"Damaged?" Grant repeated with a deliberate combination of surprise and innocence for Lila's benefit. "One of the rental cars? How? Who "
"Hell if I know," Lila growled into the phone. "I'm looking over my records now, seeing who the car was assigned to so I can properly lay into them; find out why they chose to use our campaign car as a battering ram. Good grief, give a few college kids a perk "
"How bad is it? Are we talking a dent? A scratch?" Grant stuck to his prepared script.
"Whole front end is smashed up. Sweet Mary, I hope whoever did this, whatever they hit is in one piece. Otherwise this goes from a headache to a "
"If it were that serious, the police would have been called and we'd certainly have heard about it by now. Obviously, both parties prefer to sweep the incident under the rug."
"And stick us with the bill for damages courtesy the rental company, thanks to their little joyride. Damn it! I should've caught this last night. If I hadn't been so rushed "
"Lila, please, don't blame yourself for any of this," Grant struggled to keep from gagging on his own duplicity. "We were all exhausted and eager to get home. Whatever someone else did with the car, it's not your fault."
"Maybe not, but it's still our responsibility. We supplied the car and the oh, damn it, the alcohol, too! If the driver was underage... even if they weren't... If this gets tracked back to the campaign... to you.... Shoot! This is all my fault. You know what? Forget I called. I'll take care of it."
"You'll take care of it?" Grant repeated, jarred by her jumping so quickly to a place he assumed it would take much longer to lead her. "Lila, what are you thinking?"
"If I can get the damage repaired with some speed of light discretion, the rental agency need never be the wiser... "
"How are you going to do that?"
"The less you know, the better," Lila said quickly, inadvertently echoing Grant's words to Marley from the night before. "Plausible deniability and all that."
"Lila..." Grant sincerely cautioned even while impressed by her resourcefulness, touched by her loyalty, and suitably guilty for knowingly allowing his let's be honest only friend to become an accessory after the fact to a hit and run... possibly more. He and Marley still hadn't heard how Lorna and Morgan were doing this morning.
"Drop the worrying tone with me, Senator. I made a mess. I'm cleaning it up and leaving you out of it. It's the least I can do. You have enough on your plate. Forget that I called and go on about your day."
Grant flipped his cell-phone shut, shaking his head regrettably at what he'd just allowed to happen. "Sometimes," he sighed with pained self-awareness "I really do suck."
"When will they let us see her?" Felicia fired for the umpteenth time at Jamie as they, along with Lucas, hovered outside ICU, the trio a study in disparate countenances; Felicia pacing up and down, all flailing arms and jangling jewelry, Lucas, too tense to sit, standing stiff as a sentry by the door, keeping watch on everyone who stepped in and out of Intensive Care, while Jamie sat hunched over in one spot, keeping his body absolutely still the only way he could also keep his churning emotions in check.
"Soon," Jamie answered dully.
"You said that half an hour ago."
"I know," he agreed without further explanation.
"Do you think something's happened? That they're "
"They're just getting her settled... stabilized..."
"You think? If you were in there you'd know," Felicia snapped. "I don't understand it. How can you sit here when you could be in there? You're a doctor! Just walk on in!"
Lucas gathered his wife to him. "Jamie is a doctor. But, Lorna isn't his patient."
"I'd just be in the way, Felicia. I'm letting the team do their jobs and take care of Lorna and the baby. With me in there, they might get self-conscious, they'd start second-guessing themselves, they'd get defensive, wouldn't listen to their instincts. Staying out of it is the best thing I can do for Lorna right now. No matter how hard it is for me. If there were any news good or bad Russ would come out here and tell us."
That gave Felicia pause. But only for a moment. "How long have you two known about the baby? How far along is she? When did Lorna find out? Why didn't you tell us?"
"Lorna wanted to wait," Jamie shrugged, leaving out the part where he, too, had been kept in the dark. While Morgan, apparently, made the cut.
"Wait? Why would she wait? Is there something wrong? Did Lorna "
"Fanny," Lucas interrupted once again, trying to spare Jamie. " Please, sweetheart, I know what this waiting is doing to you, but attacking Jamie "
"Attacking? Who's attacking? I am simply asking him questions he should know the answers to. Or that he would know the answers to if only he'd "
"Any news?" Morgan, a fresh cast on his arm, blew in, acknowledging everyone in turn.
"Not a thing," Felicia lamented. "They told us we'd be able to see her soon, but that was hours ago..."
Throwing a quick, exasperated look Jamie's way, Morgan slipped through the ICU doors, Felicia and Lucas watching him exchange words with the R.N. who immediately blocked him by the nurse's station.
"At least he's talking to someone," Felicia muttered, loud enough for Jamie to hear, though he betrayed no signs of registering her remark, remaining seated even as Morgan returned.
He reported, "A neurologist is in with her now, doing an exam."
"Why? Has her condition changed? Is she out of her coma?"
"It's standard procedure to keep checking at regular intervals post-surgery. They'll let you in to see her in another hour or so. Short visits, one at a time."
"Another hour?" Felicia nearly spit. "I can't look at these beige walls for another damned hour."
"Then let's take a walk," Morgan offered her his good arm. "Give you something more picturesque to look at. The nurse promised to page me when we can go in to see Lorna."
"I'll wait here," Lucas declined Felicia when she looked to him. "Go on, get some fresh air. You need the break."
"Fine," Felicia relented, taking Morgan's arm. She glanced at Jamie, opening her mouth to say something, then thought better of it, suddenly at a loss. She turned to Morgan. "Lead me to this all-important air of yours."
"I'm sorry," Lucas apologized to Jamie once the other two were gone. "About Felicia."
"She's scared. She's thinking about what happened last year with Jenna. It's understandable."
"Do you want me to call anyone for you? Rachel? Amanda? Matt?"
"I'm... okay. Don't worry about me."
"No such luck, pal. I'm going to be a granddad again, and you're its father. That makes you family. Starting now, my job is to make sure that you're fit to do your job."
"Given how much you've already does getting me out of prison ring a bell? I'd say you've done more than your fair share where I'm concerned."
"You have a hell of a charitable memory, considering I'm the one who got you in that mess in the first place. Besides, anything I can do to make my daughter happy..." A thought hit Lucas and he turned to Jamie. "Any word yet if it's a boy or a girl?"
"Lorna seems sure it's a girl. And since Lorna is reportedly never wrong...."
"Well, then you'll be in for it," Lucas laughed. "And you'll know exactly what I mean."
Jamie smiled shakily. "I hope so."
"Aunt Marley!" Kirkland called from the second floor of Grant's house, the urgency in his voice making Marley's stomach stop, drop and roll. "Where are you?"
"In here!" She attempted to sound and look as normal as possible, sitting at the dining room table, the newspaper spread out in front of her, a cup of coffee in her hand.
"Have you talked to Dad? I tried calling him, but he's not answering."
"Grant had a meeting with Chase Hamilton this morning."
"Not Grant. Dad. Jamie," Kirkland specified, hitting the redial on his cell phone. "Lorna was in a car accident. It's all over the news."
"I know. I... heard."
"You heard? From who? From Dad? Is he okay? Was he with Lorna? Was he hurt, too?"
"I'm sorry, I only know what I saw on the news, just like you."
"Why didn't you tell me right away?"
"You were asleep. I didn't want to wake you until I had some concrete information instead of hearsay. Look, I'm sure your father is fine," Marley stood up, attempting to wrap her arms around Kirkland's shoulders, only to have the boy brush her off.
"Maybe Steven knows what's going on." Kirkland hit another button and pressed the phone against his ear. "Oh, give me a break... Where the hell is everybody?" He flung it down in frustration. "We should go to the hospital. Dad needs us."
I'm the last person Jamie should see, Marley thought. For all our sakes.
"I know you want to help, but your father has to be under a lot of stress right now. He needs to focus on making sure Lorna is okay. We'd just distract him from that. Jamie has enough to worry about without taking care of you, too. And you know he would."
"Are you telling me the truth?" Kirkland challenged abruptly, bringing a momentarily terrified and permanently guilty Marley up short. "Because this feels an awful lot like when I was five, and everybody suddenly started acting weird around me, and didn't tell me for days that Mom had died. Same thing with Jake, later."
"No, Kirkland, no, I swear. I don't know anymore than you do. Anymore than what's been on the news. Lorna was hurt, seriously hurt, but that's it so far. I I wouldn't lie to you, honey," she finished weakly. "I love you too much for that."
"There you are, Lila," Rachel smiled as her still exhausted former daughter-in-law dragged into the dining room, reaching for the coffee and dumping in a generous spoonful of sugar for extra good measure. "I feel like I haven't seen you in weeks, not since Grant decided to run for office. I am sorry about the results. For you, at least. Not for the people of Bay City."
Lila smiled blearily, unoffended, and collapsed into a chair. "It's been a hell of a ride. I'm ready to get off for a spell."
"I was surprised to see you up and about so early this morning. I thought for sure you'd be sleeping in after getting in so late the other night."
"I had an... engagement."
"Really?" Rachel inquired. "Anyone I know?"
"Kevin," Lila admitted, voice neutral, face anything but.
Rachel's countenance mirrored Lila's exactly. "And?"
"Cutting the crap."
"Is that what the young people are calling it these days?" Rachel inquired innocently, prompting Lila's first full-out laugh in quite a long while.
She confessed, "I think we got a good start clearing the air. Things aren't perfect. But, they're a hell of a lot better than they were a few days ago."
"I'm glad," Rachel said, following it up with a curt nod, tapping her hands against the dining room table. "And that ends the prying portion of our conversation. For now, anyway. No guarantees about the future."
"That's kind of where Kevin and I left it, too. But, we're going to give it another shot. In the end, yeah, he did cheat. But, we were never exclusive. Not officially. And he did tell me about it himself, no one had to corner him into it. And he's had it rough. His Grandma's arrest... "
"I didn't realize they were that close," Rachel observed, now suddenly deeply interested in the fine grains of the table.
"That's a new development, too. Didn't matter what he's said for twenty on years, he needed that relationship settled. His adoptive mama died, Sally died, Alice was really more his mother than his grandmother. For better or worse, she raised him. Nobody can turn their back on that for long. Well, not without it really paining you."
"I'm sure Alice is thrilled."
"She is. Even under the circumstances." Lila hesitated, suddenly wide-awake, and it wasn't merely the massive dose of sugar and caffeine. "Rachel... How did... How did the police know to focus their investigation on Alice being Gregory's doctor?"
Rachel looked Lila in the eye, fully understanding the question. Having already gotten it from Carl, she'd been expecting Lila to connect the dots, as well.
The moment, however, was interrupted by Jasmine pounding down the stairs, calling out, "Mama! Mama, where are you?" before spying Lila and Rachel in the dining room and running in, holding her phone out for both women to see.
Unfortunately, Jasmine was also waving it around so frantically that neither could make out what it was she was trying to show them.
"Jasmine, calm down, sugar. What's wrong now? What's happened?"
"Lorna," she blurted out. "It was on-line. I read it."
"What about Lorna?" Rachel rose, reaching for the phone.
"She's been in an accident, Grandma," Jasmine swiveled her head from one to the other. "Her car got hit and nobody knows who did it and she's in the hospital and they said critical condition. Critical condition is the worst, isn't it, Mama?"
"My God," Rachel said, instinctively going for her own phone. "Jamie..."
But, all Lila could do was click on the news story Jasmine had indicated and read again the words that had struck her the hardest. "Hit and run...."
"Finally!" Sarah called out as she caught sight of Steven, Bridget and Michele on either side of him, leading their horses into the Love stables. "You haven't been answering your phone!"
"We've been out riding," Steven snapped, dismounting and helping both his sisters do the same, deliberately turning his back on Sarah.
"Sarah!" Michele called out, delighted, running to give her a hug.
"We've missed you." Bridget followed suit.
"Why didn't you come over with Steven last night? He stayed with us while Aunt Marley was with Kirkland and Grant at the campaign place."
"Grant lost," Bridget filled Sarah in somberly.
"Can you stay now?"
"Actually..." Sarah began.
"No," Steven answered for her.
"Actually," Sarah repeated with greater emphasis. "I need to speak to Steven alone for a second, and then maybe we can..."
"No, and no," he corrected.
"Steven," she hissed, indicating the curious girls staring at him, confused. "Just give me one second. It's important."
"Don't want to hear it."
"This isn't about me," she grabbed him by the elbow and forced Steven to look at her. "Kirkland's been trying to reach you for the last hour."
"Why?" she had his attention. "What's wrong?"
Sarah tipped her head in both directions to indicate the proverbial little pitchers with big ears, even as she glared at Steven all the while.
He glared back, indicating this had better not be some ruse on her part, then turned to the girls, squatting down to their level, a hand on each shoulder. "Sorry, Midget, got to take care of this. Why don't you two go on up to the house and "
"Is Kirkland okay?" Michele fretted.
"He's fine," Sarah reassured.
"You promise?" Bridget fully exercised the distrustful gene coating her DNA on both sides of the Hudson/McKinnon/Love family tree.
"I promise. I just need to tell Steven something."
The girls exchanged suspicious glances, but finally did as they were told and started towards home.
"Will you come say good-bye before you go?" Bridget called back to Sarah.
"Totally," she swore.
"If Kirkland's okay, then what's the big emergency?" Steven demanded as soon as his siblings were out of earshot.
"Lorna's been in a car accident," Sarah told Steven without any further ado. "Your dad is at the hospital with her, she's in surgery. Kirkland's with Marley back at Grant's house, he's freaking out and wanted to talk to his big brother, except his big brother decided not to pick up his phone for a bit."
"I was trying to avoid... Oh, hell, how do you even know all this? It's none of your business."
"When he couldn't get you or your dad on the phone, he called me. Marley knew you were here, but, she couldn't get you to answer either. And the servants said you'd gone out hours ago. Kirkland thought maybe I was with you. I said I'd drive over and track you down."
"I should go see Kirk. Dumb kid always takes everything way too hard. But, the girls... can't leave 'em, can't really take them along...."
"I'll stay," Sarah offered.
"Why?" he snarled at her suspiciously.
"You really are a prince of a guy, you know that?"
"I'd say the same about you, except it turns out I never knew you at all."
"Just shut up and go take care of your brother," Sarah snapped. "Before I change my mind."
"About what? Staying with the girls?"
"That, too," Sarah told him cryptically.
"Don't take this personally, darling," Felicia prodded Morgan, who'd lapsed into moody silence during their change-of-scenery walk around the hospital grounds. "But, you're doing a lousy job distracting me."
"Sorry," he attempted a smile that didn't quite hit its target. "The police came to take my statement while I was getting my arm set. They kept asking if there was anything I might remember about the accident that might help them narrow in on who did it. I couldn't tell them anything. Felt awful about it."
"Well, you shouldn't. None of this is your fault."
"If Lorna hadn't been in the car with me, if I hadn't decided to " Catching the quizzical look on Felicia's face, Morgan realized he'd almost said more than he intended or ever should, and quickly changed the subject to a self-deprecating, "You're right. I am doing a horrible job of distracting you."
Felicia shrugged. "Still beats climbing the walls of that infernal waiting room, with Jamie just... sitting there."
"Cut the guy some slack. Not everyone turns into a tornado of feathers when they worry."
She smiled at the poetic accuracy of his description. "You're right. Of course, you're right. But, I simply cannot wrap my mind around the reality that this is actually happening again. My pregnant daughter, in the hospital. She's "
"Going to be fine. You think a bump on the head is capable of keeping Lorna down for long? This coma stunt? Nothing but a grandstanding bid for attention."
"She has been accusing me of ignoring her," what started as Felicia attempting to whistle past the graveyard along with Morgan turned agonizingly sincere. "Ever since Jenna died, and I've been worrying about Cass and Frankie and Lori Ann... worrying about everyone but her...Oh, God, Morgan, she was right."
"Lorna knows you love her no matter what."
"I was so angry when she sided with Jamie over Lucas and Cass throughout that despicable Cecile debacle. Things between us, they haven't been... good... for a while."
"Isn't that kind of Mother/Daughter 101, though? I know my sister and my mother were at each other's throats for years. It's perfectly normal."
"Lorna and I have never been normal."
"Good! Because normal is overrated. And boring. Two things you and your daughter most certainly are not."
Felicia couldn't help smiling at him. "I knew I liked you for a reason. Now, why in the world couldn't I have made you and Lorna work all those years ago? I'm sure that if the two of you had only tried again "
Morgan winced awkwardly, figuring there was no more reason to keep it a secret now and sheepishly admitted. "We did. And it didn't work out. Again."
Even though Jen had offered to go with him, GQ insisted this was something he needed to do alone. Even if he wasn't quite sure that he was actually going to do it yet.
He sat outside of Chase Hamilton's office, having given his name to the secretary at the front, and waited... as eager to find out what would happen next as anyone.
Testifying against Allie would solve two of GQ's current problems in one fell swoop. He'd put the legal problems connected with Gregory's death behind him, and he'd be able to sue for custody of Hudson.
But, testifying against Allie...
Yes, he was mad at her. Furious, really. Incensed. And yes, it bugged him that Allie had set the wheels in motion for him, Mindy and Rick Bauer, not to mention Hudson, getting hurt... and managed to walk away consequence-free.
But, being angry wasn't the same as doing something about it. Especially something this... vindictive.
"Mr. Todd," Chase stepped out of his office, holding out a hand to shake. "What brings you down here?"
"I..." GQ stood up awkwardly, looking over his shoulder as if hoping someone with better sense might be standing there, willing to stop him. "I wanted to talk to you about me... me testifying against Allie."
"I see," Chase nodded thoughtfully. "You know, I'd love to tell you that my offer was still on the table..."
"It isn't?" GQ asked with more hope than seemed fitting for the occasion.
"We've got a little problem." Chase led the younger man into his office and pointed to the figure sitting in the chair across from his desk. "It seems that great minds think alike... and at roughly the same time, too. Ms. Fowler just came in here a few moments ago, volunteering to testify against you...."
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