Episode Eighty Two 

“Tell me again what he said,” Dave urged Guy on as he could clearly see the apprehension pressing over Brooke’s son’s features.
“He said if I went to the authorities that they’d kill her,” Guy explained reluctantly shifting in his chair as he thought about his mother’s situation.  Finding himself increasingly on edge, he wondered how Gabe had managed to talk him back inside the police station as it was obvious that things were clearly out of the realm of their control as it was clear the kidnapper was calling all the shots.
“He’ll kill her if you don’t tell us what he said exactly,” Dave began again with a heavy sigh as he paced around the small interrogation room feeling the stubborn streak in Guy Morrison taking control as his desire to protect his mother could very well be her undoing.
“It’s just…” Guy started his eyes shifting between Gabe in the corner of the room and Richard as his father stepped in beside him reaching for the chair beside the one Guy was seated in.
“Guy, listen to me,” Richard begged of him desperately, “if we don’t know all the information, then there’s no way that we’ll be able to help bring your mother back and we both don’t want that to be the case.”
“He just said…” Guy took in a slow breath trying to still the frantic beating of his heart, “It’s just…there were specific instructions…”
“Then tell me,” Richard urged on reaching out to take his son’s hand, “Let me know what they want and I’ll give them anything it takes to bring your mother back to us.”
“You really mean that?” Guy searched his father’s eyes unable to quell the doubt that harbored deep inside of him after spending a lifetime hating the man before him.
“I swear to you on my life that I’ll do whatever it takes to get your mother back to us safe and well,” Richard promised earnestly offering up a light squeeze over his son’s hand, “as I don’t want to see anything happen to her either.”
“I wish I could truly believe that,” Guy sighed shaking his head and dropping it down as he focused on the table before him, “but there’s so much at risk…”
“Which is why the kidnapper knew to call you,” Dave suggested thinking about the current change of direction the kidnapper was taking, “Knowing how much you love your mother, the kidnapper knew that you were vulnerable to doing whatever was asked of you without question.”
“And that makes me a bad person because?” Guy lifted his eyes to glare up at Dave.
“It doesn’t Guy, but damn it if you won’t let us in, then we can’t help find your mother and that isn’t what you want, now is it?” Dave hunched down over the table slamming his hand down on the table top in a moment of mounted frustration as the sound vibrated through the room and he felt himself shudder in the moment.  Taking a step back, he inhaled a slow, sharp breath before his voice returned to a normal tone, “Please, Guy just tell me what you know.”
“Guy, go on,” Gabe encouraged him softly, “They are the only ones that can help her at a time like this.”
“Not if the kidnapper knows what’s happening and it winds up getting her killed,” Guy refused to budge as he was second guessing his decision to return to the station.  He rose from the chair ready to bolt from the room as his nerves had gotten the best of him.  “I can’t do this!”
“Yes you can,” Richard jumped up to his feet once again following his son and blocking the exit before he could leave, “Guy, you have to tell us what was said…”
“I just don’t know…” Guy started his eyes filled with fear as Richard glanced over his son’s shoulder at Dave and Gabe.
Lowering his voice Richard pleaded with Guy, “Will you tell me?  Will you let me know what the kidnapper said?”
“I don’t know if I can….if he kills her…” Guy’s voice trembled with fear.
“I won’t let that happen,” Richard promised in a tight whisper before turning his attention to Dave and Gabe, “Can you give me a moment alone with my son please?”
“Richard, the longer we wait on this…” Dave began to protest as Richard raised his hand in the air to silence the police chief.
“Please, just five minutes here,” Richard urged once again as Dave finally nodded in resignation leading Gabe out of the room as Guy was left alone with his father for a long moment of silence between them.  Richard watched his son pace around the room before he cleared his throat trying to keep his voice firm and steady as it was evident how truly terrified Guy was in a moment like this one.
“Guy please talk to me,” Richard pleaded with him as Guy stopped mid-movement turning his dark eyes up towards Richard for a brief, fleeting moment of what looked so very much like an opening to the truth, but instead he dropped his head down before anything came from his lips.
“I can’t,” Guy sank into the chair before him breaking down as his worries consumed him, “I can’t say anything if he’s going to kill her…”
“Guy, if you truly believe involving the police will be something that hurts your mother, then I swear to you we can walk out of here right now and not turn back,” Richard declared boldly stepping in towards his son as he stood before him, “If you tell me what the kidnapper wants then I swear to you I’ll find a way to get it to him without endangering your mother.”
“And why would you do something like that,” Guy threw back at him harshly, “Seeing as you’ve made it your mission to make her miserable most of her adult life.”
“Because despite what you think about me, I don’t want your mother dead,” Richard confessed feeling a pang of guilt sweep over him as he saw the way his son looked at him, eyes penetrating him with such distrust and raw hatred in the moment.  Reaching for the chair beside Guy, Richard seated himself next to his son unable to turn away from Guy as he knew how much reaching Guy would mean to Brooke’s safe return, “Look, son I know that things haven’t been right between your mother and I for a long time and that alone could give you plenty of reason to doubt my intentions, but you need to know that I would never willingly hurt her or you for that matter.  You and Avery mean the world to me and I refuse to let someone come in and destroy something that means so very much to you…”
“Then why were you here with that woman,” Guy hissed in an accusatory tone, “You know how much that hurts Mum when you trample on your marriage vows like that so outwardly.”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” Richard cleared his throat feeling the tension engulfing him as he brought his fingers up through his silvery hair, “Guy, your mother and I aren’t happy together as a married couple, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care for her.  Regardless of what’s happened between us, she’s the mother of my children and for that I will always be connected to her.”
“But not enough to make her happy and give her the family she’s been struggling to hold onto for all these years, right?” Guy huffed scooting his chair away from Richard as he stared him down.
Richard sighed feeling himself hitting another brick wall with his son, “Guy, can you tell me that you honestly believe that your mother is happy being with me?  That you feel in your heart that we’re better together than we are apart?”
“That’s not the point,” Guy cut back sharply, “as marriage is about sacrifice and honoring the vows that you made so long ago.”
“I know what marriage is about, but I also know that when you’re married to someone if you’re only hurting them by living a lie, then you’re only doing more damage than you would be in knowing when to quit.  Yes, I stayed with your mother all these years so that you and Avery would have some sense of normalcy in your lives, but seeing you now, I’m starting to wonder if I made a mistake…”
“Ah yes, that’s right because it would be oh so much easier for the great Richard Morrison to run away, right?” Guy spat back at him in the midst of an uproar pushing away from the table as he rose to his feet, “I mean that’s really one of the only things you’re good at, aren’t you?”
“Guy, what do you want from me?  An apology?” Richard questioned with a frown, “Do you want me to say that I’m sorry that I’ve made you and your mother so very miserable?  That this is all my fault that things changed over the years?  Well, if that’s what it takes, then fine, I’m sorry that I’ve hurt you and that I’ve made you feel that something has been missing from our life together as a family, but right now we both know this isn’t about the past mistakes.  This is about finding your mother and if you don’t let me in, then neither one of us are going to get the chance to do or say the things that we weren’t able to do before.  Guy, if you don’t let me in, then this might be the last chance to save her…”
“I just want her home again,” Guy blurted out breaking down at the thought of not being able to see his mother again as he sank down to his knees on the ground, falling to pieces as Richard found himself witnessing a vulnerable side of his son that he’d never seen before.
Silently Richard knelt down beside him offering his arms in a warm embrace despite Guy’s reluctance.  As Guy broke into tiny sobs, Richard felt his heart breaking with him as he realized they’d missed out on so very much with one another over the years due to circumstances and with that thought in mind, he squeezed Guy tighter wishing that he could somehow take the pain away from him, “Guy, you have to trust me on this.  You have to let me help her.”
“I can’t let her die,” Guy continued lost in his misery as Richard softened his tone to that of a gentle whisper.
“We won’t let that happen.  I swear to you that won’t be the case if you just tell me what’s going on,” Richard pleaded with him as Guy’s poignant eyes lifted up to his revealing so many emotions that his son had kept hidden behind a mask of rage for so many years.
“He wants money,” Guy finally offered up in a feeble tone.
“How much money are we talking about?” Richard questioned his voice full of concern.
“Five million dollars,” Guy blurted out as Richard’s eyes widened with surprise, but he tried to gauge his reaction as his son continued, “He wants the money by the weekend.  He’s calling back tomorrow with a drop off point and if we’re not able to come up with it, then…”
“We’ll have it if that’s what it takes,” Richard promised realizing that there was a whole new world of trouble ahead of them now that the ransom demand had been thrown to the table as it seemed that there was far more ahead of them beyond this point.


“Damn it.  Why won’t he just say anything,” Dave frowned turning his attention to interrogation room door as he wondered what was going on between Guy and his father.
“He’s a proud man,” Gabe offered up simply, “and this situation has found him in unfamiliar territory here.  He’s not sure what will help or hinder the situation.”
“Not saying anything isn’t going to help,” Dave explained with a heavy sigh, “and I just wish that I could get that through to him.”
“Sometimes our rational thoughts are masked by emotions when a crisis comes upon us, but I’m sure that Guy will do the right thing,” Gabe began thinking about the weight that fell upon his lover’s shoulders.
“I just hope it isn’t too late for his mother when he finally does,” Dave thought aloud as he turned his attention to the front of the police station seeing the familiar faces of the FBI walk through the doors and immediately he was on edge.
“Chief Warner,” Callaway began in his business as usual tone as he and a couple other agents approached Dave, “We need to speak to Richard Morrison right away about his wife’s kidnapping and we were told we could find him here.”
“I don’t know where you got your information, but if you think that you’re just going to come into my station and start running the show, then you’ve got another think coming here,” Dave stood taller feeling the distinct push of the FBI as he saw the determined look upon Callaway’s features.
“Look, we don’t have time for this as we’ve come upon some information that might help Mr. Morrison in his wife’s safe return, now I strongly suggest that you lead us to where we can find him so that we can start doing our jobs,” Agent Nielson piped in with a scowl of his own as he eyed Dave with heavy scrutiny.
“We’re working in Brooke Morrison’s kidnapping here within the department,” Dave explained bluntly, “so your services aren’t needed.”
“We’ll leave that to the family to decide,” Nielson replied gruffly as he stepped forward, “so why don’t you just show us where he’s at so that we can get this over with?”
“This is a kidnapping investigation and it’s not something to be taken lightly,” Dave insisted standing firm in his unyielding position on the subject, “I can talk to Mr. Morrison and see if he’s interested in your services, but until then…”
“Save it,” Nielson pushed him aside after having taken note of the way Dave was standing in front of the interrogation room doors, “I’ll find him myself.”
“You can’t just go in there,” Dave spun around to stop Nielson, but his move was thwarted as Nielson had already entered the room where Guy and Richard were speaking with one another.  Feeling an anger press over him, Dave headed in after the rebellious agent ready to lash out at him in the moment, but he was stopped by Callaway.
“Look we have more information about this kidnapping than anyone at your station could possibly have at a time like this and we’d appreciate your offering up a professional courtesy at a time like this,” Callaway declared in his authoritative tone as he stared down Dave.
“Just like the one you’re giving me right now,” Dave threw back at him sharply.
“While I realize that Nielson’s methods leave much to be desired, we’re in a race against the clock here and you’ll have to pardon the lack of pleasantries on our end,” Callaway explained brushing past Dave as he entered the interrogation room closing the door behind him.
“What just happened here,” Gabe frowned seeing how the FBI had bulldozed themselves into the situation.
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to stand for it,” Dave replied with a huff marching towards the door only to discover it locked as he flagged down one of his officers, “Get this door open right now!”
“But Chief Warner…” the officer at the front desk began.
“I don’t care what you have to do.  I want in there right now!” Dave demanded watching the officer scramble to find the keys to the room.
Gabe watched in silence wondering just what else the FBI knew about the situation Brooke Morrison had found herself in.  Given his dealing with that kind in the past, he couldn’t help but wonder what they’d been holding back on as they seemed far too sure of their being able to provide more help than the Coral Valley police department, but before Gabe could further question what was going on behind closed doors, his cell phone started to ring.  He pulled it out of his jacket pocket seeing the familiar number as he realized that right now he didn’t want to be dealing with yet another situation, but knowing of his ex-wife’s persistence, he answered the phone realizing there was no escaping her no matter how hard he’d wanted to.


“Alone at last,” Hart declared with a sigh of relief as Jenna closed the door to her apartment locking it up behind her before turning her attention to Hart as he stood in the middle of her living room holding the bags of Chinese food they’d picked up on the way over to her apartment for a late lunch.  He spun around to face her wiggling his brow at her suggestively, “I hope you’re hungry.”
“In more ways than you can even begin to imagine,” she confessed stepping in towards him with the start of a smile as she stopped right in front of him, tipping up on her toes as if she was going to collect a kiss from him before drawing back with a teasing laugh, “I’ll go get us a few plates for the food.”
“Forget the plates.  Just grab a few forks or something,” Hart called out to her watching her slip into the kitchen as he carried the bags into her living room, “We’ll just have a picnic on the floor here.”
“Sounds like something different,” Jenna called out from the kitchen.
Taking a quick look around Jenna’s crowded apartment, Hart set the bags of food down on the end table before him as he prepared for the picnic setup.  Carefully moving the coffee table in the center of the room to one of the far walls, he returned to pull one of the throw blankets off of her couch and lay it out on the floor just in time to hear her returning to the living room to join him.
“Well, you certainly weren’t kidding about the picnic,” Jenna noted watching him spread the Styrofoam containers out on top of the blanket before stretching out beside them.
“I didn’t think you’d mind our snuggling up down here instead of sitting at the table being entirely too far away from one another,” he patted the ground beside him before a suggestive smile spread over his handsome, roguish features, “Care to join me?”
“Hmm, well I suppose I’ll think about it,” Jenna teased kicking off her shoes before settling in on the blanket beside him.
“See,” he whispered over the back of her neck as he curled his arm in around behind her, scooting himself in closer to her, “Isn’t this just so much better?”
“Now that you mention it,” she snuggled back into him savoring the warmth of him behind her as his finger tips teased up over her abdomen slipping up beneath her sweater before she threw him a pointed look, “Hart, I thought you were hungry.”
“I am hungry,” he leaned forward nibbling on her neck as she reached for one of the containers before her.
“I can see this, but suddenly I’m thinking that what you’re craving has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese,” she couldn’t help, but smirk as she felt his heavenly lips teasing over her silken skin.
“Hmm, well you know I thought that was what it would take to satisfy me when we got back here, but I was only deluding myself because clearly what was really on my mind for true satisfaction starts with you,” he whispered urging her to shift in his arms as his lips collected hers in a heated kiss daring her to deny the attraction between them as the fire seemed to explode between them until they parted breathlessly.
“Oh you’re good,” Jenna couldn’t help but tease as she licked her lower lip gingerly tasting his kiss upon her.
“Sweetheart, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” he reached out to her touching her face in a tender motion as his index finger dipped in over the hollow of her cheekbone.
“I think I’m starting to see so very much of that,” Jenna breathed urgently claiming his mouth in another kiss, “though I have to admit that right now I’m famished.”
“Me too,” Hart whispered in response drawing her in closer to him as he started to urge her back onto the blanket.
“No Hart,” Jenna broke from the kiss shaking her head as her eyes gaze up into his, “I mean I’m hungry for the Chinese food as it’s been a long day.”
“Oh,” Hart frowned, his lips curling into a pout as he reluctantly released her, “I just kind of thought that maybe we were both experiencing some of the same cravings right about now…”
“We are,” Jenna assured him bringing her hand up over the center of his chest, “but given the plans I have for you, well I was thinking you might need a little fuel here as I intend to keep you quite busy for the rest of the night once I have my way with you.”
“In that case,” Hart leaned back against her sofa, propping his hands back over his head as he watched her reaching for a container of food, “I’m all yours baby.”
“Now there’s something I’m certain I can sink my teeth into,” Jenna winked at him snagging some of the chop sticks she’d brought back from the kitchen with her before she settled in over his lap straddling him as she suddenly had a whole new spark of genius where their meal was concerned.
“Well now, I think I’m liking the direction you’re going in with this,” Hart felt her wiggle over him, her thighs hugging his legs between hers as he encircled her waist with his arms, watching the spark of mischief burning behind her eyes as she lifted the chopsticks to his lips as they now contained a bite of the food they’d brought home to share.
“I thought you might,” Jenna threw out a knowing look as he eagerly swallowed the bite she offered him.  “Good?”
“Very,” he nodded eagerly watching as she used the chopsticks to retrieve some food for herself and he felt his heart skip a beat as it dipped in between her soft, supple, ever so kissable lips and she let out a soft purr of approval.
“You aren’t kidding,” Jenna smiled dipping her chopsticks into the container once again as Hart placed his hand over hers stopping her mid-movement.
“Allow me,” he instructed a playful expression washing over his features as he struggled to collect some food from inside the container with the chopsticks, but much to his dismay, his lack of coordination began to show as he fumbled with the container’s contents.
“Let me get it,” Jenna reached out to assist him as he shook his head, determination taking over his wounded ego.
“No, I’ll get it,” Hart insisted a few more times before finally just stabbing a piece of chicken within the container and lifting the skewered meat to her lips, “See, I’ve got it.”
“So you did,” Jenna couldn’t help but laugh accepting the bite as she could see the proud smile that swept over Hart’s features and she couldn’t help but find herself loving this time alone with him as he opened himself up to her in so many ways that went well beyond what she’d first thought about him back when they’d first connected paths.  Now as his boyish expression seemed to take over and he worked desperately to get her another piece of food, she found herself falling harder by the second for him.
“Allow me Hart,” Jenna finally blurted out placing her hand over his on the chopsticks as she guided him over the food within the container, using her talents to assist him in picking up the next bite.  After a few seconds of working together, he seemed to get a knack for what he was doing and soon enough she found herself reveling in how quick of a learner he was in this particular situation.
“I think I’ll keep you around,” Jenna decided aloud throwing her arms around his neck as he fed her the food they’d been working on with one another.
“I was hoping you’d say that sooner or later,” Hart smiled nibbling on her lower lip as he dropped his hand down to the container to snag another bite of food for her.
“It had crossed my mind once or twice there,” Jenna confessed with a flirty expressing accepting the token he’d offered her.
“Hmm, well in that case I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing,” Hart decided his grin spreading over his features as he reached for the container once again.
“Actually,” Jenna stopped him mid-movement, “I think I’d much rather focus on something other than food right now as there’s a more pressing hunger taking over right now.”
“Really?” he lifted an approving brow, “Well, how can we work on fixing that little situation for you?”
“If you don’t know the answer to that question, well then I think it’s say to say that you’re not the man I thought you were,” Jenna teased feeling his finger tips curl up over her spine drawing her closer to him as their lips met in another heated union.
“Oh believe me,” he murmured against her sexy mouth, “I’m all that and more,” he boasted feeling her fingers tangle into his hair urging him into a deeper display of passion between them.
“Good,” Jenna purred as a gasp of air escaped between her lips as she could taste the spices of dinner upon his lips, “I was hoping you’d try to convince me of that one.”
“Forget trying,” Hart shifted her in his arms, easing her down onto the blanket before he moved in over her in a swift, sensual movement, “because I’m going to make you believe it before this night is over.”
“I can’t wait,” Jenna threw her arms around him ready to dive into the unknown with him as her mind was wild with fantasies of the two of them together, her heart pounding with anticipation as she could feel the hard, male heat of him pressed against her.  She shifted her hips up towards his, bumping and grinding against his firm body when she felt a harsh breath escape his lips.
“Jenna,” he spoke her name in a desperate whisper as a smile tickled over her lips.
“I thought you might like that,” she murmured in a low, sensual tone as her fingers fanned out over his firm behind and he let out another sharp, breathless gasp.
“Jenna,” his voice grew pinched with passion, or at least that was the vibe Jenna was getting until he rolled out from over her dropping down to the blanket beside her and holding his throat as his features suddenly were turning a pale shade of blue, “Jenna…”
“Hart,” she gasped realizing that something was terribly wrong as she sat upright hovering up over him watching as he heaved for air, “Hart, what is it?”
“I don’t know…” he started whooping as he fought for oxygen, “I can’t…I can’t breathe…”
“Oh God,” Jenna’s eyes widened in horror, “What’s happening?  Does your chest hurt…are you…”
“I don’t know…I….I…” he threw his hand out over the blanket, feeling is smash into the remains of lunch as his eyes bulged in horror, “Oh God…peanut oil…”
“Peanut oil?” Jenna gave him a strange look as he started wheezing desperately.
“I’m allergic…allergic to peanuts,” he explained moving to his knees as he struggled to get up from the floor only to collapse down upon it again, “Normally I make a request that the fried rice isn’t made with peanut oil, but this time…”
“This time I called the order in and didn’t know,” Jenna’s jaw dropped in horror as she scrambled to her feet, “Hart, we’ll fix this,” she looked around her apartment seeking out some kind of solution to this situation as she tried to think to her medical training, but as she watched him fighting for each breath he took before her, her mind drew a blank as he curled his fingers into the sofa, squeezing it in an attempt to get up from the floor.
“The hospital…” Hart screeched clenching his throat as he took in another heavy breath, “I need to get…”
“To the hospital,” Jenna figured it out watching him collapse to the floor once again while taking the couch cushion down with her before she rushed over to his side hoping that somehow things wouldn’t be headed in a far worse direction than the one they’d come to between them.  Using every ounce of strength she had in her, she strained to pull him up off of the floor, but with his choking and gasping for oxygen, he was like a dead weight as she stumbled forward taking him down with her as he hit her floor head first.
“Hart,” Jenna whimpered fearing she might’ve hurt him as he lifted his head once again.
“Ambulance,” Hart managed to get out as Jenna reached for her cell phone dialing 911 and calling for help as she wondered just how in the world things could keep going so poorly between her and Hart.  Though right now she vowed not to dwell on it as she just prayed that this latest encounter between them didn’t wind up killing him in the process.


Douglas sat on the sofa in his penthouse suite of the Pointe hotel sipping a glass of scotch. It was his third…or fifth…at this point, he didn’t much care as he wasn’t counting. He was going to drink until he either passed out or puked…or both. His day had gotten better for a brief flickering moment when he was with Dottie, and then when her boyfriend had arrived, the day had gotten a whole lot worse.

Why had he gone to Dottie anyway? He knew she would be at home and with her lover, but none of that seemed to matter at the time. All he was interested in was seeking solace from the one person he’d ever truly loved. For that single beautiful moment, he’d found that solace.

And then her boyfriend had come home. Douglas threw back another gulp of the fiery liquid and grimaced. He’d never truly enjoyed getting between lovers, but in this case, he could almost see himself making an exception…for Dottie.

His Dottie. She may have run from him, but in her heart, she was his. She always would be…just as he would always be hers. It was a fact he’d tried to run from over the years. He’d drifted from relationship to meaningless relationship over and over again only to find himself alone in the end. Yet, she’d always remained in his heart, and he’d always found himself wondering what might have been if only they hadn’t been torn apart.

Torn apart. Was that quite the right phrase to describe how their relationship had been interrupted? Yes, interrupted, he was sure that was all it had been as their finding one another after all this time was simply kismet, and they would reconcile soon. But he still didn’t understand what had torn them apart to begin with…if that was indeed how one would describe the interruption. Dottie had run from him, run from their love, and he still wasn’t sure why. Sure, she’d given him excuses about being young and pregnant with Jenna and not wanting to harm his career, but he sensed there was something more than what she was telling…something all together more frightening. Somehow he’d have to get her to reveal the exact reason for her disappearance from his life.

He moved to the bar and refilled his glass. He wasn’t drunk enough yet…not even close. He definitely needed more scotch.

A knock on the door interrupted his pity party and drew his attention back to reality. He walked to the door, hoping that whoever was on the other side of it would bear some good news for a change. As soon as he opened the door, he frowned knowing that no good news would be forthcoming.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Douglas frowned as he glared at Thea.

Thea brushed by him as she made her way to the bar, “I figured that you were probably here drinking by yourself. You should never drink alone, and it just so happens that I’m in the mood to drink as well,” She spoke even as she poured herself a scotch. She carried the bottle across to him and refilled his glass, “So let’s get plastered together.”

“Thea, why are you here?” He asked again as he kicked the door closed behind him.

“I told you. I feel like drinking, and I don’t want to do it alone. Granted, you aren’t my first choice of drinking companions, but you’ll do in a pinch,” She shrugged.

“What’s the matter? Cameron throw you out?” He asked with a snort as he collapsed into the chair he’d occupied earlier.

“Of course not,” She replied as she sipped her scotch and sat on the sofa.

“Then why are you here?” He asked blandly as he looked across at her.

“Who says I have any reason for being here other than what I said? Come on, Doug. You and I have always gotten along despite your relationship with Cameron.”

“You mean you didn’t care to piss Cameron off by seducing me,” He clarified.

Thea grinned as she kicked her heels off and ran her toes over the rug before the sofa, “And here I thought the all powerful Douglas Mahoney couldn’t be swayed by little ole me.”

“I can’t on a normal day, but you never seem to be around on a normal day. Why is that? Doing more of Cameron’s dirty work?”

“Do you consider yourself dirty work?” She asked before sipping more scotch.

“Not in the slightest. In fact, I wonder why you allow Cameron to pimp you out as he does,” Douglas spoke as he regarded her, “You’re a beautiful and intelligent woman. You don’t need him to use you as a common whore to suit his purposes.”

“That’s not what our relationship is,” She defended, “Cameron isn’t like that. He doesn’t force me to do anything.”

“Tell me something, Thea, as I’ve wondered about this since the first moment I met you,” He began as he placed his scotch aside and leaned forward to make the conversation more intimate, “Why do you stay with him? Is it really love on your part? Or does he have some way of blackmailing you as he does everyone else in his life?”

Thea rolled her eyes before looking away from him, “It’s not like that, Doug. It never has been.”

“Then what is it like? I’ve never understood why you would stay with him instead of branching out on your own. You know that if you tried, you could so leave Cameron in the dust.”

“Quit giving me a pep talk on leaving Cameron, Doug. We’ve been through that before, and I’m not interested in hearing more of it,” She sighed as she threw back the last of her scotch.

“Yes, you do. You always come looking to me when you’re pissed off at Cameron just because you want to hear that you could live without him,” Douglas shook his head, “And you could.”

“I think I made a mistake in coming here,” Thea stood, placing her empty glass upon the coffee table before her.

“No, you didn’t,” He said as he quickly stood and blocked her exit, “Thea, don’t go.”

She stood before him and met his eyes, “Why should I stay?”

Doug reached out to her and eased his fingers across her cheek and into her hair. He brushed his thumb over her cheekbone, “Because you know that you don’t want to go. Because you know that I see you for who you are and not as a play toy to be used on a whim. Because you want to be appreciated, and you know that as long as you’re here, you are appreciated,” He assured her before slowly lowering his lips to hers.

Thea wrapped her arms around him as she returned his kiss. While she had never planned on falling into Doug’s arms during her visit here, it was an unplanned yet pleasant surprise. She’d always found solace in his arms when Cameron has upset her, and there was of course the added bonus of pissing off Cameron with the news she’d shared Doug’s bed again. In fact, this was just what she needed, and maybe she could give Doug a bit of what he needed as well.


Zack knocked on the door to Caitlin’s room before he peaked inside, “Hey, can I come in?”

“I don’t know,” Caitlin replied with a slight smile, “Do you think you can behave?”

“I’m not making any promises,” He warned as he stepped inside. Once he was inside, he paused as he spotted Blake standing across the room, “Oh I didn’t know you had company.”

“That’s okay,” Blake replied quickly, “I’ve been here all day and should probably be going anyway,” She moved over to Caitlin’s beside and leaned in to gently hug her friend, “I’ll come by to see you tomorrow,” She paused, “It’s so good to see you awake again.”

“It’s good to be awake,” Caitlin smiled.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Blake spoke as she gently waved to her friend and stepped out of the room.

Zack looked to Caitlin, “I’ll be right back,” He advised before he stepped out after Blake, “Blake, wait a second.”

Blake stopped and turned towards Zack, taking a deep breath as she watched him approach her. She had thought she could switch off her feelings for Zack or at least prevent them from ruling her world. But as he came closer to her, she found herself wishing that things between them were different and the damage hadn’t been done. Still, during their separation, she’d reconnected with Seth and she couldn’t find it within her heart to regret any of the time she’d spent with him.

She took a deep breath as she tried to still the wild beating of her heart to speak with him without falling apart, “What can I do for you, Zack?”

He stopped and met her eyes, “I guess I deserve that sort of response,” He slipped his hands into his pockets, “Look, I just…”

“Yeah?” She replied, trying not to let him know his effect on her.

“I wanted to say that,” He paused as he searched for the right words to say. He wasn’t exactly sure why he’d felt the need to stop her from leaving without speaking to her, but he just knew that he had to say something to her again. Having been away from her for so long was trying his soul, and his heart couldn’t stand the idea of the tension between them. He had to do something to make some progress with her…anything to bridge the distance between them.

“What?” She asked as she watched him struggle for words. She’d known that this would be awkward as soon as he asked her to stop, but she had no idea he’d feel the same way. She had thought she was the only one with butterflies in her stomach.

“I just wanted you to know that there’s nothing going on between Jo and myself,” He began, then wondered if Blake would still care at this point, “I mean there was something back in Seattle but it’s over. It has been for a while.”

Blake studied him for a moment as she tried to process the news and what it meant to her, “Then why was she here?”

“She’s in town doing something for her magazine,” He shrugged, “I didn’t even know she was here until the day before Cait’s attack. When she heard about Caitlin, she came here to offer support.”

“Which you obviously accepted,” She crossed her arms, steeling herself against the cold reality of what had transpired between the man she cared for and the reporter, “You seemed very cozy with her the day that you so casually introduced us.”

“Blake, about that,” He started, “I don’t know what I was doing.”

“Yes, you do,” She stopped him, “You wanted to hurt me because you thought that somehow I was responsible for hurting Caitlin. Let’s be honest here, Zack. I didn’t hurt Caitlin, but you did hurt me.”

“I was just trying to protect my sister.”

“And this all started because I was defending my brother,” She reminded him.

“By basically telling Caitlin she didn’t know what she was talking about,” Zack added.

“And so you blamed her attack on me,” Blake shook her head, “I can really see how one relates to the other, can’t you?” She asked sarcastically.

He frowned as he looked towards the floor, “Look, Caitlin doesn’t seem to have any hard feelings towards you. So maybe you and I can get past this too.”

“Is that the beginning of an apology?” She asked doubtfully.

“I’m not going to apologize for doing what I thought was right for my sister,” He explained.

“And I won’t apologize for defending my brother, and I won’t forget what you’ve done, Zack. You turned your back on me when we needed one another more than ever. You made me believe that you’d already moved on with an old flame. You basically told me just how little you cared for me with your actions.”

“Blake, that was all done in anguish. I didn’t mean any of it.”

“Well it felt like you did,” She informed him as her cell phone began to ring.

“Blake, if I could take it all back, I would. I love you,” Zack stated clearly as she answered her phone.

“Hello?” Blake asked as the butterflies in her stomach seemed to do summersaults.

“Hey, I was hoping I could reach you. How’s Caitlin?” Seth asked over the telephone.

She closed her eyes as she turned her back on Zack, “She’s doing well. She’s got a long road to full recovery, but she seems to be doing quite well.”

“Good,” Seth said with relief for what Blake had been going through over her friend’s condition, “In that case, I think we should celebrate. Why don’t you meet us over at the Gables for a night of dancing?”

“Us? Who’s us?”

“Jade had a falling out with Grady, and I think we need to get her out and about as soon as possible. I’m calling a few friends and inviting them along as well so we can kind of all get together to have some fun. What do you say?” Seth asked, “I promise to save my dance card all for you.”

Blake grinned slightly, “What time?”

“How soon can you be there?” Seth countered.

“I’ll be leaving the hospital shortly. I’ll meet you there, Seth,” Blake replied before she switched off her phone and turned back to face Zack, “I have to go.”

“I heard,” Zack frowned, “Seth, huh? I guess that figures.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” She asked defensively.

“Only that you warned me you weren’t over him,” He looked away as he exhaled, “I guess I should paid more attention to that warning.”

“Funny how we both ignored warnings. Caitlin warned me about you, and I warned you about my feelings for Seth. I guess we both need to pay attention, don’t we?” Blake asked before she turned and walked away from Zack. While she had made the decision to walk away from him, part of her longed to go back and throw her arms around him. But she wasn’t going to let that happen. She was going to be strong and avoid another train wreck with him…even if it meant telling her heart that it couldn’t have what it wanted this time.


Jade sat on the sofa flipping channels on the television as Seth stood in the hallway finishing the buttons on his blue button down shirt. He adjusted his collar for a moment before he looked at his sister, “Why aren’t you dressed?”

“I got a shower, okay? The idea of actually going through with this stupid idea of going dancing tonight is just more than I can handle. I’m not going,” She declared as she changed the channel on the television again.

“Yes, you are,” He instructed firmly, “So get in your room and find something to wear. I’m not going to let you sit here and mope.”

“Who said you get a say in this, Seth? I’m miserable, and the last thing I want to do right now is go out and party,” She shook her head, “Diane means well, but really I don’t think I can go through with this.”

A knock at the door drew Seth’s attention as he went to answer it. He spotted Diane and Ben before him and nodded towards Jade, “She’s being difficult.”

Diane frowned as she stepped inside and let out a piercing shriek, “Why aren’t you dressed?”

“I’m not going,” Jade said firmly.

“Oh hell yes, you are,” Diane declared as she walked around the sofa and ripped the remote from Jade’s hand. She switched off the television and tossed the remote aside, “Get off your duff because you are so going tonight. I did not get all dressed up to help cheer you up for nothing. Now move it.”

Jade grimaced, “Diane, come on. I really don’t want to go.”

“Yes, you do. Trust me, you do. You don’t know it yet, but you do. So come on,” She grabbed her friend’s hand and hauled her off the sofa. Diane looked towards Ben and Seth, “If you hear violence in the other room, that’ll be me forcing Jade into something gorgeous,” She winked at them, “And hey, can I count on any female reinforcements?”

“Would that mean me?” Ria asked as she peered around the corner and looked into the apartment, “What’s going on?”

“I’m going to have to force Jade to get ready. Want to help?” Diane asked as she tugged Jade down the hallway towards the bedroom.

“Hey, if it involves the possibility of violence I’m there,” Ria teased as she followed them down the hallway.

“Why can’t you just get it that I don’t want to go? I just walked out on Grady, and now I’m supposed to be partying? What is wrong with that picture?” Jade argued as Diane shoved her into the bedroom.

“The only thing wrong is that you’re not cooperating,” Diane informed her as she moved towards Jade’s closet.

“Why should I? I’m trying to be miserable by myself and not inflict it on anyone else. Besides, when you said you’d like to take me out to make Grady jealous, I didn’t think it would be tonight,” Jade frowned, “I figured you’d give me a few days to be depressed all by myself here.”

“Oh come on. You don’t want to be depressed for a few days. It’s time to get out and have some fun,” Diane spoke adamantly as she removed a dress from the closet, “Now get stripped and put this on.”

Jade crossed her arms and looked to Ria, “Do you believe this?”

“No, I can’t believe you’d turn down the chance to have all of us pay for you to have a damn good time,” Ria shrugged, “I’m with Diane. Life is too short to let you stay here and be miserable all by yourself. So get dressed.”

“Ugh!” Jade groaned loudly as she began taking her clothes off to get dressed in the outfit Diane had picked out, “I can’t believe I’m being forced to go to a nightclub.”

“Oh get over it,” Diane set out a pair of shoes before moving to Jade’s dressing table, “I’ll do your make up.”

“I’ll do her hair,” Ria said as she plugged in a curling iron.

“Good god,” Jade groaned as she finished zipping up her dress. She sat down at her dressing table as Ria began brushing out her hair, “You’d think this was some great event.”

“It is,” Ria informed her, “It’s us proving to you that the world didn’t end just because Grady can’t see just how good he had it.”

Jade closed her eyes, “Don’t expect me to have a great time tonight.”

“I expect you to have a fantastic mind blowing time,” Diane instructed as she began applying Jade’s makeup.

Jade sighed, wondering why she was going through with this. She simply couldn’t imagine herself having a good time tonight, but maybe if she got out of the house for a little while with her friends, she wouldn’t have to be miserable alone.


Mindy danced around her apartment, blasting Pearl Jam over the television as she decided it was time to just take the time and splurge on a day like this.  Her next door neighbor was out of town and that in itself was like freedom as the eighty year old woman who lived beside her, tended to like things quiet.  Calm and quiet were the keys to a full and happy life, she’d always told Mindy time and time again in the past when Mindy had been letting loose after a long day at the paper, but while Mindy felt that worked for her neighbor, well that just wasn’t cutting it on a day like this when spring was threatening to break through the wintertime.  Of course the fact that she’d ducked out on a big luncheon at her mother’s house also added to her good spirits as it seemed the afternoon was picking up after all.  Now as Mindy turned her attention to the microwave hearing it go off and alerting her to the frozen dinner she’d prepared for herself, she tied her hair up in a ponytail as she turned her attention to the television before her watching as Eddie Vedder belted out the latest tune that filled her small apartment.
“That’s right baby,” Mindy blew a kiss at her television winking at the image of the man before her, “Tonight it’s just you and me together just as soon as I get the macaroni and cheese,” she finished heading towards her miniscule sized kitchen area ready to indulge in her sustenance for the day when she heard a knocking coming from her apartment door.
“Oh hell,” Mindy rolled her eyes wondering if her neighbor’s out of town plans didn’t pan out after all as she reluctantly spun around reaching for the television remote control to turn the music down before heading towards the front door, ready to put her best face forward as she unlocked her door, opening it swiftly, “Mrs. Lange…”
“Mindy,” Guy gave her a strange look as he took note of her appearance seeing the Metallica concert t-shirt she was wearing tied up around her waist topping off the fringed cut off jean shorts she was wearing with mismatching pink socks to finish off the outfit, “what’s going on?”
“I uh,” she began nervously pulling the ponytail tie out from her hair as she cleared her throat feeling a flush of embarrassment coming over her, “I was…”
“Having a party in here,” he tried to peer in over her shoulder into her apartment as she opened the door further inviting him in.
“Ah yes, just me and Eddie,” she motioned to the television feeling foolish for an instant as Guy looked around her living room.
“But of course,” Guy threw her a knowing look as he spun around to face her again, “how could I forget your love for that man?”
“I’m telling you Guy,” Mindy boasted proudly, “one day that man will be mine.”
“Try telling that to his wife,” Guy teased watching her slam the door shut before marching in towards him with a scowl pressing over her features.
“Leave it to you to constantly remind me of the men I can’t have in my life,” she huffed moving into the kitchen as Guy frowned upon her reaction to him.
“Mindy, I was just kidding,” Guy followed her into the kitchen area, “as I didn’t come over here to upset you as that’s the last thing I want to do at a time like this.”
“Well good because I was about to tell you about all the things you’re missing out on in not being absolutely head over heels in love with me as I think that you’d really feel…” she started turning around to face him as she noticed the grim expression that washed over his features.  Setting the macaroni and cheese she’d pulled out of the microwave seconds earlier down on the counter top, she stepped towards him, concern evident in her tone, “Guy, what is it?”
“It’s my mother,” Guy began solemnly as he lowered his head.
“Oh God…she found out about you and Gabe, didn’t she?  She said something horrible to you and now you’re here because…” she started jumping to conclusions as a scowl pressed in over her features, “You know that’s just like her…”
“No…Mindy, that’s not it,” he shook his head sadly, “but I wish it were…”
“Well then if it’s not that,” Mindy’s jaw dropped, “Oh God don’t tell me she’s railroaded you about me because if that’s what she’s doing then…”
“Mindy, my mother’s been kidnapped,” Guy blurted out painfully, “Her car was pulled out of Lake Cardinal last night and we thought she was dead, but then a call came in and there were ransom demands as her kidnapper called me not so long ago…”
“Oh Guy,” Mindy threw her arms around him sympathetically, “I’m so sorry.”
“So am I,” he confessed squeezing her in his arms, “as I’m terrified about what might happen should we not find her in time.  The FBI came in to the police station earlier and talked to my dad and they think that somehow this might be tied in to what’s going on with Avery…”
“Avery,” Mindy repeated in confusion, “what’s going on with her?”
“Well, apparently Bruce Mathis isn’t dead,” Guy explained rehashing the details that were thrown upon him a few hours earlier, “He’s been leading some kind of double life and apparently he’s a sociopath.  He’s killed a great many women and after he and Avery broke up, well I guess his true nature came out.  He’s been stalking her movements and spying on her and the FBI is afraid that he’s out to destroy her for leaving him…”
“So he’s gone after your mother?” Mindy’s jaw dropped as she took it all in, “I just can’t believe that someone like Bruce would be capable of…”
“The FBI showed my father photos of women they believe he murdered and on Avery’s honeymoon, well, he sent her some kind of package that contained a severed, human heart and it’s all adding up that he’s ready to do anything and everything to launch an attack at my sister…” Guy further explained with fear in his voice.
“Including kidnapping your mother?” Mindy questioned in confusion.
“That’s the part that doesn’t quite add up,” Guy explained taking a step away from her and pacing around her living room area, “I mean the FBI has a few theories on how Bruce might’ve manipulated this situation in an attempt to get Avery’s attention since his other horrible things haven’t gotten the reaction that he’s hoping for, but Mindy, if he’s killed so many women already, then why would he even bother to hesitate with my Mum?  I mean if he’s out to serve some kind of revenge against Avery, why not go after me or Richard because we’re the ones that Avery’s been close to all these years?  She and my Mum haven’t had any real bonding between them recently, so I don’t see why he’d take her…”
“Guy, I don’t know what to tell you, but if what you’re saying is really true there, then I can’t see Bruce just pulling some kind of kidnapping like this…” Mindy agreed with him wholeheartedly.
“Neither can I and on some level I think Richard doesn’t see it that way either.  The kidnapper wants five million dollars and he’s planning to make contact with me again tomorrow, but I swear to you Mindy, something just feels so very wrong about this beyond my mother being gone.  I mean okay, sure maybe Bruce knows that the FBI is on to him, but then why risk it by taking my Mum?  Why call and make a request for the money if his previous acts weren’t about money?”
“I don’t know, but then again we seldom can find it in us to learn what drives a sociopath,” Mindy explained with a heavy sigh, “Guy, I wish that there was something I can do to help, but…”
“Just being here is help enough,” Guy confessed with a heavy sigh, “as I promised Russ that I’d be going over to have dinner with him and Avery tonight at their place, but well, right now I don’t know how I’m going to go over there and tell her what the FBI told me about all of this.  I mean if she thinks that this is because of someone she had in her life…”
“Guy, if this is Bruce making one last desperate move to get out of town, well then maybe there’s a chance for your mother,” Mindy insisted thinking about the situation, “I mean maybe he’s realized that now Russ and Avery are together and that the FBI is on to him.  Maybe he sees that there’s no way out of this situation, so he’s getting desperate.”
“That was one speculation, but I just don’t know,” Guy moved into her living room sinking into the couch, “I mean what guarantee is there that my Mum will be safe when he gets the money?”
“I don’t know Guy, but I’m sure that the FBI is doing all that they can to help in this situation,” Mindy stepped around the pathway leading to her sofa before she sat beside him, “as I’m sure they have your mother’s best interest at heart.”
“I’m beginning to wonder if anyone does anymore,” Guy confessed broken up by emotion, “I mean if this goes badly and I can’t ever see her again--if I can’t be with her and let her know how much she means to me…”
“Oh Guy, you’ll have that chance,” Mindy promised reaching out to curl her arm around him as she hugged him in closer to her feeling the weight of his emotions fall upon them, “I know you’ll have that chance.”
“I’m just starting to wonder about it all--about everything,” Guy admitted poignantly as he lay his head in her lap feeling her bring her fingers through his hair as a lump formed in the back of his throat.  “I just can’t lose her.”
“I know Guy,” she whispered smoothly brushing her fingers gently over his dark strands of hair as her heart was breaking for him with each sad sigh that spilled from his lips, “You have to believe that she’ll come back home again.”
“I just don’t know what to believe anymore,” Guy confessed closing his eyes as so much was weighing on his mind, “I mean maybe the FBI is wrong about the Bruce angle and this is just someone who is obsessed with my family and they know that my mother has a company that could be used as leverage in a situation like this…”
“I suppose anything is possible, but somehow we have to have faith that the authorities won’t let you down,” Mindy offered up in a soft, soothing tone, “I mean hey, your mother sure knows how to fight and when she’s determined to have her way, nothing is going to stop her.  Believe me I should know.”
“Yeah well despite the way she’s treated you over the years, I think she enjoys that you don’t stand down to her,” Guy admitted turning in her lap as his eyes turned up towards her and a sad smile crossed over his lips, “I mean sure she gave you a hard time and said things that were horrible to you, but deep inside…”
“Guy, she hates me,” Mindy blurted out with a shake of her head as she reached out to him tracing her finger tip over his jaw line, “but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be praying for her safe return to her family.”
“I know,” he closed his eyes just losing himself to the moment as her gaze swept over him, memorizing his every feature as she thought to the bond they’d shared with one another over the years.  Now as his heart was breaking, she couldn’t help but feel the internal tug pulling at her as she caressed the contours of his features wishing that she could just ease his pain.  Her index finger pressed in over the crease outside his mouth, touching over his lower lip as she felt him press a kiss upon the pad of her finger as he spoke up in a faint whisper,  “Thank you, Mindy.”
“For what,” she questioned feeling a stir of sensations racing over as his lip’s quick brush over her fingers brought forth so many unresolved feelings for him once again, though she’d fought like hell to face the reality of what they’d never have with one another.
“For just being wonderful as always,” he breathed as his eyelids fluttered open and their gazes interlocked for a long moment of uncomfortable silence between them until Mindy cleared her throat uneasily.
“So,” she shifted beneath him trying to turn her attention away from his mesmerizing, brown eyes, “where’s Gabe at a time like this?”
“He’s having a few problems with his ex,” Guy frowned thinking about his lover’s absence, “She’s been giving him a hard time about his daughter lately.”
“She?” Mindy repeated with wide eyes as a curiosity filled her up inside, “Gabe’s ex was a woman?”
“Yeah,” Guy nodded his frown expanding as he shifted on Mindy’s lap opting to sit up as he thought to the woman who’d caused a lot of debates between him and Gabe recently, “He was married to a woman named Noelle for a while who is insistent upon giving him headache after headache where their daughter is concerned.”
“Whoa, back up,” Mindy waved her hand out at him, “First you’re telling me Gabe was married and now he has a child!”
“Look, I thought we went over this already,” Guy started with a sigh, “I thought I told you that he…”
“If you told me, I must’ve been in the o-zone when you spilled the beans because I missed that one,” Mindy paused thinking about her past with Guy, “but then again I suppose it seems to happen that way with a woman left in the dust these days, huh?”
“Noelle’s not just an innocent victim there,” Guy explained sharply, “as she’s got this self attitude that makes everyone that’s had a chance to get to know her miserable.  She’s just, well she’s someone that not many men gay or not could tolerate, but Gabe is always trying to accommodate her and do things to please her…”
“Hence his need to lash out at other women because she’s driving him crazy,” Mindy noted folding her arms in front of her chest, “which explains a lot…”
“Look, Mindy it’s not like that.  It’s just…” Guy shook his head in frustration, “It’s irrelevant right now as he’s dealing with Noelle’s drama and I’m…”
“Trying to pick up the pieces after this latest setback,” Mindy nodded accordingly as she reached for his hand, “Guy, I completely understand and you should know by now if you need anything--anything at all…”
“I know,” he interrupted throwing back an appreciative grin, “Mindy, you have no idea just how much you’ve done for me in just being here for me like this.  I’d be lost without you.”
“I’d be lost without you too, Guy,” Mindy admitted openly expanding her arms out to him to hug him as he leaned into her embrace.  She curled her arms around his shoulders squeezing him in towards her as she felt his arms slink around her exposed midriff drawing her in nearer to him.  She closed her eyes taking in the scent of his cologne snuggling into him as a smile touched over the corners of her mouth, “as you mean so very much to me.”
“I love you babe,” he whispered warmly over her neck as she kept her eyes closed thinking about how long she’d taken to get herself to a point where she believed she was over him, but now as he held her, her heart was all aflutter over the things that they’d never truly be able to have together though she’d still found herself yearning for them.
“I love you too, Guy,” Mindy breathed in response just savoring the moment between them before finally pulling away from him before her heart carried her to the point of no return as each moment of temptation with him lead her one step closer to it breaking all over again.  Sinking back into the couch cushion beside him, she tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ear before offering up a soft smile, “So what time are you supposed to be at Russ and Avery’s place?”
“Not until dinner time,” he explained with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “though they invited Gabe to come along with me, but now with this drama Noelle has started, well I feel kind of foolish going over there along.”
“Oh come on.  It’s Russ and Avery,” Mindy waved her hand in his general direction, “that won’t be any big deal there.”
“Easier said than done,” Guy threw back at her pointedly, “as while I love my sister, well she’s a newlywed and that in itself is something that I’m sure will be different to say the least.”
“What you mean you can’t handle her and Russ all over each other?” Mindy giggled at the thought before reaching out to poke at his ribs, “See, I told you it was just a matter of time for them as what they have is real love.”
“You keep saying that, but well I don’t know if I’m buying it all just yet,” Guy confessed turning to face her, “I mean I know how Russ feels about my sister, but then when I think about what happened at that party…”
“I’m telling you Guy,” Mindy declared boldly, “That party was some kind of fluke because Russell is so not interested in any other woman than Avery.  I’ve seen him around other women who’ve tried to get him to notice and yes that bitch Heather was very blatant in her attempts to prove to us all at the paper that every man wanted her, but Russ, well he just didn’t budge.  The only time I’ve ever, truly seen him react to someone with passion and determination was with Avery.  I’m telling you those two are hot together and when they’re in a room, well they just sizzle as they’re oozing with such chemistry and sexual charisma…”
“Okay you can stop right there,” Guy brought his hands up over his ears wrinkling his nose in response, “this is my sister you’re talking about and the last thing I want to hear about is Avery and sexual…”
“Guy, whether you like to admit it or not, she and Russ are the epitome of passion there,” Mindy explained brightly, “which is why I can’t say that I’m anything, but thrilled that they found their way back together.  This is what they’ve both needed for a long time…”
“Yeah well it gets better there considering that all of their ‘passion’ as you’ve put it has my sister pregnant,” Guy stated plainly shuddering at the thought of his sister’s private bedroom behaviors.
“Pregnant,” Mindy squealed with obvious excitement, “are you serious?”
“Very serious,” Guy nodded.
“Oh my gosh.  There have been so many rumors circulating around her and Russ around the office, but that’s a big one that hasn’t even dipped into the rumor pool.  I mean sure we’d heard about the quickie wedding which so many people speculated happened after Russell caught up with her and swept her off her feet in the heat of the moment, but a baby…oh my that’s like so awesome.  Wow, this is like the best news I mean to think that they are really doing it,” she rose up from the couch pacing around her living room and bursting with energy, “I can’t believe he hasn’t been shouting it from the rooftops as he’s so obvious when things are going good in his life, though he really hasn’t been around the office lately, but if he’s planning for a baby, well then I’m sure that he’s got a lot on his mind and…”
“Mindy, take a breath,” Guy couldn’t help but laugh at her watching as she seemed to be brewing with enthusiasm and energy at the idea of his sister’s pregnancy, “You’d think that you were the one doing all of this with the way you’re carrying on.”
“Oh I wish,” Mindy stopped mid-movement before facing him once again, “I mean come on Guy.  If those two can make it back to each other, then it gives the rest of us hope that one day we can all find our happily ever after and have our dreams come true.  I mean those two are like the ultimate romance there if you think about it…”
“You don’t get out much, do you?” Guy teased watching a pout curl over her features.
“I think I resent that,” she placed her hands on her hips as she threw out a huff, “as I happen to know chemistry when I see it and your sister and Russell have been hot for one another for like ever even though they both were so insistent upon denying it all these years.  I’m just thrilled that my hunch was paying off as I knew that one day they’d be unable to bear being apart, though I suppose I should’ve gotten a clue about the direction this was heading in when Avery asked me to help her in planning a surprise for Russell, but I guess…”
“I think you clearly have a lot of insight on what’s been happening with my sister and her husband, which I suppose could work in my favor over dinner tonight,” Guy chuckled overcome with amusement, “Care to join me?”
“Are you serious,” Mindy grew silent as her eyes widened.
“Sure, why not?  I mean the last dinner I took you to didn’t exactly go off too well, so why not come along with me to a place where you know you’re going to have a good time?” Guy suggested extending his arms out over the back of her sofa, “I mean hey if nothing else, you’ll amuse the heck out of me while we’re there.”
“You’re just saying that because you want to see me gush all over their happiness,” Mindy gave him a pointed look.
“Well yeah, it’s nice to see someone who believes in it so very much as you’re almost making me regret the doubts that I had about my brother-in-law there.”
“I’m telling you, they were unwarranted to begin with as Russ only has eyes for Avery,” Mindy insisted once again, “and I’m sure after tonight you’ll see that.”
“Since you put it that way, I think I might be willing to listen to what you have to say,” he paused his eyes drifting up over her, “and besides that I love seeing you smile.”
“Oh please,” she waved her hand at him dismissively, “now you’re just flattering me so that I won’t make you go alone.  This really has nothing to do with how much you think I’ll enjoy myself there with your family, but more so how in my enjoying it so much that you won’t have to face it alone.”
“Maybe a little bit,” Guy stood up quickly, “but then again I meant what I said about you smiling as I happen to like it a lot.”
“Well truth be told I happen to enjoy doing it,” Mindy paused tilting her head up towards him as her smile seemed to light up her features, “though I don’t think I’m particularly dressed for the situation.”
“We can work on that,” Guy assured her with a grin of his own as his fingers dropped down to the bottom of her old t-shirt, working his way over the knot she‘d tied securely in the front center to hold it‘s frayed edges up and away from her abdomen, “as we’ll just get something cute from your closet and get you out of this old thing.”
“You don’t like it now,” Mindy’s lip curled in a pout as he unknotted her t-shirt, seeing the whole effect of the battered material as it’s age began to show.
“Not at all,” he wrinkled his nose in disgust as she took a step back wiggling her finger at him.
“Guy, I’ll have you know that this is one of my favorite t-shirts,” she hugged her arms over her body, “as it’s seen a lot of great moments with me.”
“And it looks like it’s ready for retirement,” he chortled in response seeing the glare that she gave him, “beyond it actually.”
“Bite me,” she spat back at him sticking her tongue out at him as she reached down over the edges of her t-shirt raising it up over her head and tossing it at him with an exaggerated throw over his face.
“Don’t tempt me Mindy because you know I’ll do it,” Guy remarked muffled from beneath the material as he pulled it off of his face to glare at her only to find her standing before him, naked from the waist up as she held her arms at her side, clearly unphased by her absence of clothing or his presence as she still glared at him.
“I dare you to try,” she taunted him, feeling a determined chill creep in up over her spine as she watched the way his eyes widened in surprise as his gaze skimmed over body leisurely drawing themselves over her curves.  She felt a shiver rush over her as she felt his perusal caress over her breasts and despite the stir of sensations that carried over in the pit of her stomach, she boldly stepped towards him daring him to react to her--to give her some indication that he’d still been effected by the nearness of her, but as his eyes interlocked with hers once again, she felt her breath catch in the back of her throat as she threw her hair back over her shoulders haughtily, “I knew you were all talk once again.”
“Mindy,” he began, his throat growing dry as she stepped towards him, emphasizing the swing in her stride as his eyes struggled to remain fixed on hers, but he found himself slipping as there was just something about her brazen display that had him in a state of astonishment and surprise as she reached out to him, teasing her fingers up over his chest before plucking her shirt out of his grasping fingers.
“I believe that’s mine,” Mindy spoke seductively wrenching it away from him as her eyes fixed upon his and she offered up a sly grin, “Tell me something Guy…”
“Yes?” he questioned stiffening as he stood before her finding himself at a loss.
“Do you still want me…” she questioned bluntly a pause causing the air to thicken surrounding them as his throat was suddenly parched and his body grew tight with tension at the confidence she held in that simple question, but before he could offer up a true answer about how things were between them these days, her grin expanded and she pulled her t-shirt in over her body throwing him a wink, “to join you for dinner at Russ and Avery’s?”
Guy blinked a couple of times watching her take a step back as he suddenly felt himself out of the hot seat with her and all he could do was nod in response, “Of course I do.”
“Okay then,” Mindy grinned throwing a wave in his general direction as she headed towards his bedroom, “give me a few minutes to get cleaned up and then we can get started on going over there.”
“Well, actually if we leave now, we might be early considering that…” Guy started uneasily as he watched her standing in the doorway, dangling the edges of her t-shirt down over her abdomen as a heavy sigh spilled from her lips.
“I had something else in mind other than your driving over there, you know,” Mindy explained with heavy emphasis, a smile brightening over her features, “as I thought that since the snow had melted that maybe we’d just walk over there.  It’s not really that far away and I thought that we could use the time to catch up and enjoy the air.  What do you think?”
“A walk huh,” Guy pondered the thought for a long moment wondering what ideas were cooking up in his best friend’s mind.
“That’s right,” she nodded eagerly, “and then maybe along the way we can hit up that ice cream shop we used to go to.”
“I knew there was a catch,” Guy teased replying with a knowing grin, “as you always have a hidden agenda.”
“It’s not really hidden considering that you can read me so well,” she reminded him sharply turning her attention to her bedroom once again, “though really, what’s a little ice cream going to hurt?”
“It might spoil our appetites for dinner,” Guy offered up realizing how stupid he must’ve sounded in the moment as Mindy giggled in response.
“Typical Guy,” she shook her head at him once again, “You’re always following the rules and doing things the appropriate way even when you have a moment’s freedom.”
“Are you trying to imply that I’m boring,” he questioned feigning offense.
“Not at all,” she shook her head dropping her t-shirt once again before holding it down beside her, “I’m just saying that maybe you should learn to live life on the wild side for a change.”
“Believe me, you don’t know how much danger there is in that statement,” Guy answered uneasily feeling his eyes drawn to the floor for a moment before he was hit by her t-shirt.
“I swear you’re such a poop head sometimes,” Mindy shook her head at him disappearing into her bedroom as Guy pulled her shirt off of his head.
“Poop head,” he repeated half ready to chase in after her and give her a piece of his mind before his eyes dropped to the t-shirt once again and he stayed frozen in place.
“That’s right,” she explained from the other side of the bedroom wall, “You’re a poop head and maybe it’s time I reminded you how much fun it can be to live a little.”
“Mindy, I don’t think that,” Guy started shifting on his feet uneasily as she emerged from her room wearing a pair of jeans and a black sweater that she’d quickly tossed on.
“Don’t think,” she urged him reaching for her keys and her jacket as she motioned to her front door, “as it’s only going to bring you down again and right now, the only thing you should be focusing on is what flavor of ice cream you’re interested in because on a day like this I’m thinking it’s all about chocolate.”
“Then chocolate it is,” Guy agreed trying to put aside the stress and worries that had consumed him for a while as he realized that maybe stepping outside of the realm of reality for a little while with his pal was exactly what he needed to keep himself from being bowled over by the stress that was lingering over him after his mother’s kidnapping.


“Look I know that these aren’t your normal business hours, but I really need to get this started as soon as possible,” Gabe pleaded with the voice on the other end of the line, “If Noelle is so insistent about making a move, I need to find a way to keep her from taking my daughter away forever.  Yes, I realize that…of course…yes, I know what I’m asking and I know that there is no one better to help in this particular situation as finance is not an issue.  Yes, yes…of course.  That will be fine,” Gabe finished with a nod knowing the man on the other end of the line couldn’t very well see his approval of the current proposed solution to his ex-wife’s latest dilemma, “I’ll have my cell phone with me at all times if you need anything else.”
Hanging up the phone, Gabe checked the time as he looked around his hotel room wondering if this current situation Noelle started would continue to haunt him after the fact as he hated what his ex-wife was trying to do in an attempt to put a distance between him and his daughter.  While Gabe had always hated the fact that the divorce had put Brittany between him and Noelle, he’d always tried to be reasonable with his ex-wife about things and do what was needed to accommodate Noelle’s needs to the best of his ability, but this time it was too far.  He wasn’t about to let his daughter be shipped half way around the world just so that Noelle could bask in the finances he sent for child support and spend them on her own personal pleasures while Brittany was in a world where she was without those who cared about her the most.  Even now his blood boiled as he wondered how his ex could be so careless where their daughter was concerned.
“This will blow over,” he vowed to himself opting to take a quick shower before facing the rest of his day.  He had to believe that eventually things would even themselves out for Brittany as the last thing he wanted for his little girl was to have her life uprooted on Noelle’s latest whim.  Hopefully, Noelle would come to reason once again, but if not, Gabe had to be certain that measures were taken to ensure his daughter’s safety and stability.  If only things were simpler, Gabe sighed finishing up with his shower as he realized there was nothing more he could do for Brittany tonight it seemed.
Getting dressed as quickly as possible, Gabe checked the time again realizing that if he hurried, he’d still have time to make it over to Russ and Avery’s place for dinner.  While he’d felt guilty in leaving Guy’s side earlier, his lover had understand and quickly jotted down the instructions on how to get to his sister’s new home in the event Gabe was finished up with the business he needed to take care of with Noelle.  Now as Gabe saw that there would be a window of opportunity available, he decided that he’d surprise Guy by showing up at Russ and Avery’s home to join them for dinner after all.  With that thought in mind, Gabe reached for his keys leaving the hotel room and heading out to try to salvage the rest of his day.
Driving along the streets of Coral Valley, Gabe couldn’t help but appreciate the quietness that the small town provides.  While it wasn’t much like the places Gabe had grown up in over the years, it did offer a certain sense of serenity that pleasantly enough invited those who’d settled in this area, to just enjoy life that surrounded them.  It appeared to be a place where a family could thrive and flourish in a time when the world was an otherwise crazy place in itself.  That thought alone made Gabe ponder what the future would bring for him with Brittany as he’d wanted her to have a normal childhood unlike the one that Gabe had experienced.  Perhaps a place like Coral Valley would bring that lifestyle he’d wanted for his daughter into her life should Noelle push him any further on the issue of boarding school.

Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that though, Gabe hoped as he spotted a small bakery up ahead.  Pulling his car over on the side of the road, he put it into park deciding to bring something with him to Russ and Avery’s home as he tried to think positive for a change.  Quickly he stepped out of his car and into the day surrounding him as the sweet, hearty aroma of the bakery’s concoctions could be taken in from the outdoors.  That deliciously tempting fragrance in itself bright a skip in his step as he opened the glass door to the bakery stepping inside to see just what wonder he could come across in a place like this.
“Good afternoon,” the man behind the counter greeted him, “What can I get for you?”
“Actually, I’m not really sure just yet,” Gabe admitted openly as he perused the glass counter before him taking in all of the sinful treats before him, “as I’m not really certain what it is I’m looking for.”
“Perhaps I can help then,” the man suggested brightly, “as I’m sure we can find something that’ll suit your needs.”
“I’m actually going to a dinner party tonight.  Nothing too formal, but something that would certainly need something special at the same time,” Gabe explained thinking about what a step Guy was taking with him as they were going to share a dinner with Russ and Avery without the same cloud of deceptions and lies that surrounded their relationship with his family before this point in time.
“I have just the thing,” the man explained motioning for Gabe to follow him as he quickly guided Gabe to the rich, chocolate covered cake before him.  “This sounds like what you’re looking for.”
“Hmm, that does look delicious,” Gabe couldn’t help but be impressed by what he saw before him, “what is it?”
“It’s a Ganache Cake,” the man explained proudly, “a best seller around here with the chocolate lovers.”
“Well if it’s a best seller, then I’ll take it,” Gabe decided eagerly a smile lifting over his features as he recalled Guy mentioning something about Avery’s love for chocolate.  That along with Gabe’s particular sweet tooth for the tasty treat also played into the selection
“I’ll be right back,” the man the man behind the counter explained eagerly taking the cake out packaging it up for the trip it was about to take with Gabe.
Smiling as he thought to the night ahead of him, Gabe turned his attention to the plain glass window before him wondering if things would finally slow down long enough for him to just enjoy the simple pleasures in life with the man he loved, but before he could get swept up in the fantasy, he caught something out of the corner of his eye that captured his attention bringing him back to the reality of the moment.  Stepping in closer to the window, he could see Guy and Mindy strolling down the street with one another plain as day, laughing and poking one at one another before Guy curled his arm around Mindy’s shoulders kissing the top of her head in an intimate gesture that had Gabe roaring inside himself from the display.  He stepped towards the door ready to give the two of them a piece of his mind, but then thought to the cake and turned around ready to tell the baker to forget about it when his cell phone rang.
“Hello,” Gabe answered impatiently trying not to let the moment that caught up to him take control of his tone as he hoped he would be getting good news about Brittany despite what he saw happening with Guy and Mindy just outside the bakery.
“Gabe, hey it’s Seth,” the familiar voice called out over the line catching Gabe off guard.
“Seth, hello,” Gabe softened his tone a bit as he turned to the window watching as Guy and Mindy slipped into an ice cream parlor across the street with one another.  He stayed still as he could see them through the window perusing the ice cream counter.
“I know you probably weren’t expecting to hear from me like this, but after what happened the other night, well I just wanted to call and check in to see if things were better for you,” Seth continued clearly oblivious to Gabe’s sour state of mind, “After all you helped me come to a few conclusions about the sad state of my relationship and I was thinking that if you weren’t busy…”
“Actually,” Gabe started as the man behind the counter returned proudly carrying the cake that Gabe had selected.  Hearing the man’s entrance, Gabe spun around to face the man putting Guy and Mindy to the back of his mind as he spoke to Seth once again, “Can you hold on for a moment?”
“Sure,” Seth replied as Gabe lowered his cell phone.
“Here it is,” the man behind the counter smiled at Gabe, “It’s all yours to enjoy…”

“Actually I was just…” Gabe started to explain that he changed his mind before he reached into his pocket pulling out the money to pay for the cake, “I just wanted to say thanks for helping me pick this out as I’m sure they’re going to love it tonight.”
“It was my pleasure,” the man nodded reaching out to hand Gabe his change, “and please let me know if your friends enjoy it.”
“I’ll do just that,” Gabe nodded with a smile turning to exit the bakery as his eyes drifted across the nearly empty street to see if Guy and Mindy were still pawing at one another in the ice cream parlor, but as he noticed they seemed to have settled into a small, booth in the corner of the place, easing into the role that he was certain Brooke Morrison would be proud of for her son as it appeared he and Mindy were sharing a simple, dating moment, Gabe’s blood boiled with a fury as he thought of Guy’s clearly smitten best friend.  He stepped forward ready to confront the both of them when he heard a sound from his left hand reminding him that Seth was still on the phone.
“Gabe, are you there,” Seth questioned in confusion as Gabe headed towards his car, ready to put the cake in the front seat for a while until he sorted out what he’d say to Guy and Mindy in a moment like this.
“I’m right here,” Gabe answered swiftly, his gaze unwavering from the shop before him, “What can I do for you?”
“Well I was just calling to see if you were interested in meeting up tonight as my sister and a few of our friends are getting together.  She’s kind of having a rough week here and we just wanted to cheer her up and I thought that it would be nice to have you come along with us, that is if you weren’t busy,” Seth threw the offer out on the table, “You could bring your…well, your friend with you if you’d like.”
“Actually, he’s not with me at the moment,” Gabe answered sliding into the driver’s side of the car as he watched Mindy and Guy holding hands across the table top in the shop before him and his anger boiled.
“Oh well, if you’re interested, then we’d love to have you meet up with us later--if you wanted to,” Seth decided an eagerness in his tone, “as I’d love for Jade to meet you.”
“Hmm, well now that I think about it,” Gabe felt jealousy tug away at his insides wondering if Guy never really wanted him to go along to Avery and Russell‘s house with him when clearly Mindy had no problem being with Guy and doting on his every need, “I do happen to have some free time here.”
“So then you’ll join us,” Seth replied a hopefulness in his tone as Gabe turned his car on refusing to let his anger get the best of him in a moment like this after having dealt with Noelle for the last couple of hours.
“Sure, I’d love to.  I mean it’s not like I have anything better to do,” he finished refusing to look back at Guy and Mindy as he took directions to where Seth wanted to meet up later.  Hanging up the phone, he sat in the parking spot for a few minutes longer watching Guy and Mindy’s exchange until he’d had enough and he pulled out onto the street vowing that he’d find a way to deal with the way he was feeling, but not tonight--not when he was certain he’d only make things worse for Guy in this situation as it seemed that Guy was being well taken care of with the meddling ex-girlfriend who clearly was laying her claim on him.  While Gabe wanted nothing more than to go into that shop and take care of her once and for all, something inside him forced him to keep moving forward while taking the moral high ground as for tonight, he’d try not to let his jealousy take control even if he was certain that in doing so, it would drive him insane.  Still as Gabe remembered the kidnapper’s promise to connect with Guy in the morning, Gabe vowed to keep his emotions and irritation under control where Mindy was concerned under lock and key, but once Brooke Morrison was returned safely, then all bets were off.


Judy entered her apartment trying to find it in her to ignore the nagging sensation that had eaten away at her from the moment she’d walked out of the police station earlier in the day.  While she’d tried to convince herself that she was strong enough to just keep pushing on and that she could step aside and do the right thing, her heart was breaking at the thought that the man she loved was already slipping away from her once again.  Though as she thought about the situation, she realized that she was wrong to just expect them to fall back into the old swing of things with one another when she knew full well that he was still a married man.  That in itself should’ve been reason enough for her to cut things off long before she did as she knew that sooner or later she’d wind up with a broken heart.  She’d had that feeling from the moment she’d seen him in Ken’s office after all these years and deep down she knew she should’ve listened to that inner voice that had kept her down the controlled path for so many years, but instead she’d carelessly jumped into something like a lovesick teenager and now, well now that only left her more unclear than ever on the future ahead of her.
“Oh Judy,” she grumbled seeing her reflection in the mirror before her as she shrugged out of her jacket, trying to keep her mind focused while she carried in a few groceries she’d picked up on the way home, “quit dwelling on it as you can’t change the past or the present.  You just need to focus on the future.”
And what a future it was turning out to be, she grumbled inwardly thinking about how close she’d come to falling head over heels openly and unrestrained with Rick all over again as it had always been him who’d found a way to keep her caught up in a world of romance.  Through the years she’d convinced herself that she’d moved on and for a brief period of her life, she had found love again and it was something that had set her free from the past.  When he and her late husband had wed, it seemed like the beginning of a whole new life and a different road to happiness than the one she’d traveled on as a naïve young woman, but then fate had ripped that dream away from her and up until Rick’s reappearance in her life.  Unfortunately for her heart that was all it took to start up all those old, suppressed feelings of longing and desire.
“And here you are stewing over what can’t be changed,” she murmured to her reflection in a feeble attempt to reason with herself as she headed towards the kitchen chastising her behavior over the last few months, “Here the man’s wife is in a horrible situation and you’re just thinking about what that will mean to you.  You’re not even bothering with the reality of the horrors that Brooke could be going through as all you can dwell on is losing a man that was never really yours to begin with.  And furthermore,” she paused setting her bags down on the counter top as she shook her head, “You’re going insane in even keeping this conversation going as you’re the only one here.”
Almost as soon as those words fell from her lips, Judy heard the sound of footsteps from behind her and seconds later she saw Deidra pop her head into the kitchen, smiling brightly as she entered the room with a wave.
“I thought I heard you come in here,” Deidra greeted her in a chipper tone, “though I must admit I didn’t imagine you’d be home so soon.  I would’ve thought you’d be with Rick after what Dave told me earlier about what was going on with Rick’s wife.”
“Right now it’s really a time for family,” Judy explained softly, “so I just thought that I’d come home and salvage what was left of the afternoon as I have plenty to do right now.  Come to think of it, have you had dinner yet?”
“I was actually going to go over to my new place and check things out as well the paperwork seemed to be going over pretty good and I should be moving in any day now,” Deidra paused searching her mother’s features, “but you know if you’re interested in taking the trip, you could always come along with me as I’d love to show you the apartment.”
“Actually I have a few things that I really should be getting into here and with all that I’ve been neglecting lately,” Judy reached for a dishrag running it over the countertop despite the fact she knew full well it wasn’t in need of cleaning.
“Mom,” Deidra frowned stepping in towards her mother as she could clearly see the hurt that her mother was fighting hard to keep from showing as she scrubbed away at the counter top, “Mom, please stop.”
“Deidra, I…” Judy continued until Deidra ripped the cloth away from her.
“Mom, talk to me,” Deidra pleaded with her, “It’s obvious you’re upset and like you’re always telling me, you shouldn’t hold it all in.”
“Sometimes I wish it wasn’t in there to begin with,” Judy admitted unable to contain the tears that came to her as she faced her oldest daughter, “I mean how silly do I look right now?”
“Not silly at all,” Deidra reached out to embrace her, “In fact, you look like you need someone to talk to more than ever.”
“Deidra, I’ll be fine.  I’m just emotional today because…”
“Because you’re upset about what’s going on with Rick,” Deidra finished for her pulling back just enough to see her mother’s sad eyes, “Mom, what happened with him?”
“Nothing happened.  I mean his wife was kidnapped and he’s upset, but…” Judy trailed off lost in the memory of her time at the station.
“But what?” Deidra urged once again, “Mom, what happened?”
“Nothing,” Judy shook her head as she wiped at her face, “at least nothing that should have me this worked up.”
“Knowing how strong you are, I don’t think you’d just get emotional for nothing,” Deidra guided her mother over to the kitchen table, “so talk to me mom.  What is it?”
“It’s nothing,” Judy shook her head sliding into the chair beside the table as Deidra joined her.
“Don’t tell me that because I know better mom,” Deidra searched her mother’s features once again, “What happened?  Did he ask you to leave?”
“No,” Judy admitted honestly, “He wanted me to stay with him at the station…”
“But?” Deidra lifted a curious brow.
“But I decided to leave,” Judy blurted out with a heavy sigh, “His son was upset and I just felt that if I left maybe it would give Rick and his son a chance to bond and…”
“And now you’re wishing you hadn’t just walked out like that,” Deidra half questioned.
“No, it was the right thing to do, but now that I’m home, well I just think that maybe I was making a mistake in getting involved with Rick to begin with.  I mean he’s still got his family to look after and with his wife…” Judy turned her attention to her fingers wiggling them on the table top nervously.
“You’re starting to feel like maybe you’re just fitting into the role of the other woman?” Deidra inquired watching a shadow spill over her mother’s features.
“Pathetic isn’t it,” Judy let out an ironic laugh, “Rick still has a wife that he cares about very much and here I am doing what caused you so much pain in your marriage.”
“Mom, what happened with Andy and I is entirely different than your situation,” Deidra reached for her hand hoping to help her mother through what was going on inside of her, “as even Avery informed me that Rick and his wife have been estranged from one another for a very long time and that the marriage was just one by name.”
“I wish it were that simple, but after I saw him today when he was worried about her,” Judy confessed poignantly, “well I just don’t think that is the case anymore.”
“You think he’s still in love with her,” Deidra’s eyes widened in surprise.
“It’s not that I think he’s still in love with her, but I know that despite what he’s been telling me, he still loves her,” Judy blurted out letting her thoughts slip past her lips.
“Loving someone and being in love with them are two very different things,” Deidra pointed out matter of fact.
“I realize that, but at the same time there are a lot of old wounds where Rick and I are concerned and it seems like the key to our separation always links back to Brooke,” Judy confessed sadly as her long buried misery seemed to pour out of her like salt upon her freshly reopened wounds.
“It sounds like there’s a lot more to this story than you’re letting on,” Deidra noted squeezing her mother’s hand supportively, “Why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?”
“I don’t even know where to begin,” Judy let out a slow breath, “as I really thought I’d outgrown this thing Rick and I had when we were kids.  I mean sure they say you never get over your first love, but I really thought that was just a foolish adolescent belief there.”
“So he was your first love, huh,” Deidra noted suddenly filled with curiosity, “What happened?”
“Brooke happened,” Judy blurted out with a slow moan, “and you know I told myself that I’d never look back upon it, but here I am years later doing the same things when I should’ve been so much smarter.”
“Mom, you can’t help where your heart is,” Deidra explained reaching out to her, “as love doesn’t work that way.”
“Even so I knew that Rick was still married to her and I should’ve just steered clear of him,” Judy insisted firmly, “I shouldn’t have let him see just how much being close to him effected me.  I should’ve just ignored the way he made me feel when we were together…”
“And deny your heart?” Deidra lifted a curious brow, “Mom, that’s not like you and we both know it.”
“Even so, he broke my heart once and I swore it was never going to happen again,” Judy declared firmly as she tapped her finger nails on the table top, “It hurt like hell before and now I just see myself stepping back into old habits…”
“Like being pushed aside for Brooke?” Deidra questioned sensing her mother’s unspoken agony.
“He always said that what he had with her wasn’t anything close to what we had together, but she was the one he wound up with.  She’s his wife and I’m just, well I’m just the other woman,” Judy groaned outwardly, “and I hate it.”
“I don’t think Rick sees you as someone to be just a mistress for him.  I saw the two of you on the island together and I knew how real it was as I found myself jealous of the connection.  I know you’re trying to tell me that he loves his wife, but are you sure what you’re seeing isn’t more so an obligation?  I mean things that feel that strong just don’t fade,” Deidra paused watching her mother slip into a newfound state of sadness, “Mom, what happened the last time you were with Rick?  I mean really, why did it end?”
“We were supposed to be married,” Judy admitted thinking back to another time that now felt like another life for her, “He asked me to marry him and while I knew his family wouldn’t approve, I said yes.  He was ready to shun them all and we’d talked about making it on our own.  This was before your father came into my life of course and I was so much younger.  I wanted so much to believe that true love could win out, but we had our share of strains over the years,” she paused shaking her head, “I shouldn’t be doing this.”
“No please,” Deidra urged her on, “continue.  I want to hear this and I think a part of you wants to talk about it.”
“We’d seen one another on and off over the years growing up,” Judy sighed sinking down into her chair, “though I knew his family didn’t approve of me.  We’d had our shares of ups and downs, but there was this brief window when we tried to cut it off altogether with one another as I hated being the cause of so much tension in his life.  I knew how his family felt about me and I didn’t want him to lose it all because of me, so during that time frame, he had no choice, but to move on…”
“With Brooke,” Deidra blurted out as Judy offered up a nod.
“Her family was part of the same country club that Rick’s belonged to and they started dating in our final year of high school.  At the time they were the perfect couple it seemed and I found myself missing what Rick and I had, but I refused to go back to him and ruin his life.”
“But he didn’t want it to be that way, did he?” Deidra questioned.
“No,” Judy confessed sadly, “even while he was dating Brooke, he still tried to reach me until finally there was no avoiding him.  The two of us were forced to face our feelings and we’d agreed at long last that there would be no more hiding from what we had.  We were going to be together and he’d risk facing his family’s wrath just as long as we could be together.  It sounded like it could almost happen, but then on the night of our prom, well, we’d agreed to meet somewhere to run away with one another, but Rick never showed up.  I was afraid something happened to him--that somehow his family had done something horrible to keep him away from me, but when I found him, well, he and Brooke were together.  They’d made love and I was heartbroken.  After that I cut off all ties with him completely.  Sure, he tried to explain the situation to me, but I wouldn’t hear of it.  I wouldn’t listen to what he was saying and when word came out shortly after that Brooke was pregnant with Avery, well then I knew that I couldn’t live in the past.  I couldn’t keep wishing for what would never be and despite the attempts that Rick made to keep in contact with me, I had to cut him out of my life completely.  A while after, we just kind of lost contact with one another as he’d moved out of Coral Valley for a bit and I’d moved on with your father…”
“But you two never had any real closure, did you?” Deidra questioned thinking of the sadness that lingered in her mother’s tone, “You two never really faced the fact that you were still in love with one another.”
“He was married with children and I couldn’t do something to break that chance at a normal life away from him.  You’ve seen yourself how affairs and other women can destroy a person and kill happiness in a marriage,” Judy admitted painfully unable to contain her tears, “and for so long I vowed never to put myself in that position again, yet here I am all these years later and nothing’s changed.”
“That’s not true mom,” Deidra embraced her, “as a lot has changed since then.  His children are grown up and he really seems to be ready to be with you…”
“Deidra, he’s still married and his wife is in danger right now…” Judy insisted.
“Which is why he’s trying to do the right thing in helping her, but the fact remains that any fool with eyes can see that he loves you and that you love him,” Deidra squeezed her mother in her arms, “Mom, feelings like that don’t come along every day and if you let what’s happening right now take away that second chance at happiness in your life you’re going to regret it for always.”
“Deidra, I can’t go around complicating his life,” Judy objected to her daughter’s words.
“Love is full of complications, but that’s what makes it so wonderful because if you can find that one single, perfect moment of bliss than all the heartbreak and misery is worth taking the risk,” Deidra stated boldly, “as that’s really what matters.”
“Deidra, I just can’t fall into something willingly knowing that it’ll end badly…”
“You don’t know that mom and from what I’ve seen already, I think you and Rick have something worth fighting for.  If you just let go of that and walk away, then I know you mom.  You’ll hate that you didn’t stand your grown and try.  You’ll wish that you hadn’t allowed fate to rip you away from your happiness again,” Deidra insisted trying to reason with her, “Mom, you’ve done your best with Diane and I and you’ve made us proud as we’ve both grown into very strong-willed, independent women and we love you very much.  You’ve sacrificed your happiness time and time again to be there for us, but this time you have to try to do what’s best for you.  You have to reach out for what it is that you want and make it yours.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this,” Judy wiped at her face again.
“Well, whether you believe it or not you’d better listen because it’s good advice,” Deidra continued passionately, “You have a great guy who loves you and yes the situation stinks right now, but this is something that’s real and worth fighting for.  If you love him half as much as I think you do, then you shouldn’t stop trying to find that peace and tranquility with him that you know you’re meant for.”
“But Deidra he’s married…” Judy began again.
“And normally that would be something that I would strongly advise you against during the pursuit of a companion, but in this case, I’ve met Rick and I know how he feels about you.  He loves you and if you just let it end on a whim, then you’re risking a lot more than you realize.  You’ll be letting go of your heart and I simply won’t accept that for you mom.  Not after all the times you’ve put your life on hold to make sure that the rest of us were reaching our dreams.   This is a dream you were meant for and you can’t give up on it just yet.”
Judy couldn‘t help but smile as she took in Deidra‘s words, “I can’t believe that I’m sitting here listening to you give me this pep talk.”
“It’s for your own good,” Deidra smiled in response, “and besides if I can learn to live again, then so can you.  You can seize the day and make the most of what you want in this world just as long as you believe.  We both can do it you know.”
“I wish it were that simple,” Judy smiled weakly.
“It can be if we just have enough faith and hope in the dream that good things are still very much in store for us.  I mean hey, if you want me to start believing in that, then you have to do the same or else it just doesn’t work,” Deidra encouraged her brightly, “In fact, what do you say we get out of this apartment, go out for dinner in the hottest spot here in Coral Valley and then after I’ll show you my new place.  We’ll have a slumber party and a girl’s night together watching sappy movies and doing each other’s hair and nails until tomorrow when I convince you that you should go see Rick and get this all out in the open before you let it fester inside of you.”
“It sounds like declining the offer isn’t really an option, now is it?” Judy gave her a strange look surprised by Deidra’s newfound confidence.
“Not on your life,” Deidra shook her head in response as her smile brightened with the moment, “but don’t worry by tomorrow you’ll feel like you can do it all mom.  Trust me on that.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Judy decided realizing that spending this time with her daughter might be just the thing she needed to get through this newfound slump she experiencing in her life.  Maybe just maybe Deidra was right and all she needed was some time to get her head straight about what was really happening between her and the man she loved.  After all taking a little time to think it over couldn’t hurt anything and the chance to bond with her daughter was even better as it was great to see Deidra optimistic again.


Preston turned down the lights in the living room as he placed a DVD case near the player. He looked around the living room once more, taking a moment to adjust the bowl of popcorn and the soft drinks nearby. He moved to the stairs and looked upstairs, “Dottie…can you come downstairs?”

He glanced back to the setting he’d prepared in order to help Dottie relax. She’d been unnerved after the visit of her one time lover, and Preston knew he had to do something to remind her that there was nothing Douglas Mahoney could do to upset their life together.

Dorothy began making her way down the stairs as Preston extended his hand to her. She smiled softly as she watched him, “What’s this?”

“This is date night,” He smiled at her as she took his hand, “I didn’t think you’d want to go out tonight since the world seems to be in a state of chaos. So I came up with a quick alternative,” He said as he led her across to the sofa, “Why don’t you have a seat here,” He spoke as he placed a drink in her hand, “Diet soda and lightly buttered popcorn are yours as well,” He smiled as he sat down beside her and picked up the remote control. He switched on the movie as Dorothy leaned into him.

“How long has it been since we’ve done this?” She asked as she kicked off her house shoes and tucked her feet under her.

“Too long in my opinion,” He kissed her forehead, “This is what I missed most about being in Iraq. I missed just being here and holding you.”

“I missed this too,” She smiled as she looked up to him, “I’m glad you’re home again, Pres. I know I haven’t exactly behaved like I’m appreciative, but I am,” She drew his lips to hers for a tender kiss, “I do love you, Pres.”

“I love you too, Dottie,” He kissed her once again, “I picked one of your favorite movies. Granted, it’s not very romantic, but I can do without romance just as long as you’ve got a smile on your face.”

Dorothy glanced towards the television as Jumping Jack Flash began playing. She chuckled as she looked back to him, “I could use a good laugh.”

“Then I did good.”

“You did very good,” She smiled as she snuggled in closer to him and sipped her drink, “You know, before the movie gets started, just in case I forget to tell you later,” She eased her fingers down his chest, “I really enjoyed tonight.”

“And it’ll only get better,” Preston assured her. Perhaps he’d been worrying over nothing as it seemed they had found their comfort zone once again. Of course he’d hoped he was just worrying for nothing, and with Dottie in his arms, he felt as if he had nothing to worry about at all.


Seth stepped into the Gables club and waved to a few acquaintances as he escorted his crowd through the club to a table he’d reserved earlier. The music was already rocking the club as they gathered around the table.

“I thought you said you had a friend joining us,” Ben spoke as Jade took a seat at the far end of the table and leaned onto the surface before her.

“Oh good, more people to join the pity party,” Jade rolled her eyes.

“You look gorgeous,” Ben noted as Diane curled up to his side.

“Thank you. Ria and I make a good team,” Diane winked at Ria as they looked to Jade.

“Oh yeah, you two big bullies,” Jade sighed as a waiter approached the table.

“What can I get you tonight?” The waiter asked as he removed a pad from his pocket and began jotting down their orders.

“Bring a pitcher of beer, whatever you’ve got on draft,” Seth ordered as he glanced back towards the doorway.

“Long Island Ice Tea,” Jade interjected, “And make sure my glass is never empty.”

“Anything for the other ladies?” He asked.

“Champagne cocktail,” Diane answered as she glanced down the table to Jade with concern.

“I’ll take a margarita,” Ria ordered as she looked to Seth, “Who exactly are you expecting anyway?”

“A guy I met a few weeks ago. I figured that this should be a gathering of new friends as well as old ones,” Seth spoke.

“Oh honey,” Diane said as a pulsating rhythm began to vibrate through the club, “I think they’re playing our song,” She smiled brightly as she took Ben’s hand and drew him out onto the dance floor with her.

“I think I’m going to go to the little girl’s room. I’ll be right back, and don’t think you can touch my margarita either,” Ria warned Seth with a grin as she walked away.

Seth looked to the other end of the table and frowned at Jade, “If you get plastered tonight, don’t expect me to clean up after you tomorrow.”

“Have I ever asked you to?” Jade replied quickly.

“No, but Jade, I’m really worried about you,” He informed her, “I just don’t want you to think this is the end of everything. You’ll be able to come through this.”

“Yeah yeah,” She rolled her eyes.

“Oh boy,” Seth frowned before he perked up and smiled, “Gabe, I’m glad you could make it.”

“I had other plans this evening, but they got interrupted,” Gabe explained as he placed a box upon the table, “I bought this cake for the occasion, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. So their loss is your gain,” He said as he shook Seth’s hand.

“Gabe, I’d like you to meet my sister, Jade. Jade, this is my friend Gabe,” Seth commenced the introductions while Jade looked over to Gabe.

“Nice to meet you,” Jade waved at him before the waiter arrived with the drinks.

“You don’t seem particularly happy to be here,” Gabe pointed out as he took a seat beside her.

“I’ve had better days,” She admitted, “You don’t look like you’re in the partying frame of mind either.”

“Like you, I’ve had better days,” He agreed as he looked to the waiter, “Can I get a Gin and Tonic?”

“Sure thing,” The waiter replied as he finished placing the drinks upon the table and left once again.

Seth looked back towards the door with a frown before glancing at his watch.

“Seth, why are you still watching the door? I thought you were looking for Gabe,” Jade asked as she looked to her brother.

“I was, but I invited someone else as well,” Seth replied.

“And there she is,” Jade pointed towards the door, “Blake Ashford.”

“Good,” Seth breathed a sigh of relief as he stood and walked to Blake. He took her hand and smiled, “I’m glad you could make it.”

“It’s been so long since I’ve been here,” Blake smiled as she drew him into a quick kiss, “Thank you for inviting me.”

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Seth smiled.

“What the hell is she doing here?” Diane grumbled as she glared at Blake.

“It looks like she and Seth are together again,” Ben noted, “So that means you need to be on your best behavior where she’s concerned.”

Diane took a deep breath before groaning harshly, “This was supposed to be a night for Jade to be cheered up…not about welcoming little miss Ashford into the fold.”

“Diane,” Ben said her name in a warning tone.

“I’ll behave,” Diane spoke before qualifying her remark, “But if she says one sour word to me, I swear that all bets are off,” She warned as she tried to remind herself that tonight was about Jade, and she would do whatever she could to keep her friend in good spirits…even if it meant calling a truce with Blake for one night and one night only.

...to be continued...