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Episode 120

 

Release Date:  August 5, 2010

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

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.  

 


  

Episode 120

"Ryan James II"

 

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. 

Stepping outside 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 from Michigan 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 before. 

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 she. 

“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.

Smiling tentatively, 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.

Jackie Lamont

“What freighters?” Jackie Blackthorne asked, feigning obliviousness. 

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 being watched. 

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 broad daylight. 

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. 

Brett Armstrong

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 her!” 

“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 her!” 

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.

Jordan Rydell

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.” 

Crying silently, 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.”

Jordan listened 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 best,” Jordan told her.  “You weren’t ready to be a mother again.  Not in the condition you were in.” 

She nodded, 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.”

“I know.”

“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 agreed.  “Sure.”  

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 walked.  

“It’s going to be better,” he assured her, sensing that behind the laughter there were real tears. 

She nodded fervently.  “I know it will.” 

Bryan Carlson

When 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.

“Don’t scream,” he warned her. 

She 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.  

“Where have you been?” she whispered.

“Out 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.” 

“A 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 you?”

“Because 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. 

“Yes, 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 anyone else.” 

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.” 

She 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?

“They 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.”

She 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 Bear Lake.” 

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.” 

“So 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?”

“Yes,” he maintained.

She 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 contract.”

“No one’s going to put the two together, I promise.” 

“How 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.”

“You what?”

“I didn’t know what else to do.  You really left me with no choice.  I was panicked.” 

“Stop panicking.  For right now, you have to act normal.” 

“That’s been a little hard to do lately,” she said with resignation.  

“Look,” Bryan said, taking her by the shoulders, “keep cool and this whole thing will blow over.”

She 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.” 

Blackthorne mansion

When 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 approached. 

“Are you still reading that trash?” he asked irritably.  

“Hey, 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 evening.” 

“Jordan had other plans,” he told her and bent down to kiss Violet on the forehead.

“Huh?  He was at the institution in San Francisco?”

“No, he sent a piece of paper in his place,” Brett said and handed her the injunction Jordan had filed.  “He got a judge to keep me from seeing my own wife.”

“That’s crazy,” Miranda said and climbed out of the chair.  “Brett, he can’t do this!”

“He did it,” he said angrily.  “I’ve lost my wife.  And Violet is next.” 

“Don’t 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.” 

He 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.

“Any word from your father?” he asked.

Miranda 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.” 

The conversation was cut short when Leilani came barreling down the lawn waiving her hands in the air in a display of panic. 

“Mr. Armstrong!” she yelled.  “Mr. Armstrong!  She’s back!”

Brett 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.

“Well 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 see.” 

Brett 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.” 

“I 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.” 

“I 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.”

“Those 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.” 

“So 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 bad news.”

“You never told me what you’re doing here,” Brett said in exasperation.  “And how are you already out of prison?  You confessed to murder.”

Bailey’s death was an accident,” she maintained, growing serious.  “We struggled and he fell out of that hotel window.”

Brett 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.

But 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 anything.

“You 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.” 

“You’ve 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.” 

Miranda 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.

“That’s enough,” he said.  “Devon, do you need a ride somewhere?”

“Where am I going to go?”

“How about the airport?  I’ll buy you a ticket.” 

“Anywhere I want to go?” she asked coyly after a moment of hesitation. 

“The further away the better.  Miranda, I’ll be back later.  Can you look after Violet for a little longer?”

Realizing 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.  

Benji Rydell

Duke 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 book.” 

“When?” was Benji’s brief response.

“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. 

Suzanne Rogers

“You 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 written before.”

Suzanne 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?”

“I do.”  

Her 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. 

“I’m 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?”

She 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. 

“I 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 magazine.” 

“I 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.” 

His 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.” 

“Netflix,” he said with a grin.  “Anyway, it’s a real pleasure to get to meet you.”

“Thank 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 it.” 

“It shows,” he said with a knowing smile. 

Brett Armstrong

“I 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?”

“Don’t 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.” 

Sighing, 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.

“A minor detail,” she said happily as the hostess led them through the restaurant. 

As 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?”

“I’ve 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?”

“I’m 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.” 

“Pleasure to meet you.”  Ross shook Brett’s hand.  “Tell me, is your wife as beautiful as Suzanne is?  If so, you’re a lucky man.” 

The remark set Brett’s jaw into a firm locked position.  “Can I speak to you in private for a minute, Suzanne?”

She searched for any excuse to avoid him.  “I’m sorry but Ross and I are in the middle of something and I-“

“It’ll 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. 

“Hey, I don’t think the lady wants to go with you,” he protested. 

Brett quickly silenced him by merely raising an eyebrow and offering a look of warning.  “It’ll just take a minute,” he said to Suzanne.

Ross 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. 

“I 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.”

“I 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.”

“What 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.”

“He 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.” 

“And I’m supposed to believe you?” he asked with a snort. 

“Believe what you want,” she said in resignation.   “Look, I have to get back to my table.”

“Don’t want to keep the new stud waiting,” Brett said, hurt and knowing he was pushing the limits.  “Seems like they keep getting younger.”

“Excuse me?  Ross is my writing professor.”

“Why don’t you just admit that the real reason you’ve been avoiding me is because you found another young stud to hop on-“

Before 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. 

“Is everything okay?” Ross asked, glancing between her and Brett. 

“Everything’s 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.” 

“Forget it,” he said angrily.  “Let’s just go.”

“But what about my turkey melt?”

“We’ll get it to go.” 

Alex Reynolds

Moving 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. 

“Maybe 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.”

She 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.” 

She sounded like a typical recovering addict.  “I think I deserve at least part of the blame, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

 He 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.”

Alex smiled kindly.  “The past is in the past.  We’ve both moved on from that.  I need to start over again.” 

“Where are you going to start?”

“I wish I knew.” 

“What about work?” Jordan asked.  “Maybe keeping occupied will help.”

“Maybe,” 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.” 

He approached and kissed her softly on the cheek.  “I’m just a phone call away if you need anything.” 

“Thank 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.” 

Standing in the hall, he dug his hands in his pockets and shrugged.  “She went back to New York.”

“I’m 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.” 

“Me too,” he said with a grin as he turned and made his way back down the hall. 

Benji Rydell

“What are you doing here?”

“Having lunch.  Is that allowed or the Beverly Hills Hotel off limits to me too?”

Suzanne 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. 

“Of course not,” she snapped.  “I was just surprised to see you, that’s all.  Have you talked to your father today?”

Benji 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 shades.

“He said he was going to see Alex,” Benji said. 

“Alex?” 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, okay.” 

His 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.  

“Duke, 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?”

“I 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.” 

“Good 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.” 

“Yeah, 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.” 

“We 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.” 

“It sort of blossomed out of a hobby,” Benji said meekly. 

“Will she be here?”

Benji 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. 

They 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. 

“Holt 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.”

“I’m ready,” Benji said with determination as he put pen to paper and signed his name on the contract.

Half 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. 

“You sure about this?” Duke asked him as he veered out of the parking lot. 

“Absolutely,” Benji replied. 

Jackie Lamont

Jackie 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. 

She 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. 

Confusion 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. 

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?”

“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 myself.” 

Brett Armstrong

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 head.  

Detouring from 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. 

"Hello Jackie.” 

“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 secure it.” 

“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.” 

Frowning, Brett 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?”

“Jackie Blackthorne,” he answered.  “She’s married to James’s uncle.”

“No, I meant the guy,” Devon corrected him.  “I’ve seen him somewhere before.”

Brett shrugged indifferently. “I don’t know.  I’ve never seen him.”

“He’s a hunk, that’s for sure.  I never forget an ass like that.  You could bounce a quarter off of…”

“Devon,” 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 post-prison visit.”

Heading back to the car, Devon snapped her fingers and stopped in her tracks.  “That’s it!” she exclaimed.  

“What’s it?” Brett asked, opening the car door.  

“That guy.  He was in prison.” 

“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…”

“No, he wasn’t a prisoner.  He was visiting.  I think he’s a lawyer.”

“Good 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.” 

“No, he was there talking to some guy.  A drug lord or something.” 

“You went to a women’s prison, Devon.”

“Yeah, 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.” 

Brett sighed.  “Great.  A bunch of horny female inmates.  Sounds like a bad B movie.” 

She shrugged.  “I’m just saying.  He’s hot.”

They 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.

“I wonder what he’s doing with that lady.” 

Aggravated, Brett tried to tune her out. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda 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. 

“You 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. 

“You 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?”

“I feel great,” she said with a smile. 

“I’m glad.”

“Even when Jordan 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. 

“When he picked me up today,” she answered.

“I don’t believe it,” Miranda exclaimed. “He had no right to.”

“Darling, 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 not. 

“It’s 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 to me.”

“I’m 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 gone.”

“All they did was find a body and a passport.  It doesn’t prove anything.”

Alex 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.”

Drying her eyes, Miranda followed her to the bar.  “Are you sure going back to work so soon is a good idea?”

She 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.”

“That’s wonderful if that’s what you want,” Miranda said. 

Alex smiled while handing her the juice.  “Do you mean that?”

“Of course I do.  I just want you to be happy.”

Grinning, 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.”

“We 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 concerned. 

“I 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.”

Miranda smiled.  “I do.” 

Suzanne Rogers

When 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 room. 

“Where’ve you been?” he asked, pouring himself a glass of scotch. 

“I was meeting with my professor,” she replied.  “I ran into Benji.  He said you went to pick Alex up at rehab.” 

“That’s right.” 

A 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. 

“Do you think that was wise?” she asked.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning 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.” 

Jordan shook 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.” 

“That’s not what I’m saying.  But it is rather convenient that you rush off to her rescue just as our marriage begins having problems.”

He turned to her and before taking a giant gulp from his drink said, “you mean after you slept with our son-in-law.” 

Hanging 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 lately.” 

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.” 

His 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.”

“Not 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 misjudged you.” 

“Yeah, 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?”

“What 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 big secret?”

“You 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.”

“I had to!” he exclaimed. “He saw you kill my brother, Suzanne.  Five year-olds talk, you know.  What else was I supposed to do?”

Suzanne 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?”

“What?”

“His counselor from boarding school.  I went to his house in the Palisades and talked to him.”

“Why would you do that?” Jordan demanded.

“Because 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. Wolkstein?”

“Benji is doing fine,” he insisted.  “He’s got some issues but it’s nothing that can’t be worked out.”

“Nearly 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!”

Jordan slammed his drink on the bar and stalked toward her.  “Leave it alone,” he said, his eyes full of warning. 

With 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. 

The release of her book couldn’t come fast enough. 

Jackie Lamont

Jackie paced her office at Merteuil Industries, stopping to neck craned in the direction of the door when Bryan entered and darted toward her.

“It’s done,” he said.

“What?” she asked hopefully.

“The deal.  I canceled it.  Merteuil Industries is no longer shipping out of Acapulco bay.  I just got off the phone with my contact.”

“What did you tell them?” Jackie asked. 

“I 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.” 

“Good,” Jackie said with a sigh.  “You may have gotten us into this mess, but at least you’ve gotten us out.  What’s next?’

Bryan 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.” 

Without 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.” 

Bryan grinned.  “Absolutely.” 

Bryan Carlson

When 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. 

“I 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?”

“There were complications.”

“So do it now.  Wherever you’re holding her, get rid of her permanently.”  

“No,” Manuel replied.  “The girl is our insurance policy.”

“Insurance for what?” demanded Bryan. 

“To 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.” 

“The 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.”

“Why you want this girl dead so bad?” Manuel asked.

Bryan 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. 

“I 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.”

“Who, amigo?”

“David Jennings.” 

Devon Graham

Standing 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 back. 

When 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 wait.” 

“Okay, sounds good,” he said.  “Well, nice seeing you, Devon.  Take care of yourself.”

Before 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.”

Sighing 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 again, but-“

“This 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.”

“Who?” Brett asked and looked over her shoulder at the front page headline.

“This 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.

The 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 Home.

“Are you sure?” Brett asked, skimming through the article.  “It says he was arranged an early release by a corporate attorney from Fenwick Industries.”

“Man, all that work to get him off and now he’s dead,” Devon said with a sigh. 

“So you think that the guy who was with Jackie earlier was the same lawyer who sprung this Pacheco guy?” Brett inquired.

“Positive,” Devon said with a shrug.

Brett 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 me.”

“I 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. 

Alex Reynolds

After 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 outcome. 

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. 

Butterflies tripped 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 here?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”  She shifted the infant to her other arm.  “I read that you were in rehab.”

“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 James.”

“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 back?”

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 the father?” 

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.,” she said. 

Alex’s expression was one of surprise.  “Ryan James,” she said aloud.  “You named him after Stormy.” 

“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 James?”

“I heard about Stormy and I thought R.J.’s grandfather had a right to know,” she explained. 

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 earthquake, remember?”

“You would have done the same to me.” 

Sighing, Alex 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 dead.” 

“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 saying?”

“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 career plans.” 

Alex glowered at her and took a step forward.  “I was right about you.  You’re nothing but a selfish opportunist.” 

“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 to James.”

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. 

Kelly considered her offer.  The answer was too easy.  “Cash,” she said.

Alex’s 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.”   


Next time....

James takes 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.  

 

 

Read Episode 121

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