"Think this'll be like with the president in 2000?" Kirkland kept asking anyone within earshot, his eyes darting from one 60-inch flat screen television to the next, despite the fact that every local station was reporting Grant and Chase Hamilton in a dead heat.
"Still too early to tell," Grant answered his son, handing back the latest reports to an aide with a thankful nod before joining Kirkland. "We're anticipating one more big wave of after-work voters. That should decide things. Hopefully without any hanging chads."
"Bay City switched to an all electronic voting system several years ago," Donna popped up again in the same vaguely disturbing way she'd been doing all day, to reassure.
"So we should know in a few hours if there's an Elmo costume in your future. Except now, I'm thinking maybe Darth Vader..."
Donna looked back and forth between the two with confusion, while Lila, who'd strolled up to catch the tail end of their conversation, chuckled at the aghast look on Grant's face.
"Kirkland, honey," Lila drawled. "I'm not certain it'd be the best idea for your Daddy, upon being elected Mayor, to cavort around town costumed as a totalitarian tyrant with cape and sword."
"Lightsaber," both Kirkland and Grant corrected, as Kirkland added, "And it would only be if loses, anyway."
"What about next time?" Donna interjected. "Even if the election doesn't go our way this cycle, we've set up a marvelous base from which to launch our next offensive."
"Speaking of Darth Vader," Lila mumbled in a way meant to be heard by all.
"A promise is a promise," Grant looked to Donna, silently reminding that his pledge applied to their arrangement, as well. "I intend to keep my word."
"I wouldn't expect any less of you," Donna trilled... and made a beeline for the bar.
Only to discover Lila dogging at her heels, hissing, "You heard the man. Come dawn's early light, your nip and tucked derriere is scheduled to be dumped on the sidewalk along with the rest of the useless trash. And, fair warning, do not even think about running to Matt when the wolves come around again. He is off limits. Am I makin' myself clear?"
Responding to belligerence, as usual, with detached amusement, Donna turned, a glass of Chardonnay in her hand, and politely inquired of Lila, "Now, tell me, dear, would that be because you've decided to take a second run at him yourself? Don't get me wrong, I completely understand your motivation. Over a year of desperately sniffing around Grant grossed you nothing in social-climbing cache "
"Grant and I are friends. I get you wouldn't know what one of those were, if it bit you."
"Grant is too smart to fall into the clutches of trailer trash like you. And so is Matthew. He won't be taken in by your dubious charms a second time. Not even for Jasmine."
"Lady, you are cruising for a bruisin'," Lila appeared ready to demonstrate on the spot. "My only interest in Matt is that he get his head straight and start being the daddy that Jasmine deserves. That won't happen if you start messing with him again. I'm telling you straight: You leave Matt alone, or you'll be answering to Jasmine's mama."
"Donna," Grant smoothly stepped in to break up his second altercation of the evening. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but, I believe Jeanne has a question for you." He waited until Marley's mother was out of earshot before taking Lila's clenched fist, kissing it playfully and observing, "You looked ready to deck her. Not that anyone would blame you."
"I still can't believe you caved to that neck-clutching, pearl-rattling manipulator. After everything she's done, she should've been tarred and feathered and left tied around a tree so that birds can peck her eyes out."
"She's been surprisingly useful to the campaign. Even if, in the end, I'm afraid it won't be enough." Grant hunched his shoulders in bracing resignation. "I hope you can still get a refund on that champagne you've put on ice."
"Nothing doing. Won't have you spoiling my fun. Win or lose, we chug it anyway."
He laughed. "What would I do without you and your impeccable sense of priorities?"
"Go on being a boring, stick-in-the-mud with too many fancy Italian suits and no closets at home to put them in."
"Which reminds me. As much as I appreciate your support and your perspective on life as a whole don't feel obliged to stay here all night. The results could take a while. Go home to Jasmine if you need to."
"Are you kidding me? I have here in my hand a text message from one Ms. Jasmine Rachel Cassandra Cory informing me that I am to banish any thought of leaving until the final vote is tallied. She's just sorry she can't be here herself; school-night. Especially on top of having to miss Spencer and Alice's wedding, too."
"Well, it was her birthday. By the way, how did my gift go over?"
"She's the only twelve year old girl in school with a complete set of Japanese, Five Stars golf-clubs customized to her size. Tell me something, Grant, do you ever buy the second most expensive version of anything?"
"Is that your way of telling me I'd better start getting used to second place..." Grant began, happy to continue their banter indefinitely; it sure made a pleasant change from the canned patter he'd been dishing out to the press all afternoon, when his attention was shanghaied by Marley entering the headquarters he'd been wondering where she disappeared to looking like... he knew that look. He'd seen it on Vicky often enough. And it never, ever forecast anything good.
"What's wrong?" Grant drew the blinds to his office and flicked on a table-lamp after spiriting Marley away, lest anyone else see her and think to ask questions.
She collapsed into a chair, shaking her head, opening her mouth and attempting to speak, only to shut it again and succumb to tears.
"I didn't mean to," Marley swore. "It was an accident. I was looking the wrong way, I should have been more diligent, it was my fault, but it was still an accident."
"What was?" Grant kept his tone deliberately serene, conversational, squatting down in front of Marley, taking both her ice-cold hands in his. "You can tell me. You're safe here. I'll take care of you. Just tell me what happened."
"I..." Marley gulped air. "I hit them. Her."
"Hit them how? With a car?" Marley nodded. "You were in an accident?" She nodded again. "Are you hurt?"
A shake of the head. "But, she was hurt. She was bleeding. I saw. Right before I drove away. Morgan is a doctor. He can help her. I didn't just abandon her, I didn't."
"Her, who? Morgan and who? Whom did you hit?"
"Lorna," Marley moaned as Grant fought the urge to do the exact same thing and a whole lot more. "I crashed my car into Lorna and Morgan, and then I just drove away."
"Did I somehow give you the impression that jail was such a blast you needed to check it out for yourself?" Jamie asked Alice once he finally managed to get her on the phone.
She laughed, imagining Jamie in his office, pacing the carpet between his desk and the door, trying to cover how worried he felt by pretending he wasn't worried at all. "Bet you didn't know you were a trendsetter."
"Are you okay?" he dropped the act. "Do you need anything? Promise you'll tell me if you need anything."
"The only thing I need is for you to have a happy birthday. Though, I suspect, with Lorna on the case, that's already well taken care of."
"We do have plans for tonight. Which I can break if "
"Don't you dare. Every moment of happiness you're enjoying right now, you've earned a dozen times over. Savor it while it lasts. There will be plenty of time to worry about me, and Steven, and what Chase Hamilton has up his sleeve for us all."
"Jamie," Russ burst through the door without knocking and Alice, catching the urgency in her brother's voice, knew a hospital emergency when she heard one. She quickly offered her good-bys and hung up. Russ said, "Morgan's been trying to reach you. An ambulance just brought him and Lorna to the ER. They were involved in a hit and run."
"If I were to push you in," Dean pointed at the dark water churning restlessly beyond the pier and mused to Carl. "Do you think you'd actually sink, or would the demons pop up to drag you down to Hell, themselves?"
"Hello, son. Might I have a moment?"
Dean snorted. "Son? When exactly did we become pals?"
"We're family," Carl reminded. "Lori Ann is "
"Don't!" Dean wheeled around, pointing a finger as lethal as a gun in the older man's direction. "Don't you dare say her name. Don't even think it. She is nothing to you."
"As long as she remains something to you..."
"Go away, Carl. Go away, or so help me, I'll smash your teeth in, AARP card or not."
"I have no interest in provoking. I approached merely in order to appeal to you on my granddaughter's behalf."
Dean cocked his head. "You've finally gone senile, is that it? All the evil toxins at last made it to your brain."
"May I infer that your recent return to Bay City speaks of a willingness to resume raising your child?"
"Resume makes it sound like I ever started. I took off, remember? For her own good."
"It is never in a child's own good to be abandoned by a parent."
"Really? I'm willing to put down serious cash it did wonders for you and Jenna."
"If Donna had allowed me awareness of my daughter, I assure you, the Carl Hutchins you once faced would have never existed."
"Right. 'Cause your other kid, I don't remember his name, not Ryan "
"Yeah, him. He did wonders for you."
"A daughter is different," Carl declared. "You shall hopefully experience the truth of it yourself, shortly. A son is a mirror reflecting what a man might have been. A daughter is impetus to actually become it."
"Run along and find your impetus somewhere else," Dean directed. "And leave my daughter out of it."
"I wasn't speaking about myself. Not anymore. I was referring to you. Do not deprive yourself, Dean, of the privilege that so many men in this town have already lost through no fault of their own."
"No fault of their own?" Dean couldn't help laughing bitterly. "Listen, pal, for obvious reasons, Donna isn't exactly one of my favorite people these days. But, I'm pretty sure her dumping Jenna on Gloria was more or less totally and completely your fault. The whole Supervillain thing, you know? There's a reason Lex Luthor had no kids. And it wasn't just 'cause he was follicle-challenged. You've got good hair, I'll give you that."
Carl allowed Dean to ramble on, sensing that he had a great deal to get off his chest, and interrupting would only prolong the process.
"You talk about losing Jenna as if she'd have ever given you the time of day. Beautiful and forging and loving as she was, she was no idiot. After everything you did to Lucas and Felicia and Lorna not to mention Jenna; remember her car accident? Remember kidnapping her from my concert? Jenna sure did do you honestly think she would have gone running into your arms and calling you Daddy? You would've been nothing to her, to me, or to our family. Just like you're nothing to us now. Jenna is dead because of Donna. But, everything Donna did, she did because of you."
"Rachel," Alice opened the door, feeling that perhaps she should have been surprised by the unexpected visit though she wasn't. "What a coincidence. I just got off the phone, wishing Jamie a happy birthday."
"Where were your good wishes for Jamie," Rachel stepped inside, uninvited. "When you were letting his son take the blame for a crime you committed. And not just Jamie's son. Amanda's daughter, Russ' granddaughter, your own great-granddaughter, for that matter."
"Thank you for the summary, Rachel. I'm familiar with my family tree. And precisely where it intersects with yours."
"You could have stepped up and helped those kids at any time."
"My coming forward would have hardly gotten all the charges dropped. Especially not where Allie was concerned."
"You could have tried. You were so sanctimonious about being the one Jamie turned to when he was sick years ago."
"That's your interpretation of my motives."
"You picked a hell of a time to quit butting into my family's business." Rachel zeroed in with her best shot. "Steven Frame. How could you look at that name in the paper, how could you look at that face; we both know who he looks like, don't we? It's unmistakable and, understanding that you had the means, still refuse to lift a finger to help him?"
"I don't need to justify myself to you. Not today of all days."
"I knew it." Rachel's smiled mixed triumph with bitterness. "You were lashing out at me, using my children and grandchildren to do it."
"Would it be terribly rude," Alice inquired. "If I were to suggest you get over yourself, Rachel? And quickly. It's not attractive."
"I just don't know where you get off being so self-righteous. Allie, Steven, Sarah, Jen, they could be sent to jail. They're kids. They have their whole lives ahead of them."
"And you believe I want this to happen? In order to let me make sure I have it right get back at you? My goodness, it's a wonder I've had any time to cultivate a life of my own, what with all the years I must have spent ruminating over how to ruin yours."
Rachel ignored the mockery. "I believe that if you truly cared about them, that if you are genuinely the woman you've always claimed to be, you will do the right thing. You are their only hope, and you are their last chance."
Eschewing the elevator as being too slow, Jamie flew down the six flights of stairs to the ground level Emergency area, bursting through the Examining Room doors in time to hear Lorna arguing, loudly, vociferously, thought not at all hysterically with the unlucky intern assigned to admit her.
"No X-Rays. Back off."
While Morgan dutifully recited for the record, "Patient never lost consciousness. Pulse elevated but within normal, full range of movement observed in all four extremities. Some mild pupil dilation. Superficial head wound "
Lorna continued to insist over the protests of both him and the intern. "No X-Rays. Absolutely not. You don't have my permission."
"Ms. Devon," the nervous white coat stressed, glancing pleadingly sideways at Morgan for assistance. "It is imperative that we rule out any fractures, contusions, not to mention the possibility of internal bleeding "
"They need to check for a concussion or cranial damage," Morgan pleaded.
"Lorna," Jamie practically shoved the intern out of his way, ignoring a bruised Morgan standing on the other side of Lorna's gurney, his left arm hanging stiffly at an odd angle. Jamie bent over her, instinctively reaching to assess the gash in Lorna's forehead with one hand, while running the other from her neck to her shoulder and down her arm, searching for anything amiss.
"I'm okay," she claimed. "I'm okay. This looks worse than it is. I can move, I can talk, I know what year it is and what day it is and how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. I'm fine. Just tell them no X-Rays or anything like that, please, Jamie."
"Dr. Frame," the intern appealed to him. "You know what the procedure is. In the case of a head injury, we're required to "
"She's pregnant," both Jamie and Morgan blurted out simultaneously.
Lorna's head swiveled in shock towards Jamie, while he did the same Morgan's way. "How did you know?"
"It was Lorna?" Grant repeated Marley's confession, the name single-handedly short-handing for him not just the who, but, the what, when and, most importantly, why of Marley's evening. "You hit Lorna and Morgan's car? Are you sure it was them?"
"Positive. I I was watching them for a bit before..."
"Did they see you?" Grant's legal training kicked in, thankfully drowning out his wounded pride and frustration for the time being.
"No. I mean, I don't know. I drove away as soon as I saw what... happened."
"Could anyone else have seen you do it?"
"I don't think so. The street was dark, kind of deserted, nobody out. We were the only cars at the intersection. And I don't remember seeing anyone on my way to the house."
"What house? You mean you didn't come straight back here?"
"My house. I hid the car in one of our garages. There was a lot of damage. I couldn't bring it back without triggering a bunch of questions."
"Back?" Grant wondered what other bombshells she had yet to drop on him. "You were driving one of my campaign cars?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Forget it," Grant waved away her apology, refusing to get sidetracked. Not when he needed to think, and apparently fast, too. "You did the right thing keeping out of sight."
"Oh, God, Grant," Marley sobbed. "Lorna is pregnant. I might have killed "
"We don't know for a fact that she's pregnant. You were just speculating the other day."
Marley shook her head, gagging as the bile rose in her throat and she whispered, more to herself than to Grant. "He'll never forgive me."
He'll never forgive me...
And there it was. Grant had been wondering how the situation could possibly get any worse. Now he knew.
"Marley," he steeled his voice, shaking her gently but firmly by the shoulders. "Look at me. Listen. You cannot fall apart right now. You have no idea what the extent of Lorna and Morgan's injuries are. They could both be fine."
"So what? I still hit them. I still fled the scene of an accident. I'll be arrested. I could go to prison!" She sprang up, proceeding to pace Grant's office, a hairsbreadth away from descending into total hysteria. "What happens to Bridget and Michele then? I'm their mother. I'm all they have. Except for Donna! She can't be allowed anywhere near them. But, if I'm gone What are they going to do?"
"Nothing." Grant cupped Marley's trembling face between his hands. "They're not going to do anything, because you're not going anywhere. I'll see to that."
"Stop it, Grant. Just stop. Even if you're elected mayor, you won't be able to protect me. Not for long. Not from this."
"I have no intention of leaving your fate up to the tender mercies of the judicial system."
"Then what are you talking about?"
"I will take care of it," Grant swore from the depths of his soul, forcing Marley to look at him. Forcing her to believe. "I will take care of you."
"How?" Her eyes widened in disbelief, desperate to accept what he was offering even as, deep down, she knew it had to be an empty promise. Just another in a long line of them.
"Trust me," he pleaded. "Do you trust me, Marley?"
She opened her mouth, only to discover no sound coming out. She assumed that would be that, discussion over. But, Grant continued as he was, eyes boring into her, waiting, unwilling to accept any answer but the one he needed to hear.
She shook her head, even as Marley heard herself croak out, "Yes."
He didn't appear bothered by the contradiction. "I won't let you down," he swore.
"What are you going to do?" Marley needed to know.
He pressed a finger to her lips, bidding Marley to be quiet and reminded, "Trust me."
She collapsed against him, clutching Grant for dear life, shaking so violently that he was forced to prop her up even as he stroked the back of her head with his hand, kissing the side of Marley's face, her cheekbone, her mouth, murmuring, "It's going to be okay. I'm going to make everything work out for us. You'll see. You won't be sorry."
And it wasn't until a loud chorus of boos and hisses erupted from beyond the sequestered office's walls that Grant remembered where they were, and what the day was supposed to have been about as opposed to what it had turned into.
He and Marley both startled, as if waking from a dream, turning towards the downbeat noise just as Kirkland knocked on the door.
Grant reached to unlock it, reading the entire story on his son's face even before Kirkland started to speak.
"Final tally in?" Grant prompted the crestfallen boy.
"Yeah... I'm sorry. Chase Hamilton. He... won."
Where do Grant and Marley (and Lorna and Jamie and Morgan) go from here? Tell us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Another-World/307355595460?ref=search&sid=13800416.3728872026..1 or the Soap Opera 451 Message Boards: http://www.soapopera451.com/talk/mboard.php. We can't wait to hear from you!
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