Episode 408

Ria stood at the nurse’s station thinking about what happened in the emergency room. When Marie had been brought in she hadn’t given much thought to the woman, but when Ria realized that she’d seen her before something had changed. Even now as she remembered Marie’s pleading words telling Ria that Kevin should know what she had to tell him. She could still hear Marie’s weak voice saying that it couldn’t wait--that Kevin had to know. Frowning as Ria remembered trying to question Marie, she realized it was no use. Marie had passed out and was rushed into the surgery. She pulled through and was now in recovery, but still Ria found herself haunted by the woman’s words and desperately wanting to know what a junkie could have that she needed to speak to Kevin about.

“Hey you,” Barbara broke Ria’s thoughts as she approached her, “I was looking all over for you.”

“Sorry, I just needed a moment,” Ria confessed with an apologetic expression stepping back into the moment.

“Yeah it was pretty intense when that woman came in,” Barbara shuddered at the memory. “Even though I swear I’ve adjusted to the job, it always gets to me when someone willingly hurts themselves. I mean usually it’s got some illogical reasoning behind it like a man broke their heart or that they have given up on the hope of happiness. It’s so sad.”

“It really is,” Ria nodded in agreement wondering what had driven Marie to the extreme she’d been in earlier this evening.

“I don’t know what it was that had her so upset, but when I took one look at her arms, again I found myself wondering how someone could do that to themselves. I mean sure I know that there are people out there who are into the sport of drug abuse, but hell I hate getting blood taken from me or even a shot, which I’m sure sounds ridiculous given our line of work.”

“Not at all,” Ria shook her head and offered up a sympathetic smile, “I nearly crawled out of my skin at my last tetanus shot. I tried to get out of it, but the excuse didn’t fly after I stepped on a rusty nail at the beach.”

“Ugh that’s not good at all,” Barbara cringed at the thought, “I can’t say I blame you though. That’s not a fun thing even if it’s not a major shot.”

“No, but you feel it for days. The last time I had a reaction to it,” Ria laughed lightly shaking her head at the memory, “Only I could have that kind of luck.”

“I don’t know Ria. Your lucky doesn’t seem all that bad,” Barbara pointed out. “I mean after all you do have Kevin and well, he’s pretty hot.”

“Even so it’s not all sunshine and roses for us,” Ria frowned remembering the last talk she’d had with Kevin. She’d been upset that he’d left town before her, but now she found herself puzzled by what Marie was attempting to tell her about Kevin. Ria wondered just what Marie’s news would be.

“Oh come on. Even in the bad moments I’m sure they are pretty good,” Barbara winked at her and laughed. “I mean he’s a very sexy guy and I would rather have that to go home to than the two cats I have.”

“You only go home to two cats because you’re not looking for Mr. Right,” Ria corrected thinking about her friend’s bad run of luck with love.

“No it’s not that. I never gave up on finding the right guy. I just always found Mr. Wrong, though I was hoping that the last guy might have been different, but I knew full well he had too many entanglements when I took interest,” Barbara admitted a dark expression creeping in over her.

Ria eyed her for a long moment knowing full well about Barbara’s crush on Diego Hernandez. Unable to resist asking Ria spoke up again, “Have you talked to Diego since he left?”

“Only for a few minutes,” Barbara revealed with a heavy sigh. “He’s still settling in with his new life and doesn’t seem to want to look back too much.”

“I’m sorry it turned out like that,” Ria offered up apologetically. “He seemed like a nice guy.”

“He is, but apparently the wrong women found him first so by the time I worked up the nerve he was already an emotional wreck,” Barbara shrugged her shoulders again, “though I guess having being shot in the ass and having some lunatic that you cared for sleep with half the world will be enough to drive you crazy.”

“In most circles I would imagine it would,” Ria replied ready to say something more as the familiar ring tone filled the air around her. As the melody to “Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy” surrounded Ria and Barbara, Ria felt a blush carry over her face.

“Let me guess that’s your Mr. Wonderful,” Barbara couldn’t help but laugh shaking her head. “Go on answer. I know you want to.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Ria quickly picked up the phone and answered. “Hello.”

“Please tell me that you’re at home alone and naked so that I can make love to you with my words right here and now,” Kevin slurred into the phone in a sensual tone, his voice causing shivers to race over Ria as she glanced over at Barbara.

“No such luck,” Ria couldn’t help but offer up a nervous laugh. “Give me a second.”

“Nice song there Kevin,” Barbara called out before stepping aside and leaving Ria to her conversation.

Looking around the hallway Ria decided to take a break and walk out onto the balcony just beyond where she stood. Once she was outside she felt the night pressing down upon her. Looking up at the sky she felt a breath escape her lips before she spoke up again.

“Okay, I’m out of the hustle and bustle for a minute,” Ria explained closing her eyes and imagining that Kevin was right beside her instead of miles away.

“I take it you’re at the hospital and having one of those nights,” Kevin’s voice held a disappointed tone.

“Unfortunately I am,” she replied with a small groan, “but you kind of knew what I would be in for when you decided to up and leave me like you did. I told you it would be hell without you here.”

“I wish I would’ve listened,” Kevin revealed thinking about the night he’d had. “I should’ve let Brant run this search on his own and stayed around to be there for you. Right now there’s nothing more I would want then to get you naked and beneath me…”

“Kevin please,” Ria felt her face grow hot at his mere suggestion.

“Okay fine, I’ll be generous. How about you can be on top of me?” Kevin’s voice was laced with a great many innuendos. “I really don’t care which way I have you as long as I can have you.”

“Gee that sounds like a man of real romance there,” Ria groaned outwardly feeling her breath causing a small vapor in the night air before her.

“Hey, what can I say? I’m a man who knows what he wants and baby I want you,” Kevin slurred in an intoxicating tone hoping to convey just how much he’d missed her in her absence. “I’d trade the world to have you in my bed right now instead of being stuck here with Dumb and Dumber also known as Brant and Don.”

“Oh come on. They can’t be that bad,” Ria offered up imagining that Kevin hadn’t had to deal with half the grief that she’d already endured during the busy night at the hospital.

“You’ve got to be kidding me Ria. They are driving me insane. Brant was bad on his own, but with Don, I’m telling you I feel like the odd man out,” Kevin revealed with a small laugh. “In fact I think that Don’s raiding my refrigerator right now undoubtedly making a mess of my kitchen because that seems to be his thing.”

“Oh come on. Now I know you’re lying,” she couldn’t help but chuckle at his agitation. “Don’s a good guy.”

“What he’s good for I’ve yet to figure it out. Same goes for Brant,” Kevin sighed heavily before pausing. “But for what it’s worth I miss you like crazy.”

“I take it you haven’t had any luck in locating Angela yet, huh?” she questioned pondering the search that they were on.

“I wish we did because then I would hop the first flight home to you and say to hell with all of this. Brant wants to be the one to fill in the missing pieces in her life and I’m all for that. If he’s thinking he’ll do justice to the situation, then power to him,” Kevin explained with a shake of his head. “I’ve given up trying to reason with the two of them.”

“Just give Brant time honey. He’s upset because the woman he loves has gone missing. I wouldn’t expect you to be rational and understanding if I was the one that was gone,” Ria tried to be neutral about the situation without letting her animosity towards Angela take over her.

“If you were gone I’d be tearing off heads and beating down half the world to find you,” Kevin admitted honestly feeling a pang in his heart at the thought of her being so far away. “Look Ria I know that none of this was like we talked about. I realize that all of our plans for us have been put on hold because of this and…”

“Kevin, I don’t want to get into this now because if I do it’s only going to make me angry and upset. Given the things that are happening around here tonight, I don’t think that’s the frame of mind I should be in. My patients deserve more than that,” Ria paused remembering the one patient in particular that had captured her interest.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Kevin decided with a heavy sigh of his own, “So tell me how are things going over there? With work I mean.”

“Work is work,” Ria paused contemplating telling Kevin about the woman that had been brought in. She remembered the way Marie looked at her when she mentioned Kevin, yet as Ria was on the phone with him she found herself torn. What could she really say? What was there to tell as Marie hadn’t said much more than Kevin’s name and him needing to know something that Marie never revealed? It would be like opening up a mystery that had no real meaning--at least not yet. Given that Kevin already had his hands full Ria opted to keep the information to herself. “It’s just been a really long night.”

“It sounds like it although you know when you get off duty, you should call me,” Kevin suggested with a hint of hope carrying over his tone.

“It probably won’t be until late Kevin. I’m working a double shift and…” she reminded him hearing him make a small sound on the other end of the line.

“I don’t care how late it is because I want to talk to you,” he explained in a soft rumble of words, “Besides maybe by then I will be in bed alone and naked anticipating what you can say to me.”

“You’d better be alone and as for that whole naked thing,” she couldn’t help but tease him, “with Don and Brant in the house maybe you should bypass that one altogether.”

“I’ll lock the doors,” Kevin groaned at the thought. “Honestly Ria don’t kill the mood here.”

“We don’t actually have a mood going considering that you’re there and I’m here and I’m at work,” Ria corrected tipping her head up to look at the sky above her. “It’s beautiful here tonight though.”

“It’s beautiful here too,” Kevin revealed moving over to look out of the window that was in front of him. “The night sky is clear and full of stars.”

“It’s the same way here,” she admitted with a small smile. “It’s late enough that the store lights and the city traffic aren’t clouding it’s simplistic beauty.”

“It’s like that here all the time Ria,” Kevin replied touching the glass window pane in front of him. “The only thing that would make it better would be having you here beside me.”

“I wish I could be, but with work…” she felt her mood sour as reality began to take over her.

“I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Kevin interjected with a small sound of disappointment. “I hate it Ria.”

“So do I, but there’s nothing I can do even if I wanted to,” Ria reminded him again with a small sigh. “It doesn’t stop my missing you though.”

“I want you here with me and that time can’t happen soon enough,” Kevin continued to explain to her. “I know that I’ve been confused about a lot of things lately, but I’m not confused about us. That has never been a point of indecision for me. I love you.”

“I love you too Kevin, but right now I don’t think that…” she started feeling an uneasiness in the pit of her stomach.

“Ria, I meant what I said about wanting for us to have that family together. I can’t wait to have you in my arms again so that we can work on bringing our own little miracle into the world,” Kevin explained quickly causing a lump to form in her throat.

“I want that too Kevin. I really do,” she revealed feeling herself choking up at the idea of being without him. Still she realized she couldn’t get all mushy with him on the phone then be expected to think straight at work. “Look Kevin I have to go get back to work…”

“Fine, but call me later,” he pleaded with her, a desperation in his tone.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she offered up not knowing what the future would hold for them.

“I love you Ria,” he insisted in a pleading tone.

“I love you too Kevin,” she prepared to hang up before rethinking it. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“I’ll be waiting for you tonight,” he offered up with an air of confidence as she let out a sigh.

“I’ll talk to you later Kevin,” Ria finished reluctantly hanging up the phone as she found herself wanting more than anything to find a way to get things back to how they should be with her and Kevin. Remembering Marie’s earlier words, she couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps that was a sign that some kind of trouble was still waiting around the corner.


“You know, we shouldn’t just be sitting here waiting for things to happen. I’m sick of just sitting back and waiting. It’s like I’m waiting for that call for the funeral to say that it’s over. That Angela is gone and there is nothing we can do to get her back. Kevin acts like it’s nothing, but we shouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t just be waiting, we should be out there doing something. Doing something that will help us find Angela,” Brant groaned resting back into the corner of the cabinets in Kevin’s kitchen once they came to Kevin’s house for the night. It was suggested that they just come and rest for the night, but what was driving Brant crazy was the fact he didn’t need rest. He needed to find Angela and as he watched his best friend lean further down into Kevin’s refrigerator to look for something to eat. “I say we should just go out there by ourselves and find her. Who cares about Kevin--we can find her ourselves.”

“Well to be honest here,” Don moved back with a pack of lunch meat between his teeth while he held a few things in his arms before kicking the refrigerator door closed with his heel. Looking over at Brant he shrugged his shoulders and started to look around for some bread so he could make himself a sandwich. “I think we should just chill here for a bit. Kevin knows his way around the island and we really don’t. And he knows Angela--I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.”

“Listen, he may know Angela but I’m the one that is in love with her. I’m the father of her babies I think I might just know what is best for her,” Brant saw Don’s blue eyes widen as Brant stepped forward and tapped his hands against the countertop. He saw Don hesitant as to what to say as Brant shook his head slowly. “Kevin seems to think that he knows what is good for the woman that is in love with me--he has no idea.”

“Well I was just saying he did spend like what--seventeen years of his life with her? In love with her and now that she has this whole amnesia thing going on he might know her the best. Not that you don’t really know what’s best for her--I just think Kevin knows her the best of the three of us,” Don added watching the way Brant’s face just seemed to drop while Don started to pile on all the food he had gotten onto two different pieces of bread. “I don’t mean anything by it. I know you love her I just know I suck with directions and Kevin knows this island by heart. I know I don’t. I’ll get lost and then need the saving.”

“I know…it’s just I don’t like waiting. It’s one thing I’ve never been good at,” Brant leaned back further into the counter seeing Don move over toward the refrigerator to pull out the squeezable bottle of Mayo. He started to see his best friend drizzle tons and tons of the topping over the sandwich to the point where it was dripping down the sides and out onto the counter. “Okay what are you planning to do with that later? Go swimming in it because that is disgusting Don.”

“My bad,” Don shrugged finishing up with the amount he pleased turning to see his best friend’s nose wrinkling in disgust at the way he was eating. Placing the one piece of bread over the other he squeezed it together seeing the lines of Mayo running down the sides and onto the counter as he took a bite and nodded slowly seeing Brant groan in disgust. “Very good.”

“Did you even ask if you could eat his food?" Brant questioned seeing Don freeze in the motion of chewing and there was a small line of Mayo running down the right side of his face and down his chin. A laugh escaped his throat as he reached for some paper towels for Don to clean up his face. “You know…today has been one hell of a day. Instead of finding Angela like I wanted to…I ended up running into my worst nightmare.”

“You know, I know Avery is bad but trust me--I can come up with worse,” Don chuckled to himself taking another hearty bite of the food before him laughing a bit when he did so. “What was her problem anyways? I saw she was ready to attack you until Kevin came around.”

“Oh yeah--what a help he was,” Brant rolled his eyes thinking about the closeness that Kevin had developed to Russ and Avery over the last few months and how ridiculous he thought it had been. Maybe it was the fact that he always tried with Avery that pissed him off when she was so close to Kevin. He tried to be a nice guy--most of the times. “But I don’t know. She just has it out for me or something. She can hold a serious grudge or something.”

“Well hell--I know if I was her I’d be holding one hell of a grudge toward you. Look at the way you fired her, that was one hell of a mean thing to go and do. That would be one hell of a grudge. She treats you a lot better than I would treat you,” Don pointed out seeing the glance that Brant gave him as he ate more of his sandwich and he held his hands up in the air. “What can I say Brant? How would you feel?"

“That’s not something I want to think about,” Brant watched his friend finish off his sandwich and go back to the refrigerator to fish out some more to eat. Groaning out again he moved around to the kitchen table and shook his head slowly. ’But to get back on topic Don--we need to find Angela. Tomorrow or something because if we don’t--if we don’t I can only imagine the things that will happen to her.”

“I think she’ll be fine,” Don moved around while in the midst of making himself another sandwich to pat Brant on the shoulders softly. “I know Angela is one tough cookie and with Kevin leading us around the island tomorrow--we’ll find her. I promise.”

“I hope so,” Brant found it hard to believe the promise himself knowing that he had tried to be optimistic plenty of times--tried to tell himself that everything would be okay. That nothing would be wrong and Angela would be in his arms and be okay. She would be fine, remember everything she shared with him and they could be together. From here on out. No more secrets. No more interruptions. Just the two of them and that’s all he wanted. He wanted her back in his arms again and it seemed like the world was working on keeping them apart. It was something not even he was ready to face but the truth seemed to drill in more and more each day. “I hope we find her Don. I really do. Without her. I’m nothing. And I don’t think I could handle that.”


Angela looked out at the water thinking about the peacefulness that was associated with the beach. It was beautiful outside, yet she’d found herself uncomfortable in her surroundings waiting for her father to arrive and speak with her. While she was certain that they would have a lot to discuss, she knew that in seeing him again he would help put her mind at ease and keep her from driving herself crazy in the long run. Only her father’s words would be able to do that for her.

“Hungry?” Craven questioned as he walked into the room and smiled at her. “I was just about to put some steaks on the grill and I thought maybe I might be able to coax you into a meal.”

“Honestly right now I was kind of hoping you could tell me when my father’s going to be here,” Angela confessed tipping her head up to discover that Craven was now standing over her behind the chair she was seated in.

“He called me earlier, but said that he would be delayed,” Craven placed his hands down upon her shoulders causing her to stiffen. “He apologized for his tardiness, but he was hoping that you would take the time to relax.”

“I’d really rather see him,” Angela replied tightly feeling his thumb and index finger sliding up over her shoulder, into the knotted area of her neck.

“You’re wound up tighter than anyone I’ve ever been around,” Craven began to knead his fingers over her tense muscles as he leaned forward. “You really should try to relax a bit Angel.”

“I’m not really in the mood to relax,” she cleared her throat feeling an uneasiness in her abdomen as she attempted to pull herself out of the chair. Unfortunately Craven’s hold on her tightened and he pushed her right back into place again.

“You’re not leaving so soon,” he informed her in a lecherous tone, although it appeared he was smiling. “I told your father I would make sure that everything was alright with you and today is no exception. I am, after all, your bodyguard and I intend to live up to the job description in guarding your body.”

“That’s not really necessary,” she began feeling his rough fingers pressing into her muscles. She let out a pinched breath as her eyes darted towards the water once again.

“It’s my pleasure,” he breathed against her skin as she felt him kneel down behind the chair. His fingers slid over her shoulder, down over the neckline of her shirt. “You know you really should learn to savor the moment a bit more instead of worrying so much.”

“I’m not worried. I just want to see my father,” she explained turning her head towards him and meeting his eyes. “Did he leave a number that I could call him at?”

“He said his phone would be out of service until he was on his way here,” Craven rewarded her with a small smirk. “I’m sure he’ll call you though when he can.”

“I wish it were soon,” she sighed closing her eyes as she felt his hands return to their movements. Her lips parted and she tried to allow herself to be comfortable, but when she felt his hands roam over her shoulders, she nearly leapt out of her skin.

“Relax,” he murmured again trying to soothe her, but it wasn’t working.

“Craven, I’m really just tired,” she started finally pulling herself out of the chair. She stood up and faced him again as she took in a breath. “If my father calls I’ll speak with him, but other than that I don’t want to have any interruptions.”

“What about the steaks?” he questioned with a wounded expression.

“Not right now,” she decided quickly scooting past him as she made her way to her bedroom. Once inside she leaned up against the door thinking about the way Craven had been touching her. While he hadn’t done anything outwardly awful, something still felt wrong. The way he looked at her made her uneasy and as she reached for the lock on the bedroom door, she decided that she’d try to be careful--at least until her father arrived and she could see what was going on with him. Yes, locking the door was a good idea indeed, she rationalized as she made her way over to the bed in the hopes of relaxing. After all if it kept Craven out, then Angela was certain it would be enough to give her some time to push all other thoughts out of her mind than rest. At least that’s what she was hoping for.


“Watch your step,” JT instructed reaching out for Evie’s hand as they climbed up the cracked steps leading to the modest beach house just beyond the abandoned area of the beach.

While they’d had to climb a few rocks to get beyond where they’d had to park the car, Evie could now see the tiny home in front of her. She noticed a few of the windows were boarded up and a curiosity brewed over her as JT reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. She watched him push one into the rusty lock and a few seconds later the door creaked open for him.

“I know it’s not the kind of fairy tale palace where you’d anticipate spending your time, but you said you wanted something that would keep us alone for a while,” he explained stepping aside and letting her enter the foyer area. “Watch your first step here too as I think there is a loose board.”

“Okay,” Evie replied taking a tentative step forward and hearing the wooden floorboards make one sound after the other. She listened to the sound of the door closing behind her and she found herself surrounded by darkness.

“Give me a second,” JT urged before moving in beside her. She felt his hand over hers and he slipped something into her palm. “Here this should help until I get back.”

“Okay,” she nodded realizing he’d deposited a flashlight in her hand.

Once he’d moved out of the room she snapped it on without hesitation. Looking around the room she was in, she found herself surrounded by furniture that was draped in various colored sheets. The floor she was standing on was quite weathered as it was clear it had seen better days. Moving forward she noticed an old stone fireplace in the corner of the small room that surrounded her. She ran the light over the room to discover the small hall the JT had disappeared into. There was a very modest sized kitchen beyond the cutout in the wall and it appeared that there was a bathroom to the left and another door that she assumed was the only bedroom in the place he’d taken her to. While he’d said it wasn’t much, she had no idea how truly little the place would be. It had clearly seen much better days and yet as JT returned from the kitchen with matches in hand, she couldn’t help but smile.

“We’re going to need to light this,” JT nodded towards the fireplace motioning for her to follow. “The electricity isn’t exactly working and right now I don’t want to drop down under the crawlspace to get the generator running. It’s really loud and obnoxious and…”

“And it’s fine,” she smiled shining the flashlight over towards the fireplace so that he could get to the task at hand.

“I know this isn’t anything like I promised you, but I have to tell you that I know you’ll be safe here,” JT explained keeping his attention on the fireplace in front of him.

Evie moved forward realizing that there was a small rug on the floor that he’d knelt on. Shining the flashlight on it she realized it was a bearskin rug of sorts. With a horrified squeal she leapt back and shuddered.

“Oh God is that real,” she gulped seeing the hideous looking face of the bear in front of her. It was enough to make her want to throw up at the idea of someone skinning a bear for such purposes.

“What?” JT questioned hitting his head on the fire poker hanging beside him after she’d shifted the light away from him. “Evie, the fireplace.”

“Oh right,” she nodded beaming the light over to him again while she felt a shudder pass over her. “I’m sorry I was just distracted by the rug and…”

“It’s not real. It’s not even remotely close to being real,” JT promised leaning forward and snaking his arm out around one of the chairs in front of him. With one swift tugging motion he pulled one of the sheets off of the chair and covered the grotesque bear head. “My friend just had a strange sense of humor when he bought it. I never could figure it out.”

“So this is your friend’s place,” Evie noted wondering what kind of friend of JT’s would live in something like this.

“It was my friend’s place,” he admitted finally lighting the fireplace. The flames illuminated the rest of the room and suddenly it looked less like a ghost house and more like a small home. She noticed the pale beige walls with the small print border around them. The chair he’d uncovered appeared to be a plush beige recliner and as he got up off of the floor and uncovered the couch it seemed to be a matching piece.

“Was?” Evie questioned seeing JT move around the room.

“It’s mine now,” JT revealed seeing the surprise register behind her eyes. He reached for her hand and urged her to take a seat beside him on the couch. “A friend of mine bought this place a while ago and when he died his mom didn’t know what to do with it. She gave it to me and I guess I never really could bring myself to be here after it all happened like it did.”

“I don’t understand,” Evie replied feeling him stiffen on the sofa beside her. She watched his dark eyes press in over the flames again while she placed her hand on his leg gently. “It’s okay JT if you don’t want to tell me you don’t have to.”

“No, it’s fine,” he glanced over at her offering up a weak smile, “I mean I brought you here, didn’t I?”

“Well yes, but…” she paused sensing that this was hard for him. “JT if you don’t want to be here…”

“No it’s not that. It’s just,” he paused unable to ignore the feeling that carried over him. Reaching out to touch her face lightly he smiled before releasing her. “It’s just that this place holds so many demons of the past that I never thought I could bring myself to face them.”

“Because of your friend?” she couldn’t help but ask feeling him tense up once again.

“He and I met while I was on the streets,” JT revealed his eyes returning to the wild flames in the fireplace before him. “We were both in a bad spot in our lives. He ran away from home and his family and mine, well they just didn’t give a damn about me. It wasn’t exactly the best of times for us.”

Evie nodded saying nothing as he continued on.

“I told you that I knew where you’ve been because I’ve been there myself. With Todd and I,” JT’s voice cracked with emotion, “well when we met we both kind of looked out for one another. We were like brothers and when things went down, we always had one another’s back. There were times when I got into something over my head and he always bailed me out of it. I would’ve died without him in my life. In fact one time I almost did. I OD’d on some shit that a dealer sold to us. I was young and stupid and it almost died that night. My father was in Europe and didn’t give a damn what happened to me. Cameron had his own problems and the rest of my family could’ve cared less. Todd had a record of his own, but he risked being put into jail to get me to the hospital so that he could save my pathetic life. Often at times I wondered why.”

“JT,” Evie frowned feeling him let out an ironic laugh.

“He saved my ass so many times and I never really did anything for him, but bring him down,” JT informed her looking over at where she now sat. “I was just some spoiled little rich kid who took his toll on his father’s patience and instead of behaving in an appropriate fashion, I thought I would take my chances on the streets. It was a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I lived it.”

“I know why you felt like you had no other options. It doesn’t sound like your family was there for you JT,” Evie squeezed his leg gently. “You did what you needed to in order to survive.”

“Yeah, but I took chances--so many stupid chances and it never haunted me like it did Todd,” JT explained with a shake of his head. “My father had me put into jail after I broke into his house looking for some money. At the time Todd was still on the streets and he went to this party where they were doing some serious drugs. I’m not lying when I tell you this because it was stuff that both Todd and I agreed to never touch. Thing is he wound up doing it…maybe because I wasn’t there…maybe because he just didn’t feel like he’d had any other options. After that everything changed.”

“How so?” Evie couldn’t help but asked watching JT get choked up on his emotions.

“He wound up with HIV,” JT revealed to her shaking his head and feeling a chill carry over him. “I mean I was into a lot of things, but needles were never part of the program.”

Evie glanced down at his arm seeing the faint scarring that he’d showed her when they’d first met. She tipped her head to the side and gave him a strange look, “But I thought…”

“These aren’t what you think they are,” he frowned shaking his head and thinking about what he’d told her in the past. He ran his finger across the tiny scars that ran up and down his arm, “I was high one time and this guy dared me to break into this shipping yard and steal something. At the time I would’ve jumped off of a roof if someone would’ve asked me to, so it didn’t register that climbing over the barbed wire fence was probably not a good idea. Plus I didn’t take the time to factor in that there would be guard dogs. To make a long story short, I got halfway in there, wound up getting a chunk taken out of my leg and this, well this is what happens when you try to rush over barbed wire.”

“Oh I just…” Evie glanced down at his arm again now taking the time to see that the scars had markings that matched a barbed wire design.

“I didn’t do needles,” JT explained with a raw honesty, “I was always smarter than that and so was Todd--at least I thought he was. When I found out what went down I tried to be there for him, but by the time I was out of jail and the ridiculous military school my father tried to ship me off to, the damned disease took him down and tore his immune system to shit. I never had a chance to say good-bye to him.”

“Oh my God,” Evie gasped horrified by JT’s tale. She reached out to him placing her hand on his shoulder as he choked up.

“So you can see why I haven’t found it in me to be here in a long time. When we were younger Todd and I would spend time here just hanging out,” JT revealed with a heavy sigh, “and after that the place kind of just was abandoned. When he got sick he moved back home with his parents and they took care of him until the end. During that time he told his mother about me and about how we looked out for one another. At the funeral she approached me and thanked me for keeping her son alive as long as I did, but I couldn’t find it in myself to be able to believe that I’d done him any good. When he needed me the most I was in jail for being stupid and…”

“JT that wasn’t your fault. Todd made the decision to do what he did on his own. You weren’t responsible for that,” Evie appealed to him feeling him lost inside himself.

“But I should’ve been there,” he replied choked up on his emotions. He felt tears threatening as he couldn’t help but get up and pace around the room. “I should’ve kept his head out of water like he did with me. I could’ve talked him out of it and maybe then he would be alive today making something of himself instead me being the one to screw things up…”

“You don’t screw things up,” she argued with him standing up to approach him. “Damn it JT you cleaned up your life. Look at all you’ve done. You have a bar that you own, a family that loves you and you are a good guy.”

“No I’m not. I’m so far from being a good person that it’s pathetic,” JT shook his head in refusal to accept her praise. “I made a lot of mistakes and Todd was a sign of that. He was the one person in this world that actually gave a damn about me and I failed him when he needed me the most. I let my friend die because I needed to find a way to get the next fix.”

“JT, this wasn’t your fault and I’m sure that Todd loved you for all that you did,” she placed her hand on his chest. She felt him turn away from her and she reached out to touch his cheek gently, “JT look at all you’ve become. I’m sure that Todd’s mother gave you this place not to have it haunt you, but rather to remind you that you’re not alone in all of this.”

“That’s just it,” he mouthed in response choked up on his words. His dark eyes met hers glazed over by the tears he’d fought to contain. “I’ve always been on my own Evie. I’ve never had anyone else in my life. I mean sure I have Cameron, but let’s face it he’s only been interested in me because I despise my father and there Cameron and I are in agreement. He might have my back, but we don’t have anything really worthwhile.”

“But you’re not alone JT. You have me,” she pleaded with him sliding her fingers up into his dark hair. “You’ve saved me from myself and that’s something special. If you hadn‘t found me when you did, then heaven knows where I would be right now. I might be in the same boat as Todd was.”

“No, you’re better than that. Evie, you’re special and you’ve always been special. You didn’t need me to figure that out,” he breathed lazily reaching out to touch her cheek. His fingers eased into her hair tentatively as he let out a sigh, “You’re so very special. I’m no good for you. I’m the last thing you need in your life.”

“No that’s where you’re wrong JT. You’re absolutely everything I could’ve ever wanted in my life. You’re everything I could ever need,” she tipped up on her toes snaking her arm around his shoulders to draw her in nearer to him. “JT I love you.”

“You shouldn’t love me darling,” JT couldn’t help but let out a long breath pressing his forehead against hers. “I’m not at all what you need in your life.”

“Why? Because you’ve made a few mistakes,” she questioned feeling his breath skimming in over hers. “Because you wound up making some bad choices that lead you to where you are now? JT in case you haven’t noticed you’ve turned your life around.”

“But even so I’ve been an amazingly self absorbed jerk and even with the women in my life,” he groaned finding the strength to pull away from her, “I’ve treated them horrible always keeping them on the outside looking in.”

“But not with me you haven’t,” she watched him turn towards the kitchen. “It’s been different with me hasn’t it? JT it is different for us isn’t it?”

“It shouldn’t be,” he revealed dropping his head down as he pressed his hands on the counter top in front of him. “I never should’ve let us get to where we are.”

“Why? Because you realize that this might be the real thing? That maybe just maybe for once in your life you’ve found love with someone who can love you back?” she questioned taking a bold step towards him. Reaching out to slide her fingertips over his shoulder and down his muscled arm, she felt him shiver. “Admit it JT you love me just as much as I love you and all the self loathing in the world won’t change that.”

“This is insane,” JT sighed knowing full well he’d entered a world of trouble in bringing her into his life in the first place. He felt her left arm slide in around his waist, fingers fanning out up and over his abdomen to his chest. He brought his hand up off of the counter and over hers raising her fingers to his lips. Kissing her fingers gently he let out a long sigh. “I do love you.”

“Then why are you running away from me? Why are you trying to close yourself off when we should be holding onto each other?” she questioned sliding her arm around his abdomen again. “JT please look at me.”

“Evie,” he spun around to face her again feeling so many things carrying over him as she stepped into his arms.

“I love you,” she whispered raising herself up on her toes to kiss him tenderly. She eased her hand over his shoulder, sliding it over his arm until she felt him pull her up off of the ground and into his chest completely to himself more completely to the kiss.

“I love you too,” he whispered feeling her wrap herself around him as their kisses grew in intensity and he found himself wanting more than anything to reach out to someone who would truly see him as he really was for the first time in his life.


“Can you believe the things that Sarah tried to pull today at the party? I mean what kind of a bitch does something like that to a person who is minding their own business,” Kellen muttered while holding Charles in his arms close to him watching the way that Kipp set up his bed to put him down to sleep. Kellen thought about the fight he got into with Sarah and realized to himself on the way home he should have so attacked her. Then he could have put things aside and finally got done with it. He should have taken her out when he had the chance to. It was something inevitable. Sarah needed to be taken down a notch and if that could have helped he would have so done it. It was something that was somewhat of a thorn in his side. Not once…but more constantly than he imagined. They told him this whole situation with Sarah marrying Douglas was nothing but he knew it was more than nothing. It was something that was meant to be trouble. Something that Sarah played with just to make sure that she could make more trouble. “I hate her Kipp. I hate her so much.”

“I know,” Kipp frowned finishing up and reaching out for his son holding him in his arms tightly. He saw his son rest his head against his shoulder as he smiled and moved him over toward his bed to rest down for sleep. Gently brushing in over his son’s head he looked back at Kellen shaking his head slowly. “I know you don’t like her Kellen--none of us like her. But maybe it’s time to just let her out of our heads and our minds.”

“How can I do something like that? Sarah is such a bitch that needs to be taken care of soon or…,” he went to say something more until Kipp turned to face him with a look he couldn’t quite read. Resting his hands over his hips he stared out at his boyfriend and took in a long shallow breath. “Well what am I supposed to think about this? How do I handle it?"

“Sarah is out to get people upset. We all know that we’ve all witnessed it. But maybe it is time to just chill out Kellen. Maybe that’s all you have to do to get by because I know how upset you get,” Kipp reached out for Kellen’s hand squeezing them lovingly before shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t like when she gets you worked up and there is no other pain in the world stronger than the pain you see when someone you are trying to hurt ignores you. For a person like Sarah--that is the biggest pain that anyone could experience. I know you don’t like the idea, but I don’t like seeing you get in trouble. You’re a good man Kellen--you don’t need someone like her proving the world wrong.”

“I know…,” Kellen sighed feeling Kipp moved forward to wrap his arms around his torso loosely and Kellen rested his arms around Kipp’s shoulders while he thought. He knew that he hated Sarah. That was an obvious thing there. Everyone knew when he hated someone. It was hard to know with the way he talked about them. It was hard to just keep quiet about it. It was hard to say--hey, I’ll pretend to like you. It wasn’t his thing and maybe everyone was right about laying off a bit. He just knew he didn’t want her to get away with the things she said and he liked to have his own input. “I just hate her and I like to show her that a lot.”

“Trust me--I’m sure she knows. I’m sure the whole world knows. It’s just that Sarah is the least of our problems Kellen. I think we’ve had some worse problems to deal with in our lives,” he pointed out seeing Kellen nod before moving over toward Charles to press a soft kiss against his forehead. The two walked out into the living room before Kipp shook his head and stared out at Kellen with a blank stare. “You know--I even find her less annoying than people like Becca. You know what kind of shit she tried to cause for us.”

“Honey, don’t even get me going on that one,” Kellen hissed thinking about the woman who had tried to cause so many problems for him and his boyfriend. “I can go hours on her. I’m still telling you though that I think that Sarah is still a huge trouble maker for us.”

“I don’t think so,” Kipp shook his head slowly reaching out for Kellen to join him down on the couch while Kipp wrapped his arm around Kellen’s shoulders pulling him in closer. “I love you a lot Kellen and no one is going to start troubles for us.”

“You have such a positive attitude toward things. I wish I had that. It’s something I’ve often wished for. A talent that I can just see radiating from you. You’re so optimistic,” Kellen pouted lifting his feet up and resting them against the top of the coffee table to relax a bit more. “Where as with me--I have to judge and worry about everything. But then again--I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do that. And Kellen likes me.”

“He sure does,” Kipp chuckled laughing at the way his boyfriend often referred to himself in third person and it amused him. Thinking things over he could tell that people like Sarah were always going to bug Kellen. He always over reacted and he worried too much. It was something that was constant. It’s not like it just happened out of the blue and that was part of the reason he loved Kellen. Kellen spoke it like it was and without that special part of him--Kellen wouldn’t be the person he loved today. “And if you didn’t have those qualities you wouldn’t be the same man I fell in love with. The same man I wake up loving every day of my life.”

“Oh…now you got me. I was all mad earlier and then you can say one thing and make my heart melt,” Kellen informed him in an over exaggerative tone before squeezing his muscular arm around Kipp’s shoulders bringing him in closer for a tight hug. Pressing a small kiss against Kipp’s temple he realized that this was the thing. This was the life he loved and Kipp was the man he always waited for. “I love you so much.”


“I can’t believe Hart’s daughter just up and left like that without saying a word to anyone,” Heather mouthed as she carefully tucked a blouse of hers in with the rest of her luggage for the impending trip she and Kyle were about to take with one another. “And to think of the chaos that followed with Walt not telling Hart where his child was, well that was just ridiculous.”

“I agree,” Kyle took a seat on the edge of their bed. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pry Hart off of his father if I let Hart have his say with Walt.”

“It’s not really all Walt’s fault,” Heather paused contemplating the situation for a moment, “I mean really all the blame can’t fall on him considering that Sam was the one that took off like she did when she had a good father. I mean sure maybe Hart and I aren’t exactly good buddies ever since Brant and I parted, but he’s a pretty decent guy when you’re not on the opposite end of the courtroom that he’s on.”

“Gee, that sounds real promising,” Kyle mouthed with a hint of sarcasm in his tone.

“He really is an alright sort of guy,” Heather explained giving her husband a small look. “I mean obviously Hart really cared about her. Sam had a parent who at least wanted her around so she really had no reason to run away. I mean yeah, I left home when I was far too young and got into a world of trouble, but look at who my mother was. She honestly was not mother material and couldn’t deal with raising her children, but that’s not the case with Hart and Sam. He really cares about her.”

“Hey,” Kyle caught the expression that washed over her, “I’m sure they will work it out.”

“Maybe, but you know if I ever had a father that gave a damn about me like Hart does with Sam, maybe things would’ve been different. I mean maybe I would’ve made smarter choices down the line,” Heather offered up with a heavy sigh. “A girl’s place really is with her father you know. There’s always a special bond in being daddy’s little girl, but I never had that.”

“Honey I’m sorry for that,” Kyle stood up and reached out to wrap her up in his arms.

“I just don’t understand why any child would walk away from any parent who loves them,” she leaned into him closing her eyes for a long moment. “After my mother treated me the way she did I knew I wanted the hell out of there and I vowed that I wasn’t ever going to be a mother like her. When I was being selfish and narrow minded I knew that I couldn’t raise a child in that kind of situation when I needed to focus on me.”

“Hey honey,” Kyle touched her cheek lightly as he coaxed her to meeting his eyes again, “No one faults you for feeling that way.”

“For so long I didn’t want any part of motherhood and I walked away from it every time the thought came forward into my mind,” she felt a tiny shiver carry over her as she detangled herself from his arms. “I didn’t want to be a mother like mine was. I didn’t want my daughter to have the kind of life that I did so I did everything in my power to run from motherhood.”

“Which is why you fought long and hard to have a good life for Charles,” Kyle continued thinking about Heather’s childhood. He reached for her once again and squeezed her in his arms tightly, “You’ve done everything you can for Charles and he loves you Heather.”

“I know that, but what if one day that changes?” she questioned turning around to face him fully as he held her. “What if one day he finds out all of my dirty little secrets and he sees me as someone no better than what my mother was? What if he can’t find it in him to look beyond the truths of my past?”

“Charles isn’t ever going to feel that way,” Kyle assured her dropping down to kiss her tenderly, “because you’re the world to him. Just like you are to me.”

“It’s just…” Heather paused contemplating her words before finally nodding. “You’re right Kyle. I don’t know why this thing with Hart hit me so hard.”

“Because despite the fact that you pretend to be distanced from everything around you, the truth to the matter is that you love with all that you are and you care about the world you’re pretending to not be involved in,” Kyle touched her cheek lightly. “You have a good heart Heather.”

“I didn’t always,” she sighed dropping her head down only to feel him coax her into looking up at him once again. “Even now I feel like I’m dragging my heels about going on this trip with you because I despise Avery.”

“But you love me enough to ensure that you’ll do what you can to be there for me when I need you,” Kyle kissed her once again, “and that’s what I love about you.”

“I can’t promise you I won’t kill her if she ticks me off Kyle,” she warned as they parted.

“You won’t. I have faith in you,” he insisted kissing her once more before turning to his packing.

“I’m glad one of us does,” Heather frowned hoping that she would be able to rise above the urge to strangle Avery Morrison each and every time they crossed paths with one another. Somehow she doubted that would ever really truly go away even if it was what Kyle wanted and that in itself had her more apprehensive than ever about the trip ahead of them.


“I’m glad we understand one another Douglas. That will make this all the more easier on all of us,” the voice echoed in Douglas’s mind as he thought about what the caller had put into his otherwise carefree life. Feeling an ache in his temple Douglas couldn’t help but reach into the top drawer at his desk that he’d relocated to. Inside he found a bottle of Advil and decided now would be a good time to just take a few to get rid of the headache that lingered over him even if it wouldn’t take care of the problem completely. He deposited them in his mouth and reached for the bottled water that remained on his desk, though secretly he found himself longing for something stronger.

“There you are,” he heard Sarah’s voice call out to him. She now stood in the doorway to his office dressed in one of his old robes and eyeing him expectantly. “I was wondering if you’d stuck around or if you left.”

“If I knew what was good for me I would’ve left,” he admitted with a long sigh turning his attention to the framed photo on the corner of his desk that Kipp had given him a few years back for one of the holidays. It was perhaps one of the only family photos of Douglas with his two sons as it had been at one of Kipp’s birthday parties back when JT was no more than three years old. With a sigh he forced himself to turn away from it.

“Escaping from the house won’t erase the agony we’re going to keep going through until you grant me the divorce,” Sarah scoffed back at him only to watch him glare over at her.

“Would you just stop talking about the damned divorce,” he snapped back at her pushing his fist into the desk top before rising. “I have enough things to worry about without your constant nagging and hassling me about the state of our affairs.”

“Look I was just saying,” she paused sensing that something was truly bothering him. She eyed him for a long moment seeing him pace around the room before he glanced over again.

“It’s just that tonight I just really don’t want to get into it,” he admitted raising his hand to stop her from whatever words she was attempting to say to him. “I’ve just found myself in a bit of a situation with my son and…”

“And what?” she questioned walking further into his study and looking at him intently. “Doug, what’s going on?”

“It’s just that he’s gotten himself into trouble and it‘s going to cost me. He behaves like an idiot constantly messing up his life and this time I don‘t think I can bail him out of it because…,” he paused realizing what he was about to reveal to her.

“Because why?” she questioned moving in closer to him. Her dark eyes were glued to his every movement and she watched him shake his head as if he was lost in contemplation with himself.

“It’s just…” he strained for the words before ultimately closing himself off. Turning away he took in a small breath, “It’s nothing. It doesn’t concern you.”

“So what? Enlighten me,” she suggested sashaying over to take a seat in one of the chairs near his desk. “I need some kind of form of entertainment since being here well, for lack of a better word sucks.”

“And with that attitude do you honestly expect me to share my troubles with you,” he huffed letting out a dry laugh before breezing by her and making his way back to the bar he’d visited earlier.

“Well, you’re kind of stuck with me, so you know we should make the most of the situation at hand,” she pointed out sensing that he was in some kind of obvious turmoil. She watched him reach for a glass and begin to pour himself a drink as she stepped forward, “It can’t be that bad, can it?”

“You have no idea,” he let out an ironic laugh before sighing once more, “I tell you in being a parent you expect a lot of things for your children, but you never imagine that they spend their lives trying to sabotage themselves like JT has done. He just can’t get it through his head that life isn’t a game and…”

“What’s wrong with JT?” she questioned her curiosities brewing over her at the mention of Douglas’s youngest son.

“Nothing that you could give a damn about,” he raised the glass to his lips and sighed. “It’s not your problem Sarah. Go to bed.”

“So what if it isn’t my problem,” she moved in closer to him keeping her eyes fixed on his. “If something’s troubling you, it’s clear that you should probably talk about it. Why not with your wife?”

“You mean the wife that is constantly nagging me for the divorce?” he tossed back out at her. His dark, profound eyes met hers again before he took a sip of his drink, “Face it Sarah you don’t give a damn about our being married so why would I bother saying anything to you?”

“You screwed me over with Cameron, so why not at least let me in on your latest tragedy,” she shrugged her shoulder simply walking over to the bar and placing her hand on top of his. “It might make you feel a little better.”

“And give you the satisfaction of you believing that you’ve done me some kind of favor by pretending to care,” he scoffed in response swiping his glass and his hand away from hers before exiting the room. “I think I’ll pass on that one.”

“Doug…” she watched him retreat thinking about how she hadn’t seen him look that way before. While she truly hated him with every fiber of her being, there was something about whatever had upset him--something that had shaken him up and she knew full well it would eat him alive if he didn’t open up about it.

“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath making the decision not to let him drink himself to death tonight while something was weighing on her mind. Knowing full well that she didn’t care, or at the very least she didn’t want to care, she moved down the hallway only to discover the door of his study was opened once again. She stepped inside and found him seated in the chair she’d slid into earlier, his eyes kept straightforward looking out onto something that didn’t appear to be there. Saying nothing she moved into the room and stood behind his chair.

“I told you to leave me alone,” he reminded her hearing her footsteps on the flooring.

“I know what you said,” Sarah circled around his chair only to discover that he’d arched his head up ever so slightly to meet her eyes. She knew full well that he wanted to close himself off--to forget about whatever it was that she would ask of him, but given the expression on his face when she’d first spotted him in this room, she knew she couldn’t leave it at that. Reaching for the knotted sash on the robe she was wearing, she pulled it open before speaking up again, “but I didn’t come in here to talk about it.”

“Sarah, I’m in no mood for games,” he replied watching the robe part and reveal her soft, rounded curves to his eyes. He held the glass in his hand loosely while the robe pooled to the floor beneath her. Using her toes, she kicked it in front of where he sat before dropping down to her knees in front of him. Tentatively she slid her hands out over his thighs, fingers stretching out over his legs in a silent beckoning. His dark gaze fixed on hers and as she watched him open his mouth to say something more, she pressed her index finger in over the center of his lips.

“Don’t,” she whispered in a smooth, sultry tone. He eyed her for a long moment of silence before relenting in his protest. She dropped her hands down to the buckle on his belt and moved to part his slacks enough to curl her fingers inside. She felt him shift ever so slightly on the chair before she focused her attention to his lap once again. Leaning forward she felt Douglas set his glass aside and bring his fingers through her hair while he let out a long sigh well aware of his wife‘s intentions in distracting him from his worries for a while.


“I guess my parents had other plans for us,” Russ mused feeling Avery snuggle in over his chest now that they lay with one another in the middle of the bed in their hotel suite.

“I just didn’t have the heart to wake Erin up after seeing her looking so incredibly beautiful,” Avery confessed pressing a small kiss over the center of Russell’s chest. “Besides this wasn’t all bad. It gave us some of that alone time we’d been talking about lately.”

“Don’t you mean the alone time that we’ve totally been taking advantage of,” he couldn’t help but laugh seeing her eyes sparkle with delight. Grinning he pressed his finger tips in against her spine and squeezed her in closer to him. “Though it’s been much deserved alone time.”

“Especially considering that we weren’t fighting to make it happen,” she noted thinking about their reunions in the past. “I think there is something to be said about taking things slow and enjoying one another.”

“We’ve never had a problem enjoying one another, but rather you just seem to really like knocking me around most of the time,” he pointed out with a teasing wink thinking about how angry she could get with him.

“That’s because you fully deserved it each and every time,” she laughed lightly her long hair falling back with the movement. “You can be a real jerk Russ.”

“But a jerk that you’d still love to marry nonetheless, yes?” he raised a curious brow squeezing her in closer to him while her fingers traced the outline of his lips leisurely.

“Again and again if I could,” she nodded in confession leaning in to kiss him tenderly. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he promised kissing her once again when a thought occurred to him. “Though I guess we kind of jumped the gun on the honeymoon haven’t we?”

“When don’t we,” she laughed lightly thinking about their relationship with one another, “but I do think it’s much better than our being in denial about being in love with one another.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were always the only one who was in denial about our being in love with one another. I never doubted it for a second,” he explained matter of fact squeezing her in closer to him when a crashing sound spilled through the room. Frowning he turned to Avery. “Did you hear that?”

“How could I not?” she questioned wearily thinking about their earlier encounter with Brant. “You don’t think Brant followed us back here, do you?”

“I really don’t see him sinking to a new low,” Russ paused considering her suggestion. Frowning he reached for a robe and slipped out of bed. Easing himself into the robe he tied it around his waist before looking around the room for something to take with him. “That being said I’m not planning on taking any chances.”

“Neither am I,” Avery hopped out of bed herself and put on a matching robe. She reached for her purse and grabbed her pepper spray. Rushing over to stand beside Russ she held the pepper spray up in the air defensively. “If Brant thinks he’s going to go crazy on us like Bruce did…”

“I don’t think those are his intentions. Hell maybe it’s my mother with Erin,” Russ whispered making a small forward movement. “I told her if Erin woke up to bring her over.”

“But knowing your mother she would’ve called first,” Avery whispered holding onto the arm of his robe while he held her pepper spray. “She wouldn’t want to walk in on anything that she wouldn’t want to see.”

“Even so we can’t jump to conclusions over…” Russ started to say something more when the lights snapped on and he was momentarily blinded.

“Good morning neighbors,” Grady’s voice surprised the both of them as Avery realized that Grady and Deana were standing near the door to their hotel room.

“Grady, what the hell are you doing?” Avery cursed at him under her breath, “We could’ve killed you.”

“By what pepper spraying me to death?” Grady noticed the pepper spray in his brother’s hand before laughing. “Yeah and by the way that’s a nice look for you Russ.”

“You are such an ass,” Russ set the pepper spray down before nodding towards Deana. “Hi Deana.”

“Hi,” she waved over at them timidly, “Look I’m sorry about our being in here. I told Grady to call first, but he’s just plain inconsiderate.”

“It’s not the first time he’s traveled down that road,” Avery folded her arms in front of her chest, “So what is it now?”

“The bellhop brought our bags up and put them in front of our door to our room,” Grady explained with a groan, “Don’t ask me how he did it, but the fact to the matter is that when he did he left everything right in front of our door thus locking us out of our room. Since your suite leads to ours, we were just kind of hoping we could slip in through the door and…”

“Get to our room. We’re really sorry about the intrusion,” Deana felt her face grow hot with embarrassment.

“It’s okay,” Avery forced a small smile before nodding. “It’s not your fault that Grady is rude.”

“I’m not rude. I’m just excited to be here, and hey now that I am, how about we take a moment to catch up with one another?” Grady suggested looking to his brother. “What do you say Russ? In the mood to go over the weekend’s festivities? Is Kyle here yet?”

“I haven’t run into him, but then again he’s not barging into my room at all hours of the night either,” Russ replied with a shake of his head before looking to Avery. “Tell you what Grady, why don’t you and Deana go resituating your luggage and we’ll get dressed, then join you next door for a drink or something.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Grady readily agreed as he and Deana made their way over to the door that remained between the two rooms.

“Good,” Russ waved at Grady and Deana once they went through the door and left the suite for the time being. Turning to Avery, Russ threw out an apologetic expression. “Grady has the worst timing.”

“He always has,” she noted with a small sigh of her own before resigning herself to the night of hanging out with Russ and his brother now that it was clear that their time alone together was being brought to a premature close for the evening.


“That was a good party, it was set up perfect,” Jason tossed his keys over on the coffee table after holding the door open for Mindy to enter his sister’s apartment. After they had got done with their star staring she suggested maybe a movie night for the two of them and of course he wouldn’t reject her offer. It was nice to have a night to spend with a friend watching some movies, to talk and not feel alone. “What about Chase though? What a talented guy. He is so good at what he does he should really get a main frame job doing something like that. He has so much talent.”

“That’s what I think so too. I think Trisha is constantly trying to get him to do something like that instead of the main job he has right now. She is really interested in making her boyfriend her own viewing pleasure and not everyone else’s on the planet,” Mindy laughed seeing Jason smirked and lock up the door as she took a seat on the couch before the television. She saw him start to loosen up his shirt before pulling it off after unbuttoning it. Gulping down she saw him standing before her in a pair of dress pants and a black tank top before turning her attention away from him. She watched him move toward her and go to sit down next to her before hesitating looking for the remote. Once he found it he plopped down next to her and lifted his feet up resting them on top of the coffee table. “He is very talented though. I had a real good night.”

“Oh yeah. Me too,” Jason nodded thinking about the one moment of his night that he was actually not happy with and that was when Mindy was spending her time with Nate. When he had been focusing on another woman and still she was worried about him. It didn’t make him happy, but he didn’t want to show it too much to her to make her unhappy with him. “Though--what about Cori and Nate? That seems to be the awkward pairing of the night.”

“I don’t even know if they can be considered a pairing,” Mindy’s nose wrinkled in disgust thinking about the thought before shaking her head slowly. She cared about Nate--she knew what kind of a guy he was and Cori seemed to be totally away from his league. She wasn’t the type of girl that deserved someone great like Nate after all the trouble she had caused in the past. “That’s not even cool--onto a brighter subject? Where is your sister?"

“Oh, she is probably out with Grady. Recently they have been spending a lot of time together and you know. They are traveling together, spending a lot of time together--you know, usually I’d be upset with someone being so close to my sister,” Jason pointed out knowing that he had always been protective of his sister. Maybe over protective of her at times, but with this guy he knew that it was something that he didn’t need to do. “I just know that Grady is really great for her. You wouldn’t believe how perfect I think they are together. She seems so happy and he seems just like the perfect guy for her. I love to see her smile and with Grady she does it the most.”

“It’s so good to see her happy with Grady. I think it’s beautiful when something like that happens. When I was younger I always dreamed of having something like that. The family and kind of love in their life. You know--something special, but now…,” she took in a long breath thinking about all the problems that had occurred in her life once things seemed to take a nose dive. “I guess that’s all over now that Hunt’s gone.”

“It doesn’t have to be over. I’m sure you could get something like that somewhere else. I think that would be something that Hunt would have wanted. He seemed like a fantastic guy and I would think he would have wanted you to be happy. So there is no reason to give up that dream while you are still extremely young. Someone good--someone special could come around at any time and you would never see it coming,” he smirked turning toward her once picking a movie before shrugging his shoulders. He felt her cuddling closer to him as he lifted his arm up and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders to keep her warm. “Really. It’s not too late to start over on that dream. Not let go of what you lost, but something that makes you feel like a person again.”

“You are so sweet--you know that?" she questioned with a wide smile seeing the way that Jason chuckled and shrugged. She felt his muscular arm around her and she rested her head in closer to his chest before taking in a long breath. There was a moment of silence between them as she pulled her eyes away from the screen and looked to his ear to see the earring he had gotten a while back with her. “Oh--you still have that in?"

“Of course I do,” he felt her fingers reaching up to grab it as he winced a bit and saw the way that she was staring out at him. When her fingers touched his ear he winced a bit before shrugging his shoulders. “It stings a little bit, but I think it’s starting to match me very nicely. I like it and it reminds me of you every time I feel that sting or look at it in the mirror making me…”

Before he could finish his sentence he felt her hand curling in around his neck pulling him forward into a kiss as he froze against her. There was a moment of slight shock and disbelief as her lips pressed in over his kissing him over and over again. Soon enough he was kissing her back still kind of shocked by her sudden movements and maybe soon there would be an explanation but as they kissed he felt his heart quicken rushing his pulse making him let out a small sigh. This was something he’d never expected but something he would remember for a very long time.


“I don’t know why you act so tight and act like a jerk around him Ken. That’s your uncle and you should never treat family the way you have been treating him. He has been doing everything he can to make us feel comfortable around him and you seem so stuck up around him,” Wendy pointed out walking across the street away from Ken after they spent the day with Rex. She was disgusted with the way Ken seemed to act toward his uncle and even though Rex never seemed to notice she saw every move Ken made and none of them made her happy. When he ran across the street to catch up with her, she held her hand up and shook her head slowly. “I don’t even want to go there Ken. This is ridiculous. We come here and somehow run into your uncle and he does whatever he can to make us feel comfortable and still you sit in front of him degrading him constantly. He may not know you enough to see when you are making fun of someone but I can see right through you Kenneth.”

“Wendy please. This is ridiculous! Did you hear him throughout the whole day? He’s nothing but a loudmouth show off that is trying to do whatever he can to outshine the other male in the room to make himself look more like the alpha male,” Ken insisted knowing that after hearing so many stories about his uncle that was the kind of man he was. Rex was the type of guy that wanted the attention on him with all his accomplishments. He was a true alpha male and wanted all the attention for his records. Ken saw him as what he really was. A loudmouth jerk. Someone who left home to be something they weren’t. To become something that no one thought he could be. While he respected the thought of earning things on his own--Ken knew that the Ashford family was all about betrayal and turning backs. No, not turning backs on others. It was more like stabbing the other in the back. “Wendy--please don’t get upset with me. I was just overwhelmed with him being here. I know it sounds ridiculous but I came here because I thought I was going to have some alone time with you. Some romantic time away from my family and then he shows up.”

“Like it even matters with him Ken. On average how much do you really see of the guy? I mean he comes around what? Every other year from what you’ve told me? It would be nice to just hang out with your uncle for the time that he’s actually around. It’s nice to see someone trying. When he doesn’t do it most of the time--it would be nice to appreciate the time he does give in trying,” she insisted digging in the knife a bit more with his family while he followed her down the street. Sure, their bickering caused a few people to turn toward them and glance at them, but he didn’t care. “What is it that makes you so upset with him anyways?"

“Wendy--please. He’s all over you,” Ken pointed out seeing the way she rolled her eyes and he nodded slowly throwing his hands up in the air. Anyone could see that was the case and somehow she stayed oblivious. “My uncle has this thing. With wanting to be the alpha male he has to hammer every woman he sees in plain sight. He has it for you Wendy and he’s all over you honey.”

“Ken. I’m sorry, but your uncle Rex is charming, but he wouldn’t do that. We’re going out with him tomorrow and while I think he’s a very sweet man--I just don’t see that,” Wendy stopped turning toward Ken a moment to stare into his dark eyes. There were so many things she could think to say, but only one thing came out. “I really think that you should just calm down. Your uncle is harmless Ken. Completely harmless.”

“Honey, I’ve been in this family longer than you’ve known me and all the Ashford men in my family are no where near harmless. I know my blood, I know what runs into the veins of the Ashford name and there is no harmless people,” Ken added seeing his girlfriend roll her eyes and go to turn away from him and he frowned reaching out to her. “Wendy, just give me a moment--okay? I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I was trying to protect you and I love you. I just know my uncle is so far from harmless.”

With that note she seemed to turn on her heel and walk away from him. Right there was when he realized he would have to work so much harder to just get her to realize what his family stood for. What his family was like. He knew that his uncle was up to something and he was hoping he could stop him before it started. But as he watched his girlfriend at the moment, he wondered if the sword was already in and there was no way of pulling it out other than trying. Hoping that it wasn’t too late.


Evie settled into the warmth of JT’s bare chest feeling the smooth muscled lines of his body beneath her as she lay over him. Her eyes fell out and over the flickering flames in the fireplace while her hair cascaded over her shoulder. She felt his fingertips slowly massaging her spine, sending tiny sensations rushing all over her body and as she nestled in over him feeling the small sheet lingering over their bodies she let out a small sigh.

“I love you,” he mouthed kissing the top of her head as his fingers slid through her long, dark hair.

“I know and I love you too,” she confessed nestling into him loving the feel of his body beneath hers now that they settled into their position with one another on the floor wrapped up in each other.

“I’m sorry about before,” he finally decided feeling her cuddle up into his chest. “I didn’t mean to freak out on you like that. It’s just that in being here like this, it brought back so many memories--memories that I guess I never wanted to talk about before.”

“But the important thing is that you did talk about them,” Evie reminded him bracing herself up on her elbows as she slid in over his body. She felt the heat of him beneath her and she smiled down at him. “You were able to share that with me and that’s something special.”

“You’re that something special,” he mouthed in response leaning up to kiss her tenderly. His palm pressed in against the soft, smoothness of her cheek and he couldn’t help but find himself lost in her.

“You make me feel special,” she admitted with a small sigh rotating her head ever so slightly to press a small kiss into the palm of his hand. “I think that it’s clear that together we make sense.”

“Nothing about us being together makes sense,” he corrected with a small laugh taking in the beautiful woman that lay over him, “but I guess that’s part of the thrill.”

“No I would have to say the big thrill came when you managed to toss my blouse over near the fireplace without it getting set on fire,” she teased with a playful wink glancing over at their discarded clothing. She shook her head lightly allowing her hair to fall down over his shoulders before giggling. “I was half expecting the show at the fireworks like before.”

“I’d say there were some fireworks,” JT carefully shifted her in his arms rolling her onto the floor beneath him. He propped his upper half up and over her before sliding his hand down beneath the sheet to trace the lines of her body beneath him, “but that had entirely everything to do with you and nothing to do with anything flammable.”

Evie couldn’t help but laugh lightly remembering full well the moments they’d just shared with one another. “Hey I can’t take all the credit. You happened to do one hell of an amazing job yourself here.”

“You really think so?” JT grinned widely feeling a moment of cockiness carry over him. “Never mind I already know that answer. I blew you away with my incredible talents.”

“More like you only increased my appetite now that I know what you’ve been holding back on with me,” she murmured reaching out across the floor to grab the bottle of strawberry syrup that they’d discovered after they’d worked their way into the kitchen with one another.

“I swear I think I’m going to have to buy stock in this stuff if it keeps you this happy,” JT couldn’t help but laugh reaching out to pour a bit more onto the plate beside them. He stretched his fingers out and reached for a piece of pancake that he’d whipped up earlier before dipping it in the syrup. Smiling he guided it over her lips before watching her take it between her now waiting parted lips.

“Keep this up and I’ll have no choice but to marry you,” she teased tracing her tongue over his finger tips as a low rumble build inside of her stomach. She felt him reach for the plate again before pushing the sheet back and causing a chill to creep in over her soft curves. She took in a breath and then raised her arms above her head loving the way that he looked at her. Her gaze tapered off over his oh so perfect body and it set thrills racing over every inch of her.

“Gee, then I have no other course of action other than to keep up when I know I have a good thing going,” he leaned forward to kiss her once again before grabbing the bottle of syrup and turning it upside down. Her eyes widened as the cool liquid pooled onto her concave abdomen causing her to jump ever so slightly. Her dark gaze met his again and he let out a wicked smirk.

“Weren’t ready for that, were you?” he teased sliding his index finger over the slick stickiness over her otherwise flawless skin.

“Just you wait. I’ll get the chance to pay you back sooner or later,” she warned him sharply snuggling in more on the makeshift pillow beneath her head. Closing her eyes and letting out a sigh she felt JT lean forward pressing feathery light kisses over her body. A tiny quiver reached down deep into the heart of her when she felt his tongue tracing over her abdomen lapping at the sweet substance that settled in over her. Reaching out to slide her fingers into his hair, she let out a soft moan, “At this rate it’ll be sooner rather than later.”

“We’ll see about that,” JT murmured placing his hand outside of her thigh and tracing a small pattern over her smooth skin. “God you’re beautiful.”

“And you aren’t so bad yourself,” she winked up at him feeling her body flushed with desire. She reached out to him sliding her palms over his chest, down to his nipple and offering a small pinch. He tipped his head to the side and gave her a strange look.

“What was that for?” he questioned in confusion seeing her reach for the bottle of syrup.

“For playing so damned hard to get,” she explained pushing him down onto the floor. She quickly pressed in over him straddling his waist while dumping the rest of the syrup contents over his muscular form.

“Hey,” JT started to object to his strawberry syrup bath. “You’re the one with the strawberry syrup fetish not me.”

“If you love me you’re going to have to make my fetishes yours as well,” she ordered feeling him lean up a bit on his elbow just enough for her to knock him back down. “You’re going to lay back and you’re going to like it. Are we clear on that?”

“I like anything that you bring to me,” JT smiled relaxing on the sheet beneath him. He mimicked her earlier position and raised his hands over his head to offer himself completely to her.

“That’s just what I wanted to hear,” she purred excitedly reaching for the bottle again and giving it a hefty shake. She set it aside momentarily before dipping her fingers in over the syrup that covered his chest and abdomen. Feeling a moment of brazen enthusiasm carry over her, she sucked in a sharp breath and decided to make her move. Tentatively she dropped her hand down further over his body seeing the way his face was showing clear signs of satisfaction. Feeling encouraged by the sight that fell from his lips, she reached for the waistband on his boxer shorts and started to drag them down his body with her syrupy fingers.

“Whoa wait a second,” his eyes snapped open just in time to catch her intentions. He sprung up beneath her and quickly repositioned her beside him on the floor. Looking down to the strawberry stain on his boxer shorts he let out a small groan, “I thought we agreed to take things slow tonight.”

“We have taken things slow,” she curled in a pout motioning to the underwear she herself was still wearing. “You said we could have some fun together.”

“I thought that’s what we were doing,” he frowned over at her thinking about their erotic cooking adventure in the other room that somehow made it’s way to their partially clothed presence on the floor.

“We are, but I want to take it to a new level,” she explained still keeping her hold on his boxer shorts. She felt him stiffen beneath her touch and a smirk creased over her lips. “JT I’m not going to freak out in seeing it again.”

“I never thought you would,” he replied with a nervous laugh, “but I thought we agreed that after the night we had…”

“I want to look at it at least and touch it,” she continued curling her lip in a pout.

“Evie, do you have any idea how that sounds?” he couldn’t help but laugh at her words.

“What you think I’m being stupid?” she curled her lip in a frown at him.

“No not at all,” he shook his head adamantly, “It’s just that well…I’m sorry, but I’ve never had anyone so enthusiastic about seeing my…”

“Your penis,” Evie repeated eyeing him expectantly. “There’s nothing wrong with that JT. You have a nice one so I don’t see why you don’t want to flaunt it off.”

“Okay,” he sucked in a sharp breath bringing his hands out beside him as he sat up straighter. “This just went from sexy to strange all of a sudden.”

“Why because you’re uncomfortable talking about your,” she began again only to feel him reach up and bring his hand over her lips to muffle her words.

“Yeah, right now I think I’m just a bit tad uncomfortable talking about it,” he nodded in confession unable to believe how freely the words could fall from her lips. “Don’t get me wrong I’m not a prude or anything, but somehow hearing it come out of your lips like that, well it just doesn’t sound appropriate. Don’t ask me why, but it just doesn’t feel like you.”

“It’ll feel like me when it’s not the words that are in my…” she began again only to feel him clasp his hand over hers once more.

“Stop,” he sucked in a sharp breath. “Evie just stop before you say it.”

“Isn’t this what people are supposed to do? To talk about sex and every aspect of it?” she questioned with a curious expression once he’d released his hold on her.

“Well yeah, but not right before they…I mean I guess they can, but I never really put much thought or consideration into it given that I just always kind of went for it and,” he stopped himself shaking his head at the notion. “Okay that wasn’t appropriate either.”

“JT from what I’ve seen sex isn’t always appropriate. It’s supposed to be messy and sloppy and lots of fun,” she pushed her fingers into his chest and sent him back onto the floor again.

“I won’t argue that, but for your first time this isn’t exactly what I’d had in mind when…” he started feeling her straddle his body once again.

“What’s wrong with here? What’s wrong with tonight?” she questioned blinking her dark eyes down at him. She tossed her hair over her shoulders and made a bold attempt at relieving him of his boxer shorts once again.

“I just don’t think that it’s a smart idea considering that I haven’t been here in years. I mean what if there are rodents or…” he started uneasy as he looked around the room.

“Rodents?” she repeated with a squeal unable to repress the cringe that carried over her. “You mean you think like there are rats here or something?”

“Not necessarily, but I haven’t had the place cleaned and…” he began finding himself at a loss as he himself wondering why in the hell he couldn’t just let the moment lend to itself.

“It looks clean enough to me,” she finally shrugged her shoulders ready to ignore his warnings as she smiled down at him. “Besides if you’re really that gun shy about just going for it, then we’ll work ourselves into it. There are other things I’ve wanted to try with you.”

“Evie, I…” JT started feeling her tug on his boxer shorts again and draw them down over his hips. He sucked in a sharp breath wanting to deny her what she’d been asking of him, but when he spotted the sheer thrill that seemed to carry over her in that moment he resigned himself to giving her what she’d wanted.

“Please don’t fight me on this one,” she begged of him reaching for the bottle of strawberry syrup as he lay beneath her.

“I don’t think it would make a difference if I tried,” he cleared his throat uneasily prepared to accept what fate had opened up between them when a small scratching sound erupted from the kitchen area causing Evie to spring up off of his lap and onto the couch standing as far back as she could now that the noise continued. She yelped and held the bottle of strawberry syrup in a defensive stance as JT sat up straighter.

“Oh my God. It really is a rat,” she gasped horrified at the possibility. “JT did you hear that?”

“Yeah I did,” JT nodded pulling himself up off of the ground and readjusting his boxer shorts. He looked around the room before reaching for one of the fire pokers near the fireplace. “Rest assured however that I’ll take care of it.”

“Okay, but do it soon,” she shivered a bit looking down onto the couch and seeing JT’s shirt discarded over the arm. She reached for it and quickly draped it around her body while JT disappeared around the countertop area behind the half wall to the kitchen. “JT hurry!”

“Well now,” JT couldn’t help but laugh as he set the fire poker aside. “Isn’t this a surprise.”

“JT what are you doing?” she questioned wearily feeling her stomach tied in knots.

“I think you need to see this for yourself,” he smiled back over at her curling his finger for her to investigate what he’d found with him.

“JT I swear to God I you get me over there just to have a rat’s nest in front of me,” she huffed impatiently ready to take his head off if he’d got her near a rodent. She stepped across the creaking floor wearily until she stood near the end of the counter.

“Trust me it’s completely safe,” JT promised kneeling down on the floor in front of her.

“What is it?” she questioned watching him open up one of the cabinets to reveal a pair of bright green eyes staring right back at her. “JT?”

“Come in closer and grab the flashlight,” JT instructed motioning towards her again. She reluctantly did as instructed and crouched down beside him only to discover a gray and black cat staring back at her with four little kittens nestled up beside her.

“Oh JT,” Evie gushed watching the kittens move in closer to their mother.

“It looks like we’re not alone tonight,” JT explained with a grin of his own watching the way that Evie reached out to pet the mother. The cat purred and leaned into Evie’s touch as Evie couldn’t help but make another small noise.

“JT they must be starving. We have to help them,” Evie continued as the mother cat warmed up to her.

“I think I might have something in the fridge for them that might work. I grabbed some milk on the way over,” JT recalled standing up and moving to the refrigerator. He opened it up and pulled it out of the box of ice he’d brought in with him.

“They are adorable,” Evie continued to gush on the family in front of her. “JT I can’t believe you found them.”

“We found them,” JT reminded her taking the time to pour a bowl of milk for the mother. Holding his hand out he offered the bowl to Evie and watched her offer it to the mother.

“They are amazing. This is…” Evie watched the mother cat take to her offering almost immediately, “incredible.”

“Well worth taking the time to appreciate,” he whispered in response sliding in on the floor behind Evie to envelope in his arms as he realized that tonight they had embarked upon something special indeed with one another.


Staring out into the dark night sky Kevin dug his bare feet further in the sand along the beach feeling the tide of the water pressing in against his skin. When he couldn’t sleep he decided to take a walk along the beach and now that he was walking around he was hoping that maybe the air would make him feel better. Even though he knew it didn’t. When he called Ria earlier, that was the one moment of happiness he had seemed to have in a long time. He wanted her here with him--he wanted to find Angela. It was all something he wanted and unfortunately it wasn’t something he was getting. Reaching for his phone again he clicked a button to see if he had missed any calls hoping to get a call from Ria but still no sign of her yet. Standing up from the sand he started to move back over toward his beach house while stopping to take a moment to look up at the stars.

There were weird thoughts that lingered here and there. Like was Angie looking at the same set of stars tonight? Would he find her tomorrow? Would Ria call him. It seemed like when someone looked at the stars it could make them feel so little and that’s what he felt like right now.

“You’ll find her tomorrow Kevin,” he tried to insist that upon himself while reaching up to rub in over his bare chest before moving back into his place shutting the door carefully behind him just in case that Brant and Don were already asleep. That was proven wrong when he heard the loud slams coming from inside his kitchen. His nose wrinkled in interest as he moved from the hallway in the opening of the house into his kitchen to see the huge mess that had been created in only a few moments. “What the hell?!?!”

“What?" Don peaked his head up from one of the cabinets seeing the glare that he was getting from Kevin as Kevin eyed over the mess on the counter to the floor and all over his refrigerator. His eyes were wide and he could tell that Kevin’s body was completely tense. “Listen--I can explain. I was very hungry and that’s all this was.”

“Please tell me that’s mayo all over my kitchen and not something else,” Kevin wrinkled his nose looking over at Brant who seemed to be quite amused as he walked over a few piles of mess and went under his sink to pull out some cleaning supplies. Reaching for the sponge he started to wipe at his counter before spraying some cleaning supplies. “What the hell did you do Don? Did I tell you that you could go into my refrigerator and look through everything? Christ--have you eaten all of my food.”

“I told you,” Brant saw Kevin’s jaw drop just enough when he looked to the refrigerator to see all the food that Don had actually ate throughout the last few moments. He could see the anger rising in Kevin’s features as Brant shook his head slowly. “I told you he wouldn’t be happy with you and while I’m ready to tell you I told you so--I’m still shocked. I never imagined you to be a clean freak. Cleaning up other people’s messes--you just don’t look like that type.”

“Yeah, well I like to keep my place clean,” Kevin looked around a moment realizing that he was still a good pair of pants and shirtless. Not wanting to get messy he handed Don over the sponge and the cleaning materials pointing toward the center of his chest. “Listen to me--you started this--you clean it up. If you even try to get out of this before cleaning my kitchen, I will drag you back in here push your face in it and then force you to clean it. Do you understand me?"

“So what were you doing?" Brant questioned after seeing Don nod and start to clean up the kitchen while Kevin headed toward the hallway that would lead him upstairs. “Where were you outside? Shirtless? Wet? What were you doing?"

“It really is none of your business Brant,” Kevin pointed out sliding his hands into his pockets and staring back at the man who had his eyes glued to him. Never once blinking and never once turning away. “I was just thinking about things right in front of the house. Nothing more.”

“Oh, well I thought we were getting smart here and going out to find Angela,” Brant pointed out seeing the way Kevin shrugged and let out a small breath. “This is ridiculous waiting for something that will never happen.”

“It will happen but not tonight since we’re all exhausted. I know you two are and I know I am. So we’ll camp out here tonight, get some sleep and at the break of the morning we can get going. I promise you that,” Kevin nodded before rubbing at his chest again fixing his pants. Running his fingers through his hair he glanced into the living room and shrugged his shoulders. “You two can fight over the couch. I’m going to bed.”

Moving up the stairs he knew that he didn’t even want to talk to the two any longer. The more he stared at his kitchen the more he would get upset and the more he talked to Brant--the less likely it would be that they got along. While he moved into his bedroom he reached for the photo on the desk picking it up and moving toward his bed. Once he lied down he stared out at the picture of him and Angie together knowing that he wanted to find her more than anything right now. Well--almost. Setting the picture down on one of his pillows he reached for his phone clasping onto it tightly before sighing hoping for some type of call. Ria and Angie were both on his mind and over the next day he wanted to find a way to settle both heart aches with good intentions--hopefully.


Ria circled around the hallway in the hospital having had put in her hours for the day. While she was eager to get home and call Kevin, there was still something that had been bothering her long after she’d gotten more work done. Moving into the room that had been on her mind all day, she spotted Marie in the bed laying there still recovering from her surgery. Moving forward Ria looked at the woman wondering what it was that Marie had wanted to tell her. It had racked her mind for hours, yet Ria still couldn’t come up with anything.

“What were you trying to tell me,” Ria questioned feeling her breath catch in the back of her throat. She looked to the battered and bruised woman in front of her wondering herself how someone could fall that far in their life after she’d seemed to be an almost balanced person. Focusing on the needle marks on Marie’s arms, Ria felt a tiny cringe carry over her.

“You’ve been given a second chance today,” Ria mouthed in a low whisper, “Don’t blow it by making the same mistakes.”

Turning to leave Ria prepared to exit the room when she heard a small sound. Glancing over her shoulder she noticed that Marie’s eyes were open and she was making a small pinched sound from her lips.

“Wait,” Marie pleaded in a weak voice. “Please don’t go…”

“Marie,” Ria moved forward returning to her place beside Marie’s bed. “Do you remember me?”

Marie nodded briefly. Her eyes closed and she exhaled, “I remember…”

“Do you remember what you wanted to tell me?” Ria couldn’t help but ask her curiosities getting the best of her.

“The drawer,” Marie explained taking in a shallow breath. “Top drawer.”

“What’s in the top drawer,” Ria questioned realizing that Marie wanted her to look. Taking the initiative Ria opened it only to discover a few of Marie’s belongings that were tucked inside of it.

“The key,” Marie explained in a labored breath. “You must…must take…the key…”

“What key?” Ria asked seeing a few items, but not a key. Reaching for Marie’s purse she held it up to show Marie. “In here?”

Marie nodded.

Ria unzipped the purse and looked inside to find a bag of drugs within. Frowning she wondered how that had slipped by the hospital staff when they’d brought Marie in. Still beneath the back of white powder there was a small key on a yellow Tweety bird key chain. Ria held it up to show Marie.

“This key?” Ria questioned again and Marie nodded.

“You must…must show Kevin…he needs…the key,” Marie reached out to squeeze Ria’s hand pressing the key further into Ria’s palm. “He must know…must hear the truth…”

“The truth about what?” Ria questioned feeling the woman’s grip on her hand.

“He needs to know,” Marie blurted out unable to contain the tears that carried over her while Ria was left wondering just what it was about the key that was so important for Marie to want to give it to Kevin. Suddenly Ria felt as if she’d stepped into a world that she shouldn’t be in with a story that somehow involved her boyfriend that she didn’t want to know.

“No I can’t take this. You can tell him,” Ria tried to hand the key back to Marie, but it was no use.

“No you need to. You must…please…” Marie begged of her as Ria noticed the look of horror on Marie’s face. Marie’s lips parted and before Ria could ask another question Ria heard the sound of the monitors going off alerting her to the fact that Marie’s heart had stopped.


Angela tossed and turned in the bed unable to find the rest that she was so desperately craving after the day she’d had. Closing her eyes tightly she tried to ignore the feeling that carried over her, but it was no use. There was something about the situation that she couldn’t quite shake and no matter how hard she’d tried she just couldn’t get herself comfortable around Craven. He was taking too long to get her into contact with her father and yet…

“You’re worrying too much,” Angela felt a yawn touch over her lips. She curled her finger into the pillows and closed her eyes in an attempt to convince herself that she was finally ready to go off to dream land. Still she knew her subconscious was putting up one hell of a battle--one that she certainly was convinced she’d lose until she found herself in another place and time.

“I’m serious. I mean a guy like you clearly has to have plenty of women chasing him around wanting to spend time with him especially if they know anything about your bedside manner,” Angela sighed as heavy innuendos laced over her words, “but still, how is it a man like you is alone on a day like this considering that it’s Christmas?”

“I was asking myself the same thing about you,” he confessed as his fingers slipped into her dark hair, “How is it I managed to get you all to myself like this?”

“Because you had the vodka at the right time,” she teased gently as his eyes beckoned hers once again.

“I’m serious,” his smile faded as he watched her closely, “How is it that fate brought you back to me from out of my dreams when I needed you more than ever?”

“Well, I suppose fate knew we were both looking for something like this,” she offered up before tearing her eyes away from him, “then again I’d planned on just being here for the holiday alone considering.”

“Considering that you weren’t smart enough to step outside a short while before you did and snag me up sooner,” he poked at her ribs as she smiled back at him.

“I wish it were that easy, but in this particular situation I was really hoping to spend the holiday alone,” she sighed heavily, “as I really hate Christmas.”

“How can you hate Christmas?” he gave her a sideways look, “How can anyone really ever hate Christmas especially after what we just shared with one another?”

“It’s easy,” she frowned, “but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about it.”

“Enlighten me,” Brant threw out at her, “unless of course you’d like me to give you a spanking there for keeping the reason you’re less than jolly about the holidays from me.”

“Fine, if you really want to know,” she paused turning her eyes away from him, “I hate the holidays because it’s when I lost my father.”

“What?” he gave her a strange look, “but I thought that…I mean I just assumed…” he grew silent for a long moment before speaking up again, “what happened to him?”

“He trusted the wrong people and it killed him,” she answered in a hollow tone as her eyes darkened with something that went far beyond the casual sex they’d shared a short time earlier, “I found him in his office face down in a pool of his own blood when I went to coax him into coming home for Christmas. I had no idea I’d find that when I went to see him, but now, well even at this moment I can’t forget what I walked in on as I saw my father slumped over his desk…”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Brant offered up slowly coming down from the sex induced high he’d been on, “I didn’t mean to bring it up considering that…”

“Well, you wanted to know why I hated Christmas,” she shifted in his arms as she offered up an ironic smile, “and now you know.”

“I…I really…I’m sorry that I kept pushing the issue,” he watched her for a long moment feeling an air of guilt sweep over him as he thought of the reasoning he’d had behind taking her to bed so to speak, “and the rest of your family? Your mother…”

“My mother’s dead too,” she answered with a sigh, “She died during childbirth--having me actually and well, my father was my world. When I lost him, well, nothing was really ever the same.”

“I…” he began at a loss as she sat up and he felt compelled to say something, to do something to lighten the mood, but as he rose up to reach out to her he offered up a piece of information about himself despite his vow to keep things light and fun, “I lost my father not too long ago as well.”

“Really?” her dark hair cascaded over her shoulder as she turned slightly towards him.

He nodded poignantly, “He was a mean son of a bitch, but he was my father and while I spent most of my life cleaning up his mistakes, well, he was one of the few people in this world that understood me…though that’s not saying much considering that the man was a lunatic, but still…”

“And your mother,” she questioned facing him once again.

“She died when I was younger,” he confessed openly, “She was visiting my aunt out in Los Angeles and there was a quake. You know, I never really had a chance to say good-bye to her either because my father was so set in his ways. Time and time again he was firm in his approach and everything had to be the way dad wanted it. He wouldn’t just let his children be children and now, well I’m starting to wonder if I turned out just like him…”

“Sounds like he was a monster,” she replied taking in his words, “and you’re no monster, Brant. You’re an incredible man.”

“No, I’m really not,” he shook his head in response, “I’m no where near that and if you really saw me like everyone else does, well you’d see the truth…”

“What I see is a man who managed to turn my world around with a smile and now, well, now I think that I’ll take something with me about today and keep it with me from here on out,” she leaned forward kissing him tenderly, “as you’re one in a million, Brant.”

“Now I know those words are the orgasms coming back to haunt you,” he teased in response drawing his arms around her.

“Maybe a little, but you know the way I see it, we can work on giving us both something more to make me delirious with passion induced madness,” she offered up with a hint of laughter.

“Hmm…now that sounds like something I could learn to appreciate,” he decided with a low growl as he pulled her into his lap, “although I do have one confession to make.”

“What’s that?” she questioned breaking the contact between them as their gazes locked once again.

“I’m feeling a little guilty about giving you the rug burns I know you’ll wake up with tomorrow after our earlier love making,” he admitted openly as he cupped her face in his hands, “so I was thinking maybe we could take this to your bedroom--assuming that you have one here that can accommodate us.”

“I think we can work on making that into a very distinct possibility for us,” she nodded in agreement, “and Brant, just for the record…before this turns sour on us, I just want to say thanks…”

“For the orgasms,” he teased back with a wink, “hey, it was all my pleasure believe me.”

“No not for that silly,” she chuckled in amusement swatting at his chest playfully before growing serious, “For making my day a bit less miserable as I really thought I’d be spending today lost inside myself.”

“So did I,” he confessed realizing that things had turned out quite the opposite of how he’d envisioned them.

“Brant,” Angela gasped his name sitting upright on the bed as her memories began to flood over her. She thought about that first night they’d met on the island--to their splitting ways and then to their eventual reunion and it was then that she realized she’d made a mistake. Bringing her hand up over the center of her chest she let out another gasp.

“My father is dead,” she realized knowing full well that she’d stepped into some kind of trap. Kicking her feet off of the bed she stood up in a panic. “Craven is lying. He has to be.”

Angela looked around the room suddenly feeling like a stranger in her own life. Quickly she rushed over to the chair where she’d discarded her clothing. She paused for a moment listening to hear if she could make out the sound of anyone else in the house. Perhaps Craven had gone to bed considering that it was late. Taking in a breath she sat down on the edge of the bed and slipped into her shoes.

“I have to get out of here. I have to find Brant and…” Angela started to panic. Placing her hand over her chest she tried to rationalize the situation. “You’ll just walk out the front door and get to help. That’s all you have to do.”

With that thought in mind Angela moved over towards the bedroom door. She reached for the knob relieved to find it was unlocked. She waited for a moment before peering her head out into the hallway. She noticed that it was dark except for the moonlight filling the hallway from the large windows near the end of the hall. Taking in a breath she tiptoed out of her room careful to be quiet in closing the door behind her. She stepped around the other bedroom hoping to keep Craven from awakening.

“You’re almost there,” she mouthed to herself under her breath when she descended down the staircase. Moving over through the living room she was sure to be as quiet as possible and when she reached the door, she let out a breath of relief. She unlocked it and pushed it open ready to reclaim her life again, but before she could she found herself face to face with Craven who was now standing on the other side of the door watching her with heavy scrutiny.

“Going somewhere Angel?” he questioned in an abrasive tone, stepping in closer to her just enough to make it painfully obvious that he had no intentions of allowing her the opportunity to make her ‘great escape’ as intended after all.


...to be continued...