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Episode 142

 

Release Date:  June 25, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Suzanne returned to New Abbott in hopes of exposing Warren to his followers.  White investigating, she found explosives and weapons.  Brett arrived to take her home with him, but was knocked unsconscious by Ross.  Eddie found Gemma's client book and mistakenly assumed Miranda was meeting a man at a hotel.  Jane warned Miranda about the mix-up, so Miranda claimed the book belonged to Sam, a girl she met at Dr. Mitchell's office.  Hugh had his men follow Sam, one of their prostitutes, and learned that she was working for someone else.  Hugh ordered his right hand man, Trevor, to send whoever it was a message.  James tried to patch things up with Mackenzie, but after receiving flowers from someone named Mason, she grew distant and blew him off.  Later, Ethan saw a man hasseling Mackenzie and punched him out. Mackenzie later told him the man was Mason Stone, her ex-husband a a very shady character.  Kyle invented a meeting at Moonshadows to keep Brooke from spending time with Ethan.  When she found out, she chastised him.  An expansion project at the marina kept Kyle and Brooke working closely.  Stormy wanted Brett out of Sunset Studios, so in exchange for a role in The Benefactor, Nathan told him a way to go about it.  He would need to get James or Brooke's approval to take Brett's shares and return them to Nathan.  

 


  

Episode 142

"What Lies Beneath"

 

With his hands bound by thick rope behind his back, Brett had spent most of the night struggling to get free.  The last thing he remembered was being clocked over the head.  Some time later, he woke up bound to a chair in a tent at New Abbott.  Now the sun was up and he heard movement all about him.

Thoughts of Suzanne and what they may be doing to her plagued him.  He knew he had to get free in order to rescue her.  If they thought for a minute that they were working together, then she was probably in the same boat as she was.  The prospect propelled him to work fervently at trying to loosen the ropes.  His arms exhausted, he realized it was useless. 

When the door parted and Ross entered the tent, Brett stopped his attempts at breaking free.  His eyes narrowed on him and he waited cautiously for him to make a move.  

“Where’s Suzanne?” he asked. 

“Suzanne is fine,” Ross said.  “Luckily we apprehended you before you could brainwash her into leaving with you.  Or maybe your plan was to throw her over your shoulder like a caveman and drag her off like last time?”

Her son died,” Brett told him.  “Did you expect me to leave her here?” 

“Regardless, she came back,” Ross said with an irritating smirk.  “She belongs here with us.  It’s time you realize that, Armstrong.” 

“The only reason you need her is because she has connections.”  He continued struggling with the ropes that bound him, hoping to break free so that he could punch his lights out.  Warren’s already conned every dime out of her.  Now you’re going to use her to target more unsuspecting people.” 

“You think you’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?”

“It’s not a terribly clever scheme,” Brett said with a patronizing smile.  “The only thing I can’t figure out is what are you getting out of this, Fuller?  Warren’s living the high life in San Francisco depositing every dime of that money you stole into his personal bank account.  Did he cut you in for being his recruiter?” 

Ross looked blankly at him.  “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” 

“Or let me guess,” Brett continued, “he promised that he’d give you a cut once you were done, right?”

“Shut up,” Ross said.  “You’re just pissed because she didn’t fall back into your bed.  Because despite all of your heroic acts, she still knows getting involved with you was the biggest mistake of her life.” 

“I’m not here because I want something from Suzanne.  I’m here because she’s needed back home.  Why are you here, Ross?  Because Warren makes promises that you have yet to see kept?  You’re forgetting who you’re talking to.  I was the best damn con man out there.  I was an expert at screwing my partners.”

“I’m not getting screwed,” Ross insisted, his face twisting into pained looks of agitation.  “Now shut the hell up.”

“So if you are in this with Warren, why are you still working as a professor at a community college and living in a tiny studio in West Hollywood while he’s living it up in a four million dollar house and driving a BMW?” 

“I said shut up!” Ross said and punched him in the face. 

The force from the blow caused Brett to rock back on the chair and crash to the ground, his hands and feet still bound.   Lying motionless, he spit dirt and blood from his mouth and groaned in agony as Ross left the tent. 

Suzanne Rogers

Across the camp, Suzanne paced anxiously back and forth in her tent.  She knew something had happened because she hadn’t seen Brett since the night before when he set out to clear their way to the jeep.  The fact that he hadn’t returned for her caused her to think the worst possible scenarios.  Not knowing was killing her. 

Answers finally came when Warren entered in his usual ceremonial robes.  She quickly turned toward him and forced herself to act normal.

“It seems your friend came back last night,” he reported.  “It was his jeep we found abandoned up the hill.” 

“Friend?” she asked with faux-confusion.

“Armstrong.  No doubt he came to cart you away again.” 

“Where is he?”  She tried to control the urgency in her voice, an effort that she was sure proved futile. 

“We captured him last night,” Warren told her.  “He’s in the medical tent.”

At least he was still alive, Suzanne thought to herself.  After hours of waiting to hear word on what had happened, she felt a small sense of relief.  How she was going to get him free didn’t immediately enter her mind. 

“Did you speak to him, Suzanne?” Warren wanted to know.  He approached her slowly, his kind but ominous eyes boring into hers.  “Did he come here to turn you against us?” 

“No,” she said, almost too quickly.  “I told him before I left that this is where I belong.  This is where I want to be.” 

Warren smiled and placed a hand alongside her face.  “I’m so happy to hear you say that,” he said.  “Because this journey that we’re about to go on couldn’t happen without you.  You are very important to our tribe of empowerment.” 

She simply smiled, finding his every word to be nauseating.  She wanted to reach out and smack him across the face.  She wanted to rage against him for filling her head with his phony promises of enlightenment while her son was self-destructing back home. 

“We’ll leave after sundown,” Warren said.

“Leave?” she asked.  “Where are we going?”

“People are bound to start looking for him,” Warren explained.  “And when they do, they’ll be led right to our doorstep.  I can’t have everything we’ve worked for ruined by your ex-lover.  Besides, we have a mission.” 

“What mission?” she asked him as he headed out of the tent.  “Where are we going?”

“Don’t worry, my dear,” Warren said.  “You’re about to embark on a life of fulfillment and adventure.  By my side you’ll flourish in your own inner power.” 

“What about Brett?”

He turned back once more before leaving.  “We can’t bring him with us,” he said.  “And if we leave him here he’ll tell everyone what he knows.  Your ex-lover will have to be a sacrifice.  He’ll have to die.” 

Suzanne’s face flushed with terror.  Backing up, she swallowed hard and desperately tried to think of a way out of the mess she’d created.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda made plans to meet Sam at Moonshadows for breakfast so she could get Gemma’s client book back.  After the debacle the night before at the Beverly Wilshire, she knew she had to be more careful.  Had Eddie found out what she’d been up to, it would have spelled trouble for their already shaky relationship.  They’d never really had it out about her affair with David, mostly because by the time he found out, she was pregnant.  And although this time she wasn’t cheating on him, keeping her new profession from him was almost just as bad.  She shuddered to think how he would react to find out she was the new Hollywood Madam. 

Checking her new business phone for messages, she walked down the stairs at the mansion and paused when she reached the foyer.   After scavenging through her giant Hermes purse, she realized she’d forgotten her pre-natal vitamins.  Dr. Mitchell had stressed the importance of taking them with each meal, and with an appointment scheduled for that day, she wanted to follow her orders specifically. 

Sighing, she placed her purse and phone on the table in the foyer and dashed back up to get her vitamins.  As she did, Kelly emerged from the breakfast room and glanced around.  She detected the glaring scent of Miranda’s signature perfume and rolled her eyes.

As she made her way down the hall to the gym, she heard the chorus from Tell Me Something Good.  Frowning, she paused and glanced at the phone lying next to Miranda’s purse.  The display read Sam.  Unable to control her curiosity, she picked up the phone and started to press the Talk button.   Before she could, however, Miranda appeared at the top of the stairs and shouted down to her.

“That’s my phone,” she said, glaring menacingly. “Don’t you touch it.” 

Unaffected by her harsh tone, Kelly shrugged.  “Sorry,” she said.  “I just thought it might be important.  Who’s Sam?”

“None of your business,” Miranda said and snatched the phone from her hand.  She plucked her purse from the table and headed to the door without another word.

“You’re up and out early this morning,” Kelly called after her, always ready for a match with her former sister-in-law.  “When I was pregnant with R.J. I never got up before noon.” 

“That’s because you and I are very different, Kelly,” she said with a sigh as she turned back toward her.  “You sit around waiting for people to do things for you, while I go out and make them happen. That’s why you were never cut out to be a Blackthorne and that’s why your time sponging off of my family is almost over.” 

“Don’t count on it,” Kelly spat back while folding her arms.  “So who is Sam?  Is that who you’re running off to meet in such a hurry?”

“Again, it’s none of your business.  Now if you’ll excuse me-“

“Does Eddie know about this?” Kelly pressed on.  “Or does he not care what you do with other men since that thing with David Jennings?”

Miranda laughed.  “You have no idea what you’re talking about.  Now do yourself a favor and stay out of my business.  I may be six months pregnant, but I can still beat the hell out of you if I need to.” 

With that, she turned and left the house.  Kelly stood behind, curious as to who Sam was and what Miranda was meeting him for. 

Brooke Taylor

In the conference room at the administrative building at Moonshadows, Brooke sat across the table from Chip Matthews as she read over his new proposal.  Between them was a three dimensional model of the new marina. 

“I trust this is more to your liking,” Chip said with a sly grin. 

Brooke nodded thoughtfully.  “It is,” she said.  “You’ve managed to minimize the effects of the expansion on our customers, and at the same time sped the project up by a month.” 

“We aim to please.” 

She regarded him from over the top of the portfolio and shook her head with a slight laugh.  She knew he was being coy and a little full of himself.  He was very young and cocky, and sometimes she got the feeling he was ogling her.

“There’s only one problem,” she began.  “Your proposal takes the marina out another two hundred feet from shore.  That exceeds the standards set by the California Coastal Commission.  We’ll need to get a variance.” 

“It can be done,” Chip said.  “Otherwise I wouldn’t have suggested it.”

Brooke raised an eyebrow and closed the presentation on the table.  “With the environmental groups watching everything that goes on up and down the coastline like a hawk?  The Coastal Commission has denied permits right and left because of the pressure they’re under by these groups.” 

“Yeah, but what’s another two hundred feet?”

“It’s a lot to these people,” she said and stood up.  “Your proposal is solid, but I’m going to have to give it some thought.  The last thing we need is bad press because people think we’re damaging the environment.” 

“You said you wanted to minimize the effects to your guests,” Chip said belligerently.  “Now you’re worried about the Coastal Commission.  I’m beginning to think you-“

“I said I’d give it some thought,” she cut him off.  “Thanks for coming in.” 

Frustrated, he gathered his things and made his way out of the office.  Brooke followed him, noticing that Kyle was standing talking to their secretary, Marcia.

“Good morning,” Kyle said with a confused look as Chip passed.

“Right,” he replied with a groan, storming through the lobby and outside the building. 

After he’d gone, Kyle turned to Brooke. “What was he doing here?  Did we have a meeting I didn’t know about?”

We didn’t,” she replied and retreated to her office.

Annoyed, Kyle followed her.  “Is this about yesterday?  Look, I said I was sorry for screwing up my times.” 

“You didn’t screw up your times,” Brooke said.  “You used business to distract me from Ethan so you could spend time alone with me.  I decided to take the project on myself.  You obviously can’t be trusted-“

“Don’t give me that,” Kyle said.  “You excluded me from the meeting to punish me because you know how invested I am in the marina expansion.  Now who’s being dishonest?”

“Don’t talk to me about dishonesty!”

Kyle waited a beat before continuing, realizing they were both thinking with their emotions when it came to business, which was never a good idea.

“Will you at least tell me how the meeting went?” he asked. 

“It went fine,” she said, busying herself by shuffling papers on her desk.  Anything to keep herself from paying too much attention to how sexy he looked.  A tight-fitting polo, well-cut chinos, and his trademark face stubble all had a way of turning her on.  “We’ll need a variance from the Coastal Commission.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” he said.

“It could be.”

“Why?”

“Kyle, I don’t have time to go into all of it with you.  I need to start talking to lawyers about this so we can-“

“Oh, Jesus, here we go again.  Stop trying to cut me out to prove a point.  Yes, I screwed up yesterday.  I wanted to spend time with you.  Is that so awful?”

“It is when you intentionally try to make me look stupid!” she screamed.

“I did not try to make you look stupid.”

“Well you sure as hell gave it a good try!”

Their argument was interrupted when Ethan entered the office, startled by the sound of their voices carrying out into the reception area. 

“Am I interrupting something?” he asked.

Brooke shook her head while trying to avoid Kyle’s penetrating stare.  “No, we’re through.”

“Brooke-“ Kyle began in protest.

“Here’s the new proposal,” she said and thrust the report at him.

“I just came to see if you wanted to go to breakfast,” Ethan said to Brooke.  “I can always come back if-“

“No, that sounds perfect,” Brooke said and grabbed her purse.  Anxious to put an end to the tension, she led him out of the office.

Behind, Kyle watched them go, frustrated that she was being so hostile with him since they slept together. 

T.T. Levitt

“I’m leaving town for a few weeks,” T.T. said into his phone while standing on the terrace that jutted out from Renee’s penthouse at Moonshadows.  “I need an answer on my offer to head up the west coast division of Titan Records.”

“I can’t give you an answer right now,” Stormy replied from his office at Sunset Studios.  “The studio is demanding a lot of my attention.  The Benefactor is still in pre-production while we finish casting and I have to make sure I keep an eye on Brett in case he tries to pull another fast one.” 

“You can still work at the studio,” T.T. told him.  “You’ll be more of a figurehead than anything with Titan Records.  I need someone in that seat or no producer today is going to look at us seriously.” 

“I don’t know,” Stormy said, raking his fingers through his jet black hair.  “If I can get Brett out of the company then I’d feel better about things.  But as it is, he has control of Nathan’s shares.  If I can’t get my father or Brooke to agree to turn them back over to him, I’ll never get rid of my former brother-in-law.” 

T.T. glanced down at the beach where he saw Renee walking slowly across the sand.   “If that’s all that’s standing in your way, then make it happen.  Whatever personal issues your family has with Nathan shouldn’t affect business.”

“That’s a nice thought, but I don’t now how realistic it is. There’s no way my father is going to agree to let Nathan back into the company.  And Brooke-“ 

“Will you at least think about accepting the position?” T.T. repeated.

“Yes.”

“That’s all I need to hear.” 

Renee DeWitt

Minutes later, T.T. was on the beach calling after Renee.  She stopped after a few moments and turned back to him.   Her feet were sifting through the sand and the warm ocean breeze blew her hair away from her un-made-up face. 

“I didn’t see you slip out,” he said after aligning himself beside her.  “You okay this morning?”

She nodded distantly while staring out at the water.  “Yeah, I think so.”

“You look good,” he said, his hand snaking around her waist as they walked.  “I’m glad to see you out of the penthouse.  It’s been a long time.” 

“I know, T.T.  And I thank you for being patient with me.  I know I haven’t been easy to be around these past few weeks, but-“

“You don’t have to apologize,” he told her.  “You never have to apologize to me.  I just want to do whatever I can to help you.” 

Her hand slipped down and clasped through his.  “I think I’ve finally accepted that I can’t change what’s happened.  I spent so long telling myself that if only I’d done this differently or that differently that Sierra might still be here.” 

“You were a good mother,” he said.  He was dressed casually in khaki’s and a flowing white linen shirt.  “Sierra was so lucky to have you as long as she did.” 

Renee smiled, tears forming in her eyes.  “It still hurts so much.” 

“It will get better.” 

She shook her head.  “I don’t know that it will, but I know that holing up inside my penthouse isn’t the answer.” 

“Are you thinking of going back to work?” he asked.

Again, she shook her head.  “No.  I want to go with you.”

“Go with me?” he asked with surprise.  “Really?”

“Really.  I need to get a change of scenery for a while.  I’ll go anywhere you want.” 

“I did have a trip planned in the South of France but I had a few stops to make first,” T.T. said.  “Just some business in New York.  It should only take a couple of days.” 

“That sounds perfect,” Renee said and stopped in the sand so she could turn to him.  “That is, if you still want me to go.” 

“Are you kidding?” he asked.  “Of course I want you to go.” 

Happily, she pulled him into a kiss.  “I just need to say goodbye to James.” 

Elated, T.T. reached out and clasped his hands around hers.  “Okay, but we should leave first thing in the morning.  Make sure you bring swimsuits.  It’s beautiful in the South of France this time of year.” 

Renee smiled and continued walking, her hand still in his. 

“Are you sure about this?” T.T. asked.  “I mean, if you need more time…”

“I’m sure.  Sierra will be with me no matter where I am.” 

Moonshadows

When Sam arrived, Miranda was already seated at a secluded table in the back of the Cahuenga Room at Moonshadows, her face hidden by a scarf and big sunglasses.  She stood up and flagged her down, then quickly retreated to her seat and looked around to ensure no one had seen her.   Her decision to have her meet her at such a public place was beginning to seem like a bad idea.   All the cloak and dagger stuff that went along with taking over for Gemma was relatively new to her. 

“Sorry I’m late,” Sam sad and slid into the seat across from Miranda.  She was also thinly disguised in a scarf and sunglasses.  From her giant purse, she produced the leather bound black book and presented it to her.  “Here it is.” 

“Thanks,” Miranda said gratefully.  “And thanks for covering for me yesterday.  When I heard Eddie was at the hotel waiting for me I almost died.” 

“But we covered for it pretty well,” Sam said.  “And the Senator was a perfect gentleman.” 

“Good,” Miranda said.  “You know, I’m beginning to think this madam business is more than I can handle.  I hate hiding it from Eddie and my family, but it’s not the type of thing I can just announce over dinner.”

“We appreciate it, for what it’s worth.  Working for you is so much better than turning tricks on the street for Hugh Rogers.  And it’s not forever.  As soon as I have enough money saved, I’m going to enroll in that modeling school.” 

“I’m glad,” Miranda said with a smile.  Her eyes traveled to the entrance of the building where she saw Mackenzie enter with a man she didn’t recognize.  “Damn!” she whispered and quickly ducked under the table. 

Yes, she definitely had to get better at selecting her meeting places. 

Armed with plenty of spending money from her last few jobs, Farrah Bale set out on Rodeo Drive for an old fashioned shopping marathon.  With plans to meet her cousin Jane for lunch, she popped into a few stores to get some browsing done beforehand.  After an hour of power shopping, she happily ambled her way down the street, perusing store windows and silently calculating how much money she’d spent so far. 

Vibrating inside her purse alerted her to a phone call.  While juggling shopping bags in one hand, she struggled to retrieve her cell, cursing loudly when she inadvertently dropped it to the ground. 

“Let me get that,” a man said from behind. 

Thankful for the assistance, Farrah watched as the man bent down and picked the phone up.  When he stood up again, however, her face fell. 

“Good morning, Farrah,” said Hugh Rogers’ assistant, Trevor. 

Immediately, she turned to run, but he’d already grabbed her and ushered her to the curb where a long black limousine was waiting.  Before she even had a chance to scream, she was being thrown into the back seat where another man in a business suit was seated.   She recognized him from Hugh’s house, and realized they were probably sent for her. 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, blond hair flying as she struggled to get out of the car. 

“Relax, Farrah,” Trevor said.  “We’re not going to hurt you.” 

“Right.  Like that dead girl they found in an alley a few weeks ago?  I’d rather not end up like her, thanks anyway.” 

“Can we help it if Hugh misses you?” he asked.  “He was very happy with your performance.  He doesn’t understand why you would leave him like that.” 

Hello?” Farrah said.  “Dead girl?  Alley?  Any of this strike you as a red flag?”

“How could you think Hugh would have anything to do with that poor girl’s death?  He cares about his girls.  He doesn’t want them falling into situations that could put them in any danger.” 

“I’m doing fine, thanks.” 

“I can see that,” Trevor said and peeked into one of her bags.  “Nice shoes.  Whoever you’re working for now must be taking very good care of you.” 

“I do all right.” 

“Rumor has it someone’s taken over for Gemma Sanders.  That wouldn’t be who you’re working for now, would it?” 

Farrah’s eyes darted away, her defiant nature fading at the thought of giving him information that he could use against her.  

“Farrah,” Trevor said in a patronizing fashion.  “Make it easy on yourself and just tell me the truth.” 

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” she replied, anxiously shifting in her seat.  Her hands instinctively went to the door handle but the man seated next to her quickly pulled her back.  She screamed out in terror as Trevor leapt forward and clasped his hands around her throat. 

“Tell me who it is and nothing will happen to you,” he said, his dark eyes staring forebodingly into hers.  “Be smart, Farrah.  I’d hate for such a pretty package to return to Marquette Cove in pieces.”

Terrified, she stared with wide eyes.  She couldn’t move.  Her entire body was paralyzed by his strong grasp on her.  She had nowhere to go.

“Miranda Blackthorne,” she said.  “She took over for Gemma.”  Immediately, she regretted telling him.  Miranda had been nothing but good to her.  But what choice did she have? 

“Good girl,” Trevor said and released her.

Immediately, Farrah began coughing and wheezing, clutching her neck from where he’d held her.  She felt sick and as though she would pass out at any minute.  Before she knew it, the man was reaching over and pushing the door open. 

“Go,” Trevor said.  “And Farrah, if you tell anyone about this, we’ll find you.” 

She looked at him and then at the door.  Quickly, she bolted out onto the street, forgetting about her shopping bags in her haste to get free of the clutches of Hugh’s men.  Panicked, she watched the limo pull out from the curb and drive off through mid-day traffic on Rodeo Drive. 

Mackenzie Stone

Against her better judgment, Mackenzie agreed to meet Mason for an early lunch.  They took a table at the Cahuenga Room where they sat beneath the tropical foliage and wicker ceiling fans in the sun-bathed dining room.  Aside from two young women wearing scarves and sunglasses attempting to hide in the corner, the restaurant was virtually empty.

“Thank you for meeting me,” Mason said.  “I wanted to apologize for the way things went yesterday. I shouldn’t have let my temper get the better of me.” 

Mackenzie rolled her eyes while stirring a packet of sweetener into her iced tea.  “You mean because you got clocked?”

“Things haven’t changed much.  Still attracting men who can’t accept that you’re an independent woman.  That’s what I always loved about you.”

“So what did you love about all the other women you were sleeping with while we were married?” Mackenzie inquired.  “My guess it wasn’t their independence.” 

“I admit I made mistakes,” Mason said grudgingly.  “I tried to make up for them but you wouldn’t give me the chance.  I got served divorce papers and found out you’d moved out here to L.A. all in the same day.  How do you think that made me feel?”

“I couldn’t care less how it made you feel,” was her quick retort.  “I couldn’t put up with it anymore.  The philandering, the shady business deals, the secrets.  It’s no wonder I have problems opening myself up to new relationships.” 

“New relationships as in Ethan Blackthorne?”

“You’ve obviously done your homework,” she replied meekly.  “And for the record, there’s nothing going on between Ethan and I.  I was, however, seeing his uncle for a time.  Things just haven’t worked out is all.” 

“And you’re saying it’s because of me that they didn’t work out?”

“When you’re burned over and over again, it’s hard to trust people.  It hardens you.” 

“You were hard before our marriage ended,” Mason reminded her.

Across the room, Kyle entered through the French doors and immediately noticed Mackenzie’s presence.  He waited for the server to bring them their meals before approaching. 

“Good morning,” he said with a cordial smile, his hand resting on the back of Mackenzie’s chair.  “Nice to see you, Mackenzie.”

She sighed while folding her napkin in her lap.  “Kyle,” she said, her lips pursed. 

“I haven’t seen you in a while,” he continued.  “Everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine.”  She looked at Mason and decided an introduction was in order despite her apprehension to do so.  “Mason, this is my brother, Kyle Fenwick.  He’s the general manager of Moonshadows.” 

Mason stood up and reached across the table with his hand outstretched.  “Mason Stone,” he said.  “You’re the brother who was in prison?”

Kyle nodded regretfully.  “That’s right.  And you must be Mason Stone, the ex-husband I know nothing about.” 

Mason laughed at the remark while regarding Mackenzie with a dubious expression.  “No surprise there.  Mac tends to keep her private life private.” 

Very private,” Kyle agreed.  “How long are you in town for?”

“Indefinitely,” he replied, again glancing at Mackenzie.  “I checked into one of the cabana’s a few nights ago.  Very nice accommodations.”

“We aim to please,” Kyle said.  “Let me know if you’d like the grand tour later.” 

“I will,” he said.  “I just might be sticking around for a while and it’d be nice to get the lay of the land.” 

“Absolutely,” Kyle said, then looked at Mackenzie. “Good to see you, sis.”

She rolled her eyes as he turned and departed their table.   “What was that?” she asked Mason.

“What?”

“The bromance that just blossomed,” she said sarcastically.  “The last thing I need is my ex-husband and my trouble-making brother getting chummy on me.  I’d just as soon have you both out of my life for good.  No offense.” 

He regarded her with a smile.  “How could I take offense to that?”

James Blackthorne

“What brings you by?” James asked and looked up from his desk when Ethan came into his office. 

“Just stopped by to see how business was going,” he replied.  “Pre-production on The Benefactor going well?”

“A bit slow, but yes,” James replied.  “Do I detect a bit of nostalgia for the business?”

Ethan grinned while offering a slight shrug of his shoulders.  “Maybe a little.  But I’m not ready to come back yet.  I want to spend as much time as I can with Michael before I commit to anything.” 

“Understandable,” James said.  “Just tell me when you’re ready.”

“Are you sure there’s room for me?  With Stormy and Brett working under you there’s got to be a lot of elbow rubbing going on.” 

James sighed.  “They do clash, don’t they?”

“It seems some things haven’t changed,” Ethan said. 

“How are things with you and Brooke?” James inquired.  “Things getting better?”

Ethan sat down across from him and folded his legs.  “A little, but it’s still so strained.  We can’t seem to communicate.  I tell her I want to talk and she cancels on me.  This morning I stopped by Moonshadows and went to breakfast with her.”

“How did that go?”

“We spent the whole time talking about Michael.  And don’t get me wrong, we need to focus on our son right now, but we also need to make time for us.  Christ, we were about to get married before the earthquake. Now we’ve never been further apart.”

“What do you think it is?” James asked.  “I mean, you obviously still care about each other.”

“I don’t think we’re the problem,” he replied.  “Kyle is.  She’s constantly thrown into situations with him and don’t think for a minute I don’t see him working it to his full advantage.” 

“You think he’s trying to get her back?” 

“Of course he is.  He didn’t lie to her and everyone else for a year about who he was so he could give up the minute things went south.  I just hope she’s smart enough to see through him.” 

“She is,” James assured him.  “Brooke is a different woman that she was before that earthquake.” 

“I think that’s part of the problem.”  He traced his finger along the sole of his shoe while quickly changing subjects.  “So what do you know about Mackenzie’s ex-husband?”

James regarded him with a frown. “What are you talking about?”

“Mason Stone,” he said.  “Her ex-husband.  He showed up in town the other day and has been harassing her.  I ran into them in the parking lot yesterday and belted the guy because he was being such an ass.” 

Confused, James stood up from his desk.  “Wait a minute,” he began.  “Mackenzie was married?  She never mentioned that to me.”

“Really?  Well, I guess it makes sense.  She’s not the most forthcoming with personal information.”

“You seem to know Mackenzie quite well,” James said while walking across the room and pouring himself a glass of bourbon.  “When did this friendship develop?”

“I wouldn’t say we’re friends,” Ethan replied, his eyes following his uncle across the office.  “We just happened to bump into each other a few times.  Anyway, this Mason guy seems like bad news.” 

Frustrated and a little hurt that Mackenzie hadn’t shared that part of her life with him, James began to wonder if their relationship had ever been based on anything real at all.  He felt like he barely knew her. 

“Well, Mackenzie is a smart woman.  I’m sure if this guy is what you say he is, she’ll be smart enough to stay away from him.” 

Miranda Blackthorne

With the stress she’d been under the past few days, Miranda was relieved that she’d been given a clean bill of health at her appointment with Dr. Mitchell.  Aside from a slightly elevated blood pressure, she and the baby were progressing normally. 

Normal, relatively speaking, she decided.  The strain of still not knowing who the father of her baby was constantly weighed on her.  Eddie had been so accommodating to her, always there for her when she needed him, and attended her OB checkups whenever he could.  The fact that he still didn’t know if he was the father was probably eating away at him.   Something inside led her to believe it would work out in the end, however.  Whatever the outcome, she could count on him, and that was reassuring.

When she emerged from the building, she proceeded to her car parked on the surface lot.  Keys clanging in one hand and her purse clutched in the other, she unlocked the door and went to reach for the handle.  As she did, a figure loomed behind and startled her. 

“Hello, Miss Blackthorne,” said Trevor, his eyes beating down on her.  

“Who the hell are you?” Miranda asked with a scowl.  She reached into her purse and fingered her pepper spray just in case he was a sexual predator.

“We haven’t met,” he replied.  “Let’s just say we have mutual acquaintances.” 

“Oh.  Are you a friend of my father’s?” 

“No, but we could be if necessary.”

She raised an eyebrow and looked on him suspiciously.  “Okay, so then who do we know in common?”

“Gemma Sanders.”

Miranda’s eyes narrowed on him and she backed up to the car.  “Who are you?”  She noticed a black limousine parked a few feet away and wondered who else was inside. 

“I work for Hugh Rogers.  He’s asked me to deliver a message.” 

“I’m not really interested.”  She turned and started to open the door again, but Trevor quickly closed it.  Instinctively, she placed her finger on the trigger of her pepper spray and turned back to him.  “Are you going to let me go?”

“Oh, you’re free to go,” he said carefully.  “But I have to caution you, you could be looking for trouble if you continue operating the way you have been.” 

“Meaning?”

“Meaning taking girls off the street and employing them in your organization may have the opposite outcome from what you’re expecting.  Do yourself a favor and stick with the girls you already have.”

She raised an eyebrow and looked at him incredulously.  “And what if I don’t?”

Trevor smiled.  “Accidents sometimes happen when you least expect it.” 

She turned and opened the door.  “Tell your boss he can’t intimidate me.  I have no intention of caving to your quasi-threats. I’ll run my business as I please.” 

With that, she climbed into the car and started the engine.  With one final look of contempt through the window, she put the car into gear and sped out of the parking lot. 

Jane Wheeler

Jane found herself without lunch plans when Farrah inexplicably called to cancel on her.  Not wanting to waste her day off, she decided to pick up some take-out and pay Stormy a surprise visit at Sunset Studios.  After much difficulty getting clearance to enter the lot from the front gate, she finally made it to his office.

“This is a surprise,” he said, climbing out from behind his desk and greeting her at the door with a kiss.   “What are you doing down here?”

“I brought lunch,” she said, happily holding up the bags of food.  “I hope you’re hungry.  I wasn’t sure what you wanted so I got some of everything.”

Stormy scratched his head and followed her across the room to the conference table.  “That’s really sweet of you, but I wish you would have called.  I’ve got so much going on today.” 

“You’re busy?” she asked with disappointment but still working at unpacking the containers from their bags. 

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot to do.  I feel kind of overwhelmed to tell you the truth.”

“Maybe I can help you sort it out,” she said.  She stopped and turned toward him, pulling him into a tender embrace.  “What’s going on?”

He sighed.  “It’s nice of you to offer, but I doubt that you could help.”

“Try me,” she said and handed him a container of salad.  

Deciding to take a few minutes, he sat down and began picking at the lettuce.  While he didn’t want to go into every detail, the prospect of trying to convince his father or Brooke to give Nathan his shares of the studio back was weighing heavily on him.  But how else was he going to get rid of Brett?  He refused to let him be his father’s right hand man for another minute.  On top of that, he’d verbally committed to T.T. that he would head up Titan Records.  His plate was full. 

“Look, I appreciate this, but I really should get back to work.  I’m sorry, babe.  I’ll make it up to you.  I promise.” 

Jane couldn’t hide her disappointment.  She stood up and walked over to him, straddling him in the chair and gazing into his eyes.  “You need to relax,” she said, her hands on his shoulders as she brushed her lips against his.  “You’ve been so tense lately.  Just let me help you.” 

Although having her in his lap was arousing, he couldn’t get his mind off work long enough to take advantage of it.  He found himself pulling away.

“I’ll relax when things start to settle down around here,” he said. 

“Or maybe a little break would do you some good,” she said, whispering in his ear and letting her tongue dart playfully across his face.  “Why don’t we lock the door and-“

“Jane, I said I can’t right now,” he snapped. 

Humiliated, she quickly climbed off of his lap and went back to the table where she’d set her purse. 

“Jane, I’m sorry.”  He got up and went to her.  “I didn’t mean to say it like that.  I love that you came to see me today.  I love how spontaneous you are.  It’s just…”

“It’s not a good time,” she finished for him.  “I get it.  Really.  You’ve got a lot going on and I don’t necessarily fit into it.” 

“That’s not what I said,” he replied, chasing her to the door.  “You fit perfectly.  I just need to get some decisions made before I can really take time to relax.  Please understand.  It won’t be forever.” 

“Sure,” she said, standing at the door.   “I’ll just talk to you later, I guess.” 

“I love you,” he said, leaning in and kissing her softly.  “Thank you for lunch.  I’ll call you later.” 

“K,” she said, still unwilling to let it go.  She got the feeling that Stormy’s job meant more to him than she did, and that wasn’t what she signed up for.  After managing a faint smile, she turned and left. 

Kyle Fenwick

After just unning into to Mackenzie and Mason that morning, Kyle was surprised to get a phone call from Mason later in the afternoon.  He wanted to take him up on his offer to show him around Moonshadows, so after arranging a time, they met outside the administrative building and took off in a golf cart.

“The whole project was really Royce Jennings’s vision,” Kyle was saying as they rounded a curve next to one of the swimming pools.  “When he died, his son David took it over, and then he sold it to Renee Dewitt.”

“How does Brooke Taylor fit in?” Mason wanted to know.

“Royce was her father too.  When they found out, David gave part of it to her as a good will gesture.  She’s only recently become involved.” 

“Was that before or after she stabbed you in the dining room?” Mason asked with a hint of a smile.

Kyle looked at him for a second and then laughed.  “You’ve done your homework, I see.” 

Mason shrugged.  “It’s interesting how much information you can get just by asking a few questions.   So why the animosity between you and Mac?”

Kyle sighed.  “We’ve just never had an easy relationship.  Lots of resentment and built up hostility over the years.” 

“I get a lot of that myself,” was Mason’s muffled reply.  “Our split wasn’t amicable to say the least.”

“And what brings you out to L.A.?”

He shrugged while taking in the resort’s lush grounds.  “A little of this, a little of that,” he replied enigmatically.

“So it wasn’t just to try to woo my sister back?”

Mason laughed.  “When have you ever known Mackenzie to be woo’d into doing anything?” 

Kyle laughed in turn as they made their way to the beach.  He stopped the cart and got out while pointing to the existing marina. 

“This is the site of the future marina expansion,” he said, stepping up a rocky hill and gesturing to the stretch of coastline that extended toward a set of dunes and cliffs a mile ahead.   “We’re in negotiations to expand and become the third largest port in the county.” 

“Impressive,’ Mason said while following him.  “Should bring in a lot of business.”

“We hope to capture yacht rentals from Marina Del Rey and the Port of Los Angeles.  People will pay just about anything if they feel the location warrants it.”

“Snuff out the competition and drive business?” Mason asked.  “Nice.” 

“The only problem is in order to start the work we need a variance from the Coastal Commission.”

“Are they giving you problems?”

Kyle shrugged and dug his hands in the pockets of his jeans.  “Not so far, but I have a feeling they will, and any delay in construction means displacement of guests and lost business.”

“Do you know anyone on the Coastal Commission who can help cut through red tape?” Mason asked and followed him along the fence. 

Kyle shook his head in reply. 

“Well, I’m sure it’ll work out.”

“Let’s hope so,” Kyle said and led him back to the golf cart.  “Listen, I gotta get back.  Sorry to cut the tour short.”

“Not at all,” Mason said while looking around the area.  “I think this place has a lot of potential.  You and your partners should guard it with your lives.  You wouldn’t want anyone to have designs on it.”

Laughing, Kyle waited for him to climb inside before backing up and steering off along the trail. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Knowing how Nathan’s tarnished reputation had affected his family, Stormy decided to forgo bringing up the issue of his shares.  When Brett came back from wherever he’d run off to, he would be back in control of the studio, and he couldn’t let that happen.  Especially now that he had a son who deserved his share of it.  So taking a page from his former brother-in-law’s book of underhanded deeds, he armed himself with the proper tools and went to Brooke’s office at Moonshadows.

“Have time for a visitor?” he asked, popping his head into her office and grinning sheepishly.

“Of course,” she said and got up from her desk.  “What’s up?” 

“I have some papers that need your signature,” he told her and produced a stack of documents.

“You didn’t have to bring them all the way out here,” Brooke said.  “You could have had them messengered over, or brought them home tonight.  We do live in the same house, you know.” 

He smiled.  “I know, but I thought the sooner we got these out of the way the better off we’d be.” 

“What are they?”

Stormy laid the documents down on the desk.  “The final insurance papers from the kidnapping fiasco in Acapulco.” 

Brooke looked at the papers and shuddered in apprehension.  “Oh.” 

He gauged her reaction before continuing.  “I know.  I had the same reaction.  We both went through a lot those weeks we were held captive, and I know all I want to do is forget about it.  I know you do too.” 

“You’re not kidding,” she said, the mere thought of the torturous weeks they’d spent locked up in a cave causing her to grow agitated.  “God, it seems like just yesterday.  I can’t believe it’s been months.” 

“I know.  I’m sorry to have to bring it up again.  But Dad assigned the cleanup to me, so…”  A pause while he took a pen from his trouser pocket.  “Look, just your signature on a few forms and it’ll all be over.”

Brooke took the pen from him and looked at the forms as if they were more than a mere bitter reminder of the hell they’d gone through.  

“Unless you don’t want to deal with it right now,” Stormy went on.  “In which case I’ll bring these back to the office and we can deal with them later.” 

Finally, she shook her head.  “No, don’t do that.  Let’s just get it over with.” 

Quickly, she bent down and scribbled her signature on all three forms.  Stormy watched her nervously, sweating profusely until the last document had been signed.  When she was finished, he handed her the top copy. 

“This is yours,” he said.

Brooke held her hand up in repulsion.  “I can’t,” she said.  “Just file it at the office.” 

“No problem,” Stormy said.  “Look, I’m sorry to bring all this up again.  It’s just details that have to be taken care of.”

“No, I understand,” she said and walked to the door with him.  “I just want to put the whole thing to rest.” 

“So do I,” Stormy said, smiling meekly before leaving. 

In the reception area, he looked at the documents Brooke had signed.  He hated doing it, returning Nathan’s shares was the only way to get Brett out of the company.  And tricking Brooke with phony documents was the only way to accomplish that. 

Suzanne Rogers

Every day when the sun went down, Warren instructed his followers to adjourn to their tents and meditate alone for an hour.  Suzanne utilized the opportunity to find Brett and warn him of Warren’s sinister plans.

After emerging from her tent, she inspected the clearing to ensure no one was around.  Then, tip-toeing to the medical tent, she proceeded with caution.  With as much agility as she could, she unzipped the tent and snuck inside where Brett was lying on the ground still tied to the chair. 

“Oh my God,” she whispered, rushing to his side and checking to see if he was hurt.  “What did they do to you?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, wincing in pain from the way his body had been contorted on the floor for most of the day.  “Suzanne, go.”

“No, I won’t leave you,” she said, struggling to untie his arms.  “We have to get out of here.  Warren is crazy.  He’s moving the camp and he plans on killing you.”

Panic began to set in and Brett found the energy to help her untie his hands and feet.  Once he was finally free, he rolled over and wiped the dried blood from his nose.  His face was stained with dirt and his skin glistened with sweat.  

“You’re hurt,” Suzanne said and gently touched his face.  “Brett-“

“I’m fine,” he whispered, struggling to his feet.  “Come on.  We have to get to the jeep.” 

She followed him to the door of the tent.  When they opened it and stepped outside, Warren, Ross, and two other male followers appeared in their path. 

“I’m disappointed in you, Suzanne,” Warren said.  “You were our inspiration.”

She swallowed hard and looked at Brett.  She now regretted her decision to confront Warren herself.  She should have never come back.

T.T. Levitt

Stormy stopped by Renee’s penthouse and was greeted at the door by T.T.  “Is this a bad time?” he asked. 

“Not at all,” he said and gestured inside. “Renee went out for a little while and I’m just packing.” 

“Packing?” 

“We’re leaving for New York in the morning,” T.T. revealed.  “Then an extended vacation in the South of France.” 

“I’m glad she’s getting away,” Stormy declared.  “And I’m glad I caught you before you left.  I’ve decided to accept the position at Titan Records.” 

“That’s wonderful.  Have you decided to leave the family fold at Sunset Studios then?” 

Stormy shook his head while standing in the foyer.  “No, I’m going to do both.  I’ve secured my place in the studio so I feel more confident about taking on another project.”

“Does this mean the shares in question have been returned to their previous owner?” T.T. asked. 

“Yes.” 

“How did you pull it off?  Who gave their vote to Nathan?  James or Brooke?”

“Brooke,” Stormy replied with a great deal of guilt.

“Wow, I’m surprised.  Was it difficult convincing her after her history with him?” 

Without wanting to get into his deceitful tactics, Stormy simply responded with a shake of his head.  “Not as difficult as I thought.” 

“Well, I’m sure you’ll find equal time to split between Sunset Studios and Titan Records. Expanding your business portfolio is how billionaires are made.   I’m very excited to have you on board, Stormy.”  He extended a hand to him.  “I’ll be in touch.” 

“Have a good trip,” Stormy said, shaking his hand before leaving the penthouse. 

On his way to the elevator, he thought quietly about his actions and wondered if it would all be worth it in the long run.  While being a billionaire didn’t necessary appeal to him, having respect from his family did. 

Blackthorne Mansion

“Are you sure this is what you want?” James asked as he and Renee stood in the foyer of the Blackthorne mansion.  “I mean, you have people who care about you here.  I hate to see you going off alone.” 

“I won’t be alone,” Renee said with a gentle smile.  “T.T. and I are getting to know each other again.  I’m excited about spending time alone with him.” 

“Sailing around the French Riviera on a yacht has a tendency to spark romance,” James said with a knowing grin.  “Maybe by the time you come back you’ll be ready to make it official.” 

"I don’t know about that,” Renee said.  She was in no way ready to start thinking about marriage again.  She did enjoy being with T.T., though, and this trip was the first step in making sure it wasn’t solely based on her grief. 

“I’ll miss you,” James said and drew her into an embrace.  “I want nothing but the best for you, Renee.” 

“You too, James,” she said, squeezing him tightly.  “I value our friendship and I want to thank you for always being there for me.  I know I haven’t said it since Sierra died, but you were her family and I appreciate everything you did to make her feel special since she came here.” 

“I know it’s only three weeks, but it'll feel like a lot longer.  Call me when you get back.” 

“I will,” she said and walked to the door in her fur stole and beaded hat.  Before she left, she turned back to him and smiled.  “Goodbye, James.” 

He smiled in turn and closed the door after she’d left. 

Brett Armstrong

Warren circled them like prey, grinning from ear to ear as he watched their frightened faces.  Seated back to back and their hands tied behind their backs, Brett and Suzanne listened to his maniacal ramblings. 

“The worst part is I trusted you, Suzanne,” he was saying.  “You were a great supporter to our movement.  Now I find you with him trying to leave us.  Haven’t I taken care of you?  Haven’t I taught you about self empowerment?” 

“The only way I supported you was financially,” Suzanne said angrily.

Warren shrugged.  “New Abbott doesn’t operate without money.  We need a steady cash flow to organize our efforts, to protect us from-“

“From who?” she demanded in a shrill voice.  “You keep saying that you need to protect the compound from outsiders, but who are they?  Who even knows you’re here?  Who even cares?”

“People don’t understand what I’m trying to do,” he said. 

Suzanne rolled her eyes.  “You mean people you screwed out of their money like you did me?” she asked.  “I guess I’m not the first one who got a clue.  You’re worried that they’re going to find you and prosecute you and you’ll lose your fancy house in San Francisco and the cushy life you’ve established there.” 

“I see your friend has been filling your head with lies.” 

“You’re a fake!” Suzanne screamed, struggling to loosen the ropes that bound her wrists.  “I trusted you!  I looked to you for help and for guidance when my life was crumbling around me!  I believed in what you taught us!  Now I find out it was all a bunch of bullshit!” 

“You heard what you wanted to hear,” he said. 

Her long chestnut hair splayed across her face and her eyes watery with tears, Suzanne sunk her head for a moment before turning to glare at him.  “The worst part was while I was listening to the crap you spewed from your mouth, my son self destructed and I wasn’t there to help him.  Because of that, I want you to rot in hell, you filthy bastard.” 

“You’re upset,” Warren said in his usual patronizing fashion.

She struggled with the ropes and screamed hoarsely at him.  “You’re damn right I am.  Now why don’t you be a man and let us go so you can answer for what you’ve done.  How many of these other people did you con out of their money?  How many are you holding hostage with your lies and your meaningless preaching?”

“Just tell us what you want,” Brett chimed in.  “More money?  Fine.  We’ll give it to you.  Just let us go.” 

Warren hesitated for a minute before answering.  “No, too risky.  You’ll talk.  You’ve already learned too much.  Unfortunately, because of your little investigation into my past, we’re forced to move on.  On the run, as they say.” 

“We won’t talk to anyone,” Brett assured him.  “Just let us go.” 

“There are plenty of other hapless victims with pitiful lives that need a group like ours to belong to,” Warren said.  “We’ll find them and we’ll bring them into the fold.  All the while I’ll be adding to my bank account so that when the time is right I can disappear forever.” 

“You’ll never get away with it,” Suzanne said.  “You’re too self righteous to know your time is almost up.” 

“Not if the two of you are silenced permanently.  Those explosives in the supply tent?  I’ve set them up around the perimeter of the camp.  As soon as the rest of us are a safe distance away, you and everything around you will be gone like that.”  He snapped his fingers for maximum effect.

Brett craned his neck and looked at Suzanne, panic in his eyes. 

Kelly Kahoano

Kelly was making her way down the stairs at the Blackthorne mansion when she heard the doorbell ringing.  Since no one else was around, she opened the door to find Eddie standing on the porch. 

“Hi, Kelly,” he said, making his way inside. 

Kelly closed the door and turned as he entered the foyer.  “Hi, what’s up?”

“Just came by to see Miranda.  She up in her room?” 

Kelly flipped her long black hair over her shoulders and shook her head.  “No, she hasn’t been home all day.  Did she know you were coming over?”

Eddie frowned.  “No, but she didn’t say anything about having plans.  Do you know where she is?”

“Not really, but maybe she’s with Sam,” she replied with calculated efficiency. 

“Sam?”

“Some guy she was meeting this morning.  I asked her about it but she seemed pretty secretive about it, whoever he is.”

Eddie shook his head.  “I think Sam is a girl she met at her OB.  She picked up her address book by mistake the other day.  Strange, though.  I know she gave it back to her.”

“What could that girlfriend of yours be up to?” Kelly asked with a slight chuckle. 

Shrugging, Eddie went back to the door.  “Maybe they bonded over pregnancy or something.” 

Kelly nodded.  “Yeah, that’s got to be it.”  She wondered if that were true.  Miranda seemed very secretive about the call from Sam that morning, which made her wonder if there was more to it.  She decided to make an effort to find out what her sister-in-law was up to. 

Miranda Blackthorne

After leaving the Beverly Hills Hotel where she’d met with one of the girls about an upcoming job, Miranda climbed into her car and pulled out onto Sunset.  She was exhausted, having been out since early that morning with hardly a break in her day.  By the time she reached Coldwater Canyon Drive, she was racing to get home. 

Headlights in her rearview mirror blinded her and she adjusted the mirror to reduce the glare.  She rolled her window down half way to let the air revive her.  Reaching down to change her satellite station, she took a deep cleansing breath and turned back to the road. 

The car behind her was now inches from her rear bumper, its headlights now illuminating her car’s interior.  Frowning, she honked her horn and motioned for them to pass her.   L.A. drivers could be so obnoxious. 

Then something happened that made her realize it wasn’t just an impatient driver behind her.  The car, which she now realized was a large Mercedes SUV, tapped her rear bumper and sent her Porsche lurching forward.  

“What hell?” she screamed, shaking her fist in the rearview mirror.  “You better have insurance, ass hole!”

She attempted to signal that she was pulling over, but the SUV continued in pursuit.  It hit her car again, only this time harder and with more force.  Miranda could feel the impact and she suddenly grew terrified. 

Her foot pressed hard against the gas pedal, accelerated enough to leave a safe distance between her and the SUV.  But moments later, it was rushing up behind her again and ramming into her.  

“Jesus,” she murmured, unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation. 

Finally, the SUV pulled out and swerved into the next lane.  It idled beside her car for a few moments before veering over and slamming its side into hers.  She lost control of the wheel and felt the car careening onto the side of the road. 

Screaming, Miranda attempted to keep the car from barreling through the guard rail.  Her heart pounding furiously and her face contorted into hysteria, she felt her car come to a stop on the gravel shoulder, dust and debris billowing up all around her. 

Leaning back in her seat, she tried to catch her breath.  After the close call, she could feel her heart thudding hard inside her chest.  A quick glance out the window told her the SUV had disappeared into the distance.   Whoever it was, she slowly began to realize it wasn’t just a disgruntled driver.  This was a warning. 

Suzanne Rogers

While Warren’s followers prepared to leave the camp, Brett and Suzanne struggled to free themselves of the ropes that held them together.   A jagged rock that Brett found on the ground beside them proved beneficial in slowly cutting through the thick fibers.  He ignored the deep cuts in his wrists that resulted from the vigorous action. Minutes later, he felt the rope snap in half and he quickly proceeded to untie himself, then Suzanne.

“Wait, what if they have guns?” Suzanne asked.  “The supply tent was full of them.”

“He won’t risk doing anything in front of everyone,” Brett reasoned while helping her to her feet.  “He needs them to keep up his phony guru status.” 

“What are we going to do?” Suzanne pleaded.

“Get him where it hurts,” Brett said enigmatically before leading her outside into the clearing. 

A flurry of activity awaited them.  People were gathering items into their backpacks and throwing unwanted items onto the campfire.  Once they were spotted, silence fell over the group. 

“You’re all being mislead,” Brett announced loudly so that they could all hear him.   As soon as he said it, Warren emerged from his cabin.   Determined not to let him intimidate him, he pressed on with his plan.  “Warren Abbott is not the leader you think he is.” 

“Don’t listen to him,” Warren called out to his followers.  “He came here to find fault in what we’re here to accomplish.  He isn’t a believer.” 

“If that’s the truth, then why did he have us tied up in that tent?” Brett asked the others while showing his bloodied wrists.  “The man you choose as your leader – who preaches about self empowerment – planned on killing us so we couldn’t tell anyone about his real motivations.  He’s a criminal.  He’s using all of you for your money and for your connections.” 

“That’s not true,” Warren insisted, smiling as he attempted to rally his followers around him.  “He’s in love with Suzanne and he’s acting out of spite because she chose us over him.  Don’t you see?  This is exactly what we’re trying to get away from here.  The personal trappings of every day life.  New Abbott is about doing what your heart tells you to do.  Free you mind, people.  Triumph in the inner power.”

“I’ve seen his bank accounts,” Brett continued.  “He’s kept every bit of money he’s taken from you people.  And when he says he’s leaving to go on a mission for the good of the community, he’s living it up in his fancy house in San Francisco.  He drives a Mercedes.  He isn’t who he says he is.  Do yourselves a favor and leave now.”

“Lying comes so easy for people who haven’t learned of the inner peace my teachings bring,” Warren rambled.  “Don’t listen to this man.” 

“He’s telling the truth,” a voice cam from amidst the crowd. 

Brett and Suzanne peered through the smoky haze of the campfire as Ross emerged.  They looked at each other with surprise.

“Warren is a fake,” Ross continued.  “He chose every one of you because of what you could offer him financially.  He’s used me to draw you in to the compound.” 

“Don’t you see what they’re doing?” Warren shouted.  “They’re trying to undo everything we’ve accomplished!  They’re crazy!” 

“It’s over, Warren,” Suzanne said.  “They don’t believe you anymore.  You expect them to trust you when you won’t even tell them where you’re taking them.  Give up already.”

“You’re so stupid,” Warren spat bitterly.  “You think because your life turned out badly that you’re owed something?  You cheated on your husband with your daughter’s husband, then you wrote a book about it and got upset when people read it.  And let’s not forget the sicko who tied you up in his apartment for two days.  You’re damaged, Suzanne.  You’re life is a mess and you have no one to blame but yourself.  No one else wanted you.”

The others listened in shock.  Slowly, they began retreating to the outer limits of the camp.  Ross followed them, glancing back and shaking a disapproving head at his former mentor.

“Where do you think you’re doing?” Warren yelled.  “You can’t just go back, you know!  You can’t make them want you!  You ruined your lives and you can’t go back from that!” 

But they continued walking, hiking out of the compound.  Disillusioned, they listened to his raving until they were too far away to hear. 

“You’re going to pay for this,” Warren said back at the camp as he stared menacingly at Brett and Suzanne.  “You’ve ruined everything.  Those people needed me!” 

“No, they just needed someone to listen to them,” Suzanne corrected him.  “And you took advantage of that.  You’re the worst kind of human being there is.” 

Smiling, he backed up and reached for something in his pocket.  “I can start over,” he said.  “There are outcasts from society everywhere.  I don’t need them and I don’t need you.” 

“You won’t get to the state line without being arrested,” Brett informed him. 

“Guess again,” he said, fingering a small remote control in his hand.

“Oh my God,” Suzanne whispered and looked at Brett in terror.  “The explosives.”

“Goodbye, losers,”  Warren said before pushing a button on the remote and turning away. 

Quickly, Brett took Suzanne’s hand and raced away from the camp.  They made it a few feet before the first explosion happened.  Dirt and debris showered the sky as fire erupted from the perimeter of the tents.   Desperately seeking cover, they turned and ran in the opposite direction.  The second explosion erupted in the same way, this time throwing them twenty feet away and leaving them slumped over onto the dirt. 

Brett covered her with his body, shielding her from the third and fourth explosions.  Pieces of wood and fabric, smoldering with ash, rained over his body.  They waited until the deafening sounds had ceased before looking up and gazing in amazement at the devastation left behind. 

“Warren,” Suzanne said and scrambled to her feet.  She peered through the smoky haze.  “He’s gone.”  

Brett turned a complete circle, inspecting the ground for any sign of his body   “He couldn’t have gotten away.” 

“He’s gone, Brett.  Look, the jeep isn’t there.”

Shaking his head, he darted through the remains of the camp.  “No, we have to find him.  We can’t let him get away with this.  He has to pay for what he did to you.” 

She followed him.  “Brett, it doesn’t matter.  He’s gone.  Just let it go.” 

“I can’t,” he said.  “I can’t let him do this to someone else.  We have to stop him, Suzanne.” 

She pulled him into an embrace.  “He’s gone and we’re safe.  Let’s just go home and forget about Warren Abbott.” 

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

She nodded, her hands resting on his chest.  “Yes, I want to go back and start over.  I want to fix what’s wrong with my life.  I don’t care about this place anymore.  I don’t care about him.” 

Staring into her eyes, he kissed her warmly before taking her hands in his.  “Okay, if that’s what you want.  We’ll go home.” 

Smiling, she took his hand and led him away from the compound and up the hill to the main road.  It was a five mile walk to the next town, but they’d be home soon.  She decided she had a lot of soul searching to do. 

Brooke Taylor

After working an excruciatingly long day, Brooke left her office at Moonshadows and proceeded to her car in the parking lot.  Fishing her keys from her purse, she looked up and saw that someone was waiting for her.  A smile crossed her lips as she strolled toward him. 

“What are you doing here?” she asked. 

“Thought you might need a friendly face at the end of the day,” Ethan said with a wink while he leaned against her car.   “You’ve been kind of stressed lately.” 

“Yeah, I know,” she said and looked into his eyes.  “I’m sorry if I’ve been kind of standoffish.” 

He shook his head.  “It’s no problem.  But I do think we should talk.  If you still want to, that is.” 

Immediately, she began nodding.  “I do.  I think we should talk.”

“I mean, what are we doing, Brooke?” Ethan asked.  “I know things were kind of strained when I first came back, but it’s us.  We’ve been in love for the better part of six years.  It shouldn’t be this hard.” 

“I know it shouldn’t,” she said.  “I just-“

Her thought was interrupted when Ethan leaned in and caught her off guard with a passionate kiss on the lips.  Their bodies moved together and within moments they were entwined in one another’s arms. 

“Maybe we should talk tomorrow,” she said with a wink once they broke from the kiss.  

“Meet you at home?” Ethan asked, aroused by her forward nature. 

“I’ll race you,” she said and climbed into the driver’s seat. 

Grinning sheepishly, Ethan went to his car and followed her out of the parking lot. 

Standing behind in the shadows next to the administration building, Kyle watched them leave together.  Jealousy plagued him as he pictured them together.  He wanted to be with her more than anything.  They had been through so much together.  He decided it was time to step up his efforts.  A reunion between her and Ethan was something he refused to let happen. 

Mason Stone

At a table in the corner of the room at La Mirada bar, Mason Stone ordered two beers from the waitress before turning his attention back to his companion.   Dim lights filtered around them, and the rest of the bar was loud enough where they weren’t risking being overheard. 

“Sounds like Brooke Taylor and Kyle Fenwick are going to bite,” Mason said over the flicker of candlelight.  “Your proposal must have caught their interest.” 

“Good,” Chip Matthews replied.  “So are we in business then?”

“I didn’t come out here to L.A. just to reconnect with my bitch of an ex-wife,” Mason said.  “What’s our next step?” 

“We break ground on the marina expansion as soon as the variance gets approved,” he explained.  “Which could take longer than expected, I’m afraid.” 

Mason shook his head while sipping from his glass.  “Don’t worry about the variance,” he said.  “I’ll make sure it gets approved, and quickly.  We don’t have a lot of time to act.  If we don’t start drilling for that oil, somebody else is going to find it and beat us to the punch.” 

Chip raised his glass.  “Then here’s to acting quickly,” he said. 

Mason grinned and clinked his glass against his.  “And all the money we’re going to make once we do.” 

 


Next time....

Miranda retaliates against Hugh Rogers.  Mason delivers good news to Kyle and Brooke, but Brooke isn't so sure about accepting his help.  Brooke spies Ethan with Mackenzie.  

 

 

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