“You wanted to see me?” Dennis caught up with Marley at the gallery, this time on her request.
“I wanted to thank you,” she said.
His brow furrowed. “For what?”
“For standing up for me with your mother.”
“Oh,” he cringed. “I was kind of hoping I’d convinced her to leave you alone.”
“Has anyone ever convinced Iris of anything when she’s on a rampage?”
“You mean, every day of every week of every year? No,” he admitted.
“Thanks for trying, anyway.” Marley hesitated. “You don’t think I’m out to steal Daisy from Sarah, do you?”
“No, of course not. I know you’d never do something like that. Iris and the rest of us should be thanking you for being so understanding, not accusing you of plotting something nefarious.”
“Good. I was afraid I’d done something – “
“It’s what you haven’t done that’s confusing Iris. My mother has never been particularly adept at viewing the world from someone else’s point of view. She’s like a little kid, you know? She expects everyone to react the same way she would to a given situation. Iris would never stand for her husband having an affair and producing an illegitimate child, so she just can’t wrap her brain around how you might. And Iris certainly would have never allowed her husband to have a relationship with that child. One of her husbands, Robert Delaney actually… long story, anyway… it simply never crossed my mother’s mind that you might not have malicious intentions towards Daisy. And if you aren’t scheming to get rid of her, then you must be scheming to steal her. I’m afraid Iris can’t imagine any other possibility.”
“But, you can,” Marley prompted.
“I can,” he reassured. “I see what you’re doing. You are trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Just like you always do. It’s who you are.”
“Thank you, Dennis,” Marley exhaled. “Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without you.” She couldn’t help blushing as she told him, “The other day, I – I’m so sorry about how I acted.”
“I’ve got to admit, tears… that’s a new one for me.” Dennis smiled to make it clear he was kidding and held no grudges. “I’m the one who’s sorry, Marley. I never meant to upset you. You’re just so beautiful, and I wanted you so much…”
“I wanted you, too,” she made it sound as if every word were being wrenched from Marley’s throat. “That’s why I was crying. I was scared to admit it, just how much I wanted you. You – Dennis, no one has ever been able to make me feel the way you have. No man has ever… not like you.” She looked like she might burst into tears again.
“I love you,” Dennis swept Marley into his arms. “I’ve tried to ignore it for over twenty years. I thought that if I stayed away, if I never saw you, I thought I could forget….”
“Me, too,” she buried her face in his chest. “You don’t know how many times I’ve thought about reaching out to you, but I didn’t want to ruin… You had Olivia and Sarah.”
“I was miserable without you.”
Marley craned her neck to look into Dennis’ eyes. “Grant and I… ever since you came back, I haven’t been able to be with Grant. I’m always thinking about you…”
“Then why are you still with him?” Dennis all but whined.
“I want you,” Marley reiterated. “Please promise you won’t give up on me, please promise you’ll understand, please, Dennis, please.”
“I promise,” he swore, although, to tell the truth, Dennis didn’t understand at all. But, Marley was here, she was letting him hold her, she needed him and she wanted him, and she was asking him to stick by her. He’d messed that up once before. He wasn’t about to do it again. Never again. “Anything you want, Marley, anything you need, I’m here, I promise. You’ve got me now, Marley.”
She smiled and pulled him closer. “I’ve got you now….”
“You don’t have anything to worry about,” Olivia reassured Matt.
“Huh? What?” He snapped out of the reverie he’d been stuck in for a good half hour to ask, “What makes you think I’m worried about anything?”
Olivia observed, “A man standing at his office window, staring out blankly into a not particularly fascinating view usually suggests worry.”
He dropped the pretense of nonchalance. “Can you blame me?”
“Yes,” Olivia said calmly, shutting the door so they wouldn’t be overheard and crossing to take a seat on the other side of his desk, all perfectly professional. “I told you, I’ll take care of everything. And I’ve already started, too.”
“What have you done?” Matt asked, suddenly terrified.
“It’s better if you don’t know,” she reassured him. “That way you can react organically, and no one will ever be the wiser.”
“If Donna finds out about us….”
“She won’t, I promise.”
“I love my wife,” Matt insisted, realizing how foolish it sounded under the circumstances, but nevertheless needing to stress it. Because it was absolutely true.
“I know. It’s one of your sexiest qualities. Your loyalty and devotion.”
“Why are you doing this, Olivia? I mean, what’s in it for you? I keep telling you over and over, I love Donna, I want to stay with her, I have no intention of leaving or hurting her or… anything. You and I – there’s no future here.”
“The future is highly overrated,” Olivia said. “I’m more of a live in the present kind of girl.”
“Presently, you can do better than me.”
“Maybe,” she shrugged, leaving Matt feeling a little insulted that she’d agree so easily. “But, this isn’t about me. It’s about you. About you and Donna, believe it or not.”
“You’ve lost me,” Matt’s eyebrows wrinkled.
“You say you love Donna. You say you want to stay married to her. But, tell the truth, Matt, it can’t be easy. Not if she keeps holding out on you the way she’s been doing.”
“Well, she has her reasons. She’s worried about me, my health.”
“Yeah, whatever.” Olivia had heard it all before. “The point is, though, Donna keeping her legs closed is making you miserable. And you feeling miserable is bound to cause tension in your marriage. Am I right?”
“Sort of… But, there’s that whole for better or for worse deal….”
“The way I see it, you blowing off some… tension here with me is good for you. Which makes it good for your marriage. Which makes it good for Donna. Everybody wins!”
Matt shook his head. “That is an interesting way to look at it.”
“You want to make Donna happy? You give her a happy husband. That’s all she wants, right? And if you’re happy, that means your blood pressure is down. And if your blood pressure is down, maybe Donna will stop worrying and get back to raising it again – the fun way. Repeat after me: Everybody wins.”
“What about you?” he asked abruptly. “I’m happy, Donna is happy, our marriage is happy. What about you? What do you win?”
“I’ve got some stress I need to work off, too, pal. Are you aware of what’s going on these days with my daughter? And my son-of-a-bitch ex? Are you aware that I am now,” again with the gagging. “A grandmother?”
“Okay, that makes sense,” Matt said. “Except that, so far, you and I, we haven’t exactly been… reciprocal.”
“My pleasure,” she assured him.
“No,” Matt corrected. “Mine. All mine. I haven’t been… holding up my end of the bargain.”
“Is that what the kids are calling it these days? Granny wouldn’t know.”
“Stop it, Olivia. You know you are still a gorgeous, desirable, smoking-hot woman. So drop the Grandma bit, okay?”
Olivia sighed. “And that, Matt, is exactly what’s in this for me.”
Russ had been intending to tell Rachel about his conversation with Iris. Well, all except the part where she burst out laughing at the notion of his being interested in Rachel. But, his ex-wife beat Russ to the punch, telling him, “I’m going to France.”
“Oh?” Russ kept his face neutral.
“The vintner, the one who Cass and Frankie said shipped Carl’s regular wine delivery, he might know something.”
“Couldn’t that just have been a standing order on his part?” Russ proposed gently.
“It’s a very expensive shipment. It’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He had to have been paid in advance. Besides, in the past, it’s always come here. And this year… it didn’t.”
Russ nodded thoughtfully. “You think that means Carl is still alive.”
“I don’t know what it means,” Rachel confessed. “But, yes, maybe. Maybe, he is.”
“Then where is he? Why hasn’t he sent for you? Why hasn’t he at least told you that your children are alive?”
“Maybe he hasn’t been able to. Maybe he’s being held somewhere against his will. The children, too.”
“They’re being held prisoner… while drinking hundred thousand dollar wine?”
“I don’t know,” she shook her head desperately. “I don’t know anything anymore, Russ. I realize how ridiculous this sounds, how insane I sound. But, can’t you see? I need to find out the truth, no matter what it is. Or else I really might go insane.”
“And if you find him,” Russ wondered. “What then?”
“Well, it depends, doesn’t it? It depends on what the real story is. How it happened, why it happened. I have to give him a chance to explain. He’s my husband. I love him.”
“Yes,” Russ stroked Rachel’s face gently. “I do know how loyal you are to the people you love.”
“And it’s not just for me,” Rachel defended, despite Russ having made it perfectly clear there was nothing for her to defend – not to him, anyway. “It’s for Jamie, too. He and Felicia are convinced that Carl had something to do with Lorna’s disappearance. If I find him, there’s a chance of me finding her, too. I might be able to reunite Jamie and Lorna.”
“Keep in touch,” Russ urged. “Tell me what you find out.”
Rachel hesitated, and then she said, “Iris….”
He nodded understandingly, “You have my word, Iris won’t hear a peep about this from me.”
“Thank you, Russ.”
“You’re welcome,” he told her, then added sincerely. “I hope you find exactly what you’re looking for, Rachel.”
“Well,” Lila wondered, having finally managed to catch up with Chase following his having visited Kevin in prison. “Anything?”
“He did it for his daughter,” Chase reported.
“Yes, obviously, that’s what he said in court. Still, you don’t think there’s more to it than that?”
“Does there have to be? Her life was on the line. Isn’t that enough? Wouldn’t you have done the same for Jasmine? Look how far you went when I convinced you she might be in danger from Carl?”
“I know, but…”
“When you’re an adoptive parent, it’s a little too easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not doing enough, of feeling like you’ve got something to prove. He… I got where he was coming from, okay?”
“You?” Lila raised an eyebrow.
“Must you look so shocked? You know, in spite of my being the man everyone in Bay City loves to hate, I am capable of comprehending simple, human emotion. As long as you explain it to me slowly. And maybe draw a graph.”
She couldn’t help smiling at his self-awareness. “That’s not what I meant. All I meant was that I have a hard time imagining you suffering from even a second of insecurity.”
“Just because I realize everybody hates me doesn’t mean I’m insecure.”
Lila ignored the second half of his sentence to focus on the first. “Not everybody hates you.”
“That’s true,” he conceded. “There’s you and…. Well, there’s you.”
“It’s not like you give a damn, anyway.” She meant it as a compliment. “I wish I knew how you managed that.”
“I spent twenty years in the District Attorney’s office. My job was to bring bad guys to justice. You kind of expect to make enemies. What happened in the courtroom never really mattered to me, though. Not as long as I had Doug to come home to. And now there’s Milagros, Ike. That’s real. Rachel Hutchins baring her fangs and stomping her foot at me? Grant Harrison playing stupid, doctored tapes to make me look bad? The results of an election? That’s just… noise.”
“You’re a lucky man.”
“Ridiculously lucky,” he confirmed. “And I didn’t do a thing to make it happen, either. Meeting Doug was pure serendipity. Before him, I honestly wasn’t aware that good, kind people existed. I figured it was an urban legend. Doug, and eventually his parents – after they got over the shock of what kind of trash he’d dragged home – taught me what it was like to be part of a family where the love wasn’t just unconditional, but permanent. It’s what I’m doing my best to pass on to my kids.”
“That’s what Rachel did for me,” Lila said quietly. “I didn’t get it either, before I met her. It’s funny, when I went after Matt, it was because he was rich and not too hard on the eyes, and he could take care of Jazz and I in the style I was desperately hoping to become accustomed to. But, the real prize turned out to be Rachel.”
“Until I came along.”
“What? You want me to start hating you, too?”
“Heaven forefend!” Chase echoed Lila’s Southern accent – badly – and raised both hands in surrender. He lowered them to slide a manila envelope across his desk towards her. “And in the interest of keeping that from happening, here is Kevin’s complete case file, original police report, and all. You know him better than I do. See if anything out of the ordinary jumps out.”
“Is it ever alright to do the wrong thing for the right reason?” Donna asked Matt as soon as he stepped through the door, freezing her guilt-ridden husband in his tracks.
“W-what?” He stalled for time by slowly removing his sports-jacket and turning his back on Donna to hang it up in the closet.
“I’m afraid I’ve done something horrible.”
“You have?” Matt double-checked to make sure he wasn’t wishfully mishearing pronouns.
“Yes. But, I did it for you, Matthew. I did it for us.”
“What have you done, Donna?” Matt asked, thinking of what he’d just been cajoled into doing… for the benefit of his marriage, of course.
“Your mother,” she began.
“Rachel is convinced that Carl is still alive, kidnapped by the compound.”
Carl… compound… Neither was what Matt had expected to hear, and so he could only sputter, “What does that have to do with….”
“She ordered me to help her find him. Or else she threatened to ruin our marriage.”
“That’s the only reason I went along with it, you have to believe me. I didn’t want to get back involved with that world. I did it to appease Rachel and to protect us.”
“What did you do?”
“I went to Lucas. Between the two of us, we put our heads together, there are a few people… Please don’t think I’m indifferent to the danger. I would never do anything deliberately to put our families in danger… Jasmine…. You know how I love that child.”
“You put Jasmine in danger?” Matt yelped.
“No! At least, I hope not! That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Matthew, I don’t know. But, I didn’t have any choice. It was Rachel. She threatened me. I had to do it. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway. For us. Do you understand? Please, darling, tell me you understand.”
She was looking at him so pleadingly, there was nothing for Matt to do but agree. Especially under the circumstances.
“I thought it was about time I finally met my granddaughter,” Dennis offered to Sarah, even as he shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, hovering above the sleeping baby, clearly unsure as to what should happen next.
“I figured you were still taking your time, getting used to the idea,” she had to laugh.
“Well, it’s been long enough. Though I did come by and see her, at the hospital, right after she was first born. Marley called to tell me she’d been born.”
“Marley,” Sarah repeated, her good mood of only a moment earlier promptly dissipating.
Dennis sensed it, too. “I thought things were cool between the two of you. I mean, my understanding was you’d agreed to share custody with Grant.”
Sarah nodded haltingly. “I wanted my daughter to have a father. It’s important.”
“I guess we both know something about that, don’t we?”
Sarah shrugged, but didn’t contradict him. Instead, she asked, “Dad?”
“You know Marley pretty well, don’t you?”
“I like to think so. I mean, our relationship was a long time ago but, yes… I like to think so.”
“Do you think it’s okay, letting her help raise Daisy?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I know she raised her sister’s kids. And the girls, their dad is Marley’s ex-husband, and she’s great with them. I’ve seen her. But, she – Daisy, it’s not exactly the same thing.”
“Has Marley given you any reason to doubt her?”
“Well, no. Not exactly.”
Dennis sighed. “You want to know what I think, Sarah? I think that you may have made a lousy choice when it came to picking Daisy’s father. But, you couldn’t have done any better with her stepmother. Marley is simply the best that they come. She is a loving, kind, forgiving person. Other women may have held who her parents are against Daisy. But, not Marley. She will treat your daughter like she’s her own. The same way she did with Steven and Kirkland, and Michele and Bridget.”
“Yeah….” Sarah said. “I thought so.”
“You would have loved having her for a mother, too,” Dennis said. “I don’t want to speak ill of Olivia – “
He smiled ruefully, realizing it was probably a bit late to try and pull that one off. “Your mother, perhaps, wasn’t born to nurture. She tried her best, but she wasn’t….”
“No. She wasn’t Marley. Listen, Sarah, your grandmother – Iris accused me of feeling guilty before Marley. Because I kept her from adopting you. And she’s right, I do feel guilty about it. But, that’s not why I’m telling you how lucky you and Daisy are to have Marley in your life. Marley wants to help you be the best mother you can possibly be. She has a lot of experience raising kids. You should listen to her, take her advice. She wants what’s best for Daisy. She wants your little girl to have a happy childhood and a good life. Everything that you want for her? Marley wants it too. This is going to work. Trust me. Keeping Marley in Daisy’s life, no matter what might happen down the line with Grant or… whatever, it’s the right thing to do. I’m sure of it.”
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