Episode 91 

Ken lost himself to Susan’s kiss as she pressed her body against his. Her hands were wild over his body, and he couldn’t seem to focus as long as she was touching him. He tried to pull away from her, but it seemed that his attempts only reinforced her grasp on him.

“Susan…wait…hold on…” He stammered between kisses as she continued her passionate assault upon him.

Susan had no intention of waiting for a single moment longer. She was going to have her man, and he wouldn’t be so gung ho to hesitate with their lovemaking. She just had to push him past the point of rational thought.

She eased her hands around his body, gently caressing the taut muscles of his back. His tension was obvious, and yet she could feel it floating away with every second that passed by. He was giving in to her just as he always had.

Ken began to pull away only for Susan to inch him closer to the shower wall. She backed him against the wall as her hands roamed his body, reminding him of just how talented she was. She eased her hands over his slick body, pausing as she grasped the rigid evidence of his arousal. While his mouth could protest all day long, his body wasn’t going to deny the effect she had on him.

“Susan, this has got to stop,” He declared as he gripped her shoulders and firmly pushed her to arm’s length. He took in a deep breath as he tried to calm his body’s eager response to her.

“No, this is what has to stop,” She said as she wriggled out of his grip and closed in on him once more. She pressed her breasts against his chest, feeling every cell in her body awaken at the intimate contact, “Why do you fight so hard, Ken? When we both know you want to make love to me?” She whispered as she brushed her lips against his, “Make love to me, Ken. It’s all I want in this world…I want to feel you, to touch you, taste you,” She flicked her tongue across his lips as she met his eyes, “Make love to me.”

“Susan…” He breathed as she wrapped her arms around his neck and sealed her lips to his.

“Don’t say anything, Ken,” She whispered against his lips before gently sucking his lower lip, “Just feel. Just enjoy this,” She urged him as she dropped her lips to his chest and began to use her tongue to explore his body more thoroughly.

He closed his eyes for a moment as he felt ironically helpless and empowered at the same time. He didn’t want to give in to Susan, but she was giving him very powerful reasons to throw in the towel. Sex between them had always been extraordinary, but he wasn’t the same person he’d been back then. Unfortunately however, he still felt the same indisputable desires.

“Susan…” He spoke her name as he drew her lips back to his. He drank of her lips as he spun her back against the shower wall and caged her in his arms.

“Hmm, Ken,” She murmured as she looked up into his eyes. She’d known she could get him to see the light if given time, and now he was going to be all hers.

“This…,” He said as he motioned between them with a forefinger, “Isn’t happening. Not now, not ever,” He said as he backed away from her.

“Ken…you can’t just leave like this,” She declared in despair as she reached out for him.

“Watch me,” Ken declared as he turned the water to the coldest temperature possible and stepped out of the shower.

Susan screeched in horror as the ice cold water poured over her. She switched off the water and stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel as she watched him wrap a towel around his waist, “Ken, why are you being this way? You want me, and I want you. What is so wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong is that I’m not in love with you?” He declared as he met her eyes.

“What the hell does love have to do with anything?” She asked in frustration.

“It has to do with everything,” He stated simply, “I’m in love with Caitlin, and I’m not going to betray her just because you are in heat.”

“You’re being very combative,” She said as she held her head high and held onto the towel at her breasts, “I think maybe you protest too much. You want me, and you can’t deny that.”

“Wanting and needing are two very different things. I might still find you to be a very attractive woman, but that doesn’t mean that’s what I need in my life. What I need is Caitlin because I love her and she loves me.”

Susan raised an inquisitive eyebrow as she unwrapped the towel from her body and displayed her body seductively, “Look at me…all of me…and tell me that you don’t need me.”

Ken took a deep breath as his eyes instinctively roamed her body. He swallowed a lump in his throat and met her eyes, “I don’t need you.”

“Liar,” She spoke as she dropped the towel and reached out to tug at his towel, “Your body tells another story.”

Ken pulled out of her reach and stepped out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He held the doorknob tightly as he reached to his dresser for the master key. He turned the lock and locked her in the bathroom with a smile.

“Ken…” Susan pounded on the door, “Ken…let me out of here.”

“You got yourself in there. Get yourself out,” Ken called out to her as he crossed the room and dressed quickly in a pair of blue jeans and a Harvard sweater. He tugged on a pair of sneakers before leaving to be where he wanted to be most in the world.

“Ken! Ken!!” Susan pounded on the door again and again. She screamed in anger as she turned and lifted the towel from the bathroom floor. She wrapped the towel around herself with a groan as she began banging on the door once more, “Help! Help!”

After several moments of pounding on the door, she heard a key turning in the door. She stepped back as the door opened to see a slightly bemused Brant standing before her. She narrowed her eyes at him in anger, “What are you looking at?”

“A failure apparently,” Brant quipped as she shoved him out of the way and moved to pick up her dress from the floor.

“Don’t start with me. He wants me, and he knows it. He’s trying to fight it, but he can’t fight forever,” Susan declared as she tugged on her panties while still wearing the towel. She looked at him as he continued to watch her, “Do you mind?”

“Not at all, please continue,” He grinned as he leaned against his brother’s dresser, “So…why couldn’t you get the job done? Couldn’t he make the plumbing work?” His grin brightened slightly, “No pun intended.”

“No, he’s quite well in that arena,” She sighed as she turned her back on him and dropped her towel. She stepped into her dress and pulled it into place. She reached behind her to zip her dress but encountered Brant’s fingers on the zipper.

“Then why can’t you get him into bed? It should be easy enough. My brother is a wimp for pete’s sake,” He sighed as he zipped Susan’s dress into place.

“He’s not nearly as weak as you would believe. Besides that, he’s determined not to betray that little reporter of his,” She seethed as she turned to face him, “But I’m not about to let her have him. He’s mine.”

“Pretty possessive when you can’t seem to close escrow,” He stated dryly.

“Don’t you worry about that,” Susan stood tall, “I’ll get him into bed, and he’ll be sorry that he ever said no to me,” She declared boldly as her anger and sexual frustration drove her to the brink of insanity. She wanted to take it out on someone, and she would find a deserving target. In fact, she knew exactly where to look.


“And that is how you survive your first fourth grade fairy tale,” Seth offered up in a low whisper over the back of Blake’s neck as the auditorium had pretty much cleared out except for the two of them.   They’d hung around to capture images of every last second, including the encores that had kept the show going on half an hour longer than anticipated and still Blake looked radiant as ever.
“That was fun,” Blake beamed with enthusiasm looking over her shoulder at him as a smile tickled over the corners of her lips, “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was great and then when you let me start taking some of the pictures, well that was a new experience altogether there as I’ve never tried that before.  I mean yes I’ve taken random pics here and there of things like when I went on Spring Break or when Caitlin and I were roommates, but to actually do it for something meaningful--something that people are counting on…”
“It does tend to give you a rush, doesn’t it,” Seth grinned watching the way her face lit up as she began to pack one of his cameras away.
“That doesn’t even start to cover it,” she continued zipping up the camera case before slinging it over her shoulder once again.  She turned around to see him putting away the last of his equipment as he bent over giving her once again that same irresistible view of his behind before she stepped forward, “so what’s next?”
“Well since you were so eager to see what you’ve done tonight, I was thinking maybe we’d head on over to the studio.  We could develop a few of these and then we can gush about your work for the evening.  What do you think?” he suggested seeing the enthusiasm that built behind her features.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Blake nodded eagerly, “as I can’t wait to see how the picture I took of Samantha turned out when she decked the prince for trying to lay a real kiss upon her…”
“Yeah I could see half the parents in here about to cringe while the others were doubled over with laughter,” Seth admitted thinking back to what they’d witnessed in the final moments of the play, “Samantha’s something else…”
“She does happen to have incredible taste I have to admit,” Blake curled her arm around his waist feeling his arm reach out over her shoulders as he hugged her in closer to him, “as she thinks the world of you…”
“Hmm, well I’m flattered, but more so I’m just eager to learn if you share her views,” Seth couldn’t help but tease as he pulled her into his arms more completely.
“Well, I did trade my bracelet for you,” Blake winkled her nose at him in mock seriousness, “I suppose that should say something about the way I feel for you…”
“Gee, I feel so loved,” Seth couldn’t help but chuckle shaking his head at her as he tipped down to kiss her tenderly.
“You should,” Blake dropped her hands down over his bottom offering a seductive squeeze as her blue eyes flickered with mischief, “as I rather liked that bracelet.”
“In that case I suppose I should try to make you feel like you’ve gotten what you bargained for in the deal you made with Samantha,” Seth whispered leisurely against her lips, feeling her shiver beneath him as her fingers fanned out over his behind.
“I already feel like I’ve got all that and more,” Blake confessed heatedly tangling her tongue with his in a fiery kiss before breaking away mid-moment, “Now, how about we get ourselves over to that studio and see what develops between us?”
“How is it you can turn a situation as simple as developing photos into such a sensual experience waiting to happen,” he questioned enchanted by her as he held her wishing that he could hold onto these moments forever between them.
“That’s because you haven’t taken the time to let things develop with me before,” she teased before poking him in the ribs, “Come on let’s get moving handsome.”
“After you milady,” he waved his arm out to offer her up an exit to the auditorium as he thought of how things had changed for them over such a brief time.  Sure, maybe they were living on borrowed time with one another as he was certain that things would be far more complicated after tonight, but he wasn’t going to focus on that.  He wasn’t going to dwell on what he would lose as he needed to stay hopeful and in the moment with what he had.  Blake was truly everything he’d ever wanted yet knew he’d never imagined that he’d have someone as wonderful as her in his life as she was too perfect, too amazing and too much of his dream girl for him to ever have life give him that kind of second chance.  He knew that he’d never be the kind of man she needed nor would he ever have the money and prestige that someone like Zack would, but he loved her…he loved her so damned much that the very idea of not being with her after tonight was killing him, but as he opened up the door to his car helping her inside, he swore he wouldn’t dwell on that--at least not tonight--not after how perfect things had been for them.
“This was great,” Blake beamed with the moment as she turned to look at Seth, watching as he slid into driver’s side of his car turning on the ignition before driving towards the studio thinking about how amazing the night had been for them.
“Great doesn’t even begin to cover how incredible this has been Blake,” Seth cast a quick look in her general direction, “Thank you for coming with me to this tonight.”
“It was my pleasure,” Blake replied fluttering her eyelashes over at him along with giving him another appreciative once over, “along with all the other activities we were engaged in together.”
“They did tend to leave a memorable impression didn’t they,” Seth couldn’t help but agree pulling off of the main road into the small lot behind the studio he’d been working at off and on.  Trying to force himself not to get lost in the thoughts of what he and Blake had experienced so out of the blue with one another, he tried to stay focused as he smiled at her, “Ready to see just how good you were back at the play?”
“Honey, I know that I sizzled in there,” Blake winked at him, “though I might put you to shame with my work.”
“We’ll just see about that,” Seth teased getting out of the car and walking around to open the door for her before offering his hand to help her out of his car.  As they made their way into the darkened studio, he could feel Blake in beside him, the warmth of her body sending a sizzle straight to his core as he wanted nothing more than to wrap her up in his arms and keep her there forever and ever.  Funny how falling in love changed things for a man, he reasoned opening the door to the studio and allowing her access into the darkened room.
“There sure isn’t a lot of activity here during the after hours huh,” Blake noted curiously.
“Well, it depends on the day.  Wednesdays are usually the busiest for the others who work here, but with me, well since the owner and I are pals, I pretty much get free run of the place when time permits…” Seth began to explain watching the expression on her face, “but you already knew that.”
“Ah yes,” she nodded in response, “as I believe that the last time you brought me here, we were taking a trip around the world together.”
“So we were,” he smiled thinking back to that time they’d spent together, “although I wasn’t sure if you enjoyed it or not.”
“I enjoyed what we shared with one another, though things are a bit different now than they were then,” Blake boasted proudly thinking of how the last time they’d been in this place with one another, she’d told him about her having waited to make love to a man and how it had put the brakes on what was happening, but now as she stood beside him knowing full well what an amazing experience it was in being Seth’s lover in every way imaginable, she felt a newfound sense of confidence wash over her.
“So they were,” Seth nodded in agreement seemingly mesmerized in his own world of Blake as she looked around the studio for a minute or so, “though you know I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen the darkroom yet.”
“Lead the way,” Blake urged him on taking in the various photographs on the wall, once again finding herself drawn to the images before her as she stopped to admire them.
“You like that one,” Seth questioned after he’d realized he’d lost her half way on route to the darkroom.
“It’s very beautiful,” she nodded in confession appreciating the vast array of colors in the photograph before her as it was entitled Spring Morning.  While it was nothing more than a flower captured in it‘s awakening after a morning dew, it was still by far one of the most incredibly beautiful images she‘d ever seen, “as I think it’s one of my favorites.”
“Mine too,” he confessed sliding his arms around her slender waist as he held her, “and truth be told I almost missed that one.”
“Do I sense a story coming on,” she leaned back into his arms savoring the warmth of his touch as he held her.
“Actually, there is,” he nodded in confession, dropping a kiss on the top of her head, “I actually took that one about six years ago.  Jade and I decided that since we were both going through not the greatest times in both of our lives that we’d take a trip--something that we’d remember--that would mark the beginning of the turnarounds in our life.”
“And then you happened upon this huh,” Blake tilted her head back to try to take a better look at him.
“I almost missed it because truth be told the trip wasn’t anything like we’d planned on it being.  Jade booked a cruise for us to Mexico and well, it was one disaster after another.  She got seasick the first day and we spent the rest of the vacation in one of the small towns near the border instead of exploring all the things that came along with the cruise.  So pretty much instead of really taking in the Mexican culture, Jade and I stayed in this run down, hole in the wall hotel that was probably a local hangout for the criminals and local prostitutes.  It was an absolutely shameful experience as neither one of us wanted to admit that the vacation was a bust, but in all honesty if it was a sign of what was ahead for us, then it didn’t seem to be too promising.  Anyways to make a long story short, we eventually decided to pack up and head on home since the vacation was a nightmare, but then at the last moment, Jade spotted this little house in the middle of all the chaos and there in the backyard there was this woman tending to her small garden.  While it wasn’t much, well just watching the love and nurturing she put into tending to the flowers, well it was just something that was begging to be immortalized forever, so Jade went over to speak with her and a few hours later, I think I’d taken hundreds of pictures of her and her garden.  She was such an amazing woman that Jade and I wound up staying with her for the next few days learning a lot about her life and about the world as she perceived it and on that final day when we decided to return home, well I woke up and just knew that something was waiting out there.  I went into the garden and took that photo and after that, well Jade submitted it to some local contest and it won first place, thus capturing the interest of those here at the studio and then I landed this opportunity.”
“So this flower changed it all for you, huh,” Blake questioned taking note of the enthusiasm in his voice as she tilted her head up towards him a bit further.
“Not exactly,” Seth confessed with a shrug of his shoulders, “as while this particular photo is something I hold near and dear to me, it’s more so the lesson I learned from it that stays with me.  As that time in my life was about learning to deal with change and this flower as it wakes up to face the morning ahead of it, well it reminds me that life is full of changes and opportunities and it’s how you deal with those changes that define who you are and what fate has in store for you.  I guess I’ve just kind of carried that with me sort of with that whole circle of life theory,” Seth paused a goofy grin spreading over his features, “That sounds foolish, doesn’t it?”
“Not at all,” Blake shook her head in response, “as it seems that life is always trying to throw some kind of curve into the mix,” she paused leaning in closer to him again as she eyed the photo, “and I think that’s beautiful…just like the flower.  I mean in some strange way I think fate has a plan for us all…”
“I sure hope so,” Seth sighed in confession taking a moment to savor the bond between them before straining to keep his thoughts on track.
“You know…” Blake began feeling his arms around her as she slid her fingers in over his lacing them together, “I’m really curious to see how I did at the play, but after looking at this photo, well I can clearly see that you’ve got the eye Seth and you should really be doing something more with it…something that gives you the chance to show your talents off to the rest of the world…”
“Now you sound like Jade,” Seth confessed thinking about his sister’s encouraging him time and time again.
“Well, she’s right because Seth you have a gift,” she continued honestly, “something that you’ve been given and when you use it, Seth, there are no limits to it’s beauty…”
“Blake,” he started feeling his face heat up as she praised his work, “I wouldn’t go that far…”
“Well, you’re not, but I am,” she turned in his arms, “Seth, what you’ve done with your talents, well it’s incredible.  It’s inspiring and it’s something, well that makes you who you are because you see things that other people don’t see.  Even with me…” she paused feeling a newfound boldness overtaking her, “Seth, you saw me in ways that no one else has ever seen me before.  Even now in the way you see me--the way you look at me…well, it’s something that brings out this feeling in me…I can’t explain it, but when I’m feeling it, well, I don’t want it to end.”
“Blake, what I see in you has nothing to do with me and entirely everything to do with you,” Seth confessed reaching out to touch her cheek gently, “as you’re by far the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon and it has everything to do with your heart…”
“Even so, with the way you see me,” Blake’s voice dropped as her eyes grew wide with emotion, “I just wish…well I wish that everyone could see what you see and yet…yet I’m blown away by the fact that you’re the one person in the world that sees it…”
“It’s because you’re a treasure, Blake.  You’re a woman with so many amazing attributes that mere words can’t describe all that you are,” Seth continued feeling his heart pouring with love for her as she stepped out of his arms, taking a slow backward movement.
“Even so, they say a picture is worth a thousand words Seth, and when you’re the one taking it, well you add so much more to the image--so many things that no one else could even come close to capturing, to embracing and when I look at your work,” she brought her finger tips up over the center of his shirt that she’d been wearing, “well I find myself suddenly feeling very jealous of the way that they’ve captured your complete attention…of the way they subjects of your imaging reached you and well, I realize that I want that…”
“Blake…” he started a bit puzzled as she started to unbutton his shirt, taking her time with each tiny white, button as her eyes fixed upon him, a newfound sense of determination racing over her.
“I want you to photograph me,” she confessed, her voice a sultry whisper as she eased his shirt down her shoulders revealing herself to him as he felt a lump forming in his throat, “I want to know what it’s like to have you touch me like that…”
“Blake, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea because before when we…” Seth started finding himself completely mesmerized by her as she continued to disrobe before him.
“Before, we were just getting to know one another, but now, well now I trust you,” Blake confessed kicking aside the clothing she’d been in as she stood before him in a brazen display.
“I know that honey, but with my taking your picture it opens up so many doors and…” he began again feeling his mouth grow dry as she sauntered across the studio making her way over to where they’d shared an intimate moment with one another in the past.  He watched as she situated herself on the floor pouting her lips at him as she tossed her hair back over her shoulder hoping to tempt him with her movements.
“Come on Seth.  You know you want to,” Blake curled her finger in at him, “besides I want to know what it feels like to have you touch me like this.  Please Seth…”
“This is crazy,” Seth began opening up his camera case and pulling out his camera as he kept his eyes upon her thinking of all the ways in which he’d thought about reaching out and touching Blake in such a way.  While making love to her had been beyond incredible, he couldn’t even put to words what seeing her like this was doing to him as clearly Blake had gone through a transformation of sorts before his very eyes and as she trusted him to capture the moment, he couldn’t help but feel honored to be sharing it with her as he reached for a new roll of film giving in to desire, “alright, I’ll do it.”
“Really?” her eyes widened as she felt butterflies dancing in her stomach as she anticipated Seth’s next move all the while knowing what kind of bold step she was taking as she was completely vulnerable placing herself entirely in his hands.  As his eyes scrutinized her, caressing her every contour with his gaze, she felt a sizzle race over her as he set his camera down stepping forward to kneel before her.
“Let’s try something here,” he whispered reaching for a sheer, white, sparkling, translucent material of sorts before handing it to her.  She blinked up at him for a moment seemingly frozen in the moment as he reached out to her, wrapping her up in it in such a way that the silken texture covered her in just the right areas to keep her feeling sexy without being completely obscene as he took a step back admiring her for a long moment.
“Seth, if you want I can,” she started to lean forward feeling the fabric slip down her body just a bit before she bunched it between her fingers keeping it just below the top swell of her breasts.
“Don’t move,” he urged her on lifting his camera as he began snapping away taking picture after picture as she stayed frozen in place.
“You want me to just stay like this,” Blake questioned a bit unsure of herself as she forced a smile.
“No…now you can move,” Seth waved her on moving around at a different angle feeling his camera eat her up as she tossed her hair back over her shoulder and threw him a sultry expression.
“Like this,” she shifted on the floor feeling him follow her every movement as he stepped in closer to her.
“That’s good,” he continued to encourage her watching as she went from somewhat uncomfortable to eating up the lens as it was almost as mesmerized by her as he was.
Seth could feel the air in the studio transform as Blake leaned forward reaching out to the radio that lay beside her.  She turned on a smooth, Latin groove, shifting with the beats as suddenly Seth had found himself captivated by Blake, unable to get enough of her as it seemed that she’d taken this photo session to a new level altogether.  She was beautiful, stunning and with every second he captured a new side of her, he found himself falling more and more in love with her.  It wasn’t until three rolls of film later that he felt himself frozen in the moment as Blake curled her finger at him coaxing him in towards her.
“I think that camera’s already had too much of your attention as if you keep clicking at that rate, you‘re bound to burn yourself out and I‘m not finished by a long shot,” she announced motioning to the floor beside her once again.
“Just one more,” Seth pleaded wanting to get just another shot of her as she leaned in closer to him curling her lips in a pout.
“Come here you,” she whispered extending her arm out to him, urging him to set the camera down as she captured his mouth in a fiery kiss.  Throwing her arms around him, she felt his body burn beneath hers.  Thrusting her palm into the center of his chest, she pushed him down upon the floor beside her before reaching for his camera and snatching it up for herself.  “Much better.”
Seeing the enthusiasm that cracked behind her smile as she clicked the button on his camera capturing him on film, he couldn’t help but grin as he shook his head at her, “Now why do I suddenly get the feeling that this was really about you getting your hands on my camera again?”
“Because that’s true in part,” Blake admitted winking at him before motioning to his shirt, “but before we can really settle into what I have in mind, you’re so going to have to get rid of that shirt as it’s blocking my creative flow.”
“Is that right,” Seth threw out a curious expression before sitting up and reaching for the bottom of his shirt before lifting it up over his head, “How’s this?”
“Much better,” Blake confessed flicking her finger over the corded muscle of his abdomen before tapping her finger nails over the thick, dark material of his belt before throwing out an emphatic sigh, “though I’m afraid that those will have to go as well…”
“You know I’ve never heard of a photo shoot like this where the photographer suddenly becomes the subject of the shoot,” Seth began to argue with her as she sat on her legs lowering the camera to give him a firm glare.
“Seth, don’t argue with me when I’m inspired.  Take it off now before I get a creative block,” she instructed impatiently awaiting his following her orders as she held his camera close to her.
“Far be it from me to get in the way of inspiration,” he remarked with a teasing tone as he shuffled to his feet once again throwing out her his best look of temptation, “but know that I don’t do this for just anyone as no one gets their hands on my camera like that…”
“But I can already see that you’re loving the way I’ve been able to maneuver myself with your…camera,” she replied feeling her breath catch in her throat as she eyed him up and down making no efforts to hide the fact that she was gawking at him.  Lifting the camera once again, she threw out an impatient snap of her fingers, “Come on Seth.  Time is money here.”
“Hmm, well we wouldn’t want to waste that would we,” he teased slowly unhooking his belt watching as she snapped another picture of him with each slow, subtle movement.  He knew he was certainly trying her patience, but it wasn’t everyday that he’d become the one who was on this end of the lens and as Blake was sizing him up, he felt a sudden spark of bashfulness take over him, “Blake this is silly…”
“Oh no it’s not,” she reached out to tear his belt away from him with one quick tug, “if you can take these kind of pictures of me, then I want to have the same of you.  That way we both have ways to blackmail one another in the future if need be…”
“Blackmail you say,” Seth plucked open the button on his pants seeing her chest rise and fall as she took in a quick, labored breath, “I wasn’t aware that we’ve gotten to that point with one another.”
“It doesn’t hurt for a girl to protect her assets,” she remarked with a coy expression as she snapped a few more pictures, “and what fine assets they are.”
“What these?” he questioned shimming his way out of his pants as Blake got up to her feet again, clicking away with the camera.  He took his time putting on a show for her as he could see her clearly getting some kind of enjoyment out of the strip tease he was offering her as his fingers teased over the waistband of his boxers dramatically.  “So…”
“We’re not finished yet Seth,” Blake snapped her fingers once again taking a step back before she held her arm out towards him, “I want them right now.  Give them to me…”
“If you insist,” Seth shook his head realizing that they clearly weren’t going at all on the path they’d charted out for the evening as he kicked off his boxers, throwing them up in the air before tossing them at her.
“Very nice,” Blake purred moving in closer to him as she continued to take his picture, laughing as he flexed his arm just a bit in an attempt to add some light humor to the situation now that he was completely naked and hers for the taking with his camera.  “Very nice indeed…although…” she lowered the camera once again seeing the puzzled expression upon his features.
“Although what,” he questioned watching as a frown touched over her features, darkening the sparkle that her smile had created over her.
“We have a bit of a problem,” Blake confessed easing the strap of the camera over her neck as she eyed him intently.
“What might that be?” Seth questioned watching as she moved across the room opting to set his camera down on one of the counters before spinning around to face him once again.
“Well, it seems that I’ve run out of film,” Blake lifted her hand to her cheek feigning embarrassment, “oops…”
“Hmm, well that does sound like quite a predicament we’re in now, doesn’t it,” Seth lifted a curious brow watching as her fingers teased over the top of the projector next to the camera she’d set down.
“That it does indeed,” she nodded eagerly pressing a button as Seth could hear the sounds of the projector springing to life, “but perhaps we could find a way to tweak my inspiration so to speak…”
“That does sound like it has some very distinct possibilities,” he nodded taking a bold step towards her as he felt her match his movement bridging the distance between them as they found themselves wrapped up in a new kind of game with one another.  “What exactly did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking that maybe just maybe you might reconsider taking me on that trip to Paris or perhaps we could work on our own fairy tale ending that tops the princess decking the prince when he goes to kiss her as I found that to be such a less than satisfactory conclusion,” she motioned to the screen behind him where the Cinderella’s castle now stood upon the wall as a strong sense of déjà vu swept over Seth’s senses.
“Now that I think about it, that prince really did go home with a less than happy ending,” Seth agreed reaching for the light switch as the room darkened all except for the projection upon the wall as Blake approached him, “There weren’t any fireworks or explosions…”
“Or passion and right now, I’m all about passion…” Blake confessed sliding her arms around his shoulders as the light from the projector surrounded them, wrapping them up in a warmth of something altogether different between them as Seth’s arms curled around her and he pulled her in against him.
“In that case, I’m all yours princess,” he whispered capturing her lips in a heated kiss as they spent their time at the studio with one another exploring all the things that developed between them in their own rendition of a more appropriate fairy tale ending fit for a princess and her prince.


Grady pulled the car into a free space in front of Jade’s building and switched off the engine. After a lot of talk and time, he’d asked her if he could at least do her the favor of driving her home. She’d relented, and he’d done the honors. Only the ride home had been awkwardly filled with silence, and now he wasn’t sure how to even start a conversation.

He looked over to her and frowned as he saw the unhappiness in her features. While she’d at least allowed him to explain himself, she still wasn’t happy with him, and if he was honest with himself, he couldn’t exactly blame her. He’d been an ass, and he needed to make up for that. The only problem was he had no idea where he could begin to make up for the things he’d done.

He had promised Jade that he would remain sober. It sounded simple enough, but he knew that he had a long hard road ahead of him. When stress began to weigh on him, his first inclination was to find a bottle shop or bar and drown out the pain with bourbon. He would have to find a new way to deal with the stress, but nothing would ever compare to drinking the pain away.

He took a deep breath as focused on Jade and thought of how he’d hurt her. He should have known that trust would be an issue with her. Considering that her father had betrayed her in such a painful way, Grady cursed himself for not valuing her trust more and finding every way possible to make sure it was well placed. Instead, he had betrayed her trust as well. While he hadn’t completely alienated her with his betrayal, he felt as if he’d pushed her away to a point from which he’d have to struggle to ever bring her back from.

“Jade,” He spoke her name as he thought of her and how much he valued her presence in his life. He’d been loathe to admit it for so long, but she had saved him from a life of loneliness and despair. He’d closed himself off from the world for so long that he hadn’t thought it possible to ever love again, but Jade had pushed her way into his life and his heart. And he loved her with every fiber of his being into the depths of his soul.

Jade turned and met his eyes. She smiled softly as she looked at him with curiosity, “What?”

“I was just thinking about how you’ve changed my life forever,” Grady admitted as he continued to look at her, adoring her every feature, “You’ve given me the chance to love and be loved. I didn’t think that could ever happen to me again, but you made it happen. That’s one of the things I love most about you. You make things happen. You don’t wait for things to happen to you. You go out and make them happen for you. I adore that about you.”

“You make it sound like I’ve made some great accomplishments, but I haven’t,” She said simply.

“But you have. You gave me reason to fight for a normal life. You’ve made me see that I can’t keep living the life that I’ve been living. It needs to change,” He stopped, “I need to change.”

“You’re a good man, Grady. You just need some focus,” She informed him sadly.

“I have focus now. I know that sounds like it’s just lip service, but I am going to change. I’m going to get sober and stay sober. And as for all my rage…” He shrugged, “I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Can I make a suggestion?” She offered as he looked at her eagerly, “I think you should see a psychologist. Not that anything is wrong with you,” She said quickly to qualify her answer, “But the way you deal with your anger is wrong. You need a better way to deal with it, and maybe some anger management is what you need.”

“I never really thought about that,” He frowned.

“You don’t have to commit to anything, but you should keep it in mind,” She suggested as she reached over to take his hand, “Grady, I love you. I just…” She paused.

“You can’t trust me,” He finished her sentence, “It’s okay. I understand what I’ve done has hurt you, and believe me when I say I never wanted that to happen.”

“I know you didn’t, but that’s why this hurts so much. You weren’t thinking, Grady, and that’s what got you into trouble. You need to take time to think about what you’re doing before you act.”

“It just seems like every time I think about my actions, I put off acting so long until I miss a golden opportunity.”

“I said think about your actions, Grady…not dwell on them forever,” She winked at him, “I just think that you need to work on acting on impulse. A lot of times that gets you into trouble.”

“I know,” He frowned, “I really do, but trying to stop that is like stopping a train with a toothpick.”

“It’s just something you have to learn,” Jade pointed out, “But I promise you that you can,” She leaned over and kissed his cheek, “Good night, Grady,” She flashed him a smile before she got out of the car and made her way into her building.

Grady watched Jade walk into the building and sighed. She was right. He could do anything if he just put his mind to it with a goal in mind. Jade was his goal, and he would do whatever it took to keep her in his life.


“Are you sure that this is the place,” Guy questioned looking out onto the empty shoreline as Mindy sat behind the driver’s side of his car awaiting the next move as they prepared to meet with the kidnapper.
“I did exactly what he said,” Mindy instructed him point blank, “I brought you here and didn’t contact the police which I might add I think is a big mistake, but if you really think this is how you want to do things…”
“Look Mindy, it’s the only way to do this as I don’t want to lose my mother,” Guy explained pointedly as he turned to face her again, “You’ve seen how useless the police are and if nothing else, the other night when your apartment was broken into, you should’ve seen that.”
“I did see that, but having someone steal a few thousand dollars worth of things from my apartment is an a completely different league than a five million dollar kidnapping ransom, which by the way I’m guessing you didn’t get from your father since you’re going all lone gunman on this one without getting anyone else involved,” Mindy noted watching the way his face refused to give anything more away about how he’d acquired the money for his mother.
“You’re right.  My father has no idea about any of this,” Guy offered up simply as his eyes scanned the beach area.
“So where did it come from Guy?  I know that you don’t have that kind of cash just laying around.  I mean sure your mother’s company might have that kind of equity in it, but it would take time to get access to it and with you having it right here, right now…” Mindy reminded him simply.
“Mindy, just drop it.  That’s not important right now,” Guy started to argue with her, “All I care about is getting my Mum back.”
“I understand that, but where did the money come from?  Guy if you’re in some kind of trouble…” Mindy stopped herself as a thought occurred to her, “was it from Gabe?  Did he give you the money?”
“No, he didn’t,” Guy shook his head in response, “but I’m sure he would’ve if he didn’t have all that he’s been dealing with where Noelle was concerned.  He’d offered to help, but since Noelle is looking for any and every excuse to keep him away from Brittany I couldn’t go there and ask that of him…”
“So if it’s not your father and it’s not Gabe, then how did you get this money?  Guy, what aren’t you telling me?” Mindy questioned feeling a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as she began to ponder the position she’d found him in when she’d returned to the apartment.  “Guy are you in some kind of trouble now?”
“No, I’m not in trouble and this isn’t illegal.  I mean this whole kidnapping thing is, but where I got the money, well I swore I wouldn’t say anything, but I can assure you that no one is out after my head, nor will the authorities be coming to bust me for breaking any laws…” he tried to dismiss her concerns.
“Except for your going out of your way to ignore their warnings,” Mindy threw back at him with a groan.
“Look Mindy, I brought you here because you took the call earlier, not to have you give me a lecture,” Guy began with a frown.
“No, Guy, I brought you here because you were too drunk to drive which by the way is also the reason why you didn’t take the call to begin with, so before you start giving it to me for being a pal to you, you might want to rethink that attitude here,” she glared back at him.  “I’m not the enemy and if my being concerned about you is reason for you to get worked up, then well, tough because I’m not going to stop being concerned…”
“I’m not asking you to stop being concerned Mindy…just that…” his words were interrupted by the sound of his cell phone ringing as he nearly jumped out of the seat.  Topping the noise off with the pounding in his head after he’d clearly polished off too much of that bottle of scotch, Guy wondered just how much worse the night could be, but if there was hope for him to be reunited with his mother, he certainly wasn’t going to let that pass him by.  Taking in a slow breath, he reached for the cell phone lifting it to his ear to answer, “hello…”
“Get out of the car,” the voice instructed harshly, “Get the money and bring the phone and start moving.”
“Okay,” Guy agreed reaching out over the seat into the back as he pulled the duffle back up front with him, “Where would you like me to go?”
“Just get out of the car,” the voice warned as Guy gave Mindy one last look before taking in a nervous breath and opening up the car door.  Feeling the breeze whip over him as the beginnings of rain seemed to touch over his body, he stepped out into the night praying that this was the miracle he’d been holding out for.
Looking around, he could see the dark waters ahead of him with their otherwise calm blackness replaced by a slow, subtle, rocking set of waves as he pushed his way through the sand unsure of what his next move would be. Tentatively, his fingers curled around the cell phone as his eyes adjusted to his surroundings feeling the winds pick up with each step he made away from the car while he awaited his instructions.
“Now you’re going to keep walking for another hundred feet where you’ll find a trash bin.  Drop the bag in the bin and then go to the car.”

“But what about my mother?” Guy questioned again, the thudding of his heart guiding his every movement as he looked around the beach wondering if his mother was close by.
“Just do what I tell you and then you’ll be reunited with your mother,” the voice instructed hanging up the phone as Guy slid his cell phone back into his pocket, feeling the weight of the moment upon him as he could hear the sounds of his heart pounding in his throat, alerting him to the nagging fear that had consumed him from the time his mother had disappeared.
Now as he continued to push his way through the darkness, the sounds of the water rolling in towards the shore mirrored the sensations taking place in his stomach as the rain began to come down harder and faster than before.  Up ahead in the distance he could make out the shadow of something on the beach which he assumed was the trash bin that the kidnapper had spoken of.  While he didn’t want to get himself worked up about this any more than necessary, he couldn’t help but say a silent prayer to the higher powers hoping that tonight’s ransom drop would be a success and he’d be reunited with his mother again.
“I’m on my way to get you Mum,” Guy whispered to himself gripping the duffle bag securely as he took in a slow breath, feeling himself blinded as suddenly a bright light filled the beach coming from directly in front of him as it seemed that there was some sort of car parked up ahead, using it’s bright lights to direct him to the trash bin along with preventing him from seeing who was on the other side waiting for the drop.  Quickly Guy shuffled forward finding himself standing over the bin as he reluctantly dropped the bag into it, finding himself frozen in the moment as he couldn’t help but stare at the vehicle before him.  He wanted to run out to it--to claim his mother from within, but instead he thought of the menace in the tone of the caller and as he forced himself to follow the kidnapper’s demands he turned back towards his car returning to Mindy as he awaited the next move.
“Well…what happened,” Mindy questioned as Guy opened up the car door and slid into the passenger seat.  “Where’s your mom?”
“I don’t know…” Guy confessed his hands shaking as he found himself terrified of what came next.  The lights continued to pour into his car from across the beach as it was obvious the kidnapper was still waiting and watching and as Guy thought of his mother wondering if things would go down smoothly, his cell phone rang once again.
“Where is she,” Guy questioned answering his phone as the caller let out a sigh.
“When I make sure that you’ve given me what I’ve asked for, then we’ll make a trade.  I’ll count the money and then you’ll find your mother returned to you at a location of my choice…”
“That wasn’t part of the deal,” Guy began to argue with him.
“I’m the one making the rules and if you did what you were told, you have nothing to worry about,” the man explained as Guy could see shadows up ahead on the beach, clearly making a move for the money as his fears mounted.
“I want my mother back now,” Guy demanded once again.
“I’ll send you a text message with the directions on where to find her,” the voice replied as Guy was met with a silence on the other end of the line.
“Something isn’t right here,” Mindy replied putting the car in gear as she watched the lights before them fade to black.  The sounds of an engine roaring took control as the car across the beach started to peal off into the night, “Guy we need to follow him.”
“No,” Guy shook his head as he felt the buzzing of his phone in his hand.  Looking down he saw the directions written out to the location where he and Mindy would find his mother and as he saw an image of his mother flash before him in the text message, he shook his head once again, “We go here.  We have to find her.”
“I just hope we’re not making a mistake in letting this guy get away,” Mindy started to argue with him seeing the determined look upon his features as she reluctantly followed his request, all the while wondering if they would ever see Brooke Morrison again now that the kidnapper had his hands on five million dollars.


“And so here we are back in the thick of the storm holding onto one another once again in the place where we started this whole crazy thing called love,” Russell teased listening to the sounds of lightening and thunder crashing outside the cabin as he and Avery were snuggled up with one another beneath the blankets backing in the aftermath of their love making experience.  While the winds whipped and roared outside the cabin, it seemed that a calm had settled in upon the two of them as Avery snuggled against his chest listening to his heart rate returning to normal as she nestled in over him.
“I guess some things never change, do they,” she sighed running her hand over the center of his smooth chest as she felt herself completely at ease in his arms, still melting against him as their fire and intensity had burned them both out of control leaving them in that state of beautiful bliss that only seemed to exist for the two of them together.
“No, they don’t, although in some ways I’m very grateful for that,” he admitted kissing the top of her head as he teased his fingers through her damp hair coaxing her dark eyes to meet his once again, “because I don’t know where I’d be right now if I couldn’t be with you like this…sharing this with you…”
“Russ, I thought we’ve already established that isn’t an option for us,” she maneuvered herself over him shifting in his arms as he turned to his side keeping his hold upon her as they lay next to one another.
“I know sweetheart,” he reached out to her touching her cheek gingerly, “it’s just in being here, well it brings back so many wonderful memories for me…”
“Me too,” Avery confessed unable to hide the smile that tickled over her lips as she teased her fingertips over his shoulder tentatively, “although I think we’ve worked to create some beautiful new ones along the way.”
“That we have,” he confessed capturing her lips in a slow, sensual kiss as he felt the cool, golden locket he’d given her earlier press up against his chest, “though I suppose we should take the time to appreciate the new and the old while we’re here.”
“You mean take another trip down memory lane,” she lifted a curious brow seeing the twinkle behind his daring green eyes, “Russ, I have to admit that while we were well on the way to doing that just now, things have gotten a lot better than they were the first time we were here together like this…”
“Hey, is that an insult I hear about to spill from your lips,” Russ curled his lip in a mock pout as she couldn’t help but let out the laugh she’d been holding back on.
“Oh come on Russ.  Neither one of us were sex gods there the first time,” Avery pointed out with a simple shake of her head, “but then again we weren’t supposed to be as that comes along with our being kids like that.”
“Even so, that night is something I’ve always kept with me,” he confessed pressing a loose strand of hair from her eyes as a smile teased over the corners of mouth, “even know when I think about how beautiful you were--about how amazing it felt to hold you and be with you like that at long last…”
“It was pretty special, wasn’t it,” Avery couldn’t help but feel a rush of emotion tugging at her heartstrings, “I mean here I was this crazy, head over heels lovesick teenager who knew nothing about the world around her, yet I made the altogether amazing decision to share an experience like that with you…”
“I knew from the moment I met you that you were the one for me Avery and when we’d finally made love that night,” he tipped down to brush his lips against hers in a soft, sweep, melding his mouth to hers in a tender caress, “well I just knew that from that moment on, I’d never get you out of my system…”
“One would never be able to guess that one with your enthusiasm Russ,” Avery couldn’t help but teased tickling her fingers down over his body as he curled his arm around her.
“Can I help it if I happen to think you’re the most remarkable woman in the world and that I feel like the luckiest man alive when you‘re near me,” he questioned proudly securing his hold on her.
“Hmm, well I suppose I can’t hold that against you, but don’t expect to hold it against me that I happen to think that I’ve hit the jackpot in marrying the most noble, handsome, wonderful man alive as you have me rather addicted to you as well…”
“So what you’re saying is that we have something that borders on obsession then?” he arched a speculative brow.
“Well, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to consider it obsession as that has such a negative implication that it carries with it,” Avery admitted with a simple shrug of her shoulders, “as I think I’d much rather prefer something like obvious chemistry, raw, untamed sexual heat or…”
“Love?” Russell suggested with a smile nibbling on her lower lips as she purred back at him in agreement.
“Hmm…I do like the sound of it,” she nodded eagerly as they parted, “Love it is…”
“And love it will always be,” he ran his fingers gingerly through her dark hair as he held her, “as we have a lot ahead of us here you know…”
“Starting with our baby who probably thinks we’re lunatics right about now with the way we can’t seem to keep our hands off of one another,” Avery couldn’t help but tease as she snuggled in closer to him once again.
“Hmm, well I don’t think that really makes us lunatics honey as it just says that we can’t get enough of one another which I’ve been reading is a very healthy thing for a child growing up to have his or her parents madly in love with one another complete with passion and fire…” he began to reason as he held her savoring the connection between them.
“You’ve been reading all of that?” she eyed him closely, “Since when?”
“Since I’ve had a little time on my hands there lately,” he offered up seeing the look of skepticism behind her dark eyes, “Okay I read it the other night when Grady was in the midst of his drunken haze.  He was all talking to people who weren’t there so I grabbed one of the books my mother brought over and thought I’d take a look at it.”
“I think I’m shocked,” Avery teased her eyes widening as she gazed at him, “as I never thought I’d live to see the day that you’d crack down and start studying the baby books there when it came to the rules of parenting.”
“Well I’ve never had the prospect of being a father be so real to me before and since I’ve made a lot of impulsive, stupid decisions in the past, I thought that maybe it was time I started getting myself back on track again since I have the whole fatherly role approaching…” he winked at her playing a bit as he squeezed her, “as you couldn’t expect me to be the wild man forever.”
“Oh no of course not,” Avery tickled her fingers over his muscled arms, appreciating the lines of his body as he held her, “though if we reflect upon what just happened in this very bed then…”
“Shh…” he clasped his hand over her mouth winking down at her, “as we don’t want to ruin my good father reputation before it starts.  I already told you that passion and intensity is more than appropriate for two parents to be so if I happen to have a bit of my impulsive, reckless side with me when we’re making love, then that’s entirely within the realm of good parenting.”
“Ah, I see, so even though what just happened here is probably illegal in quite a few states there, it’s entirely well within the rules of parenthood,” she chuckled watching as his face lit up with the thought.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” he nodded eagerly, “so as you see, we can leap into being the responsible, respectable parents and not lose any of this along the way…”
“Thank heavens as it would be such a pity to give all this up,” Avery sighed feeling him curl his arm around her as he shifted onto his back, bringing her in over his chest to cuddle once again.  She closed her eyes listening to the sounds of his heart beneath her before she pressed a kiss over the center of his chest, “though I must confess that I do have another question for you since you‘re all up on the parenting knowledge these days…”
“What might that be?” he inquired lazily tracing circles over her spine as he held her.
“What are you hoping for,” she braced herself up on her elbows to watch the expression that crossed over his features.
“You mean right now?” he raised his eyebrow suggestively as his eyes gave her a very thorough once over.
“Not that silly,” she swatted at his chest shaking her head at him simply, “Let’s forget about your libido for a moment and get back to that respectable father image you’re trying so very hard to portray.”
“Well, then I suppose I can give it a try,” he cleared his throat before his face transformed into a mask of seriousness, “What would you like to know sweetheart?”
“I’d like to know whether or not you’re thinking about what our baby is going to be like,” she drew a lazy circle over his chest with her index finger pondering the thought herself, “I mean you’ve never really said if you had a preference to whether you wanted to have a little boy or a little girl here…”
“Why not both,” Russell suggested with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “as I think that pretty much covers my views on the subject.”
“Russ, I’m being serious,” she balked out with a tiny laugh as her dark eyes penetrated his.
“So am I,” he confessed honestly, “as I’ve always dreamt about the two of us having a baseball team with one another…”
“Russ, now you’re being unrealistic here,” she threw back at him pointedly, “as we both know that this baby in itself is a miracle that might not happen for us again…”
“See, I’m not so sure about that,” he confessed tracing the outline of her passion-swelled lips as he held her, “as I got to thinking about our discussion on Bruce and I’m starting to wonder if we were on to something there the other night…”
“You mean in his deceiving me by making me believe that I’d never have our baby,” Avery half questioned feeling a tiny shiver race over her at the thought of what they’d gone through during their time apart after she’d allowed Bruce to be a part of her life.
“Well, if you think about it, in a strange way it all makes sense…” he began again as a frown touched over his lips.
“Yes and no,” she paused contemplating the notion as she lay over him, “I mean okay yes, it’s entirely possible given what we know, but why would Bruce outright say something like that to me before we had anything together?  Why lie to me at a time like that and why…”
“Avery, the man is a lunatic.  We already covered that so it’s entirely possible that from the moment he saw you, he was fixated on you and he decided he’d do what was necessary to keep you at his side even if it meant lying to you to keep you away from the man you love,” he sighed heavily shaking his head at the thought, “I mean with what you told me about the pills he had you taking…”
“I know,” she nodded in agreement, “and you’re right.  In that sense what we’ve contemplated makes perfect sense, but then again, I had a miscarriage before Russ.  I lost our baby and I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so maybe there was some truth to…”
“Shh…” he pressed his finger over her lips to silence her, “we’re not going to go there right now as tonight is about new beginnings.”
“I know, but when I think about…” she sighed dropping her head down against his chest once again, “It’s just hard not to think back to that time as I’ve always wondered what it was that I did wrong--of how I’d been such a disaster that I lost our child Russ…”
“Sometimes things happen that we can’t explain, but we have to hold onto hope for the future that things will have a way of working themselves out,” he whispered gently feeling the pain of the past haunting her as he knew that the loss they’d encountered would never truly leave them even with the promise of a child in their future, “You know baby, the truth to the matter is that I don’t care if we have a boy or a girl just as long as we have a healthy, beautiful baby that has his or her mother’s good looks.  Though I will say up front that if we have a girl, she‘s not going to be leaving the house to date until she‘s thirty…”
“Thirty,” Avery repeated lifting her head as she gave him a strange look, “why thirty?”
“Baby, think about what we were like as teenagers,” he pointed out with a frown, “the last thing I want is my little girl doing any of the things that we did even if they were completely right for us…”
“So you’re saying if we have a daughter, you’re going to keep her from falling in love until she’s thirty,” Avery lifted a curious brow.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all as she can fall in love at any time, but I’m going to make damn sure that she’s not sneaking off and finding some cuddle time with some guy in his family cabin when we think she’s off doing something else,” Russell remarked pointedly as he contemplated the thought of having a daughter with his same strong sense of determination.  “Come to think of it if we have a boy, I don’t see him dating at all before then either.”
“Hey, are you trying to imply something about me here,” Avery curled her lip in a pout.
“No, not at all….well maybe, but not entirely as I remember how we both were…how we are and can you honestly tell me that you want our son or daughter to follow that same path?” he threw back at her pointedly.
“I shudder at the thought,” Avery confessed with a tiny tremble, “as that would be a nightmare…”
“One that we certainly wouldn’t need that early on,” he continued dropping his hand down to Avery’s abdomen to caress her body gingerly, “as our baby is going to be a very well behaved good little girl or boy…”
“Oh Russ, who are we kidding, we both know we’re in for big trouble,” Avery turned her eyes up towards his again as she felt him take in a slow, contemplative breath.
“Okay, so you’re right on that one, but let’s not ruin the dream this early on.  I mean hey, we can hope that our children won’t make our same reckless, impulsive moves…” he paused for a long moment, “and while they might feel like mistakes to some parents, you have to admit that it all worked out just fine for us.”
“True, but how often does that happen,” Avery pondered the thought, “I mean it’s not everyday that a woman finds herself in love with a man as amazing as you are and unless our little girl would find a man like you…”
“Or a woman like you…” he added as he thought about their child’s future, “then I’d have to say it’ll be a safe bet for us to get some kind of alarm system for the house before we hit the teen years.”
“I’m thinking top of the line alarms there,” Avery agreed with a tiny laugh as she shifted over him with a gasp, “Oh Russ, do you have any idea what we sound like right about now?”
“Unfortunately I know what we sound like,” he confessed with a tiny shake of his head, “and I think my parents would be very proud of us in the moment…”
“Well, I’m not entirely sure of that one as we’re in a rather tentative position in this particular moment,” Avery wiggled her brow motioning to the fact that they were naked beneath the blankets, “but I get what you’re saying…”
“Hey, we can always be thankful that we made it to this moment because I really thought that your father was going to kill me long ago when he discovered that we were together as lovers,” Russell thought back to their wild youth, “Then again, I really thought I was in for it on our honeymoon when he showed up at the hotel and caught a glimpse of what we were doing…”
“Oh I know.  I was completely mortified that he came in and saw me standing there in that towel practically begging you to take me then and there…” Avery chuckled at the thought, “God, we really have had a lot happen to us, haven’t we?”
“Yeah we have and while it’s been a mixture of things, I have to admit that I wouldn’t trade a moment of this for the world,” he confessed squeezing his arms around her securely.
“Neither would I Russ,” she admitted honestly reaching for his hand before she laced their fingers with one another looking at their wedding rings on their fingers, “as this bond between us is everything to me…”
“We really have it all now Avery,” he breathed as he coaxed her up into another heartfelt kiss.
“I know we do Russ,” she agreed breaking away from the kiss as he held her, “although we have been missing something pretty important here which has kind of been on my mind for a while…”
“What might that be?” he questioned seeing a hint of mischief behind her eyes.
“Well, since you don’t really have a preference either way about the sex of our child, it looks like we’re going to have a long list of names for both boys and girls to check out--at least until we decide that the curiosity is killing us and we cajole Deidra into letting us know whether we’re going to have a baby boy or a little girl there…”
“Hmm, well you know I kind of had a feeling something like that was in the back of your mind, which is why I thought this might come in handy…” Russell reached out over the side of the bed pulling something up from under the mattress as Avery watched him closely.
“Russ, I don’t believe it,” Avery squealed snatching the book from his hands as she realized that he’d brought an extensive book of possible baby names with him on their trip out of town.
“Well, we couldn’t just call our child Baby Denton forever could we,” Russell added with a knowing grin watching as she shifted over him, plopping down beside him on the mattress as she began to thumb through the pages.
“Of course not, but would you look at how much we have to go through here,” Avery browsed through the first few pages before looking to him once again, “Russ, we’re never going to have enough time to find the perfect name here for our baby.”
“Of course we are sweetheart,” he sat up stretching out from beneath the blankets as he couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the enthusiasm he saw building behind her features.  “In fact, let me take a look at that…”
“Russ, I’m telling you that we’ve got a long road ahead of us…” she began again shaking her head at the thought, “I guess I just never really took the time to ponder how many names were out there before, but…”
“But we can go through them together,” he suggested reaching for the book and bringing it into his lap before curling his arm around her and pulling her close to him.  “What do you say?”
“I think it sounds like a great plan,” she agreed watching as he opened the book once again ready to dive into the list when she felt a tiny bump at her leg.  Turning her eyes towards the bottom of the bed, she noticed that Rusty had climbed up onto the blankets, making his presence known as he pranced on over to them, making his way onto Avery’s lap on the blanket.
“Hey, would you look,” Russell couldn’t help but find himself amused as their kitten pressed his paw over the book before letting out a long yawn, “I think this just became a family affair here.”
“Well, hey, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Avery confessed curling her arm around Rusty as she pulled him in closer to her before she lay her head against Russell ready to dive into the new adventure that the three of them were about to embark upon where the future of the Denton family was concerned.

Douglas pulled out a chair for Thea with a smile as she sat at the table. He couldn’t quite figure out what had inspired him to ask her to dinner. He knew he was asking for trouble, but he’d never quite been one to sit on the wayside and let everyone around him have all the fun. He wanted to enjoy Thea’s game of cat and mouse with Cameron and be an active participant in the game. Besides, any chance to see Cameron squirm was a good one.

He sat down in his own seat and ordered an expensive bottle of wine which the waiter went to retrieve as he looked across the table to his dinner companion. She seemed to be quite pleased with his restaurant choice, and she was practically walking on air. He only had to figure out what the source of her joy was as he knew that a simple dinner invitation wasn’t enough to impress a woman like Thea.

“What are you looking at?” Thea asked with a smile, “You look like you’ve never seen me before or something.”

“I’m just wondering why you seem to be so happy. You didn’t seem quite so buoyant when we talked earlier,” He observed as he draped a napkin over his lap.

“Oh I had a turn of events today that changed things for the better,” She smiled as the waiter returned and filled each of their glasses. She lifted hers and gently swirled the wine in the glass as thoughts of Cameron danced through her head. She had seen the anger blazing in his eyes, and she loved it. It was no less than what he deserved for running off with a tramp like Heather Gibbons.

“Dare I ask what could be such a great turn of events?” He asked as he took a sip of the wine.

“Oh I just paid a visit to Cameron,” She said with a simple shrug.

“And that made your day?” Douglas asked in slight amusement, “My you are easy to please, aren’t you?”

“You have no idea. A little revenge is good for my soul,” She said with a grin as she sipped her wine.

“So I take it that you angered Cameron…it’s the only explanation for your levity,” He noted.

“I did, and it was perfect,” She smiled.

“I must admit that I don’t quite understand your relationship with Cameron. How you two can constantly war with one another and yet remain comrades is truly puzzling.”

“We understand one another,” She spoke as she placed her wine glass upon the table and crossed her arms.

“How is it that I can’t even begin to understand either one of you,” He sighed as he glanced across the room and frowned, “Speak of the devil.”

“What?” Thea questioned as she turned to see Cameron stepping into the restaurant with Heather on his arm, “Oh boy.”

“What’s he doing with her?” Douglas asked with displeasure evident in his face, “I get that she has no respect for Kipp, but for Cameron to try to take Kipp’s place…”

“You have no idea…yet,” Thea frowned as Cameron spotted them and approached their table.

“Douglas,” Cameron said his name as he held Heather close to his side, “How are you this evening?”

“I’m doing well,” Douglas spoke as he looked up to Cameron then to Heather with disdain, “What are you doing with her? Lowering your standards?”

“Hardly,” Heather chimed in as she held out her left hand and fluttered her finger at him, “Cameron is my husband.”

Douglas’s eyes shifted to Cameron, “What the hell?”

“It’s true,” Cameron smiled his dastardly best, “Kipp’s child is going to need a father, and I intend to do my very best to be that father.”

“Like hell,” Douglas snorted, “You can’t take care of yourself much less a child. Besides, if she’s already jumped into your bed, chances are the child doesn’t belong to Kipp after all. Tell me, Cameron, were you trying to push Kipp over the edge or did all of this just happen for you coincidentally?”

“I assure you that I had nothing to do with Kipp’s tragedy, but I fully intend to see to it that his child doesn’t befall the same fate,” Cameron met Douglas’s eyes coldly, “And keeping you out of the baby’s life is the best thing I can do for the child.”

“What?” Douglas rolled his eyes, “That bastard she’s carrying does not belong to Kipp,” He said doubtfully.

“My baby is Kipp’s,” Heather declared firmly, “Not that it really matters to me. If you had it your way, my baby wouldn’t even exist.”

“Your bastard offspring is of no concern to me. You,” Douglas declared firmly, “Are of no concern to me.”

Heather shook her head in angered disbelief as Cameron cut Douglas a hateful glare before escorting Heather away from the table.

Thea sighed as she sipped her wine. Douglas looked to Thea, “So this is what has you so pissed.”

“Hmm,” She nodded, “Can you blame me?”

“Hardly,” He sat down in his chair with a grimace, “Why would Cameron do anything such as this?”

“Because he thinks he has the upper hand over you, but you held your own with characteristic poise. Just as always,” Thea smiled as she slid her chair around the table to be closer to him, “But what do you say we ignore them and just enjoy our evening?” She asked as she slipped her arm around his shoulders.

Douglas looked to her and knew that if he played up a scene in front of Cameron, the younger man would explode in fury. That thought appealed to Douglas very much as he cupped Thea’s cheek and eased his lips to hers, determined to drive Cameron insane and have fun in the process of it.


Jenna looked out the window of Hart’s car as he drove them to the restaurant. She hadn’t exactly been thrilled at the idea of dinner out on the town, but Hart had somehow convinced her that it would be fun. Strange how he could convince her of practically anything with a little arm twisting. Not that she really needed a lot of convincing of anything, but god how she loved to spar with him over little tidbits here and there.

She glanced over at him and smiled as she thought of how things had turned around for them. It was odd how her hatred and absolute loathing of the man had somehow became love and adoration. It was one of those occurrences that couldn’t quite be explained, and to be honest, she wasn’t sure she wanted an explanation. She was a little afraid that it would ruin the beauty of what they had between them.

Hart caught her glance and smiled, “I see you’re admiring the profile there. Can’t say I blame you. I am nice to look at,” He teased as he pulled the car into the parking lot.

“If that head of yours gets any bigger, you won’t be able to get out of this car,” She pointed out as she looked around the parking lot, “It’s still raining.”

“You’re not afraid of a little rain, are you?” He asked as he switched off the engine.

“No, but it’s not exactly what I had in mind when I wore these shoes,” She said as she pointed her toe for his inspection.

“I have a fix for that,” He assured her as he stepped out of the car.

“Hart…” She groaned. He could drive her crazy with the simplest words or actions, and it made her love him all the more.

The passenger side door opened, and Hart stooped down beside her, “Grab your purse.”

“What are you planning?” She asked as she secured her purse over her shoulder.

“I’m going to save your shoes,” He winked at her as he plucked her from the car seat and lifted her into his arms. He bumped the car door with his behind to close it as he jogged across the parking lot through the rain.

Jenna giggled as she buried her face in his neck, “You’re crazy, you know that?”

“Maybe,” He teased in return as they finally reached the awning of the restaurant. He gently eased her to her feet and smiled as he looked down to her feet, “See there, your shoes are safe.”

“Oh my hero,” She laughed softly as she leaned into him and drew him into a kiss.

“Hmm, maybe this hero thing has something to it after all,” He teased, “Maybe I should trade in my dark horse and find myself a white hat.”

“Don’t you dare. I love you just the way you are,” She assured him as she drew him into another kiss.

“Hmm, maybe we should just skip dinner and go straight to dessert,” He grinned as he squeezed her in his arms.

Jenna sighed against his lips as his kiss was both tender and seductive. She met his eyes and smiled, “Normally I would, but your heroic act shouldn’t go in vain. So let’s go at least eat an appetizer,” She winked at him as she took his hand and drew him with her into the restaurant.

“Maybe this hero stuff isn’t so hot after all,” He teased as she pulled him along with her.

As they stepped up to the host, Jenna grabbed Hart’s arm in a death grip and froze. He looked at her quickly, noting the pale color of her face, “Jen…hey, what’s wrong?”

“That,” Jenna declared as she pointed into the restaurant at Doug and Thea canoodling with each other.

“Well…that’s different,” Hart noted before he recognized Doug’s companion, “That’s Thea Valentine.”

“Who’s that?” She questioned as she continued to watch her father kiss and caress the young woman beside him.

“She works for Cameron Stone.”

“She what?” Jenna grimaced as she watched them. She turned her back on the scene before her and looked to Hart, “On second thought, I just lost my appetite. Maybe we should go home.”

Hart watched her carefully for a moment, “Jen…”

“No, Hart, I really can’t stand to look at that,” She stated as she tried to will herself out of tearing up, “Could you please just take me home?”

“Of course,” He nodded as he took her hand and led her out of the restaurant.

Jenna felt sick to her stomach. It was beginning to look as if her mother had been right about Douglas, and she had just been living in a childhood dream of a caring father figure. And for that, she had pushed her mother so far away. “Oh god, what have I done?” She whispered to herself as she thought of the chasm between her and her mother. She could only hope that there was some way to repair the damage done between them and that she could muster up the strength to admit she was wrong about the man her mother had warned her about.


“Hungry?” Seth inquired huddling in closer to Blake as he held her taking the time to savor the moment between them after they’d finally mustered up the energy to get dressed again and back on their way to his apartment.  Now after he’d finished locking up the studio, he kept his arms around her feeling the rain coming from above as she tucked her head in against his chest trying to shield herself from the cold that came along with the storm.
“Famished,” Blake confessed tipping her head up towards him finding herself unable to lose the smile that had stayed over her features after what they’d just shared with one another a while earlier.  Suddenly the night held a whole new meaning for her as she curled her arms around his body possessively, “though I’m guessing that the same could be said for you right about now…”
“Oh yeah,” he nodded in response, “and while I think we could’ve stayed at the studio all night long, well maybe it might be better if we get back to my place.  I can make us a nice dinner and then…”
“Then I can work on fixing up some kind of dessert for us,” she suggested tapering her fingertips in beneath the bottom of his shirt thinking about how good it felt to have his body surrounding hers in their time alone with one another.
“You’re insatiable, aren’t you,” Seth couldn’t help but laugh at the way she was eyeing him like she’d eat him alive all over again if she had the chance.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Blake nodded in confession, “but first I really think that we should find our way back to your place…although…”
“Yes,” he questioned lazily tipping down to kiss her tentatively as he pulled her in under the awning to keep her completely out of the rain the night had surprised them with.
“Maybe we should plan for that whole cooking dinner together on another night because I’m thinking that with what I have in mind, take out is probably a better idea,” she mouthed in a hushed whisper as the tone of her voice caused him to sizzle all over.
“Take out could certainly work right now,” Seth decided in complete agreement as motioned over her shoulder over at his car in the lot, “Should we make a run for it?”
“Let’s,” Blake nodded reaching for his hand before turning her attention to the rain storm going on around the both of them.  “Wait!”
“What’s wrong,” Seth questioned watching a faint flicker of panic behind her eyes.
“You have the film right,” she dropped her hands into his pockets feeling up the rolls that they’d filled up in their earlier love play.
“They should all be there,” he nodded in confession feeling a warmth press over him as she teased her fingers around in his pockets.
“Just making sure,” she insisted with a breath of relief, “as I’d hate to have some poor, unsuspecting photographer find them and get the shock of his life…”
“Trust me Blake,” Seth promised her honestly, “if and when I develop these, I’ll do it at my place as I have my own darkroom of sorts I can set up from time to time when I have extra work going on.  I’ll just make sure Jade’s gone for the day and…”
“We can do it together,” Blake suggested brightly, “as I’d love to see how my masterful artwork turned out.”
“I’m almost afraid to look because I’m really not the model type,” Seth couldn’t help but offer up a nervous laugh.
“Oh darling, you were sexy as hell and I’m looking very forward to getting a few copies to carry with me since you’ll be my pinup guy there,” Blake teased further offering up a flirty, playful smile before giving him a once over, “but right now, well I think I could really go for something Greek, but until then I suppose I‘ll settle for some Italian food….”
“Italian it is then,” Seth shook his head at her reaching for her hand and guiding her through the storm as they headed to his car ready to find a quick fix to the matter at hand.  Driving along the quiet street, Seth spotted a little Italian place that he and Jade had been to a few times in the past and now as he thought of Blake’s craving, he figured that it would work for the moment.  “How’s this?”
“I’ve honestly never been here before,” Blake confessed eyeing the small building before her.
“Never?” Seth’s eyes widened in response.
“No, I don’t believe so,” she shook her head back at him.
“Then you have been missing out beautiful,” Seth decided putting the car into park as he reached out to her, “This place is one of the best Italian restaurants in this area.  I can’t believe you’ve never experienced it before.”
“I guess I never knew it existed,” she shrugged her shoulders in response, “though I suppose that today is the day to start with new things, huh?”
“I’d say so, but I will admit that with what’s happened today, well Blake, this is more than I ever thought possible for us,” he reached out to touch her cheek gently, “I mean I’ve dreamt about us being together like this, but for a long time I never thought I’d get the chance to hold you…to be sharing a moment like this with you again…”
“I’m glad we were both wrong about that one,” Blake offered up in response pressing another quick kiss to his lips before breaking away from him, “Now let’s get something to eat because I’m starving.”
“We can’t have that,” Seth decided opening up his door before circling around to help her out of the car before the two of them made their way to the small restaurant breaking out of the storm before the rain came down in a loud, roaring, pulsating stream.  “Hey, would you look at that?  We missed the worst of it…”
“Yeah, but now we’re kind of stuck it seems,” Blake frowned watching the lightening flicker outside the glass door as she realized that their plans may be going through another change once again.  Turning to face Seth, she could feel the hearty spices and aromas of the restaurant seducing her senses as her stomach began to rumble reminding her of all that they’d skipped over during their eventful day, “but then again maybe that’s not such a bad idea.”
“Not at all,” Seth decided reaching for her hand and lifting it to his lips for a quick peck, “as I must admit that take out just doesn’t do this place justice.”
“So I’m seeing,” Blake commented taking in the romantic atmosphere as the dimly lit room before her held an air of romance and true Italian spirit as the tables were draped in fine, ivory colored table clothes with a crimson floral design that accentuated the beautiful centerpieces.  Suddenly immersed within the atmosphere, she began to wonder if perhaps a night out was something that would do them good before they journeyed back to his apartment, but before she could vocalize her thoughts on the subject, the front door to the restaurant opened and two more patrons stepped inside immediately killing the mood for her.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Diane remarked dryly as she shook her hair out, her eyes narrowing at Blake as she stood upright a scowl carrying over her features, “Blake you look like hell…”
“You’re one to talk,” Blake hissed in response immediately returning to her defensive position as she glared at her long time adversary.
“Well isn’t this a surprise,” Ben cleared his throat turning around to see the two women in a standoff before he turned his attention to Seth, “I guess the rain gave us all the same idea.”
“Blake was in the mood for Italian and I thought I’d show her the best,” Seth explained as the host arrived greeting the four of them brightly.
“Good evening,” he reached for a few menus, “four this evening?”
“Oh no, we’re not…” Blake began as Diane stepped forward, pushing Blake out of her way.
“We’re not together at all,” Diane blurted out wanting nothing more than to be as far from Blake as possible during this night of all nights.
“That’s right.  We’re just going to get a carry out,” Blake added with a quick nod of her head refusing to dine anywhere near Diane as the thunder roared outside the restaurant.
“Actually, maybe we should stay for a while and sit out the storm,” Seth suggested bringing his arm around Blake’s waist as Diane glared over at her.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea considering…” Blake started again as the host cleared his throat once again.
“So is it two and two or four for dinner tonight,” he inquired once again.
“Actually, it was only supposed to be two and two, but I don’t mind if Blake and Seth join us,” Ben piped in wanting to find a way to get the rivalry between Blake and Diane to be put to rest for the evening, “I mean we’re all pals here, so why not make the most of the experience?”
“Speak for yourself Ben,” Diane glared at him as he reached for her arm.
“Would you excuse us for a second,” Ben lifted his finger pulling Diane away from Seth and Blake for a moment before he lowered his voice to a hushed whisper, “Diane, you promised you’d behave around her…”
“That was before I thought I’d actually have to spend any time around that witch,” Diane hissed back at him, “and besides she has no business being here with Seth considering that we both know she’s just using him to get a rise out of that doctor she’s dating.  That’s how Blake works.  She just plays games with men toying with them until she has no more use for them and then when she’s done, they’re left brokenhearted and I’m not about to sit back and pretend that I approve of what she’s doing to my best friend’s brother.”
“I’m not saying you have to approve, but you could at least try to bury the hatchet for a little while since we’re both here tonight in this storm,” Ben suggested turning his attention to Blake and Seth once again, “as I wouldn’t mind having the chance to speak with them and touch base about what’s going on with the microfilm…”
“Even so, I would rather bury the hatchet in her head than have to have to sit through dinner with her and listen to her incessant whining about the woes in her world,” Diane rolled her eyes once again, “The woman is trouble and if Seth is too stupid to see that…”
“What Seth sees in her isn’t our problem, but helping our friends should be our main concern and if being nice to Blake is a means to achieving that, then I would think that you’d want to be on your best behavior until we have this situation resolved,” Ben reminded her sharply, “Think about Jade.”
“I am thinking about Jade which is why I really don’t think Blake and Seth should be together considering that…” Diane sighed realizing that Ben wasn’t about to let up on the issue as the determination behind his features was all she needed to see that it was a losing battle, “Fine, we can have dinner with them, but don’t think that I approve at all because I don’t.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he promised leading her back over to where Blake and Seth were standing as he cleared his throat, “Diane and I would love for you to have dinner with us since we’re all here.”
“Well actually Blake and I really weren’t planning on staying and since she wants to get going,” Seth started as Blake eyed Diane with heavy scrutiny wondering what Diane was up to for Ben to have come back to them with a complete about face.
“No, we can stay,” Blake decided realizing that if nothing else, she might enjoy the time to watch Diane squirm as she was certain that more than anything Diane wanted Blake to run out of the restaurant avoiding her at all costs.  “I think it would be a great idea for us all to have dinner together.  I’d like that.”
“Well then I guess it’s settled,” Seth decided curling his arm around her as he turned to the host, “I guess it’ll be four for dinner after all.”
“Right this way,” the man guided them over to a quiet table near the far corner of the restaurant before offering to bring them a bottle of wine.  Seth held out Blake’s chair for her, but as her eyes narrowed in Diane’s direction, she shook her head at him.
“I think I’ll be right back.  I’m going to take a trip to the ladies room first.  I hope you don’t mind,” Blake smiled sweetly at Seth taking the opportunity to lean up on her toes and kiss him on the cheek before smiling icily in Diane’s direction.
“Oh sure, it’s over there,” Seth pointed out the direction of the ladies room before Blake disappeared and he took a seat of his own greeting his friends, “So what brings you both out tonight?”
“Diane was craving Italian,” Ben explained brightly, “and since Vincent’s is the best…”
“Naturally you’d brave the storm for it,” Seth replied with a knowing grin watching as Diane shifted in her seat, “Diane, is everything okay?”
“No everything is not okay, but I’m sure I can work on fixing it,” Diane blurted out rising up from her chair before heading off in the direction of the ladies room as Seth and Ben exchanged glances.
“Um, should we be worried,” Seth questioned watching Diane slip in behind the door after Blake.
“I’m not sure,” Ben answered honestly hoping that Diane wouldn’t lose her cool tonight of all nights.


“You can do this Blake,” Blake began to coach herself on as she took a long, hard perusal of her reflection in the mirror.  While the rain had done a number on her hair in the walk from the car to inside the restaurant, she could clearly see that there were other telltale signs of what she and Seth had been up to with one another as her still flushed features and passion-swelled lips told far too many stories for her liking at a time like this.  While she didn’t mind the world seeing her and Seth together, she didn’t want to give Diane Stevens anything more to use as ammunition against her as Diane was always known for dealing the pot shots over the time they’d known one another.  With that thought in mind, Blake had allowed herself this opportunity to freshen up a bit before she faced the dinner with Diane and Ben.
“Who the hell do you think you are, bitch,” Diane’s voice roared through the bathroom as Blake could see the petite woman standing behind her from the mirror’s reflective surfacing.  While Diane clearly was intending to be menacing, the only response she’d evoked from Blake was a chuckle as Blake shook her head at her, not bothering to turn around to address her face on.
“Clearly someone who doesn’t feel like wasting her time on the likes of you,” Blake fussed with her hair for one moment longer before turning around to push her way past Diane, “now if you’ll excuse me…”
“The hell I will,” Diane seethed back at her grabbing at Blake’s arm to prevent her from walking out of the ladies room, “as you’re not going anywhere.”
“Oh yes I am and don’t think that you’re going to stop me,” Blake flicked at Diane’s hold on her trying to get Diane to let go.
“You’re wrong about that Blake.  I am going to stop you because I’m not about to let you ruin Seth’s life.  He deserves more from life than a fickle little tramp like you and I’m not about to sit back and let you toy with him like you’re doing.”
“Listen Diane, not that it’s any of your business, but what I do with Seth is none of your concern.  Our relationship is between us, not you, so you can just back off…” Blake shoved Diane away from her.
“I know what you’re doing Blake.  I know all about you and how you use and abuse men until you get what you want out of them and I won’t let Seth be another one of those games for you.  I’m not about to let you break his heart all to get your rich boy doctor boyfriend to pay you attention there.  Seth deserves better and he’s like family to me and I refuse to let you hurt him or Jade anymore than you or your family already has…”
“You want to talk about hurting people Diane?” Blake hissed in response before letting out an ironic laugh, “Do you have any idea how hypocritical you sound right now?  Here you are lecturing me on hurting Seth, when you’re the one who goes out of her way to destroy those around you.  Tell me, how’s that sister of yours doing?  What was her name again?  Deidra, wasn’t it?”
“Blake, you’re barking up the wrong tree here,” Diane spat back at her, “This isn’t about my sister, but more so about what you’re doing to Seth and while he’s blinded by your sweet, little, innocent act, I know what you are.  I know how evil and manipulative you can be and I’m not about to let you destroy my best friend’s brother just because you need to find yourself a working class fling before you go back to the country club.”
“That’s not what I’m about with Seth and maybe if you’d just quit putting your nose where it doesn’t belong, then you’d see that you’re the one making a mistake.  Seth loves me and I…” Blake started feeling her anger bubble in response.
“Love him?” Diane rolled her eyes in response, “Yeah right Blake.  Like you’re even capable of the word when it’s all about conquering the men that dare to give you any bit of attention.  You’re a bitch and it’s all about the game, not about the person you’re stepping on in the process…”
“You’re one to talk there Diane seeing as you’ve already been guilty of the ultimate betrayal with your best friend there,” Blake hissed in response, “here you lecture me on falling in love with Jade’s brother, when you’re the one who had the audacity to…”
“To what…” Diane replied sharply watching as Blake seemed to freeze up in the moment, opting to rethink her fighting words.
“Never mind,” Blake shook her head at her, “You’re not worth it.”
“No, you finish what you were going to say,” Diane growled in response, “Obviously you had something on your mind, so don’t hold back on my account because I know you’re just dying to stick it to me here.”
“On most occasions you’re damn right I would be, but considering that I do care for Seth and about what happens to his sister, then well, I’m just going to leave things as they are,” Blake answered cryptically before throwing out one last seething look in Diane’s direction, “and if you really care about Seth and Jade, then you’ll learn to just keep your damned mouth shut and leave well enough alone because the more you push this issue between us, the worse things are going to get for you Diane.”
“Is that a threat,” Diane stepped forward getting up in Blake’s face as her anger bubbled over her.
“No Diane, that’s a promise,” Blake vowed, something dark and dangers flickering behind her eyes before she took a step towards the door, “I’m going back to the table and I’m going to pretend that this never happened.  I strongly suggest you do the same,” she finished stepping out of the ladies room as Diane thought to the expression that had crossed over Blake’s features in the heat of their argument.

While Blake had held back, there was something that Blake was ready to throw at her and it was a feeling that Diane didn’t like at all.  Clearly she was missing something that Blake felt she had over her when Blake had started throwing out accusations about Diane’s friendship with Jade, but now, well now Diane was going to try to behave long enough to appease Ben for the evening, but after tonight, she’d have a few words with Blake and get things straight once and for all as once this night was over all bets were off.  That much she was sure of.


Grady pulled into the driveway and frowned. He knew the Thunderbird sitting in his yard could only belong to one person…and he definitely was not in the mood to deal with her tonight.

He got out of his car and ran to the front door in the rain, ducking inside quickly and finding a pile of suitcases on the floor in front of him. He stopped and looked around for any sign of the cold hearted bitch they belonged to.

He stepped down the hallway and frowned as he saw her emerging from the guest bedroom, looking as if she were making herself right at home, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Susan jumped in surprise and covered her rapidly beating heart with her hand. She let out a deep breath and swore, “Damn Grady, don’t scare me like that.”

“Scare you? Just the sight of you in my house is enough to frighten me. What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m moving in,” She said simply as she pushed him out of her way and walked back into the living room. She bent over and lifted one of her suitcases to start back down the hallway.

“Like hell you are,” Grady stated flatly as he blocked her pathway, “You don’t live here anymore, Susan. We’re divorced, and that means you get to leave.”

“On the contrary, this house still legally is half mine,” She smiled brightly, “Read your divorce papers, Grady, or did you lose them in some run down bar?”

“I swear to god you are not staying here,” He said firmly as he refused to move from his spot, “There’s no way in hell I’m going to live with you again.”

“Then you’ll have to move because I am staying,” She spoke as she pushed him out of her way and moved down the hallway to the bedroom she’d claimed for herself.

Grady felt the sudden urge to either drink or kill someone. He wasn’t actually going to do either, but the temptation was a powerful one. The last thing he needed was Susan in his home invading his every private moment. Somehow he’d wrangle her out of his house and out of his life forever.


Ken stepped into Caitlin’s room and smiled as he saw her sleeping. He didn’t want to disturb her. Lord knows he felt enough disturbance for the both of them.

He sat beside her bed and lightly brushed her hair from her cheek. He really did love her from the depths of his heart. She had seen him for the man he was inside instead of an Ashford meal ticket. She had looked inside him, and she had loved him for what she found there.
He couldn’t imagine losing her. He’d come too close in recent weeks, and he wasn’t about to let something as trivial as Susan bring him to the brink again.

He was sexually frustrated. He wouldn’t bother to deny it, but he wasn’t so out of control that he would resort to sleeping with Susan. No, he wasn’t as depraved as Brant who would go to bed with almost any woman who offered him the chance.

There was only one woman he wanted, and she was sleeping like an angel before him. Ken felt pangs of guilt eat at him as he thought of the night’s events. He’d never imagined that he’d find Susan at the mansion much less being invaded by her presence in his shower. All he’d wanted was to take a nice hot shower and go to bed…to sleep. Why was it that something as simple as those things would never come easy in the Ashford household?

Caitlin sensed a presence in the room and fluttered her eye lids to see just who was with her. She spotted Ken looking rather ragged before her, and she opened her eyes to fully focus on him, “Ken?”

“I didn’t mean to wake you. I just…wanted to be near you,” Ken admitted without revealing the entire disgusting truth about the horrors waiting at home for him.

“You should be at home resting,” She lectured as he moved onto the side of her bed and caressed her cheek.

“I couldn’t rest without being near you,” He said softly, “I love you, Caitlin. Please don’t ever doubt that.”

“Ken,” She spoke his name in utter confusion and a bit of fear, “What’s happened? What’s going on?” She asked, knowing that something wasn’t right.

“Nothing,” He replied as he brushed his thumb over her cheekbone, “I just realized tonight how much you mean to me, and I need you to know it too. I need you to know that you are everything to me. I love you, Caitlin, with all that I am.”

“Ken,” She searched his eyes, “What happened?” She asked in concern as she touched his cheek, “Ken, talk to me.”

“I just want to be here with you,” He assured her, “Please just let me hold you tonight. It’s what I need most in the world.”

She drew him to her for a tender kiss, “There’s nothing I could want more,” She whispered to him before he kicked off his sneakers and crawled into the bed beside her. She snuggled into his side as he wrapped his arms around her, “I love you, Ken.”

“I love you, Caitlin,” Ken whispered as he kissed the top of her head as he held her securely within his arms. He couldn’t lose Caitlin no matter what Susan wanted or tried to seduce him into. He wouldn’t betray the woman he loved, and he wouldn’t betray the dreams he had for their future.


“Something isn’t right here,” Guy frowned tapping his fingers on the table top at the small coffee shop he and Mindy had been directed to after they’d made the ransom drop earlier in the evening.  Now as he sat over the lukewarm mug of coffee that Mindy had urged him to get while they waited, he could feel his apprehensions getting the best of him as something felt off.
“No kidding Sherlock,” Mindy rolled her eyes at him, “Um, do you think that could stem from the fact that you just handed off five million dollars to some nameless, faceless, mystery man and yet here we are after the fact with no money and no mother on your end?”
“You’re not helping,” Guy glared at her finding himself completely wired as he turned his attention to the small coffee shop’s front door once again.
“Hey, I’m just being a realist as I was the one that said we should call the police, but you’d rather do things your way and clearly we can see where your way got you,” Mindy continued to remind him harshly as he threw her another glare.  “I’m just saying…”
“I hear what you’re saying Mindy, but I had to do things this way because I didn’t need to have my Mum pop up in the bottom of the Lake or worse…”
“And as you can see, we did things your way and look where it got us.  Guy, I’m telling you that you need to call the police or at the very least your father and tell them what happened because if you don’t, well then there’s no telling what could happen.  This lunatic has the money and there’s nothing more holding him back.  He could just dispose of your mother and then be done with the whole situation as you just paid him off and gave him a way out of this…”
“Mindy stop,” Guy snapped back at her finding himself increasingly on edge as he shook his head refusing to hear what she was saying though deep down the same thoughts had occurred to him, “I don’t need this right now.”
“No, you don’t.  You’re absolutely right on that as you don’t need this lecture now, but more so you should’ve listened to me a couple of hours ago when you were drunk off your…”
“Mindy stop!” Guy snapped in response refusing to subject himself to any more of this as his worries grew exponentially by the moment.
“Guy, I’m just trying to get you to use your head for a change here.  You did things the way the kidnapper wanted and now is the time when you need to crack down and start doing things the way they should be done because if you don’t, well there’s no telling what will happen.  You have to trust me on this one,” Mindy pleaded with him.
“Mindy, I just have to believe that…” he began again.
“Believe me when I tell you that this is how it has to be,” she leaned across the table reaching into his pocket and withdrawing his cell phone in the blink of an eye, “Guy, trust me on this.  You need to at least call your father…”
“And tell him what,” Guy sighed heavily realizing that perhaps his impulsive decision was about to bring about some very dreadful consequences as he was no where closer to being reunited with his mother.
“Start with the truth,” Mindy suggested seeing the pain behind his features as she dropped the cell phone into his hand, “that’s the only way this situation can be fixed, but the longer you wait, well the harder it’s going to be…”
“You’re right.  I know you are, but in doing this,” Guy took in a slow breath hating to admit that he’d been wrong, but as he thought about the time that he’d wasted already hoping that the kidnapper had been true to his word, he realized that this wasn’t about pride.  Reluctantly he dialed his father praying that there was still time to save his mother as he hoped that in his desperate actions, he hadn’t sealed her death warrant and brought about the end of his hopes for his mother‘s safe return.


Brant looked around the mansion after he’d done his best to tidy up the remains of the night’s failed misadventure with Ken and Susan.  While he wasn’t quite sure what had taken place upstairs, given the way that Ken had paraded out of the house in a frenzy followed by Susan’s less than enthusiastic retreat, he realized that things were only going to get more challenging in his quest it seemed.  One thing was for certain and that was that his brother was stubborn as all hell and wrapped up in some delusional fantasy about Caitlin Vaughn, but given time Brant was sure that would change…at least he was almost sure of it.
Now as he thought to the disaster of a night he was about to put behind him, Brant pondered what he could do to keep busy as in expending his efforts to ‘help’ Ken with his situation, it meant that Brant was once again seriously neglecting his social life.  Granted, he could easily go out and find someone to bring home to share a few good hours with, but that really wasn’t what he wanted or needed at a time like this as the woman he’d hoped would’ve been in his bed long ago was off with her husband probably living it up, which brought Brant back to the sour mood he’d been in earlier.  Here he was alone and miserable and without Avery.  How much worse could it get?
“God, you’re starting to be more pathetic than Ken,” Brant chastised himself as he caught a quick glance of himself in the hallway mirror.

Sure, Susan had been all over him earlier in the evening, but that woman was a lunatic--clearly so far out of this world with her delusions about Ken that she simply wasn’t worthy of the kind of effort that Brant would normally put forth with a woman.  Then again, this wasn’t about stroking his libido as he had a hunger and that hunger ran deep for a woman, who as he was once again reminded, was off with the wrong man.
“Damn that Russell Denton,” Brant frowned thinking about how close he’d come to getting exactly what he needed from Avery before Russell showed up and screwed the situation over.  Sure, maybe Avery had been reluctant, but she was getting there.  She wanted Brant and Brant wanted her.  How much easier could that have been, he thought to himself realizing that easy certainly wasn’t part of the deal where Avery was concerned.
“And so here you are standing in the mansion all by your lonesome talking to yourself when on most nights you’d be living it up, giving the reporters something to talk about,” Brant frowned at his reflection suddenly feeling pathetic as he looked to the telephone on the table top.  Maybe he was getting a bit pathetic, he reasoned reaching for the phone, but at least he’d find a way to occupy some time until he found a way to get what he wanted.
“Hello,” the groggy voice on the other end of the line picked up as Brant barked back at the man he’d called.
“What’s going on,” Brant demanded harshly, “I’ve been paying you good money and thus far you’ve given me nothing but crap here in dealing with those problems I put on the table for you.”
“Mr. Ashford, is that you,” the man questioned in confusion.
“You’re damn right it’s me.  I’ve been paying you some good money to do some investigating for me and thus far you’ve come up with next to nothing,” Brant replied sourly, a scowl pressing over his features as he walked across the foyer feeling the need to just lash out at someone--anyone to get rid of the feelings stirring up inside of them, “I gave you three simple tasks and you’ve failed on all of them.”
“I sent you the information you wanted on Ms. Vaughn...” the man started again.
“Which was utterly useless,” Brant scowled, “If I wanted to know all about the girl scout she once was, I’d have contacted her troop leader.  I was looking for something a bit more scintillating…”
“I found what I could…” the man began desperately.
“Which was practically nothing and I won’t even get into how horrible you did with getting something on Russ Denton seeing as he’s out of town with the woman that should’ve been my wife,” Brant snapped back at him as he paced around the floor, “So give me one good reason why I should keep paying you to provide me with useless garbage?”
“Because well…because it’s not all crap…” the man started once again, his voice shaking with the moment, “as I was meaning to send you the new information I happened upon, but there just hasn’t been time as…”
“What is it,” Brant questioned roughly cutting him off mid-sentence, “and just for the record I’m warning you now if it isn’t good, you can forget the next check that you’re banking on…”
“Oh this one is good as I found something on that other woman you were asking about…” the man threw out in the open.
“Angela?” Brant spoke her name feeling his breath catch in his throat at the thought of the woman he’d found some comfort in when Avery had left him.  Suddenly he felt another sense of curiosity and wonderment pass over him as he thought back to the time he’d shared with Angela on the island, “What about her?”
“Well I was looking for Meloni like you’d said, but nothing was coming up until I ran a few searches and it turns out that your girl has made some considerable donations to a few children’s charities over the years.  I know it’s not much, but it’s a start as the last donation was made last April and…” the man continued.
“It’s a start, but tell me you have something else,” Brant insisted thinking about the woman who’d turned him away on the island, “there has to be something else…”
“Well, I looked up that man you’d mentioned.  That George Ro…”
“Yes, what about him?  Did you find out anything more about the company he works for?” Brant questioned quickly thinking to his one link to the time he’d spent with Angela.
“I was able to get in touch with his former employers at Dayton Publishing, but as it turns out not long after Christmas time, he was let go from the company with not much to go on.  I tried to track him down, but it’s almost as if he’s vanished completely, though when I questioned about a possible Angela Meloni working with the company, there wasn’t anyone who could offer up any information on the name.”
“That shouldn’t be right,” Brant frowned in response, “as they should’ve heard of her since she was staying at the company beach house.”
“That’s what you said, but there’s no record of anyone being there except that George person that is all but disappeared.  He was known to schmooze potential clients there, but there was nothing on record about the client he had been meeting with around Christmas time…”
“So that’s all you have for me,” Brant pondered what little information he’d been given, “A little bit of nothing?”
“Not entirely as I was saving the best for last,” his private investigator boasted, “as I happened to snag an article complete with a photo from one of the events a couple years back.  That’s the one charity that is yet to get back to me, but she was in one of the papers in Boston front and center and it sounds like maybe just maybe that could be something that would get me closer to finding…”
“I want to see it,” Brant cut him off feeling himself overcome with a newfound eagerness.  “I want to see the article.”
“Of course Mr. Ashford.  I can send it to your office tomorrow and…”
“No, I don’t want to wait.  I want you to fax it over to me tonight at my home,” Brant ordered making his way through the mansion to his home office, “Right now.  I want to see it…”
“Well, I have it downstairs and…” the man began shakily.
“You send it right now or else you can forget about that check from me,” Brant slammed down the phone, his eyes glued to the fax machine as he awaited some kind of news on the mystery woman that had shaken up his world and discarded him in the blink of an eye.  While he’d focused on Avery since his return to Coral Valley, in the back of his mind he had to admit that Angela had him still very curious.  She was somewhat of a mystery and while she hadn’t been as hard to get attention from as Avery was proving to be, there was just something about her and the time they’d spent with one another that had him wondering…  Well, the point was that anyone who had been that hard to find was certainly someone that Brant was very interested in learning more about and given that she’d given him the boot, he was well within his rights to learn more about her.
Just as he thought his thoughts would consume him completely as he flashbacked to the time he and Angela had spent with one another on the island, he watched as the fax came in slowly revealing his first glimpse of the woman he’d met on the island.  His dark eyes were glued to the page as the fax was completed and he reached for the page seeing the striking resemblance she’d held to Avery.  Sure, he’d thought he’d just been imagining it because he’d wanted to desperately to be with Avery, but as he eyed the image before him, there was no denying just how closely related they were as they could pass for identical copies of one another it seemed.  As her face was printed out on the page, Brant could see that same striking smile that had captured his full attention during his time on the island and as he touched the lines of her features seeing the way in which she held a small basset hound in her arms, he couldn’t help but wonder where she’d disappeared to--where she was right now and what she must be thinking of him--if she was in fact thinking about him at all at a time like this.
“Where did you go,” he questioned aloud pondering so many things about this mystery woman that had haunted his dreams since he’d left the island, but before he could totally immerse himself in the mystery of Angela, he heard a furious pounding coming from down the long hallway.
Brant groaned inwardly as it continued louder than ever and as he tucked the fax away into his top desk drawer realizing that whomever was outside the mansion wasn’t about to let up.  While he’d wanted nothing more than to ponder what had happened to his mystery lover, he took note of the way in which his visitor was really putting their all into capturing someone’s attention and with that thought in mind, he wondered if perhaps Susan had returned to rehash their plans for putting a permanent ending upon Ken and Caitlin’s blossoming romance with one another.  Certainly Susan would be still reeling from his brother’s rejection and ready to regroup, he reasoned to himself throwing open the front door with a smug expression ready to lay it on thick for her as he was going to enjoy every moment of tormenting her.
“Came back for more huh,” Brant questioned seeing the lightening flicker overhead as the woman on the front porch toppled forward collapsing into his arms with an exaggerated gasp.  He felt himself falling back at bit, shaky on his feet as she trembled within his hold.  She was soaking wet and clearly a nervous wreck as he held her wondering what the hell just happened, but as she lifted her head and he came into first contact with the wide, terrified brown eyes before him, recognition hit him.
“Brooke,” Brant gasped her name feeling her fingers curl out into the front of his shirt clenching onto him for dear life it seemed as horror pressed over her already sheet white features.
“Help me,” she sucked in a sharp breath fighting to steady her shaking knees before her body grew limp and lifeless as she collapsed in Brant’s arms with another rush of thunder and lightening sounding through the room and alerting Brant that the storm he’d just encountered was only beginning.

...to be continued...