Episode 98 

Grady stumbled ahead of the officer who escorted him into the Coral Valley police department. He’d never planned for things to get so out of hand. Hell, he hadn’t really planned for the confrontation with Cameron to last longer than his ‘I quit’, but that hadn’t worked out the way he’d intended. It seemed that was the way things were going for him more and more lately…in a way other than the one he’d intended.
The officer opened a cell and pushed Grady inside before he closed the door, “Back up to the door, and I’ll remove the handcuffs.”

Grady sighed as he backed against the bars and felt the officer remove the handcuffs. He turned towards the cop while he rubbed his wrists, “When can I have my phone call?”

“I’ll have to take your fingerprints and process your booking sheet first. Then I’ll let you have your phone call,” The officer replied, “I’ll be right back.”

Grady nodded as he leaned his forehead against the bars. If Jade had been upset by Cameron’s behavior, she’d be ballistic over this. He had never expected things to go so far, but when Cameron threatened to use photographs of Jade’s rape to keep him in line…rage wasn’t even close to what he’d felt. He couldn’t even think of a word that could adequately describe just how much hatred, rage, shame, and pain he’d felt at the mere mention of photographs of the most painful night in Jade’s life.

The officer came back and unlocked the door to the small holding cell. He led Grady to a small niche and took mug shots from every angle. He then led Grady to a chair where he asked Grady about all his personal information. After the forms were all filled out, the officer led Grady to another niche and took fingerprints.

Grady wiped the remainders of the black ink from his fingers as the officer led him to a desk and pointed to a phone.

“One phone call. You’ve got ten minutes,” The officer informed him before stepping aside.

Grady looked at the phone and considered who he was going to call. In reality there was only one person he could call. There was only one person who he wanted to talk to…no, he needed to talk to.

Grady dialed the number and only hoped that she hadn’t given up on him and gone shopping.

“Hello?” Jade answered quickly.

“Jade…good, I’m glad you’re at home. Look, I need you to call a bail bondsman for me.”

“What?” She gasped, “Grady, where are you?”

“In jail,” He blurted out with a sigh, “I went to see Cameron, and things got out of hand.”

“Grady…” She began, “Look, don’t incriminate yourself or anything, but what happened?”

“He threatened you, Jade, and I couldn’t take it. So I let him know what I thought about that real quick,” He frowned, “I didn’t mean for things to happen this way. I only went there to tell him that I don’t want his damn lawsuit, but that wasn’t where it ended.”

She paused for a moment as she thought about what could have possibly happened between the two men. She took a deep breath before she spoke again, “I’ll take care of everything. You just hold on and hang in there, okay?”

“Okay, but Jade…”

“Yes?” She listened.

“I’m sorry about this. I just couldn’t let him threaten your happiness. I love you, and I would do anything to protect you,” He assured her.

“I know, Grady. I love you too. Just be careful,” Jade warned before she hung up the phone. She considered who she should call to help Grady, but only one name actually sprang to mind. Granted, it probably wouldn’t be Grady’s first choice given their current situation, but in the long run, Grady would thank her in the end.

She lifted the phone and dialed the number from memory.

“Hello,” Russ answered.

“Russ, hey, it’s Jade. I know that you’re probably busy, but…”

“Actually, I’m taking Avery out of town for a few days,” He replied.

“Russ, I need to ask you a big favor, but it’s going to put a crimp in your plans.”

“I don’t like the sound of this already,” He sighed in disappointment.

“You’re going to like it even less by the time I get through telling you this story,” Jade began, “I need you to meet me at the Coral Valley Police Department. Grady’s in jail.”

“What? Why?” Russ questioned quickly.

“He’s trying to protect me from Cameron Stone, and apparently things got out of hand. Russ, can you help me?” She questioned, “Please.”

Russ paused, “I’ll be there, Jade.”

“Thank you, Russ. This means a lot to me, and I know it’ll mean a lot to Grady too,” Jade spoke before she hung up the phone. She just hoped that things weren’t as bad as she felt they could possibly be. She had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that warned her things would get a lot worse before they got better.


Susan frowned as she shifted her way through the hallways of Stone Corp wondering what the hell was going on as it seemed that the local police department had taken up residence in the offices.  Granted there weren’t that many of them, but there were enough to raise her sense of suspicions as she made her way directly to Cameron’s office wondering what kind of legal bind she’d have to work them out of this time as it seemed that their lack of public uproar in Coral Valley was about to change. 
Entering his office, she found him seated in his chair groaning as he held an ice pack up over his eye while dark shades of dried blood pooled at the corner of his mouth.  She carefully closed the door behind her, her curiosity and concerns evident as she made her way across his office catching his less than enthusiastic stare.
“What the hell happened in here,” Susan frowned taking in the state of disarray his office was in.
“Your ex-husband decided he wanted to up and quit working on my case,” Cameron remarked smugly as he lowered the icepack enough for Susan to catch her first glimpse of the now purple bruising that tarnished his otherwise flawless complexion.  If before that moment in time Susan had any doubts about Grady and his convictions then they were all put to rest as she watched Cameron wince in response to the feel of the air upon his wound.
“And obviously that didn’t go too well,” Susan frowned making her way clear over to Cameron’s desk immediately tending to his wound as she was far more curious about what had transpired between the two men in her absence.
“Not for Grady it didn’t,” Cameron remarked with a twisted smirk, “as I’d imagine he’s having a lot of time to rethink this latest impulsive act he had going on this afternoon while he‘s caged up behind bars.”
“Behind bars,” Susan repeated with wide eyes unable to mask her surprise, “You mean you’ve had him thrown in jail?”
“That’s right,” he nodded in response amused by her instant reaction to his words, “and yet this surprises you for some reason?”
“Well there’s the whole issue of the officers I saw lurking in the hallways as I imagined something worse had happened with some of our other less public dealings, but with Grady, well, don’t you think that time in jail is a bit extreme for his refusing to represent you?” Susan questioned unable to refrain from her own lingering concerns for Grady.
“This isn’t about his inability to produce the way I requested him to do as he’ll work for me whether he likes it or not, but more so this was about his connection to Jade--in which case you should be thanking me for doing you such a favor in pressing charges,” he gloated wincing once again as Susan reached for the compress placing it to his face once again, “You get to be the voice of reason and see to it that not only does Grady get over his little temper tantrum, but that he comes to his senses and lets go of Jade.  I’m sure with your persuasions, you can make him see the light and show him that such actions as those he put forth here in my office earlier today are completely bound to lead him down a path to destruction that he’d really rather not fall into again considering his less than savory history there.”
“Grady’s a hothead, so I’m not really sure if he’s going to be throwing out any apologies anytime soon,” Susan stated plainly.
“I’m not seeking out an apology as I would just like Grady to see where I stand on loyalty and I think he’s starting to see the big picture here,” he paused searching Susan’s features, “and besides the way I see it, you should be grateful for my giving him the time to reconsider the path he’s gone down here with me.  He’s far too wrapped up in Jade and that simply is unacceptable.”
“Jade isn’t going to be a thing for him to worry about soon enough,” Susan promised thinking to her plans for Grady.
“Especially not when you deliver him the news about the out I’m willing to offer him if he decides to grow up and forget any of the notions he had about dropping my case.  The way I see it, I’m going to send you in to present an offer that Grady can’t and won’t refuse and then, well then I think we’ll have everything exactly where it should be with him.”
“And what about Jade?” Susan inquired seeing something brewing behind his eyes as she reached out to press the compress over his wound once again feeling him tense up beneath her touch.
“She’ll be taken care of and I’m sure you and I can work out the arrangements of that one later, but for now, well…I think that we should start discussing the terms of this offer I’m willing to throw out on the table for Grady,” Cameron stated plainly the wheels in his head turning faster by the moment.
“You could just drop the charges,” Susan suggested with a simple shrug of her shoulders imagining the relief that Grady would feel when she shared the news with him.
“I could do that, but then there wouldn’t be a lesson learned.  Grady has quite a few lessons to learn unfortunately before he’s going to just be accepted back into my good graces, but after he has a little time to think over my offer, he may be just be willing to cooperate,” Cameron decided unable to suppress the smile building over his twisted features as he relished in the knowledge that Grady Denton’s nightmares were only beginning and not even Susan would be able to get him out of the situation he would find himself in should he refuse the offer Cameron had for him.


Caitlin reached over to take Ken’s hand, hoping that maybe he wouldn’t act on the anger she could see in his features. While she knew Ken wasn’t the violent type, she still had the fear that he wanted to do great harm to her brother.

“Ken,” Caitlin spoke softly, “I’d like you to meet Johanna Larsen.”

“Oh, you’re Brant’s brother,” Johanna smiled as she reached out to shake Ken’s hand, “It’s nice to meet you.”

“You know Brant?” Ken questioned, wondering just what sort of woman Zack had become involved with.

“I’m a editor for the Standard Reporter. I’ve run into Brant from time to time at various social events, and he’s always good for a story,” Johanna replied before she backed into Zack and smiled.

“Hmmm, he’s not the only one these days,” Ken noted as he kept his eyes glued to Zack.

Zack frowned. He’d figured that the Ashford twins wouldn’t be happy with him when they found out about Jo, but he hadn’t imagined it would be Caitlin’s boyfriend who would be the first to deliver a blow. Blake had always described Ken as the solid member of the Ashford family, and yet somehow all Zack could see was a brother hell bent on revenge.

“So,” Caitlin began awkwardly, “Does that mean you’re going to stay in Coral Valley?”

“Yes, it does,” Johanna smiled as she looked to Zack, “Zack and I have been over and over this the past few days, and we both just want what’s best for our baby,” She paused as she plucked the picture of the baby from Zack’s shirt pocket, “Caitlin, look at your nephew.”

“Nephew?” Caitlin asked as Johanna moved beside her on her free side, “They can already tell the sex?”

“No, but I’m pretty sure of it. It’s just a motherly thing,” Johanna smiled as she produced the picture for Caitlin’s viewing, “Isn’t he adorable?”

Caitlin couldn’t help but smile at the small picture of the baby.

Ken, on the other hand, couldn’t for the life of him force a smile. He stood and looked at Zack, “Zack, could I have a word?” He more commanded than asked as he directed the other man out of the hospital room.

Caitlin watched as Zack nodded and stepped out of the room. She only hoped that the two most important men in her life would behave themselves.


Zack followed Ken to a waiting room where no one could hear their conversation. Already, this wasn’t looking good for him.

Once inside the waiting room, Ken turned to Zack and slipped his hands into his pockets, “I guess you know why I wanted to speak with you.”

Zack nodded, “Blake.”

“That’s right. Blake. You do remember my sister, don’t you? The woman whose heart you broke?” Ken questioned, “You had the audacity to accuse me of hurting your sister, and yet you’re the one who has hurt my sister. Casting the first stone there, huh?”

“Look, I had no idea that Jo was pregnant when I came to Coral Valley and started seeing Blake. I know it’s not much of an excuse, but…”

“You’re damn right that it’s not an excuse. Do you shirk all your responsibilities so easily?” Ken frowned as he sighed heavily, “Blake is an innocent when it comes to matters of the heart. She wants to believe that people will treat her with the same dignity and respect she shows them. Unfortunately for her, that doesn’t happen very often, and I guess you just proved that to be the case once again.”

“I never wanted to hurt Blake. If I could change what’s happened…”

“But you can’t, Zack. It’s way too late for that. All you can do is prevent Blake any more heartache. Stay away from her.”

“Blake’s still my friend,” Zack declared, “I won’t let you decide if I can see her or not.”

“You already decided that when you got your ex-girlfriend knocked up,” Ken reminded him, “Blake doesn’t need to be reminded of what she lost with you by your parading that woman in front of her. Stay away from her, Zack. Let her heal. Most of all, let her move on.”

“I want Blake to move on. In fact, she already has in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I have, but I don’t want you to interfere in that. Don’t jeopardize what little happiness Blake’s found for herself.”

Zack started to speak then thought better of it.

Ken met Zack’s eyes and spoke solemnly, “Just stay away from her, Zack. If you ever cared about her, just stay away from her,” He spoke in warning before he walked back towards Caitlin’s room.

Zack groaned openly as he thought of the situation he’d found himself it. Ken was right. He couldn’t jeopardize Blake’s chance for happiness, and he had to focus on his own life…the one he was forcing himself to make with Johanna and their baby.


“Make your move if you think you have one still left inside of you,” Jenna dared eyeing Hart with the same predatory stare that had carried over her for the last half hour she’d spent with him as they sat at her kitchen table immersed in a very heated game of cards.
“You think you’ve won this one, don’t you,” he arched a speculative brow, carefully selecting the course of action he was about to take with her as her smirk and newfound sense of confidence had amused him to no end as he perused the cards in hand.
“Oh I know I have,” Jenna replied with a confident nod licking her lips as she eyed the single card she held in her hand ready to triumph once again at this game she’d so carefully mastered over the years. 
Now as Hart sat before her holding his half a dozen cards before her, she couldn’t help but revel in the knowledge that she was about to be deemed the Go Fish champion yet again after they’d opted to try something that should’ve been a bit less intense than a round of poker.  Okay, so maybe that was the intention, Jenna reasoned realizing that hadn’t been the case as it had been fairly obvious early on that Hart was just as competitive as Jenna was about winning especially when it came to card games--even if those games were childish in their origins.  Now as they sat upon their eighth round of Go Fish with one another, Jenna prepared her words of torment for her impending victory as Hart eyed his cards with heavy scrutiny.
“Well, are you going to make a move today or should we just call it a night?” Jenna couldn’t help but tease as Hart raised his finger in the air alerting her to come to silence again as he perused his cards once again.
“Give me a minute here,” Hart urged her on shuffling his cards around as his face was a complete mask of seriousness and concentration.
“You know we could just quit now and you could bypass that whole feeling of loss that you’ve had with you most of the afternoon since I’ve beaten the pants off of you,” Jenna jabbed at him watching as he dropped a pair of cards on the table, followed by another and yet another until finally he had nothing left in his hands.
“Gee, had I known that getting me out of my pants was one of the perks involved in this game,” he winked at her flashing her a sexy grin as he motioned to what he‘d laid down on the table before her thus ending their latest game, “then I would’ve stopped letting you win hours ago.”
“You didn’t let me win anything,” she raised her voice in protest before taking a moment to search his expression, “right?”
“What do you think,” he challenged in a flash of laughter as Jenna reached for the cards that he’d laid down on the table top and she plucked them up into her hand only to toss them right back at him as she rose from her chair.
“You suck.  You know that, don’t you?” she huffed shaking her head at him as she crossed the kitchen ready to pour herself another mug of coffee as she thought of her eagerness to show off her talents when it came to cards.
“Honey, I just couldn’t make you feel like you were slipping there after you‘d told me all about your being the queen of the game in your younger years,” he shrugged his shoulders sliding the chair he was seated in away from the table before rising to his feet to follow her around the kitchen, “as I really didn’t feel the need to share that I happened to have been a champion myself.”
“You still suck,” Jenna stuck her tongue out at him before turning away from him and filling her cup of coffee pretending that it was by far the most interesting thing at the moment while he stood behind her.
“Oh baby, you know you love me,” Hart slid his arm around her waist stepping in closer to her as he felt her pulse racing at the nearness between them despite her protests.
“Loving you has nothing to do with how unhappy I am with you at this very moment for deceiving me,” she concluded turning in his arms to shoot a glare at him before stepping out of his embrace.
“Oh come on Jen, I was trying to do the polite thing here,” he watched her leave the kitchen as a frown touched over his features.  Sighing heavily as he realized that he would never quite be able to read her as well as he would’ve liked to, he turned his attention to his own coffee mug debating whether or not he’d refill it, but instead he followed after Jenna thinking up some way to remedy the current situation.  “Jenna…”
“Don’t Jenna me,” her voice rose from the shadows that filled her narrow hallway as he followed the sound of her voice as it lead him down to her bedroom only to discover her seated upon the center of her bed, holding her television remote with obvious attitude.  He stood still for a moment just watching her flip through the various stations indignantly before he marched into her room thrusting himself down upon the bed beside her as he reached for her remote control.
“That’s mine,” she huffed trying to keep her hold on the remote as he wrenched it out of her hand, “hey.”
“I’d like to speak with you and about how we can work on changing your being such a sore loser,” Hart argued with her bringing his other hand around the top of the remote control.
“I’m a sore loser,” she repeated clasping the top of the remote with her hand in an attempt to keep him from taking it from her, “Oh I think not Mr. Con Artist.”
“Con artist?” he blinked back at her, “For trying to be a gentleman and let you win the game we were playing?”
“That’s right because if you’re going to downplay your abilities there when we’re doing something as simple as playing cards, then who is to say that you aren’t doing the same when we’re engaged in other activities with one another,” she blurted out shaking her head at him again as she felt him ease up his hold on the remote control.  With a grumble she sank back into her pillows focusing her eyes on the television before her.
“Now wait just a damned minute,” Hart snatched the remote from her hand turning the television off in a quick movement, “Don’t even try to run that one by me because of a stupid card game.  You and I both know that I’m not deceiving your nor am I withholding any of my abilities where you’re concerned as I think I’ve been pretty much at the top of my game about things…”
“Or so you say, but how can I know that considering that you let me win back there?  I mean clearly you were still holding back on things as you have a bag of tricks that I’m not even aware of,” her dark eyes fell upon him, “so who is to say that one day we’ll just stumble upon yet another one of those and I’ll know if it’s the real deal or not…”
“Jenna, what are we talking about here?  Are you upset about a card game, about us or about your father?” he frowned in response wondering why she was getting so worked up about his having let her win the card games until the last round.
“Well, a simple deception is how it starts you know.  I mean first it’s your letting me win a card game, and then it’s your sneaking out to spend time with someone half my age and your lying about how you really feel about me in an attempt to win my trust all over again and then before you know it, you’re off in Vegas married to some eighteen year old stripper who knows the kama sutra inside and out and I’m just a thing of the past…” she ranted with a huff turning her eyes away from him.
“Okay, I know what this is,” he took in a slow breath leaning down beside her on his side before he reached out to touch her face urging her to look at him, but she refused as he felt a frustrated sigh overtake him, “Jenna, this is about your father.  I’m right on that one.”
“Of course it’s not about him.  I just don’t like the idea of your keeping things from me even if they’re as small as your being an incredible Go Fish player because you know one day that’s going to be something that comes back to haunt us…” she stated once again facing him as he dipped down to capture a quick kiss from her lips in an attempt to silence her words of protest.
“Jen,” he touched her cheek gently, “sweetheart, now you know that my card tricks aren’t going to be something that makes or breaks us and unlike what’s been happening with your father, the truth to the matter is that you knew what a bastard I was long before you ever fell in love with me.”
“That doesn’t mean that in my having the knowledge that it’s going to make things easier for us.  I mean what if you suddenly decide that you no longer want to do what we’re doing and you want to slip back into your old ways with someone who obviously suits those needs…” she continued unable to contain the thoughts that consumed her.
“Jenna, my life before you was meaningless.  I mean in all honesty I could sit there and say that yeah I had one hell of a wild life because that’s the truth, but once you and I started this between us,” he traced her jaw line drinking in her image as he lay beside her taking comfort in the warmth of her body next to his, “well I never found a reason to look back.  You showed me that things didn’t have to be so empty--so miserable and hollow and when we found one another, well it was only then that I really truly learned the meaning of living.”
“Hart,” Jenna began with shadows of doubt lingering over her, “you say that now, but who is to say that when push comes to shove that you don’t find it easier to just run away and do what my father’s done…”
“Jenna, if I was going to run, I would’ve done it a long time ago….long before you ever loved me, but you were exactly what I wanted and everything I needed in my life.  You’re what I still need more and more each day and the way I feel about you is nothing like the way your parents were with one another.  I’m not the man who betrayed you and hurt you Jen and I won’t allow you to push your feelings about what your father has done upon me in your attempt to shove me away from you,” he declared firmly seeing the protest about to spill from her lips as he placed a finger over the center of her mouth, “Jen, listen to me.  If you’re this upset about what’s going on with your father, then find a way to deal with it.  Scream, yell or do whatever it takes to get your emotions out, but all I ask is that you don’t turn me into the bad guy because he fell through on his promises.  I’m not that man who let you down and I swear to you as long as I have the power in me to do so, then I swear I won’t be doing it.  Hell, if letting you win gets this kind of reaction, then I swear I’ll beat you every time if need be,” he added with a hint of a smile watching as a sad grin cracked over her features.
“Hart, it’s not that,” she began trying to convey what had been bothering her, but as she thought to what he’d said about her father, she realized that on some level he was right.  Clearly she was ready to lash out at someone for her father’s actions and poor Hart had been caught in the crossfire.  With an apologetic smile she turned to him once again, “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be yelling at you like this.”
“Hey, it’s okay.  I still love you,” he whispered in response leaning in towards her, “even if you’re just a little bit of a nutcase.”
“Well, what did you expect from me after you went and made me fall in love with you,” she threw back at him, her eyes filled with a playfulness that hadn’t been present moments earlier, “I mean clearly I had to be just a little bit insane to allow myself to fall like I have.”
“Clearly,” he nodded in response his gaze lingering to her ever so kissable lips before he leisurely took in her features with his eyes.  He slid his hand out around her body, curling her in towards him as he moved over her, feeling her burning beneath his.  He tipped down to kiss her, tasting the fire behind her lips as his palm teased over her curves thinking about how he’d savored this time with her especially after all the near misses they’d had with one another in the past, “though I do have a confession to make to you too Jen.”
“What’s that?” she questioned lazily teasing her finger tips down over his spine as he settled in above her.
“No woman has ever proven to be as much of a challenge for me,” he murmured against her mouth fanning his fingers out over her abdomen and up underneath her shirt as she shivered upon the contact he’d made with her skin, “or as exciting as you are.”
“Hmm…” she purred against his lips pondering the validity behind that statement as he held her, “so does that mean that you won’t be trading me in for an eighteen year old acrobat anytime soon?”
“As long as you promise to return the favor should you ever decide you’ve had your fill of me,” Hart teased in response nibbling on her lower lip as she began to tug at his shirt recklessly urging on a more intimate contact between them.
“Don’t worry Hart,” she winked up at him feeling him shift up over her just enough to allow her to rid him of the shirt he’d been wearing before her eyes took in every inch of him, “I wasn’t even considering making that bold of a move where you were concerned…at least not for a few weeks anyways…”
“I knew it.  I knew you couldn‘t be trusted,” he tickled at her sides watching the laughter flood from her lips as she wiggled beneath him bowled over with her giggles.
“Hey now, I’m not the one playing games when it comes to mastering the art of Go Fish,” she threw back at him feeling his tickle torture continuing as his fingers danced over her skin.
“Yeah well guess what,” Hart spoke up in a menacing response, “You said you didn’t think that I’d shown you all I had in of my bag of tricks and you were right on that one as I have one in mind for you right now that’s guaranteed to be just what the doctor ordered as I only throw it out in the case of emergencies…”
“And is that what you perceive this being,” she inquired lifting a curious brow.
“In the worst way,” he nodded eagerly moving in over her once again, “but don’t worry I’m sure that this is one surprise that you’re going to find far more enjoyable than you ever thought possible and unlike the sour mood that was brought on by my not being forthcoming on my card playing talents, I can promise you that you’re going to love this one as it‘s well worth the wait.”
“Something tells me that I know I’m going to love it,” she confessed thinking of all the ways she appreciated Hart’s presence in her life as he was the only person who could get to the heart of what was bothering her and turn things around in such a way that her worries didn’t consume her--at least for a little while, she thought to herself as she focused on the man in her arms knowing that she’d found the key to happiness the moment she’d reluctantly fallen in love with him.


Dorothy stepped into her house and stopped. She looked around for a moment as she tried to get oriented to just what was going on in her home.

The lights were down low with only two candles flickering in the room. Rose petals lay scattered over the carpet and continued up the stairs. Soft music beckoned her to climb the stairs to see what else lay in store for her.

Dorothy placed her bag aside and took off her cardigan before she climbed the stairs. The soft smell of lilacs tantalized her senses as she stepped into the bedroom she shared with Preston. She stopped as she saw candlelight flicker from inside the large master bathroom.

She smiled as she stepped to the bathroom and gently pushed the door open. Preston smiled from the ledge of the tub as he dropped several rose petals into the water. He stood and slowly made his way towards her, the candlelight etching every muscle of his bare chest.

“Hello beautiful. Welcome to a night made just for you,” He spoke as he lightly eased his fingers down her arms to take her hands in his. He lifted her hands to his lips so he could gently place a kiss upon each one.

“How long have you been planning this?” She asked with a smile.

“All day,” He admitted as he released her hands only to begin gently plucking at the buttons of her blouse, “There’s a nice hot bubble bath awaiting you.”

“Hmmm, sounds divine,” She said as she shrugged out of her blouse and kicked her shoes aside. She slipped out of her skirt then paused, “But I’m only going to enjoy it if you join me.”

Preston grinned, “I thought you’d never ask,” He grinned as he watched her continue to undress. He slid off his lounge pants and held out his hand to her. He led her to the bathtub where they sank down into the sudsy water.

Dorothy closed her eyes and leaned back against Preston’s chest as the water surrounded them. She smiled as she let out a relaxing sigh, “Now this is heaven.”

“I’m glad you approve,” Preston smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him, “So…how was your day?”

“I don’t remember,” She replied in a dreamy tone as she enjoyed the quiet moment between them.

He kissed her temple with a smile, “Then my work here is done.”

“Your work has only just begun,” She grinned as she turned slightly to peer over her shoulder at him, “I have plans for you too, Mister.”

“Well I’ll consider myself warned,” He leaned forward to gently kiss her.

Dorothy smiled as she lay back against him, “So what’s all this about anyway? Are you trying to sweep me off my feet for any particular reason?”

“Do I need one?” He asked as he gingerly trailed his fingers down her arms.

“No, and that’s one of the things I love about you. You love to just enjoy life for what it is.”

“With you in my life, it’s easy to enjoy,” He squeezed her gently in his arms.

“Now there’s something else I love about you. You’re always easy to please.”

“I just know what makes me happy, and you make me very happy,” He smiled, “You know, I’ve been thinking about retirement.”

“And what exactly have you been thinking?”

“I was considering what I might do if I didn’t take that job at Fort Bragg.”

“Any ideas?”

“Well, I was actually thinking about opening a self-defense school.”

“To teach people hand to hand combat?”

“That and perhaps having a shooting range to teach people how to properly handle a gun,” He mused, “But this is all just me thinking here.”

“No, Pres,” She turned slightly, “It sounds like a really good idea,” She paused, “I could actually help you.”

“I’d love to have you helping with the business side of things,” He agreed.

“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of teaching.”

“And what would you teach?”

“I do have a criminal justice degree. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve actually practiced with it, but think about this. We could teach people just their basic rights, what they need to know if they’re a victim of an attack, or if they’re ever arrested. People don’t understand their rights, and this would be a great chance to educate them,” Dorothy smiled, “I think this would be a great opportunity for the both of us.”

“So you think this is a good idea?”

“I think it’s a great idea,” She sealed her lips to his in a celebratory kiss, “We can be together in every thing.”

“Now if only I can convince you to marry me,” He teased as he hugged her close.

“Hmm…well, why don’t you get started on convincing me?” Dorothy smiled seductively as she curled her arms around him and sealed her lips to his once more. Things were looking as if they were picking up for her as her family was together, and she would do whatever it took to hold them together and keep anyone from tearing them apart again.


Blake entered the mansion ready to lose herself to her misery as her heart was breaking over the state of her affairs.  While she’d tried to be calm and reasonable on the ride home from the hospital, at this moment she was feeling anything but reasonable as it seemed that her world was falling to pieces.  While she’d tried to convey that to Ken, he didn’t understand either, though the truth to the matter was that she couldn’t quite explain everything that was happening inside of her and the more she tried to think about it, the harder things were upon her.  How was it possible for her to be so very hurt by losing Zack when she clearly had hope for the future with Seth? Yet, in experiencing the loss that she’d clearly felt today, her heart was still breaking more and more with the moment.
Running into her room and slamming the door behind her, Blake fell face first into her bed burying her shameful tears into the comforter as her sobs masked the sounds of the faint tapping at her bedroom door.  Unaware that she was no longer alone, Blake continued to drown in her misery realizing that nothing was going to make this situation go away as it felt as though a huge chunk of her heart had been ripped away from her when Johanna showed up to share the news of Zack’s baby with him.  How that moment had wounded her far more than she’d ever imagined as her heart shattered with the reality that she and Zack were finally over at long last after all the dreams she’d had for them together.  Even now the pain seemed to vibrate inside of her burning her down to the core until she felt the soft, tender touch of a hand pressed upon her shoulder.
“Blake honey, what’s wrong,” Annie inquired, her tone ever so patient and compassionate as Blake refused to meet her eyes any longer than she had in the brief moment of initial surprise.
“Nothing,” Blake lied burying her face in the blankets once again as her tears continued, “nothing at all…”
“Blake, don’t lie to me sweetheart.  I know that you’re clearly upset and perhaps we should talk about this,” Annie suggested feeling a tug at her heart at she thought of seeing Blake in so much pain as it felt as if her own heart was breaking beside the girl whom Annie had spent so many years helping to raise, “What’s going on?”
“Oh Annie,” Blake began with a heaving sob as she forced herself to meet her nanny’s penetrating gaze, “It’s horrible…absolutely horrible and I don’t know how I’m going to get past the fact that a dream of mine ended today.”
“Sometimes when it feels like a dream is ending, that just means that it’s changed.  Sometimes the dream isn’t over though we think that it might be as it can transform into something more--something better…”
“Not for me,” Blake remarked adamantly, “as everything I hoped for with Zack is gone.  He’s found someone else--someone that’s having his baby and now…”
“Oh Blake honey,” Annie reached out to embrace her as Blake sobbed harder with each passing second.
“He told me that he loved me--that we had something special and I believed him.  I gave myself to him--to the dreams I’d had about us having a future together and now…now, they’re gone.  They aren’t here for me to hold onto now that she’s having his baby and all those moments we shared--the love I felt in my heart--the love I feel…”
“Blake sweetheart, I know this hurts, but I thought that you’d found something special with Seth.  I mean I just thought that since you were so excited about spending time with him yesterday that naturally…” Annie began a bit flustered by what she was witnessing in Blake despite the clear cut emotions she’d seen where Zack Vaughn was concerned.  “I just never imagined that you and Zack were still…”
“We weren’t.  We aren’t and obviously we’ll never be,” Blake replied emphatically ready to lose herself completely to the depression that ate away at her insides, “I just kind of hoped…”
“That maybe you and Zack would be able to repair the damage that was done,” Annie completed watching as Blake’s sad blue eyes revealed the truth behind Annie’s statement as a thick moment of silence pressed over the two women, “and what about Seth?  Sweetheart, does he realize that you’re still in love with Zack?”
Blake nodded wiping at her tear stained cheeks as another whimper rose from within, “Yes, he does and I know that he hates it.  I know that he hates the way that I am about Zack and yet he loves me.  He loves me with all that he is and I’m only hurting him with my foolish emotions…”
“Blake, if you aren’t in love with Seth, then perhaps you should spare his heart before it…” Annie tried to think up some way to help Blake uncomplicated the situation she’d found herself in.
“No, that’s not what I want,” Blake blurted out desperately as the thought of letting go of Seth send a shudder of fear racing over her every synapse, “I do love Seth.  I love him so very much and I can’t imagine my life without him.  He’s the man that I want to share my life with--the man who sees me for the woman I am--the woman I can be and when I’m with him, there isn’t anything in this world that I could want more than to spend forever with him just like that…”
“But I just thought you said that with Zack…” Annie wrinkled her nose as she found herself at a complete loss in the midst of Blake’s turmoil.
“I love Seth just as much as I love Zack.  I want to be with the both of them Annie.  When I was younger, I met Zack and he was everything a girl could ask for and more.  I fought like hell to get him to notice me and when I finally was able to rekindle that flame that was so obviously burning between us all those years ago, I thought that life couldn’t be better--that I couldn’t be happier than I was when I was with him, but well, things weren’t as easy as I’d imagined.  I mean the quake happened and out of nowhere Seth walked into my life.  He’s so very handsome, so strong and wonderful.  When he saved my life during that quake, well I knew that he was someone that I needed in my life--someone that fate sent to me to change things around.  He didn’t care that I was Blake Ashford--that I was someone with a family of power and influence.  He loved me for me and he accepted me as he was showing me that it was okay to be vulnerable and open to embracing love.  He made me feel so many wonderful things that I never felt before until he said things that I wasn’t able to face.  It hurt me so very much that I ran away from him.  I pushed myself to create this distance between us which ultimately lead me back to Zack and when Zack and I made love for the first time, oh Annie I knew that he was the man that I waited my whole life to share something so very wonderful with.  When he held me and experienced that first special moment with me, I knew in my heart that it was always how it was meant to be--even with the way I’d felt about Seth, but then…well, when Caitlin had her disaster…I guess things changed and there was Seth.  I was so very wrong about him and words can’t even begin to express how awful I felt about thinking the worst in him.  He’s been so good to me and he’s there when I need him.  He’s always trying to do what is best for me and he makes me so very happy.  When we’re together--when we’re lost in one another, Annie, I feel like I’m this desired, loved woman who has the greatest man in the world with his arms around her.  Making love to him was more than I ever dreamt it to be and even after the way I’d given my heart to Zack…oh it‘s a never ending cycle for me…”
“Blake, honey, can’t you see what you’re doing to yourself,” Annie interrupted seeing Blake going into a moment of despair once again, “You’re dealing with so many emotionally taxing feelings and experiences that you’re not taking the time to deal with them properly.  Sex isn’t something that should be taken lightly and after you’d waited for so very long to share that with the right man, well it’s only natural that you’d be feeling some of these things, but then when you’ve found yourself tangled up with two men going through the emotions you‘ve been completely unprepared for…”
“I guess I just never thought that it would be this hard--that it would do these things and confuse everything,” Blake sniffled realizing that in Annie’s words a truth was revealed to her about herself, “Oh God…I’m a slut Annie.  I’m a total whore and that’s why this is happening…”
“You’re none of those things Blake,” Annie cut her off abrasively as she reached for her hand, “and for you to say such a vile thing about the precious little girl that I know you are, well it’s completely wrong.  You aren’t even close to being that horrible, vicious string of words you used.”
“Of course I am.  Here I am upset with Zack for having slept with Johanna and gotten her pregnant, but I’m no better.  I’ve been sleeping with Seth and loving every second of it, finding myself wanting him all the more, yet I was furious when Johanna announced she was pregnant.  She and Zack had something before he and I ever crossed paths with one another again and she had no idea that I was a part of his life, yet here I was well aware of what I had with Zack and I leapt into bed with Seth because of how I felt for him.  I wanted him so badly that I didn’t care what it would do to Zack and I.  I didn’t care how it screwed the situation up with Zack because all that mattered was this irresistible urge, this ache I had inside for Seth and now, well I know I can’t make it stop.  I don’t want it to stop because I want Seth.  I love Seth and I need him in my life…just like I need Zack.  I want him so badly and knowing that I can’t have him…  Oh God, Annie what is wrong with me?  Why am I behaving so foolishly because let‘s face it both Seth and Zack would be better off without me.  Maybe Johanna being pregnant is a sign that Zack deserved more…just like Seth deserves more…”
“Blake, sweetheart I have to say that you’ve just found yourself in a very emotional situation and since it’s clear that your heart is still seeking out an answer, well perhaps that’s a sign that you should take some time to yourself to figure things out.  Only then will you be free and clear to draw some kind of conclusions to what it is your heart is trying to tell you,” Annie suggested patiently.
“It’s telling me that I’m a lunatic,” Blake groaned inwardly.
“No, that’s your head fighting with you, but inside here,” Annie motioned to her heart, “that’s where you’ll find the real answers.”
“What if they never come to me Annie?  What if in being this way and in having these conflicting emotions I’m leaving room for the greatest thing that ever happened to me to just slip away?  I mean I know there’s no future for me and Zack.  I love Seth so very much that I shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t help myself…”
“Sweetheart, whatever is meant to be will be and you have to believe that,” Annie tried to offer up some comfort to Blake’s grueling situation.
“I wish I had your faith Annie,” Blake sighed heavily leaning into her as she wondered if this was just another sign that she’d fallen under the Ashford curse like every member in her family did.  First with her parents when her mother had been ripped out of the world, then with her brothers as Brant and Ken had seen more than their fair share of heartbreaks and now as she thought of the woman she’d become she wondered if happiness was ever truly meant for her as it seemed she’d become involved in the very things that she swore she’d never allow herself to fall into.  In that moment a shudder passed over her as she wondered if she’d ever be able to pull her way out of it without losing the thing that she craved more than anything in this world--real love.


Seth stepped into the Cardinal Hotel and looked around. This wasn’t exactly the kind of place he liked to visit, but considering Thea wanted an update where no one would know either of the, this was perfect. An older building, the Cardinal Hotel had once been the place to be in Coral Valley. Now, however, it was a seedy den for those who had something to hide. Unfortunately, he was now one of those people.

As Seth moved towards the lounge, he turned and looked around the area once more. He didn’t want to sit in a tacky bar if he could avoid it. As the front door of the hotel opened, he stopped in his tracks as he never expected to see anyone he knew in this place much less Ria.

“Ria?” Seth questioned, not quite believing his eyes as he stepped across the room towards her.

Ria turned quickly in surprise with her eyes wide, “Seth…oh god…what are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question,” He said in a protective manner.

“Well…I…” She paused as she tried to think of some answer to explain away her presence in this hotel, “I’m here to meet someone.”

“Oh please tell me you’re kidding. You deserve someone who would treat you to something better than this,” Seth began.

“And you? What are you doing here? I can’t imagine Blake Ashford would want to be seen here,” She pointed out, “So just who are you treating to this place?”

“This isn’t about me,” He countered.

“It’s as much about you as it is me,” She reminded him.

“Well…” He paused, “Come on. It’s obvious that the both of us need to just leave. I’ll take you home.”

“No, thank you,” She said as she pulled away from his offered hand, “I’m here on business. So if you don’t mind…”

“Business? What kind of business would you have here?”

“None of your business,” She groaned, “Seth, I don’t need you trying to butt into my business.”

“Obviously you do if you’re meeting someone here. Do you know what kind of things go on in a place like this?”

“And how would you know? And what kind of business are you doing here? Don’t act like you’re all innocent, bud, since you’re here too,” She pointed out.

“Ria…” Seth began.

“I’m not arguing with you. Back off,” Ria demanded as she walked through the double doors at the end of the hall.

Seth fumed as he wondered how he could find out what Ria was up to. He walked down the hall to follow her. As he stepped through the double doors, he instantly frowned. All he found was an empty hallway, and no sign of Ria.


Ria sighed heavily as she glanced over to her lover, “I’m sorry. I had no idea I would run into Seth here. This is the last place I would have thought to run into him.”

“Seth…hmmm,” Her lover pondered as he leaned against the wall of the elevator, “Who is this Seth?”

“A guy I went to high school with. He was a football player, and he was kind of like a big brother to me. He’s very protective of me, and only wanted to check up on me.”

“Is this way with all women or does he have a particular soft spot for you?”

“Are you jealous?” Ria grinned as she gently adjusted his tie.

“Perhaps a little,” He smiled.

“You shouldn’t be. Seth’s just a real stand up guy. He wants to make sure that all women are well treated and respected,” She explained, “You don’t have anything to worry about as I’m all yours,” Ria assured him as she leaned against him and drew his lips to hers.

Her lover held her close to him as he pondered the man who had almost discovered them. He wasn’t quite sure where he’d seen him before, but he was certain that Seth was a face from his past. He just didn’t quite know where he had run into him. Still, perhaps he would have to investigate the matter and find out more about Ria’s protective big brother friend.


Brant took in a slow breath adjusting the tray in his arms after he’d heard Brooke call out to allow him entrance to the room she’d been staying in at the Ashford mansion.  While Richard had been spending most of his time with her, he’d taken a quick leave from his position at her side to get some fresh air upon Brooke’s urgings from what Brant had heard from various staff members and Brant had decided that now was the perfect time to pay Brooke a visit.  Now as he saw her sitting upright, wrapped up in a pile of blankets looking bruised and battered a chill rushed over his spine tugging at his insides as he approached her trying to remain calm about the situation as his head filled with fury at the monster who had harmed her.
“Brant,” she greeted him with a slight smile upon recognition of her latest visitor, “I didn’t expect to be seeing you this evening.”
“Well, I couldn’t help but wonder how you were doing and plus,” he motioned to the tray that he’d carried in with him, “I didn’t have a dinner date this evening, so I thought that perhaps I could tempt you into joining me.”
“With an offer like that, how could I refuse,” she grinned widely patting the bed beside her, “Please…sit down.”
“I’d love to,” he replied carefully placing the tray in front of her before taking his seat on the bed watching as the bruising that still filled her pale features reminded him all over again of how determined he was to make the man he’d let get away pay for his crimes, “So truly, how are you holding up?”
“Better now that you’re in here as I’ve been thinking about you I hope you realize,” Brooke flashed him a slight smile, “as it’s not everyday someone in my position finds herself fortunate enough to have you come to her rescue.  The other night I truly believed that my life was over, but then when you saved me…”
“I didn’t do anything Brooke,” he sighed heavily feeling a guilt riding over him, “as I really wish I could’ve done more and prevented this…”
“Brant, this wasn’t something that anyone realized was coming and even in the position of having lived through the horrible ordeal, well I still can’t say that I would’ve been able to change any of the events leading up to it,” she replied as her smile faded, “Bruce was just out for revenge of sorts and I’m lucky to be alive, which is something I’m certain I wouldn’t have been had you not answered that door when I ran away from him.”
“I’m just glad that I was able to be there to catch your fall,” he reached for her hand gently as a sad smile spilled over his lips, “as I let that man get away once before when he tried to kill Avery, and I couldn’t bear the thought of him taking you from this world either.”
“Oh Brant,” Brooke’s eyes glazed over at the sincerity in his tone as she raised her hand to her chest touched by his words.
“I just think of that night when he attacked Avery and I had a chance to end this--I had the chance to make things right for us all, but I hesitated.  I saw Avery on that couch, barely breathing and that took control of me.  I put Bruce out of my mind and went to her, but if I could go back…”
“You did right by my daughter Brant and you did right by me with all you’ve done,” Brooke continued trying to assuage his lingering guilt about what was in the past, “When you risked yourself in the name of love to protect Avery and furthermore when you did what you could in giving in to Bruce’s ridiculous ransom demand by providing him with that money, well that in itself shows just how noble and gallant you are in terms of those you care about.” she continued shaking her head as she reached for the juice he’d brought up for her.
“How did you know I did that,” Brant questioned in confusion watching her life the cup to her lips as he was surprised by her clear cut statement, “Brooke, no one knows about my playing a part in putting together that money except for Guy and I made him swear to me not to say anything to anyone…”
“Well, you know my son and I are very close,” Brooke backpedaled nearly choking on the sip of liquid in her mouth before she faced him once again for another round of quick thinking, “He refused to provide me with the truth the first time I’d asked, but when I finally coaxed it out of him, he told me about your involvement and I must say that I was touched in more ways than you can ever imagine.  I mean clearly you and I haven’t known one another too long, yet for you to pay such a price to have me back home again with my family especially after my daughter abandoned you like she did…”
“That’s not what mattered,” Brant explained accepting her answer as he focused on the bruising on her face once again, “as I was concerned about your safety.”
“But I’m safe now and it’s all because of you.  You gave me my life back by doing what you did with that one selfless, generous act and…” she started once again.
“Brooke, you can’t tell Avery that I did that.  I made Guy swear to it that he wouldn’t inform her of my paying the ransom demand there because I don’t want her to think that I had any other ulterior motives than bringing you back because that’s truly what my gesture was about,” he began to plead with her a desperation in his voice.
“Guy wouldn’t break your confidence for anyone in this world, but me, though I must say that I really think Avery should know about the kind-hearted soul that you truly are.  She should see that there’s so much more to you than she allowed herself to bear witness to and…”
“She can’t know Brooke,” Brant pleaded with her shaking his head with heavy dismay, “I don’t want her to have any knowledge of what I’ve done because I can’t bear to have her thinking of me in that way…”
“In what way Brant?” she questioned incredulously, “In the way of a man with a generous and loving soul who places those he cares about on the top of his list of priorities?”
“Brooke, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m ready to give up on your daughter because the truth to the matter is that I love her.  With all that I am I’m certain that Avery and I were meant to be together, but for us to fall back into place with one another, I don’t want it to be because of what I did for you,” he explained bringing his fingers up through his hair as he thought to his decision to keep silent about his contribution for Brooke’s safe return, “When she and I have another chance at happiness, I want it to be because she loves me for the man that I am--that she sees me as I am with no false pretenses and when that time is right, she’ll understand.”
“How could she not understand if she knew how you took a chance on bringing me home again?  Certainly that in itself would open her eyes to just how much you care about her…” Brooke urged him on reaching out to touch his arm gently, “That kind of move on your part speaks volumes about your heart and how you feel about Avery.”
“I did what I did in part for Avery, but more so I did it for you Brooke,” Brant continued to explain as he thought back to his impulsive decision, “as you’re one of the few people in this world who has always been up front with me about things.  Granted things worked their way kind of fast with our getting to know one another and clearly Avery and I weren’t exactly forthcoming with you about some other situations, but you’re someone who has accepted me for me and I respect that about you.  I appreciate that you were willing to give me a chance to make your only daughter happy when most mothers would go running in another direction taking their daughter’s far from a man like me.  You took the time to see me--to really see me in the way that I’d always wanted someone important in my life to see me and I’d like to think that even though Avery and I aren’t together that you and I have a certain friendship between us.”
“Of course we do Brant,” she squeezed his hand firmly, “as while I know my daughter made her choice to be with Russell for that baby, I still wish that fate would’ve dealt you a better hand.”
“So do I Brooke.  Believe me as there isn’t a time when I’m not thinking about how it could’ve been with Avery--about how it should’ve been for us as there’s nothing I could want more than to have been the man she married--the man that she’s sharing her future with.  Had things been different, then maybe right now Avery and I would be planning for a way to bring our child into the world together and it would be like everything I ever wanted was really happening for me.  Of course the ironic part was that I spent so many years wanting anything, but that kind of commitment in my life, but when I met Avery, that all changed for me.  Even now, I can’t think about anything, but what it would be like in being with her--holding her and loving her,” he paused offering up a sad smile, “but I guess it’s too little, too late, huh?”
“Never say never Brant,” Brooke added encouragingly, “as you never know what the future has in store for you.”
“All I want for Avery is a life full of happiness and as much as I wish that she could have that with me--as much as I want to be the man to love her and be with her until the end of time, if she truly feels that Russell Denton is where her heart is, then I’m not going to take that from her,” he answered poignantly thinking to all the pain Avery had been dealing with lately.
“If I know anything about my daughter Brant it’s that she’s hiding behind Russell.  Sure, she seems like she’s happy now, but don’t let that fool you.  When she and Russell went down this path with one another before, my daughter was miserable.  She ended their engagement right before their wedding because they weren’t meant to be together…” Brooke started to reason with him.
“Because she lost her child,” Brant corrected seeing the flash of surprise in Brooke’s eyes, “She told me about why she left Russell and oddly enough that all kind of makes sense now even if I didn’t see it coming.”
“Okay, so granted they parted because of the child she lost, but that in it’s own devastating way was a reflection of how wrong they were for one another.  My daughter and Russell Denton might have a long history with one another, but despite the picture perfect portrait they’re trying to display, they’re like fire and ice.  Avery will only be content so very long before Russell’s charms tend to turn to annoyances for her.  He’s overbearing and controlling and he’s very set in his ways as that includes his contempt for my daughter’s career as she’s by far outdone his.  Her reputation exceeds his and with a man like that pride can be a dangerous thing as I strongly suspect he’s going to try to start pushing her towards leaving your company as soon as their child makes it into the world--that is if Avery can keep the pregnancy going full term,” Brooke trailed off with a cryptic tone.
“Why wouldn’t she be able to,” Brant took note of the hint of mystery in her voice as an instant flag went up in the back of his mind.  He scanned Brooke’s features as something was clearly brewing behind her eyes--something that he couldn’t quite read, yet found unsettling, “Brooke, is there something you know that you haven’t been telling me?”
“Well, it’s not exactly my place as I’d just overheard a few things here and there, but…well…I shouldn’t say…” Brooke paused watching as Brant was clearly hanging on her every word.
“Brooke, if you know something that I don’t, then you need to tell me.  If Avery’s in any kind of danger, then I need to find a way to protect her somehow…” Brant pleaded with her, “If Bruce said something to you about what he was planning for Avery, then…”
“It’s not what Bruce said, but more so about what Avery’s doctors told her,” Brooke blurted out bringing back the tears as she choked up on emotion, “Oh I don’t know how to even say this considering that I swore to Avery that I would keep this between us and for me to reveal something like this to anyone, well she would be upset with me that I couldn’t keep it to myself…”
“I swear to you Brooke, whatever you say will remain between us.  It won’t leave this room,” Brant vowed to her desperate to hear what she was hiding about Avery.
“I really shouldn’t, but…” Brooke paused dramatically before continuing, “the truth to the matter is that this pregnancy is putting Avery at a risk.  Her doctors have expressed their concerns to her and Russell about this baby as the last time she’d had a miscarriage she was told she’d never be able to conceive again.”
“But that wasn’t the case,” Brant noted watching Brooke wipe at her tears.
“Perhaps it wasn’t, but now, well my daughter is playing a very dangerous game with her life.  According to what I overheard at the hospital, Avery’s going through a very high risk pregnancy and she was advised to terminate it before it took her down, but Russell was adamant about her keeping the child even if it meant costing her the life she worked so very hard for.  She tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t hear of it as he was hell bent on keeping her and that baby is the only way for him to have his hold on her…”
“Brooke, are you trying to tell me that having this baby could kill Avery?” Brant questioned in confusion, “That somehow this pregnancy puts her life at risk?”
“At the greatest risk imaginable,” Brooke nodded emphatically, “Avery was talking about it with me just the other day and she’s broken up about it because as much as she wanted to be a mother, she’s not sure she’s willing to sacrifice her life in the name of having this child, who in all likelihood could never make it into this world and if it does, well there’s a chance that it will either take her down under or be born with serious birth defects due to what’s happened inside of my daughter.  She’s broken up about it feeling as if there’s no choice but to end things, but with Russell, he won’t hear of it.  He forced this marriage upon her and he’s firm in his position to make her have this baby regardless of her wishes.  He’s backed her into a corner and now she feels trapped, confused and hurting.  I tried to reason with her, to get her to open up with me and be honest with herself in just putting her foot down with Russell, but she’s afraid to defy him.  He has her believing that there’s nothing more out there for her beyond him and he’s drilled it into her head that you wouldn’t waste your time with her anymore now that she’s gone and hurt you in the worst possible way.  She feels trapped and hurting and fears what would happen if she just followed her heart back to you.  She said she’s tried to break free of him, but as with Bruce, Russell has played head games with her and now, well now it’s just awful.  I tried to tell her to be strong--to fight the hold Russell has on her, but she begged me to just let it go--to try to be civil with Russell and I’ve done what I could for Avery’s sake, but I’m so afraid that man is going to be the end of my daughter--that he’s going to take my little girl away from me and that I’ll finally lose her forever after I fought like hell to get her back in my life.  Brant, I just couldn’t bear the thought of having her disappear like that after I’ve waited so long to finally recapture some of what we lost together over the years--to have that happen now, well I think it would truly be the end of me,” she broke down in sobs as Brant reached out to embrace her.
“I’m sure that’s not going to happen Brooke.  You’re not going to lose Avery,” Brant tried to assure her taking in Brooke’s tale as he pondered the story she was telling him, making his own assessments of the situation.
“As long as Russell is planting his thoughts into her head and forcing his will upon her, I’m so afraid that she’s never going to be free to live.  She’s never going to be truly happy as her heart will never have what she’s truly longed for with a future filled with love and happiness.  If this keeps up much longer, I’m terrified that my little girl will be gone from this world all because she made a mistake that has her forever bound to a man who doesn’t deserve her….” Brooke trailed off overcome with her tears as Brant continued to hold her.
“That’s not going to happen Brooke,” he promised her, “I won’t let anything happen to hurt Avery.”
“But how?  How can you save her Brant?  If she knew that I shared with you what she’s been afraid to admit to the world around her, then she’d certainly be feeling the backlash of it from Russell, yet if we do nothing…” Brooke sniffled turning her dark eyes up towards him, “Brant, we have to find a way to save my daughter from the nightmare she’s pushed herself into.  If she keeps that child, then she’s going to lose more than I’m certain she’s willing to pay…”
“And if she loses that baby it’s going to destroy her,” Brant remarked simply thinking to Avery’s reaction to being pregnant, “That baby means everything to her even with the risks you say that are involved…”
“But I just told you that…” Brooke began a bit baffled by his words as he’d seemingly bought into the tale she’d been telling him.
“I heard what you said, but I know in my heart Avery wouldn’t terminate this pregnancy even with the risks and if things are as desperate as you say they are, then perhaps I should step in and try to help her.  I have friends--friends in places where they can help Avery bring her baby into the world without the fear of losing either one of them.  I know doctors that can help her assess the risks and see to it that they don’t prevent her from having a normal life with her child…”
“But Russ is never going to agree to that as I’ve already told you that he wants to control every aspect of Avery’s pregnancy.  He’ll see your stepping into the situation as means for an attack.  He’ll lash out at you and see to it that you aren’t able to help Avery with your good intentions as you’ll never get the chance to save her or her child…”
“There might be a way,” Brant decided thinking about the possibilities that this situation could bring to the table for him.
“How so?” Brooke questioned trying to read his expression as he stiffened beside her sitting up straighter clearly lost in his own train of thoughts.
“There’s always a way,” he assured her with a quick nod, “as I’m certain I can get through to Avery and save her and the baby…”
“Brant, you say that like you know something--like there’s a part of the story that you are withholding from me now,” Brooke began sensing something brewing on his end as she reached out to him, “Please…tell me what it is…tell me what you’re planning.”
“Brooke, as I said before I love your daughter and I’d do anything for her.  She means the world to me and I just want her happiness for her.  If what you’re saying is true about Russell stealing that chance for that kind of life away from her, then I have no choice but to take drastic measures to ensure that Avery and the baby are taken care of.”
“But how?” she repeated demanding answers once again as she thought to her plans for her daughter‘s pregnancy.
“Don’t you worry about that Brooke as I can promise you that Avery won’t ever have to worry about anything other again once I get through to her--well, other than whether she’d like to have a private or public wedding here or overseas once we’re together again,” Brant decided the wheels turning in his head as he decided that it was time to look into a bit of investigating of his own before he launched his latest plan of attack on Russell Denton. 


“You’ve been quiet tonight,” Dave spoke as he led Deidra to a table in Irvan’s, “Stop thinking about Mathis.”

“Easier said than done,” Deidra sighed as she slid into the booth.

He sat across from her and leaned onto the table, “Then I’m going to have to come up with some way of changing that.”

She looked at him sympathetically, “I’m sorry, Dave. I probably won’t be much fun tonight.”

“You’re always fun…maybe a little neurotic at times, but always fun,” He teased with a wink as he pulled a menu from the holder at the end of the table and began to glance over the selections.

“Oh good way to cheer me up there,” She rolled her eyes though a smile did creep over her lips.

“I try,” He smiled as a waitress joined them.

“What can I get you guys this evening?” The waitress smiled as she removed a note pad from her apron.

“I’d like the Grilled Chicken Club,” Deidra smiled, “And I want my fries to be cheese fries. And I’ll have a diet soda.”

“Okay, and you sir?”

“A mega burger with the works,” Dave spoke as he returned the menu to its slot, “And soda, please.”

“All right, it’ll be just a few minutes,” The waitress smiled before walking away.

Dave looked to his date once more, “Dee, if you don’t shake that frown off, I swear I’m going to have to do something drastic.”

“Such as?” She asked in curiosity.

“Probably something totally embarrassing. Something that’ll have you blushing straight down to your toes,” He grinned, “And you don’t want that, do you?”

“Hmm…I dunno. We may have to take drastic measures here because I just do not feel much like doing anything but frowning.”

“Okay…just remember you asked for it,” He pointed out as he stood and walked over to the jukebox. He glanced through several songs before he smiled. He slipped some coins into the jukebox before he turned and slowly walked over to her, “Come on.”

“What are you doing?” She asked as he extended his hand to her. She looked to his hand then back to her, “Dave…”

“Come on,” He urged as he took her hand and drew her onto her feet. He led her to an open area on the dance floor.

As the soft sounds of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” began to play, Deidra chuckled, “Oh god…this? Are you crazy?”

“Hush up,” He teased as he slipped his arm around her waist and took her hand. He gently began leading her in a dance as she met his eyes.

“I remember you dedicating this song to me at my wedding party.”

“Hmm…I so didn’t mean it for Andy,” He pointed out as he met her eyes.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” She asked with a smile.

“I’ve been trying to tell you something for years, but you’ve never been very receptive,” He shrugged, “It’s not my fault you’re not willing to listen.”

Deidra met his eyes with a level of amusement before she tried to regain a measure of seriousness, “Maybe I’m ready to listen.”

“Hmm, I don’t know. I don’t want to be the rebound guy,” He sighed.

“You’re not. Been there, done that. Remember?” She pointed out, “You’re the guy after the rebound guy.”

“Hmm, is that a label I can live with?” He questioned with a grin.

“I don’t know. You tell me,” She smiled.

“I don’t know. I may have to find a way to get used to it.”

“And just how would you go about something like that?” She asked as she met his eyes.

“Very, very carefully,” He spoke seriously before he began to slowly ease closer to her towards a kiss.

“Your food’s ready,” The waitress announced before she winced, “Oops…sorry,” She scurried back to the kitchen after leaving their food upon the table.

Dave met Deidra’s eyes. Deidra took a deep breath before she slowly pulled away from him and made her way back towards their table. Dave tried to still the rapid beating of his heart. He’d been so close and yet here he was…still as far away as ever.


“Avery, are you sure you want to be coming in here with me as I’d be more than happy to take you home to be with my parents instead of…” Russell started feeling a wave of apprehension fall upon his shoulders as he thought to all he and his wife had been through over the last twenty four hours before he’d received the call from Jade alerting him to Grady’s latest predicament.
“Russ, there’s no way I’m leaving you now especially not when you need me to help here,” Avery insisted firmly pushing her own worries and concerns about the situation they’d been dealing with after Bruce Mathis had violated their home not so long ago as she scanned the police station ready to make some progress with at least one thing that was going wrong in their life, “I’m sure we stand a better chance at getting Grady out of here together than apart.  This is just plain stupid and I’m sure that we can get things in order to get him out of here before he does anything stupid--well, beyond what he did earlier, but still.”
“I still don’t like the feel of this,” Russell frowned slightly, “from what Jade said, it sounds like Cameron Stone was goading him on--that there’s so much more to this story than we’re hearing.”
“Even so Grady tends to be inclined towards violence before thinking things through,” Avery reminded him sharply, “not that he would be unjustified in slugging Cameron Stone as it shows that maybe there’s still a shot at some sort of conscience going on inside your brother seeing as he’s finally realized what a snake he’s been spending time with.”
“Yeah well men like Cameron don’t take too kindly to any kind of opposition on any level and especially not physical there,” Russell frowned as Avery surveyed the police station once again.
“We’ll work on the details of that one once we get him out of here, but right now we need to work on trying to set up bail so that we can take Grady home to figure out what’s next as I‘m sure that the courts already have the wheels rolling on this one since bail was brought up before Judge Carmichael earlier today before Jade called us, so it‘s just a matter of us getting the courts what they need and then we can take Grady and…” Avery spotted someone up ahead of her before wiggling her finger at Russell to follow her, “Over there.”
“I’ll be there in a second,” Russell remarked watching his wife go speak with someone at one of the windows before he surveyed the police station once again wondering how it could be possible for a small town to just go through so many ridiculous things in such a short time.  It was starting to feel like there was some kind of hex on the Denton family as first Bruce Mathis had taken the liberty to vandalize Russell’s home and now Cameron Stone was having Grady thrown in jail.  Somehow things just weren’t fitting right into place as Russell began to wonder just who was behind all the happenings in town.  Certainly there had to be a connection behind who was financing Bruce and since Avery was working for BBK when Stone had a lawsuit going up against them, Russell began to wonder if perhaps he was going in the wrong direction with his suspicions about who was behind the madness in their lives.  Still, none of that mattered now as he joined his wife finding her in the midst of a heated debate with a uniformed officer before her.   
“What the hell do you mean bail has been denied?” Avery frowned placing her hands on her hips firmly as she glared at the man before her, “Since when?”
“Since he’s right where he belongs,” the man remarked smugly as Avery stood taller throwing her angry eyes up at him.
“That’s a matter of opinion, and my client has rights you know,” Avery replied sourly going into full on lawyer mode as she eyed the man’s nametag before her, “Lieutenant Sharpe.”
“Rights or not, he’s not going anywhere,” Sharpe informed her bluntly, “as bail’s just been denied for him considering the compiling evidence we have against him.  Perhaps your client should’ve thought about that before he decided to mess with the wrong person today…”
“Look, there’s no reason to hold him as I’m sure what happened with Mr. Stone is a misunderstanding and…” Avery began again.
“Oh I’m not talking about what happened with Stone as that’s small potatoes,” Sharpe explained abrasively, “as your client has leapt into a whole new world with moving up to attempted murder.”
“That’s bull,” Russell shot back in a grumble, “My brother wasn’t trying to murder anyone today.”
“No one said anything today as this is more so about what he did before he decided to pound on Mr. Stone,” Sharpe continued turning his attention to Avery, “because his prints were found at the scene of a very violent crime that took place not too long ago here in town as we ran a match between him and those we had taken at Kipp Mahoney‘s apartment from the night he was shot.  Your client‘s prints were all over the place and today‘s arrest just confirmed that.”
“Come again?” Russell blinked back at him, “That’s just ridiculous as my brother doesn’t even know Kipp Mahoney.”
“That’s not what we hear as it seems the two have had quite a violent history with one another coming to blows in public according to sources,” Sharpe stated plainly still wearing that smug expression he’d carried with him from the moment he’d delivered the news that bail had been denied for Grady.
Now as Avery stood before the Lieutenant taking in his words, she tried to conjure up some explanation for Grady’s being linked to Kipp Mahoney.  Certainly Grady was uninvolved in anything that nefarious, but as Avery started to recall some of the details of the Mahoney story that had been splashed over the papers, the face of the victim came into mind as Avery was transported back to the engagement party that had taken place at the Ashford mansion.  While that night had been full of disaster, there was a moment when she and Grady had been engaged in a full blown argument and the man who had stepped in was…  She stifled the gasp that built up in the back of her throat as she recalled the way the two men had torn at one another once Kipp had stepped in to protect her.  However, as she thought back to the rage and drunkenness that Grady was filled with that night, it was entirely directed at her and Kipp had only been unfortunate enough to try to help--that didn’t equate attempted murder…not by a long shot even if that’s what Sharpe was trying to imply.
“What sources told you that,” Russell demanded answers as Sharpe sighed as if he were bored.
“It doesn’t really matter who said it as your brother’s prints were found at the crime scene.  That speaks for itself,” Sharpe blurted out once again.
“That means nothing,” Avery shook her head in response discarding what Patrick was saying as she continued on a rant thinking for the briefest of moments about who Kipp Mahoney was, “From what I was told the Mahoney shooting was an attempted suicide, so if you’re saying that my client’s prints were there, well then it’s irrelevant considering that they both did work for Cameron.  For all we know they could’ve been involved in some kind of work related exchange which could easily place Grady at Kipp’s apartment.”
“Perhaps, but work doesn’t explain the set of prints we found on the gun,” Sharpe divulged the detail that he’d been holding back on as Avery’s jaw nearly dropped.
“What?” she blinked back in confusion trying to take in what Sharpe was saying.
“That’s right,” Sharpe continued smugly, “your client’s prints were all over that gun thus implicating him as the man who pulled the trigger and tried to take Kipp Mahoney’s life from him.  As it stands we’re looking at attempted murder, but then again given that Mr. Mahoney has up and disappeared from the hospital without a trace, there’s no telling what’s happened to him.  We could be looking at murder if it turns out that Mr. Mahoney hasn’t made it out of the coma he fell into when your client shot him in cold blood,” he finished bringing about a silence through the group as things went from bad to drastically worse for Grady in his current predicament.

...to be continued...