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Episode 144

 

Release Date:  July 16, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

After Miranda was run off the road by Hugh's men, Jane tried to convince her to quit her new job as Hollywood madam. Later, Miranda found a poisonous snake in her car.  Hugh confronted Miranda in person, who remained defiant.  Mason and Chip discussed his plans to gain control of Moonshadows so he could drill for oil reserves underneath the land.  Mason learned that Senator Nordquist, who held a seat on the Coastal Commission, had dabbled in call girls, and used the information to blackmail him into granting the variance for the marina expansion.  Kyle planned to use the variance to gain Brooke's trust, unknowing what Mason was up to.  Nordquist blasted Miranda for thinking she'd failed to protect him as a client.  Brooke and Ethan slept together.  Kyle told Brooke that he knew she was still attracted to him, but she denied it. Stormy revealed to a startled Brett that he'd gained control of his shares in the studio.  James asked Brooke if she had authorized the transfer of shares but she insisted she hadn't.  James and Mackenzie tried to reconnect but his family's personal lives continued to get in the way.  Mackenzie suggested to Ethan that Kyle was using work to stay in Brooke's life.  Suzanne told Jordan the truth about the break-in at his house.  After learning Benji wasn't responsible, Jordan slapped her and freaked out.  Feeling defeated, Suzanne gave Brett a tearful goodbye and left town.  Miranda planned to throw a party at Gemma's Beverly Hills mansion for her girls and some important clients.   Hugh called Brad King in New Martin, Tennessee and asked him to kill Miranda for him.  Brad decided to bring Akilah to L.A. with him, using a partnership with Titan Records as an excuse to make the trip.  Chelsea learned of their plans and, assuming Brad was going to seduce Akilah, made plans to fly to L.A.

 


  

Episode 144

"The Brooke Stops Here"

 

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” 

The words startled Stormy away from the stack of paperwork on his desk at Sunset Studios.  When he looked up, he saw the fury in Brooke’s eyes and immediately knew that she’d learned of his deceit.

“Brooke, what’s wrong?” he asked innocently, watching as James appeared behind her in the doorway.   “Dad?” 

Hands positioned firmly on her hips, Brooke pressed further into the room, her eyes not moving from his.  “I just found out that Nathan’s shares in the studio were returned to him, and that you’re claiming I authorized it.”

Stormy slowly rose from his chair.  “Actually, Nathan gave the shares to me,” he said, wanting to stress that his uncle wasn’t going to be involved in any day to day operations.

“We’re not arguing that point, son,” James chimed in.  “I’m thrilled that you have your own shares in the company, believe me.” 

“Really?  Because it doesn’t sound that way to me.  It sounds like you have more confidence in Brett than you do in me.” 

“Stormy, that’s not true.”

“And it’s also not the point,” Brooke immediately interrupted.  “I didn’t authorize the transfer of shares, and the way the dispersement was set up, one of the other shareholders has to approve it.  So why did you say that I did?”

Stormy reached down to a paper on his desk.  “But you did approve it, Brooke,” he said and handed her the document that he’d tricked her into signing.  “Don’t you remember?”

She looked at the paper and frowned in confusion.  “I didn’t sign this.” 

“It has your signature on it,” Stormy said indifferently and glanced up at his father. 

James looked at the document.  “It is your signature, Brooke.” 

She snapped her head around and scowled.  “I realize that, but I didn’t sign this.  I would never have agreed to give Nathan his shares in the studio.  After what that man did to me?  To all of us?  This just gives him more reason to stick around and ruin our lives.” 

“He gave them to me,” Stormy reiterated.  “I don’t understand why you’re all overlooking that little detail.  You’ll forgive me if I start taking it personally.  It really does seem like you don’t want me to be a stakeholder in this company.  I am a member of this family, aren’t I?” 

“Yes, of course,” James told him.  “The way it happened just seems very suspicious, that’s all.” 

Very suspicious,” Brooke reiterated.  “I’m telling you, I would have remembered signing this.  Any mention of Nathan Blackthorne and it’s like red flags being waved.”

Stormy shrugged and sat back down at his desk.  “Brooke, I know you have a lot going on right now,” he began.  “With Renee’s departure, your hands are full at Moonshadows.  Plus with Ethan coming back and Kyle still working with you, it’s no wonder you’re distracted.”

She folded her arms and glared angrily at him.  “Don’t try to make this seem like I just forgot something like this,” she insisted.  “I don’t care how busy I am I would have never-” 

“I know how capable you are,” Stormy cut her off.  “But you don’t have to worry about the studio.  Now that I’m a shareholder, I’ll personally make sure everything runs smoothly from now on.  You can concentrate on Moonshadows for the time being.” 

“It does get overwhelming at times,” James said.  “I have stacks of papers on my desk that I can’t remember looking at half the time.” 

She turned to him with a frown. “I’m telling you, I would have remembered signing this.” 

“Dad, I’m doing that walkthrough of the set today,” Stormy said, hoping to change the subject.  “Will you be around when I get back from Titan later today to talk about it?”

“Sure, no problem,” James said.  “I’d like Brett to join you if that’s okay.”

Stormy pursed his lips angrily.  His father’s decision to keep Brett on was a temporary problem, he decided.  It should be easy enough to get him out the door. 

Brooke sighed and shoved the paper back at him.  “I have to get back,” she said, glaring heatedly at him.  “But I still think something is going on here.” 

As she left, Stormy looked at his father with a meek smile and a shake of his head.  That had been almost too easy.  While he hated making Brooke look incompetent, it had to be done. 

Mackenzie Stone

With the sun streaming through the windows of the Cahuenga Room at Moonshadows, Mackenzie stalked across the dining room and took a seat at the counter.  She ordered a cup of coffee and a grapefruit from the waiter and looked away just as Mason approached.

“I’m beginning to think that show of yours runs itself,” he said with a sly grin.  “Are you on hiatus or something?”

“Daytime doesn’t take hiatuses,” Mackenzie replied flatly.  “And you’re one to talk.  You’ve been in L.A. for a week and you haven’t done anything.  What do you do these days anyway, Mason?” 

“I’m a consultant,” was his vague reply.

“What do you consult for?”

“Wherever I’m needed.  Listen, Mac, I’m sticking around for a little while.  You’re just going to have to deal with it.  If you don’t like it then-“

“I don’t like it,” was her immediate response.  “You’re up to something. “

“Up to something?  Like what?”

She turned on her seat and crossed her legs.  “I don’t know, but I know you, Mason.”

“You always were paranoid.” 

Across the room, Ethan entered through the French doors and spotted them together.  With his hands in the pockets of his khaki trousers, he approached slowly and nodded politely to Mackenzie. 

“Good morning,” he said, then glanced at Mason.  “Causing trouble again?”

“Well, if it isn’t your white knight,” Mason said dubiously.  “Don’t you have anything better to do than hang around here?” 

“I could ask you the same thing,” Ethan replied.  He turned back to Mackenzie.  “Have you seen Brooke?  I’m meeting her.” 

“No, I haven’t,” she answered and acknowledged the waiter when he returned with her order.  “Now if you’ll both excuse me, I’d like to eat my breakfast in peace.”

Mason shook his head in amusement as he turned and walked off through the room.  After he’d gone, Ethan sat down next to Mackenzie. 

“Did you not get the message?  I’d like to be alone.” 

“How did it go with James yesterday?” Ethan wanted to know. 

“How did what go?” she replied bitterly.  “As soon as Brooke’s problems came up he couldn’t think about anything else.”

“So the two of you didn’t talk?”

“Oh, we talked all right.  We talked about Brooke, Stormy, Sunset Studios, and just about everything else except us.”

“Well don’t give up.  My uncle just has a lot going on right now.” 

“Your uncle always has a lot going on.  I’m not sure that I fit in anywhere.  If I’m not mistaken, you were feeling the same way about Brooke yesterday.  What do you want to bet she’s not here because she’s with Kyle?”

Ethan smiled as he looked down at the counter.  It hadn’t crossed his mind until she brought it up, but the truth was, he half expected her to be right. 

Brooke Taylor

When Brooke pulled her car into the parking lot at Moonshadows, she saw the flurry of activity in the near distance.  A convoy of bulldozers, orange cones dividing the property from the marina, and a slew of construction workers dotted the beach.  

Already ill-tempered from her meeting with Stormy and James, she barreled inside the administration building and breezed toward her office. 

“Is Kyle in?” she asked her secretary. 

“He’s in with Chip Matthews,” Marcia replied. 

“Perfect.”  Shoving the door open, she entered Kyle’s office and saw him and Chip leaning over a table where a blueprint of the resort had been laid out.   “Does one of you want to tell me what’s going on?”

“Morning, Brooke,” Kyle said with a smile.  “Chip and I were just going over some-“

“Who in the hell authorized you to start work on the marina expansion?” Brooke demanded, eyes like daggers in Chip’s direction.  “Until we get the permits, we can’t even move a speck of dirt.”

Kyle motioned for Chip to leave them alone. 

“I was going to surprise you this morning with the news,” he began once they were alone.  He rifled through stacks of papers on his desk and handed her a document.  “I called Chip last night and asked him to get an early start.”

“The variance?” she asked, eyes lighting up happily.  “We got it?”

“We got it,” he answered. 

Reading through the document to make sure it was legitimate, she shook her head in amazement.  “I thought it was going to be days, weeks before we got word.  How did this happen?”

“I made a plea to the Coastal Commission,” he replied with a wink.  Of course he wasn’t about to tell her that Mason was the one who secured the variance for them.  This way he looked like the hero and hopefully would begin to rebuild the trust she once had in him.

“This is amazing!” Brooke exclaimed.  She raced forward and threw her arms around him in elation. 

Kyle, surprised by her actions, snaked his arms around her and held her tightly for a few moments.   Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the door open and Ethan enter.   Fully aware of his presence, he decided to ratchet up the intimacy of the moment.   He brushed his lips softly against her cheek and watched as her eyes flickered across his and remained there for a few seconds.  For a moment he thought she was going to kiss him but she slowly pulled away, obviously in an effort to pull herself from the heated moment. 

In the doorway, Ethan cleared his throat to announce his presence.  Brooke quickly turned and crossed the room.  

“Hi,” she said, placing a hand on his forearm.  She couldn’t help but feel like she was acting guilty.   “Kyle and I were just…” 

“Celebrating,” Kyle finished for her.  “We got the variance for the marina expansion.” 

“Congratulations,” Ethan said, lips pursed.  His mind kept going back to what Mackenzie had just got done telling him.  As it turned out, she was right.  Every time he turned around, Brooke was with Kyle.  And working together or not, it made him uneasy. 

“Are you ready for breakfast?” Brooke asked. 

He looked at her and then at Kyle.  “Actually, I just remembered something I have to do.  I’ll just see you tonight at home.” 

“Are you sure?” Brooke asked.  “Look, I’m sorry, I was just-“ 

“I know you’re busy,” Ethan said.  “I’ll let you get back to work.” 

Before she knew it, he was turning and barreling out of the office.  She turned and saw Kyle smiling and waving the variance in his hand. 

“We got it,” he said, hoping to disguise his satisfaction over how well his plan worked.  Ethan showing up at that time was an unexpected bonus.  He made sure to downplay what happened and concentrate on their success.  “I think we should celebrate over a delicious lunch later.” 

But Brooke’s mind was still on Ethan’s behavior.   “Yeah, sure,” she said, although she barely heard what he’d said. 

Outside, Ethan stormed across the parking lot.  He knew that he’d probably misread whatever he’d walked in on, but the looks on both of their faces made him second guest his instincts.  If it had been an innocent gesture, why had Brooke looked so guilty? 

When he reached his car, he spotted a man standing a hundred feet away that he remembered Brooke introducing him to.  Chip Matthews, he recalled.  The developer of the new marina.  He was talking to a man whom he couldn’t see.  But when the man turned, and his face became visible, he realized it was Mason Stone. 

Climbing into his car and staring the engine, he wondered what the two men were talking about.  Why did Mason seem to have his hands in so many things since arriving in town?

Miranda Blackthorne

Eddie got a break from a case he was working on so he called Miranda to meet him for lunch.  They took a table outside at the Ivy where they gorged themselves on fattening foods while he talked to her about his case. 

“So basically the guy’s been faking insurance claims for two years and making quite a profit on it,” he was saying while Miranda sat across from him texting furiously on her Droid.   “He’s supposed to have a neck injury but I caught him surfing at Point Dume this morning.  Can you believe that?  He thought no one would find out what he’d been up to.” 

“Uh huh,” Miranda said distantly.  She texted an appointment to Farrah, then rescheduled one for Genevieve, then had to text a client to tell him about tomorrow night’s party.  It was a never ending cycle, she decided while setting the phone on the table. 

“Anyway, I think I got enough photos to nail the s.o.b.” 

“That’s great,” she replied, then quickly picked the phone up when vibrating alerted her to another message.

“So what are you doing with the Beemer?  Where’s your Porsche?” 

“In the shop,” she said, still distracted as she took care of business.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Body work.”  She placed the phone on the table again and went to take a bite of her salad. 

“Did you get into an accident?” Eddie asked, sighing when her phone vibrated again and she picked it up. 

“Uh, yeah, the other day.  Some lunatic ran me off the road.” 

“What?” Eddie exclaimed.  He reached across the table and forced her to put the phone down so she could talk to him.  “Are you okay?  What happened?” 

“I’m fine,” she said, instinctively pulling the phone toward her in case he had ideas of taking it from her.  “It was just an accident.  Some soccer mom late for a game or something.” 

“Why didn’t you tell me?  I would have come straight over.  I worry about you, babe.” 

A smile crossed her face.  “You’re sweet, but it was really no big deal.” 

“I don’t care.  You’re pregnant.  I want to know everything that goes on with you.  Look, I’m sorry if I’ve been preoccupied with work lately.  I promise I’ll make time for us from here on out.” 

“Great,” Miranda said, happy that he was making the gesture, but also concerned that it would be harder to keep things from him.  When her phone buzzed again, she went to type out another text. 

“What is so important?” Eddie asked, annoyed.  “You haven’t put that thing down since we got here.  What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing,” she replied and made a conscious effort to leave the phone until they were through.  “It’s Jane.  She’s worried about Stormy and I’m trying to counsel her through it."

“See, that’s what I love about you,” Eddie said and stuffed a handful of fries into his mouth.  “You’re always helping other people.”

“I do what I can,” she said, casually glancing around the patio until her eyes landed on Trevor, Hugh Rogers’ tall, lanky henchman.    Immediately, she grew tense and quickly looked back at Eddie.  “Hey, let’s get out of here.” 

“What?” he asked, mouth still full.  “I’m not done eating.” 

“I know, but this stuff is fattening anyway.”  She grabbed her purse and phone and stood in a hurry. 

“Babe, I’m starving,” Eddie said, bits of food spewing from his mouth.  

“Take it to go,” she said and hurried to the door.   She could feel Trevor’s eyes burning into her from his table.

Frustrated, Eddie grabbed the rest of his burger and followed her out to the sidewalk.  “What’s gotten into you?” he demanded.  “I thought you wanted to eat.  You barely touched your lunch.” 

Miranda handed her ticket to the valet while continuously looking over her shoulder to see if Trevor was still there.  She didn’t know if she was more afraid of the threats he’d been making against her, or of the fact that Eddie would somehow find out about her job. 

“I didn’t want to say anything inside, but I saw Jennifer Aniston come in,” she explained, hoping her story sounded plausible enough.  “You know she hasn’t forgiven me for what happened at that party at Vaughan Novak’s a few years ago.” 

“Oh, right,” Eddie said, cramming more food into his mouth.  “She needs to get over it.  Like it was your fault you got drunk and spilled your drink all over her dress.”

“Exactly,” Miranda said and jumped into her car when the valet arrived.   “I’ll call you later.” 

“Bye,” Eddie said, screaming when a drop of ketchup landed on his shirt.   “Oh great!  Damnit!”

Moonshadows

When the cab pulled up to the porte cochere at the hotel at Moonshadows and Akilah Holden stepped out onto the pavement, she glanced around at her opulent surroundings. 

“Is this place close to the studio?” she asked Brad King after he handed the driver a fifty and set their bags on the curb.  He didn't know why she needed three suitcases and a carry-on.  He was able to get by on one.

“Not exactly, but I thought we might as well try to have some fun while we’re here,” he replied and nodded to the bellman as he loaded their suitcases onto a luggage cart.  “I’ve rented a car to get us to and from Titan Records.” 

“Sweet,” Akilah said and followed the cart into the lobby.  “When do we meet with them?”

“Later this afternoon,” Brad told her as they approached the front desk and the agent on duty.  “Brad King checking in.”

“Welcome to Moonshadows, Mr. King,” the young girl said while taking his license and credit card.  “I have a beautiful junior suite ready for you.”

Akilah looked at her and then at Brad.  “What about my room?” 

“Oh,” he said.  “I just thought it would be easier if we shared a room.” 

Raising an eyebrow, she placed her hands on her hips and looked him up and down.  “Excuse me?  Do I have to remind you that my husband was against me coming here to begin with?  How do you think he’d feel if he knew I was sharing a room with another man?”

“Akilah, I-“

“There are two bedrooms, ma’am,” the agent chimed in. 

Brad tried to get her to relax with a comforting smile.  He had to remind himself that aside from the job he was there to do for Hugh Rogers, he was always working for Caleb Holden by trying to drive a permanent wedge between Akilah and Matt.  It just so happened the trip to L.A. was like killing two birds with one stone. 

Bad analogy, he decided, opening his carry-on and looking at a picture of Miranda Blackthorne.  He had a lot of work to do, and while creating conflict between Akilah and Matt was easy enough, killing the sister of his Titan Records rep was not.

After they’d checked in, they started toward the elevator.

“Okay, but no funny business, Brad,” Akilah cautioned him.  “We’re here to get my record deal going and nothing else.” 

“Of course,” he replied, fidgeting nervously with the strap on his carry-on. 

Brett Armstrong

The good news was that Heather was doing better.  Jordan had gone to see her in San Francisco and said she had been lucid throughout the whole visit.  He’d even seen sparks of her personality that he hadn’t since before they had her committed.   The bad news was that she was now able to grasp the severity of what Brett and Suzanne had done to her.  

“A divorce?” Brett asked, staring at the document that Jordan handed him.  “She can’t do this.” 

Jordan groaned and crossed the room in Brett’s office at Sunset Studios.  “Get serious, Brett.  What did you expect her to do?  Just sit in the institution and accept that her husband slept with her mother?”

“This is your doing,” Brett said and pointed an accusatory finger at him.  “You talked her into this.  Heather would never have suggested divorce on her own.” 

“You slept with her mother!” Jordan repeated loudly.  “In case you missed it, Heather is doing much better.  All her faculties are in working order.  She told me that she didn’t want to be married to you anymore.” 

Brett shook his head in disgust.  “The way you manipulate your family is truly disgusting.  I don’t know what you said to Suzanne to make her take off again, and now this?”

“Suzanne left because she knew she’d burned her bridges here.  She had no choice.  I’m sorry that your plans of living happily ever after with her were crushed, but that’s just the way it is.  And as far as Heather goes, she just wants to be free of you.” 

“I want to see her,” he demanded.  “I want to see her and explain everything to her.” 

“Not a chance,” Jordan maintained.  “I don’t want anything setting her recovery back.  That’s why I haven’t told her about Benji yet.” 

“You can’t keep her locked up forever, Jordan.  She’s going to have to accept reality soon enough.” 

“Not until I say she’s ready.  Now just sign the damn papers so we can get this over with.” 

“This is another one of your attempts at getting Violet away from me, isn’t it?”

“No,” he replied.  “I have no intention of taking Violet away from you.  What Heather decides to do when she’s released is up to her and the courts, but as far as I’m concerned, Violet is far better off with you right now.” 

Frowning, Brett watched his expression soften. 

“I don’t want what happened to Heather and Benji to happen to Violet,” Jordan continued sorrowfully.  “It was because of me that my children self-destructed.  Influencing my granddaughter isn’t something that I particularly want to do.” 

For the first time, Brett saw a side of Jordan that genuinely surprised him.  A rational, unselfish side that stemmed from the pain and torture he’d been through. 

“I do love Heather very much,” Brett said, still clutching the divorce papers. 

Jordan dug his hands in his pockets.  “I know you do.” 

Brett looked at the papers.  “All I wanted was to keep my family together.  I wanted Heather to return some day and see that everything was the same as it used to be.” 

“But it’s not,” Jordan said and handed him the pen. 

With great difficulty, Brett decided that there was no other way.  He couldn’t bear causing Heather more pain, which was exactly what would happen if he went to see her.  As much as he didn’t want to give up, he had to.  He had to let Heather go. 

With a trembling hand, he took the pen and scribbled his name on the papers. 

Brooke Taylor

Brooke took her golf cart across the grounds and stopped at the Cahuenga Room.  She removed her sunglasses and proceeded inside where Kyle was standing with the restaurant manager and someone from maintenance. 

“What’s going on?” she asked, curious as to why Kyle had insisted she come right away. As soon as she asked the question, however, she got her answer.  “My God, it’s like an oven in here.” 

“Problem with the air conditioning unit,” said their maintenance supervisor.  “It’s actually blowing warm air into the building.” 

“Can we just shut it off?” Brooke asked.

He shrugged.  “Yeah, but it’s gonna be ninety degrees all week.  It won’t be pretty.” 

Brooke slapped her hands to her sides and looked at Kyle.  “So what do we do?”

“The part they need is on backorder until Monday,” he told her.  “They can’t get it here until then.” 

“We can’t expect people to sit in a ninety degree room for five days,” Brooke insisted.  “We’re going to have to close the restaurant until then.”   She turned to the manager.  “Please tell the front desk to let all guests know to use the Sierra Room until it’s fixed.  I also think we should put a limited menu in place in La Mirada Bar to accommodate everyone.” 

The manager nodded and left with the maintenance guy.  After they’d gone, Brooke folded her arms and looked knowingly at Kyle. 

“Don’t think I know what this was all about,” she said. 

“What?”

“You could have handled this without me,” she said.  “I’m just saying you’re very transparent with your ploys lately.” 

“Ploys?  I thought as part owner you’d want to know what was going on, that’s all.”  A clever smile crossed his lips as he stared into her eyes.

“And I suppose what happened in your office this morning wasn’t planned either?”

“What happened in my office?”  He was expert at playing dumb.

“That embrace just as Ethan walked in.  Come on, Kyle, you knew it would upset him.  Isn’t this all getting a little too high-school?”

“Like I knew Ethan would walk in at that moment?” he asked.  “And don’t forget that it was you who hugged me.” 

She stood still as he left, realizing that he was right.  Throwing herself in his arms had been an instinct, but for some reason her brain was trying to tell her otherwise.  She began to wonder if her attraction to Kyle was really more than that.  

Blackthorne Mansion

After leaving Moonshadows, Ethan went home and decided to work out while Michael was at day camp.  He needed the stress reliever, anyway.  Walking in on Brooke and Kyle in a heated embrace had been frustrating to say the least.   His instincts told him to demand she release him from his duties.  Kyle was up to no good where Brooke was concerned and he doubted very much that she even noticed. 

But as liberated as Brooke was, she would probably tell him he was crazy and that her working relationship with Kyle was just that.  Something made him question whether she was really over Kyle after all. 

After he finished in the gym and started down the hall to the foyer, the sound of the doorbell alerted him to a visitor.  With Leilani nowhere in sight, he quickly went to open it.  To his surprise, Mackenzie was standing on the other side of the door.

“I feel like I should apologize for snapping at you this morning,” she said, unable to keep herself from admiring his worked out physique.  The form fitting t-shirt and well cut gym shorts definitely looked spectacular on him. 

“You don’t strike me as the type to apologize for anything she does,” Ethan said with a wry smile.  He gestured inside.  “But apology accepted.” 

Graciously, she walked into the foyer and looked around.  “James home?”

He shook his head.  “No, he’s at the studio.  Am I to assume he’s the real reason you came by in the middle of the day?” 

“No, actually you are.  I came to offer you a job.”

“A job?  Me?”

She nodded while flipping her long black hair over her shoulder.  “As you know, the daytime industry is in peril.  I had a meeting with the network this morning and they want us to eliminate thirty percent of our budget per episode.  I know you were the numbers guy at Sunset Studios before you left, and I was hoping you’d come on and help out.” 

“So basically you want a scapegoat so the cast and crew don’t come down on you for cutting their budget?” he asked with a knowing grin. 

“That about sums it up,” she said and offered a good natured laugh.  “But seriously, I know your financial background in the business and you’d really be doing me a favor.  It doesn’t have to be full time.  Just until we get to where the network wants us.” 

Ethan hesitated.  He had to admit he was going a little stir crazy at home.  With Michael at camp four days a week, Brooke constantly busy with Moonshadows business, and Stormy and Miranda involved in their own lives, he had begun to feel a little useless.  Maybe working was what he needed. 

“I’ll do it,” he said.

“You will?” Mackenzie asked. 

“Why not?  Did you tell James?”

“Tell James what?” a voice came from the staircase. 

They both turned just as James descended from the stairs.  “I thought you were out,” Ethan said. 

“I came home because I forgot my briefcase,” he said and flashed it toward them.  “I swear I’d lose my head if it wasn’t attached.  What brings you by?”  He walked over and placed a hand on Mackenzie’s arm.   “Are you here to see me?” 

She looked awkwardly between him and Ethan.  “Uh, no actually.  I came to see Ethan.”

James raised an eyebrow and attempted to smile.  “I see.  Anything I should know about?” 

“Ethan has agreed to lend me his expertise on budget crunching at The Young at Heart,” she explained. 

“Well, he’s the man to do it,” James said.  “Ethan, I thought you weren’t ready to go back to work.  If I’d known you were anxious to get out there, I’d have hounded you more about returning to Sunset Studios.” 

“And I’m not saying I won’t.  This just seemed like a good fit right now.  Besides, it’s something different and gets me away from the house on my own schedule.  Listen, I better get changed.  Mackenzie, I’ll see you tomorrow?” 

“Perfect,” she replied and watched him disappear up the stairs. 

After he’d gone, James turned back toward her.  “Well, you and Ethan have certainly gotten over your rocky start.” 

“What do you mean?”

James shrugged.  “I mean working together, him coming to your rescue with your ex-husband, whom I didn’t even know about, mind you.” 

She rolled her eyes and moved her purse to her other hand.  “If this is you staking your territory, it’s very unattractive.  It just so happens that I offered the job to Ethan because he’s qualified and has a proven track record.  And as far as my ex-husband goes, I didn’t tell you about him because there are parts of my life that I don’t share with anyone.” 

“Except with Ethan,” James replied dubiously.

“He was there when Mason showed up.  Now if you’ll take a minute to get over your bruised ego maybe we can start acting like adults again.  Until then, don’t waste my time with your childish notions.” 

With that, she turned and stormed out of the house.  James stood, perplexed by her outburst and realizing he had to do something drastic if he was going to salvage whatever was left of their relationship. 

Miranda Blackthorne

Being seven months pregnant didn’t leave much in the way of haute couture, but luckily Miranda hadn’t gained much weight so most of the gowns she liked still fit her.  After lunch with Eddie, and making sure Hugh’s goon Trevor wasn’t still following her, she stopped by her favorite boutique in Beverly Hills to pick out a dress for tomorrow night’s party.  A long, off-white beaded gown with a side slit and thin shoulder straps.  She stood in the mirror examining herself and frowning at her protruding stomach when a voice from the next dressing room over caught her attention. 

“I told you I was a size 2,” the voice said.  It was irritatingly familiar to Miranda. 

“The dress fits a little small, so I thought you’d like to try both,” a salesgirl was saying. 

“No way in hell am I going to wear a 4!” 

Trying to mind her own business for as long as she could, Miranda stared into the mirror and then sighed with aggravation when Kelly emerged from the fitting room in the same dress. 

“What the hell?” Kelly said, the sales girl following her.  “Please tell me you’re not buying that.” 

Miranda looked her up and down, immediately incensed that Kelly looked much better in the dress than she did.  If she wasn’t pregnant, she would probably take the prize, but as it was, she felt a little self conscious. 

“Not anymore,” Miranda said and brushed past her to her fitting room.

“That’s a little formal for you these days, Miranda,” Kelly called after her.  “What are you, like eighty months pregnant?  Maybe a comfy pair of sweats is what you’re looking for.”

“Look, you little-“  Miranda began.

“Do you like the earrings?” the salesgirl asked Miranda in an obvious effort to diffuse the situation.

She took them off and looked at them.  “They go with the dress, but now that I think about it, it’s very last year.  As I matter of fact, I think I saw it in the June Vogue last summer.”   She handed them to Kelly.  “Maybe you should get the earrings too.  You never were particularly style conscious.” 

Kelly snarled at her and remained just outside the fitting room while Miranda changed.   “So what’s the dress for?”

“None of your business.” 

“So secretive,” Kelly sing-songed as she slipped the earrings on and admired herself in the mirror.  “Is Eddie going with you?  I bet he looks so good in a tux.”

“Like I said, it’s none of your business,” Miranda called through the fitting room door.  “You know, Kelly, just because you live at the mansion doesn’t mean you’re privy to everything that goes on.  You’re still just the help’s daughter.” 

Glaring, Kelly folded her arms.  “My son is a Blackthorne,” she snapped  “Which is a lot more than I can say for you.  You still don’t know who the father of your baby is.  He’ll never be anything more than a bastard.” 

A moment of silence fell over the room before Miranda emerged in the clothes she came in wearing.  “What did you say?”  

“Forget it,” Kelly said and turned back to the mirror.  “Eddie’s not exactly the smartest crayon in the box.  He obviously doesn’t care that he’s being made a fool of.”

Miranda physically stopped herself from attacking the woman.  She took a deep breath and started to brush past her.  

“Oh, and I changed my mind about the dress,” Kelly said, taking the earrings off and handing them to her.  “After seeing you in it, it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.” 

Glaring, Miranda watched as Kelly turned and sashayed into the fitting room.  She had half a mind to kick the door open and slap her senseless, but a knock-down drag-out while this pregnant didn’t seem like a good idea. 

Her eyes traveled to the bench just outside the room where Kelly had laid her purse.  She looked down at the earrings in her hand and smiled.  With a quick check to ensure the sales girl wasn’t around, she slipped them into the open purse and quickly exited the fitting rooms. 

The Titan Records offices were located on three floors of a high-rise office building in Century City.  Stormy had spent a few hours a day getting accustomed to the staff and the layout of the office space.  He’d also spent time in the recording studio which took him back to his days with Good Times Records.  He had to admit it felt a bit nostalgic being around the various sound booths and swarm of engineers.  When Eddie learned that he’d taken the helm of the west coast branch, he was eager to drop in and check out the operation. 

“This is way better than what we had at Good Times,” Eddie said while looking around in wonderment.  “Oh sweet!  A water cooler!” 

Stormy led him into his office.  “Isn’t it great?  When we ran Good Times Records it felt like we were living in 1979 or something.”

“It was pretty far out,” Eddie joked.  “So who’s this girl coming in today?” 

“Akilah Holden,” Stormy replied while looking at her bio on his desk.   “Some up and coming talent from Tennessee.  Cameo’s producing some tracks on her debut and-“

“Are you ready for Akilah?” his secretary, a young hipster with dark rimmed glasses and a blond mound of hair piled unceremoniously on top of her head, asked when she popped her head in. 

“You bet,” Stormy said and rose from his chair.  When Akilah and Brad entered, he extended his hand and offered a welcoming smile.  “Hi, I’m Stormy Blackthorne.  Welcome to Los Angeles.  This is my friend Eddie Distefano.”

“Thanks,” Akilah said with a smile as she looked around the understated but modern looking office.  “It’s great to be here.”  

“Stormy,” Brad said and shook his hand in turn.  “Brad King.  We spoke on the phone.” 

“Right.  Brad, I’m sorry for the mix-up with our appointment.  Unfortunately, T.T. left on an extended vacation and didn’t tell me about the deal he’d been working on with you and Colt Records.” 

“No problem at all,” Brad said, a hand resting gently on Akilah’s back.  “I’m just glad the two of us can put our heads together and come up with some ideas for Akilah.” 

“Absolutely,” Stormy said and gestured to the chairs in front of him.  “Why don’t you both have a seat and we’ll talk music.” 

Brad ushered Akilah toward the seat.  “I thought the two of you could get to know each other first.  I actually have an appointment I need to run to quick.” 

“You’re leaving?” Akilah asked, nervously sitting in the chair with her purse resting in her lap.

“Just for a little while,” he said.

“That’s actually perfect,” Stormy chimed in.  “We’ll head over to the studio and listen to some demos so I can get a feel for the sound you’re going for.” 

“That okay Akilah?” Brad asked.

She nodded.  “Yeah, sure.  That’s okay I guess.” 

“I’ll be back before you’re through.” 

Exiting into the reception area, Brad waited for the elevator and bumped into a woman who barreled toward him when the doors opened. 

“Sorry,” he said, then looked up with alarm when he saw who she was. 

“My bad,” Miranda said anxiously.  “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

He shook his head, not taking his eyes off of her.  Seeing the woman face to face who he’d been hired to kill put things into a new perspective.  The fact that Hugh didn’t tell him she was pregnant only compounded the issue. 

“No, I’m good.”

“Good,” she said and hurried past him. 

Once inside the elevator, Brad looked over his shoulder at her.  It had been a long time since he’d done anything like this, and the reality of it was suddenly hitting him hard.

Inside the office, Stormy sat down at his desk again and looked at Akilah.  “Can I get you anything to drink before we start?”

“Maybe some water from the water cooler?” Eddie asked with excitement. 

“I’m good, thanks,” Akilah replied.

Just then, the door burst open and Miranda rushed inside.  “Oh God, this is déjà vu,” she said.  “The two of you in a recording studio together.  Stormy, just promise me this time you’re not going to run off with some trampy singer for three months.”

Akilah recoiled in her seat while wondering what on earth they were talking about.  What kind of record exec was this guy?

“Funny,” Stormy said, ignoring the jab about his affair with Laurel Spencer while he was married to Heather.  “Miranda, what can I do for you?  We were just in the middle of something.”

“What you can do is get that freeloading, troublemaking ex-wife of yours out of our house and out of our lives,” she said.  “Do you have any idea what she said to me just now?”

“What happened, babe?” Eddie asked.

“Any way this can wait, Miranda?” Stormy began.  “This is Akilah Holden.  She’s going to be our first act signed to the label.”

“Nice to meet you,” Akilah said and shook hands with Miranda. She couldn’t help notice her pregnant stomach, prompting her to be reminded of Julian, the son she’d lost months before.  A wave of sadness suddenly overwhelmed her.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Miranda replied, raking her fingers through her hair.  “Look, I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting but you have no idea what this bitch is like.”

“Maybe we need to give her the beat down?” Akilah asked.

Miranda laughed.  “I was close to doing just that.  But instead I….took the high road so to speak.” 

“When are you due?”  The topic of pregnancy and babies in general still hurt her to think about.  Some days the wounds were still so fresh.

Miranda looked down at her stomach.  “Two months.  Not a minute too soon.” 

“I’ll say,” Eddie chimed in.  “She’s getting cranky in her last trimester.”

“Miranda, we’ll talk about this at home later, okay?” Stormy said, hinting to her by gesturing to the door. 

“Okay,” she said with a sigh as Eddie kissed her cheek.  “But seriously, tell the witch to stay out of my face or I’ll rip her hair out of her head.” 

And just like that, she was gone.  Stormy smiled at Akilah and tried to continue with their discussion.  His sister certainly knew how to make an entrance.  And an exit. 

Brooke Taylor

Brooke rode the golf cart along the meandering paths at Moonshadows and veered off to the side of an access road when she spotted Ethan walking up the hill from the administration building. 

“Hi,” she called over to him while removing her sunglasses.  “I’m glad you came back.  I wanted to explain about this morning. “

“You don’t have to explain,” he told her with an easy smile.  “I overreacted.  You just have to give me time with this you working with Kyle thing.” 

“I’ve told you that there’s nothing to worry about,” Brooke said from the driver’s seat.  “I’m a lot smarter than you think.  I know Kyle’s game.”

“It’s the fact that he has a game that worries me.  I have a feeling he’ll stop at nothing to win you back.  It’s been months since the two of you were together.  I’d like to think he’s given up, but I’m not so sure that’s ever going to happen.” 

Brooke put her sunglasses back on in an effort to avoid eye contact with him.  The truth was she and Kyle had been together a lot more recently than that.  Just a couple of weeks, to be exact.  She’d slowly allowed the images of that night in her office to fade away.  She no longer saw her and Kyle’s naked bodies clashing together every time she closed her eyes, and she wanted to keep it that way.

“It’ll be okay,” she finally said while placing a hand over his.  “After the marina expansion, things won’t be as hectic around here.  I might even be able to do without Kyle at all.”

“That would be nice,” Ethan said with a grin.  “Meanwhile, I’ll have my hands full with his sister.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Mackenzie offered me a job on her show,” he explained.  “It’s temporary until they get their budget squared away, but no doubt she’ll be a pain in the you-know-what.”

Brooke cocked her head and looked at him.  “You’re going to be working with Mackenzie Stone?” she asked.  “Why would you want to do that?” 

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Just want to feel useful I guess.” 

The news was unsettling to Brooke.  While she tolerated Mackenzie, she still hadn’t forgotten about what she’d done to them.  “Ethan, she kept quiet about who Kyle really was,” she began.  “All that time went by and she never told us that she was his sister.  If she would have come forward, we might have found you a hell of a lot sooner.  I can’t believe you’d want to work with her.” 

“Mackenzie isn’t to blame for what Kyle did.  Kyle is.”

“Oh, so now you’re defending her?  The way I look at it, they were in on this together.  She’s every bit as bad as he was.” 

“And yet here you are working with him,” Ethan fired back angrily.  “You’ve managed to forget all about what he did despite how I feel about it.  How is my working for Mackenzie any different?” 

She took a breath in an effort to stall.  “Renee had already hired Kyle when I decided to take part in the daily operations.  You’re going to work with Mackenzie knowing full well that she had a part in keeping us apart.” 

“Mackenzie is nothing like her brother,” Ethan argued.  “She may have her faults, but she’s not manipulative.” 

His defense of her raised alarms with Brooke.  “Oh, so you’re suddenly her biggest supporter?  Exactly how close have the two of you gotten anyway?  You’re worried about my working with Kyle, so why shouldn’t I feel that same way about you working with Mackenzie?”

Ethan placed his hands on his hips and shook his head in irritation.  “This is ridiculous,” he said.  “Why are we even arguing about this?” 

“I’ll tell you why,” she said and turned the golf cart back on.  “Because you’re still refusing to take responsibility for the fact that you could have told us you were alive a lot sooner than you did.  And while Kyle and Mackenzie may have had a hand in it for their own personal reasons, it was ultimately your decision.” 

Before he could reply, she was tearing off in the golf cart.  Throwing his hands up in resignation, Ethan realized that he couldn’t argue with her.  Everything she said was true.  But the fact that they couldn't seem to reach a peaceful place in their relationship troubled him to no end.

Mason sat on the sofa in his cabana at Moonshadows, stacks of papers on the table before him as he sipped a cup of coffee.  His shirt was unbuttoned to his naval and his hair was tousled. 

“Make sure you turn the shower knob all the way to left,” he called into the bathroom.  “It tends to stick.”  He ran his fingers through his hair and mumbled to himself.  “Damn place is already falling apart.  Should make it easier when I bulldoze it to the ground.”

A knock at the door sounded, prompting him to get up and cross the room while pushing the sleeves up on his baby blue shirt.

“Is this a good time?” Chip Matthews asked as he stood on the wooded path outside.

“Yeah, come in,” Mason said and hurried him inside.  “Want some coffee?”

“It’s ninety-five degrees outside, Stone, I don’t want any damn coffee.” 

“Suit yourself,” he said.

Chip went to sit down, stopping when he saw a woman emerge from the bedroom.  He raised an eyebrow and gave a nod of approval toward his partner.

“Thanks for coming by, Sam,” Mason said and discreetly handed her a roll of hundred dollar bills.  “Just what I needed.” 

“Glad to be of service,” she said and slipped the money into her purse.  Winking at Chip on her way out, she exited the cabana and closed the door securely behind. 

“I wouldn’t have thought working girls were your style,” Chip remarked with a leery grin.  “You seem like the kind of guy who could have any woman you wanted.” 

Mason smiled in turn.  “I do have my fair share of female companions, but that’s back east.  I’ve only been here a week, remember?  Desperate times…” 

Chip watched as he buttoned his shirt, then slowly looked away and ran his fingers through his closely cropped hair.  “So work is coming along on the marina expansion.  I’m curious how far you’re going to take this.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, you don’t care about the marina.  You just want the oil underneath it.  I’m still not exactly sure how this is all going to go down.”

Mason returned to the sofa and picked up the geological studies he’d taken from Royce Jennings’s belongings.  “Right now we’re in a holding pattern,” he said.  “We’ll let Brooke Taylor sink as much money as she can into the expansion until it bankrupts her.  Once that happens, someone will offer to buy the land at a hefty sum so she and her partners can cut their losses.”

“That someone being you,” Chip surmised.

“Bingo.”

“So in the meantime, my crew continues business as usual?” 

“Absolutely,” Mason said and picked up his coffee cup.  “I don’t want her or Kyle Fenwick suspecting anything.  A string of incidents will delay the project.  Delays cost money.”

“What incidents?  Specifically.”

Mason looked at him as he sat on the sofa.  “Leave that to me.”

Brad was led into a large octagonal room with floor to ceiling views of Los Angeles.  The furnishings were sparse and modern but looked very expensive - something that didn’t surprise him about Hugh Rogers.  Ever since he’d known him, the man was no stranger to opulence.  And despite having worked for him in Atlantic City for a number of years, he still didn’t know much about him.  Prostitution was only a small part of his repertoire.  Other criminal activity surrounded him, but he had a feeling no one person was privy to all of it.  It’s part of what made Hugh Rogers a very dangerous man. 

“Brad, it’s good to see you,” Hugh said and welcomed him with a hearty embrace and five firm pats on the back.

“You too,” he replied.  He couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated in his presence.  “Nice digs.” 

“It was the only house I would have considered in Los Angeles,” Hugh said while taking in the views of the city.  “I love looking out and having the pleasure of knowing I’ll run this city one day.”  

“Still the narcissist, I see,” Brad said with a grin.  He wondered if lightening the mood with that kind of humor was wise.  Even Hugh’s smile didn’t set him at ease.  He had a tendency to smile through the most threatening of situations so it provided little relief. 

“I prefer to think of myself as motivated,” he finally replied.  “And I won’t let anything stand in my way.  Which is the reason I called you out here.” 

“Miranda Blackthorne,” Brad remarked.

“Yes.  But let’s not talk business right away.  I’d like to catch up first.  How are things in New Martin?”

“They’re great.”

“How is my girl Brenda?”

Laughing, Brad watched him go across the room and pour them each a glass of bourbon.  “Brenda is taking care of herself just fine.  She's engaged."

“That’s good,” he said and flashed him a look.  “I’m happy for her.  She got herself off the street and into a new life.  Something not many of my girls are able to do.” 

Brad swallowed.  He wondered if he let them get off the street.  It was a miracle Brenda was able to do just that.  Hugh did have a fairly iron first over the girls who worked for him. 

“Colt Records is blossoming, I hope.” 

“It is.  I’m working with some great talent here in L.A.  I thought it would be a good cover.” 

“I see you haven’t lost your smarts,” Hugh said with a laugh.  “Good boy.  Now, about Miranda Blackthorne.  I’m sure you can imagine that any threat to my organization must be dealt with swiftly and permanently.   What starts as a nuisance can eventually throw the entire system out of order.” 

“You didn’t tell me she was pregnant,” Brad said after swallowing hard. 

“Does it matter?  She’s a rock in the spokes.  She has to be elimianted.” 

“And Trevor can’t do it because…?”

“Trevor is more of a face plate to my organization.  No real menacing qualities.  I need someone who knows what they’re doing.  Someone who can take care of her and not allow it to be traced back to me.” 

“How do you want it to happen?”  Brad asked.

“She’s planning a party tomorrow night with some of her more prominent clients.  I learned that she’s holding it at Gemma’s mansion in Beverly Hills.”

Brad watched him cross the room with a thoughtful look on his face.  “There could be a lot of witnesses in that setting.” 

“You’ll need to ensure the party doesn’t happen.  A last minute change of plans.  When Miss Blackthorne walks in to an empty house, she’ll find you.  That’s when you’ll take care of her.” 

“How am I going to cancel the party without her knowing?”

Hugh reached into his desk and produced a document.  “I happen to have obtained a copy of the guest list.  Make the calls.  Tell them you’re Miss Blackthorne’s aide or something.  You’re resourceful, Brad.  I’m sure you’ll think of something.” 

Swallowing hard, Brad looked at the names on the list.  Hugh seemed to have thought of everything.  All he was to him was a hired gun.  It was an easy gig.  Make the calls, show up at the mansion and kill the girl.  One day and he’d been done with it.  One day.

Before he knew it, Hugh was approaching with a briefcase.  He held it in his hands and opened it.  Inside were stacks of hundred dollar bills collected into bundles.

“The rest after it’s done,” Hugh said.

Brad took the briefcase and looked down at the stacks of money.  It was more money than he’d seen before and it made his hesitations disappear.  When he looked up again Hugh was hand him a black revolver. 

“Locked and loaded,” he told him.  “Completely untraceable.  Throw it in the ocean when you’re done.” 

Staring at the weapon, Brad took it in his hands.  Menacing and purposeful, it felt heavier than he’d anticipated.  His hands grew weak as he placed it inside the briefcase. 

Stormy Blackthorne

Stormy knew that The Benefactor had been a huge box office hit upon its original release in 1969.  The story fascinated audiences at the time.  An eccentric and wealthy businessman commissioned a shuttle to the moon carrying fifty children.  In route, something went wrong and the shuttle veered towards the sun, leading the story to progress into suspense and drama until forty-eight of them are saved by the man. 

A few tweaks and updates and the script was ready for the new millennium.  The prototype for the exterior of the space shuttle had been completed by the set designers and now sat on sound stage 4 at Sunset Studios.  Stormy decided to do his walk-through to ensure there weren’t any bugs that needed fixing. 

Standing atop the shuttle, he became impressed by the realistic details that the designers had managed to reproduce.   More authentic looking than the craft in the original film, it was bound to look amazing on camera. 

The sound of the stage doors slamming closed caught Stormy’s attention and he gazed across the enormous room.  In the distance he saw Brett stalking toward the shuttle.   Looking down thirty feet from above, he could see the agitated look on his face. 

“I’m already done with the walk through,” he called down to him.  “I’ll tell my father it’s been taken care of, so you don’t have to worry.”

“I just talked to Brooke,” Brett said.  “She told me what you did.  Tricking her into signing that document to take my shares from me.”

“Brooke is forgetful,” he replied.  “She has a lot going on and probably didn’t realize what she was signing.  Besides, those shares are in the right hands now.  They should have never been given to you in the first place.” 

“So this is how low you’re willing to sink?   Forging documents to get me out of the picture?  Well guess what, I’m not going anywhere.  I may not be a shareholder, but you’re stuck with me and I intend on making your life a living hell.” 

“You’ve been making my life hell since the day you showed up married to my sister,” Stormy said, balancing himself on a platform on the shuttle.  “Blackmailing Lauren into sleeping with you, drugging my father, framing me for murder.  Not to mention what you did to Heather.  It’s going to stop, Brett.  I won’t let you do it anymore.  You’re through messing with my family.”

“And you’re the golden boy, right?  Everything you’ve done has been legit.  Not a single underhanded move in there, is there?  Get real, Stormy.  Look at what you resorted to to get me out of the studio.  You’re turning into every bit the con man I was.  Only with you it’s worse because you did it to your own family.” 

“You self righteous son of a bitch,” Stormy shouted.  “At least I didn’t sleep with my wife’s mother.  Speaking of, where is Suzanne?  Did you finally drive her off once and for all?  Or maybe she’s back in the loony bin with Heather where you put her after you’d gotten through ruining her life.”

The remark sent something off inside Brett.  He clenched his teeth and raced toward the ladder that led to the top of the shuttle.  Taking two steps at a time, he reached the top and barreled toward Stormy, delivering a shattering blow to the jaw with his closed fist. 

Stormy staggered back a few steps but recovered swiftly.  He punched Brett hard in the nose and watched as blood trickled down his face.  In retaliation, Brett charged toward him and knocked him to the hard metal surface of the shuttle.  He tackled him and fought to restrain him so that he could get another punch in, but Stormy kicked him away and sent him rolling down into a crevasse in the center of the ship.  Climbing to his feet, he leapt toward him with the intention of landing on top of him.  Brett rolled out of the way and waited for him to hit the surface.  When he did, he jumped to his feet and kicked him repeatedly in the side. 

Doubling over in pain, Stormy reached out and pulled Brett’s leg.  He fell and they resumed their struggle, each delivering violent blows at one another.  His face battered and bruised, Stormy staggered off and made his way to the ladder to retreat down to the stage.  Brett, however, caught up to him and pushed him hard, sending him tumbling onto the wing of the shuttle.  When Stormy got to his feet, he took a swing at Brett but missed.  Another swing and he lost his balance, tumbling onto the surface of the wing and rolling until he reached the edge.  Quickly, he tried to stop himself from going over but it was too late.  At the last minute, he grabbed the side of the wing and hung there, dangling thirty feet above the sound stage. 

Standing over him, Brett panted with exhaustion.  He realized he couldn’t let him fall.  Reluctantly, he extended his hand and pulled him back up.   Once Stormy was on his feet, however, he punched him one final time.   Brett sailed back and landed on the wing. 

Without another word, Stormy turned and retreated down the ladder, leaving Brett lying bruised and bloodied on the wing of the ship.

Brooke Taylor

Still enraged over her argument with Ethan, Brooke sorted through a flurry of papers on her desk in search of the latest arrivals list.  When the search proved futile, she turned to her computer to pull it up electronically, but as usual, her monitor was frozen and wouldn’t respond. 

“That’s just great,” she murmured to herself and flew out to the reception area where Marcia was seated behind her desk.   “Is your computer froze up?”

“I called the help desk,” her secretary told her.  “They’re working on it.  Do you need something?”

“Tomorrow’s arrivals list,” Brooke said.  “Do you have it?” 

“I gave it to Kyle. He wanted to flag the VIP’s and let them know about the noise from the construction so we could put amenities in their rooms.” 

“I was going to do that,” she snapped.  “Is he in there?”

“He went to the gym a while ago but I haven’t seen him come back.”

Without hesitation, she turned and went next door to Kyle’s office.  She knocked once and when she didn’t get an answer, she walked in. Kyle was nowhere to be found.   Hoping to get in and out before he returned, she went to his desk and started looking for the report.

Suddenly, the door to Kyle’s private bathroom opened and he emerged, naked and enveloped in steam.  Her eyes immediately went to him and a gasp escaped her dry throat.

“I was just looking for….tomorrow’s list of arrivals,” she said, physically unable to take her eyes off of his damp skin.  She shivered at the sight of his tanned torso and the girthiness of his manhood. 

“In my in-box,” he said, casually drying his back and shoulders with the towel.

“Here it is,” Brooke said and snapped the paper from his desk.   “Thanks.” 

“No problem,” he replied with an assured grin.  “Sorry, the locker rooms at the gym were packed so I came back here after my workout.” 

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” she said, forcing herself to avoid looking at him again.  She made her way to the door but felt him looming behind.  “You should really lock your door if you’re going to shower in your office.” 

“I wasn’t expecting anyone to just walk in,” he said, his breath coming out in quick spurts as he stood behind her. 

Against her better judgment, she turned and looked at him, her chest heaving. She opened her mouth to speak but no words would come.

“Did you want to stay?” Kyle asked, aroused by the proximity of their bodies. 

Yes, she wanted to say.  I want to throw my clothes off and make love the same way we did that night in my office.  But she refused to give in to her desires.  As exciting as he made her feel, sleeping with him again was a bad idea.  She and Ethan were trying to work things out.  She owed him the opportunity to see where it would go. 

“No,” she finally said, quickly turning and exiting the office. 

Kyle stood behind, grinning from ear to ear with the knowledge that she would be in his bed again very soon.  He knew it as sure as his name was Kyle Fenwick.

Outside, Marcia noticed the flushed look on Brooke’s face.  “Find it?”

“Yeah,” she said, quickly going next door to her office.  “I found it.” 

Mackenzie Stone

At the end of their shooting day on the set of The Young at Heart, Mackenzie called a meeting with some of the actors to review changes in the next day’s script.  They assembled in the conference room and that’s when the bickering started. 

“Another goddamn script change?” Max Howell, who played the evil Dr. Michael Crawford bellowed.  “How the fuck are we supposed to learn our lines if there’s a new script every goddamn day?”

“You wouldn’t have a problem learning your lines if you were home at night instead of carousing around with her!” screeched Elana Hendricks, his on-screen and off-screen wife.

“I beg your pardon!” replied the her in question, Lorraine Minnabariette, always eager to defend her not-so-secret affair with Max.   “How dare you insinuate that I’m sleeping with your husband?”

“How dare you sit there and deny it?” Elana shrieked.  “Why don’t you both just admit your little on-set romance exists?”

Her head pounding, Mackenzie held up a hand in an effort to silence them.  “That’s enough,” she snapped.  “This is supposed to be a professional environment.  In the future, I expect you to leave your personal dramas at home.”

As the room grew silent, the conference room door opened and James entered.  “Mackenzie, can I talk to you?” 

James being the last person she expected to see drop by the set, especially after their argument, she quickly nodded.  Turning to the actors, she addressed them as a group, “why don't we take a break and we’ll reconvene after I view the dailies.” 

The group quickly exited.  When they were gone, Mackenzie turned to James with her arms folded rigidly across her chest. 

“What is it?” she asked cooly.  "I think we said everything we had to say earlier."

“Look, I’m sorry about what I said,” he told her.  “I don’t know why I acted the way I did.  I’m not jealous, Mackenzie.  I just want to have a normal conversation with you.  I want to try to connect.” 

“That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be possible,” she said. 

“I want you to go away with me next weekend,” he confessed.  “I was thinking my house in Palm Springs.” 

Raising an eyebrow, she gave him an incredulous look.  “Why don’t you just hit me over the head with your club and drag me into your cave?” she said, irritated.  “You can’t just come in here and throw me over your shoulder, James.” 

“I wasn’t,” he argued.  “I just think we need some time alone.  I’d like to be alone with you.  Is that so wrong?” 

She considered his offer and leaned against the conference table.  “No,” she said with resignation.  “A weekend away would be nice.  But I’ll have to give it some thought.” 

“Good,” he said, placing a hand on her arm and leaning in for a kiss.  “I really think we can make this work, Mackenzie.  Some time alone together could be just what we need.” 

“I’ll call you later,” she said, secretly happy that he’d made the effort.  What woman didn’t want to be courted away for a romantic weekend? 

Kelly Kahoano

After spending two hours at the police station trying to convince them she wasn’t a thief, Kelly was allowed to leave.  Furious over Miranda’s obvious sabotage efforts, but even angrier at the boutique for calling the police, she went back to the store on Rodeo Drive and glared menacingly at the sales girl. 

“I just wanted you to know that I won’t be shopping here again,” she said while standing at the counter.  “And neither will anyone else in Hollywood once I tell them how you treat your customers.” 

“I’m sorry, but our policy is to call the police on all shoplifters.”

“I’m not a friggin shoplifter!” Kelly screamed.  “You know what, let me talk to your manager.  I demand an apology for this outrage."

The girl smiled pleasantly and disappeared into the back of the store.  While standing alone at the counter, Kelly tapped her fingernails repetitively on the glass.  Next to the counter was the long beaded gown that she’d tried on earlier.  Rolling her eyes in disgust, she turned away.  The mere sight of the garment left a bad taste in her mouth. 

A tag hanging from the bust, however, caught her attention and she looked closely at it.  Frowning, she read the words on the tag.  Miranda Blackthorne. 902 Benedict Canyon Dr. Beverly Hills. 

“That witch bought the dress after all,” she murmured to herself.  Then she looked at the address again.  Benedict Canyon Drive?  Why the hell was Miranda having the dress sent there?

Deciding to do some investigating into her former sister-in-laws activities, she turned and left the store in a hurry.  Screaming at the manager of the boutique would have to wait.

Gemma's House

Minutes later, Kelly was pulling up the a long driveway outside a stately home in Beverly Hills.  There was a delivery van in the driveway so she proceeded to the door and found it partially open.  Carefully, she tip-toed inside and scouted around. 

“You must be Miss Blackthorne,” said a voice from across the expansive foyer. 

Quickly, Kelly turned in the direction of the florist who wore an apron and was holding a crystal vase in each hand.    “Uh, yeah.”  She was, after all. 

“I’m Freddie from Petrows Flowers.  I’d shake your hand but I’ve got vases coming out my ass  Oh, don’t worry.  The flowers won’t be here till tomorrow.  I know you wanted them very fresh.  I just like to scope the place out and see where things look good the day before.” 

“Of course,” Kelly said with a frown.  She followed him down a hall and into a chef’s kitchen that rivaled any she’d seen in magazines or television.  “What time did you say you were going to be here tomorrow?”

“Well, the party’s at eight so we’ll be here at six.  That what we have plenty of time to set the flowers out and be out of here before your guests arrive.” 

“My guests,” Kelly said quietly to herself.  She circled the kitchen island as Freddie filled vases with crystal stones and water.  “So Freddie, you’re going to think this is crazy but um….I can’t remember if I told you the theme for tomorrow night’s party.” 

Freddie looked at her with a wink.  “You sure did,” he said and then laughed.

“I did?” she said.  “Oh….good.   I just didn’t want there to be any surprises."

Without stopping what he was doing, he leaned across the island and gave her another wink.  “We’re very discreet at Petrows.  Gemma was a regular customer of ours.  I’m just glad that someone of your class has taken over for her.  When she went to prison I was sure we’d never see an account this big again.” 

Kelly swallowed hard.  Gemma?   No, it couldn’t be.

“And just so you know,” Freddie continued, “we keep very tight books.  Even if your name were to come up, no one would ever know what the flowers were for.  I’m sure you can appreciate discretion in your line of work.  You know, with client lists popping up in the news all the time.” 

This was too good to be true, Kelly thought with a smile.  What on earth had Miranda gotten herself into?

“Client lists, right….” she said. 

“I know Gemma preferred to call them clients as opposed to johns or…well, tricks, I suppose.  It’s much classier.  And everything about Gemma was class.  That’s why I think you’re a fabulous replacement.” 

That was it, Kelly thought as she turned away from him.  There was no question about it.  Miranda was a Hollywood madam.  Oh how she was going to relish exposing her to everyone in town, starting with her own family.

Moonshadows

Her direct flight from New Martin to LAX was cramped and crowded, putting Chelsea Holden in a contemptuous mood immediately after landing.  What part of first class didn't Duke Holden understand?  Wanting nothing more than to get to her hotel room, shower, and then find Brad and Akilah, she quickly hailed a cab.

On the way to Moonshadows, she was reminded of why she hated Los Angeles.  Burning cement, blinding sun, and pretentious people as far as the eye could see.  If it wasn’t for Brad’s impromptu trip there with Akilah, she wouldn’t have bothered. 

The cab deposited her at the door of the hotel and she quickly made her way to the front desk to check in to her room.  

“Has Brad King checked in yet?”

The agent referenced her computer before nodding politely.  “Yes he has.”

Knowing the usual hotel protocol, Chelsea realized the agent wouldn’t openly give her Brad’s room number, so she played another card.   “Great.  I need to be next to him.  We’re here on Colt Records business and it’ll just be easier if we’re in adjoining rooms.” 

The agent looked at the computer again.  “Mr. King is in a junior suite, but I can get you the room across the hall.” 

“Perfect,” she said with a smile.

. . . . . . .

Upstairs, Akilah dropped her purse and keys on the console in the entryway of the suite.

“You were quiet on the ride back from the studio,” Brad said.  “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just excited,” she admitted.  “There’s a lot going through my mind right now.  Plus I’m missing Matt a little bit.” 

Brad smiled while placing the briefcase Hugh gave him on the console table.  “Maybe you should go give him a call.  I’ll let you know when it’s dinner time.”

“I think I will,” Akilah said and disappeared into her bedroom.

After she’d gone, Brad opened the briefcase and looked at the money inside.  With this kind of bread, he could really make something of himself.  He wouldn’t have to wait for the Hugh Rogers and Caleb Holdens of the world to offer him jobs.  He could make it on his own. 

But at what cost?  Sighing, he picked the gun up and held it in his hand.  The weight still intimidated him.  He wondered how it would feel to hold it out before him and fire it into Miranda Blackthorne’s chest. 

He didn’t hear the tiny gasp that escaped Chelsea’s throat as she stood in the doorway of the suite.  Suitcase in hand, she looked in horror at the sight of him pointing the gun across the room. Eyes wide and frozen in her tracks, she tried to decide how to back up out of the room without him seeing her. 


Next time....

The story continues on Nightingales # 8 when Chelsea confronts Brad.  Meanwhile, Mackenzie makes plans to go away with James.  Complications arise the night of Miranda's party.  And someone goes missing.

 

 

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