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Episode 135

 

Release Date:  March 25, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Kyle woke from his coma and revealed to Marilee that he lied about being her son.  Brooke accompanied Kenny to New York where she came face to face with Ethan, but their reunion didn't go as she'd planned.  Kenny hoped to get Ethan's sentence overturned on a technicality.  Jordan blasted Benji for marrying Sierra, telling him his actions were irresponsible and that he needed to grow up.  Meanwhile, Renee tried to reason with Sierra by revealing some of Benji's misdeeds. Ashton told Sierra that Hunt's disappearance was mysterious, leading her to believe Benji may have had something to do with it. Benji nearly took his frustrations out on Sierra during an intimate moment, but caught himself first.  Suzanne adjusted to life at New Abbott.  When she claimed she didn't know anyone to recruit into the compound, Ross told her she could contribute monetarily instead.  Sentenced to prison for five years for tax evasion, Gemma tried to get Miranda to take over for her in her call girl business.  Stormy and Eddie searched for Neil, who had absconded with R.J.  They met Neil at a rendezvous point with the money he demanded, but an argument between Neil and Kelly turned into chaos.  Taking off with R.J., Neil's car was struck by a truck and flipped onto its roof while skidding across a busy street.

 


  

Episode 135

"The Power and the Glory"

 

Mid-day traffic crawled along the busy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, drivers as far back as a mile honking their horns and groaning in aggravation at the unexpected traffic jam.  Ahead of the procession of cars there had been an accident.  Police, ambulances, and a fire truck arrived on the scene within moments.  Standing on the curb of the supermarket parking lot, Stormy watched in agony, his best friend Eddie restraining him from racing to the horrific scene. 

“Let them do their job,” he insisted.

“He’s dead,” Stormy protested, staring at the overturned car that Neil Winslow had tried to escape in with R.J.  “My son is dead and it’s my fault.” 

“You don’t know that!” Kelly screamed as she stood at his side. 

“Do you hear him?!” Stormy raged, barking at her and ignoring the bystanders who had amassed at the scene. It had been at least two minutes since they heard the baby’s cries.

“R.J. is fine,” Kelly said despite the fear written across her face.  “You’ll see.” 

“He better be, otherwise you’re going to wish you were dead.” 

They turned and watched as the firemen knelt down and peered inside the broken windows of the beat up old car.  One of them crawled inside through the window.  Silence fell over the crowd as they watched.   Several employees from the store were filtered among the spectators. 

The waiting was excruciating for Stormy.  He could feel a tear forming in his eye at the prospect of losing his son, this time for good.  The mere sight of Neil’s car flipping onto its roof and skidding across the bustling street had been enough to cause his heart to stop.  Now looking at the wrecked car, glass and steel fragments scattered everywhere, it was impossible to believe the tiny infant had survived. 

More silence as the fireman crawled about the interior of the inverted wreckage.  A pin could drop and be heard in the gathering crowd of onlookers.  But when the tiny sounds of a baby’s cry broke the silence, whispers and chatter slowly began to rise. 

Stormy stepped into the street and watched as the fireman passed something through the window.  A small bundle of some kind.  Heart racing, he moved closer.

“He’s okay,” the fireman called out and the crowd began to applaud. 

Relieved, Stormy raced forward and took R.J. from him.  The infant cried in his arms while Kelly and Eddie approached.   It was the first time he’d looked into his son’s eyes since he’d learned that he was his father.  His emotions at their peak, he stared in awe at him, virtually unharmed from the ordeal. 

“Is he really okay?” Kelly asked, tears in her heavily mascara’d eyes.

“The driver’s body protected him from getting hurt,” said the fireman.  “The driver’s dead.  Probably died on impact.” 

Kelly looked at him and then at Stormy.  Never in a million years did she think things would end up this way between her and Neil.  They came to L.A. for money and instead everything had gone horribly wrong. 

“We should get him to the hospital and checked out just in case,” said a paramedic who arrived on the scene. 

“And we’re going to need a statement to what happened,” a police officer interjected.  

“Can I ride in the ambulance?” Stormy asked. 

“Sure,” the paramedic said and led him through the crowd.  Kelly started to follow.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Eddie asked and pulled her back.

“I’m going with them!” she said, jerking away from him. 

“You’ve done enough,” he said.  “Let Stormy have this time with his son.” 

Angrily, she folded her arms and watched as the ambulance sped off through the congested street. 

Jordan Rydell

Sitting at his desk in the drawing room of his sprawling house in Beverly Hills, Jordan glanced up when the door opened and Brett rushed inside.   Before he could utter a word, his son-in-law was slamming his fists on the desk and leaning in to him with fury in his eyes. 

“How many times have I told you you can’t keep me from seeing her!” Brett yelled at the top of his lungs. 

“She’s my daughter,” Jordan insisted with as little emotion as he could get away with.  He was through going around and around with him.  The energy didn’t seem worth it anymore.

“She’s my wife!”

“Oh please,” Jordan said, rolled his eyes and threw his pen on the desk.  “Your marriage was over the day she went to the institution.  Your affairs haven’t exactly shown you to be a faithful husband during this past year.” 

Brett couldn’t argue with him on that point.  While he’d started out with every intention to remain faithful to Heather, his instincts had gotten the better of him.   Suzanne, Jordan’s intern, Bridgett – whoever she was – had all been opportunities he couldn’t turn away.  He knew what he’d done and he knew he would have to face the consequences when the time came.  But to be forbidden to see his own wife was unacceptable. 

“I still love her.” 

“When was the last time you went to see her?” Jordan asked simply, a question which Brett didn’t appear to be able to answer.  “I thought so.  Why do you think her recovery has sped up so much these past few months?  Because you’ve stayed away.  I want to keep it that way.” 

“What do you mean?  Is she doing better?”

“She’s started to show signs of lucidity,” Jordan reluctantly told him.  “They’ve even got her reading and conversing in groups.” 

“That’s good,” Brett said, happy to hear the news but still angry that he hadn’t been part of it.  Angry at himself mostly.  “Does Suzanne know?”

“I still don’t know where Suzanne is,” Jordan confessed, rubbing his tired eyes with his thumb and index finger

“What do you mean you don’t know where she is?”

“I mean she took off.  Packed a bag and left town.  My guess is she’s with her new boyfriend.” 

Ross?” Brett asked.  He shook his head.  “No, she wouldn’t have-“

“Stop defending her,” Jordan snapped.  “You should know by now what she’s like.  If it wasn’t going to be you, you know there’s another stud waiting just around the corner.” 

Fed up with his cruel attacks and nonchalant attitude, Brett waived a hand dismissively through the air and stormed back out of the room.  As he did, Benji emerged from a nook in the wall.  Once the coast was clear, he gathered his thoughts and proceeded into the drawing room.

“Hi Dad,” he said, clearing his throat to announce his presence.

Jordan barely had a chance to regroup after Brett’s visit, so seeing his son standing before him didn’t instill the most positive reaction.

“What is it, Benji?” he asked gruffly.

“Look, I know you don’t approve of my marriage to Sierra, but-“

“No, I don’t approve.  I think you did it for the wrong reasons.  It’s time you grew up and learned what it means to be a man.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Benji insisted.  “I want to really give this marriage a shot.  I want to prove that I can stand on my own and that I can take care of my wife.” 

Jordan had said his peace where the marriage was concerned.  “Then I wish you luck,” he said.  “Is that what you came here to tell me?”

“Yes, and to ask a favor.”

“What kind of favor?” Jordan asked, eying him suspiciously. 

“Well, I’ve been talking to Blake and we thought it would be cool to start our own business,” he explained, fingertips resting in his pockets.  “We both have some ideas but I don’t have my share of the money we need to get it started.” 

“What kind of business?" Jordan asked. 

“A club.”

Jordan laughed.  “Do you have any idea how many clubs go under every month in this town?  What makes you think you can pull off something like this?”

“Because we’ve got great ideas,” Benji said.

“And these great ideas require capital, which you don’t have, which is why you came here, correct?” 

“It’s just a loan,” Benji said, already aware of his father’s dismissive attitude.  “I’ll be able to pay you back within a year.  Two tops.  Look, you wanted me to make something of my life, didn’t you?”

“In case you’ve forgotten, son, I just lost my business.  If I had money to invest in a club I would have used it to save Rydell Productions.  The answer is no.” 

Benji instantly grew angry.  “That’s such bullshit.  The studio may have been in trouble but you aren’t. You’ve got money to pay butlers and fifteen maids and a guy to wash your cars but you won’t give me a small loan to-“

“See, Benji, this is exactly what I’m talking about,” Jordan said, finally rising from his chair.  “You have entitlement issues.  You think you’re owed something just because you grew up with money.” 

“I grew up in a boarding school six thousand miles away from here!”

“The best boarding school in the world,” Jordan reminded him.  “You’ve never gone without, Benji.  Maybe that was my mistake.  Maybe I should have taught you that working for what you want is the only way to get anywhere in life.  Relying on your parents is how so many kids in this town wind up addicted to booze and pills.  Look what almost happened to Sierra.” 

“I can’t believe you’re being like this,” Benji said angrily.  “I came to you on the level asking for help and all you can do is tell me what a disappointment I am.  Well screw you.  I’ll never make that mistake again.”

“It’s for your own good, son.” 

On his way to the door, Benji stopped and picked up a vase from a pedestal, smashing it on the ground and watching it shatter into a million pieces.  Jordan refused to react to his outburst, realizing it was par for the course with his son’s erratic behavior. 

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne and Ross had taken his beat up old Honda thirty miles into a small town in Death Valley.  Town being relative, as it consisted of a bed and breakfast, a small restaurant, a bank, and a gas station.   The bank was advanced enough to have wire transfer capabilities, which proved helpful in getting Suzanne’s bank in L.A. to send her the money from her account. 

With close to a hundred thousand dollars in an envelope, they returned to New Abbott and were met in the dusty afternoon sun by Warren, clothed as usual in a ceremonial robe and makeshift fabric headband over his forehead. 

“Here,” Suzanne said with a smile as she handed the envelope to him.  “Please take this.” 

Warren opened the envelope and did a quick estimation of the amount of money that was enclosed.  With a smile, he pulled her into an embrace.  “Suzanne, this is a most generous donation to New Abbott.  You have no idea how many people this money is going to help come to the enlightenment that you have.” 

“I’m just glad I could do something,” she said, exchanging glances with Ross who stood to her side.  “You’ve been so wonderful to me.” 

“This money will ensure the compound is a safe haven for our followers,” Warren remarked.  “There are people who don’t understand what it is we’re trying to do here.  People who want us to leave this place.” 

“Leave?” Suzanne asked, alarmed. 

“Yes, it’s unfortunate but true,” Ross interjected. 

“But there’s so much peace and serenity here,” Suzanne said wistfully.  “We can’t leave.” 

“We must build our defenses to protect the compound,” Warren said.  “This money that you’ve generously given us will aid in that task, Suzanne.  It won’t cement our place here in God’s country, but it will help.”

“What else do you need?” she asked.

Warren glanced at Ross before answering.  “Unfortunately, serenity and self worth doesn’t get us far in the modern world.  Money does.” 

Suzanne sighed.  “That’s all I had in my account.  I mean, I have things back home that are worth quite a bit.  Furs and jewelry and things.  But I can’t go back there.  I just can’t, even for the compound.” 

“I understand,” Warren said with a tranquil smile.  “Triumph in the inner power.” 

With that, he turned and retreated to his tent.  Suzanne looked at Ross with a resigned shrug.

“I wish I could do more,” she said.

“I know that, and so does Warren,” Ross said.  “But think how pleased he would be if he could ensure this place could continue.” 

“So would I, but I-“

“Warren sees something special in you, Suzanne.  Something he hasn’t seen in any other follower.  You’ve made quite an impact on him.  He told me so at last night’s bonfire activities.” 

“Really?”  The prospect made her spirit soar with excitement.  No one had seen anything special in her for as long as she could remember.  Even when she became an actress she landed parts based on her looks rather than anything inside. 

Ross nodded.  “I’m not telling you what to do, Suzanne, but just know that you’re the one Warren’s searched for.  You’re the light that shines over New Abbott.” 

He left her side and went to the meditation field.  As she stood alone, she began to think of how happy she felt to belong to something.  To be anyone’s light. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy wrung his hands nervously together while he waited for word on R.J.  Dr. Farraday had been examining him for the past half hour and with no word as of yet, he was beginning to worry. 

“I had no idea Winslow was going to try to run,” Eddie said from a seat nearby in the waiting room.  “Otherwise I wouldn’t have blocked him in like that.  If anything had happened to R.J.-“

Stormy stopped him with a shake of his head.  “It wasn’t your fault, Eddie,” he said, then flashed Kelly a menacing glare from across the room.  “It’s yours for getting mixed up with him in the first place.” 

“Like I was supposed to know he had kidnapping tendencies,” Kelly snarled, arms folded tightly across her chest.

“Right, so you’re totally innocent in all of this,” Stormy said sarcastically.  “You never sold my son to my mother.  Get serious, Kelly.  All of this is you fault.” 

“Look, I was as scared back in that parking lot as you were!” she lamented.  “When that car flipped I wanted to die.  If anything had happened to R.J. I would have never forgiven myself!”

He shook his head dismissively just as Dr. Farraday emerged.   Quickly, he jumped to his feet and approached.

“Is R.J. okay?” he asked.

“He’s fine,” Dr. Farraday said while placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.  “You can go in and see him.  Oh, I also took that blood sample for you.  We should have the results in a couple of days.”

“Thanks,” Stormy said. 

“What blood sample?” Kelly demanded as she walked up to him. 

“For a DNA test.  I want proof that he’s my son in case you get any ideas about taking off with him again.  I have rights as a father, Kelly.  R.J. stays with me from now on.” 

“What about me?” she asked.  “I’m his mother.  I have rights too.” 

“You gave those up when you tried selling him to the highest bidder.” 

“I’ve changed my mind,” she told him, traces of vulnerability and regret forming on her face.  “Since Neil took off with him I’ve realized so much.  I want to be a mother to my son.” 

Shaking his head, Stormy busted out of the room and down the hall to the examination area.  A nurse was placing a bandage on R.J.’s arm as he fussed this way and that. 

“Are you the father?” she asked with a smile.

Stormy nodded.

“He’s a healthy, beautiful baby.  Congratulations.” 

When she left, Stormy walked over to the crib and gazed down at his son.  He touched his hand to his tiny foot and wiggled it gently, laughing when R.J. began cooing happily and staring up with his brown eyes.  

“No one will ever keep us apart again,” he whispered. 

A sound from behind caught his attention and he turned to see Jane hovering in the doorway.  She took a tentative step forward, her eyes moving from him and back to the baby. 

“Hi,” she said softly.

“Hi.”  He turned around to face her.  “What are you doing here?”

“I heard about what happened,” she said.  “Is R.J. okay?” 

“He’s fine.” 

She smiled, tears forming in her eyes.  “I’m glad.  Stormy, I’m so sorry for my part in all of this.  I know I hurt you but you have to believe me that I didn’t mean to.  It’s just that everything since I came to L.A. has been so shitty.  I got tired of not having any money and any acting jobs.  I just-“

“I know,” he said.  “I know you didn’t try to keep R.J. from me intentionally.  I shouldn’t have gone off on you the way I did.  I was just so worried that I’d never see him again.” 

She wiped the tears from her eyes and managed a faint smile.  “I wanted to let you know that I’m leaving town.”

“Why?”

“Things just didn’t work out the way I hoped they would.  I’m going back to Illinois.” 

He walked toward her.  “You tell Miranda yet?”

She shook her head. “Not yet.  I will though.  She’s been so good to me.  I just wanted to see if R.J. was okay, and to say goodbye.” 

Slowly, she turned and started to leave.  Before she made it out into the hall, Stormy ran after her and pulled her back. 

“Wait,” he said.  “I don’t want you to leave.  I like what we had before….before my mother ruined everything.”

“But after what I did, I-“

“It doesn’t matter.  You were her victim as much as I was.  Jane, I want to give this another shot.  Is that enough of a reason for you to stay?”

She looked into his eyes and nodded happily. “Yes,” she said.  “Yes, it is.” 

Happily, he pulled her into an embrace and kissed her passionately on the lips.  Outside the room, Miranda passed and stopped when she saw them together.  A smile crossed her lips and she folded her arms as Eddie came up beside her and placed his arm around her. 

Sierra Merteuil

Sierra decided to walk up to La Mirada bar in the main hotel at Moonshadows and have a glass of wine.  Benji had left earlier to see his father, and since he hadn’t returned yet, she assumed things had gone well.  For his sake, she hoped they were able to work things out.  Despite the frustration she often felt with her mother, she didn’t think she could handle not having her in her life. 

The evening’s entertainment was a beautiful singer positioned next to a shiny white grand piano.  The woman belted out a tune by Alicia Keys and Sierra began to grow nostalgic for the dreams she once had.  Dreams of being a singer and knocking the world on their feet.

She’d nearly made it once, when Malcolm Harris had produced a demo for her. Since leaving school she felt like she’d also left her ambitions. 

Her regrets were forgotten when a voice from behind caught her attention.  She turned and smiled when Ashton Childers flashed her a crooked grin complete with raised eyebrow.

“You’re stalking me, aren’t you?” he asked.   “Tell the truth.  It’s okay if you are.  I have that kind of personality.” 

“What kind of personality is that?” Sierra asked with a laugh. 

“People are just drawn to me,” he said.  “Women especially.  I don’t blame you.  First the beach, now here.” 

Sierra laughed out loud, crossing her legs so that her shoe dangled delicately off her foot.  “You caught me,” she said.  “Married woman by day, stalker by night.  How did you know?”

“I can also read minds,” he said, then gestured to the seat beside her.  “Do you mind?”

She shook her head in response.  “So what are you doing here?  This place doesn’t seem like your speed.  I pictured you more for a Vanguard type of guy.” 

Ashton shrugged and sat down.  “I have an old soul.  Vanguard’s full of phonies.” 

“So you’d rather hang here with the geriatric crowd?”

“Maybe I’m looking for a sugar mama.” 

Sierra laughed again, turning to her drink and staring thoughtfully into the glass. 

“What about you?” Ashton asked.  “What brings you here tonight?  Don’t tell me the honeymoon’s already over with you and Rydell.” 

She shook her head.  “No, just thinking, that’s all.”

“You sure?  You seem kinda….I don’t know…sad.” 

Sad, no.  Blah, yes.  She thought about when she saw Ashton the other day and he told her about what people were saying about Hunt.  That he’d disappeared in the desert somewhere.  And then she thought about what her mother had told her.  That Benji had done something to get back at Hunt for hurting her.   It filled her mind with doubts, which she hated because doubts led to her searching for truths that she didn’t know that she necessarily wanted to hear.

“Let me ask you something,” she began.  “That night at Magnum’s party when I was kind of out of it, I remember Sheldon and Hunt saying something to Benji.  Something about a homeless guy he attacked.  Do you know what they were talking about?  It’s probably all B.S. but it bothers me.” 

Ashton shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I was the one who told them what I saw that night.”

“What did you see?”

“The night I came back from Greece I went to this bonfire on the beach,” Ashton began.  “There was some commotion up a ways so we moved closer.” 

“And?”

“You sure you want to hear this?” he asked.  “It’s not so good.”

“Ashton, tell me.” 

“Well, we saw someone beating the crap out of some homeless guy,” he explained.  “They were too far away to see faces, but the guy beating the guy up was wearing a hoodie and was about Benji’s height and weight.  I didn’t click until I saw him again at Magnum’s party.”

“You think Benji beat up that homeless guy?” Sierra asked with an incredulous frown.  “Get serious.”

“Maybe it wasn’t him,” Ashton said, although he doubted that he could be wrong.  “Or maybe it was him and the guy was bothering him so he fought back.  I don’t know.” 

Sierra looked away momentarily while absorbing the information.  “Where did this happen?”

“The beach up at Paradise Cove.” 

Quickly, Sierra turned to him and swallowed hard.  Paradise Cove was where she and Benji consummated their relationship over a year ago.

Blackthorne Mansion

At the Blackthorne mansion, Stormy spoke to James on the phone in the family room while Miranda and Eddie played with R.J. on the sofa.  

“Are you rsure you're ready for this?” Eddie asked her while grinning at the baby.  “We’ll have our own little bundle of joy in about four months.  Or I guess you will.  I might.” 

Her face softened while turning to look in his eyes.  “We both will,” she said.  “I told you that regardless of who the father turns out to be, I want you to raise this baby as your own.  If that’s what you want, I mean.” 

“You know it is,” he said thoughtfully while placing his hand over hers. 

“Even if he or she turns out to be David’s?”

“Yes.” 

Miranda smiled.  “So does this mean…”  She paused, afraid to finish her thought because of what it would represent.  What she wanted to ask him was if they were going to get married.  If Eddie was determined to help her raise the baby, then that was the next logical step.

“Mean what?”

She shook her head dismissively.  She refused to be one of the girls who brought up the M word.  If Eddie was serious, he would ask her.  Maybe she didn’t even want to get married again.  Her first didn’t exactly turn out well.   Quickly, she deflected the question as best she could.

“I can’t understand why David decided to go away and die rather than stay here and see the baby when it’s born,” she said.  “If it does turn out to be his, you’d think he’d want to at least meet him or her.” 

“Maybe his disease was further along than he’d let on.”

Miranda nodded.  “He did look pretty bad the last time I saw him.  I wonder if we’ll hear something when he…”  She paused, saddened by the prospect of picking up the phone one day and being told that David was dead.   They’d meant so much to each other at one time.    “Hopefully Jackie will keep us updated.” 

Across the room, Stormy gazed over at his son while he spoke to James who was back in his hotel room in New York. 

“Wait till you see him, Dad,” he was saying, grinning from ear to ear.  “He’s the most handsome baby in the world.” 

James laughed.  “I remember,” he said.  “Son, I’m so happy that you got him back and that this nightmare is over.  I tell you, when I see your mother next I’m going to-“

“I don’t want to talk about her,” Stormy said bitterly.  “What she did was the most heinous thing anyone could ever do to someone.  As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have a mother.” 

James knew he was upset so he didn’t push the subject, but deep down he hated that his children were estranged from their mother again.  “I know you’ve been preoccupied with everything that’s been going on, but I don’t suppose you’ve talked to Brett.”

“No, why?”

“He’s taken over Rydell Productions,” James told him.  “He took it upon himself to merge Sunset Studios with them.  No doubt as some kind of revenge against Jordan.”

“He what?” Stormy demanded.  “He doesn’t have the authority to do that.” 

“I made him second in command while I was in Acapulco,” James reminded him.  “Unfortunately, he does.” 

Stormy shook his head while pacing the room.  “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Jordan is no longer a threat to us, but I can’t believe Brett would be so ballsy as to take this on himself.  I’m going there tomorrow and-“

“Don’t do anything until I get back,” James said.  “I want to deal with Brett myself.” 

“When are you coming back?” Stormy asked. “And is Ethan coming with you?”

James sighed.  “With any luck, we’ll all be home soon.  We found a judge who’s willing to hear our appeal in Ethan’s case.  I’m not sure how long it will take, but I’ll keep you posted.  Give my love to your sister.  And my new grandson.” 

“I will,” Stormy said before hanging up and going back to R.J.

Brett Armstrong

Brett didn’t know where Ross Fuller lived, so he decided to pay him a visit at Westwood College where he taught classes.  It was late and he knew that Ross usually did night classes, so with any luck he’d catch him before he left. 

After climbing the stairs to the second floor, he checked a list of room numbers on a directory before proceeding down the hallway.  He came to a classroom with the door open and a handful of students who appeared to be packing their backpacks in preparation to leave.  Fuller was nowhere in sight. 

“Hey, do you know if Professor Fuller is still here?” he asked a young Asian girl as she was leaving.

She stopped and shook her head, pigtails whipping through the air.  “He’s out of town,” she said.  “A subs been taking over his classes.  He already left though.  Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Brett said.  “Do you know where Professor Fuller went?  It’s really important that I get a hold of him.” 

The girl eyed him suspiciously.  “What for?  I haven’t seen you around here before.  Are you one of his students?”

“No, I’m his brother,” Brett lied.  “I just got in town and was really hoping I could see him.  A relative of ours just died and-“

“I understand,” the girl cut him off.  “He’s probably in Death Valley.”

“Death Valley?”

“He goes there a few times a year,” she explained.  “I think it’s some kind of a retreat or something like that.  Wildness stuff or something, I’m not sure.  He asked if I wanted to come with him once when he was bringing some other students up there, but I can’t handle the heat so I didn’t go.” 

Brett raked his fingers through his hair.  “Do you know where in Death Valley?”

She paused while pondering his question.  “I might,” she said, going to one of the desks and emptying the contents of her backpack. 

Brett rolled his eyes as she sorted through stacks of store receipts, tubes of lipstick, tangled sets of headphones, candy, gum, and tampons.  He waited impatiently while she flipped through pages in a small notebook.

“I now he gave me the directions once,” she said.  “He said I could meet them there if I changed my mind, but-“

“How far out is it because I could just-“

“Got it!” the girl said and produced a sheet of paper with directions and a crude map scribbled in pencil.  “This is the place.” 

“Can I have this?” Brett asked. 

“Knock yourself out,” she said while shoving everything back into her pack.  “Good luck.  Tell Professor Fuller I’m sorry about your relative.” 

Brett had already tuned her out.  He stared at the map in confusion, wondering why in the hell Ross was taking frequent trips to the middle of the desert.  And more than that, had Suzanne gone with him this time?

Jane Wheeler

After covering her roommate’s shift at the restaurant as promised, Jane went to see Stormy, happy to have gotten the text from him asking her to come.  She rang the bell and waited for an answer.  When the door opened and Leilani gestured for her to come inside, she proceeded through the foyer. 

“So you must be the witch that tried stealing my son,” Kelly called out when she came down the stairs. 

Jane stopped and looked up.  “Excuse me?” she asked, already pretty sure she’d just met Kelly Blackthorne.

“That little scheme you and Alex Reynolds came up with,” Kelly clarified as she stepped off the bottom landing and approached.  “Where did she find you, anyway?”  She looked her up and down for good measure.  “Some back alley, judging from those shoes.”  

“I didn’t know he was your son,” Jane clarified, attempting to skirt past her. 

Sure you didn’t,” Kelly said, pulling her back again.  “R.J. was just your way of manipulating yourself into this family.  Believe me, I know girls like you.” 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jane said, finding her to be exasperating. 

“Kelly, that’s enough,” Leilani scolded from the sidelines. 

“I’ll second that,” announced Stormy when he appeared from the east hall.  “Kelly, what are you even still doing here?”

“I came to see my mother…and my son.”

“You’re not welcome here,” he told her firmly.  “You don’t care about R.J. and you never have, so don’t expect me to-“

“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Kelly cut him off.  “As it turns out, I just got a part in a movie that’s being filmed in New York.  I guess Neil managed to do one thing right after all.  So don’t worry, you won’t have to put up with me for that much longer.” 

“I see nothing’s changed,” Stormy said wryly.  “Come to town, start a bunch of trouble, and then take off before you have to face any consequences.” 

“What Neil did was not my fault,” Kelly insisted.  “And I happen to be grieving here.  Neil is dead, in case you’ve forgotten.  I cared about him very much.” 

“Please,” Stormy said with a roll of his eyes.

Miranda and Eddie joined them in the foyer and suddenly Jane felt like an outsider in a group of people with way too much history. 

“I know R.J. is better off here with you,” Kelly said.  “He would never fit in with my lifestyle.  Contrary to what you might think, I do have his best interests at heart.  I’m still his mother, you know.”

“Except that you don’t care anything about R.J.” Miranda said with a scowl.

“I admit I didn’t at first,” Kelly said defensively.  “But after that ordeal today I realize how precious a gift it is to be a mother.  So get used to it.  I intend for R.J. to know who his mother is.” 

“The two days out of the year that you decide to come back and see him?” Stormy asked.

“Kelly, why don’t you stay?” Leilani asked miserably.  “Don’t leave again.  Stay here and be a mother to your son.”

“I will be a mother to him,” she said.  “But I can’t stay in L.A.  Not with the way some people here feel about me.”  Her stare went directly to Miranda.  “Besides, I have my career.”

“And nothing is more important than your precious career,” Stormy said.

She set her eyes angrily on him.  “I’d watch myself if I were you,” she said.  “I could go to a lawyer and get sole custody in a heartbeat.  So instead of thinking you can call the shots, try not to forget that.”

“So do it,” Stormy dared her.  “You’ll be laughed out of the courtroom.  It’s this way or nothing.  You can see R.J. while you’re in town but only if you arrange it in advance.  But when you go back to New York to resume your career, don’t expect him to remember you.” 

Kelly folded her arms angrily.  She was tired of being treated like a second class citizen.  It was time she reminded the Blackthornes of who they were dealing with.

Jordan Rydell

Jordan attended a fundraiser for the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief effort that evening, insisting that Alex go with him.  Partly because he knew they both needed a big dose of positive PR, and secondly because he cringed at the thought of going alone.  The press hadn’t been kind to either one of them lately, so forming a united front amongst their peers went a long way to remedying that. 

After dropping her off at her apartment, he proceeded home and was immediately made aware of a situation that had arisen in his absence.  Two police cars were parked in the driveway, and his butler, Gordon, was stationed in the open doorway awaiting his arrival. 

“I tried to call you but your phone was going straight to voicemail,” said the faithful butler.

“The party was in a dead zone,” Jordan said, peering over his shoulder inside the house. “What’s going on?  I thought it was your night off.”

“I got home early and called the police.” 

“Why?”

Finally, Gordon stood clear so that Jordan could enter into the house.  Once he did, he saw the devastation.  In the drawing room, there were broken pieces of glass on the floor, missing artwork from the walls, and bare shelves where there had once been expensive antique vases. 

“What the hell happened?” he asked. 

A police officer approached before Gordon could reply. “Mr. Rydell?”

“Yes.  Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Looks like a robbery,” the officer told him, pointing to the French doors across the room.  “They got in that way.  Broke the glass.  This room got hit the hardest.” 

Jordan proceeded inside, inspecting the room and taking a mental inventory on everything that was missing.  “Great,” he murmured under his breath.  “The rest of the house?”

“It looks like they went through your bedrooms as well.” 

“Miss Rogers jewelry and furs are gone,” Gordon confirmed in despair.  “I already cross-checked everything with your inventory sheet.  I’ll take care of it for you, Mr. Rydell.” 

Shaking his head, Jordan ran a hand through his hair and stood, perplexed.  “The alarms didn’t go off?"

“Some of these crooks are getting good at disarming them,” the officer remarked.  “I took the liberty of calling the alarm company and reporting the break-in.  They’re sending someone out tonight to board up the door and get a new system installed.” 

“Thanks,” Jordan said. 

“I’ll leave the police report with you.  Just finish filling out the list of missing items and call us when you’re finished.  We’re sorry for your trouble, Mr. Rydell.” 

As the police officers left, Jordan walked to the broken door.

“I’ll start cleaning up, Mr. Rydell,” Gordon said.  “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Jordan didn’t respond.  A sinking feeling overcame him and made him question whether common criminals were to blame for the break-in.  It seemed far too organized of a robbery for that to be the case.  Which meant it had to be someone he knew, and someone who needed money. 

Sierra Merteuil

Sierra lied awake for most of the night, staring at Benji who lied next to her and wondering if he was capable of the things people were saying about him.  The claims that he’d done something to Hunt that ultimately led to his disappearance, or that he beat up a homeless man at the spot they’d consummated their relationship over a year ago, or that he published his mother’s book without her knowing.  She knew he had a dark side, but these were beyond anything she could comprehend.  Still, he had treated her with nothing but kindness, so it was difficult to believe any of it.  Besides, they were married.  She took vows to stand by him. 

Or so she thought. 

“Somebody forwarded some mail that was sent to your mom’s penthouse,” Benji said as he poured them each a glass of juice in the small kitchenette.  “It’s on the table by the door.” 

Yawning and forcing herself to shake off her morning grogginess, Sierra picked up the mail and flipped through the envelopes.  Most of them were documents from Sarah Lawrence, probably telling her that her suspension was over and that she could re-register for the next semester.  Part of her wanted to do it, to get her life back on track before she met Hunt and everything went awry.  The other part of her didn’t know what she wanted.

“Sorry I got home late last night,” Benji said as he handed her a glass of juice.  “Blake and I were brainstorming ideas for this new club.”

“How did it go?” she asked, opening another envelope from the City of Las Vegas.

“We’ve got some great ideas,” Benji told her.  “And I think this place on Melrose is a prime location.  Now if I can just get my dad to listen to reason.  I get my trust fund in six months anyway, so I don’t see why he can’t give it to me early.” 

“I thought he took it away.”  She skimmed briefly through the letter.

He shook his head. “This is the trust fund my grandmother set up for me.  He can’t touch it.  What’s in the letter?”

Confused, Sierra found herself re-reading the document a few times.  We regret to inform you that your recent wedding in Cook County in the city of Las Vegas was performed by an ordained minister whose credentials had lapsed, therefore…

“Sierra?” Benji asked, walking toward her.  “What is it?”

She handed him the letter.  As he read it, she could see the disappointment in his eyes. 

“This says our wedding wasn’t legal,” Benji said.  “The minister wasn’t ordained.” 

“It’s crazy,” Sierra said.  “And they notify us by mail?  Weird.” 

“I know.”  He folded the letter and looked at her.  “We’re not really married.  I can’t believe it.” 

The hurt in Benji’s eyes was bad enough, but what made it worse was that she felt an overwhelming sense of relief wash over her.  She felt like she was stabbing him in the back by the mere thoughts that ran through her mind.

“Well, I guess it’s no big deal,” Benji said, taking her hand in his and pulling her toward him.  “It’s just a piece of paper.  We already said the vows.  We’ll just go to the courthouse and make it legal.” 

She smiled but didn’t say a word as he pulled her into an embrace. 

A knock at the door caused Sierra to pull away and cross the room.  Thankful for the distraction, she opened the door and was nearly knocked over by Jordan who came barreling inside, a taut expression on his suntanned face. 

“Dad,” Benji said, surprised to see his father there at the early hour.   “What’s going on?”

Jordan grabbed his son by the arm and pushed him against the wall, the force shaking the small cabana and causing Sierra to jump with a start.  Before Benji could react, Jordan was leaning in closely and pointing a threatening finger at him. 

“You really did it this time, didn’t you?” Jordan hissed.  “I wouldn’t give you the fucking money so you went ahead and took whatever you wanted.”

“What?” Benji asked.

“I gotta admit, robbery isn’t exactly your M.O.,” Jordan went on.  “Too messy, too straight forward.  I would have thought you would go a more underhanded route to get what you wanted.  But since you lived there for two years, hey, no one would think twice about finding your fingerprints on anything.”

Sierra stood back, watching with wide eyes as Jordan railed at Benji with more ferocity than she’d ever witnessed. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Benji insisted.  “I didn’t take anything from you.” 

Jordan laughed and wiped a hand over his face.  “So it’s just a coincidence that I turned you down when you came to me asking for money for some club you want to open, then the very same night the house is robbed?  I’m not stupid, Benji, this has your name written all over it.” 

“I told you I didn’t do it!” Benji screamed, refusing to show his father the hurt that he felt over the accusation. 

“Stop lying,” Jordan said.  “Is this the kind of life you want for your wife?  Living off of what you can steal from people who trusted you?  From people who gave you the benefit of the doubt?”

Sierra swallowed hard, wondering if Benji had been truthful when he said he was with Blake the night before.  He didn’t get home until after two in the morning. 

“Every single thing you took had better be back in their original places by this time tomorrow or I swear to God I’ll have your ass thrown in jail!” Jordan raged.  “And this time I’ll let you twist in the wind for it.  No more bribes or favors to the D.A.  I’m through sticking my neck out for your, Benji.  I’m through!”

With that, he turned and stormed out of the cabana.  He detected the look of fear on Sierra’s face, and wanted to stop and console her, but knew it wasn’t the right time.  He was certain that it was only a matter of time before she realized the mistake she’d made by marrying Benji.  Besides, he had an idea to get through to her.

Suzanne Rogers

Daybreak had arrived in Death Valley, hazy sunlight peering over the mountains as the old station wagon made its way down the dusty road toward the compound.  They’d driven all night.  When it arrived, Warren and a few of his followers anxiously intercepted them. 

“Welcome back, my friends,” Warren said as Suzanne and Ross emerged from the front seat with Linda, a pretty blond girl who Warren had assigned to accompany them to Los Angeles.   “Triumph in the inner power.” 

“Triumph in the inner power,” Suzanne replied with a meek smile as he embraced her. 

“How did your mission go?” Warren asked as Ross opened the hatch.

“See for yourself,” he replied, gesturing to the black garbage bags that were packed inside the entire back half of the car.  Valuable paintings were splayed over top of the bags and vases were wedged between the soft cushions.

Warren took one of the bags and opened it.  He removed a fur coat and felt in his hands, while Linda produced a bag full of jewelry.  

“Diamonds, sapphires, all of the earths gifts,” she said with a smile as she let the necklaces and bracelets fill the spaces between her fingers and then slide back down into the bag. 

“Extraordinary,” Warren said, then turned to Suzanne.  “You’ve done well, my dear.  I know it wasn’t easy going back to that place, back to the people who wronged you and made you feel unworthy of love and friendship.” 

“Being there made me appreciate what we have here in New Abbott,” Suzanne said. 

Warren smiled.   “So you’ve realized the complications these possessions can create for you,” he said happily.  “Believe me, Suzanne, the money these goods will provide us will go to a more positive cause.  Ensuring New Abbott can continue and flourish to help others in need is far more vital to our survival.” 

“I’m so happy,” Suzanne said. 

Warren turned to two other followers who fell in line behind him.  “Prepare my transportation to the city,” he told them.  “I shall handle the selling off of these trivial items myself.” 

He gave Suzanne one final embrace before starting off to his tent.  Suzanne turned to Ross and managed a faint smile. 

“You’re having regrets, aren’t you?” he asked. 

She shrugged.  “Just the way we took these things without telling anyone,” she confessed.  “I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy that I could help Warren, but-“

“They’re your things, Suzanne,” Ross said.  “You were just taking them back.” 

“I know, but making it look like a break-in?“

Ross put an arm around her and led her down to the center of the compound.  “Would you rather have given your ex-husband the opportunity to talk you into staying there?  All the work you’ve done to empower yourself would have been lost.  You would have been sucked back into the life that didn’t want you anymore.” 

Slowly, she realized he was right.  It had to be done.  She had a new life now.  A life that didn’t involve any of the people who’d treated her so badly. 

Alex Reynolds

When Leilani opened the door, she glared menacingly at Alex, her hand positioned firmly on the handle. 

“Hello Leilani, may I see my son, please?” asked Alex, clad in a navy and white Versace creation with matching wide-brimmed hat.

“How could you do it?” Leilani hissed. “How could you keep my grandson from me for so long?  From your own son?”

Alex sighed in despair.  “I’m sorry.  I really am.  I’ve apologized as much as I can.  But I’m R.J.’s grandmother too.  I’d like us to be friends again, Leilani.  Like we used to be when I lived here.” 

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Leilani said.  “You don’t have right to be baby’s grandmother.  You should never be allowed to see him!”

Alex raised an eyebrow.  “I don’t think that’s for you to say,” she replied matter-of-factly.  “Now is Stormy here or not?”

“He does not want to see you.”  She attempted to shut the door but Alex pushed it open again, barreling inside and scouting around the foyer. 

“I’d rather hear that from him, if you don’t mind,” she said. 

“She’s right,” said a voice from the staircase.  “I don’t want to see you.” 

Alex turned and saw Stormy descending the staircase with R.J. in his arms.  Immediately, her eyes lit up.  She hadn’t seen the infant since Kelly took off with him days ago.  She drew closer, hoping to get a closer look. 

“He’s grown so much since I’ve seen him,” she said, staring adoringly at the baby with the shock of thick black hair.  “Look how beautiful he is.”

“Leilani, would you take R.J. into the kitchen and prepare his bottle?” Stormy said and handed the baby off to her. 

Disappointed, but not surprised, Alex watched as the portly housekeeper disappeared to the back of the house with the baby tucked neatly against her bosom.  When they’d gone, she looked at Stormy with pleading eyes. 

“Howis he?  Did the doctors really say that he’s okay?  No injuries at all from that horrible car crash?”

“He’s fine,” Stormy said bluntly.  “What are you doing here? I thought I made it clear I didn’t want to see you again.” 

“But Stormy, you’re my son.  You can’t just cut me out of your life.” 

“Watch me,” he said and opened the front door.  “Please leave.” 

Devastated, she gave him one final look before leaving.  Standing under the porte-cochere, she saw Miranda drive up in her Camero and hoped to convince her to talk to her brother for her.  

“Darling, I’m so glad I ran into you.  I was wondering if you could-“

“Not now, Mother,” Miranda said and breezed past her into the house. 

By the time Alex turned, the door was slamming in her face.  Sighing, she turned and decided it was not going to be easy to get her children to forgive her.  But she was determined to make it happen.

Jordan Rydell

After Jordan left, Benji announced that he needed some air, so he stormed out of the cabana and was gone for several hours.  Sierra paced manically around the small cabana, still frightened at the image of Jordan’s tirade against his son.  When her phone rang and it was Jordan asking her to meet him up the path at the children’s park, she warily agreed.  

“I’m sorry you had to see that this morning,” Jordan said as she joined him on a bench near the slide.  In his hands, he held a large ecru envelope.  He seemed nervous to Sierra. 

“Do you really think Benji could have done what you said he did?” she asked, pushing a lock of curly brown hair from her eyes.  “I don’t see him robbing his own house.” 

“Haven’t you learned by now that Benji doesn’t think before he acts?  He came to me wanting money.  I turned him down.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.” 

“Yeah, but-“

“Sierra, you know I love you as if you were my own daughter,” Jordan said tenderly.  “I know what a hard time you’ve had.  Finding out your father was Nathan Blackthorne, and after what he nearly did to you, it had a profound affect on you.  I just don’t want to see you get hurt again.”

“He’s your son,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.  “How can you think these things about him?”

“Because I love him,” Jordan said somberly.  “I love him more than anything in the world.  I’m trying to undo what years of neglect and lies did to him.   Making him take responsibility for his actions is the only way to do that.” 

“Maybe I can help,” she said hopefully.  “I mean, I know there is a lot of good in Benji. I can help him be a better person.” 

Jordan looked at the envelope and fidgeted with the clasp.  “If you try to help him you’ll get hurt,” he said.  “It’s a simple fact.  Benji has to change who he is and he has to do it by himself.” 

She looked away and focused on children playing in the park.  “Our marriage wasn’t legal,” she said.  “We got a letter saying the minister wasn’t ordained.  He wants to go to the courthouse and make it official.” 

“Is that what you want?” Jordan asked her.

She looked at him briefly, and then back at the children. No response seemed appropriate for his question.

“Sierra, take this as a sign,” Jordan said.  “Get away from Benji while you can.” 

A tear fell down her cheek.  “He’ll be all alone,” she said. 

“He’ll make it through it.  He needs this, Sierra.  Believe me.  I’m not trying to be cruel.  I’m really not.  I just want to see him turn his life around.  After that then you can see where you’re at.  If you’re really in love with each other then wait.  Wait until you’re both mentally and emotionally ready.” 

She wiped her eyes and stood up.  “I don’t know,” she said.   “I think you’re making too much of this.” 

He followed her to her feet.  “Just think about what I said.  Help him to help himself.” 

Not wanting to discuss it anymore, she turned and retreated back to the path.  After she’d gone, Jordan opened the envelope and withdrew a set of photographs.  He grimaced when he flipped through them.  The photographs, taken by the police over a year ago, were of Scott Kelly’s bloodied and bruised face following the attack Benji administered with a metal baseball bat. 

He’d fully intended on showing them to Sierra, to explain what Benji was capable of.  But he couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t betray his son that way.  Turning him into a monster in Sierra’s eyes would have been a cruel tactic that he’d never forgive himself for.

Sierra Merteuil

When Sierra returned from her brief walk back to the cabana, Benji was waiting for her.  The look on his face as she entered broke her heart into pieces.  Immediately, her eyes began tearing up again. 

“I didn’t do it,” he said, coming toward her. “I didn’t take those things from my dad’s house.  I swear to you, Sierra.” 

She thought about the things Jordan said to her.  And while she cared for Benji very much, she wanted him to pull his life together.  She wanted the same thing for herself.  Getting married had been a mistake, a rash decision based on everything that they’d both endured over the past few months. 

“I don’t think we should get married,” she told him.  Better to get it out than let it drag on.  It would hurt him, but in the long run it was the only way. 

“What?” he asked, stepping toward her.   “You don’t mean that.” 

“I just think that we should take some time.”

“Is this because of what he said?” Benji demanded.  “Because you believe my father about the robbery?  I’m telling you I had nothing to do with it!”

She shook her head and walked to the other side of the room.  “No, it has nothing to do with the robbery.  I just think us getting married was-“

“Don’t say it,” he said, eyes wide.  “Don’t say it was a mistake.  We got married because we love each other.”

Tears flows down her face as she turned away from him.

“Or at lease I thought so,” Benji told her.  “I’ve loved you for a long time, Sierra.  Are you saying you don’t love me?”

“No.”

“Do you love me or not?”  He went to her and pulled her toward him.  “Tell me!”

“Yes, I love you,” she cried.  “But we shouldn’t be married.  Not now.  Not like this.  Benji, your relationship with your father is a mess, I’m not on great terms with my mom, and I just-“

“Who cares about them?” Benji said, his voice exploding into anger.  “I care about you and me and that’s all.  That’s all I’ve ever cared about.” 

She fought the temptation to tell him about what Ashton had said.  She didn’t want this to come to a he said she said situation, because the truth was there was much more to it than that. 

“I’m sorry,” she said, unable to look him in the eyes. 

“So that’s it?” he asked, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her.  “You decide it’s over and I’m supposed to just walk away?  Why are you doing this?  Why?”

“You’re hurting me!” she cried, wincing as his fingers dug deep into her skin. 

“He can’t do this to me!” Benji raged, forcing her against the wall and bearing down on her with dark, brooding eyes.  

“Benji, stop!” she screamed and pushed him away.   “It’s not your father!  It’s you!”

He staggered back against the sofa.  Once he regained his footing, he took a deep breath and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“It’s you, Benji,” she went on.  “You need to figure out what you’re doing.  You need to get control of your anger.  Look at the way you’re acting.  That’s not you.  That’s not the Benji I fell in love with.” 

He looked at her, at the handprints he’d left on her arms, and tore out of the cabana before he could say or do anything else to hurt her. 

Brett Armstrong

The five hour drive into the desert went quickly, and reminded Brett of the time he, Devon and Bailey left a motorcoach full of naïve tourists stranded fifty miles outside of Vegas while they absconded with their money.  Back then he never imagined he’d be where he was today.  A top executive at a major film studio who’d just pulled off the biggest merger since the golden age of Hollywood. 

He arrived to the compound just before one o’clock and pulled up to a clearing on a hill amidst a cloud of dirt and hazy mid-day sun.  By the time he stepped out of his silver Mercedes, several people were already approaching.  He decided to stay on guard.  Whatever this place was, it didn’t look like a vacation retreat. 

“Afternoon,” he said, watching them from behind black Wayfarers.

“Hello,” one of them said.  “And welcome.  Can we help you?”

Brett looked around the clearing, a crude village set up with a few ramshackle cabins and a slew of tents.  “Yeah, I’m looking for someone.”  He removed his sunglasses and frowned. 

“Who sent you?” another follower asked.

“Huh?”

“How did you come to find out about our tribe of empowerment?”

Alarm bells immediately went off inside Brett’s head.  “I’m a friend of Ross Fuller.  I was told that he’s here.” 

Just as he finished his sentence, Ross emerged from one of the tents.  He took the path up the hill and smiled kindly at Brett.  “This is a surprise I wasn’t expecting.  Welcome, Brett.  Welcome.” 

“Listen, I’m sorry to interrupt your little…gathering,” Brett said, watching as the others emerged from their respective tents and congregated nearby.  “I’m looking for Suzanne.  Is she here with you?”

His question was answered when Suzanne surfaced amidst the crowd.  Immediately, he went toward her, taking note of her appearance.  A flowing white dress, sandals, and her hair tied back in a braid.  She looked relaxed and at ease, a far cry from the woman who had left the week before.

“What are you doing here?” Suzanne asked, Ross quickly stepping beside her. 

“I came to talk to you,” Brett said, aware of the protective nature most of the others seemed to have of their compound.   “Are you all right?  You left without saying a word to anyone.” 

“I’m wonderful,” she replied.  “I needed to get away.”

He went to place a hand on her arm.  “I understand, believe me.  After everything you went through with Jordan and Lon, it’s no wonder.  But I’ve been worried.  Please come back with me.” 

“It’s peaceful here,” she said, looking around the serene clearing in the desert.  “And people here understand me.  They appreciate me for who I am.” 

“So do I,” Brett told her.  “Look, if it’s Jordan you’re worried about, don’t be.  I can protect you.”

“We’re all the protection Suzanne needs,” Ross said.

Brett looked at him suspiciously and then back at Suzanne.  “I’m not leaving here without you.” 

“Suzanne doesn’t want to go with you,” said a voice from behind the crowd.  When the followers parted, Warren emerged in a white robe.  

“Who are you?”

“Warren Abbott,” he said softly, avoiding looking him directly in the eyes.  “I’m the leader of this group.” 

Deep frown lines formed on Brett’s forehead.  Something about the man seemed oddly familiar to him.  “What is this place?  Suzanne, who are all of these people?”

“We’re citizens of New Abbott,” Ross declared.  “A place where people can go when they need self awareness and compassion.  Are you in need?”

“No,” Brett said.

“Then go,” Suzanne told him.  “Please, I don’t want any trouble.  I don’t want any part of that life anymore.  This is where I belong now.” 

“That’s not true,” Brett said.  “You belong back home where your children are and where people love you.  People like me.” 

“If you don’t leave now, we’ll be forced to-“ Ross began.

“To what?” he cut him off and flashed him a look of warning.

“Just leave, Brett,” Suzanne said.  “Leave me to my new life.” 

Realizing there was no getting through to her, he backed up away from the amassing group of followers.  Something felt very odd to him.  It didn’t appear that she was being held against her will, but she also didn’t seem to be acting like herself.  Grudgingly, he got back in his car and turned back onto the road.  Leaving her there felt wrong, but he couldn’t stay under those circumstances.  He decided he’d have to find out who this Warren Abbott was and why he seemed to have a hold over Suzanne.

Benji Rydell

Following his blowup with Sierra, Benji went to Eddie and Blake’s apartment in Studio City and paced around the bedroom in a fit of anger.  Breathing heavily, he tried to piece together the events of the last few days.  It was clear that his father, and probably Renee, had something to do with Sierra’s sudden change of heart.  They were poisoning her mind against him.  It was bad enough Jordan threw him out and cut him out of his life, but to take away the one thing that was good in his life?

Hastily, he went to his backpack resting on the bed and unzipped it.  Removing a copy of Valley of Temptation, he slid it inside a large padded envelope and sealed it closed.  Then, with a black felt tip pen, he began scribbling the address of the institution in San Francisco, marking the package to Heather’s attention. 

If his father wanted to play dirty, so would he. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy and Jane emerged from the nursery at the Blackthorne mansion where R.J. took his afternoon nap.  They stood in the hall and kissed tenderly while quietly closing the door.

“I’m so glad he’s back and he’s safe,” Jane said, then grew thoughtful as she stared at the floor.  “I’m just sorry that I had any involvement in keeping him from you.” 

“You didn’t know,” Stormy told her, placing a hand on her back and squeezing her tightly toward him.   “Besides, that’s all in the past.  From now on I’m only looking ahead.” 

Commotion at the top of the stairs caught their attention, and when Stormy saw who was coming toward them, he flew into a rage. 

“What are you doing?” he demanded. 

“Moving in,” Kelly said, two Gucci suitcases gripped in her hands.  Behind her, Leilani carried two more bags.

“Excuse me?” Stormy asked and approached her in the middle of the corridor.  “The hell you are.” 

“I got to thinking, my son is here and I want to spend time with him,” Kelly informed him.  “And how better to do that than be under the same roof?” 

“You said you were going back to New York to start working on a movie.” 

“I turned the part down.  I’m giving up my career in New York so I can concentrate on being a mother to R.J.”

Standing in disbelief, Stormy looked at her and then at Jane.  Suddenly, looking ahead to the future didn’t seem as promising as he’d envisioned. 

Alex Reynolds

Alex found Jordan at the one place she could expect to find him.  Stepping up the ladder to his yacht docked at the marina, she spied him lounging in a chair with a cooler of beer beside him.   Some things never change, she thought with a smile as she proceeded onto the deck. 

“Bad day?” she asked, shielding her eyes from the afternoon sun. 

“The worst,” he replied.  “My house got robbed and my son is spiraling out of control.  I lost my company, and on top of everything else, I almost did something today that I could never see myself doing in a million years.  So yeah, bad day.” 

She walked toward him and knelt down.  “My son hates my guts, and my daughter acts like I’m not even there.  Oh, and my career is a disaster, I have a grandson I’ll probably never see again, and I’m a recovering addict.” 

“We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?” Jordan asked, cracking a smile in spite of his bad mood. 

Alex smiled in return.  “Yeah, we are.” 

Suddenly, Jordan began laughing, creases forming under his eyes as he smiled from ear to ear.  Within seconds, laughter turned into hysterics.  Alex looked at him in shock, wondering what on earth he had to laugh about.  But the more he laughed, the funnier she found the situation. 

“I mean, how can things get any shitter?” he asked between fits of laughter.  “My life is seriously fucked up, like beyond anything imaginable.  How does that happen?”

She nodded and erupted into laughter.  “I know!  What on earth was I thinking stealing my own grandson?  It’s like I never learn from my mistakes!”

“Nope, we just keep making the same ones over and over,” Jordan said, nearly falling out of his chair. 

She sat on his lap and put an arm around him.  “Over and over,” she repeated as the laughter slowly died down.  We were never a mistake though.”

“Well, after two marriages we should probably have our heads examined.”

“We’re good together when it works,” Alex said.

“Yeah, when it works.” 

She traced her hand down his chest and kissed him softly on the lips.  He reciprocated and within moments they were wrapped in each others arms on the chair.  Clothes were discarded and they were making love on the deck of the yacht, their bodies bathed in sunshine. 

Benji Rydell

Regret didn’t enter into Benji’s mind after mailing the book to his sister.  It served his father right for trying to destroy his life.  Once Heather found out what their mother had done, they’d all be sorry for abandoning him. 

Sierra wasn’t at the cabana and wasn’t answering her cell, so he decided to go to her mother’s penthouse and insist that they talk things over.  He’d only left during their conversation earlier because he could feel himself growing agitated.  He knew that all he had to do was reason with her and she’d realize they belonged together. 

“I need to see Sierra,” he said when Renee opened the door. 

“She’s not here,” Renee said, holding the door open only a few inches. 

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know, Benji.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I was in the middle of something.” 

Peering over her shoulder, he caught her off guard by suddenly pushing the door open and calling out through the apartment.

“Sierra!” he called.  “Sierra, please talk to me!”

“I told you she isn’t here,” Renee said insistently while standing in his path.  “Now I’d like you to leave.” 

“You’re trying to keep her from me,” he said angrily.  “I know you are.  She’s here, isn’t she?”

“Look, Sierra does not want to see you.  She told me about what happened.  I think you should just move on and forget about her.” 

“She’s my wife.”

“No, she isn’t,” Renee said with an arched eyebrow.  “Now I’m not going to tell you again.  Please leave.” 

Benji stopped her from closing the door again.  His eyes narrowed menacingly on her and remained for several uncomfortable minutes. 

“You can’t keep me from her,” he said in a slow, methodical voice.

“Sierra is the one who decides who she sees.” 

“Let me make one thing very clear to you,” Benji continued.  “I won’t let you or anyone else stop me from seeing Sierra.  I’ll do whatever I have to do to make sure you don’t poison her mind against me.  Believe me when I say you have no idea who you’re dealing with.  I will make you sorry.” 

Slowly, she closed the door and turned, shaken by the severity in his voice and the cold, penetrating look in his eyes.  Swallowing hard, she forced a reassuring smile on her face when Sierra emerged from the bedroom.

“Is he gone?” she asked. 

Renee nodded and pulled her into an embrace.  “He’s gone, baby,” she said, unable to shake the feeling of dread that overcame her.  


Next time....

Jane has a run-in with a dangerous man.  Stormy and Kelly clash.  James has good news for the family.  Mackenzie surprises James.  Brooke has a decision to make.

 

 

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