EPISODE #2009-19

Cass' body remained in the doorway to his home. His soul, however, was simultaneously in two different places. At Bay City Hospital with Felicia as she struggled to come to terms with the death of her daughter and the fragile condition of her newborn granddaughter; and only a few feet away with Frankie, her face riddled with the pain of understanding exactly what - and who - she was asking Cass to choose between.

"Go," Frankie urged Cass. "Felicia needs you."

"Will you wait for me to come back?"

"I... can't." Saying the words out loud hurt Frankie even more than it did for Cass to hear them. And it hurt Cass a hell of a lot. "If we'd been able to take off today, just disappear before anyone realized we were... But I can't be with you like this. Long-term. Out in the open. It isn't safe."

"Damn it, Frankie, I don't have time to play cryptic guessing games right now. Either tell me exactly what's going on or - "

"I know. I don't expect you to. I never should have put you in this position. I had no right. It was selfish of me."

Cass said, "I'm going to see Felicia."

Frankie swallowed hard and tried to stay keen as she nodded, "I understand."

"No, you don't. I'm going to see Felicia right now. And when everything calms down, when I feel that I can, then I'm coming back for you. We're still going to take off and disappear, just like I promised."

"You didn't understand what you were promising. I won't let you throw away your life for me."

"It's my choice to make."

"Not if I leave again. Not if I make it so you'll never find me."

"I'll find you," Cass swore. "Run all you want. Hide all you want. Now that I know you're alive, I'm never giving up on you."

With that, Cass closed the door and slid into his car. He drove like a madman to the hospital, pushing Frankie out of his mind because if he didn't concentrate on the road and making every yellow light, squeezing into lanes he had no business squeezing into, he'd end up dead himself. And that wouldn't do Felicia any good.

After welshing on his commitment to immediately leave town with Frankie and never return, Cass didn't think there was anything in the world now that could keep him away from Felicia.

But, that was before he caught sight of Lorna in the parking lot. Talking to Lucas.

"Carl is going to destroy me," Donna told Matt when he dropped her off at the mansion. "He doesn't even know why yet, but he is going to destroy me nonetheless. I never should have let you talk me into dropping the charges against him."

"I didn't talk you into it," Matt said grimly. "I gave you an ultimatum. You let Carl out of jail, and I keep my mouth shut about the two of you and Jenna."

"You make it sound so sordid, Matthew."

"It is sordid. This whole thing is sordid. Forget what you did to Carl and to Jenna for a minute - "

"It was the right decision to make at the time. I realized I'd married a monster, it was my only way to break free."

" - Now you're making my mother doubt her marriage. You're breaking her heart."

"Since when are you such a fan of Carl and Rachel's marriage? Weren't you the one who went so far as bringing Alexander Nikos to town to discredit Carl and break them up?"

"I'm a fan of my mother's. I won't have her jerked around. By Carl, or by you."

"Then I hope you're happy. Because in the process of saving Rachel a little short-term anxiety, you've signed my death-warrant."

"That's not going to happen."

"Oh, really? Would that be due to Carl Hutchins' celebrated high-minded, live and let live, non-vindictive nature? Because if that's your stance on the matter, I'd like a second opinion from Alexander Nikos. And Mac Cory. And Frankie Frame. Oh, wait, that would be rather difficult, seeing as how they're all dead."

"For one thing, Carl didn't kill any of them."

"Not for wont of trying. And if its living testimony you're after, I'm sure your sister, Amanda, or Kathleen McKinnon, or Lorna Devon would love to wax poetic about what a forgiving, benevolent soul he is."

"And for another," Matt continued as if she hadn't spoken. Primarily because Donna was right. But so was he. "Carl isn't going to go after you because of Grant."

"Grant," Donna repeated, dumbfounded. "Harrison."


"You're making no sense, Matthew."

"After Grant killed Ryan, Carl lost his mind. He went after Grant with everything he had."

"Thank you. That makes me feel much better."

Matt reminded, "My mother refused to stand for it. She left Carl over his vendetta. When Grant came back this year, my mother warned Carl against picking up where they'd left off. She won't let Carl go after Grant again. And she won't let Carl come after you."

"Unless she agrees with him that my behavior deserves to be punished."

Matt was about to reply, when the electronic beep of an incoming text message distracted him. He looked instinctively at the screen. The color drained out of his face.

"Matthew?" Donna, forgetting her own woes for a moment, rushed to his side, clutching Matt's arm. "What is it? What's wrong?"

Matt slowly slipped the BlackBerry into his jacket pocket. He cleared his throat. He shut his eyes for a moment as if suffering from a sudden, massive headache. And when he opened them again, tears had already started forming at the edges of his lashes.

He told Donna, "That was Jamie. Jenna died a couple of hours ago."

Donna didn't say anything. She didn't respond in any way. Matt waited. But there was nothing. Hoping to trigger a response, any kind of response, he added, "She had the baby. It's a girl. She's really small. They're not sure she's going to make it either."

Donna stepped away from Matthew. She turned her back on him. She tapped her fingers against the edge of an armchair and, when she finally spoke, all Donna said was, "Poor Felicia."

"Yeah," Matt agreed. "And Dean, and Lorna. And everybody who loved her. I loved her once. But you knew that. She was a real easy person to love."

Donna nodded absently. "I understand that she was."

"So what are you going to do?" Matt demanded.

"I - I don't know what you mean."

Matt grabbed Donna roughly by the arm, forcing her to turn around and look at him. "Are you just going to send Felicia a fruit-basket and extend your condolences the next time you bump into her on the street?"

"What," Donna attempted to wrench unobtrusively out of his grip, but Matt was holding on tight. "What would you prefer that I do? I know how Felicia feels. I lost a daughter, too."

"You just lost another one!"

"No," Donna said firmly, this time finding the strength to pull away from him. "Felicia lost her child. And for that she has my deepest sympathy."

"God," Matt snarled. "You are some piece of work!"

"What do you want me to do?" Donna asked again, this time genuinely pleading for him to give her some guidance, not to mention some clue as to the source of his anger.

"Anything," Matt spat. "Anything at all. Except this."

And with that, he stormed out the door.

When Lorna first realized that Cass had spotted Lucas, her initial impulse was to drag her presumed dead father into the car, hit the gas pedal and peel out of the parking lot as fast as the Laws of Thermodynamics would allow. She'd deal with the fall-out later. The priority now was just to get the hell out of dodge.

Unfortunately, Lucas did not appear to be on board with Lorna's plan. Despite her urgent tugging on his arm, Lucas insisted on staying rooted to the spot, looking Cass directly in the eye as Felicia's closest friend approached and warily surveyed them both.

Cass said, "I see that rumors of your death were greatly exaggerated."

Lucas shrugged ruefully, both arms spread to their sides in a combination of surrender and defiance.

"Lot of that going around," Cass observed.

Lorna looked at him quizzically, but Cass declined to elaborate. Instead, he demanded, "Anyone planning to tell me what's going on here?"

Lorna and Lucas exchanged glances, each wondering if the other wanted to go first. Their split second of indecision proved more than an already stretched to his breaking point Cass was willing to bear. Before either had the chance to compose a reply, he broke in with, "Alright, I'll give it a shot, then. Felicia's husband and her daughter have spent the past seventeen years lying to her about a little detail like him actually not being peacefully six feet under - "

"No!" Lucas interrupted forcefully. "Lorna didn't know. Not for a long time. I only told her when I couldn't stand it anymore. I needed to reach out... I needed my family."

"You had a family," Cass reminded. "They're the ones who believed they'd lost you."

"Can we take this inside," Lorna indicated her car. "Someone might overhear..."

Cass' eyes shifted nervously from the hospital entrance, through whose doors he knew Felicia sat, needing his help, even if she would never admit it, and back towards Lucas and Lorna. Maybe he could do Felicia more good by getting to the bottom of whatever the hell was going on here with the two of them. It was a Solomon's choice, but, after a moment of deliberation, he reluctantly did as Lorna asked, and climbed into the back seat of her four-door Ford Taurus. Lorna and Lucas sat in the front, both craning their backs and necks in order to face him.

"Alright," Cass said. "I'm listening. But make it fast. Apparently, unlike the two of you, I actually give a damn about Felicia's peace of mind."

"Hold it right there, pal," Lucas warned, at the same time as Lorna insisted, "You don't understand. You have no idea what Lucas has been through."

"Enlighten me."

Lucas said, "After Sally shot me, the last thing I remember was flat-lining at the hospital. And then I woke up in this place; it looked like a hospital, too, except I seemed to be the only patient. I never even saw a doctor or a nurse. When I'd recovered enough to get around, all communication was done through a computer. These people had the Internet long before Al Gore ever heard of the thing. I was alone for years. No human contact, not a living soul. Do you have any idea what that was like? I thought I'd lose my mind."

"Felicia almost lost her mind," Cass said grimly. "Mourning you."

"It wasn't his fault," Lorna reminded. "Weren't you listening?"

"So what was this place? This Wi-Fi enabled personalized rehab center?"

"It was a prison," Lucas said. "A five-star, no-expense spared prison. I thought I'd be spending the rest of my days there."

"Obviously not," Cass observed dryly.

Lucas said, "I didn't get from Gold Street to President of the Lucas Agency by curling up and dying as soon as things got tough. I know a little bit about cutting a deal with the devil." Lucas sighed, wondering whether or not to tell all, but ultimately grateful for the opportunity to, if not clear his conscience, at least bare it. "Good help is hard to find. Especially in the abduction and detainment field. I agreed to do a few... jobs... for my captors, in exchange for them setting me free."

Cass guessed, "The jobs gave your captors leverage in case you ever decided to expose them."

"I couldn't destroy them without taking myself down in the process," Lucas confirmed.

"Do I want to know about the nature of these... jobs?"

"Not if you intend to remain a member of the Illinois bar."

"Lucas did what he had to do," Lorna stressed.

"The world still thought I was dead, but at least I had some freedom, although I was completely and utterly alone. I thought I could tough it out. Turned out I couldn't. About two years ago, I hit a wall. I knew I either had to reach out to someone, or I might as well have stayed locked up. I chose Lorna, because I knew - I hoped - she'd understand why we had to continue keeping my being alive a secret."

"Kudos to Lorna for understanding," Cass sniped. "I still don't. Why was it okay for Lorna to know, but not Felicia?"

"Because," Lucas said. "It was because of Jenna."

"Jenna?" Cass repeated the name and, again, couldn't help looking towards the hospital. "What does any of this have to do with Jenna?"

"Do you remember," Lucas asked, "Why I got involved with Sally and her brother, Rick, in the first place?"

"You hired Rick to find Jenna's biological father. Of course, I presume that was before you realized he was a pornographer who specialized in drugging underage girls and making X-rated films with them."

"You know it was," Lucas snarled. "You think I would have deliberately put Jenna into that kind of danger?"

"I don't know, Lucas. You're sitting here now telling me you spent seventeen years playing dead in order to protect Jenna from some heretofore unbeknown danger. Apparently, I know very little about what you would or wouldn't do."

"I would have never brought Rick Madison into our lives if I knew what he was really up to. I hired him to find Jenna's father. That's it."

"Except Rick came up empty."

"Rick did. But one of the guys he hired in turn didn't. This second guy contacted me a couple of days before I got shot. He'd found Jenna's father. Living in Bay City. Right under all of our noses."

"Carl..." Cass guessed.

"How did you know?" For the first time since he'd refused to back down in the parking lot, Lucas actually seemed rattled.

"I've been doing some investigating of my own. All the clues pointed that way, but Carl denied it, and everything I'd dug up was circumstantial, at best."

"Carl," Lucas confirmed. "Though I'm not surprised he denied it to you. He didn't know."

"He didn't know?" Cass double-checked. "But then how... why... if Carl didn't know, then who was it that had you kidnapped? I presumed everything that went down happened because Carl needed to keep your mouth shut."

"Not Carl," Lucas said. "You got everything right except that last part. It wasn't Carl who needed to shut me up. It was Donna."

"It was Donna," Spencer said.

"Donna?" Rachel heard her lips forming the word, even as her mind refused to comprehend what she was hearing. "Donna had Felicia, Jenna and Dean kidnapped? Donna Love?"

"The one and only," Spencer indicated the envelope he'd handed Rachel earlier. "It's all in the package. You'll see."

"Why in the world would Donna..."

"Don't know," Spencer said. "Don't really care, actually. She paid her bills on time. Though, I should say, Carl did."

"You just told me Carl had nothing to do with this."

"With the abduction of Felicia, Jenna and Dean, no. But the initial lifetime comprehensive membership was purchased many years ago by one Carl Hutchins. Donna simply used his account for her own purposes. How she got access to it, I also have no idea. But it wasn't the first time. And it's allowed by our rules."

"You have rules?" Rachel couldn't help mocking.

"Of course," Spencer said. "Without them, what would separate us from the animals?"

A great many replies flashed through Rachel's mind. All of them included words unbecoming to a woman of her position. For the first time in a long time, Rachel really wished she'd never become a woman of her position. The Rachel Davis of days past would have had absolutely no problem telling Spencer what she thought of him. And she'd have used words the Rachel Cory Hutchins of days present would insist she didn't even know.

So instead of answering Spencer's very tempting but obviously meant to be rhetorical query, Rachel merely turned on her heel and walked out.

Spencer courteously held the door open for her, then gallantly shut it. Next, he picked up the document she'd dropped off with him, smiled, and reached for his jacket. His last act before following Rachel's example and also heading out, was to pick up the phone and call Dr. Alice Frame.

He was delighted to find her in, and ever more delighted when she accepted his dinner invitation for the following night.

And then Spencer went to see Grant. To tell him they finally had their beloved Kirkland back.

No thanks, as ever, to Grant.

Not that Rachel doubted Spencer's veracity - she presumed that at some point in his life he'd truthfully answered questions pertaining to the weather or the time; well, at least the time - but the minute Rachel got home, she tore open the envelope he'd given her, turned on her computer and confirmed that what he'd told her was the absolute truth.

There it all was, as promised. Financial records, digital photographs, audio recordings of Donna Love - that distinctive voice, there was no mistaking it - ordering, as casually as she might pick the salmon filet over the beef from a menu, the kidnapping of Felicia Gallant, Jenna Norris and Dean Frame. There was even documentation of her no longer quite so cool change of plans after she'd learned that Carl was snooping around and, suspecting he'd be investigating the compound shortly, she ordered her prisoners moved to the Convent of the Sacred Heart.

"They owe me," Donna's voice could be heard explaining. "I've purchased more than a novena candle there in my day."

"Rachel?" A knock on the door destroyed the reverie and reminded Rachel that there was an entire world out there that presumably would find the concept of an alliterative criminal compound in the wilds of Canada rather ludicrous. She looked up from her computer screen and removed the headphones she'd donned in order to avoid letting the entire household into her activities, to see Lila hovering in the doorway. "Yes?" Rachel asked, somewhat more testily than she'd meant to. "What is it, Lila?"

"I..." It wasn't often that Rachel encountered Jasmine's mother strapped for words. She had to admit, the novelty was intriguing. Lila stammered, "I wanted to speak with you... about... something. Is now a bad time?"

Rachel sighed, flicking off her monitor and turning fully around in her desk chair. "I suspect we won't be seeing a better one any time soon." Realizing that this might be her last peaceful moment before all hell broke loose, Rachel softened her tone and encouraged Lila to take a seat. "What's on your mind?"

"Well, first of all," Lila smoothed her skirt down over her knees as she settled into the chair across from Rachel's. "I wanted to thank you for letting me stay here for a bit."

"You're my granddaughter's mother," Rachel said simply.

"And I take being Jasmine's mother very seriously, I hope you know that."

"I do," Rachel conceded. "Whatever issues I may have had with you in the past, I do know how much you love Jasmine."

"All my life," Lila admitted, "It's always been about how much somebody loved me. That's the only way I ever believed I was worth anything. Unfortunately, except for Jasmine, those somebodies have, without fail, been men. After I left Cass, I realized I don't know what to do without a man around. I want to stand on my own two feet, really, I do. But I haven't the vaguest idea how." Lila hesitated, trying to arrange her words carefully so as not to affront while still getting her point across. "I've heard things. About you. I mean, about how you used to be."

"How I used to be," Rachel repeated warily. She wasn't familiar with a conversation that began about how she used to be, ever ending well.

"I, no offense, really, but... it seems to me... maybe... in some ways... you and I... we are... were... we're a lot alike."

There. Lila had said it. Now all that was left was for her gauge Rachel's reaction.

Which was difficult since, for a long moment, Rachel declined to react at all.

"Yes," she said finally. "I can see how that parallel might have sprung to mind."

"That's why I came to you," Lila's words rushed out now in a flood of relief. "I thought you might be able to help me... change. Improve myself. Become a better person. I want to be a strong, independent woman. Like you."

Rachel had to chuckle at that. If Lila only knew what Rachel had just done. Betrayed her son, her grandson, all so that she could get to the truth about her husband. The husband that, after all these years, she still managed to love... but not quite trust. Some strong independent woman. Some role model.

Rachel said, "It's not an easy transition."

"I know. But I was hoping maybe you had some wisdom to share."

"Wisdom?" Rachel's chuckle upgraded to full-out laugh.

"Some pointers, then?" Lila scaled down her request. "A helpful hint?"

Rachel smiled warmly at her former daughter-in-law. "The only thing I know, my dear, is that it's pointless to seek happiness outside yourself. You're right. I did used to be like you. I thought if I had the external trappings, the money, the house, the position, the respectability..."

"The man to give you all that..."

"Exactly. I thought if I had all those external validations, then I'd finally be happy. Or, at the very least, content. I wouldn't be worried every minute of the day. But it didn't work out that way. Even on the very superficial level, the worries didn't end. Because now, instead of spending all my time worrying about how to get the things I wanted, I spent it worrying that they would all be taken away from me, for one reason or another."

"Like the true love of my husband's life popping back up out of nowhere?"

"Oh, yes," Rachel agreed. "That's a worry I've been intimately familiar with." She sighed, "But it's more than that. When you hinge your own happiness on someone else, you have to deal with the fact that other people are unpredictable. You never know what's really going on deep down in their souls, you never know what's really driving them, and you certainly never know what they might do at any given moment to destroy this stability you foolishly believe you've built for yourself. Ultimately, the only person you can control is yourself. And that means that the only person you can count on is yourself."

"I think I'm starting to get that," Lila admitted. "Problem is, I don't know what to do about it."

"Well, if I may make a suggestion..."

"That's why I'm here," Lila inched closer, all but taking imaginary notes.

"The first thing you might want to do is find out what makes you happy, outside of a lover or a husband or even a child. Something that you enjoy doing just for yourself."

"I've never done anything for myself that didn't include a man patting me on the head for it, in one way or another." Lila considered a few options, then confirmed, "Nope. Even things like shopping or getting my hair done, it was all so I could look fetching for somebody else. I love Jasmine. I love being with her. But I can't make her the center of my world. That wouldn't be good for either of us, I don't think."

"When I married Amanda's father, I was in a very similar state to where you are now. Mac encouraged me to pursue my own interests. That's when I began sculpting, you know. I didn't even realize I had a knack for it, before, much less that I would love it to distraction. To this day, when the world gets too overwhelming, I can still withdraw to my studio, grab a hunk of clay and start pounding away at it. It doesn't fix my problems, but it gives me something to focus on. Not to mention channel my aggression. And the end result is one of the few things in this world that I can control. It's very satisfying."

"But," Lila rode the razor-thin edge of tact and disagreement. "Wasn't you getting too wrapped up in your art career and becoming successful and independent one of the factors that led to your and Mr. Cory's divorce the first time around?"

"I was hoping you didn't know that."

"Matt told me," Lila confessed sheepishly.

"My art was one of the factors, yes. But Mac's affair with a woman named Gwen and my own less than charitable attitude towards Jamie's wife, Blaine, didn't help matters. We were equally to blame and ultimately, my art career was the least of our problems."

"Well, I'm not in any danger of having my career drive a man away. Probably because I don't have a career. Or a man."

"Give it time," Rachel urged. "Give them both time."

"You were on your own for a good long while after Mr. Cory died, weren't you?"

"I was. And while I missed Mac terribly, a part of me did enjoy, like you said, standing on my own two feet. For the first time in my life, I wasn't looking to please or lure or appease anyone. Anything I wanted, I could get for myself. I made my own choices, and I faced my own consequences. It was nice, after all those years, and all those men, to know that I could do it."

"Carl must have really been something then," Lila offered. "To convince you to give all that up."

"Carl..." Rachel said. But she was not commenting on Lila's observation. She was looking past Lila and into the doorway, where her presumed jailed husband was now inexplicably standing.

The pair locked eyes, and the maelstrom of unanswered - and unasked - questions, not to mention the unexpressed torrents of barely suppressed emotion so thoroughly and swiftly flooded the room that Lila promptly realized there was no space left for her.

She scurried off without a word.

"I told you not to interfere, Dad. I warned you!"

"You can stop with the theatrics, Grant. Mr. Holier-Than-Thou-Fowler is not here and we both know that I've given you exactly what you want."

Grant closed his eyes and counted to ten. A pointless endeavor, he knew, as the signed document in his hands would still be there when he opened his eyes again. As would his father, who was currently pouring himself a glass of champagne - Spencer had arrived bearing his own bottle - with a proud, self-satisfied smile on his face.

"Well, go on. Pick up your glass, son! Let's toast!"

Grant shook his head. "It's a bit early in the morning for me."

"It's never too early to celebrate your father helping you get your son back," Spencer beamed. "Our Kirkland is finally coming home where he belongs!"

"Our?" Grant cocked his head. "He's my son."

"And my grandson," Spencer grinned, tipping his glass to Grant. "Oh, the things we're going to do! The Harrison men all together at last!"

Grant stilled, his father's words chilling him. He knew exactly what those things were. A father attempting to realize his own dreams through his son, never loving him, never respecting him, but controlling and molding and meddling until there was nothing left except a bitter father and the shell of a man, his life filled with too many regrets and too few moments of real, true happiness.

And now the bastard - yes, the man was his father, but Grant could finally say with certainty that he also exhibited quite the predilection towards bastard - wanted to hijack Kirkland's life, as well.

Grant would rather leave Kirkland to be raised by a pack of wild dogs. (But was he willing to abandon him to the equally rabid Frames?)

He knew he had to stand up to his father. He knew he had to put a stop to Spencer's meddling once and for all. For his sake and for Kirkland's. Even if, admittedly, Grant was tempted, so very tempted, to cut short the waiting and endless court proceedings and finally, finally(!) bring his boy home.

Grant dropped the document onto the table and slid it towards Spencer. "Thanks," he said. "But no thanks."

Spencer laughed and, no offense taken, slid it back towards Grant. "Don't be foolish, son. Like I said, Kevin isn't here - "

"And like I've said: I'm getting my son back the right way. No dirty tricks and no dirty tricks by proxy," he gave Spencer a pointed look. "Kevin and I have everything under control."

Spencer smirked into his glass. "Kevin Fowler was the one who drew up the document for me. You would have known that if, in lieu of a temper tantrum, you'd taken a moment to read through it instead."

A quick scan confirmed his father's claim. Grant cut his eyes sharply back to Spencer.

"How did you get him to do this?"

"Oh, it wasn't all that much trouble. Once I showed him who was boss."

"More dirty tricks," Grant sneered with a shake of his head.

"Whatever it takes to win," Spencer cut in sharply. "A credo you seem to have forgotten."

"I've forgotten nothing," Grant hissed at his father, the implied accusations, hurt and anger causing Spencer to pause ever so slightly. "For the past ten years, all I've had were memories. Of Paulina. Of Vicky. Of watching my son being raised by other people. Of endless back and forths with Carl, each of us playing to win, both of us losing every single time. Playing by your rules has gotten me nothing."

Spencer tapped the document. "It's gotten you Kirkland. That's the only thing that matters."

"No," Grant said tightly. "Being a man my boy can respect also matters."

"And you believe that refusing my gift would give you that?" Spencer laughed. "Come now, son, you and I both know that you rebuffing my help has nothing to do with doing the right thing for Kirkland. This has to do with your petty issues regarding me. This notion you have about how I've supposedly ruined your life. When are you going to stop blaming me for how things have turned out for you?"

"When you stop doing things like this and leave me alone!" Grant thundered. "I will get Kirkland. My way. Without you!"

"The hell you will," Spencer spat. "You are my son, Grant, and I love you, but no judge is ever going to award you custody of Kirkland. Not with your history. Not without a little incentive. Which would involve you getting your hands dirty. And since you're not prepared to be a real man, or, at the very least, a real father, and do what needs to be done, that leaves Kirkland with Jamie Frame, and you... alone."

Grant eyed his father with disgust, angry at him, angry at himself, angry at the world at large.

It wasn't fair! If it weren't for Vicky and her games, and Spencer and his manipulations, and Carl and his vendettas, Grant wouldn't have had to do the things he'd reluctantly had to do, the things that put him in the position of needing to resort to extortion and coercion - correction, his Daddy extorting and coercing on Grant's behalf.

How had it come to this? How the hell had his life come to this?

"Try looking at the situation this way," Spencer leaned towards him, sensing that Grant was softening. "You have an inventory of things that I've done wrong. Let me make it up to you, son. Let me start making things right. What could be more right than reuniting you with Kirkland?"

Grant picked up the document, unsure of whether he wanted to rip it in two, or stuff it in his pocket and run, not walk, straight to the Cory house.

Was Grant still his father's son? Or was he finally going to be his son's father?

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Lila thought as she left behind Rachel and Carl's fraught reunion, only to stumble upon Jasmine and Matt and overhear her daughter cajoling, "I'm sorry, Daddy. I didn't mean to upset you so much."

"It's okay, Jazz."

"Now you're going to go find Mama and fight with her about it, aren't you?"

"I have no intention of fighting with your mother. We're just going to have a talk."

"Are we now?" Lila made her presence known, hands on both hips. "About what, pray tell?"

Startled, Jasmine and Matt both turned to look at her, apology written all over Jasmine's face, while Matt appeared to be making excellent progress on his upcoming stroke.

"About you going to work for Grant Harrison," Matt countered hotly, sliding Jasmine off his lap and rising from the couch, holding up Grant's business card.

"Well, I don't know who told you that," Lila laughed, looking pointedly at Jasmine. "But your source is incorrect. He offered. I said no."

"Damn right, you did." Matt snapped. "I don't want that son of a - "

"Matthew Cory! Don't you even think about finishing that sentence with our little girl standing right under your nose!"

"I've heard him say worse," Jasmine defended, unwilling to let either parent be disparaged by the other. "I've heard you say worse, Mama."

"And you're going to hear me say it again unless you get yourself up to your room, right now," Lila huffed. "We'll discuss your digging around in garbage cans, later. It's unsanitary. And... gauche."

Getting the same stern eye from her father when she turned to Matt for support, Jasmine retreated from the room with a final plea directed at both of them. "Be nice."

Which they honored. Until Lila and Matt heard Jasmine's protesting stomps fade away. Then they turned on each other.

"What in the world is wrong with you, talking like that in front of our daughter?"

"What's wrong with you, exposing our daughter to slime like Grant? You have got to be out of your mind to even think about working for him!"

"I already told you," Lila snapped, snatching the card from Matt and ripping it in two. "I'm not working for Grant. I threw this card away."

"Then why does Jasmine think she's going to be spending the near future helping you pick out cool stuff for Kirkland's new room at his other house with Grant? Seriously, Lila? You're going to work for a bastard who spent more time over the past ten years thinking about his wardrobe than his son? The son he claims to love, but didn't bother to come back for when the poor kid's mother died? The son my brother took in and raised and is in danger of losing because your dick of a boss decided that now he'd like to play daddy? This is how you repay me and my family?"

"Matt, you are losing your head over nothing! Jasmine's imagination ran away with her. She was just trying to help her mother."

"She shouldn't feel like she has to help you, Lila. You're the parent. You're the one who should be there for her, not the other way around. You can't just abandon your responsibilities - "

"Hold it right there, buster. I don't know what's got you acting like this all of a sudden, but you do not - not! - get to accuse me of abandoning Jasmine - "

"What do you call dumping her here so you can run off to play House Beautiful with Grant Harrison?"

"I call it setting a good example for my daughter, showing Jasmine that a girl can stand on her own two feet, that she doesn't need a man - especially one who's wedding ring has been off her finger for over a decade now - telling her what she can and can not do, and who she can and can not work for!"

"Save the 'I am woman, hear me roar' speech for someone whose home you aren't squatting in," Matt snapped.

"Now, you're just being mean," Lila gritted.

"Yeah, well," he laughed brokenly. "Right now that's what I'd rather feel." He declined to elaborate further, only adding, "And being mean doesn't imply I'm wrong. You get involved with Grant, and it'll be nothing but trouble. I am not about to give that man even the remotest opportunity to hurt another member of my family, especially Jasmine. I'm not asking you, Lila, and I'm not making a suggestion. I'm telling you. Steer clear of Grant."

Matt didn't wait for a reply. Lila didn't bother trying to give him one. Even if she was of a mind to tell him where he could put his ultimatums and threats. Something told Lila that their... talk... had been about more than just the issue at hand. Fact was, Matt just didn't care enough about Lila to get that upset with her. Jasmine or no Jasmine. Lila figured she'd just wait for that other situation - the one which was really getting him so all hot and bothered - to resolve itself before she so much as considered crossing paths with her ex a second time.

In the meantime, Lila picked up Grant's card, or rather the two pieces it now consisted of, and looked thoughtfully at the print.

She wasn't being petty. She was being practical.

Matt had made it crystal clear that she was merely a guest in his family's home. Apparently, the price of admission also included living by his rules, and kowtowing to his demands and whims. It was a fee Lila simply wasn't willing to pay.

She needed her own house for her and for Jasmine. And for that she needed money. And to get money, she needed a job. And Grant had offered her one...

If there was ever a time to make a deal with the devil, a deal that would allow Lila to ultimately stand on her own two feet, that time was now.

"A devil you may be, Grant," Lila sighed. "But you're a devil I know I can dance with. Heck, it might even be kind of fun...."

Lila got at least one thing right. Neither Rachel nor Carl even noticed that she had left them.

Rachel looked up at her husband, needing to tell him, to explain, to apologize for so much, yet lacking the words to even begin confessing everything she'd mistakenly ascribed to him, much less to start asking forgiveness for it all.

Instead, she stood, crossed the room and flung her arms around Carl's neck, holding him tightly, then quickly kissing him before Carl had the chance to open his mouth and question her multifarious mood.

"I say," her husband remarked with a Cheshire grin once they'd come up for air. "A welcome like that could stimulate a man to become a serial offender. Though, in my case, I fear I may have just come to the end of my lifetime Get Out of Jail Free cards."

"What are you doing home?" Rachel was happy for the distraction. "Did they schedule a bail hearing so quickly? Nobody contacted me."

"No bail," Carl took Rachel's hand, stroking it as he explained, "I've been righteously and wantonly liberated. Donna came by the station. She dropped the charges; apparently at young Matthew's urging."

"Matthew," Rachel repeated, remembering to add yet another complication to her already lengthy list.

"Yes. Were you aware that was back on?"

"Matt and Donna?" Rachel nodded absently. "Yes. He was with her when she filed the charges, too."

"Ah, a full-service boy-toy." Rachel cocked an eyebrow at Carl and he was instantly contrite. "Sorry, luv, force of habit. I'm afraid I'm not feeling particularly charitable towards my ex-wife at the moment."

Neither was Rachel, quite frankly.

"Nevertheless," Carl clucked, swinging Rachel's hand almost playfully now, as if they were taking a pleasant stroll through an equally pleasant meadow without a care in the world. "All's well that ends well. For me, anyway. I don't anticipate being able to say the same for Donna. If she thinks this is the end of things, she is gravely mistaken. There will be no letting bygones be bygones. I don't intend to rest until I find out what in the world ever possessed her to slap me with those ridiculous charges."

"Why?" Rachel asked, though, if she were honest, she'd admit that she already knew the answer for herself.

"So that I can properly penalize her, of course," Carl said.

And Rachel felt her blood burn cold.

Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated