Episode 398

“Cori, hey. Wake up,” Nate softly tapped on Cori’s face trying to get her to wake after she started to slip in his arms after her fall. Shaking her softly he gave up trying to wake her up and picked her up in his arms to the best of his ability. Knowing that she was going to kill him now that he was doing this, but he was going to set her down on the bed in her old room so he could try to get her up. “Cori come on.”

Setting her down on the bed he pushed back her long blonde hair before running his fingertips in over the side of her face soothingly trying to get her to wake up.

“I know that I would pass out if I were you too. Finding out that I was pregnant even though I really don’t think that’s possible because I’m a man, but what a way to get out of this place. Finding out the biggest jerk in the world is the reason you’re in this problem,” Nate got to his knees moving in closer to her while he rested on the blood. Running his fingers through her hair he reached his other hand out to hers trying to get her to squeeze his fingers in some type of response. “Come on Cori, talk to me. Open those big brown eyes and look at me.”

Feeling her fingers softly squeeze his in a small motion he smiled knowing that she was alright as her other hand pressed up over his hand that was in over her cheek. Moving in closer to her he felt her move against him and turn toward him opening her eyes to meet his.

“How you feeling? You okay?" Nate questioned feeling her let go of his hand reaching out to caress his rough cheek softly before smiling and closing her eyes. “Cori, you got me worried. You can't go passing out into my arms. I know I’m hot, but I didn’t think it would make you pass out being around me.”

“Oh, you idiot,” she tiredly laughed hitting him in the center of the chest with her palm softly seeing him fall to his butt with a small thud. Turning on her back she ran her fingers in over her head and then realized where she was once her eyes met the white walls. Sitting up quickly she gasped out and looked around the room letting out a nervous breath as Nate got up. “Why am I in here?"

“Hold on, hold on,” he tried hushing her getting on the bed next to her seeing her freaking out still and he reached out to cup her face in his hands to softly turn her head and show her the door was open. “You’re still out, but when you passed out I had to take you to somewhere comfortable where I could try and wake you up. Somehow I don’t think throwing you down the stairs would be a very safe call.”

“So I didn’t dream all that? I’m really getting out of here,” she reached out to wrap her arms around his neck feeling him hugging her in his arms tightly. Laughing out she felt overjoyed she hated this place and knew that she didn’t belong here in the first place. “That means that everything I remember is really. Including…oh no…,”

“Oh no you don’t. Don’t you dare go falling on me again,” Nate kept a firm hold of her with his right arm before reaching up with his left hand to press his palm in over her warm skin. “Hey, yeah what you remember is true, but don’t let this bother you.”

“Oh yeah, that’s real easy to say for you,” she pushed away from him moving over toward the bed and dropping down. Running her fingers in through her hair angrily she shook her head over and over. “You aren’t the one pregnant with Diego’s baby after you just shot him in the ass.”

“Thank god I’m not,” he blurted out seeing her glare up at him making him throw his hands up in the air and shake his head. “You’re right, I don’t know where you are coming from, but I do know you are my friend and to have you get upset over something like this is the last thing I want. Diego and you are the past, I know that and you are upset about things, but if you really need him here I can get him back here for you in an instant and then there is nothing to really worry about.”

“No, I don’t want him back. I don’t think I can handle seeing him and telling him this Nate. It was a one time thing--one that should have never happened and oh god--I can’t believe this is happening,” she moved up from the bed pacing back and forth hearing him trying to follow her and get her to calm down. “This is horrible, worse than horrible. I can’t believe this, what am I going to do?"

“If you don’t want him back, then…,” Nate thought for a moment getting annoyed with having her pacing back and forth between the room as he reached out to grab her in his arms. Turning her to face him he cupped her face in his hands before shrugging and gulping down. “Then I’ll be the father of the baby. I’ll tell everyone that I’m the father and that way you don’t have to deal with facing him again. I know he picked up and left you all alone and I think that’s totally wrong, but if you need someone--I’ll say I’m the father of the baby. I swear if you need me, I’ll always be right here.”

“You can’t be serious,” Cori muttered seeing the look in Nate’s green eyes as she pressed her hands in over his seeing the way he frowned making her let out a small laugh. “You really are serious about this one aren’t you?"

“Why wouldn’t I be serious Cori? Everyone has quit on you in your life and you yourself told me that you wanted someone to be there for you and to understand. Let me understand and be a friend for you,” Nate tried to explain to her seeing the confusion that pressed in over her features as he nodded slowly. “Cori, I just want to protect you, you’re my friend and if you want nothing to do with Diego I can be the father. That is if you are okay with it, but I know that being a single mom isn’t the best thing in the world and I could be so much help.”

Not knowing what to say Cori stood before him silent knowing that if the time came and she really started to think about it, she would most likely take a nose dive again. Looking into his green eyes she could see that he was serious and by the way he was talking he seemed sincere.

“I don’t…,” she went to say something before shaking her head slowly still kind of caught up in what he offered up to her as she stood there for a moment knowing he was expecting some kind of answer. Thinking of the only thing that could come to mind she shrugged, biting down on her lower lip trying to give some type of possible answer only to come up short. “I don’t know Nate.”


“You know Mindy, since you are about to pull my arm out of my socket I would like to know where we are going so I can come find you and my arm,” Jason muttered out loud seeing the way she looked back at him and laughed making him let out a small groan. “Mindy seriously, any harder and you’re going to pull it right off. Where are we going and maybe if you want holding my hand could work a lot better. I’ll follow you anywhere you go.”

“I’m sorry, I was just excited about getting you here,” Mindy slowed down reaching for his fingers and enclosing hers around his moving in beside him now instead of dragging him along. “There is something I think you should get. I really think it would fit your personality well and I think that you would like it.”

“Can I have some type of hint as to what this is because if you are trying to get me to buy a wig or a dress or something like that I’m really not into that kind of thing and…,” Jason came to a slow stop as he saw her looking out at the store and he looked up at the sign to see what it was. “Uh, why did we stop here?"

“Let’s go in,” Mindy tugged on his hand leading him into the dark inside of the building pushing the beads out of the doorway only to hear Jason let out a groan when the beads came back and hit him in the face. “My bad.”

“Your bad is right, it stinks in here,” he pulled his hand away from hers to wave it in front of his nose, scrunching his face up from the smell that hit his nostrils once they entered. “Oh man, why this place of all places.”

“I heard it’s the best piercing and tattoo parlor around Coral Valley,” Mindy informed him seeing the confusion over his light blue eyes as she laughed and turned to look over the designs on the wall. Hearing Jason let out a wince she turned to see him watching him stare at a person getting a tattoo done and obviously felt the pain for them. “You want one of those? You might look hot with one.”

“Me? Yeah right. One, I’m white as can be and having a tattoo would not fit at all with my skin complexion and second of all--I’m too much of a chicken shit to get one of those,” he blurted out feeling her nudge him in his ribs and he let out a hesitant laugh wondering if this is what she brought him here for. “You really expect me to get a tattoo?"

“Hey, I know some really hot guys with some cool tattoos. You know Kevin the big guy has a lot of tattoos that I think are great. If you know Kellen, he has some really cool ones and Nate. Nate has some really cool ones that he let me look at the other day,” she explained seeing Jason watching her with a blank stare that made her let out a small laugh. “You know Kyle has one that’s really small on his wrist. You can always get a small one.”

“You know, all the guys you just named off there are like all crazy from what I remember so right there it explains it. I’m a freaking baby,” Jason explained with a small laugh and wrapped his arm around her watching the person in pain while he was getting the tattoo done. “These things are permanent Mindy. I don’t want to walk around when I’m older with multiple sags having some of these disgusting tattoos.”

“Hey, that’s your choice even though I really didn’t bring you here to get you to get a tattoo,” she explained turning to look at him seeing the way he smirked and folded his muscular arms in front of his chest. Looking him over she reached out for his right earlobe seeing him staring out at her with a frown. “I think you should get your ear pierced. Maybe a faux diamond studded earring. What do you think?"

“I think you have to be kidding me,” Jason laughed deeply seeing the look that developed over her blue eyes as he continued to laugh and then got choked up on the look she gave him. “You’re not kidding? Are you?"

“No, I’m not. I brought you here because I’m going to pay for you to get your ear pierced,” she informed him seeing him laugh again and she shook her head slowly before smiling and nodding. “You will look good with the earring. I promise.”

“You really want me to do this?" Jason stared out at Mindy knowing that if this was one thing she really wanted him to do, he would do it just for her because this is what she wanted. It wasn’t something he ever thought about getting, but if she really wanted him to get it--he would. Looking her over he saw her nod excitedly and he rubbed his fingers in over his eyes not believing that he was actually going to go through with this. “If you want me to do this, I’ll do it. You owe me though Mindy.”

“Okay, I owe you,” she giggled moving forward to wrap her arms around him tightly hearing him let out a worried sigh and she rubbed her hand in over the center of his chest. “Really, it’s going to be okay. You are hardly going to feel anything.”


“Excuse me,” Sarah blinked back at the man standing in front of her. She gave him a long once over realizing how at home he appeared to be standing inside Diego’s house and glaring at her. His dark eyes met hers with amusement. She frowned, taking in the sleek lines of his tight fitting black t-shirt that topped off a pair of loose fitting jeans leading down to his bright white socks. Even though he was dressed, he had a casual appearance to him--one that made Sarah wonder just who he was and why he was annoying her so profusely.

“You heard me,” he laughed lightly leaning in against the side of the door and folding his arms in front of his chest. “I heard all about you.”

“And just who the hell are you?” she glared over at him before letting out a long huff. Stepping forward she opted to bypass him and his answer while making her way into the foyer in search of Diego. “Diego where are you? Diego?”

“You’re wasting your time,” he mouthed in response seeing her searching through the half empty living room. “He’s gone.”

“Where did he go?” Sarah spun around to face him with venom behind her dark eyes. “Where is he?”

“I told you he’s gone,” the man shrugged his shoulders before crossing the room and reaching for a discarded bag of combos he’d been munching on her earlier. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have a game I was watching and…”

“What?” Sarah blinked back at him with a glare. She glanced over at the television set and spotted a football game on the television. Shaking her head she met his eyes again. “Just tell me where Diego is and then you can get back to your stupid game.”

“Diego is gone,” he explained with a shrug dropping down onto the couch again and reaching for the remote. “I don’t know how to make that any more obvious to you. He’s gone and he isn’t coming back.”

“What do you mean he isn’t coming back?” Sarah questioned wearily, her eyes fixed on this stranger in front of her watching him prop his feet up on the coffee table in front of the couch.

“He left town and he told me if you decided to stop by that you can go to hell,” he explained with a bright smile tipping his head to the side to look at her one last time. He chuckled then redirected his attention to the football game. “I can see why he felt that way.”

“Why should I believe you?” she challenged marching forward and standing directly in front of the television. “I don’t have the first clue who you are, so you could be some lunatic that came in here and did something to Diego.”

“Anything that I could do to him pales in comparison to how you ruined his life,” he added with a frown reaching to the volume button on the remote in the hopes that he could listen to the game if not see it thanks to her blocking the television set.

“I didn’t ruin his life. I love him,” Sarah blurted out surprising herself with that statement.

“You have a hell of a way of showing it,” he rolled his eyes back at her, “but for what it’s worth Diego doesn’t want to be found. He left town and he’s not coming back. If you’re smart, then you’ll leave him be so that he can actually enjoy life again.”

“And why should I believe you?” Sarah repeated herself stomping her foot on the ground.

“I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not,” he stated plainly, his brown eyes shooting daggers up at her. “All I care about is seeing the rest of the game.”

“Diego didn’t put his house up for sale, so there is no way that you could’ve moved in already,” she took a long look around at what was still inside the house. “Besides this belongs to Diego. This is his stuff.”

“No kidding,” he frowned tossing the remote aside on the couch before standing up. He took a step towards her knowing full well that she wasn’t about to leave. Finally he sighed and spoke up again, “Look I’m renting the place from him, so I’m pretty sure he won’t be returning any time soon.”

“So why would he leave you everything? I don’t buy for a second that you’re renting his house. What did you do to him?” Sarah challenged wearily.

“For the last time,” he started ready to blow up at her before he paused. Another thought occurred to him before he spoke up again. “Look he’s my uncle alright. I’m his nephew Sal. He called me when he was thinking about moving and since I’ve got a few things going on here with school, I figured that I may as well take over the place while he’s gone.”

“School?” she arched a speculative brow.

“Yeah that’s right. I’m going to graduate school at the university. Not that it’s any of your business,” he wrinkled his nose at her before motioning to the door. “Now if you could get going…”

“I still don’t believe you,” Sarah huffed curling her fingers into fists at her sides. “I want to see Diego.”

“It’s not going to happen,” Sal repeated moving over to open the front door once again. “He doesn’t want to speak with you or see you after all you’ve done.”

“This isn’t over,” she warned him sharply while reluctantly making her way to the front door. Satisfied that Diego wasn’t home right now, she decided to leave and regroup. “I will be back.”

“Now why doesn’t that surprise me?” he mouthed with a thick air of sarcasm watching her step onto the porch. “Diego told me you’d be a pain in the ass.”

“You haven’t seen the half of it if I find out that you did something to hurt him,” Sarah warned waving her hand around in the air at him.

“I’m terrified,” he feigned worry before closing the door in her face and knowing full well that this was undoubtedly the first of many unsavory encounters he would have with the woman that broke his Uncle Diego’s heart. Still for what it was worth Sal couldn’t help but find himself a small bit amused. Of course rather than focusing on his first impression of Sarah, he returned to the football game ready to absorb himself in what was taking place on screen.


“Who could have done this?” Ria questioned looking to the fragmented headlight on the ground right in front of her on the lawn. Kevin and Brant were still reeling from the realization that Angela was nowhere to be found in the guest house and now as the trio stood in front of Kevin’s vandalized car, she couldn’t help but worry about the man she loved.

“I don’t know, but this isn’t good,” Brant added thinking about how he’d searched through his place as well hoping to find Angela. He looked to the front of Kevin’s car where Kevin knelt before it holding up the barely hanging on bumper.

“I’m going to kill him,” Kevin’s jaw tightened as his bumper finally lost the final moment of strength it had in holding onto his car. It fell to the ground in a thud and Kevin stood up, his jaw flexing with anger. “This had to be Cameron. He must’ve done this.”

“Cameron,” Ria repeated with wide eyes. “How could Cameron do this? I thought that security around here was pretty tight.”

“It is,” Brant shook his head readily feeling his pulse pounding in his chest at the thought that Cameron had managed to break into the estate and pull Angela away from the house. “Maybe you’re right Kevin. Maybe he did this.”

“Though why would he do this? If he has Angela, wouldn’t it upset her for him to destroy your car like this,” Ria noted seeing the car in shambles in front of her.

“Not if he had someone do it after they left,” Kevin scowled tipping his head up to look over at Ria and Brant. “My guess is he came in here, sweet talked Angela into going with him and then made sure that he left a message for us. He wanted us to know that he one upped us.”

“I saw him the other day and he was arrogant as hell when he saw Angela and I together,” Brant added thinking about his confrontation with Cameron. “He said that he would see to it that she didn’t stay with me, but I never thought that…”

“Cameron doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants. He’s like Cyrus in that department, which means you and I need to get over there and have a few words with him. If Angie is there, then we’re bringing her back home,” Kevin announced boldly, his eyes narrowing with rage. “And while we’re there I think I’m going to have to leave a message for Cameron about screwing with my car.”

“I can call someone to fix that later, but right now I think we should get to Angela,” Brant added thinking about the woman he loved. “There is not telling what he’s doing to poison her mind right now.”

“Knowing Cameron it can’t be good,” Kevin added finally focusing on anything other than his destroyed car.

“No it’s not especially considering that he’s the reason we’re in this mess in the first place,” Brant reminded everyone thinking about how Angela’s accident happened after Cameron spread his lies to her. “We have to get her away from him before he does something else to hurt her whether or not it’s intentional. He hates me so much that he would be willing to do anything to keep her from being with me.”

“I don’t give a damn what he’s going to try. Someone is going down for this,” Kevin announced with a newfound determination ready to give Cameron a piece of his mind and a then some for the mess that he’d made of his car. He wasn’t quite sure what prompted the attack, but one thing was for certain. Kevin would get his retribution in the process of bringing Angela back to where she belonged with Brant.


“You’re right,” Shane whispered as he and Diane entered Leveski’s gym with one another only to see the slew of people around them spending their time on the various workout machines in the hopes of bringing about desirable workout results, “this is beyond an upgrade from what’s in the basement where I live.”

“Of course it is,” Diane glanced over her shoulder at him suddenly aware of the closeness between them. While they’d opted to go out to breakfast with one another, at the last second they both had opted to bypass a meal with one another in the name of keeping on track with their workout regiment. At least that was the excuse that Diane had offered up once she’d found herself contemplating what she would wear with breakfast with Shane. Sure, she’d told herself that it was just two friends together, but the more she thought about having a quiet, intimate meal with him, the more she realized it probably wasn’t the right moment to take the risk. Working out seemed so much easier.

“So where do we start?” Shane wiggled his brow suggestively as he stepped up beside her, “Cardio or weight training?”

“Truth be told they have this great kickboxing class that starts in half an hour that…” Diane stopped herself as she imagined the thought of seeing Shane in action. It might be a great way for her to let out stress, yet the idea of being near him and watching him in the mirrors had her thinking less about working out and more about stealing another look at his form when…

“Diane,” Shane touched her shoulder drawing her back from her wayward thoughts. He tipped his head to the side as he instinctively reached out to brush his fingers against her cheek, “Are you alright? You look a bit flushed.”

“I’m fine,” Diane answered uneasily while her eyes surveyed the gym. “In fact I was just planning what kind of torture I would like to inflict on you first.”

“Given who you are, I would imagine any brand of torture you would have for me would be exquisite,” Shane’s accent hinted at flirty undertones that Diane found to ignore. “Just lead the way and I’m yours.”

“Well, um I think that…” Diane bit down on her lower lip nervously before pointing to the tread mill section of the gym. “That’s a good start.”

“Anything, but that,” Shane couldn’t help but curl his lip in protest. “I’ve never been one for those things as they are far too tedious a beginning and…”

“And what? Are you saying you’re above a good morning run?” Diane eyed him curiously. She gave him a long once over, taking quick note of his lean, muscular form as she found herself contemplating just how he kept in such great shape.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t above a jog, but truth be told I prefer to be down by the lake just before dawn when the world is still asleep and the cool, crisp air is my guide leading me on in my own quite moments of contemplation,” Shane divulged as he leaned in closer to her. “It’s breathtaking when the sun starts to bring light to the rest of the world and it reminds me why life’s worth living.”

“I see,” Diane replied shifting on her feet nervously all over again, “as tempting as that sounds, this is a pretty close second.”

“A sweaty, cramped gym on a treadmill is far from a close second, but for what it’s worth, I’ll play by your rules today,” Shane decided with a hint of laughter in his tone, “but tomorrow morning when I pick you up for breakfast and a jog around the lake all bets are off.”

“I never agreed to a jog around the lake,” Diane reminded him simply.

“Maybe not, but I’m still going to hold you to breakfast since we agreed to it already,” Shane informed her with a sexy wink.

“Fair enough, but for now let’s get you into the workout theme even if you think what we’re doing is mundane,” Diane curled her finger for him to follow her over to two newly vacated machines.

“Nothing about being with you is mundane,” Shane informed her as he stepped onto the machine beside her. He reached forward to push a few buttons to start up the machine before glancing over at her, “I just won’t confess to being my favorite idea of how I would prefer to be spending time engaged in a physical activity with you. I could think of other strenuous, yet enthralling things for us.”

“I’m sure you could,” Diane shook her head and groaned as she pushed the buttons on the machine she was on. She started off slowly enough to move at a moderate pace. She could feel her pulse picking up as she glanced over at Shane. He seemed to be grudgingly giving his attention to the task at hand, but she was certain he was bored. Still she felt it was the safest route for them. Leaning forward she pushed another button and sped up the machine a bit.

“Ah, so you want to make things interesting now huh?” Shane wiggled his brow suggestively as he realized Diane was looking at him in the mirror in front of them. He sped up his machine as well and smiled at her. “Game on.”

“It’s no game. I was just seeing if you really were as lazy as you seemed earlier,” she teased accelerating a bit as she felt her muscles warming up at the movement.

“I’m not lazy, just more into details than the generic,” he matched her pace and then doubled it as he began to move fluidly on the machine beside her.

“So you say,” Diane accelerated further feeling her pulse starting to race faster than before.

“Trust me I pride myself on creativity even in things as simple as working out. Running by the lake is just one example of it,” Shane explained in a labored breath pushing the button on the machine again.

“Yeah, well I can be creative too. I just happen to like it here,” Diane explained wrinkling her nose as she reached for the button in front of her again.

“I can’t say I blame you, but nothing beats the outdoors,” Shane added speeding up as well. He began to sweat a bit and Diane could see he was focusing less on their conversation and more on the workout.

“When you’re crunched for time this is a great alternative,” Diane sped up knowing only too well that there would be no way that she and Shane would be able to match one another as they quickened the pace, but then again she had some pretty mad skills on the treadmill, where as Shane seemed inexperienced. As she started moving at a swift pace, her dark eyes drifted to the mirror again. First she focused on her reflection, but then she found herself eyeing a now somewhat out of breath Shane.

“You sure you can keep up?” Diane couldn’t help but tease opting to show off a bit more as Shane seemed to be struggling.

“I can match you and then some,” Shane explained in between small breaths.

“Then why do you look like you’re about to fall over?” Diane chuckled amused by his attempts at looking macho.

“Maybe I’m just letting you believe that I’m falling behind when in actuality I plan on proving just how much more stamina I have,” Shane threw out at her with a hint of mischief in his tone.

“Spoken like a true man,” Diane groaned outwardly, “What is it with you all and this obsessive macho need to boast about your stamina?”

“You’re the one who challenged it,” Shane reminded her with a small breath.

“I was merely trying to push your limits and see if,” Diane began to explain as she attempted to focus on her own workout a bit more.

“I could keep up? Or perhaps you were looking to break me,” Shane glanced over at her once again. “Tell me something Diane do you always try to take the reigns in all of your relationships?”

“I’m not taking the reigns. I’m just seeing what you’re made of,” Diane informed him with a small laugh watching him raise his shirt up a bit over his abdomen to wipe at his brow. In that moment she found herself distracted and before she could focus on her workout, she felt her feet slip out from beneath her and she fell face forward onto the treadmill.

“Diane!” she heard Shane gasp as she smacked the ground harder than she’d anticipated. A moment later she felt his hand on her shoulder as he reached out to her, “Diane, are you okay?”

“Do I look ok?” Diane questioned tipping her head up as Shane reached out to her, turning her in his arms.

“Truthfully, not even close,” Shane confessed bending down to pull her up off of the floor.

“I’m fine,” she groaned looking to the mirror in front of her when she first spotted the gash on her forehead. There was blood tapering down her left cheek and in that instant she felt woozy.

“Diane,” Shane spoke her name as she collapsed further into his arms. Her head dropped to his chest and he looked around the gym. Realizing that she must’ve done a number on herself, he motioned for one of the workers at the gym who had seen her fall to get a first aid kit. The trainer readily agreed and pointed in another direction. Shane nodded and carried her to one of the back rooms at the gym and set her down carefully on a bench. Moving in beside her he touched her cheek gently hoping to coax her to consciousness.

“Diane,” he whispered her name as her eyelashes fluttered open and he saw her staring up at him with a hazy expression, “can you hear me?”

“Shane?” she spoke his name shakily as the trainer returned with the first aid kit.

“At least I know you didn’t do anything to sour your memory,” Shane couldn’t help but laugh as he reached for the kit.

“Are you alright Miss?” the trainer asked worriedly. “That was nasty spill you took out there.”

“I wasn’t paying attention,” Diane explained behind glossy eyes. “I was going too fast and…”

“And it happens to the best of us,” Shane began to open the first aid kit.

“I can call an ambulance if we need to,” the trainer offered up in a sympathetic tone.

“I’ve got it taken care of,” Shane waved his hand dismissively. “Just get me some ice for her and then we should be all set.”

“Ok,” the trainer nodded going to retrieve the ice for Diane.

“I feel like an idiot,” Diane groaned as Shane reached for a small bottle inside of the kit. He began to pour some of it onto a cotton cloth and within a matter of seconds Diane felt a sharp sting when he carefully wiped it over her head. “Damn! That hurts.”

“It won’t hurt long,” he promised her as he slowly moved the cloth around on her head, “I’m just cleaning it out so that I can see what kind of damage we have here.”

“Something tells me that I won’t be doing any face modeling anytime soon,” Diane groaned outwardly. She closed her eyes and sighed as she fought to ignore the pain that carried over her.

“It’s not so bad,” Shane assured her as he withdrew the cloth from her face. “In fact it looked worse than it was before we cleaned it up. It’s just bleeding more because of it being a head wound and…”

“Let me see,” Diane shot up from her back to a seated position. She felt a dizziness carry over her as her eyes strained to stay focused.

“You know maybe you should just take it easy,” Shane’s lip curled into a frown. “You went down pretty fast and…”

“I lacked any kind of finesse in the fall, didn’t I?” Diane felt her face grow hot with embarrassment.

“In terms of finesse, you nailed the fall beautifully. It was very graceful for a fall that is,” he winked at her all the while causing another kind of heat to vibrate through her.

“Stop making fun of me,” she couldn’t help but smile.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it considering how beautiful you look even if you’re all wounded. I mean I know you were hoping to find a reason to wind up in my arms, but I could’ve thought of easier ways to make it happen considering that…” he continued to egg her on.

“Don’t flatter yourself Shane,” she laughed lightly feeling an ache carry over her. “Ouch.”

“You know maybe we should head on over to the hospital just in case,” Shane noted with a small frown. “The way I see it we should be careful about this considering that…”

“That what? You take me out for a workout and I end up in the emergency room?” she wrinkled her nose at him. “I think I’ll pass. Besides my sister is a doctor. She can take care of me.”

“She’s not here right now, is she?” Shane challenged eyeing her closely.

“Well no, but you said that the cut isn’t that bad,” she finally forced herself to look at her reflection. “It’s actually not bad at all.”

“No, it’s not, but what we aren’t seeing might be something to worry about,” Shane added as he gave her a long once over.

“I’m sure that everything will be okay,” she dismissed his concerns, “Although I could use a drink right about now. Maybe if you’re feeling sorry enough for me you could buy me a smoothie.”

“I would be more than happy to do so as long as you let me take you to your sister at least to get you checked out,” Shane threw back at her with a pointed expression. “What do you say?”

“You aren’t going to let this go, are you?” she glanced up at him once again.

“Nah, I’m pretty stubborn when it gets to the important things,” he informed her with a cocky smirk.

“Yeah, well so am I Shane,” she added puffing out her chest. “How about we compromise? You buy me the smoothie and if after I start acting crazy, then you can take me to the hospital where my sister works? But if not, then we just leave it at that?”

“I’m not really sure I like that arrangement, but it’s a start,” Shane decided as he held his hand out to her, “Just don’t go changing the rules on me Diane.”

“Now why would I do a silly thing like that?” she smiled up at him knowing that from the moment he entered her life all the rules of her world were changing even if she wasn’t ready for them. There was something about Shane Slater that she wanted to ignore, yet the more time she spent with him, the more she felt herself drawn into it. Of course it had to be because Ben was gone. She was lonely and looking for a friend. There couldn’t be any other reason than that. That’s all it was.


“Is this what you do when you are on a case?" Alexa saw Ben look over at her as she threw her head back against the seat and let out an aggravated sigh. She hated just sitting back and waiting, she liked to get a head start on the case, walk around and find something. Running her fingers through her dark hair she let out a disgusted noise before turning to him again. “You are really boring, you know that?"

“Well thanks for the information, but for me I think you are too risky. I’d like to get this case over with, not get killed trying to get you out of trouble,” Ben snipped in response turning to look into her blue eyes before shrugging his shoulders and let out a long sigh himself. “I know it’s boring, but sometimes instead of chasing the problem, it’s a whole lot easier when the problem comes to you. Which I doubt you think happens, but it always does. You just need to be patient.”

“Patient and me don’t mix,” she pointed out with a small nod seeing him laugh in agreement resting his head back and closing his eyes. “You should know me enough to know that I don’t do good waiting for things to happen. I’ve never had patience and…”

“It was the one thing that gave me trouble in tolerating you,” he blurted out giving her a glance before shaking his head trying to get the never ending headache away since he found her. He loved having her as a friend, but sometimes she needed to learn when to give it up and shut up. “Really, you just need to chill out sometimes and maybe you will notice things come easier that way. I know it seems like the more demanding people get things done faster, but not necessarily easier.”

“But do you notice that the evil people always get further in life and constantly get the greater things?" she pointed out catching the glance he gave her before shaking his head slowly and turning his head back toward the building. “It’s true. If you look at past history in anything, the evil people always get further in life and get the good guy or girl. It’s been a known fact.”

“It’s more of a perception than a fact. Good people get good things, it’s just the bad people you are hearing about. They get more spotlight so in that degree yeah, I guess I agree with you,” Ben blurted out before resting his head forward against the steering wheel and he shrugged his shoulders. “As for me, I’d like to think I was a good guy and I think I have a pretty decent life. So I’m one of those people that kind of changes the whole aspect of that.”

“Are you sure about that though? I’ve heard a lot of things about your past and…,” she went to say something more only to have his blue eyes glare over at her and she laughed. For so many years she had gotten used to that look and couldn’t help, but laugh every time she saw it. “I just know that news spreads fast and sure sometimes it gets broken up along the way, but I don’t think it got that broken up.”

“Yeah, I didn’t have such a great start thanks for throwing that little bit in there, but I do know that if you wait and do things right you get the goods in the ending,” Ben pointed out knowing that she was talking about what happened with Diane and JT way back in the day making him shake his head slowly. He knew that things seemed rocky for a very long time, but now that him and Diane were with one another and they really loved each other more than ever--nothing could go wrong. “I know that it seems out there, but I really think one must go through the pain before they get the goods and the release they need to be happy. I’ve been through mine and now have the life I’ve always wanted. What can you say about yourself.”

“Oh, well that was a burn if I’ve ever heard one. Sorry I offended you, but from what it sounded like that woman that you have by your side never deserved you,” she pointed out simply seeing him roll his eyes and slide his hands in over the steering wheel while looking out at the building. “I know if someone did those kind of things to me I would probably kick them in the nuts and then turn my heel over and over.”

“Well, Diane doesn’t have those so it’s kind of impossible for me to do that,” he grumbled before shaking his head slowly seeing something that didn’t seem right as he saw someone in a long trench coat walking into the building. Sitting up more in his seat he let out a small noise and pointed. “That doesn’t look right to me. What do you think.”

“I think you’re blind,” she muttered with a small sigh before pressing her hand in over his chest to lean over him to look at the person walking into building. Knowing what she said just ticked him off, she decided to get out of the car to build up the fire. “Come on, get over it and lets do this.”

“But you don’t,” he went to say something to stop her only to see her run across the street and reaching for his gun he clipped it to his belt and ran after her once getting out of the car. Catching up with her he pressed up against the building knowing that it could be someone dangerous. “You just don’t run off on your partner like that.”

“Oops, not used to partners,” she shrugged it off before moving forward and pushing open the door. Looking around she moved back toward him for a second. “I guess you are just going to have to keep up.”

“Alexa are you insane,” Ben followed her in ready to tear her apart moving into something like this hating the almighty hero act she had going on right now. “You can’t keep doing things like this. You don’t know what is behind every door and jumping in like this before knowing what’s going is such a stupid act. You know that?"

“Stop being such a pain in the ass Ben as you can see clearly nothing is going on. Not at…,” just as she was about to finish her sentence the sound of the door slamming shut silenced her as the light for the room disappeared. Hearing Ben let out a groan she tried moving towards the sound of him. “All.”

“At all, look at what you got us into,” Ben blurted out pushing at the door over and over again only to come to the conclusion that they were stuck and locked in. “Great, I’m locked in here with you. Do you even realize what you do sometimes? You do before you think, are you incapable of just thinking for once? Huh?"

“Hey, I didn’t know we would get locked in here and if you were so worried why did you follow me in? If you would have stayed out there we wouldn’t be in this position now would we?" she tried to determine his face features behind the darkness as she shook her head slowly. “I guess the first thing we should try doing is finding a way out of here huh?"

“Yeah, that would be a good idea,” Ben snipped in return tugging on the door over and over again trying to get it to loosen up before turning to her again. “We need some light and we need to get out of here before something worse happens and you get us in even more trouble.”


“Looking at that guy getting the tattoo is making me think this over Mindy, I know you would really like me to get this, but me and very sharp things don’t mix,” Jason whined now that they were sitting waiting to get helped as he never took his eyes off the person getting the tattoo. The pain the person was going through looked terrible and it was obvious that the person wanted this horribly, but the pain was even worse. “Seriously Mindy, I’m starting to just think maybe some fake tattoos that go on with water is fine for me. Forget the earrings and tattoos. I’m gone.”

“No, you’re not,” she reached for his hand pulling him back into his seat as she kept a firm hold of his fingers trying to make sure that he stayed in place now that they had been noticed. “You already promised me Jason Sherman and you can’t let me down now. What kind of friend would you be if you did that?"

“I don’t know, one that wants to keep his body perfectly the way it is now,” he suggested before seeing a bald, extremely skinny man with dozens of tattoos motioning for them to come over. Letting out a hesitant laugh he looked to Mindy as she stood up and he was so not ready for this. Not now, not ever. This was not something he wanted to do and she knew it. “I know most guys my size probably don’t say this, but can you…,”

“Be gentle? Everyone says that,” the man motioned to Jason to sit down as Jason took a seat in the leather chair looking back at Mindy as she stood before him with a huge smirk on her face. There was no way he could watch her while this was happening. He felt like he was going to cry if she continued. He was ready to get out of this chair and run. Never in his life had he openly turned himself toward needles. They scared the shit out of him. “So what are we doing today?"

“Well I tried getting him to get a tattoo, but he rejected,” Mindy moved forward seeing Jason’s blue eyes staring up at her before quickly looking away as she reached for his earlobe. “I think he wants the right ear pierced and wants one of the stud earrings.”

“That’s all? And you are freaking out why?" the man muttered before pulling up his stool and getting the tools together slowly watching Jason turn paler by the second. “You know little girls get their ears pierced at a very young age and it doesn’t bother them one bit, right?"

“Well I guess they are a shit load braver than I am because this scares the shit out of me,” Jason stated firmly before laughing and shaking his head over and over. “I really didn’t want to do this, but to make her happy I had to.”

“It’s really not that bad, if you want me to I can have her smack you in that side of the head the hardest she can because that actually really works in numbing someone’s skin. Actually if you want a nipple piercing that’s the best way to get the body’s natural pain to rise and actually have it numb when it’s pierced,” the man offered up hearing the nervous laugh Jason offered up before shaking his head over and over. “I take that as a no.”

“I’m good with the earring, right ear and I’m done,” Jason threw his hands up in the air seeing him pulling on the latex gloves before him and he shot Mindy a glance knowing that she was enjoying this. “You really think it’s necessary to change who I am?"

“I just want to give you something you can think of me over,” Mindy answered seeing the guy starting to put the alcohol over Jason’s earlobe as she moved to the other side of him and reached for his hand. “You should probably look at me though because you really don’t want to see this.”

“Why not? Is it big?" Jason didn’t even want to look as he felt a sudden piercing pain as he bit down on his bottom lip as hard as possible wondering if he possibly broke the skin when he really wanted to scream out at the pain. Gripping roughly on her hand he could see the worry behind her eyes as he felt the guy pushing at the hole that was now in his ear and he didn’t even want to look. “I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?" she looked over to see that Jason had bled quite a bit from getting the size of the stud they picked out and letting out a small noise she watched him look up at her with his blue eyes as the guy finished up and pulled off the gloves. “You are okay, right?"

“Yeah I am,” he turned to the mirror to see the earring and hopefully it didn’t look that horrible. Noticing the blood that was pressing in over his shirt he let out a hesitant laugh before pressing his fingers against the blood. “Oh hey, look. I bled.”

“Jason,” she saw him look at the blood only to pass out right before her as she covered her mouth hearing the artist start to chuckle when she stared out at him and he nodded slowly. “Yeah, he is the biggest wimp I’ve had in here.”

“He’s gay,” she muttered seeing him nod before shrugging his shoulders and taking a cloth to wipe off the blood and motioned her to take a seat. “I guess I should just wait for him to wake up.”

“Come and get me when he does, until then I guess just take it easy and let me know if you want anything. I know he doesn’t want to go through anymore of the torture,” the man moved back reaching for something from the wall before pointing back to her. “I’m Dig so when you need me just ask for me.”

“Dig, I dig it,” she teased seeing him just simply walk away as she laughed staring out at Jason seeing that he was still out cold. Reaching out to caress his cheek softly she laughed at how cute he was. It was absolutely adorable that he would have that happen, sure he wouldn’t be happy when he woke up, but right now he was cute. Pushing back his dark hair she ran her fingers in over the curve of his jaw before smiling widely. “You’re going to be okay.”


The smoke filled the air creating a cloud of haze around Sarah, but it was irrelevant given her frame of mind. Right now she needed a good stiff drink. If she wouldn’t be able to work her way towards having it at the mansion with Cameron, then she would have to make damn sure she found another alternative. This place was quick, easy and out of the way enough for her to know full well that she wouldn’t have to encounter Cameron or anyone else she knew for that matter. Given that right now the last thing she wanted was a sermon on what was right and wrong, she was hoping that she could lose herself to the moment--to the environment that called to her like a rainy morning, tucked underneath the blankets inside her room. Yes, this was most certainly the place where she was going to drown her sorrows and there wasn’t a damn thing that anyone could do about it.

“What can I get for you?” the bartender questioned spotting her right away amidst the rest of the crowd.

“Anything that will help put a bad day behind you,” she suggested batting her eyelashes at him. While she could see he was obviously interested in her charm, right now she really wasn’t up for flirting so she turned away. All she could think about was that impossible person at Diego’s house--that man who claimed that Diego was leaving and never coming back. It was far beyond what she could comprehend and now…

“Here you are,” the bartender returned with her drink, flashing her a sexy smile that on most occasions might’ve prompted her to react, but tonight she wanted nothing more than to lose herself in the misery that surrounded her. All she wanted to focus on was the mistake she’d made in letting the one man who truly gave up everything for her go.

“Well isn’t this a surprise,” another voice arose from behind her. She tipped her head up while reaching for her glass and lifting it to her lips. Once she took a sip of the hot liquid, she realized that the voice belonged to Douglas Mahoney, who was standing beside her with a smug expression. He had his jacket tucked under his arm momentarily as he slid onto the barstool beside her. “I mean look what the cat dragged in. It’s the one person in this town who is far more hated than I am.”

“Leave me alone,” Sarah groaned inwardly turning her focus to the glass in her hand once again.

“What’s wrong kitten? The rest of the world tell you that they had no purpose for you?” he continued to taunt her, amusement carrying over him. “It’s not typical for you to be all lonesome and miserable. Oh wait, I’m sorry that would’ve been your life six months ago, not these days.”

“Go screw yourself,” Sarah rolled her eyes at him finishing off her glass before tapping her nails on the bar top. “Bartender can you please bring me another?”

“Sure,” the man nodded ready to fill her request as Sarah turned to Douglas.

“Don’t you have someone else to bother tonight?” she scowled over at him. “I’m sure there are plenty of people in here who would be more than thrilled to be bothered by your pompous arrogance.”

“Why would I think of bothering anyone else when it’s clear the person I can annoy the most in here is the woman seated beside me right now,” he slurred, a nefarious grin carrying over him. His dark eyes perused over her for a long moment before his voice rumbled with undertones of laughter. “It would seem that the mighty have fallen since we’ve first met.”

“You don’t know the half of it, but then again people like you truly don’t understand that the world doesn’t revolve around you,” she snubbed her nose at him accepting her new drink when the bartender returned. She caught wind of a couple of people on the dance floor and found herself thinking about what it would’ve been like to be at the bar with Diego rather than sharing her time with someone as awful as Douglas Mahoney.

“Try me,” Douglas suggested setting his coat aside. He reached for the drink that the bartender brought over to him, his dark eyes glowing with obvious interest now that it was clear she was in a funk.

“I wouldn’t try you if you were the last person in the universe. You’re pathetic,” Sarah scoffed in response having had enough of his company. She rose up from the chair she’d been seated in and started to turn away from him.

“Wait a second little girl,” Douglas reached out to her touching her arm firm enough to pull her back towards him. “I’ll admit that you’re not exactly my idea of great company, but at this point what else do you have to lose? I figure if you can’t talk about your problems with your enemy, then what else is left out there?”

“Certainly something better than this,” she paused tipping her head to the side and eyeing him intently. “Why are you suddenly trying to butter me up?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve realized that you collect more flies with honey,” he shrugged his shoulders flashing her a casual smirk. “Besides I still remember the woman I met back in the hospital who told me where I could go after I’d upset her. You had a fire about you back then and I grew to detest you almost immediately.”

“The feeling was mutual,” Sarah mused with a small smirk of her own.

“Then in that we have reason to find some kind of neutral ground with one another,” he suggested pointing to where she’d been seated earlier. “Face it you and I are both outcasts in this town, so you could run away and go sulk in a corner, or you could stick around long enough to share a drink with me. I’ll even treat you.”

“What’s it going to cost me?” Sarah questioned wearily giving him a long once over.

“While it won’t bring your psychiatrist back, I’m sure it’ll help numb the pain,” he offered up once again, his eyes shifting across the room before turning to her again. “It’s your call.”

Sarah stood silent for a long time before finally nodding. She moved forward sliding back onto the stool she’d been seated in earlier. Setting her purse on the bar top she glanced over at him once again with a small smirk, “Fine, but just one drink.”

“Fair enough,” he nodded in agreement signaling for the bartender to bring them another round.


“What makes this so hard to make up your mind on the subject? Honestly it’s just a yes or no. You don’t want to ever face Diego again and I could be there for you. What’s so wrong with that?" Nate whispered seeing the way she looked out at him with her dark eyes and he nodded slowly. “Cori, honestly you have so much to look forward to in life and I could help you out here all I need is a chance. A chance to be that friend I promised for you and a chance to be the friend I know I can be.”

“Is this some kind of sick joke you are playing because I’m not falling for it if it is,” she blurted out seeing his green eyes glare out at her for a moment before he moved over toward the bed to sit down and give her some time to think. “Nate, how are you going to say you are the dad?"

“I can say that the night of the party I was working at you and I got together and it was off and on. Maybe we stayed friends. You were drunk, I was drunk, it was just a friend thing,” he tried to come up with something seeing her eye him over carefully still not sure yet as he let out a long sigh. “Yeah, I know if the baby comes out looking like Diego, I have a lot of explaining to do. It’s just if you look at my father he could match for Diego’s coloring and I look more like my mother. So I can have an answer for everything Cori.”

“Nate this just doesn’t seem right. I hardly even know you and you know that,” she began seeing the way he looked out at her with almost a copout look. “I don’t know what to say Nate, this was thrown on me so quickly and I just don’t know what to tell you. There are so many things coming to mind that I could say, so many things that would work perfectly, but some of them come out so wrong to me. So very wrong.”

“Just say what you want and get a move on with it. I’m sick of just sitting here doing nothing. It’s either a yes or a no. I’m trying to protect you from the future and if you don’t want it just simply say no,” Nate blurted out only to see Dave slowly moving through the hallway noticing them and he held up his hand to wave. “Hey Dave.”

“Hey Nathan, how’s it going?" Dave moved in closer to Cori seeing the way she looked back at him with her dark eyes and he noticed the tension between the two. “You both okay or should I give you some time to talk maybe. I can just wait in the hallway and…,”

“No, I’ll leave now,” she answered without giving Nate an answer knowing it would tick him off, but it wasn’t her fault that she was left like this and thinking things she should never have to deal with. “Thanks for coming for me Dave. I sure do appreciate it big brother.”

“Well no one else was there for you,” Nate pointed out seeing Dave look back at him with his dark eyes and Nate gasped looking at his watch before shrugging his shoulders. “You know Dave, I have to be back at Don’s soon and I need a ride. You think you could help me a bit?"

“No, we have to go home. We have to go home right now. I heard about some party we are supposed to be going to and yeah, we can’t take you home,” Cori answered pressing her hand in over Dave’s chest to try and get him to move back as Dave stared out at her wondering what wrong with her right now. “We have to go come on.”

“Nonsense Cori, come on Nate, we’ll take you home,” Dave motioned him to follow as Nate smiled widely knowing that it was going to piss Cori off, but he needed an answer and if he had to be a tag along, that’s how he was going to make it there. “I have no problems with that at all.”


“I can’t believe that my sister is getting married,” Guy pondered the thought of Avery’s upcoming wedding to Russ, “again.”

“I’ll bet you’re glad that you’ll actually be there this time to take part in it,” Gabe noted as he set down the newspaper that he’d been haphazardly trying to get through until Guy had come around to gush about his sister’s pending nuptials.

“The last time I can’t believe she left me out of the loop,” Guy circled around the sofa to take a seat next to his lover. “I mean I guess I can understand why they rushed off like they did considering that Avery was pregnant and all, but Avery’s really never been one for tradition.”

“Gee, I can’t imagine anyone else being like that,” Gabe couldn’t help but tease as Guy shot him a look. “Hey, I’m just calling it like I see it.”

“Yeah right,” Guy swatted at Gabe’s shoulder gently, “I’m not completely out of line and impulsive all of the time.”

“I didn’t say you were out of line. I just said that you aren’t exactly traditional either,” Gabe clarified with a hint of laughter in his tone. “Face it Guy. You’re one of a kind.”

“And you absolutely love that about me. Admit it,” Guy leaned closer to Gabe. He pressed a small kiss over the side of Gabe’s neck before pulling the newspaper out of his hands and tossing it aside. “Although before you do, why don’t you just push aside those stock quotes and pay more attention to your amazingly impulsive, incredibly wonderful boyfriend.”

“Hmm, is that some kind of hint that I’m neglecting my responsibilities in making you happy?” Gabe questioned shifting on the sofa to face Guy fully, “I have to be honest and say that would be a first since I haven’t heard any complaints before.”

“Well it’s not really so much of a complaint as it is a suggestion,” Guy’s voice tapered off as he placed tentative kisses over Gabe’s skin. He whispered heatedly against Gabe’s earlobe before arching back to smile at his lover, “I mean if you think about it Brittany’s at ballet class and Mindy’s moved in with Trisha, so…”

“So you figured it was just about the right time for you to start misbehaving?” Gabe arched a curious brow as Guy’s face lit up at the suggestion. His blue eyes widened in correlation with the smile that now swept over his handsome features.

“Something like that,” Guy nodded eagerly leaning in for another kiss when there was a sound of knocking at the front door. Groaning, Guy wrapped his arms around Gabe’s shoulders and pulled him in closer for another embrace. “Forget about it.”

“I wish I could, but with Brittany at class,” Gabe couldn’t help but frown as the knocking continued, “well, she was out early last week and if that happened again she could be out there with her friend’s mother and…”

“Say no more,” Guy fell back onto the sofa again with a small sigh, “I suppose I can wait.”

“I promise I’ll make it up to you,” Gabe assured him with a sexy grin of his own, “as you’ve only managed to inspire me in a few new ways that I’m sure you’ll enjoy later.”

“Don’t tease,” Guy shifted on the couch to look over his shoulder at Gabe. He couldn’t help but admire Gabe’s exit to the door as he wondered what sinfully delicious notions were going through his lover’s head at this moment in time.

“Trust me I’ll more than deliver later,” Gabe waved at him with a muted tone before standing straighter. He heard the knocking once more and reached for the door, opening it to discover a messenger on the other side. “Can I help you?”

“Are you Gabriel Teague?” the man questioned as he jotted something down on his clipboard.

“I am,” Gabe nodded watching the man pull out an envelope and hand it to him.

“Here you go then. Have a nice day,” the messenger waved before trotting off down the hallway to the elevators.

“What was that all about?” Guy asked as Gabe pushed the door shut almost immediately.

“It looks like a registered letter, which can only mean one thing,” Gabe felt an uneasiness carry over him.

“Noelle,” Guy frowned thinking about his lover’s ex-wife. “What is she up to now?”

“I don’t know, but given her frame of mind she’s been in, I’m sure it can’t be good,” Gabe tore open the envelope and skimmed over the page. As his eyes took in the information before him, a frown touched over his lips. “She actually is fighting me to give her more money for alimony.”

“What?” Guy’s eyes widened in response. “You’re kidding.”

“I wish I was,” Gabe handed the paper to Guy to look over.

“She just doesn’t know when to quit, does she?” Guy shook his head while feeling his agitation level rising. “You two haven’t been together in a very long time and I thought you’d settled this. Even with her claim on Brittany, there is no judge out there that would give her custody after her blatant neglect over the last year. She hasn’t seen Brittany in months and…”

“And Noelle is undoubtedly working a new angle,” Gabe sighed dropping down to where he was seated once again. “Obviously her main interest is the money and…”

“And I sincerely hope that you’re not thinking about paying it to her,” Guy’s lip curled in a frown, “because the way I see it she doesn’t deserve it.”

“I realize that, but if she has the money, then she’ll quit trying to get in the way of my relationship with my daughter. She’s concerned about her lifestyle and…” Gabe started to rationalize as he thought of his ex-wife’s demands.

“And if you keep paying her what she’s asking for sooner or later it won’t be enough. Eventually she’ll decide that the money won’t satisfy her. She’ll go back to trying to use Brittany as a bargaining chip and it’ll get worse,” Guy reached out to pat Gabe’s leg gently. “Trust me when I tell you that this isn’t the way to go. You can’t give into her demands.”

“I realize that,” Gabe couldn’t help but sigh, “but if I’m going to fight her on this, then there’s something I need to do.”

“Anything I can help with?” Guy asked his brow raising with curiosity.

“This time, I’m afraid not, but my lawyers can,” Gabe decided ready to do whatever was necessary to ensure that he didn’t wind up having to face another brutal attempt at a custody battle with his ex-wife. While she’d still had it out on the table, she’d backed off a bit over the last few weeks. However, now that Noelle was back to making demands again Gabe realized he wasn’t about to take any chances with the one thing that meant the most in this world to him.


“How are we doing?” Russ questioned walking into the dining room area only to discover Avery buried behind a box of invitations that she’d picked up earlier after they’d brought Erin home. He saw her shuffling through them with a sigh before she tipped her head up to meet his concerned eyes.

“Honestly,” Avery shook her head and groaned, “I don’t even know where to start. I know we said that we would go traditional this time--that we would get to doing things the way we didn’t before, but we’re not exactly taking months to plan this.”

“No, we aren’t, but I’m sure that together we can get all of these invitations out and ready for our trip to the island,” Russ circled around the dining room table to join her. He peered down over her shoulder before speaking up again. “I’m sure all of the important people in our lives will be able to join us.”

“I’m just worried that we’ll be missing someone here,” Avery motioned to the quick list she’d jotted down while Russ was putting Erin to bed. “I know we already talked to Kyle and Grady, but we still have your parents and my father and Judy. There’s Guy and Gabe and…”

“I’m sure we’ll fit everyone in,” he mused leaning down near the back of her chair. He inched in closer to press his lips to her neck gently before dropping feathery light kisses over her skin.

“Russ, something tells me that you’re not focusing on our wedding,” she tipped her head back to meet his intense green eyes. “I thought we agreed when we put Erin down that we would finish up with these invitations and get things ready for the wedding. We don’t have a lot of time to get things in order and…”

“Avery, I’ve already been working on it,” he pointed out placing his hands on the arms of the chair she was seated in. Using a small amount of force he turned the chair so that she was facing him before he bent in over her. His lips beckoned hers with another kiss before she pressed her palm into his chest.

“Russ we need to get things in order,” she spoke up in a low, raspy tone laced with seriousness. Her dark eyes continued reminding him that they had work to do.

“I did that at work today,” he curled his lip in a pout. “I called the castle and got things in order and…”

“The castle,” she repeated with wide eyes, “you mean you set that up already?”

“Of course I did,” he grinned proudly moving down to the floor to kneel before her. Reaching out, he started to unbutton her blouse seeing the way her face was scrunched with thought.

“And it worked out okay?” she questioned her thoughts lingering to the impending wedding.

“Perfectly,” he nodded in agreement pushing the material of her blouse away from her soft curves to reveal the beige colored lacy bra she was wearing. “It’s all in order. They are expecting us on the date we asked for and they are more than willing to accommodate us in any way we would like.”

“Really?” she sighed feeling him inch up to place kisses over her neck again. She eased her thighs apart feeling the muscled contours of his body moving in beside her now that he knelt on the floor in front of her. His tongue traced a hot, wet pattern over her shoulder, down to her collar bone, while his hand worked to push her blouse further away from her body. “And you’re sure that they are okay with everything?”

“More than okay,” he nodded feeling her help him ease the blouse from her shoulder and down her arm before he did the same with the other side. He then leaned forward to continue kissing a hot, sensual line over her shoulder. His hand traced up over her ribcage before palming her breast in his hand. “I even went so far as to make our plane reservations as well careful to make sure that all was well for you, Erin and I.”

“No problems there either?” Avery asked turning her attention to the pile of invitations in front of her now that she felt Russ trying to seduce her. His fingers pushed the material of her bra down enough to reveal her to his attentions and she let out a low sigh. “Russ we really need to concentrate on working.”

“I’m concentrating,” he circled his finger over her tense peak feeling her body grow heated against his urgings. Leaning forward he swirled his tongue over her warm flesh feeling her arch up into him.

“This isn’t what we planned on,” she sighed again tipping her head back when she felt his hand dropping down to her waist. His fingers curled over her hip before she felt him unclasping her pants. “We have so many things to do between now and then and…”

“And I think we’ve done incredibly good so far,” Russ continued to peel away her slacks. She raised her hips to accommodate him despite her initial reluctance. He slid back onto the floor taking her clothing with him until he had peeled it from her body. Holding her slacks in his hand, he smiled brightly before tossing them across the floor.

“Russ we really should focus on these,” she motioned to the table again feeling a slight chill in the air now that he’d had her almost completely naked in their dining room area. She watched him move forward in a mock crawl across the floor until he was kneeling before her again.

“Trust me it’s all going to fall into place,” he promised bringing his hand up over her knee. Gently he pushed her thighs apart before leaning forward to place a kiss over her inner thigh. His lips tapered off over her body while he spoke up in a low, rumble of a whisper. “You have to trust me on that.”

“I do trust you Russ,” she mouthed in response feeling him yank her in closer to him, arching her body in towards him. She bit down on her lower lip as he centered in between her thighs ready to serve up the ultimate distraction. She reached out to him threading her fingers through his hair tightly while her breath grew uneven. “Russ…”

“We’ll have everything ready soon enough,” he whispered in an alluring promise his breath causing her to heat up in places she hadn’t thought about before he’d returned to her.

“We’d better,” she mouthed in a low whimper feeling the first taste of seduction sweep over her now that she held onto him. She arched upward giving herself completely to temptation now that the wedding plans became a distant second to what was taking place between them in the here and now. She scratched her nails down his shoulders, closing her eyes and allowing him to take her to the heavens now that it seemed nothing would ever get in the way of their happy reunion with one another.


Brooke looked out the window thinking about the way her life had gone downhill ever since the truth was revealed about her association with Nicholas Ashford. While they had been full partners in their arrangement with one another, he was out living the high life while she was locked up like a caged animal waiting for the time in which she could find her way back to the life that was rightfully hers. What was worse was the way in which she’d had her downfall. She had everything so close within her reach and then…

“You’ll get it back,” she vowed to herself thinking about how long it had been since she’d been able to indulge in the life that had once been hers. She’d had it all, yet it had been ripped away from her by one stupid, foolish moment of fate. Frowning, she heard a sound from the door to her hell. Turning to prepare herself to get rid of her unwelcome company, she opened her mouth to say something when she spotted Travis Callaway standing before her.

“Brooke,” he nodded over at her while moving across the room, “how are you?”

“How do you think I am,” she scoffed in response snarling over at him. She motioned to the wheel chair she was seated in before glaring up at him, “Not only am I trapped in this piece of metal, but I have to be locked up because you imbeciles have yet to get the story right on what really happened with Nicholas.”

“I’m well aware what happened. Your greed took over your common sense and you did a lot of things that undoubtedly could land you in a place like this or far worse for the rest of your life,” he noted moving in closer to her. He took a seat in one of the chairs that was in the cell before his eyes met hers again, “This is far from the life you’d anticipating having when you were younger, wasn’t it Brooke?”

“Go to hell,” she spat at him wheeling her chair closer to the window and looking outside. “I’m the victim in all of this.”

“Somehow I seriously doubt that,” Travis found himself unable to mask his amusement. Still he couldn’t help but attempt to play it cool. “Face it Brooke you’re in here because karma is certainly playing a number on you. You played the game and you got burned for breaking the rules.”

“You know nothing about me,” she snarled over at him again, “Everything I did was for my family--to better them…”

“You were motivated by your greed pure and simple. It was your own need to save your own skin that caused you to act in the ways you did. You hurt a lot of people Brooke, but lucky for you today may be a turning point,” he explained in a business as usual tune seeing her turn around to face him again.

“What the hell does that mean?” she questioned with a huff seeing something building behind his eyes.

“Let’s just say that I’m about to issue you your get out of jail card if and only if you’re ready and willing to play by the rules,” he added seeing interest spark behind her eyes. “It’s up to you.”

“Rules?” she repeated turning her chair to move in closer to him. “What rules?”

“Let’s just say that while I’m sure plenty of people would like to see you locked up for the rest of your life, I have a bigger fish to fry and you’re going to help me do that starting with your telling me exactly where your partner in crime is,” he continued to inform her, “So tell me Brooke where is he? Where’s Nicholas Ashford?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she mouthed in response a tight scowl building over the corners of her lips.

“Then I guess we’re finished here,” he stood up again turning to leave the room. “If you can’t help me, then I can’t help you. I hope that you like this place because it might be somewhere you’ll be for a long time.”

She sat in silence seeing him reach for the door to leave when a panic swept over her. “Wait!”

“Yes?” he questioned glancing over his shoulder at her noting her worry in her eyes. He turned around again. “Have a change of heart?”

“Look, I don’t know where he is right now, but I’m sure I can help you providing that you help me get out of this place and back to my life and my family,” she continued in her best bargaining tone.

“I highly doubt that your family would want anything to do with you,” Travis added hinting at amusement in his tone, “but for what it’s worth I’m sure that we can work out a deal that will benefit the both of us should you provide the right information.”

“If you can give me my life back, then you can rest assured that it’ll be exactly what you’re hoping for in terms of information,” Brooke blurted out ready to seize the chance to reclaim what was rightfully hers all over again.


“What the hell did you do with her?” Brant’s voice roared as he pushed his way through the doors to Cameron’s study with Kevin at his heels.

“Sir, I tried to keep them from barging in like this, but…” Franklin began apologetically hoping to explain the situation to Cameron, but it was no use. Before he could get anything further out, Brant was standing at Cameron’s desk reaching out to yank Franklin’s employer from his desk neck first.

“Where the hell is she?” Brant snarled not bothering with pleasantries while he shook Cameron by the shirt collar. “What did you do to her?”

“What are you talking about Ashford?” Cameron questioned attempting to shove Brant away from him. He raised his hand to pry Brant’s fingers away from the neck of his collar but found himself thwarted by a punch that Brant delivered to the side of his jaw. Cameron fell backward stumbling over filing cabinets and knocking down half of the contents on his desk in the process. Reaching up to touch his now bleeding lip Cameron glared at Brant before letting out a wicked laugh, “You just signed your own death warrant Ashford.”

“You don’t scare me,” Brant started to charge towards him again ready to continue his attack.

“Brant stop,” Kevin blurted out grabbing Brant by the arm to keep him from doing something he would regret later. Kevin glanced over at Cameron before turning to Brant again, “he’s not worth it.”

“That’s right Brant. Listen to Kevin. He’s at least smart enough to keep himself together, but you on the other hand, well, you’re going down. Franklin, call the authorities and have this trash taken from my home.”

“Yeah you do that and while you’re at it Franklin tell the police to add vandalism and kidnapping to those charges,” Kevin added before glaring over at Cameron, “because I’m sure the police would love to know all about how he’s holding Angie against her will.”

“What are you talking about?” Cameron blinked up at Kevin while managing to muster up the strength to regroup himself. Attempting to get up off of the floor Cameron scowled over at Kevin. “I did no such thing.”

“You liar!” Brant shouted in response struggling to move forward to attack Cameron again, but Kevin kept him back. “I know you were the one that took her. You told me the other night that you would separate us, so you found a way into my estate and…”

“Back up a second,” Cameron shook his head, “First of all if I took my sister away from you, which I didn’t, I would be happy about that. I wouldn’t be standing here right now speaking with you and if I took her, you wouldn’t find her.”

“Where is she Cameron,” Kevin questioned with a low snarl. “What did you do to her?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Cameron explained plainly glancing between Kevin and Brant. “Perhaps she got tired of the both of you and left. It’s well within the realm of possibility for her to wizen up to the fact that neither one of you deserve her.”

“With your help I’m sure,” Brant lunged forward once again throwing out another connecting punch that sent Cameron backwards.

“What happened at the Ashford Estate had you written all over it Cameron,” Kevin waved his finger around in the air wildly. “Down to your destroying my car…”

“I never touched your car and I certainly didn’t go over there to get Angel,” Cameron piped up in his own defense. He looked over to Franklin and frowned, “Have you seen my sister around here?”

“Not since she left all that while ago,” Franklin shook his head honestly, “He isn’t bluffing. Ms. Stone hasn’t been here in quite some time.”

“That’s a load of crap and I know it. Where are you hiding her?” Brant’s words charged once again, while Kevin looked to Franklin.

“You wouldn’t be lying to me, would you?” Kevin spoke up in a low, determined tone. His dark eyes glared over at Franklin, who promptly shook his head.

“You know me better than that,” Franklin stated plainly, “If Angel was here I would undoubtedly tell you. She hasn’t been here in quite some time.”

“Then if she’s not here, he must’ve taken her elsewhere,” Brant decided turning to Cameron again. “Where have you had her taken to?”

“I haven’t had her taken anywhere, but if my sister is missing, then there isn’t a doubt in my mind that you’re behind this. You and your twisted family have done nothing, but tried to destroy my family since day one,” Cameron mouthed in response a newfound sense of panic carrying over him at the thought of Angela being missing. “This is what you’ve been waiting for isn’t it? This is your way of hurting me like your father did to mine when he murdered him.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Brant threw his hands up in the air. “I would never, ever hurt Angela.”

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Cameron rolled his eyes at him. “You know full well that my sister is vital to me. You’ve been trying to pervert her mind for months now…”

“Your sister is the woman I love and while I can’t stand you, I want to spend my life with her. You are the only one who has been perverting the truth. You started all of this when you lied to her and pushed her down the stairs,” Brant snapped back at him feeling his anger coming to a boil.

“It’s your fault that happened because you couldn’t leave well enough alone. My sister has no business spending her life with something as vile as an Ashford. You’re poison and if anything has happened to her, it rests on your hands. If she’s hurt somewhere, then so help me God I’ll kill you,” Cameron hissed back at him ready to step forward and attack Brant.

“Not if I don’t kill you first,” Brant retaliated ready to get into an all out war with Cameron all over again. The two men started to attack one another until Kevin pushed his way between them.

“Stop this right now!” Kevin snapped at the both of them looking between Brant and Cameron, then to Brant again. “Back down Brant.”

“But you and I both know what he did…” Brant started to protest again, his emotions running wild.

“I’m not sure he did it,” Kevin answered honestly thinking about Cameron’s reaction.

“What?” Brant blinked back at him in confusion. “Kevin you saw what happened at the house and…”

“And while I think Cameron is a snake there’s something about this that has me thinking he isn’t behind it. I don’t know why, but…” Kevin glanced over at Cameron once again, “If I find out that you’re lying to me, you know that I’ll have no hesitations about killing you.”

“Kevin, I’m not afraid of you, yet you know full well that I would never, ever willingly hurt Angel. She is my blood and I would never harm her,” Cameron continued to explain thinking about his sister. “While I hate what’s going on with her naïve side when it comes to this son of a bitch, you know that I would never, ever hurt her. She’s everything to me.”

“Even so something happened at the Ashford estate today and if you weren’t a part of it, then who was?” Kevin wondered aloud as his thoughts lingered to what in the world could’ve happened to Angela now that no one seemed to know where she was. He just hoped that she wasn’t in any kind of real danger.


“How much longer will it be?” Angela questioned sinking further back into the seat in the limousine now that she had found herself surrounded by familiar circumstances. She glanced over at the driver through the glass partition before turning her glance to the pair of eyes in front of her.

“Not much longer Angel,” she felt a thick, masculine hand press in over hers. “I promised you that I would take care of everything and I have.”

“I’m just not sure that this is a good idea,” she started uneasily turning away from the eyes that penetrated hers. She looked out the window to the night that extended beyond where she was seated. The world seemed to pass her by in a blur, much like it had from the moment she’d seen both Kevin and Brant with other women. How could she have been so stupid? Closing her eyes she remembered the pain and anger that she’d felt in knowing that not one, but both of the men in her life had deceived her.

“What could be better than being with your family in a time of need?” the man seated across from her explained. “It’s your home and it’s where you belong.”

“I know that,” she sighed reopening her eyes again to face the man in front of her, “but at the same time so much has happened. There are so many things that have changed--things I haven’t explained yet and I’m just worried that he won’t understand.”

“Believe me I am sure that he would understand what has happened Angel,” he continued to speak to her in a smooth and even tone. “It wasn’t your fault how you were manipulated.”

“That’s not it. It’s just…” Angela trailed off thinking about how she’d wound up in this position alone and away from the life that she’d known for so very long.

“Your father will understand. He loves you Angela,” he offered up reassuringly reaching out to touch her cheek gently. “You have to believe in that.”

“I just don’t want him to be disappointed in me,” Angela confessed thinking about how her father would take the news about her being pregnant. Turning to look at the enchanting eyes in front of her she let out a small sigh. “I just hope he’ll understand when he sees me again.”

“Your father has waited a long time to be reunited with you Angel and I’m just glad that I’ve been able to do that for him. It’s something that I’ve waited a long time to be able to do for him again Angel,” he informed her with a wide grin thinking about the plans he had for the woman he’d once served and protected as a part of the Stone empire.

“Thank you Craven,” she smiled at him before pulling away from his touch. “I’m so glad that you found me when you did because I was starting to feel like I had no one I could trust.”

“Oh you can trust in me Angel. You can trust that I will do everything in my power to make things as they should be,” he mouthed with a sinister smirk knowing full well that the wait had been worth it. Now that he had Angela again, he was about to pick up where he’d left off all of those years ago when the Stone family had tried to shame and destroy him. Now retribution would soon be his and no one could do anything to stop him!


...to be continued...