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Episode 160

 

Release Date:  December 10, 2011

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

Ethan, Brooke and James chased Emmett to Griffith Park where he planned on pushing Michael off the Hollywood sign.  After convincing him to let Michael go, Emmett jumped to his death.  Brooke and Ethan rejoiced happily, prompting Brooke to believe they were getting back together.  Kenny asked James if he thought he and Brooke were meant to be together.  Ethan went to Mackenzie to work things out, but she turned him away, believing he’d never be over Brooke.  Defeated, Ethan slept with Brooke. Jordan revealed his plans to open a theatre for underprivileged youth in Benji’s name.  Ashton woke up from his coma and Jordan told him about Benji and Sierra.  Nathan went to meet the killer and was surprised to learn it was Marilee.  She explained that the son she gave away had been adopted by Cheri Montessori, the porn actress Elana had hit with her car.  After Jonas got rid of her body, the toddler was left at home by himself and died.  Marilee admitted to framing Keaton for the murders.  She reported finding out that Keaton had mental issues as an adolescent.  Stormy, Jane, Eddie and Miranda arrived and apprehended Marilee until the police arrived.  Meanwhile, Keaton revealed to Alex that he was the illegitimate child of her and Deacon Edgewater, and that Deacon killed himself when he confronted him about it.  Jordan arrived and Keaton was arrested.  Mason bribed Nordquist into getting the drilling permits approved.  Jackie was revealed to be the financial backer for Loomis Enterprises, the company that bought Moonshadows.  When Jackie tried to force Mason out, he alerted the media to her involvement in defrauding Renee.  Jackie and Nathan wed while he was in prison so she could gain control of his interest in Sunset Studios.  Miranda chose Eddie over David, but told David that he may be the father of her baby.  David underwent an experimental operation to remove his brain tumor, but did not tell anyone except for T.T.  Afterwards, he recuperated at a clinic in San Francisco.  Renee learned about the surgery from T.T.,  who told Brooke.  Brooke ended things with Kyle when she learned that he knew about David too.  Miranda and Eddie planned to marry, and have Eddie adopt Tiger.  Heather continued to ignore attempts by Brett to talk about their relationship.

 


  

Episode 160

The Finale - Part 2

"The Ex-Mrs. Blackthorne"

 

They made a movie about them.  The stars.  The children.  Their journey.  The bravery of their leader as they embarked on their mission.  Some didn’t return.  Others were never the same again.  A quilt of darkness dotted with their teardrops.  In their hearts, they had hope. 

In the remake, these same values held true.  It wasn’t a film about space travel or science fiction fantasy.  It was about the hope of the human race.  The tests we’re challenged with and the endurance of our resolve.  This is who they were. 

* * *

Two days after the events leading up to what they now referred to as the black day, James Blackthorne was in uncharacteristically high spirits.  His son, Stormy, had just delivered the rough cut of their soon-to-be blockbuster, The Benefactor for a private screening following Miranda’s wedding.  The twenty-room house was buzzing with activity; caterers loading crates of caviar and champagne through the service entrance, florists positioning bouquets of exotic arrangements in the foyer, and the rental company setting perfectly aligned rows of chairs on the back lawn. 

The ceremony was to be held outside.  Luckily the weather had held out.  Sunny skies, highs in the mid-seventies, and a break from the especially gusty Santa Ana’s all contributed to their good fortune.

“Daddy!” Miranda screeched from the top of the stairs. “This place is like a circus!” 

He craned his neck and stopped his manic pace, taken back to his wedding day to Brooke six years before.   “What did you expect?  It’s your wedding, remember?”

“Well, do you think you could get the noise under control?” she asked.  “I have a splitting headache from all the stress I’m under, and that racket outside isn’t helping!” 

He laughed and continued on through to the kitchen.   It was nice to see things were back to normal.  Inside the kitchen, he found Leilani signing for a case of champagne.  Inspecting its contents, he smiled with approval and turned to admire the cake.  

“I’m actually surprised this wedding got pulled together in a week,” he said.  “Do you have your dress ready, Leilani?” 

“Soon as I get these things in the oven, Mr. Blackthorne,” the Hawaiian maid said in a frenzy as she darted around the kitchen. 

“Leilani, there are caterers that can do that,” James said and gave her a playful swat on the behind.  “Get upstairs and start getting ready, woman!  The wedding’s in two hours!” 

Leilani giggled, running up the back stairs to the second floor.  When James turned, he saw his best friend Kenny DeWitt enter through the back door in a dapper black tuxedo.  

“What do you know?” James said and licked a dollop of cake icing from his finger.   “You clean up nice.” 

“Thanks.  You too.  I got the adoption papers for Miranda and Eddie and wanted to drop them off right away.  Is she around?” 

James made a face.  “I’d hold off on giving those to her, Kenny.  She’s giving the term Bridezilla a new meaning.” 

“Gotcha,” Kenny said and filed the envelope in his pocket.  “What about Renee?”  

“I haven’t seen her.  But I have a feeling I know where she went.”  

Jackie Blackthorne

“Hello Renee,” Jackie Blackthorne said after she opened the door to her penthouse suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  She wore black pants and a white military inspired blouse with large gold buttons.  Her shoes were comfortable.  They reflected her hope for the day. 

“Jackie,” Renee DeWitt said indignantly as she brushed past her and stood, hands balled alongside her hips.  “I should have known you were back in Los Angeles.  I thought the air reeked of cheap perfume and blatant self loathing.”  

Jackie closed the door.  “I’d hoped to avoid another long, brutal winter on the east coast.  Some California sunshine is just what I-“  She stopped when she turned and saw Renee positioned up against the cushions on the plush overstuffed sofa.  “By all means, make yourself comfortable.” 

“I intend to,” Renee replied.  “Just as I intend to make you uncomfortable.  You may have wormed your way out of the drug cartel business last year in Acapulco, but this time you’ve hung yourself.  I won’t rest until you are behind bars for defrauding me out of Moonshadows.” 

“I’d forgotten how dramatic you could be.” 

“Save it,” Renee said and helped herself to a glass of champagne from the cocktail table.  “I know that you own Loomis Enterprises, the company that bought Moonshadows with the intent of destroying it and the land it sits on.  Did you think it wouldn’t come out eventually?  Your late husband bought that land to begin with.  No one else could have known about the oil except for you.” 

“Royce had a great many connections in the business world,” Jackie told her.  “Your father, for one.  What would you say if I told you that Royce and Charles were in on it together from the start?” 

Renee calmly rose from the sofa.  “I’d say you were trying to take my father’s reputation down along with yours.  That, dear Jackie, is something that I won’t stand for.”

Laughing, Jackie snatched the glass of champagne from her.  “Then you didn’t know your father as well as you claim to have.  Charles Merteuil knew a profitable venture when he saw one.”

“All right, I’ll bite,” Renee said and moved toward her, the heels of her stiletto’s digging into the high pile carpet of the parlor room.  “If this oil was such a good venture, why didn’t they drill?  Why build Moonshadows instead?” 

“Because your father couldn’t come up with his share of the capital to get the drilling started,” Jackie snapped.  “He was bankrupt, Renee.”

“Take that back, you viper.” 

“Did I push a button?  Could it be the great Charles Merteuil was not the savvy businessman you thought he was?  Everything your family had was on loan.  Frankly, I’m surprised Merteuil Industries survived.  Face it, your father was a loser.” 

The remark was met with a head rattling slap across the face.  Renee stood, glaring angrily at her, her entire body trembling.  “How dare you speak about my father that way?” 

Jackie instinctively touched her stinging face.  “It’s a fact.  Your mother hid it from you. She didn’t want you to know that your father was a drunk and a gambler.”  

Renee slapped her again, this time harder and with more conviction.  Jackie immediately retaliated by slapping her in return.  Renee teetered on her heels, regaining her balance and going at her with arms outstretched.  

“You bitch!” she screeched.

“Royce died before he could get another investor,” Jackie said, fending her off.  “The land sat empty until David took the project over.  By that time, no one knew about the oil.  It’s your father’s fault, Renee.  He couldn’t manage his finances to save his life, so everyone lost out.  All I’m doing now is taking back what was mine to start with.  And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you stand in my way.” 

“Then you obviously haven’t heard,” Renee said, grabbing her by the shoulders and throwing her again the wall.  “The permits were denied just this morning.  You can’t drill there, Jackie.  It looks like you went through the trouble of buying the land for nothing.”

“You’re lying,” Jackie said, pushing her away. 

“Find out for yourself,” Renee said.  “Kenny’s still on the Land Commission, remember?  It pays to have an ex-husband around when you need one.” 

“I could snap your neck in two!” Jackie screeched and attempted to slap her again. 

Renee caught her hand mid-air and smiled.  “Oh, and I’d start contacting some of those friends you made in Washington, because the FBI is investigating you for fraud and arsenic poisoning.  It looks like you won’t have to worry about another cold, harsh winter for a very long time.  Because it’ll be years before you take a step outside of your prison cell.”

“You just won’t rest until you ruin me, will you?” Jackie asked. 

Renee glared menacingly at her.  “Like you ruined my wedding to Kenny with that videotape of him in bed with a prostitute?” she asked.  “Believe me.  I’ve haven’t even begun to pay you back for the string of injustices you’ve done to me, Jackie.” 

With that, she turned and left the penthouse.  Jackie let out a deep breath, unnerved that Renee had seemingly one-upped her again.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda Blackthorne put the finishing touches on her makeup as she sat before the mirror in her bedroom.  Across the room, Brooke Taylor stared adoringly at Tiger who cooed in her crib, laughing each time she shook a toy giraffe at her.  

“She is so precious, Miranda,” Brooke said.  “She’s very lucky to have you and Eddie.”  

Miranda smiled.  “At first I was worried that Eddie wouldn’t be able to raise another man’s baby, but the fact that he wants to adopt her really gives me hope.” 

“Adopt her?” Brooke asked with surprise.  “Are you serious?” 

She nodded and pushed a powder brush over her nose.  “Well, yeah.  We’re going to be a family.  Eddie wants Tiger to grow up with a father.” 

Brooke suddenly realized that she’d made a mistake by not telling her about David.  She had no idea things had progressed the way Miranda described.  “There’s something you need to know first,” she began.  “Miranda, I found out that David-“

She was interrupted by a knock at the door.  Ethan Blackthorne walked inside and avoided eye contact with Brooke while addressing Miranda. 

“The minister wants to know if you finished writing your vows,” he said.  “If not, he said he can just go ahead and use the standard stuff.”  

Miranda looked at him knowingly.  “Tell Eddie that it’s not going to work.  We’re not using some generic fill-in-the-names vows that have been around for centuries.  He’s had a week to write these vows and I’m not letting him out of it.  Nice try, though.” 

“I’ll tell him,” Ethan said with a grin, then finally acknowledged Brooke with a nod of his head.  “Hi,” he said. 

“Hi,” Brooke replied awkwardly. 

After he’d gone, Miranda stood and walked toward her.  “Wow, whatever went on with the two of you these last couple of days must have been pretty bad.  That tension just now was ridiculous.  Are you okay?”  

Shaking her head, Brooke sat down on the bed.  “I honestly don’t know, Miranda.”  

“Hey,” she said and sat down next to her.  “You can talk to me.  We’re not enemies anymore, Brooke.  I promise there won’t be any tantrums from me like on you and daddy’s wedding day.”

Brooke couldn’t help but smile at the remark.  “We have come a long way, haven’t we?”  

“Absolutely.  You know, I never gave you a fair shake when it came to you and my father.  I was just a jealous brat.  I was afraid of another woman coming in and taking my father’s attention away from me.  And when you came along, I just lost it.  I was horrible to you. I retaliated by marrying Brett just because I knew it would piss daddy off, which I know put a strain on your marriage.  How did you not slap the snot out of me?” 

“You made it difficult to not want to,” Brooke admitted, then grew serious again.  “I don’t know.  After we got Michael back the other day, it was looking like Ethan and I had finally got on the same track.  We had such an amazing night together, Miranda.  It was exactly like it had been before the earthquake.  We really connected.” 

“So what happened?” Miranda asked.  “Brooke, something in the last two days had to have changed that because now you’re leaving.  It’s just not going to be the same around here without you.” 

“I need a fresh start,” Brooke said.  “Somewhere far, far away.”  

Brett Armstrong

“What are you doing here?” Brett Armstrong asked when Stormy Blackthorne walked into the offices at Sunset Studios.  “Your sister is getting married in less than two hours.”

“Actually, I came here to see you,” Stormy told him, digging his hands in the pockets of his tuxedo.  “I promised Miranda I’d make sure you were coming to the wedding.  She said she wants you to be there.” 

“What about Heather?” Brett asked.  “I’m sure I’m the last person she wants to see.  We’ve barely talked since she came back.  Every time I try to bring up the thing with me and Suzanne, she changes the subject or runs away.  She’s not ready to talk about it, and seeing me just reminds her of it.” 

“You can still go to the wedding without making things uncomfortable for Heather,” Stormy said.   

He frowned.  “Why do you care?  We’ve hated each other for years.  I’d think you would be doing cartwheels that I’m not at the wedding.” 

“We didn’t always hate each other,” Stormy said.  “When you and Miranda first got married, we were actually pretty tight.  It was like you were the brother that I never had.” 

“Except that now you do,” Brett told him with a smirk.  “Remember you have a half-brother now?” 

Stormy shook his head.  Keaton may be my brother by blood, but you were my friend.  What happened?  It can’t just be about Lauren Spencer and the way we passed her around like a piñata.” 

“Don’t take this the wrong way, junior, but you were always jealous of me.  Jealous because your father respected me more than he respected you.”  

Stormy began to fire off a slew of defensive remarks, but stopped himself when he realized something.  “You’re right,” he said.  “I was jealous.  I spent my whole life trying to please my father, and you walk in and do it with a hello. “ 

“James respects you, Stormy.  He just holds you to a higher level than anyone else because you’re his son.  You’re a Blackthorne.  When he’s gone, you’ll be the one to carry on the name.  Not Miranda.  Not me.  You.”

Stormy nodded thoughtfully.  “Are you coming?”  

Brett rose from the desk, lifting a box of personal items from the floor.  “Yes.” 

“What are you doing?” Stormy asked with a frown.  “Why are you packing your office?” 

“I’m leaving Sunset Studios,” Brett told him.  “I’m finally giving you what you’ve always wanted.”  

“You surprise me,” he said with a raised eyebrow.  “I thought you’d cling to this ship until you took your very last breath.” 

Brett smiled.  “I would have,” he said.  “But it’s time to move on.” 

“Why now?” Stormy asked.  “Buzz surrounding The Benefactor is at an all time high.  My father has every confidence in your abilities to help run the studio.” 

“I got an offer from the board of directors at Double Strike Studios,” Brett explained.  “Since Deacon’s suicide, they’ve been searching for a new CEO and they think I have what it takes.” 

“That’s incredible,” Stormy said.  “And a little ironic.” 

Brett laughed.  He had to agree with him.  While he’d gotten Deacon’s son arrested and pushed him into falling off the wagon, it hadn’t been all his doing that drove the man to suicide.  It seemed that confronting Keaton about his true parentage had been the last nail in his coffin.  Now he was reaping the rewards.  

Brett walked to the door with his box and paused while Stormy opened it for him.  “So I hope you can handle some friendly competition.  Now that I’m at the helm of Double Strike, I’ll be giving Sunset Studios a definite run for their money.”  

Stormy laughed.  “Why do I get the feeling we’ll be at each other’s throats for some time to come?”  

“It’s a pretty good bet,” Brett said and left the office after him. 

Jordan Rydell

When Jordan Rydell arrived at the Blackthorne mansion, he was dressed for the wedding in a brand new Hugo Boss tuxedo.  Heather had just come down the stairs from Miranda’s bedroom and approached him with a smile. 

“Hi,” she said and kissed him on the cheek.  “You look very handsome.” 

“Why, thank you, madam,” he said with a good natured smile.  “And you look very beautiful.” 

“Listen, I’m glad you’re here early because I wanted to talk to you about some ideas I had for the theatre.” 

He led her off to the side of the foyer.  “I’d love to talk to you about that, princess, but I actually came to talk to you about your mother.”  

Heather grew tense and turned away instinctively.  “Wait till you see Miranda’s dress.  She’s going to look so beautiful.  I think it’s really great that she and Eddie found each other.  You remember how in love with her Eddie was all through high school.  He-“ 

“Heather,” Jordan said in an effort to get her attention.  “I talked to Dr. Bouvier this morning.  I told him I was concerned that you weren’t dealing with what happened between your mother and Brett.  I need you to talk to me about what you’re feeling.  Because your mother had such a big part in the problems that you-“

“Miranda needs me,” Heather interrupted.  “I’m sorry, dad.  I can’t talk about this right now.”  

Before he could protest, she was racing from the room and upstairs to Miranda’s bedroom.  Sighing, Jordan turned just as Alex Reynolds walked in through the front door.   

“Hi,” she said and walked toward him in a winter white dress complete with matching beaded jacket.    “How is Lola?”  

“She woke up this morning,” he told her.  “The doctor said she’s going to make a full recovery.  She was relieved when I told her Marilee was in custody.  Alex, white?  Really?  Your daughter’s getting married today.”  

She shrugged and adjusted the lapels on her jacket.  “Miranda knows I can’t have another woman getting all the attention.  Besides, I’m the mother of the bride.  I can wear whatever I want.” 

He grinned and kissed her softly.  “You never stop amazing me.” 

“Good,” she said with a wink.

When the door opened and Renee entered, they both turned to acknowledge her.  

“Renee, I heard that you were back,” Alex said.  “How was France?”   

“France was wonderful,” Renee said, just as T.T. emerged from the study.  He fell in line beside her and kissed her softly.   

“I guess congratulations are in order,” Jordan said.  “I heard the good news.” 

“Thank you,” T.T. said and shook his hand.  “It’s been a long time in coming but I finally convinced this lady to make an honest man out of me.”  

“What about the two of you?” Renee asked.  “Are there wedding bells in your future?  They say the third time is a charm.” 

Jordan and Alex looked at each other silently for a few minutes.  “We haven’t really discussed that yet,” they both said in unison, then laughed.

“We’re testing the waters,” Alex added, looking into his eyes. 

“How did it go with Jackie?” T.T. said to Renee.

“She’s doing her best to hide it, but I think she’s scared.  These charges aren’t going to go away.  This time, she can’t manipulate her way out of it.”

“No, she can’t,” James agreed as he walked out of the parlor room.  “Unfortunately, Jackie is up to her old tricks again and I don’t see any way that she’s going to get out of it.”    

“Did she tell you what she was going to say at the press conference?”  T.T. asked.

What press conference?”  Renee demanded angrily. 

Mason Stone

In her suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Jackie rose from the sofa as Mason Stone entered.  

“Thank you for coming by, Mason,” she said.

“Your invitation had me curious.” 

“Champagne?” she asked and gestured to an open bottle on the bar.  

“No,” he said and sat down in a chair across the room.  “Just tell me why you called me here.  You have to know it was me that sold you out to the media as owner of Loomis Enterprises.  But you really left me no choice.” 

“I’m not one to hold a grudge,” Jackie said and poured herself a glass.  “Instead, I think we should get right down to business.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the press conference that I’ve called.” 

“No doubt your attempt at trying to weasel your way out of the charges Renee DeWitt has made against you.  I hear prisons are overcrowded in California.  With any luck you’ll be out in two or three years.”  

She smiled and lifted the glass.  “I won’t be going to prison, Mason.” 

“That’s not what the word is on the street.  You’ve defrauded the owners of Moonshadows.  Loomis Enterprises is in your name.  I’m afraid you’re fooling yourself if you think this is just going to go away.”  

“Actually, you’re the one who is going away.”   She walked to the desk and opened a drawer.  Inside was a stack of photographs.  “I didn’t necessarily trust you to handle things in an appropriate manner, so I hired a detective to follow you while I was in Washington.  He got some interesting shots.” 

Mason tensed and sat forward.  

“A picture of you with Senator Nordquist,” Jackie said as she flipped through the stack of pictures.   “This one shows a close up of the senator leaving your hotel room with a briefcase.  I wonder what was inside.”   

“Those are circumstantial,” Mason said.  “It doesn’t prove anything.”  

“Unfortunately, it does,” she said.  “The senator deposited quite a substantial sum of money into his bank account last week.  Now he seems to have disappeared.”  

“I paid him to get the drilling permits passed,” Mason said and jumped to his feet.  “I did that as much for you as I did for me.”   

Jackie turned to him.  “Oh, didn’t you hear?  The drilling permits were denied.  There’s not going to be any drilling at Moonshadows.  I assume the senator knew this and that’s why he left town with your money.”   

The news rattled Mason.  He began pacing the room.  “You’re saying we can’t get to the oil?  When did you find this out?   Now what are we going to do?”  

“I’m afraid you aren’t going to do anything,” Jackie told him.  “These photographs went to the FBI today, along with a statement from Chip Matthews indicating you admitted poisoning the water at Moonshadows.”

Mason raked his fingers through his hair.  “This can’t be happening,” he said.  “I am not going to prison for you.”  

“Bribing a politician and murder were not part of my plan,” Jackie said.

He shook his head.  “Buying the land was still your idea,” he said.  “It was your money.  There’s nothing you can do to change that.”  

“Don’t count on it,” Jackie said as she raised her glass and took a sip of champagne.   

Panicked, Mason raced from the room and down the hall to the elevator.  As soon as the doors opened, two men dressed in suits emerged brandishing their badges.  

“Mason Stone, you’re under arrest for bribing a federal official, one count of murder, and multiple counts of attempted murder.” 

“You’re making a mistake,” he said, struggling.  “It was her idea.  I didn’t do anything that she wouldn’t have done herself.”  

Jackie watched from the doorway as they led him away in handcuffs.  Smiling, she closed the door and finished her champagne. 

Jackie Blackthorne

“I do own Loomis Enterprises,” Jackie said half an hour later in a small conference room in the hotel.   “It is my company.”

The reporters at the press conference watched intently, some holding microphones or cameras and others recording her statement on various handheld devices.  At the back of the room, Renee watched with her arms folded.  

“I purchased the company only two days ago from Mason Stone, an acquaintance of my late husband, Royce Jennings.  When I learned that Mr. Stone intended to destroy the beautiful land that was once Moonshadows by drilling for oil, I knew I had to do something.  As many of you know, Moonshadows was a dream of both my husband and my son, David.  Stopping Mason Stone and Loomis Enterprises from turning it into an oil field was my only motivation.”

“I do not believe this,” Renee said to herself, amazed that Jackie was going to wiggle her way out of yet another one of her messes.  

“Moments ago, Mason Stone was apprehended by the FBI for a list of crimes he committed in association with the purchase of this land,” Jackie went on.  “Now that all the red tape has been cleared away, I can announce that no drilling will take place at Moonshadows.  Furthermore, I have donated the land to the state of California for millions of people to enjoy as a public park.”  

Applause erupted from the crowd.  Reporters began asking questions, but Jackie stepped down and left the microphone to the moderator.  

“That concludes the press conference,” the woman said.  “Questions can be directed to the state in regards to plans for the opening of the park.”  

Jackie walked to the back of the room where Renee stood.    “Looks like I’ll won’t be going to jail after all,” she said.  “Sorry to disappoint you, Renee.” 

“You gave that land away knowing how important it was to David,” Renee said with a shake of her head.  “I have a feeling he’s not going to share in your victory when he returns.” 

Jackie frowned.  “What do you mean when he returns?”  

Smiling, Renee pulled her purse over her shoulder.  “Oh this is too much.  Your own son didn’t tell you the good news?  Well, I won’t spoil the surprise.”  She turned and began walking away.

“Renee!” Jackie called after her.  “What do you mean when David returns?!” 

Renee continued walking, happy that Jackie at least lost out when it came to what really mattered. 

James Blackthorne

From his bedroom window, James could see the wedding guests beginning to arrive.  He turned just as Alex entered the room and smiled. 

“You never could tie a bowtie,” she said, walking toward him and making the necessary adjustments.  “Can you believe our little girl is getting married again?”

James sighed.  “She isn’t our little girl anymore,” he said.  “She’s a grown woman with a daughter of her own.  This time tomorrow she’ll be living in her own house.  I feel like it’s the end of an era.”  

“Miranda looks up to you,” Alex said, tilting her head and admiring him.  “You’ve been her world for her entire life.  Now it’s time for her to be that to her own daughter.”  

“She looked up to you too, you know.”  

Alex shook her head and walked across the room.  “No, I haven’t been there for her the way you have. Our relationship is different.”  

“You taught her how to be strong, independent,” James corrected her.  “You’ve done that for both of our children.  Everything that’s good about them, they get from you.”  

Alex turned and walked across the bedroom.  She stopped and arranged a bouquet of flowers that rested on the dresser.  

“And Keaton?” she asked.  “What wonderful qualities does he get from me?”

“Keaton didn’t grow up with you as a mother,” James reminded her.  “Listen to me.  You did what you had to do.  You were young.  Things were different then.  Despite what Keaton may feel about his childhood, he did not grow up wanting for anything.  From the sounds of it, the Hartleys were very loving parents.  You have nothing to feel guilty about.” 

Alex shook her head.  “You didn’t see the look in his eyes the other day at my apartment.  The sense of abandonment he felt.”

“Marilee told Nathan that Keaton had abandonment issues,” James said.  “It stemmed back long before he found out he was adopted. Friends, girlfriends, it was always the same story.  Let it go, Alex.”  

“But he’s my son,” she said and looked at him solemnly.  

He pulled her into an embrace and did his best to soothe her worries.  “I’m glad that my father was there for you to confide in, but I wish you would have told me.  I was your husband for almost twenty-five years.”  

“I told Marcus in a moment of weakness,” Alex said.  “It had nothing to do with how I felt about you, James.  You have to believe that.”  

He smiled and took her hand in his.  “Are you ready to give our daughter away?”  

“Would you stop talking like I’m a litter of kittens?” Miranda said when she entered the room in a silk robe, her hair and makeup nearly finished.  “I hate that expression. Giving me away.” 

“At least they found someone who would take you,” Stormy joked when he entered after her. 

“Funny,” Miranda said.  “Daddy, I need help with my vows.  Eddie and I decided to write our own but I can’t put them into words.  What am I going to do?”  

“Just say what’s on your mind,”  James said.  “You’ve never had a problem with that in the past.  Why should now be any different?” 

“You’re definitely strong willed,” Alex agreed with a smile.  “You both are.  That’s what makes you Blackthornes.”  

Some of us get ourselves into trouble when we say what’s on our mind,” Stormy said wryly as he gestured to his sister. 

Miranda rolled her eyes.  “I can’t wait to move out of here so I don’t have to listen to that crap anymore.”  

“You know,” Alex began.  “It’s not very often that the four of us are together in the same room.  I like it.  We should try to make it a more regular thing.  

James smiled.   “I agree.” 

“Does that include Keaton?” Stormy asked cynically.  “He’s technically our brother.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you had another child, mom.” 

“Yeah, me too,” agreed Miranda.  “At least you told us before we found out from the media.” 

“Your mother has her reasons for what she did,” James said.  “All we can do is support her.  That’s what families do.” 

Miranda smiled and gave her mother a quick squeeze.  “I love you.” 

“I love you too, sweetheart,” Alex said, then turned to Stormy.  “Both of you.” 

Eddie Distefano

Downstairs, Eddie was pacing back and forth in the family room, murmuring to himself as he tried to memorize the vows he’s written in a few moments of haste.

“I’m never going to be able to do this,” he said, placing the palm of his hand on his forehead and hitting it repeatedly.  “You know how I freeze in front of a crowd.  I won’t be able to remember any of this. “

“Sure you will,” Stormy said as he entered with Jane.

“Just speak from your heart,” Jane said.  “You know how you feel about Miranda.  Just tell her that.” 

“That’s easy for you to say,” Eddie told her, sweating profusely.

The door opened and Blake walked in. 

“Hey, can you guys excuse us for a minute?” Eddie asked.  

“No problem,” Stormy said and led Jane out of the room. 

Once they were gone, Eddie walked over to Blake and pulled him into an embrace.  “Thanks for being here, bro.  I really need all the support I can get.” 

“Why wouldn’t I be here?” Blake asked.  “You’re my brother.  I have to see for myself that there’s a girl that actually wants to marry you.” 

Eddie laughed and went to pour a glass of water.  “Is Sheldon with you?”  

“No. Why?” 

“I just thought he would be.  Aren’t you two like…you know…a couple?”  

Blake shrugged.  “I guess.  I don’t know. I just didn’t want to bring him and like rub your face in it or anything.”  

Eddie shook his head and went toward him.  “You seem to have this idea that I’m pissed or disappointed that you…you know…like dudes.  I’m not.  I’m happy for you.  I mean, whatever makes you happy makes me happy.” 

“Really?” 

“Dude, we’re brothers.  There’s nothing you could tell me that would make me stop loving you.  I’m marrying Miranda and adopting Tiger, but you’ll always be my little bro.  That will never change.” 

“Cool,” Blake said and dug his hands in the pockets of his tuxedo.  “So…you seen dad?”  

Eddie nodded.  “He should be here soon if he’s not already.  Look, Blake, I can’t tell you what to do or how to feel, but I know he wants to be in your life.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  He just went through a pretty hairy ordeal.  And he’s been on his meds since he came back.  I really think he’s in a good place.” 

“You forgave him?”

Eddie shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I haven’t told him specifically that I forgave him for all the nutty shit he did, but he’s our dad.  Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?” 

Blake sighed and adjusted the cufflinks on his shirt.  “Maybe,” he said, then paused for a few minutes.  “So it’s okay if I call Sheldon and ask him to come?” 

“Of course it is,” Eddie said and pulled him into an embrace.  “Besides, I gotta warn him about some of your bad habits.  Dude, seriously, clean your room.  Once I’m gone no one’s going to be there to remind you.  It’s sick. Seriously.” 

Blake hit him playfully and hugged him again.  Just then, Stormy walked into the room again. 

“Showtime,” he said and motioned to the doorway. 

Brooke Taylor

Upstairs, Brooke left Miranda with Jane and walked out into the hall where she ran into Renee. 

“The bride all ready?” she asked. 

“Just about,” Brooke said with a smile. 

Renee took her aside and placed a hand over hers.  “Brooke, I know it’s none of my business, but what is going on with you and Ethan?  Two days ago you appeared to be on the road to a reunion, and now you’re leaving town, and not with him.  What happened?”  

* * *

Thirty-Six Hours Earlier

“Last night was wonderful,” Brooke said as she dressed the following morning.  “I feel like the last two years never happened.  Kyle, Emmett, the earthquake.  It’s like it was all a bad dream.” 

Ethan managed a faint smile as he buttoned his shirt by the window.  He nodded but managed to concern her enough to get up and approach him. 

“What is it?” Brooke asked.  “Did I say something?”  

He placed a hand over his face before taking her and leading her to the bed.  “I have to be honest with you about something, Brooke,” he said.  “Last night when I left, I went to see Mackenzie.”  

“Oh?” She swallowed, unsure of what he was getting at.  

“I went to tell her that I wanted to keep seeing her,” he explained.  “That nothing had changed between us and that I wanted to make it work with her.”

“Oh,” Brooke said again, this time in a clip tone as she pulled her hand away from him. 

“She told me that it was over,” Ethan went on.  “That you and I getting back together was inevitable.” 

Brooke stood up.  “Is that why you came back here and made love to me?” 

“It shouldn’t have happened like that,” he said and followed her across the room.  “I’m sorry.  I was hurt and angry.  Maybe a little bit still in shock over everything that happened with Michael.  I didn’t mean to lead you on, Brooke.  The truth is, I don’t think we can make it work.  Too much has happened.” 

A tear fell from her eyes as she made her way across the room.  “You’d think you would have told me that before we slept together again.”  

“I think we needed each other last night,” he said.  “But Brooke, can you honestly look at me and say that you believe we have what it takes to make it?  That after everything, we can still be a family?”  

She thought hard about what he asked of her.  Voices echoed in her mind reminding her that she’d questioned the very same thing over and over again since the day he came back into her life.  Even Philip questioned it.  The truth was, she didn’t know.  Reaching out to him last night had been in an effort to feel comfort in the arms of someone she felt safe with.  And yes, Ethan did make her feel safe.  But beyond that, she didn’t know.  

“Maybe not,” she finally said. 

Ethan went to her and took her hands in his.  “You’ll always be very important to me,” he said.  “We’ll always share something.  We’ll always have our son.  Right now I just don’t think we can have more than that.”  

Brooke wiped a tear from her eye and nodded.  “What is wrong with us?” she asked.  “Why has it always been so hard?” 

“I don’t know,” he replied. 

They were silent for a long time, holding each other, walking away, then winding up in each other’s arms again.  It felt very final.  Tears were shed by both of them.   Finally, Brooke wiped her eyes and turned toward him. 

“I’d like to take Michael and go away for a while,” she said.

“Leave?” he asked.  “Brooke, you can’t run away.” 

She shook her head adamantly.  “I’m not running away this time.  I just need time to sort things out.  I need a fresh start, and getting away from everything here is the only way I know how to do that.  I know how much you love Michael, and I would never dream of taking him away from you.  But I need to do this, Ethan.  At least for a little while.”  

“Where will you go?” he asked.  

"I don’t know,” she said.  “I’ll figure that out when I get there.”  

He walked toward her and took her hands in his.  “I just want you to be happy,” he said.

“That’s all I want for you too,” Brooke replied, placing a hand alongside his face before turning and racing from the room. 

* * *

Today

“When are you leaving?” Renee asked. 

“Tomorrow morning,” Brooke replied.

Renee pulled her into an embrace.  “You are one of the strongest women I’ve known,” she said.  “You’re so brave.” 

Brooke shook her head.  Please.  I have nothing on you.  After what you’ve lost, to pick yourself up again and find happiness.  I can only hope that I find even a fraction of the strength you have.” 

Renee looked down solemnly.  She had lost quite a bit.  A business, a home, and above all else a daughter.  She’d went away and done just what Brooke was planning to do.  Now she was on the road to happiness.  She couldn’t fault her for wanting the same for herself. 

Suddenly, the door to the bedroom opened and Jane emerged.  Behind her, Miranda appeared in a flowing white vintage Alexander McQueen gown with beaded accents and a veil hanging from a diamond tiara.  

“You look beautiful,” Renee said and kissed her.  

“James is waiting downstairs in the foyer to walk you,” Brooke announced.  “Are you ready?”  

Miranda nodded affirmatively.  “Ready as I’ll ever be.”  

From below, they heard commotion in the foyer.  They gazed down over the top of the stairs and spotted Jackie barreling inside, a furious expression on her face. 

“Jackie?  What the devil are you doing here?”  James began.

“Where is she?” she demanded.  “Where is that no-good ex-wife of yours?” 

“What are you talking about?” James demanded.  “We’re about to have a wedding.  One that you weren’t invited to, by the way.”  

Jackie brushed past him and started across the foyer.  Just then, Brooke walked down the stairs, Renee hovering close behind.   Miranda and Jane remained at the top of the stairs watching the awkward situation unfold.  

“I assume it’s me you’re looking for,” Brooke said.  “What is it, Jackie?  Like James said, we’re about to have a wedding.  Or did you decide to ruin that, too?  It wasn’t enough that you took Moonshadows.  You have to take a young woman’s wedding day from her too?”  

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me about David?” Jackie demanded. 

“What?” Brooke asked. 

Above, Miranda’s interest peaked.  She walked to the edge of the staircase so she could listen more clearly. 

“You knew that David underwent an experimental surgery and you never bothered to tell me,” Jackie went on.  “He’s my son.  You didn’t think I’d want to know that he wasn’t going to die?” 

“Brooke?” James asked.  “Is this true?”

“Oh my God,” Miranda gasped and grabbed Jane’s hand for support. 

Brooke shifted uncomfortably on her feet.  “I only found out a few days ago,” she said.  “Kyle knew about it but he kept it from me.”  She directed her attention back to Jackie.  “This is not the time or the place to discuss this.  Can you blame David for not telling you himself?  What does that say about the relationship the two of you have?" 

“Just because you and David have the same father does not mean you get to call the shots where he is concerned,” Jackie spat hatefully.   I’m his mother.”

“David’s not going to die?” Miranda asked. 

“Not yet anyway,” a voice said from the other side of the foyer. 

Turning, Brooke saw David Jennings enter from the kitchen where the side door of the house was located.  He was thinner and his hair was very short, but he was the same brother she remembered.  

“Oh my God,” Jackie said, brushing past her and throwing her arms around her son.  “David!  I don’t believe it!”  

“Believe it,” he replied and hugged her.  “It looks like I’m interrupting something.” 

Brooke made her way toward him and paused, looking into his eyes and smiling with elation.  “You’re really here,” she said.  “And you’re-“

“Cancer free,” he said.  “By last check, anyway.  How are you, little sister?”

Brooke pulled him close. “A lot better now that you’re here,” she said.  “I can’t believe you’re okay.  The doctors were so sure that you weren’t going to make it.” 

“Not all of them,” he said and shook James’s hand.  “I’m sorry I had to keep this all on the down low.  If the operation didn’t work, I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.”  

“You should have told me,” Jackie said.  “David, I’m your mother.”  

“We’ll talk about you later, mother.  I have a few things I’d like to get off my chest about your recent activities.  About Moonshadows, in particular.  I bought it back, by the way.”

“You what?” Jackie asked. 

“Let’s just say the state of California’s economy just got a big boost thanks to me,” he said.  “It’ll cost me a bundle to get it up and running again, but at least I'll know my father’s dream wasn’t for nothing.  Well, his dream after abandoning plans to drill for oil.” 

“You knew about the oil?” James asked.

“Of course I did,” David said with a smile.  He turned just as Miranda arrived at the bottom of the stairs.  Looking at her in her wedding dress, he couldn’t help but take a step back.  “Wow.  You look…amazing.”  

Miranda ran up and threw her arms around him.  “I’ve never been so happy to see someone alive in my life,” she said.   “David, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.” 

Renee and Brooke looked at each other warily.

“I’d better go tell them that it’ll be a little bit,” Jane said and made her way outside through the back door. 

“It looks like you’re busy,” David said to Miranda with a good-natured smile.  “I’m sorry to just barge in like this.  I was hoping I could see you.  And the baby.”  

Miranda froze, unsure of what to do or say.  David didn’t know that he was Tiger’s father.  How could he?  He’d been away for a year.  

Eddie Distefano

Outside, Canon in D played over the speakers.  Guests were in their seats.  The minister was standing beneath the trellis, and Eddie was in position waiting for Miranda, with Stormy and Blake, his best men, standing to the side.  On the right, Heather was standing quietly.   A fleeting moment of panic overcame him when he kept checking the house for any sign of Miranda.  It seemed to be taking a long time for her to emerge.   He wondered if something was wrong. 

When Jane came rushing outside and up to the trellis, his worries were confirmed.  She leaned in and whispered in his ear.  Stormy approached to see what the problem was.  Wedding guests began to chatter in hushed whispers.  Eddie stood back and attempted to hide his panic.  

“Small technical difficulty,” he announced, backing up down the aisle.  “If everyone can just…you know….hang on for a few minutes, we’ll get this show on the road.”

With that, he tore up the lawn to the house with Stormy and Jane following fast on his heels.  Heather went after them.  As she made her way down the aisle, Brett got up from his seat and approached her.

“Is everything okay?” he asked, reaching a hand out to stop her. 

“It’s fine,” she said and shrugged him away.

“Heather, if I can help-“

“You can’t,” she said and darted off. 

In the front row, Kelly sat between Leilani and Matthew, grinning as she folded her arms in amusement.  She couldn’t help but wonder what Miranda had done this time.

David Jenner

David took Tiger from Miranda and held her in his arms.  They were alone upstairs in the nursery, the others still waiting down in the foyer for them to emerge.  

“She’s beautiful,” David said.  “She’s-“ 

“Yours,” Miranda told him. 

David’s eyes lit up as he held the infant.  “I have a daughter?” he said as more of a statement than a question.

“You were gone for a long time, David,” Miranda said and moved across the room in her wedding dress.  “We thought you were going to die.”  

“I thought I was too,” David told her.  “But when you told me that you were pregnant, and that the baby could be mine, I thought about how much I would regret not being able to hold my own child.  I knew I had to have the surgery.  I didn’t care about the risks.” 

“Eddie and I are getting married today,” she said.  “He loves Tiger.  He loves her as if she were his own.” 

David placed the baby back in her crib.  “I can’t pretend that I feel like I missed out on something,” he said.  “I mean, I know it was never easy between us, but it was very hard leaving here, and you were the big reason for that.”

Outside the room, Eddie appeared.  He hung in the doorway and watched them for a few minutes. 

“David, don’t,” Miranda said, tears in her eyes.  “You knew how I felt about Eddie before you left.”  

He smiled and walked toward her, reaching a hand out and holding it alongside her face.   Miranda placed her hand around his and looked into his eyes.   

“David, yeah…uh… hi…” Eddie said and burst into the room.

“Eddie,” he acknowledged.  “I hear congratulations are in order.”  

“Yeah, you too,” Eddie said and put his arm around Miranda.  “You know, for being alive and stuff.”  

“I told him about Tiger,” Miranda said.  

“Oh, great,” Eddie said.  “Well, thanks for stopping by, David.  If you’ll excuse us, we have vows to recite.  Vows that I wrote myself, by the way, and with no help from Stormy or Blake.”  

“David, there’s something else you should know,” Miranda began.  “Eddie was going to adopt Tiger.  We wanted her to have a father.” 

“You were?” David asked in surprise.  “Oh.  I see.”  

“Yeah, I mean I’ve been here the whole time.  Watching her in these first few weeks of her life.  Doing all the things a father’s supposed to do.”  

“Obviously, now that you’re back, that won’t be possible,” Miranda continued.  “David, you’re Tiger’s father.  You have a right to be in her life.  She needs to know you.”  

Eddie groaned in frustration and turned away.  “Great,” he murmured.  “So he decides to go away and not tell anyone that he’s not dying, we go on with our lives, and then he comes back and we’re just supposed to forget everything?  Forget the plans we had?”  

“No,” Miranda said and reached out to him.  “We’re still getting married, Eddie.  I still love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.  But David is Tiger’s father.  What else am I supposed to do?”  

“I don’t know,” Eddie said sullenly.  “Everything is just messed up as usual.”

“Look, I don’t want to get in the way of your plans,” David said.  “If Miranda’s found what makes her happy, then I’m happy too.  But I do want to be in my daughter’s life.”

Eddie took a deep breath.  “And you should be,” he said with great difficulty.  “I guess being a step father is not so bad.” 

“You’re going to be a great step-father,” Miranda said and kissed him.  “Thank you, Eddie.”  

Reluctantly, he reached his hand out to David.  “I am glad you’re back, and…you know…not dead.”  

“Thanks,” David said.  “Look, I’ll leave you to your special day.  I’m sorry that I nearly ruined it.”  

“You didn’t,” Eddie said quickly and pulled Miranda close again.  He looked at her.  “Babe, you look super hot, by the way.” 

“Thanks.”  She walked to the door.  “David, we’d like you to stay.  I know there are people who would like to see you.”  

“I’d like that,” he said.  

Eddie bit his lip, realizing he would have to deal with David Jennings being in their lives from there on out.  He still felt like he had everything in the world.  A beautiful wife, a daughter whom he thought of as his own, and a perfect life that awaited them. 

Miranda Blackthorne

“Miranda, I take you to be my wife,” Eddie said a short time later once they were back in front of the minister.  “I met you when I was five years old.  I remember thinking you were just my best friend Stormy’s bratty little sister.  But then we got older and you turned into this super hot babe.  I felt like such a dork whenever I was around you, even during your goth phase.  I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to ask you out, but I was so insecure.  I don’t even think you knew who I was most of the time aside from being Victor Distefano's son." 

Miranda smiled, holding his hand as they stood before their guests.  Alex cried in the front row, clutching Jordan’s hand as she dabbed a tissue around her eyelids.  On the other side of the aisle, Victor sat laughing at each joke his son told. 

“But then I got my wish,” Eddie went on.  “You finally stopped and looked at me, and that’s when my feelings for you turned to wow, this super hot babe is a beautiful person inside and out.   I was hooked.” 

Standing behind him, Stormy rolled his eyes at his friend’s choice of words, then exchanged smiles with Jane standing beside Heather on the other side of the minister. 

“Miranda, I vow to love you for the rest of my life,” Eddie continued.  “To protect you and to cherish you.  I’ll be the greatest stepfather in the world and I will do everything I can to make our home a warm and loving place.  I love you more than anything in the world.”  

Tears collecting on her eyelashes, Miranda blinked them away and tried to control her quivering voice.   “Eddie, I take you to be my husband.  Ever since I can remember, I thought you were just my brother Stormy’s dorky best friend.  I seriously knew more about the homeless guy who lives under the 405 than I did about you.”

A loud, booming laugh erupted from Victor as he swallowed a small black pill and took a flask from Nathan. 

“But then I looked past the geeky façade, the dorky haircuts, the stuttering and the tripping over stuff, and saw a man with a bitchin’ body and a heart the size of California.  Eddie, you see things in me that no one else does.  You overlook the things that I hate about myself and you make me laugh every single day that we’re together.  I can’t wait to spend the next sixty years of my life with you.”  

“Eddie, place the ring on Miranda’s finger,” the minister said. 

They exchanged rings and stared adoringly into one another’s eyes.  In the back row, David watched and managed a faint smile.    When the minister asked if anyone had reason to object to the wedding, he remained silent.  His time with Miranda had passed.  He’d been given a second chance at living, and at being a father.  For now, that was all he cared about. 

“By the power vested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you husband and wife.  You may kiss the bride.”  

Applause rang out as they kissed.  The guests rose from their chairs and cheered as they made their way back up the aisle.   James placed an arm around Alex and kissed her on the cheek.  Brooke watched Ethan and wondered what would happen if things had turned out differently for them.   Renee embraced T.T. and rejoiced in their own happiness.  Jackie sat in the back, stewing over the outcome of her plans.  Brett watched Heather and wondered if they would ever come to terms with their past.  He knew he had to keep trying.  He finally felt like he was settled and in a good place.  Without her, none of it mattered to him. 

Alex Reynolds

Alex snuck out of the reception when no one was looking.  Since her talk with James and the children, she couldn’t think of anything else but confronting her past.  As much as she wanted to pretend it didn’t exist, she couldn’t.  She had to see Keaton again.  

He was being detained on charges of breaking and entering and possession of an illegal firearm with intent to do harm.  She still believed he wouldn’t have hurt her.  No matter what happened in his past, he just seemed like a very emotionally damaged young man.  

“I never thought I’d see you again,” Keaton said, holding the phone receiver and staring through the glass pane that separated them. 

“I’m not sure why I came,” she said.  “I just knew that I had to see you.  How long are you going to be in here?”  

He shrugged.  “My lawyer said it could be a few months.” 

“Are they treating you well?” she asked but didn’t know why.  It sounded like such a motherly thing to say, and she felt like anything but his mother.

“I guess,” Keaton replied.  A few moments of awkward silence passed.  “I meant what I said,” he began.  “I had no intention of hurting you the other day in your apartment.  I’m so sorry for scaring you.”  

“I understand why you did it.” 

“You do?” 

She thought about it and shook her head.  “Maybe not entirely.  But I know that you haven’t had an easy time of it.  You’re a very high-strung man, Keaton.  You remind me…”  Her voice trailed off.

“I remind you of what?”

“You remind me of myself,” she finished, choking back a few tears.  “What are you going to do when you get out?” 

Keaton shrugged.  “Try to get another job.  I love what I do.  I love making films.  It’s all I’ve ever cared about.”  

“Good,” Alex said and nodded affirmatively.  “You’re a natural director.  I have a feeling you’ll be very successful.”  

“What about you?” Keaton asked her.  “What’s next for you?”  

“I’m not sure,” Alex told him.  “I realized something about myself recently.  I came here to make it big and I did.  I’ve had many successes.”   

“Your films have always been well received.” 

“I’m not talking about my films,” Alex said.  “I’m talking about my children.  Stormy and Miranda.  They’re what I’m most proud of.  Everything else is just a paycheck.”  

“Miranda’s wedding was today,” Keaton observed.  “Aren’t you missing it?” 

“I’m headed back there now,” Alex said.  “I just wanted to come and tell you that I hope you find happiness in whatever you’re looking for, Keaton.” 

He shuddered at the finality of her words.  “You too.”   

“Take care of yourself,” she said and rose from her chair.  After one final glance into his eyes, she hung up the phone and walked away, the sound of her heels clicking on the tiled floor.  

Outside, she pulled her phone from her purse and unfolded a scrap of paper she’d received from the police.  It was the phone number for the Hartleys in upstate New York.  She dialed the number and waited for an answer. 

“Mrs. Hartley?” she said.  “My name is Alex Reynolds.  Keaton is in trouble, Mrs. Hartley.  He needs you.  He needs his mother.”  

Brett Armstrong

Back at the reception, Brett watched Heather interacting with Stormy and Miranda from across the room.  He only took his eyes off her when James approached, a taut expression on his face. 

“What’s this I hear about you moving over to Double Strike Studios?” he asked him gruffly.  

Eyes wide, Brett swallowed hard.  “I was going to tell you myself, James, but I know how crazy things have been around here lately.  Look, I want you to know that I appreciate the opportunities you’ve given me.  It’s just time that I move on.”   

“Is that so?”

Brett nodded.  Was James really pissed that he was leaving the studio?  His question was answered when he was suddenly pulled into an embrace, James patting him firmly on the back. 

“I’m proud of you, Brett,” James said.  “You’ve made your own way in this industry and created a name for yourself.  Not bad for a con man who hitched onto my daughter one drunken night in Vegas six years ago.”  

Brett smiled, relieved that there appeared to be no hard feelings.  “Thanks.  I meant what I said.  I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.”  

“You’ve been like another son to me.  You’ve gotten this family out of our share of jams.  I’m going to miss not having you in my corner.  But I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of you.  I’m sure you’ll turn Double Strike around and make it a force to be reckoned with.”    

“I’ll do my best,” Brett said, shaking his hand when he extended it to him. 

After James left, he turned and looked at Heather again.  He decided it was now or never.  He had to get through to her.  Things were going too well for him to not try again.  

“I told you I can’t talk to you right now,” Heather said when he approached.  “Brett, just leave me alone.”  

“No,” he said defiantly.  “Look, I know you’re dealing with things the best you can, but you have to talk to me.  We have to work this out.  If nothing else so we can get some closure.” 

“Brett, I said no!” she snapped and ran off into the foyer. 

When Miranda and Stormy saw her reaction, they went to intercept her.

“Are you okay?” Miranda asked.  “I’m sorry if his being here upsets you.  It was my idea.  I can ask him to leave.” 

“It’s fine, Miranda,” Heather said, preoccupying herself with arranging the card box on the gift table. 

“Do you need to talk?” Stormy asked.  “I’m always here for you, Heather.” 

“No,” she said, growing frazzled. 

“Do you want to leave, princess?” Jordan asked when he approached.

“I can drive you,” Stormy indicated. 

“STOP IT!!” Heather screamed, backing up away from them and placing her hands alongside her head.

“Heather,” Miranda said and reached out to her.  “What is it?” 

“I wish you would all just stop acting like I’m going to break!” she screamed.  Brett heard the commotion and walked over to them.  “I’m not a child!  I don’t need to be coddled!” Heather continued.

“We’re not coddling you,” Jordan said.  “We’re just worried about you.” 

“I am not going to lose it again,” she said, annunciating each syllable clearly.  “I am fine.  I feel like ever since I came back everyone has been walking on eggshells around me.  Why can’t you all just accept that I don’t want to talk about my mother and Brett?”

“I just wanted to explain,” Brett said to her.

“Explain what?” she demanded in a shrill voice.  “Look, I get it.  I read all about it in her book.  The two of you got close.  You were raising Violet on your own.  My mother was there.  You slept together.  What more is there to say?”  

Miranda frowned and looked between her and Brett and Jordan.  “We just thought you were trying to suppress it.  You know, like you did those other things before you went away.” 

“Forgive me if it’s not my favorite topic of conversation,” Heather protested.  “Look, I appreciate your concern.  All of you.  But you don’t have to do this.  I am fine.”  

“Look, Heather, maybe you should talk to Brett,” Stormy suggested.   He ignored the looks of wonderment that came from Miranda and Jordan.  “You have a child together.  It might make things easier if you get things out in the open.”  

She sighed and dropped her hands to her sides in resignation.  “Fine.”  She motioned to Brett.  “Let’s talk.”  

Nathan Blackthorne

When Alex returned from the police station, she ran into Nathan smoking a cigarette outside on the front drive.   Frowning, she walked up the steps and regarded him carefully.

“I thought you gave up smoking years ago,” she said.  

Nathan sighed and looked at the cigarette in his hand.  “I did,” he said.  “But in light of recent events, I started again.  Curses.  The way I figure it is, I didn’t get off’d by a serial killer so I can afford a few of these.”  He handed one to Alex and she took it grudgingly.   “I won’t tell Jordan.”  

“Thank you for getting Marilee to confess,” she said.  “If you hadn’t, she would have come after Lola again, and I know how devastated Jordan would be to lose her.”  

“What’s with the unwarranted niceties?” Nathan asked with a grin.  “Could Alex Reynolds be softening toward her former mentor?” 

“No,” she said matter-of-factly.  “You and I are not going to be friends, Nathan.  But I do think you’ve changed.  Not that it takes away anything you may have done in the past.” 

“Fair enough,” he said.  “You went to see Keaton?” 

She nodded.  “He’s a very troubled young man.  His parents are on their way out here to take care of him.”  

“What about you?  You’re his mother.” 

Alex shook her head. “His mother is Alice Hartley.  I’m just the woman who gave birth to him.”  

Nathan inhaled and blew a stream of smoke into the air.   

“Why did you come to my apartment that day a few weeks ago?” Alex asked him after a few minutes.  “You said you wanted to tell me something.”

He thought about the day he was faced with his own mortality, not knowing if he would live or die at the hands of the killer.  He’d grown to regret many of his mistakes, starting with what he’d done to Alex. 

“Just that I was sorry,” he said.   

Alex stubbed out her cigarette and walked to the door.  “Thank you for saying that, Nathan.  But you’ll understand if I can’t forgive you.  Sadly, what you did to me was not nearly as bad as what Deacon Edgewater did.  He made me feel like I wouldn't amount to anything in Hollywood without his help.  That’s about the only consolation I can give you.” 

“Understood,” Nathan said and watched as she walked back inside.  

Jordan found her in the foyer and led her off through a group of wedding guests and into the parlor room.  

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” he said.

“I had something to do,” Alex replied and kissed him.  “But I’m back now.  Did you miss me?”  

He smiled.  “Of course I did.”  

Alex sighed and sat down on the sofa.  “Things are really starting to look up, aren’t they?”  

“Things are getting better,” Jordan and sat down beside her.  “I’m very lucky that you’ve stuck by me.  You had every right to walk away and never look back.”  

“You were in pain.  Not the kind of pain that I could ever comprehend, but I still understood.”  

Jordan took her hand.  “So what did you think of the wedding?”

“It was beautiful.  Miranda and Eddie look so happy.” 

“Do you think we could ever be that happy?”

She smiled.  “I do.  As long as we don’t repeat the same mistakes again.” 

Jordan reached into his pocket and casually slipped a ring on her finger.  “What would you do if I asked you to marry me again?”  

“Jordan!” Alex exclaimed as she stared at the enormous diamond ring.  “When did you-“ 

“The other day,” he said.  “Look, we don’t have to rush into anything.  We can see where things go.  Like you said, as long as we don’t keep making the same mistakes, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work this time.”   

She pulled him into an embrace, gazing at the ring over his shoulder.

Stormy Blackthorne

You’re moving out too?” James exclaimed.  “What is this?  All my children are leaving me?”  

“At least we’re married,” Miranda said while giving her brother a jab with her elbow.  “Stormy and Jane are going to be living in sin.” 

“I just thought it was time I moved out on my own,” Stormy said.  “And Jane agreed to move in with me.  I didn’t want to say anything until after the wedding.  Miranda hates being upstaged.” 

“Okrrrr?” Miranda said with a shrug and a flip of her hair.     

“I think it’s wonderful,” James said and gave them each a hug.  “But I must say, I’m going to miss having R.J. around.” 

Miranda detected a look of dejection in his eyes.  “Daddy, are you okay?” 

He nodded.  “It’s going to be a very empty house in a couple days.  Brooke and Michael leaving, Miranda and Tiger, now Stormy and R.J.  I’m sure Renee and T.T. will be moving into their own place soon.  I’m not sure how I feel about having my own bachelor pad.”   

“Ethan will still be here,” Stormy said, realizing it was little comfort to him.  “Listen, we’ll probably be here all the time anyway.  I mean, Miranda can’t cook, and R.J. is going to want to ride those horses when he gets old enough.  Believe me, you’ll be wishing we would go home and leave you to your bachelor pad.”  

James laughed and glanced around.  “Speaking of Ethan.  Has anyone seen him?”  

Ethan Blackthorne

“Please let me talk to you,” Ethan said as he stood on the porch of Mackenzie’s house.   “Just for a minute.  I promise.” 

Reluctantly, she stood to the side and let him in.  “I would have thought you’d be at your cousin’s wedding.  Wasn’t that today?”  

“Yes, everyone’s at the reception,” Ethan told her, his hands dug in the pockets of his suit trousers.  He looked around and noticed packed boxes and paintings removed from the walls.  “Where are you going?”  

“Back to New York,” she said.  “I got a job as producer of another daytime soap.  The last one they still film in New York.  It probably won’t last but another year, but I have to go where the work is.”  

Ethan looked down at a half-open box filled with photographs.  “I’ve been trying to think of a way to get through to you.  To make you believe me when I tell you that I love you.”  

She stood across the room from him, her hands dropping to her sides in exasperation.  “What about Brooke?”  

“I told Brooke that it was over between her and I.  She agreed that getting back together would be a mistake.”

“For now,” Mackenzie remarked cynically. 

“She’s leaving town,” he stressed to her.  “She’s taking Michael and she’s going away to get her life in order.  Mackenzie, it’s you that I love.  It’s you that I want to be with.  Can’t you see that?”  

She turned away in an effort to avoid looking into his mesmerizing hazel eyes. 

“Look at me,” he said and turned her toward him.  “Why would I be here if I didn’t mean what I’m saying to you?” 

Tears flooded her eyes.  “I can’t,” she said.  “I’m supposed to be in New York the day after tomorrow.  It’s too late, Ethan.”

He thought briefly and then shook his head adamantly.  “Then I’ll go with you,” he said.

“What?”

“I’ll go to New York with you.  Mackenzie, I want to be with you.  I’ll go wherever you are.”  

Instinctively, she threw her arms around him and held him close.  “Are you sure?” she asked.  

“I’ve never been more sure of anything,” he said, taking her by the hands. 

Brooke Taylor

“I’ve never been more sure of anything,” Brooke said to James as they stood in the family room at the Blackthorne mansion.  They’d escaped to a private section of the house, away from the madness of the wedding reception and from prying ears.   “I need to get away for a while.” 

James sighed.  “I’d hoped that I could change your mind.  It’s not going to be the same around here without you and Michael.” 

“It won’t be forever,” she said, placing a hand alongside his face.  “James, thank you for everything.  You were a caring husband, a good friend, and a man that I can truly say I feel honored to have in my life.”     

His eyes twinkled as she stared into hers.  “I love you.” 

“I love you too,” Brooke said, leaning in and kissing him tenderly.     

As she left, James walked to the bar and poured himself a glass of brandy.  Renee appeared from behind and approached him slowly. 

“Why didn’t you stop her?” she asked. 

He turned to her and shrugged.  “It’s not for me to decide.  Brooke has to do what’s right for her.”  

“I saw the look in your eyes when you were just talking to her,” Renee insisted, the beads on her beige gown crinkling as she walked closer.  “I saw the look in her eyes.  Whatever was between the two of you has never really gone away, has it?’  

He smiled.  “Renee, you’re happy.  You have a husband who adores you.  Maybe it’s time to stop the meddling.” 

Grinning at his way with words, Renee placed a hand on his shoulder and laughed.  “Fair enough.  So what are we going to do about Jackie?  She obviously isn’t going anywhere.  How much more of her are we going to have to take?”

“Jackie is like a force of nature,” James remarked.  “She does her damage, makes herself look like Mother Theresa, and then moves on to the next thing.” 

“I’m just wondering what the next thing is going to be,” Renee said with a resigned shake of her head.

Nathan Blackthorne

There’s my beautiful bride,” Nathan said when he found Jackie outside pacing by her car.   “It’s been a long time, Jackie.” 

She looked at him and turned away from the door.  “Yes, it has.  How are you, Nathan?”

“Still in one piece.”

“I’m relieved that you weren’t one of Marilee’s victims,” she said.  “Hopefully she’ll be in prison for a very long time.” 

“You’re lucky that’s not where you are right now,” Nathan said.  “From what I understand, you barely got out of that mess with Moonshadows with your Manolo’s intact.  I always said you were like a cat.  You always land on your feet.” 

She smiled and hooked her arm through his.  “I have missed, you, Nathan.  But I guess it’s time to annul our marriage.” 

“Why?” 

She shrugged.  “I only married to you to get your shares of the studio.  Besides, don’t you miss the swinging single days of bachelorhood?” 

“Those days are long over,” Nathan remarked and placed his arms around her.  “You know you were the only woman I ever loved.  I’d like to say you were the only woman who ever broke my heart, but you weren’t.  Still, I could never measure up to Royce Jennings.  He gave you what I never would.” 

“David,” she said, recalling Nathan's unwillingness to give her a child when they were married the first time.  “You were still a very special part of my life, Nathan..” 

“What?  The first time I met you, it was here in the pool house.  We went skinny dipping.”    

Jackie laughed fondly at the memory.  It had been her eighteenth birthday party.   “What can’t it be like that again?” 

“Who says it can’t?” Nathan asked.  “Maybe we should just stay married.  There are worse things.  As a matter of fact, come with me.” 

Jackie frowned and followed him around to the back of the house.  A few lingering wedding guests were mingling outside while the caterers took down the chairs from the ceremony.

“What are you doing?” Jackie asked.  

“Being young again,” Nathan said and jumped into the pool in his tuxedo.  

Jackie covered her mouth and laughed at how ridiculous he looked.  “Nathan Blackthorne!  What has gotten into you?”  

“Reminding you of what it was like,” he said, wiping the water from his eyes.  “Come on, Jackie.  It’s time to get your hair wet.” 

She shook her head in protest.  “You’re crazy!”  

“Oh, I’m definitely crazy,” he said and climbed out of the pool.  He went to her and took her hand.  “What do you say?  Stay Mrs. Nathan Blackthorne for a while longer?  It’s not like we’re doing anything else.” 

"I would like the tax breaks."  

"See?"   

She regarded him carefully.  “We can live in separate houses?” 

“Absolutely.” 

“And I can see other people?”

Nathan frowned.  “As long as I get first dibs on you.”  

She smiled.  “I guess staying married won’t be so bad.” 

Nathan put his arms around her and she screamed out loud. 

“You’re getting me wet!”

Laughing, he kissed her softly and placed his hands alongside her face. 

Heather Armstrong

Upstairs in Miranda’s bedroom, Heather sat on the bed while Brett paced back and forth before her.   

“I don’t expect you to forgive me for what I did,” he was saying.  “I know I acted like a jackass.  You were gone and I was alone and confused.  Suzanne was just there.  I never meant to hurt you, Heather.  Please know that.”  

She’d listened to him for twenty minutes but had held her tongue until now.  Finally, she stood up and walked toward him.  Raising her hand in the air, she slapped him hard across the face.  Brett staggered back from the shattering blow, checking his lip to make sure it wasn’t bleeding. 

“I guess that was a long time in coming,” he said.  

“My mother and I are never going to be close,” she said.  “I don’t even know where she is right now.  She left when I was so young, I feel like I never really knew who she was.  Not the real her, anyway.  But you, you were someone that I never thought would hurt me.  I never thought you would betray me the way you did, Brett.”  

“I’m sorry, I-“ 

“Don’t apologize,” she cut him off.  “Not again.  I can’t take it, Brett.  I loved you so much.  Maybe a little too much.  You came along when I needed someone and I guess I fell for you out of gratitude.”  

“No matter what’s happened, I still love you.  I want you and Violet and I to be a family.” 

“How?” she asked.  “How can we go back to what we had before after everything that’s happened?” 

He thought hard about her question.  He wanted to be realistic.  The truth was, they couldn’t go back to how it was, because it never was perfect to begin with.  All they could do was start over and go from there.  

“Let’s start over,” he suggested.  “Let’s build something real this time.  Something that we can call our own.  Something perfect.  No more secrets, no more pain from the past, no more outside influences.  Please say you’ll at least give me a chance.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  But don’t say that it won’t happen.  I can’t stand the thought of not having you in my life.”  

She grew silent for a few moments and finally nodded in agreement.  “I can’t promise anything,” she said.

“You don’t have to.” 

“Maybe dinner this week when I come visit Violet?  Just to talk.  Nothing more.” 

Brett practically burst with excitement.  He rushed forward, gleefully nodding his head in approval.  “That’s perfect,” he said through a haze of tears.  “That’s more than I could hope for and more than I deserve.”  

Heather took a deep breath.  “Then I will see you and Violet at the condo at our next scheduled visit.”  

Brett nodded happily.  “Heather, thank you.  I swear to you I’m going to show you that I’ve changed.  I’m going to make you fall in love with me all over again, and this time gratitude will have nothing to do with it.” 

Kelly Blackthorne

Miranda and Eddie were busy mingling with guests downstairs when Kelly appeared from the parlor room with Leilani and Matthew.  Leilani seemed to be pushing her toward her as if to coerce her into something she didn’t want to. 

“Miranda, your dress is really pretty,” Kelly said with a sigh.  “And I guess your hair turned out cute too. “

“Thanks, Kelly,” Miranda said and smiled politely.  “I like your dress too.  I saw it in the October Vogue a year ago.”  

Kelly glared at her.  “That’s it.  Mama, I told you this wasn’t going to work.  I can’t be nice to her.  She makes it impossible!”  

“Miranda, I wanted to thank you for getting my little girl to agree to listen to me,” Matthew spoke up.  “We’ve managed to work some things out.  I bought a little house in Riverside and she’s going to be moving in.”  

“That’s great,” Eddie said and put his arm around Miranda.

“Yeah, I’m really happy for you,” Miranda greed with as much sincerity as she could muster.

“It was either that or I have Kelly help me clean around here,” Leilani said and then giggled.  

Kelly rolled her eyes, then acknowledged Stormy when he and Jane approached.   “Uh, listen, Stormy.  I thought maybe we could meet next week and talk about visitation with R.J.  For me, I mean.  I know he’s better of with you right now.  I would like to see him, though.” 

“Sure,” Stormy said with a meek smile.  

Kelly took a breath and turned to her parents.  “Great, so can we go?”  

Miranda called after her before she walked away.  “Kelly, wait,” she said.  “I know a girl who runs a dress shop in Riverside.  I’ll get you the number.  Tell her you know me and she’ll give you a good deal.”  

You know someone in Riverside?” Kelly asked in disbelief.  

Miranda smiled and shrugged.  “I have what I like to call an equal opportunity fashion sense.”  

Blackthorne Mansion

The next morning, Brooke set her suitcases down in the foyer and bent down to ensure Michael’s jacket was securely zipped.    Ethan walked out of the dining room and smiled, bending down to Michael and giving him a kiss. 

“You be good for your mommy, little buddy,” he said.  “I’m going to talk to you on the phone every day and I’m going to come visit as often as I can.” 

“Okay, daddy.” 

“Can I get a smile?” Ethan asked. 

Michael smiled and laughed.   Just then, James emerged from his study and approached. 

“The pilot has the jet ready to go,” he said.  “I had the driver pull up front.  He’ll take you to the air strip.”  

“Thanks, James,” Brooke said as the driver came in and collected her and Michael’s things.  She turned and surveyed the house.  “I can’t believe I’m leaving this place.” 

“You can always stay,” James said.  He thought about what Renee said to him at the reception.  But it was a pipe dream.  What he and Brooke had had been lost a long time ago.   He didn’t see any way they could go back.  

“Thank you,” Brooke said.  “But I have to do this.”   

She pulled James into an embrace and whispered a tearful goodbye.  Turning toward Ethan, she walked awkwardly toward him and shrugged.

“Take care of yourself,” Ethan said and kissed her on the cheek. 

Taking a deep breath, she grabbed Michaels’ hand and started through the door.  “Ready?” 

“Ready!” Michael chirped, following her out to the car.  

James closed the door and turned, patting Ethan on the shoulder before retreating upstairs to his bedroom.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda carried a box of clothes in from the car and set it down in the entryway of her and Eddie’s townhouse.  Looking around with a grin, she turned just as he came in, struggling with an armful of her blouses on hangers. 

“Tell me this isn’t how we’re spending our honeymoon,” he said, toppling to the floor on top of the clothes. 

“We agreed the honeymoon could wait,” Miranda said.  “We wanted to hurry up and get into our new place, remember?” 

“Oh, right,” Eddie said.  “I just wasn’t expecting it to be the day after our wedding.  I thought we were hiring movers, anyway.” 

“I’m not going to let the movers touch my clothes!” Miranda exclaimed.

Struggling to his feet, he took her by the hands.  “Maybe I should go back to David's and check on Tiger.  Didn’t she seem a little feverish this morning?”

Miranda laughed.  “You’re not getting out of this, mister.  There are two more carloads of clothes we have to pick up.  Now get moving!”  

Groaning, Eddie stumbled back out to the patio.  Miranda came up behind him and slipped her arms around his waist. 

“I know I wasn’t thrilled about moving to begin with, but now that we’re here, I think I’m going to love it.  It’s ours, after all.  No nosy relatives lurking outside your door, no fights over big family dinners, no one falling down that big ass staircase every few months.”

“And look,” Eddie said and pointed to the townhouse next door. There was a sold sign staked into the ground.  “Looks like we’re going to have new neighbors.”

Miranda crossed her fingers and grimaced.  “Oh God, please don’t let them be freaks.”

Just then, the patio door to the neighboring town house opened and Stormy and Jane emerged, hand in hand with bright smiles on their faces.   When they saw Miranda and Eddie next door, their mouths dropped open in surprise. 

“What are you doing here?” they all asked in unison. 

“This is the place I bought for me and Jane,” Stormy said and gestured to the townhouse.   “Wait a minute…”

You’re our new neighbors?” Miranda asked incredulously.  “Oh, hell no.”  

“What?” Eddie asked with raucous laughter.  “This is going to be great!” 

“Hell yeah!” Stormy agreed and high-fived him.  

Miranda groaned. The last thing she wanted was to move out of her father’s crowded house only to wind up living right next door to her brother.  It would be like she never left home.   

Brooke Taylor

The flight attendant on the Sunset Studios jet took Michael from Brooke and got him situated in the cabin with a juice box and a stack of coloring books.  After using the ladies room in the private terminal, Brooke made her way out to the tarmac where the pilot was standing by the steps waiting for her. 

“Brooke?” a voice called out.

She stopped and turned, surprised to see Kyle Fenwick standing by the doors.   “Kyle?  What are you doing here?” 

“On my way to New York,” he said and gestured to the Fenwick Industries jet that was parked nearby.  “You?” 

Brooke shrugged.  “Just going away for a while,” she said.  It felt strange seeing him again after the volatile end to their relationship days before.  She’d wondered if she would regret her decision to break it off, but after seeing him, she realized she didn’t.  She and Kyle were never meant to work out.  It took his lies for her to realize that. 

“I decided to take my family’s offer up in heading up Fenwick Industries,” Kyle explained.  “I was going to say goodbye to you but-“

She shook her head.  “It’s okay.  We said everything we had to say the other day.” 

Kyle nodded awkwardly.  “Good luck to you, Brooke.  I hope you find whatever it is that’s going to make you happy.” 

“You too, Kyle,” she said and waited until he’d gone to board the jet. 

Leaving Los Angeles didn’t seem real to her until she heard the cabin door close, then the pilot announcing that they’d be in the air soon.   Minutes later, the jet was speeding down the runway, lifting into the air and leaving everything she’d come to know behind her. 

James Blackthorne

That evening, in the private screening room in the basement of the Blackthorne mansion, James proudly showed the rough cut of The Benefactor to his friends and colleagues.  By the time the end credits rolled, applause had erupted from the small audience. 

“Brilliant,” Vaughan Novak said with a robust pat on James’s back. 

“You really outdid yourself, James,” Kenny agreed.

“I can’t take much of the credit,” he said modestly. “Stormy and Brett did most of the heavy lifting with this one.  “And I really think Nathan shined in the role.  A much different take on Norton from the original.”  

“The story is actually very sad,” Renee remarked.  “When the kids were on the shuttle facing disaster, we really got a glimpse of their struggles.  Even though Norton was their leader, he couldn’t do anything to help them overcome their personal demons.  All he could do was steer the ship to safety.  The rest was up to them.” 

“That was what I loved about Jonas’s original film,” James said.  “All the special effects and the over the top circumstances essentially took a back seat to what really mattered.  The big draw for me was always the inner conflict of each character.” 

“Well, I’m sure it’ll blow the rest of the summer blockbusters out of the water,” Vaughan said as he followed the others up the stairs to the foyer.  “Which will of course benefit me because every one of those kids is going to need representation.” 

They all laughed as James got their coats and bid them goodnight.  Kenny remained behind with Renee and T.T.

“Should we adjourn to the library and have a drink?” Renee asked. 

James nodded.  “That sounds like a great idea,” he said.  “I’ll be there in a minute.”  

“The film was spectacular, James,” T.T. remarked as he led Renee down the hall. 

James stood in the foyer, glancing up the stairs and then at the door.  Kenny approached him with his jacket in hand. 

“You okay, James?” he asked. 

He looked at him and nodded.  “Yeah, sure.  You leaving already, Kenny?” 

“I need to get an early start in the morning.  First day at Wells, Inc. taking over for Marilee.”   He paused and gauged his friend’s expression.  “I can stay if you want.” 

“Would you?” James asked, then laughed.  “It’s silly.  This place feels so empty to me.  It’s been a long time since it’s been this empty.”  

“I have a few minutes,” Kenny said and gestured to the hall.  “Let’s go have that drink with Renee and T.T.” 

James shook his head and gestured to his study.  “Actually, I have a better idea.”  He led him into the room where he opened a leather bound box on the desk.  Inside, he withdrew a thirty year old bottle of single malt scotch.  “This is where I keep the good stuff.”  

Kenny grinned and looked at the bottle while James produced two glasses.  “Very nice,” he said.  “How long have you been holding on to this one?”  

“A while,” he said and poured them each a glass.  “Cheers,” he said and held his glass up before taking a swig.  

Kenny sat down, exhaling as he did, and then laughed at himself.  “I feel old,” he said.  “It’s bad when sitting down takes it out of you.” 

Laughing in turn, James sat down in the cognac leather chair across from him.  “I don’t feel old,” he said.  “I should.  I’m damn near fifty.” 

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Kenny asked and finished his scotch.  “One day you’re young and virile and thinking you can conquer the whole world, and the next you’re…” 

“Alone,” James finished for him. 

“You’re not alone,” Kenny said and held out his glass as James refilled it.  “James, you have more people who love and respect you than most people can ever imagine having.  You’ve got a successful film studio, this house, family, children, grandchildren.  You’ve got it all.  You’re the American dream.  Or at the very least you’re the Hollywood dream.  It’s what everyone who comes here wants.  You followed your uncle Nathan out here from Kansas with nothing.  Now look at you."   

James sighed and looked across the room in a daze.  “But who do I have to share it with?” he asked.  “Lord knows I’ve had my chances.  All of them ending in disaster.  Alex, Brooke, Leigh, Jackie, Mackenzie.  I guess I’m destined to be the one who takes care of everyone else.   I’m no better off than Vaughan Novak, fixing things for Jonas Lamont.  Look at him now.  Alone.” 

“You’re nothing like Vaughan,” Kenny insisted.  Vaughan is alone.  You’re…not alone.”  

James sighed and walked across the room.   “I don’t know, Kenny.  The kids moving out, Brooke leaving, I just feel like….” 

“Like what?”

He waited a few moments and shook his head dismissively without uttering a response. 

Kenny regarded his friend carefully.  “James, you never did answer my question the other day.”

“What question?”  

“I asked if you thought you and Brooke were meant to be together.  We got interrupted before you could give me a straight answer.”

“Do I think Brooke and I were meant to be together?” he repeated.  That’s your question?”

He nodded.  “Yes.  It’s a simple question.  Do you or don’t you?” 

“What difference does it make?”  

“It makes a big difference.” 

“Brooke and I had our chance.  We were married.  Twice.  Both times Ethan came between us.  She chose him.  Not me.” 

“She didn’t choose him this time,” Kenny reminded him. 

“Yeah, well, she didn’t choose anybody.  She left.” 

“Why didn’t you try to stop her?” 

James shook his head with a chuckle.  “Come on, Kenny.  Why didn’t I try to stop her?  Do you not know Brooke?  When was the last time someone tried talking her out of doing anything?  Come on.  Be serious now.” 

“I am being serious.”  He nursed his drink, glancing up at his friend every so often and gauging the expression on his face.  Finally, he came out with the bit of information he’d been waiting to give him.  “You know, the pilot called me after he cleared the flight plan this morning.”

James tried not to react.  “Interesting,” he said.  

Kenny nodded and rose from his seat.  “I hear Bermuda is lovely this time of year.  I’m sure Brooke will find herself enjoying every minute of it.” 

Bermuda, James repeated to himself.  She hadn’t said where she was going.  She didn’t even know herself until she left.

“Well, I need to get going,” Kenny said.  “See you tomorrow?” 

“Lunch at the Polo Lounge at one,” James confirmed and gave his friend a quick squeeze and a firm pat on the back.  “Goodnight, Kenny.” 

After he’d left, James walked out into the foyer and gazed around again.  The house did feel empty to him.  Ethan was leaving for New York the next day, and Renee and T.T. would be leaving soon.   Gone would be the laughter, the arguing, the bad jokes and the tears. 

Sighing, he walked to the far corner of the foyer and looked up at a portrait of Jonas that had hung on the wall since he’d bought the mansion after Jonas’s death.  He smiled, straightening the picture and taking a step back to reflect on it.  

“Mr. Blackthorne?” Leilani asked when she approached from behind.  “Can I get you anything else?   I was going to go out and meet Kelly and Matthew.” 

James smiled and shook his head.  “No, no thank you, Leilani.  Have a nice evening.”   

She smiled and left through the front door. 

James turned around, glancing into his study at the phone and then checking his watch.  He thought about what Kenny had said.  Did he think that he and Brooke belonged together?   He honestly didn’t know.  He did know that he’d never felt as connected to another person as he did with Brooke.

The sound of the front door rattling alerted him to a presence.  Slowly, he walked across the foyer and pulled the door open.  No one was there.  Probably the wind, he decided.  

He turned to go down the hall and meet up with Renee and T.T. but then realized something he did need Leilani to do for him.  He opened the door and tried calling after her but she was already gone.   

Sighing, he closed the door and walked into his study.  Picking up the phone, he dialed the number for his pilot.   Rash decisions weren’t his thing, but in this case, he didn’t see a reason not to.

“Jake, it’s James,” he said.  “Can you file a flight plan for me? Yes, tonight.  I’m going to Bermuda.”   

He hung up and took a deep breath.   With nothing but his wallet and the clothes he was wearing, he left the house and got in his car to head to the air strip.  He’d tried alone.  It didn’t work for him. 

* * *

They made a movie about them.  The stars, their children, their journey.  The bravery of their leader as they embarked on their mission.  Some didn’t return.  Others were never the same again.   Their families and their loved ones made promises of holding them to a higher regard, thankful that they’d been given the second chance at love and at life.  In their hearts, they had hope.

This is who they were. 


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