Episode Seventy Three 

Dave hauled Ken away from Brant while Seth pulled Brant away from waging an attack on Ken. The twins struggled against those trying to keep them out of a fight. Ken wrested himself free of Dave’s hold as he glared at his brother.

“I want you out of here. You have no right being here, Brant,” Ken declared harshly.

“I’m here for Blake, Ken. If you can’t handle that, too bad,” Brant pulled away from Seth and straightened his sports coat.

“You’re not here for anyone but yourself. You just want to look good in Blake’s eyes because she’s the only person you haven’t pissed off lately,” Ken snapped as he started forward again only for Dave to restrain him once more.

“Brant, why don’t you do us a favor here and just take a walk for a few minutes?” Dave suggested, “Let me talk to Ken.”

“It won’t do any good. I’m not going to let him stand here and act like he gives a damn about Caitlin. He’d rather see her die than live anyway,” Ken snarled as he tried to attack his twin once more.

“Kenny, stop it,” Blake demanded as she got between her brothers, “Both of you just stop it! I won’t have you two tearing one another apart while my best friend lies upstairs in the ICU in god knows what kind of shape. I won’t have it!” She raised her voice as she looked between the twins, “Stop it right now, or I swear to god I’ll have security drag both of you out of here.”

“Blake,” Ken began.

“Just stop it, Kenny,” She warned before she looked back to Brant, “I appreciate your being here, but obviously there’s something going on between you and Kenny that I don’t know about. We’ll deal with all of that later, but right now, I really just want to feel support for Caitlin in this room. There’s no place for animosity here.”

Brant nodded, “Whatever you say, sweetheart,” He leaned in and kissed his sister on the cheek, “I’ll go for now, but if you need me for anything at all, you call me, okay?”

“I will,” Blake nodded before he stepped out of the room.

“Have you eaten?” Annie asked in worry as she studied Blake’s features, “You look so tired, sweetie.”

“I am tired, but I’m not leaving until I know that Caitlin’s going to be all right,” Blake replied, “Seth and I were just going to go down to Irvan’s to get a bite to eat.”

“I think that’s a great idea,” Annie nodded as she looked to Seth, “And bring back something for Ken. He looks like he could use something himself.”

“Yes ma’am,” Seth nodded as he escorted Blake out of the waiting room as well.

Annie looked towards Ken as she closed the distance between them, “You’re not behaving like yourself at all, young man.”

“Brant just goes too far,” Ken declared as he sank down into a lumpy sofa, “He doesn’t know when to quit, but I will not let him stand here and act like he cares. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

“Ken, that’s not true. He’s worried about Caitlin’s welfare,” Annie attempted to defend Brant, “He and Caitlin might not get along, but he would never wish a tragedy like this upon anyone.”

“Wouldn’t he? He’s just like Dad was. If he thought for one moment that Caitlin was in his way where Avery’s concerned, he’d make sure that she was removed from his path permanently,” He sighed with disgust.

“Ken, do you suspect that Brant had something to do with this attack?” Dave asked as he sat beside his friend.

Ken frowned as he shook his head, “No, Blake was there and saw this Jimmy guy still with Caitlin. Brant didn’t have anything to do with it, but I guarantee you that if he had been the one to interrupt the attack, he wouldn’t have stopped it.”

“Ken, what is going on with you and Brant? I’ve seen you two at odds with one another, but I’ve never seen you let loose on him like this,” Dave spoke as he studied his friend.

“Maybe I’m just sick of the way his life invades everyone else’s. I put my life on hold to go make sure that he wasn’t making matters worse with Avery, and what do I get in return? He starts blaming my girlfriend for all of his problems. He will lash out at anyone he thinks is a threat to getting what he wants. I’m just sick of it,” Ken admitted with a heavy sigh, “I just want to be able to live my life without some of Brant’s drama seeping into my world. Is that really so much for me to ask?”

“No, honey, of course not,” Annie empathized as she placed her hand upon his shoulder, “But it’s in these times when we have to look out for your brother. You have the strength of this family, but Brant doesn’t.”

“That’s part of my problem, Annie. I’m tired of trying to clean up his messes. I’m tired of making excuses for him,” Ken shook his head and closed his eyes, “I’m just tired.”

Annie looked to Dave, “Could you give us just a moment?”

Dave nodded, “Sure. I’ll go check on Caitlin’s condition.”

After Dave left the room, Annie took his place on the sofa and directed Ken’s eyes towards hers, “You have to stop taking on all the burdens of your brother. I’ve told you before that it would only drag you down and make you miserable, Ken. I’m seeing now that maybe I didn’t give that warning soon enough, but I refuse to let you do this to yourself. Let Brant lead his own life…no matter where it takes him.”

“The problem is that I just can’t do that, Annie, because Brant doesn’t just try to wreck his own life. He wants to take half the world down with him,” Ken met her eyes sadly, “I can’t help but feel that if I hadn’t taken Caitlin to that island with me to try to fix Brant’s problems,” He paused, “I just don’t think this would have happened.”

“You’re blaming yourself for this? Ken, this is not your fault,” Annie explained as she touched his cheek, “You cannot blame yourself for this.”

“Can’t I? The last time I saw her, Annie,” He shook his head, “I just wasn’t very cordial to her. I pretty much sent her packing, and I have to wonder if I didn’t somehow set her up for this. She was probably preoccupied with the way I acted towards her, and her defenses were probably down.”

“Ken, stop it. Stop it right now,” She demanded, “You did not do this. A psychopath did. You wouldn’t have had any control even if you had been with her. Who knows? He might have hurt you both,” She reasoned, “So stop this second guessing yourself. You are not responsible for this, Ken.”

He turned his eyes away from her and sadly gazed at the floor, “Then why can’t I shake this feeling that this is all my fault?” He asked.

Annie gathered her surrogate son into her arms as he began to softly cry, “Because you love her, and you wish you could take away all her pain. You want to be able to suffer along with her to make her troubles a bit less. But I promise you, sweetheart, that this is not your fault, and everything will be all right. We just have to keep praying.”

Ken held onto his caretaker and cried into her soft embrace. He would pray for Caitlin’s speedy recovery, and he would pray that she would forgive him for whatever role he may have played in her pain.


Cameron pressed the call button for the elevator and stood back to wait for the next available car. He checked his watch, knowing that Doug would be present in Kipp’s room since it was well past his normal meal time. Meeting him eye to eye would be nothing short of explosive which was what Cameron was counting on.
“Mr. Stone?”

Cameron glanced over to the source of the voice, “Yes, do I know you?”

“No, but I thought we should meet. I’m Dr. Diego Hernandez,” Diego spoke as he offered his hand for a handshake.

Cameron shook the doctor’s hand, “And why would you think we needed to meet?”

“Your fiancée,” Diego met the eyes of the dangerous man he’d warned Heather about, “She’s my patient.”

“She…” Cameron eyed Diego more carefully, “Really? And just why would she be seeing you?”

“I can’t divulge the content of our sessions, but,” Diego met Cameron’s eyes, “I would like to ask that you take special care of her.”

“Really?” Cameron asked as the elevator doors opened. After the people on board disembarked, the men stepped inside. Cameron looked to Diego as the doors closed, “And why would you be worried about how I would treat my bride?”

“She’s in a fragile state right now,” Diego relayed.

“Ah, so you’re worried about the baby. I can assure you that I want the best for both Heather and the baby. We’re going to make a very happy family,” Cameron assured the doctor with a smile.

“I sincerely hope that’s true,” Diego spoke as he observed the notorious man before him.

“Don’t worry, Dr. Hernandez. My wife will be well taken care of,” Cameron advised him before stepping off the elevator and walking towards the intensive care unit. So Heather had been talking to a shrink…he’d have to keep a closer eye on his intended bride.

He made his way around the corner and spotted Douglas standing in Kipp’s room. He knocked gently upon the door before stepping inside, “Douglas, I thought I’d come by and see if there had been any progress.”

“Don’t you mean you’ve come by to gloat?” Douglas asked as he glanced up to his step-son, “I know you, Cameron, and sympathy is not in your nature.”

Cameron closed the door behind him and leaned back against the door, “Whether you believe it or not, I do have Kipp’s best interests at heart.”

“You don’t have anyone’s best interests at heart…not even your own,” Douglas rolled his eyes, “So why are you really here, Cameron? Hoping you could come by and push a few of my buttons to send me over the edge?”

“You think much too highly of yourself, Douglas. I didn’t come by because of you at all,” Cameron spoke as he crossed his arms, “But while I was here, I thought I’d check on Kipp. I take it there’s been no change.”

“Wishing he were dead?” Douglas countered, sensing an ulterior motive for Cameron’s visit.

“Of course not. I want him to recover. He does have a child coming into the world, after all.”

“You’re not buying into that slut’s tale, are you?” Douglas scoffed, “Whatever claims she might have about my son, I can assure you that child in no way belongs to Kipp.”

“Just because you wish something not to be true doesn’t make it so,” Cameron grinned, “She is with child, and it is Kipp’s flesh and blood.”

“Is this why you came by? Hoping to gloat over Kipp’s poor choice of companionship?”

“No,” Cameron replied, “Why do you assume that I came by to do anything dastardly? Can’t I just be worried about my brother’s welfare?”

“If you were any other man, that could be a possibility, but I know you too well, Cameron. You’re just like your father with your desire to destroy everything you see,” Douglas stood as he spoke, wanting to get on a level playing field with his step son, “I’ll be damned if I’ll let you exploit Kipp’s condition for your advantage.”

“Bold words spoken from a man who’s been holding a bedside vigil with his son,” Cameron met Doug’s harsh eyes, “You don’t control the world, Douglas, no matter how much you might wish you could, and I’m not intimidated by you. In fact, you have no idea what I could do to your family in the blink of an eye.”

“Don’t you dare threaten me,” Douglas warned as he stood eye to eye with Cameron, “You’re a little man, Cameron, with little influence and less power. You don’t have any influence over my life, and I don’t give a man about you or your antics. You’re insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and I can promise you that you’ll never have any hold over me.”

Cameron raised an eyebrow, “Are you really so sure of that? I can make life very difficult for you, Douglas, and I’d hate to think that you’d risk everything you treasure just for a chance to trump me.”

“I don’t have to risk anything to deal with you,” Douglas snorted as he backed away from Cameron, “You’re like a pesky fly, Cameron. All I have to do is swat you away to be rid of you.”

Cameron met Douglas’s eyes, “You’re going to regret your treatment of me, and I guarantee you that you and Kipp will suffer for it.”

“Don’t you dare threaten Kipp,” Douglas warned as his paternal instincts raged forth and he seized Cameron’s collar, shoving him harshly against the door, “I’ll break you into little pieces if you ever dare to threaten Kipp.”

Cameron met Doug’s raging eyes before he tore himself out of his step father’s grasp. Cameron quickly stepped out of the room and adjusted his tie as he cast a glance back towards the room, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Douglas,” He spoke even as he made his way to the elevator. He knew what had to be done, and it had to be done tonight before he lost any more precious time in his quest to torture Douglas Mahoney.


Johanna sat down beside Zack and placed a cup of coffee on the small table before him. She reached out to him and lightly brushed her fingers through his hair, noting his tired appearance and knowing that even if she asked him to he wasn’t going to rest until his sister was on the road to recovery.

“Zack, I got you a cup of decaf,” She spoke softly, wondering if he was registering even one word of what she was saying, “I didn’t think caffeine was a good idea since you haven’t eaten anything. The last thing you need right now is the jitters brought on by caffeine,” She eased her hand down to his shoulder, “Zack?”

Zack looked to the woman beside him and studied her features for a moment, “Why are you here?”

“I thought you could use the support. Once I heard what happened with Caitlin,” She paused, “My first thought was to find you.”

He turned his eyes back to the coffee in front of him, “I just can’t believe this is happening to her. Caitlin is the sweetest person in the world. She doesn’t deserve this. She never did.”

“I don’t understand,” She said softly as she watched him stare at the coffee.

“Her ex-boyfriend, Jimmy. He abused her during their relationship, and now he’s found her again. He’s trying to kill her,” He answered somberly as he sipped his coffee.

“Jimmy…” She paused, “Oh my…that explains a lot about why Caitlin worked for the travel magazine even though I asked her a dozen times to come to work for me.”

Zack nodded, “She didn’t want anyone to know…not even me,” He met Johanna’s eyes, “She was embarrassed, and you know how Caitlin can be. She doesn’t want to ever feel like she’s placing a burden on someone else. I guess some people might call it pride, but…”

“Caitlin’s not like that,” Johanna finished his thought, “She was always looking out for everyone’s best interests when she was hanging around,” She half smiled, “I’ve kind of missed those little cocktail parties we had back in Seattle when Caitlin was in town. It’s strange how you can have so much fun and not even be doing much of anything at all.”

He smiled, “Caitlin could always lighten the mood and bring laughter to a situation.”

“Maybe we’ll have to all get together when she’s better to have one of those little parties,” She offered, “I’m sure Caitlin wouldn’t mind a party to celebrate her recovery.”

“If she recovers,” He said sadly, “Jo, I’m really scared that she’s not going to be okay. I just worry that maybe she’s been through too much. Maybe this is one time too many. Maybe…”

“Maybe you worry too much,” She pointed out as she guided his eyes to meet hers, “Caitlin’s going to come out of this. She’s a fighter, Zack. You’ve always said that she had the strength of the world within her. You can’t stop believing that now.”

Zack looked back to his coffee, “Thank you.”

“For what?” She asked in confusion.

“For being here. For reasoning with me. For supporting me,” He answered as he slowly allowed his eyes to meet hers.

“I love you, Zack. I know you have a hard time believing that one, or maybe you just didn’t want to believe it. Nevertheless, it’s true. And I wouldn’t dream of being anywhere other than right here by your side when you need me,” She explained as she gently eased her hand over his cheek, “You look so tired. Isn’t there somewhere here at the hospital where you can lie down just for a bit?”

“I can’t sleep right now,” He frowned as he closed his eyes and accepted her comforting caress, “I won’t be able to sleep until I can see Caitlin.”

“Then I think maybe we should go upstairs and see if they have her in her room,” She offered him a soft smile, “I’ll go get your parents some coffee and bring up in a few minutes, okay?”

“Fair enough,” Zack smiled in response as she stood and started to walk towards the cafeteria, “Jo? Thanks again.”

“None are necessary,” Johanna smiled as she turned and made her way towards the cafeteria. Somehow fate had seen fit to throw them back together again, and if her suspicions were correct, being in the same town together wasn’t the only curveball fate had thrown them. Only those suspicions would have to wait as right now, she needed to support Zack and show him that they had always been right for one another even if he wanted to deny it to himself.


“I hope you’re ready for what I’ve got in store for you baby,” Russell announced emerging from the kitchen with an oversized bowl of popcorn in hand grinning goofily as he saw Avery laying out over the couch tucked in beneath the blanket where he’d left her moments earlier.
“What do you think,” she questioned in a flirty tone snuggling into his pajama shirt as she sat up straighter patting the couch beside her, “I’ve been keeping your spot warm.”
“So I see,” he couldn’t help but smile as he slid in beside her careful not to spill the buttery popcorn over the couch as he wrapped an arm around her, “so are you ready to see what I’ve got all set up for us?”
“Don’t you know it,” she leaned in against his chest dipping her hand down into the bowl of popcorn in his lap as a smile lifted over her features, “Just for the record I have to say that this was a fabulous idea I had about tonight.”
“What do you mean idea that you had,” he poked at her gently hearing the giggle that rose up inside of her, “It was all my idea I’ll have you know…”
“Hardly,” she shook her head up at him continuing to tease him, “I’m the one who said we should come home and do just this…”
“Now that might be true, but I’m the one who put the idea right here,” he touched her forehead before his lips grazed the spot his finger had been, “as I was your muse this time around if you look at it that way.”
“Hmm, well since you’ve told me time and time again that I’ve been your muse,” she fished out another handful of popcorn dropping it into her mouth, “I guess we’ll let that one slide this time.”
“I’ll give you let it slide,” he tickled at her ribs as she wiggled beside him nearly losing her popcorn in the moment.
“Russ, come on.  You don’t want to get this butter all over the couch baby,” Avery threw him a quick pout, “as it’ll be a pain to clean up.”
“Point well taken,” he decided with a nod as his eyes cast over her for a long moment before an idea sparked in his head, “though I think we’ve got this arrangement all wrong.”
“Oh?” Avery lifted a curious brow, “How do you figure?”
“Because I was kind of hoping I could sit there,” he motioned to the couch cushion that she was seated in.
“Right here,” she turned her dark eyes up towards him.
“Yes,” he nodded eagerly, “right in that very spot as I kind of had this all set up in my head.”
“Down to the last detail?” she gave him a strange look, “Russ, I really don’t think it matters where we sit tonight as we’re together and that’s what counts.”
“Usually I’d agree, but right now,” he set the popcorn bowl aside pulling it out of her reach despite her protests before he hoisted her up off of the couch into his arms as he took a seat where she’d been previously occupying the cushion.  Now as he settled in on the couch, he eased her into his lap urging her to lay her back into his chest as he stretched his fingers out to the coffee table collecting the bowl of popcorn once again and handing it over to her, “this is much better.”
“Okay, so you win that one,” Avery decided holding the bowl in her lap as she snuggled in over him munching away on the popcorn he’d brought for them to nibble on during their movie time, “So what are we watching tonight?”
“That’s the surprise,” he explained cryptically reaching for the remote as he held her more completely in his arms, “as I was thinking about some of the things we enjoyed in the past with one another.”
“Such as,” she inquired tilting her head up to look at him as his smile expanded and she shook her head at the way he was looking at her, “I’m in trouble aren’t I?”
“Not really,” he shrugged his shoulders turning on the television as Avery focused on the television set before her.  Watching as the opening music began to play a gasp fell from her lips as the scene opened up and she eyed a woman being chased through what appeared to be some kind of basement boiler room area terrified by what was following her.  Her eyes widened in response as she immediately turned to watch the expression on Russell’s face once again, “Nightmare on Elm Street?”
“That’s right,” he nodded unable to contain the chuckle that built up inside of him.
“Russ, why this?” Avery gave him a strange look, “I thought that you’d talked about a night of unwinding, not of horror.”
“Honey, every time we have a horror film on, well, I just know that it’ll be reason enough to get you even closer to me as you do this thing when you’re trying not to be afraid where you squeeze me and…” he began to defend his reasoning for the movie selection.
“I so do not,” she shook her head in response, “as this movie doesn’t scare me.  Granted when we were younger…” she stopped suddenly realizing why he’d chosen such a film for them and another gasp rose up from inside of her, “Russ, you’re thinking about the last time we’d tried to watch this, aren’t you?  That’s what this is about isn’t it?”
“Maybe,” he shrugged his shoulder simply as a laugh swept over him, “okay yeah I was totally thinking about that night at my parent’s place…”
“When you’d worked up the courage to finally ask me to make things official between us,” Avery couldn’t help but smile at the thought as she lifted up the popcorn bowl setting it aside on the table once again as she shifted in his arms turning to face him as his finger tips teased into her dark hair.
“You were all I could think about and I couldn’t think of a better time than when my parents went away for that week to ask you to be mine,” he remembered fondly, “Sure, we’d flirted around the issue between us and made out more times than I can even remember, but still we’d kind of kept the friends status between us.”
“But you knew even back then that we were sure a hell of a lot more than friends,” Avery added with a soft smile as her gaze lingered to his lips, “as we’ve always been more than just friends.”
“Yes, in our own way we have,” he agreed thinking back to the time when he’d been so eager to share his heart with her, “and I mean sure you’d spent more time than your parents wanted you to with me back then, but we always kept finding a reason to keep from placing a label on what we had between us…”
“Yes we did as that seems to have been a trend with us,” she sighed heavily glancing over at the television set as his fingers tapered off over her spine.
“But it’s one we won’t be keeping with us in the future,” he assured her squeezing her over him gently.
“I was just too damn stubborn for my own good,” she confessed listening to the strong, solid sounds of his heart beating beneath her.
“Gee, you’re just now figuring this out,” he teased as she poked at his ribs.
“Hey, watch it,” she threw him a warning look, “or else I might start remembering how pitiful that night turned out there for us…”
“You mean when Grady walked in and caught us making out on the couch after you accepted my proposal to make us official?” he arched a curious brow.
“God, that was just mortifying,” Avery groaned in response, “though in having Grady find me half naked like that with you, it wasn’t the worst of it as that all came into play when he and the rest of his college buddies came prancing in for the party he’d planned for the evening.”
“I think that was my parent’s way of keeping me in check there as I think they knew how dangerous it has always been for me to be alone with you,” he goaded her watching as she propped herself up a bit and glared down at him.
“It’s dangerous for you to be alone with me,” she huffed shaking her head at him, “Russell Denton, you’re the one who had it in you to find a way into my pants more times than I care to recall.”
“It wouldn’t have been that many times if you wouldn’t have kept saying no,” he teased back as she swatted at him as a groan spilled over her lips.
“You never quit, do you,” she shook her head at him, “I mean seriously I think you’ve always been a complete pain in the ass as you‘re relentless.”
“Maybe so, but in my being so relentless I managed to win you over,” he reminded her proudly, “as it’s been that desire to spend my life with you that’s motivated me to do some crazy things over the years.”
“Crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Avery laughed at the thought as she settled in against his chest once again bringing her fingers over the warmth of his body, “though I do have a confession to make…”
“What’s that baby,” he kissed the top of her head while savoring the simple pleasures that came from holding her in his arms.
“I’m glad you did all those crazy things,” she admitted honestly as she squeezed her arms around him tighter, “as there’s no place else in this world that I’d rather be then where I am with you right now.”
“Neither would I,” he promised her with a soft smile as he held her in his arms, “as you know this is forever Avery.”
“I know it is,” she whispered in response staring lazily at the television as she watched the scene unfold before her.  “Ugh, I don’t know how I ever thought this was frightening there.  Why I wanted us to watch this particular movie that night is just beyond me…”
“I think you were just lusting over Johnny Depp,” he quipped with a teasing wink, “as I always knew the guy would be some serious competition for me.”
“Well, I do have to admit, he was rather adorable, but since he turned out to be completely wrong for me,” she turned her eyes up to him once again, “I’m glad that you still wanted to have me around.”
“How could I not,” he curled his finger underneath her chin urging her lips towards his as he teased further, “after all Demi Moore was taken.”
“Oh you,” she swatted at him unable to contain her laughter as there was just something about him that always seemed to turn a situation around for her.  Even now as she found herself gazing down into his sparkling green eyes, she couldn’t help but be drawn in by the adorable grin that settled in over his handsome features.  There was just something about the man before her that made her heart melt time and time again even when he was trying to be cute.
“Hey I could’ve said Sharon Stone,” he teased further watching the way her lips curled in protest as she sat upright on his stomach glaring down at him.
“That’s it,” she bunched up the center of his shirt in her fist shaking her head at him, “Russ Denton, that’s not even funny.”
“I wasn’t kidding,” he feigned seriousness as he curled his arms around her, “Sharon Stone’s pretty hot there.  I mean granted she has that whole lunatic femme fatale thing going in some films there, but still she‘s…”
“You couldn’t handle a woman like Sharon Stone,” she tugged at the fabric she’d been holding urging him closer to her in a kiss.
“True,” he agreed nibbling on her lower lip his hands playing over her hips and up underneath his shirt, “as sometimes I can barely keep up with you.”
“Oh please,” she rolled her eyes in response, “you’re always the one pushing for me to become the femme fatale that you’re lusting over.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s what’s really going on,” she curled her lip in a pout breaking away from their kiss, “Maybe you’re imaging I’m Sharon Stone…”
“Oh no,” he drew her in closer to him as his lips tapered off over her neck, “I’m not imaging that at all as I much prefer Avery Morrison-Denton to any of those women as there’s something that you do to me…”
“Hmm, I don’t know if I’m convinced there seeing as you’ve kind of got this thing for those Hollywood beauties…” she feigned insult as her arms curled around his shoulders, “I mean hey why would you want to bother with me when they clearly are your fantasy women.”
“Avery,” he tore his lips away from her neck cupping her face in his hands, “you’re my dream girl in every sense of the word and believe me there’s not a fantasy I’m having where you aren’t my leading lady in it.”
“Hmm, well I’m almost convinced of that,” she decided settling in over him again as his fingers traced over her spine touching her skin beneath his night shirt.
“Almost convinced huh,” he shook his head at the thought, “Somehow I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
“So what are you going to do about it,” Avery challenged in a flirty tone as she watched him reach out across the coffee table grabbing the remote and shutting off the television set with one flick of a button before his arm curled around her and he quickly rolled her beneath him on the couch as he offered up a sensual grin.
“Why it’s quite simple I’m about to clear up any misconceptions you have about you being my one and only dream girl in this world or any fantasy world there is out there,” he promised leaning in to kiss her as he vowed to spend the rest of the night reminding his wife of just how much she meant to him and more as they shared a quiet night at home with one another.


Jade twirled around the room singing to the disco tune on the radio while she placed a package of cookies upon the coffee table. She danced away from the table as the song’s beat picked up and she began to feel the music down to her soul.

Grady entered the room carrying two mugs and a carafe of coffee. He stopped in his tracks as he watched her dance completely unaware of his presence.

She sang the words to the song as if she felt them deep within her heart and danced as if she were performing on stage. She opened her arms as if embracing someone before covering her heart and belting out the last words of the song.

He put the mugs down along with the coffee before he began clapping furiously and whistling at her performance.

Jade stopped in her tracks and screamed in surprise, “How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to know that it’s a good thing you weren’t born in the disco era,” He teased before she clobbered him. He defended himself from her attack as he spun her around and caged her within his arms as they both laughed, “Seriously, I think you’ve got a set of pipes on you there.”

“Nope,” She shook her head with an embarrassed laugh, “I only sing in the privacy of a living room or shower. No stages.”

“Well how about we have a dance while you’re feeling the music?” He offered as he took her hand and spun her around before pulling her into a dancer’s embrace as she giggled.

“I cannot get over how absolutely wonderful today has been,” She said as she beamed with an illuminating smile.

“Today has been something close to paradise,” He admitted as he led her in a dance around the living room, “And I have you to thank for making me feel this way.”

She smiled softly, “Actually, you don’t. You’ve always been this man that I’m completely in love with. You just sometimes let your demons take over instead of acting like a rational human being,” She said seriously before a grin crept into her features again.

“Yeah, I know. It’s hard being me,” He teased as he dipped her.

Jade squealed as he returned her to her feet and spun her around before taking her in his arms again. She met his eyes, “You’re certainly feeling good. Now see, didn’t I tell you that if you would have just given in to me sooner I could have made you feel this way a lot quicker,” She teased.

“I know, but you know,” He shrugged half-heartedly with a smile, “I’ve been trying to resist temptation.”

“I am not a temptation you need to ever resist,” She assured him as she leaned in to give him a kiss, “I love you, Grady Denton…even if you are a stubborn ass sometimes.”

“God I love it when you talk sexy,” He teased as he led her around the room and dipped her once again, “I love you too, Jade Alexander.”

“Now, that’s truly music to my ears,” She smiled as he placed her back upon her feet as the song came to an end, “Now, are we through with this little turn around the dance floor?” She asked with a smile as “YMCA” came on the radio.

“Hell yeah,” He said as he turned and walked to the sofa, “I don’t do disco,” He teased with a wink as he poured them each a mug of coffee, “So, this disco singing thing,” He began as she sat on the sofa next to him, “Is that a regular thing with you? Should I be worried about walking in and seeing you performing some disco number here in the living room every time it’s disco fever time on the radio?”

“No,” She shook her head with a soft laugh, “That’s more or less just a I’m so happy I could shout it from the rooftops thing,” She grinned as she tucked her feet under her while picking up the remote and switching off the stereo, “I don’t do regular performances.”

“Too bad. It was kind of sexy,” He said with a smile as he passed her a mug of coffee.

“Grady, my poor baby,” She leaned over with a teasing smile, “If that’s sexy, we so have got to get you out more.”

“Oh come on,” He began as he turned to face her, “You were dancing around my living room wearing those tight jeans and my shirt,” He shrugged, “I’m telling you that’s sexy.”

“Whatever you say,” She chuckled before sipping her coffee. Grady smiled as he watched her for a long quiet moment. She looked up to meet his eyes and smiled, “What are you smiling at?”

“I was just thinking about how happy I am in this moment,” He admitted as he reached out to gently caress her cheek, “I wish we could capture this moment and hold onto it forever.”

She covered his hand over her cheek as she met his eyes, “We don’t have to. We’re going to keep living moments like this, and they’ll only keep getting better,” She assured him as she placed her coffee aside and slid across the sofa to sit in his lap and wrap her arms around his neck, “I love you, Grady, and I know that we’ve got a wonderful bright future ahead of us,” She spoke softly as she leaned in and kissed him tenderly.

“I love you too,” Grady smiled as he gently cupped her body to his, “And I’m beginning to think that you’re right about us,” He admitted as he kissed her once more, feeling as if a future of happiness was finally well within the realm of possibility.


“So what was the big emergency,” Jenna questioned as Hart opened the door to his condominium inviting her inside out of the cold as she looked to him with curious eyes.
“It really wasn’t an emergency,” he reached for her coat helping her out of it as she felt the warmth of his fireplace reach out to her even in the foyer as it was a great contrast to the cold she’d stepped in from.
“Not an emergency,” Jenna gave him a strange look, “You paged me with 911 three times and then said to just come over as soon as I could before you hung up on me.  I didn’t even bother going home as I rushed over here thinking that something was wrong,” she shook her head at him as he smiled down at her.
“Well nothing was wrong,” he cupped her face in his hands tipping down to kiss her gently, “although I have been missing you like crazy.”
“Hart, you can’t just go paging me because you miss me,” she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of his eagerness to see her, “even if it’s a priority for you.”
“Where you’re concerned, I always think of you as being a top priority,” he assured her giving her one more kiss before taking a step back and holding her coat over his arm as he grinned mysteriously.
“Okay, you’re flattering me,” she began nervously, “Now I know you’re setting me up for something.”
“I’m not setting you up for anything,” he assured her stepping out of the foyer as Jenna looked around taking in the atmosphere for a moment as the warmth of the fireplace called to her and she stepped into the living room taking in the soft candle light that surrounded her.
“There you are,” Hart slipped his arms around her waist kissing the back of her neck as he held her.
“Here I am,” she smiled in response leaning into his touch as she closed her eyes savoring the warmth of his arms as his body pressed in against hers and a knowing expression washed over her as she tilted her head up towards him seeing the sparkle behind his eyes, “You called me over here to seduce me, didn’t you?”
“Actually,” Hart grinned eagerly, “as nice as that sounds, I was thinking more along the lines of dinner here first, but if you’d rather skip to the seduction…”
“Hmm, now that is a very tempting offer indeed,” Jenna turned in his arms bringing her own arms around his neck as she tipped up on her toes to kiss him gently, “and believe me a seduction sounds incredible, but given the day I’ve had, well I think I’ll go for dinner to start with as I haven’t had a thing since really early this morning.”
“In that case,” he picked her up off of the ground keeping her in his arms as he carried her through his living room, “how about we adjourn to the dining room?”
“I think that sounds…” Jenna began in between quick kisses, “nice…”
“Good because you know I had prepared something a little extra special,” Hart promised easing her down beside a chair before he took a step back and pulled it out for her, “as I hope you’re in the mood for something a bit spicy.”
“Spicy always livens things up I say,” Jenna replied taking her seat as Hart helped her into her seat leaving the room for the briefest of moments before returning with a tray in hand.
“Mmm…that smells good,” Jenna admitted unable to contain the hunger that tugged inside of her as she eyed the plate eagerly.
“I was hoping you’d think that as this is a first for me,” he explained unveiling the concoction before him, “as it was something I found in one of my grandmother’s old cookbooks there.”
“It smells divine,” she replied taking another whiff of the food before her as Hart placed some of it on the plate that lay on the table in front of her.
“Hopefully you’ll feel that way after you taste it,” he began encouragingly as he watched her take a forkful of his latest culinary concoction.
“Mmm…this is good,” Jenna confessed swallowing the bite as she offered up a soft smile, “as it beats the hell out of the frozen macaroni and cheese that I was planning on throwing into the microwave earlier.”
“That’s always a plus,” Hart settled into his chair just taking the moment to watch her as he couldn’t help but smile in amusement as she ate.
“What,” she questioned with a nervous gulp as she looked at him, “am I doing something wrong?”
“Not at all,” he shook his head in response, “as you’re just beautiful that’s all.”
“Okay,” Jenna set her fork down, “what gives?  What’s with this dreamy eyed look you’re giving me?”
“Nothing,” he shrugged his shoulders, “can’t a man just be happy to have the woman he cares about around?”
“Well I suppose so, but something tells me there’s more to this than meets the eye,” she answered skeptically, “so why not spill it and clue me in on what has you grinning like that.”
“It’s just my enthusiasm in having your company,” he remarked with a hint of a smile reaching for his fork, “Can’t I just appreciate the nearness of you?”
“No,” she insisted with another shake of her head, “Something’s on your mind as I can see it and I want to know what it is.”
“Now Jenna, how can you say that?  I mean really while we’re just getting to know one another, you can’t tell me that you read me so well that you know what I’m thinking before I’m thinking it,” Hart winked at her, “as if you really knew what I was thinking, you’d probably have a hard time sitting there so patiently and in being so proper eating your food as I can assure you that my thoughts are no where near a dinner conversation.”
“Hmm, now that I would believe,” Jenna admitted with a hint of a smile, “though I really don’t think we should let all this good food go to waste just because you’re mind is in the gutter.”
“No, I suppose we shouldn’t, so why not indulge me with some scintillating conversation on how your day way,” Hart suggested taking a bite of his food as he watched her.
“Hmm, well I went in on this accident, but I suppose that’s not really dinner conversation,” Jenna confessed chewing on another bite before continuing, “and before that, well…I had a talk with my mother.”
“Oh?” Hart inquired lifting a curious brow, “and how did that go?”
“Well actually,” Jenna shifted in her chair uneasily, “we didn’t really talk more so than she tried to say a few things, but I wasn’t really interested in hearing it.  I was in a hurry and…”
“Jenna, don’t you think you should at least hear her out?  I mean maybe she has some things to say about the situation that you haven’t thought about just yet,” Hart suggested reaching for the wine goblet before him, “I mean hey you never know.  You two might actually find a way to reach some common ground with one another.”
“Hey, whose side are you on?” she threw him a pointed look.
“Yours of course, but well, I just think that maybe you should at least listen to what your mother has to say as you never know what’s really going on,” Hart suggested with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “I mean hey maybe together you can reach some kind of understanding.”
“She lied to me, what more do I need to understand about the situation,” Jenna replied with a huff, “I think that speaks for itself there.  Don’t you agree?”
“Maybe there’s a reason why she did what she did.  I mean hey maybe she was just nervous about reliving that part of her life all over again as she didn’t want you thinking the worst…”
“I can’t see how believing my father was dead could be anything, but the worst considering,” Jenna shook the thought from her mind, “You know Hart, I really don’t want to talk about my mother right now.  I’d just like to push my family aside for a while and enjoy the company that I’m keeping at a time like this.”
“Fair enough,” Hart decided wondering if his talk with Douglas Mahoney would prove to be fruitful as it seemed that as it stood Jenna and her mother may never see eye to eye with one another where the past was concerned.


Shannon stepped into the bar ready to get some clarity about her and while entering the world of temptation was always something that had pushed her limits, she found herself ready to be tested tonight as she passed through the smoke filled atmosphere of the Cadillac Ranch seeking out the clarity in the Harold Abrams situation that had evaded her until recently.  While this case was supposed to have been something that swept her in and out of town, she found herself on the verge of a meltdown as it seemed that Coral Valley was sucking her in once again.
Making her way up to the bar Shannon flagged down the bartender getting herself what felt like her usual non-alcoholic poison as her eyes skimmed the bar and she wondered how many nights Abrams had found himself in this sleazy place picking up one unsuspecting victim after the next.  Just the thought of the way the man operated made her nauseous as she realized things were now on a deeper level of intensity in finding him as he’d put so many lives at risk.  His madness was only deepening and as Shannon tried to place herself into his warped mind, it only reminded her of how a drunk could dull her senses over the horrors she’d seen in the last few days, but now wasn’t about falling back as she was bound and determined to find Abrams and take him down and get the hell out of Coral Valley.  That much she was certain of as she felt the warmth of a body slide into the bar stool beside her.
“Fancy seeing you here Pryce,” Patrick mumbled in a snazzy tone that Shannon was sure enough worked on some of the local women as he flashed her a bright grin, “Here I never thought you’d be slumming with the rest of us, yet here you are…”
“And it’s not to socialize,” Shannon remarked dryly as she paid the bartender, grabbed her drink and walked into the crowd opting to take a seat at one of the empty tables at the back of the bar in the hopes of getting a moment of clarity despite the atmosphere, but before she could find herself absorbed in that, she eyed Patrick as he slid into the seat across from her with curious eyes.
“Tell me something,” Patrick threw out at her extending his arm out over the back of the booth, “Why do you suppose it is that you seem to avoid me at every step of the way when we encounter one another?”
“Maybe it’s because I don’t particularly like you,” Shannon shrugged her shoulder sipping her drink before throwing him an icy glare, “but that’s just a theory.”
“Hmm, well maybe we should work on altering that theory,” Patrick suggested with a hint of a smile, “as you know I’m really not a bad guy there.”
“Well, it’s not for me to decide as I could really care less,” Shannon took another swig of her drink before she motioned to the room surrounding them, “though I’m sure if you look really hard you’ll find someone here who’s very interested in finding reasons to hate you in the morning when you’re done with them.”
“So that’s how it is huh,” Patrick gave her a knowing look, “You’ve been burned by love and now you’re taking it out on every man that crosses your path.”
“Look Sharpe,” she leaned forward setting her drink down as she found herself agitated with him to say the least, “I’m really in no mood to have you playing shrink, so you can leave now.”
“Hey, all I’m saying is I heard the rumors,” he raised his hands in the air innocently enough, “I know all about your little, well thing with Brant Ashford and hey I can’t blame you for hating men after being around that creep, but you should know that all men aren’t the same.  I mean some of us do have our finer points.”
“Men such as yourself?” Shannon arched a skeptic brow.
“Exactly,” he nodded eagerly as he extended his hand out across the table brushing his finger tips against her hand as his voice grew dark with an obvious display of desire, “I mean sure you might not be seeing it considering that you’re so ready to hate me, but you know I can be someone worthwhile to have around there should you feel a bit lonely as your time in Coral Valley continues.”
“Is that so?” Shannon tipped her gaze down to the way he was reaching out to her as his ego overwhelmed her.
“That’s right Pryce,” he nodded emphatically, “I’m sure that if you get over your strong dislike for me or even dive into it a little bit and explore, you might find yourself in a very savory position as I’m sure I can open your eyes up to a world of sexual pleasure that you weren’t even aware existed in a small town like this.”
“Hmm, well you know I made sure to come to Coral Valley with plenty of batteries stocked up to service myself in the event that I needed something that clearly a man like yourself isn’t capable of giving me while I’m in town,” Shannon remarked with a roll of her eyes, “So really don’t start spouting tales about how talented you are in bed because I don’t need a reason to vomit tonight,” she finished pulling her hand away from his with a huff.
“You know what the hell is your problem,” Patrick barked back at her, “I mean hey I thought I’d be doing you a favor as the guys at the department have been going on and on about how you need to get laid…”
“So you thought that you’d be the one to liberate me,” Shannon shook her head at him before her tone shifted to that of a warning, “Sharpe, let me just get this out in the open once and for all.  I know your type and quite frankly I find you nothing, but repulsive and I swear to you if you ever think about throwing any more indecent proposals in my direction, then I’m warning you now be prepared to suffer the consequences of it as I will have no problem slapping the cuffs on you for your obvious sexual harassment.”
“Oh please,” he rolled his eyes watching as she rose from the table, “get over yourself you frigid bitch.”
Shannon stopped mid-step turning around to face him once again as she held her glass in hand, “What did you just say?”
“You heard me,” Patrick shrugged his shoulders with a huff, “I always knew you were a lesbian anyways…”
Shannon bit back on her anger as she approached him once again wanting so much to tear his head off despite the consequences that her action would have, but instead she took in a slow even breath as she contemplated her next move and she threw out her best smile opting for another approach, “You know what Patrick, I really don’t think we’ve really come off on the wrong foot with one another.”
“Come again,” Patrick gave her a strange look as she curled her finger at him urging him to get up from the side of the booth he was on.
“You’re right.  I’ve been too hard on you and I’m just wound up about this case I’m working on, but really it’s not your fault,” she extended her hand out to him, “How about we try again?  What do you say we go out and dance there?”
“Really,” he eyed her hand as though she was going to burn him if he touched her, but ultimately his ego led him to accept as he grinned down at her guiding her to the dance floor.  He wrapped his arms around her as a slow song filled the air and he whispered over her face, “Somehow I knew you’d come around Pryce.”
“Oh you have no idea,” she allowed him to guide her on the dance floor feeling him spin her around as he hummed the tune in her ear.  She nearly cringed as she felt his lips near her neck, but when he dropped his hands to cup her bottom, she decided that her big payback couldn’t wait as she pulled back, “Patrick wait…”
“What?” Patrick questioned with wide eyes as she rubbed up against him grinding her hips suggestively against him.
“You know maybe I was too quick on the attack there as it has been a while for me,” Shannon replied with the beginnings of a smile as she teased her fingers over the center of his chest.
“Somehow I suspected it might’ve been,” he slid his hands up over her spine crushing her against him before his fingers pressed through her blonde hair, “but I promise you I can find a way to help you with this unsavory position you’ve found yourself in.”
“I just bet you can,” Shannon threw a flirty smile up at him, “In fact, I was thinking that maybe we should just cut to the chase and get down to business.  What do you say?”
“You mean we should just…” his eyes widened with obvious delight at what she was suggesting.
“Oh yeah,” she nodded eagerly in response, “what do you say to you and me in the ladies room?”
“Right here?  Right now?” he blinked back in response as a gulp filled in his throat, “I mean are you sure you can handle that baby?”
“I don’t know…can you handle it,” she teased her fingers over his chest before backing away, “or are you too much of a prude to go and do something so uninhibited?”
“I can take anything you dish out at me,” he followed her through the crowd looking around as she wiggled her finger at him alerting him to wait a moment before she checked out the ladies room finding it empty before motioning for him to follow her inside.
“Well, how are things looking,” Shannon questioned seating herself up on the counter top as she wiggled her legs at him while her eyes began to size him up.
“Things are looking very up right now,” Patrick promised her stepping towards her eagerly as he wrapped his arms around her ready to lay an excited kiss upon her as she placed her finger between them waving it in his face.
“Oh no, not yet,” she shook her head as she pushed him back onto the counter a grin spreading over her features as she fingered at his belt, her smirk growing by the second as she leaned forward kissing his neck, “as I had something else in mind.  Something that I’m certain you might rather enjoy,” she promised unhooking his belt as he leaned back on the counter top a proud smile growing upon his features as she continued to undo his pants tearing them down past his knees to reveal that Patrick Sharpe clearly had gone full commando as there was nothing hiding the burgeoning erection that sprung to life before her.
“Is that so?” he inquired watching as her gaze lingered over her and he reached for her hand guiding it towards the source of his masculinity, “Want a better look?”
“Actually,” Shannon began stopping his hand before he made it to his target and she shook herself from his hold bringing her fingers over his bare thighs, “I actually had something else in mind as I think I owe you a little something for the way I treated you before.  That is if you’ll let me make it up to you with a kiss.”
“A kiss huh,” Patrick threw out with an amused smile leaning in towards her in an attempt to collect her mouth in his, “Well I suppose it’s only fair considering that…”
“Oh no,” Shannon shook her head again preventing him from kissing her, “that wasn’t the kind of kiss I had in mind.”
“No?” Patrick gave her a strange look before she teased her hands down over his thighs, her gaze centering on his manhood as she began to lower herself to her knees before him.
“Oh no,” she breathed moving in closer to him as she felt his fingers moving in over her hair encouraging her attentions as she dropped her hands down into her back pocket seeking out the one tool she’d need at a time like this in such a tentative position such as this one as she reached for his hand.  Feeling his hold on her, she felt a sense of eagerness sweep over her as she collected his wrist slapping the cold, hard metal of her handcuffs upon him as she’d managed to restrain him to the pipe next to the counter.
Taking a moment to stifle the chuckle that was building up inside of her as she quickly discarded his pants before standing, Shannon found herself met by his confused eyes as he struggled to free up his wrist.
“What the…?” Patrick trailed off tugging at his wrist as he looked at her watching her ball up his pants and toss them into a the trash bin across the room, “Pryce, what are you doing?”
Shannon shrugged her shoulders as she let loose of the laugh she’d been fighting, “Well, I guess you could say I had second thoughts there as it is a woman’s prerogative.  Plus, I realized what a loser you truly are Sharpe,” her gaze dropped down to his exposed body as she shook her head once again, “What a disappointment you must be to the women of Coral Valley,” she finished walking out of the bathroom despite his protests as she found herself suddenly enjoying this recent twist of fate as it finally felt good to do something worthwhile in Coral Valley.  Sure there might be hell to pay for leaving a police lieutenant bound to a sink in the ladies room at the Cadillac Ranch, but given the way that man carried himself around every woman that encountered him, she realized that this particular stretch outside of protocol was well worth it as he deserved every second of humiliation she’d dished out to him and as she left the bar she suddenly found herself feeling damn good indeed for the first time since she‘d arrived in town.


Thea stepped out of the limousine taking one last puff of her cigar before tossing it to the snow covered ground.  She extinguished it with her spiked heel before marching up to Cameron’s place, a determination about her as she was well aware that Cameron wouldn’t be home.  As usual she was welcomed into the mansion and after a quick questioning she learned that the future Mrs. Stone was in the library doing heaven knew what while Cameron was away.  Armed with that knowledge, Thea marched into the library finding Heather clicking away at the computer as Thea closed the doors behind her.
“Oh good you’re not busy,” Thea’s words vibrated through the room as Heather looked up from the monitor seeing Thea standing before her as a frown touched over her features.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Heather grumbled up at her with a huff, “I didn’t think that the hired help were allowed to be here after hours.”
“I’ll give you hired help you,” Thea started before taking in a slow breath and a wicked smile replaced her agitated features, “You know Heather, maybe it’s time you and I set things straight around here as really, you aren’t aware of what you’re stepping into with Cameron.  Sure a lecherous, money grubbing whore like yourself might think you have some inkling of the situation you’re getting yourself wrapped up in, but really I think it’s time we lay down the ground rules of this so called impending marriage.”
Heather set the stack of papers she’d been sorting through from doing her online research aside as she sat up straighter in her chair, “And you think that you’re going to be such the person to set these so called rules for me, huh Thea?”
“Oh you have no idea just how many other things I’m going to set you straight on Heather,” Thea marched towards the desk as she stood before Heather, her eyes narrowing at the woman as her anger mounted, “as you’re truly nothing, but means to an end for Cameron and if you really think that your becoming his wife is going to shake up his world, well then you’re the one in for a rude awakening.”
“How do you figure,” Heather folded her arms in front of her chest curiously as she glared up at Thea, “I mean other than the fact that clearly he’ll find himself in the company of a real woman who can more than provide for him the pleasures that clearly someone such as yourself was trained to do for him.  I mean that is what it is you’re so worked up over, isn’t it?  The fact that you won’t be able to service my husband anymore because he’ll be mine?”
“Oh you’re so out of your league Heather,” Thea chuckled down at her remaining firm in her stance, “but then again if you’re so foolish to really believe you’ll have that much control over Cameron, then you’re even more delusional than I took you for.”
“I know what a man like Cameron needs and when he marries me, I’ll see to it that he gets rid of the trash in his life,” Heather stood up glaring at Thea as they stood eye to eye with one another, “Starting with you.”
“Funny you should say that Heather babe as from what I’ve gathered of your reputation with Brant Ashford and Kipp Mahoney tossing you like yesterday’s news I’d hardly imagine your weight around Cameron to amount to much of anything as clearly you’re losing your touch with men when none of them seem to want you,” Thea lashed out at her, “as even Cameron has taken to you out of pity.”
“Listen you jealous bitch,” Heather sneered at her.
“Jealous,” Thea chuckled in response her laughter growing louder as she seethed at Heather, “I’d hardly consider myself jealous of a pathetic excuse of a woman like you as you’re nothing Heather.  You’re not even good enough to be anything more than the trash you’ve always been and marrying Cameron won’t change that as he could care less about you.”
“Spoken like a woman scorned,” Heather shot back at her, “Now I know you’re afraid of the influence I’ll have over Cameron because you know I’ll have him drop you like a hot potato soon enough.”
“Listen little girl,” Thea pushed Heather back into her chair roughly causing Heather to gasp in surprise as Thea hovered over her grabbing her face within her palm squeezing at her cheeks as she glared down at Heather, “while your pretty little face might’ve gotten you through this world up until now, with Cameron you’ll find it’s an entirely different ballgame as I’ll see to it that you’ll be treated accordingly as Cameron doesn’t take to your type.  While you think that this marriage is your ticket to the world, it’s only around because I haven’t put a stop to it yet, but don’t think I’m above pretending this farce from taking place because you underestimate my power with Cameron.”
“Get your hands off me,” Heather warned with a hiss, “or else…”
“Or else what Heather,” Thea questioned wickedly, “You’re going to tell Cameron that I hurt you?  Boo hoo…I’m sure he’ll be very crushed about it…”
“Listen you bitch,” Heather shoved at Thea pushing her away from the chair as she rose to her feet once again, “I won’t tolerate you putting your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“Your nose is the one who doesn’t belong here and if I were you, I’d watch my step because you never know what kind of accidents could happen when you’re trying to fit into someone else’s shoes when they’re much too big for you.”
“Is that a threat you’re issuing me,” Heather questioned with a huff, “because if you think for a second that…”
“Oh Heather, darling I don’t threaten because it has such a nasty little implication of mystery to it and well, I don’t like to do that as I’d much rather be blunt,” Thea approached her once again touching at a lock of Heather’s blonde hair, “Your days are numbered around here and it’s in your own best interest that you see to it that you don’t rub me the wrong way or else, well let’s just say you have no idea the kind of unfortunate situations you might find yourself in should you dare to try.  Do we understand one another?”
“I’m not afraid of you Thea as I’ve deal with women like you before and haven’t even batted an eyelash in the process,” Heather cut back sharply, “Sure you talk big talk, but in the end you’re truly nothing more than a pathetic little woman and if you think for a second that any of this has intimidated me in the least, well you’re wrong as the last thing I would ever be is frightened of someone like you.”
“There’s your first mistake Heather,” Thea flicked her finger at her shoving Heather back into the chair once again as she offered up an icy smile, “and mark my words, you’ll live to regret it in more ways than your little pea brain can ever imagine,” she finished walking out the door as Heather reached for a paperweight on the desk chucking it at the door long after Thea’s exit as rage rushed over her.
“On the contrary Thea,” Heather spoke behind gritted teeth, “You’ll be the one to live to regret this moment in time because I’m going to find a way to see to it that you’re out of Cameron’s life once and for all,” Heather vowed ready to eliminate with anyone who dared to threaten her in any way.


“Thanks for forcing me to do this even though I still feel guilty about leaving Kenny alone at the hospital at a time like this,” Blake broke the silence between her and Seth as she turned her attention away from the half eaten sandwich before her.
“Hey, I think you needed some time away,” Seth reached across the table to give her hand a soft squeeze before reluctantly letting go of it, “as I had a feeling that you could use some clarity for a few minutes in between everything that’s going on with Caitlin and your brothers.”
“I just don’t get them sometimes,” Blake sighed thinking about her brothers and their constant battles with one another, “I mean sometimes we all seem so close and then other times, well at other times it feels like they just get off on being at odds with one another.  Granted emotions are running high because of what’s going on with Caitlin, but still it’s no excuse to behave like animals…especially now.”
“No it isn’t, but I’m sure your brother Ken is just worried about Caitlin,” Seth offered up thinking about Caitlin’s friend.  “He seems to care very deeply about her.”
“He does,” Blake nodded in response, “and I just can’t understand why Zack would want him away from her when I know how much Caitlin loves him.  I mean sure maybe they weren’t in the best terms with one another when Caitlin was attacked, but maybe with Kenny beside her, well maybe it would be the thing to bring her back to us as in hearing his voice maybe…” she trailed off feeling tears come to her eyes once again, “Then again maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part…”
“On the contrary,” Seth shook his head reaching for her hand once again in an attempt to comfort her, “just because Caitlin’s in a coma doesn’t mean that she can’t hear what’s going on around her.  I mean hey, there are a lot of cases where coma patients wake up and it’s their loved ones that brought them back to the world around them.  I mean hey, look at me.  I’m living proof of that…”
Blake’s eyes returned to his once again as she realized what he was saying and she recalled the day that had turned their world upside down when she and Seth had first crossed paths with one another during the quake.  She thought back to the lies she’d told in order to get near him and in that instant she felt a glimmer of hope fill her insides as she worried about Caitlin, “That’s right.  You did come back to the world around you, but then again it was because you were able to see Jade and…”
“And you,” Seth finished for her seeing a flicker of sadness in her eyes as he kept his hold on her hand, “as you know that with you near me, it gave me the strength to keep fighting and holding on to the world around me.”
“You hardly knew me,” Blake felt a heat rise over her features as she felt his finger brush up against her palm and a stir of sensations rushed over her causing her to withdraw from the touch as her heart still pulsed in her chest at the nearness of him.  Even after all this time and her blossoming romance with Zack, she could still feel the flutter in her heart that came in being close to Seth.  It was that feeling that had haunted her when they’d parted ways and now as his eyes reached into her, she felt uncomfortable in her own skin fearing what might reveal itself to him should she meet his penetrating gaze a moment longer.
“I knew enough to know that I wanted to come back and get a second chance at finding out more,” Seth confessed openly thinking back to the fiery woman who’d captured his heart in that first meeting, “I mean with your spirit and tenacity…”
“Now you’re making me sound like a horse,” Blake shook her head at the thought trying to find some lightness in the situation as she focused on the cup of coffee before her.
“That’s not what I’m trying to say as Blake, when I met you my life was very jumbled up.  There were a lot of things going on--thing that I can’t even begin to explain, but then there you were.  I’d just settled in to enjoy some time alone with my car--to get her fixed up and just work towards that eventual ride I’d thought so very long about, but instead the quake shook up my world and sent me on a different path altogether as the car seemed to lose it’s importance when I woke up with you at my bedside.”
“Seth, I really don’t think that now…” Blake started uneasily.
“Look, Blake I know a lot of things have happened between us and certainly right now the last thing you need is any more complications in your life, but I want you to know one thing,” he reached for her hand despite her unease with him as he lifted it to his lips kissing her knuckles with a soft, tender caress of his lips as his dark eyes fixed upon hers once more, “When I told you that I loved you, I meant every word of it and I still do…”
“Seth, Zack and I are…” Blake shifted in her seat nervously as she fought to find the strength to pull her hand away.
“Together?” he finished in a pained voice releasing her hand as she could see the ache behind his brown eyes as he nodded, “Yeah I kind of figured that much when I saw you two together time and time again and given the way he was ready to beat my ass there, well it wasn’t hard to figure out,” he let out an ironic laugh, “I guess it was my fault for agreeing to go along with the plan where Zack got to play your leading man to the public as it seems it’s a role he rather enjoyed and fit perfectly into.”
Blake’s features shifted as Seth saw the anger spark behind her eyes, “That was not what I’d intended at the time Seth and if you think for one second…”
“Blake, I’m not trying to imply anything,” he shook his head desperately seeking out a way to explain himself to her, “Look, I was an ass and all I’m saying is that Zack is a lucky guy.  I mean he has the most beautiful woman in the world with him and he’d able to keep you happy which is more than I was able to.  Sure, I’ll be honest and say I envy the guy for being able to be the one to have your heart as it was something that I’d always hoped to have in my life…”
“Seth, please don’t do this.  Not now when I need to think about Caitlin,” Blake pleaded with him unwilling to face the things that had happened between them in the not so distant past.
“Blake, I love you and I’m not about to apologize for that as that‘s never going to change for me,” he promised her with an impassioned tone as his fingers brushed over hers once again before he let go, “but with that thought in mind I swear to you that I didn’t bring you here to take advantage of the current situation you’re in with Zack.  I’m here with you because I care about you and because I know you need me right now whether you really want to have me around or not…”
Blake remained silent for a long moment before finally nodding tearfully, “I do need you Seth.  I hate that I do, but right now with Caitlin in a coma, I just don’t know if…” she broke down into tears as Seth reached out to her unable to take seeing her heart breaking as he slid in beside her in the booth wrapping his arms around her.
“Caitlin’s going to pull through this,” he promised her holding her close to him as he kissed the top of her head trying to comfort her as her pain reached the very heart of her, “You have to believe in that Blake.”
“I’ve just seen so many people I love leave me and if Caitlin goes too,” Blake sobbed gently as her tears pressed upon his chest leaving a damp warmth over his shirt as he stroked her blonde hair tenderly.
“She’s not going to leave you,” he tried to soothe her, “as you have to keep believing in the miracles that are out there in the world.  You of all people should remember that as you know with a little faith and some hope…”
“Seth, I’m just not so sure of that anymore,” she tipped her eyes up towards him as her pain rolled over her, “I mean first I lost my mother, then my father and now my best friend…”
“Caitlin’s not going anywhere,” Seth brushed at the tears that soaked her cheeks.  “You have to keep holding on to her with prayers and the love that you feel in your heart as that will be the key to her recovery.”
“I just wish I could believe I had that kind of power with just a prayer,” Blake sniffled in response as her tear filled eyes sought out some reassurance in his.
“Blake, how can you look at me and not believe you do?  I’m not joking with you when I tell you that you’re the reason I’m back in this world again,” Seth offered up a sad smile before throwing out an ironic expression, “Sure, I don’t know if you’re regretting that outcome now, but it’s because of you that I’m here with you today.”
“I could never regret that Seth,” she admitted honestly feeling the warmth of his touch as she reached out to him curling her fingers over his shoulder as she tipped her head up towards him, “as I could never regret the time I spent with you.”
“Neither could I as you taught me so many things Blake and words can’t even begin to express all the ways in which you brought me back to life again and out of the darkness that my life had me suffocating in,” he whispered leaning in towards her as he felt her breath spill over his lips as she let out a slow sigh closing her eyes with the slow hiss.  He inched in closer taking in the soft scent of her strawberry lip gloss as instinct carried over him and he ignored the warnings going off in his head as his lips brushed over hers in a slow, tender sweep.
Blake felt the warmth of Seth’s lips upon hers and as if he’d sensed the horrible anticipation building up inside of her at the nearness of him when he‘d completed the distance between them, she found herself melting into the kiss, savoring the softness of his lips, the furious pounding of his heart beneath the place where her hand had settled upon his chest.  Even now as she fought to recall all the reasons she’d never allow herself to be near Seth Alexander again, her heart was telling another tale as she drank up the sweet, comforting caress of his lips over hers.  A slow moan escaped her now parted lips as their kiss continued, deepening with the moments that passed, but almost as soon as it started, Seth tore himself away from her lips leaving her breathless and confused as she stared up at him in a moment of complete silence.
“I should probably check on how that order is going for your brother,” Seth cleared his throat as if he sensed the awkwardness of the moment between them as he rose from the booth beside her, “I’ll go see what’s taking them so long and work on getting you a box as I’m sure you’re not going to eat anymore of that, huh?”
“No, I’m not,” she nodded in response not even contemplating her sandwich as she watched him walk away from her leaving her wondering if somehow she’d found a way to get in over her head again as she realized that as much as she knew in her heart she loved Zack, a part of her was still very much in turmoil over Seth and she feared that part would never let go as long as she allowed herself to be near him.  Even with everything that was said and done, she knew in her heart there was never going to be any escaping the way she’d felt for the man who’d managed to make her feel on top of the world and break her heart all at the same time.


Deidra stepped into the waiting area where she saw Ken sitting with Annie. Deidra smiled at Annie in greeting before she moved to stand in front of Ken.

“Hey, I hear you could use a friend right about now,” Deidra offered him a friendly smile.

Ken stood and hugged her in his arms, “I sure could,” He admitted as he held onto her, “How are you?”

“I think the question should be how are you,” She pointed out as she met his eyes, “From what I can tell you’re tired and probably hungry,” She shook her head and clucked her tongue gently, “You should take care of yourself if you expect to do Caitlin any good.”

“Okay, Mom,” He said pointedly with a soft smile, “Thank you for caring, but I’m not really hungry and I couldn’t really rest if I tried,” He shook his head, “Until I can see Caitlin, there’s no way I’ll be able to relax for even a minute.”

Deidra patted his shoulder gently, “We’ll have to see what we can do about that.”

Annie stood, “I think I’m going to go get myself a cup of coffee. Can I bring you two anything?”

“No, thanks,” Ken gave her a thankful smile while Deidra also declined the offer.

“Okay, I’ll be back,” Annie smiled supportively before she walked out of the waiting room.

Deidra met her friend’s eyes, “So how are you really holding up?”

“Not too good,” Ken admitted as he sat back on the lumpy sofa which he had claimed as his, “I can’t believe this is happening again.”

“Dave said that she had been attacked before. He’s really trying hard to find the man who did this,” She assured him, “I can’t tell you how sorry I am about all of this.”

“Thanks,” He patted the sofa beside him, “Have a seat. Help me wallow in my misery.”

She smiled as she took the seat beside him, “Caitlin must be a very special woman. I barely got to meet her at the airport, but I got the impression that you’re pretty taken with her and she with you.”

A smile lightened his features as he nodded, “She’s the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met. She’s my refuge, and I don’t know what I’d do with out her. That’s why this is all so hard. Just to know that in a flash she could have been taken from me,” He paused as he shook his head in disgust, “It’s just not right.”

“No, it isn’t,” She agreed, “But I’ve checked in on her condition, and I’ve heard that Caitlin’s brother barred you from seeing her.”

“Yeah, he’s pissed off at Blake and me, and I’m not even actually sure what it is we supposedly have done,” Ken frowned.

“Well, I don’t know what his reasoning is, but I do know how Caitlin’s doing. She’s critical, but she’s stable. She’s in the ICU, and she’s been settled into a room,” Deidra explained, “She’s in a coma, but it seems as if its not as deep a coma as her neurologist feared it would be.”

“What does that mean for her prognosis?” He asked urgently.

“It means that she could regain consciousness at any time. The neurologist feared that she would have some sort of brain damage from both the swelling of the brain and the fact that she was deprived of oxygen for some time. While that could still be a possibility, the fact that her coma isn’t as deep as originally thought says that she may not have that serious of an injury.”

Ken breathed a sigh of relief, “Has anyone been allowed to see her yet?”

“I think her family is only now getting to see her as it took the ICU team a while to get her settled with all the monitors and her IVs,” She bit her lip for a moment, “I haven’t even started on a regular basis yet, but I’m sure I could use my position here to get you in to see her.”

“Deidra,” He began, “I can’t ask you to jeopardize your career for this. I’ll get in to see her on my own, but I do appreciate the offer.”

“Are you sure? Because I’ll do anything in the case of real love,” She began.

“Still believe in love, huh?” He asked with a smile, “I appreciate it, Dee, but I’ll work this out on my own.”

“What are we working out?” Dave asked as he stepped into the room to join his friends.

“Ken won’t accept my offer to sneak him in to see Caitlin,” Deidra informed him.

“As crazy as this is to say, I’m actually glad he’s not going to accept your offer,” Dave admitted as he sat down across from them, “You just got back into town. The last thing you need is to have your job yanked away from you now,” He spoke as he sat back in the sofa.

“But still,” She began.

“Was she always this stubborn?” Ken asked with a teasing smile.

“Yeah, I think so,” Dave nodded as he smiled at Deidra, “Though I do sort of remember a time when that stubborn streak landed us all in trouble.”

“Oh boy,” Deidra groaned as she half hid her face in humiliation.

“You mean when she fought with Sheriff Yarborough because the sheriff thought we were drunk and she argued with him,” Ken shook his head with a chuckle, “And we all ended up at the jail. God, I thought Annie was going to throw a fit,” He laughed softly.

“Annie was nothing,” Deidra rolled her eyes though a laugh tickled her words, “I thought Mom was going to kill me. God…why didn’t I just learn to keep my mouth shut?”

“You did,” Dave grinned, “Eventually.”

“Hey, don’t start with me, mister,” She warned in a groan before laughing, “I cannot believe you two turned this around on me.”

Ken smiled as he hugged Deidra to his side, “We do still love you though.”

“Yeah well, you guys have a completely screwed up way of showing it,” Deidra chuckled as she hugged Ken in return.

“At least it got a smile on Ken’s face,” Dave offered, “And hey, that’s what friends are for.”

“That’s us. The three musketeers, and god help this town that we’re all back together again,” Deidra smiled as she met Ken’s eyes, “And hey, you’re not alone. You remember that.”

“I could never forget,” Ken assured her with a smile as he hugged Deidra once again, feeling that his friends were the only support he could count on in this situation and that they would help get him through.


Johanna exited the hospital cafeteria carrying the coffees she’d promised to bring Zack’s parents as her thoughts were with Zack hoping that somehow his sister would find a way to pull through this recent tragedy as she hated to see Zack’s heart breaking at a time like this.  While they’d been estranged from one another for a short while, she realized that in being here for him, it only brought back all the memories of the wonderful times they’d had with one another before things fell apart and while she felt her place was clearly with Zack at a time like this, she just wished it had been under different circumstances as Caitlin’s tragedy was the last thing in the world she’d wanted for the man she’d loved so very much.
Now as Johanna fumbled with the cups of coffee in her hands, she realized she’d forgotten the cream and sugar in her haste to get out of the cafeteria and while she was sure the Vaughn’s wouldn’t mind the missing elements, she decided to take a trip back to collect them anyways as it was just like her to remember the small touches at times like this.  Taking a quick step towards the cafeteria once more, she bumped into a man getting off the elevators and she felt the coffee slip out of her hands onto him as he let out a yelp in the collision.
“I’m so sorry,” she began to apologize reaching for some of the napkins she’d brought with her when he faced her and her jaw dropped upon recognition of his face, “Brant?”
“Johanna,” he gave her a strange look, “What are you doing here?”
“I was…” she began to inform him as his eyes lit up with hope.
“Is Russell here?” he questioned with an eagerness that caused Johanna to roll her eyes in response.
“Hardly,” she shook her head at him, “as you know the world doesn’t revolve around you and your quest to be with that little slut Russell’s married to.  Some people have some real problems you know.”
“Gee, and here I thought you were in a sour mood before,” he plucked the napkins out of her hand shaking his head at her with a slight grumble before he eyed her once again, “So, then tell me, if you’re not here keeping an eye on Russ, then what are you doing?”
“It’s personal and if you‘ll excuse me I have some coffee to take care of,” she answered sharply pushing her way past him as he reached out to her arm catching her mid-movement.
“Personal?” he repeated brimming with curiosity, “What kind of answer is that?”
“The only one that you’re getting at a time like this,” she replied sourly, “as I’m not on your clock right now Brant.”
“You’re always on the clock where I’m concerned as I gave you a simple job to do and you blew it big time,” Brant informed her sharply, “that in itself is all the reason more why you should be working your damnedest to find a way to make up for that lack of efficiency on your end.”
“Look Brant, not that it’s any of your business or that you’d actually give a damn, but a friend of mine is going through a hard time right now.  His sister was just attacked and she’s in a coma.  While I know you think that the world revolves around your own narcissistic issues, the fact remains that there are people out there with real problems and real things happening in their life other than your so called quest to win Avery over which by the way since we’re on the subject of real honesty I think is truly pathetic on your end.”
“Pathetic,” he chuckled in mild amusement, “That’s rich coming from you considering that a few hours ago you were throwing yourself at me.”
“That was before I came to my senses as I was feeling sorry for you,” she hissed in response, “but believe me Brant, I wouldn’t waste my time repeating that kind of mistake considering that I already have someone in my life that I care deeply about and he thinks the world of me as well.”
“Hmm, well does Mr. Cares So Deeply know how you were trying to mix business with pleasure until I tossed you aside,” Brant questioned harshly as he glared down at her, “Then again, is he around here because you know I’d love to talk to him and tell him all about your inadequacies here considering that…”
“Believe me I’d like nothing more than to let him have the opportunity to kick your ass, but considering that his sister’s in a coma and his employers here at the hospital might not take to kindly to one of their top surgeons attacking an Ashford in public, I’d really not want to make his day any harder on him…” she paused as a twisted smirk built up over her features, “then again maybe beating the hell out of you would make his day after all.”
“Hmm, well as much as I’d love to stick around and meet this loser that seems to think the world of you, I have more pressing things to attend to and you’d be best suited to get back on track once this crisis is over,” Brant adjusted his tie tossing the napkins back at her, “because we really wouldn’t want to have a less than unsavory encounter with one another again, now would we?”
“Go to hell Brant,” Johanna growled in response stalking away from him as Brant couldn’t help but chuckle in mild amusement realizing that while dealing with someone like Johanna wasn’t exactly one of the high points in his life, it would have to do until he found a way to get the situation with Russell taken care of.
Suddenly an idea struck Brant as he recalled Johanna’s words and his gloating was replaced with something else as he realized that perhaps a distracted Johanna would be bad for the situation with Russell.  Frowning as the thought occurred to him, he began to wonder if her mystery man was the reason why she hadn’t completed her mission before and as he watched her returning to the area they’d just crossed paths in, he saw her slip into one of the elevators.  Watching as the lights lit up indicating the floor she’d gone up to another thought struck him as he hopped into an elevator himself hoping to catch a glimpse of her mystery man as he had a sudden sinking suspicion about the situation.
When the elevator doors opened Brant realized he didn’t need to bother with following her as it all hit him in living color as he thought of her talk about her mystery man being a doctor with a sister in a coma as that was usually a very rare happening in Coral Valley.  His nagging suspicion carried over him until Johanna confirmed it as he saw her in the hallway catching up with two people who looked vaguely familiar as she handed each one of them a coffee before none other than Dr. Zack Vaughn appeared beside Johanna.  She ran her hand up over Zack’s arm supportively as Zack pulled her into an embrace leaning on her for support and Brant’s eyes widened in response piecing it all together before he stepped back into the elevators.  Suddenly in that instant it dawned in on him that Caitlin wasn’t the only Vaughn in needing to learn a lesson as it was time to make it clear that no one messed with the Ashford family and got away with it especially not when they chose to screw with his little sister.


Cameron burst through the doors of his mansion while Franklin scurried to meet his employer, “Franklin, pack a bag for myself and for Heather. We’re going to the island for a few days,” He instructed as he tugged his tie loose and proceeded up the stairs, “Is she in?”

“Yes, sir, in her rooms,” Franklin affirmed before he disappeared into Cameron’s room to pack his bags.

Cameron made his way down the hall and knocked upon Heather’s door. When he heard her invitation to enter, he stepped inside, “Heather, I wanted to speak with you.”

“You did?” Heather asked as she placed a stack of papers aside and made her way towards him. She lightly placed her hand upon his arm, “Cameron, is something wrong? You seem very agitated.”

“It’s Douglas. He’s being very difficult, and I’m afraid he’s threatened…” He paused for dramatic effect as he met her eyes, having thought this ploy through on his way home, “He’s threatened to have you institutionalized until the baby is born to protect the child. At least, that’s his bizarre reasoning.”

“What?” She shrieked in horror, “No, Cameron, you can’t let him do that to me,” She began to tremble, “He doesn’t own me just because I’m carrying his grandchild. How could he do that?”

“He’s a powerful man,” He explained with a slight shrug, “Money buys a lot of influence, and it’s an election year. I’m sure he could convince the right judge to commit you if he promised a very large campaign contribution,” He reasoned.

“Oh god, this can’t be happening,” She said tearfully as she moved to a settee and slumped into cushions, “He’ll try to take my baby from me…”

“I’m not going to let that happen,” Cameron assured her as he knelt down before her and took her hand, “Heather, do you believe me when I say that I don’t want Douglas to take this child from you?” When she nodded, he continued, “I want to help you hold onto your baby and your freedom. To do that,” He caressed her hand gently, “We’ll have to get married much sooner than I’d hoped. There won’t be any time for planning, and no invitations can be sent. But, Heather, this is the only way to take control out of Doug’s hands. I’ll be the person the courts would look to for assurance that you’re a capable mother, and I would make sure they knew that you wanted nothing but the best for this baby.”

She caressed his cheek gently, “How soon can we be married?”

“Is tomorrow morning too soon?” He offered with a soft smile.

Heather smiled softly, “Tomorrow morning will be perfect. Thank you so much for looking out for me,” She slipped her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

Cameron smiled, “It’s my pleasure,” He spoke as he held onto her, knowing that he finally had Douglas Mahoney just exactly where he wanted him.

...to be continued...