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Episode 140

 

Release Date:  June 3, 2011

 Read the episode Recap 

 

Previously...

 

At Benji's funeral, James got drunk and refused to socialize with anyone.  After acting belligerantly toward Mackenzie, he confessed to Miranda that he was relieved his family had turned out differently than the Rydells.  Stormy remarked to Eddie that he felt Victor's influence on Jordan and Suzanne had led to the problems their family had endured over the years. Ethan began to soften toward Brooke in light of recent events.  Nathan showed up at the cemetary and announced that he'd been released from prison because of Sierra's death.  Back at the house, everyone took turns chastising him for returning. Nathan, Lola, Jack Childers, and Vaughan Novak had a cryptic conversation about their mutual pasts.  Brett worried about Suzanne's behavior, who withdrew from everyone and barely reacted to Benji's death.  Brett suggested to Kelly that he help her get an acting job.  Blake and Sheldon turned to one another after the tragedy, and were seen kissing by Mackenzie. Later, Blake confessed to Miranda that he had been in love with Benji, and asked her not to tell Eddie.  Gemma asked Miranda to take over for her call girl operation but Jane cautioned her against it.  Stormy forgave Alex and told her she was welcome in R.J.'s life.  Jordan pushed Alex away.  Kenny and T.T. tried to stop Renee from making a scene, but she arrived at Benji's wake and railed at Jordan and Nathan.  Later, Jordan retreated to Benji's room and broke down in tears.

 


  

Episode 140

"Fifty on our Foreheads"

 

Now in production.

The words were emblazoned across the billboard beneath the ominous title card for The Benefactor.  As he stood outside on the Sunset Studios lot, Nathan Blackthorne craned his neck upwards and studied the simple message, foreboding and menacing.  The sound of an engine gunning behind him prompted him to turn just as a bus rolled by.  On its side was another promo for the same film. 

“You’re certainly putting a lot of confidence into this one picture,” he said when James approached from the administrative offices.  “A four page write up in Variety, billboards all over town, your interview on E.T.” 

“Remakes are the future of Hollywood,” James told him, tight-lipped.

“Anything has to be better than the original,” Nathan quipped.  Despite the critical acclaim he received for his role in the 1968 sleeper, it came at a time when science fiction was still a relatively new genre, and production values had shown it.

“Filmmaking has changed a lot in forty years,” James reminded him.  “We just acquired one of the best special effects sound stages in the city.” 

“You mean because you stole Jordan’s company?”

James sighed, refusing to banter with him over things Nathan had no idea about.  “What are you doing here, Nathan?  I thought that by the reception you got at Benji’s funeral you’d have the good sense to stay away.” 

“I’m a free man, James,” he said, dressed casually in khaki chinos, safari shirt, and a matching scarf encircling his thin neck.  “L.A. has been my home since I left that tiny sink hole in Kansas over forty-five years ago.” 

“That tiny sink hole is our legacy,” James reminded him.  “It’s where we came from.  It’s where Georgie died.” 

“I’ve never understood your devotion to that town,” Nathan quipped.

Again, James refused to argue.  He wouldn’t give his uncle the satisfaction of knowing that his return had affected him.  “You lived in Paris for over twenty-five years.  It’s more of a home to you than L.A.  Why not go back there?”

“Why would I?”

“You got what you wanted here.  You played the role of the martyr when your daughter died.  Everyone felt sorry for you for a second.  Now they’re back to hating you.  There’s nothing here for you.” 

With that, he turned and walked through the crowded maze of soundstages.  Nathan stood behind and looked back at the billboard for The Benefactor. 

“That’s where you’re wrong,” he said quietly to himself. 

Alex Reynolds

When Alex awoke in Jordan’s bed and found herself alone, she quickly dressed and drove down to the marina.  It was the one place her ex-husband always retreated to when things in his life went wrong.  His private solitude.  His place of quiet reflection.  His safety zone. 

Walking up the planks of the dock where his yacht was positioned, she climbed the ladder and hoisted herself up onto the deck.  The chair he usually sat in was empty, so she descended the stairs into the lower cabin and found him sitting silently in the dimly lit room.  

“What time did you leave the house?” she asked, her long auburn hair catching a ray of sunlight that darted between the blinds.  “I woke up and you weren’t there.” 

“Early,” he said without looking at her.  “Four, maybe five o’clock.” 

She took another step toward him.  “You should have woken me,” she said.  “We could have talked.” 

“About what?”

The question threw her for a few seconds, but she quickly veered back on course while trying not to sound too smothering.  “Whatever you’re feeling,” she said.  “You’ve barely talked to me since-“ 

When she stopped mid-sentence, Jordan finally turned to her.  “Since Benji died?”

Hearing it out loud still sent chills up and down her spine.  “Yes,” she said softly.  “Jordan, I want to be here for you.  I want to do whatever I can to help you get through this.”

“Why?” he asked. 

She shrugged.  “Because you’ve always been there for me.  Let me do the same for you.” 

“You can’t help, Alex.  Nobody can.” 

“But you can’t sit here by yourself,” she insisted.  “It’s not healthy.  If you withdraw from everyone who loves you you’ll-“

“I’ll go crazy?” he asked, finishing her thought.  “Why not?  Everyone else in my family did.  Why not round it out so that we’re all certifiable?”

“You’re not crazy,” Alex said, wringing her hands together anxiously.  “You’re grieving and that’s perfectly normal.  But the service was days ago.  You have to let people in.” 

He stood up and walked to the doorway.  “I just want to be alone,” he said, gesturing to the stairs.  “Please, Alex.  Just leave me alone.” 

Frustrated, she walked toward him and looked him in the eyes.  “I’m not going to let you push me away,” she professed.  “Sooner or later you’re going to need me and I intend to be here for you.” 

Turning away, he purposefully tried not to look into her eyes.  She kissed him lightly on the cheek before turning and walking up the stairs to the deck.  

After she’d gone, Jordan went back to the chair and sat down again. 

Brett Armstrong

Elsewhere at the marina, Brett opened the door of his condo and invited Eddie inside.  On the floor, Violet sat brushing her long blond hair with a Barbie brush, a circle of dolls surrounding her.   Eddie smiled down at her and then handed Brett a file folder of information. 

“You found something?” he asked and started to review the documents inside. 

“Not a lot, but some very interesting information,” Eddie replied.  “But you were right about one thing.  Warren Abbott is not who he says he is.” 

“What do you mean?” Brett asked. 

“Well, while he’s not walking barefoot in the desert, he lives in a four million dollar house in San Francisco,” Eddie told him.  “He also drives a BMW, owns a bookstore, and makes regular cash deposits into his bank account.” 

“What?” Brett asked with a frown while poring over the reports.  “How is that possible?” 

“The bookstore barely scrapes by,” Eddie continued.  “He’s got to have some other income.” 

“But from where?”

“In the last month he’s made two sizeable cash deposits.  The first was a hundred thousand dollars and the second was about one and a half million.”

Dollars?” Brett asked, nearly choking as he said it.

“Dollars,” Eddie confirmed.  “I also pulled Suzanne’s bank accounts.  She made a hundred thousand dollar withdrawal on the same day that Abbott deposited the same amount into his San Francisco account.” 

Brett’s eyes flashed open wide.  “That’s it,” he said, revelation finally dawning.  “He’s using her for money.  He doesn’t care about inner power and personal empowerment.  He recruited Suzanne into his cult because he knew she had access to a lot of money.” 

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to make damn sure she knows exactly what kind of people she’s gotten herself mixed up with.” 

Jane Wheeler

Jane smiled at Leilani as she opened the door for her at the Blackthorne mansion.  After being directed down the hall to the game room, she walked in and found Miranda sitting on the sofa with a slew of papers strewn out before her 

“Early morning game of pool?” Jane joked. 

Miranda barely looked up.  “No, but with the amount of people living here all the sudden, it’s the only place I can get any work done.  What’s up?  Stormy’s already headed out for the day.” 

“I know.  He came by my apartment earlier.  I just wanted to stop by and see if you were free for shopping and lunch later.” 

Miranda sighed and finally turned away from her work.  “I’d love to, but I’m buried.  I just want to get this stuff done so I can have a normal evening with Eddie.  I feel like we’ve barely seen each other lately.” 

“How is he doing?” Jane asked and sat down beside her.  “I know he took Benji’s death pretty hard.  Were they close?” 

“Sort of.  I think he’s mostly worried about Blake and how he’s handling the whole thing.”  She thought about Blake’s admission to her at the funeral.  Keeping it from Eddie was killing her.  While it wasn’t her place to say anything, she still felt like she was betraying him. 

“Stormy said Eddie’s acted differently toward him since the funeral,” Jane revealed.  “Do you know what that’s all about?”

Miranda sighed again while running her fingers through her hair.  “I do.  Stormy said something about Eddie’s father being the cause of all the Rydell’s problems, and of course Eddie took offense to it.  I can’t say that I blame him, either.” 

“What about Eddie’s father?”

Without wanting to go into a lot of details, Miranda replied as vaguely as she knew how.  “Let’s just say that there’s a lot of history between the Rydells and the Distefanos.  It started badly and it ended even worse.  Eddie doesn’t talk about it, but I know it eats away at him.” 

Jane made a mental note to be cautious about bringing it up, particularly in front of Eddie or Stormy.  “So what is all of this?” she asked, surveying the papers strewn out before her.   “Writing a book?”

“No, these are the files for all of Gemma’s girls,” Miranda told her.  “I’m trying to get familiar with all of them so I know what the hell I’m doing.” 

“What?” Jane asked, mouth agape.  “You’re serious?”

Miranda looked at her and shrugged.  “Yeah, I’m serious. Why?”

“I just didn’t think you meant it when you said you were going to take over Gemma Sanders’ call girl operation.” 

“Why would I have said it if I didn’t mean it?” Miranda asked incredulously. 

“I don’t know.  I thought you just felt sorry for my cousin Farrah.  I didn’t think you were really going to become the new Hollywood madam!” 

”I do feel sorry for Farrah but that’s not the only reason I’m doing this.  Jane, it’s so easy for someone to fall down the wrong path.  Farrah was lucky that she had you to turn to.  Some of these other girls don’t have that.” 

“Getting girls like Farrah away from the Hugh Rogers of the world and into an exclusive call girl operation isn’t helping them, Miranda.  It’s just prolonging the inevitable.” 

“I disagree.” 

“Think about what you’re doing,” Jane went on.  “Before you agree to anything, just think about it.  It’s not your job to lead these girls down the right path.  It’s your job to take care of yourself and your baby.  That’s all.” 

Miranda knew that Jane had a point.  Maybe she was crazy for thinking she could make a difference to anyone. She never had someone urging her to be something better, so why should they?

Brooke Taylor

Down the hall, Brooke walked into the breakfast room, purse over one shoulder and attaché case over the other, and headed straight for the coffee.  Manically filling her thermos, she barely realized there was anyone else in the room. 

“In a hurry?” Ethan asked from his seat at the table. 

She finally looked over at him and nodded.  “Yeah, I’m late.  I’ve got a meeting with a potential developer for the marina expansion and I still haven’t read their proposal.” 

“Can’t Kyle do it?” he asked, his tone tinged with resentment. 

“Yes, but I still want to be involved.  I don’t expect Renee to be ready to come back to work any time soon, and I promised her I would look after everything that goes on at Moonshadows.  I don’t necessarily trust Kyle.” 

“That’s good to hear,” Ethan said with a shake of his head.  “You shouldn’t trust him, Brooke.  As a matter of fact, you should get him out of there before he can do any real damage.” 

“It was Renee’s decision to keep him on.  There’s nothing I can do about it.” 

“You own ten percent of the company,” Ethan reminded her.  “Maybe it’s time you flexed some of those decision making muscles.” 

She regarded him with a wry expression.  “I’ll leave the flexing to you,” she said and gestured to his outfit – gym shorts and a form fitting t-shirt.   “I’ve got to go.  I’m late.” 

“Will you be around for dinner tonight?” Ethan asked. 

“Yes.” 

“Good, I feel like we need to talk.”   He’d felt his bitter feelings softening over the past week, particularly since Sierra and Benji’s funerals, and wanted to see how she was feeling.  Maybe a quiet dinner together was in order. 

“Okay.  That’d be good, I guess.”  In a flash, she was darting out of the room and across the foyer to the front door.

Ethan got up after finishing his breakfast.  Deciding to forgo the gym and opt for a run instead, he headed for the front door.  When he stepped out into the bright morning sun, he saw Mackenzie Stone standing on the porch with her back to him. 

“Why are you doing this to me?” she was saying into her cell.  “Just leave me alone.  Don’t ever call this number again.”  

Ethan watched as she clicked off the phone and turned toward him.  Startled, she backed up a step and quickly dropped her phone into her purse. 

“Everything okay?” he asked, regarding her suspiciously.

“Everything’s fine,” she said, making a florid attempt at reconditioning her mental state.  “Just a problem with a director from the show.  Is James here?” 

“He left early for the studio.”  For some reason he didn’t believe her story about the director. 

“Oh.”  She sounded disappointed.  “I left some things here the last time I stayed the night and he said he would leave them for me.”

Ethan turned back inside the foyer and looked around.  “I don’t see anything.  If you want I can ask Leilani to see if-“ 

She shook her head.  “No, that’s okay.  I’m running late.  It’s not important anyway.” 

Before she could turn and walk back down the steps, Ethan went after her.  “Mackenzie,” he began.  “Is Kyle still giving you problems?”

She looked back at him.  “My brother knows he isn’t part of my life anymore,” she admonished.

Thinking maybe it was Kyle who she’d been speaking with, he continued.   “I can talk to him if you want,” he said.  “If he’s bothering you-“

She rolled her eyes.  “If the two of you want to beat your chests over Brooke Taylor, be my guest.  Just leave me out of it.”  

And in a flash, she was gone.  Ethan smiled and watched her drive off in her black Rolls Royce with Heart spelled out on her license plates.  He could see why his uncle was so taken with her.  She was all fire and spark. 

TT Levitt

On the small terrace that jutted out from Renee’s penthouse at Moonshadows, T.T. poured a fresh cup of coffee for himself and went to refill hers. 

“No, thank you,” she said and held her hand over her cup.  An all-too brief smile faded sharply before she turned and continued gazing out at the ocean.    Her blank, expressionless eyes became transfixed to nothing in particular. 

After a few moments of watching her, T.T. leaned forward and took her hands in his.  “What do you say we go for a drive?” he suggested.  “We can put the top down and just head up the coast as far as we want.  Then we can spend the night at a little bed and breakfast and drive home tomorrow.  What do you say?” 

Another fleeting trace of a smile crossed her lips as she turned to him.  “I don’t think so, T.T.,” she said.

“Why not?” he asked, trying to keep the mood elevated.  “It’ll do you good to get out of this apartment.  You’ve barely stepped outside since-“ 

“Because I don’t want to,” she snapped. 

He paused and tried looking at it from her point of view.  He had to at least do that.  “I know this has been hard, but I just want to help.  If I can take your mind off of it for a few hours, then-“ 

“T.T., don’t you get it?” she wailed, jumping from the chair and walked to the ledge of the terrace.  “This isn’t something I can forget about for a few hours.  My daughter is gone and she isn’t coming back.  I can’t just drive up the coast and expect that it’s going to get any better!” 

“Nothing is going to make it better,” T.T. said and followed her to the railing.  “I get that, Renee.  I promise I get it.  But sitting around this penthouse isn’t going to help you.  You’ve got to let yourself move on.  I don’t mean today or next week, but you can’t stop living.” 

“Move on?” Renee cried, flashing her watery eyes at him.  “How can I move on from this?  How?  I’m not even sure I want to.  I just want to hold on to my daughter’s memory and the last precious moments I got to spend with her.  If I moved on I’d feel like I was betraying her.  I can’t do that.  I won’t.” 

“Renee-“ T.T. said in protest, but it was too late.  She was tearing inside through the glass doors and racing up to her bedroom.

Sighing, he turned back around and cursed himself for his stupidity.  He realized he was being selfish.  He wasn’t giving any thought to what Renee needed.  It could be weeks, months maybe before she was able to start to heal.  But all he could think about was getting her back to the way she used to be.  Slowly, he began to realize that may never happen. 

Blackthorne Mansion

Alex went by the mansion to spend a few minutes with R.J.  Despite Stormy’s pronouncement that she was welcome in their lives again, Leilani was hesitant to allow it.  She blocked her at the front door with a stern look and a heavy thumb.

“You should not be allowed to see my grandson,” Leilani articulated in the best English she could despite her anger.

“He’s my grandson too, Leilani,” she replied, offering a sense of compassion while at the same time relaying to her that it was not her place to keep her from seeing the infant.   “I’ve apologized for what I did.  Stormy has forgiven me and given me permission to see R.J.  Please just respect his wishes.” 

“You always think you could do whatever you please,” Leilani went on, her eyes on the verge of tears.  “Ever since I came working for this family you tried to bulldoze me into keeping quiet.  Well I won’t do it anymore.  You are a horrible, indecent woman with no care for anyone but herself.  I tell you I was so happy when Mr. Blackthorne threw you out of this house.  I say a prayer to the Hawaiian Gods that night and thanked them for answering my prayers.  Just because Mr. Stormy forgiven you for what you did doesn’t mean I have.  I’ll watch you, lady.  I’ll watch you every move.” 

Alex blinked and looked at her with a nonchalant expression.  “Feel better?” 

“Yes,” she said and took a deep, unsteady breath. 

“Good,” Alex said and walked to the stairs and up to the nursery.  She found R.J. cooing happily in his crib and approached him with a smile.  Gently, she lifted him into her arms and bounced him happily against her chest. 

“Step out of this room with him and I call the police,” said a voice from behind.

Quickly, Alex turned and leveled her eyes on Kelly, who stood in the doorway wearing a painted on halter top and dangerously short gym shorts. 

“Great, first I get it from your mother and now you,” she said, trying not to let the woman spoil her mood.  “Stormy wants me to see R.J.  He said so at the funeral.” 

“Stormy sometimes forgets that I have a say in who gets to influence our son,” Kelly said and walked further into the room.  “Naturally, you’re R.J.’s grandmother so I guess I can’t stop you from seeing him.” 

“That’s very wise of you,” Alex said and turned around to place the baby back in the crib.  “Because you’re only here because you blackmailed Stormy into letting you stay.  If it wasn’t for that, you’d be out on your ear and you’d never see R.J. again.” 

“Well I am here, and I intend to do everything I can to make sure no one hurts my son.” 

“Including yourself?” Alex asked and arched one eyebrow.  “You don’t care about him, Kelly.  What are you even doing here?  Hoping for another big break since your career in New York failed so miserably?”

“I don’t need a big break this time, lady.  I have credibility in the business thanks to that movie we did together.  Brett’s already told me I could have a part in The Benefactor if I want it.  I’m just not sure that I do.” 

“Considering taking up stripping instead?”

Kelly ignored the jab.  “No.  I’m sick of taking whatever scraps the Blackthornes hand out to me.  I’m considering getting an agent here in L.A.  A good agent.” 

Alex laughed.  “What agent do you think is going to give you the time of day?”

“Actually, I’ve already met one.  The other day at the funeral.  Vaughan Novak?”

“Vaughan Novak?” Alex scoffed.  “Surely he has more sense than to represent you in any kind of business deal.” 

“Well, he seemed very interested so I guess we’ll see.”   She brushed past her and walked to the crib.  “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take my son to the park.” 

Alex set her jaw and contemplated her next move.  Taking a deep breath, she walked toward her and forced her to look at her.  “Do yourself a favor, Kelly.  Leave this house and this city before it swallows you whole.  You just don’t have the chops to make it.” 

Kelly glared angrily and watched as Alex turned and left the room.

Brett Armstrong

Brett didn’t understand how Suzanne could stay at Jordan’s house.  He’d treated her like crap which ultimately led to her leaving for New Abbott in the first place.  Not to mention the fact that Alex seemed to have taken up residence there in the last few weeks.  It had to be torture for her.   All the more reason for him to get her to leave with him.  

The butler led him into the drawing room where Suzanne sat silently staring at a picture of Benji.  In the doorway, he watched her for a few moments.  Her mannerisms were void of animation, her eyes vacant.  It broke his heart to see her so disconnected from any one and any thing. 

“Suzanne,” he finally said while walking into the room.  “Are you okay?” 

“I’m fine,” she said and set the picture back in the soft table.  “What are you doing here?”

“I found out some things about Warren Abbott,” he said.  “I had Eddie look into him.” 

“Why?”

Brett looked at her in disbelief.  “Because I can see what his influence has done to you,” he said matter-of-factly.  “You’re like a different person, Suzanne.  You didn’t shed a single tear when Benji died.”

“I’m grieving,” she said.  “I choose to do it in a different way.  I have triumph in the inner power.”

Brett clenched his fists so hard that the veins in his forearms bulged.  “I swear to God if you say that once more I’m going to-“  He stopped and took a deep breath to avoid saying anything he’d regret.   “Suzanne, Warren Abbott is taking advantage of you.”

She stood up and walked across the room.  “You’re just saying that because you don’t like it that I’m finally in control of my life,” she said.  “You’re just like everyone else.  You’re trying to hold me down.”

“When have I ever tried to hold you down?” Brett asked before running his fingers through his thick blond hair.  “I’m trying to get you to realize these people aren’t your friends.  They aren’t going to replace your family or the people who care about you.”

“They’re the only people who don’t expect anything of me,” she said, shooting him a penetrating stare.  “My God, ever since I stepped off that helicopter with you people have been trying to tell me how I should feel or how I should act.  Nobody understands that I can think for myself.”

“I never said you couldn’t think for yourself.”

“You’re the worst one of all!”  She turned away angrily, her hair falling into her eyes before she quickly went to push it away.

At least he was getting her to react, Brett thought to himself.  At least she wasn’t the zombie that he pulled out of that camp in Death Valley.  

“All I want is for you to wake up and realize who these people really are,” he said.

“And you’re such an expert?” she demanded. 

“Suzanne, they’re after your money,” he said.  “I know you gave them everything.” 

She grew quiet while turning her back to him. 

“Warren Abbott is not the spiritual guru he claims to be,” Brett continued.  “He’s got a four million dollar house in San Francisco and he drives a Beemer.  He owns a bookstore, Suzanne.  He uses Fuller to find wealthy people who need a sense of purpose.” 

“Because I’m that much of an idiot, aren’t I?” Suzanne asked and turned toward him.  “It’s nice to finally know what you really think of me.”

“It isn’t your fault,” he said.  “They took advantage of you when you were down.  Your book had just been published, Jordan was fit to be tied over the custody suit.  You were weak and vulnerable.” 

“Weak?” she asked, glaring heatedly at him.  Shaking her head, she tried to control her temper.  “Okay, fine.  I see.  Well, now that you’ve said your peace, you can feel free to take off and know you did your part.  Tell Jordan and everyone else that you talked some sense into me and everything’s peachy now.” 

“Suzanne-“ Brett said, moving toward her.

“Don’t!” she yelled, holding up her hand.  “Just go.  Please.” 

When he refused to budge, she skirted past him and darted up the stairs to her room.  Standing behind, Brett dropped his hands to his sides.  He didn’t know if he’d gotten through to her, but he did see a glimmer of the Suzanne that he once knew.  That told him she wasn’t as far gone as he’d originally thought.  It was a start, anyway. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Flora Velasquez was one of Gemma’s girls who’d only been in her employ for a few weeks before the infamous madam was sentenced to prison.  The minute she walked into the tiny coffee shop on Melrose and sat down across the booth from her, Miranda could tell how young and naïve she was.  

“One of the other girls gave me your number,” Flora was saying.  She was a beautiful Latina girl of no more than twenty-three with exotic looks and big round eyes that stared pleadingly into Miranda’s.  “I hope it’s okay that I called you.”

“Of course it is,” Miranda said as the waitress came to take their order.  She looked at Flora.  “Do you want coffee or something?”

“Just water,” said the girl. 

“Two,” Miranda said and smiled at the waitress.  Once she’d gone, she looked back at Flora.  “Look, I know there’s been some talk among some of Gemma’s girls that I was going to take over her operation, but that might be a little premature.” 

“You’re not going to help us?”

“I haven’t really….” Miranda began.  “See, I’m pregnant and….it’s just....I don’t know if I can do it.” 

Flora appeared disappointed.  “I knew it,” she said.  “I knew it was too good to be true.” 

Miranda frowned.  “What do you mean?”

Fighting off tears, Flora clasped her hands together on the table and spoke nervously.  “Ever since I can remember, I’ve had this mental image of what I wanted to be someday.  This perfect, beautiful, successful woman with a family and a career and a cute little house in the Valley.  You know - the American dream and all that.” 

Miranda smiled. 

“Well, I couldn’t go to college because my family didn’t have any money and I had to work two jobs through high school just to help pay the bills.  Then I finally moved out on my own but got stuck at a crappy waitressing job where I had to work eighteen hours a day just to get by.” 

“That’s got to be hard,” Miranda said. 

“Then I met Gemma Sanders and all of that changed,” Flora went on.  “I started making real money.  Enough money to give some to my family and enough to enroll in community college.  I was finally starting to be that girl that I always envisioned.”

“And then Gemma was arrested,” Miranda surmised with a sigh. 

“I don’t want to work on the streets,” Flora told her.  “And I can’t go back to waitressing again.  I can’t.  Miss Blackthorne, without you, I won’t get to be that girl that I dreamed about.” 

“First of all, call me Miranda,” she said, cringing because she was only a couple of years older than her.  “And second of all, there are other ways.” 

“Like how?” Flora asked, tears staining her cheeks.  “Come on, you know how it works.  I guess I set my goals too high.” 

“Don’t say that,” Miranda said.  “You can be anything you want.” 

“I wanted to be you,” Flora said sadly and lowered her head. 

“Me?”

She nodded.  “You were two years ahead of me at Hollywood High.  You probably don’t remember me.  I was just a skinny girl with braces back then.  But I used to admire you so much.  Then after high school I would read about you in the papers.”

“We went to school together?” Miranda asked in amazement.   “I’m sorry.  I had no idea.”  She was suddenly reminded of how she’d breezed through high school without a thought to anyone around her.  Thank God she wasn’t that girl anymore.

Flora shook her head as if to signify that she didn’t expect her to remember her.  “I was so amazed by how you picked yourself up after everything you’d been through.  Your marriage, losing your hotel, the scar on your face.  You can barely see it now.” 

Miranda placed a hand alongside her face where the traces of her scar were still present.

“You probably think I’m some crazy stalker girl or something, but I really just admire you is all.  Everything you’d done in your life.  I just want the same opportunities.”

Miranda smiled even though she felt horrible inside, but wasn’t quite sure why.  “You will,” she promised the girl.

Moonshadows

“So as you can see, the marina expansion will only put a portion of your coastline out of commission, and for a very short time.”   The man held an impressive sketch of the Moonshadows marina redevelopment before him while Brooke and Kyle looked on from across the table.    

“Yeah, but during peak season,” Brooke replied.   They were seated at a table on the outside patio of the Sierra Room, seagulls flocking in the near distance and the sound of waves crashing up onto the shore.  “We’re booked up for the entire summer.  What do you expect us to tell two thousand vacationers when they show up and can’t get down to the beach?” 

The man looked at her and then at Kyle with a confused expression.  “It was my understanding that Mrs. DeWitt had already accounted for the necessary down time when she commissioned the bid.”

“She may not have realized what was involved,” Kyle said.

“Of course she didn’t,” Brooke insisted.  “Is rerouting the water supply to the individual cabana’s really necessary?”

“Unfortunately, it is,” the man reported. 

“Oh really?” Brooke asked cynically while pointing at the diagram.  “Because it seems like you could just cut out this entire channel between the cabins and the main hotel and still be able to access the other three.” 

Chip raised an eyebrow and exchanged glances with her and Kyle.  Kyle, muffling laughter behind his hand, didn’t say a word. 

“That will require me to redo the entire bid and I’d like to talk it over with Mrs. DeWitt before I do that,” Chip said. 

“Mrs. DeWitt has had a personal crisis, so whatever you need to speak to her about, you can speak to us,” Brooke replied.  “Or do you have a problem with that?” 

He shook his head belligerently.  “No, I don’t have a problem with that.  I just want to make sure this is what she wants before I-“ 

“Maybe I haven’t made myself clear,” Brooke cut him off.  “I’m part owner of Moonshadows and I have the authority to make any decisions that needs made.  If you don’t want to work with us, then we’ll find another developer who will.” 

“We want to work with you, it’s just that-“

Slowly, Kyle leaned toward him and whispered, though not very discreetly.  “I’d leave it at that if I were you.  You don’t want to piss her off any more.”

Chip forced a smile on his face and began collecting his things.  “I’ll go back to the firm and start seeing what we can do to minimize the effects of the expansion on your guests.” 

“That would be great,” Brooke said and rose from her feet in time to shake his hand.  

“I’ll be in touch,” he said before nodding to Kyle and weaving through the sea of tables. 

After he’d gone, Brooke sat down and exhaled.   “Was it just me or was he a complete chauvinist?”

Kyle laughed.  “Whatever he was, I think you handled him pretty well.  I almost forgot what a tornado you could be.” 

“Thanks,” Brooke said, then added swiftly, “I think.  Guys like him just piss me off.  Three years out of college and they think they know everything.  Well this is a business.  How can he expect us to shut down our operations for three months while he reroutes water channels and pollutes the shoreline with construction debris?” 

“You’ve done your homework,” Kyle said, looking at her in admiration.   “You really take all of this seriously, don’t you?” 

“I have to,” she said.  “For David and for Renee.  This place was their dream.  I’m not going to let some tool from Newport mess it up.” 

“Well, I think we should brainstorm some troubleshooting ideas just in case we do have to displace some business this summer.  What do you say we have dinner brought in and power through it tonight?” 

“Dinner?” she asked.  “I don’t know, I-“ 

“The sooner we get it worked out the better.” 

She nodded.  True, she’d told Ethan she would be home for dinner, but this was more important.  “You’re right.  I guess I’ll see you tonight.” 

“Tonight,” Kyle said with a methodic grin as he watched her get up and leave the table. 

James Blackthorne

Lunch at the Polo Lounge held bitter memories for James and Kenny.  As they took their usual booth at the back of the room, they were reminded of the night Kenny received the call that Sierra’s body had been found at the lookout. 

“How is Renee?” James asked somberly.   “Every time I call she says it’s not a good time.  I’m worried about her.” 

“You and me both,” Kenny agreed after taking a big gulp of bourbon.  He wiped his mouth and stared quietly into his drink for a few moments.  “She’s pushing everyone away.  Everyone except for T.T., that is.” 

“Is he still in town?”

Kenny nodded.  “And it seems like he doesn’t have any plans of leaving anytime soon.  I guess I should be thankful that she’ll talk to someone.  Despite everything we’ve been through, I hoped she’d at least let me comfort her.” 

“Losing a child has to be the worst thing in the world,” James said.  “I can’t begin to imagine what she’s going through.  Jordan and Suzanne either.  I mean, how do you begin to cope with something like this?”

“I don’t know that you ever do.  Anyway, I’m worried that T.T. will just run off again and break Renee’s heart even more than he already has.  The last thing she needs is more pain in her life.” 

“T.T.’s a good man when it comes down to it,” James told him.  “He wouldn’t do anything to hurt Renee now, would he?”

Kenny shook his head with uncertainty and decided to change the subject.  “How are things with Mackenzie?” he asked.  “Are you still off, or are you on again?”

James managed a faint smile.  “Point taken,” he said.  “We’ve been going back and forth for months.  I haven’t met many women like her.  She’s very stubborn and idealistic.” 

“It seemed to be your thing for a while.” 

“It was.  It is.  But she demands a lot of attention, and lately with everything going on at home, I haven’t been able to give it to her.” 

“So make time,” Kenny urged him.  “Life is short, in case you haven’t picked up on that recently.  James, you haven’t felt this way about a woman since Leigh.  What if this is-“

James regarded him with a raised eyebrow and a good-natured smile.  “What?   My last chance at love?  That’s a depressing thought.”

“I didn’t mean that, but you should work things out with her if you really want to.  Don’t let your family get in the way of that.  They can take care of themselves.  They’re grownups, aren’t they?” 

James sighed and thought back to the arguments over breakfasts and dinners and the spiteful way they ripped each other apart.  “That’s debatable.”

Alex Reynolds

Security at the Novak’s estate was tougher to get through than anywhere Alex knew of.  She spent fifteen minutes idling at the gate while talking to a faceless voice over a tiny speaker box.  She didn’t like to throw her name around, but it seemed ridiculous that she wouldn’t be admitted immediately once she announced who she was. 

Finally, the gate opened and she drove down the long driveway to the front of the palatial house.  Climbing out of her gold Mercedes, she looked around the grounds which she already knew quite welll.  To the left was a house owned by one of the Beverly Hills Housewives, and across the street was Victor Distefano’s house, which now sat empty.  Vaughan Novak had been Victor’s agent for much of his career.  She recalled a number of wild parties where they’d both been in attendance.  

She approached the door and was again held up for several minutes by an off putting butler.  While she waited outside the ornately carved door, she recalled that Vaughan had been Lola’s agent as well.

When she was finally allowed inside, she was led into a waiting room the size of her penthouse apartment.  Vaughan Novak was part of the superrich elite.  Stars paid huge amounts of money to have his agency represent them.   She almost felt middle class in the presence of his home.  Almost. 

As she waited, she admired the dozens upon dozens of framed headshots that lined the walls of the room.  Many actors and actresses that she’d forgotten about.  Some she wished she could forget about. 

“Alex, what a lovely surprise,” Vaughan said as he emerged from what appeared to be a secret entrance to the room. 

“I doubt it,” she said and walked toward him indignantly.  “Your goons have been holding me at bay for half an hour.  You had to have known I was waiting for you.” 

“My goons as you call them, are my security.”  He swept across the room and poured them each a glass of scotch.  “You wouldn’t believe how many Hollywood hopefuls try beating down my door in hopes of representation.  I finally had to have my house taken off of the map on those silly home tours they operate.   Scotch is still your drink, isn’t it?” 

She looked at the glass and shook her head.  “I don’t drink anymore.” 

With an apologetic expression, he withdrew the glass and set it aside.  “Of course.  I completely forgot about your recent stay at Promises.  How insensitive of me.  I thought that was for pills, though.” 

“Still not a good idea,” she said through pursed lips.  “Vaughan, I’ll get right to the point.  I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your….valuable time.”

“So tragic about those two kids, wasn’t it?” he asked, looming over her with his tall, statuesque frame.   “Murder – suicides are always so difficult to get past.”

“It wasn’t suicide.  Benji was in an accident.” 

“Oh,” he said.  “My mistake.  Sheldon seemed to think his accident leaned more toward suicide.” 

“It wasn’t,” she said.  "And I'd thank you not to italicize the word accident, espeically if Jordan's around."  

“How is Jordan holding up?  Well, I hope.” 

“I think so,” Alex said, attempting again to get to the point of her visit.  “Vaughan, you and I have known each other for a very long time.”

“Exactly thirty years.” 

“So I was hoping you’d do me a favor.” 

“What is it?” he asked, smoothing down the front of his Gucci track suit.

“Kelly Blackthorne,” she said.  “My soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law.  I undersatnd you met her at Benji’s funeral and that you’ve had discussions with her on representing her career in Los Angeles.” 

“Very minor discussions,” he confirmed.  “She’s a very talented actress.  I loved the work she did in Angel Assassin 2.  Personally I don’t think she upstaged you as much as the reviews said, but still-“ 

“I don’t think I have to tell you what a problem she’s been for my family,” Alex went on.  “It would benefit me greatly if she didn’t get another job.  It might even force her to leave town.” 

“Benefit you?” Vaughan asked with a grin.

“And my son,” she added.  “And his son.  She isn’t doing anybody any good hanging around here.” 

Vaughan finished his drink and went to pour himself another one.  “Fine,” he said simply.

“Excuse me?”  She looked at him with surprise.

“I said fine,” he repeated with a smile.  “I won’t get her a job.” 

“Just like that?”

“You seem surprised, Alex.  Is it so hard to believe I would do a favor for an old friend?”

“No, I just…well…yeah, I guess I am surprised.”  She stepped toward him.  “What do you want in return?”

He laughed.  A big, hearty laugh that echoed through the room.  “Alex, I don’t want anything in return.  I mean, if I did want anything, it would be something very innocent.  Very good for you, good for me type of arrangement.  I wouldn’t call it payback or anything like that.” 

“What do you want, Vaughan?”

“Have dinner with me,” he said. 

“Have dinner with you?” 

“Yes.  Dinner.  You, me, eating.” 

Shaking her head, she looked nervously around the room., anything to avoid looking into his handsome, sexy eyes.  The truth was she'd been attracted to him for years.   “I don’t think-“

“Relax, Alex, it’s not a date.  I just want to spend time with you.  The truth is, I find you kind of charming.” 

“Charming,” she said, shaking her head in amusement.  “Well, I suppose as long as it’s not a date.”

“It’s not.  It’s not a date.”

Collecting her purse, she started out of the room, pausing as he went to open the door for her.   While standing in the doorway, she noticed another picture on the wall. 

“I didn’t know you represented Nathan Blackthorne,” she said.

“It was for a short time,” Vaughan told her.  “Jonas Lamont booked most of Nathan’s jobs.  I guess even my skills can’t be used on everybody.  I’ll call you about dinner.” 

She nodded and followed him back to the front door.   For someone she’d known for thirty years, that was the longest conversation she’d ever had with Vaughan Novak. 

Jack Childers

Since he’d returned from his self exile to Greece, Jack Childers had successfully avoided any unpleasant altercations with the Blackthornes.  Partly due to the circumstances upon his return; his son was still in a coma as a result of a horrific car crash, and the only public appearance he’d made had been at Benji Rydell’s funeral, where James and Stormy wouldn’t dare confront him.  His only crime, after all, had been saving himself while being held hostage by a Mexican drug cartel.  When an opportunity presented itself, he made his escape and he didn’t look back.  The others made it back to the states safely, so what harm had really been done?

Braving the public eye once again, Jack met Nathan for late afternoon cocktails at the Dresden.  They took a booth in a dark corner and sipped gimlets while sharing mood stabilizers and valium.

“Another round?” the waitress asked when she arrived at their table.

“Another vodka,” Jack said and shook the ice around in his empty glass.  “Nathan?”

“Yes, another vodka,” he agreed.  “Say, is Estelle still around?” 

“Estelle?” the waitress asked.

“You remember Estelle, don’t you, Jack?” Nathan asked.  “That ol’ broad who used to cocktail here back in the day?  Boy, she was quite a gal, wasn’t she?  What was that drink she used to make?”

“The Number Nine,” Jack said, nodding in appreciation.  “She called it her Love Potion.”

“That’s right, Number Nine,” Nathan said and turned back to the waitress.  “Do you know how to make a Number Nine, sweetheart?”

“Are you kidding?  It’s on the menu.  You knew the lady who invented it?”   She seemed excited by the bit of history.

Knew her?” they both asked in unison. 

“It was our dear friend Victor who challenged her with infusing the vodka with fresh strawberries.  She would set it in jars on the bar over there and every night we’d ask if we could have some and she’d always say the same thing.  Not ready yet.  Come back tomorrow.” 

“She was a tease, that Estelle,” Jack said.

The waitress smiled, listening on as they bantered back and forth.  Fifteen minutes and a brief conversation about 3D technology later, they were again left alone with fresh drinks. 

“How is your boy, Jack?” Nathan asked. 

“No change,” he replied.  “But the doctors are hopeful.” 

“That’s good,” Nathan said, slurping his drink. 

“And how are you doing?  After what that sociopath did to your poor daughter?”

“I’m not allowed to grieve.  I’ll always be the monster.  I’ve come to accept that.” 

“What do you intend to do about it?” Jack asked.   “You can’t just fade into obscurity.  You’ll disappear in this town.  Look at old Lola.  She makes an appearance every few years and the rest of the time people are left wondering if she’s even still alive.  Is that what you want for yourself?  To have them find your mummified corpse one day in your apartment over on Alvarado Court?”

“We’re a dying breed, Jack, ol’ boy.   Nothing we can do about it.” 

“You could if you wanted.  You could go to James tomorrow and demand a role in the movie that you put on the map.  The movie they’re remaking as we speak.” 

“Jonas put it on the map.  I was merely a vehicle.” 

“All the more reason to do it,” Jack told him, shaking his empty glass again.  “You know as well as I do there are enough skeletons at that studio to make it happen.  Jonas saw to it.” 

“That would open up a whole bag of worms that we just got through saying we didn’t want open,” Nathan told him.  “I’m not sure Sunset Studios is the place I should be right now.” 

“Of course you should,” Jack said with a grin.   “And I know exactly how you’re going to make it happen.” 

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne watched as Gordon carried the tea service into the drawing room and set it on the table between her and Marilee.  After pouring them each a cup, he left the room and closed the door securely behind.  

“Thank you for seeing me, Suzanne,” Marilee said.  “I know what a difficult time this has been for you.”

“Thank you,” Suzanne said, sipping from her cup and regarding her suspiciously. 

Marilee held her cup at chin-level for a few seconds before lowering it to the table, her delicate silver bracelets clanging on her petite wrist. 

“I know Renee has some…anger toward Jordan over what happened, but I honestly don’t think she blames you.  You’ve been friends for so long.  Give it time.  I’m sure she’ll reach out to you.” 

“Renee is hurting.  I understand that.” 

“I don’t mean to minimize what you and Jordan are going through,” she was quick to add.  “I mean, especially Jordan.  His and Benji’s relationship was so strained after you left.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, he never forgave him for that whole book incident,” Marilee explained.  “And the robbery.  Well, I just know that it really hurt Jordan to turn him away like that.”

“Robbery?” Suzanne asked. 

Marilee nodded quickly.  “Benji went to Jordan for money but Jordan said no.  That same night, Benji broke in and stole a bunch of stuff.  Your furs, your jewelry, paintings.  I think Jordan really blames himself for turning his back on him after that.” 

Suzanne quickly rose to her feet, alarmed by the information and immediately realizing what must have happened.  She and Ross had came to get her things so Warren could pawn them and help save New Abbott.  Ross had insisted they make it look like a burglary.   Jordan must have assumed it was Benji. 

“Marilee, you have to go,” she said quickly, tears beginning to form in her eyes. 

“What?” she asked, surprised.   “But we just sat down to-“

“I’m sorry, Marilee.  I can’t explain.  You just have to go.” 

And just like that, she was ushering her to the door.  Without another word, she closed the door and turned around, breathing heavily and feeling as though she was going to be sick. 

Miranda Blackthorne

“I’ll do it,” Miranda said as she sat across from Gemma in the visitation room at the women’s prison.   ‘I’ll take over for your operation.”

“Knew you wouldn’t be able to resist,” Gemma said, her long platinum hair flat against her face which bore no trace of her usual heavy makeup.  “The benefits of being the premiere Hollywood Madam are going to blow you away, Miranda.  You won’t believe how many of your daddy’s business associates are regulars.” 

“I’m not doing this for gossip or for glory,” Miranda spat hatefully.  “I said I would do it, but there are a few things you’re going to have to get straight first.”

“Okay,” Gemma said warily.

“First and foremost, I’m giving you fair warning.  When you get out of here in five years, you will no longer be in business.” 

“Excuse me?”

“’I’m shutting you down,” Miranda clarified. 

“You’re what?”

“Think of this time as a transitional period.  These girls need this job right now.  They all have dreams of something bigger.  They deserve something better.  So I’m going to watch out for them, I’m going to screen their johns and I’m going to make sure they’re safe.  Then after a certain amount of time has passed, I’m going to help them get out of the business and into one that they’re passionate about.” 

Gemma laughed.  “Oh, you silly girl.  I applaud your aspirations of getting these girls into colleges and business suits, but don’t you think they would have done that already if they could have?”

“They never had motivation before,” Miranda said.  I’ll be their motivation.”

“You?  Pregnant and unmarried, no job, and living off your trust fund.  Yes, that’s quite motivating.” 

“I’ve ran a successful hotel.  In two years it went from beds for airline crews to stay the night in to a world class destination.  That was thanks to me, not to my trust fund or to my father.  I have things I can teach these girls.  News flash, Gemma.  They don’t want to be hookers forever.”

“You’re no patron saint, Miranda.  You’re about to employ fifteen girls who get paid a thousand dollars an hour to do whatever dirty old men tell them to.” 

“Twenty girls,” Miranda corrected her.  “I pulled a couple girls off the street and gave them jobs.  Oh, I’ve also doubled our prices.  If these dirty old men want to them to do the things they ask, they’ll pay the price.” 

“You’re crazy,” Gemma said.  “Men in this town want hookers, not biochemistry majors.” 

“Well, they’re getting both,” Miranda said with a smile as she stood up.  “Have a nice day, Gemma.  I’ll send you some coursebooks from UCLA.  Looks like you’ll be needing to get into a new career when you get out of here.”

She hung up the phone and walked away, her heels clicking on the floor as she disappeared around the corner. 

Renee DeWitt

Eyes closed and light music emanating from the stereo, Renee lay still on the sofa of her penthouse.  A cool breeze blew through the terrace doors.  Beside her, on the floor, was a photo album open to pictures of Sierra when she was a baby. 

T.T. emerged from the den and studied her carefully.  Taking a blanket from the chair, he covered her and placed a delicate hand alongside her face.   He gazed down at the photo album and picked it up, turning the pages and smiling at the pictures of her and Sierra. 

With a sigh, he closed the book and placed it on the coffee table.  After one last glance toward Renee, he grabbed his jacket and keys and headed for the door.  Before he disappeared into the hall, Renee rose and went flying across the room. 

“T.T., you’re not leaving, are you?” she asked.

He turned back, surprised that she was awake.  “I thought I would go down to my room and give you some space.  Just until tomorrow.  I’ll be back in the morning.” 

“I don’t want you to leave me,” she said, pulling him toward her by the arm.  “Please, T.T.  I need you.” 

Unable to say no, he walked back and wrapped his arms around her.  She buried her face in his chest and clung to him as tight as she could. 

“Renee, we need to talk about-“

“No,” she said, shaking her head.  “Can’t we just be together tonight?  Can’t we just forget about everything else.”

“I want you to go away with me,” he whispered.  “I think it will do you some good.” 

“I will,” she said softly.  “I just need you tonight.  Just stay with me.  I just need to know that you’re here.” 

Sighing, he held her close.  He knew that she wasn’t coping with anything.  He needed to get her away from that penthouse and Los Angeles and to a new environment where she could heal. 

Moonshadows

The administrative office building at Moonshadows was dark and deserted, the staff having gone home for the evening.  A single light emanated from Brooke’s office where she and Kyle sat poring over land surveys, reservation lists, and a giant blueprint of the resort.  They discussed resolutions to the marina expansion while picking at cartons of Chinese takeout strewn across the table. 

“I was really impressed with you today,” Kyle said thoughtfully, rubbing a hand over his perpetual five-o’clock shadow.  “The way you handled Chip Matthews was pure genius.” 

Brooke smiled while picking at an order of orange chicken.  “I don’t know about genius, but I have had my share of dealings with men like him.  I don’t normally back down for a handsome face and an expensive suit.” 

Kyle laughed.  “That’s true.  You’re certainly held your own with me.” 

As his remark set in, she grew quiet.  She wasn’t sure what he was getting at, but she had a feeling he was about to launch into an other apology for the lies and deceit he’d perpetrated on her and everyone else. 

“Brooke, I know I hurt you and I-“  he began on cue. 

Her cell phone vibrating alerted her to a call, so she quickly went to retrieve it from her purse.  Secretly, she was glad for the distraction.  She knew that spending time alone with Kyle after hours would lead to talk of their former relationship, which she’d planned on deflecting.  But as they sat there together, she’d begun to lose confidence in herself. 

“Hello?” she asked after answering. 

“Hi,” Ethan said from the parlor room at the Blackthorne mansion.  “Just wanted to see when you were coming home.” 

In all of the craziness the day had brought, she’d completely forgotten about her plans with him.  “Hi,” she said, walking away in hopes of getting some privacy.  “I’m so sorry, I completely forgot to call you.” 

“Problem?” he asked. 

“Yeah,” she replied, running her fingers through her silky blond hair.  “We’re up to our eyeballs in this marina expansion and it looks like I’m going to have to take a raincheck on our plans.  I’m sorry.” 

“Oh.”  He sounded disappointed.  “Are you going to be able to at least get any dinner?”

She shrugged guiltily.  “Yeah, I’ll just grab something and eat it at my desk.” 

Kyle’s eyes flickered past hers while he pretended to study a set of geological reports.   Quickly, Brooke turned away from him and lowered her voice. 

“We’ll talk later, okay?” she continued. 

“Yeah, sure,” he said.  “I’ll kiss Michael goodnight for you.” 

“Thanks.”

After hanging up, she walked back to the table and sat down.  Her eyes purposefully avoided contact with Kyle’s as she busied herself with paperwork. 

“Everything okay?” Kyle asked. 

“Yeah.  Why?” she replied, all casual. 

Smiling, he leaned back in his chair.  “Well, because unless I’m mistaken, that was Ethan asking where you were.  Why didn’t you tell him you were with me?”

“It didn’t come up,” she said with a shrug.

“But you didn’t tell him we were having dinner together.” 

With an exasperated sigh, she pushed the carton of food away.  “We’re not having dinner together, Kyle.  We’re working and we just happen to have ordered in.  Don’t make this into something it’s not.” 

“I’m not making it into something it’s not,” he said.  “I just mentioned that you left some details out during your conversation with Ethan.  It’s interesting, that’s all.” 

“Well, then you need a life.” 

He watched her closely, recognizing the look in her eyes and her unmistakable body language.  “Why are you so nervous?” he asked with a smarmy grin. 

“I’m not nervous.” 

“You’re thinking about that kiss, aren’t you?” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

Laughing to himself, he stood up and walked around the table.  “The kiss out in the reception area a couple of weeks ago.  I suspected it then, but now I’m sure of it.” 

“Sure of what?”

“You’ve still got it for me.” 

With a roll of her eyes, she shot up from her chair and found him standing inches from her.  “The man who lied to me and let me think he was someone else for the better part of a year?  No, I’m quite sure I don’t have anything but contempt for you.” 

But her denial only fueled his attraction.  He moved his body even closer to hers until they were practically touching.

“Then why are you here with me and not with the man that you claim to be your soul mate?” he asked. 

For a few moments, she simply stared into his mesmerizing brown eyes.  They were so intense.  They seemed to stare directly into her soul.   Slowly, she turned and attempted to walk away but he pulled her back. 

“Let go of me,” she said. 

“Is that really what you want?”  He took her by the arms and pulled her toward him.  “Just tell me and I’ll stop.” 

But she couldn’t.  When he pressed his salty, warm lips against hers, she melted in his touch.  The feel of his hands on her body propelled her into actions that she couldn’t physically control.  In desperation, she tore his shirt open and ran her hands along his smooth, chiseled torso.  Her breath came out in short, quick spurts and she grew weak-kneed and light-headed. 

Fueled with desire, Kyle lifted her into his arms and carried her across the room to the white leather sofa.  He laid her down on the cool cushions and covered her with his body.  His tongue made its way from her mouth to her chin to her breasts. 

Within moments, they were stripped of their clothes and he was entering her slowly.  He grinned when she shrieked with delight and ran her hands down his bare back.  They made love with urgency, devouring each other, their lips never parting until long after they exploded with intense indescribable pleasure.

Ethan Blackthorne

With an evening to himself, and Leilani volunteering to look after Michael, Ethan decided to go out for a drink.  The La Mirada Bar at Moonshadows was dead, so he finished the drink he ordered and proceeded to the Yacht Club to see if it was any more happening.  Luckily, it was.  After a few weeks of wanting to be left alone, he could feel a change in his attitude.  The draws of being around people and involved in lively conversations were slowly making their way back to him.  There was a time he wasn’t sure that they ever would.  After a year of living in solitude with Emmett and Sophie, then in prison for another six months, he’d grown used to being alone.  The time had come, however, for a change. 

“Seven and seven,” he called to the bartender as he sat down. 

“Coming right up.” 

While he waited for his drink, Ethan thought about the disappointment he felt over his broken plans with Brooke that evening.  He realized she was busy at Moonshadows, but he also thought she would have jumped at the chance to talk.  Since his return, they hadn’t done much of that.  And when they did, it turned into an argument.  Her angry because he never told her he was alive and in prison three thousand miles away, and him angry at her because of how easily she’d been duped by Kyle.

But in time, he’d begun to realize they were lashing out because they didn’t know how else to act.  The circumstances were far too volatile to think logically.  Maybe it was time they started.  They had to at least try to see if they could get back what they once had.   Her canceling their date, however, led him to believe it may be too late.

All at once, the bartender delivered his drink and a woman sat down two stools away from him.  When he looked up, he saw that it was Mackenzie. 

“Looks like you had the same idea I did,” he said, hunched over his drink while craning his neck toward her.

She regarded him for a split second.  “It’s been one of those days.” 

“Problems with the show?” he asked. 

“I beg your pardon?”   She quickly took the martini the bartender slid across the bar top and took a long drink.  

“This morning you said you were having problems with a director.” 

“Oh.”  She sounded briefly confused.  “Yeah.”

Just as he’d suspected that morning, she’d been lying about whoever she was on the phone with.  He decided not to push it.  He barely knew her aside from the time she came to see him in prison while thinking he was Dan Cody. 

“What’s your uncle up to tonight?” she asked before fishing an olive from her glass and crushing it between her front teeth. 

“I’m not sure.  Why don’t you call him and ask?”

She laughed a little.  “I don’t think he’d be very happy to hear from me.” 

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I kind of went off on him the other day at the funeral.  It’s my own fault.  Sometimes I lose my filter.” 

Ethan laughed.  “Yeah, I’ve kind of noticed that.”

Two drinks later, they were turned on their stools facing one another in deep conversations about everything from family to work.  For a minute Ethan thought she was coming on to him.  The more she had to drink the more flirtatious she became.  Every once and a while she would brush her hand against his knee or touch him briefly on the hand.  He couldn’t argue that she was an attractive, if not mysterious woman. 

When her phone rang and she dug it out of her purse, her mood took a sudden turn.  Hesitantly, she ignored the call and tossed her phone back into her purse while stepping down from the stool.

“Anything important?” Ethan asked.  The way she tensed up when her phone rang reminded him of the incident from that morning.  Who could she be so afraid of?

“No,” she said, distracted.  “But I have to go.  Uh, it was nice talking to you.” 

“Are you sure?  It’s early and-“ 

“No, I have to go.”  She abruptly threw a couple of twenties on the bar top and hurried through out the front doors. 

Dumbfounded, Ethan sat behind shaking his head.  He couldn’t figure her out for the life of him.  No wonder she and James didn’t seem to be able to get their relationship on track.

After a moment or two, he decided to go after her.  Whatever had spoiled her mood so suddenly was eating away at him, although he didn’t know why.  Plopping down more cash for his drinks, he got up and raced to the door.  Outside, he saw Mackenzie getting into her car.  

“Mackenzie!” he called after her.  “Wait up a minute!”

But she was already tearing out of the parking lot, tires squealing and smoke billowing in the distance.  With a sigh, he dropped his hands to his sides and watched as she sped away.   Maybe it was nothing, he decided.  Maybe she just had a date. 

Turning, he walked to his car in the darkness.  He didn’t notice the dark sedan with tinted windows that crawled out of its parking spot and slowly, but unwaveringly, began following Mackenzie out onto the main road.

Brett Armstrong

Brett tried Suzanne’s cell several times but it kept going to voicemail, so he dropped Violet off with her sitter and drove back to Jordan’s house in Beverly Hills.  After their conversation earlier, he began to realize that she was on the verge of realizing who she was dealing with.  Warren Abbott and Ross Fuller were nothing more than opportunists who singled her out for her money and connections.  Maybe it would only take one more try before she finally realized it. 

When he arrived, Gordon told him that Suzanne had left. 

“What do you mean she left?” he asked.  “Where’d she go?”

“She took one of Mr. Rydell’s cars and then asked for two hundred dollars from the house reserves,” the dutiful butler explained. 

“Did she say where she was going?” he demanded.

“No, Mr. Armstrong.  But she did pack her suitcase.  It didn’t seem like she was coming back.” 

Brett exhaled and turned back to the door.  She was going back to New Abbott.  He knew she was.  He hadn’t gotten through to her before.  All he’d done was make her want to run away again.  Back to the people she thought were her friends. 

How would he ever get her to listen to reason now?  

Suzanne Rogers

The blazing camp fire sent sparks and smoke into the starry night sky.  The followers sat around the clearing, stoking the fire and chatting in small groups.  When the commotion of a car engine came over the hill, they all turned. 

Her eyes staring through the fire, Suzanne walked down to the clearing and stood before the group.   Moments later, Warren emerged from his tent, followed by Ross. 

“Suzanne,” Warren said with a bright smile and approached her  “I knew you would return.” 

“I’m sorry that I left,” she said.  “I now know where I belong.” 

“It is here with us,” Warren said, taking her hands in his.  “I hope you know now that we are the only ones who will appreciate you.  We are the ones who will nurture you and protect you from harm.  They won’t.” 

“I won’t leave you again,” she said. 

Warren took her into his arms.  “Triumph in the inner power.” 

“Triumph in the inner power,” Suzanne said, staring at the fire.

Warren retreated back to his tent while Ross exchanged smiles with Suzanne. 

“I’m glad you’re back,” he said.  “You’ve been such an inspiration to all of us, Suzanne.  Everything you’ve been through and everything you stand for.  We’re looking forward to having you as an ally.” 

“So am I,” she said, staring with loathsome eyes into his.  “I’m excited to pay you back for everything you’ve done.” 


Next time....

Brett and Suzanne find themselves in danger.  Jackie bargains on behalf of Nathan.  Miranda worries that Eddie is on to her.  Alex feels guilty after her date with Vaughan.  A fire leaves someone homeless.  

 

 

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