“Is Steven the father of Sarah’s baby?” Donna repeated, since Allie had obviously demonstrated herself incapable of following a single train of thought upon first try.
“W-Why – What makes you think so?”
Donna smiled, the answer now obvious. “Something that Marley said about why she’s letting Sarah stay at her home. She said it was a family matter. Also, a few weeks earlier, Marley was attempting to make a point about my – well, it’s not relevant what she was trying to make a point about. The only relevant aspect is she blurted out something about my being old enough to have become a great-grandmother by now. She postulated that if Steven and Sarah had conceived a child, I would be it’s… I paid her slight no mind at the time, but now it all makes perfect sense. Marley isn’t motivated by guilt regarding her experiences with Olivia. She is attempting to make up for Steven’s disregard of his responsibilities. Am I right, Allie?”
The younger woman hesitated, chewing her lip. Seriously, had no one thought to take her for a neurological work-up?
“You might as well tell me,” Donna prodded. “I’ve already assembled the pieces myself. I suppose I could go to Marley or Steven with my suspicions, but – “
“No! Don’t do that!”
“Exactly. You and Sarah are the best of friends. She must have confided the truth to you.” When no answer still proved forthcoming, Donna softened her tone to cajole, “I realize you don’t wish to betray a confidence. Not only is Sarah your friend, but Steven is your cousin. I assure you, I possess no malicious intent. Steven is my grandson, and if this child is, indeed, his then perhaps, like Marley, there is something I could do to make the situation more bearable for everyone concerned. You can trust me, Allie. We are all family, here. We have the same goals. Please. Just answer a simple question for me. Is Sarah’s unborn child Steven’s?”
Allie stopped chewing her lip. And, after a long, thoughtful moment, she finally, mercifully nodded.
“I’m fine,” Steven blew off his father’s inquiries, focusing instead on sitting on the floor with Devon and helping her put together the puzzle he’d brought. Well, Steven was more the one doing the puzzle. Devon just liked the part where she got to turn it upside down and watch everything break. “I came to check up on you, remember?”
“After I told you that I was fine,” Jamie needled gently.
“So we’re both doing fine,” Steven summarized. “Whoo, us.”
“I checked on Jen before I came home today,” Jamie told him, declining to join in the rousing cheer, understanding precisely what was honestly on his son’s mind.
“How…” Steven looked up, his pretense of indifference instantly gone.
“She’s hanging in there.”
“For how much longer?”
“I don’t know. Without a functioning immune system…”
“She’s a sitting duck for every opportunistic infection on the plant. You’ve basically turned her into one of those Bubble Boy kids. Only worse, because he didn’t have a case of leukemia on top of everything else.”
“I’m not going to lie to you, Steven, she’s in very bad shape.”
“Does Jen know how bad?”
Jamie nodded. “She may have banned visitors, but, believe me, she cross-examines every medical professional who steps through the door. I’ve even caught her trying to read her own chart.
Steven smiled wistfully. “That sounds like Jen.”
“She’s not a stupid girl, and I won’t treat her like one. I’ve answered her questions honestly. She knows what’s going on.”
“And is she… scared?” Steven cringed, as if even asking the question was somehow an insult and betrayal of Jen.
“I don’t know. She plays her cards pretty close to the vest. Like some other brilliant specimens I’m familiar with.”
“She’s probably just trying to make sense of it. To understand.”
“I haven’t told her yet about Horace. I know Kevin was planning to let her believe her father had finally come through for her. I wasn’t sure how he planned to handle things, and since there’s still a chance Mr. Johnson might return…”
“Don’t underestimate the human conscience. You’re talking about a man who is going to have to face the fact that he abandoned his daughter to die.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time.”
“You still never know. Reflection is a pretty powerful… Even Grant couldn’t stay away from Kirkland indefinitely.”
“Difference is, Grant was obsessed with Kirkland. All that my flesh and blood bull. The crap he put Mom through. Grant never meant to leave Kirk for the long-term. Sure, he high-tailed it out of Bay City to cover his ass, but, I’ll bet you coming back in triumph and sweeping Kirk away so they can rule the galaxy as father and son was always in the game-plan.”
“I think you might be confusing Grant with Darth Vader.”
When his son didn’t so much as smile at the corny joke, Jamie knew they were in some serious territory here.
Steven said, “Johnson isn’t like that. He’s dumped Jen before without so much as a look back.”
“That’s not how GQ tells it.”
“GQ is an idiot, okay? Because of what happened with Hudson, he’s got it stuck in his head that all biological parents get screwed by all adoptive parents and all baby mamas and the entire legal system. He can’t see beyond that.”
“Whereas you, son, are thinking clearly these days?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, Steven, that I’m worried about you. You are taking all of this much, much too much to heart.”
“A friend of mine is dying, Dad. What am I supposed to be doing?” He indicated Devon’s toy. “Sitting around, playing jigsaw puzzles?”
“She’s more than just a friend, isn’t she?”
Steven said, “She’s GQ’s girlfriend,” as if that should settle matters for good.
“Whatever happens, you know you’re going to lose her anyway, right? If she gets better, then she goes back to GQ. And if she doesn’t…”
“That’s not an option,” his son informed Jamie.
“You’re going to be hurt either way. And for no reason. You are way, way too involved in something that, frankly, doesn’t concern you. You need to detach. Get some distance and perspective. It’s for your own good.”
“Jen isn’t going to die,” Steven reiterated, and reached for his phone, as if determined to make that happen. Through sheer force of will if nothing else.
“I’m sorry,” Frankie threw herself into Cass’ arms as soon as he returned to their Swiss hotel room, having excused himself to run an unnamed errand. “Everything I said before? Just forget about it. I was tired, I wasn’t thinking straight. It must be the high elevation, here. I was babbling. Or, you know, like the Swiss say – yodeling.”
Cass smiled, kissing his wife and promising, “I’d like to make you yodel.”
She checked her watch. “We still have time before our plane leaves for Dubai…” Frankie was already moving towards the bed, when Cass reached out to grab one arm and stop her.
“First things first,” he said. “You know your point about the rich and connected running the world while the rest of us poor plebeians have no chance of so much as catching up, much less getting the drop on them?”
“I was wrong. You heard me. I guess I was just feeling so discouraged for us, and so bad for Felicia and Jamie. I thought for sure we’d have found Lorna for them by now.”
“We will find her. Cory and Elizabeth, too. We’ll bring them all home.”
“I know we will.”
“But, with all due respect, Mary Frances, you’re full of it.”
She cocked her head. “Excuse me?”
“Right here, right now, you’re piling it higher and deeper enough to earn a PhD at the exclusive and expensive institution of your choice. Earlier, though, that’s when you were telling the truth. Mr. Le Rosey – “
“I don’t think that’s his name.”
“ – Don’t interrupt, I’m on a roll. He really did a number on you. He reminded you of a time when you were at the mercy of people like him and Carl and Cecile. And you didn’t like it.”
“No,” Frankie confirmed, unsure of where this was going. “I didn’t, at that.”
“I’m sorry,” Cass said.
“What happened to me wasn’t your fault.”
“No. But, making you feel like you have to put on a happy face for me at all times, was.”
“You didn’t – I don’t… I’m fine, Cass, I really am. Most of the time I really am fine.”
“Me, too,” Cass agreed. “Most of the time, I manage to take the anger that I feel about all the years we lost, and all the people that were hurt – Lila and Jasmine included – and stuff it so far down inside that even I begin to believe I’ve dealt with and gotten over it. But then, every once in a while, something – something seemingly inconsequential – will set me off again. And the fury comes flooding back. I’m guessing you feel the same?”
Frankie paused, holding back an answer in either direction. “I’m not so much angry,” she admitted. “As…”
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“Still not your fault.”
“I’m sorry you don’t feel you can allow me to see you in these moments.”
“No, I – “
“Yes, Mary Frances. Admit it.”
“I just… you’ve been through so much.”
“So have you.”
“I remember how you reacted when I first came back and told you what had happened. You blamed yourself for not having protected me. That’s how you ended up… Cecile…”
“I know what I did. And what drove me to it.”
“I just didn’t want you to feel like I didn’t think you could take care of me.”
“Because I might do something drastic again?”
“No. Because I love you. And I don’t want to see you suffer. Ever.”
“Ditto,” he said.
This time, it was Frankie who kissed Cass, and attempted to complete the trajectory towards the bed that had been rudely interrupted moments earlier.
Cass, however, while having no objections to her intentions in theory, did still posses a piece of business to take care of first.
He told her, “You were right about one thing. Knowing the right people from going to the right schools does open up a lot of doors.”
“But, we’ll figure out some way to do without that.”
“You know what else, though? You know what else introduces you to the right people and opens the right doors?”
“Give the little lady a cigar! And no, that wasn’t euphuism. Yet.” Cass couldn’t help smiling in response to the look on Frankie’s face. “We have money now. And not merely any money. Love money.”
“So? That’s still not enough to buy us access to the right people.”
“No… But, it buys us access to the people who have access to the right people.”
“Huh?” was about all Frankie had to say to that.
“I called Peter Love,” Cass said.
“What in the world for?”
“To feel around and see if there’s anything from the old homestead he might be interested in. Some little family trinket Donna didn’t feel the urge to part with.”
“And… seems there’s an art collection of Reginald’s Peter would love to have for his humble palace in St. Petersburg. I made arrangements to have it shipped right over, and Peter, in turn, has given me a letter of introduction to a certain Sheik El-Gamal of Dubai, who is known for helping foreigners in his neck of the woods fix… little problems, as it were. Turns out he and Peter went to school together. Boarding school. Though not Le Rosey, naturally. The have much higher standards there than that, you know.”
Frankie stared at Cass in awe. “You are an amazing man.”
“You are a very compelling muse,” he told his wife, right before they both tumbled onto the bed.
Unlike the Kevin Alice found earlier, by the time Amanda checked on her husband, the manic energy was long gone. He was sitting at his computer, looking barely able to keep his eyes open as he doggedly scrolled pages the text of which he needed to read over several times before his fried brain could begin to make heads or tails of meaning.
Amanda entered slowly, quietly, perching on the edge of his chair, not saying anything, merely rubbing the back of Kevin’s neck until, at last, he slumped his hands from the keyboard, dropped his head forward until his chin hit his chest, and gargled a low noise, part relief/part frustration.
“What can I do?” Amanda asked.
Kevin grunted. “Find Johnson. Slice him open. Get Jenny’s bone marrow. Leave him to bleed to death.”
“I would if I could.”
“You’d need to get in line.”
“I’ve had my investigators looking…”
“I know. I talked to one of them. Gave them all the information I had, which, obviously, wasn’t much. Thank you, Amanda. It meant a lot to me.”
“I’ve never been good at things like this,” Amanda admitted. “I want to make matters easier for you, better for you, but, I don’t know what to do or what to say…”
“Me neither.” Kevin straightened up, took Amanda’s hand, and kissed it. “Steven called. He talked to Jamie. They haven’t told Jenny yet that Johnson took off. Jamie is asking what I want him to do. I told him I wanted him to save my daughter’s life, damn it!” Kevin looked up at Amanda. “I more or less screamed it at him. Jamie didn’t even flinch. I guess he’s used to… tempers running high.”
“What are you going to do?” Amanda wondered.
“Selfishly? I want Jenny to know exactly what kind of a bastard Johnson is. But, GQ and Steven are right. She doesn’t need that. Not now. Her dad was her only hope. I’m scared if she knows the truth, she’ll give up. I mean, Jenny’s never been a quitter. You should have seen her when she was a little girl. Toughest kid I ever came across, that’s for sure. But, how much is one person supposed to take? Hope is the only thing she – any of us – have left at the moment. And that’s not exactly a position I’m comfortable being in.”
For the second time in as many days, there was nothing improper about Lila’s interaction with Chase. Except, once again, there was nothing exactly right about it, either.
Every time Chase turned around, Lila was standing just a little too closely. Every time he moved, she was there to brush against him. And every time he raised his head, there she was, watching him, smiling, searching for something or offering something or…. Chase hadn’t the slightest idea.
All he knew was he had no intention of letting it continue.
“What?” he finally asked Lila after an hour of her eyes being locked squarely onto him in a manner he couldn’t quite put his finger on – whether they were all alone or in a meeting with a dozen colleagues. Naturally, Chase wasn’t an idiot. He waited until it was just the two of them again before barking out his question.
She merely smiled innocently. In a manner that wasn’t innocent, at all.
This was seriously beginning to piss him off. “What is going on here?” he clarified, in case the extra words might make a key difference.
“Budget meeting,” she reminded him.
“No,” he corrected, indicating the boardroom next door. “That’s what was going on there. I want to know what’s going on,” he waved his arm around the space between them. “Here.”
“Oh,” Lila said, shortening the distance considerably. “That.”
“Yes. That.” He fought the urge to take a step back. That might have indicated that Chase was scared. And Chase wasn’t scared. He was merely… curious.
“Only what you wanted,” Lila explained.
“What I wanted?”
“Yes. You told me so yourself.”
Lila’s face was inches from Chase’s now. Still, he hadn’t moved.
“It’s okay,” she told him. “I understand.”
“That’s good. Because I don’t.” Chase tried to sound cavalier, but his needing to gulp hard in the middle sort of spoiled the effect. “Lila, listen…”
“No.” She kept leaning forward, the air between their lips growing warmer with every breath. “That’s what I did last time. I shouldn’t have. The words… they got in the way.”
“Gloria Estefan would agree with you,” Chase said.
Just before Lila kissed him.
Just before he kissed her back.
“Dubai?” Lucas double-checked, having come to visit Lori Ann, and ended up hearing the latest from Felicia. “Cass and Frankie have gone to Dubai to look for Lorna?”
“It’s supposed to be the hottest spot in the Middle East for harboring the rich and shady.”
“Come on, Fanny. When is enough going to be enough? When are we finally going to drop this fantastic farce and mourn our daughter with the respect she deserves?”
Felicia threw her hands up in the air. “You’re as bad as Rachel!”
“Because I don’t find the notion of Lorna being held against her will in the least bit comforting?”
“It’s preferable to her being dead!”
“Don’t speak about things you have no firsthand experience with,” Lucas warned darkly.
“You know what I do have first-hand experience with?” Felicia whip-lashed the subject. “Being the person left behind. The one holding on desperately to that last thread of hope, only to be told by everyone around me to give it up. You’re gone, Luke, and you’re never coming back. Well, that didn’t turn out to be true, did it?”
“Rachel isn’t holding on to false hope,” Lucas pointed out, about to urge Felicia to do the same, when she abruptly interrupted him.
“No. She’s not. Rachel is convinced Carl, Elizabeth and Cory are dead. And, I swear to you, it’s almost as if she’s happy about it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. No matter what Carl may have done – in the past and up to now – Rachel adored him. She was blind to his faults, blind to the danger he represented to her family – and to ours. Rachel could never in a million years be happy about losing Carl. Not to mention Cory and Elizabeth, all in one swoop.”
“When I told her Frankie and Cass had tracked down the bodyguard who was supposed to have been on Carl’s plane, and that he was still alive, Rachel asked me about Carl and the children. When I said there had been no sign of them so far, she looked relived. I tell you, she was relieved to hear it.”
“If Carl and the children are still alive, that means Rachel’s husband has deliberately put her through the worst pain a human being can endure. No wonder she was relieved you didn’t have any evidence of his having done so.”
“It was more than that,” Felicia insisted. “It was almost… Luke, listen to me, I’ve been thinking… I know it sounds crazy but, please, hear me out.”
He braced himself as if for a blow, but, nevertheless, said, “I’m listening, Fanny.”
“I’ve been thinking. What if… What if Rachel is on this with Carl?”
“In on what?”
“Faking his death! Faking Elizabeth and Cory’s deaths. After all, what better way to get around the charges facing him in the US than to be presumed dead and gone? Carl flees the country with the kids, sets up a home-base for them in… in Dubai, or wherever… and Rachel eventually joins him. It would explain so much, wouldn’t it? Her odd reaction to pretty much everything since the news broke, her being relieved when I told her Cass and Frankie hadn’t turned up anything useful in Russia.”
“And what about Lorna?” Lucas demanded. “Where does our daughter fit into all this?”
“Carl wanted to hurt her and Jamie. He blamed them for his downfall. I know this. Lorna told me a few days before she disappeared. What could possibly have hurt them more?”
“But, if what you’re saying is even remotely possible, that means Rachel would have been in on taking Jamie’s wife away from him. She’d have been responsible for her granddaughters losing their mother, not to mention hurting her son beyond all human comprehension. Are you honestly telling me that you think your friend Rachel is capable of something so monstrous? Of breaking her entire family’s hearts… all for Carl?”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|