"I never really thought about what would happen when it was all over," Kirkland took in the deflated room, campaign workers and aids chugging flat champagne at Lila's urging as they milled about the floor, gathering up their things, packing boxes. He looked to Grant, breaking down his own office and observed, "You've been really quiet since you gave your concession speech."
"Just saying a prayer of thanks that I was allowed to do it in my regular clothes."
Kirkland's mouth twitched. "You knew I'd never really do anything to make you look bad. 'Cause it would reflect badly... on me." He'd been going for a laugh, but Grant's mind was obviously elsewhere. Kirkland waited for a moment, then tried again, more serious this time. "I'm sorry you lost. Are you okay?"
"I've been better," Grant admitted. "But, I've also been much, much worse. I've risen from the ashes before, don't you worry. I can do it again."
"I was reading on-line, Republican candidates pretty much cleaned everybody's clock this time around, except for a few places. Losing wasn't your fault, it was a sweep."
"None of that," Grant said sternly. "Don't go looking for excuses. That's a sure way to keep from improving the next time. Own up to your mistakes, determine what you did wrong, and try not to do it again. No scape-goating. It took me a long time to learn that lesson."
"Okay, well then, I guess the lesson here is... change parties?"
"If you were looking to be disowned by your grandfather, that would be the quickest way. Besides, these things are cyclical. I'm right where I should be for next time."
"Me, too," Kirkland agreed, only to note Grant's attention wandering yet again. "Is something wrong with Aunt Marley?" he asked finally.
"What?" Grant's head snapped back, suddenly as alert as he'd ever been. "What makes you say that?"
"Because I recognize an upset Marley when I see one. And you keep staring at her..."
"Your aunt isn't like me, son. I'm used to these kinds of setbacks. But, this is her first campaign. She's disappointed. Plus, there's the inevitable adrenalin crash. It can be rough if you're not prepared for it mentally. I just want to make sure she gets through the night okay. I feel responsible. I'm the one who dragged her into this."
"I think she enjoyed herself. You and her, you make a good team."
Grant stopped his packing long enough to look up and ask, "Do you know how much I love you?"
"Uh... are you going to start crying again? What was it you just said about an adrenalin crash?"
"Luckily, I'm still riding high. But, that's not why I'm saying I love you. Or that you have no idea how much I appreciate you giving me this chance to be your father."
"You are my father. I just appreciate you giving me the chance to finally meet the man my mom fell in love with. I wish that she were still here. For a lot of reasons. But, right now, it's so she could see that you haven't let me down."
"I don't know, Kirkland, your mom wasn't particularly keen on being proven wrong."
"But, she isn't. She'd be proved right. For loving you in the first place. Even if it didn't last."
Grant shook his head. "Okay, Kirkland. This thing where you're deliberately trying to make me cry, not cool, son, not cool, at all." He looked at his watch and observed, "And here comes the crash, right on schedule. If I'm exhausted, you must be absolutely beat. Let me have Lila find you a car and driver to take you home."
As soon as the words were out of Grant's mouth, he realized that could be a problem. Kirkland had planned to spend the night at his house. But now, with Marley in such unsteady shape, who knew what he might overhear or intuit.... On the other hand, not going through with their initial plan would risk drawing unnecessary attention and... Suddenly, it hit Grant. Precisely what he was jeopardizing by helping Marley cover up her role in Lorna and Morgan's accident.
If Kirkland ever found out...
"Grant seems oddly emotional tonight," Donna marveled to Marley as she observed father and son from across the floor. "He's hugging the poor child as if he expects Kirkland to fade away like a mirage. And you... you look like someone ran over your dog."
Her daughter flinched, but managed to pull herself together in time to snap, "It's been a disappointing day."
"For Grant more than anyone, but he seems almost frenetic. You're the one wallowing in doom and gloom."
"Shouldn't you be getting home? We're done here," Marley told her pointedly.
"Oh, no," Lila stepped up, grabbing Donna by the arm, wavering a bit from the recently downed champagne. "She may have outlived her usefulness to you, but I've got several bags of trash waiting to be dumped. All hands on deck, one for all and all for one, move along, little doggies!"
"You cannot be serious," Donna huffed.
"You wanted to be part of the campaign! We tried to match everyone's duties to their skill set or, when there was none, personality type!" Lila was having way too much fun. If the circumstances were different, Marley felt sure she'd have joined her.
"It's okay, Grandmother," Kirkland offered, breaking away from Grant to cross the room. "I'll help you. Come on," he led her away from the other women... before things got really nasty.
"That boy is just too darn sweet for his own good," Lila reported to Grant. "Hard to believe he and that... creature... share a drop of blood in common."
"A lot of people would say the same thing about Kirkland and me," Grant reminded, with something akin to regret.
"They'd be wrong," Lila called 'em as she saw 'em. "You actually do have a decent bone in your body. Several, as a matter of fact. Just got to go looking for them, is all."
"That sounds vaguely suggestive," Grant laughed. Lila did have a way of cheering him up, no matter what.
She rolled her eyes. "You know what some people think about the two of us already."
"It's like they never heard of a man and woman being just friends before," Grant affected a mock-shocked tone.
"Anyway, can I get you anything, friend? Another bourbon? Chase Hamilton's head on a platter? A recount?"
"I'm good." Grant insisted, his eyes flitting quickly to Lila before searching the room for Marley again, this time finding her preoccupying herself with tidying up stacks of papers on the aides' desks. "I just want the day to be over."
"Yeah, well, we're doing our best to wipe away any evidence of this car-wreck."
"What?" Grant's voice shook at her choice of words.
She looked at him oddly, then chalked the overreaction up to the stress of the evening. "I said I'm working to get everything squared away here so we can go into hibernation for a spell. I've got folks breaking down the office, getting all the rented furniture returned, the computer hard drives archived, the accounts closed out..."
"That's a huge job," the wheels in Grant's head began spinning so quickly, he realized he was still working out the details even as he told Lila, "Way too huge to try and deal with it right now. You're running on fumes, and it's not like we'd be saving any money. No way will we finish before midnight. We're going to get charged for tomorrow no matter what we do. Why rush? Go home, get some rest. Give Jasmine a hug for me. Or maybe... How are things going with Kevin these days?"
"The Mayor gig didn't work out so now you're looking to give matchmaking a try?"
"You deserve to blow off some steam. Go see Kevin. Get a drink, kick back, relax. That's an order. I'm not just your friend, I'm also still your boss, remember?" He practically dragged Lila to the door. "Now, get going. Scram."
As soon as she was gone, Grant scurried back to Marley, lowering his voice to insure their not being overheard. "Here's what we're going to do."
She looked up at him, startled. But, she didn't argue. Grant took it as a good sign.
"I need you to go home and get the car."
"Grant!" she hissed, horrified.
"And then I need you to bring it back here...."
"That was Alice," Kevin snapped shut his phone and told Amanda. "She wants to see me later tonight. She sounded... worried."
"Well, she's got a hell of a lot to worry about," Amanda sighed from her seat in Kevin's office, where they'd passed the last few hours brainstorming about how to build Allie's defense on two fronts criminal and civil, without one damaging the other.
"I realize that," Kevin closed the document he'd been look at and tossed it onto an already tottering pile. "But, the thing is, earlier this morning, at the jail, she'd seemed... positive; if that makes any sense. Confident, at least. Unintimidated. I mean, maybe it was all an act to keep Spencer from completely going off the deep end, but I got the feeling she was okay. She was ready to deal with this head on. She wasn't... doubtful."
"And now she is?"
"Maybe she's just tired," Kevin grasped at straws.
"You going to go over there now?"
"In a bit. Got some work to do here, first."
Amanda cocked her head to the side and observed, "You look pretty beat yourself. When was the last time you slept?"
"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Kevin snapped. "Or done with this. Whichever comes first."
A knock on the door prompted both to look up as Lila entered the hotel suite, looking from one to the other, unsure of whether to comment or to just let them imagine what she might have said were she less of a Christian woman.
"Lila..." Kevin rose from his seat, smiling broadly. "I It's good to see you. I didn't expect I figured What happened with Grant and the election? I haven't had time to go on-line or check a TV."
"Photo finish," she shrugged, what can you do? "But Hamilton ended up pulling ahead in the end."
"Hip, hip hooray for democracy," Amanda interposed.
"I'm sorry," Kevin said. "For you, Lila. I know you worked very hard on his campaign."
"It was a lark, nothing more, nothing less. Even Grant isn't taking it too hard. He did it mostly to show off for Kirkland. Mission accomplished, as they say."
"I'm glad you stopped by."
"You're busy," Lila indicated the stack of papers, pointedly ignoring Amanda while making sure Amanda understood she was being ignored.
"Yes," Amanda agreed. "We've really been burning the midnight oil."
"I could use a break," Kevin said. Without turning, he told Amanda, "I think we've both done enough for tonight. I'll call you in the morning, alright? We can start fresh, maybe get a new perspective on things." And then, to Lila, "Can I buy you a drink? Cup of coffee? I really would like to talk to you."
Lila'd had every intention of playing hard to get. But, the sight of a fuming Amanda in her peripheral vision tossed all those fine intentions out the window. "I'd love to," Lila said, and smilingly offered Kevin her arm.
"Dean was somewhat less than ecstatic to see me," Carl informed Felicia wryly after stopping by TOPS and sequestering her into a private corner.
"Shouldn't you be used to that by now?" she asked more as a matter of fact than an insult.
Carl chuckled in sardonic agreement, before noting, "My concern is not with the level of his affection for me, but with the fear that he might throw the baby out with the bathwater near literally in this case. I would hate for his disdain of me to become an utter rejection of my advice, and he continue to keep his distance from our Lori Ann."
"So why did you go see him then?" Felicia inquired reasonably.
"I couldn't help it," he confessed. "He's a connection to Jenna. A most vital one. That's all I have left. Other people's perspectives of her."
"He won't abandon Lori Ann again," Felicia said, while fiddling with a pair of suddenly extraneous menus. Because it was a great deal easier than absorbing the full implication of what he'd said. "I saw the way he looked at her when we were at Frankie's. Lori Ann is real to him now. Before, Jenna's child was an abstraction. Now, she's a tangible part of them both. Jenna's final gift to him. He won't be able to walk away a second time."
"I must confess, I'm rather surprised by your wholehearted support of Dean's regaining his parental rights."
"You think I'd keep my granddaughter from her own father?"
"Not at all. On the other hand, if Dean decides to assume full responsibility for Lori Ann, it would dictate Frankie and Cass' at least partial withdrawal from her upbringing, and considering your close relationship with the duo..."
"I love Cass," Felicia asserted. "And I love Frankie. I think they have been amazing parents to Lori Ann, especially under the horrible circumstances. But, on the other hand, the very qualities that made Frankie capable of taking in her cousin's child and raising Lori Ann as her own, are also the ones that are now making me reconsider her fitness for the job. Frankie is a loving, good-hearted, open, forgiving person. Which is wonderful. Up to a point."
"And what might that be, may I ask?"
"The one where her forgiving nature extends to sympathy for the Devil. Or, in this case, Donna Love."
Carl's countenance shook with rage. "She what?"
"Apparently, Donna came up to her at Gregory's funeral. It was a horrible occasion; you know how close Frankie is to both Sharlene and John, and she adored Gregory. She was clearly vulnerable, obviously not thinking straight at all. Donna pleaded her case. She had the audacity to compare her own keeping Jenna from you to Frankie's protecting Charlie from Cecile, and the lengths that Cass went to "
"That bitch!" Carl exploded.
"You know how Frankie is. She prides herself on seeing the good in anyone. I admire her for it. But, if it leads to her eventually coming around and allowing Donna any sort of standing in Lori Ann's life "
"Unacceptable," Carl sputtered. "Never. It would be a perversion."
"Exactly," Felicia agreed. "Which is why, for a variety of reasons, I believe it would be best for everyone if Lori Ann were returned to her father. Frankie can continue playing a major, major role in Lori Ann's life. I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Alas, she and Cass might not interpret the state of affairs in quite the same manner. They may well construe it as your up and deeming them unfit to continue as Lori Ann's parents. It could very well cause a severe rift in your relationship."
"I hope it doesn't," Felicia told him. "I'd be devastated. But, in the end, Lori Ann's future happiness and security is more important than my personal feelings. I don't want to lose Cass and Frankie's friendship. However, if that's the price I'll be obliged to pay for protecting my granddaughter, I'm willing to risk it."
"You're a remarkable woman, Fanny. Very few people understand that every result under the sun comes with a price. And even fewer are willing to pay it."
"A lesson Donna is desperately overdue to learn."
Carl tapped his chin with a thoughtful finger. "The Buddhists tells us that when a student is ready, the master will appear."
Felicia seethed, "I'm ready to take her down, Carl. I've waited long enough."
He nodded to indicate he'd heard, then, in a seeming non- sequitur, wondered, "How did your chat with Marley at the wedding go?"
Felicia shrugged to indicate the assigned task had been beneath her talents. "Turning Marley against her mother is hardly a difficult endeavor. She's ninety percent of the way there already. Though, I must admit, your idea of insinuating that Donna is after Grant was inspired."
"Killing two birds with one stone," Carl pointed out. "Drive Marley to reject her mother and put an end to that travesty of a relationship all in one blow. As long as my son lies in his grave, Grant Harrison doesn't deserve a moment of happiness."
"You won't get any argument from me. I made it perfectly clear to Marley that Grant is not who she belongs with. How she could even consider someone like that after all those years of pining after Jamie....
"A risky move on your part," Carl mused. "If Marley does rebuff Grant and decide to turn her attentions back to Jamie, where does that leave Lorna?"
Felicia hesitated, and then presumed, "The same place Lorna will inevitably end up once that liaison goes down in flames. Only sooner, and hopefully with a lot less heartache."
"And here I thought you were the romance writer! Lorna and Jamie certainly behave as if they believe themselves like the lovers on a Grecian urn, bound together for eternity. Woe be to anyone who suggests differently, as Rachel found out on several occasions."
"Do you know anyone in the throes of hormonal infatuation who doesn't think they're in it for the long haul? Rachel is my dear friend, and Jamie is her son and I wish him the best. But, he has never known how to treat a woman decently. I doubt he's about to start now. I realize Lorna resents me for thinking so. But, like I said before with Lori Ann, my daughter's future happiness is more important to me than how she may feel about me at the moment. I'll risk the Wrath of Lorna "
"Oh, my, that is downright heroic of you. I'd never be so bold."
"To make sure everything works out for her in the end."
Ignoring Morgan's question completely, Jamie mechanically went to work examining the injured Lorna, alternating between experienced professional and terrified civilian. "I've known about the baby for a while. Don't you think I've got every inch of you memorized by now? I recognized the signs." He couldn't help smiling, not at her, but with elation over finally being able to say it. "For one thing, you've gone up about a cup size in the last month. That's kind of hard to miss from where I'm standing. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but I am a doctor. If I honestly thought you had a stomach virus the other night, I wouldn't have kissed you."
"Why didn't you say anything before?" Lorna asked
"We need a sonogram machine down here, STAT," Dr. Frame ordered into the ether, accustomed to being instantly obeyed while on his own turf. Consequently, a nurse swiftly dodged out of the room to comply. It was plain old Jamie, though, who went on, "At first, I thought maybe you hadn't realized it yourself yet. I didn't want to spoil the moment for you. And then, I guessed maybe you just needed some time to get used to the idea of becoming a mom. But, I always trusted you had your reasons. It wasn't easy. I was dying to say something."
"I was going to tell you," Lorna swore. "Tonight. I just wanted it to be a surprise. For your birthday. I was waiting for just the right moment."
He looked up as the nurse returned and apologized, "The ER sonogram's in use. They're sending one down from Obstetrics "
"Dr. Frame," the intern interjected. "We really need to get her to X-Ray right now to check out that head injury."
"No," Lorna insisted, voice rising. "No X-Rays. I am not having anything done that might hurt the baby. And I'm not going anywhere until I know the baby is okay, so just get your hands off of me right now."
"This is important," Morgan stressed. "You hit your head pretty hard. You could be seriously hurt."
"What are you doing?" Lorna asked Jamie as he rubbed a palm against his stethoscope's chest-piece to warm it up, then began probing her abdomen with it, listening so intently that he didn't appear to have heard her. "What's he doing?" she turned to Morgan.
"Searching for a fetal heartbeat," he explained to Lorna, his brow furrowed.
She watched Jamie's face. He remained expressionless, even as he moved the scope half an inch to the left, his entire being outwardly focused on locating his objective.
Too scared to interrupt Jamie, Lorna snuck a peek at Morgan. He was avoiding her eyes, tracking Jamie's movements as keenly as she was.
Jamie moved the chest-piece again, lower this time, then up and to the right, then almost back to where he'd started. Lorna began shaking. Even Jamie, despite a valiant effort, couldn't maintain his neutral expression any longer. She could see the vein in his forehead throbbing faster and faster. He wasn't the only one with every inch memorized.
And then, Jamie's entire body shuddered in relief. He closed his eyes for a moment, exhaling deeply, practically gasping. When he opened them he was smiling up at Lorna. He popped the earpieces out of his ears and handed them to her. "Want to hear for yourself?"
She reached her hand forward without fully understanding what he was offering. It wasn't until he'd helped her tuck in the tips and Lorna was listening, through a gurgle of other, unidentifiable sounds, to the regular rhythm of a faint but unmistakable heartbeat, that she dared ask him, "Is it Is that... her?"
Jamie nodded, fully aware there was no way she could possibly know yet, but willing to believe anything Lorna said nonetheless. "Her?" he double-checked.
"After two boys, you deserve a daughter who'll adore you."
Now Morgan looked like he might be the one due for a sudden bout of nausea. "Okay," he used his good arm to try and move things along. "Can we take you for a CAT-scan now?"
"We should go with an MRI instead," Jamie overruled. "There's less risk to the fetus, and it'll give us a general idea of her injuries; we'll play it by ear from there."
"An MRI won't be enough, Jamie," Morgan bristled. "You didn't see the kind of blow she took, I did. A CT will show us if something's wrong a hell of a lot faster than an MRI."
"She's not presenting with symptoms of TBI and an MRI will show us just as much as a CT, with less risk to the baby," Jamie told Morgan firmly, then apologized to Lorna, "We do need to check you out. The MRI scan won't even get anywhere near it her. We'll take extra good care of both of you. I promise."
"Actually, Dr. Frame," the nurse reminded. "There's some paperwork that needs to be completed first, get Ms. Devon processed."
"I'll do it," Jamie indicated the Admissions desk behind them. "You just take her straight to radiology, get her prepped." He squeezed Lorna's fingers. "I'll be up in a minute."
"I love you," she whispered.
Jamie held up one hand in a reassuring wave as she was wheeled out of the Emergency Room and toward the elevator.
He looked at Morgan and noted, "You'd better get checked out, too. That arm's broken, I can tell from here."
"Yeah, well, whatever, I'm still pumped full of adrenalin, it can wait."
"What happened?" Jamie finally had time to wonder, even as he picked up a clipboard and began filling it out on automatic pilot.
"We were parked at a red light at an intersection, car came out of nowhere, slammed right into us, then peeled the hell out."
"Did you see the driver? Get a license plate?"
"Nah. I'm sorry. But, Lorna... she was in bad shape, I had my hands full."
"Don't worry about it. It's not like it could help her now, anyway."
"No. But, a thorough examination actually could. You're not doing Lorna any favors, Jamie, giving in to her panic and hysteria. If this was any other patient, you'd have delivered the standard 'We'll take every precaution, but, it's for the best in the long run' lecture, and sent her straight for a CAT-scan, anyway. I've seen you do it a dozen times before."
"Stay out of this, Morgan, okay? I'm grateful to you for bringing Lorna in, and doing whatever you did when she was first hurt. But, I've got this now."
"You're too close. You're incapable of being objective."
"And you're nothing," Jamie countered. "You're not the attending, you're not the next of kin, you're just the guy who happened to be sitting next to Lorna, whose crappy driving got her in this mess in the first place."
"Oh, I'm a hell of a lot more than that," Morgan corrected.
"Just stay out of it," Jamie repeated, more forcefully this time, his voice rising so that it wasn't until Jamie and Morgan were glowering in silent stand-off at each other that both heard the hospital-wide Code Blue being called over the intercom... for Radiology.
"Where's Alice?" Kevin asked Spencer upon arriving at the house in response to his grandmother's summons.
"Upstairs. She'll be here in a moment."
"Any idea what she needs to talk about so urgently?"
"No. But, I'm glad you're here early." Spencer beckoned him into the study and closed the door behind them. "I wanted to speak to you in private, anyway."
"Condolences on Grant's loss, by the way." Kevin took a seat. "I understand it really went down to the wire, though. I voted for him."
"Grant did amazingly well considering how late he joined the race, plus the nationwide Republican sweep; lot of fed up voters out there... not to mention all the other personal strikes against him. He ran a solid campaign. Nice to know everything I taught him didn't go in one ear and out the other." Spencer opened the top drawer of his desk, removed a piece of paper and slid it towards Kevin. He said, "This is a list of several top-notch criminal attorneys I've had... occasion... to work with over the years. They're willing to take on Alice's case."
Kevin nodded, slowly at first, then with more fervor. "Good," he said. "Very good. I'm glad. I'm in way over my head here, I'm well aware of that. She deserves the best."
"I'd like you to supervise the team, however, keep an eye of what they're doing, let me know if it seems like they might be headed down a wrong path."
"I I'm sorry, Spencer, I don't understand. This is their specialty. These guys are better than I could ever hope to be when it comes to criminal law."
"But, do they care about Alice more than you or I do?"
Kevin bobbed his head once to indicate understanding. "In that case, I'd be honored," he said.
"Good. Now." Spencer braced himself. "Give it to me straight. Please. Before she comes down. How bad could this get?"
Kevin only hesitated for a moment before confessing. "Twenty years in a maximum security prison."
Spencer looked as if he'd been smacked in the head with a hammer. A small tremor went through him, followed by a nearly imperceptible whimper.
Treading carefully, Kevin asked, "If the situation warranted it, do you have resources for..." he hesitated, saying the words somehow making it that much more real. "Leaving the country undetected, and remaining abroad for "
"The rest of our lives?"
"Yes," Kevin sighed regretfully.
"Consider it done."
"And when do I get a vote?" Alice had come up so silently behind them, neither man caught her presence until she was there, walking between them, taking a seat from which she could see both. "Rule number one, gentlemen: While I am infinitely grateful for your concern and your support and your love most especially that; I will never take it for granted, believe me kindly refrain from making any plans or decisions regarding my life or my future, without my input. Are we clear on that?"
"I'm sorry," Kevin blurted out first, sounding like he was five years old again.
"As am I," Spencer concurred. "That was... It wasn't.... I won't do it again, you have my word."
"Thank you," Alice said.
"But, in that case," the kindergartner turned back into lawyer, note-taking pen at the ready. "Tell us. Please. What do you want to do next?"
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