Avery stopped a few feet in front of the wreckage finding herself detained
by a couple of officers on the scene as she surveyed her surroundings.
Looking up at the shredded guard rail up above, she felt a tightness build
up inside her stomach as her heart raced in her chest as the realness of
the situation took control of her emotions. She dropped her hands
down at her sides, curling her fingers into her jacket pockets as she fought
to keep herself together in a moment like this as she viewed what was more
than likely the last place her mother had ever been in this world.
“Avery,” Russell’s voice beckoned her, his hand falling upon her shoulder as another breeze danced over his body, “sweetheart we shouldn’t be here.”
“I had to see this Russ,” she explained biting on her lip as she tried to come to terms with what had happened, “I had to know.”
“I realize that sweetheart, but right now,” he curled his arms around her trying to shield her from the winds as he turned her in his arms, urging her eyes away from the damage, “Avery, we should probably go see your father.”
“Not yet,” she shook her head in protest, “Russ, I can’t leave just yet…”
“Avery, the police don’t want us sticking around here right now as things are still…” his words were brought to a stop as Avery’s eyes drifted past him to the two men coming down from the road above. One of them was running towards them and almost immediately Russell recognized it was guy, while the other man continued towards them at a slower, more drawn out pace.
“Avery,” Guy called out to his sister as Avery approached him eagerly embracing him before he could get any closer to the situation she’d just happened upon, “Avery, tell me it’s not true.”
“Guy, you shouldn’t be here,” Avery started feeling her brother trembling with emotion as his companion finally made his way towards the rest of them.
“I need to see her,” Guy pleaded with her, “Avery, where is she? Where’s Mum? Tell me it’s not true…that she hasn’t…”
“Guy, I think we need to…” Avery began trying to reason with him as Guy’s gaze drifted beyond her over to his mother’s car in shambles.
“No,” Guy released her unable to refrain from taking a closer look at the car as he rushed over towards the yellow police line that now barricaded the part of the beach they’d had the car pulled onto. He ducked under it, racing up to the door of the car as a couple of uniformed officers chased him.
“Guy no,” Gabe broke his silence chasing after his lover as the two officers struggled to wrench Guy away from the car, “Let go of him.”
“You can’t be here,” another officer explained reaching out to Gabe in an attempt to pull him away from the situation as well as Avery watched her brother wiggle out of an officer’s hold only to slug the man in the face before turning his attention to his mother’s car again.
“Guy,” Avery charged towards the scene seeing the officers work together to take her brother down as she dared to cross the yellow police line herself to stand up for her brother. Seeing as one man started to push him down to the ground, Avery threw her hands out hard into the space between the officers shoulders as he went flying face forward into the sand, “Get your hands off of him!”
“Listen you,” the officer’s partner marched towards Avery ready to grab her as Russell intervened seizing the man’s wrist mid-movement.
“Their mother was in that car,” Russell growled at the man throwing him a glare, “and I swear to God if you even think about touching her…”
“Look,” the officer’s tone shifted from agitation to sympathy as he spoke to Russell once again, “They can’t be here right now.”
“Give them a moment to say their goodbyes,” Gabe urged the officer reaching into his pocket and drawing out a couple hundred dollar bills he’d had inside, “It’s the least you can do for them after their loss.”
The officer eyed the money for a long moment of scrutiny before snatching it up out of Gabe’s hand as he turned his eyes away from Gabe motioning for the other officers to give Guy and Avery a moment alone.
“Just make sure that they don’t touch anything,” the officer instructed as Russell turned his attention to Gabe eyeing him curiously.
“So who are you,” Russell questioned watching the way Gabe’s eyes were fixed on Guy and he realized that perhaps the question went without asking as Gabe strained to focus on Russell’s words with his obvious concern for Guy in the air.
“Just a friend,” Gabe answered simply as Russell extended his hand out to him.
“Well friend, that was good thinking on your part, though I must admit I was kind of hoping the guy was above taking a bribe as it doesn’t say much for our law enforcement officials around here, but given what’s happened I guess now isn’t the time to get into the subject of morality,” he paused for a moment of uncomfortable silence before offering up his hand once again, “I’m Russell Denton--Avery’s husband.”
“Well Russell, it’s nice to meet you. Unfortunately I hate that it’s under these circumstances,” Gabe replied shaking Russell’s hand as his eyes shifted towards Guy once again, “I’m Gabriel Teague…but, you can call me Gabe if you‘d like.”
“Well Gabe,” Russell began watching as Guy sank to his knees in the sand breaking down as Avery moved in beside him throwing her arms around him in an attempt to support him as he was clearly devastated by what he saw, “I’d have to say it’s a good thing that you’re around at a time like this as Guy and Avery both are going to need all the support in the world from those of us that care about them.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Gabe replied watching in silence as his lover’s world came crashing down around him with the impending loss of his mother on this less than ordinary morning at Lake Cardinal.
“I’m sorry to have to do this,” Dave began entering the small room where
he’d had Richard and Judy escorted to as he collected the things that were
brought to the station for Richard to identify as Brooke’s belongings,
“as I know this is a very difficult time with everything up in the air…”
“Just get to what we need to do,” Richard sighed heavily, the effects of a sleepless night getting to him as his worry about his wife and children were on his mind.
“First of all before we do this, do you mind if I ask you a few questions,” Dave started seeing the tension that was obvious in Richard’s features as they continued with the investigation at hand, “they’re just routine.”
“Sure, whatever you want,” Richard groaned slumping forward as his face was a mask of despair and misery.
“Rick, if this is too much…” Judy began gently reaching for his hand as she saw the way this was consuming him.
“Judy, I need to know what happened to Brooke. I need to be sure before…” Richard tilted his head up to look at Dave, “What would you like to know?”
“For starters when was the last time you saw your wife,” Dave questioned in his business as usual voice always hating this part of the job when someone seemed to helpless before him.
“A few days ago,” Richard shrugged his shoulders trying to think of the last time he’d encountered Brooke, “I was out of town with my daughter for a while as she was just married and then when we returned, well I guess you could say Brooke and I just didn’t come into contact with one another.”
“And was this a typical situation for you,” Dave inquired watching the spark of reaction behind Richard’s eyes.
“What? Not to talk to my wife,” Richard’s voice rose with emotion, “Look, it’s no secret that Brooke and I were separated and we didn’t agree on a lot of things, but the last time I saw her, she was her usual bitter self. She was unhappy about Avery leaving town as she was unaware of Avery’s location, but since then, well we kind of went our separate ways.”
“So then you had no idea where she might’ve been last night before the accident,” Dave questioned scribbling down a few notes in the pad of paper he held.
“None what so ever,” Richard shook his head in dismay.
“Anyone she might’ve been meeting with?” Dave asked further.
“The only people I know that my wife has had contact with in town are our son Guy, Avery, Brant as those two tended to get along rather well and maybe some of the contacts through work she’d had here,” Richard suggested with a shrug of his shoulders, “She was over Avery’s not too long ago making a scene, but well, after that I hadn’t heard anything more about her. However, if you want to know what was on her agenda, you could probably call her assistant as she tended to know Brooke’s schedule better than anyone…”
“Does her assistant have a name?” Dave inquired grimly.
“Carla…Carla Reynolds,” Richard rubbed his palms together before his hand pressed up over his neck trying to take away the dull ache that had been throbbing at the base of his head since long before this all began. “I’m sure she’ll be able to tell you more on what might’ve been happening with Brooke last night.”
“I’ll be sure to give her a call,” Dave nodded setting his pad of paper aside before he motioned to the box of things the officers had brought into the station for Richard to look through. Reaching for the first plastic bag covered object, he offered it over to Richard watching Richard’s eyes go wide with recognition.
“This is her purse,” Richard stated simply, his voice devoid of any kind of emotion as the pain behind his eyes revealed what he wasn’t saying, “She got this one in Europe on our tenth anniversary. I’d made a stink about her buying it as I felt it was far too much money to spend on something so tedious, but Brooke insisted upon getting it as she felt it was a good luck charm with her impending business starting to bloom.”
A silence swept over the room as Richard’s eyes remained on the purse as if lost in the memory of something that only he could place between him and Brooke before he handed it back to Dave.
“And this,” Dave offered him a few other objects as like the first one Richard began to identify them as Brooke’s with a short story attached to each object along the way, but as Dave’s gaze lingered into the box once again, he saw the final object, almost overlooked by him in the process of sharing the others with Richard, but as he reached for it, he found himself on edge as he anticipated Richard Morrison’s reaction to it. Taking in a slow breath, he extended the small object over to Richard, who immediately reacted to what was handed to him.
“Oh God,” Richard’s eyes filled with tears despite his otherwise unshaken demeanor as his hand began to tremble with the small ring in the center of his hand, “It’s her wedding ring. This is Brooke’s wedding ring,” he finished unable to hold off the mixture of emotions he was feeling as his fingers curled around the ring in a moment of silence as his head dropped and Judy watched him slipping into a dark place she’d never anticipated ever having to see him in before.
“Rick,” she touched his shoulder gently not knowing what to say as she could feel him shivering beneath her touch.
“This can’t be happening,” Richard spoke under his breath as his sad eyes lifted up towards Judy once more, now only a hollow reminder of their warmth and life that had seduced her senses time and time again. Now all that remained was the obvious pain of a man suffering a great loss and as he reached out to her pulling her towards him in an embrace, she could hear the first sounds of his unrestrained tears falling over her shoulder, “She can’t be gone like this. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…”
“I know,” Judy offered up in condolence as she exchanged looked with Dave knowing that the nightmare was just beginning for the Morrison family as while Brooke had been a bitch in every sense of the word, she’d left behind people who’d cared a great deal about her and in that instant as she held onto Richard straining to find the strength to help him through one of his darkest hours, she began to wonder if perhaps his feelings for Brooke weren’t as cut and dry as he’d lead her to believe as in his mourning the wife who’d made him miserable, she saw that despite all that Brooke had done to hurt him over the years, he still cared about her and that in itself was something that caused a tiny pang in Judy’s heart though she tried to push it aside and be the woman Richard needed as right now that was all that was important.
“You really didn’t have to see me all the way to the door, you know,” Zack advised Johanna as he unlocked the door.
“I know, but you’re so damned stubborn I was afraid that if I didn’t come up here with you, you’d turn right back around and go to the hospital. At least this way, I can honestly tell your mother that I saw you all the way home,” Johanna spoke as she stepped into the apartment behind him, “Besides you were quiet on the ride over here, and that usually means you’ve got something on your mind. I guess I just figured that you might need someone to talk to.”
“Jo, we’re over,” He blurted out as he turned to look at her, “So you don’t have to try to comfort me anymore.”
“Zack, I’m trying to be a friend, okay? It’s not like I tackled you the minute we were through the door and I was trying to rip your clothes off. I just thought you could use a friend since those seem to be few and far between these days,” She reasoned, “Come on. We’re still friends, aren’t we?”
He frowned as he tossed his keys onto an end table and sank onto the sofa, “I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to think that this means anything as far as a future for us is concerned.”
“You’ve made yourself very clear on that one, Zack,” She frowned as she crossed her arms with a heavy sigh, “And as much as that hurts me because I love you, I’ll accept what you want. So,” She walked over to the sofa and sat down near him, “What is it that’s bothering you?”
“I’m just wondering,” He paused as he rubbed the bridge of his nose, “I’m wondering now what it is I’m really doing.”
Johanna looked at him in confusion, “What do you mean?”
“I mean I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping Ashford away from Caitlin, but the very second he finally gets to her, she wakes up. Was I hindering her recovery? How can that be when she was so upset with him before this happened? Somehow I get the feeling that if the attack hadn’t happened, he would not be at her side right now. They’d be apart, and I’d be completely justified in trying to protect my sister.”
“But the attack did happen. Tragedies tend to change circumstances.”
“I know that, but I have this feeling in my gut that the Ashfords aren’t good for my sister.”
“Wait just a minute. Are you talking about all the Ashfords? Blake included?” Johanna frowned, “I thought she was Caitlin’s best friend. How can that be so destructive?”
Zack frowned, “I don’t want to talk about Blake right now.”
“You said the Ashfords, Zack. That kind of includes your girlfriend,” She reminded him.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” He replied, “At least, with the way things have happened, I can’t see how she could be.”
“But you want her to be,” She offered, “I got the impression the other day that you were trying to irritate her by being with me,” She paused, “I told you then that I didn’t want to be used as a weapon. I love you too much for that. And I also love you too much to deny what I saw in her eyes. She loves you, and when you insinuated that there was more going on between us than just friendship, Blake was intensely hurt. You can’t just ignore that.”
“I know,” He groaned, “I can’t believe this all got so complicated. When I got to Coral Valley, I finally thought that things were going to work out and be calm for me. I actually had it in my head that I was going to be able to live a normal life.”
“Zack, honey, you don’t know how to live a normal life.”
“You’re a big help there, Jo,” Zack let his head drop back against the sofa cushions, “I really thought I had a chance here to start over and do things right for a change. I thought I could get my life on track the way it should be.”
“Funny how your idea of getting your life on track seemed to throw mine completely off,” She braced her arm on the back of the sofa and watched him, “I thought we had a fairly normal life in Seattle.”
“We weren’t good for each other, Jo,” He opened his eyes and glanced towards her, “You have to admit that our relationship was strangling us both.”
“I didn’t see it that way. It’s true that we had our problems, but all couples do. We could have worked through them.”
“See, this is what I’m talking about. We always see things differently,” He pointed out, “Doesn’t that seem to convey to you that we just don’t work?”
“No,” She replied with a simple smile, “It just means that opposites attract. The laws of science strike again.”
He shook his head, “You’re impossible, you know,” He offered with a slight smile.
“You always liked that about me,” She teased before sighing, “Well, all I can tell you about the Ashfords is that I don’t trust them,” She paused, “Any of them. They just don’t strike me as the kind of people you can expect loyalty from,” She patted his knee gently, “And that’s my advice for the day.”
He grinned, “I’ll consider it.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you will,” She rolled her eyes as she voiced her doubt, “I’ve got to run. I have some errands to take care of, but you have to promise to eat something and get some rest, okay?”
“Okay,” Zack nodded before Johanna left him by himself. He turned and looked out at his awesome view of the city below. The serene view offered him a chance to think of more peaceful things. The only problem was that right now, his life was completely full of chaos and he couldn’t think of a single peaceful element to it. One thing was for certain, he had a lot of soul searching about his family and his relationship with Blake before the chaos could ever be resolved.
Jade sat on the sofa with her sock clad feet tucked under her and a half empty box of tissues at her side. She had immediately changed into her pajamas when she’d arrived home and settled in for a good day of moping over her problems.
She just couldn’t figure out how things could go so wrong. She and Grady had finally pulled their lives together to make beautiful music together. And then in the blink of an eye, things had fallen apart.
She took a deep breath as she heard a knock at the door. She took a deep breath as she stood, “Who is it?”
“Me, you goof. Did you forget we’re supposed to have lunch today?” Diane’s voice called out.
“Oh crap,” Jade swore as she quickly opened the door to her friend, “I so forgot, Di. I’m so sorry.”
“Jade, you look like hell,” Diane frowned as she stepped inside and closed the door, “What’s going on? You look like you’ve been crying.”
“I have,” Jade admitted as she sank down onto the sofa, “Grady and I are over,” She said as tears muddled her voice.
“Oh sweetie, what happened?” Diane asked as she sat down beside her friend and placed her hand gently upon her shoulder.
“To be quite honest, I’m not even really sure,” Jade ran her fingers through her hair, “I guess I just expected too much, and I was just living in a dream of the way I wanted things to be.”
“So what made you come this realization?” Diane asked as she tossed her purse to the far end of the sofa.
“Last night, Grady and I hosted a dinner party for his brother, Russ and his wife Avery to celebrate their wedding.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. It’s the big buzz around the office.”
“Well, apparently it’s a huge thing for Grady too. In fact, it’s enraged him in a way I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen Grady irritated. I mean, hey, I have worked for the man for a while now, but I’ve never seen him like this. He hates Avery with every fiber of his being, and it’s completely irrational,” Jade explained, “Grady promised me that he was going to be on his best behavior, but he didn’t. The very first opportunity he got, he laid into Avery. Russ and Avery left, but I didn’t let Grady get away with it. I laid into him. We fought all last night, and I wanted to leave then. Somehow, Grady convinced me to stay, but this morning we started fighting all over again.”
“Sounds like it didn’t end with a truce,” Diane frowned.
“No, it ended with me walking out the door,” Jade shook her head.
“Oh Jade, I don’t understand how that could drive a wedge between you,” Diane spoke sympathetically but with confusion.
“It’s an issue of trust, Di. I thought I could trust Grady to stand by his word. He’s always been a man of his word before now,” Jade frowned, “But apparently when it comes to Avery, all bets are off.”
“Why does he hate her? Granted, she’s not my favorite person, but I never thought of her as the kind of person who deserves that brand of hatred.”
“I don’t really get the whole thing myself. All I know is that Avery broke Russ’s heart once a long time ago, and apparently while Russ can forgive, Grady can’t forgive her at all.”
“So why does this get between you?”
“I don’t know if I can trust him. If he’ll completely fly into a rage with his brother’s wife, how can I trust him to behave just on a day to day basis? Besides that, it’s a question of his sobriety. When he gets into an emotional whirlwind, he tends to drink. I just feel like this Avery thing is going to push him off the deep end. I’m so worried about him, but at the same time, I can’t be with him if I can’t trust him. Does that make any sense?”
“Oddly enough, yeah it does,” Diane nodded, “You love him, but you’re not sure if you can live with him. It’s completely understandable, but I don’t know if its worth crying over. Can’t you guys reach a compromise?”
“We’ve tried. I told him that I couldn’t play second fiddle to his hatred of Avery, and I really thought that got through to him. He seemed to really change direction on that and focus on our relationship. Apparently, he wasn’t nearly as focused as I thought he was,” Jade frowned as she wiped tears from her cheeks.
“So you left? Is this for good?” Diane asked as she helped tuck a strand of Jade’s hair behind her ear.
“I don’t know, and to be honest, that’s the part that scares me the most. I love Grady so much, and I can’t imagine living my life without him,” Jade sighed heavily, “I don’t want to be without him, but I can’t be with him right now while he’s like this.”
“Then you have to do what you have to do,” Diane agreed, “Besides, maybe if you give him a little incentive to get his act together, he might find a way to do it.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jade asked as she looked over to him.
“I mean maybe you should date a few guys around town. Make Grady see what he’s missing. You know that guys always want what they can’t have and will break their necks trying to get it. I think maybe that’s what you need to do to Grady to get his head back where it should be,” Diane advised with a smile, “I’m sure we can find a guy who will be right to fit the bill.”
“I’m so not ready to date anyone.”
“I didn’t say you had to get into anything serious, Jade. I’m actually suggesting something completely opposite. I think you need to just get out and have some fun. I’m not expecting you to have a great party time every night, but we could get out and have some fun together. You, me, Ben, I’m sure Seth will want to get out and have some fun. We could really have some fun times like we used to.”
Jade considered Diane’s proposal for a moment, “I don’t know…”
“I do,” Diane said firmly as she hugged her friend to her side, “We’ll go out and be the musketeers again. Trust me. This is just what you need,” Diane was sure that she was taking her friend in the right direction and in the end, Jade would be getting her man back right where she wanted him.
Grady fidgeted in his seat at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting he’d decided to attend after Jade had walked out. He’d needed to get out of his house, and while his first inclination was to go to a bar and get completely blitzed, he knew that this was the kind of time he needed to be at a meeting more than ever. Though in all honesty, he hadn’t heard most of what was going on around him. He’d been much too preoccupied by thoughts of Jade to listen to the speakers at the meeting.
“Okay, Grady, what’s on your mind?” Shannon asked as she sat in a chair beside him as the meeting’s attendance left the auditorium.
“What?” He asked in confusion as he looked over to her, “Did you say something?”
“Yeah, actually I did,” She nodded, “But you’re a million miles away. What’s got you so preoccupied?”
“My girlfriend and I had a fight this morning, and she walked out on me,” He groaned as he rubbed his face and then sighed heavily.
“And you’re wanting to drink now, aren’t you?” She asked.
“Yeah, actually I do,” He admitted, “But I’m too busy right now kicking my own ass to bother drinking.”
“So what happened?”
“I lashed out at my brother’s wife, and my girlfriend didn’t like it at all. Of course, I had told her I would do my best to behave, but no one understands just how difficult that can be around Avery. That woman just drives me insane, and I want to beat Russ for being so stupid,” Grady looked around the now empty room, “Does it really make me such a bad guy to want to protect my brother from the kind of damage only Avery can do to him?”
“No, and I have to admit that Avery isn’t my favorite person right now either,” Shannon admitted, “But I don’t think I would have let her get between me and the person I love.”
“That’s just it. It wasn’t so much Avery getting between Jade and myself as it was me. She expected me to behave, and I told her that I would try.”
“But trying wasn’t good enough for her?”
He looked over to her, “You act like she expected too much of me.”
“Maybe she did.”
“Not you too,” He frowned as he stood and made his way to the back of the room where coffee and Danish sat upon a table for participants to partake of, “I don’t want to think that I’m not capable of behaving in a way Jade would approve of.”
“I don’t understand you, Grady. You don’t think you can keep your tongue curbed around Avery and yet you also don’t want to think that you can’t do it. Does that make any sense at all?”
“I didn’t say it made any sense, Shannon. I just don’t understand what I can do to fix any of this,” He turned after pouring himself a cup of coffee, “What can I do to fix this? How can I turn this around?”
“I told you one time that you need to fix your own life first. You need to get your head together. Then, and only then, can you go into a relationship and be an equal partner. Until you get your life straight, there’s no way you can begin to live in a relationship and make it work.”
“Don’t get me started on how little all this psychobabble really means to me,” He rolled his eyes as he sipped his coffee.
Shannon frowned as she stood and slowly made her way towards him, “Grady, if you want to be miserable the rest of your life…Fine. Be that way. But don’t inflict your misery on other people. Until you can be happy with yourself, don’t try to be happy with anyone else.”
“How did this get turned around on me?” He blurted out as if he were offended.
“It got turned around on you because you said you were kicking your own ass. I’m just pointing out what it is you need to do to get your act together. You can take it or leave it, but my recommendation is that you take my advice and follow it. Otherwise, you’re going to be just another lonely bitter old man,” Shannon patted his arm gently before she walked out of the auditorium.
“I’m not old,” Grady frowned as he sipped his coffee. In his heart, he knew Shannon had a point, but he really didn’t want to think about what it would take to actually pull his life together and get Jade to trust him once again.
“So what’s the final verdict?” Seth questioned propping himself over
on the counter tops on his elbows as he lifted a scrutinizing brow in Blake’s
direction while watching her finish off the last bite of waffled she’d
had on her plate.
“I’d have to say that,” Blake paused with heavy dramatic emphasis, “well Seth, I must say I’ve had my fair share of waffles over the years…”
“And?” he probed further seeing the faint flicker of mischief burning behind her eyes.
“And well…” she drew out the moment feeling a flair for dramatics this morning as he seemed to be hanging on her every word.
“Blake,” he threw her a pointed look at a tiny giggle burst forth inside of her.
“You’re hired,” Blake confessed leaning in over the counter to offer up a quick, approving kiss before flopping back down into her seat across from him, “You can make me waffles any day like as you’re that good.”
“I told you so,” Seth teased with a wink watching her rise from her chair to circle around the island in the kitchen as she swatted at him freely.
“Don’t be smug,” she warned taking her plate towards the sink as he curled his arm out towards her, drawing her back into him with a lightening, quick movement.
“I’m not being smug,” he informed her brightly as he bent down to drop a quick, barely there kiss upon her lips, “Just honest.”
“Yeah well when you do this whole honesty thing in the future, you don’t have to sound so giddy about it,” Blake teased her fingers over the center of his chest enjoying this moment between them as her blue eyes sparkled in response to the nearness of him, “as it makes you look very arrogant.”
“Hmm, well I’ll have to work on that arrogance there, but then again maybe being around you I can find a way to keep myself in line,” Seth suggested with a flirty smile as Blake curled her fingers up over the center of his shirt tugging him down towards her as her lips were a breath away from his.
“Oh I’ll most certainly find a way to keep you in line,” she promised with seductive undertones, “as I have a few tricks up my sleeve here.”
“Hmm…sounds delicious,” Seth murmured feeling her soft, savory lips upon his as he hugged her slender, curvy form up in towards him just easing into the kiss as it seemed that breakfast for them was nothing short of a success.
“Very delicious,” Blake whispered against his lips unable to resist the urge to taste him as she dragged her tongue over his bottom lip feeling a newfound sense of boldness while enjoying her time away from the world with Seth, but before she could allow herself to get carried away once again, the phone on the kitchen wall rang bringing her back to reality.
“Hmm…sounds like someone is seeking you out,” Seth pulled away from the kiss seeing the hints of fire burning behind the surface in her eyes.
“More like a moment’s pause before I take your breath away,” Blake teased stepping out of his embrace as she sauntered her way towards the phone fully aware of the added emphasis in her hips as she reached for the phone wanting to give Seth plenty to think about as she greeted the caller. “Good morning…”
“Blake, honey it’s Ken,” her brother’s voice beckoned her back to reality as she stood up straighter forgetting about her powers of feminine persuasion as her thoughts jolted back to her brother’s being gone all night.
“Ken, what’s wrong?” Blake questioned almost immediately, “What’s going on with Caitlin? Have there been any changes?”
“Actually that’s why I’m calling you,” Kenneth cleared his throat, signs of exhaustion passing over the telephone line as worry began to consume Blake.
“Please tell me that she’s okay--that things didn’t take a turn for the worse,” Blake spoke up feeling her heart leap into her throat at the prospect of something horrible happening to her best friend beyond the coma that had managed to rip her away from the world not so long ago.
“She came out of the coma, Blake,” Kenneth explained excitement filling his tone as Blake allowed herself to let go of the breath she’d been holding as relief washed over her.
“Thank heavens,” Blake brought her hand up to her chest straining to keep the pulsating inside from sending her over the edge as in that brief moment fear transformed to joy and relief, “Have you seen her?”
“I was just with her,” Ken informed her eagerly, “She’s with the doctors at the moment, but she’s doing just fine. She was awake and talking and smiling and well, it’s a miracle Blake.”
“Then Zack let you see her? He’s finally let go of his ridiculous notion that you were bad for her?” Blake questioned hopefully thinking about Zack’s uncharacteristically distant and cold behavior towards her and Kenneth.
“Not exactly,” there was a hesitance behind her brother’s tone.
“What do you mean?” Blake questioned in confusion, “I thought that you said you were with her…”
“I was and I will be, but her parents were the ones who decided to let me see her,” Ken answered her as he gave her a brief run down of the chain of events that took place from the moment he’d talked to Caitlin’s parents leading to Caitlin waking up, “So as you can see, Caitlin’s happy to be back with us and she’s been asking about you.”
“I’ll be right on my way over,” Blake decided wanting nothing more than to see her best friend in the world as she was grateful that fate hadn’t taken Caitlin from her, “I’ll leave now and then I’ll be there shortly.”
“I’ll let Caitlin know you’re coming over,” Kenneth replied as the two said their goodbyes and Blake hung up the phone before turning to Seth.
“Caitlin’s awake,” Blake squealed unable to contain herself as she rushed over into his arms, leaping up into an embrace as Seth held her, feeling a bit shaky at first by her enthusiasm, until he steadied himself and accepted the quick eager kiss Blake offered him, “Kenny said that she’s doing much better and that everything is going to be okay…”
“That’s wonderful news Blake,” Seth smiled in response squeezing her in his arms, “as I told you that miracles can happen.”
“You were so right and I don’t know why I doubted it for a second as I’m so thrilled that she’s finally come back to us. I just hated the idea of not having Caitlin in my life and now that she’s awake, well there’s so much I have to say to her…so much that I need to…” she rambled on untangling herself from his arms, “I told Kenny that I’d be right over to the hospital and then Caitlin and I can talk and I can let her know that I still love her and that I don’t want to fight over something so trivial ever again because the people you love are worth taking the time to listen to them. I don’t want her to think that I don’t care about her because she’s my best friend in the whole, entire universe and…” she paused spinning around on her heel to see Seth standing there just watching her in her frenzy and her smile faded. “Oh Seth…I promised you that we could spend the day together…”
“Hey, it’s okay beautiful,” Seth stepped in towards her extending his arm out to her, “as I think that this takes precedence over what we had planned for the day. Caitlin needs you.”
“Seth I just…” Blake paused seeing the look of compassion and consideration behind his eyes as she reached for his hand, “Thank you for understanding…”
“Anytime,” Seth nodded in response raising her hand to his lips as he offered up a chaste kiss, “just promise me that we can have another pancake and waffles breakfast with one another in the near future.”
“I swear to it,” Blake answered solemnly as she felt a tiny shiver race over her, “as I think we’re going to need to spend some time talking about things…”
“I was thinking that myself,” he agreed realizing that while he and Blake had shared an incredible couple days with one another, the reality of their situation would have to be dealt with and explored. Now as he took the time to memorize her features, he kept her hand in his for one more lingering moment before offering up a smile, “but you know for now, well I could always drive you to the hospital as I’m sure you’ll want to get there as soon as possible.”
“That would be awesome,” Blake smiled up at him brightly before stepping in towards him, “and Seth?”
“Yes?” he lifted a curious brow seeing the expression that settled in over her features.
“I meant what I said this morning,” she explained softening her tone as a seriousness swept over her features, “I have never, ever regretted a moment of what we had together. I still feel that way about us regardless of what the future brings and I need you to know that.”
“I’m glad to hear you say that as every second we’ve shared is one that I’ll treasure in my heart for always,” Seth promised dipping down to give her one, last lingering kiss as he said a silent prayer hoping that after today fate would have it to bring him and Blake back together again somehow as in being this close to her, he’d found that tiny piece of heaven that had always been just out of his reach time and time again.
“How can this be happening,” Guy questioned breaking his heart wrenching
silence as he turned his tear filled eyes up towards Avery and a tiny shudder
passed through her at the very sight of her brother’s pain at the situation
they were facing.
“I don’t know Guy, but I wish that this wasn’t as bad as it looks,” Avery reached out to him embracing him once again as she felt him tremble beneath her touch.
“How could she just be gone? I mean they haven’t found her yet, right? There could still be a chance that she made it out of that disaster…” Guy’s words hung with hope as Avery’s gaze lingered in over towards wreckage and she realized that while her brother was grasping for something to believe in, the very idea of Brooke coming out of that mess in one piece was just too out of this world to even fathom.
“Guy, honey, right now well, right now maybe we should get going,” Avery urged on seeing the obvious despair building behind his eyes.
“No, no I won’t leave her. I can’t leave not when she could be out there,” he turned his attention to the water, “not when…”
“Guy please…” Avery reached out for his arm seeing his desire to sprint away from her as she clenched on to him, fearing he’d go in the water after Brooke himself.
“Avery, you know I can’t just let this go. I can’t just leave her alone when…” he pleaded with her, his dark eyes reaching out to her desperately as Avery kept her fingers around his arm tightly.
“Guy, you have to let the police deal with this. You can’t go in there and hurt yourself because that would be the last thing Brooke wanted,” Avery explained poignantly, “She wouldn’t want you putting yourself in danger because of this…”
“She’s our mother Avery,” Guy blinked back at her incredulously, “How can you just stand there and not do anything about this?”
“Guy, I’m doing what I can which is why I’m not letting you rush into something stupid,” Avery pleaded with him seeing a mixture of emotions press over him, “I won’t lose you too.”
“She could be out there fighting for her life and we’re here doing nothing,” Guy insisted firmly, “Avery, our mother could be dying and we’re leaving it in the hands of people who clearly don’t have the first clue what they’re doing…”
“Guy, you can’t go diving into that water as you don’t know the first thing about doing that not to mention that it’s still the middle of winter here,” Avery argued with him, “and I know that Brooke would insist that you don’t do such a thing.”
“Brooke,” he repeated anger flashing behind his eyes as he struggled to pull away from her, “Avery, she’s our mother--not just some random stranger that we crossed paths with on the street. Just because you care nothing for her, doesn’t mean that I have to be as cold and callous as you and your father have always been to her.”
“Guy, you’re not being fair about this,” Avery frowned in response feeling him wrench out of her reach, “I know that you’re hurting, but this…”
“This is his fault,” Guy clenched his fists at his side a rage growing inside of him, “if he’d only left well enough alone and tried to be the husband she needed, then she wouldn’t…”
“No,” Avery argued with him, “Guy, this isn’t anyone’s fault.”
“Yes it is,” he hissed back at her, “You and your father were so insistent upon making her miserable that…”
“I tried to live my life,” Avery replied in her own defense, “I wanted to find happiness in my life and that’s why things were the way they had been between us because Brooke wouldn’t let me do just that…”
“She wanted the best for you Avery. She wanted you to love and accept her, but you just kept pushing her further away. You didn’t care about how she felt or what she wanted in her life with you,” Guy threw out at her in an accusatory tone, “because it’s always been about you Avery. You’ve always had to do everything to spite her--to…”
“That’s enough,” Russell stepped in bringing his arm around Avery’s shoulders as he threw a stern look in Guy’s direction, “Guy, while you’re upset right now, it’s not the time for you to be throwing the blame on Avery. You both are going through this together and now is not the time to let your relationship fall apart and become something ugly…”
“Like you care,” Guy rolled his eyes seeing the way Russell held Avery, “as you never liked my mother…”
“You’re right. She wasn’t one of my favorite people in this world, but I would never wish that on her. I would never, ever want this for anyone…especially not my child’s grandmother,” Russell blurted out as Guy’s mouth opened to speak ready to offer up a few fighting words before his features shifted with the moment.
“What did you just say?” Guy questioned.
“I said that I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone,” Russell offered up once again as Guy’s eyes darted towards Avery and he found himself half listening to Russell.
“Avery, you told him?” Guy questioned in confusion thinking about the secret his sister had carried over the years, “You told him about the baby?”
She nodded tearfully, “Guy, Russ and I got married while I was away.”
“What?” Guy blinked back at her, “Avery, but I thought that…”
“Guy, I know this isn’t really the time, but there’s so much I need to tell you,” she slipped away from Russell reaching out to her brother as his anger began to dissipate and something else washed over his tortured features, “I wanted to share this with you under different circumstances, but now with this loss, well maybe you should know…”
“Know what…” Guy began wearily watching the tears in her eyes.
“Guy, I’m pregnant,” Avery confessed with a tiny whimper reaching out to her brother.
“Pregnant,” he repeated, his jaw dropping as his eyes shifted between her and Russ, “you mean you two are…that you…”
She nodded readily, “I found out while I was away and everything happened so fast, but Russ and I, we’re having a baby. The doctors were wrong about me and now…”
“Oh Avery,” Guy reached out to her hugging her tightly, “this is incredible news. I mean for so long you wanted this and now…” he paused pulling back just enough to wipe at the tears that fell from her face as another question lingered over his lips, “Did Mum know…I mean was she aware that you were having a baby?”
Avery nodded, “She just found out when we came back.”
“Then you two must’ve been trying to make amends as she’s been talking about wanting grandchildren and,” Guy hugged her eagerly, “She must’ve been thrilled about learning you were pregnant like this…”
“She certainly felt passionate about it,” Avery offered up leaving the details of her mother’s reaction to the news about the baby to herself as she held on to her brother hoping that somehow he’d be able to make it through this nightmare that had fallen upon their family.
“She wanted her children to find happiness you know. Even if she was hard to reach out to at times,” Guy thought of his mother’s persistence to see him have a normal life.
“I know that Guy and there’s not a doubt in my mind about how much she loves you,” Avery reached for his hands as they parted squeezing them gently as she looked to him, “She’s always been so proud of you.”
“I always wanted that from her,” Guy confessed openly as a flicker of sadness passed over him.
“Avery,” Jenna’s voice cut through the moment as Avery saw her best friend approaching the scene.
“Jenna,” Avery spoke out to her as Jenna bridged the distance between them throwing her arms out around Avery.
“Girl, I’m so sorry,” Jenna whispered in her ear before turning to see Guy, “hey you. Come here…”
“Jenna,” Guy embraced their long time friend finding himself at a loss as she hugged him tightly.
“Guy, I wish there was something more I could do,” Jenna confessed squeezing him in her arms, “as I know how much your mother means to you and I swear to you as soon as I know more, you and Avery will be the first to know about it.”
“Thank you Jenna,” Guy offered up with a sad smile as they parted, “I appreciate that.”
“I just wish I could do more as I hate that this happened,” Jenna motioned towards the direction where she’d come from, “I brought Wayne here with me as he thought maybe you might like to talk to someone.”
“I’m not really up for talking,” Guy began stubbornly before looking over at his long time pal, “but I guess I can say something…” he decided with a shrug of his shoulders going over to talk to Jenna’s brother as Jenna focused her attention on Avery once again.
“He’s taking this hard, isn’t he,” Jenna questioned seeing the strain behind Avery’s features.
“Harder than I’d ever imagined,” Avery confessed keeping her eyes on her brother, “though I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that he’s feeling he’s lost her or the not knowing what happened to her. I think it’s killing him as he’s holding onto hope, but…” she motioned towards the car.
“I know Avery,” Jenna nodded sympathetically.
“I’m supposed to meet my father down at the police station, but I had to come here. I had to see what happened and now,” Avery felt the tears returning to her eyes, “I don’t know what to think.”
“You’re going to get through this,” Jenna hugged her once again, “We’ll find a way to help Guy and somehow, well somehow together we’ll all find a way to work through this pain.”
“I hope you’re right Jenna because I’m really worried about him,” Avery admitted looking over Jenna’s shoulder at her brother as she wondered what would happen if and when Brooke’s body was recovered from the water. Somehow she had the feeling that as bad as things were now, when they had confirmation about what had happened to Brooke, it was only going to be worse for Guy and when that moment came, she just prayed that it didn’t shatter Guy’s world completely.
Thea tapped her pen upon her desk. She was never good at patience and
considering she’d been trying to get in touch with Cameron for two days,
the small amount of patience she was capable of was gone.
She didn’t know what Cameron was up to, but she had a feeling that it couldn’t be good. Any time he’d gone off on his own, she ended up having to clean up his mess. She could only hope he hadn’t taken that blond slut he’d proposed to with him.
Deciding that he wasn’t going to answer his cell phone, Thea hung up the phone and lifted the files in front of her to go speak with Susan. While Susan wasn’t her favorite person in the world, she was a good attorney and her ambition could always be trusted to paint Stone Corp in a good light.
Thea stepped into Susan’s office and placed the files on the attorney’s desk, “I brought some of the files Kipp had sent to me for review. I think they’re all in order, and you’re probably going to want to read over them.”
“Good, I was going to come ask you about these,” Susan said as she took a file and began reading over the contents.
“Have you heard from Cameron today?” Thea asked as she sat across from the attorney.
“No, and I don’t expect to either. He’s left very rigid instructions not to disturb him,” Susan replied as she continued to read over the file.
“Where is he?” Thea asked, hating that Cameron had chosen to leave her in the dark about his plans.
“He’s on his honeymoon.”
“He’s what?” Thea shrieked.
“Yeah, he took Heather Gibbons to Vegas and got hitched. They’re away on their honeymoon as we speak,” Susan spoke as she watched Thea react violently. She grinned, “I’m guessing Cam forgot to reveal that little detail, huh?”
“Of course he left out that detail because he knows I’d never let him make such a horrendous mistake,” Thea grunted as she began to pace the room.
“It’s not horrendous. I think he’s finally understanding that he needs more in his life than revenge and money,” Susan grinned.
“Like what? Marrying a bimbo who’s going to rob him blind?” Thea demanded, “How could you let him do something so stupid?”
“In case you haven’t noticed, no one let’s Cameron do anything. He does whatever he wants to, and no one controls him. And if you think you could have changed his mind, you’re just deluding yourself,” Susan reminded her, “So don’t take your anger out on me.”
Thea groaned as she stormed out of Susan’s office. She was more angry than she had ever been before, and she had no idea what to do about it. One thing was for certain though, she wasn’t going to let Cameron continue screwing up his life with Heather, and she would find a way to turn this nightmare around.
Brant sat in his office leaning back in his plush leather chair and
facing out onto the morning below as the oversized windows revealed the
various scenic places in Coral Valley. It was times like these when
he really had a full sense of appreciation for the finer things that life
in Coral Valley had presented him and while he was certain that a great
many would have their own theories about how Brant Ashford was born into
the Coral Valley elite, the truth to the matter was that he’d worked his
hardest to be in this very spot--in this position to be able to have this
moment in watching the world below knowing that he’d finally succeeded
in establishing his place in the Ashford empire. Sure, he’d become
the object of a great amount of scrutiny and hatred, but on mornings like
these when he could kick his shoes off and keep tabs on the world below
in all it’s luster, well it made him thankful to be alive.
Of course on most mornings Brant probably would’ve taken a bit more pleasure in the beauty his office window provided, but today, well today despite his outward calm and collected demeanor, his insides were all in turmoil as he’d checked in with Avery’s office at least half a dozen times discovering that she hadn’t come in just yet. That in itself was rather unsettling, not just because of Brant’s interest as her employer, but more so because of his personal interests in Avery. The same interests that had kept him up most of the night, restlessly tossing and turning as his dreams of her haunted him were suddenly invading his office hours, preventing him from focusing on his job as he thought to the way he’d wanted her for so very long. Even now when he found himself thinking about how close they’d started to become on the island, he couldn’t help but wonder why she’d run from him--why she’d rushed into something with a clear cut idiot like Russell Denton when they’d had something that could’ve only brought them both to another level of greatness.
“She’ll be back,” Brant promised himself with a heavy sigh as he reached for the pile of papers that had been faxed over to him from his private investigator. Reaching for the note on the top of the pile, he saw that yet again nothing had shown up on Angela and with a frown, he crumbled up that particular note tossing it into the trash can as he began to ponder the woman who looked so very much like Avery. Sure, she was stunning and beautiful and reckless and well, quite honestly, she was his dream girl down to a tee except for the fact that she’d not been Avery Morrison. Angela had allowed him the chance to let loose and be himself, much like he’d hoped to be with Avery and in his darkest moment she’d walked into his life out of a dream ready to make all of his fantasies a reality and then almost as soon as the dream began it ended as she pushed him out of her world and vanished entirely.
“Quit thinking about her,” Brant frowned wondering what was wrong with him as he’d made it his mission to win Avery over and since he’d decided that he was certain he would be loyal to that cause, yet for some reason unknown to him, there was always that faint flicking thought of Angela in the back of his head. Heaven knows why he’d been obsessing over her as it wasn’t like him to do such an unheard of thing--well other than his determination to win Avery over, but there was just something about Angela too that had fixed on his subconscious and had divided his dreams of Avery into random images of a life with Angela as well.
It was all crazy, he started to rationalize that this was all just his mind’s way of getting that one step closer to Avery. Certainly given Angela’s striking resemblance that made her almost identical to the woman he’d been wanting to win over for years now was what had clearly put the obsessive thoughts into his head. The short passion he’d spent with Angela clearly rivaled the fantasies he’d had of Avery and with his longing for Avery so long like he had, it had to be the reason why he was fixated on Angela. Though the very fact that he was still seeking her out had him puzzled as he was quite certain he’d win Avery over. Surely, he didn’t need to locate the woman who’d popped in and out of his life without an afterthought on her part when eventually he was certain he’d be with Avery. With that thought in mind, Brant threw the piece of paper from his private investigator into the trash can resolving to let the whole issue of locating Angela go as he needed to keep his eyes on the goal at the end of the road, which brought him to the next topic before him.
“Russell Denton,” he frowned seeing the pages of information that his private investigator did manage to dig up on the man who’d stolen Avery from his life. As he began to thumb through the information on all of Russell’s various good deeds and noble exploits, Brant rolled his eyes crumpling page after page up as he realized he didn’t need to be reminded of how ‘saintly’ a man like Russell was when that clearly wasn’t going to help him make any further progress with Avery.
With that thought fresh on his mind, Brant reached for another page that detailed all of Russell’s writing merits and he crumpled that too before launching it right into the trash can with a basketball worthy swoosh. Smiling as he relished in the fact that he could make at least one part of Russell go away with the discarded pages, he reached for another ready to take Russell to the trash on a more metaphorical level, when the photo printed on the page before him caused him to stop dead in his tracks. There before him was a much younger version of Russell Denton from his college days with Johanna Larsen at his side, the two of them looking rather cozy with one another as Russell was accepting one in his endless string of awards. Johanna’s arm was curled around his, looking ever so smugly at the camera as she was clearly staking claim in her property and Russell, ever the bumbling idiot, had a goofy grin over his features as he was accepting his latest tribute to the sap in him. Frowning Brant picked up the page seeing the undying devotion and dedication behind Johanna’s otherwise sour features as she seemed to truly be enjoying herself with Russell, well as much as a cold, heartless woman as herself could and if Brant had been a betting man, based on this photo alone, he would’ve thought that Johanna would’ve been more productive on her quest to get Russell away from Avery like she’d promised…only now as Brant thought about Johanna, he realized that only once had he witnessed that kind of expression on that woman’s face--back at the hospital with Zack Vaughn of all people.
That thought brought Brant back to the moment as he decided that despite Johanna’s failures in her attempts to persuade Russell out of town, she might be useful after all and with that idea fresh on his mind, he dialed her number hoping that she’d prove to be useful to him after all as his faith in her was exceedingly diminished after all she’d lacked in her ability to live up to her promises.
“Hello,” Johanna’s voice spoke up as she answered her cell phone eagerly.
“Johanna,” Brant replied curtly not bothering with the trivial pleasantries as he cut straight to the point, “I trust you haven’t made any progress with Russell, now have you?”
“Don’t you have anything better to do with your life than harass me all the time,” she shot back sarcastically, “as this obsession of yours is quite pathetic in itself Brant.”
“And you’re proving to be quite an agitation as I paid you a lot of money to keep the promises you’ve been making me,” Brant snarled in response, “or have you forgotten them already?”
“I haven’t forgotten what I’ve promised you, but then again, when I came into this arrangement, I wasn’t aware that Russ was ready to up and marry Avery yet again.”
“As if that makes a difference to you,” Brant rolled his eyes upon her words, “as he wouldn’t have been the first married man you’ve worked your powers of persuasion over.”
“No, he wouldn’t be, but then again he’d probably be the first one of them that’s truly in love,” she shot back icily, “as a man in love brings along with him a whole set of rules and limitations when it comes to these kind of things.”
“Ah yes, but the man you’re hoping to persuade isn’t in love with Avery as he’s merely infatuated with my sister,” Brant snapped as he heard silence on the other end of her line and for a moment he was surprised at the lack of reaction from Johanna, “I’ve seen what you’ve been up to with Dr. Vaughn there Jo and I know why you haven’t been living up to your end of the bargain.”
“My relationship with Zack is none of your business,” she argued with him in a heated whisper, “as I agreed to help you get rid of Russell, not for you to become privy to my personal life.”
“Hmm, well you know to be honest with you Jo, I could give a rip less about your personal life except when it interferes with my sister’s love life,” Brant remarked bitterly as he sat up straighter in his chair, “as while I’ve been highly agitated with you for your lack of effectiveness in parting Russell and Avery, you really haven’t seen the half of what I can do when someone decides to screw with my family. I’m afraid the nice guy in me goes out the window and things can get pretty ugly and from what I recall Jo, you weren’t rather fond of ugly.”
“You aren’t going to keep me away from Zack just because your sister has it in her head that she’s going somewhere with him,” she defended daring to face the wrath of Brant Ashford as she refused to deny her heart, “You don’t have that kind of power over me.”
“Oh I have that kind of power, but you can relax for the moment,” Brant assured her with a wicked tone, “as right now your staying away from Zack Vaughn was the last thing on my mind.”
“Come again,” Johanna’s surprise swept over the line after another moment of silence.
“The man seems to have found himself on the receiving end of my bad side as he and his sister seem to put their nose where it doesn’t belong with my family,” Brant stated plainly, “and Blake is under the misconception that he actually cared about her, but given what I’ve seen with you and the esteemed doctor, I realize exactly what kind of man he is and I don’t want him near my sister. After the way he’s hurt her, I think it would be in all of our best interest if he just packed his bags and went back where he came from. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Brant, are you telling me that you want me to make sure Zack disappears?” she questioned in confusion.
“That’s pretty much the gist of it as I don’t want that man in Coral Valley to tear Blake’s world apart and since you’ve clearly got some kind of vested interest in that pathetic loser, well then I suppose I’ll be doing you a favor in the process by having you make sure he’s out of Coral Valley and out of Blake’s life,” Brant shrugged his shoulder sinking back into his chair, “as while I’m rather upset with you for your lack of progress with Russell, I might be willing to forgive and forget all the bad blood between us if you persuade Dr. Vaughn to disappear.”
“So all I have to do for you it tempt Zack into leaving Coral Valley and then we’re even?” Johanna questioned an eagerness laced in her tone as Brant felt a smile tickling over the corners of his mouth.
“I wouldn’t quite call us even Jo,” Brant spun around in his chair to look out onto the world below once again, “but I think it’s a good start. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“That all depends,” she regained her composure as Brant could almost see the snicker on her features through her tone.
“Ah, Jo, I’m the one making the rules, remember?” Brant cut her off abruptly, “I’m calling the shots and I think it would be in your best interest to remember that.”
“So what else do you want?” she groaned over the line, “As I already told you that with Russell…”
“Forget about Russell…well, not entirely as I have a few questions for you about the man. Seeing as you’re clearly inefficient in bringing me what I need in his removal from town, well I think it might be best if you can guide me in the direction of someone who can achieve the desired results.”
“You mean you want me to tell you about someone else who can cause a rift between Russ and Avery?” Johanna questioned skeptically, “That’s all you want?”
“That seems like it should be good enough,” he decided with an afterthought, “I mean if you are successful in bringing to the table someone else who can pick up the slack where you weren’t able to cut it with Russell, then I’ll leave you to your mission with Zack and then we’ll call it even.”
“In that case, I won’t bother with waiting around to keep you in suspense about how to put a wedge between Russell and Avery,” Johanna’s voice beamed with enthusiasm, “as you’ve truly been going at this all wrong. I mean sure Russ and I had something once upon a time, but another woman probably won’t be the way to pull them apart…”
“Are you saying there’s another man,” Brant couldn’t help but smirk as the thought of Russell stepping out on Avery for another man almost made him laugh as that would truly be a rift in the sainted image Russell had going.
“That’s right and Brant it’s not how you’re thinking,” Johanna brought his thoughts to a quick end, “as the key to breaking Russ and Avery apart lies in his brother Grady.”
“Grady,” Brant repeated with a chuckle, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Brant to be honest with you, Grady is probably the one person on the planet who will be against Russ and Avery’s union even more than you are,” Johanna offered up bluntly, “He and Avery have this intense hatred thing working between them and it’s always put Russell in a position of discomfort. While Russell is head over heels over Avery, there are things that come into conflict with Grady’s lack of approval as Russell has always been all about impressing Grady. Granted he tries to pretend that he isn’t phased by Grady’s obvious disapproval, but it eats away at him.”
“So what do you expect me to do?” Brant frowned thinking about the man who was leading the crusade to destroy his company, “Grady Denton and I aren’t exactly the best of pals there.”
“You don’t have to be,” Johanna stated simply, “All you have to do is plant the seeds of doubt in Grady’s head about Avery and then he’ll find a way to make the rest happen. All he needs is one inkling of Avery’s roving eye and he’ll make it his mission to tear Russ and Avery apart.”
“And you really expect something like that to work,” Brant pondered the thought for a moment thinking about the ridiculousness of the statement.
“Grady’s a loose cannon and if he’s got enough ammunition, he’s not going to stop until he gets what he wants,” Johanna let out an ironic laugh, “In that way you two are very much alike strangely enough…”
“I think you’d better stop there as the last thing I want is you comparing me to that moron,” Brant rolled his eyes as he curled his finger around the phone contemplating the situation at hand.
“I’ll tell you what Brant,” Johanna threw out at him eagerly, “I’ll cook up something to plant the seeds of doubt into Grady and then we’ll call it even.”
“Only when you get Zack out of Coral Valley for good,” Brant added pointedly.
“Oh believe me,” Johanna’s voice beamed with enthusiasm, “I won’t stop until I have Zack exactly where I want him to be and you can rest assured when I tell you that you won’t have to worry about his presence in Blake’s life ever again as those days are over.”
“Such confidence,” Brant felt an ironic chuckle fall from his lips, “though I hope that this time my trust in you isn’t misplaced as it was before.”
“We both know you trust me about as much as I trust you, which isn’t saying much,” Johanna cut back sharply, “but this time Brant, well this time I can guarantee results with Zack.”
“See to it that you do,” Brant replied sharply hanging up the phone as he looked out to the morning below once again realizing that the morning was starting to look up after all.
Ben hung up the phone and groaned. He’d been fielding questions all morning as reporters couldn’t wait to get an official comment from the Morrison family about Brooke’s car being pulled from Lake Cardinal. He wasn’t about to let those bottom feeders get to Avery considering what she must be going through.
The phone rang once more, and he braced himself to do battle with another nosy reporter, “Avery Morrison’s office.”
“Good, I was hoping you’d be in.”
“What are you doing calling me here?” Ben demanded, instantly recognizing Isabel’s voice and knowing that she was up to no good in the current situation.
“Don’t get so defensive. I know that Avery’s busy checking on her mother’s situation, and I knew that now would be a good time to discuss business with you.”
“I’m not really comfortable talking any kind of business with you right now.”
“Well get over it. We have competition in town, Ben. The feds aren’t leaving any time soon, and you just know they’re chomping at the bit to get their hands on the Ashfords. We can’t let them get this arrest.”
“There’s no arrest to make, Isabel,” Ben blurted out as he looked around to make sure no one had heard his outburst. He lowered his voice, “I’ve told you that things aren’t as they used to be. Business is on the up and up whether you like it or not.”
“Don’t give me that. We both know that the feds wouldn’t be sticking around if they weren’t after very big prey. You had better get me some evidence that I can use to put the Ashfords behind bars, Ben. I’m not going to let the feds get the jump on me here.”
“There’s no evidence to get, Isabel. I’ve told you this over and over again.”
“Look, if you can’t handle this job, I’ll find someone who can. You’re not the only eyes I have inside BBK, Ben. So it’s up to you to decide if you want your career to end here or if you want to go on to bigger and better things.”
Ben started to argue before the line went dead. He groaned as he looked to the phone and hung it up. Things had just got a lot more stressful, and Ben would have to find a way to play referee between his respect for the Ashfords and his enjoyment of his job.
Blake rushed out of the elevator towards Caitlin’s room with excitement rushing through her veins. She’d picked up Caitlin’s favorite flowers before coming over. She’d hoped that she could cheer up her friend just a little bit after the condition she’d suffered for the last week.
“Blake, she’s been asking about you,” Timothy smiled from the doorway, “Your brother and Julia are in with her now. Go on in.”
“Thanks, Mr. Vaughn,” Blake smiled as she knocked on the door and stepped inside, “I hear there’s a party going on in here. I’d better be invited,” She teased as she stepped inside.
“Blake!” Caitlin said with excitement as she waved for her friend to come in.
Blake placed the flowers she’d bought on a bedside table before moving to hug her friend, “You scared the hell out of us.”
“I know,” Caitlin rolled her eyes, “I didn’t mean to.”
“I know you didn’t. I was there,” Blake assured her friend as she sat down on the bed beside her, “What’s the big idea causing all this drama anyway?”
“Oh you know, I figured we hadn’t had a good chance to bond in a while,” Caitlin teased in return, “Although everyone around here tells me that there hasn’t really been a whole lot of bonding going on.”
“That’s just your brother being his normal pain in the backside self that caused that,” Blake pointed out as she looked over to Ken and Julia, “But your mother knows what’s best for you, and always seems to come through in the end.”
“That’s right. Puff up my ego,” Julia teased as she placed her hands on Blake’s shoulders to peer over her to Caitlin, “But I must admit that it was your brother who really saved the day, Blake. Kenneth spoke to her, and it was like Caitlin couldn’t resist responding to him. I must say that it’s all rather romantic.”
Caitlin smiled as she reached out to take Ken’s hand, “Ken’s a very romantic guy, and he just melts my heart,” She blew a kiss to him as he leaned in and captured a true one from her lips.
“I love you,” Ken whispered as he met her eyes.
“Oh would you two stop that? You’re making me all teary eyed over here,” Blake teased.
“You hush,” Caitlin warned with a teasing grin, “I’ve seen you get all gushy over Zack, and that doesn’t make me teary eyed. It makes me want to puke, so you just hush.”
“Yeah well, I don’t expect you’re going to be seeing much more of that,” Blake frowned.
“What has my bone head brother done now?” Caitlin frowned.
“I don’t think now is the time to get into all this stuff. Let her heal first, and then Zack can explain himself to her,” Ken advised, “Besides, I think that Zack has done what he thought was right in all of this. He’s been trying to protect you, Caitlin.”
“Why do I get the feeling that I’m still going to want to hurt him?” Caitlin asked with a frown.
“Because that’s just how you and your brother are,” Julia said softly before she glanced outside, “Cait, I’m going to take your father to get something to eat, and then we’ll be right back.”
“You should go to a hotel and get some rest,” Caitlin advised her, “I know you’ve been here since the attack, and Mom, really, I’ll be okay now.”
“I’ll worry about you if I want to, young lady,” Julia teased, “But perhaps we will go turn in for a nap.”
“Have you even found a hotel room yet?” Ken asked with concern, “You guys have been here non stop.”
“We haven’t even considered a hotel room to be quite honest,” Julia frowned.
“Well then, don’t worry about it. You’ll stay at the mansion,” Ken said as he looked to Blake, “We have plenty of room, and I really think they’d be more comfortable there than at the Pointe.”
“I agree,” Blake nodded as she looked to Julia, “You should go to the mansion and stay there.”
“I’ll call Simon and have him bring over a car. I’ll be right back,” Ken dropped a kiss to Caitlin’s cheek before he left the room with Julia to arrange for their stay.
“Okay, now that they’re gone, what has Zack done?” Caitlin asked bluntly.
“Well, you’re just ready to jump right in to all the drama all over again, aren’t you?” Blake teased, “Ken’s right. Now isn’t the time.”
“Blake, don’t make me strangle you with this IV here,” Caitlin warned, “What happened?”
“I think Zack half blamed Ken and I for what happened. I think he believes that if we hadn’t got into an argument you would have spotted Jimmy long before you did,” Blake frowned, “And I agree with him.”
“Blake, don’t you dare blame yourself for this. Granted, I wasn’t alert as I should have been, but that wasn’t your fault. I shot my mouth off when I shouldn’t have, and it came back to haunt me. This wasn’t your fault, and if you or Ken are blaming yourselves, I’ll have to smack some sense into you,” Caitlin teased.
“How can you be so forgiving?”
“Because there’s nothing to forgive, Blake. You didn’t do anything to me and neither did Ken. Granted we weren’t seeing eye to eye, but that doesn’t mean this was your fault. You didn’t try to kill me. Jimmy did,” Caitlin frowned, “Has there been any word about Jimmy’s whereabouts?”
“No, not yet, but I know that Dave is working hard to find him, and he will,” Blake assured her, “You shouldn’t be worried.”
“I’m not. At this point, it’s a little late to be worried,” Caitlin sighed, “So, what’s been going on since the attack that I’ve missed out on?”
“Oh boy, there’s a lot going on in this town. Are you sure you’ve recovered enough to deal with this?” Blake teased as she settled in to share some gossip with her best friend. While things weren’t nearly as all right as she would have liked them to be, Blake would do her best to make things as comfortable and normal for Caitlin as possible.
“I’ll just be a few minutes,” Avery offered up turning to her brother
as the group entered the police station, “If you want to wait outside…”
“No, I need to be here,” Guy insisted firmly thinking about the day he’d had as a mixture of heavy emotions passed through him.
“I just…I just don’t want this being any harder on you honey,” Avery reached out to touch his face gently, “as I know that the scene of the accident was difficult enough…”
“If you can do this, then so can I,” Guy explained with a determination in his tone, “as I want to know what happened to our mother.”
“Alright, then I’ll go see what I can find out,” Avery turned to Russell stepping up towards him, “Russ, can you do me a favor and keep an eye on him?”
“Of course,” he reached out for her hand squeezing it gently before offering up a quick kiss as she took off in search of her father. Quietly he turned his attention to Guy noting that Gabe was at his side unwavering in his position tending to Guy in his own casual way. Seeing the both of them, Russ began to wonder if perhaps Gabe would be something that would help Guy through such a time, but for now, well it was best to remind everyone of what they still had.
“I hate this not knowing,” Guy frowned pacing around the room as Gabe watched him intently.
“I’m sure you’ll hear something soon,” Gabe offered up breaking his long silence.
“I’m not so sure that I’m going to like it when I do,” Guy explained with a heavy sigh bringing his fingers through his hair, “I mean after everything…after all that Mum and I have been through… I can’t believe that she’d just disappear from my life like this. I mean here I’d just thought that…”
“Guy, regardless of what happens, you just have to remember the love you feel in your heart for her as she’ll always be a part of that,” Russell offered up after a moment of contemplation.
“That’s easier said than done and surprising coming from you, I might add,” Guy turned his attention to Russell, “though I have to admit I have a burning question that’s been on my mind since Avery told me that she ran off and married you.”
“What’s that,” Russell questioned sensing he wasn’t about to like what was burning behind Guy’s curious and frustrated eyes.
“How in the world did you get my sister to marry you?” Guy blurted out sharply, “I mean I know you two had talked about it, but then when you broke her heart at that party by being in bed with that woman…”
“That was a mistake,” Russell began knowing how feeble his defense sounded at a moment like this.
“You’re damn right it was a mistake,” Guy stepped in towards him waving his finger wildly at him, “and while Avery might’ve been able to overlook that, I swear to you if you even think about stepping out on my sister like that again, you’re going to have to answer to me as my sister deserves more than that.”
“I’m well aware of that and I swear to you that I would never, ever intentionally hurt her,” Russell promised readily, “as that night, well I just don’t know what happened.”
“Sure you don’t,” Guy rolled his eyes, “as that’s always the cheater’s excuse for his actions.”
“I know you might find it hard to believe in this particular instance, but that night there was something clouding my judgment and I…” Russell started up feeling the need to explain himself to Avery’s brother.
“Yeah it’s called your overactive libido and I really would’ve thought you’d had more respect for my sister than that after all the sacrifices she’s made for you over the years,” Guy snapped at him feeling the need to lash out at anyone and anything as this time of grief was overwhelming him.
“I made a mistake,” Russ repeated his first statement on the subject, “I’d been drinking and I just thought…well, I didn’t realize what was happening…”
“Right, and I’m sure Avery bought that because she found out she was pregnant and ecstatic that you’d given her something to hold on to,” Guy frowned in response to Russell’s words finding himself quite doubtful of Russell’s tale, “My sister has a really loving heart and I know she’s spent most of her life loving you which is why I expected more…”
“Guy I already said that…” Russell started once again.
“Yeah you were drinking,” Guy rolled his eyes shaking his head with the movement, “but it’s no excuse.”
“Guy, come on,” Gabe touched his arm gently, “Now isn’t the time to do this.”
“Why not?” Guy shrugged out of his reach, “I mean if he’s going to be married to my sister, then why not lay down the laws before he goes around breaking her heart like my father did to my mum as I won’t let Avery fall into that same kind of trap in her life.”
“Guy this isn’t about your parents,” Gabe began again, “and taking this out on him isn’t going to make it better…”
“I know this isn’t about my parents as I’m only trying to protect my
sister from heartbreak in her life,” Guy argued with him as Russell spoke
up once again.
“Despite the mistakes I’ve made and I’m well aware that I’ve made many Guy,” Russell defended his position, “I love your sister with all that I am and she and our baby mean the world to me. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize what we have together as she’s everything to me.”
“See to it that it stays that way or else,” Guy warned with a hint of menace in his tone.
“Guy, if I do something to hurt Avery again, then you have my full permission to kick my ass because I’d deserve it if I even thought about jeopardizing what we have together,” Russell offered up in all seriousness as a moment of silence passed between the two men and Gabe wasn’t sure if he’d have to intervene as the intensity behind Guy’s stare was chilling.
“Well,” Guy cleared his throat uneasily as he watched Russell, “since you put it that way, I guess I have no choice to accept that particular opportunity if need be.”
“Fair enough,” Russell offered his hand out towards Guy, “so can we call it a truce for now?”
“For now,” Guy reluctantly accepted the outstretched hand offering up a shake before a hint of a smile touched over the corners of his mouth, “as I guess now that we’re family I’m allowed to hate you a little bit there.”
“You can hate me all you want there just as long as you’re willing to give me a second chance to turn it around,” Russell reciprocated the smile as Guy nodded his head once again.
“Fair enough. Besides, if Avery is willing to look past what happened, I’m sure eventually I might be able to get over it if and only if you don’t let anything even remotely close to it happen again.”
“It’s a deal,” Russell agreed feeling a lightness in the air as Guy began to look around the police station once again.
“What is taking Avery so long to get some answers?” Guy frowned unable to quell the unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“I’m sure she’ll have them soon enough,” Gabe reached out to touch Guy’s shoulder once again as Guy faced him with sad eyes.
“It won’t be soon enough and I’m certain I won’t like what she learns,” Guy walked past his lover pacing around the lobby with a certain sluggishness in his step.
“I’ve never seen him like this before,” Gabe confessed speaking candidly to Russell, “I mean sure he’s been upset, but this,” he motioned towards Guy, “it’s something that I’m not quite sure he’ll be able to handle given the nature of his relationship with his mother.”
“It’s never easy losing someone you love and while Brooke wasn’t on my top ten list of people I enjoyed spending time around, well I never wanted this to happen,” Russell explained taking in Guy’s nervousness. “I mean she gave Avery and I a whole world of hell about our relationship through the years as there was always a reason why I would never be right for Avery, but in the end, I think Avery always hoped she’d come around.”
“But she never did, huh?” Gabe noted curiously thinking about Guy’s desire to please his mother.
“Not a chance,” Russell shook his head, “You’d have thought that I’d been the devil himself as she had a fit when she found out that Avery and I were married. She’d always hated me because I wasn’t her picture perfect son-in-law due to the fact that she’d always wanted Avery with someone of a higher social status with a bigger bank account to go with it. In fact, when she found out about the baby, she was even less enthusiastic about my being with Avery. She and Avery had a big blow out and Brooke said some really nasty things to Avery about the baby, but even after that I think this whole situation was killing Avery. I think she always hoped that one day Brooke would just accept the choices she‘d made in her life and just support them knowing that Avery was happy.”
“I think Guy’s always wanted that himself,” Gabe confessed unable to contain his thoughts about his lover as a sudden sadness swept over him, “He thinks the world of his mother and he’s always trying to do things to keep her happy regardless of how it might effect him and his happiness. She was his everything and he’d move heaven and earth to please her…”
“Which is obviously a strain for the both of you and your relationship,” Russell noted watching the surprise that pressed over Gabe’s features as the man faced him with sudden shock as Russell elaborated further, “I’ve known about things with Guy for a long time as we all kind of grew up together and then, well when I saw you two earlier at the lake…”
“Oh,” Gabe was at a loss for words for a long moment before a sad smile passed over his lips, “is it that obvious?”
“Love tends to show no matter how hard you try to fight it,” Russell offered up with a sympathetic look, “and regardless of what’s going on with Brooke, I just wanted to say that Guy’s very lucky that he has someone here to support him through this as I know how much Brooke meant to him. He needs someone to hold on to him through all of this…”
“I just hope it’ll be enough,” Gabe sighed heavily wondering if Brooke’s absence from Guy’s life would be the thing that took Guy over the edge as a door opened across the hallway and Richard emerged with Judy on his arm. They were too far away to be heard, but as Judy pulled Richard into an embrace, Gabe immediately turned his attention to Guy who had witnessed the exchange.
“Guy,” Gabe stepped forward seeing his lover’s intent, but before he could reach out to Guy it was too late as he was a man on a mission.
“Thank you for being here for me Judy,” Richard whispered hugging her tightly. “I don’t know what I’d do without you at a time like this.”
“Rick, I’m just happy that I could be here to…” Judy started feeling a hand press upon her shoulder tearing her away from Richard as she nearly fell to the floor with the sudden movement only to see a wash of thunder over head as Guy lunged at his father.
“You son of a bitch,” Guy roared throwing the first punch as he unleashed the fury over his mother’s absence taking out every ounce of hatred he’d had upon his father as rage took control in the moment that Guy’s fists pounded away all the while vowing to make his father pay once and for all.