Episode 414

Seth set his keys down on the table top finding himself surrounded by darkness as he shuffled the grocery bags and the flowers he’d had in his arms. Clumsily he reached for the light, snapping it on as he took a look around the living room area realizing that Blake must have still been over at the community center getting things running smoothly.

“No matter,” he mouthed to himself as he carried the bags he’d brought home into the kitchen with him. “I’ll just have everything ready for when you finally do get back and we can get started on our night together.”

Seth set the bags down on the counter and looked around thinking about all the plans he’d come up with for their first night together with him as a free man. While he wasn’t quite sure exactly where the night would lead them, Seth was convinced that he was going to make a meal that Blake would never forget. First, however, he was going to put the flowers into a vase for her.

“She’s going to love these,” he smiled feeling his cell phone buzzing in his pocket. He reached for it and pulled it out raising it to his ear with a grin realizing it had to be Blake, “Give me one good reason why you’re running behind and make it good because I’ve got dinner cooking.”

“Seth, it’s Sarah,” her voice surprised him over the line.

“Sarah, hey I was kind of hoping that you were Blake,” Seth moved over to the sink to put water in an oversized jar he’d found that would serve as a temporary vase for the time being.

“Seth, there’s been an accident,” Sarah blurted out in a frantic tone. “You have to get over to the hospital right away. Blake’s been…”

“Blake,” Seth repeated, his ears perking up at the word. “Sarah, what’s wrong with Blake? Where is she?”

“She was going out to her car to leave for the night when some driver just rushed by and plowed her over. Seth she was bleeding and unconscious and…” Sarah broke into full blown sobs. “I saw it too late and I couldn’t stop it. I wanted to, but…”

“Sarah, where is she?” Seth questioned hearing her falling to pieces over the phone.

“They rushed her to the hospital, but they aren’t telling me anything. They won’t let me know what’s going on with her and…” Sarah’s words were raw with emotion. “You have to hurry Seth.”

“I’m on my way,” Seth assured her as he hung up the phone in a panic while hoping and praying that the worst hadn’t happened to the woman he loved now that she’d been blindsided by this unfortunate incident. He just hoped that his worst fears weren’t about to become a reality as he left for the hospital in search of what was happening with the woman he loved.


Andy rushed into emergency room after being pulled back from his lunch break prematurely. He circled around the corner of the hallway, tossing the rest of his coffee in the trash bin before meeting Barbara face to face.

“What are we looking at here?” Andy questioned moving in to gear up for surgery. He began to prep himself as Barbara started to fill him in on the situation.

“We’re looking at a hit and run. The police are still out talking to the witnesses and the EMTs suspect internal injuries,” Barbara informed him watching him walk over to the sink. “They’ve prepped the patient and…”

“And I’m pretty sure I can take it from here,” Andy informed her with a tolerant expression. He breezed past Barbara thinking about how life in Coral Valley was far more mundane than it had been in the big lights of Miami. Granted, he’d done a lot of cosmetic surgery in Florida, but what doctor couldn’t down there? They would let anyone with an MD or PhD work in that field and it had been very lucrative for him. He’d enjoyed the Florida life and the women who came flocking in for breast implants and more, all the while giving him a taste of the work that he’d loved. Granted they had no idea what they were really getting themselves into with him, but that wasn’t important when they stepped into his offices.

After the ‘real’ Andrew Byrne met his maker, he’d been able to step in and finish up with medical school learning a whole new world of things about the human body. Surprisingly given his former career, he’d thought he’d be anything but suited for the new direction, but he thrived on it. Hell, when he’d taken in the new role in his life, he’d not only managed to catch onto what the medical workings were, but he’d excelled at them even better than his predecessor had. It almost made him wonder why he hadn’t charted down that path in the first place since it was quite a rush. It had brought upon him more prestige than being in the limelight had ever done before. Sure, he might not have been the star that he was in the boxing ring, but the sheer thrill paled in comparison to what he got out of being in the hospital, holding someone’s life in his hands.

“It looks bad,” Barbara couldn’t help but blurt out following him into the operating room with a worried expression. “Given the situation…”

“Anything can look bad before I arrive on the scene,” he smirked down at her, flashing her a confident grin, “but given the mood I’m in today, let’s refrain from thinking the worst. I don’t see us having any fatalities today.”

“Dr. Byrne with all due respect,” Barbara began as he spun around to take a look at the patient before him.

“What do we have here?” he questioned to one of the nurses ready to work his magic on the scene now that it was clear that someone needed him--someone who would have their world forever changed by his position in their life. Smiling smugly behind the surgical mask, he stepped forward ready to see what fool would be indebted to him and that’s when shock registered.

“Blake,” he gasped surprised to discover that she was the one before him. All this time he’d been plotting and planning, preparing to find a way to have her indebted to him. He’d wanted to get her to warm up to him so that he could make his move and get everything that he’d deserved. He’d almost perfected the plan, but now as she lay on his operating table, he realized that the stars had somehow dropped the biggest nudge of fate onto his lap.

“Her blood pressure is dropping,” someone noted in the room as he stepped forward making room to create the magic that he knew full well he could conjure up. Grinning to himself he spoke up in a smooth and confident tone.

“We aren’t losing anyone today especially not her,” he promised the room around him knowing full well that he would do everything in his power to save Blake Ashford because he wasn’t ready to let go of her just yet. She was everything he’d waited a lifetime to find and he’d be damned if something like this tore her away from him before he had his chance to be with her. Instead of counting his losses, he pressed forward ready to save her life and give her the best reason in the world to fall in love with him once and for all.


Diane flipped through the channels on Deidra’s oversized television set hoping to find something that would snag her interest long enough to keep her from drifting back to the balcony at the party where she and Shane shared one of the most irresistible kisses of her life. It was bad enough that the memory continually haunted her during her dreams, but then to cross over into the waking hours was pure torture. Closing her eyes she sank back onto the couch remembering the taste of Shane’s lips over hers and a groan passed over her lips.

“Gee, I was wondering what was going on with my television,” Deidra couldn’t help but smirk at her sister, “but now I know. You’re obviously bored.”

“Bored doesn’t even begin to cover what I’m feeling right now,” Diane groaned in an exasperated sound. “I’m feeling major cabin fever right now.”

“And clearly my remote is feeling the after shocks of that since you’re burning out the battery,” Deidra teased with a hint of laughter in her tone. “I just replaced them last week you know.”

“I didn’t burn them out before,” Diane paused considering her sister’s statement for a moment, “At least not intentionally.”

“Intentional or not, maybe it’s time you find something else to focus on,” Deidra suggested walking over to where Diane was seated. She bent down and picked up the remote before setting it on the table once again. “There I think that might make all the difference.”

“I can get up and grab it again you know,” Diane pouted in response.

“I’m sure you can, but at least it’ll offer up some kind of variation in your routine,” Deidra announced giving her sister a look. “No work today?”

“Not while Brant’s away,” Diane shook her head firmly. “He gave me some long overdue vacation time only instead of spending it in Florida with Ben, well I’m here in Coral Valley stuck in your apartment driving you nuts.”

“So change that and do something,” Deidra tossed back at her. “Enjoy the day outside.”

“With Andy around?” Diane frowned back at Deidra. “I think I’ll pass.”

“So leave town for a while. Visit Ben in Florida,” Deidra tossed back at her with a shrug. “That could be something interesting.”

“It would be except he’s on a big case and if I go out there I’m certain he’ll probably get into trouble,” Diane groaned outwardly while dropping her head back on the top of the couch. “Though I wish he’d just call me.”

“You haven’t heard from him?” Deidra questioned.

“Not in a while,” Diane admitted with a sigh. “He said he’d call every day, but so far nothing. I just don’t get it.”

“Well you did say he was on a case,” Deidra pointed out.

“Even so I miss him like crazy and would love a sign that he’s still thinking of me,” Diane replied turning her attention to the phone as she silently wished it would ring.

“I’m sure he’ll call,” Deidra spoke up encouragingly, “and for what it’s worth you could always meet me for lunch on my break if you’re still bored.”

“I’ll probably go downstairs and work out or something,” Diane shrugged her shoulders. “The other day when I was down there I was thinking about how the gym in your building was seriously lacking. Maybe I should volunteer to start an aerobics program or something.”

“And risk giving half the men in this building a heart attack,” Deidra laughed. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Well it would be keeping you busy with work,” Diane confessed with a smile.

“It might if they weren’t all over the age of seventy five and male. Though if you encounter a pregnant student, then send her my way. That would work well,” Deidra suggested reaching for her purse and draping the strap over her shoulder. “You know where to contact me if you need me.”

“Of course,” Diane waved reaching for the remote again. She began to flip through the channels all over again. Her eyes darted to the phone and she frowned. “Though I wish Ben remembered how to get in touch with me.”

Tapping her nails on top of the remote control Diane prepared to immerse herself in boredom when she heard a knock on the door. Immediately her ears perked up as she shot up off of the couch ready to say hello to her new guest. Undoubtedly it was Deidra coming back to forget something she’d left, but it was a good start.

“So what did you miss?” Diane questioned opening the door only to discover Shane standing before her in a black polo t-shirt and a pair of beige colored khakis.

“Truthfully you,” he slurred cascading his words over her in a beautiful, smooth hint of his accent. Her stomach did flip flops, pulse raced and as she met his eyes she couldn’t help but smile herself.

“You did?” she felt a grin rip through her from her toes to her head making her feel like a schoolgirl all over again. She cleared her throat and tried to cover. “I mean really?”

“That’s right,” Shane nodded looking past her into the apartment. “You busy right about now?”

“Why? You want to take me away from all of this excitement?” Diane motioned to the cooking channel she had turned on seconds earlier.

“That was the general idea,” he confessed with a small laugh.

“In that case, let me grab my purse,” Diane decided ready to push her worries about not hearing from Ben aside long enough to enjoy her day. As she looked over her shoulder at Shane, she knew she should probably stay at the apartment burying herself in boredom, but now that she had a chance to get out, she was going to seize it for all it was worth!


“I feel like all we are doing lately is just sitting and this is bugging the hell out of me,” Alexa groaned slamming her hand a bit into the dashboard before her seeing the glance that Ben gave her from the driver’s seat. His blue eyes were staring out at her as he took in a long breath himself and adjusted his position in the seat. “They keep telling us to go to certain places and yet, we never--ever find a thing. We just keep going in circles and really the only place I end up getting is knocking your ass down.”

“There is a reason as to why we are always put in situations like this. They wouldn’t be sending us nowhere just to have us sitting together. It’s a waste of time. It’s a waste of my time sitting here with you over something like this when I can be home,” Ben blurted out seeing the look she gave him for a moment and he thought of apologizing, only to see her hold up her hand motioning him to stop while he was ahead of himself. “What I mean was that I could be home doing something other than having my ass cramp from not being able to move.”

“We both have better things that we could be doing, I think you got that point across just as well as I did,” she cut him off shaking her head slowly at his response. He could have put it a better way without sounding so rude. “Listen, we both want to get out of here as quick as we can so we should probably just watch to see if we find anything.”

“Well…talking helps move the time along sometimes,” he suggested knowing that after what he said she would probably not want to talk to him anytime soon. He was trying, trying too hard because he didn’t mean to say what he said to her. “I’m not kidding Alexa…I wasn’t saying that I hated spending time with you, I just hate wasting my time.”

“I understand,” she half lied folding her arms out in front of her chest before looking over at him. His light blue eyes were staring out at her and she knew that he knew she was lying. It was obvious that he knew that and she didn’t want to admit it. Gulping down she nodded toward the front of the area they were watching before clearing her throat. “I knew what you were saying?"

“Really? I don’t think you did know what I was saying,” he taunted back seeing the glare he got as he shrugged his shoulders and took in a long shallow breath. “My guess as to what you thought I thought is totally different than how I felt. What I said, came out wrong. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t think they would leave us here. We’re two of their best workers and I don’t think they would have us running in circles. There is a valid reason as to why we are here, we just have to wait for it. They wouldn’t make us just sit here on our asses.”

“You never know these days what people have in mind,” she suggested seeing him shrug before tapping his fingertips a bit on the wheel taking in a long breath. “You know, I don’t think I can feel my legs.”

“My butt is numb,” he groaned raising his hips up a bit from where he was sitting before grabbing his bottom a bit. “I really can’t even feel it right now. It has this tingling sensation, but other than that I can’t feel a thing. I’m like poking it and I think it’s just frozen. Even if we see something. I’m going to get out of the car and still be stuck in the car position. Where it looks like I’m sitting because I’ve been like this forever.”

“Well if you want to move, we can. We could wait outside or something,” she suggested seeing the way he nodded before moving for the door and opening it a bit. She laughed when he could hardly move and she did the same feeling a few places in her back snap. Looking to him, she saw him resting against the car with his back still curved. “Oh shit.”

“What? What?" he looked around snapping his back hearing her half laugh as he whimpered out staring out toward the building. Someone caught his eye as he whimpered and shook his head slowly. This figured. “Person.”

“What?" she looked to the door to see him pointing out of breath and she didn’t even bother to check in with him seeing Ben slowly limping following her from behind. Moving into the abandoned building, she pulled out her gun and looked around. There was a small amount of light filling the area and when someone made a small movement, she was ready to attack. Pushing her blonde hair back she tiptoed forward only to see the door move open and it slammed open when she pointed the gun in the direction. “Jesus Ben.”

“Ben? Damn Alexa, you are like gun happy,” he snapped seeing the way her eyes glared out at him as he moved the door and looked behind it knowing that it felt a bit heavier than expected. Gulping down he opened the door further seeing that there was a foot in the way. “Who the hell did I just hit with this door?"

“That’s a good question,” Alexa sighed tipping down to see the red, tender skin of the man’s forehead that just got whacked upon by the door Ben slammed open. Ben was holding his back as he looked over the unconscious man. “You need to pick him up and find out.”

“Me find out? I still can’t feel my butt and my back,” he informed her with a groan seeing the way she stared out at him as he leaned back and snapped his back a bit more. “What?"

“You’re the one who slammed the door in his face. You have to wake him up,” she informed him with a small laugh before shrugging her shoulders and moving away from him. “You get him up, we wait until he’s no longer unconscious and then find out what he was doing here.”

“And where are you going to be during this?" Ben questioned running his fingers through his short hair seeing the way that she took a seat on one of the boxes after putting her gun away. “You are just going to sit and watch.”

“Hey, you earned it. You get him up, I’ll be here and then we can move forward--I promise,” she grinned with a small sigh before folding her arms out in front of her chest. She saw the glare that he gave her before shaking his head and he knew she was amused. So very much amused about this as she saw him lean down to pick up the man he knocked out by hitting him with a door. “Don’t drop him, we need him to wake up.”

He shot her another glare and she was loving this. Whether it was a mistake or not, she was now just starting to have fun.


“They should’ve been back here by now,” Russ mouthed to himself thinking about what he’d discovered about Avery taking off with Kevin. He glanced over to where Kyle and Heather were seated with one another, then shifted his green eyes over to where Don was still attending to Brant. “We should’ve heard something.”

“Call her,” Heather suggested glancing up and seeing the worry behind Russell’s eyes. “She’ll tell you where they are considering that she was wishing you would do that while you two were gone.”

“You’re right,” Russ headed over to the phone and dialed Avery’s cell phone number only to hear it ringing inside the hotel room. He followed the sound with his gaze and found her phone discarded on the hotel room floor. Hanging up the phone he walked over to over by the doorway and knelt down to collect Avery’s cell phone in his hands.

“What is it doing there?” Kyle questioned seeing his friend pick the phone up off of the floor.

“I don’t know. She must’ve dropped it,” Russ noted thinking about how his only way to reach Avery was now in the palm of his hand, “but I don’t see how she couldn’t have noticed it was gone…”

“Actually,” Heather shifted on her seat nervously remembering the fight she and Avery had gotten into with one another. “She probably didn’t realize it fell out when we were here earlier.”

“How could she not?” Russ asked himself more than anything.

Heather bit down on her lower lip nervously as Kyle glanced over at her with a skeptic eye.

“Heather, what aren’t you telling me?” he couldn’t help but ask her sensing that his wife was holding back on something.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Heather blurted out without a second thought. “She started it and…”

“Started what?” Russ questioned moving in closer to Heather with an accusatory tone. “What did you do to her?”

“We sort of kind of got into an argument with one another,” Heather fidgeted her fingers in her lap before clearing her throat again. “It wasn’t a big deal, but…”

“Not a big deal?” Russell’s eyes widened as he waved the phone around in the air to show it to her. “Heather my bride to be is out there and the only method I have to locating her is right here because of a fight you two had. I thought you were going to lay off of her.”

“It wasn’t my fault. She started it and…” Heather huffed in response feeling a nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach. “She started it.”

“The hell she did. I know how you work and I’m positive that you…” Russ started to lash out her feeling his own frustrations mounting. Before he could say another word Kyle rose to his feet and placed his hand in the center of Russell’s chest.

“Back off man,” Kyle warned not wanting things to get out of control between his friend and his wife. “She said it wasn’t her fault. I’m sure it was an accident and…”

“It’s an accident that has me unable to locate Avery,” Russ explained with a heavy scowl before glaring over at Heather.

“Hey, you forgot your cell phone before, so what’s the difference?” Heather scoffed in response standing up and placing a distance between her and Russ. “This wasn’t my fault.”

“Maybe not, but if something happens to her, then that will be your fault because Avery would never, ever leave this here,” Russ snapped at her, his green eyes narrowing with anger and frustration.

“Chill out Russ,” Kyle warned sharply not allowing Russ to tear into his wife any longer. “I’m sure it was just a simple misunderstanding.”

“Nothing is ever simple when she and Avery get into the room with one another. They can’t just grow the hell up and let things go, but this time it’s not going to cost you Kyle. It’s going to cost me my wife,” Russ blurted out thinking about his mounting concerns for Avery.

“Whoa, hold up,” Grady’s voice interrupted as he entered the room only to discover Russ and Kyle up in one another’s face. He pushed forward placing a distance between the two men as he pushed his way between them. “Look I don’t know what’s going on, but both of you back off.”

“This is her fault and no matter how you want to look at it, she’s responsible for this,” Russ spat out before turning around to pace the room with his worries consuming him.

“Kyle I…” Heather started stepping in closer to her husband only to see him raise his hand in the air.

“Not now Heather,” Kyle dismissed her words before turning to Grady with a frown, “You’d better get Russ in check because he’s losing it Grady.”

“Look I just got in here. I don’t know what’s happening or…” Grady replied glancing over at Russ, who now was speaking with his parents. Grady could tell something was bothering his brother, but what the source of the problem was, he couldn’t be sure.

“Avery’s missing,” Don added breaking his long silence after watching the group get into an uproar with one another. “She and Heather got into some kind of fight or something and Avery lost her cell phone. Now she’s off with Kevin trying to hunt down some madman who tried to kill the three of us and Russ is pissed. That about sums it up.”

“Wait, what?” Grady blinked back realizing that Brant was on the couch for the first time with bandages wrapped over his abdomen. Confusion carried over him as he looked between Kyle and Russ.

“I don’t care what he says, this isn’t Heather’s fault,” Kyle defended his wife feeling her move in towards him again. “Avery dropping her cell phone isn’t a good thing, but neither was her going off with Kevin Adonis. I told you that he was going to be trouble Russ, but you wouldn’t listen. That’s where the real problem in all of this is.”

“The real problem is the fact that I was stupid enough to trust that Heather could grow the hell up for a weekend and be here when Avery and I were sharing the best moments of our lives. We wanted you here so much that I figured that maybe just maybe she’d learn to stop behaving like a child long enough to respect you and the fact that you’re our friend, but clearly I was wrong,” Russ snapped his voice raising with his agitated emotions.

“Russ, honey calm down,” Elliot touched his son’s arm trying to keep Russ from losing his temper with Kyle. “This isn’t Heather’s fault. She and Avery were both clawing at one another when we arrived. They both provoked one another.”

“Yes, but I specifically asked Heather to stop provoking her and Kyle did too. I’m well aware of that,” Russ snapped in response feeling his worries mounting now that he couldn’t get a hold of Avery. “She’s out there and I might not find her now because you just had to get a jab in…”

“No it’s because Kevin Adonis suckered her into going out with him. I told you he’s had an agenda from day one and…” Kyle stepped forward his hazel eyes glaring in over at Russ.

“She actually volunteered to go herself,” Don raised his finger in the air to correct the both men, but they both glared over at him.

“Shut up Don!” Russ and Kyle snapped in unison, both of them glaring at him before turning to snarl at one another.

“Avery wouldn’t have left her phone like this. She knows it’s too important to let people be aware of where she’s going and…” Russ continued to lash out at Kyle.

“Okay, yes I started the fight,” Heather announced throwing her hands up in the air and moving in between Kyle and Russ before they could tear one another apart. “I said a lot of really horrible things to her because I’ve been jealous of her. Alright I admit it. I hated that Brant tossed me aside like garbage so that he could chase her around. It pissed me off that he could think so little of me and believe the world about her when she’s not that damn perfect.”

“What?” Kyle blinked back at Heather seeing her green eyes widen in a panic.

“I mean it’s not like I would ever want him back because I’m so over him,” Heather glanced over at a nearly unconscious Brant as he lay on the sofa, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Brant waved his hand around before his head flopped back on the arm of the couch once again. He closed his eyes and groaned before Don tended to him once more.

“The fact to the matter is that you’ve never let go of this thing with Avery because for some reason you get off on making her miserable. Admit it,” Russ challenged daring her to deny what he was saying to her.

“You’re damn right I like making her miserable, but only because she deserves it,” Heather snapped back at him unable to quell her inner feelings about Avery. “People like her who look down at the rest of the world just because they haven’t been forced to live the real life make me sick. She’s had everything handed to her and she flaunts the fact that she thinks she’s Little Miss Perfect. It makes me sick.”

“And now you won’t have to worry about it because I’m sure if you have your way we’ll never find her and Kevin. My guess is that you’re hoping that Craven finishes what he started with Brant on her and Kevin, right?” Russ blurted out his words dripping with animosity when Kyle couldn’t hold back any longer. He threw his fist out connecting it with Russell’s jaw and sending Russ straight down to the floor before hovering in over him.

“Next time I won’t stop at hitting you Russ, so shut your mouth,” Kyle warned sharply bringing the room to silence as all eyes were on Kyle and Russ.

“Fine,” Russ brought his hand up to his face and felt blood at his lip. He wiped at it before pulling himself to his feet again, “You do whatever the hell it is that you want to do here with her, but I’m going to look for Avery and when I find her, you’d all better hope that nothing has happened to her.”

“Russ, honey you can’t go out there,” Cheryl moved forward worried about her son now that his emotions had gotten the best of him.

“Mom, I love her and if anyone thinks for one second that I’m going to leave her out there in harm’s way, they are wrong. Dead wrong,” Russ vowed thinking about how he and Avery had already experienced far too many roadblocks in their relationship with one another thus far.

“Craven’s a real son of a bitch,” Brant added from his place on the couch, “and Avery’s not safe out there with Kevin. He tried to kill me and with Angela out there too I just…”

“Brant, you need to relax,” Don started watching his friend shuffle on the sofa in an attempt to get up.

“No!” Brant snapped at Don, “Angela is in danger and so is Avery. Kevin thinks he’s got the situation under control, but it’s not happening. Russ is right. They need our help.”

“You need to stay still and relax,” Don warned him once again thinking about the wounds Brant had endured.

“No I want to find Angela. I need to…” Brant staggered to his feet only to collapse back onto the couch.

“Brant,” Heather gasped rushing over to see he’d fallen to his side. She touched his face and glanced over at Don worriedly, “Is he…”

Don moved in closer to Brant taking a long look at his fallen friend. “He’s going to be okay. That’s just the pain killers talking. I tried to sedate him for a while so that he could rest up and…”

“And I’m done waiting around. I’m leaving,” Russ threw his hands up in the air before turning to his mother. “Mom, I need you to stay here and take care of Erin for me. If Avery returns, I want you to call me and make sure she stays here.”

“You’re not going alone,” Kyle decided moving in closer to his friend. “We’ll go together.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere with you,” Russ spat out still feeling an ache in his jaw line. “You’ve said all you needed to say about where your priorities are at where Avery’s concerned.”

“Russ, you’re not being fair. I realize that you’re upset and…” Kyle stepped forward searching for the right words after he’d hauled off and hit his friend.

“I’ll go with you Russ,” Grady announced moving forward, “Kyle can stay here with Heather and Don. We can search the island and…”

“I’ve been here before Russ, so whether you’re happy with me or not, you should take me. I can maneuver my way around here and if this Craven guy is as bad as everyone says he is, then I can take care of him. I’m specialized in dealing with trash,” Kyle explained with a stubborn expression. “I can take care of this.”

“I don’t want you taking care of anything that has to deal with Avery. Take care of your wife,” Russ blurted out glaring over at Kyle once again. “She’s all that you need to worry about.”

“Just stop Russ,” Kyle frowned over at him before looking to Grady, “You stay here and make sure that everything is okay. If Avery returns, you just call me and…”

“I said I don’t want you going with me Kyle. I can handle this on my own,” Russ replied stubbornly glaring up at his friend.

“Just like you handled investigating Bruce Mathis on your own too, right?” Kyle tossed back at him with a heavy sarcasm. “Face it Russ the last time you decided to play hero on your own, you wound up losing months of your life while Avery married that jackass over there.”

The sound of Brant snoring rose in the silence and Russ glanced over at his brother with heavy distain.

“Whether or not you are happy with me right now you need me and I’m not letting you go alone, so don’t even bother arguing with me on this,” Kyle informed him bluntly, “and the longer we argue about this, the harder it’s going to be to find Avery.”

“Fine,” Russ relented turning to speak with his mother for a moment before Heather moved in beside Kyle.

“Kyle, I’m…” Heather started touching his arm gently. She felt the tension coiling over his body as he turned around to face her. He didn’t say a word, but it was clear behind his hazel eyes that he’d more than reached his boiling point. She touched his cheek in an attempt to reach out to him, but felt him stiffen beneath her touch. “Look I’m sorry I…”

“Heather, right now I just can’t,” Kyle explained stepping out of her reach and turning to go over to Russ. He moved forward one position before he found himself recalling the last time he’d opted to shut a woman out of his life. Granted Heather wasn’t Sarah, but he could remember full well when he’d felt the same kind of frustrations and he’d turned his back on love. Frowning he silently cursed under his breath before turning around to face her again. He saw the upset behind her eyes and without a word, he marched forward, drawing her in against his chest.

“Kyle I’m sorry…” she began biting back her tears as his lips came crashing down over hers. He wrapped his arm around her waist squeezing her up into him as their kiss intensified. Finally breathless they parted and his hazel eyes met hers again.

“I know,” he whispered sliding his palm against the side of her face and gazing into her beautiful green eyes for a long moment, “I love you Heather.”

“I love you too Kyle,” she replied moving in to kiss him one last time before he stepped back. He squeezed her hand gently.

“Don’t forget that,” he mouthed giving her one last look before following a very agitated Russ out of the hotel room in the hopes that they could not only find Avery and Kevin, but also work out a way to clear the air between them now that anger had gotten the best of both of them.


“Here is where this ends,” Kevin explained pulling into a parking spot near a white, sand beach in front of him. He looked out to the crashing tide beyond where he and Avery were parked and he took in a breath. The clouds overhead were dark and menacing, threatening to let the storm unleash it’s rage once again after he’d managed to talk Avery into letting him drive to where they needed to go. Inhaling slowly, he felt as if something profound was about to take place here--something was going to change life as he knew it and it was something that he was going to have to face on his own.

“The beach?” Avery questioned blankly looking around the deserted area in the hopes of trying to understand why they would wind up in such a place. “Why here?”

“Because this place in particular holds a great many memories for me,” Kevin informed her glancing over to the rock formations in front of him. His gaze swept out across the water to one spot in particular and he felt a breath catch in the back of his throat. While he hadn’t thought about this place in a very long time, it held a sense of history--a moment of the past that he’d tried not to focus on, but Craven was damn sure to exploit that. He’d found a way to push Kevin into a position he hadn’t wanted to be in and now he had to keep from the emotional upheaval that could follow.

“Kevin…” Avery placed her hand on his arm feeling him stiffen beneath her touch.

“This is where the son of a bitch shot me,” Kevin informed her in a monotone voice closing his eyes and remembering how he’d been duped to returning to this spot while believing there was something else going on. “He got me out here believing that something else was going on, but that’s all this was. He made damn sure that I wasn’t going to be found that night…”

“He left you here,” Avery blinked back in astonishment her eyes pressing out over the water.

“And I’m sure he plans on doing it again today,” Kevin thought aloud reaching into his jacket and withdrawing the gun he’d picked up back at Cameron’s beach house. He pulled it out into the light and Avery’s eyes widened in a surprise.

“Kevin, where did you get that?” she couldn’t help but ask worry pressing in over her.

“I figured I might need this since I’m sure Craven is planning on this being a final confrontation, but I have news for him,” Kevin vowed in a dark undertone, “It won’t be the end for me.”

“Kevin, you can’t go in there shooting,” Avery blurted out worriedly. “If you just call the police and get them down here…”

“It’ll be too late by then. I can’t take any chances on this situation Avery. I need to finish this once and for all,” Kevin informed her honestly, his eyes filled with an emptiness that hadn’t been present moments earlier. “I’m going to put an end to this madness he’s tried to cause.”

“Kevin you could wind up dead if you go out there with the gun,” Avery reached out to snag his arm in order to keep him from leaving.

“And if I don’t take the gun, he’ll just shoot me. It’s either kill or be killed,” Kevin explained in a neutral tone, his eyes traveling to the cavern once again. “I need to end this tonight.”

“Kevin, if you go out there and he hurts you…” Avery began again.

“Avery, as much as I respect and appreciate your friendship, this is where you start listening to me. I’m going in there to do what I need to do and that’s final,” Kevin explained with a small frown. “If you want to call the police, be my guest, but this ends here tonight.”

“Fine, then let’s go end it,” she reached for her door only to hear him lock it.

“Sorry Avery, but this is something I’m doing on my own.”

“Kevin if Russ and Kyle are in there,” she reminded him sharply.

“Then I’ll make sure that Craven doesn’t hurt them either,” Kevin assured her reaching out to touch her face gently, “I’m sorry, but I’m not letting you win this one Avery.”

“I’m not going to lose Russ and Kyle,” she paused feeling his dark eyes press into hers, “or you Kevin. Erin would never forgive me.”

“Erin would never forgive me if I let something happen to her mother. Avery, just do what I say for once and stay here. You’re safe here,” he whispered seeing the flash of fear behind her eyes. He slid his fingers into her dark hair before speaking up in a whisper. “Everything will be okay.”

“Not if it’s Craven that comes out of that cavern instead of you,” she reminded him with a pained expression, her words a trembling breath as he leaned in closer to her.

“If that happens, then you take the keys and get the hell out of here. You get help and…” Kevin began thinking about the possibility if things didn’t go as he’d planned.

“No, I’m going with you. He won’t hurt you if I’m there…” Avery offered up thinking about Craven’s obsession with Angela. “I look just like her and if it’s her that he wants, then we can confuse him enough to…”

“No,” Kevin interrupted harshly, “Avery you’re not being used as bait in this one. I can handle myself, but if I have to start worrying about you, then I’m not going to be able to pull this off. You have to stay here. You have to listen to me on this.”

“Kevin I…” she felt him press his index finger in over the center of her lips.

“Just shut up and do it. Please. For me…” he blurted out in a desperate tone. “Let me finish what that man started when I lost my daughter. I deserve that much without having to face the thought of having to endure losing someone else that I care about.”

“Kevin I…” Avery stopped herself before finally nodding, “Just be careful.”

“I will,” Kevin checked the gun once again, “and I meant what I said before, if you see him, you get the hell out of here. Got it?”

“Got it,” she nodded in response seeing him reach for the door again. She grabbed him refusing to let him leave just yet, “And Kevin?”

“Yes?” he glanced over at her feeling his own stomach tied in knots.

“Be careful,” she squeezed his hand feeling hesitant to let go of him, “For yourself and for Erin. She’d be lost without you.”

“I’d hate to let that little girl down,” Kevin smiled over at her, giving her one last look before stepping out of the car prepared to finish what was still remaining between him and Craven after all these years with one another. He just hoped that this time he would be the one to come out of the situation victorious.


“This is sort of bothering me you know and I know it’s not really your fault, but the fact that I came here to get away from my family is kind of screwed at the moment. From the time we ran into Rex, we haven’t stopped seeing Rex. We’ve had nothing more than a few hours together alone and all the rest we’ve spent with him,” Ken moved into the hotel room seeing the way that Wendy looked over at him as she flipped through a few channels. He could tell that she wasn’t happy with him acting this way around his uncle, but he was quite fed up with him. He was in the first hour of actually being around him. “You can’t say that he hasn’t been around all the time. Didn’t he say he had a meeting or something for work? Why is he always around here when he should be working?"

“You know, I understand that you don’t like most of your family and I can understand that, but your uncle has been so nice to you over the last few days. I would understand if he was being a jerk, but he has taken us out to some very nice places,” Wendy turned off the television turning on the bed to look at Ken when he sat down. “There is no reason to be acting like this. He’s not like the others. He’s been so nice to us that I just don’t understand.”

“You obviously aren’t thinking about my family Wendy. When someone is acting nice, it has always been proven that they are expecting something in return. After all these gifts and nice dinners, he will want something. What is it? I don’t know, but that is how an Ashford works,” Ken explained seeing the way that Wendy rolled her eyes at him and his jaw clenched a little bit. “Wendy, why can’t you see where I’m coming from? Uncle Rex has always been the same. I can remember from the day I was little. He would always spend time with the family. Always helping my mother out, but then he would disappear. That’s what I’m used to with my uncle. I’ve never seen him as what people would call a good person. He’s always been there and then he was gone.”

“Well maybe he is just trying to make up for everything in his past,” Wendy suggested seeing the way that Ken wrinkled his nose before taking in a long breath. “I hear he is going to take us to the restaurant that’s on the Eiffel tower today. That should be nice.”

“I guess so, I just wanted to experience this all with you and not him. I had it in my head that it would be just the two of us, not the three of us,” he frowned feeling Wendy reach out to cup his face tenderly moving forward to press her lips in over his. “If this is something you really want to do…”

“It is,” she hushed him placing her index finger over his lips before running her fingertips through his short hair. Shaking her head slowly she watched him nod and sigh standing up from the bed. “I’m sorry you aren’t happy about this Kenneth, but I think it’s good for us.”

“Us? Why group us together?" he questioned with a frown knowing that there was an obvious meaning something than deeper than he thought all of this was about. “I thought you wanted alone time.”

“That’s all we ever have. It’s always just me and you and I think sometimes we need to have something more. Something to make us human. Going out with someone else isn’t bad Kenneth. I love spending time with you and it’s not like your uncle is going to try anything terribly stupid. He’s your uncle, he wouldn’t do that,” she stood up from the bed hearing a knock at the door. She turned to him before opening the door seeing him sitting on the bed pouting. “I just want us to get along with him. Make a start somewhere to get to the normal life.”

“Howdy you two,” Rex saw the expression on Ken’s face first when the two of them both greeted him at the door. Frowning a bit, he pulled off his cowboy hat and placed it over the center of his chest. “Who died?"

“I have no idea,” Ken answered seeing the smirk that was over the center of Rex’s face as he felt Wendy smacked him in the center of the chest to get him to smile. Faking a smile he motioned them to move out of the room as he stepped in next to Rex so that he was in the middle. “Listen, sorry about that. I’m just not feeling up to par lately.”

“It’s okay kiddo, I was just playing with you,” Rex placed his hand over the center of Ken’s shoulders before shaking him a little bit to play with him. Looking over at Wendy he snapped his fingers and took in a long breath. “I knew you were looking forward to going to the Eiffel tower today, so I got us some of the best reservations for there at the restaurant and someone was going to give us a tour. Just the three of us.”

“Just the three of us,” Ken muttered trying to hold back the lack of enthusiasm he was feeling toward this whole situation knowing that he wasn’t very happy with it to start with. When Rex pulled him in again for a strong one armed hug he suddenly felt like he was eight years old again. Always having someone around him, watching him while he was with his girlfriend. Being followed to make sure he was never in trouble. It was getting annoying, but knowing that this was something Wendy wanted, he had to make sure to be nice about it. Or else he was sure he would get in trouble. He had to act like he was happy for her and that’s what he was going to do. Pretend. Putting on the fakest smile he could do, trying to look semi sincere, he patted Rex on the back roughly before shaking his head slowly. “I love the three of us. It’s so fun and I’ve been loving the things we have been doing. Thanks uncle Rex, none of this would have been possible without you.”

Rex smiled and probably believed him, that’s all he had to do. Make sure that uncle Rex felt ‘at home’ so to speak and if that’s what Wendy wanted from him--needed from him…he was going to give it.


“So are you going to tell me where you’re taking me or am I simply supposed to turn myself over to you completely without question?” Diane asked tipping her head to the side and seeing the way a smirk built up over his handsome features.

“I could tell you, but where would be the fun in that,” he glanced over at her briefly. Wiggling his brow suggestively he winked at her before focusing on the winding road again as he switched gears.

Diane smiled opting to enjoy the view now that they were riding along the coast in his candy apple red Porsche with one another. She glided her fingers over the smooth, black leather seat beneath her and she felt a tiny set of shivers carry over her at the feel of the luxury ride they were in. Shane had the top down on the car and fortunately she’d been smart enough to tie her hair back before they left so that she could enjoy the winds whipping along with his acceleration. With each turn the car made down the winding path, she couldn’t help but find herself taken by the sheer thrill of it all in exploring the scenic view leading out of Coral Valley with her companion.

“So you’re going to keep me completely in the dark huh?” Diane couldn’t help but question further as she situated herself more comfortably in the seat. “Or is it a case of you really just going on some random drive out of town in the hopes of showing off your new car?”

“I always love showing off my car,” Shane admitted with a proud smirk. “Do you like it?”

“It’s alright,” Diane shrugged her shoulders and brought her hand up through her ponytail in a coy fashion.

“Alright?” Shane laughed lightly, amused by her tone. “Diane love this is a Porsche. Alright doesn’t even begin to cover the power behind this beauty. It’s a classic and the speed behind this not to mention the air of class and sophistication…”

“Only reminded me further of boys and their toys,” she laughed wildly, amused by his response to her. “I never got the fascination myself with cars.”

“But you’re enjoying the ride, aren’t you?” he questioned glancing over at her with a curious expression.

“Maybe a little,” she revealed catching his disbelieving stare, “Okay a lot actually, but don’t think that I’m one of those girls that can be swept away by an expensive car and a sexy accent.”

“So my accent is sexy?” Shane winked over at her once again. “I believe then that we are making progress.”

“And you’re coming dangerously close to crossing a line for us,” she reminded him, feeling her face grow hot at the memory of the kiss they’d shared with one another at the party the other night.

“I rather enjoy walking the line of fire,” he explained pulling off of the main road onto a dirt path leading up one of the twisted wooden trails away from the water. “Though I’ll have you know that I won’t push my limits further than where you want me to go.”

“Somehow I’m not sure I believe that entirely,” she replied, her gaze falling to his hand over the gear shift. She watched his fingers closely remembering what it was like to have them over her in an embrace. Tiny shudders raced over her as her mind conjured up forbidden images of what it would be like to have them touching her again, this time with an urgent hunger begging for a more intimate connection between them. Immediately she felt her face grow hot as she brought her hand up against her cheek.

“Neither do I,” Shane divulged slowing down a bit more until he and Diane had reached the top of the hill near a clearing beyond the trees. He slowed the car down to a smooth, subtle movement before parking it near the edge of the cliff. Turning the engine off he turned to face her again with a smile. “Care to venture off and explore for a while?”

“Right here?” she looked around seeing they were surrounded by nothing more than the woods.

“I thought you were adventurous,” he wiggled his brow at her as he pulled off his own seatbelt. “Unless of course I read you wrong.”

“Not a chance,” she declared popping open her seatbelt and bouncing out of the car before he could do the same.

She looked around the clearing realizing that although she’d lived her entire life in Coral Valley, she hadn’t seen this place until this very moment with Shane. Turning towards him again, she discovered him pulling a small picnic basket out of the trunk. He followed up with a red, black and white checkered blanket that he draped over his arm.

“You really did have an agenda today, didn’t you?” she smiled over at him.

“I thought a picnic sounded like fun,” he explained with a casual shrug. “I haven’t gone on one of these in years and I thought that perhaps you might savor the notion of some quiet solitude away from the rest of the world.”

“That sounds like heaven,” she confessed watching him step forward to hand her the picnic basket.

“Just give me a second and I’ll have it all set up for us,” he promised walking over closer to the cliff and dropping down the blanket on the ground. He smoothed it down across the patch of grass he’d selected before turning to her again. “I’ll take that now.”

“Alright,” she nodded handing him the picnic basket before walking over to join him on the blanket. She looked out over the edge of the cliff, seeing a new perspective of the town she’d surrounded herself in most of her life and a smile carried over her. “It’s beautiful here. How ever did you find it?”

“A friend recommended it to me saying the view was spectacular,” Shane noted glancing out onto the world below as well, “and I have to admit he was on to something when he made the suggestion.”

“You aren’t kidding,” she sighed dropping down to take a seat on the blanket.

Shane moved in beside her, a smile teasing over the corners of his lips as he slid in further on the blanket.

“I take it this meets your approval then, yes?” he asked lazily, his eyes full of curiosity as Diane nodded empathically.

“I haven’t done things like this in so very long and,” she turned towards him only to discover him a few inches away from her. Immediately her gaze lingered to his lips, remembering the softness and fire behind them after the kiss they’d shared. She could feel his breath so very close to hers and again her mind started painting images of love scenes she was quite certain she was never meant to experience. Finally she forced herself to look away.

“And what?” he asked reaching out to touch the bare skin of her arm as she shivered.

“I don’t know if I should be here with you,” she admitted honestly, turning towards him again as a lump formed in the back of her throat.

“Why do you say something like that?” he questioned with a frown watching the way her eyes narrowed up at him.

“Because I’m not sure I can trust myself alone with you anymore Shane,” she divulged feeling him reach up to push a stray hair away from her face. Instinctively she leaned into his touch, closing her eyes. His thumb skimmed against the soft skin against her cheekbone, sending tiny jolts of electricity running over her every synapse as his fingers stretched out into her long, dark hair.

“You can believe that I won’t allow anything to happen between us that you aren’t ready for Diane,” he whispered inching in towards her. “I would never force your hand about anything between us considering that…”

“You’re like fire and I know when I’m with you I’m undoubtedly going to get burned,” she breathed in a shivering exhale knowing in her heart that agreeing to accompany him on a trip like this was begging for trouble.

“I won’t let you fall into the fire,” he promised in a soothing whisper, his thumb dragging over her bottom lip as she found herself pressing a small kiss on the pad.

“I’m already there,” she admitted as her eyelashes fluttered open and she found herself longing to explore the moment between them. Although her stomach was tied in knots and she knew that she should listen to the cautionary tone in her head, she couldn’t help but lean forward capturing his mouth in a sinful display of the hunger and temptation that had carried over her.

Her arms wrapped around his shoulders as Shane fell back onto the blanket, pulling her in over him. His large hands pressed in against her waist as Diane found herself wishing that she could burn the desire for him out of her system with just a kiss. Perhaps that had been her intentions when she’d moved in for him, but now a new feeling altogether had stirred over her. His lips cascaded against her, hands reminded her of all the pleasure she’d denied herself for so very long. When she felt his palm press in underneath the back of her tiny summer tank top, she couldn’t help but let out a small cry of anticipation. She arched back for a moment tearing herself from the kiss before her hand pressed in over his chest, feeling the warmth of his muscled contours beneath her. His heart was racing in time with hers. His eyes were mimicking her own concerns, but she couldn’t escape the promise of bliss he would undoubtedly bring to the table between them as she leaned forward to kiss him heatedly.

“Diane,” he murmured her name as she reached out to him, pushing open a button on the black polo shirt he’d been wearing.

She needed to touch him, to taste his bronzed skin, but her small steps weren’t enough for her. She’d wanted more. Reaching out to push his shirt up his body, she found that she’d discarded his shirt faster than she’d anticipated. It went off in the clearing, but it was of no consequence as her lips traveled over his chest, savoring the taste of his perfect skin beneath her. He was all the things she’d fought to forget in this world, but as his hands pulled her ponytail out of her hair, tossing it across the clearing as well she knew she wanted more.

“This is crazy,” she thought aloud, arching back enough to see his eyes caught up in the moment as well. She could feel his gaze upon her burning her to the core as she pulled back enough to collect her tank top in her hands. She saw a breath of anticipation catch in his throat as she smiled down at him bringing it up over her body. She hesitated for a moment just below her breasts as she thought about how she was naked underneath. Butterflies danced in her stomach, but as she felt Shane sit up, pulling her in closer to him as his lips collided with her soft abdomen, she knew she’d wanted more. She could imagine those kisses upon every inch of her and a shudder carried over her as she discarded her shirt, revealing herself to him fully.

“Diane,” his eyes widened in surprise as he took in her curves, watching the way she dropped her arms to the sides to reveal herself to him completely. She tossed her hair back over her shoulders before arching into his eager, waiting hands.

“Touch me Shane,” she pleaded feeling him shape her breast in his hand as she dropped her head back encouraging his caress. A soft purr built in the back of her throat as his hips bounced up to meet hers alerting to his growing ache for her. There was no denying the raw, untamed heat between them and as his palms flattened out over her spine, crushing her in over him, she knew she wanted more. She needed to have all of him even if it meant dipping into the fires of hell.

“You always do this Diane,” she could hear Deidra’s voice chastising her. “You find a cryptic man with a sexy accent and you’re swept away crashing into trouble with each passing second. Face it Diane. You’re headed down that same path all over again with Shane.”

“No I’m not,” Diane had protested at the time, but as her fingers coiled through Shane’s dark hair, threading it tightly in order to command his lips to hers again, she realized Deidra was right. She was dancing with the devil down a road she had vowed to never walk again in this lifetime.

“Shane wait,” Diane blurted out quickly detangling herself from his arms. She shuffled across the blanket to the other side as her heart hammered in her chest. Bringing her arms up across her chest to shield herself from his hungry eyes, she fought for oxygen.

“Diane?” he questioned, his confused eyes meeting hers as she took another long, calming breath.

“We can’t do this,” she explained looking down to the ground beyond the blanket. “I’m sorry that I let things get this far, but…”

“It would be a mistake,” Shane finished for her as Diane fought to control the emotions that were roaring over her in that moment.

“I told you at the party that kissing you was wrong because I have Ben, but this…” she forced herself to look at him again and in that moment she wished she hadn’t. His hair was messy and unruly, yet he’d never looked sexier than he did in that moment watching her with obvious concern..

“Was crossing too many lines,” Shane noted with a small nod of his own. Saying nothing he stood up from where he’d been seated on the blanket and walked over towards the car.

At first Diane wasn’t quite sure what he was planning on as she sat half naked on the blanket, but a moment later he returned to her with his black polo shirt and offered it to her. She tipped her head up to watch him closely as she kept her arms around her torso not sure on how to respond to the situation.

“I think we threw yours over the cliff,” he motioned to beyond where they were seated, “so take mine.”

“Shane I can’t…” she stammered while struggling to come up with a rational thought as her eyes traveled over the warm, muscular planes of his chest and abdomen. She remembered how it felt to taste him, to tease her tongue over his body and feel him respond to her as he had a few seconds earlier, but it was wrong. She couldn’t hurt Ben like that all over again.

“Trust me love you’ll be much better off with it on right about now,” Shane offered the shirt to her once again, “because I’m trying really hard to be a gentleman. However, seeing you like that is making it increasingly difficult.”

She looked down at herself for a moment before silently nodding in acceptance as she took the shirt. She watched Shane turn away from her and she stood up, bringing his shirt over her head to cover herself up with. Once she was satisfied with the way it fit over her, she turned around to face him again seeing his back was still turned to her. She could see his arms were folded across his chest and as she could take in the sexy, rugged scent of his cologne surrounding her on the t-shirt she fought to stay in control.

“I’m decent,” Diane explained bringing her fingers up through her hair as she thought about what she’d almost done with Shane, “well I don’t know if I would go that far in saying it, but I’m dressed.”

“Dressed is good,” Shane replied clearing his throat as he slowly faced her once again. “Look about our picnic…”

“We can still salvage it,” her dark eyes pleaded with him. “I mean we are still friends, right?”

“Are we?” he searched her eyes again.

“Truth be told you’re probably one of the best friends that I have right now Shane,” Diane confessed with a sadness behind her eyes. “I haven’t had many of them over the years, but there’s something about you…”

“That keeps leading you back into dark waters,” he noted clearing his throat again as she watched his eyes return to the blanket they were on with one another earlier.

“But we can rise above the situation. I’m sure of it,” she insisted further as she made a bold step towards him. Ignoring the inner voice that told her to just go for it, she kept her hands close to her. “I want us to remain friends. Shane, I need that.”

“Diane I…” Shane looked to her again.

“Please don’t tell me we’ve killed that,” she finally took his hand in hers. “Please say that I haven’t lost you because we almost…”

He watched her closely before finally letting out a long breath, “No, you haven’t lost me. Although you’ve painted a rather colorful portrait for my fantasies of us that I’m going to have one hell of a time relinquishing from my memories.”

“I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel that way as well, but I love Ben,” Diane stated plainly although she found herself questioning that sentiment when everything inside of her wanted Shane Slater more than anything in that moment. Still she had to keep up with her mantra. “He and I belong together.”

“If that was truly the case, then where the hell is he right now? Why isn’t he with you when you need him?” Shane arched a curious brow at her.

“Because things with work are…” Diane paused contemplating the question herself. She hadn’t heard from Ben in a while and she found herself wondering what was happening with him. He’d promised to keep in check with her each and every day, yet she hadn’t really gotten nearly the amount of phone calls or surprises he’d offered her before he’d left.

“Work should never outrank you,” he informed her with a low, sultry tone causing her insides to turn to mush all over again.

“Ben’s doing what he has to do Shane,” she stated plainly ignoring what was happening inside of her. “And I have to do the same?”

“And what is it you feel you have to do?” he asked making a small step towards her.

“Keeping you as my friend before I go and lose everything I waited my life to have. I need to keep focused Shane,” Diane pleaded with him, praying he would give her an out to the situation they were in.

“In that case, maybe we should bypass the picnic,” he motioned to the blanket they were on earlier.

“No, I don’t want that either,” she explained firmly. “I just think we need to set boundaries for our lunch.”

“Such as?” he arched a curious brow.

“This side can be mine,” she decided moving over to the blanket and stepping on it, “and that can be yours.”

“So you mean you want to be literal with boundaries?” he questioned with mild amusement.

“If you cross the line, then you’ll suffer the consequences and vice versa,” she nodded emphatically before dropping down to reach for the picnic basket. “Of course when you realize that the picnic basket is on my side, you’ll have to feel compelled to play nice with me if you want some lunch.”

“I’ll play any which way you want me,” he shrugged sliding down onto his half of the blanket across from her.

“Play nice,” she warned leaning forward to give him another long look.

“If that’s what you really want,” he decided leaning back on his arms. “Your wish is my command.”

“I certainly hope so,” Diane quipped under her breath realizing that the fact to the matter was that no matter how many wishes she might have about what she wanted to be doing with Shane right now was about keeping their friendship in tact. She was going to keep that on the front burner of her mind as she realized that she needed to hold onto what she had with Ben, even if it meant ignoring her every impulse. Shane was wonderful, but Ben was her destiny. Now if she could make it through a lunch with Shane, she was convinced anything with her and Ben would be possible once he returned. That much she was sure of.


“Is he waking up?" Alexa questioned from behind Ben resituating herself on the box that she was still on. His blue eyes glared back at her over his shoulder as he tried to wake the man in the chair before him. Ben had looked for someone to place him before finding a worn down chair in the next room of the abandoned building. Ben tapped at his face slowly before shaking his head slowly. “What are you trying to get him up?"

“Gee, I don’t know. Haven’t you been sitting right there watching me do the work all myself? I’ve been trying here, what do you expect me to do? Nothing is working,” he explained stepping back from where he was to throw his hands up the air. He could tell she was amused with him being unsuccessful at doing what he was trying and he was kind of getting a bit worked up. “You know, we are partners and with you just sitting there is kind of pissing me off. We’ve worked together pretty much and I have no idea what you are getting amused with. I would have never slammed that door open if you didn’t point your gun at me. All I saw was the gun and I didn’t know if it was you or someone else. If you didn’t run at him like you did, he would have never hid behind the door.”

“That’s not true, they run no matter who you are,” Alexa got up from the box walking around him seeing his eyes following her every movement as she moved over toward the grease ball of a man Ben had placed in the chair. He was now resting his hands on his hips aggravated with the job on account of the hard time he had been having trying to get this guy back up. “You want to see how to wake him up?"

“If you think you can do a better job than I can, sure,” he threw his hands up one more time a bit over dramatic, but right now he deserved to be as dramatic as he wanted. This was a pain in the ass and really right now--he would have rather been doing something else. This girl was such a pain when it came to some things. “Be my guest because I don‘t see you getting much further.”

“Fine, I will,” she reached for the male they had found and pushed him over in the chair hearing the sudden gasps of the man. Turning on her heel, she pointed to the man seeing the look that Ben gave her. The guy was now raising his head to find out where he was as she motioned Ben to get him up. Ben picked him up as she stood before the man. “We need to talk.”

“Who are you?" the man questioned looking back at Ben to see that he had a tight hold on him and he wasn’t about to let him go. “And why the hell are you holding onto me like this?"

“What were you doing here?" Alexa questioned hearing the man laugh before shrugging his shoulders looking toward the ground. “Answer me.”

“She asked you a question,” Ben shoved him forward a bit and still the man didn’t answer the question. Moments passed and obvious Alexa’s anger rose as she pulled her gun out and pressed it firmly against the man’s temple hearing him squeal out. “What are you doing?"

“We won’t get in trouble for killing him. He’s nothing, no one knows about him,” she informed Ben staring into his blue eyes seeing the way that Ben stared out at her. “He’s not telling us anything, so this is the only way it should go down. We need people to help us, not waste our time and I feel like all I’ve done lately is waste time so I’m not about to waste more.”

“You wouldn’t,” the guy began with a whimper before hearing her pull back a bit on the gun making him cry out before moving around in Ben’s arms. “I swear. Okay, I came here to meet up with someone. They were supposed to get a call from me--I don’t know what time it is, but I swear--I will call them. I will call them and tell them it’s okay. It was a drug deal, I swear. I swear. Please, just put the gun down. Give me my phone please and I won’t waste your time. I swear.”

“Wow, that actually worked,” Alexa half laughed seeing the look that Ben gave her as he let go of the man who dropped to the ground and seemed to be crying. “Great.”

“Now he’s crying, good job,” Ben half laughed not believing the way that she just treated the guy and got the answers out of him. Kneeling down he reached out to tap the guy on the cheek. “Drugs are bad for you and I would love to go into this huge talk with you--man to man, but really I need you to make that phone call.”

“I will in a second,” the guy looked up with his dark eyes to see Alexa moving for her gun again as he jumped a bit and fought to pull his cell phone out of his pocket. “Okay, okay! I’m getting the cell phone. Please. Please. No.”

“Good job,” Ben saw the man start to dial the number as Ben looked up to Alexa who simply shrugged and moved back over toward the box she was sitting on earlier. He shot her a smile and shook his head slowly before taking in a long breath. She was such a brute and that’s what he loved about her. There were things that annoyed him, but something like that over powered it. “Nice job.”


“So…” Dean moved to sit down in the chair after Nate left with a Matt a while ago. Clearing his throat he rested his hands closed together out in front of him before taking in a long breath. Looking around the office he could remember Nate talking about something as he arched his eyebrow up. “What was that all about. Something up with him?"

“You know, I have no idea because my brother is always in some kind of shit,” Shannon answered not quite sure what her brother was suggesting with his questions earlier as she took in a long shallow breath. “I don’t know--maybe he’s finally lost his mind. I know his brain has had issues with common sense in the past, but lately he has made no sense. I don’t know what’s wrong with him--I never know. He acts like he is going to tell me what’s going on and then does something like that. He’s my younger brother for a reason because sometimes I would wonder what would happen if it was the other way around. He’s not much of an influence--that’s why I feel bad for Matt. It’s not good with how much time he spends with Nate.”

“I don’t know, it looks like Matt really loves your brother,” Dean pointed out seeing the glare he seemed to get from Shannon as he threw his hands up in the air to keep her anger level down. That was one thing he never got used to. Always being wrong with Shannon. That’s why their relationship went down the hole. They could never agree on anything at all. If she said something, she was right and you never were. That’s how it went down with her. “I know Matt loves your brother and I think that’s the best kind of influence because I know your brother loves Matt as well.”

“It’s obvious the both of them love each other, that wasn’t my point,” she blurted out with a bit of venom behind her voice and she saw him hold his hands up in the air blocking himself from further attacking mentally. Rolling her eyes she pushed at a few papers seeing him move forward in his seat. “Anyways…before I get pissed off more--what about this case we’re on. I don’t want to talk about my husband, Matt or Nate. Not right now.”

“Perfectly fine with me,” he sighed leaning forward in the chair he was in pulling it a bit closer to the desk as she opened the case file. Running his fingers through his short, dark hair he took in a long breath and leaned back after looking it over. “I’m not sure who would have the guts to go out and kill someone like Chavez. It was very unexpected in my opinion.”

“I would say it’s undoubtedly someone with a lot of power,” Shannon looked over the papers knowing that this case had been on her mind for quite some time. It wasn’t something big in her life, but when Chavez was found dead they weren’t really sure what to expect. The woman was powerful herself and the fact that someone killed her proved the person was powerful. “My guess is the person who killed her or had her kill wanted something hidden and he was going to get there with her gone. My guess is that he wanted to silence those against him and Chavez was on that list.”

“You thinks it’s a male?" Dean questioned seeing her shrug and he knew she was talking in general. Reaching for the manila folder, he pushed a few things around and searched for some kind of information they could get on how they could be lead to a further answer. “I don’t know what to think with something like this. I have hospital work later and…”

“Are you ever going to leave that place?" Shannon questioned seeing the way that he shook his head and she rolled her eyes reaching for the folder and closed it. Setting it back down on her desk she saw him shrug and it kind of boiled her blood. “It’s not good for you working there.”

“It’s not good for me working here and I kind of enjoy my job at the hospital,” he answered with a small shake of his head knowing that she was going to start something with him. Leaning forward in his chair he knew that it was time to be serious with her. “Shannon, I’m your friend and I know life isn’t what you want it to be right now. I understand that and right now we are here at work. We are on this case together and that’s what we do, but I can’t have you taking over my life. My life is my own and I can understand you wanting to fight or debate because of your husband and your brother, but I think you need to know my life is my choice. I like what I do, I’m good at it and I would like to keep it that way. So while I understand you being upset--I would like it if you let me make my own decisions on what I want. And you know--to make yourself a little bit happier, maybe you should try calling your husband again.”

Dean reached out for her cell phone placing it out in front of her before shaking his head slowly. There was nothing more he could do other than try and be her friend, but he didn’t need her taking everything out on him right now. There was a silence in the air and when he saw the anger behind her brown eyes, he knew that they weren’t going to be in a good mood with each other. Moving toward the door he stepped outside hoping that she would somehow grow up and call him, but he knew after this long--that just wasn’t Shannon and it would never turn out like that. Never.


Seth pushed through the hospital doors finding himself in a panic ever since he’d received the call from Sarah. While he’d gone out of his way to make things perfect for tonight, never in a million years did he anticipate that he would wind up getting a call alerting him to the emergency room at the hospital. Tonight was to be the night he and Blake finally made things official between them. They were finally going to have the happiness that they’d talked about with one another and nothing was standing in their way.

“We can finally be together forever,” he heard Blake’s voice remind him all the while he’d driven to the hospital. He could still feel her kisses against his lips, the way she’d felt in his arms when they’d made love earlier promising forever to one another. It was a dream that they’d had taken from them for so very long and now…

“Seth,” Sarah rushed forward moving over to him and offering up a shaky embrace, “thank God you’re here. I don’t know how this could’ve happened to her. One moment we were talking about the wedding and then the next…”

“Sarah,” Seth started seeing the tears that burned down her face. He felt a lump build in the back of his throat as his fears consumed him. “What happened to her? How did she get here?”

“There was a car…it was…” Sarah bit back on a whimper that was building in her throat. “Oh God Seth it was horrible. One minute she was leaving and then the next…”

“Sarah talk to me,” Seth pleaded with her, his dark eyes full of desperation and a need to know what had happened to the woman he loved. “Please…”

“She was just taking a box to the car and going home to be with you when that car…” Sarah burst into tears unable to hold back on the emotions that had overtaken her. “They had to have seen her, but they wouldn’t slow down. The car wouldn’t stop moving and then she….she was in the air and…”

“Oh God,” Seth felt bile build up in the back of his throat.

“Seth, they just ran off. They didn’t slow down. Just hit her and left her there for dead…” Sarah sobbed remembering the scene as it played out in her head over and over again. “I ran over to her…she was on the ground and bleeding and…”

“How long has she been here? Where is she?” Seth questioned feeling a million and one thoughts rushing through his mind. He grabbed her shoulders and urged her to look at him, “Sarah, where did they take her?”

“She’s in surgery right now and…” Sarah broke into tears, “I’m sorry I know I should be more help but…”

“Who did this? Did you see them?” Seth asked feeling his worries consuming them.

“I did, but then I…” Sarah began only to discover Annie approaching the two of them.

“Seth, oh thank God,” Annie rushed over to embrace him hugging him as if she’d never let go.

“Annie,” Seth hugged her in response seeing Joseph Hastings with her just beyond the corridor that they stood in, “Have you heard anything?”

“No,” Annie replied wiping at her face, “I haven’t heard anything yet. I was with Joseph when I got Blake’s voice mail. She mentioned a wedding tonight and…”

“We were going to get married. My divorce was finalized and she didn’t want to wait,” Seth confessed feeling a lump of emotion in the back of his throat. “I told her we could take our time, but she insisted that tonight was the night--that we had to do this together and…now she‘s…she‘s…”

“It’s okay honey,” Annie embraced him once again squeezing him harder than before, “She’s going to be okay. She has to be.”

“I can’t lose her,” Seth replied unable to contain his worries any longer. “She and I are getting married and I can’t…I won’t…”

“She’s going to be okay,” Annie tried to reassure him while Sarah stood in silence remembering only too well how Blake looked when the paramedics arrived. While Sarah had tried her hardest to get Blake to stay with her, she’d been hurt--things weren’t right and it was clear on the ride over that something was wrong.

“I can’t lose her Annie,” Seth repeated fighting to keep it together when Andy stepped into the waiting room and looked over the crowd.

“How is she?” Sarah questioned moving forward after learning that Andrew Byrne was the one doing Blake’s surgery. “Is she alright?”

Andy glanced over at her before his blue eyes honed in on Seth. He let out a long sigh, rubbing his hands together for a long moment.

“Where is she? I need to see her. I need to be with her and…” Seth marched forward needing to be close to Blake.

“I can’t let you do that right now Seth. I just finished with surgery and…” Andy paused thinking about the injuries that Blake had sustained. “There was some internal bleeding and she’s fractured her leg and…”

“Is she going to be alright?” Seth interrupted needing to know what was happening with Blake.

“It was touch and go for a while, but we’ve got her stabilized,” Andy nodded in response his blue eyes reaching out into Seth’s. “The person that did this showed no mercy and her injuries reflect that. She was pretty tore up inside, but after surgery I think given time she’ll be able to heal…”

“Thank God,” Annie let out a breath of relief embracing Joseph at the news.

“Then she’ll be alright?” Sarah questioned sensing something behind Andy’s eyes. “She’s going to pull through this and be okay?”

“Physically I’m sure she’ll heal given time, but emotionally I’m not so sure,” Andy admitted thinking about the last time he’d seen Blake. “Clearly someone decided that tonight was a good night to get rid of Blake and judging by what the police told me, I have a good feeling that this might not be the last attempt on her life.”

“I have to see her. I need to be with her. Please,” Seth begged of Andy stepping forward, his brown eyes desperate and longing.

“Seth, she’s in recovery right now, but…” Andy paused clearing his throat before finally nodding. “I really shouldn’t do this, but maybe you should come with me. It‘s not really in the rules, but…”

“I need to be with her. Please,” Seth’s thoughts returned to Blake, to the ring in his pocket that he’d picked up for her before he’d returned home. While he’d known full well that he’d given her his grandmother’s wedding ring as an engagement ring, he’d wanted something more…something special for the night so he’d gone over to a jeweler and picked up something more--something that he’d planned on sharing with her later.

“Seth there’s no easy way to tell you this,” Andy paused glancing over at Sarah then back to Seth, “Before you go in and see here there’s something else we need to talk about--something that I need to make clear to you.”

“Anything,” Seth nodded in agreement, “Whatever it is I promise that I will do everything in my power to help her through this. I’m just thankful she is alive. If I would’ve lost her…”

“Seth, I’m sorry because this isn’t easy for me,” Andy paused biting back on his words for a long moment, “As I said before I was able to save Blake, which in itself was a miracle given the nature of her injuries, but…”

“But what?” Seth’s voice rose with worry. “Is there something wrong? Something that you haven’t told us?”

“Seth, she’s going to make it and one day I’m convinced she’s going to pull through this. It‘ll still be touch and go through tonight, but I’m confident that Blake is a fighter. I know she has the strength to keep pushing on, but I’m afraid I can’t say the same for the baby,” Andy blurted out catching the stunned expression on Seth’s face.

“What?” Seth questioned blinking back at him.

“I’m sorry I tried, but there was no way that we could do anything, but terminate the pregnancy,” Andy explained to him with a shake of his head.

“She’s pregnant,” Seth repeated realization dawning in over him. He felt a breath catch in his throat causing his pulse to race, “Blake’s having my baby.”

“She was, but now,” Andy paused taking a moment to collect himself, “It appeared that she was about ten weeks along, but with the damages that she’d encountered there was just no way that…”

“No,” Seth shook his head in refusal, “No that can’t be.”

“I’m sorry Seth, but I made a choice. I could save Blake or try to save the baby, but considering the damage that was done, that really wasn’t an option. I had to do what was best for Blake,” Andy informed him as Seth took a step back feeling the walls crashing down around him now that the greatest night of his life turned into a nightmare right before his very eyes.


The winds whipped around Kevin causing him to shiver inwardly now that he found himself unable to focus on anything, but the cavern in front of him. While he’d been on the island for quite some time before leaving for Coral Valley, he’d always been certain to avoid this spot--to ignore that piece of history that would forever haunt him. He’d spent sixteen years avoiding this place--keeping it in the back of his mind and refusing to allow it to consume him, but now Craven left him no choice in the matter. He knew full well he was walking into a trap--one that Craven had undoubtedly taken the liberty of planning down to the last detail.

Another sound rumbled overhead and Kevin found himself straining to keep from letting the impending storm cloud his mind. He’d already had a relapse and nearly killed Brant and Don in his car when they’d headed over to help Angela. This time he couldn’t allow himself to make the same mistake. He had to find a way to ignore his fears long enough to do what was right--what would ultimately bring the end to a nightmare that had plagued him for the last sixteen years.

“You can do this,” Kevin mouthed to himself reaching into his pocket and withdrawing the gun just enough to keep it into position. While he had no idea what he was stepping into, he knew full well that if he entered the situation blindly, that he would undoubtedly give Craven the upper hand. He’d made that mistake once before, but this time he wasn’t about to do that--not when so much was riding on what was about to happen. Still fear consumed him and for the first time in his life Kevin found himself unsure of what would follow this action.

Standing still Kevin eyed the cavern focusing on that fateful night he’d been duped into returning to this place with Craven. It had been something that had outweighed everything else until now. Granted, he’d been here so many times in the past, but that night had been something that had truly dug the knife into his soul. It had consumed him for so very long that he’d pushed aside the one reason this place had held meaning to him. He forced himself to forget what it was about this place that he’d loved before that night--that was until now. He closed his eyes long enough to hear the howl of the wind washing over the caves and he found himself in another time and place.

“Angie we can’t be here,” Kevin could hear his much younger voice carry over the night. “Why do you have to keep being a huge pain in the ass like this? I told you before and I’ll say it again I’m not playing games with you.”

“I’m not playing games Kevin,” she beckoned him further into the cavern drawing her inside with her tone. He could remember the warmth that surrounded him in the damp heat that the cavern offered him. He’d spent months trying to avoid her, to ignore that it was that had him coming back for more, but she’d played him time and time again leading him away from her birthday celebration to this place.

“Angie, I already told you that we can’t be out here,” Kevin frowned moving further into the cavern ducking down just enough to see her around the rock formation in the small pool of stones in front of him. Moving forward he caught her smiling up at him with a come hither expression--the same one that he’d found himself fighting so very hard until now.

“Kevin, I’m not going anywhere until you stop ignoring what it is we have together. I’m tired of you pretending that you’re okay with the fact that we can’t be together,” she informed him sliding up above the water just enough to alert Kevin to the fact that she was naked underneath the surface. “I’m tired of you running away from me.”

“Get your clothes back on,” Kevin kicked at the discarded clothing at his feet pushing it towards the edge of the rock formation. “Get dressed now because I’m taking you home.”

“No,” Angela mouthed in response, a defiant smirk spilling over her features, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Angie, don’t make me pull you out of there and embarrass you,” Kevin warned her sharply doing his best to ignore the fact that he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off of her. “I’m not going to let you control this situation any longer. You’ve pushed my buttons more than enough already.”

“I haven’t nearly started,” she mouthed grinning up at him like the cat who ate the canary. She leaned forward her brown eyes sparked with mischief before she curled her ever so kissable lips up at him, “but I’d be more than happy to if you let me.”

“That’s it,” Kevin threw his hands up in the air and groaned, “You do whatever the hell it is you want to do because I’m leaving. Let your father or your brother deal with this because I don’t have the time or the patience.”

“Kevin wait,” she pleaded with him as he turned to leave. “Kevin okay. You win, alright? I’ll get dressed.”

“Thank you,” Kevin folded his arms in front of his chest feeling his resolve slipping away at the sound of the water splashing behind him. He could just imagine what she looked like behind him naked and his for the taking should he change his mind about things. He knew full well how beautiful she was after the many times she’d pushed herself into his bed or his shower in the hopes of getting a reaction out of him. After she’d kissed him tonight at the party, he’d found that he’d given her far more to go on than he had before. He’d pushed her aside for so very long already, yet…

“I’m ready,” she scoffed interrupting his lingering thoughts.

“Good because the last thing I want is for your father to…” he turned around to face her only to discover that she’d left her clothing on the ground where he’d kicked it to. She stood before him completely naked and open to his hungry gaze. Unable to help himself his eyes lingered over her curves thinking about how many nights he’d dreamt about her--about how many times he’d wanted to forget who he was and what he was doing working for her father. He’d wanted her more than he’d thought possible--craved her unlike any other woman he’d longed for and now she’d offered up an unfair twist in his plans. Finally he forced himself to turn away, “Angie get dressed!”

“No,” she refused his suggestion. “I’m tired of you turning me away Kevin. I’m tired of you pretending that I’m a little girl and I’m not going to let you ignore me any longer.”

“Angie, I can’t do this…” Kevin bit back on his words feeling his blood boiling with a liquid fire. He knew that he should’ve let someone else look after her--that he should’ve just walked away after he’d ended things with Claire, yet here he was doing what he felt was right in explaining to a girl that had a crush on him that they could never be. He had arrived to tell her that he didn’t want her, that he didn’t need her and that she needed to stop dreaming up scenarios that would never be, yet that was the last thing on his mind. All of those words he’d vowed to say to her were nothing but lies built upon some misguided desire to do the right thing for the first time in his life.

“Tell me you don’t want me Kevin. Look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t feel the same thing for me that I feel for you,” Angela taunted him, a boldness in her tone giving him no room to escape.

“Angie, don’t…” he raised his hand in the air still keeping his back to her. He sucked in a sharp breath finding it hard to control his thoughts with her so very close to him.

“Tell me you don’t need me--that you don’t want me like I want you and I’ll forget about all of this. I’ll never bother you again if you just honor that request,” she stepped forward sliding her fingers over his muscled shoulder. “If you really can’t fathom the idea of us being together--if you really don’t love me like I love you, then tell me now. Break my heart and get it over with if you must, but don’t be a coward about it. Tell me to my face that you don’t love me.”

“Angie, I can’t do this…I can’t…” Kevin fought to keep his emotions under control as he faced her. His gaze traveled to her dark eyes, seeing the unrestrained passion and longing behind them begging him to just give in to what it was she was asking of him.

“I know you think I’m young, but age has nothing to do with love. Yes, maybe you were hired to protect me, but you didn’t let it stop there Kevin,” she took a bold step towards him, her words reaching down to his very soul. “You love me just like I love you and even if my father refuses to accept what’s happening here, we can’t ignore it. You can’t ignore your heart just like I can’t turn away from mine.”

“I’m too old for you and this can’t ever be,” he offered up with a pained expression, “We’re from two different worlds.”

“Are we really?” she challenged inching in closer to him, pressing her finger tips over the broad expanse of his muscled chest. “Do you really believe that we’re so far apart from one another that we can’t both be experiencing the same emotions?”

“Angie, I already told you…” he started again feeling her press her fingers in against his lips.

“Tell me you don’t love me--that you don’t need me and only then will I end this,” she pleaded with him, batting her dark eyelashes up at him. She sauntered in closer to him curling her arm around his waist and pressing her curves in against his, “Tell me that you never want to see me again and that I’m way off about how you feel and only then can you walk away.”

“Angie I can’t…” he strained for words finally feeling a moment of strength over him, “I can’t love you.”

She paused contemplating his words. He stepped out of her embrace turning away to exit the cavern, “You didn’t say that you didn’t love me. You said that you can’t.”

“Angie, please…” he closed his eyes and sighed.

“You do love me Kevin, don’t you?” she questioned raising her voice just a bit. “Damn it Kevin. Answer me. Do you love me?”

“Yes alright,” he threw his hands up in the air. Spinning around to face her, he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders, “Angie I love you and even though I know it’s the last thing in the world that I need in my life, the fact to the matter is that I can’t keep from loving you. Hell I don’t want to and the more that you do this, the harder it is on me.”

“Why?” she questioned bluntly seeing him struggling with his words.

“Because it only reminds me of how much I want you, yet reality tells me that I can’t have you. I can’t ever be with you because it’s not what we were meant for. We can’t be together,” Kevin explained tightly watching her step in closer to him. He knew he should walk away, should turn around and forget about her, but something kept him still.

“When you and I both feel this way about each other, why can’t we? The real problem we’re facing isn’t that we can’t be together, but rather that if we walk away from this we’ll both be denying our hearts. You made me promise to be true to who I am Kevin and right now the only truth I know in my life is being with you--in loving you. You’re the only thing that’s real to me, so please don’t shut me out now. Kevin I love you,” she whispered tears burning behind her eyes. “Kevin, don’t walk away from me.”

Kevin stiffened before reaching out to her and pulling her into his arms despite the warnings that were going off inside of his head. He couldn’t help but kiss her whispering words of love and surrender that he’d felt would last forever between them.

“Only forever wasn’t long enough. It was never meant to be,” Kevin reminded himself vowing not to let the memories of his past with Angela or his one fateful night with Craven keep him from doing what he’d set out to do. He was going to save Angela and then get back to the life that he should’ve had years ago. He was going to put Craven’s madness to a final rest and only then could he be free.

“You can do this,” he prompted himself again entering the cavern at along last. Immediately he was roused by a musty odor that neither time nor place had changed from the last time he’d been there. He felt moss on the wall to the right of him and in the darkness his brown eyes searched for his target. He raised his gun keeping it close enough to him so that he could find a way to take Craven out if necessary. Exhaling he noticed a cloud of vapor from his lips offering up a contrast to the air he’d just stepped out of. It was cold in there--colder than he’d remembered from the years gone by, yet he wasn’t sure it was he cavern itself or the fear trickling in over the back of his neck.

“Where are you Craven?” he questioned in a low guttural tone half expecting Craven to leap out from behind him to catch him off guard. He stepped in closer to the rock formation leading to the pool of water hoping to banish the memory of Angela from his system. However, it was strong and alive threatening to overtake him once again.

“No,” Kevin shook the thought ready to reclaim his thoughts when a noise sounded behind him. He spun on his heel aiming the gun in front of him while finding himself ready to take off Craven’s head. However before he had the luxury of following through on such a request he discovered Avery standing before him arms in the air and a look of panic on her face.

“Kevin it’s me!” Avery blurted out quickly, her brown eyes fixed on the gun in his hand. “It’s just me!”

“What the hell are you doing in here?” he snarled at her unable to believe how she’d gone out of her way to ignore his warning. “I thought I told you to stay back in the car.”

“You did, but when you were in here so long I got worried,” she started feeling him step forward and snag her arm in his thick fingers. He started to nudge her towards the cavern’s entrance. “I didn’t see anyone else and…”

“Craven’s playing mind games with me,” Kevin snarled realizing that Craven had left him the letter only to get Kevin thinking about the past and to waste time. Undoubtedly Craven was off doing something else and Kevin had fallen for the deception hook, line and sinker. “He’s not coming here.”

“But I thought that…” Avery frowned feeling his fingers dig into her arm to pull her along. “Kevin, come on. You’re hurting me.”

“You should’ve stayed in the car Avery. You could’ve walked into a trap and…” he paused hearing the sound of something overhead. There was a faint, distinct rumbling over them.

“What was that?” Avery questioned finding herself motionless as she tipped her head up to look at the rock formation overhead.

“I don’t know, but I don’t like the sound of it,” Kevin reached for her arm again and moved forward only to hear the sound louder than before. He tipped his head up and saw the sudden explosion that vibrated from the entrance. Without hesitation he reached out to Avery, pushing her in underneath him.

“Look out!” Kevin mouthed in the back of her ear dropping her down to the floor of the cavern. Without hesitation he moved in over her, dropping his body down as a shield over her now that the ceiling came crashing down around them in a thunderous rage.


Brant felt an ache carry over him now that his stomach felt like someone had driven a sledgehammer into it. He opened his eyes and let out a groan only to feel someone press a glass in against his lips.

“Take a drink,” Heather suggested bringing her hand behind the back of his head in an attempt to help him do as she’d prompted him.

“Heather,” he blinked up at her seeing tension sweep in over her brow. His eyes lazily wandered over to the glass before he pushed himself up a bit, “Please tell me that’s a good martini.”

“As much as I think we could use one right about now, it’s just water,” she explained helping him take a sip. “I think it’s better for you.”

“Depends on who you ask,” he groaned allowing his head to sink back onto the couch. He listened for a moment behind closed eyes before speaking up again, “Where is everyone?”

“Don ran over to the local hospital for a few minutes to get some more bandages for you and Grady’s around here somewhere. I think he’s with Erin and his mother,” Heather explained bringing her fingers in over Brant’s dark hair. “So it’s just the two of us it would seem.”

Brant reopened his eyes and smiled up at her with a teasing smirk, “Gee, now that’s something I know you’ve been waiting to have between us for a long time now. It was all a part of your master plan to get some alone time with me admit it.”

“Having you shot wasn’t part of my master plan even if I wanted to do it to you a few times,” Heather replied with a small smile massaging his scalp with her fingertips, “Though you know you could’ve just called me up for coffee and I would’ve been just as happy as ever to have you pay me attention.”

“And here I thought that you were more interested in having me laid up and vulnerable like this at your disposal,” he offered up a dry laugh feeling a cough build up in the back of his throat.

“Have some more water Brant,” she suggested bringing the glass to his lips again. He took a drink readily before she teased him further, “Besides in case you haven’t noticed the only time I ever tried to take advantage of you was when you were fully awake. You don’t appreciate being asleep for all the action. I remember that much.”

“I didn’t mind it so much the time you brought the handcuffs and I woke up to your…,” he began only to feel her press her fingertip over the center of his lips to silence him.

“I was ignoring how much you liked that since I didn’t want to embarrass you,” she whispered sliding her index finger over the center of his lips before letting it taper off over his cheekbone. She smiled remembering their past with one another, “It seemed like a lifetime ago though.”

“That’s because it was a lifetime ago,” he paused closing his eyes once again, “and given how things went sour, I’m surprised that you are sitting right beside me. I would’ve thought you’d be the one ready to throw me off of the balcony here after the way I tossed you out of my house.”

“Yeah, you were kind of a pain in the ass when you did that. I think I scraped my elbow and hurt my butt when you did that. Plus it was the middle of winter and I was freezing,” she frowned at the memory. “Wow I really should throw you off of the balcony.”

Brant couldn’t help but laugh, “Lucky for me you’re not strong enough to follow through on that one.”

“I’m strong enough, but I wouldn’t want to,” she revealed leaning in closer to him. “After all given that you just scared the hell out of me, I realize that I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

“Now I know you’re just being nice to me because I was shot,” Brant teased tipping his head up ever so slightly to see her worried green eyes upon him. He saw the tears behind her damp eyelashes and he reached out to touch her cheek gently, “Hey I’m fine.”

“I know,” she nodded biting back on her tears. She took in a small breath before trying to regain her composure, “It’s just that seeing you like this…”

“Hey,” Brant pressed his fingers in against her cheek doing his best to pull her in nearer to him. “You and I both know that I’m a tremendous pain in the ass Heather. I’m not going anywhere for a long time. Because if I did, who else would make you miserable?”

“Well my sister does a pretty good job of it,” she couldn’t help but offer up with a weak smile.

“She and Ken would make a great team because he’s a real headache for me too,” he teased closing his eyes once again and taking in a breath.

“Who would’ve thought that we would’ve become the good ones? Talk about a stretch,” Heather pondered the notion of how their siblings had changed.

“Hell, what are you talking about? I’ve always been the good one,” Brant winked up at her taking in a small breath while trying to ignore the ache inside of him.

“Yeah, you really have,” Heather found herself nodding in agreement. She eased her fingers over the side of his face tapering into his hair again before leaning in closer to him. “You’ve always been amazing.”

“Of course I have,” he laughed lightly feeling an ache vibrate through him. “It’s part of what makes me irresistible.”

“Only a small part of it,” she paused searching his dark eyes for a long moment. Tracing his lips again she leaned in closer to him, “Though I loved you even when you were a nasty son of a bitch.”

He couldn’t help but laugh, “Stop that hurts.”

“It’s the truth,” she revealed bringing her other arm around the top of his head. “Even when you were trying to be a jerk, you were still always amazing to me.”

“Even when you cheated on me, I still couldn’t help but think that you were one of the most amazing women I’d ever known,” Brant confessed his gaze drifting up to where she hovered over him, “I still feel that way about you Heather. You’re a wonderful woman who deserves nothing, but the best.”

“Just so that I can screw it up, right?” she let out an ironic laugh thinking about how she and Kyle had a falling out with one another before.

“Russell Denton is being a jerk. He’s just worried about Avery and I can’t fault him that,” Brant closed his eyes again, “He’s looking for someone to blame for what’s happening and you were an easy target.”

“Only because I let myself be one,” she admitted honestly thinking about her vendetta against Avery. “I never should’ve started that fight with her.”

“You were just defending my honor,” he offered up with a small smile, “I’m flattered that I can still get a rise out of the both of you considering that you both were special to me.”

“Of course we were, but I always ranked just below Avery, right?” she half questioned seeking out validation behind her beliefs.

“Heather, you were always special to me,” he ran his fingers over her hair and smiled with a thoughtful expression. “I always loved you even if we couldn’t be together.”

“I always loved you too Brant. I still do,” she admitted pressing in to kiss him in a faint, barely there kiss. Her lips grazing his for a brief moment before pulling back in a moment of closure between them.

“I love you too Heather,” he smiled up at her feeling her squeeze his hand in hers, “which is why you have no idea how happy I am that you found Kyle. Sure, he hates my guts, but he is right for you. I’ve never seen you happier.”

“Which is why I’m so afraid I’m going to screw things up. Tonight is just a shining example of how wrong I can be for him,” Heather sighed knowing full well she’d caused tension between Kyle and his best friend.

“Russ and Kyle will get over it. Trust me on this one. Once Russ and Avery are together again all will be as good as new,” Brant promised knowing full well that she was concerned about tonight’s turn of events. “Kyle isn’t going to hold any of this against you. He loves you too much for that.”

“I know he does, but I just don’t want to bring him down,” Heather revealed her worries knowing full well she had a long list of demons behind her.

“The only way you’ll bring him down is in leaving him. If you start doubting yourself and what you both have with one another, then you’re only opening up the door to failure and you both deserve better than that. What you have is real and worth fighting for. Did you not listen to me right before he almost rushed into marrying Sarah?” he questioned eyeing her curiously.

“I listened, but I really hated that you were the voice of reason,” she frowned down at him, “Kind of puts a really bad ironic twist on things.”

“Yeah, well just remember the favor I did for you because when Don returns I want you to help me get out of here,” Brant explained a sudden seriousness in his tone. “I can’t just stay here when Angela is out there.”

“Brant you were just shot…” Heather frowned down at him, “There is no way that I’m going to try to talk Don into letting you out there to search for her.”

“Heather she’s having my children and I love her,” Brant admitted worry evident behind his dark eyes, “My being shot pales in comparison to the pain I would feel in losing her or the children. They are my world and without them I’m nothing.”

“You’re not nothing,” Heather refused to accept that answer.

“You didn’t see her Heather,” Brant sighed thinking back to his confrontation with Craven. “He was going to kill me. He had the gun on me and a knife to her throat. He was fully prepared to make sure my life was over, but she saved me. She risked herself for me because she loves me--she remembers our love and we can finally be happy together.”

“Not if you’re dead Brant. I’m sure Kevin will find her,” Heather reminded him sharply, “You need to heal before you do anything stupid.”

“Staying here and doing nothing would be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done Heather. She has my heart and I’m empty without her,” Brant explained a newfound determination in his tone, “I need to save her before that man takes my world away from me.”

“Brant I wish I could help, but…” she started again thinking about all he’d already endured.

“If Kyle was missing, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get out there and find him? Even if you were injured yourself?” Brant challenged with an arched brow taking in a breath as he fought to ignore the pain that overtook him.

“I’d fight until my last breath to be where he was,” Heather nodded in confession knowing full well that she wouldn’t feel any different than Brant.

“Then help me convince Don,” Brant pleaded with her squeezing her hand gently.

“You know Don hates me. It’ll never happen,” Heather reminded him with a sigh. “He still thinks of me as the lying, cheating tramp you tossed aside.”

“Well you still are, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be convincing,” he winked up at her before smiling. “Come on Heather you’ve always been able to get what you wanted when properly motivated. I know you can do this.”

“I don’t know if I want to see you go do something stupid and lose your life Brant,” she admitted touching his face once again, “I rather enjoy having you around to make my life miserable.”

“Then I promise to irritate you at least once a week after I find Angela, how is that?” he asked with pleading eyes. “Heather you know how much this means to me.”

“Don’s going to kill me for even suggesting it,” Heather groaned outwardly wondering how she would be able to get Don to agree to Brant leaving the hotel.

“Suggesting what?” Don inquired as it was clear that he’d returned. As he held some medical supplies in his hands he looked between Heather and Brant curiously, “What’s going on here?”

“I’ll tell you what’s going on. You’re going to help me get up and out of here so that I can find Angela and bring my family back home to me,” Brant announced with a newfound determination ready to do what was necessary to take control of his future once again even if it meant pushing himself beyond the limit in the process.


“Craven please,” Angela begged from the passenger side of his car. She tugged at her wrist feeling it tied to the back of the seat he’d pushed her into. “You have to help him.”

“Help him,” Craven laughed wildly looking to the cavern that Kevin and his companion had disappeared into moments earlier. Now in seeing the aftermath of the explosion he’d set up, he couldn’t help but be amused. “Do you honestly believe I would lift a finger to do anything for you after what you’ve done?”

“You can’t just leave him there. Craven please,” Angela struggled against her restraints thinking about what she’d just witnessed. “Please we have to help him and Brant…”

“Brant,” Craven spat out at her pushing his keys into the ignition, “Oh please Angel. Like I would even bother with that sap after what the two of you pulled on me. Come to think of it I still owe you for trying to deceive me.”

“Craven, please you have to let me go. We have to help Kevin and Brant and…” she began thinking about the terrible danger both men were in. She turned towards him ready to plead with him again, but instead she felt his hand strike her left cheek causing her head to fall back into the headrest on the seat.

“Did you honestly think that you could get the best of me by being that way? Have you no shame?” Craven spat out at her reaching out to wrench her by her hair in closer to him. She winced as he glared down at her, “You’ve condemned both the men in your life to hell by being stubborn and anything that happens to them from here on out is all your fault.”

“Craven you can’t do this to him. You have to help Kevin and…” she bit down on her lip feeling the saltiness of her blood inside of her mouth. “You can’t leave him there.”

“Believe it or not I can do anything I want to because I’m in control here. Not you. Not Brant and certainly not Kevin,” he taunted her turning the car on once again and pulling away from the beach area and onto the main road. “Face it Angel no one can save you now especially not your precious Brant or Kevin.”

“No you can’t do this,” she writhed in her seat feeling the rope digging into her wrists. She glared over at him finding herself ready to hurt him when she had the first chance. Shaking again she fought to get out of the ropes, but was rendered motionless.

“Sit still,” Craven ordered with a harsh growl reaching out to turn on the radio to an oldies station. “Life as we know it is about to change big time for us baby.”

“You sicken me,” Angela spat out at him seeing him raise his hand to her again before stopping himself.

“I’m not going to let your vile tongue ruin my plans for you. I still need your pretty little face for a while, so shut up!” Craven snapped at her focusing on the road in front of him while Angela continued to wiggle at her wrist. She wrenched and twisted feeling it break into her skin, but still it was no worse than being stuck with Craven. Finally she felt some freedom in the restraint.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun together Angel. You’ll see,” he grinned widely moving down the abandoned road and whistling along to the song.

“The hell we are,” Angela snarled at him freeing up her hand enough to pull it out of the ropes. Instinctively she curled her fingers up into a fist and punched him right across the side of the face before tugging on the wheel of the car in a distinct wrench sending them straight towards a ditch knowing full well that Craven might’ve thought he was smart, but clearly he wasn’t bright enough to put on a seatbelt. She heard him shout out at her, felt him attempt to reclaim the wheel but before he was able to do so, she felt the car slide off of the pavement leaving her with the final sound of busting glass around them once the car fell forward into the ditch!


...to be continued...