Episode 422

“What the hell are you doing here exactly?” Jewel finally spoke up after seeing her daughter holding onto her father in a tight embrace. Paul looked up to see the anger behind her light eyes making him smirk before giving his daughter another tight squeeze. “Seriously Paul, I thought you would be gone for quite some time.”

“I was,” Paul muttered in a mocking tone before reaching out to press a strand of Stacy’s blonde hair out of her face. “I missed you sweetheart. How have things been going? How are things here?”

“Well…,” Stacy looked back at her mother for a moment while clearing her throat and shrugging her shoulders. “I guess you could say they have been hard. Mom is always starting fights with aunt Cori over things and I just…”

“It’s none of his business Stacy what is going on around here. He just up and leaves this family and he doesn’t make an attempt to ever know things,” Jewel shot out at Paul seeing his eyebrows tense together while Stacy still held onto her father’s hand. “I don’t know why you still bother with him.”

“Maybe the same reason I still bother with you,” Stacy snapped back at her mother feeling her father’s hand squeeze hers a bit knowing that she was about to get worked up. Before she could say anything more, she heard the doorbell ring and she sighed heavily before looking to her father. “I’m supposed to go out with Lindsey and a few of my friends. Are you going to be okay with that? Will you be here when I get back.”

“I will be around here for you, I promise,” he leaned down to press a quick kiss on her cheek before looking to Jewel knowing his daughter was worried that they were going to fight the moment she walked out of the house. “Don’t worry about us sweetheart. I’m going to be leaving soon anyways. All you have to do is call me though, I will be around town for a while.”

“Sounds good to me,” Stacy stepped up to press a quick kiss over her father’s cheek before quickly exiting the house to go out with her friends leaving the two of them alone together.

There was a silence between them as Jewel stared him over and watched the way he bit down on his bottom lip while sliding his hands into his pockets. Just the sight of him these days seemed to work her up. He always showed up at the worst possible times making him the hero of the two parents.

“I don’t know why you constantly show up at the most random moments to see her. You were never there for her when she was a child…,” Jewel shot out at him seeing Paul nod and move more in the living room with a smirk over his features. “You were always more interested in the adult video games you were working on.”

“And you were there for her more than me? I don’t think so sweetheart,” Paul mocked her once more moving over toward the couch to sit down knowing the more he stuck around, the more she would be eager to fight with him. “As I recall, you were more interested in screwing the wonder boy of the moment on your cooking show than being a mother. In fact, wasn’t it a new guy each day? Or perhaps even more.”

“Like you are any better,” she shot back out at him seeing him shrug before wiping off his pants making her let out a disgusted noise. The way he always spoke to her made him come off as if he felt like he was better than her.

“I was better, clearly our daughter thinks so as well. You can't stop me from seeing her because she is my daughter. I can come and see her anytime I want. And to be clearly obvious here…this isn’t even your home. Shouldn’t you be on some tour for your new book or something, working on the next interviewer that wants to give you some kind of spot in the media?” Paul smiled widely seeing her eyebrows clench before she reached down to pick up the glass on the coffee table, tossing it at him. Moving his head to the side, he heard the glass shatter against the wall and he bit down on his bottom lip before standing up. “Something clearly crawled up your…never mind, you might have been happy about that.”

“Your sarcasm is no longer charming Paul,” she bit back watching him frown before reaching out to touch her only to feel her slap his hand away. “Don’t even touch me. I can barely even stand to look at you, let alone have you touch me.”

“But sweetheart, we are still married,” Paul curled his bottom lip into a pout watching her roll her eyes and look down at her watch. “What’s wrong? You expecting someone over? Knew our daughter was going out, so you couldn’t even wait to get the next boy toy in and out of the house?”

“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Jewel pushed her hand into the center of his chest hearing him let out a small wince while rubbing at the place she hit him. “No, I’m just seeing how much time I’ve already wasted of my life with you.”

“Oh, that’s not nice,” he frowned only to hear the sound of the doorbell ringing making him let out a heavy sigh. Rubbing his hands together, he moved around Jewel and shrugged. “Are you sure that’s your real answer? Because it seems like my first assumption might be correct.”

“Oh kiss my…,” Jewel saw Paul open the door and she saw Nate standing before her with a blank glance. Clearing her throat uneasily, she ran her fingers through her blonde hair before putting on a wide smile to feign her anger toward Paul. “Nate…what are you doing here?”

“Uhm,” Nate looked to Paul seeing him smile in an exaggerative manner and he tilted his head to the side not sure what was going on in that moment, but he could feel the tension. He could feel Jewel pulling on his hand to further him into the house before he pulled away from her and cleared his throat uneasily. “I’m here to see…Cori.”

“Oh,” was all that simply came out of Jewel’s lips as Nate moved through the living room and down the hallway toward Cori’s room leaving Paul alone with Jewel again.

There was the faint sound of Paul chuckling behind her as she turned on her heel and hit him in the center of the chest making him let out a small groan.

“I can see how well that relationship went. You’re boy toy is more interested in your sister now,” Paul teased as she stormed off into the kitchen leaving him alone in the living room.

Sure, that was probably the hint for him to leave in that moment when she stormed off, but why bother when this was the best moment when he could dig this in to the best of his ability?


Moving down the hallway, Nate could hear Paul and Jewel bickering in the background behind him. He assumed that’s what they were doing when he came into the house, but he didn’t want to stick around them to find out.

Soon he could have became the center of the argument and he didn’t want that to happen anytime soon. He was more interested in focusing on things that were more important. Like promises he made, things that they were planning. All that kind of stuff.

Hearing something crash behind him, he jumped a bit wondering if she go and check on someone to see if they were okay, but soon he could hear the bickering of both of them again and he decided to leave Paul and Jewel alone.

He couldn’t deal with something like this right now.

Shaking his head, he turned to Cori’s door and knocked on it softly before pushing open the door a little bit to see her sitting on the bed looking through a few pages of what looked like a photo album.

“Hey,” Nate spoke up seeing her jump and quickly push the album beside her bed after he shocked her. He didn’t think he would scare her like that, but once she jumped he figured she didn’t hear him. She probably assumed it was just her sister getting into more trouble. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you…I just wanted…”

“Yeah, I know,” she interrupted him throwing her hands up in the air to silence him as they heard another crash and she shook her head slowly. “That sounds like my sister’s mellow drama going on again.”

“Yeah, pretty much,” Nate moved into the room and sat down on the bed across from her. He could see her look over at him for a moment before looking around the room leaving them in a moment of silence leaving him to think of something to say. Looking beside the bed he saw the photo album and he shrugged. “So, what were you looking at.”

“Some photos,” she explained knowing by the way he was staring out at her that he was more interested in what kind of photos. He wasn’t dumb, be knew what she was looking at…just wanted to know what kind of photos. Reaching for the photo album, she handed it to him and shrugged. “Family stuff.”

“Oh, I see,” he ran his hand through his medium length hair before scooting more into the center of the bed sitting Indian style. Sighing heavily, he looked over at her before opening up the book and looking at the pictures. “Young you and stuff like that?”

“Yeah, stuff like that,” she mocked him catching the glare he gave her making her shrug. He took in a deep breath and shook his head slowly before looking down at the photos. “Obviously I’m the littlest one and there is Dave here and Jewel.”

“I could guess that. Even then she seemed like a…,” Nate caught himself knowing that he was about to call her a…not so nice name. Changing the subject he could hear her laugh as he shrugged. “So these are some nice pictures.”

“Yeah, sometimes it’s easier to look at the old times instead of living in the present. Well…for me at least,” she explained knowing that Nate would probably understand what she meant even if most people didn’t. He gulped down heavily and nodded while flipping through a few more pages. “So what did you come here for? I know it wasn’t to just visit or be in the middle of my sister’s fights.”

“Yeah, true…,” he cringed hearing something crash over in the other room again and he threw up his hands shaking his head slowly. “If this was Don’s house and I was doing that, I would be killed. I can only imagine how Carly and Dave are going to feel about this.”

“I would say he almost expects it. Jewel is a…child is the best word I can use when it comes to her personality,” she pointed out seeing Nate nod. He took in a long, deep breath while closing the book and handing it back to her. “So…?”

“I was just thinking about things and I didn’t know if we should talk about us…,” he muttered softly seeing her lip wrinkle in what seemed to be disgust making him roll his eyes. “I know I’m not prince charming, but we made some kind of agreement here. I want us to keep it or at least work it out.”

“First thing…there is no us. And I didn’t make the plan, you did,” she snarled at him while he shrugged and looked around the room for something to focus on. Sighing, she could tell that she made him uncomfortable and she didn’t know what to say exactly. “I’m just saying, this is somewhat sudden for me and I don’t really know what to do. I’m not thrilled about the fact of being around you all the time.”

“Yeah, I got that every time I come to see you,” Nate blurted out while his green eyes stared out at her and he shook his head slowly. “You don’t have to be so venomous toward me, you know. I’m just trying to help you and make this easier on you. To be the father. The father of that baby.”

“It only made things harder,” she saw him go to stand up and she tugged on his hand roughly making him fall back to the bed in a thud. “Listen to me. We need to talk…big time.”

“Gees, alright. You could have just said that. Not rip my arm out of the socket,” he rubbed at his shoulder letting out a wince while turning toward her feeling her hands placing over his knees. “What is you want to say that made you pull out the brutal force on my arm there?”


“Thanks for taking me out,” Stacy stared out at her two friends Lindsay and Jackie as they sat at the café that was in the middle of the mall. Sighing heavily, she still found herself worried about her father and mother fighting at home and she shrugged. “I guess I just needed some time away from my family. My mother is going to drive me insane one of these days. I’m getting sick of her being around as much as she is.”

“I understand,” Lindsay frowned knowing that her friend had so much trouble with her family on normally and it seemed like it always got worse.

“How? Your family is like…the perfect family. There is no way you understand that,” Jackie teased Lindsay feeling her nudge her shoulder and she frowned grabbing a hold of her arm. “Ouch, that wasn’t very nice.”

“Perfect family or not, I’m sure she understands,” Stacy spoke up seeing the two both look over at her as she leaned forward and spun her straw around the milkshake she had bought with her friends. “Really, I’m used to my parents being gone most of the time. It’s easier when they are. When they are together they are always fighting. I’m sick of it. I’ve been sick of it since I was three years old. They can’t stop fighting and it’s usually her fault.”

“Yeah, well I’m going to keep my opinion of your mother silent,” Jackie spoke up in a whisper before spinning her straw around in her drink feeling Lindsay poke her in the side. “What? You feel the same way too.”

“I feel the same too, so don’t worry about sparing my feelings Lindsay,” Stacy spoke up shaking her head slowly while thinking back about her mother. “I know my parents aren’t the best in the world, but at least my dad tries in some sort of weird, random way. He isn’t a great guy, but he tries when he is there. My mother, I could be with her and she is never really there…if that makes sense.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that Stacy. I wish you had something more…,” Lindsay tried to find the right words to say knowing that one of her best friends was having a hard time with their family. She would always have the right words to say usually, but she could tell by the look in her eyes that Stacy was upset about the both of them. “I’m sure they will get better eventually.”

“Maybe,” Jackie spoke up thinking about her parents while she shrugged and leaned back in her chair. “My parents have been together since they were seventeen. Remember, I’m a prom night accident.”

“I don’t think that’s what your father or your mother would refer to you as,” Lindsay corrected her friend while Jackie shrugged and took a sip from her milkshake knowing that she never heard it, but just assumed it.

“I’m sure they would have been divorced already if I wasn’t born. Or John. They can’t seem to ever get along. Some people just aren’t meant to be together. I think Stacy and I have those kind of parents. One parent seems interested and tries while the other one is too busy with work and themselves to actually put effort into the family,” Jackie spoke up with a sigh knowing that most of the time it was just her, John and her father trying to make the best out of things. “It’s hard sometimes.”

“At least Julian is cool though,” Stacy spoke up seeing Jackie shrug and lean back in the chair. “The only thing people would find cool about my dad is if they were perverts. I don’t think people would want to spend time with my parents. Where as I love going to your house Lindsey because your parents are great people. And Jackie…your dad is the nicest guy. And he is pretty ho…”

“Don’t even say it,” Jackie threw up her hands trying to cut off her friend letting out a disgusted noise. “Seriously…I don’t want to hear that. That’s sick. He’s my dad.”

“Just because he’s your dad, doesn’t make him not hot,” Stacy saw Lindsay chuckle and shake her head slowly while Jackie pretended to gag herself. “Seriously, your dad is a hottie.”

“Okay, next subject please. Before I throw up all over the table,” Jackie begged seeing Lindsay nod and look to the time before taking in a deep breath. “I mean really…this could make someone go nuts. They don’t need to hear this.”

“Fine,” Stacy shrugged and looked to the time knowing that it was eating her inside about her parents and she couldn’t believe it was still bothering her. Leaning forward she felt the need to go home and see how things were while looking between her friends. “Hey, do you think you can give me a ride home? I kind of, I think I might need to go.”

“Yeah sure,” Jackie saw Stacy get up quickly and move toward the garbage to throw her drink away. Looking between Lindsay and Stacy, she could tell that Stacy seemed a bit anxious and she cleared her throat. “You think she is okay?”

“I don’t know,” Lindsay sighed heavily standing up from the table knowing what it was like for her friends to see them in that kind of pain as she shook her head. “I hope so.”


A sharp hammering pain built in the back of Ben’s temple as he found himself ready to take the first flight out of town. Heaven knew that he had more than his fill of paperwork and questions after their latest suspect wound up on the receiving end of what appeared to be a flimsy suicide attempt in his cell. Sure, that’s what everyone was writing the case off as, but Ben knew better. Given the snarkiness he and Alexa had been given from their suspect from the moment they brought him into custody, he knew full well that the man wasn’t about to take the coward’s way out as everyone believed.

“So you’re saying you believe he was murdered Agent Walters?” he could hear one of his superior officers questioning him all over again with that same frown of disbelief on their features. “What kind of place do you believe we’re running here now that you’re spouting off stories of conspiracy theories?”

“That’s a good question,” Ben pondered aloud as he walked over to the sink in the men’s room. He took a long look at his reflection in the mirror and sighed. There were dark circles underneath his eyes and his face could use a good shave after the days of neglect he’d given to the subject. He stretched his arms out feeling his back crack as he thought of the long hours he’d spent down at the station. What he wouldn’t give to have a nice long, hot shower, he thought to himself and sighed. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out his cell phone and contemplated calling Diane to check in on her, but instead he was pulled away from the sound of the door opening behind him.

“Long night huh Walters?” one of his colleagues questioned with a shake of their head.

“You aren’t kidding,” Ben muttered under his breath as the other man walked over to the sink and washed his hands.

“It looks like we’ve hit the wall,” the man noted finishing up with the sink. He stood taller and shook the excess water off of his hands before reaching for a paper towel. “It seems like this is one case that doesn’t want to catch a break.”

“We’ve been giving it all we’ve got,” Ben sighed knowing full well of all he’d given up since he’d left Coral Valley in the hopes of just doing his time.

“Sometimes it seems like it’s never enough,” the other man offered up supportively. “We have to cut a few losses even if it kills us.”

“That’s never a real option in our line of work even when we have no other choice,” Ben reminded him with a sigh of his own.

“Yeah, well either way I’m glad you’re the one on this one instead of me,” the man admitted with a small laugh. “By the way Ashford’s been looking for you.”

“Is something wrong?” Ben questioned snapping out of the daze he was in.

“I’m not really sure, but from what I understand she dropped a few f-bombs at the higher ups and she’s not in the best of spirits,” his co-worker chortled, “so again I’m glad that I’m not the one stuck in your shoes.”

“Gee thanks for the support,” Ben groaned outwardly and rolled his eyes. He watched the other man leave before he turned out to follow.

“Great,” Ben mouthed quietly wondering just what kind of trouble Alexa would have herself in again given her hot temper. Ben was certain he would have to do a little kissing up to smooth over the waters, but hopefully Alexa’s rage wasn’t directed at him.

“Hey, have you seen Agent Ashford?” Ben questioned to one of his other co-workers.

“Down the hall in one of the interrogation rooms,” the man explained. “She slammed the door on her way in.”

“Wonderful,” Ben groaned before heading in the direction that he was set in.

He opened the door to the interrogation room and spotted Alexa seated at the table reviewing a pile of papers that were splashed out across the table in front of her. He carefully closed the door behind him and watched her reach for another one of the pages in front of her. She sat up straighter, her hair pushed back into a ponytail as she skimmed over the writing on the paper.

“There has to be something more here,” she offered up without looking away from the paper she was holding. “I’ve been going over all of the surveillance notes from last night and there’s nothing that sounds out of the normal here Ben. Everything checks out on the page, but we both know that…”

“You need a break,” Ben approached her with a frown. “I think we’ve spent more than enough time going over all of this stuff.”

“Obviously not enough if we’re where we are right now,” Alexa’s dark eyes shot up towards his. “Ben, you have to admit that nothing about this seems right at all.”

“Of course not, but at the same time your going around telling off everyone who attempts to talk to you isn’t going to win either one of us brownie points around here,” he added with a disapproving look.

“Who told you that? Martin?” she scowled up at him. “Because I’ll have you know that nothing I said was out of line considering the frustrations we keep getting thrown in our direction. We’ve hit block after block and…”

“You need a break,” Ben pulled the paper out of her hand. “How about some coffee?”

“Coffee won’t bring back our suspect Ben,” she insisted with a crease in her brow. “It won’t make the club or the people that died in it reappear.”

“Maybe not, but it might help you calm down,” Ben reached out to her shoulder. “Lexie please.”

“Ben, I just don’t think…” she hesitated as he began to massage at her tightly knotted shoulders.

“You could use a break,” he explained leaning down towards her. “We both could.”

“It’s just…” she started finding herself lost in a moment enjoying his hands upon her. She closed her eyes welcoming the movement of his fingers over her tense shoulders as her head fell forward ever so slightly.

“Nothing,” he interrupted. “Let me get you some coffee and then we’ll go over all of this again.”

“Ben, I just…” she sighed, “Alright one cup, but then we’re back to work.”

“Back to work,” he repeated with a nod releasing her. “I promise.”

“Fine, but when we’re done we have to find what we’re missing,” she decided as she rose up from the chair and Ben looked to the paperwork they had waiting for him. Somehow he had the feeling that their frustrations were far from over.


Shane felt Diane snuggle into his chest as they sat together on the center of her bed watching the end of Some Like It Hot. Although Shane initially had protests to the film, Diane had pleaded insisting that there was nothing better than enjoying a classic movie with a friend. They’d shared a banter about the start of the film for a while until finally she’d twisted his arm into sticking around. Of course now that she was comfortable in his arms half naked, he couldn’t help but find himself a bit uncomfortable beside her.

“It’s funny when you think about it,” Diane sighed, her words taking on a heavy tone as she brought her hand up over his bare chest, fingers massaging the muscular planes leisurely as her eyes were on the television set before her. “Joe and Sugar are both purposefully misleading the other, yet their being together makes perfect sense in it’s own twisted way.”

“Sometimes the only way for someone to see the truth about the other is in deceptions,” he offered up after a long moment of contemplation. “Had they been true to themselves in their first encounter things may not have progressed as they should have for them.”

“Even so I would find it hard to fall for a man who not only pretended to be a millionaire, but ran around in a dress pretending to be my girlfriend,” she continued with a shake of her head. “It seems like a surefire way of shooting yourself in the foot so to speak.”

“The mere fact that anyone would buy Tony Curtis as a woman says beyond a reasonable doubt that clearly the producers weren’t really thinking that one out in casting,” Shane couldn’t help but laugh. “Jack Lemmon either for that matter. Don’t get me wrong they can act, but I would never, ever believe either one of them were even remotely close to being feminine.”

“They were great in the roles,” Diane argued with him as she snuggled in closer to him. “They have talent and charisma and…”

“I’m not saying they aren’t talented love, but there is no way in the world anyone with eyes would believe they were women,” Shane laughed lightly.

“Suspend reality for a moment and just enjoy the movie,” Diane reached up to curl her fingers around his chin and direct his attention to the television set once again. “Surely you can enjoy the entertainment value behind the film.”

“I suppose it does have it’s perks,” he wiggled his brow suggestively as a scene with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe played out on the screen.

“He thinks he has her number, but she’s one up on him,” Diane continued to discuss the film as Shane found himself distracted by the sweet scent of her perfume. “Look at the way he’s attempting to work her with a kiss, yet she’s the one in control of the situation.”

“And that enthralls you, doesn’t it?” he questioned finding himself pleasantly distracted by the warmth of her in his arms as opposed to the comedy unfolding on screen.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a grip on one’s sexuality and knowing how to use it,” Diane informed him as her eyes traveled up his bare chest to his ever so kissable lips once again. She cleared her throat uneasily before shifting in his arms. “I mean you can’t knock the raw animal magnetism that Marilyn Monroe draws out in those around her. She was beautiful.”

“She was,” Shane nodded in agreement, “and it’s a shame that she was gone long before her time.”

“That’s probably why people finally took notice as it seems like the world doesn’t pay much attention to you when you’re a part of it, but when you leave it’s then and only then that people realize that you held some kind of importance in their lives,” she sighed again.

“Are we talking about Marilyn or Jade?” he questioned smoothing his fingers through her long hair.

“I guess I just never realized how much I would miss her before it was too late. I took for granted that she would always be here for me and now,” Diane shook her head as she fought to contain her overwhelming emotions, “I guess I just miss the things we would do.”

“Such as?” he questioned sliding his fingertips down her spine to hold her more completely.

“Having a girl’s night,” Diane smiled at the thought. “When she and I were both single and looking for love we would set out to some ridiculous country western bar and buy drinks for a while. Naturally there wouldn’t be anyone we were interested in, so we’d spend the night on the dance floor together having a great time. Or those shopping expeditions we would go on when payday finally rolled around. We’d be gone for hours and just take it all in spending hours lost in the shoe department at Neiman Marcus.”

“Shoes huh?” he laughed lightly. “I didn’t realize you had a shoe fetish.”

“Every woman does Shane,” she explained with a seriousness in her voice. “Some pretend that they don’t, but nothing can make you feel better than a strappy pair of sexy heels on a bad day.”

“I’ll have to take note of that,” he laughed lightly as she sat up straighter. “That must’ve been what Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon got from the film huh? Nothing makes you feel more alive than a pair of stilettos.”

“You think I’m joking, but it’s the truth,” she added poking him in the ribs before bouncing up off of the bed and walking over to the closet on the opposite side of the room. She opened the door and disappeared only to return a few seconds later with at least half a dozen boxes in her arms. “These don’t even cover it considering that most of my things are at my place, but since I’ve been staying here, I think I’m getting close to maxing out my credit cards.”

“With shoes?” Shane couldn’t help but laugh as she dropped the boxes on the comforter near the bottom of the bed.

“Not just any shoes,” Diane explained excitedly as she plucked open the lid on one of the boxes, “Gucci, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Chanel and these babies right here…”

“And what might those be?” Shane questioned as she carefully extracted a shimmering ruby colored shoe from the box.

“This happens to be the prize of my collection,” Diane informed him with wide eyes. “These shoes cost me nearly a week’s worth of salary, but they are so worth it. See the way that they not only sparkle and shine, but the jewels catch the light against iridescent mirrored texture.”

“They look a bit,” Shane found himself at a loss as she held the shoe up in the air for inspection, “nice.”

“Nice,” she repeated with a wrinkled nose, “Oh no Shane, nice doesn’t even begin to cover what these are. In fact nice is almost insulting when these shoes just scream naughty.”

“I don’t know,” Shane teased bringing his hand up to his ear, “I’m not really hearing anything at this point.”

“That’s because you’re not paying nearly enough attention,” Diane took a seat on the edge of the bed near his feet. She cradled the shoe in hand before raising her leg up over the side of the bed, where he was pleased with a very revealing view of her slender curves beneath Deidra’s cow print robe she’d thrown herself into after their near lovemaking. Now he found himself scintillated by her every move as she smoothed her fingers over her shapely calf, leading to her perfect ankle before she eased the shoe over her toes allowing it to cradle her foot.

“See,” she raised her leg in the air, “don’t they just scream with seduction?”

“I’m not quite convinced,” Shane admitted as he rose to his feet. He circled around the bed and leaned forward hovering over her before reaching out beyond where she sat to pull the other shoe out of it’s box, “I may need to conduct my own personal investigation on that matter.”

“I happen to think they’re wonderful,” Diane curled her lip in protest as Shane knelt down before her taking her petite foot in his large hands.

She closed her eyes and felt his fingers massage her sole before sliding up over her ankle. A breath escaped her lips as she felt the ease of her shoe fitting like a glove over her. It was pure bliss, wrapped up in a moment of warmth, but it wasn’t until she felt Shane’s lips press in over just below her knee that she was convinced she’d died and gone to heaven.

“You’re right,” he whispered warmly against her skin, his kisses tapering off over her thigh as he cupped her ankle closer to him, “they do have a certain alluring naughtiness indeed.”

“I told you so,” she sighed feeling him slide in closer to her, his lips returning to her thigh again.

She gasped as he positioned himself between her thighs, tracing his tongue over her excited skin. She tipped her head back, arching her body up towards him as his fingers crept in beneath the robe she was wearing, finding their way closer towards her secret hot spot. She shifted on the bed, involuntarily opening herself up to him further as her leg draped over the comforter onto the floor along side of him.

“They certainly are made for sin,” Shane pushed the robe aside further, freeing up her curves to his greedy ministrations.

He pulled her closer to the edge of the bed as she felt his breath skim over her inner thigh, his lips so very close to leading them into dangerous territory with one another. Her body sprung forward, begging for his touch as her heart hammered in her chest. The scent of his cologne, the warmth of his touch, the sweet rapture of his kisses were all invading her senses and leaving her wondering why she’d vowed to keep their relationship platonic to begin with.

“Shane,” she gasped his name, fingers tangling into his hair as his tongue swirled over her skin, offering up torturous hints of what he could do to her if she’d granted him permission. It was futile to resist, she realized as she fell backward onto the bed ready to offer herself to him completely when a loud buzzing sound filled her ears and invaded her senses when she felt Shane pull away.

“Damn it,” he cursed rushing out of the bedroom and leaving Diane in a state of disarray.

“What the…” she questioned springing up off of the bed to follow him. She found him in the kitchen swatting away at the now open oven door.

“We forgot about the brownies you threw in,” Shane explained using the towel to haphazardly pull the tray out of the oven before dropping it into the sink. He turned on the sink and steam surrounded them.

He reached up to try to turn off the smoke detector as Diane silently cursed herself for her stupidity. She had begged and pleaded with him to wait while she put the frozen brownies Deidra had into the oven for snack time munching before their movie started and yet as they’d gotten wrapped up in it, she’d forgotten altogether about the snack she’d prepared for them.

“I’m sorry. I guess we just got carried away and…” Diane’s eyes fell to the floor to the shoes she’d brought out in the hopes of enticing him on some level. Guiltily she moved over to the table and took a seat in one of the chairs, carefully removing one shoe followed by the other until she looked up to find him staring at her.

“Maybe this was a bad idea,” he cleared his throat uneasily. He moved out of the kitchen into the living room area.

“Shane I’m sorry that…” Diane set her shoes aside before going to follow after him. She found him pushing his shirt on over his head in retreat.

“I think I should leave,” Shane explained turning around to face her fully. “Our burning down your sister’s apartment probably isn’t a good idea considering that things are getting too hot in here…”

“I realize that and I’m sorry because I know I said I was going to be careful, yet…” she hesitated realizing by the expression on his face that they were no longer talking about the brownies but rather the growing attraction between them.

“You need to figure things out before we can continue down this path,” Shane finished for her, giving her one last look before collecting his shoes off of the floor. He carried them close to his chest as he approached the door to leave.

“Shane,” Diane spoke his name urgently as she moved forward.

“Goodbye Diane,” Shane cast one last glance in her direction before walking out of Deidra’s apartment and leaving Diane wondering what in the world she was doing with a man she hardly knew. She’d kept giving him mixed signals proclaiming she wanted to be friends, yet every opportunity she had, she found herself one closer to betraying what she felt for Ben.

“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath returning to the charred tray of brownies in her sister’s sink. She stared at them for a moment knowing full well that if she wasn’t careful she could very well wind up sending her life up in smoke much like she had with the dessert she’d planned out. It seemed the longer she was around Shane Slater, the more likely she was to get burned.


“What’s wrong with Ria?” Angela questioned again sensing the tension in the air still after Ria’s exit from Kevin’s hospital room. She turned to her best friend seeing some kind of strain behind his eyes before she moved forward to touch his shoulder gently, “You two okay right now?”

“I thought we were, but…” Kevin paused attempting to find some explanation for Ria’s quick retreat. While he’d known full well that he’d given Ria more than plenty to worry about since the beginning of their relationship, he found himself wanting nothing more than to be with Ria sharing a conversation with her instead of Angela. Still he realized there was a lot to be said between him and Angela and with that thought in mind he took in a breath, “We’ll figure it out later. What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to see how you were doing,” Angela admitted glancing down to the hospital bed where his leg was exposed from underneath the sheet. She saw the bandage and cringed knowing full well that if Craven’s plan would’ve worked she would’ve been seeing a lot more than a bandage on him.

“I’m still here isn’t that what counts?” Kevin offered up with a sheepish grin ready to say something more when Angela burst into tears.

“I’m so sorry Kevin,” Angela sobbed moving forward to embrace him, “I wish I could’ve done more to prevent all of this from happening.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Kevin felt her arms around him and he couldn’t help but squeeze her in closer to him. He hugged her tightly before whispering in her ear, “None of us knew that Craven was going to strike again.”

“I should’ve been smarter than I was. If I wouldn’t have lost my memory then I would’ve realized that everything was completely wrong,” she continued with a small whimper, “I never would’ve bought into his lies when he told me that my father wanted to see me and…”

“Hey, he preyed on your emotions and he was in the wrong,” Kevin reminded her pulling back ever so slightly to meet her eyes. He reached out to touch her cheek gently wiping at her tears before speaking up again, “None of us could’ve predicted what Craven was about when he found you again.”

“Even so I should’ve been smarter than that. I should’ve wizened up to the way things were before the situation got so far out of hand,” she admitted leaning back on the bed before groaning, “Rather than approaching the situation head on I ran away like a coward. After I saw you and Ria together, I just couldn’t help myself. I was angry and…”

“Wait, you really did see Ria and I together?” Kevin’s eyes grew larger with surprise. “As in together--together?”

“Yeah,” she nodded in confession feeling a blush rise over her features. “I was going to speak with you when I saw you two, well I saw enough to know that obviously you and I weren’t together.”

“Look Angie, about that…” Kevin felt an uneasiness carry in over him, “I never wanted to hurt you when you thought that we were…”

“Don’t you dare apologize to me,” Angela warned him firmly holding her finger up in the air, “I was the one who twisted your world around by thinking that I needed you as my emotional crutch when my mind was jumbled. I’m the one that hurt you and Brant and…”

“Brant,” Kevin’s thoughts returned to the man he’d been fighting with before they’d found Angela, “I take it you remember everything now, huh?”

Angela nodded back at him, “Yeah, it took a little while for me to see it clearly, but I remember him and what we have together.”

“Have,” Kevin repeated searching her eyes for a long moment, “Then I take it you two made up with one another.”

“In our own way, yeah,” Angela confessed with a hint of a smile, “although I don’t think either one of you were happy with me before that happened. I kind of treated you both really bad.”

“Well, I’m used to it and as for Brant,” Kevin paused searching for the right words, “well that jackass deserves to have his chain yanked every now and then.”

“Kevin stop,” she swatted at his shoulder gently, “He’s a good guy and I love him.”

“I know you do,” Kevin offered up before growing suddenly silent, “and even if he grates on my nerves I know he loves you too. Did I tell you he tried to kick my ass in an attempt to prove to me that he was the man you were meant to be with instead of me?”

“Really?” Angela’s eyes widened in surprise. “He did that?”

“He did a lot when he felt I was a legitimate threat,” Kevin revealed before thinking about his actions, “I guess in all of the pretending I got caught up in the whole trying to protect you from the world around you all over again. I forgot that you’re not that same teenager who pursued me relentlessly in her quest to drive her father crazy.”

“I didn’t chase you around to drive my father crazy,” she replied reaching out to touch his cheek gently, “I did it because I love you Kevin. Because I wanted you in my life.”

“You always had me in your life from the moment I was hired to protect you,” he pointed out with a slight hesitation.

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it,” she tossed out a firm expression in his general direction.

“Yeah, I know you wouldn’t be happy until you had my hot bod,” Kevin teased with a wink sensing an uneasiness behind her eyes, “Angie…”

“Kevin, look I’m not going to lie about things here,” she paused struggling to get out what she was thinking, “When I thought I lost you in that explosion it did something to me. It got me thinking about our lives together and how we came so close to everything only to…”

“It’s in the past,” Kevin placed his finger over her lips to silence her before she said something that would stir up old feelings that weren’t meant to resurface, “We both had a lot of time to hide from what we lived through together, but we both have also faced our tragedy and moved forward.”

“I never let you do that,” she muttered in a muted tone, her eyes fixed on him once again, “I never gave you that chance to be free Kevin, but I want you to have it now. I want you to be able to stop hating yourself for what happened when our daughter died. It wasn’t your fault then and it’s certainly not your fault now that things turned out like it did.”

“Angie, I…” he found himself at a loss feeling a lump forming in his throat at the mention of their daughter.

“Kevin, you did all that you could that night that Craven tricked you. I know that you wanted to be there--that you would’ve been there if you could’ve been, but there is no telling whether or not that would’ve been enough. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to play out like we hope for even if we don’t understand their conclusion,” she replied sliding her fingers into his thick, dark hair. “It isn’t fair, but…”

“You’re right,” he blurted out unable to mask his aching emotions, “It’s not fair that we lost her Angie. It’s far from being fair that we lost our dream of forever.”

“But even after our loss we made new dreams, made new plans,” she continued searching his eyes for a long moment.

“But that doesn’t change that fact that what we had will always be a part of us. It doesn’t underwrite the fact that together we created something special. We had a daughter Angie and she’ll always be a part of us even if she’s not here with us,” he continued with a heavy sigh falling from his lips, “It’s a dream that I’ve never been able to walk away from because when it gets down to it she was the one thing that I wanted in this world more than anything. She was my redemption and I can’t ever look past the fact that my world slipped away when I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Kevin, it wasn’t about us,” she eased her palm over his cheek and sighed, “It was never about us or what we did right or wrong. It was in God’s hands…”

“And he took it away from us. He stole our daughter from us without giving her a chance. She wasn’t able to grow up with us. We weren’t able to share her first steps, her first words. We weren’t able to comfort her through her first nightmare or teach her how to ride a bike. We weren’t able to share her hopes and dreams with her, weren’t ever able to tuck her in at night or tell her how much we love her,” Kevin choked up on his emotions remembering how the pain of losing their child still haunted him.

“She knew Kevin. She still does know because I’m sure wherever she is at she is still keeping a close eye on us. She’s still aware of how much she means to you and to me and fate hasn’t changed that,” Angela offered up an air of sentimentality in her tone as she curled her finger underneath his chin to urge him to meet her eyes. “Her being away from us doesn’t change the fact that she was a miracle that was created from the best of us together. She’ll always be in our hearts and she would want us both to be happy Kevin.”

“I know,” he nodded growing quiet as thoughts of his daughter haunted him. “It’s just it kills me to see that she wasn’t here to share it with us.”

“It still hurts me each and every day as well,” she paused watching the way his brown eyes flashed doubt behind them, “I just never talked about it like you could because I’m not able to vocalize my feelings like you can, but there isn’t a moment where she doesn’t cross my mind. Even when the twins were born I found myself remembering her--remembering what it was like to have her only to lose her in the blink of an eye. It’s just that I’ve always tried to be strong--tried to carry some of the pain for you and take it from your shoulders. You’ve always been strong for me, but I could never do that for you. I could never be the strength that you needed, but I tried so hard where our daughter was concerned. I just wanted to make things easier on you, but it came off as my not caring--not feeling anything about our little girl. I know I seemed cold and insensitive, but that wasn’t the case Kevin. I miss her every damn day just like you do, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it for fear that if I did I would fall to pieces all over again.”

“I would’ve been there to hold you together,” he confessed reaching out to touch the side of her face, “I would’ve shared my strength with you.”

“I was trying do to that for you, but I see now that I made the mistake in not being honest about the pain,” Angela replied in a small whisper, “When I went to the beach house when we were fighting Kevin it wasn’t that I didn’t care. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her or miss her, but rather that I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing another Christmas with you--haunting you over what might have been. I knew if I kept serving your life with the pain over and over again that you would never be happy--that you’d never find love again…”

“I wasn’t looking for love Angie. I was just hoping to find a way to reach out to you over our daughter--to find peace…” he trailed off closing his eyes for a brief moment, “but I guess life had other plans for us while I was soul searching because you found love again.”

“Only by chance. Hell, maybe it was more of a fluke, but in it’s own way it worked out,” Angela reached for his hand squeezing it gently, “just like it could work out for you and Ria if you stop hating yourself long enough to let love into your heart again. Stop holding onto the life that we could’ve had and start thinking about the life that you more than deserve with a woman who loves you more than anything.”

“Ria’s everything to me,” Kevin answered in a raw, broken tone tears threatening to overtake him, “I love her so much.”

“Then stop believing that loving her puts less value on what you felt for our daughter,” she teased her fingers through his hair in a lazy movement, “Letting love into your heart won’t ever take away from the love you had for our baby girl. It’s time to stop torturing yourself Kevin. Stop causing yourself so much hurt and pain and embrace love--embrace the happiness that our little girl would so desperately want you to have in your life again Kevin.”


“We just need to talk about this whole situation,” Cori saw Nate stare out at her just waiting for her to continue on with what she wanted to say. She had left them in a few moments of silence before shrugging. “I just…I think you are falling too much into this. I really didn’t want you in my life to begin with.”

“Gee,” Nate pulled his hands away from her sliding back on the bed a bit before shrugging. “Harsh much?”

“I’m sorry, it’s just true. I was having problems with life and you were the only person there. You wouldn’t be my first pick with things, you wouldn’t even be near that for me Nate. You were just convenient,” she spoke up seeing him roll his eyes and look over at the time. She could just see that he was eager to leave and she shrugged. “You knew I never liked you, so why is this upsetting you so much? It’s not like we were actually going to have a ‘real’ life together anyways.”

“I thought I was just helping you out of bad situation,” Nate spoke up seeing the way her eyes stared out at him and he shook his head slowly. Throwing his hands up he took in a deep breath and tried to calm down a bit. “You know, I’m glad I mean nothing to you. I figured as much, but if you don’t want my help…I can go and find the real father for you. Let him know what you are doing with his baby and how you are handling things…”

“No, don’t,” she grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let him walk away when Nate had gotten up from the bed and moved over toward the door to leave. “It’s not like I don’t appreciate what you are doing, but I’m not going to fall in love with you. There is no us, we are just going to pretend for a little while. That’s all.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s all,” he snapped watching her stand up from the bed and reach out to touch his face as he bit down on his bottom lip. “You can’t take back what you have already said.”

“I don’t want to,” she spoke up before shrugging and looking to the door hearing Paul and Jewel bickering a bit. “The one thing I truly like about this whole thing is that, I’m keeping you around to piss off my slutty sister.”

“Gee, that’s something wonderful to tell someone,” Nate went to leave again and she pulled him back as he stared out at her and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m already seeing what a mistake I did when I tried to be good to you. I shouldn’t have even wasted my time with you. It was all a lie and pathetic to begin with in the first place. I’m sorry I even bothered.”

“Listen to me, you know that I’m not a bad choice. You know you want to help me. You like me more than my sister and that is evident,” she spoke up reaching out to touch the side of his face as she heard the sounds of footsteps approaching her door as she smiled. Curling her finger under his chin she took in a deep breath before tipping up. “I think we could make a great couple. I think we are…perfect.”

“Perfect?” he muttered slightly confused knowing that she was just telling him how awful they were together and how they were never going to be real.

He could hear the sound of the door opening and he turned to see who it was, but before he could he felt her grab a hold of him and pull him into a quick kiss.

Then it hit him what she was doing…it must have been Jewel at the door. She was using him again just like she said she was and this wasn’t how you were supposed to be living life.

The whole idea seemed good when he first came up with it, but now…he wasn’t so sure. This was turning out to be a nightmare that he couldn’t seem to get rid of. It was killing him inside to be lying to people and now he wished he had never done it.


Paul smirked as he moved out into the hallway and saw Jewel let out a small scream before walking back down the hallway seeing Jewel move over toward the kitchen to toss something else at the wall.

“I take it you saw something…you didn’t like,” Paul teased seeing her go to yell at him and she stopped herself turning away from him as she obviously tried to calm down in the corner by herself. “What were they doing in there that upset you so much hun? What is it? You finally get one upped by your sister and you just can’t take it?”

“You need to shut up. You can tell that he doesn’t like Cori by the way they kiss. He was mine to begin with and…you don’t know anything,” she yelled at him seeing the way he smiled and she tossed her hands up before shaking her head. “You just like seeing me like this…don’t you? Upset over a man?”

“Considering this was what you did to me when we were together…,” he went silent for a minute before letting out a heavy sound of laughter while shrugging his shoulders. “Oh hell yes. I love seeing you like this. It makes a man realize the top of the food chain, really isn’t what you think it is.”

“It’s one man Paul,” she threw back at him seeing him shrug as she moved into the living room hoping he would stop following her, but as she heard his footsteps behind her she knew it wouldn’t stop.

“If it’s just one man, then why are you so upset about it? You aren’t used to being second best. Or lower than second best, so this must be really tearing apart your ego…isn’t it?” he teased her further more as she turned to him and stared out at her with his blue eyes. “Honestly, that ego was too big to start with. You should have never even gotten it because all you were was another hole on a man’s belt loop. Or a trip to the hospital to make sure they were dying of some kind of disease.”

“You have such a big mouth,” Jewel slapped him as hard as she could hearing the sound echo through out the room as she felt a rage growing inside of her. “Don’t you ever shut up?!”

“Mom!” Stacy yelled at her mother from where she had walked into the room to see her mother hit her father and she moved over toward Paul wrapping her arms around him. “What is wrong with you? Do you always have to mess things up? Why can’t you just leave him alone?”

“You haven’t been here little girl, so don’t even begin to try and act like you know what’s going on,” Jewel snapped at her daughter seeing the way Paul snarled at her and hugged Stacy in closer to him away from Jewel. “You like screwing this whole family up, don’t you Paul?”

“Him? It’s you that tore this family apart,” Stacy pulled away from Paul and stared down at the glass that had been shattered and she moved toward the kitchen to see the mess her mother made. “You are such an immature person. I don’t get how you are like this. I don’t get you at all. You are an adult. Why don’t you start acting like it! I’m so sick of you. I wish you would just…I wish you would…”

“Shh…honey, don’t say anything,” Paul glared over at Jewel before turning to Stacy caressing her cheek softly before gulping down. “I shouldn’t have came here in the first place. Just…calm down, alright? Everything is going to be okay. I’m just…I’m going to leave, but I will be back alright. If you need me, just call me and I will be here.”

“Okay…,” Stacy gulped down fighting the urge to start crying as her father pressed on last kiss over her forehead and she took in a deep breath watching him move for the door. Once he left, she turned to Jewel who was staring out at her blankly and Stacy shook her head slowly. “I hate you! I hate everything about you!”

Watching Stacy run off down the hallway starting to cry, she took in a deep breath and looked at the mess she had made realizing she would have to be the one to clean up this mess somehow.

“Great,” she huffed to herself hearing the door slam down the hallway and she closed her eyes for a minute before shaking her head. This was Paul’s fault.


Ria paced around the hallway knowing full well she should return to Kevin’s hospital room and fight for her man, yet when she thought about how close she’d been to almost telling Kevin about what she’s uncovered at Marie’s apartment, she realized she couldn’t bring herself to go in there just yet. Not with Angela around. It would be far too much to have to tell them both the truth right now considering that it would certainly be something to bring them closer to one another.

“Ria,” she heard a voice call out to her. She turned around and thought that Angela was approaching, but after a second look she realized it was Avery, who now had her hair pinned up after she’d gone back to the hotel to clean up, “hey.”

“Avery, hi,” Ria waved over at her with a breath of relief thankful that it wasn’t Angela.

“How are you doing?” Avery questioned curiously thinking about everything that had happened. “How are you and Kevin holding up?”

“I’m fine and Kevin,” Ria paused thinking about the man she loved before offering up a small smile, “well he’s doing better than anticipated and that’s in part due to what you did for him in the cavern.”

“I didn’t do anything more than what any friend would do during a time like that. I’m just glad that I was able to help,” Avery admitted remembering full well what it had been like to be trapped in the cavern with Kevin. “I just hope that he’ll heal alright.”

“I think his chances are a lot better than they would’ve been without you there,” Ria replied thinking about the state she’d found Kevin in. Her thoughts lingered to how close she had been to telling Kevin about his daughter before everything seemed to blow up in their faces so to speak.

“Hey, are you okay,” Avery touched Ria’s arm gently sensing something was troubling her, “Is there something more about Kevin that you’re not telling me?”

“No,” Ria shook her head before biting down on her bottom lip in the hopes of keeping herself from getting emotional. “I guess it’s just that we’ve been through so much lately and I’m just…well I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop after almost losing him.”

“The other shoe,” Avery contemplated that statement before a thought occurred to her. “He’s with Angela right now, isn’t he?”

“Am I that transparent,” Ria wiped at her face straining to keep from allowing her tears free reign of her. “I can’t believe that I’m acting like this.”

“That woman has been a pain in the butt from the get go. I can see full well while you might be worried,” Avery frowned knowing full well about how Angela thrived on making people miserable, “but you should know that Kevin loves you, not her.”

“I know that, but…” Ria stammered finding herself at a loss.

“But nothing,” Avery cut her off abruptly, “Kevin wanted nothing more than to find you again after we were trapped. He started talking about how he wanted nothing more than to spend his life with you--to tell you how much you meant to him, not her.”

“I believe that, but…” Ria trailed off with a heavy sigh, “They have a history together. They had a child once and…”

“And that doesn’t change what you two have together. Kevin loves you Ria,” Avery spoke up encouragingly, “I know that you’re his world and regardless of whatever stunt it is that she’s trying to pull, it won’t work. She only makes him miserable, but you, well you make him happy. You are what kept him alive in that cavern. It was the thought of getting back to you that kept him fighting. You have to believe that.”

“Right now I don’t know what to believe Avery,” Ria blurted out feeling the tension eating away at her insides, “So much has happened since he left town and…”

“And regardless of what’s gone down, Kevin belongs with you. I’m sure of it,” Avery continued to encourage her. “You’re the only woman that matters in his life and I know once you spend more time with him you’ll see that. Angela is his past and you’re his future--the future that he wants to continue to have each and every day of his life. You’re what he wants.”

“Yeah,” Ria replied turning to look over in the direction of Kevin’s room as she thought to herself silently, “but only because he doesn’t know that his past with Angela is far from being over.”

And with that thought in mind Ria realized that her dreams of happily ever after with Kevin were far from becoming the reality that she’d longed to hold onto in her life. Now with the possible threat of the truth making it’s way back to Angela and giving her leverage to move in on Kevin again lingering over her, Ria felt herself backed into a corner afraid of what would happen once Kevin and Angela knew all about the daughter they’d believed had died all those years ago. Once they were aware that their little girl was still alive all bets were off!


Russ walked off of the elevators after promising to meet up with Avery once he’d parked the rental car. Once they’d finished speaking with her father and Judy, they’d gone over to the hotel to check on Erin and get cleaned up before returning to check in on Kevin. After that it was time to get into planning for her father’s wedding and then perhaps they would finally have some much overdue alone time with one another. Whistling a tune to himself Russ rounded the corner of the hallway only to find himself face to face with the last person he’d wanted to see.

“Well look what the cat dragged in,” Brant snarled over at Russ, his dark eyes filling with venom as he glared over at his half brother before rolling his eyes, “I would’ve thought that you and Avery would be far from the hospital right now pawing all over one another somewhere and planning for the wedding of the century.”

“I bet you’d just love that considering that I’m sure you’ve already cooked up some kind of excuse to put an end to it, right?” Russ challenged his jaw flexing with anger now that he stared down his brother. “You’ve just been dying to find another way to cause problems for my family, but it’s not going to work this time Brant. We know all about your bluff.”

“I could care less about your family,” Brant rolled his eyes back at Russ before letting out a bored yawn, “You are irrelevant in my life at this point…”

“But not enough when you tried to keep Avery and I apart, were we?” Russ stepped up into Brant’s face, anger carrying over him, “I know all about your manipulations and while I thought you’d hit an ultimate low when you tried to steal my daughter from me, I have to admit you really only reaffirmed my beliefs about what a snake you truly are when you tried to keep me from my wife.”

“Excuse me,” Brant blinked back at him, “What are you talking about?”

“The lie that you and your idiot friend cooked up about you and Avery being married,” Russ tossed out at him, his words full of venom after spotting the surprised expression on Brant’s face, “What? You didn’t think that we’d ever find out the truth about your trying to keep Avery at your side by having Hart lie about the validity of my marriage to Avery?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Brant attempted to brush past him with a glare.

“Oh, but I think you do,” Russ reached out to snag his brother’s arm before pulling him back again, “I think you had it all figured out from the moment you decided that you wanted a piece of Avery. You tried multiple times to keep her away from me Brant, but it didn’t work. You couldn’t keep us apart from one another.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I have no intentions of trying to keep you away from one another considering that I have a family of my own,” Brant pushed away from Russ before adjusting his collar, “I have so much more than Avery could’ve ever provided me with.”

“You’re so full of it. I know damn well what you tried to pull and I’m warning you now if you even think about going near Avery or Erin, then so help me…” Russ warned waving his finger over at Brant.

“What are you going to do?” Brant challenged stepping in closer to him. “Are you going to beat me up and prove to Avery what a caveman you truly are? You know I never got why she was into you considering that you behave like such an undignified, rabid animal half the time. You don’t use logic or intelligence, but then again I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything more than that from a half breed bastard son of my father’s…”

“You son of a,” Russ lunged forward punching Brant right square across the jaw and sending him to the ground. Brant fell on his butt before looking up at Russ with a snarl.

“You’re so going to pay for that,” Brant growled charging up from the ground and head butting Russ in the abdomen. He slammed Russ back into a wall, fists flying in a moment of rage while Russ grabbed Brant’s head and maneuvered Brant in such a way that Brant landed face first into the wall.

“I’m going to kill you,” Russ snot back icily turning Brant around to punch him only to have his fist blocked.

“Not if I don’t kill you first,” Brant pushed his weight forward sending Russ across the hallway as the two men engaged in a violent confrontation with one another. Their fight escalated and as they attempted to tear one another apart limb for limb Grady and Don rounded the corner of the hallway seeing the two half-brothers tearing at one another.

“Russ!” Grady rushed forward attempting to pull his brother off of Brant while Don did the same in keeping Brant away from Russ. Once the two men were separated they continued to curse at one another.

“This isn’t over Ashford! I’m warning you now stay away from Avery!” Russ shouted, his voice vibrating with anger.

“I don’t want Avery, but if I did I wouldn’t have to try to take her from you because she would find her way to me all on her own when she grew tired of you,” Brant taunted watching Russ writhe in Grady’s arms wild with anger.

“Let it go Russ! He’s not worth it!” Grady tried to talk his brother down, but it didn’t seem to be working.

“That’s right Grady. Take your brother back to the rock he climbed out from under because he’s irrelevant in the grand scheme of things,” Brant tossed out at Russ once again, “Hell our father cared so little about the mistake he’d made in you that he decided to take matters into his own hands and eliminate you which was probably one of the smartest moves he‘d ever made because I wouldn’t want to claim someone like you as a son either.”

“That’s it…” Russ pushed forward again as Don pushed Brant aside.

“Let it go,” Don warned Brant with a stern expression, “This is the last thing you need right now.”

“He started it,” Brant scowled glaring over at Russ all over again.

“And I’m ending it now. Stop it Brant,” Don repeated with a firm expression ready to say something more when there was a page for Brant over the intercom. “See, obviously you’re meant to be elsewhere. Shake it off and forget about him.”

“Right,” Brant decided shrugging it off and stepping aside to give Russ one last glare, “For what it’s worth Russ you and Avery both deserve one another. You’re both pathetic.”

“You’re the pathetic one Brant. You’ll always be beyond pitiful,” Russ tossed out at Brant after Brant and Don walked off.

“Let it go Russ. That son of a bitch isn’t worth your time,” Grady offered up once again knowing full well that his brother was far from being okay with what had happened with Brant, yet Grady knew full well the last thing Russ needed was to get into a scuffle with Brant that would cost him far more than the price Grady was certain Russ would be willing to pay!


“I want that,” Kevin finally admitted unable to mask the raw emotions that carried over him, “I want to be the man that Ria needs in her life--the kind of person who can stop breaking her heart and start filling her life with all the love that she deserves.”

“I know you can be that man,” Angela offered up reaching for his hand and squeezing it gently, “I’m well aware of the fact that you can be all that and more. You just have to believe that you deserve love in your life again.”

“For a long time I didn’t think so, but with Ria,” Kevin paused a thoughtful expression carrying over him, “She makes me want to believe in happiness again.”

“Then stop fighting it and start living your life Kevin. Fate was issuing you a pretty stern warning after Craven tried to kill you, but this time rather than closing yourself down like you did the last time, why not make the most of what life has to offer?” she suggested with a warm smile her dark eyes fixed on his, “Why not seize what the world has to offer you?”

“Because I don’t know if the world is ready for that just yet,” he couldn’t help but tease a hint of a smile curling over his lips, “I have a lot of love to give you know.”

“And I’m sure Ria is going to love each and every second of it,” she patted his shoulder gently before winking down at him, “since you’re so very good at it.”

“You know I’m one of the best,” Kevin winked up at her before offering up a small laugh, “so when it gets down to it I really couldn’t blame you for waking up and wanting to be in love with me since I’m sure Brant has his shortcomings.”

“I’ll have you know that he is far from having shortcomings,” Angela replied in Brant’s defense thinking about the man she loved. “He’s far from being short and…”

“Okay stop right there,” Kevin placed his hand over his abdomen and groaned, “The pain meds I’m on have me nauseous enough. The last thing I need is to have vivid mental images of you and Brant in any kind of sexual situation.”

“Oh come on. It could be enlightening since he’s very well equipped to,” she offered up once again only to feel his fingers clasp over her mouth to silence her.

“The last thing I want to talk about is Brant’s equipment, so please can we just stop right there,” Kevin pleaded with her before letting out another groan, “In fact can we just shift the subject altogether and maybe talk about something a bit less graphic.”

“Such as?” she arched a curious brow seeing the smile that curved over the corners of his mouth.

“Such as those little children that obviously are wondering where their mother drifted off to. I would imagine that they are getting uneasy right about now with their father worrying about your being here with me,” Kevin wiggled his brow suggestively before laughing.

“Trust me Brant is fine with my being here,” she informed him point blank thinking about her conversation with Brant before she arrived.

“Only because he knows you’re in a forced state of celibacy right now after labor,” Kevin joked again catching the wrinkled expression on her face.

“I’ll have you know that he’s very happy right now and who wouldn’t be? You should see the twins,” she gushed with a warm expression, her eyes glazing over with pride and enthusiasm, “They are so beautiful.”

“With you as their mother I knew that they’d have half a shot at being cute,” Kevin jabbed only to feel Angela swat at his arm again, “Hey I’m an injured man here. Be nice.”

“You be nice,” she wiggled her finger in front of his face. “I’ll have you know that they are absolutely perfect and Brant was very gallant in rescuing us.”

“Brant rescued you?” Kevin arched a curious brow. “How in the hell did he manage that one considering that the last time I saw him he had a hole in his arm and his abdomen?”

“I don’t know what it was, but he and Don found me before it was too late,” Angela continued to explain to him remembering the strange circumstances surrounding the birth of their children. “They found me in a cavern and…”

“Are you telling me that you had the twins in a cavern?” Kevin’s eyes widened in astonishment.

“Yeah I did,” she let out an ironic laugh, “After all that worrying I did about finding the right hospital and the right doctor, it seemed that the situation had other plans for me. Fortunately Don was there and…”

“Oh man that had to suck,” Kevin couldn’t help but groan at the thought, “That man is such a pervert that I’m sure he got off on the very idea of…”

“Be nice,” Angela swatted at his shoulder once again, “I happen to like Don a lot.”

“Of course you do because he’s a freak,” Kevin groaned inwardly before shaking his head, “You seem to be drawn to them. Case in point, well look at Brant.”

“Hey now that’s the father of my children that you’re talking about. Be nice or else I’m going to have to reconsider naming my son after you,” she warned him sharply wiggling her finger in his face.

“What?” Kevin blinked up at her before tipping his head, “What did you just say?”

“I was trying to tell you that Brant and I decided it was only fitting for us to name our son after you and our daughter after Don,” Angela continued to explain to him with a wide grin, “since he saved her life…”

“You named your daughter Donald?” Kevin blinked back at her before reaching out to touch her forehead gently. “Angie, now I know you’re not feeling okay.”

“We named her Alison,” she shook her head at him before laughing, “and we named our son Brandon.”

“Brandon,” Kevin paused realizing that she’d used his middle name with her son. “Are you serious?”

“Well, we couldn’t name him Animal after your,” Angela opened her mouth to finish her statement only to feel him clasp his hand over her lips to silence her.

“Let’s just not go there,” Kevin teased with a hearty laugh of his own, “Brandon huh? And Brant agreed to it?”

“He didn’t have a choice in the matter because I beat him to submission,” Angela laughed lightly before finally letting out a sigh, “Actually it was his idea.”

“Wait, what?” Kevin’s chocolate colored eyes opened further. “Are you saying that he…”

“He thought it would be fitting because even if you two don’t get along, I think he knows how important you are not only to me, but to our family,” Angela reached for his hand squeezing it gently, “Brant knows that you care and deep down he doesn’t hate you nearly as much as he lets on.”

“Funny because I still hate him as much as I’ve lead him to believe,” Kevin joked feeling her jab him in the ribs. “What?”

“You’re such a liar, but it’s okay. I won’t tell Brant that you’re secretly sweet on him as well,” Angela offered up with a whisper leaning in to kiss his cheek gently. “It’ll be our secret.”

“I don’t like Brant,” Kevin half protested, “I can’t stand the man considering that…”

“That he felt it was right to name our son after you,” she tossed back at him with a pointed expression, “I hope you realize what that means to our boy’s future considering that I know full well what you’re all about…”

“Hey, it’s not nearly as loaded as naming your daughter after Don. I’ve seen that guy in some really awkward moments and…” Kevin began again before letting out a laugh. “Wow, Brandon. I can’t believe it.”

“Believe it because when you’re feeling well enough you’re going to see it,” Angela assured him with a smile, “because I want you to meet your godson. Brant and I already talked about that and we’re hoping you won’t refute that offer either.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he promised with a genuine smile behind his words, “I’m just glad that you both want me to be a part of their lives considering…”

“You’ve been a part of their lives from the start. Why would Brant and I want to change that now?” she tossed back at him, “Besides I didn’t think Brant Jr. really sounded like a good idea.”

“Yeah right,” Kevin reached out to snake his arm around her and pull her in closer to him, “though for what it’s worth I’m flattered, very flattered.”

“You should be because it says a lot about the special place you have in all of our lives,” she lay her head on his shoulder feeling a moment of ease and comfort between them.

“You’re pretty special to me too, but don’t think for a second that I would name my daughter Angela because there is no way in hell that I would wish that upon a child since I remember full well what you were like,” he noted with a hearty laugh before shaking his head.

“Fair enough, but I get dibs on being a godmother down the road,” she informed him with a laugh thankful that she and Kevin were finally about to communicate with one another without any misconceptions about what it was that they meant to one another in their lives. While they hadn’t ended up together, that didn’t mean that they still couldn’t have a special bond with one another that time clearly could not break. Through the ups and downs they still held their friendship and it was something that neither one of them wanted to let go of for anything in the world.


“Would you look at his butt?” Jackie gushed over at Jason now that she sat out in the lawn chair on her balcony with Stacy and Lindsay. Her dark eyes fixed on Jason as he leaned over the trunk of his car putting a suitcase into it. She smiled licking her lips for a moment before sighing, “He has to have the most perfect butt I have ever seen.”

“I’ve seen better,” Stacy replied adding a topcoat to the purple haze nail polish that she’d just applied to her toes. She lowered her sunglasses a bit before eyeing Jason for a moment of silent contemplation, “Although he is pretty hot. I’d totally hit that.”

“Stacy!” Lindsay snapped back at her in a muted tone, “Don’t talk that way. I’m sure he can hear you.”

“He can’t hear us,” Jackie waved her hand dismissively before turning to watch Jason once again, “Oh yeah I would totally hit that in a heartbeat. Can you imagine what he would be like in bed with that body and…”

“I don’t want to hear this,” Lindsay groaned reaching for her glass of lemonade. “That’s Deana’s brother that you’re talking about.”

“So what,” Stacy shrugged with a small wiggle of her toes once she’d set the topcoat aside. “It doesn’t mean because you know his family that we can’t look. I mean it’s not like he’s related to you, right?”

“Well no, but…” Lindsay looked out across the parking lot once again and sighed, “I just don’t feel comfortable talking about him this way.”

“Then don’t talk about him like we are and just listen,” Jackie offered up with a small laugh reaching down to adjust the tiny bikini top she’d eased herself into. She leaned forward reaching for the spray bottle she’d brought out on the balcony with her. She began to mist at her shoulders and chest before flashing a smile over in Jason’s general direction, “Damn what I wouldn’t give for an hour alone with him.”

“Jackie stop,” Lindsay cursed under her breath ready to say something more when Jason looked up at the three of them. He smiled at them before waving his hand up in their direction.

“Damn he is fine,” Stacy gushed waving back at Jason again, “Forget what I said before. I would so totally go for him in a heartbeat.”

“Stand in line honey,” Jackie whispered watching Jason move in closer to them. The two girls followed his every movement until Jason waved again up at them.

“Lindsay hey,” Jason smiled up at Don’s younger sister, “how’s it going?”

“Great,” Lindsay replied with a polite expression listening to the whispers of Jackie and Stacy. “How are you?”

“I’m pretty good,” Jason motioned to the sky overhead, “It’s a nice day isn’t it?”

“We haven’t had weather like this in a long time,” Jackie blurted out leaning over the railing in a shameless attempt to get him to notice her, “You must be super hot down there working in that car like that.”

“I don’t mind,” Jason shrugged his shoulders reaching down to the bottom of his shirt and bringing it up to reveal his washboard muscled abdomen without giving it a second thought. He ran the material of his t-shirt up over his face for a brief moment wiping at the thin line of sweat on his brow before lowering it again, “It’s not that bad.”

“How about some lemonade?” Stacy suggested flashing a flirty smile at him, “It’s freshly squeezed.”

“Hmm, well since you put it that way it sounds good,” Jason decided with a small smile, “I’ll be right up.”

“Great. The door is unlocked. We’ll see you soon,” Jackie beamed excitedly watching Jason slip into the apartment complex before she sprung up off of the folding chair. “Oh my God I can’t believe he’s coming up here. He is so hot and…”

“And I’m answering the door,” Stacy announced pulling off the pullover she’d put on over her own pink bikini top.

“Oh no you’re not,” Jackie shook her head firmly, “I’m so taking this one.”

“You two are pathetic,” Lindsay rolled her eyes moving back into the apartment to find Jason standing there.

“So about that lemonade,” Jason smiled over at Lindsay before lowering his tone, “Is it really here or was that their way of getting another look at my butt up close?”

“You heard all of that huh,” Lindsay frowned glancing back at her two friends who were still bickering on the balcony unaware that Jason was already at the apartment

“Hey, I was young once. It’s no big deal,” Jason shrugged it off before smiling over at her, “Actually I was hoping to talk to you before I left.”

“You were,” Lindsay tipped her head to the side giving him a strange look.

“Yeah, I um, well I’m about to go meet Deana on her vacation. She and Grady are apparently getting married out of the blue, so Zane and I are going out there to see them. Your mom invited Zane and I over for dinner tonight, but we’re not going to be able to make it. I didn’t want her thinking we were rude by not just showing up,” Jason explained rubbing his palms together before smiling, “I tried calling her cell, but there was no answer.”

“She took it in for service earlier and there’s been a hold up,” Lindsay informed him with a polite smile, “but I will relay the message to her.”

“Awesome,” Jason smiled over at her before glancing out to where Jackie and Stacy were still bickering with one another, “and for what it’s worth tell your friends that I appreciated the lemonade offer, but I have to get Zane ready.”

“Will do and wish Deana good luck for me,” Lindsay offered up with a warm smile.

“Will do,” Jason stepped forward to give Lindsay a small hug before stepping back, “and be careful around those two. They look dangerous.”

“Pathetic is more like it, but I can hold my own. I use the brain God gave me and I do just fine,” Lindsay admitted with a small laugh feeling him step away from her.

“Smart girl,” Jason touched her chin in a friendly gesture before smiling, “I wish they all were like you because if they were I would easily find the right woman.”

“I thought you already had the right woman,” Lindsay wrinkled her nose at him, “What about Mindy?”

“She’s great, but you’re perfect,” Jason offered up with a warm expression, “Any man will be lucky to marry you in a couple decades from now.”

“I hope it’s not that long. I’d be really old,” Lindsay groaned inwardly before shaking her head.

“Trust me when it happens he’ll be a lucky guy and hopefully one day I’ll meet someone as amazing as you are. Most women well, let’s just say they work an angle and are a lot like your friends out there. You’re sweet and I like that. Don’t change it for your friends or any guy because it’s so not worth it,” Jason suggested giving her one last look before turning to leave, “I should get back to Zane.”

“Okay,” she waved watching him leave before Jackie and Stacy entered the apartment.

“Was that Jason?” Jackie frowned seeing his exit.

“Where is he going?” Stacy questioned with a pouty expression.

“He’s got to take Zane to meet up with Deana for her wedding,” Lindsay shrugged her shoulders before moving into Jackie’s kitchen and refilling her own drink.

“Well what did he say while he was here? What did he tell you?” Stacy couldn’t help but ask following Lindsay into the kitchen with Jackie on her heels.

“That he thinks the two of you are total skanks and he finds it totally unappealing,” Lindsay explained to them delivering a wide smirk, “He said there is something more about being sweet. He likes nice girls, which I guess means you both have no chance at catching his attention.”

“What?” Jackie frowned seeing Lindsay walk back out onto the balcony. She turned to Stacy before speaking up again, “You don’t really think he said that, do you?”

“Nah, he wouldn’t,” Stacy paused contemplating what Lindsay said, “right?”

“Yeah, Lindsay is just kidding,” Jackie shrugged her shoulders before pondering the thought, “at least I hope.”


“This is a joke,” Alexa threw her hands up in the air, her frustrations mounting after she and Ben had hit roadblock after roadblock with one another in their case, “I can’t believe that this is happening. I mean what other logic could there be behind what has been taking place other than it being someone’s twisted idea of a sick joke?”

“I don’t know,” Ben confessed finding himself bewildered at the situation that had been taking place around them, “I can honestly tell you that I’ve never been on a case that hit so many roadblocks before as I have now. Even when I worked in D.A. Chavez’s office I never found so many dead ends and…”

“Speaking of Chavez,” Alexa spun around to face him again, “I take it you’ve heard about her murder.”

“Briefly,” Ben nodded back at her a frown touching over his lips, “I know that she was into a lot of less than ethical practices, but I never anticipated hearing that something like that would happen to her.”

“She was bad news from the reports I read,” Alexa noted slumping down in the chair she’d gotten anxious sitting in earlier, “I heard that she was ready to turn evidence on some of her partners though…”

“Even if she had been able to tell someone, I would imagine that her testimony would’ve disappeared long before she had a chance to give it,” Ben frowned thinking about his time in Chavez’s office. “She was ruthless and cutthroat about things, but she never really gave people the chance to get inside.”

“Hence your first real roadblock to everything,” Alexa noted arching a curious brow.

“It wasn’t the easiest assignment, but it brought me closer to Diane, which is something I won’t regret,” Ben paused another thought occurring to him, “though you know Alexa if all of our leads are turning into dead ends here maybe it’s time we just admit that things aren’t going right and we move on.”

“What do you mean move on,” she frowned back at him, “Ben we can’t just drop our case.”

“No, but maybe we can explore other leads in Coral Valley. You said it yourself that it would appear that Guerrero had ties out there as well. Maybe if we investigate them,” Ben suggested hoping to find something that would make up for the frustrations that they’d been experiencing.

“You’re just throwing that out on the table because you miss Diane. Admit it. It has nothing to do with this case,” Alexa shot back at him with a thick frown.

“So what if I am missing her? I miss my life and I can’t help that it is something that I would like to get back to. Can you blame me for that?” he frowned over at her not liking her tone with him.

“No, but still we have an obligation to find the truth out here,” she continued to remind him thinking about the assignment they were on.

“Our obligation is to uncover the truth, but at this rate we’re headed nowhere but to trouble. All of our leads turn out to slam us into a brick wall and then after that,” Ben stopped himself before frowning, “I just need some air. This office is suffocating.”

“I can’t argue that one,” Alexa replied with a simple shake of her head, “It’s just frustrations eating away at us.”

“Yeah, well I’m hoping it’ll stop soon because I would really just like to get my life back again,” Ben sighed thinking about Diane and missing her like crazy now that he’d been away for so very long without being able to be with her or see her like he’d wanted to. Closing his eyes he found himself wondering where she was and what she was doing now that he couldn’t help but wish he was at home with her.


Diane walked to Shane’s apartment remembering vaguely where it was after everything that had happened. She’d remembered him mentioning it in passing, but now as she stood outside his door, she found herself wondering if she’s truly lost her mind. She knocked on the door waiting for him to respond as she wondered what she would say to him. Things had been tense especially after she’d wound up finding herself increasingly attracted to him. She‘d attempted to blow it off as missing Ben, but she was convinced there was something else. Actually, it hadn’t been so much that she was in denial that she’d found herself interested in Shane, but more so that she needed to find out what it was that had her coming back to him and risking everything for a taste of the ever growing passion between them.

“This is crazy,” she whispered under her breath knocking one last time before opting to forget about the situation entirely. She turned around to leave and pressed forward ready to forget the entire notion of seeing Shane after things had transpired between them. She was almost to Deidra’s apartment when she spotted him standing outside the door looking as inviting as ever.

“Shane?” she spoke his name surprised to see him standing there in front of her, “What are you…what are you doing here?”

“I got bored at my place and thought I would stop by to see you again after the way that we left things off before,” he admitted pushing his hands into his pants pockets, “I hope you don’t think that I’m out of line for doing so.”

“No I don’t, but…” she paused thinking about what he’d said to her, “Shane, I was just at your apartment and…”

“You went to my apartment,” his eyes grew large at her confession, “Just now?”

She nodded before clearing her throat uneasily, “Yeah, I um wanted to talk to you about something and…”

“What did you want to talk to me about?” He couldn’t help but ask making a small step towards her. “What’s on your mind Diane?”

“What isn’t on my mind after what we…” she paused taking in a small breath before attempting to keep things cool and even between them. She met his mysterious eyes again before offering up a smile, “Never mind what I wanted. What did you need to see me about?”

“It wasn’t so much what I needed, but rather that I wanted…” he paused searching for the right words before taking a step forward, “I guess you could say that I wanted to check in with you and maybe see if you’d…”

“Yes?” she questioned a bit more eager than she’d anticipated sounding. She stepped in closer to him without a second thought before moving back to place a distance between them. “What did you want?”

“I was wondering if you’d have dinner with me tonight,” he blurted out without hesitation, “That is if I can tempt you into…”

“I don’t know if that is such a good idea,” she interrupted quickly feeling her nerves in the center of her stomach getting to her, “I mean considering that…”

“We’re friends, right?” he questioned searching her eyes for a long moment. “I would like to think that after what happened the other night and earlier that we can still be friends, yes?”

“I’d like that, but…well, I think you should know that I’m not like that. I mean I don’t normally come off as being so desperate and…” she started to fidget with her fingers, “It’s just that with Ben being away and…”

“You don’t have to explain it to me,” he raised his hand up in the air before flashing her a small smile, “I just want a second chance to make things right. I don’t want to lose you as a friend considering that…”

“We both kind of screwed up,” she nodded finishing his statement for him, “I think dinner might be a good idea. We can clear the air that way.”

“Really?” he lit up at her response. He reached out to touch her shoulder gently before rethinking it, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I think it will be a good idea for us to do that,” she nodded knowing full well that right now the last place she needed to be was spending anymore time with Shane. Still with Ben away she knew she had to prove to herself that she could stay true to what mattered most in her life. She might be setting herself up for the ultimate test, but this was one that she was almost completely convinced she would be successful with. At least she was hoping so!


...to be continued...