After suffering a breakdown at the
airport while waiting for the adoption officials from
Malawi, Alex was taken to Promises Treatment Center
in Malibu. Stormy's passport was stolen by a crooked
police officer in Mexico. When a burned jeep with
the charred remnants of three bodies was found, along
with Stormy's passport, everyone assumed Stormy was
one of the victiims. Stormy, meanwhile, was locked
in a cell somewhere in the jungle along with Brooke
and Steven. After Jordan found her in bed with
Brett, Suzanne deleted the manuscript she'd been writing
about her affair. Benji, however, stumbled on
the file on Suzanne's computer and asked Duke if he
knew any publishers that he could give it to. Suzanne
tried to get a counselor from Beau Soleil to tell her
about private conversations he'd had with Benji years
before. Miranda learned that she was pregnant,
but wasn't sure if the father was Eddie or David. In
the parking garage at Sunset Studios, Jackie was nearly
struck by a car that veered toward her. Jackie
erased all proof of the shipping deal Bryan had set
up for Merteuil, fearful that it would tie her to the
murders and kidnappings in Mexico. Kelly made
flight reservations for Los Angeles for her and R.J.
after Neil told her she would never have the career
she wanted while being a mother.
It had been
twenty-eight days since James took her to the place in Malibu less than a mile from the house she
inhabited after their bitter divorce years before. But being so close to a place she once called
home gave precious little comfort during her exhaustive daily routines. Morning group sessions, hours of one-on-one
with a counselor, strict diets and exercise regimes, and no contact with the
outside world took up sixteen hours of her day.
The other eight she spent sleeping; dreaming of the frightening
direction her life had recently taken and how she could undo it. But today, on
the twenty-eighth day of her stint at Promises Treatment Center,
Alex Reynolds was renewed. She was ready
to start living again.
into the bright morning sunlight reminded her of the day she arrived in Hollywood for the first
time. She was seventeen at the time and
had big dreams. A twenty-hour bus ride
landed her at the bus station on Cahuenga.
There was no one to greet her or to welcome her to the city. All she had was two hundred dollars and a lot
of determination. Luck had struck not
long after when she met Deacon Edgewater who put her in a Double Strike Studios
picture, and then of course she hit stardom when Jonas Lamont arranged a
meeting with Nathan Blackthorne at the Polo Lounge. She never imagined that stepping off the bus
that day was the beginning of a long career.
Today she felt much the same way.
She felt certain she would find her way just as she had thirty years
But this time there
was someone to greet her. He was suave and sophisticated and ruggedly
handsome. Perched against the hood of
his Porsche, he was staring out at the ocean from behind blackout shades. When he saw her emerge from the facility, he
didn’t immediately react. Neither did
“What are you doing
here?” Alex asked when she drew near, suitcase in hand.
“Thought you might
need a ride,” Jordan Rydell told her and opened the passenger side door.
she handed him her bag and climbed into the car. She immediately detected the familiarly
masculine scent of the cologne Jordan
often wore wafting into her senses. Some
things never changed, she realized.
Once they were on
the road and headed down PCH, Jordan
began to fill her in on the things she’d missed during her month away, which
meant delicately telling her of Stormy’s alleged demise.
“What freighters?” Jackie Blackthorne asked,
She was in her car
headed to Sunset Studios when James called from Acapulco
with news that there were two Merteuil Freighters shipping raw sugar to Los Angeles. Panic quickly set in, but then she reminded
herself that she’d sufficiently covered her tracks. She’d destroyed all copies of the shipping
invoice Bryan Carlson had tricked her into signing and replaced it with a
forgery baring Renee DeWitt’s signature.
None of Bryan’s
handiwork could be traced back to her.
She was free and clear.
“It may have
nothing to do with the cartel, but Jack Childers swears he heard them
discussing something about freighters,” James told her. “I just thought it was a little coincidental
that there happened to be two freighters in Acapulco at the same time.”
“James, in the
short time I’ve been at the helm of Merteuil Industries, I’ve seen shipping
deals in two dozen different countries,” Jackie said, speaking into her
Bluetooth headset as she veered onto the studio lot and proceeded through the
gates. She was too distracted to see the
car following her from a distance. “Acapulco is a major
international shipping port. I’m not
sure what you’re trying to get at.”
“I don’t know,”
James sighed from the Las Brisas hotel in Acapulco. “It was just a shot in the dark. Anyway, we’re still searching for Brooke. I think we’re finally about to get some
assistance from the U.S. I’ll keep you posted.”
“Give David my
love,” she said before clicking off the phone.
When she entered the gates of the sprawling studio lot, the car, a dark
Mercedes sedan, pulled off to the side of the road and waited. From behind the dark tinted windows, she was
She pulled her car
into a space on the surface parking lot because since she’d nearly been run
down in the garage, she felt relatively unsafe in the dark recesses of the
structure. At least outside there were
plenty of people around. And if someone
was trying to kill her, they wouldn’t be foolish enough to try anything in
Flashing her magnetic pass card over the
electronic reader on the side door, she entered the building and proceeded down
the hall to the service elevators. Once
she got inside and the doors began to close, a hand slipped between them and
sent them sliding open again.
Instinctively, Jackie looked up and gasped when a man in a dark suit and
sunglasses darted inside and placed a hand over her mouth. Then she began to scream.
An early morning
flight to San Francisco
started out a hopeful diversion from Brett Armstrong’s recent troubles. After the realization that his father-in-law,
Jordan Rydell, would do just about anything to keep him from Violet, his own daughter, he knew he had to see
Heather. Maybe to ease his guilt over
his affair with Suzanne, or maybe to see if there was some semblance of the
young woman he’d married two years before.
Either way, he had to see her.
His efforts proved
futile, however, for when he arrived he was refused admittance to the patient
ward. Two burly security guards flanked
Dr. Bouvier on either side as he held up a hand as if to ward him off.
“What do you mean I
can’t see her?” Brett demanded. “She’s
my wife! I have every right to see
“Not according to
this, you don’t,” Dr. Bouvier stated and held up an official looking
document. “Jordan Rydell got an
injunction to keep you from seeing his daughter.”
Brett grabbed the
piece of paper and belligerently threw it on the ground. “I don’t care what this piece of paper
says! You can’t keep me from seeing
The doctor motioned
to the security guards who took him by the arms and began leading him down the
hall. Struggling in their grasp, he
fought every step to get free. He
refused to be kept from his own wife.
“Take your goddamn
hands off of me!” he yelled hoarsely as administrators and doctors stopped to
watch the spectacle.
By the time he was
thrown out of the building, he was physically exhausted from the struggle. He wanted to go back in and announce that
Jordan Rydell, who’d given them their orders, tried to set him up using a hired
killer. He wondered how much respect
they’d have for the man then.
Fuming at the
guards who blocked the entrance, he finally retreated back to his car. Pausing after opening the door, he took a few
deep breaths and tried to decide what to do next. They couldn’t keep him from her forever. And just as he’d promised, there was no way
he would let them take his daughter from him.
Halfway to Beverly Hills, Jordan pulled the car
over upon Alex’s request. She jumped out
and walked to the edge of the cliff that overlooked the roaring Pacific. He knew that she needed a moment to collect
herself, a moment of privacy to deal with the news that her only son was
gone. After a few minutes of her
standing alone on the side of the road, he got out and went to her.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think that putting off telling you
would make sense.”
she nodded her head. “I understand. I appreciate you being honest with me,
Jordan. That’s one thing I could always
count on from you.” She kept staring out
at the water, the cry of seagulls breaking the moments of silence. “While I was in treatment, I kept thinking
about the last time I saw Stormy. He came to my apartment the day before the
crew left for Acapulco. I think it was the first real conversation
we’ve had in months. He said he forgave
me for driving Kelly away.”
closely. He knew she needed to get
things off her chest so he decided to be there for her. Who else would be?
“It was the day I
was supposed to go meet the Malawi
officials at the airport,” she went on, a faraway look in her eyes. It seemed like ages ago to her. “He left before he found out what really
happened. That I blew the interview and
any chances I had of getting that baby.”
“It’s for the
told her. “You weren’t ready to be a
mother again. Not in the condition you
realizing he was right. “Now he’s gone
and all I have is one child. Miranda.” A quick look in his direction
followed. “Not that Miranda is any less
important to me than Stormy was, or the baby I was going to adopt. She’s a beautiful, intelligent woman and I
love her more than I can say.”
“But she’s her
father’s daughter, you know? She always
has been. Stormy and I were always
closer. Until Kelly came around. I didn’t want to hurt him. I just knew she wasn’t good enough.”
He put his arm
around her and led her back to the car.
“We should get going.”
Before they got in,
she looked at him hopefully. “Do we have
to? I mean, can we go somewhere for a
little while? Down to the beach? I’d like to just walk for a while. I can’t handle going back to my apartment
right now. I just can’t.”
It hadn’t been Jordan’s
intentions to make a full day of it, but he realized he had no choice, so he
They took an access
road to Paradise Cove and walked barefoot along the wet sand. Jordan tried to lighten the mood
with stories from the past – happier times when they were carefree. When he brought up the time she stowed away
naked on his yacht and they eloped to Hawaii,
they both laughed for a long time. He
put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder as they
“It’s going to be
better,” he assured her, sensing that behind the laughter there were real
fervently. “I know it will.”
Jackie’s screams grew louder and more pronounced, Bryan Carlson tightened his
hand over her mouth. Once she realized
who had forced their way into the elevator, her eyes flashed open wide and she
grew silent. Slowly, he removed his hand
from her mouth. The elevator began its
ascent to the top floor of the studio.
scream,” he warned her.
nodded, her heart racing. Feelings of
fear and relief all at the same time overtook her body. He’d been missing, unreachable for weeks, and
she had questions for him. Finally she
had her opportunity to get to the bottom of things.
have you been?” she whispered.
of the country at a conference for Fenwick Industries,” he told her. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I’ve had a lot going on.”
lot going on?” she asked in a shrill voice.
“Do you have any idea what I’ve been through lately? Do you know that people are dead because of
of me?” he asked her in concentrated
surprise. The elevator doors opened on
the executive level and he looked out into the hallway to make sure the coast
was clear. Once he was sure it was safe,
he took her arm and led her down the hall to the conference room.
because of you,” Jackie said, louder now once they were inside and the door was
closed. “That deal you made with the
Pacheco Cartel has gotten four…maybe five people killed. When I said I didn’t want Brooke Taylor to
come back from Mexico,
I didn’t think you’d take me literally.
I never wanted her dead. Or
Bryan removed his
sunglasses and glanced out the window.
“I need to explain,” he began, “and you need to listen carefully. When I saw the news reports about the
kidnappings and the murders, I was just as surprised as you probably were. I made a deal in Acapulco that I thought would benefit
Merteuil Industries. You asked me to
bolster your profits and that’s what I set out to do. The cartel had nothing to do with it.”
regarded him skeptically. Her instincts
told her not to believe a word he said.
If it was all so innocent, then why did he disappear for so long?
run everything down there,” Bryan
went on. “It was all a coincidence. You can’t think I’d have anything to do with
those people getting murdered.”
folded her arms and paced around the conference room. “And what about Rob Silva?” she
demanded. “Was that a coincidence
too? He was the only person other than
you and I who knew about the shipping deal in Acapulco.
The next thing I know he’s blown to bits, and pieces of him are
scattered all over Big
Bryan walked toward her,
eyes boring sharply into hers. “Why
would I have killed Rob Silva?” he asked.
“Why would you think I’d ever do that?
You know I’m not a murderer.”
you’re telling me that all of this has been a coincidence?” Jackie asked,
raking her fingers through her hair.
“The murders, the kidnappings, the fact that you happened to be at a
conference this whole time?”
knew it wasn’t as simple as all of that.
Too much had happened. “Do you
realize that I could get blamed for all of this?” she asked. “My name was all over that shipping
one’s going to put the two together, I promise.”
can you be so sure?” Jackie asked.
“James Blackthorne already knows that Merteuil freighters are in Acapulco as we
speak. I got him talked down
though. Besides, I destroyed the copies
of the contract and forged a new one with Renee Dewitt’s name on it.”
didn’t know what else to do. You really
left me with no choice. I was
panicking. For right now, you have to
been a little hard to do lately,” she said with resignation.
Bryan said, taking
her by the shoulders, “keep cool and this whole thing will blow over.”
sighed. “I’d feel better if this whole
shipping arrangement was over. I don’t
even want to have anything to do with it anymore. Merteuil can flounder for all I care. I just want this done.”
Bryan looked her coolly
and smiled. “Anything you want.”
Brett arrived back in Los Angeles,
he stopped by the Blackthorne mansion to check on Violet, whom he’d left again
in Miranda’s care. He found them out by
the pool enjoying the warm sun. Michael
was splashing around with Optimus Prime floaties on his arms and Violet was
standing in a playpen throwing toys into the pool. Miranda, who lounged on a chair nearby,
looked up from her book and shielded her eyes from the glaring sun when he
you still reading that trash?” he asked irritably.
it helped you didn’t it?” she shot
back and put down her copy of You Have a
Dream. “What are you doing back so
soon? I didn’t expect you until this
other plans,” he told her and bent down to kiss Violet on the forehead.
“Huh? He was at the institution in San Francisco?”
he sent a piece of paper in his place,” Brett said and handed her the
had filed. “He got a judge to keep me
from seeing my own wife.”
crazy,” Miranda said and climbed out of the chair. “Brett, he can’t do this!”
did it,” he said angrily. “I’ve lost my
wife. And Violet is next.”
say that. Kenny is going to do everything
he can to help you win that custody hearing next week. Don’t give up. And I don’t care what anybody says, Heather
is going to come home eventually and you’ll work this whole thing out.”
grunted miserably and walked to the patio table where he poured himself a glass
of lemonade. Maybe he needed to change
his focus for the time being. He had a
job to do. Protecting Sunset Studios was
his number one priority. It may be all
he had left before long. Anything he
could do to further cement his place there was of utmost importance. With Stormy gone, it shouldn’t be hard to do.
word from your father?” he asked.
shook her head sadly. “No. And my mother is getting out of rehab
today. I hate to think what this is
going to do to her recovery.”
conversation was cut short when Leilani came barreling down the lawn waiving
her hands in the air in a display of panic.
Armstrong!” she yelled. “Mr.
Armstrong! She’s back!”
frowned, glancing between her and Miranda in confusion until he saw someone
stepping outside from the terrace that jutted off the family room. A woman began to approach. As she drew near, he suddenly realized his
day was about to get much worse.
if this isn’t the cutest picture I’ve ever seen,” said Devon Graham as she made
her way across the lawn to the pool.
“Four years and not much has changed.
Still the Hollywood golden couple, I
blinked several times and began to wonder if he was undergoing another dose of
Dr. King’s hypnotherapy. He felt like
he’d stepped back in time. Four years to
be exact, when his former high-school sweetheart came to town and nearly blew
his new life sky high.
“Devon, what are you doing here? I thought you were in prison.”
was,” she exclaimed. She was a short,
feisty woman of thirty-one with dark shoulder-length hair, a round face and a
buxom figure. “Four freakin’ years. Just got paroled yesterday so I thought I’d
come see if you were still around. Looks
like you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
Still married to this daddy’s girl?”
She turned to Miranda. “I thought
you would have sent this guy packing by now.”
thought you would have been smart enough to stay away,” Miranda said with a
scowl. “Or are you forgetting about the
last time I kicked your ass?”
Devon shrugged and turned back to Brett. “You’ve really done well for yourself, Rick,”
she said. “Pretty wife, two adorable
kids, big house. I’m surprised you
haven’t taken off with the family jewels yet.
I mean, you know what they say, once a con always a con.”
days are behind me, Devon,” Brett maintained
while flashing Miranda an incredulous look.
“And only one of the kids is mine.
Miranda and I aren’t even married anymore.”
you did finally get smart.” Devon looked
at Miranda and grinned. “Every woman
eventually realizes while he may be a stallion in the sack, his intentions are
never told me what you’re doing here,” Brett said in exasperation. “And how are you already out of prison? You confessed to murder.”
death was an accident,” she maintained, growing serious. “We struggled and he fell out of that hotel
remembered all too well. Devon and Bailey were his partners in a slew of scams
they concocted to squelch people out of their money. During a setup in Vegas, Brett grew greedy
and tried taking off with their earnings.
When Bailey wound up dead, pushed out of the hotel room window, he
thought he’d be suspected, so he latched onto the first alibi he came to. Miranda.
Later, it turned out Devon had pushed Bailey and she was sent to prison
for five to seven years, but not before she tracked him down in L.A. and exposed him for
who he was, including revealing his real name, Rick Shively.
he wasn’t that man anymore. Rick Shively
was a ghost from the past. Gone were the
days of working as a bus boy at Donna D’s strip club in Henderson, and so were the days of running
phony tour guide operations to a bunch of blue haired old ladies in Vegas. He’d worked his way up and was a successful
film studio executive with a wife and a daughter whom he loved more than
might want to think about high-tailing it out of town unless you want to be the
next person pushed out of a window,” Miranda said, arms folded as she looked at
her with contempt. “Trouble-making
skanks aren’t welcome here.”
still got a smart mouth, you know that, little miss daddy’s girl?” Devon said, pushing toward her with her hands gesturing
wildly. “Don’t forget I just got out of
prison. After four years a girl figures
out how to throw down when she has to.
So come on, call me a skank again.”
rolled her eyes and looked away as Brett stepped forward to defray any further
altercations between the two. When
Devon came around four years ago, he and Miranda were
married and he was trying desperately to hide his past from her. The two women got into a number of shouting
matches, several that led to everything from mild hair pulling to
knock-down-drag out cat fights. A
repeat wasn’t something he looked forward to.
enough,” he said. “Devon,
do you need a ride somewhere?”
am I going to go?”
about the airport? I’ll buy you a
I want to go?” she asked coyly after a moment of hesitation.
further away the better. Miranda, I’ll
be back later. Can you look after Violet
for a little longer?”
she didn’t have a choice, Miranda threw her hands up in resignation. Since when did she become the go-to babysitter? First Michael and now Violet? She decided it was good practice for when she
had her baby. Especially when she
revealed to David and Eddie that she didn’t know which one of them was the
father because she’d probably be on her own after that.
messengered Valley of Temptation to
his father’s friend in New York who worked in the publishing field who promptly
flew out to Los Angeles and called Duke from his room at the Beverly Hills
Hotel and asked if he could arrange a meeting with the author, so Duke called
Benji’s cell phone which rang in the pocket of his chinos laying rumpled on the
floor of the pool house where he was fucking a salesgirl from Diesel whom he
met that morning after taking his mother’s credit card and buying three thousand
dollars worth of jeans and t-shirts.
He reached to the
floor and fished his phone from his pants.
As he answered the call above the loud shrieks of delight from the
salesgirl, he covered her mouth with one free hand.
“Are you ready for
this?” Duke asked. “My dad’s friend is
in L.A. He wants to meet with you about your
“When?” was Benji’s
“Today. The Polo Lounge in an hour. I can meet you there.”
He grinned. “Perfect.”
After clicking off
the phone, he picked up his manic pace until the salesgirl was screaming into
the pillow. The prospect of putting his
bitch of a mother’s dirty laundry out there for the world to see got him
majorly worked up.
really are a fantastic writer,” the young man said as they sat at a corner
booth in the Polo Lounge. “This piece is
so evocative. I feel like I’m in the
story. I can’t believe you haven’t
shrugged and blushed a little while looking at the pages in his hand. “I was always in front of the camera so I
never thought about it I guess. Do you
really think it’s good?”
lunch companion was her creative writing professor, Ross Fuller, a man in his
late twenties with dirty blond hair and deep blue eyes. He was much younger than Suzanne had
expected. After months of communicating
only through emails, she was surprised when she walked into the restaurant and
saw him. Somehow she’d imagined that he was
older, a distinguished silver-haired man with a tweed jacket and a sweet smelling
pipe clamped between his teeth. He
still seemed to know what he was talking about, and she was glad for the
special attention he gave her.
wondering what happened to the other story you were writing,” he told her while
crossing his legs alongside the table.
“It was so full of emotion. Why
did you put it away?”
shrugged while thinking of Valley of Temptation. What she didn’t want to tell him was that she
deleted it from her computer because it represented a mistake that nearly cost
her everything. Her marriage, her
daughter, her granddaughter. While the
writing may have been good, the subject matter was something she just wanted to
put in the past.
have my reasons,” she said and without any further explanation. “But I think this new short story is just as
good. If not better. I’m thinking of submitting it to a
think you should,” he said with a smile and leaned forward against the
table. “You know, I can’t believe I’m
actually here having lunch with the
Suzanne Rogers. I think I’ve seen
everything you’ve ever been in.”
admission made her laugh, which she quickly stifled for fear that she was being
insulting. “I haven’t been in a film in
over twenty-years. You’re much too young
to have seen any of them.”
he said with a grin. “Anyway, it’s a
real pleasure to get to meet you.”
you,” she said graciously. “And I really
appreciate the help you’ve given me with this class. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying
shows,” he said with a knowing smile.
told you I have a lot to do today, and I’m not in the mood for your games,”
Brett said as Devon led him to the red carpet
entrance of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
“Why are you insisting on stopping here?”
you remember the last time I was in town and we ate lunch here?” she
asked. “I’ve been craving their turkey
melt for the last four years. I said I
would leave town, didn’t I? I’m only
asking for one tiny thing before I go.
Geez, Rick, you’ve gotten cranky since becoming a stand up guy.”
he followed her to the hostess who was perched at the entrance to the Polo
Lounge. “We ate here because you were
blackmailing me and I had no choice,” he told her.
minor detail,” she said happily as the hostess led them through the
they walked, Brett caught a glimpse of Suzanne out of the corner of his
eye. He stopped and wondered who the man
was she was having lunch with. No one
he’d ever seen before, that was for sure.
He didn’t know why, but pangs of jealousy began eating away at him, so
much that he sent Devon on to their table and
made a path toward Suzanne and her companion.
“Brett.” Suzanne looked up and began fidgeting
nervously in her seat. “How are you?”
been better,” he told her. He wanted to
rail against her for what Jordan
was doing to him. For keeping him from
Heather and for suing him for custody of Violet, but something told him she
probably had little to nothing to do with it.
“How are you?”
well.” She looked down and rearranged
the flatware that lied in front of her.
By the time she looked up again, she could see the torture in his
eyes. She decided to try to diffuse the awkward
situation with an introduction. “Oh,
Brett, this is Ross Fuller. Ross, Brett
Armstrong. He’s my….my son-in-law.”
to meet you.” Ross shook Brett’s
hand. “Tell me, is your wife as
beautiful as Suzanne is? If so, you’re a
remark set Brett’s jaw into a firm locked position. “Can I speak to you in private for a minute,
searched for any excuse to avoid him.
“I’m sorry but Ross and I are in the middle of something and I-“
just take a minute.” He grabbed her by
the arm and pulled her up from the table.
As he did, Ross stood up and regarded him with a severe frown.
I don’t think the lady wants to go with you,” he protested.
quickly silenced him by merely raising an eyebrow and offering a look of
warning. “It’ll just take a minute,” he
said to Suzanne.
reluctantly took his seat while Brett led Suzanne to the front of the
restaurant. There he looked at her with
the insinuation that he deserved an explanation to her actions. He knew it was ridiculous but try as he might
he couldn’t get her out of his mind.
haven’t seen you in over a week,” he said.
“Not since Jordan
walked in on us together. I thought you
might need some space so I backed off.
But I’m beginning to think you don’t want to see me.”
don’t,” she said firmly. “Look at the
chaos we created because of our actions.
I think staying away from each other is the only option we have right
now. If Jordan even suspected we were
seeing each other I hate to think of what he would do.”
else can he do? He’s already suing me for
custody of my daughter and filed a court order to keep me from seeing Heather.”
what?” Suzanne asked. She of course knew
about Violet because she’d been trying to talk him out of it, but keeping him
from Heather was news to her. “I had no
idea. I’m sorry.”
I’m supposed to believe you?” he asked with a snort.
what you want,” she said in resignation.
“Look, I have to get back to my table.”
want to keep the new stud waiting,” Brett said, hurt and knowing he was pushing
the limits. “Seems like they keep
me? Ross is my writing professor.”
don’t you just admit that the real reason you’ve been avoiding me is because
you found another young stud to hop on-“
he could even finish the sentence, she slapped him hard across the face. Her eyes stung with tears, horrified that he
could say something so hurtful to her.
When people began turning to gawk in their direction, she quickly darted
back to her table and took her seat across from a bewildered Ross Fuller.
everything okay?” Ross asked, glancing between her and Brett.
fine,” she said, staring down at the table so he couldn’t see the devastation
in her eyes.
WhenDevon saw the spectacle, she left their table
and approached Brett. “What the hell was
that? How many women do you piss off in
a day around here? I could hear that
slap all the way across the room.”
it,” he said angrily. “Let’s just go.”
what about my turkey melt?”
get it to go.”
through her high rise apartment in Beverly
Hills, Alex ran her fingers along every surface as if
her surroundings were foreign to her.
It wasn’t until she moved out of Jordan’s house and into her
apartment that her life began its slow downward spiral. Now being there again brought back so many
difficult memories. Like the time she
accidentally overdosed and Kyle Fenwick had saved her life. Or the weeks she spent kidding herself into
thinking there could actually be something between them. Or the countless days she spent planning for
the adoption of her new baby. Or the
week she didn’t leave the confines of the apartment after making a very public
and very humiliating scene at the premiere of Angel Assassin 2.
you should check into a hotel.” Jordan could
sense her discontent and he knew precisely why.
“I’ll help you find somewhere else to live.”
sighed and shook her head. “No, it’s
just an apartment. It’s not the cause of
my problems. I’m the only one to blame
for what happened to me.”
sounded like a typical recovering addict.
“I think I deserve at least part of the blame, don’t you?”
do you mean?”
shrugged. “The way I ended our marriage
so abruptly. I blamed you for everything
that went wrong, when the one I should have blamed was Benji. He manipulated everything. He wanted to destroy me. I shouldn’t have blamed you. I just shouldn’t have.”
smiled kindly. “The past is in the
past. We’ve both moved on from
that. I need to start over again.”
are you going to start?”
wish I knew.”
about work?” Jordan
asked. “Maybe keeping occupied will
she said with a smile. “Listen, Jordan,
I want to thank you for today. You being
there for me means the world to me. But
you don’t have to hold my hand. I need
to get used to being alone again. And
I’ll be fine, I promise.”
approached and kissed her softly on the cheek.
“I’m just a phone call away if you need anything.”
you.” She followed him to the
door. “You know, I just realized I
haven’t asked a thing about what’s going on in your life. How are you?
Everything okay? The last I knew
you were seeing that detective.”
in the hall, he dug his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “She went back to New York.”
sorry,” Alex said with a thoughtful tilt of her head. “I really hope you find the happiness that
you deserve. I mean that, Jordan. I do.”
too,” he said with a grin as he turned and made his way back down the
are you doing here?”
lunch. Is that allowed or the Beverly
Hills Hotel off limits to me too?”
clasped her purse in front of her as she emerged from the grand entrance of the
hotel. After her unnerving run-in with Brett, she promptly called an end to her
lunch meeting with Ross. As she left,
Benji and Duke were just arriving.
course not,” she snapped. “I was just
surprised to see you, that’s all. Have
you talked to your father today?”
shrugged and squirmed in his navy blazer.
He decided to dress up a bit in preparation for his meeting with the
publisher. Chinos, a crisp white shirt
and a blazer seemed appropriate enough.
Duke always dressed well so it didn’t surprise Benji when he arrived to
pick him up wearing black jeans, a white linen blazer and extra dark blackout
said he was going to see Alex,” Benji said.
Suzanne asked with a frown. She
immediately began to wonder why. It
seemed any time a relationship of Jordan’s hit a rough patch he
always turned back to his ex-wife. “Oh,
mother’s reaction to the news pleased him.
Before she could say anything else, he motioned to Duke and they moved
toward the entrance of the Polo Lounge where a tall, slender man in his late
thirties greeted them.
good to see you again,” the man said and shook his hand. “How’s your father these days? Still skiing every year at that chalet in Bern?”
think he spends more time there than he does at the embassy,” Duke replied with
a grin and gestured to Benji. “Thomas
Manzer, this is Benji Rydell, fellow Beau Soleil alumni.”
to meet you, Benji,” Thomas said and extended his hand. “I’ve followed your father’s career. He’s quite a force In Hollywood even with the new independent
studios popping up everywhere.”
he’s more of a blockbuster type of guy,” Benji replied wryly. The man’s hand was sweaty and he quickly
broke contact with him. “I guess
there’ll always be a place for people like him in Hollywood.”
can only hope,” Thomas said. “I must
say, Valley of Temptation was quite a book. It’s created something of a buzz back at the
office in New York. But then again anytime a celebrity writes a
book it’s an event. I had no idea that
your mother was a writer.”
sort of blossomed out of a hobby,” Benji said meekly.
she be here?”
exchanged brief glances with Duke. “No,
she’s sort of enlisted me as her agent.”
“Well, should we
get a table and talk about the book?” the man asked.
followed him through the restaurant and slid into a corner booth where there
was more talk of Duke’s father and the various connections they shared,
followed by an offer that Thomas promptly laid on the table.
Publishing wants to rush Valley of Temptation
onto the shelves,” he said with a smile and a lot of fanfare. “I’ve brought a contract and an advance. If you’re ready, we can get this thing
rolling right away.”
ready,” Benji said with determination as he put pen to paper and signed his
name on the contract.
an hour later, Benji and Duke were driving away in Duke’s silver Mercedes.
E350. Benji looked at the check from the
publisher and folded it into the back pocket of his chinos. It was small change compared to the effects
the book would have when it hit the shelves.
While his mother had changed the names to protect the “innocent”, the
story would speak for itself. No one would
question its validity.
sure about this?” Duke asked him as he veered out of the parking lot.
Blackthorne had had her share of experience dealing with liars. The first was her father, the late Jonas
Lamont, who couldn’t stand Royce Jennings, so he threw her into a relationship
with Nathan Blackthorne. Working behind
the scenes, he’d manipulated events so that they eventually married and spent a
few tumultuous years as man and wife.
Later, when she and Royce reunited and got married, he lied to her by
carrying on an affair with Roz Taylor that spanned the course of years. Now she was mixed up with Bryan Carlson, a
dangerously handsome man whom she knew couldn’t be trusted. The coincidences were too great to
overlook. The shipping deal in Acapulco,
the boating accident that killed Rob Silva, the conference he was supposedly at
for the past week. None of it added up
to anything but bad news.
decided she needed to get away from the office, so she drove back to her cabin
at the Yacht Club and parked her car in the parking lot. During the brief walk through the path of
trees to the secluded cabin, her mind wandered in a thousand different
directions. As she neared the door, she
swooped into her purse for her keys.
quickly set in when a strange sound caught her attention. A loud hum, followed by objects cutting
through the air buzzed past her face.
Instantly, she stopped in her tracks and surveyed the area. When she saw a bullet sink into the wooden
exterior of the cabin, her eyes flew open in horror. Someone was shooting at her.
keys rattled in her hands as she struggled to fit them into the door lock. Another bullet flew past her head and hit a
tree nearby, sending bark spraying into the air. She hurried her manic pace, cursing her
fingers for not keeping up with her brain.
When yet another bullet sunk into the door, inches from her face, she
screamed and finally got the door open.
Once inside, she
crouched in the corner and hugged her knees to her chest. Someone was trying to kill her, just as they
had in the parking garage the day before.
But why? Yes, she had enemies,
but enough to want her dead?
She sat, frozen in fear. The spray of bullets seemed to have stopped
but she didn’t dare move from her spot.
Minutes went by in silence until the terrifying sound of someone
pounding on the door caused her to jump out of her skin.
Hugging her back to the corner, she
stared, terrified at the door. She could
detect the shadows of someone lurking around outside. The killer was trying to get in.
“Jackie, open the door!” Bryan called from outside. “Are you okay?”
“What do you want?” she screamed.
“I saw someone with a gun. I think I scared them off.”
“Yeah, it was you!”
“Don’t be crazy. I was coming to see you and I saw someone
lurking in the trees. He must have
gotten scared and ran away.”
Against her better judgment, she rose from
her hiding place and tentatively walked to the door. She supposed it would be stupid of him to
show up at her door if he was trying to kill her. Another coincidence, she decided. Slowly, she opened the door and looked upon
him with fear as he entered.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
She backed away. “What are you doing here?”
“You seemed frazzled when I left you
earlier. I was worried. Are you all right?”
“Someone’s trying to kill me. What do you think?”
He frowned and followed her across the
room to the bar. “They’re gone now. And do you mean this has happened before?”
She nodded and poured herself a glass of
bourbon. “Yesterday in the parking
garage at Sunset Studios. Someone tried
to run me down.”
“Did you get a look at them?”
She shook her head while downing the
drink. “Do you think it has anything to
do with the cartel?”
“I don’t know. But how would they...”
“Because somebody called me the night of
the kidnappings,” Jackie blurted out.
“They asked me for Brooke’s date of birth. They said there was some kind of mix up and
then they asked if the freighters would still arrive on schedule.”
“So?” she exclaimed, her eyes flashing him
warning signals. “Does that sound like a
coincidence to you? Those kidnappings
are connected to the freighters, Bryan, and you know it. What the hell is going on here?”
Sensing her hostility, he backed away from
her. “What did he mean by mix up?”
“I don’t know!” she said. “I don’t know anything. This is all such a huge mess.”
Moving closer again, he pulled her into an
embrace. “I told you I’d take care of
it,” he told her.
She pulled away. “I want that shipping deal stopped. Immediately.
Whatever’s happened to those people down there is tied to it. I know it.”
“Okay,” Bryan said.
“I’ll call it off. I’ll go
Merteuil and make some calls.”
She picked up her purse as he headed to
the door. “I’m going with you. No way in hell I’m staying here by
After the blowup
with Suzanne at the Polo Lounge, Brett was overcome with anger and
frustration. It was clear she didn’t
want anything to do with him anymore, and the thought of her with another man
drove him up the wall. Jealousy wasn’t
something he’d felt very often in his life, but it had suddenly reared its ugly
their route to the airport, he stopped at his condo at the marina and told Devon that he needed a script that he’d left at home. After dropping Devon at the airport, he would
go back to the office and start wheeling and dealing so that James would be
stupid to let him go after the Mexico
crisis was over.
Turning down the
access road toward the marina, he maneuvered past the Yacht Club and parked in
front of his building. As they stepped
out onto the pavement, he saw Jackie crossing the parking lot with a man whom
he didn’t recognize. He decided to voice
his determination while it was fresh in his mind. Leaving Devon
by the car, he approached quickly.
“Brett, I’m in a
hurry,” she said, nearing her car.
“Whatever it is will have to wait.”
“Did you have a
chance to look at that script I left on your desk?” he asked anyway. “We need to move fast if we’re going to
“I haven’t had
time, I’m sorry.” She fumbled for her
keys while Bryan
looked on impatiently. “I need to tend
to some Merteuil business.”
shifted his weight and threw a hand up in resignation. “You and I are the only things keeping Sunset
Studios together right now. You’d think
since it was your father’s studio you’d want to devote a little more time to
it. What’s more important?”
“I’ll look at it
later,” she snapped, opening the car door.
“Now I’ve really got to go.”
Before he could
protest, they were speeding away through the parking lot.
Devon approached him
with an inquisitive look on her face.
“Who was that?”
Blackthorne,” he answered. “She’s
married to James’s uncle.”
“No, I meant the
guy,” Devon corrected him. “I’ve seen him somewhere before.”
indifferently. “I don’t know. I’ve never
“He’s a hunk,
that’s for sure. I never forget an ass
like that. You could bounce a quarter
he cut her off with a roll of his eyes.
“Come on. We need to get you to
the airport so I can get back to my life.
You’ve already wasted enough of my time today with your impromptu
back to the car, Devon snapped her fingers and
stopped in her tracks. “That’s it!” she
it?” Brett asked, opening the car door.
guy. He was in prison.”
Brett asked then suddenly remembered he’d forgotten to go upstairs to get the
script. His mind was floating in a
million directions. “I seriously doubt
Jackie is the type to hang out with criminals.
Me, on the other hand…”
he wasn’t a prisoner. He was
visiting. I think he’s a lawyer.”
for him.” He gestured for her to get
inside the car. He was ready to offload
her in a big way. “Did he help you with
your parole? If so I should go tell him
what a disservice he did to society.”
he was there talking to some guy. A drug
lord or something.”
went to a women’s prison, Devon.”
but the last two weeks they had to transfer a bunch of us who were about to get
paroled to the men’s prison in San
Diego because the women’s facility was
overcrowded. We had a separate wing but
our exercise yard was next to theirs. I
remember when that guy came there one day.
He was the first good looking guy most of us had seen in years. You never forget something like that. Seriously, we were drooling.”
sighed. “Great. A bunch of horny female inmates. Sounds like a bad B movie.”
shrugged. “I’m just saying. He’s hot.”
got in the car and Brett started driving away.
After a few moments of silence, Devon
looked at him with a curious look on her face.
wonder what he’s doing with that lady.”
Brett tried to tune her out.
left Michael and Violet in Leilani’s care and then proceeded to Beverly Hills where her
mother was expecting her. In a way she
dreaded the encounter. Not that she
wasn’t glad that she was finally out of rehab.
She hadn’t seen her in a month.
But things had been so strained that she wasn’t sure if they could
communicate the way they once had.
look wonderful,” Alex said when they broke from their initial embrace. “You’re glowing.”
Probably because I’m pregnant, Miranda
thought to herself. She decided not to
bring it up in conversation. She hadn’t
told anyone yet and wasn’t sure that she would until she talked to David and
Eddie when they returned from Mexico.
look well too,” she replied. “I mean it,
mom. I haven’t seen you look this rested
in a long time. Are you feeling okay?”
feel great,” she said with a smile.
told me about Stormy, I knew that I could hold it together without turning to
pills. I guess I’ve come a long way.”
“Jordan told you
about Stormy?” Miranda asked with a disbelieving frown.
he picked me up today,” she answered.
don’t believe it,” Miranda exclaimed. “He had no right to.”
what else was he supposed to do? I would
have found out one way or another.”
Tears began to well up in her eyes again. Each time she said her son’s name aloud she
felt that she might fall apart. Crying
was allowed. Turning to pills again was
just…” Miranda began. “I don’t
know. Everything’s such a mess. Daddy’s still down there. They don’t know where Brooke is. I don’t know what I even want to believe
Stormy’s gone. It doesn’t seem possible
no stranger to living in denial,” Alex said with a faraway look in her
eyes. “It isn’t healthy,
sweetheart. We have to accept that he’s
they did was find a body and a passport.
It doesn’t prove anything.”
took a deep breath and floated across the room to pour them each a glass of
juice. She decided to change the
subject. “Before you came I got a call
from Vince. He wants me to come meet him
for a late lunch to talk about my career.”
her eyes, Miranda followed her to the bar.
“Are you sure going back to work so soon is a good idea?”
shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I’d like to keep busy. He thinks they may want me to come back to The Young at Heart.”
wonderful if that’s what you want,” Miranda said.
smiled while handing her the juice. “Do
you mean that?”
course I do. I just want you to be
she pulled her daughter into an embrace.
“Oh sweetheart, I want that for you too.
I made so many mistakes with you and I feel like if I hadn’t your life
would be so different.”
all make mistakes,” Miranda said, thinking about her own predicament. She had a good thing with Eddie Distefano,
which she ruined because she let her emotions run away with her where David was
want us to start over,” Alex said, raising her glass in the air. “I want us to be mother and daughter and I
want us to be friends. Please tell me
you want that too.”
smiled. “I do.”
Suzanne got home she found Jordan
coming down the stairs in the entryway.
She sat her purse on the console table and met him in the drawing
you been?” he asked, pouring himself a glass of scotch.
was meeting with my professor,” she replied.
“I ran into Benji. He said you
went to pick Alex up at rehab.”
few moments of silence followed while Suzanne reminded herself of Jordan and
Alex’s history together. Two marriages
down and they obviously still weren’t through with each other.
you think that was wise?” she asked.
she’s in a fragile state. Her meltdown
happened right after your last marriage ended.
I just thought spending time with you might remind her of that.”
his head with amusement. “Why don’t you
just say what’s really on your mind? You
don’t like me spending time with Alex.
You’ve never liked her.”
not what I’m saying. But it is rather
convenient that you rush off to her rescue just as our marriage begins having
turned to her and before taking a giant gulp from his drink said, “you mean
after you slept with our son-in-law.”
her head, she closed her eyes for a brief second. “Why don’t you just put me out of my misery?”
she asked. “Scream at me, hit me, throw
me out, whatever you need to do. But I
have to tell you I’m getting sick and tired of the way you’ve been acting
“You’re sick and tired of it?” he asked
in disbelief. “Gee, I’m sorry to
inconvenience you, Suzanne. Next time
you have an affair I’ll be sure to shrug my shoulders and chalk it up to just
another day. Anything to make things
easier on you.”
tone was biting and full of hostility.
She folded her arms and looked at him with a scowl. “I made a mistake. I admit that.
But come on. It’s not like this
marriage was ever based on anything real anyway.”
based on anything real? We were trying
to create a stabile environment for our children. If that’s not real to you then maybe I
well this stabile environment hasn’t
done much to turn our son into a descent human being,” she lamented. “You should hear the way he talks to me. It’s like I’m public enemy number one. Do you know that he told me he set me up to have
you walk in on me and Brett just because I wouldn’t let him go to New York?”
do you think I had to deal with all last year when he came home from school?” Jordan
asked. “He’s an angry young man. I think we could have reached him if you
hadn’t flashed your affair with Brett all over town. Now it’s doubtful that Benji will ever have
any sense of normalcy in his life. How
could he when one of us is always cheating on the other one or covering up some
were the one who had an opportunity to change who he was. I was stuck in an institution for thirteen
years, remember? You chose to leave him
at boarding school and be the faculty’s problem.”
had to!” he exclaimed. “He saw you kill my brother, Suzanne. Five year-olds talk, you know. What else was I supposed to do?”
stepped toward him, growing angrier by the minute. She refused to take full responsibility for
everything that had happened. “What did
Benji say to Dr. Wolkstein?”
counselor from boarding school. I went
to his house in the Palisades and talked to
would you do that?” Jordan
you wouldn’t tell me anything!” she yelled.
“You acted like it was some secret that I wasn’t privileged enough to
know about! Well he’s my son, Jordan! I have to a right to know what’s going on
with him! Now what did he tell Dr.
is doing fine,” he insisted. “He’s got
some issues but it’s nothing that can’t be worked out.”
beating a man to death with a baseball bat?” Suzanne asked. She didn’t hear the door open in the
entryway, or see Benji enter the house and hang back near the staircase. “That’s a pretty big issue!”
his drink on the bar and stalked toward her.
“Leave it alone,” he said, his eyes full of warning.
that, he stormed out of the room and darted up the stairs. After he’d gone, Benji emerged from around
the corner and glared at his mother from his vantage point. She was always trying to cause trouble. First sleeping with Brett, and now trying to
blame him for everything that was wrong in her marriage.
release of her book couldn’t come fast enough.
paced her office at Merteuil Industries, stopping to neck craned in the
direction of the door when Bryan
entered and darted toward her.
done,” he said.
she asked hopefully.
deal. I canceled it. Merteuil Industries is no longer shipping out
of Acapulco bay. I just got off the
phone with my contact.”
did you tell them?” Jackie asked.
said we had reconsidered due to the recent murders and kidnappings,” he
explained. “Merteuil doesn’t do business
in areas where drug activity takes place.”
Jackie said with a sigh. “You may have
gotten us into this mess, but at least you’ve gotten us out. What’s next?’
produced a document that he laid on the conference table. “Sign this and I’ll fax it to my
contact. After that, Merteuil will have
no connections to whatever’s gone down in Acapulco. And neither will you.”
hesitation, Jackie snatched up a pen from the desk and scribbled her signature
on the document. “Great,” she said. “Now as long as James and David bring
everyone home this whole nightmare will be over.”
he left the building, he climbed into his car, a black four-door Mercedes, and
placed a call on his speed dial. Moments
later, Manuel Pacheco answered from the house on the cliff in Acapulco.
gave you one simple task,” Bryan began. “Kill Brooke Taylor. But instead, four other people are dead and
Brooke Taylor is still alive. What seems
to be the problem, Pacheco?”
do it now. Wherever you’re holding her,
get rid of her permanently.”
Manuel replied. “The girl is our
for what?” demanded Bryan.
make sure our shipments get to their destination day after tomorrow,” the man
replied as he watched the two Merteuil freighters slowly depart from the
bay. “If that cocaine doesn’t make it to
L.A, we’ll kill her, and then we’ll come after you, my friend.”
freighters will make it to L.A. all right,” Bryan assured them. “Believe me, I’ve got a lot riding on this
too. I need Brooke Taylor dead.”
you want this girl dead so bad?” Manuel asked.
glanced down at the document he’d had Jackie sign. He knew that by making her believe someone
was trying to kill her, she’d do anything to stop the chain of events from
happening, including signing anything he put in front of her. What she actually signed was a power of
attorney, giving him total access to any and all assets she inherited from
David. And if Brooke Taylor was dead,
that meant Jackie would get everything.
stand to come into a fortune,” Bryan said, taking the gun with the silencer
attached from his interior chest pocket and placing it in the glove compartment. He’d originally thought he could wait until
David Jennings died to set the passing of the assets into motion, but he no
longed wanted to wait for his cancer to run its course. “I’ll even throw in something extra if you
take care of someone else for me too.”
in the busy American Airlines terminal at L.A.X., Brett waited impatiently for
Devon to finish checking in. Her plan,
as she described it, was to head down to Florida where some inmates from prison
had ventured to after their release.
There was nothing left for her in Nevada, she’d claimed, so why go
she finally finished, she turned back and flashed him a grin. “The flight doesn’t leave for two hours,” she
said. “Guess I’ll find a seat and
sounds good,” he said. “Well, nice
seeing you, Devon. Take care of
he could walk away, she called after him. “Hey, wait a second. Is that all I get after everything we’ve been
through over the years? Take care of yourself? You know, Rick, you could at least buy me a
magazine in the gift shop.”
with frustration, he led her off to the closest store. “I really have a lot to do, Devon. Like I said, it’s been great seeing you
is him!” she exclaimed from out of the blue when she picked up a copy of the L.A. Times. “Oh my God, I can’t believe he’s dead. Poor guy.”
Brett asked and looked over her shoulder at the front page headline.
is the guy that that hunk we saw earlier came to see at the prison a couple of
weeks ago,” she explained, pointing to a picture of Victor Pacheco.
photo, positioned in the bottom left corner of the page, was centered beneath a
headline that read: Former Leader of the Pacheco Cartel Found Shot to Death in Acapulco
“Are you sure?” Brett asked,
skimming through the article. “It says
he was arranged an early release by a corporate attorney from Fenwick
“Man, all that work
to get him off and now he’s dead,” Devon said with a sigh.
you think that the guy who was with Jackie earlier was the same lawyer who
sprung this Pacheco guy?” Brett inquired.
Devon said with a shrug.
put the newspaper back in the bin and pulled Devon out into the corridor. “Do you mind sticking around for a couple of
more days?” he asked.
“Why? I thought you couldn’t wait to get rid of
think there’s something you can help me with,” Brett told her. He wasn’t sure what it meant, but Jackie
hanging around the lawyer who sprung a drug cartel leader was no
coincidence. Plus the fact that several
people from Sunset Studios were either dead or missing as a result of the
Pacheco Cartel no longer seemed like a random occurrence.
Miranda left her apartment, Alex dried her eyes and smeared a coat of Chanel
Eye Firming Agent beneath them in hopes of reducing the puffiness. Her long-awaited return home had been clouded
by the devastating news about her son’s apparent death, but she knew she
couldn’t let herself fall apart again.
She’d worked too hard to retreat to her old ways. Besides, as Miranda had said, it didn’t seem
real, and probably wouldn’t until James returned with confirmation. Until then, they had to hope for a different
She dressed and
made her way to the Beverly Hills Hotel where she was to meet her agent, Vince
Campbell. All the best deals in
Hollywood were made at the Polo Lounge, a fact that she was all too aware of. It was there that she had her first meeting
with Nathan Blackthorne, the man who essentially put her on the screen for the
first time as a leading lady. In some
ways she felt as if she was starting over.
The Young at Heart was just a
soap, a medium that seemed to be more in danger with every day that passed, but
it was at least something. This time she
planned on making a real go of it, including making nice with Mackenzie Stone,
the show’s no-nonsense producer who’d made no secret of her dislike for Alex. And with the news that Cassidy Solomon was
dead, another fatality in Mexico, she felt that it could work.
When she pulled her
car up to the valet, she became aware of a slew of paparazzi staked out near
the entrance. They often gathered there
on any given day in hopes of snapping a photo of the latest hot celebrity, or
in most cases, the latest tragic story.
through her stomach as she sat in the car with the valet driver waiting. She knew it would eventually happen and that
she’d have to answer to their call, but it seemed too soon. Luckily, Jennifer Aniston had just left and
they flocked after her in a frenzy. The
coast was clear. She hurried out of the
car and up to the grand entrance, completely undetected.
Once inside, she
took a deep breath. Vince was probably
already seated. On her way to the Polo
Lounge, she surveyed the lobby and her eyes landed on a woman standing at the
front desk with a suitcase in one hand and a baby in the other. It took a few moments, but eventually she
recognized the long jet black hair, the petite frame of her body, and then the
unmistakable sound of her voice.
“I have a
reservation,” the woman was saying. “The
name is Kelly Blackthorne.”
Eyes wide, Alex
hung back for a second while she processed the information. Slowly, she walked toward her. She arrived at the front desk just as Kelly
had finished checking in. When she
turned around, their eyes locked.
“Oh my God,” Alex
said with a gasp.
“Hello Alex,” the
young woman said.
“What are you doing
“I could ask you
the same thing.” She shifted the infant
to her other arm. “I read
that you were in
“I was,” Alex
replied. She was now staring into the
eyes of the baby. They were dark brown
and look strikingly familiar to her. “I
asked you a question. Why are you in Los
Angeles? Is it because of Stormy?”
Kelly looked at
R.J. who squirmed in her arms. “You
could say that. I actually came to see
“He’s in Mexico,”
said Alex. She quickly changed
subjects. “You have a baby. He’s….”
“He’s none of your
business. Do you know when James will be
Alex simply shook
her head. When Kelly began to walk away,
she ran after her and pulled at her arm.
“Wait a minute. What do you want
to see James about? And what does your
baby have to do with it?”
“I told you it’s
none of your business.” She shook her
hand away and tried to veer toward the elevators.
“Tell me right
now,” Alex said and pulled her back again.
“Whose baby is that? Is Stormy
Kelly looked at her
and shook her head. “No. Now if you’ll
excuse me, I-“
“He has his eyes,”
Alex cut her off. “You’re lying.”
With a sigh of
resignation, Kelly finally nodded her head in confirmation. As she did, Alex took her arm and led her off
through the lobby. Minutes later, they
were upstairs in a meticulously decorated guestroom. Kelly laid R.J. in his blanket on the sofa
and turned to Alex.
“His name is R.J.,”
was one of surprise. “Ryan James,” she
said aloud. “You named him after
“I was already
pregnant when I left town,” she told her.
“I didn’t know until I was in New York for a few weeks.”
Alex turned away
from the baby and looked at her with contempt.
“You never told him?”
“When he came to
see me I was three months pregnant but I wasn’t showing yet. He had no idea. All he kept talking about was how he wanted
me to come back with him and to make our marriage work. But I knew if I did nothing would have
changed. You still wouldn’t have
accepted me. Stormy would never have
been able to live his own life.”
“So you said
nothing?” Alex exclaimed.
“I did what I
thought was best,” Kelly replied with a scowl, arms folded.
“And what about
now? Why did you come here looking for
“I heard about
Stormy and I thought R.J.’s grandfather had a right to know,” she
Alex regarded her
carefully. “I don’t believe that’s all there is to it. You want something from him. You’re here to get your hands on some money
now that Stormy’s gone.”
“I don’t need the
Blackthornes’ money. I’m an actress. Angel
Assassin 2 was a smash thanks to me.
I’ve got producers calling me right and left.”
“All right, so
you’ve made it. Then why are you
here? And don’t tell me it’s because you
wanted James to meet his grandson because you and I both know you’re not that
compassionate. You left me to die in the
“You would have
done the same to me.”
turned back to the baby who lay sleeping on the sofa. “Stormy would have been so proud to know that
he was a father,” she said, then looked at Kelly. “He might even have made steps in getting his
father to approve of him. But now that’s
impossible because you decided to keep the truth from him and now he’s
“He can still get
his father’s approval,” Kelly maintained, a faraway look in her eyes. “As it turns out, my career has taken on a
life of its own. I’m away a lot and I’m
afraid of what that will do to R.J. He
needs someone to be there for him all the time, and not just a nanny.”
“What are you
“I was going to
give R.J. to James to raise,” she said.
Alex craned her
neck toward her in shock. “You would
give up your own son for your career?”
“Don’t look at me
like I’m some kind of monster,” Kelly snapped.
“I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was six years old. Now it’s finally happening. Raising a baby just doesn’t fit into my
Alex glowered at
her and took a step forward. “I was
right about you. You’re nothing but a
“Like you haven’t
made sacrifices for your career?” Kelly blasted back. “When you look back, can you honestly say
that it all came easily to you?”
Closing her eyes,
Alex flashed back to a few months earlier.
She was unconscious on the floor of her apartment from an overdose on
muscle relaxers. Clutched in her hand
was a photo of a three-day old baby. Yes, she’d made sacrifices.
“So don’t you dare
judge me,” Kelly went on. “Stormy may be
gone, but at least his son can live on in his memory. I’d think you’d be happy that I’m giving him
Alex looked at her
and then at R.J. Her choice was
simple. The one thing that could
possibly make up for everything. For the
mistakes she made with Stormy and Miranda, for the way she sabotaged the
adoption, and for the sacrifices she’d made so long ago.
“I’ll raise him,”
she said finally.
“You?” Kelly asked
in surprise. “No way.”
“I’ll pay you,”
Alex said quickly and swooped into her bag for her checkbook.
her offer. The answer was too easy. “Cash,” she said.
expression was one of a total lack of surprise.
“I guess when you said you didn’t need money that wasn’t completely
true. “ She placed her checkbook back
into her purse and headed for the door.
“I’ll be back. Make sure R.J.’s
ready to go when I get back.”
steps to ensure the freighters do not make their intended
destination, which causes deadly ramifications. Miranda
and Jordan question Alex's actions. Devon does
some investigating. Stormy is injured and wonders
if giving up is the answer.
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