her lunch date with Renee, Adrienne was strangled to
death by an unknown assailant. Jack was arrested
for suspicion in the murder, but insisted that whoever
Adrienne was having the affair with killed her. Brooke and Ethan
made love. Afterwards, James showed up and flew
into a rage over their renewed relationship, vowing
that they were through once and for all. David
and Miranda made plans to go away for the weekend pending
her recovery from the miscarriage. Brett and Heather
made love again. Renee cut Jordan loose and told
him to go back to Alex. Alex gave Seth ten million
dollars to create Stratotech, a secret offshoot
of Blackthorne-Reynolds, which she would be named sole
owner of. Logan Mackenzie warned Seth that they might
not be able to trust Alex, then indicated that Adrienne
gave them the same problem, and reveals that Seth was
the man having the affair with Adrienne. Choosing their words
carefully, Seth and Logan each accused each other of
killing Adrienne for threatening to squeal about the
Costa Mesa deal.
and rumors spread through Hollywood
like wildfire. It was one
downfall of living there that most people had grown accustomed to. Whether you wanted to or not, you often
learned the most disturbing secrets from the most unlikely source.
the case of Adrienne Fallmont’s murder,
traveled quickly. Eddie told Stormy, who
told Miranda, who called Alex, who had lunch with Marilee Walker, who had a
tennis date with Leigh Purcell where they gossiped over the gruesome details.
“I heard he strangled her with her
own pantyhose,” Marilee gasped after
they finished their set and sat down at a table at Hotel Terranova for a glass of lemonade. “Can you even imagine?
Her own husband."”
“But they released Jack days
ago. They said his alibi was concrete.”
Marilee scoffed and dabbed her
forehead with a towel. “Are you
kidding?” she said. “With as much money as the Fallmonts have, he could have
easily paid someone to lie for him. You
know that as well as I do, Leigh.”
Their conversation was interrupted
when Seth appeared from behind and placed his arms gently around Marilee. “What are you two talking about so
seriously?” he asked and kissed her on the neck. “Am I interrupting?”
Marilee shivered from his touch and
smiled adoringly. “No, of course not,
Darling. Leigh and I were just talking
about that scoundrel, Jack Fallmont and what he did to poor Adrienne.”
Seth grinned and sat down at the
table. “That scoundrel was cleared and released from jail,” he said matter of
“Oh Seth, I love that you see the
good in people,” Marilee said with a wink.
“So what are you doing here in the middle of the day? I had no idea the life of a Congressman was
“Is there anything wrong with me
wanting to say hello to my beautiful wife?” he asked and kissed her again, the
whole while eyeing Leigh out of the corner of his eye. “Besides, I’m meeting Brett here to go over
some press releases.”
“So now the truth comes out,” Marilee joked. “That’s okay.
Leigh and I are going shopping anyway.
You and Brett can work as late as you need to. Leigh, are you ready to go?”
She nodded awkwardly. “Sure.
I think I’ll just go in and powder my nose first.” She got up and went inside the hotel, ambling
across the lobby toward the lounge. She
ordered a drink at the bar and collected her thoughts. Her hands trembled nervously and she grabbed
for the drink and swallowed it down in two big gulps.
“Can I buy you another?” asked a
voice from behind.
Leigh turned and spotted Logan Mackenzie
sitting at a table nursing a cocktail.
She let out a deep breath and attempted to skirt past him but he shot to
his feet and pulled her aside.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of
inappropriate to be having lunch with Seth’s wife while you’ve been sleeping
with the man behind her back?” Logan
asked under his breath. “My, my, Leigh,
your nerve never ceases to amaze me.
Much like your attending poor Adrienne Fallmont’s funeral the other
“You’re one to talk,” Leigh said and
looked at him bravely. “I hear you paid
Alex Reynolds a visit the other night.
What was that all about?”
“She’s our new partner,” Logan declared. “Is there anything wrong with me welcoming
her to the fold?”
“Not when she doesn’t know what
she’s even partners in. How are Seth and I supposed to know that you
won’t tell her everything and risk this whole deal? We could all go to prison if the truth gets
out about that land in Costa Mesa.”
“That’s what Alex Reynolds is for,” Logan reminded her. “She owns Stratotech. We collect the profits and she gets left
holding the ball.”
“Until she finds out what’s going on
and threatens to tell. Just like
Logan folded his arms and regarded her
carefully. “Well, we both know how that
ended for Adrienne, don’t we?”
With that, he turned and started
through the lobby. Leigh shuddered with
uneasiness and walked over to meet Marilee on her way in from the terrace.
Miranda sat in the exam room at
Cedars-Sinai, chilly in her hospital gown as she waited for the results from her
checkup. Dr. Mitchell jotted a few
things down on a clipboard and then looked up, removing her glasses with a
“Everything seems fine, Miranda,”
said the doctor. “I don’t see any signs
of complications from the miscarriage.
You’re very healthy.”
Miranda smiled with elation. “So that means I can go away this weekend?”
Dr. Mitchell sighed and contemplated
the question. “You still have to take it
easy. I don’t want you hiking or skiing
in your condition. But I don’t see any
reason why you can’t go away for a couple of days. You seem to be out of danger. Maybe the fresh mountain air will do you
good. Just make sure that you have my
pager number in case anything should go wrong.”
“Thank you, Dr. Mitchell,” Miranda
said and jumped down from the exam table.
“I promise. I won’t get out of
bed all weekend. It’ll just be so nice
to get away for a few days.”
“Well, have a good time,” Dr.
Mitchell said before leaving the room.
Miranda quickly dressed, eager to
phone David to tell him the good news.
When she’d initially brought up the idea of going away together several
days before, he made her promise to get the all-clear from the doctor
first. Now that she had, there was
nothing stopping them. After all their
ups and downs, interruptions, and bad luck, being alone together was something
she felt they needed to do if they were going to find out if they were
compatible. And she hoped they were.
After she got dressed, she walked
out into the reception area and ran directly into Brooke.
I’m so glad I ran into you,” Brooke said, pushing a long lock of blond hair
from her eyes. “I’ve been wondering how
you were feeling. Were you just in
seeing Dr. Mitchell? What did she say?”
“I know it’ll disappoint you to hear
it, Brooke, but Dr. Mitchell said I’m doing fine. She even gave me the all clear to have
would that disappoint me?” Brooke asked in exasperation. “Miranda, I’m happy that you’re doing better. And I hope that someday
you do meet the right man and have a baby. I don't
know why you think I wouldn't want that for you."
rolled her eyes and folded her arms harshly across her chest. “Maybe I already have met the right man,” she
said. “David Jennings and I are going away
this weekend. If things go as planned, I
think we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.
And then who knows? Maybe he and
I will get married and have a baby together.”
want you to be happy, Miranda.”
looked at her step-mother and laughed.
“You mean as long as it doesn’t mean giving my father a grandchild.”
frowned in confusion. “No, I think that
would be wonderful. I-“
we all know that since you didn’t give James a child, you don’t want anyone
else to either. Not even his own
daughter. You’re so selfish,
Brooke. All you care about is yourself and
being the most important person in my father’s life. Well guess what? You’re out of his life now. I heard him talking to Kenny this morning
about drawing up divorce papers.”
news startled Brooke. Granted, she knew
it was coming, but the finality of it was hard to accept. She and James had been through so much
together. Now it was over just like
are you doing here, anyway?” Miranda asked, sufficiently satisfied that she’d
gotten to Brooke. “Not expecting, I
hope. Lord knows if you’re carrying
another one of Ethan’s babies you’ll probably try to pass it off as my father’s
just so you can hold on to him again.”
I’m not pregnant,” Brooke replied defensively.
“I’m just here for my annual checkup.”
“Good. The last thing we need is another bastard of
yours running around the word,” Miranda said before brushing past her and
starting to the elevators.
arrived at Hotel Terranova and met up
with Seth outside on the terrace. Seth
ordered them a round of drinks and they dove into a stack of press releases and
public appearance schedules.
takes us through the end of next week,” Brett said after they’d covered the
last bit of material.
Seth replied and gazed adoringly at a passing blonde in a short tennis skirt
and skin-tight polo. “Anything else
happening at the office today?”
handed him a stack of phone messages and then opened a notebook. “There was one thing that I wanted to ask you
about,” he began. “Your accountant
called regarding a donation you pledged to a wildlife preserve on the south
coast. He wanted to know if the check
should be made out to Kenny DeWitt or to the Land Commission’s treasurer?”
quickly dodged the subject. “I’ll call
the accountant myself,” he said. The less Brett knew about that the
better. “Anything else?”
could read him like a book. Part of the
advantages of being a con man for so many years. He could spot a con a mile away. “That donation wouldn’t have anything to do
with your variance, would it? I mean, I know
you were denied drilling permits for that land you were looking to buy some
time ago, then suddenly the Land Commission changed their minds.”
with the young man’s savvy, Seth swallowed a gulp of his drink and leaned
forward. “Brett, part of your job as my
PR person involves the ability to know when your services are needed and when
they’re not. This would be one of those
times when they’re not. From now on, if
anything comes through the office that has to do with Costa Mesa or the Land Commission, I want to
handle it personally. Is that
flag. Brett bit down on his lip and
realized he had a lot of work to do if he was going to find out what
Congressman Walker was up to. Whatever
it was, it wasn’t legal. Bribery of a
city office was a big no-no for a Congressman.
“So Reno is off
the schedule for this
weekend?” he asked, deciding to change the subject for the time being.
shook his head. “No, I can’t make
it. You’ll have to go in my place and
extend my regrets. Book a flight out
today an be back by Monday. Make a
weekend out of it. You deserve it after all the disappointment you've
been through lately.”
was in her office at Blackthorne-Reynolds
when the door opened and Jordan entered, a bouquet of roses in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the
this?” Alex asked and looked up from her paperwork.
in the afternoon, what does it look like?” Jordan replied with a smirk and
kissed her tenderly. “I thought I’d be
the one to make the first move.”
first move?” Alex asked, a perfectly waxed eyebrow arched to oblivion. “I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
Jordan popped the cork on
the bottle and withdrew two glasses from the bar. “Well, we’re both free agents again and
neither one of us can deny that there’s been quite a bit of sexual tension ever
since our divorce became final. We made
love the day we got the final papers, after all. And now that Renee and I have ended things, I
think we owe it to ourselves to explore where this is going.”
this is going?” Alex asked and rose to her feet in a huff. “I’ll tell you where this is going, Jordan
again?” he asked, handing her a glass of champagne.
she took the glass of amber liquid and poured it over his head, dousing his
hair and watching the champagne pour down his face.
the-“ he yelled and took a step back.
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
and Renee didn’t end things,” Alex spat.
“It was not an amicable split.
She dumped you.”
the difference?” he asked in a shrill voice, dabbing his face and hair with a
you be here today with roses and champagne if Renee hadn’t called things off
with you?” Alex asked, her arms folded.
“Or would you be in her bed fawning all over her and Nathan's
Jordan clenched his teeth
angrily. He hated it when she got like
this. Everything had to be so damn
difficult with Alex Reynolds. Always had
and always would. “What’s with the what
if’s?” he asked. “The point is that I’m
here now. I love you and I haven’t
stopped. I think that you love me
too. Now why can’t you just accept that
and forget the how’s and the why’s?”
I have something called self respect,” Alex insisted. “I’m nobody’s sloppy seconds, and I’m
certainly not going to be a rebound from Renee DeWitt.” She turned and went back to her desk. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
Jordan stood, wet and
flabbergasted. Nothing about his gesture
had gone according to his plan. Of course,
with Alex, nothing ever did. He grabbed
the roses, turned and marched out of the office, slamming them into a garbage
can on his way.
he passed through the reception area, Renee emerged from her office and
witnessed his tirade. Obviously her
free hadn’t phased Alex in the slightest.
She stormed into her office and glared at the woman in frustration.
really are a very dumb woman, you know that?”
hell,” Alex said spitefully.
handed you Jordan
on a silver platter and you tossed him aside,” Renee continued. “Do you realize
what you’re giving up? Do you think
there are men out there waiting in line to put up with your theatrical
antics? Well let me tell you something,
lady, there aren’t. You need to take it
where you can get it.”
that, she turned and stormed back out of the office, leaving Alex to brood over
her actions once again. Yes, she still loved Jordan, but her pride - or
maybe her stubbornness - wouldn't let her take
him back without at least making a point.
Brett left Hotel Terranova and headed home to pack for his trip to Reno. On his way, he stopped off at City Hall to pick
up some reading material for the plane ride.
After laying a thick layer of charm on Sharice, the large African
American woman who worked at the counter in the records office, he was granted
full access to every land purchase in the past six weeks.
that Stratotech, a company based in
California, had purchased the land and
acquired a variance for the purpose of drilling for oil. The company was listed as a corporation, so
no owner was given, only the name of its CEO, M. McCormack. But Brett was certain it was the same piece
of land that Seth had expressed interest in.
Why else would he have given such a sizeable donation to the Land
Commission? What was his game? He decided he’d have to do some more research
when he returned from Reno.
got home to his condo at the marina, he started packing. A knock at the door broke his concentration
and he quickly ran over to answer it. To
his delight, Heather was standing on the other side of the door, looking
radiant as ever.
he said, gently taking her hand and pulling her inside. “What are you doing here?”
until today we’ve spent every day this week together,” Heather
replied. “I thought maybe you were
grinned and drew her into a kiss. “I was
missing you,” he said, relishing the feel of her in his arms. The past few days she’d been there for him in
his grief over Miranda’s miscarriage. He
couldn’t remember anyone ever making him feel happier.
you going somewhere?” she asked when she noticed his open suitcase.
“Reno,” Brett replied and
went on with his packing. “Seth
overcommitted himself again and can’t make it to a speaking engagement for a
bunch of conventioneers. I have to go up
and give his regrets in person.”
will you be back?”
going to make a weekend out of it, but-“
He paused, turning to her and placing his hands on her shoulders. “Why don’t you come with me? We can have our own little weekend away
together. Do some gambling, see a show
or two, stay in bed…”
grinned and ran her hands down his back.
you kidding? I’d love to,” she said and broke away in excitement. “Just let me run home and pack a bag.”
pick you up in an hour,” Brett said with a grin, kissing her again before she
raced out the door.
at Hotel Terranova, Brooke rushed around her suite
gathering last minute items into a suitcase when a knock at the door led her
away from her task. Michael was crying
in his crib and Ethan was on his way over to pick her up for their weekend away. She walked to the door and pulled it open,
frowning at the sight of a statuesque man standing in the hall.
“Brooke Blackthorne?” the man asked.
“You’ve been served,” he said,
handing her an envelope before turning and walking quickly away.
Brooke knew what it was before she even
opened it. Sighing, she closed the door
and walked over to Michael, picking him up in an effort to quiet his cranky
state. Bouncing him in one arm, she
opened the envelope and withdrew the divorce papers from James’ attorney.
Before she could brood too heavily
over the impending divorce, Ethan arrived, jiggling his car keys in one hand
and holding the door open with the other.
“You ready to go?” he asked.
Brooke glanced at him and then back
down at the divorce papers. She set them
down on the desk and nodded, forcing a smile on her face as she ran a hand
through Michael’s blond hair.
“Yeah, I’m ready,” she said. “Just trying to get Michael’s things
“I’ve got a bellman on the way up to
get your things,” Ethan said and walked over, kissing her and Michael both on
the forehead. He detected a hint of
despair in her eyes and he placed a hand alongside her face. “You okay?”
She nodded. “I’m fine.
Just looking forward to going away for a few days."
Ethan took Michael from her while
she quietly gathered the rest of their things. He
wondered what had gotten to her so suddenly. Whatever
it was, he hoped that this weekend would seal their
renewed relationship and they'd finally be able to pick
up where they'd left off years before. Nothing
could stand in their way this time.
“Eddie, what are we doing here?”
Stormy asked as they walked into the bedroom at Jack and Adrienne’s house in Glendale“This
is where she died. It’s creepy.”
“Jack hired me to find out who
killed his wife,” Eddie explained, looking around the bedroom, glancing behind
dressers and inspecting every surface in the room. “Where else would I start but the scene of
Stormy groaned and followed him
through the room. “The police have
already searched he place with a fine tooth comb. What do you think you’re going to find that
“The police don’t have my keen sense
of observation, bud,” Eddie said, flashing a pen light around and opening a
drawer in the bureau. He lifted a pair
of lacy black panties with a set of forceps and examined them closely.
Stormy rolled his eyes. “Let’s stick to actual clues,” he said and
forced the underwear back into the drawer.
“Now come on. I want to get this
over with and get out of here. I have
things to do at the studio.”
“Well, until I find my Gal Friday,
you’re doing to have to fill in. What’s
the problem, anyway? We’re
no strangers to recon missions. Raiding
the nurses office in high school, spying on the competition when we started Good Times
Records, now a murder investigation."
Stormy groaned and ran his fingers
through his hair. “Look, we’re not going
to find anything here. Jack says he
thinks whoever Adrienne was having the affair with killed her. So we should be trying to find out who this
guy is. Start with bank records and find
the money trail. She withdrew ten
million dollars from a Fallmont
Industries account. She had to have
used it for something, and my bet is she gave it to him.”
Crawling on the floor and peering
under the bed, Eddie stopped and looked up at him. “Why didn’t I think of any of that?” he
asked. “I’m supposed to be the private
“No offense, Eddie, but I think
you’re still back in the nurses office at West Beverly High.”
He offered a wry grin and climbed to
his feet. “Okay, so let’s go find this
bastard, and the ten million dollars he ran off with.”
Alex felt like she was in the middle
of nowhere. The dirt road was overgrown
by grass and weeds and the air was dry and dusty. She never in her life thought that she’d be
in the middle of the god forsaken country with nothing but filth as far as the
eye could see.
She made it to the old wooden fence
where Seth had told her to meet him, and she turned off the car and waited for
him to arrive. Minutes later, he pulled
up on schedule. She waited for him to
approach her car before climbing out and gazing around.
“This is it?” she asked. “Sure doesn’t seem worth twenty million
Seth grinned and led her along the
fence. They came up to a hill, the other
side furnished with construction trailers and tons of heavy machinery that Alex
didn’t quite understand, or really care about.
All she knew was that this land was going to make her a lot of money,
and label her independent from the likes of Renee and James.
“It’s what’s underneath that
counts,” Seth said. “Believe me, our
money is going to good use here. We’ll
be striking oil any day now.”
Alex peered over the hill, spying
the few men working in the field.
“Seth, I realize I don’t have much knowledge about the technical goings
on in the oil business, but I don’t see any drilling going on. What exactly are those men doing?”
“You’re right, you don’t know the
technicalities,” Seth cut her off. “But
luckily you don’t have to. All you have
to know is that in a few days the smell of oil will fill this entire field, and
you’ll be millions of dollars richer.”
Alex decided to trust in that he
knew what he was doing and that their crew did too. “I’m curious about one thing,” she said as
they continued walking along the fence.
‘Why you what?”
“Why come to me with this deal?” she
asked. “You didn’t need the money. You could have gotten that ten million
dollars from Marilee. She’s your wife,
and she’s very wealthy.”
Seth evaded her question
expertly. “You’re right, I could
have. But mine and Marilee’s marriage
has always been about being equals. I
wanted to do this on my own, without her help, and without those society types
accusing me of riding on my wife’s coat tails."
Alex nodded. “I have to give you credit for that,” she
said. “And this former partner? The one who reneged on the deal?”
“She became something of a silent
partner,” Seth said with a grin. “With
her ten million dollars she’ll have a lifetime of happiness.”
“She?” Alex asked with a curious
furrow in her brow. “I sense your
preference in doing business with the opposite sex. Any reason why?”
“Women not only make wonderful
lovers, but the best business partners.
It’s as simple as that.”
“What about him?”
‘He’s very handsome and very
charming, but he’s so serious. I wonder
if he takes this as lightly as you do.”
“Logan’s put a lot on the line for this
deal. He wants his payback and he won’t
let anything stand in the way of that.”
“Let’s just hope he doesn’t get
greedy,” Alex said.
Seth considered her remark
carefully, wondering if there was anything to her concerns. Logan
was nothing more than a frontman – a geologist to make it appear that things
were legit at the drill site. And for
that he was being rewarded handsomely.
He was almost possessive about the deal.
His attitude toward Adrienne had been hostile to say the least. And Leigh was downright afraid of him. One thing was for certain, he would have to
keep a watchful eye on Logan Mackenzie.
Leigh did not live at the
Blackthorne mansion, but she’d spent the past four nights there, and had
smuggled in the necessities so seamlessly that James hadn’t even noticed. Clean underwear, a toothbrush, a nightgown
and a fresh change of clothes. She was
living her dream, but sadly she feared that’s all it would ever be. A pipe dream that would never be fully
realized. How could they have an honest
relationship when she was hiding so much from him? Her partnership with Seth, Logan and Alex in
a scandal so big that it now involved a murder and a phony offshoot of Blackthorne-Reynolds that could land
Alex, Renee and James in prison for the rest of their lives.
“Are you okay?” James asked as they
laid in bed together that evening before dinner. “You look a million miles away.”
Leigh sighed and stood up, slipping
into a robe and pinning her hair up away from her shoulders. “Just thinking about us, that’s all,” she
said with a faraway look in her eyes.
“Six years ago we spent two beautiful weeks together in Acapulco, and I never thought I’d see you
we met coincidentally in Rio. Now here we are in Los Angeles. You’re getting divorced, I’m a widow, we have
no attachments and yet I feel like there’s something holding us back.”
“Aren’t you happy with the way
things are?” James asked. “We haven’t
been seeing each other very long, and I wasn’t under the impression that it was
Leigh looked at him with surprise,
the hurt evident in her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” James said and climbed
out of bed. He came up behind her and
placed his hands on her shoulders. “I
just didn’t know what you expected out of this.”
“Nothing,” she replied quickly. “I don’t expect anything. You told me that you needed time, that we had
to take things slow while you decided what to do about Brooke.”
“The decision’s been made,” James
said. “I filed for divorce. Brooke was served with the papers today.”
Leigh turned and looked at him with
a smile. “You did?” she asked in
disbelief. “Why didn’t you tell me? I-“
He shrugged. “It still doesn’t seem real to me. That a few months ago I had a wife and a son,
and now I have neither. It’s all taking
some getting used to.”
“Look, if I’m crowding you I can
stay away. I can give you space,
James. I certainly don’t want to make
things harder on you.”
“You’re not,” James said and pulled
her toward him. “And I don’t want you to
go anywhere. I love you being right here
with me. I think that our coming
together again was fate. We’re here
together for a reason.”
She closed her eyes and allowed him
to drop her robe from her body. He led
her back to the bed and gently laid her down, covering her with his body and
kissing her passionately. Leigh was
exactly what he needed to get Brooke out of his system.
Miranda and David arrived at his
cabin in Big Bear to the welcome sight of falling leaves and a cool, brisk
breeze blowing through the trees. The
small house was situated on the edge of the lake with a private dock and
picturesque scenery from every window.
“This place is beautiful,” Miranda
said as they entered the cabin. “How
long have you had it?”
“It was my father’s. He bought it twenty years ago. Came up here once a year every year, and the
rest of the time it sat empty. This is
the first time I’ve been up here since he died.”
“I’m sorry,” Miranda said and placed
a hand on his shoulder. “Is this too
difficult for you?”
He smiled and went to turn on a
lamp. “No, they’re good memories.” He frowned when the lamp failed to turn on,
bent down to inspect the cord and tried the switch again.
“Maybe it’s a bad bulb,” Miranda
said, wrapping her arms around herself and shivering from the chill in the
David tried another lamp, jolting
backward when the bulb blew and a spark flew through the air. He laughed and turned to her with a
shrug. “Like I said, it’s been a while
since I’ve been up here. I’ll just check
in the pantry for some bulbs.”
Miranda turned and walked to the
fireplace where a row of framed photographs sat on the mantle. She smiled at a thirty-year old photograph of
David – probably seven or eight at the time – with his mother and father. Other pictures of Royce and Jacqueline in
various poses sat in a row. A picture of
David’s graduation ceremony from Yale stuck out and she picked it up, realizing
how young David had looked back then.
Certainly not as handsome as he was today, she decided.
A leather photo album was propped up
at the end of the mantle and she opened it slowly, slightly tentative about
snooping through old family things. She
heard David enter the room and quickly turned away and tried to act natural.
“Not a single lightbulb in the
place,” he said and slapped his hands to his sides.
She shrugged. “We’ll use candles. It’s much more romantic anyway.”
“Or candles,” he added, then
“Great,” Miranda said and walked up
to him. “Is there a store someplace
He nodded. “Just a mile up the road. How about I start a fire, get you all cozy on
the sofa, and run up and get some candles and some dinner.”
“Sounds perfect,” she said and
watched as he went to work at starting a fire.
Ethan pulled his SUV into Roy’s Country Store and
Service Station in Big Bear, hopped out and started filling the tank. “The lodge is about thirty miles north,” he
said through the window. “We should be
there in an hour.”
Brooke smiled, unfastened her
seatbelt and swooped into the diaper bag.
“Good. I’m starved. And so is Michael. I think I forgot to pack a snack for the
trip.” She cursed herself, realizing
that in her harried state at the hotel back in Los Angeles she must have forgotten a number
of things. It wasn’t every day that she
was served divorce papers, after all.
“Maybe they have something in the
store,” he said and wiped the windows with a squeegee.
“I’ll check.” She plucked Michael from his car seat,
dangled her purse over her shoulder and headed inside the quaint little store
in search of a box of crackers or some dry cereal for Michael to munch on the
rest of the way to Crystal Lake.
Outside, David pulled his car into
the parking lot, hopped out and jogged into the store. He walked down a couple of narrow aisles
before bumping directly into Brooke and Michael.
“David-“ she stammered, glancing around
and wondering what on earth could have brought them to the same convenience
store so far in the mountains.
“Well this is a surprise,” he said
with a grin.
“What are you doing here?” they both
asked in unison.
Then Brooke remembered her run-in with
Miranda that morning. She and David were
going away for the weekend. As fate
would have it, so were her and Ethan.
“I have a cabin down on the lake,”
David explained. “Just had to come get
some supplies.” He grabbed a box of
candle sticks and held them up with a wry smile.
“How is Miranda?” Brooke asked,
unable to take her eyes off of his strong, masculine face. Why was it that whenever she was around him
she had such difficulty maintaining her composure.
“Fine. And you?
You must be here with Ethan.”
She nodded. “Yes.
We’re going to a lodge up in Crystal
He looked into her eyes and studied
them closely. “Have you been up to this
She shook her head. “No.”
“Well, surely you must have taken
family vacations when you were younger.”
“I’m not from Los Angeles,” she replied. “I’m from Phoenix.
And we rarely took vacations when I was young. My parents didn’t have much money.”
She found his questions odd. More so than usual. “Not really.
My father traveled a lot. He was
a salesman. He made enough to put food
on the table, but not much was left after that.” A quick change of subject made her feel less
scrutinized by him. “Miranda seems very
smitten with you. I hope that things
“Thanks,” he said. “I hope things work out for you too. Ethan seems like a very descent guy. You deserve it.”
She frowned. “This coming from the same man who showed up
at my door the very day that I left my husband and asked me out on a
date?” She laughed and bolstered Michael securely in her arms when
he began fussing. “Forgive me, David,
but I can’t quite follow you sometimes.”
“I didn’t ask you out on a date,” he
reminded her. “I just said that I wanted
to get to know you. To talk. I find you very interesting. I always have."
She sighed in exasperation. “Like when we met three years ago at the
can I say? You left a big impression on me,”
David said with a shrug.
Their conversation was interrupted
when Ethan entered the store and placed his arm securely around Brooke. “Ready to go, sweetheart?” he asked, eyeing
David with a glare.
“Yeah,” she said, still unsure of
how to take David Jennings. Something
about him made her strangely uneasy, and yet she was still very attracted to
“Ethan, nice to see you,” David said
with a wink.
Ethan didn’t respond, instead
guiding Brooke to the checkout counter and casting a final look of suspicion on
“I don’t know. He just wanted to talk, that’s all.”
“I don’t get it,” Ethan said when
they were in the car and back on the road.
“Every time I turn around that guy is all over you. What is it with him, anyway?”
“He said he wanted to get to know
me,” Brooke said, picking up bits of crackers that Michael dropped onto the
floor. “We met a few years ago at the
department store. He was shopping for a
gift for his mother. When he saw me
again he remembered me, that’s all.”
“That’s all?” Ethan asked as they
started up the mountain. “That’s all? You don’t find that to be the least bit
strange? You don’t see me going up to
somebody and saying ‘hey, I bought a tie
from you years ago when you worked at J. Crew.
“Yes, it’s strange,” Brooke
remarked. “But I don’t see the point in
getting all upset about it. He’s
Ethan pulled the SUV over onto the
side of the road. Brooke turned to him
with a shocked expression and glanced back to check on Michael.
“Harmless or not, I just got you
back in my life, Brooke, and I will not have anybody interfere with that. After
years of pining away for you, the failed relationships and the sleepless
nights, nothing, and I mean nothing is going to come between us ever again.”
She swallowed hard, realizing just
how in love with her Ethan was. If she
didn’t know before, she knew now, and it made her heart soar. She reached for his hand and held it tightly,
deciding that any attraction she had for David Jennings didn't compare to what
she felt for Ethan.
While she waited for David to
return, Miranda spent her free time touring the cabin and getting accustomed to
her surroundings in the wilderness. It
was quite an adjustment for a girl from Hollywood,
After taking in the eclectic art and
mid-century furnishings, she nestled down in front of the fire with the photo
album from the mantle. She turned the
pages slowly, studying every picture and smiling from ear to ear at every stage
in David’s life. One thing that she
noted for certain was the rather long line of girlfriends he seemed to have
had. Each picture represented another
relationship with yet another blonde starlet.
Shaking her head in amusement, she
came to a page with one color photograph.
Next to it was a blank space where another had been – now only the faded
outline remaining. The single
photograph was of a pretty blond girl of maybe five or six years old. The
strange part was that the young girl didn’t appear in any other photos. She wondered if the missing picture was of
Curiously, she plucked the photo
from the page and turned it over. A
simple name and date were handwritten on the back. Babydoll,
Before Miranda knew it, David was
back and hauling several bags of groceries and weekend necessities.
“Miss me?” he asked and held up a
bottle of wine.
Miranda closed the photo album and
slid it out of the way. She jumped to
her feet and kissed him tenderly. “You
know it,” she said and peeked inside the bags.
“Let’s eat. I’m famished.”
Late that night, Brett and Heather
returned to their hotel room after an evening on the town in Reno.
The door burst open and they stumbled inside in a fit of laughter. Brett twirled her around in his arms and
flung her onto the bed. He climbed on
top of her and kissed her softly, inching his way down to her neck, shoulders,
and finally to her belly button. Heather
giggled and pulled him up to eye level.
“You are so what I need in my life
right now,” she said, staring into his deep brown eyes. “I’ve never felt so care free as when I’m
“I feel the same way,” he said.
Heather kissed him passionately,
pulling him close and inching her way out of her dress. Brett hastily loosened his tie and unbuttoned
his shirt, his lips never parting from hers.
“I love you,” Heather
said, running her hands through his hair.
“I love you too,” he said
ecstatically and shrugged out of his pants.
“You don’t think we made a mistake, do you?”
She shook her head.
“You sure?” he asked and rolled onto
his back. “I don’t want you to have any
She climbed on top of him and
mounted him expertly, her long brown hair falling down her bare back. “No regrets,” she said, leaning down and
kissing him as they made love hurriedly.
The next morning, Leilani served
breakfast in the solarium as James,
Leigh and Stormy dined on eggs, toast, bacon and fresh fruit and
croissants. Stormy couldn’t help but
level an accusing gaze at Leigh, still quite unsure as to what was going on
between her and his father. It seemed
that he jumped from his marriage to Brooke directly into a relationship with
Leigh awfully fast. It was much the same
as when he and Alex divorced. It was
possible that James Blackthorne could not be alone and without the company of a
woman. The fact that he didn’t know that
much about Leigh Purcell was even more concerning to him. She seemed extremely nervous all the time, as
if hiding a huge secret from his father.
“Did you get that mess with Victor
Distefano cleared up, son?” James asked as he stuffed a forkful of eggs in his
mouth. “The last thing this family
needs is a lawsuit over our heads.”
“I think it’s going to work itself
out, Dad,” Stormy replied, confident that Eddie was going to persuade his
father into dropping the lawsuit. “No
The doorbell rang while they
continued their leisurely breakfast.
“How are things with you and Heather?” James continued. “I got the feeling you two were getting close
again. Do I see a marriage number two in
Stormy sighed and shook his
head fretfully. “I don’t know. I
thought we were on track to getting back together but
then she started pulling away. I'm not giving
up on her though."
hope things work out,”
James said. "You know how much I love Heather. I think you're
Just then, Leilani entered the room
with Renee fast on her feels. “Mr.
Blackthorne, Ms. DeWitt is here to see you.”
“Oh, thank you Leilani,” James said
and stood up, kissing Renee on the cheek and offering her a seat. “Good morning, Renee, would you care for some
“No, thank you,” she said in an
obviously frazzled state.
“What’s wrong? Is it Sierra?”
She shook her head. “No, Sierra is fine. I came because of this.” She withdrew an envelope and handed it to
“What is it?” James asked.
“It’s from Adrienne,” Renee said,
her eyes watering over with tears.
Leigh’s head snapped in her
direction and she began to grow nervous.
What on earth had Adrienne done?
“Adrienne?” James asked. “But I don’t understand.”
“The day she died, I was supposed to
meet her for lunch at the Yacht Club.
She seemed very upset and wanted to talk to me about something. I waited for her but she never
showed. Then today this came in the
mail. She must have mailed it that day.”
Stormy listened eagerly, hoping that
any information contained in the envelope could help Eddie in his
“We should probably give that to the
police,” Leigh said and shot to her feet in a panic. “I have to go downtown
this morning. I’d be happy to drop it by
for Detective Baines.”
“Did you read it?” James asked
She nodded. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. I mean, is this what she wanted to talk to me about so badly that day?”
James opened the envelope and
produced a handwritten note. “Renee,
get this map to Kenny.
He’ll know what to do with it.”
placed a hand on her chest, afraid for what was about
James unfolded a second
paper. “It’s a map,” he said with a
frown. “With a route drawn out from Costa Mesa to Panama.”
Leigh closed her eyes and willed herself
to remain calm. This was a development
that neither she nor Seth saw coming. If
that map got into the wrong hands it could ruin everything. James would learn the truth and he’d never
Stormy eyed the map carefully. He looked up at Leigh and saw he wavering on
her feet. She looked positively
ill. “Are you okay?”
She placed a hand on her chair to
balance herself. Taking a deep breath,
she nodded and sat down again. “I’m
“What do you think it means?” Renee
“I have no idea,” James said,
staring at the map in a daze. “Obviously
something involving the land commission if she wanted you to give this to
Kenny. Maybe he’ll know what it means.”
“Excuse me,” Leigh said suddenly,
bolting from her chair and walking brisky to the foyer. She grabbed her purse and ran out of the door
in a hurry. She had to warn Seth about
Adrienne’s attempt at squealing on them.
She only prayed it wasn’t too late.
Minutes later, she was at Seth’s
office at the marina. She busted through
his door and stopped suddenly when she realized he wasn’t there, but Logan was.
“You certainly know how to make an
entrance,” he said and looked over at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Where’s Seth?” she asked in bated
“Suddenly find yourself in the
replied in a thoroughly cocky manner.
Leigh ran her fingers through her
hair and rolled her eyes. “Cut the crap
and tell me where Seth is!”
“Whoa, what seems to be the
problem?” he asked and walked closer to her.
Shaking her head, Leigh began pacing
the room. “We’re in trouble. Adrienne sent a map of the truck route to Panama to Renee
DeWitt. Renee showed it to James and now
he’s going to start asking questions.”
Logan grew quiet, remaining calm as he walked
over and sat down behind Seth’s desk. “Relax.
James Blackthorne won’t be able to put any of it together. He’d have to mention it to Alex Reynolds for
any of it to make sense, and what are the odds that he’ll do that?”
Leigh groaned in frustration. “She’ll find out about everything. She’ll realize that Costa
Mesa is a cover, that there isn’t any oil under the land. Then she’ll get nervous and threaten to tell,
just like Adrienne Fallmont did.”
ran his hand over his face and focused
on the worst case scenario. If Leigh was
right, then Alex Reynolds could easily be a problem for them.
and rumors spread through Hollywood
like wildfire. It was one
downfall of living there that most people had grown accustomed to. Whether you wanted to or not, you often
learned the most disturbing secrets from the most unlikely source.
News of the mysterious map and its
bizarre contents traveled quickly.
Stormy told Eddie, who went immediately to his father, who had a lunch date that day with
Alex. Naturally, it came up between
talks of Nathan and his recent reign of terror.
“Why would Adrienne send that map to
Renee?” Alex asked in confusion.
“It’s all so positively boring,”
Victor said and popped a pill, washing it down with a splash of vodka. “Eddie seemed excited about it. Apparently it has to do with some new case
he’s working on. I think he’s been hired
by Jack Fallmont to find out who killed his poor wife.”
Alex stared down at the table in
deep concentration. What were the odds
that Adrienne would have a map of Costa
Mesa in her possession? Did it have anything to do with Statotech and
the oil field? And if so, how was
“It seems so disconnected,” Victor
went on to say, signing a few autographs for fans as they passed by their
table. “First there’s the missing ten
million dollars, and now this map. I
don’t understand but thankfully Eddie has a good head on his shoulders and
he’ll probably crack the case wide open.”
“Did you say ten million dollars?”
Alex asked, her had snapping up instantly.
Alex grew into a daze, recalling
conversations she’d had with Seth over the past few weeks…
“Where, may I ask, are you getting your half from, Mr.
Walker?” she asked. “Ten million dollars
isn’t exactly in the budget of a Congressman.
Or did Marilee decide to loosen the purse strings and dish out the
capitol for your new venture?”
Seth grinned mischievously. “Let’s just say that my entrepreneurial spirit
affords me the capitol. I had a
backer. They reneged on the deal, and
now I’m able to invest that money. It’s
really just legal jargon that you wouldn’t be interested in...."
“Alex, are you alright? You look positively devastated,” Victor said
and waved his hand in front of her face.
She broke from the daze, suddenly
realizing that Adrienne must have been Seth’s original partner. It was her ten million dollars that Seth
invested in Stratotech. And now she was
Looking up from the table, she
spotted Logan Mackenzie seated a few tables away on the veranda. He was staring directly at her, his eyes cold
as steel. Suddenly her heart began to
pound and she knew that she’d gotten herself in over her head.
Alex realizes the severity
of her business deal, and fears for her life. Brett
and Heather return from Reno with news, and an opportunity
for Brett. Leigh wants to tell James the truth
about Stratotech and the reason for her coming
to Los Angeles, but Seth and Logan have other ideas.
A killer strikes again.