Episode Six

Caitlin made her way through the hallway of Ashford and Steiner law offices. There was a steady flow of traffic both to and from various offices. It wasn't half as chaotic as a newsroom, but it did have its own rhythm. She approached the large foyer at the end of the hall which forked to two suites of offices. On the right, the offices were marked Steiner. On the left, Ashford branded the name plate.

Caitlin turned the door knob and stepped into the lobby of Kenneth's suite of offices. She approached the secretary's desk and smiled, "My name is Caitlin Vaughn. I have an appointment with Kenneth Ashford."

Judy, Kenneth's trusted secretary, glanced over her date book, "Yes, Ms. Vaughn, he's expecting you. Go right in," She smiled.

"Thank you," Caitlin flashed her a smile before she stepped into Kenneth's office, "Hi," She spoke softly as she stepped into the room.

Kenneth smiled as he waved her inside, "Come on in."

"Are you busy?"

"I'm an attorney," He shrugged, "I'm always busy."

"Did you get a chance to speak with your clients?" She asked placing her document bag on the floor beside a chair before taking a seat.

"I did," He nodded, "They do have some reservations about doing anything with a reporter. I've expressed my concerns to them as well, but I think we're both certain that if we get approval over the story, things should work out for all of us."

"Good," Caitlin smiled, "I was hoping everything would work out for the best. How is Randy? I know things were a little crazy at the hospital last night after the quake."

"He's fine. In fact, the quake was all he could talk about this morning. He thought it was the coolest thing ever," Kenneth smiled as he extended a file towards her, "I thought you might want to look over these things. They're letters that the Hendersons wrote to me before I ever met them for the first time. It's how I learned of their situation, and I think these letters really get to the heart of who the Hendersons are. If you really want to do this story about the people involved, this is where you should start."

"Thank you," She replied with humbled surprise, "I…well, I wasn't expecting cooperation to be so forthcoming."

"I think you can help our case, at least with the public. A lot of people have the idea that all lawsuits are frivolous. This will give them a chance to see the human side of the equation, and that some lawsuits are anything but frivolous."

"So you do want this story to put you in a noble light," She pointed out.

"That's not what this is about. I just want people to see that some things aren't about money. Sure the money would help the Hendersons, but Midlands is responsible and everyone needs to know about what they've done."

Caitlin nodded as she removed a small note pad from her bag and made some notes, "What made you decide to take the Hendersons' case?"

"Read the letters. You'll see that I didn't really have a decision to make," He said with a smile.

"And your fee for taking their case?"

"It's strictly pro bono."

Her jaw dropped, "Excuse me?"

"Is it really so hard for you to believe that I could take a case because I believe in their cause?" He sat back in his chair, "Money I have. It's satisfaction I'm after. I want to know that I've done something worthwhile when my day is done. I don't ever want people to think that I take environmental cases because I want the money that big business pays out. I take these cases because I want to help people, and I take several on a strictly pro bono basis so that I can prove that it's not the money I'm after."

She sat stunned, trying to think of something to say. She closed her notepad and eyed him closely, "I have to tell you that I'm more than a little shocked by all this."

"You didn't think an Ashford would do something that wasn't strictly about the money?"

"I didn't say that."

"You didn't have to. It seems that's the consensus where my family is concerned. Everyone thinks that we're obsessed with money. Not all of us are," He flashed her a friendly smile.

"I'm learning that more and more with you," She said, momentarily losing focus. She sat in the silence simply studying his handsome features, meeting his warm eyes, and feeling as if he were somehow gently touching her with his gaze. She reluctantly tore her eyes away from his, opening her note pad to make further notes, "How did you come to work with Hart Steiner?"

"This story isn't about me. It's about the Hendersons and their fight against Midlands," He pointed out.

"It's always good to have background information about the hero of the story."

"I'm no hero," He said quickly as he looked to his desk.

"I'm sure the Hendersons would argue with you," She said with a slight smile, "When can we meet with them?"

"Read their letters first. That'll give you the best primer for who they are and what they've been through. Then I'll arrange a meeting with them."

"Fair enough," She agreed as she slipped the folder full of letters into her document bag along with her notepad. She zipped up the bag before standing and slipping the strap over her shoulder. She extended her hand to Kenneth, "Thank you for this opportunity."

"Thank you for offering to tell the real story, not some sensationalized version of events," He said with sincerity as he shook her hand, "I have a feeling that you may turn out to be our most powerful ally in our battle against Midlands."

"No pressure, right?" She smiled, "I only hope I can live up to that hype."

"Let's hope for all our sakes that this article sways public opinion in our direction. That's the only expectation I have of the article," Kenneth assured her.

Caitlin smiled, "Then we'll have to do everything we can to live up to that expectation," She spoke, her eyes sparkling as she walked out of the room, knowing that she would have to do everything in her power to help Kenneth bring down Midlands.


Blake stepped into the kitchen feeling as though she was floating on air as she returned home from the hospital.  Despite the fact she’d been up all night and surely needed a good nap and a long, hot shower, she felt energized and excited at the prospect of spending an evening alone with Seth.  Seth Alexander, she mused to herself as she opened the refrigerator door pulling out a bottle of juice before going over to one of the cabinets to pour herself a drink.  Just the way his eyes sparkled at her, the way he’d risked himself to save her life and then the memory of his kiss, well, it tickled her down to the tips of her toes as she began dancing around the kitchen humming a tune to herself.
“I thought I heard someone come in,” Annette announced brightly as she stood in the doorway watching Blake prancing over the kitchen floor, the bottle of juice in hand, “well, now this is a sight for sore eyes.”
“Oh Annie,” Blake spun around to face her long time housekeeper and trusted friend, “I feel wonderful this morning.”
“I can see that,” Annette noted entering the kitchen as Blake placed the juice back inside the refrigerator, “and given what I’ve heard about the evening you had young lady, I’d say it’s safe to assume your friend came out of surgery with flying colors.”
“He’s wonderful Annie,” Blake confessed beaming with excitement as she crossed the kitchen reaching out to embrace Annette, “you should’ve seen the way he rescued me during the quake and the way he held me in his arms,” Blake drew in a soft breath, “it was amazing.”
“This young man has made quite an impact on you in such a short time, huh,” Annette watched Blake realizing that it had been a long time since she’d seen her so enthusiastic about anything in her life.  Even as a young girl, Blake’s second nature seemed to be down and out as life had given her far too many less than savory curves after Blake’s mother had died.
“Oh he’s wonderful and I know you’d like him Annie,” Blake reached out to her tugging on Annette’s arm as she lead her over to the table.  Blake pulled out a chair for herself and she folded her legs beneath her as she sat down, “he’s strong and handsome and he has the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen in my life.  I feel like I could get lost in them for hours and his lips, oh Annie, he kissed me…oh even now I can still taste his kiss on me,” Blake raised her right hand up to touch her lower lip, “it was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
“And you just met this young man last night,” Annette watched her curiously.
Blake nodded, “I know it sounds crazy, but the truth is last night changed my life.  Seeing the way her protected me, the way that he awoke this morning and wanted me--me Annie.  He said that the very thought of returning to me is what kept him holding on--what pulled him through surgery and when he saw me, just the way he looked at me…oh Annie, I know that he’s the one.”
“Now hold on a second Blake,” Annette’s smile faded just a bit, “you just met this man.”
“I know that, but they say that love at first sight can exist and while I never really believed it before last night, well Seth changed all that for me.  He’s handsome and brave and wonderful and I think I’m falling in love with him.”
“Blake honey, I’m sure he’s a wonderful young man, but don’t you think that perhaps you’re jumping ahead of yourself on this one,” Annette reached across the table to take her hand gently, “they say that some of the greatest relationships are those when friendship evolves into love--when you’re able to take the time to learn about the other person as your heart guides you towards one another.”
“My heart is telling me that Seth Alexander is the one,” Blake confessed openly, “and while I’d never believed it before last night, I can feel it in the way he looks at me, the way he kept me from harm’s way.  He’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I just know that he’s the real thing.”
“I heard that you told the hospital staff that you were his fiancée,” Annette shook her head thinking to her talk with the boys, “what were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t thinking,” Blake admitted openly, “I was feeling with my heart…”
“And Seth?  What was his response to discovering what you’d done in causing a stir with his family by saying you were engaged?”
“He was flattered,” Blake explained matter of fact, “he liked the idea of my wanting to be close to him and he even asked me to dinner saying that he couldn’t bear the thought of not spending time with me after today.”
“Dinner,” Annette pondered the thought, “well I suppose that’s a much better starting ground than an engagement.”
“Oh Annie, I just know that this is really happening for me,” Blake continued on lost in her own little dream world of her and Seth together, “it seems almost too good to be true, but the best part is that it isn’t.”
“Blake, sweetheart, I can see that this young man has clearly touched your heart it would seem, but perhaps before you go leaping into this relationship with blinders on, you should take a moment to get to know the young man…to see what it is that Seth is all about before you venture into this heart first.”
“Oh Annie,” Blake finished off her juice before rising from her chair, “this is what I love about you.  You’re always there when I need someone to listen to me.  Unlike Brant and Kenny, you see me and you want to help me find happiness in my life without judging me.”
“I would never judge you Blake, but I can’t help but be concerned about your happiness,” Annette replied as Blake reached out to embrace her.
“Seth is the beginning of a whole new world of happiness for me,” Blake kissed Annette’s cheek quickly before dancing around the kitchen once again, “I really feel like my life is about to turn around at long last.”
“For your sake dear,” Annette sighed watching Blake dance out of the kitchen with dreams of romance and happy endings prancing through her brain, “I hope that you haven’t put all your trust into someone who will break your heart,” she finished realizing that despite Blake’s years of struggling to prove she was a fighter, there was the heart of an angel hidden inside of her--a fragile, tender heart that was open to the less than savory ways of the world.  She just hoped that Seth Alexander proved to be everything Blake dreamt him to be.


Heather glanced out the window of Russell's office, seeing several cars moving up and down the street below. Coral Valley couldn't accurately be described as a one horse town, but it sure felt like one for Heather's taste. She'd never enjoyed spending time in Brant's hometown, but if it meant getting Brant back, she'd spend eternity here.

"Sorry about that," Russell spoke as he stepped back into his office. He closed the door behind him before walking back to his desk, "I had to approve a reporter's story," He said as he got comfortable in his chair. He moved aside some papers as Heather took her seat across from him once again. He placed his note pad in front of him and picked up his pen, ready to get the dirt on Brant, "Okay, you said you had information about Brant. As they say, I'm all ears."

"As I said, Brant has made it clear that he expects all of his women to devote their every waking hour to him. The woman he was with before me," She began, "I don't even remember her name, but she was a federal agent. Brant told me when we first started dating that he hated how she never spent any time with him because she was always working."

"Did that problem ever come up with you?"

"Yes, it did. I usually finessed my way around the issue, but we've had a few fights about my career. I refused to give up everything I'd worked for just to make Brant happy. I found ways to distract him," She smiled.

"I'm sure you did," He said with a slight smile.

"Don't look so amused. Brant and I had a very healthy relationship."

"Is that what you call it?" Russell asked with amusement, "Just how did you distract him?"

"That is none of your business."

"You are trying to help me keep Avery away from Brant, aren't you? If that's the case, you should share all your secrets with me."

"What makes you think I'd share any intimate details of my relationship with you?" She asked as she studied him closely.

Russell grinned, leaning forward onto his desk, "It would show good faith on your part."

"Good faith on my part? I'm the one here trying to help you. Shouldn't you be trying to earn my trust?" Heather asked bluntly, "After all, you're the one with the most to lose. You'd hate to see Avery as another bump in Brant's road of former lovers."

"Like you?"

"Are you trying to insult me? Because you seem to be doing a good job here," She said as she began to lose her cool.

"It's not my intention to insult you at all. I'm just wondering why a strong willed woman such as yourself would want to be with Brant Ashford so badly," He shrugged, "Unless you enjoy being dominated."

"I do not enjoy being dominated. I don't give up control over my life for anyone."

"Yet you say that Brant demands his women give up everything for him. How do you think you can maintain your own control?"

"Brant and I have a connection. We understand one another in a way that no one else ever could," She explained as she focused upon her manicured nails, "I can wrap Brant around my little finger."

"Then why are you having so much trouble getting back into his good graces?"

"Who says I'm having any trouble?"

"Heather, you're sitting here with me to help me keep Avery off Brant's to do list. If you weren't having any trouble, you'd already be warming his bed."

"I don't need this," She huffed as she stood and made her way towards the door.

"Yes you do," Russell reminded her as she stood, "You want Brant back, and the only way to do that is to make sure that his attention isn't focused anywhere else."

"I can get Brant's attention any time I'd like. I was only trying to help you."

"You can get his attention?" He asked skeptically as he stood and stepped towards her.

"Of course I can," She replied quickly as she stood fast and met his eyes.

"Really?" He asked with doubt thick in his voice as he sat on the edge of his desk and crossed his arms.

"Yes," She said forcefully.

"How?" He asked bluntly as he raised an eyebrow towards her.

Heather looked to him as her anger continued to build in her blood. She looked over his face before she closed the distance between them, seized his cheeks in her hands and dropped her lips to his. She caressed his lips in a fiery kiss before she stepped back and licked her lips.

Russell blinked in surprise, wondering just what had happened. He thought he knew what had happened, but he wasn't sure.

She smiled, "Like that."

He blinked once and then once more, gently sweeping his thumb over his bottom lip which still tasted of strawberry flavored lip gloss. He took a deep breath before nodding, "That would do it."

Heather smiled, "Do you still doubt me?"

"Not at all," He admitted, "But I'm wondering why you want to help me. Or if this is really all about you getting Brant back."

"I'm not going to lie and say that I don't want Brant back because I want him more than anything in the world. However, I really don't want to see another strong willed woman fall prey to Brant."

"Why would you subject yourself to that?"

"It's not a matter of subjecting myself to anything. Brant and I understand one another. I know it might seem hard to understand, but I know just how to push the right buttons with him. Brant and I belong together."

Russell gently shook his head, "Are you sure?"

"Of course I am," Heather said with confidence as a smile crossed her features, "And we're going to make sure that Brant and I are together very soon. And your Avery will be as safe as houses," She sat back in her chair, confident that she would have Brant back sooner rather than later.


Ben Walters looked up from his position at the vending machine as his gaze traveled across the room towards the water cooler.  Somehow as many times as he found himself in this very position, he’d always found a way to clock his breaks in just the right way that he’d wind up crossing paths with Diane Stevens, Brant Ashford’s spunky secretary.  While they’d been very casual about things at work, the truth was that Ben found himself eagerly anticipating these few moments here and there at the water cooler as they caught up on the latest happenings with their respective bosses.  Diane should be here right about now, he mused to himself checking his watch as he finished putting the coins into the vending machine getting himself his daily dose of C11 as Diane stepped up to the water cooler.
“Wouldn’t you know it,” Ben blurted out bending down to pick up the fallen Milky Way candy bar he’d purposely taken the liberty of buying in his ‘accidental’ routine to capture Diane‘s attention.
“Milky Way again,” she questioned casually leaning up against the cooler as her gaze swept over him appreciatively.
“But of course,” Ben nodded turning to face her, a goofy grin upon his features as he extended the candy bar out towards her, “you know I’m more of a Snickers man myself, but every time I push for it, I always wind up with the stray Milky Way someone has put into the wrong place.”
“Imagine that,” Diane grinned back at him accepting the candy bar as she brushed her fingers up against his keeping them lingering for a moment before taking the candy bar, “you know it is rather interesting that it always happens that way for you.”
“I’m starting to think it’s a conspiracy,” Ben winked at her as Diane began to open the candy bar as she watched him follow their daily routine as he put his money into the vending machine getting himself a Snicker’s bar.
“You know there are easier ways to do this,” Diane offered with a hint of a smile.
“Do what?” Ben glanced back at her casually as he tore open the package of his Snickers bar and he turned to watch her take a slow, bite of the Milky Way.  Just watching the way she savored that first bite each and every day was worth the small price of his ‘mistaking’ the candy bars as the caramel dripped over the center of her lower lip.
As if on cue once again Diane reached up wiping at the stray caramel with her index finger before dropping it into her mouth and licking away the sweet residue, “You know you could just ask me out to dinner sometime instead.  I will say yes you know.”
“Is that right,” Ben lifted an interested brow as she leaned up against the wall nodding eagerly.
“That’s correct,” she smiled sweetly up at him as he stepped in towards her bringing his arm up against the wall beside her as he leaned in closer towards her, “all you have to do is ask.”
“Just like that,” Ben questioned inching in towards her as his gaze fell upon her beautiful features.
“Just like that,” she confessed a smile touching over her perky lips as Ben tipped his head to the side as if to memorize her beautiful face.
“Hmm….well then perhaps I’ll have to do just that,” Ben teased with a playful wink as she reached out to tug his tie drawing him in closer to her still, their mouths a mere breath apart as she gazed up at him seriously.
“Don’t make me wait too long,” she whispered her breath striking against his mouth as he lowered his head in towards her anticipating a kiss when a gruff sound interrupted the both of them.
“Diane, look I don’t mean to intrude on playtime, but I have a deadline that needs meeting before I leave tomorrow,” Brant cut through the moment glaring at the both of them, “and last time I checked I didn’t pay you to bring sex to the office while I‘m here.”
Diane turned her attention away from Ben as she glared at Brant, “I’m just following your example sir,” she muttered sarcastically as Brant frowned back at her.
“There’s no sex going on in my office today and I’d like to keep it that way,” Brant remarked offhandedly, “get back to work both of you.”
Diane watched as Brant walked away heading towards his office once again not bothering to look back at the young secretaries.  She shook her head disapprovingly as she let out an ironic laugh, “That’s not the way I saw it earlier.”
“Do tell,” Ben looked down at her seeing the laughter building behind her eyes.
“Well first you tell me,” Diane turned her attention back to him, “How is Ms. Morrison acting today?”
“Ruthless as usual,” Ben shrugged his shoulders, “I gave her the messages I had for her and she demanded I get out of the office.  She’s not taking calls at the moment, why?”
“Well, you didn’t hear this from me, but…” Diane lifted an excited brow, “I just so happened to see them together in Mr. Ashford’s office and they were, well, let’s just say that one of them was a bit underdressed for a typical business meeting…”
“No,” Ben shook his head disbelieving, “Ms. Morrison and Mr. Ashford?  I don’t buy it…”
“Oh come on Ben.  Those two have enough sexual tension between them that if you and I could bottle it, we’d be richer than the entire Ashford family.  I’m telling you that something is definitely going on there.”
“Maybe on his end, but Ms. Morrison is too well, she’s just too much of Ms. Morrison.”
“I’m telling you Ben, she’s like one of those quiet, straight to the point lawyer types on the outside, but on the inside, she’s like this caged tiger waiting to pounce on Mr. Ashford and that’s exactly what I witnessed earlier in his office…”
“No way,” Ben’s eyes widened, “although she did get a flower delivery earlier and that did prompt her to run to his office…”
“I told you,” Diane insisted with a tiny laugh, “those two are clearly hot for each other and it’s only a matter of time before we all find them going at it here in the office.  I mean it wouldn’t be the first time that Mr. Ashford has brought sex to work, but still….”
“Ms. Morrison just seems to be too classy for him,” Ben thought it over, “I mean I know that she’s seeing that doctor guy and…”
“Word is that they broke up last night in the earth quake,” Diane explained simply lowering her voice, “and from the gist of it, it sounds like the earth moved in more ways than one last night here when the Mr. Ashford and Ms. Morrison were alone together at the office.  Plus, he’s going on this ultra exotic business trip and he’s bringing her along with him.  He’s got this list of contacts he wants me to touch base with before hand and I’m telling you, those two are well on their way to being the next big office romance…”
“And here I thought we were headed into that position,” Ben teased with a wink.
“Well we could be,” she let out an exaggerated sigh, “if you’d only get the nerve to ask me to dinner one of these days.”
“Hmm, well since you put it that way,” he swiftly wrapped his arm around her pulling her close to him in one sudden movement, “how about we skip over that whole dinner thing and head on over straight to dessert?”
“Hmm…now that does sound like an interesting proposal,” she confessed placing her palm in the center of his chest as her eyes lit up with mischief.  “After all Mr. Ashford said no sex in the office while he’s here, but when the boss is away….”
“You have a wicked, wicked mind Diane,” Ben whispered leaning in to kiss her gently, “but it’s one of the things I love so very much about you.”
“I know,” she laughed lightly as she wrapped her arms around him, “you can’t help yourself as I’m too adorable to resist.”
“That you are,” Ben agreed making the most of their final moments together during their short break time.  Despite what was going on with their bosses, they seemed to be getting things right and enjoying every second of it along the way.


Seth looked to the television in front of him wondering what was taking so long in his attempt to get out of the hospital and just get back home to the life he’d left behind.  No doubt his car was totaled in the quake--which in an ironic way almost seemed poetic considering that the only thing his father had left him other than bad memories was that car.  Still, Seth had enjoyed that car for the short time it had been his.  Sure it was old and worn down in some ways, but in other ways it had been a classic and something that women tended to notice.  Then again, now that the car was gone, he had a much more interesting prospect in mind with Blake Ashford.
A smile touched over Seth’s lips as he thought to the blonde beauty he’d rescued in the quake.  Even now, thinking about her caused a great many sensations to stir inside of him as he finally had a good feeling about getting in with the Ashfords.  Sure before it had been a job, but now as he thought of Blake’s stunning blue eyes, her soft smile and her luscious curves, he couldn’t wait to dive into the opportunity to spend more time with her.  Sure, he knew what his agenda had been, but still Blake was a very welcome distraction--one that he clearly wouldn’t mind looking into with a very thorough detail.
“Mr. Alexander,” a voice interrupted Seth’s wayward thoughts of Blake as he turned his eyes towards the doorway finding an unexpected arrival before him.
“Mr. Stone,” Seth’s eyes widened in surprise, “what are you doing here?”
“I heard about your unfortunate incident,” the man explained as he eyed Seth closely, “and I thought I should check on you considering that you are one of my potential employees.”
“About that Mr. Stone,” Seth began clearing his throat.
“Please, call me Cameron as I’d like to dismiss with the formalities by now.” the man offered an icy smile full of something sinister as Seth felt a chill fill the air surrounding them.  Despite what he’d said to Jade earlier, Seth had a feeling about this guy--a feeling that perhaps wasn’t worth risking himself over a hundred thousand dollars.
“Cameron,” Seth replied cautiously as the man leered over his bedside assessing Seth’s injuries before offering yet another forced smile.
“So how are you feeling Seth,” Cameron questioned raising a curious brow, “still up to doing that little job for me one would hope.”
“Actually I’ve been thinking about that,” Seth hesitated thinking about Jade’s warnings, “and while it’s a wonderful offer, given the accident I’ve just had….”
“A hundred thousand dollars isn’t nearly enough,” Cameron interrupted, “I can see now that offering that to a man like yourself is small potatoes and perhaps I should reconsider that offer after all you’ll be doing me a great favor in gaining me access to some inside information on the Ashfords….”
“Actually…” Seth started again.
“I was thinking,” Cameron continued, “perhaps we could use that hundred thousand dollars as a down payment and change the amount to say a million?” he finished as he looked to Seth seeing the surprise behind his eyes, “this task is of a delicate nature you understand and given what I’m asking of you, I think it’s only reasonable for me to offer you proper compensation.”
“A million dollars,” Seth blinked back at him wondering if he’d heard him right, “just to take a few pictures and get some information for you on the Ashfords?”
“That’s all there is to it,” Cameron nodded, “and given your talents, I’m sure it will be a quick job for you especially now that you and the Ashford woman have made a connection.”
“How did you know that we…” Seth questioned in confusion watching as Cameron adjusted the cuff on his jacket.
“I make it my business to know everything about my employees as in the business I’m in trust is very important,” Cameron stated with an eerie tone as he eyed Seth intently, “loyalty and discretion are very important to me which is why I‘m certain you‘re the right man for the job.”
“Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, what exactly do you need the information for,” Seth paused thinking about the offer that was laid out before him.
“I do mind,” Cameron frowned down at him before waving his hand dismissively, “let’s just say it’s personal business.”
“Well, I’d like to know a little more about what I’m getting myself into here,” Seth began contemplating the direction of the conversation.
“Seth, I chose you because you’re a man with a history of asking little questions as you and your beautiful sister--Jade wasn’t it, tend to be very private people yourselves after your father’s gambling problems of days gone by…”
“Leave Jade out of this,” Seth tried to sit up straighter as an ache rushed over him, “she isn’t involved in this.”
“Not now, but if need be, well, I’ll do what’s necessary to get what I’m asking out of you,” Cameron adjusted his tie emotionlessly, “and since I’ve decided that you’re the man for the job, I expect you’ll do it.”
“And if I’ve changed my mind,” Seth questioned unsure of his willingness to be connected with Cameron after this recent exchange.
“Then perhaps I will make my way down to see your sister,” Cameron leaned in closer to him, “after all there is plenty to be said about her that I’m sure neither one of us would want out in the open considering how much we value loyalty and privacy.  Wouldn’t you agree?”
Seth said nothing as he looked to the man before him wondering how he’d wound up in this position to begin with.  Suddenly what seemed like a simple job, was loaded with complication and open ended threats that didn’t sit well with him.  Whatever Cameron wanted, he was determined to get it and clearly no was not an option.
“I trust we’re finished here,” Cameron interrupted Seth’s wavering thoughts, “I’ll have the money wired into your account as a down payment and then perhaps in about a week we’ll be in touch again.”
“How will I reach you?” Seth questioned thinking about the job at hand.
“I’ll contact you when I need to,” Cameron answered cryptically as he stepped towards the door to exit the room, “oh and Seth, don’t let me down as I tend to frown upon placing my trust in the wrong direction.  It makes me less than happy and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll see to it that I’m in good spirits from here on out.  Is that clear?”
“Crystal,” Seth answered tightly anger coursing through his veins as he thought to what he’d gotten himself into.
“Good, oh and here’s hoping you get back on your feet soon,” Cameron quipped with one last menacing tone, “after all time is money and I don’t intend to see it wasted,” he finished walking out of the room as Seth began to wonder if he’d finally gotten in over his head.


Jade stepped into the office and closed the door behind her. She took off her sunglasses and placed them atop her head. She walked down to her office and quickly stepped inside. Having gone home to take a shower and quick nap, she now felt energized and refreshed. She couldn't sit at home doing nothing when there was plenty of work to be done here at the office.

She looked around her office and frowned, noticing the damage left by the quake. She hadn't really thought about what it would take to clean things up, but at least here she could do something other than watch daytime television.

Jade moved behind her desk and sat in her chair. She looked around the room, trying to decide where to begin.

"Yeah, I know. I'll look into that in just a minute," Grady called out down the hall as he opened the door to Jade's office. It took a moment before he noticed her sitting at her desk, "What are you doing here?"

"Working?" She offered as she met his eyes.

He frowned as he stepped inside and closed the door behind him, "Didn't I tell you to go home and rest?"

"I did rest. I took a nap," She shrugged as she began sorting papers on her desk.

"A nap will not make up for a lost night's sleep. Go home, Jade," He said as he approached her.

"I'm not going anywhere. If I do go home, I wouldn't be able to sleep, and that would leave me nothing to do but watch television. There's nothing on daytime television that I care to watch, okay?"

"Why do you have to be stubborn about every little thing?" He questioned as he stepped around the desk and spun her chair to face him, "Go home."

"No," She said firmly, "I'm not going home. I have things to do here," She reasoned.

"Okay, that's it," He said as he took her by the hand and pulled her out of the chair, "Let's go."

"Hey, what are you doing?" She asked as he tugged her along.

"Since you're not going to go home on your own, I'm taking you there."

Jade grinned, "Does that mean you're going to tuck me in bed too?"

"Don't get your hopes up," He warned as he exited her office, "Dot, I'm taking Jade home. You can reach me on my cell if you need me," He called out.

"Okay boss," Dorothy smiled from down the hall.

Jade smiled towards Dorothy, "Hey, lose that cell phone number. He'll be unreachable."

Dorothy grinned as Grady tugged Jade out of the office on his quest to take her home.


Brant looked out the window of his luxurious office watching as the sun began to set over the horizon.  Something about the upcoming week had him far more eager than he’d been in quite some time and just the thought of being alone with Avery was something he was going to take full advantage of.  Sure, he’d promised her that there would be no funny business beyond their deal, but then again in Brant’s eyes there was nothing funny about the very personal and intimate business he’d like to dive into with Avery Morrison.  Just the thought of getting more personal with her fueled his desire in ways that he hadn’t expected.
Sure Brant been with other women--plenty of other women--enough to know that they all were looking for the same thing, but with Avery it was different.  His money didn’t seem to turn her on like it did the others as she tried to deny the rush of power that came along with knowing he had the ability to crush anyone he deemed a bother.  Still, there was something more about her.  Her wit, her hunger for victory or perhaps it was that sensual mouth.  Yes, somehow it always came back to that mouth of hers especially now after he’d had a taste of her.  She was ripe and luscious and itching to explore her sexual nature--to give into her more primal desires and Brant was certain that together they could find a way to work through just that.
Smiling as his thoughts continued on a wayward path yet again, Brant eyed the clock realizing the day was coming to an end.  By this time tomorrow, he would be alone with Avery and nothing would stand in his way--not Bruce and certainly not her reservations about their relationship.  He’d show her just how perfect they’d fit together in more ways than one and maybe just maybe by this time of day, he’ll have closed the deal with both Steven Davies and Avery.  Now that was something to dream about, he reasoned closing the folder before him as he took one last look over his desk top.  He reached across his desk to turn the lamp off when a knock came from his door.  Looking up, Brant was surprised to find Avery standing in the doorway to his office.
“Can we talk?” she questioned leaning against the door frame as her fiery eyes alerted him that perhaps she’d returned for round two after their previous conversation during the morning had ended so abruptly.
“That all depends,” Brant leaned back in his leather chair reclining his arms behind his head, “are you going to claw my eyes out this time or is this a less volatile conversation?”
“Brant,” Avery frowned making her way into the office and closing the door behind her as Brant realized she was in her jacket--clearly on her way out of the office much to his dismay, “it’s just that when you do things, well it gets me so mad that you’re invading my life like you do…”
“Avery, I’m only doing it because you and I both know that you crave the adventure and excitement that clearly Bruce isn’t giving you,” Brant answered matter of fact, “if you were truly as happy as you’d like me to believe, then my flirtations wouldn’t effect you.”
“That’s just it,” Avery sighed heavily bringing her hand through her dark tresses as she took a seat in the chair across from his desk, “after what you said last night, I’m not sure of anything.  I don’t know if I’m coming or going and I don’t like that feeling.”
“Avery, I’m just asking you to stop denying destiny,” Brant stated simply as she casually crossed her legs in the seat and his gaze dropped over her toned, slender calves.  Hmm, he pondered realizing he hadn’t noticed she’d been in a skirt earlier as he as certain he would’ve noticed those legs a mile away.  Something about them, about having them curled around him in the throws of passion…
“Brant,” she interrupted his line of thinking motioning for him to bring his focus back to her face, to those hot and wild lips as his body grew rigid with desire, “listen we need to talk about last night.”
“Okay,” Brant nodded turning his full attention back to her, “so talk.”
“It’s just, well,” she dropped her hands into her lap fidgeting her fingers a bit before meeting his dark eyes once again, “the truth is I can’t go on this trip with you--at least not before we talk about what you told me last night.”
“And what moment was that exactly?” he questioned a hint of a smile over his lips.
“The one where you told me that one day you were going to make me yours,” Avery confessed fluttering her eyelashes at him as Brant felt the involuntary swell of his groin.  She parted her lips, drawing her tongue over her lower lip in a subtle fashion that caused his heart to thump in his chest as he wondered if she had any idea just the effect she’d had over him.
“I meant every word of it,” Brant confessed allowing his gaze to linger over her curves, “and nothing is going to change my mind about that.”
“That’s just it,” Avery’s eyes dropped as she drew in a breath.  If Brant didn’t know better, he’d have said she seemed nervous, but then again this was Avery Morrison he was watching.  Sure she’d been anxious, and ruthless, but bashful was something that didn’t strike him as something he’d ever witness.  Sure she’d been shy about the things that had happened leading up this morning’s chain of events, but other than that, she seemed to be quite up front about things.

Now as Avery rose from the chair she’d been seated in, she turned her eyes back over at him as she lifted her fingers into her dark hair once again.  She stepped in closer to him as Brant’s gaze followed her, clearly unable to keep from watching her as she circled around his desk moving nearer towards him.  He turned his chair in her direction watching as she stood motionless for a long moment of silence.
“The truth is,” Avery confessed her voice a soft, sexy whisper as her fingers played over the sash on her jacket, “I don’t think I want you to change your mind.”
“Oh really,” Brant lifted a curious brow as a smile touched over her erotic lips.
“Yes really,” she nodded encouragingly as she took one step closer to him before her fingers tore open the knotted sash of her jacket, “you see the truth is that well, even though I hated admitting it, you’ve gotten under my skin.  You drive me crazy Brant,” she blurted out leisurely opening her jacket.
Brant’s eyes widened in surprise realizing she was not wearing a skirt at all like he’d imagined when he’d first noticed her legs.  Now as his eyes took her in hungrily, the lines of her body were revealed to him at long last as she dropped her jacket to the floor displaying herself to him in vivid detail as the frail red lace bra and panties she’d been wearing left little to the imagination.  He felt his breath catch in his throat as she bridged the distance between them, leaning forward as her hands pressed over his face, cupping him between her slender fingers as her lips hovered over his.  She smiled seductively as she leaned forward capturing his mouth in a volatile, wicked kiss as he couldn’t help but remain frozen in his chair, unable to believe what was happening between them.
“Avery, I had no idea,” Brant finally confessed as she drew back from the kiss tossing her hair back over her shoulders as his gaze plummeted down over the swell of her perfectly rounded breasts now teasing his eyes as they spilled over the top of her bra as she leaned in over him.  Unable to resist the urge to touch her, Brant wrapped his arms around her slender waist pulling her into his lap as he leaned forwards placing butterfly kisses over her tantalizing flesh.  She threw her head back as a soft moan erupted from within alerting him of her growing desire as her fingers threaded through his hair.
“Oh Brant,” she cried out his name as his kisses tapered off over the valley between her luscious curves wanting to taste all of her as he held her in his lap, “oh yes.”
“Avery,” he murmured against her neck as his fingers deftly unclasped her bra wanting to see more of her as he realized she was finally giving in to the chemistry between them, “I knew you’d come around eventually.”
“I’ve wanted this for so very long, but I was too stubborn to admit it,” Avery cried out as she ground her body against his testing the chemistry between them as the heat of his desire expanded beneath her, “I was a fool to think that Bruce could give me what I needed when all I ever craved was you…”
“I’ll show you a new world baby,” Brant promised rising from his chair as he cupped her bottom in his hands and he kissed her savagely feeling her wrap her legs around him.
“Take me there Brant,” Avery pleaded as he guided her up on his desk top bringing him in over her as her legs locked around him.  Her fingers made quick work of his belt tearing at it eagerly as she sought out more of his body.
“I’ll take you to heaven and beyond,” he pledged to her, bringing his hands over hers as he worked to unfasten his slacks wanting nothing more than to bury himself inside of her.
“Wait,” Avery blurted out pressing her palms against his hands to stop him as he met her dark eyes seeing something behind them.
“Avery, don’t tell me you’re going to back out on me now,” Brant frowned slightly feeling his passion threatening to overtake him as his gaze lingered over her luscious curves.
“It’s not that,” Avery traced his lips with her finger, drawing a hot circle over them, “it’s just that when I thought about being with you, well,” she climbed down from his desk, tugging on his tie as she stood before him, “it was more like, well,” she turned him away from the desk, before pushing him down and she climbed in over him, “this….”
“Oh Avery,” Brant smiled realizing that he was going to enjoy having Avery on top indeed as their kisses scorched him, drawing out every delicious fantasy he’d had of her in vivid detail.  He could feel her need, her raw untamed passion, her lips over his body beckoning him to give control over to her as her fingers ripped open his shirt and her mouth tapered off over his abdomen seeking out his ache for her.  She was wild, untamed, erotic and every bit as sensational as he’d imagined her to be as her mouth teased over his…
“Mr. Ashford,” Diane’s voice broke through snapping him back to his empty office with a harsh jolt of reality as a breath escaped his lips.  A frown washed over him, as he realized that it had all been nothing more than another one of his fantasies of Avery taking over as he was very much alone in his office longing for her now more than ever.
“What,” Brant questioned gruffly on the intercom button as he’d hated that his mind had taken him to a very erotic place without Avery present.  Damn him for having such an imagination without the luxury of exploring it with her, but soon, very soon that would change.  Still as for now…, “what do you want Diane?”
“I was just going to call it a day here,” Diane explained simply, “I just wanted to wish you well on your trip.”
“Thank you Diane,” Brant answered harshly, “is that all?”
“For now,” Diane’s voice followed after a pause, “oh and I booked those reservations at the hotel for you and Ms. Morrison.  I requested the suite wanted and it was available, though I did wonder if Ms. Morrison was aware of your arrangements for your time there together with sharing a suite and all…”
“Good night Diane,” Brant cut her off abruptly as he found himself in a sour mood after having had an incredible fantasy about Avery, but if he had his way, by this time tomorrow night, he’d have much more from Avery than his fantasy had offered him.  By this time, he’d have explored all the fascinating curves her body had to offer and perhaps by the end of their trip, they’d return with some very different, mutually pleasing methods for spending time together.  Of course there might be that off chance that she would be reluctant at first, but then again, he was Brant Ashford and what he wanted, he was sure to have and Avery was at the top of the list.  It was only a matter of time before she’d be all his for the taking.  That much he was certain of.


"Well, I'm home. Now what?" Jade asked as she looked up at her apartment building.

"Now you're going up there and going to bed," Grady declared simply as he met her eyes.

She leaned towards him and gently touched his cheek, "Come upstairs with me."

"No," He said as he turned his eyes away from her, looking at anything but her.

She raised an eyebrow as she smiled gently easing her palm across his chest as she slid across the car and dropped herself directly into his lap. She smiled as she met his surprised eyes, "I'm not going willingly unless you come with me."

"Jade," He said her name in a chastising manner.

"You know you want to," She whispered as she focused her gaze upon his lips, "Just think of it, Grady. The two of us, together, no barriers, no rules," She whispered as she leaned forward, her lips casually breathing over his.

Grady swallowed a lump in his throat that emanated from his groin. She had planted herself in his lap, her soft bottom giving him ideas he had been trying to avoid for months.

She pressed her soft form against him while her fingers gently grazed along his cheek, "Come upstairs with me."

"Jade, we can't," He attempted to dislodge her from his lap.

She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close, "Yes we can. All you have to do is loosen up," She smiled as she lowered her lips towards his.

"Jade, stop it," He said as he turned his lips away from her.

"Grady," Jade whined as she dropped her lips to his neck. She gently nibbled upon his skin before speaking, "I want you so badly. Don't you want me to?"

"I think you're beautiful but.."

"Then what's the problem?" She asked boldly as she seized his cheeks and forced him to meet her eyes, "Why don't you want me?"

"I didn't say I didn't want you," He clarified.

"Then why won't you come upstairs with me?" She asked easing her fingers through the fringes of his hair.

"Because we work together, and I don't want things to become awkward."

"Why should they become awkward? I only want to make love with you. That shouldn't make anything awkward," She stated plainly, "Besides, we already work well together. It would only make things smoother between us because all the sexual tension could be resolved."

"You have this all rationalized out to the last detail, don't you?" He asked with a frown as he searched her sparkling brown eyes.

She smiled, "I just know that I've wanted you for a very long time, and I think that you've wanted me as well. Why don't we just fix that and have one another just as we've wanted?" She asked as she lowered her lips towards his.

"Jade, we can't," He said firmly but with regret evident in his tone. He met her eyes as he gently moved her out of his lap, "Please, just let this go."

"What are you so afraid of?" She asked as she took a deep breath and swept her hair from her shoulders.

"I'm not afraid of anything, but I do know how working relationships tend to end. I'm not willing to go through that again, and I'm not willing to put you through that either," He said as he met her eyes, "Please just accept this. For me."

Jade looked away from him for a moment before she looked back to him, "Grady, history doesn't have to repeat itself. We can change the course of things when we see problems arising."

"It's not that easy," Grady sighed, "I have to get back to work," He said as he turned his eyes back to the road, unwilling to allow himself to look at her any longer.

Jade frowned as she stepped out of the car, watched him put the car in drive and pull away from her. She crossed her arms as she watched his car turn around the block, "I'm not giving up, Grady. I'll change your mind. Somehow, someway, I will make you see that we can be together."


Mindy placed a brown bag upon Russell's desk while observing Heather closely. It wasn't every day that a knockout blonde came in asking to speak to Russell, and Mindy's curiosity was definitely piqued. She opened the brown bag and extended the imported bottled water towards the woman, "Imported, just as you requested."

"Thank you," Heather said as she took the bottle from the secretary's hand. If Russell's secretary was anything like Brant's, the entire newsroom was probably under the impression that a tryst was taking place in the office. She eyed the young secretary for a moment before asking, "Is there something you need?"

"Shouldn't that be line?" Mindy questioned before she rolled her eyes. She spotted Russell as he began to enter the office and she made her way to him, "Boss, I don't know what you did to end up having to deal with her, but it must have been awful," She noted before stepping out once again.

Russell chuckled as he stepped back around his desk, "You really made an impression on Mindy."

"Hmm, in my experience, secretaries tend to be gossip mongers," Heather sighed as she twisted the lid off her bottle of water and took a sip.

"Mindy is a reporter in training. That makes her gossip reliable," He said as he lifted a container from the brown bag, "This would be your steamed vegetables with rice," He said as he placed it on the edge of his desk before taking out a container of his own.

She wrinkled her nose, "My god, what did you order?"

"Pepper steak," He smiled, "God it smells good."

"It smells like road kill. How can you eat that?"

"Cause it's good," He said as if she should know better than to ask, "How could anyone not?"

"I'm a vegetarian," She said simply as she sat on the sofa and opened her container.

"The way you bit my head off, I sort of doubt that statement," He teased as he opened his container and pushed around some of the meat on his plate with a fork.

"I gave it back to you and apologized, didn't I?" Heather asked as she looked back to him, "So how are you going to approach this situation with Avery?"

"She already knows I hate the Ashfords, but she needs to know just what she could be getting herself into. She won't want to hear it," He shrugged before opening a soda pop, "But she's going to listen if I have to tie her down to make her listen."

"I didn't realize you were that kind of man," She said with a grin.

"What kind of man?" He asked without a clue.

"The kind that doesn't mind a little kink in his life. Brant doesn't mind either," She shrugs.

"Oh spare me, okay? The last thing I need to think about is Brant Ashford's sex life," He stated firmly before sipping his soda.

Heather smiled, "It's nice though. A little role playing never hurt anyone. You never know just how much fun you could have with a pair of handcuffs until you try it."

"Where'd he get the handcuffs? His federal agent girlfriend?"

"They were mine actually," She replied with a smile, "Don't tell me you've never been tied up."

"If I had, I wouldn't admit it," He said simply as he began to eat his meal.

"You have been. I can tell," She said as she lifted a broccoli floret from her plate and bit into the crispy vegetable.

"You cannot tell because it's never happened."

"Oh you don't have to pretend with me," She grinned, "I'll bet you like to be dominated. It's nice to have your control challenged, isn't it?"

"Tell me something because I'm seriously curious about this," He began as he wiped the corners of his mouth with a napkin before placing it beside his meal on the desk, "Why are you so interested in my sex life?"

"Interested in your…you couldn't pay me to be interested in your sex life," She replied with a roll of the eyes before taking another bite of her meal.

"Oh come on now, Heather. This is no time to skirt the issue," He said as a grin swept over his face, "You want to know if I've been tied up. So is that your idea of a good time? Tying men down to have your way with them?"

"If it was, you would not be a candidate for such star treatment," She pointed out before taking a sip of water.

"So is that why Brant didn't want to be with you any more? Maybe you took the game too far and spanked him for his bad behavior. Not that he wouldn't deserve it, but maybe that's just a little too dominating for him," He pointed out.

"I thought you didn't want to know about Brant's sex life," She said as she took another bite of food.

"I don't, but you seem to want to expose all right here," He grinned, "So let's get it on."

"In your dreams," She scoffed. She paused as she began to speak again, holding out her hands in shock.

"What? The idea of exposing everything beginning to be a bit much for you?" He asked as he watched her.

Heather pointed to her throat as she attempted to gasp for air. She moved her container of food onto desk before standing and pounding her chest in an attempt to gain more air into her lungs.

"Are you choking?" He asked.

Her eyes widened even further as she nodded and tried to cough but to no avail. She slammed her hand down on the desk, demanding his help.

Russell stood and made his way behind her. He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her back against him roughly in an attempt to dislodge the object which choked her.


Avery walked through the newsroom and met up with Mindy, "Mindy, hey girl, how's it going?"

"Pretty good," Mindy smiled, "I haven't seen you in a while. Come by to make some news?" She teased.

"I hope not. Is Russ in his office?"

"Yeah, but he's got some woman in there," Mindy rolled her eyes, "A real prima donna if you ask me."

Avery frowned, "Do you think he'd see me?"

"Probably. Why don't you knock and see if he's free?" Mindy suggested as she lifted a file, "I've got some research for a reporter to deliver. Make yourself at home," She said before leaving Avery alone.

Avery approached the door, hearing sounds from within.

"Come on…give it up now."

Avery stopped, wondering who Russell could possibly be saying something like that to. She heard a muffled sound reminiscent of a moan before the sound of pounding on something. A frown crossed her features as she got closer to see just what was going on.

Avery peaked through the blinds which remained open, and there stood Russell behind Heather with his arms around her waist. Heather's hands were braced upon the desk and her head was thrown back. Russell lurched against her before Heather's head fell forward. He gently touched her shoulder before she turned and threw her arms around him.

Avery opened the door just in time to hear Heather speaking.

"Oh Russell…that was amazing," Heather gasped breathlessly as she held onto Russell.

"Yes it was," Avery declared as she glared at Heather, "Putting on free shows now?"

"Avery," Russell spoke her name as he withdrew from Heather's embrace, "What are you doing here?"

"Silly me, I thought I would come here to apologize, but obviously you don't need an apology from me. You've found greener pastures to graze, right?" Avery snorted as she looked at Heather, "But if I was you, Russ, I'd get a physical. There's no telling what kind of diseases that heifer has."

"Hey," Heather started to defend herself before Russell raised his hand to stop her.

"Avery, I don't know what you think you saw but.." He began.

"No buts, Russ. You know, here I thought you were a good guy and that I may have hurt your feelings last night with my thoughtlessness, but here you are engaging in some sort of sick game with Miss Hoochie Mama over there."

"I will not be talked about like this," Heather declared firmly, "Russell was just giving me the Heimlich maneuver."

"Is that what you're calling it? Ugh," Avery groaned as she looked to Russell, "I don't know why I thought you might be hurt by me," She turned quickly and stepped out of his office.

"Avery, just hold it," Russell demanded as he charged after her through the newsroom, "She really was choking."

"On what I'm sure I don't want to know," Avery rolled her eyes as she continued towards the elevator.

"Hey, I was talking to her, trying to get information about Brant to save your hide."

"I don't need any saving, Russell," She said his full name as she turned to face him, "And if you think getting close to little miss model there is going to help the situation you're dead wrong."

"Avery, there are a lot of things you need to know about Brant Ashford before you let him seduce you," He declared.

"Let him…do you really think I'm so weak?" She rolled her eyes, "Don't bother answering that one. Of course you do. Well your concern is misplaced, Russell. I don't need nor do I want your help. Stay out of it."

"I can't, Avery. I'm worried about you," He admitted.

"You needn't bother. I will do as I please, and nothing you or little model girlfriend in there do or say will change that," Avery stated plainly before she turned and made her way into the elevator.

After the doors closed, Russell's frown darkened his every feature. He wasn't going to let Avery fall victim to Brant Ashford even if it meant facing her wrath for lifetimes to come.

...to be continued...