Episode 409

“So tell me are all the elements in order to repeat this whole process all over again?” Grady questioned breaking off a piece of the bagel he’d been buttering moments earlier. He raised the bite to his mouth and plopped it in before grinning at his brother teasingly. “You sure you want to go through this a second time?”

“Of course he does,” Deana frowned swatting at Grady’s shoulder before offering up an apologetic expression. “Ignore his rudeness. He hasn’t had his morning coffee yet.”

“No, it’s not the lack of coffee,” Avery decided with a small shrug. “It’s just in his blood to be naturally rude where Russ and I are concerned.”

“I happen to think I’m being very cordial,” Grady flashed her another grin as Avery rolled her eyes.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Russ piped in with a small laugh, “but we’re making progress given that there haven’t been any fist fights yet.”

“I’m sure he’s just warming up,” Avery replied with a hint of seriousness in her tone.

“Hey, I’ll have you all know that I’ve overturned a new leaf,” Grady eased back into his chair with a smirk. “I won’t have any reason to try to stop this wedding if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Honestly right now you’re the least of my concerns,” Avery admitted reaching for her glass of juice. “Now if I could get Brant to back off…”

“Brant?” Grady frowned over at her. “What do you mean? Has he done something?”

“Other than showing up on the island,” Russ clarified with a scowl, “no he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Wait, he’s here?” Grady’s green eyes widened as Russ nodded.

“We had a little run in with him last night at a night club,” Russ divulged thinking about his exchange with Brant. “He swears that it’s nothing, but I don’t buy it. With Brant there’s always some kind of agenda.”

“And you think he’s here to stop you two from getting married?” Deana questioned with an air of confusion in her tone. “That doesn’t seem like Brant.”

“Brant has many faces and one thing he’s not good at is accepting defeat,” Avery informed Grady’s companion. “He’s been giving Russ and I problems for months now.”

“Even so, I thought he overturned that part of his life,” Deana frowned thinking back to all Brant had done over the last few months. “He seemed like he was making growth and progress after the whole DNA scandal came up.”

“His only change was in trying to let the world think he was cleaning up his act so that Avery and I didn’t press charges against him and Don for what they contemplated doing,” Russ noted with tension in his brow.

“They technically didn’t do anything wrong,” Deana sat up straighter in her chair. “There’s nothing that was tampered with in regard to that paternity test…”

“We know that,” Avery saw panic behind Deana’s eyes at worry over Don’s role in Brant’s scheme, “but it’s just the idea that they would sink so low that really eats away at us. Then to see Brant here on the island right before Russ and I are about to exchange vows again is rather unsettling to say the least.”

“I don’t think he’s crazy enough to try to bust in with everyone at the wedding,” Grady offered up as he took another bite of his bagel.

“You don’t really believe that Grady,” Avery wrinkled her nose at him.

“No, I don’t, but at the same time I think I know full well how to deal with an irrational Brant,” Grady explained tightly thinking about his former fights with Brant. “If he shows up during the ceremony I’ll personally escort him out of the chapel without hesitation.”

“I don’t think he’s going to show up,” Deana replied objectively. “His girlfriend is just missing and…”

“Brant always has an agenda,” Russ interrupted with an uneasiness in his tone, “but this time we’re not going to let it stop us from going where we want to be with one another.”

“We wasted too much time already because of the games he and Hart were playing back in Coral Valley,” Avery shuddered at the memory of how things had ended with her and Brant.

“I think he’s really trying to move on,” Deana offered up hopefully.

“I know you like to think the best about people honey, but Brant’s not a good guy,” Grady reached out to bring his hand over Deana’s.

“I know he’s made some really horrible mistakes, but deep down I think he has a good heart Grady,” Deana mouthed as she glanced over at him once again. “We’ve all made mistakes in the past, but if everyone kept a closed mind about them for the rest of our lives, we’d never find a way to grow and prosper.”

“Brant’s agenda revolves around making others miserable. Just like the man who raised him,” Russ informed Deana with a tight scowl. “He learned from the best and now I wouldn’t put it past Brant to try to throw some kind of curve at the last second even if it’s unfounded so to speak.”

“Brant being on the island isn’t a good sign, but Kyle and I can neutralize him,” Grady decided with a shrug. “It might be fun.”

“Brant’s not going to try to stop the wedding,” Deana added firmly. “I think it’s water under the bridge for him.”

“I sure as hell hope so because if he finds a way to ruin my special day, then there are no promises about what will happen to him,” Avery scowled thinking about her ex-husband’s manipulative ploys.

“I don’t see it myself,” Deana replied.

Avery found herself wanting to believe more than anything that Deana’s innocent views were dead on because Brant taking away another moment between Russ and Avery was more than Avery wanted to think about. At this point Avery prayed that Deana’s faith in Brant would prove to be warranted as Russ and Avery prepared to begin their lives together all over again.


“I’m so sorry,” Mindy pulled away from Jason after kissing him seeing the way he glanced out at her with wide blue eyes after she kissed him. There was something different in his eyes. Maybe a bit of shock or something along those lines, but what she pulled on him was wrong and she should have never done something like that to him so suddenly. She saw him reach up to touch his lips before blinking a couple of times. There was an awkward silence between them as she stood up from the couch uneasily. “I never meant to do that. I swear--I should have never done that.”

“Hey, it’s okay. The heat of the moment kind of thing I had no idea what kind of moment we were having,” Jason took in a long breath thinking about the kiss she just pulled on him. He didn’t mind her doing it--hell, he loved it. Beyond loved it and as he saw her worry he wasn’t quite sure what to say. Trying to lighten the mood he nudged her softly and he shook his head slowly. “You know you just wanted to see what everyone liked about me.”

“Jason, this isn’t funny--I should have never done that you are my friend and this could ruin everything,” Mindy stood up from the couch pacing back and forth worriedly as he watched her closely seeing the way she looked around the room and threw her hands up in the air. “This had to have been the champagne. God--I am so sorry. So very sorry.”

“Mindy, please…,” Jason reached out for her hand trying to still her because after a while of her pacing he knew that she was starting to make him dizzy. Smiling he shook his head slowly and took in a long breath. “Trust me Mindy--I’m okay. Do I look mad at you? Do I look uncomfortable with you? Seriously, it won’t ruin our friendship because it didn’t bother me one bit.”

“Right but I know you are just saying that because you are a good friend and that is the kind of person you are. I know that you are going to say anything to make me feel better and then when I’m silent things are going to be awkward,” she blurted out trying to look away from him while he still kept a tight hold of her hand not wanting to let it go. “I’m sorry. This was such a bad mistake. I never should have done that.”

“Calm down. Seriously,” Jason stood up from the couch and reached out to wrap his right arm around her shoulders tightly before nudging her chin with his index finger. “Seriously Mindy. I don’t feel awkward with you. The truth is that I always wondered what it would be like to kiss you. You have been the female that I have been the most attracted to and honestly--it wasn’t a bad move at all. Nothing I regret or I’m going to feel awkward about.”

“Okay now I know that I’m playing with your head way too much Jason. This isn’t good. This isn’t good at all. You’re my friend and I’m really screwing this up and I just need to leave. I need to go because nothing good is going to come from this,” Mindy pulled away from him reaching for her things seeing the look in his blue eyes as she started to move toward the door. “I never meant to play with your mind Jason. This was wrong.”

“Mindy, come on. Do I look mad. Why are you flipping it out? And you know--there is such a thing as being bisexual if that is what you are worrying about. You heard me talk about two men in my life. Only two. Just because I liked a man doesn’t automatically mean I’m completely gay. Yes, I may be attracted to men,” he gritted his teeth lying right through them as he placed his hand over the center of his chest before turning away from her. “Never mind. If you want to think about me like that. Then fine. Go ahead.”

“Jason, no. I’m sorry,” she moved forward pressing her hand in over his shoulder feeling his muscular body beneath her touch as she slid her fingers down his long arm toward his thick fingers. “Jason. I swear. I wasn’t thinking about your feelings. I was just thinking about me and how lonely I’ve been and I turned to you. I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel uncomfortable. I should have never made you feel that way Jason. You’ve been a great friend and I know about your past history with men and I just didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, I just thought that when you knew about the men in my life that you knew everything about me and I should have told you more about me. That’s my fault,” he turned toward her feeling the way that her palm glided in against his cheek and he leaned into her touch. “I’m sorry Mindy. Please don’t leave. We can watch movies, but please don’t blame my sexuality on you leaving tonight. Please?"

“Jason,” she frowned seeing the frown that pressed in over his features and she tipped up on her toes to kiss him again feeling his arm wrap around her waist tightly. Her hands tugged at his thick dark hair while her lips pressed in over his again and again and this time there was no hesitance between Jason kissing her back. “Not awkward.”

“Not one bit,” he answered feeling her gently nibbling at his bottom lip as a smile pressed in over his lips. Her hands pulled him toward the couch as she pulled him in over her, her lips pressing in over his again and again before pulling back. “Everything okay.”

“Fine,” she glided her fingertips up over his muscular arms seeing the way his blue eyes stared down at her and she cleared her throat before teasing her fingertips up underneath his white wife beater to feel his rippled abdomen against her touch. “Absolutely fine.”


“You did a great job tonight honey,” Trisha turned in Chase’s arms while they sat on the couch at her and Mindy’s apartment. She pecked him on his lips quickly before taking in a deep breath looking around. When they offered to drop Mindy off with Jason for a while she never expected her to stay as long as she had. It was something she wasn’t used to. Mindy not being around was just not normal even if they did go to her mother’s place or Ria’s place quite a bit. “I’m not used to Mindy not being around. What do you think she’s doing right now with Jason?"

“Well certainly not him,” Chase teased his nose wrinkling when he laughed after feeling her slap him in the center of the chest and he held his hands up to protect himself from getting hit again. He laughed a bit more before moving his hands in over his girlfriend’s hips caressing them softly in slow motions. “I was just kidding sweetheart. I know. It’s weird not having her here, but I’m just guessing that they will be watching a movie or something. Like girlfriends do.”

“That’s not funny,” she went to smack him in the chest again hearing him laugh to hold up his arms and she slapped him on the wrist. His blue eyes stared out into hers while her fingers glided up and through his blonde hair. “I thought you liked Jason but now with you talking about him being gay you sound like you hate him with the way you are making fun of him.”

“No, I don’t hate Jason at all. He is a very good guy, but I think it’s funny that Nate keeps coming to me telling me that he thinks Jason is trouble with Mindy. I mean he’s gay,” Chase pointed out thinking back to the conversations he had shared with his newfound friend Nate in the past. He liked hanging out with Jason he seemed like a very cool guy, but he never saw the worries that Nate had. “I just think it’s ridiculous to worry about him. He even had his ear pierced. There something to be said about a man that has the guts to do something like that.”

“Well it is a bit weird to see that he is gay because he really doesn’t act it a lot of the time Chase. He does a lot of glances that I’ve never seen a gay man do. When Mindy is off with other men he gets the jealous look and that is not something gay men do.”

“Yes it is,” he nodded seeing the way she looked out at him with her light brown eyes. Shrugging his shoulders he smiled and thought about his answer. “He is jealous of Mindy because he thinks the guys she spends time with are sexy and have nice asses.”

“Be nice,” she pulled away from him for a moment hearing him laugh against as she swatted at his hands while he tried to pull her back to him on the couch. Shaking her head slowly she pointed back toward the kitchen before shrugging her shoulders. “We can get back to that in a couple. I’m thirsty. I want some milk or something. Then we’ll get back to the bedroom. I promise.”

“You better keep that promise,” was the last thing she heard from her boyfriend as she moved into the kitchen and toward the cabinet to pull out a glass. Setting it down she moved over toward the milk and realized that she had been eating and drinking a lot more lately. Maybe she was sick.

“Who knows?" she sighed reaching for the milk looking over the expiration date and shrugged. Pulling off the lid she took a sniff to make sure it still smelled fine and reaching for her glass she started to think about things and dates. Her and Chase had been together for so long and had spent most of the time doing the same things non stop and that’s when it hit her as she felt the milk slip from her fingers slamming up against the kitchen floor spilling out.

Then it became clearly evident that she had been with Chase a very long time and the whole time they had continued to do what they were doing non stop with no interruptions which wasn’t right. Maybe that’s why she was so hungry and thirsty lately. Maybe she wasn’t just eating for one, but more for two these days.


“This can’t be happening,” Ria muttered under her breath moving in to Marie after tucking the key into her pocket. Forgetting completely about what Marie was trying to tell her Ria stepped into full on doctor mode doing her best to try to revive Marie, but it was a no use. A few nurses rushed into the room and tried to help Ria, but it was all a blur. Suddenly Ria found herself thinking about the woman and what she’d been trying to say. There was something that Marie wanted Ria to desperately know--something she felt Ria needed to tell Kevin and yet the truth was slipping away with each passing second.

“Merhan, you’re off duty. I have this one,” Zack rushed over to push her out of the way. Glaring over at Ria, he frowned again, “Back off Merhan. You’re out of here…”

“But…” Ria started realizing that even though she didn’t like Zack his arrival was probably for the best. Right now her vision was clouded. She was too swept up in trying to decipher the cryptic message that Marie had lay out before her. There was something about it that still haunted her, something that had her ready to rush over and revive the woman in front of her. Blinking a few times Ria found herself wondering just what it was that Marie knew about Kevin.

“Get a grip,” Ria mouthed to herself under her breath knowing full well that while Zack had a reputation for being a jerk, he was a fully capable doctor. Still the idea of letting the truth slip out of her hands, Ria knew full well that she couldn’t let things go.

“I can help,” Ria blurted out foolishly knowing that she would’ve been best served to stand down. “We can’t lose her.”

“We won’t,” Zack promised with a sudden air of boldness in his tone. He motioned to one of the nurses before glancing over at Ria. “I’ve got this covered Merhan. Walk away.”

“I can’t I…” Ria started only to hear the sounds of the woman’s heart beat returning to the monitor. She looked over to it seeing the wavy lines before her and she barely registered Zack’s agitated tone.

“Would someone get her out of here?” he snapped as Ria felt a hand on her arm guiding her towards the door.

“Come on Ria. You’ve already had a long night. We’ve got this one under control,” the nurse beside her explained as Zack took over the situation that had taken place with Marie.

“But…” Ria started suddenly realizing that she needed some air as well. Zack had brought Marie back and that in itself was something that would serve as a small comfort to her. There would still be time to find out what Marie had to say and Ria was certain whatever it was, it was something that she needed to know before she took any further steps in her future with Kevin.


Kevin lay on top of his bed, not bothering to open it as his dark eyes fell upon the clock once again. It was late--later than he’d anticipated it would be before Ria called him. Frowning, he sat up on top of his bed, scratching his bare chest for a moment before repositioning himself on the bed. He turned to his side and closed his eyes trying to get some rest before Ria called, but it was no use.

“Oh hell,” Kevin groaned kicking his legs over the side of bed and getting out of it after he began to wonder if Ria truly wasn’t going to call him.

Realizing that he had far too much nervous energy, Kevin decided to go get himself a drink--that was if Don hadn’t cleaned out everything he’d had in his refrigerator. Kevin opened up his bedroom door and he was immediately assaulted by the sound of someone snoring through the hallway. With any luck it’ll be Brant, Kevin thought to himself as he moved towards the kitchen only to discover Don haphazardly spread out across the lazy-boy chair he’d had in his living room.

“Why did I not figure that one out,” Kevin groaned taking another long look at Don, who had his arm wrapped around the back of the chair while his face was down in the cushion only adding to the emphasis of the snore.

“I sincerely hope you’re not drooling all over that,” Kevin couldn’t help but shake his head turning to move into his kitchen when he found himself face to face with Brant.

“He doesn’t drool. At least I don’t think he does,” Brant replied with a small sigh glancing over Kevin’s shoulder before turning to the pot of coffee he’d put on a bit earlier. “I hope you don’t mind I made myself at home in the kitchen here.”

“Why not? Hell Don‘s already taken up residence in it, so why not you?” Kevin shrugged his shoulders and let out a yawn despite his lack of exhaustion. He watched Brant pour himself a mug of coffee before he spoke up again, “Mind if I have one too?”

“I made more than enough,” Brant opened up one of the cabinets and reached for a mug for Kevin.

“I see you learned your way around the kitchen much like you have with the women in my life as well,” Kevin remarked sourly catching the glare that Brant tossed out at him.

“My being involved with the women in your life was just pure coincidence,” Brant filled Kevin’s mug before handing it to him. “I had no idea about your history with Angela before we met.”

“That’s because you never asked,” Kevin walked over to the kitchen table and pulled his chair out. He plopped down to take a seat and find himself fixed on the tiny fruit magnet on the refrigerator door.

“Maybe not, but she wasn’t forthcoming in explaining to me that you had been in the picture,” Brant reminded him making his way over to the table as well and taking a seat. “If there was really something special there Kevin, I would’ve thought that she might’ve decided to mention it.”

“You were just a random weekend of sex,” Kevin tossed back at Brant with a groan. “I hardly thought she would be stupid enough to see it beyond that moment.”

“There were a lot of things that Angela and I saw in one another before either one of us realized it,” Brant added knowing full well that while he and Kevin had been at odds with one another, this was probably their first chance to try to clear the air between them. “Regardless of what you think of me, I do love her. I would lay my life down for her if it came to that.”

“I’ve been in that position many times in the past,” Kevin replied tipping his head to the side and setting his coffee mug down on the table top. “I spent half of my life in that very role in her life.”

“And it would seem that the question now would be is if you’re going to try to spend the rest of your life attempting to stay in that role,” Brant arched a speculative brow seeing something cross over Kevin’s features. “Look Kevin I pride myself on my honesty and I’ll tell you right now that what you said the other night left me unsettled. Don’t get me wrong I know that given your history with Angela that there will always be something between you--something that I don’t expect to just disappear, but at the same time I want you to realize that it doesn’t underwrite what she and I have together. We’re about to have a family.”

“Don’t you think I realize that?” Kevin frowned over at him with a shake of his head. “Hell don’t you see how envious of that I am given that I wasn’t able to have that?”

“Kevin…” Brant began surprised by Kevin’s raw honesty.

“She and I were supposed to have a family together. We were supposed to spend the rest of our lives together and that was a dream I’d held onto for so very long,” Kevin paused searching for the right words, “Even now a part of me will always wonder about the way things could’ve been. A part of me will always long for what we lost.”

“And Ria? Where does she fit into all of that?” Brant questioned bluntly curious for Kevin’s answer. “Does she have any idea that she’s going to be second best for the rest of her life?”

“She’s not second best,” Kevin snapped back at him finding his frustrations with himself greater than the ones he’d felt for Brant. Bringing his hand through his thick, dark hair Kevin searched for the words again. “I love Ria.”

“Do you?” Brant couldn’t help but ask. “Do you love her like someone who plans on spending the rest of your life with you should be loved?”

“Of course I do,” Kevin grumbled in response, “Ria is the world to me.”

“See, that’s where you contradict yourself Kevin. One minute Angela is your world and then the next it’s Ria, which leads me to wonder what it is you really want,” Brant sipped his coffee before leaning back in his chair ever so slightly. “It doesn’t seem like you’re clear on what’s happening in your life.”

“I’ve been clear on things for a while--that is until you started playing this game with me,” Kevin replied tapping his finger tips on the table top. “Before Angie lost her memory I had everything in check.”

“And now?” Brant questioned bracing himself for the answer.

“Now I’m convinced that we need to find Angie before she gets herself into trouble,” Kevin refused to offer up a direct answer to Brant’s questioning. “That’s what’s important.”

“Yeah it is,” Kevin nodded again remembering the last time he’d seen Angela and how he couldn’t get away from her fast enough. Now he’d give almost anything to see her again.

“So tell me do you really think that she left because she saw you and Ria?” Brant couldn’t help but ask his own doubts about Angela’s feelings lingering to the surface.

“It might’ve been something that would upset her yes,” Kevin noted with an ironic laugh. “Here we are years away from our being together and yet when she started believing that we were back at a time when we were about to have our daughter… Brant, I’m not going to lie to you. That did something to me.”

“I can understand that and empathize, but it’s not your daughter. This time it’s my future and my family on the line and I have to protect that,” Brant explained with a sudden seriousness in his tone. “I can’t just let go of the dreams that Angela and I have together because it hurts too much to give up on the past.”

“I gave up on the past a long time ago Brant. I gave up on any hope of a future with her after our daughter died,” Kevin mouthed feeling a lump of emotion in his throat. “I gave up on each and every dream I had for happiness one by one. It’s not just something that a man forgets. It constantly eats away at him and little by little it hurts each day. You try to push on, but you never forget.”

“I’m sorry that you had to face that. Words can’t even begin to explain how much I can sympathize, but at the same time I need you to see where I’m coming from. Angela and I made new dreams with one another Kevin and I can make her happy. We love each other,” Brant paused for a brief moment, “Before she disappeared she was remembering that. We were bonding again and…”

“And don’t you think I know that she’s chosen you?” Kevin snapped back at him with a small shake of his fist on the table top. “Don’t you see that I’ve accepted what fate pushed upon me? I know that she and I won’t ever be together and I’ve tried to reclaim my life with that realization over me, but I have to tell you it’s killing me. A part of me never wants to let go of what I had with her. Selfishly I want what should’ve been mine and every time I see her she still takes my breath away. She is still the one that haunts my heart and my mind and makes me wonder what kind of life I would’ve had if I could’ve been the man that she needed. When I think of how close we came with one another, it only further intensifies the wound to let reality bring it crashing down around me all over again.”

“And that’s where you’re at right now, isn’t it?” Brant fought to keep his own emotions under control. “Still in love with Angela.”

“I love her,” Kevin answered tightly closing his eyes and feeling the weight of the statement cut him to the core. “I’ll always love her Brant and that isn’t ever going to change. If you ask me to walk away from my feelings for her, I won’t assure you that I will because I can’t. She’s so deep in my system that I can never be free of what we had. I can never leave that behind.”

“So I guess this is where we stop being civil to one another and start by being honest about this being the war that it is,” Brant replied stiffly sitting up straighter in his chair. His fingers clenched around the mug and he let out a breath.

“No Brant,” Kevin reopened his eyes to look over at Brant. “This is the point in time when I tell you that regardless of how much I love her, she and I aren’t in love with one another. We were once, but we let it slip away. I’ll always love her, but I could never be with her again. Even if you weren’t in the picture, she and I couldn’t be together. We couldn’t work given that our being with one another just serves as a memory of what we lost. She was my life--my world and I would’ve given it all to share every moment, every breath with her, but that is gone. It’s all nothing more than a faded fucking reminder of all the failures in my life and if we were with one another I would always see that in the disappointment in her life. I would always find myself lost in the notion of how I failed her and our daughter.”

“Kevin I…” Brant started watching Kevin push his chair away from the table as he stood up again.

“I love her. I’ll always feel that way Brant, but my life isn’t meant to be with her. Fate decided to piss on what we had together and now I’ve made peace with that in my own unsettling way. I’ve coached myself into believing that moving on is what’s best for us. It’s the way that I deal with the pain and it’s what keeps her and I alive. She found a way to cope when she decided that she needed to find another chance at love in her life with you and I’ve found that with Ria. Ria is the kind of woman that I never deserved, but I’ve been blessed to have around me. She makes me feel alive for the first time since I lost my daughter and when I look at her I don’t see all of my disappointments and failures in her eyes. I see a woman who loves me for who I am unconditionally and the one woman that I would now give it all up in a heartbeat to have beside me. She is my heart and keeps me together when all I want to do is fall apart. Ria’s the one I want to be with and while you might question a great many things about my motivations, I’ll tell you now that if I lost Ria it would be almost as painful as losing my daughter all over again. Angela may have a special place in my heart, but it’s Ria who is my world now. I wouldn’t risk that for anything.”

“I see,” Brant nodded still keeping his grip on the mug in front of him.

“So when you question me on if I’m going to ruin your perfect little family you’ve got all planned out, the fact to the matter is that I wouldn’t dream of stepping into that world and destroying it because I’ve had mine shattered and it still kills me. I’m not about to risk the only thing that really matters in my life now in the name of holding onto something that’s been long gone,” Kevin informed him point blank, his pained chocolate colored eyes stretching his words out to Brant. “I’m in this to find Angie and when I do, I’m going to let you have your dreams while I rebuild all of mine with Ria. I’m not in this to beat you at a game or reclaim what is gone. I’m here because I don’t want to see someone I care about go under and that’s the only reason I’m here.”

“I hope that’s the truth Kevin because if you’re not being honest with yourself about this, then you can hurt a lot of people,” Brant offered up seeing Kevin making his way towards the kitchen’s exit.

“In case you haven’t noticed Brant I’ve already been there done that and when everything is said and done I’m always on the losing end of it all. I sincerely doubt you’ll have to worry about your world coming to an end in all of this,” Kevin informed him with a frown before stepping out into the hallway and pausing to reflect on the family he’d once dreamt of. Keeping his eyes closed he thought about how far it had fallen out of his reach and he sighed, “because I’ve already lost mine and nothing is going to bring them back. Not now, not ever.”


“I um,” Angela bit down on her lower lip nervously. She watched Craven move further into the living room area placing himself between her and the door in her great escape. She sucked in a sharp breath reminding herself to play it cool and just do what was necessary to get where she needed to go. Standing up taller she placed her hand over her abdomen, “I just wanted to get some air. I have been feeling kind of nauseous and when that happens usually a walk makes it better. Maybe a little bit of the sand and the ocean and I’ll find myself feeling at tip top shape.”

“That sounds like a nice idea Angel,” Craven set down the bag he’d been carrying. He made a small movement towards her his eyes fixed on hers as he flashed her a smile, “but do you have any idea what time it is? It’s far too late for you to be walking out on the beach all by yourself. Your father would never forgive me if I let that happen.”

“My father,” she repeated thinking about the lies he’d tried to feed her to get her to come out with him to this place. While she had no idea what his agenda was, she remembered full well the night that her father had fired him after the two had gotten into a dispute about Craven’s methods of dealings with business. It had gotten ugly and while she hadn’t known all the details, she was well aware of the fact that Cameron had instructed her explicitly to stay away from Craven to avoid conflict. Taking a small step backwards she tried to regroup and found herself eyeing the door just beyond where Craven stood.

“That’s right,” Craven nodded back at her, “Your father wouldn’t appreciate my letting you out this late unchaperoned.”

“I’m not a child anymore,” Angela frowned back at him forcing herself to keep her tone smooth and even. “He wouldn’t expect me to stay locked up inside the house all the time.”

“You’ve only been here a short time and if you’re so insistent upon going out on the beach, then why not wait until morning?” he suggested with a welcoming tone. “We can go together and take the time to appreciate all the things that the water has to offer in the daylight.”

“No, it’s much too hot out during the day,” Angela shook her head in refusal to compromise on the issue. “With the sun overhead it gets way too suffocating. I like the night air. It has a way of making me calmer than I am right now and…”

“And as I said before now is really not the time for you to venture off into that,” Craven frowned back at her. Reaching out to touch her shoulder gently she fought the urge to shudder at the contact of his touch over her. She bit down on her lip again before attempting to think of something to say to get him to let her leave.

“Craven, I’m fine,” she managed to get out before pushing away from his touch. “I want to get some air.”

“Fine, then we’ll go out on the deck out back. You can get as much of the night air as you like without having to worry about anything unsavory happening to you,” he glanced down to her abdomen before meeting her eyes again, “After all that would be the last thing you would want for your little one, yes?”

“Craven I…” she paused before taking in a breath. “Fine, I’ll just go out back then.”

“Let me put these things away and I’ll go with you,” he suggested reaching for the bag once more. “We can talk about the day I have planned ahead of us and maybe we’ll catch up with one another.”

“I really would like some time to think on my own,” she admitted with a small sigh moving over towards the back door. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and I really need to clear my head. There is a lot that I have to say to my father and I need time to think about that.”

“You can have all the time in the world Angel,” he explained in a pleasant tone. She could see him working hard to play the role of the kind and considerate man that worked for her father, but now she’d opened her eyes. Now she knew better and was well aware that he was deceiving her.

“I’ll just go outside,” she turned away from him feeling the back door just beyond her reach. She touched the latch on the door when she felt his hand curl in over her shoulder again.

“On second thought we don’t have anything here that can’t wait to be put away. I’ll join you now,” Craven made a small movement towards her, his hand sliding down over her arm in a far more intimate movement than she’d liked between them. She repressed the shudder that built up in the base of her spine and the groan that carried itself in the back of her throat.

“It’s okay,” she started to refuse his offer, but she watched his arm snake around her in such a fashion that she worried he was going to grab her. Instead he slid his fingers out to undo the latch just enough to free the lock. It opened in a slow, drawn out movement and Angela took the first step out onto the deck and into the night air. She glanced up at the stars overhead trying to locate something that would help her remember the way back home. While she wasn’t quite sure where Craven had her, one thing was for certain. She wasn’t staying there any longer than she had to!

“It’s beautiful out here tonight, isn’t it?” Craven’s voice broke through her thoughts. She felt him still very close behind her and she took in a breath fighting to not break her cover. She needed him to believe she was still clueless to his deceptions.

“It is,” she nodded in confession her eyes sweeping out across the water in search of the familiar lighthouse she’d spent a great deal of time at on the island.

“On a night like this it makes you think anything could happen--that anything is possible,” he mused sliding his arms in around her form. He pressed his hands down on the railing that was right in front of her, thus caging her in between him and the edge of the desk.

“It does,” she nodded feeling a moment of claustrophobia setting in over her.

“It really gets you thinking about the way life has gone. At least that’s what a night like this does for me,” he slurred in her ear, the warmth of his breath skimming in over the back of her neck leisurely. “The years have sure done a great many things for us, haven’t they Angel?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied reaching out to brace her fingers over the railing as well. She felt a heat settle in over her spine as he moved in closer to her soft form.

“You’re not a little girl anymore and I can’t pretend I haven’t noticed how you’ve changed,” he lowered his head just enough to rest his chin just above her shoulder. One of his hands moved up and off of the railing and settled in over her abdomen catching her completely off guard. “You’ve gone through so many changes.”

“Craven,” she brought her hand up over his in an attempt to get his hand off of her, but instead he took it as a sign of encouragement and laced his fingers with hers.

“You’re a beautiful woman Angela,” his lips hovered just over her neck in an attempt to entice her, “I’ve thought so for years. Ever since the first moment I noticed you sunbathing at your father’s pool. Do you remember when you used to wear those sexy little bikinis in the hopes of getting noticed?”

“It was a long time ago,” she sucked in a sharp breath feeling her stomach turn as he moved his free hand up to push at the edge of her dark hair.

“Not long enough for me to forget how tantalizing you were when you were trying to play games like the big girls,” he murmured his lips grazing the side of her neck with the small movement he made. He released her fingers and his palm pressed in over her ribcage causing her to gasp involuntarily. Wordlessly he glided his touch over her body, easing up to graze her breast in an obvious attempt to entice her.

“Craven,” she bit down on her lip again feeling him cup her breast as she felt like she was about to vomit. She could sense his desire as his lips tasted her skin, tongue pressing in just beneath her earlobe and making it clear that he hadn’t come out onto the balcony to keep her company, but rather to make a move. Instinctively she reached out to seize his hand and pry it away from her soft curves. “Craven stop.”

“Oh Angel, come on. We’re both consenting adults now,” he curved his arm around her hips keeping her in close to him. “It’s not like you and I are doing anything wrong. I know how much you’ve wanted something like this.”

“I think I’ve had a little too much of something like this,” she shifted herself around in his arms to face him. “I’m pregnant Craven.”

“And it suits you well,” he eyes sparked with delight. He ran his fingers over the side of her face and smirked, “You’ve never looked more beautiful than you do tonight.”

She felt him lean in towards her as if he was going to kiss her and a bubble of disgust built up inside of her. She turned away at the last second and let out a long sigh. Closing her eyes she knew that she had to keep her cool. If she played the situation wrong, it would undoubtedly cost her, yet something told her regardless of the move she’d made, she would be playing a deadly game.

“Craven we can’t do this,” she blurted out finally her dark eyes meeting his again, “My father wouldn’t approve. You know how he feels about mixing business with pleasure.”

“The rules never applied to you Angel,” Craven added with a knowing smirk, his eyes carnivorous as he inched in over her. “You’ve had no problem twisting them to your pleasures with Kevin.”

“Kevin’s different,” Angela placed her hand in the center of his chest stopping him from kissing her as it was clear he was going in for a second attempt.

“Why because he pulled a few flashy moves in a boxing ring?” Craven’s smile faded and was replaced by sheer contempt. “Is that what makes him so appealing to you?”

“That’s not what it’s about,” she shook her head and stood up taller.

“Then what is it?” he reached out to slide his fingers into her hair urging her to meet his gaze. “Is it the way that it feels for you to go behind your father’s back and screw him Angel? Is that what gets you? The knowledge that at any time your daddy dearest could see that his little girl is anything but Angelic? That you’re nothing more than a common whore?”

“Craven stop. I don’t like where this is going,” she remarked sourly feeling his hand drop down to her hip.

“And I don’t like how you’ve been playing hot and cold for years Angel,” he seized her in his arms pushing her back into the railing again. His mouth hovered in over hers while his fingers gripped onto her hair just enough to tug her head back so that his lips were just over hers. “I’ve wanted you for years, but all you did was tease like a little bitch. You paraded around like you were hot and bothered, but when it got down to it, you did nothing more than prove that you’re all talk and no action except for when it came to Kevin. You would pretend to be pure as snow, but I knew better. Your father might be fooled, but I see you as you are.”

“You don’t know anything,” Angela spat back at him wincing as he tugged on her hair again.

“I know a whore when I see one and don’t think that I’m going to stand here and let you deny me what should’ve been mine years ago long before Kevin walked into the scene,” Craven wrenched her arm with one hand while his mouth pressed in against the side of her neck. She closed her eyes feeling him kiss her skin in a rough, aggressive movement before she let out a breath.

“You don’t give a damn about me Craven. You never did,” she paused shifting her tone to a low and sultry sound. She met his eyes again and tossed out her best look of agitation and lust. “All you care about is screwing the bosses daughter and saying that you could because it’s what you wanted.”

“So what’s wrong with that?” he challenged searching her eyes in a moment of contemplation.

“Nothing, but your moves are all wrong. Though we can work on changing that,” she slurred easing in forward. She placed her hand over the middle of his chest, licking her lips as she arched her head up towards him. “If you want me to play nice, you have to be nice.”

“Oh I can be nice Angel,” his gaze dropped down to her lips, his fingers still lingering in her hair. “I can be very nice.”

“How nice?” she questioned tapering her fingers off in a seductive trail leading from his chest down to just above his belt buckle.

“Baby, I can show you a whole new meaning of paradise,” he murmured moving in to kiss her once again. Sensing that he’d let his guard down, Angela brought her knee up right into the center of his groin. He yelped and released her completely falling to the ground with surprised agony.

“Not in this lifetime you disgusting pig,” she shouted at him watching him writhe on the ground. He reached out for her his fingers pinching towards her ankle. Taking advantage of their momentum shift Angela kicked her foot right into the center of his abdomen again and again before reaching for a potted plant on the railing. She sent it down right over his head before racing off down the steps of the deck in the hopes of getting as far away as possible from the madman who had taken her for his own ulterior motives. She wasn’t sure what he was planning, but she was damn positive that she wasn’t about to stick around and find out what it was.


There was a small noise erupting from the other end of the room as Jason’s eyes shot open and turned to see that the television had switched to a horror movie channel and quickly reaching for the remote he turned it down feeling Mindy’s arm still wrapped around his abdomen from earlier when they had stopped things together and just decided that it was better for them to be just the way they were. Hanging out--friends. That was all really. He didn’t want things to change between him and Mindy and if things went further he knew that the two of them would never be as good as they were before. Of course Mindy understood and they watched television together falling asleep somewhere along the time. Turning more onto his back he wrapped his arm around her shoulders feeling her turn in her sleep and rest more against his chest.

“Mindy?" he whispered her name seeing the way she cuddled in closer to him and her deep breaths told him that she was still asleep in his arms. He thought about a lot while he held her in his arms. There was a part of him that wished he would have continued with her, but a part of him felt like he really loved her and he couldn’t start off a relationship in lies. There were so many things she should know about him. About him not being gay--never being gay and him lying to her. Then she should be able to decide if she wants him or not. “I’m such a terrible person.”

He groaned to himself knowing he made a mistake. He was a desperate guy. Too desperate and he wanted her, but now he knew her too good and realized that he couldn’t lie to her. He cared too much about her to lie to her like this and to be truthful with her before taking this relationship any further than it had gone.

That was the idea. He had to tell her. Tell her everything. Now--before it ended horribly with her tagging along for the ride while he lied to her and he couldn’t take it anymore. He was a liar and he knew it and he couldn’t handle it anymore. She told him that the only way she would be as close as she was with him is if he was gay and that’s why he lied to her, but now that he was here he knew that he would rather tell her the truth than lie to her. If that meant losing time with her at least she knew he was being fully honest with her for once. And if that hurt the relationship he knew it could but he had to tell her the truth before it went completely wrong.

“Mindy, honey,” Jason slightly nudged the beautiful woman in his arms while she slept. While he was hoping to let her have her rest he knew that if he didn’t come out and tell her right now about everything that he would just flip. It was something bugging him and he had to tell her everything. “Mindy, sweetheart? Can you hear me?"

“Jason,” she smiled stretching a bit reaching up to caress his cheek softly before pressing a small kiss over his lips while he froze. He felt her fall to his chest again and she was out cold. He knew that there would be no way he was going to able to talk to her now that she was this tired.

“Uncle Jay?" Jason heard a small voice come from behind him as he turned to see Zane standing in the hallway holding his stuffed animal in his arms. After Mindy had fallen asleep earlier he went to go get Zane from Julian’s place where John had been watching him for the night with Jackie. “Are you awake.”

“I’m awake little man. What’s up?" Jason lifted his head to see the way Zane’s little lip curled into a pout and Jason slowly moved out from under Mindy making sure she had to pillow to rest on to make sure she was comfortable. Picking Zane up in his arms he pulled him in close to his chest and felt Zane’s arms wrap around his neck. “What’s wrong?"

“I had a really bad dream and Mr. Jumpers was scared too,” Zane moved back with one arm to lift up the old stuffed animal that showed he had been loved so much for so very long over the last few years making Jason smile. “Would you come check the closet just to make sure nothing is in there?"

“I’ll do better than that,” Jason carried his nephew to his bedroom and carefully set his nephew down in his bed pressing a soft kiss against his forehead before tucking him in and handing him Mr. Jumpers. “I’ll look in the closet for you , but I bet I will only find one man.”

“Who is that?" Zane questioned seeing Jason disappear into his closet for a minute before coming out with an action figure that Grady had first gotten him when he started to get to know Zane. “Batista was in the closet?"

“Well, this one was,” Jason sat the action figure down on the corner of the nightstand seeing Zane eyeing it over before Jason lied down on the other side of the bed seeing his nephew turning toward him. “I’ll tell you what--I’ll lay here with you until you fall back asleep, but from here on out Batista and I have a promise for you. Whenever you are feeling scared, feel like Batista. Big and strong. But when you are still scared--come find uncle Jay and I will always take care of the scary things in the world for you. Okay?"

“I love you uncle Jay,” Zane whispered resting his head against the curve of Jason’s arm before looking up at him one last time with a small smile. “You and Batista.”

Smiling at the comment Jason thought about leaving Mindy on the couch and how he had to tell her the truth, but right now all he should be doing is telling her the honesty behind it all. Just right now the world to him was his nephew and he had to make sure his nephew was okay before his own needs. That’s always how he was going to feel.


“Honey?" Chase walked into the kitchen after hearing a loud thud telling him that Trisha knocked something over in the kitchen. He figured he would wait a couple for her to come inside of the room to tell him everything was okay but when she didn’t come back he figured something was wrong and when he spotted the spilled milk spreading throughout the kitchen’s wooden floor he knew something was up. Looking to the corner of the kitchen he saw her sitting in a chair with her head in her hands. “Is everything okay? Are you alright?"

“What?" Trisha lifted her head up seeing the way that Chase’s worried light blue eyes stared out at her and she nodded seeing that the milk had spread everywhere in the kitchen. Frowning she went to stand up as he motioned her to stay down and moved over toward the broom closet in the next room to get the cleaner, a bucket and a mop. Picking up the milk he glanced over at her and placed the carton of milk on the counter--well, what he could salvage of what didn’t spill out. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.”

“Are you hurt? Are you okay?" he questioned looking her over seeing the way she nodded and gulped down. She was a pale shade of white and she never reacted like this at any point since he'd known her. “You look--not…good.”

“I’m sorry, I was just thinking about things and I just dropped that. I’m completely fine. Nothing to worry about,” she watched him seeing him pour some of the cleaner into the bucket before filling the rest of it up with water. He mopped up the mess on the floor slowly as she watched him and felt the pit of her stomach twisting and turning slowly. There were the thoughts of what she was possibly thinking about what was going on as she went to speak up only to find that she had lost her voice. It scared her so much that she couldn’t even talk about it. Let alone think about it. “I’m just…sorry.”

“You know if something is bothering you--you can really tell me,” Chase pointed out knowing that something was wrong and he could read it in her eyes. She never worried and right now she was worrying. It worried him to see her like this. He’d never seen her like this and as she stared out at him blankly he had to know. “Trisha--please tell me what’s wrong. Tell me what’s going on before I have a panic attack here. Is something wrong?"

“Not really. Well maybe. Kind of,” she answered knowing that she was only confusing him more and more as she watched him seeing the way that he stared out at her. The look in his blue eyes told her everything. Knowing that she had to tell him what was on her mind because it would be every bit his business as well. “There is something wrong. Seriously wrong. Very wrong.”

“The spilled milk? Honey, nothing is wrong with the spilled milk I drop things all the time and really after the clean up it will be all better. There is no mistake here made in you dropping the milk,” he pointed out seeing the way that she looked at him and shook her head. Gulping down he realized that this must have been big something that she didn’t think he could handle. “What is it honey if it’s not the milk?"

“Well, there may not be a problem, but there might be a problem for the two of us,” she answered placing her hands over her stomach seeing him arch his eyebrow up trying to understand what she was telling him and as he finished mopping up the floor she saw him still confused. “You know--there may possibly kind of be a second person interrupting here. A third person wanting to get between us. Something that will take place in our life in a very intimate way.”

“Someone wants to have a three way with us?" Chase questioned seeing the way she rolled her eyes at his answer and he laughed holding the mop in close to his body while he rested his chin against it and shrugged. “Honey--you are making no sense for me here and if you want me to know what you are talking about you have to be straight forward. I know I’m older and I should get these clues, but I’m still young and they are flying right by me. I’m not getting any of them because I’m just not understanding so try and come out and say it more clearly so I understand what’s going on and I can help you.”

“Trust me I think you’ve done your fair share of helping me,” she added with a small laugh seeing the way he looked at her while his eyebrows tensed together. She tried everything in her power to hint at where she was going seeing his eyebrows clenching together and she shook her head slowly. “Chase we may have a third person becoming a part of our family soon. Chase I haven’t had a period in a few months. Something might have happened to make us a third person around here.”

He thought about what she said for a moment before his jaw dropped while thinking about the hints she was giving him and she nodded not exactly liking the idea herself but knew that they would have to face this somehow--someway.

“That’s right,” she nodded seeing him gulp down and set the broom aside trying to read something from her as she stood up slowly and moved over toward him staring into his light eyes. “I think I’m pregnant.”


Ria paced around the waiting room feeling a chill in the air that went well beyond the cool temperatures of the hospital. While she’d heard Zack tell her to go home and rest, she knew full well that she wasn’t about to leave without finding out what Marie had to say. It had been a close call before, but now after Zack had gone in and saved her, Ria was certain that fate was trying to tell her something.

“You’ll just see if she’s awake before you leave and then you’ll be on your way,” Ria reminded herself reaching into her side pocket to pull out the small key that Marie had handed her. She held it up underneath the light and tried to decipher just what it was that was so special about the key. It looked like any other key to her, yet there was something about the pretenses in which she received it that had her mind racing with a million and one questions.

“What does this have to do with Kevin?” Ria thought aloud spotting Zack out of the corner of her eye. Instinctively she dropped the key back into her pocket and moved forward to speak with Zack. She saw agitation behind his eyes as she moved in closer to him.

“I thought I told you to go home Merhan,” Zack snarled back at her with a shake of his head. “Here you’re constantly complaining about my bossing you around and overworking you, but when I decided to be generous and give you a break, here you are lurking in the halls.”

“That’s because I need to know how the patient is,” Ria informed him with a breath. “You know the one that we were just working on.”

“Ria I told you to go home,” Zack frowned pausing in his movement just enough to turn and look back at her. “Trust me when I tell you that rest will do you good. You’re scheduled early and…”

“Zack she was trying to tell me something. I can’t just go home without hearing what it is she wanted me to know,” Ria turned away from him ready to return to Marie’s room when he snaked his hand out to grab her arm and stop her.

“Ria, that’s going to be a pretty tall order considering,” Zack frowned down at her, his eyes meeting hers.

“Look I don’t care what you have to say I promise I won’t push her. If she’s not awake I’ll just wait. She wanted me to hear something and I need to know what was on her mind,” Ria explained not wanting to give too much detail away for him. She thought to the key in her pocket and all the answers that were still unspoken.

“It doesn’t matter how much pushing you’ll do Ria because I’m fairly certain you won’t be getting any answers from her tonight,” Zack added giving her a long look.

“Then I’ll just stick around in her room until morning to be sure. It was obvious that she needed to get out what she was trying to tell me and…” Ria continued feeling her pulse racing at the information that was just beyond her reach.

“Ria you could sit there for days and it wouldn’t make a difference,” he quipped in a sarcastic tone before growing suddenly serious. He ran his fingers through his hair before letting out a long breath, “Look Ria I don’t know how to put this any other way, but well, she didn’t make it.”

“What do you mean she didn’t make it? When I left you had a pulse and her heart rate was…” Ria blinked back at him in confusion.

“It was only a fleeting moment before,” Zack stopped himself and shook his head, “Ria she’s gone. She’s dead.”

“No,” Ria blurted out refusing to believe him. “That can’t be possible. You brought her back and…”

“Look I don’t know if she was a friend of yours or not, but if you don’t believe me, then go see for yourself,” Zack suggested seeing the doubt burning behind her eyes. “I was just trying to spare you some grief, but to hell with it. You do what you want, though when you’re done I want you going home. You shouldn’t be staying here burning the candle at both ends because you’ll be useless tomorrow.”

“Zack I…” Ria stopped herself not wanting to engage in any further discussion with Zack. She spun on her heel and made her way back to the room she’d left Marie in. Rushing inside she saw Marie’s body on the bed laying still and lifeless beneath a sheet. Stepping forward Ria reached out to the sheet and pulled it away from Marie just enough to learn that Zack was in fact telling the truth. Now as she looked to the woman in front of her she realized she would never truly learn the secrets she held.

“Why couldn’t you just tell me?” Ria asked slipping her hand into her pocket and feeling the key inside. She pulled it out and held it in the light suddenly struck by an uncanny feeling that in spite of the tragedy in front of her, Ria held the secret to Marie’s truth in the palm of her hand. They key to it all would be figuring just what it was that this key opened the door to. Something told her that it would be more mystery than she’d been presented with earlier. Of course now that Marie was gone, Ria realized she had no other choice, but to follow the clue that Marie had left her with regardless of how cryptic it may have been.


Sigh after restless sigh--Kevin tossed and turned in his king sized bed feeling empty inside. He had tried all night to sleep, to somehow get the rest he had been trying to get but still came up short in the long run. Reaching for his pillow he placed it over his head and tried to close his eyes. Think about something that would put him to sleep. Again, it didn’t work. He knew he needed his rest, but there were so many things swirling around his head that he just knew that he couldn’t. He was restless and amped up. Everything that could be on his mind right now was there. Resting his head back into the pillow after placing it back where it belonged he placed his arms behind his head and stretched his long torso out feeling the sheets shift at the bottom of his waist. Staring out the window he could see the stars still glistening, the one thing that had actually kept him calm earlier. A groan escaped his lips as he closed his eyes and rubbed as his naked chest feeling his muscles aching from the lack of sleep he had actually gotten.

“Where are you Angie?" he sighed thinking about his best friend and his ex-lover. There were so many things that hit him at this time. So many things that kept coming at him. Ria and Angie were the top two on his mind. Being alone made you realize how empty you could feel without someone sleeping by your side. “Just please be okay.”

Closing his eyes he thought about Angie and the promises he made to her. The things that he promised to make sure that she would be alright. When they lost their daughter was the most painful experience of their…well at least his life and now that this was happening he knew that his promise may have died out when he promised to protect her forever.

“I’m so sorry I let you down,” he turned in his bed swinging his legs over the side pulling the sheets in over him more settling them around his waist as he gulped down and thought about the past--the present and the future. What was he going to do if his best friend died? How would he live without her? Sure, she wasn’t his anymore and he loved Ria but she was supposed to be the mother of his child back in the day. “Why is all of this happening to her?"

He could still remember what it was like having her pregnant with his child and how Brant must have felt right now. Sure, Brant wasn’t his number one priority and he pretended like he didn’t care about what he felt but he did. A night like today made him remember all over again what it was like to be told he was going to be a father. Where his biggest fear was Craven and that was still his biggest fear to this day. Was if Craven got his hands on Angela and what would happen if he did. He could still remember the way she sounded when the only thing he cared about in the world was her and the future for their unborn daughter. The day she told him that his heart would finally be full and his life would mean more than just an empty name with nothing to who he was.

“Angie, what is it,” he asked, his voice softer, more concerned as she’d faced him. She’d thought she’d had the strength to do this--to tell him about the way things must be between them, but before she knew it she found herself lost in his arms.

“Kevin, I don’t care what everyone else wants for us. I want to be with you--to share my life with you and only you. I want for us to be together and I don’t care if we have to run away to make it happen,” she pleaded with him catching him off guard as his arms slowly wrapped around her. “The stakes might be higher now, but we need to find a way out of this. We need to break free.”

“Angie, what’s gotten into you?" Kevin couldn’t help but ask notice she was trembling in his arms, “Angie?”

“Kevin, I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby,” she blurted out feeling the world spiraling out of control around her.

His world seemed to be complete when he knew that he was going to be a father. It was the one thing he did right. The one thing that showed he actually existed in this world. The one thing that proved he lived a life and created one as well. The words that were said was something he’d never forget he had wanted a baby. He wanted to share his life with his family. His wife and his child--live normally for once without having to worry.

“Our baby…”

“Kevin, my father is going to kill us when he finds out,” she reminded him easing her fingers through his dark hair tentatively, “If anyone discovers what we’ve done…”

He tipped his head up to look at her, seeing the lines of her face shining down upon him beneath the moonlight, “Angie, you talk as if we’ve done something wrong, but what we’ve done…we’ve created life and that’s something that I could never, ever be ashamed of. It’s the first and only right thing I’ve ever done in my life…”

“Loving you is and always will be the only right thing in my life…”

Cussing out he knocked the lamp over onto the floor after swiping at it thinking about the moments he spent in love with another woman. Someone who promised he was the one in her life. The only thing right for her and now she was with a completely different man breaking his heart over and over again.

What was he thinking? God, this was driving him crazy! All the thoughts of his child--Craven, the past it was making him go nutty. Running his fingers through his hair angrily he could remember the look on her face when their child had died. When he had just been shot the promise he made to come home but never did and when he got to her it was too late. There were times he wished he could have saved his daughter. Brought her into this world and made her a little bit more like him. It would have made him clean up. It would have made him become a better person. Standing up from the bed he reached out for a few things pushing them around before slamming his fist into the wall.

Resting his head against the cool wall he looked down to see the small scar over his chest from being shot on the day his daughter died. The day his life should have been taken as well so he could be with his daughter. Tell her that everything was okay. Slamming his palm into the wall he moved again staring at the scar while tracing his fingers over the one that was left to always constantly remind him of the heart break that he had.

“Your mother can’t be hurt,” Kevin whispered to himself resting his head against the wall again taking in a deep gulp. When she got hurt he promised his life to her in protecting her and even if she didn’t keep her promises to him he was going to still stick up on his end. Reaching for his pants at the bottom of the bed he grabbed them and pulled them on quickly. Shaking his head slowly he reached for a tank top pulling it on quickly before grabbing his keys from the nightstand along with his cell phone. “I’m going to find her and she’ll be completely fine. She’ll be okay.”

Trying to tell that to himself over and over he moved down the stairs and slipped his shoes on quickly. Once passing the living room he turned to see that Don was still face first in his couch while the loud vibrating sound of his snoring continued. Shaking his head slowly he moved into the living room and looked to the couch to see Brant sound asleep as well with a map under his hand. Sighing, he knew that he couldn’t go without Brant to find Angela. They promised to work together.

Reaching for the map under his hands he could tell that Brant was trying to plan out locations and a small smirk pressed in over his lips as he realized Brant was staring at the map upside down when he was making markings. Setting it down on the table he kneeled down and reached out to nudge Brant softly.

“Brant? Wake up,” Kevin nudged Brant a couple of times reaching out to tap Brant’s face softly and still he didn’t wake up. Sighing he fell to the floor and rested back against the couch thinking about the promises he made to Brant and the same ones he made to Angela. “Come on.”

Resting his head in his hands he realized that something could help him sneak away without getting in trouble. Tonight when the little girl had stolen his wallet--the one with JT he had to go speak his mind with her and figured she would be at Cameron’s place on the beach. Maybe if he was lucky he would be able to find Angie there. Standing up from the floor quietly he moved over toward the door moving out slowly and closed the door quiet enough not to wake the two boys up.

Walking along the beach he glanced around hoping to maybe find Angela just sitting on the beach thinking about things about the past or maybe about now and everything he wished she remembered. Sighing he knew that it would never happen. While his mind would still linger off to their past and the love they shared her memories would no longer lean toward him. They would lean toward Brant and the life she made with him wrongfully in his view. Kicking at the sand he slid his hands into his pockets in his jeans before looking around the area. Every memory, every emotion he shared he could remember perfectly but to Angela it was nothing. Nothing but a lost cause and a lost view.

“What the hell am I doing thinking about the damn past. I have my whole life in front of me,” Kevin reached for his phone pressing a button to see a picture of him and Ria together as the main screen on his phone. Still there was no call from Ria which made him worry even more than before. “I wish you would have called Ria.”

Sighing to himself he moved up the stairs to Cameron’s place unlocking the door and letting himself in. Looking around everything looked pretty dark but moving upstairs he looked around and cussed out knowing that if he was going to catch anyone it wouldn’t be now.

“Angie?" Kevin called out look around flipping on a light here and there as he made his way down stairs. Dropping down on one of the couches he rested his head in his hands and shook his head slowly. “Where are you?"

There were so many things he wanted to do to find her, but he had no idea where to start other than to just hope that she would know about the past and show up here. He just hoped.


“No!” Evie gasped reaching out to clasp her neck as she sat up in bed. She looked around the foreign room and felt her heart pounding in her chest. The darkness surrounded her and it seemed as her lungs would explode with the amplitude of air she needed to even breath. She was drenched in perspiration even though she was wearing only JT’s t-shirt and her underwear, yet it felt like she’d been trapped in a furnace after the dream she’d had.

“Evie,” JT awakened with a start seeing her beside him lost in a cloud of panic. “Hey.”

“JT,” she whispered his name realizing that she was no longer alone. She reached out to him her horror still sending vibrations over her. She sank into his arms and burst into unexpected tears.

“Hey, it’s okay,” JT sat up straighter feeling her curl up into a ball in his lap. He stroked his fingers through her dark hair as her tears carried over her. “Everything is going to be okay.”

“No, it’s not. JT it was horrible,” Evie explained unable to control her sobs. “It seemed to real. I was at the hospital and my mom…she was laying there…she was…”

“Evie, it’s okay,” JT whispered feeling her shake in his arms.

“No it wasn’t,” she raised her head just enough to meet his concerned gaze. “She was high again and my dad was standing there just watching her die. He was letting her kill herself and I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t reach out to her and then…”

“Honey it’s okay. It was just a bad dream,” he tried to remind her again and again, but as she sat up she shook her head firmly.

“No it felt so real. I tried to help my mom, but he stopped me. He grabbed me and started choking me--telling me that I was going to pay for being a bad girl. He said he was going to kill you too and…” Eve explained in broken breaths as JT pulled her into his arms completely.

“It was just a nightmare. It’s over now,” he cradled her in against his chest pulling her into his lap completely. Wrapping her up in his arms, he tried to convince her of what he knew to be true about her waking up, but she was still clearly shaken. “Your father can’t hurt you now.”

“Maybe not, but with my mother,” Evie paused her teary eyes meeting his again, “JT I haven’t been exactly honest with you. I told you my mom was a junkie, but I never really got into everything.”

“Evie, you don’t have to…” JT started sensing an obvious hesitation inside of her.

“My mom has been a pill popper since long before I was born. I’m sure of it, but lately,” Evie felt a tiny tremble carry over her causing her stomach to be tied in knots. “JT, she’s been into a lot of things. Most of the time when I came home I would find her in a chair with a needle buried in her arm and…”

“I had no idea…” JT started surprised by her declaration.

“That’s because I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you to know about how awful things really were. That’s why I never let you take me to my place--why I never let you see what my life was like before you were in it,” she revealed with a painful expression. Turning away she closed her eyes and let out a long breath. “Though after you told me about Todd tonight I couldn’t help but relate to what you were feeling. I know more than you realize what it’s like to see someone you love crash and burn and you can’t do a thing about it. It’s something I’ve faced for so long and with my mother, well my father just feeds into her habits. He doesn’t give a damn about her…”

“Hey,” JT reached out to touch her cheek gently urging her to meet his concerned brown eyes. “Evie, if you want to call her…”

“No I can’t,” Evie refused to listen to his offer. She shook her head adamantly, her long, dark hair cascading around her face and framing it. “I can’t let her know I’m here because she’ll call him. She’ll tell him where I am after he gives her more drugs. She would sell me out for a fix if she could, which is why I can’t do it.”

“Evie I’m sorry,” JT squeezed her in closer to his chest again. “I wish I’d known that…”

“You couldn’t have. I didn’t want you to until now,” she revealed in a small voice. She felt his thumb brush at her new fallen tears and she took in a small breath, “I didn’t want anyone to know about it because it was something I was ashamed of…something that haunted me…”

“You aren’t to blame for what your parents have done,” he reminded her in a soft, sympathetic tone.

“Just like you aren’t to blame for what happened to Todd,” she whispered in response shifting in his arms ever so slightly. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders before leaning in closer to him. “JT we both were burned by our past, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a happy future, right?”

“We can have anything we set our minds into having,” he promised her hating to see her so upset. Leaning forward he eased his lips against hers in a barely there kiss. “We can have anything our hearts desires as long as we’re together.”

“You make me strong,” she mouthed in response inching her fingers up over the knotted muscle tone in his shoulders. She felt him stiffen momentarily against her touch before he leaned further into the kiss. Her fingers toyed with his thick, dark hair before she felt his hands around her waist.

“You’re safe with me Evie,” he whispered his dark eyes meeting hers once again as she shifted over him. “I know it’s hard to face the nightmares when they hit you like that, but you don’t have to face them alone. You’re not alone anymore just like you told me. We have each other now.”

“Forever?” she questioned in a weak voice, her worries mounting as the thought of losing JT pressed in over her.

“And always,” he laced their fingers in one another before pulling her in closer to him. His lips beckoned hers once again, wanting nothing more than to take away the worries that carried over her. As their mouths parted, he cupped her face in his hands brushing his lips against her tear stained cheeks. His fingers gently skimmed into her soft, chestnut hair before his lips met hers again in a tender display of emotion.

“JT,” she spoke his name in a low, raspy murmur.

“I love you Evie,” he whispered in response feeling her surround him enveloping him in her embrace. They locked eyes once again and as her breath fell from her lips, he found himself wanting nothing more than to keep her safe and protected forever.

“I love you,” she mouthed desperately easing into him. Her fingers flattened out over his chest loving the warmth of his smooth skin beneath hers. Shifting over him she knelt over his lap longing to feel their connection built between them.

“I just want to make you happy,” JT admitted in a low whisper for her ears only. Gently he pushed her back onto the mattress, moving in over her just enough to press his upper half against her soft curves. His fingers traced her lips freely before he dove in for another intoxicating taste of her soft, full lips. She gently scratched her nails over his back longing to keep the nearness between them while his fingers dipped down beneath the blankets.

“I want to forget all about the life I had before you and start over again with what we have in front of us,” she confessed arching up off of the mattress into his caress. She could see the hunger behind his eyes matching her own as she wasn’t clear how her nightmare had transformed into her dream come true, but as she felt his touch ease up underneath his shirt she’d been wearing, she let out a soft sigh abandoning herself to his soothing, seductive caress.

“I promised you new beginnings,” he whispered tentatively sliding in closer to her as she sank her nails further into his shoulder, her arms longing to surround him. She curved into him turning ever so slightly against him wondering when this moment would pass between them. Instead of the hesitation and apprehension she was usually met with when she’d tried to bring them closer to one another, she felt his hand move in underneath the blankets cupping her in closer to his hardened form. Wordlessly he slid his fingers out over her thigh, fanning them out enough to guide her leg up over his hip.

“JT,” she breathed his name feeling a new warmth settle in over her as they slid in closer to one another. She squeezed her arms around him arching her body up to meet his and feel the sudden electricity that had sparked between them. His body matched her movement offering up a taste of things ahead of them when their lips bumped and collided in a passionate frenzy. Her heart was hammering in her chest, head swimming with the promise of passion and as she locked her leg around his hip she was pleasantly rewarded with the small, pained groan that spilled over his lips. He broke the kiss and sighed.

“You’re killing me Evie,” he admitted in an achingly shattered tone leaving no mistakes about the battle he was losing in being near her. He closed his eyes for a moment as she stroked the side of his face longing to experience every single second with him feeling as alive as only he could bring to her. She needed him, wanted him on every level and as his eyes reopened she could see there were no more doubts behind his dark eyes.

“I want you,” she murmured feeling him squeeze her soft curves just enough to pull her in flush against him. Her eyes widened as the feel of his body against hers foreign and welcoming and yet she found all her own worries had left her. She reached down beneath them unknotting the waistband on his sweatpants before feeling him inch away from her. She feared he would walk away, but instead he relented in his protest giving her silent permission to follow her instincts and explore a whole new world of passion between them. His own fingers reached out to touch her, tearing away at the barriers between them as she raised her hips enough to free herself to his explorations. Wordlessly they lay with one another engaging in the newfound intimacy with one another.

“I love you,” he mouthed in a tight whisper, skimming his thumb against her lower lip and seeing the way it curved in soft anticipation. A low sigh escaped from within her as he sought out another kiss taking the time to test the waters on their newfound intimacy with one another. Gently he eased her back onto the pillow watching her hair surround her as he moved in over her. He touched her cheek again sensing so many things happening between them as he spoke up again in a tender voice, “I just want things to be so special for you.”

“They are special JT because I’m with you,” she whispered warmly snaking her arm around his waist while her leg curled around his torso again longing to feel every part of him over her bringing an end to the wondering and curiosities that had threatened to eat her alive. She sank her head back into the pillow feeling his kisses taper off over her shoulder before he shifted over her.

“I want everything about this to be special,” his words buzzed over her as his kisses dipped down over her body. She closed her eyes feeling warmth pour over every inch of her until she felt him between her thighs, his warmth against her knee. There was a soft dampness as his lips traced a seductive pattern over her skin. Reopening her eyes again she found him placing butterfly kisses over her calf and she couldn’t help but laugh.

“JT,” she trembled beneath his urgings seeing the way he seemed to light up in being with her. “That tickles.”

“It’s not supposed to tickle,” he assured her leaning in to press a soft kiss against her navel. “You’re supposed to be feeling something altogether different than a tickle.”

“I do,” she nodded in response biting down on her lower lip as his kisses grew far more intimate, far more invasive than she’d anticipated. She closed her eyes and fought to repress the soft purr that built up in the back of her throat. Stretching her fingers out over the blankets, she held it in her fingers, squeezing and releasing as her body found her on a whole new playing field. Finally she couldn’t hold back any longer. She made a soft mewling sound. “Oh JT…”

“This is what I love about you,” he confessed pressing a kiss against her thigh, his finger tracing the soft pattern over her skin. “This is amazing.”

“You’re amazing,” she replied opening her eyes to find him teasing his finger over the birthmark she’d tried to keep hidden from the world around her.

“This is adorable.”

“Stop, I hate that,” she waved her hand at him hoping to get him to focus elsewhere. “It’s hideous.”

“It’s beautiful,” he leaned forward to press a kiss over her again as she felt her body warm at the touch. Instinctively she arched up off of the mattress feeling his attentions adding fuel to the fire burning inside of her. It was hot, intense and absolutely everything she could’ve dreamt of with him. She licked her lips in anticipation and felt him move in over her, his body pressed in over hers so close to filling the void between them that had been there up until now. She opened her eyes and felt him ready to press into her, to join them as one. It was heaven--a dream come true until JT smiled at her with a goofy grin and leaned down to run his tongue over the side of her face.

“JT!” she blurted out feeling him repeat the movement, this time his tongue more urgent and feeling a bit like sandpaper as her feelings of desire slowly tapered off. She tried to wiggle beneath him, but felt his tongue on her hand as well, rougher and more aggressive than it had been earlier.

Suddenly her eyes snapped open and she turned her head to the side to see one of the gray and white colored kittens beside her on the pillow ready to move in for another ‘kiss’. Looking to the left of her she realized the other sensation she’d felt was two more kittens that were trying to capture her attention as well. She sat up straighter realizing that her night of incredible, earth shattering love making had only been in her mind and as she spotted another one of the kittens prancing around the bottom of the bed gleefully moving around in the blankets to meet it’s mother who was now curled up beside JT, she realized that the fantasy was far from a reality. Evie eyed JT, who had turned around so that his head was near the foot of the bed, suspiciously as all the kittens changed direction and flocked over to join him and their mother. Each one seemed to push the other aside for the opportunity to be in his arms, much like Evie had been doing in her dream.

“Damn,” she cursed under her breath when reality set in that all those wonderful, glorious feelings she’d been experiencing were only in her mind.

“Uh oh, it looks like we made a mistake in trying to get her attention,” JT noted catching the expression on Evie’s face. “I guess we should’ve played quieter since she doesn’t look like she wanted to be pulled from that dream she was having.”

“Gee you think,” Eve questioned taking in a breath as she wondered how much of her dream had slipped out into the waking hours. “How did you know I was dreaming?”

“I’d rather not say,” he flashed her a sexy smirk that said enough to know that she’d clearly been expressing her thoughts in a way that he could read them. His grin expanded as he pet the chin of one of the kittens who lay beside him, “Although I have to admit I was less than eager to interrupt you since you appeared to be enjoying it so very much.”

“I would’ve enjoyed it all the more if it was a reality,” she revealed pushing the blankets off of her legs that were still burning at the memory of the dream she’d been having. She switched her position on the bed so that she was laying beside JT propped up on her arm and facing him. “Though I suppose if I was awake I might’ve objected to your bringing other women into our bed like this.”

“Other women and men,” he winked at her with a sexy smirk, “I’m not prejudiced in this matter.”

“Given the circumstances, I think I can go for a little group action,” Evie watched one of the kittens that had a white stripe over his back move towards her. He let out a small purr before pushing his way in to lay beneath the hair that draped over the side of her.

“Good because I was afraid this was one party I couldn’t bring myself to end after they seemed too pitiful in the other room,” he explained with a solemn expression, “They were cold and I thought maybe together we could find a way to keep them warm and comfortable.”

“I always feel that way when I’m with you,” she replied with a small yawn wondering how she’d been able to miss out on the kittens and their initial arrival while she was sleeping. Of course now that she was awake and watching JT interact with all of them, she couldn’t help but find herself loving him all the more. “Though you know if we’re going to bring strangers into our bed, we should probably find a way to get to know them first.”

“I couldn’t agree more, which is why I’m here with introductions for you,” he pointed to one of the kittens that lay near the center of his chest, “This is Happy because he seems to be rather content playing with his tail as you can see.”

Evie looked down to see the kitten rolled up in a ball with his tail wrapped between his fingers and it seemed to serve as a security blanket. Reaching out to him she rubbed his ear watching him curl in a new position before finding himself content in his sleep again.

“And this little girl right here is a bit feistier than the rest of the group, which in a lot of ways reminded me of you,” JT teased with a small wink noting the kitten who was playing with a loose string on the edge of the sheet beneath her, “so I’ve dubbed her Spunky.”

“Very fitting,” she nodded in response listening to his words.

“And mom over here is Flora since well, I guess simply because she just looked like a Flora,” JT shrugged his shoulders and laughed. “At least that’s what she tells me.”

“She told you all of that huh?” Evie shook her head at him before pointing out another kitten. “And this one?”

“That’s Bradshaw,” JT explained with a wide smirk, “He tried to eat a twenty dollar bill that fell out of my wallet so it reminded me of this financial advisor my dad had once who loved money, hence fitting him perfectly. His love of money certainly makes him Bradshaw.”

“Then it’s nice to meet you Bradshaw,” she laughed lightly reaching out to offer up a small pet to the kitten that now used the twenty dollar bill as a sleeping pad. Finally her brown eyes settled in on the kitten who was very much asleep against her, “And who is this little guy?”

“I didn’t get to him yet,” he revealed seeing how the kitten had taken to her, “though something tells me he would prefer that you have the honors.”

“Hmm, well let me see. We don’t want him to have a horrible name he’ll be stuck with the rest of his life--you know the kind of name that he’ll hate from here on out. He’ll need something that defines his character and really lets the world know what kind of cat he truly is,” she mused eyeing the kitten beside her intently.

“True. You can’t name him something like Fluffy and have him stuck with that name for the rest of his life. It would be humiliating. Believe me a name can change everything,” JT added with a playful smirk. “It has to be a good one.”

“In that case,” she paused for a moment noticing the tiny white patch of fur that crowned the top of his head. “Spike.”

“Spike?” JT repeated with a strange expression on his face.

“That’s right,” she nodded in response pointing out the extended piece of fur. “He’s got this little patch here that looks like a Spike so I think he should be Spike.”

“Then Spike it is,” he nodded in agreement not about to argue the point with her. “So now that they aren’t strangers anymore, do you feel better about having them in bed with us?”

She nodded, “Yes, but only because they are the first signs of our family between us. Now we have something real to hold onto. We have to make sure that we’re always here for our children and give all five of them what our parents never gave us.”

“I think I can handle that one with you by my side,” JT smiled over at her reaching out to take her hand in his. “I’m pretty sure we can handle the task at hand.”

“I know we can,” Evie beamed enthusiastically realizing that while her earlier vision of JT hot and exciting, this was all the more thrilling in sharing something with him that went well beyond the other trivial aspects of her life. Now she had a real family of her own with the kittens to hold onto and as she saw the same emotion behind JT’s eyes that was running through her head, she knew that this was truly the beginning of something special between them--something that wouldn’t ever fade away like everything else in her life.


“Damn!” Angela cursed under her breath treading her way through the sand now that it suddenly seemed that the clouds overhead were stealing the moonlight from her. She looked out onto the water wondering if she should try to swim away, but thinking about the extra weight she was carrying around with her, she knew it wasn’t a good idea. She kept pushing on rushing away from the secluded beach house that Craven had taken her to. While she’d planned on escaping she’d never anticipated having to take him down like she’d done, but she knew full well not to stick around long enough for the aftermath of her actions.

“I have to get help,” she muttered to herself looking around to seek out the road. Surely they couldn’t be so far away from civilization that it would end badly for her. There had to be a way to the rest of the people on the island even if this time of year wasn’t all that busy as others had been. If she could get to the road or to a place that was still open, then it was possible that she could call for help. She could call Brant and tell him where Craven had taken her. He would help her and…

She heard a sound from behind her and she knew that she couldn’t waste her time lost in contemplations. She turned in a new direction away from the water hoping that it would lead her to the safety of the world around her. The sand felt heavy on her feet as it collected in her shoes. Her pants she’d put on were now serving as something to slow her down now that the wind kicked up around her in the opposite direction. She knew that there were plenty of times when she’d been tempting fate, but now this wasn’t what she needed.

“Please just let me find someone to help me,” she begged to the heavens above hearing a thunder cloud roll overhead. “No!”

The first hint of rain tapered off in over her and suddenly the sand that slipped beneath her toes turned into a pile of mush sticking to her shoes. She sank into the spot in front of her and felt it get up and over her leg. Still she couldn’t lose sight of her task. She had to get help. Had to find someone to get her out of the situation she’d so blindly put herself in. Then she could be free. She could be home and with the man she loved. She could just flag down a car and…

“Headlights,” Angela gasped feeling a breath of relief carry over her. She sped up and noticed a glow in the clearing. She was almost there now. She could just flag the driver down and…

“Oh no you don’t,” Craven snarled snapping his arm around her neck and dragging her backward in a choking movement. Immediately she clasped her hands up to scratch and claw at his arm but it was no use. She opened her mouth to scream seeing the car approaching, but before a sound got out, she felt a thick, heavy cloth move in over her mouth and nose.

“I’m sorry that you’ve forced my hand on this issue Angel, but you’ve left me no choice,” he felt her writhe against him fighting him with what she had left in her. Of course he knew it would be no use. Soon the chemical she’d inhaled would be enough to make her complacent for a little while longer. After a few seconds, she went limp in his arms, just in time to pull her away from the soft hue of the passing headlight.

Looking to the clouds above Craven took in the rain for a moment feeling it wash them clean before scooping her up in his arms. Yes, it had hurt like hell when she’d attacked him, but he’d waited years for this. He’d plotted and planned and when the perfect moment arrived, he knew that he couldn’t let anything destroy it. Carrying Angela back to the house he thought of all the things that were still ahead of them. Yes, when she finally realized what had happened, it would be too late for her, but for him the fun was just beginning.

“You’re going to serve a great purpose to me,” he explained stepping back into the beach house. He felt her head drop back into his arm as he carried her back upstairs. Carefully he moved into the room he’d been keeping her in and with one small stumbling movement he set her soft form down on the bed. She fell with a dull thud onto the blankets in front of him.

“Now see why couldn’t you just behave like this?” he shook his head at her noticing all the mud she’d carried over herself. “If you would’ve just listened to me, this would’ve been so much easier for us.”

Shaking his head at her, Craven leaned forward moving in to push open the buttons on her blouse. He watched her head fall to the side as he worked to part the material enough to work it off of her. He reached for her again pulling her up just enough to slide her arms out of the blouse before he set her down again. He then focused on the slacks she’d been wearing.

“Ever the pain in the ass,” Craven mouthed wondering how it had been impossible to put her in her place before now. He eased the dirt soaked slacks from her curves before setting them onto the floor beside her discarded blouse. Stepping back he couldn’t help but smile seeing Kevin’s fallen angel in her spill from grace sprawled out on the bed in front of him and his for the taking.

“You should’ve made this easy for both of us,” Craven curled his lips in a scowl, his gaze lingering in over her. He sat down on the bed beside her, touching her outer thigh with a determined movement. “This could’ve been so easy for you if you would’ve just been nice to me Angel. We could’ve worked together oh so well, but no you had to be stubborn. You had to put up a fight…”

Angela remained motionless as his fingers curved in over her thigh. He felt the warmth of her soft flesh beneath his touch and he smirked again. Sliding his fingers between her thighs he pushed her legs apart just enough to reposition her on the bed. It was then that his gaze centered in on the tiny heart shaped birthmark that grazed her inner thigh. Unable to resist the urge to admire it, he teased his index finger over the small pattern knowing full well what it meant in the grand scheme of things.

“You might’ve outsmarted me tonight Angel, but I won’t make that mistake again of letting you gain the upper hand,” he released her and slid off of the bed. Walking over to the closet he opened the door and pulled out a nightgown. He draped it over his shoulder before returning to dress her in it. Once he’d finished he pushed back one half of the blankets on the bed and carefully tucked her inside. Once he was finished he leaned down to kiss her forehead gently.

“Rest assured however that when I have my way with you, it won’t be this easy,” he touched her cheek in a leisurely caress, “When I have you, you’ll be in the full waking hours and only then will you appreciate all that I’ve done to bring you to this. Only then will you understand why I had to take the actions I have.”

Angela’s face was still a rosy shade from a combination of the running and the chemicals she’d taken in. She looked warm and inviting and as Craven stepped back moving in to shut off the light, he smiled to himself knowing that he’d made the right move all those years ago. Cyrus Stone had stolen so very much from his life and in bringing Kevin Adonis into the scene, it had taken away from the legacy that Craven should’ve been able to carry with Angel at his side. She was the key to holding the empire, but when Kevin spoiled Craven’s destiny, Craven knew full well he had to take matters into his own hands. He had to do what was needed to ensure that the future would be his. He had taken the key to it all years ago and now that he possessed Angel as well there would be no stopping him. He would be ruler of the Stone and now perhaps the Ashford Empire soon enough and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do to stop him!


“Still thinking about what happened with Brant last night?” Russ questioned stepping in behind Avery and draping her in his arms. They stood together on the balcony looking out at the beach beyond their hotel room and as she sank into his chest, Russ was well aware that he knew the answer without a word from her.

“I’m sorry to be dwelling on this,” Avery sighed wrapping his arms around her tighter than before. “It’s just when I think of everything he put us through in the past trying to keep us apart, I can’t help but wonder if this is a bad omen.”

“Everything about Brant is a bad omen, but not for us,” Russ whispered resting his chin on her shoulder. “You have to believe that.”

“Just like I believed he wouldn’t give us a problem in the past?” she groaned outwardly as she shifted in his arms. She turned around to face him as Russ saw the worry behind her eyes. “Russ, we all know how my blowing off your concerns worked for us.”

“Avery, things are different now,” Russ touched her cheek tenderly. “Brant doesn’t have the same kind of power over us that we gave him in the past.”

“You mean that I gave him,” she dropped her head shamefully. “I was the one who played games for so very long that I opened myself up to his attention and…”

“Hey,” Russ attempted to pull her out of her moment as he raised her chin coaxing her to meet his worried green eyes, “Avery listen to me. We aren’t back where we were when we started. Things have changed for us and Brant can’t keep us from being together.”

“But for so very long everything kind of blew up around us Russ,” Avery reminded him with a small shudder. “Just when we thought we’d spend our lives as husband and wife something always ripped us apart from one another.”

“But our love kept pulling us together again like it always does,” he cupped her face in his large hands. “Avery, think of how far we’ve come from where we were.”

“That’s all the more reason why I want to keep holding onto it,” she sighed leaning into his touch. “I want to believe Brant’s moved onto his new obsession with Angela, but…”

“There’s always that doubt,” Russ nodded in understanding, “but at the same time they are about to start a family with one another.”

“Which is all the more proof that Brant’s seriously demented,” she shuddered at the thought.

“Regardless of his motivation, he’s not our problem anymore,” Russ decided pulling her into his arms fully.

“You say that like you’re convinced he wasn’t at the club last night to cause us problems,” she raised her head up to meet his eyes curiously.

“I won’t lie and tell you that I think he’s innocent, but at the same time if something’s going on with Angela, I think Brant will be too distracted to worry about us,” Russ finally shrugged his shoulders. “And even if he’s not, well I don’t think he’ll be able to get past Kyle, who by the way has informed me that he plans on taking his duties as best man very seriously.”

“Let’s hope that you’re right for the sake of our wedding,” Avery let out a long breath she hadn’t been aware she’d been holding.

“Hey, let’s try to think about the positive,” Russ suggested with a smile. “This time we’ll have all of our friends and family with us. It will be an event to celebrate with our loved ones just like you wanted all those years ago when we started this matrimonial road with one another.”

“It still feels like yesterday when we got on your Harley and split town,” she couldn’t help but smile at the memory. “If I would’ve been braver then maybe we could’ve avoided all of the craziness that surrounded us for so many years.”

“Honey even if we did follow through I’m well aware of the fact that there would’ve been no way in hell that your mother would’ve let that one stick,” Russ frowned at the thought. “You weren’t old enough and she would’ve tried to have me in jail for statutory rape at that point.”

“Russ we’d been together for a while at that point in time and you were barely eighteen,” she reminded him as his fingers eased into her dark hair.

“Your mother has always hated me,” Russ replied as a breeze swept over them.

“She’s not my mother anymore,” Avery explained stiffly, turning around to look out onto the beach again. “After all she’s done, she’s dead to me.”

“I don’t blame you for feeling that way honey,” Russ squeezed her in his arms. “I just wish that it didn’t get to this point with her.”

“Her murdering our child was absolutely reprehensible,” she thought back with a shudder as he held her. “When she tried to take Erin from us as well…”

“But she didn’t,” Russ whispered warmly against the side of her neck. “You were so brave when she tried to hurt you both.”

“She almost had you murdered as well Russ,” Avery bit back on the tears that carried over her. “I almost lost you because of my mother’s greed…”

“Nicholas played a hand in that as well,” Russ reminded her with a tightness in his tone. “They were a team.”

“And clearly were all along,” she closed her eyes thinking about the weight of their past. “I just don’t understand why they deemed Brant and I perfect for one another. If they would’ve found someone else, then maybe we…”

“Avery don’t,” Russ sighed hugging her in closer to him. “We can’t change the past.”

“I know that,” she bit down on her lip, “but to think of how my mother tried to barter me off for another fortune…”

“Your mother doesn’t realize she missed out on the greatest fortune in the world and that’s you,” Russ pulled her back into the hotel room with him. “You and Erin are two miracles that she’ll never be a part of and that’s her own fault.”

“I just hope that I never turn out to be anything like her Russ,” Avery shivered at the thought. “She’s so horrible and…”

“You’re nothing like her. You never have been and you never will be,” Russ promised dipping down to kiss her tenderly. “In fact how about we take this a step further and we get a second opinion on the matter?”

“Second opinion?” she repeated giving him a strange look.

He nodded, “Our daughter wants to show you all the reasons why you are the most incredible mother in the world.”

“Erin,” Avery smiled, feeling a warmth carry over her at the thought of their daughter.

“She loves you so very much and so do I,” Russ promised leaning in to kiss her once again supportively. “And for what it’s worth our wedding is going to go off without any kind of problems. You, Erin and I will be able to make the most of the day and show the world why we are an unstoppable force with one another.”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right,” Avery nodded in agreement, “which is why nothing is going to go wrong for us. Our wedding is going to be perfect.”

“There’s the spirit,” Russ encouraged her further. “It’s going to be better than the last.”

“And hopefully this time it will be the last one for us,” Avery teased feeling a tension lifted off of her shoulders. “Let’s go get our daughter.”

“After you,” Russ stepped aside and allowed her to take the lead in sharing the morning with their daughter now that they had the rest of their lives ahead of them. It seemed that things were finally looking up for them and not even Brant could be able to take away the bond they shared as a family regardless of what his intentions might have been in the past.


“You know I just don’t get it,” Deana confessed feeling Grady’s arm wrap around her shoulders after they had left Russ and Avery’s hotel room with one another. “I mean as much as I know Russ and Avery love one another, the last thing they should be worrying about is Brant. He’s harmless and he’s not going to be able to stop their wedding.”

“Trust me when it comes to Brant he’ll always find a way to screw up the lives of others if it can benefit him somehow,” Grady reminded her as they stood near the shoreline with one another. “He just has a way of pushing all my brother’s buttons and you of all people should remember what he tried to pull when Russ and Avery had Erin.”

“Brant was behaving foolishly out of desperation, but that’s changed for him. He’s found happiness in his life and I can’t see him sabotaging that just because he feels he’s got an ax to grind so to speak,” Deana explained turning to face him fully. “If you think about it his walking in and interrupting Russ and Avery’s vow exchange will undoubtedly put him in hot water with the woman that he’s in love with now. He wouldn’t put his family at risk like that.”

“I honestly don’t know what Brant’s capable of, but I do know that his obsession with Avery knew no bounds when Russ was gone,” Grady paused thinking about everything for a moment. “Though you know what. I really don’t want to talk about Brant right now. I’m sure Russ and Avery can deal with everything in their own trademark fashion.”

“What does that mean?” she questioned curiously feeling him lace their fingers together as they continued their stroll down the beach.

“It means they’ll figure it out,” Grady shrugged his shoulders as a breeze kicked up around them. The clouds in the distance seemed to darken as it seemed the tropical storm that they’d heard rumors about on the other side of the island was making it’s way in their general direction.

“I suppose so, but at the same time it’s funny how during the good times, there is always something negative that has someone afraid to just seize the moment and enjoy it,” Deana noted as her dark eyes drifted towards the restless water beyond where they stood. “Though I can’t see how anyone couldn’t be able to be lost in all of this once they were out here. It’s beautiful.”

“Not nearly as beautiful as you are,” Grady whispered stepping in behind her and hugging his arms around her waist.

“Hmm flattery will get you closer to where you want to be tonight, so keep it up,” Deana teased snuggling back into his chest as she closed her eyes and savored the warmth of his arms around her.

“I can do one better considering that you make a very valid point about how being on this island shouldn’t bring up anything more than a sense of happiness and possibility,” Grady continued clearing his throat for a moment as she felt his fingers over hers. “I spent a lot of my life dwelling in the negativity before I met you, but after you and Zane, well all the rules changed in my life.”

“Rules?” she repeated opening her eyes and turning in his arms to face him. “You make that sound like a bad thing.”

“No, not at all. It’s the best thing in the world. Hell, it’s probably more than I deserve after all I’ve put everyone through in this lifetime,” he admitted honestly, a raw sincerity overtaking him as he reached out to brush his thumb and index finger out over her soft skin. His thumb eased in over her bottom lip as his green eyes searched hers. “I can honestly say that I’m the last man in the world who should be sharing this moment with you considering that I’m less than what you deserve…”

“Grady stop,” she frowned up at him. “Right now I don’t want to hear you talk like that considering that…

“We’re in the most beautiful place on the planet just the two of us together enjoying the moment,” he finished with a hint of a smile behind his words, “which is all the more reason why I wanted to talk to you about the two of us Deana. Or should I say the three of us since Zane’s a part of this.”

“A part of what?” she gave him a strange look as he took her hand in his once again.

“This new beginning for all of us,” he explained with a heartfelt whisper. “Deana, I’ve spent most of my life doing the wrong thing because it was easier to accept defeat rather than opening myself up to going after what I really, truly wanted from this world around me. Time and time again I hesitated and I let the moment pass because I was afraid. I used my fear to build walls around my heart and I was fine with that, but then I met you and Zane. You both taught me so much about life and love and about the man that I want to be. You brought me out of the darkness and showed me a world that I thought was never meant for me.”

“Grady,” she spoke his name with a soft smile as she reached out to slide her fingers into his dark hair.

“Deana, you have no idea how much your love has turned my world around,” Grady brought his hand up over hers, leaning into her touch as he closed his eyes momentarily mustering up the courage for what had been on his mind long before they’d taken their walk with one another.

“You’ve changed our lives as well Grady. Zane adores you and Jason, well he’s already taken to you like family,” Deana couldn’t help but laugh thinking about her brother’s association with Grady. “You’ve helped us all see that what we were missing and we absolutely adore you. We love you in our lives Grady.”

“I love you too which is why I’m more certain than ever I can’t deny my heart any longer,” he reached for her hand squeezing it in his as another wind swirled around them, bringing up some sand with it as he focused on her completely. “I don‘t know how it happened, but I woke up one morning and knew that if I had to live life without you or Zane in it, it wouldn‘t be worth living. Deana, from here on out I want to share the rest of my life with you and Zane.”

“Grady I…” she began watching as he stepped away from her, his green eyes still focused on her as he took her hand in his.

“I have waited my whole life to feel this way Deana, but with you and Zane I feel complete and I want to be a better man,” Grady continued as he knelt down on the sand beneath their feet. He held her hand in his as his green eyes appealed to her again. “I’ve learned that in life there is no need to hesitate and put off tomorrow what you should do in the here and now. I’ve realized that there are a series of moments out there that you have to seize and make your own. This is one of those moments for us Deana.”

“Grady I…” she began watching him reach into his pants pocket and extract a small ring box from his left pocket.

“I know there are probably a million and one reasons why you probably should’ve given up on me before we even started, but you took a chance on me when the odds were stacked against us. You believed in the man I could be and you and Zane taught me how to love myself and know what it’s like to be loved by the most amazing people in the world,” Grady smiled up at her as he pulled open the black, velvet box to reveal the sparkling diamond inside.

“Grady are you…?” her jaw dropped as she felt the first hints of the tropical storm making it’s way over towards them with the rain over her shoulders.

“Deana, I want to start each and every morning waking up with you by my side and every night tucking you and Zane in, letting you both know just how much you mean to me,” Grady informed her as the winds picked up around them, causing the wind to kick up on the beach surrounding them. “You’re my everything and all I could ask for in this world is to be blessed with your love for the rest of my life. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me and that’s why I’m not about to let fate or circumstance steal that from my life again.”

“We’re not going to fall apart like what happened in the past for you Grady,” she reached out to touch his cheek in a tender movement, “I love you so much.”

“Then say you’ll throw caution to the wind with me and marry me Deana,” Grady pleaded with her, his green eyes full of uncertainty and love as the rain began to pour down over them spoiling his proposal.

Deana shrieked as her white print sundress started to stick to her body combining with the mud from the sand beneath them as Grady stood up. Thunder rang out overhead as he reached for her hand and pulled her away from the shoreline over to one of the hooded areas over by the outdoor bar that had been temporarily relocated inside the hotel due to the impending weather shift. Now as Deana and Grady stood in the center of the storm, both of them soaked from head to toe, she couldn’t help but laugh at the moment.

“The world just so happens to decide to fall apart as you ask me to be your bride Grady,” she teased with a laughter carrying over her tone.

“Don’t take this as a sign,” Grady pleaded, worry creasing over his brow as he glanced out to the rapids picking up on the water beyond where they stood.

“Some cultures say rain is a horrible thing. It’s a sign that nothing but stormy waters are ahead for a relationship,” she informed him as she reached for his hand. She felt his fingers curl in over hers as she pulled him out of the shelter and security of the umbrella’s protective hold over them. Releasing his hand, she stretched her arms out in the air around her and dropped her head back to take in the downpour that carried over her. She danced around in the rain for a moment before finally standing up straighter and meeting his confused eyes.

“Lucky for you I don’t feel that way at all about the rain. I think more than anything it’s about new beginnings and taking chances in life,” she explained with a soft smile as she pushed her soaked blonde hair away from her face. She stepped forward and reached out for him, sliding her damp arms around his powerful shoulders as she pulled him nearer to her, “and right now there isn’t a bigger chance I’d want to take then the one I’m prepared to enter into with you.”

“Are you saying that…?” his green eyes searched hers as she smiled up at him.

“There’s nothing I could want more in this world than to spend my days loving you Grady,” Deana sighed feeling him reach out to her. She brought his hand up over the center of her chest and continued. “You were by far the most impossible son of a gun that I met in that hospital. Your unrelenting persistence not only won me over, but reminded me what it was like to have someone around who actually believed in all the things you’d secretly been longing for in your life. After I had Zane I gave up on the idea of finding anyone who made me feel as alive as you have. I thought that love was a silly notion that the poets threw out there to give us a reason for the insanity that we surrounded ourselves with when we wanted to believe in something more. I never believed I would ever achieve that blissfully, nauseating emotion that everyone else had until I met you. You changed everything for me Grady and even though I fought like hell to stay away from that emotion and you, you found a way to win me over. You made me believe in love and happiness all over again.”

“I know that we’ve had our ups and our downs since we met Deana, but when I’m with you I want to be a better man than I was before. I want to provide the kind of life for you and Zane that you deserve,” Grady replied with an impassioned tone as he cupped her face in his hands.

“We have all that and more with you Grady,” she assured him as tears swirled behind her dark eyes. “You’re absolutely everything I’ve ever dreamt about when I anticipated what my own prince charming would be like.”

“I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t change the love I feel for you,” he whispered leaning forward to kiss her tenderly.

“I always liked my knights with cracked armor,” she teased wrapping her arms around his shoulders and squeezing him in closer to her. “I love that you’re flawed and magnificent and that you love me as I am. You have been such a wonderful influence in my son’s life and…”

“I love him Deana,” Grady promised kissing her over and over again. “You both are everything to me.”

“And you are everything to us, which is why I know without a shadow of a doubt that nothing would make me happier than spending the rest of my life as Mrs. Grady Denton,” she squealed excitedly feeling him sweep her up off of her toes and in against his chest as the storm seemed to explode over them.

“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I planned this,” Grady admitted as he pulled her back in underneath the umbrella they’d been standing under moments earlier. “I hired a string quartet and arranged for a romantic, beach front, candlelight dinner and…”

“This is perfect,” she teased her index finger over the center of his black t-shirt slowly as a smile carried over her. “Well almost perfect…”

“Almost huh…” Grady realized her eyes had fallen to the ring in the box he’d had with him. “Hmm, could this be what’s missing?”

“Maybe,” she feigned innocence as he pulled the ring out of the box and placed it at the tip of her finger.

“From this day forward no turning back for either one of us,” he promised sliding the ring onto her finger before hugging her to his chest once again.

“I love you Grady,” she whispered over and over again as she wiggled out of his arms. “In fact, we need to celebrate.”

“We can do that in the hotel,” he suggested tipping his head up to look at the clouds roaring overhead.

“No, we’ll do it now with a dance,” she decided holding her hand out to him. “I believe they are playing our song.”

“So they are,” he smiled at her as he accepted her hand and pulled her into a dance to sounds of the storm surrounding them. The rain offered up a rhythm as Deana lay her head on his shoulder savoring the thought of the new phase in their relationship with one another.

Absorbed in their dance with one another and the promise of new beginnings, Deana and Grady found themselves oblivious to the storm and to the pair of eyes that focused on them in their private moment of bliss. Their observer, like the dark clouds that hung overhead, silently invaded the moment watching their every movement as a thunder cloud roared overhead followed by lightening in the distance.

“It’s not over,” the quiet voice whispered stepping back into the shadows as eyes followed Grady and Deana’s final, laughter-filled retreat back to the hotel and out of the storm. “It could never be over. Not when I’ve come so close. I can’t walk away now. Not yet--not when it‘s all within my reach all over again. I just can‘t.”


...to be continued...