"So what do you think she meant by that?" Grant asked Lila, "Saying I was the most awesome person she knew?"
"Ain't it bad enough you sniffing around a babe still in high-school? Does this conversation require us sinking to her level of note-passing discourse, as well?"
"She is not in high-school! Sarah is at least a college soph "
"Sarah?" Lila repeated the name a nifty trick when your jaw is hanging open. "Sarah Matthews-Wheeler? That's who we're talking about here? Steven's little girlfriend?"
"They broke up months ago."
"Alrighty. Well, guess that makes it a-okay, then. Sarah, huh? So your Lolita's legal, at least, that's a relief."
"What does she want from me?" Grant asked, genuinely befuddled. "I keep feeling like there's something she... wants."
"Girl's got a crush." Lila shrugged. "Nothing unusual about that. Especially a girl with raging Daddy issues like that one."
"You think that's all it is? Misplaced Daddy issues?"
"You're certainly old enough to be her Daddy. Hell, you're old enough to be her grand "
"I am not!"
"Do the math," Lila advised.
He declined the offer. "So how should I deal with it? Her?"
"How do you want to deal with it?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Exactly what I said. As long as she's legal and available, your options are wide and varied. Though, I got to ask, are you available, Grant?"
"Where does Marley fit into all of this?"
"She doesn't. I mean, there's nothing to fit into. I love Marley. She's the one who decided to cut me out."
"So that's that? Your conscience free and clear, is it?"
"My conscience isn't.... This isn't about Marley. This is about Sarah. I need to understand... She's not a dumb girl. She out and out told me that she uses people for her own purposes."
"I'm just trying to stay a step ahead, figure out what she thinks she can get from me."
"Money," Lila offered her own personal favorite go-to. It really was miraculous how many questions that particular response fit.
"No," Grant shook his head. "Between Iris and Russ, not to mention the trust-funds Mac set up for all his future heirs, I'm sure she's set for life."
"Respectability, then. You said it yourself, a family tree that includes Iris... That's just screaming out for a little judicious pruning."
"Sarah would get more respectability from Count Dracula than from me. She'd get more of it from Count Chocula, than from me."
"Alright then, you win. It's your body she's after. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"No!" Grant defended, though his ego instantly brightened at the thought.
"Just don't insult my intelligence claiming you haven't given hers a once-over... or twenty."
"She's beautiful, yes. But, her real appeal... Sarah happens to be a very old soul, too."
"In a young, taut, nubile body," Lila refused to give up. "The perfect package."
"Is that all this is?" The fight seemed to drain out of Grant in response to Lila's harangue. "Do you really think that's all this is? I'm just some dirty old man who's had his ego whacked too many times, making up excuses to justify my behavior?"
Lila hesitated, the utter devastation on Grant's face forcing her to swallow her primed quip and cautiously offer instead, "I think... I think, Grant, that if you were just a dirty old man who missed his girlfriend and was looking to jump the first teeny-bopper who smiled your way, I don't think you'd be questioning your motivations like this. I mean, God knows, you've gone after inappropriate women before. And you never gave a damn what anybody thought, including the women themselves or the fellas they were attached to. The fact that you do now, that's gotta mean... it's gotta mean something."
"How's married life?" Alice asked Amanda after greeting the younger woman with a warm hug.
"Good," Amanda said. "Great."
Something in her voice twigged Alice to follow up. "Really?"
"Really," Amanda insisted. "Except... well..."
"Have a seat," Alice patted the couch, then took an arm-chair across from Amanda, smiling encouragingly.
"Kevin is great," Amanda began.
"As are you," Alice reassured.
"And everything really is going well."
"Except that we don't exactly feel... married."
"Hm," Alice said, her tone utterly devoid of judgment.
"I've been staying over at his place. I took some time off from work since Kevin is... also free these days. And it's been fine. It's not like we've fought or anything. We get along great. The sex is terrific. We enjoy being together. We have a lot of things in common. Even the kids haven't really been much of a problem. Seems Allie and Jen made a point of not putting us in the middle of their issues."
Alice continued waiting patiently.
"But, see, and I'm sure it's just me, I must be doing something wrong but... the whole thing, it all feels like a... like just an extended sleepover date. Like we're hanging out, having fun, but, I don't feel..."
"Married," Alice finished for her.
"Yes," Amanda exhaled, happy to hear it come from someone else, even if just in echo. "Yes."
"How does Kevin feel?"
"I don't know. He seems happy enough. I mean, I know he's very upset about the suspension, he's practically got a wall calendar to check off the dates until he can practice law again, like he's in prison or something. But, otherwise, he's okay."
"Have you told him how you feel?"
"Oh, no, no."
"Because it's stupid. Like I said, Alice, I'm sure this is just my issue. I mean, it's not like I've ever gotten this marriage thing right before. Sam and I tried and tried and we couldn't make it work. And you know what a disaster Grant and I were. I swore I wouldn't make the same mistakes with Cameron that I did with the two of them. Every time an issue would come up, I insisted we talk about it. And talk about it, and talk about it. We spent so much time talking about our problems, they became the center of our relationship. We couldn't let anything go. Except, ultimately, each other."
"So you think that by sweeping things under the rug with Kevin..."
"There's nothing to sweep! He hasn't done anything wrong. It's not Kevin's fault I'm constantly looking for something that probably isn't even out there. I keep waiting for somebody else to snap their fingers and magically make my life complete. And that's not fair to the other person."
"You deserve to be happy, Amanda. We all do."
"Well," Amanda teased, mostly in an attempt to change the subject. "We can't all be as lucky as you, finding a man who looks at us as if he can't believe his luck to just be in the same room. I remember Spencer's face when you were pronounced man and wife. He looked stunned, like every dream he'd ever had suddenly came true."
"You're exaggerating," Alice demurred, though she did look distinctively pleased.
"I'm happy with Kevin," Amanda insisted. "It took the two of us so long to find our way back to each other. I don't want to rock the boat, that's all."
"You did what?" Kirkland's near-shriek unfortunately coincided with Jamie's less than prizewinning attempts to rock a tired but stubborn Devon to sleep. Which meant Jamie had a fussy baby propped against his shoulder, and a horror-stricken teen in his peripheral vision, both of them looking ready to burst lest he say or do the wrong thing. Which, in Kirkland's case, had obviously already happened. "You told Charlie's mom about about what I about what happened?"
"Yes. And now I'm going to explain to you why I did it."
"You're going to explain why you stabbed me in the back? This should be good!"
"I was trying to help you."
"How is blabbing to Frankie that I couldn't get it up for her daughter helping me?"
"Charlie's parents "
"Cass knows too?" Kirkland howled, his already huge eyes exactly like Vicky's, it was impossible to miss the resemblance expanding to fill the majority of his face.
"I can't imagine Frankie would keep our conversation from him. I'm sure they'll want to discuss the matter before talking with Charlie."
"You're kidding me." Kirkland turned away from Jamie, face crimson, body now in perpetual motion as his mind whirled. "Please say you're kidding me."
"Frankie and Cass needed to know what happened so they could deal with Charlie accordingly."
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn't want you discussing my sex life with my girlfriend's parents? That what I told you was just between us? That I wanted it to stay just between us?!"
"I didn't talk to Frankie about your sex life, Kirkland. I talked to her about your being assaulted."
"So when Charlie doesn't give a damn about what I want, she's in the wrong. But, when it's you, hey, no big deal, you're just trying to help me."
"You know it's not the same thing, son." Jamie jiggled Devon while trying to reach out to him, but Kirkland was too quick, heading for the door.
"I never should have told you anything. Never, ever."
"But you did," Jamie countered calmly. "Because you knew what happened wasn't right and that you needed to talk."
"To you! You! Not everybody in town! How could I have been so stupid? I still have to go to school with Charlie! How am I supposed to look at her ever again?"
"You have nothing to be ashamed of, Kirkland. You didn't do anything wrong."
"The hell I didn't. I trusted you," he spat, just before tearing from the house, the slam of their front door making Devon break into full-blown tears in earnest.
"Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Hamilton," Felicia swept into Chase's office upon a flurry of sequins and boas and even a turban. Like Cass had suggested, she was playing the role of Felicia Gallant to the hilt.
"You made my secretary cry," Chase observed. "And she used to be a Marine."
"She was refusing to patch me through, and I desperately needed to speak with you."
"Alright. I'm listening. What's the emergency, Ms. Gallant?"
"I am writing a book."
"So is about three-quarters of the population at any given time."
"Mine features the Log Cabin Republican Mayor of a small, Midwestern town."
"Ah, that old cliche." Chase made a note on a nearby pad. "I'll alert my lawyers."
"Don't flatter yourself, Mr. Hamilton. I am not writing about you."
"Right. This would be one of the many, many other Log Cabin Republican Mayors of small, Midwestern towns that currently dot the American landscape."
"Exactly," Felicia agreed. "A composite, if you will. But, I was wondering if you might be so good as to answer a few questions for me. I've been working on this character for weeks now, and I'm afraid I'm having a spot of trouble squaring the inconsistencies in his character."
"Real people, I've found, rarely fit into the straight-jacket boxes dictated by popular fiction, or even popular opinion, for that matter. No matter how much others might want or desperately need them to.
"How do you reconcile your multi-year relationship with Douglas Rivera alongside your opposition to gay rights?"
"Who said I was opposed to gay rights?"
"You were very vocal in your resistance to the Marriage Equality Act."
"Keeping the government out of people's bedrooms means keeping them out of their relationships, period. I believe in Human Rights. See how nicely that manages to embrace everyone? Saves a lot of time, too."
"During your campaign, you promised to veto any Hate Crime legislation that came across your desk."
"Hate Crime legislation is un-American. It's punishing people for their beliefs instead of their actions. If you killed or assaulted someone, you should be sentenced accordingly, regardless of motivation. Why is killing someone because of their race, religion or sexual orientation more heinous that killing them out of greed or jealousy or plain malice? The end result is the same. The penalty should be the same."
"How does Doug feel about your... contradictory opinions?"
"He hates every one of them," Chase replied calmly.
"It doesn't seem to have affected your relationship."
"I have other hidden charms," Chase reassured.
"The two of you are quite the inspirational story. A long-term relationship in this day and age, especially within the political sphere..."
"Which, if I see any resemblance to individuals living or dead in your upcoming book, I will sue you and Cory Publishing into the poorhouse. Am I making myself clear?"
"Now that is intriguing. And, quite frankly, meaningless. You might want to dust off your libel law textbooks; the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate both intent and tangible damages. Rest assured, after all these years, I know what I'm doing when I sit down in front of my computer."
"In that case, this interview is over." Chase told her, his voice utterly devoid of any inflection whatsoever. "Good luck with your project, Ms. Gallant."
"Why, Mr. Hamilton, what's wrong? You seem to have mislaid your pithy sound-bites." Felicia deliberately baited him, hoping to crack through the man's perennially glib facade.
"My private life is private. Always has been, always will be."
"You had no trouble parading both Douglas and your daughter in front of the cameras when you thought it could get you supporters. According to exit polls, quite a few people crossed party lines to vote for you this time around. No doubt your personal life played a big part in your victory."
"You are, once again, underestimating my other hidden charms. Just because you happen to be immune..."
"Oh, I am," Felicia concurred heartily. "What's more, I think you're hiding something. And oh, how I am going to enjoy unearthing precisely what that is..."
"And where's my beautiful granddaughter?" Lucas asked Lorna upon unexpectedly finding her on his doorstep.
"She's spending some time with her father, so that I can do the same with mine." Lorna gave him a hug, unoffended at having been relegated to second place. She could hardly blame Lucas. Her child was seriously adorable.
"What's the occasion?" He ushered her inside.
"I finally caught Jeanne Ewing's news report."
"Oh." Lucas' joy at seeing his daughter visibly dimmed.
"Let's hear it, Dad. All of it."
He insisted, "I only know what I've seen on TV, same as you, sweetheart."
"And I spent too many years as Carl's... whatever, to believe you."
"This doesn't concern Carl."
"Of course it does. Spencer supposedly blew the whistle on the compound where Donna had you held. She used Carl's access codes to do it. That means, in their minds, all three of you are responsible for the exposure. I know how people and I use that term loosely like that operate. I know how they express their displeasure, especially at being betrayed."
"You're right. Except that Spencer is the one they'll go after, no one else. I realize why you might be concerned, Kirkland "
"Kirkland. Alice. And you."
"Yes. You, Felicia... me, Devon."
"I'd die before I let anyone harm any of my girls, you know that."
"I don't want you to die, Dad. Not again. Not permanently."
Seeing the obvious concern and pain on her face, Lucas gave up trying to deny and instead attempted to reassure, "The situation is under control. Carl's security "
"Won't do a damn thing for you, if it comes down to us or them."
"You're wrong. You and Devon, he'll look out for you two."
"Because of Jamie," Lorna guessed, then added bitterly. "I suppose he wouldn't risk Rachel going frigid on him when her son's family ends up murdered on their front lawn." She shook her head and demanded, "Why didn't you warn me, at least? Why did I have to piece this whole thing together on my own?"
"Because you had more than enough on your mind these last few months!"
"These last few months? This has been going on for months?"
"When did you want me to tell you, Lorna? Right when you woke up from your coma? While you were trying to set things right with Jamie? On your wedding day? Maybe in between contractions?"
"Alright. So I've been busy."
"You've been recovering! Jamie warned us about what could happen if you were put under any undue stress. That's why Fanny and I "
"What? What, Dad? What else have you been doing?"
He shrugged. "Your mother and I, we've had some problems."
"I would think so, walking around, knowing there could be hired guns around every corner waiting to take you out."
"I Before that." Lucas sighed. "You might as well know. Jamie told you about how Fanny supported Morgan when it came to your medical treatment?"
"Yeah..." Lorna narrowed her eyes.
"Well, I had a very, very difficult time with her position. I felt we should have been backing Jamie. He was obviously the man you loved. I had no doubt he was the baby's father and that he had your best interests at heart."
"I know all this."
"What you don't know, is that I was ready to leave your mother over it. Fanny begged me to stay. For your sake. She thought, if we split up, you'd blame yourself. And you were still in such precarious health then..."
"I don't believe this!"
"The point is, we were ultimately able to work things out without our problems affecting you. Fanny and I are finally, thankfully back on track. We just wanted to protect you. Then and now."
"Leaving me clueless about my family getting sucked into an underworld war is not protecting me! Ignorance doesn't make you bullet-proof."
"You looked so happy at your wedding. And then when Devon was born... I wanted to keep you that way for as long as possible."
"I'd rather be cognizant that Bay City could turn into a war zone in the blink of an eye. With my family right at the center of it all."
"It won't come to that. You have my word."
"And I suppose you have Carl's word?"
"Why do you keep insisting he's involved?"
"Because Spencer being handed to Jeanne on a silver platter smelled of classic Hutchins Sacrificial Lamb stew. I know Spencer didn't do it himself. He's not that stupid. And he's way too head over heels about Alice, he wouldn't risk losing her for anything. Now, maybe Donna is behind it all. I don't think so, though. She knew she'd have been first in line for retribution as soon as the compound got raided. I suppose you could have blown the whistle. But, your beef is with Donna, not Spencer. He's never really done anything to you, and he's a friend of Mom's, besides. That only leaves Carl to pull the strings, and cover his own hide while he's at it. Unfortunately, if Spencer's proffered pound of flesh proves inadequate, we all know who that leaves on the chopping block."
"Don't worry about me," Lucas clung to his denials, despite comprehending that Lorna wouldn't buy a word of it.
"Promise me something. Promise that, at the first rumbling of trouble, you and Mom will take off, bury yourselves someplace so deep not even God could find you."
"Never," Lucas said. "I'm done running. I'm done hiding. The only thing I'm planning to do, should the need arise, is fight back with everything I've got."
"In that case," Lorna said. "I've got your back."
"In that case," Lucas echoed, pulling her into another hug. "How can we lose?"
"So," Rachel said politely. "You and Jeanne."
"It can't be that much of a surprise, Mom." Matt reminded, "I brought her to Jamie and Lorna's wedding. Carl spent half the afternoon talking her ear off, you couldn't have missed it."
"It's a long way from inviting a date to your brother's wedding to planning one yourselves," Rachel pointed out, the less time spent reminiscing about Carl and Jeanne's connection, the better.
"Thanks for volunteering to help us get everything together. I know it may not have looked like it, but Jeanne was really touched."
"I'm happy to do whatever I can but, don't most women want to put their own stamp on things? It was one thing for me to help Jamie and Lorna. She'd been ill and with the baby due... But, Jeanne seemed rather indifferent to the entire proceeding. It's almost as if you were twisting her arm."
"The thing about Jeanne is, she doesn't quite feel... deserving of things," Matt began, realizing as he went along that what started out as an excuse for Rachel was, actually, the God's truth. "She grew up with Maggie, you know, and I gather it was kind of rough. Maggie always teased her about being the poor relation, telling Jeanne the reason she didn't have all the things Maggie did was because her parents didn't love her enough."
"Clarice and Larry Ewing beat Cecile's version of parenting any day of the week. And even Sandy, much as I adore your brother, spent more time at the office than he ever did with his daughter. Maggie had more material things than Jeanne because Maggie's parents equated purchases with love, not due to any deficit on Jeanne's part."
"As Jeanne said, she kind of missed that particular nuance as a kid."
"And I'm sorry, Matthew, I fail to see how that applies here."
"She's a little intimidated by the idea of marrying into the Cory family, Mom. I mean, she wants to. Trust me, she really, really wants to. But, at the same time, she feels like she doesn't deserve it. That's why she was kind of resistant about the whole wedding thing. She doesn't feel like she belongs with us."
"That's ridiculous. If you love her, of course she belongs." Rachel hesitated, then dove into her key question about the entire affair. "You do love her, don't you, Matt?"
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