“You have some nerve,” Grant advanced on Rachel in her office, eschewing pleasantries or even salutations in favor of what he’d specifically come over to say.
Rachel looked up, one eyebrow raised, her tone clipped as she observed, “I hardly think my missing our appointment the other day is grounds for such disproportionate vitriol on your part.”
“Forget the damn appointment. I’m actually glad you weren’t here. Gave me the chance to talk to Lila. Find out what you did.”
“What I did?” Rachel emphasized the pronoun, making it clear she’d hardly been alone in the matter.
“You told me Lila was completely on board with our going after Hamilton.”
“I never said anything of the kind.”
Grant stumbled, conceding her point. “Well, you allowed me to assume – “
“You were as eager to see our illustrious Mayor brought down as I was. You would have assumed anything, if it got you your way.”
Again, Rachel was right. All Grant had to counter with was, “Lila is my friend…”
“And Vicky was your son’s mother. Yet you had no qualms about setting her up for your attempted murder. Spencer was your father and you were going to let him go to jail in your stead. Not to mention Ryan…”
“Don’t,” Grant warned menacingly. “You dare mention Ryan.”
She shrugged. “My point is, you have crossed the moral event horizon a few too many times yourself, Grant, to be taking a principled stand with me.”
“A man can change,” Grant said. “A man can try to change.”
“Is that a fact? If only you – and others – had come to your epiphany while my husband were still alive, perhaps none of this would currently be necessary.”
“Lila is devastated.” Grant refused to be thrown off track.
And his insistence forced Rachel to falter for the first time since he’d come in. “I know,” she confessed.
“The idea that you would treat her like this… She loves you.”
“And I love her. Like my own daughter.”
“I don’t see you prostituting Amanda to get your way.”
“Amanda didn’t betray me the way Lila did,” Rachel pointed out.
“Oh, please. What was that Hadley Prescott nonsense all about then? Amanda actually dressed up as a mystery woman in an attempt to make Carl be unfaithful to you. And let’s not talk about Matt plotting with Alexander Nikos, or Jamie basically forcing you to choose between your children and your husband. They all did much, much worse to you than Lila ever could, and you still didn’t force them to debase themselves in order to get back into your good graces.”
Rachel hesitated, Grant’s argument hitting its desired target. “I – I didn’t think Lila would mind so much.”
“You didn’t think she’d mind being treated like a bought and paid for whore on a job?”
“I never – “
“You did,” Grant said. “And you damn well know it.”
“This is none of your business,” Rachel dismissed, turning back to her work, avoiding Grant’s eyes.
“The hell it’s not.” Grant clamped his hand on Rachel’s shoulder, forcing her to acknowledge him. “If I had known what this was costing Lila, I would have never – “
“So fix it, then,” Rachel challenged. “If you’re so unhappy with what we’ve done to her, then fix it.”
“Easily. You know that tape is doctored. Release the unedited version. Go on. I’ll even give it you.” Rachel opened her desk’s drawer, appearing prepared to do just that. “You feel so horribly, you go and clear Lila’s name. I dare you. Make it up to her. And destroy your own chances for the Mayor’s mansion in the process.”
“Coast is clear,” Sarah assured Donna. “Marley and Grant aren’t home.”
“I’m not afraid of them,” Donna sniffed. Though the way she looked about furtively, as if making sure, suggested otherwise.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” Sarah said. “And I’ve made up my mind.”
“Yes,” Donna leaned forward eagerly.
“You and Matt – you can adopt my baby.”
“Oh!” Donna clapped her hands together in front of herself, suddenly at a loss for words. “Oh!”
“But, I have a few conditions. And you need to meet them all, or no deal.”
“I’m listening,” Donna said, much more accustomed to negotiating than expressing gratitude. Or considering the possibility of her dreams coming true.
“Number One: You don’t go around telling people whose baby you got. I mean, obviously there are going to be people who know. But, I don’t want one of those open adoption deals where everybody gets together every year for a picnic.”
“That’s perfectly fine with me. In fact, I rather prefer it that way.”
“I figured you would. There’s more.”
“You will never, ever, ever tell anybody who the father is.”
“Wait a moment,” Donna interrupted. “Matthew – “
“You’ve already told him?”
“Yes. When I explained why he and I would be perfect parents for – “
“Nobody else. You tell anybody else, and the deal is off.”
“I – That would be – But… Do you mean the father? Doesn’t he know, already?”
“Of course, he knows. But, that doesn’t mean it has to be something we talk about at family reunions. There are a lot of other people around him who need to be kept in the dark. You understand why, don’t you?”
Donna considered Iris and Rachel and Jamie and a slew of other interested parties who could make the adoption going through rather difficult if they decided to stick their noses in, and offered single, firm nod of confirmation.
“Good,” Sarah said. “That leaves just one more thing: You can never let the baby’s dad know that you know who he is, either.”
Donna blanched at that. “But… That’s impossible. In order for the adoption to be legal, both parents need to sign off on the papers. Surely, you remember what happened when Allie had Gregory sign instead of GQ? The results were horrible for everyone concerned. You don’t want a repeat – “
“He won’t challenge the adoption. It would be too embarrassing. Admitting that he ever…. You don’t have to worry about that. Just my signature should be plenty.”
“I’m sorry,” Donna could only be pushed so far. “But, that is not a risk I am willing to take. If I am to adopt your child, I shall have to insist on everything being legal and – “
“What?” Marley materialized behind them, having come in while neither woman was paying attention. She looked from Sarah to Donna. “You are going to do what?”
“Gonna frisk me for listening devices?” Lila asked Chase, standing in the center of his and Doug’s living room, still somewhat stunned that he’d invited her. Especially with all the press still camped out in his front yard. Lila only wondered which shot of her perp walk she should use on this year’s Christmas card.
“Sure,” Chase offered, taking a few steps forward to envelop her in a hug. “How’s that?”
“Warm up to ringing my neck?”
“Warm up to my apology.”
“You,” Lila double-checked. “Are apologizing to me?”
“None of this would have happened if I hadn’t asked you to help me with spying on Carl. I confess I barely gave the short-term consequences any thought, much less the long.”
“I don’t know if there’s a computer simulation in the world that would have taken me digging around in Carl’s financial records and figured it would end with him and the twins dead, and Rachel sending me out to seduce you so that Grant can become the new mayor of Bay City.”
“It does sound a bit convoluted when you put it that way,” Chase agreed, still smiling.
“You in the doghouse with Doug?” Lila wondered.
“That’s good. I figured, after everything else he put up with, this should be no big deal. You and me in a sex scandal. Again.”
“It is getting rather boring, isn’t it?”
“How come you didn’t deny it?” Lila wondered. “You’ve got all those members of the fourth estate squatting out there on your lawn, just salivating for you to make some kind of statement. Why aren’t you telling them the truth? That I threw myself at you over and over again, and you were just too fine a gentleman to pop me on the nose with a newspaper or fire me for inappropriate workplace conduct. So you tried to let me down easy. And look what happened.”
“You are not the villain in this piece,” Chase said. “And I have no intention of making you out to be one.”
“Not even to save your own skin?”
“Not at your expense, no.”
“But, you are going to fight this?”
“In my own way. In my own time.”
“Should I be telling Rachel and Grant to duck and cover?”
“If they don’t already know that, Lila, they simply haven’t been paying attention.”
“You got your car redone,” Zeno noticed as soon as Allie pulled up to the farm.
She nodded. “Yeah. Just some freshening up, you know?”
“New paintjob,” he noted, walking around, admiring the details. “Some bodywork. Why the new windshield?”
“Boy, you really don’t miss a beat, do you?”
“This one doesn’t have a scratch on it. Got to be new.”
“What’s going on, Allie?” He walked up to her, lifting Allie’s chin with his fingers, so she was looking him in the eye. “Come on, you can tell me. You can tell me anything.”
“It got… defaced.”
“Paint,” Allie said.
“You mean like some kid throwing a balloon? Warming up for Halloween?”
“Not exactly. It was spray-paint, I think.”
“Gang signs?” Zeno guessed. “Tagging? Yeah, we get that on the barns, once in a while. Pain in the ass to clean off.”
It would have been so easy to agree with him. Allie suspected, if she agreed with him, the conversation would end then and there. But, she’d done her share of lying lately. And Zeno was the last person she wanted to screw things up with. Especially since he was one of the last people who still had faith in her. (Sarah did, but, if she found out what Allie had said to Donna about Steven…. Even if it was to protect Sarah.)
“No,” Allie said slowly. “Not tagging. I… It’s… It said – It said: Slut.”
Zeno’s head jerked back as if he’d been punched in the jaw. “It said that… about you?”
“Well, unless they meant it about the car,” Allie attempted a joke. Which sounded painfully lame even to her own ears.
“It’s not the first time,” Allie explained. “Summer before last…”
“It happened before. Only that time, the message was: White Whore.”
“What? It makes sense. This was pretty soon after the custody fight over Hudson, and GQ telling the court how I’d lied to him and kept him from raising his son the way he’d have wanted to. They had a point.”
“Which they could have expressed in a Letter to the Editor.”
“Did you write a Letter to the Editor when the City Council tried to take your land by force? Or did you get a shot-gun and – “
“It wasn’t exactly my most shining hour.”
“Well, what happened with Hudson wasn’t mine.”
“But, why bring it all up again now?”
“I don’t know,” Allie admitted.
“What are you going to do?”
“Same thing I did the first time. Nothing.”
“That doesn’t sound like a great idea.”
“It does to me,” Allie said. Making it clear the topic was no longer open for discussion.
The moment Jamie stepped out of the operating room, following Jen’s transplant surgery, he was instantly accosted by a waiting Kevin, Amanda, Steven, and GQ. What was most interesting was that not a single one of them said a word. They all just stared at him expectantly, too scared to make a sound.
“The procedure went very, very well,” Jamie assured all four, looking from one anxious face into another. “Nothing unexpected, no complications.”
“So she’s going to be okay?” Steven was the only one who needed concrete reassurances, not vague banalities.
“I think she will be, yes,” Jamie said.
“Does that mean she’s finally out of isolation?” Kevin wanted to know.
“Soon. We want to make sure her body has accepted the marrow and started making its own antibodies.”
“Can we see her?” Kevin asked.
Jamie hesitated, then conceded, “For a little bit. Come on, I’ll take you in.”
Kevin took a step towards the Recovery Room doors, everyone else understood whom the invitation had been extended towards. He paused, and turned towards GQ. “You go,” Kevin said.
“What?” The younger man shook his head, as if he might have misheard.
“You go,” Kevin repeated. “You made this possible. If you hadn’t talked to the judge – “
“You were about to get it done without me, I just…”
“You stepped up,” Kevin said. “You saved my daughter’s life. You go see her first.”
“Go,” Kevin said. “Before I change my mind.”
GQ grinned. “I – Thanks.”
Kevin nodded, smiling back, as GQ followed Jamie. Just before they disappeared through the doors, Jamie glanced back over his shoulder, catching Steven’s eye and holding the gaze long enough to try and ascertain how his son was feeling, not just about the entire exchange, but about everything that had happened so far.
But, Steven – why should Jamie have ever expected otherwise? – remained infuriatingly, stubbornly blank.
“Thanks, Dad,” he said. And, with a wave to the rest, took off.
“Well?” Lucas did his best not to make it too obvious just how desperate he was to hear Alice’s recap of her conversation with Rachel. He suspected he was not doing a very good job. He’d waited until after she’d gotten off the phone with Kevin, getting the good news about Jen’s successful surgery, before soliciting, “What did Rachel say?”
“That good?” Lucas felt his heart sink. To be honest, he hadn’t been able to decide which he preferred, Rachel being completely innocent and his daughter lying dead at the bottom of the ocean, or Rachel as part of an evil plot, and Lorna being held prisoner by the man she feared above all else.
“I don’t think Rachel plotted with Carl to kidnap Lorna and go into hiding,” Alice finally said, slowly.
“But, something still didn’t strike you as quite right during your talk?” Lucas guessed, judging by her tone.
“I – She… Rachel – She didn’t strike me as quite right. To be fair, who would be? Losing her husband and her youngest children in such a brutal, unexpected manner. Then, on top of it all, having Jamie accuse Carl having taken Lorna, too… It would be too much for practically anyone to deal with in a rational manner.”
“So you don’t think she was in on any of it? If not the plane crash and Lorna’s disappearance, at least Carl taking off with the kids? She didn’t help him with that?”
“That would explain why she feels so guilty now,” Alice speculated. “If she helped Carl spirit Elizabeth and Cory off, she would certainly feel responsible for their deaths. That might explain some of her strange behavior.”
“But you don’t think so?”
“The morning of the 4th,” Alice revealed. “I was at the cemetery. Visiting my parents, Sally, Spencer… Rachel was there, too. At Mac’s grave. She looked ready to break from the stress. But, when we spoke, she talked about how, every decision she’d ever made, she chose a man over her children. And that she thought it was time to stop. That, for the first time, she had to put them first. That certainly didn’t sound to me like she had decided to go with Carl. Or to allow him to leave with Elizabeth and Cory.”
“That was the morning,” Lucas pointed. “In the morning, Lorna was still home with Devon and Mackenzie. A lot could have changed between then and Carl’s plane taking off hours later. Rachel could have changed her mind.”
“But, you doubt it.”
“You’ve changed your mind,” Alice observed. “When you first told me about Felicia’s suspicions, you refused to entertain the possibility. Now….”
“Iris,” Lucas said.
“Iris?” Alice repeated, knowing that as soon as Mac’s daughter’s name was introduced into a conversation, there was no more any telling where it might go.
“She wants me to help prove that Rachel and Carl acted together to fake his death.”
“And you believe her? You didn’t when Felicia said it, but Iris, you believe?”
“It’s not a matter of… I wouldn’t trust Iris as far as I could throw her. Except that Fanny was just grasping at straws. Iris knows things. People. She could get us some real answers.”
“Iris can get answers on her own. Why come to you?”
Now it was Lucas’ turn to sigh. “I was Carl’s last known associate. Spencer and I. We worked with him to bring down the compound. Iris thinks that if Rachel wasn’t involved, they were. She thinks they may have brought the plane down after Rachel helped Carl flee. It did make me wonder….”
“I’m sorry, Alice…”
“What?” she repeated, making it clear he shouldn’t bother sparing her feelings.
“Spencer, Carl, and I were the ones responsible for the compound being raided and dispersed. Spencer, they took care of….
“Yes.” Alice swallowed painfully. “That they did.”
“Which left Carl and I. What if all Rachel did was help her husband and children get out of the country, meaning to meet up with them later, after she’d taken care of some loose ends or whatnot. What if the parties behind the compound found out, and they not only blew it out of the sky, but they were also the ones responsible for taking Lorna and putting her on board? In order to teach me a lesson?”
Alice inhaled sharply.
“Exactly,” Lucas said. “You see? If that’s the case, then Carl isn’t responsible for my daughter’s death. I am.”
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