Episode Sixty Six

Brant rolled onto his side feeling a crash of waves rush over him as he opened his eyes feeling the sunlight creeping in from the half opened blinds across the room as he started to wonder where he was.  With another ripple beneath him, he registered the waterbed he was laying on as his eyes fixed upon the beautiful sleeping woman at his side.  Her dark hair cascaded around her face as her eyes remained close in the peaceful slumber she’d found herself in after their hours of passion had finally done them both in.
Now as Angela’s soft form drifted with the movement he’d made on the bed, he couldn’t help but take a moment to memorize her beauty as in her sleeping hours, she looked truly remarkable--so very much like the woman he’d dreamt about waking up beside time and time again.  Even now as he repositioned himself on the water bed, he couldn’t help but think about how last night had been something of a fantasy he’d had for so many months now, only this time there had been a beautiful, warm body beside him as it played into life.  Sure, Angela wasn’t Avery and on some level he knew that, but as he found himself fixated with the way she lay beside him, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sentimentality creep in over him.
Unable to contain himself Brant reached out to touch her cheek sweeping a strand of dark hair from her face as he leaned in towards her kissing her forehead gently as her eyelashes fluttered open and she stretched out from underneath the thin, silken sheet that covered her.  She seemed startled at first to find him next her, but as his lips teased over her soft skin, she closed her eyes once again and a smile pressed over her features.
“Good morning beautiful,” he spoke gently as he curled his arm around her pulling her in close beside him.
“Good morning,” she murmured in a faint whisper as she snuggled in closer to him, feeling the waves of her water bed bump beneath her as the warmth of his body invited an even closer embrace between them, “though I have to admit I half expected to wake up alone this morning considering that last night seemed more like a dream than anything.”
“A very erotic dream at that,” Brant coaxed her into his arms as she lay her head upon his chest, “but one that I was certain shouldn’t be ending so soon considering that well, that I wasn’t finished with you yet.”
“Ah I see,” she traced her finger over the center of his chest, “you thought you’d ravish me one last time before rushing out the door and leaving my life forever, huh?”
“Actually I was thinking about something more along the lines of,” Brant began hearing a sound from outside of the bedroom as Angela seemed to stiffen in his arms.
“Ang,” a male voice rumbled through the house as Brant turned his eyes down to see the shock and surprise that washed over her features, “Angie, where are you?  Come on.  I know you’re upset, but at least talk to me…”
“Who is that,” Brant questioned curiosity brewing over him as he felt her tense up in his arms.  She pooled the sheet around her body before lifting her head off of him.
“Brant, it’s…,” she bit on her lower lip, “well, it’s my publisher--George.”
“The guy from the beach,” he raised a curious brow as she nodded and a frown touched over his features, “What’s he doing here?”
“Well this house is actually owned by the publishing company and I was just staying here for the duration of my research for the…” she shook her head as her dark hair dropped down over her shoulders, “that doesn’t matter right now.  He shouldn’t be here.  I mean sure I knew he had a key because of the company, but…”
“Hey,” Brant sat upright reaching out to touch her cheek as he saw the panic behind her eyes, “Don’t worry about this.  I’ll get him out of here…”
“Brant, I…” Angela began watching him hop out of bed as he followed the sound of George’s voice finding him in the living room snooping through some of Angela’s things before Brant cleared his throat making his presence known.
“I don’t think you should be doing that,” Brant announced as the man looked up in confusion to find a very naked Brant standing before him.

“Who the hell are you,” the dark haired man before him frowned as he set down Angela’s purse, “Where’s Angie?”
“She’s busy right now and you shouldn’t be in here,” Brant marched forward glaring at the guy, “She doesn’t want to see you, so why don’t you just turn around and get lost.”
“Look buddy, I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but Angie and I have some work related business to attend to,” the man stood taller puffing out his chest as he glared back at Brant from behind the thin rimmed glasses he was wearing.
“Whatever business you had with Angela, well it’s over,” Brant decided pushing his way in front of the man who quite possibly could’ve held a few inches over him in height, “It ended the moment you hit her on the beach and now I’d strongly suggest you turn around and get out of here before things get ugly.”
“Look Romeo, you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” George replied shoving his hand into Brant’s chest as Brant seized the man’s arm throwing him down against the coffee table before him.  With a simple twist, Brant had the man immobilized as the man tried to struggle against the hold Brant had on him.
“No. You don’t know who you’re dealing with now, do you?  In fact given that you know very little about me, well it would be in your best interest if you play close attention to what I’m about to tell you…” Brant began in a menacing tone.
“Go to hell,” George growled back at him despite the disadvantage he’d had in this particular arrangement as Brant shoved him harder against the top of the coffee table.
“Nope, wrong answer,” Brant hissed, a darkness in his tone as he pushed on George’s arm just a bit to give it a little extra effect, “Now you listen to me buddy.  I strongly suggest you leave Angela alone because I swear to you if I ever hear about you laying a hand on her--if you even think about touching her, doing anything to hurt her or hell even looking at her the wrong way, well you’re going to have to answer to me and I swear to you if I find out that you’ve done something to her that isn’t on the up and up, I’m going to hunt you down and make sure you feel the hurt you think you can press upon others.  Do I make myself clear?”
“Brant,” Angela gasped as she stepped into the room with the sheet wrapped around her unable to believe what was happening, “What are you doing?”
“Just getting better acquainted with George,” Brant explained fishing into George’s back pocket for his wallet and releasing him as he took a good, long look at George’s driver’s license.
“You’re insane,” George hissed rubbing at his elbow as he turned to Angela, “and you, well you…”
“Go to hell George,” Angela huffed in response bunching the sheet up around her body tighter, “The deal’s off as I’m not going to do that article for you.  Nothing you can offer me is worth what you’re trying to do here.”
“You’re going to regret this Angela,” George threatened as Brant reached out to him again seizing him by the collar as he lifted him up off of the ground.
“I’m already not liking your tone George,” Brant threw him a menacing glare, “which means it’s time for you to apologize.”
When George remained silent, Brant shook him for effect before George belted out in a slow whimper, “I’m sorry Angela.”
“Tell her that you realize you made a mistake with your offensive behavior and you’re never going to lay a hand on her again,” Brant ordered in a more abrasive tone.
“I was wrong Angie and words can’t even begin to express how sorry I am,” George muttered fearfully as Brant glanced over at Angela awaiting her response to the situation.
“Apology accepted…for now,” she answered with a nod of her head as Brant dropped George sending him crashing to the ground before Brant tossed his wallet at him right into the center of his chest.
“Get out of here,” Brant grumbled in response watching George stumble around on the ground as he followed him out towards the door, “and remember I know where you live which means if I find out that you’re screwing with her in any way, you’re a dead man.  Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” George nodded quickly rushing off of the property as Brant slammed the door shut behind him.

Rubbing his hands together Brant returned to Angela with a proud smile beaming over his handsome features, “That felt good.”
“That was good,” she couldn’t help but grin in awe of him as she rushed over to him throwing her arms around his neck excitedly leaping into his arms as her sheet fell to the ground, “and I don’t know how I can thank you enough for that as I never had the balls to just tell him where to stick it…”
“That’s what you have me here for,” Brant curled his arm around her spinning her with each step he took as a laugh bubbled over him, “It’ll show him not to mess with you…”
“God, I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about him ever again as you came on like a wild man with the way you dealt with him,” she boasted proudly, “Oh I just can’t believe how good you are.  I mean you stepped into the role of the perfect heroic type telling him where he could go and…”
“I did, didn’t I,” Brant grinned excitedly, “and damn that felt good.”
“Try being on this end,” she laughed in response feeling excitement curl over her down to the tips of her toes, “I mean you had it going on Brant.  You were just like the protective boyfriend stepping up to save the woman he loves and…” she paused as a moment of reality fell upon her and her smile faded, “though you’re not the boyfriend…”
“Maybe not, but well,” he hesitated before he squeezed her in against him dropping a tender kiss upon her lips, “Maybe it’s a role I might be interested in researching on for the future.”
“Seriously?” her eyes widened in surprise, “Brant are you saying…”
“I’m saying that last night was hot, but I’m thinking that maybe tonight we could try the traditional approach.  You know a little dinner, maybe some candle light and some romance…” his kisses teased over her neck, “maybe a little dancing and all that small talk that we skipped over before.”
“You’re serious?” she repeated again unable to believe what she was hearing as he held her.
“Yeah, I think I am,” he nodded in confession setting her down again as he cupped her face in his hands kissing her tenderly, “because you know I got to thinking that maybe you and I can give this a go--that maybe just maybe we might have something here that goes beyond, well beyond how adorable you are when I have you screaming in ecstasy,” he teased with a wink.
“Brant, I…I don’t know what to say,” Angela admitted feeling a lump form in her throat at the prospect of dinner and a real date between them, “I mean yesterday and last night were…and this, well this is…I mean it’s…I just…I don’t…I don’t know what to say considering…”
“I was thinking that yes might be a good start,” Brant reached out for her once again bringing her body in against his as he kissed her hungrily, “I mean considering how good we fit together in the bedroom and the living room, not to mention the patio…”
“Brant,” she swatted at his chest as a laugh bubbled over her.
“I just…well, I just think it’s a good start for us,” he admitted teasing his lips against hers once more, “Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I think it’s a very good start,” Angela agreed with a nod, “though you know if we’re going to take this a step further with one another we should probably move beyond that whole first name status here.”
“In good time,” Brant promised tipping down to kiss her once again unable to get enough of her soft, supple lips, “but first I was thinking about having you join me for a shower to get the day going.”
“That would be wonderful,” she decided curling her arms around his waist, “I think that’s an excellent idea considering that right now I’m so completely pumped after what you did to George.”
“The jerk had it coming to him and I only wish I’d done it sooner,” Brant confessed nibbling on her shoulder, “No one gets away with treating my girl that way.”
“Your girl huh,” Angela’s cheeks lit up at the thought as she felt Brant’s kisses upon her skin.
“Well, unless you have some other guy on the side tucked away until I leave,” he teased as his fingers danced over her spine.
“No, there’s not,” she shook her head adamantly, “There hasn’t been anyone else in a long time and Brant…”
“Yes,” he questioned lazily squeezing her bottom as he pulled her in flush against his already aroused form.
“It’s Meloni,” she whimpered in response to his bold movement.
“Huh?” he looked up from her shoulder meeting her dark eyes.
“My last name is Meloni,” she smiled up at him, “I mean since you’ve already done something amazing for me here this morning, well, I figure it’s the least I can do for you…”
“Meloni huh,” he grinned in response brushing his thumb over her bottom lip, “well I have to say I think that’s a beautiful name for an amazingly beautiful woman, Angela Meloni.  Now what do you say you and I take that shower and get working on getting off on the right foot this morning.”
“I say you’ve already gotten things to a great beginning,” she replied feeling his arms drop down around her waist once again as he hoisted her over his shoulder carrying her back into the master bedroom directly into the master bath.  He set her down for the briefest of moments before he quickly worked with the dials on the water temperature for the shower.  After a few minor adjustments, he reached out to her drawing her completely into his arms with a hungry kiss as he pulled her into the shower with him.
“Oh you are smooth at this one,” Angela remarked feeling the warmth of the water spray over them as her eyes twinkled with excitement.
“I could say I’ve had lots of practice, but well, that’s not entirely true as nothing’s prepared me for this moment in time,” he assured her cupping her body against his as his mouth claimed hers with a ferocity unlike anything they’d experienced thus far as he devoured her with his kisses wanting nothing more than to be with her as his attack on George left him feeling damn good about things this morning.
“You seem to be right on the ball this morning,” Angela muttered rubbing up against him as her heart pounded furiously in her chest.
“Not yet, but I have the distinct feeling that you’re going to enjoy being in that position soon enough,” he promised her reaching outside of the shower for the condom package he knew would be waiting for him from their plans the night before as he eagerly sheathed himself before pressing her into the shower wall.  He met her dark eyes, seeing the heat burning behind them as he reached down over her body caressing her hip before nudging her thigh around him as he began to thrust inside of her.
“Brant,” she cried out his name feeling the intensity behind their union as his eyes remained fixed upon hers.  She felt his fingers slip up through her hair as the nearness of him sent her to new places of passion as he kissed her again and again reminding her of all the reasons why she was certain their time together was too good to be true.  Again and again he turned her inside herself as the feel of him set her skin ablaze, her body alive with desire and a need that she feared would never be enough for them as she gave herself over completely to the passion he’d provided her with as the thought of something starting between them had her beaming with the possibility of what could be.
“Oh baby,” he bit down on her shoulder as things grew frantic, out of control between them and as she sank her nails into his shoulder, she found herself believing that maybe just maybe there was hope for this relationship yet as waves of splendor rushed over them taking them to the heavens and beyond in this moment with him inside of her.
“Brant…” she cried out his name feeling the passion between them exploding and transforming into that amazing feeling of satisfaction that had surrounded them from the first moment he’d touched her and as his arms slipped around her, she wondered if maybe just maybe this would be the thing she’d wanted, yet avoided most of her life.
“Honey, you’re amazing,” he murmured against her shoulder making a trail to her lips once again as he squeezed her in his arms, “and I can’t wait to show you just how much I appreciate you.”
She smiled at his words as she spoke up breathlessly, “You know if I didn’t know better, I’d think this was just a line to get me in bed again.”
“Well, maybe we can fit that into our itinerary, but first, well I’d really like to give you that dinner we talked about earlier,” he confessed in a hoarse whisper.
“But it’s only breakfast time,” Angela reminded him with a heavy sigh.
“So we’ll get an early start,” he assured her running his fingers down over her arms before reaching for the soap and easing it over her beautiful body, “What do you say?”
“I say we’re going to be in some serious trouble if we stay in here like this,” she kissed him again quickly stealing the soap from him as she cleaned herself up before turning to face him again, “Why don’t you finish up in here and I’ll work on making breakfast for us this time?”
“I can’t ask you to do that considering that…” he began with a hint of a smile as she silenced him with a kiss.
“Trust me, it’s my pleasure since you’ve been so good about mine lately,” she winked at him giving him a quick kiss before smacking his behind and stepping out of the shower.
“You’re such a tease,” Brant laughed out loud watching her dry off as he worked to quickly finish off his shower.  He began whistling a tune to himself as he realized that this morning was going off on an excellent start.  First he’d managed to make the most of the opportunity before him in helping Angela out and then well, he’d been rewarded by that brief, but ever so amazing shower expedition as he could feel her eagerness in having him around.  Dinner was certainly a great place to start as Brant began to wonder if maybe just maybe he could work something out with this--something that would give him what he’d been missing for a while now with Avery.
Avery.  The thought rumbled through his mind as he remembered the woman he’d worked so hard to win over--the woman he was certain would be the one he’d pledge his life and love to.  Before he’d met Angela, well the thought of straying hadn’t even really come into the picture, but then when he saw Angela, well, he’d thought about Avery and ultimately it was the thought of Avery that brought him to this place--to this night of passion with this wild and wonderful woman he’d ravished for the last day.  Sure, at first it was all about Avery, but now, well now he started making plans with Angela--plans that he was sure he wouldn’t have bothered with in the past, but then again if she didn’t look so damned much like Avery, would he really be bothering right now with them?
That thought in itself set him in a sour mood as he turned off the shower deciding that he’d spent too much time analyzing what was going on.  This time was about exploring, not assigning moralizations to his decisions.  Angela was hot, here and really ready to give him what he wanted--what he needed and she was sexy as hell.  He hadn’t been lying when he’d told her that she looked exactly like his dream girl…of course at the time she didn’t know that his dream girl already had the same face with a different name, but well, considering the circumstances, he really didn’t want to divulge that information either as today was all about Angela.
“Oh beautiful,” Brant called out to her his voice full of glee as he entered the bedroom realizing that she was still in the kitchen it seemed.  He quickly slipped into a pair of sweatpants that also coincidentally had been left behind by her loser ex-boyfriend and while they were a bit longer than what Brant was used to, well, it didn’t matter because right now he was enjoying the very thing that Angela’s ex had left behind as she really was an amazing woman.
With that thought in mind, Brant made his way down the hallway taking in the aromas rising from the kitchen as he whistled a tune to himself thinking about how good life had been to him lately, but as he entered the doorway to the kitchen the pleasing aroma of breakfast was replaced by a strong, foul odor as Brant noticed a frying pan on the stove filled with smoke.
“What the…” Brant cursed reaching for the pan and quickly discarding it into the sink as he ran the water from the faucet looking around for any sign of Angela.  After the disaster of breakfast died down, he stepped into her living room finding her standing in silence in the middle of the room.
“Hey beautiful,” he stepped in behind her drawing his arms around her waist whispering warmly in the back of her ear, “have second thoughts about breakfast?”
“Don’t touch me,” she cried out, her voice broken by something Brant couldn’t quite place as she wrangled her way out of his arms, “Don’t you ever touch me again, Brant.”
“Angela,” he spoke her name in confusion as she stepped aside and on the television before him was some news footage on him and Avery.  He turned to her seeing the tears that rolled down her cheeks as he stepped towards her once again, “Angela, I can explain…”
“Save it Brant,” she took a step back, her voice guarded as her eyes were filled with a mixture of hurt and sheer disgust, “Don’t come any closer.”
“Angela, it’s not what it looks like,” he began as the news went on about his and Avery’s romantic rendezvous.
“Oh no?” she wiped at her face, “So that’s not you on television with a woman who looks just like me?  With your wife that you failed to mention that looks just like me?” her voice rose with anger.
“Angela, she’s not my wife…” he attempted to reach out towards her, “She’s just…”
“Right,” she swatted his hand away from her, “You’re really sick, aren’t you?  Here I thought I was so special because you picked me, but you weren’t thinking about being with me…”
“Yes, yes I was.  I mean sure at first I thought you were her.  I thought you were Avery, but after last night,” he began again desperately, “Angela, you have to understand…”
“Oh I understand alright,” Angela’s eyes darkened with rage, “You’re a sick bastard and this…this…” horror flashed over her features as she turned away from him overcome with a mixture of emotions, “Oh God…”
“Angela please,” Brant reached out to her hating this turn about as her tears continued.
“Don’t touch me,” she swatted at him, balling her hand up into a fist and throwing it into the center of his chest as he stumbled backwards, “Just get out!”
“Angela if you only…” he started desperately as she continued to swat at him, burying her fists in his chest as humiliation and anger flooded over her.  He felt himself powerless to her display as he tried to fend off her angry blows, “I was only trying to…”
“Get out,” she demanded charging at him until they reached the patio door and with one quick movement, she shoved him out of the beach house onto his behind before locking the door behind him.
“Angela, come on.  If you’ll only hear me out,” he begged of her looking up at the door wall as she closed the curtains behind her refusing to listen to a word he had to say.  Slowly he rose to his feet knocking on the door wall once again as he found himself unwilling to walk away in such a state, “Angela, please let me inside…”
“Just go away,” her voice shouted down at him as he looked up to see her peering out of one of the windows above him.
“Baby, if you just…” he began as she sent a vase flying down over his head barely missing him before throwing yet another object in his direction.  As it crashed down at his feet, he realized it had been a lamp from the bedroom, “Angela, come on.  Can’t we be adults about this?”
“You’re sick Brant,” she threw another small lamp at him nearly connecting with his shoulder as he placed his hand in front of his face to fend off her attack, “and if you don’t get the hell off of my property in five minutes, I swear I’m calling the police and having you arrested,” she cut back sharply slamming the window closed behind her as Brant looked around the patio seeing the remains of his evening surround him as Angela’s rage severed any further plans he’d had for the day with her.
Now as Brant looked around the patio, he could hear the whispers of people on the beach beyond them that had stopped to stare and watch what was taking place as Brant felt a heat rise over his features.  Throwing on his best smile of feigned confidence, he addressed the crowd in a chuckle, “She loves me.”
A few people stood still for a few minutes longer, but a couple of them shook their heads and walked on as Brant made one last attempt at the patio door, but when Angela refused to answer, he realized that this was a losing battle and with a heavy sigh, he descended the stairs of her patio making his way back to the Ashford estate where he could regroup as his Christmas fantasy was replaced with the normal chaos that surrounded his life and as he walked grudgingly back to the estate, he realized that there was no more room for screwing around.  Angela had been a lesson that he’d learned the hard way and from here on out he was going to stay focused on what mattered.  No more shameless flings or ridiculous notions of moving forward with anything with anyone other than Avery as she was it for him and one way or another, he’d find a way to make her his.  That much he was sure of.


“You’re still awake, aren’t you,” Russell questioned curling his arm out around Avery and pulling her in closer to him as they lay beside one another in bed fully clothed after the endless hours speaking with the island police about what had taken place the previous evening at the hotel.
“I can’t even begin to think about sleeping at a time like this,” Avery shuddered as she faced him at long last trying to dispel the terrifying images that haunted her when that package she’d been sent spilled out before her, “To think that someone would do something so horrible…”
“Avery, we both know it wasn’t just someone,” Russell sighed heavily realizing that while she’d wanted to avoid the topic at hand, there was no denying what they both knew to be true about the sender, “Brant’s trying to send a message and if we don’t…”
“You think Brant did that,” Avery’s eyes widened in surprise as she shook her head, “Russ, Brant would not do something like that.”
“Of course he would,” he insisted with a heavy frown, “He knows that you’re my wife and this is his way of trying to bully you into leaving me…”
“Russ, I know Brant and he wouldn’t do something like this,” she sat upright as she rubbed her hands over her arms unable to get warm despite the tropical morning that surrounded them, “Whoever did this was sick…really, really sick…”
“And Brant fit’s the mold.  He’s been scorned by the fact that we’re together and…” he began desperately watching as she got up and out of bed, “Avery…”
“Russ, it’s not Brant,” Avery paced around the room trying to find a way to get comfortable in her own skin as she thought to the images flashed out before her.  Even now the idea of someone watching her every movement, taking in all her private moments, it caused her stomach to turn with the thought of it all.  Granted right now the photos they’d been sent were in the custody of the island police as they tried to see if they could get more clues as to the sender‘s identity, but even that made Avery queasy as the idea of strangers looking at her in her most private moments caused her to feel violated.
“Avery, I know you want to believe the best in him, but…” he started as he sat up slinging his legs over the side of the bed.
“Russ, I know you want to think he’s pure evil, but he’s not,” Avery argued with him feeling the same tired argument beginning with them, “Russ, when I was with Brant someone was following me.  They clearly were watching my every step and when I was shopping with Caitlin this man attacked me…”
“What?” he blinked back at her in surprise, “Why didn’t you say anything about this sooner?”
“It seemed random at the time…and well, Ken and I…we thought that maybe, well that maybe it was someone who’s chasing after Caitlin since we know she’s had a bad run of luck with some people from her past,” she explained tearfully, “I was in a fitting room and he grabbed me.  He started saying things about never letting me go and then when he started touching me, well, I panicked and I stomped on his foot.  I think I injured him, but he got away.  Brant’s security guard chased after him and then, well after that we’d talked to the police, but there was nothing more to do.”
“So why didn’t you mention this all last night,” Russell questioned in confusion, “When the police were talking to us, you should’ve said…”
“Said what?  That there’s some lunatic watching me?  Watching us on our honeymoon and that he tried to attack me?” Avery blinked back at him as tears burned in her eyes, “At the time Caitlin and I went, Brant tried to discourage us from going as he said it wasn’t safe and he was right.  Even now I know I should’ve listened, but then to have to retell the story again, well Russ, it’s not the easiest thing to admit to considering that I hate feeling like I’m a victim.  I won’t be a victim.”
“Avery, this isn’t about being a victim.  This is about Brant’s obsession with you,” Russell argued with her stepping up as he approached her, “He’s not going to give up on chasing you and if you don’t do something about this…”
“It’s not Brant,” she insisted raising her voice in frustration.
“Avery, he’s the only one it can be.  I mean if you really think about this…” he threw his hands in the air, “Do you have any other suggestions or ideas about who could be doing this?”
“I don’t know, but I can assure you it’s not Brant,” Avery began again, “He wouldn’t do something like this because he cares about me.  Sure, he’s not going to be happy when he hears about us, but even then he wouldn’t react in such a way.”
“The man let the world believe you were engaged and he’s had no problems with laying his claim on you,” Russ reminded her sharply, “and I know he’d have no problem doing whatever it takes to get you back into his life and out of mine.”
“Russ, he wouldn’t send me someone’s heart.  He might be determined, but this isn’t something he’d do for a woman.  I’ve known Brant for a while and…” she started to defend the man who’d brought her to the island.
“You said it yourself that he was willing to discourage you from going shopping the day you were attacked.  Maybe he’d planned the attack to make himself look like a hero in your eyes, but then he rethought the idea once you were on your way out only it was too late to stop it from taking place,” Russell concluded after pondering her words, “I mean you and I both know Brant would go to extremes to get you to think he was the man of your dreams…especially since you said it yourself that he was hoping you’d marry him.”
“Russ, it’s not…no…” she shook her head adamantly, “Brant wouldn’t do this.  He couldn’t and I refuse to believe that he did.”
“And what is that all about anyways?” he frowned as a heavy sigh spilled over his lips, “Avery, why are you so quick to defend him right now?”
“Because I know he had nothing to do with this.  It’s not in him,” she explained simply, “I’ve worked with him for quite a while and…”
“Are you sure this isn’t coming from something more,” his voice grew tight with obvious anger as she saw the jealousy behind his eyes.
“What is that supposed to mean,” she huffed not liking his tone as he glared at her.
“Avery, let’s not play stupid here.  I saw the pictures.  I didn’t want to talk about it with the police here, but I saw you and Brant together,” his jaw flexed and tightened as his fists balled at his side, “I saw him kissing you when you were with him half dressed and…”
“Russ, it wasn’t what it looked like,” Avery began watching the anger burning up inside of him.
“Then you weren’t allowing Ashford to seduce you once he got you on the island,” he questioned with a demanding tone, “Avery, I know you were upset, but I never dreamed that you’d give in to the man…that you’d let him make love to you when we had something solid between us.  I know I hurt you, but…”
“Russ, I didn’t make love to Brant,” Avery’s eyes widened in shock, surprise and a little bit of hurt as she heard the accusations in his voice, “I never once was with him.”
“Avery, I know you were upset and I saw the pictures,” he answered pain evident in his tone, “and while I know at the time you were well within your right to be with him as you thought I’d cheated on you, well, I just can’t believe that you would sleep with him considering that…”
“I didn’t have sex with Brant,” Avery hissed back at him, “I don’t know what you think you saw in those photos, but they weren’t Brant and I making love.  I didn’t do that Russ and yes for a minute I let him kiss me, but at the time I was hurting and thinking about you.  I wanted so much to believe that somehow I could make the pain I was feeling go away and with that I let him kiss me, but I never ever…”
“Avery, come on,” he sighed running his fingers through his hair, “I saw the letter and that on top of the pictures…”
“Russ, there have only been two men in my life that I’ve been with and one of them is dead,” Avery remarked sharply, “and the other one, well now he’s standing here not believing the truth when it’s right in front of him.  I haven’t made love to anyone, but you Russell.”
“Avery, I know that you were upset and I can’t blame you if you…”
“You’re not hearing me,” she hissed back at him, “Russ, once you and I were together, well there wasn’t room for another man.  Even when I was with Bruce, I stopped sleeping with him long before you and I caught up with one another again.  I know that might be hard for you to grasp here considering, but Russ, unlike you, I remained faithful in a time of doubt.”
“Avery you know that I would never willingly…” he began with a groan, “I didn’t think that I was…”
“And I didn’t sleep with Brant,” she shouted back at him, “You ask me to have implicit faith in you when I caught you in bed with Heather.  When I saw you naked in bed kissing her, yet you see a picture of me kissing Brant where I’m almost completely dressed and you start thinking the worst about me.  Russ, I thought you loved me…”
“I do love you,” he stepped in towards her, “I love you so damned much that the idea of Ashford touching you just…”
“Russ, get it into your head, Brant and I didn’t do that,” she insisted as her anger brewed up inside of her, “And for you to doubt me when I’m telling you the truth…”
“Avery, you said it yourself that the only men you’ve been with are me and Bruce, but if that was the case…” Russell began again trying to reason his way out of this situation with her.
“Russ, are you trying to say that I’m lying to you now?” she raised her voice once again as she’d had more than enough of the conversation they were having, “Some lunatic sends me a package of someone’s left overs and reveals that they’ve been spying on me when I’m showering, when I’m sleeping and when I’m with you, yet all you get from it is that I must’ve been asking for it because I lead Brant on and I encouraged him to do something completely out of character just because you believe that I seduced Brant and…”
“Avery, I never said that,” he sighed shaking his head in response, “All I’m saying is that if you did…”
“I didn’t and I’m not going to sit here defending myself to you when you don’t want to hear the truth,” Avery argued with him, “Someone is out there trying to scare the hell out of me and all that’s on your mind is whether or not Brant and I slept together.  Someone’s found a way to turn our honeymoon into a nightmare and you’re bent on turning this around on me…”
“Avery, that’s not what I’m doing but…”
“But nothing.  I’ve only been with you Russ,” Avery’s voice grew to an angry growl as she fought the tears burning behind her eyes, “What’s next?  Are you going to demand we take a paternity test so that you can see our baby is yours?”
“Avery, that’s not what I’m…” he sighed reaching out to her, “Look baby I’m sorry…”
“Not as sorry as you’re going to be,” she pushed him away from her walking out of the room as he chased after her.
“Avery, come on,” he reached out to her catching her arm before she could walk away from him, “Don’t leave like this.”
“Russ, you’re not interested in hearing what I’m saying, so why should I bother,” she questioned unable to contain her tears as she wrenched at her arm trying to pull free of his hold on her, “After all the years we’ve spent together, for you to think so little of me--to think that I would do something like that when…”
“Avery, it’s just…” he began at a loss as her tears cut daggers straight o his heart.
“Just nothing,” Avery answered in between sobs, “Russ, I’ve been loyal to you through everything.  When you came to find me on the island, I welcomed you back with open arms even after everything that happened between you and Heather.  I looked beyond what it felt like and I believed in you--I believed you when you told me that you never would’ve wound up in that position under normal circumstances.  I took you at your word, but now you won’t even bother taking me on mine when I’m telling you the truth.  Russ, you know I’m not the kind of woman to just go out and sleep with someone for sport…”
“I know that Avery, but…” he began at a loss as he hated the way he’d approached the subject with her.
“But what?  Now you’re starting to think Grady was right about me?  That I’ve been using you for some sick and twisted purpose and that I brought all of this on by toying with you and Brant?  That I’m some slut whose getting what she deserves because she sleeps around and doesn’t care about anyone but herself?” she threw his brother’s words out at him, “Is that what you think of me?”
“No, Avery, it’s not that at all,” he sighed attempting to pull her into his arms.
“No, don’t,” she argued with him throwing her fist into his chest as her tears consumed her, “Don’t you ever think you can talk to me that way and get away with it when I’ve pledged my life to you Russell.  I’ve given you my all and I’ve been loyal to you as long as I can remember and for you to stand there and pass judgment on me like this…”
“Avery, I’m sorry,” he wrapped his arms around her refusing to let her go as she continued to strike him, “Avery please…I just saw the pictures and I…”
“You jumped to conclusions.  Conclusions that were no where near the reality of the situation,” her sad brown eyes met his, “and for you to think so little of me--of the woman you love…”
“Avery, I just hated seeing Ashford with his hands on you,” Russell began desperately, “When I think about that man’s desire for you, well I can’t help what it makes me feel inside.  When I think about him touching you…”
“Russ, I’m your wife,” she pointed out firmly, “I pledged my heart to you.  You have my heart, my body and my soul and I don’t give that freely to anyone.  You of all people should know that by now…”
“I do and I’m sorry baby,” he hugged her tightly thinking about how their honeymoon had transformed into something of a nightmare over the last day, “Avery, it’s just when I saw those photos…”
“Did you ever think that maybe that was the point?  That this person who’s doing this is trying to make us at odds with one another?  That maybe just maybe Brant is the scapegoat so that way it puts a wedge between us?” Avery challenged as Russell wiped at her face, trying to rid her of her tears, “Russ, if this person has been watching us since we’ve been together, don’t you think they’ll know enough about us to know what it is that makes you mad with jealousy?  Don’t you think that was something they put into consideration when they sent the package?”
“Avery, I…” he paused as a frown touched over his handsome features, “I didn’t think of it that way…”
“Of course you didn’t because you’d rather chalk this up as being something that I brought into our lives because of my association with Brant,” she began again shaking her head in frustration, “as somehow that’s always going to be a problem for us, isn’t it?”
“Avery, I love you and you can’t blame me for being a little less than thrilled about having that man around you considering what he’s done to keep us apart,” he began with a sigh wishing that somehow she could understand where he was coming from as he heard a knock at the door.  He opened his mouth to speak as Avery took a step back untangling herself from his arms.
“Someone’s here,” she stated the obvious turning away from him as he reached out for her once again.
“I should go get that,” he insisted seeing the protest building behind her lips as he knew she wasn’t about to change her lifestyle because of this latest upset to their happy honeymoon.  He leaned forward kissing her quickly before she could argue with him as his arms wrapped around her, “Avery, please let me just get the door…”
“Fine,” she sighed melting a bit against his kiss, “but don’t think that this is over.”
“I know it’s not, but for what it’s worth, I love you baby,” he touched her cheek gently, “Please don’t ever lose sight of that as loving you is everything to me.”
“I know it is Russ, but I just wish you’d trust me on this issue with Brant,” she sighed leaning into his touch, “because I really do love you with all that I am.”
“It’s not you that I don’t trust,” he confessed holding her for one more moment before going to answer the door.  While they’d switched rooms earlier in the morning, he still had his concerns after the bombshell that had been dropped on them the night before, but when he saw Richard on the other side of the door, he felt a breath of relief wash over him.
“Russ, how are things going this morning,” Richard questioned as Russell opened the door wider to allow him entrance to the room.
“Not as good as they should’ve been,” Russell explained looking over at Avery as her father saw the remains of tears on her face as the evidence of her sleepless night took over her features.
“Avery,” Richard reached out to embrace his daughter, “darling how are you holding up?”
“I’d be a lot better if I knew who this sick bastard was so that I could have him leave me the hell alone,” she confessed hugging him tighter, “as he’s making a mess of everything.”
“The police will find him,” Richard assured her, “but you know right now we need to focus on helping you get through this.”
“Daddy, I’m trying to do that, but…” she began with a heavy sigh.
“But nothing.  I think it’s time you and Russ found your way back home to safety.  There we can find means of protecting you better without all this tourism around you and…”
“Daddy no,” she shook her head in response, “I don’t want this sicko to ruin my honeymoon…at least not anymore than he has.”
“Avery, your father’s right,” Russell piped in approaching the two of them, “If this guy is going to do something else, well we need to be ready for it and back home we have an advantage.”
“Russ, we can’t let him scare us away from our honeymoon,” her lip curled in a pout, “It’s not right.”
“Neither is putting our baby in the line of danger,” he reminded her with a frown as he thought of the stress this had to be putting on both her and their child.
“Russ is right,” Richard agreed, “I don’t think this is the place for you to be at right now as I had a talk with the manager before I came up here.”
“About what?” Avery questioned in confusion, “They wouldn’t have known about the box…”
“He didn’t, but he had someone check out that terrace and it was tampered with,” Richard explained his voice full of concern, “Someone was trying to make some kind of statement and the bars on the railing had been sawed off it seemed in areas so that if there was any pressure applied to it…”
“Oh my God,” Avery gasped in realization, “Someone was trying to kill us.”
“That’s it,” Russ decided firmly, “We’re going home Avery.  We’re going to go back where we can be safe and we can get to the heart of what’s going on.”
“Russ, I just can’t believe that,” she found herself at a loss as she thought of their earlier argument, “Russ, someone tried to kill us.  You know that it couldn’t have possibly been…”
“Avery, it’s a sign that we need to get you home,” Richard piped in refusing to let either one of them question his decision as he reached out to her, “I already have called in a few favors and there will be a private jet taking us back to Coral Valley this afternoon.”
“But…fine,” she began thinking about all the plans she’d had for her honeymoon with Russell as she realized the magic of their special time together had already been tampered with in ways that couldn’t be repaired.  As a sigh fell over her lips, she looked to her husband hoping that when they returned home that things would find a way to fix themselves as she wondered what was next on the agenda for her phantom stalker.


Dorothy just outside the kitchen, peaking around the corner to see Preston pouring coffee into a waiting mug. While he had tried to talk to her last night after she’d ran away from her proposal, she hadn’t found the words to quite explain her reaction to his romantic gesture. Even now, she wasn’t sure she could make him understand just what was in her heart and mind…especially when she wasn’t quite reconciled with it herself.

As she watched him begin to stir creamer into his coffee, she thought about the man she loved. Preston had come along at a time in her life when she’d become completely jaded on the idea of love. After Jenna’s birth and her experiences with Douglas, Dorothy had decided to remain alone for the remainder of her life.

Preston, on the other hand, had been determined to win her heart. He’d kept asking her out, sending her flowers, and performing romantic gestures. When she’d finally relented and given him a chance, he’d swept her off her feet, and she never regretted a single moment of their time together.

Still, when he had proposed last night, she had been caught completely unprepared. While she loved Preston with all her heart, she just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of becoming his wife.

Preston turned and spotted her. He stood silently for a moment as his eyes searched her for some explanation of what had happened the night before. Dorothy could see the pain etched in his features as well as the confusion in his eyes. She knew that she had to explain herself if she wanted to keep him in her life. She just had no idea of where to start.

She took a step forward, “Pres…”

“Come here,” Preston placed his mug of coffee on the counter as he waved for her to join him. He took her in his arms and hugged her close to him, “Please tell me we’re all right…”

“Oh Pres…I’m just…” She began to cry as she held onto him tightly, “I love you. I love you more than I thought I could love any man,” She explained tearfully, “It’s just that right now…” She stammered, “Right now I don’t…it’s just…”

“You’re in turmoil,” He concluded as he caressed her cheek and lightly brushed tears away, “I’m sorry, Dottie. I should have reconsidered my proposal. I’d been planning it for a while, and I thought that last night would be the perfect time. That, however, was before all hell broke loose with Jenna. I should have put it off, but I guess I was hoping that we could find some happiness amidst all the chaos.”

“You’re so sweet,” She sobbed as she cupped his cheeks in her hands, “I don’t deserve you.”

“I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you,” He corrected with a slight smile, “I love you so much, Dottie. I just want to spend my life with you and live the rest of our days holding one another and loving one another.”

She closed her eyes and turned her face into his hand, enjoying his touch, “I’m sorry for running away last night. I just didn’t know how to explain myself.”

“Oh Dottie,” He pulled her back into his arms and held her warmly, “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I should have thought about what you were going through.”

“No, you shouldn’t have to tip toe around me,” She pulled away from him, “I should have…oh god, I don’t even know what I should have done anymore?” She stepped across the room and glanced back to him, “I’m screwing up everyone’s lives here. I’ve been trying to protect everyone that I love, and it’s all falling apart. It’s backfiring on us, and I don’t know how to stop it from getting worse.”

Preston watched her for a moment, “Maybe by being honest with all of us,” He offered, “I think Jenna needs that unadulterated honesty more than anyone, but I have to admit that I’d love to hear everything.”

Dorothy wrapped her arms around herself, “I just…” She paused, “It’s all very painful for me. I didn’t keep this a secret all these years just to soothe my conscience. I did it because I just wanted to keep the past in the past.”

“Let us help you deal with the pain, Dottie. That’s what family is all about,” He reminded her, “We can get through this together, but only if you let us all in on what it is we’re dealing with.”

She hugged herself with a heavy sigh, “I don’t know if I’m strong enough for that.”

“You are,” Preston smiled as he walked over to her and lightly rubbed his hands down her arms, “You’re stronger than you’ve given yourself credit for. You’ve worked all these years to protect Jenna by keeping this pain to yourself, and that shows more strength than you know. We’ll get through this, sweetheart,” He drew her into his arms once again, “We’ll get through this together.”

Dorothy held onto Preston tightly, hoping that when all was said and done, he would still have as much faith in her as he did now. Yet somehow, deep within her soul, she knew that nothing would ever be the same, and there was no way to stop the train wreck waiting to happen.


Guy put on a pot of coffee as he prepared to face the day ahead of him with his mother as he’d agreed to stop by and pay her a visit after the disaster that Christmas had been.  He was hoping that somehow she wouldn’t throw in another Cathy surprise as he’d had more than enough of that woman after having had to watch her shamelessly throw herself on Gabe.  Even now he was having a hard time thinking about what happened as the night had been a complete and total disaster--one he never intended to relive.
Before Guy could get lost in his thoughts completely, he heard a knock at the door and his attention was refocused to his latest visitor as he crossed around the kitchen opening the front door to find a frowning Gabe standing before him looking less than enthusiastic about being at the apartment.
“Busy or can I come in?” Gabe questioned not bothering to wait for a response as he entered the apartment looking around, “You wouldn’t happen to have Mindy around this morning would you?”
“Of course I don’t,” Guy frowned in response closing the door behind Gabe, “but I figured that I wouldn’t be seeing you anytime soon since Noelle wanted you to spend Christmas out with her.”
“You know I went out there for Brittany,” Gabe defended as his eyes darkened with anger, “although when I left I felt we weren’t finished with one another as you and I need to have a serious talk.”
“Hmm, what ever about,” Guy muttered sarcastically making his way back into the kitchen, “I can’t imagine what you might have on your mind after spending Christmas with Noelle…unless of course there’s something about Cathy you’d like to share…”
“Here we go again,” Gabe frowned letting out a long sigh as he followed Guy, “I came over here to talk to you about what you’re doing and here you are ready to turn this on me.”
“All I was doing was continuing with things according to plan,” Guy explained matter of fact as he folded his arms in front of his shirtless chest, “You on the other hand, well I’m not quite sure what your plan was.”
“I was trying to do some major damage control, which clearly is more than you had in mind there when you and Mindy were making out on Christmas Eve,” Gabe shot back with an air of disgust, “That was not part of the plan.”
“Neither was your flirting with Cathy.  I mean honestly Gabe, what was I supposed to think…”
“That’s a good question considering that I don’t even have the first clue where to start with you since we’ve come to Coral Valley.  If you would just be honest with your mother about things rather than lying and making things worse…”
“The only things that are making this worse are your attempts to change all the rules,” Guy insisted with a frown, “What were you thinking with Cathy?”
“I was trying to keep her from hooking onto you as I didn’t like it, but if I’d known what you and Mindy were going to pull, maybe I would’ve just taken care of the situation with Mindy instead…”
“Mindy was just doing what I asked her to do,” Guy defended his pal, “and yes, maybe I was laying it on thick, but when I saw you with Cathy and then thought about what was going on with Noelle yesterday…”
“Guy, I’m not ashamed of what we have with one another.  I’m not the one who wants to keep this relationship in the dark,” Gabe stepped forward reaching out to him as he touched his lover’s face gently, “You are and the longer you insist upon doing it, the harder it’s going to be to make things right between us.”
“Gabe, you know how my mother works,” Guy began again.
“And I don‘t see that changing,” Gabe pointed out as his arm curled around Guy’s body drawing him in closer to him, “She’s not going to make this any easier on you the longer you keep her in the dark.
“Maybe not, but I can’t do this now,” Guy sighed melting into his lover’s embrace despite the fact he was angrier than he’d ever remembered being after his mother’s Christmas Eve dinner disaster, “especially not now considering that she’s in a tizzy about Avery and…”
“Your sister is off living her life and doing what she wants to do,” Gabe pointed out desperately, “She knows how your mother feels on things and she’s doing it her way.  Why don’t you just follow Avery’s lead and go where your heart takes you instead of suffocating in the places where Brooke wants you to be?”
“She’s just at this point in her life where everything is falling apart and if she knew that her son was…”
“Was what?  Happy?” Gabe challenged lifting a curious brow, “Sure, it might take her a while to get used to what’s going on here, but Guy, she might adjust to the situation and realize that it’s who you are and what you’re meant to be.”
“Gabe, you know it’s not that simple,” Guy sighed closing his eyes as he felt his lover’s touch upon his cheek, “if it were that easy…”
“Nothing worth having is ever easy,” Gabe whispered above his lips leaning forward to kiss him gently before pulling him in against his muscled form, “and you should know that by now Guy.”
“I do, but it’s just…” Guy began wrapping his arms around Gabe as he leaned into him, “I don’t know if I can bring myself to do this with my mother…”
“The longer you put it off, the harder it’ll be,” Gabe reminded him poignantly before his fingers tapered off into Guy’s dark hair, “although I must confess that I didn’t come over here to fight as while I was rather upset with you, what upset me more was the fact that I didn’t have a chance to give you the Christmas present that I’d had for you.”
“Gabe, I…” Guy began as Gabe silenced him with another persuasive kiss.
“Right now, I don’t want to think about anything, but the feel of you in my arms,” Gabe insisted as his eyes darkened with passion, “I don’t want to talk about your mother or about how we’re going to put off the truth about our relationship another day.  All I want to think about is what it’s like to be with you loving you and sharing with you all the things I’d wished for our Christmas together…”
“I want that Gabe,” Guy admitted openly, “as all I could think about while you were away was how much I missed you and how I wished we’d done things differently for the holiday…”
“Now’s our chance to make up for that,” Gabe promised teasing his fingers down Guy’s chest before claiming his mouth in a hungry, possessive kiss.  While Guy was still bent on keeping his mother in the dark about their relationship, Gabe decided they’d deal with that roadblock one step at a time as right now he wanted nothing more than to spend this time with his lover reminding him of all the reasons why they were meant for one another as they shared a belated day of Christmas romance between them.


Dave closed the door as Shannon escorted Officer Gravely to the sofa at the far end of the room. They had decided to get straight to work this morning after the holiday break. Now that they knew a little something about what direction they wanted to pursue, they knew that time was of the essence.

“Officer Gravely, you found Bruce Mathis in Lake Cardinal, correct?” Shannon asked as she sat behind the desk.

“Yes, I was on routine patrol when I spotted the tire marks on the road ahead of me. I pulled off along the shoulder and went down to investigate. I saw the back of the car sticking out of the water, and when I got a closer look, I found Mathis behind the wheel of the car,” Officer Gravely explained.

“How exactly was the body positioned?” Shannon asked as she looked up to him.

“He was leaning over the steering wheel,” The officer replied.

“Was his face in the water?” Dave asked.

Officer Gravely appeared confused, “Sort of. He was kind of turned into the water. Like one side of his face was slightly immersed.”

“Did it appear that he had drowned?” Dave asked.
“I just assumed that he had. With the car being immersed in the water, I thought it was the most logical choice,” The officer answered.

Shannon nodded, “Okay, I think that’s all we need for the moment. Thank you, Officer Gravely,” She said as the officer left the room. She turned her attention to Dave, “Yet more evidence to support our theory that the man posing as Bruce Mathis is alive.”

Dave frowned, “This is getting more and more complicated. I don’t think I really like it at all.”

“Yeah well,” She shrugged, “I don’t think I’ve ever investigated a homicide case that I liked how it came out.”

“Have you ever had one so complicated?” He asked pointedly.

“Oh hell no, but I’m always ready to tackle a challenge,” She assured him.

Patrick knocked lightly upon the door, “Boss, you’ve got a visitor.”

Dave looked to the door and smiled as Olivia stepped inside, “Well, you did find your way down here, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did,” Olivia smiled, “I brought you something that I hope will help you with your case,” She said as she reached into her bag and removed the medical school yearbook, “The yearbook.”

His smile brightened up, “Now you have made my day,” He grinned as he took the yearbook from her. He glanced towards Shannon, “You remember Agent Pryce from our first meeting.”

“Yes, it’s nice to see you again,” Olivia smiled warmly.

“Likewise,” Shannon nodded as Dave opened the yearbook and stood beside her so that she could look at the pages with him.

“You going to be around for a little while?” Dave asked as he glanced up to her.

“I’ve got to get back, but I thought I’d get this down here to you. You sounded like it could be very important,” Olivia offered.

“It might be,” Dave agreed as they flipped to a page where Bruce Mathis entire graduating class was listed, “There’s Mathis,” He pointed out the picture.

“And there’s our not so dead corpse,” Shannon pointed out as she glanced to the listing of students, “Harold Abrams.”

“Let’s get that picture blown up and printed out,” Dave opened the door, “Sharpe, get an APB out on one Harold Abrams. I want everything off of NCIC you can get within an hour. Also, let’s get in touch with that medical school to get all the information they had on him. And somebody find out where the hell Avery Morrison is,” He said before he looked to Olivia, “What do you say we go have some breakfast?”

“I’d say why not,” Olivia smiled as she took his arm and allowed him to escort her from the squad room.

Shannon took a deep breath and groaned. She hated being left to do all the grunt work, but at the same time, the sooner she could find this Abrams, the sooner she could get out of Coral Valley for good.


“Still finding smashed potatoes in strange places?” Grady teased as he poured a mug of coffee.

Jade chuckled, “I’m sorry about that. Sometimes we get a little nuts, but we do have fun.”

“I have to agree. It was fun,” He smiled, “I like it when families can just let loose with one another.”

“Did you and Russ ever have food fights when you were kids?” She asked as they made their way down to his office.

“No, not really. We were always too busy beating each other senseless to do anything less violent,” He chuckled as he stepped into his office, “Although now I think I really did beat the sense out of him considering what he’s up to now.”

“Grady,” She chided, “He’s following his heart. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?”

“If it’s with Avery, yeah, it is,” He sat down behind his desk, “Avery is just going to break his heart again. That’s all she’s ever been able to do for Russ.”

“She’s made him happy, Grady. I’ve seen it. His face lights up when he sees her. He truly loves her with all his heart, and I believe that she loves him as well.”

“You don’t know them both as well as I do,” He shook his head, “She is poison to him.”

“Grady, I really think you’re making something of this that it isn’t. For as long as I’ve known Russ he’s never been as happy as he is now. Why can’t you just accept that and be happy for him?”

Grady sat back in his chair, “Because I know what will happen afterwards.”

“You said that you wanted to stop living your bad habits, and that obsessing over Russ and Avery’s relationship was one of those habits. So why are we even having this discussion?”

He sighed, “Jade, it’s just not that easy…”

“I didn’t say it was, but if you want to really change, you’re going to have to start somewhere. Right now, you have an opportunity to change your behavior with Russ and Avery’s homecoming. You can welcome them home and congratulate them on their marriage.”

“So it’d be okay for me to lie instead of telling him that she’s poison for him?” He shook his head, “I don’t see how one is any better than the other.”

“If Russ hated me as badly as you hate Avery, would you listen to him?”

“It’s not the same thing, Jade.”

“Let’s say that it was. Let’s just suppose for a moment that there had been some strange miscommunications between us that left us broken hearted. If I came back into your life and Russ warned you against me, would you just listen to him and toss me out of your life?” Jade asked bluntly.

He crossed his arms in frustration, “No, I probably wouldn’t.”

“Then you can understand Russ’s position on Avery. He loves her, Grady. You’re going to have to learn to live with that.”


“No buts,” She cut him off, “They’re married now, and you have to learn to live with it.”

“Jade, that might not be easy…”

“Then you’ll have to suck it up, Grady. Because I’m not going to watch you destroy your brother’s happiness. If you choose to go against your promises to me and to yourself in obsessing over Russ’s relationships, then I’ll have to walk out on our relationship just to save myself.”

“Jade…” Grady began.

“I’m just giving you fair warning, Grady. It’s your obsessive hatred with Avery or your love for me,” Jade leveled with him, “You can’t have them both,” She said simply before she left his office.

Grady groaned as he rubbed his jaw. Somehow he would have to figure out a way to get through to Russ without upsetting Jade. No matter what, however, he wasn’t going to let Russ destroy his life by remaining married to Avery.


Ben stepped into the Ashford mansion and spotted Annie making tea in the kitchen. He went directly to her and hugged her tightly, “I’m sorry about last night.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Ben. Blake was out of line, and I don’t understand where that came from,” Annie shook her head as she took the kettle off the stove and poured the boiling water into her cup, “I’ve never seen react so violently to someone.”

“Neither have I,” He frowned with a sigh, “Which only makes me want to strangle her even more. Diane didn’t deserve any of the insults Blake hurled at her.”

She bobbed her tea bag around the boiling water before she placed the kettle back upon the stove, “Is there some kind of history there?”

“Yeah, there is, but it’s just that…history. Why Blake would be so sore about it now is beyond me. She’s moved on with her life and so has Diane,” He leaned onto the counter, “I guess sometimes it’s just hard to let go of something you’ve been angry at for so long.”

She cast her eyes on him and questioned him silently with her eyes.

“No, I’m not talking from experience. It’s just an observation,” He replied as he met her eyes and sighed, “Is Blake around?”

“I think she’s in the study. Why? You’re not going to go in there for round two, are you?” Annie asked in a tone that warned him not to start a fight.

“No, actually I was going to ask for her help with something very important. You know I’d never ask if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, and this time it’s vital.”

“Sounds like you’re in trouble,” She said as a wave of anxiety flooded her features.

“It’s not but a friend of mine. Her very life could be in danger.”

“Then why don’t you contact the police, Ben?”

“Because nothing illegal has happened as of yet. It’s all just speculation and threats, but nothing has been followed through. Right now, I’m working to try to prevent it from ever happening.”

“How can Blake help?”

“I don’t even know that she can, but I need to ask her something,” He held up his hand, “I’m not being vague to upset you. I just don’t want to involve anyone in this who isn’t already involved.”

“Is Blake in danger too?” Annie asked in a tone that demanded an answer.

“She could be,” Ben admitted, “But I’m trying to protect her as well.”

“Ben, whatever this is…just promise me that you both will be safe,” She said in hopes that he could some how assuage her fears.

“If I have anything to say about it, we will be,” He assured her before kissing her cheek, “I’m going to go have a word with Blake. Have a good day, Annie.”

“Not much chance of that now,” Annie mumbled to herself, sensing that something bad was on the horizon for the young people in her life.

Ben walked down the hallway to the study and knocked lightly upon the door before peaking his head inside, “Anybody at home?”

“It depends. Are you alone?” Blake asked from behind the desk on the far side of the room.

“Yes, I am,” He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, “Are you behaving today?”

“I’m always well behaved,” She said stubbornly before directing her eyes back to the newspaper in front of her.

“Anything good in the news?” He asked as he sat on the corner of the desk and gazed at the periodical.

“Why don’t you quit trying to make chit chat and just tell me why you’re here,” She opened the floor for him and met his eyes.

“Feeling kind of direct today, aren’t you?” He asked before shrugging, “Okay, fine. I need your help, Blake.”

“You need my help? After what happened last night? You have got to be kidding me,” She said with somber amusement.

“Blake, you’re in danger and so is Jade,” He blurted out.

“Jade? As in Seth’s sister?” Blake rolled her eyes, “If this is some pathetic attempt to get me to listen to Seth, you can walk right out the door, Ben. I’m not listening.”

“Blake, shut up for two seconds and listen to what I’m going to tell you,” He said sternly, “Cameron Stone is threatening Seth to get that microfilm. He’s not only threatened you because he knows how Seth feels about you, but he’s threatening Jade. You’ve got millions here to protect you and hire all the body guards you can find, but Jade doesn’t have that luxury. All she has are friends who want to help, and that’s where I come in.”

“So I’m supposed to feel some sort of connection to her because you’ve come to plead her case?” She shook her head, “I’m not letting go of the microfilm, Ben. It’s corporate secrets, and Stone has already ripped my heart out trying to get his hands on it. I’m not going to let him think he’s won by just handing it over.”

“Don’t you get it yet? This your life we’re talking about, Jade’s life. Stone is the kind of man who kills people just to assure a business venture will prosper.”

“I know that,” She stated harshly, “I know all about his past and what he’s capable of, but I can’t just give him what he wants because he’s a bully,” She said as she sank back in her chair, “I’m sorry, but Seth’s on his own here. He agreed to work with Stone so now he has to live with the consequences.”

“And you will too if you don’t help me save Jade’s life and quite possibly yours too, Blake,” Ben pointed out, “Stone isn’t above coming after you if he thinks you have the microfilm.”

“I don’t have it,” She stated matter-of-factly, “But I wouldn’t give it to him even if I did.”

“Where is it?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“Blake…” Ben began in frustration.

“No, I’m serious. I don’t know where it is exactly. I asked someone to put it away for me, and I’m assured that it’s in a safe place.”

“Damn you, Blake. You could help us out here. Is there anyway to copy it and alter it somehow?”

“I don’t know,” She paused as she exhaled slowly, “But I’ll look into it, okay?”

“Now was that so hard?”

“Oh screw you,” She grumbled, “Look, if you get this back to Seth, you can’t tell him that I helped you.”

“Why not? Afraid he’ll remember why he fell in love with you?”

“No,” She cut him off briskly before she sighed, “I just don’t want him to think that I still care, okay?”

“But you do, don’t you?” Ben searched her features, “You’re still in love with him, aren’t you?”

“I can’t be. It would hurt too damn much,” She admitted as she fought back the tears, “I’ll see what I can do about the microfilm, but you can’t let anyone know that I helped you, Ben. I mean it.”

Ben saw the seriousness behind her eyes and nodded, “Okay. Just call my cell if you find a way to get us something useful.”

Blake nodded as Ben turned and left the study. She couldn’t believe that after everything that had happened she was still feeling sentimental over Seth. Why couldn’t she let him just fend for himself? Why did she feel compelled to help him after the horrible way he had treated her? But the most troubling question of all was why did she still love him and why couldn’t she just let him go.


Zack walked into Irvan’s after his long night at the hospital. All he could think about was a big breakfast and then getting to bed. He started to walk to the counter before he froze in his tracks.

“Jo?” He asked as he approached the counter, spotting the blond bombshell he’d recently been involved with, “What are you doing here?”

Johanna turned to see the source of the voice and immediately wished she hadn’t, “Zack.”

“Did you follow me to Coral Valley?” He accused harshly.

“Follow you? I have more respect for myself than that,” She rolled her eyes as she looked back to the newspaper before her.

“Somehow I doubt it. You followed me down here even after I told you I didn’t want to be with you, didn’t you?” He asked as he took a stool near her.

“No, I did not follow you. I’m here only on business. So you can put that over inflated ego of yours back in your pants, Zack,” She sighed heavily as she sipped her coffee.

“Look, I know I dumped on you rather quickly, but we both know that things just weren’t right between us.”

“Yeah, one of us wasn’t even involved,” She cut her eyes towards him, “You were too busy finding the next lady for your little black book while I was under the illusion that we had a pretty good relationship for ourselves. Stupid me.”

“Don’t go trying to put me on a guilt trip here,” He said as a waitress filled a coffee cup for him, “You were more involved with your career than you were with me.”

“How could I be involved with you, Zack? You were kissing me hello with one foot out the door already,” She shook her head, “I did not follow you to Coral Valley. I was here to recruit for the magazine, but now I’m just biding my time until I can take the Standard’s newest addition back to Seattle with me.”

“You don’t have to lie to me, Jo. I could always see through you,” He pointed out as he turned to her, “Look, I’m involved now with a good woman.”

“Does she know what a two faced bastard you are?” Johanna asked as she met his eyes, “Cause if she had any idea at all, she’d toss you out on your sorry ass and never look back.”

“You act like you never loved me.”

“That’s the tragedy of all of this, Zack. I really did love you, and some stupid part of me still does. I just want you out of my life for good so I can heal from the damage you did,” She said quickly as she stood and tossed a few bills onto the counter, “Hopefully, this woman you’re involved with now will learn what a bastard you are much sooner than I did,” She tossed out before leaving the restaurant.

Zack turned back to the counter and sipped his coffee. He could only hope that Johanna would leave town before she could do any damage to the life he was trying to build for himself now.


Judy looked up from the magazine she’d been thumbing through as she tried to keep her concerns about Avery and Deidra under control.  While Richard had gone to speak with Russell and Avery, Judy had opted to stay behind and open up the lines of communication between her and Deidra as well, she knew there was more to the story of Deidra’s disappearance than she’d let on when they were with Avery.  Even now Judy knew her daughter well enough to know that the divorce she was going through played heavily upon her mind--not to mention Diane’s callous behavior and that in itself had Judy more worried than ever about her daughter.
As Judy began to lose herself to the thoughts weighing on her mind, she heard the door open before her and Deidra stepped out of the bathroom dressed in blue jean shorts and a soft pink t-shirt.  She ran a towel through her damp hair as she noticed her mother’s curious stare.
“What?” Deidra questioned lowering the towel as she waited for her mother to lay whatever news she’d had upon her, “Did something else happen with Avery and Russell?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Judy admitted openly tossing the magazine aside, “though I was rather hoping you and I could have a talk this morning.”
“Mom, right now I’m not really in the mood to talk,” Deidra began with a heavy sigh, “I just thought I’d stay here in the room while you went out with Richard and checked on Avery.”
“Rick is doing what he needs to do in order to help his daughter and that means we’ll probably be leaving the island shortly, but right now I’d rather be here with my daughter talking about what’s going on with her.”
“Mom, I’m fine,” Deidra threw out a half smile, “really I’m just fine.”
“Dee, honey I know that you’re not fine,” Judy sighed in response, “I could hear it last night when you were crying after we left Russ and Avery’s room.”
“I was just upset about what was happening.  I mean it’s not every day that you find yourself looking at someone’s idea of a sick joke,” Deidra shuddered in response, “and I have to admit that I feel for Avery because whoever sent her that is just sick.”
“Yes they are, but right now I’d like to talk about what’s going on with you,” Judy prompted sticking to the point once again, “Deidra, what happened when you left yesterday?”
“Mom, I really don’t want to talk about it,” Deidra avoided her mother’s questions as she walked away from her, “I just had a long day and I’d really rather just put it behind me now that we’re going back home again which reminds me, as soon as I get settled in the hospital, I think it would be best if I went seeking out my own place.”
“Deidra, don’t think that you have to leave on my account,” Judy began in confusion, “as I love having you home again.”
“I know, but mom, I can’t depend on you to take care of everything for me.  I need to be able to stand on my own two feet and prove to myself that Andy hasn’t gotten the best of me,” Deidra explained openly, “For a while there, I thought I was just going to lose myself in misery and lay down and die, but you know life is too short for me to keep torturing myself over my husband’s mistakes,” she paused thinking about her time on the island with Christian and a shudder passed over her, “You know I let him turn me into something I hated and I don’t want to be the person I was when I found out that my husband was cheating on me.  I don’t want to be the person who makes stupid mistakes because she’s trying to prove that she’s stronger than she was when her husband broke her heart.”
“Deidra, you can find ways to be strong without Andy,” Judy pointed out with a frown, “and in doing so you aren’t making mistakes.”
“Believe me, I have been in my quest to prove that I could make it on my own,” she sighed in response trying to shake the thought of Christian from her mind, “but I learned a lot on this trip and maybe now I can take that from me and learn from it.”
“It sounds like you did some heavy soul searching while you were away,” Judy noted trying to decipher the expression on her daughter’s features.
“More than I really wanted to, but when it gets down to it, I see now that I need to learn to stand on my own two feet.  I have to stop looking at myself as Andy’s wife--as the woman who gave her heart to the one man who decided to toss it aside for a few dozen quick flings.  I know now that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t going to change Andy and I can’t blame myself for this.  I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m not going to keep punishing myself for the things Andy did.”
“And you shouldn’t Deidra.  He was wrong to hurt you and now, well I’d like to see you find some happiness in your life,” Judy reached out to her, “as that’s what I’ve always wanted for you.”
“I know you have and I’m hoping I can find it,” Deidra admitted openly, “and when we get back home, well I’m going to work on fixing my life which means I need to branch out on my own.  Having me living with you isn’t going to help anything especially considering how Diane hates me.”
“She doesn’t hate you.  She’s just…” Judy began thinking of her youngest daughter’s latest bout of bad behavior.
“She hates me,” Deidra interrupted with a frown, “and you know I’m tired of trying to win her over and have her see me as her sister instead of the enemy.”
“Dee, she’s just insecure right now and…” Judy started again.
“Mom, I know how complex Diane is and I really, truly wish that there wasn’t this distance between us, but as long as she sees me as a threat, well we aren’t going to be able to have any kind of real relationship between us.  Had I known how passionate she’d felt about the issue we have with Andy, well maybe now I’d say I could go back and change things, but given all the heartbreak he’s put me through, I’m really glad that he wasn’t with Diane.  I mean sure I know she’ll have plenty to say about that one, but in all honesty, I’d rather he did this to me, then her.”
“Deidra, I wish he hadn’t done this to any of my daughters,” Judy sighed reaching out to her, “as you are too good for all of this.”
“Even so, I’d hate to have Diane going through any of this,” Deidra explained shaking her head at the thought of her husband’s actions, “I mean it was bad enough when I went through it, but for my sister to have to deal with a man like Andy….well, as much as she wants to hate me for what happened, in the long run this was a good thing for her.  I mean she seems happy now and Ben, well he’s a nice enough guy, right?”
“He seems very tolerant of your sister’s mood swings,” Judy admitted with a tiny smile, “and despite her fits, he does make her happy…”
“And I’m glad to be seeing that and I want you to be able to share that with her, which is why when we get back home I really do need to look into staying somewhere else as I don’t want the relationship between the two of you to be altered in any way because of me…”
“Deidra, now you know that…” Judy began with a frown.
“Mom, I know that I’m an adult and I should be working on fixing my life, not dragging you into the nightmare it’s become,” Deidra reached out to her, “You’ve found some happiness in your life with Richard and I’m really glad to see that.  You’ve found a way to move on past what happened with our family and I want to see you continue to have that kind of happiness in your life which means that you need your own space and privacy.  You don’t need your daughter butting into things at the most inopportune moments and you certainly don’t need to be spending your time worrying about me because despite how I’ve been behaving lately, I’ll be fine.  I’ll pull through this situation with flying colors.”
“Deidra, you know me.  I can’t help but worry about you as I am your mother after all,” Judy reached out to embrace her.
“And a wonderful one at that,” Deidra replied hugging her in response, “as you’re one of the best.”
“I just wish I could erase all this pain you’re going through,” Judy whispered as she continued to hold Deidra, “as I want so very much to see you happy.”
“It’ll happen one day,” Deidra tried to assure her as the phone rang and the two women exchanged glances, “That’s probably Richard.  You should answer it and see what’s going on with Avery right now.”
“Deidra I…” Judy began again.
“Mom, I’ll be fine,” Deidra offered up once again motioning for her mother to go answer the phone as she returned to her bedroom area once again.  Carefully closing the door behind her, she saw her reflection in the mirror before her and she clenched her hands at her side.  Despite her words to her mother, she realized that things were far from being fine as she could still feel Christian’s touch upon her--the way he’d coaxed her into somehow letting loose of her inhibitions as she made one of the biggest mistakes in her life.  She tried to forget, but she couldn’t help but fixate on how foolish she’d been as he’d seduced her on the beach and now she had to live with the memory of how far she’d gone off the deep end because of Andy.  Oh who was she kidding?  She made a terrible mistake that would forever haunt her mind as she’d become one of the things she’d always strived to stay away from.  Diane’s words came back to haunt her as she thought of the many insults her younger sister had thrown her way about being a slut and now as Deidra thought of her impulsive romp with the stranger she’d met yesterday, she felt the tears overcome her once again as she vowed never to let her mother know just how truly miserable she really was.  No one would ever see just how far she’d fallen as right now covering up her pain was top priority.


“Well look what the cat dragged in this morning,” Caitlin remarked sourly looking up from the newspaper she’d been reading as Brant walked through the front door to the beach house covered in sand and scratches it seemed as Caitlin set the newspaper down beside her scrutinizing him closely, “My you have been through some wear and tear in the last twenty four hours, haven’t you Brant?”
“Go to hell Caitlin,” Brant shot her a glare as he turned to go upstairs, but then thought twice of it as he could already feel the blisters on his feet from trudging through the hot sand all the way back from Angela’s beach house.  While he’d wanted nothing more than to drown himself in a scalding hot shower and erase the morning’s disaster from his memory, well, somehow the idea of sticking it to Caitlin just once made him feel ultimately better as he spun around to face her again, his eyes narrowing with anger, “On second thought, what do you think you’re doing?”
“Well I was enjoying my morning until you walked in,” she stated matter of fact sitting up straighter as she glared up at him, “as while I’d just as soon not bothered caring if you’d vanished, your brother is making a few phone calls in the hopes of locating you since he’s been worried about your pathetic ass.”
“Hmm, well I’m surprised you even allowed him the luxury considering that I’d have imagined you’d be too busy putting your hands down his pants in the hopes of seeking out his wallet there,” Brant folded his arms in front of his chest.
“Unlike you Brant, Ken is a man of character and he doesn’t need to worry about women chasing him for his assets because he’s got a hell of a lot more going for him than you ever will,” she remarked sourly, “as I could care less about the Ashford fortune that you dangle in front of women hoping it’s an aphrodisiac there since your personality clearly falls flat.”
“My personality is just fine and I’ll have you know that there isn’t any place for women like you in the Ashford family, so whatever thoughts you have about you and Ken living happily ever after,” he paused offering up an icy laugh, “well you can kiss them good-bye sweetheart because eventually my brother will tire of your kind once he sees you as the manipulator you truly are.”
“Manipulations are your game, Brant,” Caitlin rose from the sofa, “as that’s the only way you feel you’re in control because you know you’re not man enough to spark any kind of reaction in a woman without them.”
“Gee that’s rich coming from you Caitlin,” Brant rolled his eyes in response, “You’re pathetic considering you had to pull out all the stops in your Pollyanna routine in the hopes of reeling my brother in.  Tell me, how much does it cost these days to have someone knock you around for a bit so that you can make people feel sorry for you?”
“Go to hell Brant,” her eyes narrowed with anger.
“Honey, I’m quite content where I am, but my brother, well it seems he’s the one who’s been damned to hell now that he has you at his side,” Brant answered coldly, “but you know I hate to break this to you…actually, no I don’t hate sharing this with you at all, but I strongly suggest you enjoy what time you have with him now because mark my words.  Your days with my brother are numbered.”
“There you’re wrong Brant,” Caitlin hissed back at him as he turned towards the stairs to leave, “Ken loves me which is more than I can say for Avery’s feelings about you.  Funny though isn’t it that all the money and gifts you dangled in her face didn’t make her love you?  Why even right now I’m sure she’s having the time of her life with her husband and you’re not even an afterthought, so really Brant, which one of us are the pathetic one?”
Brant stopped mid-step as he slowly turned to face her, disbelief rushing over him as Caitlin continued snapping at him.
“That’s right Brant,” she threw out a wicked smirk having had enough of his holier than thou act, “Avery left here with Russ because she couldn’t bear the idea of having to spend the rest of her life stuck with you when she really wanted to be with the man she loved--a man who could truly give her the kind of life she needed and deserved.”
“You’re so full of it,” Brant descended down the stairs once again, “you don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“Don’t I?” Caitlin challenged with a glare, “Think about it Brant.  She cringed when you tried to touch her and when you asked her to marry you, well she was planning her way out of the situation.”
“You don’t know anything about Avery,” Brant declared with a roar, “You know nothing about our relationship and for you to sit there and tell me lies that Russell Denton put you up to…”
“Russ didn’t put me up to anything, but I’ve been waiting to give you this blow to your ego,” she answered sharply unable to contain the urge inside of her to tear Brant’s ego to shreds, “Who do you think that baby’s father is, Brant because we both know it’s not you.”
“Avery and I…”
“There is no you and Avery,” Caitlin corrected with a huff, “she’s with Russ and their happier than they’ve ever been.  I told her all about you and your wicked ways and she couldn’t care less what happens to you now.  She’s happy because she’s a smart woman who saw that the best thing for her was to run far away from you and never look back…”
“You’re lying,” Brant stepped towards her, his jaw clenched with anger as seized her arm, “and I’ve had quite enough of you.”
“What are you going to do Brant?” she taunted as her eyes darkened with rage, “Going to show your true colors and push me around because I gave you a reality check about the world around you?”
“You’re wrong,” Brant leaned in towards her fighting the urge to choke the life out of her as he released her with a shove, “You don’t know the first thing about what’s going on between Avery and I.”
“And clearly neither do you seeing as she ran off with her true love while you weren’t looking and things couldn’t be better for her,” Caitlin remarked sourly as Kenneth entered the room taking in the scene before him.
“What’s going on in here,” he questioned in horror catching the end of the conversation.
“Your girlfriend is testing her place around here,” Brant growled in response, “She’s trying to purposely piss me off.”
“I was just giving your brother a reality check,” Caitlin replied quickly.
“Brant, where have you been,” Kenneth demanded his voice full of concern as he took in his brother’s appearance, “I was worried about you when you didn’t come home…”
“I’m fine, but she’s not going to be if she keeps telling such lies,” Brant sneered over at Caitlin, “as she suddenly thinks she’s going to become the Ashford matriarch around here in ordering around the rest of us when class wise she’s really nothing more than the hired help with the services she‘s providing you with…”
“You son of a,” Caitlin leapt towards Brant ready to attack him as Kenneth held her back fighting his own anger at Brant’s words.
“Brant, you’re out of line,” Kenneth began straining to keep Caitlin under control as she writhed in his arms ready to tear Brant apart.
“What’s out of line is your little sweetheart trying to tell me how things are in my relationship with Avery, which reminds me I want to know where she’s at right now so that I can go be with her.  I don’t care what you’re trying to convince me in this situation.  Avery needs me with her and if you don’t tell me where she is right now…”
“I already told you where she’s at Brant,” Caitlin hissed, “She’s on her honeymoon.”
“No, she’s not,” Brant replied harshly turning to Ken, “and I want the name of that spa right now.”
“Brant, I…” Kenneth began at a loss as things had suddenly spiraled out of control with his brother and the woman he loved, “Brant, I can’t do that.”
“What do you mean you can’t do that?  I want to see my fiancée,” Brant demanded.
“Brant, we both know that she’s not your…” Ken started with a sigh.
“Where is she?” Brant questioned with a growl, “Ken what have you done?”
“Brant, I didn’t send her anywhere,” Kenneth confessed with a heavy sigh, “She was gone the other night and…well, Caitlin’s telling you the truth.  She’s married now…”
“No, she’s not,” Brant argued with him shaking his head at his brother’s words, “Avery’s relationship with Russell Denton is history and that’s all there is to it…”
“No, Brant it’s not history.  They’ve always had a connection to one another and the other night they ran away to be married,” Kenneth admitted openly hating to be the one to break the news to his brother, “I was hoping Avery would tell you herself, but…”
“But nothing.  Avery is not married to Denton and I don’t care what kind of lies this slut is trying to feet you, but I’m not buying into it,” Brant answered stubbornly throwing out one last glare in Caitlin’s direction, “and you, well you just wait,” he finished marching up the stairs as Caitlin and Kenneth exchanged worried glances.
“What just happened here,” Kenneth frowned realizing he’d walked in on between his brother and the woman he loved, “Caitlin, why did you…”
“He was asking for it,” she huffed straining to control her anger as it consumed her, “He wouldn’t quit and it just came out.”
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Kenneth began with a frown realizing that now he had another problem on his hands as Brant clearly wasn’t going to accept the truth about Avery.  Now as he thought of the impending journey back to Coral Valley, he wondered what kind of chaos followed his life as not only was Brant going to have a hard time dealing with the truth about Avery’s marriage, but beyond that, well it seemed his brother had waged war on the woman Kenneth loved and that in itself was going to mean trouble in the Ashford household in ways Kenneth couldn’t even begin to imagine.

...to be continued...