Episode 388

“I don’t believe this,” Alexa cursed under her breath taking a look around the crime scene now that it had become a frenzy for police officers. It wasn’t every day that one of the biggest names in the drug world in the area was gunned down with all three of his oversized gladiator bodyguards in the middle of a place like the pier where Ben and Alexa had found them murdered execution style. Now that the red and blue flashing lights on the squad cars surrounded them Alexa felt her frustrations mounting. “This was supposed to be the big break in the case. Damn it!”

“Hey, it’s not your fault,” Ben tried to reason with her thinking about how she’d blown up with the higher ups that had arrived. “This was something that none of us could’ve predicted.”

“I should’ve seen this coming,” she mouthed with a tight scowl thinking about all of her hard work having gone down the drain with this newfound twist in her case, “I’ve been watching them all night and day for the last six months. I should’ve had some indication of who could’ve pulled this off.”

“Alexa I had someone tailing them. I didn’t want to say this before, but I had a car of guys who were keeping tabs on them. They knew we were going to meet here tonight and they were watching our backs,” Ben started clearing his throat uneasily thinking about the information he’d purposely withheld from her.

“What?” she blinked back at him with a huff, “Ben I thought we were a team on this one. I thought that we were supposed to trust one another with information.”

“I do trust you, but the higher ups called and told me that we needed to make sure that we were ready for whatever happened--for whatever takedown that could come of tonight,” Ben glanced over to where the blankets were draped over the corpses that were no more than twenty feet away from them.

“Oh yeah it looks like we were really prepared for all of this,” she rolled her eyes feeling her anger bubbling over her. “Ben this was clearly some kind of butcher.”

“I’m not going to argue that, but if we would’ve gotten here sooner, then maybe you and I would’ve been laying on the ground as well,” he hated to state the obvious, but with her fury controlling her, he tried to bring some logic into the situation. “As much as I hate to say it I don’t think whomever did this would’ve left any room for witnesses. This was a professional hit.”

“One that none of us saw coming,” she spun around to face him with a frown, “and what about the guys you had following us? What do they have to make about what happened here?”

“Actually,” he cleared his throat uneasily wondering how he was going to be able to deliver the second part of the bad news. “The car that was following Guerrero was found about a mile from here on the beach. It turns out that the agents were found in a similar fashion. Intelligence believes that they crossed paths with the person who did this and that person took the car after taking them out as well.”

“What?” her blue eyes widened in astonishment, “Ben you can’t be serious.”

“I wish it wasn’t the truth but it is which means we’ve got a whole hell of a lot more that is at risk now,” he informed her with a worried expression, “Things just got a whole hell of a lot more complicated with the body count rising like this.”

“Someone knows I’m so very close. They knew that tonight I would get the information from Guerrero and they were going to make damn sure that didn’t happen. They knew once I found out who was behind all of this, that we would take them down,” she clenched her fists at her sides, “Ben someone did this to keep us from uncovering the truth.”

“I know and too many lives were lost because of this. It never, ever should’ve played out this way,” he explained with a shudder wondering who could be responsible for such a massacre. This was supposed to be a quick and simple job--something that would very easily put Ben in and out of Florida in the blink of an eye--not in the midst of one of the biggest killing sprees that this town had seen in a long time. Glancing over at Alexa again he could see her upset and frustrations mounting about how she’d come so very close, yet was so far away.

“Ben, I can’t give up on this case especially now,” she informed him point blank knowing only too well that someone would want to blame her for what had taken place.

“Alexa no one is asking you to do that, but…” he watched her scan the area again her eyes taking in the scene unfolding in front of her, “Things were close tonight and…”

“And two of our own died tonight. They lost their lives trying to take down the man who is responsible for all of the crimes that have been touching the world around us. They believed in the cause and I’m not about to let their lives be left in vain,” she scanned the pier once again, “They dedicated themselves to the cause and I am too.”

“Alexa I know you mean well, but…” Ben touched her shoulder gently feeling her stiffen under her touch.

“Ben, Domingo wanted out,” she informed him with a sigh closing her eyes and taking in a breath, “He told me that he didn’t like the life he was living--that he wanted to start over somewhere else and I told him if he helped me get to Guerrero that I would give him that--that I would find him a way to have a new start.”

“What?” he blinked back at her confusion settling in over him, “But I thought that he had no idea that you were…”

“He didn’t, but I told him I had friends who could make him disappear if he helped me get to where I wanted to be,” she admitted forcing herself to face him again. “I told him I had a cousin who could create a new life for him if he only helped me get to Guerrero.”

“But why? If he didn’t know you were working for the agency, then why did he want to help?” Ben couldn’t help but ask her words surprising him.

“I told him my sister was a stripper that Guerrero had taken out--that she was someone he’d hurt and that I wanted revenge. It didn’t take much to win Domingo over to my side. He was sympathetic and was tired of Guerrero. He agreed to help me readily and I got him killed,” she sighed shaking her head once again, “Son of a bitch. Why did this have to happen?”

“I don’t know, but I promise you we’ll find out who was responsible for this--for everyone involved. You just need to take a moment to step back and…” he touched her shoulder again feeling her spin around in a bold move to reclaim her strength.

“No Ben, I’m not going to…” she stopped herself when something caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She pushed herself past him keeping her focus on the bright, fluorescent pink object on the ground in the hands of one of the men in front of her.

“Alexa, what is it?” Ben questioned seeing her stepping over one of the bodies. She knelt down to pull the tiny pink book of matches from his hand.

“I think it’s a clue,” she mouthed holding the match book up to see the name of a local strip club on the top of it. Carefully she pulled it open and realized there was a number scrawled on the inside in thick, black marker. The last digit was smudged out by the water on the dock, but the rest of it was clear as day. Tipping her head up she held the matchbook up to Ben, “I think we just found our first clue in all of this.”


Diane flipped through the channels on Deidra’s plasma flat screen television that Diane strongly suspected that Dean had talked her otherwise reserved sister to purchase. Undoubtedly for football Sundays, Diane thought to herself rolling her eyes as she tried to get comfortable on her sister’s couch. While she’d fully intended on spending time with Deidra, she’d been called to work at the hospital and Dean was meeting with one of his supervisors at work. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered her to see both Dean and Deidra leave, but right now the place was quiet--too quiet. Sure, maybe Diane wasn’t big on the idea of feeling that she needed to have her sister and her sister’s current flame baby-sit her, but right about now things were just too still for her liking.

“Just find something good to watch,” Diane instructed taking note of the time and seeing that there was an episode of CSI that was airing. Smiling she wrapped herself up tighter in the small knit blanket that she’d pulled out of one of Deidra’s closets when she was freezing earlier. Now as she kept her eyes glued to the television screen, she thought about how she and Ben would watch the show together when they weren’t doing anything else. It was in those nights snuggled up in front of the television that she really, truly felt at ease. Smiling to herself she tried to immerse herself in the storyline, but found herself feeling a bit unsettled as the exotic dancer that CSI had been spending his time with wound up murdered in his car.

“Ok, this is the last thing I should be watching,” Diane frowned shutting the television off and springing up from the couch. She discarded the blanket that she’d had around her and moved towards her sister’s cd collection for inspection. Maybe Deidra would have some good music to keep her mind off of things until her delivery arrived.

“It should have been here by now,” Diane thought to herself taking note of the time.

With a frown, she began to thumb through her sister’s various choices for a musical selection when the phone rang causing her to jump. Turning towards the sound she realized that it was probably downstairs buzzing her to alert her to the fact that her food had arrived or maybe it was Deidra checking up on her. Either way she made her way towards the phone and picked it up.

“Hello,” she greeted the caller on the other end of the line brightly. There was a scratching sound followed by more static until she thought she could hear the guard in the lobby saying something about delivery. Frowning she spoke into the phone again, “You’re breaking up.”

“Food…” the voice bellowed as Diane looked to the clock.

“Send it up. Just send it up,” she instructed to the voice on the other end of the line, but there was nothing, but static surrounding her.

“Wonderful,” she groaned throwing her hands up in the air and realizing that she would just have to go and take care of the situation herself. Reaching for her purse she pulled out some money before heading to the doorway and out into the hall. She marched over to the elevators and pushed the down button ready to pick up her Thai food before calling it quits for the night.

“Maybe Deidra has a good DVD or something,” she pondered as she hit the lobby. She walked out to discover the man at the security desk motioning to the young delivery man at the desk.

“You Ms. Stevens?” the delivery man questioned snapping his gum in his mouth as Diane nodded.

“Yeah,” Diane replied as he handed the bag over to her and she pushed her money into his hand as well. “Keep the change.”

“Thanks,” the guy smiled at her before rushing out of the lobby area.

Diane turned to the older security guard and smiled politely, “Slow night, huh?”

“They seem to keep getting slower and slower each day,” he nodded with a smile. “You keeping busy with company tonight?”

“Hopefully Deidra will be back to enjoy some of this with me,” Diane paused for a long moment contemplating that the security guard was the first company that she’d kept all evening long. “Tell me something. Do you like Thai food?”

“My wife told me if I even think about that stuff, she’ll throw me on the couch with the gas that I get,” he explained behind a small chuckle that made his curly gray hair move around his chubby face. “You’re lucky you’re young.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Diane decided waving at him. “If I don’t see you again, have a great night.”

“You too Ms. Stevens,” he waved as Diane made her way to the elevators once again. She got up to Deidra’s floor finding herself ready to enjoy her meal, when she realized that she’d left her key in the apartment.

“Great,” Diane groaned turning to look towards the elevators once again. She shuffled the bags in her hand before turning towards the elevators once again. She contemplated her options before she set her bag of food down knowing full well it would be there when she returned. She would just go downstairs and get the spare key at the front desk before going up to Deidra’s apartment once again. Whistling to herself Diane returned to the elevator ready to get this other step out of the way.

“You’ll never believe what I did,” Diane announced moving out into the lobby only to discover that the security guard was no longer at the desk. Looking around she realized that the lobby was even more empty than it had been earlier. Her eyes darted towards the front of the building where there was a storm brewing outside. She could see lightening crackling in the sky and as she thought to her food upstairs, she found herself wondering if maybe she should have just brought it down with her instead of leaving it near Deidra’s doorstep.

“Hello?” she questioned moving around the lobby ready to seek out the security guard when there was a crashing sound beyond where she stood. She spun around just in time to see an overhead pop and crackle as it went out leaving her surrounded by a new set of shadows. She stepped back listening to the sounds of the storm outside before turning towards the elevators once again.

While she wasn’t sure what she was going to do, it was clear that the security guard wasn’t there. She checked the time realizing that it was close to a shift change, yet his replacement hadn’t shown up either.

“That’s just wonderful,” she groaned under her breath thinking about the situation before finally deciding that she didn’t want to wait around in the empty lobby when her food was waiting for her upstairs. She turned towards the elevators hearing a sound from behind her. She hesitated and looked over her shoulder to see if anyone had returned, but much to her dismay she was all alone in the darkened lobby.

“I’ll just eat my dinner and then hope that the next security guard will be in his post,” she mouthed to herself pausing again when she thought she heard footsteps from behind her. Closing her eyes for a moment she thought about the last time she’d seen Andy and about his veiled warning about returning. Could he have known that she’d gone to Deidra’s place? Was he aware of the fact that she’d left her home because he’d frightened her? Sure, she wasn’t one to buckle down to intimidation, but his last encounter with her had scared the hell out of her. Even now she realized that the last thing she’d wanted was to be alone in the middle of the lobby with Andy or anyone else for that matter.

“That’s it. I’m going upstairs,” she announced more so to herself as the elevator doors opened. She stepped inside and pushed the button to her floor when the elevator doors started to close, but before they were touching one another, a hand pressed inside alerting Diane to the fact that she was no longer alone in the elevator!


Avery’s eyes narrowed down at Kyle and Heather now that they stood out on her front porch, arms wrapped around one another with them making out like a couple of sex starved teenagers. It was enough to make Avery want to vomit in watching her good friend lost in the arms of one of the most miserable women she had ever encountered. Even now in seeing Heather’s smug expression, Avery wanted to rip her head off and shove it down her throat. Granted it might’ve been a violent reaction to seeing Heather, but it was something Avery couldn’t ignore now that she felt herself worried about her friend.

“Avery hi,” Kyle greeted her with a smile turning away from Heather long enough to wave at her. He reached out for Heather instinctively lacing their fingers with one another. It was a movement that made Avery wish she’d forgotten to open the door so that she wouldn’t have to bear witness to such a disgusting display of public affection. “It’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too Kyle,” Avery directed her words carefully over at Kyle purposely offering up a tone that made it clear to Heather that she was far from being welcome in the Denton household.

“I hope we’re not late,” Kyle began clearing his throat and taking a step forward.

“No not at all,” Russ moved to join the group over by the door. “I thought I heard the two of you pull in the drive. Come on in.”

Avery stepped aside stiffly trying to bite her tongue, but in seeing Heather cling to Kyle, she couldn’t help but groan wondering how in the hell Heather had managed to manipulate a good guy like Kyle to be at her side. Tipping her head to the side, Avery noticed the sleazy looking outfit that Heather was wearing--no doubt thinking it offered up an air of style and class, but to Avery it resonated with cheapness.

“I’m glad you could come on over with such short notice,” Russ added with a smile attempting to open up the conversation between all of them, “I didn’t know if you were busy or not.”

“Never too busy for friends,” Kyle added with a bright smile glancing over at Heather to see the way she was tossing an evil eye over in Avery’s direction. “Right?”

“Yeah,” Heather half laughed before adding, “or enemies either since they have a way of returning to your life like a nagging cold that won’t just go away.”

“I know the feeling,” Avery quipped in response making a movement over towards the kitchen ready to get herself a drink.

“Yeah I guess you would considering that you’ve made so many of them with all your acts of indecision,” Heather snubbed her seeing Avery making another movement towards the kitchen, “but I guess it’s good to see that you’ve finally come to a resolution in the moment of indecision you were having before. It’s nice to see that you and Brant…oops I mean Russ are back together again.”

“Listen you,” Avery spun around to scowl at Heather catching the fact that Heather had purposely attempted to goad her.

“Hey,” Heather raised her hands in the air, meeting Avery’s dark gaze, “as Kyle pointed out you and I have no reason to hate one another anymore. We both got dumped by Brant, but of course he dumped me because it was mutual not really because I was a lying, cheating slut who was sleeping with his brother.”

“Heather,” Kyle spoke up sharply hearing the pure venom falling from her lips, “stop.”

“What? I’m just stating a fact. Avery makes her rounds, so it’s really no surprise she’s worked her way back to Russ,” Heather noted tipping her head to the side and addressing Russ, “Tell me is she sleeping with Grady yet because I think he’s just about the only one she hasn’t hit up? Though I’m sure if she does, you’ll probably hear the old ‘I thought I was sleeping with you’ excuse. She’s good at that one.”

“You stupid bitch,” Avery lunged forward, her face growing hot with anger at Heather’s pure wickedness. She brought her hands out ready to strangle Heather for even making references to what had happened in the past. If Russ figured out that Heather was speaking about Ken, then Avery would lose it for sure. It was the last thing that Avery wanted to talk about considering that it was a sore spot for her.

“What,” Heather shrugged her shoulders seeing Kyle open his mouth to protest, “are you just going to stand there and let her call me those names when I’m only speaking the truth?”

“Heather stop,” Kyle warned with a heavy frown.

“Can’t we just have a nice night here,” Russ added ignoring Heather’s outburst as he moved to reach out to Avery.

“I can’t help it if you’re living with a whore Russ,” Heather shrugged her shoulders once again, “I mean I know you’ve been gone a while, but you obviously should know the truth about the woman who claims to be the love of your life. Since you’ve been gone she’s had more screws than a hardware store…”

“You’re so full of it Heather,” Avery uncurled her fingers reaching out for Heather’s neck ready to take her head off, “You’re the one who is going around sleeping with man to man in an attempt to advance her career.”

“Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black considering that you slept with Brant to get a promotion?” Heather challenged with a wiggle of her brow. “Oh wait, but unlike what I’ve done in the past, well, your situation seemed to backfire since you’re really just a frigid loser. I mean it was obvious when Brant fired you and wouldn’t even consider keeping you anywhere associated with the company.”

“Would you excuse us for a moment,” Kyle held his finger up in the air seeing Avery ready to attack Heather as he pulled Heather out onto the front porch with him. Once he was certain that they were alone he frowned down at her, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I told you that woman was wicked. You could see it in the way she was ready to attack me Kyle. She’s evil and she is vindictive and…” Heather argued with him a huff spilling over her lips now that her angers had mounted.

“She’s one of my friends--like a sister to me and you were out of line Heather,” Kyle warned her sharply stunned to see the woman he loved behaving in such a callous fashion.

“Oh so of course you’re going to take her side over the one of your own wife,” Heather rolled her eyes in response before glaring up at him, “That’s rich Kyle considering that I figured you were smart enough not to buy into her goody-two-shoes act.”

“Listen Heather,” he waved his finger around in the air feeling his frustrations mount before he took a step back and collected his thoughts. Bringing his hand up through his blonde hair, he met her feisty green eyes and spoke up in a cool and collected tone despite the fact that he was completely on edge, “This isn’t about my siding with Avery over you. This is about the fact that Russ and Avery are two of my closest friends and what you said in there was out of line.”

“I really don’t think it was. Russ has every right to know what kind of woman he’s thinking about spending his life with,” she scoffed in response folding her arms in front of her chest, “Seeing as he’s your friend you should commend me on telling him like it really is.”

“You mean when you made that pot shot about Ken?” his jaw flexed with anger, seeing her turn her eyes away from him. “Heather you know as well as I do that he took advantage of the situation--just like your mom’s boyfriend took advantage of you out in Los Angeles.”

“Kyle those two situations aren’t even close. That son of a bitch raped me. Avery willingly leapt into bed with Ken,” she curled her lip in a pout feeling her angers mounting.

“Heather you and I both know that it didn’t play down like that. You know how much it hurt Avery and for you to say something like that to Russ,” he shook his head at her unable to mask his disappointment, “How would you have felt if someone else would’ve done something like that to me and you? What would you have done if someone else would’ve told me about your past when it was something that hurt you?”

“Kyle that’s different,” she started to argue with him watching him shake his head at her.

“No Heather it’s not and while I can respect the fact that you and Avery won’t ever be best friends, can you please just go back in there and apologize for me?” he sighed his hazel eyes meeting hers again.

“Apologize,” she huffed in response placing her hands on her hip, “Um no. There is no way in hell that I’m going to say anything even remotely close to sorry to that witch considering that…”

“Heather I love you. I’ve spent my whole life loving you and I’ve never asked you to compromise for me, but I’m asking you now to please just hear me out,” he reached for her hand bringing it up over his chest, “I understand that Avery was already on the offense when you stepped up to the door, but you both have some high emotions about things that are obviously the past. You both need to work through the issues, but tonight all I’m asking for is one dinner--one night where we don’t get ready to kill one another over things that are irrelevant to the here and now. Brant is in both of your pasts and neither one of you were a good match with him. You both know that.”

“Of course, but…” she pouted stomping her foot down on the ground, “Kyle you saw the way she was treating me in there. She hates me and…”

“So be the better person,” he reached out to touch the side of her face urging her to meet his pleading eyes again, “Heather just do this for me--do this because you want to--because you want to show the world the wonderful woman that you truly are.”

“I’m not going to spend all night kissing her ass if that’s what you’re asking me to do,” she warned him sharply, her eyes narrowing at the suggestion.

“I would never ask you to do that, but at least try to approach this like you would everything else. Look at it as a new challenge--a new goal that you have to work through in order to reach an evolution,” he continued to explain pulling her into his arms and issuing her a puppy dog look, “Please Heather.”

“Kyle stop,” she felt herself melting at the way he was eyeing her. “Don’t do that to me. You know that when you look at me like that I can’t say no.”

“So are you saying that you’ll behave?” he questioned leaning in to kiss the side of her neck, his warm words pressing over her skin, “Please.”

“If I didn’t love you so damn much,” Heather sighed feeling herself caving in as she realized if for no other reason, then tonight she would have to be fake around Avery long enough to make Kyle happy. It was the last thing she’d wanted to do, but given how much she’d gained in having Kyle, she vowed to give it a try for his sake even if it was one of the hardest attempts she would ever have to make in her life!


“I don’t want her in our house Russ!” Avery snapped spinning around to face him with a full blown glare after she and Heather had come to blows with one another. “She has no right being here and I will not tolerate her disrespecting me in my own home. What is Kyle thinking in bringing her here? Is he that upset with Sarah that he’s got to invite trouble into his life like that by being around Heather?”

“Avery, listen honey I know tonight isn’t off to a good start, but…” Russ watched her pace around the room, her arms flailing in the air now that it was clear she’d been pushed beyond her limits.

“No Russ having things off to a bad start would be something like the dinner burning or the guest showing up late, not Heather belittling me in my own home because she has this cruel, malicious streak,” Avery balled her fists up at her sides, shaking her head furiously, “That woman is pure venom and I don’t know what she’s done to Kyle, but she has to be drugging him like Susan did. I mean, why else would he be showing up at our home with that witch on his arm? He had to have lost his mind after Sarah broke his heart with all of her lies and the cheating…”

“Avery, I’m sure there is a logical explanation as to what it is that Kyle and Heather are doing together, but it really isn’t our place to get on him for who he chooses to spend his time with. I know that they were close when he was younger and…” Russ offered up hoping to find a way to calm Avery down before Heather and Kyle returned to join them again.

“I don’t care Russ. I’m not going to let that woman stand there in our home and call me a whore. She is the last person in the world who has any right to judge me. She is someone that doesn’t even deserve to be spending time with us and…” Avery continued feeling him reach out to touch her shoulder.

“Avery, I’m sure that we can have a civil dinner with one another. When they come back in, we’ll just start over and push what happened behind us,” he offered up knowing full well that Heather had caused a big stir that wasn’t about to just go away. While he’d been upset with Heather as well, he could see that Kyle was trying to deal with things that had played out in his own right.

“Oh I’ll push her alright. Maybe right through the front window,” Avery mouthed with a tight scowl, her brown eyes narrowing with a rage, “On second thought, I think maybe we should invite her back in. Then I’ll beat her ass and find out what she’s done to Kyle to have him chasing her around like a little puppy dog. I can see that she’s manipulated him somehow--no doubt preyed on his emotions after Sarah stomped on his heart and when I get the truth out of her on how she did it, then I’m going to make her stop whatever it is she’s doing to him.”

“Avery, I hate to say this, but about Heather and Kyle,” Russ paused not really knowing how to bring up the fact that there was more going on than Avery wanted to see, “Kyle’s kind of had a thing for her for a long time.”

“A thing?” Avery repeated with wide eyes staring at him in disbelief, “What kind of thing Russ?”

“He knew her growing up and it was complicated, but he cares about her. He told me about it before the wedding. I mean he didn’t get specific about who the woman was, but it was obvious that there are some pretty deep feelings there,” Russ added seeing her wrinkle her nose at the suggestion.

“There isn’t anything deep about Heather as she’s only in it for money and power. Look how she was with Brant, then Cameron and even Kipp Mahoney. Each one of those men were drawn into her web and she was like a black widow spider,” she curled her fists again imagining what it would be like to rip Heather’s head off and show Kyle just what was really inside that cold, black heart of Heather’s.

“Avery, that’s not true and you know it. Heather has some good points,” Russ tried to reason with her thinking about how it was clear Heather and Avery would never see eye to eye. “The fact to the matter is that we’ve all made mistakes, but we’re trying to move beyond them.”

“She had no intentions of moving past being a bitch to me when she walked in here Russ. She hates me because I had what she couldn’t and that kills her. Even though it’s over with Brant, she still hates me because I’m happy and she isn’t. She isn’t capable of being happy and…” Avery continued to rant about Heather shaking her head again, “She’s evil.”

“Evil or not Kyle obviously cares about her and considering that he’s our friend,” he began again with a frown.

“We should be saving him from this disaster instead of feeding into it,” Avery cut him off sharply, “He deserves someone nice who can love him and treat him like he deserves to be treated. He needs a woman who will love him and give him the kind of happiness he deserves.”

“Avery I don’t think that tonight is the night to get into this. The fact to the matter is that we invited Kyle over because you missed seeing him. Erin wants to see him and even if he brought Heather with him I think we can make it through dinner without killing one another,” he offered up seeing her curl her lip in objection.

“Russ I can’t even believe you would consider this after what she said to me. She was out of line and…” Avery started to argue with him when she heard the sounds of the front door opening again. She shifted her gaze to the foyer and found Heather and Kyle standing in front of her. Pressing her lips together Avery stood up taller and glared over at Heather, making it clear she was very unhappy with her.

“Sorry about that,” Kyle began apologetically before nudging Heather, “We have something we want to say. Don’t we?”

Heather stayed silent until Kyle nudged her again and she sighed, “Oh alright. Avery I’m sorry about what I said before. I was out of line and I apologize.”

“You what?” Avery blinked back at her in astonishment, “I don’t think I heard you right.”

“I was just being bitter because I guess because I could and it was wrong,” Heather sighed fighting to keep her thoughts from carrying over into her words. “I didn’t mean to say that especially when you were nice enough to invite us over to dinner. I was out of line.”

“Yes you were,” Avery folded her arms in front of her chest trying to read why Heather had done a complete turn around.

“But we are more than willing to put it behind us and start the night over again on a positive note, aren’t we?” Russ suggested walking up to wrap his arm around Avery’s shoulders. “Dinner is almost ready and I would love to get things settled for the night ahead of us.”

“It sounds great. Need any help?” Kyle questioned brightly attempting to lighten the mood surrounding them.

“Sure, that would be great,” Russ motioned to the kitchen before eyeing Avery for a brief moment, “You want to come with?”

“In a second,” Avery stayed still her eyes keeping focused on Heather.

“Okay, we’ll be right back,” Russ mouthed tentatively wondering if he should dare to leave Heather and Avery alone with one another in the same room.

“We’ll just be in the next room,” Kyle added tossing a warning look over at Heather before following Russ into the kitchen.

Once the two men were out of sight, Avery took a bold step forward, her brown eyes meeting Heather’s icy glare. Still knowing that Russ and Kyle would no doubt be listening Avery spoke up in a low, quiet tone.

“Let’s just get one thing clear here. If you ever speak to me like you just did in my home again, then so help me God I will have no qualms about beating the hell out of you,” Avery warned her with a sharpness in her tone, “Are we clear?”

“Just as long as you know I didn’t mean a word about what I just said. The only reason I apologized to you is because Kyle has some misguided belief that you’re actually a decent person, but we both know better,” Heather challenged, her green eyes sparked with venom. “The way I see it, the further you stay away from me, the better.”

“Now there is something we’re in agreement on,” Avery stood up taller facing down Heather with a glare. “After tonight we’ll keep away from one another.”

“Sounds great to me,” Heather shrugged her shoulders before flashing a smug grin over at Avery, “because I wouldn’t dream about sinking so low as to associate myself with a tramp like you.”

“And I wouldn’t dream of wishing a bitch like you on Kyle, but sooner or later he’ll see you for what you really are,” Avery tossed back at her bluntly, “Most people do after they spend a significant amount of time with you.”

“Funny because I may be a bitch, but you’re a total and complete bore something that I’m sure Russ will rediscover after he’s been stuck with you long enough--that is if he doesn’t get tired of it first and walk out on you,” Heather snarled in response stepping in closer to her, “Sadly his ‘dying’ was probably his smartest move because it got him far away from you.”

“Mark my words Heather I’m going to make damn sure that Kyle gets far away from you and then we’ll see who has the last word,” Avery warned sharply watching Heather open her mouth to say something more when Kyle popped his head out of the kitchen to look at the both of them.

“Everything okay out here?” he questioned eyeing the both of them carefully.

“Fine,” Avery replied with a bright smile turning around to approach him. She nodded at him before entering the kitchen to help him and Russ without a second thought.

“Heather?” Kyle arched a speculative brow trying to decipher what he just witnessed happening between them earlier.

“Never better,” Heather mouthed making a silent vow to bury Avery as soon as she got the chance to put the witch in her rightful place. Sure Kyle might’ve wanted Heather to play nice, but after the words she and Avery had exchanged with one another, Heather was certain of one thing. It was war and when everything was said and done Heather would come out on top the winner no questions asked.


“This is kind of a weird movie so far,” Jason stared over at Mindy seeing her grab a hand full of popcorn and take a mouthful of it. When she said she wanted to go to an old movie, he thought things like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Breakfast at Tiffany’s…heck, maybe even the movie ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. but this was nothing like he expected. “You know I’ve never seen this.”

“You’ve never seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show?" she gasped softly looking to the side at him where they sat in the top of row of the show. Hitting him in the chest she heard him let out a small laugh before shrugging his shoulders. “You have to spend so much more time with me. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“Obviously I need to spend a lot more time with you,” he chuckled looking to the screen thinking that this sure was an interesting movie for her to have as her favorite. “You know I know Tim Curry from the clown movie he was in, but where is he in this? I haven’t seen him yet.”

“Here he comes,” she hushed him seeing his blue eyes past the darkness stare into hers before he nodded and looked to the screen. Once he came on she saw the way his blue eyes widened, his nose wrinkling in almost shock as he continued to watch the movie. Laughing at some of his responses she saw his eyebrows tighten together as he glanced out at her. “What? This is one of my favorites?"

“You’re serious?" he chuckled thinking that this was probably once of the most morally creepy movies he had ever seen and it was one of her favorites. Sliding back in his seat he saw her go to hand him some popcorn and he opened his mouth. Laughing he watched as she tossed one up in the air and he caught it in his mouth seeing her laugh. “You know, I think I need to worry about you. This movie is a little bit creepy.”

“People love this movie, it’s a great musical,” she informed him hearing the laugh of disbelief to follow and she hit him in the arm roughly making him laugh once more. She saw him reach for the popcorn and she pulled it away from him shaking her finger at him disappointedly. “You think I’m lying to you. It’s really popular you know.”

“I guess I’ve just been locked in the darkness for a while,” he pointed out before thinking things over and taking in a long breath. “Or it could just be I’m way too young for this since I was born in the mid eighties and this came out in the seventies. If I saw this when I was younger, I would have probably wet my pants.”

“And you find this scarier than the clown movie?" she chuckled with a small snort after hearing him nod and he laughed at the noise she just made. Seeing the people in the movie glaring back at them, she reached for his arm and tugged him toward one of the exits. “You know, you keep getting me in trouble.”

“Me? Oh well, what can I say? I must be a trouble maker,” he whispered looking down the empty hallway seeing the doors of all the other movies that were taking place. Feeling her shove the popcorn into the center of his chest, he stared into her light blue eyes before shrugging and moving in closer to her. “I can’t help it, it’s just my nature.”

“You are such a dork,” she laughed tapping the side of his face lightly seeing him smirk before shrugging his shoulders, arching his eyebrows up. Turning toward the stairs to take them to the first floor she stopped and motioned him to follow her. “It’s a good thing you’re a good dork though because if you weren’t I would have dumped you to the curb weeks ago.”

“Gee, I feel real loved,” he chuckled seeing her wink back at him as they walked down the curved staircase that led downstairs. He was ready to walk toward the front doors only to have her pull on his muscular arm roughly leading him into the game room. “Wow, that’s going to leave a bruise later.”

“Well you weren’t paying attention,” she muttered seeing his blue eyes staring into hers and she shrugged her shoulders moving over toward one of the shooting games. “I wanted to play this before we left for a while.”

“Ah, wow. A woman with a gun, should I be scared?" Jason teased moving in behind her as she picked up the other one to the arcade game so they could play together. “Now I guess I have some back up.”

“I just want to see your skills,” she answered putting in the money seeing him reaching into his pockets to try and pull some out. He put it in the machine and she nudged him with her hip seeing him stumble a bit before smirking. “I’m about to kick your ass I hope you know.”

“I doubt that,” Jason shook his head knowing that he spent so many hours playing games like these when he was down in Texas alone. When he was working as the bouncer at the club, after hours he would go to his friend’s bar next door and play a few arcade games. For hours at a time he would in fact if he didn’t want to go home only to be alone again. “No one is better than me at these games.”

“You’re about to meet your maker Jason Sherman,” she bumped him again with her hip seeing the way he shook his head when the game started. At first shot Jason quickly got the first three and her blue eyes glanced over at him. Seeing a few more come he shot those few too for her only to get one of the guys. “Gee, do you have some like crazy homicidal past or something?"

“Not really,” he bit down on his bottom lip focusing on the game as he saw her look over at him for a moment before turning back to the game. After waiting it out a few he saw her start changing from horribly bad to good as they played head and head. “What in the world?"

“I just wanted you to think you could win,” she whispered with a wide smile seeing him shaking his head at her in disbelief and even though she was playing her best Jason was still beating her. “You are so cheating.”

“I’m cheating?" he laughed feeling her reach out with the hand she wasn’t using trying to cover his eyes as he let out a small laugh. Dropping the arcade toy he moved in behind her and grabbed her from behind spinning her around enough to get her to stumble a bit before he picked up the gun again and finished off the game hearing her let out a small nose. He felt a powerful pounce on his back as he felt her arms wrap around his neck and continue to hold on as he laughed. “You were the one that was cheating first.”

“Even so,” she smirked finally letting him go seeing him fix his hair before shaking his head and bumping her with hips this time as they headed out. Moving in beside him after he opened the door for him she motioned him to walk a bit. “You, I have to be honest with you. Since you’ve been around, things have been so much easier for me.”

“Easier? I thought I was trouble,” he teased with a smile seeing her chuckle before turning her head to look at him with her blue eyes and he saw a bit of seriousness behind her eyes. “Yeah, well I’m glad. Everyone needs a friend once in a while and I’m glad I could be that friend to hang out with.”

“And I’m glad I have you,” Mindy smirked moving in next to him and wrapped her arm around his waist feeling his left arm wrap around her shoulders softly. “Seriously, you have no idea how much I respect you for being there for me and supporting me.”

“I’d support you no matter what Mindy,” Jason promised with a small smile feeling her hand pat him in the center of his chest as they came to a stop and he looked up to see where they were. “Where are we?"

“I was in the mood to be a pig,” Mindy informed him with a wide smile before shrugging her shoulders and tugging on his hand softly so that they entered the shop. “Let’s get some ice-cream.”


“What’s wrong with you?" Ria moved into the center of the garden seeing Kevin moving in behind her looking out to see the fountain that was placed perfectly in the center of where they were at. Moving in closer to him she smacked him lightly in the side of the head seeing his brown eyes widen down at her. “When I try to get you away from the table, don’t play stupid like you just did.”

“Play stupid? I’m sorry, I was just naturally stupid because I’m hungry as hell,” he groaned sitting down on the edge of the fountain seeing her brown eyes staring out at him. Reaching his hand back he twirled it around in the cool water for a moment before laughing out loud at the thought of her getting mad at him over something so stupid. “I’m a big man Ria, I like to eat and that’s something I can’t help very well. All of you just like pulled me away from the table and the highlight of my night has been a bite of a pancake and a half a piece of bread.”

“That’s not my fault,” she blurted out seeing his confused look behind his eyes once she took a step forward toward him. His eyebrows tightened together and she took in a long breath. “We just want them to be able to talk to each other so maybe they can get some kind of connection together.”

“And they can’t talk while I’m shoving food down my throat?" Kevin whispered arching his eyebrow up in response seeing her fold her arms out in front of her chest and he let out a small laugh. “Ria, honey why are you yelling at me like I’ve been doing things wrong? Yesterday, when we saw them together we gave them space. We went upstairs together, just you and me and today all I wanted was some food honey, that’s all.”

“That’s nice Kevin, but we’re trying to get something accomplished here with Angela. Do you or do you not want her to get her memory back?" she laughed seeing him stand up slowly and move in closer to her and she shook her head slowly. Stepping back away from him she saw his eyebrows tighten together showing her that he was confused with her actions. “You don’t seem to be wanting her to get her memory back. You know by the way it’s looking, it seems like you want her to stay like she is now, isn’t that right Kevin?”

“What? You have to be kidding me,” Kevin snarled seeing her brown eyes staring into his and he let out a small laugh before rubbing at his jaw slowly. Stepping in closer to her he went to press her hair back only to feel her pull away from him. “Ria honey, why are you all of a sudden pissed at me again? I’ve done nothing wrong Ria. I was with you all night and all morning.”

“You sure took a long time getting back to dinner you know,” she bit back on her words knowing that what Brant was thinking was a total possibility when she thought about it. Brant and her were out at least a good half an hour before they were and the fact that Kevin said he fell asleep seemed really awkward. Looking away from him she heard the sound of the water hitting the bottom from the fountain and let out a small laugh. “We have no idea what you two are doing alone together. I highly doubt that you fell asleep too, I bet you are loving every little bit of this?"

“You think I’m sleeping with Angela? Are you serious?" he questioned seeing her turn away from him again and he knew that was exactly what she thought. Laughing to himself, he knew that Brant’s idea would only lead to trouble and that’s why he hated this so much. “Ria honey, I hardly got any sleep last night and this morning I’m pretty sure you know what I was doing. I was worn out, tired and I was bored--you know when I’m bored I fall asleep.”

“I’m sure you weren’t bored,” she pointed out seeing him roll his eyes before turning away from her and running his large fingers through his hair tightly. Hearing his cocky laugh, his reaction was only making her angrier and she saw him spin on his heel slowly. “Well you’re the one that dedicated your life to making love to her Kevin, so why would she be boring to you. How many years were you screwing her Kevin? At least seventeen, right?"

“Wow, this is uncomfortable. All of this is completely irrelevant Ria because if you realize this morning I was screwing you. I like the way you use screw too, that’s really romantic and makes me sound like a real asshole. So when we do it is that what it is, just a screw?" Kevin moved in closer to her only to feel her hands shove firmly at his muscular chest and he shook his head slowly before thinking things over. “This is ridiculous Ria, do you know how pathetic you sound right now?"

“Screw you Kevin,” Ria turned on her heel bringing her hand roughly across his cheek hearing the sound it made when she brought it against his flesh. Seeing him turn with the hit, she felt her blood boiling inside of her and saw the way he reached up to rub at his cheek. His angered brown eyes turning to look at her as he opened his mouth a bit trying to ease out the pain. “You’re the pathetic one out of the two of us.”

“How am I pathetic Ria? I was hungry, my goodness. Seriously, I wanted to eat and that’s why I wanted to stay there. If I’m not giving Brant and Angela enough time to spend together, then what the hell was I doing last night with you?" Kevin blurted out stepping in closer to her wondering where all this hostility was coming from when she glared up at him. “If I was this person that seems to want to keep Brant and Angela apart, wouldn’t I have woken them up when we got home? Instead, I went upstairs with you Ria--where are you getting in all of this that I want Angela?"

“I don’t know, but there are days where I look at you and I can tell you love me and others where I look at you and see nothing,” she answered seeing his nose wrinkle in disbelief and he let out a small noise that made her angrier than hell. “It’s just this feeling that I have Kevin, I can’t help it.”

“You’re kind of weird you know that? I love you every day of my life, but right now I just want some food and somehow I am a bad guy?" he laughed once more feeling her hands move in over the center of his chest and push him back again as he bit down on his bottom lip. Throwing his hands up in the air angrily he didn’t know what to say or do considering this time he didn’t even do anything wrong. “Would you please tell me what I did wrong or is it almost your time of the month and that‘s why you‘re acting this way?"

“You asshole,” Ria snapped swinging her fist back and catching him off guard when she hit him in the side of the face, making him stumble back. Seeing the huge splash of the water she watched as Kevin fell into the fountain at the impact. “That was really stupid Kevin.”

“Okay, I admit that was a mean comment,” he stood up in the center of the fountain feeling the water continue to spill down over him and felt the water sliding down his lips and his face. “Ria, what did I do wrong? Just please tell me. A second ago, I was a being a jerk, but I'm sorry. I made love to you last night, I made love to you this morning, I got soaked in the mud this morning because I was with you and Brant didn’t want Angela to see me. I was covered in it.”

“Are you serious?" she laughed seeing him smile and nod slowly going to move forward and she gasped seeing him slip in the fountain and fall back on his butt. His head went under the water as she moved forward to try and help him out. “Kevin, get over here.”

“Oh man, it’s freezing in here,” Kevin reached for her hand only to feel his wet hand slip in hers and he fell back splashing into the water again only to have him hit his head on the center piece. Letting out a small groan, he heard her laughing at him and he splashed some of the cold water over at her. “This isn’t funny Ria, I’m hurting and I’m freezing.”

“Oh baby, come here,” she couldn’t help but laugh seeing him get up slowly and he was pouting as he walked over toward her. Reaching out to him as soon as he got out she went to touch him only to see him keep walking. “Kevin, I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to.”

“Do you really not trust me at all? Ria, baby I love you but are we always going to be doing this? Having you not trusting me?" he pondered turning to her once they stopped walking and he saw her brown eyes staring out at him and he threw his hands up in the air as water droplets flew from his skin. “Baby, I love you more than anything in this world and the only thing I want to do is marry you. I want to have a family with you and I want to grow old with you Ria, but are you never going to have faith in me? Are you never going to believe me every time I come home to you?"

“Kevin, I’m just not happy with the things that are going on,” she reached up to caress his face feeling the coolness of his skin against her fingertips as she felt him lean in closer to her touch. “I hate seeing her all over you, I hate hearing her talking about how great you two are together and how much you love her. You are supposed to be mine Kevin and all of this is going against what we have.”

“But we don’t have to let it Ria, I know I’ve been spending more time with you than I have her throughout this whole thing,” Kevin explained moving forward to cup her face in his hands tenderly before shaking his head slowly. A deep sigh escaped his lips as he tipped down and pressed a soft, loving kiss against hers feeling her hands press in against his chest. “Ria, I love you, but if Angela never gets her memory back I’m not going to continue to stay with her. If she doesn’t get her memory back by the time she has the twins, then I’m telling her myself. It’s just right now…”

“With her pregnant you don’t want to cause her as much stress,” she finished off feeling him press soft kisses against her lips between a few of her words. “I know that Kevin and the truth is that I guess I’m just jealous. Just jealous that she thinks every night that she is the one that is suppose to be laying in bed with you. When that’s supposed to be me Kevin.”

“I know honey and I promise that I’m all yours,” he whispered hearing what sounded like Angela and Brant moving in closer to them as he led her through a few of the bushes. Moving in behind the guest house he held onto her hand tightly before turning in closer to her. “Angela is my past Ria and as much as I love her, it’s a different kind of love. She’s my best friend Ria and a friend is all she is ever going to be for me again. While you on the other hand are my spunky as hell, sexy as hell and naughty as can be fiancée. I love you more than anything else in this world Ria, I want--no, I need you to know that.”

“I know, I guess I just take things a little too much for granted Kevin and for that I’m sorry,” she tried to apologize only to feel him place his finger in over her lips softly. Taking the moment into her own hands she opened her mouth slightly taking his fingertip into her mouth giving it a small nibble. “You’re just hot on the market and I get jealous whenever someone else tries to touch you.”

“Well, honey,” Kevin felt her shove him against the back of the house and let out a small growl before feeling her tip on her toes to kiss him as he felt her fingers opening his belt slowly. “I’m not on the market anymore because I’m yours, no one else could ever have me again in this lifetime.”

“You better keep it that way,” she sighed against his lips pulling the zipper down on his pants before seeing them pool around his ankles after she shoved them and his boxers down with it. A small gasp escaped her lips as she felt him pick her up in his arms and turn her to press her back against the side of the house. “Or I just might have to kill you.”

“Oh, well we don’t want that that,” Kevin smirked moving forward to tease his lips in over hers before letting out a small laugh. “That would be a very, very bad thing we’d have to go through.”


“What are we doing here?” Wendy questioned as the limo pulled over to the private hanger where the Ashford Jet had been housed over the years. She turned her attention to Ken and smiled with a newfound curiosity as the driver opened up the limo door and he stepped out of the limo.

“You’ll see,” he promised with a wink reaching for her hand and extracting her from the plush interior of the limousine. “I hope you don’t mind a surprise.”

“No, not at all, but I was just thinking that you meant we’d be going to the theater or dinner out of town…” she began with a puzzled expression seeing that the pilot was standing outside of the Ashford Jet speaking with a few other people.

“Those things aren’t out of the question,” Ken promised reaching for her hand and lacing their fingers with one another, “but we might be going a little further than you anticipated.”

“I don’t understand,” Wendy replied taking note of the dark clouds that hung over them in the sky.

“We’re taking a trip,” Ken explained as the winds picked up around them. “I thought that it was time that we stopped staying here and just wasting our time. I thought that perhaps it was time for us to step outside of the norm and do something impulsive for a change.”

“Like what?” she couldn’t help but question.

“A trip to the one of the most romantic places in the world,” he explained sliding his arms around her slender waist. “How do you feel about taking a journey to Paris with me?”

“Paris?” she repeated as her eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“I’m very serious,” he nodded with a proud smirk. “I think that we’ve spent far too much time here dwelling on things that we can’t change, so now it’s our time to work on doing what we can to change other things for us. You always said that you regretted when we didn’t go together in college…”

“Well yes, but that was a lifetime ago,” she confessed feeling a chill carry over her now that the sky appeared to be getting ready for a storm. “It looks horrible tonight Ken and…”

“Trust me,” he bent down to steal a kiss from her lips, “I’ve got everything planned out to the letter. I’ve spoken with your doctors and they’ve assured me that a trip to Paris would be just what we both needed right now.”

“I’d love to go to Paris, but I don’t know if I’m really feeling up to…” she offered up again with a small sigh.

“I thought of that as well which is why I’ve phoned in a few favors and ensured that we will have specialists on hand not far from our hotel just in case you aren’t feeling well,” he squeezed her in his arms. “That way we’ve got all of our bases covered in this one. It’s a win/win situation.”

“You’re not going to let me alter our plans, are you?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“Do you want to alter the plans?” he questioned lazily leaning down to press a kiss over the side of her neck. “I have some sparkling cider on the plane along with strawberries and a few other savory secrets for us.”

“It sounds very tempting,” Wendy noted catching the light rain that sprinkled upon them. “What about this weather though? Are you sure it’s the right time to be traveling considering that…”

“We’ll be fine,” he silenced her with a tender kiss before cupping her face in his hands. “Trust me when I tell you that this trip is going to be exactly what we need Wendy. We’ve both been so very stressed, but now we can focus on enjoying the sights and the sounds of Paris while taking the time to be with each other. That does sound tempting, doesn’t it?”

“Well yes, but…” she bit down on her lower lip before finally smiling, “Ken, it sounds wonderful. I just don’t want to disappoint you if I can’t keep up with you considering that…”

“That if we don’t make it out of the hotel room while we are there, I’m completely ok with that as well,” he promised kissing her once again before waving to the pilot to get things ready for their flight. “I know you’ll love this.”

“I love you and I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time,” Wendy finally decided as Ken took her in his arms once again vowing that he would make the most of this trip between them and show her the time of her life one way or the other. Time away from Coral Valley would be the best possible thing for them. He was certain of that.


Cori sat in her hospital room looking out the tiny slit of a window that her room provided her with. It wasn’t much but it was enough to give her a brief glimpse of the world she’d been kept away from. Sighing she brought her legs up to her chest thinking about how much easier life had been before she’d been stuck in this place she clearly didn’t belong in. Closing her eyes for a brief moment she tried to think of a good reason why she deserved to be in there over anyone else. Sure, okay so maybe she shot Diego, but what woman wouldn’t have wanted to do the same to an ex-flame that ripped out their heart? Sure a lot of them wouldn’t, but at least Cori was ready to take a stand.

“And what a stand it was,” she shook her head realizing that her moment of rage put her right into this small prison of a room. It was hell and anyone who said it wasn’t was clearly out of their mind. Even now she couldn’t help but wish she could just go home and be able to live her life again like she’d done before she’d let her rage get the best of her.

Looking to the window again, she started to think about all of the things that lead her to this place and time and it felt like a bad dream. It seemed like her world was being shaken up again and again, but now she had nothing but time. Time to think about her stupid mistakes and about how men really seemed to be nothing more than a let down. If only she could find one who wasn’t going to walk away for someone else or treat her like she was nothing.

She frowned hating the direction her thoughts had turned to, but before she could bury herself further in her sorrows, she heard the sound of her door opening. Picking her head up she noticed the guard standing at the door as he’d done in the past when he brought her the meds she was supposed to take. Glaring up at him, Cori met his eyes with a defiant stance.

“I already had my meds for the night you pervert,” Cori spat out at him harshly, attempting to pick a fight with him if need be, “You can just go get your kicks elsewhere if you came in for some kind of booty call because I’m not interested.”

“Neither am I,” the guard rolled his eyes at her before stepping aside, “but you have company.”

“Company,” she replied with a puzzled expression seeing Diego enter the room behind him. Her brown eyes widened in surprise as he stepped into the room just beyond the security guard.

“Give us a few minutes,” Diego instructed and the guard nodded back at him taking a step back.

“Of course Dr. Hernandez,” the guard replied walking out of the room and leaving Cori and Diego alone with one another.

She tried to mask her surprise before clearing her throat again. She kicked her legs down off of the bed and stood up attempting to face him down now that it was clear he’d come over for some reason. She knew full well that he’d probably wanted to kill her for shooting him, but when she searched his eyes she couldn’t find the first hint of contempt behind them.

“How are you feeling?” he questioned in a soft, patient tone catching her completely off guard.

“You have to be kidding me, right?” she spat back at him keeping her tone cold and distant. She looked around the room before glaring over at him, “I’m stuck in hell here. How do you think I’d be feeling?”

“Probably not too good,” he rubbed his palms together before taking in a breath, “but I know the feeling. It’s kind of like getting a bullet in the ass. Tell me was that where you were aiming or were you hoping to castrate me?”

“At the time I didn’t care as long as it hurt you,” she answered honestly taking a seat back down on the bed. She searched his face again before speaking up, “Does that surprise you?”

“No, not at all,” he shook his head still keeping his tone calm and professional, “I guess I could see why you might think I deserved that.”

“You guess,” she blinked back at him, a scowl moving in over the corners of her lips, “Diego you promised me that we would have a good and happy future with one another--you said you loved me and then you cheated on me with that bitch.”

“Look Cori I…” he paused unable to find the right words to say what it was he’d been thinking about.

“You what? You came over here to gloat?” she glared up at him, her words sharp and bitter. “Don’t you think I’ve already suffered enough? You know if I think about this correctly, you are violating some kind of rules aren’t you? I mean it isn’t really right for doctors to be alone with female patients unsupervised after hours.”

“I didn’t come over here to talk about you as a patient or really about the shooting,” he admitted moving around the room nervously before facing her again, “Cori, I came over here to apologize.”

“What?” she blinked back at him confusion settling in over her. “Why?”

“Because I owed you a lot more than I gave you. I know it sounds pretty empty now, but the fact to the matter is that you were absolutely right about me,” he admitted with a pained expression, his words falling from his lips with heavy emotion. “I hurt you in the worst possible way and I’m sorry that I let something as trivial as what I perceived to have happening with Sarah ruin what we had together. I should’ve treated you with the respect that you deserved and for my complete lack of consideration, I apologize.”

She sat silent for a long moment before finally speaking up again, “For that you should Diego. You were a real jerk and it hurt me.”

“I know and I’m sorry,” he replied with a pained expression walking over to her, “which is why I wanted to let you know that I’m going to make this up to you. I spoke with the director at the hospital here and I’ve made the recommendation that they let you have outpatient treatment. The courts will make you have some kind of public service considering that you did fire a gun in an open place, but with us, I don’t want you to suffer anymore because of me.”

“Why are you saying that? What’s the stipulation?” she arched a skeptic brow eyeing him intently, “Is this where you tell me that I can’t go near you and Sarah or if I do you’re going to hurt me?”

“No, I’ve already hurt you enough,” he rubbed his hands together feeling tension coil in over his body. “I just want to put this behind us--for both of us to have a chance at a new start at life again.”

“You mean for you and Sarah,” she half questioned feeling the same anger bubbling inside of her that she’d had before this had all taken place.

“There is no Sarah and I,” he admitted honestly feeling a sigh press over his lips, “I made a mistake in thinking that she was someone she’s not. I blew everything in my life away simply because I believed in someone who was no where near capable of being what I had hoped for. I hurt you and everyone else around me and for that I am sorry.”

“So, what? She decide to dump you since she’s got Kyle?” Cori couldn’t help but ask spitefully.

“Sarah doesn’t have either one of us anymore Cori,” Diego admitted thinking about all that had happened at the church the day of the shooting. “Kyle found out about her cheating and he left her.”

“Good for him. I told him a long time ago what she did, but he wouldn’t listen to me. It would’ve saved him a lot of time and energy if he had,” she waved her arm around in the air before shaking her head, “What about you? She cheat on you too?”

“Sarah and I weren’t meant to have anything with one another. She’s pregnant, but soon I’ll know whether or not I’m a part of that. As much as I would like to be, it sounds like I’m not the only man in the running when it comes to paternity of that child,” he sighed feeling his demons lingering over him, “If the paternity test returns saying I’m not the father, then I’m done with the whole situation.”

“And then what?” she arched a curious brow seeing something behind his dark eyes, “Then are you going to try to come crawling back to me since she left?”

“No, I wouldn’t dream of hurting you like that. The fact to the matter is if this paternity test proves I’m not the father of Sarah’s baby, then I’ve decided to leave Coral Valley. I’ve already given notice with the hospital of my resignation and…” he informed her honestly feeling a heaviness hang over him.

“What?” her brown eyes widened in astonishment. She rose up to her feet and stepped up to him, “Diego, why? Why leave?”

“After all the damage I’ve caused I see no purpose in staying. When I came to this town I vowed to help people--to make the world around me a better place, but over the years I got jaded and let go of what I truly was. When I experienced tragedy first hand I took the road that I shouldn’t have taken and it caused me to behave poorly. After everything, I can’t pretend that I made the right decisions. I can’t even look at myself without feeling reminders of just how much wrong I was involved in,” he looked away from her thinking about the way things had turned around for him, “I think leaving will be best for everyone. It’ll give us all a chance to start over again.”

“What if I don’t want to start over?” she blurted out thoughtlessly taking a step in closer to him, “Diego, I don’t want you to go.”

“Trust me Cori. My leaving will be one of the best things for you,” he faced her again with a small smile, “You deserve to have that new life with someone who loves you like you deserve to be loved. You need a man in your life who will put you first and not make you hold onto the rage that I lead you to. You need someone who will make you happy.”

“But you do make me happy,” Cori pleaded with him, her dark eyes full of worry and fear, “Diego I love you.”

“No you don’t,” he smiled over at her reaching out to touch the side of her face in spite of himself. “It just feels that way now, but sooner or later you’ll see what we had isn’t even remotely close to what you need.”

“Diego please,” she bit down on her lower lip feeling tears threatening, “don’t go. We can find a way to get past how we hurt each other.”

“Cori, trust me. This is for the best,” he sighed seeing the way her lower lip quivered now that she leaned into his touch. Taking in a breath he memorized her features remembering all the good times they’d had with one another. “For what it’s worth, the time I spent with you were some of the best times of my life.”

“Mine too,” she replied with a small whimper reaching out to press her hand against his shoulder. She half expected him to step away, but instead he stood close to her allowing her to slide her arms around his shoulders. “Please Diego…”

“Cori, just trust me on this one. It’ll be better for you with me gone,” he whispered bringing his index finger over her lips to silence her protests.

“My life was never better until you were in it,” she blurted out against his touch. Unable to help herself she leaned forward feeling the warmth of his breath over hers. Sliding her fingers into his dark hair, she coaxed him into a slow, lingering kiss, her lips beckoning him to listen to her--to hear her out now that he was ready to leave her and his life behind. She felt his arm wrap around her waist, his mouth caressing hers with the same gentle ease that had always been present between them. Her lips parted and she sighed feeling his palm caress the side of her face opening her up to the kiss between them. It was the perfect, most memorable kiss of her life, but almost as soon as it had started Diego pulled back placing a distance between them.

“This is for the best,” he mouthed in a low whisper pressing his forehead against hers and closing his eyes in an attempt to will away whatever it was that seeing her again stirred up inside of him. “I’ll always remember you Cori.”

“I’ll always remember you too,” she blurted out in a whimper, “Diego I love you.”

“I love you too kiddo, but one day you’ll find someone who can give you a whole lot more than I ever would’ve,” he promised kissing her forehead gently before taking a step back. “I’ll have things rolling for your release some time this week. You should be out in no time and back on track with your life again.”

“Diego wait…” she watched him move over towards the door, hating the idea that this would be where they put things to an end between them. “Please just think about what you’re doing…”

The sound of the door opening carried over the room and as the security guard returned, Cori watched Diego step in closer to the doorway.

“I have and it’s for the best,” he assured her giving her one last look of longing before disappearing out the door and out of her life forever. While Cori knew full well he had said he would be staying if he found out he was the baby’s father, she knew enough to see that he’d made up his mind. He was convinced in his heart that Sarah’s pregnancy had nothing to do with him and as she sank back onto the bed, her tears carrying over her, she knew full well that this would be the last time she ever shared a moment with Diego Hernandez again.


“I was wondering how long you were going to take,” Kellen whispered seeing the way that Kipp walked into the room with a gloomy looking expression and Kellen let out a long sigh. “Obviously this is something big because I’ve never seen you take that long before.”

“It’s just something big Kellen,” Kipp began to explain moving over toward the couch Kellen was sitting on and saw Kellen pat the couch for him to come and sit next to him. “I just don’t want you to either flip out on me or flip out in general.”

“Listen, I know that I have a tendency to flip out a little bit, but I promise Kipp whatever it is I will try to understand and take it easy,” Kellen tried to promise with his blue eyes seeing the way that Kipp bit down on his bottom lip and ran his hand in over his eyes stressed out. “Trust me Kipp, I know it’s hard to believe, but I promise. You can tell me anything.”

“I just hate to say you were right about this certain thing all along,” Kipp blurted out seeing the way that Kellen’s eyebrows tightened together showing that he was even more interested now that he put it that way. Kipp turned toward Kellen on the couch before reaching for his large hands softly. “Kellen, look me in the eyes and tell me that you promise you won’t want to go on a killing spree.”

“I promise that I won’t kill anyone,” Kellen tried to keep Kipp assured seeing Kipp’s dimples grow showing that it was obvious that Kipp probably didn’t believe him. Squeezing Kipp’s hands tightly he saw the worried look in the brown eyes that he loved to look into so much. “I really promise Kipp, but just please tell me. You have my blood pressure up and you know what I’m like when I can’t hear what happened, so please? I’m shaking in my boots here Kipp, come on.”

“Well one you’re not wearing any shoes or boots,” Kipp teased seeing the deep frown that pressed in over Kellen’s features as Kipp reached out to push at Kellen’s thick hair. “I’m just kidding with you Kellen, but what happened--well, it happened when I was mad at the three of you.”

“Please don’t tell me you slept with another man,” Kellen placed his hand in over the center of his chest seeing Kipp quickly shaking his head over and over. Letting out a thankful sigh he shook his head slowly and began to calm down. “Then nothing can be really worse than that I suppose.”

“It might be. You see, I came home really mad and the first thing I did was drink and I know that’s a really bad thing to do Kellen, but I did it,” Kipp began to explain seeing the way that Kellen’s blue eyes watched him carefully and the more he looked at Kellen ,the harder it began to explain how he felt about the situation. “Well I passed out and I may have left the door unlocked or something. I don’t know.”

“Okay…,” Kellen paused Kipp a minute seeing him fighting for words and looked around the room knowing that it seemed like everything was in the right place and nothing seemed to be missing. Knowing that it didn’t look like anyone broke in Kellen looked around the area before nodding again. “Continue.”

“Well I had this really bad dream that I came to Kyle’s house and everyone hated me and basically it was probably the alcohol. No, I know it was the alcohol,” Kipp tried to stutter and move away from the situation hearing the way that Kellen cleared his throat trying to get him to continue on. “Anyways, I woke up to what I thought was you.”

“Okay…,” was all that seemed to come out of his mouth again as Kellen thought exactly about what that may have meant. He saw Kipp nod slowly his brown eyes widening as Kellen let out a hesitant laugh. “I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.”

“Well, you see Kellen--Becca came into the house and she…well she--I guess the best way to say it is that she molested me,” Kipp saw the way that Kellen’s blue eyes widened in anger and he hushed Kellen to make sure he kept it down. “Kellen, she didn’t have sex with me it was just when I found it was her. I threw her out right away, I swear. We didn’t do anything like that…I swear we didn’t.”


“Now please tell me that you don’t eat your ice-cream like you do your pizza. I think I will puke if that’s the case,” Jason teased feeling Mindy hit him in the center of the chest as they moved to the register to pick what she wanted. “I’m sorry, it’s just if you pick everything on the list, I’m leaving.”

“You are such a jerk,” Mindy shoved Jason seeing the man behind the counter smile at the two of them as Jason wrapped his arm around her before giving her a small squeeze only to let her go. “I’d just like a cup of chocolate ice-cream with brownie pieces in it please.”

“Oh daring girl I see,” Jason nudged her with his hips again hearing her light laugh fill his ears and just hearing her laugh brightened up his day. He loved to hear her happy and to hear her laugh was even better, it was like music to his ears. “I guess I can have vanilla ice-cream with peanut butter and brownie pieces as well.”

“Oh, look at the daring one now,” she reached up to push at his gelled over hair and let out a long laugh seeing his blue eyes stare down at her for a moment as they waited for their ice-cream. “You know, I’ve really liked spending time with you tonight Jason. You’re a little too innocent but a whole lot of trouble and I really love that.”

“Do you now?" Jason laughed feeling her hand press in against his back as she motioned him to move forward in the line as he smiled widely. “Well, all teasing aside, I’ve really liked spending time with you too Mindy. Just so much so and I really want you to know that.”

“Well I’m glad,” Mindy went to pay for the ice-cream only to have him stop her and pay for them himself. Motioning Jason over to a table she took a seat seeing him moving in front of her. “Thank you for that Jason. I think you need to know this and I don’t want it to sound pathetic, but you don’t know how much you mean to me Jason. You’re a great friend and I just love spending time with you.”

“And I’ll say it one more time if you’d like, I feel the same way Mindy,” Jason smiled seeing the way she took a bite of her ice-cream only to have some of it end up on the tip of her nose. Chuckling to himself he picked up his napkin and moved in closer to her to wipe it off. “No matter how messy you may be, I’m just as messy so I’ll always be okay with my messy buddy.”

“Gee, thanks,” Mindy snickered to herself knowing that it was a bit embarrassing to have done that in front of him as she finished wiping her face off with her own napkin. She felt like maybe she would eventually creep him out with all of this, but she needed to let him know a few things after losing some of the men that meant the most to her with certain situations. I’m just really love having you with me as my company Jason. You’re just a wonderful all around guy and it makes me so happy to be hanging out with you.”

“You know Mindy, I don’t think I’ve ever had someone tell me how great of a company I am,” he took a bite of his ice-cream feeling it slide down his throat before shrugging his shoulders. Never before had someone opened them up to their life so much, but here she was telling him how much she enjoyed being with him. “I know I’m great Mindy, but come on. I’m not that great.”

“No, you really are that great Jason,” she hushed him before he could continue seeing the look behind his blue eyes as she reached out for his large hand. Caressing her thumb over the top of his hand she saw him gulp down before looking at her fingers. “I just really want you happy Jason and that’s all I’ve ever wanted for you.”

“You too Mindy, really…,” Jason saw someone walk into the ice-cream shop and let out a small squeal as Mindy turned to look toward the door. Seeing Mindy get up and move over to wrap her arms around him Jason’s eyes widen in amazement. Never before did he think a man could fit into white leather pants that tight while he was wearing a pink button down shirt and had bleach blonde hair with an obvious fake tan. “Oh my…”

“Jason, this is my friend Morgan. He’s been wanting to meet you for a while and I thought this would be the best time for you to meet,” Mindy motioned Morgan to sit next to Jason seeing Jason’s blue eyes widen as he looked out at Mindy. “He’s single and about the whole happiness thing Jason I figured to get you more comfortable in this situation of a new home that maybe you two would like to get together.”

“Wait, what?" Jason blurted out spitting out his ice-cream looking to the side feeling Morgan’s hand move in over his thigh as Jason suddenly felt extremely cramped and eager to get out of the situation. “Whoa, hold on a minute.”

“What’s wrong Jason?" Mindy saw Jason’s blue eyes look scared and worried at the same time as he moved as much as possible into the wall next to him and she reached out toward him. “Jason, you’re gay right?"


“So when have you two decided that we’re going to get that wedding you’ve been talking about?” Kyle questioned breaking the silence that surrounded him, Russ, Avery and Heather after they had made it through a very tense dinner with one another. “You mentioned that you were going to go down the isle again once that whole divorce thing was out of the way.”

“That’s right,” Russ nodded in response flashing Kyle a bright smile, “and if you’re lucky I might ask you to be the best man.”

“Oh would you stop kidding,” Avery poked Russ in the ribs before laughing lightly. She leaned in closer to him as they sat together on the couch. “Of course he wants you to be the best man considering that, well you were the best man when Erin came into the world.”

“Well, what can I say,” Kyle shrugged his shoulders before smiling, “I knew she needed to be in good hands when she joined us at long last.”

“What do you mean?” Heather questioned sipping the drink she’d gotten herself earlier. She’d been doing her best to be civil, but it was very hard to bite her tongue now that she found herself still wanting to strangle Avery.

“When Erin was born I delivered her,” Kyle admitted proudly thinking about how he was the first person to hold Erin, “That’s why she’s got my namesake with her being Erin Leigh.”

“Oh I see,” Heather nodded before wrinkling her nose, “though I’m sure you were given a view of Avery that you probably never wanted in this lifetime even if half the world has already seen down there.”

“You know what…” Avery sat up straighter her smile fading as she found herself wanting to murder Heather all over again. She opened her mouth to say something more, but stopped herself when the sound of Erin’s cries split through the moment. Looking to the baby monitor, Avery frowned before standing up, “It sounds like Erin’s awake. I’ll go get her.”

“I’ll go with you. I want to see her,” Kyle decided standing up as well before looking to Heather. He waved his finger at her before turning around to follow Avery into Erin’s room. Once they were inside, he saw Erin in her crib awaiting attention. Immediately he rushed over to her, “Oh Avery, she’s gotten so big.”

“She seems to grow more and more each passing minute,” Avery admitted leaning down to pick Erin up and pull her out of the crib. Erin cuddled into Avery’s chest, while her big eyes were fixed on Kyle with a newfound curiosity.

“It seems like just yesterday I was helping deliver her and now,” he smiled proudly reaching out to touch her tiny head, “Look at all this beautiful dark hair you have. You look so much like your mommy, which is a good thing since I think she’s very beautiful. Though I have to admit between you and Charles growing so fast it seems like I‘m starting to get old.”

“Kyle,” Avery smiled before another thought returned to her, “what are you doing with Heather?”

“Avery, I really don’t want to…” Kyle began knowing full well that this was a subject he didn’t want to get into with her. He saw the heavy disapproval behind her eyes before he spoke up again, “I love her Avery.”

“Why?” Avery couldn’t help but question before she thought it over. “I mean she’s so cruel and vindictive and you’re such a good person…”

“A lot has happened Avery. There’s a lot you don’t know, but I promise I’ll tell you more eventually,” Kyle offered up not wanting to get into a debate with her. He looked at Erin again and smiled, “I haven’t seen her in so long that I would really just like to take the time to catch up with her. Please.”

“Only if you promise me we can talk about this Heather situation later,” Avery tossed back at him with a firm glance.

“Fine, but right now I want to see my beautiful little Erin Leigh,” Kyle explained reaching out to take Erin in his arms. Unable to contain the enthusiasm that carried over him now that he held her, he bent down to give her a quick kiss, “You are such a good little girl, aren’t you?”

“She really is,” Avery paused sensing a distinct odor in the air, “Although I think she’s in need of a changing.”

“I’ll do it,” Kyle decided turning around to look over the nursery, “Just point me in the right direction and I’ll take over diaper duty.”

“Are you sure?” she eyed him curiously seeing something behind his eyes.

“Trust me I’m becoming an expert on this one. Of course I’m sure unlike with Charles I won’t have to worry about a shower like I had with Charles one time. Her parts won’t nail me there,” he laughed lightly thinking about one of his earlier diaper changing experiences with Charles. “Besides I could use the practice.”

“Why?” Avery’s eyes widened in response, “Is it because you think that Sarah is having your baby?”

“I would seriously doubt that,” he shook his head at the thought of his former lover, “but if it did come to that, then I would more than willingly embrace the role of being a father. I’ve enjoyed giving it a go with Charles.”

“Yeah and I’ll bet Heather is eating it all up too using her son to manipulate you,” Avery mouthed sarcastically seeing him taking Erin over to the changing table.

“Heather’s not what you think Avery. Sure, she’s a bit abrasive at times, but once you get to know her she’s really an amazing woman,” Kyle confessed freely thinking about the woman he loved, “You’d be amazed to see that you and her are more alike than you both realize.”

“Now that one I would seriously doubt,” she shuddered at the thought, “That woman and I have nothing in common.”

“You both love me don’t you?” he winked over at her attempting to keep the conversation between them light and friendly.

“I won’t break your heart like she will. She’s trouble Kyle,” Avery warned hating to see her friend setting himself up for yet another fall.

“That’s not going to happen Avery,” Kyle replied glancing over her shoulder at her while he tended to Erin, “I know I won’t be able to convince you of that, but I’ll be honest when I tell you it’s the real thing between us. She’s my heart and I would be lost without her.”

“For your sake I hope that’s not really how it is,” Avery mouthed under her breath finding herself worrying about her friend in more ways than she ever thought possible!


“So tell me,” Heather sipped her drink again before eyeing Russ curiously, “are you really happy in this whole domestic world of make believe with Avery?”

“Would you lay off of her Heather,” Russ frowned back at her with heavy disapproval. He sat up straighter glaring over at her before speaking up again, “In all honesty I would’ve thrown you out as well if I didn’t know about you and Kyle.”

“Is that right?” Heather wiggled her brow at him curiously.

“That’s right,” he nodded in response seeing the spark of fire behind her green eyes, “Don’t get me wrong I think that you’re someone who is capable of a great many things, but belittling my wife doesn’t put you in a good light Heather. She deserves better than that.”

“Your wife,” Heather repeated her lips curling in a tight scowl, “Don’t you mean Brant’s wife? I mean aren’t they still married since you and Avery never really were able to get the real deal between you? Though you know if you want my advice I would say take Erin and run. It would be the smartest thing you could do considering the circumstances. You would be much better off without her.”

“Right and I suppose you would want Kyle to listen when people say the same thing about you, huh?” Russ arched a curious brow watching Heather closely. “You know the fact that Kyle married you says a lot about how he feels for you. I know him enough to know that he believes in you and in your heart. If he thinks you’re worth it, then I’ll accept it, but I’m not going to accept you berating Avery every chance you get.”

“Russ you and I both know how she used to be gaga over Brant,” she pointed out thinking of the times when she and Russ had teamed up with one another to split Brant and Avery apart. “Face it if you wouldn’t have gotten her pregnant, then she would be with Brant right now and not think twice about you. You saw it when we were at that hotel hunting them down. Avery’s worries revolved around Brant, not you.”

“Heather please,” Russ rolled his eyes at her comments, “A lot of time has passed and we’ve all changed. I would like to think that you’ve done it for the better, but tonight your claws are showing.”

“Can I help it if I think you deserve better,” she shrugged her shoulders simply, “Avery was a witch when you were gone and you should’ve seen the way she paraded around town with Brant loving her role as his wife.”

Russ bit down in a wince fighting to keep his irritation level from rising any further, “Heather we’ve all made mistakes and we all have a lot to grow beyond. I would like to think that I’ve done that as has Avery. Considering that you’re married to one of my best friends I don’t want for us to have tension between us.”

“You and I don’t have tension Russ. I like you,” Heather waved her hand dismissively, “You don’t have to worry about that.”

“I’m not talking about you and me. I’m talking about what you and Avery do to one another. She’s going to be my wife soon and she’s the mother of my child--the child that I fully intend to ask Kyle to be the godfather to. With that being said I don’t want us all to get to a place where we can’t be civil to one another and Erin misses out on what she should have with her family because Heather that’s what Kyle is. He’s our family,” he explained matter of fact, his green eyes fixed on her, “Even if you don’t like Avery, you need to tone it down. She’s trying to do the same thing…”

“No she’s not. She’s just putting on an act and you’re all buying into it,” she folded her arms in front of her chest defiantly. “She has the good girl act down pat, but it’s just that. She’s just as manipulative as you think I am--if not more even.”

“Regardless, the next time we have dinner with one another I want you and Avery to both stop thinking about what’s best for you both in the moment when the mood to fight strikes. I want you to think about Kyle and about me. Hell even think about Charles and Erin. They both deserve a chance to be friends without their mothers killing one another since they are around the same age,” he continued to explain to her, “They aren’t a part of this bitterness.”

“No they aren’t,” she paused thinking about what he’d said to her, “but I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ll grow to like Avery.”

“I wouldn’t expect that just like I wouldn’t expect it out of her either, but if you two could fake it long enough you might find that you actually can tolerate one another and have fun in the process,” Russ added as Heather found herself wondering if that would ever be possible. Somehow she seriously doubted it, but for tonight she would do her best to keep from destroying Avery. That could wait until another point in time.


“Angela, I really don’t think we should be climbing through here considering you could get hurt and…,” Brant had thought he heard the sounds of Ria and Kevin fighting earlier and it was obvious that Angela may have heard the same thing as they made their way over to the noise. Once they came to a stop of where they thought they heard the noise Brant looked around realizing he was wrong when he saw Angela staring out at the fountain before her. “I bet you really like that, don’t you?"

“Yeah, it’s beautiful,” she felt Brant move in behind her as she took in a long breath feeling his fingers press in over his shoulder and she looked back for a moment seeing his brown eyes staring out into hers. “I mean, I was hoping to be finding Kevin wherever he went, but this sight is just as pretty as him.”

“I don’t know if I would classify Kevin as being pretty,” Brant smirked seeing Angela turn around and smile up at him as he shrugged his shoulders and thought about his new found friend. Well, sort of a friend depending on the moments that they got to hang out with one another and get to know more about each other. “I would define him more as rough around the edges and a big kind of a guy. Pretty would not be the word for Kevin, unless for some reason you’ve seen him in pink ballerina costume and at that, I still don’t find him as being pretty.”

“If he heard you say that, I’m sure he would beat you down right here,” Angela pointed out seeing Brant move in closer to her before staring out at her with his brown eyes and she let out a small laugh. “I’m not kidding, he really would.”

“I guess I would have to take my chances,” he teased seeing her beautiful eyes looking into his as he curled his finger in under her chin. Remembering the first time Kevin found out that he was Angela’s lover, he could remember Kevin beating the holly hell out of him in the hotel hallway. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“What does that mean?" Angela gulped down seeing the way that Brant looked out at her past the moonlight and half smiled before shrugging her shoulders. “I mean, have you two been in a fight before or something?"

“I guess you could say that,” Brant teased his fingers in through her hair seeing her hesitation as he moved in closer to her and he shrugged his shoulders. “I can tell you we most certainly weren’t dancing the night away with one another.”

That quote made a sudden something bring a memory back to her as she let out a deep gasp moving away from him as she looked into the fountain remembering things that she didn’t know to be real or not.

“Who knew that Mai Tai’s and martinis could bring on such an eventful evening,” Angela questioned unable to contain her laughter as she jiggled the keys to the beach house in her hand as she leaned up against the door, turning her attention fully to Brant.

“I had a strange suspicion that we’d come up with something to keep us amused for the evening,” Brant confessed bringing his arm out over the archway as he leaned in towards her, “although I must confess that dancing the night away at the bar wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

“Oh my whatever did you have in mind, Brant,” she questioned in response tilting her head up towards him as a soft smile lifted over her features. Reaching out to his pale blue, halfway unbuttoned loose fitting shirt, she teased her fingers over the center of his exposed chest in a playful fashion.

“Well, it was something along…these…lines,” he confessed dropping down to taste the lips he’d been admiring all night long as he bridged the distance between them tasting the hints of pineapple juice lingering over her mouth as his arm slipped around her drawing her in against him. Easing his hand down over her spine as his tongue dipped inside of her parted lips, he heard the sound of her dropping her keys as she instinctively threw her arms around him reciprocating the kiss in full force. He squeezed her closer dropping heated kisses down over her neck as he pressed her in against the door.

“Brant,” she murmured his name as his lips teased over her earlobe causing her to react as her fingers curled over his shoulders and she felt as though she’d melt away at the sweet temptation he’d provided her with.

“How about we go inside and see what else we can come up with,” Brant whispered suggestively against the base of her throat, his words humming over her excited skin as she tipped her head back squeezing his shoulders with anticipation.

“Are you okay? Angela?" Brant moved in to cup her face in his hands softly seeing the lost look behind her eyes as he pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. Feeling her hand press in against his cheek he moved in closer to her. “Are you going to be alright?"

“I think so,” she answered feeling him moving in closer to her and the closer he got the more nervous she felt. Turning away from him before he could get any closer she felt a bit of disgust building up in her stomach. How could she ever think of such things like this when she was supposed to be in love with Kevin. Kevin was supposed to be the man that she loved and here she was thinking of things like this. “We need to find Kevin.”

Seeing Brant simply nod she could see something behind his eyes and she didn’t know if she caught the moment off hand, but what she felt when she had that thought flash through her head made her feel like a jerk. Not only a jerk, but disgusted to the matter when Kevin had always been so great with her.

“No need to fear, Kevin is here and the snake is gone,” Kevin moved into the area looking out at Brant as Ria moved in behind him and there was something behind Brant’s eyes as Kevin’s eyebrows tightened together. “Is everything okay Brant?"

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Brant watched as Angela rushed over to Kevin to wrap her arms around him and letting out a small noise he wrapped his arms around her as well staring up at Brant. “To a degree that is.”

“Yeah, well I’m sorry I took so long,” Kevin began seeing the way that Brant’s eyes widened when Angela moved and he wrinkled his nose in response. Angela wrapped her arm around his torso as Kevin watched Brant motion down toward his pants. Still confused he saw Brant grab the zipper of his pants when Angela wasn’t looking and looking down he saw that his zipper was down. “That snake was just trying to destroy the flowers they had set up.”

“It’s okay, I’m just glad you are back,” Angela saw him turn away from her for a moment before turning back to him and she pressed her fingers in over the center of his abdomen hearing him clear his throat. “I was worried about you, but I really think we should go back to the guest house Kevin. I’m tired.”

“You’re tired? Uh well,” Kevin felt her hand pulling on his softly as he gave Brant and Ria an upset look before following her through the bushes. “I guess I’ll talk to you two later.”

“Yeah, bye,” Brant waved seeing Kevin get pulled away quickly by Angela and his smile soon faded to a frown as he glanced over at Ria seeing her brown eyes staring out into his. Knowing what went on with the two, he couldn’t believe that of all the times they would do it now. “You two are so sick, I hope you know. Really, that’s sick Ria.”

“What? I didn’t do anything,” Ria shrugged her shoulders seeing Brant roll his eyes before moving back toward him and grabbing his arm in her hands. “You think I like seeing him walking away with her?"

“It’s not like you can walk away with him right now,” Brant muttered with a small roll of his eyes and saw Ria glare up at him as he shook his head slowly. “Here I am worrying about Angela and you two do that. This is ridiculous, I can’t believe he just let her take him away like that.”

“Well let’s go,” Ria tugged on Brant’s arm seeing his brown eyes stare down at her as she tried to lead him back toward the guest house as he shook his head. “What’s wrong Brant?"

“She’s what’s wrong,” Brant answered truthfully knowing that he would have done anything to get her to remember him and he let out a long sigh of disbelief. “No matter what I do, I can’t change the fact that she doesn’t remember me. I can’t change that at all.”


“This is a big clue,” Alexa explained to the man in front of her, “That matchbook is clearly something that we need to investigate.”

“Right now we’re in the midst of a media frenzy,” Assistant Director Callaway blurted out shaking his head at the both of them. “Do you have any idea how much I have to deal with right about now?”

“Believe me Travis neither one of us is happy about it either, but the fact to the matter is that Alexa is right. This is a major clue,” Ben piped in offering his two cents to the man he’d briefly interacted with back in Coral Valley.

“Look Ben this investigation has been going on for over three years and for it to end like this with not only Guerrero dead, but other agents as well,” Travis sighed tension sweeping in over every inch of him. “This is bad.”

“I won’t argue that, but if you think about it, this is clue,” Alexa added holding the evidence bag in her hand. “I would highly doubt a dying man would be clinging to these matches unless they were somehow important.”

“He might’ve been moving for a smoke when they were taken by surprise,” Travis suggested back at her wanting to move in a new direction.

“He didn’t smoke,” she folded her arms in front of her chest defiantly catching the glare that Travis gave her, “Well it’s true. The man had a brother who died of lung cancer so he was very adamant about not smoking.”

“And you learned this what? In the fraction of the time you spent out here?” Travis arched a curious brow over at her.

“I learned a hell of a lot more in the last six months than intelligence did in the last three years. I made more progress than anyone else did,” she argued with him, her angers compiling over his stubbornness.

“And look where it got all of us. We’re back at square one,” Travis waved his arms around in the air.

“Not necessarily,” Ben interjected, “Alexa realized that Guerrero wasn’t the one calling all of the shots and now that this has happened it proves that we were wrong. He isn’t who we need to go after.”

“Thank you for that piece of input Ben, but I highly doubt that is going to offer any comfort to the fallen agents or their families now that they have been taken out,” Travis sighed in frustration. He paused attempting to clear his thoughts before he took in a breath, “Though as much as I hate to say it you’re right Alexa.”

“Well of course I am,” she mouthed smugly knowing full well that Travis couldn’t afford not to listen to her.

“The matchbook is a lead and if we can figure out where that clue is headed and what that number is, then I’m sure it’ll point us in the right direction,” Travis added as Alexa stood up taller, feeling victory eminent for her. “But don’t think that this means that you two can go around running on a wild goose chase. We have to take a look at all angles. This could’ve been a random carjacking gone wrong.”

“Do you honestly believe that a carjacker would’ve stepped foot near those guys,” Alexa rolled her eyes at his suggestion, “Even a carjacker isn’t that stupid.”

“Even so you need to be careful,” Travis warned sharply looking between them, “The last thing we need is another set of dead agents on our hands.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Alexa promised eyeing the matchbook again.

“No it’s not because I’m going to have you two working together now officially. No more working alone to integrate yourself Alexa. You’re going to make every move you do with Ben. Is that clear?”

“But…” she frowned ready to protest when Ben stepped forward.

“It’s clear,” Ben finished for her much to her dismay. “We’ll get started on that club where the matchbook was from and see what we can dig up.”

“Good and when you do try to keep this quiet. The last thing I need is the local law enforcement mucking this up. I’ve already had to deal with their protests about this being our case. I want this nice and neat with no more nights like tonight,” Travis warned the both of them sharply, “Do I make myself clear.”

“Crystal,” Alexa nodded seeing someone flag Travis down to speak with him. As he walked off Alexa turned around to glare up at Ben, “Don’t speak for me Ben. I’m fully capable of doing so myself.”

“I was just trying to keep you out of trouble,” he informed her bluntly shaking his head at her, “You can’t mouth off to him and expect to get away with it.”

“I was doing just fine considering that he knew I was right,” Alexa informed him point blank. “I know how to work the situation.”

“Whatever,” he rolled his eyes back at her, “whether you know how to work it or not, we’ve got a whole hell of a lot on our plate now and the way I see it you and I need to get together on this. We’re partners now which means that just like Travis said you and I don’t make a move without one another.”

“Yeah I loved how you worked your way into my case,” she huffed in response glaring up at him, “I was perfectly capable on my own…”

“Yeah and tonight is a shining example of how monumentally bad it would’ve went without me here,” Ben frowned down at her, “Face it Lexie you need me.”

“Don’t do that,” she frowned up at him, “Don’t even start calling me that because you know I can’t stand when you…”

“When I what? When I tell you like it is?” he arched a curious brow knowing full well her blood was starting to boil at the childhood name he’d had for her. He stepped in closer to her his eyes narrowing down at her, “Lexie whether you like it or not I’m not going to let you go on a suicide mission alone. We’re partners and partners work together on everything.”

“Just like you worked with me on the backup,” she tossed back at him icily.

“That was because they told me not to mention it, but I do admit it was a mistake,” Ben offered up apologetically thinking about all that had taken place, “From now on you and I will be on the level with one another and we’ll tell each other everything. Deal.”

She eyed his outstretched hand for a long moment before finally nodding and shaking his hand grudgingly. “Deal.”

“Good,” he smiled back at her relieved to get that part of their partnership out of the way, “now how about we make our way to that club and see what we can dig up while we’re there?”

“It sounds like you’ve got a plan--although we should probably change before we get over there because believe me when I tell you,” she paused looking between the two of them with a cryptic expression, “We’re way overdressed for what’s ahead of us.”

“What do you mean?” he arched a curious brow over at her.

“You’ll see,” she motioned for him to follow now that it was clear that they had a new plan of action in front of them--one that would hopefully lead to an end to the mystery that hung over their heads once and for all!


Diane let out a shriek watching the hand press through the elevator doors. Pushing up against the far corner of the elevators she fully prepared to find a way to defend herself now that it was clear that she would no longer be alone. Thinking about the look in Andy’s eyes when he’d left her home, she found herself fearing the worst as it seemed that her luck was running out. She realized that she was going to be out of options as there was nothing to hit him with, but when the doors reopened she found herself staring at an unfamiliar face.

“Hey,” the man smiled at her stepping into the elevator with her. He glanced over at her seeing the panic on her face and frowned, “You okay?”

Diane let out a breath of relief before finally nodding, “Yeah I’m just having a long night.”

“Tell me about it,” he smiled over at her before tipping his head to the side and revealing his beautiful brown eyes to her. She found herself giving him a visual once over noticing the gray colored khakis he was wearing topped off by a loose fitting, yet neat black button down shirt. She realized he had what appeared to be a tote bag of sorts over his arm that she was pretty sure contained a computer of some kind and as he smiled at her, she couldn’t help but smile back. “I’m just happy that the day is finally over.”

“Yeah me too, though I would be happier if I had a key to the apartment,” she admitted with a groan viewing him as anything, but a threat. She watched him reach out to push a button on the elevator, but he stopped himself when he realized what button she’d pushed.

“We must be neighbors,” he replied as the elevator doors closed again, “My name’s Shane. Shane Slater.”

“Diane Stevens,” she greeted him with a warm handshake feeling the strength in his touch, “I don’t actually live up there, but my sister does. Her name is Deidra. Deidra Byrne.”

“I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve met her before, but if she’s any bit as beautiful as you are, I’m pretty sure I would remember her face,” he flashed her a sexy grin that made Diane feel a faint flicker of warmth carry over her. Sure, she was off the market, but she would have to be blind not to notice how handsome he was. His brown eyes sparkled with something that told Diane that he was a very confident man--someone who knew just how sexy he was, but he chose to play it low key in situations such as this.

“Thank you,” she smiled back at him before letting out a small laugh, “I’m pretty sure if Deidra met you she would’ve told me since you’re quite the charmer.”

“Only around beautiful women such as yourself,” he noted tipping his head to the side and checking her out, “We need more people like you around this place. I was starting to think that my neighbors were all over the age of sixty and it had me wondering if I’d found my way into a retirement complex instead of a luxury apartment.”

“Tell me about it,” Diane laughed lightly thinking about her stay with her sister, “I went down to the gym in the basement and I was starting to think I was the only one who was up to breaking a sweat down there.”

“I’d break a sweat with you any day,” he mouthed in response sending a tiny jolt of electricity buzzing over her with the seductive tease behind his words. She stood up straighter, her eyes widening at his comment before he explained himself. “I mean if you want to work out, you should give me a call. It would be nice to have someone to go with.”

“I really don’t think I would be able to keep up with you, but it might be fun trying,” she noted in response feeling a flirty hint in her tone that surprised her. She glanced over at him again noticing the lines of his body and just how well he’d fit into his shirt. Closing her eyes for a brief moment she realized that this was obvious a side effect of missing Ben because there was no other reason why she would be checking out some other guy. It was something that wouldn’t even fit into her plans if Ben was with her. Then again if Ben was home she would probably be taking him into this very elevator and seducing him to the point of no return.

“So tell me,” Shane cut through her thoughts bringing her back to the reality of the moment she was in, “Do you stay with your sister often?”

“I’m just visiting because…” her words came to a screeching halt when a loud noise rose overhead. She immediately felt the elevator shake a bit causing her to buckle forward into Shane. She felt his arms curl around her waist to keep her from falling and as she pressed her fingers in against his muscled chest to feel the lines of him beneath her she felt another shake through the elevator car. “What was that?”

“I don’t really know,” he admitted still keeping her in his arms. Before he could say another word there was another sound and the elevator shook again, this time taking out the lights with the movement.

“Oh my God,” Diane cried out now feeling herself surrounded by silence. “We’re going to die in here.”

“No we’re not,” Shane replied feeling her fingers curling tightly in against him.

“This thing is going to fall and I’m going die,” Diane belted out, feeling her fears mounting now that she was trapped in a small place with a stranger in total darkness fearing for her life. She heard another grinding sound above and immediately she released Shane sinking to the floor in the far corner of the elevator while saying a silent prayer that this wasn’t the day that her luck finally ran out and she lost absolutely everything she’d worked for in her life!


...to be continued...