Episode 431

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Kipp fanned himself as he moved under the shade that shadowed from the bar in front of him. Feeling the heat around him, he realized that maybe going with Kellen wasn’t the original best idea. “I’ve been here once and I didn’t really enjoy it the first time.”

“In the situation you were in the first time, I’m pretty sure no one would enjoy it,” Kellen pointed out pressing his palms in over Kipps’s shoulders trying to sooth him in a friendly tone. “One you get yourself out of those slacks and into some shorts, it won’t be so hot. You have to get out of your daily dressing schedule to something relaxed and comfortable. Like what I’m in.”

“Yeah, but the difference is you look good in something like that,” Kipp turned to eye over his boyfriend seeing him in tank top, some shorts and sandals. “You put me in something like that and people want to turn away from me. I don’t fill something out like that.”

“I don’t turn away from something like that, I want to embrace it,” Kellen teased him moving forward to wrap his arms around the smaller man giving him a big squeeze. Kissing his cheek tenderly, he smirked at the reaction his boyfriend was giving to being on the island. “Once you’ve been here a while, I can promise you that you won’t want to leave it. It’s too good to let go. I for one know that feeling.”

“Then how come you left?” Kipp eyed his lover over knowing that he seemed to boast about the island more than ever, but somehow he wasn’t there and moved himself. So why leave if it was so great?
“I had a lot of issues,” Kellen tried to push the idea aside once Kipp brought it up. He was a little shocked by the question himself and he wasn’t too eager to go into that whole situation. “I had a lot of problems as a kid and it was better to run away from those problems, instead of staying in them to make them worse. Otherwise, this would have been the perfect place to stay. It’s a paradise and the right kind of environment for me.”

Kipp noticed that Kellen had started thinking about his past and right when he had thought that possibly he would take something seriously, he had turned it right back around and made an optimistic thought from it. That’s what it always seemed like he did, he was always happy. Always peppy, never had a negative attitude and he didn’t know if that was his favorite part about him, or his least favorite. It was good that he could always make a happy moment out of a bad and move on, but it would have nice to have been serious once in a while about things.

“Now, onto the part that actually means something,” Kellen rubbed his hands together and nodded toward the bar that was behind him. “You really need to meet my mother, she has been dying to meet you and since all I ever do is talk about you--I think it’s time the two of you met each other.”

“Hopefully I meet her expectations,” Kipp sighed heavily feeling his face warming over at the thought alone of making a good first impression for Kellen’s mother.

“The fact that you are the love of my life is enough,” Kellen tried to assure him, reaching out to press a piece of Kipp’s hair behind his ear with a smirk. “Just knowing that, she’ll love you. She’s heard so much about you and your family because I love it so much. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” Kipp muttered as Kellen tipped down and pressed a quick kiss over his lips. “Which is why I’m glad that I believe you. Otherwise, I would be terrified to meet this woman.”

“There is no reason, I got my loving side from someone you know,” Kellen reminded him with a wink as Kipp smirked. Wrapping his arm around Kipp’s shoulder, Kellen led him toward the entrance of the bar slowly. “She’s very easy going and pretty much just like me. So that’s a bit of a warning there for you.”

“A warning?” Kipp got to say a second before they walked in and he could already feel the brisk air of the room around them compared to what it was like outside. “What does that mean?”

“You will figure it out,” Kellen teased nudging Kipp in the ribs playfully hearing him gasp a bit before moving away. The sound of the doors from the back being pushed open was heard and Kellen lifted his head toward the sound. “Mom?”

“Kellen!” Kipp watched from the corner of the room as Kellen picked the much shorter woman up in his arms pulling her close to him. “My baby boy.”

“Mother,” Kellen spun her around once before setting her down, feeling her hands pressing in over the sides of his face as he smiled. After a moment, she tipped up on her toes and pressed a kiss over his cheek. “It’s so great to see you.”

“I can’t believe you made it out here,” Martha pressed her fingers through her son’s hair and let out a laugh of happiness. “It’s so great to see you sweetheart. I’ve missed you so much. You look as beautiful as ever Kel.”

“You mean like always?” Kellen teased his mother noticing that he had been so caught up in seeing his mother that he had almost forgot about Kipp being there with him. Looking over his shoulder, he could tell that Kipp felt uncomfortable by his posture and he gasped. “Mom, I have someone I want you to meet.”

Kellen turned away from Martha and moved toward Kipp with almost a skip. Gulping down, Kipp could feel Kellen moving in behind him knocking him forward slightly to get him closer to his mother.

“This right here is my Kippy,” Kellen’s hands pressed in over Kipp’s tense shoulders and before Kipp could even introduce himself he could feel Martha’s arms wrapping around him. She squeezed him in her arms tightly and he choked a bit.

“It’s so wonderful to meet you, Kellen has told me so much about you,” she moved back away from him reaching out to squeeze at his cheek slightly as he laughed hesitantly. “You are so much cuter in person. Look at him Kel, he’s adorable.”

“Thank you…,” Kipp was shy, not sure how to respond as he could feel Kellen’s large hands squeezing over his shoulders when Kellen’s mother finally let him go. “It’s wonderful to meet you Martha. I’m sure I know as much about you as you know me. Kellen always talks about you.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that, I’ve heard a lot about you sweetheart,” she reached out to playfully slap his bottom hearing him gasp. Chuckling she could see Kellen smirk at how tense Kipp was while she moved toward the bar. “Come and sit, have a drink. I will whip something up for the two of you to eat. I’m sure that long plane ride here has the two of you hungry.”

“Actually…” Kipp went to decline, but he felt Kellen’s arm wrap around his shoulders and he pulled him in close.

“You don’t want to miss this, my mother makes amazing food,” Kellen hushed Kipp so he couldn’t deny the offer. He knew that Kipp would be too polite to let her do it, but his mother would still do it any way around it. “Just let her do it, she lives for this kind of thing.”

“In that case, I would love to have something…,” Kipp spoke up loudly and she smiled throwing the small hand towel over her shoulder moving into the back for a moment. “Well I see where you get your personality from.”

“I know, isn’t it great?” Kellen’s smile was wider than he had seen in it a while and it did make Kipp happy to know that seeing his mother could make him like this. So while he knew coming here may have not been the best, it was certainly worth it.

“So have you ran into JT yet?” Martha moved into the front again carrying a few things. The expression over Kellen’s face was enough to answer her question and she nodded. “He’s here as well.”

“JT?” Kipp’s nose scrunched up as he scowled at the very thought of his brother around the same area.

“The two of them used to be best friends,” Martha informed him and Kipp’s eyes glanced over at Kellen who had suddenly seemed a bit uncomfortable when he gulped down. “You still are, aren’t you sweetheart?”

“It’s been a while,” Kellen answered truthfully and he simply shrugged. “I told you about that a while ago Kipp, you knew that. There is no reason to have negative energy about it either. Maybe this is a good thing for you.”

“Anything involving JT…is not good,” Kipp explained and Martha set drinks down on the bar top trying to make things tense. The glance that Kellen shot her, let her know that things were a bit tense around Kipp and JT. “Small world though that my brother used to be your best friend.”

“Yup, very best…,” Martha added in and she didn’t know whether that would make more things tense, so she decided to the change the subject. Slightly. “And his new girl friend is with him. Evie. She is a sweet little thing.”

“Really? Aw, we should go see them,” Kellen clapped his hands together while his mother moved into the back again. “Hold the food mom, we’re going to head out for a couple.”

“No we’re not,” Kipp tried to stand his ground not wanting to be anywhere near JT, but he could feel Kellen pulling him backwards off the stool. “I said no.”

“Oh come on, positive energy sweetheart. I want to see Evie, this could be a good things for us to catch up,” Kellen tried to suggest still feeling Kipp fighting with him trying not to move. “You don’t want to look bad in front of my mother, now do you?”

“That’s not fair,” Kipp grumbled and Kellen gave him a pout making a small sigh fall from his lips. “Come on, you can’t pull that on me.”

“Oh please, my mom dropped the idea and I would really appreciate it,” Kellen tried to push the topic further and he could still see the look of Kipp’s disgust for his brother over his face. “Please?”


“That sounds great, thanks again Zoë,” Kyle finished up the phone call he was having with Kipp’s mother after checking in with her when he had gotten a text this morning from Kellen telling him they were going to be on vacation for a while. Not only that, but they would be leaving Charles with his mother for the short time being gone. “I’ll let Heather know. I know you will take good care of him, give him a kiss for me. Alright, thanks again. I really appreciate this. Bye.”

Looking over his shoulder, Kyle saw Heather still sleeping in the middle of the bed where he had left moments earlier. Standing closer to the window he sighed and thought about where they were. Just looking out the window could make him feel extremely comfortable. This was a place that had so many bad things happen, but he would love to live in a place like this. It was so calming that it would be a perfect way to wake up every morning. This calm and relaxed.

Sighing, he turned back toward the bed and moved carefully back on it trying to not disturb Heather while she was sleeping. Trying to get comfortable, he could still see her sleeping peacefully which told him that she had a long few days. She never slept through things this good, especially when someone was talking.

“You are so beautiful,” Kyle muttered softly, reaching to softly caress the side of her smooth face with his thumb. Gulping down, he moved in carefully to press a soft kiss over her forehead before sighing. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” her voice muttered out surprising him that she woke up now after everything that had taken place moments earlier. He expected her to wake up when he got out of bed or when he was talking to Zoe, but this was a nice surprise. “Twice as much.”

“No, I don’t think that’s possible,” he teased her tapping his index finger over her nose seeing her smile and he could tell by the glossy expression over her eyes that she was still tired. “If you’re still tired sweetheart, you can sleep. I don’t mind having a lazy day here with you in my arms. In fact, I think that sounds rather nice.”

“Once I’m awake--I‘m awake,” she answered reaching up to rub at her tired eyes hearing him let out a heavy sigh before lying back into the bed more comfortably. “So who was that on the phone you were talking to?”

“So you were awake?” he opened one of his eyes and she stretched out letting out an innocent noise. “And I tried so hard to keep you from waking up.”

“I was only half awake you know,” she poked him in the chest with a smirk. “I just needed to get a couple more minutes of beauty rest in so your wife could look beautiful for you.”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong,” Kyle hooked his arms around her tighter, pulling her closer to him with a playful movement. “My wife is always beautiful. Every minute, she gets more beautiful in my eyes.”

“Kiss up,” she smirked as his lips meshed in over hers, giving her a moment to focus on the time she had with him. Pressing her hand over the center of his chest, she moved back with a smile before biting down on her lip. “But I like it. So keep it up.”

“That’s what I thought,” he moved in to kiss her again before thinking about her original question about who was on the phone. “I was just talking to Zoe. Kipp and Kellen decided to take a trip a spontaneous trip, so they have grandma watching Charles for a few days. She was just checking in to make sure she had everything set.”

“Well that was nice of her,” Heather stretched out still feeling extremely tired and knew that she could probably stay like this for days if she had the chance. In Kyle’s arms, relaxing on some island in a hotel right by the beach. It was perfect. “Where did the boys end up going?”

“None of them mentioned it, I’m not quite sure,” he yawned pulling her closer getting more comfortable as he laid with her in his arms. “Maybe if we’re lucky Kellen decided to leave the country and stay where he is for the rest of all time.”

“Oh come on, he’s not that bad,” she reached up to poke her husband in the ribs hearing him gasp and nudged away from her in the bed a bit. He gave her a look and she could tell that he would actually like if Kellen was never around again. “You know he actually really likes you and he happens to be my best friend.”

“You’re a great girl, you could make other best friends. I know that there are hundreds of people that would line up just to get to be in your life if they had the chance,” Kyle went to move in to kiss her to sweeten up the topic, but he felt her hand move in over the center of his face to block him off. A small laugh escaped his lips as he shook his head and took in a deep breath. “Seriously, you’re going to get upset over what I said about Kellen?”

“What is it about him that you don’t seem to like?” Heather watched his eyes widen and she leaned up on her elbows to stare at him with a serious expression. “I’m serious Kyle. Why do you hate him so much?”

“It’s not so much hate, it’s more than he’s a complete annoyance,” Kyle thought of all the times that Kellen had stepped in on something that he should have never seen to begin with. “I can begin to list a few things off for you here. If it weren’t for him, I’m sure we would have been together much earlier than we were.”

“But when we did get together it was perfect, so there is really no point in getting upset about that because I think we had a great start to this relationship sweetheart,” Heather reached out to hook her fingers with his giving them a small squeeze. “So you’re going to have to come up with something better.”

“How many times has he walked in on us while we were in the middle of…” Kyle’s words fell from his lips and a grin cracked over the corners of her lips before a small chuckle escaped. “See, you know exactly what I’m talking about. How can you be comfortable with something like that. Not to mention that every time he sees me naked he has to pull complete attention to my penis.”

“It’s just his personality Kyle, he has an appreciation for those sorts of things,” she tossed her hand out in the air trying to think of how to respond to what he said, but she couldn’t help laughing at the comment he made. “Plus, what’s the deal with being upset about him bringing attention to that? If he didn’t, then that would be saying you didn’t have a nice one. Him giving attention to it just means he thinks you have a nice piece of…equipment.”

“Let me tell you about this source of information you may not know yet Heather,” Kyle rose to his elbows as well, his eyebrows tensing as he spoke. “Straight men, don’t really enjoy other men staring at their…equipment. It makes them feel strange. It’s very uncomfortable, it makes me feel horrified.”

“You weren’t like that on the beach right after we got married. If I recall, you rather enjoyed exposing yourself to all those people that were at our party. You were amused with the reactions you got,” Heather reminded him as he thought it over for a moment and soon a sexy devious smile pressed in over his lips. “So you see, I don’t think that’s the case.”

“Let’s just put it this way, I don’t like the way Kellen responds to it and obsesses over it,” Kyle stated firmly and she shook her head looking away from him for a moment. Reaching out to curl his hand around the side of her neck, he motioned her to turn and look at him with her green eyes again. “Enough about Kellen, I don’t feel like talking about that anymore. How about something more important like my beautiful wife and the things we plan on doing while we are still here on this island. Together…all alone…”

“Nice swerve,” she felt him moving in over her carefully, his lips pressing in over the side of her neck as his warm, wet kisses focused over her pulse point. His hands curled around the back of her thigh pulling her up against his hips. “And it worked.”

“I thought it might,” Kyle moved in to kiss her again and she turned her head like the last time making him laugh. “Is this because of Kellen? If it makes you feel better, I’ll work on it.”

“Good enough for me,” Heather reached with her arm to pull him closer hearing his laugh fill the air when she started to kiss him heavily. It was a topic that they could get over soon and she was sure of that, but right now they were just going to enjoy the rest of the time they were going to share together!


“You’re going to look incredible,” Diane enthused holding her mother’s veil up in the air, “This wedding is going to be just perfect and it’s about time.”

“You aren’t kidding,” Deidra piped in with a laugh, “Mom and Richard have been waiting decades for this to happen…”

“When you put it like that, it makes me feel really old,” Judy frowned turning around to see her girls with one another laughing and giggling, “although in the mood I’m in I feel like that same schoolgirl I was the day that I first met him.”

“I’m sure it was an incredible day,” Deidra noted sinking down into one of the oversized chairs in the room.

“Tell us about it,” Diane added brightly taking a seat as well, “Where did it happen?”

“You don’t really want to hear about this,” Judy waved her hand dismissively.

“Of course we do,” Deidra offered up with a soft smile.

“Given that he’s about to be our stepfather we should have the 411 on him,” Diane laughed lightly, “especially when he has you blushing like that…”

“I’m not blushing,” Judy brought her hand up to touch the side of her face, “okay so maybe I am a little, but still…”

“So tell us how you met,” Diane coaxed her mother on again.

“We met at a little café in Paris,” Judy couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

“Paris?” Diane’s eyes widened with surprise, “As in Paris, France?”

“That is the one,” Judy confessed with a laugh, “We were on a trip studying abroad for our French class. It was two weeks worth of a study vacation, but it was a wonderful one. Rick and I crossed paths in the café and at the time we haven’t met one another. He was in a different class then the one I was in, so when he approached me he thought I was French. He attempted to say something suave, but he failed miserably in his approach.”

“How so?” Diane couldn’t help but ask.

“I think he was trying to ask me out on a date, but instead he butchered the language so bad that I just let him talk for a while. Finally one of the other Parisians walked up to him, slapped him and left. I felt a bit guilty at that point, so I finally broke down and told him that I was American.”

“That’s horrible,” Deidra laughed lightly while reaching for one of the pillows on the chair beside her.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Judy brought her hand up to the side of her face, “honestly he was the one doing all the talking, so I really couldn’t explain myself…”

“It still sounds horribly romantic,” Diane couldn’t help but smile, “being in one of the most beautiful places in the world meeting in a café…well, it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful love story.”

“It was,” Judy touched the necklace she was wearing, “and although I’d found myself convinced that I would meet a handsome Parisian out there, I found so much more…”

“I’ll say,” Deidra added, “Richard is such a great guy.”

“He really is,” Judy smiled at the both of them, “and in knowing that you’re both here to share in this day with me, well it makes it all the more wonderful for the both of us.”

“There’s nowhere else in the world we would rather be mom,” Diane moved in to hug Judy excitedly, “I cannot wait for Richard to join our family.”

“I’m so happy to hear you say that,” Judy smiled back at her daughter, “and who knows? Maybe one day soon we’ll all be standing here with you on your wedding day once you and Ben set a date.”

“We haven’t really gotten to that,” Diane commented with an uneasiness in her tone.

“I was starting to wonder myself if there was still going to be a wedding now that you’re spending all your time with that UK import,” Deidra mouthed with a slight frown. “I know you find him charming, but I still don’t trust the guy Diane.”

“What guy?” Judy questioned.

“The one that became Diane’s new best friend while Ben is on assignment,” Deidra continued to spill to her mother.

“Shane’s a great guy,” Diane curled her lip in protest.

“Who happens to have an extremely seductive accent, which we all know you’re a sucker for when the mood strikes,” Deidra eyed her suspiciously, “and given that you brought him to mom’s wedding with you…”

“You have a friend with you?” Judy raised a curious brow.

“Don’t give me that look mom,” Diane frowned back at her, “because it’s not like that.”

Judy issued Diane another look.

“It’s not,” Diane threw her hands up in the air, “and I’m tired of you all butting into my life. You have no idea what has been going on with me…”

“I know how upset you’ve been over the fact that Ben’s been away,” Judy added worriedly, “and being alone is never your best position to be in considering that…”

“I don’t believe this,” Diane groaned before glaring over at Deidra, “Are you happy now? You just had to go and ruin a perfectly good day, didn’t you? You couldn’t just let it go because you don’t like Shane.”

“It’s not that I don’t like him,” Deidra objected, “I just don’t trust him considering that…”

“That you know nothing about him,” Diane rolled her eyes at Deidra. “Just because your boyfriend has ’a feeling’ about Shane doesn’t mean that he’s evil. I’m not the one that chases around serial killers, remember?”

“Diane!” Judy gasped horrified by her daughter’s outburst. “Apologize to Deidra. That was uncalled for.”

“Why? Because it was the truth?” Diane remarked sourly, her crimson colored lips curving downward. “Think about it mom. She can stand there and talk about every little thing that’s wrong with me, but we have to walk on eggshells around her when…”

“I wasn’t trying to fight with you,” Deidra interrupted as she stood up from the chair she was in, “I was merely saying that…”

“That once again you’re just waiting for me to screw up my life again because that’s what you all expect of me,” Diane’s gazed shifted between her mother and her sister. “How can you expect me to have people find faith in me when all you both can do is constantly point out my faults and my weaknesses?”

“Shane’s a charmer. It’s not you that I’m worried about, but rather…” Deidra attempted to explain herself.

“Save it!” Diane snapped clenching her fists at her side, “because Shane’s my friend and I’m not going to let either one of you make me feel guilty for that. If you don’t like it, then tough because that’s just the way things are.”

“Diane,” Judy reached out for Diane, connecting with Diane’s shoulder, “please…”

“No mom,” Diane remarked firmly, “I can’t deal with this right now. I love you and I want you to have the best wedding imaginable, but right now I need some air. I need some time to think and…”

“Diane, don’t go,” Judy frowned.

“I’m sorry, but if I don’t walk out now then I’m going to say a lot of things that you’ll want me to apologize for, yet we all know that I’m too stubborn to do it,” Diane decided giving them one last look before leaving the room to go out and clear her thoughts for a while.


“I think today is going to turn out better than anticipated,” Guy boasted thinking about the work he’d done with his father before Richard went off to discuss a few things with the preacher before the ceremony. Guy turned to Avery with a bright smile before rubbing his hands together excitedly. “Don’t you agree?”

“I really hope that everything goes perfect for them,” Avery nodded in response squeezing Erin in her arms after Russ had dropped her off for a little while. Erin was eagerly playing with the toy rabbit Kevin had given her, laughing like she didn’t have a care in the world.

“I’m sure everything is going to be wonderful,” Guy couldn’t help but laugh at his niece’s enthusiasm, “Erin already sees that today is a good day.”

“Every day is a good day for Erin,” Avery noted with a warm smile, “She’s probably the happiest baby I’ve ever known.”

“And the cutest,” Guy reached out to pull Erin out of Avery’s arm. He set her on his lap and played along with her, “I just love her.”

“She loves you too,” Avery noted with a thoughtful expression, “which is why you should come over more Guy. I feel like I haven’t seen you in such a long time. We used to be so close, but now I feel like you’re always gone.”

“I’m always gone,” Guy noted giving her a sideways glance, “I’m not the diva in the family who is living it up all over the world if I do recall.”

“You so are the diva in the family. Don’t even pretend you aren’t,” she wrinkled her nose at him before getting suddenly serious, “Really though. I miss seeing you.”

“I’ve just been so busy with the company,” Guy admitted finally with a heavy sigh. “Since everything happened with Mum, well I haven’t had five minutes to myself. The company is really demanding, not that I’m complaining, but we’ve just started on this new project with Heather Gibbons and her company and…”

“Heather Gibbons,” Avery frowned already not liking the direction that the conversation was taking, “Since when?”

“Since Kellen twisted my arm into thinking over the proposal. Given the media explosion that happened after the arrest, I can’t afford anymore bad press. Heather’s plan for the companies working together would provide growth not to mention a huge profit. We’re in the process of pulling it all together, but it looks like it’s exactly the kind of boost the company need after everything went to hell,” he informed her with a newfound determination in his tone.

“Guy, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but you do realize that one of Heather’s major financial backers is Cameron Stone, not to mention that she is completely untrustworthy and unreliable,” Avery blurted out with a sudden distain in her tone. “That woman always has some kind of agenda and I wouldn’t want to put my faith in her especially with something as important as the company I’m running.”

“Then it’s a good thing that I’m running the company and not you,” Guy half teased before noticing the expression on her face, “Though you know if you’re looking for a new job now, well I could always use a good corporate lawyer. Granted I know that you vowed to steer clear of anything and everything Beholder, but I could use you. You’ve got more than enough qualifications and…”

“Grady has me working with him. He asked me to be a partner,” Avery explained thinking about her plans for the future. “I wasn’t sure it was going to work out, but given that everything has gone to hell for him too I think I can really help there.”

“That’s different for you,” he noted thinking about Avery and Grady’s relationship. “Are you sure you want to be working for someone who is a major candidate for Prozac? I mean if you think about it his mood swings fluctuate more than the weather.”

“Grady’s a good guy. It took him a long time to get outside of that dark place he buried himself in, but now that he’s happy with Deana and his family I think that we’ll see good things in him,” Avery spoke up encouragingly thinking about Grady as Erin let out a tiny giggle.

“Avery, honey I know you want to believe the best in Grady, but…” Guy stopped himself before clearing his throat again, “I just don’t trust him. I know it’s horrible to say, but when he’s around you he changes.”

“Guy come on,” she waved her hand dismissively watching Erin attempt to chomp down on her toy rabbit’s ear. “Grady is harmless.”

“He wasn’t all that harmless to your marriage to Brant, was he?” Guy challenged searching her dark eyes for a moment.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Avery frowned glancing over at him once again.

“It means that Grady’s given you grief for more years than I can remember and I would hate to see him do that to you and Russ again,” Guy paused contemplating his words carefully, “You know Avery, I know that maybe now isn’t the time, but I’ve always kind of wondered how it was that you were away with Grady when Bruce attacked you. I mean yeah I know you guys were closer, but there was something about Grady at the hospital--something about the way he was behaving that…”

“That what?” she frowned over at her brother for a long moment.

“That had me wondering about whether or not he was really happy that Russ had returned,” Guy revealed drawing out a long breath, “Avery, I know that look in a man’s eyes and something tells me that there’s a lot to you and Grady that you aren’t talking about.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Avery shook her head frowning at the suggestion, “He’s Russell’s brother, which is all the more reason why I wouldn’t even consider something like that when…”

“All I’m saying is that he had the look Avery. I noticed it when I saw him with you. There was that look of longing, the wild desire that only comes from a lover’s hold on another,” Guy hesitated for a moment before shifting in his seat uncomfortably. He resituated Erin on his lap before speaking up again, “I guess what I’m trying to ask here is did you sleep with Grady, Avery? Heaven knows he was around the mansion all of the time and with the way he was agitating Brant…”

“No of course not,” Avery’s jaw dropped at the suggestion, “I can’t even believe you would say something like that.”

“Hey, Russ was gone and you were hurting. It’s only natural that…” Guy began again seeing the wounded expression on her face, “I’m just saying.”

“Guy, that would be like my asking you if you were sleeping with Kellen now that Gabe is out of town,” Avery frowned over at him, her brown eyes filled with an uneasiness, “You know yourself that you would never step out on Gabe and…”

“Things were tense then Avery. Look, it was just a vibe I got, but obviously I was wrong,” he replied apologetically before clearing his throat again, “Look I don’t want to get you worked up especially with the wedding around the corner. We’re supposed to support dad, not have my putting my foot in my mouth here.”

“It’s okay,” Avery finally sighed, “maybe things were a little awkward then. I guess without having Russ around the whole world fell apart.”

“That won’t be a problem anymore though,” Guy piped in brightly squeezing Erin in his arms again, “because he’s home and you’re a family now.”

“Yes we are,” Avery nodded brightly thinking about all that had happened to pull her and Russ together again. “Even after everyone tried to keep it from happening fate had a way to turning itself around for us.”

“And not even mum could destroy that,” Guy added thinking about the awful things his mother had done to hurt Avery. “That is the one thing we should count our blessings about. Now that she is locked up in jail at least we won’t have to worry about her crashing the wedding and making dad miserable.”

“Actually,” Avery cleared her throat again before growing suddenly serious, “that was something I was going to speak with you about after the wedding, but since you brought it up.”

“Uh oh, why do I not like the sound of this,” Guy glanced over at her seeing the way her features had darkened. “Avery, what’s going on?”

“Brooke turned over some kind of state’s evidence to the FBI and they are letting her walk,” Avery confessed feeling a tiny shudder carry over her, “I don’t know the details, but they offered her a sweet deal apparently if she helped them track down Nicholas Ashford. Russ got a call from his friend in the FBI, who tipped him off to the information before it went down.”

“Wait a second,” Guy’s jaw dropped in astonishment, “Are you telling me that after all the horrible things she did to you--to our family and to Russ that she is just going to walk out of jail as if nothing every happened?”

“Apparently the FBI wants Nicholas more than they could ever hold an interest in her. It isn’t fair, but she knew how to manipulate the system in such a way that she won’t have to see any jail time for what she’s done,” Avery reconfirmed his questions with a sigh, “The fact that she killed my child, helped get rid of Russ and lead the world to believe that he was dead, or that she faked her kidnapping and worked with Nicholas to scam a ransom drop won’t be held against her.”

“That isn’t right. She is such a manipulator,” Guy frowned thinking about his mother and all the years of misguided loyalty he’d had towards her. “I believed in her for so very long and turned my back on dad because I wanted to keep believing that she was the victim.”

“She manipulated all of us Guy,” Avery reached out to squeeze his leg gently, “She couldn’t see beyond her own agenda long enough to think that maybe it was time to start being a good wife and mother.”

“She blew her chances as a mother and as for a wife,” Guy turned to Avery again, “she destroyed that too. Dad is finally able to find real love with a woman who can treat him like he deserves to be treated. When I think about all those years he and Judy spent apart still knowing that their hearts belonged to one another…”

“It makes you appreciate what you have all the more,” Avery finished for him.

“Yeah it does,” Guy nodded appreciatively before looking down to Erin, who was snuggling in against him, her eyes laced with a heavy tiredness. “Though I think we should count our blessings that we weren’t condemned when it came to love given all that’s surrounding our family.”

“I won’t argue that, but on the plus side you and I both beat the odds. We both were able to grow up to be pretty well adjusted, good natured adults who appreciated the things that life gave them instead of always wanting to seek out more and hurt others,” Avery noted catching the expression on her brother’s face.

“Well I don’t know about that. You’re a bear when you don’t get your coffee in the morning. Even I know that,” Guy teased with a small laugh shaking his head at her.

“I am not,” she protested swatting him lightly with a groan. “You’re the one who refuses to leave the house without having his hair gelled up and the perfect ensemble on.”

“That’s because I have style,” Guy countered with a playful laugh, “Just taking one look at dad today will prove that.”

“Okay, so I’ll give you credit for that, but still you’re pretty amazing little brother,” Avery leaned in to place her head on his shoulder as she sighed turning her attention to Erin.

“Yeah you’re pretty incredible yourself big sis,” he added looking down to Erin again and seeing how content she appeared to be. Smiling as he enjoyed this time with his family, he reminded himself that good things were ahead for all of them. Even if Brooke was released from prison nothing she could do or say would take away from this special occasion for Richard and Judy. Today would be about happy endings plain and simple.


“Hey there kiddo, come on in,” Elliot beamed brightly opening the door to the hotel room for his son to step inside, “What’s going on?”

“Avery has Erin with her father getting ready for the ceremony so I thought maybe I would come on over to see how you two were doing,” Russ admitted noticing that his mother was in the other room leaving him and Elliot alone with one another.

“We’re doing great,” Elliot replied with a warm smile, “What about you son? Everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything is fine,” Russ nodded rubbing his hands together before spotting Cheryl out of the corner of his eye, “Hey mom.”

“Russ, hi honey,” she rushed over to hug him brightly. “I thought you’d be with Avery right now with the wedding only a short time away.”

“I thought I’d give her some alone time with Richard,” Russ explained matter of fact before looking between his parents, “Plus it gave me some time to see the both of you. We haven’t had a lot of that lately considering that there’s been a lot going on.”

“We understand,” Elliot motioned for Russ and Cheryl to join him over by the seating area, “With so many wedding changes happening around here, I guess it got all chaotic for a while.”

“But in a good way,” Cheryl quickly noted with a smile moving in to sit beside Russ, “I think it’s wonderful that you and Avery were able to see that you were married and then with Grady deciding to get married as well…”

“Yes, that was a wonderful and unexpected surprise,” Elliot added with a tiny laugh, “Although I wish he would’ve given us more time to get to know Deana. She seems like a wonderful woman and Zane is delightful of course, but…”

“Grady tends to do things a bit impulsively,” Russ noted with a laugh thinking about his older brother.

“I don’t think he’s the only one,” Cheryl pointed out with a wide smirk, “because you and Avery kind of made things difficult in terms of having a family ceremony. Not that we’re complaining, but we were really never able to do anything for the both of you either when you got married.”

“That’s not true,” Russ objected looking between the both of them, “You two helped at the old house with painting and with Erin’s room and…”

“And it still isn’t enough,” Elliot exchanged glances with Erin, “It seems like our children don’t make things easy on us, so we have to improvise a bit.”

“I’m not following,” Russ searched their faces for a long moment before turning to Elliot again, “What do you mean?”

“Your mom and I got talking about things and while we’re fully planning on throwing a party back in Coral Valley for your brother and Deana to kind of give them the wedding reception they didn’t have much time for here, we realize that there are some things that we wanted to do for you and Avery as well.”

“You two don’t have to do anything. You’ve done more than enough in helping keep things afloat when I wasn’t here,” Russ reminded them with a thoughtful expression, “I can’t even begin to thank you enough for that.”

“Maybe this will help in showing us that you appreciated it,” Cheryl replied slipping an envelope into his hand.

“Mom, what is this?” Russ questioned looking down at the envelope, “Dad?”

“Those are two first class tickets to anywhere you and Avery would like to go on your honeymoon,” Elliot explained brightly exchanging looks with Cheryl, “Your mother and I talked about it and you and Avery haven’t had enough time together to really enjoy the perks of being newlyweds without the world falling apart around you.”

“Dad I,” Russ began turning to his father again.

“Before you say you can’t take them, we’ve already discussed it and we’re willing to keep Erin while you’re gone,” Elliot continued to explain with a smile, “We love having her around so it won’t be any trouble at all.”

“I appreciate this, but…” Russ started again only to feel Cheryl pat him on the leg.

“It’s the least we can do Russ because we weren’t really able to do anything before,” Cheryl informed him with a solemn expression, “We want you both to have time together and…”

“And as generous as this is, I know that you two can’t afford to do something like this,” Russ cleared his throat again, “With you being so close to retiring mom and with dad helping invest in the paper and everything else…”

“Russ, we can more than afford it. We’re not strapped for cash,” Elliot insisted once again, “We want to do this for you. I mean think about it. You have the rest of your life to worry about everything else. With the car payments and the mortgage bills…”

“Yeah about that,” Russ cleared his throat uneasily, “That’s something that I’m not really sure how to approach.”

“What do you mean?” Cheryl asked with a worried expression, “Son are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No, not at all, it’s just, well right after we got the house I got this paper from the mortgage company,” he hesitated not really sure he wanted to share the news with his parents, still he was hoping to get a second opinion, “Apparently Augustus took it upon himself to pay off the balance on the mortgage.”

“What?” Elliot’s eyes widened in surprise, “You told him you couldn’t accept it, right?”

“I did, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Avery said he was trying to be generous, but I just don’t feel right taking that from him considering that…” Russ hesitated again as Cheryl spoke up.

“I’m sure he’s just trying to be nice, but…” Cheryl offered up thinking about her own feelings for Augustus.

“But nothing. That man always has an agenda and the last thing you need is to take anything from him,” Elliot declared with a heavy frown, “Just because that man can’t leave well enough alone does not mean that he can just push his way into your life. You’re still my son.”

“I know dad and I told him that, but…” Russ trailed off almost wishing he hadn’t mentioned it to his parents, “Look I explained to him that I would be paying him back and…”

“And I’ll help you call the mortgage company and get it all settled. The last thing we need is having one of them invade our lives,” Elliot informed them before moving around the room with heavy agitation.

“I’m sure he meant well, but…” Cheryl found herself at a loss. She turned to Russ again before reaching for his hand, “He hasn’t been asking anything of you in return has he? He hasn’t been trying to bully you in any way or…”

“No, of course not mom, but,” Russ watched his father closely, “Dad, what’s going on? What aren’t you telling me about Augustus?”

“The man is exactly like his son,” Elliot explained further with a scowl touching over his features, “He’s trouble and the less you have him in your life the better Russ. I know that I cannot tell you who you can spend your time with, but I would use caution around him. Augustus is every bit as dangerous as Nicholas was.”

“Honey, you need to calm down,” Cheryl rose to her feet again and walked over to touch Elliot’s arm gently, “You don’t want to get your blood pressure raised.”

“It’s hard not to with that man constantly pushing himself upon our family,” Elliot huffed finding it hard to keep his agitation under wraps. He turned to Russ again before forcing a sigh, “Look son I just want you to be careful.”

“Because of Augustus?” Russ arched a curious brow.

“Because of everything,” Elliot corrected moving in closer to him again, “With Augustus attempting to buy his way into your life and with Nicholas still being out there…”

“I’m trying to be careful,” Russ promised him after a small pause, “I think about it every day especially now that everyone knows that Nicholas is my…well, now that they know the biology behind things.”

“That man has no claim on you Russ. Regardless of what kind of bull that Augustus might be trying to pour into you, you’ve always been my son and you always will be,” Elliot explained taking a seat again and reaching for Russell’s hand. “Nicholas has no hold on you and he never will.”

“I know that dad, but it’s not really me that I’m concerned about,” Russ glanced over at his mother again who was unusually quiet, “From what I know about Nicholas he holds grudges and if he knows the truth about me, about what you both kept secret then who is to say that he won‘t try to do something to you both or…”

“There is nothing that man can do to hurt us anymore than he already has,” Elliot assured him firmly, “unless of course he tries to hurt you.”

“He’s not going to hurt me,” Russ replied thinking about the man who had ruined his life by conspiring with Brooke, “The FBI are looking for him right now and I’m sure once Brooke helps them…”

“Brooke,” Cheryl’s eyes widened in surprise, “What does she have to do with their hunt for him?”

“She made some kind of deal with the FBI to get the charges against her dropped by offering to help them find Nicholas,” Russell explained with a heavy sigh, “I don’t agree with it at all, but apparently they have a whole list of things that they want to nail him for.”

“It’ll never happen if they find him. Regardless of what Brooke said to save her soul, a man like Nicholas Ashford won’t be taken into custody. He’s far too maniacal for that,” Cheryl noted thinking about her former lover now that a soft shiver carried over her. “He’s already faked his death and evaded them before…”

“Maybe, but maybe not,” Russ shrugged his shoulders. “He’s been waiting for the right moment to return and obviously Brooke might be playing a hand in that.”

“Even if he does, they’ll bust him right away,” Elliot piped in with a shake of his head, “If there is any justice in the world they will lock him up and throw away the key.”

“I’d like to be that optimistic, but I’m not so certain,” Russ revealed his own thoughts lingering to the surface. “As I said I don’t think that there is anything more he will try to do to me, but with you two and with Erin.”

“If he even comes close to her, then you have my word that it’ll be his last move,” Elliot assured him without hesitation, “He’s not going to harm anyone in my family again.”

“I know dad, but…” Russ trailed off before realizing that this was the last place he’d wanted to be going to with his parents. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that with Brooke’s release and with Nicholas still out there, I think Avery and I should just stay close to home. While I appreciate the honeymoon offer and I’m sure she would too maybe you two should just take it. That way you’ll be out of harm’s way in case anything happens…”

“If you think you’re going to be pushing us out of town simply because that man could be waiting, it’s not going to happen Russ,” Elliot informed him with a newfound look of determination. “We’re not going to disappear and make things easy for him. If he does return he’s going to have to get through me before he can even get close to you or Erin.”

“Dad, that’s not what I’m trying to have happen here,” Russ frowned over at his father. “I just want you both to be okay. You’ve already endured enough because of him and…”

“Your father is right Russ. If Nicholas even thinks about harming you or our family in any way, then he’s making the biggest mistake of his life,” Cheryl added promptly knowing full well that the last thing she would let happen was having someone come in and work to destroy what little happiness her family had been able to reclaim over the last few months. No matter what Nicholas had in mind, she knew for certain he would never, ever be able to get close to destroying any of them ever again!


Evie stepped out of the bathroom, running the towel through her damp, dark hair after she’d finally found the strength to get out of bed and cleaned up. While she’d hated to admit it after she’d drank JT’s ‘miracle cure’ drink she’d felt a bit better. It wasn’t an extreme change in what she’d been feeling before her nap, but now she felt like perhaps the worst of it had passed. The shower had helped immensely, yet she’d felt restless and ready to do more than just lounge around like she’d been doing. Turning her attention to the bed she noticed three of the kittens playing on the blanket while she heard the sounds of the other two out in the hallway. With a small laugh she heard sounds of the others out in the hallway and she decided to investigate.

“I wonder what you’re up to now,” Evie pondered quickly getting dressed again. She slipped into one of JT’s oversized black sweatshirts before heading out into the hallway to hear the sounds of JT singing along to music that surrounded her. She moved forward into the kitchen area surprised to see him in front of the tiny stove working on what appeared to be breakfast. Curiously she stepped in closer to him reaching out to slide her arms around his waist, “Hey sexy.”

“Hey beautiful,” he tipped his head over his shoulder to feel her squeezing her soft curves into his spine, “Feeling better?”

“Much,” she nodded quickly before attempting to steal a glance over his shoulder, “What are you making? It smells good.”

“French toast,” he explained with a smile, “I didn’t know if you would be up to eating any, but I thought I would still get started on something just in case.”

“I’m starving,” she confessed listening to the soft sound of her stomach rumbling, “I know that probably sounds like the last thing you’d hear me say considering that everything I ate in the last two weeks probably came up last night and this morning…”

“No it’s great that you’re hungry,” JT noted with a bright smile, “It means that Martha’s concoction is doing it’s trick. You should be running circles around me by tonight.”

“Hmm, that sounds like it might be kind of fun,” she curled her fingers up over his chest feeing the warm lines of his bare skin beneath her touch. Standing up on her toes she kissed his shoulder gently before whispering over his neck, “Though I can think of plenty of other physical activities that I’d much rather we engage in over the whole monotonous process of running circles around you.”

“Now I know you’re feeling better,” he mused turning around to see her standing before him in his black sweatshirt. His eyes widened and a grin teased over the corners of his lips, “Wow, you look sexy in that.”

“You think?” she questioned stepping away from him and circling around to display her new fashion statement in his shirt.

“Much better than I do,” he confessed giving her a long once over and allowing his eyes to admire all of her curves from her sexy legs up to her beautiful smile. “You look hot.”

“Hot,” she smiled brightly stepping in closer to him. She threw her arms around his shoulders and leaned up to kiss him eagerly, “I think I like that.”

“So do I,” he replied in a low slur dropping his hands down to her bottom and hoisting her up off of the ground and into his arms. He felt her legs wrap around his waist, her fingers threading through his hair as their kiss continued. Once they parted he searched her dark eyes before smiling, “Oh yeah you’re feeling much better.”

“You have no idea,” she mouthed moving in to kiss him again when there was a sound at the front door. They parted as it was followed by a ringing of the doorbell. Curiously she exchanged looks with JT before frowning, “Were you expecting company today?”

“In a word,” he frowned thinking about the impending visitor outside of the beach house, “no.”

“Hmm, well maybe we should ignore it,” she suggested bending in closer to him contemplating the next sultry kiss she would lay on him when the doorbell chimed again and again as if there was someone leaning up against the button outside. Frowning, she pulled away from JT enough to look over her shoulder at the front door and groan, “I’m going to kill whomever is out there.”

“Not if I don’t first,” JT murmured ready to set her down on the floor before another thought occurred to him. “You know how about we do it together.”

“What do you mean?” she questioned feeling him urge her around his waist.

“Why don’t you get on my back,” he suggested feeling her wrap her arms around his shoulders and do as instructed, “We might appear more intimidating with the two of us together.”

“Sounds good,” she decided setting in over him and laughing as he pranced towards the door making galloping sounds. “To the attack my prince.”

JT laughed lightly thinking about how insane they must look, but right about now he really didn’t care. He reached for the door ready to do what was necessary to get rid of whomever was out there, but much to his surprise when he opened the door there was no one there.

“What the…?” he began ready to close it when at least a dozen balloons rushed forward colliding with his head. He stumbled backwards feeling Evie almost fall off of his back in the process. She brought her arms around his neck in an attempt to hold on and he felt himself starting to choke. “Evie…”

“Sorry,” she replied horrified attempting to resituate her hands when a sound rumbled through the room.

“Surprise,” Kellen popped his head in just in time to see JT fall backwards almost crushing Evie as they fell to the floor. He watched JT turn onto his side in a split second falling face forward into the carpet as Evie hovered over him, curled up on his back. “Oh my is this a bad time?”

“Kellen?” JT’s muffled voice questioned from his place on the floor. He felt Evie slide off of him and he forced his head up to see Kellen’s amused eyes fixed on him. Frowning he turned onto his butt and looked up at Kellen, “What are you trying to do suffocate me?”

“What?” Kellen blinked down at him before registering the balloons in his hand. “Oh right these. Well, you see my mom said that you were staying here on the island with your fiancée and since I was in town I thought I would drop by. My mom said that she was feeling under the weather and I thought I would help. These are for you.”

“Um thanks,” Evie replied seeing the flood of balloons coming towards her now that she sat on the floor eyeing the man in front of her wearily.

“Oh right, maybe you’d like a hand,” Kellen pushed the balloons out of her face long enough to extend his hand to her. “Hi I’m Kellen. Kellen Meloni.”

“And as always you never do things in a conventional way,” JT noted with a frown watching Kellen help Evie off of the floor. JT shuffled to his feet before looking at his one time best friend again. “Kellen, what are you doing out here?”

“Well, my mom has been bothering me to come out and see her and,” Kellen started with a wave of his hand, “I figured why not. I haven’t been out here in so long and this time of year is great for tanning on the beaches. You cannot believe how dry my skin was getting from going to the tanning salon plus you know how I feel about the whole fake and bake situation. In fact a couple of months ago when I went this incompetent girl behind the counter set the timer for way too long and I burned my bottom, which by the way was not one of my brighter points in time, so I figured why not go for natural light and…”

“You sure don’t breathe much do you,” Evie noted eyeing him with a small laugh after he’d finished his rambling.

“Oh no I breathe just fine,” Kellen paused for a moment before laughing, “Oh you mean with the talking. Yeah I like to talk a lot. I can’t help it. When I get excited or nervous I just get going and going and…”

“We get it,” JT dusted himself off before looking to Kellen, “Seriously though why did you come to see me? I thought you couldn’t be bothered with me these days.”

“Now JT, you know that’s simply not true. I absolutely love you, well in a platonic way of course,” Kellen mouthed to Evie with a wave of his hand. “We’ve been on different schedules and…”

“And I distinctly remember the last time I saw you that you told me to get lost,” JT frowned over at Kellen before folding his arms in front of his chest. “We were at the gym and…”

“I know what I said and I know how you were behaving. You were acting like a creep and I just wanted you to back off,” Kellen protested with a curl of his lips. “Then when I went to talk to you, you were gone and that really didn’t help the situation. I thought that maybe you would give me a chance to talk to you and…”

“And you let months go by before you even bothered. Gee thanks, it’s nice to know that I’m loved,” JT couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

“Hey, I didn’t hear you coming around to see me especially after I started seeing Kipp. I would’ve thought we’d come into contact more, but…” Kellen shot back at him with a huff.

“But you must’ve forgotten that my brother completely hates my guts. That hasn’t changed over the years Kellen,” JT reminded him with a frown.

“I wouldn’t say I completely hate your guts,” Kipp’s voice caught JT off guard as he turned to see his brother standing in the doorway.

“Surprise!” Kellen offered up seeing the less than thrilled expression on JT’s face. Still he and Kipp were there to try to make a new start and he was hoping that maybe just maybe JT would be in the mood to let it happen.


“We did one good thing today,” Angela noted thinking about how she’d managed to avoid disaster by urging Steve to leave the mansion before things turned ugly between him, Kevin and Ria. “I just hope that Kevin and Ria will be able to work this one out with one another.”

“I’m sure they will. They always do,” Brant noted thinking about Kevin and his tumultuous relationship with Ria. “They tend to gravitate towards one another when everything is said and done.”

“I know, but even so they’ve had a lot happening between them lately,” Angela noted thinking about her best friend, “I just want to see him happy for the first time in a long time and I think Ria can do that for him.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?” he searched her features for a long moment.

She nodded, “Yeah I do. I know that for a while you probably didn’t believe that, but Kevin is a good guy and he deserves to find love in his life just like I did with you.”

“And this is just one of the many reasons why I love you,” Brant replied reaching out to pull her into an embrace. “I love how you’re always looking out for those you love.”

“I try my best,” she forced a small smile before laughing lightly, “Though I tend to give them a lot of problems as well. I don’t really mean to do it, but somehow Kevin always ends up in over his head when he tries to help me through the problem of the moment.”

“Well maybe now they can work together and I can have you all to myself,” Brant suggested reaching out to embrace her. He pressed his lips gently to the base of her throat before meeting her eyes again, “We haven’t really had much time to be alone together in the last few months. Not that I’m complaining, well no actually I am complaining about it because I hate that we’ve had time stolen from us.”

“We really have,” she nodded in agreement before facing him fully. Her arms slid around his waist with a soft ease, “though something tells me that you’re going to be begging for time away from us when the twins realize that sleeping is no longer as fun as staying awake is. Then when they decide that they want to start getting into trouble and…”

“Hmm, well since you put it that way, get away from me,” Brant teased pretending to release her only to feel her pull him in closer to her.

“No way. You’re not getting out of any of it,” she informed him with a bright smile, “You’re going to have to put up with every last second of craziness that being a parent entails.”

“Hmm, and here I was thinking that the bachelor days were the hard part,” Brant couldn’t help but smile feeling the warmth of her in his arms, “I don’t know how you do it, but I love it.”

“It?” she questioned feeling him offer up a small kiss, “Brant, what’s it?”

“It’s the uncanny ability that you have to keep me from focusing on what’s going wrong and stay in the positives of the here and now,” he confessed squeezing her in closer to him, “I don’t know how you do it, but I love every time you’re able to do that for me.”

“Hmm, well what can I say? You lucked out when you found me,” she teased with a wrinkle of her nose, “Not many men can say that are as fortunate as you are.”

“I won’t argue that point,” he replied with a sudden seriousness brushing a piece of her dark hair away from her face, “You’re absolutely everything I ever could’ve of dreamt of and more.”

“Now you’re stroking me ego,” she noted with a hint of laughter behind her voice.

“Maybe just a little,” he eased his fingers into her hair while tracing the hollow of her cheekbone with his thumb, “but it’s times like these that it makes me remember what is really important in life. When I think about all that Blake lost…”

“How is she holding up?” Angela couldn’t help but ask thinking about his younger sister’s turmoil.

“I’d like to say that she’s doing great, but there’s so much she’s dealing with right now,” Brant sighed before a frown touched over the corners of his mouth, “and then I ran into this woman today.”

“Woman?” Angela arched a curious brow, “All the way from the nursery to Blake’s room you encountered a woman?”

“Rex brought her back here,” Brant let out an ironic laugh, “It feels like my home is becoming more of a hotel with all of my family crashing here these days, but yeah he brought home this reporter.”

“The one that Kevin was talking about?” Angela arched a curious brow and watched him nod.

“The one and only,” Brant frowned with a shake of his head, “I don’t know why Rex thinks that spending any kind of time with Gillian will get him anymore considering that she’s an opportunistic, manipulative little tabloid reporter that thrives on making headlines by spreading nothing but lies.”

“Gillian? As in Gillian Guyer?” Angela couldn’t help but ask.

“I take it you’ve heard of her,” Brant replied with a curious expression.

“Yeah I’ve more than heard of her,” she confessed uneasily, “I met her a while ago when I was spending time with Chris. Apparently they hung in the same circles and let’s just say she and I didn’t hit it off. I think she had a far too overblown ego in correlation to the lengths of her talent, but I would imagine it wasn’t her talent she hid behind. It was more a case of her father’s reputation I’m sure.”

“Yeah, well um, maybe now isn’t the best time to bring it up, but she and I kind of,” Brant paused searching for the right words, “You see I was engaged to Heather at the time and Heather slept with her father, thus bringing about an end to the engagement. Gillian was upset over it. She and Heather were kind of friends at the time, well fake friends I suppose considering that Heather only was nice to her because Heather was hoping to land a role in the film her father was producing, but still… To make a long story short I ended up having a very brief, very dysfunctional thing with her and it was terminated under less than civil terms.”

“Let me guess she used your relationship to exploit you and your family,” she raised a knowing brow.

“Something like that,” Brant nodded in confession, “I had to do damage control with my company, but on the flip side I didn’t ever go without a date considering that her blatant insults on my bedroom skills only served as motivation for every bachelorette in this town to try to prove just how wrong Gillian truly was.”

“And I’m sure you had no problems with that aspect of things, did you?” she eyed him carefully seeing a nervousness carry over him. She watched him adjust the collar of his shirt before he cleared his throat again.

“Well, I um…” he started not really quite sure what an appropriate response to that would be.

“Hey, Brant I’m just kidding. You don’t need to answer that one,” she quickly blurted out with a tiny giggle, “though the expression on your face says it all.”

“That’s because before I met you I was a dog. I couldn’t help it because it was like a sport, which sounds really bad, but…” he tried to offer up some kind of answer that would spin the situation around.

“But now that you have the best you realize that you don’t have to be running around in the race any longer since you have the gold medal,” she suggested curling her fingers over his shoulder before pulling him in closer to her.

“I’ve got a lot more than the gold,” he leaned in to kiss her again thinking about how long he’d waited for her in his life when he heard a sound over the baby monitor that was in his pocket.

“Um,” Angela groaned arching back enough to meet his eyes, “reality check.”

“Sounds like it’s Brandon’s turn to join us now. Would you like me to cover this one?” he questioned touching her cheek gently, “I know you’ve been busy this morning and…”

“How about we tackle it together,” she offered up with a warm smile, “That way we can have some quality family time together.”

“I think I’d like that,” Brant nodded in agreement wondering how it was that he could feel on top of the world with the blessings he’d been given when his sister’s world had been ripped apart. He just hoped that one day Blake would be able to have the same joys that he was currently experiencing in his life.


“The only way you can’t do something is if you give up Kevin and I know you aren’t the type of person to do that,” Ria pointed out with a heavy sigh running her fingertips over the side of his face that was heated over from him trying to overwork his body. “After all the years I’ve known you, you would never give up. You work until everything is right. Giving up, that’s not you.”

“I’ve never been quite in this position before Ria,” Kevin explained with a heavy breath as she held him in her arms where they were in the middle of the hallway. “I’ve been this low once in my life and I would never ask for this again. I would have gave up then, just like I want to now.”

“And if you did that--who would Seth have to protect him?” Ria tried to insist that he couldn’t have that thought and the instant she said it, he frowned. “You’re in a slump, but you have no idea how many people would be lost if you gave up.”

“Which is why I feel terrible that I can’t even move two steps without falling on my ass,” he grumbled feeling his leg tense up again and he jolted in pain. She tried to pull his face toward her to get him to focus more on her than the pain. “I feel like I’m nothing. Like things would be better off if I did die in that cave. I tried saving Angie and I got Brant hurt in the process. I got Avery hurt and brought into a situation that she should have never been in. I tried playing the hero and I failed. And when I look in your eyes, no matter how much you say it’s not true I can see the disappointment shadowing inside of you. Seth was better off before I ever came into his life again. He had a good thing going for him and I’m just--well nothing. A bother that could have saved a lot of people the pain they felt if I would have just been gone.”

“Stop being stupid Kevin,” she grabbed a firm hold of his chin seeing that he was actually believing every word he was saying just by the look that was shadowing in his eyes. “You’re just putting pity on yourself. We all cause problems for people at times, yeah. Life is hard. Life is hard for everyone, but every problem that you just named off. All the things that you happen to think would be better without you, would be lost without you in their lives. It doesn’t matter how you think I feel, I know what I feel. I love you and that’s all that matters Kevin. No one else is going to blame you for being hurt. Without you around, things would be rather boring for everyone you mentioned. You’re worth keeping around.”

“I don’t…” he thought about everything she said and he shook his head slowly. “I need everyone else a lot more than they actually need me Ria. I want to be perfect for everyone and I feel like all I keep doing is messing things up for everyone.”

“A lot of people need you around Kevin,” she tried to assure him tracing over his rough features, feeling the thick stubble beneath her touch. He was extremely pale and she could tell that he was feeling horrible. “I need you. Until you came around, I wasn’t much of anything. Then you walked into my life and I felt alive for the first time in a very long time. If you would have died, I don’t know what I would have done. I love you so much, there are so many people that love you too Kevin.”

“You could be saying that just to make me feel better, but I love you too,” he reminded with a heavy sigh and she poked him in the chest forcefully. “Hey, I told you I loved you. I‘m just saying you could be saying all this with different thoughts just to make me stop being stubborn. If you told me the truth and said why you were upset with me, I would understand you know.”

“I’m not just being nice Kevin, I’m being honest. I’m not mad at you, I’m tense. That’s not your fault, but I’m going to get upset if you keep talking like this sweetheart,” she went silent for a moment before moving forward to press her lips against his. Tracing her fingers through his hair, she wasn’t sure how to explain the way she was feeling so she was just going to leave it be. “I love you, but I’m going to slap you if you keep this up.”

“Which part?” he mumbled trying to pull himself up and she helped him prop himself up enough to get back into the wheelchair. Unlocking it for him, she heard him sigh and she reached to place her hands over his shoulders.

“All of it Kevin. You need to be happier sweetheart,” she leaned forward to press a tender kiss over his ear hearing him sigh. “And if you ever try to get out of that wheelchair again, I will break something on you to keep you there.”

“Well that’s extremely nice of you,” he smirked for the first time making her feel better that she could at least get that out of him. “I’m sorry, I just hate this. I hate all of this.”

“I know you do sweetheart,” she moved in to hug him again and she could feel in her arms he was weak. “We’ll get you better and everything will get back to the way it was. The way it’s meant to be. I promise.”

“Oh wow,” Steve’s voice made Kevin tense up while she still continued to hold onto him hoping to keep him from fighting with her ex again. “I take it I’m walking into a…special moment?”


Blake sat out on the balcony knowing only too well that she should be resting, but rest was completely out of the question now that her thoughts were lingering to Seth. Although she wished she could avoid it, there was no way that she could ignore the fact that Seth was in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit. What made matters worse was if he had, it would’ve been completely justifiable given the way in which Valerie had worked to destroy their dreams for a future. Feeling a chill overtake her, Blake tried to focus on something--anything else other then the pain that carried over her. In that moment she peered out at the fountain in the yard remembering the simpler days between her and Seth.

“Come here,” Blake urged guiding him through the maze of flowers as she loosely held his hand pulling him along with her, “Hurry up.”

“Where are we going,” Seth questioned with a tiny laugh seeing the enthusiasm race over her as she released his hand making her way into the center of the never ending garden. He watched as she stepped beside a grand fountain marble fountain before them. In the center of the cascade of water there was an angel sculpture holding a harp as the birds on the sides of her showered the pool beneath them with flowing, crystal water--their dramatic water action giving off a visual and aural harmony that seemed to only add to the magic of the Ashford garden.

“Well, what do you think?" Blake questioned turning to face him as she threw her arms out in the air feeling the stray water droplets fall upon her glistening skin as Seth stood before her.

“It’s amazing,” Seth reached into the bag he’d carried on his back as he knelt down before her, “in fact I’ve never seen anything more incredible,” he finished removing the black, leather knapsack he’d carried with him.

“I thought you might like it,” Blake added slipping out of the sandals she’d been wearing as she stepped into the water kicking her feet around splashing weightlessly, “Why don’t you take your shoes off and join me?”

“In just a second,” Seth looked up at her mesmerized by the vision before him as he’d found in that instant the most beautiful image he’d ever been able to capture in his life. Pulling his camera out of his case, he turned it towards her smiling as he spoke out to her, “You asked what I did, and well I’m going to show you,” he finished clicking his camera as he framed her in the shot.

“What?” she questioned with a soft smile spinning around to face him as she recognized the camera and her jaw dropped in surprise, “Seth, what are you doing?”

“Taking your photograph,” Seth explained rising to his feet again as he continued to click away on his camera, “You’re beautiful, Blake.”

“Seth, come on,” she waved her hand at him, “put that thing away.”

“I’m serious,” he vowed unable to get enough of her as his camera was eating her up, loving every irresistible inch of her as her damp blonde hair pressed in against her face, “Do something.”

“Seth,” her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she pushed her hand out in front of her, “seriously, you don’t want to be taking pictures of me.”

“Yes, yes I do,” he explained heatedly, “Blake, this is what I do. I’m always searching for the perfect moment, for that remarkable beauty and you’re it,” he lowered his camera for a moment taking her in completely, “Blake, you’re astonishing.”

“You’re working too hard with the flattery,” she felt her face hot with embarrassment as he reached out to one of the rose bushes plucking a tender, white flower from it as he lifted it to her face, The velvety soft bud brushed against her skin for a brief moment before he tucked the flower behind her ear.

“Blake, this is perfect,” he whispered brushing the pad of his thumb over her lip, watching her tremble at his touch, “Everything about you is begging to be captured on film. Please,” his voice dropped to an impassioned whisper, “pose for me.”

“Right here,” her eyes widened as he kicked off his shoes stepping into the fountain with her.

“Right now,” he nodded raising his camera once again as Blake tossed her damp hair over her shoulder, throwing out a shy smile. He clicked another photo watching as she slowly warmed up to the camera.

After a few moments Blake began to splash around the water once again, kicking it fluently as though she hadn’t had a care in the world as the waves of the water kicked around her ankles. Seth followed her every movement capturing every shift, every smile, every angle of her with his lens wanting nothing more than to devour her with his passion for her beauty. She was truly breathtaking and as his camera consumed her greedily, he found himself wanting more and more of her. She was everything that had haunted his artistic mind and as she spun around to face him, he lowered himself to his knees in the water forgetting about his soaked knees. She leaned forward kissing the spray of water with her parted lips as it flowed from above the angel’s harp. His camera ate up her every movement as the water cascaded over the front of her sundress soaking her completely as she gave in to her free spirited side, her every curve revealed to his hungry eyes as he captured her on film.

“Seth,” she spoke his name, her lips curling into a pout as she splashed at him and he fell back into the water still clicking away at his camera as she stepped towards him. He focused in over her face, seeing the beauty behind her smile as she leaned forward, the lines of her dress revealing soft, womanly curves as she reached out to him grabbing at his camera.

“It’s my turn,” she plucked his camera away from him, clicking away as she took his picture.

“Blake no,” he laughed wildly reaching out to her as she ran around the fountain refusing to stop taking his picture.

“It’s only fair,” she giggled as he chased her, “You’ve been taking my picture and now I want yours.”

“I’m the photographer,” Seth reminded her in a half serious tone.

“Not anymore you aren’t,” she ran around the fountain, her laughter filling the evening air around them as Seth stopped mid-movement changing direction in the fountain as he caught her off guard. He pulled her into his arms letting out a victorious laugh as he squeezed her in against him.

“Caught you,” he announced proudly as he held her in against his soaked chest.

“So you have,” Blake smiled up at him, her eyes full of innocence and beauty as her lower lip quivered as a chill rose above the evening air, “so the question is now, what are you going to do with me?”

“That does pose an interesting question, now doesn’t it,” his voice suddenly serious as she hugged his camera against her chest and he touched her cheek gently reaching out to cup her face in his hands as he lifted her lips up towards his. He leisurely descended towards her, his mouth just a whisper away from hers as Blake’s heart pounded in her chest and she closed her eyes anticipating the unspoken moment between them.

Back then things seemed so simple--so perfect in their beginnings, but now as Blake thought about the child they had lost at the hands of a madwoman who was set on destroying them, she found herself wondering if they would ever truly find happiness together. Closing her eyes Blake said a silent prayer hoping that one day they would be able to find their way back to happiness and each other again.


“Don’t be ridiculous Ken,” Carly scoffed in response trying to ignore the way his declaration had caused her to come crashing down to the ground with all of her resolve not to let him think for a second that there was a chance that he could be Kayla’s father. Remembering the vow she and Dave had made to never let Ken know that he might be Kayla’s father Carly stood up taller and attempted to pull off one of the biggest bluffs of her life. “I know what you’re doing Ken and it’s not going to work. Here you are miserable again and you’re looking for someone to lash out at. You’re looking for a way to make someone hurt, but it’s not going to happen here Ken. Just because you’re upset with the world around you does not mean for a second that I’m going to fall into this trap. You’re not going to bring me down with you just because I’m the one person that listens.”

“Carly all I’m saying is,” he stepped in closer to her seeing her eyes narrow at him with anger.

“Save it Ken because I’m not going to subject myself to this kind of preposterous accusation from you. You know full well that Dave and I are married and we have a family together. Our daughter is very happy and the last thing she needs is anyone trying to steal that from her,” Carly warned him sharply her fingers curling into fists in her hand. “You might be on a path of self-destruction, but don’t you start something that you’ll force my hand into finishing. Kayla isn’t a concern of yours because she’s not your daughter Ken.”

“Carly, all I’m saying is that…” he watched her face twist with anger before he took a step back raising his hands in the air, “You’re right. I’m sorry I was completely out of line with that one. I know she is your and Dave’s daughter. I know how much she means to you two and I had no right acting like a jerk and saying something so completely out of left field like that. We both know that there isn’t a chance that…”

“No, there’s not,” Carly reminded him with a frown bringing her arms in front of her chest in a defensive stance. “Dave and I had our problems before I left before Ken, but I was already pregnant before I left Coral Valley. That’s part of what made leaving so difficult.”

“I’m sorry that you had to go through that,” Ken stepped forward a sympathetic expression carrying over him, “which is all the more reason that Dave doesn’t deserve you. If you felt you had to leave knowing that you were pregnant because he couldn’t understand…”

“Dave and I worked out our issues an if you’re smart you’ll find a way to work yours out as well,” Carly offered up trying to keep her voice cool and collected even though her heart was still hammering away in her chest. “If you try to work out the issues you’re having with your family and with yourself, then maybe you’ll be able to have peace one day. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even have a family of your own.”

“I’d like that,” Ken nodded in response thinking about everything she was saying to him. “Maybe that’s what is really going on here. Caitlin died before we could get to trying a family and with Wendy being sick, we both know that a child is pretty much out of the cards for us. Brant just had the twins and maybe that’s where this resentment is coming from. I said it before and I’ll say it again, but everything happens so easy for him.”

“Ken, you need to stop comparing yourself and your life to Brant’s because it’s not going to help you be happier,” Carly offered up attempting to play the role of his friend without letting her emotions get the best of her. “You can still have dreams of a future with the woman you love.”

“Yeah, but we’ll never be as lucky as you and Dave are,” Ken mouthed with a thoughtful expression, “I would give anything to have a daughter like Kayla, but hey maybe one day something will happen and perhaps that dream will become a reality. Maybe I will actually be able to have that in my life.”

“I would imagine if you put your mind to something anything is possible for you with your family Ken, but for now you need to stop trying to destroy everyone else’s because it’s not going to get you anywhere,” she sighed feeling a breath of relief that he’d dropped the subject of Kayla.

“I know,” Ken nodded in response, “and I’m being a jerk right now. I should be focusing on the fact that my sister almost died and that she had to face a horrible tragedy. Helping her should be my top priority.”

“I think that is a good idea and maybe in helping Blake or even the Henderson’s that you can find a way to reclaim your dignity and become the man you once were,” she suggested opening her mouth to say something more as his cell phone started ringing.

“Maybe you’re right,” he nodded back at her before reaching into his pocket and pulling his cell phone out.

Ken raised the phone to his ear before answering and gave Carly a much needed breath or relief for the moment. She stepped over to the window and looked outside wondering how she went from being a friend to him to almost losing her cool and having him find out that Kayla could be his daughter. Naturally she knew full well he could’ve done the math at any time, but right now was not the moment she’d hoped he would get wise about the situation. Granted she’d hated throwing in the lie about already knowing she was pregnant, but in the long run it may have been the safest bet for her and especially for Kayla. Now that Ken was falling apart in almost every aspect in his life Carly knew full well that would be the last thing that she would ever want to expose her daughter to. Dave was the only father Kayla would ever know biology or not and Ken would never get an opportunity to question it again. He wouldn’t learn that there was a chance that Kayla was his.

“I’m sorry Carly, but I’ve got to go,” Ken announced rousing her from her thoughts. She turned around to face him again seeing the worry that spread over his features.

“What’s wrong?” she questioned feeling him move to take his jacket from the coat rack.

“Wendy is in the hospital. She had some kind of spell and she needs me,” Ken explained worriedly saying his quick good-byes. “I have to get there.”

“Go, by all means please. I’ll take care of everything,” she assured him waving her hand dismissively before seeing him not over at her.

“Thanks Carly, for everything,” he paused for a moment before leaving her in his office.

“Yeah, sure,” Carly replied feeling a breath of relief carry over her lips now that she’d managed to steer Ken away from the one secret she vowed would never meet the light of day now that she and Dave finally had everything where they wanted it to be with one another.


Cameron stood outside Wendy’s hospital room thinking about what he’d been told about her earlier condition. It hadn’t been much, but it was enough to have him worried about why an otherwise healthy and beautiful woman would collapse in his arms the way she had. It had taken paramedics a while to get her revived yet she was clearly dazed when they’d brought her to the hospital. On the ride over with her, Cameron couldn’t help but be worried about his newfound companion. Granted he’d like his way into riding over with her to the hospital in the ambulance, but he was far certain that she wouldn’t have wanted to be alone.

“You can see her now,” the nurse who had spoken with him earlier explained as she stepped out of Wendy’s room, “but make sure that you take it easy on her. She’s had a long day.”

“Of course,” Cameron nodded in response watching the nurse step aside before he made his way to Wendy’s room. Carefully he opened up the door and noticed her laying on the hospital bed at the far side of the room looking out the window. Quietly he closed the door behind him before approaching her. With a warm smile he spoke up catching her attention, “You gave me a scare there for a moment.”

“Cameron,” she replied with surprise in her tone turning to see him standing beside her bed, “What are you doing here?”

“Well when a beautiful woman decides to fall for me most of the time I hope that it means that we’ll get to have perhaps a romantic candlelit dinner, a little dancing and then maybe after a stroll on the beach, but I guess I can make an exception in this particular instance. Though for the record I really don’t want you to hold it against me that our first date is at the hospital. That was a location you picked for us even if involuntarily,” he teased with a small wink, “which hopefully means that I can pick out where we go on our second date.”

“Cameron,” she spoke his name with a tired smile, her brown eyes focusing on him now that he was suddenly aware of just how pale she was, “Listen I’m sorry about…”

“You have nothing to be sorry about beautiful,” he reached for her hand boldly and brought it up to his lips for a small kiss, “well other than you and I weren’t able to enjoy one another’s company longer than we had before you collapsed.”

“Look I appreciate your bringing me here, but,” she paused not really sure how to say what was on her mind, “I’m not exactly in the business for meeting new people or starting a new relationship.”

“If it’s because of Ken, I already told you we can bring him along. It’ll give me a chance to prove to you that maybe the relationship that you’re in isn’t the one that you should have in your life,” he explained raising her hand to his lips and pressing a small kiss upon the top of it, “because you’re far too incredible to spend your life with someone who could never truly appreciate you.”

“Cameron, you hardly know me,” she replied batting her eyelashes at him.

“I know enough to know that I like what I have seen thus far and believe me I don’t say that too often,” he stopped himself for a moment before adding, “No one has ever been able to make be behave like a fool in public like that before.”

“I’m sure that is completely untrue,” she shook her head before remembering his serenading her. “Something tells me that you’re quite good at shameful displays.”

“I excel at being shameful but that’s another story for a time when you and I know one another far more intimately,” he explained offering up another kiss upon her hand.

“Look Cameron, it’s not that I don’t appreciate your flirting because I do, but right now,” she hesitated before letting out a long sigh, “I’m not in the business of having anything long term in my life.”

“Not even a friend?” he raised a curious brow.

“What you’ve been suggesting goes well and beyond the norm of friendship,” she pointed out with a stern expression, “and I’ll have you know that I’m not that kind of girl. I don’t cheat on the man I love.”

“Well it wouldn’t be cheating because I’m pretty sure after a couple of dates you’ll find you’ve fallen in love with me,” he smirked down at her before caressing the top of her hand. “Therefore it won’t be even remotely close to cheating unless of course you decide you want to keep Ken around for a bit longer than you have already.”

“Listen to you,” she shook her head at him and laughed, “We’ve known one another what? Twenty minutes and you’re already planning our wedding?”

“It’s actually been about an hour and a half,” he corrected noting the time, “of course that goes into some gray areas there considering that you were unconscious for a good part of that time.”

“I’m sure you didn’t mind as it gave you plenty of time to take advantage,” she offered up with a tiny smirk of her own.

“First of all I like my women conscious and second of all, when I take advantage, I’ll make sure you’re well aware of the moment it’s happening in so that you can truly enjoy every last second of it,” he informed her with a flash of desire behind his eyes.

“Anyone who says you aren’t trouble is lying,” she replied attempting to sit up a bit in her bed. However, as she felt her head swimming with dizziness she sank back into the pillow closing her eyes again. “I’m sorry Cameron.”

“As I said before you have nothing to apologize for,” he added reaching out to touch her forehead gently, “Honestly I’m just glad that you’re feeling a bit better.”

“Cameron, what I said before,” she forced herself to meet his worried eyes again, “about my not being invested in anything long term…”

“Yes I know that means that I’ll have to double my efforts to gain your attention,” he noted with a hint of teasing in his tone, “and I’m fully prepared to.”

“Cameron it’s not that. It’s just that,” she struggled to get out the words that she’d been haunted by for the last few months, “Cameron I’m dying.”

“No you’re not. You’re fine unless of course you call that feeling flushed and the fainting spell that was brought on by my charm as dying and going to heaven,” he joked again still keeping his hand over hers.

“No, you’re not getting it. I left Coral Valley before because I was very ill. You see I have a very rare blood disorder and while I am trying to be optimistic about what is happening inside of me, the fact to the matter is that I can’t plan on anything beyond the moment in my life. I’m not the kind of person that can really afford to meet new people and enjoy the things that normal people would because of what’s happening to me. I wouldn’t even be with Ken except he won’t let me give up on myself,” she explained with a tired sigh, “I know that he means well but each day I can feel my strength slipping away. I try to pretend to be normal, but…”

“But nothing. Wendy when I met you today I didn’t see someone who was giving up on life. I saw a woman who was savoring the world around her,” he reached out to run his fingers through her dark hair, “A bright, beautiful woman who has a lot of love to give this world.”

“I appreciate the sentiment Cameron, but I’m a hopeless case. What you saw today was a good day,” she admitted opening her eyes and turning to him again, “I wish I could say it gets better than this, but this is as good as it gets.”

“I highly doubt that,” he replied noticing how pale she was. “This disease you claim is taking you under, what is it called?”

“Cameron, I don’t want to get into this,” she paused thinking about the grip the disorder had on her. “It’s just something that happened when…”

“When what?” he couldn’t help but question.

“I honestly don’t know,” Wendy admitted taking in a breath, “It’s something that happened to fall on my lap when Ken and I were going to get married. One day I was fine and then the next, well you can see what happened.”

“How long have you and Ken been together?” Cameron couldn’t help but ask a sudden thought occurring to him. He looked her over for a moment and felt an uneasiness carry over him. Reaching for her hand he raised it again to take note of the discoloration in her nails. “Wendy?”

“A long time and I know it’s going to kill him all over again when I’m gone,” she closed her eyes fighting to control the emotion that carried over her. “I wish it wasn’t like this, but…”

“Listen I’ll be right back,” Cameron finally decided surprising her with his words. “I have to go make a phone call, but I promise you that I’ll return soon.”

“Um okay,” she turned to him again, “You really don’t have to if…”

“I want to,” he assured her taking in a breath before forcing himself to step away from her bed. He offered up one last look before stepping into the hallway. Looking around he took in a breath as he moved in to take a look at her charts. He quickly thumbed through them suddenly feeling as if his suspicions were becoming a reality more than anything else. After a few minutes of searching it hit him.

“Son of a bitch!” Cameron cursed under his breath before turning to the door again. It all made sense. Every last second of what was happening with Wendy seemed to come together in one perfect moment of clarity. “Why didn’t I see this sooner?”

Frowning Cameron pushed her chart back into place again. He looked around the hallway before moving down the hall in an attempt to get some privacy. Once he was certain no one was paying attention, he dialed his cell phone and waited for the caller on the other end of the line.

“Listen it’s me. I need you to do me a favor,” he explained into the phone before looking around again, “Yes, I know it’s a bad time, but I’m going to need someone to come in here and intervene on something for me. There is a patient at the hospital here in Coral Valley. Her name is Wendy Forbes and I think we need to find a way to get someone in here and run a blood panel on her. Look, don’t ask questions, just do it. I think she’s the key to everything. No, I don’t have time to explain, but I really believe she is it. Yes, she‘s the missing piece of the puzzle and if we don’t act soon on this, we may end up losing our window. That‘s right.”

Cameron listened to the voice on the other end, “Are you sure?”

“I’m positive,” he added thinking about Wendy’s deteriorating condition, “I’ll see Angel later, but right now I think that Wendy is the key to unlocking the mystery that has been right out of our reach. I really believe that she’s the one.”

“Then do what is needed,” the voice explained as Cameron hung up the phone thinking about one of the other reasons that he’d been prompted to return to Coral Valley. Looking around the hospital once again he couldn’t believe how it was that he’d found someone so intriguing, yet so compelling to what it was he needed to do in Coral Valley. A moment of guilt tugged at him at the thought of Wendy being an unknowing pawn in the game that began a while back, but now that Cameron was aware of the truth, he vowed to finish what he’d started by coming to town. After he was finished he would take the steps necessary to help find a way to pull Wendy out of the hell she’d been blindly put into. It was only a matter of time.


“There they are,” Deana pointed out to where Jason and Zane were playing down by the water after their snorkeling lesson with one another. She felt Grady reach for her hand and attempt to pull her along the beach with him. “Wait, what are you doing?”

“Taking you to see your son. Come on,” Grady urged her on again attempting to pull her through the sand over to where Jason and Zane were.

“No, no I can’t go over there. If Jason knows that we’ve been watching them, he’ll think I was spying and he’ll get upset with me. He will believe I don’t trust him and…” she began in protest attempting to dig her heels in the sand to keep from moving.

“He won’t think that at all. He knows how important Zane is to you,” Grady urged her on again before pulling her into his arms. “Trust me on this Deana. Everything is going to be fine.”

“Okay fine, but if they ask it was your idea. Got it?” she instructed with a firm expression.

“Got it,” he nodded in agreement squeezing her hand gently before they walked over to where Jason and Zane were playing on the beach together. Smiling brightly he moved forward clearing his throat to catch their attention, “Well look what we have here.”

“Grady!” Zane’s head popped up and a wide grin spread over his features. Without hesitation Zane rushed over to Grady practically leaping up into his arms in an embrace. Grady picked him up off of the ground and into his arms fully.

“Hey little man, how are you doing?” Grady questioned giving Zane a big hug.

“I’m doing awesome. We had the most awesome class today and the teacher said that I’m the best in the class. It rocked. We got to see all the different rocks and fish and it was cool,” Zane explained excitedly his words running together quickly. He turned to Deana and laughed, “The teacher said I was so good that tomorrow I could help her teach everyone else even Uncle Jason since he did not too good.”

“Hey you weren’t supposed to share that part of it with them,” Jason frowned looking up from the beach towel he’d been laying on. “It wasn’t my fault.”

“He totally sucked at it,” Zane continued to explain honestly, “He got a leg cramp and then almost drown. The teacher had to pull him out of the water and she told him he shouldn’t eat right before swimming.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jason offered up in his own defense.

“I see how it is,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh, “Let me guess the teacher was twenty some years old and hot right?”

“Unfortunately not,” Jason cringed before nodding down the beach over to an older woman with overly bronzed skin, “That was her and let me just tell you mouth to mouth was totally unnecessary even if she felt the need to administer it.”

“Serves you right,” Deana laughed at the thought of the situation that had taken place, “You never do pay attention to the rules when you are supposed to be behaving.”

“I had a bag of peanuts before we left,” Jason frowned up at her, “How was I supposed to know that it would be an issue?”

“You knew when you were young enough to read that you’re supposed to wait after you eat,” Deana piped in with a frown before turning her attention to her son, “But I’m so glad that you’re having a good time. Grady and I wanted you to have fun.”

“I’ll have more fun if you both come swimming with me,” Zane suggested looking between them, “Can you? Can you?”

“I’d love to if it’s okay with your mom,” Grady turned to Deana for a moment, “Is that alright?”

“Sure, you two go ahead. I’ll just go back and get some sunscreen since I can see the sun is taking it’s toll on Zane and Jason,” Deana noted the color of her son’s skin, “I don’t want you getting burned today.”

“Oh mom I’m fine,” Zane curled his lip in a pout. “It’s cool.”

“It won’t be when you’re red like your Uncle Jason’s shoulders,” Deana nodded over towards Jason again. “Honestly you would’ve thought that you’d bring sun block.”

“I was hoping to get a tan,” Jason turned his head to the side seeing the color on his skin. He reached out to touch it before cringing.

“Once again you didn’t put safety first,” Deana turned to Grady again, “I saw them selling some sun block up at the little stand near the hotel. I’ll just go run and get some.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to?” Grady questioned repositioning Zane in his arms.

“Nah, I’ve got it covered,” Deana moved forward to give Grady a quick kiss before stepping back, “Make sure Jason behaves when I’m gone.”

“I always behave,” Jason protested with a frown.

“That’s a lie if I ever heard one,” Deana laughed lightly before shaking her head at her brother. “I’ll be right back.”

“We’ll be waiting,” Grady assured her moving in to take a seat on the towel over by Jason. “Hey Zane, why don’t we get Jason to help us build a sand castle while your mom is gone?”

“Sweet!” Zane mouthed excitedly as Deana gave him one last look.

She turned towards the cabana in the hopes of finding some sunscreen and maybe getting a few drinks while they were out in the sun. Laughing to herself she moved forward hoping to return in time to take a hand in putting together the sand castle that Grady had suggested Zane work on. So far the trip was turning out to be better than she’d thought, she realized knowing full well that not only was her wedding a complete and total surprise, but the joy she felt with her family was as well. Zane took to Grady more than she’d ever thought possible and even with Jason around it felt nice. Things felt like they were meant to be.

“Because they are meant to be,” she thought to herself glancing over her shoulder at the three men in her life before moving up to stand in line. She looked down to the ring on her finger before a smile swept over her features. It seemed so hard to fathom that she’d actually done it. She and Grady were married and things were really turning around for all of them. It was getting better with each passing second.

“Excuse me,” a voice apologized as she felt a crashing into her side.

“It’s okay,” Deana replied turned to see a woman standing beside her before that she recognized, “Crystal?”

“Deana, hey,” Crystal smiled at her brightly, “How are you?”

“I’m good, wow it’s great to see you,” Deana greeted her brightly, “What are the odds?”

“Better than anticipated,” Crystal laughed lightly before stepping in line beside her, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here with my husband and my son. We’re just enjoying the beach and you?” Deana questioned before looking over her shoulder at Grady with Zane.

“That’s your husband huh?” Crystal noted seeing the direction that Deana’s gaze had drifted to.

“Yeah,” Deana’s grin expanded, “Thanks again for the help with the dress everything was perfect.”

“I can see that,” Crystal eyed Deana’s ring curiously, “It looks like a lot of thought went into that.”

“That’s just how Grady is thoughtful in every way imaginable,” Deana sighed thinking about her husband, “I really lucked out with him.”

“Yes, yes you did,” Crystal nodded before turning to face her once again, “It looks like you really have a great many things to be thankful for.”

“I really do,” Deana paused before turning to her friend again, “so much so in fact that I would love for you to meet him. You did after all help me with the dress so what do you say? Would you like to meet my family?”


Pacing in and out of the bathroom of her bedroom, Shannon looked to the time realizing that she had been waiting for a few now. She wanted to get this done before Don got back and she was surprised that she had even made it home before he did.

When Don had left, she went out right after him and ran to the store right down the street to pick up a pregnancy test. She rushed home and half expected him to be home already waiting for her. There was no way that she wanted to explain her thoughts at the moment to Don with the way he was acting.

“Come on,” she felt like this was taking forever and she wanted to get this done before Don got home because there was no way that she wanted to explain these things to him. “These take forever.”

Shannon was hoping that she was wrong, that maybe she was just sick like Don suggested, but her mind was swirling with thoughts about what was really going on. It worried her that she could actually be pregnant. That was the last thing she could ever see her being in situation wise. She never wanted to be a mother and now that she might be becoming one, she terrified. They were always fighting, there was no way that anything good would come from something like this.

The sound of the door opening made her whole body tense up, Don was home. Trying to move toward the bathroom she wanted to clean up the mess that she had caused waiting for the time that was needed for the test to be done.

“Damn it,” she reached for a towel to cover things up hearing the sound of Don walking into the bedroom and moved out of the bathroom quickly to stop him from coming in. “Hey you.”

“Hey, I didn’t know what to get you, so I was going to try this new thing,” Don reached inside of the brown paper bag after going to his family pharmacy. Looking over the bottle, he cleared his throat and shook his head. “It’s supposed to settle your stomach and hopefully clear anything out of there that shouldn’t be in there.”

“That would actually be really nice,” she placed her hands over her stomach thinking about the idea of being pregnant. Her thoughts were soon interrupted when he went to move for the bathroom and she held her hands up in the air. “Nope, you can’t go in there. I got sick and it’s really bad in there.”

“I have to give you this medicine,” Don went to move around her and she side stepped to that side keeping him from going in there making him laugh. “Now you’re trying to be cute, but the fact is I’m still not happy with you. I just want to make sure you feel better because I feel bad when anyone is sick, so just move to the side so I can get…”

“I don’t feel bad anymore Don, I think it was something…I ate,” she had paused to think of an answer and he smirked shaking his head trying to move around her again. “I’m serious Don, I feel much better. There is no reason to give me this.”

“That’s clearly bullshit sweetheart. Your face is still extremely pale and…” he reached out to place the back of his hand over her forehead still feeling her a bit heated against his touch. “You still are warm, but even if you were alright, I still have to put this in the medicine cabinet.”

“Fine then,” she reached for the bottle from his hands reading over the back. His eyebrows tensed while his blue eyes watched her carefully and she shrugged. “How much of this are you supposed to take. I’ll drink it right now.”

“Alright, why are you really trying to keep me out of the bathroom?” Don laughed reaching for the bottle from her sliding it back into the bag. Her dark eyes refused to look him in the eye and he could tell something was wrong. “Shannon? Seriously…what is that you…”

A loud erupting buzzer filled the air making her tense completely as he looked toward the bathroom. Biting down on her bottom lip, she knew that he had to have heard it and that meant that he would be full of questions.

“What was that?” Don went to move into the bathroom again and she moved for the doorway this time placing herself in the middle of it. “Shannon, just move…”

“No,” she nudged him away and he ran into the dresser knocking a bag off onto the floor. Reaching down to pick it up, he noticed on top there was a pregnancy test box that was ripped open.

“Don…,” Shannon felt her heart stop when he held the box in his hands, his eyes moving from the box up to her as she cleared her throat uneasily. She should have thrown that away, but she didn’t know how these things ran at all. Damning herself for leaving the box out, she could see his eyes gloss over with an expression she hadn’t seen before. “I can explain.”

“Shannon, are you pregnant?” Don cleared his throat uneasily realizing that after everything that had happened earlier being pregnant was a very good option. It was just something that would have never entered his mind nor came up as even an option.

“Don…,” Shannon wanted to come up with something to say to deny it. Try to come up with some lie that he would actually believe to avoid the subject, but she could tell by the way he was acting he already thought she was pregnant. “I don’t know.”


“I’m really glad you came with me Mindy,” Nate looked over his shoulder while they were at a light to see Rusty curled up in the back seat sleeping and he smiled. He could see Mindy out of the corner of his eye doing the same and he laughed. “And to think we thought he would do horrible on the ride here. I think he rather enjoyed it.”

“I think he slept through most of it,” Mindy pointed out glad to see that Russ and Avery’s kitten took the length of the drive they had very well. “Now that we know he’s been doing okay, the only thing left to worry about is what your family is going to think of me.”

“Oh, that should be the last thing on your mind,” he reached out to place his hand over her thigh in a very casual manner. “My family is not something to worry about, I think I would be more worried what you thought about them. They are kind of over the top, I hope you realize that before we actually get there. They might make you feel uncomfortable with the way some of them are, just know that’s not their intention. That’s just how they are naturally.”

“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” she could tell that by the side streets they were taking that they were close to his family’s place. Nate gave her a sideways glance and she could tell that he really believed they were like that making her smirk. “I’m sure they are perfectly fine.”

“Well I’m just warning you ahead of time, one of my older brothers is really going to like you,” Nate explained with a heavy sigh. “He’s really one of those people that says what’s on his whenever it’s on his mind. He doesn’t stop to think what he’s saying.”

“You are somewhat like that, it’s part of what I…,” she paused thinking about how far their relationship had gone thus far. A few months ago--hell, weeks she couldn’t have ever seen them this close. Yet they were. He was already taking her to meet his family, that’s how quick things had truly moved. “Really like about you.”

“Well, I’m mild compared to Cain,” Nate tried to insist tapping his fingers against the top of the steering wheel. “I believe my other sister is going to be there and a few of my brothers. The only one you are probably going to have to worry a little about is my brother Cain. My parents are very friendly…very. So, if they seem awkward…”

“It’s just the way they are, I’ve got it Nate,” she reached out to place her hand over his to try and get his attention away from worrying. “They can’t be that bad, you talk about them all the time and how much you love them. They also help bring you into this world and I think you are wonderful. So they have to be great.”

“Now that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside,” Nate teased playfully with her as she squeezed her fingers around his hand tightly. “I appreciate you doing this, it’s nice to have someone come with me for once. Especially someone as great as you.”

“Don’t forget Rusty…,” she could see the way that his green eyes were staring out at her and she felt a bit awkward in the moment. The moment she said his name, Rusty crawled up from behind them into her lap and he smiled.

“Of course I wouldn’t forget him,” he stopped in front of a large house with a lot of property surrounding it. “So we’re here…”

He took off his seatbelt and sat there for a moment seeing all the cars that were lined up and the balloons that surrounded the area.

“My extended family is going to be here as well, so just remember what we talked about…,” he seemed hesitant to leave the car as she pulled off her seatbelt with a smile. “They are just like me, but severe over the top cases of myself.”

Nodding, she moved out of the car with Rusty in her arms and he got out slowly moving around the back to pull their things out of the trunk.

“I’m sure everyone is out back. We can probably go put the things in the house if you want first and then go out to meet everyone,” he informed her and she motioned him to wait. “What is it?”

“I forgot his toys in the back,” Mindy moved toward the car while he paused waiting for her to get his things.

“Nate, catch,” she could hear someone scream at the top of their lungs and she looked over her should to see a football coming at Nate’s head extremely fast.

Nate managed to drop the bags and catch it before it nailed him in the face, but a moment later another body slammed hard into him knocking Nate to the ground with a heavy thud.

“I sacked you hardcore man,” the man muttered to Nate with a laugh shoving his head to the side playfully before standing up to fix his short, dirty blonde hair. His attention finally landed on Mindy as he move closer to her. “Aw, what a cutie.”

“Yeah, his name is Rusty,” was the only thing that Mindy could think of saying as his fingers ran over the top of the cat’s head petting him.

“Well, I was talking about you, but the cat is cute too,” he winked in a flirting manner before Nate finally made it back to his feet. “I had no idea you were bringing a hottie to the reunion man.”

“Thanks for the welcome Cain,” Nate kept his left arm around his ribs as Cain moved over toward him to wrap his arm around him squeezing him close. “This is…”

“Hey guys…Nate’s home,” Cain screamed back to the crowd that was in the backyard and a few more people started to move toward the front. “And he brought a girl!”

“Yeah, I told you they were over the top,” Nate moved over toward Mindy as he tried picking the bags up again from where he dropped them earlier. “And that’s only the beginning…”


...to be continued...