Episode Seven

Avery looked around her apartment realizing that she’d never be packed by the time she’d promised she’d be ready to meet Brant at the airport.  She still was in her bathrobe with wet hair after her quick shower and somehow leaving at a time like this had her tangled in knots.  Sure, she knew business came first, but she was still stewing over the hypocrisy that Russell had thrown out at her about Brant.  How dare he judge her when he was off slumming with the biggest tramp to ever set foot in Coral Valley?  Oh yeah that qualified him to judge her, she rolled her eyes as she felt her anger burning inside of her.  After all the words he’d said to her and then the way he’d seemed so wounded after she’d left him the other night, well clearly that was just an act.  He looked anything but wounded as he hovered over Heather Gibbons in his office.
Slamming a blouse into her suitcase haphazardly, Avery felt her anger boil at the stupidity she’d felt in ever having been worried about that man or his feelings when she’d called him Brant.  Clearly he must’ve been used to it seeing as he was now shacking up with Brant’s ex-lunatic fiancée.  In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she was starting to realize that maybe Russell’s warnings about Brant weren’t so much his trying to be her friend, but the blonde bimbo’s way of trying to keep Brant to herself and win him over again.  Surely that had to be it as Heather Gibbons was a master manipulator and she was working Russ in order to keep Avery at bay as she clearly saw Avery as a threat to her chances of winning Brant back now that Brant had his eyes set on Avery.
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I let her get her hooks back into Brant,” Avery decided as she stepped into her closet looking over her various garments when her gaze darted over towards one of the black, silken nightgowns she’d bought when she was having a ‘racier’ moment in better days.  Sure, it had never come handy with Bruce in the past, but maybe now in her future, it would prove to be somewhat useful…but useful for what, she pondered as she pulled it from the hanger and held it up over her soft curves.
Avery stepped back into her bedroom holding the silken nightgown against her frame and she gazed at her reflection.  Was she honestly going to let Brant Ashford seduce her or would she go out on a limb and seduce him?  The sad truth was that she had thought about him, thought about the way he’d felt with his arms around her--the many ways in which she’d gladly have proved to him that she was as passionate as he’d imagined if not more.  Setting the nightgown aside, she began to untie her robe realizing that this line of thinking was going to leave her nowhere but frustrated yet again as she was trying to focus on strictly business.  Anything else that was happening with Brant--or wasn’t, was going to have to wait because this was purely business--at least she almost hoped so.
Avery began to slip out of her robe, when she heard a faint tapping on the door to her apartment.  With an exaggerated sigh, she knotted the sash on her robe once again before making her way to the door ready to bid farewell to anyone who was stupid enough to bother her when she was anything, but in the mood for company.  She had a plane to catch and with her late start, she was running horribly behind.
“What?” Avery questioned throwing open the door as she found herself face to face with the last man she wanted to see.
“Avery, we need to talk,” Russell began patiently as his eyes dropped over her noting her disheveled appearance.  His jaw dropped as she pulled her robe tighter together over her chest.
“The hell we do,” she huffed in response.
“I am going to talk to you and I’m not moving until we do just that,” he announced matter of fact.
“We have nothing to talk about,” Avery snapped back at him attempting to close the door to her apartment as he stuck his foot in between the door and he pushed on it as his eyes cast over her.
“Don’t tell me I’m too late?” Russell frowned as he tried to look into her apartment, “You’ve got that loser here, don’t you?”
“Excuse me?” Avery blinked back at him, “The only loser I see is the one standing before me and right now I’m not in the mood to talk to you,” she replied pushing on the door once again.
“Too damn bad,” Russell shoved open the door to her apartment as he looked around, “where is he?  Where is that son of a bitch?”
“No one is here Russell,” Avery frowned watching him search her apartment, “not that it’s any of your business, but I’m alone and that’s the way I intend on keeping it, so get the hell out.”
“Where’s Ashford?” Russell questioned as he marched into her bedroom, “I’m not going to let you ruin your life with him.”
“Did you not hear a word I said to you,” Avery snapped at him as she stomped behind him into her bedroom watching as he invaded her personal space, “get out Russell!  You aren’t welcome here!”
“He’s really not here, is he,” Russell questioned softening his tone as he walked out of her closet.
“I told you before that no one is here,” Avery hissed back at him as she marched forward tugging on his arm and she tried to pull him out of her bedroom, “and you’re not staying either.  Get out Russell!”
“I’m not leaving until you hear me out,” he stated firmly as he stood his ground.
“I’m not in the mood to listen to anymore of your lectures especially now after I see you’re boinking Heather Gibbons,” Avery spat out disgusted with him as she glared at him, “talk about low class.”
“Avery, it’s not what it looks like,” he began as a strange look crossed over his otherwise handsome, yet determined features, “did you just say boinking?”
“That’s right,” Avery nodded placing her hands firmly on her hips, “I saw exactly what you two were doing in your office and after that I realize you have no right what so ever to judge me or my life.  You aren’t my boyfriend anymore Russell.”
“Boyfriend or not, I’m saving you from yourself,” Russ argued with her, “you don’t know what Brant Ashford is all about, but maybe you should.  All he wants from you is to make you yet another one of his conquests and you’re falling right into his trap.”
“Oh right, and this comes from a man who’s sleeping with Brant’s psychotic ex.  I’m sure she’s a real reliable source there for you when you two aren’t making an exhibition of your twisted endeavors in your office.  I can’t even believe that I felt sorry for the way I’d treated you the other night.  I kept beating myself up for hurting you, but once again that puts me in the position of the fool, now doesn’t it?”
“What you walked in on was…”
“I don’t care what I walked in on, just like I don’t care about you and I don’t need your protecting Russell,” Avery shot back at him bitterly, “so you can just leave now.”
“No,” he stated firmly folding his arms in front of his chest.
“What do you mean no?  It’s my apartment and I want you gone,” Avery shoved him firmly in the chest, her anger taking over as she pushed again, “get out of my apartment, Russell!”
“No,” he argued with her capturing her wrist as she attempted to hit him again, “I’m not leaving.”
“Russell Denton, get out!” she shouted at him using her left hand in an attempt to swat at him once again as he crushed her in his arms catching her off guard.
“I’m not going anywhere until you listen to me and I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make it happen,” Russell announced matter of fact as he flashed a smug grin, feeling as though he’d gained the upper hand in the situation as she remained captive in his arms.
“You underestimate me Russell,” she shook violently in his arms trying to dislodge herself from his hold on her, “put me down right this instant.  Russell, I mean it…”
“This is for your own good Avery,” he squeezed her harder in his arms as she kicked her legs out thrusting them against his shin with a wickedly painful impact as he let out a pained yelp, “stop making this difficult Avery,” he pleaded as she continued to kick at him fighting his every attempt to restrain her as he carried her across the room despite the pain throbbing through his leg.  He felt an ache rise over him as she kicked at him once again and he fell forward toppling down onto her bed with her caged beneath him.
“Russell,” she cried out his name muffled beneath his chest as he fell on top of her, “let go of me.  I can’t breathe…”
“Avery,” he began with a desperate sigh as he shifted his position over her attempting to keep her pinned beneath him as he forced her to listen to his words of warning.
“Get off of me,” she growled up at him feeling the weight of his body above her as she drew in an exaggerated breath.
“Avery, I’m just trying to protect you,” Russell tried to explain as she thrashed her body against his.
“I don’t need your protection,” she spat back at him twisting her legs beneath him as her dark eyes shot daggers up at him.
“In this case, yes you do.  Brant Ashford is going to ruin your life and I won’t allow that to happen.  He’s hurt too many people and I won’t let you become the next person on his hit list,” he strained to control her undulating body beneath his as he let out a sharp hiss, “Avery, calm down!”
“No, I won’t calm down,” she seethed up at him, “you invade my apartment, try to tell me how to run my life and now you won’t leave me alone.  Russell, just get out.  Go away and leave me alone.  I don’t need you or your concerns!”
“The hell you don’t,” he shook his head disbelieving, “Brant Ashford is going to hurt you and I won’t allow that to happen.”
“I’m a big girl, Russell.  I can take care of myself,” she shifted once again, this time with more determination as Russell pressed down over her.
“Avery, please,” he began suddenly aware of the fact she was caged beneath him, her soft curves striking furiously against his desperate and hungry body.  As she bucked her hips up against him in protest, a warmth shot straight down to his groin as the sudden heat of her filled him.
“Russell, I’m not going to…” she started as he saw the fire behind her eyes, the ferocity of her rage threatening as she wanted nothing more than to tear him apart limb by limb.  The way her eyes darted up at him furiously, there was no mistaking the hunger behind them.  She was wild with vehemence and suddenly as she pressed up against his body, grinding herself beneath him, he found himself unable to resist the urges he’d denied for so very long between them as he captured her mouth savagely in an attempt to just shut her up.  The exotic taste of her rage swept over him as his tongue plundered within her mouth claiming her fiercely as his hands pressed in over her wrists pushing her further into her mattress.
“Russell….” she breathed against his mouth as his kiss scorched her.  She could feel the hard pulse of his arousal pressed in over her thigh as her robe had crept up over her leg.  Rubbing herself against him, she could feel the friction building between them as she leaned forward biting on his lower lip with a determined nip.
“Ow,” Russ pulled back feeling the tingling sensation as she eyed him wickedly, a smug smile pressing over her lips as he released her wrist and his fingers threaded through her hair, “you’re going to pay for that one Avery.”
“Try me,” she hissed back at him scratching her nails over his shoulder as he closed in over her again capturing her mouth with hungry urgency as their tongues tasted and teased one another with a desperate fury.  Her fingers clawed at the back of his shirt as he repositioned himself over her and her leg swept up around his bottom squeezing him against her.
“I can’t let you destroy your life,” he moaned against her lips as his hips bucked against hers feeling her body responding to his every movement as the clothing barriers remained between them.
“You don’t have a say in my life,” she growled up at him bringing her hand in over his chest.  Furiously ripping his shirt open and tearing it from his shoulders, she leaned up to collect another fiery kiss from him, “you’re nothing to me, Russell.”
“You’re too damned stubborn for your own good Avery,” he murmured against her swelled lips as his fingers unknotted the sash of her robe pulling it open to reveal her luscious curves to his hungry eyes.  His mouth clamped in over her shoulder as he palmed her breast remembering passion between them as she threw her head back arching up to his attentions.  His lips traveled over her shoulder, tracing a line over her collar bone with his tongue as he reshaped the underside of her breast and she cried out against his attentions.  His thumb skimmed tantalizingly over her rose-tipped nipple before he whisked it with his tongue causing her to grind her body up against his as her fingers tangled within his hair.
“Russell,” she hissed his name wanting nothing more than to tear him apart as he sucked the tortured peak taking it between his teeth as his palm caressed the lines of her flat abdomen curving in over between her parted thighs as he felt her desire for him.
“Don’t fight this Avery,” he pleaded feeling her fingers clamp in over his jeans as she attempted to alleviate the barriers between them.  She popped open the button on his jeans, before she turned her attention to his burgeoning arousal still caged behind the zipper.
“Russ,” she breathed his name as he eased back enough to help her free him from the cloth prison as her fingers spilled in beneath his jeans over his hot distended flesh.  She curled her fingers around him teasing him with firm, solid strokes as he lifted his mouth to hers once again claiming her with kiss after desperate kiss as they touched one another, diving into the lunacy that filled their debate.  As his fingers brushed over her moist center, she reciprocated the movement with her palm sheathing him, working an erotic friction over him as he closed his eyes sucking in a sharp breath.
“Oh yes,” he groaned as he bucked against her touch feeling her body so ready for him as her legs kicked at his jeans tearing them down over his knees.
“Russell,” Avery breathed his name, her body flushed with desire as she gazed up at him.
“I’ve wanted this for so long,” Russell confessed bringing his index finger over her mouth, sliding it between her parted lips as she suckled upon him tantalizing him with every flick of her tongue--with every movement of her fingers over his heated flesh.
“Russ….” she panted as he removed his fingers from her center and he positioned himself over her wanting to relive the magic of the past between them, “wait….”
“What?” he questioned dropping kisses over her throbbing lips wanting nothing to take away from what they were doing as he refused to analyze what was happening between them.  It was what it was…
“Condom,” she blurted out harshly as her nails grazed over his skin.
“Right,” he rolled off of her as he moved to the edge of the bed twisted within the confines of his jeans as he leaned over attempting to search his pockets.  Much to his dismay, from the way Avery had kicked them down his body it was next to impossible to get into his pants as he began to kick them off, “damn…give me a second here.”
“Russ maybe…” she started watching him fighting with his pants as he kicked them off violently.
“Give me a second,” he pleaded with her as a faint ringing filled the bedroom.
“Is that mine or yours,” Avery frowned sitting up as she looked around the room seeking out her phone as Russell held up a condom, a goofy grin pressing over his features.
“Found one,” he announced excitedly as he crawled back onto the bed with her kissing her teasingly.
“Russell, someone’s calling,” Avery blurted out against his mouth as the ringing continued.
“Ignore it,” he urged wrapping his arms around her, “we’ve got other more pressing engagements.”
“Russell…..the phone…” she murmured against his mouth as she fell back onto her pillows tangled up in his arms.
“It can wait,” he decided kissing her savagely as his palm swept over her curves savoring every inch of her as the ringing continued.
“Russell, they aren’t giving up,” Avery muttered as she turned her head towards the source of the sound.
“Forget about it,” he pleaded with her wanting nothing more than to lose himself in her as he thread his fingers through hers pressing them in against her pillow as their mouths began another heated dueling match, but with every passing second, the ringing continued to invade the moment between them.
“Damn it,” Russell shoved his hand beneath the pillow that the invasive phone was under and he pulled it out.
“It looks like it’s yours,” Avery breathed watching him look to the number as he prepared to shut it off, but then thought twice of it.
“It’s Grady,” Russell explained with a huff.
“Then he’s not going to stop calling until he gets you,” Avery groaned sliding out from beneath him, “answer it.”
“Avery no,” he started as he glanced down to the phone reluctantly answering it, “this had better be damned important.”
“Russ, hey is everything alright,” Grady questioned his voice full of concern, “I’ve been trying to reach you for over an hour and your phone doesn’t seem to be working.”
“It’s working,” Russ sat upright on the edge of Avery’s bed, “but I was a bit preoccupied here.”
“A big story huh?  Well the truth is I wouldn’t be calling little brother unless I needed to see you right away,” Grady began after a moment’s hesitation.
“What’s going on?” Russ questioned as he flung his legs over the side of Avery’s bed.
“I’d really rather not get into it over the phone,” Grady paused once more, “look if you’re really busy…”
“Grady, it’s just…” Russ looked over to where Avery had once been standing only to find himself alone in her bedroom.  He ran his fingers through his hair as he let out a frustrated sigh, “when do you need me?”
“Whenever you can get here would be great,” Grady answered as Russell let out another sigh.
“I’ll see what I can do to wrap things up here,” Russell decided a frown touching over his lips.
“I really appreciate this,” Grady replied a soft sound of relief washing over him, “I owe you.”
“You have no idea,” Russell hung up the cell phone as he looked around the bedroom at the scattered remains of what might’ve been.  Slowly rising from Avery’s bed, he slipped into his jeans again as he made his way over to her bathroom knocking on the door gently, “Avery.”
“I think you should go now,” her voice answered through the other side of the door.
“Avery, I think we should talk….” he sighed, “Avery, that was Grady and it sounds important, but…”
“Russ, I have a flight to catch and I’m already running behind,” Avery’s voice answered again as he attempted to turn the knob on the door finding it locked.
“Avery, come on.  Let me in.  We really need to talk…” he pleaded with her hearing the sounds of the shower water from behind the door.  Reluctantly he stepped away from the door realizing that their talk would have to wait, but now, well now there was something else on his mind as he looked over to her tousled bed.  Things clearly weren’t making sense between them and now as he quietly dressed and made his way out of her apartment, he wondered what the hell he was getting himself into.  Was his concern for her that of a trusted friend or was there something else going on?  As he thought to almost making love to her, he wondered if perhaps he wasn’t the only one in strong denial about the state of their relationship.  Either way he vowed to figure it out one way or another, but first he’d see what Grady needed.  Saving Avery would have to wait…at least temporarily.


Caitlin sat in the conference room reading over the Hendersons' letters while waiting for Kenneth to join her. Each letter she'd read had made her want to help the Hendersons all the more. She placed one of the letters aside before picking up another and beginning to read.

"Dear Mr. Ashford,
We know you must get hundreds of letters from people seeking help from you at a reduced rate or even for free. We need your help. We're not rich by any means, but we do have some savings to pay for your legal help. Our son, Randy, is very ill. We've been told his illness is the direct result of exposure to radioactive material. Our house is located in an area which Midlands Utilities once used for a dump site. It's our belief that this site isn't safe, but we were told that we could build our home here with no worries about safety. Our son is ill and without medical treatment which we cannot currently afford, he could very well die. Please, Mr. Ashford, help us save our son, and help us save the lives of others who may build in the same area in the coming years. Help us stop Midlands from destroying more lives.

Jay & Kelly Henderson"

Caitlin placed the letter aside and took a moment to deal with what she had just read. She turned in her chair and looked out the window, attempting to feel some of the sunlight she could see outside. She felt the need to turn to its warmth after the chills she had received from reading the letter.

Her cell phone began to ring, drawing her attention back to the present. She sighed as she picked up her bag and rummaged through the contents to withdraw her phone. She picked up the phone and answered, "Hello," She paused, listening to nothing but silence on the other end, "Hello?" After another moment of silence, she hung up the phone and looked back towards the letters in front of her.

"I'm sorry about being late," Kenneth apologized as he entered the room and closed the door behind him, "I got hung up in a meeting with Hart. How far did you get with the letters?"

"I just read the one which first accuses Midlands of wrong doing," She informed him as she sat back in the chair, "The Hendersons strike me as a very close knit family."

"They are," He assured her as he sat down beside her, "No matter the day or time, Jay and Kelly are always at the hospital with Randy. I think they're the most devoted parents I've ever met."

Caitlin smiled and began to respond when her phone rang again. She frowned, "Excuse me," She said before answering her phone, "Hello?" She took a deep breath, "Hello? Hello?" She groaned before she switched off the phone.

"No one there?" Kenneth asked before he opened a file on the table.

"No, but that's the second time it's happened this morning," She said before she looked at the phone, "I have caller ID but it shows that there's no number available."

"If it wasn't your cell, I'd say it was a telemarketer," He shrugged before looking at the file before him, "I'm going to meet with the Hendersons tomorrow. I think that might be a good time for you to meet them."

"Good. I'm really looking forward to speaking to them," She smiled as her phone rang again. She picked it up, "Hello? Hello? Who is this?" She demanded before hanging up again. She placed the phone down before leaning upon the table. She felt her hands trembling, her heart pounding. She'd been through this sort of thing before. She knew all the signs. She just didn't want to admit that what she feared could be happening again.

"Caitlin," Kenneth spoke her name as he gently placed his hand upon her shoulder, "Are you okay?"

"Uh…yeah," She nodded before she took a deep breath, "I guess…well, it just has to be a wrong number and someone who won't give up."

"Why do I get the feeling you don't believe that at all?" He asked as he watched her fidget with the phone.

"It's…it's nothing. It has to be," She said as the phone began ringing again.

Kenneth plucked the phone from the table and answered, "Hello? This is Kenneth Ashford answering for Miss Vaughn. If you're not going to speak, you should stop calling." A moment later the phone dinged with the sound of an ending phone call.

Caitlin watched him, "Anything?" She asked as she watched him hang up the phone and place it upon the table.

"No," He replied, "Do you have any enemies who might want to scare you?"

She panicked for a quick moment before stammering, "Uhm…no…not really."

"Then you might want to change your cell phone number. It'll at least stop the calls," He advised her.

Caitlin nodded as she switched off her phone and dumped it into her bag, "I'll have to do that," She said as she looked back at the letters in front of her. She quickly swept them back into her file and placed them in her bag as well, "I…I have to go."

"Caitlin, what's wrong?" He asked as he stood with her.

"Nothing. It's nothing," She assured him as she opened the door, "Let me know when you're going to see the Hendersons. I want to be there," She said quickly before she left the conference room. Standing outside the closed door, she took a deep breath, trying to quell the fear that threatened to consume her. She had come this far. Surely her past hadn't caught up with her…not when she was so close to having the life she wanted.

Kenneth, still in the conference room, furrowed his brow as he wondered just what had spooked the reporter. It had terrified her, but she didn't want him to know the source of her fear. It wasn't in his nature to pry. He would simply have to let her warm up to him and let him know what was happening to her when she was ready.


Seth haphazardly held the remote control in his hands as he flipped through the channels on the television wondering how it could be possible to have so many different stations and still have nothing on television.  Okay, so perhaps half the problem was the man holding the remote control, he reasoned as he turned off the television set and he sat back further in his reclining chair.  He hated feeling useless and in being at home like this, well his head wasn’t exactly back to where it had been before the accident and now that his pain medication was wearing off a bit, he realized that it wasn’t exactly as much of a nothing accident as he’d played it off to be.  Nearly dying did have it’s own drawbacks, he frowned.  Still he had plenty ahead of him as he thought of Cameron Stone’s impromptu visit at the hospital.  He was still uneasy with the way things went down, and even now he wondered if he’d be able to pull off the task at hand as Cameron had rubbed him the wrong way with his words.
“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Seth scolded as he noted the time and he rose from his chair to retrieve his next dose of pain medication.  He stepped towards the small kitchen area when he heard a faint tapping on the door.  Looking over in the direction of the sound, he wondered if Jade was checking in on him yet again.  She’d had her own reservations about leaving him alone, but he’d assured her that things would be just fine.  Now if he found her waiting outside the door urging him to go back to bed and rest, he was going to lose it for sure.

“I’m coming,” Seth called out as he popped a couple of pills into his mouth.  He crossed his humble apartment making his way to the door and opening it as Blake stood before him clad in a sheer white floral print sundress with a brown paper bag in hand.  His eyes  widened in surprise as she flashed him a vibrant, white grin.
“Blake,” he spoke her name as confusion set in over him, “wh-what are you doing here?”
“Well, I looked you up and I figured that since you probably weren’t back on your toes just yet, that our plans for you to take me out to dinner might be put on hold, so I thought I’d just bring dinner to you,” Blake confessed nodding towards the bag in her hands before she looked up at him again, “so are you going to invite me in, or what?”
“Um yeah sure,” Seth extended the door open wider as Blake pranced into his apartment taking a quick look around.
“Where’s your kitchen,” she asked as she turned her eyes across the apartment, “oh never mind I see it.”
“Blake,” Seth closed the door watching her make her way into the kitchen as she set the bag down she’d been carrying.
“I hope you have something to drink because I realize in my haste to get over here I forgot that essential element of dinner,” Blake admitted pulling a few containers out of the bag, “I mean I’d thought of everything else, but I guess with the drinks, well you don’t really ever think about drinks because they’re just kind of customary with dinner and all, but then…”
“Blake,” Seth interrupted as he stepped into the kitchen behind her looking at the various containers over his counter top, “what is this?”
“I told you it’s dinner,” Blake paused looking over her shoulder at him, “I thought maybe you could use some company,” she turned to face him again as she leaned back against the counter top, her blue eyes gazing up at him innocently, “unless of course you don’t want me here…”
“No, that’s not it,” Seth shook his head after a moment, “it’s just, well we never discussed anything about where I lived or my apartment since we met and the fact that you found this place, well it’s just I know that it’s not listed and…”
“I’m an Ashford,” she reminded him leaning in towards him with a playful wink, “I can learn things that not everyone else has privy to…you know all your secrets that you want to keep hidden.”
“Is that so?” Seth raised a curious brow watching her closely.
“That’s right,” she placed her finger over his chest as a seriousness grew behind her crystal blue eyes, “and believe me Seth, I’ve spent my time checking up on you lately.”
“You have?” he asked wondering just what being an Ashford entitled her to as his thoughts lingered to Cameron Stone.  No, she couldn’t possibly know about that, he reasoned as she wouldn’t be standing here in his meager apartment with dinner.
“Yes I have,” Blake nodded teasingly, “and I know you’re a man of simple tastes.  You like classic cars and you haven’t had a good meal since at least the night of the quake since it hasn’t been that long since your hospital release.  Am I right?”
“Hmm, you might be right on the money,” Seth smiled down at her admiring the way her blonde hair framed her soft features.  God, she truly was beautiful, he thought to himself as the tempting aromas of her meal brought forth a rumble in his stomach, “I wouldn’t touch that stuff back in the hospital because if I did, well I’d have been in worse shape than I was upon arriving there.”
“I thought so,” Blake laughed lightly before turning back to the counter top, “which is why once you show me where your dishes are, I’ll see to it that we work on changing all that.”
“Hmm, well in that case,” Seth stepped in towards her reaching out over her shoulder as he opened the cabinet before her, “they’re right here.”
“Thank you,” Blake took in a slow breath as his arm brushed up against her bare skin instantly causing a heat to stir low in her stomach upon contact.  She turned her head towards him as her lips parted and she found herself lost in the thought of how it had been in his arms.
“So, what did you bring for me,” Seth questioned turning his eyes back to her as he noticed the way she was watching him.  His smile widened as he pulled a couple of plates out of the cabinet.
“Oh,” she blinked back as if trying to snap out of the daze she’d found herself in, “actually I brought a few things here that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.”
“Really?” Seth inquired watching her turn back to the counter top as she pushed a few containers aside.  He took a step back admiring her curves as his eyes brushed over her legs, noting their perfect lines as her short sundress offered tempting glimpse of her shapely thighs.  He couldn’t help be mesmerized by her as she began naming off the things she’d brought over for him.  However, her words were lost as he found himself admiring every inch of her with great detail.
“And for dessert,” she spun around to face him once again, holding a small container between her hands, “I brought something special.”
“I’ll say you did,” Seth’s eyes caressed the contours of her body as his gaze lifted up to her beautiful face and he noted the softness behind her eyes.  Sure she’d been a holy terror when she’d stepped into the auto shop, but now as she stood before him, there was something different about her--something a bit less abrasive in her approach as she smiled up at him.
“In fact,” she pulled the lid off the top of the container in her hands, “you absolutely have to try some of it.  Sure, I know it spoils dinner, but Annie and I sometimes skip to dessert first and indulge in the sinful side of things from time to time…”
“Annie?” he repeated.
“My nanny,” she blurted out shaking her head, “I mean my housekeeper as she used to be my nanny, but now that I’m older, well she’s not really a nanny, but more so like a friend and…oh never mind,” she shook the thought from her mind as she lifted the container towards him, “it’s strawberry shortcake.  I made it myself and it’s always one of my favorites when I’m feeling down.”
“Is that so,” Seth smiled looking down at the dessert before him.
“That’s right,” Blake dipped her finger within the tiny container before lifting a berry covered with whipped cream out towards his mouth, “try some you’ll love it.”
Seth grinned watching as she raised the sweet confection to his lips smearing it over his bottom lip before he took her finger between his lips tasting the sweetness of her along with the dessert.  He saw the enthusiasm bubbling behind her eyes as his fingers closed in over her wrist while he finished tasting the savory bite she’d offered him.  Once he’d carefully cleaned her finger off with his tongue, he lifted her wrist to his lips placing a tender kiss over her pulse as his brown eyes washed over her.
“It’s excellent,” he whispered against the vulnerable skin of her wrist before he dipped his fingers down into the container withdrawing a small amount of the dessert for her to try, “you really should have a bite yourself.”
“Okay,” Blake drew in a nervous breath as her heart was pounding furiously in her chest.  Just the way he was looking at her, watching her as she opened her mouth, parting her lips nervously, it sent shivers racing over her spine as she licked at the sugary sweetness of the strawberries and whipped cream.  Tracing her tongue over his index finger, she lavished the taste of her favorite dessert he was offering to her when noticed the way in which his eyes were fixed on her mouth somehow memorizing her every moment as a heat rose over her features.  Suddenly feeling silly for carrying on like she was, she released his hand as she lowered her eyes, “sorry I got carried away…”
“Don’t stop on my account,” Seth blurted out involuntarily as reached out to trace her cheek with his palm before lifting her eyes up towards his once again, “I think strawberry shortcake has become my new favorite dessert.”
“I’m glad you enjoy it,” Blake confessed faintly as she leaned into his touch, “there’s more in another one of those containers for after dinner.  I could put it away for you so you can have some more later….”
“I think I like it just the way it is in this moment in time,” Seth professed a smile touching over his handsome features, “in fact, the more I think about it, I realize I don’t want anything else right now.”
“Really?” her eyes widened in surprise, “well I could get you a fork and then you could eat this before dinner I suppose and….”
“How about we skip the fork and go back into the living room for dessert?” he suggested with a sexy grin as he slid his arm around her waist drawing her in closer against him.
“I…well, I made some chicken noodle soup for you too, but I suppose…” she trailed off, “we could do that too.”
“Excellent,” Seth reached for the container of strawberry shortcake with one hand and with the other, he hoisted her up off the ground in one swift, sweeping motion.
“But what about dinner…” she questioned innocently, “I mean won’t it get spoiled sitting out like that?”
“It’ll be just fine,” Seth promised unable to resist the urge to kiss her as he carried her back over towards the couch.
“Okay,” she murmured against his lips tasting the sweetness of him scorching her deep down into her soul as he held her in his arms.  Something about being this close to him, it made her feel alive, so very wonderful and as he carefully eased her onto the sofa, she realized she never wanted this feeling to end.


Heather smiled as Annette opened the door. She put on her best smile, knowing that her display now would set the tone for her future with Brant. Everything would depend on the next few moments.

"Hello Annette, how are you?" Heather asked with a smile, "It's been too long. I've so missed talking with you."

"Heather," Annette's eyes widened with surprise, "I didn't know you were in town."

"Brant didn't tell you that I was?" Heather frowned, "Oh dear, I'm afraid he really is being difficult about this. Is he here, Annette? I'd really like the chance to speak with him if he's available."

"He's getting ready to leave," Annette began before she looked towards the stairs, "Brant, you've got company!" She called out before opening the door wider to Heather, "Come on in, Heather. Step right into the den. He'll be down in a moment."

"Thank you," Heather smiled before she made her way to the den.

Annette glanced up the stair case before Brant appeared, "You've got company."

"Who is it?" Brant asked with impatience as he began descending the stairs.

"Heather," She replied as she leaned on the base of the railing.

He stopped in his tracks and turned to move back up the stairs.

"Where do you think you're going, young man? Get your butt down here and see to that young lady," Annette commanded.

"Lady? Only in her dreams. I really don't have time to deal with one of her temper tantrums. Throw her out," He said as he turned to face Annette.

She looked at him with a stern look upon her motherly features, "Brant, I'm not asking. You get down here and see to her."

"I have nothing to say to her, Annie."

"Well apparently she has something to say to you, and I think you owe it to her to listen."

"Why should I listen to anything she has to say?"

"Because you cared about her. You may say otherwise, but I know different. Your ego is bruised, and I can understand that. But it's not as if you haven't done things that could cause more heart break to her, and yet she's found it in her heart to forgive you. And why? Because she loves you."

"She loves my money. There's a big difference," He frowned.

"Why must you always be so skeptical? Why can't you just let someone love you?" Annette shook her head, "You go in there and speak with her."

"Annie," He attempted to argue.

"You're not getting out of this one, Brant. She's waiting for you in the den," Annette said as she walked back into the kitchen.

Brant groaned as his frustration grew. He stomped down the stairs and proceeded into the den, "Alright Heather, say what you've got to say and then get out."

"Hello to you too," Heather said as she turned from glancing over a painting upon the far wall of the den. She smiled as she approached him, "You look good enough to eat."

"Is that a threat?" He asked with a frown.

"Why must you be so difficult?" She asked as she met his eyes, "Annette said you were getting ready to leave."

"Yes, and I'm running behind. So if you could hurry this up, that would be nice," He said as he slipped his hands into his pockets.

"I saw the suitcases by the stairway. Business trip?"

"That's the idea."

"Want some company? We could turn it into pleasure," Heather smiled as she eased her fingertips over his arm.

"In case you haven't gotten a clue yet, I don't want to even share a town with you much less a room," He said as he withdrew from her touch, "If you only came here to beg again, you can leave. There's not going to be any forgiveness forthcoming."

"Why? Moving on to your lawyer?" She asked bluntly.

"That's really none of your business," He said as he moved towards the doors.

"She's never going to love you, you know. She'd never put up with your dark side."

Brant grinned as he turned back to her, "Don't tempt my dark side, Heather. You're pushing your luck with me, and you know that patience has never been one of my virtues. You'd be well advised to stay out of my life."

"Brant, I love you. I'm only trying to keep you from making a huge mistake."

"Too late. My biggest mistake to date was ever letting you get so deeply involved in my life. I've already taken steps to fix that mistake, but you just don't seem willing to take a hint. Get out, Heather, and don't come back. You're not wanted here," He said as he left the den.

Heather followed him out of the den and watched as he climbed the stairs, "I love you, Brant, and I won't give up on us. I love you. Do you hear me? I love you!" She shouted as she watched him disappear down the upstairs hallway.

Annette stepped out of the kitchen, "He's being very difficult, but don't you give up on him. He does have a heart even if he doesn't want anyone to know about it."

"Oh don't you worry, Annette. I'm not giving up on him, not by a long shot," Heather said before she stepped out of the mansion. She plucked her cell phone from her purse and dialed Russell's cell. When he didn't answer directly, she left him a message, "You'd better find out where your lawyer friend is, Russell. Brant's leaving on a business trip, and that means he's probably taking his lawyer with him. If they're together away from Coral Valley, he'll probably do everything in his power to get her into his bed. If you want to put the brakes on his intentions, you'd better find out where they're going and call me the minute you find out. We can't let them be together that way," She warned as she ended the call and dropped her phone back in her purse, "I'll be damned if I'll lose Brant this way. I'll be damned if I'll lose him at all," She declared as she left the mansion, determined to keep Brant away from Avery.


Jade tapped her fingers upon the counter top at Irvan's as she waited for her order to be prepared. Lunch time was never her favorite time of day. There were always too many people crowding into the restaurants of Coral Valley expecting their meal to have already been prepared. She'd worked as a waitress and had hated every single moment of it, but it had allowed her to learn patience when ordering a meal.

"Is this seat taken?"

She turned to see a well dressed, tall, dark and handsome man smiling at her. She shook her head, "No go right ahead."

"Thank you," He said as he sat beside her. He lifted a menu and glanced over the choices before him, "So what's good here?"

"Just about everything," She replied, "Passing through?"

"New to town," He clarified as he extended his hand to her, "My name is Cameron Stone."

"Jade Alexander," She introduced herself as she shook his hand.

"Nice to meet you," He smiled, "Are you related to Seth Alexander?"

"Yes, I am. Why?" She asked as she studied the man closely, curious as to why he'd question her about her brother.

"I've seen some of his photographs. He's very talented," He said simply.

"Oh," She replied, feeling a bit foolish for worrying, "Yes, he is," She smiled.

"You must be very proud of him."

"I am. I know that he's going to make it big with his photography," She said with confidence.

"So what about you? Are you in the creative arts as well?"

"No, I'm a paralegal for Denton Legal Services."

"Must be exciting to work for a lawyer."

"In some ways," She smiled as she thought of Grady, "What about yourself?"

"I'm an entrepreneur," Cameron smiled, "I'm involved in quite a few ventures at the moment which have brought me to the Valley."

As her order arrived, Jade looked to her new acquaintance and smiled, "Well, I must go, but it was nice meeting you. I hope your time in Coral Valley is peaceful and profitable."

"I'm quite sure it will be," He assured her as she took her order and left the restaurant. Cameron smiled as he watched her leave, "And you're the key to making it happen, Ms. Alexander," His smile grew as he thought about forcing Seth to do his bidding with the Ashfords.


The empty container that once held the strawberry shortcake Blake had prepared fell to the floor with a tiny thud as Blake lay beneath Seth on the sofa, at ease in his arms as they were lost in kiss after savory kiss.  Despite the fact she’d known him less than a week, there was something amazing about him, something that made her want to fly, to go wherever he would take her on this new journey.  Her arms wrapped around his body carefully as she felt the muscular contours of his steely spine.  His careful, patient kisses pressed between her lips as his tongue found hers and he took his time exploring the sexy warmth of her hungry mouth.  With kiss after needy kiss, Blake cried out feeling him stroke her mouth to sweet ecstasy as his strong arms held her.  His tender caresses glided over the side of her sundress warming her body with his exotic touch as they slowly parted from their long, drugging kiss.
“You’re too good to be true, Blake,” Seth confessed pressing his forehead against hers as his thumb and index finger teased over the bare skin of her shoulder gently pinching at the spaghetti thin strap of her sundress, “you’re incredible.”
“You’re the one who’s truly amazing,” she whispered fanning her fingers out over his spine as he hovered over her carefully propping himself up in an attempt not to crush her with his torso lay dormant above her, reminding her of his solid, strength despite his gentle, explorations.  She shifted beneath him feeling the smooth bronze expanse of streamlined muscle and sinew above her.
“No I’m not really,” Seth shook his head as he saw the beautiful eyes that had captured his attention in that first meeting between them.
“Yes, you are,” Blake continued tenderly as her fingers pressed over his shoulder, “no one has ever risked everything for me like you did the other night.”
“Blake, it was nothing,” Seth shrugged as he propped himself up on his elbow above her.  Unable to resist the urge, he leaned forward placing a tender, feathery light kiss upon the warm velvety skin of her shoulder as his thumb dipped in beneath the strap of her sundress tugging upon it gently as he lowered it down over her shoulder eager to learn more about this beauty beneath him.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” she reached out to him urging him to meet her eyes once again, “Seth no one has ever done anything like that for me in my life before.”
“Never?” Seth gave her a sideways glance, “I find that hard to believe.”
“Well it’s true,” she confessed with a sigh, “all of my life, I’ve wanted to know what it felt like to have someone do something for me--really do something for me without them having a hidden agenda,” she let out a tiny, nervous laugh, “I mean I know my brothers might’ve rushed in to help me, but that’s because they’re family.”
“Blake, many men would’ve given their lives to protect you,” Seth frowned slightly seeing the sadness behind her eyes.
“No, that’s just it.  They wouldn’t have…that is unless of course my father paid them to do just that,” she bit on her lower lip as she looked away from him.
“Hey,” he turned her eyes to meet his once again, “Blake, that can’t possibly be true.  Surely what I did was nothing compared to what others have done for you.”
“Seth, all my life people have seen me as the spoiled little rich girl,” Blake admitted with a sigh, “and maybe that’s why I am, but never, ever has anyone taken a risk that put themselves on the line like you did the other night.  You didn’t know much about me--hell, probably didn’t even like me and yet you were willing to put your life on a limb to keep me safe.  That takes courage…”
“No, it doesn’t,” Seth shook his head suddenly feeling a rush of guilt wash over him as he sat up on the sofa.
“Yes, yes it does,” she nodded encouragingly, “Seth, what you did for me, well that night at the hospital all I could think about was you returning to me again.  I wanted you to be safe and I wanted to protect you, to show you that your actions meant so much to me.”
“Blake, you don’t even know me,” Seth replied looking over to her as she uncurled herself from the sofa cushions.
“What more do I need to know?” she questioned laying her head on his shoulder, “you’re my hero and for that, I’m forever connected to you.”
“Blake,” he reached out to touch her cheek gently, “you don’t owe me anything and if this,” he nodded towards the couch where they’d once been exploring one another, “if this about payback…”
“Seth, this is about the way you make me feel,” Blake blurted out as her eyes grew wide with enthusiasm, “this is about how when I’m with you, I want to spend more time with you…to learn all about you…”
“Blake, I’m not what you think I am,” Seth rose from the couch uneasily, “I’m not this hero you believe me to be.”
“You are in my eyes,” Blake insisted seeing the distance he was putting between them, “Seth, did I say something wrong?  Am I moving too fast here?”
“No, it’s not you,” he shook his head, “it’s me.  Blake, take a good look around here.  Do you see what I am?”
“You’re a good man with a kind heart,” she stood up beside him, “one that I could easily lose myself in.”
“Blake, I’m not one of the guys from the country club,” Seth frowned in response, “I’m not exactly what you’d take to an Ashford family reunion.”
“To hell with the Ashford family reunion,” she announced firmly, “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be anyways.”
“Blake, you say that now, but…”
“Seth, look I’m not asking anything of you,” Blake began taking a breath as she feared she was pushing him too hard too fast, “I just want the chance to get to know you better, which I thought was what we both wanted.”
“I do want that,” Seth confessed openly, “Blake, more than anything I want to learn everything there is to know about you.”
“Then ask away,” she offered with a shrug of her shoulders.
“It’s not that simple,” he paused contemplating the deal he’d made with Cameron Stone, but as her beautiful blue eyes beckoned him, he realized that something was changing.  He was changing and as he found himself captivated by Blake Ashford, he wondered what that could mean to his future.
“So what’s on your mind?” Blake questioned unknowingly as she looked up at him, “I can see you’re thinking about something.”
“I was just wondering if your chicken noodle soup was half as good as your strawberry shortcake was,” Seth lied unable to let Cameron’s words haunt him during this time with Blake.
“There’s only one way to find out,” Blake piped in stepping towards the kitchen, “I’ll go and get some for you.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Seth nodded in response as she looked back at him.
“Why don’t you sit down and let me take care of you,” she suggested with a smile, “I’ll get you a bowl to taste test and then maybe we can watch television or something.  I read that there were supposed to be some good flicks on tonight if you’re interested…”
“You know, that sounds like a wonderful idea,” Seth agreed reaching for the remote control realizing that being around Blake was nothing like what he’d expected it to be, but somehow it felt right and he found himself wanting more of these moments between them.


Avery stepped out of the car that Brant had sent over for her and she looked to the Ashford jet thinking about the trip ahead of her.  Drawing in a deep breath, she stepped forward approaching the jet as her heart thudded in her chest.  She knew he wasn’t going to be happy with her as she was running over an hour behind schedule, but given the lashing Russell had given her back at her apartment, she found there was no other alternative.  Still thinking back to Russell’s impromptu visit, she found her blood boiling with anger at his presumptuous side.  How dare he tell her what was best for her and how dare he push himself into her life.  Hadn’t that been why she’d ended things with him in the first place?  Hadn’t that also been why Bruce Mathis was now kicked to the curb as well?  No man would dictate her life and that would never change…that much she was certain of as she tried to push this morning’s disaster with Russell out of her mind.
“Ms. Morrison, I’ll take care of your bags,” Simon, Brant’s driver, explained to her with a nod, “Mr. Ashford is already in the jet awaiting your arrival.”
“Thank you,” she nodded politely as she climbed the steps up to the Ashford jet wondering what adventures were in store for her as she thought to this trip with Brant.  They had quite a task on their hands in securing Steven Davies deal with them, but she was certain that together they could make it happen and she would settle for nothing less.  She and Brant would get what they wanted from Steven Davies and one another…at least on a professional level.
Now as Avery boarded the Ashford jet, she couldn’t help but admire it’s plush interior.  The hints of red velvet and beige sophistication surrounded her and a soft smile touched over her lips as she realized she’d always appreciated this perk of her job.  She thought of the last time she’d been on the family jet and her smile faded a bit.  Of course at the time it had been escorting the family to the final resting place of the Ashford patriarch’s final resting place as he’d specifically wanted his ashes scattered overseas.  Still, despite the drama involved in that flight, Avery vowed that she’d enjoy this quiet ride to Steven Davies vineyard.
“I was wondering if you were going to stand me up,” Brant’s voice interrupted her thoughts as she spun around to find him seated on one of the small couch-type chairs at the far end of the jet.  His arm was stretched out across the back of the seat as he donned a crisp, black suit which no doubt proved yet again just how striking he was.  Avery noted the twinkle behind his eyes as they cast over her and he sipped casually upon the flute of champagne in his hand.
“I was tied up at my apartment,” Avery offered simply as she approached him.
“Well, whatever the distraction was,” Brant lowered his arm as he leaned forward on the seat, “it’s good to see you here.”
“I’m sorry for the delay,” Avery confessed as he patted the seat beside him urging her to take a seat.
“It’s quite alright,” Brant shrugged his shoulders as he reached out to the second glass of champagne he had obviously set aside for her.  Lifting the glass out towards her, he offered a sexy smile, “champagne?”
“Actually, I thought we’d go over some of these reports during the flight,” Avery motioned the briefcase she’d carried with her.
“We can do that,” Brant nodded accordingly, “but in the same respect a little champagne never hurt anyone.”
“A little wouldn’t cause much damage no,” she agreed accepting the glass from his hand, feeling the faintest brush of his fingers against hers, “but if you’re planning on getting me drunk during the flight so you can have your way with me, I’m afraid I’m going to be disappointing you as this will be my one and only glass.”
“Now Avery,” he shook his head as a tiny smile touched over his lips, “when I have my way with you, I intend to have you perfectly sober so that you can savor exactly what it is you’re experiencing on every spectacular level.”
“Does your ego know no bounds,” she rolled her eyes as she sipped her champagne and she leaned back against the seat, “tell me Brant, has any woman ever told you no before?”
“Not long enough for her to actually mean it,” he shook his head in response as he offered a confident grin, “I tend to have a way with working things in my favor.”
“Well, they say there is a first for everything,” Avery teased with a soft smile, “and this time, well I think you’re about to get your first big taste of rejection.”
“Oh Avery, come on,” Brant eyed her intently, “you know very well that you enjoy my attentions and if I didn’t make reference to how much I appreciated you, you might take offense in the situation.”
“You never know,” she winked back at him, “I might appreciate the civilized turn of events more so.”
“I can be civilized,” Brant defended feigning hurt as he gazed over at her, “it’s just that, well, watching you and seeing the way you carry yourself, it can be a bit distracting…especially when I start thinking about that kiss we shared the other night…”
“Brant, you promised me that we wouldn’t get into that until after the deal was closed,” she shifted towards him seeing the hint of mischief behind his eyes, “it was going to be business and nothing but business, remember?”
“You don’t really expect me to hold true to that, do you,” Brant lifted a curious brow as he met her stern look, “okay fine, then I’ll stay focused.”
“Thank you,” she nodded simply as she reached into her briefcase pulling out a few pages she’d prepared for him, “because the way I see it, if we stay focused, we’re bound to get Davies where we want him and this deal will be closed.”
“That’s what I’m banking on,” Brant blurted out proudly, “I have no doubt in my mind that you’re going to dazzle him in no time.”
“Such faith in me,” Avery tilted her head sideways as she thought of the things that both Bruce and Russell had said to her, “tell me is that loyalty and conviction coming from the fact you are confident about my abilities or by your sheer desire to have your way with me?”
“Avery,” he offered an amused chuckle as he leaned back, “there are plenty of women I could easily seduce, who wouldn’t be nearly as impossible as you are, yet I think we both know where I stand in this situation with you.”
“No, I don’t think we do,” she challenged watching him closely as he tugged on his tie, “enlighten me Brant.  Is this faith in my abilities true praise or just a come on in order to get me into bed?”
“Look Avery,” Brant’s voice grew serious as he watched her, “despite the fact that I do have every intention of making you my lover, that is irrelevant in terms of business.  Did you ever see me offer to give someone such as, oh I don’t know say Heather a firm grasp on my lifeline like I’m offering you?”
“I don’t want to know what kind of grasp Heather had on anything of yours,” Avery wrinkled her nose in disgust as her thoughts traveled back to Heather and Russell in his office, “that woman is trash.”
“Indeed she is,” Brant agreed with her as a smile touched over his lips, “and she isn’t nearly capable of handling the task of picking out her perfect shade of lip gloss let alone being able to recognize the difference between a corporate merger and a clearance sale at Bloomingdale’s.  Avery, when I say that you have my implicit faith with my company, I trust you realize that I don’t hand that over to just anyone…”
“Brant, I realize that, but…” she trailed off feeling suddenly foolish.
“But you’re starting to let the rumors of my after hours pastimes cloud your thoughts of where we stand on a professional level,” Brant half questioned as he reached out to touch her cheek gently, “Avery, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want you.  I want to know what it’s like to make love to you, to experience every inch of your passion time and time again, but if you blow this deal with Davies believing that because of my personal interest in you that all will be forgiven, well then it would be safe to say that you will be looking for another job very soon.  Is that clear?”
“Very,” Avery couldn’t help but smile as she heard his words.
“You’re a tyrant when it comes to closing a deal and I don’t expect anything less from you regardless of our sexual situation.  Is that understood?” Brant offered further as he leaned back in his chair.
“Perfectly,” Avery nodded eagerly as she handed him the papers she’d been holding, “and Brant…”
“Yes?” he questioned accepting the papers from her.
“Thank you,” she offered a relieved grin as she pulled out another set of the pages for herself.
“For what?” he asked puzzled.
“For trusting me to do my job and for the faith in my ability despite whatever it is that’s going on between us,” Avery blurted out a sense of enthusiasm for the deal at hand rushing over her.
“Avery, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  You’re a damn good lawyer and you could give plenty of men a run for their money in the legal world and knowing that, well I wouldn’t want any other lawyer on my side because you’re the best,” Brant finished turning his attention to the pages before her.
“Thank you,” she repeated realizing that Bruce and Russell had both been wrong.  Despite Brant’s come ons with her, he did have faith in her abilities and he did believe she was a good lawyer.  He wasn’t just using her position to get her where he wanted her on a personal level.  He respected her dedication to her job and admired that about her.  That in itself proved they were wrong about Brant Ashford.
“Well you know, I accept nothing but the best,” Brant added as if reading her thoughts as he thumbed through the pages before him, “not to mention you’re sexy as hell.”
“Gee, thanks Brant,” she half rolled her eyes realizing that despite their confusing mutual attraction, they really did make a good team.  In the boardroom they were unstoppable and now as Avery prepared for the business meeting at hand, she wondered if perhaps someday that would lead to something remarkable in the bedroom…that is if she allowed it to get that far.  Time would tell, she reasoned as she buried herself in her work vowing to leave all the other hassles behind for the time being.  This trip was about winning Steven Davies over and Avery intended to just that--nothing would keep that from happening.


Cameron Stone sat in the back of his limousine, watching Jade approach the building where she worked. He braced himself upon an arm rest and gently brushed his fingertip across his full bottom lip. His personal cell phone rang, and he answered.


"This is Thea," She announced softly, "I just arrived in town."

Cameron grinned, knowing his assistant's arrival meant they would be able to move forward with his plans shortly, "Good, was your trip successful?"

"If you're asking if I got the information you requested, the answer is yes. But I don't think it's quite what you wanted to hear."

He frowned, "Meet me at the office to discuss it."

"And what would you be about now?" She asked, knowing that he was always thinking ahead with his plans.

"I'm watching someone who could very well be an important part of our puzzle, Thea. See what you can find out about Denton Legal Services."

"Denton? That wasn't a name you had me research," She pointed out.

"I'm learning more about Coral Valley every moment that I'm here," He said as he watched Jade step into the building, "We haven't identified all the players in our game, Thea, but I think it's about time we did. Start your research. I'll be at the office shortly," Cameron said as he ended the call. As he hung up the phone, he glanced back to the building where the Denton offices were located, "This town doesn't have a clue what it's in for, but it will. Very shortly, it will know exactly what I have in store for all of them."

...to be continued...