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Episode 72

 

Release Date:  November 14, 2007

 Read the episode Recap 

 

Previously...

Alex feared that Seth was going to kill her, so she locked herself inside her house.  Terrified, she called Jordan who discovered the lock had been tampered with.  He spent the night when he realized how terrified she was.  Seth warned Leigh and Kenny to keep quiet about what they knew about Stratotech.  Stormy confronted Brett about his involvement with Stratotech, becoming distracted upon learning of his marriage to Heather.  Meanwhile, Miranda learned of the marriage and admitted she was concerned for her step-sister's well-being.  Brett found the surveilance videotape of Adrienne's house the day of her murder in Logan Mackenzie's belongings, and blackmailed Seth into giving him fifty percent of the money made from Costa Mesa.  Begrudgingly, Seth agreed.  Leigh tried to get James to leave town with her, but he declined, then admitted that he was in love with her.  Stormy and Eddie broke into the office trailer at Costa Mesa and learned that Stratotech was selling arms to Panama, not oil.  Kenny revealed a discrepancy in the books at Blackthorne-Reynolds, prompting James to confront Alex, who admitted she had used it to buy the land at Costa Mesa.  James blasted her for her involvement, then revealed to a startled Alex the truth about what Seth Walker was doing.  

 

 


 

Episode 72

"Can You Forgive Her?"

 

Brooke Taylor-Blackthorne was in turmoil.    She was free of James and his anarchy, free of the love that she convinced herself she had for him for two years, and free of the lies about her son Michael.  On top of that, she was also finally free to be with Ethan after a long separation.  They’d shared a connection since before she and James were even married.  The secret glances, the stolen moments of intimacy, and a romantic rendezvous in the Caribbean where their son was conceived.  Yes, she now could live the life that she was supposed to.  The only problem was, she didn’t know what that was.  Since she and Ethan had reunited, she struggled to regain that passion that she once felt for him.  While he was the same man as he always was – loving, caring, intelligent, strong, handsome, and an exceptional lover – part of her didn’t know how to carry on with him without the drama and without the constant yearning.

During a weekend in Crystal Lake they got close – almost as close as they were that glorious night in the Caribbean.  But since returning it had been much the same.  He pressured her for a commitment and she found excuse after excuse to put him off.  Her gut told her that wasn’t a good sign.   But they were supposed to be together, weren't they?

“I already told you.  I don’t think it’s right that I move into your house.  Michael is confused enough already.”

“Michael’s only two years old.  I doubt very much that any of this is going to scar him for life,” Ethan said, pacing back and forth before the fireplace in Brooke’s suite at Hotel Terranova.  “And might I remind you that Michael is my son.  What’s so confusing about a boy living with his mother and father in the same house?  It isn’t like I’m asking you to marry me for God’s sake.”

“What does that supposed to mean?” Brooke asked and bounced Michael in her arms while he fussed about this way and that.  “You say it like us getting married is such a ridiculous idea.  My divorce from James will be final in three months.”

Ethan ran his fingers through his thick brown hair and pushed up the sleeves on his shirt.  “You can’t even say that you love me, Brooke.  It’s obvious you’re not ready to think about marriage again.  At the very least I thought we could live together until you were.”

“I’m not saying it’ll never happen.  This just isn’t the right time.”

He ran his fingers along the top of the bar, staring at his reflection in the mirrored service tray.   “It’s hasn’t been the right time for two years.  You married James knowing the way you felt about me, not once but twice.  Well now you’re free.  You can be with anyone you want.  Now tell me, Brooke.  Who do you want to be with now?”

She looked at him blankly.  Of course she wanted to be with him.  Didn’t she?  She was the mother of his child.  They had history together.  They had chemistry.

“Brooke?” Ethan asked.  He got the feeling that she was someplace else.   When she didn’t respond, he shook his head in frustration and kissed Michael on the cheek before heading to the door. 

“Wait.  Where are you going?”  Brooke asked.

“Home,” was his parting shot before leaving and closing the door behind.

Brooke set Michael in his crib and buried her face in her hands.  Yes, she and Ethan had history and they had chemistry.  But if that were all true, why did she feel further from him than she ever had before?

Leigh Purcell

Downstairs, Leigh made her way through the lobby and entered the lounge.  She ordered a glass of wine at the bar and took a seat just as Miranda approached with a grin and a carefree kick in her step. 

“I hope that you’re not planning on spending the evening alone,” she said and sat down across from her.

A forced smile spread across Leigh’s face as she took a sip from her glass of chardonnay and tapped her fingernails on the table top.  “Would that be so wrong?” she asked.

“When my father is at home by himself, then yes it is.”  Miranda regarded her carefully and patted her hand.   “You know, I think you’re the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time.”

“You do?”

She nodded.  “I do.  After that disaster with Brooke, it’s nice to finally see him happy for once.  I think he really feels something for you, Leigh, and I couldn’t be happier for both of you.”

“Your father’s a very special man,” Leigh said distantly.  “I love spending time with him.”

Miranda sensed sadness in her voice and in her eyes.  “Then why aren’t you with him now?”

Leigh realized that hers was a complicated question.  To break it down was simple.  The closer she got to James, the worse she felt about herself.  Her alliance with Seth Walker could easily be James’ downfall.  When he learned the truth he would never forgive her.  But why she continued to see him, yet said nothing about the danger they were all in was not so simple.  Her feelings were confusing.  She was selfish.  She wanted to pretend there was nothing standing in their way of being happy. 

“Leigh?” Miranda said.

She quickly shook the paranoid thoughts away and forced another smile.  “Your father’s got a lot going on right now.  Business.  I thought I’d give him the night off.”  She quickly changed the subject to avoid further awkwardness.  “What about you?  I hear you’re getting pretty close to David Jennings.  He’s such a catch.”

Miranda gushed happily.  “Yes, he is,” she said.  “We’re meeting a little later this evening.  Dinner and dancing.  Oh, by the way, Daddy tells me you’re going as his date to the Filmmaker Awards tomorrow night.  Maybe David and I will join you if you don’t mind.  We could double date.”

“Sounds perfect,” Leigh replied.  She only hoped that she and James would make it that long.  At that moment he was strategizing with his partners on how to handle Seth and Stratotech.  The truth was out.  And it was only a matter of time before that truth included her involvement.

Alex Reynolds

The slap came fast and without warning.  Alex reached her hand to her cheek instinctively, glaring heatedly at Renee who stood before her, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

“How dare you,” Alex seethed, reeling from Renee’s assault.

“How dare you put us and our company in jeopardy,” Renee spat.  “What the hell is going on in that head of yours?  Or is the soundtrack from Fame playing too loudly in there for you to think?”

“If you hadn’t tried pushing me out of the business then none of this would have happened,” Alex insisted.  “Besides, I’m just as much a victim as you and James.  Seth came to me, not the other way around.  And he said nothing about selling arms to Panama.  I thought we were drilling for oil.  You can’t begrudge me for wanting to expand on the business.”

“I can when you did it at the expense of Blackthorne-Reynolds.  You defrauded us, Alex.  This is a partnership, and James and I had no idea that you were using funds from the company to start up your own terrorist campaign.”

“That does it,” Alex said and charged toward her.

“Knock it off,” James ordered, standing between them and pushing them apart.  “Throwing blame around isn’t going to help us out of this mess.  Now we’ve got a serious problem.  If Seth makes that first shipment of illegal weapons to Panama, we’re as good as ruined.”

“So how do you suppose we stop it?” Renee asked sarcastically.  “You heard Alex.  Two people are dead because they knew what.  If we march into his office and tell him to stop the shipment he won’t hesitate to kill us too.”

“I know, why don’t we just send you in there to do it for us?” Alex said with a snarl.

“Do you enjoy the prospect of going to prison again?” Renee shot back.   “Because I have no problem leaving you to twist in the wind."

“Enough!” James insisted, tired and aggravated.   “This isn’t helping any of us.  Now I have a plan, but I need the two of you to cooperate in order for it to work.”

“What do you have in mind?” Alex asked. 

James looked at them and picked up the phone.  “Remember how we tricked Nathan with the jets?” he asked as he dialed the phone.   “It's the same principal, only this time we’re dealing with weapons instead of a child molesting pervert.”

“I still think the weapons are less dangerous,” Alex murmured as she gave him and Renee a thoughtful look.   “So what are we supposed to do?  I can’t go on acting like everything is fine.”

“That’s exactly what you have to do,” James said.  “Go to the Filmmaker Awards tomorrow night.  Don’t let on that anything is up.  There’s no telling what Seth might do once he finds out what I’ve got planned.”

Heather Blackthorne

Heather laughed and flopped down on the bed in a pair of lacy pink bikinis and a matching bra.  Brett climbed on after her and kissed her tenderly on the lips. 

“I love you,” he said and stroked her hair away from her face.  “I really do.”

Grinning, Heather traced her finger along his washboard stomach, exploring the defined ridges of his muscular body.  “Good,” she said and exploded into a fit of giggles when he climbed on top of her and held her tightly in his arms. 

“I’m going to make such a perfect like for us, Heather,” he said softly.  “And I’m going to do it on my own.  Without your father’s help and without the help of the Blackthornes.  We’re going to be so happy.  Wait and see.”

“I know,” she said and kissed him passionately.

Brett slowly undressed her, taking his time as he felt himself growing aroused by her intoxicating scent.  He loved the way she smelled after she took a bath.  So soft and so feminine. 

Yes, he was on top of the world.  And after he got the fifty percent of the profits from Stratotech, they’d be the most recognizable couple in all of California.  Happy, wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, and perfectly in love.

Alex's House

After their refusal to move into the mansion, Alex and Renee got her very own bodyguards, courtesy of James.  While Alex half expected Kevin Costner, she was a bit disappointed when it turned out to be a burly man in his late fifties doused in cologne and too many gold chains around his neck.

When she arrived at her door, Jordan was waiting.  The bodyguard, Cliff, roughed him up sufficiently until Alex protested and declared his innocence.

“What’s with the walking meat locker?” Jordan asked with a frown while Cliff unlocked the door and inspected the house before signaling the all-clear.

“Just for protection,” Alex replied, wanting to forego the long explanations.  Jordan didn’t need to know the trouble she’d gotten herself into.  It was bad enough that James and Renee thought she was an incompetent.  She didn’t need Jordan to as well.

“Does this have anything to do with the other night?” he asked and followed her into the living room.  “Alex, is somebody after you?  Is that what this is all about?  Please, you have to tell me.  I want to know.”

“I don’t need you to protect me,” she insisted and lit a cigarette.  “I am not Renee DeWitt.  I don’t need a man to chase away all the bad things in my life.  Now what are you doing here, Jordan?”

He looked awkwardly at the bodyguard and then back a Alex.  “It’s kind of private,” he said.  “Can we be alone for a minute?”

She looked at Cliff and gave him a nod, signaling him to leave the room.  After he’d gone, she turned back to Jordan and shrugged.  “So what is this about?”

He sighed.  “It would be a lot easier if you weren’t in such a hurry to get rid of me.  I thought we were getting close again.  You called me over here the other night and things seemed to be like they used to be.”

“Just because we made love doesn’t mean things were like they used to be,” Alex said and poured herself a glass of brandy.  “We’ve made love a lot since we divorced and we’re still divorced.  Besides, I haven’t forgiven you for taking up with Renee and then acting like you were doing me a favor by coming back to me.”

“Alex, would you just stop it,” he said.  “I’m trying to say something here.”

She let her guard down, looking into his eyes and fighting to keep from growing weak in the knees.  He still had that affect on her. 

“I came here tonight because I…”  He paused, reaching into his blazer and removing a small velvet box.  “I wanted to ask you to marry me again.”

The innocence in his eyes went straight to her heart.  She gazed down at the magnifiscent ring, overwhelmed with emotion.  She thought it was even bigger than the first one he gave her. 

“Jordan, I-“ she began.  “I don’t know what to say.”

“I know it’s sudden,” he said.  “Our marriage didn’t work the first time.  I didn’t trust you.  It was partly my fault.  But I still love you, Alex.  I never stopped.  We belong together.”

The truth was she wanted nothing more than to be married to him again.  She never even wanted the divorce in the first place.  But things right now were too complicated.  This business with Seth and Stratotech.  James and Renee were furious with her.  She didn’t think she could take on anything more. 

“What do you say?” he continued, taking her hand in his.  “I know you love me as much as I love you.”

She looked at the ring and then back at him.  “Ask me again sometime,” she said softly.  “But right now I can’t give you an answer, Jordan.  I’m sorry.”

He nodded solemnly, slowly closing the ring box and placing it back in his pocket.  “Sure,” he said before turning and walking back to the door.

“Jordan-“ she called after him.  But he closed the door behind, leaving her alone with the guilt over breaking his heart. 

Sighing in despair, she turned and walked to the terrace doors, taking in a breath of fresh ocean air.  Why did it have to be so difficult, she thought to herself.  Why couldn’t Jordan have asked her months ago before any of this happened?

Hotel Terranova

Brooke left Michael with the nanny and went downstairs to the lounge to have a drink and to calm her nerves.  Her blowout with Ethan was enough to ruin an otherwise mediocre day.  She didn’t know why he pushed so hard.  Didn’t he know that she was trying as best as she could?

“Care for some company?” asked a voice from behind her. 

She turned and spotted David hanging back with a boyish grin and his hands dug deep in his pockets.  A brief shake of her head and a vague smile before she turned back to her drink.  “I’d actually like to be alone if you don’t mind,” she said.

But David persisted.  He approached and sat down beside her. 

“Look, I don’t know if you’re hard of hearing or you just don’t know how to take a hint, but I don’t want any company,” Brooke snapped, her voice full of hostility.  “And this stalking routine of yours is getting a little old.”

David raised an eyebrow, surprised by her sudden outburst.  He started to get up again when Brooke reached her hand out and pulled at his arm.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I didn’t mean to snap.  It’s just been one of those days.”

David sat back down and looked at her warily.  “I’m a pretty good listener,” he said with a shrug.  “Feel free to unload on me all you want.”

Brooke offered a faint smile, pushing her wine glass back and forth on the table by the stem.  “I think I’ll pass,” she said.  “I don’t know you that well and I’m afraid you’d think I was crazy if I told you.”

David chuckled.  “Sometimes what we feel inside is much worse than others perception of it.”  He tilted his head and regarded her carefully.  “Try me.’

Sighing, she took a sip of her wine and traced a finger along the bar top.  “Relationships,” she said enigmatically and turned to him.  “They’re not easy, are they?”

He scratched his head and creased his eyebrows together in an exaggerated look of concentration.  “Relationships.  Hmm, let’s see.  Well, I’ve blown my way through about a dozen a year since I graduated college and they’ve all ended badly.  Some my fault, some theirs.  I think I’m probably the last person on earth you’d want to get advice from on that front.”

Brooke couldn’t help but smile.  “I told you,” she said and turned back to her drink.  “What about Miranda?  How’s that going?”

Miranda.   David had almost forgotten about their date.  He looked briefly at his watch.  “I’m sorry.  I have to make a phone call.  Would you excuse me for a minute?”

She nodded and watched as he made his way through the lounge and then disappeared around he corner.  Once he was safely out of view, he reached into his pocket and removed his cell phone.  He quickly dialed, nervously jiggling his keys in his pocket while he waited for an answer.

“I thought you were picking me up at eight,” Miranda said from her bedroom at the mansion.  “Or did I get my wires crossed?  Was I supposed to meet you at the hotel?”

David bit his lip and shook his head guiltily.  “No, no, you didn’t get your wires crossed.  But listen, something’s come up and I can’t make it tonight.  I’m sorry.”

Miranda didn’t bother to hide her disappointment.  Standing before her dressing mirror in a sprayed-on black dress, she dropped her free hand to her side and began pacing in aggravation.   “What’s so important that you have to cancel?” she demanded.  “David, I’m already ready to go.”

“I’m sorry,” he said again.  “It’s just that a problem with one of the hotels has come up and apparently no one can handle it but me.  I promise I’ll make it up to you.  We’re still on for the Filmmaker Awards tomorrow night, right?”

Pursing her lips in anger, Miranda rolled her eyes and kicked her shoes off in a huff.  “Right, whatever,” she said, clicked off her phone and threw it carelessly onto the bed. 

David pocketed his phone and made his way back to the lounge where Brooke was collecting her purse and heading for the door.  He quickly approached and flashed a toothy grin in her direction.   “Sorry about that,” he said.  “You aren’t leaving already are you?”

She shrugged indifferently.  “I need to get back.  I just came down for half an hour of adult time.  My son is up with his nanny.  I’d like to kiss him goodnight before he goes to bed.”

Disappointed, David put his hands in his pockets.  “Why don’t I come up?” he asked.  “We could finish talking.  Adult time doesn’t have to end just because you’re going upstairs.”

Brooke knew it was a bad idea.  Her attraction to him was a powerful thing, and could lead to even more confusion if she spent time alone with him.  Even still, twenty minutes later they were upstairs, Brooke had tucked Michael in and sent the nanny to her room, and she and David were sharing a glass of wine in front of the fire.

“There’s something I’ve got to ask you,” she said and tossed her long blond hair over a shoulder.  “Did you really see me at the makeup counter at the department store three years ago?  Or was that just a line?"

David smiled vaguely and grew into a daze, his vision blurred while he stared into the bright glow of the fire.  “No, it wasn’t a line,” he replied.  “I did meet you at the makeup counter.”

Brooke nodded slowly.  “Oh.  Well, I’m sorry that I don’t remember.  I don’t mean to sound immodest, but is it possible that it meant more to you than it did to me?”  She covered the awkwardness with a laugh.

“Yes, it did mean more to me,” he explained.  “I thought you were someone else.  Someone that I knew a long time ago.  That’s why when I saw you again that day at the police station I remembered the makeup counter.”

“Who did you think I was?”

“A girl I knew,” David replied.  “She was a local girl up in Big Bear.  Every summer my family would go there and she would always come around.  She was young, just a little girl, probably ten years younger than me.  Everyone called her Babydoll.  And before you go there, there wasn’t anything sick going on, so don’t even think it.  She was just a sweet, vibrant little girl who was full of life and laughter.  Blond hair and pigtails and blue eyes.  When I saw you you reminded me so much of her.  It took me back, that’s all.”

Brooke looked into his eyes and for the first time since meeting him she saw something other than the cocky, arrogant guy with deceptive good looks and a killer smile.  His honestly was refreshing, and she hated herself for feeling attracted to him.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said.  “It certainly makes you sound like less of a psycho.”

David grinned and nudged her playfully.  “Funny.”

“So whatever happened to her?” Brooke asked.

“I don’t know.  Her family moved away.  She’s probably out there somewhere spreading sunshine with that smile of hers.”

“Or working at a makeup counter in the Valley?” Brooke joked.

“Exactly,” David said.  “You reminded me of her, but now not so much.”

“What do you mean?” Brooke asked.

He shrugged.  “You seemed so happy back then.  Now you seem sad.  I guess it goes to show that money doesn’t buy happiness.”

“That’s the truth,” Brooke said thoughtfully.  Now it was her turn to stare into the fire.  Before she knew it, David was inches away, his lips brushing tenderly against hers.  For a second, she found herself kissing him back.  Butterflies tripped through her stomach and she closed her eyes briefly.  Seconds later she opened them again and pulled away in protest.

“Brooke, I-“

“I’m sorry.  You should go.”

“I didn’t mean to confuse you,” David said.

She shook her head and went to the door.  “Kissing you isn’t quite enough to confuse me, David, but please, if that makes you feel good and if that makes you feel like a man, then be my guest, think it all you want.”

“All I meant was that I know you have a lot going on right now and I don’t want to add to that,” he said.  “I’m sorry.” 

After he’d left, Brooke shut the door and buried he face in her hands.  She was crawling out of her skin with frustration.  How could she be having these feelings for a man who wasn’t Ethan? 

The next morning, all of Hollywood was busy with preparations for the 35th Annual Filmmaker Awards.  Gowns were undergoing their final stages of fitting, tuxedos were being pressed, and diamonds were being bought by the truckload.  The guest list was in the hundreds.  Actors, actresses, directors, producers, writers, even politicians would all be arriving that evening at the Los Angeles Theater.

As one of the lucky invitees, Congressman Seth Walker was determined to get a few things nailed down before attending the gala festivities.  For starters, the first shipment of weapons to Panama.   As soon as the freight reached its destination in Central America, the money would be wired into his offshore account in the Cayman Islands.   And he needed to make sure it went off without a hitch.  With everyone who had knowledge of his operation – Alex, Leigh, Kenny, and Brett – it could very well be his only transaction.  After the load was delivered, he would leave town, millions of dollars richer.  His partners would be left with nothing, and Blackthorne-Reynolds would assume responsibility.

He was on the phone with his foreman in Costa Mesa checking on the status of the truck.  It had left the site last night.  All his planning was finally going to pay off.  Once everything was set, he hung up and leaned back in his chair.  Finally he was able to breath, to relax with the knowledge that nothing could stop him. His elation was interrupted when the door opened and Marilee entered with a flourish.

“Darling, I’m just on my way to pick up my gown for tonight,” she said and approached him swiftly.  Perched on the corner of his desk, she massaged his shoulders and purred seductively.  “Are you sure you like the black one I showed you?  It’s not too busty is it?”

Seth grinned.  “The black one is fine,” he said.  “No one will be able to take their eyes off of you.”  And maybe you’ll find your next husband for when I’m gone, he thought to himself.

He pulled her down onto his lap, aroused by the fact that she wasn’t wearing underwear.  Quickly, he unzipped his trousers and took her passionately in his office chair.  Money was such a turn-on, he though to himself.

The phone rang and he groaned with irritation.  It could be important, he thought.  He reached over and pulled it from its cradle, balancing it on his shoulder while Marilee ground herself into his lap.

“Walker,” he answered abruptly.  It was his contact in Panama.  The connection was lousy but he got the gist loud and clear.  “What?  That’s impossible.”  Quickly, he pushed Marilee off his lap and zipped his pants up.  A close call with the zipper caused him to break into a sweat.

“Darling, what is it?” Marilee asked and smoothed down her dress.

Seth held his hand up in an effort to silence her.  “Babe, I have to take this call.  I’ll see you tonight, okay?”

She frowned, unsure of what had gotten him so upset all the sudden.  Reluctantly, she grabbed her purse and went out into the hall.  After she’d gone, Seth returned his attention to the phone and began pacing the office. 

“What do you mean the truck was empty?” he asked.  “I just talked to my foreman and he assured me that the load went out on schedule.  All the freight was on board when it left Costa Mesa last night.”

He ran his fingers through his hair.  His heart beat wildly in his chest and he felt as though he would pass out from sheer panic.   “I’m not trying to pull anything over on you!” he insisted.  “If the truck was empty when it got there then….”  He paused.  “Well how do I know that you didn’t unload the truck and just say that it was empty?”

His accusations didn’t go over well.

“Fine.  Fine.  I understand.  I’ll find out what happened and get right back to you.  I’m sure it’s just some kind of misunderstanding.”

Hanging up the phone, he paused briefly while he mentally surveyed the damage this could cost him.  It was insurmountable.  He began pacing again, growing more and more distraught as each second passed.  Finally, he pulled the phone from the wall and threw it across the room in a rage. 

Blackthorne Mansion

James and Miranda were sitting in the solarium later that morning having breakfast when Leilani entered and poured them each a fresh cup of coffee.  He looked at her and noticed that she seemed somewhat distracted.  Folding the newspaper and setting it on the table, he turned to her and cleared his throat.

“Leilani, how are things going with your daughter?”

Leilani turned to him and her eyes welled up with tears.  “Not so good, Mr. Blackthorne.  She’s refused to go back to her fiancée.  She won’t go to college and she can’t get a good job.  I’m afraid of what will happen to her.”

“Leilani, I’m so sorry,” Miranda said sympathetically. 

She sniffed and bowed her head down in despair.  “I may have to go back to Hawaii for a while,” she announced.  “I was going to tell you after tonight.  I know how busy you are, Mr. Blackthorne.”

“Well how long are you thinking, Leilani?” James asked in concern.

“I don’t know.  A few months maybe.” 

“Leilani, we can’t be without you for a few months,” Miranda insisted.  “This house will fall apart.”

“Miranda, Leilani has a family to think about.  We can’t be selfish with her.”

“It’s okay, Mr. Blackthorne.  Miss Miranda is nice to say.  But I think it’s best if I go back.  Just to get Kelly straightened out.”

James thought for a minute and took a sip of coffee.  “Listen, why not have Kelly come here to Los Angeles?” he asked.  “We have plenty of room in the house.  That way you can be close to her and you don’t have to leave.  What do you say?"

“I don’t know,” Leilani replied.  “Kelly has never been off the island.”

“Come on, Leilani,” Miranda said.  “It might be nice to have a girl my age around the house again.  Since Heather left it’s just been me and Stormy and frankly he’s no substitute for a girlfriend.”

“It’s settled then,” James said.  “Leilani, call your daughter and I’ll make the arrangements.”

Leilani couldn’t help but overflow with gratitude.  She bent down and gave James a quick squeeze.  “Oh, thank you, Mr. Blackthorne.  This is so nice of you.  I’ll go call Kelly right now.”

She fled from the room and James and Miranda exchanged amused glances. 

“Daddy, where is Stormy anyway?” Miranda asked with a frown.  “He’s usually the first one down for breakfast.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him since yesterday."

James expertly avoided her question.  “I don’t pretend to know what your brother does these days, Miranda,” he said and took a sip of coffee.

Leigh Purcell

After picking up her dress for the Filmmaker Awards, Leigh returned to her suite at Hotel Terranova.  Tossing the garment bag over the back of a chair, she proceeded into her bedroom and sat down at the vanity.  She stared at her reflection in the mirror, slathering her hands in lotion while quiet reflecting on the upcoming evening’s events. 

Quietly, the closet door creaked open and her eyes shot up.  Through the mirror she saw Seth emerge, a taut expression on his pale face.  She shot to her feet, backing up from him as her eyes moved back and forth for something to defend herself with.

“How did you get in here?” she asked, her voice cracking with fear. 

“You always were too concerned about details,” Seth replied ambiguously.  “We have a problem, Leigh.  Your boyfriend is making trouble for me.  It seems the truck that went out last night is empty and the real cargo has gone missing.”

“What does that have to do with James?” Leigh asked.  She swallowed hard, afraid for James and what he had been up to.  The last thing she wanted was for him to do anything that would get himself hurt, or worse.

“Your devotion to him is overwhelming,” Seth continued, staring at her and approaching with wide eyes.  He leapt forward and grabbed her forcefully, moving with the speed and agility of a panther.  “Not to mention stupid.”

Leigh screamed out in terror, flinching and her eyes fluttering as she feared what he was going to do to her. 

“You see, Blackthorne thinks he’s got me stonewalled.  As long as that shipment stays hidden he's in the clear.  But what he doesn’t realize is that I don’t have much to lose.  I’ve killed before and I will do it again if I have to.  Now you’ve got some work to do.”

“Don’t hurt me,” Leigh protested when he moved his hand slowly from her mouth.  “Please don’t hurt me.”

Seth smiled in amusement.  “It’s not you I’ll hurt,” he said, relishing the terror that was evident on her face.  “Now listen very carefully to me.  I want you to convince James to release that shipment.  Tonight.  I don’t care how you do it.”

“I can’t,” she cried.  “Why would he listen to anything I have to say about it?”

Seth tightened his grip on her.  “You’re a smart woman, Leigh.  Make something up.  You’ve gotten pretty good at that by now.  But make no mistake, if you don’t get him to release that shipment, James Blackthorne will be a dead man.”

With that, he released her and she collapsed onto the chair at the vanity.  Sobbing and gasping for breath, he watched as he made his way to the door.

“Get busy,” he said.  “You have until tonight to make this happen.  If that shipment doesn’t reach its destination, and my money isn’t wired into my account by the time I leave tonight, your boyfriend's going to be shark bait.”

She sucked in her tears, her eyes darting around the room.  She knew Seth would follow through on his threats.  James’s life was in her hands.  How on earth was she going to convince him?  He would see right through any lie she came up with.

Things had gotten so out of hand.  Why did James have to get involved in the first place?

Brett Armstrong

Brett avoided the office that day.  He didn’t know what to expect from Seth after blackmailing him with the security tape of Adrienne’s house.  He was fairly confident that he was safe.  Seth was careless but he wasn’t stupid.  One move against him and the tape would go to the authorities.  Besides, with all the money he’d be coming into soon, why did he need a job as a Congressman’s PR guy?

He picked up his tuxedo and went back to the condo to surprise Heather with an afternoon of together-time before the Filmmaker awards that night.  He wasn’t in the business anymore, but most of the movies that Sunset Studios was nominated for were because of the work he did while he was there.  He wasn’t about to forego that. 

When he walked in the door, he scouted around for his wife.  “Heather?” he called out, hanging his tux over the bedroom door.

A few seconds later, Heather emerged from the bathroom, her hands behind her back.  Brett could tell something was up.  He raised an eyebrow and pulled her toward him.

“You okay?” he asked.  “You look like the cat who swallowed the canary.”

She shivered when he kissed her.  “I wasn’t feeling well this morning.”

“Baby, I’m sorry,” he said and led her to the sofa.  “Do you want to skip the awards tonight?  We can stay home and I’ll make you some chicken soup.”

“No, I want to go,” she said.  “I feel better now.  It’s not that kind of sick anyway.”

He frowned.  “Well, what is it?”

Slowly, she brought her hands from behind her back and held up a small white stick.  “I haven’t had my period lately, and I felt nauseas this morning so I went down to the drugstore and got a test.  It’s positive.”

Brett’s eyes widened in disbelief and he picked her up in his arms, twirling her around and kissing her repeatedly.  “We’re having a baby?” he asked in elation, then repeated himself to make sure he was clear, “we’re having a baby?”

She nodded happily and grabbed hold of his hand after he set her down.  “Yes, we’re having a baby.”

Quickly, he sat her back down on the sofa and knelt before her.  “This is unbelievable.  When did it happen?  In Reno?”

She shrugged.  “Well I don’t know for sure, but I think it happened before that.  I haven’t had my period for a couple of months.  I’ve always been irregular so I didn’t think anything of it.”

“You have made me the happiest man on earth," Brett said and kissed her hand.

Heather looked into his eyes, thrilled that he was so happy about the prospect of their having a baby.  She knew he would be.  She knew how important it was to him, and she knew how devastated he’d been when Miranda had the miscarriage.  It seemed right that she was carrying his baby now.  Their lives were finally coming together.  Everything was perfect.

Blackthorne Mansion

Leigh entered the foyer at the mansion, dressed elegantly in a black sequin gown, her auburn hair pinned delicately on top of her head.  She smiled absently at Leilani who showed her into the parlor room where James, Miranda and David were having cocktails. 

“Ah, there you are,” James said, dapper in his black tuxedo.  He approached and kissed her warmly on the cheek.  “You look beautiful.”

“I love your dress, Leigh,” Miranda said, clutching to David’s arm.   She was dressed in a simple but classy black a-line dress, diamond earrings and a beaded bag.  “You and Daddy are going to be the best looking couple there tonight.”

“Second best,” David said with a smirk.

“Naturally,” Miranda gushed and kissed him lightly. 

Leigh fidgeted nervously with her bag, trying her best to appear gracious and social.  She turned to James, pushing a stray lock of hair from her eyes.  “James, I wondered if we could talk for a minute before we go.  In private.”

“Of course, Darling,” he said and led her across the hall to his study.  Once they were inside, he closed the doors and turned to her with a smile.  “I bet I can guess what this is about.”

“You can?” she asked, swallowing hard.

He caressed her arm, inhaling the intoxicating scent that emanated from her.  “I’ve been thinking about us too.  And I want you to know that after this whole mess with Walker is over with and we clear up things in Costa Mesa, I want to take that vacation with you.  We can go to Acapulco or Europe or wherever you want.  Then when we get back, I’d like to you move in with me.  Here at the mansion.”

Leigh turned away, torn apart inside by his words.  How could she stand there and lie to him?   She loved him more than anyone since losing Roger years ago.  And she returned the favor by masquerading as an honest woman.  She couldn’t do it any longer.

“James, you have to release that shipment,” she said, unable to look him in the eyes.

He frowned.  “What?”

“The truckload of weapons that you commandeered last night.  You have to release it and allow it to make the trip to Central America.  If you don’t, Seth will make things very ugly.”

“How do you know about that?  I haven’t told you any of the details.  The only ones who know are Alex, Renee and Stormy.”  A pause while he moved before her and looked into her eyes.  “Have you talked to Seth Walker?”

She nodded, tears forming in her eyes.  “Yes, he means business, James.  If you don’t release that shipment, he’s going to do something awful.  Please, just trust me.”

“I do trust you, Leigh.  I just don’t understand why you’re coming to me with this.  You know that I can’t let that shipment go through.  The minute I do Blackthorne-Reynolds becomes guilty of selling arms.  Seth Walker isn’t a threat.  He won’t do anything to risk the fortune he can make on this deal.”

Leigh turned away again.  “James, I haven’t been honest with you,” she said slowly.  “Our meeting in Rio was no coincidence.  I planned it.”

“What?” James asked and turned her toward him. 

“I needed to find someone.  A company to utilize.  Blackthorne-Reynolds was new and inexperienced.  I overheard Alex and Renee arguing over business and I knew that was the in we’d been looking for.”

“We?” he asked, slowly realizing what she was talking about.

“Me and Seth.  I’m a silent partner in Stratotech.  Bringing you and Alex into the fold was my idea.”  She took a breath and hung her head low, ashamed after saying it aloud and realizing how selfish and manipulative it sounded.

“You’ve been in on this with Walker all along?” he asked in disbelief.  “You knew about Costa Mesa and the arms deal?”

She nodded.

James ran his fingers through his hair, pacing the room in an effort to clear his head.  He stopped and looked at her blindly.  “And the murders?  Adrienne and Mackenzie?”

“I had nothing to do with that!’ she exclaimed.  “It was Seth.  He’s crazy with the idea of all that money.  It’s changed him, James.  The minute I suspected about Adrienne and Logan I told him I wanted out, but he…he said that if I said anything he’d kill me.”

The whole thing was overwhelming to James.  Even more so than the business aspect of her betrayal, he had actually grown to love her and to want a life with her.   “What about us?” he asked, hurt.

She leapt to her own defense.  “The way I feel about you has nothing to do with anything else!” she exclaimed and raced toward him.  “You have to believe that, James. That night we made love in Rio was like an awakening for me.  I fell in love with you, and nothing about that is a lie.”

“And I’m supposed to believe you?’ he asked, looking at her with anger and contempt.   “You’ve put my business on the line, risked the lives of people I care about, and now you tell me that I should believe in your feelings for me?”

She stood before him, quivering and humiliated.  “Fine, you can hate me all you want, James.  But please listen to me.  Seth will not stop until you release that shipment.  He said you have to do it tonight or he’ll….”  She paused.  The last thing she wanted to do was use Seth’s threats as a way to get to James, but she had to level with him, to tell him what he was up against. 

“He’ll what?” James barked.

She shook her head.   “He’ll kill you.  He will, believe me.  You just don’t want to cross him, James.  Seth Walker is a very dangerous man.  Please.  If you don’t believe anything else I’ve said, believe that.  Release the shipment.”

He looked at her with disgust, turning back and looking out the window again.  “Get out,” he said.

Leigh’s eyes flashed open in surprise by his reaction.  She knew he’d be angry, but to throw her out after revealing Seth's plans was unexpected.  “Please.  I love you.”

He didn’t respond, nor look at her.  The humiliation over her betrayal was too much.

Sadly, she went to the door and opened it slowly.  Pausing, she glanced back at him and closed her eyes.  She knew this would be the last time she’d ever see him again.  Once Seth learned that she failed in her task, James was as good as dead.   Unless...

With that, she went out to the foyer and quietly slipped out the front door.  Miranda and David heard the door closing and emerged from the parlor room.

“Daddy, where’s Leigh?” she asked. 

He came out of the study and looked unhappily at the floor.  “You two go on to the ceremony without me.  I’ll meet up with you later.”

“Daddy-“ Miranda began, but David held her back.   She watched her father walk miserably up the stairs.  It took a lot to get him that upset, so she knew it must have been something heartbreaking. 

Leigh Purcell

Leigh raced back to her suite at Hotel Terranova, her eyes flooding with tears as she sped through traffic.  She picked up her cell phone and dialed with her trembling hand.

“You better have good news,” Seth said when he answered. 

She steadied her voice, pulling under the porte-cochere and stopping the car.  “Can you meet me at my suite?” she asked.  “I’ll fill you in then.”

Reluctantly, Seth agreed.  Leigh climbed out of the car and raced inside in her sequin gown, darted through the lobby and rode the elevator up to her lavish penthouse suite.   When she got inside she was out of breath.  She ran to the cedar chest in the bedroom and bent down to her knees, pulling the lid open and rummaging through a stack of blankets.  There she removed a black pistol.  She opened the chamber, made sure it was loaded, and snapped it shut again. 

She wasn’t about to let anyone hurt James.  He’d been hurt enough.  She would see Seth Walker dead first.

Miranda Blackthorne

Miranda went up to check on James before she and David left for the awards ceremony.  She came up behind him in his bedroom, placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled lovingly.

“Daddy?” she began.  “What happened?  Did something happen with you and Leigh?”

He sighed and shook his head.  “It doesn’t matter, Miranda.”

“It does matter.  I saw the look on your face when you came out of the study.  Daddy, you love her.  I can see it in your eyes.  Whatever happened between the two of you, is it that important?  Is it something that you can talk over and work out somehow?”

“I don’t think so, Sweetheart.”

Sighing, she turned and started back to the door.  Before she left, she turned back one last time.  “I know you were hurt when Brooke left and took Michael with her,” she began.  “You hid it but I know you were upset.  You had every right to be.  But Leigh loves you, Daddy.  And I know you love her.  So just go to her.  Hold her in your arms and tell her that there’s a chance.  That’s probably all she wants.  That’s all any woman wants.”

James turned just as she left.  His daughter may have a point, he decided.  Despite Leigh’s lies and manipulations, what they shared was very real.  Maybe he owed it to her to hear her out.

Grabbing his tuxedo jacket, he headed for the door.

Stormy Blackthorne

Thirty miles south of Los Angeles, at a truck stop near Costa Mesa, Stormy and Eddie sat in the cab of the semi.  Eddie set the break and opened the door, hopping out onto the pavement. 

“You left the lights on,” Stormy said when he walked around and met up with him.

“You’re supposed to.  That’s how other truckers know you’re sleeping.  Well, we’re not sleeping, but we want them to think we are.”

Stormy shook his head in amazement.  “It’s scary how much you know about the most useless information possible.”

Eddie slapped him on the back and pocketed the keys.  “Okay, let’s find the rental car James had delivered here.  We’ll get back to L.A. and find out what's next with this arsenault."

“Do you mind keeping it down?” Stormy said.  “I don’t want the whole truck stop finding out that we just parked a 57 foot trailer of weapons on the property.”

As they started away from the semi, they were approached by two uniformed police officers.

“Evening fellas,” one of them said.  "Parking for the night?”

Eddie nodded confidently.  “Yeah, getting some shuteye.  Just going for a walk to stretch the ol’ legs.  Anything we can do for you officers?”

“Just doing a routine check,” the cop said.  “Mind if we take a look at your waybill?”

“Not at all,” Eddie said, returned to the truck and unlocked the door.   He removed a clipboard containing the waybill and handed it to the officer.  “Everything check out okay?”

“Looks like it,” he said, shining the flashlight along the side of the semi trailer.  “Just need to look inside real quick, then you boys can be on your way.”

Stormy and Eddie exchanged worried glances.  There was no talking their way out of this one, and they knew it.  Reluctantly, Eddie walked around to the back of the trailer with the keys.  He climbed to the top of the step and unlocked the giant double doors.  A quick look back at Stormy reaffirmed the possibility that they were in a heap of trouble.  James hadn’t counted on anything like this happening when he came up with his master plan.

“Sir?” the officer said impatiently.  The door.”

Eddie nodded, reluctantly opening the doors and stepping down onto the asphalt.  The officer shined his flashlight inside.  He jumped up and inspected one of the cases.  Inside he found rows of machine guns housed in plastic casings.

Stormy swallowed hard, flinching uneasily when the cop pulled out his gun and held it on him.  There was screaming, barking of orders, and eventually he and Eddie were forced to lay flat on the ground with their hands behind their heads. 

Things couldn't possibly get any worse.

Seth Walker

Leigh’s heart sped up when she heard the knock.  Squeezing her eyes closed in an effort to maintain her composure, she glided across the room and pulled the door open with a great amount of apprehension.  She had to keep telling herself that she was justified in her actions.  If she didn’t take care of Seth once and for all, she knew he would kill James.

“You look lovely,” Seth said when he entered the suite.  He was dressed in a black tuxedo, his hair combed neatly to the side.  “I’m meeting Marilee at the awards ceremony, so I’d like to make this as quick as possible.”

She closed the door after him. 

“I hope you have good news for me.  I trust you spoke to James.”  A pause while he laughed.  An evil laugh.  “Well, of course you spoke to James.  Why else would you be here alone instead of at the theater with him?”

She walked across the room, pausing at the sofa and tracing her finger along the back cushion.

“Let me guess,” he continued.  “You decided to finally come clean with him and tell him of your involvement with me.  He didn’t take it well, called you a liar, there were tears and affected declarations of love, and then he threw you out.”

Her eyes welled up with tears.

“Is that about how it went down?” Seth asked, then continued without waiting for her to answer.  “But don’t keep me in suspense, Leigh.  Is he going to release that shipment or not?”

She shook her head defiantly.  “No.”

“No?” he asked in disbelief.  “I can understand if you wanted to get back at him for turning on you, but don’t you think you should have told him what I would do if he didn’t come up with that missing truck?”

“James isn’t afraid of you,” she said, her voice trembling.  She reached behind the cushion and felt around with her hand.

Seth hadn’t predicted James Blackthorne’s stubbornness.  He was still no closer to getting his truck back, and he was running out of time.

“Quite the predicament I’m in,” he said and approached her slowly.  “Do I let James live so that he can have a second chance at turning around this injustice he’s done to me?  Or do I kill him like I’d planned and go after his partners?  One of them has to know where the truck is.  And I have a feeling Alex Reynolds would be more than eager to spill her secrets if it meant saving her own life.”

“You’re going to leave James alone.  You’re going to leave all of us alone.”

“You’re oddly confident,” Seth said with a snarl.   He watched her carefully.

Quickly, she brought her hand up from behind the cushion, gripping the gun tightly as she violently trembled from head to toe.  She couldn’t control her nerves.  She was terrified.

Seth had predicted her pathetic attempt at killing him.  He knew it was why she asked him to meet her there.  Barely giving her the opportunity to aim the gun in his direction, he strong-armed her and slipped the gun easily from her grasp.  She stumbled back and glared at him with contempt.

“I hate you,” she said in bated breath.

He shook his head with a smirk.  “Did you really think you could go through with it?” he asked her and looked at the gun.  “You’re not a killer, Leigh.”

“Maybe not,” she said in despair.  “But I can still ruin you.  I’ll go to the authorities.  I’ll tell them everything.  I don’t care if I go to prison.  It would be better than letting you get away with everything you’ve done.”

He sighed and scratched his head.  “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

With that, he raised the gun and pulled the trigger.

The bullet sunk into Leigh’s chest and she staggered back a step, her eyes wide with shock.  White-hot pain seared through her entire body.  A few seconds later she felt the second bullet hit her.  Blood gushed from the wounds in her chest and ebbed from her open mouth.  She finally collapsed onto the floor, all signs of life instantly disappearing. 

Seth lowered the gun, walking toward her and kneeling down to make sure that she was dead.  He ran a hand over his face, only then realizing that he was drenched in sweat.  His heart raced inside his chest.  He had to move quickly if he was going to catch up with Alex at the Los Angeles Theater.   She was his only chance to find that shipment.

A knock at the door scared him to his feet.  Panicked, he looked at Leigh’s body and then back at the door.  He quickly shoved the gun between his back and the waistband of his tuxedo pants.  He went to the phone and picked it up just as the door opened and James entered.

“Leigh?’ he called out, then stopped in his tracks when he spotted her body on the floor, laying in a pool of blood.  His eyes flashed open in horror and he raced toward her, only then noticing Seth standing at the phone.

“You,” he murmured.

“I just got here,” Seth said and hung up.  “I walked in and found her.  I just called the police.  They're on their way.’

Information refused to make its way to his brain.  All James could think about was the last conversation he’d had with Leigh and how ugly it had ended.  He turned to Seth and saw the panic in his eyes.  “What the hell did you do?” he demanded.

“I didn’t do anything,” Seth insisted.  “I told you.  I found her like this.”

“You’re a liar and a murderer,” James said through gritted teeth.  He went for the phone and started to dial.

Seth looked down at Leigh’s motionless body.  He closed his eyes, reached behind him and pulled out the gun.  Aiming it across the room, he pulled the trigger and fired.  The bullet sunk into James’s stomach.  Blood exploded from his mouth and he sunk to his knees.  The last thing he heard was the tinny sound of the 911 operator through the phone receiver.

To Be Continued....

 


Next time....

The family tries to cope with the horrific incident at Hotel Terranova.  Seth's arrival at the Filmmaker Awards brings dangerous circumstances.  Brett fears for the safety of his and Heather's unborn baby.  

 Read Episode 73

 

 


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