Episode 97 

Dave moved past the hospital security guards and stepped into the doctor’s lounge where April sat beside Deidra who nursed a cup of tea. He moved nearer to her and knelt beside her, “Dee?”

“Dave…I’m sorry about this. They shouldn’t have called you. I really just…overreacted,” Deidra tried to dismiss the entire situation with a flick of her wrist.

Dave looked to April, “Could you give us a few minutes alone?”

“Of course,” April nodded, “If you need anything…just ask.”

“Thanks,” Dave flashed her a soft smile before she left the room. He took the seat vacated by April and allowed a moment of silence to pass between them. He reached out to her and lightly touched her arm, “Dee, talk to me.”

“It’s just so stupid, Dave,” Deidra stood and walked across the room. She fidgeted as she turned back towards him, “These flowers arrived, and I just thought they were another bouquet from you. I took the card and read it and…well, here it is,” She passed the card to him, “And then there was this,” She gave him the picture. She gave him a moment to look over both before she spoke, “He’s coming after me, Dave,” She nibbled her lip, “He’s coming after me, and he’s going to kill me.”

“He’s not going to kill you,” He quickly stood and reached out to her. He placed his hands upon her shoulders, “He’s not going to get the chance.”

“Dave…you can’t be around to protect me all the time,” She warned.

“No, I can’t, but I know someone who can,” He paused, “There’s an FBI agent, Shannon Price. She can be with you here at the hospital. She can appear to be a nurse or an orderly or just a patient. Either way, she can be here, and she can look out for you.”

“An FBI agent? Are you crazy? Like the FBI is going to spare an agent to watch after me?”

“She’s been kicked off the Mathis case because she doesn’t mind busting some balls to get the job done. She’s upset some people in doing her job, but she doesn’t mind pushing hard to get to the point. More than that, she wants to nail Mathis to the wall. I think she’ll be able to keep you safe, and she’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for any sign of Mathis.”

“Someone watching me day in and day out? I’m not so sure I’m okay with that…especially someone I don’t know,” She began.

“You’ll be better with that than with Mathis surprising you. Besides, she won’t be with you at night,” He paused, “I will. I’ll stay with you at night, and that way you won’t have to worry about a stranger being at your house.”

“Dave, I can’t ask you…”

“You didn’t,” Dave took her hand, “Dee, your safety means everything to me, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that Mathis doesn’t even get close. Come on, Dee. Let me help you with this.”

Deidra looked away as she considered his offer, “Okay, but Dave…I never wanted to upset your life like this.”

“I know that,” He touched her cheek gently, “Believe me, I do know.”

“What is going on around here?” Russell asked as he stepped into the lounge with Avery at his side, “What’s with all the security?”

“We had a little problem,” Dave spoke as he looked towards the couple.

“His name is Bruce Mathis,” Deidra blurted out as she looked towards Avery, “I’m a target too.”

“What? Why?” Avery asked as she wrapped her arms tightly around her and leaned into Russ, “Why would he…”

“It’s a long story, but why don’t we deal with why you’re here?” Deidra spoke as she studied Avery for a moment, “You look kind of pale. What’s the matter?”

“Bruce Mathis,” Russ answered her question as he gently hugged Avery to him, “Avery’s been under a lot of stress in the last twenty-four hours, and we just want to be sure that the baby is okay.”

Deidra nodded as she reached out to Avery, “Come on. We’ll go to an exam room,” She offered a sympathetic smile as she took Avery’s hand and led her from the room.

“Dave, what’s going on?” Russell asked as he stepped towards the chief.

“Mathis doesn’t know when to quit, but I’m damn sure going to teach him,” Dave warned as he thought of everything that had happened to Avery and to Deidra. The chaos had to end, and he was going to make sure it happened sooner rather than later.


Escape!  Run away…that’s what she had to do Blake reasoned as she ran through the hospital corridor feeling like a fool for having put her faith, hopes and trust into a relationship that would never be.  How could she have been so stupid?  How could she have believed that what she and Zack had with one another would be forever and more so how could she have even entertained the notion that there would be some way to make those dreams she’d had of her and Zack become a reality?  How could she have hoped so desperately that things could be repaired between them and why was she shedding so many tears over someone who’d never been meant to be her destiny?  Johanna was pregnant and Zack had a commitment to Johanna--a tie that would bind them to one another forever and Blake knew better than to think differently.  She shouldn’t have thought about holding onto that hope that she’d had for a future with Zack, but now…
“Oh God, what are you doing to yourself,” Blake questioned aloud rounding a corner only to come crashing into the first person who’d been unfortunate enough to come her way.  Now as she fell backward toppling over on shaky limbs, she felt the cold, hard slap of the linoleum flooring beneath her as she looked up only to discovered a very frazzled looking Ken standing over her.
“Blake,” he questioned his features a mask of confusion and concern as he reached out to take her hand urging her up with his help, “honey what’s wrong?”
“Everything,” Blake confessed in a heaving sob using her brother’s guidance to pull her up off of the ground before she tumbled into his arms breaking down completely as he held her with obvious confusion not knowing where to start.
“Blake, what happened,” Ken questioned once again trying to keep his voice calm and collected despite the obvious signs of emotion raging from within where his sister was concerned.
“A disaster--no, it’s worse than that Kenny as it’s the waking nightmare that haunts my life each and every waking moment.  I don’t know why I even try anymore…” she sniffled breaking into tiny whimpering sounds as she squeezed Ken desperately as if she was holding onto him for dear life in this moment in time.
“Blake, now come on.  You don’t mean that,” Ken tried to reason with her.
“Like hell I don’t.  I’m telling you it can’t get any worse,” she bellowed out in misery as her tears continued to penetrate her brother’s otherwise calm demeanor.
“Blake, sweetheart, you’re not making any sense,” he began urging her to meet his eyes as he saw the misery burning behind the sad, blue pools of salty tears before him, “What happened?  What’s going on that has you this worked up?”
“My life is ending.  That’s what’s happened and what keeps on happening,” she continued in obvious agony as her tears continued, “I mean just when I think things are going my way…well then fate comes to give me a swift kick in the gut and then…”
“I’m sure it can’t be that bad Blake,” Ken reached out to touch her face gently, trying to alleviate some of his sister’s tears as she continued to break down before him, “Certainly there has to be some way to fix what’s happening for you, right?”
“Gee, only if we can hop in a time machine and make a pregnancy go away I suppose,” Blake shot back sarcastically a shuddering moment of disgust driving her deeper into the sorrow she’d lost herself in.
“A pregnancy?” he repeated with wide eyes, a moment of panic rushing over him at the thought of his sister being in such a tentative position, “Blake, you’re pregnant?”
“What?” she blinked back at him shaking her head adamantly as her brother wasn’t getting what she was saying, “No, no of course I’m not because heaven knows that would be the last thing I’d need right about now considering that Zack and I and Seth and I were…” she dismissed the thought, “No, it’s not about me…at least not the pregnancy part as it’s Johanna that’s pregnant.”
“Who is Johanna?” Ken questioned in confusion, “and why is her pregnancy such a disaster for you?”
“Because Zack’s the father of her baby,” Blake blurted out with obvious displeasure, “He’s gone and found himself in the position to be a father and now he’s got this commitment to honor to her even after he promised me that we’d be together for…”
“Zack’s what?” Ken questioned feeling a twinge of rage pass over him at the thought of Caitlin’s brother finding a way to make Blake this miserable.
“He’s having a baby with this horrible, wretched woman that came to Coral Valley to be with him.  She showed up after Zack and I had a falling out and now she’s claiming to be having his child and the two of them are…” she broke down unable to take anymore as her feelings got the best of her.
“Oh Blake,” Ken embraced her securely, “I’m so sorry that this happened…”
“I just don’t understand.  He told me he loved me--that we had something special and when we were together, I felt like I had the world Kenny.  I felt like I’d found the man I was going to share my forever with, but now that he’s with her…now that he’s going to be a father…”
“Blake, I know this hurts, but…” he began trying to think up some words to alleviate some of her misery.
“You have no idea how much this hurts Ken.  You have no idea what it’s like to love someone so deeply--with every fiber of your being only to realize that you’ll never be with them--that you’ll never share that part of your life with them that was what you’d always wanted.  I wanted a life with Zack and now, well now Johanna has that dream that I wanted--that should’ve been mine!” her voice squealed with emotion.
“Blake, honey I know that you feel that way now, but I thought that you and Seth were…” Ken started thinking about what Annie had told him about his sister’s latest romantic involvement.
“That’s irrelevant right now,” Blake snapped back at him, “My relationship with Seth has nothing to do with Zack.”
“Well, I just thought that since you and Seth were…” Kenneth paused thinking about what was happening in front of him, “Blake, were you seeing Seth again only because of what’s going on with Zack?  Because of him and Johanna?”
“Of course I’m not,” she huffed shaking her head in disgust, “That has nothing to do with Zack as Seth and I…oh hell, I knew that you wouldn’t understand.  You still don’t and now…”
“Blake, you need to calm down,” Kenneth tried to reason with her wondering how to keep his sister from going off the deep end as he reached out to her touching her arm gently.
“No, I will not calm down, nor will I stand here and listen to another moment of this when all I want to do is get out of here and find a way to move on--to find a way not to hurt so damned much,” she huffed shrugging out of his hold as she raced over to the hospital’s exit in a frenzy, leaving Kenneth bewildered as he tried to make sense of what his sister was going through.  Still as he thought to Blake and Zack’s time with one another, he began to wonder just what kind of number Zack had worked over Blake to have her this heartbroken.  Sure having gotten another woman pregnant was reason enough for Ken to want to plummet Zack into a bloody pulp even with Blake’s other romantic entanglements, but still in seeing the hurt behind her eyes Ken was determined to find out why Zack had sunk to such a new low after making Blake believe in something that clearly wasn’t there and as that thought passed over Ken, he realized that suddenly his life had taken on a whole new level of complication that he was entirely unprepared for.


Zack sat down on the sofa in the waiting area as he stared at the picture of the baby growing within Johanna. Up until now, it had just been an obstacle…something keeping him from Blake. Now…well, now, here was his child with teeny tiny fists balled before its little face.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” Johanna smiled as she sat down beside him.

“He? It’s too early to determine the sex,” He spoke quickly before he began studying the picture more closely to see if perhaps there was a sign that his child was actually a boy.

“I know that. It’s just a feeling I have. Our baby is going to be a boy, and he’s going to be absolutely beautiful,” She leaned against him and looked at the picture along with him, “Just look at him…he’s just…he’s an absolute miracle.”

“A miracle…” He whispered as he swept his thumb gently over the picture. A few moments ago, he’d been thrilled to be speaking with Blake again, but now, as he looked at his child, being with Blake suddenly seemed like the most selfish desire in all the world. At the same time, however, he found himself wondering how this moment would be different if he were sharing it with Blake.

“Earth to Zack…hey, are you still with me?” Johanna asked as she studied his face as he continued to look at the picture of their child. She gently brushed the back of her fingers against his cheek, “Zack, sweetie…”

“Yeah I’m here,” Zack spoke up as he took a deep breath and sat back into the cushions of the sofa. He slowly turned to look at Johanna, “Wow.”

She smiled as she leaned onto the cushions along side him and continued to watch him, “Wow is right.”

“So…the doctor…what did he say?”

“She,” She corrected, “Dr. Byrne said that all my blood work was perfect, and that the baby is growing at just the rate he should. She said that this is a perfectly healthy pregnancy.”

“Good,” He said with a relieved smile as he looked back to the picture of the baby, “I can’t believe this is really happening.”

“To be quite honest, neither can I,” She admitted as she lay her head upon his shoulder to look at the picture with him, “To know that I have a little person growing inside me…I can’t even describe the feeling.”

“We’re going to be parents,” He said as if it had only just occurred to him.

“Yes we are,” She smiled slightly, “I always told you that we’re good together. Our baby just goes to prove that.”

He looked away from her for a moment before she sighed.

“You’re having doubts again, aren’t you?”

“I wouldn’t call them doubts,” He began as he gently turned to look at her, “It’s just…this was never how I imagined starting a family. I always envisioned marriage, a house, a real family. This…it’s just not what I had in mind.”

“It’s not what I had in mind either, but now that it’s happening, I don’t think that it’s such a bad thing. I mean yeah things could be better, and we could be more stable as parents, but I still think that our baby is going to have the best of everything,” She met his eyes closely, “Don’t you, Zack? I mean, isn’t that what you want for our child?”

“Of course I want our baby to have the best of everything, Jo. That’s why all of this is just so difficult.”

“Why is this so difficult?” She asked as she met his eyes, “Haven’t we worked out the details of this little arrangement you wanted? You wanted me to stay in Coral Valley, and I thought that would make you happy. You want to help support me and the baby, and I thought that would make you happy. So what’s wrong with this situation now?”

“The problem is that our baby deserves a real family.”

“I told you that in the beginning. That’s why I thought about an abortion.”

“That wouldn’t be the right thing for us either,” He reasoned before he turned to completely face her and take her hands in his, “We’ve got to fix this.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” She asked bluntly, “You’re not in love with me anymore, and I don’t even understand that. I know that some part of you still loves me, but if you’re not in love with me…”

“We can work on that,” He suggested as he caressed her cheek gently, “But we have to do something here.”

“Like what? Move in together? You could come out to the house and..”

“More than that,” He held her heads firmly in his as he brushed his thumbs over her soft skin, “Let’s get married.”

“Married?” She searched his eyes, “Zack…that’s a huge step…”

“But it’s one we need to take for our baby. Besides, you and I can find a way to work things out. I’ll do whatever it takes for our baby,” He lifted her hands to his lips to place a gentle kiss upon her fingers, “We’ll find a way to work this out, and we’ll work things out for the baby. We can do this. If only you’ll give me the chance,” He met her eyes as he spoke seriously, “I know that I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I want to make them right. You’re the mother of my child, and I can’t begin to explain what that means to me,” Zack admitted softly as he met her eyes, “Marry me, Jo.”

Johanna felt her heart swell in an overwhelming sense of love and success. She was going to actually get her man, and there was no way that Blake Ashford would be able to take him away from him once they were husband and wife. She would be Mrs. Zack Vaughn, and she would never let him go.


Thea whistled a tune feeling a certain spring in her step as she headed into her office thinking of all the ways she was going to enjoy crushing Cameron’s new bride as it seemed that the dimwit model wouldn’t even see it coming when Thea destroyed her completely.  That was always the part that offered up the most thrill, Thea decided feeling a smirk catching over the corners of her mouth as a tiny spring in her step kept her moving forward, ready to sink her teeth into her next mission when she couldn’t help but feel an urge to gloat overtake her.  Spinning on her heel, she turned in the direction of Cameron’s office ready to share another victorious moment as it seemed her day was getting better and better.
Tapping on the door gently, Thea didn’t bother to wait for a response from Cameron as she pushed her way into his office donning the satisfied smirk that had carried over her from the moment that she’d set Seth up to go have his encounter with Heather.  Now as she noticed Cameron looking out the window of his office, seemingly lost in a daze, she cascaded across the room, making her way towards him before teasing her fingers in over his shoulder in a tentative fashion.
“I already told you that I’d be more than happy to accommodate your…” Cameron began his eyes traveling upwards as a crooked smile filled his features, but as he saw Thea’s face beside him, his smile faded, “Thea, what are you doing here?”
“The question should be rather who did you think was in here beside you Cam,” her smirk disappeared as well as she took a step back folding her arms in front of her chest as her frown deepened.
“That’s irrelevant,” he waved his hand dismissively spinning his chair around to face her with firm, stubborn eyes as her latest act of indiscretion was still fresh on his mind.
“I don’t think it is,” Thea shot back at him with a dryness in her tone, “as that expression you were wearing says more about what thoughts you were delving into before I walked in here…”
“Right now the only thoughts I’d like to discuss with you are the ones where you’re making a mockery of what I have before me by spending time with that man,” Cameron’s voice rose with anger as he stood upright wrenching Thea toward him with a violent pull.  He clasped her wrist tightly slamming her into the wall of his office as his fingers threaded through her hair tightly pulling just enough to get his point across, “You know how I feel about loyalty and trust Thea and the more time you spend with Doug, the more I’m starting to think that I’ve misplaced my trust in you and that leaves a very unsettling feeling inside of me.”
“You deserve it,” she seethed with anger, feeling him shove her once again as she let out a tiny whimper drinking up every second of the madness she’d provoked in Cameron as his fiery gaze pressed upon her.
“Don’t push me Thea as you know how I detest someone trying to play games with me,” he warned with menace dripping in his tone.
“I thought that was your favorite game,” she countered with a bit of resistance in her stance as Cameron attempted to push her harder into the wall.
“Thea, I’m warning you…” he growled back at her, his lips dangerously close to hers as he seemed ready to tear her apart limb for limb.
“You should be thanking me Cam because if it wasn’t for me, then you’d have failed miserably in your mission to destroy Doug as you’ve been going about things entirely the wrong way, but that seems to be the name of the game for you lately especially after you married Ms. Model there.”
“Is that what this is all about?  Your jealousy over my marrying Heather?” Cameron spat back with a tiny chuckle.
“Hardly,” Thea rolled her eyes indignantly, “as that is nothing compared to the big picture we have had going on when you’re not walking around with your head up your ass, which by the way seems to be a new trend with you.”
“You’re coming dangerously close to crossing the wrong line Thea,” he hissed in response feeling her finger tips fall freely upon the lapels of his jacket in a tentative movement.
“Oh I’m certainly close to something,” she agreed with a playful expression sliding her hands down the center of his chest down to his belt buckle, “but it isn’t dangerous for anyone except maybe Doug in his vulnerable state after having lost his child…”
“Which is something I have been enjoying ever so greatly now that I’ve made sure he’ll never see Kipp again,” Cameron boasted proudly feeling her enticing touch.
“Oh I wasn’t speaking about Kipp,” she ceased any motion over him sliding out from beneath him as she walked away, “as that toad isn’t worth the air he breathes or any real relevance in Doug’s life now that his daughter is no longer speaking with him.”
“Daughter,” Cameron replied taking in her words with disbelief as he certainly would have known about a daughter in Doug’s life, “No you’re wrong on that.”
“Am I?” she arched a perfectly sculpted brow.
“You’re bluffing,” he challenged stepping in towards her.
“I am, huh,” she shrugged her shoulders as she turned towards his door to leave the office, “well if you see it that way, then there’s no point in my sharing what I know…”
“Don’t you even think about walking out that door,” he warned bridging the distance between them as he pressed into her back pinning her once again.
“But I thought you were in a state of disbelief,” Thea purred savoring the warmth of his body flush against hers as she realized she’s baited him once again.
“Convince me,” he urged sliding his fingers into her hair and leaning down to nip at the back of her neck before spinning her around once again.
“He has a daughter,” Thea explained simply, her dark eyes penetrating Cameron’s as he held her, “one that not only wants nothing to do with him, but more so one who lives right here in Coral Valley.”
“Come again,” Cameron blinked back in surprise before his curiosity got the best of him.  Sliding his hands around Thea’s waist he drew her in closer to him urgent to hear more of her delicious tale of Doug’s torrid past, “Tell me more.”
“Well, it seems that she’s the illegitimate daughter of an aspiring starlet gone down the path of the straight and narrow that Doug bedded once upon a time,” she rolled her eyes at the thought, “It turns out that not only has Doug recently discovered his daughter’s presence in his life, but her mother, Doug’s one time romance also has very close connections as she works for Grady Denton it seems.
“Really,” Cameron brewed with enthusiasm at the thought, “that close to home, huh?”
“That’s right and his daughter, well she’s someone that we’ve had a few run ins with in the past--at least on a professional level when we’ve dealt some less than savory disruptions to things we had going on…” she squealed feeling his hunger for knowledge overtaking him as he held her, “as she happens to be Coral Valley’s medical examiner.”
“You don’t say,” his eyes grew wide with the information, “that Jenna Carpenter is his daughter?”
“That’s right,” she nodded eagerly, “and I think that’s really the road you want to take in getting to Doug as she’s an old wound that’s fresh on the mind right now.  His having been without her for most of her life is something that is truly bothering him more than he cares to admit.”
“Well, I suppose I can see why it would bother a father to be alienated from his daughter…that is if Doug was a normal parent, but for Jenna, well perhaps she’s been far too fortunate than any spawn of Doug’s should’ve been…” he thought aloud feeling Thea’s palms slide in over his chest underneath his jacket.
“Perhaps it’s time we work on changing that,” she suggested wickedly tipping up to her toes before him as Cameron’s dark eyes reconnected with hers once again.
“Perhaps you’re right,” he decided claiming her mouth in a kiss as it seemed that suddenly his fury with Thea for spending time with Douglas was transformed into a moment of approval as he thought up ways to thank her for her revelation and more so he found himself pondering the many such routes he could take in using this information to his distinct advantage in the future.


“I just don’t know how much more of this we can take,” Russell sighed after having to rehash the details of his latest encounter with Dave.  While some of the men at the station had been there to take his and Avery’s formal statements the previous evening when their home had been vandalized, it was only in this moment as Russ and Dave stood with one another thinking about the women that they cared about being in such grave danger that the intensity of the moment seemed to take control.  “I mean what is this guy Dave?  Some kind of escape artist?”
“I don’t know what he is other than a lunatic, but I must admit that I’m not liking any of this,” Dave sighed heavily, “as this isn’t going nearly as well as it should’ve.  He should be behind bars by now.”
“My sentiments exactly,” Russell agreed with a nod, “which is why I think I should probably mention that my father told the FBI to go to hell this morning.  He thinks that they’re only allowing Bruce the freedom to cause more destruction and the truth to the matter is that I’m starting to believe that’s really how it is.”
“I’ve had my doubts about that for a while,” Dave confessed openly, “though I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but when Mathis goes after someone like Deidra, well I have to start to wonder…”
“Speaking of Deidra, why is he doing things to her,” Russ pondered watching Dave’s features darken as a silence fell upon the two men, “I mean is it because of what’s going on with Avery in any way?”
“Actually in a round about way it may have stemmed from that, but I’d rather not get into it,” Dave confessed thinking of the shame and guilt that Deidra carried around with her.
“Dave if this somehow ties into my wife I think I have a right to know…” Russ began again seeing a darkness overshadow Dave’s features.
“Trust me it doesn’t involve Avery in the way that you’re thinking.  Bruce encountered Deidra on the island you were on for your honeymoon ad we’ll just leave it at that,” Dave stated plainly throwing out a warning look as Russell began to draw his own conclusions from the chief of police’s statement.
“Okay, but even so there’s something more about Bruce that bothers me,” Russ began hesitantly unable to get the video tape that Bruce had left for him and Avery out of his head, “there’s something to this story that seems to be doing anything, but fitting right.  Bruce made a point to leave that tape at our home--to let Avery know that he had nothing to do with what happened to Brooke.  He took a huge risk showing up in Coral Valley again--especially when our home was being watched before just to tell Avery that he didn’t take her mother.”
“And you think that means something more than his being a complete lunatic,” Dave questioned in response.

“Wouldn’t you if you were in my position,” Russell blurted out with a heavy frown.
“I already do from mine,” Dave confessed after a moment of silence, “as you’re right.  That doesn’t really fit the profile we have of him and his history…  Granted, he’s very narcissistic about his crimes, but in this particular instance it was as if he was trying to clear the slate with Avery…”
“Exactly,” Russ nodded eagerly, “and that in itself has me wondering if perhaps Bruce had nothing to do with Brooke’s kidnapping.  It has me thinking that maybe just maybe…”
“That what?” Dave questioned.
“Well, Brooke keeps stating that Bruce had her, but when I saw that tape--hell, when you see that tape, it’s as if he’s trying to set the record straight about where his madness leads him and it’s got me wondering if perhaps he’s telling the truth,” Russell stated bluntly thinking about the madman who’d fixated upon his wife.  “I mean he was so determined to deliver that message to Avery that he wouldn’t waste his time taking Brooke or even bringing her back home alive when he’d had much more pressing engagements to attend to in killing that poor woman…”
“You’re right about the kidnapping not fitting into what we know about him,” Dave admitted pondering what Russ was saying, “Granted I haven’t seen the tape yet, but…”
“But I’m thinking that when you do, you’re going to be thinking along the same lines as me especially now that Bruce is somewhere close to Coral Valley waiting to strike again,” Russ tapered off unable to shake the thought of the man who’d been determined to steal his happiness from his life, “and with my wife being a target, well I just don’t think that this is the time to let a stranger take charge of the situation…”
“Neither do I especially not now that Mathis has made two very bold moves in both Avery and Deidra’s directions.  Clearly he’s a time bomb waiting to explode and this is a matter that isn’t best left in the hands of the people who allowed him to just up and walk out of the morgue,” Dave agreed wholeheartedly.
“Then you’ll see to it that the FBI doesn’t find a way to make things worse now that we have three lives hanging in a balance,” Russ pleaded with him, “as while I’m sure Mathis is out to get me out of Avery’s life, I can’t risk him going after her or our child as he’s made it clear he’s doing whatever it takes to get Avery back again.”
“It’s not going to happen Russ.  You have my word on that,” Dave promised him, “as I’ll do anything that I can to bring this monster to justice.  I’ll put my best men on this investigation and I’ll even head it up myself as there’s far too much at stake to let someone like Bruce take it away from us all.  He’s not going to destroy another woman again--especially now that I’m on to him after he’s made a point of making this one personal.  Sooner or later he’s going down and when he does, I swear to you that I’m going to be the man to do it,” Dave vowed thinking of his pledge to protect Deidra.
“I just hope it’s sooner rather than later,” Russell blurted out freely thinking of all he and Avery stood to lose if Bruce had yet another chance to throw himself into their lives and cause another uproar.


“So how about we get started on that exam,” Deidra suggested after having stepped into the exam room once again upon having taken a moment to collect herself after Russ and Avery’s arrival at the hospital, “Perhaps we can see what’s going on and alleviate some of those concerns you’re having.”
“Actually, before we do that,” Avery began clearing her throat uneasily as she shifted a bit before Deidra sitting on the edge of the exam table not having settled into the role of the patient just yet as she had a few questions of her own, “I was hoping that maybe we could talk for a few minutes…”
“Avery, I really think that we should take a look at the baby and if you need a few minutes to prepare for this then…” Deidra answered behind a shaky voice seeing that Avery hadn’t made any moves towards her exam since Deidra had left her alone a few minutes earlier.
“Deidra, please, let’s not skirt around the issue,” Avery paused attempting not to sound rude about the subject at hand that they were avoiding with one another, “What’s going on with Bruce?”
“Avery, I’d really rather not…” Deidra started uneasily as Avery cleared her throat once again a moment of epiphany overtaking her as she looked to the frazzled woman before her.
“Let me take a guess here Deidra,” Avery suggested knowing that she was clearly overstepping her boundaries as she and Deidra weren’t as close as she thought they should be to share such a conversation with one another, but in the same respect she was starting to believe that perhaps they had more in common than Avery had ever imagined.  Watching as Deidra remained silent for a long moment, Avery took the opportunity to test her unsettling theory, “When you were on the island with Russ and I for our honeymoon, you said that you’d met someone--someone who’d been hurting like you were--someone who said all the right things and made you feel desired once again--someone that you immediately regretted allowing into your life--someone that manipulated you into doing something that wasn’t you.  He said all the right things, used your emotions against you and found a way to get to you in the worst horrible way.  He lied to you and hurt you deeper than you’d ever imagined and now, well now you’re wondering how in the hell you didn’t see it coming.  You’re terrified for what that simple mistake is going to cost you and you’re afraid that he’s going to come back to finish what he started the moment that he weaseled his way into your life.  Am I right?”
“Avery, I…” Deidra found herself at a loss as she couldn’t help but reveal the tears that burned behind her eyes at the horror of what she’d done with Bruce.  “I didn’t…I didn’t know at the time that he was…I mean I wasn’t thinking and I was so hurt about Andy that…”
“That he sensed it and he took advantage of you in the worst possible way,” Avery nodded in complete understanding unable to contain the tears that overtook her as she stood up reaching out to Deidra in an unspoken understanding before she continued, “Deidra, I know how he can be.  I know how he sucks someone in when he sees that they’re hurting and how he uses their heart and emotions against him to get what he’s seeking out.  When he found me, well I’d just lost my baby…he saw how upset the balance was in my life and he used that against me.  He took something so beautiful between Russ and I and he put a wedge between us with his world of deceit.”
“I just…I should’ve been smarter than that.  I should’ve seen it because in reflection the warning signs were there all along,” Deidra couldn’t help but break down as Avery reached for her hand squeezing it supportively, “I just thought that maybe someone out there was feeling as low as I felt in that moment and then after, well you saw what happened…”
“You found a way to break free of him Deidra.  You didn’t let him destroy you or your life,” Avery spoke encouragingly, “You escaped before he could hurt you any worse than he has the others.  Deidra, last night I saw what he did to a woman who crossed paths with him.  He brought her to my home and…” Avery choked up at the memory, unable to contain the sickening feeling that pooled in her center, “Deidra, as horrible as this feels, you and I are the lucky ones.  We escaped and we’re still here surviving all of this…”
“I know that and I should just get over this self pity because I know that I haven’t endured nearly half of what you have…” Deidra began to apologize for her tears.
“Thank heavens you haven’t because I wouldn’t wish that upon any other woman, but in the same respect I wouldn’t wish what you’re going through right now upon you.  I can’t help but feel responsible for the damage that Bruce has done because I’m the reason he stepped into your life.  He was stalking me and if you weren’t on that island to see me, then you never would’ve been touched by this--you never would’ve been subjected to him and his…”
“Avery, please don’t,” Deidra cut her off abruptly refusing to accept the words that fell from Avery’s life, “You can’t think like that especially now…”
“I know he’s hurting you still.  I know that he had to do something horrible to have this place looking like it did when Russ and I arrived,” Avery started once again.
“It’s nothing in comparison to what you’ve been through,” Deidra insisted firmly, “as you’re the one he’s targeted--the one he spent years tormenting and…”
“Deidra, regardless of the time involved he played upon both of our emotions and he’s clearly got a desire to settle the score with the both of us as he’s obviously made an attempt to reach you again,” Avery continued desperately, “that in itself is reason enough for you to be just as terrified as I am right now.  Truth be told I can’t even go to sleep at night without fearing that he’s going to come in and take my life away from me--that somehow he’s going to find a way to break into my home and take what means the most from me…” she trailed off overcome with emotion as she couldn’t fight the feelings that had been troubling her for so very long.
“Oh Avery,” Deidra reached out to embrace her, the both of them in full blown tears as they bonded over the horrors they’d been through at Bruce’s hand.  Suddenly the issue of guilt and the weight of the burden they’d carried became secondary to the need to relate to one another and find a way to pull through the situations that had plagued them, “I’m so sorry…”
“So am I as I so wish you hadn’t been violated by him,” Avery sobbed squeezing her arms around Deidra as she realized that they’d both endured a great deal of misery at Bruce’s twisted nature.
“The worst is over--at least that’s what they keep trying to tell me,” Deidra offered up encouragingly as she doubted the words upon speaking them.
“I don’t buy that for a second and neither do you,” Avery called her upon the sound in her voice, “Even now you’re terrified that he’s going to find a way to strike…find a way to shake your life up even more than he already has.”
“I’ll be okay,” Deidra confessed openly, “as Dave’s going to do everything he can to keep me safe…”
“I hope that he does because I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you,” Avery insisted wiping at her own tears, “You’re far too good of a person to let Bruce take your life away from you.  He’s irrelevant Deidra and just like I said on the island, he’s not worth destroying yourself over.  He took a situation and used it against you, but you can’t let him win--just like I won’t allow him to take my life away from me.”
“I wish I had your confidence about this one,” Deidra offered up with a weak smile.
“Believe me I wish I had it as well, but it’s not as easy as it sounds,” Avery sighed heavily bringing her finger through her dark hair, “I mean when I think of how much of a fool I’ve been…”
“No more than I have I’m sure,” Deidra confessed thinking about her moment of weakness with Bruce.
“Oh believe me I’m worse,” Avery insisted firmly, “I mean you at least knew to get the hell away from him after he’d manipulated you.  I let him talk me out of marrying the man of my dreams, out of believing that I had a future of happiness with a family and everything that Russ and I dreamt about with one another.  Bruce told me the night I lost my baby that I’d never be able to have a child again and I took him at his word--even went so far to try out some ridiculous drug he’d had me on because of my infertility which sounds like it might’ve something that he used to keep me believing that I’d never be able to have a child until he was ready to make me believe he’d brought about my miracle in my life,” she paused placing her hand over her abdomen protectively, “I should’ve seen it coming, but now, well now that it’s after the fact I feel like a complete idiot.”
“Avery, what was he giving you,” Deidra questioned going into complete doctor mode as she thought about what Avery was saying.
“I don’t know…I mean I have an empty bottle at my old apartment somewhere, but he had a friend--a doctor friend who’d taken the time to see me and get me running with the prescription,” Avery paused another thought causing her to shudder, “Oh God, Bruce wasn’t really a doctor which means that his friend might not have been…”
“Avery, I need to know something else.  How long were you taking those pills?  When did you stop and how often were you taking them?” Deidra inquired feeling a chill rush over her.
“A couple of years,” Avery shrugged as a panic collected in the pit of her stomach, “Deidra, you don’t think that he’s done something to me that could hurt my baby, do you?”
“I’d really hope not, but until I see what he was giving you, perhaps it would be best if we run a few test there just to be sure.  In our last checkup everything seemed to be progressing well, but I‘d really like to take a look at what you were taking and see if I can dig up some information on what it was he was giving you and what he wanted it to do other than keep you believing that you couldn‘t have a baby,” Deidra decided honestly hating to bring about any sense of concern in Avery, but as she thought of the evil Bruce was capable of a new fear overtook her.
“He ordered me to stop taking it about four months before we broke up,” Avery blurted out thinking back to her time with Bruce, “One weekend we were away and he got all nasty and enraged at me for still having them.  He’d dumped the remaining pills I’d had on me down the toilet at the hotel we were staying at and he urged me to never take them again.  I didn’t quite understand what he was getting all worked up about, but then Russ and I were talking and Russ thinks that Bruce had decided it was time for him to get me pregnant then only we stopped having sex with one another…” Avery trailed off shuddering at the thought of touching Bruce.  “God what was I thinking?”
“You were just trying to find someone to hold onto when your heart was breaking,” Deidra stated plainly seeing so much of her own emotions reflected before her as Avery spoke of her relationship with Bruce and in that moment another concern weighed upon her in regard to Avery’s unborn child, “Avery, there’s something else I was going to speak with you about before all this came upon us.”
“What’s that,” Avery’s dark eyes turned up towards Deidra, obvious fear and concern weighing upon her.
“About your prior medical records.  I tried to get my hands on them, but they don’t seem to exist,” Deidra blurted out realizing that her revelation now made sense after Bruce had been involved in Avery’s life so intimately, “I tried to locate them, but everything after your initial pregnancy test from the time you were pregnant before has been erased--as if it didn’t exist and now I think I know why.  It had to be because Bruce knew that he wouldn’t be able to hide the truth about your ability to conceive.  He had to have been planting false records in your file for the time being just long enough to use it to his advantage…”
“You mean to keep me away from Russ,” Avery nodded as another shudder passed over her, “I don’t doubt that at all as now I see that’s what he was doing all along.  Here I thought I’d found someone who was able to help me--to be there for me when I needed someone to lean on, but all he was turned out to be a monster who wants nothing more than to take my life and happiness away from me.”
“We’re not about to let it happen,” Deidra promised her firmly, “Regardless of what it takes, we’re going to make sure that he doesn’t take your family away from you.  Now I’d like to run a few tests just to be sure and then maybe we can get to that exam we’d talked about as I know you’ve been under a lot of stress here.”
“Like you haven’t,” Avery threw back at her pointedly.
“Okay so we’re both long overdue for a vacation away from the horrors of the world, but still…how about I take a few minutes to collect myself, maybe go find Russell for you and have him come in here while we take another look at the baby?” Deidra suggested hoping to help alleviate some of Avery’s worries by having her husband present during the examination.
“I think that would be a really good idea right about now,” Avery nodded in agreement realizing that right now more than anything she wanted to have her husband beside her, reminding her of all that she had ahead of her with her family as she vowed not to allow Bruce the chance to rip it all away from her again.


Cameron sat in his chair with his back turned towards his desk. He stared out the windows of his office and considered the news Thea had delivered. It wasn’t everyday he got the chance to upset Douglas even further than he already had, but Coral Valley was really proving to be a dream come true for his revenge against his step-father.

“Sir…sir, you can’t go in there. Sir!”

Cameron turned as he heard his secretary calling out from the hallway. He watched as Grady Denton burst through the double doors to his office with anger blazing in his eyes.

“Sir, I’m sorry. I’ll call security immediately,” Cameron’s secretary spoke from behind Grady.

“No, that’s all right,” Cameron spoke as he stood up, “Leave us.”

The secretary eyed Grady wearily before she closed the doors to Cameron’s office in her exit.

“Why are you here, Denton?” Cameron asked as he stood firm.

“To tell you that I quit. I won’t do your dirty work for you any more. The chance to get at the Ashfords was appealing, and the money was very tempting. But none of that matters as long as you keep harassing Jade. I won’t have it, and I won’t let you use the lawsuit as an excuse to drop by to upset her.”

“You can’t quit,” Cameron snorted as he moved around his desk, “I’m not going to let you quit.”

“You don’t have a choice,” Grady declared adamantly, “I’m not about to go to court in your name while you’re dead set on torturing Jade.”

“Torturing Jade? That’s the furthest thing from my mind,” Cameron spoke as he stood before Grady, “I’m trying to be her friend, not her enemy.”

“When she asked you to back off, she meant it. If you’re not honoring her wishes, then you’re being her enemy,” Grady eyed the man closely, “And I won’t have you using me to get to her.”

“You can’t quit,” Cameron repeated.

“Watch me,” Grady declared as his anger seethed.

“If you quit, I’ll make Jade more miserable than you can possibly imagine,” Cameron spoke as he met Grady’s eyes, “I know everything about her…everything, but more than that…I have pictures,” He began as he watched Grady’s stance change slightly, “I have photographs of the night she shared with Nicholas Ashford.”

“You son of a bitch!” Grady’s rage got the better of him as he released his fury by throwing punches at Cameron.

Cameron fell back upon against his desk before rolling to the floor. His secretary heard the commotion and opened the door quickly.

“Oh…security! Security!” The secretary ran down the hallway.

“I’ll kill you!” Grady raged at Cameron as he launched his assault upon him.

Cameron held up his arms, trying to defend himself from the blows of Grady’s assault. Grady threw punch after punch, pummeling Cameron with the range of his anger.

Two security officers ran into the room and hauled Grady away from his prey. Grady struggled against them as they pulled him out of the office, “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch. I’ll kill you!”

Another of the officers ran to Cameron’s side while Cameron reached for his bloody lip, “Sir…do you want to press charges?”

“Yes…you’re damned right I want to press charges,” Cameron growled in anger as he sat up against his desk and took a hanker chief from his pocket to dab at his bloody lip. This would get Grady out of the way for a while and also give Cameron time to get closer to Jade.


Ken stood at the door to Caitlin’s room and thought about how he could possibly talk to her after running into Blake. Seeing the pain in his sister’s every little feature had torn his heart out, and now all he could think about was wanting to rip Zack’s heart from his chest and feed it to him. He knew that being this enraged at Caitlin’s brother wouldn’t be good for his own relationship with her. He just didn’t know how he was going to talk to her without his rage slipping through. And then again, maybe it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen if she did know that he was pissed.

He took a deep breath and opened the door. As he stepped inside, he smiled at her as Caitlin’s face lit up at the sight of him. The bandages on her head wounds had been removed, and she was brushing out her beautiful blond hair.

“My god, you’re beautiful,” Ken spoke from the doorway.

“Oh please. I look horrible, but thank you for saying so anyway,” She waved at him, “Get in here.”

He stepped inside and closed the door behind him, “You just look so amazing. When did they take off the bandages?”

“Just a little while ago. The doctors say I’m healing pretty good here,” She placed her brush upon the bedside table and held out her hand to him, “Come sit down.”

He sat down on the bed beside her and placed his hand upon the mattress on the opposite side of her, “You really are beautiful.”

“Would you please stop that?” She asked with a grin, “So how have you been today?”

“My day started out okay, but things have gone down hill.”

“What happened?” She asked quickly.

“I ran into Blake,” Ken began with a sigh, “She’s pretty upset.”

“What?” She asked as she searched his eyes, “What happened?”

“She’s upset with Zack about the pregnancy.”

“Oh…” Caitlin frowned, “I knew she would be. I just…I wish they had never found their way back to each other.”

“What do you mean back to each other?” Ken questioned.

“Well,” She began, “Back in college, Zack always took up with Blake and took her out and about. When everyone else would hound her about being an Ashford, Zack just blew that off and accepted her for who she was. Blake developed a crush on him, and to an extent, I think he did the same with her. Zack, however, did everything he could to distance himself from her. He was always afraid he would hurt her, and so he left for Seattle. Since he came to Coral Valley though, they just gravitated towards one another. I warned them both that I didn’t think it was a good idea.”

“Why?” He asked, wanting to know more about Caitlin’s misgivings.
“They both have issues that they’ll never be able to work out together. Zack can’t get himself to pull it together with all his responsibilities, and then, Blake can’t focus. I just hoped they wouldn’t become attached to one another again, but it happened. Now, there’s just disaster all around,” Caitlin sighed.

“So you know about the baby?” Ken questioned.

She nodded, “Yeah, I do, but I’d hoped that perhaps since Blake was involved with Seth again that she’d moved on. Deep down though, I was afraid that in the end she’d be devastated by this.”

“When did you find out?”

“Jo came by to see me a few days ago. She told me then, and that’s also when Zack found out.”

“Wait, so Zack didn’t know about this?”

“No, he and Jo had broken up back in Seattle before Zack came to Coral Valley. When she came down here, she surprised him with the news.”

“So this all happened back in Seattle?”

Caitlin nodded, “Yeah, and I don’t know what Zack’s going to do now. He’s not in love with Jo, but I know that he cares about her. That being said, my brother has never been big on following through on his responsibilities.”

“Caitlin,” Johanna burst into the room as she pulled Zack into the room behind her, “Your brother just asked me to marry him,” She turned back to him and threw her arms around him, “And I accepted.”

Caitlin glanced to Ken and paused as she saw the anger raging over Ken’s features. While it probably could have been a happy moment for the couple, Caitlin had the distinct feeling that it was about to become very ugly for everyone involved.


Dave stood in the waiting room, pacing back and forth as he listened to an update about evidence found in the Mathis case. Nothing new had been discovered, and he was beginning to feel an entirely new level of frustration. Of all the humps he’d busted over the years, the one person he couldn’t catch was the man who could potentially cause him the most pain by hurting the one woman he’d found it in his heart to love.

“Hey,” Shannon spoke as Dave leapt slightly at the shock, “Sorry…I didn’t mean to surprise you.”

“It’s okay,” He sighed as he hung up his cell phone and tucked it into his pocket, “It’s been one of those days.”

“What’s going on?” She asked as she watched his shoulders slump.

“Mathis contacted Deidra. He sent her flowers with a message along the lines of until we meet again,” He frowned, “Obviously, I’m not going to let that meeting happen.”

“Of course not,” She nodded, “Can we backtrack Mathis from the flower delivery?”

He shook his head in the negative, “I already tried. He paid cash.”

“So where do you want to go from here?”

“Apparently Deidra wasn’t Mathis’ only target in the last twenty four hours. Russell Denton told me that he paid them a visit as well. There’s a video tape that I’m going to get a hold of, and when I do, you’ll get to see it as well,” He paused, “In the meantime, I think we need to change our surveillance on Deidra. It needs to be full time.”

“What do you suggest? That I just start stalking her?” Shannon frowned.

“No, actually I was thinking that you could watch her during the day…here at the hospital. You could fit in as a nurse or an orderly or a patient. The point is that you could blend in here, and keep an eye out for her. You’ve seen enough of Mathis to be able to spot him. Just look out for Deidra.”

“And at night?”

“I’ll be with her,” Dave assured her, “I know that this is asking a lot of you, but I’ll find a way to make it up to you.”

“This really means a lot to you, doesn’t it?” She studied him for a moment before she nodded, “I’ll do it, and Dave,” She paused as he focused on her, “I won’t let anything happen to her.”

“Thank you, Shannon. I’ll owe you huge for this,” He smiled half heartedly.

“You bet your ass you will,” Shannon teased in return, knowing that the situation was far more serious than she could even begin to state. She would do her best to protect Dave’s friend, and perhaps she’d be lucky enough to bust Bruce Mathis in the process.


“I’ll have the lab put a rush on the blood work, but from what I’ve seen everything looks great with the little one,” Deidra offered up paying a quick last minute visit over to Russ and Avery after they’d wrapped up Avery’s exam moments earlier, “though I really want you to try to work on lowering the stress a bit as that’s something of a concern for me.  You really need to try taking it easy even with everything that‘s going on.  I know that‘ll seem like an impossible task, but with your blood pressure being just a tad bit elevated today, I think that maybe you should focus on taking some time away for the sole purpose of relaxation and some rest.”
“I keep telling her that and hearing it from you, I promise she’s going to get that Deidra,” Russ curled his arm around Avery squeezing her in closer to him as he could still feel the tension that had carried over her ever since Bruce had found a way to step back into their lives again.
“But our baby’s going to be okay, right?” Avery questioned her concerns surfacing once again as she needed just one more affirmation of the way that things were for her and Russ where their family was concerned.
“Things are looking good,” Deidra smiled back at her hoping to alleviate some of worries that had plagued Avery, “Now listen to me and take some time to be alone with this handsome husband of yours for a while since he’s willing to pamper you from the looks of things.  I’ll get a look at those other things that we discussed earlier and we’ll get in touch with one another, okay?”
“Okay,” Avery nodded in response watching as Deidra began to step away from them, “and Deidra?”
“Yes?” Deidra spun around to face her once again.
“Please don’t be a stranger as I’d really hate to see that happen as I hope you know that you’re more than just my doctor.  We both have a lot in common and maybe it’s not something that we were hoping for exactly, but between what’s going on with our parents and everything else, well I just think that maybe we should talk again sometime.  I mean maybe we can schedule in a girl‘s night or something,” Avery suggested straining to find the right words for the message she was trying to convey where Deidra was concerned.
“I’ll like that Avery,” Deidra replied offering up a light smile before leaving to meet up with her next appointment for the day.
“What was that all about,” Russell questioned curling his arms around his wife as she sank back into his chest just savoring the moment between them as the strength of him filled her with a strong sense of security, “Bruce?”
“Yes and no,” Avery answered turning in his arms as she gazed up at him, seeing a reflection of her own mixed emotions behind his beautifully, vibrant green eyes, “I just think that right about now, Deidra and I could both use some time to forget about everything else that’s been troubling us.  I mean hey she’s making sure that our little one is safe and sound, so you know I can’t help it if I feel like we have this connection between us.”
“I can’t say I blame you,” Russell decided leaning down to kiss the top of her head gingerly, “as I happen to think she’s pretty wonderful as well…though I was kind of hoping that maybe just maybe we’d be able to see whether or not we’d be having to add a few more touches of pink or blue to the nursery today.”
“Yeah well as much as we’d like to do just that and plan ahead, you heard what Deidra said.  We have to hold out a little bit longer before our baby lets us know more about what’s going on inside here,” Avery dropped her hand over her slightly swelled abdomen as Russell mimicked the motion easing his fingers in over hers protectively.
“I already know that I love everything that’s happening with this little piece of heaving growing inside of you,” he whispered lovingly easing his fingers into her dark hair as he found himself unable to contain the urge to drop a feathery light kiss upon her cherry colored lips.
“Oh Russ,” Avery felt herself melting at the gesture before a deep shuddering thought swept over her causing her to pull out of his embrace.
“Avery, what is it,” he asked sensing something had robbed her of the simple joy of the moment in knowing that their child was healthy and growing according to schedule.
“I was thinking about the nursery,” she whispered, her voice tight with an apprehensive tone as her dark eyes flickered with unease before him, “Russ, after what Bruce did before, I don’t know if our going back home is going to be a smart thing to do.  I mean just thinking about what he did to that woman in our bedroom…”
“Avery, she was dead before he brought her there,” Russ started realizing that those words weren’t exactly the right ones as Avery’s face drained of all color.
“Like that makes it any better,” Avery gasped feeling her insides twist and turn with the very thought that her husband laid out on the table for her.
“That wasn’t what I meant.  What I’m saying is that he didn’t murder someone in our home and while what he did was horrifying, it isn’t what you…” he paused trying to take a different approach, “Avery, if you’re not comfortable in being there, then we don’t have to go back.  We can pack up what we need to take with us right now--I’ll do it and then we can get out of there.  We’ll find somewhere else that suits us and…”
“And we’ll leave our memories behind?” Avery questioned in horror hating the thought of Bruce driving them from the life they’d settled into with one another.
“We can make new memories somewhere else,” he suggested cupping her face in his large, patient hands, “as all that matters to me is you and our baby.  I’d go anywhere that we needed to go in order to see to it that you two were safe and protected.  If that means our finding somewhere else to live out the dreams that we have for the future, then so be it…”
“Russ, when you found that house, you had so many plans for us--so many thoughts about raising our children there and…” she started again.
“Avery, as much as I thought that was where we were meant to be, there are other places that can offer so much more.  I mean hey, back when I first found it, the neighborhood was a bit different and we weren’t where we are now in our careers.  I have done really well with the paper and with your career, well I think that we can afford to find something that suits our needs even better than what we have now…”
“But had this situation not arisen with Bruce, then we wouldn’t even be contemplating leaving our home behind,” she sighed heavily feeling her heart sink as Bruce had already found yet another way to violate sense of stability.
“Even so, maybe this was fate trying to tell us we needed to find a new place for our new family and our new dreams we keep making with one another,” he continued urging her to focus upon him once again as he felt her thoughts dwindling in the moment, “Avery, I know that we can find something that’s right for us…”
“And if I don’t want to just up and leave our home?  I mean sure I know that things are kind of uncomfortable, but maybe once this situation cools down a bit…” she shifted on her feet restlessly unable to keep the conflict from controlling what was happening inside of her head.
“I’ll do whatever you want me to do baby as the only parts of this equation between us that matters to me is you and our baby,” he insisted curling his arm around her as he tentatively massaged the pads of his fingers against her spine.  “Though I do have a confession to make…”
“What’s that?” she questioned, a sigh upon her lips as it seemed that with each passing moment her worries compounded.
“I want to get you out of town starting tonight,” he suggested seeing her eyes widen in surprise as he held her close to him.
“Russ, we can’t just leave town at a time like this,” she started to argue with him thinking of all her obligations she’d had going on around them.
“Avery, you heard what Deidra said.  You need to relax and get away from this chaos for a little while.  Your mother is home and she’s safe now,” he began trying to convince her to hear what he was saying, “We can just leave for a little while and let things blow over a bit…”
“Russ, are they ever going to do that for us,” she frowned reaching for his hand as they made their way over to the elevators at the hospital stepping inside to go out to the parking lot as her thoughts ran wild yet again.
“I’d like to think that we could work on making them easier for us sweetheart,” he turned to face her noticing all the shadows and contours that the fluorescent lighting overhead added to her tired features, “Wouldn’t you like to just get away again and spent this time really enjoying it instead of being rushed home like we were before?”
“Russ, we both know we have commitments at home and…” she started to reason with him as a pout curled upon her lips, “My mom just came home and she’s been through hell.  She needs me to be here for her and if I walk away from my family at a time like this when…”
“Avery, your mother will understand,” he blurted out not really caring one way or the other how Brooke felt about the time Avery spent out of town for safety‘s sake, “as this is for our baby--her grandchild and I’m sure that she’d want us to put the little one first.”
“You really think going back to the cabin will make this easier on us?” she questioned still very doubtful of anything lightening the mood and lifting her spirits.
“You tell me,” he urged nuzzling her neck as he stepped in behind her curling his arms around her encouragingly, “because I can’t think of a time we spent there that hasn’t been filled with good memories…well except for when Brant called up back into town, but still…”
“He wasn’t aware of what he was interrupting,” Avery sighed in reflection leaning back into his touch as his lips teased over her shoulder in a seductive fashion, “but then again I don’t think that our cabin to do that again is going to be considered rest and relaxation…”
“I’m sure that we can find a way to work this,” he squeezed her tighter, “into the schedule as long as we have you well rested before hand…”
“And you think you can keep your hands off of me long enough to make it happen,” Avery tilted her head up to tease him with a pointed expression.
“Baby, I didn’t say anything about my keeping my hands off of you, but I’ll try to behave,” he winked at her eliciting a tiny chuckle from her now blossoming grin as they exited the elevators making their way out into the hospital parking lot.

“Russ, you’re absolutely incorrigible,” she shook her head at him unable to keep from feeling that familiar feeling of butterflies in her stomach at the nearness of him.  While she’d tried to pretend that she could be completely immersed in the disaster that had presented itself before her where Bruce was concerned, there was no denying just how wonderful Russ could make her feel with a sensual expression or a few daring words.  He was by far the only man who could send her skyrocketing into the realm of deliciously wonderful possibilities at the nearness of him which once again reminded her of just how right they were together and just how important what they had together was.
“Oh admit it, you’re head over heels in love with me babe,” he urged on again as he disarmed his car alarm opening the door for her.
“You’re right I am,” Avery replied brightly reaching out to ball up the center of his shirt in her hand before tipping up on her toes to kiss him quickly, “and maybe you’re right.  Maybe our going away is exactly what we both need right now.”
“I was hoping you’d see it my way,” he smiled feeling as if he and Avery had made some progress with one another as he helped her into the car.  Now as he started mentally plotting out their time away from Coral Valley again, he felt a newfound sense of optimism fill him up inside as he circled his car only to hear the sounds of his phone ringing in his front pocket.  Reaching for it, he quickly pulled it out immediately recognizing the number as his pal George Anderson and he tensed up as he stood near the trunk of the car wondering what George was calling for, “hello…”
“Russ, it’s George--George Anderson,” the man stated simple reaffirming what Russ just realized as Russell nodded in response realizing that his actions couldn’t be seen.
“Yeah, I noticed on the caller id,” Russ replied quickly, “what’s going on?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” George remarked with obvious confusion, “What’s this I hear about your refusing help from the agents they have working in Coral Valley especially after Mathis has made such a bold move on his end in your home?”
“Let’s just say I’m working on a hunch here,” Russell replied watching as Avery shifted inside the car, taking a moment to pull down the visor to check out what was happening behind her as Russell spun around to shield her from his conversation, “So tell me, what’s up?”
“Well other than I’m highly disappointed at your lack of faith in my co-workers, the truth to the matter is that I had some information for you on Mathis,” George continued with obvious dismay, “though you do realize that I could get in big trouble for this one in sharing this information with you considering that you refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.”
“Yeah well I could recall a few times in the past when you were less than cooperative during the college years, so how about we skip over that and you get to the point before my wife starts to wonder where I’ve run off to,” Russ urged him on hating to bring Avery any further into what was going on behind the scenes where Bruce was concerned after the madman had taken the liberty to drop a corpse off in their home.
“Speaking of Avery,” George ignored his request, “How is she holding up?”
“Like any other pregnant woman who has more than she can handle going on in her life,” Russ grumbled in response, “which is why I want to take her away and not bother her with all the details of just how bad this could be.  She doesn’t need that right now with everything else that‘s happened, so if we could just cut to the chase…”
“Right, well there isn’t much to tell except that Mathis is far too well financed to be running out on his own like he’s been doing.  Granted he’d been working at the hospital and he’d taken on the Mathis name there a while back, but when we checked into things the real Bruce Mathis had stepped outside the realm of his family fortune and kind of set out on his own almost penniless.”
“So what are you saying?  That it’s entirely possible that Bruce has had someone working with him all this time?  That someone is backing him up financially so that he can go off and slaughter innocent women here and there?” Russ continued sharply.
“What I’m saying is that the man just kind of leapt into a fortune and there’s no telling where it came from, but it has to be from a continuous source as someone started feeding him cash a while ago for him to have taken on the role of Bruce Mathis for this long…” George continued to explain, “and we’re certain that the Mathis family wasn’t behind that.”
“Well if they weren’t, then who was?” Russell demanded again.
“That’s the problem I’m having here.  We’ve located a few accounts that could be ones that he’s used, but given the situation that’s going on with the Mathis family, well…it seems that there’s a lot of red tape to cut through and there are some financial records that we can’t get into because we don’t have enough probable cause…”
“The man is a serial murderer…how can there not be enough probable cause?” Russell’s voice raised with anger at the audacity of a few technicalities keeping the FBI from seeking out the truth about a man driven by madness.
“Look Russ, I don’t make the rules and I really can’t get around breaking them as what I’m doing right now could get me in over my head.  I’m doing you a favor because we have a history, but you do realize that I’m going out on a limb here in keeping you in the loop,” George shot back with heavy agitation.   
“I know that,” Russ began apologetically, “I really do and I appreciate that, but I hate to think that we’ve hit some kind of brick wall especially if the answers we’re seeking out lie in the fact that there’s someone supplying him with the funds he’s needed to make my wife miserable…”
“As I said before there’s nothing more that I can do without getting in some major trouble, but maybe you can have better luck,” George suggested with obvious hesitation, “as while I wouldn’t ever suggest you go out on your own and use your contacts to pick up the slack for those of us who have to stay within the lines of the law, well, it wouldn’t be hard for a man of your position to say make a few calls and persuade a few people to open up those doors to you that they would normally slam in the faces of law enforcement.  I mean if someone just happened to say something to you in a casual conversation or if you happened to get a glimpse of something in an innocent exchange, well there’s really nothing that could be done with that…”
“So you’re saying that while it wouldn’t be advisable for me to use my journalistic connections to get an inside look at who has been providing Bruce with his means of destruction, it wouldn’t be something that the FBI would want to hunt me down for should I come up with something that they’ve been missing for a while now…” Russell arched a speculative brow as he held the phone tighter to his ear.
“Something along those lines as I’m sure while I’d highly disapprove of your even thinking about doing something on the down low there, that it wouldn’t be something that anyone would really be able to talk someone like yourself out of if your family was on the line…” George hinted in suggestion once again.
“In that case, I guess I’ll just have to take it where it can go from here,” Russell began decidedly.
“Russ, I’m not hearing this,” George interrupted, “as I’m not taking part in anything that isn’t on the up and up.”
“Fair enough,” Russell nodded in response, “and for what it’s worth George, thank you for the head’s up.”
“Just don’t get yourself killed in the process of taking on a sociopath Russ as Avery and the baby are both counting on your staying alive for them,” George warned him once again.
“I’m not about to risk losing that which is why I can’t let this one slide, but I’ll be safe about it,” Russell promised saying his quick good-byes to his pal before turning to take another long look at Avery as she sat inside the car.  Suddenly the thought of what George had confided in him had him on a new path of determination as Russell vowed to find out who was the one keeping Bruce on the streets and avoiding justice as it seemed that someone was working hard to sabotage Russell’s marriage using Bruce as a tool to do it.  Still stewing over that very thought, Russell stepped around to the driver’s side of his car, he vowed to find out who was behind feeding into Bruce’s obsession with Avery, and when he did, he swore to himself that he’d find a way to make sure that they didn’t get away with what they’d done to make his wife miserable.
“Everything okay,” Avery questioned watching him slide into the car beside her as her eyes flashed with immediate worry. 
“Nothing for you to worry about,” he assured her reaching out to take her hand in his for a brief moment, “It was just someone calling on an assignment for the paper…”
“Something big?” Avery inquired eyeing him intently as he offered up a quick nod.
“Something along those lines,” he divulged with a nod of his own, “but as good as it is, I think I’m going to make a few calls and let someone else help me with this one while we’re at the cabin so that I can get the ball rolling on it before we go out of town.”
“If it’s really that important, then maybe we should put the trip off,” Avery suggested shifting on the seat beside him as he squeezed her hand once again offering up a sexy smile.
“Not a chance as nothing’s going to keep me from finding a way to indulge in a little piece of happiness with you,” he replied earnestly ready to do whatever it took to make sure that no one would steal that happiness away from them ever again.

...to be continued...