Episode 363

Kevin sat in the corner of Angela’s hospital room in the less than comfortable chair he’d been seated in all night after he and Brant had come to check in on Angela. Now as he looked over to Brant, who was sleeping next to Angela, his head resting gently on the side of Angela’s bed, Kevin found himself thinking about the eerie feeling that had carried over him after he’d spotted Dr. Andrew Byrne in Angela’s room.

“I asked you what the hell you were doing in here,” Kevin repeated himself his dark eyes narrowing in on Andy watching as Andy stepped away from Angela’s side of the bed.

“I was just checking in on her considering how concerned Brant was about his fiancée,” Andy explained making his way over to the end of the bed. He offered up a small nod in Brant’s direction, “From what I can see I’m sure she’ll pull out of this. Her charts indicate that your children are fine and…”

“We already knew that,” Kevin’s jaw flexed with tension, “So did you. So let me ask you again, what are you doing in here?”

“I was just…” Andy reached for his side and extracted the pager that was on his hip, “I have to go. I’m needed in the OR, but I wish you the best of luck Brant. I know how hard this must be for you right about now. Just have faith that things will turn out for the best.”

“That’s what I’m doing,” Brant replied with a nod seeing Andy slip out of Angela’s room before he turned to Kevin, “You sure you’re okay?”

“I don’t trust that man,” Kevin informed Brant with a shake of his head, “He has no business being in here. Don’s her doctor, not him. Didn’t you say he was a plastic surgeon or something?”

“Well yes, but…” Brant saw Kevin begin to pace around the room, “Kevin, what gives here? Are you upset because you think he looks like Angela’s late husband?”

“It’s more than that. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know that man isn’t here to help Angie. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced he’s the last person that Angie needs in her room right now,” Kevin has explained to Brant hoping that Brant would take heed in his warning somehow.

Now as Kevin sat in the chair pondering what he’d thought he walked in on, he worried that Angela being in the hospital was the last thing she needed. Yes, he was well aware of her injuries, yet knowing what she and Brant stood to lose with the rest of the world around them causing chaos, Kevin contemplated having a word with Don himself and having security brought in to keep an eye on Angela’s room. Maybe it was overstepping his boundaries with her, but Kevin couldn’t help but think about Angela’s best interest even if she and he weren’t on the best of terms with one another when he’d last seen her. Closing his eyes Kevin thought about another time and place when he’d found himself in a situation where he’d feared for his best friend’s life.

“Look man, I don’t know what your deal is, but Angie is my wife, not yours,” Cary informed Kevin with a snide expression, “What happens between my wife and I is none of your concern anymore Kevin. She married me and you’re going to have to deal with it.”

“What I don’t have to deal with is you sneaking around behind her back and trying to harm her,” Kevin could feel the air pick up around where he stood with Cary, out in the dark and isolated spot that he’d followed Cary to after the boxing match was over. “You know full well that you’re not on the up and up with her and I want to know what it is you’re into now.”

“I don’t owe you any answers Adonis,” Cary snarled over at Kevin moving forward in an attempt to push him aside.

“The hell you don’t,” Kevin shoved him in response, “I heard you on the phone Cary. I know what you’re planning and I’m here to tell you that it’s not going to happen.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cary balked back in response a tight laugh carrying over him, “You know this whole overprotective guard dog thing is getting rather old. I’m getting sick and tired of seeing you following my wife around Kevin. She doesn’t love you and she never did.”

“You’re the one who never loved her,” Kevin shook his head unable to believe what he was seeing in front of him, “What has this been all about with you? Money?”

“I don’t have to listen to this,” Cary mouthed in response moving forward in an attempt to shove Kevin once again. “Get out of my way Adonis.”

“No,” Kevin stood his ground standing up taller and using his size to intimidate Cary. “I know what you’re planning for Angie and I’m here to tell you it’s not happening. You’re going to disappear and never go near her again.”

“So that you can have her all to yourself,” Cary erupted into a fit of laughter before his blue eyes honed in on Kevin, “I don’t think so Kevin. The deal doesn’t work that way.”

“There is no deal. This isn’t a negotiation. It’s an order,” Kevin’s jaw flexed with all the animosity he’d been holding inside of him ever since he’d heard the phone call that had reconfirmed his fears about Angela’s lover.

“No Kevin, I don’t think you’re getting it,” Cary snapped back at him, “I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am and I’m not about to let some hired hand get in my way. Angela owes me and she’s going to pay up one way or the other.”

“Listen you son of a…” Kevin moved in towards him, a primal fury tearing him apart from within as Cary stepped back surprising Kevin by pulling out a gun.

“You’ve left me no other choice Adonis,” Cary waved the gun around in the air, “I’ve put up with that little bitch for long enough. She’s no use to me anymore and now it’s time for me to cash in.”

“But she’s pregnant,” Kevin blinked back, his brown eyes fixed on the barrel of the gun, “She’s having your baby. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“An even bigger paycheck at the end of the day,” Cary laughed in a nefarious tone, his blue eyes revealing the depths of his greed. “What? You didn’t think I planned on that one as well? Do you have any idea how much Angela is worth? Surely you should’ve had some kind of notion about how much money she’s worth when she’s dead. It triples when the insurance company discovers she’s pregnant. It’s beautiful if I do say so myself. I get rid of her and that brat and then I get to play the role of the mourning husband who lost the woman he loves.”

“No one will believe that. It won’t work,” Kevin shook his head taking a small step further as he tried to process what he was going to do.

“Oh but it will,” Cary waved the gun around once more, “You see everyone knows you’ve never gotten over Angela. They all know about your obsessive tendencies and how you cannot go without her. They’ll all see how you were driven to madness in your desire coveting my wife and once she shunned you and your advances because she loved me, you had no choice but to make sure that no other man could have her if she wasn’t going to share her life with you. It’s perfect if I do say so myself.”

“Your plan had one fatal flaw,” Kevin circled around the area taking a survey of his surroundings.

“And just what might that be?” Cary arched a curious brow watching Kevin with a scrutinizing eye.

“If you kill me, then you won’t have me around to frame for what you’re planning. They will see that I had nothing to do with what happened to Angie and you’ll be discovered,” Kevin reminded him sharply, “All fingers will be pointed at you at that point.”

“Yeah well I’m working out the details still, but sooner or later I’ll come up with something,” Cary waved the gun around in the air, “I mean by all standards I’m sure we can figure out a way to work this so that it ends up giving me exactly what I deserve. What I’ve always deserved.”

Kevin felt a hand on his shoulder. He practically leapt out of his seat, his blood pumping in his veins as he could almost hear the sound of a gunshot ringing out in his mind and reminding him of that day that changed everything. His eyes snapped open and he felt his breath grow labored while his heart hammered in his chest. He reached for the hand seizing the wrist between his fingers when his gaze locked with Ria.

“Kevin, are you okay,” she questioned worriedly seeing him in a state of panic, “Kevin, what is it?”

“Ria, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you were,” he paused trying to get himself under control as the memory of the past still carried over him harder than before.

“You were saying something when I came in here. You sounded like you were upset and,” she stopped seeing Brant lift his head up to look at the both of them.

“What time is it?” Brant yawned bringing his own fingers through his dark, tousled hair. “I must’ve drifted off to sleep earlier and…”

“You needed the rest,” Kevin tried to keep his tone cool and even despite the fact that worry had him tangled in knots. Still he didn’t want Brant to be concerned about the thoughts that had consumed him. Kevin stood up straighter and motioned to Ria, “I’m just going to get us some coffee or something since it’s been a long night.”

“Sounds good,” Brant nodded letting out a yawn as he turned his attention to Angela once again.

“Don’t let anyone else other than Don in here until I get back either,” Kevin suggested catching Brant’s confused stare. “Just trust me on this one.”

“Whatever you say,” Brant nodded in response reaching for Angela’s hand and taking it in his before Kevin turned to Ria.

“Let’s get some air,” Kevin whispered leading Ria out of the room before reaching out to stretch his shoulders. He glanced over at Ria seeing the way that she was watching him and he frowned, “What?”

“You’re not telling me something Kevin. Something’s on your mind and I can see it,” she moved forward reaching out to touch the side of his face. “What is it?”

“I’ll tell you,” he looked around the hallway, “but not here, okay?”

“Fine,” she nodded accepting his response, “Let’s go in the courtyard for a few minutes and get you that air. We can talk out there and then get the coffee.”

“That sounds good,” Kevin nodded in agreement still feeling that nagging feeling carrying over him that the past was anything but history for Angela’s future in Coral Valley.


“Hey beautiful,” Brant reached for Angela’s hand again lifting it to his lips as he found himself filled with an overwhelming concern for the woman he loved. He reached out to touch her hair gently as he kept her hand in his seeing that she made no movement or had any reaction to the sound of his voice. Leaning forward Brant kissed her gently wishing like hell she would kiss him back even though he knew full well it was too much to ask for this soon.

“I kind of hoped that you’d have those beautiful eyes of yours open when I told you how much I loved you this morning,” Brant whispered warmly seeing that she looked so tired and pale as she lay before him. He placed another kiss on her hand before speaking up again, “I’m so sorry for how things went at Cameron’s place. I never, ever wanted you to end up in this position. I just wanted for you to know the truth about me--to see what kind of man I was. I love you and our children and I don’t want to lose you. Heaven knows I deserve a lot worse than I’ve been given considering all the stunts I’ve pulled in the past, but Angela if I lose you…”

Brant paused feeling tears pool in his eyes. A lump formed in his throat as he laced their fingers together. “Damn it. I may deserve to have someone’s wrath upon me for the things I’ve done, but you don’t deserve this. You deserve so much more. You should be awake and happy and not in this position that I’ve put you in. I wish like hell I could go back and change what happened with Cameron, but I can’t. I don’t know what I can do to erase the hurt this all caused you, but what I can say is that I love you. I love you so much that I don’t want to lose you. I know it sounds selfish, but you’re everything to me.”

He stopped himself before speaking up again, “For so long I thought I had everything. I thought that I found all that I had wanted in life. I lied to myself again and again in an attempt to force myself to believe that I found the real thing--that I had love and that I could be happy being second best in someone’s life, but I was wrong. I screwed up so much during that point in my life, but now,” he paused choked up on emotions, “Now that I found you again everything finally makes sense. I don’t have to lead myself to believe I can have a life with my dream girl that wasn’t meant to be because I know I don’t have to settle for second best. You are absolutely everything I have waited to find in my life and if I lost you now…”

“You’re not going to Brant,” he heard Don’s voice call out to him. Tipping his head up he saw his friend standing over the edge of the bed with a worried expression on his face.

“How can you be so sure?” Brant questioned his voice tight with emotion, “Considering what I did when I was trying to hold onto Avery, maybe this is punishment for my sins. Maybe this is what I get for trying to keep two people who loved one another apart.”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Don glanced over at Angela before turning to Brant again, “This isn’t what’s happening.”

“It sure as hell feels like what’s happening,” Brant’s gaze fixed on Angela again. “When Cameron lied about me, I knew I had to find a way to make her believe in me--make her believe in our love, but there were so many manipulations.”

“Which you tried to work through,” Don added moving in closer to his friend.

“Even so, I think about all the things I did to manipulate Russ and Avery. I think about how I almost denied him a chance to be with his daughter and now that Cameron tried to take away Angela and my children,” Brant felt guilt settle in over his body eating away at him. He turned his head upward to meet Don’s concerned gaze, “I’m getting what I gave only instead of me being punished it’s Angela. She’s suffering for my sins.”

“Brant, you can’t think like that,” Don shook his head at him. “You need to keep praying and hoping that things will turn around. What happened to Angela is an unfortunate accident. That’s all it was Brant. It was an accident and you weren’t responsible.”

“Then why do I feel like I am? Why can’t I shake the feeling that my father was right?” Brant questioned frustrated. “Why do I feel like the Ashford curse is hanging over my head threatening to take away the one thing I’ve waited forever to find?”

“Because you’re beating yourself up over this and you’re not seeing the whole picture. Cameron pushed her down the stairs, not you,” Don reminded him pointedly knowing full well it didn’t make a difference now that Angela was in a coma.

“Yes, but it should’ve been me instead. I should’ve been the one to take the fall, not Angela,” Brant refused to cut himself any slack. “I’ve been the one parading around town like a jackass for the last few months and now she has to take the brunt of that.”

“Brant, you didn’t kill her father. Cameron started this the day that he began with his lies. He’s the one who is to blame for this and when Angela wakes up, she’ll see that,” Don added with a thoughtful expression.

“If she wakes up Don…” Brant squeezed Angela’s hand again before turning to Don. “Do you know she told him that she loved me? She told Cameron that she wanted to be with me--to share her life with me before all of this happened and now…”

“Brant I promise you I’ll do everything I can to help bring her back to you,” Don assured his friend placing a hand on his shoulder.

“I just want her back Don. I need her so much,” Brant blurted out unable to contain his emotions any longer as he found himself crying over the possibility that everything he’d ever hoped for would slip out of his reach before he had a chance to enjoy what it was that life had offered them. “I love her so much.”

“Good morning my dear wife,” Kyle walked into the kitchen seeing Heather looking inside the kitchen and he moved in behind her, pressing a small kiss against the side of her neck. “You have no idea how good that feels.”

“How good what feels?” Heather grinned widely feeling his arms wrap around her waist tightly, pulling her in against him and he pressed another small kiss against her cheek. “Kissing me?”

“Well, that too,” Kyle smirked feeling her turn around in his arms as he smiled and moved forward to press a tender kiss against her lips, feeling her arms curl in around his shoulders. Pressing his forehead against hers he smiled widely before shaking his head slowly. “Finally getting to call you my wife, I’ve been waiting years to actually do something like that.”

“For a point in time in my life, I never thought I would ever hear you say something like that again,” she frowned feeling his hand slip in against the side of her face, caressing her cheek softly with his rough fingers. “I really thought that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with Sarah.”

“And I thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with Brant,” Kyle pointed out stepping away from her for a minute to grab the orange juice out of the refrigerator and shaking his head slowly. “Which I thought was totally awkward considering the men you have always had a crush on your whole life. Brant and I don’t even fall under the same category of men.”

“Well other than you, he was the only one that treated me half decent,” Heather explained seeing him take out a glass and pour the orange juice into it as she took a step forward. “What about the two sisters, I never thought a bitch would be your type as in Sarah.”

“Touché,” Kyle whispered taking a sip of his juice before shaking his head slowly and biting down on his bottom lip, holding onto the glass tightly. “To be honest with you though, it’s really because I thought you wanted Brant that whole time and it hurt my feelings.”

“Well, it hurt my feelings to see you with my sister,” Heather watched Kyle’s eyebrows perk up before he finished off his orange juice and set the glass in the sink before moving in closer to her, reaching for her hands. “But that doesn’t matter right now because I have you and no one is taking you away from me.”

“That is a very good point,” Kyle moved forward to kiss her before feeling her fingers press in against his lips and his eyebrows tensed together as she pulled away a bit. “I’m very lucky to have you too honey, without you--I’m not the man I was destined to be.”

“Really?” Heather eyed him over slowly, biting down on her bottom lip as she pressed her hand in over the center of his bare chest. “So being with me caused you to be a total pervert?”

“If that’s who I really am, then I suppose so,” Kyle teased his nose wrinkling as he chuckled and wrapped his right arm around her waist tightly, his forehead pressing in against hers. “You can’t tell me that you don’t love me like this though.”

“You are quite a package,” Heather tipped up to press her lips in against his, feeling his hands press in over the small of her back, pulling her in up against him. “I love absolutely everything about you Kyle, you should know that.”

“I’d love to show you everything I could do for you,” Kyle gently nipped at Heather’s bottom lip before a sudden sound erupted through the air and Kyle closed his eyes, letting out a long breath. Gently setting her back to her feet he held up his finger motioning her to wait. “I will be right back.”

Walking down the hallway, Kyle rubbed the back of his neck hearing Charles’s cries getting louder as he moved a bit quicker to walk into Charles’s room seeing that Charles was tugging at the sides of his crib.

“Hey kiddo,” Kyle hushed reaching out to gently pick up Charles, rubbing his hand soothingly against Charles’s back before holding him carefully and walking back toward the kitchen with Charles while he calmed down. “Mommy, I think Charlie here is a bit hungry.”

“Oh, poor baby,” Heather got up from her seat seeing Charles cuddling in against Kyle’s chest, his little cheeks a rose color from crying while his brown eyes stared out at Heather. “It’s okay, we’ll get you something to eat.”

“Poor little guy,” Kyle frowned reaching down to gently tickle at Charles’s sides hearing a small amount of laughter fill the air as Kyle smiled happy to see that Charles was feeling better. Soon enough he had Charles bursting out with laughter when Heather came with food. “That’s what I like to see, a smile on this handsome little mans face.”

“We should be careful though or he’s going to throw up on one of us because you are getting him so excited,” Heather sat down seeing Kyle gently set Charles back in his chair so Heather could feed him. Moving over toward the refrigerator, Heather frowned seeing Kyle just blankly staring out the window. “Kyle, is everything okay?”

“Oh yeah,” he lied thinking back to last night when he thought he had seen Sarah outside and he cleared his throat uneasily before glancing over at Heather. “I really do think I saw Sarah last night Heather, I know you thought it was my mind playing games with me, but I really believe I saw her Heather.”

“Kyle, you really think she has the guts to follow you around after what happened?” Heather questioned seeing the look that Kyle gave her and she knew that was probably a really dumb question. “Okay, well if she was here, why did she just leave and not try to get in somehow?”

“How am I supposed to know how she works?” Kyle came back to the table seeing Heather glance at him as he took a seat across from her and Charles, pushing his glass back and forth slowly. “I don’t know why, but I’m worried about the situation. She is like a bad luck charm for me.”

“She is for all of us,” she added seeing that Kyle’s hazel eyes met hers and she really could tell he was upset and obviously thought something was going to happen between the two of them. “Nothing Sarah does can take you away from me Kyle, nothing is going to hurt us.”

“I know, but eventually Sarah is going to learn about us and as will everyone else,” Kyle cleared his throat uneasily before thinking about the people he knew he never wanted to tell about getting married so fast. “I’m just worried that she will try and start something once she knows we are married.”

“It will be something we’ll have to face Kyle,” Heather added seeing his eyebrows tense together and he swallowed down roughly and looked back down to his glass. Reaching out after she was done with Charles, she grabbed his hand in hers tightly. “The two of us will deal with it together. No, not the two of us, the five of us. You, me, Charles, Kipp and Kellen. We won’t let Sarah ruin anything, that’s something I promise you.”


“You know you should try to rest a little bit,” Sarah suggested placing her hand gently on Cameron’s shoulder. “I know that you’ve got a lot on your mind, but you need to take care of yourself Cameron.”

“What I need is to find a way to get rid of Brant Ashford because this is all his fault. He’s trying to tear my family apart and no matter what I do or say no one in this town is going to see I’m right,” Cameron pouted further thinking about how his sister needed to be far away from Brant for her own good.

“Tell me about it,” Sarah huffed in response shaking her head at the thought, “No one in this town wants to give you a second chance when you are the one in the right. I mean honestly the way I see it, my life has gone downhill since Heather decided to make it her mission to ruin my life.”

“She didn’t force you to sleep with half the world,” Cameron noted dryly catching the glare she shot over at him, “Well it’s true. Face it whether you like it or not, you created the situation you’re in. If you would’ve just stayed honest with Kyle and kept exclusive to that relationship, you two would still probably be together right now.”

“This coming from a man who sleeps with just about half the world,” Sarah rolled her eyes at him, “You’re just about the last person to judge.”

“I wasn’t judging you,” he corrected her tipping his head to the side to look at her closely, “I was merely stating a fact about your situation.”

“As I said before you don’t have any room to talk considering that you have different women around you all the time,” she snubbed at him wrinkling her nose.

“Yes, but unlike you I never claim to be exclusive with anyone. They know straight up that I’m not about the whole relationship tie down. About the only time I half considered playing it faithful was when I was married to your sister and that didn’t work out either. Then again I don’t think she was all that interested in who I was or wasn’t sleeping with,” Cameron shuddered at the thought remembering his marriage to Heather, “Although my one regret with her is that I treated her so poorly.”

“Oh right,” she groaned inwardly shaking her head at him, “Like I almost believe that one.”

“Believe it or not your sister deserved better than what I gave her and I regret the way things went down with us,” he sighed heavily his gaze dropping to the floor. He sank back further into his chair and slumped his shoulders.

“That why you’re shelling out a fortune for her to get that stupid company up and running off the ground?” Sarah arched a curious brow unable to believe how stupid Cameron was about Heather.

“Honestly it’s a great idea and a profit that I think I would like to run with,” Cameron divulged thinking about all of his other business endeavors, “At least with the company it would be a shift from what I’m used to.”

“No, I think you’re pretty much used to women blinding you in order to get what they want,” she rolled her eyes once again and let out a long, unimpressed groan.

“Must’ve been the reason we slept together,” Cameron shot back at her icily, “which reminds me, I think you and I need to have a talk about that baby you keep using as a tool to get you into trouble.”

“What about?” she arched a curious brow sitting up straighter in her seat.

“If that’s my baby then I’m warning you now, you’re not going to just up and leave town. I mean yes, you can go sooner or later if you would like, but you’re not taking my child,” Cameron informed her point blank, “Kyle might be in the dark about things. Though I’m pretty sure he’s pieced it together that he’s probably out of the running and as for Diego, well if you were smart you would skip over the whole part about including him and think ahead to the future.”

“The future?” Sarah arched a curious brow searching his dark eyes for a moment, “And just what exactly is in the cards for my future?”

“That all depends on how you want to play your game,” he answered in a casual tone, “If you would like to be smart about the situation and play nice with me, we may be able to work something out.”

“Something that might wind up with a mutually exclusive benefit for us?” she arched a curious brow seeing something stirring behind his eyes.

“Tell me something Sarah,” he shifted on the chair turning to face her fully, “If you had it your way would you run to your psychiatrist and share a life with him?”

“My psychiatrist wants nothing to do with me. He’s made that very clear,” she added with a huff thinking about Diego’s avoiding her, “but I’m not finished trying yet.”

“A pity,” he reached out to touch the side of her face briefly before drawing back, “because I had hoped you would have evolved past that phase. After all you aren’t of any use to me if you’re head is in the clouds chasing something that simply wasn’t meant to be.”

“And just what is that supposed to mean?” she questioned with a huff her dark eyes challenging his. “What are you getting at Cameron?”

“Simply put I won’t give you mutually exclusive unless of course you would give me plenty of reason to want to,” his gaze swept over her with a ravenous undertone, “I might be tempted to travel down that road with the right persuasion, but then again no one said that being married meant being left to endure the possibility of only having one woman in a man’s life so to speak.”

“Being married?” she arched a surprise brow, “Cameron are you proposing to me?”

“Perhaps,” he shrugged his shoulders before waving his fingers around in the air, “Granted it should be the last thing I should be focusing on considering that my sister’s life is hanging in a balance and I need to find a way to get her away from Kevin and Brant before they destroy her forever.”

“I don’t know what I can do, but I can try to help if you would like,” she finally suggested still trying to think about what Cameron was saying to her. She paused for a long moment before thinking about his offer. “I can’t promise that I wouldn’t try to work something else into my life should you be proposing to me.”

“It’s not lovers I’m concerned about,” Cameron blurted out giving her another once over, “There would be terms we would have to work out--one of which being that my son or daughter is mine and regardless of what happens between us, that won’t ever change. If you leave, my child stays.”

“So you’re telling me if I married you, I could still see other people, still do what I want as long as you have complete control over,” she placed her hand over her abdomen, “this.”

“Precisely,” he nodded in response catching something behind her eyes, “Would you have a problem with that?”

“That all depends,” she slid in closer to him, “What else would come along with the deal?”

“Anything you want sweetheart,” Cameron touched the side of her face urging her in closer to him. His gaze centered in on her lips before he cracked a smile, “I could make your being my wife a very good thing for you Sarah. It would give you the kind of life you crave--wealth, power, control over your situation.”

“With a few strings attached to it,” her eyes lazily dropped to his lips, “And I could see whomever I wanted.”

“If that’s what you wished to do,” he nodded in response grazing the side of her cheek gently, “although I will warn you I can be a very persuasive lover if need be.”

“I remember,” she dropped her palm flat onto his thigh, “although I know full well if you married me it wouldn’t stop your enjoying the company of other women. I’m not naïve.”

“Did you think that it would change things?” Cameron searched her eyes for a moment, “Does that thought bother you?”

“Not when you’ve given me freedom as well,” she shook her head, the first hints of a smile touching over her lips, “and for the record if you were really proposing right now--asking me to be your wife, well then I might be inclined to accept.”

“What if I wasn’t asking you? What if I was telling you that was your only option?” Cameron mouthed lazily sliding his fingers into her blonde hair before his arm slid around her waist and yanked her roughly over to his side.

“Then I would say I know what needs to be done,” she answered her smile widening before she leaned in to press her lips against his kissing him heatedly.

His fingers tangled in her hair returning the kiss she’d initiated while he pulled her into his lap finding himself enjoying the morning for the first time since he’d come to this place thanks to Brant Ashford. Granted he was getting off track for a moment or so in focusing on Sarah, but it was always smart to concentrate on his best interests. As they pulled away from the kiss, he noticed that she was breathless and he let out a tiny chuckle.

“So we’re getting married?” she questioned a bit shaky after their kiss.

“Why darling I know you’re a liar, a cheat, a manipulator and someone who most of this town would rather see burned at the stake than spend time with,” he noted with an amused grin cupping her face in his hands, “which makes you all the more perfect to be my bride. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


“Zane, kiddo,” Jason called out down the hallway looking for his nephew before Jason set out the cereal bowls on the table, walking back into the kitchen to grab the cereal box and the milk. “Kiddo, are you ready for breakfast?”

“Uncle Jason,” Zane called out as Jason moved toward the hallway seeing that Zane was running down the hallway with his shirt stuck around his head. “I’m stuck, I’m stuck.”

“Zane, watch out,” Jason saw Zane run into the wall and he quickly moved beside Zane, helping him tug down his shirt and fix it, seeing Zane shaking his head over and over again. “Just shake it off little man, you're going to be okay?”

“Yeah, I’m used to running into things,” Zane added seeing Jason smile before feeling his hand move in against the back of his head. Feeling Jason help him up, Zane ran over to the table to get into his chair before pouring his own cereal, waiting for Jason to pour his milk. “Did mommy go to work already?”

“Yep, but she did make sure that she said goodbye to you before she left,” Jason informed him with a small smile after he was done pouring the milk. He took a seat next to Zane, pouring himself some cereal before looking out at his nephew eating his cereal while the milk dropped down onto the table. “You are so messy.”

“Well so are you,” Zane pointed out seeing Jason laugh and spit some of the milk out on the table and Zane nodded slowly before shrugging his shoulders. “See, I wouldn’t be surprised if you run into walls too and have trouble putting your shirt on to get ready. I was just excited to go out with Grady today.”

“I bet you are,” Jason took another bite of his food before looking at the clock trying to remember what time Deana said Grady would be picking Zane up at. “Does he treat you good kiddo? He’s never hurt you, right?”

“Grady, please Jason,” Zane let out a small laugh before taking in a deep breath and looking toward the clock himself. Shrugging his shoulders he got up from the chair seeing Jason quickly eat his food and follow. “Grady is great, besides he’s taking me to play with Matty and Nate.”

“Nate? Is this Nate guy a good guy?” Jason questioned seeing Zane roll his eyes before Jason threw his hands up in the air and let out a small laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just worry about these things. You’re my little man and I want to make sure you are going to be okay.”

“I will be fine Uncle Jason,” Zane heard the doorbell ring as he saw Jason kneel down and Zane gave him a big hug before walking over toward the couch to pick up his bag. “I’ll see you later Uncle Jay, I love you.”

“I love you too kiddo,” Jason moved to the door to make sure that they got out carefully before walking back into the house and locking it up slowly. “I can’t believe he thinks I have trouble putting on my own shirt. I’m an adult.”

Walking back to his bedroom Jason grabbed his shirt and started to walk back into the hallway, pulling his shirt on before crashing down to the floor after tripping over one of his shoes he had forgotten to put away.

“Okay, maybe he was right,” he let out a small groan before shaking it off and standing up slowly, grabbing his white tennis shoes that he had gotten the other day. Hearing the phone start to go off on the table, he quickly moved forward to answer it. “Hey Deana.”

“Jason, how is everything?” he heard his sister question as he walked over to his couch to put his shoes on and hold the phone to his ear with his shoulder. “Is everything going okay?”

“Oh yeah, I’m just getting ready right now,” Jason explained finishing up with his shoes and getting off the couch to walk back into his room, looking for a hat to wear when he left. “I was just looking for a few things because Grady just picked Zane up.”

“Alright, I was just making sure everything worked okay when you woke up,” Deana heard Jason let out a long breath as she paced back and forth in the hallway. “So you are going to be careful today, right?”

“Oh yeah, I’m just going to Mindy’s because she asked me over,” Jason informed her moving back toward the kitchen to put the bowls back into the sink and clean them off carefully holding his phone before looking for his keys. “Everything going okay for you sis?”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later Jay,” Deana sighed looking down at her watch before moving back down the hallway and thinking about her day. “I have a busy day ahead of me so I’ll let you go. I love you kiddo.”

Hanging up her phone Deana went to walk back to where she was supposed to be before feeling someone grab a firm hold of her shoulder, turning her around to face them. Pulling her shoulder away, she saw the angered eyes of Zack as she rubbed at her shoulder.

“What do you think you are doing?” Zack muttered seeing Deana going to go speak before he held his hands up in the air to cut her off quickly. “Whatever, I don’t want to hear it. You can’t be taking breaks like this all the time because I won’t allow it. You have to do your job and if I find out you are doing something like this again I will be sure you get fired and I don’t care who you are talking to. You have a job to do and when I’m around you better be doing it.”


Grady knocked on the front door to Don’s house thinking about how he’d promised Deana that he would take Zane over to his play date with Matt. Looking down at Deana’s son, Grady couldn’t help but feel like they’d grown an attachment to one another over the time he and Deana had started dating. While Grady hadn’t given much thought to a family in the past beyond the idea of possibly being a father, Zane seemed to put a whole new spin on the idea. When Jade was pregnant, Grady hadn’t known about it until she was gone, so that was an opportunity that had never given itself to fruition, but with Zane, it was like experiencing fatherhood first hand.

“Now you have everything in your backpack right?” Grady questioned waiting for someone to answer the door. He watched Zane play with the toy in his hands before nodding.

“Absolutely everything is in it,” Zane nodded proudly, “Even the apple snacks that mom sent with me.”

“And the juice boxes,” Zane replied with a nod, “which I know Matt is going to love. I’ll probably steal a Pepsi or something from him.”

“Not too much Pepsi though buddy because your mom won’t be happy with you bouncing off the walls,” Grady mussed Zane’s blonde hair before laughing.

“I don’t bounce off the walls. People can’t really do that Grady. Just Spiderman,” Zane wrinkled his nose at the suggestion.

“Right, but after a few cans of Pepsi you seem to think you’re Spiderman,” Grady reached down to pull Zane up into his arms, “What do you say you trying ringing the doorbell?”

“Cool,” Zane mouthed leaning over in Grady’s arms to reach for the doorbell. He pushed the button in once, then another time before reaching for it a third time.

“I think you did a good job Zane,” Grady pulled Zane back into his arms upon hearing shuffling behind the door.

“I said I was coming,” Shannon huffed opening up the door with a few curlers in her hair and a scowl on her face. Her eyes widened as she looked up to see Grady and Zane in front of her, “Oh hey…”

“Did we come at a bad time?” Grady couldn’t help but tease with a laugh.

“Shannon, what happened to your head?” Zane couldn’t help but ask. “My mom only looks that way on mornings when she hasn’t had her coffee.”

“Zane, hey,” Matt rushed into the room to see his cousin in front of him, “You’re late.”

“Not my fault,” Zane replied wiggling out of Grady’s arm, “We stopped at the store and I got the coolest comic book. Want to see it?”

“Sure, but Nate’s waiting for us,” Matt explained impatiently before barely looking over at Grady, “Thanks for bringing him. Maybe next time you’ll be on time.”

“I’ll try my best,” Grady waved over at Matt before watching the two boys slip away out the back door, “Gee, he doesn’t cut anyone any slack, does he?”

“He’s a perfectionist and doesn’t mind letting the world know when they aren’t doing something right,” Shannon admitted running her fingers over the curlers in her hair. “I guess I’m running a little behind as well, but that’s okay. Why don’t you come on in unless you have somewhere else you have to be?”

“No, not right now. I’m pretty open right now,” Grady shrugged his shoulders before looking around the room. “Speaking of somewhere else last time I checked you weren’t staying here. Is it safe to assume that you and Don are no longer on bad terms with one another?”

“I really don’t know where we are with one another,” Shannon divulged thinking about her reunion with her husband. “Nate’s friend died in that shooting and after that, well I guess we’ve been putting on the family front for everyone. Strength in numbers I guess.”

“Is that all it is?” Grady questioned with a doubtful expression.

“I’m not really sure what it is,” Shannon admitted setting one of the curlers on the countertop. She faced Grady again with a seriousness behind her features.

“Hmm, well it looks like you’ve got something special in mind,” Grady gave her a once over checking out her appearance.

“What with these?” she motioned to the curlers in her head. “Don’s mom bought them for me thinking that I might want to go for that whole beauty look.”

“And obviously you were tempted,” Grady smirked over at her, “which could only mean that there’s more going on then just the whole safety in numbers theory. In fact I would go so far as to guess that you and Don are right on track with one another.”

“Since when did you become the relationship police?” Shannon curled her lip in a frown at him, “On second thought, why don’t you answer that in a few minutes? I’m going to give up on these and get the damned things out of my hair. Then maybe we can go for coffee or something.”

“Coffee?” Grady arched a curious brow.

“Nate said he wanted to be in charge of the play date today,” Shannon explained swiftly, “Matt tolerates me, but adores Nate so I figured why not let Nate run things. Plus Don thinks that Matt and Nate spending time together is going to be good therapy for Nate after losing his friend.”

“It always helps to have people you love around you,” Grady agreed with Don’s assessment. “Nate seems pretty good with kids.”

“That’s because he’s a big dope with the mentality of a seven year old. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother but sometimes I don’t know where his head is,” Shannon glanced over towards the back of the house, “In fact why don’t you check up on them while I finish up with this beauty disaster? Then we can go for coffee.”

“Sure,” Grady nodded with a small laugh giving her one last look, “Though are you sure you don’t want to go out that way? You’d certainly make a statement.”

“Blow me Grady,” Shannon rolled her eyes at him before flicking her finger at him. She wrinkled her nose before heading down the hallway back into the bathroom in the hopes of getting herself together after the beauty experiment she’d started.

Grady chuckled unable to repress the amusement that carried over him. Thinking about Shannon’s constant world of denial, he couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps she was really happier than she’d let on. Still as he looked outside at Matt, Zane and Nate he realized that she had a lot more going on than she seemed to appreciate. He watched Nate interact with the two boys before Nate started walking back to the house for a moment.

“They already driving you crazy?” Grady questioned as Nate walked in through the back door.

“Are you kidding?” Nate shook his head in response. “I love those kids.”

“They seem to love you too,” Grady noted with a smile, “They really are the best, aren’t they?”

“I could spend all day with them,” Nate replied walking over to the refrigerator and pulling a few things out. “What about you? You going to be stuck with my sister for a while?”

“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing,” Grady couldn’t help but note.

“Shannon’s a pain in the ass, but today she’s your problem, not mine,” Nate stood up straighter shuffling with the things he’d pulled out of the fridge.

“Want a little help with that?” Grady questioned moving forward to carry a couple of the things for him.

“Thanks,” Nate replied moving over to retrieve a couple of cups from one of the cabinets. “Picnic parties involve food and we’ve got lots of it.”

“I can see that,” Grady paused for a moment, “So how are you doing?”

“Huh?” Nate replied before giving Grady a long look, “Let me guess Shannon put you up to checking up on me huh?”

“No, she didn’t,” Grady explained honestly, “I just know what it’s like dealing with losing someone you care about. If you need someone to talk with…”

“No offense Grady, but it was one of my best friends and you have no idea what that is like,” Nate began with a heavy sigh.

“Maybe not, but the woman I loved died not that long ago. I found out after she died that she was pregnant with my child,” Grady informed him honestly, “You have no idea what it is like to think that you’re going to be a father only to lose it in an instant. It was like having her taken from me twice over.”

“I’m sorry,” Nate replied with an apologetic expression on his face, “I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t expect you to,” Grady’s features softened a bit, “but look if you need someone to talk to, just know that my door is always open. If you need anything…”

“I appreciate that Grady,” Nate offered up in response, “That means a lot to me.”

“Anytime and remember even if you just want to talk, I’ll be here to listen,” Grady explained honestly, “I know sometimes that’s all you really need is to be able to get it all out and talk.”

“Thanks,” Nate glanced over at him once again, “You know you’re too nice to be my sister’s friend.”

“I seriously doubt that one,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh. “Shannon isn’t that bad.”

“Not unless you’re family, but for what it’s worth I’m glad you’re her friend. Maybe your niceness will rub off on her,” Nate shrugged his shoulders before Zane rushed in through the back door.

“Nate come on! Matt’s waiting for us out there. He thinks you got lost,” Zane informed him with wide eyes before looking over at Grady, “Oh hey Grady. I didn’t know you were here still. Are you having a picnic with us?”

“Not today kiddo, but maybe next time,” Grady explained with a smile, “You have fun with Nate.”

“I will,” Zane nodded before turning to Nate again, “Come on. Matt is waiting.”

“I’ll be right there,” Nate promised watching Zane rush out of the house before he looked to Grady again, “Thanks again Grady.”

“Anytime,” Grady replied watching Nate leave to rejoin the boys as he hoped that Nate would be able to get through these hard times alright when everything was said and done.


“Kellen?” Kipp gasped sitting up in bed and looking around to hear a bunch of pounding sounds as Kipp grasped onto his blanket roughly, looking over to see where Kellen should have been sleeping, but he wasn’t there. That was telling him one thing, the person making all the noise must have been Kellen. “Oh great.”

Hearing music filling the air he knew it was Kellen because he only knew one person that could be this happy and joyful in the morning to put on such a song.

“He never sleeps in,” Kipp groaned reaching out for one of his shirts off the dresser and pulled it on quickly before walking out into the hallway hearing what sounded like Kellen singing. “Kellen, my goodness what are you doing?”

“What?” Kellen turned to look back at Kipp who entered the kitchen and Kellen let out a small laugh looking around the kitchen as he was cooking some things. “I invited Daniel over for breakfast because I was going to get him help on how he can get girls to notice him.”

“Is that why you are dressed like a teenage boy?” Kipp looked Kellen over slowly seeing that Kellen was dressed in worn out jeans, sandals and a Hollister t-shirt. He even had his hair done a different way and he saw Kellen nod quickly before walking over toward stove to finish up with the eggs. “Kellen, how can you really be doing that when you really don’t even like women?”

“Well honey, here’s the thing,” Kellen finished up, putting everything into a few dishes before setting them out on the table in the middle before rubbing his hands together. “I’m hot and I know I’m hot. I can go to the mall looking like this and I’ll have thousands of girls giving me their numbers, I just have to have a certain appeal about me and they will be all over me.”

“Should I have something to worry about?” Kipp questioned seeing Kellen laugh and move forward to press a small kiss against his lips before quickly walking over toward the refrigerator to pull out some milk. “You knowing how to get women?”

“Hey, when I was younger and hardly had anything,” Kellen turned around grabbing a hand towel and rubbing his hands off and shrugging his shoulders. “When I was younger, how do you think I got all the good clothes and everyone thought I was a rich kid? It was because I went to the mall and girls gave me free stuff. JT and myself would go to the mall and hey, if we wanted even more free stuff we’d take Kevin with us. It’s just matter of how willing some girls are and how pathetic they can be.”

“So are you trying to get my brother free clothes or are you trying to help him out with girls?” Kipp walked out into the living room seeing Kellen follow him into the room and sit down on the edge of the couch. A sudden power ran into the back of Kipp’s knee making him fall forward so Kellen would catch him as Kipp saw Kellen’s dog jump up on the couch and sit in his spot before lying down slowly. “Tripsy, you have to be careful or you could have taken me out.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s doing, she just wants to make sure no one takes her seat. Isn‘t that right Tripsy?” Kellen made sure Kipp was okay before he went over to pet his dogs ears before pressing a small kiss against its head. “The answer to your question though, I suppose is a little bit of both. If you dress right, you get the girls. That’s all I’m saying, it’s not only about dressing right, but it’s about how you act. You can be hot and be yourself at the same time.”

Hearing the doorbell Kellen saw Tripsy jump off the couch and run to the door, prancing for Kellen to wait for it to open and Kellen gently nudged him back before opening up the door. Daniel moved in only to be knocked to the ground by Tripsy as he let out a small laugh.

“Cute dog,” Daniel lifted his head up from the ground feeling the dog licking at his face as he let out a small laugh and rubbed at its soft ears before looking at Kellen seeing Kellen smiling at the way Tripsy was acting. “So this is the cute mutt you were telling me about on the phone. She’s beautiful Kellen.”

“She likes you too,” Kellen added seeing the way that Tripsy finally let Daniel up and he let out a small laugh petting the dogs head before walking over toward the couch to have Tripsy jump on his lap making him let out a small groan. “She does that a lot, you eventually get used to it.”

“I’m okay,” Daniel groaned before shaking his head and letting out a long breath feeling Kellen’s dog lie down in his lap while he gently pet its head. “You are so lucky to have someone like Kellen, you do know that Kipp, right?”

“Well, I was aware of that,” Kipp sat down on the far side of the couch seeing Kellen take a seat in the middle and Kipp pressed his hand in over Kellen’s shoulder. “But I do know he appreciates a comment every now and then.”

“It’s so cool that all of you are like taking me in like a part of the family,” Kellen wrapped his arm around Daniel hearing his young laugh fill the air as Kellen gave him a small squeeze. “I always wanted a brother I could have fun with since mine was such a jerk. The closest thing I ever had was JT who was my best friend and Kevin because he worked at the bar, but this is different. Someone who I can really help, someone that likes to hang out with me.”

“Well, you’re so cool,” Daniel nudged Kellen before letting out a small laugh seeing Kellen’s dog lift its head up and rest its head against Kellen’s leg and keep the rest of its bodyweight on Daniel. “It’s nice to finally have someone who is looking out for my best interest.”

“You know what though kiddo?” Kipp moved around in his seat, meeting the glance of Daniel and Kipp leaned forward in his seat. “It sure is different being around JT and Cameron and to be honest with you kiddo, I want to do everything in power to be close to you. I think I need that and if Kellen is here to help and push it along, I’m glad. I heard that we have some mall shopping to do and some girl chasing so, I would say lets get geared up and ready to go.”

“Sounds like a great idea to me,” Kellen pointed out hearing the snoring of Tripsy in his lap and Daniels and he let out a long laugh before shrugging his shoulders. “That is when Tripsy wakes up and lets us go. It might take a while at this point.”


JT stepped out of the shower half expecting to find Evie sleeping where he’d left her once they’d returned back to his place the previous night. He was relieved to find that Valerie was gone when he’d brought Evie home, but after things had gone down like they did with Seth and Blake, there wasn’t much that JT could really say to keep Evie from shutting herself off to him. She’d wanted to watch a movie and half way through she had fallen to sleep on the couch. Now he entered his bedroom, a towel wrapped around his waist and he started to ponder what had prompted her to hand over her bracelet to Seth. He was halfway over to his closet when his bedroom door opened and he heard her let out a small sigh.

“JT, you were supposed to still be in the shower,” Evie noted from behind him, her voice moving in closer until she spotted him near the closet clad in a blue bath towel. Immediately her eyes widened and she let out a small gulp, “Well, um I guess this is close enough, isn’t it?”

“Sorry love, but I forgot to bring my things with me,” he explained casting a small glance over his shoulder at her and issuing a small smile, “I didn’t want to wake you earlier, so I hopped in the shower thinking that maybe I would surprise you with breakfast.”

“Too late,” she moved in towards him reaching for his hand and dragging him out of the closet, “I made breakfast for you.”

“You did?” he arched a curious brow seeing her nod excitedly.

“That’s right,” she explained proudly, “When I heard the shower I was half tempted to join you, but then I got to thinking about something productive I could do to start our morning right.”

“And you made breakfast,” he searched her big, brown eyes unable to keep from smiling at how beautiful she looked when she was excited about something.

“That’s right,” she nodded excitedly tugging him back over to the bed with her. She shoved her hands into the center of his chest before holding her finger up in the air and waving it at him, “You just stay right here. I’m going to be right back.”

“Okay, but I was just going to get dressed and…” he paused seeing her race out of the room. A few minutes later she returned with an oversized stack of pancakes. He watched her shuffle the plate in her hand while holding a bottle of syrup in the other and two forks.

“I hope you like pancakes,” she grinned holding the plate out to him before he readily accepted.

“I do,” he watched her plop down beside him and open up the brand new bottle of syrup. He tipped his head to the side and gave her a long look, “Is that strawberry?”

She nodded, “I ran down to the party store at the end of the block while you were in the shower and they had this. It’s my favorite. It always kind of has been. I hope that’s okay.”

“Bring it on baby,” JT held the plate in closer to her, his grin expanding, “I’ve always loved strawberry.”

“And I wondered why we got along so well,” she giggled squeezing the bottle a bit more forceful and soaking the stack of pancakes until more than half the bottle was empty.

“You know maybe you should slow down a bit with that,” JT teased with a small laugh, “We might actually like to have some pancake with the syrup.”

“Sorry,” she apologized her face growing suddenly red as she stretched out to set the bottle on the counter. She quickly shuffled back to her spot on the bed beside him and held out a fork. “One for you. One for me.”

“Thank you,” he accepted the fork seeing her pull something out from inside her shirt. “What’s that?”

“I didn’t have enough hands,” she explained holding out the can of whipped cream she’d tucked into her shirt to keep it from falling out when she carried it from the kitchen. She waved it in the air before smiling again, “You do like whipped cream too, right?”

“I don’t know,” JT held the plate of pancakes out to her before motioning to the bottle, “Is it real whipped cream?”

“I really don’t know,” she paused a confused look on her face as he reached for the bottle and pulled off the cap immediately spraying her with it.

“Let’s find out,” he laughed wildly spraying her again as Evie squealed in surprise.

“You jerk,” she snatched the plate of pancakes from him and pulled the top one off of the stack. Feeling the stickiness of the strawberry syrup on her fingers she pulled her hand back before launching the pancake right into the center of JT’s face. He moved out of the way at the last second and it slapped him right in the center of his bare chest. A moment of silence passed between them before his dark eyes met hers.

“You’re so going to pay for that now,” JT informed her squirting out another blast of whipped cream at her. She crawled onto the center of the bed, but before she could get away, he tugged at her ankle and pulled her back in closer to him.

“Oh no you don’t,” he shook his head at her climbing in over her and squirting her in the face with the bottle of whipped cream.

“JT stop!” she shouted kicking her legs out beneath him, laughter pouring over her as she snagged the can from his fingers and turned it just enough to send the creamy, white foam up into his face.

“Oh, you got me,” JT roared with laughter when she tried to squirt him again, but discovered that the bottle was now empty. Unable to refrain from losing himself to laughter JT rolled back onto the bed and felt a pancake beneath him. He closed his eyes and let out a small groan, “I guess you really got me.”

“So much for breakfast huh?” Evie looked around the bed seeing that all but one of the pancakes had fallen to the floor other than the one that JT had rolled onto of course. Immediately Evie’s eyes perked up and she crawled forward ready to snatch the pancake, but in the midst of her movement JT realized what she was doing and he too made a move for the plate. At the last second he snagged it and held it up in the air victoriously.

“I believe this is mine,” JT teased with a wink ready to pour out more of his celebration when he felt her tackle her down onto the bed all the while climbing over him and pulling the pancake off of the plate.

“Nope, it’s mine. Yours is on the floor,” she explained matter of fact popping the first bite of pancake into her mouth victoriously.

JT couldn’t help but laugh listening to the sound of the plate hitting the floor as he reached out to her. He ripped off a small part of the pancake dropping it into his mouth before smiling. “Not bad.”

“They are a lot better than not bad,” she countered holding the remainder of her pancake out to him, “Here have another taste.”

“How about I just have a taste of you,” he suggested yanking her in over him so that her mouth was just over his, “I’m sure I’d like that better.”

“I can’t argue that,” she shrugged her shoulders simply before leaning in to kiss him heatedly. She wiggled over his abdomen and felt his fingers reaching out over her wrist. He wrapped one arm around her waist before snatching the remaining pancake from her.

“On second thought I will have another bite,” he decided with a tiny laugh taking another taste before holding it up to her, “Thank you. Breakfast was good.”

“All two bites of it,” she shook her head seeing the mess she’d made, “I guess this didn’t go at all like I’d planned for us.”

“I think I liked this better,” he admitted feeling her fingers trace over his sticky abdomen. He picked his head up to see that he was covered in strawberry syrup and he laughed, “So much for that shower I took.”

“It’s okay,” she offered up a small smile before leaning in to kiss him again, “I like you better dirty.”

“Why am I not surprised,” he mused with a small laugh before it suddenly dawned in on him that he’d lost his towel in the shuffle between them. He felt her wiggle her hips over him and he bit back on the reaction it caused inside of him. He cleared his throat uneasily.

“You know,” she stretched her arm out across the bed to the nightstand and pulled the bottle of syrup off of the top of it. “We still have this.”

“Yeah, um maybe I should get dressed and we could go and get some pancakes out somewhere,” JT explained seeing something spark behind her eyes.

“Or maybe we could stay in and find something else to keep us busy,” she shrugged her shoulders before reaching down to tug her shirt out from the shorts of his she’d put on last night. She pulled the shirt over her head and tossed it to the floor with the other pancakes. “What do you say?”

“Evie, I don’t know if,” he gulped his gaze dropping down to take in her curves instinctively.

“What’s wrong JT?” she questioned reaching for one of his hands, “Don’t you like what you see in me?”

He gulped again and nodded, “Very much, but we talked about the island and…”

“And I know you want to touch me,” she reached for his hand sliding it up over her body before she wiggled over his hips again. “What better way to make up for our breakfast disaster than to make love?”

“Evie, it’s not that I don’t want to, but we talked about waiting until we went on vacation and…” he sucked in a sharp breath, sliding his arm around her waist.

“I don’t want to wait,” she informed him claiming his lips again and rocking her body over his. His hips arched up into her and it was as if she’d noticed for the first moment that he was naked beneath her.

“Evie I just don’t know if now is…” he began feeling her stiffen over him. He met her dark eyes and saw something behind them. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing I just…” she cleared her throat uneasily, her hand sweeping over his abdomen before she touched the side of his bare hip. She bit down on her lower lip before rolling off of him, her gaze immediately settling in over his body, no doubt taking in the reaction she’d sparked inside of him. When she finally moved off of him, she found herself fixed on his naked form and she let out a long breath.

“Something wrong?” he questioned noticing the way that she was watching him.

“No, it’s just,” she leaned forward reaching out to touch him before thinking twice and pulling back, “it’s just you’re…”

“What?” he asked puzzled as her face grew red with what he’d have sworn was the first hint of embarrassment he’d seen in her up until now.

“I got you all dirty and…” she tried to force her eyes to his again, but she settled in on his aroused form again, “huge and…”

“Huge,” JT repeated letting out a laugh as he realized that she’d clearly been distracted by his straining sex. He propped himself up on his elbows. “I haven’t heard that one in a while. Not that I’m arguing, but…”

“I just…I guess I just never thought that…” she stammered a bit, embarrassment carrying over her.

“That what?” he couldn’t help but ask feeling a bit uncomfortable with the mood between them. “Evie, what’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head trying to ignore what was obviously bothering her. She met his eyes again before moving in over him again. “I just want to be close to you--to make love with you right now and…”

“And something’s bothering you,” he pulled away from the kiss searching her eyes again, “What is it?”

“Nothing,” she slid her fingers into his dark hair in an attempt to pull him in for another kiss. “I just want to be close to you. To feel all of you and…”

He felt her kiss him again in an obvious attempt to shut him up. He circled his arm around her before rolling her beneath him on the bed. He felt her leg wrap around his hugging his body over her in an attempt to get him thinking less about what was bothering her and more about their making love to one another. He felt her lower lip tremble with nervousness as her shaky hand fell to his bottom offering up an uncertain squeeze. Unable to ignore the feeling in the air around them, JT pulled back meeting her eyes again.

“You’re a virgin, aren’t you?” JT blurted out seeing her brown eyes widen and her face grow even hotter than before.

“What?” she forced a dry laugh, “No, why would you even think something like that when…I mean I can’t believe you said that. You’re such a jerk to think that way…”

“Evie, I’m just saying that…” he felt her reach out to slap him across the face catching him completely off guard when she slid out from beneath him.

“Leave it to you to ruin a perfectly good moment,” she hissed rushing into his bathroom and slamming the door behind her.

JT closed his eyes, sucking in a sharp breath and falling back onto the bed before he realized her response reconfirmed his questioning. He reopened his eyes and slid off of the bed opting to grab a pair of sweatpants before he walked over to the bathroom door. He knocked on it lightly before hearing her snap at him.

“Just go away JT!” she hissed from behind the door.

“No, I’m not going away. Look Evie, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I just think…” he paused searching for the right words as he ran his fingers through his hair, “We just need to talk about this.”

“Why?” she threw the door open and glared at him, “So you can tell me how bad I am at this? That you can remind me of how I don’t measure up to all of the other women you’ve been with JT? About how obviously inexperienced I am because it shows when you’re with me?”

“You have got to be kidding me,” he blinked back at her seeing her ready to slam the door in his face again. This time he placed his foot out before she could finish her mission. “Evie, that’s not it at all. It’s just…”

“Just what?” she folded her arms in front of her chest seeing him enter the bathroom to join her.

“That we don’t need to be rushing things especially if you’ve never done this before,” he pointed out in a sympathetic tone.

“You think I’m horrible at this, don’t you?” she curled her lip in a pout, a new vulnerability carrying over her. “That’s why you asked such a ridiculous question, isn’t it?”

“No,” he shook his head in response, “That’s not it at all. Hell, if you were bad at it, I hope you realize that I wouldn’t have been nearly as excited as I’ve been when I’m around you.”

“So what now?” she asked tipping her head up to meet his eyes, “Is this where you tell me we’re not going to work out because I’m not a slut like Valerie?”

JT couldn’t help but laugh immediately wishing he hadn’t from the expression on her face. Clearing his throat he tried to cover as he reached out to her. He touched her cheek feeling her step back in an attempt to keep a distance between them, but still he gave it another attempt.

“Evie, I didn’t ask you that to embarrass you. I didn’t mean to upset you, but I just felt it was something we needed to talk about because I sure as hell don’t want your first time to be as ridiculous as this,” he offered up in response.

“So now I’m ridiculous?” she huffed in response, “I’ll have you know I’ve done plenty of things with plenty of other men. Just not…well, that, but it’s not because there’s something wrong with me.”

“I never thought there was,” he reached for her hand taking it in his and lifting it to his lips, “and the fact that you are even considering me as someone that you’d like to experience that with, well…that says a lot.”

“Yeah that obviously I haven’t got out much,” she rolled her eyes in response.

“Gee thanks. That makes me feel special,” he frowned back at her shaking his head.

“That’s not what I meant JT,” she sighed heavily her frustrations mounting, “It’s just that when I was younger--when I was a kid, my dad had me running all these scams with him. He had me doing a lot of really bad things and I never had time for anyone in my life. The guys I knew in school weren’t worth the time of day let alone having a shot with me.”

“Somehow I don’t doubt that,” he couldn’t help but add with a smile, “You are one of a kind.”

“Yeah, well it’s not like I haven’t had relationships before. There just hasn’t been anyone who I thought was worth, well you know…” she shifted on her feet uncomfortably, “and I’m sure you think that’s ridiculous at my age…”

“Far from being ridiculous. Hell, by the time I was your age I was involved in so much shit that I wish I had waited like you’re doing,” JT confessed stepping forward and cupping her face in his hands, “Hell, if I had waited it would’ve been a lot more special than it was the first time.”

“Really?” she searched his dark eyes watching him nod.

“Hell yeah,” he couldn’t help but laugh, “and truth be told if you would’ve been with me that first time I can assure you that you would’ve been highly disappointed. I’m much better now I can promise you.”

“Is that a promise you’re going to give me a chance to find out or something you’re saying to let me down easy?” she asked wearily searching his eyes again.

“Evie, I’m hoping it’s something that you can understand when I tell you that what we have doesn’t need to be rushed especially now that I know what it is you’re wanting to share with me,” he slid his fingers into her dark hair and urged her to meet his eyes again, “Our relationship isn’t just about sex and now that I know how special you are--you can better believe that we’re not going to go at it in the middle of a dirty bed with pancakes and strawberry syrup all over it.”

“I like pancakes and strawberry syrup,” she added in a moment of protest, curling her lip in a pout.

“And I do too, but the first time I make love with you, I want it to be a night you’ll never forget,” he brushed his thumb over her bottom lip, “a night neither one of us will ever forget because I’ll be honest with you Evie, I’ve been with other women in the past and I’m not proud of some of what I’ve done, but when I make love with you--well, I don’t want to look at it as something I’ll regret. I don’t want to think back to how I spoiled something special between us because I was rushing things.”

“But you’re not rushing,” she argued with him, “JT I’m the one that wants us to be together and…”

“We will be,” he promised leaning forward to kiss her tenderly, “On the island we’ll share something special--something that will be a whole new experience for the both of us, but until then, why don’t we focus on getting to know one another? Like maybe we can fill in all the other blanks between us before we take that leap with one another?”

“Do you have any idea how pathetic that makes me feel?” she sighed in frustration.

“Believe me, when I say it half the men in the world would think I lost my mind because you have no idea how many of them would love to be where I’m at taking advantage of the situation,” he admitted curling his finger underneath her chin, “but I don’t want to take advantage of this. I don’t want to spoil what we have because I wasn’t man enough to give you what you need.”

“From what I’ve seen you’re more than man enough,” she blurted out a heat rising over her as she thought of what it was like to see him naked.

“Well thank you,” he couldn’t help but laugh before adding, “and from what I’ve seen I know you deserve a whole hell of a lot better than me, but for what it’s worth I’m honored that you think I’m worthy.”

“I don’t think you’re worthy. I know you are,” she wrapped her arms around his shoulders to embrace him, “There’s no one else in this world that I want to share myself with than you.”

“And you’ll have the opportunity to do that, but right now,” he kissed her again. “Why don’t you get cleaned up and we’ll go out for breakfast? I’ll get you some pancakes at a little restaurant I know a few blocks from here. They are pretty good and we can talk about the trip--maybe go over a crash course of what to do when you meet Cameron so he doesn’t freak you out.”

“Is he really that bad?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“My brother is beyond that bad, but he’s still my brother,” he added with a small smirk, “Though right now I would rather focus on us getting ready for breakfast. What do you say?”

“Okay,” she nodded in response feeling him step away from her.

“I’ll give you some privacy and I’ll just clean up the bedroom,” he explained motioning to the door, “And Evie.”

“Yes?” she saw him turn around to face her again.

“I love you,” he offered up with a small smile waving over at her before walking out of the door to clean up the mess they had made with one another.

“I love you too JT. I really do,” she admitted with a thoughtful expression knowing full well that she’d truly found the one man she never wanted to be without again.


“So what’s going on?” Ria questioned turning around to face Kevin, worry evident behind her dark eyes, “What were you dreaming about back there?”

“Something I hope I never have to face again,” Kevin rubbed his hands together before letting out an ironic laugh, “Though it seems like there’s never a break in the cards for any of us, is there?”

“You mean because Angela’s been hurt?” Ria noted sensing how upset he was about his friend’s accident.

“Not just that,” he sighed heavily, his tired eyes meeting hers again, “It’s just that we’ve all had so many things happen to us--things that I would really rather not live through again. Things that I swore I’d never look back on…”

“Kevin, what’s really going on?” she couldn’t help but ask stepping towards him, “I’ve seen you wired up before, but not like this. I know when you worry about Angela it consumes you but…”

“Ria, I killed a man before,” Kevin admitted the words he’d kept inside of him for so very long. “I know it was wrong, but I had no other choice.”

“What?” she blinked back at him confusion settling in over her, “Kevin, what are you saying?”

“When I was younger…when Angela was married, I…” he stopped himself feeling tension coil in over his neck. His dark eyes met hers again and he found himself caught up in a moment of truth--a truth that he hadn’t been able to give Angela before she fell into a coma. Now that Ria stood before him watching him with worried eyes he knew he couldn’t lie about the past any longer. “I killed him Ria. I killed her husband…”

“Kevin no,” she shook her head hearing what he was saying, “that’s not possible. You wouldn’t kill anyone. You wouldn’t…”

“He was planning to kill her Ria. He left me no choice,” Kevin blurted out thinking back to when he’d learned about Cary’s awful plans to get rid of Angela. “He was a boxer around the time I was. I’d met him a few times in the ring and I didn’t trust him. When they were together, something was off. He struck the wrong chord in me and I could never shake that. With Angela I was her bodyguard at the time I found out that he was with her. She married him and I was married to Michelle but…”

“But what?” Ria couldn’t help but ask almost afraid to hear the answer.

“I knew he never loved her. I knew something wasn’t right about him. When he married her I knew that he wasn’t good enough for her and yes,” he caught the expression on Ria’s face, “everyone thought like you I was jealous, but it wasn’t about jealousy. I knew she was in danger--that something was really wrong with her and that if I didn’t help her she would get in over her head. She didn’t listen to me naturally and when she married him I knew that there would only be trouble to follow.”

“So you killed him?” Ria’s eyes widened in response to what he was telling her.

“That night when I confronted him on what I had heard I wasn’t planning to kill him, but he pulled a gun out on me and…” Kevin’s voice grew shaky as he ran a hand through his hair, “I had no other choice.”

“There’s always a choice Kevin. You always have a choice when it comes to killing someone,” she argued with him shaking her head.

“Ria, he was planning on murdering Angela and taking her money. He was going to kill her and their child simply because in the end it would leave him a rich man. I went there that night to stop him, but he had come up with this idea to kill her and pin it on me. He and I had a confrontation and he tried to shoot me. He grazed my arm with a bullet because I had moved out of the way at the last second, but then one thing lead to another and I tackled him. He went over the cliff and I’m pretty sure I broke his neck during the fall somehow. After that it was over. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but he was trying to kill her, the baby and then me. I had no choice.”

“So it was an accident,” Ria took a small step towards him seeing something behind his eyes.

“I wish things would have turned out differently, but a part of me can honestly say I’m relieved he’s dead. At least I was relieved until…” he trailed off his gaze shifting to the floor.

“Until what?” she touched his arm gently, “Kevin, what’s going on? Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Because I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want anyone to know what I had done,” Kevin confessed in a low, raspy tone his voice overcome with a great many emotions. “When Angela lost him and then lost her baby I couldn’t bring it in myself to be honest with her. She thought he loved her--believed that he had truly cared for her, but in reality he only cared about himself. She had already been through enough and I kept my mouth shut. Only two other people knew the truth besides myself and Cary and one of them was Cameron.”

“And he told her, didn’t he?” Ria realized searching his eyes, “That’s why you two were fighting, wasn’t it?”

Kevin nodded in response, “She didn’t hear the real truth. She only heard what Cameron wanted her to hear so that he could manipulate her and keep her away from me and from Brant. He hates Brant--hates his entire family because he believes that Brant and his father had something to do with their father’s death.”

“Does he?” Ria couldn’t help but ask.

“I don’t know about Brant’s father considering everyone in this town has him painted out to be a monster. The stories I know about him that are true only further convince me that he very well could have murdered Cyrus, but with Brant…I just don’t see it in him. He’s not the type. I mean it sounds crazy, but I know the guy loves Angie and I think they have something between them. He wouldn’t hurt her,” Kevin continued thinking about Cameron’s lies.

“Just like you wouldn’t either. Angela would have to see that what you did to her husband was to protect her,” Ria touched his arm gently, “She would have to see that you were trying to keep her safe.”

“All she sees when she looks at me is a monster and maybe I am one,” Kevin finally met her concerned eyes, “Maybe everything that’s happened to me is because I wasn’t man enough to do things the right way. First I lost my daughter, then Angie and now with us when I lost you…”

“Whoa back up,” Ria’s eyes widened as she looked at him in astonishment. “Kevin, were you not with me back in that hotel room when we both thought we were going to have a baby?”

“That was before you knew the truth about me and about what I’d done. That’s before you knew I was capable of murder,” Kevin answered with a poignant sigh, “Before you learned the truth…”

“That you have a heart of gold and you would do absolutely anything to help your friends?” she replied shaking her head at him, “Um Kevin newsflash here but I already knew that.”

“But with what I told you,” he started to remind her only to feel her press her index finger against his lips.

“Kevin, don’t you get it by now? From what you told me it was an accident--one that happened while you were trying to defend yourself,” she informed him with a soft sigh, “That’s all I need to know. I believe in you.”

“I wish that Angie would have done the same,” Kevin leaned into her embrace feeling her cup his cheek with her palm, “I love you Ria and I just don’t want you hurt by my past.”

“Kevin, the fact that you told me the truth only proves how much you trust me and how much you love me,” she continued to remind him sliding her fingers into his hair. She urged him to meet her worried eyes, “I know you and I know your heart. I can’t even begin to imagine how much this has been killing you all of these years you kept that to yourself.”

“I had no choice in the matter, but now…” he paused thinking about what he’d walked in the previous night. “Ria, do you know Dr. Byrne?”

“Deidra,” she replied with a curious look. “Sure, she’s one of the OB/GYN’s on staff here and…”

“No,” he shook his head, “Not Deidra. I’m talking about Andy Byrne. He’s a plastic surgeon from what I've been told with an uncanny interest in patients outside of that spectrum.”

“No,” she answered honestly, “I don’t really know all that much about him as he wasn’t here when I started. I know he’s back on staff again, but I haven’t crossed paths with him. Why?”

“There’s something about him that I don’t trust,” Kevin revealed with a small sigh, “Something about him that feels too familiar.”

“Familiar how?” she asked him.

“Honestly,” he met her eyes again seeing her nod, “He’s a dead ringer for Angela’s late husband.”

“What?” her eyes widened in response, “You’re kidding, right?”

“I wish I were, but when I saw him yesterday, I swore I was face to face with a ghost and then later,” he paused remembering when he’d walked in on Andy in Angela’s hospital room, “I found him by Angie’s hospital bed and something was very off there…”

“Wait you found him with Angela,” she mouthed with a puzzled expression, “But he shouldn’t have been in there. She’s not the kind of patient he would take on.”

“Exactly,” Kevin nodded in agreement, “which only worries me even more considering…”

“You said that Angela’s husband was dead though. That he fell off a cliff and broke his neck,” Ria pointed out reminding Kevin of what he’d told her, “I highly doubt he would have time to come back and get into medical school only to show up here and now.”

“I know it sounds crazy, but damn it Ria I know what I felt. Even now I can’t shake the feeling,” Kevin paused contemplating his worries, “though you said his wife works here, right?”

“Rumor has it they are getting divorced, but yeah she does,” she nodded giving him a long once over, “Why? Are you going to ask her about him?”

“It couldn’t hurt considering the guy rubs me the wrong way,” Kevin nodded in response thinking about the way being around Andy had him on edge, “It couldn’t hurt, right?”

“I suppose not, but I have to admit right now I’m not concerned about him,” she touched his face again, “Kevin right now I’m worried about you.”

“Don’t be,” he wrapped his arms around her pulling her into an embrace, “because I’m going to be just fine. It’s Angie on the other hand that I’m worried about. If she doesn’t pull through this, well then there’s no telling what will happen and that’s the part that scares the hell out of me for all of us.”


Don circled around the corner of the hallway thinking about how Angela’s condition was taking it’s toll on Brant. While he was trying to remain hopeful for his friend, Don could remember quite clearly the pain he’d experienced when he’d lost Stephanie those few years ago. It was more than enough to see his friend in agony, yet as Don’s mind was clouded by his own sense of loss, he knew that he’d have to do something to gain some clarity.

Once he’d stepped out of Angela’s hospital room after checking in on her, he decided to go out into the courtyard and get some air. He was almost there when he noticed someone outside standing near the center of the small garden area. With a smile, he pushed open the glass door and approached the woman in front of him knowing full well that his time alone wouldn’t be so bad now that he’d had the right company with him.

“I hope this wasn’t your alone time that I’m invading on,” Don offered up with a light smile as Deana turned around to face him. A smile swept over her features before she waved over at him.

“Actually this is my keeping myself from committing homicide time,” she explained before drawing in a breath, “I was taking a break from telling Zack Vaughn what I really think about him.”

“Is he still hassling you?” Don frowned thinking about how Zack’s bullying had reached a point of no return.

“I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t,” she paused contemplating her words for a moment, “but I’ve got it covered.”

“I can see that clearly,” Don remarked disbelieving, “That’s why you’re out here trying to talk yourself out of killing him, yes?”

“Hey, if I had lost all self control it wouldn’t be just a thought. I’d be in there strangling him right now,” Deana explained matter of fact before walking over to one of the small tables set up in the courtyard area. “You have to give me some credit.”

“I’ll give you more than some because I don’t know if I would have any restraint around him today,” Don sighed following her over to the table and taking a seat beside her. He brought his large hand up over the back of his neck and massaged it gently. Letting out a long sigh he closed his blue eyes, “I guess today is just one of those days.”

“That doesn’t sound too promising especially coming from you,” she noted taking the time to forget about her own frustrations as her dark eyes fell upon him. “Want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” he shook his head. Taking in a breath he glanced over at her again, “I’d rather hear about what’s new in your world. How is Jason doing?”

“I’d be lying if I said he was back to being his old self,” Deana paused thinking about her brother for a long moment, “but then again how could anyone really go back to what they were before after experiencing something like that?”

“Isn’t that the truth,” Don blurted out thoughtlessly. He noticed the expression on Deana’s face--he recognized the concern only too well and he wished he hadn’t let it slip.

“Don,” she touched his shoulder gently, her worried eyes focused on the lines of his face, “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” he hesitated knowing that he couldn’t lie to Deana when it was obvious he was holding back on her. “I guess I just got to thinking about Stephanie earlier when Angela was first brought in. I mean seeing Brant at her side wishing like hell that she would return to him, well it just takes me back to what it was like when I lost Steph…”

“I’m sorry Don,” she mouthed placing her hand on his leg supportively, “I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for you especially working here.”

“Brant’s my best friend so when something hurts him, it hurts me as well,” he stopped himself before meeting her eyes again, “but I guess what really gets me isn’t so much the fact that Angela is hurt because I really think she’ll pull through this. It’s the memory of what it was like when I lost Steph. To see her go from being so full of fire and life, to being reduced to nothing…”

“I’m so sorry that you had to go through that Don,” she mouthed scooting in closer to him. “I know how important she was to you.”

“She was my world,” Don divulged choking on his words. His tear-filled blue eyes met hers again with broken emotion, “I can’t seem to convey that to Shannon because no matter what I say she sees my feelings for Stephanie as a competition. It isn’t that way, but I can’t pretend that what I had with Steph wasn’t real--that it wasn’t everything to me.”

“You had a son with her,” Deana frowned realizing that there was more happening than Don was admitting, “How could you not care about that when Matt is your everything?”

“Sometimes I think I’m not doing him any justice,” Don sighed again bringing his hand up through his dark hair. “I mean I haven’t exactly been the best of fathers and…”

“Ok stop right there,” Deana cut him off abruptly, “Don, you’re an amazing dad. You do absolutely everything for Matt and he adores you. He knows that you’re wonderful and that you’ve always done everything in your power to raise him to be the kind of boy that Stephanie would have wanted. He’s respectful and brilliant and…”

“Totally miserable with my being with Shannon,” Don let out an ironic laugh, “Don’t get me wrong he loves Nate, but I know he hasn’t taken to Shannon. I mean I can’t blame him considering how I kind of pushed the situation on all of us by getting drunk and married like that…”

“Don, you can’t keep second guessing yourself,” she squeezed his leg gently, “I mean I thought things were going good with you and Shannon.”

“They are, but…” he paused struggling for the right words.

“But what you have now can’t take the place of what you had with Stephanie,” she deduced seeing the truth behind his eyes. He lowered his head and sighed as she spoke up again, “Don, it’s not supposed to. You’re not supposed to have to pretend that part of your life wasn’t there just because the idea of you loving someone makes Shannon uneasy. I mean would you hold it against her that she had someone else in her life before you?”

“Of course not,” Don shook his head firmly, “Don’t be ridiculous. I mean hell she was sleeping with Brant for a while and…”

“And you don’t think any less of her because of it, right?” Deana added with a hint of encouragement in her tone. “It’s not something that would cause you to stop needing her in your life.”

“Of course not,” Don shook his head firmly, “I mean I figure it was before she and I were together so it doesn’t matter to me. I really don’t care who Brant slept with in the past. I wouldn’t hold that against someone, well unless that someone was you.”

“Excuse me,” Deana wrinkled her nose at his words, “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Well he was partial to blondes for a while and you did spend a lot of time at the Ashford mansion,” Don eyed her suspiciously while fighting to suppress the grin that teased at the corners of his lips, “You did spend an awful lot of time around Brant that summer that you were pregnant with Zane.”

“Um hello Don I was there all the time because you were there all the time. You were the one who talked me into coming with you to Brant’s summer cottage,” she wrinkled her nose at the thought, “Besides, I spent more time with you than Brant there. Why would you think that I would have slept with him?”

“I was just testing the waters,” Don admitted freely before giving her a brief once over, “He said you had really sexy legs.”

“Really?” Deana sat up straighter seeing the way that Don’s gaze lingered down to her legs that were in question. Unable to resist she sat up taller, tossing her hair back behind her shoulders, “Well, I think he was probably telling you that because he enjoyed the way that they felt when I had them wrapped around him.”

“What?” Don’s jaw practically dropped as Deana burst into laughter.

“Gotcha,” she waved her finger around in the air before laughing again, “Honestly Don, I wouldn’t have slept with your best friend. I was far too pregnant to even think about sex again after Zane’s father wasted what should have been a memorable experience.”

“Well, you got Zane from it,” Don added with a hint of a smile, “Surely, it wasn’t all bad.”

“The sex part was horrible, but Zane,” Deana couldn’t help but smile at the thought of her son, “That was worth the thirty seconds of discomfort in that beat up Chevy.”

“Damn and here I would have thought you’d have at least made a guy hold out for a hotel room,” Don shook his head and frowned.

“Gee, um thanks. What are you trying to say? That I’m cheap?” Deana frowned at the implication feeling her anger boil at Don’s statement.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” Don replied realizing he’d struck a nerve in her. “I mean what I was trying to say is that you deserved a lot more than that. A real man wouldn’t have been so desperate and pathetic in his seduction.”

“Trust me Zane’s father was a far cry from being a real man,” Deana rolled her eyes at the thought of what she’d been through with her ex. “He was ready to come and go out of my life just as fast as he was in it, but when it gets down to it Zane and I are better off without him. He never could have given us what we needed in this life.”

“He didn’t deserve you that’s for sure,” Don added seeing her stand up and move across the courtyard again. He followed suit in moving in closer to her. Realizing that she’d gotten abnormally quiet, he couldn’t help but touch her shoulder, “Deana, I’m sorry if I offended you.”

“No, it’s okay,” she replied clearing her throat before facing him again, “I guess when I started thinking about it, I realized how silly it was for us to be talking about me when obviously you’re the one who needs to be saying what’s on his mind.”

“I’m the one that brought it up,” Don reached out to touch her cheek lightly, “Besides putting the focus on you takes it off of what’s going on inside of me, so when it gets down to it, it’s better this way.”

“Only because you get to close yourself down again and not talk about what’s really on your mind,” she searched his blue yes for a long moment, “You know you can talk to me if you need to Don.”

“I realize that,” he nodded in response before cracking a small smile, “and I’ll be honest when I tell you that sometimes just talking to you reminds me of when Stephanie was alive.”

“Why? Because I have my sarcastic wit about me and I have this knack of cutting you off before you can say what’s on your mind?” she arched a curious brow feeling the warmth of his fingertips against her cheek.

“No, it’s because I feel like I could spend all day with you and when the night rolls around I could go to bed with a smile on my face because you just have this way about you,” Don admitted his eyes fixed on hers. He dropped his hand down to her side and took a step back, “I don’t know what it is about you, but I’m glad that you’re here now.”

“I’m not going anywhere especially not when you make living here so easy for me,” Deana added thinking about al Don had done to help her.

“I should be doing more,” he decided knowing full well that Deana was still having troubles in adjusting to Coral Valley.

“Are you kidding me? I love everything you’ve done for me and I love you for taking care of me Don. No one has ever been as good to me as you are and I’m so very thankful for that,” she replied feeling the warmth of the sun overhead. She stepped in closer to him before reaching out to embrace him, “You’re my guardian angel Don.”

“And you’re mine even if you don’t see it,” he returned the embrace taking the time to savor the contact between them. He closed his eyes wanting nothing more than to squeeze her closer to him. He lowered his head into the curve of her shoulder and found himself unable to hold back on the emotions that he’d been containing earlier when he was around Brant. “I’m sorry…”

“For what?” she questioned realizing that he was crying. Suddenly she knew that something more was going on than he was letting on. “Don, hey…”

“I don’t mean to be doing this, but it’s just all of this stuff with Brant…” he felt a lump forming in the back of his throat as he attempted to wipe at his teary eyes. “Did you know that Steph always loved this time of year? She always said it was kite flying time. I remember once we went out to lookout point on one of our first dates and we decided to take these two kites with us that we put together--you know the cheap ones that really don’t hold up even if you want them to…”

“Yeah, those were the only ones Jason and I could afford,” Deana nodded in response seeing something flash behind Don’s eyes.

“I wanted to impress her so bad that day that I did just about all I could to get the damned thing off of the ground. There she was flying hers and having a good told time, but mine didn’t want to leave the ground. I remember running with the stupid thing, flapping my arms like a bird would and then I stumbled over a rock,” Don chuckled at the memory. “I hit the ground hard and I broke off a piece of my tooth. There was blood everywhere. It was a total nightmare and then to top it off it was a holiday weekend…”

“Oh no, what did you do?” Deana couldn’t help but question.

“I cried like a baby,” Don divulged his face growing red with embarrassment. “I saw the blood and I thought I was going to pass out.”

“Blood has that effect on you?” Deana couldn’t help but laugh, “That isn’t good considering your profession.”

“Blood doesn’t bother me, but my own,” Don waved his hands around in the air and laughed, “Don’t get me started. Still Stephanie realized that I was going to be hysterical if she didn’t make a move. She wound up picking my whimpering butt up off of the ground, shoving me back into my car and driving me to a dentist’s office where she had somehow cajoled the doctor into coming back to work even though he was on vacation. Two hours later we were on my front porch and I couldn’t even tell you my name let alone feel anything in my face, but rather than being repulsed by it, she was amused. Even though it was a complete disaster, she was still with me. She spent the night with me and in the morning I remember waking up with her beside me. She kissed me and even now I can remember her telling me that even if I brought drama and craziness into my life by going out on a limb and acting like a fool that she loved every single second of it. She might act like my being a moron drove her mad, but when it got down to it, she never wanted me to change. She never wanted me to stop being the crazy, goofy guy I’ve always been.”

“You shouldn’t have to ever change,” Deana noted making a small movement towards him, “No one is worth compromising who you are.”

“I realize that, but with Shannon…” Don stopped himself and shook his head, “I’m not going to get into this now. It just opens up a whole new can of worms that I don’t want to get into right now. I just sometimes wonder if maybe I’ve confused love with…”

Deana caught the hesitation in his voice, “With what?”

“With things that shouldn’t be all that important,” Don stressed the words before meeting her eyes again, “I mean I loved Stephanie with every fiber of my being. I couldn’t imagine a day without her in it. I still can’t…”

“And with Shannon?” she arched a curious brow seeing the turmoil behind his eyes.

“I honestly don’t know. I mean it sounds stupid, but for the longest time I felt like the only thing we’ve had between us has been sex and if I even bring her into any other part of my life I feel like something about it is always wrong to her. I feel like no matter how many times I try to explain who I am, it’s never enough. She’s never just happy that I love her. She never thinks for a second that maybe just maybe I’m not that bad…” Don stopped himself before letting out a long breath, “Sometimes I think she just stays with me so that she can stick it to Brant for breaking up with her.”

“No, Don I don’t think that…” Deana started with wide eyes.

“Deana, I know she’s not over him. I can see it every time that she gets on my case about Brant. I can see it when she gets jealous about the time I spend with him--in helping him. At first I thought it was because she hated that he was taking away from our time together, but now I’m thinking that she’s upset because I’m with him and she can’t be. God, this sounds crazy. I mean here I am talking about Stephanie and everything else under the sun that makes no sense,” Don threw his hands up in the air, “It’s official. I’m losing touch with reality.”

“No, I think that you’ve just got a lot on your plate right now,” she replied smoothly. “Maybe right now you just need to take a step back and try to think about the positive.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be my line to you?” he challenged turning to face her again.

“Maybe, but right now I think you could use a coffee and I know just where we can get one in this place where it doesn’t taste like motor oil,” Deana snagged her arm in his and started to drag him towards the doors again.

“In this place that is highly unlikely,” Don hesitated pulling her back towards the center of the courtyard once again, “Besides, I really don’t think I should have that right now. Get caffeine in me and I’ll be a nervous wreck.”

“Hmm, then what would it take for me to get you thinking about other things,” she paused before throwing out a wicked smirk, “Want me to tell you about my relationship with Grady? I could give you all the juicy details and…”

“You said I needed to relax, not get hot and bothered,” Don tossed back at her with a shake of his head, “I hardly think a hard on all day will be what I need to get through the day comfortably.”

“Gee, I didn’t know Grady had that kind of effect on you,” she laughed lightly shaking her head at him, “I’ll be sure to let him know that he’s your dream guy.”

“Trust me if I had a dream guy, it most certainly wouldn’t be Grady,” Don groaned inwardly at the thought, “I was thinking more along the lines about you and what it is that you like to do.”

“We could discuss that,” Deana offered up with a cryptic expression before leaning in closer to him, “but if we went down that road, you’d be doing a lot more than walking around sexually frustrated throughout the day.”

“You’re probably right,” Don chuckled feeling a genuine laugh carry over him, “I would probably wind up embarrassing myself in the locker room or something.”

“Ok, I don’t want to know,” Deana teased before shaking her head at him, “So sex is out of the question for a topic…”

“I didn’t say it was out of the question, just out of the picture for the moment. Besides,” Don winked down at her, “If you started telling me all about what it was that turned you on, naturally I’d have to get into details about what turned me on and before you know it we’d end up thinking about each other naked and then, well you’d have no choice but to realize that Grady’s no where near being the man I am. It would really make your relationship suffer because you’d always be thinking about me naked and…”

“And you’ve got a very high opinion of yourself, don’t you?” Deana couldn’t help but laugh at him.

“When you’ve got what I’ve got, yes I will admit there is an ego that starts to swell,” Don added his grin expanding as his thoughts lingered to their teasing each other.

“I don’t think it’s your ego that swells Don,” Deana gave him a brief once over before stepping back to appreciate his form. “Not that I’m complaining…”

“That’s it,” he reached out to her bringing his arm around her neck and putting her into a hold, “Enough of your mind in the gutter little girl. You’re not supposed to be acting like a pervert.”

“I’m not the one being a pervert Don,” she objected reaching out to poke him in the ribs as his hold on her constricted, “You’re the one who brought up getting hot and bothered by my boyfriend.”

“Grady most certainly doesn’t do it for me,” Don protested curling his lip in a pout, “but sometimes you sure as hell do.”

“What?” Deana stood up feeling him release her as his cheeks colored a bit.

“Nothing,” Don offered up with a small laugh, “I was just kidding. I mean it’s not like I actually spend time thinking about you naked or anything.”

“Yes you do,” Deana placed her hands on her hips to challenge his bluff, “but for what it’s worth I might do the same every now and then.”

“Really?” Don’s blue eyes widened with curiosity.

“Of course I always think about myself being naked especially when I get out of the shower and I’m freezing,” she joked before snagging his arm again and leading him towards the doors. “Come on, let’s go get you some decaf before the air out here warps your mind completely.”

“It’s a little too late for that,” Don laughed lightly feeling a bit more at ease after his joking with Deana.

“Yeah, well you’re on the borderline of sexual harassment Dr. Leveski,” she joked with him before winking up at him, “So how about we go try to find a way to make an honest man of you?”

“Too little, too late, but you can try,” Don decided opting to throw his worries away for the time being and spend some time hanging out with the one person who always managed to distract him for a while when he was feeling down about things. As he watched Deana opening the door to the hospital, he found himself relieved that he had run into her. Maybe he was simply dwelling on all the wrong things at a time when things weren’t as bad as he’d thought. Brant would have his happiness and Don was certain that sooner or later he and Shannon would be able to work on theirs together.


“Are you sure you’re not going to take the hat off?” Grady questioned from across the table where he watched Shannon fidgeting in her chair. He couldn’t help but laugh as she glared at him with a small snarl.

“Let it go Grady,” she warned sharply, her eyes narrowing in at him. “I mean it.”

“What?” he shrugged his shoulders innocently, “I’m sure it can’t be that bad. I’m sure that you look fine. Just take off the hat.”

“No, my hair is a frizzy mess, which reminds me to never, ever take up any of Alicia’s beauty suggestions,” she wrinkled her nose at the thought of what her little beauty experiment had done for her hair, “There was a reason why I never curled my hair before.”

“I’m sure it’s not so bad,” Grady paused before eyeing her suspiciously, “Though I’m sure Don will appreciate the effort.”

“If I’m lucky, Don will be home after I am and I’ll be able to take a shower and get this mess taken care of,” she pulled her hat down further over her head, “It was a stupid idea.”

“But one that maybe got you thinking about impressing Don, yes?” Grady arched a curious brow before offering up a small laugh, “Admit it you wanted to do something special for him.”

“Special for Don would be a piece of pizza and a blow job,” Shannon rolled her eyes at the suggestion.

“Know from experience huh?” Grady noted with an amused chuckle.

“I’m not getting into this with you,” she snarled over at him before shaking her head, “I didn’t invite you to go out for coffee to get into this type of conversation with you.”

“Then why did you invite me out?” he couldn’t help but ask thinking about her offer for coffee.

“I don’t know. Maybe I was just in need of some entertainment and you seemed like an okay option,” she shrugged her shoulders before looking over towards the counter where the waitress was wiping at the top with a damp cloth. “I guess it gets a bit suffocating being trapped in the perfect life with the perfect husband and family. I mean I never asked for that you know.”

“For what? A man that loves you and a stepson?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“A stepson that hates me. You have no idea what it’s like to have Matt look at me like I’ve brought some kind of plague into the house,” she groaned sinking back into her chair, “You should see the way he scrutinizes my every move.”

“Shannon, he’s young. Don’t you think maybe he’s just adjusting to this too? I mean he didn’t have a woman in his and his father’s life other than well, his grandmother and his aunt before you became a part of it. I’m sure he’s just finding his own way in dealing with the fact he’s got a stepmother.”

“The wicked stepmother I’m sure,” she replied with a heavy sigh, “though maybe he’s not that far off since I can’t keep it together lately.”

“Meaning?” he searched her eyes for a moment before understanding, “How long has it been since you fell off the wagon?”

“That obvious huh,” she let out an ironic laugh before bringing her fingers through her blonde hair, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me Grady, but each and every time I try to move forward something always pulls me back. I mean I keep telling myself Don is irrelevant, but when I saw him at the hospital with Deana not so long ago I lost it.”

“What do you mean you lost it?” Grady frowned over at her.

“They were hugging and talking and it seemed like there was something going on,” she paused uncertainty in her tone, “Maybe I shouldn’t get into this with you considering that you and Deana are…”

“Secure enough in our relationship that I’m positive whatever it is you are going to say isn’t going to phase me,” Grady noted with a seriousness in his tone, “What happened?”

“I flipped out after I saw them together and I started drinking. I don’t know how I got to that point, but on the way home I stopped at a party store and the rest,” she closed her eyes tipping her head forward before letting out a long groan, “I attacked Don that night both verbally and physically. He got pretty upset and he should’ve been considering that I busted his head in. I was out of my mind at the time, but…”

“But it’s still eating away at you, isn’t it,” Grady reached out across the table to take her hand in his, “What does Don say about it?”

“He’s been supportive and far too good to me,” she revealed with tears behind her eyes, “I don’t know why I do it Grady, but it seems like no matter how many steps forward I take, I’m always slipping backwards.”

“I know how hard it is Shannon, but you’re trying to move forward. I could see that today when you were trying to get all decked out for Don,” he smiled over at her, “That was something in itself.”

“It just shows I’m pathetic,” she sighed heavily before shaking her head, “It’s just that no matter how far I try to stop craving it, that demon is always there. It’s always beckoning me anytime things go sour in my life. I want to say that I’ve broken the habit…”

“But it’s never going to completely disappear,” Grady finished for her with a poignant expression, “That’s part of what being an addict is.”

“I know, but I always thought I was stronger than that. I’m so stubborn about everything, yet when things should matter the most, I don’t handle myself right. I reach for the bottle,” she paused before drawing in a breath and looking away.

“Hey, I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. I damn near ruined everything in my life because of it. I almost lost my brother, I lost Jade and my family was disappointed in me,” Grady replied softening his tone a bit.

“Yes, but you’ve finally found happiness. I mean you’ve found Deana and when I see you with Zane, you look like you’ve risen above it,” Shannon continued facing him again.

“I don’t think you can ever rise above it Shannon. It’s always there and I’ll admit there are times when I think about what it would be like to take another drink. There are moments when the temptation is there and I have to fight like hell not to give into it. There are times when I wish I could make it disappear, but it’s not that simple. Even when I had to be honest with Deana about it, I knew I couldn’t promise her that it was a thing of a past. I couldn’t say that I’ll be able to stay away from it for the rest of my life. The only thing I can do is count the days of sobriety and hope that tomorrow is another one for me.”

“I know what you mean,” she sighed looking out the window once again before shaking her head, “I still can’t believe I attacked Don like that for talking to his former sister-in-law. I mean how stupid could I be?”

“It wasn’t your brightest moment, but Don loves you Shannon. I’m sure he’s gotten past it since you’re home again. I know you mean the world to him,” Grady offered up supportively.

“I don’t know if any woman will ever fit that position again,” she admitted honestly turning to face him again, “He’s still so much in love with a ghost that I don’t think he’ll ever fully move on.”

“You mean with Matt’s mom?” Grady questioned watching her nod.

“He has her up on this pedestal and I can see that he’d give anything to have her back again. He talks about her like she’s some saint and how can I compete with that? How can I even begin to give him what he needs when the only thing he wants is the woman that was ripped from his life when Matt was born?” she questioned frustration evident in her tone.

“Shannon, I don’t believe that is the case,” he explained squeezing her hand once again, “He married you because there was something about you that he wanted to have in his life.”

“Yeah it was called we both got blind, stinking drunk and decided to be stupid,” she groaned inwardly, “That was a case of my alcoholism changing my life again.”

“Perhaps for the better. I mean you can’t tell me that you don’t care about Don. I can see it in the way you talk about him--even in the way you’re upset about his feelings for his late wife. You do care even if it kills you to admit it,” Grady noted after a moment.

“Even if I do, I’ll never fill her shoes Grady. I mean how can you love a man who has his heart off with someone he’ll never hold again?” she questioned with a heavy sigh fighting to contain her emotions.

“I can’t speak for Don, but what I can say is that when Jade died I really thought it was the end of the world for me. I didn’t want anything more than to just die and take down as many people as I could before that finally happened. I turned my back on my family, on my friends and I thought that there wouldn’t be any days ahead for me. I locked myself up and vowed never to feel anything again, but…” he stopped himself remembering the night he’d tried to kill himself. Closing his eyes he thought back to what it was like sharing that night with Avery, about having her come to him in his darkest hour and pull him out of his misery only to bring him back to life again with her concern. “I guess fate had other plans for me. Just when I thought life was over, it began again.”

“With Deana?” she arched a curious brow noting the expression on his face.

“Deana and Zane gave me a second chance at love and life,” he nodded his thoughts leaving Avery and returning to the woman he loved. “She’s everything I could have asked for in a woman and more. She’s beautiful, brilliant and witty. She just has this way about her that can cut me down to size without hesitation. She calls me on my crap and puts me back on track with things. And with Zane, well he’s everything that I could have ever wanted in a son. He’s a wonderful kid and I love him.”

“And you don’t find yourself wishing that you had that still with Jade?” she couldn’t help but ask searching his green eyes for a long moment.

“A part of me is always going to love Jade and wonder what might have been, but I know that is the past. I won’t pretend that I don’t still love her because I do, but I’ve gone down a different path with Deana--one that is full of happiness and love. It’s not the life I planned on a while ago, but it’s so very important to me and I wouldn’t trade a single second of it for the world. I’m sure that’s how Don feels about you Shannon. I know he loves you and wants to make things work with you both,” he explained supportively, “You just have to believe in that love and believe that things will work themselves out.”

“I wish I could be that optimistic, but…” she started again thinking about all that had happened.

“No buts Shannon. The only thing that is holding you back is you and if you can’t give yourself a little slack, then do it for Don. Do it for the fact that you’ve found something special and even with your self-loathing, I know you want to hold onto it,” Grady suggested knowing full well that his friend wasn’t ready to give up on love just yet.

“Maybe you’re right,” she finally nodded after a moment’s contemplation. “Maybe Don and I can work it out.”

“There’s the spirit,” Grady piped in with a smile watching her reach for her mug of coffee. “Feel better now?”

“Absolutely,” she sipped at her coffee before smiling at him, “I think I’ve been approaching this all wrong.”

“Of course you have, but now that you recognize it, you can take a new approach,” he paused for a moment before speaking in a teasing tone, “Now how about taking off that ridiculous hat?”

“Not on your life,” she replied firmly before taking another sip of her coffee and thinking about her marriage. Maybe she and Don still had a chance to make it after all.


“Careful guys,” Nate called out seeing Zane and Matt climb up the ladder of their tree house and crawl in as they looked back down at Nate seeing him going to walk up the ladder before they shook theirs heads. “What’s up?”

“We want to see you climb the rope,” Matt called out seeing Nate’s green eyes glance over at the rope before he nodded and rubbed his hands against his pants. “That is if you think you have enough muscles to do it.”

“Believe me Matty, I know I can do it,” Nate grabbed a hold of the rope before starting to pull himself up it before realizing he knew what they really wanted to happen and he let go of the rope falling down on the ground hearing Matt and Zane laugh out loud and he let out a fake groan. “Okay, or maybe not.”

“Come on Nate, I have faith in you,” Matt called out seeing the way that Nate got up slowly and let out a long groan, placing his hand over the small of his back rubbing it carefully. Letting out a small laugh he saw Nate start to pull himself up and finally reach the top as Matt tried helping him up on the wooden platform. “You okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Nate let out a long breath, a smile appearing over the center of his lips as he followed the kids toward the center of the tree house and sat down in a circle like they were doing. “So, why did you guys want to take me up here?”

“You know that you are our best friend,” Zane pointed out seeing Nate smile widely before nodding slowly and Zane itched his head forgetting what Matt’s original plan was to do before he looked to Matt blankly. “What did we want him to do again.”

“Give me the bucket,” Matt reached for the bucket they brought up and the bag of things he brought before pulling out a bag of animal crackers and dumping them in the bucket. “You have to eat one of these to be in our club.”

“Is it an official club?” Nate eyed them over slowly seeing Zane stare blankly before nodding and Nate let out small laugh before shrugging his shoulders. “Well eating an animal cracker might be hard, but I’ll try.”

“Not just any animal cracker,” Matt smacked away Nate’s fingers gently before pulling out a few things. Dumping chocolate syrup, toothpaste, mouthwash, peanut butter, marshmallows, pickles, milk, grapes, and mayo into the pan as Nate’s nose wrinkled watching him stir it all up. “You have to eat all of these, just like this.”

“To be in you club, I have to eat that. You’re being serious?” Nate lifted the bowl up to his nose before pulling away and letting out a small sound of disgust, seeing Matt smile and nod slowly. “Well, if that’s what I have to do.”

“It’s what you must do,” Matt pointed out nudging Zane lightly in the shoulder hearing Zane laugh out as Nate threw the spoon away from him and started digging his fingers into it and eat it quickly as Matt let out small sign of disgust. “Nate, you don’t have to…oh my goodness.”

Seeing Nate finish off Matt and Zane watched carefully seeing the disgusted look on Nate’s face as he rubbed at his stomach slowly before shaking his head slowly and letting out a long breath followed by a long sound of him wooing.

“Oh my god, you did it,” Matt looked to Zane before letting out a small laugh seeing Zane dying of laughter before Nate let out another long breath. “I can’t believe you finished it all.”

“Well, I think I’m going to go get some air,” Nate went to go out of the outside part of the deck before falling off the side and both the boys let out a loud gasp.

“Nate,” Zane called out as him and Matt quickly walked down the ladder to the grass where they saw Nate laid out on the ground with some chocolate sauce around his lips as Zane slowly followed Matt next to him. “Is he going to be okay?”

“I don’t know,” Matt got on the ground gently pressing his hands into Nate’s chest seeing him make no movements as Matt frowned gently hitting him in the stomach. “Oh Nate, I didn’t mean for you to eat that. I didn’t know you would hurt yourself, you already are my best friend and…,”

“And I was just playing with ya kiddo,” Nate grabbed a firm hold of Matt hearing him howl out with laughter as Nate picked Matt up and over his shoulder and spun him around before picking up Zane at the same time spinning them around slowly. Setting them down he fell back on his butt and let out a small laugh when the boys fell next to him. “You two are like my own kids, I would never not do anything for you guys.”

“You scared the heck out of me Nate,” Matt hit him in the shoulder only to feel Nate tickle at his stomach and Matt let out a howling laugh only to feel Nate pick him and Zane up again in his arms more firmly. “Oh my goodness, I think I’m going to be Nate sick. Where are you taking us, I feel like I’m flying here.”

“We’re going to go play some video games,” Nate declared walking into the house and letting out a small laugh, setting the boys down and pressing his hand in against his stomach. “I just think I need to be close to a bathroom just in case that bowl of goo gets to me in the long run because sweet doggy dog, I’m feeling a rumbling in my tummy already and you guys shouldn’t have to go through that so why don’t we do something I already know you guys can kick my butt in. It sounds much safer and less having to with food.”


Andy walked over to the nurse’s station looking to the petite young nurse who stood before him. He flashed her a casual smile before leaning in closer to her and whispering, “Have they heard anything more on Ms. Meloni?”

“From what I know there haven’t been any changes,” the nurse shook her head and sighed. “It’s a shame really.”

“Yes it is,” Andy nodded in agreement shaking his head as his eyes cast over in the direction Angela’s room was in, “There most certainly should’ve been some kind of change since last night.”

“I’m sure her family is hoping for the best and maybe their prayers will be answered soon,” the nurse added as Andy stood taller and nodded.

“Perhaps,” Andy nodded in response turning to make a trip down to his office. He stepped inside and closed the door. Walking over to his desk, he dialed Carly’s cell phone number and awaited an answer.

“Hello,” she spoke up after two rings.

“Carly, hey it’s Andy. I was hoping that we could meet to talk about the divorce. You aren’t busy are you?” he questioned taking a seat on the edge of his desk.

“Actually I’m just getting settled into my new office,” she explained after a moment of shuffling with something on the other end of the line, “You can meet me down here if you would like. I can just give you the address and you can stop in if you want to.”

“That would be great,” he replied reaching for a pen and a pad of paper. “I’m about to end my shift at the hospital here, so why not? What’s the address?”

After he finished writing it down, he smiled and ripped the top page of the paper off of the pad. “I’ll be there shortly.”

“See you then,” Carly noted hanging up the phone as Andy did the same. He looked around his office and realized that today was most certainly a day for new beginnings--beginnings that would finally get him headed in the right direction all over again. Yes, things were certainly looking up for him.


“I wish you would just open your eyes,” Brant whispered squeezing Angela’s hand once again after Don had stepped out of the room to give them some privacy with one another. “I know you might feel like I’m asking for a lot here, but there is still so much I need to say to you--so many things that we need to talk about and work through that it’s killing me not to be able to have that chance.”

Brant stopped himself and looked down to her abdomen thinking about their unborn children. Reaching out he placed his hand on top of her stomach and massaged it gently, “I know you both are probably very worried about your mom right now and I am too. I’m worried about all three of you considering that what happened never should have happened. I know that you have all been under so much stress lately and when I thought that I was going to lose you all…”

“You aren’t going to lose them,” Kevin cleared his throat alerting Brant that he was in the room with him.

Brant tipped his head up to see Kevin hovering over him before speaking up again, “Everyone keeps saying that, but in all honesty how can anyone be sure? I never expected to be sitting here beside her like this watching her stuck in a place she never should have been in to begin with…”

“She’s too stubborn to stay away from us for too long,” Kevin added moving in closer to Brant. His dark eyes returning to Angela again as Brant did the same. “You know for so long she wouldn’t tell me a thing about what happened between the two of you. She was all quiet about her time with you on the island and I hated that. I hated that she wouldn’t tell me what jerk she got involved with this time, but then when she started talking about it--started giving me a detail here and there, well I could see that she was in love with you. Even after you two split up, she was still hung up on you.”

“I never stopped thinking about her,” Brant confessed squeezing her hand in his. “Even when I tried to convince myself that I could make things work with Avery, she never left my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and…”

“I know,” Kevin patted Brant’s shoulder gently, “Hell I won’t lie to you and say that I wasn’t upset about everything because I was, but after that night at the hotel when you and I had our fight with one another, well I guess I started to see that maybe you weren’t so bad for her.”

“Gee thanks,” Brant couldn’t help but shake his head before turning his eyes up towards Kevin again.

“No I mean it. You make her happy and she loves you,” Kevin further added, “That’s something she hasn’t had in a long time and it’s the one thing she’s needed in her life. She went through a jackass like Cary and then well, she had Chris and…”

“She had you once,” Brant noted seeing a sadness behind Kevin’s eyes. “You’re not a jackass and I know you love her.”

“I do,” Kevin nodded in confession glancing over at Angela once again. “And a part of me always will.”

“I wouldn’t be naïve enough to think otherwise,” Brant added giving him a long once over, “You two have a very long history with one another.”

“We do, but from where I stand I know her future is with one man and that man is you,” Kevin finally blurted out focusing on Brant once again, “You two are about to start a family with one another and it’s that family that is going to pull you two even closer to one another. I know that once she wakes up, she’s going to see that Cameron was wrong about you. She’s going to realize that you two have everything ahead of you.”

“Kevin, I…” Brant found himself at a loss thinking about how Cameron’s lies had effected both of their lives. “I know this is killing you as well…”

“Brant, I’ve been through this before,” Kevin offered up with another squeeze on Brant’s shoulder, “We lost our daughter and now, well I won’t let you lose Angela. I’m not going to let her go anywhere because you two have the opportunity to have what she and I never did and that’s a family. I want to make sure that you can have all of the dreams with your children that she would have wanted. I need for her to have that and I won’t let anyone take that from her or you.”

“And just who the hell do you think you are to make that kind of decision about my sister’s life?” Cameron challenged entering the room again with a security guard at his side, “Because from where I stand neither one of you have any rights when it comes to my sister and I think it’s about time for this farce where you two believe you have ultimate power over what happens to her to end once and for all!”


...to be continued...