Episode Forty Nine

Ria finished tugging her scrub top over head as she ran down the hall with the nurses, “What have we got?”

“Self inflicted GSW to the chest,” Barbara replied as the emergency room doors opened. Two paramedics rushed inside with a gurney while Douglas followed close behind.

“Thirty two year old male with a single GSW to the chest. BP is 70 over 30 and falling. Pulse 45, respirations at 7,” One of the paramedics informed the doctor as they made their way down the hall.

“We’ve lost a pulse,” The other paramedic shouted.

Barbara climbed on top of the gurney and began CPR while the trauma team rushed down the hall, taking Kipp into a trauma room.

Douglas attempted to follow but a nurse stopped him at the doors to the trauma room. As she stepped inside the room and allowed the doors to swing closed behind her, Douglas felt his entire world shattering before his eyes. He’d never anticipated Kipp doing violence to himself yet somehow everything seemed to make sense. Heather had destroyed Kipp with her act of indiscretion, and Douglas vowed to himself and to Kipp that he would make her pay.

Barbara quickly moved off the gurney as Ria charged the paddles to deliver an electric charge to Kipp’s heart. “Clear,” She called out before administering the first jolt of electricity. With no response on the monitors, Ria charged the paddles once again. “Clear,” She warned before administering the second charge. The monitors began to chirp with the sound of a heart rhythm.

“Call respiratory for a vent,” Ria ordered as she intubated Kipp, “Bag him,” She instructed Barbara as the nurse attached an air bag to the tube and began delivering regular breaths to the patient.

Ria moved alongside Kipp and began listening for heart sounds, “When did this happen?”

“Less than half an hour ago. Apparently this guy was over at the Ashford estate for that big party,” The paramedic explained as he began to gather his equipment, “His father found him and said he’d heard the gunshot. He also said that the patient had been drinking tonight.”

“Thanks, Brandon,” Ria acknowledged as the paramedic left the room, “He’s going to need a chest tube,” She said as she hung her stethoscope over her neck.

“Has anybody notified the police yet?” Barbara asked as she continued administering air to the patient.

“Yeah, there were a couple of cops on scene. You need us anymore, Doc?” The other paramedic asked as he held the backboard Kipp had been brought in on.

“No, thanks, Tony, we’ve got it from here,” Ria spoke as she began inserting a chest tube into Kipp’s side.

“Did I hear right?” Isaac asked as he stepped into the room. He plucked some latex gloves from a box as he joined the crowd, “I’ll be damn. I did hear right. This is Kipp Mahoney.”

“He really did a number on himself,” Ria shook her head, “We need to get him into CT,” She said as she continued about her work.

“Call radiology. Tell them to clear a room because we are coming down,” He ordered one of the nurses, “We’ll need chest x-rays as well.”

“I really don’t understand why anyone would do this to themselves,” She sighed heavily as she continued working, “I know of plenty of people I’d love to shoot, but I’d never do this to myself.”

“Sometimes people don’t feel they have any other choice,” Isaac reminded her as he moved across from Ria and positioned his stethoscope to listen to Kipp’s chest, “Was he drinking?”

“Yeah, he was at the Ashford party,” She informed her superior.

“Radiology’s ready for us,” A nurse informed them as she hung up a phone near the door of the room.

“Let’s get him unhooked then,” Ria instructed as the nurses began working in perfect harmony to move quickly for the sake of their patient.

As they moved Kipp out of the room, Douglas immediately fell into line behind them, “What’s happening? Where are they taking my son?”

Isaac nodded for Ria to carry on with her patient before he turned towards Douglas, “Mr. Mahoney, I’m Isaac Reynolds. I’m chief of staff here. They’re taking your son down to radiology for chest x-rays and a CT scan. We’re just trying to determine the extend of the damage and if surgery will be necessary.”

“Will he be okay?” Douglas asked quickly, “There was so much blood.”

“Chest wounds tend to bleed profusely. Is your son on any medication or undergoing any psychiatric treatment?”

“No,” Douglas shook his head, “He was the picture of health. He caught his girlfriend in bed with another man, and he was devastated. I guess…I mean…” He paused as he tried to collect himself, “I never imagined Kipp would do something like this.”

Isaac nodded somberly, “Is there anyone I can call for you? Any family members perhaps?”

“No,” Douglas shook his head as shock set in hard on his system, “There’s no one.”

“Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll have one of the nurses bring you some coffee?” Isaac asked, knowing that the Hollywood producer was slipping into a state of shock, “You should try to take it easy right now. Kipp is going to need your strength and support to get through this.”

“Will he be alright? Is he going to make it?” Douglas asked desperately as he sat down in an alcove for patient’s families.

“It’s too early to say, but he’s young and healthy. Those work in his favor,” Isaac advised him before he motioned for one of the nurses to join them, “This is Leigh. She’s a nurse here in the ER. If you need anything, anything at all, Mr. Mahoney, you just let her know.”

Douglas nodded silently as the horror of what had happened to his son played over and over in his mind. He’d seen crime scenes on the sets of more movies than he could count, but he’d never seen the sort of scene Kipp had laid out for himself. He could only hope that as Kipp recovered the memories of the hellish night behind them would fade with the wounds Kipp had inflicted upon himself.


Blake felt a wave of nausea crash over her as she first began to stir. Her head ached, her stomach threatened to revolt, and she wanted nothing more than to just die so she’d be out of her misery. She turned over in bed and collided with a warm body. Her eyes snapped open to find out just who she was in bed with. She looked up and spotted Zack lying beside her with his eyes fixed upon her.

She couldn’t quite remember how this had happened. She remembered wanting to tear Heather’s eyes out, and she remembered Zack carrying her outside. After that, everything was a huge blur.

She closed her eyes as she turned back in the bed. Suddenly, she realized she wasn’t wearing her dress. Her eyes snapped open once again as she glanced under the covers to verify what she had already figured out, “Oh boy…”

“Oh Blake,” Zack called after her as he snuggled in close behind her. He lowered his lips to her neck, “Care to repeat last night? It was a wonderful way to end a party, and I think it would be a spectacular way to start the day.”

Blake panicked as her heart thudded in her chest. This couldn’t be real. She had to still be passed out, and this was all just some very strange nightmare. She couldn’t have had sex with Zack…or could she?

“Oh god,” She breathed brokenly, “I…what…I mean…last night…”

“Last night was a night I’ll never forget. You were breathtaking,” Zack teased her. He knew she had a hangover from hell as she had groaned for several hours before fully waking. Her face lacked any sign of color and her lips were a sickening shade of green.

“This…we didn’t…” She stammered.

“Make love?” He questioned as he nibbled at her ear.

“Oh god,” Blake burst into hysterical tears, sobbing violently as she buried her face in the pillows, “Oh god, this can’t be happening.”

“Blake, honey,” Zack spoke softly as he touched her shoulder in confusion, “Honey, I know I’m not a movie star, but I’m not that bad.”

“It’s not that,” She cried into the pillow, “It’s just…I didn’t want it to be this way.”

“Well, Blake, there’s something I have to tell you,” He began as his own conscience got the better of him. He couldn’t allow her to keep thinking they had made love when it was obviously tearing her apart, “Blake, about last night…”

“I just can’t believe that I made love for the first time, and I can’t even remember it,” She bawled, “It’s supposed to be something you remember forever, but this…” She shook her head as she squeezed her pillow tightly.

“Your first…” Realization began to creep over him, “Blake, honey, nothing happened last night.”

“But you…”

“Never said that. You tried to seduce me, but nothing happened. And not because I didn’t want it to either. You passed out on me,” He said sheepishly.

“I…” Blake turned and glanced up at him, “You mean we didn’t…”

“No, we didn’t make love,” He touched her cheek gently.

“You bastard!” She shouted at him as she drew her pillow from under her head and began clobbering him with it, “You son of a…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Zack defended as he attempted to shield himself from her attack, “I thought you were hoping it didn’t happen because it would have been your first time and you couldn’t remember.”

Blake planted her palm in the middle of his chest and violently shoved him off the bed, “How dare you!”

“What the hell did I do wrong now?” He asked with wide eyes as he looked up to her position on the bed.

“You made me think that we had made love. While that was something I dreamt about more times than I can think of, you shouldn’t have manipulated this just for kicks. You thoughtless ass!” She said as she smacked him upside the head with her pillow.

“Blake,” Zack ripped the pillow from her hands and met her eyes. He paused and smiled as his eyes drifted over her, “The blanket has slipped there, babe.”

She glanced down to see her naked body exposed to him. She yanked the blanket up to cover herself as she seethed with anger, “You don’t get to look any more.”

“In that case, I guess it’s a good thing that I’ve got this,” He grinned as he dangled her bra in front of her, “I think I’ll keep this as a souvenir.”

“You give me that!” She demanded as she reached for the undergarment.

Zack held it further away from her as he slipped his arm around her and drew her off the bed. He tossed the bra away as he covered her body with his and met her eyes, “Would you calm down for a minute here?”

“Why should I?” She snapped as she attempted to wrest free of him.

Zack seized her hands in his and captured her lips in a kiss. When she tried to wiggle free of him, he deepened the kiss and relaxed against her. He released her hands as she began to relax and wrapped his arms around her body to draw her closer to him.

Blake didn’t want to cooperate. At least she didn’t think she did. For some reason though, her body was reacting perfectly in concert with his. She wrapped her arms around him and eased her fingers through his hair as he continued to lavish kiss after kiss upon her.
When he’d coerced her into relaxing, he gently ended their kisses and raised his face above her so he could meet her eyes, “There, isn’t that better?”

“It doesn’t change the fact that you’re a jackass for making me believe that we’d made love,” She countered.

“Okay, I’m guilty. But you don’t have to be so pissed at me. True, I did tweak things a bit in my favor, but really, nothing happened between us. Your virtue is safe. For now, at least.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” She asked as she studied his features closely.

“It means that when we do make love, and we will, I can guarantee you,” He assured her with determination, “You’re going to remember every delicious moment of it. I’m not going to let any amount of alcohol ruin that moment for either of us.”

“Oh please,” She rolled her eyes as she tried to maintain some sense of courage, “And just what makes you think I’d allow you that privilege?”

“Because last night, you were very eloquent with your words,” He informed her while sweeping wisps of her soft blond hair from her cheeks, “You said that we had always been building to a special moment between us, and after you passed out on me, I really thought a lot about that. You have always found a way to shut me up, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. You couple that with the fact that you are quite possibly the sexiest woman I’ve ever laid eyes on,” He shrugged, “How could I possibly not believe what you said.”

“Oh god,” Blake pushed him away as she sat up, feeling her face flush with embarrassment. She covered her face with her hands, “The very idea that you’re believing something I said while I was drunk makes me think that you’re not exactly sober yourself.”

Zack sat up along side her and eased his fingers along her bare back, “Are you embarrassed?” He smiled, pressing a kiss to her shoulder, “That’s so cute.”

“Don’t say that. I so don’t want to be cute anymore. I’m a grown woman for god sakes,” She groaned as she tightened the blanket around her, keeping her eyes focused anywhere but towards Zack, “And to think that I acted like such an ass last night,” She sighed, “I don’t want you thinking I’m still some stupid college girl with her head in the clouds.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” He asked softly, “Blake, you’ve always been your own woman, and to be honest, last night, I was flattered.”

“I’ll bet. Probably the same way you were back in college,” She said as she shook her head in regret.

“No, actually,” He paused as he slipped his fingers under her chin and forced her to look at him, “I was flattered that you would still think of me that way. I thought I had shot my chances with you all to hell, and then last night,” He smiled, “You gave me hope again.”

She searched his eyes, “You are nuts, do you know that?”

He grinned, “I think I’ve been accused of that every now and again,” He winked at her, “So what do you say we get dressed and go find some breakfast somewhere? I think you need a good tall cup of coffee.”

“Is that an order, Doctor?” She asked with a half hearted smile.

Zack cupped her cheek in his hand as he leaned in and engaged her lips in a slow, tender kiss, “As a matter of fact, it is,” He teased as he crawled across the room to pick up his shirt. He stood and slipped his shirt back on as he cast a glance back at her, “I’ll even wait downstairs like a gentleman,” He said with a grin, “If you’ve ever needed a reason to worry about me, that last sentence should have done it,” He teased as he opened the door and stepped out of the room.

Blake watched as he closed the door behind him, and she listened as she heard his footsteps descending upon the stairs. She ran her fingers through her long blond hair as she sat by herself for a moment, trying to figure out what had come over her, and how it had ever transpired into a moment she had been waiting a lifetime for.


A soft breeze swept in through the curtains as Avery stretched out beneath the soft cottony blanket over her.  Stretching out, she could feel the tips of her toes exposed to the gentle wake up as the autumn wind licked up over her body, rousing her from the dream she’d been lost in for hours.  Immediately her eyelids opened, but soon drifted to a lazy close as a sigh spilled over her lips.  Rolling over in the soft bed beneath her, she reached out for Russell as she thought of the many fantasies she’d had of them throughout the night that had carried her over into dreamland.  Even now she longed to savor the warmth of his arms around her, but as her fingers fanned out across the pillow beside her, her eyes fluttered open and she found herself gazing at a pair of sheer, white curtains dancing in the wind as a gasp spilled over her lips.
Avery sat upright as she took in her surroundings unfamiliar with the exotic local as she strained to remember how she’d wound up in such a foreign place when only last night…  Suddenly a new thought entered her mind as she looked down to the white, satin nightgown she was wearing.  It’s sheer lace pattern dipped down over her breastbone modestly while offering up the teasing promise of softness that entailed such a garment as she knew immediately that there was only one explanation for her being in such an amazing place wearing a made for seduction--or more specifically for a honeymoon--nightgown.  For her to be in this particular place it could clearly mean one thing and the thought in itself excited her as a smile lifted over her lips.
Quickly scurrying out from beneath the blankets, Avery turned her attention to the open window as the scent of the ocean captured her senses, bringing them to a fevered pitch as her heart thudded in her chest.  Knowing that this couldn’t be just another dream as all the sensations flooded over her, throughout her body, she kicked her feet to the cool marble beneath her toes as the first rush of exhilaration filled her.
“Russ,” she called out as she moved towards the balcony ready to embrace the man she loved--the husband that she was sure she’d found herself with after they’d opened a new page in their book of eternity.  Eagerly she pushed the curtain aside stepping out onto the balcony as her eyes feasted on the crystal blue waters before her.  Somehow it all seemed like a scene from the most beautiful fairy tale as the picture perfect portrait of paradise laid out before her.  Slowly she inhaled the sweet scent of this tropical hideaway as her pulse raced with anticipation, heart filled with the promise of what such a place held in store for romance.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it,” he whispered as she felt him stepping in behind her, his thumb brushing up tenderly against the small of her back as she closed her eyes savoring the sensations that this world away from Coral Valley offered her.
“It’s amazing,” she confessed thinking of her dreams for the future as his fingers pressed up over her spine in the faintest of brushes until he reached her shoulder and then ever so slowly, he eased his palm out over the bare skin of her arm as goose bumps tingled over her excited flesh and she leaned back into his touch willingly seeking out the closeness between them.  “I love it.”
“I’d hoped you would,” he confessed as Avery felt his lips just over the nape of her neck teasing her with the promise of his divine lips upon her, treasuring her willing and aching body as she longed to have him touch her, to hold her and love her on their first day as man and wife, “as I wanted to find a way to make you smile again.”
“You always know how to find the key to melting my heart,” she sighed resting against his chest as his arms curled around her and she snuggled into him enjoying the simple moment of intimacy between them.
“That was the general idea,“ he promised dropping a delicate kiss over her shoulder causing the breath she’d been holding to escape from her now parted lips.  Opening her eyes she turned her attention to their fingers, now laced in one another as she sought out a glimpse of his hand.
“Where’s your ring,” she questioned in confusion as a frown touched over her lips, “I’d hoped you’d be wearing it this morning.”
“What ring,” his voice rose as Avery tensed up in realization and she spun around to see Brant standing behind her eyeing her with obvious confusion.
“Brant, what are you doing here,” she questioned in a gulp backing in against the railing as her gaze drifted over him.  She noticed the lazy white button down shirt he was in as it’s top buttons were undone just enough to reveal the smooth beginnings of the muscled expanse of his chest before the shirt continued to tease over his body, topping off a pair of blue jeans.

“Enjoying the morning with you,” he answered giving her a sideways glance as he watched her closely, “at least that’s what I thought we were doing.”
“Brant, you mean we…” her eyes widened with shock and surprise, “You and I…we’re…” she looked out onto the ocean again before a frown spilled over her features, “What have you done?”
“Avery, I was only giving you what you wanted--what you felt you needed,” he explained reaching out to touch her as she backed away, “Last night you were so upset and you begged me to make it all go away, so I…”
“So you took me away from Coral Valley,” the realization sunk in as she vaguely remembered the chain of events leading them to this island paradise.  Sure, she’d had plans to marry Russell, to run away with him, but then…almost immediately the images of him and Heather wrapped up in one another’s arms came back to her in vivid color as she turned away from Brant unable to contain her tears.
“Hey,” he reached out to her sensing her sadness as he wrapped her up in his arms, “It’s going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not going to be okay,” Avery argued with him unable to contain her tears, “It’s never going to be okay and with you taking me away like this…”
“Avery, you asked me to find a way to make the pain go away,” he reminded her gently, “and I swore to myself that I’d do just that…”
“By taking me away from my life?” she choked on her words as she shook her head at him, “You had no right.”
“Avery, would you think about this for a minute?  You were miserable in Coral Valley, so I did what I felt was necessary in order to change that,” he motioned to their surroundings, “This was the best I could give you in the hopes that somehow I could find a way to bring you out of the darkness you were buried in.”
“What about Russell?” Avery questioned wearily as she tried to find a reason not to think about the man who’d betrayed her.
“Who cares what’s going on with that loser?  He crossed the line and we don’t need him around anymore,” Brant promised her touching her cheek gently, “I know he was a very important part of your past, but I want to be your future.  Now that we can put all of the chaos behind us, maybe you can take the time to see me--really see me…”
“Brant, right now the only thing I want to see is the first flight back to Coral Valley,” she protested pushing herself out of his arms as she marched back into the bedroom seeking out her clothing.
Brant followed her noting the beginnings of her tantrum as she scanned the room.  “I’m afraid I can’t do that Avery.”
“What?” She blinked back at him in surprise, “What did you just say?”
“I can’t.  I can’t do it,” he folded his arms in front of his chest.
“Can’t or won’t?” Avery snapped back at him, “Brant, where are my clothes?  My things? What have you done with them?”
“It doesn’t matter where they are because I’m not taking you back to Coral Valley so you can just get used to the idea of being here with me because we’re going to be staying here for a while,” Brant shrugged his shoulders simply as she circled around the room throwing open the bureau drawers before her.
“Like hell I am,” she hissed in response marching towards him as her anger mounted, “Tell me where my clothes are now.”
“Avery, we’re thousands of miles from Coral Valley and I have absolutely no intention of taking you back now especially not during a time like this.”
“You had no right,” she shouted back at him as she prowled around the room seeking out her belongings, “I don’t know how you managed to get me here, but I want to go home.”
“Home is going to be here for a couple of weeks, but trust me you’re going to love it,” Brant promised his voice full of hope and eagerness as she spun around to face him again, her eyes penetrating through him with her coldness.
“I’m not going to love it and I’m most certainly not going to love you, so just stop this before it starts.  I want to go home now!” she snapped at him harshly.
“No,” he answered smoothly as he crossed the room ignoring her words, “though I was thinking if you got dressed maybe we could explore the island together for a while.  You know take in the scenery without the media hounding us.”
“Brant, are you deaf?” Avery questioned thinking to how her involvement with Brant had shaken up her world and turned her life upside down, “I told you what I wanted time and time again, but you keep forcing the issue here.”
“There isn’t an issue,” Brant explained matter of fact, “we’re not going back to Coral Valley so you may as well get used to this and enjoy it for a while.”
“Brant,” she felt herself ready to explode as she clenched her fists at her side.  She thought to all of her plans for the future and how Russell had thrown them away in an instant to spend time with Heather Gibbons--a woman set on destroying Avery.  When she thought to how Brant’s interest in her life had drawn Russell back and pushed Bruce to madness, her anger mounted and with each refusal he threw back at her not allowing her the freedom she’d wanted, her rage expanded and she spoke to him in an accusatory tone, “What do you want out of me?”
“I want you to find a way to enjoy yourself,” Brant stated simply as he sat down on the edge of the bed, his eyes skimming over her lines appreciatively, “I want to be able to see you smile again.”
“No you don’t,” Avery shook her head in refusal thinking of the ways in which her life was torn apart since Brant staked his claim on her.  His lust for her had been the key to her undoing as it forced her to step into a position she never truly wanted and now as he‘d swept her away from the world, it was painfully obvious what he wanted out of her, “this isn’t about me or what I want.  This is just your way of manipulating the situation into what you want it to be because since you pushed your way into my life, it hasn’t been my own.  Everything I’ve wanted or needed hasn’t held any relevance to you because all you cared about was winning,” Avery threw her hands out in the air, “and you’ve won Brant because I’ve lost everything.  The life I had that I‘d worked so hard for was gone.  My dreams have been shattered and now all that‘s left is what you see and that isn‘t much as there‘s nothing more for me to give…”
“Avery, that’s where you’re wrong.  This is only the beginning for us and if you’d take a moment to see where I’m coming from--where I want us to be with one another,” he threw out at her hoping to reach her as she seemed to be slipping into a state he’d never witnessed before from her.
“Oh I know where you want us to be.  I know what this island hideaway is about and I know what you want from me, Brant,” she glared at him as tears built behind her eyes and she tugged on the straps of her nightgown allowing it to fall to the floor pooling at her feet in a sudden whoosh as she kicked it aside and her heart pulsed in her chest, tears blurring her vision as she spoke to him with a hollow, broken tone, “and now that you’ve taken me away from my home, from my life--the life that I worked so hard to return to and claim as my own, well, now it’s gone and I can’t get it back so just take what you want and get it over with so that way we can stop all of this madness and move on.”
“Avery,” Brant blinked back in surprise unable to contain the shock of her disrobing before him as his gaze involuntarily dropped over her soft curves now fully revealed to him.
“This is what you’ve been waiting for, haven’t you?  That’s what this is all about, right,” Avery stepped towards him unable to contain her tears as her heart ached with the loss she’d felt upon her once her dreams of happily ever after with Russell had been shattered, “Sex was what you were after, so just take it and be done with me so that I can get back to my boring little life without you in it.”
“Avery stop,” Brant shook the thoughts and sensations that seeing her beautiful body stirred up inside of him as he rose from the edge of the bed, “Don’t do this.”
“Why?” Avery questioned harshly between broken sobs, “This is what you’ve been waiting for--to take me and claim me as your own,” she brushed past him dropping down on the bed as she lay before him, “Just get it over with.  Get it out of your system and that way you can move on to the next woman just like the rest of them.”
“Avery, don‘t say that,” Brant watched her pain flood over her as she shivered beside him, “don’t do this to yourself--to us.”
“Just get it over with,” she repeated sobbing harder as she turned her head away from him, “Do what you feel you must and then let me live my life in peace without having to deal with any of this.”
“This isn’t what I wanted,” Brant sighed as he sat back down on the bed beside her.
“Of course you do,” she looked up to him, her dark eyes filled with sheer misery as she slid in towards him grudgingly, “You want your shot at bedding me so you can add my name to the list and move on.  I know how the game works for you Brant--for all of you and I don’t care anymore.  Why should it matter anyways as there aren’t things that really count in this world?  Why should I care about love and romance and all of those stupid emotions that come with them considering that the two men in my life that I actually decided to give my heart to--or at least my body to both tossed me aside for whores?  I know how this is played and I’m ready for you to just get it over with before you force me to play any games with you.  I don’t need any more confusion because I don’t want to feel a thing and I don’t want to hurt anymore, so just do what you have to do and release me.”
“Avery,” he found himself at a loss as she collapsed beside him burying her head in the blankets as her tears overcame her.  Gently he reached out to touch her shoulder as her sobs broke his heart.
“I wasn’t good enough for Russ, and apparently not good enough for Bruce either according to the rumors going around,” she explained muffled by the comforter as Brant leaned in closer to her, “so now you can just get yourself over this ridiculous obsession with bedding me as I’m giving you the opportunity to do it and run,” Avery turned her eyes up towards him.
“Avery, that’s not what I want,” Brant touched her cheek gently as he collected her in his arms, “You should know that by now…”
“All I know is that my world was fine before you came into it and wanted me,” Avery offered up poignantly, “I was living a boring life, with a boring boyfriend and sure it might not have been the greatest of lives, but it was my own and I didn’t have to feel anything.  I could be as numb inside as I wanted to be and then at least I was calling the shots.  I wasn’t being manipulated or used and I wasn’t stupid enough to let it happen.  I was smarter than that.  I was…” she broke down in his arms as he squeezed her closer to him.
“You’re more than you give yourself credit for,” Brant promised kissing the top of her head as he ached to find a way to take her pain away from her.
“Then why does it hurt so bad,” she questioned lost in her own misery as she held onto him.  “Why can’t I just shake this?”
“Because the wounds haven’t healed yet,” he kissed the top of her head rocking her in his arms, “but they will…”
“When?” she sniffled holding onto him, needing to feel something real in that moment despite her words, “When will it end?”
“In time,” he offered up squeezing her closer to him as he realized that last night had effected her far more than he ever could’ve imagined.  Today she felt like a mere shadow of the Avery he’d grown to know and love.  Her tears filled him with sadness and her trembling only reminded him that now more than ever he had to find a way to win her over as that would truly be the only way to make her forget the man that had turned her world upside down by pushing his way back in it.  While he hadn’t been quite sure of Russell’s agenda, he knew where he was headed as he promised himself that Russell Denton would never be able to deceive or hurt Avery again as from this moment out Brant would do everything in his power to keep him away at any cost.


Russell brought his hands up over his head using them to prop himself up as he lay on the broken down cot in his small jail cell wishing upon everything he’d had that he could somehow turn the last twenty four hours of his life around as they’d been nothing but misery for him.  Now as his hang over clearly began to take control of his head, he couldn’t help but think of Avery’s face when she’d run from him--of the look in her eyes as she’d seen him in a position he was certain he wouldn’t have been in if he’d been using his head.  Even now as the hours had passed, he couldn’t figure out why in the world he’d be in bed with Heather as she clearly was the last woman on his mind.  He was on the threshold of marrying Avery and yet, somehow he’d blown it.  That in itself was mind boggling as he strained to come up with some kind of picture of how he’d fallen into bed with Heather, but his mind continually drew a blank.
Even now as Russell was buried in his own misery, he couldn’t come up with an answer to the question he’d been carrying with him all night.  How had it come to that point and why in the world would he do something like that?  He loved Avery--wanted nothing more than to share his life with her and yet he’d done something that clearly a man like Brant would’ve done.  That in itself made Russell question his own sanity as he knew he wouldn’t be foolish enough to sink that low, but somehow he had.  He’d confused Heather for Avery and then…he shuddered at the thought as he shifted on the cot closing his eyes as he willed himself to drift back to simpler times when his life had been carefree and full of promise with the woman he loved.
“Now close your eyes,” Russell warned whispering warmly over the back of Avery’s neck as he felt her eagerness flood over her.
“Russ, you know how I feel about surprises,” Avery began to argue as he clasped his hands over her eyes keeping her from seeing what he’d had planned for her.
“Yes, I do,” his lips dropped down over her neck in a teasing fashion, “but I also know that while you hate to be in the dark, once you’re given a really good surprise, well, you’re bound to love it.”
“Even so, I hate this waiting,” she argued shrugging out of his hold on her as she spun in his arms looking up at him with wide eyes, “Russ, just tell me what it is you have for me so that way I can think of an appropriate way to thank you.”
“We’ll work on that,” he lifted her in his arms as a smile touched over the corners of his mouth, “but first let’s work on fixing something,” he decided capturing her mouth in a hungry kiss as he carried her across the front lawn offering up a distraction as she clenched onto him devoting her full attention to the kiss he’d laid on her.
Finally upon reaching the doorstep, he set her down and withdrew the key he’d held in his pocket.  “Here we are,” he explained handing it to her.
“What do you mean,” she questioned as he dropped the key into her palm and a gasp fell from her lips, “Russ, you didn’t, did you?”
“You’re damn right I did,” he winked back at her motioning towards the door, “try it out.”
“I can’t believe you did this,” Avery gasped looking up at the house before her, “I mean you’d talked about us seeing this today, but…”
“But nothing,” he wrapped his arms around her waist as he gently rested his chin upon her shoulder, “It’s ours now.”
“Russ, you mean to say,” she turned the key in the lock opening the door as he scooped her up once again.
“It’s our home,” he promised spinning her in his arms as he carried her into the nearly empty house, “I know the other day you saw it and you said you could see yourself having some kind of future in a place like this.”
“Well yes, but we agreed that you and I would wait on buying something like this because if you wanted to run your own paper, then we’d have to keep a tight budget,” Avery reminded him quickly, “You couldn’t afford to do something like this now considering…”
“My father agreed to help out on this one,” he explained eagerly as he touched her cheek, “Just until you find a way to make the big bucks there and I can quit working altogether and let my beautiful lawyer wife keep me in the lap of luxury.”
“I’ll give you lap of luxury,” Avery nudged at him as she took in their surroundings, “Russ, this place is incredible.  I mean really it’s just so…”
“Perfect?” he finished taking her hand in his, “Wait until you see what’s out back.”
“Russ,” Avery laughed as he lead her through the house taking her to one of the back rooms as she tugged on her arm, “Slow down.  You’re going to pull my arm out.”
“You just have to see this before sunset,” he explained reaching their destination as he pushed open the door before her allowing her access to the room he’d waited all day to show her, “Come here.”
“What is it,” she questioned as he guided her over towards the window giving her a glimpse of what was on the other side.  The view of Lake Cardinal as the sun began to set upon the water offered up a brilliant, beautiful picture of the serenity and calm that Coral Valley had to offer them in their time together.  Gently he wrapped her up in his arms snuggling in behind her as she laced their fingers together.
“Oh Russ, it’s beautiful,” she whispered taking in the view as she sank into his chest.
“I know it’s not the Ashford palace, but I think this will be a great home for us to start our family,” he confessed dropping his lips over her skin with tender, sweeping caresses, “In fact, I must confess that I had this room planned out for a nursery eventually when we begin having those beautiful babies.”
“Mmmm,” Avery felt a smile tug at her insides as the sun faded to darkness and she turned to look up at the man she loved.  Bringing her arms around his waist, she offered up a teasing smile before speaking up, “and here I thought this room would be a home office since you’re so taken with nature as an inspiration.”
“An office would be nice for now,” he shrugged his shoulders, “but in the long run I see this room being a place where we raise our children.  You know with you over in the corner rocking them to sleep while I’m here watching you and taking in the vision of all my dreams coming to life with my beautiful wife.”
“It does sound like heaven,” Avery confessed warmly anticipating all the promise the house had in store for them as they planned for their future together.
“Then you don’t mind my taking a leap and buying this without telling you,” he questioned gently as she shook her head in response.
“Are you kidding?” Avery embraced him excitedly, “Russ, it’s perfect and I couldn’t be happier about this.  I love it.”
“And I love you,” he whispered over her lips as he hugged her in his arms.
“I’ll always love you, Russ,” she vowed as their kisses grew in intensity, “in fact…”
“Yes?” he questioned lazily picking her up off her toes as his fingers crept over her spine.
“I love this idea so much that maybe since the house is empty we could bring a little warmth to it,” she suggested eagerly.
“Oh?” he lifted a curious brow.  “And just what do you have in mind?”
“Well it is kind of quiet here, so what do you say about us taking a little time out to work on making those beautiful little babies,” she confessed in a low, seductive tone as her finger tips traced over the center of his chest.
“I think it’s the best idea I’ve heard of in a while,” he whispered squeezing her in his arms.
“Just give me time,” she urged him as their kisses grew in intensity, “as I’m just warming up.”

Now as Russell found himself back in the cramped jail cell, he recalled the hope and promise that had surrounded their love the first time they’d decided to move towards matrimony.  Even now his house reminded him of Avery as she’d always been part of his plans.  He’d bought it with the dreams of their starting that family with one another and growing old together there as he’d had such high hopes for the future--hopes that seemed like a fading memory as the beautiful memories were replaced by the way she’d looked at him in that moment of confusion.  Even now there was no mistaking the way she’d felt about him when she’d seen him in such a precarious position.
“Hey Denton,” the guard called out to Russell capturing his attention as the guard began to open up the jail cell, “The charges have been dropped and you’re free to go.”
“What?” Russell questioned thinking to the night he’d spent pleading with those around him, hoping to find a way to clear up the situation.  Hell, even in his moment of desperation, he’d used his one phone call to try to reach Avery, but she’d refused to answer, thus giving him one more reason to fear she’d slipped away.
“Your ride is waiting out front,” the guard explained motioning for him to get out of the cell, “Mr. Ashford decided not to pursue this and you’re lucky considering the situation.”
“You have no idea what the situation really is,” Russell frowned in response thinking of how Brant had once again thrown his weight around to keep him from Avery with Brooke’s help.
“Whatever,” the guard shrugged his shoulders disinterested.  “Just be happy it ended up like this.”
“It’s only the beginning,” Russell vowed as a sudden thought occurred to him, “You said my ride was here.  Who is it?”
“Probably the person you left a message for last night,” the guard shrugged, “How the hell should I know?”
Russell ignored the guard’s lack of interest as a moment of hope filled him.  Quickly he went through the motions of being released as he anticipated Avery waiting for him out in the lobby, hoping to speak with him about what happened.  Maybe she’d thought about things too and she’d realized that despite what had happened, they clearly needed to fix the situation so that their dreams couldn’t come crashing down around them again.  Thoughts of working out the situation swirled through Russell’s head, but as he stepped into the lobby, he was disappointed to find that Avery was no where in sight.
“There you are,” Elliot Denton called out to his son, his voice full of worry, “I came over just as soon as I’d heard the news, but I wish it was sooner.”
“Dad,” Russell replied with a sigh, “what are you doing here?”
“I came to bail you out, though they told me that the charges were dropped,” Elliot explained quickly, “Russell, why didn’t you call me last night as I would’ve gotten you out of here sooner?  Or why didn’t you call Grady?”
“I have nothing to say to Grady and besides I made my call,” Russell slumped down in one of the benches as his head sank in his hands.
“To who?” Elliot watched his son in confusion.
“To Avery,” Russell confessed unable to keep the tears from pooling in his eyes, “but she doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore and who can blame her?”
“What happened son,” Elliot sat beside him seeing the pain that swept over Russell.

“We were going to get married,” Russell explained with a poignant smile, “She asked me to marry her and we were going to run away last night…”
“Which is why Ashford had you sent here,” Elliot’s eyes narrowed with anger, “I knew that there had to be something fishy going on.”
“Dad, it’s not what you think,” Russell drew in a slow, unsettling breath as he tried to explain, “Brant didn’t have anything to do with it.  It was me…you see…Avery saw me with someone else…”
“Someone else?  I don’t understand,” Elliot questioned in confusion.
“Last night I don’t know how or why or…well I can’t even begin to think of what could’ve made it happen, but Avery found me in bed with a woman---”
“Russ,” Elliot’s eyes widened in surprise, “but how?  I thought that you and Avery were…”
“I don’t know how it happened or why because I wasn’t even thinking of Heather in that way,” Russell explained in frustration as he raked his fingers through his hair, “I didn’t want her.  I don’t want her and I never would’ve willingly…I must’ve drank too much, but even then Avery agreed to run away with me.  We were leaving together and then…dad, she hates me.  You should’ve seen the way she looked at me when she saw me with Heather…”
“Oh son,” Elliot reached out to Russell patting his shoulder, “I’m so sorry.”
“I really thought I was with Avery--that somehow we’d wound up in bed together, but then when I saw Heather,” Russell slumped further lost in his own world of despair, “Dad, what have I done?  How could I have screwed things up like this when all I wanted was to be with her?  To love her and have her as my wife,” Russell questioned more so to himself than his father as he found himself unable to control the depths of his misery as his world came crashing down around him with the knowledge that somehow in a split second he’d lost Avery forever and nothing would ever be the same without her.


Ken lay beside Caitlin, watching as she slept soundly beside him. She’d fallen asleep in his arms as they sat before the fire. He’d carried her to the bedroom and placed her in the bed before lying down beside her. He’d watched her sleep for a while before he’d fallen asleep himself. It was nice to see her at peace with a tenderness upon her features that he’d never seen before.

He watched as she tucked her pillow more securely beneath her head and continued sleeping. He’d hoped she would feel secure with him, and it never failed that she seemed to wrap herself in the safety of his arms and slip off to sleep. It was flattering actually though Brant would have been horribly offended. Then again, Brant had never known quite how to appreciate the finer things in life.

This was something close to heaven Ken was sure. While Brant had indulged in all the carnal sins known to man and even created a few of his own, Ken was content to enjoy peace and quiet, something that had always been in short supply around the Ashfords.

Being with Caitlin made up for all those times he’d longed for peace in the past. She had an incredible way of making the most intense situations possible to live through. While they’d had their own share of turmoil due to the attacks upon her, he was sure that as long as they were together, they’d be able to face anything.

Ken eased his fingers over her cheek, noting that the bruise around her eye had faded slightly. He wanted to take all her pain away and find way to keep her from being hurt ever again. She was everything good in the world, and how anyone could want to harm her was beyond his comprehension. From now on, however, he would do his very best to prevent her from being harmed at all.

Caitlin stirred gently and glanced up to see him looking at her. She closed her eyes in a half awake manner, “Good morning.”

“Good morning yourself,” Ken smiled, “How are you feeling?”

“Like I could conquer the world,” She smiled as she moved closer to him to snuggle against his warmth, “If only I could pry myself out of your warm arms,” She teased.

“Don’t even try,” He teased as he squeezed her close to him.

“I don’t think I ever would,” She informed him as she gently traced his jawbone with a fingertip and met his eyes, “I wasn’t dreaming last night, was I? Cause I could I have sworn I heard you say that…”

“I love you?” He questioned with a smile as he caressed her cheek gently, “I do love you, and I did say that very thing.”

She searched his eyes for a moment before she pulled him close for a quick kiss. As their lips parted, she eased her fingers across his shoulders, “I was hoping I hadn’t imagined it.”

“Well, in that case,” He grinned as he leaned in close for another kiss, “I love you,” He whispered as he stole another kiss from her and smiled.

“I could really get used to waking up like this,” She smiled as she eased her fingertips over his lips.

“Could you really?” He asked softly as he curled her against him, “I think we’ve been practicing so you should be just about used to it by now.”

She nodded as her smile slowly faded, “That does bring up an important question though.”

“What’s the question?” He asked as he noted her expression.

“Don’t you find it just a little bit odd that after all the times we’ve shared a bed we haven’t made love yet?” She asked boldly as she met his eyes.

His eyes widened as he began to stammer, “Well…I…I guess…”

“Ken, I’m not trying to pressure you. I just think it’s…well, to be honest, no other relationship I’ve ever had has been like this. Then again, every other relationship in my life has been based on sex first without all the emotional elements that I have with you.”

“Things have been happening for us in other ways. Believe me, it’s not that I haven’t had plenty of cold showers because of you,” He winked at her, “The time has never been right for us.”

“Do you think it ever will?” She asked honestly as she searched his eyes.

“God I hope so,” He laughed softly as he lowered his lips to hers.

Caitlin hummed against his mouth as she wrapped her arms more tightly around him, drawing his body closer to hers. She slipped her palms down his back and back to his shoulders. She eased her leg along his using her toes to trace his calf. Gently bunching up his tee shirt in her hands, she began to draw his shirt from his body.

Ken pulled away from her just long enough to discard his shirt and return to her. He gathered her close to him and began easing his lips down her neck, devoting great attention to learning her body’s every taste.

She arched into his touch, feeling her dreams come to life within her arms. She eased the fingers of one hand through his hair while the other drifted lazily down his back, memorizing every muscle of his body.

“Mr. Ashford! Mr. Ashford!”

Ken dropped his forehead to her shoulder as he groaned, “I suppose now is not the right moment for us either,” He grumbled as he rolled out of bed and grabbed his shirt off the floor. He pulled the shirt over his head as he left the bedroom and made his way towards the door to the cabin.

Caitlin sat up in bed and drew the blankets closer around her. She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed heavily as she thought of the moment someone had interrupted. While she hadn’t exactly been planning to make love to Ken this morning, it certainly wouldn’t have been unwelcome. Now that it had been interrupted, she was certainly grieving over her loss.

A few moments passed before she heard Ken close the door and make his way back towards the bedroom. He stepped inside the bedroom with a frown playing heavy upon his features.

“What’s wrong?” She asked immediately.

“Something happened with Avery and Brant last night. I’m not exactly sure what, but Brant and Avery left on the private jet early this morning,” He informed her as he scratched his head, “It appears I’m going to have to do some damage control for my family. Do you want me to drop you off by your place?”

“No, I’m going with you. If this is something tragic, you’re going to need me, not to mention Blake. She really doesn’t need any more stress right now,” She declared as she climbed out of bed, “I saw that she brought some casual clothes for me to wear so I’m going to change. When I get back, we’ll go to the mansion and try to figure this out…together, okay?”

Ken smiled as he drew her into his arms and hugged her close, “Thank you for being with me.”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Caitlin assured him as she hugged him tightly, preparing to do whatever it took to help the man she loved as well as her best friend through whatever catastrophe was now haunting their lives.


Heather sat in front of her television nursing the hangover that had been the final reminder of the shambles her life had become.  Last night was supposed to be the night that changed her life forever and in it’s own way it had, but not in the ways she’d been planning.  She’d had such high hopes about being with Brant, about becoming the new face of Beholder and having all of her dreams come true, but instead the nightmare her life had crashed down upon her as she’d managed to not only screw up any chance of winning Brant over, but she’d single-handedly alienated Kipp from being in her life.  Okay, so she’d always planned on getting rid of him, but not like that--not in such a cruel and heartless way as that hadn’t been in the plan.  Even now, the thought of her being in bed with Russell, thinking he was Brant yet again, well it brought an eerie chill sweeping over her.
“How could I not know,” she frowned remembering the kiss they’d shared at the Davies party, but since then she hadn’t given it a second thought as she was sure she’d never make that mistake again, but now, well now she’d gone and done it at the worst possible time in the worst possible way.  Her wrist still ached from the kick that bitch Avery offered as Brant pulled her away from Heather and then there was the matter of her bruised ribs and the black eye she could feel spreading over her.
“As if I haven’t gone through enough torment,” Heather grumbled to herself wincing as she placed the icepack she’d been keeping beside her over her face in the hopes that it would minimize the bruising and keep the swelling down as she thought to the madness Avery had dished out at her.  Sure, okay there was no love lost between the two of them, but clearly Avery must’ve seen it was Russell in bed with her and not Brant.  Heather could’ve sworn that she’d heard Avery call out to Russell before she’d decided to assault her, but that in itself also made no sense.  Had Heather succeeded in her quest to win Brant over, sure she’d expect some backlash from Avery, but not when the man in question was Russell Denton.  Sure, Russell always had that stupid protective streak where Avery was concerned, but that shouldn’t be reason enough for Avery to jump her as Avery was more than willing to pound on Russell a couple of times, unless…
Heather’s eyes opened as a sudden realization hit her.  She shook the thought before letting it register in her mind once again.  Avery knew full well that it had been Russell that was with Heather.  She’d come in seeking out the man that Heather believed to be Brant and even when Brant had been there proving that he indeed hadn’t been with Heather, Avery had been stewing over Russell and then there was the matter of Russell.  He’d been less than willing to help Heather in her quest lately and rumor had it that he’d been spending more time with Avery and Brant much to Heather’s dismay.  Suddenly the picture was beginning to paint itself in vivid detail as Heather gasped in understanding.  Avery was upset about Heather being with Russell.  That’s what prompted Avery to kick Heather’s ass and that in itself was quite a situation to ponder.
“Oh to hell with her,” Heather dropped the icepack as a grumble spilled from her lips, “She’s nothing but a pain in the ass and the last thing you need to think about is what Avery and her demented newspaper buddy are up to,” she rose from her chair moving over to the mini-bar to pour herself a drink as she tried to come up with some kind of damage control for her situation.
“You need to focus on bouncing back, but how?” she pondered that thought as she realized she was back at square one.  Brant clearly was going to be next to impossible to win over and given the lengths at which he’d verbally lashed out at her there was no telling how long it would take for him to move beyond this and no guarantee that he would considering.
Still…Heather thought to herself as her eyes fell upon the pink diamond necklace she’d left on top of the bar.  A sigh spilled over her lips as she reached out to it, touching the velvety box as she pondered it’s contents.  Kipp had been so eager to share such a treasure with her and at the time she hadn’t been more eager to get rid of him, but then he’d done and said some things that…
“No,” Heather commanded herself as she released the necklace refusing to feel guilt over the situation, “Kipp knew what could happen as you made no qualms about it.  He knows how the game is played and he used me just as much as I used him,” she tried to tell herself as she thought to his marriage proposal not too long ago.  Yes, it had been touching and honest--so very sincere in it’s own way, but clearly at the time she’d made the right decision.  There was no way she could marry Kipp Mahoney--not when Brant Ashford was there for the taking once more.
Sure, Kipp was loaded and eager to please and ready to offer her the world, but what he lacked, well…that was the problem this morning as Heather’s twisted and jumbled brain couldn’t come up with all the same reasons she’d had the night before.  Last night Kipp had been a burden--something that she was praying to rid herself of as he’d bored her to tears in the beginning when he’d dragged her to a tacky Star Wars convention to live out his twisted sci-fi fantasies, but she’d complied in the hopes that Kipp could help her win over Douglas, and then, well there were all the other stupid things she’d put up with from him.   There was the time he’d brought over the wine and cheese which she’d so dearly paid for after and the way in which he’d made love to her and tried to get her to reveal her secrets to him.  As if she’d dare do that with any man.  Not even Brant was held in such a regard, but then again Brant never truly asked in such a way as Kipp did.  Come to think of it, Brant never asked at all.
“Enough,” Heather blurted out staring at her reflection in the mirror before snatching up the box the necklace was in and tucking it away in the safe by the bar.  There was no need in dwelling on what was done and over with as she’d gotten something from her time with Kipp.  Sure it wasn’t what she’d expected or wanted, but it was indeed something she could take with her if need be.
“You’re going to be a nervous wreck if you don’t stop this self destructive line of thinking,” she ordered up at her reflection as she inhaled a slow and steady breath contemplating an hour or so of yoga to put her at ease despite the aches and pains rushing through her body.  Perhaps if she willed them away, then it would be so as she had major damage control ahead of her.  As she contemplated her thoughts for the day, the phone rang beside her bed and she walked over forcing herself to put out her most pleasant tone as she answered, “Hello.”
“Ms. Gibbons, this is Chad Reynolds from Hollywood Here and Now and I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time to discuss some of the recent turn of events in Coral Valley,” he threw out at her eagerly continuing before she could form a response, “It’s been said out in L.A. that you’ve been seeing Kipp Mahoney exclusively out there, is that correct?”
“Well yes, but…” Heather began wondering what had prompted such a call after Douglas had raked her through the coals the night before.
“Then can you give us an update on his condition?  Do you think he’s going to pull through?  What has his father’s reaction been to the shooting?  Will he be making a statement soon?”
“What?” Heather questioned in confusion, “What are you talking about?”
“The shooting that took place last night at Kipp’s penthouse.  We had our hands on a 911 call and our sources informed us that this incident appears to be self inflicted.  If you could give us an exclusive…” his words were lost as Heather dropped the phone horrified by what the reporter had given her.
“No,” she gasped fearing the worst as she thought to the look on Kipp’s face when he’d left the mansion, the way his eyes lost their spark, their adoration had been replaced by confusion and hurt and most of all that same look of disappointment that Heather had witnessed all too many times.  Now as she thought of Kipp in the hospital fighting for his life, she realized that the last thing she could live with was him leaving this world thinking that she’d hated him.  Sure, she didn’t treat him the way she should’ve, but she’d never wanted this--never meant to destroy him--to hurt him like this and now…
“Kipp, don’t you dare leave like this,” she spoke quietly as she slipped into her jacket and headed out of her hotel room desperate to find a way to reach out to him as she vowed not to let her influence on his life be the thing that took him away from this world.


Seth stepped out of his bedroom and was greeted with the strong smell of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods. He scratched his head as he made his way into the kitchen. He stopped in the doorway as he spotted Jade pouring a mug full of coffee. He raised a curious eyebrow as she glanced towards him.

“Morning, want a cup?” She asked as she took a mug from the cabinet and filled it up without waiting for an answer, “There are fresh sweet buns on the table,” She said as she pointed towards the table, “Have some.”

“What are you doing home? And what’s happened that you’re talking to me again?” He asked without budging from his position in the doorway.

“I don’t really want to talk about it, Seth. Not right now. We can get into that later,” She said as she pushed the mug of coffee towards him, “Here. Let’s have breakfast together…like we used to before our worlds went crazy.”

He sighed as he moved out of her way and then followed her towards the table. As they sat down at the table, Seth watched his sister closely, “When did you get in?”

“Late, but I suppose you did too.”


“You were at the Ashford party, right?” She asked as she plucked a sweet bun from the tray and placed it upon a small saucer before her, “You know how crazy it was.”

“Actually, I don’t.”

“What do you mean? I swear I thought I saw Blake slipping outside during the night. Did you two leave early?”

“I did, but Blake stayed. We broke up, Jade,” Seth frowned as he sipped his coffee.

“What? What happened?” Jade asked quickly, focusing her attention on him.

“The night that you and I stopped talking,” He shrugged, “Blake wanted to know what was really going on, and I told her that I didn’t want you to be a victim again. She asked what that was about, and I told her the truth about her father. It wasn’t something she was very receptive to hearing about.”

“Oh Seth,” She frowned, “Maybe it’s not as bad as all that. When she finds out that you’re telling the truth…”

“She won’t even listen to me any more,” He paused, “I’ve tried. But I’m not giving up. I really do love her, Jade, and while I know her family has done horrible things…”

“Not all of them,” Jade offered solemnly.

“I know,” He nodded, “I’m going to try to get her back.”

“Good for you,” She smiled, “I’m glad you’re not going to back down so easily. If you really love her, then it’ll be worth all the trouble.”

“So why are you here?”

“I’m here because things didn’t work out last night in the way I’d hoped.”

“Grady fall from grace?” Seth asked as he nibbled on a sweet bun.

“Let’s just say that Grady had a lot of problems to deal with last night involving his brother, and I thought I’d give him some time to deal with those things on his own,” She said as she swirled her coffee a bit in the mug, “So how did things work for you last night? If you and Blake broke up the night of the dinner, how did you get into the party last night?”

“Ria had an invitation from the hospital. So I went with her.”

“Ria? Are you serious?” Jade chuckled, “I can’t believe it. Did you two argue about football all night like you used to?” She teased.

“No, actually, she and I had a civil conversation last night,” He teased in return with a smile, “Honestly, she’s been really understanding as I explained the whole situation to her. She wants to help in any way she can, and she’s offered me a way to get my hands on something very important.”


“I don’t want to get into it. It’s better if you don’t know.”

“Oh boy, here we go,” Jade groaned, “So you’re not going to tell me anything and just let me flap in the wind, right?”

Seth frowned, “I really want to keep you safe, Jade. That’s my highest concern. You know that. You’ve always known that.”

“I do know that, Seth, but sometimes I think you carry it a little too far.”

“I just do what I feel is the best I can do in order to keep you safe.”

“I’m a grown woman,” She assured him as she met his eyes, “I’m not a little girl who needs you constantly following me around to keep me safe. If I ask for your help, give it to me, but if I don’t, don’t step all over what I want just to do what you think is best for me. I can and will make my own decisions.”

“I know,” He admitted, “But sometimes it’s really hard to let you do that.’

She smiled, “I know, Big Brother. It’s hard to let go.”

Seth grinned as he reached out to take Jade’s hand. He kissed the back of her hand and winked at her, “I love you, Jade. No matter what, I hope you’ll always remember that.”

“I will. I promise you I will,” Jade winked back at him as she squeezed his hand in hers, feeling as if she and Seth had been able to mend a few of the wounds between them.


Grady stood at the front of the room and looked out at the faces before him. He took a deep breath as he considered his words carefully.

“My name is Grady, and I’m an alcoholic,” He spoke while the faces in the room welcomed him. He looked down to the podium in front of him as he continued, “My last drink was sometime last night. I went to a party. There was a lot of champagne being served. I took a glass, and I drank some. I was still mostly in control, but I decided to take a trip to the bar. I had to have a reunion with my old friend…bourbon. Bourbon and I don’t exactly mix very well. I made an ass out of myself with my behavior. My girlfriend walked out on me, and she demanded that I get myself sober before she’d speak with me again. I can’t blame her in the slightest.”

Grady paused, “I’m having a real hard time stay away from alcohol right now, and I’m not even sure why. For a while…three years to be exact….I was sober. Then, my life gets all tied up in stress, and I decide that I need to run straight to the bottle. The really screwed up part of all of this though is that the bottle never helps anything. It always makes me feel like I hate myself afterward, and I don’t like that. So why do I always go back? Why can’t I break myself from that stupid self-defeating cycle? I know I can. I’m just not sure how any more,” He said somberly before he stepped away from the podium.
The moderator stepped to the front of the room and asked if anyone else wanted to speak. When there were no takers, he concluded the meeting.

Grady moved towards the back of the room before a familiar face blocked his path. He slipped his hands into his pockets, “So much for that Anonymous part.”

Shannon half smiled, “Yeah, it sucks when two alcoholics just happen to know each other, huh?”

“Yeah, it does,” He admitted as he nodded towards the back of the room, “Care to join me in a cup of decaf?”

“Why not?” She agreed as she walked towards the back of the room with him, “Rough night last night, huh?”

“It wasn’t exactly pleasant, no,” He grumbled as he filled a Styrofoam cup with coffee and offered it to her, “It’s a night I really wish I could do over because I’d never show up to that party.”

She nodded as she blew softly on the steaming liquid, “It wasn’t exactly a night I’d want to relive either. Still, you have to admit that the Ashfords know how to keep things interesting.”

Grady shook his head as he thought of his brother. He looked into his coffee, “Yeah, but they also know how to make people miserable as well.”

“Meaning you?” She asked as they made their way to an unoccupied corner of the room.

“No, I made my own self miserable,” He frowned, “I’m an idiot, and I wish I could fix things easily.”

“You know how that works, Grady. There are no easy fixes to life’s biggest problems,” Shannon reminded him.

Grady looked into his coffee as an idea occurred to him, “Maybe there is,” He said as he thought of how he would get Jade to speak with him once again as he couldn’t imagine letting any more time pass between them without understanding.


Jenna made her way through the hospital corridor thinking of the work she had ahead of her if she was going to make any progress what so ever in the investigation pertaining to Bruce’s body disappearing from her morgue.  Granted she didn’t have a thing to do with the FBI’s screw up, but she’d relished the notion of showing them just how much more knowledgeable about the situation she was over them.  That in itself would make her feel justified as she tucked the file under her arm ready to give everything a second look, but as she passed by emergency she noticed a familiar face before her.
“Douglas?” Jenna questioned gently approaching him as his eyes slowly drifted up towards her.
“Jenna,” he spoke in a low, hoarse whisper as his fingers seemed to shake as he kept them folded in his lap, “what are you doing here?  Did you hear the news on Kipp?”
“Kipp?” Jenna repeated before it dawned in on her, “Oh you mean your son.”
Douglas nodded, “I’m sorry that I ran out on you last night, but my son--my son…” he trailed off tears glistening in his eyes as Jenna approached him moving in closer to him.
“What happened to him,” she questioned taking a seat beside him as she touched his knee.  “Douglas?”
“There was a gun and he was upset about the woman he was dating and,” his voice quivered with emotion as his head slumped forward, “he shouldn’t have…I wish I’d known that he…”
“Douglas, are you saying that your son…?”
“He wasn’t thinking clearly and there was so much blood after he’d had that gun,” he continued lost in his own world as Jenna reached out to him drawing her arms around him in a move to comfort him.
“Oh Douglas, I’m so sorry,” she hugged him as his head sank into her chest and soft, weeping noises escaped from his lips.

Squeezing her arms around him tighter, Jenna could feel his pain reach into her as while she’d thought him to be a bit of an eccentric a few days ago, she had grown rather fond of the persistent Hollywood bigwig even if her mother had been dead set against Jenna’s connection to him.  However, as she held him, she wished that somehow she could find the right words to say something to comfort him.  While she’d been prepared to deal with the most heartbreaking situations as by the time she’d encountered those who’d had family members that had passed through her morgue, it was too late to offer hope, but with this particular situation, she just prayed that she didn’t meet Douglas’s son for the first time in her morgue.
“He was just so blown away by that woman--by that horrible woman who was just hoping to get to me by using him,” Douglas confessed in a low rumble, “I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen and now…if he doesn‘t pull through this…I‘m all he has and he‘s all that I have.  I tried so hard with him all these years and now…” a sad laugh spilled from his throat, “He doesn’t know how I feel…that I was proud of him…of the things he did…”
“I’m sure he does,” Jenna offered gently, “after all a child knows of their parent’s love.”
“I was so hard on him…always finding a way to help him improve his life--of showing him the right way to do things, but I was really nothing more than a pain in the ass because look where it got him,” he sighed heavily.
“I don’t think that’s the case.  I’m sure Kipp knows you care about him.  I mean hey, my mother can be a real nuisance at times, but when it gets down to it, I know that she does what she does to protect me, to keep me happy…”
“Still if I hadn’t pushed him so hard--if I hadn’t caused him to rebel…” he trailed off lost in his world of misery.  “He’s all I have left in this world…”
“You’re not alone,” Jenna squeezed his hand gently as she continued to hold onto him, “I’m here and we’ll face this together.”
Douglas paused for a moment turning his eyes up towards Jenna as if he was seeing her for the first time.  Slowly he reached out to her touching her cheek gently as he searched her eyes and a soft smile pressed over his lips, “You really are an angel, aren’t you?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Jenna felt a blush rising over her features at his words.
“You look so much like your mother,” his fingers fanned out into her hair as he memorized her features, “You’re as beautiful as she was at your age…”
“What?” Jenna questioned in confusion giving him a sideways glance, “What did you just say?”
“It’s just that you’re…” he stammered a bit as his eyes moved over the lines of her face, “you’re the last thing in this world that I imagined or anticipated and now that you’re here,” he threw his arms around her tightly, “I’m so sorry, Jenna.  I should’ve been more…should’ve found a way to have done things differently…been a better father…”
“I’m sure that Kipp feels you were a great father,” Jenna replied realizing he wasn’t making sense as his comment about her mother struck her as she wondered what had taken place between him and her mother the previous evening.  Still now was not the time for her to ponder it all as clearly Douglas needed a shoulder to cry on and she would provide it for as long as he needed.
“What is going on,” Dorothy’s voice rose with anger as she looked down at her daughter and Douglas, “Get your damned hands off her!”
“Mom,” Jenna gasped surprised to see her mother standing before her as Douglas almost immediately withdrew from the embrace, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m saving you from making a huge mistake,” Dorothy explained with a hiss turning her attention to Douglas, “and you, have you no sense of decency?  No scruples about you?”
“Stop it,” Jenna snapped at Dorothy as Dave Warner stepped off the elevators joining the trio.
“Jenna, hey,” Dave stepped in between her and Dorothy, “What’s going on here?”
“My mother is making a bad situation worse,” Jenna explained harshly.
“No, she’s really not,” Douglas began quickly as he rose from his seat, “She was just trying to protect you, Jenna and she doesn’t understand.”
“Oh I understand and you have no right,” Dorothy shot back at him in a firm, warning tone.
“Look I don’t know what’s going on here, but I need to have a word with Mr. Mahoney about his son,” Dave turned his attention to Douglas, “May I have a few moments of your time?”
“Of course,” Douglas nodded his thoughts lingering back to Kipp as Dave pulled him away from the feuding mother and daughter.
Once Douglas walked away, Jenna turned to Dorothy, her eyes full of disapproval, “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing here?”
“I was minding my own business until I saw my daughter in that man’s arms.  Jenna, I warned you about getting close to him and then to find you all over him,” concern spilled over her mother’s lips, “You shouldn’t be here with him.”
“Mom, his son was just admitted.  From the sound of things Kipp tried to kill himself and what you walked in on wasn’t what you thought it was,” Jenna offered up with a huff, “I was trying to comfort him because he shouldn’t be alone at a time like this when his only child’s life is on the line.”
“You mean he…” Dorothy’s eyes immediately shifted to Douglas as a gasp spilled from her lips, “Oh my.  Have you heard any word on his son?”
“Nothing yet, but your coming here and screaming at him when he’s doing nothing wrong isn’t helping,” Jenna explained harshly, “You were out of line.”
“You’re right,” Dorothy conceded taking a step forward, “and I should apologize.”
“No,” Jenna stopped her in her tracks, “right now he doesn’t need this…  Don’t start something to upset him as he’s worried about his son.”
“I wasn’t going to upset him,” Dorothy defended her position as she took in a slow breath realizing that overreacting wasn’t going to help the situation, “You’re right though…my apology can wait.”
“I just hope that when the time comes it won’t be one made out of condolences for his son,” Jenna frowned turning her attention to Douglas as Dorothy thought of how much he cared about his child and she said a silent prayer that Douglas wouldn’t lose the one thing in his life that seemed to matter the most as she could only imagine the pain he must be experiencing.


“And here’s some cheese,” Blake placed a block of cheese upon the bar, “And we have eggs if you want some.”

“How about something simple? Like butter, jam, and some toast,” Zack said as he leaned onto the counter, “Put that cheese away and quit pushing eggs at me.”

“For a doctor, you don’t eat very healthy,” She noted with a grin as she placed a jar of jam on the counter along with a tub of butter, “There’s your jam and butter. The bread is in the breadbox there,” She pointed down the counter, “And the toaster is right beside it. Make yourself at home.”

“Got any juice?” He asked as he moved down the counter with butter and jam in tow. He opened the breadbox and removed a loaf of bread to begin preparing the toast.

“Yeah, I do,” She took a carafe from the refrigerator before closing the door to the appliance. She grabbed a couple of glasses from the cupboard as she watched Zack forage in a drawer for a butter knife, “It’s kind of quiet here this morning. That’s unusual for the day after a party around this house.”

“Any idea why that could be?” He asked as he began spreading butter then jam on a slice of toast.

“Who knows?” She shrugged as she poured the juice, “Besides, I’d rather not think about what the rest of my family is doing.”

“I wonder where your brother took my sister off to,” He spoke as he placed two slices of the sweetened toast on a plate and sliding it towards her.

“Thanks,” Blake smiled, “Actually, I know where they are. Ken took Caitlin to his house boat so they could get away from all the chaos surrounding the party. He knows how the morning after usually is. Which makes me wonder what really happened after we made our exit last night,” She frowned as she began to nibble on a slice of toast.

“Peanut,” Annie called out after her dog as she entered the kitchen, “Oh, that dog…I don’t know what’s gotten into her today,” She frowned as she spotted the couple standing before her, “Well, just where did you two wander off to?”

Blake grinned as she turned to face Annie, “We went to the stables for some peace and quiet, but it looks peaceful enough here. What happened to get everyone out of here in such a hurry?”

“You mean you don’t know?” Annie let out a slow breath, “There was a big hubbub with Russell Denton and that Heather. Avery found them cavorting around in her bed, and apparently Heather was saying Brant’s name and…” She shrugged, “Avery and Heather got into a fight. Brant had to pull Avery off Heather, and then Avery was so upset,” She paused, “Your brother took Avery away for a while so they could have some alone time.”

“Avery went after Heather?” Blake smiled from ear to ear, “I’m liking her more by the day. Good for her. It’s about time someone gave her what she deserved.”

“Blake,” Annie chided, “Still, I have the distinct feeling that something more was going on than met the eye. I’m not sure what, but around this house, I’m used to struggling to read between the lines.”

“Reading between what lines?” Ken asked as he stepped in the back door with Caitlin close behind him, “It’s too quiet out there. Where’s Brant’s media entourage?”

“They’re probably struggling to figure out what happened last night, and I’ll probably have to read about it in the Inside Track,” Annie grumbled as she huffed, looking to Blake, “You didn’t happen to see Peanut anywhere, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” Blake said with an apologetic smile.

“I can’t find her anywhere,” Annie frowned as she heard a bark from another part of the house, “Oh Peanut, where have you gotten to now?” She asked as she turned and went to follow the sound of the bark.

“Would someone like to tell me what happened here last night?” Ken asked as he crossed his arms.

“Avery and Heather got into a fight over something, and apparently Avery saw Russell and Heather in bed together. Then Brant took Avery out of the country cause she was upset about something,” Blake shrugged, “I missed the drama this time, Ken. Thank god.”

“Wait, let me get this straight. Avery caught Russ and Heather in bed together, and now Brant spirited Avery out of the country?” Ken shook his head, “This is bad.”

“Why is it bad?” Blake questioned, “I don’t get it.”

“Things are a lot more complicated than you’d think,” Caitlin frowned, knowing that Russell would have to do some serious explaining about the situation with Avery. She’d known there was more to their relationship than met the eye, but now, she was afraid that their relationship was in serious danger…the kind that could be irreparable.


Judy picked up the phone dialing Rick’s number as she thought of the evening they’d spent trying to console his daughter after her world had been shattered.  Somehow in watching Avery’s misery, Judy was reminded of her own youth--of the day she and Richard had been torn apart because of his one act of indiscretion with Brooke.  Much like the turn of events that had taken place for poor Avery, Judy had found herself confused and miserable as the love of her life had suddenly turned to the one woman in the world that Judy loathed the most.  Just the memory of Richard and Brooke lost in one another’s arms was enough to keep Judy sleepless most of the night as she could empathize with where Avery was coming from.  Even now the twinge of pain remained as she heard Richard’s tired voice on the other end of the line.
“Rick,” she spoke his name as she tried to shake her dwindling thoughts.
“Judy,” he smiled at the sound of her voice as he seemed a bit more at ease in just hearing from her, “I was just thinking about you.”
“I find that hard to believe considering that I expected you to have your hands full right about now,” she paused briefly, “How’s Avery this morning?”
“I wish I knew the answer to that question,” he sighed and a long hesitation followed.
“Well, why wouldn’t you?  I mean she didn’t take off after she went to sleep, did she?” Judy asked concern evident in her tone, “Given what she was going through the last place she needs to be is on her own…”
“It’s not like that,” he seemed at conflict with his words as a sigh escaped him, “It’s just well, she’s left Coral Valley.”
“What?” Judy questioned in surprise, “When?”
“Last night after you left,” Richard confessed thinking to the decision he’d made about his daughter’s peace of mind, “Brant offered to keep her from having to go through the frenzy that would certainly follow up last night’s chain of events.  He suggested that Avery take some time away from the press hounding her…”
“And away from Russell?” Judy asked biting on her lower lip, “Rick, do you really think that’s a good idea right about now?”
“The truth is that I don’t have the first clue what’s right for my daughter, but then again when I’d felt I knew what was right for her, the man I welcomed with open arms into her life--into her world, well he wound up in bed with some bimbo…”
“I realize that, but maybe there’s more to this story that we aren’t seeing.  I mean it’s highly possible that things aren’t quite adding up and if he and Avery talk…”
“I don’t want him near my daughter,” Richard snapped back at her abrasively, “Russell Denton has destroyed her not once, but twice over and I swore to myself that I’d never put my daughter in the position to feel that kind of pain again.”
“Rick, don’t you think you’re being a little too harsh about this?”
“That man cheated on my little girl and broke her heart,” he cut her off his voice rumbling with anger, “and when a man does that after promising the woman he supposedly loves a lifetime of happiness, well, there’s no excuse for that.”
“No?” she questioned with a huff, “So you’re saying that because Russell was in bed with someone else, that Avery should just move on and forget about him and never look back?”
“Exactly,” he answered boldly, “if a man goes out of his way like that to destroy something so precious, so beautiful, then there’s absolutely no reason why a woman should take him back.”
“Then why the hell are we bothering to talk,” Judy questioned gruffly as she thought back to the night that had plagued her for years after she and Richard parted.  “If you really believe that Avery should never talk to Russell again because he wound up in bed with another woman--a woman he can barely stand because something happened--something that he hasn’t even been given a chance to talk to her about, then why should I even bother with you considering that you did the same thing to me years ago?”
“Judy,” he grew silent as if trying to search for the right words as her tone pierced through his heart, “that was different.”
“How do you figure?  You and I were ready to go through with our engagement.  You promised me that we’d tell your parents and then that night when I found you in bed with Brooke…”
“Judy, it was a long time ago and I was a stupid fool,” Richard tried to explain himself, “I’d been drinking and…”
“And to this day you still can’t think of one good reason why it happened, can you?” she challenged.
“Judy, all I’m saying is that what happened with us was nothing like what happened with Russ and Avery.”
“How can you be so sure?” Judy threw back at him, “I saw him with Avery.  I heard the words he said and I saw the love between them and Rick feelings that strong can’t be imagined.  They are either there or they aren’t.”
“And he broke her heart.”
“And you broke mine,” Judy reminded him harshly, “and when I pushed you away, you married Brooke.”
“You’re right I did and other than having Avery and Guy there isn’t a day in my life that I don’t regret that act of indiscretion as you were the one I wanted to spent my years with.”
“Well maybe if I’d have taken the time to listen to you, then perhaps we wouldn’t have wasted so many years,” she offered in response as a sigh spilled over her lips, “I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t let your daughter make the same mistakes we did.  If she doesn’t at least give her heart a chance to be heard then…” she trailed off thinking about the many nights of sadness she’d endured in losing the man she’d loved, “I just wouldn’t want her to go down that road as it’s a place I’d never wish any woman to be.”
“Neither would I,” he sighed in response, “not my daughter and not for you.  Judy, I never meant to hurt you.”
“I know you didn’t and in retrospect I should’ve stood up to Brooke and stuck to my guns, but my pride got in the way and I let the situation get the best of me,” Judy admitted thinking of her careless decision, “I loved you so very much and in letting you go, it damn near killed me all those years ago.  I really believed that there would never be another time when I’d find some happiness again.”
“Losing you was nothing short of misery on my end,” Richard confessed poignantly, “I never should’ve allowed Brooke to be what kept me from following my heart.”
“Then why allow your daughter to go through the same mistakes we did?  Rick, if she loves Russell then she should at least give him a chance to talk to her.  Maybe there’s more to this story--more that we couldn’t even open ourselves up to seeing last night.”
“It’s too late for that,” he divulged thinking to his arrangement with Brant, “as she’s out of the country.”
“It’s never too late for true love and if you just speak with her,” Judy suggested hoping to help someone find some kind of happiness before time changed things.
“Brant didn’t tell me where they were going,” Richard explained almost reluctant to share that piece of news with her.
“And you just let him leave with her?  Rick, you’ve been telling me how much you couldn’t bear the idea of Avery being around him and then you let him leave with her?”
“It was one of those spur of the moment decisions as I’d wanted to keep her from hurting and besides, my not knowing was a means of keeping Brooke in the dark as I refused to allow her to be privy to be such information as she’s the last thing Avery needs right about now in her life.”
“Well we have to find out where she is,” Judy decided thinking about everything that had taken place, “We need to bring her home and we also need to have a word with Russell.”
“Judy, if I even look at him right now, then I swear I’m going to kill him.  Just the idea that he could step out of line with my daughter isn’t one that I welcome…”
“Fine, then you won’t have to worry about that,” Judy decided after a moment’s contemplation, “I’ll worry about that, but you need to find a way to get to Avery because she’s going to need to do this for closure if nothing else.”
“It sounds like you wish you’d had someone do this for us years ago,” he noted with a hint of a sad smile in his voice.
“Don’t you,” she threw back at him as a silence followed.
“More than you’ll ever know,” he confessed at long last.
“Then meet me for lunch and we’ll talk,” Judy decided quickly.
“Name the time and place and I’m there,” he agreed.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Judy replied thinking of the ways in which she’d find a solution to the dilemma that Richard’s daughter was facing.  Sure she wasn’t exactly an expert on love and coming out on top where romance was concerned, but somehow this situation was far too close to home for her.  Top that off with Brooke pushing Brant on Avery and well, just the mere idea of Brooke’s involvement made Judy doubly question how a one time disaster could be played out again with two very different people.  Although as Judy thought to the way Avery’s heart was breaking the night before, she realized that Avery wasn’t that different after all as she too had known the woes of heartbreak and as Judy worked out the details with Richard, she promised herself that if she uncovered anything that even remotely led to Brooke playing a hand in the situation, she was going to bury her.  That much she was sure of.


Avery’s tears died down as Brant held her, keeping her safe in the warmth of his arms as he hoped that she’d pull out of this state of despair she’d found herself in.  Reaching for the blanket, he wrapped her up as she curled into him and he realized she must’ve cried herself to sleep.  Now as he watched her, he thought to all the dreams he had of them together and how he’d have to find a way to bring them to life as she was everything to him.  He’d hated to see her in such pain, but he vowed to bring her all the happiness she could ever imagine and more as he was going to turn this trip into one she would always remember.
Slowly Brant fingers teased over her dark hair, brushing it out of her eyes as her eyelashes fluttered a bit with the movement.  She seemed otherwise unaffected as he took in her beauty and thanked the heavens above for giving him such a moment with her.  She seemed almost at peace and for an instant even with her pale features horribly noticeable in contrast to the small bruise she’d had on her face from her scuffle with Heather, she was truly remarkable.  When she’d stripped down, it took everything in him not to react the way he’d wanted to as she’d always turned him on in ways that no other woman had come close to, but her tears had been the key to his undoing as her misery was the last thing he’d wanted her to experience in this world.
With that thought in mind, Brant reached across the bed, over her warm body as his fingers drifted over towards the cordless phone.  He clumsily dialed the numbers he’d taken the time to memorize before he eased himself away from Avery.  Slowly, he sat upright waiting for the person on the other end of the line to connect with him.
“Tell me it’s done,” he spoke smoothly upon hearing the person on the other end’s voice, “Tell me you have the problem taken care of that I asked you about.”
“I’m working on it,” she confessed after a moment’s hesitation, “but he’s rather stubborn Brant.  I don’t know if he’ll just up and leave considering…”
“He will,” Brant stepped away from the bed moving out onto the balcony as he gave Avery one last look.  A moment later he closed the door behind him and glanced down at the ocean appreciatively, “A man with nothing holding him back tends to be open to new opportunities.”
“Even so, he’s very determined when he’s made his mind up,” she reminded him sharply, “I’ve thrown everything on the table and more, but he hasn’t budged.”
“You keep working on it then because the last thing I want to find when I return to Coral Valley is Russell Denton on my doorstep,” Brant snapped back at her as his fingers clenched over the phone.
“It’s interesting that you want him gone this badly,” she threw back with an amused chuckle, “considering I haven’t seen you this eager to get rid of something before now.”
“It never was this important,” he spun around on the balcony as his eyes fell upon the sleeping angel he’d left in bed.
“In that case, it’s going to cost you,” she answered flatly, “I appreciated the down payment, but what you’re asking me to do goes well beyond the realm of the kind of favors we’ve exchanged every now and then…”
“I don’t care how you do it, but you see to it that he leaves Coral Valley and my life forever,” Brant’s jaw tightened at the memory of the pain Russell had caused Avery, “You get him out of town and I promise you that you’ll be able to have a very generous display of my appreciation.”
“Under different circumstances I might have my doubts, but given that you and I have had a good business relationship, I’ll do my best,” she promised eagerly.
“See to it that you do,” Brant hung up looking at the phone for a long moment before deciding that there was no need for any interruptions where he and Avery were concerned.  Looking down to the ocean below and the cliffs that lingered just beyond the edge of the beach, he threw his arm back and tossed the phone into the water knowing that he’d finally found a way to fix the problem at hand.  Smiling as he returned to the bedroom, he began to plan out the morning ahead of him as he had a great many ideas on how he and Avery would spend their time together.  Sure, she might not be receptive to enjoying herself, but after a little time, he was certain that she’d be able to smile again and when she did, he’d see to it that he was right there with her sharing the moment as he’d always wanted to be that man in her life.  However, for now he opted to crawl back into bed with her, feeling her curl into him as he closed his eyes drifting away to the beautiful dreams he’d had for their future together as on this island away from the rest of the world, anything was possible for them.


The ride out to the Denton home was filled with silence as Elliot could feel his son’s misery over the recent turn of events.  He’d tried to find some words of comfort, but instead he’d come up empty as Russell was buried so deep inside himself.  Only once before had Elliot seen him this worked up and at that time they’d been afraid for what might come of the situation as their son deal with his broken heart.  Now he could see guilt mixed in with the sadness and it was in that assessment of Russell’s condition that Elliot decided to bring his son back home with him despite Russell’s half hearted protests.
“Your mother will be happy to see you even if it’s under these circumstances,” Elliot offered up as he pulled into the driveway preparing to bring their ride to an end.
“I wish it wasn’t like this considering that I’d hoped I’d begin this day with Avery at my side as my wife,” Russell confessed thinking to his plans for his future with Avery.
“Son, maybe it’s time you try to find a way to move beyond that,” Elliot offered up gently.
“Move beyond loving Avery?  Beyond wanting to be with her,” Russell’s voice rose with something Elliot couldn’t quite place as his son slumped over in the seat beside him, “that’s like asking me not to breathe.  I love her.”
“I know you do son,” Elliot looked to the house for a long moment as he took the keys out of the ignition, “and I wish there was something I could do to help you through this.”
“Unless you can help me find a way to turn the last twenty four hours of my life around and you make last night never happen, then I don’t think there’s anything any of us can do,” Russell sighed in resignation to his fate as he opened the passenger side car door and stepped out onto the driveway before heading towards the house as Elliot watched his son’s staggering misery sweeping over him.
“Oh Russ,” Elliot sighed following his son up the drive as Russell rang the bell and Cheryl answered almost immediately.
“Russ, darling,” she embraced him as Russell hugged her tightly.
“Mom,” he whispered in her ear as he held onto her.
“Honey, I’m glad your father talked you into coming back here,” Cheryl began exchanging worried glances with Elliot as he shook his head in dismay, “I made some chicken noodle soup and I know it’s early, but you always did like that when you weren’t feeling well.”
“Chicken noodle soup isn’t going to make my problems go away.  It isn’t going to change the fact that the woman I love won’t talk to me,” Russell grumbled in response pulling away from her as he noted his mother’s wounded expression, “I’m sorry mom.  I don’t mean to be short with you, but I’m just upset about what happened with Avery.”
“Sweetie, I know this might be hard for you, but maybe things happen for a reason,” she tried to find some means of soothing him, but the pain behind his eyes spoke volumes about how deep the wound had struck.
“You mean like when Avery left on our wedding day considering she must’ve known back then that I wasn’t what she needed as I failed her in the worst way,” Russell sighed hanging his head down low before he shook his head again, “Look mom I appreciate you and dad having me here, but I think I’m just going to go to my old room there and just take some time to be alone.”
“Russ, you don’t have to do that considering…” Cheryl pleaded with him as she reached for his hand, “Your father and I love you and we want to be here for you.”
“I know you do mom,” he offered up a weak smile before squeezing her hand, “but right now I just need some time and hey, maybe later I’ll take you up on that chicken soup.”
“I’ll be here anytime you’re ready for it,” she promised watching as he turned down the hallway and her attention returned to her husband, “He’s not going to be okay, is he?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Elliot sighed hating to see his son in so much pain as Russell continued down the hallway making his way into the bedroom and closing the door behind him.
Russell could still hear his parents speaking about him as he closed the door, but as his heart ached for the loss he was feeling, he couldn’t be concerned about what they were thinking.  Right now there was only one thing in the world that mattered and she wasn’t taking his calls.  Still, if he could find a way, he thought to himself as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket dialing her cell phone.  After a few rings her voice mail picked up.
“Avery,” he said her name feeling a surge of agony rush over him as he thought of her shutting him out of her life forever, “please talk to me.  I know I screwed up last night and there’s no way I can make it sound like it wasn’t as bad as it was, but even after what you saw, I can tell you with my whole heart that I don’t know how I got in that position.  Heather wasn’t…she isn’t….” he paused searching for the right words, “Avery, I love you.  I meant every word of that when I told you I wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together.  I don’t know how I managed to screw up something so wonderful between us, but Avery, I can’t bear the thought of losing you again.  Please, don’t shut me out--not like this.  Give me a chance to explain, to see you again because I can’t bear the thought of never holding you, loving you, touching you, seeing your smile.  Avery, I know I don’t deserve a second chance, but I’m begging you baby.  I love you and I know that you love me.  What we have is something so special that we can’t just let it slip away…not like this…not when we have so much ahead of us…baby please…”
The beeping cut him off as Russell stared down at his phone thinking to the disaster that hit him.  Slumping down on the twin bed, he felt a sigh spill over his lips as tears glistened in his eyes as he found himself remembering the way she’d looked at him before she’d run out the door.  The pain and confusion behind her eyes said it all and it was in that instant that his heart had broken in two as he’d finally let her down.  He’d managed to destroy what they’d had with one another and now that image of her sadness would forever haunt him.
“Oh Avery,” he whispered her name closing his eyes listening to the sounds of the rain outside start to fall as he thought back to another time when things had felt so hopeless between them.
“What are you doing here, Avery,” Russell heard himself question in confusion as he was back in his family’s cabin all those years ago.  He could still see the fire behind her eyes as she stood on the porch soaked from head to toe before him as her lip quivered with the chill that the air had brought about.
“I was just in the neighborhood,” she lied clenching her fists at her side as she’d struggled to keep her voice casual.
“You just so happened to come all the way out here for the fun of it,” he asked raising a skeptic brow as she’d offered up a quick nod.
“That’s right,” she nodded quickly--too quickly to be believable as her eyes had darted into the cabin, “I was on my way to meet someone for dinner.”
“Oh really?  As in a date?” he asked his heart sinking a bit at the thought as his eyes cast over her rain soaked T-shirt.
“That’s right,” she offered up trying to be convincing as she looked into the cabin once again, “but well, my car got a flat and I figured that I could sneak in and use the phone here.”
“That you could use my phone?” he repeated with a tiny laugh.
“Well you weren’t supposed to be here,” she pushed her way into the cabin, her curious eyes searching the place desperately as she continued with her ridiculous tale.  “You see, I knew that you had the key under the mat on the porch and…”
“And you thought you’d just cruise on in here and call for help, huh,” Russell closed the cabin door behind her watching her for a long moment before folding his arms in front of his chest, “and what makes you think I didn’t get the locks changed since we broke up?”
“Well, I didn’t have time to think about that as I was in a hurry and well,” she spun around to face him, “I don’t have time to argue this with you.  I have a date waiting for me and since I’m sure Johanna’s more than eager to have you all to herself…”
“Johanna?” he repeated now more curious than ever as he stepped in towards her, “Now why would you say that?”
“I just assumed,” she shrugged her shoulders in an attempt to be casual, “well, it’s just that I’d heard…”
“That I’d be up here with Johanna?” he finished as she turned her eyes away from him, “Is that it?”
“Not hardly.  I told you I had no idea that you were up here as I told you I have a date and I was just in the neighborhood,” she answered unable to look at him as he continued to bridge the distance between them.
“You never could lie to me and make it believable,” Russell continued to move in towards her, “You came here because you thought I was with Jo--because you thought that I’d finally taken you up on your offer to find a way to forget you.”
“I am not,” Avery argued with him, her dark eyes burning with a fire as she placed her hands on her hips impatiently, “I came here to use the phone and that’s it.  My tire did blow out and I do have a date waiting for me.  A very sexy, handsome, amazing man who’s probably wondering where I am at a time like this.  In fact, I’m glad you moved on and I hope you’re having a great time with Jo since obviously I’m interrupting, but don’t worry I’ll be out of here soon,” she spun away from him making her way towards the phone.
“Not so fast,” Russell tugged on her arm forcing her to look up at him once again, “You’re jealous.”
“Only in your dreams Denton,” she rolled her eyes, “I could care less about your latest girlfriend because I told you to move on.”
“But you didn’t mean it,” Russell argued with her.
“I broke up with you, remember?  I was the one who felt we’d be better off apart since we’ve been together for so very long,” Avery insisted firmly.
“Because we had one stupid misunderstanding,” he shook his head at her, “Avery, you didn’t want me to move on.  You wanted me to come back begging you to keep from letting me go.”
“Russ, we’re not kids anymore.  You can do what you want with who you want and I don’t care about it, now if I can use your phone,” she tried to step away again.
“You’re not interested in my phone,” he pulled her into his arms kissing her eagerly as she melted into the kiss throwing her arms around his neck as soft murmurs rose from inside of her.  Feeling her damp body against his, he pulled her fully into his arms as their kisses continued drawing them deeper and deeper into desire.  Finally breathless he tore his lips away from hers as he searched her eyes, “Tell the truth Avery.”
“I am telling you the truth,” she whispered tightly as he beckoned her mouth into another desperate kiss causing her to whimper upon contact until he put an abrupt end to the moment his voice skeptical.
“Oh alright,” she swatted at his chest as her lip curled into a pout, “Russ, I’m here because I’m upset.  I’m angry that you could even consider bringing someone else here when this is our place--when this is the one spot where we pledged our love to one another…that you could somehow turn our special place into something of a joke by bringing your new girlfriend here…”
“Don’t Avery me,” her voice rose with the moment, “I know what I said about us being apart and yes I’m also well aware that we’ve been doing it for a few months here, but Russ…”
“Yes?” he questioned lifting a curious brow.
“I hate you.  I hope you realize that,” she frowned in response seeing the pleasure he was getting from her misery, “I hate you for making me feel something about this situation, for your bringing a tramp like Johanna Larsen up here and most of all I hate you because even after we broke up, I never stopped thinking about you.  I never stopped loving you and as much as I’ve been spending my nights at Harvard trying to forget you, the fact remains that I can’t.  I can’t just let you leave my mind even though I’ve tried and the fact that you could think so little of our love to bring another woman here…”
“Avery, would you just shut up for five seconds?” he urged seizing her in his arms as he tried to shake her to silence.
“Russ, I’m not going to…”
“Damn you Avery.  You don’t know when to shut up, do you,” he questioned crushing her against him as his hands cupped her face claiming her with an intensity as his mouth devoured hers eagerly.  He felt her anger melt at his touch as his hands eased over her soft curves, down over her spine as she fit snugly in against him.  Her arms fanned out around his waist before he hoisted her up off of her toes carrying her in towards the bedroom area before he carefully set her down on the edge of the bed.
“Russ,” she questioned breathlessly as she looked around the room in confusion, “where’s Johanna?”
“I was going to tell you, but I didn’t get a chance since you don’t know how to keep quiet,” he knelt before her touching her cheek gently before his thumb brushed over her lips, “I’m not with Jo anymore.”
“You’re not?” her eyes widened in a display of eager surprise, “I mean…oh…”
“Yeah big oh,” Russell nodded in response.
“So what happened,” she questioned softening her tone as his fingers fanned over her cheek.
“She knew that my heart wasn’t invested in our relationship--that I never was able to get over you--that I still can’t get over you as loving you is the only thing that I’ve ever been good at…”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Avery shivered against his touch as she placed tender kisses against the pad of his fingers.
“Just the idea of some other guy with you up at Harvard has been driving me mad,” Russell explained tightly, “and there hasn’t been a day that I haven’t wanted to drive out there and beat the life out of anyone who even thought about touching you since you broke up with me.”
“But I heard that you and Johanna were hot and heavy,” Avery insisted thinking to the rumors that had brought her in from Boston to seek out Russell again.
“The only woman I’ve ever wanted to be hot and heavy with is the one before me,” Russell explained seriousness overtaking him as he reached for her hand lifting it to his lips in a tender caress, “and that’s why I’m here at our special place because I can’t help but feel connected to you when I’m here.”
“Oh Russ,” tears pooled in her eyes as she eased her finger against his palm, “do you mean that?  Do you really mean that?”
“What do you think,” he questioned pulling her into his arms as he lavished her with kiss after tender kiss, “Avery, I love you and there’s no other woman in this world that can compare to you--not now, not ever…”
he whispered warmly losing himself to the magic of the moment as the memory faded before him and he felt himself alone in his old room thinking about the love he’d lost.  Slowly rising from the bed, he moved over to his old desk, pulling out the photograph he’d kept of Avery tucked away in the top drawer as he traced her features gently and tears glistened in his eyes.
“You’re always going to be the only woman for me,” he murmured thinking of how he longed to find a way to reach out and fix this latest misunderstanding between them.  When they were younger and apart she’d been worried that he’d moved on, but now, well now it wasn’t the same situation as he didn‘t have that opportunity to explain himself.  He’d put himself in a bad place by winding up in bed with Heather and he feared Avery would never forgive or forget that as he worried that he’d finally lost her forever in a moment of weakness and stupidity.  He just prayed to the heavens above that somehow he’d find a way to reach her heart as in loving Avery, he’d had everything and without her, well, he couldn’t bear the thought of returning to that place again as he knew he’d never be truly happy without her.


Jade opened the door to her apartment and stood in surprise when she saw Grady standing before her. He’d obviously been home since she’d left him as his blue jeans and college sweat shirt were definitely not the tuxedo he’d been wearing last evening. She leaned slightly against the door as she met his eyes, “Grady.”

“Can we talk?” Grady asked softly as he looked past her into the apartment, hoping that Seth wasn’t there to give him a good dressing down.

“Come in,” She said as she opened the door wider to allow him entrance. Once inside she closed the door and turned to face him, “Seth left a bit earlier so you can say whatever you need to freely.”

“Jade,” He turned to meet her eyes, “I’m sorry about last night. I was drunk, and I was acting like an idiot. I’m sorry about that.”

“And?” She asked as she crossed her arms.

“I know you think I need to leave Russ alone where Avery’s concerned, but I love him, and I don’t want him to be experience the pain I have where women are concerned,” He explained, “I know that doesn’t justify anything I’ve done, but it’s the reason I did it. I’ve seen Russell in so much pain because of Avery, and I don’t ever want to see that again.”

“You saw it last night, and then you went and made it worse, Grady.”

“What?” He questioned.

“Didn’t you see the pain in Russ’s eyes?” She asked, “Or was all that alcohol keeping things too blurry for you?”

He winced at her accusation, “I’m sorry, Jade. That’s all I can say at this point. What’s done is done, and all I can do is own up to my stupid mistakes.”

“But you hurt Russell and you let me down, Grady. If we’re supposed to truly make a go of our relationship, how can I expect you to do your part?”

“You can, Jade. I swear you can,” He said desperately as he took her hands, “I went to AA this morning, and I’m going to attend meetings more regularly. I’m not going to let this demon of mine keep me from loving and being loved. I won’t let my old stupid habit of diving into a bottle destroy my future with you. I want to be with you and love you, Jade. I want that more than anything in the world,” He said as he met her eyes, “Tell me that I haven’t ruined everything for us. I know that I made a fool of myself last night, but I don’t want that to be the thing that drives us apart. I know that you were humiliated by my behavior, and I’m not asking you not to feel what you feel. I am asking you to give me a second chance. Give me a chance to show you that I can be the man that you believed me to be. Give me a chance to prove that the bottle doesn’t control my life.”

Jade searched his eyes for a moment before she responded, “I don’t want to ever feel the way I did last night, Grady. I don’t ever want to feel like I’ve made a horrible decision by allowing you into my life.”

“I’ll do my best to make you proud of me, Jade. I swear,” Grady said desperately.

Jade touched his cheek gently, “Then, you have your second chance, Grady. Don’t ever make me regret it,” She warned before he drew her into his arms. She hugged him tightly as she hoped they could put the horrible night of the Ashford party behind them for good.


“Peanut,” Annette called out to her Pomeranian as she entered the guest room Avery had been staying in as she wondered if her spunky little dog snuck in there once again to pester Rusty.  As Annette entered the room, she found Rusty sleeping on the pillows curled up and cozy as he heard Annette’s presence.  As if not phased by her entrance, he yawned, stretched out and rolled over leaving her to do what she needed to as he was lost in his own little dream world.
“Peanut, where are you--you silly dog,” Annette questioned as she scanned the room noting a trail of litter leading under the bed.  She turned her eyes to Rusty’s litter pan and sure enough, there were paw prints in it far too big to be Rusty’s as there were obvious signs of digging as well and a frown touched over her lips.
“Oh Peanut, when I get my hands on you,” she cursed under her breath doing her best to fix the mess her rambunctious dog had gotten into yet again when she heard a tiny yelping sound from under the bed.  She turned towards the source of the sound and she placed her hands on her hips, her voice shifting to an authoritative tone as she spoke to her Pomeranian, “Peanut, you come here right now and stop getting into that kitten’s toys.”
Grudgingly Peanut scurried out from under the bed with Rusty’s toy mouse in her mouth.  She shook her head disapprovingly as she knelt down snatching the toy from her dog, “You’re still such a puppy aren’t you,” she spoke tersely, “but this is Rusty’s toy, not yours.”
Peanut lowered her head as a tiny whimper as she rolled to her side kicking her legs out in the air in an attempt for some attention as Annette shook her head at Peanut.
“Oh no you don’t.  I’m not going to sit there and scratch your belly after you’ve been getting into trouble,” Annette replied trying to remain firm in her position as Peanut let out another tiny whimper.
“Oh you,” Annette finally caved in reaching out to scratch the underside of her spunky little dog.  Even after all these years Peanut was as playful as ever and she could see that having a new pet around the mansion certainly wasn’t going to change that as Peanut had just decided to extend the playtime to Rusty’s toys as well.
Annette looked up to Rusty again, who now had decided to take an interest in what Annette was doing as his big, green eyes stared down at her playing with Peanut.  Rusty let out a tiny meow before standing up and stretching out.
“Are you looking for some attention too sweetheart,” Annette reached out to lightly rub Rusty’s ear as the kitten began to gently purr in appreciation while Annette’s other hand continued to caress her Pomeranian’s soft fur and Annette let out a tiny laugh, “Between the two of you I’m never going to get anything done around here,” she chuckled, “but then again I suppose you’re the babies now.”
As if understanding her words Rusty’s purr grew louder and a smile touched over Annette’s lips until she heard a pained cry from her dog.  She looked down watching Peanut wince as Annette’s smile faded.
“What is it,” Annette reached out to her dog as Peanut fled under the bed hiding once again, “Peanut, come out here.” Annette called to her dog once again realizing Peanut was still whimpering as Annette began to reach under the bed when a sharp piece of something thrust up into her palm and she withdrew her hand from beneath the skirt of the bed with a tiny wince.
“Ouch,” Annette looked to her hand seeing a tiny piece of glass sticking out from the surface.  Slowly plucking it from her skin, she watched the crimson color fill her pale palm before she lifted the skirt of the bed up to find the remains of a tiny glass vial of sorts near the edge of the bed.  Carefully reaching for it, she lifted it for inspection as a sudden thought occurred to her.  She looked to Peanut thinking about her dog’s natural curiosity and she feared that the rest of the small vial might be what was bothering her dog as it’s contents could’ve clearly looked appetizing to the unknowing, yet always inquisitive Pomeranian.
“There you are,” Joseph called out as he stood in the doorway, “I thought I heard you up here.”
“Joseph, what are you doing here,” Annette looked over her shoulder at him.
“We agreed to meet this morning,” he reminded her giving her a sideways glance as he entered the room, “Is something wrong?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I’m not taking any chances,” Annette decided maneuvering herself under the bed as she reached for Peanut gently pulling the small dog out into her arms, “Grab Rusty--the kitten up on the bed.”
“Okay,” Joseph nodded as he collected the small kitten in his arms, “now what?”
“Now we’re going to take a detour from our plans for the morning,” she held up the vial for him to see, “as I think Peanut might’ve eaten some of this which means that we’re taking a trip to the vet.”
“And what about this little one?” he questioned to the purring kitten in his hands.
“He can come along for the ride just in case as I’m not going to take any chances with my little ones here,” Annette explained turning her attention to the mysterious vial once again as she hoped that she was wrong about her dog eating the shards of glass, but then again maybe if Peanut had broken the vial and found a way to get at it’s contents, then maybe just maybe that could be what was behind her sudden shift in behavior.  Either way Annette wasn’t going to let this one slide as she decided to get to the bottom of the matter.


“Doug?” Dorothy asked as she placed her hand upon his shoulder. As he turned to face her, she met his red tired eyes. She felt her heart clinch tightly as she thought of her behavior earlier and wished she could take it all back.

Without a word, Douglas wrapped his arms around Dorothy and drew her close to him. He broke down into tears as she held him tenderly within her arms and gently stroked his hair.

“Shhh, now,” She soothed softly, “Everything will be okay. You have to believe in that, Doug. You have to believe that Kipp is going to pull through this.”

“It’s just…he’s been through so much,” He cried as he held onto her tightly, “I haven’t been the best father I could be. I haven’t been what he needed,” He sobbed softly as he held onto her, “You did the right thing in taking Jenna away from me. I would have just made her miserable as well.”

“Hey, stop that,” Dorothy demanded as she pulled away from him slightly and took his tear dampened cheeks into her hands, “You stop that. You’ve tried your best with Kipp, and that is all that anyone can ask. You’ve been there for him, and that’s what a child needs more than anything. When Kipp comes to, he’s going to want to see you, and you’re going to need to be strong for him.”

“But…what if…what if he doesn’t…” He broke into tears anew.

“He will,” She said firmly, “You just need to believe in that.”

He nodded tearfully, “Thank you for being here. It means more to me than you will ever know.”

She eased her fingers through his hair and pressed a kiss to his cheek, “I’ll be here for as long as you need me.”

He attempted a smile as he met her eyes, thankful for her presence.

“Douglas…how is Kipp?” Heather called out as she made her way towards Douglas and Dorothy, “Is he okay? Can I see him?”

“No!” Douglas boomed as he eyes blazed towards her, “Get the hell out of here. I don’t want you anywhere near my son!”

“Please, Douglas, I know that he was upset, but please…let me just…” Heather began.

“No! You’re nothing but a whore, and this is all your fault!” He shouted, “Get out,” He roared as he neared her.

“I’m not leaving until I see him,” Heather declared urgently as she stood face to face with Douglas Mahoney in a show down. As she considered her position, she decided what her next words should be, “I’m staying. He loves me, and I love him…”

The moment the words escaped her lips, she felt the harsh sting across her cheek. It wasn’t until the world stopped spinning as she looked up from her new position upon the floor that she realized Douglas had slapped her. She blinked to focus her vision before she felt a hand upon her arm, helping her up.

“Get out of her, you whore! And don’t you ever speak of my son again!” Douglas ordered vehemently.

Heather glanced to the man holding her arm and blinked as she met Dave’s eyes.

“Heather, are you okay?” When she nodded, he continued, “Do you want to press charges?”

Heather shook her head as she felt a sting rise in her cheek. She turned slowly and made her way down the hospital hall, knowing that her final bridges to the Hollywood dynasty she had dreamt of had been burned forever.

Cameron stood near the admissions desk and watched as the scene unfolded before him. Now, he knew how best to irritate both Heather and Douglas. Things were beginning to look up for him after all.

...to be continued...