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Episode 137

 

Release Date:  April 15, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Ethan was freed from prison on a technicality, but his return home was bittersweet as Brooke felt they were further apart than ever.  Brooke agreed to move into the mansion for Michael's benefit.  Miranda and Stormy sparred with Kelly.  James grew disheartened when it became clear his family couldn't get along.  James forgave Mackenzie.  David told Brooke and Miranda that he was going away to a clinic in San Francisco to die, but he later made plans to undergo a risky surgery. Before T.T. left town, he cautioned Kyle, an acquaintance from New York, not to stir up trouble in L.A..  Brett researched Warren Abbott, then became angry when Jordan refused to help Suzanne.  Jane saw her cousin Farrah working as a street hooker.  Farrah tried holding up Van Edgewater at gunpoint for money, but he took the gun and sent her away.  Hugh Rogers, whom Farrah worked for, threatened her if she pulled another stunt.  Before she went away to prison, Gemma asked Miranda to head up her high priced call girl operation.  After Sierra turned Benji away, Benji tried to convince Renee to talk to Sierra for him.  Benji took the gun from Van's place.  Later, he hooked up with Sheldon, but when Sheldon began talking about Sierra and Ashton's friendship, he freaked out on him with the gun, then began crying alone in the pool house. Angry that his father wouldn't give him money, Benji mailed a copy of Suzanne's book to Heather.

 


  

Episode 137

"Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf"

 

By the age of five, Sierra Merteuil knew that she loved to sing.  She could remember performing in talent shows at her European boarding schools, and then when she got older, being asked to perform at weddings and parties thrown by her rich friends’ parents.  Between all of that, she would sing anywhere she could, even in the shower when no one was around. 

That morning in her cabana at Moonshadows, she did just that.  The stereo in the living room area blared a Mariah song and she crooned along at the top of her lungs while letting the hot water shower over her body.  When she cut the water off, she suddenly became aware of how loud the music was. 

With a guilty expression on her face, she quickly wrapped herself in a towel and darted out of the bathroom to the stereo.  She laughed at herself and turned to go back to the bathroom.  Before she did, she heard knocking at the door. 

Tip-toeing through the small room, she peered through the peek hole to see who was there.  From the view offered by the small opening, she couldn’t see anyone outside.  Curious, she unlocked and unchained the door and opened it a few inches.

Just she’d guessed, there was no one there.  A small box was resting on the wooden tiles that made up her small porch, so she bent down and picked it up. 

Once she was back inside the cabana, she set the box on the counter and opened it.  Inside was a glittered microphone with a pink S embossed in jewels on one side.  A small note card rested at the bottom of the box.

“Heard you got a new signing gig,” she read aloud.  “I’m so proud of you.  I miss you.  Benji.” 

With a lump in her throat, she lowered the note and shook her head somberly.  It seemed that Benji was not going to give up easily.  Her heart broke for what he was going through, but she had to maintain her position.  Getting married had been a mistake, a rash decision based on everything she’d been through the past few months.  Eventually it would have to blow over.

Ashton Childers

Ashton Childers did what he could to keep in shape.  Gym four days a week and five mile runs along the beach every morning.  He was off to a late start today, hampered by a pesky hangover after spending a night out bar crawling.  But by the time he’d neared Muscle Beach on the boardwalk, he was in his zone. 

Once he passed a mob of rollerbladers, he stopped to work out a cramp in his calf.  He saw someone approach out of the corner of his eye and turned instinctively just as Benji appeared. 

“Hey, what’s up, Rydell?” he asked, breathing heavy.

“Looking for you,” Benji said with determination. 

“Yeah?  What for?”

Benji stepped closer.  “You can leave Sierra alone, that’s what you can do.” 

Ashton knew this was coming.  Since he started hanging out with Sierra, he'd been warned that Benji could start looking for trouble.   But he’d never let another guy stop him from spending time with a girl he liked.  Especially not Benji Rydell.

“I think that’s for Sierra to decide,” he said, still jogging in place so he didn’t lose his stride. 

“Sierra is confused,” Benji told him and moved closer.  “She’s got her mother telling her lies, and she’s still freaked out about what Hunt did to her.  Drugs have a way of doing that to people.” 

“Sierra gave that stuff up,” Ashton maintained.  “And she doesn’t seem so confused to me.  Maybe she just needs a stable guy in her life.” 

“And you're that guy?”

Ashton shrugged and finally stopped still.  “I don’t know.  Maybe.  We have a good time together.” 

The remark sent anger and frustration coursing through Benji’s body.  He moved closer still and leveled a penetrating stare into his eyes.  “Sierra belongs with me,” he said, speaking very slowly and methodically.  “Leave her alone.”

“What if I don’t?” Ashton asked with an incredulous frown. 

“I think you already know the answer to that question,” Benji said ominously. 

Ashton shook his head and started jogging in place again.  He wasn’t intimidated by him.  If anything, he pitied him. “I’m sorry that things didn’t work out with you and Sierra, but you’re going to have to get over it.  She’s free to see who she wants.” 

And with that, he jogged off along the boardwalk.  Benji watched him go, desperate for a way to stop this from happening.  He knew that Sierra was just confused, and it was only a matter of time before she came back to him.

Miranda Blackthorne

Following that morning’s disastrous family breakfast, Miranda decided to get out of the house and away from Kelly.  Her father had good intentions when it came to everyone getting along, but there was a limit to how much anyone could put up with. 

On her way down the stairs, she picked up the mail from a table in the entryway and flipped through a stack of envelopes until she came to a letter addressed to her.  She set her Prada bag on the table and opened the envelope.  Inside was a newspaper clipping and a handwritten note.  The clipping was an article pertaining to the murder of a prostitute two days before.  Her body had been discovered in an alley off Hollywood Boulevard.   The note was from Gemma Sanders, and read:

            Miranda,

This girl used to work for me.  Look what happened to her now.  Have you reconsidered my offer? 

                                                Gemma

Sighing, Miranda stuffed the pages into her purse.  Gemma’s offer to take over her call girl operation was as ludicrous as how much money she’d spent on her bag.  She still couldn’t fathom why of all people she’d targeted her as her replacement.  While she felt sorry for the poor hooker who’d been beaten and strangled in an alley, it wasn’t her responsibility.

The sound of the doorbell ringing pushed the subject to the back of her mind.  When she opened the door and her mother burst inside, she suddenly realized Gemma was easy to deal with compared to Alex Reynolds. 

“Mom, I was just getting ready to leave.  I have a nail appointment at ten.” 

“Look, I know you’ve been avoiding me and I’m the last person that you want to see right now, but this distance between us has got to stop.  I can understand Stormy’s resentment toward me, but it doesn’t have to drive a wedge between you and I.” 

“Even if I hate what you did to him?” Miranda said and grabbed for her purse. 

Alex nodded, looking vibrant in a sixties-inspired print dress.  “Yes.  I know you’ve always been closer to your father, and Stormy’s always been closer to me.  Do you have any idea how I feel knowing you both despise me now?”

“I don’t despise you, mother,” Miranda said.  “I just can’t deal with you right now.  At least not until I can look at you without wanting to shake you.” 

“Precisely what I had in mind,” James interrupted when he emerged from his study.  He leveled any icy cold stare at his ex-wife and crossed his arms.  “Hello Alex, I’m so glad you stopped by.” 

“James,” she said through pursed lips.  “Welcome home.  And you can spare me the lecture; I’ve already gotten it from both of our children.  I’m sure it pleases you to know neither one of them will talk to me.” 

“The only thing that pleases me, Alex, is that you’re finally facing consequences for your actions,” James said.   “I don’t understand how a mother could do something like this to her own son.  To keep R.J. from Stormy like that?  What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” she said, feeling cornered.  “I’d just gotten out of rehab and I was alone and vulnerable.  When I saw that baby all reason went out the window.  I don’t expect you to understand.”

She turned and went to the door but he stopped her.  “If you’re alone you have no one to blame but yourself,” he said.

Alex looked at him and fought to maintain her composure.  She wouldn’t let him see her cry.  “Tell Ethan I’m glad he’s home,” she said before leaving. 

James made a face and turned to Miranda.  “This day just keeps getting better.”

She looked at him apologetically.  “I’m sorry about breakfast, Daddy.  I promise we’ll try to get along.  It’ll just be hard with all of us in the same house.” 

“We’re not exactly bumping into each other here,” James said with a wry expression.  “Have a good day, Sweetheart.” 

“Bye Daddy,” she said and went to the door.

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy got an impromptu breakfast invitation so he drove to Moonshadows where they took a table on the outside patio of the Sierra Room.  That morning’s events had spoiled his appetite, so he hadn’t eaten much at home.  After he and his date finished their breakfast and the waiter cleared their plates, the business talk continued. 

“I’m glad we got a chance to catch up, Stormy,” T.T. Levitt said while nursing a cup of coffee.  He was a sophisticated, well-dressed African American man in his mid-fifties, sparkling rings on several fingers and Salvatore Ferragamo wing-tips that Stormy admired when he went to cross his legs.  “It sounds like you’ve got your hands full.  Armstrong coming aboard the studio, a new baby, your cousin returning…”

“It’s been busy, that’s for sure,” Stormy said.  “So you were mentioning something about Titan Records.  Is business good?”

“Business is excellent,” he said emphatically.  “Which is why I flew in today to meet with you.”

“Are you thinking of another partnership with Sunset Studios?”

“Not exactly,” T.T. began.  “I’m looking at starting up a west coast branch of Titan Records and I’d like you to head it up for me.” 

“Me?” Stormy asked, shifting in his seat to avoid a particularly persistent ray of sunshine that darted between the tables. 

“Sure.  You have a proven track record.  It wasn’t that long ago that Good Times Records signed two of today’s biggest artists. Lauren Spencer’s new record just went gold.” 

Stormy nodded with a grumble.  It seemed like a million years ago that he fell for Lauren and left Heather.  The decision proved disastrous, not only ruining his marriage but also costing him his record company. 

“Are you sure you’re talking to the right guy?” he asked.  “I didn’t exactly make the best business decisions back then, which is why Good Times is no longer.” 

T.T. shrugged.  “You let your personal life cloud your judgment.  I’m no stranger to that sort of thing, but we learn from our mistakes.  Besides, you wouldn’t be acting alone.  You’d have the full support of myself and the other investors back in New York.”

“That does make it a little more tempting,” Stormy said thoughtfully.

“I need someone who’s young and hip and knows the music scene,” T.T. went on.  “What do you say?”

Stormy considered his offer but shook his head in reply after only a brief moment.  “I’m flattered, T.T., but I have to say no.  I’m working toward something at Sunset Studios, especially now that Brett is involved.  I feel like I need to be there to make sure he doesn’t screw up everything my father’s worked for.” 

“You’re loyal to your family,” T.T. surmised.  “I like that.  But just so you know, I don’t take no for an answer.” 

Stormy smiled after signing the check and rising from the table.  “Somehow I don’t doubt it,” he said and followed him outside to the front of the building.  “But I’d hate for you to waste your time.” 

Before T.T. could reply, their conversation was interrupted when Renee drove up in her golf cart.  She cut the motor and nodded at Stormy, making a conscious effort to avoid T.T. 

“Having breakfast?” she asked. 

“We just finished,” Stormy said awkwardly.  He wasn’t sure what had gone on between her and T.T. since they cut their cruise short a year earlier.  He guessed they hadn’t spoken, as the tension was insurmountable. 

Finally, Renee turned to T.T. and managed a faint smile. “Hello T.T.” 

“Renee,” he said cooly.  “You look beautiful as always.” 

“Thank you,” she said.  “What are you doing in Los Angeles?” 

“Business,” he said.  “How are you?”

“I’m well,” she replied, doing her best to put on a brave face.  No need to relay her recent troubles, broken engagement, and the fact that she was once again alone with no romantic prospects.  “How is Malcolm?”

“He’s good.”

“And Angela?” 

T.T. knew Angela would come up.  Renee was not the type to forget.  “Angela moved to Miami with her new husband.” 

Raising an eyebrow, Renee decided she’d had enough of catching up.  The last thing she wanted was to hear him make another attempt at reconnecting.  Just because Angela Warner was no longer in the picture, it didn’t mean she had any interest in seeing him again. 

“Well, nice to see you,” she said and started the golf cart again.  “Stormy, say hello to your father.” 

He waived as she drove away, then flashed T.T. a knowing glance.  He could tell by the look in his eyes that he still had it for Renee. 

Benji Rydell

Benji was on his way back to Eddie and Blake’s apartment when his father called him on his cell and told him he wanted to see him at the house.  His first thought was that he’d somehow found out he’d been at the pool house the night before.  He placed the gun he’d acquired from Van’s house in the glove compartment of his car and went inside where Jordan was busy shuffling papers in his study.

“Hi Dad,” he said, stepping tentatively into the room. 

“Thank you for coming,” Jordan replied, all business.  He sounded like a boss speaking to an employee more than a father speaking to his son.  But his tone was necessary.  “I saw Blake yesterday.” 

Benji realized this probably wasn’t about the pool house so he relaxed a little. 

“He seemed very surprised when I mentioned the club that the two of you were planning on opening.” 

Relaxation was premature.  Benji swallowed hard and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans.  “Yeah,” he said. 

Finally, Jordan looked up at him.  “So you lied to me.  What did you need the money for if it wasn’t for the club?”

Benji shook his head.  “Nothing.”

“Nothing?  Was it for drugs?”

“No.” 

“You owe somebody money?” 

Benji shook his head.  “No, I just wanted a loan.  You turned me down so what’s the big deal.” 

Jordan walked around to the other side of the desk and sat down on the edge.  “The big deal is that not only did you break in here and steal from me, you also lied about why you wanted the money in the first place.  When are you going to start owning up to your mistakes instead of trying to hide them like a little kid?”

“I told you I didn’t take anything,” Benji insisted angrily.  “You just want someone to blame.” 

“And I wonder why that is?  You haven’t given me any reason to trust you.” 

Fed up, Benji threw his hands up in resignation.  “You know what?  I don’t care.  Blame me for everything.  Go ahead.  Blame me for mom taking off again, for her writing the book, for her and Brett.  It’s all my fault, isn’t it?”

Jordan sighed.  “For a lot of it, yes.” 

“Screw you,” Benji said and rolled his eyes belligerently. 

Jordan returned to his desk and sat down.  “I thought you should know that I got off the phone with the police just before you came over.  They’ll be looking for you to question you about the break-in.” 

“You called the police?” he retorted. 

“I told you I would.  I called you over here to give you a head start.  I’d hope you’d confess to me but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.  Now they’re probably at Blake’s looking for you.  Just don’t expect me to bail you out of this one, Benji.  You’ve dug your own hole this time.” 

Backing up to the door, Benji shook his head in frustration. “I can’t believe you would do this!” he yelled.  “What kind of a father are you?”

“One who won't be a victim to you anymore."

“I hate you,” Benji hissed.  “Do you hear me?  I fucking hate you!”

With that, he turned and darted out of the room.  He had no idea where he would go now, but he couldn’t stand to look at his father for another second.  Climbing in his car, he sped off through Beverly Hills, trying desperately to think of a plan.

Brooke Taylor

Brooke went to Moonshadows that afternoon because Renee said she needed her signature on some forms.  While she was there, she decided to approach Renee about taking an office next to hers.  Living at the mansion, there were plenty of people around for Michael, so she didn’t feel as pressured to stay home with him.  Working may be exactly what she needed, particularly with the uncertainty of her relationship with Ethan. 

She walked across the lobby in the administrative building and stopped when she spotted Ethan stalking through the front doors.  Quickly, she ducked behind a pillar.  Hiding from the man she’d cried over for a year and a half seemed ludicrous, but that’s what his change of attitude had done to her.  Their argument over breakfast was case in point. 

“Is Kyle in his office?” she heard Ethan ask Marsha, the receptionist.

“No, but I think I see him coming in now,” she replied and pointed to the door. 

Ethan turned just as Kyle walked inside the building.  They stopped and studied one another for a few moments. 

“Ethan,” Kyle began, removing his mirrored aviator sunglasses.  “I heard you were out.” 

Ethan nodded.  “Are you feeling better?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Good.”   He drew his fist back and punched him in the jaw.  Kyle staggered back a few feet, wincing from the pain but not entirely surprised that it happened.  Brooke watched from behind the pillar, covering her mouth with surprise.

“I guess I had that coming,” Kyle said, checking the back of his hand to see if he was bleeding. 

“You’re getting off easy,” Ethan told him.  “After what you did to me I should kill you.” 

And just like that, Ethan turned and walked out of the building.  Brooke watched from across the room, fully aware that things between the three of them were bound to be tense for some time to come.

Sunset Studios

When Stormy returned to the studio, he found Brett in James’s office looking over production notes for their next film, a remake of the 1963 Lamont 3 production entitled The Benefactor.  To his surprise, his father’s temper seemed to be uncharacteristically in check despite Brett's recent actions. 

“Dad, can I talk to you for a minute?” he asked upon entering the richly furnished room. 

James briefly looked up from the conference table.  “Can it wait a bit, son?  Brett and I are going over those notes from the meetings I missed when I was in New York.” 

“You and Brett?” he asked, dumbfounded.  He’d fully expected to walk in and find Brett packing his office and leaving with his tail between his legs.  Instead, it appeared they were waist high in pre-production efforts. 

“That’s right.  I thought Brett could take the lead on The Benefactor.” 

“Are you kidding?” Stormy asked, hands dug deep in his pockets. 

“We’re still knee deep in legal issues from House of Palms,” James informed him.  “Weren’t you working on that yourself?”

Stormy nodded.  “Yeah, but-“

“I just want to get everything cleared up so we can put it behind us,” James explained, “and I’d rather you focus on it since House of Palms was your baby.” 

“My baby?” Stormy asked with a scoff.  “Yeah, the movie was my idea but-“

“I think your father means since you scouted the locations, you’re probably better to address these legal issues,” Brett chimed in, relishing the look of disappointment on his face. 

Stormy saw what he was trying to do.  Because he scouted the locations, it must be all his fault that things went terribly wrong in Mexico.  Leave it to Brett to drive home the negative where he was concerned.  

“As soon as that gets cleared up, you can join us in this new production,” James said. 

“That could take months!”

“It’s got to be done, son.”

Frustrated, Stormy wiped a hand over his clammy face.  “So what about the merger with Rydell?  How are we going to fix Brett’s screw up?”

“On the contrary, I’ve looked at the figures and I think it was a smart move,” James indicated.  “We’re in better financial shape than we have been since Angel Assassin 2 scored at the box office.  Having Rydell’s production resources at our disposal is going to mean we can produce twice as many films in half the time.” 

“So he gets away with it again?  Brilliant.”

“Is there something you want to say, Stormy?” Brett asked. 

James frowned.  “I thought you’d be pleased that the studio is in such good shape, Stormy.  That is why we’re here.  To make money.  I have to say Brett was right on track with this one.” 

Stormy grumbled.  “Yeah, of course.   I guess I'd better get to that meeting with the lawyers.” 

He ducked out of the office and clenched his fists in anger.  Maybe he needed to reconsider T.T.’s offer.  His father obviously had no use for him.  At least someone out there did. 

Kyle Fenwick

Kyle sat atop a stool at La Mirada Bar, wincing as he held a towel filled with ice on his sore jaw.  He felt a shadow loom over him and turned just as T.T. sat down to his left. 

“Looks like you were on the receiving end of someone’s fist,” T.T. said with a good natured laugh.  “Can’t say I’m surprised.  I’ve heard about the trouble you’ve gotten into lately.” 

“And you came here to give me the obligatory I told you so, huh?”

T.T. shrugged.  “I warned you when you showed up in L.A. after you got out of prison that you were making a mistake.  Now look what’s happened.  You found out your father was responsible for that hotel exploding, and for killing Royce Jennings.  Not to mention what you did to poor Brooke Taylor.” 

“Is this visit just to count my faults on your hands?  Because if so, I’m not interested in hearing it.” 

“Just some friendly advice,” T.T. replied.  “Get out of here while you can.  Next time you might not be so lucky.  Piss off the wrong people again and you could wind up worse off than falling and impaling yourself.”

“Thanks for the warning,” Kyle said, cringing when he moved his hand too fast and sent searing pain up his jaw line.  “But I’m not going anywhere.  I have a job.”

“The only reason you have a job is to stay close to Brooke Taylor.  You don’t need the money.  And I’m afraid you’ve burned through your chances with her.” 

“It’s not over until I say it is,” Kyle said and got up from the stool.   “I can handle Ethan coming back.  I thrive on a challenge.” 

“Is that was David Jennings was to you?  A challenge?”

“No, David was a thorn in my side.  He didn’t trust me and tried poisoning Brooke’s mind against me.”

“He didn’t trust you for a reason.  Turns out he was right.” 

Kyle shrugged. “Well David isn’t a problem anymore.  He went away to die.” 

T.T. laughed.  “Is that what he told you?”

“That's what he told Brooke.”

T.T. stood up and met his gaze.  “So you actually believe that he went away to die?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“David didn’t go away to die.  He went away to get better.  He only told Brooke that so she wouldn’t worry.” 

Kyle blinked, suddenly disarmed by the prospect that David could return one day.  He wondered how he could use the information to his advantage where Brooke was concerned. 

Benji Rydell

After leaving his father’s house, Benji had nowhere to go.  He couldn’t go back to Blake’s because the police would be looking for him there.  He drove aimlessly for a while, veering onto Mulholland and finally pulling out to the Hollywood Bowl overlook.  He got out of his car and stared out over the city, the Hollywood sign mocking him because in a city of so much opportunity, he’d somehow slipped into such a low place.  

Reeling over his father’s betrayal, he hadn’t stopped shaking since he’d left his house.  He had no one to go to.  Sierra hadn’t so much as reacted to the gift he’d left at her door that morning.  A few times he checked his phone to make sure it was still working.  It was a constant fear that his father would have it turned off and then she’d have no way to get in touch with him.

Maybe he should go see her, he decided.  She could just be busy.

Quickly, he got back into his car and headed down to Moonshadows.  After parking, he got out and walked to the Cahuenga Room.  Before he even reached the door, he could hear the sounds of her voice emanating from inside the building. 

Once he drew near, he saw her rehearsing in the empty room.  He stepped closer, careful to stay hidden until he knew it was safe.  Knowing his father, he probably had people who were willing to turn him in if he was spotted. 

Smiling while listening to her soulful voice, he dreamed of the glorious few days they’d spent together before everything went sour.  Holding her tight, making love to her, kissing her soft lips.  It felt like yesterday, but also like a million years ago. 

When the song ended and she set her microphone down, he realized that she wasn’t using the glitter studded microphone he’d left for her.  In her hand was the same ordinary black one.   Disappointed, he took another step back. 

Then, like a punch in the gut, he saw Ashton approach her from one of the tables.  He hadn’t noticed him there before.  He couldn’t hear what they were saying but they were laughing and she was touching his arm playfully.  The sight made him sick to his stomach and made his head pound with anxiety. 

Tears staining his cheeks, he turned to leave, bumping into a potted palm outside as he did. 

The commotion caught Sierra’s attention and she turned toward the French doors. 

“What’s wrong?” Ashton asked. 

She looked toward the door.  “Nothing,” she said quietly.  “Just thought I saw someone.” 

Outside, Benji scampered up the hill to his car.  He felt like the walls were closing in on him.  His didn’t know how much more rejection he could take.

\Jane Wheeler

Miranda met Jane for lunch at the Ivy.  As they took their seats on the patio, Miranda was reminded of just how naďve and impressionable Jane was.  A smile crossed her lips as she watched her gawk in amazement at the celebrities who sat at nearby tables. 

“Are you okay?” she asked. 

Jane nodded.  “I can’t believe how many celebrities are here!” she whispered. 

Miranda looked around and shrugged.  “Yeah.  Don't worry, I’m sure they won’t bother us.” 

Jane laughed.  How could we bother them?   Her attention was directed to Miranda’s Prada purse that she sat on the empty chair between them.  “Oh my God, I love that bag.  Is it new?”

“Yeah, isn’t it hot?”

“It’s beautiful,” she said, running her fingers over the supple leather.  “I’d never be able to afford something like this.” 

“You never know,” Miranda said.  “Do you have a birthday coming up anytime soon? I  could always drop a few hints Stormy’s way.” 

Jane laughed and barely noticed when a young woman slid into the fourth chair at their table. 

“Excuse me?” Miranda said, full of attitude. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Jane’s eyes widened in shock as she saw who it was who had joined them.  Farrah?  Oh my God!“ 

“Sorry, I told the guy at the door I was with you,” Farrah Bale said, removing her sunglasses.   She reached a hand across the table and rested it on Jane’s.  “Hi Janey.” 

“Farrah?” Miranda asked.  “Jane’s cousin?”

She nodded.  “Look, I’m sorry for running off the other night.  I wanted to stay and talk to you but I couldn’t.” 

Jane leaned across the table while squeezing her hand.  “It’s okay.  Farrah, what’s going on?  What were you doing with that man in that car?  Are you a prostitute?”

She nodded miserably, lowering her eyes and pulling her hand back to her lap.

“Oh God,” Jane whispered.  “Why?  I mean, I thought you were back in Illinois and married to some rich guy.”

“I left him,” Farrah said, careful to leave out the details of why she left.  Her cousin didn’t need to know that she’d royally screwed everything up with Alec.  “I came out here to start over and…one thing led to another.” 

Miranda flashed Jane a sympathetic look. 

“Why didn’t you call me?” Jane asked.  “I would have helped you.” 

“I didn’t want to risk my mother and father finding out.” 

“I would never have said anything to your mother, or my mother, or anyone,” Jane insisted.

Farrah smiled.  “So after I ran into you the other night I started thinking about how much I hated what I was doing.  I decided to try to find a way out.  I found out where you lived from a guy at your restaurant and then I followed you here today.” 

“I’m glad you did,” she said, then realized she hadn’t properly introduced the two women.  “I’m sorry.  Farrah, this is my friend Miranda.” 

“Nice to meet you,” Miranda said.  “Listen, we were just about to order.  Why don’t you grab a menu and join us?”

“I can’t,” she said, shaking her head.  “He probably has his men watching me.” 

“He who?” Jane wanted to know. 

“The guy I work for,” Farrah explained. 

“Your pimp?”

She shook her head.  “He’s more than that.  He’s a very dangerous man.  He’s from Marquette Cove too.  His son told me to look him up if I needed help, and now I wish I hadn’t.” 

“So who is this guy?”  Miranda asked.  “Whoever he is he obviously has never met a Blackthorne.  My father can probably make him sorry he messed with you in a heartbeat.” 

“His name is Hugh Rogers.  He would sooner kill me than let me quit working for him.” 

“Seriously?” Miranda asked. 

“He’s threatened me,” she said.  “Not in so many words, but he gets his point across.  Everyone’s afraid of this guy.”

You, afraid?,” Jane said in a mocking tone.  “I don't believe it.  Besides, I’m sure he’s not a murderer.” 

“I think he killed a girl who worked for him,” Farrah said.  “I used to see her around the streets but she’s been missing for a few days.” 

Miranda frowned and grabbed her purse.  She removed the letter and newspaper clipping that Gemma sent her and thrust the article at Farrah.  “Is this the girl?”

Farrah looked at the picture of the woman, a mug shot that had obviously been taken during a previous arrest.  “Yeah, that’s her.  So he did kill her.”

Miranda sighed and looked at the note from Gemma.  She began to see what she meant when she said these girls needed someone.

Brooke Taylor

When Ethan insisted he accompany her to Michael’s appointment with the child psychologist, Brooke prepared herself for more frustration.  She envisioned riding to the clinic in complete and utter awkward silence, her wanting to discuss the state of their relationship, and him claiming again that he needed time. 

She picked Michael up at school and went back to Moonshadows where they were to meet.  She’d also stopped by her townhouse first to collect some things she’d forgotten in the hasty move to the mansion.  While she was there, she found some items that Kyle had left behind when he used to spend so much time there.  Shoving them in a box, she brought it along. 

“Mama’s going to go inside for a minute, sweetheart,” she said to Michael who sat in the back seat of her Mercedes.  “Wait here, okay?”

“Okay mommy,” the little boy said while humming along to a song on the radio. 

“Climbing out of the car, Brooke carried the box inside the Cahuenga Room where she found Kyle positioned at the host stand.  The room was empty, servers preparing for the lunch crowd.  She tentatively stepped toward him and cleared her throat to announce her presence.

“Hi,” he said, a smile lighting up his face.  “This is a surprise.” 

She gestured with the box.  “I was here anyway and wanted to drop these things by.  Shoes and a belt and some cologne and stuff.  I thought you might be missing them.” 

He took the box from her and looked inside.  “Thanks,” he said, then quickly added, “so how are you?” 

“I’m fine,” was her curt reply.  She resisted the urge to comment on the bruised jaw he was sporting.  She turned and started to walk away.  Before she’d taken two steps, she stopped and looked back.  “Actually, there’s something else I wanted to tell you.”

“Oh?”

“I’m going to be working here,” she began. “At Moonshadows.  I’ve taken the office between yours and Renee’s.  I just wanted you to hear it from me first.” 

Kyle raised an eyebrow and stepped closer.  “Oh really?  I thought you didn’t care about Moonshadows.” 

She shrugged, trying to resist the feelings of attraction that still overtook her every time she saw him.  Despite everything, he was very sexy.  Tan skin, penetrating hazel eyes, a perpetual five o’clock shadow, and a muscular body that filled out his slim fitting shirt in all the right places. 

“I do,” she said, shaking her head to dispel her thoughts.  She had to remember what this man did to her.  “But since I’m not actively involved in Sunset Studios at the moment, I decided to put my ten percent of Moonshadows to use.  Of course Renee will remain in control since she’s the majority shareholder.” 

“I think that’s great,” Kyle said.  “Looks like we’ll be running into each other a lot then.”

She nodded and started to walk away again but found herself looking back once more.  “Just so you know, this decision has nothing to do with you.  If anything, you’re the reason I almost reconsidered coming on board.  The fact is that I still hate what you did to me.  Any feelings I once had for you died the day I found out that you lied to me.” 

He offered his usual cocky grin, which infuriated her.  “You don’t hate me,” he said, sure of himself. 

The remark threw her.  “I didn’t say I hated you,” she stammered.  “I just said…” 

Just then, Ethan arrived.  He saw them by the host stand and called from across the room.  “Are you ready?”  His voice echoed through the empty restaurant. 

Brooke quickly turned while Kyle returned to his post.  Without a word, she left the restaurant.  Ethan flashed Kyle one final glare before turning and following her.  Standing behind, Kyle couldn’t help but smile at the thought that Brooke wasn’t as over him as she claimed to be.  The look in her eyes was unmistakable. 

James Blackthorne

James felt like a teenager when Mackenzie stopped by his office that afternoon and they wound up making out on the sofa.  When he went to slip his hand under her shirt, she slapped it away and flashed him a malicious grin. 

“We should save something for tonight,” she said, closing her eyes as he kissed the nape of her neck. 

“Are you teasing me?” he asked.  “You come by my office in the middle of the day looking incredibly sexy and wearing that perfume that I love.  Now you’re putting me off till tonight?”  He flashed a sheepish grin before pressing his lips onto hers. 

“How about dinner later?” she asked, expertly avoiding his question. 

He pulled back and nodded.  “I’d loveit.  Why don’t you come to the house and have dinner with the family?”

She regarded him with a raised eyebrow.  “I don’t know.  That seems a little crowded to me.  Your house is bursting at the seams these days with your nephew returning and Brooke moving in.  Besides, I don’t think she likes me.” 

“She just doesn’t know you,” James said.

Rising from the sofa, she adjusted her skirt and smoothed out a few wrinkles.  “Still, I think I’ll take a pass.  I’ve had more than enough drama for a while.  I’d rather not be pulled into her convoluted love triangles.” 

“Love triangles?” James asked and followed her across the room. 

“It’s obvious she’s still in love with Ethan,” Mackenzie remarked.  “And if I know my brother, he isn’t about to give up on her.  Me sitting at your dinner table would only reignite everyone’s resentment toward Kyle.” 

“But you’ve told Kyle that you don’t want a relationship with him.  No one can fault you for anything he does.” 

“And yet they will,” she said with a smirk, grabbing her purse and heading to the door.  “And that’s exactly the kind of drama I’m trying to avoid.” 

“I want to see you,” James said and pulled her back. 

She kissed him tenderly on the lips.  “Call me when your family doesn’t need you so much.” 

Before he had a chance to reply, she was turning and leaving the office.  With a sigh, James went back to his desk.  He knew Mackenzie had a point.  It seemed they did need him more and more lately.  While it made him feel important, it still seemed to have a negative affect on his relationship with Mackenzie. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Lunch turned into a long discussion about how Miranda and Jane could help Farrah, and by the time they left the Ivy it was late afternoon.  Miranda handed her ticket to the valet who inspected it and hopped to attention. 

“I’ll have your car pulled around right away, Miss Blackthorne,” he said and disappeared around a corner. 

Once he was out of earshot, Miranda turned to Jane who had a comforting hand on Farrah’s shoulder.   “Are you sure you’re going to be okay at your apartment?” she asked.  “What if this Hugh Rogers comes looking for her there?”

“He won’t know where to look,” Farrah insisted. 

“Jane, can I have a word?” Miranda said, taking her friend’s hand and leading her a few feet down the sidewalk.  “Are you sure this is a good idea?  If this guy is as dangerous as she says, you’re not going to be able to protect her.” 

“We’ll be careful,” Jane told her.  “But please don’t mention this to Stormy.  Not yet.  I don’t want him worrying about me.” 

“He’s going to worry,” Miranda cautioned her.  She turned her sights toward Farrah who stood, arms folded by the curb.  “But I think I have an idea.” 

“What?”

Miranda hesitated before answering.  As if convincing herself, she made an affirmative nod of her head and looked at her.  “I’m going to do it.  I’m going to take over for Gemma Sanders.” 

“The madam?” Jane shrieked, then covered her mouth in hopes that no one heard her outburst.  “Miranda, are you crazy?  You said yourself prostitution was disgusting.” 

“I know, but this isn’t about me,” she said firmly.  “I may not like it, but Gemma Sanders protected these girls.  Since she’s been in prison they’ve all strayed and look where it’s gotten them.  A girl is dead because they have no one to go to but men like Hugh Rogers.  Do you want Farrah to be next?  How can I sit back and let that happen?” 

“It’s not your responsibility, Miranda,” Jane said.  “This is dangerous business, not to mention illegal.  What would Eddie say?”

“Eddie isn’t going to know,” Miranda vowed.  “No one can.  This is between you and me.” 

Jane shook her head.  “I don’t know.  I think you’re crazy.” 

“Crazy would be letting girls like Farrah put their lives at risk working for some monster,” Miranda said.  “They need a better working environment.” 

“A better working environment?” Jane lamented in an incredulous tone.  “Miranda, you’re not the Norma Rae of prostitutes.  Can you imagine what would happen if word got out that you’d taken over Gemma’s operation?  Your family’s reputation would be ruined.” 

“Jane, trust me,” Miranda begged.  “I’m going to do this.”

When the valet arrived with her car, she gave Jane one final look of determination before getting inside and speeding off down the street. 

“Miranda Blackthorne, Hollywood Madam,” Jane murmured to herself with a shake of her head before rejoining Farrah by her car. 

Brett Armstrong

Violet’s new nanny not only came with stellar references, but also a smoking hot body.  Brett didn’t deny that part of the reason he’d hired her was her physical attributes.  Who wouldn’t want to come home after work and find a twenty-two year old surfer named Tiffany skipping around the house in short shorts and a ribbed tank top?

The usual routine had him coming in the door and flirting with her, which usually led to her doing the same.  Once she’d even offered a neck massage when he’d complained about what a grueling day it had been. 

Neck massages were as far as it had gone, and as far as he was willing to take it.  While he may have had a few slip-ups recently, he drew the line at nailing the woman caring for his three-year old daughter.  That was Heather’s job, and one that she would resume one day in the not far off future.

Tiffany picked up on his mood when he came home that evening.  Her lips formed into a pout, she collected her things and asked if he needed anything before she took off. 

“No, thanks,” he said, barely noticing how disappointed she sounded.

After she’d gone, he took Violet in his arms and sat with her on the edge of his bed.   “You’re getting to be such a big girl,” he said, pushing a long lock of blond hair from her brilliant blue eyes.   “Did you have fun with Tiffany today?”

“Yeah,” she said in her soft, squeaky voice through a bright smile.  “We played Barbies!” 

“You did?” Brett said while looking at the doll gripped in her hand.  He kissed the top of her head, enjoying the quiet time with her after another day of wheeling and dealing at Sunset Studios and worrying about Suzanne and Heather and everything else that had been going on lately.  “Do you know how precious you are to me?”

She nodded absently while patting the dolls hair with her tiny hand. 

“And you know how much your mommy misses you, don’t you?”

“Mommy’s sick,” Violet said, repeating the words she’d heard frequently over the past year and a half.  “She doesn’t feeeeeel good, Daddy.”

He smiled and held her tighter.  When all was said and done, she was the thing that kept him going.  Not one-upping Stormy at work or positioning himself as James’s right hand man.  He did those things for Violet, to secure her future.  Sometimes he had to remind himself of that. 

“She’ll be back someday,” he said quietly.  “And then we’ll be a family again.” 

He’d convinced himself that it would happen.  Nothing he’d done would hamper that.  His affair with Suzanne and the other women meant nothing compared to how much he wanted back what they once had. 

“Just you wait,” he said. 

Jordan Rydell

“Jordan Rydell,” he answered in his study when his land line phone rang.

“Jordan, it’s Dr. Bouvier,” said the caller.

Immediatley, Jordan turned his attention away from the paperwork that covered his desk.  Heather and her treatment took priority over anything else.  “Hello Dr. Bouvier.  What can I do for you?” 

“I need to talk to you about your daughter,” the man said from his office at the clinic in San Francisco.  “I’m afraid something’s happened.” 

Alarm bells went off inside Jordan’s head.  “What do you mean?  Is my daughter okay?”

“Physically, yes, but I’m concerned about her recovery.  There’s been an unfortunate setback and she’s acting like I’ve never seen her before.” 

“Dr. Bouvier, what are you saying?”

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Jordan, but she got her hands on a copy of the book,” the doctor began, tip-toeing around his words.  “The one your wife wrote.”

Jordan quickly shot to his feet. “But I got an injunction against the publisher,” he stated, trying to reason the facts away.  “They pulled it from the shelves after a couple of days.”

“Nonetheless, she read it.  Or at least parts of it.  Someone sent a copy to her.” 

Jordan rubbed his eyes with his free hand while he paced the room.  “What do you mean someone sent a copy to her?  What are you running there?  Oprah’s Book Club?”

“We usually do a better job of monitoring anything that comes to our patients through the mail, but sometimes items get missed.” 

“Jesus Christ, this isn’t just any ordinary book,” Jordan railed.  “Do you have any idea what reading that could do to her?”

“There wasn’t a return address, but I checked the envelope and it was postmarked from Los Angeles,” Dr. Bouvier explained.  “I thought maybe you’d know who would have sent it to her.”

“No, I don’t know who sent it to her!” Jordan exclaimed.  “Probably a reporter!  One thing’s for sure, it was someone with a goddamn sick mind!” 

“We’ve had to restrain her in her room,” the man went on.  “She’s on thyroxin at the moment to help with her emotional state.  She’s become quite agitated."

“I’m coming up there tonight,” Jordan said, ignoring his cell phone when it began ringing.  “I need to see her.”

“I think that’s the last thing you should do,” Bouvier claimed.  “Let us try to get her treatment back on track.  I think any outside influence will only make things worse.” 

“It was outside influence that set her back in the first place,” Jordan said.  “But the idiots at that clinic are obviously inept and can’t do anything right.  I want an update from you every hour until she’s calmed down.  Do you understand me?”

“Yes, of course, Jordan.  I’ll personally keep you updated.” 

“Good,” Jordan said and hung up.  Quickly and hastily, he grabbed his cell and answered it abruptly in order to stop its incessant ringing.  “What?  Hello?”

Muffled static came through the other end of the phone.

“Hello?  Is anyone there?”

“Dad,” a small voice finally came.

Jordan frowned and changed ears with the phone. “Benji?”

“Dad, I’m scared,” Benji said.  He was in his car parked on the Hollywood Bowl lookout, tears staining his face and his hands trembling.  “I’m sorry about everything.  I’m sorry that I’ve been such a disappointment.”

Jordan sighed.  “Benji, I really don’t have time for this right now.” 

“I don’t have anywhere to go,” Benji sobbed.   “I can’t go back to Blake’s, and Sierra won’t talk to me, and-“

“You should have thought of that before you broke in here and stole from me,” Jordan said abruptly.  “Maybe this is finally the wake up call that you need.” 

With that, he hung up and turned to a photograph on the bookshelf behind his desk.  The photo was taken over fifteen years ago and showed him, Suzanne, Heather and Benji posing happily under the trellis in the back yard. 

How had his family self-destructed so horribly since then?

Sierra Merteuil

Sierra had gone to her mother’s penthouse for dinner.  When she arrived, there was an elaborate spread of food laid out on the table, ordered in from the Sierra Room, of course.  What she feared would be another of her mother’s attempts at trying to run her life turned into an enjoyable evening.  Surprisingly, by the time they’d finished eating, she felt closer to her than she had in years.   They spent hours talking, laughing, and being brutally honest with one another.  It felt more like they were girlfriends than mother and daughter.

“Have you ever been in love?” Sierra asked her while they sat on the plush sofa sipping from glasses of white wine.  “I mean, really in love?”

Renee thought for a moment and nodded dreamily.  “Yes.” 

“With Kenny?”

Renee sighed uncomfortably and pulled her feet up beneath her.  “I loved Kenny very much,” she began.  “But was I in love with him?  I mean, really in love?  I don’t know.” 

“Then who?”

“Someone who broke my heart,” she told her.  “Yet I found myself still yearning for him for many years after.  That’s when you know you’re in love.  You throw all caution to the wind and you think with your heart.  It’s not always a good thing.” 

“But how can love ever be a bad thing?” Sierra asked her. 

Renee set her glass on the coffee table while considering her question.  “Love can sometimes be ugly and do more harm than good.  I should know.” 

“Who is it?”

Renee paused before offering a reassuring smile and placing her hand on hers.  “Someone I still think about from time to time.” 

“Even though he hurt you?”

“If it didn't hurt it would be easy,” Renee said with a wink. 

Sierra hugged her warmly, happy that they’d spent time to share and talk about their feelings.  “You’re amazing,” she said. 

“Like mother like daughter,” Renee said.

“I should get going,” Sierra said and rose from the sofa.  “I’d like to turn in early so I can be at my best for tomorrow night’s performance.” 

“That sounds like a good idea,” Renee said and walked to the door with her.  “I think I’ll pop into a hot bath and then go to bed myself.  What are you doing tomorrow morning?”

She shrugged.  “Nothing as far as I know.”

“How about breakfast and then a girl’s day of shopping and manicures?”

“Sounds perfect,” Sierra said, grinning.

“I’ll meet you on the terrace at eight-thirty.” 

“Deal,” Sierra said, kissing her cheek.  “Goodnight, Mom.”

“Goodnight, baby.” 

Sierra left and Renee closed the door, locking and chaining it securely.  She smiled, happy that she’d had such a pleasant evening with her daughter.  It had been far too long since they’d really connected.  She began to think there was light at the end of the tunnel after all.

Blake Distefano

With Eddie out on a case for the past few days, Blake had their apartment to himself.  That night, he laid on the sofa talking on his cell, the balcony door open and the sheer curtains billowing inward.  From the stereo came the sounds of Placebo, the melancholy music emanating outside into the spring night. 

“K, I’ll check with you later,” he was saying.  “We’ll hit some clubs.” 

When he clicked the phone off, he turned and saw Benji standing by the open balcony door.  Jumping with a start at his sudden appearance, he leapt off the sofa and set down his phone. 

“Jesus, man, you scared the shit out of me,” he said.  “How did you get in?”

Benji’s eyes were red and dark circles surrounded them.  His clothes, a pair of jeans and a dark blue hooded sweatshirt were wrinkled and his hair fell flatly in his eyes.  “I climbed up the fire escape,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself and looking around nervously.

“Where’ve you been?” Blake asked.  “The cops have been here looking for you.  Benji, what the hell is going on?”

The news sent him deeper into panic mode.  He turned, fighting the tears that threatened his eyes.  “Jesus,” he muttered, shaking his head miserably.  “My dad thinks I broke into his house and stole that stuff.”

“Did you?  He came here the other day looking for you.  He said you told him you needed money so we could open up a club.” 

“I didn’t do it,” Benji insisted, pacing the room erratically.  “I lied about the club so he would give me money, but only because he cut me off.  I’ve got nowhere to go, Blake.” 

“You can stay here for as long as you need,” Blake reminded him.  “It’s cool, man, but you’ve got to tell me what’s going on.” 

“What’s going on?” he asked, his breathing labored and his face contorted in agony.  “My life is falling apart.  I’ve got no money, my dad kicked me out, the cops are after me, and Sierra won’t even talk to me.  What the hell do you think’s going on?”

He looked at his friend with sympathy.  Sheldon said you were losing it.  He said something happened last night.”

"What did Sheldon say?” Benji asked, his head snapping in his direction. 

“He said you had a gun.” 

Benji let out a muffled laugh that emanated through his tears.  He reached back and pulled the gun from his pants.  “You mean this?  That shit was trying to start rumors about Sierra and Ashton.  He said Ashton was getting on her.” 

“Jesus, put that thing away, Benji,” Blake said, backing up from him.  “What the fuck are you doing with a gun?”

Benji looked at the shiny black weapon, holding it in the palm of his hand.  “Nobody argues with a guy with a gun,” he said. 

“That’s what you said last time and look what happened,” Blake said, lifting his shirt and showing him the scar where he’d taken a bullet two years earlier.  “Put it away before you kill someone this time.” 

“Tell that to Ashton Childers,” Benji said, continuing to pace, his hand clasped tightly around the gun.  “I mean, who the fuck does he think he is?  Sierra is mine.  We have a past.   He’s just a fucking outsider.”

Blake tried desperately to reason with him.  “Benji, Sierra has moved on,” he said, realizing it would be hard for his friend to hear it, but also knowing it was the truth and sometimes the truth was painful.  “You need to move on too.” 

“No!” he said loudly.  “Sierra has not moved on.  She said she needs time.  That’s all.  Just time to get her life in order.  We’re going to be together again, you’ll see.” 

Blake shook his head.  “You know girls say that but they’re just trying to spare your feelings, man, it’s-“

“No!” Benji screamed again, stopping and looking at him with tear-soaked eyes.  “Stop saying that!  Sierra isn’t over me.  She’s just taking a break to think...to think about how we can be together.” 

“Then why is she hanging around with Ashton?” Blake asked.  He knew it was hurtful to hear, but he had to get through to him.  As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Sierra was a lost cause. 

Benji sobbed quietly for a moment before gritting his teeth and screaming out in frustration.  “Why does everyone keep saying that!?” he bellowed. “Sierra is not with Ashton.  She’s just…she’s….”

“People are saying they’re going out,” Blake said.  “I’m sorry, man.  Now put the gun down.  Come on, let me help you.  Turn yourself in to the police.  If they catch up with you and you’ve got a gun, you’ll be in a lot more trouble than you already are.” 

“No,” Benji sobbed miserably.  He looked at the gun and closed his hand around it.  From the front of the apartment, he heard the sounds of car doors slamming.   Instinctively, he went to the windows and peered outside.   “The cops are back.”

Blake followed him. “Just stay here and talk to them.  If you’re innocent then prove it.” 

But Benji refused.  He backed up to the balcony.  The sound of knocking on the door sent him into a panic.  He exchanged glances with Blake. 

“Stay and clear this thing up with them," Blake said.  "I'll help you.  I won't abandon you, Benji.  You're my friend.  We've been through everything together."  

"I can't," he said, sobbing and shaking his head in misery.  

"You can!  Since we were five years old you've never run away from anything.  Now it's all you do.  I miss you.  I miss my friend."  

"Police!  Open up!" came the booming voices from the hall.  

Slowly, Blake turned and opened the door.  

"Benji come back yet?" one of them asked.  

Blake turned back, hoping to see him standing there.  But sadly, he knew he wouldn't be.  All that he saw was the empty spot where Benji been standing, the night breeze blowing the curtains in through the open doors. 

Renee DeWitt

Renee finished drawing her bath and prepared to disrobe when the doorbell alerted her to a visitor.  With a sigh, she pulled her robe back on and tied it securely before her promenade down the stairs to the living room of her penthouse. 

“I’m coming!” she called as the doorbell continued ringing.  After unlocking it, she pulled the door open and allowed her eyes to rest on her surprise visitor.  “T.T.” 

“I should have called,” he said from the hall.  “But I was on my way out of town and wanted to say goodbye before I did.” 

First checking to ensure her robe was securely closed, she stood clear of the door and gestured inside.  

“Thank you,” he said and walked inside.  “I’ve got a late flight back to New York.  I just wanted to tell you how good it was to see you today.” 

She offered a smile.  “It was good to see you too, T.T.”

“How have you been?” he asked.  “I heard about what happened with your engagement to Kenny.” 

Renee’s eyes flickered away momentarily.  She felt foolish for thinking that she could avoid him finding out about that humiliation.  “It’s for the best.  Kenny and I realized we couldn’t get back what we once had.” 

“Sounds like the two of us,” he said.  “We tried to get that magic back but in the end…”  A pause while he reconsidered his next thought.  “Actually, no.  I still felt the magic and I know you did too.” 

“T.T.-“ she began, shaking her head in protest.  “I can’t do this again.” 

“Do what?” he asked, moving closer.  “We have something, Renee.  We always have.  Look me in the eyes and tell me that I’m wrong.” 

"I'm not that young naive girl you met on that cruise," she said, walking across the room and pausing by the grand piano. "I'm a mother now.  I'm a businesswoman.  I can't go through that again.  Not with you and not with any man."

"Is that really how you feel?" he said, his eyes pleading.

She finally met his gaze.  After a long pause, she smiled.  “I’m glad you stopped by.  But I have a bath waiting for me.  Have a safe trip back to New York.” 

He sighed.  “So that’s how it is?” he asked.  “Well, you can’t blame a guy for trying.” 

She returned his smile and opened the door.  “Take care of yourself, T.T.” 

“You too,” he said, kissing her cheek before turning and leaving. 

After he’d gone, Renee leaned against the door and closed her eyes.  She thought about the coincidence of him showing up just after she’d gotten through talking to Sierra about him.  And despite the way he’d hurt her in the past, he was the only man she’d ever loved with all her heart. She was just unwilling to let herself be hurt again. 

Sierra Merteuil

Alone in her cabana, Sierra puttered about while getting ready for bed.  She thought about what her mother said.  That sometimes love hurt even when you felt it with all your heart.  She wondered if she'd ever have that.  She wondered if Benji had been her one.  Maybe she didn't give it enough of a chance.  Maybe.  

As she was about to change into her pajamas, her cell phone rang.  Instinctively thinking it was her mother calling with more details about their breakfast plans, she answered with a smile.

“Hello?” she said, then realized it wasn't her mother.  Pacing, she listened to the caller speak, then took a deep breath and continued.  "Yes.  Okay.  Yes, I'll meet you.  Where?"

Brooke Taylor

On the other side of Moonshadows, Brooke was working late.  After dinner, she’d spent the evening setting up her new office so she could get a running start in the morning.  Work was just the thing she needed to keep her mind off of Ethan.  Whatever changes he’d gone through, he obviously wasn’t interested in picking up where they’d left off.  And rather than wait for him to change his mind, she decided to keep busy. 

A little after ten, she collected her purse and car keys and left the office, careful to turn the light out on her way.   As she walked out into the reception area, she saw Kyle emerging from his office. 

“Oh, I didn’t now anyone was still here,” she said.  “You startled me.”

“I’m sorry,” Kyle replied, locking his office door and meeting her by the secretary’s empty desk.   “Getting all set up?”

“Yep,” she said, clutching tightly to her purse.

“I was just finishing up some paperwork,” he said and gestured to his office.  “I was going to get a drink at the Cahuenga Room.  Care to join me?” 

She raised an eyebrow and shook her head.  “No, Kyle, I don’t.” 

He called after her when she turned to leave.   “How are things going with Ethan?”

Stopping, she turned back to face him.  “Ethan and I are none of your business.  The last time you got involved you kept us apart for months.” 

“He’s different, isn’t he?” Kyle asked, walking toward her.  “Prison has a tendency to do that to a man.” 

“Well, you were in for a lot longer than he was, so you should know,” she said and turned to walk away again.

“It’s not what you thought it would be, is it?”

“Pardon?” she asked in exasperation.

“Your big reunion,” he said with a sly grin.  “I mean, has he taken you in his arms, kissed your lips-“

“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” she said.  “In fact, I’m sure it’s not.  I don’t want you involved with my relationship with Ethan at all, so just drop it.”  

He walked even closer yet.  “I’m always here for you if you need to let off some steam.”   He looked down at her body as her chest heaved with every shallow breath she took.

“But I don’t even like you,” she snapped. 

“But you do like me making love to you.”  He put a hand on her waist and drew her closer.  “You’ve got to admit you miss it, Brooke.  I was better in bed than Ethan ever was.” 

“You’re an ass,” she said, but threw her feelings aside and pressed her lips hard against his. 

Surprised, he slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her into his arms.  

The moon appeared enormous in the night sky.  From the vantage point of her car parked at the Hollywood Bowl overlook, Sierra admired it with wide eyes.  Taking the time to appreciate things like those were what her life was missing, so she made a pledge to do the same thing every night from there on out. 

When Benji pulled up next to her in his car, she climbed out of her black Mercedes and got into the passenger’s seat next to him.  The sunroof was open to the sky and the radio was playing softly. 

“Thank you for meeting me,” he said. 

"I'm worried about you, Benji," she said, noting his tired eyes and drawn face.  "You sounded terrible on the phone."  

He ignored her concerns.  "Did you get the present I left for you?"

"It was lovely, thank you.  But I don't think it's right that you give me gifts."  

"Why?  Just because we're not married doesn't mean we can't be in each other's lives."  

She chose to evade his comment so as not to open up the sore subject again.  “Are you still staying at Blake’s?” 

He nodded.  “Yeah.” 

“What’s going on?” she wanted to know.  “Is it your father?” 

Tears quickly began forming in his eyes.  “I hate him so much,” he said.

“Benji, don’t,” she said in a soothing voice.  “Your father loves you.  He just wants to help you.” 

Shaking his head, he sniffed away a few tears.  “No, he doesn’t want anything to do with me.  Just like before when he sent me away to school.  He can’t be bothered with me.  He wishes he never had a son.  Heather’s the only one he cares about.”

“That is not true.”

“My mom even left again,” Benji went on.  “After all those years away, she was finally back in my life and then she left again.”

“I’m sure she had good reason-“

“Why does everyone leave me?” he sobbed, shifting in the leather seat.  “Why?”

“Not everyone,” she said.  “I’m still here.  I know we can’t be together but it doesn’t mean I’m gone.” 

“But you have Ashton,” Benji said, gripping the steering wheel angrily.

“I do not,” she said instantly.  “Ashton and I are just friends.  I told him that I can’t commit to anything more than that.” 

“You mean it?” he asked, a tinge of hope in his voice.  

“Benji, I can’t be with anyone right now.” 

Her words reassured him.  “Do you really think there’s a chance that you’ll give us another chance after you get everything figured out?” 

She didn’t answer right away.  “We’ve been in each other’s lives for a long time,” she said.  “We come from similar backgrounds.  We’ll always be close.”

“But do you think that we can be together again?” he asked again.  “Not today or tomorrow, but someday?”

"I don’t know,” she said.  “Benji, I don’t want to promise you something if I-“

“But you said you just needed time,” he cut her off.  “If that’s not the case then you have to tell me because I have to know.  I have to know if I’ll ever be with you again.  I can’t handle not being with you, Sierra.  I can't stand thinking of you with anyone else."  

She could see how distraught he was, and with each passing moment he seemed to grow more agitated.  The last thing she wanted to do, however, was give him false hope.  “I think that we’re good as friends.” 

“But I was your first,” he said.  “We got married and we were going to be happy and-“

“It was a mistake,” she said.  Her conflicted emotions suddenly disappeared and she became convinced she'd done the right thing by ending it.  Something was very wrong.  “We shouldn’t have gotten married, Benji.  Don’t you think that it was a sign when we found out it wasn’t legal?  It’s like someone was trying to tell us something.”

“No!” he shouted, tears flooding his eyes.  “No, no, no!” 

His reaction startled her so much that she reached for the door handle.  “I’m sorry, Benji.  Please don’t act like that.  I just-“

“You just want to leave me like everyone else,” he said, fidgeting with something inside of his jacket.  “You want to be with Ashton and forget all about me.”

“No, I don’t,” she said.  “I told you I don’t want to be with anyone right now.”

“You’re lying!” he screamed through a haze of tears. 

Startled, she pulled back and looked at him with wide eyes.  “What is it you want me to say?” she asked.

“I want you to tell me that you still love me and you won’t leave me,” he said, agony covering his face. 

“That’s just not how I feel,” she whispered softly.

Benji grew silent, staring at the dashboard in a daze while he struggled to concentrate.  Thoughts traveled in and out of his head and for a few minutes it seemed like everything else was non-existent.  His head pounded furiously.

The silence continued for almost five full minutes.  Sierra tried to think of something to say, anything that could take away the pain he was feeling.  She studied his face, trying to determine what was going through his mind.  But as she grew increasingly uncomfortable by the silence, she thought about getting out of the car and leaving him there.  

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, rocking gently in his seat, his hand grasping the object in his jacket.  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry….” 

“Benji, what are you-“  she began to ask. 

Then she saw the gleaming metal, the glimmer that caught the moonlight, and then finally the gun that he held in his hand.  She heard a shot.  It was loud and deafening and echoed through the canyons and down the mountain. 

For a few moments, she wasn’t entirely sure that anything had actually happened.  She looked into his eyes which were staring pleadingly into hers.  He was mouthing something to her which she couldn’t quite hear.  

Then she began to feel warm, a burning sensation that started at her gut and worked its way up to her face.  She was very hot, almost to the point of sweating.  She could feel the moisture dripping off of her.  

But when she looked down, she realized it wasn’t sweat that she was feeling.  It was blood.   It gushed from her stomach and covered her hands.  A few drops fell from the corner of her mouth. 

Eyes wide, she looked at Benji as he cried, at the gun in his hand that was still smoking, and then back at the hole that the bullet had ripped through her stomach.  Alarm and disbelief overwhelmed her.  She could feel herself now growing cold, her muscles refusing to react voluntarily.  Numbness replaced the burning sensation. 

She looked out through the windshield, saw the city lights and the Hollywood sign in the distance.  Slowly, she tilted her head back and looked up through the sunroof at the giant moon and the chandelier of stars that hung in the night sky.  She opened her mouth to scream but the sounds wouldn’t come.  She felt her heart slow to a deafeningly slow pace.  With her eyes wide open, everything went black. 

In the seat beside her, Benji caressed her cheek.  “I’m sorry,” he sobbed, tears staining his face.  He held her close, looking into her vacant eyes and trembling.  "I'm so sorry."


Next time....

Word spreads about the incident on the lookout.  Benji runs scared.  Jordan suffers from a guilty conscience.  Stormy believes something is going on with Jane.

 

 

Read Episode 138

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