"Jamie told me everything," Marley informed Cecile coolly. She pulled out her checkbook, pen poised. "Now how much more should I contribute to your permanent vacation fund? $50,000? $100,000? This is your lucky day, Cecile, don't blow it. The best thing about having money is that it can make problems go away. I have a lot of money. And I really, really want you to go away."
"That must have been one rip-roaring tale," Cecile refused to be distracted. Though it wasn't easy. There was so much lovely money involved. But she had a feeling she could stretch this negotiation out for a while yet. And have some fun in the process. "Tell me, did he cry? Have you noticed that he does that rather easily? Not at all attractive in a man, if you ask me. But I guess some women fall for the sensitive type. Wimpy is what I'd call it. So did he weep in your arms and sob all about how sorry he was?"
"Jamie has nothing to be sorry about!" Marley seethed. "He didn't do anything. Unlike some people who prey on others for their personal enjoyment." She ripped off another check and threw it at Cecile. "Or money."
Cecile took in the second submission and blinked. "Let me get this straight: Jamie sent you over "
"He didn't send me. He doesn't even know I'm here."
"Typical. Is there a skirt in this town Jamie hasn't hidden behind at one time or another? Now see, I blame Rachel. Having a ball-buster like that for a mother all but guaranteed him never growing a pair of his own. And that grandmother! She gave battle-axes a bad name. It's tragic, really. Poor boy never had a chance."
"How the hell," Marley wanted to know. "Did Jamie ever get mixed up with someone like you?"
"Oh, I don't know. He's always been a sucker for the innocent young blonde act. Wouldn't you agree? Believe it or not, I was an innocent young blonde once too. But this town can really do a number on a girl. Though, you know all about that, of course. Jamie was crazy about me. We have a bond now, you see, that's much greater than," she looked at the checks in her hand. "Mere money."
"You are a greedy, conniving bitch," Marley's eyes flashed as she, to Cecile's shock and awe, wrote yet another check. When this chick said she had money to burn, she wasn't kidding! "I'll be damned if I'm going to let you hurt Jamie any more after everything he's been through."
"After everything he's been through?" Cecile double-checked. "Interesting choice of pronouns. Listen up, sweetheart: You have no idea what you're talking about. You think you know Jamie? You think you know what he's about, what he's capable of? You have no idea. He's not the victim he tries to make himself out to be."
"I know who Jamie is, and I know what you are." Marley held up yet another check in front of Cecile. "My final offer. I strongly recommend you take it."
Cecile was about to laugh it off. Until she peeked into Marley's eyes and saw a look she'd seen often enough in Donna's to know that it was time to back off. So Marley was her mother's daughter after all. Good to know.
"My personal philosophy," Cecile snatched the check from Marley's hands. "Is never to look a gift-heiress in the mouth. Now that you mention it, Bay City is rather mundane this time of year. Some European air...or perhaps the Maldives, yes, that would do me a world of good."
"Bon Voyage," Marley managed to make the salutation sound like a threat.
Yes. Definitely her mother's daughter.
Kevin wrote GQ Todd on his notepad, circled the name, then turned back to Allie. "He's the biological father. Not Gregory Hudson."
Allie nodded. Then shook her head. The, unsure of what to do next, looked pleadingly at Gregory.
He told Kevin, "But I can sign whatever needs to be signed."
Kevin cleared his throat. "It's not exactly that simple. Allie, does GQ know "
"No! It's none of his business!"
"He might beg to differ."
"I don't care. He didn't want me. I don't want anything to do with him."
"You're not giving him a chance."
"I gave him plenty of chances."
"Okay," Kevin sighed. "Let's side-step the legal issue for now. Let's talk about more practical matters. Allie, all anyone will need to do is take one look at your baby and, I'm sorry to be blunt, the jig is up. You can tell everybody that Gregory is the father, and Gregory can even confirm it. But, despite what the media would like us to believe, we are still pretty far from living in a post-racial America."
Allie had to laugh, but it was the saddest laugh Kevin had ever heard. "Yeah. I've kind of been made aware of that." Tears started to form at the corners of her eyes, but she wiped them away and insisted, "Remember when I said that I wanted my baby to have parents who were really, really thrilled to get him? That's what he deserves. Not somebody who'd see him as a... a... sociopolitical mistake. Because that's what he'd be to GQ. Something to be ashamed of. Something to apologize for. Proof that GQ screwed up and betrayed his damned principles."
"I understand what you're saying, Allie. And I sympathize. Every baby deserves to be wanted. But my point is, GQ is going to know that this is his child."
"Not if he never sees him. I want you to find adoptive parents who don't live in Bay City. I mean, I'd want to do that anyway; I don't think I could handle.... " Allie refused to finish her thought. "If they don't live in Bay City, I'll go to wherever they are, have the baby there, sign all the papers, and GQ will never have to know."
"You need the father's signature, as well as the mother's for the adoption to be legal."
"Gregory said he would...."
Kevin pinched the bridge of his nose and briefly squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them again, he told Allie, "Let me think on this for a few days. I have some thoughts, but I need to check the legality... I'll get back to you, alright?"
Allie nodded. And then she asked, "Are you going to tell my mom?"
"He can't," Gregory interrupted. "Right?"
Kevin said, "The minute you hired me as your attorney, everything you told me became privileged information. But, Allie, you're going to need a lot of support in the coming months. You should tell your family. You should tell your mother."
"What did you do?" Jamie spoke quietly, enunciating each syllable. "Marley, what the hell did you do?"
"I paid Cecile off. We know she's all about money. I just found her price. She's not our problem anymore. She's Tanquir's problem. Or Europe's. Frankly, I don't know and I don't care. She's gone and we won't ever see her again."
"You shouldn't have done that," was all he finally said with a mixture of anger, frustration, sadness, and anxiety, shaking his head and blinking. "You really shouldn't have "
"I wanted to," Marley tried to soothe. "For you and the boys. It's the least I could do."
"I told you that I was going to take care of it."
"And I told you that I wasn't going to let you push me away anymore. That I was going to help you whether you liked it or not."
"Well, you didn't help me," he snapped. "You just made things worse. I don't want or need your kind of help."
"Fine," Marley bristled, hurt and embarrassed. "It won't happen again. I promise you."
After analyzing and surveying Michele and Bridget's Christmas loot, all three girls agreed that the only way to properly compare their haul to Jasmine's was to tromp on over to the Cory house.
The trio came barreling in on Donna and Matt to announce their accord, pulling him from the study, through the living room, out the door and into the car over a flood of chatter, snow-boots, and tugging, gloved hands.
Donna stood at the window, watching him drive away, her head still spinning as a result of their conversation, her entire body still shaking.
She didn't know where Marley was. With Jamie, Donna could only hope, as the alternative Grant was beyond unpalatable.
She'd given the entire staff the long weekend of Christmas off, as well.
Which was why Donna felt most surprised to hear footsteps echoing behind her through the empty house. Or to turn around and come face to face with a dead man.
"Lucas..." It wasn't a question, and he didn't bother to confirm her identification.
Instead, Jenna's father got right to the point. "You lied to me. We had a deal, Donna."
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"Did you think I was still safely locked up over the border?"
"No. I knew. My acquiescence was necessary in order for you to arrange your release agreement. You committed to staying underground. You promised you would never return to Bay City."
"And you promised to protect my daughter!" Lucas' voice boomed and echoed through the empty rooms, his accusations seemingly coming at Donna from all directions. "When I found out the truth about you and Jenna, I came to you, do you remember that?"
"Of course, I remember." She clung to her outward bravado, hoping that Donna's voice at least was managing to convey a self-assurance she most certainly did not feel.
"And do you remember begging me, pleading with me, to keep quiet?"
"It was for Jenna's own good. You knew what a monster Carl was then. He'd tried to kill you. He almost killed Jenna by mistake."
"I told you I couldn't keep a secret this big from Fanny. I had to let her know."
"But you got shot, first."
"I assumed it was you."
"But you certainly didn't hesitate to take advantage of the situation."
"I couldn't risk Carl finding out about Jenna. It was for her own good."
"Bullshit!" Lucas grabbed Donna by the arm. "It was for your own good. The only person you ever cared about, then and now, is yourself. You didn't care about the threat Carl posed to Jenna. You cared about the threat he posed to you. What Carl would do if he found out you'd betrayed him like this."
Donna attempted to pull away, but Lucas was in no mood to play the gentleman.
"When you came to see me in Canada, the only reason I agreed to go along and play dead was because you convinced me it was best for Jenna. I gave up my life; I gave up my wife and my other daughter a daughter I was just starting to get to know all to protect Jenna. And then you killed her!" His last sentence came out like a roar, and Lucas flung Donna aside, as if he couldn't bear to touch her a moment longer.
"It was an accident," she swore. "I didn't mean for things to get so out of hand!"
"Who cares? You did, and they did, and now my family is destroyed."
"Does Felicia know you're alive?" Donna asked.
"She does now."
"Does she know that I "
"Not yet," Lucas seethed. "Believe it or not, Donna, the world isn't always revolving around you. Fanny and I had more to talk about after being kept apart for over seventeen years, than the life and times of Donna Love."
"Are you going to tell her? About me?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "She's had way, way too many shocks recently. I've got to give her some time to process it all."
"Are you going to tell Carl?" With that, Donna's bravado faded away. She could hear her voice shaking, and she no longer had the strength to settle it.
"I don't know that either," Lucas lied. "But I do know this. You've been afraid of the wrong vengeful father all this time. Anything you can imagine Carl doing, I intend to make you pay a thousand times over."
"Marley thought she was helping me," Jamie stood in the driveway of his mother's house, trying to explain Marley's actions to Frankie when he could barely understand them himself. All he knew was, like everything else, they were his fault. "Anyway, by the time I got to Cecile's hotel room she was gone. I tried her cell-phone, actually hoping she'd answer me but..."
"She didn't," Frankie finished stonily. "Damn it. Now she's out there, roaming free and armed with a bucket-load of money, thanks to your wife. Odds are she'll find someplace at the ends of the earth to burrow in like a tick and wait."
"As long as she's not bothering us, I'm fine with that."
"I'm sure you are," Frankie snapped. "Now, you get to keep your family and your secrets while Cass and I are forced to keep looking over our shoulders. She can still come after us from anyplace else in the world."
"Here," Jamie cut her off gruffly, pulling out a large, thick envelope and thrusting it at her.
"What's this?" Frankie looked at him, puzzled.
"Enough information on Cecile to put her in prison for a very, very long time. She's made a lot of enemies over the years. Quite a few of them abroad."
"Tanquir... The Riviera... Fiji..." Frankie read as she flipped through the file. "There are warrants out for her all over the place. How did you "
"A person can get a lot done when properly motivated. I called my stepbrother, Sandy Cory. Another one of Cecile's ex's. Back in the days when he was afraid Cecile might return for their daughter, Maggie, Sandy kept very detailed records on her, and he made a lot of contacts in the world of international law enforcement who were equally interested in her whereabouts. Cecile's biological father is an art thief named Louis St. George. Let's just say that Interpol keeps very close tabs on the whole family. I was about to tip them off regarding Cecile's being back in Bay City and let her get extradited to Europe. Unfortunately, Marley..."
"Wanted to help," Frankie finished, shaking her head. "You were going to get Cecile sent to prison."
"Hopefully, for the rest of her natural life." Jamie rationalized, "At least one good thing came of Marley's unsolicited assistance. I gave Interpol the check numbers. Maybe they'll be able to track her down once she starts cashing them. In any case, we can still hit her with this if she comes back. If the hair on the back of your neck so much as stands up in a certain way, just call the number on the main page. They'll get right on it."
"Okay," Frankie nodded. "Thank you," she added, realizing how hollow and empty those words must sound to Jamie right now, after everything they'd gone through in just a matter of days. "I'm sorry, Jamie. For what I... I'm sorry. You have to understand, this was about Charlie's life. Don't tell me you wouldn't have done anything to protect your family. To protect Steven and Kirkland."
"Anything would've been to do as Cecile asked and give you that drug," he answered after a moment. "I found another way. I understand why you felt you had to do what you did," he continued. "But don't expect me to like it. Or to forget it anytime soon."
"Chad, darling," Cecile gushed as she grabbed a flute of champagne off the tray next to her Jacuzzi-bath located inside the suite of a much more obscenely expensive hotel, and enjoyed a bubbling mouthful. "You found me...yes, dear I changed hotels, but don't you worry, it's all expenses paid by a very generous benefactor. A female benefactor, darling. You know I would never cheat on you..."
"When am I coming home?" she smiled as she set her flute aside and picked up that day's edition of The Bay City Herald. She gazed down at the paper, the insipid faces of Cass and Frankie smiling up at her from the picture that went along with their wedding announcement. "I still have a few things here that I simply must see to... I'm not done with Bay City yet. Not by a long shot..."
"Hey," Cass looked up when Frankie walked through their door. "Where have you been?"
She hesitated. And then she confessed, "Doing something horrible."
"Marley and... Grant?" Carl clarified, all but choking on the second name.
"I saw him kiss her, right in our very driveway," Rachel relayed. "Christmas Day, no less."
"I doubt I shall ever sleep in heavenly peace again, after that image. Are you positive that Marley was a willing participant?"
"Certainly looked that way from where I was standing."
"What in the world could that young woman possibly be up to?"
"You think she's up to something?"
"What other reason could anyone in their right mind possibly have for kissing Grant Harrison?"
Rachel smiled. "I'll leave that to Amanda. And Lorna. Sharlene. Paulina. Cindy Brooke."
"I said in their right mind. Surely you don't think Marley could actually be falling for Harrison!"
"It would make things convenient for him, wouldn't it? Marley is Kirkland's legal guardian. Together, they could cut Jamie out of the picture completely."
"Are you going to tell him what you saw?"
"I don't know," Rachel admitted. "He's been so preoccupied lately. So anxious. I'm worried about him as it is. Telling him might only make things worse."
"Unless they already are worse," Carl pointed out. "And Jamie is the last to know about it."
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