Donna asked Rachel, "Are you going to let Carl come after me?"
"Carl made it very clear that he isn't asking my permission."
"You can't allow this to happen, Rachel. For your sake."
"I beg your pardon?" While Donna's desperation was palatable, she was practically tying herself up in knots actually wringing her hands in visual illustration to haltingly justify her blatantly unjustifiable behavior, Rachel had no idea where she was going with this final assertion.
"I'm sure I don't have to remind you what happened the last time Carl got it into his head to seek revenge. He and Grant may not have succeeded in destroying each other, but he certainly came close to destroying your marriage."
Rachel hesitated. Donna wasn't wrong. But Rachel wasn't about to admit that she was right.
"If you tell Carl about myself and Jenna, and what I did, how do you think he'll react? What do you think he'll revert to? Consider the sort of toll that ghastly degeneration will take on you!"
Rachel did consider Donna's words. And then she observed, "Your concern for me is touching. If somewhat disingenuous."
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Rachel. Obviously, I expect you to recognize that I am acting out of pure self-interest. I know you're not a fool. But it's because you aren't a fool that I know you also realize the truth of what I'm saying. Yes, having Carl learn my secret after all these years will be the end of me, I have no doubt. But it could be the end of you and Carl, as well. Not to mention what it will do to Felicia."
"Felicia?" Rachel shook her head, making it clear that Donna wasn't about to distract her that easily. "Carl has no quarrel with Felicia. She's completely innocent in all this."
"What about Jenna's baby?"
"What about her?"
"Lori Ann, that's her name, correct? Lori Ann will be Carl's only grandchild. Do you think that's something he'll prove capable of ignoring? Do you remember how obsessed he became when he found out Ryan was his son? He kidnapped Victoria, for goodness sake, in order to facilitate her reunion with Ryan what a shame he didn't let either one in on his plan. But that's who Carl is. That's how he behaves when he is single-mindedly set on something. Do you really believe that Felicia needs this in her life right now? On top of everything else? Carl won't give her or Dean a moment's peace. He will hound them and pester them, and you know that whatever role they deign to give him in their little girl's life, it will never be enough for Carl."
"You are so self-serving," Rachel shuddered. "It's disgusting. Keeping a child from its parents, kidnapping to keep your crimes buried, now emotional blackmail, hiding behind a defenseless infant. Reginald Love would be proud."
Donna didn't blink. "My father isn't relevant here. The only relevant question is: How proud will you be if you unleash the full force of Carl Hutchins on poor, heartbroken Felicia and that defenseless baby girl?"
"Jamie doesn't love you, Mrs. Frame. And he never, ever will."
"Shut up, Grant," Marley mumbled to herself despite the fact that technically, Kirkland's biological father had taken off over an hour earlier. Despite the extra sixty minutes, Marley was sorry to admit that this retort was still the best she'd managed to come up with. It just barely beat out, "Oh, yeah? Says you."
"What?" Jamie murmured from his slouched position on the couch, suddenly awake after falling asleep only minutes before.
"Nothing," she covered with a smile, turning to him. "You should go to bed. You've had a long "
"Crappy day," he finished. "Which isn't going to get any better with sleep. Besides there's too much to do. We have to talk to the kids and explain what we did and why we did it." He shook his head and rubbed his eyes. "Although how exactly we're supposed to explain a sham marriage "
"Legalized united front," she corrected.
"Okay," he let her have her way. "How do we explain, to Bridget and Michele especially, that you and I are now suddenly joined together in a holy legalized united front?"
"We tell them the truth."
"I don't think I remember what that is anymore."
"We tell the girls, and Kirkland and Steven, that you and I are doing everything we can to keep our family together. It's the truth. And then we make sure that, without lying, they believe we're really a couple. It's the only way we're going to be able to keep Grant from convincing a judge otherwise. First thing tomorrow, I'll start looking for a house."
"A house?" Jamie blinked.
"Well, we can't all live with your mother," Marley reminded him. "And I don't think you'd want to live with mine."
"Not especially," Jamie muttered. "Okay, a house. What else?"
"Next, we need to go about town doing very visible, very couple-y things."
"Dinner, movies, antique shopping, assorted newlywed frolicking "
"Frolicking? I'm a little old to frolic."
"Love will make you feel young again," Marley informed him dryly. "You'll just have to act like you're in love with me and that you feel young enough to frolic and... what not."
"I owe you a talk," Jamie grimaced, suddenly remembering. "About the kiss and us and what it means "
"I am tabling your obligation," Marley glossed over, preferring to offer them both an easy way out. "You've had a hell of a day and I'd feel like I was taking advantage of you if I forced you, in your exhausted state, to admit that you liked it and wanted to do it again."
Jamie opened his mouth to speak, paused, thought about it and then finally settled on, "Okay." He added awkwardly, "Thank you, Marley."
"For trying so hard and being so nice, and for the crazy lengths you've gone to help me keep Kirkland. I know it can't be easy... marrying me and everything."
"Yeah, it's been a real bitch so far," she smiled, getting a tired chuckle from him. "What else was I going to do, Jamie? You know I'll always be there for you, no matter what. Even if it includes having Carl Hutchins for a stepfather-in-law. Though, to be fair, I did have him as a stepfather for years without knowing it. And I survived that more or less."
"The things you do for me," Jamie shook his head. "Ready to round up all the kids so we can bring them up to speed?"
"Yup," she nodded. "But first, I think we owe a thank-you to our guardian angel. If it weren't for him we wouldn't be newlyweds right now."
Frankie's deal with Cecile specified that she was to stay away from Cass. Cecile never said a word about Dean, which meant that as long as Frankie managed to visit her cousin without bumping into her ex-husband, she would be keeping up her end of their devil's bargain.
But even that task wasn't as simple as it seemed. Cass had sounded so miserable over the phone. No, worse. He'd sounded broken, as if the events of the past few days combined with having to keep up a resilient front for Felicia, had worn him down into complete, utter, physical and mental defeat. Maybe if it had just been Frankie's return, just Lila leaving him, just Felicia's disappearance or just Jenna's death, he could have made it through with some residual emotional reserves left. As it was, Frankie wasn't certain how long Cass would be able to keep going like this.
She knew she shouldn't do it, but she couldn't help herself. Before going to see Dean, Frankie snuck up to the Neonatal ICU and, using a compact mirror to catch their reflection, was able to watch Felicia and Cass from around the corner without either of them seeing her.
Both sat on hard-backed chairs, hunched over Lori Ann's incubator. Felicia was resting her head on Cass' shoulder. He had his arm around her. They were speaking in, to all appearances, steady, hushed voices, but Frankie right away recognized what Cass had meant when he said Felicia wasn't quite there. Every few moments, she'd jump up as if stung, walking around the incubator, checking every tube, monitor and IV as if she actually knew what any of them did. As if she was the only one responsible for keeping them pumping. Cass was usually able to coax Felicia back down, but then, right in the middle of a sentence, her gaze would wander away from him and back to the baby. Felicia was staring right at Lori Ann, but also through her. Searching for something no one could identify, something no one could provide.
Frankie's heart broke for both of them. But she wasn't about to make this tragedy worse by putting Cass or Felicia or, most importantly, Charlie, at risk of Cecile's wrath.
She tore herself away and headed to visit Dean in his hospital room, where the sight was no less heart breaking.
They hadn't seen each other face to face in over a decade. The last time had been about a year after Charlie was born, when Frankie and Cass flew to New York to see Dean in concert. He'd grown up so much from the angry teen who'd come to live with her back in 1990. The boy had become a man and Frankie couldn't have been prouder. After her memory came back, she'd kept up with his career as best she could, downloading all of Dean's songs, reading the interviews he gave. She even went to another concert of his New York, sitting as far back from the stage as she could, knowing that she was just one of several thousand spectators, still terrified that he, somehow, would be able to pick her out from the crowd. They'd always been close, always had a special connection.
Just like now, even with Dean lying so still, eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to the world around him, Frankie could feel the agonizing pain churning just underneath the heavily medicated surface. He was trying so desperately to claw his way to consciousness, and yet, at the same time, she sensed Dean's terror at having to deal with all the horrors of the on-going world. The one that Jenna was no longer a part of. What, after all, could be more horrifying and terrifying that that?
Frankie took Dean's hand and squeezed it tightly. She whispered his name, more to let him know that she was there than to encourage him to awaken. If Dean wanted to hide from reality for a while longer, who was she to drag him out?
But he must have heard her because, with great effort, Dean pried his eyes open. It took a moment for them to focus, but once he did, Dean's gaze locked on to Frankie. For a moment, she wasn't sure if he recognized her. It had been so long. And he'd been through so much.
"Frankie," Dean croaked, his voice raspy from dehydrating drugs.
"Yes," she whispered back.
"Jenna," he said.
Dean tried to sit. He propped himself up with one palm and gripped Frankie's shoulder with the other. "Is she with you now?"
Frankie didn't understand at first. And then she did. Dean thought she was dead. Jenna was dead. Which meant...
"Yes," Frankie reassured him, happy that she could offer some comfort without contributing even more turmoil to his life at such a ghastly point.
"Jenna is with me. She's alright. She isn't in any pain. And she can see you, Dean. Whenever you need her from now on, she can be with you all the time. She misses you so much, but she's happy that Lori Ann has such a wonderful Daddy to grow up with."
"No," Dean shook his head. "I told her... I can't... I can't take care of a baby. I can't take care of anyone. I couldn't take care of Jenna. I wanted to so much, but I couldn't."
"It's alright. She doesn't blame you."
"I couldn't take care of her when she needed me...."
"Jenna loves you. She is so grateful for the time you had together, even if it did end up being cut short. She only needs one thing from you to allow her to rest completely in peace. She needs you to get better and to look after your daughter. You do that for her and, I promise you, Dean, I'll look after Jenna."
"I owe you one, man. We couldn't have done it without you." Jamie stretched his arm forward to shake Kevin's hand.
Kevin accepted the kudos, but clarified, "I just pointed you in the right direction. As soon as I heard what Spencer offered your mother, I knew he was barking up the wrong tree, legally speaking.
"You could have just kept it to yourself," Amanda noted.
"Yeah," Kevin mused. "But keeping quiet isn't exactly my modus operandi."
"In any case," Marley slipped her arm through Jamie's elbow and rested her head on his shoulder. "We're very grateful to you, Kevin."
"And now that you're not Grant's lawyer anymore," Jamie said. "I'd like to take Amanda up on her earlier invitation to get to know you better."
"Oh, I'm still Grant's lawyer," Kevin said.
"What?" Amanda turned to face him in surprise. "But I thought you said...."
"I told you that I had a way to prove that I really did care about you; that our relationship had nothing to do with Grant's case. What Spencer tried to do was flat-out illegal, not to mention immoral. I wanted no part of it, which is why I let Jamie in on what he could do to get around Spencer's blackmail while still getting your mother her information. I know lawyers have a reputation for being unethical as all get out, but I like to play by the rules. Makes it more fun to win."
"You still intend to win?" Jamie clarified. "You still intend to help take Kirkland away from me?"
"I intend to do my job. I told you, I play by the rules."
"But your client doesn't."
"He will if he wishes to remain my client. Spencer was the one who blackmailed your mother. Not Grant."
"That's splitting hairs and you know it. And you wonder how lawyers got that rep for being unethical."
"I'm sorry, Jamie. I helped you and your mother out because I am an officer of the court and it's my job to see that things play out fairly. I also did it for Amanda."
"Well, how about quitting your job then for Amanda, too?"
"Hey!" She piped up, "Amanda is standing right here. Why does everyone in this family talk about me like I'm not even in the room?"
"Is that what you want, Amanda?" Kevin asked. "Do you want me to quit?"
"Well... I..." She turned to Jamie. "If Kevin quits, all that'll happen is Grant will hire another lawyer. Probably somebody who won't play by the rules. That doesn't really help us any."
"How do we know this isn't just some long con on their part? He gets us to trust him and then, bam, we never see the double-cross coming. I mean, come on, the guy hid being Alice's grandson. He's got an agenda, he admitted it."
"Hardly the behavior of someone planning a double-cross, wouldn't you say?" Kevin pointed out.
"I wouldn't put anything past Spencer and Grant. Or their lackey."
"Look, Jamie, I'm sorry you feel that way. No, I'll be completely honest. I'm actually rather indifferent that you feel that way. What I did, I did for Amanda. She's the only one whose opinion matters to me. And she's the only one who can tell me whether my remaining Grant's lawyer will affect things between us."
"I don't know," Amanda admitted. "I'm not sure. I have to think about it."
"Fair enough. How about over dinner tonight?"
"Preferably," he deadpanned. "Though I suppose pondering our status over a serving of Soup-For-One would also be technically accurate."
"Though a lot less fun?" she guessed.
"Undoubtedly." Kevin smiled. "I'll pick you up at seven."
"I'll bring my bus pass."
Dr. Zhivago was gasping his last on the streets of Moscow, and Sarah was pondering how Lara managed to miss all the commotion happening just a few feet behind her (maybe her abnormally large hat was to blame), when Allie's phone rang.
Muting the sound, she picked up the receiver, listened for a moment, then said, "Oh, hello, Gregory," placing extra emphasis on the name to make sure Sarah heard.
Her friend pivoted on the bed to sit facing Allie and the phone, happy to watch yet another potential romantic saga unfold and to comment, if necessary.
"Tomorrow?" Allie hesitated, only to have Sarah nod her head vociferously and all but bounce up and down on the mattress for emphasis. "Uhm... Sure... Tomorrow would be great. Okay. I'll see you then. Bye. Uhm... Thank you!" Allie hung up the phone and asked Sarah, "Why did you just have me do that?"
"Gregory called to ask you out, right?"
"This is a good thing."
"Look, Sarah, I like Gregory, but..."
"This is a good thing for you and GQ."
"How do you figure?"
"Just leave it all to me," Sarah promised.
Cass stood up and let Rachel hurry past him as she entered the NICU. Felicia stood too. Rachel grabbed her friend and pulled her into a tight hug, neither one saying anything, both knowing that there was absolutely nothing to say.
Cass offered Rachel his chair, and she thanked him with a brief bob of the head, refusing to take her eyes off Felicia. It was Felicia who finally spoke, directing Rachel's gaze with a trembling hand to the incubator.
"Gloria Ann Frame," she said. "Lori Ann."
Rachel nodded, and took the hand that Felicia had used to gesture with, squeezing it between her own palms. Rachel said, "This is a very good hospital. Amanda was born here. She was premature too. They took excellent care of her."
"Lori Ann's chances are still 50/50. She can't even breathe on her own yet. They're feeding her through a tube. They're watching her to see if there's any bleeding in her brain. They say it's common with preemies. Bleeding in her brain... Oh, God." Felicia looked away, glaring at the monitor in charge of this particular function, as if she blamed it for the possibility.
"Is there anything you need?" Rachel asked.
"My daughter back."
"There's a website on the Internet, some of my fans put it up. They call me The Queen of the Happy Endings. Apparently, no matter how bad things get, no matter how dire the situation looks, even when you think it's absolutely impossible, Felicia Gallant can always pull off a happy ending." She shook her head, laughing without a trace of joy. "Felicia Gallant can. What a shame Fanny Grady has no clue."
"You're wrong about that. Fanny Grady is the strongest woman I know. Well, after my mother."
Felicia looked askance at Rachel. "That's quite the compliment."
"There's something you two have in common. You may not be able to produce an absolutely happy ending, but I have no doubt you'll be able create the best ending possible, under the circumstances."
"Like I did when Lucas died? That was a sterling example of my inner fortitude. It's one thing to ruin your own life. But how many others did I take down with me?"
"I'd rather focus on all the lives you've made better by being in them. Just like you're going to do for this little girl."
"Do you know what I've been sitting here thinking?" Felicia abruptly changed the subject. Cass was used to it by now, but it took Rachel a moment to adjust. "I never knew my girls when they were babies. I met them both as adults. I have I had," Felicia winced to utter the correction. "Two daughters that I love with all my heart. But I never got the chance to really raise either one."
Felicia went on, "Dean is going to get better, of course, and so is Lori Ann. She'll be with him the majority of the time, I wouldn't want it otherwise. But, in a small way, she'll also be my chance to watch a little girl grow up right from the start. It won't make up for Lorna and Jenna, naturally. Nothing will make up for what I've lost. But I keep thinking about it. Selfish, I know. It should have been Jenna. She should be the one raising her."
"Jenna adored you," Rachel said. "I'm sure she would have been very pleased to know you're going to be looking out for her daughter."
"But what if my holding on to Lori Ann so tightly is the wrong thing to do? What if the best thing for her and Dean would be to just move on, to establish a new future instead of clinging to the past? What if having me always hovering around keeps Dean from finding someone else to love, of giving Lori Ann a new mother, of allowing all three of them to live a normal life? I say the words, and the mere idea of losing her; of Lori Ann calling someone other than Jenna Mama makes me physically ill. But what if it would be best for Lori Ann? I just want to do right by her, Rachel. I just want to do the right thing. Sometimes it's so hard, deciding what's best, being honest with yourself about whose interests you're really serving."
Rachel nodded. She cleared her throat, and then she agreed, "Yes. I know exactly what you mean."
"Where the hell have you been?" Grant snapped as Kevin slid onto the bar stool next to him. "I've been calling you for hours!"
"I was with Amanda," Kevin answered smoothly, signaling the bartender for a drink. "We were congratulating Marley and Jamie on their recent nuptials."
"Congratulating them?" Grant spat incredulously. "You're my lawyer! This little stunt of theirs could ruin my chance to get Kirkland back!"
"No, you going over there with that agreement Spencer cooked up was what would have cost you custody of Kirkland. Judges don't look charitably on blackmail."
"You were the one who gave the document to my father in the first place. If you didn't approve of the plan "
"I didn't," Kevin countered coolly. "But I knew your father would proceed no matter what I said, so I made sure the document was in order."
"It's useless! Jamie doesn't have legal custody of Kirkland, Marley does!"
"I know," Kevin nodded simply, plucking an olive from his martini as it was placed in front of him. "That's why after I sent a satisfied Spencer away with his little document, I suggested to Amanda that Marley and Jamie should get married if they wanted to strengthen their position for custody of Kirkland."
Grant clenched his teeth so tightly his jaws began to ache. "You told them to do what?!"
"I'd think twice about that," Kevin cut him off, eyeing Grant's raised fist. "Not that I'd necessarily drop you as a client for punching me, because I do understand your anger and frustration, but my sporting a black eye won't look good to the judge when we're in court."
"Why the hell would I want anything to do with you after what you've pulled? Manipulating me! My father! Making me look like a fool!"
"Better to look like a fool now and have your son later, though, right?" Kevin countered calmly.
"What are you talking about?" Grant glared wildly at him. "And so help me if you don't get to the point immediately "
Kevin sipped from his martini. "Grant, as a lawyer I have to know how to deal with my clients. Sometimes I can be honest with them and expect them to stay in line. Other times, such as with you, I realize that they're too loose of a cannon to be trusted to do what's in their own best interest. Them, I have to be a bit more savvy in handling."
"I wasn't aware I needed to be handled."
"You do. And, for the record, I wasn't setting you up," Kevin continued, lifting a hand to silence Grant. "I was trying to protect you."
"Protect me?" Grant laughed darkly. "What kind of fool do you take me for?"
"The kind that ignores his own lawyer's advice and uses a document that was signed under duress to try to short circuit the legal system. I had hoped you'd have better sense than to use it, but then you are who you are."
Grant slapped Kevin's martini glass out from in front of him. "Get to where you're protecting me, Kevin, or else I'll shove this document so far down your throat you'll be coughing up paper for a week."
"I figured Spencer would wear you down, so I designed a little insurance to keep you from making things worse for yourself. I suggested to Amanda that the family could make it a win/win for Rachel and Jamie if he were to sign Spencer's document."
"And Marley and Jamie got married."
"Yup. Rachel gets the info she wants, Jamie keeps Kirkland "
"And I'm left with egg on my face."
"You put that there yourself, my friend."
"You are not my friend."
Kevin shook his head incredulously. "I am your only friend in this, Grant. Your father sure as hell isn't looking out for your best interests. He wanted to play the hero. To be the winner. He wasn't thinking about what would happen when Jamie and Marley went to the judge, crying foul-play, and Kirkland is not only taken away from you, but any chance you have of obtaining legal custody of him goes up in smoke. I saved you from screwing yourself over using that document by suggesting Marley and Jamie get married. Now you actually have to fight fair to get Kirkland."
"You could've just told me so instead of going through this elaborate plan."
Kevin sighed. "I did tell you so. And you used the document anyway. I am very aware of the depth of passion, desire and yes, I believe, love that you have for your son. But I told you the only way that I'll help you is if you play fair. Step out of line one more time and I will not be there to save you. Consider this lesson your one and only free pass. Now," Kevin turned back to the bar. "You owe me a drink."
"I don't appreciate being manipulated," Grant scowled, turning to the bar and signaling the bartender to bring another round for them both.
"Tough," Kevin shrugged. "I do what I need to do to get my clients what they want. Even no, especially when they can't see it for themselves."
Grant quietly weighed Kevin's words before conceding, "Fine."
"Glad we understand each other," Kevin replied as he accepted his fresh drink. "Now, about that," he nodded towards the document of the hour. "Does Kirkland know?"
"No," Grant said slowly. "At least I don't think so. What does it matter? It's useless."
"Legally, yes. But I can't help wondering what young Kirkland would think if he found out Jamie had been willing to give him up. The fact that his stepfather would sign something like that at all should make Kirkland reassess what kind of dad Jamie is. Which should help his attitude towards you quite a bit."
Grant frowned. "You want me to use this document to emotionally manipulate my son? You just told me that I should fight fair."
"Telling the truth is not a dirty move," Kevin explained as he savored his martini. "It may hurt, but it's neither good nor bad. It's simply the truth. And it can be the most productively manipulative tool in any arsenal. I can attest to its recurrent success. Personally."
Alice Frame had to admit; it felt quite nice to be courted by a man again. Especially since Spencer Harrison made no secret of his doing precisely that.
He arrived at her door bearing two-dozen red roses, taking care to point out that he wasn't just being traditional. "Roses are your birth flower, are they not?"
"My birthday is in June," Alice agreed.
"Truly the loveliest, most temperate month. No matter what the poets collude to write about May."
Over dinner at the Harbor Club, he proved equally solicitous, asking Alice about her work "So which do you find ultimately more satisfying, nursing or general practice?" as well as her family "Having your daughter pass away at such a young age must have been truly devastating for you. I thought I'd lost my own son a decade ago. It nearly stopped my heart in its tracks."
Alice said, "I understand that my grandson is currently working as your son's attorney."
"A twist of fate for which I am truly thankful. Otherwise I never would have met you, Alice."
She smiled, "Perhaps you would have then needed to come up with an alternative plan to harass the Cory family in which I also might have played a role."
It took Spencer a moment to understand what she was saying but, once he did, Grant's father burst out laughing in sincere delight. "Was I that obvious?"
"Whenever someone sets out to aggravate Rachel Cory, I am the first name that typically comes to mind."
"She's Rachel Hutchins now," Spencer reminded. "And I'd been led to understand that it was she who spent a great many years aggravating you, not the other way around."
"I am the strongest living reminder of who Rachel used to be before she, shall we say... reinvented herself as Bay City's Earth Mother. She could be nominated for sainthood by the Pope himself, and the sight of me would still turn her ill at ease."
"You don't sound particularly disappointed by that fact."
Alice shrugged. "Despite what Rachel may have thought, I never made any claims to being a saint, either."
"So tell me," Spencer leaned back in his chair. "Who was this notorious Steven Frame, and what was it about him that made two extraordinary women such as yourself and Rachel go to full-out war?"
Alice smiled wistfully. "Steve was... he was... a man. A real man. I know it sounds foolish and, these days, it's also most certainly politically incorrect, but Steve was a man in the truest sense of the word. He was ambitious. He was hungry. He wanted things. So many people don't really want. Or else they want in general. Steve not only knew exactly what he wanted, he wasn't afraid of going after it. He wasn't afraid of what people thought, and he wasn't afraid of failure. That's so important, I think. Even when he did fail, he simply brushed himself off, rose from the ground and came up with a new plan, something even better. He never gave up. Not on work. Not on those he loved."
"Like you," Spencer said. "I understand it took several tries before you two finally made it to the altar."
"No thanks to Rachel," Alice noted.
"I wish I could have met your Mr. Frame. I suspect I would have liked him."
"No," Alice said. "You're too similar."
"Is that a compliment?"
"You would have butted heads from the first day," Alice continued her earlier thought without answering Spencer's actual question.
"Interesting," Spencer shifted a bit in his chair and indicated a spot behind Alice, prompting her to turn around. "That your Kevin seems to have developed quite a fondness for Rachel's Amanda."
Alice looked where Spencer was pointing, setting eyes on the entering Amanda and Kevin at the same time they spotted the older couple. Kevin had been holding Amanda's hand, but he dropped it abruptly to stride towards Alice and Spencer, leaving his date to catch up at a half-run.
"What are you doing with him?" Kevin demanded of Alice, ignoring Spencer rising and stretching out his hand in greeting.
Alice said, "I am having a lovely night out with a new friend. And I believe we already had the conversation about addressing me with respect?"
"Being used once by him wasn't enough? You're looking to make it a habit?"
"I'm sorry," Alice apologized to Spencer. "My grandson clearly has a weak grip on the meaning of the word respect."
"I leave it up to Aretha Franklin," he snapped. "For God's sake, this is ridiculous. You have no idea what this man is capable of. This is not someone you want to be mixed up with."
"I thank you for your concern," Alice said politely. "Though I am rather curious as to where it's coming from."
That seemed to knock Kevin down a peg. He opened his mouth, then abruptly shut it, looking to Amanda for support, before finally managing to stammer out. "I'm just trying to look out for you."
"Why?" Alice challenged. "Just the other night you made it perfectly clear that you have no interest in me whatsoever. Certainly the past twenty years without so much as a call or a letter or a Christmas card would indicate you washing your hands of me entirely."
"You don't know what you're getting into when it comes to Spencer." Like grandmother like grandson, Kevin continued his earlier thought and ducked her provocative query.
"Do you intend to enlighten me?"
Kevin looked from Alice to Spencer, his lips set in a hard line. "Not right now."
"Then I wish you and Amanda a nice evening. Try the salmon for two, children, it's absolutely delicious." And with that, Alice turned back to Spencer.
Kevin looked like he was about to say something. Spencer even raised his eyebrows questioningly in anticipation. Amanda braced herself for an explosion.
Kevin simply picked up her hand again, turned on his heel, and stomped away from the Harrison table.
Alice listened to him go, refusing to turn around and give him the satisfaction of watching. She raised her wine glass and tapped it gently against Spencer's.
"What are we toasting?" he wondered.
"Yet another reason for us to spend time together," she said with a smile.
"That was quite the time-consuming errand," Carl observed once Rachel finally returned home.
She told him, "I stopped by the hospital to see Felicia. Jenna died earlier today."
Rachel watched Carl closely as she said the words, looking for any hint, any twitch, any betrayal that would indicate he knew more about his relationship to Felicia's adopted daughter than he was letting on.
There was nothing. Not a bloody thing. He merely sighed, "Tragic. I must offer Felicia my condolences."
Rachel braced herself, knowing what she needed to do, knowing that the sooner she got to it, the less chance there was of her chickening out.
"I have something to tell you, Carl. It's going to change your life. And mine."
"Now here I thought I was the one who'd cornered the market on sensational statements. What is it, my dear?"
"First I need your word."
"You always have that, you know it."
"I need your word that after I tell you, you will do exactly what I say in reprisal, no more, no less."
"How very dogmatic of you."
"I'm not playing games, Carl." Rachel struggled to keep her voice level when all she really wanted to do was scream. "Promise me, or this goes no further."
"May I least inquire as to what the topic is that you're aiming to elucidate on my behalf?"
"I know who framed you for the kidnappings. And I know why."
"Damn it, Rachel, tell me." Now they both weren't playing games. Good.
"As soon as you promise."
"You expect me to make a vow of that nature before I discern precisely what's at stake?"
"Yes," Rachel said.
"You're being unreasonable. Worse, you're being deliberately perverse."
"Ever since this whole thing started with Felicia, you've been telling me, you've been begging me, to trust you, to trust your love for me. You swore that our entire future depended on it. Well, now I'm telling you the same thing. Our marriage depends on you trusting me enough to give me your word, right here, right now, that you will only do what I allow with the information that I have for you. Those are my terms, you can take them or leave them, but I am not backing down. Decide, Carl. Do you trust me enough to accept that I'm doing what's best for all of us?"
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