Episode Thirty Eight

Douglas crossed his arms as he leaned back against the kitchen counter. He’d known by his earlier conversation with Kipp that if he didn’t take drastic measures, his son would make one of his trademark idiotic mistakes. Still, he felt as if he were belittling himself by even visiting a hole in the wall town such as Coral Valley.

He listened as the door to the apartment closed. It figures. Kipp probably ran for the hills as soon as he saw Douglas walking in. He knew he’d have a tough fight with Kipp, but it was time he had some rules set in stone.

“Father, that was inexcusable,” Kipp declared as he entered the kitchen, “Heather did not deserve your callousness.”

“What is wrong with you? Can’t you just tell by looking at her that she’s a gold digger?” Douglas questioned as he stepped forward, “She is not of the proper caliber for you.”

“You don’t get to decide who I can be with anymore, Father. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a child anymore,” Kipp snorted as he poured himself a drink.

“I haven’t noticed actually because I haven’t seen any sign of maturity in you at all. You’re acting like some hormonal teenager with this model,” Douglas frowned, “I’ve told you a thousand times not to let your penis lead you around.”

“Father, you don’t understand at all. I love Heather, and I’m going to spend my life with her.”

“Please tell me you’re only trying to piss me off,” Douglas warned, “Because if you’re really planning to marry this girl…I’ll have you disinherited, and I’ll cut off your trust fund so quickly that you’ll be living on the streets.”

“You wouldn’t do that to me,” Kipp countered with a sneer, “You would never cut me off. I’m the only family you’ve got in case you don’t remember.”

“And now I wonder if you’re really worth having my name after all,” Douglas stated as he stepped forward and met Kipp’s eyes, “Don’t push me, Kipp. I’m trying to save your future. Don’t make me the bad guy when I’m only trying to keep you safe from heartbreak.”

“Heather would never do that to me. I love her, and I know that she loves me.”

“Do you really? Have you not been paying attention, Kipp? She was just dumped by Brant Ashford, and it was because she’s a common tramp. Do you have any idea how many producers she’s screwed just to get to where she is? I’ve spoken with several of my colleagues, and they all know exactly who she is and what she’s good for.”

“Stop it!” Kipp ordered as he stepped up to face his father, “Don’t say another word. I’ll not listen to another word you have to say about Heather. She’s just been used and abused. People have only abused Heather for what they thought she should be. I know better. I’ve seen how much potential she truly has.”

“Because you’ve been screwing her for how long?” Douglas questioned as he slipped his hands into his pockets.

“I love her. Don’t talk about her like that anymore!” Kipp shouted.

“I’ve said my piece,” Douglas said as he placed a card upon the bar and clicked his pen. He jotted down a short note on the back, “This is where I’m staying. If you change your mind, this is where you can find me.”

“You need to change your mind, Father. I’m not going to leave Heather,” Kipp declared.

“Then I suppose you’re choosing to leave me,” Douglas shook his head, “If you go through with your plans for this woman, consider yourself out of my family and my life,” He declared before he left the kitchen then the apartment.

Kipp closed his eyes, feeling a deep painful blow to his heart. Now he had to make a decision…the father he loved or the woman he loved.


“What the hell is your problem, Shannon,” Brant spat back at her wiping at his face as the remains of her drink soaked through his shirt.  The other bar patrons that surrounded them grew silent as Brant looked over to the bartender, “You saw that, right?  This is a clear cut case of harassment.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Shannon sneered pushing her barstool aside as she rose to her feet, “I warned you about your attitude a long time ago Brant and clearly you didn’t take a word to the wise about keeping yourself in check.”
“Go on,” Brant taunted her, “Keep talking Shannon because it proves that you’re behaving like nothing more than a hormonal teenager.”
“I’m hormonal?” Shannon replied with a huff, “Oh please Brant.  Considering you’re the one who can’t keep it in his pants long enough to engage in a fulfilling adult relationship, I hardly think you’re qualified to be giving me a lecture on my hormones.”
“You know very well that I have a very fulfilling relationship and more with Avery as she is my fiancée and I’m very satisfied with our relationship, while you on the other hand, well…” Brant challenged giving her a once over, “Couldn’t find anyone who appreciated how you like to play rough, could you?”
“I only get rough with the ones I loathe,” Shannon chortled watching him reach for a towel the bartender held out for him as Brant casually began to wipe his face offering up that same condescending look that left her wanting to bash his brains in time and time again.
“Oh please, you wouldn’t know how to do it any other way and besides, it takes a certain kind of man to appreciate that,” Brant remarked bitterly, “and even when he tries, there’s not a lot of satisfaction he could get from your end considering that you’re far too wound up to ever truly get a guy off to begin with.”
“Keep talking like that and I swear I’ll slap the cuffs on you and take you downtown for harassment,” Shannon warned simply struggling to keep her cool after her momentary outburst when she’d thrown her drink on him.  She saw the flash of anger behind his eyes before a wicked smirk crossed over her features, “Then again maybe you’d enjoy that too much.”
“Handcuffs were more your forte as it seemed the only way you could get off was when I had you strapped down and bending to my will despite all your brutality on me,” menace laced Brant’s voice as Shannon felt a hint of color rising through her upon his words.  He stepped in closer to her, challenging her with his tone as he shook his head allowing the remaining droplets of her drink that lingered over him to splash onto her, “Maybe that’s really what this is all about,” he lowered his voice a bit as he tipped his head down towards her, “maybe you’re pestering is just your way of begging me to take control of you again.”
Shannon lifted her eyes up towards his taking in the scent of alcohol on his breath as her body grew rigid with fury and a combination of insanity that only Brant seemed to spark inside of her.  Even after all this time, her loathing him still produced the same reactions that she’d once found when they were involved with one another.  Still as she met his dark and determined eyes, she struggled to keep her cool about her as she spoke smooth and evenly,  “I wouldn’t give you the privilege.”
“And I didn’t say I was asking for it,” his voice roared with an almost playful air as he took a step in towards her and Shannon mirrored the movement with less than an afterthought as they stood practically nose to nose in this face off between them.  She could see his eyes filled with anger, arrogance and arousal as her own body grew tight with mirroring emotions.  She felt his breath spill over her as an insult weighed upon the tip of her tongue and just as the spark began to burst inside of her, the voice of reality…or rather Hart Steiner brought her back to the moment.
“Brant, what are you doing,” Hart tugged on Brant’s arm pulling him away from Shannon in a haste, “not here.”
“She was asking for it,” Brant shook his head seemingly changing his train of thought as his eyes transformed to a full blown glare in Shannon’s direction.
“You’d be best to advise your client to stay the hell away from me in the midst of his temper tantrums,” Shannon fought to keep her professional tone despite the way Brant’s insults had fallen upon her, “because it doesn’t help his case.”
“Like you even have a case against me,” Brant rolled his eyes attempting to step forward as Hart held him back.  “Just get over it already Shannon.  I have.”
“Brant, that’s enough,” Hart warned turning his attention to Shannon once again as a frown touched over his lips.  He looked between Brant and Shannon thinking of the scene he’d taken in and suddenly he was starting to have his doubts about a great many other aspects he wasn’t prepared for.
“Maybe it’s time to call it a night,” Jenna stepped into the center of the chaos as she looked between Brant and Shannon.
“You might want to tell your best friend to watch out for that one,” Shannon quipped with a deep scowl as she watched Brant and Hart bickering with one another, “He doesn’t have a loyal bone in his body unless of course you count the love of his life--being himself that is.”
“You know what Shannon,” Brant began again with a hiss.
“Oh what you have something to say yet again,” Shannon rolled her eyes before waving her hands back at him, “Bring it on Brant.  Let us all see how far down your throat you can lodge your foot this time?  I dare you,” she shot daggers back at him as she felt a sudden tug on her arm.
“I think we’re about finished here,” Dave offered up having witnessed the commotion through the crowd as he now stood at his partner’s side.
“I’m just warming up,” Shannon grumbled trying to shake off his hold.
“I think it’s time for an exit,” Jenna’s eyes pleaded with Hart as she felt uneasy about the moment happening between the FBI agent and Brant.  She motioned towards the back door, “Perhaps Brant could use some air,” she urged Hart on.
“There isn’t enough air in the world for me as long as this she-devil is in Coral Valley,” Brant snapped as his eyes still remained fixed on Shannon, his anger taking the best of him as he watched Shannon flinch at his words.  She seemed to ready to attack and he’d been waiting for it from the moment she returned to Coral Valley.  If she was ready to make her move, he’d have his counterstrike ready now that she’d made things personal.
“Even so, we’re needed elsewhere,” Dave added simply pulling Shannon away from the situation despite her protests as he lead her towards the bar’s exit hoping to get some sense running through her as he was well aware of what happened when Shannon and Brant were too close for comfort.
“What the hell are you doing,” Shannon growled with him every step of the way towards the bar’s exit.
“Saving you from yourself,” Dave explained simply as they headed out into the night, “You can thank me later.”
“Not likely,” Shannon hissed pushing him away from her, “I don’t need you or your help,” she snapped back at him slipping out into the parking lot as Hart turned his attention fully to Brant.
“What were you thinking,” Hart demanded his voice full of disapproval, “You never should’ve approached her like that.”
“I’m not afraid of Shannon,” Brant answered coolly his voice devoid of any and all emotions as he watched the door to the bar like a hawk.
“You should be,” Hart warned, “she’s trying to bury you and you’re giving her all the reasons in the world to go after you with your outbursts.”
“Shannon’s nothing,” Brant’s eyes turned towards Hart as a frown touched over his lips, “and clearly this meeting was useless as well as you haven’t given me anything to go on tonight.”
“I can’t even begin to start with you stuck in your mood,” Hart remarked sharply, “It would be defeating the purpose.”
“Oh I have plenty of purpose,” Brant remarked the wheels in his head turning as he adjusted his tie, “and you work on clearing my name along with Avery’s and I’ll deal with Shannon,” he vowed cryptically as he headed through the crowd determined to put the night behind him as he left Hart and Jenna alone with one another.
“What just happened here,” Jenna questioned uneasily as she watched Brant stalk off into the night.
“I don’t know, but something tells me whatever happened, it can’t be good,” Hart admitted wondering if he could find a way to keep Brant in line long enough to get the FBI off of his back.  Judging by Shannon’s reaction to Brant, that in itself might prove to be an impossible feat.


Blake eased into Caitlin’s hospital room and smiled as she saw her friend curled into her brother’s side. She eased closer to the bed and gently nudged Kenneth, “Hey, why don’t you go get yourself something to eat?”

“I can’t,” Kenneth said softly as he smoothed Caitlin’s hair away from her cheek, “She gets restless when I’m not here.”

Blake smiled, “I’ll be right here with her. I promise she’ll be okay.”

He gently pressed a kiss to Caitlin’s forehead before he slipped out of her arms and eased himself off the bed. He patted Blake’s arm, “I’ll just go down to the cafeteria. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Take your time,” Blake said softly before her brother left the room. She moved closer to her friend and lightly took Caitlin’s hand.

“Thank you for getting him to go eat. I didn’t think he was going to move all night,” Caitlin said as she eased her eyes open, seeing Blake a bit more clearly than she had anyone else. She blinked again, hoping to clear her vision further but to no avail.

“So you’ve been playing hooky just to get my brother to hold you in his arms?” Blake grinned, “You little devil.”

“There are some perks to my stupidity,” Caitlin teased as she tucked a pillow in the place where Kenneth had lain. She lay her head upon the pillow and smiled, “Thank you for being here.”

“Of course I’d be here,” Blake squeezed her hand in support, “You’re my best friend, and I’d always be here for you.”

“I just hate it that you have to be here for this…again,” Caitlin groaned.

“Kenny was really worried about you.”

“I know.”

“He asked me if I knew who might have done this. He really pressed me for answers, Caitlin. He wanted to know if I could tell him anything to help catch the person doing this to you.”

“I told him everything about Jimmy,” Caitlin said softly, “I was so scared about how he would react, but he was so understanding. He just held me in his arms and told me that we’d find a way to fix this,” She sniffled as she spoke, “He’s just been so good about this. I don’t even know how I deserved him.”

“You deserve Kenny because you’re a very special person, Caitlin. I always told you that one day the right guy would come along, and you’d finally be understood and appreciated. And I was right,” Blake smiled, “I told you Kenny was a great guy and would understand if you just opened up to him.”

“I know, and I really should have listened. It’s just….people don’t usually understand. They just ask how I could have done something so stupid and then they never look at me the same way again. I couldn’t have handled that again. I just couldn’t.”

“And you didn’t have to. I truly believe that Kenny is in love with you. He was so adamant about finding your attacker. He really cares about you, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him so dedicated to anyone,” Blake patted Caitlin’s hand gently, “I’m so happy that you two found each other.”

“You’re really being too sweet you know,” Caitlin sniffed gently as she wiped her tears with her free hand, “Ken is just the perfect guy, and I’m so lucky to have him. Especially through this…he’s been very understanding, and he wants to help find Jimmy and stop him for good,” She inhaled brokenly, “How did I get so lucky?”

“It’s not luck,” Blake said as she eased Caitlin’s hair away from her cheek, “It’s what you deserve, Caitlin, and I think it’s about damn time.”

Caitlin chuckled as she tugged her friend onto the bed with her. Blake settled in beside her before Caitlin smiled, “You know you are impossible. Since you’ve met Seth you’re all romantic and stuff. It’s kind of sickening.”

Blake giggled, “Okay, maybe I do have a serious case of the romance fever, but it’s only because it’s happening all around me. You and Ken, me and Seth…” She paused, “You know, we’ll have to find Zack a woman.”

“She’d better have nerves of steel,” Caitlin sighed with a laugh, “He’s a handful.”

“He’s a lot more than a handful, but any girl would be lucky to get him.”

“Oh no, please tell me you’re not feeling all smitten about him again. I know he has a lot of charm, but it’s all bull….just fight the power, babe,” Caitlin teased.

Blake laughed softly, “Okay, that’s kind of funny, but really, I’m just hoping he can find a path for himself.”

“I think Zack finds his way quite a bit. That’s three quarters of his problem,” Caitlin said as she pulled her blanket tighter around her.

“Still, I think with the two of us finally finding happiness, it’s time for Zack to find that too. It’d be nice if all of us could settle down,” Blake said dreamily.

“It would be, but somehow I’ve got the feeling it’ll be quite a while before Zack comes anywhere near settling down,” Caitlin sighed as she held onto Blake and hoped that some way, happiness could find her brother as well.


Avery looked out the window of Russell’s Toyota Camry thinking about the scene they’d taken in at the hospital.  Just the thought of seeing Caitlin in so much pain and turmoil set her at a state of unease as she thought to her own situation with Bruce.  While Bruce had lost control and nearly taken her life from her, it was nothing in comparison to the way Caitlin looked tonight.  Just to imagine what Caitlin must be feeling and going through at a time like this broke Avery’s heart as she knew all too well what it was like to be in that position.  Of course what made it worse was everyone trying to be there seeking out answers to questions you weren’t willing to give, Avery thought to herself as she reasoned that at least with Caitlin having Ken beside her, things would somehow work themselves out…even if they’d never truly be okay again.
“You’re quiet,” Russell noted driving down the darkened road before them as he broke through her thoughts.
“I could say the same about you,” she sighed turning her attention back to the man beside her.
“I guess today gave us a lot to think about, huh,” Russell offered up a quick glance in her direction before turning his attention to the road again.
“I can’t stop thinking about Caitlin,” Avery confessed with a soft sigh as she sank back into the seat.
“Neither can I,” he admitted shaking his head as his fingers curled around the steering wheel, his mind reeling with possibilities about Caitlin’s attack, “and truth be told, it’s got me worried about her and about you…”
“Why me?” Avery gave him a sideways glance, “We both know that I’m okay now.  Bruce is gone and if you think what happened before with him is something that could come up again, then…”
“I wasn’t thinking about Bruce,” he admitted after a moment’s hesitation, “though that’s been bothering me a bit too considering.  However, what’s really been on my mind after we saw Caitlin has been Cameron Stone.  If he could orchestrate something like this against Caitlin, then…”
“Russ, Caitlin told you that Cameron didn’t do this,” Avery pointed out as she looked to him once again noting the way the shadows from the moonlight hung over his face as he drove down the nearly empty road.
“I know what she said, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that this fits into Cameron’s type of tactics for urging people to back off.”
“Russ, trust me.  It’s not Cameron,” Avery’s eyes fell to the window once again, “at least not this time…”
“You sound like you know something,” he eyed her curiously hoping she’d reveal her thoughts with him, “Did Caitlin tell you something more about what’s been happening?”
“I know what you know,” Avery shook her head in response, “but I will say that my women’s intuition is kicking up again and something’s telling me that Caitlin wouldn’t lie about something like that.  If Cameron was behind it, then she’d be the first person to have him thrown in jail--no questions asked.”
“Avery, I know Caitlin and I know she’s a good person and if she was intimidated in any way…” he began to argue.
“Russ, her attack was very personal,” Avery cut him off abruptly, “It was personal and intimate and while a man like Cameron might think about hurting someone who challenged his authority, this particular attack was something that clearly came from something a little closer to home.”
“Such as?” he inquired searching her eyes for a brief moment.
“Such as it’s Caitlin’s private tale to tell and if she’s ever ready to share it, then we’ll be there for her when the time is right,” Avery’s voice thickened with an air of sadness that hung over her, “and if that day never comes, well we can keep supporting her and being there for her as that’s really what she needs right now.”
“You feel really connected to this, don’t you?”  Russ questioned gently reaching out to touch her leg as she placed her hand on top of his.
She nodded, “I guess you can say I have a whole new outlook on life now that things have happened like they have.  Sometimes when fate throws you a dangerous curve, the best you can do is hope that when things come full circle there’s some light at the end of the tunnel,” Avery paused as an air of sentiment flooded over her and she turned her attention to Russell, “I’ve found mine and maybe Caitlin can find hers too.”
“I’d like to think so,” he smiled back at her seeing the spark of something behind her eyes that encouraged his notions about their time together as he took a turn off the main road.
Avery’s eyes lingered over him for a brief moment before she turned her attention to the road again, “Russ, you were supposed to keep going straight to get to the mansion.”
“We’re not going to the mansion,” he admitted honestly.  “I don’t think I’m ready to let you go yet…no, I take that back.  I know I’m not ready to do that.”
“Russ, we can’t just run away from the world,” Avery began seeing something building behind his handsome features as he took another turn.
“Maybe not forever, but for a little while,” he squeezed her leg once again before giving her a brief look, “It’s just that after everything, well Avery, the truth is I don’t want to let go of how we’re feeling right now in this moment.  If we just walk away from that light at the end of the tunnel, then we’re only fooling ourselves about the world we’re living in.  If we throw it all away now…”
“Russ,” she spoke up hearing the romanticism behind his tone as he pulled into a small lot up ahead.  She turned her attention to the place before her as her eyes widened in surprise, “oh my!”
“I thought maybe we could use a reality check--one that would take us back to a time when things were right and we didn’t have a care in the world,” he offered up his reasoning as he turned the car off and pulled his keys out of the ignition.  “Think you’re up for it?”
“Oh I don’t know.  I mean it’s late and,” her words fell upon deaf ears as the car door opened and within a matter of seconds he opened the passenger side door extending his hand out towards her in an attempt to assist her out of the car.
“Feeling adventurous tonight,” his smile filled her with a warmth down to the tips of her toes as she unbuckled her seatbelt and offered her hand up to him.
“You know someone’s probably going to call the police on us,” Avery couldn’t help but smile as he helped her out of the car into the chilly autumn night that surrounded them.
“It wouldn’t be the first time we’d be on the CVPD’s most wanted list,” he offered with a shrug of his shoulders, “and besides, if this is the worst of what we’re doing in revisiting the past, then I think we’ll be okay.”
“Being in a public place with you has always been dangerous,” Avery teased with a playful wink stepping forward into his arms as the winds rose up a bit.
“I’m worth the risk,” he leaned down kissing the tip of her nose before his smile widened, “besides I still owe you a trip to heaven.”
“I thought that’s what we were doing earlier,” Avery offered suggestively alluding to their afternoon together as his arms curled around her slender waist.
“That was a different kind of heaven,” Russell nibbled on her lower lip as he hugged her against his body, “but this one, well this one is the kind that you and I both thought about when we were young and the world was filled with endless possibilities.”
“When you made me feel like I was flying and that we could truly find a way to have it all,” she breathed against his mouth savoring the closeness between them before she wiggled out of his embrace and an air of laughter surrounded him.  She threw out one quick wink before racing towards the playground he’d brought her to.  “Last one to the swing set is the rotten egg.”
Russell watched as Avery darted across the night, her words tickling over him as a smile swept up from deep within him.  As he looked over the remains of the playground they’d spent most of their childhood at with one another, a fondness grew within him as it was in this very setting he’d realized he’d fallen in love with Avery so very long ago.  Back then when she was prim and proper in her pigtails and pleated skirts, she’d won over his heart and now as the moonlight illuminated every line of her face, he realized that feeling had never truly faded away.  Avery was as much a part of him as the air he breathed and as she seated herself up on the swing set before him, kicking her legs out wildly as her laughter surrounded him, he felt that love envelope him urging him on to keep holding her with all he had as she was truly where his heart was at.
“You were never this slow getting over here before,” Avery taunted him as she began to swing casually kicking her legs out to gain more leverage on the swing.
“I never really took the time to admire the vision before me until now,” he admitted stepping in beside her as her swing began to slow down a bit and she turned her eyes up to look at him.
“I guess when we were younger we really never took the time to savor the simple things like we always vowed we would,” Avery felt her swing teetering towards stillness as he took a seat on the swing beside her, “though I must confess you’ve never looked more handsome than you do in this very moment.”
“I believe this is my cue to come up with some witty response to clue you in on my suave side,” Russell couldn’t help but smile as her eyes sparkled with laughter.
“Your suave side always needed some work out here, but tonight, well I think you might have more going on for you than you did at seven,” Avery teased leaning against the side of the swing as Russell moved in towards her.
“Hmm…I tended to think at that age I had some of my best pick up lines,” he winked as he inched his swing in closer to her, “I mean after all I did get to kiss the most beautiful girl on the playground with my words, didn’t I?”
“Hmm, I’d heard rumors about that, but I still don’t quite recall your words being the key to winning her over,” she answered feigning seriousness as he reached out to her swing rocking her with him as his swing began to move a bit.
“Maybe we should test that one out tonight,” he shrugged his shoulders dropping his head to the side to watch her closely.
“What do you have in mind?” Avery lifted a curious brow as he reached out to her cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand as his breath whispered over her features.
“I was thinking that,” his words tapered off as he memorized every line of her face, every sound her breath made as it escaped from her perfectly succulent lips.
“Yes?” she questioned lazily her eyelashes fluttering as his thumb skimmed over her cheekbone, grazing the hollow tenderly.
“I heard that over on the jungle gym, if you go to the top over there…you know the rocket ship area that when you finally reach the top, there’s a surprise waiting for you,” he whispered as the breeze passed over him causing tremors to race over her.
“Oh?” she lifted a curious brow opening her eyes as his smile suddenly brought out the butterflies in her stomach.
“It’s awesome,” Russell continued encouragingly, “like fireworks I’m told.”
“All from climbing to the top of that rocket ship over there,” she motioned towards the play toy that had kept all of the children in their elementary school busy for hours in their youth.
“That’s the one,” he nodded in confession, “and truth be told, I did it myself the other day and when I did, well you wouldn’t believe what happened…”
“And why should I believe a word you’re saying,” Avery wrinkled her nose back at him, “The last time I believed the story you were telling me, I wound up face down in the mud.”
“Because this time it’s different,” Russell felt the words spill over him though it had been years since they’d been in this exact spot saying the same things to one another.
“Different how,” Avery felt the old traces of skepticism fill her tone as she eyed him closely.
“This time I promise you there’s no tricks associated with it and besides, those guys over there said they don’t think you’ll really do it because you’re a girl and girl’s don’t have the guts to take on the rocket ship like we guys do.”
“So you’re saying I can’t do it because I’m a girl,” Avery’s eyes widened as she rose from the swing and she placed her hands on her hips impatiently and offered up a huff, “I’ll show you Russell Denton.”
Russell watched Avery walk over towards the rocket ship and as she kicked her heels off, he was reminded of the younger version of her being tempted to prove him wrong yet again as she climbed her way up to the top of the rocket ship, that felt like a mountain back in the day.  Of course now that Avery had grown considerably taller than she was at seven, it only took a few short steps for her, but it was in those few short steps that the course of history had been set ages ago.
Now as Russell rose from the swing he’d been seated upon, he could feel the same nervous anticipation flooding over him as he reached out to the cool metal bars.  His gaze fell upon Avery as she sat on the top of the rocket ship, her arms folded in front of her chest expectantly.
“See, I told you I could do it,” Avery couldn’t help but smile victoriously as she watched Russell scale the bars making himself comfortable at the top beside her.  She looked to the sky above as the night’s whisper fell upon her and her mouth went dry as she recalled their time together in this very spot.  The memory had always stayed with her, but now as they sat side by side, it was a clear case of déjà vu on one of the defining moments in her life.  She sucked in a nervous breath as his thigh brushed up against her and she spoke simply struggling to keep her air of child-like pride about her as she was quite certain what came next unlike her younger counterpart. “See.”
“So you have,” he smiled watching the ways in which the winds wisped her hair around her features, framing her face beautifully as her lip quivered for a brief flickering moment before she turned to face him.
“Where are the fireworks?” Avery questioned lowering her voice to a hint of a whisper as he lifted his hand up to caress her face affectionately.
“Right here,” he breathed inhaling the sweet scent of her as his lips skimmed over hers in a barely there tantalizing kiss.  A soft sigh escaped her lips as his fingers tapered off into her hair sealing the promise and magic of the moment between them as their kiss deepened in intensity.  He felt her palm drop down into his lap, reaching up over his abdomen as the cool night wind carried over them fanning the flames of desire burning between them. Their kiss expanded taking them to new places together with each tender nibble, every smoldering caress and heated stroke of their mouths in unison as the moment built into something beautiful until tiny sensations spilled over the both of them leaving them breathless as they parted.
Avery rest her forehead against his as she fought for her breath in the first moment of the absence of his kiss.  Her heart was fluttering in her chest, body on fire as the magic of him washed over her, bringing forth something far beyond mere words as she fought for words, yet only managed a mere whisper as she spoke up once more, “I’d say your technique has definitely improved over the years…” she gasped as his thumb touched over her pulse point, sending tremors racing over her skin as his words brushed over her.
“It’s still as exciting as the first kiss was,” Russell breathed in admission as he held her, “Even then I felt like I was flying, soaring above the clouds after we’d kissed like that.  I was terrified of what would happen when I brought you up here, but somehow in sharing that moment, it was more perfect than I’d ever imagined it to be.”
“Kissing you wasn’t what I was planning on, but when you did it,” she felt flushed as his green eyes reached into her, tugging at her insides as she seemed to melt at the point of contact between them, “It was the most perfect kiss a girl could’ve dreamt of…even now, I still get elated by the memory,” her dark eyes drifted over his ever so kissable mouth, “the knots of anticipation and eagerness still fill me up inside leaving me to free fall into the wonder of it all and in the end it’s nothing short of fireworks bursting inside of me over and over again filling me with the warmth of you.”
Russell curled his arm around her carefully sliding her into his lap as he held her.  He squeezed her against him hugging her body to his as he thought of the many roads they’d taken to get to this moment in time--to their being full circle once again and suddenly all the pain and horrors they’d endured were irrelevant.  None of the chaos or the roadblocks were of importance as holding her in his arms was all that there was and if the world fell apart around him, he never would’ve known as Avery Morrison was everything to him.
Russell pressed a hot kiss against her neck as he cradled her in his arms holding her securely as the night surrounded them, keeping them safe in the world of love between them, “Come home with me,” Russell whispered hugging her tighter.  “Please, stay with me tonight.”
Avery tilted her eyes up towards him feeling the power behind his request as she offered up a nod, not giving any thoughts to the world they’d escaped from as she gently massaged her fingers over the center of his chest, “Alright,” she lay her head against him listening to the sounds of his heart beating wildly beneath her making him more real by the moment as this time they spent together filled her so completely.
“Alright,” he repeated almost questioning as he’d half expected some kind of protest out of her like all the other times he’d asked her to open herself up to the thoughts of them taking the time to be alone together.
“Yes,” she nodded encouragingly as she shifted in his arms.  She wrapped her arms around him squeezing him tighter as her brown eyes filled with love for him, “yes, I’ll stay with you tonight,” she promised throwing caution to the wind as the only place she wanted to be was lost in the warmth of Russell Denton’s arms.


Jade sat in a booth at Irvan’s and stirred a packet of sweetener into her herbal tea. She plucked a cheese fry from a platter between Grady and herself and chewed on the tip before she spoke, “So are we going to have dinner out tomorrow night or cook a meal at your place?”

“What?” Grady asked as he looked away from the sidewalk outside, “What did you say?”

She frowned, “You’re off in outer space again.”

“I can’t help it. I’m just worried,” He tapped upon the table, “I only wish there was some way to get through to Russell. But he’s so damn hard headed.”

“Yeah, I know the type,” She said as she eyed him.

“Okay, point taken,” He frowned, “Can I help it? I just worry about my brother. Does that make me so bad?”

“No, but you should think about our situation as well. What you’re feeling about Russ is what Seth is doing with me. You have to realize that while you both mean well, we’re adults. Russell and I know what we’re doing. You just have to trust us to know what’s best for us.”

“These are two entirely different situations, Jade. You can’t compare them like that.”

“Like hell I can’t,” She groaned, “Grady, you’re looking out for what you believe is in Russ’ best interests, right?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So, that’s the same thing Seth thinks he’s doing for me,” She reminded him.

“But Seth is wrong.”

“And you can’t be wrong?” Jade snorted, “Come on, Grady. Give Russ a chance here.”

“I’ve seen him make this exact same mistake before though, Jade.”

“Really? You’ve seen him pursue the woman he loves without letting anything get in his way?”

“Yes, I have, and it led him into disaster,” Grady frowned.

Jade paused as her eyes widened and her lips parted slightly, “Oh my god…”

“What?” He asked in quick concern, “What is it?”

“This isn’t about Russ at all, is it?” She sank back in her chair and crossed her arms to hug herself, “This is about us after all.”

“What?” He asked in confusion.

“You think if you actually allow yourself to love and actually, oh I don’t know,” She said as she threw her hand up in the air dramatically, “Do something crazy like…well…go after the woman you care about, then you’re going to end up in a disaster? Is that it?” She demanded as she met his eyes, “Huh? Come on, Grady. Just say it.”

“Jade, that isn’t what I was saying at all…”

“Yes, it is,” She cut him off before she shook her head and half laughed in realization, “You’re terrified. My god, Grady, I’ve seen you face the worst of the worst in court, and now when it comes right down to what it is you’re most afraid of…it’s the thought of falling in love.”

“You just have to understand where I’m coming from. I’m not actually afraid of falling in love.”

“You’re afraid that you might get hurt if you do fall in love. Well guess what, Grady? Falling in love means taking a risk with your heart, but it doesn’t have to mean disaster.”

“In my past, it always has.”

“Haven’t you ever seen a happy couple?” She asked as she leaned onto the table, “There has to be one couple you can think of that really epitomizes what love is to you.”

Grady considered her question for a moment, “My parents have had a strong and steadfast marriage.”

“Isn’t that proof enough to you that love does exist and doesn’t have to end in tragedy?” She asked as she placed her hand upon his, “Isn’t it enough to make you want to take a chance on us?”

“Jade, I want it all with you.”

“Grady, do you think you could ever fall in love with me?”

“I care about you now,” He attempted.

“That’s not what I asked,” She reminded him as she worried the answer would not be one she wanted to hear.

He sat back and ran a hand through his hair, “I wish I could tell you what you want to hear, Jade, but I can’t. I don’t think I could ever allow myself to fall in love again.”

“Last I heard, falling in love wasn’t something that you allowed yourself to do. It either happens, or it doesn’t,” Jade said softly, “And it’s already happened to me,” She met his eyes before she gathered her things, “Now I suppose you have to decide if you can allow it to happen to you,” She said before turning and leaving Irvan’s.

Grady closed his eyes and dropped his head back, wondering how he had allowed his concern for his brother to drive a wedge between him and the woman who meant more to him than anything else in the world.


Seth dropped some coins into a vending machine and punched in the number for the crème-filled chocolate honey bun dangling there in temptation. He hadn’t found time in his hectic day to eat properly, but what else was new lately? His days had become more hectic than he had ever bargained for.

He bent to pick up the pastry from the vending machine. As he stood back up, he met the distrustful eyes of Zack Vaughn.

Seth frowned, “Can I help you?”

“Funny, you should ask,” Zack began, “Because I think you can.”

“And how would that be?”

“You can stay out of Blake’s life,” Zack suggested as he slipped his hands into his pockets, “The last thing she needs is some low life trying to con her.”

“I have no intentions of conning her. Yes, I’ll admit that things are very convoluted right now, but I really do have Blake’s best interests at heart.”

“The only person you’re interested in is yourself. Blake’s had plenty of guys like you to waltz in and out of her life, but I’m not going to let her get hurt because she has a big heart and can’t weed out the winners from the..huh..losers,” Zack sneered at Seth, his tone suggestive of his feelings about Blake’s interest in him.

“Are you calling me a loser?” Seth asked as he narrowed his eyes at Zack, “You don’t know a thing about me.”

“I know plenty. You’re a hot shot who thinks he has one hell of a meal ticket in Blake, but that’s just not the case. I’m not going to let you get where you want to get with Blake. If she can’t see what you are for herself, then I’ll just have to show her.”

“What makes you think this is any of your business?”

“Blake is like a little sister to me, and I’m not going to let you take advantage of her kind heart.”

“I’m not trying to take advantage of anything. I love her.”

“Yeah right,” Zack dismissed the notion quickly, “You love the idea of her money.”

“I’m not interested in her money,” Seth declared defensively.

“Maybe not only in her money. She is a very attractive woman, and I’m sure you’d love the bragging rights to bedding her, wouldn’t you?”

“Look, pal,” Seth warned as he stepped in closer to Zack, “I’m only putting up with you because Blake seems to think you can somehow help her in this crazy scheme of hers, but don’t for one second think that I’m not capable of making your life a living hell.”

Zack raised an amused eyebrow as he matched Seth’s stance as he spoke, “Is that a threat?”

“It’s a promise if you don’t back off. I would never hurt Blake. I only want her to be happy and safe.”

“Then why don’t you take a hike and leave her alone? Then and only then will Blake be safe.”

“Don’t you listen?” Seth demanded as he only barely kept his anger in check, “I am not a danger to her.”

“You’re a huge danger because you don’t give a damn about her.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. I love Blake, and I would do whatever it took to make her happy.”

“Then hit the bricks,” Zack commanded as he inched closer to Seth to reaffirm his position, “And get lost before you do any real damage to her. All she could possibly want from you is a pity lay, and I’m fairly certain that even that would be a fleeting moment in time.”

“You son of a bitch,” Seth lunged at Zack.

Kenneth shoved Zack and Seth away from each other, “Stop it. You two are making asses of yourselves. This is a hospital. How about showing some decorum!” He ordered as he looked between the two men, “Do you really think that breaking into a fist fight in the lobby is going to help Caitlin or Blake for that matter?”

Seth glared at Zack before he shook his head, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Just tell Blake…just tell her to call me,” He said before turning and making his exit from the lobby.

Kenneth focused his attention on Zack with a deep frown, “Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”

“Nothing really,” Zack shrugged, “I just gave him a friendly warning.”

“Well, let me give you a friendly warning…if you do anything to further upset Caitlin right now, she won’t be the only one laying in the hospital. Understood?” Kenneth warned firmly before he walked back towards the elevators.

Zack watched Kenneth’s exit and grinned. He wasn’t about to back down where Seth was concerned, and he had a smidgen of hope that Kenneth might be useful as an ally for his task as well. Blake, however, would be an entirely different subject all together, but Zack knew that he had a few tricks up his sleeve that he’d try on her. If those didn’t work, he’d have to play really dirty…which he preferred anyway.


The door to the Ashford mansion slammed to a close bringing forth a gust of wind with it’s movement that nearly shook the paintings in the foyer as Brant’s rage rumbled over him like a roaring inferno ready to tear the walls down around him.  Damn Shannon for stepping in on his meeting with Hart and for invading his life once again.  It wasn’t bad enough that the press had been hounding him like crazy since the story leaked about his engagement to Avery, but now to have Shannon and Heather on his back both trying to sabotage him and any chance of a future with Avery, well it burned him to no end.  He tore off his jacket feeling the darkness surround him as a scowl touched over his lips.  By now he was certain that Avery had slipped off to bed and that in itself added to his discontent as he’d been hoping to have a few words with her.
Hart’s revelation about Russell and Avery had been very unsettling and even now after Shannon’s ‘attack’ on him, just the idea of yet another possible pitfall in the road to romance with Avery had his mind reeling with things that he was less than thrilled about.  Sure, he’d known that Russell and Avery had a history.  He knew more than he’d wanted to know after that night he’d taken her home, but in her drunken state she’d downplayed the situation making references to her and Russell being together in their youth, not as him being the man she was ready to pledge her life to.
Now that Brant new the truth about Russell and Avery, he realized that there would be no more Mr. Nice Guy as Avery was exactly what Brant wanted and he didn’t sit back and let the competition take what was rightfully his.  Granted Bruce Mathis was never fierce competition as anyone with eyes could see that Avery was clearly disinterested, but Russell Denton, well that in itself brought on an altogether different element indeed.  Considering the ways in which Russell kept popping up at the mansion, well anyone with eyes could see the man was still hung up on Avery, but the question was, did Avery reciprocate the feeling?  Brant sincerely hoped not as that would make things considerably more difficult should she be tempted by Russell.  Still when Brant wanted something, he always was able to acquire that object of his desire and Avery was the one thing he truly desired.  She was his dream girl and if Russell even thought about getting in the way of that, there would be hell to pay.
Brant clenched his fists at his sides silently cursing himself for letting that man step into his life and hang around the mansion as the very thought of Russell lingering around set him on edge.  Sure, maybe it was the martinis working a number over on him, but then again, there were too many close encounters with Russell Denton.  The fact that Russell had worked with Heather to sabotage his trip with Avery--the way that Russell has insisted on taking Avery away from the mansion, of having her stay with him, it was all starting to open the door to a much clearer picture for Brant and as it stood he didn’t like what he was seeing.  Brant had waited far too long to get this close to Avery and even now she had a wall between him, and lo and behold if Russell Denton had anything to do with that wall, Brant would find a way to squash him like a bug as he refused to let anything get in the way of his happiness with Avery.
Brant was almost completely buried in his thoughts, absorbed in his notions of ridding Russell Denton from Avery’s life as a faint flicker of light captured his attention from the corner of his eye.  He stood still as he realized the source of the dim glow was coming from his personal study.  With curiosity brewing over him, he changed directions making his way to his study as the door was open a small crack.  Gently pushing his way into the shadow laced room, he noticed the dark haired figure standing by the window looking out upon the moonlight and a breath of relief escaped his lips.
“She’s home,” he thought to himself as he began to wonder if his concerns about Avery’s loyalty to Russell were nothing more than his imagination conjuring up the worst case scenario after Shannon had toyed with his mind.  Certainly she had no interest in Russell as she stood in his study, no doubt awaiting his arrival after his waste of a meeting with Hart.  Slowly he crept in behind her, taking in the exotic scent of her perfume.  While it had always managed to seduce his senses in the past, somehow tonight, well it conjured up more erotic, enticing thoughts and feelings inside of him as he slid in behind her easing his arms around her waist as he pressed into her back, dropping his lips over her neck in the briefest of movements.
“I was afraid you’d forgotten all about me,” Brant murmured against her skin as a smile crept over his lips, “ but seeing you here waiting up for me, oh Avery how it does stir up some deliciously wonderful ideas about us picking up where we left off last night…”
“As tempting as that sounds,” Brooke cleared her throat pleasantly surprised by her future son-in-law’s mistake as she spun around to face him, “I think you’re going to have to put the brakes on those ideas you have for my daughter at the moment.”
“Mrs. Morrison,” Brant practically gulped as he threw out an apologetic smile, “I’m so, so very sorry about that.  I guess I just saw the light and thought that Avery was in here considering that you were standing by the window and…”
“Please call me Brooke and I hope you realize that you don’t have to say another word,” Brooke waved her hand at him dismissively as her smile widened, “It was a harmless mix-up and I hope you don’t feel any more discomfort about the situation as if nothing else, it proved to me that clearly my daughter has made quite an impression on you.”
“In more ways than I can even begin to express,” Brant nodded in confession as he looked around his quiet study for a brief moment, “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all,” Brooke shook her head motioning towards her laptop computer, “I just needed a quiet place to check up on business and this seemed like a good place to get started.”
“By all means,” Brant stepped aside motioning to the desk, “feel free to do what you need to in here as it is a good place to get some work done along with some much needed thinking.”
“Is that why you were in here,” Brooke lifted a curious brow, “To do some thinking?”
“I was actually hoping you were Avery as I wanted to talk to her before the morning, but I suppose she’s up in bed by now, huh?” Brant frowned his thoughts lingering back to his abrupt departure from Avery’s apartment earlier in the day.
Brooke nodded knowing full well that her daughter hadn’t made an arrival at the mansion all day long.  She touched Brant’s arm hoping to keep him from investigating his curiosities about her foolish daughter any more than he already had.  “Avery had a rough day and she’d mentioned that she needed a night of undisturbed sleep to get back to clear thinking again after that lawsuit.”
“I can’t say I blame her,” Brant pondered the thought as he realized that today had just been icing on the cake for him and Avery with all that they’d been facing, “I suppose I can wait until morning to talk to her.”
“Anything I can help you with,” Brooke questioned casually stepping in towards him as she flashed him a bright smile, “I mean we are after all well on the road to being family.”
“I suppose we are,” Brant smiled in response trying to push his thoughts about the situations happening around him aside.  He looked to Brooke once again contemplating his words as the gnawing feelings from before ate away at him, “Tell me something Brooke.  When Avery was engaged to Russell Denton, did you feel this same kind of connection with him?”
Brooke’s eyes widened in surprise before her features quickly returned to normal, “Heaven’s no.  I was completely against their union from the beginning.”
“I see,” he nodded appropriately contemplating the angle he wanted to work with Brooke, “so your lack of fondness for him stems from that time in Avery’s life?”
“Brant, what are you really asking,” Brooke watched him closely noting the expression sweeping over his face.
“Is Russell going to be a problem for me,” Brant blurted out almost immediately as he sat on the edge of his desk, “Should I be worried?”
“With your reputation and the devotion you clearly show to my daughter, I wouldn’t imagine someone as pitiful as Russell would pose any kind of threat to you,” Brooke lied trying to downplay her own fears and concerns about Russell’s intrusion in Avery’s life once again.
“Being with Avery is the single most important thing in my life,” Brant confessed openly as he thought to his plans for a future with Avery, “and I have every intention of seeing things through and marrying her.”
“Of course you do,” Brooke wrapped her arm around his shoulders, “and why wouldn’t you considering that you and Avery are perfect for one another?”
“Her father doesn’t seem to think so and clearly neither does Russell, which is why I ask, is he going to be a problem for me,” Brant questioned demanding honesty from Brooke as his eyes sparked with something she clearly recognized as jealousy.
“My daughter is completely devoted to you,” Brooke offered up with a sigh, “but given Russell’s irrational obsession with her, it would be best for the both of you if you found a way to keep him out of her life once and for all.”
“So you’re saying I should take whatever measures necessary to eradicate him from Avery’s life?” Brant lifted a curious brow.
“I’m not telling you to go so far as to hurt him by any physical means, but if you could find a way to put some space between them, it might prevent him from clouding her mind with his pitiful, idealistic thoughts of how he views the world,” she wrinkled her nose in disgust, “as that’s clearly the last thing the future Mrs. Ashford needs to be hearing.  In fact, if you’re really insistent upon finding a way to get rid of Russell, then perhaps you and I could think up something together,” she nudged him as her smile widened, “after all, I only want what’s best for my little girl.”
“Of course you do,” Brant nodded appropriately realizing that he and Brooke had somehow reached an unspoken understanding about Russell that would clearly pave the way to Brant’s happily ever after with Avery.  It was only a matter of time.


Diane’s arms hung over Ben’s broad shoulders, feeling the spark of electricity racing through her as he carried her into his bedroom--into the place where she’d dreamt about time and time again as her ache for him had lingered over her.  Being this close to him, feeling him touching her, holding her, teasing her with his kisses as she’d dreamt about for so very long, it was her own fantasy come to life as he lowered her to the floor once again.  Their eyes connected, a heated breath escaping from her lips as she rubbed up against him, bumping and grinding her body against his as a low moan built up inside of him.  Reaching out to her, his hands traced her sides as she swayed to the movement of his fingers upon her.
“Mmm…” she purred seeking out his hands as she guided them towards her breasts savoring the feel of his touch as his mouth captured hers, tasting, teasing, thrusting her further into the pivotal point of wild abandon as she squeezed her hand over his, guiding his movement over her body as every ounce of her fought to keep from tackling him in that moment.  Tilting her head back, she traced her tongue over his lower lip, drawing out the sensations building between them before she shoved him back onto the mattress behind them.
Ben’s eyes widened in surprise as Diane lunged towards him straddling his lap as her slender form pounced upon his clawing and tearing eagerly at his shirt as her lips beckoned him into submission.  He reached out to her feeling the determination behind her every touch, her encouraging moans as a slow purr fell from her lips.  She yanked his shirt down his arms caging him beneath her as their eyes connected.
“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for this,” she confessed yearning taking control of her every synapse as he wiggled his arms out of his shirt slipping his hands over her bottom cupping her against his hardness.
“The things you do to me,” Ben murmured his passion laden eyes encouraging her on as she realized that he’d wanted her, needed her like she’d needed him as the hard pulse of his arousal sprung up against her thigh, leaving no mystery to Ben’s desires as her tongue traced his lips gingerly.
“The things I’m going to do to you,” she promised shoving him back on the bed with one firm push before her fingers curled over the fine hairs on his chest, knowing that there would never be a more perfect moment than the one she was about to experience with Ben.  She’d wanted him for so very long, needed him and now that he was finally giving in to the attraction between them, there was no doubt in her mind that things were finally falling into place.
Impatiently, Diane’s mouth began a trail of desire over his body as her fingers made quick work of his belt unbuckling it as her tongue darted over the chiseled contours of his torso.  The strength and tensile beauty of his exquisite musculature sent shivers racing over her body as her pulse leapt with every teasing flick of her tongue over his glistening body.  His fingers played over her long, dark hair as he arched up to her attentions.
“Oh Ben,” she purred his name collecting his zipper between her thumb and her index finger as her other hand tested his fullness through his trousers.
“Diane,” he sucked in a sharp breath hissing her name as he looked down to her realizing that she’d shifted gears on him taking on a whole other level of passion as she offered up a teasing growl.  Her teeth nipped on the zipper, as Ben’s eyes widened in response, watching her drag it down his body in a torturously slow fashion as he feared he’d lose himself in the moment in just watching her.  The warmth of her filled him as his head sank back onto the mattress unable to still the roaring thunder that was tearing him out from within.
“Very nice,” Diane admired him as her finger tips swept in beneath his trousers testing his fullness from within his boxer shorts.  Ben turned his eyes towards her seeing the wicked smile that built over her features as she dropped her fingers below the elastic waistband on his boxer shorts opening the door for skin to skin contact between them as she circled his length--her palm sheathing him in firm, solid strokes.
“Oh yes,” Ben moaned curling his fingers through her silken hair as he lifted himself up enough to watch her provocative movements.   Diane gazed up at him tearing his boxer shorts from his body as her eyes took him all in imagining what it would be like to have him buried inside of her as she leaned forward tasting him as the undeniable urge to consume him roared over her.  Her hands worked a steady rhythm over his body as her tongue flicked, curled and taunted him with each determined stroke.
“Diane,” Ben hissed her name feeling his hips rocking up against her as he tugged at her shoulders, “Diane…wait…”
“I want you,” her words hummed over his length as he squeezed her tighter urging her to return to him as his desire raged over his every impulse.
“If you continue doing that baby, then I can promise you that things are not going to work out like you’re hoping for,” he hoisted her up towards him, the friction of her soft form sliding over his body driving him mad with desire as her collected her mouth in a frantic kiss before offering up a tight whisper.  “I want this to be good for both of us.”
“I’m sure it will be,” Diane wiggled in his lap backing off just enough to pull her dress up over her body discarding it on his floor in the blink of an eye as his arms wrapped around her waist. Hastily she threw her arms around him vowing not to let the moment pass them by as Ben’s fingers dipped over her bottom tearing away at the barriers between them as she dropped her head back savoring the way his kisses set her ablaze.  His mouth skimmed over her breast taking one lush nipple between his teeth.  She cried out, arching up into him as her body rocked over his desperate for completion as he turned his attention to the other impatient mound before him.  His large hands guided her hips over his body feeling the exquisite friction between them as Diane’s hands raked down his shoulders.
“Ben…” she murmured his name over and over again as his skilled touch drove her wild with desire.  Her eyes filled with sheer lust, of the aching need that she’d harbored for so very long as she saw the same passion reflected in him, “I don’t want to wait any longer…”
“Neither do I,” he confessed reaching haphazardly across the bed towards his nightstand as Diane let out a tiny pout turning his face to her once again.
“Where are you going?” she demanded harshly forcing him to meet her impatient eyes, “Well?”
“I’m just going to get…” he started as she held up a condom, smiling brightly as his own grin touched over his lips, “One of those…”
“I thought so,” she tore open the foil packaging turning her attention to his burgeoning erection once again as she rolled it over him, desperate to have him buried deep inside of her.
“I love a girl that plans ahead,” he kissed her roughly, guiding her hips over his body as she sheathed him completely allowing him to fill her glistening heat as a cry erupted from her parted lips.
“Ben,” her nails scratched over him as she felt every incredible inch of him inside of her.  He lifted her up off his body, taking his time to ease her over his straining shaft in a slow and determined movement before burying himself inside her once again as a steady rhythm built between them.
Diane claimed his mouth with wild intensity, bucking and arching and colliding in perfect rhythm as he delved deeper into her with each rhythmic push setting a fast and frantic pace between them.  With each desperate thrust, every tantalizing touch, she felt the pleasure building inside of her, the irresistible sensations coiling throughout her body.  Almost as soon as she was certain she couldn’t stand it any longer, Ben collected her in his arms, throwing her down on the mattress as he pressed over her, driving into her fiercely causing the mattress to spring to life beneath her with each fast and frantic push until neither of them could bare the intensity of the moment and a sudden jolt of release began to spill over her, causing her to cry out as she threw her head back.
“Diane,” he groaned her name, thrusting once, twice, three times until finally the jutting impulses of her climax carried him over the edge as her thighs wrapped around him accepting his explosive release.  He buried his head in her shoulder, nibbling on her damp skin as his breathing slowly returned to normal and he was suddenly aware of her slender legs still secured around his body.
“That was amazing,” she revealed with a warm and erratic breath as her body was still pounding with the pleasures he’d proved her with.  As his eyes fell upon hers, a smile lifted upon her lips, “I’ll bet you’re wondering what the hell took you so long with us, aren’t you?”
“You have no idea,” Ben admitted with a tiny chuckle as he leaned in to kiss her tenderly, “though truth be told, I won’t be making the same mistake twice in a lifetime.”
“Good thing too,” Diane’s nails scratched over his spine savoring the weight of his body over hers as she nibbled on his lower lip, “because I can assure you that I’m far from finished with you tonight.”
“I’m all yours baby,” he promised allowing Diane to take him anywhere she’d wanted him to go as tonight was about new beginnings and letting go of any and all inhibitions with her.


“So really what were you and Brant doing here,” Jenna questioned as she found herself seated at a table at the Cadillac Ranch opposite of Hart as her features revealed to him that she was less than impressed with what had taken place earlier.  “Come to think of it, what were you doing back here tonight?”
“I could ask you the same question considering that you know that Patrick spends most of his time here,” Hart challenged offering up no explanations as Jenna’s eyes darkened with anger, “Well I’m just pointing out the obvious.”
“You’re being evasive and that’s not what I wanted from you,” Jenna snapped in response as she watched the corners of his mouth lift in the first signs of a grin.  Seeing the smirk building over his features, she could feel her anger rise with the moment as she held her drink.
“What is it you wanted from me, Jenna,” Hart inquired suggestively reaching across the table in an obvious attempt to make contact with her as his fingers brushed up against hers.
“Not that,” she wrinkled her nose as she tugged her hand away from his touch almost immediately.  Seeing the way he was looking at her, well damn him as she could see what he was up to.  He wasn’t seeking out any kind of answers from her, nor would he provide them as he was more so interested in flirting of all things.  As if she, Jenna Carpenter would welcome such advances from someone as miserable as Hart Steiner.  As if she would crave the attention of a man who’d made her life a living hell.  Certainly it was bad enough that she’d found herself in a position to be working with him, but flirting?  That most certainly was uncalled for to say the least.
“Oh would you relax already,” Hart winked at her as he leaned back in his chair, “I was just playing around.”
“Well it would be in your best interest if you stopped that starting now,” Jenna warned him sharply.
“And if I decided I didn’t want to,” he challenged issuing her an obvious perusal as she felt the heat of his eyes press over her, rendering her momentarily speechless as his gaze alone offered up the promise of all the indecent intentions he’d no doubt be stewing over in his mind about her in that moment in time.
“You don’t have a choice in the matter as this is not what we agreed upon,” Jenna snapped back at him shaking the way his eyes had captured her attention.  She rose from her seat snatching up her purse as a frown touched over her lips, “We’re finished here.”
“I don’t think we’ve even started,” he stood as well reaching for her arm from across the table, “You never told me about what it was exactly that you were doing with Shannon and I think you owe me answers here.”
“I don’t owe you anything,” she insisted firmly standing her ground as he leaned in closer to her.
“We’re partners here and that in itself entitles me to an explanation,” Hart’s words struck over her as she stiffened beside him.
“It doesn’t entitle you to anything especially when you’re asking like that,” Jenna pulled out of his reach as she spun on her heel marching out of the bar in a haste weaving her way through the crowd.
“Jenna wait,” Hart called out after her chasing after her.
Jenna ignored his sounds of protest as she marched towards the door to the bar ready to leave this encounter with Hart behind her.  How dare he think he can just push his way into her life?  How dare he flirt with her and how stupid of her to get so worked up about it, but then again he had made her life miserable and there was no way she was about to let him do it again.  As she marched over to the entrance, her thoughts of retreat were interrupted by Patrick’s goofy, grinning face towering over her.
“You didn’t think you were leaving so soon, did you?” he taunted as he blocked the doorway.
“Get out of my way,” she demanded harshly.
“Not yet.  Seeing as you don’t have that bitch to back you up anymore, I think it’s time you and I had a talk,” he ordered reaching out to her as Jenna decided she’d had enough and she captured his arm, twisting it behind his back in a swift moment before shoving him into the jukebox beside him.  He let out a groan as Jenna’s eyes narrowed with anger.
“Don’t you ever touch me again,” she threw out sharply stomping off into the night as Patrick grumbled in protest as he pulled himself up off of the jukebox.  He looked around seeing Hart approaching as he spoke up again.
“You saw that didn’t you,” Patrick blurted out angrily, “You saw how she assaulted me and how she’s going against a restraining order.”
Hart tried to take a look out into the night, attempting to skid by Patrick as Patrick’s complaining continued.  Finally as Jenna slipped out of his reach disappearing into the night, Hart turned his attention fully to Patrick, “Oh would you just shut up already?  I think we’re all tired of this sob story,” Hart snapped back at him furious with how things had ended all too soon with Jenna.


“Will you ever learn,” Jenna cursed herself over and over again as she made her way down the sidewalk heading towards her car.
It was bad enough that she’d had to deal with Patrick once, but after tonight there was no doubt in Jenna’s mind that she wouldn’t be getting back to work again after her attempt at getting Patrick to leave her alone.  With a bar full of witnesses to her shoving him, she was sure that she could kiss her career good-bye now.  Even when Hart had promised to be her partner, he’d shown that he couldn’t be trusted and with him flirting with her, certainly that had to give some clue into his ulterior agenda.  He couldn’t just leave well enough alone and stay focused and now it had caused her to do something stupid…to behave in such a way that she’d dropped her guard.
Spotting her car in the distance, Jenna cut through the parking lot not paying attention to her surroundings as she ran straight into a wall knocking her breathless as she fell back.  Looking up, she realized that the wall she’d encountered was a man--a rather distinguished looking man that held his hand out to her as she blinked up at him.
“I’m sorry about that,” he apologized extending his hand out further, “It would seem that I was being far too careless on my way inside.”
“It was my fault,” Jenna accepted his hand as he pulled her to her feet again.  As she stood, she noticed his handsome features as she gave him a sideways glance finding herself hit with an uncanny feeling as he held her hand.  Nervously she pulled her hand away from his as he reached out to touch her shoulder.
“Are you sure you’re alright,” he questioned soothingly as she offered up a nod.
“Yeah, I guess it’s just been a long night,” Jenna forced a polite smile as her thoughts lingered back to her hasty retreat from the bar.
“You’re sure?” he asked again as his gaze swept over her.
“Positive,” she nodded quickly as she looked to her car, “thanks for the help.”
“Actually,” he began stepping in towards her as he gave her a sideways glance, “Have we met before?”
“I don’t think so,” Jenna smiled back at him as she attempted to walk away once again, “and once again I’m sorry for my clumsiness.  I’ll be more careful next time.”
“It was my fault,” he flashed her a bright white smile, “are you sure we haven’t met before as I never forget a face?”
“Neither do I,” Jenna answered simply, “but I’m sure after this little incident we’re both lucky that we have a face to remember, right?”
“So we are,” he nodded appreciatively as the light from the parking lot surrounded her beautiful features.
“Well I should get going,” Jenna offered up a smile, “Watch out for random strangers in this lot as this is a bit of a wild crowd.”
“Will do,” he smiled back at her watching as she crossed the parking lot and he wondered if perhaps Coral Valley would turn out to be something far more interesting when he’d stepped into town hoping to set Kipp straight.  Either way, Douglas reasoned looking to the bar before him, perhaps there was more promise in Coral Valley after all as he turned in the direction Jenna had taken off in wondering how something so beautiful could be in such a pitiful place.  Suddenly his thoughts of the bar were secondary to that of the woman he’d encountered as a sudden inspiration washed over him.


Jade sat on the sofa in her apartment staring at the flickering flame of a candle dance before her. She had bared her heart to Grady only to find his hidden behind a multitude of concrete barriers. She felt as if she were running into a brick wall with him and only intermittently making a dent in his thick façade.

Was it possible that Grady’s heart was hardened to a point where no amount of love could thaw it? Would her desire for him be in vain if she couldn’t break through the emotional walls he had up between him and the rest of the world? Could she find a way to get through to him?

Oddly enough, she wondered if she had the strength to keep up the good fight. Sure, she had the drive. More than anything, she wanted to get through to him and have his love just as she loved him. She would fight against his barriers for as long as possible, but she didn’t look forward to a long bitter fight which was just what she feared it would be.

A knock at the door interrupted her contemplation, drawing her back to the present. She had no idea who would be at her door at this time of night, but knowing her luck, it was probably Thea or Cameron. Tonight, that would be the final nail in her coffin as she simply couldn’t handle one more burden for the day.

She took a deep breath as she walked to the door and opened it wide. Her jaw dropped and she openly gasped as she saw Grady standing before her, “Grady?”

“You’re probably asking yourself why I’m here,” Grady began as he stepped inside and stripped off his jacket, “And truth be told I’m almost wondering that myself.”

She watched him closely as she closed her door, “Have you been drinking?”

“No,” He answered quickly as he turned his eyes on her, “That’s just it, Jade. I want a drink. Right now, I want that drink more than anything in the world,” He paused, “No, that’s not true. There is one thing I want more,” He said as he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her, “I came to you because the closer I got to the bar, the more I kept thinking about you.”

“What?” She asked in confusion at his frenzied state, “I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you?” He asked, slipping his hand gently across her cheek to caress her soft skin, “I couldn’t take that drink because I was afraid of how I might hurt you. That’s never happened before. No one has ever been such a powerful force in my life to stop me from drinking when I wanted to. But you…you…”

“I…what?” She urged him to continue as she touched his cheek in return, “Grady…what is it?”

“You mean more to me than I ever wanted you to. I was so afraid to let you into my life. I knew we’d be taking a huge risk, and I wasn’t ready for that,” He paused as he gazed into her eyes, “At least I thought I wasn’t.”

“And now?”

“It’s seems that it’s happened whether I thought I was ready or not,” He touched her cheek before he lowered his lips to hers in a soft kiss.

“But…I don’t…I don’t understand…” She blinked at his curious behavior.

“You should,” He met her eyes as he spoke, “I didn’t want to open my heart to you, but apparently my heart made the decision on its own. I’m not ready to say this is love,” He warned her, “But I care more for you than I’ve ever cared for anyone,” He gently pressed a kiss to her lips, “It took tonight and the idea of you never looking at me the same way again…that scared the hell out of me, and I do not want to be without you,” He spoke as he gathered her into another kiss.

Jade melted into his kiss, wrapping her arms around him tightly, “Grady…does this mean you’re at least open to the idea of falling in love?”

Grady rewarded her with a smile before he kissed her once again, “Yes it does…I’m open to the idea of falling in love…if and only if the woman I fall in love with is you,” He declared before drawing her into another kiss, gifting her with the possibility of love and affection within his arms.


Kenneth stepped back into the Caitlin’s room having passed Blake in the hall. He hadn’t told her about his run in with Zack and Seth, figuring she already had more on her mind than she needed. Instead, he’d given her the keys to his car and told her to go home.

He stood just inside the door and watched as Caitlin slowly turned to face him. She smiled gently and waved for him to join her, “Come here.”

“Can you see clearly?” He asked as he approached the bed.

“No, but it’s getting better a little at a time,” She said as she moved over to make room for him on the bed beside her, “Did you get yourself something to eat?”

“Yeah, I did,” He replied as he lay beside her and gathered her into his arms.

“So make me jealous,” She said with a smile, “Tell me what you had.”

“I had hospital food. Nothing that could make you jealous,” He replied with a teasing smile.

“And here I thought you might get adventurous and go down the street to Irvan’s.”

“I could have, but you told me to stay very close,” He said as he kissed her forehead.

“Well I’m glad you follow instructions,” She said with a soft laugh before yawning.

“You should try to get some rest.”

“I don’t think I can…not yet,” She sighed, “I mean…I do need the rest, but I’m having a hard time getting to sleep.”

“Want me to sing you a lullaby?” He paused, “Wait, that might be a bad idea…singing was never my strong suit.”

She laughed softly, “Well try it out just for me. It might help relax me anyway.”

Kenneth smiled as he took a deep breath, “Okay, let me think. I know…I’ll sing you one that mom used to sing to me. Brant never did like to be sung to, but I loved them. So Mom came up with one just for me.”

“She did?” Caitlin smiled, “That’s so sweet.”

“Yeah, I thought so too. Now we’ll just be doing good if I can remember all the words,” He teased before clearing his throat gently.
“Good night little darling,” He began softly, “Lay your head to rest, let the dreams come to you, it will be for the best. I am by your side, you can put yourself at ease, I am always here for you, and that’s how it will always be. So go to sleep and drift away, let all your troubles fall aside, enjoy your dreams as they play, let hope be your guide. Be happy baby, your heart I will keep, close your eyes darling, and go to sleep.”

Kenneth stopped and waited for Caitlin to respond. He glanced down at her and smiled as she had fallen asleep during his lullaby. He pulled the blanket on the bed further up around them as she curled into him. He dropped a gentle kiss upon her forehead, wishing her a good night’s sleep, and hoping that he could help her rest through the night.


"Give me the bag, Avery," Russell demanded putting his car in park and taking the keys out of the ignition as they sat in his driveway amidst the darkness.

"Not a chance," Avery shook her head clenching the small bag she carried closer to her chest, "You’re not getting your hands on this."

"Don’t make me take it from you," Russell warned an air of playfulness in his tone as he began to open his driver side door.

"I’d like to see you try," Avery taunted watching as he swung the driver’s side door open fully.

"Remember you asked for this," he pointed out with a menacing glance as he stepped out into the night.

Suddenly a thought of nervousness filled Avery as she turned her attention to the lock on the door making quick work to secure it just before Russell made his way fully around the car. Now as he reached for the door handle, she stuck her tongue out at him laughter flooding over her as he discovered her quick thinking.

"You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you," Russell’s voice called back with laughter as Avery nodded her head emphatically.

"I know I am," she shouted through the small crack in the window as she peeked into the bag teasing him a bit as her smile widened, "and the way I see it, this is all mine."

"I so don’t think so," Russell leaned in against the side of his car watching her as her eye lit up with that same triumphant pleasure that she took in one upping him all the time. He shook his head at her, watching as her fingers dipped into the bag, disappearing beneath the paper as she inspected the contents with a strong look of approval. He folded his arms in front of his chest letting her have her moment of glory before a smile lifted over his lips. "You really think you’ve won this one, don’t you?"

"I know I have," Avery plucked the small container of ice cream out of the bag she’d been carrying, "and it would seem that I’m in heaven now with this chocolate desire all to myself here."

"I thought we agreed we’d share that," Russell watched her with a scowl, "That was the arrangement."

"I renegotiated the terms," Avery teased in response turning her attention to the lid of the small container.

"Hey, that’s cheating," Russell hissed back at her watching as she started to open the frozen treat within the confines of his car, "Can’t we strike up some kind of deal?"

"I’m listening," Avery circled her index finger over the rim of the ice cream container.

"Well you know in there you don’t have any spoons, but in the house," he motioned to his front door, "I’m sure I could remedy that."

"I can use my fingers," Avery remarked with a simple shrug of her shoulders, "You know that very well…"

"That I do," a smile lifted over his lips as Russell thought to the great many ways he’d appreciated Avery’s innovative use of her hands over the years. Just the idea of her dipping her fingers into the cool, chocolate delicacy sent a surge of heat through his body as the images of her lost in the indulgence without him simply wouldn’t do.

"Oh Russ," she purred leaning back in the passenger seat of his car as she began to tease her finger over the lid once again. Slowly she started to wiggle it off of the container as her eyes lit up with desire.

"That’s it," Russell fished into his pocket using the keyless entry to open the door in one swift motion as Avery let out a gasp not expecting his quick thinking as he reached inside the car snatching the container of ice cream from her before pulling her out of the car and hoisting her over his shoulder.

"Russ, no fair," Avery squealed in response as she wiggled over his shoulder trying to steady herself as his arm curled around her body keeping her secure over him.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures," he chuckled in amusement leading her to the front door as he fumbled with his keys, "and you drove me to do it."

"I did no such thing," she argued with him squirming as he disengaged the lock on his door before kicking it open. "All I wanted was to savor my ice cream."

"Our ice cream," he corrected closing the door behind them as he set her down on her toes once again. She frowned up at him as he held the ice cream over her head, just out of her reach, "and if you want some of it, you’re going to have to ask nicely."

"Oh I can’t believe you’re going to stoop to that level," she jumped up reaching out for the container of ice cream. "Give it to me, Russell," she used his full name as means of letting him know she meant business.

"How about you try saying please," he taunted her amused by the spark of fire inside of her as she jumped up in yet another failed attempt to collect the ice cream from his hands.

"Now Russell," Avery placed her hands on her hips impatiently as she watched him. Her eyes narrowed as she tapped her foot in rhythm to her growing edginess. "Russell…"

"I don’t think I’ve heard what I should be hearing yet," he offered up a hearty laugh keeping the container just out of her reach as a smile washed over him, tickling him down to the tips of his toes as her scowl deepened. "All you have to do is say please."

"To hell with that," Avery shook her head defiantly, "the way I see it, you have one of two options here."

"Which is what exactly?" Russell lifted a curious brow as Avery stepped forward.

"Either you give me that ice cream right now like a good boy, or else," her voice dropped with a hint of menace and desire rolled into one as her dark eyes fluttered back at him full of Avery’s not so subtle seductive radiance, "I’ll just take it from you. It‘s your choice."

"I think you know what I’d prefer," he stood taller dangling the ice cream over her head as the warmth of her licked over him, tempting him in so many wonderful ways.

"Remember you’re the one that asked for this," Avery lunged forward shoving him back into the door as her fingers climbed over the contours of his body seeking out the ice cream in a haste. He felt her soft curves press up against him as she tried to scale over him in her quest to retrieve her ice cream. Her fingers teased over the bottom of the container as he eagerly he slinked his arm around her waist crushing her against him as a smile lifted over his lips.

"It’s not going to be that easy," he spun her around pressing her into the living room wall with a quick movement as he pinned her beneath him. Their eyes connected as a labored breath escaped her lips and a victorious smile roared over him, "it looks like I won."

"Or so you think," Avery whispered in response as he dipped down kissing her wildly as the passion began to spark between them.

"I know so," Russell murmured his tongue dipped within her as her fingers crept up beneath his sweater easing it up over his body. Her leg curled around him pressing his body tighter against hers as her body writhed beneath his, her hips bumping and grinding over him with each growing moment. A groan spilled over him as she lifted his sweater up over his body and he dropped his head down to allow her to remove it completely. It was in that moment Avery struck caging his arms in the sweater as she snagged the ice cream container from his fingers.

"Aha," she cheered victoriously as she stepped away from Russell waving the container in the air, "Whose winning now?" she teased wiggling around in a dance as he discarded his sweater.

"I let you steal that container," Russell argued with her watching her parade around his living room excitedly.

"Oh please, it was like stealing candy from a baby," Avery giggled further as she began to pop the lid off of the ice cream. She tossed it aside before curling her finger into the chilled indulgence. "It’s mine all mine."

"On the contrary," he stepped forward pulling the container out of her hand as traces of chocolate lingered over her finger tips. He set the container down on his coffee table before he reached for her hand sinking her fingers into his mouth. He took his time licking off the sweetness that drenched her skin as her lips curled into a pout and he finished with a smile, "it’s all mine."

"Hey," Avery frowned in response reaching out for the container again as he stopped her mid-movement his hands teetering over the silken lines of her blouse as his green eyes penetrated hers.

"If you want it, we’re going to play by my rules now," he demanded tearing open her blouse sending the buttons flying across the room in a haste before ripping it from her shoulders as her chest rose and fell with astonishment.

"Russ," she curled her lip in a pout, "do you have any idea how much that blouse cost me?"

"I’ll buy you a new one," he promised capturing her mouth in a daring kiss as his arm curled around her bottom pulling her up fully into his arms as her legs wrapped around his torso.

"You’d better," Avery thread her fingers through his hair demanding his full attention as she nibbled on his lower lip, a purr building inside of her.

"I’ll get you two of them if you want," he promised as he started towards his room.

"Russ wait…" she breathed in protest her legs squeezing his waist tighter as his hands curled up over her spine.

"What’s wrong," he groaned in response as she tore herself away from the kiss.

"The ice cream," she explained heatedly motioning towards the table top where the melting ice cream remained.

"Right," he circled around his living room plucking the container from the table top before handing it over to her, allowing the chilled packaging to drop down over her breastbone causing her to flinch in response as a wicked smirk pressed over his lips, "happy now?"

"I’m getting there," she admitted devouring his lips in an explicit-take-me-now sort of kiss as he carried her into his bedroom ready to live out every last one of his fantasies with her again and again completely unaware of the invasive lens that had been focused in on them for quiet some time.

As Russell and Avery made their way into his bedroom, the man in the shadows followed the movement with his lens, taking in all the private moments between the two lovers knowing full well that his employer would eat all of this up. Suddenly the time he’d invested in this venture was beginning to have perks as Avery Morrison went from boring to absolutely scintillating in the blink of an eye as he snapped away at his camera knowing full well that these photos were exactly the kind of thing that he’d get paid big bucks for.

...to be continued...