Dennis was waiting for Donna in front of C-Squared’s building. He’d called and told her there was an emergency. She needed to get down here right away.
And Dennis led her towards Matt’s office. He refused to answer her questions along the way. He figured, in this case, a picture was worth an infinite amount of words. (Just in case they were too late, Dennis had also snapped an actual picture with his phone. One could never be too careful in matters like this.)
Luckily for Dennis – not so much for anyone else – Matt and Olivia had obviously decided to take their time. Because there was no need for external visual aids. As soon as Donna stepped through the door, she understood exactly what was going on.
And so did Olivia and Matt.
For a long, fraught moment, the four of them held in frozen, shocked silence. Donna stared at Matt and Olivia. Matt stared at his wife. And Olivia zeroed in on Dennis, who she knew had to be the cause of all this. She had a pretty good idea of why he’d done it, too.
“You son of a bitch,” Olivia was the first to speak.
“I believe,” Donna managed to pull herself together, refusing to let this little tramp see just how horrified she was by the scene in front of them. “What you meant to say was: It’s not what you think.”
“Oh, it’s exactly what you think.”
“Olivia…” Matt hissed, not nearly as good as his wife at emotional subterfuge.
“You just couldn’t stay out of it, could you?” Olivia raged at Dennis.
Who only smirked in return, “I could say the same thing about Matt.”
“Shut up!” Matt threatened, figuring if he couldn’t defend himself, the least he could do was threaten someone else.
“Put your pants on, Matthew,” Donna advised coolly.
He hurried to do as she commanded, blushing furiously when he realized he hadn’t thought to do so immediately. “Donna…” Matt began.
“Not now,” she clipped. “Not… here.”
“I said not now.”
“I love you,” he swore.
“That’s true,” Olivia chimed in, taking her own sweet time to get dressed. “It’s why we did this, you know. Because Matt loves you so much. He kept telling me that.”
“Damn it, Olivia,” Dennis groaned. “You really don’t know when to quit, do you?”
She indicated her ex. “Obviously.”
Olivia reached for her dress, lying discarded on the floor, but Donna beat her to it. She swept up Olivia’s clothes, grimacing distastefully to so much as be touching such cheap material and, before Olivia could comprehend what she was doing or attempt to stop her, flung them out the window, watching in satisfaction as Olivia’s dress rippled in the wind and onto incoming traffic.
“You seem to be a fan of exhibitionism,” Donna cooed. “Enjoy.”
She turned to walk out the door, Matt running to catch up behind her.
“Got a minute, son?” Jamie asked Kirkland the next morning as the boy was on his way out.
Kirkland shrugged, noncommittal, but did drop his backpack by the door and circled around to plop next to Jamie on the couch. “What’s up?”
Jamie tread carefully. “I got the feeling, the other night, that you weren’t too thrilled to see me with Olivia.”
Another shrug. “Your life. Your business.”
“I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Jamie told his son the truth. “Lorna and I… When she had her accident two years ago, I couldn’t help feeling like she and I, that we were too good to last. No one deserves to be that happy, that lucky. Especially not me. I guess I was right.”
“I thought you said she was coming back.”
“I wanted that to be true. I wanted it to be true so badly that I…. Clinging to false hope isn’t good for anyone. It isn’t good for me, it’s isn’t good for Devon and Zee…. A lot of people have been telling me for a long time that I need to let go.”
“I wasn’t one of them. I was never one of them.”
“I know. And I love you for it, son. You have no idea how much.”
“It hasn’t even been a year since she...”
“It’s been long enough. And that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You stayed home initially, deferring Notre Dame, because you were worried about me. Well, your year is almost up. They’re going to need to know if you plan to attend in the fall.”
“You want me to go?”
“I do. You deserve to have a life of your own. One that doesn’t include taking care of your baby sisters. Or your old man.”
“I don’t mind.”
“I know you don’t. But, I do. And particularly after everything that’s happened with Charlie, don’t you think some space, some new faces, might be good for you?”
“That’s what you did, isn’t it? Ran out and found a new face to help you forget Lorna.”
“Yes,” Jamie swallowed hard and lied through his teeth, hating himself for so much as uttering the words, all the while knowing that he’d hate himself even more if he stood in Kirkland’s way. “And that’s another thing about me and Olivia. I’ve got her to watch over me now. So you can finally take a break. Be a kid again. Go to college. Have fun. Just think about yourself for once, no one else. You’ve earned it.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know how to do this,” Lucas admitted ruefully. “Not that I was ever particularly skilled in the first place.”
Alice cocked her head to one side, studying him as he stood in the doorway to her office. “Would you like to start by coming in?” she suggested.
“That might be good.” He closed the door gratefully behind himself and sat down.
“What’s on your mind?”
“You,” he blurted out.
“Oh.” That seemed to set her back.
“Yes. I – I would like to ask you out. On a date. Only I’m not sure how exactly one does that these days.”
“Well, my understanding is there’s usually a text involved. And, perhaps a virtual farm animal being flung?” Her eyes danced, laughing not at Lucas, but with him.
“I am embarrassed to say I wouldn’t know where to find a virtual farm animal, even if I did wish to fling one.”
“It’s alright,” Alice reassured. “I suspect the act is purely ceremonial.”
Lucas relaxed enough to say, “You’ve been an amazing friend to me. First when Lorna was sick, then after she disappeared, and now with Fanny… You helped keep me sane. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“The same thing you did for all those years before you knew me,” she shrugged off the compliment politely.
“I don’t think I’ve kept it a secret how much you’ve meant to me. Or how much I would like to see if it might develop into something… more.”
“No,” Alice said.
“No?” Lucas all but jumped at the word.
“I meant no, you haven’t kept it a secret.”
“Oh.” Lucas was back to feeling as tense as when he’d first come in. “I realize how inappropriate it might seem. Spencer has been gone for less than two years.”
“Your break up with Felicia is even more recent,” Alice noted.
“That’s different. That was our choice.”
“Your choice,” she corrected. “Not Felicia’s.”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It’s still not the same as you and Spencer.”
“No,” she agreed.
“Anyway, like I said, I’m not particularly good at this, but, Alice, would you – would you like to go out with me?”
“Yes,” she said. “I would.”
“I’ve been thinking.” Unlike Lucas, Amanda didn’t wait to be invited before stepping through the doors of Morgan’s office, catching him about twenty-three hours into a twenty-four shift.
“About me?” He blinked, more tired than confused, though nonetheless already smiling in anticipation. In Morgan’s experience, a woman showing up unsolicited and telling Morgan she’d been thinking about him rarely proved to be a bad thing.
“Yes,” she over-emphasized the word even as she took a step closer, her breasts bouncing ever so imperceptibly against Morgan’s chest. “About you…”
He grinned. “Is that a fact?”
“And about me…”
“Hm…” It was hard to speak now that Amanda’s lips were so close to Morgan’s that if he reached out with his tongue, he could snatch one up like a hungry bullfrog.
“About us…” The syllable sizzled into Morgan’s mouth. He leaned forward eagerly.
Which was precisely when Amanda pulled away, leaving him standing there, looking and feeling ridiculously foolish.
“And about how we are never, ever going to happen?” She crossed her arms and stared at Morgan defiantly from across the room.
“So you came all the way over here…”
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“Took the trouble to park your car, ride up in the elevator, find me….”
“I called ahead.”
“And take the trouble to call ahead,” he added that to his list. “Then you threw yourself at me…”
“You wish! I was making a point.”
“I know you’re not wearing a bra,” Morgan observed. “That qualifies as throwing yourself at me.”
She didn’t have much in the way of a retort for that one.
“And then practically shove your tongue down my throat…”
“Sorry, that was all you, pal.”
“Merely so that you can tell me you have no interest in me whatsoever?”
“That’s right,” Amanda insisted, though with perhaps a touch less bravado than when she’d initially entered.
“Riiight…” Morgan picked up his cocky smile from where it had recently left off. And he promised, “I’ll see you soon, Amanda.”
“Slow down,” Marley urged Dennis every time he began to move briskly inside of her, holding back from responding, making him feel he had to work ever harder to please her, sensing how frustrated it was making him, and taking extreme pleasure in embracing the power that she now wielded over him. “I just want to enjoy every second,” Marley cooed, giving Dennis no option but to do as she asked. “I love being with you so much.”
She’d never known it was possible to make a man feel inadequate while supposedly giving him what he wanted and simultaneously making it impossible for him to complain. She’s stumbled upon the technique quite by accident with Grant. After the truth about Sarah came out, he’d been so desperate to get back into her good graces that he started going to great lengths in bed. Naturally, Marley holding back to punish him aggravated Grant to no end – but what, ultimately, could he do about it? After all, poor Marley had been so hurt, so betrayed. Grant had no choice but to put in more and more yeoman’s effort, even at the expense of his own enjoyment.
And now Marley had Dennis doing the same thing.
Life, she decided, was very pleasant at the moment.
The trick was to let neither man know that. (Though she was aware that Dennis realized he was competing with Grant, which made him try even harder still. And Marley was happy to be the beneficiary of all this testosterone driven competitiveness. It was the least they both owed her. Hell, it was the least the world owed her.)
Marley suspected that Grant was on Dennis’ mind every time they had sex because the pattern never varied – as soon as Marley finally let Dennis finish (or he jumped the gun and went ahead without her permission, feeling dutifully sorry afterwards) and Dennis had caught his breath, the first question out of his mouth was inevitably the same.
“When are you going to leave him, Marley?”
She stretched languidly, enjoying the happy buzz still radiating just beneath her skin like a delicious electrical shock and reminded, “I can’t. Not yet.”
“If it’s because of Daisy,” Dennis gathered up his courage to blurt out. “If it’s because of Daisy, Marley, you know, I’d be willing to help you sue for custody of her. I’m her biological grandfather and – “
“Oh, Dennis, would you?” She sat up, beaming at him like a love-struck schoolgirl.
“Yeah.” Honestly, he was already regretting saying so, but it was too late to back down now. “I mean, for you, I would. I’d do anything for you.”
“That would be so wonderful.” She attempted to draw him a picture. “You, me, and Daisy could finally be a family together. Just the way we should have been all along.”
“I’d like that,” Dennis told her part of the truth. “To be with you. Forever.”
A shadow crossed her features. “I’m afraid Grant would never stand for it, though. He’s the biological father and the court would most likely side with him.”
“Not after everything he’s done. All we’d have to do is get Kirkland to testify – “
“Oh, I could never do that to Kirk. He’s been through enough already.”
“Well, Jamie, then.”
“Jamie is not exactly our biggest fan,” Marley reminded.
“Grant’s crappy parenting is a matter of public record.”
“Olivia could say the same thing about yours.” Marley made a face of regret even as she said it.
“There’s got to be some way…”
“There is.” Marley covered Dennis’ face with kisses as she outlined. “All I need to do is adopt Daisy first, while Grant and I are still married. Then I’ll be her legal mother and we’ll be shoo-ins to get custody over Grant. You and I will be Daisy’s legal parents before she’s even old enough to remember she ever had any others. That’s why I need to stay married to Grant for the time being. I’m doing it for us, Dennis. I’m doing it so we can finally be together for good.”
“We don’t have to do this,” Rachel reminded Felicia as the two of them sat in a Paris bar, ignoring the noise and bustle as the world continued to turn, seemingly indifferent to the fact that both their hopes had just been brutally crushed. “If being around all this alcohol upsets you, we can leave right now.”
“After the kind of week you’ve had, you deserve a drink. More than one,” Felicia advised. “And I’m fine. I’m just sorry things had to end like this.”
“Did you believe him?” Rachel asked, sipping her vodka tonic. “Accord? Do you really think he doesn’t know where Carl is?”
“I don’t know whom to believe about any of this,” Felicia confided. “But, he did make a good case. He didn’t know we were coming, he didn’t know who we were. If he were planning to ship the wine to Carl, it would have had a label on it. Not to mention, didn’t Peter swear the order had gone out months ago? Obviously, that was the decoy.”
“I was so sure…”
“I know.” Felicia squeezed her friend’s hand. “I wanted it to be true, too.”
“This was never just about Carl and the children,” Rachel swore. “I was so hoping we’d be able to bring Lorna home, too. To Jamie, to her daughters, to you….”
“Maybe Lucas was right,” Felicia forced herself to consider something she’d been denying for close to a year now. “Maybe the best thing to do is accept that they’re gone. Because the alternative…”
“It’s still possible they’re being held somewhere,” Rachel realized just how low they’d sunk when a hostage situation was considered the bright side. “All four of them. Carl had a lot of enemies. A lot of people who held grudges. A lot of people who refused to believe that he had changed – look at our distinguished mayor, for example. They could have all been grabbed, their deaths faked.”
“Lucas believes that would be a fate worse than death. And he should know….”
Rachel looked at Felicia sympathetically. “You and Lucas, you never did recover from losing all those years, did you?”
She shrugged. “We had other problems. But, no, that didn’t help.”
“You know what would help?” Rachel struggled to cheer up her friend, even in the face of her own gloom. “You, right now, that is?”
Felicia’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
Rachel smiled. “Some attention from a very attractive gentleman who hasn’t been able to take his eyes off of you since we first came in.”
She indicated towards the bar where, as advertised, stood a dark haired, bearded, dapper man of a certain age, nursing a drink and, darn if he wasn’t looking over in their direction, at that.
Felicia studied him for a moment, then observed, “There’s only one problem.”
“Oh, come on. You’re allowed to have a little fun. We’re in France.”
“No, that’s not it. The problem is that the gentleman you’re referring to isn’t checking me out. No question about it. He’s looking at you.”
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