Seth stepped back into the waiting area which Ken and Blake had made their home base. He knew that delivering the news about Caitlin would be difficult at best, but he also knew that they needed to hear about her condition.
“Seth, where have you been?” Blake asked as she rushed over to him. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. She squeezed him as she lowered her voice to speak to him, “I thought maybe Kenny had convinced you to leave.”
He held her securely against him, “I’d never willingly leave you, Blake.”
She held onto him for a moment, simply enjoying the comfort and warmth of his embrace. While she’d been happy in her time with Zack, she’d sometimes found herself missing the feel of Seth’s arms around her. She almost felt guilty in enjoying this simple pleasure now, but at the same time, she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity before her.
Blake eased out of his embrace and met his eyes, “Thank you for being here.”
He smiled at her before he let out a slow breath, “I have news about Caitlin.”
“What? How?” Ken asked quickly as he finally acknowledged Seth’s presence.
“I asked Ria to get some information for us, but as it turns out, I overheard the doctor as he came out of surgery,” Seth explained.
“And? How is she?” Ken’s question was demanding and urgent.
“She’s out of surgery, and they’ll be taking her to the ICU soon,” Seth replied as he looked back to Blake, “She’s in a coma.”
“What kind of surgery did they have to do?” Ken asked, needing more information.
“Apparently, they had to relieve the pressure on her brain and remove her spleen,” Seth explained, “Ria said that there’s a possibility that there could be some residual effects from the brain swelling.”
“Oh god,” Blake gasped as she covered her mouth in painful shock.
Ken stepped over to a chair and sank down onto the padding. He closed his eyes as they filled with tears, the news having affected him down to his soul.
Blake felt tears begin to slip down her cheeks before Seth gathered her in his arms. He eased his hands up and down her back as he attempted to give her some small sort of comfort. He knew it wouldn’t be enough to take her pain away, but maybe just maybe he could give her something to hold on to in order to get through the tragic ordeal that had been delivered them.
Brant just finished getting dressed after his shower as his cell phone
beckoned him from his thoughts. With a soft whistle, he pondered
the news that could be awaiting him on his cell phone and he wondered if
Johanna was finally ready to produce the kind of results he was looking
for, but as he recognized the number, a frown touched over his features
much to his dismay as he realized it was his private investigator calling
“This had better be good,” Brant answered impatiently as his frown deepened, “as your last information came too little too late Tony.”
“Then I take it you know about Russell Denton’s nuptials,” Tony’s voice was laced with concern as Brant scowled at the thought.
“To my fiancée,” Brant grumbled in response, “yes I’m painfully aware of that one later than I would’ve liked to have been which is why I’m not happy about the way you ran things…”
“By the time I could get my hands on that information it was already too late to change anything, but I’m not done digging up information on him, but with guys like that, well I have to tell you the man has a squeaky clean reputation…”
“Even the squeaky clean have secrets,” Brant’s fingers clenched tighter around his cell phone, “but something tells me that isn’t why you called me as I’d hate to think you were just calling to report your failures in getting something done with this Russell Denton situation…”
“On the contrary, I have a lot of information on Caitlin Vaughn just like you asked for. It seems that the girl has a very interesting history indeed and if you’d like I can have my office fax the papers to the mansion right now…”
“That sounds like a great idea,” Brant paused for a moment, “No Tony, I take that back. Don’t send them to the mansion. Send them to my office on my private line as I’d really like to keep this between the two of us as this woman, well she’s kind of sunk her hooks into my brother and the last thing he’d want would be for me to be checking in on the latest woman to give him any kind of attention.”
“I understand and I’ll be discreet, though I must say a lot of what I found really doesn’t discredit her so much as paint a tale about a woman with a very twisted turn of events in her lifetime,” Tony confessed with a sigh, “but I’ll keep on it.”
“Excellent,” Brant paused thinking for a moment about his third request, “and what about Ms. Meloni?”
“Now that one is a bit trickier,” Tony admitted with a long pause, “as I haven’t been able to find a thing on the woman. I’ve run various searches and so far there’s been nothing…”
“Nothing huh,” Brant sat down on his bed thinking about the surprising lack of results in that area, “are you sure?”
“I’ve put some of my best people on it and nothing’s come up. You sure that’s the name of the woman you’re looking for?” Tony inquired once more, “as maybe she’s going by some kind of alias or…”
“I’m not sure,” Brant thought it over for a long moment, “but keep working on it.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Tony promised eagerly.
“See to it that you keep it that way,” Brant hung up the phone hearing the faint tapping on his bedroom door as he looked up to find Annette popping her head into his room.
“Have a minute?” she questioned gently as her eyes fell upon him.
“For you,” he patted the bed beside her as a smile lifted over his features, “I’ll always have a minute and then some Annie…”
“I’m glad to hear it,” she stepped into room taking a seat beside him as she reached out to touch his leg gently, “so how are you feeling Brant?”
“I’m feeling great,” he shrugged his shoulders giving her a strange look, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Honey, I heard about Avery and I thought maybe you’d want to talk…” she began uneasily.
“Annie, it’s going to be okay,” he reached for her hand giving a soft squeeze as he tried to assure her of the situation, “this is nothing and I’m not sure what you heard, but I’m working on fixing the situation.”
“Brant, I know you care about her, but I’m concerned about you right now. Ken said that you were upset that she’d ran off and got married,” Annie began again.
“Annie, that’s only temporary,” he shook his head as a sigh spilled over his lips, “I mean sure I could look at this in one light…you know the same pessimistic one that Ken seems to carry around with him, but the truth to the matter is that Avery loves me and I love her very much and we’ll work through this.”
“Brant, sweetie, she’s married,” Annette’s features shifted as her concerns doubled, “and maybe this is a sign that it’s time for you to let go. I know you care about her, but…”
“But nothing. Annie, Avery is it for me,” Brant declared boldly as he rose from the bed pacing around the room, “I know in my heart that we were meant to be with one another and in time we will be.”
“Honey, the fact that she married someone else says that fate had other plans for the both of you. Sure, Avery’s nice enough, but this is a sign that maybe it’s time for you to move on as there’s someone else out there who…” Annie started again watching as Brant spun around to face her, his dark eyes filled with determination.
“There isn’t anyone else for me,” Brant insisted with an emphatic nod, “I love her Annie and despite the fact she’s fighting like hell to keep from giving me her heart, she loves me too. You saw it when we were together here at the mansion. You know how she cares about me…”
“I don’t doubt that she cares about you Brant, but right now Avery’s a married woman and…” Annie tried to reason with him.
“Married or not, she was supposed to be my wife,” Brant insisted with wave of his hand, “We had it all together and we’ll find a way to have it all again.”
“Brant, if her heart is in another place,” Annette started with a frustrated shake of her head, “Honey, I know that you care about Avery and if you love her as much as you say you do, then maybe just maybe it’s time to let her go. Let her live her life and be happy as she’s got a family on the way and doing this is only going to cause you more pain than I think you can handle.”
“The worst pain I’d ever experience in this lifetime is letting her go,” Brant declared with an impassioned tone, “I love her and she’s my heart…”
“Brant, I know you think you mean that, but…” Annie sighed shaking her head, “I don’t doubt that you care for her very much…”
“Then don’t question this,” Brant knelt before her reaching for her hands as he smiled up at her, “I know what I’m doing and eventually Avery and I will be together. We belong together and when I’m with her, well it’s as if I’ve found that missing piece of my soul…”
“That’s just it Brant,” she reached out to touch his cheek gently, “there’s nothing missing there as you have a heart and a lot of love to give and with the right woman…”
“Avery is the right woman. I know she is and in time, well in time she’ll see that too,” Brant rose to his feet again as he tried to assure the both of them, “In time she’ll come back home to me and when she does, I just know everything will be better again. Russell won‘t be much more than an afterthought and when I sweep her off her feet and back into my arms…”
“Brant,” Annie paused contemplating her words as she watched him for a long moment, “this isn’t you. It’s not what you are.”
“How can you say that?” Brant questioned facing her once again, “Annie, I’m a man in love and it’s my love for Avery that’s made me alive for the first time in my life.”
“No, it’s not love. You might think it is, but Brant right now with the way you’re talking. You’re contemplating breaking her marriage and tearing her family apart. From what Kenneth told me, she’s having a baby and…”
“Annie, I can give her the world…her and the baby and when she’s with me, I intend to do just that. Avery is my heart and I need her with me…” he insisted.
“No, Brant you don’t and to hear you talk like this, well, it…” she trailed off as her worries about him compiled by the moment.
“It what?” Brant questioned in confusion, “Annie, what?”
“You’re starting to sound like your father,” she blurted out bracing herself for his reaction as his eyes widened in shock.
“No,” he shook his head in refusal, “I’m nothing like him. We both know that…”
“Brant, honey take a moment to think about the things you’ve been saying. First you attacked Avery’s husband in a fit of rage and now you’re talking about breaking apart something as sacred as marriage all because you feel you have to have her. That in itself is reason enough for me to be concerned as I remember years ago when your father was in a similar situation saying the very same things…”
“And in that instance the gamble paid off for him as he wound up with my mother,” Brant nodded in response, “I’ve heard the tale time and time again and we both know how it turned out…”
“Which is all the more reason for me to express my concerns,” Annie reached out to him taking his hands in hers, “Brant, Nicholas wanted your mother so badly in his life that he went to extremes to make it happen--he did so many things in the name of love that wound up becoming a mountain of animosity between them…”
“That was different,” he insisted raising his voice a bit, “Avery loves me…”
“Brant, she’s married to another man,” Annette pleaded with him, “Just think about that and what is says about where her heart is. I know that Avery’s been a part of our family for a while now, but she’s moving on and making a family of her own. If you love her, you have to give her that--you can’t try to keep her from her heart.”
“Her heart is with me. I know it is and when I hold her in my arms,” Brant felt his breath catch in his throat, “Annie, you have no idea what it’s like when we’re alone together. There’s just this connection and this chemistry…”
“Regardless of chemistry she has a husband and you can’t go breaking up a happy home,” Annette threw out at him with a warning tone, “If you do that, only unhappiness shall follow you as that’s how your father started and it was a downward spiral for him.”
“I don’t intend to force Avery’s hand as she’s going to come to me on her own if that’s what you’re implying,” Brant remarked with heavy resentment, “Her love will ultimately bring her back to me and when it does…”
“Brant it won’t and if you force this…” Annette pleaded with him, “I just don’t want to see you as a shadow of what you could be. You’re so much more than you want the world to see and if you sink into the darkness that hangs over you…”
“Avery is the only freedom I’ve found in this world and it’s her love that’s kept me from sinking down into the pit of despair that’s been calling me for all these years. When I’m with her, I’m not my father’s son, but a man ready to give his all to the only woman who has ever truly touched his heart…” he placed his hand over his chest, “and I can’t afford to lose that as without that feeling, Annie, then there’s nothing worth holding on to.”
“Brant, I just wish…” she started as the phone started to ring. She opened her mouth to speak up once again, but found herself at a loss as her sense of responsibility got the best of her and she answered it.
Brant watched her for a long moment as a sigh spilled over his lips and he tried to reason with himself. He was nothing like his father and his love for Avery was the real deal. She was the woman he was meant to spend his life with and eventually she would see that. She would find a way to quit hiding from her heart and then they could build towards their happily ever after with one another. That much he was sure of, he reasoned to himself as he heard the change in Annette’s tone as she spoke into the phone.
“Alright, Blake honey just try to calm down,” Annette pleaded with her, “I know you’re upset, but…”
“But what?” Brant’s eyes widened as he stepped in towards Annie , “What’s wrong with Blake?”
“I know sweetheart, but…well…yes, she’ll be in my prayers…all of our prayers and honey, I’ll be right down there. No, I’m not just going to stay here as you need me right now,” Annette replied her voice full of concern, “I’m on my way…”
“Annie, what’s going on,” Brant questioned watching her hang up the phone, “What’s going on with Blake?”
“Her friend was in some sort of accident,” Annette explained choppily, “Something about an attack and now she’s in a coma and Blake is torn up about it as she’s very upset and…”
“She’s at the hospital you say?” Brant questioned suddenly forgetting his own worries as his thoughts lingered to his little sister.
“Her friend Caitlin is in a coma. She happened to catch the attacker when she arrived at Caitlin‘s and…,” Annette nodded in response, “I just don’t think she should be down there alone as it sounds like she’s very upset and well…”
“I need to be with her,” Brant decided thinking about the pain his little sister must be experiencing as despite his feelings on Caitlin, he knew that something like this would be devastating to Blake and right now he realized that he needed to push his own views on Caitlin away long enough to be there for Blake.
Cheryl looked over to her husband as they parked the car, “Do you really think this is such a good idea?”
“Of course it is,” Elliot spoke as he switched off the ignition and looked over to his wife, “Grady’s our son, and while he can be stubborn as hell, I still believe that he can be reasoned with.”
“That’s right, Elliot. He is our son. We know him better than anyone does,” She sighed as she reached over to take her husband’s hand, “Grady’s not going to just come around and embrace Avery into our family.”
“No, he won’t, but perhaps we can make this easier for him. Maybe we can at least get him to accept what’s happening and be tolerant. Believe me, Cheryl. I’m not expecting miracles to happen,” He winked at her, “Now let’s go see if we can at least get him to talk to us.”
“Fair enough,” She patted his hand gently before they got out of the car and made their way up to Grady’s door. Cheryl rang the doorbell and glanced to her husband after a few moments, “Think he’s gone somewhere?”
“His car is in the drive. He’s here,” Elliot assured her before ringing the doorbell again.
A few moments later, the door opened and Jade smiled at them, “Oh hi Cheryl, Elliot,” She waved for them to join her as they noticed she was wearing Grady’s long coat, “Sorry about taking so long. Grady’s out on the back porch grilling some steaks, and I was out there with him.”
“Well, we don’t want to intrude,” Cheryl began.
“Nonsense. Come on in,” Jade smiled, “I’ll just go tell Grady you’re here.”
As Jade stepped onto the back porch, Elliot looked to his wife, “They’re looking very cozy.”
“Yes, they are,” Cheryl smiled as she removed her jacket, “Maybe that means he’ll be more reasonable after all.”
“Hey, anything’s possible,” Elliot replied with a grin.
“Mom, Dad, I’m glad you’re here. You can join us for lunch,” Grady smiled as he stepped inside and shivered while Jade followed behind him carrying a platter of steaks.
“Why were you out there without a coat?” Cheryl scolded as she clucked her tongue.
“You’re as bad as Jade,” Grady shook his head as he looked down to his tattered college sweatshirt, “This was warm enough.”
“Yeah, that’s why you shivered coming in here,” Jade rolled her eyes as she slid the platter of cakes upon the bar, “Let’s get the rest of the food out here, and we can eat.”
“I’ll help with that,” Cheryl volunteered as she shooed her husband into the living room, “Go and take Grady with you. We’ll get all of this worked out.”
“You heard the lady,” Elliot smiled as he clapped his son on the back and began leading him towards the dining room as the women adjourned to the kitchen, “I haven’t seen you this happy in a very long time.”
“I owe it all to Jade,” Grady smiled as he took a seat at the dining table, “She’s brought new meaning to my life, and I seriously don’t think that I’ve ever been this happy.”
“So you two have worked everything out?”
“We still have things that need to be worked out, but doesn’t everyone?” Grady asked as his father sat across from him, “Still, we’ve been able to get past the things that were keeping us apart. Now, I really feel like we can make it through anything.”
“It’s nice to see you so in love, Grady. I was really beginning to worry that you wouldn’t be able to get past your alcoholism and your past with Susan,” Elliot admitted.
“For a while, I couldn’t,” Grady revealed, “But Jade reached out to me and drug me through all of that. She’s brought me to a place in my life where I can see beyond all of that to a future that has never looked brighter.”
Elliot grinned, “You were never like this with Susan. You’re actually beginning to sound like a man who’s really and truly in love.”
Grady smiled, “Because I am. For the first time in my life, I’m actually in love.”
“That’s certainly good to hear,” Cheryl smiled as she stepped into the room, carrying a large salad bowl in one hand and a stack of serving bowls in another.
“Were you eavesdropping?” Grady teased as his mother set the bowls on the table.
“Nope,” Cheryl smiled with a wink, “I just happened to overhear wonderful news,” She placed her hand upon his cheek, “I’m so glad to hear you’ve finally found happiness, Grady.”
“I am pretty glad to be happy, Mom,” Grady smiled as Jade entered the room carrying plates in one hand with the platter full of steaks in the other, “Is that like a female gift or something?”
“No,” Jade shook her head, “Your mom told me how to manage this before I came in here,” She smiled as she began serving the steaks onto each plate and passing them around the table.
“Mom can manage a lot of things. She always seemed to know how to balance everything just perfectly,” Grady smiled at his mother.
“Now, I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration,” Cheryl rolled her eyes as she served salad into a bowl for each person, “I just had good help around the house.”
“There you go. Leap the praise over this way,” Elliot said proudly as he winked at Cheryl, “I like it.”
“Oh poo…hush,” Cheryl chuckled as she finished serving the salads and took her seat.
Jade finished distributing the steaks before rubbing her hands together, “What can I get everyone to drink?”
“I’ll just take a soda pop,” Elliot answered.
“Water will be fine,” Cheryl smiled.
“I’ll help you,” Grady announced as he accompanied Jade back into the kitchen.
Elliot looked to Cheryl with a grin, “It looks like things are finally going to work out for both our boys.”
“Well it’s about time,” Cheryl smiled as she reached out to take his hand, “We’ve all waited a long time for this kind of happiness.”
He lifted his wife’s hand to his lips and placed a gentle kiss upon her skin, “Yes, we have.”
“Think it’ll last?”
“We can only hope,” Elliot smiled as he patted her hand gently, hoping that their children were actually going to have the happiness their parents had always wanted them to have.
Dave stepped into the police station, looking for Patrick to get an update on the search for Jimmy Cordell. Having just arrived from the airport, he had decided that he needed to attend to the problems with his friend while Shannon focused on finding Abrams.
“Sharpe!” Dave called out as he rounded the corner into the squad room.
“Yeah, boss,” Patrick answered as he slid back from his desk.
“Any leads on Cordell?” Dave asked while Shannon entered the room behind him.
“Not yet. We’ve got all available units out looking for the guy, but so far, there’s no trace of him,” Patrick replied, “I’ve had units checking restaurants to look for the guy.”
“Restaurants?” Dave asked in confusion.
“The guy has to eat,” Patrick responded.
“How about checking out the motels first? The guy has to have a place to sleep and hide out,” Dave instructed, “Get the units rolling over to every rat hole motel in the city.”
“Yes sir,” Patrick nodded before moving quickly out of his chair to get to work.
“Dave?” Deidra asked from the front desk as she spotted him.
“Dee, have you been over to the hospital yet to check on Ken?” Dave asked as he closed the distance between them.
“What? Why? What’s happened?” She asked quickly as she searched his eyes.
“His girlfriend, Caitlin,” He began.
“I met her at the airport. Cute little blond, right?”
“Yeah, she was attacked, and she’s in critical condition right now,” Dave informed her.
“Oh god,” Deidra gasped, “What about Ken?”
“I haven’t spoken with him yet, but I thought I’d run over there now. Want to ride with me?” Dave asked quickly as he fished his keys from his pocket.
“Yeah,” She nodded, “Who would have done this?”
“Her ex,” He frowned as he glanced back to Shannon, “Can you handle the Abrams matter?”
“For now,” Shannon nodded, “Go check on Ken, and tell him my prayers are with him.”
“Will do,” Dave agreed as he stepped out of the squad room and escorted Deidra out of the police station.
“Do you have the man who did this in custody?” Deidra asked as she followed along with him.
“Not yet. All my deputies are looking for him, but he’s being very elusive,” He shook his head as he led her to his car and unlocked the doors, “I just know that Ken is broken up. He really cares about Caitlin.”
“I got that feeling at the airport,” She agreed as she got into the car with him, “In fact, I got the feeling they were really serious. It wasn’t so much what they said or did,” She paused, “It was more their ease with one another.”
“Yeah well, the last time this happened, Ken was fairly desperate for her recovery. If we don’t find this guy before Ken can,” He shook his head, “All I’m saying is that I’d hate to arrest my friend for something I’d like the state to do for him.”
“You don’t think he’ll do anything rash, do you?” Deidra asked, suddenly wondering if she shouldn’t be more concerned about Ken’s welfare.
“I just don’t know, Dee. In situations like this, you can never be sure what any man will do when the woman he loves is in danger,” Dave spoke as he focused on driving to the hospital, knowing that his friend was being pushed to the edge. He could only hope that Ken wouldn’t break under the stress.
Diane fumbled with the bags in her arms looking desperately to the door
to Ben’s apartment in front of her as she tried to shift the groceries
around so that she could knock and capture his attention, but in her current
position she wondered if she could pull it off as the bags started to slip
a bit. With a frown, she clenched her arms around the bags tighter
as she uncurled a couple of fingers and tapped on the door gently finding
that simple movement wasn’t enough to get the kind of noise volume she
was seeking out in alerting Ben of her presence, so with a grumble, she
tipped her head forward prepared to look like a fool and knock on his door
using that method as she began to rap lightly on the door finding her head
somewhat effective in this ridiculous form of knocking.
“You’re an idiot sometimes, Diane,” she mumbled to herself tipping her head forward once again ready to give the whole head knocking one more try when she felt the warmth of something crash against her as Ben let out a tiny groan.
“Diane, what are you doing,” he questioned stumbling back a bit before reaching out to take her shoulders and brace himself before falling, but his efforts were in vain as she tumbled forward with him, sending the groceries she’d so carefully selected on the way over out and flying around his living room as they both wound up on the ground.
“Surprise,” she offered weakly a goofy grin sweeping over her features as she could already feel something wet and squishy at her leg. Slowly she brought her hand out to his side and with that movement, she felt the cracking of the now opened container of eggs beside her as her smile faded.
“Yeah I’ll say it is,” he turned in the direction of the sound seeing what had happened as he captured her wrist in his hand plucking it away from the ooze she’d managed to get herself into as his other arm curled around her waist keeping her closer to him, “So are you going to tell me what all this is?”
“Well, I was just thinking that since our first date went so well, that I’d surprise you with a little dinner at your place so that I could show you some of my culinary talents seeing as we seemed to fit so well together in your kitchen,” Diane confessed feeling a blush rise over her features as she thought to the mess that surrounded them.
“And this?” he motioned to the eggs crunched upon his floor, “Dinner I take it?”
“Something like that,” she nodded in response with a heavy sigh, “I was trying to knock, but with the bags I didn’t have enough hands and…”
“And you thought that you’d use your head,” he couldn’t help but laugh at her words as he began to sit upright taking her up with him as his laughter continued, “well I have to say I’ve never seen that one happen before.”
“I’ve never been so stupid enough to think it before,” Diane confessed with her own tiny laugh as she curled her arms around his neck and her smile widened, “So I guess this means we’ll probably have to work on clean up instead of dinner huh?”
“I think we can take the time to call for some kind of delivery first,” he suggested hugging her body closer to his as she settled in over his lap, “although I must confess there is something I’ve been dreaming about doing since long before you called and said you were going to be stopping by.”
“Oh and what might that be?” she questioned with a knowing grin.
“Just this,” he admitted leaning forward to collect her lips in a soft, gentle kiss as he held her. As they slowly parted a smile spread over his features lighting up his already handsome face, “Much better.”
“Hmm, I don’t know. I think I’d like to give this another try,” Diane decided tipping in to kiss him once again as her egg soaked fingers threaded through his hair before she realized what she was doing and as the stickiness brought her back to the reality of the moment, she dropped her hands down offering up an apologetic look, “I’m sorry…”
“Hey it’s okay,” Ben dismissed her words before throwing out a teasing wink, “besides it gives me an excuse to tempt you into the shower with me.”
“Hmm, now that is quite a temptation indeed,” Diane flirted back with him bringing her hands over the center of his shirt, “though this is our second date and I don’t think that mutual showers fit into the bill just yet.”
“No?” his lip curled into a pout, “are you sure about that?”
“I’m pretty sure on it,” Diane nodded in response patting his chest lightly despite the egg yolk she was leaving upon his shirt, “though look on the bright side, you can get yourself into a nice, hot shower and I’ll clean up the mess I made and try to salvage what’s left of dinner here…”
“Hmm, I seem to think that the whole mutual shower thing sounds more appealing,” Ben sighed heavily, “though if you’re not joining me, I suppose I’ll make due as there are rules I promised you that I’d abide by as we give this whole dating thing a try.”
“There you go,” she nodded appropriately kissing the tip of his nose, “besides you can dream about me while I’ll work on pampering you.”
“If that’s the case, then it’ll be a very quick and very cold shower,” Ben promised her encircling her waist with his arms as he kissed her again, “although I’m sure you love the idea of torturing me in such ways…”
“Now I would never,” Diane feigned innocence as he stole another quick kiss.
“Oh yes you would and truth me told I think you’re sexy as hell for doing it even if I complain about it,” Ben nibbled on her neck for a brief moment before a sigh spilled over his lips, “though I suppose I really should get started on helping you clean this all up.”
“I told you I could take care of it,” Diane insisted, “I mean after all it is my mess there.”
“Even so, I can’t expect you to clean it all up since I’m the bonehead who answered the door and lost his balance,” Ben threw back at her helping her up off of the floor as he assessed the damage to his carpet, “and hey it also gives me more time to try to talk you into that shower with me.”
“It’s not happening today Ben,” Diane shook her head in refusal, “Not even if I want to more than you can imagine.”
“It was worth a shot,” he teased eyeing the floor once again, “I’ll go get something to work on this.”
“Okay,” Diane nodded turning to take a long look at what was left of her attempts at shopping. Bending down to pick up what she could, Diane could hear Ben’s footsteps approaching before he gave her a quick pat on the behind causing her to stand upright and give him a scathing look, “Behave,” she warned shooting him a glare.
“I just can’t help myself around you, but hey if you’d like to return the favor,” he bent down before her, “I’m all yours.”
“Oh you’re such a temptation,” Diane lightly kicked her foot at his butt before turning to take care of picking up a few more things, “and believe me I wish I’d gotten here sooner and taken you shopping with me in retrospect because then you could’ve helped me with these bags and we could’ve been heating things up in the kitchen instead of cleaning up this mess, but since I was running behind like I was, I just figured that I’d do it on my own…”
“Yeah, I kind of expected you a while ago,” Ben nodded working to remove the egg from his carpeting, “What was the hold up? Nothing wrong I hope.”
“No, not really,” Diane frowned in response, “My mother just came over to have a few words with me about my sister.”
“Ah I see,” he stopped what he was doing to cast a look at her over his shoulder, “and how did that go?”
“She just asked me to try to give Deidra a chance,” she shrugged her shoulders, “I told her I would and that’s about where it went.”
“So are you,” Ben inquired after a long silence.
“Am I what?”
“Are you going to try to give her a chance,” he asked noting the look of displeasure over her features, “I mean Diane she is your sister.”
“Yes, I know that, but…” she began again.
“But nothing,” he reached out to her, “You and I both know that you can find it in you to at least try to have some kind of relationship with her.”
“Ben, you don’t understand as things are difficult,” Diane started with a frown, “Deidra just isn’t the kind of person that I can just up and…”
“Diane, come on,” he sighed shifting on the floor before her, “If you’re not going to give your sister at least a chance with you, then think of what you’re doing to yourself.”
“I’m saving myself the headache that commonly comes along with dealing in Deidra’s type of drama,” Diane grumbled in response as he touched her cheek.
“No, that’s not it and we both know it. She’s your sister and for you to think so little of her, well come on. Diane, maybe things have changed…maybe she’s changed and now that she’s going through something as difficult as a divorce you should try to have some compassion for her.”
“Ben, I didn’t come over for a lecture,” Diane frowned back at him, “as I was hoping to forget all of that stuff for now.”
“I’m not trying to lecture you, but just think about it this way,” Ben suggested hoping to reach her somehow, “Think of how Blake is with you. She’s unwilling to even think about the possibility that she’s wrong about who you are…”
“She’s very wrong about me and we both know that Ben,” Diane interrupted with a huff, “and just the way she behaves…”
“Diane,” he lifted his finger to his lips to silence her, “this isn’t about Blake…at least not really. All I’m saying is that Blake tends to have this closed mind attitude where you’re concerned and she’s willing to write you off as something that you aren’t and maybe just maybe that’s what you’re doing with Deidra.”
“I am so not Blake Ashford and for you to even imply…” she growled back at him anger building behind her eyes.
“No, Diane you’re not like Blake, but maybe you should just think about what you’re doing with your sister. I’m not asking for the two of you to be best friends and I’m sure your mother isn’t either, but maybe just maybe you and Deidra can find some common ground with one another. I mean hey stranger things have happened.”
“Ben,” she paused shaking her head at him, “why is it so important to you?”
“Because deep down it’s important to you,” he touched her cheek gently, “and while you might want to continue hating your sister I think on some level you two need one another more now than ever. I think that you’re really wishing that you had something more with her on a sisterly level.”
“Ben, that’s not it at all as I really don’t feel that connection to Deidra,” Diane continued to argue the issue with him.
“That’s because you’re not allowing yourself to have that with her and hey, I can’t force your hand in the matter, but if you promised your mother that you’d at least try…” he reminded her quickly.
“Yes, I know…I should give it a try,” she conceded thinking to her promise to her mother, “it’s just…well, it’s not going to be the easiest thing in the world considering…”
“Probably not, but I know you Diane and when you want something, well you go for it full force and you find a way to make it work,” Ben reached out to draw her into an embrace as he kissed her tenderly, “It’s part of what I love about you and I have no doubt in my mind that if you try to get along with your sister, the both of you will probably come out of this with far more than either one of you ever anticipated.”
“I wish I had your faith,” she sighed against his lips.
“I have enough for the both of us,” he whispered in response pressing his forehead in against hers, “though for now, why don’t we just focus on cleaning up this mess together and then maybe on that shower we can take when we’re through on the floor here?”
“Nice try Ben,” Diane couldn’t help but laugh as she shoved her palm out into his chest, “but it isn’t happening today.”
“Oh well a man can hope, can’t he,” he teased with a wink seeing the smile that had replaced the frown that had carried over her when she’d talked of mending fences with her sister.
“You can try all you want, but it’s wasted energy,” Diane insisted shoving him once again, “Now why don’t you really go get in that shower by yourself so that I can finish this up without having to get violent with you?”
“Well since you put it that way,” he tipped in to collect another daring kiss from her, “are you sure I can’t change your mind…”
“Go,” she pushed him away before collecting some of the opened boxes before. Her eyes turned up towards him as she waved her finger at him, “Ben, get a move on it.”
“Alright, alright I will,” he raised his hands in the air in defeat as he stood upright and made his way towards the hallway, “and Diane?”
“Yes?” she tilted her head up to look at him as he stood before her leaning up against the wall.
“I love you,” he confessed with a warmth in his tone that seemed to make her heart melt with the sentiment.
“I love you too,” she answered unable to contain herself as Ben blew her one last kiss making his way to the shower as he thought about Diane’s situation with her sister. Certainly he couldn’t force her to try to give Deidra another chance, but maybe just maybe he could find a way to get them to reconnect with one another as it was certainly something they both needed in their lives whether they wanted to own up to it or not.
“Hello beautiful,” Richard smiled pulling Judy into his arms as she
opened the door to his apartment and he offered her a great big kiss as
he held her, “I missed you.”
“Rick,” she started as a heat flooded over her cheeks turning them a pale crimson at the surprise of his kiss, “what are you doing here?”
“Can’t a man just pop in and say hello to the woman he’s been thinking about since the moment he left her,” he grinned goofily collecting her more completely in his arms as he stepped further into her apartment closing the door behind him, “as you have been on my mind you know.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that, but I just thought…well I’d imagined that you’d be with Avery still considering,” Judy explained breathlessly still shaken up by his surprising kiss, “I’d thought you were stopping by to see her.”
“I did and all is well for the most part,” he nodded in confession, “She and my son-in-law seemed to have everything under control as his parents paid them a visit as well.”
“And how was that going,” Judy questioned when he finally released her.
“It’s going well as the only parent in this situation whose unhappy about the marriage is Brooke,” he frowned in response thinking about his wife, “and she made an appearance over there already from what I heard.”
“Really?” Judy’s eyes widened in surprise, “and?”
“And Russell’s mother knocked her into next week,” Richard couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought, “which serves her right really.”
“Are you serious,” Judy searched his features as a laugh of her own surrounded her, “You are serious aren’t you?”
“I’m very serious,” he nodded in response, “Brooke has been asking for something like this for a long time and Cheryl Denton is just the kind of woman to do something about it.”
“I would’ve too, but well, I didn’t want to make things more tense than they already are considering…” she shook the thought as she tried not to gloat over the fact that someone had finally knocked Brooke down a peg or two, “So Avery’s really alright with things?”
“She was a bit upset because the FBI is staked out on her yard, but overall she seems to be doing fine. I called in a few favors with some friends of mine and they should take care of the problem my daughter is having with the men who are currently on detail at her home and if that doesn’t work, well I have implicit faith in my son-in-law to keep her happy.”
“Sounds like you’re really sure about this now, huh,” Judy questioned as they stepped into her living room.
“Avery loves Russ and I know in my heart that he’s always loved Avery. They might’ve had their share of ups and downs, but they’re the kind of story book romance that the greatest of love stories are created about,” he pondered the thought dreamily before taking a seat on her sofa and urging her to sit beside him, “Kind of like another couple that I often find myself thinking about…”
“Rick,” Judy felt a heat rise over her features once more.
“Have I ever told you just how incredible you are,” he questioned even more dreamily than before, “or how beautiful I think you are as you’re even more stunning than ever?”
“Rick, you really shouldn’t be saying those things,” she shook the thought trying to stay level headed, “as right now really isn’t the time for that…”
“Of course it is,” he reached for her hand eagerly, “My daughter is finally at a place in her life where she’s found some happiness and Brooke won’t be able to take that from her and as far as I see it, things are headed in the right direction with us, so why shouldn’t I give thought to things like this when you’re here beside me looking as amazing as ever?”
Judy felt the reality of the situation hit her as she took in a slow breath withdrawing her hand from his, “Because Rick, you and Brooke are still married and I meant what I said before about not wanting to be stuck in a situation where…”
“We’re only married in name as I’ve explained to you time and time again,” Richard pleaded with her, “Judy, you know that it’s always been you and even after all these years I can’t help but love you all the more…”
“Rick, I love you too, but this isn’t about love. I mean yes it could be, but if you think about it, we’ve both grown up since our time together and we have so many things happening in our lives. You have Brooke to deal with as whether you like it or not, she’s still your wife…”
“Not for long,” he promised eagerly.
“Even so as it stands she’s your wife right now and besides, I have a lot on my plate with Diane and Deidra and I can’t just go ignoring my responsibilities or obligations to them when they need me more than ever,” Judy started to object thinking about the happenings in her daughter’s lives.
“Judy, I wasn’t asking you to do something like that,” he tried to assure her reaching for her hand once again, “as you’re a wonderful mother and I know how important that it to you and your girls.”
“Even so I can’t just go gallivanting around like a love sick teenager when my daughter’s heart is breaking,” Judy sighed heavily, “When I think of the pain Deidra’s been through…”
“She’s still not opening up about things, is she,” Richard frowned in response thinking about Judy’s oldest daughter.
“She’s hurting on so many levels and I feel so helpless as there’s nothing I can do to pull her out of it,” Judy explained painfully, “I want to be there for her so that she can reach out to me, but…”
“She will in her own time,” he tried to offer up hope for her.
“With Diane, I could say I knew that would be true, but Deidra, well she’s just on a different level altogether. She spends so much time trying to be strong, but this thing with Andy has broken her heart into pieces and I’m afraid she’ll slip back into the depression that’s threatened to overtake her time and time again.”
“She’s a very beautiful, intelligent woman,” he reminded her with a gentle squeeze of his hand, “I don’t think that Deidra will let this get her down for long as she has a career and a world of opportunities ahead of her.”
“Even so, Diane is refusing to budge with her and while I had a talk with Diane, I’m not so sure she’ll try to be the kind of sister Deidra needs right now, which means I’m all she has,” Judy sighed shaking her head as her worries consumed her, “I’m just not sure how much more she can take.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine and hey, if you need someone to lean on through this, I hope you realize that I’m here for the both of you,” he threw out wrapping his arm around her shoulders, “Judy, I’ll do anything that you need to help if I can…”
“It’s not that. It’s just…” she paused as a frown touched over her lips, “Rick, with you and I seeing one another, well as much as I care about you, I don’t think that it’s helping Deidra. I mean her husband was cheating on her with other women and for me to be the other woman…”
“Judy, you know that’s only temporary,” he frowned in response, “as I’ve told you time and time again that things were over between Brooke and I long before they even began.”
“I know that, but Rick I can’t help but feel like I’m the other woman and really if you think about it that’s the position I’m going to be in as long as you’re married to her,” Judy explained desperately, “and I’m not trying to push you to take action as that’s not my intention, but I really can’t handle being the other woman. I can’t do it because of what my daughter went through and I won’t do it because it’s not what I want.”
“Judy, it’s not what I want either,” he watched her get up from the couch as she walked across the living room, “but these things take time.”
“At my age, time isn’t what it used to be Rick,” Judy spun around to face him, “and with everything that’s been happening, I just can’t get swept up in what we feel for one another and forget everything else that time has given us.”
“Judy, what do I have to do?” he questioned moving to his feet as he reached out to her, “How can I prove to you that I’m not about to waste anymore time for us?”
“Rick…” she started once again.
“Judy, listen to me,” he touched her cheek gently, “I love you and in my heart it’s always been you. When Brooke and I were together, well, you have no idea how many times that I wish things had played out differently for us. Granted, I’m happy that I have Avery as she’s been the greatest reward in my life for so very long, but now that she’s happy, well I’m not about to let the best years of my life slip away all because you’re worried about the chains that Brooke is keeping me under. We haven’t lived with one another for the last two years and that situation isn’t going to be changing. Yes, time and time again I’ve just backed down on the divorce issue because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her, but now that I’m going to be here for Avery, well I need to assert myself and this is one issue I’m not going to let go of. I want out of my marriage and out of the life that I was placed into with Brooke. I don’t want to be the man who has to go through his days miserable because he let the greatest thing that ever happened to him slip away. If nothing else, I saw with my daughter that life is too precious to keep living with the mistakes that you can make. She found her way to move beyond circumstances that threatened to keep her happiness away from her and while I know it’s asking a lot, I just hope that you can find it in your heart to do the same with me.”
“Rick, you have no idea how much I would love to just step back into what we had with one another, but you can see that so many things have happened and…” Judy began to argue with him.
“Life happens and I’m well aware of it Judy, but can you honestly tell me that you’re willing to throw what we have away twice in this lifetime? Can you really find it in your heart to walk away from what we have all because of my ties to Brooke? I swear to you that I’m going to end it with her as I’ve already started in on filing the papers and I’m going to ask Kenneth if he can work with me on this divorce…”
“Really?” Judy’s eyes widened in surprise.
“That’s right and nothing is going to stop us from being together…that is if you’re still willing to take a chance on an old fool like me once again,” he threw out a half grin as she shook her head at him.
“How could I not,” she threw her arms around him eagerly, “but you have to promise me that this time no matter what Brooke tries to do that one way or another this will be the end…that you won’t let her try to push the issues out like she’s done.”
“Consider that done,” he nodded in agreement.
“And if at any time this becomes something that’s too much for our children…” she continued with a bit of apprehension.
“Judy, I already adore Deidra and I’m sure I’ll feel the same way about Diane,” he tried to assure her, “Avery sees you as more of a motherly figure than she’s ever had with Brooke, so I know that won’t be a problem for us either.”
“And what about Guy,” Judy questioned searching his eyes, “I know that he’s important to you as well.”
“Guy is another issue altogether,” Richard frowned thinking about his estranged son, “as it seems no matter what I try with him, he’s always going to hate me and that’s just something that will unfortunately remain whether or not Brooke and I are together.”
“I wish that wasn’t the case,” Judy touched his arm gently, “as he is your son…”
“Even so, I think he’d be happier if Brooke and I parted ways and as much as I’d like to have a relationship with him, well I just don’t know about that one as it’s always been like pulling teeth,” he paused turning his focus upon her once again, “but I won’t be giving up on him.”
“I didn’t anticipate you would,” she nodded in response, “but then again I also didn’t want me to be the cause of problems considering that the last time we encountered him…”
“My son has a lot of growing up to do,” Richard’s jaw tightened with tension, “but eventually when he finds himself in a relationship of his own, he’ll understand.”
“I hope you’re right,” Judy sighed wondering if she and Richard could finally find a way to move beyond the mistakes of the past and find some happiness with one another after all the time that had put a distance between them.
“Back off Brooke,” Russell threw out at her with a heavy glare finding
himself in no mood to deal with his pain in the ass mother-in-law after
having discovered that his friend and co-worker was attacked. He
wrapped his arm around Avery protectively as he eased her away from the
elevators, “Come on honey, we don’t need this right now. We can grab
“Don’t you dare walk away from me,” Brooke chased after them her voice raising with the moment as her anger poured through the halls of the hospital causing Avery to stop mid-step as she spun around to face her mother with a sharpness in her tone as she marched towards Brooke in an attempt to silence her.
“What the hell is your problem,” Avery shot out angrily, “Can’t you just leave things alone?”
“Not when you’re ruining your life with this loser,” Brooke waved her hand wickedly in Russell’s direction, “Avery, it’s not too late to make up for the mistake you’re making as you can just come back with me to the mansion with Brant and…”
“Brooke, you aren’t getting it,” Avery cut her off sharply, “Russ and I are married now and I love him. We‘re a family now.”
“Carrying on like an adolescent in heat doesn’t classify as your being a rational adult clearly capable of making your own decisions,” Brooke insisted with a huff, “and given the nature of the situation you’ve found yourself in, it’s a wonder that Brant wants you back, but he does and you’d be best to come with me to the mansion so that you can fix the mistakes you’ve been making by getting yourself knocked up with that demon spawn.”
“That’s it,” Avery grabbed Brooke’s arm pinching at her as she pulled her aside and out of Russell’s ear shot, “Brooke, you stop this right now. I mean it because I’m tired of dealing with you. I’m tired of having you try to run my life and quite frankly, maybe if you spent more time doing things to improve yours, then you wouldn’t be so obsessed with mine. I love Russ and nothing you can do or say is going to keep me from him…”
Brooke remained silent for a long moment stunned by the harshness in Avery‘s bold move before she regained her composure, “Avery, you know how he broke your heart before and we both know that this pregnancy of yours is a joke.”
“My baby is not a joke, but you are Brooke. You‘re a pathetic joke and that‘s all you‘ll ever be because that‘s the position you‘ve put yourself in,” Avery snapped back at her shoving her into the wall once again.
“Do you really think he can love you Avery? Do you think he can give you the life you deserve when he wasn’t man enough to keep you happy before? We both know that the fact you’re pregnant is an obvious fluke because it wasn’t meant to be and just like the last time it’ll end badly,” Brooke seethed in response grabbing for Avery’s arm as Avery tried to walk away, “You’re not going to have this baby and you’re not going to stay married to Russell. That much I can assure you because it’s not what was meant to be.”
“That’s enough,” Russell stepped in pulling Brooke’s hand off of Avery as Brooke’s eyes grew wild with rage behind the bruising that clearly came from Cheryl’s punch on her earlier. “Leave my wife alone.”
“Avery shouldn’t be your wife and this child shouldn’t be happening either,” Brooke insisted raising her voice unwilling to take the hospital environment into account as her eyes shot daggers at Avery, “we both know that in all likelihood you’re going to lose this baby anyways as you weren‘t meant to be a mother.”
“I said shut up Brooke,” Russell shoved her aside as the elevator doors opened and he guided Avery into the elevator with him. He pulled her into his arms securely refusing to take a moment to allow Brooke to get to her as the elevator doors closed and he felt Avery tremble beneath his touch, “Baby, ignore her.”
“That’s easier said than done. I mean my god, she’s my mother and to say those things,” Avery bit back on her anger as tears pooled in her eyes. She felt Russell reach out to her lifting her chin so that he could see the tears that she was fighting to contain, “Russ, how can she be so cold to me? I mean I know Brooke is just plain evil, but this is her grandchild and for her to wish so many horrible things…”
“Don’t listen to her,” he pleaded with her hugging her tighter as he felt the impact of Brooke’s words upon Avery, “Deidra told us that our baby is just fine and Brooke is just a bitch who is so lost in her misery that she can’t stand the fact that we’ve found a bit of happiness in our lives.”
“But what if she’s right,” Avery questioned in a panic her lower lip trembling as all the strength she’d been holding onto evaporated as she thought of the miscarriage she’d gone through the last time, “What if I can’t carry our baby to term? What if I’m really not meant to be a mother and…”
“Avery, don’t do this,” he cupped her face in his hands urging her to meet his concerned eyes, “Don’t give Brooke this kind of power again as she’s been using her manipulations against you for years. This is just her way to upset you so that you’ll doubt yourself--that you’ll doubt us and everything that we have with one another.”
“Russ, I don’t doubt us, but you weren’t there when they told me that I’d never be able to have a baby,” she broke down into tiny sobs, “you weren’t there when they said I’d never be able to have a baby and that I’d…”
“You are having a baby,” he cut her off quickly wanting nothing more than to kill Brooke Morrison in this moment in time as his wife was falling to pieces at Brooke’s goading, “Avery, listen to me. You’re having our baby and nothing is going to stop us from bringing this beautiful child of ours into the world.”
“But…” she started again.
“No buts,” he shook his head in response as his fingers teased through her dark hair, “Avery, our baby is a miracle and it’s our miracle to hold on to. Last time things happened that you and I both will always feel remorseful about, but this time, well this time we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure our baby is okay,” he paused fishing into his pocket as he pulled out the photograph that Deidra had given them from the ultrasound they’d had. He held it out to Avery trying to remind her of what they’d been fighting for with one another, “Look at our little one. Avery, look at our baby and tell me that you don’t believe we can make this happen for us--that all of our dreams and wishes aren’t more alive than ever as you see our baby right before you…”
“Russ, I know but I mean look at everything that’s happened. We’ve had so much come our way and now with Bruce and with what Brooke said,” she argued with him as her tears spilled down her face, “Russ, I’m so afraid that I’m going to fail you again…that we’re not going to be able to do this…”
“We can do this,” he reached out to her placing his hand upon her abdomen, “Avery, we have so much to keep fighting for that Brooke just doesn’t understand because she doesn’t have what we have. She’ll never have what we have with one another and that‘s why she tries to control you. She tries to hurt you because she knows that you don‘t have that void she has in her life. You have happiness and love and,” he pushed the stop button on the elevator catching Avery by surprise as he knelt down before her bringing his hands upon her hips before he began to lift her shirt up over the soft swell of her abdomen, “our baby Avery,” he dropped his lips over her stomach kissing her body gently as his arm curled around her holding her closer to him.
“Russ,” she wrapped her arms around his shoulders as he hugged her body against him and he pressed his cheek against her abdomen as though he was listening to little one growing inside of her.
“Our baby doesn’t want you to cry,” he whispered against her skin, “as our little one is telling me that he or she has every intention of making it into this world to see your beautiful face and feel the security of your arms wrapped around him or her, just like they are around me right now,” he promised tilting his head up towards her. He dropped another soothing kiss over her abdomen before slowly rising to his feet again cradling her in his arms, “Avery, you have to believe that as our baby needs you to believe…”
“I want to believe in that,” she confessed hugging him as if she’d never let go, “Russ, I want to believe in the miracles you dream about…”
“Baby, in our being together like this, we’re living proof that miracles do happen in this world,” he breathed against her neck as he squeezed her in his arms refusing to let go, “and when we have our little one with us out in the world, well we’re going to show our baby just how many dreams can come true when you have love and destiny on your side because we have that Avery. We really do,” he pulled back a bit as he saw the concerns that she’d fought so hard to repress behind her dark eyes, “what we have is meant to be.”
“I know that,” Avery nodded in response as the alarms in the elevator began to start going off, “Russ, I really believe that, but I’m just afraid because I know how much this means to me. What we have with one another is something I’ve waited a lifetime to have and now that it’s all within our reach I‘m terrified that it‘s going to slip away again…”
“We’re never letting go because I love you far too much to even let the thought cross my mind,” he offered up a soft smile as his thumb skimmed over her cheek brushing at her tears, “as you know I’ve spent a long time trying to win you over Avery Morrison-Denton.”
“I was starting to think that you were just all about the chase,” she couldn’t help but tease feeling herself trying to lighten the mood despite the fear Brooke had pushed back into her as he kissed her once again releasing the stop button on the elevator as they continued downstairs.
“Hardly,” he shook his head before nuzzling his nose against hers, “as that was only the beginning as I’m far more invested in the happily ever after.”
“Hmm, well it sounds like a tall order,” she admitted with a sad smile as he tasted her salty lips once again.
“One that I intend to live my days working on giving you,” he promised as the elevator doors opened and he reached for her hand, “Come on baby. Let’s go home. We can pick something up and just spend the night unwinding without everything else.”
“I’d like that,” she nodded in response as a sniffle carried over her, “In fact, I’d really love that whole movie and a blanket on a couch idea that we’d talked about not so long ago.”
“Consider it done,” he promised her lacing their fingers with one another as he vowed to find a way to keep her from worrying about the things that her mother had tossed at her. One way or another he’d find a way to prove Brooke wrong once again as his wife and child were everything to him and regardless of what he had to do to keep them safe, he’d pull out all the stops to make it happen as they were his world.
Johanna tapped her fingers upon the desk of the nurse’s station, looking around for anyone who might be able to help her schedule an appointment. Getting service however in the midst of a hospital was easier said than done.
“Excuse me,” She announced herself, “I’d like to make an appointment if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, ma’am. There’s been a commotion here this morning. One of our doctors has been unavailable due to an attack on his sister,” The nurse responded.
“Which doctor?” Johanna asked, her reporter’s mind racing with possibilities.
“Dr. Vaughn,” The nurse replied, “Now which doctor did you want to make an appointment with?” She asked as she focused on the computer before her. She waited for a moment for a reply before looking up, finding no one before her, “Ma’am?”
Johanna raced into the elevator in a search for Zack. While he might not have fully appreciated her in Seattle, she knew he could use her support now. She couldn’t imagine what could have happened with Caitlin, but she wanted to be there for him no matter what the case was.
She stepped off the elevator on the floor to the intensive care unit and made her way down the hall. She stopped at the waiting area and stepped inside where she saw Timothy and Julia sitting by themselves.
“Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn,” Johanna began softly, “I heard about what happened.”
“Jo,” Julia stood and hugged her visitor, “I had no idea you were in Coral Valley with Zack.”
“Actually I’m not here with him. I was in town to recruit for the magazine, but I thought that Zack might use the support,” Johanna replied.
“I’m sure he can,” Julia patted Johanna’s hand gently.
“How is Caitlin doing?” Johanna asked curiously as she searched Julia’s eyes.
“She’s in a coma,” Julia frowned, “We haven’t been able to see her yet. They’re still trying to get her settled,” She paused, “I’m hoping we can see her soon.”
“My prayers will be with her,” Johanna gave a hopeful hint of a smile, “Where’s Zack?”
“He’s down in the chapel,” Timothy said softly as he looked up to Johanna, “I think he’d welcome you if you joined him.”
Johanna gave them each a hopeful smile before she walked out of waiting area and down the hall to the chapel. She gently eased the door open and stepped inside, spotting Zack seated upon the front pew. She slowly approached him and placed her hand upon his shoulder, “Zack?”
“How could this happen, Jo? Why would anyone want to hurt my sister?” Zack asked as he looked up to her, “I just don’t understand.”
She sat down beside him and wrapped her arms around him, “I’m so sorry, Zack. It’s senseless.”
“Jo,” He slipped his arms around her and hugged her tightly, “She has to be okay,” He said as tears began to slip down his cheeks.
“Shhh,” Johanna urged as she held onto him and gently eased her fingers through his hair, “Everything will be okay, Zack. Everything will be okay,” She assured him as she continued to comfort him, hoping that somehow everything would work out for the best for all concerned.
Seth watched Blake as she ran her fingers through her hair. He reached out to her and took her hand, needing to provide her with some source of comfort, “Blake, why don’t we go get something to eat?”
“I’m not hungry,” Blake replied as she gave him a hint of a smile in thanks.
“You haven’t eaten all day. You have to be a little bit hungry,” He reasoned, “Come on. Let me take you out of this place for just a little bit. We’ll go down to Irvan’s, grab a sandwich, and come back.”
“No, I don’t think,” She began.
“He’s right, Blake,” Ken interrupted from across the room, “It’d be good for you to get out for a little while. Besides, he’s right. You haven’t eaten all day, and if we’re going to be here for Caitlin, we need to keep our strength up.”
“Well,” She began as she looked from her brother to Seth, “I guess it wouldn’t take that long.”
“Ken, would you like to come with us?” Seth offered.
“No, I’ll stay,” Ken replied.
“Then we’ll bring something back for you as you haven’t eaten either,” Seth added as he stood and took Blake’s hand to escort her.
Blake looked back to Ken before she nodded and agreed to go along with him. Before they could make it to the door, Annie stepped inside and reached out to Blake, “Annie, thank you for coming,” She began to cry once again as she held onto Annie.
“Oh baby, I’m so sorry this has happened,” Annie held onto her surrogate daughter tightly.
“Blake,” Brant spoke up from behind Annie, “I’m sorry baby.”
“Oh Brant,” Blake said quickly as she released Annie and threw her arms around her brother, “This has been so horrible.”
“I’m sorry,” Brant said sympathetically.
“Like hell you are,” Ken disagreed from across the room, his eyes blazing daggers towards his twin, “You don’t give a damn about Caitlin, and your just being here is a disgrace.”
“Ken, I’m here for Blake,” Brant announced, “And for you. While I might not particularly like your choice of girlfriends, I do care about you.”
“Save your lies, Brant. I don’t want to hear any of it. You’re just here to gloat. Hell, you probably wanted this to happen,” Ken glared at his brother as he closed the distance between them and met his twin nose to nose, “I want you out of here.”
“I’m not leaving, Ken. You’re just upset right now, and I’ll forgive you for how you’re acting but…”
“Forgive me? The only one who should be begging for forgiveness right now, Brant, is you after the way you’ve treated Caitlin.”
“I won’t beg for forgiveness just because this has happened. She’s done nothing but try to ruin me and my relationship with Avery. I’ll be damned if I’ll apologize for not wanting her to destroy my life,” Brant declared boldly.
“She hasn’t done anything to you. She is the sweetest most vibrant woman, and you’re just pissed off because she hasn’t swooned to your charms.”
“Oh please, is that what this is about? You’re jealous?” Brant asked as he met his brother’s eyes, “Maybe you should be because she didn’t push me away when I kissed her.”
“You son of…” Ken’s rage broke loose as he slammed his fist into Brant’s jaw before throwing himself into his brother with the need to pummel him into bits and pieces.
“Kenny!” Blake shrieked as she watched her brothers tumbling around the waiting area floor, throwing fists left and right at one another.
“What is going on here?” Dave asked as he stepped into the room, “Oh good lord, what is going on with this family? Every time I turn around, I’m pulling Brant away from a fight,” He groaned as he glanced to Seth, “Help me, would you?” He asked as he and Seth began towards the brawling brothers.
“Oh Annie,” Blake buried her face in her caretaker’s shoulder, “Why are they doing this?”
Annie held Blake as she watched Seth and Dave try to separate the quarrelsome
brothers, “I don’t know, baby girl, but I have a feeling that once they
get it out of their systems everything will go a lot smoother for them,”
She said as she glanced towards the heavens and said a quick prayer that
the brothers would resolve the animosity between them before it tore their
family completely apart.