Episode Eighty One 

Seth whistled a tune to himself as he stepped into his apartment. While his time with Blake had been cut short, it had been for a good cause as Blake’s best friend was now awake. Seeing Blake excited at Caitlin’s recovery was worth having their day cut short. Blake’s smile had sparkled and touched him straight to his soul, and it had been nothing short of magical that she could ever smile at him in such a way again.

While Blake had left for the hospital, Seth had decided that he should come home for a shower and change of clothes. He’d never intended to spend the night with Blake, but having held her while she slept, he didn’t regret it either. And while he’d denied her offer him a taste of heaven this morning, he couldn’t get the image of her out of his head. Of course, he hadn’t been able to get her out of his head since the moment he’d first met her, but the image of her sweet lips pursed in offering was downright haunting.

“You look like you’re a million miles away,” Jade spoke from the sofa as she watched her brother toss his keys into a basket near the door.

“Hey, what are you doing home?” Seth asked in confusion as he glanced to his watch, “Won’t your boss be upset that you’re not there to give him your puppy dog eyes?”

“He might be, but I don’t particularly care,” She admitted with a sigh as she watched confusion cloud her brother’s features, “So who was the lady who has your thoughts so far away from home?”

“Oh, so you want to play the avoidance game, huh?” He frowned as he sat down beside his sister on the sofa, “So why don’t you want to talk about your dream guy?”

“Because I want to beat him senseless right now,” She frowned, “How about we talk about something else, Seth?”

“What did he do this time?” He asked as he looked around her immediate area, “I can surmise by the pile of tissues, your pajamas, and the empty tea mug that you’ve been at this a while. So what’s he done?”

“Didn’t I say I wanted to talk about something else?” She replied firmly as she met his eyes, “Who’s the chick?”

“Chick?” He grinned, “You haven’t called any girlfriend of mine that in a very long time.”

“Girlfriend, huh?” Jade grinned, “Sounds serious. Have I really been so preoccupied that I missed out on this development?”

“Don’t get excited,” He advised, “It’s not anyone new.”

“Not anyone…” She paused, “Then that far away look can only mean one thing. So tell me, Seth, how did you manage to get Blake Ashford to let you back into her life?”

“How’d you know I was with Blake?” He asked in surprise.

“Because I’ve never seen you with that look in your eye except for the time you’ve known Blake. Considering it looks like you’ve been rekindled, I just knew,” She smiled softly.

“I always hated that you knew me so well. I could never get anything by you,” He frowned.

“You loved that I know you so well,” She pointed out as she lightly gave him a shove.

“I do actually,” He admitted with a grin.

“So you and Blake, tell me the story, Seth,” She tossed a tissue she’d been holding aside as she repositioned herself to curl her feet under her.

“We just reconnected, and hey, you’re dodging again. I’m not budging until you tell me what’s happened with your boyfriend,” Seth reaffirmed his position, “Come on. You have to tell me if I need go beat him up.”

“No, don’t go beat him up,” Jade frowned, “We’ve just had a disagreement.”

Seth eyed her pajamas and the tissues lying around before he met her eyes again, “Must’ve been a hell of a disagreement.”

“It’s over his brother again,” She sighed heavily, “Grady didn’t honor his word to me, and now he’s going to have to decide what’s really important to him. I’ve decided that I’m not going to give him any leeway on this, and I’m not going to change my mind to suit him. I won’t watch him destroy his own family just because he’s too stubborn to be open minded.”

“Somehow I feel like I’m missing a lot of the story here,” He frowned.

“The details aren’t important. It’s just a question of being able to trust someone,” She studied her brother closely, “Speaking of trust, how’d you get Blake to trust you again?”

“I’m not sure that she does,” Seth frowned, “But I’m working on that.”

“So how did you get to her again?”

“I was there for her when she needed me,” He shrugged, “And she knows that I’ll always be there when she needs me.”

“Sounds like someone might be in love,” Jade smiled, “Though I think that was rather obvious by that goofy grin you’re wearing.”
“I am not grinning,” Seth argued as he continued to grin in a goofy manner. While his sister might not have been having a good time in her relationship with Grady, Seth was happy that he could still provide his sister with a smile when she needed it most. One thing Seth was certain of was that he would never let the women he cared about go without a smile while it was still within his power to provide them with the opportunity to do so.


The crashing sounds surrounded the lobby of the otherwise calm and quiet police station as Guy tore into his father, a fury overtaking him with each violent blow he’d offered up in reaction to seeing his father with Judy.  While on most occasions he would find it in him to hold back, this time he couldn’t ignore the rage that had overcome his senses at the thought of his mother’s absence from his life while his father was flaunting his mistress off around town.  With each thought of his father’s apparent betrayal and lack of loyalty to his mother, Guy’s rage intensified.
“What in the world is going on out here?” Dave demanded stepping from outside of the interrogation room he’d been in earlier and as he looked around the station watching his officers standing dumbly in awe of the fight breaking out right in front of them, he let out a frustrated groan marching forward, “You’ve got to be kidding me.  This is a police station, not a free for all.  Do something,” he motioned to one officer who seemed to snap out of his daze long enough to take a step forward before Gabe pushed his way past the crowd.
“Guy stop it,” Gabe reached out to collect his lover in his arms as Russell stepped up to take a hold of Richard helping him to his feet again once Gabe had managed to tear an angry Guy off of his father.
“That son of a bitch cares nothing about my mother.  He’s probably the one that put her into an early grave,” Guy hissed enraged as he fought to untangle himself from Gabe’s arms.
“I did no such thing,” Richard defended himself on shaky ground as Russell held him up, steadying Richard as Guy’s violent blows had clearly impacted him.
“Liar!” Guy shouted louder than before, “You never cared about her!  You never loved her and your being here with that whore proves it!”
“Guy, that’s enough,” Avery marched forward weaving through the crowd as she took in the after effects of the battle her brother had thrown upon their father.  Shaking her head as she took it all in, she felt an air of tension creep up over her spine, deep into her shoulders as she turned to her brother only to discover the animosity burning behind his wild eyes, “He didn’t do this.”
“The hell he didn’t,” Guy charged throwing a glare in his father’s direction, “He’s made Mum miserable most of her life and for you to sit back and defend him now of all times when he’s tarnishing her memory by being with that slut…”
“Guy, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Richard began again feeling winded as Russell urged him towards one of the benches on the nearby wall.
“Richard, why don’t you take a moment to sit down,” Russell urged as Jenna pushed her way through the crowd after she, Hart and Wayne had arrived a few moments earlier.
“Let me take a look at him,” Jenna decided moving in front of Richard as the remains of Guy’s attack were fresh on his face.
“You bastard,” Guy continued to lash out at his father despite Gabe’s attempts to restrain him, “It should’ve been you.  You should’ve been the one in that lake instead of her!”
“Guy stop it!” Avery spun on her hell facing her brother as a glare touched over her features.  She marched towards him with that look of heavy agitation that he hadn’t seen in her since she was seven years old and he’d taken it upon himself to steal all of her Barbie dolls and give them an in home makeover which included giving over half of them a brush cut, but now, well now he knew that the lashing he was going to take would be far more severe than the one he’d taken over the dolls as she tugged at his arm urging him away from Gabe and dragging him away from the crowd into one of the less congested smaller branched off halls of the police station.
“Avery, don’t you even think about starting with me,” Guy warned seeing his sister ready to unleash whatever lecture had been brewing up inside of her from the moment she’d pulled him away from Gabe, “as I’m not going to stand here and take it considering that he…”
“He just lost his wife here Guy,” Avery threw out at him sharply, “and while they might not have gotten along in a while, he had nothing to do with what happened to her.”
“Yet he’s here at the police station with his mistress not more than twenty four hours from the time she vanished from our lives,” Guy glared down at his older sister, “Avery, the man is heartless and he’s always wanted to hurt our mother…”
“There’s a lot about their relationship that you don’t know and while you tend to think that mom had it all working against her, most of their problems were things she brought on herself…” Avery began.
“Oh this is priceless,” Guy rolled his eyes in response to her, “as it would be like you to stick up for that womanizing piece of…”
“He’s our father and while you’re so hell bent on keeping a wedge between the both of you, he’s not the bad guy you make him out to be,” Avery defended her father firmly, “as he’s done everything in his power to try to make things work with her and time and time again she’s kicked him for doing so.”
“Oh please,” Guy growled in response, “that slimy, sleazy, cheating…”
“Guy, you don’t know the first thing about his situation with mom or about Judy, who I might add is a wonderful woman.  She’s a good person with a kind heart…” Avery started once again.
“Who happens to be sleeping with another woman’s husband,” Guy barked back at her, “and just because you can accept the fact that your husband goes off and has a reckless one night stand every now and then and be okay with it, don’t think that erases what our father has done.  Then again maybe Richard taught you how to ignore all of that since you worship his cheating ass and here I thought you‘d be better than him--that you‘d stick up for yourself and be strong when it came to relationships, but instead you decided to just toss Russell‘s infidelity under the carpet just like you used to criticize Mum for doing.”
“You son of a…” Avery found herself unable to contain the hurt and anger that rose up inside of her upon those words as she lashed out at her brother striking him across the face with a ferocity she never dreamt possible where someone she loved was concerned.  Watching as he fell back upon impact of the blow she’d delivered him, she felt her own hands shake with the weight of the moment between them.  A sigh escaped her lips as she watched him struggle to regain his composure and guilt tugged at her.  “Guy I…”
“Just don’t,” Guy hissed at her disbelief burning behind his eyes, “It’s obvious you’ve made your choice about where your heart truly is in terms of family.”
“There shouldn’t have to be a choice in the matter, but with your saying those things,” Avery fought to contain herself as tears pooled in her eyes, “Guy I know you loved Brooke, but she’s not what you thought she was.  She could be loving and doting and nurturing to you, but she could also be cruel and vicious and vindictive.  You saw her as the mother she always should’ve been, but dad and I saw another side of her.”
“Only because Richard poisoned your mind against her,” Guy shot back in his mother’s defense.
“No,” Avery shook her head poignantly, “I only saw it because that’s what she wanted me to see.  She didn’t care about what I wanted or what made me happy and on some level you know that was how she operated.  I mean my God, how many years have you kept your silence about where your heart really is--about who you are because you knew that she wouldn’t accept you?”
“Avery, that’s different…” Guy sidestepped the issue, “I was doing everything I could to spare her any kind of pain in her life.”
“No, you were just making excuses to keep from facing the fact that you knew she wouldn’t ever let you be happy with who you are because it didn’t fit into Brooke Morrison’s picture perfect portrait of a happy family.  You wouldn’t be living out your dreams and you knew that if you tried, she’d condemn you just like she did with me when I tried to do what my heart wanted me to do.”
“You’re just saying that because…” Guy began again.
“Because it’s the truth,” Avery stood taller balling her fists up at her side, “Do you know what she said to me the last time I saw her?  Do you really want to know what she thought about my being pregnant?”
“Go ahead Avery,” he waved his hands out at her, “lay it on me.  What did Mum say that’s got you so ready to talk about her like she’s a monster now that she‘s gone?”
Avery watched the air of sarcasm spread over his features as he waved his hands around himself obviously not in the mood to listen to the truth when it hit him in the face and with that she let out a huff before shaking her head at him, “Forget it.  I don’t know why I’m even bothering with you, Guy.  Here I am the one person you’ve been able to trust with anything and everything your entire life and now you’re going to stand there and damn me to whatever hell you deem fitting all because you refused to see our mother for who she truly was.”
“You’re the one who refused to open your eyes to who she was, Avery,” Guy insisted firmly feeling his resolve slipping a bit as his sister’s tears caused his heart to ache.
“No, I saw her for who she was and as she stood before me telling me that she wished that my baby would cease to exist just like the last time I was pregnant, I found myself not wanting to hate her--not wanting to condemn her, but more so wishing that she’d just for once be proud of me--that maybe she’d find it in her heart to embrace the happiness that I’d found in my life, but you know that was too much for her and when you sit here and lecture me on how I didn’t try, well the truth is that I tried and tried over and over again and if she was still with us, I’d keep trying, but I can’t do that anymore Guy as she’s gone from my life too.  She might’ve been the apple of your eye, but she wasn’t without fault.  None of us are and if you’re going to start pointing the finger at those of us in our family, you can’t exclude yourself because deep down you know that you’ve been deceiving her as well.  You’ve been lying to yourself in more ways than you think I have and for you to even think those things you said to me earlier, well, I just can’t believe they came from you of all people…”
“Avery,” Guy frowned watching her tears fall freely as he stepped in towards her.
“Just save it,” Avery pushed her hand out at him to place a distance between them as he reached out to her refusing to let her leave in a moment like this.
“I’m sorry,” Guy hugged her tightly pulling her into him as her tears continued to fall and he felt his own eyes clouding over with emotion, “Avery, I didn’t mean to get so out of control just now.  I know that I was out of line with both you and Richard, but with seeing him here with that woman…you have to understand where I’m coming from.”
“Guy, I know you love our mother, but this was something that couldn’t be helped…something that our tearing one another apart won’t bring her back from,” Avery turned her sad eyes up towards him, “I know that might not mean much now, but we have to stick together and focus on healing--not tearing one another apart.”
“I know that,” he admitted reluctantly wiping at her tears, “I really do, but Avery, I just miss her so damn much already.”
“I know you do,” Avery replied in a tight whisper drawing him into another embrace, “In spite of everything that’s happened, well, I miss her too.”
“I love you Avery,” Guy whispered kissing the top of her head gently, “I didn’t mean what I said before about you and Russ.  I’m happy for you…I truly am.”
“I know you are and I know you’re hurting,” Avery took a step back reaching out to take his hand as she could see the bruising forming upon it after his attack on his father, “and maybe this is a sign that we need to stop feeling the negativity that’s torn us apart as a family for years…”
“If you’re expecting me to go back over there and apologize to Richard, then I’m telling you now that you’re not going to get it Avery,” he warned her sharply.
“Fine, as much as I hate that answer, I know I can’t force your hand on the issue right now, but promise me when we get back in there you won’t take another pot shot at him,” she pleaded with her brother seeing the stubbornness behind his eyes that seemed to be a Morrison trait, “Guy!”
“Oh alright,” he frowned before letting out a heavy sigh, “but just know I’m only doing it because I love you.”
“If that’s what it takes to keep you in check, then go with it,” Avery decided ready to face the rest of the crowd as Russell popped his head in around the corner motioning for the two of them to come over to speak with him.
“I hate to interrupt, but you two need to get back over here,” Russell explained quickly as a pensive expression washed over his features.
“Russ, what is it?” Avery questioned in a panic fearing the worst as she thought of her father wondering what kind of condition he was in after Guy’s attack, “Is something wrong with my father?”
“No,” Russell shook his head seeing the way Guy almost winced at the mention of their father, “but he just uncovered something that you both need to listen to.”
“What do you mean he uncovered something,” Guy frowned thinking about his father’s dramatic flair as he stepped out into the lobby seeing Dave holding Richard’s cell phone up to his ear, listening intently to whatever was happening on the other end.
“Guy, Avery,” Richard jumped up from the seat he was in unable to contain himself as he reached out to both his children urgently.  Guy began to withdraw from the embrace, but as he thought to his promise to Avery, he just stood there stiffly wondering what was going on as Richard seemed almost relieved about something.
“What’s going on,” Avery turned her attention to her father as he took a step back.
“When I was sitting there before, well I heard my cell phone beeping indicating to me that there was a message waiting for me,” Richard started breathlessly.
“So, what’s your point,” Guy threw out with a glare as he took a step back.
“The call came from your mother’s cell phone just a few minutes ago.  My phone must‘ve shut off when, well when Guy and I were…,” Richard explained waving his hand restlessly, “That doesn’t matter.  What is important is that there was a call and…”
“She’s alive,” Guy’s eyes widened in response, “Mum is alive and safe.”
“She’s alive,” Dave blurted out saving the message as he motioned to a couple of his officers, “and we’re going to keep it that way if we can.  Tell me Richard, does your wife have some kind of tracking system on her phone like you said you have on yours.”
“She has the same phone service as I do, but whether or not she turned it on is a subject I’m not certain of as Brooke never liked to be located when she was off doing her thing,” Richard explained with a sigh, “but it could be well worth a try in calling the phone company…”
“We’ll do that and if it doesn’t work, then the next time the kidnapper calls, well, we can try to run a trace that way,” Dave explained motioning for another couple officers to tend to what was happening.
“Kidnapper,” Guy repeated his eyes wide with horror, “Did you just say Mum was kidnapped?”
“That’s right,” Richard nodded quickly as a new shade of fear laced over his features, “the caller said that they’d call back with the demands, but when they do, I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to get her back.  We’re going to find out who did this to her and bring her home again safely.”
“Then she’s okay,” Guy felt a breath of relief sweep over him, “She’s alive?”
“According to the message she is,” Dave replied with a nod turning his attention to Richard once again, “We’re going to copy this recording so that we can have one of our analysts take a stab at trying to figure out where the call might’ve originated, but if you’d like to hear it again.”
“Of course we would,” Guy blurted out in a frenzy feeling the first glimmer of hope filling him up inside as the thought of his mother still being a part of this world was just what he need to hold on to.  Turning to Avery, he hugged her in his arms eagerly unable to contain the breath of relief that swept over him, “She’s alive.”


Grady sat at the bar sipping a cup of coffee. After the discussion he’d had with Shannon, he’d wanted a drink more than ever. So naturally he’d come down to the bar, pulled up his favorite stool, and ordered straight black coffee. He’d been here ever since, just sipping cup after cup of straight black coffee. This wasn’t exactly the drink he’d been looking for, but it was the perfect substitute for what he wanted so badly.

When he’d first sat down, he’d had every intention of ordering a bourbon…a double, in fact. Yet here he sat with his fourth cup of coffee in front of him. He’d stared across the bar at the bourbon, however, hearing its Siren’s song yet promising himself he wouldn’t lose himself in a haze of alcohol. He lifted his coffee to his lips and took a sip, needing to drink something that wasn’t going to leave him regretting it tomorrow.

Susan stepped into the bar and smiled as she spotted her ex-husband sitting upon a stool at the far end of the room. If he was drinking, she might be able to have some fun tonight after all.

She crossed the room and cozied up to the bar beside him, “Evening, Grady. What are you drinking?”

“Coffee,” Grady looked to her and frowned, “So if you don’t mind, I’d just as soon drink in peace.”

“You’re not having any fun,” She sighed as she looked to the bartender, “Bourbon please.”

“Sure,” The bartender smiled as he poured her drink and placed it in front of her.

“Thank you,” Susan smiled as she looked back to Grady. She placed the drink in front of him, “Now, I ordered this for you so we can actually have some fun,” She smiled at him suggestively.

“Susan, stop it,” Grady ordered as he pushed the drink away, “I’m on the wagon, and it’s going to stay that way.”

“Why? Because your little girlfriend wants it that way? What is she looking for? A Daddy figure and expects you to be the good daddy?” Susan rolled her eyes as she took the drink and sipped it.

“You don’t get to sit there and criticize my relationship with Jade as it is absolutely none of your business,” He said firmly before sipping his coffee.

“Oh come on. I’m just trying to get you to loosen up, especially since your little girl isn’t here,” She looked around the room, “So where is the kid anyway? Is it past time for her curfew?”

He paused as he looked over at her, “Why do you feel it necessary to irritate the hell out of me?”

“I’m not trying to irritate you. I’m trying to get you to see that you don’t need the kid. You need a woman who can satisfy all your needs,” She spoke softly as she eased her hand over his shoulder, “You remember how we always satisfied one another, don’t you baby?” She whispered in his ear.

“I remember how you ripped my heart out and spat on me,” Grady stated blandly as he looked at her, “I don’t need that again. In fact, I need the exact opposite. So if you don’t mind,” He tossed several bills upon the bar, “I’m going to leave before I feel the need to strangle you.”

“Grady,” Susan stopped him quickly as she pulled him into a bold and passionate kiss.

Grady pushed her away as he wiped his lips with his thumb.

“Tasty, isn’t it?” She asked as she licked her lips, “But tell me Grady, which addiction do you miss most? Bourbon…or me?” She asked as she gently fingered the lapel of his jacket.

Grady snorted as he pulled out of her reach and walked out of the bar. Susan licked her lips as she sat down at the bar and began to sip her bourbon again. Grady could run but he could never hide from what they had together, and one day his running would bring him right back into her arms.


“So how long am I going to have to wait to get the full story of what’s happened with you and Zack?” Caitlin asked as Blake turned to frown at her, “Don’t look at me like that. I’m just trying to find out what’s going on around me.”

“Yeah well, I told you that now isn’t really the time to get into all of that,” Blake rearranged the flower bouquet she’d given her friend. She frowned before looking back towards Caitlin, “Can’t we talk about something else?”

“We could, but I think you’ve covered absolutely everything going on in Coral Valley as well as the United States for that matter. It’s time to stop avoiding it, Blake,” Caitlin crossed her arms with determination, “So what happened?”

“I told you that I’m not going to get into this right now,” Blake declared firmly, “So get used to it.”

“I swear…I could so just smack you right now,” Caitlin frowned, “I know my brother is a bonehead so if you’re trying to protect me from that kind of information it’s okay. I already know.”

“Caitlin,” Blake began before she shook her head, “This is why you make a great reporter. You’re relentless.”

Caitlin broke a slight smile, “Yeah, it’s a gift. So out with it. What’s Zack done?”

“Nice try, but I’m not getting into this with you right now,” Blake sat back on the edge of Caitlin’s bed.

“Damn,” Caitlin swore before the door opened with Ken entering directly afterwards.

“What are you swearing about?” Ken asked as he closed the door behind him.

“I can’t get Blake to tell me anything about her and Zack, and it’s driving me nuts,” She admitted, “Where are my parents?”

“They’re getting something to eat in the cafeteria. As soon as Simon arrives, I’m going to escort your parents to the mansion and get them settled in,” He explained as he pulled his chair back to her side and reached for her hand, “Then I’ll be back to stay with you.”

“You don’t have to do that. I’ll be okay by myself,” Caitlin argued.

“Caitlin, hush,” Blake warned, “Hey, don’t push the boy away. He’s being super romantic here, and that’s always something to enjoy,” She grinned as she looked to her brother.

“Looks like you’ve been outvoted there babe,” Ken winked at her.

“Apparently,” Caitlin sighed before she grimaced slightly, “I’m not even sure what day it is. Did the Midlands case go to court yet?”

“I got a continuance,” He replied, “But at least I know who’s representing them now. Susan Denton.”

“Susan?” Blake’s jaw dropped.

“Hmm,” Ken frowned, “I felt the same way.”

“Does someone want to let me in on just who the hell Susan is?” Caitlin asked as she looked between the siblings.

“Susan is Grady Denton’s ex-wife,” Blake explained, “And Ken’s ex.”

“Really?” Caitlin asked as she looked to Ken, “And I take it from your expression that things ended badly.”

“You could say that. I helped Susan wreck what was left of her marriage before she wrecked what was left of my life,” Ken shrugged, “I was young and stupid. I’m not the same naive kid anymore. I learned my lesson there.”

“Does Susan know that?” Blake asked bluntly as she caught a nasty look from her brother, “Don’t look at me that way, Kenny. We both know that Susan would chase you to the gates of hell if she thought she had any chance of getting you back. Even after she spit you out the last time, she came back for more. How long is it this time until she tries the same thing?”

“Okay, I really think that someone needs to explain this entire situation to me. I mean, hey, I just had brain surgery and I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I feel really, really lost in this conversation,” Caitlin announced as she looked between the Ashford siblings, “So would someone please start explaining things to me?”

Blake kept her eyes locked on her brother with a demanding stare. Ken frowned, “Susan and I had an affair behind Grady’s back. I was stupid and let myself get in way over my head,” He paused, “For a brief second in time, I thought I’d try living life the way Brant always has…fast and hard. Except that led to my getting involved in the biggest mistake of my life. And now that she’s back in town, it’s going to be chaos. Susan thinks that she can flirt, smile, and tease her way into getting anything that she wants. The very fact that I’m facing her in court gives her the chance to try to weasel her way back into my life,” Ken explained, “But that isn’t going to happen. It was never love between us. It was just some stupid fling that happened when I wasn’t thinking,” He paused as he met Caitlin’s eyes, “Besides, nothing could take my heart, mind, body, or soul away from you. You’re everything to me, and no one has even come close to meaning this much to me. I love you, Caitlin Vaughn, and that will never change,” He vowed as he pressed a kiss to her hand.

Caitlin searched his eyes for a moment and wondered about this Susan that she’d just learned about. Something told her that she hadn’t heard the full story of the woman from Ken’s past, but just as soon as she was able, Caitlin would do some digging for information about Susan Denton. She never liked to face an adversary that she wasn’t thoroughly informed about, and something about Blake’s reaction to the very name of the woman had made Caitlin think that perhaps adversary might be too intimate a term to use.


Diego rubbed his temple feeling the beginnings of a tension headache coming over him as he leaned forward over his desk buried in the patient files that had beckoned him over to the hospital over twenty four hours ago and left him pulling yet another all nighter in his office once again.  It was starting to become a trend with him and while he’d thought about finding his way back home to the silence that surrounded his off hours, he’d decided that his office seemed to hold more comfort for him at a time like this.  Even now Diego realized it was futile to even try to pretend that he was giving his work half of the attention it needed as he’d been staring at the page before him for at least half an hour, but in sitting here, it was easy for him to avoid the obvious issue that had been on his mind for a few days now.
“You’re hopeless,” he groaned sinking back into his chair not bothering to pretend with another page as he closed his eyes thinking back to that brief moment he’d shared with Heather Gibbons at the children’s hospital followed by the time they’d spent in his car with one another when he’d allowed himself to slip.
Even now Diego was kicking himself for allowing her to get that far under his skin, that deep into his mind stirring up all sort of notions that had been buried with his heart a long time ago.  He didn’t want to be concerned about Heather--didn’t want to find himself obsessing over what mistake she could be leaping into head first, but somehow the thoughts of her consumed his mind as he recalled another time when he’d held back--when he’d just refused to budge and in the process he’d lost more than he’d ever imagined.  Reaching into his desk drawer, he pulled out the framed portrait that he knew would be waiting for him as he’d always kept it close to him as a reminder--as a constant reasoning behind his motives--for him to keep pushing on, but now as he found himself conflicted, he had to wonder if it was just another means of torturing himself for making all the wrong choices in the past.
“Maria,” he spoke her name feeling a ripple of pain roll over his heart as her beautiful features were captured in the portrait before him, a breath of life flickering through his mind as his index finger touched over her smile, over the warmth that had filled him with such joy when they’d been together, “what am I going to do?  How can I possibly help anyone when I can’t stop thinking about things?  Maria, you had all the answers once upon a time, but now…well, now I’m not even sure where to start with this one.”
Diego paused the silence surrounding him in his office as Maria’s eyes seemed to be gazing up at him from the photograph as if instructing him on what to do in a moment like this, “Maria, I know I’ve always helped people, but she’s impossible.  She’s completely off base and in taking her on as a patient, well I just don’t know if I can keep myself in check professionally when I know that monster is going to destroy her.  You and I both know what he’s capable of, but convincing Heather of that…” he stopped himself shaking his head as guilt tugged at him, “and yes I admit I can’t stop thinking about her.  I never asked for this, never wanted to feel attached to someone after you, but now…” he stopped himself realizing that talking to Maria’s photograph was certainly going to be the key to his earning a spot in the Clear Oaks Mental facility up north if he didn’t get a hold on what he was doing with things.
“Dr. Hernandez,” his secretary buzzed into his office as if she’s sensed his urgent need for a distraction to the madness that he felt he was slipping into.
“Yes Charlene,” he pushed the receiver button on the phone.
“There’s someone here to see you.  She doesn’t have an appointment, but she says it’s urgent and she refuses to leave without seeing you saying it‘s something about a wedding--that you‘d know what she meant,” she explained as his thoughts immediately were back to Heather and her trademark impatience.

“Tell her to come on in,” he decided unable to curb the enthusiasm he felt at being given another chance to speak with Heather after what had happened the other night.  Trying to still the butterflies in his stomach as he painted on a face of pure professionalism, he reached for the pen on his desk pretending to be buried in his work as he heard the door open to his office and he couldn’t help but feel the beginnings of a smile creep over his features as he spoke out.
“So you didn’t think I was that off base after all, did you now?” he questioned realizing that the woman before him wasn’t Heather as now a dark haired beauty stood before him, her lips pursed in a pout as he pushed the paper in front of him aside straightening up a bit as he tried to refocus.  “I’m sorry.  I thought you would be someone else.”
“Something tells me that someone else should’ve listened to you,” Thea motioned towards the chair across from his desk nodding towards it, “May I?”
“But of course,” he nodded in response watching her slink into the chair crossing her long legs in such a way that it drew immediate attention to her very short skirt in the process, “Miss?”
“Valentine,” she replied a twisted smirk building up over her features as she’d taken full notice of how he’d noticed her.  Leaning in over across his desk, she extended her hand out to him, offering an exaggerated attempt at giving him an even healthier dose of her cleavage as his eyes seemed to remain fixed upon hers.  Well, she’d certainly give him effort for trying to remain professional, she thought as she shook his hand flashing him an even brighter grin, “Thea Valentine.”
“And what can I do for you this morning Ms. Valentine,” Diego questioned seeing something spark behind her eyes as she released his hand sinking back into the chair and offering up the picture perfect portrait of temptation with her movements.
“It’s not so much what you can do for me, but what I can do for you,” Thea explained bluntly, her dark eyes charging with a flicker of mystery, “as it seems that you’re the only one who can keep a horrible tragedy from happening if you take my information to heart.”
“And just what information might that be Ms. Valentine?” Diego questioned watching her as he began trying to figure out what was on her mind with her dramatic arrival.
“Well, I really shouldn’t be saying this to you, but you are a psychiatrist, so whatever I tell you has to stay in the strictest of confidence, yes?” she batted her eyelashes at him softening her voice as Diego wondered just how many faces this woman had as she leaned in towards his desk once again.
“If you’re considering becoming a patient then there is a certain doctor and patient confidentiality that we would have,” he nodded in response, “and if you’d like to schedule an appointment for therapy then…”
“Oh no, I’m not here for therapy,” she waved her hand at him, “as this is far more personal than that.”
“Personal,” Diego repeated lifting a curious brow, “How so?”
“I trust you know about Cameron Stone’s intentions to marry Heather Gibbons seeing as the two of you are quite close friends,” Thea began ready to bait him in.
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that, but I do Ms. Gibbons,” Diego nodded, “however I’m not at liberty to discuss her with you, Ms. Valentine since…”
“Look Heather is one of my closest friends and she’s in danger,” Thea blurted out desperately as her eyes widened in horror, “I don’t know if you’re aware of what kind of man Cameron Stone is or not, but he’s pure evil.  I’ve worked for his company for the last eight years because he’s been blackmailing me and my family.  During that time with his company I’ve been privy to some very horrible things that man has done…” she paused watching the spark of interest behind Diego’s eyes, “including what has happened to those you’ve cared about in the past…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Diego replied trying to keep an even face as Thea tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, the air of mystery building around her.
“Oh I think you do as what if I could provide you with information that proves that Cameron was behind that hit and run that took Maria Sanchez from your life?” Thea threw out at him boldly watching as the color seemed to drain from his face.
“I’d say that you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Diego replied, his jaw tight with tension, “and I don’t see how this is of any relevance to why you’re here Ms. Valentine.”
“It’s relevant because despite what the authorities might have told you about that night, we both know you’ve had your doubts.  We both are well aware of the fact that she was opposing Mr. Stone’s development in a low income area just outside of town.  She was the voice of the people and Mr. Stone wanted her silenced.”
“Even if what you’re saying is true, then why are you offering this to me considering that you work for that man,” Diego remarked trying to keep his voice even as he thought to his lost love.
“I’m taking a risk in coming here, but I had to do it because I fear that Heather is in the same kind of danger that Maria was in,” Thea explained desperately, “as his intentions with Heather are just as nefarious.”
“And you know this because?” Diego lifted a speculative brow.
“I’m his assistant and I hear things around the office--things that weren’t meant for my ears and if you care about your friend, then you’ll do everything in your power to find a way to get her out of her marriage to Cameron,” Thea explained boldly fumbling with her hands in her lap, “as I tried my best to keep this marriage from happening, but it was too late.  They ran off to Vegas with one another and are now on their honeymoon.”
“Then Heather’s made her choice,” Diego remarked quickly shifting in his chair uncomfortably, “I can’t help you.”
“But you can,” Thea insisted urgently, “You are one of the only people whom she trusts and she’s said a great many things about how close she feels to you.  She said that you’ve offered to help her and her child, which Cameron plans to destroy given enough time.  He doesn’t care about her and that baby is only means to an end for him as he has a hidden agenda that is far more dangerous than either one of us could’ve anticipated…”
“And yet you’d risk your position at his company and your safety just to come here today to share this information with me because you’re worried about Heather?” Diego inquired still not buying into Thea’s tale as he watched her closely.
“Because I knew Maria,” Thea explained raising her hand to her chest, “My family was part of that particular housing project that she was working so desperately to protect from Cameron’s reign of terror.  We’d met a few times and I’d been secretly supplying her with information to take Cameron down, which is why,” Thea’s eyes drifted down to the floor as she let out a soft sigh, “why I felt compelled to reach out to you today.  I just thought that if you were half the man that Maria said you were that you’d help me help Heather…”
“By doing what exactly?” Diego questioned feeling a tension creep in up over his shoulders.
“By getting her far away from Cameron,” Thea pleaded turning her dark eyes up towards him as he saw the first signs of tears brewing behind them and he instantly felt himself regretting his harsh judgment of her as she was clearly terrified of the man she’d been working for.
“I’m sorry for getting so worked up,” she wiped at her face as Diego reached for a Kleenex from the box on his desktop offering one to her as she dabbed her eyes, “It’s just that when I think of how many innocent lives have been destroyed by Cameron…”
“I know,” Diego tried to assure her as a sigh spilled over his lips, “and while I appreciate your coming here, I’m not sure what I can do about this situation now that he and Heather are married.”
“I’m sure that you can find a way to reach out to her--to find a way to convince her that the only way her child will be safe is to be far from Cameron,” Thea explained urgently, “then and only then will she be safe from his evil.”
“And about Maria?” Diego couldn’t help but inquire, “You said that you had proof about Cameron’s part in her death?”
Thea nodded, “It’s buried in some of the classified documents at Stone Corp, but I’d be willing to find a way to get them to you if you can help save Heather.”
“And what about you?  What will happen to you once Cameron discovers what you’ve done?” Diego asked his voice full of concern.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Thea sniffled wiping at her eyes once again, “but when the time comes, maybe with the information I’ve given you, you can put him away for life and then none of us will have to worry about his horrible destruction ever again.”
“We both know that things aren’t that simple,” Diego sighed seeing her trembling upon his words.
“Even so it’s a risk I’m willing to take if it means sparing anyone else that Cameron has set out to destroy,” she took in an exaggerated breath as her dark eyes pleaded with him, “that is if you’re willing to help me with all of this.”
“Ms. Valentine, I don’t really think that I’m the man to…” Diego started once again.
“Oh but you are,” Thea rose from her chair circling around his desk as she reached for his hand tugging on it, “I just know that together we can find a way to save Heather and take Cameron down at long last.”
“Don’t you think you’d be best suited going to the authorities because I’m certain that they’d listen to what you…” Diego started once again feeling her squeeze his hand.
“No, that won’t work.  Heather doesn’t trust them after Douglas Mahoney threw his weight around town.  He’s determined to destroy her as well and Cameron’s used that against her.  Right now the only person she trusts is you and I’m not sure if we can keep her believing in that much longer considering that Cameron is bound to start manipulating her soon enough until he controls her completely,” Thea explained freely, “as that’s how he works.  It’s about control, then manipulation and finally destruction and soon enough if Cameron has his way, then Heather will be nothing more than a memory to those of us who cared about her, and we can’t have that can we?” she finished sealing the words as the expression on Diego’s face was leading her exactly where she wanted to be with him.
“No, we can’t let that happen,” Diego answered in a tight whisper as Thea couldn’t help but feel victory within her reach as soon enough with the help of the gullible, ever so noble doctor she’d have the blonde bitch out of Cameron’s life forever.


Dorothy opened the front door and frowned, “Didn’t I tell you that coming over here was a bad idea?”

“You’re the only person I thought I could come to,” Douglas spoke candidly as he looked at her with haggard eyes, “Kipp’s gone, Dottie.”

“He’s…” She began as the worst possible news began to settle in.

“He’s alive. I mean as far as I know, but he’s missing. Someone had him moved from the hospital and while they’re saying that it was all done within legal channels, I wasn’t informed of this move. I have no idea where my son is,” He said as tears choked his words.

“Oh Doug,” She reached out to him and guided him into the house, leading him directly to the sofa as she sat beside him, “When did this happen?”

“He’s been missing for…” He paused, “Good lord, almost two days and no one seems to have a clue as to where he’s been moved to. I’ve used every means at my disposal to get answers but to no avail. Then Jenna and Hart tried but no one is saying anything. It’s like my son vanished into thin air. I don’t even know anyone malicious enough to do this sort of thing.”

Dorothy rubbed his arm gently, “Have you contacted the police?”

“Yes, but they said that considering all the legal documentation seems to be in order as far as they can tell, there’s nothing they can do. It appears on paper that Kipp was moved with my approval, but I had no knowledge of any of this,” He explained, “And now my son is out there somewhere fighting for his life without anyone at his side to remind him of what he’s fighting for.”

“I don’t understand how the hospital could move him without your being there,” She frowned, “This sounds like someone really wants control over your son.”

“It does, doesn’t it? Jenna suggested that perhaps it was my step-son Cameron who could have done this, but Cameron doesn’t have the guts to face me,” Doug said sourly, “And Kipp’s mother could care less if he lives or dies. I don’t know of anyone who would want to do this.”

“What about your family, Doug?” Dorothy asked frankly as his eyes cut towards her, “Your family was always adamant about the way you were supposed to live your life and how you planned out your future. Maybe they wanted more control over Kipp.”

“I doubt it. Mother is in a convalescence home with Alzheimer’s while father passed away several years ago. My brother, Charles, is off in Europe with his little playmate of the week, and my sister, Patricia, is in Washington, D.C. campaigning for her senate seat. She could care less about my family and prefers it if I stay very far away from her as I tend to look bad for her conservative reputation,” Doug rolled his eyes, “No, my family doesn’t care about running my life that much.”

She frowned, “I’m sorry about your parents, Doug.”

“With my father, it wasn’t unexpected as he’d been in ill health for years, but Mother,” He frowned, “She was always such a strong willed woman and to see her lose her faculties in such a degrading way,” He shook his head, “It’s been difficult, but nothing has been as difficult as this ordeal with Kipp.”

“I can’t imagine what you must be going through. If anything happened to Jenna or Wayne,” Dorothy paused, “Doug, there must be something we can do to help you find Kipp. Perhaps I can ask my boss to do a little digging.”

“Unless you work at the hospital, I doubt your boss will get any further than I could,” Douglas sighed heavily, “I don’t know who could have done this. Granted I can be rather pushy when I’m determined about something, but I don’t think I’ve ever angered anyone enough to the point of kidnapping my comatose son. It’s just unheard of.”

“Is there anything I can do?” She offered gently as she eased her hand over his shoulder.

“No,” He replied as he met her eyes, “Just listening to me has been a great comfort, Dottie. Thank you,” He gingerly eased the backs of his fingers across her cheek.

Dorothy gazed into his eyes and saw a glimpse of the man she’d once fallen in love with. It seemed that time hadn’t passed between them, and here were the two kids who had foolishly followed their hearts to one another.

She reached up to take his hand as she continued to hold his gaze. She held his hand in hers as she lost herself in his eyes, allowing herself to indulge in this tender moment between old flames.

“Dottie, have you seen…” Preston stopped short as he stepped into the house. He twirled his keys around his finger as he closed the door with one hand while looking on to the couple on the sofa, “What have we here?”

“Preston,” Dorothy scrambled to her feet and crossed the room to him, “Doug just came by…” She paused as she glanced back to him, “His son is missing.”

“Missing?” Preston replied as he looked to Douglas, “I thought your son was in a coma.”

“He is,” Douglas replied as he stood, “Yet someone took it upon themselves to remove him from my care.”

“How is that even possible?” Preston questioned before he shook his head, “It doesn’t matter. His son isn’t the only one missing. Brooke Morrison’s car was pulled out of the lake, but they haven’t found her yet. Wayne called me to let me know that he and Jenna are with Guy and Avery.”

“Oh god,” Dorothy gasped, “Those poor kids,” She covered her lips, “Is there anything we can do?”

“Wayne said that right now they’re just waiting for some news. He said he’d let us know when they found out anything,” Preston advised.

“I think I’d better be going. It seems as if you have a crisis of your own to handle,” Douglas spoke up as he made his way to the door.

“Look,” Preston began before softening his tone, “I’m sorry about your son. I hope you find him.”

“So do I,” Douglas nodded before he looked to Dorothy, “Thank you for listening.”

Before she had a chance to reply, Douglas was gone. Dorothy looked to Preston and gently shook her head, “I have no idea why he would come here.”

“Of course you do,” Preston nodded, “Some part of him still loves you, and he knew that you wouldn’t shun him at a time when he needs you the most.”

“Pres, it’s not like that,” She began to explain.

“I didn’t imply anything, Dottie, but you two share a bond. You have a daughter together, and that means you’ll forever be a part of one another’s lives. I can understand how he thought that you could comfort him in his hour of need, but I didn’t like it very much to come in my house and find you both sitting on our sofa looking like you were a million miles away.”

She looked away from him, “For a moment, it seemed as if I was. As stupid as it sounds, Pres, it was like I was that same stupid kid who made all these mistakes.”

“Dottie,” He spoke her name softly, “Do you still love him?”

“No,” She replied quickly as she looked back to him, “I love you, Pres.”

“I know you do, but I have to wonder,” He admitted as he searched her eyes, “You two never had a true resolution to your relationship. It makes me wonder if there aren’t still feelings between you.”

“They were a long time ago. I’m not the same person I was back then, and I will never go back,” She gently cupped his cheeks in her hands, “Pres, I love you. Please don’t ever doubt that.”

Preston drew her into his arms and hugged her tightly. While he wouldn’t voice his doubts aloud, he already feared that she was slipping away from him.


“We’ll get right on this and if there’s anything else you need,” Dave began again offering up the best he could to Richard Morrison at a time like this one.
“I know where to contact you,” Richard nodded feeling the exhaustion of it all settling in upon him after the last twenty four hours of his life.
“You really should try to rest,” Dave offered up once again, “as we’ll send a team to work on the phones where you’re staying and then hopefully when the kidnapper calls, we’ll be able to catch them red handed and bring your wife back safely.”
“Let’s hope so,” Richard sighed watching Dave walk away as Judy stepped up towards him feeling the silence that had carried over her since the moment Guy had attacked Richard tug at her insides.   When Judy had heard the message played by the kidnappers, she couldn’t help but notice the expression that crossed over Richard’s features and she had to wonder if maybe she was only fooling herself into believing that somehow this could all work out for them.  Despite what he’d told her and regardless of how they felt, the fact remained that Brooke was his wife and his family needed him to be there to pull for Brooke’s safe return.  Now as her eyes crossed over the room to Avery and Guy, she couldn’t help but feel out of place as this was a family crisis--something that she wasn’t truly a part of despite the growing connection she and Richard had been exploring with one another over the last few months.
“Rick,” Judy tugged on his arm gently as his tired eyes fell upon her, “I think that maybe Dave is right.  Maybe you should just go back to the hotel and take some time to rest as I’m sure you’re going to be in for a long night waiting for that call, and then, well I’m sure you should save your strength for a while just in case.”
“You’re probably right,” he reached out to her seeing a sadness behind her eyes, “and Judy about before with Guy…”
“Rick, I don’t think that really matters right now,” she cut him off abruptly, “as there are other things that you need to think about.”
“Judy, I know he said some things that were…” Richard began again.
“He’s hurting because he thought his mother was dead and now that she’s been kidnapped, well, I’m probably the last thing you should be concerned about at a time like this.  Your children need you to be strong for them and I think as it stands now isn’t the time for me to interfere with that…” she offered up simply as she shifted her eyes away from him afraid to reveal the insecurities that had built up inside of her foolishly upon learning about Brooke’s situation.
“You aren’t interfering,” he insisted reaching out to her, his hands pressing upon her shoulders as he forced her to meet his gaze, “Judy, in having you here, you’re giving me a strength that I wouldn’t be able to carry without you.  You’ve given me life again and…”
“And your wife has been kidnapped,” Judy blurted out with a frown, “She’s in trouble and she needs you to be there for her completely.  Rick, I know you mean well with me, but right now I’m a distraction and I’m well aware of that whether you will admit it to yourself or not.”
“No, you’re not as you’re the woman that I lo--,” he started as she lifted her finger to silence him shaking her head to keep his words from completion.
“Not now Rick,” Judy began poignantly, “as Guy needs you now more than ever.  It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that he’s hurting…”
“I’m well aware of that, but he’s constantly pushed me away.  He doesn’t want me to just expect him to accept me and my support when…” he started to argue with her thinking about his son’s stubborn disposition.
“Rick, he’s obviously crying out for a way to keep his family together and that hope is something he needs to hold on to especially now.  He doesn’t hate you even if he wants you to believe that,” Judy urged him on, “he’s your son and he needs you to stand up and be the father that he’s been wanting in his life.”
“What Guy wants is something that isn’t going to happen,” Richard explained with a heavy sigh, “He’s always lived by Brooke’s views as she’s made him believe things that simply aren’t true…”
“Rick, the fact remains that your wife is in danger right now and while you’ve tried to convince me that she means nothing to you, we both know better,” Judy took a step away from him moving out of his reach, “which is why we can’t make a time like this about us.  We can’t do this now not when your wife’s return is dependant upon what you do over the next few hours.”
“Judy, your being here doesn’t change what I’ll do for Brooke as I don’t want her hurt…”
“Then go be with your children Rick.  They’re the ones that need you right now,” Judy gave him one last longing look before turning away from him, “I have to go.”
“Judy wait,” he chased after her seeing her rushing to get away from him, “Judy please…”
“Rick, don’t do this,” Judy pleaded with him trying to pull out of his touch as his fingers curled over her arm forcing her to face him as the tears pooled in her eyes, “I need to go.”
“Judy, if you’d just listen--” he begged of her desperation in his tone, “I know that right now things are very emotional, but you have to trust that this hasn’t changed where my heart is as you’re the woman I love--the one that I want to share my life with.”
“Until Brooke is returned safely, we can’t think that far ahead,” Judy pleaded with him unable to contain the quivering of her lip as she realized that so very much was riding on Brooke’s safe return, “Until she’s back home with her family, then this thing we have between us can’t take the front burner.  Deep down you know I’m right.”
“That doesn’t mean it changes where my heart is,” he pulled her into his arms urgently, “Judy, I love you.”
“I love you too Rick,” she whispered feeling his lips brush over hers in a soft, tender kiss as a tiny whimper built up in the back of her throat before she forced herself to sever the connection between them, “but right now you need to be a father first.”
“I know,” he sighed reaching for her hand as she started to pull away from him, “but promise me that when this situation passes that we won’t be back to where we were before I came back to town.  Tell me that you won’t run away from me after all the progress we’ve made with one another.”
“Rick, I’ve spent most of my life waiting for fate to bring you back to me,” she sighed in confession, “and if this is just another test for us, well you don’t have to worry about my faith in you as I’ve always known you were the only man for me.”
“And you are the only woman in my heart,” he pulled her to him for another quick kiss, “that hasn’t changed.”
“Even so, you have an obligation to your children and to Brooke and I won’t allow myself to get in the way of that.  You need to do this for your children and I, well I have things that I should be doing right now for mine,” Judy let out a breath hoping she could have the strength to walk away from the man who’d held her heart for so very long.
“Why does this feel like a goodbye all over again,” Richard questioned feeling his heart break by the look in her eyes.
“It’s only goodbye if we allow it to be, but you have to believe me when I tell you if you aren’t there for your children through this, then we’re never going to have a real change at happiness.”
“Judy, I don’t think that…” he started once again.
“Just trust me on this,” she cut him off abruptly before offering a sad smile, “this is really for the best.”
“Judy…” he began watching her walk away from him, “Can I call you later?  I mean maybe tonight…”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” she cast a glance over at him as her heart was breaking at the thought of walking away from him at a time like this when he needed her.
“Judy please…if you leave me, then I don’t know what I’m going to do…” he stepped towards her and Judy felt her resolve starting to slip away knowing that if he pulled her into his arms one more time she wouldn’t be able to walk away now and do the right thing.
“Fine,” she blurted out quickly, “tonight you can call me and we’ll talk about things, but only after you hear word on Brooke.”
“Fair enough,” he nodded opening his mouth to say something more to her only to watch her walk out of the police station and away from him leaving him to wonder if somehow fate had thrown them another curve that somehow they wouldn’t be able to work their way out of this time around.


“Hey girl how are you holding up,” Jenna questioned approaching Avery and offering her a cup of decaf coffee that she’d picked up for her friend during the time they’d been in listening to the kidnapper’s phone call.
“Better than I was a little while ago,” Avery sighed taking a seat beside Jenna as she turned her attention to Guy, Russ and Gabe who were all talking with one another just a few feet away from them, “though I have to admit I’m still worried about Guy.  I mean granted Brooke might not be dead at this point, but if something goes wrong with that kidnapping…”
“I’m sure the police will find her,” Jenna offered up encouragingly, “as I’m sure Brooke won’t let them take her down.”
“That would be a first,” Avery let out an ironic laugh, “as that woman’s always been a fighter.”
“Don’t I know it,” Jenna smiled in response, “as I can recall when we were younger how time and time again the two of you would butt heads until she got her way…”
“Or I left the house kicking and screaming,” Avery felt a sad smile tug over her lips.
“And in some ways that never changed, huh,” Jenna questioned seeing the lost look upon Avery’s features as Avery slowly faced her pal once again.
“Jen, I just couldn’t find a way to get through to her,” Avery sighed sinking back onto the bench she sat upon, “It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, she just wasn’t ready to accept me and open herself to what it was that truly made me happy.”
“Avery, I know your mother was a hard person to get along with, but I also know how much you wanted her to be a mother you could rely on over the years,” Jenna nodded in response thinking about her friend’s never ending battles with Brooke.
“It’s just…I mean take my pregnancy for example,” Avery placed her hand over her stomach, “Here Russ and I come home to his parents putting together a nursery for us because they were that excited to be grandparents, but with Brooke, my God you’d think I was having Rosemary’s Baby or something with the way she reacted to the news.  She just lost it and the things she said…oh Jen, they were horrible.  I mean it’s bad enough when people you don’t know or don’t like say things to upset you, but when your own mother harps in on your happiness and tries to turn it into an ugliness…”
“I know honey,” Jenna reached out to curl her arm around her best friend in a hug, “and I’m sure on some level she didn’t mean to say those things as she tends to just spout off before she thinks…”
“Oh I’m sure she thought it through,” Avery sighed heavily thinking about the strained relationship she had with her mother, “as she’s never once seen me for who I am or what I made of myself.  She doesn’t see that I have the life I always wanted.  The dreams I always craved in my life are coming true now more than ever and she still refuses to budge on the issue and what’s worse is right now she’s been kidnapped by some lunatic and all I can do is dwell on what’s not right in our relationship.”
“Avery, if you were doing anything else, I would know that you weren’t being yourself as you and your mother have had so many problems over the years with one another.  Those kind of wounds don’t just fade over night,” Jenna reminded her gently, “even if we wish they could.”
“You have no idea how many years I wished my mom was like yours,” Avery sat up straighter offering up a sad smile, “I mean your mom was just so caring and understanding and wonderful and here I had Brooke, who couldn’t be bothered with me unless it fit into her agenda…”
“Believe me my mom is no saint either,” Jenna frowned thinking about the current state of her relationship with her mother.
“I’m not saying your mother is without fault Jen, but maybe you should try talking to her,” Avery suggested seeing the flicker of sadness behind her pal’s eyes, “I mean hey, maybe you two can find a way to get back some of what you had together.”
“Now you’re sounding like Hart,” Jenna sighed thinking about his urging her to reconsider the way she felt about her mother.
“Well then maybe the guy is smarter than I took him for,” Avery glanced around the corridor, “Speaking of which, where is he as I thought I saw him with you earlier?”
“He got a call from one of his clients who are going through a messy divorce at the moment, so he took the call outside,” Jenna explained with a roll of her eyes, “Sometimes I don’t understand why I even bother with him.”
“Because you know he’s totally wrong for you,” Avery teased with a knowing wink, “and he is sexy as hell even if he’s a bit reckless every now and then.”
“Yeah that might be part of it,” Jenna couldn’t help but smile feeling an air of lightness fall over them as she reached for Avery’s hand, “and hey you know the fact that I’m not being called in here today to find Brooke in my office is a good thing for the both of us as it means that things are only going to get better.”
“I know that,” Avery confessed with a soft smile, “and I know that even while she’s spent so many years driving me crazy that I’m not going to write her out of my life just yet.  I mean sure she hasn’t exactly been supportive of Russ and I together, but when she comes back, maybe just maybe we’ll find a way to reach some kind of understanding with one another…”
“Ah yes there it is,” Jenna began with a hint of a smile, “the same old optimism in you is returning.”
“Who knew,” Avery replied with a shrug of her shoulders, “I suppose stranger things have happened.”
“You’re telling me,” Jenna sighed thinking about the year they’d all had, “It seems like that is the theme of things around town lately.”
“So I’ve noticed, but you know if I can find it in me to stay alive with a lunatic stalker out there following me around and my mother can find it in her to fight her way back from being kidnapped, then maybe you should be able to hold out hope that you and your mom can find a way to come to terms with one another and fix the damage that’s been done,” Avery suggested her voice full of hope as she turned to Jenna, “as I know that’s important to you.”
“Avery, it’s not that easy.  I wish it were, but the fact that she lied about my father, well you have no idea how much that hurts,” Jenna confessed painfully.
“No, I don’t, but I do know that right now I wouldn’t let the moment to let someone know I cared about them slip away either because you never know what can happen in the blink of an eye,” Avery suggested thoughtfully as she squeezed Jenna’s hand, “Just food for thought.”
“I’ll take it into consideration,” Jenna decided after a long moment’s pause, “but you know, maybe you should start thinking about some of the things you were talking about there.  I mean you still have to keep in mind that Bruce is still out there and Brooke isn’t home just yet…”
“And you’re supposed to be helping me be the voice of optimism,” Avery cut her off abruptly, “Remember this is how living in the land of delusions works?”
“Is that what we’re calling it these days,” Jenna couldn’t help but smile as she felt Avery’s attempts to keep things simple.
“We have to have something to go on, don’t we,” Avery shrugged her shoulders once again.
“I suppose so,” Jenna nodded in response as she pondered the way she’d severed contact with her mother not so long ago and she wondered if perhaps she’d been too harsh with Dorothy.
“I’m back,” Hart announced stepping up to the bench as he threw an apologetic smile down at Jenna, “I’m sorry about that as you know sometimes well, sometimes my clients get a bit animated.”
“That’s okay,” Jenna smiled up at him, “I don’t mind.”
“Well at least that makes one of us,” he teased with a wink holding his hand out towards her, “as sometimes I think I take on far too much with the way they carry on at times.”
“Hmm, considering that you have Brant as a client, I’m sure you can hold your own,” Avery offered up with a tiny laugh looking to the man that stood beside her best friend.
“Well he has been known to cause me a migraine or two over the years, which is why I wouldn’t trade places with you on any given day over at BBK,” Hart confessed with a tiny chuckle turning his attention to the woman that his friend had been obsessing over recently as he wondered just where Brant stood in Avery’s eyes at a time like this, “as he’s known to be a brute sometimes.”
“Oh I can put him in his place if need be,” Avery smiled in response thinking about the man she worked for, “It just takes the knowledge on how to handle him.”
“Yeah I’ll bet,” Hart threw her a knowing look, “and the fact that you’re a knockout certainly helps with him, doesn’t it?”
“Hart,” Jenna scowled up at him for the remark.
“Jenna, it’s okay,” Avery couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on Hart’s face, “I think Hart’s just trying to say that Brant’s a sucker for a nice pair of legs.”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to say and since I don’t exactly look like a beauty queen in a skirt, I’d imagine that he’d be much more easy going with you than with me,” Hart waved his hand in the air as his laughter touched over the corners of his lips.
“Hmm, well you know that’s certainly one image I never wanted to have in my mind,” Jenna stood up beside him drawing her arms around his waist, “as I don’t really think you’re the type for that sort of thing…”
“Hey now, I’ll have you know I wouldn’t look that bad in a skirt,” Hart teased with a wink watching the way Jenna’s nose wrinkled at the thought.
“How about we stop before you start,” she placed her hand on his chest patting it gently as he offered up a quick nod.
“Well if you insist,” he tipped down to kiss her teasingly tipping down to whisper in her ear so only she could hear him, “how about we get out of here and we’ll turn the focus off of me in a skirt onto my working to get you out of yours.”
“Hart,” Jenna swatted at his chest her eyes widening in shock as she turned to Avery shaking her head, “He’s horrible.”
“Judging by the color on your face, I’m sure he’s not that bad,” Avery teased finding herself swept up in a moment of laughter before she waved her friend on, “Go on.  Get out of here.  I’ll be fine.”
“Avery, are you sure,” Jenna reached out to her.
“Of course I am,” Avery nodded offering up an encouraging smile, “You two just have a good day there,” she lowered her voice as Jenna moved in to hug her good-bye, “and just know that I want details later.”
“Oh you don’t have to worry about that one,” Jenna promised her with a teasing wink before she turned her attention to Hart once again, “Okay, let’s go collect Wayne and be on our way, shall we?”
“I think we can do that,” Hart nodded in response glancing over at Avery once again, “and Avery if you need anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask because I’d be more than willing to assist in any way that I can…”
“Thanks Hart,” Avery smiled up at him, “I appreciate that.”
“Call me later girl,” Jenna waved at Avery throwing out one last look before Avery watched Jenna and Hart leave the station with one another lost in whatever newfound romance they had brewing between them.  Smiling as Avery thought of her friend’s happiness, she sank back onto the bench closing her eyes as she tried to focus on something, anything other than the emotional roller coaster of a day she’d been on since she and Russell had received the phone call about her mother’s car being pulled out of the lake.
“Hey there beautiful,” Russell beckoned Avery  from her thoughts as he knelt down beside her reaching out to her, “you about ready to head on home?”
“Already?” Avery questioned with wide eyes snapping out of the daze she’d gone into seconds earlier.
Russell nodded, “Dave said that there isn’t anything more that any of us can do, but wait so I thought maybe I’d take you home to get some rest as I’m sure you could use it right about now.”
“Russ, I don’t know if I should considering that Guy…” Avery started to argue with him thinking about her younger brother’s responses to what was happening with their mother.
“It’s okay.  He’s with Gabe at the moment and while they’re going to spend some time alone together, I’ve invited them over for dinner later as I kind of had the feeling that you’d want to spend some time with him,” Russell confessed reaching out to touch her cheek gently, “not to mention it gives you a chance to get to know Gabe there.”
“What’s he like,” Avery lifted a curious brow unable to quell the curiosity brewing behind her eyes.
“From what I’ve gathered he’s a pretty great guy who cares a lot about your brother,” Russell replied offering up his assessment of the man in her brother’s life, “He seems to really be on the up and up with Guy about showing his support for him…”
“Guy needs that right now,” Avery half smiled thinking about her brother’s failed relationships in the past.
“Yeah well from what I saw, he seems to be pretty smitten with your brother and all in all I’d give him my seal of approval,” he teased with a grin.
“Ah, so now you’re approving my brother’s boyfriends for me now, huh?” she lifted a speculative brow.
“Well, since I am family, I suppose I can give this a try for you just so that you don’t have to work so hard at figuring out whether or not the man is Guy worthy or not since I know you tend to get worked up over the screening processes there,” he teased further seeing the smile that built up over her features.
“I don’t get worked up,” she objected giving him a pointed look, “I just make sure the man in question is worth my brother’s time.”
“And even if he isn’t, you still try to be supportive which is part of what I love about you,” he reminded her simply, “That in itself is why I figured dinner at our place would be a good start for us all there.”
“It was good thinking on your part,” Avery decided approvingly.
“Somehow I thought you might enjoy that,” he piped back with a bright grin.
“You know me too well,” Avery sighed leaning into his touch as the warmth of him filled her features, “You’re too good to me.”
“I’m not nearly good enough,” he lifted up on his knees moving in to kiss her gently, “but I’m working on it.”
“You’re my dream come true you know,” Avery slipped her arm around his shoulders keeping him near her as he was at her eye level before her.
“And you’re mine,” he whispered over her lips offering one last sweet kiss before parting from her, “which is why I think it’s best if I get you home and rested for a while as I’m sure both you and our little one could use it.”
“I suppose that’s not a bad idea,” Avery nodded in response, “but first I want to say goodbye to my father and then we can get going.”
“We can do that as well,” he touched her cheek gently taking a moment to memorize her features before he rose up to his feet once again offering her his hand as he helped her up from the bench and into his arms.
“Thank you,” she reached out to him, drawing her arms around his shoulders stopping him from walking away from her as she wanted to take the moment to savor the embrace.
“For what,” Russell questioned lazily seeing the sparkle behind her eyes as she tipped up on her toes to kiss him gingerly.
“For just being you,” she whispered over his lips, “for being the man that I love and being here for me.”
“There’s no where else in the world I’d rather be than at your side loving you every step of the way,” he promised her holding her in his arms for a few moments realizing that despite the twists and turns that life threw out at them, that nothing would ever change the way they’d felt about one another as their love was truly the kind of love that could move mountains and make miracles happen for the both of them.


Ken escorted the Vaughns into the mansion as he glanced around, “Annie? Are you around?”

“Yeah, I’m here,” Annie announced as she entered the room, “Oh…company,” She smiled as she extended her hand to them, “I’m Annette.”

“Nice to meet you, Annette,” Julia smiled, “I’m Julia and this is my husband, Timothy.”

“They’re Caitlin’s parents,” Ken informed Annie who smiled brightly.

“Oh you two must be exhausted,” Annie said quickly, “Have you eaten?”

“Yes, we ate at the hospital,” Timothy replied with a smile at Annie’s eagerness to attend them.

“Well then, I’m sure you’d both like to settle in and get some rest,” Annie spoke, “Come right this way, and we’ll get you two a place where you can get some rest.”

“Thank you so much, Annette,” Julia smiled as she looked to Ken, “Are you going back to the hospital?”

“Yeah,” Ken nodded, “I told Caitlin I’d be back as soon as I got you two settled in, but you can ask Annie here for anything. My house is yours.”

“Thank you,” Julia kissed his cheek gently before she and her husband followed Annie up the stairs.

“So, we’re taking in the Vaughns now, huh?” Brant asked as he stepped out of the dining room, “That was probably the ploy from the beginning.”

“Brant, why aren’t you out doing something destructive like normal?” Ken frowned as he crossed his arms and glared at his brother.

“I’m trying to protect this family’s best interests,” Brant declared as he glared at his twin, “Ken, the Vaughns have wormed their way into this family by getting into your bed and now Blake’s,” He watched Ken’s expression change, “Oh so you didn’t know that Dr. Zack Vaughn took advantage of our little sister, huh?”

“Blake cares about him,” Ken frowned, “And as for our romantic relations, they are none of your business.”

“They are my business when it endangers this family,” Brant declared boldly, “Caitlin and Zack are poison, and they are going to destroy all of us.”

“No, you are. You’re chasing after a married woman who just also happens to be pregnant. That’s the real poison in this family, Brant. You don’t give a damn about anyone other than yourself, and you’re always dragging this family into your personal situations. Don’t try to put off the damage done to this family on anyone other than yourself, Brant,” Ken warned, “If you so much as sneer at the Vaughns during their stay here, I swear to god you’ll never even get within sight distance of Avery again.”

“Don’t toss empty threats at me, Ken,” Brant warned.

“It’s not empty. If you don’t think I couldn’t convince Avery and her entire family of how dangerous you are, then you’re even more deluded with yourself than I thought,” Ken declared boldly, “I mean it, Brant, you stay away from the Vaughns…all of them.”

“You’re not my boss, Ken,” Brant sneered as he walked by his twin and out of the house.

Ken rubbed his temple as he felt a headache beginning to throb beneath the surface. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about, he was afraid that Brant would never allow anyone in the Ashford family to have peace of mind.


“This night just keeps on getting better and better,” Guy grumbled peeling the parking ticket off of the front windshield window of his car as a frown touched over his lips, “as if what’s going on right now isn’t enough.”
“Don’t worry yourself with something so tedious,” Gabe extracted the parking ticket from Guy’s hand tucking it away into his pocket, “as right now you need to think about getting some rest so that you aren’t all wiped out later.”
“How can I rest at a time like this when my Mum is out there with some madman who is holding her life in the palm of his hand,” Guy questioned gruffly thinking about the ordeal his mother must be going through at a time like this.
“Guy, the police are going to find who took her and when they do, that person is going to suffer the consequences for their actions.  You have to believe that,” Gabe reached out to touch his shoulder gently.
“That’s easier said than done and we both know it,” Guy frowned back at him wishing that somehow he could find a way to erase this nightmare that was happening right before his eyes.
“I know that Guy, but you have to keep believing.  Your mother is a fighter and she won’t let something like this take her down,” Gabe spoke up hopefully.
“Even so, something like this changes all the rules,” Guy sighed disengaging his car alarm as Gabe reached out for his hand once again.
“How about you let me drive right now,” Gabe suggested grabbing for the car keys, “You’re too wired to be behind the wheel at a time like this.”
“I’m fine,” Guy began to argue throwing his gaze in Gabe’s direction.
“No, you’re not,” Gabe pointed out with a look of heavy dismay, “Guy please…”
“Fine,” Guy relinquished control of his keys turning his eyes towards the police station once again, “I just hope we’re not all making a mistake here in this situation.”
“You’ve done the right thing,” Gabe insisted realizing that it was going to be a long, uphill battle until Brooke was returned safely, but before he could offer up anymore words of comfort to Guy, his cell phone started ringing and a frown touched over his lips as he fished into his pocket immediately recognizing the number.  “Give me a second here.”
“Sure,” Guy nodded watching as Gabe answered the phone and immediately tension pressed in over his features--the same tension that only came from one person in this world as Gabe let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Noelle, now is not the best of times for me…  No, Noelle I’m not going to get into this with you right now as I’ve already said…Noelle,” Gabe’s voice grew with heavy agitation as he turned away from Guy, “Look I said that we could discuss this later when…no, Noelle I’m not just going to…Noelle…”
“What now,” Guy questioned realizing that only Noelle could get Gabe so wired up as it was obvious she was ready to start some newfound battle with him as always.
Gabe raised his hand in the air to silence Guy for a moment as a crease formed over his brow and he continued to speak to his ex-wife, “Look, Noelle, I’ve already told you that I’m…no…Noelle don’t you even go there considering that…” a silence and a look of surprise and dismay touched over Gabe’s features before his tone changed altogether softening with the moment, “Brittany, hey sweetheart.  Yes, I know that your mommy is upset right now, but I promise you that it’s going to be okay.  Yes, sweetie, you know I wouldn’t miss your ballet recital for the world there.  Of course I’m proud of you and I love you very much angel…”
“Wonderful,” Guy frowned again thinking of how once again Noelle had clearly put poor, little Brittany in the middle of whatever drama she was starting with Gabe.  While Gabe had been a very good father to his child, Noelle was always finding something that wasn’t working out for her and she continually used Brittany time and time again as a means of getting what she was yearning for whether it be a new Mercedes that Gabe paid for or a trip to the Bahamas with her boyfriend of the moment.  Even now as Gabe was speaking with his daughter, trying to calm her nerves after what was probably another one of Noelle’s temper tantrums, Guy couldn’t help but feel frustrated and agitated with Noelle’s timing as she seemed to always find a way to make a bad situation worse.
“I’m sorry about that,” Gabe broke through Guy’s thoughts as Guy realized that Gabe was off of the phone, “Noelle just wanted to have a few words with me about Brittany…”
“I’m sure she did,” Guy began doubtful folding his arms in front of his chest, “What did she want now?”
Gabe hesitated before speaking up again, “She wants to put Brittany in a boarding school overseas as one of her friends have sold her on the idea that only the best of the best girls are able to be a part of the school, but I’m not exactly thrilled at the idea of sending my daughter away especially when I see so little of her already with all of Noelle’s issues.”
“Gabe, I really don’t know why you just let her bulldoze you all the time,” Guy threw back at him with a huff, “Seeing as she’s always finding ways to manipulate the situations in her favor, I don’t really think it’s good for Brittany to be around that.”
“Given that Brittany’s already had so many uproars in her life already, I don’t want to cause a rift in the stability she has in her life right now,” Gabe began in his defense.
“So what?  You’re just going to let Noelle ship Brittany overseas while she spends her days living it up at the spas in Beverly Hills at your expense?” Guy gave him a firm look, “Gabe, I know you think that what happened in your marriage was your fault, but you can’t continually let Noelle use what happened against you to the point that you lose your daughter over this.”
“I know that,” Gabe sighed feeling the beginnings of a headache coming on, “Believe me I know what you’re saying and I’m not about to let Noelle ship Brittany out of the country to be raised by some strangers when that’s not what’s best for her.  I’ve already spoken on this issue with her and Brittany doesn’t want to go.  While Noelle might be sold on the idea thanks to her pals at the country club, I’m not going to let her just write my daughter off like that.”
“You know maybe it’s time you started thinking about working towards some more stability in Brittany’s life because while Noelle‘s in and out of rehab it can’t be helping her,” Guy thought about Gabe’s daughter’s situation for a long moment, “Certainly things can’t be going too well when she sees Noelle like that.”
“I’m well aware of that which is why I was hoping that you and I could find a way to get our relationship a bit more secure,” Gabe started to explain with a sigh, “I was hoping once we’d come to Coral Valley that you could be open with your family and then, well I’ve been talking to a lawyer about the situation with Noelle and there might be a way around what’s happening--a way to help Brittany…”
“But you’re waiting on me to get my priorities straight huh,” Guy slumped down on the hood of his car dropping his head down with a groan, “but once again I’m not making the situation easy on you.”
“Guy, this isn’t all about what’s happening with us,” Gabe moved in beside him, “as I’ve been trying to find a way to work with Noelle time and time again, but it seems as though the harder I try…”
“The more she pushes you in the other direction,” Guy nodded in understanding, “I realize this and I’m sorry if I’ve added any stress to the situation by not being up front about us with my family.”
“Hey, we all have our own ways of doing things,” Gabe offered up moving to take a seat beside him on the hood of the car, “and while I wasn’t happy with what was going on.  I understand why you did what you did in the hopes of sparing your mother any of the grief that can come with opening up to her.  I mean hey, look at what my coming clean did to Noelle…”
“Noelle was a nut job long before you two separated,” Guy reminded him sharply, “There were rumors flying around about her emotional instability in the fashion world for years.”
“Even so, I didn’t help thing in leading her to believe what we had was something that could last when I knew in my heart that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be in my life,” Gabe sighed closing his eyes as he thought of his torrid past with his ex-wife, “I should’ve just been honest with her and spared her all of the pain that she’s going through.”
“Gabe, you did what you thought you had to do and hey even though Noelle leaves much to be desired, Brittany is a beautiful little princess…” Guy spoke up gently.
“She really is,” Gabe smiled in response, “which is why I want to do what’s best for her.”
“You are doing that,” Guy patted Gabe’s leg, “You’re a good father and don’t let Noelle make you think otherwise.  You’re doing the right thing in opposing her sending Brittany away.”
“I know I am, but sometimes, well sometimes I just wish that I could do more…” Gabe felt the same frustrated words fall from his lips as Guy’s cell phone began to ring breaking through their talk with one another.
“Hmm, well it sounds like the hits just keep on coming here,” Guy reached for his cell phone, “Maybe Noelle’s decided to make another call my way again.”
“If she has, she’s going to hear it from me,” Gabe vowed realizing that while he’d been delaying the inevitable something would have to be done about the current state of affairs with his ex-wife.
“I can take her,” Guy offered up with a hint of a smile answering his phone brightly, “Hello.”
“Listen up Guy,” the raspy voice on the other end of the line began, “because your mother’s life depends on just how good you are at following instructions.”
“Who is this?” Guy questioned scanning the parking lot as a chill raced over his spine, “Where’s my mother?”
“She’s safe and sound for the time being, but if you don’t do exactly what I tell you, then that’s all about to change,” the voice promised in a menacing tone.
“Who are you?  Why are you doing this?” Guy asked desperately feeling his emotions get the best of him as he thought to his mother, “Let me talk to my Mum.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that right now, but you can rest assured that she’s fine…for now…” the voice explained once again.
“I want to talk to her…” Guy insisted once again.
“I don’t care what you want because you’re not getting it.  I’m in control here as I’m the man who has your mother’s life on the line, so I strongly suggest you stop asking so many annoying questions and start listening to what I have to tell you, or else your mother won’t live to see the light of day,” the voice promised in a tone that left Guy with no disillusions about the man’s intentions where his mother is concerned, “Now are you ready to hear what I have to tell you?”
“Yes, I’m ready,” Guy replied promptly realizing that his life could be riding on whatever he was told to do and he wasn’t about to do anything to jeopardize her safety in any way at a time like this when nothing mattered more than bringing her back home again alive and well.

...to be continued...