He walked over to Julia Vaughn as she rested her eyes, leaning back slightly in her chair. He smiled slightly as he placed the bags in a nearby chair before he lightly touched Julia’s arm, “Mrs. Vaughn?”
“Kenneth,” Julia replied as she opened her eyes and smiled in welcome, “I was hoping Zack hadn’t run you off for good.”
“No, I just figured that he probably needed some time. I can understand where he’s coming from. A brother’s love tends to be a little overwhelming when a sibling is in crisis,” He reasoned as he sat down across from her, “How is Caitlin?”
“She’s improving with every moment, but she still hasn’t regained consciousness. We’ve all spent time with her, but it’s so disheartening to see her lying there when she won’t open her eyes,” She frowned, “I was hoping that maybe we could give her something to come back to, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
“Can I go in to see her?” Ken asked as he looked to meet Julia’s eyes, “I would never do anything to hurt her. All I want is to hold her hand, kiss her cheek, tell her that I love her,” He paused, “All I want to have her back with us.”
“I know that,” She assured him, “I can see it in your eyes, but Zack doesn’t think you’re to be trusted at all.”
“He’s upset with me because Caitlin and I had a disagreement about my brother. I’ll admit that I did act coldly towards her the last time I saw her, but I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I was actually trying to protect her from the chaos my family tends to inflict on people,” He sighed as he looked the carpet and felt his heart breaking as he thought of the last time he’d seen Caitlin.
“You’re blaming yourself for this, aren’t you?” She asked with confusion, “Kenneth, this had nothing to do with you.”
“In my head, I understand that. My heart is a little more reluctant to deal with logic,” He admitted as he paused as he looked to the floor, studying the threads as they weaved various patterns in the carpet, “Caitlin is the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. She’s such a paradox, and I find myself completely mesmerized by her.”
“A paradox?” Julia smiled, “That’s one word I wouldn’t have thought applied to Cait. So why do you think she’s a paradox?”
He smiled slightly, “Because when I met her, here was this bold reporter who pretty much chased me into an elevator to get her story,” He thought back to that first meeting as his smile grew, “She was fearless, and I really thought she was a total bundle of energy ready to take on the world. Then as I got to know her, I learned that she doesn’t want to conquer the world at all. She doesn’t mind fighting the good fight for other people, but when it comes down to her own well being,” He paused, “She’s much more reserved and not looking to push the boundaries at all.”
“It sounds like you know her pretty well,” She said softly almost in awe, “I always hoped that Cait would find a man who could see through all her layers and find the heart of who she is, and I think you’re that man,” She reached out to gently take his hand, “I think you should go in to see Caitlin. I think you’re what she needs.”
Ken looked to Julia with hope exploding within his eyes, “Are you serious? I don’t want to cause any trouble for your family, but Caitlin is a part of my family...” He paused, “No, that’s not exactly right. She’s a part of me.”
She smiled as she gave his hand a gentle squeeze, “And I think you’re a part of her. Come on,” She stood and motioned for him to do the same, “I’ll take you down to see her.”
Ken followed along with her with terrified anticipation. While seeing Caitlin was the most important thing in the world right now, he couldn’t help but worry how gruesome her injuries might be. Still, she would recover from those injuries if only someone could get through to her and remind her of the wonderful life ahead of her that she had to wake up to live.
“Are you sure we really should be doing this,” Avery questioned with
obvious hesitation in her voice as she tugged on Russell’s arm stopping
him from completing the walk up to Grady’s front porch. She took
in another breath turning her attention to the door before her as a tiny
shiver of nervousness flooded over her.
“Avery, it’s going to be okay,” Russell promised her reaching out to urge her to face him once again, “We can do this.”
“You’re right,” she nodded in response trying to keep up with his optimism, “We can make it through one night.”
“That’s right,” he agreed with a hint of a smile, “and then after, well we can go home and just unwind together.”
“I don’t think unwinding is truly what you have in mind, but well, I suppose that thought in itself is to keep me on my best behavior around your brother,” she couldn’t help but smile feeling him draw his arms around her waist as he leaned in towards her.
“That’s my girl,” Russell whispered dropping a quick kiss upon her lips before pulling away from her, “We can do this.”
“Of course we can,” Avery agreed watching him take a step up onto the porch before she reached out to touch his coat sleeved arm once again, “Russ wait…”
“What?” he questioned spinning around as she rose up onto the porch beside him.
“I turned off the coffee pot, right?” she asked trying to stall a few more seconds as she thought to the situation they were stepping into with Grady.
“No, you didn’t, but I did,” he assured her with a shake of his head, “Avery, everything is going to be okay.”
“Well, yes, but…what about Rusty,” she inquired lifting a curious brow, “I know we fed him, but do you think he’ll be okay alone for a little while longer as it’s already been a very quiet day around the house with the both of us gone and…”
“Rusty’s going to be just fine,” Russell couldn’t help but laugh at her expression as he reached out to her once again, “Avery, everything is going to be okay.”
“I wish I had your faith, but this is Grady we’re talking about,” Avery blurted out thinking to the last time she and Grady had come face to face at the engagement party at the Ashford mansion. Just the memory of the fire behind his eyes, of the way he’d lashed out at her pushing her around in a fury, sent a shiver up over her spine as her fingers curled over Russell’s shoulders curling them over the neck of his jacket.
“This is going to be easier than you think it will,” Russell assured her touching her face tenderly before his breath whispered over her lips, “I’m not going to let anything bad happen tonight.”
“You’re not who I’m worried about,” she paused biting on her lower lip nervously as he withdrew from the kiss, “as I guess you could say I’m starting to rehash history in my mind here.”
“Well don’t because I really think Grady wants to give starting over a try here,” Russell whispered his breath cascading over her features in sharp contrast to the chilled night air surrounding them.
“I hope you’re right on this,” she sighed in resignation hoping that her gut instincts were leading her in all the wrong directions where Grady was concerned.
“Just remember that I love you Avery,” he urged her cupping her face in his hands as his lips brushed over hers in the gentlest of movements before his arm dropped down around her waist curling her in closer to him as the kiss grew in intensity. He could feel her tension racing through her lips, over every tense inch of her body, but as his tongue caressed hers, stroking and tasting her, she seemed to melt in his arms leaning into his strength as the sound of someone clearing their throat rose from the darkness.
“Um, would you two like me to come back later,” Jade questioned with mild amusement grinning like a Cheshire cat who’d found the canary at long last as she stood in the doorway. She stepped aside opening the door further in invitation as her grin widened to a more welcoming, knowing expression, “Come on in.”
“Thanks Jade,” Russell replied noting the color that had risen over Avery’s features that clearly were independent of the cold night surrounding them as in Jade spying their moment, he could already see that very seldom witnessed shyness building up inside of her.
“It’s great to see the both of you,” Jade greeted them both cheerfully, “Grady just went into the kitchen to check on things, but I’ll take your coats for you so that you can get comfortable.”
“Thank you Jade,” Russell slipped out of his jacket and handed it over to Jade before he turned to Avery helping her out of her jacket as well.
“Thank you,” Avery replied with a soft smile motioning between Russell and Jade.
“I’ll be right back,” Jade explained with a quick turn down the hallway leading to the coat rack Grady had set up as Avery inched in towards Russell whispering in his ear.
“With Grady cooking, should I be worried about food poisoning here?” she questioned with mock sarcasm as she had a sinking suspicion that perhaps her line of questioning wasn’t that far off.
“With Jade here, I think you’re safe, but if you’d like me to check on things to be certain,” Russell reached for her hand giving it a quick squeeze as he saw Jade returning from the hallway, “I’ll just go check in on what Grady’s working on there in the kitchen.”
“So how are you holding up in here?” Russell questioned curiously popping his head into the kitchen before locating Grady over by the stove.
“I’m sizzling here,” Grady couldn’t help but laugh as he focused on the steaks before him.
“Yeah well is that because you’re stuck in the kitchen or all because of Jade,” Russell teased with a tiny chuckle.
“I’d have to say it was a little bit of both, though I must admit I couldn’t help but notice you and Avery were parked in the driveway a while before I heard Jade answer the door,” Grady stole a glance over in Russell’s direction, “Were you having second thoughts or just making out on my porch before you decided to come inside?”
“What do you think,” Russell moved in to assist with one of the simmering pots before him.
Grady gave him a firm look before shaking his head once again, “You two never could bypass a moment to make out with one another, could you?”
Russell’s expression spoke volumes about his line of thinking before he offered up a goofy grin, “Can you blame me?”
“You two need some serious therapy. I hope you realize that,” Grady couldn’t help but groan at the thought of his brother and Avery all over one another, “You’d think you would’ve outgrown that by now.”
“Are you kidding?” Russell blinked back at him, “Grady, being with Avery like I can be now that we’re married is like every day being my birthday as it’s always full of surprises and excitement.”
“Yeah well just wait until reality settles in and the honeymoon phase dies down,” Grady warned him simply, “as it’ll be less about sex and more about the bills or the things you’re not doing to keep her happy and then she‘ll be finding excuses for you two have a distance between you--then comes the late hours at work and…”
“Grady, I thought this was about starting over,” Russell frowned catching the hint of darkness in his brother’s tone.
“You’re right,” Grady nodded taking in a long, slow breath before letting go of it with a sigh, “I guess I’m really just thinking about my situation with Susan there since she’s back in town ready to cause a world of trouble for everyone.”
“Has she contacted you after this morning?” Russell inquired curiously.
“Hell no and I thank God for small miracles,” Grady answered in open admission.
“Looking at Jade in there, I’d have to say that you’ve got more than small miracles working in your favor there,” Russell nudged him with a knowing expression.
“Yeah, well she does happen to be fabulous,” Grady admitted with a certain gleam in his eye that Russell recognized all too well.
“And here you were giving me a lecture on my keeping my hands off of my wife,” Russell shook his head back at his brother, “Grady, you aren’t fooling anyone here as it’s painfully obvious that you’d rather be cozying up to Jade right now instead of having your brother in here with you heating up the kitchen.”
“Well since you put it that way,” Grady teased with a quick shove, “Get out of my kitchen and get my beautiful girlfriend in here.”
“Hmm, well I could do that, but instead I think I’ll take the opportunity to throw out a few more jabs and ‘I told you so’ comments considering that you were always razzing me through the years,” Russell remarked with a tiny chuckle.
“So what? Now you’re going to poke fun at me for being in love when I’m supposed to be on my best behavior,” Grady inquired with the beginnings of a frown crossing over his features.
“On the contrary,” Russell shook his head opening the refrigerator and pulling out a can of cola for both him and Grady. Closing the refrigerator door with his hip, he threw the can over to Grady with an enthusiastic toss, “I was just going to say that it’s about damn time.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Grady agreed with a smile raising his can to the lightness of the moment and the hopes that somehow this night would turn out to be the start of something wonderful for him and Jade once he’d found a way to put the past behind him once and for all.
“Grady should be almost finished up in there,” Jade threw out at him
noting Russell’s disappearance into the kitchen before she turned to Avery
sensing her apprehension about the situation as Jade spoke up once more,
“Avery, you know it’s really wonderful having you here tonight as we were
so hoping to have you and Russ over for dinner to celebrate the good news.”
“Well, thanks for having us Jade as we really do appreciate the invite,” Avery replied with a polite smile looking over in the direction of the kitchen once again as a silence hung over the both of them and Jade cleared her throat once again.
“You know Avery, Grady really would like to put the past behind him as he’s turning over a new leaf,” Jade tried to assure her with the optimism that had been brewing inside of her since Grady had finally followed his heart and given up some of the rage that held him back for so very long.
“I’d really like to believe that,” Avery confessed turning her attention to Jade once again, “If not for me, then for Russ as I know how important they are to one another. They were the best of friends growing up and I‘d like to see that continue into the future as that‘s important to them.”
“I can see that as well and while I know that things haven’t been easy, well I just want you to know that I appreciate that you both came over here tonight. It’s a good start for all of us,” Jade motioned to the sofa, “Would you like to sit down? Maybe I can get you a drink or something…”
“I’m fine really,” Avery shook her head in response following Jade over to the couch, “although I must say that I’m really surprised that you wanted to have dinner here tonight even with this new beginning considering that it’s not always easy turning a new page on things so suddenly.”
“I realize that, but sometimes things are best if they’re just given a chance on the level instead of in slow increments,” Jade shrugged her shoulders, “but you know maybe if we don’t dwell on what can go wrong, then maybe it’ll go right.”
“I like your optimism,” Avery couldn’t help but smile in response, “as I wish I had more of it.”
“Oh Avery, given the way things are going for you and Russ, I would think you’d be beaming with it,” Jade opened up a new line of conversation, “as Russ was showing off his picture of the baby yesterday.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Avery gave in to a full blown smile as she thought to her husband’s enthusiasm for their baby, “He’s a very proud father already.”
“I can see that,” Jade nodded in response, “although I must confess it suits him well there.”
“It really does,” Avery agreed with a smile holding that piece of happiness with her as her hand dropped down into her lap thinking about the things that had brought her and Russell closer together than ever, “as this is a dream that we’ve both waited to have happen for a very long time.”
“I can imagine,” Jade replied with a knowing grin, “as Russ was telling me some stories about the both of you together not so long ago…”
“Really?” Avery’s brow lifted with obvious interest, “Did he now?”
“Yeah, he was going through some old photo albums and he got to talking,” Jade explained further thinking to the moments she’d bonded with Russell at Cheryl and Elliot’s home, “It sounds as though the two of you had a very rich history with one another.”
“We do and somehow it all played into what we have together now,” Avery answered warming up a bit to the conversation, “as Russell went out of his way to make our wedding spectacular.”
“So I’ve heard. Did he really take you to a castle to make it happen,” Jade inquired again.
“Oh he did and it was a dream come true. I mean don’t get me wrong I’m not one who buys into fairy tales…well, that is I wasn’t before Russ and I found our way back to one another, but with our wedding and the castle…it was as if I was one of the few lucky women out there to have her very own Prince Charming leap out of the story book pages and into her arms,” Avery explained to Jade as Jade smiled feeling Avery’s eagerness to talk about the most magical day in her life as Jade began to feel that tonight was going truly going to be something of a turning point for the Denton family.
Dave waved across the room to another customer in Irvan’s as he sat down at the table with Deidra. He waved to others in the restaurant before the server joined them.
“Hey Chief, you want the usual?” The young waitress smiled.
“No, how about…” He paused as he looked across at Deidra, “Let’s get an Irvan’s deluxe for the both of us, yeah? And a couple of sodas.”
Deidra nodded in agreement before the waitress walked towards the kitchen again. Deidra’s eyes widened as she looked towards her friend, “You’re quite popular around here, aren’t you?”
“I’ve ran into a lot of different people since I became chief of police. I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’ve made a few enemies, but most people tend to respect what I’ve done in this town. I’ve cleaned up some of the worst crime areas in town, and people really like that,” He said modestly.
“And it has nothing to do with the fact that you’re just a good guy at heart, huh?” She shook her head with a smile, “Why is it that you and Ken never really brag about your accomplishments? I mean you don’t have to act like big egotistical freaks, but you could at least be proud of the things you’ve done.”
“Like you?” Dave asked with a smile, “You don’t walk around telling everyone that you’re a great doctor. How is that any different than Ken and myself?”
“It just is,” She shrugged, “But still it’s nice that you’ve done so well in town. But hey, now that we’ve compared careers, and we know about how my personal life sucks. What about you? What women in town have you been flirting with?”
“Oh boy, here we go,” He frowned as the waitress delivered their drinks before walking away again.
“What? I can’t be interested in what’s going on with my friend. I’ve already met Ken’s lady, but you,” She clucked her tongue softly, “You’ve been very tight lipped about your love life. So out with it, Dave, how many women have you bowled over since I’ve been away?”
“Not as many as you’re thinking,” He said as he sipped his soda.
“Okay, now I’m confused. You were always the big player with the ladies. What happened?” She asked as she stirred her soda with a straw.
“I’ve spent most of my time building my career. It took dedication to become chief of police at my age, and I guess my career became my life. I didn’t have time for anything else.”
“Not even a woman?” She looked at him skeptically, “Don’t tell me you’ve been celibate all these years.”
Dave grinned as he leaned upon the table, “Are you really so concerned with my sex life?”
“Well, you know what they say. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” She said with a teasing smile, “I’d hate for that to be the case if that certain special lady did come along. It’d be horrible if..” She paused with a sultry grin, “You know, you could stand up and give her a proper salute.”
His eyes widened slightly at her as he smiled, “I’m sure if the right lady did come along there would be absolutely no problem in rising to the occasion.”
They stared at each other with grins upon their faces as the waitress
delivered their burgers. The waitress looked between the two of them before
she smiled on her own and walked away from the table.
Dave watched her carefully with a smile, “So why are you so interested in my sex life? Want to try to spice it up?”
Deidra chuckled, “My dear sweet Dave, you’ve been out of circulation for so long you couldn’t handle me,” She teased with a wink as she began to nibble on a French fry.
Dave grinned as she began to eat her meal. Having Deidra back in town was certainly proving to me interesting and more fun than he’d had in a very long time. He only hoped he could provide the same kind of distraction for her.
“What the hell are we doing here?” Diane asked as she glanced over to Ben, “If this is your idea of a hot date, I think you have some issues,” She glanced around the gymnasium.
“You’ll like it if you’ll just hush and have a good time,” Ben warned as he paid the old lady at the front desk, “Never mind her,” He said as he nodded towards Diane, “She’s a bit of a snob.”
“I am not,” Diane screeched as she crossed her arms and glared at Ben.
“Yes, she is,” Ben nodded as he took two cards from the old woman.
“I feel for you, son,” The old lady winked.
Diane frowned as Ben slipped his arm around her and led her to one of the tables inside, “Why did you tell that woman that I was a snob?”
“Cause you can be such a brat when you want to be,” Ben placed a card in front of her before sliding a pen beside her, “You’ll enjoy this if you just let yourself.”
“Bingo? This is your idea of a hot date?” She asked with a frown.
“I figured this was something you’ve never done before, and I wanted you to remember these dates I take you out on. It’ll be something for you to whine to our kids about in the future,” He teased as he sat down beside her.
“I cannot believe you brought me to play Bingo.”
“You can win up to five hundred dollars tonight, Diane. You’d think that would excite you a little bit.”
“Five hundred dollars?” Diane asked before shrugging and looking to her card, “Okay, so I could use the money if I won, but this is kind of lame, isn’t it?”
“It’s not lame. You’ll enjoy this,” He assured her, “Besides, this is kind of a family tradition. Dad would take me to Bingo games to have some fun. Mom was always a snob and refused to go, but we had fun going to Bingo.”
“I think your Mom and I have something in common there,” She frowned as an old man stepped up to the front podium.
“Welcome to Bingo night at the Elk’s lodge. Tonight’s proceeds go to Coral County Regional Hospital’s Children’s wing,” The old man announced to boisterous applause from people throughout the room, “If you haven’t got your cards, you have a few minutes remaining. The lady’s auxiliary has a bake sale going at the back of the gym tonight. Go over and find something sweet to eat while you play.”
“Want something?” Ben asked as he glanced towards the back of the room, “Looks like they have pound cake, brownies, pies…”
“Do I look like I want something sweet to eat? I have a figure to maintain here,” She said as she sighed heavily.
He shook his head, “Are you going to be a bear all night? You could have some fun if you just loosen up and enjoy what the night brings you.”
Diane sighed, “Okay, fine. I won’t grumble, but don’t expect me to enjoy this.”
“Fair enough,” Ben turned back to the card before him as the old man at the front of the room announced the beginning of the first game.
“Tonight’s first game will be for a one hundred dollar jackpot,” The man spoke before he began calling out numbers.
Ben began to mark his card while he glanced over at Diane. While she’d protested being here, she was playing like an old pro. He grinned as he turned his attention back towards the card before him.
“You know maybe we should go somewhere else to do something,” He began as he glanced back towards her.
“No, you wanted to come here tonight, so we’ll do this. I mean,” She paused while marking her card, “I should learn some of the things you enjoy.”
“I like your attitude,” He said with a grin as he looked back to his card.
“Mom’s always saying that I should try to enjoy other things,” Diane continued marking her card, “I mean, this is so not something I would normally enjoy.”
“You think you might be able to find it in your heart to enjoy it now?” He asked after marking his card and glancing to her.
“Yep…like now. Bingo!” Diane screamed out with excitement. An attendant came by and read off the results on Diane’s card to verify her winnings. When it was verified, the attendant handed Diane a one hundred dollar bill.
Diane threw her arms around Ben as she screamed with excitement, “I never win anything. This is awesome. This is so great!”
He smiled as he hugged her in return, “Now this is what I love about you. You can turn on a dime.”
“Only about things that don’t mean so much to me, but you,” She said as she met his eyes, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Ben smiled as he kissed her to applause from the entire room.
Diane grinned, “It looks like I’m a double winner tonight,” She said with a bright smile as she held onto him, feeling like she’d been able to bridge a small gap in getting to know Ben and what he loved. Most of all, she wanted him to love her, and with his sharing a part of his world tonight, she felt like she had his love without any question.
“I’m starting to think that we’re tempting fate here,” Jenna groaned
scanning the damp remains of the contents on her desk before reaching up
to peel one of the soaked pages off of the wood beneath her. She
felt it’s stickiness collapse into a fragment of the once complete document
and another groan spilled from her lips as she bunched up the page tossing
it into the trash.
“I don’t think we were planning on the sprinklers to give us an impromptu shower,” Hart shrugged his shoulders unable to contain the smile that lingered over his lips as he stood before Jenna dressed in matching scrubs as both of their clothes had been drenched in the embarrassing incident that had taken place earlier. Now as his hair began to dry up, it curled into his face with a thick, unruliness that Jenna decided made him look more mischievous as his smile widened.
“You’re enjoying this entirely too much you know,” Jenna shook her head at him once again, “This so isn’t something to laugh about.”
“Well yes, but no as it could’ve been a lot worse,” Hart reasoned with her reaching for another tortured, water logged page, “as we could’ve actually been making love when your assistant walked in.”
“Yeah well having him find us half naked together and playing around with the alarm like we were was enough to make me see that my reputation around here is only going to be worse than it was before,” Jenna sighed heavily bringing her fingers through her damp tresses before turning her attention to her desk and frowning with obvious sarcasm, “This just seems to get better and better.”
“Hey, it’s not that bad,” Hart insisted reaching out to her as he urged Jenna to meet his eyes once again, “I mean after all you did get one step closer to seeing me naked again.”
Jenna couldn’t suppress the laugh that the expression on his face called out in her as she felt his finger tips tease over her cheek, “About five minutes later and my assistant and everyone else down here would’ve also been able to see you naked.”
“Yeah well, hey, that’s not really a problem I suppose,” Hart shrugged his shoulders with a tiny laugh.
“Maybe not for you, but I have to tell you Hart, I’m not really into exhibitionism as I’ve kind of prided myself on keeping my personal life independent of my career,” Jenna explained pointedly as the corners of her mouth dropped down once again, “I’ve already had so many hassles with what happened between Patrick and I that I really would just as soon avoid adding to the rumor mill around here.”
“Jen, sweetheart I hate to break this one to you, but well, I’d rather you hear it from me instead of anyone else,” Hart reached out to her pulling her into his arms as he hugged her waist, “You’re a beautiful, vibrant, very sexy woman and you’ve been turning heads around here for a long time and while you might not have been listening to the gossip mill, you’ve certainly been the talk of the town.”
“Yeah because of Patrick and his ridiculous accusations and his twisting that situation around on me,” she frowned deeper at the memory of what she’d gone through, “with your help.”
“Well, okay, so I did make things a bit worse for you and I can’t even begin to express how horrible a thing that was for me to do, but at the same time I do have a confession to make,” Hart squeezed her in closer to him refusing to let past situations keep them from seeing the lightness of this current incident.
“What might that be?” Jenna questioned with a huff.
“Truth be told when Patrick came to me with his case, I thought he was full of it myself, but then in the same breath I must admit I was intrigued by any woman that could cause such a stir with a bonehead like that. I mean just the idea of a woman taking charge of a situation and making some kind of play for an idiot like Patrick, well I had to see first hand what you were all about,” Hart confessed thinking back to the first time he’d seen Jenna in the courtroom.
“So you’re saying you took his case just so that you could see the girl who decked him and played some so called sexual harassment games with him,” Jenna groaned inwardly, “That’s not saying much.”
“No, maybe it’s not, but when you walked into that courtroom, I could see why Patrick would have a chip on his shoulder as I always thought you were sexy as hell,” Hart admitted openly as his gaze dropped down over her thinking back to the sexy curves that lay beneath her teal colored scrubs.
“So you’re saying because you thought I was sexy, it was okay to lead the town to believe that I deserved that stupid hassle with Patrick,” she grumbled in response shifting in his arms.
“On the contrary,” he shook his head as a smirk crept over his lips, “I was wondering if I could find an opportunity to let you ‘assault’ me like that.”
Her eyes fixed upon him for a long moment before she finally let out a soft moan in response before glaring at him, “You know you are in need of some serious therapy Hart.”
“You think so?” Hart questioned with moderate laughter curling his arms around her tighter, “as well the truth to the matter is that I’ve been there, done that.”
“And it only made it worse for you huh?” Jenna found it in her to laugh at the notion of Hart in therapy.
“Well I’d like to think the thousands of dollars my father dropped on it paid off, but nope, I can’t say it did,” Hart shrugged his shoulders in recollection, “as my shrink used to ask me a lot of questions about my sex life and then after a few months I realized that her interest was less professional and more personal as my father wound up paying for our weekends out on the coast together,” he paused noting the expression on Jenna’s features, “but something tells me you probably could’ve done without that last piece of knowledge there.”
“Tell me, was she a married woman?” Jenna inquired lazily drawing her arms around Hart’s shoulders.
“No,” he answered with a quick shake of his head, “she wasn’t, but she was too old for me at the time I will admit.”
“So you have a thing for the women you couldn’t possibly have without there being some kind of risk involved?” Jenna inquired lifting a curious brow, “I mean here we have your psychiatrist there that you started sleeping with and then the wife of an Assistant Director at the FBI…”
“Travis was just a peon field agent at the time, but his status really didn’t matter to me,” Hart corrected quickly as his eyes fixed upon hers, “but that really isn’t important anymore because none of those women had what you do…”
“Hmm…flattery,” Jenna noted, a smile teasing over the corners of her lips, “I’d have to say that is just another tool you used with those risky ventures there in the past. You find the woman who becomes your next conquest and then you throw out the charm until she’s no longer able to resist you.”
“Something like that,” he leaned in towards her attempting to kiss her.
“Not so fast,” Jenna placed her palm into the center of his chest, “as I really don’t think I should be kissing you right now given your reputation as I’m finally figuring you out.”
“Oh?” Hart replied surprise in his tone as his dark eyes fell upon her, “How so?”
“Well I’m seeing that this is all about your desire to win over what you deem is an out of reach woman and currently I’m that woman because you knew that I hated you,” Jenna stated matter of fact, “so really if we take the time to psychoanalyze this one…”
“I’d really rather not as the truth to the matter is that I’d much rather take the time to explore those sensual lips of yours,” Hart pressed forward once again feeling her reluctance.
“You know I’m not sure that’s such a good idea Hart because if we go forward with that, then I’m sure that fascination you have with me will die down and then what?” she questioned growing suddenly serious, “I mean if this is all about winning over the impossible woman…”
“Jen, don’t you know by now that’s not what this is about,” he frowned taking in her words, “Yes, I admit there isn’t a moment that goes by when I’m not thinking about ways to make excuses to be alone with you and in a vast majority of those little ideas that play out in my head, they involve us naked together, but you know that’s not what this is about…”
“Hart, I know you say that now, but…” Jenna started to argue with him thinking about the series of disasters that had been taking place in her life.
“Jenna, listen to me,” Hart touched her face gently his eyes growing suddenly serious as she felt a breath catch in her throat by his expression alone, “I’ll be the first to tell you that I have a really horrible reputation that I’ve prided myself on earning over the years, but that was then and this is now. Yes, I realize that any woman in your position would be best suited to tell me to go to hell and never look back, but the truth to the matter is that I’m glad you took a chance on me. I’m very grateful that you allowed me this opportunity to be a part of your life and more so when I told you before that I loved you, it wasn’t just a line Jenna.”
“Hart…” she started feeling a tiny shiver race over her spine at the intensity of his expression.
“Jenna, I’ve had a lot of shameless moments in the not so distant past, but I have never, ever told a woman I loved her to get into bed. In fact, before today just the idea of telling a woman that I loved her seemed like one of those impossible, stupid things that I wouldn’t ever see myself doing, but that all changed when I met you--when I really got the chance to get to know you. Jenna, I’m a jerk and I’m not ashamed to admit that, but the fact that you let this jerk standing before you take part in your life and get to know your heart, well it’s changed my life around. Sure, I can’t promise you that I’m not going to piss you off because realistically we both know better than that as I’m a hothead who more often than not needs to be put in my place, but as the days go on, I’m really, truly starting to believe that place where I should be begins and ends with only you…”
“Hart, you don’t have to say…” Jenna felt an uneasiness rush over her as his fingers traced over her face gently easing up into her hair.
“Yes, I do because I want you to know this. I need you to know how I feel about you so that there won’t be any misconceptions about us or where our future is heading,” Hart declared passionately as he smiled at her, “I love you Jenna Carpenter and I’m not above finding ways to show you just how much you mean to me even if it takes forever to convince you that you’re the only woman who has ever truly touched me here,” he reached for her hand bringing it up over his chest as she felt the furious pounding of his heart beneath her touch.
“Hart I…I don’t know what to say…” she stammered feeling a heat rise in her features as his fingers curled in over the back of her neck urging her in towards him.
“Tell me you feel it too…that maybe you might be willing to take a chance on love with a lowlife like me,” he pleaded with her desperately.
“It’s too late for that,” Jenna confessed in a low whisper leaning in towards him, “as the truth to the matter is that I’ve already fallen head over heels in love with you and I can’t imagine not having you near me just like this,” she finished bridging the distance between them as their lips met in a kiss and Jenna realized that somehow despite their rocky beginnings, she’d found something in Hart that she’d never really realized she’d been missing in her life as in having him around, she found herself ready to face whatever the future had in store for her in the world of romance.
“Aren’t you glad I was able to urge you into reconsidering my offer
for tonight,” Richard smile reaching for Judy’s hand across the table as
they sat together at a quiet little table at Pavilion enjoying the romantic
atmosphere the place held in store for them.
“As a matter of fact, I must confess that I am feeling rather enthusiastic about the evening now that things seem to be winding down for our children,” Judy replied with a tiny hint of a smile as she laced their fingers together, “Just knowing that Deidra is out tonight and ready to start moving beyond what has happened in her life is news enough to get me excited about the possibilities that the future has in store for those I care about.”
“And I’m certainly glad to hear that as I don’t think I’ve seen you smile this much in a long time,” Richard lifted her hand to his lips kissing it gently as his eyes sparkled with the obvious glow of a man in love as he found himself falling harder by the second for the one woman who’d truly captured his heart so many years ago, “It suits you so very well Judy.”
“Somehow being here with you like this, well I happen to think that this suits us both very well,” Judy confessed with a growing smile as his lips teased over her palm once again, “as I’ve thought about us sharing a night like this for so very long Rick.”
“As have I,” he admitted brightly slowly lowering her hand to the table top as he kept their fingers intertwined, “I’ve missed so many of the times we shared together like this over the years. You know I’ve never really said this before, but over the years, I found myself drawn back to this place even after we’d parted ways. On my trips back into town for business, I used to find my way back to that small café that we often spent time with one another at years ago. I knew that it wouldn’t bring back our time together, but when I was there, well I thought to the good times we’d had and how wonderful my life felt when you were there beside me…”
“You weren’t the only one going back there,” Judy felt a heat rise over her features, “as every year on the anniversary of our first kiss, I used to find myself taking the long way home and stopping in just to take the time to remember all the good times we had together. Even after you and Brooke left town, I used to dream of the day when we’d be together again just like this…only as time went on, I found myself facing the reality that we’d never be in this place together again.”
“As did I,” Richard nodded in response, “but somehow fate seems to have other plans for us these days.”
“So it does,” Judy’s smile expanded as his index finger brushed over the top of her hand once again, “and I have to confess that I’m very thankful it has come full circle for us Rick as there are so many things I’ve wanted to share with you--things I’ve wanted to tell you and show you over the years…”
“You have no idea how many nights I lay awake at night dreaming of the day when we could be together again--of when I could go back to that special place with the only woman who ever truly completed me, but now that you’re here,” Richard spoke in smooth romantic undertones, “Judy, I don’t want to put anything before what we have with one another. I refuse to waste another minute away from you and regardless of whatever tactics Brooke tries to pull in her quest to make my life miserable, I want you to know that you’ve always been the only woman in my heart and you always will be.”
“Oh Rick,” she felt herself blushing like a school girl as a slow, romantic melody filled the restaurant calling couples to the dance floor with it’s seductive rhythm as Judy’s eyes cast a brief glance over in the direction of the young lovers now moving together across the way.
“Judy,” he rose from his chair catching her line of vision as he extended his hand out to her, “may I have this dance?”
“Yes, you may,” Judy replied accepting his hand as he lead her out into the crowd drawing her in beside him as their eyes connected and their bodies moved in the beginnings of a dance.
Silently, they glided to the music, feeling the old spell of romance weave it’s way over them into the night they shared as it felt as though not a moment of time had separated them. Judy felt a hope stir up inside of her--an inkling of that dream she’d once let go of returning to her in vivid color as she found herself wanting to lose her heart all over again to the man who’d taught her the meaning of love so very long ago. With Rick’s arms around her, she felt this completeness that hadn’t been in her life for so very long and as her gaze drifted up over towards the very kissable lips she’d spent much of her youth enjoying, she felt her heart flutter with possibilities and the thought of something more to come as he leaned in towards her.
“You’re so very beautiful Judy,” Richard whispered tipping down to collect her lips in a slow, tender sweep as their movement on the dance floor ceased and she found herself melting into the gentle ease that his kiss worked it’s magic over her. Curling her arm around his shoulders, she could almost feel the weight of the years lifted off of her shoulders as she felt she’d come full circle and was home again within the safety of his arms, but before she could truly savor the moment, there was a faint ringing that pressed through the spell that surrounded them.
“Ugh, people still have a lot to learn about timing, don’t they?” Richard questioned with a tiny chuckle as he contemplated ignoring the invasive phone letting it continue to ring in his pocket as he wanted nothing more than to spend the night with the woman he’d loved for so very long, but as the first flicker of responsibility swept over him, he thought to Avery’s situation with Bruce Mathis still out on the loose and a sense of tension flooded over him.
“Maybe you’d better answer that,” Judy suggested already reading the expression on his face as he released her and withdrew the small phone from his pocket with a sigh.
“This will be just a minute,” he explained, his eyes falling upon the caller id as his features shifted and he quickly answered, his voice full of panic and concern, “What’s wrong?” he questioned not bothering to say hello as Judy sensed a change in him.
“Rick,” she touched his arm seeing something behind his eyes as she wondered if there was a problem with Avery.
“What,” he gasped in astonishment, a flash of horror passing over his features as he stood frozen on the middle of the dance floor, “When? Where? How long will you be there and when did you first hear about this?” he threw out questions at the person on the other end of the line, “Alright, I’m not far from there so I’ll be right on my way down there. Yes, I’m going to be there soon,” he finished hanging up the phone as Judy eyed him with obvious confusion and concern.
“Rick, what is it,” she questioned feeling the muscles in his arm tighten up as he took in a slow, unnerving breath.
“There’s been some kind of accident down by the lake,” Richard remarked unable to contain the shock that spread over him as he eyed the exit, “Judy, I have to get down there…”
“What happened? Is it Avery?” she questioned watching the color drain from his features as he remained silent, “Rick, talk to me.”
“Judy,” he spoke up once more, his voice cracking with obvious strain as his eyes fell upon her, “the police found Brooke’s car in the lake. They just pulled it out a few minutes ago and it’s looking like there were signs of foul play involved…”
“Is she…” Judy began thinking to the woman she’d hated for so many years. While she’d thought of a great many things that she’d wished upon Brooke Morrison, right now she wished more than anything she could erase that look that was on Richard’s features.
“They aren’t saying much as it was one of my contacts that made the call, but Judy…” his face grew visibly upset as he reached for her hand, “I hate to do this, but I have to get down there. I have to find out what’s going on. If there’s any chance that Brooke…”
“I’m going with you,” Judy insisted boldly as she noticed the strange expression crossing over his features, “as you’re in no position to drive and besides, regardless of what I think about Brooke, I wouldn’t have wished this upon her.”
“Neither would I,” Richard confessed in a tight breath wondering if something horrible had truly happened to his wife and the mother of his children as the phone call he’d received had been vague enough to scare the hell out of him and he prayed that somehow his fears weren’t an indication of what would be awaiting for him once he and Judy got down to the river as he wasn’t sure he could face what might be waiting for him there at Lake Cardinal.
Blake felt a chill rush over her as she sat out on the deck off the
back of the mansion trying to find a way to find some peace with herself
as she gazed up at the stars that hung overhead with the evening sky.
A smile touched over her features as she sipped on her hot chocolate imagining
that to the rest of the world she probably looked out of her mind, lost
in some kind of crazy moment, but despite the chill in the air, she found
herself rather enjoying this time to herself. The snow had started
to melt earlier in the afternoon and while traces of it lingered here and
there over the vast Ashford grounds, she couldn’t help but savor the serenity
of the moment. The spa had worked wonders on her muscles, but somehow
being curled up on the chair just outside the walls of the mansion seemed
to play something for her soul as she closed her eyes inhaling the crisp
“Am I interrupting,” a voice sounded from behind her as Blake’s eyes fluttered open and she cast a glance over her shoulder to the doorway to the mansion, seeing the darkened silhouette of a man masked in the shadows created by the light from the mansion’s interior. She felt her heart rate quicken, her pulse race as her eyes fixed on the contours of his body wondering if perhaps this was just another wicked dream coming to taunt her for savoring a moment of quiet as he stepped out onto the deck eyeing her intently, “Blake?”
“Seth,” she questioned setting her hot chocolate down on the small table top beside her as she began to rise from her seat in confusion, “What are you doing here?”
“Annie said you might be out here,” he explained sheepishly as he approached her, “and since I see that she wasn’t ready to kick me off the property when I showed up on the doorstep here, I thought it might be a good thing for me to try to come out here and check in on you.”
“You came all the way over here to check in on me,” Blake lifted a curious brow, “Why?”
“After our last encounter, well I just thought maybe you could use a friend right about now,” Seth cleared his throat shifting on his feet nervously as his eyes never left hers, “I hope I’m not overstepping my boundaries by being here.”
“No,” Blake shook her head feeling the tips of her hair press over her shoulders, “not at all as I really don’t mind the company.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that as I really wasn’t sure what to expect,” he answered honestly thinking about the time he’d spent contemplating the drive over to the mansion as he’d circled the area at least three times before opting to give this visit a chance.
“I guess I can see how you might feel that way as I haven’t exactly been giving you much more beyond mixed signals lately, huh,” Blake shrugged her shoulders thinking about the tension between them lately as she found herself on the threshold of so many conflicting emotions she’d been holding onto.
“I can’t say I’ve really given you to not feel anything, but that way about me as I haven’t always been the nicest of guys to spent time with as my bluntness was completely uncalled for not so long ago when I told you that…” he started as Blake stepped towards him bringing her hand over his mouth to silence him.
“Seth, don’t,” she insisted keeping her hand over his mouth, “please don’t get into that now because if we start thinking about what’s going wrong, then that will take away from your being here and how right this feels.”
“Okay,” he breathed against her hand capturing her wrist in his hand before placing a tender kiss upon her palm, “how about we start this one over again?”
“I think I’d like that,” Blake smiled at him unable to contain the warmth that filled her at the nearness of him as his fingers still kept their hold over her.
“Good, then let’s start with this,” he dropped another feathery light kiss upon her skin as his eyes sparkled with an obvious luster.
“I’d have to say that is a nice beginning,” Blake couldn’t help but smile feeling an air of flirtyness pass over her despite the way she’d been lost in a state of turmoil recently, “So what brings you around my neighborhood?”
“Well truth be told I heard that there was a beautiful, amazing woman sitting here alone on a night like this and I thought that maybe just maybe she would want some company,” Seth winked at her before brushing his index finger up over the top of her hand, “that is if I’ll do.”
“That all depends,” Blake teased back with her own vibrant smile.
“On what?” Seth questioned playing into whatever it was they started as she leaned in closer to him.
“On how good you are at giving me what I need on a night like this,” Blake whispered in a soft, not so subtle tone as she teased her fingers out over the center of his chest arching a curious brow in the process, “Think you’re up for the task at hand?”
“I might be exactly what you need on a night like this,” Seth replied mesmerized by her beautiful blue eyes as his breath fell upon her, causing her to shiver despite the warmth as she lifted his hand to her face seeking out some kind of connection between them as his heart fluttered at the very sight of her.
“I was hoping you might say that,” Blake felt another rush of sensations creeping up over her spine as tiny shivers pressed over her.
“Hey, maybe we should go inside,” Seth suggested growing suddenly serious as he noticed how visibly shaken she seemed to be by his presence.
“Not just yet,” Blake shook her head turning her eyes up towards the sky, “as I was just taking the time to appreciate the stars a bit.”
“In that case,” he slipped out of his jacket before carefully draping it around her shoulders. He stood a mere few inches away from her, so close that he could feel her breath upon his body as her blue eyes sparkled beneath the moonlight.
“Thank you,” she whispered with a smile inhaling the soft musky scent of his cologne as she hugged his jacket over her.
“You’re very welcome,” he nodded towards the chair she’d been seated in moments earlier, “Shall we sit?”
“Of course,” she decided watching as he moved across the desk towards the patio furniture moving to retrieve another chair from beside the table, “although…”
“Yes,” he questioned casually despite the furious pounding of his heart as his eyes fell upon her once again.
“Considering that there is a chill in the air and you were kind enough to share your jacket with me, what do you say to sharing my chair with me?” she suggested almost timidly catching Seth off guard as he blinked back at her.
“Are you sure,” he questioned trying to read her reactions as she nodded.
“Of course I am,” she flashed him a bright smile, “I mean it’s only fair now that I‘m warming up in your jacket, right?”
“I suppose since you put it that way I can live with this compromise,” he decided placing the chair he’d begun to collect back where he’d found it before he stepped in beside the patio lounge chair. Blake nodded for him to take a seat and as he sank down onto the furniture, he watched her stand over him for a long moment, her eyes traveling over his body before her smile expanded and she turned to position herself between his legs on the chair snuggling up into the warmth of him as a soft sigh of contentment spilled over her lips.
“Much better,” she confessed listening to the sounds of his heart pounding beneath her head as her finger tips teased over his thighs in a quick, random movement as she found herself unable to resist the urges building up inside of her to touch him.
“Good I’m glad to hear it,” he whispered warmly over the top of her head as she lay into his chest savoring the feel of him beneath her.
“You know what this reminds me of,” Blake questioned lazily enjoying the moment as she sought out his hand bringing it into her lap as her index finger circled over the center of his palm.
“What’s that?” he sighed feeling the simple movement she was creating send pulses of sheer desire through his body as he held her thinking about how wonderful it felt to be in this position with her.
“It reminds me of that night you took me down to the lake for dinner,” she tilted her head back to glance over her shoulder at him, “Do you remember that night?”
“How could I forget,” he whispered, his breath striking down upon her features, “as it was that night that you turned my world upside-down.”
“And here I thought you might’ve thought I was pathetic on a night like that,” Blake sighed heavily thinking back to her tears that accompanied his touching gesture.
“On the contrary Blake,” Seth urged her eyes towards him once again as he slipped his fingers in beneath her chin tilting her head upwards, “I found myself thinking in that moment that I could never love another woman the way that I love you and that somehow despite the pain you’d been through in your life, that I wanted to be the man to change that for you--I wanted to turn your world around and in that night, well I knew that there would be no turning back because you held my heart completely…”
“Oh Seth,” she felt tears pooling in her eyes upon his words as she remembered the magic they’d had between them before she’d felt so betrayed--so alienated by his words, but now as they held one another beneath the moonlight, she couldn’t help but ignore that very thing that had caused them to part ways as all that really mattered was this moment--this opportunity to pretend that none of the past had taken place as this sheer second was all about Seth and the way that her heart felt for him.
“Blake, I just want to see you happy again,” Seth whispered kissing her temple as he hugged her in over him, “as that’s all I’ve ever truly wanted for you as you deserve nothing less than that.”
“I don’t even know where happiness begins anymore,” Blake admitted unable to contain her tears as the turmoil in her heart slowly crept to the surface.
“It begins inside there--in your heart,” he motioned to her chest as her fingers sought out his once again lacing them together before she lifted them to her lips.
“My heart’s led me astray so many times,” Blake whispered craving him on so many levels while repositioning herself in his lap so that she was now facing him, her breath sweeping over his fingers as she guided his palm over her chest, to the rapid beating of her heart, “and I have to admit that right now I’m terrified of what it’s telling me in a moment like this.”
“Your heart will never lead you astray as inside your heart,” he inhaled a slow, intoxicating breath as his eyes seemed to melt into hers, “you’ll find the answers that will give you the clarity you need.”
“Right now I’m starting to think that this is what I need,” she leaned in towards him unable to resist the urges building up inside of her as she sought out his mouth in the soft, gentle beginnings of a kiss. She could sense his initial resistance, but as his lips parted, she could feel the fire burning beneath the surface as Seth’s responsiveness to her reminded her of all the things she’d once hoped to share with him. She traced the smoothness of his lower lip with her tongue before his sought hers out coaxing her mouth to sweet surrender before they parted breathless.
“Maybe you’re right about that Blake,” Seth whispered tenderly leaning in to place a chaste kiss upon her lips once again before snuggling her into his chest as they lay together underneath the stars holding onto one another, “maybe this is what we both need right now.”
“Just for the record, I hate Tom Cruise,” Dave sighed as he and Deidra walked through the mall after the movie, “That man just irritates me.”
“You’re just upset because he’s actually getting some action,” Deidra teased.
“See, this is why I don’t want to share anything with you,” He said as he tapped some Raisinettes out of the box he’d bought at the theater, “You won’t let me live it down.”
“I don’t mean anything mean by it. You’re just so cute to tease,” She chuckled.
“Yeah yeah, you could always dish it out, but you never could take it very well,” He reminded her as he threw a Raisinette at her.
“Knock that off,” She defended as she laughed softly, “Hey, why are we walking through the mall? I thought they closed this off at this hour.”
“They do, but I’m the chief of police. I can go anywhere I want to,” He said with a shrug.
“So you do like your power, huh?” She asked as she reached over to steal one of his candies.
“There are perks. That way I don’t have to worry about walking all the way around the mall to get back to my car,” He grinned.
“Oh now here we go,” Deidra ran over to the large fountain in the atrium of the mall, “I always loved this fountain,” She said as she dug around for change in her pockets. She stood there for a moment before flipping a coin into the fountain.
“So what did you wish for?” He asked as he sat on the edge of the fountain.
“I can’t tell you. Though I’m thinking you should be making a wish of your own,” She said as she looked to him out of the corner of her eye.
“Oh I’ll make a wish for you,” He grumbled as he tossed the empty box aside and leapt into the fountain, dragging Deidra with him.
“What are you doing?!” She shrieked as he drug her under the water of the fountain.
“Teaching you a lesson,” He teased as he splashed water towards her.
“Okay this is war!” She shouted as she splashed water towards him using her feet and hands to cup water and throw it towards him.
“You can’t win, kiddo,” He kicked water towards her before he grabbed her by the waist and drug her under the spraying water.
“Ah!” She screamed in laughter.
“Stop right there! Police!”
Dave stopped as he held onto Deidra, water pouring over them. He looked at her with a slight laugh as he turned to see Office Gravely standing nearby with his hand upon his gun, “Gravely, it’s okay.”
“Chief…I had no idea it was you,” Gravely stammered, “Uhm…I’m sorry…”
“No, it’s okay,” Dave spoke as he released Deidra and stepped away. He stepped out of the fountain and extended his hand to help Deidra out of the fountain as well, “We were getting a little rowdy,” He noted as he helped her.
“Uhm…yeah…I just…” The officer continued to struggle for words.
“Gravely, it’s okay,” Dave assured him, “We’ll be going on our way now.”
“Okay, Chief,” Gravely nodded as he walked away from them with his eyes focused on the floor.
Dave chuckled as he looked back to Deidra, “Well I just gave my officers enough gossip to keep them going for years to come.”
Deidra nodded with a grin, “Well the poor guys haven’t had anything to talk about for so long. It’s about time you did them a little favor by having some fun.”
“Am I ever going to live this down?” He asked with a sigh.
“What?” He asked as he turned towards her.
Deidra tossed a handful of water at him, “Not in this lifetime,” She teased before running down the mall in a burst of giggles.
“I’m so going to make you pay for that,” Dave warned as he went through the mall to chase after her. She was having fun at his expense, and yet he was having more fun than he’d had in a very long time. Maybe Deidra was right. Maybe he did need to get out more, and maybe she could help him out with that since she was back in town and in his life.
“So there we were in the middle of a snowstorm stuck in this claustrophobic
hole in the wall building with about two dozen bikers who seriously looked
like they were ready to have us for breakfast and then spit the rest of
us out for leftovers, but then just before all hell started to break loose,
Grady felt the need to jump up on the bar and break out into a rendition
of Born to Be Wild,” Russell’s laughter filled the living room as he waved
his hands wildly at the memory, “I mean Jade, you really should’ve seen
it. I think once Grady started singing they weren’t sure if they
were going to waste their time kicking our asses or spare us out of pity
at how bad Grady sounded.”
“I’ll give you pity,” Grady threw back at him keeping Jade on his lap as his own laughter broke through the moment, “I’ll have you know that by the time I’d finished with that song I had the whole place going on and on about an encore.”
“That’s because they’d lost they all were sympathetic there to your being so tone deaf,” Avery piped in with a chuckle of her own as Russell wrapped his arm around her shoulders, “or they were just being polite.”
“Oh you’re one to talk about being tone deaf,” Grady threw back at her before motioning to Jade, “Believe me if you’re ever unfortunate enough to hear this woman sing, well then you’re really going to feel like you’ve stepped into the deepest pit of hell.”
“Hey, I’m not that bad,” Avery curled her lip in a pout as Russell squeezed his arm around her shoulders more securely, a tiny grin forming over his features.
“Actually baby, yes, you are,” Russell teased unable to contain his laughter as her lip curled into a pout and she nudged his ribs.
“Hey, I thought you were supposed to be on my side of this one,” Avery objected with a huff.
“I am, but sweetheart you were just not born to be a vocalist,” he leaned in to kiss the top of her head, “though I still love you tone deaf and all.”
“You’d better,” Avery reached out to touch his face gently before kissing him once more time.
“Hey, your being tone deaf only makes you all the more beautiful in my eyes,” Russell added proudly as he pulled her in closer to him as they sat on Grady’s couch.
“Oh that’s so sweet,” Jade gushed watching the exchange between the newlyweds as Grady waved his hand in the air dismissively.
“Oh he’s lying,” Grady insisted with a tiny smirk, “as my brother’s got a whole closet full of earplugs for the next time Avery decides it’s karaoke night.”
“Hey now,” Russell threw a glare in his brother’s direction catching his words, “that’s so not true.”
“Oh honey, it’s okay,” Avery patted his chest, “because I know half of them are for when Grady gets his impulses to sing to. Speaking of which maybe we should tell Jade all about Grady’s rendition of ‘I Feel Pretty’,” Avery teased with a wink as Jade’s eyes widened with obvious interest.
“Hey, I don’t think I’ve heard this one before,” Russell admitted with a curious expression as he eyed Grady, “though something tells me that I should’ve considering that the selection seems like a rare one for you…”
“Please tell me that is not attached to the biker bar tale there,” Jade couldn’t help but be amused by the lightness between the four of them as Grady shook his head and groaned in response.
“I thought you swore we would never go there again, Avery,” Grady grumbled giving her a firm look, “You and I both agreed that…”
“No, you agreed,” Avery reminded him with a chuckle, “I merely stayed quiet while you told me what you wished for to happen.”
“Do we really have to go there again,” Grady groaned turning his attention to his brother, “Russ, help me out with this one…”
“You’re all on your own there,” Russell shook his head unable to contain the smile that spread over his features.
“Traitor,” Grady glared back at him before turning to Jade, “how about we just forget all about my singing talents or lack there of it and talk about something far more interesting like maybe Jade’s disco dancing skills…”
“Oh no, we’re not even going to get into that,” Jade objected with a serious expression, “In fact, hey now that I think about it, maybe it’s time that we get into dessert. What does everyone say?”
“I think dessert sounds like a wonderful idea,” Avery agreed noting the color that had risen over Jade’s features, “Russ and I picked up this chocolate cake on the way over from our favorite bakery and…”
“And I left it in the car,” Russell realized after a moment’s contemplation, “although I suppose that is my cue to run out and get it as it should still be ready to go…”
“Just as long as Grady and Jade don’t mind chilled chocolate cake,” Avery added with a grin getting up off of her husband’s laugh, “though this one is really, really good regardless of how you serve it.”
“Hey if it’s chocolate, I’m already sold on it,” Jade confessed rising up from Grady’s lap as well.
“Then I’ll go get it,” Russell announced rising up from where he was seated as he pulled Avery into his arms once again giving her a quick kiss, “I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll miss you,” she reached for his hand holding it for a moment before watching him slip out the front door.
“Actually if you will excuse me, I’ll be right back too as nature is calling,” Jade explained excusing herself from the room as Avery turned around to face Grady realizing that they were alone for the first time all night.
A silence surrounded the both of them as Avery glanced in Grady’s general direction once again for a brief, flickering moment before turning towards the front window wondering what could be taking Russell so long as even seconds alone with Grady could feel like a lifetime without her husband. She began to rub her hands up over her arms as she sensed movement from behind her in Grady’s general direction.
“You know that was a low blow bringing up the show tunes,” Grady said in a tone Avery couldn’t quite read as she faced him once again. “I can’t believe you even thought to bring it up.”
“It just kind of popped into my mind,” Avery shrugged her shoulders as she forced herself to be pleasant with him, “and even you have to admit that it was comical in itself.”
“I don’t know about that. I mean at the time I did it, I was bombed out of my mind and you know that,” Grady remarked with an air of dryness in his tone.
“I didn’t know it at the time and you know that,” Avery folded her arms in front of her chest, “and really there wasn’t anything of it as it really wasn’t that bad.”
“No, I suppose not, but I just thought you’d agreed we wouldn’t bring it up,” Grady frowned as a dark expression crossed over his features.
“Grady, why do you hate me so much?” Avery questioned cutting straight to the point as she faced down her brother-in-law, “I mean is it really that bad that Russ loves me and that we’re happy together?”
“You’re not happy together,” Grady replied bluntly stepping in towards her, “You’ve only seduced him to the point that he’s blinded by what you do for him in bed, but the truth to the matter is that I’ve still got your number and when the day comes that you break his heart, I’m going to tear you apart.”
“I would never hurt him as I love him Grady,” Avery explained with a huff, “You of all people should know what your brother means to me.”
“I, of all people know exactly what you are Avery and if Russ knew what a slut you truly were, then I can guarantee that you two wouldn’t be together right now,” Grady’s gaze traveled over her as a wicked smirk pressed over his features, “So tell me Avery, who’s really the father of that brat you’re carrying because a tramp like you certainly wouldn’t be loyal long enough to have my brother as anything more than the unfortunate sap you decided to push the responsibility off on when your other lover threw you away…”
“Russ is the only man in my life…not that I have to explain myself to you of all people as I don’t owe you a damn thing,” Avery hissed in response clenching her fists at her side as she fought the urge to tear Grady apart limb for limb at his ugly accusations. Remembering her promise to Russell not to let things get out of hand, she turned away from Grady wondering what in the world had kept Russell outside for so long as her gaze drifted to the windows.
“I’m not finished with you,” Grady remarked reaching out to catch her arm as she turned away. Forcing her to face him again, he moved in closer to her, “as I think you and I have to have a long talk about a few things here.”
“I have nothing to say to you,” Avery hissed up at him, her eyes full of bitterness and untapped rage as he squeezed his hand around her arm, “I don’t owe you a damn thing because I’m only here for Russ.”
“Ah yes that’s right…playing the role of the sainted one now, aren’t you?” Grady rolled his eyes as he let out a tipped his gaze down at her, “He might be fooled, but I’m not. I know what you are Avery.”
“Grady, I’m getting a little tired of your trying to tell me what you think I am, when we both know that the whore in the room here is you,” Avery shot back at him harshly, “You’re just too ashamed of what you’ve done with your life that you’d just prefer to sit back and judge everyone else whom you think has wronged you, but Grady, in this particular instance you’re out of line. If you really want to do Russ a favor, then you’ll just get over yourself and grow up.”
Grady let out a hearty laugh upon her words as his fingers remained around her wrist pulling on it once again, “You’re one to talk little girl as it seems you’re the one who needs to learn a lesson in humility.”
“The only thing I need to learn is how to tolerate a jackass like you so that my husband can find a little joy with his family again, but in doing so I won’t tolerate this ambush you’re throwing on me,” she shoved him away from her, “as that’s not playing fair and you know it.”
“What I know is that I’m not about to let you muck up my brother’s future with your games. Avery, I know a woman like you doesn’t change overnight and I’m well aware of how cozy you and Ashford were with one another,” Grady snarled at her.
“You don’t know the first thing about my relationship with Brant, nor would I offer you up any details for that matter as it’s none of your business. Russ and I are fine with everything and that’s between us, not you,” Avery glared at him straining to keep from hitting him as his eyes were filled with such animosity and rage, “Grady, is it really so hard for you to just for a moment let go of this grudge match you have going and just try moving on like you promised Russ you would?”
“I’ll move on when my brother wakes up and gets you out of his life,” Grady explained bluntly watching fighting words building upon her lips as Russell rushed into the house once again offering up a tiny shiver as he spoke up.
“It’s a little chilly out there tonight. I realized once I got outside that my keys were still in my jacket in here and then I was trying to remember the key code to get in the car, but for the life of me, it escaped my mind and…” Russell paused turning his attention to Grady and Avery as he sensed a tension in the air, “Did I miss something here?”
Avery took in a slow breath shaking her head as she turned to face Russell once again, “No, not at all, but I’m feeling a bit tired. Maybe we should call it a night.”
“No, don’t leave just yet,” Grady offered up in response, “I mean we’ve only just begun this evening and since Russ rushed out there to get the cake, we may as well try to enjoy it…that is if you have it in you to do something like that for Russ, Avery.”
“I enjoy lots of things with my husband,” Avery shot back at him icily.
“Yeah I’ll bet,” Grady muttered under his breath just loud enough for Avery to hear him as Russell moved into the room once again.
“Good, then it’s settled I’ll work on opening this box up and slicing it,” Russell offered up quickly as Avery moved in beside him.
“Actually, I’ll help you in there,” Avery added unwilling to face Grady again as Russell gave her a strange look.
“It’s really not necessary as I do know how to cut a cake you know. I mean sure the last time you bought one of these, well we got sidetracked a bit, but I still remember how to do it,” Russell winked at her as a playful smile spread over his features.
“I’m sure you do, but after the meal Grady worked so hard on, I want to feel as though I’ve helped out too here,” Avery explained quickly stealing the box from Russell’s arms.
“Please don’t go out of your way for me Avery,” Grady rolled his eyes watching her slip into the kitchen with Russell as he sank down into his chair wondering why in the world he’d agreed to this farce of an agreement with Jade when all he wanted to do was knock Avery right on her…
“Grady, I can’t believe you,” Jade hissed marching out into the living room with an obvious anger brewing behind her eyes, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Um sitting,” Grady answered tilting his chin up to see her standing before him with her hands on her hips expectantly as her dark eyes filled with anger, “What?”
“I was in the hallway,” Jade explained seeing a flash of guilt sweep over his features, “I heard everything you said to Avery before.”
“Jade, you weren’t supposed to hear that as…” Grady rose to his feet again reaching out to her as he took a step back, “Jade, I can explain this one.”
“Oh no, don’t bother as I can already explain it for you,” Jade hissed up at him, “You haven’t decided to turn over a new leaf after all. You just wanted to make me believe that you were willing to give things a try, but all you’ve managed to do is hate Avery in silence, which just proves that all that animosity is still there, but you’ve just put a mask on it.”
“No, Jade, that’s not how it was. I was just talking to Avery and things got a bit out of hand, but the truth to the matter is that I’m really trying here. We’ve had a nice night and…” Grady began to defend his position.
“And nothing. You were just merely putting on a show for Russ and I when all night you’ve been thinking of ways to lash out at Avery,” Jade reminded him harshly, “which I really don’t understand why you’re going out of your way to do that when anyone with eyes can clearly see how happy they are together. I mean my God, a few minutes ago the four of us were in here laughing and telling stories and having what I thought was a good time, but then boom a moment of opportunity arises and you’re ready to tear Avery down with whatever you can think of in the moment…”
“Look Jade, I promised you that I would try, but I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that I know my brother is being played for a fool. Avery’s pregnant and she needs a fall guy. It’s got nothing to do with her feelings for my brother, nor do I buy into the fact that she feels he’s the great love of her life. It’s all an act and once you get the chance to really know her like I do, then you’ll see that…”
“That obviously this was a mistake,” Russell finished for him marching out into the living room with two plates of cake in hand as an expression of heavy disapproval washed over his otherwise cool and collected features, “You never really wanted to make amends tonight, did you Grady?”
“Russ listen…” Grady started as he watched Avery exiting the kitchen with two plates in hand as well and his anger mounted as he threw out a glare in her direction, “It would be just like you to go run and cry to Russ about what happened before, wouldn’t it?”
“What?” Avery blinked back at him, “Grady, I didn’t say anything about the way you…”
“Oh spare me,” Grady rolled his eyes as he faced Russell once again, “You know you’re only making a mistake with this tramp. You know as well as I do that she never gave a damn about you and if you’ll just open your eyes for a change you’ll see that I’m right about this. She left you once before at the altar and now that Ashford has wizened up to what she is, she’s only using you until she can get her hands on the bigger, better deal that comes her way…”
“That’s it,” Russell found himself overwhelmed with anger as he lifted the plate in his hand shoving the cake directly into Grady’s face before throwing his fist into his stomach causing Grady to fall back into the chair behind him. With obvious anger, Russell dumped the other plate of cake down on his surprised brother before he threw Jade an apologetic look, “I’m sorry about this, but we have to go now. Come on Avery,” he called out to his wife snatching her purse up from the coffee table and tucking it under his arm as he reached for her.
“Russ, maybe…” Avery started seeing the fury burning behind Grady’s cake covered features as she still held the other two pieces of cake in hand.
“No Avery, we’re leaving,” Russell declared struggling to keep his anger under lock and key as he thought to the ways in which his brother refused to move on with his life.
“Of course you would run,” Grady threw out at him bitterly, “as in running away all the time it keeps you from facing the reality of what your wife truly is. In running away you don‘t have to see just what a fool she‘s made you out to be.”
“That’s it,” Russell released Avery’s arm turning on his heel as he stormed over towards his brother ready to beat the life out of him as Grady rose from the chair and the two men collided in a whirlwind of fists and thunderous blows of fury.
“Russ,” Avery gasped unable to believe that the night had taken such a drastic turn when they’d all been laughing and enjoying themselves moments earlier.
“This is just wonderful,” Jade threw her hands in the air watching as Grady and Russell knocked the coffee table over, following up with a lamp and a few other things Grady had in his living room as her anger mounted. She thought to all the things Grady had promised her about behaving and now as he was doing battle with his brother, she realized that this was just another shining example of why she and Grady would never truly be able to mesh with one another. With that thought in mind, she raised her voice loud enough for the whole room to hear her declaration, “I’m leaving now.”
“What,” Grady looked up from his place on the floor over Russell as he held his fist mid-air keeping it from plummeting his brother as Jade’s words swept over him. Immediately his eyes turned to her in a panic, “What did you just say?”
“I’m out of here Grady,” Jade waved her arms in the air with obvious frustration, “I’m so done with this because obviously this is never going to change and I’m not in a position to accept that this is just the way things are,” she explained trying to keep her voice under control despite the fire burning in the pit of her stomach as she watched Russell throw his fist into Grady’s abdomen before he rolled out from beneath his brother staggering to his feet once again and she felt the need to apologize to Russ and Avery for Grady‘s lack of patience and understanding of his brother‘s happiness, “I’m sorry that tonight was such a disaster.”
“Jade, it’s not your fault that…” Russell started as Grady pulled himself up off of the floor making a rush towards her.
“Jade please,” Grady begged of her suddenly aware of how his actions had completely turned the night around as she shook her head at him taking another step back in refusal.
“No, Grady I’m done listening,” she insisted unable to contain the tears that filled her eyes, “I’m just…just done,” she finished turning down the hallway to get her coat as Grady chased after her trying to reason with her as Russell turned his attention to his wife.
“Russ,” Avery reached out to him unsure of what to say as his eyes were still filled with obvious anger and disappointment with his brother.
“I’m sorry that I made you come here tonight,” Russell explained with a heavy sigh as he swiped his and Avery’s coats up off of the floor after his fight with Grady had managed to knock the coat rack over in the process, “This was a big mistake.”
“Russ, I really wish that this hadn’t happened,” she started to apologize feeling a rush of guilt fall upon her shoulders as she thought to how fast the mood had shifted all because she’d been compelled to try to speak with Grady in their moment alone together.
“So do I Avery, but this isn’t your fault,” he tried to assure her as he wrapped her jacket around her shoulders.
“But it is,” Avery frowned in response, “because if you hadn’t married me, then your brother wouldn’t be at odds with you and then you wouldn’t constantly have to be at battle with one another over this…”
“This,” he turned her to face him as a seriousness crossed over his features, “means the world to me and if Grady can’t accept the fact that I love you, then I don’t need him in my life. I don’t need any of his nonsense and I’m not going to take it from him regardless of how he feels about you. I love you and that should be enough for him.”
“And I love you and I only want what’s best for you. I don’t want you to have to constantly defend me to your brother when you and Grady have this wonderful relationship with one another…”
“Had is the more appropriate word,” Russell pointed out with a frown, “and to hell with him. You’re a part of me and my life and I’m not letting you go for the world. You’re my everything and we’re a family now and if Grady can’t accept that, then forget him.”
“Russ, I just wish it didn’t have to be like that,” Avery started hearing Jade and Grady arguing in the other room, “I just feel so bad for you and for Jade…”
“I’ll be fine and as for Jade,” Russell paused to listen to the sounds of her yelling at Grady for a moment, “She can hold her own and then some with Grady. I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll give him a fierce beating that makes mine pale in comparison…”
“Speaking of which,” Avery reached out to him, “you split your lip there Russ…”
“It feels like I’m always mucking something up,” he sighed wishing that things were different with his brother.
“It’s not you,” Avery reminded him with a sigh, “It’s never been about you…”
“Yeah well regardless of what it’s about, I just don’t want to deal with it tonight or ever, so let’s just go home baby,” he urged wanting nothing more than to put the night behind him.
“Are you sure that Jade will be okay,” Avery asked again hearing a crashing sound from the other room as Jade’s voice followed the sound shouting at Grady with a ferocity that Avery found hard to imagine from such a petite woman.
“Yeah she’ll be fine. Grady won’t be, but then again that might be good for him,” Russell decided guiding his wife out of Grady’s home as he found himself realizing that Grady was never, ever going to change.
Ken stepped into Caitlin’s room and stopped as he saw her lying in bed. He took a deep breathe as he stepped over to her and sat beside her, taking her hand in his own.
“Even like this, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” He said softly as he reached out to brush the back of his fingers over her cheek, “I’ve missed you so much. Being away from you has been so painful, and now,” He pressed a soft kiss to her hand, “Now that I’m here with you, I know why it’s been as painful as it has been. Just seeing you has reminded me of just how much I love you. You’re the light in my day, Caitlin. Without you, I feel lost and alone, and I don’t want to feel that way anymore.”
“What’s he doing in there?” Zack barked from outside the room.
“Zack, we’ve all tried to reach out to her. We haven’t made any progress, but maybe he can,” Julia reasoned.
Zack glared inside the room for a moment more before he opened the door and stepped inside, “Okay Ashford, you’ve seen her. Now get out.”
“Zack, I’m not leaving,” Ken declared as he held Caitlin’s hand. He looked back to Caitlin, “I’m going to be right here by her side.”
“I want you out of here,” Zack declared once more, “You haven’t helped her.”
“I haven’t hurt her either,” Ken defended as he turned to look towards Zack, “I’m not leaving her. I love her, and I’m going to be here with her. I want the best for her, and I know that you don’t like that, but this isn’t about you. This is about Caitlin.”
“Ashford, I’m going to ask you one more time before I throw you out of here,” Zack warned.
Ken looked back to Caitlin and leaned forward, pressing a gentle kiss upon her lips, “I love you, Caitlin.”
“Ken?” Caitlin whispered in a rough strained voice.
“Caitlin?” Ken asked quickly as he studied her face.
“Don’t leave me,” She begged as her eyelashes fluttered open.
“I’m not going anywhere, baby,” He assured her as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze, “I’m going to be right here with you.”
Julia rushed into the room and joined Ken at her daughter’s side. She took her daughter’s free hand, “Caitlin, we’re all here with you, sweetheart.”
“Mom?” Caitlin asked as she glanced towards her mother.
“That’s right baby,” Julia lightly brushed her hand over Caitlin’s cheek.
“Ken?” Caitlin asked as she looked over towards him, “Please don’t leave me.”
“I’m not leaving you,” Ken spoke as he leaned forward to kiss her cheek, “I’m going to be right here with you baby.”
Caitlin met his eyes and tiredly closed them once again. Ken smiled
softly as he held her hand firmly in his, not about to let her go again
now that she’d reawakened to face the world.