Episode 90 

Thea leaned into the walls of the elevator with a satisfied smile creeping over her lips. She had so enjoyed taunting Cameron and looked forward to doing it more in the future. He needed to be kept on his toes, and she was just the person to do it. She always had been, and he would remember that eventually. She just wondered how far she’d have to push him to make him open his eyes to that truth.

The doors to the elevators opened, and Thea leisurely stepped out of the car. She watched as a flurry of young ladies scurried past her. She watched them all disappear into Susan’s office before the door closed. Finding her curiosity getting the better of her, she walked down the hall and stepped into the office as well, “What is going on in here? Some sort of convention?”

“Thea,” Susan giggled happily as she tossed some dresses aside, “Come in,” She waved for Thea to enter as she looked around at the attendants, “Get out. All of you. Out!”

The ladies all scurried from the room before closing the door.

“Stocking yourself a new wardrobe on Cameron’s dime?” Thea asked as she fingered some of the cloth.

“Actually I was picking out a dress to wear to dinner tonight,” Susan spoke as she held up one of the dresses against her as she looked in a full length mirror.

“It must be someone special,” Thea noted as she surveyed the selection of dresses.

“Brant Ashford.”

“Isn’t that the wrong brother?” Thea asked with a slight grin as she moved to take a seat in a nearby chair.

“Not exactly,” Susan chuckled as she tossed aside the dress she’d been looking at while picking up another, “Brant invited me to dinner to get to Ken. He wants Ken and I back together as much as I do.”

“Now what would Brant have to gain in that?”

“Who said that Brant had to gain anything from our date?”

“Brant Ashford dating a woman he doesn’t intend to sleep with? Come on, Susan. What’s the catch?”

“Who said anything about a catch?” Susan asked with a smile as she held up another dress before her, “Brant just wants to see his brother happy, and he knows that I can provide that for Ken.”

“Yeah right,” Thea rolled her eyes.

“My, aren’t we skeptical today,” Susan noted as she glanced over her shoulder towards Thea, “What’s got into you?”

“Cameron and his bride are home,” Thea sighed as she watched Susan compare two dresses in the mirror, “And I paid them a visit this morning.”

“How did that go?”

“I think Cameron knows exactly where I stand,” Thea advised, “The blue one. Go with the blue one.”

“This one?” Susan asked as she held up a silky pale blue dress in front of her. She switched out the dress for a rose colored one she’d been favoring, “I like this one better.”

“It figures. So what kind of impression are you trying to make anyway?”

Susan turned to face Thea as she draped the dress over her arm, “I’m going to bowl Ken over with this little dinner. I’m going to make him see that I’m exactly what he’s missing in his life,” She smiled brightly, “Besides, he knows that I’m the only woman who could ignite a fire in his soul, and I’ll show him that we could have that fire again. All he has to do is accept it.”

Thea shook her head, “You’re getting too cocky. In case you haven’t noticed, pride goeth before the fall,” She pointed out.

“It’s not pride. It’s the truth. Ken doesn’t know passion unless he’s with me. This reporter he’s with pales in comparison to what I could do for him,” Susan said firmly with her head held high.

“It’s going to be fun to watch you fall on your face with this,” Thea grinned, “Kenneth Ashford isn’t going to fall for your tactics again. He’s smarter than that.”

“Smarts has nothing to do with it. He’s a man, and men can’t resist the right temptation. I’m just going to have to make sure that he understands that I’m exactly the right temptation,” Susan said with a smile, knowing that she would have Ken right where she wanted him in only a matter of time. With Brant’s help, this might be easier than she had envisioned, and all the more rewarding when the chase was over.


Ken peaked into Caitlin’s hospital room and watched as she slept peacefully. While she’d been putting on a brave face for everyone during their visits, he knew she still felt the toll of her wounds. While her smile had conveyed energy, her eyes had held exhaustion and occasionally pain. He knew that she’d never admit to any of it as she was doing her best to make her recovery easier for everyone else involved, but he could see that she was having trouble from time to time.

He moved beside the bed and watched her intently. Sweet beautiful Caitlin. She seemed at peace in her sleep yet so fragile. It was strange that she’d always struck him as a tough reporter, and yet she had fallen prey to a man she’d once loved. He was learning that she was a contradiction, but one that he loved beyond measure.

Caitlin’s lashes fluttered as she gently awoke from her sleep and caught him watching her. She closed her tired eyes and smiled, “How long have you been here?”

“Not long,” He informed her as he reached out to gently ease the backs of his fingers along her cheek, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m just tired,” She sighed, slightly opening her eyes to look at him, “You look kind of tired yourself.”

“Are you insulting me?” He teased with a smile.

“Hardly,” She smiled, “I’m just trying to hint around that you might go home and get some rest yourself.”

“You need to worry about yourself.”

“Don’t you worry about me worrying about myself. I’ve got that under control, and what I can’t deal with, I have doctors and nurses coming in and out of here to deal with. You, on the other hand, are being stubborn, and I think you need to go home and sleep in your own bed.”

“My goodness,” Ken smiled, “You’re not even fully recovered and getting bossy already,” He winked at her, “But don’t worry. I will go home in a bit and get some rest. I just wanted to spend some time with you.”

She smiled with a roll of her eyes, “You make it very difficult to be stern with you.”

“Annie’s always said that,” He admitted as he lifted her hand to his lips for a tender kiss, “In all seriousness, however, I wanted to check on you. You’ve been putting on a brave face, but I know you’re not quite ready to climb Mount Everest yet,” He met her eyes pointedly, “I just wanted to be sure that you’re getting the rest that you need.”

“I’ll be fine,” She said in frustration.

“I know you will because you’re going to get well in due time. Don’t rush your recovery, Caitlin. I want you well soon, but I want you completely well even if it takes a while. You mean everything to me,” He met her eyes as he spoke, “I love you, and all I want is for you to heal completely.”

“I love you too, Ken,” Caitlin smiled slightly at him, “And I really will be okay. I just hate being in the hospital, and I hate everybody fussing over me even worse.”

“Well get used to it. I’m going to fuss over you for a long time to come,” He winked at her before leaning in for a soft kiss.

“Well, I’ll make an exception for you then,” She spoke as her smile grew and illuminated her features.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay here? I mean…if you want me to stay…” He began to offer before she placed a fingertip over his lips.

“Ken, go home. Get some rest. I’ll do the same. Then we’ll see how we can face the day together tomorrow. Deal?” Caitlin asked with an encouraging smile.

Ken leaned in for another soft kiss, “Deal, but with reluctance,” He said as she giggled at his response. He kissed her once more, “I’ll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams,” He spoke softly before kissing her with a gentle goodbye and left her hospital room. Leaving her was difficult, but the thought of a peaceful night at home didn’t sound like a bad thing really. Maybe he could get some rest, and tomorrow, he’d spend the day at Caitlin’s side.


Richard opened the door to his hotel suite finding Avery and Russell standing outside in the hallway only moments after they’d called to alert Richard that they were coming over.  Now as he saw his daughter standing before him, he reached out to embrace her realizing that she’d been a sight for sore eyes after he’d locked himself up in the hotel suite only managing to drive himself crazy since Brooke’s kidnapping and Judy’s straining to put some distance between the two of them.  While he’d been tempted to reach out to Avery before, he’d tried to maintain a level of distance in this situation as the last thing his pregnant daughter needed was more worries in her life, but now as he hugged her, he began to worry if perhaps this impromptu visit was the beginnings of yet another disaster.
“Sweetheart is something wrong,” Richard questioned turning his attention to his daughter once again as they parted.  He searched her eyes seeing traces of exhaustion carrying over her as she shook her head in response.  “You look tired.”
“Maybe a little bit, but I’ll be fine,” she replied with a slight smile, “I just wanted to come over and tell you in person that Russ and I are leaving town for a little while.”
“Why is something wrong,” he inquired his voice full of concern as he reached out to her once again, “Avery, has something happened?”
“We’re just taking you up on your advice to get away for a little bit,” Russell piped in curling his arm around Avery as he could see her father’s uneasiness with the idea.  “We just thought it would be best right now given all that’s been happening.”
Richard remained silent for a long moment before finally nodding in agreement, “You’re probably right about doing that as now really isn’t the time to be around.  With everything that’s been happening with Bruce and your mother…”
“Do they really believe that Bruce is responsible for taking her?” Avery questioned feeling her stomach tighten with a sense of fear at the thought of what her ex was doing to Brooke.
“It sounds like it’s a very distinct possibility and while he’s making demands for money, well the FBI thinks this is just some round about tactic to distract the rest of us while he makes a bold move in your direction.  He’s been calling your brother and…” Richard started to explain.
“Bruce is still calling Guy?” Avery gave him a confused look, “I mean I knew about that first call he’d made to you and then to Guy later, but why keep calling Guy?  Why not come to me if he’s wanting something from me?”
“Because Guy is your mother’s biggest cheerleader and he knows that Guy will do whatever it takes to get your mother back home again.  Not that I wouldn’t, but…” Richard started to explain.
“Guy’s an easy target,” Russ deduced thinking about the things that Guy had shared with them over their dinner the other night, “Guy had mentioned that there was going to be a call with the time and place for the ransom drop but…”
“But the FBI thinks that’s all smoke and mirrors as they really believe that Bruce is after Avery,” Richard reached for her hand taking it in his, “which is all the more reason why you should get out of here with Russ.  You two should go somewhere that you won’t be bothered and where you can be safe for a while.”
“We were going to go to his family’s cabin, but I wanted you to know before we left just in case there was any word on Brooke,” Avery informed him with worry evident in her tone, “as I hate leaving at a time like this with things so up in the air.”
“We can take care of what’s going on here, but Princess, you really should get away from here.  This can’t be good for you and the baby and if the FBI is right about Bruce, well I don’t want you to be in the center of everything when it finally goes down,” Richard insisted thinking about all that had happened thus far, “If what happened on the island is any indication of what Bruce has in store for the future, then I’d just as soon have you as far away from this place as possible.”
“Daddy, I know you’re concerned, but what about Guy?  I know he can’t be taking this well and if Bruce is targeting him…” Avery began again a frown creeping in over the corners of her mouth.
“Your brother will be okay.  I’m not going to let him shut me out of this one and he has the FBI backing him up on this…” Richard began again not wanting to pull his daughter away from her plans, “Trust me Avery.  Russ has the right idea in taking you two out of here.”
“Even so, I’m worried about Guy--really worried.  He’s had a lot going on lately and the other night over dinner, well he just seemed so upset…” Avery thought to the brief discussion she’d had with her brother about the things that had been happening in his life.
“I know he is, but the FBI assured me that as long as Guy does what they ask of him, then your mother will be home soon and they’ll find a way to get Bruce behind bars,” Richard offered up not sure if he came off as showing his doubts on the validity of that statement.
“And you actually believe that,” Avery arched a skeptical brow as she eyed him closely.
“What I believe is that my daughter shouldn’t be a part of this,” he answered firmly, “this is too dangerous.”
“But I’m the one who brought him into our lives daddy.  If I hadn’t reached out to him after I lost the baby…” she began again feeling the tears burning behind her eyes.
“Avery, you can’t keep blaming yourself for that.  Bruce took advantage of the situation and preyed upon your sadness,” Russell touched her shoulder gently, “This isn’t your fault.”
“Russ is right.  You were vulnerable at the time and he knew full well what he was doing,” Richard added with an icy tone, “I just wish I’d seen it sooner so that I could’ve spared you all of this pain…”
“I should’ve seen it myself.  I should’ve picked up on the fact that something wasn’t right with Bruce, but I was spending all that time trying to hide from my heart,” she turned her eyes up towards Russell feeling a pang of sadness rush over her.
“That’s all in the past sweetheart,” Russell pulled her into his arms wanting nothing more than to keep her close to him as he hated the thought of all the misery that Bruce had put her through, though he was quite certain the real demon they were escaping at a time like this was the one that he’d spent most of his life admiring as it seemed that Grady was the one thing that could either make or break his marriage and Russ knew where he stood on that issue as giving up wasn’t an option.
“Even so it seems like the past keeps coming back to haunt us all because of my mistakes,” she sighed heavily, “Brooke could die and Guy’s in misery and with your family Russ…”
“Avery, Bruce was a madman long before you came into his life as his history proves that and as for my family, well they all love you,” he watched as she opened her mouth to protest before he placed his finger over her lips to silence her words, “the ones that matter anyways…”
“Russ is right,” Richard piped in oblivious of what had happened with Grady’s intrusion upon Russ and Avery’s happiness, “You shouldn’t be worried about something like that right now as it’s unnecessary.  Your mother will come home again and your brother will be fine and when you and Russ are away it’ll give you both some time to think about that beautiful grandchild of mine working towards making his or her way in the world.  That’s what really matters.”
“I know daddy,” Avery nodded turning to face him as she fought to contain the tears that built up behind her eyes.  Throwing her arms around him, she hugged him tightly wishing that somehow she could find a way to erase all of the chaos that had followed their lives over the last decade or so, “I just love you so much and I hate all this is doing to our family.”
“Our family will pull through and if I know anything about your mother, well it’s that she’s a fighter and by the time she gets back to town, she’ll be kicking and screaming for justice and Bruce won’t have a fighting chance,” he tried to assured her squeezing her in his arms as he looked to Russell, “You take good care of my baby girl while you’re away.”
“I’ll guard her with my life,” Russell promised as the trio said their good-byes to one another and Richard found himself praying that by the time Russ and Avery’s trip away from Coral Valley was completed, they would be coming home to good news instead of the disaster that he feared would be waiting in the wings after Bruce’s latest act of madness.


Jade watched Grady carefully as he stood before her. She couldn’t remember a time when he looked sexier, and yet she also couldn’t think of a time when she wanted to strangle him more. As she met his eyes, she knew that a fight was at hand, but she certainly didn’t want to fight right now.

“I love you, Jade,” Grady repeated softly as he continued to look at her.

“I love you too, Grady, but it doesn’t matter. We have so many things to talk about, and none of them have to do with love,” She sighed as she moved to sit on the edge of her desk.

He raised an admiring eyebrow as he admired the length of leg exposed by her position. He took a deep breath as he turned his eyes away to focus on their discussion, “I have a lot to apologize for.”

“Yeah, you do,” She agreed, “But I think the person you need to apologize to most is Avery, not me.”

“Jade, about Avery…” He began.

“I don’t want to hear any more of your rationale, Grady. Avery is in love with your brother, and Russ is in love with her. Get over it.”

“It’s not that simple. There are a lot of issues here.”

“Like what? Like the fact that you don’t like her?” She rolled her eyes, “Well, tough. It doesn’t matter whether you like her or not. Russ loves her, and she is his wife. That’s something you’re going to have to just accept.”

“I can’t just accept that she’s going to upset his life again, and she will. It’s just a matter of time.”

“You can’t make that kind of assumption, Grady.”

“Can’t I? Look at her history.”

“If we’re going to look at history, perhaps we should focus on you. If Avery is so destined to hurt Russ again, can’t the same be said about you and me? You’ve created a pattern of upsetting me. So I suppose history dictates that you’re just going to do it again.”

“It’s not the same thing.”

“Why? Just because you say so?” Jade shook her head with a heavy sigh, “You’re just not going to budge at all, and see that things aren’t the way you seem to perceive them to be.”

Grady stuffed his hands into his pockets and frowned, “Jade…”

“Look, this isn’t about Avery any way. At least she’s not the issue between us. It’s an issue of trust,” She focused on him intently, “I thought I could trust you, but I’m learning that’s not the case.”

“You can trust me, Jade. I love you, and…”

“I can’t trust you, Grady,” She declared sadly, “I thought that you would be the man I could put my faith in. I thought that I could love you and put my faith in you, and I would never have to worry about that faith being misplaced. Over the last several days I’ve learned that my faith was terribly misplaced.”

“No, Jade,” He scrambled as he reached out to her, “It wasn’t. It isn’t. I love you, and I would do anything in the world to prove to you that you can trust me.”

Jade rubbed her temple gently, “I’m just not sure there’s anything you can do to prove that, Grady. It’s too hard to trust you only to be disappointed.”

“I never wanted that, Jade. It’s just that when I see Russ headed down the same road I was on…” Grady sighed, “I just can’t help but lash out at the person responsible.”

“You can’t do that, Grady. Russ is responsible for the path his life takes. He makes his own decisions, and he doesn’t want your interference. You need to respect that, but you don’t. It’s time you learned that Russ is not your responsibility.”

“He’s my brother, Jade. What am I supposed to do?” He asked in frustration.

“You are supposed to let go. You warn him, you let him know you love him, and then if his heart gets broken, you try to console him. What you aren’t supposed to do is try to rule over his life. He’s your brother, not your two year old child. You are not in control of his life, and you never will be. You should be focusing on your own life, Grady.”

Grady moved to the window and looked outside with a heavy sigh, “I just…” He paused before speaking frankly, “It’s easier to try to prevent Russ from making a mistake than to stop myself from doing something stupid.”

“You’re doing something stupid in trying to stop Russ from making a mistake,” She pointed out as she turned to look at him, “Grady, you have to worry about yourself first because in all honesty, it seems as if you are dealing with Russ’s life to keep from sorting out your own.”

He looked towards her and nodded, “I just don’t know where to start.”

“I’m no expert,” Jade spoke as she stood and placed a hand upon his arm, “But I would think you’d start with your sobriety. You need to find a way to stay sober above all else, Grady. After that, the rest will fall into place.”

“It sounds so easy, but it just…” He closed his eyes and sighed, “I just want to drown myself in bourbon, and I don’t know how to resist the impulse without something else to focus on.”

“Then focus on the future, Grady. Focus on what can happen if you just reclaim your sobriety. Because I promise you if you start working on your own problems and start sorting out your issues without lashing out at Avery,” She urged him to look at her, “If you can start living your own life, then I promise you that I will be here for you. I love you, Grady, and I’ll stand by your side…if you’ll let me. But I can’t live a life based on lies. I have to know that when I trust you with something that I won’t be betrayed.”

“I love you, Jade, and I don’t want to betray your trust, but…I just don’t think I can make any promises to you right now. My heart wants to…god does it want to,” Grady sighed, “But my head is so screwed up.”

“How can we change that?” She asked as she searched his eyes, “How can I help?”

He took her hands in his and met her eyes, “You can’t do anything. This is something I have to do, and I know that I have to do it. I have to do this on my own, but there is something you can do. Just love me, Jade, and don’t give up on me. Your love means everything to me, and I’ll need your love to boost me through this. I know I can do this. I know I can stay sober. Dealing with Avery is an entirely different subject, but I will try to work on that after I secure my sobriety.”

“That’s all I ask. Your sobriety is the most important thing here. After that, we’ll figure a way to work on the rest,” Jade reasoned as she slipped her arms around him.

Grady hugged her to him, hoping he could find a way to truly secure his sobriety and fight his way to the kind of life he wanted to lead. More than anything he wanted to keep Jade in his life, and he would do whatever it took to make sure she would stay.


Zack watched Johanna closely, “You can’t expect me to make a decision in a split second, Jo.”

“I’m not asking you to. I’m just telling you that I’m definitely going back to Seattle, and you can either stay or come with me,” Johanna shrugged.

“Jo,” He sighed in frustration, “I can’t go back to Seattle. It would be moving backwards in my life instead of forwards.”

“I’m sure our baby will find that very comforting,” She rolled her eyes.

“Jo, come on. There has to be a way we can work this out,” He took her towards a free table and sat down with her, “We have to figure out something here.”

“No, you have to figure something out here. I’ve already figured out what I’m going to do. I’m going home to have my baby,” She gently touched his arm, “Zack, you could come with me. It would be so good for us to be home again. I’m sure we could find a way to work things out if we only had the chance to get back to where we made the most sense.”

He met her eyes, “Jo, I can’t go back to Seattle.”

“Why not? You had a good life, and your career was on the fast track. You were going to be the head of research at University Hospital in no time. I still don’t understand why you left the way you did.”

“I couldn’t go on living my life as a mere shadow of what I wanted it to be.”

“What is it you want your life to be exactly?”

“I want to do research without the bureaucracy breathing down my neck. I want to practice medicine without feeling like I’m bowing down to the system. In Seattle, I felt like I was constantly being pushed and prodded by insurance companies, drug companies, and anyone else who was looking to make a buck from someone’s misfortune. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to save lives and help people. I can’t do that if I’m always bowing down to some suit with a thousand questions to ask about how big his profit margin is going to be.”

“My god, Zack…when did you get so cynical?” She asked as she searched his eyes, “You never told me you felt this way.”

“I was looking for a way to change it, and when I couldn’t, I figured I needed to change my location instead. I can’t go back to Seattle. I can’t go back to that, Jo. I’m doing good work here in Coral Valley.”

“Can’t you find a suburban hospital near Seattle? We could live in the suburbs, and I could commute to the magazine,” She offered, “We could be together for our baby, and you could still practice the kind of medicine you wanted.”

“I’m not going back, Jo. I’m settled in here, and I like it here.”

“Is it this town you like so much or the proximity to Blake Ashford?” Jo held up her hand to stop his automatic defense, “You don’t have to pretend for me. I know that you love her. I’ve seen it, but something tells me that you’re going to have a hard road to even get her to accept you as a friend again.”

“And it wasn’t helped by your little announcement there,” He frowned.

“Too bad, Zack. It’s the truth, and she needs to deal with it,” She sighed, “I’m not going to argue here. I’ve got to get my things packed for my flight tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? So soon?” He asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” She half laughed, “I have a life to get back to, Zack.”

He frowned, “We still have to find a way to work this out.”

“We’ll have to do it by phone,” Johanna shrugged as she stood, “I’m going home, Zack. I guess this is goodbye,” She leaned down and kissed his cheek before she walked out of the restaurant.

Zack ran his fingers through his hair and groaned. Things just seemed to be getting worse at every turn, and he didn’t know how he was going to turn them around.


Blake snuggled into the warmth of Seth’s arms feeling so many emotions weighing down upon her as it seemed that time stood still for the both of them after the experience they’d shared with one another.  While she hadn’t planned on seducing him when she’d come over seeking out comfort in his arms, she had to admit that right now she felt as if she was on top of the world floating in the clouds.  At long last she and Seth had finally crossed into uncharted territory with one another and as a smile spilled over her passion-flushed features, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of completion filling her up inside.
“What are you thinking about beautiful,” Seth questioned lazily tracing her spine with his fingers as his muscled arm curved in around her keeping her safe and warm in his embrace.
“About how amazing you are,” she confessed tipping her head up to get a better look at him as she rolled on top of his body reveling in the connection between them as his arms kept their embrace upon her.
“Is that right,” he couldn’t help but smile as the tips of her hair tickled over his chest, bringing forth a whole new set of welcome sensations at the contact between them when she lay over him, her soft curves against his with the most intimate skin to skin contact remaining.
She nodded eagerly teasing her fingertip over the center of his chest before skimming it over his nipple gingerly, “Oh yeah…as you were well worth the wait handsome.”
“I was thinking that very same thing about you,” he shivered at her touch unable to contain himself as he pulled her up to meet his mouth in a desire-laced kiss, “although I must confess this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I promised you the world.”
“Whatever promises you made before paled in comparison to the heaven you just gave me Seth,” Blake whispered heatedly against his mouth as her arms branched out onto the pillows one on each side of his head as she lingered over him, holding him captive to her feminine charms, “This is…incredible…”
“This isn’t what I had in mind for today at all, but somehow I have to admit that I’m rather elated that you’ve come and changed all of my plans,” he couldn’t help but tease as he felt her wiggling above him from beneath the thin sheet that draped over him.
“Oh I think there’s more to that phrase than you’re letting on as I think that there are some very prominent parts growing rather elated at the moment,” she purred dropping her hands down beneath the sheet to seek out the very part of him that had suddenly captured her complete and undivided attention.
“Whoa Blake,” Seth wiggled beneath her feeling her fingers dancing over him mercilessly, “maybe we should slow down a minute here.”
“Why,” she questioned curling her lip in a pout, “I mean obviously we did that slow and drawn out thing before, but now I was thinking that maybe we could…”
“We should probably talk here for a few minutes,” Seth insisted taking in a sharp breath as he collected her wrist dragging it up and out from beneath the blankets before lifting it to his lips to offer up a tender kiss upon her pulse point.
“Talk huh,” Blake eyed him closely, “Okay, why do I get the feeling that this is going to kill the mood we have going?”
“I don’t plan on killing anything, but what I do have in mind is something that we kind of skipped over before,” Seth confessed reaching out to touch her cheek gently as his eyes gazed up into hers, “Blake, I just need you to know that what happened with us…well, it’s something I’ve wanted for a very, very long time…”
“As have I and now that we’ve done it,” she couldn’t help but smile, “now that we’ve made love…”
“It means that things are changing for us,” Seth stated his face a sudden mask of seriousness as Blake felt him shift beneath her bringing her back down upon the mattress once again before he hovered over her, the warmth of his strong, solid chest skimming over her bare breasts as he held her.
“Seth…I don’t think that now is the best time to…” she began fearing what might be on his mind as her thigh brushed in against his caging the muscled sinewy contours of him between her soft, sleek curves.
“Now is the perfect time for me to tell you what I’m feeling,” he whispered a breath away from her lips, “as I stated once before that when we finally made love it would be something for us both to remember…”
“Which it has been,” Blake nodded in response curling her arms around his shoulders, “but I hope that we’re not finished with making memories just yet with one another…”
“We’re far from finished,” he growled in a primal tone filled with the thick heat of desire that she’d pulled from him time and time again in the past, but before she could coax him completely to the promise of passion once again, he pulled away from her breathlessly resting his forehead against hers, “but I need you to know that I meant what I said before about our making love.  Blake, I knew that when we had this taste of paradise…when I was finally given the chance to hold you in my arms--to feel your love surrounding me, filling me up inside, well I knew there would be no turning back as my heart is yours completely.  You had it before, but now,” he paused memorizing her features as his thick finger tip brushed up against her cheekbone, taking in her soft, sensual lips before he turned his gaze to her eyes once again, “I just don’t want any misconceptions about what it is you mean to me or where my heart is in the matter.”
“Seth, I know,” she nodded in all seriousness seeing the love behind his eyes, “Despite everything that’s happened, I know you love me and I love you too…”
“I know you do,” Seth whispered nibbling on her lip for one lingering moment before a breath escaped his mouth, eliciting what almost sounded like a painful sigh, “but I’m not going to lie to myself or to you and pretend that I believe you’re over Zack…”
“Seth,” Blake’s eyes widened in response surprised that he would bring her other lover up to her at such an intimate moment between them, “why would you say…”
“Blake, we both know how hurt you were when you came over here,” he reminded her poignantly, “and while that doesn’t change what happened between us, I know that you have a place in your heart for Zack--a place that still feels for him and cares very much about what you two had with one another.”
“Seth, that has nothing to do with us,” Blake began desperately seeing a flicker of sadness behind his eyes, “What I felt for Zack isn‘t…”
“Feel for Zack,” Seth corrected her another sigh rushing from within as he eased up his hold on her, “Blake, you don’t have to hide your heart from me or pretend that you don’t care about him because I think we both deserve better than that.  You can’t keep lying to your heart because it’ll only be one more thing that stands between us…”
“Seth, I…” Blake stopped herself unwilling to lie to him as she released her hold on him, feeling a distance growing between them as he followed her lead, sinking back onto the mattress as she looked to his bedroom ceiling wondering what she could say at a moment like this as she held his sheet against her body.  She could feel him so very close, yet so far away as he lay beside her and as the tears pooled in her eyes, she realized that while so many things had changed there was still so much that was up in the air--so many things that she couldn’t have a definitive answer for and yet, as she lay beside the man who turned her world around in more ways than she could imagine, she finally found the strength to face him.
“It’s okay Blake,” Seth closed his eyes as Blake propped herself up on her elbow to see the inner conflict building over his features, “You don’t have to say something you’ll regret later as I was well aware of what Zack means to you before I brought you in here.  However, with that thought in mind, I don’t want you to think that this had anything to do with my knowledge of his holding a place in your heart.  I don’t want you to believe I was trying to even the score or pull something over you…”
“Seth, I didn’t think that,” she reached out towards him, uncurling her fingers over his chest, feeling the warmth of him radiating just a fraction of an inch beneath her finger tips before she reluctantly pulled away, “I don’t think that…”
“Good because I just need you to know that I love you Blake.  I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life and I just need you to know that I tried so hard to make things right between us.  I fought like hell to wait to hold you like this until I was certain that I was the only man in your heart, but now as I sit here thinking about the other man who has a place in your life--the man whom I’ve found myself more jealous of than I care to admit, I realize that I wouldn’t have things any other way.  No wait, that came out wrong,” he opened his eyes as he turned to his side to face her.  Seeing the confusion and turmoil that spread over her features, he reached out to her, “as if I had my way, I’d be the only man in your heart loving you with every breath in me as we looked to our future together knowing that we have forever, but the reality of the situation is that as it stands I’m not the only one…”
“Seth, don’t…” Blake pleaded with him watching as he choked up on emotion, “Please don’t say such things when…”
“Blake, the point is that I don’t care.  I mean I do…I care more than I want to admit as I’m so envious of the man who has been such a profound part of your life, but in the same breath, I wouldn’t trade what we have with one another for anything in the world,” he explained desperately reaching for his hand and placing it over his chest, “I love you with all my heart Blake and in holding you like this, it’s a dream come true for me.  I know that this road to romance won’t be easy for us, but I need you to know that I’m willing to give you whatever you need.  I’m willing to be what you need me to be as it means more to me than anything and if I had to think about not having you in my life--in losing you all over again, well, I just couldn’t live like that…”
“Seth, you’re not going to lose me,” Blake tried to assure him.
“Don’t make promises that you can’t keep Blake,” he warned her poignantly, “Just know that my heart is yours and when you want it, well I’ll always be here for you loving you…”
“Seth, I love you too,” Blake blurted out unable to contain the tears that carried over her, “and while I’m not going to deny that there’s a place in my heart for Zack--a place that has me confused and feeling things that I know I shouldn’t feel at a time like this, well the truth to the matter is that you’re the one I want to be sharing this moment with.  You’re the man whose arms I need to feel around me--the man who made beautiful love to me and gave me that special thing that I needed,” she reached for his hand placing it over her chest as his gaze returned to hers sinking into her soul as she laced their fingers with one another, giving him the chance to feel the way her heart pounded with passion and love for him as her words came out in a low, sultry whisper, “that I need--you Seth.  I need your smile when I’m feeling down and your arms around me to keep me safe from the world around me when it comes crashing down, but most of all…I need your love.  Seth, you’ve been my saving grace in so many ways that no one else has even been able to touch and when we weren’t together, well I was only fooling myself to try to pretend that I didn’t love you--that I couldn’t love you, when you’re so deep in my system that sometimes I start to wonder where I end and you begin.”
“Blake…” he watched as her lower lip began to quiver with the emotion that her voice carried as he felt her body burning with love for him.
“Seth, when we made love before it wasn’t just about our bodies seeking out some kind of release--it wasn’t about my being upset with Zack or needing to escape from the misery of what I’d witnessed, but more so it was about what we were meant for with each other.  Our making love was everything I wanted it to be and more and I don’t have any intentions of walking away from the door we’ve opened up with one another,” she continued passionately as she felt his touch upon her, “Seth, I love you and if you’re thinking that I have any regrets at all about what’s happened then you need to banish the thoughts before they eat away at you because the truth to the matter is that I love you Seth Alexander and if I can’t feel your arms around me--if I can’t get lost in you like before when we made love like that, then I don’t know where that will leave me.  Seth, I tried to be without you and I thought that it could make me complete and happy, but all it did was make me long for this--for you and now that I have you, I don’t ever intend on letting you go.  I know that the situation isn‘t as simple as we both wish it to be, but the truth to the matter is that I don‘t want to lose you.  I can‘t fathom the thought of going through my life without you in it and even as we talk about this, all I can think about is how right it feels when you‘re loving me…”
“Loving you is something that I’ve waited a lifetime for,” Seth whispered unable to take the distance between them as he pulled her to him for a desperate kiss, “I know we have so many things ahead of us…”
“But we can find a way,” Blake tried to assure him hoping that this was only the beginning for them as her heart longed to lose itself in Seth all over again.
“God I hope so,” Seth confessed curling his arms around her as he pulled her on top of him wanting nothing more than to keep the connection between them as he felt the need to prove himself to Blake again.
“Seth, I know we can,” she swore to him, touching his face tentatively as she wanted to seal everything about this moment in her mind forever.
“I love you Blake,” he whispered against her lips urging her down over his body as he collected a kiss from her tantalizing mouth once again only to hear the ringing in his head as it seemed that a love song was playing for them--adding life and color to this magical moment between them, but as the melody in his ears became more of an external feeling, he felt her pull away.
“What is that?” she questioned turning her head in towards the source of the sound seeing a ridiculous looking Dopey alarm clock sounding off from the nightstand beside the bed.
“That was a present Jade gave me when I was nine,” Seth confessed extending his long arm over to turn the alarm off as a frustrated sigh spilled from his lips as he continued to speak to her, “along with a reality check as I have an assignment this afternoon.”
“An assignment,” her lips curled in a pout as if the word were foreign to her.
Seth nodded regretfully, “I made this shoot up with this school months ago and I guess I kind of forgot about it until, well until Dopey decided to be a buzz kill.”
“Damn Dopey,” Blake frowned in response glaring at the hideous alarm clock, “well, can’t you cancel?”
“I wish I could…” he groaned his hands tracing her hips as she lay atop of him, “now more than ever, but I promised those children that I’d…”
“I know,” she sighed placing her index finger over the center of his lips, “and it’s something that I love about you.”
“I love everything about you especially right now when I have your arms around me,” his gaze traveled leisurely over the curves of her body as she sat upright straddling him as the sheet fell down off of her body revealing all her beautiful curves to him.  Suddenly the photo shoot seemed to be the last thing on his mind as the warmth of her sparked yet another oh too welcome reaction that was entirely ill planned at the moment.
“What time do you have to be there,” Blake questioned shaking her blonde hair back behind her shoulders as she hovered over him, reaching for his hands and bringing them up over her body to guide his touch over her curves.
“Six-thirty…sevenish…” he shrugged his shoulders finding himself mesmerized by her movements as his hands brushed up over each and every sensual curve of her body.

“Is the shoot far away,” she questioned curiously watching him struggle beneath her to contain himself and his responses to her.

“About two blocks from here,” he admitted sucking in a sharp breath as he watched her intently.
“Well that gives us some time,” Blake decided sneaking in another look at the clock, “as I’m sure that you don’t take forever to shower right…”
“Not normally, but with what you’re giving me here Blake,” he felt a lump grow in his throat at the sight of her as she rocked her body over his shimming over his abdomen with a wicked smirk teasing him with the shameful thoughts of completion between them.
“How about you give yourself ten minutes for that as I’m sure we could share a quick shower and then go over to the shoot together--that is if you’ll have me accompany you…” she suggested with the beginnings of a slow, sensual smile that turned him into putty in her hands…well in all the right places as there were other places that she’d clearly had at her full attention as she straddled him.
“I’d love to have you--” he sucked in a sharp breath watching as she leaned forward, giving his eyes another jolt of torture as she reached out to the nightstand before returning to kneel over him once again as he completed his sentence, “with me…”
“Good answer as it gives us some more time for the important things in life,” Blake smiled approvingly tearing open the condom package before removing the latex within and rolling it gingerly over Seth’s obvious arousal, “as I was thinking that maybe we could try something new here--something that I’ve never really experienced before…”
“And what might that be that you were thinking about trying…” Seth grew speechless sucking in a breath feeling her shift over him joining them as one as her hips rocked over his seating herself over his body.
“I was hoping we could work on another trip to the stars,” she confessed easing herself into this new experience between them as she realized that being with Seth was exactly what she needed at a time like this.  While she certainly wouldn’t have imagined being in this position with him not so long ago, she realized that as his eyes held her, his touch reached down deep into her seeking out her heart that suddenly the world had come full circle and it seemed that there would be no more hiding from the way he made her feel even if it meant forcing herself to face all the things that she‘d vowed to keep locked away forever.


Brant looked around the mansion trying to banish the thoughts of Russ and Avery taking off with one another from the office as it seemed the more time he spent dwelling on it, the angrier he got about the whole situation.  Sure he’d come to an understanding of how the game needed to be played, but he found himself rather irritated by the notion of having to follow the rules like this.  Somehow he just wanted to skip to the finish line and claim his prize, but patience certainly would be in order as he had a bigger goal in mind for what lay ahead.  He needed to stay focused, and focus he would as he thought to the night he had laid out before him with his dinner day with Susan.
Susan, he mused to himself feeling a smile spread over his features as he realized that while Ken might not understand what he was doing now, in the end Ken would one day thank him for this.  Right now Ken was too busy been played for a fool by that sleazy reporter that was on Russell Denton’s payroll and it was about time that Ken got his head out of the clouds.  Sure, Susan might not be the first choice for happily ever after, but at this point, Brant was working on just getting his brother a good roll in the hay.  Susan could clearly give Ken that and in some strange way Ken and Susan actually enjoyed that type of relationship with one another which in itself was an almost frightening thought given how straight laced Ken was, but if it was going to get Ken off of Brant’s back and away from Caitlin, then Brant was all for it.
Now there was the whole deal with getting Ken back home before this night was a total washout since Brant was well aware of his brother’s need to be around his damsel in distress, which was enough to make Brant want to vomit, but soon that too would be a thing of the past.  As Brant finished getting dressed for the evening putting all the classic touches that he was known for up front and center for what would come off as being a romantic evening that would leave Ken seething with rage and more than ready to face his lingering feelings for Susan, Brant had to find the right way to bring his brother back home for the big event.  This plan hinged on Ken’s walking in and finding things in such a way that it would drive him mad with jealousy and only then would Brant be one step ahead.
“Now to bring you home and see what I‘m up to Ken,” Brant mused with the beginnings of a smile reaching for the phone to call and check in on his brother, but before he could dial, he heard a silence on the other end of the line causing him to wonder if the line was dead, but before he could question it further, Susan’s voice plummeted through the receiver.
“You’d better be ready because my sources tell me that Ken just left the hospital a few minutes ago and was headed in the direction of the mansion,” Susan ordered him gruffly as Brant couldn’t help but chuckle at her tone.
“Gee, hello to you too Susan,” Brant continued to laugh, “and here I was wondering if you were eager for dinner tonight, but I think you’ve just answered my question.”
“Yeah well right now, I’m more interested in the questions that Ken will be having for us when he comes home to see you and I together, which according to my sources won’t be long from now, so get your ass down to the front door and let me in as it‘s freezing out here,” she snapped back at him hanging up the phone as Brant had to hand it to her--she really was going all out for this it seemed if she’d had tabs kept on Ken, which could prove to work in their favor after all.
Casually making his way down the long, winding staircase Brant could hear the pounding on the front door.  Unable to keep himself from laughing, Brant leisurely unlocked the door, pulling it open just enough to see Susan standing before him tapping her foot impatiently as she looked fit to be tied.  She glared up at him a scowl touching over the corners of her mouth as a crease formed just over her brows.
“Good evening Susan,” Brant greeted her cheerfully as she pushed him out of her way while marching into the mansion with a huff.
“It will be when your brother gets here,” Susan declared spinning around to face him as her eyes gave him a brief once over taking in his appearance, “that’s not bad, but you could use some work…”
“Come again,” Brant blinked back at her watching as she stepped forward reaching for his tie, unknotting it and tossing it over his shoulder before her perfectly sculpted nails tore at the buttons on his shirt, opening the top four buttons before taking a step back.  Her eyes penetrated him as if she was contemplating her next move before she stepped in towards him again.  Leaning up on her toes, she ran her fingers through his hair mussing it up for a few seconds before she took yet another step back.
“What do you think you’re…” Brant started watching as she kicked off the heels she’d been wearing, taking the time to allow the thin strap of the sexy dress she’d had on to fall down over her shoulder.
“We don’t have a lot of time Brant,” Susan explained matter of fact taking in the scent of the candles burning in the other room.  She turned towards the source of the flickering luminance before nodding in his direction once again, “Were you planning on us going in there?”
“That was the general idea,” he confessed feeling her reach for his hand as she practically dragged him through his home clearly a woman on a mission and that mission was to get some kind of rise out of his brother.
“Well, it wasn’t my first choice, but I suppose it’ll do,” Susan decided stepping into the room as she took in what Brant perceived would be the thing that would capture his brother’s attention and drive him to delirium in seeing her with Brant.  “Though you have entirely too many candles going here.  We need a little less light…”
“Gee, somehow I think you and I had different ideas about what was going to happen tonight,” Brant gave her a strange look, “as I was kind of thinking that maybe we’d have dinner and then…”
“We don’t have time Brant.  Ken‘s already on his way home,” Susan shook her head as her frown returned once again.  She marched towards him, bringing her fingers down the sides of his now open shirt before tearing at it, ripping a few buttons from the material, before she shoved him down onto the couch behind where he was standing.
“Hey…” Brant began to protest as Susan adjusted her dress a bit before taking the bold move to sit in his lap, allowing herself the time to get ready for the performance of a lifetime as she wanted Ken to find her and Brant in a position that would certainly make an impression on him that would drive him into a frenzy as that was when Ken was at his best it seemed.
“Look, we can work out the details later, but right now, this is exactly what we need to go for with Ken as he understands this the best with me,” Susan informed him shaking her hair out a bit before she turned her attention to the lapel on Brant’s shirt.  “Oh and one last thing…”
“What’s that…” he began to ask as she leaned forward leaving a lipstick stain on his shirt before sitting up straighter once again.
“Much better,” Susan approved of her own handiwork as she was sure Ken would be seething with jealousy once he’d seen her with Brant.  Sure, Ken might try to play off the feeling of being hurt and betrayed, but after a few rounds of going at it--arguing with one another, Ken would be more than willing to take out all those frustrations with her in bed and she couldn’t wait.
“You sure don’t waste any time, do you?” Brant watched her closely wondering how she suddenly became the one in control of running the show for his brother.
“Not when I’m determined to get what I want,” she offered up with a twisted smirk knowing it would be only a matter of minutes before Ken walked through the front door and got the surprise of his lifetime that would ultimately lead her back to him, but first, well now it was time to get ready for that impending victory.
“Obviously,” Brant noted eyeing her with what appeared to be a mixture of astonishment and admiration as his arms curled around her waist pulling her in closer to him adjusting to the situation they‘d come into within a few minutes with one another.
“Ken’s just going to get a taste of what could be his if he’d stop being so stubborn and eventually, well he’ll come around,” she vowed as her fingers tapered off over Brant’s shoulders tentatively and she smiled at him, now more determined than ever, “Let the games begin.”


Guy stood out on the balcony at the apartment looking down at the world below as he stewed over what had been happening in his life over the last few months.  While he’d hoped that things would come full circle for him, he was starting to wonder if the madness would ever end.  Last night Gabe had been called away just a few minutes shy of Brant’s visit as Noelle was back to her usual nonsense and Mindy had never returned to the apartment, thus putting more weight upon Guy’s shoulders as his concerns for her had left him feeling restless and up most of the night.  Now as he sipped on the scotch he’d located from the hidden far corner of one of Avery’s kitchen cabinets, he looked down to the world below thinking about his life and about what came next as Brant had given him the key to fixing one of the situations that had swept him up in, but after that, well there was no telling what came next.
“Quit dwelling on it,” he ordered himself finishing off the glass in hand before seeking out the bottle that he’d set down on the balcony floor.  Grasping the neck of the bottle in his hand, he sank down to the ground, lazily circling the empty glass in his hand before launching it out over the balcony not really caring what happened next as he closed his eyes leaning back up against the door wall to his sister’s apartment.
It felt like the wind was rushing through him, over him and chilling deep down inside of him in that moment as while he was certain that now would be the time when he should be rejoicing that Brant had given him the means to help his mother, it was the waiting that was killing him.  In the waiting, it only mounted all his concerns and he couldn’t dismiss the way he was feeling as he was without his mother, without Gabe and without Mindy to share his thoughts with.  He was alone with the stale scotch he’d sought out as it had clearly seen it’s better days long ago, but as he lifted the bottle to his lips, he tried to focus on nothing but the wind that surrounded him, though he felt himself failing miserably as his life seemed to flash before his eyes.  It seemed with every twist and turn he was making a mistake and nothing was going to remedy the situation as it seemed to just suck him in deeper into the darkness.
“Guy,” Mindy’s voice spoke tentatively into the night air as he could sense her presence on the balcony.  Keeping his eyes close as he listened to the sounds of her approaching, he took in a long, cleaning breath before speaking up.
“I was wondering if you’d ever come back,” Guy confessed with a sigh finally willing his eyes open as he turned his head upward finding her standing in the doorway looking like a mirror of his own exhausted reflection.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call,” Mindy began making her way further out onto the balcony as she noted Guy’s disheveled appearance, “I just thought I’d give you and Gabe some time alone with one another.”
“Noelle beckoned him once again,” Guy rolled his eyes shaking his head at the thought, “but right now that’s not really important I suppose.  I mean it is in it’s own way, but not really seeing as…oh never mind…”
“Guy, what’s going on,” Mindy questioned noting the bottle in his hand as she sat down beside him, carefully tucking her legs away beneath her before reaching for the bottle, “You don’t need this.”
“No probably not, but I want it,” he clenched it tighter as his eyes returned to hers, “because right now it’s helping me…”
“It sure doesn’t look like it,” she argued with him snatching it away from him before setting it on the far side of the balcony away from him, “so really, what’s going on?”
“Where were you last night?” he questioned unable to keep his curiosity under control.
“I stayed with Donna,” she admitted honestly, “I ran into her after I took a walk and as I said before I thought I’d give you and Gabe some time alone…”
“Mindy, what happened between the two of you while I was gone,” Guy questioned facing her once again, “what was going on?”
“Nothing worth rehashing,” she shrugged her shoulders, “as it’s not really worth getting into.”
“Gabe seems to have some notions about your feelings for me and I know we brushed upon them, but…” he paused seeking out something from her eyes as the night air swept over them.
“But it’s nothing,” she waved her hand dismissively, “as I was just being impulsive the other night and I wasn’t thinking…”
“No you were and I think it’s time I start apologizing for what I’ve put you through.  I’m such a coward Mindy and if I’d just been able to tell my mum the truth, then no one would be hurting right about now.  I wouldn’t be sitting here questioning everything in my life and wondering if it’s all beyond repair…” he sighed heavily, “and you wouldn’t have to be subjected to all of this either I’d imagine.”
“Guy, you’re my friend and I care a great deal about you…” she started reaching for his leg tentatively, “that isn’t going to change regardless…”
“Yet, I’m still hurting you,” Guy pointed out with a frown, “I’m making your life difficult and I’m ruining something wonderful we have between us…”
“Guy, it’s not your fault.  I’ve just been confused lately and when you came back, well it just got me thinking about the way things used to be…”
“The way they used to be,” he repeated with a tiny hint of laughter, “We sure had a lot going on back in the day, didn’t we?”
“We sure did,” Mindy nodded feeling a bit more at ease as she lay her head upon his shoulder instinctively, “We got into a lot of trouble with one another it seems…”
“Some things never change, do they?” Guy couldn’t help but smile as his glossy eyes turned to her once again.
“Apparently not,” Mindy threw back a tiny smile of her own as she saw a sadness behind his dark eyes.
“You know you’re still the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” Guy couldn’t help but reach out to her touching her cheek tenderly as a chill raced over her.  Whether it was the wind or everything to do with Guy, she couldn’t be certain, but for a moment she was mesmerized.
“And you’re still my handsome one,” Mindy replied with a sad smile, “the only Guy in my heart…”
“Your heart,” Guy repeated poignantly, “you mean the one that I’ve broken into pieces again and again…”
“Guy, I’m the one who was falling and I’m the one who has refused to open myself to the truth.  You’ve never made any points to deceive me as you’ve always been honest about where we stand with one another, but like an idiot, I guess I just wished that one some level I could change you…that I could make you what I wanted you to be…”
“And what do you want me to be Mindy,” Guy questioned lazily, the faint scent of alcohol upon his breath, “What would make you happy?”
Mindy remained silent for a long moment in time thinking of all the things that had gone through her mind over the brief time they’d reconnected.  Finally she offered up a sad smile as she fought to keep her heart under control, “A dream I could never have…”
“I wish I could make it come true for you Mindy,” he whispered, his breath a faint sound above the air as he touched her cheek, “I wish that I could keep you smiling and happy forever…”
“But in doing what I wanted, you’d be denying your heart,” Mindy sighed as the weight of their discussion fell upon her, “You’d be betraying who you are…”
“I do love you Mindy,” Guy admitted with a sad smile, “probably more than I ever should’ve allowed myself to do so.”
“I love you too, but we’re both talking about two different levels and if I’d stop acting like a spoiled brat then I’d see that…” she began as he leaned in towards her dropping a kiss upon her lips that left her more surprised than ever as it seemed that he’d read her thoughts and given them a breath of life.  Unable to find the right response, she allowed the kiss to carry over her, to give her that elevation that she was seeking out for so very long, but as she found herself melting completely, the rush of it all was replaced by an altogether foreign sound as Guy seemed to crash into her.
“Guy,” she questioned in confusion feeling his weight upon her as she sank back into the door wall watching his head drop into her lap as it seemed that he’d passed out on top of her.  A frown touched over the corners of her mouth as she readjusted herself beneath him bringing her fingers through his dark hair as she looked up at the sky cursing the person who’d been playing trick on her lately, “You couldn’t just let me have this one moment, could you,” she grumbled ready to damn the world when she heard a faint buzzing coming from inside of Guy’s pocket.
Turning her attention to Guy once again, she maneuvered her fingers inside the pocket, pulling out his cell phone and answering as he seemed to be lost in a world of his own.  While she didn’t normally take it upon herself to get involved in other people’s business, she felt a bit obligated to answer as she knew what Guy had been waiting for with his mother.  With that thought in mind, she quickly answered the phone.
“Hello…” she began with a heavy sigh.
“Where’s Guy,” the voice demanded harshly.  “Put him on the phone.”
“He’s not available at the moment,” Mindy remarked with a frown, “but if you’d like to leave a message…”
“You’d better put him on the phone or else his mother gets it,” the man ordered abrasively as Mindy turned her attention to Guy once again seeing he was in no shape to speaking with anyone as she was certain she’d spotted the beginnings of drool from the corner of his lips.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, but if you need something, I can get it to you.  Tell me what you want and I’ll make sure that Guy gets it to you…” Mindy started with a voice full of determination.
“I want to speak with Guy…” the man demanded.

“I’ll give him your message,” Mindy promised quickly, “you have my word on that.”
“Look…” the man started to argue, but then stopped himself, “Make sure he meets me down by Lake Cardinal in half an hour for the drop or else his mother won’t make it until morning and if I suspect that the police are there, then the deal is off…”
“I promise there won’t be any police,” Mindy agreed hearing the line go dead as she turned her attention to Guy once again.  She nudged him once, twice, three times as it seemed to barely register a reaction from him, “Guy…Guy wake up….”
“Mmm…” he hummed snuggling in against her legs as Mindy felt the beginnings of a panic wash over her.
“Guy,” she pushed at his shoulder once again watching as his eyelids came to the lazy beginnings of an opening, “Guy listen to me.  Guy…the kidnapper called.  He wants to meet you out by the lake in a half an hour…”
“Hmm…” he replied with a sigh closing his eyes once again as he snuggled in against her once again.
“Guy, snap out of it,” Mindy frowned seeing that he wasn’t going to be any help to her at all as she searched the balcony for something to aid in her quest, but nothing came to mind until she noticed the bottle she’d taken from Guy seated beside her.  Silently praying that Guy would forgive her, should this do the trick, she unscrewed the cap spilling the bottle’s contents over his head and onto her lap as Guy sat upright with a start.
“What in the…” he gasped for air as Mindy could feel the alcohol soaking into her jeans.
“The kidnapper just called and we need to get moving.  Tell me you have some kind of plan here Guy,” Mindy urged him on jumping up from the floor of the balcony as she used her strength to drag him back into the apartment.  “Please say we have that much.  He said no police but…”
“Screw the police,” Guy shook his head sending droplets of scotch out over the carpet as he made his way across the living room sluggishly, “as I have all I need right here…”
“And just what might that…” Mindy stopped as her eyes fell upon the duffle bag full of money that now sat before Guy on the table top.  How she’d managed to overlook that in coming back to the apartment was beyond her, but now as she saw what he was saying, she quickly rushed over to his side.  “Guy, where did you get this?”
“A friend wanted to help,” he explained zipping up the bag as he strained to remained focused, “and right now it’s the best we have…”
“But what about the authorities?  Your father?” Mindy questioned.
“You heard the kidnapper.  If they are around, my Mum is dead as I’m sure that’s what he told you,” Guy challenged seeing the truth behind her eyes as he reached for his car keys before throwing them at her as he thought twice of it, “I’ll let you drive…”
“Are you sure you want to be doing this,” Mindy questioned unsure of herself for a moment as he nodded eagerly.
“Oh yeah,” he explained his features a mask of seriousness as he had one thought in mind, “Let’s go bring my mother home.”
“Alright,” she agreed moving in to his side as she helped him pull himself together enough for them to leave for the drop as she just hoped that they were doing the right thing by his mother and all else involved in the situation.


“Stay here for a minute,” Avery muttered to herself once again as she thought to Russell’s urgings he’d thrown out at her as they’d neared the cabin.  While the weather in Coral Valley was relatively mild, it seemed that the closer they got to the cabin, the harder the rain came down around them.  Now as she sat in his Camry awaiting his return after he’d insisted upon taking Rusty inside with him first to get the frightened kitten out of the rain while he sought out an umbrella from within the cabin, Avery wondered what was taking him so long.  She wasn’t against getting a little wet as the rain hadn’t much bothered her in her years, yet the longer she sat outside the more it started to seem like the storm was bent upon keeping her locked within the small Camry.
“Forget the umbrella Russ,” Avery mouthed to him hoping that her words would carry over through the window of the car into the cabin where he’d seemingly disappeared for what felt like an eternity, but as she thought about finally saying to hell with it and getting out of the car he appeared in the cabin’s doorway an umbrella in hand and a smile upon his handsome features as he braved the winds and the rain.
“Sorry about the delay,” Russell apologized opening her car door for her as he offered up his hand to her.
“I was starting to think you’d forgotten about me,” Avery confessed stepping out of the warmth of the car into the storm as he tugged her in closer to him, offering up some solace under his tiny umbrella that they now shared with one another.
“Never,” he promised with a hearty smile, “but I did have to find a way to help Rusty settle down as he doesn’t like all of this happening around him.”
“I can’t say I blame him,” Avery nearly jumped at the sound of thunder crackling overhead as she felt Russell’s hold upon her constrict a bit further.
“Somehow I have the feeling he’s not the only jumpy one right about now,” Russell noted with a crooked smile watching the way her fingers curled into his chest desperately.
“I’m not afraid of storms,” Avery argued with him standing up straighter as another sound from the heavens above sent her right back into his arms again, “though I do think that we should get inside before we get completely soaked out here.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” he nodded in response motioning towards the half opened front door to the cabin.  “Shall we?”
“Should we ever,” she took a hold of the umbrella’s handle leading him towards the cabin with her as she thought of getting herself safe inside it’s warmth.
“You know it hasn’t stormed like this around here since that first weekend we ran away with one another,” he noted with a cryptic expression referring to some of their memories with one another.
“It’s always raining when we’re up here,” Avery pointed out with a groan, “as I’m starting to think that’s part of the reason that we spent so much time making love with one another when there was nothing else to do.”
“Oh there was plenty else to do as the rain always cleared up,” Russell teased watching the way her nose wrinkled as another thunder cloud roared, “but neither one of us wanted to.”
“Hmm, well I suppose you and I remember things differently,” she threw back at him stepping into the cabin from the raging storm as she looked around shivering slightly as the wind behind her howled.
“Better,” Russell questioned quickly discarding the umbrella before pulling her into his arms eagerly.
“Much,” she nodded feeling him spin her around to face him as she tipped up on her toes to give him a quick kiss.
“Good,” he mouthed nodding just beyond her shoulder as his smile expanded, “as I was hoping you’d say that since this is just the beginning…”
“The beginning,” Avery gave him a strange look when the faint scent of vanilla swept over her senses and she spun around once again to face the room and the candles that she’d somehow bypassed on her run inside.  Now as her eyes caught their first real glimpse of the lighted path before her, she noticed the pale pink rose petals making a trail over the floor leading to over by the roaring fireplace as her heart thudded in her chest.  She eyed Russell over her shoulder having a great many questions in her head as his taking his time getting back to the car was beginning to make sense, “So this is why you kept me in there so long…”
“Part of it,” he nodded eagerly before motioning towards the rose petals, “though you know you should probably see what is at the end of those there as I have a very good feeling about this.”
“Russ, what have you done now,” Avery questioned unable to contain the smile at the thought of him trying to surprise her.  While she wasn’t quite sure what he was up to, she couldn’t help but let her curiosity get the best of her as she made her way over to the fireplace.  With each step she made the warmth of the fire enveloped her, wrapping her up in a familiarity and a strong sense of security that had always surrounded her in this special place for them.  While it had been such a long time for them, she could feel so many of their memories coming back to life, more vivid than ever as the very sight of the fireplace reminded her of the times they’d lost themselves to one another on the rug at the end of the trail of rose petals.
“Russ, what did you…” Avery began to question turning around only to see he’d slipped out of the room when she wasn’t looking leaving her to her own discoveries as she noticed a small white box placed in the center of a heart made of the same pink and white rose petals that had been laid out over the floor.
Kneeling down upon the carpet, Avery couldn’t help but find herself bowled over by the moment as she reached for the small box tentatively. Dragging her fingertips over the carpeting and tracing the soft flower petals spread out before her, Avery reached for the box wondering what surprise Russ had for her this time as she fingered the red satin bow that donned the top of the small package.  Tugging at the bow, she released it carefully before taking off the top of the box to reveal a golden heart shaped locket from within.  Carefully lifting it up to take a better look, she felt her smile growing with the moment as she read the inscription.
“I’ll love you forever Avery and always keep you in my heart as you keep me in yours,” she read aloud carefully opening the locket to discover a picture of her and Russell together at age six within.  Unable to contain the laughter that spilled over her lips as she realized what he’d given her, she felt tears pooling in her eyes at it‘s meaning when she thought she’d heard the sound of footsteps from behind her.
“Would you like some help putting that on,” he questioned sliding in behind her as she nodded feeling the warmth of his body behind her as he hovered over her reaching out for the locket.
“Yes please,” she nodded hearing him opening the locket as her tears continued, “Russ, it’s beautiful.”
“Not nearly as beautiful as you are,” he whispered kneeling in behind her as he carefully eased the necklace around her slender neck.  She lifted her hair up to accommodate him unable to keep from shivering as the warmth of his breath pressed upon her in the most inviting fashion.  “Now I hope you realize what I’ve done as I had to put a picture of the two of us together there to symbolize our love for one another and then on the other half…well, you’ll see that I left it empty because that’s going to be filled by our baby when he or she makes their way into the world with us.”
“Oh Russ, it’s incredible,” she blurted out touched by the thought as she couldn’t help but reach out to him drawing her arms around his neck as he knelt before her, “thank you…”
“I just wanted to give you something that we could keep with us when we’re apart,” he whispered in her ear squeezing her in his arms, “because I know there are going to be times like this morning when we feel like we’re worlds away from one another, but with that locket, well I want you to see that regardless of what’s happening, my heart is yours for eternity.  I love you Avery and I don’t want anything to ever change that for us,” he pulled back seeing the tears that continued to fall freely from her eyes before he placed his lips against her damp cheek kissing her tears away, “Not even my idiot brother can change what we have…”
“Russ, it’s just that things have been so difficult,” Avery started thinking about all they’d left behind in Coral Valley, “even now when I think about…”
“Just don’t think about it,” he instructed placing his finger over her lips to silence her as his green eyes fell upon hers, “Avery, what we left in Coral Valley can stay there as we’re here in a place that has never lead us astray.  We’re here in the place where our hearts guided us to one another and this place, just like this moment should be something that we keep with us long after it’s gone as it’s something that should remind us both of what’s really important--of what really matters in our lives and that’s the love we have with each other,” he reached out to her touching her abdomen lovingly, “and right here with this beautiful little one growing inside of you.  Fate had a plan for us Avery and now that we’ve found our way back to one another, we can’t let all the tedious moments change that for us…”
“I know that,” she nodded in agreement, “Russ, I really do, but with Grady, well I just hate how things have become so twisted and torn apart like they have…I hate how he sees me as this monster that…”
“What he sees isn’t important as all I can see before me is the woman I love…the woman I gave my heart and soul to and the one woman who completes me,” he breathed in an impassioned tone, “I see my one true love and that’s really what this all goes back to as I sit here lost in the eyes of my soul mate.”
“Russ, I’m so sorry about this morning,” Avery blurted out feeling foolish for the way things had gone down between them earlier in the day, “I shouldn’t have tried to blow you off…I shouldn’t have shut you out…”
“I shouldn’t have let Grady say those things to you.  I should’ve told him a long time ago just to butt out of our lives, but I was hoping for a miracle, but with Grady, well I realize I was focusing on the wrong things.  I wanted to think that he’d change, but that wasn’t the miracle that I was waiting for.  You are that miracle Avery and our child is the key to all of that.  We have everything and if the world is jealous, then to hell with them…”
“Russ, we both know that’s easier said than done,” Avery sighed feeling the warmth of his touch as the shadows that danced around his handsome features caused her heartstrings to tug at her reminding her of all the ways she’d fallen in love with him again and again over the years.
“Do you remember what you said to me the first time we came here together?” he questioned teasing his fingers through her hair tenderly.
“You mean other than that we were in for some serious trouble if anyone had found out that we’d snuck off to be together,” she couldn’t help but smile as her tears continued.
“Yeah, well that too, but you told me that while you were afraid of falling--afraid of what forever could have in store for us, yet you knew that you were safe with me--that the way we felt about one another was something that wouldn’t fade with time,” he reminded her leaning in towards her as he pressed a tender kiss upon her lips, “You said you knew what we had was forever…”
“I know what I said,” Avery breathed against his lips, “and you swore to me that we’d find a way to seize forever and make it ours.”
“And here we are years later, having gone down all the wrong roads, yet by some twist of fate, we’re together again, more in love than ever with so many dreams well within our reach,” he pointed out his voice full of hope, “Avery, I know that our life together as husband and wife hasn’t been as easy as I promised it would be on our wedding day, but nothing’s changed since that day well other than the fact that I love you more than I did in that moment when we pledged our love to one another.  I didn’t think that was possible, but with each day, I find myself falling head over heels again and again knowing that I have everything I’ve ever wanted and needed in my life in having you here beside me.”
“Russ, you’re my once in a lifetime and I swore to myself a long time ago that I’d find a way to let you go--to pretend that I didn’t care about you--that I didn’t love you, but you saw through that.  You saw through all my pitiful attempts at deceiving you and when we finally made our way to one another, well it was the ultimate dream come true.  Being your wife is the most important thing in my life and our family means the world to me.  I love you far more than I ever thought I could love anyone and I ever don’t want this feeling to end for us.  I don’t want Grady or anyone else taking that away from us…”
“They won’t,” he assured her pulling her into his arms and holding her as if he’d never let go, “As long as we keep fighting for what we have, then nothing can tear us apart.”
“I couldn’t live through losing you again Russ.  I love you so very much,” Avery confessed breaking into tiny sobs, “You’re everything to me and if you really think that Grady can’t change that…”
“He won’t change that,” Russell promised her, his voice firm and determined as he searched her eyes, “so just banish that thought from your mind because it’s just not happening.  My brother is just destroying his own life, but I refuse to let him take mine away from me.  I love you Avery Denton and as sure as I live and breathe I’m going to always be beside you, loving you with all that I am for the rest of our time together and beyond…”
“Oh Russ,” Avery threw her arms around him squeezing him with all that she had as she prayed that he was right--that somehow this time away from the world would be the key to saving what his brother was working so desperately to destroy between them, “I love you.”
“I love you too baby,” he whispered kissing the top of her head as he held her vowing to himself that before they returned to Coral Valley again, they would relive all the magic they’d shared together in the past as he showed her of all the things in their future they would have with one another regardless of whatever obstacle stood before them.


“So what’s on the agenda tonight,” Blake questioned feeling a jolt of enthusiasm rush over her even after the very exhausting day she and Seth had spent in one another’s arms reveling in the joys of making love with one another.  Now as she stood beside him, dressed in one of his loose fitting, blue button down shirts, she felt an air of sexiness flood over her as his shirt carried his scent upon it, wrapping her up in a taste of what it had felt like to be with him--lost in his arms as their love making had opened up the door to so many new adventures for them.
“Well for starters,” Seth couldn’t help but tease admiring the way she looked as his shirt was knotted up around her waist to reveal just enough of her abdomen to him to get his heart rate pounding with the moment, lost in the images of what they’d shared with one another as she looked like a knock out in his shirt and Jade’s form fitting black leggings.  How he wished he hadn’t made such a promise to cover this shoot, but he knew full well had had an obligation to it even if he couldn’t help but think about how gorgeous Blake was beside him, with his camera case draped over her shoulder.
“Yes?” she questioned expectantly as if awaiting his response as she tapped her foot lightly seemingly well aware of where his thoughts were lingering to.  “Seth?”
“Blake…” he shook his thoughts as he stepped in towards her, unable to contain the playfulness that took over him as he whispered into her ear, “first you have to stop being so damned sexy or else we’ll get nothing done tonight…”
“Me? Sexy?” she feigned innocence, “You don’t say.”
“Blake, darling you know you look ravishing right now,” he confessed thinking to how her beauty went far beyond the exterior package as he found himself falling harder for her by the moment.
“Hmm, yes well I had thought about ravishing you all over again come to think of it,” she teased bringing her fingers in over his chest playfully as she stole a quick kiss from his lips.
“You are dangerous,” Seth watched her lick her lips as he felt a sudden rise in all the wrong places as it seemed that Blake was bent on reminding him of the sweet torture she was all too willing to provide him with after their time together had been cut short…at least temporarily.
“So as I was saying,” she began again tentatively, “what’s on the agenda tonight?”
“Sleeping beauty,” Seth whispered against her lips unable to contain the urge to steal another kiss from her.
“Sleeping beauty?” she turned her head to the side giving him a strange look, “As in the fairy tale?”
“The one and only,” Seth nodded in confession a hint of a grin sweeping in over his ruggedly handsome features.  “A while ago, well I promised Mrs. Hill that I’d be here to give these children something to remember as this is their first real production ever.  A few months ago they had a fund raiser to be able to afford the things that went into this production and the community came together to give them this night…”
“So you thought you’d offer your services so that they could take something with them from here on out,” Blake couldn’t help but smile thinking about Seth’s generous side with those around him.
“That was the general idea,” Seth nodded quickly, “though if we don’t get where we’re supposed to be, then we’re going to miss it all.”
“Are we supposed to check in or something,” Blake questioned watching as he made a quick look around.
“Just down in the pit by the orchestra as I find I can get the best photos from down there, but first,” he reached into his pocket pulling out a tiny homemade rhinestone tiara from within, “I need to find the princess.”
“I’m right here,” a small fair-haired child raced out from backstage eagerly rushing towards him, hands flying wildly in the air as she spotted him, “and you’re late Seth.”
“I’m sorry Samantha,” Seth knelt down to be more at her level as she seemed to be no more than three feet tall with her wide eyes and the frown that touched over her lips upon seeing him.  She shook her finger at him with an impatient huff.
“You should be because this is my big night,” she explained with a grumble, “and if I don’t have the tiara, then I can’t be princess.”
“You’ll always be princess in my eyes Samantha,” he offered up the tiara that he’d been holding, “but for now, you get to have this to go with the package.  Jade made it extra special for you by adding the pink stones like you wanted…”
“A pink tiara,” she squealed with delight, “Oh Seth, this is my lucky day…”
“That it is beautiful,” Seth winked at her, “now you go and knock them dead on stage.”
“Dead,” she gave him a strange look as she seemed oddly horrified at the thought, “why would I want to do that?”
“It’s just an expression,” Blake offered up with a tiny giggle of her own seeing the way in which the little one before her seemed to have Seth at her complete attention, but upon hearing Blake’s voice the little girl turned to glare at her.
“Who are you,” Samantha demanded tapping her foot impatiently.
“She’s a friend of mind Samantha,” Seth explained watching the way the girl’s eyes turned up towards Blake.
“What kind of friend?” she inquired further, “A girlfriend?”
“As a matter of fact, Blake is one of the best girlfriends there is,” Seth nodded in response unable to contain the smile that swept over his lips.
“I see,” Samantha nodded before holding her finger up in the air at Seth, “Just a minute,” she turned to face Blake pointing at her harshly, “You come with me for a second.  We need to have a talk.”
“A talk,” Blake repeated noting the expression on the little girl’s features.
“That’s right,” Samantha nodded, “we need to be having a girl talk starting now.”
“Samantha, I don’t think that now…” Seth started wondering what was going on in the tiny girl’s mind.
“Save it Seth.  This is between me and her,” Samantha ordered reaching for Blake’s hand and guiding her just a bit out of the way from Seth hoping to gain some privacy before she curled her finger up at Blake, “Come closer.”
“Yes?” Blake smiled at the girl as she knelt before her, “What can I do for you?”
“Are you really Seth’s girlfriend,” she asked giving Blake a very firm look.
“Well yes,” Blake couldn’t help but offer up a stifled laugh, “I hope that’s not a problem…”
“Actually yes it is,” Samantha folded her arms in front of her chest as she let out a huff, “as I saw him first.  He’s mine.”
“Really,” Blake saw the glare that the girl was giving her as she could see that she was facing an unexpected round of competition where Seth’s attention was concerned.
“Yes really and I’ll have you know that he wants to be my prince charming,” Samantha nodded further, “so if you really think you can take him away…”
“I didn’t realize you’d already had a claim in on him,” Blake fought to suppress her amusement, “but do you think that maybe we could share him as I wouldn’t want to step on your toes here…”
“Hmm, I don’t know,” Samantha glanced over her shoulder at Seth before looking to Blake once again, “as he’s really a great guy and I wouldn’t want to share him with just anyone.  Tell me why I should let you share him with me.”
“Well because I care about him very much,” Blake confessed unable to keep her eyes away from Seth as she spoke with the little girl before her, “I love him a lot…”
“You love him,” Samantha’s eyes grew wide as a tiny giggle swept over her, “well that changes everything.  I mean if you really, really love him, then I might be willing to share…that is if the price is right…”
“The price,” Blake repeated incredulously seeing the little girl’s face shift into a smirk.
“That’s right,” Samantha nodded holding out her hand in Blake‘s direction, “We can make a trade.  You give me something and I’ll let you have my Seth.  What do you say?”
“Well, I don’t really have much of anything to give you right now,” Blake began finding herself more amused with the girl by the moment as she could see a younger version of herself when she used to pine away over some of Brant and Ken’s pals over the years.  Thinking for a moment, she had to admire the young girl’s spunk before a thought occurred to her, “On second thought, I might have something, but it’s only for a true princess…”
“I’m a princess,” Samantha’s eyes widened in response, “as I have a real tiara.”
“I can see that, which I guess would go great with this,” Blake unclasped the pink diamond bracelet she was wearing holding it up for Samantha’s inspection, “Well, what do you say?  Do we have a deal?”
Samantha stood in silence for a moment before shrugging her shoulders casually, “I suppose it’ll work.”
“Alright then, so then I get to keep Seth and you can keep this,” Blake agreed putting the bracelet on the small girl’s arm, “as it will also bring you good luck for the play tonight.”
“Too cool,” Samantha beamed with enthusiasm admiring the new trinket she’d gotten out of Blake.  “Thank you.”
“No thank you for letting me keep Seth,” Blake smiled down at her, “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Samantha wiggled her finger at Blake indicating for Blake to move in closer to her, “and one last thing.”
“What’s that?” Blake questioned curiously.
“Take care of him as he’s a really good guy and a lot of girls in the fourth grade think he’s cute, but since we made a deal, I’ve got your back,” Samantha promised with a knowing wink, “Though if you even think about hurting him, then I‘ll have to get you…”
“You have my word on that,” Blake vowed crossing her fingers over her heart, “I won’t hurt him.”
“Good, keep it that way,” Samantha warned before skipping off onto the backstage area before throwing one last wave out at Seth.
“What was that about,” Seth questioned in confusion seeing the way Blake had broken into laughter at the exchange between her and the fourth grade’s Sleeping Beauty.
“I just bartered for the rights to be your girlfriend,” Blake confessed slinking her arms around his waist before continuing to tease him, “You never told me that you were such a hot item in the fourth grade there.”
“I wasn’t aware that I was,” he admitted squeezing her in his arms, “So what do I rate these days?”
“A pink diamond bracelet,” Blake divulged leaning in closer to him, “but I happen to think you’re worth it.”
“That’s very refreshing to hear,” Seth feigned relief as he hugged her to him, “so how about we get to work here?”
“Only on one condition,” Blake curled her fingers over the center of his shirt drawing him in closer to her.
“What’s that?” Seth lifted an inquisitive brow.
“Well, since you are mine now with Samantha’s approval, I want you to show me how to make the magic you make there with this camera,” she motioned to the case she carried over her shoulder, “and then afterwards, I want you to treat me to dessert back at your place…I’m thinking something sweet and sinful…”
“Hmm, I think I have just the thing in mind to appeal to your sweet tooth,” Seth assured her with a hearty grin, “but first duty calls…”
“Yes it does,” Blake agreed squeezing his bottom briefly before releasing him unable to contain her amusement that she had to fight for her place in Seth’s life with a fourth grader.  Though given the way that things had been for them lately, Blake realized that perhaps this was the kind of battle she would rather welcome as it made things a whole hell of a lot easier than they had been thus far.  However, as she followed Seth to their spot to capture the best of tonight’s performances, she found herself wondering just what she would do with her very own Prince Charming as it seemed that fate was offering them a new beginning.  While she was well aware of the things that still existed between them, she vowed to save her worries for another day as tonight was all about fairy tales and bringing them to life…at least for a little while it seemed.


Caitlin frowned as she watched a rerun of an interior design show. How some of the designers came up with their ideas was truly beyond her. She flipped the channel and switched off the television, deciding that she’d just read a book her mother had brought her.

“Hey, can I sneak in after visiting hours?” Zack asked as he stepped into her room.

“Oh I hope you can because I’m so bored,” She groaned as she tossed the book towards the end of her bed.

“Why?” He asked as he closed the door behind him and moved to sit beside her.

“Because I’ve been alone here tonight, and you know that I’ve never been good just sitting quietly,” She shrugged, “So why are you here and not begging Blake for forgiveness?”

“Because that’s not going to happen anytime soon,” He frowned, “She’s not going to forgive me, Caitlin. Not now.”

“What do you mean not now? Has something else happened?” She asked in concern.

“Jo told Blake about the baby,” He leaned back in his chair, “And Blake definitely started hating me in that moment.”

“She doesn’t hate you,” She frowned as she surveyed her brother closely, “She may be upset with you, but she doesn’t hate you.”

“Yes, she does. I wish she didn’t, but I’m telling you that I saw it in her eyes, Caitlin,” He paused, “My chances with her are over.”

“So you’re just going to give up? That’s not exactly like you.”

“I didn’t say I was giving up, but I don’t know how I can possibly change it, Cait. She’s going out with Seth now, and,” He took a deep breath, “I don’t think she’s going to forget that I’m going to be a father.”

“Nor should you,” Caitlin pointed out, “So what did you work out with Jo?”

“I didn’t work out anything. She’s getting on a plane for Seattle tomorrow.”

“And I take it from your tone that you don’t like that idea at all.”

“She wants me to go with her, but I just can’t, Cait. It would be a huge step backwards for me. I just can’t do that.”

“I hate to point this out, Zack, but you’re going to be a father. Not everything is going to be about what’s best for you anymore.”

He frowned, “Thank you for that observation. I could do without all the support here.”

“I’m more worried about the baby than you. You’ll land on your feet. You always do, but the baby is helpless in all of this.”

“I know,” He frowned, “It’s just that I’m feeling pretty helpless myself.”

“Zack,” Caitlin began then frowned, “I’m sorry that everything seems to be going haywire.”

“It’ll work out. It always does, right?” He flashed her a smile before shrugging, “What about you? Who’s come by to see you today?”

“Mom stopped by and brought me some magazines and a couple of books. She said that Dad’s going home tomorrow to meet with some clients, but she’s going to stay at my apartment and clean it up for me.”

“What about Ken?”

“Yeah he came by,” Caitlin smiled, “He wanted to stay tonight, but I told him to go home and get rest in his own bed. He’s worried about me, but I don’t want him to forget to take care of himself. So I sent him home to rest.”

“How are things between you?”

“Things are great. We’ve both done a lot of apologizing for things over the last few days, but overall, I think we’re on the right track. We’re in love, and I think we can handle anything that’s thrown our way.”

“Funny,” Zack frowned, “I thought the same thing about my relationship with Blake.”

“I’m sorry, Zack,” Caitlin reached out to take her brother’s hand, “But maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem. Just think…I was worried about Ken and I, but things are better than ever. Maybe things aren’t as bad as you think they are,” She squeezed his hand in support as she thought about her love for Ken and how their relationship had been made stronger with a little turmoil. All in all, things were going good for her. She could only hope that her brother’s relationship would mirror her own.


Ken stepped into the mansion and shed his jacket. He sighed as he made his way towards the stairs, needing a long hot shower before turning in the for the evening. Before he could take the first step on the stairs, he heard the sound of feminine laughter from the living room. He stopped, wondering what bimbo Brant had picked up this time. Then he began to wonder if it wasn’t Brant but Blake perhaps spending the evening with someone. Curiosity tugged at him until he stepped to the entrance of the living room and spotted blond hair upon the sofa.

“Dare I ask?” Ken spoke up as he reached over to raise the lights.

“Oh…oh my…” Susan gasped as she sat up and scrambled backwards, trying to right her dress.

“Susan…what the hell…” Ken spoke as he stepped forward only to see Brant laying on the sofa looking slightly frazzled, “Brant, what exactly is going on here?”

“Ken…hey, didn’t know you were coming home tonight. Thought I’d have some fun,” Brant shrugged.

“How could you do this? You know how I…” Ken stopped short as Susan cast her eyes towards him.

“How you feel?” Susan asked as she sauntered towards him.

Ken stood taller as he watched his brother and Susan. He shook his head after a few moments, “I will not be manipulated,” He declared as he pulled out of Susan’s reach, “By either one of you,” He stated firmly as he turned and left the room.

Brant frowned as he adjusted his jacket and hair, “Well that certainly didn’t work as it should have.”

Susan turned her eyes towards the doorway and straightened her shoulders, “I’m not done yet,” She declared firmly as she made her way towards the door. She hadn’t come this far not to get her man. She would have Ken, and she wasn’t going to be put off just because he was a bit upset now. He was about to learn that avoiding her wouldn’t get rid of her.

She made her way up the stairs and down the hall towards Ken’s suite of rooms. While she’d only been here once during their affair as they usually chose more public venues to meet, she remembered exactly where she had found paradise with Ken. She opened the door and stepped inside, hoping to find him in the sitting room. She frowned as she saw no trace of him within.

Still not put off by his absence, she walked through the sitting room and opened the door to his bedroom. She smiled as she stepped inside. He had impeccable taste, and it showed through in his décor. The room spoke of Ken’s love of the finer things in life while keeping it subdued. One thing she had never been was subdued, but he had enjoyed her and would again if she had any say in it.

As she looked around the room, she heard the sounds of the shower coming from the adjoining bathroom. She smiled as she thought of Ken under the hot water of a shower. Deciding that wasn’t such a bad idea, she reached behind her and unzipped her dress. As the cloth puddled into the floor, she removed the remainder of the clothes and kicked her shoes aside.
Susan stepped into the bathroom and listened as the shower continued. She smiled while opening the shower stall and stepping in behind him.

Ken spun on his heel quickly and looked at her, wishing instantly that he hadn’t. His eyes were drawn to her every curve, and memories of intense sexual heat caused his body to awaken to her presence.

She reached out to him and lightly skimmed her palms over his bare chest as she looked up to his eyes. She eased her palms along his skin as she eased closer and slid her arms around him, “You know that I can’t give up that easily, Ken, especially not when I want something as badly as I want you.” She pressed her body against his as she met his eyes, “I know you want me too, Ken. It’s just you and me here, and we don’t have to deny ourselves anymore,” She whispered as she moved in to draw his lips to hers for a heated kiss. Susan had Ken exactly where she wanted him, and the night was made for passion.

...to be continued...