“Hello, Kirkland.” Grant stood on the Frame doorstep looking both ill-at-ease and bursting with pride. He indicated the baby he was holding and said, “I wanted to stop by, introduce you to your new sister.”
Kirkland studied the infant, then shrugged. “Another one, huh?”
“May I come in?” Grant asked.
“Sure. Dad’s out with Devon and Zee. Otherwise, we could start a day-care center.”
“So?” Grant rotated Daisy to face her big brother. “What do you think?”
“She’s… cool.” Kirkland wasn’t sure of the proper adjective for a baby who didn’t seem to do much of anything beyond stare straight ahead and chew on her fist. “I guess.”
“Her name is Daisy.”
“Sarah and I… we’re going to share custody. Daisy is going to spend half of her time over at Marley’s and my house.”
Kirkland scrunched up his face. “Aunt Marley agreed to that?”
“It was her idea, actually.”
Grant explained, “Marley is a remarkable woman. She understands better than anyone just how much I miss you, and how sorry I am not to have been a part of your life while you were growing up. She didn’t want me to feel that way about Daisy. So she insisted I step up and acknowledge my daughter.”
“But… that… Isn’t that kind of… rubbing her face in it? I mean, especially considering how Aunt Marley feels about not having a kid of her own and… stuff?”
“I thought so, too. That’s precisely why I told her I’d stay away from Daisy and Sarah. I didn’t want to do anything to upset Marley. I want to make her happy.”
“Yeah…” A quick peek at Daisy broadcast Kirkland’s opinion about the quality of the job his father was doing on that score.
“Marley told me that me being a real father to Daisy is what would make her happy. She didn’t want to be responsible for me losing another child.”
“You mean, walking away from another one?”
Grant pleaded, “I know I can’t make up our lost years, Kirkland. But, I am going to try to be the best father I possible can to Daisy. Not just for her sake, but in honor of you. You’ve taught me so much about what it means to be a good parent.”
Kirkland cocked his head, meeting his little sister’s sleepy eyes and tentatively reaching out to let Daisy grab his finger, which she did with great enthusiasm. Without looking at Grant, all Kirkland had to say was, “Don’t screw this up.”
“Welcome Home!” Cass was there to greet Charlie when she and Frankie pulled up to the house. Lori Ann was there, too, jumping up and down with excitement and throwing herself into her big sister’s arms.
But, it wasn’t until Charlie was in her room, which felt so unfamiliar now, almost as if she’d been gone for years instead of weeks, and Frankie was there, too, helping her to settle in, that Charlie asked her mother, “So how are we going to do this?”
Frankie said, “Don’t worry. I’m in the middle of some research now about the best holistic therapies. We’ll start as soon as I’ve worked out the exact dosages.”
“What about the pills I’m supposed to take?”
“Just hold off for now.”
“I’ve got a check up in a couple of days. They’re going to take blood. They’ll see.”
“Not if I substitute correctly. I’m not advocating ignoring your illness, Charlie. I just want to achieve the exact same results through non-chemical means. And as long as you’re on the road to recovery, how it happened shouldn’t matter.”
“Does Dad know?”
Frankie pursed her lips and shook her head.
“You didn’t tell him.”
“He wouldn’t understand. Lithium did wonders for Cass. He can’t even entertain the possibility that there might be alternative ways to solve the same problems.”
“So we’re lying to him again. You and me, just like the old days.”
“Only for a little while. Only until we can show him the progress you’re making without Western medicine.”
“I’m sorry,” Charlie said. “I’m sorry about all the trouble I’ve caused for you guys. You certainly have enough going on without me.”
“Nothing is more important to Cass and I than you, Charlie.” Frankie sat down on the bed next to her. “I swear. We both love you so, so much. We both want what’s best for you. We just have different opinions on what that is… for the moment.” Needing to change the subject, Frankie stroked her daughter’s hair and asked, as if the notion just came to her, rather than admitting she’d been ruminating over it for a while. “How was your visit with Kirkland?”
Charlie shrugged, fingers plucking aimlessly at the bedspread.
“Did you two talk?”
“Oh, you know, the usual. He told me he loved me….”
Frankie let out a sigh of relief. “I’m happy to hear that. I have to admit, I was worried. A lot of boys Kirkland’s age wouldn’t have been able to handle something as complex as – “
“I told him to get lost.”
“What? Charlie! Why?”
“Because I don’t need another person breathing down my neck, feeling sorry for me.”
“We’re not – “
“Yes, you are. And so is he. You know he only came because he thought he had to. Because he’s all about being the good guy.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” Frankie asked, perplexed.
“It is when he’s always shoving it in your face. He’s just do damn nice and understanding, you know? I’m sick of it. It’s like having a puppy, not a boyfriend. He’s so perfect, it makes me feel like crap. Makes me wonder if he thinks hanging around me is some favor he’s doing. His Good Deed Merit Badge, or whatever.”
“I really think you’re being too hard on Kirkland. Maybe if you call him and – “
“I don’t want to,” Charlie snapped. “I don’t want…” She took a deep breath, forcing herself to admit it out loud for the first time. “I don’t want… Kirkland.”
“You mean, because you think he’s just with you in order to be nice?”
“No.” She answered in a small voice. “I don’t want Kirkland because… because… I don’t love him, Mom, okay? I thought I did, but I was wrong. I was just… I wanted to, you know, get my life started and get everything over with. I wanted a boyfriend, and Kirk was there. And he was nice and he liked me and he did what I said. But, that’s not… I know better now. I know what I want. I know who I want. I want Zeno.”
“You have to believe me.” Pleading wasn’t usually Iris’ favorite mode of communication, but when it came to Sarah, she was willing to debase herself, as long as it made the girl listen to what her grandmother was saying. “Marley is out to steal our Daisy. She as much as admitted it to me, earlier.”
“She said she wanted to take Daisy away from me?”
“Well, no, of course not. Not in so many words. She isn’t a fool. But, one can’t always take people at face value, my darling. You need to learn to read between the lines.”
“Marley doesn’t want Daisy. She’s just being nice. Because she loves Grant.”
“That’s how they do it. These good girls. Oh, believe me, Sarah, I’ve tangled with my share of them. It’s all an act. They use their goodness to bludgeon others over the head with, then waltz in and get whatever they want, all the while pleading innocence.”
“Why would Marley want Daisy?”
“Because she’s insane, darling, and she has been for years. When she and Jamie were engaged she stole his prescription pad in order to secure illegal fertility drugs for herself. Then, when that fell through – even Jamie is capable of buying a clue, once in a while – she turned her attention to all but ripping you out of your mother’s womb.”
“Way I hear it, that was my mother’s idea. Once Sam turned her down, I wasn’t worth keeping.”
“Marley kept the secret of your paternity from your father. She was relentless.”
“Dad wasn’t exactly ready to hand out cigars, back then.”
“She didn’t give him a choice in the matter. Just like she didn’t give her own sister a choice when she had Victoria kidnapped away from her husband and children so that Marley might move in and take her spot. I swear, I’m still not certain she didn’t have something to do with both Vicky and Jake’s deaths. How else was she going to get her hands on Bridget and Michele?”
“Damn it, Iris, that’s sick!”
“No. Marley is sick. I’m simply warning that you and Daisy are her next targets.”
Sarah said, “When I first came to Bay City, Rachel and Amanda treated me like a pariah.”
“To be expected. Neither has ever exhibited an ounce of grace, class, or manners.”
“Being Iris Cory’s granddaughter didn’t exactly open up a lot of doors for me.”
“Jealousy,” Iris sniffed. “What do you expect? Our position in this town – “
“I didn’t have any position. And neither did you. All I had was a legacy. You, Mom… Marley was the only one who treated me decently.”
“Of course, she did. The better to lull you into a false sense of security.”
“For what?” Sarah demanded. “It’s not like she knew that Grant and I would… I mean…”
“Marley needed to prove that you should have been her child all along. What better way to demonstrate how right she’d been than to stress how wrong Olivia and Dennis went?”
“She had a point.”
“She had an agenda!”
“Marley is letting Daisy get to know her father. I should be thanking her.”
“You should be serving her with a court order. Can’t you see how she is constantly undermining you? Why else would she feed your child formula when you had specifically said – “
“Was Marley supposed to let her starve?”
“Look at yourself, Sarah. Look at yourself. You are constantly near tears. You are questioning your fitness as a parent.”
“That’s not Marley’s fault. That’s mine. I screwed up. Marley just fixed the mess. She knows what she’s doing a lot better than I do.”
“Marley knows exactly what she’s doing,” Iris agreed.
“Steven’s not here,” GQ told Jen when she walked into the BCU computer lab. “But he should be back soon.”
“Thanks.” She seemed to be considering whether or not to take a seat and wait.
“How you guys doing?” GQ wondered.
“Great.” No matter how much she wanted to, Jen couldn’t seem to hide her happiness these days. It just radiated out. Especially when Steven’s name was mentioned.
“I’m glad,” GQ told her sincerely. “It’s nice to see you happy.”
“I’m sorry,” Jen said.
“About being happy?”
“About the way I treated you.”
“Hey, I’m the one who broke things off due to being in love with someone else, remember?”
“Yeah. But, the whole time we were together, I was never honest with you. At least you’d suppressed your feelings for Allie. I knew how I felt about Steven. And I still stayed with you.”
“Why?” GQ seemed to honestly wonder.
“Because you were they guy I should have been in love with. You were perfect for me.”
“And you for me.”
“I knew my feelings for Steven were completely inappropriate. He was completely inappropriate. But, I couldn’t help myself.”
“The first time Allie and I broke up,” GQ said. “I explained to her in precise detail exactly why a relationship between us was wrong. She wasn’t at all the kind of woman that I owed it to myself and my parents and my community to be with. I had damn good reasons for walking away.”
“So did I, with Steven.”
“I went to see her after she got hurt. Told her how I felt.”
“She told me to go to Hell.”
“Well… she has some damn, good reasons for walking away, too.”
“I’m not going to give up,” GQ said.
“You shouldn’t. Steven never did.” And there went Jen’s uncontrollable smile again.
Matt wasn’t sure how it happened, exactly. One minute, Olivia was in his C-Squared office, leaning over Matt’s desk, handing him some cover art he’d asked for, and the next, she was straddled across his lap, kissing Matt fervently. And Matt was kissing her back.
He wasn’t sure how that part happened exactly, either.
All Matt knew was that he was definitely kissing her. That is, until Olivia’s mouth broke away from his to suck the tender flesh below Matt’s chin, just enough to tantalize without hurting, before moving even further down Matt’s throat. Her hands were on his shoulders, fingers digging in to steady herself as she gyrated and ground against him, prompting Matt to first whimper, then moan, then grunt, responding to her whether he wanted to or not.
He wanted to.
That was the worst of it. He definitely wanted to. It had been way, way too long. And Olivia was being way, way too persistent.
He knew he should push her away. He knew that would be the right thing to do. He also knew that, at the moment, he didn’t have the fortitude.
Her hair was in his face and her tongue was on his skin and her hands were on his back and her knees were pressed against his hips as her thighs relentlessly caressed him up and down and tighter and closer.
All that was a pretty tough combination to push away.
And so he didn’t.
Only afterwards did Matt think to ask…. He knew he should be asking something. Except it seemed he didn’t quite have the fortitude for that, either.
It was Olivia who spoke first. She looked up at Math and she smiled and she said, “Don’t worry. You don’t have to do a thing. I’ll take care of everything.”
“So,” Rachel asked Donna, having deliberately cornered her over-aged daughter-in-law in the solarium. “Have you enjoyed this past year, living off my generosity?”
Ever the belle of the ball, Donna politely replied, “Matthew and I are both very grateful for the hospitality you’ve shown us.”
“It’s time to pay the rent,” Rachel said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You know, none of this would have ever even started if it hadn’t been for you.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t follow. What wouldn’t have started?”
“If you hadn’t pulled that stunt, kidnapping Jenna, Dean and Felicia to cover up your sordid secrets, the compound would have never been exposed, Carl wouldn’t have been forced to take desperate measures in order to protect his family, and my husband and children would still be alive today.”
“Cory, Elizabeth and Carl are dead because your husband fled the country in order to avoid prosecution. I had nothing to do with that. Carl’s crimes most certainly predate any relationship we might have had.”
“You opened the floodgates. You brought the compound to Bay City when you had them imprison Lucas. If anyone knows what’s happened to Carl, it’s you.”
“Carl is dead, Rachel, you just said so yourself.”
“What if he isn’t?”
“Well, yes, I agree, the man has been known to play fast and loose with mortality. I absolutely wouldn’t put it past him to have faked this entire tragedy. I feel for you, Rachel, I do. The idea that the man you loved could deliberately put you through this sort of Hell…”
“What if Carl wasn’t responsible?” Rachel barked. “What if, just like Lucas, and Jenna and Dean and Felicia, what if Carl was snatched? Along with Cory and Elizabeth? And… Lorna?”
“Lorna? Why would anyone after Carl possibly involve Lorna?”
“Two birds with one stone,” Rachel said. “Spencer, Carl and Lucas all tried to bring down the compound two years ago. Spencer was killed, Carl has been kidnapped, and Lucas… well, what could possibly hurt Lucas more than the knowledge that his daughter was now suffering exactly the way he’d suffered? Because of him.”
“The compound has been disbanded. Their Canada site was compromised.”
“You expect me to believe there was only one site?”
“This isn’t Club Med. They weren’t a franchise.”
“And here I thought you didn’t know anything about it,” Rachel smirked.
“You think I know what’s happened to Carl?”
“No,” Rachel admitted.
“Well, thank goodness for that.”
“But, I think you can find out.”
Donna blanched. “You want me to…”
“Help me find my husband and children. Or, I swear, you will never experience another moment of peace in my house. Or with my son.”
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