Episode 399

A sharp stabbing ache carried over the left side of Sarah’s head as she felt the fluffy softness of a pillow beneath her head. She groaned inwardly tasting the distinct scent of linen creeping up in over her mouth and nose. There was a damp fabric between her now parted lips and as she shifted beneath the thin sheet that covered her, she could feel the cool mattress against her naked form. Groaning she turned onto her side, feeling the way the sheet carried in against her soft flesh serving as a second skin. She stretched her toes out, feeling them pop out underneath the sheet that draped over her.

“It’s too early,” she spat out groaning again and pushing the pillow out of her mouth where she must’ve buried it when she’d fallen to sleep. Rolling over she opened her eyes to see that she was still draped in darkness. Stretching further she turned to the left not knowing exactly where she was, but not caring now that she’d resituated the pillow she’d been passed out on. Snuggling beneath the sheet, she arched back onto the bed enjoying the quiet surroundings when she suddenly felt a hot breath over the side of her neck.

“You’ve got that right darling,” a low voice whispered against her skin, lips teasing in over her shoulder while a hand curled around to cup her breast. She arched back into the touch feeling a sudden heat behind her. Smiling she snuggled into the warmth behind her. She felt her companion’s other hand taper off over her hip, urging her back to meet his aroused form and she smiled. “We should stay here a while longer.”

“I’ll second that,” Sarah mouthed sliding her hand beneath the sheet to guide her companion’s hand between her thighs. She arched into him sliding her head back to give him access to her neck. She felt his kisses taper off over her shoulder, hand doing exactly what she’d been anticipating since he’d first touched her and now that passion carried over her, she felt herself more in the mood than she’d ever been. Last night she’d felt like hell, but this morning all she could think about was making love to this very skilled man beside her, wanting nothing more to lose herself to making love to him with this incredible awakening between them. “I want you inside me baby. Only then will the morning be complete.”

“I think I can arrange that,” he murmured wrapping her up in his arms and turning her around to face him. Their lips met in a heated tangle of passion alerting the both of them to the obvious wayward thoughts lingering in both of their minds. However, it was then and only then that reality came crashing down upon the both of them leaving Sarah to open her stunned eyes to find herself right next to none other than the one and only Douglas Mahoney.

Gasping in horror, Sarah pushed away from him feeling her movement matched by his when she let out a shriek. He too let out a low, pinched horrified howl and in unison both of them went over to opposite sides of the bed. Sarah felt the sheet that she’d been grasping to earlier hanging over her on the side of the mattress and desperately she reached for it hoping to figure out what in the hell was going on. She sank her fingers into the sheet tightly pulling it completely off of the bed and wrapping herself up in it.

Wearily she sat silent on the floor listening to hear if there was really someone else in the room or if she was imagining it. When she heard nothing, she started to pick herself up off of the ground. Reaching out to the mattress, she felt the ache in her head return and she was beginning to think that she lost her mind. Slowly she pulled herself up on her knees propping her head up just over the mattress, her dark eyes surveying the room. She was about to let out a breath of relief when she spotted a pair of familiar eyes across the bed. Crying out in shock, she fell back onto the floor again with a thud hearing the same sound coming from the other side of the bed. She felt her heart hammering in her chest, her worries mounting and she tried to convince herself it was a dream until she heard a voice from the other side of the room.

“Tell me that you’re not really here,” Douglas begged of her, his tone as apprehensive as hers was.

“I was thinking the same thing about you,” Sarah pressed her back up against the side of the bed while clenching the sheet around her body. “I mean there’s no way that you and I would ever…”

“No never,” Douglas added quickly, almost too quickly considering that they’d both awakened in a tentative position with one another. “The very idea is preposterous.”

“That’s right. It’s completely out of character for the both of us,” she piped in feeling her throat go dry. Remembering what it had felt like to be in bed with him she let out a gulp. “This can’t be real, right?”

“Not a chance,” Douglas insisted his tone shaky as well now that they were both remaining firm to stay put on their sides of the floor away from one another. “This has to be a nightmare.”

“My nightmare I’m sure,” she paused thinking about the situation at hand, “though if this was just a nightmare, then you wouldn’t be over there worried about it right?”

“It has to be my nightmare,” he added quickly clearing his throat with obvious tension. “That’s the only explanation.”

“No, it would have to be mine because I’ve never felt this mortified in my life,” Sarah began with a small shudder bringing her hand up to push her hair out of her face. She noticed the a small ring around her wrist that looked distinctly like a rope burn and a tiny shiver swept over her. Tipping her head up to the side, she noticed that there was another piece of the sheet tied to the bedpost in what appeared to be some kind of mock handcuffs. Shaking her head, she refused to believe that she would ever sink so low that she would wind up…

“No way,” Sarah mouthed under her breath turning her attention to her wrist again knowing that there had to be another explanation. She spotted the edge of the sheet near her toes had been tattered. She bent forward reaching out for it and found herself greeted with the proof that the sheet that was tied to the bedpost was in fact the piece of sheet that had once been a part of the one she was wearing. She gulped down on the sound that built in the back of her throat while straining to remember what had happened last night.

“There’s no way that we could’ve…” Douglas started from his side of the floor as he too noticed small red rings around his wrist. His eyes moved up to the bed again seeing the homemade shackles that were there on the bed and he swallowed down hard. His eyes shot out across the room to where he spotted his and Sarah’s discarded clothes and he bit back in a gulp. “That’s just a ridiculous notion and…”

“Exactly,” Sarah blurted out without hesitation. “We would never ever…”

“Not in this lifetime considering that I can’t stand you,” Douglas mouthed in response looking across the floor to see a condom wrapper near his discarded pants. He followed the trail of clothing to over by where he was seated and he spotted a box of condoms. Reaching for it he pulled it up only to discover the box was empty. Yelping he tossed the box aside and tried to wipe his hands off on the carpet he was seated on. “No way.”

“What?” Sarah questioned hearing the shift in his tone. “What is it?”

“It’s nothing. It’s just that…” Douglas paused not sure what to say about the situation. “The last thing I remember was your rudeness and hostility at the bar.”

“That hasn’t changed. I still hate your…” Sarah trailed off spotting a condom wrapper on the floor just beyond her toes. She quickly pulled her legs up towards her chest wanting to banish any and all notions of what might have happened the previous night. She turned her attention to her wrist again attempting to rub away the redness and that’s when she saw it! That’s when she spotted the shiny gold band on her finger clear as day.

“No!” Sarah gasped horrified immediately pushing to remove the foreign ring from her finger, but it was no use. Whatever she’d done last night had clearly swollen her finger and now she was left with this obviously misplaced ring on her finger. She tried again and again to remove it until she realize that it was no use. The only way to escape what was happening was to get the hell out of the situation.

“Just get your clothes and get out of here,” she mouthed trying to give herself a pep talk. She drew in a small breath counting to three silently in her head before popping up from the floor.

Almost as soon as she did, she found herself regretting it. It was clear that Douglas had the same thought because now they were standing across from one another on opposite sides of the bed. They were face to face, both looking as white as a ghost now that they stared one another down. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, her mind rambling with possibilities, but what she hadn’t been prepared for was seeing Douglas standing in front of her almost completely naked except for the pillow he was holding over one strategic area to hide himself from her.

“Oh God,” Sarah groaned inwardly feeling her stomach tied in knots. She couldn’t help but glance down over Douglas’s body wondering if she really had in fact hit rock bottom in being with him. Granted he was rather attractive for an older man, but she loathed him and would never, ever under any circumstances work her way into his bed or his life for that matter. It had to be a mistake. A very sick and twisted mistake.

“This didn’t happen. This never happened,” he informed her attempting to be calm and rational over the situation while stepping backwards in an attempt to get to his clothing.

“You’re right,” she nodded in agreement searching the room for her things as well. Frowning when she realized they were over near where he was, she knew she wasn’t about to get out of things so easy. “If we don’t remember it, then it never happened.”

“Exactly,” he nodded bending down to pick up his pants when he discovered the ring on his finger for the first time. The shock of the moment caused him to drop the pillow and Sarah’s eyes widened in seeing him standing there before her completely naked.

Unable to refrain from staring, Sarah found herself remembering the feel of his body against her, the way her imagination had pieced together what the man beside her would look like and while Douglas was far from being anyone that she would openly gawk at, there was no denying that the had quite a few assets to brag about. Gulping at how awful that thought felt, she turned away from him closing her eyes tightly. There was no way in hell that she would be…

“Please tell me that you don’t have one of these as well,” Douglas pleaded with her shuffling to reach for the pillow he’d dropped. He sank down to the floor bringing it in over his lap while trying to tug at the ring on his finger. “Say that you don’t have one of these too.”

“I would say that, but then unfortunately I would be lying,” Sarah mouthed in response turning around to face him again. She held her finger up in the air to discover the matching set of gold bands that they were wearing and in that moment she realized one thing had lead to another and now they both were in trouble. Big trouble!


“Whatever you did to my sister Ashford, you’re going to pay for it,” Cameron warned pacing around his study after he’d thought about what had played out right in front of him. Thinking about the fact that no one had seen his sister since she’d been with Brant, he couldn’t help but worry. “If you hurt her in any way…”

“Oh please,” Brant rolled his eyes at Cameron, “You know damn well you’re the one who took her. You know you have her somewhere and…”

“If I had her somewhere then she would be safe, but because she was with you there is no telling what could’ve happened to her,” Cameron snarled at him before redirecting his anger over in Kevin’s direction. “This is your fault. You promised to take care of her and be there for her. It was your job that you’ve been paid to do and once again you’ve failed her just like you did all those years ago when she lost the baby.”

“That wasn’t my fault!” Kevin snapped his voice in a low rumble. “I was doing work for your father--work that couldn’t wait. I tried to get out of it, but no one would let me.”

“And now what’s your excuse Kevin?” Cameron snapped back at him, his angers mounting. “You and Brant have both torn apart my house searching for her and you came up with nothing. You should’ve been at her side, but instead you opted to ignore your responsibilities.”

“Listen to me you…” Kevin snarled moving forward after having had more than enough of Cameron’s accusations. His dark eyes narrowed in over at Cameron, jaw flexed with anger as he took in a small breath. “I’ve dedicated my life to being there for her. Time after time I’ve given up my own happiness to see to it that she would be safe.”

“And look what it’s doing for her right now Kevin. You’re a failure now like you were back then and if anything happens to her, then this is on your hands,” Cameron shifted his gaze between both men. “Both of your hands.”

“When I find out what you’ve done with her, you’re going to go down Stone. No more games in the matter. You’re going to pay for what you’ve done pure and simple,” Brant clenched his jaw over at Cameron wanting nothing more than to tear him apart limb for limb until he spoke the truth about what he’d done to Angela.

“Get out of my house!” Cameron snapped over at Brant, this time sitting up straighter in the chair he’d been in now that his security guards had made their way to the room. He motioned to the three men standing behind Kevin and Brant and spoke up again, “Please see to it that these two are off of my property immediately.”

“Yes sir,” one stepped forward ready to snag Kevin’s arm until Kevin shoved him away.

“Keep your hands off of me!” Kevin scowled sharply glaring over at the man.

“When I find her I’m going to make sure you can never hurt her again Cameron. Your days are numbered,” Brant warned before turning to Kevin and motioning that it was time to leave.

“I’ll be back,” Kevin assured Cameron before moving out of the study with Brant to leave the Stone Estate.

“Not if I can help it,” Cameron mouthed under his breath walking over to the desk area. He picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number waiting for someone to pick up the other end of the line. Once he heard the voice on the other side he spoke up in a firm, commanding tone. “Listen to me I have a project for you to take care of and I don’t want you to ask any questions. My sister is missing and I want you to find her. I don’t care what you have to do to bring her back, but I want her back home unscathed and the person that took her, well let’s just say I want you to see to it that they never see the light of day once Angel is back with me. Is that clear?”

“Crystal,” the man on the other end of the line replied as Cameron hung up the phone ready to unleash his rage upon the person who had taken Angela. Now that his sister was missing he vowed that heads were going to roll!


“You know if you would have told me a few weeks ago that we were going to be here, I would have said you were crazy. I would have never believed that,” Wendy whispered seeing the way that Ken moved in closer to her to listen to her, wrapping his arm around her waist while they walked down Paris, France. “Just look at it Ken, it’s just so beautiful.”

“Tell me about it,” Ken whispered seeing the way Wendy looked up at him with her dark eyes and he offered up a smile of his own. Looking around the area before them he would have never guessed that he would be here either because it just seemed insane for him to be out of the country. The world didn’t seem to move quick enough for him and now that he was here he couldn’t believe it. It was like his life was at a standstill, the wonders of the world begging for him to find the beauty in it all with Wendy by his side and that’s what he planned on. He planned on having the time of his life during the day seeing things he never though he’d see before and when night came he was planning some of the best things he could imagine. There was so much to do in the big city of Paris and when the lights went out the beauty peaked through all the of the darkness and shined bright. “If you think this is wonderful, wait for later. When the lights go out, it will be perfect.”

“Oh that just sounds fantastic,” she blurted out moving in closer to him to place her hand in over the center of his abdomen seeing the way that he smiled down at her. “You never really said why we came here. Just out of the blue or what?"

“Well, I just thought it would be better to get away from all the hectic commotion going on at home,” he smirked to himself thinking about what he did with Avery and how angry he had gotten her. Obviously the way he was acting made it good enough for her to believe he was Brant. He could remember the last time she planted a kiss on him she could just tell who he was an he had her in so much of an outrage that she couldn’t even think straight. It was a great memory that made a smirk press in over his lips each and every time he kept playing it in his head. “I seemed to just need a way to get away.”

After what he did at home he knew he was screwing up Brant’s life with the women he had in it. There was no way that Brant’s luck would get better with the shit he started right before he left and he was so proud to have done that. Here in France it made it seem less likely like he did anything at all and made Brant look more like an asshole liar to everyone he tried to explain things. The only thing he did was help give himself a scapegoat while he was away with Wendy. It all went by so perfectly and fit together like a perfect puzzle and he loved every little bit of it.

“I think we’re going to enjoy our time here,” Ken smirked wrapping his arm snuggly around her shoulders pulling her in closer to his chest. Sure, when he got home he might have to explain the living hell that he caused or people would just get smart and realize the person who Brant was when he got home. That in itself would make it greater than any experience possible. Moving into a tiny market Ken watched Wendy pull away from him to look at something while he smirked at the thoughts playing out in his head. “This is perfect.”

“Kenneth,” a voice erupted through his ears, thick with a southern accent and he closed his eyes hoping to God that he was just dreaming the voice and it was someone random. Then when he felt the firm hand move in over his shoulder and the thick laugh fill his ears he knew that this was no dream at all. Gulping down he turned to face the brown eyes of a familiar man--his uncle. “What’s wrong? Don’t feel like talking to your uncle Rex?"

“Rex,” Ken tried to smile behind gritted teeth knowing that he had never really been close to his uncle from the start and was getting nervous as to how he even showed up there in the first place. Seeing his uncle take off his cowboy hat and brush back his blonde hair, he gulped down hoping that he would disappear before Wendy came back. “So, what are you doing here?"

“Who is this?" Wendy moved in behind Ken as Rex’s brown eyes widened before a cocky, wide smile pressed in over his features and he moved forward reaching out for her hand. Feeling him take her hand carefully and place a tender kiss in over the back of it, she smiled before shrugging letting go and leaning into Ken. “He sure is friendly.”

“Wendy, you should remember him. This is my uncle,” Ken began seeing Wendy look over his in general direction as Wendy’s eyebrows tightened together when she looked over at him. “This is Rex, my uncle.”


“You know we probably should have waited before you decided to take the giant leap into the unknown and get us trapped in here,” Ben cursed at Alexa, feeling his frustrations mounting after they’d spent hours unsuccessfully trying to work their way out of the room they’d been trapped in with one another. “I really wish you would’ve just waited long enough to formulate a plan before…”

“Before what?” Alexa sat up straighter in the corner that she’d opted to rest in when it was clear she and Ben weren’t leaving the room anytime soon. “Before you bored me to death with talk about your newly reformed fiancée and her nomination for sainthood? Um no thank you, but I’d rather be locked in here with you complaining than listening to you spill out all the virtues that I could take note of with Diane Stevens?”

“Oh please,” Ben couldn’t help but roll his eyes at her. He turned around to face her with a tight scowl, “You know as well as I do you’re only ragging on me about Diane because you’re upset that I stepped on your toes by working this case. Admit it you don’t want me here and that’s really what this is all about.”

“Now that you mention it,” Alexa stood up and started to dust off her pants before approaching him, “No, I don’t want you here at all Ben because the way I see it things were going fine, better than fine even, in my investigation before you came down to Florida to muck it up.”

“It’s not my fault that this case is falling apart at the seams,” Ben objected to her words, feeling a headache building in his temple as the thick, musty odor of the storage room surrounded them.

“I’m not so sure,” she shrugged her shoulders flippantly before continuing. “Ever since you’ve arrived, not only did I lose my informant, but I lost every inkling of progress that I’ve made on my case because someone keeps sabotaging each and every one of our clues. It’s almost as if someone is tipping them off to where we’ll be next.”

“And you think that’s my fault?” his eyes widened at the accusation. “Alexa, if you think about that for a long moment, you’ll realize that I’ve been with you this whole time. I haven’t left your side or…”

“What about the phone calls you’ve been making?” she challenged arching a curious brow as she folded her arms tighter in front of her chest. “How do I know you’ve really been calling Diane when you could’ve been offering up information for the right price? I mean you did work for Chavez forever and…”

“And if you believe that, then you’re a bigger fool than I gave you credit for being,” Ben threw his hands up in the air and groaned. “Lexie, we’ve known one another forever, so for you to stand there and start accusing me of tipping off some drug cartel, well it just proves that you and I clearly are more estranged from one another than I’d thought possible. I wouldn’t do that.”

“Then explain how this keeps happening to us Ben. Everywhere we go there’s a blown up building or a trail of corpses to follow,” Alexa insisted with an impatient huff, tossing her wiry dark hair behind her shoulders.

“Yeah and um since we’ve got neither of those working for us right now, maybe we should stop fighting and concentrate on getting the hell out of here before you and I fall into one of those statistics when someone realizes that we’re here,” Ben tossed back at her with an icy glare.

“Fine,” she snubbed him as she turned around to investigate around the room further as she had done hours earlier. “Though I just don’t think that your priorities are in order here Ben.”

“Gee, first you accuse me of leaking confidential information and then you start lecturing me on my priorities,” Ben couldn’t help but laugh at her as he faced her once again. “Tell me something Lex, how do I know it’s not you tipping these people off? You’re the one who has been under deep cover for all this time living the lifestyle. I’ve seen your apartment and I know damn well there’s no way that the Bureau would be paying for all of that. Surely there has to be perks to being on the job this long pretending to be someone you’re not in living this double life.”

“You’re one to talk about a double life,” she laughed haughtily as she spun on her heel to face him. “From what I’ve seen Ben, you’ve been living the cushy life as well living it up at my cousin’s company. You haven’t had to be out on the job thick in over your head so deep that you can’t go back to the life that you had before. You have been able to stay at home and do everything that you could do before, but you just have to follow a few guidelines that were nothing. I’ve given up my entire identity and had to work for street credibility and…”

“And it hasn’t put you any closer to where you should be considering that we’re right here now,” Ben rolled his eyes at the thought, “Look Lexie…”

“No you look Ben,” she poked him in the shoulder with an angry shove. “I might be living in a way that makes it seem like I’m being spoiled, but I’m not. This isn’t at all the life I’d asked for and yes, I love my job, but think about it Ben. Given who I am I could have far more than what I’m in right now. I could’ve been like my cousin Blake who sits back and simply basks in the role of being an heiress. I could’ve let that be a full time job and allowed me to be a spoiled, pampered brat, but I wanted to make a difference in the world. So before you start lecturing me on whatever kind of things you think I’m doing to screw the system, maybe you should think twice about…”

“Hey, I’m not trying to fight with you,” Ben raised his hands in the air backing off as his tone softened. “You were the one who accused me of taking up with the other side and…”

“And I was just venting off steam,” she softened her tone as well. “I’m just a bit claustrophobic and…”

“And we’ve wasted enough time in here already,” Ben surveyed the room they were in again, “We need to get out of here Lex.”

“I won’t argue that,” she finally decided turning her attention to the ventilation system. “Maybe if we try I can fit through there.”

Ben looked up at the overhead vent and found himself pondering the idea before he shook his head, “It won’t happen. Even though you’ve certainly got a slender frame, I don’t think that…”

“Gee, I didn’t realize that you’ve ever taken the time to notice my frame before,” she winked at him before offering up a teasing grin, “Although I suspected that was what you were doing when you were checking out my fish tank the other day.”

“What?” Ben questioned, his eyes widening as he felt as though he’d been caught in that moment of embarrassment that he’d fought to suppress.

“Tell me,” she couldn’t help but tease him further, “did you like what you saw through the glass?”

“Alexa, I wasn’t,” he gulped instantly recalling what he’d witnessed when she’d stripped down out of her undercover gear.

“Yes you were,” she struggled to repress the laugh that carried over her lips, “but it’s ok. I mean if you enjoyed the view, then it proves that maybe you’re not as lost as I anticipated you being when you mentioned that you were engaged.”

“Being engaged doesn’t mean that I’m dead Alexa,” Ben cleared his throat uneasily before trying to make light of the situation, “Men just happen to have issues turning away when they see a beautiful woman half naked. It’s like this primitive instinct that takes us down every time we’re confronted by it.”

“I didn’t exactly confront you with the issue, but if you were looking for me to offer up an invitation,” she replied with a teasing undertone. She stepped towards him and winked again, “All you really had to do was ask.”

“Alexa, stop joking,” he replied nervously forcing himself to look around the room once again now that it was clear that she was trying to push his buttons.

“It’s ok to admit you liked what you saw,” she shrugged her shoulders as her grin expanded. “I didn’t mind the view either when you were getting dressed the other night.”

“You mean you were…” Ben’s eyes widened at her comment.

“Finishing up with my makeup when I noticed you changing,” she divulged with a wicked smirk, “and truth be told I never really thought you to be a pink boxers kind of guy.”

“They were a gift from Diane for Valentine’s Day,” Ben confessed thinking about the ridiculous boxer shorts she’d picked up for him.

“Clearly,” Alexa couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the mention of Ben’s fiancée, “though if I recall when you were younger, you were more of a go with the flow kind of guy who didn’t dispense with all the trivial layers that were associated with frilly pink boxer shorts.”

“They aren’t frilly,” Ben protested with a frown.

“Either way I don’t think you would’ve bothered with the boxer shorts in the first place,” her eyes gave him a long, ravenous once over and Ben found himself on edge in that moment. While he was certain that she was teasing, there was something about the way that she looked at him that had him wondering just what kind of danger they’d stepped into with the conversation they were having.

“Maybe I started wearing them because I knew that I had a peeping tom that couldn’t be trusted after our last assignment with one another,” Ben remarked with a pointed expression, “That trip to the roach motel taught me a lot of things.”

“Starting with the fact that you’re the one who was more of the peeper in our relationship,” Alexa wrinkled her nose at him before turning away, “Besides, you should’ve noticed that I was wearing more than usual as well.”

Ben bit down on his lower lip thinking about how he and Alexa had been friends for years. Time and time again they’d engaged in some playful flirting with one another that had often at times hinted at something more between them. When they’d worked with one another in such close quarters in the past, there had been moments when they’d contemplated crossing the line of friendship and partners to something more, but each time something had arisen to prevent it from happening. At the time Ben had wished that they’d gone in another direction when he’d found himself trapped in a hell hole down in Louisiana with her, yet in retrospect he was grateful that they hadn’t crossed that line with one another. If he would’ve made love to her then like he’d wanted to, then he was certain there would be even more uneasiness between them especially now.

“Look, I think I found something,” Alexa motioned to the floor. She pushed at the crate that was beside her before looking over her shoulder at him, “A little help might be nice here Ben.”

“Right,” he nodded rushing forward and stepping up to assist her in her mission. After a few seconds, he and Alexa had managed to clear the area and discover a drain of sorts that had been buried from their view the previous evening in the darkness.

“Where do you think it leads?” Alexa questioned as Ben knelt down to test out the lock on the wiring beneath them.

“Undoubtedly the sewers by the smell,” he practically gagged as his fingers tinkered with the lock, “though I don’t think we’re going to get it open.”

“Of course we are,” she insisted pushing him aside as she moved in to give it her own personal inspection. “I’ll have you know I’m a master at lock picking Ben.”

“You weren’t last night,” he mouthed under his breath only to elicit a glare from her.

“That’s because the lock on that door isn’t at all the norm, but this,” she reached for the simple lock between her fingers, “This is a piece of cake.”

“Fine, then do your best,” Ben stepped back and watched her pull a barrette from her hair.

“Watch me,” she murmured taking a few minutes to tinker with the lock until it finally broke free. She unlatched it before holding it up for Ben’s approval. “You were saying?”

“You are the master,” he replied with a mock bow as she stood up once again.

“Of course I am,” she tossed her hair back over her shoulders and dusted herself off proudly, “Now what do you say about us getting down and dirty?”

“I think dirty is an understatement,” Ben wrinkled his nose as he looked to the sewer drain below, “but for what it’s worth I hope like hell that this gets us out of here.”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Alexa opened up the top to the sewer drain before crouching down in front of him, “Just remember to plug your nose.”

“And hope I don’t gag in the process,” Ben noted watching her ease on down into the sewers as he planned to do the same in the hopes that they weren’t somehow guiding themselves unknowingly to another dead end.


“I really appreciate your taking the time to come out with me. I mean first it was our disastrous workout that had you taking me to the hospital against my dismay only to discover nothing was wrong and now this breakfast that I just had to drag you out to after wasting your day. I mean I‘m sure you probably had other things to do even though you and I talked about having a meal together before I spilled out like I did on the treadmill, but...,” Diane spoke up from behind the forkful of eggs she had in front of her. “Don’t get me wrong I’m not like a freak or anything, but I hate dining out alone. It just makes you feel so pathetic and, well out of touch with the world around you.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Shane mouthed in response flashing her a bright smile, “I have no problems sharing a meal or even a day at the hospital arguing with a beautiful woman when the moment arises. In fact I welcome the idea. Well, not of you being hurt, but of being able to share a meal with you.”

Diane couldn’t help but feel a blush carrying over her upon his words. “Thanks, but I was pretty impossible yesterday. Then when Deidra wasn’t there and you had to listen to me argue with that doctor, well I was sure you would back out on me today since I can really be an impossible bitch sometimes. Though I’m glad you still wanted to go.”

“How could I not? Even wounded and angry, you‘re still by far the most intriguing woman I‘ve encountered in a very long time,” Shane eyed her with amusement behind his eyes as she bit down on her eggs in between breaths.

“Which proves that you don’t get out much, though you know I have to say that you’re much better company than my sister and her boyfriend. I mean they have this totally twisted relationship that is sappy and really lovey-dovey,” Diane continued to ramble on as she set her fork down for a brief moment. “It drives me nuts especially at a time like this when my boyfriend is out of town.”

“He’s a fool to leave you alone for even a second,” Shane noted reaching for the glass of water in front of him. He lifted it to his lips and took a small sip before setting the glass down again, “If you were my girlfriend nothing in the world could get me to walk away from you especially when you were in need of a breakfast companion.”

“Stop with the flattery,” she swallowed the bite she’d just taken of her food, “You’re going to inflate my ego to the point that Ben won’t be able to stand me when he returns. He’ll absolutely hate the woman I’ve become.”

“All the more reason for you to forget about Ben and think about giving me a chance,” he reached across the table to take her hand in his offering a flirty smile with the movement.

“Shane,” she spoke his name in a dark tone, feeling her face now burning with what she knew would be a full blown flushed color. “If you keep this up I’m going to start believing that you’re serious.”

“Who’s to say that I’m not?” he challenged arching a brow as she pulled her hand away. “You’re a beautiful woman Diane.”

“Who is engaged to another man,” she corrected clearing her throat uneasily. She reached for her water glass before looking around the café again. “That means I’m off limits.”

“A little while ago he was your boyfriend, but now he’s your fiancé,” he mouthed in response tossing a pointed expression out at her. “It’s interesting how the terms shift once you get uncomfortable.”

“I’m not uncomfortable,” she corrected sitting up straighter and putting on her best poker face. “I’m just stating the ground rules up front so that you don’t get the wrong idea about things between us.”

“Somehow you don’t strike me as a woman who adheres to the rules easily,” he leaned back in his seat amused by her expression. Stretching his arms out across the back of the booth seat that he’d been in, he flashed her a sexy, arrogant smirk, “And something also tells me that you would rather welcome the notion of my getting the wrong idea. I think the very thought excites you.”

“Believe it or not I tend to get my kicks in a more traditional fashion,” she shook her head and offered up a small laugh. “I’m very simple and boring.”

“Now that’s a lie if I’ve heard it,” he sat up straighter leaning in over the table to meet her dark gaze. “Neither one of those adjectives seem to describe you in any way.”

“And just why not?” Diane leaned forward as well matching his stare.

“For starters, I can see that you’re absolutely the last person in the world who could ever be considered boring,” he motioned to the plate in front of her, “The breakfast you have says that about you.”

“How so?” she questioned tipping her head to the side. She tossed her long, dark hair over her shoulder before dropping her gaze down to her plate.

“Well for starters,” he mouthed in response to her unspoken challenge to prove her wrong. He pointed to the eggs in front of her, “You have your eggs with hot sauce. While most people would find that to be pushing the limits of culinary combinations I’m guessing that by the exaggerated amount you’ve poured over the eggs that you’re one to push the limits and extend the boundaries of the world around you. You like living life on the edge and aren’t afraid to try something that you know full well stretches beyond the rules so to speak. You like fire in your life, which the eggs that way proves you’re very passionate. You like it hot and when a potential prospective situation that would be pleasurable arises, you’re the first to leap into the scenario. It may cause you problems at times, but you don’t care. You don’t like being restricted to what the world wants you to be. Conformity is not an option.”

“Really?” she arched an amused brow before pointing to her small bowl of fruit at her side. “What does this say hot shot?”

“The fruit says that you like to be healthy, but given how much sugar you’ve poured over the melon, it also tells me that you like things sweet,” he continued with a confident smirk, “You’re a romantic at heart, but you also don’t bend to the old ideals of how a woman’s place in the relationship would be. You like to be dominant and prefer the man in your life to respect and appreciate all your attributes good and bad, which naturally has caused you problems over the years. The guys that appreciate the good want nothing but the boring life of assimilation that you’ve fought like hell to stay away from and the bad boys, well you thrive on them, but they are nothing more than a dead end. They get you hot and bothered, but leave you in a tizzy when the novelty of the relationship wears off. It’s usually about then that you tell yourself that you need a good guy to balance the disaster that you endured, but a good guy just doesn’t cut it for you. You want fire and passion and spontaneity that would very well only be construed in a relationship of mystery and intrigue.”

“All that from sugar on my cantaloupe,” she couldn’t help but break into laughter plucking a small rounded piece out of the bowl and dipping it between her now parted lips. “I think you have an overactive imagination Shane.”

“Do I?” he arched his brow again. “Or is that what you want me to believe because you really don’t want me getting closer to the real you because that frightens you?”

“I think that you’ve obviously watched too many television shows that make you think that all women are searching for a wild time and the role of being the temptress. I’m quite content in the normalcy my life contains,” she explained matter of fact reaching for another piece of melon. “It’s very rewarding.”

“No woman is happy in a state of normalcy. Boredom doesn’t strike me as a comfort zone you would find yourself in Diane,” he reached for a piece of bacon from his plate before taking a bite. “You strike me as a woman who thrives on adventure.”

“This morning is turning out to be one for me with all the self-analysis you’re giving me,” she shook her head at him, “Are you sure you’re not a psychiatrist?”

“Far from it,” he laughed lightly before leaning in closer to her. His eyes widened before he softened his tone ever so slightly. “You wouldn’t guess what I did if you tried.”

“I’m pretty good at reading people even though you think you’re the expert here,” she mouthed in response scrutinizing him for a long moment. “You’re a writer aren’t you? Like a reporter or something?”

“Nope,” he shook his head in response, “Not even close.”

“Oh come on. I’m sure I am, but you’re being all secretive,” she frowned over at him curling her lip in a pout. “Why don’t we just dispose of the secrets and you tell me?”

“If I did that you’ll find me far more mundane and that thrill we have would be gone,” he winked over at her, speaking up in a low, dark tone. “I will say that my career is anything, but boring though.”

“Hmm,” she paused contemplating his words before laughing, “Let me guess you’re a secret undercover spy working for the mafia as a hit man.”

“And if I was?” he mouthed with a contemplative stare.

“Then I would hope that I wasn’t your latest mark,” she laughed lightly tossing her hair behind her shoulders before wrinkling her nose at him. “Ok enough joking Shane. You’re such a dork.”

“A dork,” he shook his head back at her, “I take you out to breakfast and this is what I get from you?”

“You’ll get a lot worse if you don’t shut up and eat your food,” she warned with mock authority in her tone.

“Will I now?” he leaned back eyeing her intently.

“That’s right,” she dipped her fork into her eggs again and held them up in the air as if she would toss them at him. “Now behave or else.”

“I think I’ll take or else,” he leaned forward moving in to swipe the eggs from her fork and taking the bite. Her eyes were glued to his watching him swallow the bite before he smiled over at her. “Just what I thought. You like it hot just like I do.”

“Shane,” Diane spoke his name before clearing her throat uneasily. Quickly she sank back into her seat and looked around the café before getting up. “I’ll be right back. I need to powder my nose.”

“Of course,” he nodded watching her retreat to the ladies room and leaned back knowing full well that she was feeling the obvious spark between them. Smiling to himself he knew full well that he was getting closer to where he’d wanted her to be now that she’d opened herself up to getting to know him. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his cell phone and dialed the familiar number before grinning.

“Hey, it’s me. I just wanted to call and update you,” he explained in a low voice, “Things are going as planned. I already have Diane eating out of the palm of my hand and soon, very soon I’ll have her exactly where I want her. When that happens nothing will be able to stop me not even Ben. They‘ll be history sooner rather than later and when that happens you can rest assured that Ben won‘t think twice of his fallen angel. You have my word on that.”

“Excellent,” the voice on the other end of the line replied with a pleased tone. “Keep up the good work.”

“I will,” Shane promised saying his goodbyes and sinking his phone back into his pocket before Diane returned. Yes, things were certainly looking up indeed. His plans were progressing better than he’d hoped for and soon very soon he would get Diane back to where she always belonged. It was a mission he couldn’t wait to complete as it was proving to be more entertaining than he’d anticipated it being when he’d first accepted the position. Now the world was his!


Moving into her bedroom Cori felt a bit of emptiness settling in at the pit of her stomach as she moved in front of the mirror in her pajamas after waking up. It seems liked forever ago she found out she was pregnant when it was only yesterday. There were so many reasons she didn’t want to believe, so many reasons she didn’t want to imagine this was happening.

“I can’t be pregnant, it just has to be some kind of mistake,” she whispered to herself looking in the mirror and pressing her hands in over her slender stomach thinking that there was some reason these people thought she was pregnant. She didn’t see it all, she hadn’t gotten bigger and that had to have started to happen soon. “This can’t be right.”

Lifting her shirt up her slender form a bit she saw no growth in her stomach and shook her head slowly knowing that now Diego was gone and she couldn’t be having a baby. She just couldn’t be, they had to be wrong because she didn’t even look like she was pregnant. There was just no way that this was real, this had to be some kind of joke that someone was doing to her.

“There is no way, I’m not pregnant. Not possible,” she shook her head feeling the denial grow up more and more because this was simply just not possible. There was no way that the time could lead her to this, not when everyone already thought she was crazy. Not when everyone wanted to push her away and especially not when Diego was gone forever. She knew she’d never see him again and this was just terrible news. “Please, just be wrong.”

Hearing the doorbell ring she turned toward her bedroom door pondering if she was going to go answer it or not and when she started to move toward the living room she already heard Dave open the door. Once in the living room she met the glance of Nate’s green eyes and let out a disgusted noise before heading back toward her room.

“Hey Dave, excuse me a moment,” Nate moved through the living room putting his foot in the door before she could close it letting out a tight whimper with the force she slammed the door at. Opening the door he moved into the room and shut it behind him before lifting his foot up and holding it wincing as he felt the stinging from it being closed in the door. “Cori, honey. Why do you keep trying to stay away from me?"

“Nate, come on. I really don’t need this right now,” she laid down on the bed seeing the way that he frowned and set his foot back down on the ground. He folded his arms out in front of his muscular chest after pressing back his mid length blonde hair behind his ear. “I don’t know what you want and right now I really don’t care. I just know that you don’t need to be here because I surely don’t want you here.”

“No, no. You see--I’m not going to leave until you talk to me,” Nate informed her moving over toward the bed to sit down and lean back on his elbow, his green eyes staring out into her dark eyes as she tried to read some kind of information from him. “I know you are pushy and want me out of here, but we need to talk about us.”

“There is no us Nate. There is no us, there was never any us and there will never be any us. I don’t know what you have stuck in your head that makes you think you and I are some type of couple, but there is no us Nate. Get that straight,” Cori groaned standing up from the bed and moving over toward the closet to try finding some clothes that she could put on and still look decent in. After being in the hospital so long it seemed that she could forget what her clothes even looked like. “Nate, I don’t know what kind of sick plan you have in your head, but there is nothing that can make me change my mind about you and I.”

“You see, that’s where you are wrong about this whole thing. You need a father of the baby now that Diego is gone and I need to grow up,” Nate gulped down leaning back further on his elbows, his green eyes seeming to pierce through hers as she set the clothes down. “You need a fall back, I need a push forward. I would work perfectly for this. We‘re good friends, we know each other to a degree that‘s good and not enough to get in trouble. So what‘s wrong with the plan? Give me one reason it will never work out and make it valid and I‘ll think about leaving. That‘s as long as it‘s good enough.”


“Well if it isn’t my favorite bad girl hanging around the on call room,” Don mouthed wrapping his arm around Deana’s neck and pulling her into the on call room with him from out of the hallway in a modified hold. He rubbed his hand over the top of her blonde hair before offering up a laugh. “I hear you’re getting into trouble yet again.”

“Trouble?” she repeated turning around to face him with wide, innocent brown eyes, “Who me?”

“Yes you,” Don reached out to pat the tip of her nose before reaching for her hand. He dragged her further into the on call room and urged her to take a seat down on the couch. Walking over to the coffee pot, he grinned over at her, “Share a break with me. Have a coffee.”

“Don I hate coffee,” she replied wrinkling her nose up at him.

“No, you don’t hate coffee. You just hate hospital coffee,” he corrected holding up the pot and noticing the thick, murky, black substance that looked a lot like sludge in front of him. “And apparently so do I since this stuff looks like motor oil. No bother though. I’ll just get us a couple of bottled waters while you prepare yourself to spill your sins to your boy Don here.”

“Don if you’re here wanting to talk about my sins I have to tell you I don’t think you’re really up to hear about the various sex positions that I prefer,” Deana paused seeing his blue eyes widen and he nearly choked on the gum he was chewing, “Or are you?”

“Now now I don’t think we need to dive into the x-rated land together,” Don blurted out his face growing red at the thought while watching her sink back on the sofa triumphant in her attempt to embarrass him. He opened the door to the refrigerator and bent down to pull out a couple of waters while trying to banish the thoughts from his mind. “I’m talking about other kind of sins.”

“Other kind of sins,” she repeated in an innocent tone, “Don I don’t partake in other kind of sins. Besides I didn’t think any other kind of sins were of interest to you except the sexual kind.”

“I’ll admit that I’m quite interested in the sexual kind of sins,” he used his hip to close the refrigerator door, “but if you start talking about that I think we’ll have a very awkward holiday around the house if you tell me something about Grady and your kitchen table, I’ll never eat at your apartment again.”

“I highly doubt a kitchen shag would stop you from cleaning out my refrigerator. You’re a human disposal Don,” Deana wrinkled her nose at him before shaking her head. “Besides, with your saying that it implies that I have reason to be concerned about your kitchen. Should I be weary about having my son come over and visit?”

“Not since Nate moved in. The only action I seem to be getting is from my right…” Don stopped himself shaking his head slightly while dropping down on the couch beside her. “Never mind. We’re not having this conversation. Let’s cut to the point. I heard about what happened to Dr. Vaughn the other day with his little sex toy encounter. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about how that came to be, would you?”

“Don, if you think for a second that I would have any unlawful carnal knowledge of what Dr. Vaughn does behind closed doors, then you would seriously need your head examined,” Deana leaned forward to reach out and press her fingers against his forehead. “You don’t feel like a fever, yet the delirium has me wondering if…”

“Ha, ha. Very funny,” Don laughed in mock amusement shaking his head at her, “Don’t play me like that Deana. I know you enough to know when you’re so full of it.”

“I’m not full of anything and if I was I can assure you it would have nothing to do with Zack Vaughn. He’s repulsive,” Deana wrinkled her nose at him. “He’s so not my type. You should know that.”

“What I know is that the Shermans have a tendency to get into a bit of trouble. I recall something along the lines of Jason sending a very similar care package to a police officer that wrote him a ticket for speeding or perhaps it was the time that Jason and your cousin wound up doing something almost identical to that teacher that embarrassed them in front of everyone,” Don continued eyeing her closely. He popped the top off of his water and took a long sip before wiggling her brow at her suggestively. “It rings all too familiar for you to know nothing about it.”

“Just because Jason had a unique idea once upon a time does not mean that it was his exclusive property. It’s entirely possible that someone else might’ve felt that a good healthy dose of public humiliation would be justice for the disgusting perversions that Zack has spread around the hospital. Or perhaps it was simply that those previously mentioned perversions that Zack carries around with him extended into the working hours. I know that freaks like that just have tons and tons of those kind of toys and…” Deana fought to suppress the giggle that built up in the back of her throat. She curled her legs up underneath her on the couch before laughing again.

“Hey just because a man has tools of the trade to keep him busy during a down time doesn’t mean that he’s a freak,” Don objected curling his lip in a frown.

Deana burst out in laughter again, “Gee Don you wouldn’t have anything that you would like to confess here now would you? Any sins that you might want to get off of your chest?”

“All I’m saying is that I know you were the one that did it,” Don ignored her comment before his blue eyes met hers with a sudden seriousness. “While it was a nice touch, you have to be careful.”

“I’m not afraid of Zack. You should know that by now,” she sat up straighter a defiant look carrying over her features. “Besides if he tried to trace the package if by some random chance someone was playing a prank on him, he would see that it came from his bank account. He was the one who placed the order so he cannot blame anyone but himself. There isn’t any proof to contradict that.”

“Even so you’re playing with fire,” he softened his tone a bit before shaking his head at her. “You’re too good to get into trouble.”

“I’m not going to get into trouble Don and besides I’m not as good as you think I am,” she took a sip of her water before her dark eyes met his again. “Sometimes I can be downright wicked and it’s rather rewarding. Men tend to enjoy it.”

“Deana,” he shook his head at her, “If you start talking that way you’re going to give me a heart attack.”

She giggled again shaking her head at him, “Oh come on can I help it if you get all weirded out by the fact that you can’t accept that I have a very active sex life? It’s not my fault you feel like you’re my older brother there.”

“No, that’s not what I mean,” he corrected shaking his head at her, “If you start talking about what a freak you tend to be, I might have you pop up in one of my fantasies and that would freak the hell out of me. I mean can you imagine us at Christmas and suddenly I start thinking about you getting down and dirty with handcuffs and some massage oil.”

“I prefer chocolate or maybe caramel. Massage oil is far too sticky and it just doesn’t taste good. I like things sweet and useful. I mean you’d have to shower after both of those things, but if it’s something edible, then you can have far more fun just taking it all in with your taste buds and,” Deana continued rambling on thinking about her own preferences. “Whipped cream can be nice too and…”

“Okay stop,” Don blurted out reaching out to clasp his hand over hers. “I’m going to lose it if you keep talking that way. This is a conversation that we should never, ever have again.”

Deana paused for a moment feeling his fingers pressing in over her lips. She tried to speak up only to feel the muffled vibrations of her voice rolling off of his fingers.

“Honey I love you, but I can’t sit through a detailed exposition of what turns you on. That’s going to kill me for sure just like I’m sure it would freak you out if I started telling you about this thing that Shannon does with my nipples and…” Don began feeling a tiny shudder carry over him. He released her hand and sank back onto the couch. “See you’re bringing out the worst in me.”

“You are such a baby,” she wrinkled her nose at him before laughing. “If Grady was half as squeamish as you are I’d be really in a bad place.”

“Grady is the last person I want to hear about,” Don shuddered in response, “I’m just glad that you’re happy with him. You deserve a good guy.”

“He really is a good one,” Deana nodded in response thinking about her boyfriend and smiling. “I never thought I would meet someone so wonderful, but he proved my theories on life and men wrong.”

“I’m glad to hear it. That’s what I was hoping for with you. You need someone who makes you happy,” Don added with a small smile. “That way I don’t have to give myself an ulcer worrying about you.”

“Oh you jerk!” she squirt her water bottle at him spraying him right in the center of the face.

“That’s it you’re going down,” Don reached out to her putting her in a headlock. He started to give her a noogie only to feel her pinch at his nipple in an attempt to get him to ease up on her. “Deana that’s not hurting. It’s making me hot…”

“Okay, I give up,” she threw her hands in the air with a small shudder listening to the roaring, rumbling sound of his laughter surrounding her. “Got ya!”

“Oh you suck,” she tossed one of the small toss pillows on the couch at him before shaking her head and wondering why it was she put up with all of his teasing. Still it was nice to have someone in her life that was there to help watch her and Zane’s back. Jason was nice, but the extra sense of family that Don had provided her and Zane was with was something that she would always treasure. Meeting him and coming to Coral Valley was proving to be one of the best things that ever happened to her.


“Oh God, this is awful,” Ben started to cough at the smell of the sewers as him and Alexa slowly moved through the disgusting water to try and find a way to somehow get out of all this mess. Lifting his foot up he looked to see some goop fall from his shoes as he gulped down and tried plugging his nose harder. “Why couldn’t you just pick the lock upstairs? It would have worked so much better. I think I’m going to throw up.”

“You think this is any better for me than it is you?" Alexa hissed turning around, her voice distorted by how tight she was plugging her nose. Feeling a rush of breath get caught in her lungs she unplugged her nose for a moment, the smells from the sewers torturing her nostrils as she felt a huge lump growing in the back of her throat. The smell swirled through her throat, placing an unsettling taste in the pit of her stomach as she felt it rising up her throat. Starting to gag she covered her mouth in the nick of time to save herself from throwing up all over Ben who took a step back sensing that she might throw up. “Okay, we need to get out of here. As much as this is effecting you, I think I’m going to hurl.”

“I’ve already ruined my pants and my shoes, I don’t need you tossing your lunch all over my shirt as well,” Ben muttered seeing her eyebrows tense together before he saw her move forward and shove her hands into the center of his chest. Gasping out he still kept a hold of his nose, feeling his feet slipping out underneath him in the mucky water and heard her call out his name before he felt the splashing of the water underneath him. Groaning out he felt the mucky water sliding down the back of his neck, down his shirt and over his body. “So much for the shirt.”

“I’m so sorry, I never meant to do that,” she tried not laughing to the best of her ability seeing him stand up from where he was sitting in the disgusting water before laughing out making somewhat of a snort with her nose closed. “Wow, I think we’re both going to need to clean up soon. That is if we get out of here.”

“We’re going to get out of here because there is no way I can live with something trailing down my back and toward my ass because I’m disgusted as much as it is already,” Ben moved in front of her looking around the general area before him. This was disgusting and the less time he would have to spend in here the happier he would be. He didn’t even care if it took them miles away from where they were, he just wanted to get the hell out of there. He couldn’t live with the smell and if he was in there more than a few minutes longer, he might as well be a dead man because he was going to choke himself with his own puke. There would be no way he would be stuck down there for an extensive amount of time. “There has to be some way out of here, like a way to get back to the top.”

“Like a ladder, on that’s on a side of wall where two sewers meet,” Alexa moved forward looking up seeing Ben pacing back and forth to try and find something as she moved up on the side of the sewer unplugging her nose for a second. “With a lid that has holes with light shining through?"

“Yeah, something like that,” he moved down the sewer looking around the corner to try and see some kind of ladder as he looked around and threw his hands up in the air feeling the mucky water settling in over the top of his belt around his waist making him groan out in disgust. “I have no idea where to find one.”

“I do,” she nodded seeing the way he looked over at her, his hands resting on his hips as he turned on his feet getting aggravated with the way things were going. Pointing above her she could see the look on Ben’s face knowing that he was ticked off that he missed it and she caught it right away. “You want to do the honors of going up first or shall I?"

“How about you let me because your luck of jumping into things is just terrible,” Ben suggested seeing her move out of the way so he could make his way up the ladder grabbing a hold of the bars of the ladder leading him up slowly. Once at the top he reached his hand up and pushed at the heavy lid before letting out a tight groan. Pushing it aside he looked out for a moment seeing some light blocking his eyes and cussed out at the sight around him. “Shit.”

“What? What’s wrong?" she quickly moved up next to him to look around seeing that they were in the same exact building but just seemed to be stuck in a different area now. “All this damn walking in the sewers for nothing? Damn it.”

“There has to be some way out here,” Ben stepped up and out of the tunnel that led them up and pulled his body up for a moment. Blocking his eyes from the bright light he looked around and moved over toward the door in the corner opening it up slowly and let out a long cuss. “You’ll never believe what’s in the room next to us. We must have gone around in circles at least two times before noting the ladder.”

“Where are we?" she moved in next to him seeing the room that they were originally locked in and cussing out she turned to slam her palm into the center of the wall making a loud noise as if something was falling in the other room. “All that for nothing?"

“Maybe not nothing,” Ben propped the door open seeing what had fallen with Alexa’s hit as Ben smiled and motioned her in closer. “Good thinking Lexie, I think you may have just found us a way out.”


“So tell me,” Shane began sliding into his side of the booth after he’d finished taking the bill up to the cash register once they’d completed their meal with one another, “now that we’ve made it through breakfast, does this mean you’ll consider that jog around the lake with me?”

“Given my last experience with running around you, I really don’t think it’s safe,” she teased with a nervousness laced behind her attempt at joking. “You’re dangerous Shane Slater.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” Shane leaned in closer to her, his eyes tempting her to keep up this game of flirting he’d initiated between them, “but if you’d like to, I’m sure I can let you in on my deep, dark secrets.”

“Tempting, but considering that you won’t even tell me what you do for a living, I don’t believe that to be true,” Diane wrinkled her nose at the thought. “You aren’t very open about things already and I would be a fool to think you would simply extend an invitation out to me after this game you’ve been playing all morning.”

“I’m only keeping the mystery alive as it makes things all the more interesting,” Shane shrugged his shoulders. Leaning back in his seat once again, he spread his arms out over the back of the booth. “In fact, Diane, why don’t you tell me what you would like me to be and you’ll see just how accommodating I can be?”

Her eyes widened at the notion. She brought her hand up over to the side of her face before attempting to cover. “Excuse me?”

“Career wise,” Shane fought to repress the chortle of laughter that bubbled up in the back of his throat at the expression on her face. “You’re the one who seems to believe that I have all of these delicious options surrounding the part of my life I’m not sharing with you, so why not try to figure out the mystery since you seem rather fond of them?”

“I’m more of a comedy gal myself,” Diane explained with a wrinkled expression. She reached for her half empty glass of water and took a long sip. Carefully setting the glass down once again, she met his eyes in a bold attempt to prevent him from seeing her interest and discomfort at being near him.

“Somehow I seriously doubt that,” Shane laughed lightly as his gaze swept over her appreciatively. He watched a lump form in her throat as she reached for her water once again.

“Hey, I watched cartoons with you. It’s possible that I’m into humor,” Diane tossed back at him with a wave of her hand. “I like to laugh.”

“Which explains your relationship with Ben,” Shane muttered under his breath with a groan.

“What?” Diane blinked back at him. “What did you say?”

“I said it explains your…never mind,” Shane shook his head in refusal to continue.

“I never told you his name was Ben,” Diane frowned back at him. “I said I was involved, but I never said that…”

“Yes you did,” Shane quickly covered wondering if he’d slipped up about his position. While he’d thought that Diane had mentioned Ben’s name before, now he found himself struggling for a recollection. Nothing came to mind in that moment and at the same time he hoped to find a way to recover if he’d been wrong.

“No, I don’t think I did,” Diane shook her head firmly. “I mean I would have thought that I would’ve said his name, but…”

“Diane, if you didn’t say his name, then how would I know it?” Shane challenged wiggling his brow at her suggestively. “I mean it’s only fair that I know the name of my latest competition.”

“There is no competition,” Diane huffed in response, “I’m a very happily taken woman.”

“Taken,” Shane repeated with a dry laugh, “as in he clubbed you over the head and dragged you back to his cave to ravish you?”

“Not even close,” she curled her lip in a pout. “Ben’s not like that at all. Not even remotely close to being that kind of guy at all.”

“Hmm, well it seems to me that he’s someone who doesn’t know a good thing when he has it because nothing would keep me away from you if you were mine,” Shane reached for her hand once again. He felt her resistance, but as his index finger pressed in against the center of her palm, he felt her shiver as well.

“Shane stop,” she pleaded lowering her voice as a crimson color spilled over her features.

“With the flirting or the honesty?” he arched a curious brow as her hand still remained in his.

“Both,” she whispered tightly as her eyes shifted around the small café, “You can’t say things like that to me considering that…”

“You’re taken even though the man you claim loves you so very much is nowhere to be found,” Shane challenged feeling her shiver once more before she tore her hand away from his.

“Look Shane. I like you and I’ve really enjoyed our friendship thus far, so let’s not do anything to spoil that,” she pleaded batting her eyelashes at him. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a real friend in my life and I don’t want to ruin that.”

“Somehow I seriously doubt that one Diane. A woman like yourself undoubtedly has an entourage I’m certain,” he teased with a small wink watching her shift on the seat across from him.

“I wish,” she let out an ironic laugh, “but truth be told I don’t really have a lot of people in my life that I can really trust. I mean my best friend in the world, Jade, well she died not that long ago and after she left the world things just haven’t been the same. I wish I could say that they were easy in terms of friendship, but Jade was the one person in the world I trusted more than anything. She was like a sister to me and the only true friend I’ve ever known.”

“I’m sorry,” his voice softened as his eyes swept over her with a sympathetic stare, “I had no idea that…”

“I’m not looking for sympathy,” Diane forced a small smile, “I’m just telling you that I rather enjoy your company and I want for us to be able to continue spending time with one another like this.”

“Fair enough,” Shane nodded accordingly, “I’ll try to keep the flirting down to a minimum then.”

“And I’ll try not to be so hard on you when you can’t help yourself,” she offered up with a small smile, “In fact, what do you say we shake on it?”

“I think we can do that,” Shane reached across the table to accept her hand once again, but this time in a far more chaste fashion.

“Tell me something friend,” Diane decided after they parted hands, “what are you doing later?”

“Other than spending time in my apartment bored out of my mind, not much,” Shane divulged catching the expression on her features. “Why?”

“Well, Ben and I were sort of invited to this party thing that’s going on and, well I’m still supposed to go, but with Ben out of town…” she began to fidget on her seat uneasily.

“You figured why risk the humiliation of attending by yourself when you had access to a friend right here with you,” Shane pointed to his chest and smiled.

“Something like that,” she paused as her brow wrinkled, “Unless you think that’s not really what friends would do.”

“Help someone out when they needed assistance?” he tossed back at her with a wide smirk, “Diane, I think my escorting you tonight is well within the limitations of our newfound friendship.”

“Oh good,” she let out a breath of relief because I was really beginning to think I would have to tag along with Dean and Deidra and that’s the last thing that I would want to do considering how disgustingly in love they are and…”

“And what?” Shane questioned seeing her fall to silence as her face grew red again.

“They’re here. Act natural,” she whispered as Shane looked up to see two people approaching them.

“So here you are,” Deidra greeted Diane with a seriousness in her tone. “Tell me something are you hiding out because you destroyed my kitchen the other day or simply because you’re afraid I might ask you to clean up the mess?”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Diane curled her lip in protest, “and I was going to get back to taking care of it once I finished with my errands for the day.”

“Isn’t that what you said last night?” Deidra folded her arms in front of her chest impatiently.

“I was injured Deidra,” Diane whined pointing to the small cut on her forehead. “Cut me some slack here.”

“I can attest to the fact that she was out of commission yesterday after the fall she took at the gym,” Shane piped in as Deidra’s dark eyes settled in on her sister’s companion for the first time since her arrival. Shane could feel Deidra sizing him up with one look, but he was prepared for the scrutiny. “Hello, I’m…”

“Shane,” Deidra finished with a knowing expression.

“How did you…?” Shane’s eyes widened.

“Diane mentioned you moved into my building,” Deidra explained with a small smile, “and then she said something about the accent and…”

“You pieced it together,” Shane’s grin widened as he glanced over at Diane briefly, “So Diane’s been gossiping about me?”

“I wouldn’t call it gossiping,” Diane offered up in her own defense now that her face was growing more crimson by the moment. “In fact…Dean, hey I didn’t see you there.”

“Hi Diane,” Dean waved down at her, “How are you?”

“Just on the way out since we’ve finished up here a little while ago,” Diane scooted out of the seat and stood up in front of Dean, “but you and Deidra can take our seats if you like. You can just get someone over here to wipe the table, which shouldn’t take long and then…”

“We can find our own seats Diane,” Deidra glanced over at Shane once again, “although you don’t have to rush on our account.”

“Well actually,” Shane started with a smile.

“We aren’t rushing,” Diane interrupted suddenly determined to get out of the café before having to continue speaking with Deidra, “but for what it’s worth it’s been great seeing you two.”

“Of course and it’s been nice meeting you Shane,” Deidra’s eyes breezed on over to Diane’s companion.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Shane took Deidra’s hand in his and offered up a small kiss upon her palm before he looked to Dean. “Dean, it’s nice to meet you as well.”

“Likewise,” Dean nodded watching Diane practically tear Shane out of the restaurant before Dean and Deidra could get better acquainted with him.

“Tell me you didn’t think that was strange,” Deidra frowned seeing the front door to the café close upon her sister’s exit.

“That was certainly on the strange meter,” Dean confessed with a nod, “Although Diane’s friend seemed friendly.”

“Perhaps too friendly,” Deidra mouthed thinking about her sister’s attraction to trouble.

“He seems like a nice guy,” Dean shrugged his shoulders before pausing, “Although I could’ve sworn I’ve seen him before.”

“You know him?” Deidra glanced over her shoulder at her boyfriend.

“I’m not positive, but I’m pretty good at remembering faces,” Dean thought it over for a long moment, “Although if he lives in your building that might have been it.”

“Perhaps,” Deidra replied as Dean lead them to a corner booth in the back. While Deidra wanted to focus on the meal ahead of her, she found herself remembering Diane’s predisposition to trouble. Deidra just hoped for Diane’s sake that the guilty expression Diane wore on her way out the door wasn’t a sign of something horrible around the corner for Diane!


“You are just not my type is all Nate. We would never work out doing this together and there is no way that we would be able to work together. We hardly know each other and the only thing I know about you is the stuff that I learned in the mental hospital. That says enough right there,” Cori huffed moving over toward her door to leave only to see him move forward and step in front of the door so she couldn’t leave. Feeling her anger building up inside of her she reached out to strike him in the center of the chest seeing him cringe before rubbing at his chest where she hit him. “I don’t know why you think you being the father of this baby would help any.”

“Because I’m a nice guy. I’m funny and I really like you as a friend Cori. I swear to God, we don’t have to be more, but we can really help each other. I know you don’t know much about me, but honestly if you think about it--who was there when you needed someone the most? I think it’s obvious that I’ve been there for you when you’ve needed me,” Nate reached out to gently squeeze her shoulder in his hand in a friendly manner raising his index finger to gently nudge at her chin seeing her crack a smile. “Honestly sweetheart, I really think that if you were able to count on me to come see you the other night, how come you can’t count on me to help you raise your baby? I can do It, I just need a chance. A chance for you to say yes.”

“Nate, this is just something hard that we are going to have to pull off if we do this,” she felt his hand caressing her bare arm softly, his green eyes searching hers. For a moment, with having him before her she thought about the possibilities of having Nate in her life and what it would be like. There were so many chances at a future she could have with him and there were so many reasons to turn him down. “I know we can talk and be friends, but how do you know we can work together and do something like this? I’m not ready to be a mother and you sure as hell act like you’re a child yourself.”

“Believe it or not I really love kids. Like I don’t know what I would do without Matty,” Nate explained seeing the way she stared out at him as he fought for words to say knowing that he was all choked up and was trying to come up with something to say to her as he threw his hands up in the air. “We can tell them that for me it was love at first sight. If you want you can tell them that you were drunk if you don’t care about me like that, but I just think a kid could be a really good thing in your life. Having a helping hand like myself could never hurt. I know you can trust me, you have before. Why can’t you trust me with your child? Our child?"

“Because…,” Cori went to say something more about how the child belonged to Diego and how no one would be able to believe them if the child came out looking like the father. Not once had she been with Nate and after a while it would become evident of that. When she was going to say something more she was interrupted by the sound of a door opening and she was met by the eyes of her niece staring out at her. “Stacy hey, how are you?"

“I was having a normal crappy day until I came walking down the hallway for something and just heard the good news,” Stacy declared seeing Cori’s eyebrows tightening together as she looked over at Nate who pushed back his hair again. Moving forward she wrapped her arms around Cori who in return cautiously hugged her back before speaking up again. “I can’t believe the two of you are having a baby. I’m so excited for you.”

“Why thank you Stacy, we’re so excited to be having one together,” Nate answered for Cori before she could say anything more as he moved in closer to her wrapping his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in closer to him before pressing a gentle kiss against her temple. “It was so unexpected, but we’re excited.”

“Oh yeah, I would be too. You two make such a cute couple, you are going to have such a beautiful baby,” Stacy assured him knowing that the news she heard was great for her aunt with all the stress she had been going through and knew that Nate was a perfect guy for her. “This is such great news.”

“What’s so great?" Lindsay muttered after coming to find her friend when she had been gone for a couple of minutes. Walking into the room, a smile pressed in over her features seeing the way the smile seemed to swallow up his face in a way. His dimples showing clearly as she let out a small laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy Nathan.”

“Well he has a reason to be happy, did you hear about the good news?" Stacy looked to Lindsay seeing her shake her head before looking to Nate again when she saw Cori look up at him nervously. “Cori is pregnant--her and Nate are going to be having a child together.”

“Oh hey, that’s great news,” Lindsay moved forward toward Nate knowing that the last few times other than when he was with Matt, he never seemed to be this happy and she was so glad for him. Pulling him in close for a hug once he let go of Cori she hugged him tightly before patting him on the back. “Don would love to hear the news. He’d be so happy for you as well. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Cori gulped down feeling Lindsay hug her and she glared out at Nate seeing his green eyes staring into hers as he arched his eyebrows up. Shrugging his shoulders she knew he was already on the way to getting people to believe their story and she didn’t even know if she was ready for this. “I appreciate it.”

“Hey, I think it’s wonderful,” Lindsay explained stepping in next to Stacy as they stood by the door and she thought about the last few times she had hung out with Nate in the past. “I just want him happy and I can see that when he’s with you, you make him entirely happy. I’m so glad for the both of you, this is such fantastic news that I’m sure so many people will want to hear this.”


“Don stop and be serious,” Deana swatted at him turning around to stick her tongue out at him only to be met by the rest of his frozen fruit bar heading right straight into her mouth. She glared at him before reaching out to take the stick and hold it before finishing off his frozen treat. Shaking her head at him once she’d finished she laughed lightly, “You are such a dork. I mean really I don’t know why I bother with you.”

“Because you love me admit it,” he smiled over at her before tossing the paper from the iced treat in the trash. “I’m just one of the best guys you know.”

“Which isn’t saying much considering,” she teased back with a hearty laugh watching him moving in closer to her. She shook her head before holding out the stick that the fruit bar had been on. “Okay, I think I overdid it. I shouldn’t have ate that.”

“Why not?” Don questioned with a small laugh, “You seemed like you wanted some of it.”

“I did, but then I remembered I had cereal with Zane this morning and then on the way over he had his candy in the car still and,” Deana shook her head and frowned, “I think I overdid it.”

“That’s okay,” Don put his hand on her shoulder gently, “If you get sick later you can just call me up and I’ll watch Zane for the night. He can stay with Matty for a while until you feel better.”

“If I get sick tonight I’ll be the one coming over to your place so that I can get sick all over you,” Deana teased with a wrinkle of her nose shaking her head at him.

“In that case, how about we just get you to throw up now so that you feel better later,” Don teased moving in closer to her and collecting her in his arms. He started to tickle at her sides causing her to shake her head and swat at him.

“Don knock it off,” she frowned glaring up at him with her dark eyes. “Don I mean it.”

“I know and I’m sorry,” he stopped tickling her long enough to smile down at her, “Deana I’m just playing.”

“I know and I have a secret to tell you,” she tipped up on her toes her brown eyes meeting his worried gaze. “I’m not really feeling sick at all. I’m just looking to knock you on your butt.”

“Wait, what?” Don replied feeling her shove her hand into his chest and send him flying back onto the couch they’d been seated on earlier. It took him a split second to realize what she was doing before he reached out to her catching her hand with his and pulling her down over him. They both fell onto the couch and he burst out with laughter. “Who has the upper hand now Deana?”

“Still me,” she teased tickling at his sides again when the door to the room opened and Zack walked in glaring at the both of them. He stopped where he stood for a long moment and eyed them both with obvious scrutiny.

“Get a room,” he finally grumbled watching Don and Deana scurry to sit up on the couch again. He walked over to the coffee machine before reaching for the pot.

“We had a room before you walked into it,” Don quipped in response rolling his eyes at Zack’s comment.

“Last time I checked you still had a wife too Leveski. I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate you getting it on at work with one of the nurses when you’re getting paid to do your job.”

“I’m not getting it on with anyone,” Don blurted out quickly catching the look Zack tossed back at him, “other than my wife. Besides, last time I checked you were the one who had your wife leave you.”

“You know what Don,” Zack started opening his mouth to say something more, but thought twice of it and opted for a wide smirk instead. “Keep insulting me now, but when it comes time for you to be taking orders from me, we’ll see who is laughing then.”

“Yeah me because it’s never going to happen,” Don shot back at Zack watching his enemy’s retreat before turning to Deana and frowning, “I hate that man.”

“With good reason I’m sure,” she noted with a frown of her own, “and now you see why the man needed to be knocked down a peg or two.”

“I can take care of this,” Don warned her with a sudden seriousness reaching out to touch the side of her face gently, “You just steer clear of the trouble. The last thing I want is him hurting you.”

“Don I can hold my own and then some,” she curled her lip in a pout at him.

“And I’m well aware of that, but right now you’ll be best served by letting me do what I do best in proving I’m the better man,” Don explained with a wide grin, “Besides Grady and Jason would both kill you if they knew how you were trying to instigate that man.”

“I don’t answer to my boyfriend or my brother,” she folded her arms in front of her chest ready to say something more to him when Deana entered the room.

“Okay I’ll bite, which one of you do I have to applaud for putting that somber expression on Zack’s face?” Ria questioned curiously, “I would have to say that was the first time ever that he’s ever walked by me without being rude and arrogant.”

“Don’t get too excited. I’m sure it won’t last,” Don noted with a frown.

“He’s always going to be miserable.” Deana piped in as well.

“Well that doesn’t surprise me at all, though it’s going around lately,” Ria explained with a heavy sigh, “I’ve already had one hell of a morning.”

“Why is that?” Don questioned curiously.

“Angela’s missing,” Ria informed Don point blank.

“What?” he replied his blue eyes widening.

“We were all at the mansion earlier and we heard this noise,” Ria explained thinking about the chain of earlier events. “Brant and Kevin went outside and someone destroyed Kevin’s car. They then found that Angela wasn’t at the estate. She didn’t leave a note or anything, so they weren’t sure what happened. They went over to see Cameron thinking he might be behind what happened, but…”

“But what? Did they find her?” Don questioned worriedly thinking about his best friend. “Brant must be going out of his mind right now if he can’t find her.”

“Both Kevin and Brant are upset,” Ria explained with a frown. “I mean it’s possible that she just took off and ran an errand or something, but with what happened to Kevin’s car…”

“That doesn’t sound right at all,” Don looked between Deana and Ria, “I suppose I can go over and see Brant. I’m almost finished here, so maybe I can help.”

“I’m sure he would appreciate that,” Deana added thinking about Don and Brant’s relationship.

“Hopefully they’ve found her. I couldn’t stay around since I had a shift,” Ria continued to explain.

“I’m sure they will,” Don nodded hopefully, “but if not I’ll do what I can to aid in the search. Of course while I’m gone you two better stay out of trouble with Zack. He’s not the kind of person to screw with.”

“Don we already know that,” Deana rolled her eyes in response. “Trust me I wouldn’t screw with him if he was the last man on the planet.”

“That makes two of us,” Ria agreed with her, “Though if you go see Brant and Kevin, tell Kevin to call me Don.”

“Will do,” Don nodded saying his goodbyes before leaving the room.

“So tell me Ria, do you really think someone could’ve taken Angela or that this is nothing?” Deana questioned noticing the expression on Ria’s face.

“I honestly don’t know,” Ria sighed in response, “but if they don’t find her, then there is no telling what will happen to Brant or Kevin for that matter. I just hope it doesn’t turn to that.”


“Uncle Rex? No way,” Wendy moved forward to give him a friendly hug feeling his arms wrap around her tightly as she heard his thick accented laugh in her ears. Pressing her hand in over the center of his chest, she looked up at the taller man before her letting out a small laugh. “I think the last time I saw you, you had long dark hair. What happened to you. Look at this…looking rich and famous.”

“He is rich and famous,” Ken explained seeing the way that Rex tipped his hat once Wendy let go of him in the hug and Ken wrapped his arm around her shoulders again. Seeing Wendy’s dark eyes look up towards him he nodded and looked to his uncle seeing him fix his jacket. “Owns his own baseball team and made millions down south owning what a couple of sports teams? Got into all that oil business.”

“Well, I had to make a name for myself somehow,” Rex explained with a wide smile cracking another laugh as he turned to Wendy again and reached out for her hand holding it up in the air as he looked her over. Shaking his head slowly he pulled off his hat pushing back his hair and shrugged his shoulders. “Why look at you miss Forbes. The last time I saw you, you were so young. Look at what you’ve grown into. Such a beautiful woman.”

“Why thank you, you don’t look too bad yourself,” Wendy smirked looking over the extremely tall man before her. It had been so long since she had seen him last and she could always remember it was his height that impressed her the most. His hair is what totally blew her away and the way his face looked, it was almost unrealistic to believe that this was him. It was a better looking version of the man she knew from the past that had the same laugh and voice that she always knew. “Isn’t this a surprise running into your uncle? I’m glad we did though because I never thought I would see you again.”

“He always shows up somehow,” Ken explained with a small warning hiss trying to get Rex to leave knowing that his uncle was the last person he wanted to have around right now. In so many ways Rex reminded him of his brother and he just hated it and wanted him to leave. “I do have to wonder how you showed in Paris though.”

“That is a great question Kenneth,” Rex’s thick accent answered as he wrapped his arm around Ken’s shoulders leading him out of the market and toward the street. Pulling his hat off with his free hand he placed it in over his chest before clearing his throat uneasily. “How about I take the two of you to a nice little restaurant and we can all have a chat over it.”

“That’s a great offer, but I think we’re going to have to decline,” Ken grabbed his uncle’s arm grabbing it and pulling it away from his shoulders before shrugging. Letting out a deep sigh he looked around and brushed off his shoulder knowing that was the last thing he wanted to be doing right now. “We have a lot of things we’re doing and I just don’t think we can fit it in.”

“Kenny? What are you talking about? Of course we can fit a quick eat in with your uncle,” Wendy moved around him and saw Rex smile widely as she moved in closer to him feeling him wrap his arm around her shoulders. “So what do you have in mind Rex Ashford?"

“Well, I have the perfect diner we can go to and…,” Rex stopped noticing that Ken wasn’t following them and he looked over his shoulder at his nephew seeing his dark eyes staring out at him. “Well don’t just stand there in the middle of the road. Haven’t you seen the drivers out here? They are all backwards and you don’t need to get hit by the French. You know they’re crazy and love everyone’s pain but their own. You will become the next version of French Pacman so come on kiddo.”

Rolling his eyes he watched his girlfriend walk away with what he viewed to be his redneck uncle that was no good in the first place, but moving forward he knew that he would lose them if he didn’t keep up. So far, what was supposed to be a great trip was really starting to suck.


“I still don’t trust him Kevin,” Brant sighed sinking back further into the seat of his car now that Kevin had suggested that they drive back to the Ashford Estate in the event Angela had returned. “I don’t think for a second that Cameron is telling the truth. I’m guessing he knows full well where she is.”

“I’m not so sure Brant,” Kevin sighed in response turning his attention to the world passing by the windows while they drove down the road. He ran his fingers through his dark hair before looking over at Brant again. “He seemed concerned about her. Now while Cameron doesn’t do concerned very well, I could see that there was something behind his eyes.”

“The man is a lunatic and a liar. He’s done everything he could to get Angela away from me and I wouldn’t doubt that this is another stunt of his. I mean think about what he did to us the last time,” Brant sighed keeping his attention on the road while his thoughts lingered to Angela.

“He skewed the truth to fit it to his convenience,” Kevin noted with a tiny shudder, “I don’t refute that, yet when I think about how important she is to him.”

“It’s his hatred for me that put her in this position in the first place. He came to town determined to bury my family and now he’s taking away the very thing in my life that means the most to me,” Brant’s knuckles tightened around the steering wheel.

“Cameron felt he was doing what was right by his sister however misguided it was,” Kevin paused glancing over at Brant again, “although I can see how he might feel compelled to believe there was a threat with you and Angela if Cyrus was in fact taken out by your father.”

“My father is a monster Kevin. I won’t even try to pretend that he isn’t. When he did all of those horrible things years ago, I swore to myself that I would never, ever be like him,” Brant explained honestly thinking about his father’s madness. “He destroyed everything he touched and in turn cost anyone who loved him everything. He was selfish and ruthless and most of all compelled to destroy any opposition that got in his way. I couldn’t live like that. I would never live like that.”

“I know,” Kevin nodded looking away again, “but Cameron has been fueled by rage and anger for so very long. He felt justified in his quest.”

“He wasn’t justified in going after me. I never met Cyrus Stone let alone murdered him,” Brant blurted out with a strained tone. “I’ll admit I had seen things I would just as soon forget, but I never, ever did anything even remotely close to what he insinuated. Just like I’m sure you didn’t do those things the way that Cameron tried to make Angela believe you did.”

“You and I both know that I killed her husband. I haven’t lied about that to you Brant,” Kevin paused contemplating his words. “The man was a monster and he was going to kill her. He was consumed with his own greed and thirst for power. He never loved her--just the promise of what it was that he could get out of the union.”

“Then you did the right thing,” Brant offered up looking over at Kevin briefly. “If I was in your shoes at the time I wouldn’t have done things differently.”

“I can’t say what I would’ve done had I had any time to consider what was happening. I did what my instincts told me to do and it was unfortunate, but it was what needed to be done,” Kevin answered in a hollow, even tone. “I did what was necessary to protect her.”

“You loved her even then after she married someone else,” Brant realized a long thought pouring over him, “Just like you love her now, don’t you?”

“I’ll always love her Brant,” Kevin admitted with a raw honesty in his tone, “but our lives weren’t meant to cross paths in the way that I once believed. She held my heart for a very long time, but she belongs with you. I belong with Ria.”

“Ria loves you a lot,” Brant couldn’t help but toss back at him. “She was going crazy at the thought of not being around you. This whole deception has been killing her.”

“It’s been killing all of us,” Kevin noted with a sigh, “I thought that we were close to an end of it.”

“So did I,” Brant sighed remembering the last time he and Angela had been alone with one another, “but now this.”

“We’re going to find her Brant,” Kevin decided firmly refusing to accept any other alternative to the situation.

“I hope you’re right, but I have to tell you Kevin the last time someone went missing in this town, things didn’t turn out as good as they should have,” Brant couldn’t help but bring up the past.

“You’re talking about Jade, aren’t you,” Kevin frowned thinking about his departed cousin. “She was ripped from this world far before her time.”

“She was a good person who had a hard life,” Brant recounted flashing back to the first time he’d ever seen her. “I wish I could’ve spared her that.”

“What happened to her wasn’t your fault. You weren’t one of the monsters who hurt her,” Kevin pointed out firmly his jaw tightening at the thought of how his cousin had suffered.

“No, but her life was scarred by the hands of my father just as Angela’s has been,” Brant blurted out with an uneasiness in his tone, “and if you believe in Cameron’s theory of guilt by association than it would prove that I am no better than he was.”

“You’re a lot better than your father Brant. Cameron knows that as well in the back of his mind, but it terrifies him. You terrify him simply because Angela loves you and he cannot control that. There are no rules with her and he’s foolishly been lead to believe he could assimilate her to the master plan he has for their family,” Kevin shook his head and sighed, “but it’ll never happen. She’s too stubborn to let something like that rule her life.”

“Which is another reason why Cameron may want to make her disappear--so that he has plenty of time to turn her to his thinking all over again,” Brant mouthed worriedly his thoughts lingering to Angela.

“If Cameron is behind what’s happened to her, he won’t be able to hide it much longer. There isn’t a doubt in my mind about that. Still if someone else has taken her, they’ll find themselves wishing like hell that they had just left her alone because things will get very ugly for them very fast,” Kevin vowed ready to do what was necessary to take out the person that had found a way to make Angela disappear. He just hoped for their sake and his that she soon reappeared unscathed or else heads would roll.


“How could this happen?” Douglas questioned watching Sarah sink down on the bed after they’d both shuffled to get dressed to ease the discomfort of the situation at hand. Once she’d emerged from the bathroom completely clothed he’d found himself trying to piece together the night that had brought them to the here and now. Turning to face her, he found her looking up at him with the same perplexed expression.

“I honestly don’t know,” Sarah revealed with a shakiness in her tone. She attempted to pull at the wedding band one more time before finally giving up. Tipping her head up to the side, she felt a lump forming in the back of her throat. “I don’t even know where we are.”

“We’re at the hotel that was across the street from the bar,” he explained catching the surprise behind her eyes as it was clear she wondered how he’d known that simple fact. He pointed to the window to explain to her before speaking up again, “I looked around while you were getting dressed.”

“Oh,” Sarah paused her gaze dropping down to the floor to where the discarded condom wrappers still remained. “Still, how did we get over here when…?”

“I don’t know,” Douglas answered honestly thinking about how he’d stopped for a drink in the hopes of clearing his head after the situation that he’d had to deal with now that his latest picture was under intense scrutiny of the FBI. While he’d poured a small fortune into the film, it was on hold now that his association with Brooke Morrison was under heavy speculation. He’d tried to explain that things weren’t as it seemed, but the impossible nitwit from the FBI wasn’t interested in hearing the truth in the situation. He’d been at his wit’s end and vowed to find a way to ignore the reality of the money that was being held up by getting himself a good drink.

What he hadn’t expected was encountering Sarah after he’d already had one too many at the bar. He’d been there for a couple of hours before he’d spotted her walk in. At least he thought he’d spotted her walk in before he’d joined her. Now of course the details were hazy. He glanced over at her again straining to remember what had lead him from the bar to the bed to being with her and this damned gold ring on his finger.

“I just…I mean I don’t believe this,” Sarah blurted out fumbling with her fingers in her lap. She looked down to the front of her shirt remembering that there were a few buttons absent and she frowned. “I guess we got a little crazy, didn’t we?”

“Apparently so,” Douglas noted looking down to the tears that covered the front of his shirt. He’d half considered not bothering with wearing it, but the idea of being naked with Sarah was less than pleasing for the moment. He cleared his throat uneasily realizing that she was looking for the discarded buttons on her shirt. “They are over by the door. I think some of them might be in the hallway too.”

“Oh,” Sarah gulped again wondering just what in the world she had done last night. She looked to the headboard seeing the sheet fragments that were still hanging from it and she felt a shiver carry over her. Immediately she sprung up off of the bed and moved over towards the opposite side of the room. “Well I um…”

“Yeah,” Douglas nodded rubbing his palms together before turning around to see the small table that was over by the window now lay over the floor in fragmented pieces. He bit down on his lip wondering what in the world would’ve caused that kind of destruction, but once he spotted the condom wrapper intermingled with the ruins of the table, he pretty much figured out what his answer was. A shudder carried over him when he swiftly forced himself to look away opting to ignore the obvious truth that stared him right in the face.

“So how are we going to fix this?” Sarah questioned stating the question that was undoubtedly on the both of their minds since they’d awakened with one another. She saw the blank expression on his face and raised her hand to be more specific. She tapped on the finger the ring was on and took in a breath. “We can’t keep things this way.”

“No we most certainly can’t. There we are in agreement,” Douglas decided feeling as if he’d been inspired by the first bright idea he’d had since he’d awakened beside Sarah in bed.

He started to reach into his jacket pocket to withdraw his cell phone, but instead he found himself met by the black tattered material of her panties that must’ve been stuffed inside last night. He held them up for a moment seeing their fragmented remains in his palm when suddenly it registered what it was exactly that he was holding. He winced and let out a small yelp before tossing them across the room. He rubbed his hand down the side of his jacket hoping to wipe off any lingering remains of what could’ve been on there. Of course he knew full well nothing was on there, but considering the idea of where they had been before he’d pushed them into his pocket suddenly had him hoping to find some hand sanitizer. He stepped forward ready to go wash his hands when it occurred to him that more than his hands had touched Sarah and undoubtedly had touched her in the very place that…

“Stop right there!” he chastised himself refusing to go down that road now that he was trying to be rational.

“Stop what?” Sarah blinked back at him. “I didn’t do anything.”

“No of course you didn’t,” Douglas waved dismissively realizing that he’d forgotten she was in the room with him. “You just stay right there and I’ll just…”

“Just what?” she questioned with wide eyes feeling something sticky on the side of her neck. She brought her hand up and pressed her fingers to the small spot just below her ear to discover some kind of chocolate substance on her skin. Shuddering at the thought of just what could’ve happened with the aforementioned chocolate, she fought to repress a low, disgusted groan. “You know we really need to fix this situation.”

“I couldn’t agree more and I’m just going to call some of my people. They will fix this right away for us. I’ll just tell them to be discreet and…” Douglas explained reaching for his pocket again but stopping before he could discover anything else of Sarah’s on him. Instead he moved forward ready to use the hotel phone to complete the much needed action.

“Make sure that they are very discreet. This is the last thing that we need anyone to find out about,” she continued to ramble on thinking about the ramifications of her doing something so completely and utterly stupid after she’d gone to see Diego. It was bad enough that she was going to go over to Diego’s and grovel to get him back, but then when he’d been gone it hadn’t done anything to help her ego. Why she’d accepted a drink from Douglas she would never know, but one thing was for certain. That drink would not ruin the rest of her life and she certainly would not be married to him of all people. That was a fate that she wasn’t even crazy enough to keep around her.

“Trust me I have the best people working for me and they will keep this on the down low,” Douglas explained lifting the phone off of the base to find it slathered in some kind of whipped cream and chocolate. He paused for a moment wondering why in the world the phone would be covered in such delicacies when suddenly he had a faint flutter of a memory involving him and Sarah and the strange contortions they’d worked their way into on the nightstand the phone was on. Dropping it immediately he felt bile in the back of his throat. He blinked a few times trying to will away the snippet of the memory when he felt her touch his shoulder.

“Doug,” she spoke his name with great unease causing him to leap at the contact of her fingers over his shoulder.

“I don’t think you should do that,” Douglas explained trying to still the racing in his chest now that she’d opted to touch him.

“I was just wondering if you were having problems with the phone and,” Sarah paused seeing what he’d just discovered in front of him. She let out a small whimper before stumbling back further into the room. “Oh God please tell me that we didn’t…”

“I’d be lying if I did,” Douglas answered honestly attempting to banish the memory from his mind. He turned around to face her again and sighed, “I can just go home and call one of the offices and…”

“That’s a great idea,” Sarah nodded in agreement ready to push the whole evening behind her. “I can just go back to my place and…”

Her words were stopped by the sound of a phone ringing. The sound caused the both of them to jump backwards nearly stumbling in the process. Sarah stood frozen hearing the melody fill the air until Douglas nodded towards her.

“I believe that’s yours,” Douglas pointed out in a small, shaky tone.

“Right,” Sarah nodded searching through the room to find her phone. She listened for a moment attempting to spot the location of it when she noticed the trash can in front of her. Knowing full well what she would undoubtedly find after all of the empty condom wrappers donned the floor, she wrinkled her nose in disgust. She took a tentative step forward grabbing a tissue off of the nightstand before dipping her fingers into the trash can to collect her phone. She tried to bite back in the feeling that rippled over her while she turned her eyes away from the trash can ignoring what would be in there with her phone. Taking in a breath she brought the phone up to her ear and sighed. She used the tissue to push the button to answer.

“Hello,” she mouthed into the phone uneasily.

“Where the hell are you?” Cameron snapped at her, his irritation level rising with the moment. “I’ve been calling you for a while now and you never answered. Where are you?”

“I’m just…” Sarah stammered trying to find the words to say without giving herself away.

“Just what? Do you have any idea what kind of day I’m having? Things are not going well and lo and behold I go looking for my fiancée and where is she?” Cameron continued to lash out at her. “Do you have any idea what kind of morning it has been?”

“Trust me Cameron. I know what kind of morning it’s been,” she glanced over at Douglas before turning away. “I’ve had one hell of a morning myself.”

“Whatever. Sarah the point is that I need you here and I need you here now. I don’t care what you’re doing or where you are because I expect you to be here as soon as possible,” Cameron snapped into the phone his words coming out tight and irritated.

“Of course,” she nodded in response thinking about the situation at hand, “Cameron I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“See to it that it’s not too long,” Cameron warned her sharply hanging up the phone on her.

“I will,” she paused realizing that Douglas was still listening to her. “And I miss you too. Of course.”

Finally hanging up the phone Sarah turned to face Douglas again. “I have to get going. Cameron needs me and I’m sure that you can take care of this situation and get back to me later,” Sarah started moving to collect the rest of her things from the ground. She began to pull everything together knowing full well that Cameron did not sound happy about whatever was going on. Then again she had a morning that she couldn’t be thrilled with either considering the company she was keeping.

“Get back to you,” Douglas replied his mood souring as he thought about the conversation she’d had with Cameron. He watched her moving around the room ready to leap at Cameron’s command and a frown touched over his lips.

“That’s right,” she nodded in agreement. “I’m just going to go back to Cameron’s while you figure everything out and I’m sure that we can have this whole silly situation over with by the end of the day.”

“Silly situation,” Douglas repeated when a sudden thought occurred to him. “You know Sarah I don’t know if that’s such a good idea with what we’re doing.”

“What?” she questioned turning to look over at him with a frown. “What do you mean?”

“Well it will take some time to get into contact with my people and then there is the whole matter of what happened last night,” Douglas continued to explain to her thinking about what was going on with him and Sarah. “It just seems to me that things would take on a different level for us now that we’ve had this night together.”

“Different level?” she repeated with a small frown thinking about what they’d shared. “Yes of course, but you can rest assured that I won’t tell anyone a thing about what happened with us. It’s already out of my mind and I can promise you that I won’t ever breathe a word to another living soul about what happened. It was a mistake that…”

“Would undoubtedly cause you problems with Cameron, yes?” Douglas arched a curious brow thinking about what was going on now that he’d remembered Sarah’s link to Cameron.

“Well yes, but Cameron doesn’t really need to know about this. I mean the way I see it you and I can hardly recall what happened, so there is no real reason why we should actually take things to the next level in carrying this on any further than we already have. Cameron and I are engaged so I really wouldn’t want him to think that something like this could happen when…” Sarah rambled feeling a sudden nervousness at the thought of anyone figuring out what had happened between them.

“When you’re my wife?” Douglas mused with a newfound smirk carrying over his features. “Why I’m sure Cameron would lose all control knowing that you and I are together now.”

“Well we’re not officially together. I mean whatever did or didn’t happen last night is nothing. We just made one little bad judgment call in drinking too much and…” Sarah stammered trying to come up with some kind of reasonable explanation that lead her to where she was in the here and now.

“Actually Sarah from where I stand I think these rings link us as something more than just a case of drinking too much and the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s probably not so bad that we’re married to one another. Hell, it might actually be fun to stay married,” Douglas decided after a moment‘s contemplation.

“You can’t be serious,” Sarah blinked back at him in astonishment a horrified expression creeping in over her.

“Why darling I’m very serious. Our being married might prove to be the best thing for all of us when everything is said and done,” Douglas mused with a wide grin ready to launch a whole new plan to drive Cameron crazy all over again.


...to be continued...