Episode 93 

“So why don’t we start from the beginning,” Callaway suggested positioning himself at the bedside as he looked down at Brooke Morrison watching as her husband and son sat diligently at her side, supporting her through every second of this questioning as she began to get to recounting the tales of her torturous kidnapping to the FBI at long last.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Brooke confessed with a sigh turning her attention to the bedroom door unable to contain the apprehension that spilled over her tired looking features, “as I really don’t want my daughter to have to endure this tale again.”
“Brooke, it’s okay,” Richard urged her on gently taking her hand in his as he felt her concerns press over her, “Russ has her outside in the hallway taking a minute to compose herself after everything.  She won’t have to listen to it again, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
“I just hate having to put you all through this as in living it, well it was bad enough,” Brooke sighed heavily, her eyes filled with exhaustion as she turned her attention up to Callaway once again, “Must we do this now?”
“I’m afraid that the longer we let this wait, the harder it will be to find Bruce especially now that he has the ransom money in his possession,” Callaway explained, his voice laced with an air of sarcasm as he glared over in Guy’s general direction for a brief moment before focusing upon Brooke once again.
“I did what I had to do in order to get my Mum back,” Guy defended with a huff ready to defend his actions all over again to the FBI as they’d been so bent upon doing things all the wrong way which in all likelihood would’ve ended in his mother’s death had he had any inclination to listen to the likes of Assistant Director Callaway’s asinine suggestion.
“You did an impulsive, foolish thing,” Callaway remarked sourly throwing out another glare in Guy’s general direction.
“But the point is that it worked and my wife is home again,” Richard defended standing up for his son as he scowled up at the FBI official, “now if you’d like to speak about my wife’s experience during her time held captive, then feel free to do so, but I will not tolerate your berating my son for following his instincts as his instincts brought his mother back to us and that’s truly what’s important.”
“That’s right,” Brooke nodded in agreement reaching out to take Guy’s hand in hers and offering up a tender squeeze, “You saved my life son and I don’t know where I’d be without your involvement.”
“You won’t ever have to think about that again Mum,” Guy leaned in to kiss her cheek gently, “as I love you and I’d do anything for you.”
“I love you too Guy,” Brooke whispered feeling overcome by the moment as she choked up on emotion.
“I hate to be the one to spoil this reunion,” Callaway blurted out impatiently, “but we still have a lunatic on the loose who is now five million dollars richer and probably seeking out a way out of the country as we speak.”
“He doesn’t have it in him to get out of the country, even with the money he’s taken,” Brooke snarled in response as her eyes divided with rage, “Bruce Mathis isn’t nearly as invincible as he’d like to lead the world to believe…”
“So then you’re saying that he was in fact the one who’d held you captive all this time,” Callaway lifted a speculative brow as Brooke nodded emphatically.
“That’s right,” she continued with a sigh, “He really thought that he was onto something by taking me that night, but all he was doing was delaying the inevitable as I’m sure you and your men will find him and bring him to justice for what he’s done, yes?”
“That’s what we’re working on, but we’re going to need a little more information from you,” Callaway nodded in response, “What can you tell me about the night you were taken?”
“Well,” she paused as if straining to recall the turn of events that had lead her to where she was currently, “I was upset that night.  My husband and I have been having some difficult times with one another as our marriage has been on shaky ground,” she paused turning to look at Richard as she offered up a hopeful smile, “at least it was when I went out that night.  I was upset and not thinking clearly and at the time, well I needed to be somewhere that I knew would remind me of the better times in my life, so I was headed to my parent’s old summer home just north of here.  I’d stopped at a gas station just off of the highway and while I was there, Bruce attacked me.”
“How so?” Callaway questioned jotting down a couple of notes based upon her words.
“I went inside to pay for the gas I’d gotten as I’d forgotten my credit card here at the mansion with my wallet, though I do leave some spare cash in the glove box just in the case of emergencies, so I had it with me when I stopped at the gas station to fill up my gas tank.  I was the only customer there at the time and when I returned to my car after paying what I owed, I felt something wasn’t right.  I tried to figure out what it was exactly, but before I knew it there was this arm reaching out from the backseat and there was a man pressing a cloth to my mouth.  He was trying to keep me from screaming I thought, but then I smelled the faint odor of something on the dirty material he’d had with him and then the next thing I knew, I woke up in this dirty hotel room gagged and bound to a bedpost.”
“And then what happened,” Callaway questioned further.
“Well naturally I was upset and I tried to break free of the restraints upon me, but there were just too tight.  He’d handcuffed my wrists and my legs, well it was a no win situation.  I’d tried screaming, but there was nothing that came out with the way he’d gagged me and after what felt like an eternity of fighting it all, well that’s when he showed up.  He came into the hotel room with a bag of something that smelled like bad Chinese food.  He took a seat beside me warning me that if I tried to scream he’d slit my throat as he had this knife on him--with this blade that…” her lower lip quivered as her eyes filled with tears, “when I saw the knife I panicked and then he…he…”
“It’s okay Brooke,” Richard reached out to her curling his arm around her as her tears overcame her.
“I tried to get away.  I wanted to escape, but he was just too strong, too terrifying and when he started speaking with me, threatening to kill me, I thought for sure that he was really going to do it,” she whimpered shaking in Richard’s arms as he held her, “I thought it was the end…”
“Brooke, if this is too much then you don‘t have to…,” Richard began hating to see her so upset as her tears continued.
“I need to,” she choked up on emotion as her tears continued, “I can’t hold this in any longer because I know that they need to find him before he hurts someone else like he did with me.”
“We’ll find a way to stop him.  You have my word on that,” Callaway offered up seemingly effected by Brooke’s tears, “and I appreciate that you’re taking the time to speak with me.”
“I just wish…” Brooke cleared her throat straining to keep her voice even, “I wish that I’d known what a monster he was long before this ever happened.  Had I known that our baby was with a man that vile and hurtful…”
“Brooke, it’s okay,” Richard kept her close to him, “This wasn’t your fault.  What Bruce did was wrong and I swear if I ever see him again…”
“We’ll find him,” Callaway interjected watching as Brooke broke down in her husband’s arms, “Is there anything in particular that he might’ve said to you when you were with him?  Anything that might stand out about what he’s got planned next?  Where he might be headed?”
“No,” she shook her head in response, “as it was the most terrifying, awkward experience of my life.  Granted, a kidnapping is never something that would be pleasant I’m sure, but with the things he was saying--with what he was doing…” she paused turning her head down shamefully as her voice softened, “He kept talking about Avery--saying things about how they’d be together again.  About how he was doing all this to prove how much he loved her--how he was the man she was meant to be with and that eventually she’d realize what she was missing out on.  When he had me there and he started…” Brooke whimpered once again.
“That’s enough,” Richard blurted out feeling his anger boil as Brooke broke down into heaving sobs, “Obviously she doesn’t know anything else.  She doesn’t know where that lunatic could be.”
“She’s the last person to have contact with him.  If there’s something that might be there, something that seems irrelevant, but might help us in our investigation…” Callaway started once again.
“All I wanted to do was get out of that horrible place.  I wanted to escape and when he was doing this to me,” Brooke motioned to her face, giving all a glimpse of the bruising that lined up over her jaw line, “all I could think about was my family.  All I could do was pray that the nightmare ended and that I’d be able to save my daughter from this monster.  That was all that was important to me…”
“I realize this, but when he dropped you off on the Ashford property…on the doorstep,” Callaway started in his business as usual tone, “How did that come about?”
“He didn’t bring me here,” Brooke explained taking in a heaving breath, “He was taking me to kill me after he’d gotten his money.  He thought I was weak after all he’d done to torture me, but I knew if I didn’t get away that I wouldn’t survive the night.  I knew I needed to escape and when he pulled off on one of the roads near the mansion to kill me as he‘d planned on putting my corpse on display for the world to see, well I knew it was now or never.  I managed to overpower him for a brief moment and then I ran.  I ran as fast as my feet could take me and it was all a blur.  I wasn’t sure where I was or where I would end up, but I knew if I’d hesitated I would die an that simply wasn’t an answer.  I had to escape and that’s what I did when I held onto my life with all that I had.  Somehow in the midst of the chaos I wound up running here.  I don’t know why I did, but when Brant found me, well he saved my life.  Had he not answered that door and rescued me from that madman, then you might truly be pulling me out of Lake Cardinal at this very moment.”
“But that’s not going to happen Mum,” Guy insisted reaching out to her supportively, “as you’re home now and we’re not going to let Bruce get another chance at hurting you.  Isn‘t that right Richard?”

“That’s right,” Richard nodded in agreement reaching out to touch Brooke’s face gently, “You’re safe now with us.  You’re home and that’s all that matters as I’m going to make sure that nothing ever hurts you again.  You have my word on that Brooke.”
“Oh Richard,” Brooke threw her arms around him, burying her face in his chest as her tears consumed her and Richard threw Callaway a pleading look hoping that this time the FBI’s hunt for Bruce would lead to an end to the nightmare that had haunted the Morrison family for far too long already.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Avery felt a shiver race over her body as she rubbed her hands over her arms, unable to get warm enough as her mother’s chilling recount of what had taken place during her kidnapping still haunted her on every level imaginable.
While Brooke had insisted that Avery leave the room while the FBI asked her to recount the tale that Avery had heard a short time earlier, Avery still couldn’t help but find herself overcome with the sick feeling that a man she’d allowed into her life had done so many horrible things.  Granted she hadn’t known that Bruce was capable of pure evil when she’d fallen victim to his seductions, but now as she thought of all the pain he’d inflicted upon her loved ones, she was overcome with a strong sense of guilt and misery realizing that this all could’ve been prevented had she only followed her heart from the beginning.  If only she hadn’t been so weak to let someone like Bruce into her life, then her mother wouldn’t be going through so much misery and she wouldn’t have to deal with being the key to all the heartbreak her loved ones had experienced over the last few months.
“Honey, the FBI will find him,” Russell tried to comfort her hating to see his wife so upset after she and Brooke had spoken of what Bruce Mathis had done to Brooke when he’d held her hostage, “He won’t get away with what he’s done.”
“But he already has,” Avery turned around to face him, tears burning behind her eyes as she gazed up at him, “He’s found a way to hurt my mother in some of the worst ways imaginable and it’s all because of me.  All because I was stupid enough to let him into my life to begin with and now…”
“Avery stop,” Russell pleaded with her watching her lower lip quiver as her poignant thoughts overtook her, “sweetheart, this isn’t your fault.  None of this is because of you…”
“Of course it is,” Avery sniffled in response, “Had I just been honest with you about my losing our baby, then I wouldn’t have leaned on Bruce and I wouldn’t have let him in my life.  I could’ve prevented you from feeling all the pain you endured after I left you and then my mother…”
“Avery, you can’t think like that.  You had no idea what kind of monster Bruce was when you met him.  You were hurting and feeling very vulnerable and he used that against you,” Russell explained reaching out to touch her cheek gently, “He saw that you had a good heart and that you were desperately needing that love in your life that you were running away from and he chose to exploit that emotion.  He’s the evil one.”
“Even so, I screwed up time and time again after I lost our baby Russ,” she continued unable to contain her tears, “The signs were all there with Bruce, but I wasn’t seeing them until it was too late and now he’s hurt my mother…”
“Avery, your mother’s a fighter,” he tried to soothe her hoping that he could get her to see the situation wasn’t her fault even though he had some doubts about everything Brooke had shared with them about her being held captive.  While he’d heard the same story that Avery did, he was beginning to doubt a few of the things that Brooke had said as they didn’t quite add up, but now as Avery broke down before him, he realized that those doubt weren’t of precedence at the moment as Avery needed him to comfort her now more than ever.  “Your mother is going to pull through this and she’ll be stronger than ever…”
“I want to believe that Russ, but with what she said he did to her,” Avery trailed off, “If I hadn’t lead him on for so long…”
“No Avery, this wasn’t about that.  Bruce clearly has a violent history and he has hurt a lot of people.  It’s a miracle that you’re still alive and that you’re here with me now,” he wrapped his arms around her hugging her tighter, “I don’t know what I’d do without you in my life Avery and the fact that you survived his evil says so very much about you.”
“It says that I only gave him an opportunity to hurt others by having him as a part of my life for so very long,” Avery bit back her tears trying to control her emotions as they tugged at her insides tearing her apart.
“No Avery,” Brant’s voice interrupted as he stepped onto the landing beside the staircase catching the tail end of Russ and Avery’s conversation, “you aren’t responsible for what happened.  If anyone is to blame for this, then it’s me because I should’ve killed the son of a bitch the night he tried to hurt you.  I should’ve taken him out then and there and then we wouldn’t have to be dealing with any of this…”
“Brant no,” Avery stood up straighter wiping at her face as she tried to regain some of the control she’d felt slipping away from her.  She turned to face him forcing a sad smile as she continued to address him,  “You saved my life that night when you came to my apartment and found me…”
“But it wasn’t enough Avery,” Brant stepped forward unable to take his eyes off of her as a lump formed in his throat, “I hesitated and he got away.  I should’ve went after him.  I should’ve…”
“You did what you thought was best and because of that I’m alive and standing here today,” Avery reminded him as her hand dropped down to her abdomen protectively, “My baby is alive and we have you to thank for that.”
“Avery, it was all I could do to keep from losing you,” Brant offered up again, his voice full of emotion as Russell stiffened behind Avery taking in the exchange between her and Brant.
“You saved my life Brant and for that I’ll be forever grateful,” she confessed softening her tone as another sniffle overcame her.
“We’ll both be grateful for that,” Russell broke his silence as he curled his arms around Avery’s body protectively.
“I just wish I could’ve done more,” Brant admitted with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “as even now in seeing your mother like that, well I hate what he’s done to her.  I just wish that I could’ve been of more assistance in finding her sooner…”
“Brant, if you hadn’t answered that door last night, then Bruce could’ve killed her.  He could’ve finished the task he’d set out to do when he took her and then I wouldn’t have another chance at a life with my mother,” she stood up straighter stepping out of Russell’s embrace much to his dismay as she approached Brant, “The truth is I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t saved her.”
“Avery, I can’t take the credit for saving her because I didn’t…” Brant began honestly.
“Yes, yes you did Brant and it’s because of you that I have my mother back in my life again,” Avery blurted out throwing her arms around him in an embrace, hugging him tightly.
Russell watched from where he’d been standing feeling himself fuming as Brant reciprocated the gesture holding Avery tighter as her tears overcame her.  Suddenly things were starting to make sense, Russell reasoned watching the way that Brant derived his own twisted pleasure from holding Avery in his arms.  There was something about Brant that just wasn’t right as he was by far too readily stepping into the role of hero in Avery’s eyes and as jealousy overtook Russell, he stepped forward reaching out to touch Avery’s shoulder gently beckoning her away from the embrace.
“Sweetheart, maybe we should go get you some air outside like we’d talked about,” Russell spoke smoothly, keeping his tone nice and even as he glared at Brant offering up a silent warning for him to back off.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Avery nodded taking a step away from Brant as she offered up a weak smile, “but you’ll let me know if my mother needs me, right?”
“I’ll go check on her right now,” Brant promised mirroring her smile with his own as he watched Russell curl his arm around Avery’s waist leading her out into the gardens for a few minutes.
A frown pressed over Brant’s features as Russ and Avery slipped out of sight and in that moment he found himself wanting nothing more than to attack Russell Denton for not giving him a moment with Avery, but alas now wasn’t about that.  Now was about doing the right thing and that would be tending to Brooke as she was what was important.  Granted, Brant had savored that hug from Avery far more than he’d openly admit, but in due time he was certain that they’d be able to pick up where they’d left off before Russell stepped into the picture and screwed everything up for them.  Until then Brant was going to play it cool as he wasn’t about to let Russell Denton get the best of him.  That much he was decidedly certain about, he thought to himself as he made his way up the stairs to check on Brooke once again hoping that sooner or later this whole ordeal could be put behind everyone that had been touched by the nightmare.


Blake walked into the cafeteria of the hospital and looked around for her brother. While she’d never admit it to Caitlin, she’d seen something wrong with Ken in the moment he started talking. She’d agreed that he was being clingy, but there was more than that. He was almost acting…well…guilty.

She spotted him nearing the end of the line, and she moved in on him. She wanted some answers before he went back upstairs to be with Caitlin.

“Why don’t you buy me a cup of coffee too?” Blake suggested as she stood at his side.

“Okay,” Ken nodded as he handed her a Styrofoam cup. He paid the cashier for the bagel and coffees before he walked with Blake to the coffee station, “Why aren’t you upstairs with Caitlin?”

“Because I wanted to talk to you for a few moments alone,” She admitted as she finished pouring her coffee, “Do you think you could spare a few?”

He looked nervous for a moment before nodding and leading her to table that offered some privacy, “What’s up? Is something wrong?”

“You tell me. You’re the one acting like you’ve done something wrong.”

“I am not,” He replied quickly.

“Kenny, you’re acting guilty, and because you don’t do much to be guilty for, you haven’t really perfected the art of hiding it. So why don’t you just confess now and get it over with?” Blake urged him as she leaned onto the table.

He frowned as he looked into his coffee, “I really haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Then what’s with this guilty act?” She questioned in confusion, “Kenny, what is going on with you? You aren’t acting like yourself at all, and quite frankly, it’s disconcerting. So just spill it.”

“Susan was at the house last night.”

“What? Why the hell did you invite her anywhere?”

“I didn’t, Blake. She was there with Brant,” He corrected her.

“What?” Blake virtually shrieked as her jaw dropped, “Wh…why? I don’t understand.”

“Don’t you?” He questioned, “Blake, Brant hates Caitlin, and he would do whatever it takes to tear us apart. I made the idiotic mistake of mentioning that Susan was in town and up to her old tricks. Brant couldn’t resist trying to fan the flames. So when I got home, there she was. I told them both that I wasn’t going to be manipulated, but Susan didn’t take no for answer.”

“She never does,” She frowned, “So what happened?”

“She tried to seduce me,” Ken shrugged as he sipped his coffee.


“And what? I turned her down and came back to the hospital. I’m not going to risk my future with Caitlin for some quick romp in the hay, Blake. I’m not like that. I’m not Brant.”

Blake frowned, “Then why are you acting like you’ve done something wrong that you have to make up for? Kenny, just because Susan’s after you doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.”

“But I brought her into my life the first time, and I was stupid enough to open the door for Brant this time,” He paused as he sat back in the booth and ran his fingers through his hair, “I can’t lose Caitlin…not over something this stupid. I just really need her to know how much she means to me, and that I would never betray her like that.”

“Then you need to be honest with her, Kenny. She needs to know what’s going on in your life so she can help you with it. Don’t keep her in the dark.”

“I just…I don’t want her to have anything else to worry about. She’s got plenty with just her recovery. She doesn’t need to be worrying about my getting ambushed by some oversexed ex-fling of mine.”

“Let her decide what she worries about. She needs to know, Kenny, and you need to be the one to tell her. Just be honest with her. It’ll cut her suspicions in half, maybe more. If she knows you’re not interested in Susan from the beginning, then she’ll be a lot more confident in dealing with that bimbo.”

“Do you really think she needs all the disgusting details?” Ken asked with a frown, “I don’t want her to think of me as the man I was. I’m not like that anymore.”

“I know that, and so will Caitlin. She’s fallen in love with the man you are, not who you used to be. She’ll see that you were a different person then, but you have to give her the opportunity to do that. Come on, Kenny. Give her the benefit of the doubt,” Blake urged him.

Ken nodded, knowing his sister was right. He just didn’t know if he could bring himself to divulge the truth about his not so noble past.


Caitlin thumbed through the biography of Laura Bush her mother had dropped by and wondered just where Blake and Ken were. When Blake had excused herself for a moment, she’d had the sinking suspicion that Blake was going to have a word with her brother. She was beginning to feel as if she were in the dark about a big dirty secret, and she was frightened that the secret might be something that could ruin her plans for the future.

She tried to focus on the book, but her thoughts kept drifting back to Ken’s behavior. It simply wasn’t like him to be so desperate to prove himself to her. While he was definitely the romantic man that most women dreamt of, he didn’t usually go overboard in his attempts to assure of his love. It usually went without saying as he was tender and kind with her. So it was puzzling all the more that he would feel a desperate need to spend his time by her side.

She closed the book and set it aside as the door opened. Caitlin turned to the door with a smile, expecting Blake or Ken and yet finding an unfamiliar face, “Can I help you?”

“Possibly,” Susan stepped into the room and closed the door behind her, “I’m Susan Denton. I thought it was time we met.”

Caitlin eyed the woman carefully as she steeled herself to do battle. She had no doubt in her mind that anyone bold enough to come to the hospital to introduce herself would be just bold enough to start a fight, “What can I do for you?”

“You can stay away from Ken,” Susan declared as she smiled innocently.

“Pardon me?” Caitlin questioned with an amused smile creeping over her features.

“Ken’s mine, and I want you to stay away from him.”

“Yours?” Caitlin chuckled, “Does he know that?”

“He will. He thinks you’re what he needs, but you’re not. I am, and I always have been,” Susan explained, “He’s trying desperately to be something he’s not in order to be with you, but with me, I don’t force him to follow any conventions.”

“Ken doesn’t try to be anything other than himself when he’s with me. I don’t force him to do anything.”

“Other than lead a drab boring life. With me, Ken explores his sensual nature.”

“Look, lady, I don’t know how long its been since you’ve spoken with Ken, but obviously you don’t know the man he’s become.”

“I know him better than you do,” Susan said with a shrug, “Just where do you think he was last night?” She watched Caitlin carefully as she spoke, “He was with me.”

“Obviously you didn’t make a big impression, or he wouldn’t have come back to me,” Caitlin flashed a angry smile, “Because he spent the night with his arms around me…not you.”

“But he gets his kicks with me. How long do you think it is before he comes to me and stays with me?” Susan asked as she moved to a bouquet of flowers and lightly eased her fingers across the petals of a rose, “He’s only with you for the pity factor. As soon as you’re out of the hospital, he’s going to leave you.”

“You don’t have the first clue about who Ken really is, do you?” Caitlin blinked her eyes in surprise, “I can understand your attraction to him because he’s a very sexy man, but you don’t really know anything about him other than that, do you?” She shook her head in awe, “I cannot believe you would come here and act like you have a handle on Ken. You don’t have the first clue about Ken, and he could never love a one dimensional bimbo like you.”

“And you think he could love a simple little twit like you?” Susan questioned, “He doesn’t love you.”

“He does love me, and he knows that I love him. I also have the feeling that he knows what you’re up to, and he’s never going to give in to you,” Caitlin smiled proudly as she crossed her arms, “He’s too smart for the likes of you.”

“Smarts have nothing to do with it, sweetie,” Susan spoke with disdain, “He wants me, and he’s going to indulge in all the pleasures he can’t with you.”

“You underestimate me,” Caitlin smiled, “And you overestimate yourself.”

“You don’t have a clue about Ken’s desires.”

“I know all about Ken’s desires,” Caitlin smiled brightly, “You don’t have to worry about a thing. He’s well taken care of,” She winked at her new rival with a bright smile.

“If that’s so, we wouldn’t have shared a shower together last night,” Susan smiled before she turned and opened the door to leave. She turned back and looked at Caitlin, “I just thought I’d give you fair warning,” She smiled before closing the door in her departure.

Caitlin took a deep breath as she tried to still the rapid beating of her heart. She was angry and hurt though Ken’s behavior now made all the more sense to her. She only wondered if he would be honest with her and admit what had happened…more than that, she wondered if she really wanted to hear him confirm Susan’s version of events and cause her world to come crashing down around her.


Dave held the box of donuts in his hand as he knocked upon Deidra’s door. He’d been worried about her but had opted not to disturb her until this morning. He’d had a sinking suspicion that she needed the time alone with her mother to deal with the trauma of having run into Bruce Mathis.

He knew Deidra would probably be furious if she ever found out about Shannon’s involvement. While Deidra would feel like her privacy was being invaded, Dave was more worried about her life being in danger. He knew that he could trust Shannon with Deidra’s life especially since Bruce Mathis was involved. Shannon wanted to nail Mathis as badly as he did, but now his reasons had become personal.

Deidra opened the door and smiled, “Dave, hey…I wasn’t expecting you to come by.”

“I thought I’d come by to check on you,” Dave replied as he noted her hair in a pony tail while she was dressed in sweat pants and a ragged tee shirt, “Did I wake you up?”

“I wish,” She chuckled as she pulled him inside her apartment and pushed the door closed as she escorted him through the house, “Actually I’ve been unpacking all my stuff and decorating here. So, what’s in the box?”

“Donuts,” He said as he noted her buoyancy, “What’s got into you? Did you drink espresso this morning or something?”

“No, I just decided that I should stop wallowing and start doing something productive. I don’t start at the hospital until tomorrow so I decided to spend today working on making this apartment more like home,” She led him into the kitchen, “Can I offer you some coffee?”

“Sure,” He agreed as he placed the box upon the counter, “I’m sorry I didn’t come by last evening,” He began.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You have other people to worry about. Besides, Mathis is never going to come after me,” She explained as she took a mug from the cabinet and filled it with coffee before passing it towards him.

“Why have you come to that conclusion?” He asked as he watched her pour herself a mug of coffee as well.

“Because if he’d actually wanted me dead, I wouldn’t have gotten away. Besides that, if he’s been watching Avery as closely as everyone seems to think he has, he’d realize that we’re not that close. I mean, just because our parents are dating doesn’t mean we’re the closest of friends,” She shrugged as she opened the box of donuts, “Oh…jelly filled ones,” She smiled brightly as she plucked one from the box.

“Dee, you can’t just ignore this danger.”

“I’m not ignoring it,” She pointed out, “I’m just discounting it. I don’t believe he’ll even remember that he once wanted to kill me. It was all about getting to Avery, and I wouldn’t be the way to do that.”

“Still,” He began.

“Dave, don’t,” She warned him softly as she licked some sugar from her fingertips, “I don’t want to think about him. If I do, I’m going to drive myself crazy. I can’t do that. I can’t focus on that. I have to try to lead my life as normal as possible. Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to take extra care for my safety, but I’m not going to live my life worrying about what some lunatic may or may not do.”

He sighed as he nodded, “I can see your point, but I just want you to be safe.”

Deidra smiled as she leaned over and kissed his cheek, “I know you do, and I appreciate everything you’re doing to keep me safe. It means everything to me, Dave.”

“I’m just doing my job,” He shrugged, trying to make light of his role.

“You’re doing a lot more than that, and you know it,” She poked him in the shoulder. She smiled, “Thank you, Dave. In fact, since I’m starting at the hospital tomorrow and you’ve done so much for me, let’s go out for dinner tomorrow night. I’ll buy,” She smiled.

“No, you paid last time. This time, it’s my treat,” Dave smiled. While he’d been worried about her state of mind, she seemed to be doing okay. And with dinner tomorrow night, he’d make sure that her state of mind got a whole lot better.


“Are you still pouting over there,” Ben questioned stepping into Diane’s kitchen as he found her sulking in the chair he’d seen her in before he’d taken his shower twenty minutes earlier.
Even now he could see that determined, yet irritated expression she carried with her when she was stewing over something that most people would let go of.  However, that wasn’t the case for Diane it seemed as she was absolutely livid after dinner with Blake and Seth.  When Ben had finally taken her home the previous evening, she’d been quiet and on edge, which didn’t make for a very pleasant time with Diane.  Now as he watched her staring off into space, he realized that perhaps this morning was still proving to be a challenge for them.
“Hello, earth to Diane,” Ben waved his hand in front of her face before taking a seat beside her at the small kitchen table, “anyone home?”
“What? Huh,” Diane seemed to snap out of the daze that she was in as she turned to face him with a blank stare, “What did you just say?”
“I said that you looked a million miles away right now,” he paused searching her eyes, “Care to talk about it?”
“Not really as there really isn’t much to say,” she explained with a quick shake of her head as a thought occurred to her and she eyed him intently, “Ben, please don’t tell me you’ve finished with your shower already.”
“Well actually, yeah,” Ben flashed her a soft smile watching as she leapt out of the chair she’d been seated in making her way across her tiny kitchen to throw together something for them to eat.
“I’m sorry about breakfast,” Diane began to apologize, “as I know I said I’d put something together, but I guess I just kind of got distracted and…”
“And I noticed,” Ben confessed getting up from the chair he’d been seated in as he stepped in behind her reaching out to touch her shoulder gently, “and perhaps we should talk about what’s on your mind.”
“Nothing really,” Diane lied with a shrug of her shoulders straining to focus on the task at hand as she felt his touch nudging her in an attempt get her full attention.
“Diane, come on.  Don’t lie to me.  I know something is bothering you, so you may as well fess up,” Ben urged her on once again feeling the tension coursing through her veins as he squeezed her shoulder gently, “Diane, why don’t you just get it out and we’ll talk about it?”
“Fine,” she declared finally spinning around to face him feeling a sigh escape from her lips.  She stood taller, leaning back against the countertop as she folded her arms in front of her chest letting out another huff.
“Well, this looks serious,” Ben lifted a curious brow as he took note of her defensive stance, “Why do I suddenly get the feeling that I’m about to be in some deep water here?”
“Because you are,” she blurted out, her lip curling in a pout, “I mean honestly Ben, what did you think you were doing last night in inviting that witch to have dinner with us?  You know that she’s nothing but trouble and she’s up to something.  I can feel it and while I can’t quite put my finger upon it, I can see something is brewing behind her little Ashford smirk there.  Do you know that she had the audacity to talk down to me last night telling me that I was a horrible friend to Jade?  I mean where does she get off presuming that she can throw out any kind of opinion about my friendship with Jade all because I’m trying to protect Seth from being hurt by Blake?  You and I both know she was all over that doctor when we had dinner with your aunt and now she’s trying to pretend that she actually gives a damn about Seth,” Diane rolled her eyes as the words came out, “which we both know is nothing more than an act because a woman like that is clearly incapable of…”
“Diane, slow down,” Ben pleaded with her placing his hands on each side of her shoulders as he urged her to meet his eyes.
“Ben, I’m just saying,” she started curling her lip in a pout once again.
“Diane, listen to me.  Last night while I know you weren’t happy about having dinner with Blake, but you lived through the experience and you came out of it better than ever.  You didn’t say anything that I know you were wanting to say at the table and for that, I’m very proud of you,” he flashed her a sexy smile as he attempted to pull her into his arms.
“Don’t patronize me,” she frowned swatting at his chest as he held her.
“Diane, I wouldn’t dream of doing any such thing and you know that,” Ben reminded her simply, “as you and I both know that I wouldn’t take to patronizing you…”
“No, of course you wouldn’t,” she rolled her eyes in response, “You’d just subject me to a dinner with a woman I absolutely loathe on a night that should’ve been just for you and me…”
“While I know that you weren’t happy about it, I could see that Seth appreciated the company and I’m sure he’ll take last night’s dinner into consideration there,” Ben offered up with a half smile.
“Yeah, well I suppose our company would be better than having to subject himself to being alone with that bimbo all night long, which really has me wondering what he sees in her considering that she’s absolutely wretched.”
“How about we forget about Blake and Seth’s relationship for a little while as I was kind of hoping we could focus on something more important this morning,” Ben suggested with a half smile.
“Such as?” Diane arched a speculative brow.
“Our relationship,” Ben leaned down to kiss her quickly before squeezing her in closer to him, “as you know I’ve been thinking about everything that we’ve got going on in Coral Valley here.  After last night, well I got to thinking that maybe it’s time we get you out of town for a little bit on a vacation--that is if you can behave yourself because if we go to see my parents, I don’t think that you’ll want to be going off on the Blake is the devil tirade in front of my mother seeing as she and Veronica Ashford were friends a long time ago.  Granted eventually they stopped communicating with one another, but I really don‘t want to think about starting that one up again with my mother considering that it‘s a constant source of a headache for my father.”
“You mean you’re thinking about…” Diane stopped herself suddenly remembering the gift that Annie had given Ben on Christmas.  Suddenly bringing her hand to her face as a gasp fell from her lips, “The trip to Florida…”
“That’s right,” Ben nodded, “as I think it’s time that we cash in the tickets so to speak and give ourselves a little time away from everything happening here otherwise I might never get the opportunity to whisk you away without your going on a rampage and winding up in jail for attacking Blake.”
“That’s so not even funny,” Diane’s pouted glaring up at him upon his words, “Ben, you know that I…”
“Am entirely too wrapped up in what’s going on with Seth and Blake,” he finished bringing his index finger over the center of her lips to silence her, “I know that you mean well and that’s part of what I love about you, but our friends need to situate things all on their own without our adding our input.”
“But he’s making a mistake,” Diane argued with him.
“One that he’s going to make regardless of what you have to say as I’m sure that Seth doesn’t see it as a mistake and maybe in it’s own way, it’s not.  I think he genuinely cares about Blake and I have a strong feeling that it’s a mutual caring between them…”
“That’s because you’re an idiot Ben and you can’t see the obvious when it’s standing right in front of your face,” Diane scowled up at him feeling him take a step back upon the completion of her words.
“And apparently neither can you as I’m trying to get you to focus on something more productive here Diane.  I’m asking you to go with me to meet my parents and spend some time with my family because I want then to know the woman I love, but instead you’d rather dwell on that’s going on with Blake Ashford.  Honestly, is it really all that important and that all consuming that you’d rather just push aside what we’re working towards with one another?” he snapped back at her having had enough of her talk on Blake.
“Of course not, but I’m just saying that in being a friend I should be…” Diane began to defend her position.
“Willing to know when to back off and if you aren’t able to do that, then maybe we should forget the whole trip altogether as I’m really not in the mood to get you down to Florida only to have you obsessing about what’s happening here the whole time,” Ben remarked sourly.
“That’s not what I’m trying to do Ben,” Diane began hating the way his eyes were filled with hurt and frustration as she stepped towards him, “I’m just trying to…well, I don’t know.  I just want to help my friends…”
“You can do that Diane, but how about right now working on helping yourself a little bit?  On helping me,” he suggested with a desperate plea, “On helping us as right now all I want to do is take you away with me to a place where we can explore our relationship without all the outside distractions that keep popping up.”
“So you’re saying that you want to take me away to a place where we can just focus on you and me?” Diane questioned unable to contain the smile that pressed over her lips.
“That was the general idea,” Ben nodded in confession, “though if you’re not going to be able to get over this urgent need to be the one to fix all of our friends problems for them…”
“I think I can push it aside long enough for us to enjoy some fun in the sun in Florida,” Diane burst with energy making her way towards him once again, “as there’s nothing that I could want more than to spend my time in the sand and the sun with you.”
“Are you sure about that considering that you keep talking about Blake and…” Ben started with obvious skepticism as she tipped up on her toes to kiss him tenderly.
“Blake who,” she feigned innocence flashing him a sugary sweet smile.
“Good answer,” he replied easing his arms around her as he picked her up off of the ground tempting her with another tender embrace, “as I was really starting to worry that you weren’t seeing the big picture here.”
“Oh I’m seeing it,” Diane promised sliding her arms around his shoulders to support herself as he kept her up off of the ground, “and right now I think my biggest dilemma is what bikini I should pack for the trip.”
“You should probably pack two of them,” Ben decided after a moment’s contemplation, “one for when we’re spending time with my parents and another for when we’re alone…”
“Hmm, you know I think I have the perfect bikini in mind for that now that you mention it,” Diane whispered in a seductive breath upon his lips.
“Somehow I knew you’d have something perfect for the occasion,” Ben teased with a wink as his eyes gazed into hers once again, “though I’m warning you now, if while we’re out of town, you utter one word about Blake or anything relating to our friends and their troubles then I swear Diane there is going to be some serious hell to pay.”
“I promise, I’ll be on my best behavior,” she replied earnestly, “You won’t even have to think twice about my mentioning the unmentionables.”
“Good answer,” Ben approved with a bright grin squeezing her in against him as he sank back down onto one of the kitchen chairs with her in his lap, “although I must confess I hope that you won’t be too well behaved as I do happen to like it when you’re just a little bit naughty there…”
“Hmm, well in that case, perhaps we can work out a happy medium on the subject,” Diane replied leaning in to kiss him as she promised to push her worries about her friends aside in the name of moving forward in her relationship with Ben as it seemed that things were finally going right on track for them in more ways than she‘d imagined possible once upon a time.

Cameron stepped into Thea’s office with defiance. While she may have thought she could flaunt Doug in his face, Cameron was out to show her just what that could cost her in the long run.

“Just what were you thinking in going to dinner with Doug last night?” Cameron demanded as he stepped across the room.

Unaffected by Cameron’s bold entrance, Thea continued to focus on the papers before her, “That I needed to eat, and I might as well spend my time with good company.”

“Good company? Douglas? Hardly,” He snorted as he sat across the desk from her, “You really are showing that little green eyed monster of yours.”

She glanced up from her papers for a moment and leaned onto her desk, “You know, Cam, I don’t understand why you think any of what I do is for your benefit. I’m my own woman, and it’s time I started living that way again.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I’ll see whomever I like whenever I like, and you’ll just have to accept that,” She smiled slyly, “Besides, it’s not like you have any say in anything any more. You’re married, remember?”

“It’s in name only,” He sighed, blowing off his marriage as if it were nothing.

“Really? Something tells me by the way Heather was all over you the other day at the mansion that you two are a lot more intimate than a mere business arrangement.”

“You really are jealous, aren’t you?” He asked as a smile began to grow upon his features.

“Hardly. Do whatever you want to do, Cam. It’s your life you’re destined to screw up,” Thea shrugged as she went back to her work.

“Speaking of screw ups, how’s Doug doing after all? Especially with the news that I’m going to be the father of his grandchild?”

“He could care less,” She replied with a shrug, “He doesn’t think the kid belongs to Kipp, and let’s face it. Heather’s not exactly the most monogamous woman in the world. That kid could belong to anyone.”

“It belongs to Kipp,” Cameron said flatly.

“And just how do you know this? Because Heather says so? If you’re believing what’s coming out of her mouth, you’re more far gone than I thought.”

“No, because it fits. She was with Kipp after Ashford, and it figures that the baby belongs to Kipp.”

“What about Russell Denton?”

“What about him?”

“The night of the Ashford engagement party, they did happen to find Denton with Heather. Besides, they were seen together several times before that party. Perhaps they were the real item and Kipp was simply being played for a fool,” Thea shrugged, “Either way, chances are the kid doesn’t belong to Kipp even if you want it to.”

“You just don’t want it to be true.”

“Why would I care one way or another?” She asked as she leaned her chin upon her hand.

“Because you’d like it if this plot to hurt Douglas doesn’t work. You’d love it if it backfired in my face.”

“Hmm,” She mused before grinning, “You’re right. I would. I’d love for you to find out that you married the slut only to discover she’s as useless in your plans as she is to the rest of the world.”

Cameron grinned, “You truly are jealous. And here I was beginning to wonder if you didn’t have some other motive in your quest to trump me.”

“I’m not jealous. I just don’t understand why you could involve yourself with someone like Heather Gibbons. She’s nothing more than a common whore, and I don’t know why you’d want to give her free reign with your fortune.”

“I’m trusting the greedier side of her to want to make more money in the long run. Besides, I think being pregnant may have changed her.”

“Yeah, she wears a larger size in the same tawdry outfits,” Thea rolled her eyes.

“Actually she cares a great deal about her child’s welfare, and much to my surprise about Kipp. Though I wonder just how far I could push that affection.”

“Do you have sinister intentions already for the blushing bride?” She grinned, “My…is there trouble in paradise?”

“Don’t get excited,” He warned, “I’m just thinking that perhaps Heather’s concern for Kipp’s welfare will be the best possible way to keep her in line and available to do my bidding whenever needs be,” He paused as he considered his future plans for a moment, “Besides, I have other things to worry about.”

“Such as?”

“Our grand opening reception,” Cameron announced with a smile, “I want the best and brightest Coral Valley has to offer here in our offices, and I want to make sure that we can show them that doing business with us will always be profitable.”

She sighed as she sat back, “And it gives you another chance to flaunt your bride.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” He smiled as he walked towards the door, “I’m going to work on the arrangements for the reception. Just be sure not to bring Doug as your escort,” He warned as he left her office.

“Then I’ll be sure he’s available,” Thea grinned with defiance as it was perfectly clear to her that she had, in fact, upset Cameron a great deal. If he thought she’d been busy before, she couldn’t wait to show him what she’d do for her next act.


Zack lay back and stared at the ceiling as Johanna curled leisurely into his chest with a warm purr escaping her lips. This was not what he’d had in mind when he’d decided to come over here this morning. Actually, he didn’t know what exactly he’d had in mind, but this certainly wasn’t it. Ending up in bed with Johanna had definitely not been on the agenda.

He kept his arm curled around her body, gently fingering the long silken strands of her hair. He wasn’t completely upset about being in bed with a beautiful woman who wanted him beyond imagination. The only problem was she wasn’t the woman he wished was here with him. With that thought came a frown which he desperately fought, knowing that he was on perilous ground with Jo now, and he would have to find a way to make sure that things were solid enough between them that she wouldn’t leave for Seattle. Only he didn’t want to commit himself too much in the process.

Jo lightly traced circles in the chestnut hair dusting Zack’s chest. This was turning out even better than she’d imagined. Sure, she hadn’t exactly gotten him back to Seattle, but he was in her bed and that was almost as good. She smiled as she heard his heart beat in time with hers. They were still good together, and surely he felt that now as well.

She turned slightly and looked up to him. She could see that he was conflicted, and she would deal with that in time. However, the fact that he was here with her now, having just made love to her, she knew that with a little prodding she would have him right where she wanted him.

“Zack, what’s on your mind?” She asked softly. She had a feeling that he wasn’t going to share exactly what he was thinking, but perhaps he would at least let her in enough to work through the issues together.

“I was just thinking about you,” He said honestly enough as he met her eyes. He lightly caressed her cheek, “Tell me that you’re not going back to Seattle. Tell me that you’ll stay here with me.”

“While your career will flourish mine won’t do so well here,” She frowned.

“Yeah, but you’re not doing what you’ve always wanted to do anyway,” He pointed out as he met her eyes, “I know that you’ve got disks and disks and more disks full of writings. You should publish them. You have enough contacts in the literary world to pull it off, and I know that’s always been your secret ambition.”

“Perhaps, but I can’t exactly just sit at home while I’m waiting for something to get published. I have a child to think of,” She reminded him.

Zack thought for a moment before he thought about the future, “This is my child as well, and I think it’s only fair if I support the both of you,” He suggested, stopping her from protesting, “I know you’re a proud woman who wants to provide for herself. I’ll provide for the both of you until you’re published. Then, we can provide for our baby together.”

She lay her head upon his chest as she considered his offer, “I suppose I could relocate here for a trial run. I could put out some feelers about my writing,” She sighed, “But I don’t know if this could really work.”

“Jo,” Zack rolled her to her back as he hovered over her and met her eyes, “You’re a fantastic writer, and I know that you’ll be published in no time. Besides that,” He lightly smoothed her hair from her cheeks, “You’ll be here where I can take care of you and our baby, and I will take good care of you both.”

“Oh Zack,” Johanna wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight. She knew that she could use her time with him to convince him that being with her and their child was exactly where he needed to be. In time, she’d make him forget all about Blake Ashford and make him focus completely on their new family together.


Heather stepped off the hospital elevator feeling on top of the world as it seemed her life had taken a new spin since she’d become Mrs. Cameron Stone.  Granted she hadn’t been out and about much in the public since that magical moment that had taken her life in a whole new direction, but now as she made her way down the hallways of the hospital, she could feel the change.  She wasn’t Heather Gibbons, aspiring model and starlet in the making any longer.  She was Heather Stone a woman who had power and a lifestyle that demanded respect.  No longer would she have to bend at the will of others as she was certain that they would all be kneeling down to her, but first, well first she just had to find a way to share her good fortune with someone who would be thrilled to hear of her doing so very well.  At least she hoped so, she reasoned with a frown as she tossed her hair back over her shoulder thinking about her trip to the hospital.
While she wasn’t quite sure what had possessed her to come down here on today of all days when there was planning to be done for her new and upcoming business…calls to be made and people to demand results from, she’d found time in her schedule to check in with the one person who had certainly left an impression in upon her--Dr. Diego Hernandez.  Okay, so granted when she’d last spoken with him, he’d made her feel a bit insecure and neurotic about the choices she’d been making in life, but that wasn’t about to stop her from sharing her news with him.  Clearly Diego was about to see how wrong he was as she was finally making her mark in the world and soon everyone would be eating out of the palm of her hand--begging for the second chances that they didn’t deserve with her and then Heather would show them all what they got for doubting her and challenging her position of authority in the past.
Now as Heather stood outside Diego’s office, she turned her attention to Diego’s secretary finding herself rather eager to see Diego as the woman continued to chat away on the telephone.  Heather cleared her throat, tapping her foot impatiently as she focused on the small woman before her seeing no reaction from the woman as she continued to speak with the caller on the other end of the line.
“Excuse me,” Heather huffed impatiently as the woman’s eyes drifted up towards her for the briefest of moment’s before she held up a finger to urge Heather to hold on for a minute longer.
“So anyways as I was saying…” the woman began to continue her conversation as Heather scowled down at her having no patience for the woman’s clearly ignorant behavior.
“Look Miss, I need to speak with Dr. Hernandez as…” Heather started placing her hands on her hips as the woman raised her finger once again irritating Heather far more than she’d imagined possible when she’d first approached the woman seconds earlier.  Finally saying to hell with it, she started towards Diego’s door ready to see him when his secretary covered the mouth of the phone and spoke out to Heather at long last.
“You can’t go in there, so if you’ll just take a seat,” the secretary began hearing something on the other end of the line before a laugh overcame her, “oh I know and you’re absolutely right…”
“Bite me,” Heather grumbled in response snubbing the woman’s words as she pushed her way into Diego’s office finding him seated at his desk with a man seated on his couch speaking candidly about something that Heather couldn’t quite make out, but quite honestly Heather didn’t really care as her eyes fixed upon Diego.
“I said you can’t go in there right now,” Diego’s secretary shouted out following Heather into the office as Diego looked up from where he was seated behind his desk, his eyes raising with obvious interest before a scowl pressed over his features.
“Maybe this is a bad time,” the man on the couch began nervously rising to his feet almost immediately upon taking one good look at Heather.
“No, Tom this is a perfect time for us to discuss this as…” Diego started as Heather made her way through the room standing directly in front of Diego’s desk.
“Actually, I think it’s time for you to split Tom as I need to have a few words with the good doctor,” Heather stated plainly turning her attention to the man before her seeing that he was clad in some kind of lab coat which clearly marked him as a hospital employee of sorts.  While she wasn’t really too interested in him, she could see that his flustered moment of surprise had transformed into something altogether more familiar to Heather as he was practically gawking at her legs that were so skillfully emphasized in the slinky red designer dress that Cameron had given her the money to go shopping for on their honeymoon dream vacation.
“No Tom, you can stay as Ms. Gibbons was just leaving,” Diego started to argue as the man flashed a bright grin in Heather’s general direction.
“Really, it’s no problem,” Tom’s eyes practically popped out of his head as he approached Heather, “You can speak with Dr. Hernandez if you like…”
“Thanks Tom,” Heather reached out to touch his shoulder briefly, watching him practically melt upon contact before his goofy grin expanded and he shuffled out of the office nearly tripping over the trash can on the way out as he’d been far too caught up in gawking at Heather--not that she could really blame him, she thought to herself as she turned to face Diego again.  “We need to talk.”
“Dr. Hernandez, I tried to tell her that you were busy, but…” his secretary began obviously flustered as she spoke to him.
“It’s okay.  I can take care of this one.  Hold my calls for a bit,” Diego waved her to leave as he kept his eyes on Heather.  Once his secretary left the room, his face grew tight with obvious agitation as he scowled at her, “What you did though, that isn’t okay.”
“Of course it is,” Heather watched him walk around his desk returning to his chair as he took very slow, calculated steps as if he was trying to hold back on what he really wanted to say.  Not getting a clue, she followed him over to his desk, “as you said I could call on you anytime I wanted to if I needed you and right now I need you.”
“Right now I was with a patient if you didn’t notice,” Diego scowled back at her.
“He’s fine,” Heather remarked dismissively, “I’m sure whatever bad dreams he’s having can be put to rest by a good night out on the town, though judging by the way he was watching me, maybe he should make it a date instead or a night at home with a good porno to work on those obvious latent feelings for…”
“Heather, you’re not listening to me,” Diego snapped back at her, “You can’t just barge into my office anytime you feel like it when the mood hits you.  I’m a doctor with patients that have real problems that need my attention…”
“But I need your attention too,” Heather curled her lip in a pout, “as I’m someone you said you’d make a priority.”
“Heather, you asked me to be your doctor and that is something I have no problem doing, but when I do that, well it needs to be under my terms.  You can’t just rush into my office ready to claim my time as your own when I have other patients who need my support.”
“But none of them are nearly as interesting as me, or as beautiful,” she stepped in closer to him, “Even you have to admit that.”
“You need more help than I can offer you, Heather,” Diego rolled his eyes as he sat down in his chair turning away from her as he looked to some of the things that were upon his desk, “but if you’re still determined to seek my professional skills, then you can do it when it fits into my schedule.  If you’d like to call and make an appointment or even make one with my secretary on your way out, then I’d be more than willing to help you with whatever is troubling you during our allotted time with one another.”
“I didn’t come here because something was troubling me,” she remarked dryly, “as I came to tell you how happy I am and just how wrong you were when you tried to warn me against marrying Cameron.  I realize you didn‘t want me to do it, but..”
“Heather, as I said before I wasn’t trying to stop you from doing anything you wanted to do, but more so I was trying to be the voice of reason because you were asking me to…” Diego began to defend his position to her.
“You were wrong and you just can’t admit to that,” she shrugged her shoulders feeling a proud smirk rise over her features as she sat on the edge of his desk, crossing her legs in front of him as she tossed her hair back over her shoulders dramatically, “as in being married to Cameron I have the world at my feet.  Everything I want is mine for the taking and we had the most perfect honeymoon where he offered me the world…”
“Then I guess congratulations are in order since you’ve found yourself fitting into this new role with such ease,” Diego remarked in a neutral tone, “though you didn’t need to come here to get that from me as I’m sure you’d much prefer to be sharing the joy with your husband.”
“Well yes, I do tend to share a great many wonderful things with Cameron, but right now I had to let you know just how wrong you were about him…about me and about my whole situation,” Heather continued elated by the moment as she shared her victories with Diego, “as not only did Cameron keep up his promise to provide for me and my child, but he’s also taken on Douglas.  He found a way to get legal guardianship of Kipp and now Douglas can’t threaten to keep Kipp away from me because Cameron won’t allow that to happen…”
“Cameron did all that huh,” Diego turned his eyes up from the things before him as he saw the smirk that spread over Heather’s beautiful features, “Heather, did it ever occur to you that perhaps Cameron isn’t doing all of this for you but for himself in some strange round about way?”
“Hardly,” she rolled her eyes shaking her head at him, “and you know you really shouldn’t try to bash my husband so hard when I’m around or else I might find myself just a tad bit insulted by the lack of respect you give him.”
“If you’re seeking out respect for your husband, then you’re barking up the wrong tree here,” he informed her bluntly, “as I’m not about to praise a man for whom I can’t find one admirable trait.”
“See, there you go again,” she sighed dangling her legs in front of him, “all of that jealousy over what my husband has really isn’t going to do you any good as it won‘t change the fact that…”
“I’m not jealous of your husband,” he cut her off abruptly, “Quite the opposite in fact, but I’d rather not get into that right now as I have things to do.”
“Face it Diego.  You’re just feeling sour grapes because you had your moment with me and you blew it and now, well now I’m a happily married woman who doesn’t need any of those things she was seeking out before Cameron came into her life,” she dangled her hand in front of his face showing off the grandiose wedding ring that Cameron had presented her with, “because as you can clearly see I have it all these days and life couldn’t be better.”
“That’s wonderful news Heather and if you’re happy, then that’s fantastic, but right now, well right now I’m really busy so if you’d just go on and…” Diego started with a frown.
“You know you really should be more supportive than this.  As you’d been encouraging me to find ways to enhance my life and define the woman that I really am and now that I have, well you should be as elated as I am.  I’ve finally found my place in this world and everything has fallen into perfect order for me.  I have the love of a wonderful man and he’s an amazing lover and…”
“That’s it Heather,” he rose from his chair unable to take anymore of her rambling as he faced her once again, “I think we’re finished here.”
“Now Diego, I’ve just started talking and I don’t have any intentions of going anywhere,” she explained rising up from the corner of his desk as their eyes connected for a brief moment before she turned to head over in the direction of his couch, “as you do still owe me a meal and I’d like to cash in upon it…not because I couldn’t be out having something better with someone else, but because you owe it to me and I realize that you’re not the kind of man who likes to be in debt to anyone so…”
“Heather, I have work to do, so if you’d just take your good news and desire to celebrate elsewhere…” he began with a scowl.
“I’m not going anywhere until you give me what you owe me Diego, so you can get it out of your head that I’m going to be leaving anytime soon unless it’s to go with you to the restaurant of my choice as that’s the least you can do for me after that ridiculous Christmas work you made me do,” she rolled her eyes groaning inwardly as she thought back to the time they’d spent with one another, “You may have been able to wiggle out of that one before, but now, well now you have no choice but to have a meal with me.  I’m thinking something rather exquisite and posh like Pavilion or maybe that new place down by the lake that…”
“Heather, I’m not taking you anywhere.  I have a job to do and quite frankly, you’re putting me just a little bit more behind than I’d like to be,” he huffed in response shaking his head at her, “but I’m sure that your husband would be more than willing to take the time out of his schedule to take you to a nice lunch, dinner or anything else that’s on your mind because…”
“Diego, you owe me a meal and I’ve come to collect,” she fanned her arms out over the back of his soft.  She curled her legs once again, watching the way his face shifted with irritation as she flashed him a bright smile,  “I simply won’t take no for an answer in this matter.  Besides, you did have your secretary clear your schedule a bit and hold your calls, so that in itself says that you were hoping to get some alone time with me today.  It only makes sense that we have that in a place where things aren’t nearly as drab and depressing as they are in this office, which by the way you should really look into getting someone to come in here and redecorate as it’s truly so very bland in here. I’d imagine that you’d want something a bit more modern and upbeat with the people that you have to deal with.  I mean given how dark this room is, it’s amazing that more than half your patents haven’t tried to commit suicide as this color scheme would truly drive someone to the brink of insanity…”
“Enough Heather,” Diego snapped at her feeling the last shard of patience evaporating inside of him, “I’m not going to lunch, dinner or anything else with you and that is the end of the story.  I have work to do here and if you don’t have anything more to say, then perhaps it would be best if you get going because I don’t see us making any progress with one another today…”
“That’s because you’re being too damn impossible,” she threw back at him eyeing him intently, “though I’d imagine that has to do with your lack of any real relationship outside listening to your patients whine about the woes in their lives.  Come to think of it, you probably haven’t had a date in so long that you don’t even know how to really communicate with someone of the opposite sex in a conventional setting outside the patient and doctor routine.  Maybe that’s what your problems really stem from…”
“I don’t have time for this Heather,” Diego shot back out at her refusing to budge on the issue as she threw out a sexy smile, rising to her feet once again before sauntering over to him to touch the lapel on his jacket tentatively.
“Of course you do,” Heather remarked brightly tracing her index finger over his jacket, “because I’m not leaving until you agree to go with me and if you think I’m miserable to be around now, well just wait and see what will happen to you after a few hours of this.”
“Heather I’m not about to…” Diego started once again as she placed her finger over his lips to silence him.
“Shh…” she warned leaving her perfectly sculpted nail over the center of his lips to silence his protests, “Now we can do this one of two ways.  The easy way or the hard way, but I will warn you that whatever path you choose, it’s going to have the same outcome.  You will be taking me out for a meal and there aren’t going to be any changes to that plan as I know what I want and I’m not about to back down until I get it.  So now that we have that out of the way, why don’t you grab your jacket and we’ll work on getting out of here with one another in a much more fabulous, lively place than this drab office of yours?”
“Heather, you do realize that as your doctor I could have you committed at any time here,” Diego warned his voice laced with heavy irritation as she took a step away from him, her laughter tickling over her lush, red lips.
“You wouldn’t dare,” Heather challenged seeing the spark of anger behind his eyes.
“If you insist upon spending your day harassing me, I might consider it,” he warned again straining to remain firm in his decision not to leave his office with her under her demands.
“Yeah, right,” she chuckled shaking her head at him, “No wonder you can’t get a date.  You’re far too high strung for most women as that attitude of yours is just so wrong.  You seem to think that you can go through that whole strong and stubborn act, but it really just says that you feel awkward and you’re unsure of yourself.  I can see all the signs are there because you clearly don’t know how to live a little, which is why you should consider my willingness to spend time with you to be something of a blessing in disguise for you as I’m certain I can give you a tip or two on how to improve your social life just a bit--starting with getting you out of this stuffy office.”
“You really want me out of my office,” Diego threw back at her something shifting on his features as he stepped in closer to her, “Is that what you really want Heather?”
“That’s right,” she nodded urgently, “I want us out of here like now.  So let‘s go.  We can go somewhere quiet for a while…”

“You want quiet Heather?” he repeated his voice rising with the moment, “is that really what you want?”

“Yes, I think quiet sounds perfect right about now,” she answered simply, “Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Fine, but you remember you were the one who asked for it,” Diego decided realizing there would be only one way to get Heather to take him seriously as he reached out to her hoisting her his arm much to her surprise.
“Diego what are you doing,” Heather squealed overcome by a moment of shock as he carried her out of his office, past his confused secretary.
“Hold my calls for the afternoon,” Diego blurted out knowing that he’d clearly been driven to madness at long last.  He marched down the hospital hallway carrying a protesting Heather as all eyes were seemingly upon the both of them in their walk from his office.

“Diego, I don’t know what you’re doing, but you need to put me down right now.  You aren’t paying me any attention and I’m not about to let you do this to me when all I was trying to do was…” Heather argued with him kicking her legs out as she felt her dress riding up over her thighs no doubt revealing far more to the hospital onlookers than she’d anticipated as he rounded yet another corner of the hospital.
“Drive me crazy,” he blurted out with a huff, “that’s what you were trying to do and since you can’t get it in your head that you need to call and make an appointment, well then I’m about to give you the very thing you’re asking for.  If you want to be one of my patients that gets my undivided attention, then there’s a surefire way to do it and I’m about to show you.”
“Hmm, well you can start by letting me down,” Heather demanded, “as I’m not about to stand for this when…”
“With pleasure,” Diego replied sourly dropping her down on some kind of cot before taking a step back, “Here you are Heather.  It’s the most deluxe atmosphere down at the psych ward.  I think you’ll find that you’ll have the complete attention of the person you want to reach most in here and later when my schedule permits, I’ll come back and give you exactly what you’re hoping for,” he finished turning on his heel and marching out of the room before slamming the door behind him.
“Listen you,” Heather charged towards the door finding it locked when she suddenly realized that Diego had no only pulled her out of his office, but now she stood in the center of a padded cell like a common whack job and as she assessed her surroundings her anger boiled up inside of her as she pounded on the door once again, “Diego, I swear when I get out of here, you’re so going to regret this.  I’m going to sue you for all you have and then, well your career is over.  Do you hear me?” she shouted through the door knowing it was a futile attempt as her words weren’t reaching anything outside the room she was in, but still she had to try.
“You’re finished Diego.  Finished!” she huffed before taking another long look around the room before finally deciding to wait out the few minutes it took Diego to get over his little temper tantrum before she could get back to her business once again.  It seemed that Diego had gone from almost charming to highly irritating in the blink of an eye and as Heather observed the small room he’d locked her in, she vowed to give him nothing short of hell when he finally let her out as no one dared to treat her this way and lived to tell the tale.


Jenna noted the time realizing that she’d been hoping to get to her office a couple hours earlier to catch up on some much needed paperwork she’d been neglecting, but after a morning of sulking, she just didn’t have the enthusiasm to bury herself in paperwork.  She’d contemplated calling Callaway back after he’d left the message on her machine earlier in the week, but then given what she and Hart had happened upon, she realized that perhaps she should call Shannon first and see if the two of them couldn’t come up with something that made sense for the missing surveillance tape.  However, while those were things on the top of her list on most days, today had been about pretty much living in a state of regret over the stupid decision she’d made where her father was concerned.  Granted Jenna really hadn’t known what Douglas Mahoney was truly like when she‘d first found out that he was her father, but she should’ve known better.
Jenna had always prided herself on being a good judge of character.  Okay, so there had been a few judgment flaws she’d had over the last few years as she’d missed some pretty important clues about the kind of man Patrick Sharpe was, but that in itself had made her smarter--wiser and yet here she was feeling like the fool all over again.  Certainly she had to have more insight than she was proving to herself as she thought of all the ways in which she’d been wrong about the men she’d encountered.  Patrick had been a moron and a jerk to the extreme and she should’ve known.  That’s what it all came back to and as she had been reflecting on all her stupid decisions, well, it only made her feel worse about the situation.
“How could I have been so stupid,” she heard herself saying over and over again all morning long after Hart had left to head on over to his office.
Sure, she hadn’t seen it with Douglas, but she should’ve trusted her mother’s instincts.  She should’ve listened instead of having been so hard headed, but now, well now here she was in her apartment miserable and about to down a box of donuts that she’d encountered not so long after Hart left her apartment.  Even now she could feel their comfort factor urging her to just go for another, but instead she rose from the chair she’d been seated in and she began pacing around her kitchen restlessly.
“Get a grip Jenna,” she chastised herself as she moved around in the same path over and over again, “This is not the end of the world.  So your father is a jerk.  How many other girls can lay claim to the same problem and are they making themselves overcome with worry?  No, they’re just getting over it and moving on and accepting that their father is a creep, which is exactly what you should be doing instead of talking to yourself.  You went through most of your life without a father in it, so why does Douglas make any kind of impact in your life?  You didn’t need him then and you don’t need him now especially if he’s going to spend his time chasing around women your age who happen to think Cameron Stone is a great guy.  To hell with him and to hell with worrying and for goodness sake get off your butt and out the door to your office before you lose it completely,” she snapped at her reflection in the mirror before her before she headed in the direction of her room ready to get changed up for a trip to the office.
Jenna had made her way down the hallway to her bedroom when she’d heard a knock coming from her front door.  Stopping mid-step, she spun around wondering if Hart had realized that she was still a complete basket case and he’d decided to come back and snap her out of the mood she’d still been sucked into.  Certainly, Hart always knew the right thing to do or say and now would be one of those times when she’d desperately needed that from him.  He’d know how to cheer her up for a little while, she thought to herself making her way to the front door, but as she opened it instead of finding the face of comfort before her, she saw the eyes of the man who’d taken her world to such a state of turmoil over the last twenty four hours.
“Jenna,” Douglas greeted her with a bright smile, “Darling I was in the neighborhood and I was hoping I’d catch you at home as…”
“Save it Doug.  I’m not interested,” she scowled back at him pushing her door to a close as Douglas stood outside her apartment dumbfounded by her reaction to him.
Taking in a slow breath Douglas knocked once again wondering what in the world had possessed her to do something like that as he waited for her to answer her door again.  Minutes passed before she finally threw open her door glaring at him with a face that was enough to make anyone cringe with the emotion pressing over her.
“What do you want?” she snapped back at him harshly refusing to be friendly in the moment.
“I came over here to see my little girl,” he began to explain simply seeing that something was clearly upsetting her, “Jenna, what’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong,” she repeated with a huff, “Gee, I don’t know where should I start?  I guess I could start by saying that since you and I really never knew one another before recently, that maybe it’s better that we keep it that way especially if you’ve taken to sleeping with the enemy.”
“The enemy,” Douglas repeated in confusion, “Jenna, what are you talking about?”
“I saw you last night,” she threw back at him unable to contain the emotion she’d fought to keep from showing him, “and you know for a moment there I thought I must’ve been imagining it, but there you were all over her and not caring who knew about your relationship with that horrible, disgusting woman…”
“Now Jenna, just wait a minute,” he raised his hand to silence her, “before you start making assumptions about a person, you should really take the time to…”
“To what?  Be lied to again?  No thank you,” Jenna shook her head adamantly as her disgust surfaced all over again, “You know you almost succeeding in making me believe that you were someone special for a while.  I really, truly thought that you could be the kind of person that I’ve always felt was missing in my life.  I mean you have no idea how many times I prayed that my father was alive so that I could share my life with him.  Time after time I dreamt about what kind of man he was--about how he could be and never once in all of those dreams was he a man who shacked up with a woman who lived to create misery for the world around her…”
“Jenna, I know you think you know what’s going on, but with Thea and I…” Douglas began to defend his relationship with Cameron’s assistant.
“She works for Cameron Stone and we both know what kind of man he is,” Jenna threw back at him shaking her head with an ironic laugh, “and here you were damning him and talking about how he was out to get you.  Never once did I think that it was because you were banging his assistant, but apparently there’s a lot more going on than you wanted to share with me.  He’s the reason my brother’s gone from my life, isn’t he?  It’s because of you that Kipp is gone.  Here I was ready to turn my back on my mother--on the only person who has ever truly been there for me in my life and for what?  For someone like you?  God, do you have any idea how pathetic that makes me feel?”
“Jenna, I can explain all of this and if you let me inside, then I’m certain that…” he began again desperately.
“I let you inside once and it nearly cost me everything I have with my mother, but this time, well this time I’m not stupid enough to do it again.  As far as I’m concerned you don’t have to worry about me Doug because I don’t need a man like you in my life.  Not now, not ever because the way I see it the father that I always wanted ceases to exist and without him, well I was doing just fine and I’m sure that I’ll continue to carry on without that presence in my life,” she finished slamming the door in his face once again leaving him in a state of disbelief on her doorstep as he tried to come up with some kind of reasonable explanation that would change Jenna’s opinion of him, but as he found himself at a loss, her took a step away from her door realizing that perhaps it was time to regroup before he did or said something that made matters worse in the long run.


“Avery talk to me,” Russell urged her gently stepping in behind her, wrapping his arms around her slender form as she looked out over the Ashford gardens seemingly lost in the silence she’d surrounded herself in ever since they’d stepped out of the mansion for some air, “Sweetheart, please…”
“Russ, I just don’t know what to say,” she confessed easing back into his arms as the warmth of him surrounded her.  She sank into his chest closing her eyes for a brief moment as she tried to will away the picture her mother had painted of the torture Bruce had put Brooke through.  Even now she couldn’t stop the chills that carried over her from taking control of the moment, drawing her down into a place that she swore she’d never let herself fall into ever again.
“How about you just start with what’s going on in your mind as I know you’re feeling more than you’re saying,” he suggested kissing her left temple gently.  His fingers fanned out over her abdomen gingerly massaging her body affectionately as he could feel the tension all but leaping out from within as she gazed out onto the lavish Ashford gardens.
“I don’t even know where to begin as nothing I can say will make any of this better. What Bruce has done to my family is horrible and even now, when I think of what he did to Brooke because of me…” she trailed off feeling a lump forming in her throat as guilt tugged at her.
“Avery, look at me,” Russell coaxed her into facing him as he could see the line of tears falling down her soft, silken skin.  Just seeing the way in which this situation was eating away at her tore him apart and as he brushed his thumb against her cheek, he fought to find the right words to make this situation less painful for her, “This isn’t your fault.  What Bruce did was because he is evil, not because of you…”
“He went after her because of me Russ.  He knew that if he hurt her…well, he just knew that she would be put in that position because of me…” Avery continued to sob, breaking down in his arms as he held her, “I caused her this pain and now…”
“Avery, this wasn’t your fault.  You can’t blame yourself for what he’s done.  He is pure evil and what he did to Brooke, well that wasn’t right, but it was because of Bruce not you,” he repeated once again hating to hear her cry as she trembled in his arms.
“But I gave him reason to go after her.  I’m the thing that drove him to all of this and now, Russ, how can I face my mother again knowing that I’m the source of all her pain?  I mean sure she’s telling me that she loves me and that she wants us to try again, but what kind of daughter am I when I’m the one who brought all of this on in the first place,” Avery questioned unable to control her sobs as Russell cupped her face in his thick hands.
“Avery, you’ve been an incredible daughter to Brooke--far more than she’s deserved after the way she’s treated you over the years and we both know that this situation wasn’t something you’ve created.  Even Brooke realizes that Avery and you can’t put all the weight of this upon your shoulders now that Bruce has decided to make another move…” he began to reason with her.
“But where does it end Russ?  I mean honestly when will it ever end for us since he’s taken to attacking my family.  First he went after me and then Brooke, but since he’s still out there, there’s no telling what else he’ll do.  I mean for all we could know he could go after my father, my brother, you or even the baby…” she continued desperately, her words coming out in tiny sobs.
“Avery, that’s not going to happen.  Bruce isn’t going to get another chance to do that,” he blurted out urging her to meet his eyes as he fought to pull her out of this state she’d put herself in after hearing Brooke’s tale of terror, “I’m not going to let that happen.”
“Russ, I know you say that, but how can we be sure?  How can we be sure that he’s not just waiting for another moment to strike and now that he’s got that ransom money at his disposal, well, that could buy him even more resources and more ways to…” her words were cut off as Russell leaned in to kiss her abruptly, shocking her with his so out of place gesture as her tears continued to consume her.
“It’s not going to happen,” he promised keeping his lips just above hers as he reached out to her curling his arm around her waist in an attempt to hoist her up off of the ground into the safety of his full embrace, “Avery, Bruce isn’t coming anywhere near you or the baby…”
“But we can’t be sure that,” she started again as he dropped his lips to hers once again kissing her with a far greater intensity as her tears slowed down after a moment and her arms curled around his neck.
Tentatively, he squeezed her into his arms more completely as their kiss continued, growing with the moment as he’d found a way to keep her from losing herself to the misery that had surrounded her.  Finally breathless they parted and Russell pressed his forehead in against her, taking in the taste of her with the rapid pounding of his heart.
“Why did you do that,” she questioned, her voice shaky as her hold on him continued.
“I needed to help you gain some focus,” he confessed slowly easing her down to the ground again while keeping his arms around her, “I know that you’re upset Avery, but you need to remember what’s really important and that’s my loving you.”
“Russ, I know that, but that’s why I’m so afraid.  Every time we have something really wonderful ahead of us, fate finds a way to rip it away from us and with Bruce…” she began again as he shook his head in response.
“Given what we’ve been through on the road to get to where we are, Bruce Mathis doesn’t stand a chance in hell of coming between us.  He’s not going to hurt you again and when I promised you that we’d find a way to beat all the odds, that included psychopaths like him,” he tried to assure her nuzzling his nose against her neck before dropping a feathery light kiss upon her vulnerable flesh, “Avery, he’s going to be caught and when he is, well then you’ll see that this is over for us.”
“But right now he’s still out there and it’s far from being over,” she sighed stiffening in his embrace as his eyes fell upon hers once again, “and now my mother is upstairs feeling the aftershocks of what he’s done…”
“Your mother is a fighter Avery.  She’s going to pull through this and if they ever find Bruce, I have no doubt in my mind that Brooke will take him out…if he did those things that she said he did to her that is,” he pointed out thinking of the Brooke Morrison he’d known over the years.
“What is that supposed to mean,” Avery curled her lip in a pout.
“All I’m saying is that your mother’s going to get back on her feet again and be stronger than ever when everything is said and done.  It’s how she is,” he replied with a simple shrug of his shoulders, “I’ve never known her to just back down on things.”
“Even so with the way you said that,” she searched his eyes for a long moment, “Russ, are you trying to say that you don’t think Bruce hurt her?  That she could be making this up?”
“Avery, that’s not what I’m saying, but things weren’t exactly normal upstairs,” he confessed openly, “Even you could see there was something strange about the exchange she had with us.”
“She almost lost her life Russ.  It was enough to make her start seeing the mistakes she made and she genuinely wants to change them,” Avery defended her mother as she thought back to the affectionate words Brooke had offered up to the both of them, “She wants to start anew and I think that when you go through an ordeal like that it changes a person…”
“Yes, darling I’ll be the first to agree with you on that, but when I think about the things Brooke said at the hospital the last time we saw her before the kidnapping--about the way she treated you and the idea of our baby,” he paused hating to bring his doubts to the table with Avery, “well, I just find it hard to believe that she’d be so willing to just let go of all that bitterness and hatred because of this.”
“We don’t know half of the horrors she went through,” Avery pointed out sadly, “For all we know Bruce did things far worse than she told me as she made us leave the room when she talked to the FBI.  I can only imagine what he did to her and Russ I know from experience that an attack changes a person.  When he tried to kill me, well it got me to start putting things into perspective…”
“I know sweetheart, but you and your mother aren’t exactly the same kind of women,” he paused realizing that now wasn’t the time to go over his doubts about Brooke’s sincerity as clearly Avery was far too emotional to rationalize anything more than what Brooke was giving her, “Listen, why don’t we just try to focus on the positive in this situation now that your mother is home and not dwell on what could’ve went wrong or what could be lurking out in other parts of the world?”
“That’s easier said than done and you know it,” she frowned up at him shaking her head as a groan overcame her, “Russ, just the idea that Bruce is still out there…”
“Is very unsettling I know, but I promise you that we’ll find a way to make sure things don’t stay that way for long.  He’s going to be brought into custody and when he is, well there is no doubt in my mind that the authorities are going to throw the book at him,” he curled his finger underneath her chin coaxing her dark eyes up into his, “and when that day happens, then we both won’t have a thing to worry about other than what we’re going to do with a newborn that demands our full attention.”
“That’s an easy answer,” Avery offered up a soft smile, “we’re going to love that newborn with all of our hearts.”
“Now that’s an idea I find myself rather enjoying,” he confessed tipping down to kiss her once again, holding her in his arms as he wished that somehow he could do something to erase all the pain that she’d gone through over the years as it seemed with each new day there was something more to add to the mix where chaos was concerned.
“I’m glad to hear you say that, Russ,” she whispered in response snuggling in closer to him, “as you and our child are the most important things in my life you know.”
“As you are in mine, which is why I want you to try to calm down a little bit.  I hate seeing you upset and when I think about what all this emotion is doing to you and our baby, well Avery, I just don’t want to see you get overcome by it,” he touched her cheek gently, “do you think that maybe we can try to just push it aside for a little while?”
“I’m not sure I can,” she confessed with a sigh, “but I can try to.”
“That’s all I ask,” he whispered against her lips tasting her salty kiss for one, last, lingering moment before he breathed against her mouth, “now why don’t we get back inside since it’s a little chilly out here and I don’t want you to catch a cold or anything?”
Avery couldn’t help but laugh at his words, “Now I feel like you’re mothering me here.”
“Hey, you’d be doing the same for me if the moment called for it,” he pointed out with a wink, “and besides can I help it if I want to keep my beautiful wife in tip top shape there?”
“I’d have to wonder what the motivation was behind that as I almost get the feeling your wanting me to get back inside is more of a selfish gesture on your part instead of selfless,” she offered up a skeptical look.
“Why would you ever say something like that?” he questioned curiously.
“Because you can’t deal with the whole sick thing very well Russ.  You’re such a baby when it comes to those things,” she threw back at him pointedly.
“In most cases, yes, yes I am, but when it comes to you, I would be at your side every moment you were feeling under the weather trying to make you smile and forget that you weren’t feeling good,” he assured her with a sexy smile.
“If I had the flu or a bout of morning sickness I can guarantee that you wouldn’t want to kiss my troubles away then,” Avery couldn’t help but tease him as she watched the expression that crossed over his features.
“Of course I would,” he argued with her, “just before we did that, well I’d make sure we had some Listerine handy for such a moment.”
“Ever the romantic,” she rolled her eyes as a tiny groan spilled from her lips.
“I aim to please angel,” he curled his arm around her waist.
“That you do, but things haven’t really given us much time for that lately, have they?” she frowned thinking about how they’d been taken from their vacation earlier than anticipated.  Gingerly she brought her hand up over her locket he’d given her feeling a smile touch over the corners of her mouth as she turned her eyes to him completely.
“We’ll have our time and when we do, well I can promise you that pleasing you will be my top priority,” he assured her kissing the top of her head before urging her into his arms, “Now how about we check in on your mother and then perhaps get something for you and the little one to eat since breakfast didn’t go as planned?”
“I’m sorry about that one Russ,” Avery frowned back at him thinking about their seduction gone wrong.
“It’s not your fault sweetheart,” he tried to assure her as he squeezed his arm around her once again, “but I do have to say that the next time I’m making love with you, I don’t want Brant anywhere near the moment.”
“He didn’t know and when I must’ve hit the answer button…” Avery defended thinking to Brant’s intrusion upon their private time.
“Believe me, if he would’ve known, he wouldn’t have stopped calling until he found a way to interrupt,” Russell groaned inwardly, “as that man truly doesn’t want us together.”
“Russ, I can’t believe you’re still carrying on about him like that as I’ve already told you he’s agreed to stop pushing me,” Avery pointed out thinking back to the moment she and Brant had shared in her office, “He’s apologized and wants to make a fresh start with us.”
“Oh I have no doubt in my mind that he wants to get fresh with you and that is just another reason why I don’t trust the man,” he confessed with a scowl.
“Even so regardless of what you think about the man, the fact remains that he saved my mother and for that I’ll be grateful to him.  He’s a good man Russ and if you give him half a chance…” Avery began thinking to all Brant had done for her.
“Avery, I still don’t trust him and while I know you have a professional relationship with him, I get this feeling that he’s up to something and if he has a chance to persuade you into thinking that he’s changed, well I think he’ll use it to try to manipulate you again.”
“Russ, he’s not like that.  I mean I know why you don’t like him, but you don’t know Brant like I do.  He’s not a bad person…he’s really a good guy with a great heart and…”
“The hots for my wife,” he interrupted with a less than thrilled expression, “I know you don’t want to think that he’s still holding on, but I can see it in the way he looks at you.  Avery, he’s still got it in his mind that he’s going to persuade you into seeing him the way he’s wanting you to see him and that leads to nothing short of him being the man of your dreams.”
“Now who is being paranoid Russ,” Avery questioned with obvious distaste, “I know you really don’t want to see it, but I think that Brant’s truly trying to turn his life around.  I think he’s hoping to regain some of the ground he lost with me before and that maybe we can all be friends at the end of this.”
“I don’t think that’s ever going to be possible after the things he’s done.  Avery, when he tried to take you away from me…” he voiced his concerns.
“He’s not going to do that Russ,” Avery cut him off abruptly, “He’s moving on and he knows that the only man of my dreams is the one I married at the castle on the island.  He sees how happy I am with you and I know that he’s accepted that you’re the love of my life.”
“Well, I sure hope so because I’d hate to see him do something to upset our lives more than he has already,” he thought aloud seeing a darkness creep in over her features.
“Brant is a good guy Russ and if nothing else, would you at least try to see that for me?” she pleaded with him.
“Avery, that’s asking a lot and we both know it,” he reminded her simply seeing that stubborn yet determined expression cross over her features.
“I realize that and for the record I’m not asking you to become his best friend, but for you to try to see that he’s moving forward with his life.  I mean maybe if we can all learn to be civil with one another, then life will become easier for us all,” she suggested her voice full of hope as she reached for his hand, “I mean it couldn’t hurt to try, right?”
“You do realize that I wouldn’t even consider the notion for anyone else, but you, right?” he remarked skepticism evident in his tone.
“I know that, but I also know you love me so very much that you’d try anything at least once to make me happy,” she batted her eyelashes at him flashing him a sexy smile as he pulled her into his arms once again.
“You’re so totally cheating with this one.  I hope you realize that,” he captured her lips in a slow and savory kiss.
“Is it working?” she questioned with a tiny giggle.
“Maybe a little bit,” he confessed nibbling on her lower lip as he held her, “but don’t be expecting me to invite him over our home for a night of dinner and cards anytime soon.  Got it?”
“Fair enough,” Avery nodded in response as she reached for his hand, “and Russ?”
“Yes?” he lifted a curious brow as reached out to touch her face tenderly.
“I love you,” she smiled at him melting his heart with that one phrase alone as it seemed that in her words he’d found the key to happiness and in that moment he knew he’d do anything in his power to make her happy.
“I love you too sweetheart,” he murmured unable to resist the urge to kiss her one last time before he urged her in closer to the door back inside, “Now let’s get out of the cold here.”
“Okay,” Avery nodded in response allowing him to guide her into the mansion once again as the warmth of their surroundings felt far more inviting than she’d imagined them being.  Suddenly she could feel that lingering chill over her spine melt away with each step she took into the mansion with the man she loved beside her.  Tugging on his hand once again, she tried to recapture his attention, “Russ?”
“Maybe we can go check in on my mother as I’d imagine she’d be done with the FBI right about now, don’t you think?” she suggested hoping to get in a few words with her mother before they took off for a while to get a bite to eat.
“Of course we can,” Russell nodded in response guiding her through the hallway as he saw Brant up ahead, “We can just say our goodbyes and then be on our way.”
“Going somewhere,” Brant questioned rushing up to the both of them, “as I was just about to get the both of you.”
“Is something wrong,” Avery questioned in a bit of a panic.  “Did something more happen with my mother?”
“No, nothing more than what she’s already been through, but I was thinking that since the doctors suggested that she stay here until she’s stronger that maybe you and Russ would like to stay over as well.  I could have some dinner prepared and…” Brant began to suggest as the doorbell rang.
“That’s a nice offer, but I really don’t think that we’re going to be able to…” Russell began to politely decline Brant’s offer not wanting to have to say at the mansion more than he had to considering the gut feelings he was having about the situation.
“Hold that thought,” Brant waved his finger in the air, turning away from Russ and Avery as Avery turned her attention to Russ once again.
“Russ, what are you doing?” she frowned up at him.
“Politely declining the offer as I really think that this is the last place that we should be staying when our home is merely a few minutes from here and…” his words were interrupted by the emphatic cry of a woman up ahead and he lifted his eyes to seek out the source of the familiar sound.
“Oh Brant thank God,” Susan blurted out throwing her arms around Brant in an exaggerated motion, “I was trying to call you on your cell phone, but I kept getting the voice mail and this absolutely couldn’t wait because I just saw…”
“Susan calm down,” Brant spoke out softening his tone to that of a hushed whisper as Russ and Avery watched the scene before them in confusion.
Unable to contain the skepticism brewing up inside of him, Russell leaned in to whisper in Avery’s ear, “Still think Brant’s not up to something?”
“I don’t know what this is, but I’m about to find out,” Avery replied with a huff pushing her way past Russell as she confronted both Brant and Susan as they appeared to be in some kind of embrace.
“It’s okay Susan,” Brant was speaking smoothly holding onto her in such an intimate fashion that Avery could feel her skin boiling at the sight of the atrocity happening before her.
“I’m just so glad that you’re here Brant,” Susan replied squeezing him in her arms as Avery cleared her throat capturing both of their attention as she glared over at Susan.
“What the hell is this?” Avery blurted out unable to contain her concerns about what she was witnessing before her.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Russell added joining the group as he glared at his brother’s ex-wife
“I can explain all of this,” Brant offered up after a moment’s hesitation.
“Oh I just bet you can so out with it Brant.  What’s going on here?” Russell rolled his eyes waving his hand in the air doubtfully knowing that trouble was brewing now that Susan had arrived at the mansion only adding fuel to the fire of doubts Russell had about the man Avery deemed worthy of being a friend.


Ken stepped into the room and spotted Caitlin sitting in a chair near the window, gazing outside. He closed the door behind him and walked towards her.

“Sorry it took so long. Blake came by and wanted to talk for a bit. So I had a cup of coffee with her and…” He paused as he saw the distant gaze Caitlin kept directed out the window. He knelt beside her and placed his hand upon the arm of her chair, “Caitlin…what’s wrong?”

Caitlin slowly turned her gaze to focus upon him. She searched his eyes for a moment before she spoke, “Why don’t you tell me where you were last night because I know there’s something you’re not telling me, Ken.”

“Caitlin…” He began.

“I know you were with Susan,” She informed him, “Now why don’t you explain to me what happened because I really don’t want to believe the horrible things that my head can come up with. Please, Ken, just tell me the truth about what happened last night.”

Ken felt as if his world had been ripped out from under him. He didn’t know how Caitlin knew, but he had to figure out a way to repair the damage that he could already see had been done in Caitlin’s eyes. He wouldn’t let Susan steal Caitlin’s love from him, and he wouldn’t let Caitlin believe the worst in him either. Now, he could only see the pain in her eyes and hope he could heal the wounds in Caitlin’s heart.

...to be continued...