Episode 428

Judy hung up the phone and turned to Richard, feeling a smile touch over her features when she noticed the expression on Richard’s face now that he had his eyes upon her. She stepped forward unable to repress the laugh that built up in the back of her throat at the sight of him.

“So how did it go?” Richard questioned curiously. “I’m guessing better than you anticipated given that smile on your face.”

“They are both thrilled that we’re finally tying the knot,” Judy confessed sliding her arms around Richard’s shoulders, “and Diane’s even more excited that you offered to pay the airfare out here.”

“What can I say?” Richard smiled down at Judy. “We’re all about to be family so your girls are important to me.”

“That means a lot to hear you say that,” Judy placed her hand over his chest. “I know that we’ve had a lot between us, but having our children’s blessing has been so important in this decision we’ve made.”

“I agree,” Richard smiled back at her. “It’s been a long road for us and I want everything to be perfect.”

“It will be,” Judy promised leaning into his embrace, “especially now that we’re in the middle this tropical paradise together.”

“I still remember the last time we were here,” Richard touched her face lightly. “Even though it was for Russ and Avery’s wedding I knew that one day I wanted to be here again with you.”

“So did I,” Judy leaned up on her toes to kiss him before stepping back, “but for so very long I felt like it was never going to happen.”

“That was my fault because I should’ve thought things through when it mattered,” Richard sighed heavily. “If only I would’ve seen through Brooke’s lies and manipulations sooner…”

“You had two beautiful children Rick. They’re an important part of your life even if Brooke brought ugliness to it. She gave you them and that’s the one thing she did right with you,” she paused for a moment, “Just like I wouldn’t trade my daughters for the world.”

“I realize that and now is about moving forward, not looking back,” he insisted moving in for another embrace. “This wedding is going to be everything we’ve always wanted and more.”

“I know it is and I honestly can’t wait,” Judy admitted proudly realizing that after years of longing for an opportunity to share her life with Richard, it was finally happening for them at long last.


“So what’s the emergency?” Dean questioned as he and Deidra sat in the café with one another.

“It’s not really an emergency, but rather a proposal I have for you,” Deidra explained drawing in a breath. Her brown eyes focused on Dean as she spoke up once again, “How do you feel about weddings?”

“Weddings,” Dean gulped in response, “as in marriage?”

“Yes as in marriage,” Deidra pondered the thought for a moment as she realized Dean’s face had drained of all color. With a laugh she waved her hand dismissively, “not our marriage. Believe me I’m not even remotely close to going down that road again considering that the first time I failed at it miserably.”

“I didn’t think that you were going to…” Dean practically fell out of his chair as he tried to recover from the surprise he’d allowed himself to reveal in his tone. “I mean it’s not that I haven’t thought about…”

“Relax Dean. I’m not proposing to you,” she insisted further, “although I’m not sure if I should worry or not about your hesitance when you thought I brought it up.”

“You just shell shocked me,” Dean confessed with a breath of relief. “You and I just never really touched upon the subject before and when I thought it was coming up I guess I just sort of reacted and…never mind. What’s going on Deidra? What did you want to talk about?”

“About my mother,” Deidra continued with her original subject. “She and Richard are finally tying the knot.”

“Really?” Dean raised a curious brow. “Well that’s wonderful.”

“It’s better than wonderful,” Deidra explained further. “My mother is out with Richard on this beautiful island and they are flying us out there for the wedding.”

“Excuse me,” Dean replied with wide eyes, “when?”

“As soon as possible which is why I was hoping that I could get a hold of you and plead with you to get some time off,” she reached across the table to take his hand in hers. “I just know it will be a wonderful time for the both of us and you’ll love it there.”

“I’m sure I would, but I’m in the middle of a case right now and,” he started apologetically.

“Please Dean. It would mean the world to my mother and beyond that,” she hesitated as a tension coiled in over her, “it’s important to me that I have you there not just for my mother. You see when I was on that island the last time, well that’s when I crossed paths with Bruce Mathis and…”

“You’re worried about what being there again might do to you,” he finished for her.

She nodded.

“When I was there the last time I did some really stupid, impulsive things and although there were so many wonderful memories about being with my mother I can’t help but find myself returning to that brief moment in my life when I could’ve lost everything,” she shifted on her chair uncomfortably. “I understand if you can’t get the time off though considering that it was last minute and…”

“Say no more,” Dean insisted squeezing her hand in his. “I’ll do whatever it is that you need.”

“Really?” she glanced up at him once again with a hopefulness behind her dark eyes.

“Yes really and for the record,” he mouthed leaning in closer to her, “I do love you Deidra Byrne and if you were going to propose to me today I would’ve said yes.”

“You would not have,” she shook her head at his blatant attempt to alleviate any worries she might’ve carried after the opening of their conversation.

“Of course I would have although it would’ve been a bit of a let down for me because I’d always imagine when the time arrived I would be the one to do the honors,” he dipped in closer to her in an attempt to steal a kiss from her lips.

“I’m going to hold you to that when we’re both ready,” she arched back and explained.

“Good because when that moment arrives I can promise you it will be right for both of us,” he whispered warmly as he bridged the distance between them in a tender kiss.


Sitting outside in the car, Don tapped his hands against the steering trying to ponder out how he was going to run with the situation at hand. He had left police station a while ago and he had been in the driveway of his house for the last ten minutes or so.

Shannon’s car was already parked right next to his showing him that she was home and he wasn’t quite sure that he wanted to deal with her right now. While away with Brant on the island, he could recall the multiple voice mails he got from her about him being gone. None of them were nice. They were all very angry and agitated with him. He knew that the moment he walked into that house and came face to face with her that it would become a living hell.

So it really came down to two choices for him. Did he stay and face the pain of it now? Or would he come back later and rest a bit while she was gone and then take on the anger from her?

It shouldn’t have been a hard choice for someone, but it was hard for him because he knew how she was going to act. Either way around it, it was going to happen. So why not now when he was already wound up instead of having it happen when he was relaxed.

Sighing heavily, he pulled his sunglasses off and tossed them into the passenger seat knowing that this was going to be hard for him. His whole body was tense because he was preparing himself for the fighting that he knew that he had ahead for himself.

Moving out of the car, he carefully closed the door shut because he didn’t want her to hear him even out in the front. Knowing his luck, she would come out screaming and throwing fists--something he really didn’t want his neighbors to see. He’d like to think more of Shannon, but he knew the way she acted was sometimes…not very respectable.

Stopping halfway up the sidewalk, he looked at the door and debated if he should be going back to the car and leaving. This wasn’t a way a husband should be feeling about his wife and he felt bad about it, but it was just the way she was. He knew her actions.

“You can do this,” a little voice in the back of his head told him while he still stood outside. There was so much worry building up inside of him that he knew if he didn’t go now, he would probably never want to go home.

Pulling out his keys, he moved up on the porch and put the keys in the door almost expecting her to pull open the door at the very sound of him home. Waiting for a moment, he finally pushed open the door and took a look around the living room seeing that it was empty.

“Good so far,” Don stepped into the living room finding himself relieved that Shannon wasn’t there to greet him. Closing the door behind him carefully, he imagined that maybe she would be in a good mood. One that he could actually deal with on his first day home. “Alright."

Letting out a heavy sigh, he tossed his keys to the coffee table across from him and then turned around letting out a wince when he saw Shannon standing behind him.

“Shannon…hey…I didn’t even hear you,” Don pulled at his collar as he tried to move around her, seeing the expression that was over her face. The one that he knew would kill his hopes of actually having a decent encounter with her. “It’s great to see you sweetheart."

Don moved forward to give her a kiss, but was denied by the motion of her head turning away from him. Sighing heavily, he pressed a quick kiss over her cheek and then moved toward the bedroom. There was that lingering silence and it sent a chill down his spine because he knew it wouldn’t last long.

“I can not believe you,” Shannon finally spoke up making Don stop in the middle of the living room knowing that if he walked away from her, he would regret it. “You just walk into the house like nothing happened. Like you didn’t even leave."

“I didn’t really think it would be a big deal,” Don sighed rubbing his thick fingers over the back of his neck thinking about the situation. “My friend was in need of my help, I helped him. I don’t see anything wrong with that."

“Of course you don’t see anything wrong with that because Brant is some sort of God to you in your eyes,” Shannon threw her hands up in the air letting out an angered noise as Don huffed heavily turning back around to look at her. “You just picked up and left without telling us."

“Because I knew this would be your reaction…,” Don pointed out knowing his comment just hit a button inside of her that was about to send her on a rampage. So instead of just standing around to wait for it to be over, he moved over to the couch and sat down.

“Because it was wrong of you. Something you did was wrong, but you will never see it that way because it’s always your way or no way,” Shannon moved closer to the couch ready to give him the lecture that she had planned out in her head every day that he had been gone. His blue eyes were staring out at her and his arms were folded in front of his chest almost in a pouting stature. “No one just up and leaves their family without talking about it with them first."

“Not that it matters, but it was pretty much a life and death situation for one of my friends,” Don tried to explain thinking about the situation that took place with Angela. The way that she took things hurt her heavily and she was running straight for trouble when she left Coral Valley.

“It always is with you. There is always a reason for something stupid you are doing. You are never going to grow up Don. As long as you are bending over backwards for Brant…doing whatever he commands of you, you’re never going to have a life,” Shannon explained in a heavy tone making sure he noticed the venom behind her voice. “I’m your wife, you should at least have to listen to what I have to say about everything. I called you constantly and you never answered. When did I suddenly not become important enough for you to call? Or even take part in something in your life?"

“I’m not going to listen to this,” Don threw his hands up in the air knowing that he told himself he would be silent. Listen to everything she had to say. Then just nod it off and say you are right honey, I’m sorry. It was just with all that she was saying, he was sick of it. Down right sick of it.

“Don’t walk away from me Don,” Shannon saw him get up and move for the bedroom as she tightly grasped her hand around his shoulder as hard as she could. Feeling him pull away from her, she could see his angry blue eyes glaring into hers and she shook her head slowly. “I at least deserve some kind of answer as to what has made you so stupid over the last few weeks."

“Alright Shannon, you listen to me and you listen to me good,” Don’s voice began to raise as his held his finger up, pointing out in her in a demanding manner. Shaking his head, he knew that he shouldn’t be responding to her like this, but he couldn’t take her yelling at him anymore. “I’m going to tell you this one time because I’m sick of hearing it and this is going to be the last time you ever do it."


“Either you take everything you’ve done back or I will take you up on that offer,” Cori could feel Nate trying to block her from going after Mindy. Everything was a mess, the people that had been caught in the already current cross fires of Cori’s intentions to hit Mindy were getting up to clean off. “I swear…”

“What is the worst possible thing that you could do to me? Huh? Throw soup in my face?" Mindy mocked her looking to the manager that was wiping the soup off his face and he was turning a dark shade of red. Mindy could tell that he was getting angry and she knew that Nate was trying to keep them apart. “You already did a perfect job at that, didn’t you?"

“That’s it,” Cori lunged forward at Mindy ready to pounce on her as she felt Nate’s arms hook around her waist tightly trying to hold her back from making some kind of mistake. Kicking her feet, she tried to get out of his grasps before squealing. “Damn it, let me go! Nate, get your arms off of me!”

“Calm down!” Nate tried to get her to stop as he saw Mindy antagonizing Cori and he kept a firm hold of her until he felt Cori’s foot kick him in the shin making him buckle forward from the pain it sent vibrating down his bone. “Son of a…”

Hearing the grunting sound of Cori, he looked up to see Mindy grabbed her arms and put her in some kind of choke lock from behind. Standing up, he debated stepping between the two girls, but then again as he felt the ache in his leg he decided to just leave it be and let her fend for herself for now.

“Let me go…,” Cori howled out as a few people tried to split them up, including the manager that Cori had recently just thrown soup on. Finally, they pulled Cori away from Mindy, but as they pulled her back Cori clawed her way out of their grasps and went back toward Mindy. In the process she knocked over another waitress that was carrying a tray of food to a table, knocking everything off onto the floor. “Damn it!”

Looking to see that everyone had gotten drinks and food on them, she could see Nate trying to wipe off his shirt. Shaking her head she tried to step forward, but felt her footing slipping beneath her from the slippery food beneath her.

“This is all your fault!” Cori screamed at Nate as he looked behind him to see if anyone was there before pointing to himself and she nodded. “I will never forgive you for this."

“Oh come on,” Mindy tossed her hands up in the air noticing the glare that Cori was giving her and she shrugged her shoulders. “This all started because you are a freak. Honestly, you are just a nut job."

Hearing the gasps of the people in the restaurant he saw Cori lunge forward and go to hit Mindy, but Mindy caught Cori’s arm before she could hit her. The both of them fell to the ground in a thud after Cori slipped, but he saw Mindy start to hit at Cori and he moved forward to try and grab her.

“Hey, hey…it’s not worth getting thrown in jail for,” Nate tried to pull her back with a bit of a chuckle behind his tone as Cori squealed from being left in the mess that was over the floor. Finally getting her back, he could feel her tense in his arms and he laughed. “Calm down."

“That’s it, the both of you need to get out of here. Right now!” The manager finally called out pointing at Nate and Mindy as they stood in the corner of the room trying to get things to settle down. He looked to the mess more so other than Cori that had taken place in his restaurant clearly upset. “Get out before I call the cops."

“Will do,” Nate felt the food and drinks still spilled over his body and he could see that they were over Mindy’s as well making him let out a tight breath. “Come on, let’s get out of here."

“Nate?" Cori’s voice could be heard as he moved toward the front with Mindy trying to make sure that she got out before she could get in any trouble from not leaving. Instead of answering Cori, he just kept on moving forward trying to make sure he got her out of there.

“She was calling you,” Mindy informed him as Nate pointed toward the door and outside. Once they were finally out, Mindy moved away from him and let out a disgusted noise seeing that she was a mess. “You know, I could have taken care of myself in there, you didn’t need to jump in."

“I know I didn’t brute, that’s why I had to get you out of there. You would have probably ended up behind bars if I didn’t get you out of there,” he laughed pushing back his long blonde hair that was wet from the drinks. “We just need to leave before you get into any more trouble."

“It wasn’t that bad…,” Mindy tried to defend herself letting out a tight laugh and then shook her head slowly. Nate gave her a glance and the more time they had between them, the more she realized what went on. “Okay, so maybe that was a little…bad."


“So come on Kipp…what do you say? This would be really important to me for all the reasons I’ve already said…,” Kellen suggested with a wide smile as he reached for the phone and held it close to his chest. He could see the way that Kipp was eyeing him over and he couldn’t tell whether he was leaning closer to yes or no. “If you want me to, I can draw out a chart of the good things that would come out of us going and then the bad things. Then again, I can’t think of the bad things so maybe you will have to sit down with me and do it, but that could be something we could do for you to make a decision."

“No, no…,” Kipp laughed at the eagerness behind Kellen’s suggestions and he thought things over for a moment. While he knew he wasn’t one for just jumping into things, he knew that this was important to Kellen. That was very clear based on his actions. “You don’t need to do that."

“So what does that mean?" Kellen let out a long sigh showing that he was getting sick of waiting for an answer and was just eager to have Kipp give him one. “Yes…or no?"

“Well, it clearly means a lot to you,” Kipp noticed catching the way that Kellen nodded immediately after he said it making him laugh. There were things that Kellen was excited about, but there were things you could tell that he really wanted and this was one of them. “So of course I’m going to go for you. We just might have to make some quick plans to get there and it might be a little stressful working so fast, but I’m sure we could do it."

“Yay…,” Kellen clapped happily before moving over to pick Kipp up in his arms, pulling him close against his chest. Letting out a squeal, he squeezed him closer and hugged him tightly. “You have no idea how much this means to me. I’ve always wanted my mother to meet you and now she gets the chance. You get to see what my home was like when I was young too. Oh and Kevin. He was there too. It’s a really great place."

“I’ve heard from Heather and Kyle,” Kipp laughed as Kellen spun him around once before setting him back safely to his feet on the ground. Kipp gradually slid his palm down the side of Kellen’s smooth cheek seeing the excitement behind his light blue eyes. “It sounds like it’s a wonderful place."

“That’s right…they are there. That’s a greater reason to go,” Kellen looked to Charles who was in the corner playing with one of his toys and he clapped his hands together again. “They have no idea though. I know all the great places to see beautiful things there. Great places we can take Charles around. Have a nice little family type trip. It will be really great for us."

“I believe you,” Kipp smirked happy that his boyfriend could be this excited over something so small. Kellen was always happy, but you could tell that this really brightened him up. Seeing him this happy, truly made Kipp ecstatic to see his lover like that. “I can’t wait."

“Me neither…,” Kellen muttered with a wide smile, his dimples extending over his young features. Moving over toward Charles, Kellen picked him up and held him in the air playfully. “Come here little guy."

Watching him for a moment, Kipp saw the way that Kellen would raise his son up and bring him close to press kisses over his face. Charles would burst out in laughter here and there making it easy to smile. Seeing the two of them together like this was great. They were very happy together and he couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“We have so much packing to do for you. We have to get your clothes, toys…everything packed up,” Kellen pulled him close to his chest before moving toward the living room with Kipp following him behind. Looking over his shoulder at Kipp, he took in a deep breath before shrugging. “When do you want to get going?"

“As soon as we can,” Kipp answered loving the happiness that something like this could provide for Kellen. “So you can go get Charles packed up, bring his favorites and I will start on our stuff. When you’re done with him, we’ll figure out the plane tickets."

“Alright,” Kellen moved over toward Charles’ bedroom down the hall before stopping. He looked back at Kipp for a moment, his face with a serious expression over it. “Hey Kipp…seriously, thanks for this. It truly means a lot to me for you to do this."

“I know,” Kipp winked at him before Kellen moved into the room leaving him in the living room alone for a moment.

While he knew that this was totally unlike him, he loved Kellen and was willing to do anything for him. The thought of the island was kind of a pain for him, but he knew it would be okay. There was the thought that he was there, but only remembered it slightly when Kyle came to find him.

There was a lingering eeriness that had rushed over him, but he knew that this time things would go better. This time he was there to vacation. For a nice reason, with the person he loved. It was well worth it to see Kellen happy and that alone would make him truly want to go. To see the person he loved happy.


“How are you feeling?" Ria moved in behind Kevin pressing her hands in over his shoulders as they moved into an area of the house to be alone for a few minutes. She could feel every muscle in his body tense as she slid her hands down his chest a bit trying to be comforting. His deep sigh could be heard as he covered his eyes in a tense motion. “Kevin?"

“Miserable. I feel like I’ve been hit by a train. I have a non-stop migraine that never seems to want to go away and I have a broken heart having to see Seth like this,” Kevin answered truthfully as she moved around his wheel chair and stepped in front of him. She kneeled down and reached out for his warm hands caressing them supportively. “I don’t know what to do. For once in my life, I’m stuck because I have no idea how to help him Ria and it’s killing me."

“We have to figure out the best way to help him without hurting you,” Ria pointed out letting out a heavy breath knowing that he was going to continue to beat himself about the things that were going on with Seth if something didn’t happen fast. “You have no idea what you just went through Kevin, you could have died."

“Some people would think I deserved what I got and then some,” Kevin huffed lowering his head a bit while he thought back to his past.

The bad things should have been happening to him and only him. The fact that his cousin was suffering made his heart break because he was the complete opposite. A sweet, good kid. Someone that should have had a bright future, but bad things seemed to keep happening to him.

“No one wants you to hurt like this Kevin and you certainly don’t deserve it. You are a good person with a big heart and I know that from personal experience,” Ria reached up to press her fingers into his dark hair and then traced them down the side of his face. “I love you Kevin, but you can’t always carry the weight of the world on your shoulders."

“What am I supposed to do then Ria? I want to help him, but I had to be pushed in my wheel chair by Brant. Brant and Don. Do you realize how bad that feels? I do everything on my own, I live off that. That’s who I am. Brant had to help me out of the car. He had to basically pick me up,” Kevin started to speak on his own insecurities, hating that he had to depend on other people to help him at the state he was in. “This is the point in time when Seth needs me. To work night and day to help him, but I’m stuck here in this wheel chair."

“Sweetheart, you’re hurt. You have to realize that people helping you is a good thing. You can ask for help at times because when it gets down to it…people need help at the worst points of their life. None of this is your fault,” Ria’s hands pressed in over his rough cheeks while her thumbs caress the skin that was covered in rough stubble. “No one ever expected you to be a superhero Kev. They just want you to do what you are capable of. The last thing Seth would want is for you to hurt yourself badly. Could you imagine if that was one more thing added to the list?"

Caressing the side of his face in soothing manner, she could see the sadness in his eyes and she knew that nothing she could say would really stop him from hurting. Moving up, she pressed a loving kiss over his lips letting it linger for a moment before pulling away. Pushing her fingers in through his hair again, she shook her head knowing that this was his way of punishing himself.

“It’s not your fault you are hurt. You didn’t ask for this to happen honey. You can’t keep doing this kind of thing to yourself. If you want to help Seth, you have to help yourself. You have to have your mind clear for him. You have to be able to think and not worry constantly,” she tried to assure him as she felt his hands reach up to her pressing them over her flesh carefully. “I know how much it means for you to be there for Seth, but you have no idea how much you mean to me and it kills me to see you hurt Kevin because I love you so much."

“I love you too Ria, this is just really hard for me…,” he reached up with his right hand to push her dark hair out of her face. The thoughts inside his mind were clearly upsetting her, so he was going to turn away from them for now. It was just the thoughts would always be lingering in his head. “Nothing good ever happens for my family. It’s like we are all a burden for bad luck and I don’t understand. It sucks. It runs throughout history even and it’s not fair. It’s not fair for him."

“I know, but your family has to work it out to make it better, but you can’t carry everything that has gone on only on you. You have to have people help you sweetheart,” Ria heard him sigh heavily and she moved forward slowly to wrap her arms around him. Careful enough not to hurt him while his arms wrapped loosely around her to the best of his ability. “I’m sorry sweetheart. You don’t deserve this and neither does Seth."

“No, he doesn’t…,” Kevin breathed in her ear as he held her tight, his eyes closing as he thought about the way he felt right now. His broken heart and how everything was effecting him. “I don’t know if I can take another piece of bad news like this."

Those very words made Ria tense up as she thought back to what she had found. What she knew. What she had yet to tell Kevin and she knew that she had to tell him. But how?


“You didn’t bargain for any of this when we ended up with one another,” Brant sighed turning to face Angela again after she’d made her way to the kitchen to put on some tea for them. He sank onto the bar stool and watched her moving around his kitchen as if she’d been a part of the household for years. Still he couldn’t help but feel guilt ride over him at the way his family’s problems seemed to extend to her.

“Brant, in case you haven’t noticed,” she began with a small frown looking over at him, “I’m a part of this family now in my own way.”

“True,” he sighed slumping down a bit further before looking to her again, “though I still didn’t expect you to get caught up in all of this.”

“Brant I love you,” she turned to face him circling around the countertop to move in beside him. She reached out to touch his cheek gently before smiling, “that in itself makes me more than qualified to be here to help you through this.”

“I know, but right now you should be resting instead of doting on me,” he reached out to snake his arms around her waist, “How are you feeling by the way?”

“I’m pretty sure it’ll take a while for me to get my body back to normal,” she confessed with a small sigh trying to downplay her aches, “but I’ll be fine.”

“Angela,” he reached out to push her hair away from her face before meeting her dark eyes, “you don’t have to pretend that this isn’t taking it’s toll on you.”

“Brant in case you haven’t noticed we have a lot going on and my being here for you is not at all making anything hard on me,” she promised him moving in to give him a quick kiss before hearing a sound flooding through the room over the baby monitor. “Although I think someone else has some words for you.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Brant decided getting up and off of his seat. “I’ll check in on them.”

“They are probably ready for their next feeding,” Angela admitted thinking about their children and their habits already. “I can warm up a couple of bottles for them.”

“Then I’ll entertain them until you arrive,” he decided moving in to give her one last kiss before heading off to the nursery. Once outside of the door, he pushed it open and spotted Brandon crying in his crib. He walked over to his son thinking about how long it had been since there was a use for the nursery. Here Brant had forgotten all about this room, yet as his children were making their place in it he couldn’t help but smile.

“Hey you,” Brant bent over carefully pulling Brandon out of the crib and kissing him on the head before glancing over at a still sleeping Alison, “you don’t want to wake your sister up yet little guy.”

Brandon’s lower lip continued to shiver with the small cry that fell from his lips and Brant couldn’t help but feel the need to ease his son’s discontent. He scooped Brandon up against his chest hugging him close to him before humming a tune. The sound seemed to settle his son and as Brant walked around the nursery keeping Brandon close to him, he thought about all the times he’d dreamt about this very thing.

“I waited a long time for you,” Brant whispered stepping in over by Alison to take a look at her. He could see her little fingers curled up beside her now that she was carefully tucked in her crib. He smiled as his eyes fell upon the full head of hair that she had. She was beautiful in every sense of the word just like her brother and in having the two of them with him Brant couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride carry over him.

“You know I made a lot of mistakes over the years, but you two seem to make that road to getting to where I am now worth it,” Brant admitted tenderly, “I mean when I think about it, there were a lot of things I wanted to change in my life, but once I learned that you two would be a part of my life I knew that I didn’t need to regret anything anymore. You both are the world to me.”

“And you’re the world to them,” Angela confessed smiling as he glanced over his shoulder to where she was standing in the doorway watching him with their son.

“Who knew us having so much fun together could create something so magical,” Brant offered up with an emotional tone glancing over at their daughter again. “I never anticipated that meeting you like I did would change our worlds so very much.”

“But it was in a good way, right?” Angela questioned feeling his dark gaze upon hers once again.

“It’s the best way possible,” Brant replied in a soft melodic tone still trying to keep Brandon calm as Angela held up a bottle. Brant reached for it before moving over to the rocking chair and settling in with his son in his arms. He resituated Brandon, who was more than ready for his bottle. Brandon smacked his lips together and greedily accepted the bottle as Brant looked to Angela again. “When I’m with them they see me as you did that first time we met one another.”

“Drunk and horny,” Angela joked catching the smile that teased over the corners of his lips.

“No, as someone who deserved a second chance at happiness. You didn’t see me as Brant Ashford, as a man with a family that had a reputation that was going to take him under,” Brant admitted watching her cross the room to pull a now awake Alison out of her crib.

“Everyone deserves a second chance and it doesn’t matter to me that you’re an Ashford,” Angela explained honestly turning to face him again. She moved over to the second rocking chair set up near where he was, “Just like my being a Stone is of no relevance to you.”

“Cameron won’t see it that way. Angela since he’s come to town a lot of things have happened between us--things that I didn’t want to talk about until now, but I think you should know…” Brant began worriedly knowing full well that Cameron would not accept their happiness with one another.

“My brother is a very stubborn man. When he believes that he is right, he is headstrong and refuses to give himself the chance to rethink his position,” Angela paused feeling a sigh spill from her lips. “That’s a trait he gets from our father unfortunately.”

“Your father,” Brant repeated thinking about what Cameron had told her about her father’s demise, “Angela, I never met your father. I can’t speak for my father, but…”

“Brant,” Angela began sensing his uneasiness with the topic of their discussion.

“My father was far from being a good man. He did things,” Brant paused struggling for the right word, “He hurt people…”

“Brant, I know you aren’t like that. I realize that you would never…” Angela began again thinking about all that had taken place between them.

“When I was younger--when I was trying to move on beyond the life my father wanted for me, I saw him at his worst,” Brant continued reflecting on his relationship with his father. “My mother died when Blake was very young. Blake was in the car with her when she died and it was something that always haunted Blake. She was traumatized by the event and with Ken and I, well we tried to be strong because to show emotion was weakness in my father’s eyes. He taught us to grow up to be in constant competition with one another. Ken was the smarter one, the popular one that everyone liked and I was the screw up. I continually scoffed the idea of listening to authority and following the Ashford path. I was the one destined for failure you know.”

“How can you say that considering that you run the family business?” Angela couldn’t help but ask knowing full well of his successes.

“I only got the company because Ken shunned my father. He refused to take part in the company just because Ken wanted to prove that he could make his own rules. I, on the other hand, was so busy trying to kiss my father’s ass and prove to him that I could be a man who was clearly capable of running the show, but in doing so all I did was see him at his worst,” he grew suddenly silent, “You know I can’t speak for what happened with your father, but I know that my father has done horrible things. Sometimes I think karma has a way of getting to us and making us pay for his sins. I mean even with Blake, she hasn’t done anything wrong. She is a good person with a kind heart, but when I think about what my father did to Jade…”

“Seth’s sister?” Angela couldn’t help but question not quite sure where the correlation was in the conversation.

Brant nodded, “My father raped her and destroyed her life. Seth and Jade endured a great deal of misery because of my father. He hurt them both and eventually that horrible act cost Blake a chance at happiness with Seth.”

“I don’t understand,” Angela paused trying to take it all in.

“Seth told Blake the truth and Blake refused to believe it,” Brant revealed with a heavy sigh, “Ken and I spent so very long trying to lead her to believe our father was a good man. We didn’t want her touched by the misery he brought onto the world around him, so we let her believe that he was someone that he was not. We worked our best to protect her from the evils of the world, but all it did was open her up to something like this.”

“Brant no amount of protecting her could’ve saved her from what happened. Valerie was clearly out of her mind,” she reminded him with a small breath, “and I can’t say that I’m sorry to hear what happened to Valerie either because she deserved far worse for what she’s done to Blake and Seth. She had no right to murder their child like she did. When I think about what Blake is going through…”

“It’s difficult to lose a child,” Brant nodded in agreement before catching the expression on her face, “this reminds you about your daughter, doesn’t it?”

“I’ll admit it’s hard not to think about her especially now,” Angela’s gaze fell upon Alison again, “When I think about how tiny Alison and Brandon are--about how much they mean to me…I can’t even begin to think what I would’ve done if I lost them too. If I had to go through what I experienced the first time around… It’s just so unfair to any woman and my heart goes out to Blake. She should’ve had a chance at being a mother.”

“Yes she should have,” Brant nodded in confession his thoughts lingering to his sister, “She should’ve had a lot more happiness in her life than she’s been given, but it seems like something is always in the way.”

“Especially now that Seth is locked up and she’s…” Angela trailed off feeling a tiny shiver carry over her.

“Seth can’t go down for this because if he does, I’m so afraid I’ll lose my sister forever,” Brant revealed his thoughts returning to Blake as he found himself contemplating what the future may hold in store for those he loved.


“I can’t believe that we are getting ready to go to my mother’s wedding,” Deidra confessed turning to look at Dean as they stood with one another in the middle of the store picking up a few last minute things to take with them on their trip to meet with her mother. “I mean all of those years ago she gave up on love with Richard, yet here they are ready to pledge their lives to one another.”

“It’s incredibly romantic if you ask me,” Dean shrugged his shoulders reaching for a box in front of him before catching the way she was looking at him. “What? Is there something wrong with me saying that?”

“No, but I just,” she couldn’t help but laugh before shaking her head at him, “I guess I just never had you pegged for the closet romantic.”

“You didn’t huh?” Dean turned to face her reaching out to wrap his arms around her waist and pull her in closer to him. “Then what was it you saw me as other than being an incredible sex god?”

“Someone who has an oversized ego,” she wrinkled her nose at him before laughing, “but I can live with it.”

“Oh you can live with it huh,” he laughed lightly shaking his head at her before pulling her closer to him. “You know I do have my moments where I can be sincere and appreciate the finer things in life like love and romance.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that you couldn’t,” she paused seeing something flash behind his eyes, “I mean I was just saying that I guess I didn’t think you’d see what I was saying about my mom. Most men don’t get that kind of thing and…”

“And the last time I checked I wasn’t most men,” he reached out to pull one of the bunches of flowers out of the cooler beside them and hand them to her. “You should keep that in mind.”

“I do,” she smiled accepting them before she thought to what was left on their list of things to take with them. She leaned up on her toes to kiss him before stepping back. “Honestly Dean I know that we haven’t had a lot of alone time together lately, but I happen to think you’re pretty wonderful.”

“And I happen to think you’re amazingly incredible as well,” he smiled back at her before stepping in to bring his arms around her waist to pull her back into his chest again. His lips dipped down over the side of her neck now that she was turned away from him and he heard her laughter carry over her. “I always have felt that way.”

“I always feel that way when I’m with you,” she admitted with a soft sigh leaning back to met his lips half way in a kiss. She smiled up at him lazily ready to say something more when she spotted Shane out of the corner of her eye. Frowning she stepped back and watched Diane’s new friend over by the cash register in what appeared to be flirting mode with the cashier. “Well, why doesn’t this surprise me?”

“What’s that?” Dean questioned turning to follow her line of vision only to spot Shane and the woman laughing with one another. “Well, hey on the bright side it reconfirms hope that Diane and him have nothing going on.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” Deidra watched Shane as he started to bag the things that he’d gotten while he was chatting away with the woman behind the cash register. “I don’t trust him.”

“I can’t argue with you on that one, but still,” Dean paused trying to place what it was about Shane that was so familiar, “Your sister wouldn’t go out of her way to screw things up with Ben. You know that as well as I do.”

“What I know about Diane is she is someone who likes to self destruct,” Deidra paused remembering only too well what had happened the last time Ben wasn’t around. Even now when she thought of Diane’s association with JT, it made her cringe. “My sister is notorious for screwing up a good thing when she has it.”

“She loves Ben,” Dean glanced over at Shane again who was now walking out of the store, “I really don’t think there is anything to worry about. She said they were just friends.”

“That’s funny that you’re telling me not to worry because you were the one who said you had a bad feeling about the guy,” Deidra noted giving him a curious look. “You said it yourself that there was something about him that rubbed you the wrong way.”

“First of all I would never use the terminology rub and Shane in the same sentence,” he replied with a tiny shudder, “and second of all I am always a skeptic of people. Sure, there is something about Shane that seems familiar, but…”

“But maybe you should check him out. Investigate him,” she suggested thinking about her younger sister’s ties to the new man in her life. “See if his story checks out.”

“Deidra, I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” his eyes widened in surprise, “What happened to the whole everyone has a right to their privacy speech that you give me all the time?”

“I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to his privacy, but rather he’s made himself an open book now that my sister is a part of his life. I just have this feeling about him…” she trailed off trying not to let her worries about Diane consume her.

“Okay, maybe when we get back after the wedding I’ll look into checking him out. Fair enough?” Dean questioned after a moment of contemplation.

She nodded, “Yeah that will work. I mean at least with Diane away from Coral Valley for a while it will give us time to get a feel for things with her.”

“You really are worried about her, aren’t you?” Dean questioned sliding his arm around her waist.

She nodded once more, “For a long time she and I didn’t get along, but now that she’s trying to make an effort to get her life in order, I can’t help but want that for her. Diane has changed so much for the better since she found Ben and I would hate to see her revert to her old ways,” she paused turning her attention to Dean once again, “At one point in time she saw me only as competition and the enemy. Now we’re kind of friends and I like that.”

“I can’t say I blame you,” Dean touched her cheek lightly, “It’s good to have your sister close to you.”

“I know,” she paused before turning to him again, “What about you Dean? Obviously you were close to your sister.”

“My sister was a good person when it got down to it, but she found trouble in her life,” Dean paused thinking about his sister for the first time in a long time. Remembering how avenging her murder had driven him for so very long he realized that he hadn’t had time to really sit back and think about the woman she once was before she was taken from the world. “She lived life in the moment and she had a way to make you laugh. You would’ve liked her and I’m positive that she would’ve liked you as well.”

“I wish I could’ve met her,” Deidra wrapped her arms around his torso and smiled up at him.

“I wish you could’ve too,” he nodded in response reaching out to curl his index finger underneath her chin. He leaned in to kiss her remembering full well how driven he’d been to keep his own sister out of trouble. As he thought of Deidra’s concerns for Diane he spoke up again, “I’m sure I can call Shannon and see if she can dig something up for us on Shane while we’re gone.”

“Really?” her eyes widened as he nodded.

“Yeah, if it’ll help put your mind at ease, I’d be more than willing to do that for you,” Dean promised before looking around the store, “Now what do you say we get out of here before we’re late for our flight?”

“That sounds like a plan,” Deidra nodded hoping that her concerns were for nothing, but as she thought of how close her sister had gotten to Shane in such a short time she couldn’t help but worry about Diane’s well being. She just hoped that things were the exact opposite of where her instincts were taking her because the last thing she wanted was to see her sister fall into disaster all over again.


Angela set Alison back into the crib thinking about all that had happened since she and Brant had returned from the island. She still couldn’t believe that here they were as parents with two beautiful babies that were happy and healthy. It was a dream come true for her and she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of how it easy it had been to make the transition from the confusion she’d been lost in for the last couple of months to the joy of being a mother. It was something that she’d convinced herself that she hadn’t wanted for so very long, but now as she watched her children closely she knew that had been a lie she’d offered up to deceive herself. Being with her children was truly heaven and she couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“I wonder how Blake is doing,” Angela thought aloud knowing full well that Brant wanted to spend some time with his sister as well. She couldn’t help but admit to herself that she was worried about both Blake and Brant. It was clear that Brant was blaming himself for what had happened to Blake and while she knew full well that wasn’t the case, as long as things were in such a state of turmoil Brant wouldn’t see it any other way.

“We’ll just have to show your father that everything will be okay,” Angela mouthed giving her children one last look before slipping out into the hallway to go check in on Brant. She was about to turn the corner of the hallway when she came face to face with a pair of familiar brown eyes. They mirrored those of the man that she loved, but unlike what she could see in Brant’s eyes, these particular eyes were devoid of any of the warmth that Brant carried with him naturally. These eyes were the eyes that had created the chaos that lead Angela to flee from the house in the first place. They were the same eyes that had her wanting to reach out and strangle the man that they belonged to even if he was otherwise a dead ringer for her soon to be husband.

“Well hello,” Ken smiled down at her, his dark eyes widening with surprise to see her, “I wasn’t aware that you’d returned.”

“I’ll bet you were wishing I hadn’t,” Angela noted taking a small step back and folding her arms in front of her chest. “I’ll just bet you were wishing for a lot of things that went well beyond the pain you were undoubtedly trying to cause Brant when you pretended to be him.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ken replied feigning innocence as an amused smirk teased over the corners of his mouth. “I’m afraid you must have me all wrong Angela.”

“Don’t play dumb with me Ken. I saw you kissing Avery and I know exactly what you were trying to do when you thought that setting me up to think that Brant was stepping out on me was a good idea,” Angela snapped at him, her brown eyes narrowing with anger. “But I have news for you Ken your plan failed miserably.”

“Angela, why would I do that?” he couldn’t help but offer up a small laugh. “You and I hardly know one another so why in the world would I set you up for anything? Granted I can’t for the life of me understand why you would want to be with my brother considering that he was married to a woman who was a dead ringer for you, but to each their own I suppose.”

“You know I bet you’re the kind of guy that gets off on those kind of identity games,” Angela noted eyeing him suspiciously. “I’ll bet growing up you spent a great many hours trying to fool the world into believing that you were Brant didn’t you? You probably made it a big game because it allowed you to escape from the perfect little reputation that you tried to uphold.”

“You don’t know me, so I really don’t think it’s your place to make presumptions about who I am as a man,” Ken mouthed in response, his smile fading as he watched her closely.

“You aren’t a man,” she balked back at him with a sudden laugh, “because a real man wouldn’t resort to cheap and underhanded methods to get what he wanted.”

“Don’t you judge me. You know nothing about the kind of person that I am and for that matter when we get down to it, you really don’t know much about Brant either,” Ken tossed out at her with a roll of his eyes. “Do you honestly think he would’ve looked twice at you if you weren’t almost an exact replica for Avery? Face it Angela, you’re just sloppy seconds in his eyes and he’s settled because that’s what my brother is bringing himself to do in life--settle.”

“And it just kills you to think that he’s become everything that you’re not, doesn’t it?” she threw out at him with an ironic laugh. “It just burns you up inside with jealousy to see that Brant has managed to outshine you in everything he’s done.”

“In case you haven’t noticed Brant is the one with the reputation for being a tyrant. He runs a less than ethical pharmaceutical company while I’ve built my career around helping those in need. I’ve tried to help those who can’t help themselves and in turn I’ve done a great many things for this town,” Ken challenged with an arch of his brow. “The same can’t be said for Brant.”

“Unfortunately for you Ken, most of the world doesn’t see it as you do,” Angela quipped in response standing up taller and glaring at him. “In fact I’m willing to bet that when you finally were able to bed Avery before it had nothing to do with her wanting to step out on Brant and everything to do with you pretending to be him. Am I close on this one?”

“I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but if Avery’s been spreading her lies again,” Ken snarled at the mention of Avery.

“She didn’t have to because your face said it all,” Angela shook her head at him and frowned, “And to think I almost actually thought that I might enjoy getting to know you since you were Brant’s brother.”

“Your loss I suppose,” Ken shrugged his shoulders before feeling her breeze past him, “though you know you’re the one who is missing out because I can be a whole lot more fun than Brant.”

“Is that right?” Angela questioned spinning around to face him again.

“You know it is,” Ken’s eyes flashed with an unmasked interest. “I mean think about it Angela. There is a reason why Avery came to me over him.”

“I’m sure your charm had entirely everything to do with it,” Angela couldn’t help but roll her eyes at him.

“You said it yourself she was back again when you saw her and I didn’t hear her complaining. Did you?” Ken challenged making a small movement towards her. His dark eyes met hers again and he offered up a small smile. His finger tip reached out to tease over her shoulder in a tentative movement before his eyes met hers again, “When you’re ready to stop playing house with my brother maybe we can talk about what it’s like to be with a real man for a change. You might find yourself recanting your views on Brant if properly motivated.”

“Motivation from you?” Angela couldn’t help but break out into a new round of laughter. She tipped her head back before meeting his eyes again, “Tell me something Ken. What about Wendy? You know the woman who is so desperately trying to keep you happy?”

“I love Wendy. She’s a good person, but what she doesn’t know in this particular case won’t hurt her,” Ken mouthed in response his eyes sweeping in over Angela in a ravenous movement. “It’s not like she expects me to abstain forever.”

“I don’t believe this. The love of your life is dying and you’re standing here making a pass at me,” Angela threw her hands up in the air. “You really are vile I hope you realize that.”

“Vile or not the fact to the matter is that I’m ten times the man that Brant is and he’s not going to walk around here pretending that he’s better than me. He’s not and I’m tired of this world choosing him over me when I’m clearly the better choice,” Ken snapped his eyes narrowing down at her. He reached out to touch her arm again before his voice dropped down to a muted whisper. “Besides when it gets down to it, if I would’ve found you first I would’ve very easily made damn sure I had you back in my bed before Brant was able to do. I would’ve been able to locate you readily and willingly without all of the hesitation that my brother showed you.”

“See, but that’s the thing Ken,” Angela leaned in closer to him, her eyes narrowing up at him and matching his dark movement, “I’ll be the first person to admit that I like men. I enjoy spending my time with someone handsome and before Brant I found myself attracted to various types of men, men who intrigued me and yes, I’ve been known to indulge myself every now and then, but with you, well I’ll be honest Ken you wouldn’t have even been a blip on my radar. Because even I have standards. I don’t sleep with losers.”

“Your actions with my brother contradict that well beyond your words,” Ken tossed back at her with a shake of his head. He leaned in closer to her, his lips just above her ear before he whispered to her, “I think that you protest far too much Angela. Perhaps you really are just aching for a trip down the dark side with someone who can excite you.”

“Maybe I am,” she replied with a hint of a smile leaning back enough to meet his amused eyes. She reached out to touch his chest lightly before her grin expanded, “Maybe I am itching to explore my dark side.”

“I thought that you might,” Ken leaned in closer to her as if he was anticipating a kiss from her despite all her earlier protest.

“Oh believe me I am,” she mouthed with a scowl bringing her knee up into his groin and watching him fall onto the floor in agony. She saw him clasp the center of his pants as a whimper rose from his lips. She stepped back and shook her head at him before placing her hands on her hips. “That dark enough for you Ken?”

He just whimpered as Rex entered the hallway to see his nephew laying on the floor.

“Um, excuse me…” Rex started wondering just what had taken place between Angela and his nephew. “If you need me to come back…”

“No, he’s all yours. I was just leaving to find Brant,” Angela smiled sweetly over at Rex before glaring at Ken again, “Remember what I said Ken. It’ll serve you well in the future.”

With that thought fresh on her lips Angela spun on her heel and marched out of the hallway leaving Rex to eye his nephew with heavy scrutiny. He stepped forward before kneeling in beside Ken and grinning.

“I don’t know what you said to her, but damn that girl has fire. She’s a wild one. Brant’s a lucky guy,” Rex mused hearing Ken let out a low, pinched wail all over again.


Grady felt a hand slide up his bare chest, nails grazing gently over his skin causing a heat to stir up inside of him. His green eyes opened and he felt the shadows in the room caress the soft feminine curves that were on the bed beside him. Smiling he reached out to the woman at his side feeling her bare skin pressing in against his. Her tongue teased over his lips sliding into his mouth and tempting him with the most erotic of kisses before he rolled her onto her back feeling her legs sweep around his hips in the most enticing of movements.

“Make love to me Grady,” he could hear Deana’s voice beckoning him.

His mouth dropped down to her shoulder, offering up teasing nibbles over her skin while his palm traced her curves moving up over her hips, sliding gently across her rib cage until he gently cupped her breast in his hand. He felt her arch up into him, soft sounds of pleasure escaping from her now parted lips. His green eyes honed in on her mouth, on the many things he wanted to do to that mouth of hers--to the things he wanted to show her, but his thoughts were gone when her nails bit into his flesh, urging them towards completion with one another. Her lips beckoned his drawing him in over her while her legs hugged him in the most exquisite embrace he’d felt in his lifetime. He pulled back enough to touch the side of her face, to memorize the beauty in his wife before he gently pressed into her wanting to remember everything about their first night together as husband and wife.

“Grady,” she cried out arching her head back, her nails pressing further into his flesh before their eyes met again in a heated union. She reached out to him threading her fingers through his hair tightly before pulling him in for a ravenous kiss that only exemplified the passion expanding between them. He listened to the lusty sounds of her breath escaping her lips, to the way that her body seemed to pulse with a new life now that he was buried inside of her. He dropped his mouth down over her shoulder kissing her again and again as he longed to take in every inch of her, every moment of what it felt like to share their love with one another. She was perfect, his every dream and as they made love he knew that he’d finally found a place to call home with her in his life.

“Grady I need you,” she pleaded her sounds growing more desperate, frantic as he raised his head up enough to meet her dark eyes again. Only this time there was something different, something had shifted as her dark hair spread out across the pillow, her eyes glossed over with desire. Her kiss swelled lips parted with a soft cry of pleasure as he continued to move over her, feeling things build between them. He wanted to keep going, to keep pushing them further past the point of passion, but when her laughter swirled around him and complete recognition carried in over him, he couldn’t help but stop.

“Jade,” he spoke the name of the woman he’d been making love to, to the woman that was holding onto him so desperately now that the vision of his wife was replaced with the woman he’d once loved. He felt her writhe beneath him, her body begging him to love her as he once had before she’d left his life. She needed him, wanted him, craved him more than ever yet…

“No,” Grady sat up in the bed feeling his pulse pounding as the dream had brought him to a full state of being awake. His heart was hammering away with the vividness of the dream, with the way it felt to be sharing that kind of experience with both the women in his life, one right after another. Only Jade hadn’t been part of the program. She wasn’t supposed to be part of his life, subconscious or otherwise now that he was married to Deana. Here he’d just spent most of the night making love to his wife, yet…

“Deana,” Grady whispered her name, turning to see his wife sleeping beside him, her arm draped around the pillow that Zane had been sleeping on earlier. He’d awakened a while ago and insisted upon going back to his room for a while to sleep with his toys. Now it was just the two of them, yet he felt as if there was the ghost of another in the air between them. Bringing his hand up through his dark hair, Grady let out a long sigh.

“This can’t be happening,” Grady mouthed watching his wife for a long moment and seeing her lost in her slumber. He pushed the blankets back from on top of him and reached for his pajama bottoms opting to get dressed before leaving the bedroom area to get himself a drink.

His throat was dry and as he tried to process what his mind was telling him he heard a knock on the door. Wearily he turned towards the source of the sound and waited wondering if his mind was still playing tricks on him. A few seconds later he turned around to see a shadow in the darkness. He blinked a couple of times before it registered that someone else was in the hotel room. Quickly he reached for the first thing he could find discovering that it was Deana’s purse. He held it up in the air ready to strike the person in front of him before he spoke up in warning.

“Don’t move,” he announced waiting for some kind of reaction. He heard footsteps approaching and before he could raise the purse enough to attack, he spotted Jason coming out of the shadows with a bag in his hand.

“Grady, it’s just me! I was just sneaking in here to get one of my bags I left in here while I was watching Zane. I was trying to be quiet, but obviously I wasn‘t quiet enough considering that…” Jason called out breathlessly before his blue eyes fell upon the purse. “Is that Deana’s purse?”

“What?” Grady blinked for a moment realizing how ridiculous he must’ve looked with Deana’s purse in his hands. He lowered his arms before letting out a small breath, “It was the first thing I grabbed when I heard you in here.”

“You were going to beat me to death with my sister’s purse?” Jason scratched his own chin lightly before offering up a small laugh. “Somehow I don’t think that one would‘ve worked well for you man.”

“Look, it was just a quick reaction to the sound,” Grady paused for a moment before eyeing his brother-in-law curiously. “Speaking of which, what the hell are you doing in here? I thought you’d be asleep by now.”

“I wish I was, but I had one hell of a night,” Jason admitted with a heavy sigh. “You would not believe my luck. I mean one minute I think I‘ve got everything figured out and then there is a big curve ball thrown at me and I don‘t know what I’m doing the next.”

“Believe me I can relate to that one. Join the club,” Grady sighed walking over to the refrigerator and kneeling down to get himself a drink.

“What does that mean? You and Deana already having trouble in paradise?” Jason couldn’t help but question curiously.

“No not at all, but I’ve just, well let’s just say it’s been one of those nights,” Grady held out a bottle of water to offer it to Jason.

“If that kind of night included meeting by far the sexiest woman you’ve ever laid eyes on, only to have her rock your world in your hotel room and show you a night like you’ve never seen before only to leave you in the end, then yeah you’d know exactly where I’m at,” Jason groaned inwardly slumping down on the sofa near where he’d been standing earlier. “Tonight was phenomenal and then she bailed on me. No good-bye, no I’ll talk to you later. Not even a note. I feel so used.”

“Wait a second, are you saying that…” Grady’s jaw dropped as he noticed the expression on Jason’s face. Finally he moved over to the chair beside where Jason was seated and he sank down onto it. “Okay, why don’t you start from the beginning?”

“Are you sure?” Jason questioned with a small frown, “I mean I know you and Deana are sort of on your honeymoon and…”

“She is sleeping right now and I can’t,” Grady replied thinking about the strange dream he’d had. “I could use the distraction, so talk.”

“Well okay, but I have to warn you it’s a bit strange,” Jason offered up as Grady decided that listening to Jason was a hell of a lot better than going back to sleep and the place where his dreams had served as an act of betrayal to him and his future.


“Blake,” Seth’s voice called out to her causing her to open up her eyes and see the man she loved seated beside her. Her blue eyes fluttered open wider than they were before and she couldn’t help but smile as he reached for her fingers in a tentative movement. He lifted her palm to his lips taking the time to caress her soft skin with his heavenly mouth.

“Seth, I thought that you were…” Blake started ready to say something more when she felt him press his index finger in against her lips to silence her.

“I’m here Blake,” he promised keeping her closer to him. She felt him sweep her up into his arms, carrying her off of the bed and into another room beyond the one she’d been caged inside of since she’d arrived home from the hospital.

“Where are we going?” she couldn’t help but ask feeling the warmth of the sun radiating over her now that they were out and away from the rest of the world.

Suddenly they were in the garden again over by the water fountain that they’d enjoyed with one another in the past. Her blue eyes focused now that the light poured out over the both of them. While she’d tried to make sense of the transition all that really mattered was Seth’s arms around her keeping her warm and safe. She spotted a blanket on the ground and a picnic basket set up in the corner of it.

“I wanted to surprise you,” he explained gently lowering the both of them onto the blanket before he made a move for the picnic basket, “I brought all of your favorites with me.”

“Seth, you really didn’t have to. You just…” Blake began ready to say something more when he opened up the top of the picnic basket and she noticed Valerie’s severed head inside. There was blood all over her hands, on the blanket and all over her nightgown when she watched Valerie’s lifeless eyes open up to reveal a horrified expression before a loud wail of a scream filled the air around her.

“No!” Blake cried out opening her eyes and finding herself in the center of her bed. Her perspiration soaked body was tangled beneath the blankets and as she fought for air, she couldn’t help but find herself caught up in the moment. The dream had terrified her, had brought her back from a moment of fantasy to the harsh reality that surrounded her. Her pulse was racing, throat dry from the fear that had consumed her and as she found herself surrounded by darkness she started to tremble.

“Don’t look at me Blake,” she heard a voice call out to her through the thick black that surrounded her. “Turn your eyes away.”

“Mom,” Blake half questioned seeking out the source of the sound, “Mom is that you?”

“Blake, don’t look at me,” she could hear her mother’s voice instruct as the room suddenly shifted and she found herself trapped inside that cab all over again fearing for her life. She could see the tears behind her mother’s eyes as there was blood running down the side of her forehead. “Blake listen to me. You have to get out of here.”

“No mommy, I won’t leave you,” Blake could hear her voice defiant and terrified now that she and her mother were pinned inside the overturned vehicle. “I won’t leave you mommy.”

“Blake you have to save yourself. You have to find a way to get out of here and get help,” her mother pleaded with her before the loud popping noise surrounded the both of them causing Blake to curl up into a ball despite her cramped quarters.

“No make it stop!” she sobbed feeling a round of shivers carry over her as the light snapped on. She held her legs into her chest keeping herself wrapped up tightly in a ball when she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t touch me!”

“Blake, it’s me,” Brant offered up watching his sister break into heavy sobs. “Blake, can you hear me?”

“Brant,” Blake’s tear-filled blue eyes snapped open and Brant noticed that she’d dug her nails into the palms of her hand. He reached out to her doing his best to uncurl her fingers from her skin. Noticing that she’d started to bleed, he did his best to pull her out of the blankets she’d surrounded herself in and into his arms.

“I’m here Blake,” Brant promised squeezing her in closer to him and feeling her damp hair beneath his fingers. He hugged her tightly as she broke into another round of tears, this time carrying with it a hint of despair that he hadn’t felt from her in a long time. He’d heard her screaming in the hallway, but he’d never anticipated seeing her in such a state. He could hear every breath escaping her life with an agonizingly painful sound behind it. Worriedly he reached out to touch her face wiping at her tears, “Blake talk to me.”

“Why is this happening Brant? How could something like this happen?” she questioned mournfully dropping her head into his chest again and crying like she’d never cried before now that it was clear nothing would be the same for her again.


“Excuse me?" Shannon found herself shocked with the tone that Don was giving her. His eyes were shooting bullets right through her and she couldn’t believe he was responding to her like this. He never reacted toward her in this kind of way.

“You heard me. You want to know why I don’t involve you in my life in certain parts of it? Well I’ll tell you,” Don began with a rumble, his tone coming out serious and angered. Something that was rare to come from him completely. He was never confrontational and would often take whatever came his way, but not today! “I will let you know why some things in my life have no concern with you. It’s because you think that my life should be your life. That I have to live my life the way you want me to live it. And damn it, it’s my life Shannon. You are just my companion, not the person I am supposed to listen to every minute of the day. I’m not your dog. I’m not a pet. I’m a human being, damn it. And I’m allowed to make my own decisions in life."

“As you should, but not stupid ones…,” Shannon went to defend herself as Don let out a pinched laugh and she could feel her heart hammering in her chest at the way he was reacting. “What’s so funny?"

“Anytime I make a decision by myself, it’s a stupid one. I’m sorry sometimes, I’m going to do things without your permission. You just can’t take that though, you know…,” Don found himself going silent for a moment because he couldn’t believe the way she was acting. He was used to this by now after being with her so long, but he was completely sick of it.

Trying to hold back his anger, he bit down on his bottom lip and tried to count backwards, but he could just feel his blood boiling more at the thoughts. His hands slid in over his hips as a long breath escaped his lips.

“With my life…it’s either your way or no way,” Don spoke calmly as his eyes raised to meet Shannon’s angered face. Her brown eyes seemed to be shooting daggers through him because he was back talking her, but he couldn’t help it. “And that’s not fair because I’m not that way with you."

“Because I don’t do stupid actions like you,” Shannon replied in a quick response as Don smirked and ran his fingers over his eyes tensely.

“Don’t make me laugh Shannon,” Don shook his head knowing that she saw the world one way and that was her way. He moved around the couch before turning toward her again. “Everything you do is done without thought. You keep using the word stupid about everything I do. I’d rather be stupid than be a bitch."

“Excuse me!” Shannon’s voice raised and he could see that her facial expression was getting angrier. Her face tensing up, her eyebrows tightened together and he shrugged.

“I’m saying that I’d rather be stupid instead of being the person that is always telling someone what they are doing wrong. Yes, we’re married and you should be involved in some of my life, but not all of it. Plus, I’m your husband…you are supposed to love me no matter what I do,” Don blurted out knowing that he didn’t hear the words love from her often at all. “In fact, I don’t think you love me unless it’s convenient for you and even then…I don’t even know."

“You don’t even know how I feel,” Shannon snapped hating that he was responding to her in such a way. “Now who is being the one that is hypocritical?"

“I’m not being a hypocrite. I’m telling you how I feel. I feel like I’m your pet. I do what you tell me to and it’s good boy. I don’t and you bitch me out for everything that I’ve done wrong since we’ve been married,” Don informed her with a firm nod thinking way back to when they got married. “When we got married, I tried so hard to make this work. We got into so many fights, you’ve done things that no one would ever forgive you for, but I always did. I took you back because I wanted to make things right when everyone else told me I was crazy. I accept who you are, but you don’t accept a damn thing about me. Only if I do what you want.”

There was a silence that fell over them as Don rolled his eyes, shook his head and then moved for the kitchen. Instead of just leaving it be, Shannon followed him inside seeing him pulling a water bottle out of the fridge.

“This problem came about because you are always picking Brant over me. That’s not what a husband does…,” Shannon reminded him as Don pulled off the cap of the water bottle and tossed it aside. “You’re not supposed to act like that. You’re not supposed to turn your back on your wife for someone that is a friend.”

“Best friend,” Don corrected her before taking a long swig of his water. Shrugging his shoulders, he rolled his eyes knowing that Brant would always be their biggest problem. “I’m not going to stop being friends with Brant just because you are pissed that he never wanted you. For someone who is bitching about me not picking my wife, it’s truly a stupid reason for you to still hate Brant. Just because he didn’t want you."

“That’s not why I hate Brant,” Shannon defended herself feeling Don push his way through the kitchen and toward the living room to get away from her. “Hey…you listen to me. That is not why I don’t like Brant…”

“Bull shit Shannon,” Don screamed sick of hearing the same old lies. The same excuses. The things that he should have never been hearing from someone he was married to. “I’m your husband. I’m the one that you are supposed to love, damn it. Start caring about me more than Brant."

“I do,” she tried to defend herself a little bit more hating that she couldn’t get more words in. “You are just too blind to see it because you are too interested in what Brant is doing with his life. What can you do to make Brant’s life better. How can you help Brant? Has Brant ever done that for you? Better yet…why don’t you do that for me?"

“Oh, don’t even judge my relationship with Brant. You don’t know anything about it. You hardly know anything about me to begin with, but I know everything about you. Why? Because you won’t shut up. It’s all about ‘me’ when it comes to you. Me, me, me. Honestly, I never get a word in. I try to talk and then it comes right back to you. All you think of me is that I’m stupid and gullible,” Don spoke up finally speaking his mind to his wife seeing that she hated everything he was saying, but he had to get all of this out. “You think you can judge me because you are this higher power, but guess what Shannon you aren’t. And you are right. I am going to pick Brant over you. Why? Because he has been there for me since I was a kid. He’s my best friend. You, you’re just my wife that acts like she doesn’t give a shit about me in the first place. So why would I ever pick you over him?"

Shannon didn’t answer, her jaw just tightened and Don found himself shocked. She always spoke her mind especially when someone was telling her off because was the one always in the right. Never the wrong. It was her way or no way and he knew that.

“For once I would appreciate it if you would be a good supportive wife instead of threatening me and hating everything I do,” Don insisted and a moment later, he felt the firm slap of her palm against his face as he grunted with the hit. Pressing his fingers over his burning flesh, he shuddered a bit before wincing. “Fine. I got it. That’s how you want to be, fine."

“No, we are not done yet Don,” Shannon followed him into the bedroom seeing him grabbing a blanket and a few pillows. Trying to step in front of him, she could see his face was beet red and his breathing was heavier. “You got to say your side, I want to say mine. Right now!”

“No, just for once Shannon…shut up! Seriously, shut up!” Don gave her one final warning before moving around her toward the living room to set the pillows on the couch and throw the blanket to the side. “Either you are sleeping in the bedroom or on the couch, but right now…the fighting ends right here. I don’t want to hear anymore of it."

“Who makes you the boss of me? I will say what I want, when I want…” Shannon began ready to tear him apart as he turned on his heel quickly to stare out at her.

“Because I am sick of it! Just shut up! Damn it Shannon. I don’t care what you think about what I did. I don’t want to hear you bitch anymore. I’m sick of hearing it. I’m sick of hearing your voice, just leave me the hell alone,” Don screamed louder than he had ever raised his voice to her and it took everything inside of her not to hit him again as she stomped off to the bedroom and slammed the door shut behind herself.

Dropping to the couch, Don could feel his heart pumping…his blood boiling and his whole body tense. He had never gotten that worked up over a moment like this before, but he couldn’t stand her talking to him like that anymore.

He was sick of getting told what to do and what he was doing wrong. Shannon did not run his life and she could no longer treat him like he was her dog. If that meant he had to start standing up for himself, he was going to because he was getting sick of this!


“I hope you realize that woman is certifiable,” Mindy blurted out pushing her key into the door to her apartment while Nate followed her inside. She heard him enter her apartment before she turned around to face him again, “Oh wait scratch that you already knew that since you worked in the mental institution that she was locked up in.”

“Hey, just because she’s a little crazy doesn’t mean that she’s not cute,” Nate protested watching Mindy wipe at the food that was splattered over the front of her shirt. She tipped her head up and scowled at him with a huff.

“What is wrong with you Nate? On second thought, what is wrong with men?” she threw her hands in the air before crossing over into her kitchen to get a towel. “They see a pretty blonde with never ending legs and suddenly they are smitten.”

“I’ll have you know that I’m not smitten,” Nate followed her watching her running water over the dishcloth in her hand. She attempted to wipe at her shirt, but found that the stain was not coming out after Cori had managed to dump red wine on the both of them in the midst of her crazy spell. Nate leaned up against the door way watching Mindy still working furiously on her shirt. He leaned up against the side of the frame thinking about his own defense on the matter, “And for the record there is nothing wrong with appreciating a beautiful woman.”

“Cori might be beautiful on the outside, but on the inside she’s out of her damn mind,” Mindy threw her hands in the air before tossing her dishcloth on the counter top. With a groan, she reached out to the bottom of her shirt before hoisting it up over her slender frame. She tossed it onto the counter top before turning to face Nate again with an outstretched arm. “Take off your clothes.”

“Excuse me?” Nate blinked back at her his green eyes growing wide as he couldn’t help but focus on the fact that she was half dressed in front of him. His gaze immediately dropped down to the lavender colored bra that she was wearing. The thin lines of lace offered up an erotic pattern that framed all of her assets to him just enough to make him realize that while blondes were very nice, there was something to be said about brunettes.

“Your pants and your shirt,” Mindy snapped her fingers again in an attempt to recapture his attention. “I’m going to throw them in the washing machine so that the wine doesn’t ruin them because I’m starting to think my shirt is a lost cause.”

“So is your bra,” Nate couldn’t help but point out knowing full well that he’d given himself away in what he’d been admiring on her. He waved his finger around before biting back on a gulp, “There’s a huge red stain on your left…well, you can figure it out.”

“What?” Mindy looked down to see the stain he was mentioning. A curse fell from her lips before she threw her hands in the air, “Well this is great. I just got this last week with Trisha and it cost me a friggen fortune since she was so insistent upon these kind of bras being the best for the money. Now that I think about it, I could’ve very well bought myself a new X-box game or something for my laptop for that matter for a lot less.”

“It is a pretty nice bra and it fits you very well accentuating your curves in all the right places and…,” Nate offered up with a sheepish grin catching her expression, “I mean for what you must’ve obviously paid for it. The stain withstanding of course. I mean it’s a nice bra and…”

“I know what you mean Nate,” Mindy offered up a smile in an attempt to give him an out. She watched him pull his shirt up over his body before holding it out to her. Her eyes fell upon the lines of his chest, to the way his muscled torso lead to the top of his hips now that his pants were riding lower than she’d noticed earlier. She saw something spark behind his green eyes before he stepped in closer to her.

“Here you are,” Nate gently dropped the shirt into her hand before sliding the material to her palm. Their fingers brushed up against one another for a second and their eyes connected. He couldn’t help but smile as he noticed the way that her dark hair seemed to frame her face in a sticky motion, “but you can’t have my pants.”

“What?” Mindy blinked back at him, her lips curling in confusion.

“My pants,” Nate repeated once again, unable to refrain from allowing the time for his gaze to peruse the lines of her slender curves again. He’d never noticed it before, but there was something about Mindy standing in front of him that was all woman from the swell of her breasts to the curve of her hips and suddenly he found himself thinking thoughts that went well beyond hanging out with a pal. He cleared his throat uneasily before meeting her eyes again.

“Why not?” she questioned in a tight whisper, the words barely forming from her soft, rose colored lips as she blinked up at him.

“Because Mindy,” Nate stepped forward, his grip still on the shirt in her hand. His fingers pressed in over hers, taking the time to caress her smooth skin before his hand found it’s way to her wrist. “The truth to the matter is that I can’t give you my pants because if I did, then I’d be…”

“What?” she questioned drawing in a breath as she felt the heat of his body beside hers. Instinctively she stepped in closer to him knowing full well that something had shifted between them. She felt his fingertips slide up her forearm and as her eyes focused on his lips again, she noticed the hint of a sexy smirk that was building over his features.

“Because if I did that, then you might not be too happy with me because I would be totally naked,” Nate revealed in a low, tempting whisper surprising her with how sensual those words sounded falling from his lips. “You see I don’t wear boxers or briefs for that matter.”

“Oh,” her eyes widened as her lips curled with surprise. Her eyes widened as she felt his hand press into the small of her back. She dropped his t-shirt and was surprised to discover that she’d placed her hand over the top of his pants, fingers curling in over his belt buckle without hesitation or thought to it. Her breath escaped her lips in a hot gasp, her mouth growing dry at the thought.

“Yeah big oh,” Nate nodded sliding his hand up over the small of her back. He pulled her in flush against him surprising the both of them with the movement before his fingers eased up to the back of her bra. Gingerly he flicked at the hook feeling her shudder at the faint brush of the pad of his thumb against her skin.

“So you’re saying that it would be a bad thing for me to take your pants then,” Mindy fought for the right words, her eyes fixed on his lips before feeling him lean in closer to her.

“I’m telling you that it would undoubtedly be a bit intimidating if you took my pants right now,” Nate confessed his fingers sliding up over the back of her shoulders before drawing her nearer to him yet.

“Intimidating,” Mindy replied with a small smirk curling over her lips. She reached out to his belt buckle, carefully unhooking it before sliding her fingers to the top of his pants again, “I don’t know Nate it’s been a long time since a man has been able to ‘intimidate’ me if you will.”

“Trust me Mindy, once you take the pants off of me, it’s pure intimidation,” he winked down at her before issuing a nervous laugh, “It’s not something to be taken lightly.”

“I’ll tell you what,” she tipped up on her toes, bringing her lips in closer to his, her words coming out in a sultry swirl as she pressed her fingers in over his shoulder to steady herself. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Excuse me,” it was Nate’s turn to be surprised. He felt her fingers spread out over his chest before her hand returned to the top of his pants again.

“You mentioned that there was a stain on my bra,” Mindy replied licking her lips in anticipation as her shaky hand returned to his zipper. She met his eyes again and took in a small breath not quite sure how she’d wound up initiating something like this with Nate, but it felt good. It felt wild and uninhibited and free, which was something she hadn’t felt in her life.

“And you did say that you wanted to work on cleaning it before it was ruined,” Nate added with a shivering exhale, his fingers securing around the clasp on her bra again. “Maybe I should just do the honors and help you with the problem.”

“Only if I can help you with yours,” she mouthed heatedly moving up to tease her tongue over his bottom lip in a determined dragging motion.

“Oh you can more than help me,” Nate slurred pulling her in against his chest and kissing her hungrily. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, legs pressing in against his waist as he pulled her up off of the ground and into his chest. He could feel her fingers threading through his sandy colored hair as he attempted to circle around the kitchen area. He could taste the aggressiveness behind her kiss, the way that her mouth seemed to crave him almost as much as he craved her. In that moment he’d forgotten all about what it was that had landed them in this position in the first place.

“Nate,” Mindy slurred his name, her nails scratching over his chest, down his arms before moving up to his hair again. He felt her hips arch up against his and he groaned inwardly.

“Mindy, I just…” Nate found himself at a loss. He felt her reach down between them, using what little momentum she had to undo the zipper on his pants. He heard them falling to the floor without hesitation as their eyes met again. He could see the lust behind her eyes, the sheer want and desire that had evolved between them and he felt his head swimming with thoughts about what it would be like to chart into this kind of territory with one another. He leaned forward stealing another kiss from her lips before clumsily stepping out of his pants. “Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

“I’ll take note of the caution,” she mouthed biting down on his lower lip before shifting in his arms. He felt her shimmy against him and he turned towards the door to exit the kitchen before things took on a life of their own in the wrong place.

“Where’s your bedroom?” Nate questioned in between kisses feeling her lips threatening to overtake him and rip away any last shred of decency that he’d had left in him.

“Down the hall, first door to the right,” she explained in a shallow pant, her hips grinding in against his naked form as he let out a sharp groan.

“First door you say,” he replied seeing her nod as he attempted to pull forward into the hallway. Unable to concentrate on anything but her, he set her down on the floor much to her dismay.

“Nate, what are you doing?” she couldn’t help but ask stepping back just enough to get her first glimpse of his naked form. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped before she blinked a couple of times at him.

“I told you it was nothing short of pure intimidation,” he explained stepping forward and picking her up in his arms. He carried her down the hallway over his shoulder until he had her in the bedroom and ready to explore the new set of opportunities between them.

Setting her on her feet again, his hand returned to the clasp on her bra wanting nothing more than to bury himself in the valley between her breasts lavishing her with kisses, but much to his dismay the damned hook wasn’t budging. He tried and tried, attempting to push the clasp open with a newfound frustrated effort.

“Let me do it,” Mindy urged him taking a step back while attempting to finish the task he’d started, but wasn’t able to master. She couldn’t help but take in his masculine form all over again and lust thrummed over her body causing a heat in her center. It had been so long since she’d just allowed herself to indulge in the idea of being with someone, but with Nate standing in front of her looking savory from head to toe, she found she couldn’t get out of her bra fast enough. Still it wouldn’t budge.

“Maybe I can do it now,” Nate stepped forward ready to lend a hand to her, but she shook her head in refusal.

“No, I’ve got it,” she gritted her teeth before nodding over to her dresser. “Why don’t you just work on getting a condom?”

“A condom,” Nate repeated as if the word was completely foreign to him. It registered after a second and then he nodded, “Yeah, sure, um where are they?”

“Top drawer to the left,” Mindy explained feeling her frustrations mounting as her impossible bra refused to let up on her. Groaning she released the clasp for a second and turned her attention to her slacks. She quickly deposited them on the floor kicking them away from her feet before looking to Nate again, who was now taking his time at her dresser.

“Mindy I never pegged you for the black, lacy thong type,” Nate couldn’t help but blurt out lifting a pair of her underwear out of the drawer and turning around to face her. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you?”

“You have no idea,” she replied tossing her long hair over her shoulder before stepping forward, “Did you find the condoms?”

“Not yet. I was just…” Nate gave her a long once over before silently cursing himself for thinking about her underwear at a time when she was nearly naked in front of him. He quickly shuffled through her drawer until he spotted the box. Reaching for it, he held it up triumphantly, “Found them.”

“Good, now maybe you can help me get this off,” Mindy writhed while using both hands to try to release the clasp of her bra, but was met with no avail. “Nate…”

“Right,” he moved forward ready to do what was necessary to assist her. His fingers pressed over hers now that he stood behind her, but he too was without any luck. He gently pushed her hair away from her back, sliding it over her shoulder before he dropped kisses over her silken skin.

“I don’t know why it’s being so stubborn,” Mindy sighed closing her eyes and feeling Nate’s kisses over her spine. Silently, she dropped her hands around to reach out to him wanting to feel the warmth of his body against hers.

“I take back what I said before about being surprised about the black thong,” Nate confessed his hand dropping down to her hip, “It’s nothing in comparison to these. I like these better.”

“What?” Mindy questioned looking down to see the lavender bikini boy cut underwear she had on. She let out a groan before tipping her head back into his chest, “These are anything but sexy Nate.”

“Maybe to you, but to me,” he pressed his hands firmly on her hips before hooking his fingers in underneath the fabric, “I think they are hotter than hell.”

“Good, then that proves you’re easy to please,” she replied turning to face him again as they worked together to push the fabric down over her hips. She felt them fall to the floor before she used her toes to kick them across the room. She stepped into him feeling the heat of him against her and she smiled, “How about we forget the bra and focus on each other?”

“I think I can deal with that, but right now I would really love to see all of you,” Nate confessed sliding his index finger in over the swell of her bra. He watched her shiver as his hands pressed upon her hips, pulling her up off of the ground just enough for his lips to make contact with the top of the lacy material in front of him. She bit down on her lower lip and let out a small whimper that caused a smile to build inside of him. “Oh how I would love to get this off of you.”

“Nate,” she cried out sliding her arms around him now that her body was begging for more attention from him.

“I’m positive you have amazing breasts,” Nate carried her over towards her bed, clumsily stepping over a pair of shoes that she’d left out earlier. He dropped her down onto the bed before kneeling in over her and taking in the vision in front of him.

“They aren’t that impressive,” Mindy confessed feeling a heat rise over her features as Nate’s finger swirled in over her abdomen, his kisses following the path that his palm had taken moments earlier.

“Oh I don’t know, I’m pretty impressed thus far,” he whispered heatedly against her skin causing her to arch up off of the bed into his touch. She tangled her fingers out over the blankets before closing her eyes tightly and anticipating what it would be like to feel him, to experience all that he had to offer her. She repressed a small groan that built in the back of her throat when she felt him slide her leg up just enough to make room for himself between her thighs. His lips teased over her inner thigh. She swallowed a breath while arching up off of the blankets with a muted urging. She bit down on her lower lip feeling his breath over her while his fingers tapered off over her thigh, his lips returning to a spot so far from where she’d anticipated him going to with her.

“God you’re beautiful,” Nate murmured against her soft flesh thinking about how someone like Mindy had never taken to him before. Never in a million years could he imagine having found himself with someone so incredibly amazing, so beautiful and smart. She was the kind of woman that he was told all of his life that he’d never be able to be with, yet here she was before him wanting him just as much as he’d found himself wanting her and he knew it was too much to resist. He leaned forward easing his mouth over her in a slow, subtle caress tasting her desire for him.

“Nate,” she cried out his name unable to hold back on the whimpers that carried over her with each soft flick he’d made from within. She bit down on her lip curling into his caress to his every touch as heat swirled over her body. She felt his hands press in underneath her hips guiding her in for more of his attention and just when she thought she’d explode he did something to surprise her, to change the direction of what he was doing and leave her longing for more. It was too much to bear as she reached out to him squeezing his shoulders and letting out a harsh gasp of air. Her pulse was racing, body teetering on the edge of all rationality when she felt him offer up another intimate movement to send her over the edge. She fell back into the bed, fingers coiling out over the blankets curling the material tight between her nails while her lips parted causing her to cry out in abandon.

“That’s right Mindy. Don‘t hold back on what you‘re feeling,” he whispered carrying her over the edge of passion again and again before his kisses tapered off over her hip. He heard her breath coming out in short, agonizing gasps as her body trembled beneath his. Smiling to himself he teased his lips over her skin until he found himself staring at the bra that refused to work with him. Frowning, he couldn’t help but give it another small tug before he felt her hand on his shoulder.

“Forget about the bra Nate,” she pleaded with him pushing him back onto the bed beside her. She reached out to swipe the condom from his hand before tearing open the package.

“But…” Nate started watching her slide up over him, carefully pulling the condom out of the package. He opened his mouth to say something more, but any words of protest were out the window when she eased the condom over him, taking the time to test his masculinity between her fingers. Finally she settled in over him, her hips hovering over his. He felt her reach for his hands placing them over her as their eyes met again and Nate realized that after tonight nothing would ever be the same for him. After tonight he realized that a woman like Cori would never capture his attention when he’d found someone that went well beyond anything he ever could have anticipated. Sliding up to meet her in a kiss, Nate coiled his arm around her and prepared himself for an experience that he was certain neither one of them would ever forget.


“So that’s it huh?” Grady replied after listening to Jason’s tale of the hook up that left him alone and wanting more from his mysterious lady friend.

“Yeah and it sucks,” Jason slumped down further onto the sofa, “I mean how in the hell can fate bring me the hottest, most amazing girl I’ve ever met only to have me lose her before the night was over. Damn, I would’ve thought she’d at least stick around long enough for breakfast or something.”

“Only because you were still hoping for dessert?” Grady replied with a knowing brow.

“Well duh, but still,” Jason frowned at Grady’s response, “It was really good Grady. I mean it was beyond incredible. Last night was phenomenal and I can’t see why she wouldn’t want to bask in the moment a bit longer. I mean sure okay, so maybe when you meet someone in a bar it isn’t about happily ever after, but damn I would’ve loved to see her again.”

“For starters Jason, let me tell you first hand meeting a woman in a bar is not always a smart idea,” Grady took a sip of his water before explaining further, “I met my first wife in a bar and that should’ve been the first clue that she and I were a bad pairing from the start.”

“Your first wife?” Jason arched a curious brow. “I didn’t know you were married before. I mean I knew you were kind of old, but…”

“Gee thanks,” Grady rolled his eyes before shaking his head at him. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t add that last part…”

“Hey, there is nothing wrong with being old. I mean obviously you make Deana happy and from what I saw that first time I met you, well you clearly don’t have any problems getting it up. I mean if you’re on Viagra or something I can totally respect that, but…” Jason continued to ramble on to him.

“First of all I’m not on Viagra and second this conversation needs to stop,” Grady frowned back at Jason. “The point I was trying to make here is that when you meet someone in a bar you’re asking for trouble. My ex-wife was a whack job and even though we had a pretty hot hookup the first night we met, it wasn’t enough to build a real, lasting relationship on. There was too much that got in the way starting with the alcohol that we had that night.”

“So what are you saying?” Jason questioned tipping his head to the side.

“That if I wasn’t drunk off my ass, then I probably never would’ve slept with her in the first place, which would’ve left my life wide open for less headaches,” Grady informed him point blank. “Same thing goes for you and this mystery woman of yours. If you two were really that hot with one another, then maybe it was the alcohol talking and giving you freedom over your inhibitions. Maybe you should just chalk it up as a great night that needed to end.”

“No Grady, she wasn’t like that. I mean yeah, we were both a bit drunk, but damn when I got her alone with me,” Jason paused waving his hands around in the air and trying to convey what he was trying to say, “I mean no woman has ever wanted me like that. Never. Not that I haven’t been with plenty of women, but Grady she was sizzling. She was sexy as hell with her petite little figure, her long, dark hair, smoldering brown eyes and her chest was…”

“Um, I hate to bring reality into this, but what about Mindy? You know the woman you’ve been trying to get to notice you back in Coral Valley?” Grady couldn’t help but question thinking about all Jason had done in order to get closer to Mindy. “I thought that there was some real feeling there.”

“I did too, but then she’s been blowing me off lately,” Jason groaned dropping back into the couch again. “No matter what I do she’s not seeing me like I want her to.”

“Hmm, well maybe that’s because you’ve lead her to believe that you’re gay,” Grady stressed the last word before offering up a small laugh, “Last time I checked I don’t think women found that to be a turn on or a quality they were looking for in a mate.”

“It’s not like I planned on making her think I was gay,” Jason curled his lip in a frown, “and besides this isn’t about Mindy. This is about Crystal and how I’m not going to be able to get her out of my system. Grady, she was amazing.”

“Amazing enough to consider seeing her when you’re not drunk?” Grady challenged seeing something flash behind Jason’s eyes.

“Grady I’m telling you that she was beautiful. She was like one of those girls you see in the magazines, you know like one of those playmates coming right off the pages. I couldn’t believe that she chose me out of every guy at the bar, but when we were alone together…” Jason shook his head before offering up a heavy sigh, “She blew my mind.”

“I don’t think that’s the only thing,” Grady quipped in response.

“Grady, I’m telling you man. She is the one. She’s the woman I could very easily spend every night with,” Jason sat up straighter, a determination in his tone, “but now she’s gone. Life sucks. I hate this.”

“Well, as much as I would like to tell you to get over it, obviously you’re not ready for that,” Grady took another sip of his water while watching Jason fall back on the sofa. “Though if you really think she’s the one, then maybe you’ll cross paths again in the future.”

“You really think so?” Jason’s blue eyes sparked with hope.

“You never know. I mean stranger things have happened,” Grady shrugged his shoulders simply before leaning back in his chair. He’d felt a headache coming on since he’d awakened, but now that Jason was here, he felt it ease up a bit. He looked over at his brother-in-law once again and realized that Jason had a tendency to talk on and on just like Deana did.

“You mean like my showing up on your wedding night and talking your ear off while you probably want to be making love to my sister?” Jason arched a curious brow before wrinkling his nose at the thought.

“I’ve already spent the night making love to your sister,” Grady remarked hearing the groan that Jason made and he laughed. “It was pretty phenomenal as well.”

“Okay, I’m done with that conversation,” Jason held his hands up in the air. He waved his arms around before letting out another groan. “The last thing I want to think about is my sister engaging in any kind of raunchy sexual acts with you. I’m happy that you’re happy together and we’ll just leave it at that.”

“Fair enough,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh at Jason. “Your sister is pretty special.”

“Yeah she is,” Jason nodded in agreement before growing suddenly serious, “Though I have to know how did you realize that she was the one?”

“She wouldn’t date me,” Grady admitted with a hint of laughter in his tone. “She constantly belittled me and told me all the reasons why I would be the last man in this world that she would ever consider dating.”

“Yeah, she does that when she really likes someone,” Jason laughed lightly at his sister’s actions. “She tends to be really mean to those men she’s attracted to because it’s easier than admitting she feels something there. It’s probably because of that jack ass she was with before.”

“Zane’s father?” Grady couldn’t help but ask.

Jason nodded, “Yeah he did wrong by her in a lot of ways. He never cared about her, but Deana wanted to believe that there was something more to what they had. Instead she got pregnant, dumped and left to raise a baby all on her own. Talk about a bad way to end your high school experience.”

“What ever happened to him,” Grady questioned knowing full well that the topic of Zane’s father was still a touchy one with Deana.

“He got recruited by a big college to play hockey. Last I heard he was engaged to one of Deana’s friends who went to school with him. The two hooked up right around the time that Deana discovered she was pregnant, but that jerk didn’t even bother to give Deana a second thought. He even accused her of making up the story about being pregnant to trap him into marrying her. Then to make matters worse, he told everyone that Deana was sleeping with the soccer coach and half of the hockey and football teams.”

“You’re kidding me,” Grady replied taking in what Jason was saying about Zane’s father.

“Yeah, he painted my sister out to be some kind of slut and that killed her,” Jason shook his head and frowned feeling his anger returning to him. “The whole town started talking trash about her and it was too much. She quit school before the end of the year and wouldn’t leave the house. It got pretty bad for a while. I mean I beat his ass after he did that, but no one in town wanted to think bad about Mr. Cool on the Ice. I guess that’s what happens in a small town.”

“So with Deana, how did she…” Grady hesitated feeling as if he’d stepped into uncharted territory in mentioning Deana’s past without her around.

“Don happened,” Jason explained with a shrug of his shoulders, “Don came to town telling us that he was Stephanie’s husband and the two just clicked. He took to her and helped her finish up in getting her degree, even helped in paying for nursing school. All in all I think his finding us was probably the best thing for her. He turned her life around. Even set her up with that apartment she’s got, which I’m hoping that she’ll continue to let me stay in now that you and she are together.”

“You mean Don…” Grady paused for a long moment thinking about what Jason was saying to him.

“Don’s like her hero. Though I think she had a crush on him. But I’m pretty sure it ended as soon as she learned he was married,” Jason continued to ramble on falling back onto the couch and feeling the after effects of his alcohol taking over him mixed with the exhaustion from having spent his night with Crystal. “Don was the first guy who gave her any real respect, well beyond me and they were really close. I know one time she told me that she’d always hoped she’d met Don first…that she’d wanted to find someone like Don who could treat her right, but I guess in her own way she has.”

“What do you mean?” Grady couldn’t help but ask.

“Well with you. I mean you treat her right,” Jason glanced over at him briefly, “She loves you and she knows that she’s safe with you. You’ve made her believe in happy endings again. She really sees that there is a dream worth having now and it‘s all because of you.”

“I feel that same way about her,” Grady replied thinking about his strange dream. He closed his eyes for a moment remembering all the times in the past when he’d thought he’d had happiness only to feel it ripped away from him. Thinking about what it was like to have Jade in his life for only a short time, he vowed not to make the same mistakes with Deana. His dream had to be warning him not to let the same demons come back to haunt them. As he opened his eyes again only to discover that Jason had passed out on the couch, he vowed to make sure that he provided Deana with nothing but happiness for the rest of their lives. She and Zane were his world and he wasn’t about to let anything steal that away from him. That much he was sure of.


...to be continued...