “She’s probably chasing down some story,” She smiled as she sipped her soda, knowing that Caitlin would turn up sooner or later.
Mindy darted back and forth through the newsroom, avoiding reporters who were working stories and others who were gathering their things before going home for the day. She skirted around the last few desks and stopped quickly in front of Caitlin’s desk, “This came for you.”
“Thanks,” Caitlin said quickly as she glanced at the large envelope, “This is from the clerk’s office,” She clutched the envelope with a large smile, “This could be everything I need to show people just what a sorry companies Midlands and Stone Corp really are.”
“Good for you,” Mindy said with a smile, “I’ve got to get out of here. I have a date tonight.”
“Have fun,” Caitlin shouted at her friend over the bustling newsroom. She tucked the envelope into her document bag before gathering the rest of her things and preparing to leave work. She slipped the strap of her bag over her shoulder and walked towards the elevator. She frowned as she saw the group waiting for the next car to arrive.
“Great,” She sighed before turning and walking to the stairs. She opened the door to the stairwell and began taking the stairs down to the underground parking deck.
After a couple of flights, she heard a door on a floor above her open. She dismissed the sound and continued down the stairs.
The attack came from behind, hitting her like a ton of bricks as she crashed down the remaining stairs to land at the stoop. She tried to raise up before she felt the hard side of a fist slam her into the floor. She felt the reverberations within her head as another blow sent her to the floor yet again.
“You bitch! Did you really think I wouldn’t find you?” Her attacker screamed at her as he yanked her head back by using a handful of hair, “I’ve found you, and I’ll always find you!” He screamed as he buried his fist at her kidneys. He pounded his fists into her abdomen once and then twice more before footsteps on the stairs above sent him scrambling away from her.
Caitlin tried to turn but all she felt was shards of pain throughout her body. She tried to reach out, but all she could manage was to brokenly pull a breath of air into her burning lungs.
The footsteps became closer, and Caitlin could vaguely register the presence of someone over her. She heard the dialing of a cell phone, but nothing else. All she knew was the pain, and that her worst fears had come to life after all.