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Episode 24

 

Release Date:  June 3, 2006

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

After learning of his affair with Lauren, Heather threw Stormy out and vowed to never forgive him.  She later reconsidered and went to Lauren's apartment, only to find out that he had already left for a six month tour with Lauren.  Devestated, Heather broke down in hysterics.  Miranda ignored Stormy's warnings about Brett's shady manipulations, and happily planned on moving into their new house together.  After unsuccessfully trying to get Jodan to forgive her, Alex stowed away on his yacht and surprised him on his way to Hawaii.  Before leaving town, Winter told James that Brooke was carrying Ethan's child and not his. James angrily blasted a confused Ethan, who was equally as surprised by the news. Brooke overheard their argument and decided she had to leave for good rather than risk having to tell the truth that Ethan was the father.  After packing her bags, she quietly left the mansion.  A devestated James realized he would never find out the truth about the baby.  Later, he left for the hospital where he was to undergo risky brain surgery in order save his life.

Read the full season one recap here

 


Episode 24

"Try"

 

High in the Hollywood Hills, a warm June breeze blew through the canyons and sent a cloud of dust swirling through the dry air.  A red Camaro crawled along the winding driveway, its headlight stabbing through the late afternoon darkness as it came to a halt in the porte-cochere of the Blackthorne mansion. The door opened and Miranda Armstrong emerged, elegantly clad in a Gucci suit and an alligator bag slung over her shoulder.  She was twenty-one years old and had a feisty petite figure, an oval face and brilliant blue eyes.  She made her way inside the house and handed her jacket to Leilani in the richly paneled foyer. 

“Good evening, Miss Miranda,” Leilani trilled in her Polynesian accent.

“Hi Leilani.  Is my husband home yet?” Miranda asked, shaking her long black hair over her shoulders.

“No, ma’am, not yet,” the heavyset Hawaiian maid replied.

The life of a working couple, Miranda thought to herself.   She and Brett barely saw each other these days with their hectic schedules.  She was getting used to coming home late and him coming home even later.

“Shall I bring you something to eat?” Leilani asked.

“No, thank you Leilani.  I’m not hungry.”  She turned and glanced toward the study, detecting the faint glow of a light beneath the door.  “Is he in there?”

“Yes,” Leilani replied dutifully before turning and walking into the parlor.

With a sigh, Miranda rubbed her hands together and went across the hall to the study.  She pushed the door open and walked inside.  Her eyes traveled across the room to her father sitting behind his desk.

“Hi Daddy,” she said with a forced smile.

“Sweetheart, you’re home late,” James Blackthorne said.  He was a handsome, sophisticated man of forty-five.  Dark hair and eyes and exceptional taste in everything gave him a debonair quality that Hollywood devoured.  “I was expecting you home for dinner.”

“I know, I got held up at the hotel,” Miranda claimed, walking over and kissing James on the cheek.  “Brett’s still at work too I guess.  Did you eat anything?”

He nodded.  “Yes, I had Leilani bring something in for me a while ago.”

Miranda studied his eyes carefully.  There was a void in him that she’d seen every day for the past five months.  He hadn’t been himself since the surgery.  The doctors said he had a very small chance of surviving the operation, and when he did survive he went into a depression.  As much as everyone told him that he was lucky to be alive, it wasn’t enough for him.

Jack Fallmont told me he and Adrienne had dinner at Hotel Terranova last night,” James remarked proudly.  “He said business was booming.  I take that to mean my investment is paying off for you.”

Miranda gave him a wry smile.  “Well if you bothered to come in once and a while you’d see that for yourself,” she said with a grin.  “Honestly, Daddy, when I told you I wanted a project of my own I expected you to want to check up on it to make sure I wasn’t screwing it up.”

“You know I trust you, Sweetheart,” James said as she traveled across the room in his wheelchair.  “You’ve done wonders with that old hotel and I couldn’t be more proud of you.”

“Really, Daddy?”  She was elated to hear her father’s praise.  It seemed they’d come a long way since the days of her cavorting around town, drinking, getting high and bringing home a new guy every night.  Now she was married and running a luxurious hotel in the rolling hills between Hollywood and Beverly Hills.   It was a whole new way of life for her and she had never been happier.

“Turning that hotel over to you was the best move I could have made,” James continued and steered the chair toward her. 

“Then why don’t you come down and have dinner sometime,” Miranda said, looking down at her once powerful father, now bound to a wheelchair all because of some horrible brain condition.

“You know I can’t do that, Miranda.”

“But why, Daddy?” Miranda lamented.  “You never leave this house.  You don’t go out and see your friends; you don’t go to work anymore; Ethan’s moved on; and now Brett is running the studio for you.  If it wasn’t for him there wouldn’t even be a Sunset Studios anymore.”

“I’m very grateful to Brett for all his hard work these last few months,” James said and looked absently across the room.  “He’s really proven himself to me.  I’m only sorry that I didn’t see it right away.  Your brother, on the other hand has proven himself to be nothing if not unreliable.”

“Tell me about it,” Miranda murmured under her breath.  “Anyway, you can’t quit living just because you’re in this chair.  Daddy, you used to be so vital and full of life.  The doctors told you there might be complications from the surgery.  At least you’re alive.  That’s all I care about.”

James wished Miranda would stop nagging him. He was perfectly happy with the way his life was.  What did he need to go see on the outside anyway?  Yes, he was alive but what was there to live for?  Ethan, his own nephew, had betrayed him with the woman he loved more than anything.  Now he was off working with his mortal enemy, a prospect that kept him up almost every night.

And then there was Brooke.  She’d packed her things and left five months ago.  After weeks of searching for her, hiring the best private detectives in the business, he’d finally given up hope that she would be found.  Wherever she was hiding, she obviously wanted to stay hidden.  She would be eight months pregnant by now.  In a few weeks she’d be giving birth to a baby that could either be his or Ethan’s.   And if it was his baby, would he ever get the chance to hold it in his arms?  He’d undergone months of therapy to overcome a high risk brain surgery only to have nothing to look forward to. 

No, there was no reason to leave the confines of his mansion in the hills.  No reason at all.

“I’m going to go upstairs and take a bath before Brett gets home,” Miranda said and then kissed her father again.  “Are you going up soon?”

James nodded and offered an affected smile just as the door opened and his physical therapy nurse came in.  His eyes narrowed on her and he groaned inside.  Whenever Gwen appeared it meant more exhausting exercises and more humiliating bathing incidents.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

“Shall I help you upstairs, Mr. Blackthorne?” Gwen asked.

“I’ll leave you alone,” Miranda said and ducked out of the room.  She left the study just in time to see Leilani hanging up the phone in the foyer.  “Was that Brett?”

Leilani turned and clasped her hands together.  “Uh, no ma’am,” she replied. 

Curious as to Leilani’s sudden nervous behavior, Miranda stepped closer and folded her arms.  “Who was it, Leilani?”

“That was Mr. Stormy.”  Immediately after responding Leilani balled her fists together and shook them in the air as if to curse herself.

Miranda’s eyes shot up quickly.  “My brother?” she asked in amazement.  “What did he say?”

Leilani became increasingly nervous, wringing her hands together as a bead of sweat formed on her thick upper lip.  “He asked me not to say anything to anyone,” she confessed, feeling awkward by being put in the middle.  She had a loyalty to all of the Blackthornes.  After working for them for over fifteen years, she had grown accustomed to their secrets.

“Did he say where he was?” Miranda asked, refusing to let it drop.  She hadn’t heard from her brother in months and she wasn’t about to accept Leilani’s vow of silence.  “Is he coming home?”

Still reluctant, Leilani tried to skirt past Miranda to avoid any further conflict.

“Leilani!” Miranda exclaimed.  “Where is he?  What did he say?  You have to tell me.”

Sighing with regret, Leilani dropped her hands to the sides of her pristinely pressed uniform and caved with much reluctance.  “He asked me to call the pilot to send the jet.  He asked me not to tell anyone.”

“Send the jet where?”

“Phoenix.  He’s expecting it tomorrow morning.”

Wheels began turning inside Miranda’s head and a malicious grin grew across her face.  “Leilani, let me handle it,” she said.  “I’ll tell the pilot myself.”

Wanting to wash her hands of the situation, Leilani shrugged and let out a deep breath.  “Whatever you say, Miss Miranda.”  She turned and started away to finish her duties.

Miranda glanced up the stairs and spotted Heather Blackthorne standing on the top landing, watching over the railing with a bleak expression on her face.

“Heather…” she began, somewhat awkwardly.

“Stormy called?” Heather asked.  She hadn’t heard from her husband since he’d took off five months ago.  The very mention of his name sent conflicting emotions coursing through her veins.

Miranda nodded, pushing a strand of black hair from her eyes.  She pressed her lips firmly together and watched as Heather ran down the hall to her bedroom.

Jordan's House

Alex Reynolds hated being married again.  She loved her husband but what she didn’t care for was the way he constantly questioned her every move.  She couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone without Jordan asking what she was up to, and tonight was no different.

She’d met Marilee Wells-Walker for cocktails at Hotel Terranova where they discussed a possible business venture, had a few too many martini’s, and had the driver take her straight home.  But as usual Jordan was waiting for her with his arms folded and his forehead creased beyond recognition.

“Where have you been?” Jordan asked while following her upstairs to the bedroom of their mansion in Beverly Hills.  “I got home from the studio and you were gone as usual.”

At forty-four, Alex was not accustomed to being kept tabs on.  She was strikingly beautiful with delicate features and luxurious auburn hair.  Sighing, she flung her fox stole across the dressing mirror and pulled at a pair of sapphire earrings.  “I was with Marilee.  I told you last night that I was meeting with her tonight.”

Jordan realized he’d forgotten their discussion and quickly dropped his accusatory tone.  “Oh, well how did it go?  What was the business deal she wanted to discuss?  Is Seth in on it?”

But Alex was already miffed by this point.  “Darling, you are so transparent.  You think I’m out conspiring evil plots against people every time I’m out of your sight.  Tell me, what have I ever done to provoke this kind of distrust?”

Jordan rolled his eyes and removed his dark blue sports coat.   He was in his mid forties and was a dashing Hollywood mogul.  A full shock of brownish blond hair, demanding hazel eyes and a youthful exuberance were the big attractions that aided his days of being a playboy prior to his second marriage.   “Let’s see, destroying James and Brooke’s marriage, pretending you were still married to him when he had amnesia, joining forces with Will Thomerson to take over his studio, need I go on?”

Alex shot him a cool stare.  “No, I think that’s quite enough,” she said.  “And anyway, I don’t have a grudge to bare with James anymore, remember?” she said.  “So who I ask would I be plotting against now?  You make it seem like I’m some conniving vixen!”

Laughing, Jordan kicked off his shoes and sat down on the edge of their bed.  “For starters, you had the sponsors back out of Lauren Spencer’s tour,” he said.  “No ulterior motives there?”

“I had to do that,” Alex responded casually as she sat down at her vanity and lit a thin brown cigarette.  “My son had run off with that tramp.  I couldn’t just sit by and let that go on.  I did that for Stormy’s sake, not for anybody elses.”

Jordan looked at her reflection and couldn’t help but smile.  As much as she infuriated him, he loved her more than ever.  Five months ago she’d stowed away on his yacht and they spent two glorious weeks on the beaches of Hawaii before returning and getting married in a small but elegant ceremony on the beach.  He'd never regretted it.

“So what did Marilee have to say?” he asked after finally deciding to put a rest to his suspicions.  “She's not already planning on divorcing Seth is she?  Honestly, that woman goes through husbands like other people-"

“She wants to go into business together.”

“What kind of business?”

Alex examined her flawless appearance in the mirror and tweezed a few stray hairs from her brow line.  “You know that piece of land in Colorado my Uncle Cyrus left me a few years ago?” she asked.

“That baron wasteland?  What about it?”

“It turns out it’s not so baron,” Alex continued and spun around to face him.  “As a matter of fact it’s a fifty thousand acre natural gas reserve. “

Bewildered, Jordan leaned forward and gave her his full attention. “How do you know that?”

“I had a few offers on the land recently so I decided to find out just what was drawing so much attention to it.  I hired a geologist and found out it’s sitting on a goldmine.  The only problem is I don’t have the capitol to start up a pipeline.  That’s where Marilee comes in.  She’s investing and we’re going to be partners.”

Jordan looked at her in disbelief.  You’re going to go into the natural gas business?”  he deadpanned.  “Alex, you’re an actress, not an energy tycoon.”

She shot him a playful wink.  “Maybe I’ll be both.  Either way, I’m going to be the wealthiest woman in the state before long and if you play your cards right I might just keep you around to show off to those old crones Marilee hangs out with.”

Laughing, Jordan put his head in his hands and tried to take in the new information.  Before he knew it, Alex was straddling him on the bed and covering him with her body.  He drew her into a passionate kiss and wrapped his arms languorously around her soft skin.

Money turned Alex on more than anything.  He was a lucky man indeed.

The private jet landed at the small airstrip in Phoenix the next morning and taxied toward the terminal.  Stormy Blackthorne waited with a duffel bag by the gate, watching until the jet came closer and he could read the Sunset Studios logo emblazoned on the side.

He knew Leilani would come through for him.  She’d been a loyal ally since he was a ten-year-old tracking mud through the house and risking the wrath of his mother and father.  It was to be expected that she would relay his message to the pilot without any questions asked.  One thing he didn’t need right now was to face his overbearing family who would without a doubt rattle on about what a disappointment he was.

Ryan “Stormy” Blackthorne was twenty-four and had been through hell and back in the last five months.  He was tall and had a hard, lean body, much of his arms and back covered in a plethora of tattoos.  His dark hair tousled in a thoroughly sexy manner and his engrossing blue eyes cutting like ice.

When the jet stopped, the hatch opened and the pilot let down the steps.  Stormy greeted him with a smile and hauled his bag up into the cabin.  “Thanks for coming, Abram.”

“Where to, Mr. Blackthorne?” the pilot asked.

“Home, of course,” said a woman’s voice from the interior cabin.

Stormy turned and saw a most unwelcome sight.  “Miranda,” he sighed.  “What are you doing here?  I told Leilani not to say anything to anyone.”

A knowing smile spread across Miranda’s face as she got up from the luxurious leather seat.  “Leilani can’t keep a secret and you know it.”

Irritated by his sister’s interference, Stormy dropped his bag and closed the door to the cabin.  “Does Dad know you’re here?”

“No.”  Her reply was quick and to the point.  “What happened?  Run out of money so you finally had to suck it up and ask for help?”

Blowing a strand of hair from his eyes, Stormy plopped down on the sofa and rubbed his aching head.   “Something like that.”

Miranda waited for further explanation but she could see that her brother wasn’t going to volunteer any information.  “Okay, okay, so what the hell happened to you?” she asked.  “You took off with Lauren five months ago, left your wife, and never even looked back.”

“That’s not true,” Stormy corrected her.  “I called when I heard about Dad’s surgery.”

Growing angrier by the minute, Miranda wrung her hands together and sat down beside him.   “He could have died, Stormy.  Do you have any idea how risky that operation was?  A phone call doesn’t cut it.”

“He didn’t even tell anyone he was having the surgery.”

“He didn’t want to worry anyone,” was Miranda’s easy reply.  “He’s too proud.  He doesn’t want people fawning all over him like an invalid.”

Stormy realized Miranda was right.  He should have come back when he heard about their father’s operation.   There was no excuse.   “Is he still in the chair?”

Miranda’s head sunk sullenly to the floor.  “Yes.  The doctors say it might be permanent.  He’s got a live-in nurse and everything.  It’s so depressing.”

“Oh God,” Stormy whispered under his breath.  So much had happened since he’d been away.  Life had gone on without him and it didn’t seem like he could ever catch up.

“Brooke left and Ethan might be the father of her baby,” Miranda explained further in an attempt to bring Stormy up to date.

What?”

Miranda nodded.  “So Dad cut Ethan off and he’s now working for Will Thomerson who bought the estate next door to the mansion.”

“That’s got to be killing Dad.  His worst enemy right next door, and Ethan working for him?"

“Mom and Jordan got married, and Brett is running the studio for Dad.”

Standing up again, Stormy began pacing the cabin of the small jet.  “I don’t believe this,” he said, his hands firmly on his hips.  “What didn’t happen while I was gone?  Jesus, Miranda, you can’t just bombard me all at once with this stuff.  I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do?  Just walk back into the house like nothing ever happened?”

“You could try,” Miranda said, then offered a smile.  “But Dad’s pretty upset with you.”

Stormy shook his head in frustration.   “Have you seen Heather?”

“She moved into the house."

"She what?" Stormy exclaimed.

"Daddy felt bad for her and offered to let her move in after she sold your house," Miranda continued.  "She filed for divorce.  I think they’re just waiting for your signature on some papers before it’s final.”  She stood up and followed her brother across the cabin.  “Incidentally, what happened with you and Lauren anyway?  I heard her tour got cut short.”

“The sponsors backed out a few weeks into it,” he said.  “I had to put the cash up myself.”

“How?”

That was the clincher, Stormy thought to himself.  His biggest mistake to date.  “I put Good Times Records up as collateral,” he claimed with a certain amount of difficulty.  “And when her record didn’t do so well the studio lost money so-“

“So there is no more Good Times Records?” Miranda asked with disbelief. 

He nodded glumly.  “And there’s no more Lauren either,” he announced.  “We started having problems when we got to the last leg of the tour. She was upset about the album and the sponsors backing out and I was on edge and-“

“And you took solace in the arms of another woman?” Miranda said before shaking her head in amusement.  “Stormy, when are you going to learn to keep it in your pants?  You had a perfectly good marriage and you blew it.  Then you couldn’t even hold it together with the woman you left her for.  Seriously, you have some kind of an effect on women.”

“Look, I don’t need this from you, okay Miranda?” Stormy exclaimed.  “Whatever lie you’re living with Brett doesn’t make you an authority on relationships.”

She met his glare and shot him a look of full warning.  “My marriage is rock solid.”

He laughed.  “Oh, where have I heard that before?”  He considered bringing up the fact that her loving faithful husband Brett had blackmailed Lauren into sleeping with him not that long ago.  But realizing she didn’t believe him the first time, he decided to hold his tongue for the time being.  Besides, he didn’t need to make any more enemies.

“Just come back to L.A. with me and work things out with Dad.  That’s the first step in fixing this mess you’ve created.  Everything else will just fall into place in time,” Miranda suggested.

Hesitating, Stormy finally nodded in agreement.  “Okay.” 

“Good,” Miranda said with an animated jump in her step.  “But first I want to find out if there’s a mall around here anymore.”

“Jeez, you sure haven’t changed.  Spending Dad’s money is still your best attribute, isn’t it?” he said, half-joking.  “We can go shopping when we get there.  I’m ready to get out of this place.  It’s like living on the sun around here.  Way too hot.”

“For your information I am a working girl now,” Miranda said, jabbing her brother playfully with her finger.  “Besides, I have a feeling Daddy’s going to have a fit since I didn’t tell him I was taking the jet.  I want to get him something to soften the blow.”

Rolling his eyes, Stormy followed her out of the cabin and off the jet.

Heather Blackthorne

Heather Blackthorne sped down Pacific Coast Highway in her yellow convertible Corvette, the wind whipping unmercifully through her long, straight brown hair.   She was a thin, waifish twenty-three year old with pale hazel eyes and a year-round suntan.   She honked at a few cars and weaved through the traffic because she was late, and being late was a good thing.  It meant she had something to do and somewhere to go.  No longer was she sitting around her dull house in the Valley waiting for her big break because it never happened.  Never mind that her soon-to-be ex-husband was a record producer and her father was a revered movie mogul.  They hadn’t seen her potential.  But now someone did and she was finally getting into the business.

Her cell phone rang and she fished it out of her purse and answered.  It was her father calling from his office at Rydell Productions.

“Dad, I can’t talk right now.  I’m late for an appointment.”

Jordan was concerned about his daughter’s odd behavior.  She’d been so secretive for the past few months about what she was up to.  She was always talking about her new contacts she’d made and the chance to finally make it in Hollywood.  He had been around long enough to know there were so many unsavory characters out there that could easily take advantage of a girl as young and pretty as Heather.

“I want you to tell me who it is that’s helping you,” he demanded.  “I don’t know if I trust-“

“It’s a little late for concern, Dad,” she said with a roll of her eyes.  “I’m finally doing something with my life and you don’t trust me.  That’s just perfect.”

“It’s not you I don’t trust, baby, it’s just-“

“You just can’t believe that someone has taken an interest in me and my career, isn’t that right?” Heather asked with a scowl.   “News flash, Dad, you’re not the only producer in town.  I asked you for help, remember?  And you turned me down every time.  Just like Stormy did.  Well now I don’t need either one of you.  I’m going to make it without your help. “

“Is it James Blackthorne?” Jordan demanded.  “Is that who’s helping you?”

“No, Dad.”

“Is that why you’re living in his house even after your husband left you?” Jordan asked.  “Honestly, I don’t know why you don’t move back into the house in Beverly Hills with me and Alex.”

“No thank you,” Heather said with a twisted face.  “Stormy’s not there anyway so it's fine.  James was nice enough to let me live there and there’s plenty of room.  I have all the privacy I need.”

“Heather, I don’t like it.  I-“

“I don’t care what you don’t like, Dad.  I asked for your help months ago, remember?  Well now I don’t need it.”

And with that she clicked the phone off and tossed it onto the seat beside her. 

Will's House

Ethan Blackthorne drove up through the gates of Will Thomerson’s estate just up the road from the Blackthorne mansion and parked his car behind a Rolls Royce limousine.  He went inside, nodding to the butler who greeted him with an austere good morning.

Making his way into the suite of offices off the expansive entry hallway, he adjusted the lapels on his pristine navy suit.  He was twenty-eight, solid and handsome and had dirty blond hair and deep brown eyes. 

“Ah, Ethan, I’m glad you’re here,” Will Thomerson said as he approached from a hidden staircase in the wall.  “We have a lot to do today and I can’t wait to get started.

“Sounds serious,” Ethan replied, setting his briefcase down on the desk.  He flipped it open and listlessly removed a few pieces of paper.  The prospect of another day crammed with monotonous film business was enough to make his stomach turn because his heart wasn’t in it.  Since James ordered him out of his life for his affair with Brooke, he’d stood at the sidelines for a while before deciding to take Will up on an offer to work with him.  He knew the offer was purely revenge-driven.  Will Thomerson hated James Blackthorne and what better way than to get back at him than to hire his own nephew.  For Ethan it was more of a survival instinct.  He needed a job and that was all there was to it. 

“I got my hands on a script that I think would make for an incredible picture,” Will said, brandishing a thick stack of papers in his hand.   He was forty-five, six feet tall with blondish brown hair and a commanding presence.

Ethan took the script from him and studied the title.  The Murderess,” he said to himself before leafing through the first few pages.  “Should I give it a read?”

“Yes, right away.  If you think we can get backers for it then I’d like you to start after lunch.  I don’t want this one to get away from us.  Incidentally, I still don’t know how Sunset Studios managed to get the rights to that last script.  I was sure we were the only studio who had optioned Blood & Oil.  I don’t believe for a minute that it’s the work of that inept Brett Armstrong.  I don’t understand why James put him in charge of things.  But then again, who knows what damage that surgery did to his already deteriorating brain.”

“Will, I think that’s enough-“ Ethan cut him off.  He knew of their vendetta but he didn’t like being put in the middle of it.  All he wanted to do was get on with his life and forget.  What life he had left, that is.  Brooke was gone and was about to give birth to a baby who might very well be his.  His own uncle – his only family – turned his back on him.  The last thing he needed was to hear Will taking cheap shots.

Their conversation was interrupted when the office doors opened and Heather walked inside, her purse pulled tightly over her shoulder.  “Good morning gentlemen,” she said.

“There’s my good luck charm,” Will said with a bright smile.   He put his arm around Heather’s slim waist and kissed her gently on the cheek.  “You look beautiful today Princess.”

Heather smiled faintly in Will’s embrace, ignoring Ethan’s disapproving gaze as she tried to remember she was doing it for her career.

Blackthorne Mansion

James sat on the edge of his bed at the Blackthorne mansion when the door opened and his private nurse entered with a matronly smile on her face.

“Are you ready for your physical therapy, Mr. Blackthorne?” Gwen Hardisty said as she strode across the room and pulled the wheelchair to the bed.

James made a sickly face and adjusted his robe around his waist.  “I’m not doing it,” he insisted.  “So you can get that superior look off your face.  I know you get a sick pleasure out of seeing me work my tail off for something that probably won’t even happen.  Honestly, where in the hell did my daughter find you anyway?  Your bedside manner leaves something to be desired.”

The nurse placed her hands firmly on her hips and glared at him.   She was thirty years old and devoid of any emotion or spar, but underneath was a pretty girl hidden by her career.  Her plain, makeupless face and drab clothes were a testament to her hum drum life.  Working as a nurse was all she knew and she knew enough to realize that wealthy people were the worst patients.  “We’ve been through this before.  If you take that attitude then you’ll spend the rest of your life in this wheelchair.  Is that what you want?”

He shot her a look so intense that it annihilated every trace of a smile from her face.  “If you want to keep your job here, Miss Hardisty, then you’ll stop treating me like one of your invalid patients.  I have no intention of staying in this chair for my whole life, but I don’t understand what therapy every day is going to help.”

“Fine. Then get into the chair yourself.”  She turned and stormed out of the room in a huff.

After she’d gone, James gritted his teeth so hard that his head hurt.  As if he didn’t have enough to worry about in his life now he had a morbidly depressing nurse to contend with.  Deciding to show her just how wrong she was, he attempted to lift himself into the chair.  Placing one foot on the floor, he began to lift himself.  Within seconds his weak body gave out and he tumbled to the floor, knocking the chair over in the process.

The racket carried into the hall and moments later Brett Armstrong bolted inside the bedroom and spotted James lying helplessly on the floor.  He instinctively called for Gwen and raced over to help his battered father-in-law.

“What happened?” Brett asked in a panic.  “James, are you all right?"

Struggling to catch his breath, he nodded weakly and allowed Brett to lift him into the chair.   “I’m fine,” he said just as Gwen re-entered the bedroom.  “That warden could drain the lift out of a circus clown,” he hollered in an accusatory tone.

“Mr. Armstrong, he refuses to let me help him,” Gwen insisted.  “I can’t work under these kinds of conditions.”

“Stop your crooning, you lunatic!” James bellowed from his wheelchair as Brett watched helplessly.

“That’s it!” Gwen yelled.  “I’m out of here!”  With that, she turned and raced back down the hall to her bedroom.

Brett sighed with frustration and ran down the hall after her.  “Gwen!  Wait a second!”

The nurse was already in her room throwing things into a suitcase.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Armstrong but I can’t work with someone so difficult.” 

Desperately trying to think of a way to control the damage, Brett pushed her down onto the bed and bent down before her.  He looked up at her and for a second thought he saw tears forming in her slate blue eyes.

“Gwen, please don’t leave,” he said in as soothing a tone as he could muster.  “We need you here.”  A beat.  I need you here.”  At twenty-seven, Brett was a devastatingly handsome man with blond hair and brown eyes.  Beneath his fitted suit, a firm, muscular body was evident.

Wiping tears from her eyes, Gwen reached up and removed the half-fastened barrette from her hair, which now fell down and cascaded around her shoulders.  “It’s so hard,” she said with a whimper.  “Everyone here is so cold to me.”  Then she looked up at met with Brett’s eyes.  “Except you.  You’re the only one who’s been here for me.”  She blushed a little.  “In more ways than one.”

Brett put his arms around her and pulled her into a deep, passionate kiss.  He tasted the sweetness of her lips and craved more.  He realized that he could possibly be the only one in the house who saw Gwen for more than a matronly nurse.  Under that harsh, cold shell was a tender, beautiful woman who he had gotten to know intimately over the past few weeks.

“The door is open,” Gwen said with a shriek and jumped back.  “Someone could walk by and see us.  Your wife maybe.”

Brett shook his head and felt himself growing aroused by her fragrant scent.  “She’s not home,” he whispered, covering her neck with hurried kisses.  “But I have to be going now anyway.  Tonight we’ll see each other.  I’ll come into your room after Miranda’s gone to sleep.”

Gwen nodded, her eyes closed and her head thrown back.  “Oh Brett, I can’t wait for you to make love to me again.”

He got up from the floor and straightened his tie.  “Tonight,” he said before turning and leaving the bedroom.

After returning to James’s bedroom, Brett announced that Gwen had reconsidered and had decided to stay.  He knew it was purely selfish.  He wanted Gwen to stay more for his own sexual enjoyment than for any other reason.  Something about her turned him on more than anything.  Maybe it was the façade that she created as a stern physical therapist while underneath she was probably the best sex he’d ever had.  At any rate, she was staying and that was all he cared about.

“Well I can’t say that I’m pleased,” James barked.  “But I guess if my therapy does help me walk again then I’ll be that much closer to going back and running the studio.”

Brett swallowed hard.  He had gotten used to the idea of running the show himself and of being the big man in Hollywood for a change.  For once in his life he had people clamoring to meet him and shake his hand.  No more cons, no more fake tour groups, no more not knowing where his next twenty bucks was going to come from.  Rick Shively was a name from the past.  Now he was Brett Armstrong, head of Sunset Studios, and he was determined not to relinquish that title.

“Well that’s what we’re all hoping for, James,” he lied.

Instinctively, James looked up at his son-in-law.  “Not that I haven’t been more than pleased with your performance there, Brett,” he said.  “You’ve done a terrific job.  Getting the rights to Blood & Oil was strictly a move of a professional.  That’s why I’ve been thinking that after I’m up and back on my feet again, I’d like to keep you around at the studio.  I’m sure there’s something a bright young man like yourself can do there.”

Brett desperately tried to hide his disappointment.  He refused to be taken down to a menial position after the success he’d had at running things.   One way or another he’d find a way to stay on top.

Suddenly Leilani entered the room and interrupted the exchange.  “Mr. Blackthorne, there’s an urgent phone call for you.”

“Thank you, Leilani,” James said and rolled his chair over to the desk.  He picked up the phone and answered quickly.  “Hello, this is James Blackthorne.”

“Mr. Blackthorne, this is Janet Harper.  I’m a reporter the Denver Tribune,” said the caller.  “I’ve been chasing a lead for a few days now and I wondered if you had any comment to my findings.”

“What kind of lead, Miss Harper?” James asked with a frown.

“About Brooke Taylor,” Janet continued.  “I understand that you’ve been looking for her for quite some time.  Is that correct?”

“Would you get to the point,” James said irately.  He’d had enough of crackpots calling up with false leads and wasting his time.  He decided this was probably more of the same.

“I seem to have found her,” Janet explained.

Stormy Blackthorne

Meanwhile, Miranda led Stormy through a crowded department store in Phoenix.  He rolled his eyes as she stopped at every makeup counter in sight, trying on new shades of lipstick and spritzing perfume in every direction.

“I thought you were looking for something for Dad,” Stormy said with an irritated edge to his voice.  “You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t see him getting too excited about lip gloss and foundation.”

Miranda laughed and punched him playfully in the arm.  “So I can’t wait for you to see Hotel Terranova,” she said energetically.  “I think it’s so sweet the way Daddy bought it.”

“Isn’t that the hotel Dad bought on his and Mom’s tenth wedding anniversary?” Stormy asked.  “Every hotel in town was sold out and he promised her a night out together.”

“That’s the one,” Miranda snickered, scavengering through dozens of shades of eye shadow.  “Anyway, it was under poor management and the place was going downhill fast.  I was in need of a project, so Daddy turned it over to me.  It’s the place to see and be seen now.  Everyone goes there.  Carmen and Justin were just in the other day taking tennis lessons.”

“Wow,” Stormy mocked.  “And you haven’t burnt the place to the ground yet?  I’m impressed, Sis.”

She rolled her eyes and moved to another counter.  “Some of us know how to run a business, big brother, without losing it all over some bimbo.”

Slightly unnerved by her candor, Stormy decided to shut up about it.  He didn’t want to be reminded of Lauren and the mess he’d made with his record company.

Moving along her way, Miranda paused at a sales girl at the Mac makeup counter and tapped her on the shoulder.  “Miss, do you have this blush in a lighter shade?” she asked.  “This dark stuff makes me look like a clown.”

The woman turned around and a gasp tore loose from her throat.

“Brooke!” Stormy exclaimed, startled at the sight of an eight-month pregnant Brooke Taylor working as a makeup girl at a mall in Phoenix. 

 


Next time....

Ethan inquires about Heather and Will's relationship.  Philip Whitacre returns. James arrives in Phoenix and confronts Brooke.  Miranda asks Brett if he is threatened by Stormy's return.  Brett makes use of Heather and Gwen for different reasons.

 Read Episode 25

 

 


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