Amanda looked at Jamie. Who was looking at Lorna. Who was kissing Morgan.
Who heard them come in. And so he stopped. But not before Morgan was sure Jamie had gotten an eyeful. He told himself it was to make sure Olivia received her money’s worth and so wouldn’t bother them any longer. But, deep down, he knew it was also because Morgan figured Jamie deserved it.
“Sorry,” Jamie said evenly, addressing Morgan, but looking directly at Lorna.
She glared back at him defiantly. Daring Jamie to do something. Hoping Jamie would do something.
He finally did. He turned to Amanda and asked, “Really?”
At least she had the decency to blush, stammering, “I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I just told you. You had to see for yourself.”
“What business is this of yours?”
“I care about you!” she insisted.
Jamie smirked, deciding her lie didn’t even warrant a response. His next question was to Morgan. “I’m guessing Amanda didn’t have to work too hard to get you involved.”
“You son of a bitch,” Lorna stepped away, shoving Morgan for good measure. “This was some kind of stupid set up?”
“I didn’t make you kiss me,” Morgan reminded. “You wanted to.”
“I didn’t realize we were putting on a show!”
“You told me Jamie wouldn’t leave you alone. And that you wanted him to – you said that, don’t deny it.”
Lorna shrugged, looking anywhere but in Jamie’s direction. “I’m not denying it.”
“So I thought I’d help you. If Jamie saw for himself that you weren’t interested in him, that you’d moved on, then he’d leave you alone.”
“You don’t know Jamie, do you?” Lorna challenged.
“Neither do you,” Morgan pointed out, desperately willing for it to still be true.
“I know enough to understand this little psychodrama of yours won’t even slow him down, will it?” Lorna asked her alleged husband, uncertain of how she truly wanted him to answer.
“I was trying to do you a favor,” Morgan refused to let up.
“So was I,” Amanda echoed Jamie’s way.
He ignored them both. Instead, Jamie asked Lorna, “You going to let them get away with this?”
Lorna smiled for the first time since he’d come in. She rested both hands on her hips and asked, “What do you think?”
Now Jamie smiled, too.
“What are you doing here?” Sarah wondered; her father dropping by in the middle of the day was not exactly a common occurrence.
“I realized it had been a while since I’d seen you,” Dennis offered, gingerly stepping inside Sarah’s apartment, looking around as if there might be any obvious evidence regarding the identity of her new, mystery suitor. “How’s Daisy?”
“Is she here?”
“Pre-school,” Sarah said.
“Pre-school? But… she’s still a baby.”
“She’ll be three in February. I thought it was too young, too. But, Marley said if we don’t get her a seat now, she might be locked out of the best schools moving forward.”
“I’m glad you’re listening to Marley,” Dennis said. “She did a great job with Michele and Bridget. She’s a good role model for you.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Sarah said. “What do you want, Dad?”
“To find out how you are,” he repeated.
“I’m fine, too.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” He shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. “So… anything new going on in your life?”
“I’ve only got a year to go to graduate.”
“That’s great. Any idea what you want to do then?”
“I don’t know. It’ll depend what I can do. I’m not sure if I’m ready to go to work full-time yet. Daisy needs me.”
“But, Grant and Marley will help out, won’t they?”
“Grant and Marley aren’t Daisy’s mother. I am.”
“I didn’t mean…”
“It doesn’t matter,” she dismissed.
He changed the subject. “What about your social life. Are you… seeing anyone?”
Another imperturbable shrug. “Yeah.”
“Anyone I know?”
“That’s a stupid question,” Sarah shot back with more venom that expected.
“Why would you expect to know whom I was seeing? Bay City is a small town, but it’s not that small. Even if it does feel like we’re all related somehow.”
Sarah’s defensiveness, along with her last comment, not to mention Marley’s interest in the entire situation suddenly prompted a cold, sick feeling of dread to slowly spread inside Dennis’ stomach. Nearly choking on the possibility, he croaked out, “Sarah, you’re… you’re not seeing Grant again, are you?”
“Of course not!” The accusation only served to make her angrier. “Why would you think that? What a ridiculous thing to say!”
“It’s just that, you were being so secretive…”
“Because it’s none of your business. God, Dad. Grant and I… why would I ever take Grant back after the way he treated me?”
“Because you still love him,” Dennis promoted gently.
“Me still loving Grant,” Sarah snapped, “Would be as stupid as you still being in love with Marley.”
“Marley jerked you around while you guys were dating the first time, and now she’s totally unavailable. Me going back to Grant would be as dumb as you and Marley getting back together. We both should have learned our lessons a long time ago. We’d be out of our minds if we thought we could get back what we once had. That is, if we ever had it in the first place.”
“I like this,” Felicia said. “Restaurants and concerts and art gallery openings are lovely, but sometimes it’s nice just to have a quiet dinner at home, don’t you agree?”
Eduardo smiled graciously – the way he did all things, and assured, “Whatever makes you happy.”
“What makes you happy?” Felicia wondered, refilling Eduardo’s wine glass as she continued to sip her own sparkling cider. “You talk so little about yourself, your life, your interests.”
“That is because I find you infinitely more interesting.”
Felicia laughed. “You are a charmer.”
“Yes,” he agreed, eyes twinkling.
“Tell me something about yourself,” she urged. “I want to know everything about you. Tell me something important, something personal, from the heart. Tell me… about your late wife.”
He hesitated for just a moment, and Felicia wondered if she’d hit a nerve. It had been a very deliberate, precise strike. If Eduardo, like Rachel suspected, harbored some sort of covert grudge against Carl, bringing up the topic of past women was a very good place to start. Felicia had learned that lesson from Alexander Nikos.
“My wife,” Eduardo said. “Was a beautiful woman. On the inside and out. I am told that Douglas gets his looks from me. But he received his generosity of spirit from her.”
Eduardo asked, “Are you familiar with the tale of how my son met your current Mayor?”
“No,” Felicia shook her head, wondering if they were getting off course, but, on the other hand, figured it couldn’t be a bad thing to insert Chase into the conversation. “Tell me.”
“Mr. Chase Hamilton, age barely fourteen, a scholarship pupil at the boarding school in New England we’d sent Douglas to a year earlier… Chase Hamilton was no better than a stray puppy whom Douglas took under his wing. From what I understand, Chase had no family – none that he’d speak of, in any case; no friends, no aptitude for making any. He could barely keep up in his classes, coming as he did from some horrible public school in an even more horrible neighborhood – frankly, it’s amazing he was able to get as far as he had by that point. Who knows what might have happened to him if Douglas hadn’t reached out, introduced him to people, taught him how to act, how to speak, how to dress, how to behave. Naturally, Chase fell in love with him. I certainly can’t blame him. It was the same for me and Douglas’ mother.”
Felicia laughed. “I have a very difficult time imagining you not knowing how act or how to speak… even with a language barrier. And certainly your not knowing how to dress is out of the question.”
Eduardo smiled bitterly. He said, “I was a consul to the United States from Cuba when Castro took over. I could never go back home again after that. In many ways, my situation was identical to that of Chase. My family was gone, my country, to all intents and purposes, was gone. My employment, and with it my identity and my purpose. Yes, I could dress well and speak well, and I knew how to conduct myself at parties, both sit-down and cocktail. But, I was, nonetheless, alone, floundering, a stranger in a strange land when Douglas’ mother first laid eyes on me. I wasn’t able to regain anything I’d lost. But, she made up for all of it and more.”
“She was very wealthy,” Felicia prompted.
“Yes. And I penniless. Castro wasted no time seizing and nationalizing everything that had ever belonged to my family and I. I had nothing. I was forced to remind my wife of that when she was massively suspicious of Chase’s intentions regarding Douglas. She told me it wasn’t the same thing. She loved me, she knew me, she trusted me. It took some convincing before she believed the same was true of Douglas and Chase.”
“A very romantic story,” Felicia observed.
“Like something from one of your novels, perhaps?”
“My novels always have happy endings,” Felicia observed.
Eduardo raised his glass to toast her. “Then I am precisely where I should be at this moment.”
“I’m sorry, I was looking for Amanda,” Lila froze in her tracks when her entering the main office at Cory Publishing produced not Amanda, but rather her husband.
“I was doing the same,” Kevin offered, smiling to indicate that Lila shouldn’t be nervous or uncomfortable. “We had a lunch date, but I guess she got held up somewhere.”
“Yes…” Lila agreed, as she had no evidence to the contrary.
“You could join us for lunch,” Kevin suggested.
“No! I mean, no, thank you. Don’t want to be a third wheel.”
“Well, in that case, can I give Amanda a message? What did you want to see her about?”
“Jasmine,” Lila said quickly, desperate to get to firmer ground.
“What about Jasmine?”
“She’s supposed to complete an internship at school this year – for credit, and I thought she might want to do it here, at Brava. It is her family company, after all. Perfect fit.”
“Does Jazz want to work here?”
“Why shouldn’t she?”
Kevin shrugged. “I don’t know. But, isn’t an internship supposed to expose students to new people and ideas and opportunities? Jasmine can work at Brava anytime. I’d think she’d want to go outside her comfort zone for this one.”
“She’s got plenty of time for that. Right now, I’d prefer Jasmine where her aunt Amanda – and the stockholders – can keep an eye on her.”
“Okay,” Kevin nodded agreeably, not looking for a fight. “But, don’t you think Jasmine should be the one talking to Amanda in that case?”
“I’m just trying to help her out,” Lila snapped. Then added, “There’s not a lot my little girl needs from me these days. I thought I could at least help her out with this.”
“Jasmine needs you,” Kevin corrected. “In some ways probably more than she ever did.”
Lila snorted. “For what? She’s got her car, she’s got her friends, she’s got school and soon this internship – I’ll be lucky if she sends me a card at Christmastime.”
“You won’t lose her,” Kevin assured. “Trust me, I’ve been through this adolescent thing already. It feels like you will, but you won’t. The more they push for independence, the more grateful they are for having a safe harbor to come home to.”
Lila shook her head ruefully. “Guess the tables have turned, huh? Used to be me telling you everything was going to be okay. Now it’s you telling me.”
“If I could be half the comfort to you that you were to me, Lila…”
“Except your problems were real. Me, I’m just being a hysterical female.”
“That is one word I would never apply to you.”
“Female?” Lila asked, her bad mood lifting in spite of Lila’s best efforts to hold onto it.
Kevin laughed. “No, that one I’m pretty sure of.”
“Kevin…” she began, when the way he was looking at her managed to turn on a dime from old friend offering advice to… something else.
“Sorry,” he caught himself. Even as he approached Lila, one hand outreached to… what? What?
Lila never got a chance to find out. Because, as soon as Kevin drew close enough, his eyes locked squarely on hers, his hand raised… that’s the moment that Iris chose to barge in.
She looked from one to the other. And then she asked, “Well, well, well… What do we have here?”
“Darling!” Their cries filled the air as Donna and her very dear friend, Anna, exchanged a multitude of air kisses, compliments and modest denials that no, no, please, they looked a fright… upon encountering each for the first time in years at Anna’s private room on the grounds of the Swiss clinic.
“This is my husband, Matthew Cory – of the Bay City Corys,” Donna introduced, not even bothering to fake modesty at what she knew was her incredible, enviable good luck.
“How do you do, Matthew?” Anna extended a hand, which she then used to grip Matt’s for a longer moment than he would have deemed politely necessary. “Oh, Donna,” she turned to whisper sotto voce to her friend. “Oh, my, my…”
“Precisely,” Donna confirmed everything Anna was thinking.
Matt blushed. But accepted the compliment.
They settled down for a drink, Donna and Matt determined to pump Anna for anything she might know about Carl’s earlier stay there.
And Anna seemingly determined to do anything but.
First, she wanted to hear all the latest gossip on the girls – “Well, they’re hardly girls anymore, are they? Oh, what an awful thing for me to say!” – Anna and Donna had gone to boarding school with. Who was on which marriage, who’d given up men entirely, who was divorced and penniless and, most importantly, who was looking absolutely ghastly?
“I’m afraid I don’t know,” Donna confessed, trying to divert Anna back onto the subject of Carl. “I haven’t really kept in touch with many of our former acquaintances.”
“Oh, I completely understand your position.” Anna confided in Matthew. “My goodness, I don’t think there was a husband in our class who wasn’t tested by Donna first to ensure they were worthy.”
“Excuse me?” Matt felt he couldn’t have possibly heard what he just thought he’d heard.
“Oh, you know Donna. Always the belle of the ball, the life of the party. All the boys were after her. The rest of us were either attempts on their part to get near her, or merely consolation prizes after she’d grown tired of dallying.”
“Please, Anna,” Donna cooed. “No need to be modest. You were just as in demand as I during our school years.”
“In demand, perhaps, but Donna was the generous soul who refused to let any eager boy go away unsatisfied. The rest of us, I’m afraid we were terrible teases. Oh, goodness, I do feel so regretful about my actions during that time period. Not Donna, though, I’m certain. You know what they say – it’s not the things we do that we end up regretting, it’s the things we didn’t do. And Donna made sure to live a life of no regrets.”
“Oh, I’m regretting several things right now,” Donna gritted through clenched teeth.
Which only made Anna laugh harder and reach across to rest her hand on Matt’s thigh. “You must be a truly remarkable man yourself, Matthew, to make a woman like Donna so happy for all these years.”
“Donna is the one who’s remarkable,” Matt said stiffly.
“Oh, do tell,” Anna leaned over, nearly dumping her cleavage into Matt’s lap by way of his face as she dug her fingers even deeper into his flesh. “Do tell me every little detail about you and Donna.”
“Hey,” Olivia tried to act casual, dropping by Jamie’s house later in the afternoon. It was something she did quite often, there was no reason for him to think anything of it. And he didn’t. At first.
At first, they just took the girls to the park like they often did, Olivia and Jamie sitting on a bench while Mackenzie attempted to dig straight to China via the sandbox, and Devon pumped herself so high on the swings that Jamie had to periodically remind her to slow down.
“Okay, Daddy,” Devon agreed, letting her legs hang limply for a few minutes, before starting up all over again.
“That child,” Jamie said. “Isn’t scared of anything. Which, quite frankly, scares the hell out of me.”
Unable to contain herself anymore, Olivia tentatively asked, “You okay, Jamie?”
“With Devon flying five hundred feet through the air every two seconds? Not really.”
“She’ll be fine. I meant… are you okay?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
Olivia shrugged. “Just a feeling I got when I came in. Did something… happen? With Lorna, maybe?”
He turned his head to look at her oddly. “What makes you say that?”
“You just didn’t seem like yourself. And, these days, that really only has one cause.”
Jamie rubbed his temples. “Yeah. I guess you’re right about that.”
“So something did happen?” Olivia pressed.
“I walked in on Morgan kissing Lorna.”
“Oh!” Olivia did her best impression of shock and awe.
“I’m sorry, Jamie.” Olivia rested her hand on his arm, and, in that moment, she truly was. He looked so damned crushed.
“I guess it was inevitable, though, wasn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, when Lorna didn’t remember you…”
“She didn’t remember Morgan, either.”
“I know. But, Morgan doesn’t come with the kind of baggage that you do. Morgan isn’t asking Lorna to become an instant wife and mother to a family that means nothing to her. He’s easier for her to deal with.”
“Oh, she dealt with him alright,” Jamie said. “She dealt with him fine. Lorna really let Morgan have it for setting it up so that I’d walk in on the two of them.”
“What do you mean… set it up?” Olivia asked nervously.
“It was all a little too convenient. Morgan got Lorna to meet him in a spot that Amanda brought me to at the exact instant when he kissed her. He wanted me to see them. And Lorna doesn’t appreciate being manipulated anymore than I do.”
Olivia didn’t know what to say. All she knew was – this wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Damn, Morgan!
“What really kills me, though,” Jamie went. “Isn’t Lorna kissing Morgan. I don’t give a damn about that.”
“She’s entitled – no, she deserves – to explore everything about her past, in whatever way she wants to. I don’t begrudge her that. In fact, if Morgan can be the one to jog her memory, then good, great! Whatever works, I don’t care.”
“So what’s got you so upset, then?”
“Amanda,” Jamie admitted. “My own sister. She went along with Morgan’s plan and – for the life of me – I can’t even figure out why.”
“Did she tell you why?” Olivia squirmed, her heart in her throat.
Jamie rolled his eyes. “Some nonsense about wanting me to face the truth about Lorna – how it was for my own good. You know, rip the band aid off in one painful yank.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Olivia offered feebly.
“I don’t care. I don’t care if she’s telling the truth or even if she honestly believes in what she said. The point is, it’s none of her business. She’s my sister, I’m supposed to be able to trust her. Up until today, I did trust her. And now I don’t know if I ever will be able to again.”
“What?” He turned to look at her, catching the odd look on Olivia’s face, sensing that something was wrong, that there was more here than he was aware of. “What, Olivia?”
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