Episode Eighty Six 

Elliot stepped back into the bathroom with two cups of coffee as Grady splashed cold water over his face. Elliot had watched his son go through this same song and dance too many times to count except this time it seemed to take a much fiercer toll than ever before. While Grady had never been a pretty picture while drinking, this time it almost seemed as if Grady had become a desolate shell of himself in his misery. Even at the worst with Susan, Elliot had never seen his son quite like this.

“I brought you some coffee your mother made,” Elliot offered the mug to his son, “It’s very strong, but I don’t think it’s anything more than what you deserve.”

Grady grunted in recognition as he took the mug from his father. He hadn’t really figured out what had come over him with his brilliant idea to visit his brother last night. While he’d always wanted to strangle the life out of Avery, he never thought there was enough liquor in the world to actually make him do it. Apparently he’d been wrong.

He turned and left the room, stepping into Russ’s spare bedroom so he could have a moment alone before he had to face his mother much less his brother after what he’d pulled.

Elliot stood in the doorway for a moment before he continued inside and closed the door behind him, “Okay, Grady, let’s hear it. What is this really all about?”

“It’s about…” Grady paused as he sank down in a recliner and placed his coffee on an end table, “My being an idiot.”

“Explain that,” Elliot urged as he sat down across from his son.

“I’ve ruined everything, Dad. Jade was my salvation and now I’ve pushed her out of my life,” Grady dropped his head into his hands, “I let myself lash out at Avery, and Jade saw the whole thing. She was so disappointed, and we had a major falling out. She left me,” He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed, “When she walked out on me…it was like my world exploded. Still, I held my ground, and I wasn’t drinking. I even ran into Susan, and I still didn’t drink.”

“Then how did this happen?” Elliot asked as he sat forward a bit, “Grady, what pushed you over the edge?”

“I was driving home after running into Susan. I was planning to just go home, go to bed, and try to face my catastrophe with Jade in the morning,” Grady leaned onto his knees and stared at the floor, “I was sitting at a red light waiting for the light to change, and I glanced out towards the Gables. Then there was Jade getting into a cab with a guy. She was smiling and having a good time, and they got into the cab together,” He looked up to his dad, “I couldn’t handle that at all, and the next thing I knew, I was halfway through a bottle of bourbon.”

“And then you came over here and decided to attack Avery again,” Elliot frowned, “Grady, this has got to stop.”

“You’re right. It does. Avery needs to stop playing these games with Russ now before it goes any further,” Grady began to argue.

“No, Grady, you need to stop. You’re the one creating problems, not Avery. You’ve fallen off the wagon here, Grady, and it’s got to stop,” Elliot declared harshly, “Look, your entire family has tried to help you, but you keep refusing to let us in. Instead, you keep your bull headed determination that Avery is Satan, and you keep pushing everyone who loves you away.”


“No,” Elliot stopped his son from arguing with him, “Grady, you’re destroying your own life.”

“Just because I want to protect Russ…”

“You’re not protecting Russ. You’re trying to relive your mistakes with Susan.”

“That is not how it is,” Grady argued.

“That’s exactly how it is. You think that if you can try to put yourself in Russ’s place and go on the offensive with Avery instead of the way you were bowled over by Susan, you might be able to regain some of your self worth. Well, Grady, it won’t work. Avery isn’t Susan. She isn’t your wife. It isn’t your life at stake this time, Grady. Russell’s marriage is his to make or break, Grady. It’s not your fight this time.”

“Dad, I just want to spare him the pain I went through.”

“You’re only creating pain for him, Grady,” Elliot informed him as he stood to make his point, “These little outbursts of yours are hurting him. Don’t you get it? He and Avery would be perfectly happy if you’d stop interfering,” He sighed as he looked to his son, “Live your own life, Grady. Get your own life straightened out. Then, and only then, will anyone listen to your advice about theirs.”

“Dad, I just see Russ headed down the same road I did.”

“No, he’s not. Russ didn’t interfere in your marriage. Stop interfering in his,” Elliot warned before he stepped out of the room.

Grady sank back in the recliner and sighed. While he’d tried to do the right thing, it seemed as if he kept doing the totally wrong thing. As he picked up his coffee, he thought about Jade and where she could be this morning. He closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to will away the images of her with another man. All he wanted to think about was being with her and having her back with him. Still, he didn’t know where to begin in getting his life together, but he knew that Jade alone was the key in making his life what he wanted it to be.


"You really think this is going to work," Russell questioned turning to his wife as their latest plan of action seemed to take them to one dead end after another. While they’d tried their best to find the thing that would be the key to turning Grady’s life around, so far their quest had come almost to an end. However, after a series of wrong directions, he held what felt like the last hope in his hand on the piece of paper before him.

"It’s worth a try," Avery nodded eagerly realizing that this may very well be the last chance to get Grady to clean up his act once and for all and while the odds were still slim on him changing anytime soon, it was something that neither she nor Russ could ignore.

"Okay, then I’ll do this and hope this lead pans out," Russell reached for the phone ready to dial the number on the page before him.

"No," Avery took the phone from his hand stopping him almost as soon as he started to call the number, "let me to it."

"But…" he gave her a strange look as she continued to keep her hold on the phone.

"Russ, believe me on this one, I’m the last person she’d expect to hear from at a time like this and if she hears how things are by me, it’ll take on an entirely different connotation," Avery explained matter of fact.

"Yes, but Jade and I have a kind of connection that…" Russell started once again watching her steal both the number and the phone from his hands.

"And she knows I hate your brother which is all the more reason why she’ll listen to me knowing it’s an unbiased opinion," Avery waved her hand at him dismissively. "Why don’t you just go out there with your parents for a little bit so that Grady doesn’t make his way out here like an idiot once again and ruin this before we begin?"

"Fine," his lip curled in a pout as he started towards the kitchen door reluctantly, "but I want details after. You got it?"

"Fair enough," Avery nodded in agreement watching him leave before she took in a slow breath preparing herself for doing the one thing that she swore she’s never do in this lifetime, but as she thought of the last twenty four hours of her life, she realized there was no avoiding what needed to be done in this situation. Taking in another apprehensive breath, her fingers clicked the numbers on the dial pad hoping that this time things didn’t lead to another brick wall once again as it seemed that this would be the last place to find Jade as her cell phone was the last opportunity to find a remedy to the problems that they’d all been going through with Grady.

Avery waited patiently hearing the first ring, then the second, then the third and just as she found herself ready to give up, a groggy, hoarse female voice groaned into the phone sharply.

"I don’t want to hear it Seth," Jade grumbled unable to keep the pounding in her temple taking control of her as her head was starting to feel like someone was hammering on her over and over again, unrealities in their quest to knock some sense into her or at least remind her why drinking had ultimately been a mistake for her the previous evening, "so if you’d just go away and leave me die in peace…"

"Jade," Avery questioned hardly recognizing her as she paused wondering if this was the worst time to be calling judging from the sound of Jade’s voice, "it’s Avery."

"Avery," Jade repeated in a barely there voice before recognition dawned upon her, "Avery? What are you doing calling my cell phone?"

"I was hoping that I’d get a chance to connect with you actually," Avery began uneasily, "as you see Grady’s here and…"

"He’s not my problem anymore," Jade remarked sharply as the very mention of Grady brought forth a vast array of emotions, "so whatever he’s done, he can deal with it on his own as I’m not about to start…"

"Actually, he’s only a part of what I’m calling about…okay a major part of it, but still," Avery continued to explain, "I was hoping that you and I could have a talk about the way things are."

"Look Avery, about the other night at Grady’s place… I had no idea that he was going to do what he did there as I really, truly believed that he was going to behave himself since he’s promised that…" Jade started feeling an ache press upon her at the thought of how Grady had gone so far from being the man that she’d hoped her love could help him to become.

"Jade, what happened wasn’t your fault and as upsetting as it was, well in some strange way I can understand where Grady is coming from with his anger and that’s why I called," Avery stated plainly pacing around the kitchen before stopping in front of the window to look out into the yard.

"I don’t understand," Jade confessed after a long pause.

"On some level I didn’t either until this morning," Avery informed her honestly, "as while Grady isn’t exactly my favorite person in the world--okay, he’s more like on the bottom of my list to be quite honest with you, but well at the same time I also know he’s had a lot he’s been going through. He’d kill me if he knew I was talking to you right now, but the truth to the matter is that he needs you more than ever."

"Avery, I don’t think I’m what Grady needs as he’s shown me that time and time again…" Jade argued with her hating the thought of how wrong things had gone with Grady over such a short time when they’d had something wonderful between them not so long ago.

"Jade, listen," Avery contemplated her words trying to think up some quick fix to the situation to make Jade think that Grady truly would change and turn his life around, but as Avery’s own doubts about the validity of that kind of statement carried over her, she found herself taking an alternate path of action, “the truth is that I can’t stand Grady.  Just the mere thought of being around him grates on my nerves and the fact that he’s not willing to give me a chance to make Russell’s life happy, burns me to no end, but with that being said, in his own misguided, pig-headed and moronic way, Grady really thinks he’s looking out for his brother,” she paused biting on her lip nervously, “as you see Russ and I have a long history with one another…”
“I know,” Jade answered simply, “I’ve gotten a brief overview in all of what’s been happening.”
“Then you know that Grady’s not too happy with me for my leaving Russ on our wedding day,” Avery explained with a frown, “It was a very hard decision for me when I made the choice to leave, but at the time I felt it was what I needed to do.  There’s a lot about that day that I haven’t shared with much of anyone outside my immediate family and Russ…”
“Avery, you don’t have to explain yourself or your motivations to me as I’m a firm believer that if there’s a chance that true love can find a way, then I’m all for it despite whatever situations may have caused a bit of turmoil for those parties involved…”
“Which is all the more reason why you shouldn’t give up on Grady,” Avery pleaded with her, “as much as I can’t believe I’m saying this to you, the man is a wreck without you.”
“No Avery, he was a wreck before I even entered his life and what he’s doing to himself isn’t because of me,” Jade tried to reason with her unwilling to let her real feelings for Grady come through the surface.
“To a degree I think Grady’s afraid of having any kind of chance at happiness in his life as he’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  As I said before, I grew up around Russ and Grady and I know how hard he was hurting when Susan left him.  That woman was beyond wicked and she did a lot of things that only added to the man Grady’s become.”
“Even so, can you honestly tell me that you’d want me to just pretend that the things he’s done aren’t important?  That they haven’t hurt just because he can’t deal with the situation properly?” Jade questioned poignantly.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying, but what I’m asking if that you don’t let this thing between Grady and I be the thing that ends that special thing that you have with one another.  If you love him like I think you do, then you both need to find a way to come together again and make things right for the both of you,” Avery urged her on again.
“Avery, what’s happening between Grady and I isn’t all because of you.  It’s hard for me to be able to trust someone who isn’t willing to try and it’s his bull headedness that’s made this situation harder on all of us.  Even if I was able to get past what happened the other night, I can’t partake in Grady’s rampages when he’s out to destroy Russ and his happiness.  It‘s just too hard for me to witness.”
“I understand that.  I really do and on any given day, I’d support your decision to break it off as women really don’t need someone who is going to bring them down, but in the same respect, I can see that Grady cares about you.  He’s really torn up at the thought that he lost you for good and while it would serve him right, I get the feeling that maybe I’m not wrong in thinking that there’s a possibility that maybe he hasn’t lost you.  You still love him, don’t you?”
“More than I care to admit,” Jade sighed closing her eyes as she fought to contain the tears building up inside of her, “but that doesn’t change how I feel.  I can’t stand back and watch Grady destroy himself over and over again because I love him far too much to be able to stand back and let him tear himself apart.”
“I realize that and hey, believe it or not there was a time when Grady and I could be in the same room with one another without it turning into a war zone,” Avery offered up with encouragement, “and I truly believe that with you in his life, he has a chance of coming around.”
“Avery, I’ve already tried to…” Jade started once again.
“Grady has a heart, Jade.  He has a really good one when he’s not hiding behind it afraid to face the world around him.  It’s just that he’s been burned so many times that he’s terrified of giving a damn about someone.  He’s afraid to accept happiness in his life and in taking a chance on someone else, well it’s something that only let him down in the past.  In some ways I think he regrets a lot of what happened in his life and with Russ and I, well he just doesn’t want his brother to be making those same mistakes.”
“I know that’s what he thinks he’s doing, but time and time again I’ve told him that following your heart can never be wrong.  I’ve tried to explain to him that when Russ loves someone as much as he loves you, that it’s okay to open your heart up and take a chance as there are times when it pays off.”
“And I believe Grady knows there’s a payoff where you’re concerned.  I really think that you’ve opened a place inside of him and it’s something that’s got him in a state of confusion because he’s clinging so hard to the past, but in all actuality his future with you is what he really wants,” Avery continued speaking about the man who had been such a great source of misery over the years, “Being that he’s Grady, he likes to try to make the world believe that he doesn’t care, but that’s entirely not true.  In fact, I remember one time when we were younger, I was a bit of a tomboy and I’d been spending some time with a group of friends out by the schoolyard.  One of them dared me to climb up this tree and like an idiot I did and wound up falling down after one of the branches snapped,” Avery continued thinking back to her reckless youth, “I can’t even begin to tell you how much that hurt when I was laying there on the ground with the wind knocked out of me and my leg clearly broken, but as I sat there, I realized that those same friends who’d dared me to do such a stupid thing were no where to be around.  I was scared and alone and wishing that I’d used my good sense, but then somehow it felt like my prayers had been answered as Grady just so happened to be walking home from baseball practice and he found me on the ground looking miserable and helpless.  I don’t think I cried harder in my life at that point than I did when I’d heard the snapping sound of my leg along with that branch, but then when Grady showed up, well I figured he was going to just do his usual torturing me as he took a great deal of pleasure in that since I was one of the few girls to challenge him, but much to my surprise, well he picked me up off the ground and carried me all the way to the hospital five blocks away.  In fact, he even stuck around telling me jokes the entire time until the hospital could locate my mother as she was working on her latest and greatest ad campaign for her company.  I was terrified especially when the doctor said that they were going to cast my leg up, but throughout the whole procedure Grady was at my side holding my hand and promising me that everything was going to be okay.”
Jade remained silent for a long time before speaking up once again, “He really did that?”
“Yeah, he really did.  He even promised me that when my leg healed he’d let me play baseball with him, which truthfully was the first issue we sparred off on with one another,” Avery admitted feeling the fondness of the memory carry over her as she continued to speak with Jade, “While he’d probably deny it right now, the truth to the matter is that as much as Grady claims to hate me, he’s always been one of the first people to stand up for me when push came to shove.  He’s helped me with a lot of things over the years and I was there when he’d hit rock bottom.  Russ and I watched as Susan damn near destroyed him and it was a long, hard road for him to come back to where he’s at in his life, but he’s a fighter and he did it.  He overcame the odds and now he’s got the opportunity to seize happiness in his life with you, but those same old fears keep holding him back.  Last night when he was lost in some drunken stupor, all he could talk about was you.  I mean yes, he came over here with the intentions to chew me out, but as he sat on the couch puking his brains out, all that he could dwell upon was that he never was the man you needed and how now that he‘d lost you, his life was incomplete.  All in all he‘s quite pitiful right now and I used to think that I‘d really rather enjoy seeing him in such a state after all the things he‘s said to me, but when it gets down to it, I think I much prefer the cranky, yet happier version of Grady who is opening himself up to take a chance on love.”
Jade let out an ironic laugh, “Somehow this seems strange in your trying to play his advocate here.”
“Believe me, it sounds a hell of a lot worse when you’re on my end in doing it, but when it gets down to it Jade, I really think that you should try to work this out with Grady before you throw in the towel.  The other night was just a stupid, ridiculous moment in time, but fortunately for us all it was in the past and if I can find it in my heart to think about giving Grady another chance to redeem himself, well, don’t you think you might want to do the same?”
“It’s not really a matter of what I want because right now I know where my heart is, but Avery, I just don’t know if I can open myself up to that again.  I don’t know if I’m ready to just accept things as they are and take him back.  I’m afraid if I do, then it’s only going to be a never-ending cycle of misery for us in our relationship since he can’t seem to move forward with his hang-ups.”
“It very well could be Jade as there are no guarantees in life, but you have to ask yourself, is that fear worth losing the chance to try to pick up the pieces?” Avery questioned a seriousness overtaking her, “I can tell you from experience that running away isn’t always the answer and even when you think you’re trying to do it for all the right reasons, sometimes it only ends up making things worse and if there’s a small part of you that still might be in love with Grady, then maybe it’s worth taking the time to come on over here later and have a few words with him.”
“I don’t know if I’m up for something like that,” Jade began again lost in her own conflicting thoughts and emotions.
“I can understand that too, but if you decide that you’re willing to give him one more chance to prove he isn’t a complete ass, well then Russ and I would be more than happy to have you here as it seems you’re one of the few people in the world that truly gets Grady and knows how to set him straight,” Avery added once again hoping that somehow her words might’ve inspired Jade to give Grady a second chance even if she herself was feeling ineffective at this particular moment.
“I don’t know Avery.  I’m not really sure I can, but, well…I’ll think about it,” Jade decided after a long hesitation, “but that doesn’t mean there are any promises on my end.”
“Fair enough,” Avery replied as she and Jade said a few more parting words before Avery hung up the phone wondering if she’d made any difference what so ever as everything that came out of her lips just felt awkward and foreign to her.  Feeling a sigh overtake her, she leaned into the counter top closing her eyes as she heard someone enter the kitchen behind her.
“Well?” Russ questioned eyeing her intently.
“I don’t know,” Avery admitted with another heavy sigh as she faced him once again wondering if she‘d been of any help at all, “I just don’t know, Russ.”


“Say something,” Mindy pleaded with Guy reaching out for his arm as she noticed that the color had drained from his features.  While she’d remained at his side catching bits and pieces of his call with the kidnapper, he’d not said too much as it seemed that the man who’d had his mother was calling all the shots.  Now as Guy held the phone out in the air staring at it blankly, she couldn’t help but worry about what he’d heard moments earlier.  Reaching for the phone, Mindy wrenched it out of his hand bringing it up to her own ear as she listened for any indication of the caller on the other end of the line, “Hello.  Is anyone there?  Hello…who is this?”
“He’s gone,” Guy explained solemnly breaking his long silence as he seemed to snap out of his daze, shaking his head slightly before reaching for his cell phone once again.  Once he’d collected it, he walked past her moving towards the living room area as she followed him in confusion.
“Well, what did he say Guy?” Mindy questioned watching as he made his way over towards the coat rack, pulling his coat off of it as he seemed still lost in whatever conversation he’d had with the kidnappers.  Marching towards him, she reached for his arm once again, urging him to turn around and face her, “Guy, what happened?”
“The kidnapper wants the money,” Guy blurted out with a frown crossing over his features, “He wants the money and I’m supposed to meet up with him at a drop point to make sure he gets it or else my mother is dead…”
“Okay,” Mindy searched his eyes sensing there was something more he was holding back on, “Guy, what else did he say?”
“It’s not what he said, but more so what my mother said,” Guy’s eyes filled up with emotion, “I heard her in the background.  She was screaming and she…she was pleading for her life…Mindy…”
“Oh Guy,” Mindy reached out to him throwing her arms around him as he started to break down before her.
“I heard her, but I didn’t do anything,” Guy admitted painfully unable to contain the tears that overcame him, “I heard her calling for help, but instead of saying something or doing something to protect her, all I could do was listen.  I was frozen and now…”
“Guy, she’s going to be alright,” Mindy tried to assure him as she began to wonder just what kind of person Guy must be dealing with.
“I have to make sure that he gets that money,” Guy decided firmly pulling himself out of her embrace, “I can’t let her down again.”
“I know you’ll find a way to help her and once the police know about the drop off, then…” Mindy started.
“He said no police.  He told me that if I continued to keep the FBI involved in this, then she was going to die anyways,” Guy explained desperately, “Somehow he knows about my father talking to the authorities and if we don’t find a way around this without getting them involved…”
“Guy, the police are your best shot at finding your mother,” Mindy tried to reason with him.
“Yeah in finding her dead,” Guy shook his head adamantly, “I’m not going to let that happen as I don’t want to lose her again.  I’ve already failed her in so many ways and I can’t allow my father and those men be the reason why my mother never comes home again.”
“Guy, with all the FBI’s resources, I’m sure that they’ll be able to find out where this monster is keeping her and then they’ll make sure that he pays for the crimes he’s committed,” Mindy began hoping to find a way to put his mind at ease as whatever he’d heard had certainly set him on a tailspin down a road to darkness.
“I don’t care about any of that,” Guy snapped back at her unable to contain his anger and frustration, “All I want is my Mum back and maybe no one else gives a damn about what’s happening with her, but I’m not about to let her be some kind of casualty because my father is going about this the wrong way.  In fact, I think I need to find a way to reason with him.”
“And how are you going to go about doing that Guy?”  Mindy questioned in confusion, “You know if this kidnapper is afraid of the police and FBI involvement, it’s only because they must be getting close.  Maybe they were right and it is Avery’s ex…”
“And he’s murdered too many women to count,” Guy insisted slipping into his jacket more completely, “and I can’t let my mother be the next one on his list.  I‘m sure my father is down at that police station and right now I need to find him and make sure that he understands what we must do.”
“Okay, fine, then I’m going with you,” Mindy began urgently seeking out her own jacket as she realized her friend was in no position to take things on by himself.
“No, Mindy, you need to stay here,” Guy answered quickly, “I need to do this on my own.”
“Guy, you’re upset.  Clearly being on your own is the last thing you need right now,” she argued with him once again seeing that he was obviously shaken by whatever was said to him, “I’ll go with you.  I can drive and…”
“Mindy please,” Guy cut her off quickly feeling a chill creep up his spine before a sigh escaped his lips, “I need to do this on my own.  There are some things I need to say to my father that simply need to be between him and I or else I’m afraid I may never be able to have a chance at seeing my mother again.”
“Guy, I understand what you’re saying, but…” she started as he stepped in towards her offering up a quick embrace before kissing the top of her head.
“You need to rest up.  Last night was a long night and though you will argue with me to no end, I think you need to call your mother,” Guy informed her in a low whisper, “You can do that while I’m gone and…”
“No,” Mindy shook her head in refusal, “Guy I’d really much rather be there for you…”
“Stay here and be safe,” Guy urged touching her cheek gently as he pressed a kiss upon her forehead, “and let your mother know that you’re at least staying with me for a while.  I think you owe her that much…”
“Guy,” Mindy’s lip curled in a pout before she let out a heavy sigh, “fine, but if you’re not home in a few hours, I’ll have no qualms about looking for you just so you know.”
“Fair enough,” Guy decided with a nod as he stepped towards the door opening it before throwing one last look over his shoulder, “when I’m done talking with my father, well I’ll come back and I’ll bring some Chinese for dinner.”
“That sounds good,” Mindy nodded watching him leave as she wondered if she was making a mistake in letting him go about this alone.  Now as she sat in the middle of Avery’s old apartment worried senseless about the man she cared so very much about, she found herself at odds wondering if she was going to be able to make it through this situation she and Guy had found herself in.
Mindy walked across the living room thinking about Guy’s words about calling her mother.  Certainly the thought had crossed her mind momentarily, but almost as soon as it had hit her last night, she realized that she had been right in thinking that avoiding the truth with her mother was the best course of action.  The last thing she wanted was for her mother to see that she’d been victimized as she was certain it would spin off a lecture on Mindy’s impulsive decision to just up and move out in the midst of her mother’s big career limelight, as her mother had ultimately remained firm in her position that moving out was a very bad idea.  Still, Mindy couldn’t help but see that even with the difference of opinion she and her mother had upon Mindy’s leaving that right now maybe a familiar voice might do her good.
Mindy eyed the phone hating that Guy was suddenly the voice of reason for her as she headed on over to it, picking it up from the base and dialing her mother’s number half hoping that the great Paula Carmichael would be too wrapped up in her own work related moments, but much to Mindy’s dismay, her mother answered on the third ring with her pleasant business as usual voice.
“Hi Mom,” Mindy began meekly not really wanting to approach the subject of the break in at her apartment first off.
“Mindy, sweetheart, where have you been?” Paula questioned with heavy emphasis, “I was hoping that I would’ve heard from you by now as I was concerned when you didn’t show up for dinner the other night…”
“Well, I was busy with things…” Mindy offered up as she took in a slow breath, “You know work and…”
“Having your apartment broken into,” her mother questioned surprising Mindy in that moment.
“But how did you know that…” Mindy began at a loss realizing that someone had beat her to the punch with her mother.
“Coral Valley’s a small town in in my line of work, well news travels fast,” Paula explained sympathetically, “so please tell me that the police have been treating you good through this and that you’ll be finding your way back to my home by nightfall.”
“The police were their usual useless selves,” Mindy confessed with a heavy sigh dropping down onto the couch as she closed her eyes tipping her head back into the pillows, “but then again that’s to be expected considering that I can’t think of one instance when they’ve been useful when it counts.”
“Now that’s a pessimistic attitude if I’ve ever heard one, but then again I’m sure that’s the anxiety over what took place last night coming out, which is all the more reason why you should come home.  I can have the maid turn down your bed as your old room is still…” Paula began her voice filled with concern.
“Mom, that won’t be necessary,” Mindy explained quickly, “as I’ve already found somewhere else to be for the time being.”
“And just where is that?  Please don’t tell me it’s with one of your neighbors as you know how much I can’t stand the thought of my daughter being in that apartment complex considering that more than half of the people who show up on charges in my court live over there…” Paula’s concerns expanded over the line as Mindy shifted on the sofa flopping back down to a laying position.
“I’m not staying at the apartment complex, so you can relax, though really mom it’s not that bad.  I mean sure it’s not the best of areas, but it was nice enough for…” Mindy started to defend her new home.
“For you to have your things snatched out from right under you and the more I think about it, the angrier that I am considering that no daughter of mine should have to endure that kind of treatment.  In fact, I think that when we hang up, I’m going to make a call to Dave Warner and see if he can get his men out and about seeing that justice is served for my little girl,” Paula decided firmly, “as it’s the least they can do for treating you so shabbily after the break in.”
“They weren’t treating me shabbily,” Mindy added with a frown realizing that clearly there was no point in getting her mother riled up even more about the situation, “as they were just doing their jobs as to be expected.”
“Well that certainly wasn’t the impression you were giving me earlier about the situation,” Paula paused for a moment of silence, “You wouldn’t be trying to pacify me here, now would you?”
“Mom, trust me.  They were fine and I’m fine.  Actually I’m better than fine,” Mindy explained trying to sound hopeful about the situation, “as I’m staying with a friend right now.”
“What friend?” Paula inquired, “Where exactly does this friend live?”
“My friend is staying with a relative here in town,” Mindy began realizing that her mother would have twenty more questions should Mindy continue down this vague path with her, “Actually, I’m staying with Guy.  He’s at Avery’s old apartment and he’s offered to let me stay here for a while.”
“Guy?” Paula repeated as another silence carried over the line, “well, that’s a name I hadn’t heard in quite some time.  What brings him back into the picture?”
“He came into town for Avery’s engagement party,” Mindy started to explain.
“Ah yes, I caught wind of that fiasco between her and Brant Ashford.  I’m sure that Brooke was salivating over the prospect of her daughter landing one of Coral Valley’s richest men.  Too bad it didn’t work out for her…” Paula remarked smugly.
“Avery’s quite happy with Russ as Guy and I went over to have dinner with them last night.  I really believe that whatever happened to bring her and Russ together again was a blessing,” Mindy offered up hopefully.
“Oh darling, I wasn’t talking about it being a misfortune for Avery as Russell Denton has always been someone I’ve thought very fondly of especially after the way he’s treated you, but more so I was thinking about Brooke as I’m sure she was eating crow after the fact.”
“Actually, she’s not had time to really react as she’s been kidnapped,” Mindy blurted out thinking of Guy’s current situation.
“Ah, so there still are masochists left in this world, huh?” Paula replied with a tiny snicker, “Because you know one would have to be to even consider spending any amount of time with that miserable woman.”
“Mom, this is serious,” Mindy frowned upon her mother’s words, “as Guy’s really quite torn up about it.”
“He’ll get over it and eventually he might even find himself enjoying life should the kidnapper decide to keep her far away from Coral Valley.  Then again I’m sure that anyone who would have to endure her incessant nagging for an extended period of time, would just be begging for someone to take her away, so maybe Guy will get his wish and his mother will be returned to him sooner than he’d imagined--in which case, well I’m just glad those people aren’t a part of our lives anymore,” Paula sighed as her voice shifted, “although hearing that my daughter is staying with Guy Morrison sounds like reason enough for me to have some concern.”
“Mom, it’s not what you’re thinking,” Mindy began to explain.
“Oh so you’re not spending time with the guy who broke your heart and put you into a depression at the end of your teen years,” Paula questioned doubting her daughter’s words, “Mindy, please tell me that you haven’t decided to put your heart out on the line for him yet again only to be let down like before…”
“Mom, it’s not like that at all.  Guy and I are just friends and we have a wonderful relationship.  He’s been very good to me since this whole break in happened and well, I told him that I would stay here until things were situated back at my apartment.”
“Please don’t tell me that you’re even contemplating going back there because if you are, then I’m afraid I’m going to have to put a bench warrant out on you and have you do some time in a jail cell until you come to your good senses…” Paula began.
“Mom, it’s really not that bad as my apartment was…”
“A disaster waiting to happen Mindy and if this is about your lease, well there are ways to work around that as I’d be more than happy to speak with the manager at the apartment and…” Paula began to offer.
“Mom, that won’t be necessary as I have it under control,” Mindy informed her with a heavy sigh, “I’ll be fine.”
“Must you really argue with me on this subject all the time,” Paula frowned in response, “as it’s bad enough that I had to worry about you before the robbery, but now, well now I’m truly concerned about you sweetheart.  You know that you’re always welcome to stay at my place whenever you need to and if you still are too stubborn to allow me to help you in that way, at least let me set you up in a new place where you’ll be safe.  You can pay me back later if it’s an issue about money…”
“Mom, I love you so very much and the offer is a very generous one, but I can promise you that I have it under control,” Mindy vowed hoping to alleviate some of her mother’s worries, “I’ll stay with Guy for a little bit until I get back on my feet again and then well, you’ll see that everything is back to normal.”
“Normal isn’t good enough for my baby girl,” Paula replied with the same motherly tone that Mindy had gotten so accustomed to over the years, “as I want nothing, but the best for her.”
“And I have it.  In my own way, I have that’s best for me right now mom,” Mindy continued to argue her point.
“Somehow I’m not so sure of that, but I won’t continue to argue with you on the subject.  Just know that you’re always welcome here anytime.”
“I know that mom and I truly appreciate that more than you can imagine,” Mindy couldn’t help but smile as she thought of her time with her mother.
“Well in that case you can show me how much you do next week when you come over here for the dinner I’m having with the governor on Sunday,” Paula suggested brightly, “as you know I’d just love to have the opportunity to show off my beautiful little girl…”
“As much as I’d love to be there to support you, I have plans with Guy.  At least I think I do as there’s this big party that Beholder is hosting and well, I kind of agreed to be his date for the night…” Mindy explained thinking to the thing that had started her and Guy back down this path with one another once again.
“Oh I’m sure Brooke had plenty to say on that one and if that woman even thinks about giving you any trouble…”
“Mom, I can hold my on.  You know that.”
“Well, you are my daughter, but that still doesn’t make me any happier about having you be subjected to anything that viper says,” Paula continued with a frown, “though if she’s been kidnapped, I would imagine that the company party would be put on hold, wouldn’t you think?”
“I don’t know, but I promised Guy that I would be there for him.  If the plans change, I can call you…” Mindy suggested not really wanting to spend time at her mother’s dinner party regardless of her plans with Guy.
“You can do better than that,” Paula decided for her, “Just bring Guy on over here for dinner as we’re having the meal around five and then the two of you can leave to whatever farce of a party Brooke has going on…that is if she’s come back into town and hey if she hasn’t then you and Guy can still come over here.  I mean if you’re spending time with him again, then I think I’d like to have a few words with him.”
“Mom, please don’t start on this one.  Guy’s had enough going on lately in between his mother’s kidnapping and all else that’s been happening with his family,” Mindy began with a groan, “He doesn’t need you giving him the third degree.”
“If he has any intention of breaking your heart all over again, he’s going to get more than that from me Mindy,” Paula informed her point blank, “as I don’t take to kindly to men who think they can hurt my little girl and get away with it.”
“Guy never meant to hurt me.  I was just too wrapped up in emotion, but this time, well, it’s really different mom.  This time I know where we stand on things as Guy and I have an understanding,” Mindy continued going on with her conversation with her mother as she found herself wondering if her words had any validity at all as it seemed that where Guy was concerned, Mindy was beginning to doubt everything in her life as it seemed the emotional roller coaster she was on was only beginning to take her for the ride of her life in ways she never dreamt were possible again.


“Please tell me that I did not hear what I thought I heard,” Zack said as he focused on Johanna across Caitlin’s hospital room while closing the door.

Johanna turned away and looked out the windows towards the courtyard below. She’d known that Zack would never take the news as a blessing but as more of a damnation. She’d debated whether or not to tell him, and now she knew that telling him probably wasn’t the best choice she could have made. She hadn’t meant for him to hear the news this way, but now that he’d heard her tell Caitlin she was pregnant, there was no going back.

Caitlin looked between her brother and his ex with a feeling of panic growing in the pit of her stomach. She knew for certain that this couldn’t turn out good for anyone involved.

“Come on, Jo. Tell me to my face,” Zack urged as he stepped closer to Caitlin’s bed.

Johanna took a deep breath before she turned to face Zack, “I’m pregnant, Zack.”

He paused for a moment as he processed the information and crossed his arms, “Is it mine?”

“Oh go to hell,” Johanna turned her back on him once again.

“Okay, let’s just all calm down and take a deep breath here,” Caitlin instructed as she looked between the two of them. While the situation was bound to be tense, she wanted to inject some sort of civility into the mess with her presence, “This is huge news for everyone involved. So let’s not say anything that we’ll regret later.”

Zack watched Johanna for a moment before he ran his fingers through his hair and shifted on his feet, “I just want to know one thing. Were you ever going to tell me?”

Johanna turned to face him and frowned, “Have you given me any reason to? You’ve made it painfully clear that you don’t want me in your life, and I’m not about to relegate myself to just being with you out of your perceived obligation to me and my child.”

“I have every right to know I’m going to be a father,” He declared.

“A father? You honestly think you could be a father?” She shook her head, “You’re not ready to be a father, Zack.”

“You can’t make that decision for me,” He spoke as he searched her eyes.

“Actually I can,” Johanna held her head high before letting out a long exhale, “You’re not ready to be a father or a partner to me, and I’m not ready to do this on my own,” She spoke as she felt tears threatening to reveal her vulnerability over the situation, “When I saw you here in Coral Valley, I thought that maybe…just maybe…I could get through to you and make you remember how good it was between us. I thought that if you could just open your heart to me again then we could raise this child as a real family, but…” She paused biting her lip to still her nerves. When she spoke again, her voice was more even, “I’ve realized that the best thing for everyone involved is if I just have an abortion.”

“What?” Zack barked out the question, feeling as if he’d just been kicked in the gut. He stammered for a moment as he shifted on his feet, struggling for a response to Johanna’s decision, “Jo, let’s just talk about this. You can’t just give me news like this and then make up your mind about an abortion.”

“I wasn’t planning to give you the news, Zack. This wasn’t exactly how I envisioned any of this, okay?” She replied as she turned and looked out the window again.

“Jo, please tell me you aren’t going to do anything until we really talk about this,” He urged her, “I’m not asking you to wait forever, but I am asking you to allow me a chance to be a part of this.”

Caitlin looked between Zack and Johanna with concern for the both of them. She took a deep breath as she looked between them, “I think that maybe you two need to talk about this in private. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m here for the both of you to talk to if you need me, but this is a situation that belongs to the both of you and only you. You two need to really talk about this at length with one another.”

“I’m not really sure what that could accomplish,” Johanna sighed as she looked back towards Zack.

Zack ran his fingers through his hair before placed his hands on his hips in frustration, “I just want to be considered in this, Jo. This is my baby too after all.”

Johanna looked to the floor and closed her eyes as she took a deep breath, “Okay, we’ll talk about this, but Zack, this isn’t going to be easy at all. Besides, I already know that I want more than you’re willing to give. We’re starting out at odds, and I don’t see that changing.”

“We have to give it a shot,” Zack urged, “Please, just give me a chance here.”

Johanna nodded before she glanced back to Caitlin, “I’ve got to go. I really need some time on my own right now,” She smiled half heartedly to her friend, “It’s good to see you doing so well.”

“Thanks,” Caitlin smiled to her friend as Johanna left the room. She switched her focus to her brother as he rubbed his temple with his eyes closed, “Well, you’ve certainly done it this time, Zack.”

“Don’t start, Cait,” Zack warned as he cut a glance towards his sister.

“Well someone certainly needs to start with you,” She spoke with disappointment as she nailed him with a harsh stare, “You need to do the right thing here, Zack. Stop indulging in childish fantasy and take some responsibility.”

“What would you like me to do, Caitlin? This isn’t exactly the old days where a man had to marry a woman because she’s pregnant. So if you’re already planning that shotgun wedding in your head, you can just forget it,” He sank down in a chair near her bed and lay back.

“I’m not saying anything of the kind, but you need to work things out with Jo. You two had a very good thing before you decided you were tired of her.”

“Did it ever occur to you that if things were that great I wouldn’t have wanted out?”

“Look, I’m not saying that it was perfect, but you two were together longer than I’ve seen you with anyone else. You must have had a pretty good connection with her,” Caitlin reasoned.

“Yeah, we had a connection, but I’m not sure how good it was,” He took a deep breath and sighed, “Besides that, I’m in love with Blake, and it’s not exactly easy to let go of that…even if she has decided to take up with Seth again.”

“She’s with Seth?” She gasped in surprise, “Boy you must have really screwed up with her. What the hell is wrong with you, Zack? Have you completely lost your mind?”

“Gee, Caitlin, thanks for being so supportive,” He rolled his eyes.

“Well, Zack, I know how upset Blake was with Seth. If you pissed her off so badly that she overlooked being that upset with him, then you have really done a number. What exactly did you do to her?”

“I didn’t…well, okay I did do something. I turned my back on her not only when I needed her, but when she needed me. I was stupid, and it was pointless. All it did was hurt us both, and now I’ve lost her,” He let out a slow breath, “I don’t want it to be this way. I want to be with her. I love her, Cait.”

“Something tells me that you haven’t done a very good job of communicating that to Blake,” Caitlin stated as she crossed her arms, “You’ve really made a mess of things, Zack.”

“I know, Cait. Believe me, I know,” Zack sighed heavily as he thought about the newest complication in his life and how he was ever going to fix things let alone make them any bit easier.


After Dave had left, Judy had spent the morning cleaning up Deidra’s apartment of traces of their girls’ night together. While it had started out entertaining enough, now it seemed as if it had only been an prelude to disaster. She’d never seen Deidra so depressed in all her life, and now she wasn’t sure how to reach her daughter at all.

Judy knocked on the door to Deidra’s bedroom gently, but all she heard was the sound of sobbing from inside. She frowned as she opened the door and stepped inside. She slowly approached the bed where Deidra was curled into her blanket in tears.

“Deidra,” Judy spoke softly as she sat down on the bed and placed her hand upon her daughter’s hip, “Baby, talk to me.”

“Mom, why can’t things ever work out for me? Why do I always screw up?” Deidra cried into the blanket.

Judy frowned, “Honey, you haven’t screwed up.”

“Yes, I have,” Deidra rolled onto her back and looked to her mother, “I always screw up with men. Why can’t I ever pick the right one? You know, the one who’s going to set my world on fire and be the man that will want to be with me and I’ll want to be with him.”

“I don’t understand, honey,” Judy admitted in distress.

“All the men in my life, Mom,” Deidra rolled off the bed and stood in front of the large windows which offered a view of Lake Cardinal, “I’ve always screwed up with the men in my life. It’s just been this long line of failures, and I should just realize that this is my destiny…to be alone.”

“Deidra, that’s just not true,” Judy began to argue.

“Yes, it is,” Deidra turned, “I have no problems being friends with a man, but when it turns sexual, I’m just a miserable failure.”


“No, Mom. It’s true, and I don’t know why it always goes sour. I mean obviously I wasn’t that great in the sack for Andy to run to every woman within arm’s reach,” Deidra groaned, “And then when I pick a guy who actually wanted to be with me, he turns out to be a serial killer.”

“Deidra, you were just feeling vulnerable, and as for Andy,” Judy shook her head, “He was always flirtatious with any female. I don’t think it had anything to do with you. I think he’s just got a problem with commitment.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that before I got married?” Deidra snapped before rolling her eyes, “Was this some big secret that everybody decided to keep from me?”

“Deidra, there’s no need to be this way,” Judy cautioned her.

Deidra sighed as she leaned into the large window before her, “Mom, I just feel like an idiot. How could this happen? I mean, really, what is so wrong with me? Why doesn’t any man want to be with me? I know I’m not Pamela Anderson or anything, but why do men just not want to be with me?”

“Deidra,” Judy began.

“No, Mom, I’m serious. What is so wrong with me?” Deidra spun on her heel to look to her mother as she sat down on the window sill, “I mean okay, so I’m not the most experienced. I’ve only had three lovers in my lifetime. Ken and I lost our virginity to each other after the senior prom, and afterwards, we decided that our friendship was more important to us than the chance to be lovers. Then I met Andy, and he swept me off my feet. When we were married, I wasn’t the most experienced, but he taught me a lot about sex. When I found him with another woman, it felt like I was a complete failure, and I was a disappointment to him. So when we were on the island and Christian…Bruce,” She said his more common name as she groaned, “He was sweet, and he seemed so interested in me. He was gentle and inviting, and of course I was seduced. We made love…ugh…I guess you can’t even really call it that, but still we had sex. Afterwards, I guess I just felt kind of guilty. So I ran away, and now we find out that he’s a serial killer. Just how great a judge of character am I?” She dropped her face into her hands.

“Deidra, honey,” Judy moved to kneel down in front of her daughter, “I know things seem bleak right now, but it’ll get better.”

“Sure, Mom. That’s what everyone says. It’ll always get better, but it never does.”

“Yes it does,” Judy said adamantly, “It does. Deidra, look at me and Rick. All these years I’ve thought that he was out of my life for good. When I fell in love with him, honey, I thought that he controlled the sun and the moon. I thought he was everything in the world, and I wanted to be with him with every fiber of my being. When a twist of fate tore us apart, I thought that I would have to live my life with only memories to tide me over with that kind of love. Don’t get me wrong. I loved your father so very much, but part of my heart will always belong to Rick. When he came back into my life recently, that love was rekindled in my heart. I never thought for a moment that he would ever come back to me, but he has. You just have to have hope baby. Without hope, there’s no reason to live. There’s love out there for everyone. I’ve seen it happen to so many people, and it will happen for you too.”

Deidra looked to her mother with tears in her eyes, “But Mom…I…I just…..”

“I know, honey. It seems hopeless right now, and you think you’re never going to see daylight again. I promise you though that it will work out. I promise you that, honey, from the bottom of my heart,” Judy said desperately as she searched Deidra’s eyes.

Deidra wrapped her arms around her mother and hugged her tightly. While she wanted to believe in hope, somehow it seemed just beyond her reach. Still, her heart ached to know the kind of love she’d seen in the lives of people around her. Maybe it was out there in the world just waiting for her, or maybe she would live out the rest of her days alone and in despair.


Shannon finished securing her hair in a pony tail after she’d spent all morning going over the copies of the files she’d copied on the Abrams case. While Director Callaway thought he was doing the right thing in taking her off the case, she knew that she was doing the right thing in pursuing the truth. Besides, she was no longer bound by the limitations of law enforcement. Now she was a private citizen and didn’t have to respect anyone’s civil rights. Now, Abrams was ripe for the picking.

Shannon moved to the door after quickly stashing away her files. If her boss had decided to pay her a visit, she didn’t want him to catch her defying a direct order to lay off the case.

Opening the door, Shannon’s eyes widened as she spotted someone she had never expected, “Dave…this is a surprise.”

“Actually, it kind of is for me too,” Dave said softly as he glanced down to the floor evasively, “I need to ask you for a favor.”

“A favor?” Her eyes widened, “Dave, you do know that I’ve been kicked off the Abrams case, right?”

“Yeah,” He nodded, “But this is sort of related.”

She looked at him in confusion before she opened her door wider and stepped back, “Come in. This I have got to hear.”

Dave stepped into the hotel room and walked across the room, finding a large stack of files upon the desk. He turned back towards Shannon with a grin, “Off the case, huh?”

“Yeah well, I didn’t say I wasn’t working on it anyway,” She shrugged as she watched him, “So what’s this about anyway?”

“I wanted to ask you to do me a favor. I know I probably haven’t earned one from you, but I’ll do whatever it takes to make this good if you’ll only do what I ask,” He said seriously as he met her eyes.

“So what do you need me to do?” She asked as she moved to the sofa.

“I want you to keep an eye on my friend, Deidra Byrne,” He sat down beside her, “I’m afraid she may be a target.”

“Why?” She asked solemnly as she watched him carefully.

“She met him on the island. He impersonated Christian Fowler and seduced her,” Dave looked to the floor, feeling his heart drop that his friend had been so close to a killer, “She got away unscathed, but considering that she and Avery are the only people who can say that…it makes me feel that she may be next.”

“Has she received any threats from him?” Shannon asked, seeing his concern in his features.

“No, but she only just found out that the man she met was the man Avery knew as Bruce Mathis. She saw his picture on the news and then called me to find out more about Mathis. I laid out a photo array for her, and she picked Mathis out. I’m just afraid that he may see her as a target now as well.”

“Why do I get the feeling this is more than just a simple friendship, Dave?” She asked as he slowly raised his eyes to hers.

“She’s a very special friend, Shannon. We grew up together, we got into trouble together, and we found our way together. When she came back to town, I promised her that I’d see her through her divorce, and now I’m promising to keep her safe. I don’t want Mathis to get anywhere near her,” Dave declared whole heartedly, “I don’t want anything to happen to her.”

“You’re in love with her, aren’t you?” She asked boldly as she searched his eyes.

“I don’t know if I’d go that far, but she’s definitely very special to me. She holds a very special place in my heart, and I don’t want her hurt in any way.”

“So basically you want me to be her bodyguard, right?” Shannon asked.

“She can’t know about this, Shannon. If she finds out, she’ll want to kill me,” Dave warned, “I just want to make sure that she’s safe.”

“Okay,” She nodded, “I’ll keep an eye on her, but if she catches me, I’m going to send her right back to you, pal.”

“Thank you, Shannon,” He said in relief, “I owe you huge for this. Anything you need, you just have to ask.”

“There is actually a favor I could ask of you. I want to be kept in the loop on this Mathis case. I just want to know if anything comes up with him and his whereabouts.”

“Done,” Dave extended his hand to Shannon, “Thank you.”

“Just remember that if this backfires on you,” Shannon warned, hoping that she could do some good for Dave and his friend while also thwarting any sinister plans one Bruce Mathis could possibly have.


Diane entered the BBK offices wondering if she’d be able to get the heads up on the microfilm that Seth was seeking out.  While she’d been very thorough in her previous search of the archives, she began to wonder if maybe the microfilm was lurking somewhere she hadn’t noticed and what better a time than the weekend to sneak in and take a look around as clearly no one would be there to disturb her.  Okay, so maybe her motivations were a bit less than altruistic as she realized that while she’d promised Ben that she’d try to behave where Blake was concerned, the fact remained that Diane wasn’t happy with the idea that Blake was still preying on Seth’s affections and if by some chance Diane could snag the microfilm herself, then she could not only help Seth escape Blake’s evil clutches, but she’d also be doing Jade a favor as Jade would most certainly have one less thing to worry about, but before Diane could truly put her plan into action she needed to make a little trip over to her desk to pick up the keys she’d snagged from the janitor during a brief flirt fest with him.
Smiling as she thought of just how good she was getting at this secret spy stuff, she felt a skip in her step as she began to whistle a tune to herself.  However, as she reached her desk, she noticed that the light was on in Brant’s office and almost immediately she tensed up wondering if someone else had been sneaking around the offices.  Defensively, she reached into her purse fishing out the pepper spray that she’d carried with her and she made slow, tentative steps towards Brant’s office noticing that the door was ajar.  Her pulse quickened as she held the pepper spray up ready to launch an attack as she stepped in Brant’s office only to discover him working away at his desk.
“What the hell are you doing here on a Saturday,” she frowned lowering the pepper spray as Brant turned his attention away from the pages before him eyeing her with sheer surprise.
“Well, um correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t I be asking you that very thing seeing as you’re always boasting about your Saturday shopping sprees,” Brant teased with a wink settling back in his chair as he raised his hands behind his head leaning back into them as he watched her introspectively, “Unless of course you’ve closed out the mall already.”
“That’s almost funny,” Diane rolled her eyes as she stepped further into his room, “as I’ll have you know that I’m not like that anymore…”
“Be still my heart,” he dropped his hand to his chest with mild amusement feigning shock, “I never thought I’d live to see the day Diane Stevens didn’t dare to run rampant on the local shopping malls.  What happened?  The credit card company put a limit on your spending?  Is that why you’re here trying to work overtime to get a raise out of me?”
“I can get a raise out of you whenever I feel like it,” Diane stated matter of fact with a shrug of her shoulders, “but I just choose to let you pay me what you’re doing now so that when I feel compelled to ask for a raise you’ll only feel all the more obligated because I’ve been treating you so wonderful over the years.”
“Diane, half the time I put you to work, I wind up doing it myself as you’re too busy flirting down in Avery’s office with Ben,” Brant leaned forward striking a curious expression, “unless of course that flame’s fizzled out.”
“No, it’s still going strong,” Diane assured him with a bright grin as Brant pretended to let out a breath of relief.
“Good because for a moment there I was starting to think that I’d gotten way behind on the office gossip in my time away,” Brant chuckled with amusement before growing suddenly serious, “So really what were you doing here Diane?”
“Well, I…” Diane began straining to come up with some reasonable explanation before turning the situation around on him once again, “I could ask you the same thing and yes, I realize that I already did, but judging by that last year suit you’re wearing and the smug expression you had on your face when I walked in here before you were sulking which I must confess doesn’t suit you what so ever.”
“I’m not sulking,” Brant pointed out with a nod at the papers before him, “I’m working.”
“Brant, I’ve worked for you longer than I care to admit and we both know that not once in all that time did you work in the office on the weekend.  Sure, you might’ve schmoozed some of the clients on the yacht or you’d found a way to entice a partner’s wife or two, but never in all my days did I ever anticipate finding you slaving away at the work you have for the upcoming week, which can only mean one thing.  You’re sulking!”
“And you’re avoiding my questioning, which tells me you’re up to trouble,” Brant threw back at her as he tapped the pen he’d been holding earlier on the desk top, “so start talking.”
“I forgot something in my desk--” she began as he threw her a look of sheer disbelief, “something that I’d bought for my date tonight with Ben that I simply couldn‘t go without.”
“Something that would fit into your purse,” he eyed the small bag she had slung over her shoulder.
“That’s absolutely right,” she nodded, “as it’s just a small, little, tiny thing that I picked up…”
“No doubt to engage in some sort of shameless activity with Avery’s poor assistant.  Does he have any idea what’s coming to him tonight,” Brant couldn’t help but tease her once again.
“Oh Ben knows exactly what’s coming to him and he rather enjoys all my dedication,” Diane boasted proudly.
“Lucky guy,” Brant mused with a knowing grin.
“Yeah well Ben wouldn’t be the only one out getting lucky if you weren’t behind that desk pouting like that,” Diane watched his eyes widen upon her words.
“Are you offering something I should know about Diane because if you are, well I‘ve noticed that you‘ve been eyeing my sofa a lot lately,” he threw back at her watching the color rise over her cheeks before he flashed her a sexy smile, “Thinking about taking it for a test drive so to speak?”
“Brant, honey you couldn’t keep up with me if we went down that route with one another,” she regained her composure as she spoke up in a sultry tone, “as I know tricks that even a man like yourself hasn’t heard of.”
“You know on most occasions, I’d have to debate that issue, but given how you are Diane, well you might have me on that,” he conceded as a tiny chuckle filled him up once again, “but hey, I’m glad that poor Ben can keep up.  Just don’t wear him out when Monday rolls around as we need him around here.”
“And we need you around here too,” Diane watched as his eyes fell to the page before him once again, “I hope you don’t mind my being blunt with you here, but I’m just going to cut straight to the point.  Why are you walking around with your head up your ass lately?”
“Gee, and here I thought that I’d instilled some fear in your heart as your employer,” Brant set the pen down as his gaze returned to her, “but obviously I was wrong as you just spill it out, don’t you?”
“With you, I know I can be honest,” Diane approached him sitting on the edge of his desk as curiosity brewed over her before a frown followed, “Brant, I’m concerned about you.  You’re not going out enough, not spending enough time focusing on the things that matter and quite frankly, I’m very disturbed by the fact that I haven’t had to shuffle some bimbo out of your office for quite some time.  What gives?”
“I thought you’d be happy that I’m toning down my ways,” Brant offered up with a shrug of his shoulders, “as you were always saying that lifestyle was going to burn me out long before my time.”
“Brant, we both know that you’re far from being burnt out, but in the same respect, I can also see that this fixation you have on Avery is sucking the life out of you.  I mean my God you two used to have sexual tension that you could heat this whole place with, but now she’s the one calling the shots and you’re her little pony boy dancing in hoops around her when she’s obviously giving you the brush off.”
“Diane, I don’t think my relationship with Avery is any of your concern considering…” Brant began.
“Brant, she’s married and pregnant which typically means off limits and quite honestly she’s really not worth what you’re doing to yourself.  I mean sure, okay on some strange level she might be considered sexy to some men, but she’s by no means the norm for Brant Ashford. You need someone fun, free and uninhibited.  Avery’s a bit of a prude and the fact that she married a man like Russell Denton tells you just how boring she truly is.  She could’ve had the world with someone such as yourself, but she blew it, which is her loss totally.  She should be the one kicking herself for that, not the other way around.  You’re Brant Ashford and it’s time you let the world see that you’re not going to turn into some whimpering, whining hermit because the wrong woman decided to spurn you.  You’re better than that.”
“Gee, Dr. Phil, you’re working wonders on my ego,” Brant rolled his eyes at her.
“Yeah well I’m just trying to get you to face reality.  Brant, you’re coming off as pathetic and whipped and considering that Avery’s been gallivanting around town parading her new husband like she should’ve been doing with that engagement ring you gave her, it just proves how wrong she is for you.  She’s beneath anything that you deserve and if this is all an issue of what she did for you when she was in bed with you once upon a time, well get over it.  Find someone else who can show you fireworks and who won’t be dumb enough to move on to some nobody who has no spontaneity or fun in his life.  I mean honestly, she clearly is an idiot and I think it’s high time that you showed Avery what she missed out on.  While she’s got her dozen kids and her boring husband, you could be out having the time of your life rocking someone else’s world, yet you choose to sit in here pouting.  That’s so very wrong.”
“Diane, while you think you might be on to something there, leave the pop psychology at home because I pay you to be my secretary, not my shrink,” Brant stated bluntly as he took in a slow breath, “I appreciate your concerns, but…”
“But nothing.  Brant if it’s an issue of your just needing to go out and get laid, I know plenty of women who would be interested in…” she began again as Brant rose from his chair stepping around his desk to move in beside her.
“Diane, I’m glad you found what you left in your desk and I hope you and Ben have a wild, fun and exciting night with one another tonight, but I really think you should get going as I have a lot of work ahead of me,” he began scooting her towards the door to his office.
“Brant, I’m only saying this because I care…because I think you should be doing so much more as there are so many women,” she continued to explained digging her heels into the carpet as they stood in front of the door, “Just please tell me that next Saturday I won’t find you in your office like this looking completely miserable.”

“Diane, if you show up at work again on next Saturday, I’m either going to have you committed or fired.  Are we clear on that?”
“You wouldn’t fire me,” Diane challenged with a scowl calling his bluff.
“You’re probably right on that one, but I do know plenty of psychiatrists who’d be more than happy to help you to an all expenses paid vacation in one of their establishments,” he teased watching her nose wrinkle in frustration.
“Fine, you go ahead and be a miserable person then, but when it comes back to haunt you, don’t you dare come crying to me about the time you wasted when you could’ve been having fun,” Diane threw back at him waving her finger in his face.
“When have I ever come to you with a complaint other than your lack of desire to work around here?” Brant cut back pointedly.
“Even so, one day you’re going to wish you took me up on my advice,” she huffed spinning on her heel and marching out of his office as he just shook his head at her closing the door behind her.
Now as Brant was alone again, he eyed his office wishing that she’d been completely wrong about her observation with him.  Sure, he wouldn’t have called what he was doing moping, but it beat sitting at home thinking about Avery.  He’d already been in the guest room she’d stayed in more times than he’d cared to admit and with her things still there, well it was trying on his mind as he couldn’t seem to stop fixating on the woman who just refused to give him a chance.  Even at this moment, he couldn’t keep from dwelling upon moments that played out in his mind.
“Okay, this isn’t working,” Brant frowned heading over to his desk as he could still hear Diane scolding him again and again.  With a sigh, he pushed his papers aside reaching for the remote to the television that he had installed recently.
Brant flipped through the channels wondering what he was searching for, but as a news report flashed over the screen, he turned the volume up listening to the story as he learned of Brooke Morrison’s kidnapping.  Suddenly, his obsessive thoughts of Avery came to a close as concern pressed over him.  He took in the reporter’s words as his frown deepened almost as soon as the story ended, he reached for the phone dialing someone who might be able to provide him with more information.
“Hey, it’s Brant Ashford,” he explained to the man on the other end of the line, “I need to ask a favor…yes, it’s really, really important as it’s about Brooke Morrison and her kidnapping,” he stated clearly as he felt the need to get involved in the situation at hand regardless of what had been happening between him and Avery.  He just hoped that somehow he’d be able to be some help in Brooke’s safe homecoming as his contact filled him in on all the news reporter’s missing details.


“Tell me again what the kidnapper said,” Callaway insisted as Guy stood up from the chair he’d been seated in shortly after his arrival at the police station to speak with his father.  While Guy had been adamant about wanting to speak with Richard alone, Callaway just wouldn’t let up until Guy revealed the details of the twisted man’s quest for ransom and now as Callaway pressed upon Guy to rehash the call for the fourth time, his anger began to boil over him.
“I already told you everything,” Guy scowled in response turning his attention to his father, “Richard, I’m telling you now, the guy who did this knows about the police and about the FBI…”
“Which is why we need to treat this matter seriously,” Callaway blurted out with a frown, “We’ll set up some posts and arrange to pick him up at the drop off point…”
“And then what?  What happens when he shows up and you close in on him?” Richard questioned breaking his eerie silence, “What happens to Brooke?”
“We’ll press him for answers about where he has her, if she’s not with him,” Callaway insisted his voice full of false reassurances as Guy scowled back at him.
“That’s not good enough,” Guy grumbled in response, “as I already told you the kidnapper specifically stated that once he gets the money, then he’ll let me know where my mother is…”
“Which is too big of a gamble.  You need to make sure that Mrs. Morrison is present at the exchange so that we can see this situation out,” Callaway continued shooting Guy a glare, “I’m sure that you can persuade the kidnapper to change his terms…”
“You say it like it’s nothing more than moving around a play date,” Richard balked at the very notion, “this is my wife’s life we’re talking about and if this madman is unyielding in his methods…”
“I’m sure that you’ll be able to talk him into an arrangement where you both get the payoff so to speak at the same time and once he gets the briefcase, then we’ll snag him up,” Callaway offered up simply, “as that way we catch Abrams at his most vulnerable moment when he has no where else to go.”
“If he’s as far gone as you’ve all said, then who is to say he’ll decide to hell with it should I try to change the terms of the ransom,” Guy argued with a huff, “I’m not about to risk my mother’s life like that when she means the world to me…”
“Guy, we’ll get her home safely,” Richard reached out for his hand.
“Richard, the man knows that we’re working with the police and the FBI and he’s very adamant about the fact if we keep doing so, he’s going to kill Mum.  He doesn’t care about anything other than what he wants…”
“Which is the money so in that sense, we’re holding the cards here,” Callaway cut in.
“No, we’re not holding any cards and if you think you can just up and set this guy in some kind of trap, then you’re bigger idiots than I took you for as he’s out to do something horrible if we try to play games with him,” Guy stood up pushing his chair out from underneath him, “He’s going to kill my mother if we don’t do things his way.”
“If you play it by his rules, he’ll kill her anyways,” Called argued with him, “but if we play by ours, we’ll be in control.  I’ll have my best men in on the job and they’ll be discreet.  We’ll also plant a bug in the briefcase in the event that he gets out of sight.  The money will seem legitimate enough should he care to take a look at it and…”
“What do you mean legitimate enough?” Guy blinked back at him.
“Guy, the FBI doesn’t believe in doing a ransom exchange with a kidnapper,” Richard informed him with a heavy sigh, “they’ve arranged for an alternate plan that would lead the kidnapper to believe that he’s receiving five million dollars when in actuality he’s…”
“He’s what?  Contemplating new ways to murder my mother,” Guy shook his head at the both of them, “What is wrong with you Richard?  Do you truly hate her that much that you’d just willingly let some madman kill her just to spite her?”
“I’m doing the best that I can here,” Richard frowned as tension pressed in over his features, “but my hands are tied…”
“Be that as it may, I’m not going to do anything that is going to put my mother’s life to a premature ending, regardless of whatever bull these people are trying to sell you,” Guy glared across the table at Callaway, “and if you’re not going to listen to what I’m saying, then my mother is good as dead and I won’t sit back and let that happen.”
“Guy,” Richard called out to his son watching as Guy burst out of the room in a fury.  “Guy wait!”
“He’s experiencing some very normal emotions right now,” Callaway piped in trying to give Richard some hope that his son would turn around, “Once he sees that we’re the only option he has if he wants to see his mother again, then he’ll come around.”
“I wish I could believe that, you clearly you don’t know my son like I do,” Richard shot back with a glare rising up from his chair and marching out into the hallway in search of his son as he hoped that somehow he’d be able to put Guy’s mind at ease.  Quickly he moved through the police station, seeking out his son and as he spotted Guy at the front door, he called out to him.  “Guy wait.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Guy scowled back at him spinning around to face him as Guy’s voice rose with anger, “I’m not going to listen to what they’re trying to say back there because in my heart I know it’s all wrong.  This guy is watching us and he knows things…he’s doing things to Mum and if you could’ve heard her before…”
“Guy, I want to find her,” Richard reached out towards him tentatively.
“No, no you don’t.  All you care about is being rid of her so that you can free yourself up to be with your mistress as that’s all that’s ever mattered to you.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t doing anything and everything in your power to see to it that Mum winds up dead,” Guy threw back in an accusatory tone.
“No, Guy, you’re wrong on that one.  Your mother means a great deal to me and I wouldn’t wish this fate upon her or anyone.  I want her home just as much as I do and I’d do absolutely everything to have her back again…even if it means working along side of the FBI to get the job done,” Richard blurted out with a heavy sigh.
“They’re only going to find way to help the kidnapper murder her faster and I won’t take part in that.  If you really want to help Mum, then you and I need to come up with something on our own.  We need to get that money together and find a way to make the drop without the FBI’s involvement,” Guy pleaded with him.
“That’s taking an unnecessary risk and if we go down that path, then we’re only asking for trouble as there is no guarantee that we could do any more than they could seeing as the FBI is trained in this particular situation…” Richard tried to reason with him.
“To them Mum is just a number and they don’t care if she lives or dies, but I do and I won’t allow anyone to take her away from me.  Not now, not ever,” Guy declared pushing past his father and storming out into the parking lot as Richard stood frozen in the moment wondering if he was truly doing what was best for his wife as it seemed that regardless of what decision he’d made, he feared that it could result in the end of his wife’s time on this earth.


Gabe stood outside the door to Avery’s apartment trying to find a way to be reasonable as he contemplated what he might say to Guy after what he’d happened upon last night.  While he’d opted to avoid the situation in the hopes that time away would give him some clarity, he realized that the longer he put things off between them, the harder it would be for them as he was certain that distance was the last thing they’d needed between them at a time like this.  Knocking on the door before him, he inhaled slowly trying to keep a lid on the jealousy that had struck him the night before as he was certain that Guy would be worked up about his mother’s kidnapping.  That thought in itself would keep a lid on the troubles Gabe had building in the back of his mind, though it wouldn’t prevent him from having an honest discussion with Guy as he truly didn’t want to leave that topic untouched, but as the door opened and Mindy stood on the other side wearing a tight fitting t-shirt and a pair of cutoff shorts with hints of more makeup than Gabe had ever seen her in before this moment in time, Gabe decided all bets were off.
“What are you doing here,” Gabe frowned down at her, his otherwise cool demeanor vanishing as he pushed his way past her into Avery’s apartment, “where’s Guy?”
“He’s with his father,” Mindy explained already not liking Gabe’s tone as he pranced around the apartment still in search of Guy even after the news she’d given him, “Look he should be back in a while, but right now, he’s gone.”
“Fine,” Gabe spun around to face her once again as he slid out of his jacket, “that gives you and I an opportunity to have a talk with one another which is clearly long overdue.”
“Look Gabe, whatever is on your mind, I’m really not in the mood for it,” Mindy waved her hand at him dismissively, “as I think I’ve already told you that…”
“I saw you last night,” Gabe threw back at her sharply watching as surprise shone behind Mindy’s dark eyes.
“Excuse me,” Mindy tried to keep her face blank as she could already see the daggers his eyes shot back at her, “what are you talking about?”
“Don’t you dare play innocent with me,” Gabe growled in response, “as I saw you all over Guy like a cheap suit and if you really believe that I’m going to pretend that I buy your Little Miss Innocent act, then you’ve really more presumptuous than I’d imagined.”
“You’re delusional,” Mindy cut back sharply refusing to let him believe he’d had something over her.
“I saw you Mindy.  I saw the way that you were pawing at Guy and I don’t know why you’re even trying,” Gabe stepped in towards her, “as we both know you’re fighting a losing battle because he loves me.”
“Ah yes, and here we are back to how solid your relationship with Guy is,” Mindy glared up at him feeling him strike her with his words, “but where were you last night when he needed you?  Where were you this morning when the kidnapper called and put him in a panic?  Oh that’s right, you couldn’t be bothered as you had to work out something with your ex-wife, which is a very interesting topic of conversation in itself since you’re so quick to throw accusations out in my direction about my feelings for Guy.  You’re the one who was married and clearly still has some kind of connection with the woman he was with, so maybe what you’re pushing off on me are your feelings for the woman you’re still hung up over…”
“I’m not hung up over anyone, but what I am doing is not allowing you to ruin the best thing I have in my life.  I love Guy and when he’s with me, he’s happy.  He can finally be free with me as he doesn’t have to hide who he is and if you care about him, you wouldn’t try to ask him to do that either.  Mindy, what ever you two had once upon a time, isn’t going to be happening again.  He’s not going to wake up tomorrow and decide that he’s what you want him to be.  He’s not the man you wish he could be as his heart isn’t yours for the taking…” Gabe continued anger rising in his voice as his eyes grew wild with jealousy.
“What Guy really needs right now is support because what’s happening with his mother is tearing him apart.  He doesn’t need to be dealing with your catty side just because you feel threatened by my presence in his life.  Guy is my best friend and if you have a problem with it, well tough,” she placed her hands on her hips as she threw out her most lethal looking expression, “because that’s not going to change.”
“And neither is Guy, so it’s time you get those pretty little fantasies about romance out of your head as it’s not going to happen between the two of you,” Gabe threw back at her sharply, “Guy is smart enough not to fall for your games even if he feels obligated to pamper you for your helping him deceive his mother.”
“I’m doing him a favor--one that you agreed to…” Mindy pointed out with a huff.
“Yes, it’s a favor that didn’t require servicing him in the bedroom,” Gabe glared back at her, “That wasn’t part of the arrangement.”
“If things were as incredible between you and Guy as you’d like to lead me to believe, then you wouldn’t feel so threatened by my presence in his life,” Mindy pointed out issuing her own challenge to him.
“I don’t feel threatened,” Gabe shot back at her icily, “but more so I just am trying to spare your heart as I’d hate to see you get your hopes up for not.”
“This isn’t about me and you know it.  This is about your own insecurities pure and simple,” Mindy folded her arms in front of her chest.
“I’m not insecure about my relationship with Guy,” Gabe stepped in towards her, “but I do want to make one thing clear right now as I won’t hesitate in getting you out of the way if need be as you are nothing more than a mere irritation for now.”
“An irritation that you can’t control and that‘s what kills you,” Mindy tilted her eyes up towards his matching his menacing tone, “You know as well as I do that Guy cares about me and he values our friendship very much.  He and I have something with one another that you can’t get a hold on as it goes far beyond your wildest dreams and that’s what really burns you.”
“Mindy, whatever it is that you think you have with Guy, eventually he’ll grow tired of your manipulations,” Gabe turned down his nose to glare at her, “and when he does, you’ll have wished that you would’ve just gracefully ducked out of this situation before it was too late.”
“Is that a threat?” Mindy arched a curious brow.
“That’s a promise,” Gabe replied icily before taking a step back and adjusting the sleeve on his shirt, “and now that we’ve got that out of the way, well I think it would be best if you left so that when Guy gets home he and I can have some time together without any interference.”
“Hmm, well you know as much as I’m sure you’d love for me to indulge you here, I’m afraid it’s not possible,” Mindy remarked defiantly as she stood taller prepared to face him down once again, “as I’m not going anywhere because I’m living here now.”
“Come again?” Gabe blinked back at her before he let out a dry laugh, “Oh please Mindy…”
“Don’t believe me?” she tossed her hair back over her shoulder before breezing past him as she marched towards the front door, “Guy invited me to stay here for a while after last night, which means that only one of us are leaving and it sure as hell isn’t me, so get out,” she threw the door open motioning for him to exit.  When he did nothing, she motioned to the hall once again, “Well, what are you waiting for?  Would you like me to throw you out because you know I’m not above doing so given the way you continue to keep irritating me?”
“I’m not going anywhere until I talk to Guy about this as this situation isn’t happening,” Gabe declared boldly planting himself on the couch with a huff, "I’m staying in this very spot until Guy returns."

"The hell you are," Mindy stormed in towards him ready to tear his head off if need be as she found herself more irritated than ever.  “You’re leaving right now!”
“Make me,” Gabe dared her, staring her down as it seemed that they’d found themselves at a standstill in the moment with the stakes were now higher than ever where only one of them would come out a winner.


Avery rubbed her arms nervously as she stared out the front window, hoping to see some sign of Jade. While their telephone conversation hadn’t gone quite as smoothly as she’d have wanted, Avery still held a glimmer of hope that Jade would come to reason with Grady one on one.

“Hey, any sign of her yet?” Russ asked as he wrapped his arms around his wife and drew her back to his chest.

“No, and I’m really starting to worry, Russ. What if she doesn’t show up? What if she’s really given up on him? Somehow, I don’t think I could live with that because at this point, I’m about ready to kill Grady if he doesn’t stop acting this way,” She frowned as she leaned against her husband.

“That makes two of us,” He agreed as Elliot stepped into the room.

“Did you make any progress with him?” Cheryl asked as she carried a tray of coffee and tea into the room and placed it down upon a coffee table.

“I have no idea,” Elliot shrugged, “I’m just not sure that anyone can make progress with him anymore.”

Avery turned to face Russ as she searched his eyes desperately, “I sincerely hope he’s wrong about that.”

“What’s that?” Cheryl asked as she poured coffee.

“I said I hope that there’s someone who can still get through to him,” Avery spoke up as she crossed the room towards her mother in law.

“Someone certainly needs to,” Russ agreed, “This has got to stop.”

“I think even Grady knows that. I’m just not sure if he has any incentive to,” Elliot informed them as he sat down beside his wife.

“Sure he has incentive,” Russ said hopefully.

“Incentive?” Grady snorted as he made his way down the hall while buttoning a shirt he’d snagged from Russ’s closet, “I don’t have any incentive without Jade.”

“Then you need to give me some incentive as well, Grady,” Jade spoke from the front door.

“Jade,” Grady spoke her name as his eyes fixed upon her, “But…why are you here?”

“I’m asking myself that same question, Grady,” Jade said as she looked him over, “Because it appears that you can’t keep your word to me on any level. And right now, if it wasn’t for Avery, I would not be. And without some very good reasons, I won’t be staying very long,” She warned.

“Avery? What’s she got to do with this?” Grady asked as he turned his hate filled gaze towards her.

“She called me and asked me to come over. She thinks I should still believe in you though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why,” Jade looked to Avery, “You know, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”

“No, Jade, wait,” Avery urged as she moved to Jade’s side quickly, “Just give him a chance here. I think you both need to just give this a chance…if not for each other, then for yourselves because something tells me that you two have a lot of unfinished business between you and a lot of love to boot. Just give this a chance,” She looked to Grady, “The both of you need to just give this a chance.”

Grady looked to Jade as she looked to him. While both had a lot of reservations, it was clear to Avery that the love was very much alive between them. She could only hope that love alone could make them work their issues out instead of walking away from what they had together.

...to be continued...