Episode Seventy Four 

Heather looked into the mirror one last time. She’d been in this private dressing room for close to an hour, most of which she’d spent in front of this same mirror. Normally, she’d be admiring her reflection and reminding herself just how beautiful she was, but this time was different. This time, she was wondering just what she was doing with her life.

She took a deep breath and realized she was actually trembling. In theory, marrying Cameron had seemed like a godsend. A rich and powerful man who was handsome to boot was a catch any way you looked at it. Only, there was something missing and she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it could be.

She closed her eyes and willed herself to calm down. She wasn’t about to blow the chance of a last time by having a case of the jitters. This was her chance to grab the brass ring, and she wasn’t going to let it slip away.

She opened her eyes and held her head high as she smoothed the abdomen of her dress. Luckily she hadn’t started showing with her pregnancy yet and could wear the exquisite dress Cameron had bought for her. She was the perfect picture of a glowing bride, and she was about to make her groom a very lucky man.

She picked up her bouquet and made her way to the door. This was it. She was about to become Mrs. Cameron Stone.

Heather opened the door slowly and stepped out into the hall. She smiled at the matron of the small wedding chapel as the wedding march began. She held her head high as she walked into the small chapel.

Cameron stood at the alter near the reverend and turned to see her. Oddly enough, she’d never truly appreciated just how handsome her intended was. He had a dark sex appeal to him, but now, standing there waiting for her, he held a new mystique that she was looking forward to exploring.

She made her way down the aisle and took his hand as the reverend looked between them. Cameron’s hand was warm, and Heather had a sudden flash of the old saying ‘cold hands, warm heart.’ She wondered if the reverse was true with warm hands as she heard the small doors of the chapel being closed behind her entrance to give them privacy.

“We are here today to unite these two people in the bonds of holy matrimony. Marriage is one of the oldest traditions of man as he went forth to take a help mate to help him in his work and procreate the world. Now, marriage is a bond between man and woman, entered into for similar reasons with love as a reward for their union. And so shall we unite these two people today,” The reverend spoke as he looked between Cameron and Heather, “Cameron, do you enter into this union freely, without prejudice or burden in your heart?”

“I do,” Cameron answered as he met the reverend’s eyes.

“Heather, do you enter into this union freely, without prejudice or burden in your heart?”

Heather nodded, “I do.”

“Then turn towards one another,” The reverend instructed as they did so and looked at one another eye to eye, “Cameron, repeat after me,” He began, “I, Cameron, take thee, Heather…”

“I, Cameron, take thee, Heather,” Cameron repeated as he met Heather’s eyes with a smile softening his dark features.

“To be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, to love, honor, and cherish, all the days of my life, till death do us part.”

“To be my wedded wife,” Cameron began as he gently squeezed her hand, “To have and to hold, to love, honor, and cherish, all the days of my life, till death do us part.”

Heather swallowed a lump that had suddenly formed in her throat. Was it just her or had he emphasized the word my a bit more than all the rest?

“Heather, repeat after me,” The reverend began, “I, Heather, take thee, Cameron…”

“I, Heather, take thee, Cameron,” She repeated as she gazed into his eyes while the butterflies in her stomach began doing full fledged summersaults.

“To be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love, honor, and cherish, all the days of my life, till death do us part.”

“To be my wedded husband,” Heather spoke, feeling her voice crack with the words and wondering how her childish case of nerves had gotten this far, “To have and to hold, to love, honor, and cherish, all the days of my life, till death do us part.”

The reverend took the rings from the matron and held them before the couple, “These rings symbolize the eternal bond now solidified between you. Take these rings to give one another and repeat after me.”

Heather and Cameron took the corresponding rings and began to put them on one another’s hands.

“With this ring, I thee wed. With all my heart, I pledge thee my troth,” The reverend read the vows before Heather and Cameron followed suit, sliding their rings into place.

“And so what we have joined together today, let no one put asunder,” The reverend looked between them, “By the power vested in me by the state of Nevada, I declare you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

Cameron smiled as he met Heather’s eyes. He eased his fingers over her cheeks as he drew closer to her. Her eye lids fluttered to a close as his lips hovered just above hers.

“Congratulations, Mrs. Stone,” He whispered before sealing his lips to hers.

Heather returned his kiss as she savored the closeness of his body. While this was the single relationship in her life that hadn’t been based on sex, she was certainly beginning to wonder if that hadn’t been a huge oversight on her part. She leaned into his warmth as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

“It’s so nice to see a couple so happily in love,” The matron smiled as she dabbed tears while watching Cameron and Heather slowly break free of their kiss.

Cameron met Heather’s eyes, “We’re happily in something, aren’t we?” He whispered with a teasing wink as he continued to hold her in his arms, “So what do you say, Mrs. Stone? Do you think you’re ready to visit our little piece of paradise in the South Pacific?”

Heather saw the twinkle behind his eyes and a grin sprang forth upon her features. Her husband was certainly beginning to show possibilities she could have fun with. She slid around to his side and linked her arm with his, “I’m definitely ready.”

Cameron snaked his arm around her waist and squeezed his wife close to his side as he led her out of the chapel. He had his cake, and he was definitely going to enjoy eating it too.


Avery opened the front door to her home welcoming Jenna inside and out of the cold winter morning as a smile lifted over her features, “Sorry for taking so long as I‘m running a bit behind,” Avery began to apologize motioning to her surroundings, “Russ just took off to see Grady and I was having a lazy day in bed as last night Russ gave me the most heavenly massage and I swear it knocked me out until right about the time you called and…” Avery began to fuss with her hair as she shook her head quickly, “I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
“Not at all,” Jenna couldn’t help but laugh before she spoke up once again, “okay maybe a little, but it’s the world of love you’re wrapped up in that’s made you all giddy I’d have to say…”
“Oh Jen, you have no idea,” Avery beamed at the thought motioning to the couch, “Have a seat and I’ll go throw some tea on or something.”
“How about I help you with that,” Jenna suggested slipping out of her coat as she looked around the living room, “as I really don’t mind at all.”
“Suit yourself then Jen,” Avery stepped aside allowing Jenna access to the kitchen before she followed her friend inside going through the cabinet where she knew Russell had the teas stocked up.
“Gee, it looks like you’ve already settled back in here so very well,” Jenna noted watching as Avery began to put some water on in the tea kettle.

“Well, I have to admit that Russ kept things pretty much the same around here and while I haven’t gotten back to my apartment to pick things up, well I guess you could say that it feels like I’m home at long last,” Avery confessed unable to contain the smile that filled her features, “You have no idea how wonderful it is to be able to say that after all this time.”
“Oh I have a guess on how it feels and I have to admit,” Jenna grinned in response, “I’m envious as I’d love to have half of that enthusiasm that you have about life with Russell.”
“Well, things always haven’t been easy,” Avery placed her hand over her abdomen in a quick, protective motion, “but they seem to be falling into place with us…the situation with Bruce withstanding.”
“Yeah well that’s something I hope finds it’s way to a conclusion soon enough,” Jenna explained as Avery joined her over at the table, “as I’d hate to see this lunatic cause you, Russ or the baby any grief…at least not anymore than he already has.”
“Yeah, you and me both,” Avery nodded in response eyeing her friend intently, “but enough about me.  I want to hear about what’s been going on with you girl.”
“Oh believe me it’s not nearly as eventful as what you’ve been doing,” Jenna shrugged her shoulders, “as I’d much rather hear all the details about this impromptu wedding you had…”
“Well Russ swept me up to this beautiful castle and…” Avery paused shaking her head at Jenna before waving her finger at her as well, “Oh no.  I know what you’re doing and I’m not going to let you get away with it Jenna.”
“I’m not doing anything,” Jenna shrugged her shoulders innocently, “What ever are you talking about?”
“You’re trying to push the conversation in my direction which means you’ve got something major going on in your life that you don’t want to talk about which is all the more reason for you to open up to your best friend,” Avery arched a knowing brow, “Am I right?”
“Well,” Jenna paused taking in a breath before nodding in confession, “okay some pretty major things have been happening here while you and Russ were lost in the land of love.”
“So talk to me,” Avery encouraged her as the tea kettle began to make a hissing sound and Avery rose to her feet, “Jen, what’s going on?”
“Well…” Jenna hesitated thinking about the situation she’d come into with her mother, “I guess you could say that my life has taken a very drastic turn since you’ve been gone.”
“How so?” Avery returned to the table pouring each one of them a mug of steaming liquid as her eyes widened with obvious interest, “Jen, what’s going on?  Is something wrong with your family?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Jenna frowned back at her, “as well, it seems that my father is not only very much alive, but he’s walking around Coral Valley as we speak.”
“Come again,” Avery blinked back in response, “but I thought that you said your father died before you were born…”
“That’s what she kept telling me all those years, but it turns out that wasn’t the case at all.  The plane crash that she claimed tore her life apart never happened and my father isn’t the man she told me he was as he’s none other than Douglas Mahoney,” Jenna blurted out seeing the shock and horror that pressed over Avery’s features.
“No,” Avery’s eyes widened as the words came out emphatically before her tone shifted from moderate to confusion, “no, no,” the words sank in as Avery gave her a sideways look, “seriously?”
“Oh yeah,” Jenna groaned at the thought, “and to think that I had no idea that the man who was scouting me around town and throwing proposals at me was none other than my father.”
“But you two went out a couple of times and,” Avery paused thinking it over for a long moment, “Did he know that he was your father?  I mean was that why he was making excuses to spend time with you?”
“No,” Jenna curled her lip in a frown, “He didn’t have the first clue that he was my father until my mother made a point to have a few words with him.  After that he started acting strange and then lo and behold I find out that not only was my father a dead man, but he was someone I’d contemplated dating here in Coral Valley.”
“Oh Jenna, how horrible,” Avery reached out to take her hand, “I can’t even begin to imagine what you’re going through right now.”
“Well, I’ve moved past the initial shock of it all as Douglas and I are trying to get to know one another on a more family level, but it’s still awkward and then with my mother, oh I can’t even begin to tell you how angry and upset I am with her.  I mean to think of all this time she kept me in the dark about my family when she knew the truth.  She knew that Douglas was out there and she was never going to clue me in to the big secret she’d been keeping all these years.  She didn’t want me to find out that my father was alive and the only reason that she blurted it out was because she was afraid that I’d try to do something stupid and sleep with him.”
“Oh God, that would’ve been horrible,” Avery paused contemplating her words as she gave Jenna another look, “It didn’t get that far, did it?”
“Heavens no, but it was enough to confuse things as his son Kipp, well he tried to commit suicide the night of your engagement party to Brant and then well once I found out that Douglas was my father I also learned that I have a half brother that I may never know all because my mother chose to keep her silence about my father’s true identity,” Jenna explained painfully thinking about the weight of her mother’s deceptions.
“Wait a second,” Avery’s jaw dropped in confusion, “Jen, are you saying that Kipp Mahoney--your brother is in a coma?”
“That’s right,” Jenna nodded in response, “apparently after he saw Heather in bed with Russ, he felt he couldn’t take it any longer in this world and he shot himself in the chest…”
“Oh my God.  I had no idea,” Avery started shaking her head in confusion, “Oh Jen I’m so sorry…”
“The worst part of it is I might never get the chance to know him,” Jenna began with a heavy sigh, “I mean the likelihood of him pulling out of this as time goes on, well…we both know how time isn’t on your side in a situation like this…”
“Jen, I’m so very sorry to hear about all of this,” Avery began with a frown, “I mean I wish there was something I could do…something that I could say to help out as…”
“Maybe you can,” Jenna gave her a sideways look, “I mean you were there the night that Russ and Heather were in bed together and you found it in your heart to forgive Russ…”
“Well yes, but it’s not exactly the kind of thing I’d want to dwell on considering,” Avery answered uneasily seeing the desperation behind her pal’s eyes as she exhaled a slow breath, “Okay Jen, what do you want to know?”
“When you saw Kipp that night, well, what do you remember about him?  About how he appeared to be in that moment when he saw Heather?” Jenna inquired suddenly wanting to know more about her brother’s final moments before the tragedy.
“That night was a big ball of confusion,” Avery explained slowly, “as I’d had a lot on my plate that night as you know since Brant and I were having this big engagement celebration…”
“Another mystery that’s been on my mind especially now that you and Russ are married to one another.  Granted I know how you two are, but I really don’t see how you went from being engaged to Brant, to marrying Russ after you found him in bed with Heather Gibbons especially when my brother’s in a coma because of the same situation.”
“Jen, it’s just that,” Avery bit on her lower lip nervously, “Russ and I were seeing one another before the story about the engagement came out between Brant and I.  Granted Brant and I were getting closer and there was some kind of spark, but as I said before the night before Bruce attacked me Russ and I made love.  I’d spent the night with him, but I was confused.  I went home and Bruce was there waiting for me.  He attacked me because of the story about Brant and I being engaged, which happened to have come about when Brant gave me that ring on a business trip.”
“I don’t understand.  Why would Brant give you some ring if you and Russ were together…” Jenna questioned in confusion, “I mean if there was nothing going on between you…”
“Jen, Brant and I were in the middle of a business deal and it went sour when the man we were dealing with decided he wanted me as a part of the arrangement,” Avery thought back to the thing that sent her world upside down as the pretending with Brant began out of that moment and the flirtations between them, “Brant told the man I was off limits and concocted this story about him and I being engaged.  At the time I was upset, but then I understood what was happening and I went along with it because I knew how important this deal was to BBK and I didn’t want this creep hitting on me.  In the end he wound up making a pass at me anyways and Russ knocked him on his butt in the process, but not before I got all worked up and went back to the hotel room where Brant and I were staying together.  Some reporters must’ve been at the party where Brant and I were pretending to be engaged and the news got leaked to the media after that and suddenly I was engaged to Brant Ashford and Bruce was dead…at least that’s what we thought.”
“So why not set the record straight?” Jenna inquired arching a curious brow, “Why not tell everyone that you and Brant weren’t engaged?”
“Because I was confused and I didn’t want anyone to know what Bruce did to me.  I was already feeling so very guilty for making love with Russ that I thought that somehow I deserved what happened and Brant took care of me.  He helped me through what was going on and then when all the lies began to compile one on top of another we were in too deep to back out from them.  The FBI was looking for someone to point the finger at, so Brant, Russ and I kept up the lies…”
“So you and Brant were never really involved?” Jenna asked again piecing things together again.
“Not in the way everyone would imagine,” Avery sighed bringing her fingers through her hair, “Granted, I was very attracted to him, but after Russ and I made love that night, well it was as if we opened the door to something we couldn’t put a lid on.  I kept finding myself drawn to him and while I hated lying to Brant, I couldn’t stay away from Russ and eventually we decided that we were going to get married.  We agreed that when the party was over, we were going to run away and get married…that we were just going to throw caution to the wind and be together, but then with the party, well things got so very chaotic and by the time I was ready to leave, well Grady cornered me and we got into it again…” a thought dawned on Avery, “and Kipp was there.”
“Come again?” Jenna’s eyes widened, “What was Kipp doing with you and Grady?”
“He heard us arguing and he rushed to my aid.  Grady was drunk and he’d started pushing me around, but Kipp stepped in trying to protect me,” Avery thought back to the night that her world had been turned upside down, “Grady started to fight with him and Kipp urged me to go for help, so naturally I ran to the room where I knew I’d find Russ and when I walked inside, well Grady must’ve knocked Kipp down or something because he came in right after me and that’s when I saw Russ and Heather,” Avery’s throat tightened at the memory as her fingers curled around the mug before her.  She took in a slow breath straining to stay focused as her eyes lifted to Jenna’s once again, “Kipp walked in during the midst of Heather and I fighting with one another and from what little I saw of him, he was devastated.  He looked like I felt as it must’ve seemed like his world was crashing down around him as that expression on his face, well…”
“Avery, that’s just it,” Jenna began thinking about Diego’s request of her, “Kipp was so brokenhearted over Heather that he tried to take his own life.  He put the barrel of a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger all because the thought of that woman betraying him tore him to pieces.”
“Jen, I don’t know what kind of answers you’re searching for, but I have to tell you that I don’t think I have them for you.  I mean I can’t explain why your brother did what he did, though in my own way I can empathize as seeing Russ like that damn near broke me as well until Brant took me away.”
“Which doesn’t explain why you and Russ are together again.  Don’t get me wrong Avery I’m happy for you, but I really don’t see how you two got from that point you were at after the party to where you are now,” Jenna threw out with a heavy sigh.
“You could say miracles happened,” Avery felt her hand instinctively drawn over her abdomen as she thought to the baby growing inside of her, “but when Russ told me about what happened that night, well I believed him because in my heart I know Russ and I know he wouldn’t just risk everything we have together on a whim like that.  He said one minute he was fine and then the next, he found himself in bed with Heather thinking that he was there with me and that nothing happened.  Granted it didn‘t seem that way, but when he started talking about the situation, there wasn‘t any other explanation that seemed to fit.”
Jenna remained silent for a long moment taking in her friend’s words before she lifted her mug taking a sip of the tea before her, “You’re right.  That’s not like Russ at all, but what about Heather?”
“I wouldn’t put anything past that bitch as she’s been bound and determined to make my life hell after she thought that Brant and I were together,” Avery confessed her jaw tightening with the reminder of all the grief Heather had put her through, “That woman is trouble from the word go.”
“Well that woman happens to be pregnant with my brother’s baby,” Jenna braced herself for Avery’s reaction as Avery choked on her tea nearly spitting it out in the moment.
“I seriously doubt that one,” Avery tried to regain her composure at the words Jenna tossed out at her, “I mean that woman strikes me as the kind of opportunistic bitch to say anything and everything to get where she feels she should be as she’s been chasing Brant around forever and I’m sure when he didn’t bite, she wound up seeking out another target in your brother to spill her tales of woe to.  I‘m guessing there‘s really no pregnancy.”
“No, there is,” Jenna admitted with a frown, “as a good friend of mine informed me of it when Heather found out about it that night after the party when you two got into a fist fight, but even armed with that knowledge my father has the same opinion of Heather that you do.  He thinks she’s just an opportunistic bimbo that has no real feelings for Kipp and he’s refusing her access to Kipp in his condition…”
“Well good for him as Heather is the last thing anyone needs to deal with,” Avery insisted firmly, “Douglas is doing Kipp a favor in keeping Heather away.”
“I’m not really sure on that one,” Jenna paused dealing with her shifting thoughts, “I mean on some level I think that woman is poison, but if Kipp felt he loved her so deeply that he didn’t believe his life was worth living without her, well…I mean just look at you and Russ.  You two couldn’t let something like what took place break you apart…”
“That’s because I knew in my heart that Russ wouldn’t cheat on me or toss me aside for the first beautiful woman that paid him attention.  He’s always been loyal and trusting and incredible, but Heather’s a manipulative user and I wouldn’t doubt she was trying to bilk your brother for whatever she felt he could give her.”
“I know,” Jenna agreed with a quick nod, “I mean Douglas said that Heather was trying to score this big role in one of his films and she was pushing Kipp upon him to get her the part as Kipp was trying to make Heather happy, but for him to go to such great lengths…”
“Jen, some guys will do anything to find a piece of happiness in their life,” Avery reached out across the table to take her pal’s hand, “and I’m guessing that your brother really thought he’d found a way to reach Heather and keep her happy, but her ultimate goal was winning Brant back.  Even that night when she was flaunting off being in bed with Russ, she kept calling him Brant and I’m guessing she really believed that she was seducing Brant.  In fact the more I think about it, the more it really makes sense as she must’ve known it was my room and she just assumed that Brant would sneak up there to be with me, only when Russ was in there instead feeling a bit tipsy, well she must’ve jumped him and then this whole mess got started as she’s mistook Russ for Brant once before…”
“So you think this was all about winning Brant back?  You think that was all Heather cared about,” Jenna questioned taking in Avery’s words.
“I don’t doubt it for a second,” Avery nodded eagerly, “and if you really want to do what’s best for Kipp, then you’ll make sure that Douglas doesn’t let Heather near him again.”
“I know,” Jenna groaned in response sinking back into her chair, “On some level I know that’s really how it should be, but then I think about what my mother did in not allowing me to know Douglas and well…”
“You’re bringing your own situation onto the table, huh,” Avery concluded as Jenna offered up a nod.
“I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened if I’d been able to know my father,” Jenna sighed poignantly, “I mean what if Kipp wakes up and he’s never given the opportunity to know that he has a child coming into this world…”
“If the child is even his to begin with,” Avery added quickly.
“Even so, what if this baby is the one thing that can bring my brother back to me?  What if it’s what keeps him from slipping away forever?” Jenna questioned unable to contain the tears that overcame her, “I know it sounds foolish, but Avery I can’t help but think about all I lost and even now I feel as if my family is being torn apart more and more each day.  My mom and I aren’t talking and while Douglas and I are trying to get to know one another, well there’s this thing going on with Kipp and I feel like my family is slipping away from me almost as soon as I found it.”
“Oh Jen,” Avery got up from her chair walking around the table to comfort her friend as Jenna broke down into tears.
“Nothing makes sense anymore Avery,” Jenna welcomed her friend’s embrace as the pain and confusion she’d been feeling over the situation overwhelmed her and she realized that things had made her feel more lost than ever as she broke down to her best friend about the drastic twists and turns that have overtaken her over the last few months of her life.


Ken walked through the hospital corridor on his way to the ICU. The only information he knew was that she was on the intensive care ward, and for now, it was what he would work with. He had hoped that Zack would come to his senses and allow both Blake and himself to visit with Caitlin. Instead, it only seemed that Zack pushed them further and further away.

He rubbed his stiff neck as he entered the elevator. The lumpy sofa he’d commandeered as his own had turned out not to be as comfortable when used as a bed. Annie had tried her best to convince him to go home, but Ken was adamant that he wasn’t leaving until he could visit Caitlin.

Ken had to visit with her. He had to let her know that he loved her with all his heart and that he never meant to push her away. He had to let her know that when she recovered he would make it up to her. He had to speak with her. He just had to.

He stepped off the elevator and stepped onto the floor with the intensive care ward. He paused outside the unit in order to remind himself of what he was going to say when he was stopped short by the nurse. This was Brant’s arena, deceit, duplicity, and bribery. It was unfamiliar territory for Ken, but he knew that crossing that line might be the only way he could get in to see the woman he loved.

As he began to step inside, Ken felt a hand upon his shoulder. He turned and met with the soft eyes of Julia Vaughn.

“You’re Blake’s brother, right?” Julia asked with a soft smile, “We met earlier, but things were so chaotic,” She paused as she extended her hand, “I’m Julia, Caitlin’s mother.”

“I’m Kenneth,” He introduced himself as he gently shook her head, “I’m more than just Blake’s brother,” He began softly, “I’m in love with your daughter.”

She studied him closely, “She said she thought she was falling in love, but I had no idea it was with Blake’s brother.”

“We didn’t even meet through Blake,” He smiled as he thought back to being trapped in the elevator with Caitlin during the earthquake, “She wanted to do a story about a case I’m trying. She was very professional,” He cracked a smile, “Up until we were caught in the earthquake together.”

“Oh, so it was a romance brought about my circumstances, hmm?” Julia smiled before she reached out to take his arm, “Come on. Let’s go inside. I’ll introduce you to my husband since I’m sure he’ll be interested to know that you and Caitlin are in love.”

“I’m not supposed to be anywhere near Caitlin since Zack has been very restrictive against my family. I’m afraid he may have misconstrued some of the events of the last week or so,” He spoke even as she escorted him into the ICU and down the hall to the waiting area.

“No matter what Zack thinks, I know that Caitlin would want those who love her to be here. Besides, anyone who is wishing Caitlin well is welcome as far as I’m concerned,” She patted his arm gently as she stepped into the waiting room, “Tim, I’d like to re-introduce to you Kenneth Ashford. We kind of met him earlier, but things were so chaotic,” She paused, “This is Caitlin’s boyfriend.”

“Caitlin’s…” Timothy stood and extended his hand to Ken. He shook the young man’s hand and smiled, “It’s nice to meet you.”

“I wish it was under different circumstances,” Ken agreed while Julia offered him a chair, “How’s Caitlin doing?”

“There’s been very little change,” Timothy explained, “But the doctors say that her vital signs are improving. So we’re hopeful.”

“Good,” Ken breathed a sigh of relief, “I’ve been praying that she would come back to us. I…” He paused for a moment as the news of Caitlin’s slight improvement momentarily overwhelmed his exhausted mind and body.

“We know,” Julia said softly as she placed her hand upon his shoulder, “We felt the same way.”

“It’s just so good to hear that she’s improving. I know it’s small, and there’s still so far to go, but,” Ken paused, “It’s nice to hear good news for a change.”

“I agree,” Timothy nodded, “So, why does Zack seem so hell bent on keeping you away from Caitlin?”

“Tim,” Julia admonished.

“I think it’s a valid question, Jules,” Timothy explained as he looked to his wife before meeting Ken’s eyes, “What great travesty does Zack believe you’ve committed?”

Ken looked to the floor, “I’m not exactly sure what it is he believes, but Caitlin and I had a disagreement before the attack. There wasn’t a lot of animosity really. It was just that we had two very different opinions about how some friends of ours should have handled an announcement,” He paused, “I think Zack has blown the situation out of proportion.”

“Oh you do, huh?” Zack began as he stood in the doorway to the waiting area, “I’m sure you would believe that as you Ashfords always think you’re in the right.”

“I never said that,” Ken began as he stood, “Zack, I know that things between Caitlin and myself were tense, but I only want the best for her. I would do anything to make her well,” He looked to Julia and Timothy, “I just want to spend a few moments with her.”

“No,” Zack said firmly, “Absolutely not.”

“Zack,” Julia began.

“Mom, I’m telling you that this really isn’t a good thing for Caitlin right now. If you want to reconcile with Caitlin, you’ll do it when she’s conscious and can tell you herself that you can go to hell. Until then, I’ll stand up for her, and you’ll have to leave,” Zack declared firmly as he met Ken’s eyes, “And if you come back to this floor, I’ll have security escort you out.”

“You can’t do that,” Ken began, “Please…”

“You may be an Ashford with a lot of money and power, but I’m an attending physician here and I won’t let you use your influence to jeopardize the recovery of a patient,” Zack warned.

“I would never jeopardize…” Ken attempted to argue.

“You’re doing it right now,” Zack declared, “I want you out of here, right now,” He seethed as his rage at Caitlin’s condition got the better of him.

Ken began to argue before he stopped and shook his head. He stepped out of the room and walked out of the ICU. He wouldn’t make things any worse for Caitlin’s family, but he felt as if he were as close to hell as physically possible by being separated from her. If he could only reach out to her…if he could only see her for a few moments. He would find a way to be with Caitlin whether Zack liked it or not.


Blake adjusted her purse strap over her shoulder having had enough of being away from the hospital as she’d reluctantly taken Annie up on her suggestion to go home and get some rest, but after Seth had dropped both women off at the Ashford mansion for a few hours, Blake found herself restless and on edge as her fears about Caitlin and her confusion in her feelings about her connection to both Seth and Zack got the best of her.  After a great deal of tossing and turning in bed, she’d forced herself to get in a quick shower before she returned to the hospital in the hopes of finding a way to reach out to Zack and see him despite the words he’d thrown out at her and Kenneth the night before.
Now as Blake looked around the hallway, she maneuvered the bag she’d brought in with her intending to get both Zack and Kenny to eat something in the hopes that after the initial shock of Caitlin’s dire situation set in that somehow Zack would be ready to embrace the concern that she and Ken had for her best friend.  Beyond that, well Blake was realizing that she needed to have a moment with Zack, to feel the comfort in him that they could only give one another at a time like this with Caitlin’s life hanging by a thread.  That in itself made this trip all the more nerve racking as she prayed that he wouldn’t turn her away again, but much to her dismay she scanned the hallway finding it nearly empty as neither Ken nor Zack were to be seen.
With that thought in mind, Blake cornered her Nurse Barbara catching her before she could breeze past, “Barbara, can I have a minute with you?”
“Blake, I’m kind of in a hurry,” Barbara began apologetically, “I have to get to a patent and…”
“Can you just tell me where Kenny is or maybe how Caitlin’s doing?” Blake pleaded with her desperately.
“Blake, you know I’m not allowed to give you that information as Dr. Vaughn said…”
“I know what he said, but he was just upset,” Blake insisted thinking about the man she loved, “Barbara, please tell me what you know or at the very least, let me know where I can find Zack and I’ll have a few words with him myself.”
“Last I saw he was checking in on Caitlin,” Barbara began again taking in a quick breath before she eyed someone down the hallway, “Blake, I really have to go.”
“Barbara,” Blake watched her leave as a frown toughed over her features.  While she hated to be a pest, given the fact that Kenneth wasn’t out in the open, well, she’d taken it as a good sign that Zack had changed his mind about allowing her and Kenneth access to Caitlin, but now, well not Blake was starting to have her doubts as she shifted the bag in her arms wondering if perhaps Zack would ever see eye to eye with her again after what happened to Caitlin.
“Um excuse me,” a woman questioned touching on Blake’s arm as Blake turned her eyes to the blonde haired beauty before him, “I couldn’t help but overhear just a moment ago that you were asking about Dr. Vaughn.”
“Yes I was actually,” Blake nodded in confession wondering if this woman could be of assistance to her as Blake couldn’t recall having seen her around the hospital before, “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find him, now would you?”
“Well that all depends,” Johanna eyed her with intense scrutiny before she threw out a pointed look, “I know you, don’t I?”
“I don’t think so,” Blake shook her head in response, “as I’m fairly good with faces.”
“Are you sure as I could’ve sworn that you…” Johanna’s eyes widened in recognition, “I knew I’ve seen your face before as you’re Blake Ashford, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am,” Blake nodded immediately on edge as she stood taller noting the tone the woman took in recalling her name, “and judging by the way you’re looking at me right now, I’m willing to guess that you’re with the press, aren’t you?”
“Is it that obvious?” Johanna offered a soft smile before shaking her head in apology, “I didn’t mean to come off that way, but well, it’s part of the profession I suppose as the reporter in me tends to come out when I sense a newsworthy opportunity. By the way I‘m Johanna Larsen with the Standard Reporter…”
“Is that why you’re here,” Blake challenged with a hiss immediately on the defense, “You smell blood and you come running for your next trashy headline?  You know you people are all the same and it’s just sickening…”
“Hey look, I’m not here to cause any kind of commotion, though it seems you’re not willing to do the same as you’re full of drama right now,” Johanna snapped in response, “especially considering that the last I heard the Ashford family was under no circumstances going near Caitlin Vaughn on doctor’s orders so maybe you should take that as a sign to just leave.”
“Caitlin is my best friend not that it’s any of your business and I’m not going to have some little no nothing reporter tell me what to do here,” Blake huffed pushing her way past Johanna as she headed in the direction of ICU hoping to connect with either Zack or Ken and have one of them get rid of his sudden annoyance that had slipped past hospital security.
“Listen Blake,” Johanna reached out to her stopping Blake mid-movement as her eyes narrowed darkly down at Blake, “While you might think that your being the Ashford Princess entitles you to push people around and have them bend at your command, but the world doesn’t work that way and Zack would really rather not have you here, so why make things difficult…”
“Zack is confused and…” Blake stopped mid-sentence as Johanna’s words hit her, “Just who the hell are you to sit here and preach to me about what Zack wants when you’re just here to make a mockery out of what has happened to his sister just to get more sales on your trashy little tabloid?”
“Leave it to an Ashford to think the worst of someone when they generally are the ones doing the worst of the worst there is known to man,” Johanna scoffed with an angry glare, “Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, but why can’t you just leave Zack and his family alone?”
“Since when the hell do your kind want to do the right thing where people who are hurting are concerned,” Blake stood taller coming nose to nose with Johanna, “I don’t know what kind of line you’ve thrown out at Zack in the name of wanting to help him or his family, but I warn you now, if you even think about going near him again, I’ll take you out myself and that’s a promise as the last place I want you is anywhere near my best friend, her family or the man I love.”
“The man you love,” Johanna repeated with what almost sounded like a gasp as her eyes widened with curiosity, “Zack Vaughn?”
“That’s right and if you even come within fifty feet of him when he’s hurting about Caitlin, I swear to you that it’ll be the last thing you ever do,” Blake warned her sharply as she found herself ready to tear this woman before her apart, but as she thought of the reasoning she’d come to the hospital to begin with, she shoved Johanna aside making her way down the hallway.
“Well now,” Johanna spun around watching Blake’s retreat as suddenly she found herself armed with new information on what Zack had been doing in Coral Valley and as a sinking sensation settled in over the pit of her stomach, she decided it was time to start showing the little princesses of the world like Blake Ashford just where her place truly was.  With that thought in mind, she headed off in the opposite direction seeking out Zack as she vowed to make sure that Blake didn’t have the opportunity to be a bother to her or to cause Zack anymore grief as Zack had all the comforting he’d needed in more in her and the last thing Johanna wanted was for Blake to get in the way of that one.


Russell pulled into Grady’s driveway finding himself hesitant to take the next step into his brother’s home as the cryptic telephone call he’d received from Grady earlier was enough to have him on edge and contemplating not bothering to show up at Grady’s house, but after Avery’s urgings Russell decided he’d give his brother one more opportunity to make things right between them and just let go of the damned vendetta that Grady held over Avery.  Now as Russell made his way uneasily up to Grady’s front door, he wondered if maybe this was a mistake in the making as the last exchange he’d had with his brother over the phone on his honeymoon still had Russell wound up with rage.
“Good morning,” Jade greeted Russell surprising him as he saw her standing in Grady’s doorway clad in one of Grady’s oversized sweatshirts and a pair of matching blue leggings of her own.  She leaned forward throwing her arms around him in an embrace as she nearly leapt up from the ground beneath her toes, “I hear congratulations are in order as you have no idea how thrilled I was to hear about you and Avery.”
“Thanks Jade,” Russell hugged her in response cautiously peering into Grady’s living room as she stepped away from the embrace, “though I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to find your beautiful face standing here this morning when Grady asked me over.”
“Well that’s the beauty of a morning like this,” Jade explained brightly, “this morning is one where you can learn to expect the unexpected.  Speaking of which, is Avery around?” Jade glanced out towards his car brewing with curiosity.
“I thought it might be best if I came over alone this morning considering that she and Grady had a less than savory encounter with one another the last time my brother and I shared any kind of communication,” Russell answered flatly, his doubts swirling around in his head as Jade urged him to follow her inside of Grady’s home.
“Yeah, I was sort of there when that all went down on the phone,” Jade nodded in response softening her voice a bit before she closed the door and faced Russell once again, “but I think it’s safe to say that Grady’s been working on turning a new leaf.”
“That’ll be the day,” he muttered more so to himself before he glanced around the living room, “So where is my brother?”
“Actually he’s just finishing up in the kitchen where…” Jade started as Grady burst into the room beaming with a newfound energy as he waved at Russell smiling brightly.
“There you are little brother,” Grady greeted him cheerfully, “I was starting to think you had second thoughts about coming over which would’ve been a shame as I think I’ve got enough food waiting in the kitchen to feed an army in there.”
“Come again,” Russell blinked back feeling as if he’d been set down smack dab into some form of an alternate universe as Grady reached out to Jade curling his arm around her waist pulling her into his arms to offer up a quick, playful kiss before setting her down on the ground once again with a tiny giggle which for Grady seemed like an altogether foreign thing.
“Hon, the last of the sausages are just about ready to be ready for serving.  Could you take a look on them while I talk to Russ for a moment?” Grady suggested with a lightness in his tone as Russell just watched him remaining frozen in his stance.
“Sure,” Jade nodded eyeing both brothers before stepping into the kitchen to leave them a few moments alone with one another.
“So,” Russell cleared his throat watching Grady as Jade exited the room.
“She’s amazing, isn’t she?” Grady beamed with enthusiasm taking the moment to appreciate Jade and all of her beauty as he turned to Russell.
“I’ve been trying to tell you that for months and it’s nice to see you finally took some of the advice I was giving you,” Russell remarked with mild amusement, “though something tells me that this situation has absolutely nothing to do with what I told you that you should do and everything to do with Jade.”
“She’s an incredible woman and the things she’s done for me,” Grady started with a heavy sigh of contentment, “well it’s just amazing what love can do.”
“Gee, I suppose this is the part where I’m about to get the lecture on you about how I don’t know the first thing about love considering my situation, right,” Russell threw back at him skeptically.
“Oh right,” Grady scanned his living room, “I notice you didn’t bring your other half this morning.”
“Why would I do something that foolish,” Russell questioned sourly, “considering that you live to make her miserable, why would I open my wife to that kind of torture?”
“You know Russ, I just think that with Avery you really should…” Grady watched as Jade returned to the living room and he swallowed his breath trying to stay focused as his tone shifted a bit to a more of a welcoming one, “You just have to do what it is that makes you happy.”
“Come again,” Russell’s eyes widened in confusion before skepticism swept over him, “Okay who the hell are you and what have you done to my brother?”
“Your brother is in love,” Grady stated matter of fact reaching out to Jade, “and it’s got everything to do with this pretty little lady over here as she’s opened my eyes to a world of beauty and inspiration unlike anything I could’ve dreamt up.”
“That’s because reality is so much better than dreaming for us Grady,” Jade added confidently reaching out to touch his face before looking to Russ, “but your brother didn’t come all the way over here to see us gushing about this, so why not tell him what’s really on your mind like you said you were going to do?”
“This should be good,” Russ folded his arms in front of his chest, “Go on Grady.  Lay it on me, but know that this is your last shot here because I swear to you if you even think about trying to belittle my wife or slander her in any way…”
“Russ, it’s just I’m…” Grady fought the reluctance building in the back of his throat as he released a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding, “Well, it’s just that I’m happy that you’ve finally found a little slice of happiness in your life as it’s been far too long for us all.”
“I see, so you called me over here to tell me that you’re ready to accept the fact that I love Avery and that she’s a part of our family now,” Russell arched a skeptic brow, “and maybe you were also thinking that an apology was in order for the things you’ve done and said to her over the last few months.”
“Now Russ I never said I was going to give that woman one ounce of an apology because…” Grady started with a frown as Jade cleared her throat throwing him a very pointed look.
“Grady,” she threw out a warning tone as he shook his head in defeat.
“All I’m saying Russ is there’s no need for us to dwell on the past as it’s in the past and I’m ready to move on into the future.  Granted there were a lot of ugly things happening between us all, but I’d like to just move beyond that and not look back which is why the whole apology thing to me just sounds like a way to reopen old wounds and I think I’ve done more than enough of that,” Grady explained as Russell bet those very words were rehearsed on his brother’s end no doubt conjured up by Jade’s need for peace.
“I see, so you’d just like Avery to forget all the horrible nasty thing you said to her say at the party at the Ashford mansion when you were letting her know how much you were enjoying what happened or maybe you’d like me to pretend that you didn’t call my wife a whore or tell her that I’ve been spending years trying to come up with some way to give her a deserving payback for the things she’s done to upset me.”
“Look Russ at the time I said those things I was drunk and very angry,” Grady began to defend himself.
“You weren’t drunk when you were with our parents at Christmas time,” Russell reminded him sharply, “and while I know you’re trying to say you want to move forward, can you really do that Grady?  Can you honestly tell me that you’re willing to set aside everything you’ve thrown in my wife’s face for all this time and just accept the fact that we’re happy with one another.”
“Russ look,” Grady eyed Jade for a moment thinking about his promise to her, “I’m just trying to make peace here.  I’ve found some happiness in my life and if you’ve found it too, then I’m not going to try to stop you from keeping it.  There I said it and that’s really where I’m at here.”
“Well, I’d really like to believe that, but you know Grady, I’m having some problems with the words because the truth to the matter is as much as I love you bro, well, I can’t help but feel this is all something you’re doing solely to appease Jade and while that in itself is a touching gesture, it’s not going to be something that’ll hold up when you’re around Avery which is why I made sure not to bring her here today.  I want to believe you’ll start treating her with respect, but until I see it…”
“You will,” Jade piped in quickly, “In fact, what do you say we try to make new ground with one another?  Say over dinner perhaps?  The four of us can sit down and Grady can show you how he’s turned the page in his life.”
“I can,” Grady gave Jade a strange look.
“That’s right you can because you were talking about how you wanted nothing more than to find a way to get things back on track,” she nodded encouragingly reaching out to him, “and I think starting with something like this will be good for all of us.  I mean hey I’m sure Russ and Avery have plenty to tell us from their time away and we have some catching up as well.”
“Jade, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Russell began to step out of the invitation as Grady faced him once again.
“No, I think it’s a great idea,” Grady insisted with a newfound enthusiasm, “The four of us can go out on the town--some place neutral and we can…catch up.”
Russell eyed his brother for a long moment thinking about Grady‘s proposal, “I suppose I can talk to Avery and get her take on this.  If she doesn’t mind giving this a try, then well, I don’t see why we can’t give this a shot.”
“Excellent,” Jade clapped her hands together, “and there we have it.  The beginnings of the communication lines are open again and in the best time considering that you and Avery have some very exciting things ahead of you as I can’t wait to talk to her about the baby.  She must be so excited.”
“We both are,” Russell admitted unable to suppress the smile building over his features, “Mom and dad surprised us with working on the nursery and it looks incredible.  Mom added her finishing touches with the painting and it’s really turning out to be more than I expected or anticipated and when they both say the picture from the ultrasound,” he paused fishing into his pocket for his wallet, “Actually I have it with me if you want to take a look.”
“Oh would I ever,” Jade extended her arm out towards him excitedly, “as I just love children and I can only imagine how excited you must be feeling right about now with your first child on the way.”
“There are no words to even begin to express how amazing it feels to know that I’m about to be a father.  It’s like I’ve been given this great gift and now, well now I don’t even want to think about not having it,” Russell produced the photo image handing it over to Jade proudly, “So what do you think about my beautiful baby?”
“Oh that’s so cute,” Jade gushed over the image before her, “Grady, look your niece or nephew is a thumb sucker already.”
“How can you tell?” Grady gave her a strange look.
“Just follow the image,” Jade explained motioning to the picture she held in her hands as her eyes fell upon Russ again, “Russ, the baby is so beautiful.”
“My baby takes after his or her mama there in that department,” Russell replied beaming with enthusiasm as the talk about his child gave him the ease to allow his doubts about Grady’s sincerity slip away.
“Yeah well you’d just better hope that this baby is your…” Grady started with a flicker of sarcasm as Jade poked at his ribs silencing him.
“My what?” Russell demanded retrieving the photo from Jade’s hand, “My what Grady?  What were you going to say?  Another crack about how you don’t believe that Avery’s having my baby or are you going to throw in another jab about how you believe her to be a whore?”
“No, that’s not it,” Grady lied fighting his every instinct to let loose on what he really, truly thought of Avery, but alas he refused to disappoint Jade in this moment in time, “I was just going to say that you’d better hope that this baby is yours in the sense that the child has your demeanor there as Avery can be a spitfire sometimes.”
“Yeah sure you were,” Russell replied doubtful safely tucking away the image he’d carried with him, “but still we’re both very happy about this child as this baby is the world to us.”
“And I’m sure neither one of you can wait until this baby is out and about in the world around us,” Jade reached out to embrace him, “and I for one can’t be any happier for the both of you as it’s a sign that true love really does stand a fighting chance in this world.”
“That it does,” Russell agreed returning the hug as he eyed Grady closely, “even with the obstacles in the way sometimes.”
“Well, that in itself is reason why we should all have dinner together to celebrate,” Jade decided eagerly as her grin expanded, “Grady was just telling me about this great little Italian place you two used to enjoy when you were younger just outside of town…”
“Really?” Russell’s eyes widened in response, “You were thinking about inviting Avery and I out there with the both of you?”
“That was the general thought apparently,” Grady nodded forcing his hand out to his brother, “as I’d really like to find a way for us to bury the hatchet with one another.”
“As long as you’re not going to try to bury it in my wife’s head there, I think we’ll be willing to give this a try,” Russell reciprocated the gesture offering up his hand, “I guess this marks the beginning of a truce here.”
“A truce it is,” Grady nodded shaking his brother’s hand quickly, “and then later on we’ll work out the rest of the details about the when and hows of dinner if Avery is interested.”
“I’ll talk to her about it right away when I get home which is something I should probably be getting back too soon considering that I really didn’t like leaving her alone at the house right now as we have some FBI agents staked out in the front yard,” Russell frowned thinking to the things that were waiting for him back home, “Granted I don’t think they’ll be a problem, but Avery might feel the need to tell them to take a hike once again and that might be dangerous.”
“Why do you have the FBI staked out on your yard,” Grady frowned in response taking in his brother’s words, “Russ, what’s going on now?  Please don‘t tell me they still suspect you in that murder considering that…”
“It’s not about the murder,” Russell shook his head simply, “but it is about Bruce Mathis.  Turns out that not only did he go missing from the morgue, but now the Feds are theorizing that he’s still alive and lurking here in Coral Valley waiting for the perfect moment to strike at my wife.”
“What?” Jade’s eyes widened as she questioned his words, “I thought the authorities were chasing down someone who’d murdered him and now they’re saying he was never dead to begin with?”
“Apparently when he was pulled out of the lake, they ran a some kind of toxicology screening on him and they found the presence of some drug in his system that mimics all the symptoms of being dead, but the FBI didn‘t catch on to this one until recently,” Russ explained his face growing tight with tension as he thought to his honeymoon, “Some things happened while Avery and I were away and well, there’s a rumor going around that Mathis murdered a bunch of women and he sent Avery this package to shake her up.  Look, I’d really rather not get into it at the moment because it’s kind of a touchy subject to say the least…”
“Russ, if you’re in some kind of trouble because of Avery again…” Grady started sounding like the worried older brother as his concerns for Russell mounted.
“This isn’t because of Avery,” Russell insisted quickly, “as there’s a lot more to this entire story, but right now I just want to go home and see my wife.  She had Jenna coming over for a bit, but given that things have been really stressful for us all lately, well, I just want to kind of keep the peace which is why if this dinner isn’t anything, but your way of trying to move forward, then tell me now Grady because I don’t want to put my wife and unborn child in any line of fire right now…”
“Russ, it’s not about any vendetta,” Grady admitted honestly as a sigh spilled over his lips, “I just care about you and am concerned for your well being.  That’s what’s motivated me thus far and if you’re asking me to try to find it in me to not bring anymore chaos to your life, then I’ll do everything in my power to keep that from happening.  You have my word on that.”
“You have no idea how much that means to me Grady,” Russell replied with the beginnings of a relieved smile, “as I’ve missed having you to talk to considering all that’s happened…”
“Well, you don’t need to worry about that little brother,” Grady reached out to embrace him, “as I’m here for you,” Grady finished hoping that somehow he could find it in his heart to keep his true feelings about the woman Russell married to himself long enough to make Russell’s life easier again.


“Just a minute,” Dorothy called out as she swept her hair from the collar of her tee shirt. While Preston had gone out this morning, she had decided to laze in the bed for some alone time after all the chaos that had surrounded them of late. She had used the time alone to think of ways to reach out to Jenna, but none of them seemed like they would work. It seemed that all her ideas about Jenna only served to remind her just how far removed she was from her daughter. As she opened the door, she wished instantly that she had remained in bed.

“Dottie,” Douglas spoke softly, “Good morning.”

“How did you find out where I live?” She asked, feeling as if her privacy had been invaded.

“This is a small town. A few questions along with the mention that we’re old friends gets a lot of information from people.”

She groaned, “We are not old friends. We’re not friends at all,” She reminded him.

“We have a daughter, Dottie. While you might not want to admit that we need one another, the fact remains that we do.”

“I don’t need you at all,” She snapped as he began to close the door.

Douglas quickly threw his hand up to stop the door from closing and pushed it open, “Wrong. You do need me, and we’re going to talk about this right now,” He said as he pushed open the door and stepped inside.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You can’t just push your way into my home,” She yelled at him as she remained at the door, “I want you out of here. Now!”

“I’m not leaving until we get a few things settled,” He spoke even as he sat down in a recliner at the far side of the room.

Dorothy felt her blood begin to boil at the notion that Douglas would make himself at home in the house she shared with Preston. She slammed her front door closed before she clenched her fists at her sides, “I have nothing to say to you, Doug.”

“Well I have plenty to say to you. We need one another, Dottie, and it’s time you came to terms with that. We need one another for Jenna’s sake because there’s no way she’ll ever be able to truly bond with me if she doesn’t get past this rift she has with you.”

“And your point is what exactly, Doug? Don’t you think that after all these years of trying to keep Jenna from ever knowing you that I’d refuse to help you bond, as you put it, with her?” She rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms and watched him, “The last thing I want is for you to warp her world the way you did mine.”

“Warp your world? You’re giving me credit for things that I never did,” He defended, “You and I were happy together. You’re the one who made the rash decision to leave me behind. Really, Dottie, how did you think I’d feel when you sent me that ‘Dear John’ letter? Did you think I’d be okay with that and just go on with my life?”

“You did, didn’t you?” She pointed out, “Jenna hadn’t even been born yet when I’d read about you messing around with some starlet. It was on the cover of every tabloid in the country,” She groaned as she sank down onto the sofa.

“I never screwed around with her. Believe me, she tried, but I still had you on the brain. You were all I could think about for years, Dottie,” Doug spoke as he sat forward, “I loved you with all that I was, and you just walked out on me. I was devastated, but you didn’t care, did you?”

She refused to look in his direction as she cast her eyes back towards the door, wishing she could have kept him locked out forever, “Doug, I did care…more than you know. I did what I did for the greater good.”

“How do you figure?” He asked in surprise.

“It doesn’t matter,” She said quickly, not wanting to reveal all her thoughts, “Look, either say what you have to say, or you can just leave.”

“Fine,” Douglas took a deep breath, “We have to be together for Jenna.”

“I’m involved with a man I’ve loved for a very long time,” Dorothy said quickly.

“That’s not what I meant,” He began before he met her eyes, “But I’m glad that you’ve found happiness in your life.”

She saw the truth of his statement within his eyes, “Just get to the point, Doug.”

“If either one of us wants to have any kind of meaningful future relationship with Jenna, we’re going to have to work on it together. You need me to help her reach out to you, and I need you to help me get to know her. We need each other, Dottie.”

Dorothy considered his words for a moment before she spoke, “I don’t know that I’m prepared to go that far right now, Doug. There are a lot of problems that can arise from you being in her life, and she’s had it so hard lately that I just don’t think she needs any extra strain.”

“Don’t try to rationalize me out of this equation,” He warned, “Most of the strain she’s under right now stems from the secret of her parentage. The only way that could get better is if we reach out to her together. She needs the both of us, but we have to find a way to mend some of the problems between us before we can even begin to help her.”

“If I agree to this, you have to understand that it’s for Jenna’s sake only. I don’t give a damn about you or your life.”

Douglas smiled in irony, “Fine, but we’ll have to know one another better if we are to reach out to her.”

“Don’t push your luck, Doug,” Dorothy stood and glared at him, “Now, do you mind? Preston will be home soon, and if he finds you here, he’ll want to beat you to death.”

“Possessive, physical type, huh?”

“He’s a lieutenant colonel with the Army Airborne. What do you think?” She asked blandly, “Come on, Doug. Just go.”

Douglas stood and made his way to the door. He stopped and looked back to her, “See…we can work together, Dottie. We always could. Why you chose to ignore that fact is beyond me,” He opened the door and left her house.

Dorothy closed the door behind his exit and leaned against the door. She wasn’t sure what she had just agreed to, but she was very sure that it wasn’t going to be easy. And somehow, she had a sinking suspicion that she was only going to cause more heartbreak for those that she loved.


Ken stepped into his office and crossed the room to his desk. He looked over the contents of his desk and thought about the case he was about to embark upon. He’d been prepared to take the case forward before he met Caitlin, but with her support, he had been prepared to win.

Now…he felt aimless. The only thing he could focus on was Caitlin. He wanted to see her, but since Zack had taken upon himself to make that difficult, Ken would have to think of a way to get around the normal means of seeing her and sneak in. And while he wasn’t above doing that sort of thing in order to see Caitlin, this wasn’t his style at all. It was Brant’s…and the fact he would have to resort to acting like his brother….

Ken picked up the name plate from his desk and hurled it across the room, narrowing missing Hart in the process as the plate collided with the wall and slid to the floor.

Hart looked towards his law partner with curiosity, “This a bad time?”

Ken shook his head and waved for his law partner to join him, “No, come in.”

Hart picked up the name plate from the floor and carried it back to Ken’s desk, placing it down as he spoke, “I thought you’d be at the hospital with Caitlin.”

“I would be if her idiot brother would let me see her. For some reason, he’s got it in his head that it would be bad for Caitlin’s recovery for me to be anywhere near her right now,” Ken’s anger echoed through his words, “I have to find a way to see her, Hart.”

“There are always ways, Ken,” Hart began, “You and I both have connections at the hospital. It wouldn’t take much to move the right people into place and then you could see her.”

“No,” Ken refused, “I won’t get anyone else involved in this. I’ll see Caitlin but in my own way and in my own time,” His frown lightened as he looked to Hart, “But I appreciate the offer,” He paused, “Why are you here anyway?”

“I was just doing a little research for a case, but I should be the one asking you that question as you should be at home getting some rest. You look like hell,” Hart blurted out before sitting down across from Ken’s desk.

“Thanks,” Ken replied dryly before sitting in his desk chair, “I figured if I couldn’t see Caitlin then I could come here and try to focus on the Midlands case. It’s going forward tomorrow.”

“You should ask for a continuance, Ken. You’re in no shape to try this case right now, and I’m sure that the Hendersons and the judge would understand.”

“I don’t want to put this case off any longer, but at the same time,” Ken paused as he considered Hart for a moment, “I was actually thinking of asking you for a favor.”

“What favor?” Hart asked with interest.

“I’d like for you to sit second chair tomorrow in court. Midlands counsel of record was to be Kipp Mahoney, but since he’s been incapacitated Midlands hasn’t filed a new entry of appearance for their attorney. I don’t like the set up considering that no new motion has come before the court, and you just know that a company like Stone Corp has another attorney waiting in the wings,” Ken explained.

“You suspect an ambush?” Hart asked before nodding, “It does seem suspicious, and yeah, I’ll sit second chair with you. We’ll go into court tomorrow, and you can ask for the continuance. If the judge doesn’t grant it, but he will,” He reiterated, “But if he doesn’t, I’ll try the case until Caitlin’s health improves. Fair enough?”

Ken nodded, “Thank you, Hart. I’ll owe you one.”

“Yeah, you will,” Hart grinned, “Which will be kind of fun. Brant owes me about a dozen favors, but you’ve never owed me one. It should be interesting to see the well behaved brother do something for me,” He teased.

“Don’t start thinking I’m going to break the law for you,” Ken teased in reply as a slight smile grew on his features, “Although I’m not exactly above bending it as far as it can go without breaking it.”

“That’s my boy,” Hart chuckled as he stood and headed for the door. He stopped and looked back to his friend, “Ken, if there’s anything I can do for you and Caitlin, all you have to do is ask.”

“I know,” Ken nodded, “Thanks again, Hart. I really do owe you one.”

Hart’s reply was a friendly smile before he left the office.

Ken looked to a folder with the Hendersons’ documents that lay upon his desk, and he wondered just what Midlands was planning. It seemed that his world was becoming more chaotic by the minute, and if that trend held true, no doubt court tomorrow would be nothing short of explosive. He could only hope that it wouldn’t hold disastrous results for everyone involved.


Heather stepped inside the beach house and gasped as she took in the décor. She spun around with a giddy laugh before turning and spotting Cameron standing in the doorway with a proud smile upon his face.

“I take it you approve,” Cameron smiled.

“Oh, Cameron, this is gorgeous. When you talked about going to an island, I had no idea you had an island all to yourself,” She said as she dropped her purse onto a sofa. She walked over to him and placed her hands gently upon his chest as she looked up into his eyes, “I can’t even begin to tell you how amazed I am at everything you’ve done for me.”

“I’m doing it for all of us, Heather,” He said as he gently slipped his hands around her waist, “Besides, I think we are a perfect fit together,” He eased his hands along her back before he looked around the room, “What do you say we have our first dance as husband and wife?”

“Hmm,” She grinned as glanced around the room, “Do you really think this room is right for dancing?”

“Well, maybe I promise not to lead you into any furniture, fair enough?” He teased before he reached over to a cabinet near the door and switched on the stereo. When a soft song began to play he smiled and took her into his arms in a dancer’s embrace as he began to lead her in a dance, “So, how would you rate our wedding day?”

“I’d say that it was outstanding,” Heather smiled, following his lead in the dance, “I’m really quite overwhelmed by all of this.”

“I promise that this is all just the beginning of happiness for the both of us, and your baby,” He informed her, “I want the best for the both of you, and I’m sure that along the way the two of us can find a relationship rewarding for the both of us.”

She smiled seductively as she met his dark eyes, “I’m sure we can,” She agreed as she focused on his lips, remembering the kiss they’d shared at the wedding.

“Tell me something, Heather. Do you see us getting closer? Do you see us finding a true relationship together?”

“I’d like to hope for the best,” She admitted as she met his eyes, “What do you think?”

“I think that you and I are embarking on an adventure together, and nothing would please me more than if we could make this a real marriage,” He began, “Besides, you and I are kindred spirits. I think we have a lot in common. Building a relationship on that should be easy.”

“I feel the same,” She smiled as she leaned forward and dropped a quick kiss upon his lips, “That’s something to build upon as well.”

Cameron stopped the dance and gazed into her eyes. He cupped her cheeks in his hands, “I think we can do better than that,” He said with a grin as he leaned forward and captured her lips in a heated kiss.

Heather murmured softly against his lips as he explored her mouth. She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck as she invited his exploration, learning that her husband could provide her with a much more passionate experience than she’d had in a very long time.

As their kiss ended, Cameron smiled at her, “Now that’s something to build upon.”

She nodded silently, not trusting her words to convey anything other than the heat he’d conjured within her.

“I think that perhaps we should get you settled in before dinner. Then we’ll eat and perhaps take a moonlight stroll on the beach.”

Heather smiled as he kissed her cheek and walked to the stairs. She glanced back at him and smiled, feeling an entirely new round of possibilities becoming evident.

Cameron grinned as he shrugged out of his sports jacket. He had everything he wanted at his fingertips now. Well…almost everything, and those things that weren’t his would be in time. Yes, life was good for Cameron Stone.


“You know I really didn’t come over here to get all emotional on you,” Jenna began with a sigh sinking into the couch cushion with her feet folded comfortably beneath her after she and Avery had opted to take their talk into a more relaxing location in the Denton living room.
“Nonsense,” Avery waved her hand at Jenna, “How many times have I been a complete basket case showing up on your doorstep in the past?”
“Yeah well that’s different,” Jenna couldn’t help but tease her friend, “as I’m the sensible one and you’re known for the high drama in your life.”
“Hey now I highly resent that,” Avery objected throwing one of the toss pillows at Jenna, “I mean honestly you make my life sound like a cheesy soap opera or something.”
“More like a racy romance novel especially now that you’re back together with Russ,” Jenna caught the pillow mid-motion before using it behind her back as she sank into the couch a bit more comfortably, “though you know I do have one pressing question here in my mind.”
“Somehow I knew that was coming just judging by the look on your face,” Avery threw her a firm look before letting out a sigh, “okay lay it on me Jen, what’s on your mind?”
“Well I know this is a tad inappropriate considering that you’re the married woman there with one of the only great guys still out there in the world, but still I just have to know,” Jenna sat up a bit straighter, “What was Brant like?  I mean really what is he like when he’s not playing it up for the media?”
“Brant,” Avery nearly choked on the swallow of the tea she’d been sipping on seconds earlier, “well he’s…he’s…why do you ask?”
“Oh come on Avery,” Jenna urged her on, “I know that Russ is the guy who’s always made your insides turn to Jell-O, but I saw that certain something there when you and Brant were around each other and you can’t tell me that was all an act.”
“Jen, it wasn’t what you’re thinking,” Avery insisted with a quick nod before adding in a voice of less certainty, “at least I don’t think it’s what you’re thinking.”
“Well come on Avery, you’ve worked with the guy for a few years now and then, well he takes this interest in you and dishes out this million dollar ring all in the name of protecting you.  I mean that has to say something about the kind of man he is.”
“Well, he’s,” Avery paused thinking about her strange relationship with Brant, “He’s really a good guy when you get to the heart of things.  I mean sure he has his quirks and he can be persistent and annoying as hell with all of his issues, but despite that cocky, very sexy exterior, well he’s got a heart of gold I guess you could say.”
“Hmm, somehow I’m sensing there’s a lot more to this story than you’re saying,” Jenna probed further seeing the expression on Avery’s face.
“Jen, I’m very happy with Russ and I don’t really think I should be talking about Brant,” Avery insisted in a hushed tone, “as it’s really rather inappropriate.”
“Well funny thing about inappropriate subjects,” Jenna winked at her as a grin spread over her features, “they’re completely appropriate between girlfriends.”
“You aren’t going to give up on this one, are you?” Avery threw a less than thrilled look in Jenna’s direction.
“Nah, I’m having too much fun here as it’s so much better doing this than dwelling on my parents and the chaos that comes with all of that,” Jenna explained with a wrinkle of her nose before she sipped her tea once again, “so indulge me.”
“Oh alright,” Avery blurted out openly, “when I was on the island with Brant, well I was really upset because I’d thought Russ cheated on me.  My heart was breaking, but then well Brant was really there for me.  I mean he did things that well, not many guys like Brant would even think to want to share with someone.”
“Such as?” Jenna lifted a curious brow.
“Well I got really sick when we were on the Ashford yacht,” Avery informed her thinking back to one of the most pitiful moments of her life, “At the time I’d thought it was just a case of sea sickness, but it turned out to be the one thing that got Brant concerned enough to call in a doctor and that’s how I found out I was pregnant.  I mean that time on the island was very emotional, but I can still remember spending my day throwing up and spilling my guts in ways that I’m humiliated to even think about revealing to you, but the entire time Brant was right there with me, just doing anything and everything he could think of to keep my mind off of how miserable I felt.  He started telling me these silly stories about him and Ken when they were younger and he broke into this ridiculous show tune that had me in stitches bowled over with laughter when I’m trying to soothe my stomach and well there was just something about the way he spoke to me.  You know, in the way he held on to me.  It almost felt like he had this way about him to make everything that I was dealing with better…almost bearable if you will and I guess when I think of Brant, well I can’t help but be reminded of that…”
“Sounds like you and Brant had some kind of connection while you were away from Coral Valley,” Jenna noted with obvious interest, “as I can’t really picture Brant Ashford being the nurturing type.”
“Well neither could I, but when I found out I was pregnant, well he asked me to marry him,” Avery confessed with a heavy sigh, “and as shameful as it is to admit it, had Russell not found me when he did, I think I would’ve agreed to it.”
“Seriously,” Jenna felt a gasp fall from her lips, “You would’ve married Brant?”
Avery nodded in response, “At the time I was so torn up about things that I realized I needed to get my life into perspective and Brant seemed to give me some of that.  I mean he cared about me and my baby and wanted to give me this wonderful life for my child and I found myself thinking about what a future with Brant would be like.  After a while, well it started to look like it was something that I could make work--that maybe we could make happen with one another since I’d felt that Russell abandoned me and threw our love away.”
“But then Russ returned and you two fixed things up and what?  Rushed off to get married,” Jenna questioned taking in her friend’s tale.
“That’s right,” Avery nodded eagerly, “and I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been in my life now that I’m Mrs. Russell Denton.”
“But what about Brant?” Jenna inquired further, “I mean clearly the guy isn’t accepting that you and Russ are together considering that he made such a scene at the airport.”
“He’s just going to have to find a way to accept it as I love my husband very much,” Avery insisted firmly as her gaze dropped into her tea in the half filled mug her fingers were curled around.  “I hate that he’s hurting though as I never really wanted to do that to him…not after how good he’s been with me.”
“Well considering that the guy wanted to marry you, I’m sure that doesn’t sit too well with Russ,” Jenna noted watching the change in Avery’s composure.
“Russ understands,” Avery glanced up at Jenna once again seeing the doubt behind her friend’s eyes, “Okay, he understands about as much as a husband would in this particular situation, but you know in time he’ll be okay with this.  I mean Brant and I can still maintain a professional relationship with one another after this.”
“Even after he asked you to be his wife for real?” Jenna asked again, “I mean don’t get me wrong Avery, but I think this guy has some feelings for you and while you’re letting me know how happy you and Russ are, well I know you enough to know that you aren’t exactly distanced from Brant either.”
“What is that supposed to mean,” Avery questioned on the defense.
“It means that I have to wonder what might’ve happened had Russell been a day later getting to that island.  I mean you said it yourself that you would’ve accepted Brant’s proposal there and agreed to share your life with him.  I just don’t see how something that serious could just be written off as a fleeting moment between the both of you,” Jenna informed her bluntly, “because in all honesty Avery, regardless of how nice a man is, you’re not going to agree to spend your life with him unless you feel something for him.”
“Of course I feel something for him,“ Avery argued with her, “Brant really pulled through for me at a moment when I needed someone and I’ll always be grateful for that.”
“Even so gratitude doesn’t often lead to a consideration of marriage.  I mean sure okay, maybe it does, but I just think that maybe you were feeling something more for the guy that you’re just not willing to admit…” Jenna urged further.
“Jen, I’m married to Russ.  I don’t think the degree of my feelings get anymore obvious than that.  Russ is the only man in my heart and we’re about to have a baby…” Avery insisted with a huff.
“But if you weren’t having a baby.  I mean honestly, if you weren’t pregnant, would you and Russ be doing this again?  Would you really be Mrs. Russell Denton right now?”
“Jen, I told you that I was going to go run off and marry Russ before everything happened at the party.  I love him and in my heart he’s my soul mate,” Avery insisted her voice full of determination as she looked to her best friend, “Jen, you know how Russ and I feel about one another as you’ve been my friend almost all of my life.”
“I know Avery and I’m not trying to sound like I’m discouraging you or anything,” Jenna bit on her lower lip contemplating her words before continuing, “It’s just Hart was talking to me last night and he and Brant had this long talk and…”
“Hart?” Avery repeated in confusion, “As in Hart Steiner?  You were talking with Hart Steiner last night?”
Jenna nodded feeling a color rise up in her features as she saw the curiosity now reflected in Avery’s eyes, “Yeah, we had dinner together last night.”
“You had dinner with Hart Steiner,” Avery’s voice rose with unfiltered surprise, “How the hell did that one happen?”
“Well a lot’s been going on since you’ve been out of town and Hart and I, well we’re kind of, well…we’re kind of…” Jenna shifted on the couch nervously.
“You’re seeing him,” Avery couldn’t help but gasp, “Jenna, how in the world did this…I mean when…”
“I don’t know,” Jenna twisted her fingers over the mug she was holding, “but it just sort of happened and now that we’ve spent some time together I’ve been seeing this whole new side of him there and it’s really…well it’s like he’s a completely different man than the one I took him to be back when I was dealing with Patrick.  I mean if you would‘ve seen some of the things he‘s done since then and now with everything that‘s happening with my parents…”
“Sounds like Hart was just what you needed,” Avery offered up making a strange face as she wrinkled her nose at her words, “Did I just say that?”
“Yes, you did,” Jenna chuckled with mild amusement, “and believe me I’ve been thinking the same thing since this all started between Hart and I, but it’s like…I don’t know there’s just something about him.  I mean he’s always been this arrogant, demanding, needs to always be right, pain in the butt, but lately, well I’ve just seen a whole different side of him,” Jenna’s grin expanded to a mysterious look that made Avery wonder, “so many different sides actually.”
“Oh boy,” Avery sat up straighter now more curious than ever as she leaned in towards her friend, “Jen, I want details.  Spill it girl.”
“What,” Jenna shrugged her shoulders innocently, “Avery, there’s nothing really to tell.”
“Like hell there isn’t,” Avery waved her hand in the air urging Jenna on, “I want to know all about those sides of Hart you’ve been witness to as it sounds like you’ve gotten up close and personal with him on a whole new level there…”
“Oh no,” Jenna shook her head in refusal, “we’re so not getting into this as I’m not about to spill the secrets of my sex life with you.”
“Oh why not,” Avery insisted eagerly, “I mean it’s not like you haven’t had to listen to the tales of my time with Russ and you got to unwillingly live vicariously through some of what we’ve been through.”
“That’s exactly why I’m sparing you the details as I know what it’s like to hear all the tales of your intimate moments,” Jenna couldn’t help but tease her.
“So you’re saying you’d really rather I not share those things with you,” Avery reached for a throw pillow bringing it up over her lap as she shrugged her shoulders, “well, I guess I can stop telling you about those things then if…”
“Oh girl, you know I’m just messing with you,” Jenna threw her pillow at Avery, “as you know I’m well aware that Russ is a stud with that writer’s imagination of his.  It’s a wonder that he hasn’t chronicled your love making sessions and made millions upon it…”
“So you’re saying that Hart should stick to keeping his briefs private,” Avery lifted an introspective brow unable to contain the giggle that carried over her as Jenna’s eyes lit up with some secrets just waiting to be told to her best friend.
“Oh believe me, I’m feeling very fortunate that Hart hasn’t kept what’s in his briefs as private as you’re thinking where I’m concerned, but there’s this issue with timing as…” Jenna started to divulge as Avery clasped her hand over her mouth in shock.
“Don’t tell me that he’s got stamina issues there because I would‘ve thought a guy like that would…,” Avery threw out at her.
“Oh heaven’s no.  It’s not that…at least I don’t think that’s the case as it’s more so an issue of circumstances getting in the way for us as there’s been one crisis after another for us so we haven’t actually had the time to get to the other kinds of connections there,” Jenna’s grin expanded doubly as a sigh spilled over her lips, “though judging by the sneak preview I’ve had, well I have to say that when the timing is right, I’m going to be in for quite an experience.”
“Oh you go girl,” Avery cheered her on, “I’m so glad to see you’re finally moving past that Patrick nonsense as that guy was such a loser.”
“Oh you’re telling me,” Jenna groaned sinking her head back into the couch, “as I have no idea what I saw in him.”
“I think you just forgot to wear your contacts on the day you met him,” Avery teased with a knowing wink as the two of them bubbled over with laughter.
“I’d just like to chalk it up to a moment of temporary insanity or a case going far too long without the right man‘s attention,” Jenna continued her laughter growing.
“Yeah well I can understand that one, though with Russ around,” Avery grinned wildly, “well I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for me as he’s so got it going on in more ways than you can imagine.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask seeing as I already know Russ has been dubbed Super Stud,” Jenna chuckled in the moment savoring the lightness of their time with one Avery as Russell walked in through the front door.
“Oh look it‘s my Super S….husband,” Avery perked up as she turned to the door seeing her husband standing before them watching them with obvious interest, “hey baby.  Come on in.”
“What’s going on here,” Russell approached the two of them giving them a strange look as both of the women continued to laugh with one another not answering his question as he saw the tears that spilled down Jenna’s cheeks with her laughter and a pensive expression crossed over his features, “Okay, I’m obviously missing something here, aren’t I?” he paused listening to the sounds of their laughter strengthen with each passing second, “You were talking about me, weren’t you?”
“Just a little bit,” Avery pinched her fingers out in the air towards him before shifting on the sofa to her knees as she outstretched her arms at him, “but it was only good things on our end.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it was,” he shook his head at her leaning down to collect her lips in a quick kiss before he slipped around the side of the couch pulling Avery into his arms before he plopped down on the cushion with Avery in his lap as he held her, “So Jen, how’s it going?”
“It’s going,” Jenna wiped at her tears as she watched him closely, “and you?  How’s it hanging?” she barely was able to get out as Avery erupted into laughter once again.
“Ah I get it,” Russell turned to Avery, “I know what you two were talking about here and I’m sure it had everything to do with why you were late getting ready this morning, didn’t it,” he paused eyeing Jenna once again, “but hey I swear to you this morning was all Avery not me…”
“Oh you’re such a liar,” she swatted at his chest, “as you know this morning was all you and I had nothing to do with…” he cut her off with another quick kiss before Avery touched his cheek gently, “besides I never told Jenna about this morning.”
“It looks like it’s a little late to keep it to yourselves now,” Jenna half groaned unable to contain the laugh that bubbled up inside of her, “but I swear if you two are going to start making out on the couch right now, then I’m out of here.”
“I’d hate to see you go Jen, but I’ve missed my beautiful wife,” Russell stole another kiss from Avery, “and I just can’t help myself when she’s near me.”
“Well try to,” Avery swatted at his chest playfully, “because Jenna and I are trying to have a conversation here.”
“About what?” Russell inquired lifting a curious brow.
“Jenna’s got a new man in her life,” Avery piped in with a knowing grin.
“Really?” Russell faced Jenna once again, “Who’s the lucky guy?”
“Avery, you weren’t supposed to say anything there just yet,” Jenna hissed under her breath.
“Oh right.  Jen I’m sorry I just…well,” Avery patted Russell’s chest, “Baby, forget I told you that.  Just hit delete in your memory as it’s confidential information at this point.”
“Confidential information,” he repeated with mild laughter, “In other words it’s girl talk?”
“That’s right and you’re not a part of it,” Avery nodded in confession, “so why don’t you find something to do while we finish up in here?”
“Hey now, if you can talk about me, then I most certainly can be here to defend myself,” Russell began to argue with them.
“Oh he can stay,” Jenna decided with a grin, “as I was curious to ask him a few things there along the way or you know maybe we can take a trip down memory lane back to the time when we were in gym class back when he was one of the smallest guys in school and…”
“Alright I’m going,” Russell threw his hands up in the air trying to wiggle his way out from beneath Avery as she pressed her palm into the center of his chest.
“No, don’t go.  I think I’d rather you stick around for this memory as I don’t mind it at all,” Avery motioned to Jenna, “Why don’t you go ahead with this one?”
“How about we skip that topic of conversation and I just tell you both about the strange day I’ve been having as I feel like I‘m in an episode of the Twilight Zone,” Russell suggested interrupting his wife.
“Not because of us, right?” Avery questioned with wide eyes.
“No, not because of you,” he tapped her nose gently, “but more so because of my brother.”
“Hmm, sounds like it might be interesting,” Jenna noted with a nod, “The floor is all yours Russell.”
“Well, I went to see Grady after he called as you know,” Russell began to explain.
“Right which I hope turned out better than you imagined since well I take it as a good sign that you’re not in jail for hurting him,” Avery offered up with a hint of teasing in her tone.
“Actually things went exceedingly well,” Russell confessed openly, “more than I’d ever imagined they would.”
“Really?” Avery’s eyes widened in response, “You’re serious on this?”
“That’s right,” he nodded, “Grady said he’d like to mend the fences between the both of you and he’s invited us out to dinner with him and Jade.”
“No,” Avery breathed in disbelief, “not Grady.”
“I’m so serious on this one.  It shocked the hell out of me too, but he’s sincere,” he admitted thinking to the exchange with his brother, “I really think that he’s coming around.”
“Wow, I think I’m impressed since Grady’s always had a chip on his shoulder,” Avery added taking in Russell’s words.
“Well maybe he’s growing up,” Jenna offered up in the conversation, “as you know it’s possible.”
“Yeah well with Grady I was starting to doubt that one,” Avery admitted openly.
“You and me both baby, but he’s really serious about this as he was just telling me that…” Russell began as the doorbell rang interrupting their conversation.
“Expecting company,” Jenna inquired lifting a curious brow.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Avery shook her head in response, “Russ, you didn’t invite Grady over or bring him home with you, did you?”
“And chance your kicking my butt for springing that kind of surprise on you,” he quickly replied, “I’m not that crazy.”
“Good man,” Avery patted him on the shoulder supportively as Jenna rose up from the couch.
“I’ll get it since you two look comfortable at the moment,” Jenna teased walking away from them as Russell nudged Avery once again.
“So tell me who Jenna’s mystery man is,” he whispered over her neck.
“Not a chance,” Avery replied giving him a firm look, “I already told you it’s confidential.”
“Confidential or not, I think you can share it with your husband.  What do you think?” he breathed over her skin.
“Nope, I’m not doing it,” she insisted firmly.
“How about for a kiss,” he suggested capturing her lips in a slow, tantalizing tease over her mouth.
“Mmmm…baby that was nice, but not even a kiss is going to get the news out of me,” Avery reminded him with a grin as Jenna’s gasp captured her attention.
“Avery, I don’t believe this.  Check this out,” Jenna waved at her friend as a delivery man stepped into the living room carrying a bouquet of at least five dozen red roses.
“Where would you like these Miss,” the delivery man questioned as Avery rose up from the sofa watching as the man crossed the room followed by another man carrying an equally impressive bouquet followed by yet another and another.
“What the…” Russ stood upright watching the men make their way through his living room as there were at least thirty dozen roses now surrounding their home at the moment while the men continued to drop off the flowers.
“Russ, this is….” Avery’s jaw dropped as she reached out to touch one of the red roses before her.  She turned around to face him unable to contain her surprise, “I can’t believe you did this.  They’re so beautiful.”
“They are beautiful, but I didn’t do this,” Russell’s jaw clenched with concern as he stepped aside capturing one of the delivery men in the process of the transport of the flowers.
“There has to be at least thirty five dozen flowers here,” Jenna exclaimed shocked by what was happening as another round of flowers came in.
“Actually there are a hundred dozen here,” the delivery man Russell stopped moments earlier explained, “as the order was for a hundred dozen and no less.  It’s our biggest in home delivery…”
“And who placed the order,” Russell inquired watching Jenna lifted a card up from one of the bouquets tearing open the envelope and scanning over the card before her jaw dropped in surprise.
“I don’t believe this,” Jenna gulped as Russell reached out to swipe the card from Jenna’s hands
“Jenna…” Avery began in confusion.
“Let me take a look at this,” Russell insisted reading the card aloud, “They say that flowers are the ultimate form of expression and in a moment like this, I find myself wanting to express a sentiment that only you could truly understand and appreciate after the time we’ve spent growing closer over the past few months.  While I realize there’s been some tension between us, I wanted to apologize for my actions that last time we were together and I was hoping to give you a smile after the tears that you’ve cried.  While I firmly believe that a garden of the most beautiful roses in the world suffer in comparison to the beauty that you are Avery, I wanted to give you something that could remind you of the things in the world that make it all worthwhile.  Love, Brant.”
 Avery’s eyes widened in horror as she saw the way Russell’s face drained of color as he crumpled up the card in his hand.  She reached out to her husband touching his arm as she could feel the anger surging through him, “Russ…”
“Stop with the flowers,” he warned one of the delivery guys as he stood in the doorway, “We don’t want them.  Just take them out of here.”
“Russ, come on.  They’re just flowers,” Avery started seeing his eyes narrow with anger.
“This isn’t about the flowers,” he answered with a hiss, “it’s about what Brant’s trying to do and I’m not going to let him get away with it,” he finished reaching for his jacket as Avery chased after him.
“Russ, don’t go doing something stupid as this was just his way of apologizing as you know Brant likes to do things on an outrageous level sometimes…” Avery tried to reason with him.
“Outrageous or not, he’s not going to be doing things like this as you’re my wife not his and it’s time I set him straight on things Avery as this can’t continue,” he announced breaking away from her and storming out into the front yard as Jenna and Avery exchanged worried glances as and Avery started towards the door as she heard the squeal of Russell’s tires speeding off down the driveway.
“Oh God,” Avery began fearing the worst as her husband was clearly in a frenzy.  “Jenna, he’s going to kill Brant if we don’t get to him first…”
“Come on,” Jenna handed Avery her coat, “Let’s go stop Russ from doing something really stupid,” she offered up as she and Avery rushed out of the Denton home wondering just what Russell would do at a time like this.


Brant kept his eyes on the mirror before him as he worked on his latest set of repetitions in the Ashford gym.  Continuing with his arm curls, he closed his eyes for the briefest of moments envisioning the look on Avery’s face when she received the gift he’d sent her way.  A smile swept over his features as he continued with his weights indulging himself in the moment as he heard footsteps from behind him.
“Brant, there you are,” he opened his eyes surprised to see Avery standing before him clad in a very tiny skirt and red sweater as she eyed him intently watching as he set his weights down once again, “We need to talk.”
“I figured you might think that,” he stretched out a bit on the workout bench beneath him as his dark eyes perused her legs.  “What’s on your mind?”
“You shouldn’t have done what you did,” she explained bringing her hand up over her chest as her finger followed the low neckline of her loose fitting sweater, “You shouldn’t have sent those flowers to me.”
“I wanted to,” Brant answered simply as rested the weight of his body on his elbows, “as you deserved them.”
“Brant, you can’t keep doing this to me like you do,” she stepped towards him, her dark eyes desperate and confused as her gaze dropped over his naked chest, “You shouldn’t have…”
“Yes, I should’ve,” he sat upright curling his arm out towards her to pull her in closer to him as he sat on the edge of his work bench, “because the truth is that I can’t stop thinking about you and if you really look inside yourself, you’ll see that you can’t stop thinking about me either.”
“Brant, I really wish you hadn’t as Russ…” she began to protest as he rose up to his feet, drawing her into his arms, up against his muscled chest as his eyes penetrated her.
“To hell with Russell,” Brant blurted out claiming her mouth in an eager kiss ready to dive into the world of passion he’d denied himself with Avery as he stole her breath away.  His fingers danced over her spine up underneath her sweater as her eyelashes fluttered in the tiniest hint of protest before he eased her sweater up over her body discarding it on the gym room floor.
“Brant, we shouldn’t be doing this,” Avery’s breath escaped her plump, parted lips as Brant sank back onto the workout bench bringing her up over him as his fingers slipped into her hair urging her to keep touching him.  Her hands curled over his shoulders, down his arms as he unhooked her bra feeling the free, untamed smoothness of her creamy flesh as his tongue teased hers.
“Don’t fight us Avery,” Brant pleaded with her feeling her mouth leave his as she began to drop kisses over his chest, down across his abdomen leading to his…
“There you are,” Shannon blurted out bringing his fantasy to an abrupt end like an icy blast of water as Brant reopened his eyes looking up to find the female agent hovering over him standing beside his workout bench with a less than savory expression as Brant lay on his back staring up at her like a blubbering idiot now that she’s wrecked a perfectly good daydream.
Reaching for the towel he’d had hanging beside him, Brant wrapped it around his neck as he sat up with a huff glaring at her, “Who the hell let you in here?”
“Look I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here,” Shannon growled back at him, “as clearly I have better things to do with my time than waste it speaking with you, so let’s just cut to the chase and you tell me what I need to know so that I can get the hell out of here.”
“How about you just do me the favor and leave now so that we can skip whatever song and dance you have planned for me as I’m truly not in the mood Shannon,” Brant huffed back at her, “as you’re lucky that I haven’t sued your ass yet for what you tried to do to me at the airport--which by the way isn’t completely out of the question at this point either.  Once Avery gets the time, I’m thinking that she and I can work up a nice lawsuit against you and the other idiots you have working with you.”
“Gee, should I feel threatened Brant,” Shannon challenged folding her arms in front of her chest, “as the way I see it, Avery’s probably very busy with her husband and enjoying their newlywed status together.”
“Blow me Shannon,” Brant rose from the bench pushing his way past her as a scowl built upon his features, “If you have anything you’d like to ask me, you can either arrest me and I’ll have my lawyers make sure that you don’t work another day in the law enforcement field or you can get lost seeing as I’m not really interested in whatever it is you have to say.”
“Well maybe your tune will change when I tell you that your gardener was slain on your property down on the island,” she shot back at him watching as he started towards the door.  Seeing that she’d caught his attention, she continued on, “I’d think that the Bureau would find it rather interesting that Christian Fowler’s decomposing corpse was found on your beach front mansion with his heart ripped out of his chest which incidentally that same heart showed up at Avery’s honeymoon suite I do believe.”
“Your point Shannon,” Brant glared back at her tugging at the ends of his towel as their eyes connected.
“My point is that Avery’s husband already thinks you’re guilty as sin, so I could easily take you down to the station on that alone considering what happened at the airport the other day,” Shannon stepped in towards him.
“You know that’s a load of bull and if you even tried to take me to the station for that, I’d have your head on a platter,” he reciprocated her movement taking another step in towards her, “as I’d have your badge ripped away from you within a blink of an eye.”
“You really think you have that much power over the world Brant,” she chuckled in mild amusement, “Oh how delusional you truly are.”
“You’re the delusional one if you think you can just barge in here and demand what you want out of me as I don’t work that way Shannon,” Brant insisted keeping his eyes on her as his fingers curled around the towel tighter.
“Oh I know how you work Brant and we can play it your way if you like,” she scowled in response as she moved in closer to him, “as I’m not above playing rough here.”
“You don’t have the balls for something like that and we both know it,” Brant threw back at her.
“Brant, you know full well that I more than have the balls to teach you a thing or two about your attitude,” Shannon glared at him clenching her fists at her side, “and if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll show you just how far I’m willing to push you in order to get the answers I’m looking for.”
“I’m not in the mood for it Shannon,” Brant’s jaw clenched as they were practically nose to nose with one another, “Take it somewhere else as I want you gone.  I trust that we understand one another?”
“More than you‘re willing to admit,” Shannon reached out to him watching as he began to turn away from her.  Using the force she’d gathered over the years in her line of duty, she bent his arm behind his back pushing him face first into the mirrored wall before her as he let out a tiny groan upon impact with the mirror.  She shoved at him again pressing her body up against his as her voice shifted to a hoard whisper, “Do you still believe I’m just messing with you now, Brant?”
“I think you’re moving yourself into dangerous territory,” Brant hissed at her tilting his head back over his shoulder to look at her seeing the animosity burning behind her eyes as her fingers tapered up into his hair tugging on it roughly as she pulled his head backwards just a bit as their eyes connected and his lip curled into a twisted expression.  “I hope you realize what you’re doing here.”
“I know exactly what I’m doing,” Shannon insisted with a wicked smirk unable to resist the moment as she felt him attempt to shift his body out of the hold she had on him.  She shoved him into the mirror once again pushing her body up against his fully as she tipped up on her toes meet his tortured gaze.  She released his hair watching as his head dropped forward into the mirror as she crushed herself against him pushing once again, “Think I’m playing now Brant?”
“Oh now I know you are,” he spun around curling his arm around her waist as his mouth collided with hers in a heated display of rage and passion as Shannon nearly leapt into his arms, clenching her legs around his waist as Brant stammered on his feet stumbling forward onto the workout bench as Shannon used her weight to send him down upon it back first as she hovered over him.
“You’ve needed to learn a lesson for a long time,” she hissed at him scratching her nails down his chest.
“And you think you’re going to be the one to teach me it,” he questioned in a tight whisper as his eyes penetrated hers.
“I know I am,” she promised before her fingers fanned out over his arms, clasping his wrists as she pulled them up over his head.  With a quick jerking motion, she tore the towel he’d had around his neck away from him, using it to bind his wrists to the bar just over his head as Brant writhed beneath her.
“Shannon…” Brant started to speak as she lashed out at him striking his chest forcefully once she’d secured him down beneath her.
“Shut up Brant,” Shannon bent down savagely claiming his mouth once again.
She tore at her own blouse ready to just give in to this desperate fury inside of her that had been eating at all common sense from the moment she’d gotten back into town.  Sure, she’d probably hate herself when everything was all said and done, but when she’d walked in and witnessed Brant laying on this very bench, half naked and clearly aroused, well she couldn’t help but think of all the ways she’d like to kick him into line for all the times he’d driven her mad, but now as his rock hard body burned like fire beneath her, she realized that she’d much rather deal with her impulses in a more productive way such as this.
Biting on his lower lip, Shannon tugged on the sensitive flesh for a brief moment before pushing herself up off of Brant just enough to tear her shirt from her body before her lips returned to his mouth.  She kissed him long and hard like she’d done in the past, but this time, well she was bound to call the shots as she was going to show Brant the thing he’d been missing the most since they’d parted ways.  So he thought he could dump her for a twit like Heather Gibbons and not miss what they had, well that was about to change now that his latest conquest married another man, she decided tearing his gym shorts from his body as Brant bucked up against her.
“Shannon…” he spoke her name desperately straining against the knotted towel she’d tied around his wrists.  He seemed to be trying to get loose of the hold she’d put him in, but she knew it would take more effort than he’d hoped for to get out of that little knot she’d cooked up as he continued to shift beneath her, “Shannon, I don’t think we should be…”
“Don’t think Brant,” Shannon smacked at his chest once again before her hand squeezed at his face, “as it was never one of your strong traits there,” she finished slapping his cheek and watching the rage flicker in his eyes as her mouth moved in over his chest taking her time to trace over the curves of his body as he let out a low moan.  Taking his body’s encouragement, she dipped her hand down over him, curling her palm around his straining masculinity as she stroked and teased him with solid strokes.
“So you thought you could forget me huh,” Shannon taunted trailing her tongue over his body before she released her hold on him fanning her fingers over his thighs as she eyed his tortured length.
“Shannon,” he spoke her name in a heated gasp of air as she whispered over his body.
“That’s right Brant.  I always loved to hear you beg,” she replied with unmasked delight as she took him between her parted lips, tasting his length as his body involuntarily arched up towards her eager mouth.
“Oh God,” Brant gulped unable to contain the rapids of pleasure surging through him as Shannon continued to torture him mercilessly with her very talented mouth, but before Brant could give any rational or real thought to the things happening between the both of them, there was an explosion calling him back to the world around him as he turned his eyes towards the source of the sound seeing a very agitated Russell Denton standing before him.
“Just where the hell do you think you get off…” Russell shouted out ready to launch a verbal attack at Brant as his eyes fell upon the scene unfolding before him and his jaw dropped in shock as he could quite clearly see the blonde woman over Brant servicing him.
“What are you doing here Denton,” Brant demanded struggling to keep his composure as Shannon tore herself away from him turning her eyes to Russell as a look of horror crossed over her features.
“So this is why your cronies are staking out my home,” Russell lashed out at Shannon thinking about the men watching him and Avery, “This is what it’s all about.  You and this sick son of a bitch are working together to try to destroy my marriage, aren’t you?  Well I’ve got news for the both of you.  It isn’t going to happen.”
“Denton, this isn’t what you’re thinking,” Brant began uneasily as he lay exposed to Russell as Shannon quickly began to search for her blouse.  “Then again you have no business being here.”
“The hell I don’t.  When you think you can send my wife something like what you sent her this morning, don’t think for a second that I don’t have a right to come in here and kick your ass especially when I see that you’ve had the FBI in your pocket all this time,” Russell’s voice grew with rage, “but don’t think for a second that I’m going to let you turn my wife into one of your little playthings because it’s not going to happen.  Do you hear me Brant?  My wife is never going to be yours.”
“I think you should calm down,” Shannon broke her silence seeing that things were going to get out of hand as she started to slip into her blouse, “I’m sure whatever is going on with you and Brant can be dealt with in a more reasonable...”
“Oh would you just shut up,” Russell spat out in disgust at Shannon, “I hope you know that while you’re sitting here playing his concubine that he’s lusting after my wife.  He’s doing whatever it takes to make her his and I’m here to tell him that it ends now.”
“You don’t know the first thing about my relationship with Avery, as she and I…” Brant began to defend himself.
“You don’t have a relationship with my wife and the sooner you get that into your head…” Russell started in a fury.
“What you think you know about Avery and I and what you actually do know are two very different…” Brant paused feeling his anger rising with the moment as he turned to Shannon, “Untie me Shannon.”
“Brant, I don’t know if…” Shannon started contemplating with the thoughts of leaving him to face Russell’s wrath as she contemplated Russell’s willingness to keep his silence about the moment of stupidity that had passed through her if she’d kept Brant at this certain disadvantage, but as her conscience got the best of her, she quickly reached out to untie Brant allowing him a chance to reclaim a bit of his dignity as she was certain she’d lost every last shred of hers over the last few minutes with Brant.
“Look Denton, you can’t just bust into my home and tell me how to run my life.  Nor can you keep me away from Avery,” Brant declared pulling his shorts back up over his body as he charged at Russell.
“The hell I can’t,” Russell shoved Brant back into one of the mirrors with such force it began to shatter behind Brant as Avery rushed into the room crying out as she grabbed Russell’s arm before he could throw another punch at Brant.
“Russ, no,” Avery pleaded with him fighting with every ounce of strength that she had inside of her to keep her husband from beating the life out of Brant Ashford, “Russ please…”
“He’s not going to keep sending you things and trying to tear us apart as I’m not going to put up with it,” Russell roared with anger as he moved towards Brant once again ready to lunge at him as Avery pushed herself between the two men.
“Russ, this isn’t going to do anything, but make things worse,” Avery began desperately seeing the mess Russell had made of the mirrored wall as Brant began to move away from it.  She turned her attention to Brant as she saw the first hint of blood coming out over a thin line on his back reflected in the cracked mirror.
“I’m not going to sit back and just let him make a play for you Avery,” Russell announced stubbornly, “as I’ve waited too long to have some sense of normalcy with you in our lives.  This is going to end.”
“Not like this it isn’t,” Avery shook her head at Russell, her fury exploding inside of her as she lashed out at her husband. “You had no right to do something like this Russ.  You were out of line.”
“I’m out of line,” Russell’s voice expanded with the moment, “Avery, him sending you a hundred dozen roses is out of line.”
“Violence shouldn’t be the first answer to something like this.  Oh God.  Brant, are you alright?  Russ, how could you do something like this,” Avery questioned in horror as she touched Brant’s arm trying to take a look at the scratches that were over his body.
“I’ll be fine,” Brant tried to assure her placing his arm on her shoulder as Russell stepped forward shoving Brant away from Avery.
“Get off my wife,” Russell growled at him, “Don’t you dare touch her!”
“Russ, stop it,” Avery hissed at him with a mixture of anger and embarrassment, “Haven’t you done enough?”
“Those scratches have nothing to do with me and everything to do with her as they were going at it when I came in here,” Russell defended his position as Avery’s eyes fell upon Shannon noticing her for the first time as Shannon’s blouse remained half opened and almost immediately Avery released Brant taking a step away from him.
“Avery, it’s not what it looks like,” Brant began to explain to her as he reached for her arm, “I know that it seems like….”
“I don’t care what it seems like,” Avery’s eyes darkened with something Brant couldn’t quite place as she pulled away from him, “Your life is your own Brant and I don’t care what you do with it.  If you want to go slumming with her, then that’s your business, but please stop trying to find ways to upset my marriage.”

“Avery, that’s not what I was trying to do,” Brant pleaded with her, “and Shannon and I weren’t doing anything even remotely close to what Russell is implying as…”

“Brant, I don’t care.  You are well within your rights to make yet another mistake with someone like her…” Avery started with a disgusted expression fighting the emotions building up inside of her as she thought to some of the things Caitlin had told her about Brant and his time on the island after she‘d left him, “as I’d hoped you’d move on with your life.  It’s good that you’re doing that even if you continue to use poor judgment with the women you’re spending time with.”
“Listen you,” Shannon stepped forward a bitter expression crossing over her features, “I can have both you and your husband thrown in jail for this intrusion.”
“I’d like to see you try bitch,” Avery challenged her feeling the fighting words pouring out of her as she stepped up to Shannon, “as I’m sick of you and all your little efforts to make my life miserable.  First you want to charge me with murder and now you just sit back and let some lunatic roam free because you couldn’t do your job right in the first place.  You had no right to send your idiot co-workers to spy on me and if you don’t get them off my property like pronto, I swear to you I’ll have your head on a platter.”
“Don’t think you can threaten me as I’ve spent my time trying to save your ass Avery,” Shannon hissed in response stepping up to her in the moment.
“Saving my ass?  By letting a madman loose to try to kill me and my husband on my honeymoon?” Avery repeated with a haughty laugh, “You know come to think of it that makes complete sense considering you’ve done nothing to help me since you’ve rolled into town in a rage.  You say this was about helping me and doing your job, but when it gets down to it, you weren’t concerned with saving me at all as it was more like you were working on eliminating the competition so that you could have Brant all to yourself again.   Isn’t that right?”
“What Brant and I are doing is none of your business because as your husband said before you‘re a married woman now so Brant doesn’t need to be concerned with you anymore Avery,” Shannon stood taller enraged with Avery’s accusations as Avery challenged her.
“Maybe not, but that’s not enough for you, is it Shannon?  You’d rather see me laid out in the morgue just to be sure that you won’t have to worry about anyone else getting in the way of what you want and while you think your little theory to take me from this world without your having to lift a finger to make it happen works here, I sure as hell don’t need any of you mucking up my life anymore than you have already as I‘m on to you Shannon and I‘ve got news for you.  It‘s not going to happen,” Avery cursed in response throwing her fist out and punching Shannon unexpectedly as Shannon stammered backward a bit before her anger overtook her and she charged at Avery.
“Shannon don’t,” Brant caught her mid-movement as Shannon’s limbs went flailing wildly with the moment.
“She’s so going down for that,” Shannon sneered at Avery her voice vibrating through the gym, “I’m going to throw your little butt in jail for the rest of your life for that one…”
“I’d like to see you try,” Avery challenged with a huff.
“Screw jail, I’m going to do Harold Abrams the favor and just kill you right now,” Shannon pushed and jolted in Brant’s arms as he fought to contain her.
“Shannon, stop it!  She’s pregnant,” Brant reminded her harshly as his words fell upon deaf ears.
“None of that matters as she’s going to be a dead woman in a few seconds,” Shannon seethed with animosity.
“And you can kiss your career good-bye if you keep this up as I swear to you, I‘ll give you something to really get worked up about,” Avery vowed as her dark eyes fell upon Brant once again and she found herself at a loss of things to say as he struggled with Shannon.
“Avery, let’s go home,” Russell touched her shoulder gently as she spun on her heel pushing his hand off of her.
“Don’t you even think about touching me,” Avery hissed at him stomping towards the doorway as Brant called out to her.
“Avery,” Brant pleaded with her feeling Shannon calm down a bit as Avery cast a glance over her shoulder at him one last time.
“Just don’t,” Avery warned sharply marching out of the Ashford gym as Russell and Brant exchanged quick looks with one another.
“Stay the hell away from my wife from here on out,” Russell warned sharply chasing off after Avery as Brant finally released Shannon once the two of them were alone again.
“You know, you’re a real jerk,” Shannon sneered at Brant finishing up with her blouse as she wanted to kick herself for even thinking about starting something physical with Brant once again knowing full well the kind of chaos the man seemed to collect.
“Oh would you just put a sock in it,” he shook his head at her starting towards the door as she grabbed his arm preventing him from leaving.
“Just where do you think you’re going,” Shannon demanded tugging him back towards her as her anger spilled over her now stinging features after the pot shot Avery took at her.
“I have to go talk to Avery.  I have to explain what was going on.  I need her to know that this is just a mistake.  You know if you wouldn‘t have gotten all hot and bothered around me like you always seem to do when we‘re alone, then none of this would‘ve happened here, but no you couldn‘t control yourself and now…” Brant began desperate to find a way to reach out to Avery as Shannon glared at him.
“You repulse me,” she declared unable to contain herself as she realized that once again Brant had found a way to tear up her life and make things worse than she’d ever anticipated as she was certain once the news about her near romp with Brant came out in the open, her career would be ruined and knowing the kind of person Avery Morrison-Denton was, she realized that she was in for more trouble than she ever imagined and in that instant, she realized that she needed to lash out at someone--needed to deal with the anger that had bowled over her and as Brant opened his mouth to argue with her, she let loose on him punching him right square across the face and sending flat on his back onto the floor out cold with that one blow.
“This was a huge mistake,” she whispered to herself shaking her head in disgust as she finished buttoning up her blouse before giving Brant one last contemplative look before heading out of the Ashford gym.
“What in the world is going on,” the cook questioned coming out of the kitchen as Shannon breezed past him casually.
“You might want to call for an ambulance as it seems Mr. Ashford has had an accident in the weight room,” she threw out moving forward and out of the Ashford mansion leaving Brant to deal with this situation on his own as suddenly all she could think of was finding her way to the quickest way to forget this latest mistake in her life.


Blake stepped off the elevator on the floor with the ICU and stepped into the unit. She entered the waiting room and spotted Zack sitting by himself. She stepped inside and spoke softly, “Zack?”

Zack looked up and spotted her immediately, “Blake, why are you here?”

“I’m here because Caitlin is my best friend,” She began softly as she crossed the room and sat down beside him, “And because I love you, and I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“No, you don’t,” He replied, “All you want to do is come here and try to push your way in despite my wishes that you leave.”

“I know you’re upset, Zack, but I’m just here to show my support for you,” She reasoned as she placed her hand upon his arm, “Zack, come on. You know that I’m not here to cause any harm. I just want to see my best friend, to talk to her, to try to give her a reason to come back to us.”

“She has plenty of support from her family,” He stood and stepped across the room, “Why don’t you just leave, Blake? I asked you to go.”

“It’s not what you really want,” Blake stood in response.

“I think he knows exactly what he really wants,” Johanna said as she stepped into the waiting room with a bag of takeout from Irvan’s in hand, “He’s asked you to leave. So just leave.”

“Who do you think you are?” Blake demanded angrily, “Zack, I tried to get this reporter to leave earlier, but apparently she just doesn’t learn.”

Johanna rolled her eyes as she crossed the room to Zack, “Actually, I don’t think she understands that I’m not here to do any kind of story on you and your family,” She placed the bag of food on an end table before she placed her hands upon his arm, “Are your parents still in with Caitlin?”

“Yeah,” Zack nodded as he looked back to Blake, “Blake, this is Johanna Larsen. Jo, this is Blake Ashford.”

“Yes, we met downstairs. She said that you’re the man she loves,” Johanna informed him.

“She sure has a strange way of showing it,” Zack placed his hand upon Jo’s on his arm, “Blake, Jo and I were involved in Seattle for over a year actually. I guess you could say we’re still very close.”

Blake felt as if her world had been shattered once again. She secured her purse strap over her shoulder as she moved towards the door, “Sadly enough, Caitlin warned me about getting involved with you. I should have listened to her,” Blake declared as she rushed out of the ICU and down the hallway to get out of the hospital. She had to get as far away from Zack as possible. She couldn’t do this again. She couldn’t have her heart shattered with no where to run.

As she stepped off the elevator on the ground floor, she collided with the very broad chest of a man. She looked up and noticed Seth immediately, “Seth…oh Seth…” She broke down in his arms.

Seth held her in his arms, “Blake? Oh Blake, is it Caitlin?”

“No,” She shook her head as she held onto him tightly, “No…I just…Just take me home, Seth. Please, just take me home.”

Seth agreed as he hugged her tightly in his arms, wondering what had upset Blake. Whatever it was, he knew it wasn’t good, and he could only hope that he could find a way to help her get past whatever had caused this heartbreak for her.


Douglas entered the hospital thinking about the potential progress he’d made with Dorothy in the visit he’d paid her.  While things in his life were tentative at best, maybe in starting over with her again, he’d find a way to make up for the mistakes he’d made in his life as it took times like these to get a man’s life in perspective.  Now as he thought about the day he’d spend at his son’s side, he felt a faint glimmer of hope for the future as he wondered if maybe just maybe he could find a way to recover the opportunities that had been seemingly lost over the years.
Making his way into Kipp’s room, Douglas vowed to stew in the realm of possibilities ahead of him instead of the thought of how horrible things had gone, but before Douglas could savor this first step towards victory his eyes fell upon the empty bed before him with a horror.
“Kipp,” he called out to his son realizing that his son was missing from the room as a panic rushed over him.  Searching the room for any signs of his son, he found himself on edge fearing that something horrible had happened as he rushed out into the hallway flagging down one of the nurses, “Where is my son?”
“Excuse me,” the nurse began in confusion as Douglas pulled her towards Kipp’s now empty room.
“What’s happened to my son,” his voice rose with fear and anger, “What did you do to him?”
“Sir, I don’t know where your son could be, but if you’d give me a moment,” the nurse explained stepping out of his hold as she threw an apologetic look in his direction, “I’ll be right back.”
“You’re not going anywhere until I find out what happened to my son,” Douglas demanded with a roar.
“I promise I’ll get you the answers you’re looking for in just a minute,” she promised walking off to go have a quick conversation with another nurse as Douglas eyed Kipp’s room wondering where his son could be as he hadn’t been gone that long.
“Sir,” another nurse approached Douglas as her eyes filled with a sense of concern, “Beth said that there is some kind of confusion about where your son is…”
“I left him in here earlier and if there was any kind of change in his condition…” he paused as a thought dawned in upon him, “Has there been a change?  Did my son wake up?”
“Sir, we just assumed that you’d known where your son was as you’d signed the release papers earlier this morning,” she began to explain.
“I did no such thing.  I haven’t heard any word on any changes in my son’s condition and I was told that if there was anything…anything at all that changed, that I would be the first to know.”
“Well according to these you were,” she motioned to the page before her, “as you were the one who put in the request for a transfer.”
“Let me see those,” he swiped the clipboard out of her hand skimming the page as she continued to speak to him.
“It said that Kipp’s legal guardian,” she pointed to the signature on the page, “Douglas Mahoney which is you cleared the transfer this morning.”
“I did no such thing,” Douglas threw the clipboard back at her, “and I demand to know where my son is.  What have you done with him?”
“Only what you’ve asked,” the nurse stammered a bit, “as we were told that this was very urgent that we were unaware of his new location as it was imperative to his recovery that very few had this knowledge.  This was your orders…”
“The hell they were,” Douglas sneered in response, “and if you don’t find a way to tell me where my son is right this instant, then I swear to you there’s going to be hell to pay,” Douglas vowed realizing that someone was playing a dark and dangerous game as in taking his son away from him, they’d opened up a door for trouble and when he got his hands on the responsible parties, they’d regret the day that they messed with his family.  That much he was sure of.

...to be continued...