“Call him off,” Lorna ordered Carl upon finally catching him alone for the first time in days. Always before, Rachel or one of the kids had been hovering on the periphery, making Lorna feel like the ultimate outsider within their reunited family unit. So what else was new?
“You know there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, my dear,” Carl reassured smoothly. “But, I’m afraid I require just a touch more information. Whom, precisely, do you wish me to call off?”
“Jamie Frame,” Lorna spat the name with a great deal more anger than she’d even realized she felt. Certainly more than he was worth.
Carl clucked sympathetically. “Has he been harassing you again? How gauche.”
“He’s practically stalking me. Don’t they have laws against that now?”
“I’m afraid he feels within his rights. He is your lawfully wedded husband, after all.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Lorna tried not to sound as angry with Carl as she had earlier about Jamie. No matter how closely they may have worked together over the past several years, Carl always made it clear that no one was indispensable. Lorna didn’t dare make him truly livid. She’d seen the results of that, and it was never pretty.
“You were much too ill. Being forcibly confronted with the existence of a husband and children you couldn’t recall would have only impeded your recovery.”
“Is he telling the truth? Were he and I… in love?”
Carl shrugged, indifferent. “Rachel’s offspring hardly confided their romantic sentiments to me. They were hard pressed to offer a perfunctory God Bless You when I sneezed.”
“But you must have seen… us. Together.”
“My dear,” Carl reminded. “You were hardly one to confide in me, either. I have never been privy to the inner workings of your mind, and the years you were with Jamie were no exception. I have no earthly inkling what you may truly have been thinking or feeling, or what your motives were for pursuing Rachel’s son.”
“You mean, I didn’t do it for you?”
“Goodness, no! Not at all. What could possibly have been my reasons?”
“I don’t know,” Lorna offered the sole theory she’d been able to come up with. “Maybe you thought, if I was with Jamie, he’d cut Rachel some slack for marrying you.”
Carl smiled wryly. “There does not exist enough slack in the world, to accomplish such a task. Even your abundant charms are no match for that dullard’s hatred of me.”
“So was I after his money?”
“That is what I always presumed.”
“What about Morgan? He’s got money, doesn’t he?”
“Not Cory money,” Carl corrected. “Dr. Winthrop may be comfortable. But the late Mackenzie Cory left his children a tad more than that.”
“Mackenzie,” Lorna remembered – despite having tried to forget. “Jamie said one of his – our, I guess – kids is named Mackenzie?”
“Yes,” Carl confirmed darkly. “Rachel was most moved by the tribute. Most, most moved.”
“Mackenzie Helen. After my grandmother.”
“How does Jamie know about my grandmother?”
“You must have told him.”
“I’ve never told anyone about her. Well, I mean, not the things he claimed I did.”
Carl shrugged. “I am afraid I cannot help you in that respect.”
“I must have trusted him,” Lorna pressed, hoping for Carl to come up with an alternative theory where she could not. “I must have believed he wouldn’t end up using it against me. Why would I do that, Carl? How the hell could I have done something so stupid?”
“You son of a bitch,” Donna threw herself bodily at Lucas as soon as he opened the door to his apartment. “I know what you did. I know what you did to her!”
He took a wild guess. “Marley?”
“You tried to kill her! You would have killed her, if I hadn’t come along and pulled her out of that poison-filled garage.”
“Do you think it was a coincidence, “Lucas asked tiredly. “That you got home while Marley was still savable?”
“And what if I hadn’t?”
“I’d been tracking your car since you let KBAY that day. I knew every red light you hit. If there’s been any sort of delay, I’d have… adjusted the circumstances accordingly.”
“A likely story.”
“I was standing a few feet away the entire time, Donna. Would you like me to describe every step you took? Every item of clothing you wore? The situation was always under control. You just didn’t know it.”
“And that makes it alright?” She refused to be placated. “That’s supposed to ease my mind about what you did to my daughter?”
“I don’t give a damn about easing your mind,” Lucas spat. “You certainly gave Felicia no such consideration. She actually did watch her daughter die. And not over the space of a few minutes, complete with an ultimately happy ending; but days, weeks – and no last minute reprieve, either. Marley always had an escape valve with me. Jenna with you? Never.”
“So it was merely revenge against me personally that you were after. The compound was just a smoke-screen.”
“Two birds, one stone. And rest assured, Donna, not a moment has gone by since then that I haven’t regretted letting Carl drag me back into his filthy dealings.”
“Obviously not enough to refrain from teaming up with him again in order to save your children’s lives,” Donna pointed out.
“I did no such thing!” Lucas thundered. “I washed my hands of Carl after Kirkland’s kidnapping. The son of a bitch wouldn’t lift a finger to save his own wife’s grandson, because it didn’t fit into his plans. You think he’d amend his plans for my Lorna, of all people?”
“Prove it,” Donna challenged. “Prove that Carl is lying. Now, and for the past twenty years.”
“What’s your interest in all this?” Lucas asked suspiciously. “Carl hasn’t implicated you in his latest deception. Has he?”
“No. But, if you can prove, once and for all, the kind of man he really is, the kind of man he’s always been, that his much-touted redemption is a blatant fraud, maybe then all of Bay City – you included – will understand the desperate measures I was forced to take to keep him from learning of Jenna’s true origins.”
“I always understood,” Lucas reminded. “I was even willing to go along with your lies; keep Fanny in the dark. You’re the one who refused to accept my word for it. I spent seventeen years paying for your lack of faith. I’m still paying for it now. My family is in shambles.”
“Then do something, damn it! We can’t let Carl get away with this.”
“I’ve hired Cass and Frankie to investigate.”
“That’s a reasonable start.”
“What else did you have in mind?”
Donna said, “You and I, Lucas, you and I should team up.”
“You and I should team up,” Olivia cornered Morgan in his office at the hospital, making sure Jamie wasn’t scheduled to be in that day.
“Excuse me?” He double-checked, more amused than anything else..
“Amanda accused us of doing it already. And the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.”
“Hold on, back up.” Morgan made the rewind sign with his hands. “Start at the beginning.”
“You want Lorna, I want Jamie. We’ll get further faster if we work together.”
“Who said I wanted Lorna?”
“Since when do you and she get together for coffee and girl talk?”
“She came hightailing it over to Jamie’s house, all excited to tell him how you’d been making goo-goo eyes at Jamie’s wife.”
“Goo-goo eyes? That’s a direct quote?”
“I was paraphrasing.”
“Jamie wasn’t home, so she unloaded on me. And then she accused us of being in cahoots.”
“That sounds more like a direct quote.”
“So what do you say?”
“About what?” Morgan felt like he’d totally lost the thread of conversation.
“Us working together to make sure Jamie and Lorna end up with the right people on this go-around.
“You’ll help me get Lorna?”
“If you’ll help me get Jamie.”
Morgan sat down slowly, crossing his arms. “Go on….”
“You know, I have a pool at home,” Elizabeth reminded Charlie as they sat around the one at the former Love – now Winthrop – Mansion. “Why did you invite me over here?”
“I thought you could use the company.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I’m accustomed to being on my own.”
“Because of having to hide out with your dad?” Charlie prodded subtly, not even looking in Elizabeth’s direction, doing her best to make it sound like a totally casual question.
Elizabeth nodded. “It was fine. I had Father and Cory. I didn’t need anyone else.”
“So you never had any friends over? I mean, like, ever?”
“We couldn’t risk revealing our location to anyone. Our lives were in danger.”
“That must have sucked. No one to hang out with. No girls, no… guys?”
Elizabeth blushed, embarrassed. “Father said it wasn’t necessary. That I had plenty of time for… that.”
“Did you think it wasn’t necessary?”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Trained in the art of offense as defense, Elizabeth turned the tables on Charlie, pointing out, “Ample access to male companionship hardly ended well for you, did it? I read all about what happened with you and Allie and that boy your mother – “
“I screwed up,” Charlie agreed.
“I’d say!” Elizabeth sniffed, thrilled to finally having the upper hand. “All that effort, all that nuisance, all that sturm and drang – and for what? Some boy? Goodness, how can anything possibly be worth all that?”
“Oh,” Elizabeth reassured, getting a brand new idea on the spot. “It can be…”
“May I come in, darling?” Rachel knocked on Cory’s door.
“Sure, Mom.” He turned off his computer and swiveled around on his chair to greet her, standing up, moving to hug Rachel.
“It’s still so strange,” she admitted. “Needing to look up to hug you. The last time…”
“It’s been a long while,” he confirmed. “A lot has changed.”
“Not how much I love you.” Rachel hoped with every fiber of her being that he believed her. “You understand, don’t you? My not coming to see you and your sister, that didn’t mean I’d stopped loving you.”
“I know.” He squeezed her hand.
“I missed you every day. Every moment.”
“I missed you, too.”
“It must have been so difficult for you. Tell me everything. Fill me in on each moment I missed. Please, darling. I want to hear it all.”
“There’s not much to tell,” he hedged. “The days kind of blended. We kept to ourselves.”
“It must have been very lonely, with only your Father and Elizabeth – and, well, I suppose, Lorna – for company.”
“Oh, there were other people. Servants, that sort of thing.”
“Servants,” Rachel startled. Somehow, while imagining a life in exile, she’d never added servants to the equation.
“Sure,” Cory said, a small smile bubbling at her surprised. “After all, can you imagine Father doing his own laundry?”
Frankly, no, Rachel could not. Still, she hadn’t considered…. “I thought the idea was the fewer people that knew of your existence, the better?”
“Right. As long as no creature comforts were sacrificed in the process.” Cory assured his mother. “I got the impression everyone was vetted and trustworthy. Father staffs his safe houses well ahead of schedule – just in case.”
“I guess it doesn’t really matter,” Rachel forced herself to say, despite the disquieting feeling she couldn’t quite quench. “As long as you’re all safe and sound. And back home where you belong. Oh, Cory, I’m so happy you took the lead. Otherwise, who knows how much longer it would have been until I saw you all again?”
“Enough was enough,” Cory said neutrally.
“Cory,” Rachel began, figuring she might as well clear the air once and for all. “Darling, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you…. About two years ago. More than that, actually… two and a half. I – I received a phone call. On my cell. The line was full of static and I could barely hear anything. But… I thought… Perhaps I was just imagining it, but…. I thought I heard… Cory, did you… could you have… Did you call me? And did you say something about… Lorna?
Her son looked at Rachel for a long, tense beat before he finally shook his head. “No, Mom. I didn’t.”
She exhaled in relief. “I didn’t think so. Steven… he was able to prove that the call had been faked. He thought Chase Hamilton had hacked into my old messages, lifted the words Mom and Lorna, and spliced them together. He showed me the evidence, but I – I just wanted to make sure.” Rachel smiled. “Don’t tell your father I asked, alright? This will be our little secret.”
“Alright,” Cory nodded thoughtfully, his expression unreadable. “I’m good at keeping secrets.”
“You’re early,” Sarah snapped at Grant when he stopped by her apartment, Daisy in tow, a full half-hour before they were expected. Her expression softened as she scooped her daughter up into her arms, burying her face in Daisy’s hair and cooing, “Oooh, I missed you so much. I’m so happy you’re home.”
“Daisy got herself dressed quicker than usual,” Grant explained. “We didn’t have the traditional half-dozen outfits to sort through.”
“Look!” Daisy showed her mother the pink fairy princess gown she was wearing. “My new dress.”
“It’s very pretty,” Sarah said, then told Grant, “Marley should really slow down a little. You’re going to need to build a new closet. Or a new house.”
“It makes Daisy happy. Marley, too. They enjoy going shopping together.”
“You mean Daisy enjoys pointing her finger at something and having Marley promptly buy it. I don’t want her spoiled.”
“She’s a child, Sarah,” Grant said, attempting to continue sounding good-natured. Which was rather hard, considering it felt like they had this discussion every single time he came by. “Not tuna salad left in the sun.”
“Well, thanks for bringing her home,” Daisy said shortly. “But, next time, could you let me know if you have a change of plans? I might have been out or… something.”
“We’d have waited for you to get back,” Grant assured, then, eyes narrowing and suspicions rising, asked, “Why are you so nervous? Do you have… someone… here?”
“It’s none of your business,” Sarah snapped, attempting to close the door and lock Grant out.
“It is very much my business, if you’re going to expose my daughter to – “
“You were early,” Sarah reminded. “I wasn’t intending to expose her to anything.”
“Do you really think this is good for Daisy?” Grant slipped into lecturing mode as a cover for the jealousy he knew he really had no right to be feeling. “Having strangers traipse through – “
“You make it sound like I’m entertaining the Seventh Fleet. And what’s the difference between you and Marley and me and – “
“Marley and I are married,” Grant defended, self-righteously.
“And we all know how seriously you take those vows.” Sarah looked over her shoulder to check if Daisy were listening, but her daughter, having realized that the conversation was no longer about her, had lost interest and wandered off to her room. “So while you’ve got Marley and, knowing you, a half-dozen others on the side – “
“Yeah. I’m sure, Vicky, Amanda, Lorna, Marley herself would confirm I am totally off-base here. So you’ve got a full harem, and I’m supposed to stay celibate? Careful, Grant, your double standard is showing. Also your age.”
“Well, frankly, while Daisy is still young…”
“Are you kidding me?”
“I thought you wanted to be a good mother.”
“And I thought one of the reasons you and Marley were pushing me so hard to give up custody was because I was young and needed to be free to go out and enjoy myself.”
“This isn’t going out. This is bringing some unknown entity into my daughter’s life. This is precisely the reason why, yes, it would have been preferable for you to turn over custody to Marley and I, so that you could socialize without restriction, and Daisy could have some stability in her life.”
“But what if he’s not a stranger?” Sarah challenged.
“I beg your pardon?”
“What if it’s someone Daisy already knows? What if it’s someone we all know?”
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