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Episode 25

 

Release Date:  June 9, 2006

 Read the episode Recap

 

Previously...

 

James was bound to a wheelchair after his brain surgery.  Having spent the past five months searching for Brooke, he received help from a reporter named Janet Harper, who tracked Brooke down in Phoenix.  Meanwhile, Miranda traveled to Phoenix to bring Stormy home after he and Lauren parted ways during her tour. Brett, having assumed an executive position at Sunset Studios during James' illness, had been sleeping with Gwen Hardisty, the private nurse hired to care for James.  Miranda became manager of Hotel Terranova, one of James' fashionable resort hotels in the Hollywood Hills. Jordan and Alex faced difficulties in their new marriage.  Alex considered going into business with Marilee.  Ethan began working for Will Thomerson when James ostracized him from the family for his afffair with Brooke.  Meanwhile, Heather had become romantically involved with Will in hopes that he would help her with her film career.  While at a mall in Phoenix, Miranda and Stormy ran into an eight months pregnant Brooke working at a department store.

 


Episode 25

"Asked and Answered"

 

Lunch at Hotel Terranova was an experience all its own.  The intimate restaurant just off the lobby was packed with dapper businessmen, elegant women, and guests who stayed at the four diamond property to benefit from the world-renowned tennis instructors, riding yards, golf ranges, and beautiful swimming pools.  Some of the most famous faces in music performed there nightly, turning the seemingly casual atmosphere into an elegant affair of world-class taste.

Will, Ethan and Heather were seated at their table and menus were thrust before them.  Ethan continuously looked up at Heather who sat uncomfortably close to Will’s side.

“Have anything you want, Princess,” Will said, holding Heather’s hand in his.  “You look like you could stand to gain a pound or two.”

Laughing his remark off, Heather poured over the menu, fully aware that Ethan was still staring at her with burning intensity.  It looked odd with such a young woman with an older man.  She knew this and she was used to the stares. But if it benefited her career…

“So don’t keep me in suspense any longer, Ethan,” Will said to the young man.  “I’m dying to hear what you thought of The Murderess.”

“I loved it,” Ethan replied coolly.  “The writer obviously knows his characters.  The plot was believable, yet intense.  And the ending was pure Hollywood genius.”

Smiling with approval, Will folded his hands firmly on the table.  “Good.  Then you’ll start working on getting the rights as soon as possible?”

Ethan nodded his reply and looked hastily around the restaurant.  He wondered if Miranda would see them there.  They’d always been close but their relationship had been strained since Brooke left town.  After word got out that her might be the father of her baby, thanks to Winter Austen’s machinations, he was less than welcome with any of the Blackthornes.

“I see an associate I’d like to say hello to,” Will announced.  He kissed Heather on the cheek before he stood up and made his way across the room.

After he was safety out of earshot, Ethan leaned in and whispered to Heather.  “How much longer is this going to go on?” he asked.

“What?”  She pretended she didn’t know what he was referring to.

“What?  You and Will.  What on earth do you have in common?  I’m sorry, Heather, I just don’t get what you see in him.    He’s twenty years older than you.  I’ve held my tongue as long as I could.”

She gritted her teeth and snapped her menu closed.  “Like you have any room to dish out advice on relationships?” she hissed.  “Are you forgetting about that nutcase Winter Austen?  Or the fact that you slept with James Blackthorne’s wife?”

With a sigh, Ethan leaned back and realized she had a point.  He hadn’t exactly made the best choices when it came to women.  But what Heather was doing was purely premeditated.  “What do you think you’re going to get out of this?”

“He said he’d help me, okay?” Heather spat, standing up from the table and throwing her napkin down.  “Excuse me.  I have to go freshen up.”

Ethan rubbed his hand across his face and watched Heather storm away.   He knew that they were using each other and it made his stomach turn.  One thing he knew of for sure was that Will Thomerson had it out for three people who’d crossed him.  Jordan Rydell, Alex Reynolds, and James Blackthorne.  He had a feeling that Heather was the pawn in his game against Jordan.  And strangely, she was falling for it.

Brooke Taylor

Brooke, what are you doing here?” Miranda asked in a shrill voice. “Never mind, I forgot you were the queen of the Sherman Oaks Galleria before my father took you in.  I hope you realize how much trouble you’ve caused.  Everyone’s been looking for you.”

Brooke looked at her plainly.  She was twenty-eight and her once youthful, glowing complexion was tired and listless.  Her long blond hair was tied back in a plain ponytail and her pregnant stomach looked as if it were ready to burst.

“Well now you’ve found me,” she said solemnly.  “So what are you going to do?”

“First of all-“ Miranda began, throwing her hands up in a tantrum before Stormy stepped forward and silenced her.

“Brooke, why did you take off like that?” he asked sympathetically.  “My Dad’s been worried sick.  Ethan too.  You’re carrying a baby.  Whose baby it is nobody knows but you.  Don’t you think you owe it to them to go back and straighten this out?”

Her eyes sunk to the floor and she shook her head. “I can’t,” she said.  “I just don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“It’s a little late for that!” Miranda exclaimed, trying to force her way toward her.

“Stop it,” Stormy warned her with a cold stare.  “Look, I’m just as guilty as you are.  I took off for five months.  That’s why we’re here.  Miranda brought the jet.  Brooke, you can come with us.  You can go back to L.A. and at least give the father of your baby a fighting chance.  Whoever he is.”

“It’s too late for that,” Brooke insisted, her eyes welling up with tears as she nervously fidgeted with a tray of mascaras.  She took a deep breath and looked up at Stormy again.  “I heard about James on the news.  About the surgery.  Why didn’t he tell me?”

“He didn’t tell anyone,” Stormy replied.

Kenny DeWitt called me the morning of the surgery,” Miranda explained.  “Daddy was too afraid to tell anyone.”

“How is he now?” Brooke asked, her voice filled with concern.  She hated the thought of James going through such a traumatic ordeal, compiled on top of her taking off without a word.  It wasn’t the best way to handle things but she felt she had no choice.

“He can’t walk,” Miranda replied matter-of-factly.    “He’s in a wheelchair. They say it might be forever.”

Brooke closed her eyes as tears began to form.  “Oh my God,” she whispered.

Angry that her soft side was about to show, Miranda folded her arms across her ample bosom and attempted to maintain a rigid expression on her face.  “Look, I know we’ve never gotten along but I do know how much my father loves you.  He’s been a mess since you left.  I’m afraid that until this thing is resolved, he won’t have the motivation to push himself.  If that happens then he’ll stay in that chair and become a hermit.”

Frustrated and confused, Brooke turned just as Philip Whitacre approached, a hearty smile on his handsome, tanned face.   He walked up and kissed her lightly on the cheek.  “Hey Babe.  I know how hungry you get in the morning so I brought you a bagel.”

Brooke took a small paper bag from him and vaguely smiled.  

“What’s this?” Miranda asked, her voice rising to a high-pitched squeal.  “Are you back together with this guy?”

“No, it’s not like that-“

“Oh really?  It sure looks that way to me!” Miranda exclaimed, staring Philip up and down and clenching her fists in anger.  “It isn’t bad enough that you lied to my father about your first marriage, but now you’re back with your ex-husband?  I suppose you told him he’s the father too.”

“Nice to see you again too,” Philip said with a smarmy smile.  He was twenty-nine, a chiseled hunk with dark hair and dark eyes that brooded mysteriously.

“We’re not together,” Brooke insisted, growing more agitated by the second.  “I had no where else to go so I came back to Phoenix.  I ran into Philip and he offered to let me stay with him until I got on my feet.”

“That was five months ago,” Miranda said, shooting Stormy an angry look and then pointed a thin finger at Brooke.  “You mean to tell me you’re living with him but you’re not together?”

“No!” Brooke lamented, then shook her head in confusion. “I mean yes!  God, why did you have to come here?  Why did you have to walk into this mall and mess everything up!”

With that, she turned and ran down the corridor to the back of the store, leaving Philip, Stormy and Miranda behind in mass confusion.  Miranda’s cell phone rang and she plucked it from her purse to answer.

“Hello?” she said absently, then paused and waited a beat.  What?”

“What is it?” Stormy asked with a frown.

She blew a strand of hair from her eyes and crossed her arms.  “The pilot has to go back to L.A.

“Why?”

“To pick up our father,” she replied.  “He’s coming here.”

Sunset Studios

Back at Sunset Studios in Hollywood, Brett sat in his office overlooking the enormous lot where dozens of extras, camera crews, and prop people ran back and forth with a sense of urgency.  He reached across the desk and took the bottle of pills from the unsavory looking character before him. 

“You’re sure these are safe?” Brett asked, looking at the plain label on the orange bottle of pills.  He opened the top and poured a few out into the palm of his hand.  They were big and white with a thick line down the center.  “I don’t want him dead.”

“Are you sure about that?” the man asked.

Brett looked at him with disgust.  “Of course I’m sure,” he barked.  “Now I’m going to ask you again.  Are these safe?”

The man could sense the severity in Brett’s voice so he offered a quick nod of his head.  “Yeah, they’re safe,” he replied.  “They're a kind of muscle relaxer.  He’ll feel weak and fatigued all the time.”

“So the chances of him regaining the feeling in his legs are pretty slim?” Brett asked ominously looking down at the pills in his hand.

“As long as he’s taking these pills, he won’t have the strength to walk again.”

Brett took a deep breath and poured the pills back into the container.  “What about long term effects?  What if he keeps taking them indefinitely?”

“Then he’ll be in the wheelchair indefinitely.  Over time they’ll cause too much damage and he’ll never walk again.”

Brett pocketed the pills and handed the man a stack of hundred dollar bills.  “Thank you for your time,” he said.  “And for your discretion.”

Will's House

Heather and Will stood in his bedroom at his sizeable estate in Hollywood.  He crept up behind her and kissed her neck, looking at their reflection in the mirror.   She started to pull away but forced herself to remain available to him.  It was all for the good of her career.

“I don’t know why you put up with me,” Will said, his blondish brown hair falling lazily into his eyes.

She managed a faint smile. “What do you mean?”

His reply came in pieces, hurried between kisses and passionate embraces.  “A girl as young and beautiful as you with an older man like myself.”  He laughed a little in spite of himself.  “But you’ve never had it so good, have you?”

She almost had to laugh at his arrogance.  Yes, as a matter of fact I have had it as good, and better, she wanted to say.  You have nothing on Stormy, that’s for sure.  But that was over with now.  She had moved on.  She’d married Stormy for love, and she was determined not to make the same mistake again.  Her relationship with Will Thomerson was purely for her own benefit.  Yes, he was attractive, but there was no long term appeal.

“Why don’t you move in here with me?” Will asked, turning her around to face him.

She laughed and started to move away.  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Am I being ridiculous?” Will asked as he followed her across the room.  “You’re living in James Blackthorne’s house.  And why?  You’re practically divorced from Stormy.  He’s no doubt gone off on some five-month long sexcapade.   You have no ties to that family anymore.  Why would you want to put yourself through that?”

“Because it’s better than living with my arrogant, self-involved father,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Will sighed and pulled her into an embrace.  “Princess, I just want what’s best for you,” he said.  “You’ve made a happy man out of me these last few months.  I want to return the favor.”

“You will,” Heather said, allowing him to lower her dress off her shoulders.  “By putting me in your film, remember?’

He smiled sickly.  “Ah yes,” he said as he pushed her down onto the bed.  “How could I forget?”

Philip Whitacre

Brooke paced around the small two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix, nervously wringing her hands together as she tried desperately to remain calm.   What were the odds of Miranda and Stormy showing up at the mall where she worked?  Now her attempt at getting away from L.A. and that house in Hollywood was shot to pieces.  She'd have no choice but to face the music now.  James and Ethan would demand an answer from her this time. 

A car door slammed outside and she ran to the window to see who it was.  To her relief, Philip was coming through the courtyard surrounding the pool.  He pushed open the door and immediately saw the tense expression on Brooke's face.

"Are you okay?" he asked, pushing his black hair from his forehead and making his way through the living room.  "You took off so fast and just left me with those two."

"Did they follow you?"

Philip shook his head.  "What is going on?" he asked.  "You never told me that you were running away.  You just told me that things didn't work out in L.A."

Starting to pace again, Brooke placed a hand on her stomach and wished she could start the day all over again.  Not go to work and not have to deal with the Blackthornes.    "I didn't run away, I just got fed up with everyone bullying me all the time."  She paused and looked at Philip with plaintiff eyes.  "I was so confused.  I didn't know where else to go."

Philip took her hand in his and sat her down on the old worn out sofa.  "I know, that's why I took you in and said I'd help you.  I still mean that Brooke.  These last few months have been incredible.  I feel like I finally have something to look forward to.  This baby means everything to me.  So do you."

Sighing with regret, Brooke pulled her hand away and tilted her head to the side.  "But it's not your baby, Philip.  And I never asked you to help me when it comes.  I still plan on taking my savings and moving out as soon as I can.  I've burdened you enough already."

"No you haven't."  He shook his head adamantly.  "And I don't care if it's not my baby.  I want you to stay here.  There's no reason you should leave."

Brooke stood up in a hurry and threw her hands up in despair.  "You don't know what you're saying," she said.  "We're not together, Philip.  You know that.  This has just been an arrangement-"

He smiled slyly and followed her across the room.  "I know we're not together."  With a slow, easy movement he slid his hand over hers and pulled her toward him.  "But I can't help but hope that things will change after the baby comes.  You want a father for your baby, don't you?"

Quickly, she pulled away and shook her head insistently.   “Philip, I don’t feel that way about you anymore.  I’ve told you that.”

He decided to put his agenda aside for the moment.  The past few months of living with Brooke had reawakened old feelings.  He wanted her back and wanted to be a family with her and the baby.  Nothing was going to stop that.

“So what are you going to do?” he asked as if she owed him an explanation.  “Are you going to tell the father?  Are you going back to L.A.?”

Jasmes Blackthorne

Gwen led James down the ramp in his wheelchair safely onto the tarmac of the airport in Phoenix.   Miranda and Stormy were standing nearby, the warm breeze gusting against them as they approached cautiously, both fearing their father’s wrath.

“Daddy, I’m sorry about taking the jet again,” Miranda began as they met up halfway.

James glared at her with contempt.  "We'll deal with that later," he began, then cast his gaze on Stormy who appeared beside Miranda.  "Stormy," he said with a cold nod of his head.

"Hi Dad," Stormy replied glumly, his hands dug deeply in his pockets.  He hated the way his father could revert him to feeling like a nine-year-old boy all over again.  "Listen, I'm sorry that I-"

James cut him off quickly.  "We'll deal with that later, too."  It was no secret he was disappointed in his only son.  Taking off five months ago without a word, and then only managing a single phone call to check up on his family since then.  It wasn't the kind of morals he'd instilled in his children and it made him see red.  "I have someone meeting me here.  She's found Brooke and she's taking me to her."

"We sort of ran into her too," Miranda announced uneasily.  "At the mall.  She was…uh…working at the makeup counter."

James's expression was one of shock and horror.  "Damnit," he whispered quietly to himself.  How could the woman who might be carrying his child be made to suffer working a menial job when she was eight months pregnant?  He hated the very thought of it.

"She took off before we could stop her," Stormy added.

Gwen began pushing James further down the tarmac as a woman approached from the terminal.  "Mr. Blackthorne?” she began and extended her hand down to him.  “I’m Janet Harper.  We spoke on the telephone.”

“Miss Harper, you say you’ve found Brooke?” James asked.

Stormy’s eyes immediately darted to Janet’s and he backed up a step.  He knew her quite well.  His travels during Lauren’s tour led him to many places and introduced him to many people.  Janet Harper, the nosiest reporter he’d met in his entire life.  Oh yes, he knew her all right, and the look in her eyes told him she knew exactly who he was.

“I have a van waiting,” Janet announced.  “I’ll take you to her now.”  She was a stunningly exotic looking woman of thirty-two with shoulder-length black hair and a voluptuous figure.  Large eyes and a porcelain complexion made her one of the more ravishing women in her field. 

“Let’s go,” James commanded.  Gwen began pushing him in his chair with Stormy and Miranda following close behind.   He couldn’t wait to find Brooke and demand an explanation.  Soon all his answers would be satisfied.

Brooke Taylor

Half an hour later, the doorbell of Philip's apartment rang and Brooke cowered away from the door in fear.  She looked at Philip and then back at the door, knowing that her past had finally caught up with her.

“Brooke, open the door.  It’s James.”

“Oh no,” she whispered to herself.  The fear immobilized her legs and sent her heart pounding inside her chest.   Why was she so afraid to face him?  She’d been madly in love with him not that long ago.   Parts of her still loved him so much.  That was something that would never die. 

But the idea that she was carrying Ethan’s baby, conceived out of lust while she was supposed to be married to James.  It was too much to handle.  She couldn’t face him.

Philip approached the door and opened it partially.  “Brooke isn’t here. I don’t know where she is.”

“Where the devil is she?” James demanded from outside on the patio.  He sat in his chair with Janet, Stormy and Miranda close behind.  “Why did you let her leave?”

“You have your children to thank for that,” Philip argued.  “They scared her off.  Now go back to L.A.  You’re not wanted here.”

“I don’t give a damn!” James bellowed.  “I came here to see Brooke.  Now I’m not leaving until I do!  If you don’t open the door I’ll break it down!”

Philip chuckled slightly to himself as if to say and how?  He turned to Brooke who shook her head in frustration.  It was no use.  They’d found her and it was too late.  She had to face up to things now.

“Open it,” she said softly to Philip.

His eyes narrowed on her and he shook his head in protest.  “No, if I open the door-“

“Open the door Philip!” she yelled, tears streaming down her face.

Reluctantly he did as she wished and pulled the door open.  James wheeled himself into the living room and stopped before Brooke.  Her pale, tormented face and pregnant stomach was enough to break his heart. 

“Brooke, I’m sorry but I had to come,” James said, resisting the instinct to push Philip Whitacre down and roll over him a hundred times.  He didn’t even want to think of what that man had done to his Brooke in the time they’d been apart. 

The sight of James sitting in the wheelchair, broken and fallen from his once high perch atop his family and peers, was enough to send her into hysterics.  How could the powerful man she’d fallen in love with be reduced to a cripple in a wheelchair?  It was heartbreaking.

“Look, if I did something to make you want to leave then I’ll be forever sorry,” James said.  “But damnit Brooke, you weren’t honest with me.  You carried on with Ethan and you got pregnant.”  He paused, trying to gather his thoughts and to put things into perspective.  He didn’t want to scare her off again.  “The only thing I need to know is do you love Ethan, and are you carrying his baby?”

She shook her head as a tear streamed down her face.  “How can you come here and ask me if I love Ethan?” she demanded with hostility.  “I didn’t just leave you, you know James.  I left him too.  I left because you were both driving me crazy.  I couldn’t handle the pressure anymore.  The arguing, the suspicion, it was too much.  How could I have raised a baby under those conditions?”

“But you owe me the truth,” James said.  “Are you carrying my child?  You owe me that much.”

“You don’t owe him anything, Brooke,” Philip interjected.  “Not a damn thing.”

“Mind your own business, friend!” James yelled.  “This doesn’t concern you!”

Philip slammed his fist against the wall and stormed over to James.  “The hell it doesn’t!” he said.  “Brooke came to me for help.  I’m the one who’s been here for her all this time.  The doctor's appointments, the checkups, the shopping for baby furniture.  This is more my business than yours so why don’t you get the hell out of here!”

“That could be my baby she’s carrying, God damn you!” James bellowed.  “You have no right to talk to me that way!”

“I’ll talk to you any way I want!” Philip argued.

“Stop it!” Brooke screamed, her face flush with tears and torment.  “Stop it!  Both of you!  This doesn’t concern either one of you!  This is my baby!  My baby!  The only person responsible for it is me! “

James immediately sought to console her.  “Brooke, I’m sorry.  God knows I didn’t mean to upset you.  You just have no idea what it’s been like.  Not knowing where you were all this time.  Going into surgery and not knowing if I’d come out of it, or if I did if I’d ever see you again.  Not knowing if I’d ever get a chance to see my own child.”

Trembling, Brooke wrapped her arms around herself and backed up a step.  She hadn’t realized how terrible things had been for James.  All she’d done was think about herself and her own problems.  Here James was fighting for his life.  And now sitting in that chair, barely hanging onto a life that he once had.  What kind of person was she for denying him happiness?

“Brooke, I still love you with all my heart,” James said, staring into her eyes and trying to get through to her.  “Remember how happy we were on our wedding day?  After so long we were finally going to be together.  Nothing was standing in our way.  But things happened and kept us apart.  So many things.  But look at everything we’ve come through, Brooke.  We’ve survived so much.  We can make it through anything if you’ll just give us the chance.”

More confused than ever, Brooke turned and wiped her eyes.  She couldn’t let her sympathy for James influence a decision as important as this one.   If she went back with him, it would all start over again.  The distrust, the double-dealings, the pain. She didn’t want her baby to go through that.

“Brooke, we can have it all,” James pleaded.

Finally she turned to him and took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry you came all this way, James,” she said.  “But I’m going to raise this baby on my own.  Without your help, without Ethan’s help, and without Philip’s help.”

“No-“ James gasped.  Stormy and Miranda watched in great suspense. 

“I’m sorry.”  Brooke said before turning and walking back into the bedroom.

James watched with defeat.  He’d tried and he’d failed.

Heather Blackthorne

That night back in Hollywood, Heather finished dressing and looked down at Will lying asleep in his bed.   She gritted her teeth and made her way down the stairs to his study.

Feeling her way through the dark, she turned on the desk lamp and surveyed the stacks of papers strewn about.   Biding her time, she rummaged through script pages and budget reports until she came to the copy of The Murderess script. 

With a determined sigh, she tucked it under her arm before switching the light off and making her way out to the front door.

Blackthorne Mansion

It was well after ten when the Sunset Studios jet returned to L.A and the limo driver brought James, Gwen, Miranda and Stormy home in deadly silence.  Stormy fidgeted nervously with his hands, afraid to speak for fear that his father would take his anger and resentment out on him.

Not that he could blame him, however.  Even Miranda, who had taken the throne as queen of selfishness over the years, couldn't compare to his behavior.  It would take a long time for him to make this up to his father.  Leaving town when his entire family fell apart didn't go over well, especially with the Blackthornes.

The fact that Janet Harper had surfaced in Phoenix and just happened to have had a lead on Brooke’s whereabouts was suspicious to say the least.  What were the odds that he would run into her in Denver just when things were going sour with Lauren, and then again in Phoenix?  She was definitely up to something.  He had a feeling that wasn’t the last time he’d run into Miss Harper.

After Gwen got James into his chair and wheeled him into the house, Stormy tried to break the ice with his father.  “Look Dad, I think we should talk-“

“It’s late,” James insisted, barely looking at Stormy.  “We’ve all been through a lot today.  I’m going upstairs.”  He motioned to Gwen and rolled across the foyer.

“I’m tired too,” Miranda said, stifling a yawn.  She turned to Stormy and gave him a pat on the shoulder.  She knew he was feeling badly and didn’t want to pour salt on the wound so she offered him a friendly smile.  “It’s good to have you home.”

Stormy managed a smile and watched his sister go up the stairs.  His eyes traveled up to the landing where Brett was standing waiting for Miranda.  Resentment built up immediately as he sensed that his unscrupulous brother-in-law had made quite a comfortable spot for himself in the Blackthorne mansion while he was gone.  He no doubt had Miranda snowed, and quite possibly his father too. 

But he couldn’t forget the evil things Brett had done.  Blackmailing Lauren into having sex with him, and then telling Heather about his affair out of spite.  They’d been friends up until then.  Then everything blew up.  But he was on to Brett Armstrong, and he was determined to make everyone else see him for who he was.

“Welcome home, Stormy,” Brett said with a smarmy grin as he put his arm around Miranda and led her down the hall to their bedroom.

Barely able to contain his anger, Stormy picked up his duffel bag and started up the stairs to his old bedroom.  It felt strange not going back to his house in the Valley, but since he and Heather were no longer, he’d have to take up residence at the mansion again.

Making his way down the hallway, he stopped when he heard a bedroom door open behind him.  He turned and saw Heather emerge from her bedroom.  He gulped, swallowing hard at the sight of his wife living several rooms down from him.  Miranda had told him she was living there, but it didn’t seem real until he saw her with his own eyes.  What on earth was he going to say to her?  What words were going to make everything all right?

Heather stood frozen for a split second.  Seeing Stormy again after all this time was enough to knock her off her feet.  She knew he’d come home eventually, but now that he had, it was harder than she’d thought.

The cold look in Heather’s eyes gave Stormy the chills.  She made her way down the stairs to the kitchen and didn’t give him a second look.  Sighing heavily, Stormy kicked open his door and threw his duffel bag inside.

“Home sweet home,” he mumbled to himself and flung himself onto his old bed.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda changed into her nightgown and walked into the room where Brett was sprawled out on the bed with a scowl on his face.  She frowned, immediately knowing what he was going to say.

“I can’t believe you flew to Phoenix without even telling me,” he said.  “Am I your husband or am I your doormat, Miranda?”

She fixed her eyes neatly on him and took off her necklace and earrings.  “Aren’t you being a little dramatic?” she asked.  “I wasn’t even gone a whole day.  What’s eating you, anyway?  Does this have anything to do with Stormy being back?”

Her perceptive nature was always a surprise.  “Why would I care that Stormy’s back?”  he asked and sat up on the bed.  The fact that Stormy could blow him out of the water was of great concern to him actually.  He was the one person who knew his trickery before he and Lauren left on tour together.  He could convince Miranda that he was not to be trusted and then he’d be out the door.  No more big mansion to live in, no more fancy clothes and car, no more heading up Sunset Studios while James was incapacitated. 

“Because before he left the two of you had a pretty big falling out,” Miranda claimed as she sat down at her vanity and began tissuing thick cold cream to her face.   “You know, I still don’t understand what got the two of you so off track.  I mean, you were practically like brothers.  I know it was because of Lauren but what I don’t know is-“

“That’s exactly what it was,” Brett insisted, standing up and pacing the room.  He had to do some damage control before it was too late.  “Miranda, the truth is that I was Lauren’s manager, and Stormy was jealous of that fact because of their affair.  He was threatened by me.”

She looked at him and nodded.  “That sounds like Stormy.  I mean, that whole contrived story he came up with about you blackmailing Lauren into sleeping with you.  How desperate he must have been.”

“Exactly,” Brett said eagerly, hoping that his wife would stay on his side.

“I mean, his marriage was a shambles, he was cheating on his wife, so naturally he blamed you for the whole thing.  Really it doesn’t surprise me.  Family shouldn’t work together.  It never works out.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Brett said with a smile, satisfied that his past indiscretions would remain a secret.  Even if Stormy brought it up again, who would listen now?  He’d deserted his family and would have to scratch and claw his way back into their good graces.  Yes, he was on top of the world, and Stormy was outside looking in.

“So I was thinking about the house,” Miranda said, turning around and looking at him with excitement.  “I know you were angry when I said I wanted to stay here instead of moving in to our own place.  But I just wanted to be here for Daddy after the surgery.  He needed me, Brett.”

Sighing, he sat down on the bed and ruffled his blond hair in his hand.  “Yeah, and I went along with it because it’s what you wanted.”

“Well I was thinking now that Stormy’s back, and Gwen’s been doing such a good job with Daddy, that maybe we can go ahead and move into our house now,” Miranda said, the enthusiasm evident in her voice.   She walked over to him and put her arms around his neck, straddling him on the bed.   “Think about it.  We’ll have our own place with all kinds of privacy.  We can do anything we want.  No one else around.”

Brett’s thoughts began flying in a thousand directions.  “Now?” he asked.  “Don’t you think your father needs you here?”

She shook her head and kissed him on the cheek.  “No, I think Daddy’s doing okay.  He has lots of people here who can look after him.”

Refusing to lose his position in the house, and his relationship with Gwen, Brett decided to do some quick thinking.  “Miranda, I didn’t want to tell you this before, but your father told me just the other day that he didn’t think he could do it without you.  He said that having you around every day gives him the strength and the courage to keep on with his therapy.  If it wasn’t for you, I’m afraid he’d give up completely.  And now that Brooke isn’t coming back…”

Miranda trailed off in a daze and considered the new information.  She couldn’t very well leave her father in his time of need.  And if he needed her as much as Brett said he did, she’d be abandoning him.  And God knows enough people had abandoned him lately.

“Well, it was just an idea,” she said.  “I don’t mind staying here if you don’t.  I just don’t want things to get too nasty with you and Stormy.”

Brett smiled and pulled her into an embrace.  “I can handle Stormy,” he said.  “Your father needs you now.  That’s the most important thing.”

Brett Armstrong

It was well after midnight when Miranda had fallen asleep and Brett made his way down the hall to Gwen’s room.  They lay naked in each other’s arms, the glow of candlelight illuminating the soft lines of Gwen’s face.  Her hair cascaded down over her shoulders and she wore just the right amount of makeup to take the edge off her dowdy, frumpy appearance that everyone else saw during the day.  At night, when they were alone, a very sensuous, delicate woman appeared.

“You’re a wonderful lover,” she said, stroking her hand down Brett’s bare chest, exploring the ridges of his muscles and the soft feel of his skin on hers.   “I’m so glad you could get away tonight. I really needed you, Brett.”

He smiled, his thoughts elsewhere.  Slowly he sat up on the bed and reached into the pocket of his Italian silk robe, removing the bottle of pills he’d bought that afternoon.  It was showtime, and he'd have to pull off the biggest con job of them all.

“Gwen, I’m really worried about James,” he began, choosing his words carefully so as not to arouse suspicion.  “I really feel like this incident with Brooke is going to set him back quite a bit.”

“How do you mean?” Gwen asked, raising herself up on her elbow.  “He’s been doing pretty good with his therapy.”

Brett smiled and turned toward her.  “Miranda said he was so upset when they left Phoenix.  I’m afraid he might do something drastic.”

Alarmed by the prospect, Gwen sat up and looked into Brett’s eyes.  “Brett, what are you saying?”

“I just want to make sure that he keeps up his spirits.  A thing like this can do all kinds of damage to his psyche.  I think he needs some help but he’s not going to ask because he’s too proud.”

“What can we do?” Gwen asked with genuine concern.

Brett lifted the bottle of pills and handed them to her.  “These are a mild mood enhancer,” he said.  “They’re a hundred percent herbal so there’s no risk of side effects or anything.  I just think that he would benefit from taking them, that’s all.”

“Where did you get them?” Gwen asked with a frown as she examined the bottle.

“Oh, well I’ve taken them for years,” he liked.  Lying was second nature to Brett and he wasn't afraid to admit it...to himself..  “I get them from a nutritionist.  They’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.  My outlook on life has been so much better since I’ve been taking them.”

Shrugging, Gwen began to hand them back to Brett.  “I’ve never had much faith in those herbal remedies,” she said.

“I was suicidal,” Brett said quickly, realizing he had to think of something fast.  Maybe he needed to lay it on a little thicker.  “I was on the verge of a total breakdown before I started taking them.  Just imagine if James gets to that point.   I for one don’t want to take anything for granted.  If anything happened to him, I could never forgive myself.”

Gwen studied Brett’s eyes and saw the compassion he felt for James.  She nodded her head, knowing what she had to do.  “Okay,” she said, placing the pills on the nightstand beside her bed.  “You’re right.  I don’t want anything to happen to Mr. Blackthorne.”

Brett smiled, pushing a lock of hair from Gwen’s face as he leaned in to kiss her. He realized he should have went into acting.

Blackthorne Mansion

A short while later, Brett crept into the hallway to return to his and Miranda’s room down the hall.  He tiptoed through the dimly lit corridor and stopped with a jolt when he ran directly into Heather.

“Jesus, you scared me to death,” he whispered.  “What are you doing up?  It’s past one in the morning.”

Heather reached into her nightgown and removed the script she’d taken from Will Thomerson’s study.   “I got the script,” she said in a hushed whisper.   “I made a copy and put the original back so he won’t know I took it.”

Brett grinned and leafed through the copy of The Murderess.   “Good work,” he said with a flourish.  “You work fast.  Faster than last time.  Incidentally, Will and Ethan don’t know you were the one who took the Blood and Oil script, do they?”

“No, and I don’t want them to,” Heather replied.  “I don’t want to hurt anyone.  I just want my shot in the business.  And you said you’d help me.”

“I will,” Brett said, studying the title page of the script.  “I promised you a role in the next film and I meant it.”

“I hope so, because Will said he’d put me in a film.  I’d just rather work with Sunset Studios if I had my choice.”

Brett laughed heartily.  “Will Thomerson doesn’t help anyone but himself,” he said, shaking his head back and forth.  “Don’t believe anything he says.”

“So when do I find out what role I’m getting?”

“In due time,” Brett insisted.  “Just relax, Heather.”

“Relax?” she demanded, trying to keep her voice down so as not to awaken the full house.  “Don’t tell me to relax.  I feel like a prostitute, Brett.  Sleeping with Will Thomerson so I can steal movie options from them?  Do you know how low that is?”

“Hey, no one said this business was easy,” Brett said, placing a hand under her chin and lifting it gently.  “And if you feel like a prostitute then you have nobody to blame but yourself.”

With that, he walked down the hall and crept into his bedroom where Miranda was fast asleep.

Ethan Blackthorne

The next morning, Ethan showed up at the Blackthorne mansion with an uptight frown on his tanned face.   He entered the foyer just as James wheeled out from his study.

"What are you doing here?" James asked with a ferocious scowl.   "I thought I made myself clear that you're not a part of this family anymore."

Pretending to be unaffected by his Uncle's harsh words, Ethan stepped further into the room and took a deep breath.  "I came because I heard that you found Brooke," he said, tight-lipped.

"And?" James asked angrily.

"Are you the father of her baby?" Ethan asked, preparing himself for the bad news. 

"Yes he is," said a voice from behind.

They both turned around quickly, startled by the sight of Brooke standing inside the front door, dressed in a dark cotton suit and a suitcase in her hand.  Ethan felt his heart jump and he quickly rushed toward her.

"Brooke-" James began, a wave of excitement rushing over him.  He couldn't believe that she was there.  After leaving her in Phoenix, he thought he'd never see her again.

Brooke smiled and walked purposefully toward James.  "I did some thinking after you left," she began.  "I know I was wrong to leave and to deny you being a part of your baby's life."

James's eyes widened while Ethan cowered away with disappointment.

"This is your baby, James," she continued.  She had to lie to him.  Miranda had said that he was barely holding on to hope.  If she could give him a family then maybe he'd have the motivation to keep pushing himself until he could finally walk again.  This was her way of ensuring that would happen.  She owed him.

"Are you sure?" Ethan asked.

She nodded.  The hoax she was perpetuating was a small sacrifice.  After what happened with Winter Austen, she had no intention of going back to Ethan.  Every time they got together something horrible happened.  It just wasn't meant to be.  She needed to be with James who needed her so much.  Her feelings for Ethan would have to be forgotten.

"What about us?" James asked, his tone full of hope.

Brooke held out her hand to him and wiped a tear from her eye.  "I want to be with you more than anything," she said and bent down to kiss him.

"Thank God," James said, wrapping his arms around her and covering her face with tender kisses.

Before either of them noticed, Ethan had turned and made his way back out the front door.  He slipped quietly to his car and drove away, silently dealing with the final outcome of the long, painful wait.  He'd lost Brooke to James.  Maybe it was meant to be.

Gwen came down the stairs and reluctantly interrupted the reunion between James and Brooke.  She held a glass of water and a pill in her hand, approaching with a timid smile.  "Mr. Blackthorne, it's time for your medication," she said, handing him the large white pill.

"More pills," James said with a sigh and swallowed it down with a gulp of water.

"Just as long as you get better soon," Brooke said with a smile and caressed the side of his face.  She hated seeing him confined to a wheelchair.  Her heart broke for him, and with any luck her coming back to him would give him the spirit to get up and walk again.

Upstairs on the landing, Brett watched James take the pill.  He nodded with a calculating smile, satisfied that his plan to keep James incapacitated was going to work.  He would retain his position as head of Sunset Studios at any cost.

 


Next time....

Stormy finds himself frustrated by how indispensable Brett has become to the family.  James and Brooke announce plans to remarry.  Heather demands that Brett hold up his end of their bargain.  Will sees red when he learns that Sunset Studios gained the rights to The Murderess.  Someone is following Brooke. Stormy and Heather get the closure they need.  

 

  Read Episode 26

 

 


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