“So here we are at your place with me talking your ear off about the
tedious elements that have brought my life to a state of complete and utter
chaos,” Jenna sighed slumping her shoulders as a sense of loss filled her
from behind the half empty coffee mug as she found Hart watching her intently
with each breath she took. A slow heat began to rise over her features
as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear gently.
“Believe it or not Jenna, this is good for me--for the both of us,” Hart announced reaching out to refill her coffee mug as he offered up a sympathetic smile, “I mean hey, we’re actually having a conversation with one another where you aren’t ready to tear me apart limb by limb. I’d say we’re making progress,” he offered up a teasing wink.
“And I’d say you’re entering dangerous territory there,” Jenna couldn’t help but feel the first hints of a smile threatening upon her lips, “and you know I really wish you wouldn’t do that.”
“Do what?” he asked unable to contain himself as he noticed the tiny sparkle behind her eyes.
“Make me laugh or even think about laughing considering that I’m absolutely miserable right now,” Jenna huffed pushing her hair out of her soft features.
“I don’t think miserable would be the right word for you under any given circumstances,” Hart threw back at her smoothly, “After all, as it stands you might be put in an awkward situation for the time being, but that doesn’t by any means make you a miserable person.”
“And now I know that you’re just kissing up,” Jenna shook her head at him, “because you’re never this nice to me.”
“Maybe I’ve always wanted to be, but you haven’t given me a chance,” Hart posed the statement in an attempt for her to think about their situation with one another.
“Well gee it was hard for me to think of you as some kind of pal considering you were working so hard to destroy me in helping Patrick,” Jenna answered flatly, “That doesn’t exactly make for a good relationship, now does it?”
“Maybe not, but I’d like to make amends,” he confessed returning to his chair across from her, “as I think that they’re long overdue.”
“Hart, right now I really don’t want to think about where we are with one another on a friendly level because well, in all honesty I think I have more than my share of other concerns at the moment.”
“Like facing your mother?” Hart lifted a curious brow, “Jenna, you know you can’t avoid her forever.”
“I realize that, but at the same time when I think of all the years she lead me to believe my father had died…” Jenna sighed slumping down in her chair once again, “I just can’t believe she’d do that to me.”
“I’m sure she felt she had her reasons,” Hart offered in Dorothy’s defense, “Maybe it was her way of protecting you from what she felt could hurt you.”
“By letting me know that my father was alive?” Jenna blinked back at him. “That’s just ridiculous.”
“Well maybe it wasn’t to her,” Hart shrugged in response thinking about the situation, “I mean maybe she truly felt that she was doing something to help you…”
“Hey, who’s side are you on in this one,” Jenna grumbled in response as she shot him a glare.
“I’m just saying,” Hart reminded her simply, “People who hold in those kind of secrets for that long do it for a reason and maybe just maybe your mother felt she’d had some good reasoning there since she’d kept the secret for so long. Maybe it was her way of sparing you the kind of pain she’d experienced in knowing the truth.”
“See that’s where I don’t get it,” Jenna argued with him her voice raising with clear objection, “I’ve met my father. I know Douglas and he seems like a good man…”
“Seems like and being one are two different things, Jenna,” Hart pointed out with a skeptic look, “You said it yourself that when you met him he was trying to schmooze you into believing he could make you some kind of star. Clearly he was working an angle with you.”
“The only angle he was working was in trying to do the business he’s used to doing,” Jenna answered flatly wrinkling her nose in disgust, “I don’t believe that he was trying to work one over on me because he was far too sincere for that.”
“Well maybe then he came to town because he knew about you. Maybe that’s why he’s here,” Hart suggested throwing the thought out at her, “Maybe that’s what the whole line about the movie was about as he was hoping to bond with you on that level before telling you the truth about him being your father…”
“No,” Jenna shook her head thinking back to the time she’d spent with Douglas, “He was far too sincere for that one and even if he had that kind of agenda in mind, I would’ve known. I would’ve sensed it because he’s not that good at keeping his emotions inside.”
“Jenna, you hardly know him,” Hart reminded her once again.
“Even so I’m a good judge of character,” she caught the pointed look he was giving her, “at least for the most part. I mean when I first meet someone I can tell you in five minutes if they’re worth my time or not…”
“And what was Patrick?” Hart challenged bluntly.
“He was a case of I knew in five minutes he wasn’t worth my time, but I decided to let my inner voice of conscience give him a second chance which he didn’t deserve,” she sighed thinking about the nightmare that had been.
“And what about me?” Hart wondered aloud.
“I’ll reserve that answer for another time because right now I need to focus on what’s going on with my mother and Douglas,” Jenna deflected as her gaze dropped down to the coffee table before her.
“Okay fine, so you don’t think he came here to try to get close to you because he knew you were his daughter,” Hart went over what they’d discussed thus far.
“No I don’t. In fact, I know he was here because he wanted to bond with his son and when his son was shot,” Jenna’s lips curled in the shape of an oh as a gasp overtook her, “Oh my God.”
“Jenna, what is it,” Hart asked reaching across the table to take her hand in his as the color drained from her face.
“It’s my brother,” Jenna blurted out as the realization hit her hard, “My brother’s in the hospital fighting for his life and I don’t even know him. He could die and I‘ll never have had a chance to speak with him--to know what he‘s like or who he is as a person.”
“Jenna, that’s not your fault,” Hart saw the flicker of sadness behind her eyes as he squeezed her hand, “None of this is.”
“No it’s not,” Jenna’s voice darkened as the weight of what she lost hung upon her, “it’s my mother’s and I’ll never be able to forgive her for this. Not now--not ever!”
Dorothy stepped off the elevators apprehension coursing over her as
her heart thudded in her chest. While showing up at the hospital
was the last place she’d wanted to be considering the risk that facing
Douglas presented at a time like this, her concerns for Jenna over road
the fears consuming her. As soon as she set foot out of the elevators
and into in the long hallway, she felt Preston’s hand upon her shoulder
encouragingly. Okay, so maybe she was a bit too nervous about facing
Douglas again so soon, but with Preston at her side, there would be no
need for her worries to get the best of her.
“Come on. We’ll see if she’s stopped by,” his voice beckoned her from her thoughts as he offered a supportive nod, “If she’s not here, then we can go by her apartment.”
“It’s not like her just ignore my calls,” Dorothy sighed, “Even with being so upset with me, this just isn’t like her.”
“Well maybe they’ve heard from her up here since she wasn’t in at work today,” Preston offered thinking about how Jenna might be feeling at a moment like this considering the blow that had fallen upon her.
“Even that isn’t like Jenna,” Dorothy sighed heavily thinking of what her actions had brought about with her daughter, “I just hope she hasn’t done anything to hurt herself in any way.”
“I’m sure she hasn’t. She’s a bright young woman,” Preston placed his hand on her shoulder gently, “You have to give her some credit there.”
“I know,” Dorothy nodded as her eyes fell upon the man standing down the hallway and her breath caught in her throat as she witnessed Douglas talking to one of the nurse’s outside of where Kipp was. He seemed deep in thought until he caught a glimpse of her standing before him and something in his features shifted as the nurse walked away and Dorothy pulled together the strength to go and face him once more.
“Dottie,” Douglas began tightly as he kept his hands at his side as if fighting the urge to reach out and touch her--to bring about some kind of contact between them as Preston stepped forward glaring down at Douglas, “what are you doing here?”
“Has Jenna been by to see you,” she asked nervously feeling the warmth of Preston’s hand upon her shoulder, “I haven’t seen her since last night and I’m worried. This isn‘t like her.”
“No, Jenna hasn’t been here, but I wish she was,” Douglas confessed openly, “I hated watching her run out like that especially when I have so much I want to say to her.”
“I’d really rather you didn’t,” Dorothy stood taller, her eyes narrowing with each syllable that fell from her lips, “as this is the last thing she needs in her life.”
“To be with her father?” his voice rose with emotion, “Why in the world would you say that considering that Jenna needs me just as much as I need her?”
“She doesn’t need you Douglas. She never did and despite the way you forced my hand in this issue, I won’t have you uprooting my daughter’s life as I’ve worked very hard to make her into what she is today.”
“All you’ve managed to do was fill her head with lies and keep her from what should’ve always been a part of her life,” Douglas threw back at her bitterly, “You had no right to take her from me.”
“The hell I didn’t,” Dorothy’s voice rose with anger, “Given the way things were with us, Hollywood was the last place I’d wanted my little girl to grow up. I didn’t dare to think of her involved in all the parties and the women and the lack of morals?”
“I would’ve given our daughter the best of lives. I would’ve given her the world…I would’ve given it to the both of you if you would’ve let me,” he declared ignoring Preston’s presence in the room, “I loved you Dottie and that’s never changed for me.”
“I can see what your love does for those you care about considering where your son is right now,” she shot back harshly immediately regretting the words as the pain flooded over his features at her cheap shot, “Neither one of us needed that in our lives.”
“Maybe you didn’t,” he sighed in defeat taking a step back as he motioned towards Kipp’s room, “but I just wish I’d been given a choice in the matter.”
“You know,” Preston cleared his throat as he watched the scene unfold before him, “maybe now isn’t the time to get into this. Jenna isn’t here and well, that means we should look elsewhere.”
“You’re right,” Dorothy nodded keeping her eyes on Douglas as she felt guilt tug at her insides all over again as she’d reopened a fresh wound in her former lover. “This isn’t helping.”
“No it isn’t,” Preston agreed feeling her tense up beneath her touch as she inhaled slowly.
“I just need some air,” she announced stepping out of his touch and turning towards the elevators once again as Preston and Douglas stood across from one another in a moment of silence before Preston spoke up smoothly.
“She’s just upset right now as she and Jenna are very close--like best friends and this, well this is one of the worst things that could’ve happened to their relationship,” Preston explained matter of fact, “and I hate to see her hurting.”
“I didn’t bring this on. Believe me if I could take the pain away,” Douglas began at a loss unsure of what to say to the man before him.
“Just stay away from them,” Preston warned allowing a hint of menace to slip through in his otherwise cool and collected tone, “Jenna doesn’t need you shaking up her world and neither does she. We have a good life together and a family--a family that isn’t looking for any more additions if I make myself clear.”
“You can’t keep my from my daughter,” Douglas stood taller immediately on the defense as he caught the hint of warning coming from Preston.
“You don’t know a damn thing about her. You weren’t there for her growing up and you don’t know what it takes to be her father.”
“That’s because I wasn’t given the opportunity to be one,” Douglas pointed out bitterly.
“And maybe you should think about that one for a long moment because I’m certain there’s a good reason for it,” Preston shot back at him with a glare, “So do us all a favor and just stay the hell away from our family. Go back to Hollywood and do whatever it is you do because I swear to you, if you ever hurt Jenna or Dorothy again, then you’ll have to answer to me. Is that clear?”
“Just who do you think you are,” Douglas questioned taken aback from his tone.
“I’m the man who will make your life a living hell if you keep ripping my family apart and it would be in your best interest if you don’t forget that,” Preston threw out with one final glare before taking off down the hallway to tend to Dorothy.
As Douglas watched Preston’s retreat, he felt a new emotion stir up inside of him as the rules had been suddenly laid out before him. He wasn’t quite sure what Preston was to Dorothy, but his words left the impression that Preston felt he was of somewhat importance and it was in that instant that Douglas decided that there were some things worth fighting for and if that meant taking on the man who’d warned him away from his daughter, then so be it as Douglas Mahoney refused to let one of the few things that mattered in his life slip away forever. That was just unheard of and if the man who now stood at Dorothy’s side wanted a fight, well then Douglas would give him an all out war as he was never one to back down from the things that mattered.
Mindy sat down in the corner booth checking the time as she wondered
what in the world was keeping Guy from meeting up with her. He’d
called her in a frenzy going on and on about how they’d needed to talk
and even now her head was still spinning with the way in which he’d approached
her on the subject of meeting. Sure it would normally be no big deal,
but now that she’d had time to reflect on the lie she’d pulled over his
miserable mother, she began to wonder just what she was getting into with
him this time. Sure, she’d wanted to stick it to Brooke, but could
this be construed as going too far? The tone of Guy’s voice on the
phone earlier had her wondering, but as she looked up from the table she’d
been seated at, she watched him walk through the front door and heading
straight towards her table, she realized that something else was going
on with him.
Guy sank down into the booth across from her, his eyes dark and brooding as he tapped his fingers on the table top keeping a chilling silence between them until Mindy cleared her throat and let out a slow hiss with her voice.
“Well it’s great to see you too,” she rolled her eyes sarcastically as his silence lingered between them, “if I’d known you’d been in this kind of mood I would’ve feigned an illness and talked myself out of meeting with you.”
“I’m sorry,” Guy finally broke his long silence as his eyes focused on her and with that simple movement they seemed to lose some of their abrasiveness, “I just had a run in with Richard.”
“With your father?” Mindy’s eyes widened before realization set in, “Oh I see, so this is why you stomped in here pouting.”
“I’m not pouting,” Guy argued with her shaking his head in response, “I guess you could say that I’m just pissed off.”
“No, honey you’re pouting,” Mindy wiggled her finger at the waitress who was approaching them with the drinks Mindy had ordered, “and if you don’t perk up soon, you’re going to find that I’m going to polish off that Café Caramel on my own that I ordered for you.”
“Like hell you are,” Guy’s eyes sparkled for a moment as the waitress set the mug down before him and he flashed her a dashing smile, “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” she giggled as a blush rose over her features and she quickly handed Mindy her drink before walking away glancing over her shoulder every few seconds to check Guy out.
“You know you’re cruel,” Mindy spat out at him with a look of disgust, “You really shouldn’t do that.”
“Do what?” he questioned innocently with a shrug of his shoulders.
“That flirting,” she waved her finger at him before dipping it into the whipped cream in the mug before her. A moment later she dropped her finger into her lips and let out a soft purr of appreciation.
“I was merely thanking her for the drink and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you,” he lifted a brow as he leaned in towards her over the table top, “well, you shouldn’t do that because it would turn any straight man on and make him think less than pure thoughts about what he’d rather be doing with you instead of just talking over coffee.”
“Well, that won’t seem to be a problem now will it,” Mindy blew an air kiss in his direction before dipping her finger into the creamy, white foam before her, “because you aren’t of that particular persuasion.”
“If I were, you wouldn’t stand a chance at doing what you’re doing as I would’ve thrown down on you and showed you a million and one reasons why it isn’t nice to get a man all hot and bothered in public,” Guy winked back at her as a hint of a smile lifted over his lips.
“And I’d have to slap you for even thinking those thoughts and sharing them with me,” Mindy frowned in response as she gave him a pointed look, “because you’re just being mean now.”
“How do you figure,” he leaned back in his chair eyeing her intently.
“Because you know that I can’t have you and that we,” she waved her finger between them, “can’t be together, so you’ll sit here and dangle what I can’t have in my face and you think it’ll somehow make me realize that I want you all the more because of it because you know that I can’t stand anyone telling me that I can’t have things my way.”
“Oh now come on darling,” he reached out to collect her hand in his, “We’ve been down this road before and really, you weren’t happy when you were with me. We both know that.”
“No, you weren’t happy when you were with me,” she curled her lip in a pout, “that was the problem. I mean you have no idea how it is when the first man you ever loved turns out to be gay. It’s like he’s saying that you did something wrong and turned him away from women completely.”
“No, Mindy that’s not what it was,” a frown touched over his lips as he watched a glimmer of sadness behind her eyes.
“Sure, you say that now, but how many other women can say that the first man they made love to decided that she was the first and last woman he’d ever be with considering that she made him realize he just wasn’t interested in the female persuasion,” she grumbled in response drawing a lazy circle over the rim of her coffee cup as she exhaled a long breath.
“Mindy, don’t say that,” he begged of her as he reached across the table urging her to meet his eyes as he spoke openly to her, “You aren’t what made me who I am. Being with you was one of the best times of my life and I swear to you if I wasn’t the way that I am…if I could love a woman and be completely satisfied with that woman, well then that woman would be you.”
She forced a sad smile, “Well haven’t you heard that almost doesn’t count, Guy?”
“Mindy,” he began again running his fingers through his hair knowing that they were reopening old wounds between them as he wondered how they could even consider keeping up the charade that they were together again.
“Hey, the past is the past,” she offered up leaving him room to change the conversation as she forced a smile, “and now we need to focus on the future--on how we’re going to keep your mother from ruining your life while you work on some way to bring the truth to light. Speaking of which, how is Gabe taking the news?”
Guy sighed at the mention of the man he loved, “That’s part of the problem.”
“What do you mean?” Mindy gave him a strange look before a moment of complete understanding passed upon her, “You haven’t told him yet, have you?”
“It’s not exactly the easiest of subjects to approach,” Guy admitted with a groan, “I mean it’s bad enough that we concocted this lie to begin with--that we have to do this because of my mother’s lack of compassion and understanding on this particular subject, but now well, now how do I tell the man I love that I have to pretend to be straight just a little while longer while he’s pushing for us to take the next step in our relationship?”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Mindy shook her head before lifting her mug to her lips, “I really don’t because it’s a hard position to be in Guy.”
“I know,” he slumped in over the table, “but when it gets down to it, Gabe is ready for someone who isn’t hiding--who isn’t afraid of what being in a relationship like ours entails and here I am running away again making a fine mess of things.”
Mindy paused searching for the right words before speaking up again, “Maybe…well, maybe we shouldn’t do this. If it’s going to cause problems…”
“No matter what I do, it’s going to cause some kind of chaos,” Guy admitted openly, “and as it stands I’m all out of options.”
“There’s always a choice,” Mindy insisted gently reaching out for his hand, “I hope you realize that.”
“Right now I choose this,” he squeezed her hand in return, “I need to let my mother believe this lie just until I can smooth the waters a bit more.”
“And what about Gabe? I mean I hate to dwell on it, but you can’t just keep him in the dark about this,” Mindy pointed out a frown touching over the corners of her mouth, “If I was in his shoes, the last thing I’d want was the man I loved keeping me out of the loop.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Guy promised releasing her hand as he began to rub his palms together, “I just need to find the right words…the right way to explain.”
“Then maybe you should work on doing that,” Mindy suggested reaching for her purse, “In fact, maybe that’s where you should be right now instead of talking with me.”
“Mindy, no I promised that we could talk and…” Guy watched her get up from her seat.
“We’ll talk later,” Mindy promised, “but right now, you need to do the right thing before you wind up missing out on more than you ever dreamed of. Call him and be honest with him.”
“It’s not that simple,” Guy reminded her as he realized that coming back to Coral Valley had opened him up for a world of lies and disaster that he hadn’t anticipated.
“Nothing worth having ever is,” she leaned forward kissing his cheek gently before standing upright to leave, “Just remember that, Guy.”
“I’ll try,” he nodded watching her leave as he wondered if he could find a way to break the news to the man in his life as he was about to put on the performance of a lifetime. Already he could see that this lie was effecting his relationship with Mindy as it was opening up old wounds and that was the last thing he’d wanted, but still as he thought to the look of horror on his mother’s face when she’d thought he and Mindy were together, he realized that she’d never understand his relationship with Gabe. She’d never be open to accepting the love Guy had found in his heart and it would break her to watch her son disappoint her just like her husband and daughter had done. With that knowledge eating away at him Guy refused to be the thing to take his mother over the edge…even if it meant sacrificing his own happiness for a little while. He just prayed that Gabe would understand.
Jade slipped the last of the coffee mugs into the sink from her day of nursing Seth through his hangover. After she’d fed him lunch and he’d been able to keep it down, Seth had gone home to get himself together. She hadn’t argued with him as she was sure that she’d have to do some sort of damage control upon Grady’s return home.
She walked back into the living room and lit a vanilla scented candle upon the mantle, hoping to add some levity to the room. Her patience was wearing thin, and she was sure her apprehension about the situation would be fully warranted. One thing was for sure, Grady didn’t know how to use tact where Russell was concerned.
Jade sank down on the sofa and tucked her feet under her. She had seen Grady use limitless patience in court as well as with driving her insane while denying his attraction to her. So why was it that he couldn’t exercise some of that tact and patience with Russell?
She’d never seen Grady when he couldn’t use reason to confront a problem. In Russ’s case, however, Grady wouldn’t even begin to hear reasoning. She didn’t understand his unwillingness to at least listen to a logical argument. It simply wasn’t like Grady to be so unreasonable. Then again, Jade hadn’t seen Grady so out of control before.
The sound of a car pulling into the drive gathered Jade’s attention. No doubt Grady was home, and there would be some excuse on his part as to why things didn’t go smoothly between Russ and himself. Voices outside alerted Jade that Grady wasn’t alone.
“Okay, Dad, I get it. Russ is in the right, I’m always wrong. I get it,” Grady said as he stepped into his house with Elliot on his heels.
“I never said that, Grady. Don’t go putting words into my mouth. I just wish you would open your mind to the possibility that Russell is doing exactly what he needs to be doing,” Elliot argued.
“What he’s doing is ruining his life,” Grady argued as he tore his jacket off of himself and tossing it into a recliner.
“I can see this family reunion went well,” Jade stated from her position on the sofa, “So what did you do this time, Grady?”
”What did I do?” Grady questioned with wide eyes, “I just went to see my brother, and then he attacks me for telling the truth about Avery.”
“Oh that’s great. That’s just great, Grady,” She sighed as she watched him carefully, “So I suppose that big red blob around your eye is going to be a black one courtesy of your brother, right? Well at least he got in a good one,” She crossed her arms in a huff.
“Here we go again. You’re going to be on his side, aren’t you?” Grady grumbled as he went through the den and into the kitchen.
Jade sighed heavily as she looked to Elliot, “So just how bad was it?”
“I got there and they were brawling,” Elliot frowned, “It was pretty much as horrible as you could ever imagine it.”
“It figures,” She shook her head, “What are we going to do with him? He won’t listen to reason.”
Elliot shrugged, “I’ve said my piece. I guess it’s left in your hands to get through to him.”
“Gee, no pressure there, right?” She frowned as she glanced towards the kitchen, “I’ll see what I can do though.”
“Just don’t let him drink,” He warned, “I think he’s done more than enough of that lately.”
“I wholeheartedly agree,” She assured him, “I’ll see what I can do with him.”
“Jade,” Elliot smiled at her, “If you need anything, my number is on Grady’s speed dial,” He said with a wink before he stepped out of the house.
Jade smiled as she thought of Elliot’s support. Now, she just had to find some way to swing Grady’s opinion of her to match that of his father or at least get him to listen to her.
She stood from the sofa and stepped into the kitchen, glaring at him as he rummaged through the refrigerator, “Okay Grady, just what exactly did you do over at Russell’s?”
“I went in and told him to cut his losses, okay?” Grady stood upright as he opened a bottle of soda pop and swung the refrigerator door closed, “That’s all.”
“And that was enough for Russ to want to beat you senseless?” She shook her head, “I’m sure it was something more along the lines of you’re lucky to be getting rid of the slut, right?”
He frowned, “And I’m about to hear another lecture about Russell’s heart, right? Spare me.”
“No, I won’t,” Jade crossed her arms as she leaned back against the doorway, “When are you going to stay out of Russell’s love life and start having one of your own?”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means that you’ve spent all your time recently worrying about Russell’s heart being broken and ignoring your own love life right here. I love you, Grady, but I have to tell you that I hate feeling like I’m less important than your vendetta against Avery.”
“I can’t believe you’re even saying that to me.”
“Yeah? Well I can’t believe that I’m forced to say it to you,” She met his eyes with fierce intensity burning behind her own, “Why can’t you stop this rampage against Avery? Why can’t you just let Russell live his own life and turn your attention on your own?” She paused as an idea occurred to her, “Did you do this with your marriage to Susan? Is that why you two couldn’t hold it together? Did she get tired of your trying to run Russell’s life too?” She shook her head before she turned and walked back into the living room.
“Jade, that’s not even close to what happened,” Grady defended as he followed her into the living room.
“Really? I find that kind of hard to believe. You’ve spent all your free time running after Russell and trying to live his life for him that you don’t have time for your own. Grady, you said you loved me, and I really thought that meant something. I didn’t think it was just a line with you, but now I’m beginning to wonder.”
“Jade, you can’t mean that,” He stammered as he took steps towards her.
“Can’t I?” She asked as she took a step back from him, “This isn’t going to work, is it?”
“What? What do you mean?” He asked in confusion.
“Us,” She said as tears filled her eyes, “You and me…it’s just not going to work out.”
“What? Jade, come on. It isn’t that serious,” He said as he closed the distance between them.
“Isn’t it? You don’t care about me. All you care about is trying to bully Russell into doing what you think is right. You don’t care what I think or feel,” She turned away from him.
Grady reached out to her, pulling her into his arms to face him, “I do, Jade. I do.”
“No, you don’t!” She shouted as she pulled herself free of his grasp, “You don’t give a damn about me. I thought that somehow I had gotten through to you. I guess I thought that I could make an impression on you, and get you to really love me. But you don’t. All you care about is this stupid rage you have against Avery,” She took another step back as he tried to close the distance between them, “Don’t. Don’t start making excuses about trying to save Russell. The only person who needs saving here is you cause you don’t even realize that you’re driving everyone who loves you away. You’re pushing at Russell, and if you keep going at this rate, he’s going to walk away and he won’t turn back. You’re pushing at your parents, and dammit, Grady, you’re pushing at me. I love you, but I’m not sure how I could ever begin to compete with the kind of hatred you’re fueling against Avery. If it had been lust for another woman, I could probably have put up a damn good fight against that. If it had been some big case that you were obsessing over, I could have definitely found a way to get your attention away from that. But this rage against Avery,” Jade threw her hands into the air, “I don’t have the first clue about how I can possibly compete with that.”
“Jade,” He began as he stretched his hand towards her. Feeling the sting of her words, however, he lowered his hand to his side while directing his eyes at the floor, “I’m sorry.”
“Yeah?” She questioned as she watched him with tears in her eyes, “Well so am I.”
Grady slowly sank onto the sofa and ran his hands over his face. He
let out a slow breath as he stared coldly into the space before him.
Jade crossed the room and plucked her coat from the rack near the door. She took her purse from the end table and glanced back at Grady. She struggled with what words could possibly describe how she felt, but none came to mind. Instead, she turned and walked out of Grady’s house, closing the door behind her.
Grady closed his eyes as he wondered how he had let himself become so consumed by his hatred of Avery as to destroy his relationship with Jade. Had it been arrogance or ignorance which had led him to this point? Either way, he was left all alone with a disastrous temptation as his only companion.
Blake pulled her hair back into a pony tail as she bounced down the stairs calling out to Annie, “I’ll get it,” She spoke out as she reached towards the door and opened it with a grin, “Oh never mind, it’s just a traveling salesman.”
“Cute,” Zack spoke as he stepped inside the mansion, “Could I interest you in buying a….ah, forget that. I’ll just take this,” He teased as he pulled her into his arms and stole a kiss.
“Knock that off,” She swatted his arm as she twirled out of his grasp, “Where are we going for dinner?”
“I don’t know. I sort of thought we’d just play it by ear,” He shrugged, “You craving anything in particular?”
“Not really,” She turned as she patted her back pockets, “Crap, I forgot my cell phone. I need it just in case Brant or Ken call. I’ll be right back,” Blake informed him before she charged up the stairs on her mission.
Zack grinned as he watched her disappear up the stairs.
“Can I ask you a question?” Annie asked as she stepped into the foyer, “Are you serious about Blake?”
His eyes widened as he considered the older woman before him, “Do you ask that of every guy who comes to call on her?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” She nodded, “So do I get an answer?”
“I’m serious about Blake. She’s very important to me,” He admitted as he slipped his hands into his pockets.
“She’s had too many heartbreaks, especially recently. I do not want to see her shed any more tears.”
“Neither do I. She’d done far too much crying over losers who never even deserved a chance with her to begin with.”
Annie’s eyes widened for a moment as she crossed her arms and leaned against the stair railing, “I suppose that means you think you do deserve a chance with her.”
“Not at all. I’m the least deserving of them all, but she’s taken pity on me. It’s only by her big heart that I’ve been able to spend time with her. She’s the best person I know, and I would never want to bring any harm to her.”
She watched him for a moment as she met his eyes, “You’re not like other young men who’ve visited her. You just might be worth the benefit of a doubt.”
“Don’t believe a word he has to say,” Blake warned with a grin as she walked down the stairs, “He’s a professional charmer. He’ll try to flim flam you, Annie. Don’t trust him for a second,” She teased as she stood beside Annie with a smile.
“I don’t know,” Annie cast a soft smile in Zack’s direction, “He might be worth taking a chance on,” She smiled, “You two have a nice time,” She said softly before she turned and walked out of the room.
Blake watched with wide eyes as Annie walked out of the room. She slowly turned to look at Zack, “What did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything. I just told her I wasn’t worthy of you,” He shrugged.
“Pffft, yeah right,” She rolled her eyes, “What did you really say to her?”
“I’m serious. That was what I said to her,” Zack held out his hands, “That’s all I said to her.”
Blake shook her head as she sighed heavily, “Come on. Let’s go, but I will find out what you said to her. Annie doesn’t keep any secrets.”
“Then she’ll tell you what I said. What? You don’t think I can be humble?” He asked in amusement.
“You? Humble? My god, Zack, that would be something close to Armageddon I’m sure,” She half laughed, “Let’s go look at some apartments.”
He shook his head as he followed her out the door, “Okay, but I will prove to you that I’m not nearly as self-important as you like to think of me.”
Blake grinned, “Zack, honey, I wouldn’t waste my time on such a impossible task,” She chuckled to herself as she got into the car.
Zack took a deep breath as he jingled a key he’d picked up earlier in his pocket, “We’ll see just how impossible it is, sweetheart,” He promised before he got into the car to begin their night’s journey.
Caitlin helped Kenneth into the room before them wearily closing the
door behind him. She had her concerns about leaving Avery alone with
Brant at a time like this, but with one look at what Brant had done to
Kenneth, she realized that her top priority for the moment should be tending
to the man she loved as his battle wounds were still quite fresh.
Tentatively she touched his arm overcome by his lingering silence on the
way back to the house and as a shiver raced over her spine chilling her
to the bone, she spoke up gently.
“Are you okay,” she asked realizing the ridiculousness of the question in itself as she thought to the day they‘d had with Brant and Avery.
“No,” Kenneth shook his head somberly, “I’m not okay and I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay considering what I see happening with my brother.”
“I don’t think you know the half of it. I mean it‘s bad enough that he attacked you like that, but then well,” Caitlin confessed watching him take a seat on the edge of the bed before she joined him bringing her leg up as she situated herself for a moment, “Ken, I really think there are some things we need to talk about starting with that attack made on Avery.”
“What about it,” he questioned seeing the answer to his question burning behind her eyes, “You think Brant had something to do with that, don’t you?”
“Well given the way he made damn sure he let me know how heavily he disapproved of the shopping adventure,” she nodded in confession, “Yes, I do. I know that I shouldn’t say that considering he’s your twin, but Ken, he’s clearly going through some control issues right now with a woman who doesn’t love him. I mean just look what he did to you when you tried to talk to him.”
“He’s in this world where he firmly believes Avery is the one,” Kenneth thought back to his brother’s rage, “He’s so determined to win her over and make her into this picture perfect portrait of happiness in his life.”
“But she’s in love with Russell and anyone with eyes can see that,” Caitlin explained with a heavy sigh, “Surely he must be aware of that.”
“I’d imagined he was just ignoring that obvious truth, but after today,” Kenneth shook his head poignantly, “I just don’t know. I don‘t think he‘s ready to face what‘s going on with Avery and Russell as his heart doesn‘t want to believe it. I really think Brant believes he’s doing everything with Avery’s best interest in mind. ”
“But we both know he’s not and if he did have someone scare Avery like that in the store, then it only proves that your brother needs some serious help as bullying a woman into feeling something for you is just sick and twisted and no woman should have to be forced into a corner against her wishes just because a man demands it so,” Caitlin continued her voice impassioned as she reflected on her own past for a moment, “If he’s going to manipulate her to bend to his will knowing full well that her heart is somewhere else--that her child deserves a chance at being with his or her father, then he’s nothing short of a monster himself.”
“Caitlin,” Kenneth spoke up to argue hoping to find some inkling of defense for Brant, but alas his words were far and few as he realized that his brother had taken on an air that only Nicholas Ashford had carried all those years ago. Thinking back to the time when their father had been in control, Kenneth remembered the fear that had gone into keeping Nicholas happy and it was in that fear that his father had single-handedly given their family the reputation that had haunted them for most of their lives as there wasn’t a day that went by when Kenneth wasn’t haunted by what had happened in the past. Even now as he sat beside the woman he loved listening to her talk about his brother, well, it brought a sense of turmoil to him as he shook his head.
“Tell me that you think what he’s doing is wrong…that you believe we have to get Avery out of here,” Caitlin continued worried laced in her tone.
“I do believe that,” Kenneth blurted out, “and maybe I believe it so much that I’m not seeing my brother in all of this,” he paused contemplating his words, “Caitlin, Brant isn’t like this. Yes, he’s a bit overbearing and he has his moments, but this is the first time that he’s ever crossed these many lines. He’s never had to force a woman to bend to his will and he was always against it…”
“Until now,” Caitlin reminded him, “until the moment in time when he found the one woman who said no.”
“I’m not so sure she did,” Kenneth confessed thinking about his brother’s chilling words.
“Ken, come on. Anyone with eyes knows…” Caitlin began again with an agitated breath.
“Brant is convinced that he’s the father of this baby…that he and Avery made love and that there’s a chance…”
“He’s lying,” Caitlin interrupted more convinced than ever about that statement, “Avery’s so obviously in love with Russell that she can’t even look at another man--not even your brother. If you could just hear her talk about Russell…”
“I know,” Kenneth sighed falling back onto the mattress as he closed his eyes trying to will this situation to go away as a sigh erupted from within, “I just wish that this was easier.”
“I don’t see how it can be…not in a situation like this,” Caitlin admitted laying on her side as she looked down at him seeing the bruising beginning to form over his otherwise handsome features, “but Ken, we need to do something.”
“I know we do,” he reopened his eyes as he lifted his hand out to touch her face gently, “but whatever we do, it’s going to get worse before it gets better for everyone involved.”
“Whatever it takes,” she leaned into his touch allowing the soft caress of his fingers against her skin as she raised her hand up over his cupping it against her.
“Right now all I want to think about is the woman before me,” he turned to his side leaning up towards her as the warmth of his breath touched over her soft lips, “Caitlin, I know that we have to do something about getting Avery off of this island, but right now, well what I need is a time out for us. I need to think of all the reasons I love you and how lucky we are that we’ve found one another in a crazy world like this.”
“I’d have to say we’re very lucky,” she couldn’t help, but offer up a tender smile, “as you’re an incredible man, Kenneth.”
“And you are by far the most beautiful woman on the planet,” he whispered in response leaning in towards her, “Your heart is the kindest, gentlest on I’ve ever known and I can’t help but love you more with each day we have with one another.”
“I feel that way about you as well,” she inched in towards him, “I do love you, Ken and each day I thank the heavens that we were able to find one another considering the way things are for so many others we know.”
“I know,” he sighed bridging the distance between them as he took the time to savor a moment of peace and tranquility in Caitlin’s kiss as he was certain that soon things would take a very tense turn as they found a way to deal with the situation Brant had created. While Kenneth hadn’t taken any kind of pleasure in taking on his brother, it seemed he had no choice as if he didn’t act fast, his brother would become the thing that both men had grown to hate more than anything in this world and Kenneth refused to let that happen even if it meant taking on Brant’s wrath for a little while.
Shivers raced over Avery’s spine as she heard the sound of the door close behind her. She felt her heart racing in her chest as the stranger’s touch still lingered over her freezing her to the bone as his words swirled through her thoughts again and again from the moment he’d attacked her in that fitting room. Something about the things he’d said…about the way he’d touched her--violated her… Her stomach was in knots as the vivid memory replayed down to the last second when she’d found the will to fight back.
“Avery,” Brant whispered reaching out to her as she nearly jumped out of her skin at his touch.
Avery spun around to face him trying to steady the rapid beating of her heart as she realized that she was safe now. She was back at the island mansion with Brant and everything would be okay. She had to keep telling herself that, she realized before the day’s insanity drove her mad all over again.
“Brant,” Avery spoke up trying to control the trembling in her tone as she took a long, hard look at him forcing herself not to think about what could’ve happened to her, “what were you thinking attacking Kenneth like that?”
“We were having a disagreement,” Brant offered up cryptically, “but it’s over with now.”
“Brant, I think it’s more than that and I think it’s time you’d better start talking,” Avery demanded reaching for his hand as she shoved him along the bedroom towards the master bathroom, “In fact, come with me.”
“What are you doing,” Brant questioned feeling her pull him along the room harshly.
“I’m sure you don’t want to bleed all over the white carpeting and as your lawyer, well I think you’re going to have to give me some answers so that I can deal with that lawsuit we’re going to have on our hands because you know that the media is going to have a field day with the Ashford brothers tearing one another apart in the middle of an island paradise,” she sighed pushing open the bathroom door before motioning towards the counter top, “Take a seat, Brant.”
“Avery, right now I’d rather talk about what happened while you were shopping as I’m sure the incident at the café will be taken care of when,” he started to explain as she nudged him back on the counter top with a simple shove of her hand in his chest followed by the glare that she gave him.
“We’ll get to that, but first,” she motioned towards his bloodstained shirt, “Take it off.”
“What?” Brant blinked back at her in surprise as she crossed the bathroom going towards the medicine cabinet.
“You heard me,” she replied with a simple shrug of her shoulders not bothering to look back at him, “Take it off so that way I can get you cleaned up before that gets caked in to the material and then the shirt is useless,” she continued opening the medicine cabinet as a frown touched over her lips, “I know I saw that first aid kit in here somewhere.”
“It’s beneath the sink,” he explained following her orders as he watched her rearrange the things beneath the sink until she’d finally located the kit, “You know I appreciate the concern Avery, but I really think we should talk about what happened with you.”
“Brant, I’d really rather not right now,” she cut back sharply, her voice laced with obvious tension despite her attempts at being strong. Upon locating the first aid kit, she rose to her feet again, spinning around to see him seated before her, shirtless, scuffed and bruised as she approached him with a disapproving look. “You know just when I think you’ve finally learned to behave yourself, you go and do something like this…”
“I was just trying to,” Brant began placing his hands down at his sides as a sigh of defeat rolled over him and he leaned back into the mirror behind him, “I don’t know what I was trying to do, but at the time it felt like a damn good thing to be doing.”
“Pounding on your brother hardly constitutes it being a good thing especially with the consequences that‘ll come from that impulsive action,” Avery grumbled in response reaching for the bottle before her as her eyes narrowed in on Brant’s wounds. “Now this might sting a little bit.”
“Ouch,” he yelped as she pressed the cotton she’d grabbed to help clean up the wound against his chest.
“Oh you big baby,” she rolled her eyes at his overdramatic reaction. “Sit still.”
“That hurt,” Brant curled his lip in a pout as he gazed down at her watching the way she began to carefully nurse his wounds.
“I’ve barely touched you,” she shook her head at him as she continued to dab the cotton lightly over his chest, “Honestly, I don’t know how you’ve gained the reputation you have in being so ruthless considering what a softie you are.”
“I’m not a softie,” Brant argued with her catching her wrist in his hand as their eyes connected for a brief moment, “You of all people should know that there’s nothing soft about me…especially not where you’re concerned.”
“Brant,” Avery felt a heat rise over her features at the implication behind his words as she pressed her hand against his chest a bit more firmly and he winced in response, “Be nice here.”
“I’m trying to be nice--very nice where you‘re concerned,” he sighed closing his eyes once again as he found himself savoring the chaste touch of her fingers over his skin, “Avery, I want you to see me as being the kind of man you can appreciate.”
“So you throw your brother through a store window?” she sighed shaking her head with heavy disapproval, “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that violence doesn’t solve anything?”
“Maybe not, but in this instance it felt necessary,” Brant admitted with a tiny shrug, “He was just asking for it.”
“And why might that be?” Avery demanded taking a step away from him as their eyes connected once again, “Well?”
Brant remained silent for a long moment before throwing a question out at her in response, “Why aren’t you talking about what happened while you were shopping with Caitlin? Why won’t you tell me anything?”
“Because I don’t want to talk about it,” Avery explained with a huff, “I don’t even want to think about it.”
“All the more reason to tell me what happened so that I can find the creep who upset you,” Brant argued the point with her, “because when I do…”
“What are you going to do to him? Kill him?” Avery questioned with a heavy sigh shaking her head in defeat, “Brant, this isn’t even worth getting into,” she turned away from him refusing to allow thoughts of the morning to enter her mind.
“Yes, it is,” Brant reached out to her collecting her arm in his large hand as he scooted off of the counter top. He leaned in closer to her, bringing his lips in just behind her ear as he softened his voice to a soothing whisper, “Avery, I want you to be able to trust me.”
“Brant, this isn’t about trusting you,” she answered closing her eyes tightly as she could feel the man’s hands upon her, “It’s just the things that he said and the things he did…”
“He hurt you,” Brant immediately tightened at the thought, “He did something horrible, didn’t he?”
“No,” she shook her head quickly fighting the tears that threatened to overtake her, “It wasn’t so much what he did because I didn’t let him get a chance to really hurt me, but what he said…” she trailed off a shiver racing over her spine despite the tropical heat, “Brant, he sounded like a man obsessed. The things he said…”
“What did he say,” Brant questioned brushing his finger tips over her shoulder as he urged her to turn around and look at him. He saw the tears misting over her brown eyes as his palm pressed in against her cheek lifting her eyes up towards his, “talk to me, Avery.”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she explained defiantly as a tear escaped her eye, “I just want to forget about it and leave it in the past where it belongs. Right now we need to get you fixed up and work on a public apology…not to mention the one that you’re going to owe Kenneth for doing what you did,” she attempted to take a step away from him as his arm curled around her waist keeping him close to her despite her desire to leave.
“Avery, don’t do this,” Brant pleaded with her, “Don’t walk away from me when it’s obvious we need one another.”
“Brant, what I want--what I need is some clarity in my life and I’m just not getting it right now,” Avery sighed heavily as the tension that had been lingering in her neck and shoulders began to travel down her spine, “I just would like some peace of mind right about now.”
“Then tell me what happened and I swear to you that I’ll do everything in my power to give you that,” Brant vowed slipping his fingers into her dark hair as he leaned in closer to her, “Avery, I’ll find a way to make this nightmare go away for you if you’ll allow it…if you’ll just open yourself up to the fact that I’d move heaven and Earth to keep you safe. I‘ll make you forget,” he tipped in towards her brushing his lips over hers in such a swift and sudden motion that Avery was caught off guard, her gasp barely escaping her lips as his arm tightened around her body.
Avery placed her hand on his shoulders to steady herself as his forward movement had set her off balance, but as she’d tried to regain her composure, Brant took her gesture as an indication she’d appreciated his initiative and he deepened the kiss urging his tongue against hers teasing her gently as a slow moan involuntarily rose in Avery. She could feel his hands roaming over her spine, pressing her soft curves up against his hard masculine form as she was suddenly well aware of his tight muscles pressed into her. How easy it would be to forget everything in a moment like this when her choices had lead her to misery…forced her to face her fears and then used them against her, but here she was on the island with Brant--a man who was offering her a new beginning, a new life away from the pain--away from the misery that had consumed her upon finding Russell with Heather.
Avery thought she felt her knees weakening, but soon realized that it was Brant’s urging as he hoisted her up onto the countertop where she’d just been tending to his wounds. His kisses grew more eager, more demanding as his fingers eased over the thin straps of her sundress brushing them away from her shoulders in a feathery light motion before he began to push the material down over her body.
“Brant,” Avery murmured against his mouth as she felt her breath growing uneven and her head swirling from the combination of the morning she’d had along with his kiss, “Brant wait…”
“Shhh…” he whispered pressing forward to silence her with a kiss as her dress fell to her waist and he crushed himself in against her feeling the heat of the contact between them as his chest brushed up against her nearly naked skin.
“Brant, I just think…” Avery felt his lips travel over her skin as he nipped at her neck suckling upon the sensitive skin before his palm pressed in over her breast offering up a gentle massaging motion through the soft white lace of her bra.
“Let me help you forget,” he murmured a whisper over her collar bone, his tongue tracing over her creamy soft flesh in heated strokes as Avery closed her eyes imagining something that she’d dreamt about for so very long. She leaned back thinking about the one man who’d taken such care in loving her, in touching her, in giving her all of her dreams come true as her heart ached to hold him again.
“I don’t want to forget you,” Avery leaned up into his embrace feeling the warmth of his strong arms surrounding her, filling her with a sense of security that had left her the moment he saw her in another woman’s arms. Opening her eyes she saw the sparkling green eyes of the man she loved before her and in that moment she wrapped her arms around him never wanting to let go as the nightmare her life had become was finally turning around as they were together again.
“Did you really believe I’d be that easy to forget,” his voice whispered against her skin as she felt his thumb graze against the front clasp of her bra and immediately she found herself back in the fitting room with the hands of a stranger upon her and she let out a yelp pulling away from Brant completely.
“Don’t touch me,” Avery demanded bringing her arms up around her chest as she felt tears returning to her eyes.
“Avery,” Brant reached out to her watching her pull away from him as if he’d burned her with his touch. He brought his fingers near her face watching her turn away as tears consumed her.
“Please…” she began to sob as she jumped down from the counter top.
“Avery, look at me,” Brant pleaded with her, “Just look at me will you…”
Slowly Avery spun around facing him as her eyes registered him at long last and she drew in a long shivering inhale as the morning’s nightmare began to leave the current moment. It was in that instant that the reality of everything hit her as she’d found herself caught in a daydream of Russell then into the memory of the man who’d attacked her and now in the midst of allowing Brant to seduce her. She pulled at her dress bringing it up over her body as she turned away from him again, “Brant please…just leave me alone right now. I need some space…”
“But Avery, I thought…” he blinked back in confusion as he stepped towards her, “I just imagined that we’d…”
“We can’t do this,” she blurted out her voice trembling as she stepped out of his way, “I’m sorry…”
Brant remained silent for a long moment in time watching her build the walls around her once again closing him out in those moments of sadness and fear that surrounded her as he stepped forward. “So am I and Avery, I swear to you…”
“Just go,” Avery refused to look at him, turning her head towards the wall unwilling to face what was going on between them in a moment of weakness, “Brant, please…”
“Avery, I just…” he extended his arm out towards her before dropping his hand down to his side again, “alright, I’ll go, but we need to talk about what’s going on here. We need to really sit down and work through whatever is happening considering…”
“Not now,” she forced herself to face him as the tears fell freely down her cheeks, “please…just not now.”
“Okay,” he sighed giving her one last look of longing before leaving the bathroom.
Avery watched him walk out the door and in that instant she felt the walls crumbling down around her as she locked the door and sank down to the floor overcome by tears. Bringing her hands up into her hair she started to wonder if she was really ready to face the things that her life had become and as the weight of it all came down upon her, the tears flooded over her taking her to another level of sadness as her heart ached for that happiness that had evaded her.
Almost completely lost in the misery that had filled her, Avery noticed something small on the bathroom floor--a tiny brown toy in the shape of a teddy bear it seemed as she leaned forward teasing her fingers over until she’d collected the trinket in the palm of her hand. She raised it up in for closer inspection as her blurred vision fell upon the words Baby’s First Christmas. She felt a sad smile upon her lips at the smiling bear before her and it was in that instant that she realized that Brant must’ve gotten it for the baby. She lifted it up to her face, inhaling the soft scent of baby powder as the reminder of her child filled her and she placed her hand over her abdomen protectively trying to control her tears.
“I’m so sorry mommy’s turning into a basket case,” she began in a hoarse whisper as she strained to keep her breathing even, “I wish I could make things better for you and that I wasn’t so overdramatic all the time. Here Brant was trying to do something nice for us…trying to make us feel special and I go and make him feel horrible,” Avery sighed leaning her head back against the door as she struggled to find a way to regain some semblance of control in her life before she wound up tearing her world completely apart because of all the what might have beens that she‘d been dwelling on. If nothing else, today should have been a sign--an indication to move forward and as she looked to the small bear in her hand, she realized that after today nothing would ever be the same as it was in that instant she‘d made a decision about things. Wiping at her face, Avery began to pull herself up off the floor hoping to collect herself enough to face what was ahead of her before opening the bathroom door ready to share her decision with Brant, but as she began to turn the knob to go out into the bedroom a loud, booming sound rose up from behind her and she spun around with a gasp realizing that with the clanging window fate was giving her another twist…one she was completely unprepared for.
Seth opened the door to see Ria as she cast him a suspicious glare.
“Where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you all day,” Ria huffed as she stepped into the room and tossed her coat onto the back of the sofa.
Seth closed the door, “Hello to you too.”
“Well, where were you? I tried here, I tried your cell. I thought for a minute that Stone might have done something to you,” She crossed her arms as she waited for an answer, turning to face him with a demanding stature.
“I was hung over at,” He frowned, “Over at Grady Denton’s place.”
“Grady Denton? As in the guy you don’t want Jade seeing?” She raised a curious brow as her features softened, “How did that happen?”
“I ran into Blake yesterday. She handed me my hat and told me to get lost,” He shrugged as he made his way into the kitchen, “Want a beer?”
“No, how did that end with you at Grady’s place?” Ria asked as she leaned over the kitchen counter.
He removed a bottled water from the refrigerator before he continued, “Well, I went out and got myself plastered. This guy I met offered to take me home, and I guess my drunk ass thought Grady’s place would be a good place to crash,” He shrugged, “I really don’t understand that, but anyway, it gave me a chance to see Jade.”
“That’s what it was really about. You went there to be with your sister,” She smiled, “That’s almost kind of sweet.”
“Yeah well, Jade and I got a chance to talk, and I think it really helped. If nothing else, I guess blood is thicker than booze.”
Ria chuckled before she watched him, “So Blake wouldn’t listen to you, huh?”
“No,” Seth frowned as he made his way back to the living room and sank onto the sofa, “I thought she’d at least hear me out, but she’s way too upset for that. I lost her before I even knew how to appreciate her.”
“I hate to bring it up considering your being poetic at the moment, but did you find the microfilm at the Ashford mansion?” She asked as she sat beside him.
“No, I didn’t,” He admitted.
“Neither did I at the hospital. I went through Vaughn’s lab, but I didn’t see anything there resembling what you talked about. I guess it’s tucked away someplace super secretive.”
“Probably over at BBK in a vault somewhere,” Seth let out a slow breath, “I don’t know how I’m going to get myself out of this one. If I can’t produce that microfilm, Cameron is going to take out his wrath on Jade, and I will not let that happen.”
“We’ll find a way to get that microfilm,” Ria said as she thought about their options, “Maybe Blake can be reasoned with if we tell her that Cameron’s threatening violence.”
“Somehow I don’t think Blake would listen to anything I have to say right now,” He frowned as the door to the apartment opened, drawing their attention.
Jade stepped into the apartment and shrugged out of her coat. She hung it up beside the door and waved timidly before she hurried out of the living area and into her bedroom.
“What was that about?” Seth asked with a frown.
“She looked upset,” Ria offered.
“I’m going to check on her,” He announced as he stood and made his way down the hall to Jade’s room. He knocked gently upon her door, “Jade?”
“Go away, Seth,” Jade spoke through the sound of muffled tears.
“Jade, what’s wrong?” He asked as he opened the door to her room and entered uninvited.
“Nothing,” She said as she lay on the bed with her back turned to him, a pillow tucked under her as she cried softly.
“Jade, honey, what’s happened?” Seth asked as he sat on the edge of the bed and placed his hand on her waist, “Jade?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” She sobbed as she held onto the pillow as if it would slip away from her, “I just…I just want to be alone right now.”
“Come on. I just want to help. Please? Let me in,” He plead.
“Seth,” She said his name painfully as she turned to face him. She wondered just how many times he would say I told you so if she told him the truth, and yet, at the same time, she couldn’t stop herself from throwing her arms around her brother, “Why does it have to hurt so much?”
He wrapped his arms around Jade and held her gently, “What hurts?”
“A broken heart,” She sobbed as she squeezed him tightly in her arms, “Why does it have to be this way?”
“I don’t know sweetheart, but if you would just tell me what happened…” He began.
“There’s nothing to tell. That’s the worst part of all. There’s not a damn thing to tell,” She wiped her tears and pulled away from him, “Could you…I just need to be alone right now, okay?”
Seth searched her tear reddened eyes before he nodded in surrender. He watched as she lay on the bed just as before, holding her pillow for dear life. He stood and stepped out of her room with a dark frown moving across his features.
“Seth, what’s wrong?” Ria asked as she watched him move into the living room, “Seth?” She asked as he snatched his coat from the rack near the door.
“Do me a favor. Stay here with her. Also, there’s a number for Diane Stevens on the refrigerator. Try to get in touch with her. If you can’t, try Ben. He probably can. Tell her that Jade needs her, okay?” Seth spoke as he quickly threw his coat over his shoulders.
“Where are you going?” Ria demanded as she watched him open the door.
“To find out why my sister is crying,” Seth stated coldly as he closed the door behind him with only destination in mind.
Susan Denton stepped into the office and closed the door behind her as she crossed her arms, “Why am I here?”
Cameron looked up from his computer and smiled, “Susan, good to see you.”
“You didn’t answer my question, Cameron. Why am I in Coral Valley?” She asked with unwavering determination.
“To take Kipp’s place. He tried to kill himself, and you hit the jackpot, so to speak,” He grinned at her as he stood and made his way to his bar, “Can I interest you in a drink?”
“Sure, what do you need me here for? What is it that requires my attention here that I couldn’t oversee from New York?”
“Actually, there are a couple of matters I need you to see to,” He began as he poured them each a drink before capping the decanter. He turned and placed a glass of cognac in her hand with a smile, “The first of which is a prenuptial agreement.”
“For who?” She asked as she sank into chair facing his desk.
“Myself and Heather Gibbons.”
“Wait, Heather Gibbons,” Susan repeated the name, “As in the model?”
“The very same. She’s going to be my wife, and I’ll need a prenuptial agreement immediately.”
“Okay,” She tossed the drink back before she focused on her boss, “And what else?”
“We’re in some current litigation involving a subsidiary of Stone Corp. A couple is suing Midlands Utilities for what they claim is willful negligence,” Cameron shrugged, “So you’ll be stepping up to the plate on that one.”
“Was Kipp up to speed on it? If so, I’ll need all of his files.”
“His office is all yours,” He watched her for a moment, “And there’s another matter that you may need to step in on later.”
“What would that be?” Susan asked with a sigh.
“I’m personally suing BBK Pharmaceuticals for breach of contract. I have another lawyer handling it right now, but if he gets in a bind, I may need your expertise.”
“And this lawyer would be?”
“Oh hell no,” Susan stood and shook her head as she moved back towards the bar to refill her glass, “I will not work with Grady.”
“You will if I promise it’ll be worth your while,” He offered as he moved in to stand behind her. He gently placed his hand upon her shoulder, “Susan, you won’t have to worry about getting in over your head with him. I have him right where I want him.”
She turned and met Cameron’s eyes, “What does that mean?”
“Let’s just say that with a little help from Thea I’ve got all the leverage in the world I’ll ever need to keep Grady Denton in check,” Cameron lightly placed his fingers under her chin, “So, think you can handle some fun in Coral Valley?”
Susan smiled as her eyes sparkled with mischief, “Oh I think I can handle all kinds of fun in this town. The real question is whether they can handle me,” She winked at him with pleasure as she thought to all the people she wanted to play with while she was in town.
Judy opened the door and flashed Richard a smile, “Come in. I’m not quite ready yet. Deidra’s plane got in early.”
“Deidra? That’s right. I remember she was supposed to be coming in today. Do I get to meet her?” Richard asked as he stepped inside the apartment.
“Meet who?” Deidra asked as she stepped out of the kitchen with a soft smile, “Ah, you must be the mystery man.”
“Mystery man?” Richard chuckled softly as he extended his hand, “I’m Richard Morrison.”
“Deidra Byrne,” She smiled as she shook his hand.
“I’m going to go finish getting ready,” Judy announced before she stepped out of the room.
“Would you like a cup of coffee? I just made some,” Deidra offered as she led him into the kitchen.
“No, but thank you,” He smiled as he followed along with her, “So you’re a doctor?”
“OB/GYN,” She nodded as she sat down with her cup of coffee, “I’ll be starting my practice in Coral Valley over the next few weeks, but I start at the hospital next week.”
“Why medicine?” He asked as he sat across from her.
“I always wanted to know how things worked, and I dissected just about everything I could get my hands on in school. When I got to medical school, I decided that I was most enchanted with how life began.”
“Sounds like you figured out where you were headed from an early age. My daughter was the same way,” He chuckled.
“What’s she do?”
“Corporate law,” He replied, “I’m a lawyer myself.”
“Really? Wow, Mom always said she never trusted lawyers as far as she could throw them. Why would she be dating one?”
“We have history,” Richard grinned, “She knew me before I was ever an attorney.”
“Ah, so you might even be the reason she doesn’t trust attorneys,” Deidra offered.
He started to speak before Judy re-entered the room.
“He just might be,” Judy grinned as she glanced to Richard, “Have you been trying to use your charm on my daughter?”
“Nah, somehow I figure since she’s your daughter she’d be just as immune to it as you are,” Richard replied with a shrug.
Deidra chuckled, “Somehow I don’t think she’s an immune as you claim.”
“You hush,” Judy teased with a wink, “If you need us, I’ll have my cell. Make yourself at home, sweetheart.”
“I will,” Deidra looked between the older couple, “You two have a good time.”
“Don’t wait up,” Richard winked at Deidra as he led Judy out of the room.
“I won’t,” Deidra sighed as she looked to her coffee. At least someone in the world was having some fun with romance. Too bad, it wasn’t her.
Blake followed Zack off the elevator, “I thought you said we were going to go to dinner first.”
“Patience is a virtue,” Zack warned with a soft laugh as he led her down the hallway.
“Well after the sixth apartment of the night, I’m all out of virtue,” She dead panned, “What are we doing here anyway? This is a secured building, and you didn’t ask the doorman about getting the superintendent to give you a key for this apartment.”
“I didn’t have to,” He flashed her a smile as he produced the key from his pocket. He slipped it into the door and opened it for her to step inside the apartment, “I already met with the superintendent.”
“You what?” She questioned in confusion as she slowly stepped inside and stopped as she spotted the candle lit dinner sitting upon the hardwood floor between a crackling fireplace and large full panel windows with a view of downtown Coral Valley.
“Welcome to my new home,” He announced as he closed the door behind him.
“Your…” Blake narrowed her eyes at him as she spun on her heel, “You set this up, didn’t you? You already had this place picked out, and you took me on a wild goose chase tonight, and for what exactly?”
He grinned as he removed his jacket and dumped it onto the bare floor near the door, “To see you get all worked up.”
“I hate you,” She shook her head as she glanced back towards the fireplace where the candlelit dinner sat before her in temptation.
“Yeah, but I can work with that,” He spoke as he helped her remove her jacket, “Dinner is served.”
“I see that,” She sighed softly, “You’re hopeless.”
“When it comes to you, yeah I am,” He grinned, “Have a seat, and I’ll open the wine.”
Blake lowered herself to the floor and watched as Zack did the same
nearby. He opened the bottle of wine and poured them each a glass as she
looked on. Nothing about the evening had been quite as planned but with
remarkable results. Somehow, after all the time she’d thought she knew
Zack, it turned out that he was constantly surprising her with new and
exciting facets of his personality.
This dinner, however, took the cake. She’d expected a burger at Irvan’s, but here she was, sitting on the floor of Zack’s new apartment about to partake in a candle lit dinner. She watched him as he set the bottle of wine aside and offered her a glass as he raised his own.
“Here’s to starting fresh,” Zack offered with a smile.
“Here’s to figuring you out one of these days.”
He chuckled softly as he took a drink of the wine. He placed his glass aside as he opened one of the containers and winked at her, “I thought this might be appropriate.”
Blake laughed out loud as she spotted the hamburger from Irvan’s seated upon a delicate plate, “You sure know how to fool a girl.”
“Oh come on. Did you really expect me to go all out when we haven’t even got a table?” He grinned, “As soon as I get a table in here, we’ll do the full dinner thing and I’ll even cook.”
“Zack, don’t scare me like that. The last time you cooked I distinctly remember firemen beating down the door,” She teased as she plucked a French fry from the plate.
“That was a fluke, I swear,” He replied with a modest smile, “As I am a great cook.”
“Really? Mastered the microwave finally, huh?” She teased before eating her French fry.
“You have so little faith in me these days. I really am going to be wounded if you keep this up,” He warned before scooping his burger from his plate and taking a bite.
“I have plenty of faith in you. It’s just that I know you so well,” She grinned while taking the first bite of her hamburger.
“You really think you know me that well?” He asked with a smile.
“Yeah, I do,” She nodded as she wiped the corners of her mouth with a napkin.
“I thought I knew you that well, but I don’t.”
“What do you mean?” She asked in confusion.
“I mean there are things I’m learning about you every day, but the thing that confuses me the most is that I had no idea you were a virgin.”
Blake blushed as she looked away from him.
“No, I didn’t mean that in a bad way. In fact, I’m pretty impressed that you’ve been so picky.”
“It’s not about being picky. Well, okay, part of it is,” She admitted, “But really, Zack, men and I haven’t exactly clicked in case you haven’t noticed.”
“All kinds of men have wanted you.”
“No, they’ve wanted easy access to the Ashford name and money. They didn’t give a damn about me.”
Zack took a deep breath as he frowned, “I’m sorry, Blake. I didn’t mean to bring up a sore subject. I just wanted you to know…well…”
“What? Zack, spit it out. We’ve never had any secrets. Just say it,” Blake demanded as she searched his face.
Zack reached out to her and moved closer to her. He eased his fingers across her cheek, “I don’t want you to think I’m being some arrogant ass, okay? I just want you to know what I’m about to say I’m saying because I care about you, and I want nothing but happiness for you.”
“Zack, you’re beginning to scare me,” She warned, “What is it you’re so worried about saying?”
He met her eyes and watched the firelight dance within her pupils. He cocked a slight smile as he brushed his thumb across her lower lip, “I want to make love to you.”
Blake felt her heart skip a beat within her chest as she blinked silently in response to his bold declaration.
“I don’t want you to think I’m being presumptuous, but I’d love to be the man you share your first sexual experience with. You’re my dream girl, and if I could give you one incredibly special night in return for your giving me a second chance,” He flashed a smile at her, “I’d be honored if you’d allow me that simple pleasure.”
“Zack, I…I don’t even know what to say,” She stammered in response.
“You don’t have to say anything right now,” He assured her, “I just wanted you to know my intentions. I want the long haul with you, but I want to start with one night and go from there. I don’t want you to ever believe that I misled you about anything that goes through my mind.”
“I don’t…” She blinked.
Zack eased his lips towards hers and kissed her with a soft loving kiss, “Don’t say anything. Just think about it. We have the entire future ahead of us, okay?” He smiled before kissing her briefly, “I’m sorry I got us off track here. We should have our dinner and enjoy the evening. There’s no need to make plans about everything right now.”
Blake nodded gently as Zack slid back to his dinner plate. He had just set her back to square one with how much she’d thought she’d known him. She’d never expected him to make such a bold request of her, and now that he had, it was oddly enough like a dream come true. She’d wanted Zack for longer than she could even remember, and now he had offered to be her first lover. Now that she had the dream within her reach, she had to be sure it wouldn’t slip through her fingers.
“You can do this,” Hart urged placing his hand gently on Jenna’s shoulder
as she stood outside Kipp Mahoney’s room at the hospital wondering if she
could really pull together the strength to come face to face with her brother
after all these years.
“I know I can,” she replied with a nod not completely convinced as apprehension flooded over her and she bit on her lower lip realizing that this would be the first time and possibly the last time she’d have this kind of opportunity. Sure, growing up she’d had her mother and then later came Preston and Wayne. As she thought of the family they’d had with one another, she’d realized that she’d do anything for those she’d held near and dear to her, and now that she knew Kipp was her brother, he wouldn’t be an exception to that. She had to see him--even if it was something she was completely unprepared for as her insides tugged away at her.
“Would you like me to go in there with you,” Hart suggested noting the expression on her face.
“No,” she shook her head drawing in a slow breath before turning to the door once again, “I can do this.”
“Alright,” Hart nodded, “then I’ll just go make a call to my office and I’ll be right back if you need me.”
“Okay,” Jenna replied watching him head towards the pay phones as she focused on the door realizing it was the final barrier separating her from meeting her brother after all these years of not knowing about his existence.
Pushing the door open as her heart pulsed in her chest, racing with each movement she made, Jenna felt her breath collect in the bottom of her throat as her eyes fell upon the man before her for the first time and she was at a sense of loss. Before her laid the mere shadow of a dark haired man who’d been consumed by his misery--lost in some moment of devastation as he’d found it in him to try to end his life. Now as Jenna approached his bed, her eyes upon the man who she could now consider a part of her family, tears fell freely as she began to mourn the things she’d never experienced with him--never knew.
Sitting beside Kipp, Jenna reached for his hand feeling it’s seemingly lifeless reaction to her as she fought for the right words--fought to find a way to say something that would hold any kind of real meaning to this man’s life as her heart ached for all the things she’d never been able to ask him--never been able to share with him and as she felt her tears slip down her face, she opened her mouth to speak feeling the only words that she could concentrate on coming out.
“Hi, I’m your sister,” she blurted out realizing the ridiculousness of the statement, but not caring as nothing seemed to matter, but these few moments she’d shared with him. Squeezing his hand gently she continued on, “I know that we haven’t really been formally introduced and now, well, now I wish we had. I wish I’d known about you--about our family as I’m sure I would’ve found a way to let you know that you weren’t alone in this world,” Jenna paused biting on her lower lip as a soft sniffle rose from within, “I know how it feels to be betrayed by those you love, but I can assure you that there’s a lot worth fighting for in this world,” she reached out to brush his dark hair from his face as she took in his colorless features devoid of any kind of emotion in this moment.
“Kipp, I’ve heard so many things about you from Douglas--our father--and while I didn’t know you were my brother at the time, I’m sure you were a wonderful man with a good heart. I know that life wasn’t always what you thought it to be and believe me I know more than anyone what it’s like to feel isolated from those around you--that no one really understands, but Kipp, the truth to the matter is that I want to understand. I want to be able to reach you and to share your life with you. I want to know you and let you know all about me because we’re family now--a family that needs one another and if you don’t come out of this…” she paused feeling the weight of the words as they fell from her lips, “No, I refuse to believe that you’ll leave me without giving me the opportunity to know you--to learn all about the brother that I’ve always needed in my life. There’s so much that I want to share with you--so much that only you can understand and I refuse to let that slip away from us. Kipp, I know that we’re merely strangers, but if you come back to us, then we can change that. We can find a way to repair the damage my mother has done and maybe just maybe we can learn something from one another.”
Jenna paused wiping at her face as she forced a sad smile, “I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably wondering who this lunatic is beside you, but well, I’m only saying these things because I’d like a chance to know about the life that you’ve had. I want to know what it was like growing up with Douglas and everything that entails being a Mahoney. I want to know what your favorite things are--like for instance, I love chocolate covered marshmallows. Each year for Christmas I used to set a plate out for Santa and when my mother went to bed, I’d find a way to sneak into the room and eat them all up myself while my mother never clued me in that she knew I’d done such things. Or how I would always stay up late when there was a sci-fi double feature on. My mother would always wonder why I was into that garbage, but well, there was something about it that always interested me and as I think about these things I can’t help but wonder, did you like those things too? Did you feel the way I did growing up? That maybe there was this void in your life that couldn’t ever really be filled because you knew that something was missing all these years?” she asked waiting for the answer that she knew would never come as she slumped over beside him wishing that her words could rouse him from the unintentional slumber he’d put himself in.
“He loves Star Wars,” a voice broke through her thoughts as she found Douglas standing over her, tears glistening in his eyes, “He always loved Star Wars.”
“It was one of my favorites too,” Jenna half smiled as she turned to look at Kipp once again. “Everyone thought I was some big geek because of it, but I didn’t care.”
“Neither did he,” Douglas stepped forward as he placed his hand on her shoulder unable to resist the need to be close to his daughter as she sat beside his son speaking so openly with him. “He just enjoyed the ways in which things like that could get his imagination going to the next level. He was always convinced that one day he’d wind up creating something as fascinating and wonderful…”
“He still can,” Jenna nodded encouragingly feeling his hand as she placed her hand upon the one Douglas had placed upon her, “because I’m not ready to let go of him just yet.”
“Neither am I,” he confessed reaching out to her as her tears overcame her and he pulled her into an embrace savoring the feel of his daughter in his arms for the first time since she’d discovered that he was in fact her father. Still, as he hugged Jenna, he thought to all the moments they hadn’t shared with her--the things they could never get back, and his heart longed to have that with her--to know all about the little girl she was growing up. He knew he’d been given a miracle in finding her, but now as they’d been reunited, he wanted so much more. He placed a kiss on the top of her head thinking of all that they’d lost with one another. In that instant he prayed to the heavens that somehow there would be another miracle in store for the both of them as Kipp’s life lay hanging by a thread as there was still so much more in store for the three of them as a family and he refused to let go of the hope that his children would one day find a way to prosper despite the sins of their father. He had to believe his children could have so much more as it was the only way to face what he’d become.