Episode Seventy 

The doors flew open as the paramedics pushed the gurney carrying Caitlin inside. Ria met the paramedics immediately, “What have we got?”

“Victim of assault,” Brandon, one of the paramedics, spoke as he continued to grip and release a bag to deliver air to Caitlin’s lungs, “Tried to intubate in the field, but the vocal chords are swollen. Blood pressure is up and down, pulse is variable as well. Breathing is shallow, respirations are irregular.”

“Let’s get her into a trauma room,” Ria called out as she helped move the gurney along, “Barbara, get Dr. Reynolds down here. This is Dr. Vaughn’s sister,” She pointed out as she moved along side a gurney in the trauma room, “Let’s move her on the count of three. One, two, three,” She said as they transferred Caitlin to a free gurney.

“Is she going to be okay?” Blake asked from the doorway as her hands trembled and tears ran down her cheeks, “Please tell me…she has to be okay.”

Ria looked to Barbara, “Get her out of here,” She advised before listening to Caitlin’s chest as another nurse began cutting Caitlin’s clothes off, “Both lungs are on the verge of collapsing,” Ria glanced up as Isaac stepped into the room.

“My god,” Isaac quickly moved alongside the gurney, “Have labs been ordered yet?”

“No, I’m working on an airway. She’s going to need a tracheotomy,” Ria said with a frown as she turned to the nurse, “Get respiratory down here.”

Isaac took a tray from a nurse and covered Caitlin with a drape before taking a scalpel from the tray and begin to make an incision along her throat, “Has Zack been contacted?”

“I don’t know,” Ria answered before looking back to the nurse, “We need labs drawn. ABG, CBC, Chem-7. Let’s hang a bag of saline, type and cross for four. Call radiology. We need a C-Spine and chest film, and tell them to clear a room for CT,” The nurse nodded before Ria looked back to help Isaac, “How’s it going?”

“I’m done. Bag her,” Isaac spoke as he stepped away from Caitlin and began examining her for other injuries, “Barbara,” He spoke the nurse’s name as she reentered the room, “Find out if Zack has been informed.”

“He has. Blake Ashford is outside, and she just called him,” Barbara replied as she moved along side the gurney while helping another nurse complete Ria’s orders.

“Her lungs are on the verge of collapse,” Ria pointed out as she passed Isaac a tray to complete a chest tube. She looked back to Barbara, “Any idea who did this to her?”

“Blake said it was an old boyfriend,” Barbara spoke as she hung a bag of saline and completed the IV.

“Damn,” Isaac cursed as he finished inserting the chest tube and began listening to Caitlin’s chest, “Have the police been contacted?”

“There’s a deputy outside now. I think he’s here to talk to Blake,” Barbara spoke while grabbing the phone from the wall. She listened for a moment before hanging the phone back on the base, “Radiology is ready.”

“Okay,” Ria nodded as she finished inserting the other chest tube, “Let’s go.”

Isaac, Ria, and Barbara moved the gurney out of the trauma room and escorted Caitlin down to radiology to learn just how extensive her injuries were.


“It was Jimmy Cordell,” Blake spoke as she glanced down the hallway as they took Caitlin to radiology, “Chief Warner already knows about this guy,” She folded her arms in frustration as she looked up to Patrick who was taking notes as she spoke.

“We’ve got an APB out on him, but we have officers canvassing the area,” Patrick informed her, “How was she when they brought her in?”

“Not good,” She said as she began to fall apart. She sank into a chair in the waiting area, “I had to give her CPR, but…I don’t know if it did any good.”

“The doctors here are the best,” He assured her, “Is there anyone you’d like me to call to come sit with you?” He offered.

“No, I called her brother,” She paused, “And I need to call my own.”

“This is my card,” He said as he offered it to her, “If you think of anything that could help in our investigation, please don’t hesitate to call me.”

Blake nodded as the deputy left her by herself. She removed her cell phone from her purse and dialed the number to the mansion.

“Hello?” Kenneth answered.

“Kenny, you need to come down to the hospital,” Blake sobbed as the severity of the situation began to fully weigh on her, “Caitlin’s been attacked.”

“What? When? How?” He asked quickly.

“I don’t know how but Jimmy was at her apartment. He really did a number on her, Kenny. I think you really need to get down here,” She wiped tears as she spoke, “Kenny, it’s bad this time. It’s really, really bad.”

“I’ll be right there,” Ken said as he quickly ended the phone call.

Blake tucked her phone back into her purse as Zack entered the hospital, “Zack…”

“Where is she? How is she?” Zack asked quickly.

“Dr. Reynolds and Mehran were looking after her. They haven’t told me anything yet,” She replied.

“I’m going to find out what’s going on,” He declared as he started down the hall.

“I’m going with you,” She declared as she started after him.

“No, I think you’ve done enough,” Zack declared harshly, “You were so worried about your family and their reputation that you forgot that Caitlin is your friend. You treated her like she didn’t have a clue what was going on when she was there, Blake. And I think the last thing she needs is your high and mighty fair weather friendship right now,” He met her eyes, “Stay away, Blake. Just stay away,” He warned as he walked down the hallway to find out what was going on with his sisters.

Blake broke down into tears as she crumbled into the floor, feeling guilty for the way she’d treated her friend and terrified that she’d never get the chance to make it up to her.


Avery felt the faint brush of soft, teasing kisses over the back of her neck as she stretched out from beneath the white, cotton sheet she’d crawled underneath the previous evening after she and Russell had said farewell to his parents and exhaustion had finally settled in.  Now as the warmth of Russell’s unmistakably soft lips traced over her soft, silken skin, she felt a rush of excitement and anticipation rush over her spine as her eyelids fluttered open and she found herself gazing right at the lush, crimson colored blossom of a rose before her.   A smile touched over Avery’s features as she shifted on the bed, turning to face the man who lay beside her, propped up on his elbow as a sexy smile was painted over his features.  His hair was unkempt and his mesmerizing green eyes glazed with a tantalizing mixture of passion and ease as her eyes dropped down over the smooth contours of his shirtless chest caressing the trail that lead to the low riding waistband of his white loose fitting jogging pants as she couldn’t help but lick her lips at the image before her.  Slowly her gaze lingered tentatively back to his sparkling grin as he tipped in towards her moving the single red rose aside as his lips beckoned hers into a tender embrace.
“Good morning beautiful,” his words cascaded over her mouth providing a moist heat as her lips parted at the hint of intimacy that his kiss had brewed up inside of her.
“Good morning yourself,” she whispered warmly as her fingers leisurely left the pillow she’d had them tucked beneath opting to reach out and touch the fine musculature of his broad chest as a slow murmur of appreciation expanded within her as a twinge of playfulness spilled out from within, “sexy.”
“Sexy,” he repeated with obvious approval, “my you are having a wonderful morning here, aren’t you?”
“In waking up beside you like this,” she felt the corners of her mouth turn upward in the beginnings of a smile, “well, how could I not have a wonderful morning?”
“That’s the perfect answer to my question,” he replied approvingly as he took his time leisurely exploring every facet of her sensual mouth as he curled his arm around her bringing her in closer to him while his tongue found hers using this time to display his talents in stroking her mouth to ecstasy before drawing back restlessly, “which is all the more reason why I knew that climbing back into bed with you was the right idea after I brought you breakfast.”
“You brought me breakfast,” Avery inquired with heightened curiosity as he dipped forward suckling upon her swelled lower lip as an affirmative moan came forth from his lips sending the vibrations over her mouth in a tingling moment of awareness before he withdrew from the kiss.
“Hungry,” he wondered aloud half paying attention to his own question as his eyes focused upon the soft, supple lips he’d been basking in the moment with seconds earlier.
“Do you even need to ask,” she questioned arching a curious brow as his fingertips teased in over her shoulder toying with the soft, white fabric of the modest nightgown she’d changed into before they’d retired to bed for an evening in one another’s arms resting after the eventful day they’d had in returning home.
“Well, I can think of a million and one other things I’d rather be doing than asking,” he confessed feeling the inner tug of war in his subconscious as he debated the notion of making love to her first than making her aware of the dishes he’d prepared for them or in having her savor the culinary concoctions he had on the nightstand behind him.  Having a moment to remind himself that instant gratification wasn’t always the way to go, he opted for giving her a hint of what he’d prepared for her as he reluctantly untangled himself from his arms, “and while I’d like to get detailed on all of those things right now more than ever, well I think it’s time we work on that pampering promise I made you.”
“Pampering me huh,” Avery couldn’t help, but smile watching him move over to the nightstand to collect the tray he’d brought with him as she began to sit up straighter feeling a low rumble in her stomach alerting her that while she’d gone to bed quite satisfied after the meal Cheryl had whipped up for them, this morning was a different story altogether as hunger had returned once more.  “Oh does that smell good.”
“Wait until you taste it,” he assured her with a confident grin as he carefully set the tray up beside her, “as I know with one bite, you’re going to feel like you’d died and gone to heaven.”
“I already feel like I’m there,” she confessed watching him slide in beside her once again as her eyes curiously scanned the tray before her.  “So where do we start?”
“Well, I was thinking maybe we’d begin here,” he lifted one of the covers on the first plate revealing a stack of chocolate chip pancakes topped with chocolate chips and whipped cream before her.
“You didn’t,” Avery’s eyes widened as she faced him once more, “Russ, I can’t believe that you…”
“That I what?” he questioned giving her a pointed look, “That I wouldn’t remember what my beautiful bride used to indulge in on our lazy weekends at home?”
“I’d hardly recall them being lazy weekends,” Avery couldn’t help but tease as he carefully ran the pile before him capturing a bite with the fork before raising it to her lips for a taste test.
“I was hoping they’d be just as you remembered them,” he confessed watching her take the bite into her mouth as he waited for that soft murmur that usually followed such a moment.  Within a matter of seconds it was there as he found himself readily feeding her another bite.
“God, Russ these are better than I remembered them being,” Avery confessed with a mouthful unable to contain herself as she accepted a third bite, “Granted they were always amazing, but now…”
“Now they’ve just got a little extra special love put in them as I wanted to make my wife and my baby proud of my breakfast in bed,” he admitted openly his hand dropping down over her abdomen.  “And how is my little one feeling this morning?”
“So far so good,” Avery closed her eyes savoring the bite she’d just taken before she looked to the tray before her, “although I think we can find a way to make this even more enjoyable.”
“Oh?” Russell inquired watching as she repositioned the tray so that she could crawl into his arms settling in between his legs as she lay her back into his chest so that he could hold her more completely.  Reaching for his hands, she wrapped them around her waist before turning her head just a bit so that she could look over her shoulder at him as she raised a forkful of pancakes to his eager lips.
“Have some sweetie,” she fed him the pancakes before reaching to collect the tray.  She moved it closer to them before working to cut up a few more pieces as his hands settled in over her abdomen once more gently massaging her body as a sigh spilled over her lips, “Russ, this is incredible.”
“We’ve only just begun,” he couldn’t help but smile motioning to the other covered plate upon the tray, “Why don’t you take a look what’s over there?”
“Well since you insist,” she felt a tiny giggle build up inside of her as she lifted the lid only to discover a plate of fresh fruit before her.  Reaching for a piece of melon, she tilted back turning to look at him as she ran the juicy fruit over his bottom lip watching as he attempted to take a bite before she snatched the fruit away from his mouth plopping it into her own with a wicked smirk.
“Now you’re just being plain evil,” Russell shook his head at her unable to contain his amusement as he reached for the last covered dish before him to reveal the various pieces of bacon before him, “which is why I brought my own sustenance.”
“Hmm, that smells good too,” Avery decided snatching the piece he’d collected from his fingers before dropping it into her mouth with one quick motion.
“Hey you,” he poked at her sides unable to contain the laughter that carried over him, “You hate bacon, remember?”
“Yes, I know this, but right now, oh God, does it taste incredible, though you know I‘m not above sharing,” she reached for another crispy piece munching on it as he watched her with silent pleasure.  Halfway into the piece, she paused bringing it up towards his lips as he took a bite.
“I do appreciate that sweetheart,” he sank back into the pillows a bit as he took the time to reflect upon the moment, “though I have to tell you that I’d let you steal my bacon any day if it meant we could always do this.”
“Well, we are married now so I think this is part of the arrangement,” Avery reminded him eagerly, “I do think this is part of what marriage is about.”
“Oh and what else does this marriage include,” he inquired lifting her dark hair from her shoulder to give him a view of her soft, vulnerable flesh before his mouth dropped down to taste her skin.
‘Well, lots of things,” she lifted another piece of bacon to him tempting him away from her shoulder as he took a quick bite, “but I’m sure we can get into that later as we’ll have plenty of time to really settle into the roles we have here.”
“I think we’re settling just fine if you ask me,” he swallowed the bacon before returning his attention to her shoulder.  He paused for the briefest of moments, easing the strap of her nightgown aside before devoting his attention to nibbling on her tantalizing skin.
“Somehow I get the feeling breakfast was the last thing on your mind when you came back in here,” Avery threw him a pointed look as she turned to meet his spunky eyes.
“Well I’d intended on focusing completely on breakfast, but you know how I am when I get cooking,” he grinned sheepishly, “with putting things into preparation like I was doing and with the thought that maybe just maybe you’d be dabbling in a taste of my bacon, well I thought I’d just…”
“Just what?” she questioned with a knowing grin, “Just nibble on a few things before you came back in here so that you wouldn’t be distracted while you were trying to distract me?”
“That was the general idea,” he confessed with a tiny chuckle, “and here I thought I was being so very smooth about this one.”
“Honey, as smooth as you think you are, well you know I’ve got your number by now,” she settled in a bit more completely between his thighs as she continued to munch on the pancakes he’d provided her with.  A moment later she reached for a grape lifting it to his lips as he accepted the bite with an amused laugh.
“There isn’t pulling anything past you these days, is there,” he questioned unable to contain the smile that swept over him.
“Well you know if you could pull the wool over my eyes, you might find we’d have some serious problems as I rather enjoy knowing you so well,” she admitted openly taking another piece of melon for herself.
“And I rather enjoy the way you always keep on surprising me,” he whispered over her skin.  He reached for a piece of cantaloupe and felt a hint of a grin tug over the corners of his mouth as he trailed the fruit over the dip of her body taking the time to make a meal of her neck once again as his tongue teased over the juices left upon her moments earlier by the fruit.
“You’re just trying to think of some quirky cute way to seduce me because you’re still thinking about that comment I made last night about the camcorder before your parents surprised us with the nursery,” she teased poking at his sides before dropping another piece of fruit into her mouth.
“Okay so I’m guilty as charged, but can you blame me if I can’t wait to get my wife naked and horizontal for a while,” he divulged nibbling on her earlobe, “You make it sound like it’s a bad thing.”
“Only when you can’t find it in you to think about anything else,” Avery couldn’t help but laugh lightly, “as I’m starting to think you have a very one track mind.”
“Where you’re concerned, well that about sums it up,” he confessed fanning his fingers out over her thigh, “but is that so horrible?”
“Not at all, but you do realize that soon you’re probably not going to be wanting to make love to me all the time,” she threw out seriously as her dark eyes lingered up to his once again.
“How can you say such an awful thing?” he questioned curling his lip in a pout, “Why would you even think that?”
“Well soon I’m going to be big and round and you’re going to have a whole new woman before you,” she laced her fingers together throwing her arms out in an exaggerated motion to mock the belly that she’d be having as her pregnancy continued, “I’ll be fat and bloated and you’ll probably be sneaking off to fulfill those carnal desires of yours with some skinny twit who is more your type.”
“Baby, don’t you know by now that I’m all about curves,” he insisted bunching up the bottom of her nightgown and drawing it up over her leg before his hand settled in between the warmth of her thighs, “especially when they’re yours.”
“So you’ll find it in your heart to love me when I’m looking like I swallowed a beach ball and I’m having trouble finding it in me to see my feet,” she teased as she reached for another piece of fruit dropping it into his mouth before his fingers tapered off over the hem of her panties.
“Of course I will as I’ve always had this fantasy about you in that very position,” he admitted openly as he nudged the material aside easing his finger into the warmth of her body as she wiggled against him, “as I find the thought of you pregnant with my child to be quite a turn on--a very erotic fantasy come to life…”
“So you’ve always had a thing for pregnant women huh,” Avery teased closing her eyes as her head tipped back into his shoulder taking in the feel of his skilled caress as he found that secret hotspot inside of her.
“Only when that woman is you,” he placed butterfly kisses over her neck as his free hand captured her breast palming it as she sank more completely in against him.
“Russ,” she bit on her lower lip fighting the stir of sensations he’d created inside of her with his every well planned caress, “you are by far the horniest man I’ve ever known.  You realize that, don’t you?”
“Hmm, and you see a problem with this because?” he inquired half listening as he nudged her nightgown over her chest just enough to get a full view of her passion crested rose tipped peak before him.  His hand captured her fullness as he rested his chin upon her shoulder in order to get a better look at the way her body so readily responded to his.
“Your parents are coming over in a little bit,” she reminded him with a tiny whimper as he continued his torturous persuasion.
“Your point,” he repeated lazily as he dipped another finger inside of her massaging her damp folds as she began to writhe against his explorations.
“My point is we’re back to this again,” she offered up in a husky tone, “here we are in bed…and we’re…well…”
“We’re just practicing for the next honeymoon adventure.  That’s all,” he tried to assure her, “Deidra said that there wouldn’t be any problems with our experimenting sexually with the various stages of your pregnancy so I just as soon figured that we’d…”
“We’d what,” she asked breathlessly turning her eyes towards his as an involuntary moan ripped through her as he continued his torturous teasing.
“Explore,” he captured her mouth in a hungry kiss ceasing his movement between her thighs as his arm curled around her waist urging her to turn around in his arms to face him again.
“Russ,” she breathed his name feeling his hands upon her hips as he quickly eased the nightgown up over her head before finding a way to move the tray he’d brought with him out of the way as he lay her down on the mattress and moved in over her.
“Avery, have I ever told you how sexy I think you are,” he inquired teasing his index finger over her taut nipple before his kisses moved in over her collar bone trailing down to her soft fullness.
“Russ, you’re parents are going to be…” she started again feeling the rough tug at the fabric that remained between them before he disposed of her tattered panties, left in pieces from his lightening quick movement as he settled in between her thighs, his kisses daring her to deny him as he slid her leg up over the bed sheet.
“They can wait,” he murmured tracing patterns over her skin as his tongue dipped in over her naval appreciating the soft swell of her abdomen as he thought to the magic of their love growing with each passing moment and in that instant a wave of sentimentality swept over him.  He lay a tender kiss upon the center of her stomach as his palm curved over her thigh memorizing her shape.  He could feel her breath escape from her lips as she shifted restlessly beneath him and he whispered over her skin, “God, you’re so beautiful.”
“Baby,” she reached out to him curling her fingers beneath his chin as she pulled him up towards him again kissing him with an unspoken urgency as her pulse quickened at the nearness of him.
“I love you so much,” he confessed unable to keep his eyes off of her as he rolled onto his back wanting to take in every inch of her as she straddled him.  His gaze dipped down to her abdomen once again as a proud smile built at the corners of his mouth and he guided her hips over his body watching as she tugged at the drawstring of his pants.
“I love you,” she yanked the material down over his hips, her eyes lighting up as her palm sheathed his straining manhood stroking him eagerly, “I love you so much even if all you can think about is sex…”
“It’s not just sex for us Avery,” he stilled her hand, claiming her body eagerly as he guided her hips over him, joining them as one as he sat upright in an attempt to seek out a deeper connection as he held her in his arms, “When we’re together, it’s always been us making love…”
“Feeling love,” she touched his cheek tenderly meeting his eyes as she stilled herself over him refusing to budge in this instant of perfect completion between them as she felt his eyes reaching down into her heart, daring her to give herself completely to him, but in that instant she realized that there was nothing to coax out of her as she’d willingly given her all to him and her heart filled with love for the man who’d created the ultimate connection between them.
“I love you,” he mouthed against her lips feeling her over him as her arms draped around his shoulder keeping him close to her.
“I love you Russ and I always will as you’ve given me the world,” she replied tasting the sweet eroticism behind his kiss as they pushed one another’s limits savoring the connection between them that would always remain as they’d managed to find the perfect combination of passion and love with one another in their first morning at home with one another.


Jade turned in bed seeking out the warmth of Grady’s body. Instead, she found cool sheets where Grady should have been. She opened her eyes and glanced around the room, trying to find some sign of him. She heard the sound of water running in the bathroom and concluded that had been where Grady ran off to.

She stretched out in the warmth of Grady’s bed and smiled to herself. The last twenty four hours had been beyond description. While she had dreamt about romance with Grady, her dreams had never compared to reality. He had opened up with her and acted like the man she had fallen in love with instead of the man full of rage he’d been portraying recently. He had reminded her of every single reason she loved him, and now she knew for certain that she was never going to let his anger get between them…no matter what tactics she had to do to prevent that situation from arising.

“You’re awake,” Grady smiled as he stood in the doorway to the bathroom and crossed his arms, “Sleep well?”

“Like a baby,” She grinned as she watched him, “God you’re sexy.”

“Funny but I was just thinking the same thing about you,” He shook his head, “You look like pure sin,” He spoke as he took steps towards her, his eyes caressing her with all the amorous ideas floating through his head.

She reached out to him and pulled him down on the bed beside her, closing in so that they were a breath away from one another, “There’s nothing pure about me.”

“Have I mentioned I love you lately?” He asked with a grin before stealing a kiss from her lips, “Come here,” He said as he slid out of bed and scooped her into his arms.

“Grady!” She laughed as she held onto his shoulders, “What are you doing?”

“I’m just making sure that you don’t forget how much I adore you,” He explained as he stepped into the bathroom and eased her down on her feet.

Jade gasped as she looked around the room. Candles were lit around the room while rose petals were strewn about the floor. The bath tub was filled with water as bubbles lay in mounds across the water. She turned and met his eyes with a grin, “I had no idea you had a romantic buried deep in that heart of yours.”

“And here I thought you knew everything about me,” He teased as he pulled his pajama bottoms off, “I guess you still have some things to learn, huh?”

Her eyes roamed his body hungrily while she arranged her hair in a lopsided bun, “And I’m going to have one hell of a good time learning.”

Grady grinned as he led her to the tub and stepped into the water with her. He sat down and leaned into the wall of the tub while Jade sat in front of him and leaned back against his chest. He eased his hands down her arms as she closed her eyes and exhaled in pleasure.

“I could get used to this,” Jade smiled as she drew his arms around her.

“I hope you do,” He pressed a kiss to her temple, “I haven’t really given you the attention I should have, and I’m going to rectify that immediately. Yesterday was just the beginning.”

“Hmm, it was a damn good beginning,” She assured him as she turned slightly to catch a glimpse of his face, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Grady grinned as he kissed her gently. When Jade lay back against his chest, he took a sponge from nearby and dipped it into the water. He lightly drew the sponge over her skin as she sighed.

“I just have to say that I’m in heaven right about now. You just keep improving on paradise,” She caressed his knees along each side of her, “Are their any other surprises you have in store for me?”

“Dozens,” He grinned as he continued drawing the sponge over her skin, “I figured we’d just have a lazy day here enjoying some time with one another.”

“Sounds even more like heaven,” She smiled, “Grady, I just have to tell you that you’ve made dreams come true for me in ways I can’t even begin to describe.”

“You are a dream come true for me,” He spoke as she turned slightly to meet his eyes, “I’ve always dreamt of a love that was undemanding but rewarding unimaginable ways. You’ve brought that kind of love into my life. If I could give you even half of what you’ve brought into my life, then I’d have really accomplished something.”

Jade smiled as she turned completely and positioned him so that she could sit astride him. She eased her palms down his chest as she met his eyes, “I love you, Grady Denton, and you are everything I’ve ever wanted in my life. All I want from you,” She began as she leaned forward and kissed him tenderly, “Is your love.”

“You have it,” Grady assured her as he secured his arms around her and hugged her close to him, “You have all of my heart, Jade, and all of me,” He declared as he drew her lips to his. He had come close to ignoring the best thing that ever happened to him, but now that he had embraced Jade in every way, he would never make that mistake again.


Dave stood near where the body had been found and adjusted his sunglasses. He glanced around the area for a few moments before he adjusted his slacks a bit and crouched down to get a better look at the pool of blood upon the sand.

Shannon turned and spotted his deep concentration, “Hoping to get his location by looking into the blood?”

“No, I’m just wondering how long the poor bastard lived in order to create this much pooling,” He explained as he glanced up to her, “Did the locals give you much?”

“His name is Christian Fowler. He was a recent move-in. He did some landscaping for the Ashfords.”

“Then he became a part of the landscape. Do they have any idea bout the cause of death?”

“You mean other than his heart being cut out of his chest?” She asked as she folded her arms.

“Okay smart ass,” He said as he stood, “To the point, I’m wondering if he was drugged first. Can you imagine anyone going through a procedure like that without screaming?”

“If he was knocked out…”

“If he was knocked out, there would have been chance that someone could have heard the attack,” Dave pointed out, “When did this happen?”

“We only have an approximation of death.”

“And let me guess. It’s right in the middle of Christmas somewhere, right?”

“Yeah, Christmas Eve to be a little more precise,” Shannon watched him, “Where are you going with this?”

“The Ashfords were here, Shannon,” He explained, “If Abrams killed this man here, he’s getting bolder. He’s not as subdued as he once was. We’re going to need to make sure Avery’s protected.”

“I’ve got a FBI detail on her already. I sent one over to keep an eye on Brant as well just in case this psychopath gets any ideas.”

“Probably a good idea,” He agreed as his cell phone rang. He groaned as he answered it, “Warner.”

“Chief, it’s Sharpe. Look, I know you’re looking after the Mathis case, but I thought you’d want to know…Caitlin Vaughn was attacked. Blake Ashford was at the scene and identified Jimmy Cordell as the attacker, but boss, this looks bad. The victim might not make it.”

“Son of a bitch,” Dave cursed, “Let’s put everyone on this that we can spare. We’ll let the FBI guys worry about Mathis right now. I want Cordell found, Sharpe. I’ll be back in town tonight. I want a full update when I get in. If there are any breaks in the case or any changes in Caitlin’s condition, you call me immediately.”

“Yes, sir,” Patrick replied before hanging up.

Dave put his phone back in his pocket, “Caitlin Vaughn was attacked. She’s in bad shape.”

“The ex-boyfriend?” Shannon shook her head, “I’d like to find that guy and break his head.”

“Hopefully, we’ll get that chance,” Dave agreed as he glanced back to the crime scene before him, hoping that they could find the men who were causing the women of Coral Valley so much pain.


Brant stepped into the mansion after having spent most of the night in the bar speaking with Hart about his latest course of action.  While he wasn’t quite sure how he’d be successful in getting Avery’s attention refocused on where it should be with him once again, he was damn certain that she wouldn’t be spending the rest of her life with Russell Denton.  That much was a given as he thought to the plans he’d made for the two of them together.  Sure, they could use a little work when it came to that next step now that Russell had found a way to put a crimp in his plans for Avery, but that too given time would be nothing more than a fading reminder of how Brant would have to work to keep things in perspective where Avery was concerned.  Now as he made his way to his room, opting to spend the morning in bed as he contemplated nursing this hang over that his recent martini binge carried with it, he moved up the stairs finding himself face to face with Brooke as she stood at the top of the landing, her eyes widening in surprise.
“Brant, you’re home,” she greeted him excitedly throwing her arms around him with a sudden eagerness that caught Brant off guard, “I didn’t realize you and Avery would be coming back so soon as I’d imagined you’d have been on a very long, romantic honeymoon, but I suppose it’s wonderful that you’re here as now I can welcome you to the family sooner than anticipated,” she pulled back from the embrace, her smile widening as she squeezed his hands, “Brant, you have no idea how happy I am to hear that you’re my son-in-law as I know you and my daughter will have a wonderful life with one another.”
“Well it’s nice that someone else sees it to, now if you could somehow convince Avery of that we’d be all set,” he grumbled realizing that while Johanna had worked to run the story about the island wedding, well, Brant had hoped that by the time he’d returned home that Avery would be a married woman and there would be some truth to the tale.  Unfortunately thanks to Russell Denton, Avery had come home with the wrong husband.  That thought in itself set Brant’s blood to a boil as Brooke’s grin faded.
“What has my daughter done now,” Brooke questioned with a heavy frown, “Don’t tell me that she’s already being testy this early on in your marriage as I’m certain she’s just moody because being married to you is a dream come true for Avery.  I’m sure whatever problem you two are having right now, well it can be fixed and…”
“The problem is that Avery isn’t my wife,” Brant blurted out with a grumble, “as much as I wish it were, I’m not your son-in-law.”
“What?” Brooke’s eyes widened in response before she turned her head sideways taking in his words, “But I saw on the news that you two had wed on a remote island and…”
“The news ran some story like that I’m told,” Brant offered up not admitting to his part in the tale, “but unfortunately before I had the chance to get Avery to that wedding, we had problems.”
“What kind of problems,” Brooke folded her arms in front of her chest as she thought to Avery’s fickle behavior, “What has my daughter done now?  Did she have cold feet at the last minute because if that’s the case I’ll just have a word with her and…”
“No, Brooke, you aren’t getting it,” Brant insisted with a heavy scowl, “You have a son-in-law, but as much as I wish it was me, well it’s not.”
“Come again,” she questioned in disbelief as she reached out for his arm, “Brant I saw the news and…”
“Brooke, I asked her to marry me.  We were going to take the plunge on the island, but then that damned Russell Denton showed up and…” Brant began to tell his tale.
“Russell Denton,” Brooke’s jaw dropped in horror, “No, no that can’t be.  He wouldn’t dare…”
“Oh not only did he dare, but he did something to Avery’s head.  He manipulated her and well, in the end he wound up marrying her,” Brant gritted his teeth as the words came out.
“Married her?” Brooke repeated in confusion, “No, no that can’t be possible as I’m certain that my daughter would never dream of being with someone as hideous as Russell when she has a fine, young man like yourself courting her.”
“I don’t see why she did it either,” he shrugged his shoulder before slumping a bit, “as the only reason she would do something like that has to be because Denton manipulated her into the situation.”
Brooke felt the words sink in for a moment as anger built up inside of her and she found herself wanting nothing more than to tear Russell apart for ruining all the progress she‘d made with Brant and Avery.  Now as she found herself wishing she‘d have killed Russell instead of just drugging him, she looked to Brant seeing his anger and frustration mounting as she feared that Russ and Avery had blown her plans for the future.  Reaching out to Brant, she touched his arm supportively.
“You’re absolutely right about that Brant,” she began desperately, “there is no way that my daughter would walk away from the good thing she had with you unless that jerk Russell did something to confuse her.  I know that she loves you and she wants to be with you.  Brant, she’s never felt for any man the way she does for you and I know her heart was set on being your wife.  You can’t give up on her.  If you just let Russell ruin the good thing you have…”
“I’m not going to let him ruin it,” Brant explained with determination in his voice, “I’m going to be with Avery and this isn’t going to keep us apart.”
“Good because I’d hate to think that you’d let this setback be the thing that keeps you two from being together,” she encouraged him, “as I know without a doubt that my daughter loves you and only you.  In fact, I’m going to go have a talk with her myself and get to the bottom of what’s going on here.”
“Brooke, that really isn’t necessary,” Brant began with a frown.
“Yes, it is.  My daughter has just made a monumental mistake and don’t think for a second that I’m going to let a man like Russell Denton get in the way of true love as I’m certain with everything that I am that Avery has that with you.”
“I was hoping we could find our way to that, but now,” he sighed heavily, “Brooke, I just don’t know.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up, but well, there’s this complication that might change things.”
“I can’t see how things could get any more complicated than they already are,” Brooke frowned in response, “as my daughter has done a fine job of screwing things up yet again.”
“She didn’t screw this up.  Russell did and that’s how he’s managed to manipulate her,” he paused feeling a tightness in the back of his throat, “as she’s pregnant.”
“She’s what?” Brooke’s eyes widened in shock, “No, that can’t be.  Brant, I’m certain you’re wrong there as…”
“It’s true.  I had my own physician check things out there when she started getting sick,” Brant explained with a heavy sigh, “and right now, well right now I don’t want to upset her.  I mean yes, I want her back and yes I know she belongs with me, but while Russell is using that baby to keep her with him--to feed on the obligation she feels to him, I don’t want her hurt.”
“Being with a man like Russell is going to hurt her one way or another considering that her heart is with you,” Brooke insisted as she saw a flicker of sadness behind Brant’s eyes.
“I just want her back with me,” he sighed feeling the weight of the last few days upon him, “I want that opportunity to love her and be the kind of man she needs in her life.  Most of all I want that…”
“When my daughter comes back to her good senses, she’ll find a way to show you that she wants just that.  Just don’t give up on her,” Brooke pleaded hating the idea that Avery had gone and messed things up yet again.  Somehow with the news Brant had thrown on Brooke, she realized there was trouble ahead as she had to ask one last question, “This baby…Avery’s pregnancy…tell me that Russell isn’t holding all the cards here.  That there’s some chance that…”
“I want to be with Avery more than anything,” Brant answered simply, “I want to find a way to have that happily ever after for us and I want to provide her with everything she’s ever dreamt of and more.”
“In loving her, you’ve given her that much and more.  In fact, I’m going to go find her right now and have a few words with her as I’m certain that she’ll be right back here where she belongs in no time,” Brooke started towards the stairs as Brant reached out for her arm stopping her mid-movement.
“Brooke, whatever you do, don’t upset her too much.  I don’t want anything happening to this baby and last night, well last night she passed out at the airport.  They took her to the hospital and they wouldn’t let me go check in on her.  Russell kept me from her, but right now please just let her know that she and the baby are what’s important--that I need to know they’re okay.”
“Brant, I…” she paused seeing a strange expression cross over his features as she nodded wondering if perhaps Brant had more invested in her daughter’s pregnancy than he’d been letting on.  While she’d had plenty of plans what course of action to take if Russell had in fact gotten Avery pregnant, now seeing Brant, she wondered if perhaps this time, well maybe this time Avery had done something right for a change.  She nodded quickly obeying his request, “I’ll try not to upset her, but I will tell her that you’re thinking of her and you want her home again as soon as possible.”
“That’s not going to change for me,” Brant promised her watching as Brooke as she left the mansion as he wondered if he was really going to find a way to make Avery’s dreams come true.  Sure, he wanted her more than anything, but with her off with Russell, he felt himself wondering if perhaps this time he was making a mistake.  Sure, the idea of her being pregnant was a bit unsettling given the circumstances, but then again he’d had a moment where his head had been in another place with another woman.  As his thoughts lingered to the time he’d spent away from the mansion, he felt himself at a loss as he began to wonder what was really going on with his life--with the way things were going.
“You’re making a mistake,” he could hear his brother tell him time and time again as he made his way to his bedroom closing the door behind him as he took a seat on his bed.  He looked to the nightstand where there was a package of newly developed pictures waiting for him and as he reached for the package, he tore it open taking a look at was inside.  Seeing the images of him and Avery together at the engagement party, he couldn’t help but feel a smile tug over his lips as he thumbed through the pictures seeing a moment in time when he’d felt things were so secure--so steady as he’d truly believed that he’d won her over as they shared the night with the world.  Pulling one of the photos from package he lay back on the bed tracing the lines of her features as his eyes fixed on the woman before him.
“I really do love you,” he whispered to the photograph thinking of all the ways in which he vowed to not make the same mistakes with her over and over again if he had a second chance at happiness with her.  From this moment on, he would be all about giving Avery the kind of life she deserved as he promised himself that he’d find a way to have her face her fears about loving him as he hoped that he would be able to come on top of his greatest challenge in winning Avery Morrison’s heart.


Gabe emerged from the bathroom finding Guy seated on the couch thumbing through a magazine as a groan spilled over Gabe’s lips.  Making his way over towards Guy, he took a seat beside him watching as Guy discarded the magazine and he faced Gabe fully, worry evident in his eyes as Guy touched Gabe’s hand gently.
“How are you feeling,” Guy questioned softly.
“I’ve had better days and nights,” Gabe answered flatly pulling his hand away from Guy as while Guy had insisted upon spending the night at the hotel, they’d done anything but made any kind of progress about the issues between them as both men had stubbornly refused to give on the issue before Gabe found himself feeling the after shocks of his drinking binge getting to him.  After that began, well there hadn’t been much room for talking as while Guy had been rather supportive of his lover’s tentative state, it seemed that there was still a giant elephant in the room between them keeping them from the issue at hand.
“Well I wish you hadn’t gotten yourself so drunk like that as you don’t tend to do well with heavy levels of alcohol consumption,” Guy frowned in response sitting up straighter as he looked to his lover, “You know you could’ve just waited a while and I would’ve explained what was happening…”
“Wait a little while?” Gabe repeated incredulously, “Guy, I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing lately as you seem to keep putting things off now that we’re in Coral Valley.”
“Well, it didn’t seem like you had any problem moving on without asking what was really going on,” Guy snipped in response, “considering you brought yourself back a new play thing.”
“Seth isn’t a play thing,” Gabe grumbled in response, “He’s not what you think he is as he’s just a friend.  He brought me here after I’d found myself acting like an ass because of you.”
“Because of me?” Guy repeated with a frown.
“Yes, because of you,” Gabe rose up from the couch waving his hands in the air wildly, “Because you can’t find it in your heart to just tell your mother about me so that we can end the games…because I’m tired of the lies and I’m tired of pretending that somewhere in all of this that we’re doing the right thing.  Nothing makes sense anymore and as much as I love you, I can’t stand playing this game where we both have to live this double life.  Guy, I’ve spent years in the dark about my sexuality and I’m at the phase in my life where I want to be with someone who isn’t ashamed of what they are or of what we have together…”
“I’m not ashamed of what we have,” Guy pleaded with him, his eyes growing desperate with the moment, “Gabe, you know this isn’t as easy as it seems.”
“Nothing worth having ever is and if you really felt the way you say you do about me, then you’d have found a way to tell your mother the truth without adding all these elements that only make matters worse,” Gabe sighed heavily, “I mean hey, I realize this isn’t an easy situation for you and believe me I’ve tried to be patient, but my patience is wearing thin while I’m here pretending that I’m not the one you claim to love…”
“It’s not just a claim,” Guy rose to his feet reaching out to touch Gabe’s arm, “I do love you.  You know how I feel about you…”
“I know what you say about how you feel, but with the way that you keep denying our relationship to your mother and to the world, well it has me thinking that maybe I’m more invested in this than you are.”
“Gabe, I have a lot riding on how this is played out,” Guy insisted again, “You have no idea what kind of pressure I’m under with my mother.”
“And yet you think by defying her with a woman that she clearly loathes that somehow it’ll make breaking the news that you’re gay to her any easier?” Gabe shook his head in response, “Guy, this isn’t making an opening for you to tell your mother that you are with me, but more so it’s creating something that you are only going to lose yourself in.  For heaven’s sake, have you even thought about what your inability to face the truth with your mother is doing to me?  Or even to Mindy?”
“Mindy,” Guy repeated in confusion, “what does she have to do with any of this?”
“Guy, she has everything to do with this,” Gabe lowered his head feeling a moment of guilt tug at him, “Anyone with eyes can see that the girl still has strong feelings for you…”
“Gabe, now I know you’re reaching as Mindy and I were a long time ago.  We were just teenagers and even then, well, we both knew that things weren’t meant to be…” Guy began to defend his relationship with Mindy.
“Guy, I can see when she looks at you that she doesn’t see a man who is in love with another man.  She sees the man in you that she fell in love with years ago and she’s hoping that somehow in all of this, there will be the story book ending where she’s your leading lady and things suddenly go back to normalcy.”
“Mindy knows where I stand on things and Gabe, I know you’re thinking that she feels something more than friendship, but if you knew her you’d see that the thought hasn’t even crossed her mind.  Granted Mindy and I have a history with one another, but it’s nothing like what you’re making it out to be…”
“How can you be sure?  How can you be really sure when you aren’t opening your eyes to the truth that is right before your eyes?” Gabe questioned harshly, “Guy, that woman has these romantic notions about your suddenly waking up and forgetting that you’re not interested in women…”
“Trust me.  Mindy isn’t like that as she knows…”
“Guy, how can she know when you don’t even know?  How can you be so sure about her feelings when you yourself aren’t able to open up about where your heart is in the matter?” Gabe challenged with a frown, “The way I see it you have two people in your life both waiting for the same thing to happen as you play these games with your mother, but in the process you’re finding a way to alienate us both from your life.”
“Gabe, all I want to do is be there for my mum while she’s going through all this hell with Avery.  My father is pushing for a divorce and…”
“So let them get the divorce.  It’s not the end of the world and I’m sure your mother will wind up on top as she always does.  This isn’t going to break her apart and neither is finding out that her son is gay,” Gabe shouted at him with a huff.
“How do you know that?  How can you be such an expert on my mother when you hardly know her?” Guy challenged taken aback by his tone, “How do you know what will and won’t break her heart?”
Gabe stood in silence for a long moment contemplating Guy’s words before finally throwing out the response, “Maybe I don’t, but I know in all this confusion, that mine is breaking and the longer I have to keep living these lies--the longer that I have to stand in the shadows watching you live up to what your mother wants you to be, the more I find myself wondering what place I’ll truly have in your life and I can’t bear the way it makes me feel.”
“Gabe, I love you.  With all that I am, I love you,” Guy stepped towards him reaching out to touch his lover’s face tenderly, “You are the first person to really look inside of me and see me for who I am.  You are the one person in this world that I know understands and loves me for me…”
“Then why can’t you give yourself the same luxury,” Gabe’s fingertips teased into Guy’s hair, “Why can’t you cut yourself a break and love the man that you are despite what the world wants you to be?”
“It’s just…” Guy felt an ache inside of him as he shook his head, “After all these years, I just…”
“Guy,” Gabe cupped his face in his hands, “I want to be with you.  I want to share my life with you and everything that follows, but in order for us to do that, you have to be man enough to just be up front with your mother…”
“I will eventually,” Guy insisted with a sad expression on his features, “One way or another…”
“I can’t live with one way,” Gabe released him walking towards the hotel room door, “I don’t want to be the man who waits around for you while you give in to your mother’s need for the perfect son.”
“Gabe…”  Guy watched him open the door to the hotel room motioning for him to exit.
“I think you should be going now,” Gabe turned his eyes away from him, “I’m in no mood to do the same song and dance with you over and over again as I already know in the end I’ll be the one who is forced to take a backseat while your leading lady takes my place…”
“It’s not going to be like that…” Guy started once more stepping towards the door despite his longing to be close to Gabe, “I just wish…”
“I know, but I can‘t live on wishes alone here,” Gabe nodded in response watching as Guy stepped out into the hallway and he closed the door behind him feeling a sadness fill him up inside as he found himself wishing that Guy would stop running from what they had with one another and start working towards the happiness he was certain they could share.
Frowning as he looked to the bed before him, Gabe felt his head ache as he began to think about drowning himself beneath the blankets and allowing his misery to take control, but before he could get that far, the pounding on the door to his hotel room kept him from completing his sulking.  As it continued, Gabe frowned spinning on his heel as he opened the door ready to tell whomever was there to go away, but before he had a chance, he felt Guy’s arms wrap around him pulling him into a desperate kiss that nearly knocked him off of his toes as Guy entered the hotel room once again.
“I’m not going to lose you,” Guy insisted closing the door behind him as his kisses grew more urgent, more desperate with the moment as Gabe broke away from him looking rather shell shocked.
“Guy, I’ve heard it all before,” Gabe reminded him poignantly.
“I know what I’ve said and what I haven’t done, but this time, well, I’ll do it.  I’ll tell my mother everything,” Guy promised wrapping his arms around him, “I’ll do whatever it takes to prove to you that I’m in this for the long haul as I can’t imagine my life without you.  You’re everything to me Gabe and I was a fool to keep pretending that I could live a lie for my mother’s sake when all this time it’s you who’ve captured my heart.”
“Guy I…” Gabe began as Guy silenced him with a tender kiss.
“No words,” Guy pleaded with him, “Just feel what’s in my heart,” he reached for Gabe’s hand bringing it over the center of his chest, “Feel the way it races at the nearness of you…the way it pounds with love for you as in being with you, it’s the only time I feel alive…the only time I feel totally alive and lost in love and it’s all because of you,” he touched Gabe’s cheek as their eyes connected, “Gabe, you’re it for me and I don’t care how many risks I have to take to prove that to you because one way or another I will.  Just please, please don’t give up on me…”
“Oh Guy,” Gabe sighed extending an embrace to his lover as he found himself blown away by Guy’s words, “I can’t imagine not having you in my life, but when I’m with you, I want this to be something that we can take with us through the years without worry about who won’t approve…of who might raise questions…”
“I know and I’ve been unfair to you, but I swear to you I’ll make it up to you.  If you just let me, I’ll make everything up to,” Guy vowed holding Gabe closer to him as he tried to find a way to make himself believe that this time he could reveal the truth in his heart and find himself at peace with the man that he loved.  As his lips met Gabe’s in another tender union, he just prayed that this time he’d be strong enough to be honest with his mother as there was far too much riding on the end of the lies and this time, he just hoped that Brooke would understand as he hated having to choose between his mother and the man who’d opened his eyes to a world of love and happiness.


Thea walked through Cameron’s house and proceeded into the breakfast nook where she found Heather seated at the table. Deciding she should show the bimbo model who was boss, Thea stepped over to the table and took a seat.

Heather cast her eyes in Thea’s direction, “Do you always just barge in and make yourself at home?”

“In this house, I am at home,” Thea spoke while Franklin stepped into the room, “Ah, Franklin, might I get a cup of coffee?”

“Yes, Ms. Valentine,” Franklin nodded before he stepped out of the room.

“This is not your home,” Heather spoke boldly, “This is Cameron’s home, and he has made it my home as well now. You may run his business, but you don’t run this house.”

“Bold words from a woman who had to be taken in just to protect her child,” Thea pointed out as Franklin delivered her a cup of coffee and left the room again, “Remember, you’re only engaged to Cameron because he wants to help you. You don’t hold any importance in his life, and I’ll be damned if I’ll allow you to get your claws into him.”

“So, we get to the heart of the matter. You think Cameron belongs to you, and you think I’m invading your territory, is that it?” Heather asked before chuckling, “I’ve got a news flash for you, Thea. Cameron is a man all of his own making, and he doesn’t belong to you or anyone else. As far as staking a claim on him goes,” She shrugged, “I think when we’re married, I alone will have that right.”

“Don’t get cocky, Heather. Cameron will get tired of you, but he’s never tired of me. He’ll always come back to me,” Thea said with a smile as she began to take a sip of her coffee.

“He’s never had a woman like me,” Heather said with a proud smile, “And once he does, he’ll never go back to a common whore like you,” She said as she stood and walked out of the breakfast nook.

“The only whore here is you, Heather,” Thea murmured to herself as she sipped her coffee.

A few moments later, Cameron entered the room, “Already making friends with my intended bride, I see,” He said as he sat down at the table.

“I was just laying some ground rules with her,” Thea shrugged, “I think we need to discuss some things along that vein as well, Cam.”

“I don’t think we do. I already told you that I will marry Heather, and you must accept that,” He warned as Franklin delivered his employer’s coffee and breakfast. When the butler had left the room, Cameron looked back to Thea, “I’m not going to allow you to ruin this for me, Thea. While we’ve had plenty of good times together, we have to play this cool for a while. I won’t let my revenge against Douglas be ruined because you can’t control your urges.”

“Cam, I’m just saying…” She began.

“And I just said my peace,” He finished with a cold smile, “The subject is closed.”

Thea frowned as she looked away from Cameron, “I did bring you some news on another front.”

“Oh?” He asked as he began to indulge in his breakfast.

“Caitlin Vaughn is in the hospital. It seems she was attacked last night,” She informed him while lifting her mug to her lips again.

“Really?” Cameron asked as he focused his attention upon her, “And our friend?”

“Safely tucked away,” She informed him as she looked back to him, “It seems he enjoyed his work.”

“And Vaughn? What’s her prognosis?”

“Don’t know right now. She’s just been admitted a little while ago.”

“Then I think I should probably pay my step brother a visit. While I’m there,” Cameron smiled, “I’ll pay my respects to the nosy little reporter,” He grinned as he sipped his coffee, feeling that everything was going right on track.


Zack paced up and down the hallway as he waited for news on Caitlin. He had tried to wait patiently, but patience wasn’t easy for him when his sister’s very life was on the line. He groaned as he moved down the hall, determined to get some answers.

As if he’d known Zack was coming, Isaac stepped out of a room and looked down the hall to see the younger doctor. He met him halfway down the hall, “We’ve got the results from radiology.”

“And?” Zack questioned quickly as he searched Isaac’s eyes, “How bad is it?”

“There’s significant swelling in the brain from the blunt force trauma. I’ve had the chief of neurology, Dr. Badler, look over the CT scan, and he feels that the only chance your sister has is to undergo surgery to relieve the pressure from the swelling,” Isaac explained, “But that’s only part of it.”

Zack rubbed his face for a moment as he tried to keep himself composed, “What else?”

“She’s going to require a splenectomy. There’s interabdominal bleeding, and all indications are that it’s coming from the spleen. I’ll be performing the splenectomy while Dr. Badler performs the craniotomy,” Isaac explained as he watched Zack deal with the information, “I think you should come upstairs and be in the surgical lobby when we get through with the surgery. I’m sure you’ll want to be there when she’s in recovery.”

Zack nodded, “I will. Are you taking her into surgery now?”

“She’s upstairs being prepped even as we speak,” Isaac patted Zack on the shoulder, “We’re going to take good care of her.”

“Thank you,” Zack nodded, “I’ll be upstairs shortly. I think I need to call my parents first and let them know about this.”

“You can use my office for some privacy,” Isaac offered before he walked down the hall and entered the elevator.

Zack ran his fingers through his hair before he jogged up the stairs to Isaac’s office. He stepped inside and sat down. He stared at the telephone for a moment before lifting the handset from the base and dialing his parents’ number.

“Vaughn Residence,” Julia Vaughn answered with a happy tone to her voice.

“Mom, it’s me, Zack,” Zack began, “Is Dad around? I need to talk to the both of you.”

“Zack, is something wrong?” She asked quickly.

“Yeah, actually there is. Is Dad there? I want to tell you this at the same time,” He replied as he leaned onto Isaac’s desk.

“I’m here,” Timothy Vaughn informed his son, “We just turned on the speaker phone. What’s wrong, Zack?”

“It’s Caitlin. She was attacked last night, and she’s in bad shape. I’m here at the hospital with her. She’s in surgery to relieve pressure from her brain, and the doctors are going to remove her spleen.”

“What? What happened?” Timothy asked quickly.

“Her ex-boyfriend…Jimmy…he found her and he beat the hell out of her,” Zack explained, “I think…you guys should probably come down here. Caitlin’s going to have a long road ahead of her,” He paused, “If she comes through surgery.”

“Oh god,” Julia cried out as her sobs became audible.

“We’ll be on the first flight down there,” Timothy said as he could be heard comforting his wife, “I’ll have my cell with me, and if anything changes, you call me immediately.”

“Okay, I will, Dad,” Zack agreed as the phone call ended. He ran his fingers through his hair, wondering if he had been too harsh with Blake. Right now, all he could think about was holding her in his arms, trying to gain some small comfort in just holding her close to him. Perhaps if he went to her now, she would forgive him for his hasty reaction to her before.


Jenna put the final touches on her ponytail as she prepared to head on in to work.  There had been a major pile up with a few fatalities earlier in the day in the neighboring town and since their medical examiner was unreachable, the phone call she’d received less than five minutes earlier was word enough for her to know that her expertise was demanded ASAP.  Now as she took in a slow breath, she realized that her plans for calling and checking in on Avery would have to wait a little bit longer as their was work to do.  Quickly snatching up the cereal bar she’d set aside for the journey into the next town, she tucked into her purse before pulling out her keys and opening the door to her apartment only to find herself face to face with the one person she was hoping to just as soon avoid for a while.
“Jenna, we need to talk,” Dorothy began desperately.
“Not right now we don’t,” Jenna ignored her mother’s pleas stepping out of her apartment and brushing by Dorothy before finishing up with the locks on the doors despite her mother’s pleading eyes.  “I don’t have time for this.”
“Jenna, I know that you’re upset, but I’m your mother,” Dorothy began again, “I know that you’re angry with me, but if you’ll just give me a chance…”
“Give you a chance,” Jenna repeated with a huff, “just like you gave me a chance to know my father?”
“Jenna, if you only let me explain, well, then maybe you’ll understand why I…” Dorothy started once more seeing the anger behind her daughter’s eyes as she held up a small brown bag in hand, “I brought us some breakfast and I was thinking that…”
“I really don’t have time for this and even if I did, well the truth to the matter is I’m really not sure what to think about the situation,” Jenna turned away from her going down the staircase as Dorothy followed at her heels.
“Jenna, you don’t know the whole story and if you did, well I think that you might have a change of opinion as I was only trying to protect you.  I was trying to keep you from the things that happened to me and in my leaving Douglas like I did, well it was about putting you first.”
Those words stopped Jenna in her tracks as she spun around to face her mother, keys clenched tightly in her hand, “Putting me first?” her voice rose with anger, “This was never about putting me first as this has always, always been about you.  You chose to keep me away from my father and it was your decision to keep up this charade you began from the moment I came into this world.  Time and time again I gave you countless opportunities to be truthful with me, but each time you found a reason why you weren’t going to let go of your ridiculous lies about the man you loved and lost in a plane crash.  Even now when I think about how stupid I was to believe in you all these years…”
“Jenna, you weren’t stupid.  You’re a beautiful, intelligent, young woman which is why I didn’t want to destroy you with the news about my past.  I didn’t want you to hear all the stories about my time in Los Angeles would Doug as I’d just as soon left them in that horrible place when I walked out and never looked back…”
“So what you’re saying is that everything that happened out there was horrible?” Jenna demanded with a frown, “That every choice you made--every decision that lead up to your being pregnant with me was just awful…”
“Jenna, that’s not what I’m saying.  All I’m saying is that…” Dorothy started once more.
“You want to forget where I came from, but I’ve got news for you mother I can’t forget.  I want to know who I am and I’m not going to let you or anyone else keep me from knowing my father and my brother who could leave this world at any moment,” Jenna snapped back at her unable to contain the tears that built behind her eyes as she wiped at her face refusing to fall apart now in front of her mother, “I can’t do this now.”
“Jenna wait,” Dorothy reached out to her stopping Jenna from opening her car door as Jenna turned to face her mother once again, “Please don’t leave like this.  Sweetheart I love you.  You’re so very important to me and I don’t want us to be on bad terms like this.  If you just come back upstairs and let me speak with you for a little while, I’m sure that we can reach some kind of understanding about things…”
“Mom, I understand everything perfectly at this point and truth be told, I feel as if I don’t even know you anymore,” Jenna reached for her car door pulling it open with a urgent tug, “and as for this conversation, well it’s over.  I have to get to work.”
“Jenna, please don’t ignore what is so very important between us,” Dorothy insisted once more.
“Mother I have a job to do as right now there’s a family grieving the wife and mother that they’ll never have the opportunity to have back again all because someone else made a bad choice and she had to suffer the consequences,” Jenna threw out at her giving her one last look before getting into her car and driving off as Dorothy watched her daughter’s retreat wondering if she would ever be able to find a way to repair the damage that had been done between her and Jenna before she lost her forever.


Hart entered the floor of the hospital he knew Kipp Mahoney was on as he thought about his reasoning for showing up unannounced like this.  While he was quite certain that he and Douglas Mahoney weren’t in a position where they would become the best of pals, he still had his nagging concerns about the man who’d now become an important role in Jenna’s life in such a short time.  Sure, Hart knew all about Jenna’s desire to get closer to her father, but after a little of his own research on the subject of Douglas Mahoney, he began to wonder if perhaps Dorothy’s concerns about having Jenna grow up without Douglas in her life were with good reason.  Even if it was none of his business, he couldn’t help but find himself at the hospital today ready to get a better look at the man Jenna called dad.
Now as Hart stood upon the threshold to the doorway to Kipp’s room, he saw Douglas inside at Kipp’s bedside as usual and he took in a slow breath hoping that this didn’t go poorly as the last thing he wanted was to upset Jenna, though as he thought of her deteriorating relationship with her mother, he couldn’t help but wonder if maybe there was something that Jenna was still missing about her long lost father.
Taking in a slow breath, Hart entered the room holding the bag of pastries and coffees he’d brought with him as he cleared his throat and Douglas looked up at him seemingly surprised by Hart’s arrival.
“Morning,” Hart greeted him politely holding out his offering of breakfast, “I thought maybe you and Kipp could use a little company here for breakfast as Jenna was telling me that you don’t get out of here that much.”
“I have no reason to leave when my son needs me,” Douglas accepted the coffee before turning his attention to Kipp’s still form before him, “as I’ve been told that staying with him helps.”

“So I’ve heard in similar cases,” Hart reached for a chair taking a seat beside Douglas as he eyed him closely, “You and Kipp seem as though you must’ve been rather close.”
“Not as close as I would’ve liked and much of that is my fault,” Douglas sipped at the coffee slowly thinking of the turmoil between him and his son for the last few years, “He was always quite impossible and when he had his mind set on something, well it seemed that he would go out of his way to do it at any cost.”
“Sounds like he was a bit of a rebel,” Hart noted contemplating his words, “Did he get that from your side or his mother’s?”
“Probably mine,” Douglas sighed shaking his head at the thought, “as I’m often too damned stubborn for my own good especially where my children’s best interests are concerned.”
“Such as what’s in Jenna’s best interest as well?” Hart half questioned watching Douglas for a long moment, “I mean you must’ve been shell-shocked to discover that after all this time you had a daughter out in the world.”
“It was the last thing I expected, but now that I have her,” Douglas confessed openly, “Well it’s as if someone out there is giving me a second chance at doing things right and I want that with Jenna as she’s an incredible woman.”
“That she is,” Hart agreed with another nod, “Of course you also know that she and her mother were very close over the years.  In fact, you could say that they were one another’s support system and now, well now I’m afraid they’re so very alienated from one another that I don’t think Jenna knows where she stands on anything.  This distance between the two of them is slowly tearing her apart and I hate seeing her upset like this…”
“As do I,” Douglas took another look at Hart as if seeing him for the first time since he’d arrived as his reaction stiffened a bit and he sat up straighter as though he was scrutinizing Hart very closely, “Hart, what exactly is it that you’re doing here this morning?”
“Actually, I came here because I’m concerned about Jenna,” Hart replied openly as he cleared his throat once again, “I don’t enjoy seeing her upset you see…”
“According to the rumors floating around town, I’ve heard that you were the cause of some great annoyances in my daughter’s life,” Douglas raised a skeptic brow, “so you can’t blame me if I would have to doubt the validity in your statement there.”
“I really don’t see any reason why you would trust my words at this point, but you can’t feel put out by the fact that I’m not quite sure about your motives as well considering that you’ve found a way to put a wedge between Jenna and the most important person in her life,” Hart replied smoothly realizing that the pleasantries were over as he prepared to face down Douglas Mahoney.
“Some say that statement could hold very true in your case as well, which is why I have to wonder why it is you chose to come here today and speak with my about what’s going on with my daughter as I’ve heard you don’t really take up for situations unless you have a vested interest in them.”
“Jenna is my interest as I care about her very much and I hate seeing her in pain like this,” Hart admitted honestly, “I’ve seen more tears out of her than I can stand to bear over these past few days and I want her to find some happiness in her life again.”
“And you think that I can do such a thing for her?” Douglas raised a curious brow.
“I’m not quite sure on that one just yet,” Hart offered in response.
“Straight to the point,” Douglas nodded appropriately, “I can appreciate that from a man like yourself.”
“Then I suppose that you can also appreciate the fact that I’m hoping that perhaps you can shed some light on to what is going on between you and Dorothy,” Hart began again watching Douglas’s eyes widen at the request before he explained further, “not to me, but to Jenna.  Maybe you can shed some light on things for her so that she can deal with what’s happened all these years.”
“And this would benefit you how?” Douglas inquired again with a monotone response.
“I just want to see Jenna happy and I really believe the key to that happiness is reconnecting with her mother again.  Despite what’s happened, Jenna loves her very much and I think this distance is killing her,” Hart replied rubbing his hands together, “I know she’ll try and deny the way she’s feeling, but when you look into her eyes, you just know this is tearing her apart.”
“And what if I told you that Dorothy’s plans for Jenna not only didn’t include me, but they don’t include a man such as yourself?  What if I told you that she feels your unfit to be with our daughter?” Douglas challenged again as his features shifted to intense scrutiny.
“Then so be it because as much as I love Jenna, I want her to be happy and I believe that until she and her mother can heal with one another over this issue, then she’ll never have that happiness,” Hart explained matter of fact, “I’m well aware of the fact that Dorothy hates me and that she’d just as soon see me drop off the planet before she’d accept my place in Jenna’s life, but the truth to the matter is that well, Doug, I’ll be straight with you when I say that I’m falling more and more in love with your daughter each day and when she smiles, well it just does something to me and it’s a feeling that I never want to end.”
“So you thought that what?  That you’d come here today to see me and throw out a few words and I’d just leap at the opportunity to step in between the situation with her and Dorothy on a whim?” Douglas inquired with a soft rumble in his throat.
“That was the general idea yes,” Hart nodded again.
“And what if I told you that I agreed with Dorothy’s assessment of you and I felt that you were the last thing my daughter needed in her life at a time like this,” Douglas shot back at him in a firm, even tone.
“Then that’s your choice, but right now I want Jenna to be happy again and I think the first step towards her having that kind of inner serenity is for her to have an opportunity to mend fences with her mother and if you truly love Jenna the way you have her believing you do, then you’ll help her and Dorothy come to come kind of amicable resolution to this situation.  That’s why I stopped by today and that’s what I came to ask of you.  Other than that, well I think we’re finished here.”
“Not just yet,” Douglas threw out before remaining silent for a long moment thinking about Hart’s words as he watched Hart rise from his chair to leave.  “Well, perhaps just hypothetically I’ll take what you’ve said into consideration.  How would you suggest that I get the two of them to talk with one another if they’re both so head strong as you say?”
“Well you might want to arrange for something where they have no choice but to face one another,” Hart suggested with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “I figure a man with your kind of reputation and clout will have the know how to pull something like that off for the two of them.  After all isn‘t that what the great Douglas Mahoney is all about?  Making things happen?”
“So you’ve been doing your homework?” Douglas arched a curious brow.
“I never step into something without learning all there is to know on the matter,” Hart informed him point blank.
“Neither do I and while you might’ve come here today to prove a few things to me, you do realize that the jury is still out on your intentions Mr. Steiner,” Douglas offered up with a hint of parental concern in his voice, “as if you even think of doing anything to make my daughter feel any kind of pain…”
“I wouldn’t dream of hurting Jenna,” Hart vowed bringing his hand up over his heart, “and while you might suspect these are just words meant for you, the truth to the matter is that I don’t give a damn what you think about me as Jenna is what’s important.  I care about her more than you can even begin to imagine and if she continues to be in this pain because of something that you and Dorothy aren’t able to resolve with one another, well don’t expect me to take that laying down as the last thing I want is to have to feel her cry to sleep in my arms another night.  She deserves more than that from this life and I intend for her to have it even if it means facing you.”
“Very bold words from someone in your position,” Douglas noted unable to contain the amused expression on his face as he rose to his feet to come eye to eye with Hart, “and I must admit I’m rather impressed with your bravado.”
“I’m not out to impress you,” Hart answered flatly, “as all I care about is bringing some happiness back to the woman I love.  That’s why I came here today and that’s why I implore you to find it within yourself to do the right thing as Jenna’s father and help her find a way to follow her heart where her family is concerned.”
“Somehow given what you’re saying to me today, I have a strong suspicion that my daughter is already well on her way to doing that with you,” he threw out in what almost sounded like a hint of approval before he added, “but I’ll see what I can do with Jenna and Dorothy and if by chance, well if this situation calls upon any kind of outside information or assistance…”
“You’ll find my number in the book,” Hart replied giving Douglas one last look before leaving Kipp’s room as Douglas wondered if it could ever be possibly to bring Dottie and Jenna back together again as after all these years he still wasn’t sure how to feel on the matter himself about the situation.
With a heavy sigh, he looked to Kipp and he thought of all the mistakes he’d made as a father over the years and in that moment Hart’s words struck a chord in him as he decided it was time to not let history repeat itself as he refused to be the cause of his little girl’s suffering.  One way or another he’d find a way to get Jenna and Dorothy to reconnect with each other and maybe just maybe along the way he’d also take it upon himself to reclaim the family that had been taken from him as she was certain that Dottie hadn’t been as over him as she tried to play herself off to be as there were still so many unspoken words between them and maybe just maybe in bringing her and Jenna together again, he could find a way to have that second chance that fate had ripped away from him all those years ago with the woman he loved and the daughter he never knew before now.


“And so there was Russ trotting along like it was nothing while Grady was stuck in the mud, only getting himself in deeper over his head as he tried to work his way out.  By the time Elliot got there, poor Grady didn’t even know what hit him…” Cheryl laughed thinking back to her son’s youth, “To this day I don’t think he’s forgotten that either.”
“It was quite a surprise to find Grady chest deep in that mud with no one else in sight,” Elliot shook his head at the memory, “and here he was more concerned about what he was going to do to Russ when he worked his way out of there.  With that hot temper of his, it’s a good thing that I was the one who finally pulled him out after I’d urged you to stay at home with your mother.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault that he decided to show off at that particular time,” Russell shrugged his shoulder’s innocently, “I warned him not to do that, but he just wouldn’t listen and besides I had a pretty girl to walk home that day,” Russell’s eyes lingered over towards Avery’s general direction as she sat on the floor dressed in comfy paint covered blue jean overalls that Russell hadn’t seen on her in quite some time as laughter filled the nursery in the making.
“Yes, well had I known that your brother was stuck in the mud like that, I would’ve insisted that you tried to help him or at least go home to tell your parents before you dropped me off considering your walking me home was at least a mile and a half out of your way,” Avery chuckled at the image of Russell leaving Grady caught up in a pool of thick and sloppy mud near their elementary school before another wicked thought stirred up inside of her, “Okay I take that back…I probably wouldn’t have said a thing about your helping Grady out as evil as that sounds right now.”
“Given the way he spent all those years shining you on, I wouldn’t have expected you to give him a second thought,” Cheryl added with a tiny laugh, “I’m surprised you two have managed to be as civil as you’ve been over the years with all the teasing he put you both through.”
“Grady just loved to get a rise out of me,” Avery groaned thinking about time after countless time that Grady always found it in himself to intrude upon a moment with her and Russell with his arrogant, know-it-all attitude.
“It seems like that trend still continues,” Russell frowned thinking about his brother’s shameless behavior, “as he just doesn’t know when to let things go.”
“Your brother is a very stubborn man Russ, but in time he’ll come around,” Elliot tried to assure him as he looked between Russ and Avery, “Once he sees how happy you both are with one another, then I’m sure he’ll stop spouting off as he does.”
“It’s a nice thought, but we both know better,” Russ sighed sliding in on the floor beside Avery as he wrapped his arm around her.
“We said we weren’t going to worry about this today,” Avery reminded him pointedly as she turned to face Cheryl and Elliot once again, “I’m sorry if I said anything that upset you both about Grady considering that he’s your son and I really shouldn’t have made that remark…”
“Avery, we love Grady very much,” Cheryl explained to her simply, “and we always will, but he tends to have his moments from time to time and the way we see it, you’re a part of this family as well and we don’t want you feeling like you aren’t included in things.”
“Even so with what I said about Grady,” Avery began apologetically.
“Hey, I seem to remember a time when Grady did a few things there to try to get you worked up and embarrassed,” Elliot threw out with the beginnings of a smile, “because after all you’ve always been a part of our family one way or another Avery.  He’s just been goading you like he would his sister if he had one to torture.”
“Yeah well, I’d like to pop him one for some of the things he’s done recently,” Russell grumbled in response shaking his head, “as I really wish that he’d just grow up already.”
“Honey, you can’t expect the unexpected in that area with Grady as well, he’ll adjust in his own time,” Cheryl explained wiping at her hands with a towel before throwing Elliot a look, “In fact, how about we forget about Grady for a few minutes as there are some things we had here we wanted the both of you to look at.”
“Such as?” Russell’s eyes widened with obvious interest.
“Such as why don’t you help me get them out of my car and we’ll work on it,” Cheryl winked at him tossing her car keys at Russell before urging him to follow her to the car.
“I’ll be back shortly,” he promised giving Avery one last look before leaving her alone with Elliot as Avery turned to the decals on the wall that she’d been putting up earlier.
“You know,” Elliot cleared his throat, “I realize that you and my son have a very tense relationship and I’m truly sorry that it has to be that way.”
“It’s not your fault,” Avery replied casting a look in his direction, “I mean sometimes things just happen and I’m sure I’ve given Grady plenty of reason not to trust or accept me over the years.”
“Avery, while I know that you and Russell had your ups and downs, I’m also aware of how many roller coaster rides Grady’s taken you on over the years as well,” Elliot offered up knowingly, “He’s always had it in him to be Russell’s protector as it’s a role he willingly stepped into the moment Russell was born.”
“And he’s done an excellent job of it at that and I know they’re the best of friends which is why this is hard for me,” Avery admitted touching the corner of the decal on the wall before fully facing Elliot, “I hate that their relationship has been damaged because of what Russ and I have with one another.  I’ve kind of just accepted that Grady hates me and that he’ll always hate me, but with Russ, well it’s a different thing altogether as well, they really are one another’s support system and I’d hate to think that all ended because Russ and I love one another.”
“Grady’s had a few rough patches over the last few years and sometimes when we go through those kind of things, it makes it harder for us to see things as they truly are.  Granted, I don’t think my son is going to change his ways overnight, but in time I really think that he and Russ will find their way to make amends and with you, well Grady might work his hardest to make you believe he thinks the worst of you, but deep down he doesn’t.  On some level, I think he holds a certain respect for you…”
Avery couldn’t help but laugh, “Yeah well if that’s true, it’s very, very deep considering,” she shook her head trying to dismiss the humor in Elliot’s statement, “but for what it’s worth, I just hope that in time he and Russ can be close again as they really do need one another as they‘re family.”
“Yes, they do, but you know that you’re a part of our family now and in the thought of your having my grandchild, well I have to say that you’ve brought a lot of promise and hope back to the family again,” Elliot explained eagerly, “as I’ve never seen my son look quite as happy as he does when he’s with you.  He’d have moved heaven and earth to make this happen you know…”
“I’m just grateful that he hasn’t given up on me as I’ve made so many stupid decisions in the past, but I never stopped loving him as he’s always been the only one for me,” Avery sighed tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, “I just wish I didn’t complicate things by pretending like I did with Bruce…”
“Ah yes, I heard all about that one,” Elliot nodded, “and I hope you know that if you and Russ need anything--anything at all, Cheryl and I will do whatever is necessary to be there for the both of you.  If you need someone to keep an eye on things or just be on the alert while the police are looking for that madman…”
“I appreciate the offer Elliot, but I just don’t think it’s necessary.  I mean you and Cheryl have so much going on that I just can’t expect you both to…” Avery started once more.
“I was offering,” Elliot reminded her simply reaching for her hand, “as you know family looks out for one another in times of need.”
“You have no idea how wonderful it feels to have you and Cheryl doing so much for us already as this nursery,” Avery looked around the room, “well it’s just beyond incredible.”
“We were so hoping you’d like it,” Cheryl explained carrying in a couple of bags with her from her car, “as we weren’t quite sure how to decorate since we weren’t sure whether we were going to be having a granddaughter or grandson and since it’s too early to tell…”
“We should know shortly,” Avery explained bringing her hand over her abdomen, “as Russ is very eager to get a jump start on things with this baby on the way.  Why just this morning he was talking about showering the baby with toys and clothes and the works…”
“I think it’s a great idea to be prepared,” Cheryl agreed handing one bag over to Avery, “which is why you’re in luck that I enjoy this shopping as I have to tell you that it’s not everyday I’m going to become a grandmother you know.”
“Cheryl,” Avery began her eyes widening as she peered into the bag, “Oh my God.  Does Russ know that you did this?”
“Not yet,” Cheryl shook her head in response, “but you can show him when he gets back inside here after getting the other bags from the car.”
“Actually,” Avery reached into the bag pulling out the package from within, “I think I’ll just get this set up really quick and surprise him before he walks back in…”
“You know that sounds like a great idea,” Cheryl nodded in agreement, “I’ll work on stalling him for a few minutes while you two get going on that one.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Elliot waved to his wife as he lifted a curious brow, “You ready to get this going?”
“You bet I am,” Avery nodded feeling a wave of excitement rushing through her as she worked with Elliot to get Cheryl’s latest surprise in order for the nursery.


Russell whistled a tune to himself as he dipped his head inside his mother’s trunk pulling out the last of the bags before stepping back and using his elbow to bring it to a close.  In that moment his eyes fell upon the last person he wanted to be seeing as Brooke Morrison stood before him seething with obvious animosity as her glare cut right through him straight to the core.  Bracing himself for whatever verbal lashing she’d prepared for him, he felt the corners of his lips lift up with an icy smile as he greeted her politely.
“Brooke, what in the world brings you here on a day like today in such frigid weather at that,” Russell questioned his tone dripping with sarcasm as he leaned in against his mother’s car, “Then again, I suppose the cold really doesn’t bother you as you’re used to that kind of thing with being the Ice Queen that you are and all.”
“Where is my daughter,” Brooke demanded sourly, “I want to see her right this instant you…you…”
“What?” Russell quipped with a growing grin, “No welcome to the family for me, mom?”
“My daughter is clearly out of her mind because there is no way that she’d marry you as that much I’m sure of you disgusting, revolting low class piece of…” Brooke shot back at him with an angry glare.
“Your daughter loves me and if you can’t accept it, then that’s your problem because I’m not about to let you upset my wife,” Russell declared spinning on his heel as he headed back towards the house ready to push this encounter with Brooke out of his head as he thought to all the chaos that had been following him and Avery lately.
“I don’t think you heard me, Russell,” Brooke chased after him all the way up to the porch before she threw her fist out into his chest and shoved him backwards, “I want to see my daughter and if you don’t let me inside, I’ll come back with the police and have them throw your pathetic ass in jail for the things you’ve done to ruin her life.”
“Oh please,” Russell rolled his eyes in response, “I love your daughter and she loves me.  She’s my wife and there’s nothing you can do to change that Brooke.”
“You took advantage of her.  You found a way to weave your way into her life with your not so subtle manipulations and you raped her which is reason enough for you to be in jail for impregnating her against her wishes like you tried to before when you wouldn’t let her go…”
“Against her wishes,” Russell chuckled in response, “Oh Brooke you’re as delusional as ever as the only person who’s ever pushed something on Avery against her wishes is you…”
“All I wanted was to see my daughter happy with Brant, a man of character who can give Avery the world unlike this pathetic excuse of a life you’ve tried to force upon her,” Brooke shot back at him with an icy glare, “Do you really believe that this can satisfy Avery when clearly you weren’t man enough to hold her interest the last time?  When your pathetic attempt at tying her down, ended with that bastard brat you had growing inside of her…”
“That’s it,” Russell stepped forward unable to contain the urge building up inside of him as his anger flared over him while Brooke continued to unleash her sharp words.
“You weren’t man enough to give her a baby then and now, well I wouldn’t be surprised if nature found a way to repeat itself in expunging the reminder of your pathetic existence out from my daughter once again as any child of yours is one that should never make it to the light of day especially not one that you used to manipulate my daughter into feeling obligated to you…”
“Shut up,” a voice rose from the front porch as Cheryl stepped out in between her son and Brooke as her eyes were wild with rage, “Just who the hell do you think you are Brooke?  How dare you come to my son‘s home and say such horrible things to him like this!”
“Get out of my way Cheryl as this doesn’t concern you,” Brooke eyed the half open door to the house as she tried to push her way past Cheryl, “as I’m here to see my daughter.”

“The hell you are,” Cheryl tugged on Brooke’s arm pulling her away from the house as her nostrils flared with the heavy breath that was coming out from within as she eyed the woman she’d grown to loathe over the years, “I’m not letting you go anywhere near Avery or my son ever again as I want you off the property right now or else…”
“Or else what?” Brooke laughed haughtily, “You have no rights to my daughter as she’s my daughter and if you think for a second that I’m going to let someone as insignificant as you or your son keep her from her fiancé who is eagerly awaiting her arrival at the Ashford mansion, well then you’re sadly mistaken as I will not allow my daughter to be stuck in a hell hole like this as I’ve taught my daughter that it’s best not to associate with trash.”
“You’re not going in there Brooke,” Cheryl informed her point blank, “and if you think for a second that I’m going to let you anywhere near Avery then you can think again because you’re not welcome here.”
“Mom,” Russell started surprised by his mother’s tone as he reached out to touch her shoulder, “I can take care of this.”
“You shouldn’t have to Russ,” Cheryl insisted stubbornly, “Brooke has spent far too much time parading around town like she’s Queen of Coral Valley, but the truth to the matter is she isn’t half of the woman she thinks she is.  She has no right to come over here and bark out orders or to speak about you or my grandchild in such a way when she knows nothing about any kind of real human emotion considering that her own family can’t tolerate being around her.  Brooke, did you ever think about why Richard is around town with another woman?  Or why Avery didn’t bother to include you on this joyous occasion in her life?  It’s because neither one of them can stand having you around as you clearly are incapable of love…”
“I’m not going to stand here and take this from you,” Brooke tried to push past Cheryl as Cheryl thrust her palm out in the center of Brooke’s chest sending her flying off the porch and into the snow behind her.
“Oh yes you are as I’ve waited a long time to put your in your place,” Cheryl replied with a hiss lunging forward before Russell could intervene as he watched his mother leap over Brooke shoving her face down into the snow as she shouted angry words at her.
“Mom,” Russell began as Elliot arrived at the door watching Cheryl get up dusting herself off as Brooke lay face down in the snow.
“I think we’re about finished here,” Cheryl explained with a proud smile stepping towards the porch as Brooke sat up reaching for Cheryl’s ankle and pulling her down to the ground once again as she plummeted on top of Cheryl throwing her hands out wildly as she collected snow in her palms rubbing it in Cheryl’s face.
“I’ll show you,” Brooke hissed as Cheryl brought her hands up to punch Brooke in the stomach as Brooke toppled over and Cheryl climbed over Brooke swinging her fists as her anger escalated.
“Cheryl…” Elliot gasped as he looked to his son, “What’s going on here?”
“I was just…” Russ began desperately as two men in suits came rushing towards the house out of a sedan that was parked across the street and within a blink of an eye the two men were pulling the feuding Brooke and Cheryl off of one another.
“What in the…” Avery’s jaw dropped as she saw Cheryl covered in snow being held back by one man before her eyes traveled to Brooke on the other side as another man kept her from attacking Cheryl, “What’s going on here?”
“Your mother decided to pay us a visit,” Russell wrapped his arm around Avery protectively not allowing her to go anywhere near Brooke as he cut a glare at both men who now kept both their mother’s from killing one another, “And who the hell are you?”
“We’re on protective detail,” one of the men explained in a monotone voice as Avery’s eyes widened in realization.
“Protective detail?” she repeated with a huff, “Someone sent you here to spy on us.”
“Mrs. Denton, we’re just doing our job here and if you’d like these women off the property,” the other began seriously.
“My mother’s not going anywhere,” Russell stepped forward shoving at the man holding his mother back, “Get your hands off of her.”
“Mrs. Denton,” the man turned to Avery for approval.
“Let her go,” Avery insisted shell shocked by the situation before her, but before she could express her thoughts, protests or concerns about the situation before her, she watched in surprise as the man released Cheryl and Cheryl marched straight up to Brooke, punching her right square against the face as Brooke’s eyes widened and then her head slumped forward and she went limp in the arms of the man who’d been holding her back.
“Cheryl,” Elliot gasped in surprise looking at her wife as she rubbed her hands together trying to shake off the pain that collected in her right hand at striking Brooke.
“That ought to shut her up for a while,” Cheryl decided with a proud grin thankful for the opportunity to finally put Brooke Morrison in her place at long last as Brooke was out cold in the man’s arms.  While Cheryl was certain there was much more to talk about after this moment, she decided to take the time to savor it as it felt good…damn good.


Seth walked into the emergency room, hoping to talk to Ria. If he didn’t figure out a way to wiggle out of what Thea and Cameron wanted him to do, he was going to need to brainstorm. He turned the corner and found Thea at the nurse’s station writing on a form before her.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Seth asked as he stepped around her.

Ria looked up and met his eyes with a heavy sigh, “Not good. Caitlin Vaughn was brought in earlier. She’s in bad shape, Seth.”

“What? What happened?” He asked in concern.

“She was attacked, and Seth, Blake was there too.”

“Blake? Is she hurt? What happened?” He asked quickly.

“She’s okay,” Ria assured him, “Well physically anyway, but she’s very shaken up.”

“Where is she?” Seth asked as he looked down the hallway.

“She’s waiting for her brother down in the ER’s waiting room,” Ria informed him, “Tell her we’re doing everything we can for Caitlin.”

“I will,” Seth nodded before he rushed down the hall and stepped into the waiting room.

There Blake sat in the corner with her knees pulled up to her chest as she cried. Seth slowly stepped towards her, “Blake?”

Blake looked up quickly before she bolted out of the chair and rushed into his arms, “Seth,” She cried into his chest.

Seth hugged her close, “Shhh, she’ll be okay, Blake.”

“He hurt her so badly,” She cried, “And they won’t tell me anything…”

“Ria said that they’re doing everything they can for her. I’m sure she’s going to be okay,” He gently stroked her hair.

“Don’t leave me, Seth. I need you here with me,” She cried as she held him tightly. Seth secured his hold on her as he attempted to comfort her.

Zack observed the scene from the doorway before he stepped away. He walked down the hallway and stopped at the nurse’s station, drawing Barbara aside, “I want you to make sure that the Ashfords don’t get any information about my sister. Don’t let them know anything, and you keep them away from her.”

“But Zack…Blake is Caitlin’s friend, and Kenneth loves her,” Barbara began.

“Yeah? And look at how much good it’s done my sister,” Zack said harshly before shaking his head in the negative, “I don’t want them anywhere near Caitlin, do you understand?” He asked, watching as the nurse nodded. He walked down the hall and stepped into the elevator to be there for his sister as family was all they really had.

...to be continued...