Episode 429

“So what was this emergency meeting all about?” Shane questioned sliding into the booth at the back of Irvin’s. “What’s up?”

“Hungry?” Diane questioned surveying the menu in front of her nervously. “They have a great bacon double cheeseburger here and…”

“Diane,” Shane spoke her name as he reached out across the table to pull the menu away from her eyes. “What’s on your mind?”

“Last night,” Diane gulped setting her menu down and drawing in a breath. “I woke up earlier with a killer hangover and a hazy memory of making a complete and total ass of myself. Ring a bell?”

“Not in the least,” he shook his head and grinned. “I thought we had an interesting night.”

“If interesting included drinking until I passed out and making you bring me back own only to listen to my incoherent babblings, then you really must be hard pressed for entertainment,” she cleared her throat before folding her hands on top of the table. “Though I did kind of want to ask you a question about what happened after we left the bar.”

“What about?” he arched a curious brow.

“When I had you take me home I’m pretty sure I probably said something that I shouldn’t have,” she shifted on the seat once again. Her eyes searched around the room refusing to meet his gaze as she cleared her throat. “I probably said things that might’ve given you the wrong idea about…”

“About what?” he questioned lazily. He leaned back further on his side of the booth and fought to contain his amusement.

“Well, you know the things that we really shouldn’t have…” she finally found the strength to face him once again. “I know I did things that were inappropriate and…”

“You mean like attempting to tear my clothes off and make mad passionate love to me?” he winked over at her with a hearty laugh.

“Attempting,” she perked up at the word. “Does that mean that we didn’t…?”

He sighed and reached across the table for her hand. “As much as I would’ve enjoyed the honors of being able to share that experience with you, I happen to enjoy my women fully sober in the heat of the moment.”

“Thank God,” she gasped sinking back into the seat once again, “because if we would have…well, that would have…”

“Have what?” he asked.

“Probably not have done anything good for our friendship,” she cleared her throat again, “and would’ve made what I had to ask you a whole hell of a lot harder than it already is.”

“Why do I get the feeling that I’m not going to enjoy the direction this is headed in?” Shane couldn’t help but frown.

“It’s not bad,” she waved her hand dismissively. “Really it’s not bad at all. It’s just I have a super huge favor to ask of you and…”

“You’re incredibly nervous about the buildup, so why not tell me what’s on your mind and put us both out of the agonizing misery you’re about to push upon us?” he suggested leaning forward towards the table.

“Well the fact to the matter is,” she hesitated as she tapped her fingers on the table top. “My mom is getting married on some beautiful exotic island to Richard Morrison.”

“Congratulations to your mother,” Shane offered up. “I know you said it was important to her to find love again.”

“It’s extremely important, but the fact to the matter is that while I’ll be standing up in the wedding, I haven’t been able to pull Ben away from work for the event,” she exhaled slowly, “which is why I’m here.”

“I don’t understand,” he blinked back at her.

“Ben’s busy with work and he’s not going to be able to make it,” she offered up, “but I figured since you’re around and I didn’t totally botch up our friendship last night that maybe just maybe you and I could work on putting ourselves back in neutral territory with a vacation if you will.”

“Let me get this straight,” he eyed her closely. “You and I got shit-faced together last night and you came here afraid that we’d slept together under those circumstances, but now that you realize we haven’t you would like me to escort you to your mother’s wedding on a very romantic, tropical island where we’ll be forced to spend a great deal of time with one another.”

“Pretty much,” she nodded, “but it isn’t as bad as you’re making it sound. You said we were okay in terms of being friends, right? You told me you wanted for us to work on building that friendship because it’s important to both of us.”

“A wedding isn’t exactly the place for us to bond as friends Diane. Weddings get people thinking about commitments and…” he cleared his throat as she frowned.

“You don’t strike me as a commitment kind of guy and besides,” she waved her hand dismissively, “I’m fully committed to making things work with Ben.”

“Are you?” he tossed back at her.

“Absolutely and if you escort me to my mother’s wedding I fully intend to prove that to you,” she insisted firmly. “You will see that what did or didn’t happen before isn’t going to change the friendship that we have. We’ll be able to enjoy ourselves and spend some time returning to the level of comfort that was there before I started to get all hormonal on you.”

“It sounds like you’re trying to push this more so to convince yourself then me,” he confessed with a heavy scrutiny in his tone.

“Shane, I want you to be there with me to share my mom’s special day,” she pleaded with him. Reaching across the table for his hand she squeezed it lightly. “You’re one of my only friends and I don’t think I can face having to be at my mother’s wedding all alone with all the happy couples. It’s damn depressing.”

“I won’t argue that, but at the same time Diane I know that…” he replied thinking about all that had transpired between them.

“This is going to be fun. Trust me,” she finished for him with a wide grin knowing full well this trip to the island with Shane would be her way to prove to the world that she was fully committed to what she had with Ben. She and Shane were friends and she was going to enforce that even more once they were away from Coral Valley.


Letting out a heavy sigh, Alexa fanned the underside of her palm in front of her face feeling the stemming heat entering the small room that both her and Ben were placed in together. You’d think it would be agonizing enough from the heat that surrounded them, but the thing that seemed to be haunting her very thoughts was the constant pounding of Ben slapping a pen against the top of the desk.

Once or twice could have been enough, but it had been going on for over an hour. She understood that he was having a hard time knowing that his girlfriend’s mother was getting married and he wanted to be there for her--which is why she gave him some time to take his anger off for a while with the pen. If it worked for him, fine…he could do it. However after this long and already being stuck in the cramped space and the smoldering heat--Alexa couldn’t take it any longer.

“Would you give it up with the pen?” she blurted out glancing over her shoulder at Ben whose body seemed to tighten when she mentioned him stopping. That left her regretting that she even told him to chill out because she could tell that it just soured his mood even more. “You have been doing that for a very long time now. I think it’s time to put the pen down.”

“Well excuse me,” Ben had a mocking tone behind his voice as he dropped the pen down to the top of the desk. His palms dropped firmly over the cool wood as she sighed. “Didn’t know I was bothering you that much.”

“Is this really how you are going to be acting for the next few days? If it is, I don’t really think I can put up with you like this,” Alexa informed him turning in her chair to stare out at him fully trying to get some kind of connection going between them. “Would it help for you to just talk? Rant to me about what’s going on in your head. If it gets the little annoying sounds to go away, it will be greatly appreciated. It’s hot as hell and I know you hate this situation completely, so if ranting makes you feel better Ben, please do.”

“If I talk about things, I’m only going to feel worse about the situation and get more pissed off Lex,” Ben insisted with an angered tone while Alexa threw her hands up at his response and turned away from him again. “What? Can you blame me here? I hate this job, I hate everything about it and it has made me miss out on so much.”

“Don’t you think you should have thought about that before you got this job?” she blurted out knowing that she was getting a glare from Ben at that comment and she didn’t even have to turn around to know that. She could tell by his breathing when he was mad which was something she learned toward the beginning with him. “I get that you are upset, but you are making it seem like being around me is the worst thing possible.”

“Oh Geez, don’t make this all about you because it has nothing to do with you at all,” Ben blurted out in somewhat of a disgusted tone realizing that she was taking his attitude personal and she shouldn’t have been. “This wasn’t really a job I wanted to begin with Lex, I did all of this to make my father happy and you know that better than anyone.”

“Do I? Because you seemed to be doing a great job before I came around. It’s like the moment I started with you on this job you threw a fit,” she pointed out as he spun the chair around to face her, staring out at her in a very serious expression. “I’m serious Ben, I know I’m not the best company, but you have to have been used to this already. What is the difference? What is different than before with this job? The answer is clearly me.”

“I have no problem with you Lex, I am getting sick of being away from the people I love. I was not made to have this career, I was forced into it. I don’t know about you, but when you love someone…someone you know you are meant to be with for the rest of your life,” Ben’s words lingered as she felt every muscle in her body tightening knowing that she was about to hear a long drawn out speech about love. Romance. All the things she didn’t have in her life and for a good reason. “You hate to be away from them. When important things are taking place in their life and you miss it, you feel like nothing will fix that. If you love someone as much as I love Diane, you don’t want to miss a thing. When I close my eyes, all I think about is her. All I want to be is with her. This job has lead us no where, which means I’m going to have to spend even more time away from her and it pisses me off since this isn’t what I wanted to do in the first place.”

“Then you shouldn’t have,” she stated firmly knowing that her point of view would never get across to him because he was so stubborn about the way he felt. “That was always the one thing that was bad about you Ben, you let people guilt you into what they wanted. You felt bad, so you went with it and did whatever someone else wanted and avoided what you truly wanted. That’s where your mistake started. If you had actually done something for yourself for once and tried to…”

“Oh don’t lecture me now,” Ben tossed what was on his lap on top the desk before standing up and pacing. He didn’t need this right now, not at all. “The meaning of this is that I should be with the person I love and I can’t be. So therefore I am upset.”

“And I was trying to give you a resolution Romeo,” Alexa stood up and moved toward him to place her hands over his shoulders to keep him in place for the small amount of time that she could. “You just need to relax. Diane is going to understand why you aren’t there. Work is important to you.”

“Not really and I’m afraid she won’t,” Ben insisted reaching for Alexa’s hand to pull them away from his shoulders before moving toward the bathroom. “Honestly, I hate everything about this and I have no idea how a relationship can last when I’ve been gone this long. She deserves better than this, someone who can focus on her constantly and I’m constantly stuck here in a room leading me no where with you. That’s not what should be happening.”

“I agree it isn’t right…,” she went to say more only to see him walk into the bathroom and shut the door firmly behind him. Clearly showing to her that he really didn’t give a care what she had to say. At the moment he was mad and angry, which lead to him taking it out on her. “This is great.”

The more time she was going to spend with him like this, the more that their ‘mission’ would become more in trouble. They were clearly getting no where and he saw that which led him to do even less and to soak in his sorrows. Which hurt him more than actually helped him.

All of this meant she had to do one thing…and she hoped that it would work. If not, this was what she was going to be stuck with for a very long time and that was the last thing that Alexa truly wanted.


“Oh God, I hurt so bad,” Evie groaned feeling completely spent and exhausted after the strenuous night she’d had. She felt the light shining in through the windows of the bedroom, but it did nothing to quell the aches that carried over her. When she’d anticipated the direction the night would take, she realized she’d not been fully prepared for what would follow her quest for passion. Now there wasn’t an inch of her that didn’t feel like it had been to hell and back. “Everything aches JT. I wasn’t prepared for this last night when we came in here to make love.”

“I know sweetheart, but I promise you the pain won’t last,” JT assured her leaning in to kiss her forehead gently. He slid his fingers into her dark hair caressing her smooth, flushed skin before his lips traced over her temple in a tender movement, “I wanted to make last night as comfortable as possible for you, but obviously I wasn’t as good at it as I thought I was.”

“No you were wonderful,” she found the strength to turn her head enough to face him. Feeling his arm around her, she couldn’t help but press her palm into the center of his chest, “You were beyond amazing and I don’t know what I would’ve done if you weren’t with me.”

“I just wish it wasn’t so painful,” he whispered warmly in her ear before massaging his fingers over her spine in a loving movement.

“It wouldn’t have hurt so much if it wasn’t as enormous of a shock as it was, but JT, I can’t even begin to tell you how embarrassed I am,” she blurted out her dark eyes reaching out into his again, “If I would’ve known that it would make me cry like that when we were together, then…”

“Hey, it’s okay,” JT brushed his fingers through her long dark hair as it was clear she was beyond exhausted. “There’s no shame in crying. I do it all the time. You just haven’t been around me long enough to see what happens when I see a sad movie. Hell, I even cry at cartoons.”

“No you don’t,” she shook her head and laughed lightly at him in spite of the pain, “You’re just saying that to make me feel better because I threw up all over you.”

“No it’s the truth. I’m a big baby about those kind of things and for the record you didn’t throw up all over me,” he reminded her thinking about the turn of events that lead them from the promise of making love to their spending most of the night in the bathroom with his keeping her company while she lost the contents of her stomach. Thinking back to the night they shared he couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. “You were well on your way to the bathroom before things got out of control.”

“I know, but one moment we were together feeling like we were in heaven lost in one another’s arms and then the next,” she groaned feeling tears of frustration carry over her once again.

“The next I was able to be there when you needed me,” JT whispered easing his fingers over the side of her face and smiling gently, “Being with you and making sure you were alright was what was the most important thing to me Evie. I just wanted you to be comfortable and…”

“Absolutely disgusting. You should have never seen me like that,” she closed her eyes and took in a small breath, “I’m sure it’s absolutely disgusting to have to see your girlfriend throwing up in the toilet while you get to sit there holding her hair back so that she doesn’t get it all over herself.”

“Hey, it’s not a big deal,” JT tried to ease her concerns as it was clear she had far more to think about than being worried about his feelings, “I was glad that I could help you. In fact I consider it a major accomplishment that I got you to laugh at least once while you were feeling bad.”

“Yeah, well it was at your own expense,” she thought back to the way in which he’d tried to lift her spirits while she was losing the contents of her stomach. Tipping her head up again, she felt his strong arms around her and that in itself made her feel a bit better. “I don’t know why you even bother with me. I’m a jinx.”

“Hmm, well since you put it that way maybe it’s time for me to pack up the family and leave,” he couldn’t help but tease before glancing over at the kittens. “I think we should pack our bags and maybe head to Hawaii where we can find someone else who doesn’t nearly jinx us like you do. Maybe I’ll just skip over that altogether and become a monk for the rest of my days.”

“Stop it,” she swatted at his chest lightly before letting out a small groan, “JT that’s so not funny.”

“No?” he arched a curious brow before pushing her long, dark hair behind her ear with a small yet simple movement, “Then how about I just stay here with you spending the day in bed so that you can get the rest that you need?”

“I’d like that,” she confessed with a soft sigh snuggling in over him. She placed her hand over the center of his chest before speaking up again, “Why is it that every time we try to get closer to one another something always happens to get in the way of us?”

“Maybe because it’s a sign we’re pushing things too fast,” he suggested remembering their earlier talk with one another. “Evie, there is no hurry on our being together. I love you and I’m willing to wait until the moment is right. I hope you realize that by now.”

“I do, but…” she started with a small groan feeling her stomach tighten up again.

“But just because we’re not able to experience physical love together yet doesn’t mean that I love you any less,” he assured her whispering warmly over her ear, “And I do love you. I love you so much more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life. Even Miss Sunshine.”

“Miss Sunshine?” she repeated her brown eyes narrowing up at him with a small frown, “Who was she? Some kind of beauty queen you picked up on the beach or something?”

“Not in the least,” he wrinkled his nose at her before shaking his head, “Miss Sunshine was only the most beautiful girl in the world. She was the one woman that I was completely dedicated to and her devotion to me was commendable. She thought I was amazing when the world believed otherwise.”

“So what? She was the great love of your life?” Evie frowned hating the idea of JT speaking about another woman with her.

“I suppose on some level she was a great love of mine, but not like you’re thinking,” he revealed squeezing her in his arms, “Considering that Miss Sunshine was a little Collie that I picked up when I was out on the streets. She followed me home one night after a party and I couldn’t leave her alone. She and I were together for a great many years.”

“Really?” Evie’s eyes widened with curiosity.

“That’s right,” he nodded in response a smile carrying over his lips, “She was one of the best dogs a man could’ve asked for. She really made me feel like I’d found a home at a time when I didn’t think I had much of one in my life. Of course things haven’t been the same without her.”

“What happened to her?” Evie couldn’t help but ask her brown eyes widening with curiosity.

“Unfortunately she passed on a few years ago,” JT replied with a heavy sigh, “but not before having a few puppies first. My friend Kellen has Tripsy, who is one of her puppies. Though I have to tell you Tripsy is far more energetic than Miss Sunshine was. She was really incredible though. She liked to go for jogs in the park and bite on my toes until I got out of bed to take her for her walks.”

“So it was a full time job having a woman in your life,” Evie couldn’t help but smile at the thought of him having a companion.

“Well, it made life interesting,” he replied with a thoughtful expression, “but Kellen is really the one who has his hands full. Tripsy is a character though. She really likes to get into things. I remember once Kellen went shopping and spent all day picking out the perfect pair of pants as he put it. He literally took hours to locate them and it took Tripsy only a few short minutes to shred them and spread them out through the house.”

“Oh no,” Evie couldn’t help but laugh, “I’ll bet she got into big trouble.”

“Hardly,” JT shook his head at the thought, “Kellen wound up deciding that they weren’t him anyways and he put the material together again and made a pillow of sorts for Tripsy. I would be willing to guess she still has it somewhere because Kellen spoils her.”

“Sounds like you had a lot of fun with Kellen,” Evie noted thinking about Martha, “If he’s anything like his mother, then I’m sure he’s a trip himself.”

“Kellen is one of a kind, but…” JT paused thinking about his friend, “we haven’t really kept in touch with one another.”

“Why? What happened?” she couldn’t help but question.

“Life happened I suppose,” he shrugged his shoulders before sighing. “I guess one thing leads to another and before you know it your friends aren’t your friends anymore.”

“I wouldn’t know about that considering that I don’t really have any of those,” she frowned realizing how pathetic that sounded. “Life never gave me any time for them.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” he searched her dark eyes seeing a sadness behind them. “I mean you found me, didn’t you?”

“JT, you’re not my friend, you’re my boyfriend,” she pointed out with a curl of her lip.

“Wait a second,” he replied with wide eyes, “are you saying that just because you love me, you can’t actually enjoy hanging out with me like you would with a friend?”

“Considering that when I’m with you all I can think about is getting you out of your clothes and,” she started only to feel him press his fingers gently over her mouth to silence her words.

“That’s it. We’re changing this right now. If all you see me as is a good time without being your friend, then I have seriously misrepresented myself. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe that we’ve got some friend time to get into with one another,” he informed her with a cryptic smirk. “Stay right here.”

“Where are you going?” she couldn’t help but ask watching him slide out from beneath the blankets. She brought her hand over her abdomen knowing full well she didn’t have the energy to follow him out of the room. Instead she sank into her pillows until she heard his footsteps returning. She opened her eyes again and eyed him suspiciously. “Where did you go?”

“To get this,” he explained reaching out to reveal a small black box to her.

“What is it?” she couldn’t help but ask seeing him set it up on the table beside the bed. He opened it up and pulled out what appeared to be a tiny television screen.

“It’s a portable DVD player. I had it tucked away just in case and now is a perfect time for it,” he informed her with a small smile, “so tell me friend are you in the mood for a comedy or a drama?”

“It might hurt to laugh,” she pondered the thought for a moment, “but then again crying might not be a good idea either.”

“Okay, then we’ll scratch both those ideas then,” he decided looking into the tote bag he’d also carried in with him. “How about a mystery? Think you’re up for that?”

“I might fall asleep on you,” she confessed thinking about how she’d felt.

“That’s okay too. If you do, you can just sleep in my arms because a friend would do that for another friend,” he offered up repositioning the DVD player on the nightstand.

“Would you do it for Kellen?” she couldn’t help but ask a hint of a smile teasing over the corners of her mouth.

“In a word, no, but I guess if he needed me I would be there for him,” he informed her curling his arm around her and urging her to slide in closer to him, “but these arms are reserved for just you.”

“I can certainly get into that,” she decided snuggling into his chest again and trying to ignore the ache that still vibrated over her now that she was safe and warm in his arms ready to get into whatever movie that he had in store for them. She tipped her head up for a brief moment catching the way his eyes were on her and she frowned, “You’re supposed to be watching the movie, not me.”

“I will,” he replied shaking his head and laughing. After a few minutes had passed, he felt her snuggle further into him and before the opening credits were finished, he could hear the soft sounds of her breathing indicating that she’d fallen asleep. Lovingly he massaged his fingers through her dark hair before smiling and finding that the movie couldn’t keep his attention now that he found himself at complete ease with her in his arms. He repositioned himself on the bed, curling his arm around her further before he too opted to just enjoy her company above all else in the quiet time they had with one another.


Letting out a tight groan, Kevin turned over in bed feeling the large amount of vibrating warmth shooting up his leg in a painful tension. Gripping onto his thigh, he could feel the way his muscle tightened beneath his touch which made him jolt up from his laying position on the bed.

“Ria,” Kevin was able to mutter out half expecting her to wake up beside him to help him through the pain, but when he looked to the other side of the bed he saw that she was no longer in the room with him. Hissing out, he could feel the tension rising inside of his body making him fall back on the bed in pain.

His neck tensed, his jaw tightening in anguish making his whole body hurt with the way his leg was jolting pain through him. Breathing heavily, he tried to focus on something else. To somehow focus on another subject to make his mind forget the pain, but it was too hard to accomplish.

The best thing he could do was sit through the pain and wait for it to wear off. Turning on his side, he made sure his leg was off the bed and there was no pressure being put on it to add to the pressure that was flowing through him.

A small whimper fell from his lips as he tried to sit up in the bed when it was clear that this pain wasn’t going to just go away. He was stuck with this injury, he would have to work his way through it somehow.

“Ria?” Kevin called out one more time hoping that she was in the bathroom to help him get to his wheel chair, but once again he was met by complete silence. Showing him that she wandered off through the Ashford mansion while he slept.

Getting his good leg over the side of the bed, he tried to use the power of his arms to get his other leg on the ground, but it hurt to even bend it like that. He was extremely weak overall, both mentally and physically. Being this clearly dependent on others made him feel extremely bad about himself. He wasn’t the type that liked to have other people help him even when he was hurt. It made him feel helpless.

“You can do this,” he tried to prepare himself as he leaned forward to reach for his wheel chair that was by the window. Skimming his fingers over the arm of it, he let out a tight groan when he could feel that he was stretching too far and it sent a jolt through his side. “Damn it.”

Part of him just wished that Ria would come back any second to help him with this, but he knew that he would have to learn to do a few things on his own. The thought of even needing someone’s help to get out of bed made him miserable that he could feel this bad.

It figured that when Seth’s world came crashing down around him and when he needed Kevin the most, he was completely useless. What could someone who couldn’t even get out of bed on his own do to help Seth?

“Come on,” he tried to reach for it again only to just miss it again and the more he tried, the more he hurt himself. Falling back against the bed, he just seemed to give up. The best thing he could do was just wait for Ria to come back because there was no use in even trying.

Trying to pull himself back up on the bed, his good leg jammed into the edge of the nightstand making him cuss out before bringing his fist forward to knock over the lamp that was on top. The crash was loud, but he didn’t care. This was all beginning to be too much.

“Great…,” he mumbled covering his eyes wishing that none of this would have happen. He felt worthless, hopeless and useless. Like there was nothing he could do to change this.

“Hey…” the sound of Angela’s voice made him look up toward the bedroom door to see that she was moving into the room and he let out a heavy breath. “Are you alright?”

“I can’t get up,” he explained in almost a whisper because he was embarrassed of the situation. Watching her close the door behind her, she moved around the bed before reaching for his hands. “I can do it.”

“Clearly…,” she looked to the lamp that was on the floor and she grabbed a hold of his hands, pulling him up into a sitting position on the edge of the bed. “Why didn’t you just call for help?”

“Angie…,” he breathed heavily knowing that he should have, but he had left his cell phone across the room last night to charge and he didn’t want to scream for help considering he was embarrassed enough. “I just…”

“It’s okay,” Angela’s words came out in a gentle manner while she kneeled before him and reached to roll up the loose material of his pant leg carefully. When her fingers grazed over his thigh, she heard a hiss escape his lips and she frowned. “You should have never rushed away from the hospital Kevin.”

“You know why I did it,” he grumbled as she moved up from the floor and over toward the dresser where his medicine was sitting on top. He could hardly focus on what she was doing, but he could hear that she was going through the few bags of what he had there. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“I’m just glad you are alright,” she came back handing him over the medication he was supposed to be taking to make sure he didn’t get an infection. “We will have to work on the rest of the medicine in a bit. Just take this for now.”

“Thank you,” Kevin’s dark eyes stared into hers for a long moment as he swallowed down the pills forcefully trying to get them down his throat with how big they were. “I can’t stand this.”

“You were never one for depending on other people,” Angela reminded him pulling his wheelchair closer to the bed. She bent down and wrapped her arms firmly around his mid section. “Try and work with me, okay?”

“No, no,” he tried to move her arms from around him. Finally wiggling enough to get out of her grasps, he shook his head and let out a heavy breath. “You just had the twins Angie, I’m not going to over work you. At this point, you can get hurt just as much as I can.”

“I think I’m in a better position though Adonis,” she watched him brace his left hand over the bed and the right on the nightstand. It looked like it took every ounce of his power to pull himself up. Moving forward, she tried to grasp a hold of him so he didn’t fall as she helped him down to the chair carefully. A relieved sigh escaped his lips as she held onto him for a moment when she felt his body shaking. “Kevin, are you going to be okay? Really?”

“I’ll survive,” he breathed heavily feeling her moving back for a moment to press a small kiss over his temple. He knew that by the sound of her voice she didn’t believe he was alright, but he couldn’t just sit back and let his injury keep him away from those he loved. “Thank you.”

“Lean forward,” she saw him reach for his shirt and she grabbed it before he could. Her demand caused him to glare up at her giving her a small laugh. “It’s alright, I’m used to helping you out after this long. So just lean forward and stop being stubborn.”

“I’m not being stubborn,” he began to argue noticing the expression she was giving him and he felt himself going silent as he let out a heavy sigh. “Oh, alright.”

“It’s not like we haven’t been in this kind of position before,” she pointed out with a hollow sigh getting the material down his body before kneeling in front of him. Reaching out with her right hand, she traced her fingertips over his rough features. “You’re always putting yourself in harm’s way.”

“I was looking for you, it’s worth it…,” he reminded her with a small glance before clearing his throat and glancing away to avoid eye contact with her. “It worked. The twins are safe, you are alright and Brant is just fine--I say the pain is worth it.”

“Well, I don’t like seeing you hurt,” Angela reminded him nudging his chin playfully. A small sigh escaped her lips as she stood from the ground and nodded toward the door. “Which speaking of the twins, what do you think…you want to go see them?”

“I’d love to,” Kevin nodded with a small smirk knowing it was one of the only things that would make him smile the whole day. With the things that were taking place, he knew that it was unlikely for him to actually be happy. If he was able to get a few moments of peace for a while, he was ready to accept it.


Brant carried the tray he’d put together in the kitchen towards Blake’s room hoping that he would be able to lift her spirits enough to get her to eat something if for no other reason than to regain some of her strength. Thinking about all she’d been through Brant couldn’t help but worry about his sister hoping that she was having a better morning than she’d had the previous evening when she’s been haunted by nightmares. Even after being given a sedative she was still lost in her dreams and it was clear that nothing was making life easier on Blake. He suspected that wouldn’t change until Seth was back with her again, but it was still worth a shot in trying to help her.

Turning around the corner Brant anticipated the things he would do and say to try to cheer her up, but before he was able to follow through on his intentions, he spotted someone lurking outside Blake’s door. Frowning he stepped forward seeing a woman placing her hand on the door knob while she hunched over as if she was going to sneak into the room. Agitated Brant cleared his throat and stepped up behind her.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Brant snapped not quite sure why anyone other than family would be outside Blake’s door, but when the woman in front of him stood up revealing herself to him Brant couldn’t help but feel anger boil over him.

“Brant, hey,” Gillian waved at him offering up a small smile before standing up straighter. “Hi, how are you this morning?”

“I’m wondering what you’re doing in my home and why you’re outside my sister’s room. No, I take that back, I think I can guess why you are outside of Blake’s room, but the question is how did you get in here?” Brant questioned with an angry glare giving her a brief once over. He could see that she wasn’t her usual prim and proper self now that her hair was loosely draped over her shoulders, there was little to no makeup on her face and if he didn’t know better he would think that she’d traded her trench coat for a bathrobe. A very familiar bathrobe at that.

“There you are,” a voice called out from down the hallway as Brant looked up to see his Uncle Rex approaching them in a matching bathrobe.

“Gee, that figures. Now I know why you’re here,” Brant rolled his eyes at Gillian before glancing down over at Rex, “Rex it looks like your plaything got lost on her way to the bathroom or wherever else she told you she was slipping off to.”

“Gillian?” Rex tipped his head to the side seeing the way that Gillian offered up a small smile over at him.

“I just wanted to check in on Blake and see how she was doing,” Gillian offered up in her own defense before turning to look at Brant again, “You can’t fault me for wanting to do that.”

“You have a lot of faults, but even if you’ve been able to charm him into an invite into the house,” Brant glanced over at his uncle once again before shaking his head, “Blake’s room is off limits. You stay the hell away from her.”

“Brant, I only want to help her and Seth. Surely you could see that considering that I’m good at what I do,” she protested curling her lip in a pout before her long hair moved just beyond her shoulders. “I do a great job at what I put my mind into.”

“Clearly,” he remarked offhandedly glancing over at Rex again, “You might want to keep her on a leash because she doesn’t listen very well.”

“Brant, you don’t have to talk to me like that. I’m not a child and…” Gillian watched him move in front of her before glaring down at her.

“You don’t have free run around my home Gillian and you would be best suited to make sure that you remember that,” Brant scoffed in response glaring at her one last time before pushing her out of the way. He moved to open Blake’s door in a quick movement before closing it behind him and locking her out.

“Come on Brant. I’m just trying to help,” Gillian frowned before turning to Rex again, “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?”

“Hey, you were the one who got caught,” Rex shrugged his shoulders at her, “Plus the last time I saw you, you mentioned you were on your way to the kitchen to get some of that ice-cream we talked about.”

“I guess I just started thinking about Blake and…” Gillian curled her lip in a pout reaching out to slide her hands over the center of Rex’s chest. “Rexy you promised me that I could see her--that I could talk to her about what happened…”

“Later precious,” Rex reached out to touch her cheek lightly, “but right now you promised me something back in my room--something that I really don’t think we should continue out in the hallway here with Brant around.”

Gillian eyed the door to Blake’s room once again, a frown touching over her lips before she reluctantly turned her attention to Rex again bound and determined to find a way to get inside. Brant might keep trying to stop her from speaking with Blake, but she was going to make damn certain that he wouldn’t succeed in his mission. One way or another she would get that story from Blake even if it was the last thing she did!


“So what happened with Angela yesterday Ken? There was no reason that she should have hit you like that,” Wendy moved in behind Ken as he let out a small wince feeling the after effects of the kick that she gave him. Last night when Wendy came into the room, Rex was brilliant enough to tell Wendy what had happened to him, probably to take the blame off himself, but still. Ken hadn’t told anything to Wendy about why he got caught in the situation he was in because he didn’t feel it was necessary. “Brant picks real winners, doesn’t he? Or did she think you were Brant?”

“No, she knew I wasn’t Brant…,” Ken answered turning toward her when he felt her hands pressing in over his shoulders and he cleared his throat uneasily. “We were just talking and she had a misunderstanding. That’s all. Nothing really important worth going back into the conversation for. It’s done.”

“But you’re in pain,” she sighed finally reaching out to him to place her hands over his shoulders soothingly. Giving them a small squeeze, she shrugged and thought about what she knew about Angela. “I mean if I have to talk to her about things to set them straight.”

“No!” Ken cut her off abruptly knowing that he didn’t want her talking to Angela about anything that had to do with him. Especially knowing that Angela knew some things that he would never want Wendy to hear. She saw this ‘good’ side of him, the things that he didn’t think he had anymore, but she saw them and he didn’t want that to change. “Don’t talk to her, it’s not worth your time.”

“Why are you so nervous about me talking to her? If the two of you had a disagreement, maybe I can fix things,” she suggested knowing that by the expression on Ken’s face, he just wasn’t ready for that. “I’m just trying to be a good girlfriend, that’s what we do. Stand up for the men we love.”

“There is nothing to stand up for, she is Brant’s girl which means she is his problem. He will take care of whatever is wrong with her, I’m not holding it against her…not right now,” he explained with a heavy sigh knowing the reasons of Angela’s attack on him last night, but he wasn’t ready to open up as to why she did it. “I wouldn’t be the happiest person in the world either if I was stuck with Brant.”

“Hey, that’s not very nice,” she smirked knowing that Ken was amused with himself, but she hoped he really didn’t feel that way considering he now had a niece and nephew tied to that woman. “You should probably learn to get along with her soon though, she is going to be part of this family for a very long time.”

“Yeah, I know,” he huffed thinking about the family as it was already and he didn’t even like them now, so what was another person added to the family that he didn’t even care for. “I guess I’m used to having whack jobs in the family, so it’s really no big deal to me.”

“I get that,” she seemed to be itching to ask him something, but didn’t get it out just then. When he moved back toward the closet to get ready for work, she sat down on the bottom of the bed and cleared her throat uneasily. “So why would she even react that way? She say why she was upset?”

“Wendy…I told you it doesn’t really matter,” Ken tried to explain again knowing that he didn’t want to get into the situation any further than she already knew. The fact she knew Angela kicked him was more than he hoped for. Now that she had her thoughts on it, he was worried of where she was going to take it. “Please Wendy, just leave it be. It’s nothing and I don’t really want to get into this.”

“Why are you getting so upset over this?” she seemed to be a bit offended by the way he was acting. Moving out of the walk-in closet, Ken stepped before her and grabbed a tight hold of her hands. “Ken, is something really wrong?”

“Everything is fine sweetheart, I just don’t want to start something with Brant. He’s left me alone thus far, I don’t want things to start up again by you talking to Angela about things that are done and over with,” Ken spoke in a more polite, calm tone knowing that the way he was snapping would only continue to intrigue her more with the situation. “I hope you understand that and stick to my wishes. We’ve had our great deal of fights and I don’t want it to continue. So please?”

“Alright…,” she finally agreed to what he wanted, but still found herself lost on why he wouldn’t at least tell her what happened. She would just have to let it go and not even bother with thinking about it, but she wished he would be more open with her. “I at least hope you have a better day at work. I know yesterday was a bit tough on you.”

“Yeah, I hope so too…,” he moved away again to go get ready knowing he wanted to be there a bit early. “Are you sure you are going to be alright today while I’m gone? I don’t really want you over working yourself while I’m gone.”

“I’ll be fine,” Wendy tried to assure him as he stepped toward the door ready to leave. Moving to him, she tipped up on her toes and pressed a quick kiss over his lips. “Goodbye Ken.”

“Just…try to avoid Angela if you see her. As I said, no point in opening old wounds,” Ken ordered of her one last time knowing that it was still fresh in the mind since it was yesterday, a few hours before now. He just didn’t care for her to find out anything about it. “I’ll see you later.”


Turning on his back, Don stared up at the ceiling from where he was laying on the couch in the living room. He hardly slept last night, he was finding it hard to focus on sleeping when all he could think about was the anger he had built up inside.

Normally he would try his hardest to keep his mouth closed. To take whatever Shannon had to throw at him, but after all the things he had to endear while away made him not accept all the bullshit she was trying to throw at him.

This relationship never seemed to go anywhere in a positive way, it always seemed to go down south. All the fighting, all the arguing, he was sick of it. He hated the feeling he had built up right now, he never wanted to feel that toward someone. Especially the woman that he was married to. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Curling his arms behind his head, the thoughts of where the future was to lead him crossed his mind. This was all he saw in the future and he wasn’t quite sure this was what he wanted. To always sit back and wait for her to yell at him for all the things he kept doing wrong. Was there anything that she actually considered right or good from him?

The sound of one of the doors opening made him raise his head up from the couch to see which one it was waking up and he saw his son walking down the hallway with his bag over his shoulder.

“Hey dad,” Matt waved setting his bag down at the bottom of the couch while his father moved up slowly. He could hear the sounds of Don’s back cracking while he sat up and stretched making him sigh. “Let me guess…Shannon threw you out of the room again?”

“Actually,” Don’s voice came out raw and he now realized just how much his couch made his back ache. Groaning, he stretched his arms out toward his son to get a hug from him. “I decided to stay out here for the night.”

“Which means she was fighting with you again,” Matt sighed releasing his father as he moved toward the kitchen. “Tell me what else is new. She never is going to change dad. I don’t know why you keep giving her chances.”

“That’s what you do when you’re married, you know that…,” Don reached down to pick Matt up and set him on the counter. Grabbing two glasses for their morning orange juice, Don sighed and rubbed at his own eyes. “We will work things out, she is my wife. That’s what we are supposed to do.”

“Can’t you find a better one? Or maybe we can trade her in?” Matt suggested knowing how much he disliked Shannon with the way she treated both him and Don. She was nothing like he would have imagined a mother figure to be. “I love you dad, but she is the biggest mistake you ever made.”

“That’s not nice,” Don let out a half laugh handing his son the orange juice he poured for him. “She has her hard days, but there are things that are really great about her. Things that keep me with her, you know that.”

“And what’s that?” Matt eyed his father over and instead of answering Don’s eyebrows perked up before taking a drink. “That’s what I thought. You can’t think of anything because there is nothing that is good about her.”

“I can think of things, I’m just not happy with her right now. It clouds my mind,” Don explained with a half smirk knowing that his comment amused his son, but right now he truly couldn’t think. She did just fight with him and he had been up all night. So he wouldn’t be thinking right anyways. “She has days where she is nice.”

“That’s EXTREMELY rare,” Matt reminded his father reaching his arms out so Don could help him down from the counter. Once he hit the floor, he moved back for his bag pulling out a few things. “I think there should be something done in making her nicer. She’s too mean.”

“I know…,” Don noticed his son seemed to be packing up to leave. Rubbing his hand over the back of his neck, he cleared his throat uneasily. “Where you going bud?”

“You don’t remember?” Matt huffed knowing by the glance that Don gave him, he had no idea. “Grandpa is coming to pick me up because they have a wrestling event coming to town. My favorite is going to be there, remember, he called them into town for me as a personal favor?”

“He told you all of that, huh?” Don laughed picking his son up in his arms holding him close to his chest as Matt smiled and nodded. “Well, I hope you have fun then. No wonder you were up and ready this morning. Someone is excited.”

“Well you would be too if that actress that you have been crushing on for years came into town and you had a chance to meet her. Or if Christian Bale came into town, I think you would have a heart attack,” Matt pointed out with a wide eyed expression before laughing. “Why you like his version of Batman, I’ll never know.”

“He does a good job,” Don frowned feeling Matt playfully poke him in the shoulder. “But I do get your point. I hope you have a good time little guy.”

“Yeah, hopefully you have a good day and don’t get torn to shreds,” Matt huffed knowing that his father was often yelled at by Shannon and he hated it. Rolling his eyes at the very thought, he took in a deep breath and shrugged. “I still wonder why you are with her. You should at least learn to stand up for yourself.”

“I know, we need to have a really long talk and hopefully it changes something,” Don agreed and he could tell by the look on Matt’s face he either didn’t believe they would have a ‘talk’ or that Shannon would never change. Both were probably right, but before they could talk any further about it Don heard the sound of his father’s horn outside. “I guess you need to get going.”

“Yes, I do,” he boasted proudly squeezing his arms around Don’s shoulders tightly before quickly getting out of his arms running toward the door. “It’s going to be a great day.”

“Be careful,” Don called out watching Matt jump into the car with his father and while he stood there watching them drive away he realized that Matt was right. He couldn’t keep taking her stuff like this. She had to be changed, they had to have a talk. He couldn’t constantly live his life like this. Not at all. “Alright.”

Marching into the bedroom, he was surprised to find the door unlocked, but thankful that he wouldn’t have any troubles in coaxing her to open the door to talk to him.

“Shannon?” Don looked around the room noticing that the bed was still a mess, but before he could clearly think where she would be he heard the sounds of her getting sick in the bathroom. “Hey?”

Moving into the room he saw her on the floor leaning over the toilet getting sick and he got to his knees behind her. Rubbing his hands in over her shoulders he suddenly felt guilty seeing her sick like this.

“You alright?” he heard her let out a few pained noises and he realized that ‘talk’ he was planning on having with her right now was going to have to be postponed now that she was getting sick.

Maybe it was for the best that this happened, stopping him from doing something that he would probably regret in the long run.


“I thought I told you to leave Blake alone for a while,” Rex chastised after he heard the sound of Gillian locking herself in the bathroom. Moving over to the door he tapped on it lightly before letting out a long sigh, “I told you that she needed some rest before I got you in to see her.”

“No Rex,” she threw the door open and glared up at him, her eyes narrowing with agitation, “You told me last night that you would let me get an exclusive with her--just like you promised me an exclusive with Seth, but as with the situation with Seth, you fell flat.”

“Gillian wait,” he felt the door slam in his face again and he frowned. “I told you that you could get the story, I just didn’t say when.”

“Exclusive generally means that it will happen before the rest of the news world gets their hands on it,” she snarled from behind the thick wooden door. “The only reason I agreed to come back here with you last night was because you promised me an opportunity to let Blake’s voice be heard.”

“And you’ll still get that, but right now we need to talk,” Rex frowned moving around to take a seat on the bed before pausing. He shook his head and threw his hands in the air before raising his voice ever so slightly, “Which is something that we can’t do with you locked in there.”

“Do you have any idea what I’ve been through with this family?” she questioned in an accusatory tone marching out of the bathroom in her bra and the skirt she’d been wearing the previous evening. “I worked my ass off to prove to the world that I wasn’t just another one of Brant’s bimbos and then you bring me back here for sex and refuse to give me what you promised me.”

“I thought I gave you a lot more than what I promised you last night,” Rex grinned up at her sheepishly, “I thought things were phenomenal when we hit the sheets so to speak. Then again I’m always incredible regardless of the woman that’s with me.”

Gillian rolled her eyes, “You weren’t that great and neither was my having Brant keep me from seeing Blake. You owe me an interview Rex!”

“Look Gillian, I’m telling you that right now is not the time,” he frowned up at her watching her cross the room in search of her blouse. “What are you doing?”

“I’m leaving,” she explained bending down to yank her shirt up off of the floor. She turned around to face him with a glare before sliding her arm into her shirt sleeve. “Obviously you’re not going to help me, so I’ll have to find my own way to get my story.”

“Hey now I promised you a story, but right now things are complicated,” Rex stood up and moved in beside her. He reached out to slide his arm around her waist before drawing her in nearer to him. “I just need to smooth the waters over with Brant first.”

“Brant’s not going to listen to you. He is set on hating me because of that piece I wrote a while ago. It was a true and honest report so I don’t see why he’s so upset about it,” she scoffed thinking about her former lover’s agitation. “I mean it’s not like we had anything special together to begin with.”

“Gilly, he’s just not happy you’re here because he’s got that Hot Mama with him and probably does not want the distraction on top of anything else,” Rex paused a thoughtful smirk carrying over him. “Then again if I had that Hot Mama with me too I probably wouldn’t have had the time to argue with you like he did. That woman would be on my mind twenty four seven and then some.”

“Okay, that’s it,” she threw her hands in the air again, “I’m really leaving now.”

“Look Gilly, all I’m saying is that you have to be patient with Brant. He just needs to see that doing this story would be what’s best for him,” he snaked his arm tighter around her waist. He dropped his lips down over the side of her neck before whispering in her ear. “He just needs to be warmed up to the idea.”

“He’s ice cold and he won’t budge,” she sighed dropping her head back as he continued to shower her skin with kisses. She felt his hand slide in beneath her blouse before her eyes met his again, “Rex, I’m serious about this one. You and I made a deal.”

“And I’ll live up to my end of it,” he assured her moving in to steal a quick kiss from her. “Remember last night was only part of the arrangement.”

“I’ve already spoken with my father and he wants to set up a meeting,” she informed him with a soft sigh before meeting his eyes again, “I’ll say the word and he’ll do what you want, but if you screw me over Rex…”

“I’m not going to do that. You know what I want and I’m not going to let anything get in my way,” Rex informed her point blank a sudden determination in his tone. He reached out to touch her cheek before his free hand tapered off over her hip, “You just have to learn not to let my nephew get your panties in a bunch so readily.”

“Brant has no effect on my panties anymore,” she wrinkled her nose at him as her frown intensified. “He isn’t even a blip on my radar.”

“Good, then you let me deal with Brant and if you play by my rules, then I’ll get you your story,” he leaned in to kiss her once again, “Deal?”

“Only if you promise to follow through on it,” she mouthed in a warning tone her eyes weary and untrusting of him.

“I’ll work on it and Brant too, but first, why don’t we pick up where we left off…” he suggested lazily reaching out to push the material of her blouse from her shoulders.

“As much as I’m certain you’d enjoy that, I have work to do,” she shook her head and stepped back just enough to button up her blouse. Their eyes met again and she took in a small breath. “You can call me later though and we’ll work out the details of my story and our ‘arrangement’. Maybe a little bit later we’ll see things a bit clearer.”

“It’ll give me time to work on Brant,” he decided with a nod watching her finish with putting her clothes on, “though remember you can’t push too hard or it’ll never work.”

“If it doesn’t work, then neither does your plan,” she warned wiggling her finger at him before giving him one last look. “Don’t screw me over Rex because if you even think about trying it you’ll find that you’re very unhappy with the outcome. Mark my words on that.”


Ken looked up at the bookshelf to the left of his desk and frowned. There in the middle of the shelf was a photo of him and Wendy in Paris--a photo that might’ve been something of a good memory if it wasn’t for his damned Uncle Rex getting in the way. Of course things only got worse when he’s returned to Coral Valley and discovered his brother and Angela in the house again. While he’d never pieced it together that Angela would have half a brain since everything about her oozed with being a second rate Avery, nothing had prepared him for her attack on him the previous evening. Even now he could feel the pain of the moment lingering over him. Come to think of it, the more he remembered the moment, the less he found himself liking Angela.

“Hey Ken,” Carly’s voice called out to him catching him completely off guard.

He spun around in his chair to see her standing in the doorway wearing a beige colored blouse and a brown pleated skirt that have her a professional, yet surprisingly sexy look. He noticed a couple of the buttons on the blouse were undone near the top and he spotted that she was wearing a gold charm necklace around her neck that only flattered her curves. It was then that he’d dismissed the thought of worrying about Angela and opted to focus on his former lover instead.

She smiled at him briefly before nodding, “Do you have a minute?”

“For you I have all the time in the world,” he replied leaning back in his chair and bringing his arms back over his head. He couldn’t help but steal a glance at her legs remembering only too well what it was like to have them around him when they’d made love in the past. Even now he couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if she hadn’t freaked out and walked away from him. The fact that he’d slept with Avery had only served as means to an end in a situation with Brant, but in the process it killed his chances at something with Carly, which was a true tragedy indeed.

“Thanks,” she wrinkled her nose a bit at him before moving in to take a seat across from him in one of the chairs beyond his desk, “I don’t mean to bother you but I thought maybe we could talk about the Henderson case a little bit. Midland has finally reassigned a new council and…”

“We need to get back on that,” Ken nodded in response thinking about the promise he’d made to the Henderson family. Guilt tugged at him before he turned to Carly once again, “I suppose I should call Jay and Kelly and…”

“I already took care of that. Though they were worried about you,” Carly admitted eyeing him intently before pausing, “which proves that I’m not the only one. Ken is something wrong?”

“You mean other than everything?” he replied with a small laugh before shaking his head and sighing.

“That sounds rather vague,” she noted seeing something pass behind his dark eyes, “What’s going on?”

“Well for starters Wendy is dying,” Ken tossed out at her with a frown thinking about everything that was happening in his life beyond work, “My Uncle Rex has decided that he wants to woo her however and Wendy thinks he’s charming.”

“Really?” Carly arched a curious brow before offering up a small laugh, “Gee, she doesn’t know him very well, does she?”

“No, not really, which makes things increasingly difficult. I’ve been agitated lately and,” he paused glancing over at her once again before revealing a surprising bout of honesty, “and in between my frustrations with Rex and everything else I’ve been doing some pretty awful things again.”

“Awful things,” she replied not really sure what he was saying to her.

“Yeah, you know you’d think I would’ve learned my lesson after I lost you, but instead I keep sabotaging myself over and over again,” he stood up pacing around the office before turning to look out the window for a brief moment. “I guess you could say I never got over what’s gone down with Brant and I. I just hate that he’s happy with everything he wants while I have to fight to hold onto anything good in my life.”

“Ken it might feel that way now, but that’s not entirely the case. I mean your brother has fought for a great many things as well. Neither one of you have it easy,” Carly tossed out at him with a supportive tone, “You’ve both had to endure so much.”

“Yes, but I can’t get over the fact that he really seems to have it all,” he replied turning around to face her again with an ironic laugh. “Did you know that when Angela had amnesia I took it upon myself to kiss Avery in front of her to make her think that Brant was stepping out on her? To make her so hurt she would leave him just like I felt like everyone left me in my life?”

“Ken, why would you…” her dark eyes widened in surprise watching him throw his hands up in the air.

“Because I’m hurt damn it and no one cares. No one has any idea what I’ve lost--what I’ve gone through,” Ken crossed the room making his way over to the couch and taking a seat on it. He buried his head in his hands and let out a long sigh, “No one has any idea what it was like watching the woman you love be buried right in front of you--to see what it’s like to have the other woman you love fading away right before your very eyes while the other one you want is just out of your reach still so very close, yet so far away day in and day out.”

“Ken, Wendy is right there,” Carly moved over beside him taking a seat on the sofa. She placed her hand gently on his leg before offering up a small sigh, “She needs you and you need her too, but before you can fully be there you need to let go of all this anger you’re feeling for Brant. If you don’t stop wanting to make the world around you suffer the only thing you’re going to do is bring yourself misery. You’re going to hurt yourself far worse if you don’t stop this.”

“I don’t think that I can anymore Carly,” he replied tipping his head to the side and watching her closely. “It’s like from the moment Susan drugged me I haven’t been myself anymore. The drugs gave me an excuse for my actions, but now whatever she started inside of me, I can’t stop it.”

“Yes you can,” she reached out to squeeze his hand gently, “Ken, I know that you’re a good man with a kind heart, but you have to stop feeding into your rage. You need to stop hurting people like you’re doing. Just because Brant has Angela does not mean that he’s trying to destroy you.”

“It’s more than that,” Ken shook his head and let out a small laugh, “The funny thing is that I haven’t been able to tell anyone about any of it except for you.”

“Maybe it’s because you were hoping to clear your conscious and start anew,” she suggested with a worried expression. “Maybe by telling me about this you’re looking for the guidance to help you move beyond the anger and the hurt.”

“I don’t know if it’s that simple,” he paused dropping his head back on the sofa before turning to look at her once again, “Carly, I’ve done a lot of horrible things.”

“I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that is true because I know better,” she replied with a tiny shiver overtaking her. She closed her eyes for a brief moment remembering what she’d learned about Ken and Avery, “but not all of it was you. However, for the part that was maybe it is time to step up and be held accountable for your actions. Maybe it’s time you learned to be a man and just do what is right like I know you were once capable of doing.”

“I don’t even know what’s right anymore,” he admitted with a raw honesty before sitting up straighter. “I haven’t been right in a long time and dealing with Brant and all the women in his life proves that.”

“So stop dwelling on Brant and start thinking about what’s best for you Ken. Stop trying to cause someone misery when we both know it won’t give you back what you’re missing out on in your life. It won’t take away the loss and it won’t make you any happier. Trust me on this one,” she reminded him seeing so much happening behind his dark eyes.

“I do,” the first hints of a smile cracked over his lips, “You’re one of the only people in this world that I can be myself with. You see me flaws and all, yet you haven’t gone running in the other direction yet.”

“Sometimes you baffle me, but we’re friends Ken and friends don’t turn their back on other friends,” she patted his leg once again only to feel his fingers press in over hers. She felt a breath catch in her throat as he laced their fingers in one another.

“I think it runs deeper than that Carly,” he squeezed her hand again, his eyes fixed on her soft, full lips, “We’ve always had more than friendship between us.”

“Ken I,” she paused feeling her heart hammering in her chest before she pushed away from him. She stood up and began to pace around the room before turning to him again, “You know I think everyone is just under tremendous stress lately. I mean take Dave for example. With Cori getting out of the hospital and Jewel being in town…”

“Jewel?” Ken’s brow perked up at the mention of Dave’s sister. “When did she get back?”

“Not so long ago, but between the two of them, I think they are driving Dave crazy with their fighting. Then toss Stacy into the mix and it’s like a world war at our house,” Carly offered up with a nervous laugh, “Of course you can’t totally blame Stacy for how she is feeling considering that Jewel and Paul haven’t exactly been stand up parents with her…”

“Paul is back too,” Ken couldn’t help but find himself amused when Carly nodded. “No wonder Dave is losing his mind. Paul would do me in as well.”

“Even so I think that maybe the whole point in all of this is that family can drive you mad sometimes, but in the same respect they are something that we need in our lives. Sometimes chaos and upset can spin itself around into something wonderful,” she explained clearing her throat again, “Maybe it’s time you take a step back and really look at the things that you have in your life Ken instead of focusing on the things that you don’t have.”

“It’s easier to see the negative especially when the positive is far and few,” he confessed watching her move over towards the office door. He stood up and walked over to her unable to contain the thought that prompted him to be near her. Reaching out to bring his arm out over the doorframe to prevent her from leaving, he met her eyes again, “Don’t you ever wonder?”

“About?” she questioned feigning an innocence even though his eyes spoke volumes about where his heart and mind were in the moment.

“Us,” he couldn’t help but ask inching in closer to her. He reached out to touch a loose strand of her dark hair that was curled just in front of her ear. His gaze dropped down to her lips again before he revealed a lazy smirk, “about the way that things turned out for us?”

“Ken, we were just two people looking for a shoulder to cry on and we took it too far,” she reminded him clearing her throat again. She stood up taller and met his dark eyes, “That’s all it was.”

“Was it?” he mused allowing his fingers to fall to the side of her face again. “Because I have to tell you Carly that there isn’t a moment that passes by where I don’t wonder about what it would’ve been like if you and I had wound up together instead of you and Dave.”

“Don’t say that Ken,” she shook her head refusing to let him get sentimental about their past with one another, “You never loved me. We both know that.”

“You only think you know that, but you’d be wrong,” he offered up leaning in closer to her despite her uneasiness. His fingers fanned around the back of her neck commanding her attention as he leaned in closer to her, lips hovering in over hers. His brown eyes memorized the lines of her face, tracing every inch of her with his stare. “The fact to the matter is that you’re undoubtedly the only woman that has made me feel anything in a long time Carly.”

“Ken don’t,” Carly pressed her palm out into the center of his chest to place a distance between them. She felt his hand drop down to caress her jaw, fingers fanning out over the side of her face before sliding into her hair.

“It’s the truth,” he sighed tipping his head in closer to her, the warmth of his breath pressing in over her, “You’re the only woman who has made me feel alive in a long time.”

“Ken, you love Wendy,” she whispered closing her eyes tightly and wishing that he would just leave now that he’d gotten too close for comfort. She wanted to push him away, yet feared any further contact between them would only encourage his behavior.

“I loved Wendy and a part of me will always love Wendy,” he breathed against the side of her neck watching her turn her head away from him just enough to take in a breath of her own, “but I’ll always crave only you.”

“Ken stop,” her eyes snapped open just as she felt his lips about to descend upon her skin. She pushed her hand into the middle of his chest sending him away from her in surprise. She watched him try to regain his balance as she took in a heavy breath of her own. “Listen I know that things don’t feel like they are working out in your life right now, but this is not the answer. We will never be the solution to any of your problems.”

“Because of Dave?” he challenged watching her with a wounded expression.

“No because I don’t love you Ken. I never did,” she informed him with a sudden seriousness in her tone. “Ken, I’m sorry to have to say it, but the only reason we were together was because Dave and I were on the outs with one another. Don’t get me wrong you’re a good friend to me, but it never should’ve crossed that line that it did between us.”

“Carly, you don’t mean that and I for one don’t believe it either,” he challenged searching her eyes for a long moment.

“Well you should Ken because it’s the truth. I’m sorry if it hurts, but that’s honestly how I feel,” she replied giving him one last look before turning to leave his office.

“I’ll bet you wouldn’t feel that way if I was Kayla’s father instead of Dave,” he tossed out at her causing her to stop moving long enough to turn around and face him again.

“What did you just say?” she questioned blinking back at him, doing her best to try to mask the surprise his comment had elicited inside of her.

“If Kayla was my daughter you wouldn’t even think twice about submitting to a boring life with Dave when the fact to the matter is that you wanted me then and you still want me now just like I want you,” Ken challenged making a small movement towards her, his dark eyes narrowing down at her. “Admit it Carly, if Kayla was mine you know damn well we’d still be together right now and maybe that‘s really what the issue is between us right now. Maybe that‘s why you‘re so desperately trying to push me away because deep down you know full well that she could be mine as well instead of Dave‘s.”


“Ms. Forbes, I really wish you would reconsider,” the driver explained opening the door to the limo and letting Wendy out from inside. “You really should be resting.”

“I’ve had more than enough rest for a lifetime,” Wendy snubbed her nose at him before looking to the store front before her. “Right now I want to take an hour or so and forget about being sick long enough to enjoy life. Is that a crime?”

“Of course it isn’t, but if Mr. Ashford knew that…” the driver began again with a worried expression.

“Mr. Ashford will be fine with this. I have a few surprises that I want to get in store for him and when I am finished I will call for you,” she explained adjusting her sunglasses before turning to the building once again. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

“I really wish that you’d reconsider,” the driver attempted to appeal to her once more, but it fell upon deaf ears once Wendy stepped into the store in front of her ready to begin her shopping expedition.

She couldn’t help but smile once she was out of the sun’s bright rays and into the store that surrounded her with sounds of the Christmas season even though the holiday was no where near around the corner. It was one of the few things that she’d loved about this store in particular because it brought life to Christmas all year long in between the animated figurines that danced and moved around the shop to the special hand crafted ornaments that donned over various oversized Christmas trees around the store. This was the one place in Coral Valley that she’d found she’d missed the most in her time away. It was always something she’d thought very fondly of and now that Ken was at work, she vowed to take the time to indulge in the simple pleasures it provided her with.

Smiling Wendy reached for a small hand held shopping basket in the hopes that it would assist her with her special plans for Ken. Even though he had no idea what she was up to, the fact to the matter was that she’d been thinking about this special night for a long time. Certainly their trip to Paris was nice, but with this particular surprise she was hoping to bring about something even better. With that thought in mind Wendy moved forward to the center of the store ready to immerse herself in the atmosphere completely.

“Where to start,” she paused taking in her surroundings and plotting out her game plan while she looked at the tree in front of her. It had to be at least thirty feet with gold and silver branches that were covered in lights and ornaments. Smiling she was reminded of what Christmas was like for her when she was younger, back with her family when she and Ken had first started dating. This tree much like the store had her thinking about happier times, about what it was like before chaos entered her life with the disease.

“Personally I would start by Santa’s Workshop,” a voice mouthed from behind her causing her to gasp. She clenched onto the basket in her hand even tighter before turning around to see a dark haired man smiling down at her.

“I don’t know about your personal preference, but I’ve always been fond of Santa’s workshop or even the reindeer stables,” he explained smiling down at her with a warm, welcoming grin. “Call me crazy but it always makes me feel like I’m seven years old again and all is right in the world.”

She couldn’t help but laugh, “Those are my favorites too and for the same reasons actually.”

“A woman after my own heart,” he smiled down at her, a warmth radiating over him with the words. He offered his hand out to her and his grin expanded, “Hi, I’m Cameron.”

“Hi Cameron,” she stretched her hand out as well, “I’m Wendy.”

“Well Wendy it is a pleasure meeting you in here,” he motioned to the shopping basket he’d had in his hand as well, “Though I must admit it’s very rare for me to run into someone as beautiful as you are with similar interests in this place. Around this time of year things are a bit slow in the Christmas Store.”

“Which is why I love shopping here this time of year even more,” she divulged with a wide grin and a simple shrug of her shoulders, “That way you don’t have to fight off a mad crowd to get what you want. Plus it gives you time to appreciate what it is that you’re here for in the first place and that is to just admire the view.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” he nodded back at her before smiling wider. “Come to think of it, I have to say it isn’t every day that I am able to enjoy a quiet stroll around the store with someone as beautiful as yourself. So with that thought in mind, would you care to join me on my journey to the reindeer stables?”

“Well I don’t know if…” Wendy began with a slight hesitation.

“I promise with Santa around watching I won’t be naughty this time if you join me. Only nice,” he nodded towards the oversized animated figuring set up on a sleigh with tiny elves offering up presents to him. The movement continued as Santa seemed to be loading his sleigh for the holiday season. “So what do you say?”

“Well since you wouldn’t want to risk a lump of coal by misbehaving, I think it’s okay to trust you just this once,” Wendy held her hand up in the air in warning, “but I must inform you if you are even remotely close to being naughty, then I’m afraid the elves will have to revoke your Christmas rights.”

“Ouch,” he brought his hand up over his chest before feigning being wounded, “that hurt. Do you think so little of me after only knowing me for a few seconds?”

“Life has taught me to be skeptical of handsome strangers who are inviting me out to the stables on our first meeting,” she couldn’t help but tease as her gaze dropped down to the basket in his hand. She noticed a couple of ornaments in his basket, one pink with silver writing and sparkles over it and the other blue with the same matching sparkles. Raising a curious brow she noticed the writing on it before meeting his eyes again, “Baby’s First Christmas? Shopping for Cameron Jr.?”

“On the contrary I’m shopping for my sister’s children,” he reached into his basket and pulled out one of the ornaments. “She just had twins, a boy and a girl and I thought that maybe now would be the time to get ahead with them since it’s not every day I become an uncle.”

“How thoughtful of you,” she smiled warmly in response moving her fingers out to take a look at the ornament he was holding out for her inspection.

“Do you think they will like them?” he questioned handing the ornament to her.

“Hmm, well it does have a certain sense of the Christmas spirit to it,” she reached for it pretending to scrutinize the ornament for a long moment, “and it is certainly eye catching, but if you say she just had the twins then I’m not sure if the glitter on it would be a good idea…”

“I was also thinking about picking out a couple of reindeer for them as well,” he couldn’t help but add nodding over to where they’d started walking towards the stable area that was set up. “I know my sister is probably going to wonder where in the world she’ll put them all year long, but I’m sure the twins will love them when Christmas rolls around.”

“They’ll make great holiday photos,” Wendy admitted moving forward to nod over toward the oversized lifelike reindeer in front of her, “I’ve always liked Rudolph the best myself.”

“And why is that?” Cameron questioned watching her move forward to press her finger over Rudolph’s red nose that lit up with the movement.

“Hi, I’m Rudolph and I’m here to say Merry Christmas to you,” the animated reindeer spoke up in a bright and cheery tone.

“Never mind, I don’t think I need to ask,” Cameron laughed lightly watching Wendy interact with the reindeer.

“Oh you haven’t seen anything yet,” she held her finger up in the air before setting her shopping basket down. She moved in closer to Rudolph and scratched under his chin lightly, “Hi I’m Wendy.”

“Hi Wendy,” Rudolph piped in gleefully before moving his head back and forth, “would you like to sing a Christmas Carol with me?”

“I would love to Rudolph, but first I would like you to say hello to my friend Cameron,” Wendy explained as the reindeer turned it’s head towards Cameron and it’s wide eyes blinked at him.

“Hi Cameron. Would you like to sing a Christmas carol?” Rudolph asked again with the same upbeat enthusiasm that he’d had with Wendy.

“How did he…?” Cameron couldn’t help but ask turning to Wendy once again.

“Just answer him,” she nudged at his ribs before looking to Rudolph, who was still focused on Cameron with an expectant expression.

“I just…well, I don’t really sing Christmas carols considering that…” Cameron started again only to feel Wendy nudge him in the ribs.

“We would love to sing with you Rudolph,” Wendy blurted out with a genuine warmth in her tone.

“Great, then let’s sing Jingle Bells,” Rudolph squealed with delight before starting an offbeat rendition of the old favorite.

“Come on Cameron. We have to join him,” Wendy urged Cameron on now that he was lost in silent amusement.

“I’m really bad at this. I can’t carry a tune,” he tried to get her to give him an out only to see her wrinkle her brow at him.

“I doubt that,” she attempted to persuade him again, “Come on it doesn’t matter. No one else is here to hear us.”

“I’m really tone deaf. It would be awful,” he protested again only to feel her fingers curl over his arm gently.

“I’m sure it’s not that bad. Come on it’s just one song,” she urged him on further.

“No, I really can’t,” he shook his head in refusal only to feel her nudge him again.

“Yes you can. You really can,” she insisted before looking to Rudolph once again and singing along to the music.

After a few reluctant seconds he finally gave in and joined her in singing a few rounds of Jingle Bells followed by Frosty the Snowman. Before he knew it they were five songs into the Christmas caroling with Rudolph before the light on the reindeer’s nose turned off and he closed his eyes letting out a small yawn.

“Thank you for singing with me. I’ll be back later,” Rudolph promised with another yawn before a snoring sound followed.

“See that wasn’t so bad,” Wendy explained brightly now focusing on Cameron with wide eyes. “And for the record you were only partially tone deaf. It wasn’t so bad I’ll need to get earplugs next time.”

“I’ll brush up my skills if you promise me there will be a next time,” he stepped in closer to her noticing the rosy color in her cheeks. Unable to refrain from offering up a genuine smile he reached out towards her seeing her eyes widen with the movement. A second later he extracted a piece of tinsel from her hair. “I think you picked that up on the walk over.”

“Oh,” she felt a blush carry over her before she turned to Rudolph again, “well as you can see he’s full of entertainment.”

“I’ll admit he’s amusing,” Cameron conceded watching her perusing the other reindeers before settling back in on Rudolph again.

“The others are nice, but he’s always been my favorite,” she explained petting Rudolph’s head once again. The reindeer opened his eyes before letting out another yawn.

“Yeah, he’s pretty incredible,” Cameron nodded in agreement seeing the way Wendy seemed to light up beside the reindeer. “I’m surprised you haven’t snagged him up for yourself already.”

“I didn’t exactly have the room in my old apartment here and then when I moved back to town, well it’s not like I’m living in my own home. I’m living with my boyfriend right now and I’m not exactly planning for anything long term,” she replied seeing the way that Cameron arched an interested brow. “I mean not because I don’t love him because I do, but…”

“He doesn’t sound like he’s all that important if you’re not planning for a future with him,” Cameron noted taking a small step towards her, “which indicates to me that maybe Rudolph still has a chance with you elsewhere maybe without the boyfriend.”

“Rudolph is nice enough and all, but I really don’t have any long term commitments open in my life at the moment beyond what I already have. I’m trying not to think too far ahead,” she paused before looking to Rudolph again, “Though he could use a good home. He’s a lot of fun and I think that your niece and nephew might enjoy him for years down the road.”

“Undoubtedly,” he replied not so much interested in the reindeer as he was with her now that he’d spent a few minutes speaking with her and enjoying her company. “It is pretty amazing.”

“See I told you this was one of the best things they had here at this point,” Wendy explained tipping her head to the side once more and seeing the way that his dark eyes were upon her and not Rudolph.

“I think I’ve already found the best thing there is in the store the moment I walked in and found you standing by the tree,” Cameron explained boldly reaching out to touch her hand gently now that it was still on top of Rudolph’s head. “Have dinner with me.”

“What?” her brown eyes widened with surprise before she shook her head, “No I’m afraid I can’t. I don’t mean to be rude or offer up mixed signals, but I’m seeing someone and…”

“I know,” he nodded in response, “the boyfriend that clearly isn’t worth thinking about keeping around long term. I realize that this is rather sudden, but maybe since you’ve been so willing to help me pick out the reindeer for my niece and nephew then maybe you’d be willing to help me pull the surprise together for them when everything is said and done.”

“I’m flattered that you would think to include me in bringing Rudolph to his new home, but…” she attempted to recline his offer again.

“Wendy, I’ll be honest with you when I tell you that seeing you in here was the bright spot in my day,” he kept his fingers over hers noticing that she’d made no attempt at pulling away from him much to his surprise, “I would’ve said just about anything to have you spend a minute with me.”

“So then the whole story about the niece and nephew was a fabrication?” she questioned curiously not quite sure how to take his statement.

“On the contrary that was very real, but if you don’t say yes to dinner, then I swear I’ll show you just how awful I can be at singing,” Cameron stepped back and brought his hand over his chest, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Cameron really I can’t,” Wendy felt a heat rise over her features as she watched him set the shopping basket down. He circled around her before leaning in to whisper over her shoulder.

“Last chance to say yes,” he tempted her before she shook her head in refusal.

“Cameron I really can’t,” Wendy blurted out once more feeling an embarrassment carry over her when he walked over to one of the counters near the end of the room. There was a woman at the cash register looking interested in what they were doing, but it wasn’t until Cameron leaned forward and whispered in the woman’s ear that Wendy felt worried about what was next.

“I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There‘s just one thing I need. I don‘t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree,” Cameron’s off key voice flooded the store causing Wendy to practically jump out of her skin. She spotted that he’d had the tiny microphone that the woman had beside her cash register now in his hand. “I just want you for my own more than you could ever know. Make my wish come true. All I want for Christmas is you.”

Looking around again Wendy realized that there were a few other people in the store and suddenly she felt as if the spotlight was focused on her. Snapping her gaze to Cameron again, she realized he’d carefully positioned himself on top of the conveyer belt beside the cash register and was standing over it, hovering over the rest of the store’s patrons.

“Excuse me everyone, but my name is Cameron and I would like to direct your attention to this beautiful woman over here. Her name is Wendy and I’d really like to convince her to go out with me, so if you could all join me in my serenade I would really appreciate it,” Cameron explained as a few of the curious patrons joined him. He pointed over at one who was still standing over in the corner and smiled. “Yes that means you too. I’d like everyone to help me out because something tells me I’m going to need a lot of backup on this one.”

“Cameron get down,” Wendy cursed under her breath at him marching forward in an attempt to shield her from any further embarrassment, “Get down now.”

“Not until you say yes to dinner,” he whispered with a wicked smirk causing her to glare at him.

“Your insane. I hope you realize that,” she huffed in response seeing the crowd that had surrounded them. She watched in horror as Cameron stood up once again and motioned to the crowd.

“Hey everyone, I hope that everyone can help me out. Of course I’m sure the song I was singing before isn’t familiar for everyone, but for those of you who know it, give me a hand. For everyone else,” he paused flashing a smile over at Wendy before winking, “let’s just wing it okay.”

“Cameron please,” Wendy blurted out again watching him start up again with his singing. He continued to belt out the melody in an off key cracked voice that would make anyone under normal conditions hoot and holler in protest, but now that he’d managed to work over the crowd, she found that the people that surrounded her clapped and cheered him on with heavy encouragement. She felt one woman nudge her shoulder gently before whispering in her ear.

“He’s a keeper sweetheart. Say yes,” the woman encouraged Wendy as Cameron finished with a solemn seriousness in his tone, his dark eyes focused entirely on Wendy.

“All I want for Christmas is you baby,” he finished holding his microphone in the air to a round of hefty applause now that he’d managed to win over the customers in the store. He tipped his head to the side and winked at Wendy again, “So what do you say? Will you have dinner with me?”

“I’m almost afraid to say no,” Wendy couldn’t help but laugh finally giving in to the idea of just having a dinner with him. It wasn’t a date and she would set the ground work down for him right off the bat. She was in love with Ken, but wasn’t against being friends with him.

“I’m not sure that’s really the kind of answer that I was looking for,” Cameron shook his head in refusal to accept what she was saying to him. “What do you think everyone? Should Wendy say yes?”

There was a round of cheers and encouragement before Cameron laughed again.

“I think the crowd is hoping for some enthusiasm,” Cameron further taunted seeing the way that she glared up at him, “Come on Wendy. Let’s get a bit of the Christmas spirit going.”

“I think you’re climbing onto the top of Santa’s naughty list,” she mouthed curling her lips in a bit of a frown while watching him leap down from the conveyer belt.

“Only if that’s what you want me to do,” he replied handing the microphone to the man at his side. He stepped forward, his eyes focusing completely on Wendy alone as he moved to a position right in front of her. “Come on Wendy. Is it so wrong to want to take a chance on something?”

“Cameron, I have a boyfriend,” she replied bringing her hand up to her cheek and feeling it hot with the fire that was burning inside of her boiling at her blood.

“And he’s obviously not here right now, so what do you have to lose?” he wiggled his brow suggestively at her. “It’s just dinner.”

“As friends,” she added seeing him raise his hands in the air.

“If that’s what you want it to be, then so be it. I’ll take what I can get at this point,” Cameron promised with a wide grin.

“Fine, then yes. I’ll have dinner with you,” Wendy replied as a chorus of laughter and clapping filled her ears. She felt the volume of the sound carry over the room and Cameron reached out to take her hand in his before motioning to the door again.

“How about we get out of here so we can talk alone?” he suggested watching her nod in agreement. Cameron released her hand for a moment before stepping aside and waving to the crowd. “Thank you ladies and gentleman. We’ll be here next week for a repeat performance, but for now I think I’m going to get started on dinner. If you’ll excuse us oh and Ramona, don’t forget to have those things shipped to my place.”

“Of course Mr. Stone,” the woman behind the cash register nodded handing him back his charge card before Cameron reached for Wendy’s hand and pulled her out of the center of the store. Within a matter of moments they were outside enjoying the warmth of the sunny day that surrounded them.

“Stone,” Wendy repeated her dark eyes wide with surprise, “As in Angela Stone?”

Cameron nodded before facing her again, “Yes, she’s my sister. Do you know her?”

“I more than know her,” Wendy replied honestly feeling her face grow hot in the moment, “She’s dating my boyfriend’s brother. They just had two children and…”

“And you’re dating Ken,” Cameron deduced seeing her nod back at him. He thought about it for a moment before shaking his head, “It’s no matter. A little healthy competition is good for any man.”

“No you don’t understand. He and I are…” she stammered to find the right words.

“Going to still be together after we go out to dinner,” Cameron finished for her refusing to let the fact that she was Ken’s girlfriend stop him from his plans for the two of them. “Ken can find something else to keep him busy while we’re out as I’m sure that the twins would love to see their uncle.”

“I don’t know if we can…” Wendy began again only to see the determined look on his face again.

“You said yes and I’m going to hold you to it whether Ken likes it or not,” Cameron shrugged his shoulders simply. “Besides, I see it this way if he gets jealous, then you can test out what he really feels for you.”

“Sounds kind of shallow if you ask me. I don’t think I would sink that low,” Wendy wrinkled her nose at the notion.

“As I said before I’ll say just about anything to get you to go out with me. Hell, if it’s really that much of an issue bring Ken along with you. I don’t mind some healthy competition and I’m for damn certain I’ll be able to persuade you to forget about him and think about the idea of something long term with, well me,” he blurted out with a newfound confidence in his tone that had Wendy wondering just what it was about her that had prompted him to take notice.

“Look Cameron, it’s not that I’m not into long term, but…” she stopped feeling her breath escape her lips. She tipped her head up enough to see a blurred vision of Cameron in front of her. Or was it three of Cameron? She extended her arm shakily before opening her mouth again, “Look I really appreciate the offer, but…”

“Wendy, are you alright,” Cameron questioned worriedly noticing that the color had completely drained from her features.

“Yeah, I’m just a little weak and…” her words came to an abrupt ending when she fell forward into his arms with a sudden collapse.

“Wendy?” he spoke her name attempting to rouse her, but she lay limp in his arms. Suddenly a fear swept over him as he realized he had to find a way to help this beautiful stranger he’d just happened upon. Squeezing her closer to his chest he stepped into the store again hoping to call for help before anything more could happen to her. Looking to her pale face he whispered in her ear worriedly, “Just hold on Wendy. I’m going to take care of you.”


Evie clenched her stomach and flushed the toilet before making her way over to the sink and turning it on. She looked up at her reflection seeing that her otherwise welcoming brown eyes were laced with exhaustion and disgust after she’d spent the last half an hour throwing up in JT’s bathroom. While she’d thought that sleep would do her some good, she couldn’t help but find herself awakening to the feeling that something was trying to work it’s way out from within causing her to be overwhelmed with what had to be the worst case of a flu bug she’d had in her entire life. This had to be one of the worst couple of days of her life, she realized knowing full well that her trip had gone anything, but planned.

Leaning forward she let out a long sigh before washing her hands. She reached for one of the wash cloths that JT had given her and brought it up to her face in an attempt to cool herself down now that a groan carried over her. Hearing a knock at the door she let out a small agonizing groan.

“Go away,” she moaned closing her eyes while trying to will away the swirling images of what being sick had brought to her mind. She turned around and took a seat on the countertop before hearing the door open. With a sigh she forced herself to open her eyes again and spotted JT approaching her with nothing but a pair of black colored sweatpants on.

“Here try this. It might help,” he suggested offering the steaming mug up to her and watching her wrinkle her nose at it.

“No, I can’t eat or drink anything at this point,” she admitted with another groan. “I don’t think I will last if anything else comes up right now.”

“Trust me this is good for you,” he held the mug in closer to her before beckoning her with his hazel eyes.

“JT, I can’t even think about taking anything right now,” she protested bringing her hand up over her abdomen before shaking her head, “In fact the more I think about any type of food, the more it reminds me of what I was doing two minutes before you came in here. I don’t want to think about that because I hate throwing up.”

“Sometimes in doing it you’ll feel better,” he offered up setting the mug on the countertop. “Plus the sooner it gets out of your system, the better off you’ll feel.”

“JT, I think I just wiped out my system for the last decade or so,” Evie admitted with a heavy sigh turning her head to the side and resting it up against the mirror. “I’ve never felt this bad before in my life.”

“But just know that you’ll feel better soon,” he spoke up encouragingly taking a seat beside her on the counter. He offered up his arm to her and felt her lean into him, a soft whimper falling from her lips.

“You keep saying that, but I feel like I’m dying,” she gasped for a breath before tipping her head up to meet his concerned eyes.

“You’re not dying. I can assure you that,” he promised taking his thumb and brushing it over her cheekbone gently, “Though I can assure you that you’d feel a lot better if you drank what I brought you.”

“JT, I’m not really thirsty,” she paused seeing the urging behind his eyes, “Fine, what is it?”

“It’s an old family remedy that Martha shared with me,” he explained reaching for the mug and handing it to her.

“Hold on a second,” she shook her head in refusal before holding her hands up in the air, “Martha was the one that brought dinner over last night and I got sick.”

“You were sick before you ate anything Martha gave us,” JT pointed out with a small frown, “Maybe you just overdid it with that strawberry syrup you practically drank from the bottle.”

“I would never drink it from the bottle,” she curled her lip in protest before catching his pointed expression, “I wouldn’t.”

“Not without a straw right,” he couldn’t help but tease before looking to her again in all seriousness.

“That’s so not funny,” she groaned shaking her head at him again, “especially now.”

“I’m sorry, but mark my words this will help,” he raised the mug in the air once again. He wiggled his brow at her suggestively, “For me”

“JT, I am really starting to hate you right now because you’re trying to make me do something that I really don’t want to do,” she started to protest watching him shake his head at her words.

“I would never make you do anything that you don’t want to do love, but I just thought this would help,” he slid off of the counter and started towards the door. “You do what you have to do though and I’ll be out there when you need me.”

“JT wait,” she paused turning her attention to the mug again before frowning. She reached for it, picking it up from where he’d set it in his retreat. “Just for the record I’ll drink this, but I hate you.”

“I’m sure you do,” he turned around to watch her take a sip of it. Once she pulled back he noticed the way her nose wrinkled.

“JT this tastes like puke,” she blurted out feeling a shudder pass over her.

“Trust me if you finish it off you’ll be absolutely perfect in a day or so,” he assured her with a warm smile, “It will be like you never were sick in the first place.”

“You say that like this is easy to swallow, but it’s nasty,” she turned her attention to the mug again, “Honestly it’s terrible.”

“I know, but trust me it’s helpful,” he stepped in towards her watching her raise the mug once again.

“Fine, but if this makes me worse, then you’re going to be here with me every single second I’m getting sick,” she warned taking a long sip before reaching out to pinch at her nose to help with muting the taste.

“Fair enough, though I already told you that I would stay as long as you needed me,” he reminded her watching her set the empty mug down before groaning.

“I know what you said, but JT look at me. I’m disgusting right now. How in the world would you even think about wanting to kiss me again after what I’ve been doing? Do you have any idea how awful that must be?” she blurted out throwing her hands in the air. She let out a small whimper before meeting his eyes again, “I’m so gross right now.”

“No you’re not,” JT shook his head before moving in beside her, “You’re not at all that honey.”

“You’re lying because you know I’m upset,” she protested curling her lip in a pout. “You think I’m repulsive right now, don’t you?”

“No, not at all. We all have our good moments and our bad ones. Just because you’re feeling under the weather doesn’t mean that I think any less of you. I love you,” he promised curling his arm around her shoulders.

“How can you love me when I’m like this?” she broke into tears again, “Here you were ready to be with me last night and all I could do was throw up all over the place. First in here, then in bed on the sheets and…”

“It’s okay,” he squeezed her in his arms gently, “things like this happen.”

“But not to other people they don’t. Hell, I don’t think that they happen to anyone in the world except for me,” she whimpered bringing her hand up into her hair that was tied away from her face. “I think I am the only one unlucky enough to have what should’ve been the best night of my life with the man I love turn into this.”

“Evie, it’s really okay,” he pulled her in closer to him, “I really don’t have a problem with you like this. In fact if anything it should show you all the more how I love you. I mean think about it I am not in a hurry to go anywhere else or leave you.”

“That’s because you don’t have anywhere else to go out here,” she reminded him sharply feeling her stomach tied in knots all over again.

“No, it’s because there is nowhere else I would rather be,” he promise curling his finger underneath her chin and urging her to meet his worried eyes. “I love you Evie and that isn’t going to change simply because you’ve fallen ill. Trust me on that.”

“JT, it’s just…” she paused feeling him press his index finger in over the center of her lips.

“Shh, it’s just given me some time to think about us and our situation,” he explained seeing the concerns behind her eyes. “Maybe we’ve been pushing things too hard and putting all this pressure on us when what we really should be thinking about is what comes next.”

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

“Well with all the talks we’ve been having lately about making love, I got to thinking that maybe just maybe we’ve been going about this all wrong. Maybe instead of planning for what it’ll be like when we make love we should focus on something else instead,” JT explained with a warm smile, his dark eyes reaching out into her.

“Like what?” she couldn’t help but ask him worry evident behind her eyes. “JT, you aren’t thinking about breaking up with me are you?”

“No on the contrary that is the last thing on my mind,” he continued to further explain before she could panic, “I got to thinking that maybe instead of just focusing on giving you a part of my heart that you already have had for a long time, I was thinking that maybe I would just take it a step forward and start putting the plans into motion for working on giving you my name.”

“Your name,” she replied with a wrinkled expression. “JT, why would you want to give me your name? How could you do that considering that I really don’t think I would be okay with you calling me JT.”

He couldn’t help but laugh as he shook his head at her, “No, not that silly. I’m talking about my last name.”

“Your last name. Why would I…” she stopped herself realization dawning in on her, “Oh your last name.”

“Yeah my last name,” he nodded with a tiny hint of laughter in his tone, “I got to thinking that you and I have waited this long already to be together so why not hold off the big moment until we’re married?”

“Married?” she repeated with wide eyes, “JT, are you kidding me? You want to wait for years on end to…”

“Years,” he laughed lightly before shaking his head at her, “No actually I was thinking that maybe I could call Martha up and perhaps we could speed things up a little bit. That is if you don’t have any objections.”

“Speed things up how?” she couldn’t help but ask searching his eyes.

“Well as soon as you’re feeling better I was thinking that maybe just maybe we could discuss an impromptu island wedding,” he shrugged his shoulders before fighting to repress the smile that carried over his lips, “That is of course if you’re still interested in the whole marriage thing.”

“Interested,” she repeated with a high pitched squeal. “Oh yes JT I’m more than interested. I so want to do it. Let’s get married on the island!”

“Great idea,” he teased feeling her throw her arms around him excitedly.

“Oh I love you. I love you so much,” she giggled eagerly moving in to kiss him before thinking twice about it. She pulled back with an apologetic expression before detangling herself from his arms, “Maybe I should brush my teeth first and maybe get to some mouthwash.”

“Evie, I…” he started seeing her rush to brush her teeth before reaching for the Listerine and taking a long swig of it. A few minutes later she leapt into his arms again kissing him excitedly before drawing back.

“I forgot that I have the flu. If I keep kissing you and you get it,” she gasped horrified at her enthusiasm leading her to put him at risk.

“I think I’ll take my chances,” he smiled at her kissing her once again and finding himself relieved that he’d found a way to cheer her up for a while now that it seemed that she might be on the first step on the road to recovery with their impending wedding around the corner.


“Feeling any better?” Angela stared out at Kevin as he held Alison in his arms, his eyes seeming to never leave her. Instead of the pained expression that she had seen earlier, he now had a smile on his face while holding her close to his chest. “Who knew a baby could put a smile on your face for the first time today.”

“It might be the only thing,” Kevin informed her looking up for a moment to see her holding Brandon in her arms while feeding him a bottle. Alison looked so peaceful in his arms as she let out a small yawn making him smile wider. “They are precious, true miracles. You know that?”

“I sure do,” Angela responded with a smile of her own watching his finger slide down the side of Alison’s face carefully tracing over her features.

“This is amazing Angie, beyond amazing,” his voice came out somewhat cracked and uneasy showing that he was a bit upset holding the little one in his arms. “It makes me think of really what could have been. What we could have had. This little girl is so beautiful.”

“Our little girl would have been beautiful too,” Angela muttered quietly seeing Kevin lift his head to meet her glance and she nodded. “This is everything we should have experienced with our little girl. I think about it too, it’s not fair that it was taken away from us like it was Kev. Every moment I spend with them, I realize how lucky I am to have them with me.”

“Don’t ever let go of that feeling,” Kevin sigh heavily as Alison began to fall asleep in his arms. He was totally adoring this little girl, but as his heart began to overtake his mind he found himself getting more upset thinking about their past. “I wish I could have done this with our little one. Watched her grow, being there for all the firsts. Everything.”

“I know it’s not the same, but I do expect uncle Kevin to be in every part of their lives,” she carefully placed Brandon back into his crib after she knew he fully had fallen back asleep. Stepping in closer to Kevin, she knelt down before him on her knees. “You’re a huge part of my life and I don’t want that to change. I want them to feel the same kind of love from you that I do daily.”

Kevin just simply nodded, didn’t say anything at the moment and she leaned up to press a kiss over his temple. Resting her head against his for a moment, she sighed and then looked to her daughter who seemed to be completely content within his arms.

“You’re always going to be a part of our family,” she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and placed her right hand over his that was safely holding onto Alison. His dark eyes glanced into hers as she began to speak. “It’s never going to replace what we felt for our little girl. This is my new miracles, but it doesn’t cover up what we lost.”

“I know, I never expect you to just completely forget about our daughter,” Kevin gulped down heavily trying to hold back his emotions knowing that he didn’t want to get upset while holding Alison in his arms. “And I promise I will never walk away from Brandon or Alison. I won’t let anyone hurt them and I will make sure you never have to have the feeling of losing a child again. Or Brant--God, that’s the last thing I want for him. The both of you.”

“And I know the both of you are going to take care of them,” Angela announced seeing her daughter turn closer into Kevin now that she had fallen asleep. Alison’s deeps breaths were heard clearly as Angela shook her head thinking about the last few weeks. All the mistakes that were made over the period of time. “You know, when I was with Craven he told me that we had no idea how much he truly screwed us over. I didn‘t understand what he meant then, but the more I think about it--I don‘t really understand.”

“The man has always been certifiable, so anything that comes out of his mouth tends not to make sense. He‘s beyond any real sense of rationality, but we already know he is,” Kevin proclaimed knowing the feeling in his heart he had more than enough to understand. More than he wanted to understand. “I understand just how much he screwed us over. The pain it felt to lose our daughter, it was too much. It’s a moment I will regret for the rest of my life leaving that night, but…”

Kevin looked down as Alison’s extremely small fingers wrapped around his index finger and he gulped down heavily. Feeling his eyes misting over, he shook his head at the very thought.

“It brought you these wonderful children and I would never want to think of these two not being here,” Kevin gulped down heavily and he could feel his own eyes misting over. “I’m so very happy you found your happiness with Brant, I truly am. You have a perfect family. You’re happy. That’s all I could have ever wished for you.”

“And I’m happy for you too Kevin,” Angela’s fingers fanned out over his broad shoulder as he tipped down to press a feather light kiss over Alison’s forehead. “Ria is a great woman for you and I’m glad she could bring you happiness which is everything you deserve. Someone who is going to make you happy.”

“She does…,” Kevin nodded while his thoughts went back to Ria and where she could be since she wasn’t there when he woke up in the morning. Clearing his throat, he tried to change the subject so he didn’t stay so upset. “Which speaking of Ria…have you seen her?”

“I don’t think so,” Angela took in a long breath when Kevin carefully handed her over Alison to put her back to bed like Brandon. Kevin moved the chair closer to the cribs while Angela tucked them in carefully. “I’m sure she is around here somewhere.”

Kevin’s dark eyes stared out at the babies as they slept until they both heard the loud laughing of someone outside in the hallway. Kevin’s head turned toward the noise and by the sound of the voices it sounded like Ria was with a man.

“That better not be who I think it is,” Kevin muttered aloud moving toward the door to roll out in the hallway. When he spotted Ria and Steve together he could feel every muscle in his body tightening. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Kevin!” Steve boasted watching Kevin roll the wheelchair closer to the two of them and he watched Angela follow not far behind. “I see the wheelchair is working perfectly fine for you. What about your leg? How is that going for you?”

“It’s sore as hell,” Kevin answered in an angry tone feeling Angela’s palms pressing in over his shoulders almost hinting to him that he should calm down. “Shouldn’t you be on the island…very far away from here?”

“I figured I would head back to the place I used to live to check on my patient,” Steve answered looking to Ria who had a worried glance over her features. Most likely worried about the attitude Kevin was about to put on Steve. “Isn’t that right, Ria?”

“I don’t really care at this point,” Kevin cut him off as Ria’s face dropped and he looked back toward the bedroom. “But if you didn’t notice the babies were sleeping and their room is right there. You laughing as loud as you are is only going to wake them up. So I would really appreciate if you could move your arrogant ass into the other room.”

“Kevin!” Ria blurted out letting out a small gasp, but instead of responding Steve simply nodded and moved toward the other room away from the hallway. “I can’t believe you.”

“It’s okay, clearly he doesn’t want me to be his doctor,” Steve explained watching Kevin’s eyebrows tighten and he nodded. “It’s a win-win situation for me I guess because then I get to spend my extra time with you instead of him. I’ve really been missing you a lot and it would be nice to spend some time with you.”

“That would be…,” Ria’s began to speak only to hear Kevin let out a long groan making her stop to look back at him as he tried to stand up.

“Listen, she has a boyfriend and this whole flirting thing is not going to happen right in front of me,” Kevin felt Angela trying to keep him down as he let out an angered noise. She was clearly worried about him trying to attack Steve, but he couldn‘t just sit back and let this guy step in on his fiancée while he was hurt. Not now, not any time. “And I’m not going to put up with it.”


“This is so typical Diane,” Deidra threw her hands up in the air before checking the time once again, “She knew when our flight was taking off, yet she has to take her sweet time to get here like the plane will wait for her to join us.”

“I’m sure she’ll be here shortly,” Dean offered up thinking about Deidra’s growing impatience with her younger sister. Diane had called earlier saying she was running a little behind, but neither Dean nor Deidra had anticipated that she would be this far behind on things.

“I’m going to kill her. Mom is going to kill her. The wedding will be going on without us there and…” Deidra continued to pace around the small area in the airport now that her frustrations were mounting.

“I see her,” Dean pointed out nodding to just beyond where they were waiting for Diane. “I think we’re going to make it.”

“We’d better because if we’re late mom is going to be so disappointed,” Deidra marched forward ready to do what was necessary to get her sister moving faster than she was. “Diane, come on the plane is going to take off in a few minutes.”

“I’m sorry I’m running behind. We got held up in security and…” Diane explained out of breath as she moved in closer to Deidra.

“We?” Deidra repeated now that her eyes moved beyond Diane to the man who was at Diane’s heels. Immediately recognizing Shane, Deidra couldn’t help but frown.

“It was my fault really. I had this money clip that I forgot about and…” Shane started as Diane shook her head in protest.

“It was mine because I had that belt thing and I couldn’t remember it was metal and…” Diane blabbed in a breathy tone.

“It doesn’t matter why you’re late. All that matters is you’re here,” Dean mouthed motioning for the two to follow them. “You have your carry on, yes?”

“Right here,” Diane motioned to the bag that was over her shoulder.

“I’ll take that,” Shane offered up reaching out to take it from her with a smile.

“Thank you,” Diane replied as Deidra watched the exchange between them with heavy scrutiny.

“Shane, could you excuse us for a second,” Deidra held her finger up in the air before turning to Diane, “We need to talk.”

“Dee, we’re running late and…” Diane felt her sister reaching out to snag her arm and drag her across the walkway. Once they were out of earshot of the men, Diane couldn’t help but notice the glare that Deidra gave her. “What?”

“Don’t ask me what? Diane, how could you bring him with you to mom’s wedding?” Deidra questioned in a muted hiss, “I thought that you said you were going to give yourself some space after what happened the other night.”

“Nothing happened. I was a little tipsy and I was acting stupid,” Diane tried to explain to her sister even though she knew full well it was a lie.

“Acting stupid is what got you into trouble in the first place with Ben. This is the last thing you need,” Deidra nodded over towards Shane. “You need to tell him that you changed your mind and you don’t want him coming with us.”

“But I do. Ben can’t make it, so why can’t I take him along with me? He’s my friend,” Diane explained matter of fact, “What is wrong with having a friend around?”

“There is nothing wrong with having a friend around, but this guy is clearly more than that considering that I saw you kissing,” Deidra reminded her harshly, “I really don’t think that you should be chumming around with him especially now Diane because you could end up in some major trouble.”

“Deidra, I’m not a child. I know how to take care of myself without screwing things up in my life. I learned that lesson with JT,” Diane scoffed in response her mouth turning down in a scowl.

“Did you?” Deidra couldn’t help but ask. “Look Diane all I am saying is that you’re jumping into dangerous territory in bringing him along with us. It’s clear that the guy has some kind of feelings for you Diane--feelings that could wind up getting you into trouble with Ben.”

“Ben loves me and I love him. There isn’t going to be a problem,” Diane announced catching the way that Deidra looked at her, “It’s true. Trust me.”

“I do Diane, but I don’t trust him,” Deidra nodded over at Shane again, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about him that just makes me wonder what his real intentions are. I mean you don’t really know much of anything about this guy, yet you’re spending all your time with him.”

“People would’ve said that same thing about you and Dean when you first started dating one another, but look how that turned out. Besides I’m not dating Shane and I’m not even considering anything more than friendship. He’s just been here for me while Ben was gone and that’s something that I have come to appreciate,” Diane explained standing taller and facing down her sister. “It’s not a problem. Believe me.”

“I want to, but he makes it hard on me. Diane please just be careful because I really don’t want to see you lose everything again,” Deidra confessed with worry evident in her tone.

“I won’t this time Deidra. I know what I’m doing and I can promise you it’s not upsetting the balance in my relationship with Ben. Now let’s get on that plane before mom is going to murder us,” Diane suggested giving her sister a brief smile before rejoining Shane and Dean again. As Deidra watched her sister interact with Shane she feared that her sister truly had no idea what she was getting herself into. She just hoped it wouldn’t end up costing Diane far more than she bargained for.


“Ok Walters, don’t ever tell me that I’ve never done anything for you ever again,” Alexa warned closing the door behind her only to discover Ben sulking in the very spot she’d left him in a while earlier. Stepping towards him she shook her head and frowned. “You owe me big time now.”

“Why now?” Ben asked somberly. “Did you get us double duty down here for another few months?”

“Better,” she smiled at him while reaching for one of the chairs near the table. She pulled it closer to her and turned it around before taking a seat. “You’ll be repaying me for at least a few years for this one.”

“And just what might this one be?” Ben questioned curiously.

“I had a talk with a few people who owed me a few favors and in a few short hours you and I will be on the next flight out of here,” she explained proudly.

“Where to now?” he groaned outwardly. “Please don’t tell me it’s to Los Angeles or New Orleans at this point because I don’t know how much more I can take considering that I’m stuck here while Diane is needing me to be there for her during her mom’s wedding.”

“I figured that would be on your mind,” Alexa mouthed thinking about the message Ben had been replaying over and over on his cell phone. Her eyes fell to the table top where his cell phone was resting and she groaned outwardly. “I knew you would be completely useless on the job with that wedding on your mind.”

“It’s important to her,” Ben opened his mouth to argue further, but she raised her hand to urge him to stop.

“I realize that and while the very idea of your jumping through hoops for Diane Stevens makes me nauseous, I have to admit that seeing you like this is worse, which is why I was able to pull a few strings and arrange for us to get a leave of absence.”

“Wait, what?” Ben blinked back at her. “Lex are you saying that…”

“I arranged for us to get a break from all of this luxury,” she motioned to the office they were standing in. “We have some support on this case now that it’s bigger than anticipated. Given that we’ve been in explosions and sewers and in dangerous situations that goes beyond the norm for the job they’ve opted to give us a break for a while.”

“What does a while entail?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“It’ll be enough time for you to be there for the wedding with Diane and to make an appearance back in Coral Valley when it’s over,” she shrugged her shoulders simply. “It was the least I could do.”

“You say that like it was no big deal,” Ben rose from his seat, “but if what you’re saying is true, then it means that…”

“You can be there for Diane when she needs you,” she finished with a nod. “We never get these kind of breaks around here, so you should enjoy it.”

“I will. I mean I’m thrilled that I can finally see her, but…” Ben paused giving her a long once over. “What’s the catch?”

“Who says there is a catch?” she shrugged her shoulders simply. “I think it’s pretty much a given that we’ve been screwed at each and every twist and turn in all of this.”

“Even so they wouldn’t just let us walk away from the case in the state it’s in,” Ben noted.

“No they wouldn’t normally do that, but I assured them that we’d touch base with the office in Coral Valley as soon as we got back to town and that we’d work on the leads in town,” she continued to add.

“So our going to Coral Valley isn’t necessarily about taking a break, but rather getting ready to work harder than before on this case,” Ben shook his head and scowled.

“It gets you closer to Diane doesn’t it?” she questioned rising up and pushing the chair away from her. “You should at least say thank you for that.”

“Thank you Lex,” Ben rushed forward to embrace her excitedly. “Now I can make it in time to be there with her and…”

“Once we check out one last lead then we’ll be on our way out of town,” she informed him as she kept her arms at her side in the hopes of ignoring the warmth of his embrace.

“What do you mean one more lead?” he searched her eyes once again. Stepping back he frowned. “This is another part of that catch isn’t it?”

“It’s just one small look into the case before we skip town,” she motioned to the phone on the table again. “But before we go we can call Diane and you can tell her that you’ll be there as soon as possible.”

“You’re right,” Ben nodded reaching out to collect his phone. He opened it up and started to dial before closing it. “On second thought I think this can wait.”

“Wait?” she repeated.

“Yeah, I mean I know Diane will be excited, but I think she’ll be even more excited if I surprise her. She loves surprises and I’m sure on the way to the island I can pull a few things together and make it perfect,” Ben beamed with enthusiasm. “I’ll make it romantic and wonderful for her and I owe it all to you. Thanks Lex you’re the best.”

“I try,” she forced an uneasy grin as he embraced her once again.

“You really are wonderful,” Ben squeezed her in his arms one last time before releasing her. “Now how about that lead?”

“After you,” Alexa waved him on as she wondered if she was doing the right thing in leading Ben to the last woman she was certain her friend should spend the rest of his life with. Regardless of how she felt she knew once they finished up with their lead there would be no turning back. Ben would be on his way to be reunited with Diane and Alexa would have to face the fact that there was absolutely no chance of her and Ben connecting on a romantic level--ever.


...to be continued...