For a moment after she first threatened him, Jamie looked so… not angry, not frustrated, not even fed up… just so damn disappointed in her, that Olivia’s impulse was to take it all back, to tell him she’d been kidding, teasing him, testing him, that she’d temporarily lost her mind… anything to make him stop looking at her that way.
But, she never got the chance. Because too soon afterwards, the disappointment turned to practicality as Jamie clarified, his voice as cold as his expression, “You’re threatening my wife’s life if I don’t do what you want?”
“I’m not threatening anything,” Olivia shot back with a great deal more bravado than she actually felt. “All I said was I’ll tell Carl. What happens after that isn’t up to me. That part will be all on you.” Hoping to make him see reason, she cajoled, “Come on, Jamie, I came to you for a favor.”
“You have an interesting way of asking.”
“You mean I should have asked nicely? The way we’re always telling Devon and Zee to do it? Your daughters, who are probably wondering right about now where I’ve gone and who this strange new woman living in their house is.”
“I admitted that the girls miss you. I never claimed they didn’t.”
“I took care of them for close to three years. As a favor. Because we were friends.”
“And I appreciated it. I’m sorry if I didn’t make myself clear on the subject, that’s my fault. I am very, very grateful for everything you’ve done for us.”
“Just not grateful enough to help out when I’m the one who needs a hand. Because you didn’t like the way I asked.”
“Olivia,” Jamie sighed tiredly. “You know that’s not it.”
“I played nicely with you the whole time that Lorna was gone. And what did that get me? A swift kick to the curb the moment the love of your life popped back up. Even when she couldn’t remember who the hell you or those girls were, you still wanted her more than me.”
“Yes,” Jamie agreed. “I did. I do. I love Lorna, and I was always, always upfront with you about that.”
“Which is exactly what I tried to be with you,” Olivia couldn’t believe Jamie wasn’t seeing the parallel. “I told you the whole truth about me and Dennis and why I needed your help. I was open and honest. I didn’t try to play games or manipulate anybody. Because I thought I could trust you.”
“You threatened Lorna,” Jamie repeated, his tone steely. “I told you that her life was in danger from Carl, and you threatened to expose our secret to him. You’ll forgive me if I interpret that as being just slightly manipulative.”
“I wouldn’t have done it, if you’d only – “
“Do you mean it?” Jamie demanded. “Did you mean what you said about Lorna?”
No. No, of course, she didn’t. How could Jamie not see that?
“Yes,” Olivia said, adding a firm bob of her head for emphasis.
“Fine,” Jamie said. “I’ll do it.”
“You haven’t really given me a choice, have you? I won’t claim to be the father of your baby.” He took a deep breath. “But, I won’t deny it, either.”
“Oh. Thank you, Jamie!” She wanted to throw her arms around him.
He, however, clearly wasn’t in the mood. “In return, you will keep your mouth shut about Lorna regaining her memory. Are we clear?” The lack of warmth in his voice – there’d always been warmth in Jamie’s voice; even after she’d told him about setting up the Morgan and Lorna kiss at the hospital, he hadn’t completely given up on her, not even then… the lack of warmth made Olivia shiver.
“Crystal,” she told him snidely, attempting to masquerade her anger at his believing that she would ever do this to him as fury at his refusing to do everything she’d asked for. Her parting shot, meant to both hurt and warn him equally was, “I suggest you tell Marley the same thing. At the rate she’s playing Pied Piper, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carl’s heard all about it by tonight. And it won’t be from me.”
“What right?” Charlie raged at Frankie, “Did you have to go blabbing to Rachel and Carl about Elizabeth and me?”
Frankie did her best to remain calm. After all, she’d known that filling her daughter in on Frankie’s actions of the day before would, most likely, lead to this sort of outburst.
“We’ve talked about this, Charlie,” Frankie reminded. “You need to take responsibility for your actions. My looking the other way is what led to the incident with Zeno and Allie, and before that, the way you treated Kirkland.”
“My relationships are none of your business.”
“You almost killed Allie.”
“I was sick, then. And when I set the fire at Zeno’s farm, too. But, this is nothing like that. I’m not hurting anybody.”
“I’m not sure Elizabeth would agree, if she knew that you were just using her.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“No.” Frankie clarified, “That isn’t my business.”
“Did her parents freak out?” Charlie wondered. A little too blood-thirstily for Frankie’s taste.
“No,” Frankie said. Then added somewhat facetiously, “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Elizabeth was sure they’d freak out. Especially her dad.”
“Carl actually seemed more accepting than Rachel,” Frankie admitted to her own surprise.
“Did you tell Dad, too?”
“And how did he react?”
“He wasn’t happy to hear that you were using sex as a weapon.”
“You mean, sex with a girl?”
“Sex with anyone, Charlie. Sleeping with Elizabeth when you don’t have real feelings for her – “
“Dad – “
“I know,” Frankie cut her off. “Believe me, I know. And so does your father. That’s what upset him the most, actually. Thinking that he might have set this horrible example for you. He’s devastated.”
“Oh,” Charlie said. Even though that had actually been her own defense.
“All parents want their children to be better than them. Lead better lives, be better people. It’s hard enough for your father knowing that your heart condition when you were a baby might have been because of him. That your bipolar disorder is because of him. But, those things he couldn’t help. This… you’ve broken his heart.”
“I didn’t… I mean… Dad shouldn’t blame himself. I’m the one who screwed up, not him. Do you want me to tell him that? Because I could totally tell him that.”
“I would rather you showed him, Charlie,” Frankie said gently. “You want to help your father? Show him that all the years he spent raising you on his own, trying to teach you right from wrong, desperately directing you off his own path… Show him all that wasn’t for nothing. Show him that he was a good father by being a good person yourself. And you can start by doing the right thing where Elizabeth is concerned.”
“You want me to be Best Man at your and Grant’s wedding?” Kirkland might have laughed out loud, except her request seemed to have passed funny into something for which the right word hadn’t been invented yet.
“It would mean a lot to him. And what’s the big deal, anyway? You were Best Man at Spencer’s wedding. And your dad’s.”
“It’s not that I don’t have a tuxedo,” Kirkland clarified.
“You wouldn’t need one. We’re just going to do a small wedding at the court-house.”
“That doesn’t sound like Grant. Grant doesn’t do small.”
“It’s for me.”
“Has Aunt Marley even given Grant a divorce yet?”
“She has. They signed the papers yesterday.” Seeing the look of disbelief on Kirkland’s face, Sarah added, “He showed me the papers.”
“Wow,” Kirkland said. “Didn’t think it would go that smoothly.”
“Marley doesn’t want him,” Sarah said simply. “I do.”
“Yeah. That’s… yeah.”
“Very articulate,” Sarah couldn’t help teasing, before abruptly turning serious. “Do you realize that there is not a single person in this town who is completely on his side? About anything?”
“There’s Lila,” Kirkland felt a strong urge to disagree with everything she said. Just for the principle of it. And because it made him feel strangely better. Though he wasn’t sure about what, exactly. “I don’t know why – especially after the stunt he and Grandma pulled with her and Hamilton and that stupid recording. But she does.”
“Liking isn’t the same as having your back, no matter what.”
“And that’s you?”
“That’s who I want to be for him. I don’t think Grant’s ever had that, not with anyone.”
“Does the son-of-a-bitch know how lucky he is?” Kirkland asked with a growing, grudging respect.
Her eyes danced. “You can tell him yourself. When you’re the Best Man at our wedding.”
“Hey.” Zeno looked neither like a diabolical cult leader, nor a jealous boyfriend when he let GQ into the farmhouse and, in response to his question, gestured towards a back room to explain, “Allie’s in there.”
GQ looked around, impressed. “You did a nice job putting the place back together after the fire.”
“Thanks to volunteers like you,” Zeno said. “It’s not the house I grew up in, but it gets the job done; keeps a roof over our heads, that’s all that matters in the end.”
“Still having trouble with the county?”
“I am always having trouble with the county. When my mom was alive, she used to say they couldn’t stomach the idea of a woman running a farm on her own, instead of letting them swoop in and tell her what would be best. Turns out they’re not too crazy about a kid doing it, either. It wasn’t a sexist thing; they’re just dicks.”
GQ smiled. “Something I need to remember, too. Maybe they’re not racists, maybe they just suck.”
“Cheery thought, isn’t it?” Zeno checked his watch. “Anyway, sorry, got to run. You can find Allie yourself, right?”
“No problem,” GQ assured, doing as Zeno said and stepping into the back to find Allie sitting over a computer, her brow furrowed in concentration.
“What are you doing here?” she asked in lieu of a hello.
“I was in the neighborhood…”
“This is so outside of your neighborhood. And your comfort zone.”
“That used to be true for you, too. I never pictured you as the farm-living type.”
“Yeah, well, I’m full of surprises. You should know that better than anyone by now.”
“I just wanted to see how you were getting on.”
“Great.” Her words belied the exhaustion and false cheer in her voice.
GQ pulled up a chair, looking her in the eye. “Is this really how you want to be living your life, Allie?”
“What’s wrong with it?” she bristled, drawing back. “I’m finally doing something useful for a change. Zeno needs me. This farm needs me.”
“How about what you need?”
“Seriously?” Allie crossed her arms. “You’re asking me what I need?”
“It’s great that you want to help. But, you’ve got to think about yourself, too.”
Allie laughed bitterly. “Isn’t that what you used to say my biggest problem was? That I thought only about myself, about what I needed? That’s why I gave up Hudson, after all. Because I wasn’t ready to be a mom. I was thinking about myself and no one else, then.”
“That’s not true,” GQ said softly. “You were thinking about what it would be like for him, being stuck between the two of us. You were thinking about my being embarrassed to have a biracial son – and about his white mother. You didn’t want me treating Hudson the way I treated you. I get that now. I didn’t then.”
Allie shrugged, having absolutely nothing to say about that, but visibly affected, nonetheless.
“I was the one thinking only about myself,” GQ went on. “When I didn’t want anyone to know about us, because I cared more about what people would think, than about you.”
“Forget it, okay?” Allie snapped, turning back to her computer. “I have.”
“I just want you to be happy, Allie. You deserve to be happy.”
“Everyone does. Doesn’t mean everyone gets the chance.”
“Gregory would have wanted you to be happy, too.”
“You,” Allie hissed. “Don’t get to talk about Gregory. You don’t get to talk about him, or me, or Zeno, or anything. I’m not your problem, and I’m not your business. You want me to be happy? Start by leaving me alone. That’d really make me happy, GQ.”
“You didn’t tell Iris that Carl and I were leaving town,” Rachel saw no point in beating around the bush with Russ.
“No,” he agreed.
“Why not? The last time we spoke, you seemed convinced that my husband was the villain and your wife the heroine in everything that’s happened. If that were truly the case, why not tell her we were going? What harm could that possibly do?”
Russ understood what Rachel was fishing for. She wanted – no, she needed – him to admit that Carl had been justified in fleeing the country with her children and Lorna, and even in faking all their deaths, too, due to the threat Iris posed. But, if that’s what she’d come for, Rachel was in for a long wait.
“Because,” Russ said slowly. “Believe it or not, Rachel, not every decision that I make these days is bound up in you. I realize why you might think it was. I did make it clear when we were together this last time, that I loved you. That I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. That your every wish was pretty much my command. But, I’m sure you can see why that might have changed recently.”
“You still don’t trust Iris.” Rachel ignored the implication of everything else Russ had said up to that point in order to drive her point home.
“I don’t,” Russ conceded.
“I knew it!”
“She knows it, too. But, that’s not why I didn’t tell her about you and Carl leaving Bay City. I didn’t tell her because, more than anything, I want all this to be over. I want the drama and the sheer hell that loving you has put me through behind me. I don’t want to continue this battle. I want you and Carl to go on your way, and Iris and I to go on ours.”
“That’s precisely what I want, too. I have a great many missed years to make up with my husband and my children. We’ve been through hell, too.”
“Of your own making,” Russ pointed out. “Didn’t you say you and Carl were in on this plot together?”
“Because of Iris!” Rachel wondered how long she would have to keep repeating herself before everyone finally understood who was truly to blame for their years of agony. “Iris is the one who made it impossible for me to be with my family when they desperately needed me. I will never be able to get back that time I lost. You have no idea about the price I paid, all because your wife couldn’t let go of a petty grudge. You’re just as bad as Jamie, in that regard,” Rachel exploded, her fury at her son coming out at the one person who she suspected would listen, instead of just dismissing her predicament. Russ, more than anyone, knew what Jamie meant to her. “Do you know what he told me? My son – my oldest son – he looked me in the eye and he said he’d miss me when Carl and I were gone. Then again, he said, he’d been missing me for years now.”
Rachel waited for Russ to react. Surely, Russ would understand how unbearably rude and unnecessarily brutal that remark had been.
But, all her ex-husband wanted to know was, “You allow his wife to be kidnapped, you force Jamie and his daughters to mourn her for years, and you expect him to let bygones be bygones?”
“I expect him to treat me with respect! I’m his mother! I deserve it.”
“If Jamie had done to you what you did to him… If he were the one who lied and led you to think that Carl was dead, would you have just brushed it off and moved on?”
“It’s not the same thing,” Rachel insisted. “I’m his mother. Jamie has to understand that anything I do, I do for my children’s own good. They all need to understand that. Matt, Amanda, Cory, Elizabeth… Why won’t they listen to me? Why are they fighting every single thing I say? Why won’t they believe me?”
“Maybe,” Russ sighed. “Maybe, like me, they just want to put it behind them.”
“Put me behind them, you mean?”
Russ merely shrugged in reply.
“I talked to Sarah,” Dennis began cautiously, loathe to upset Marley or set her off in any way, but, nevertheless, needing to settle the issue once and for all. “She told me… at least the way she understands it… she told me that Grant left you… for her?”
Marley cocked her head to the side, unsure why Dennis was bringing it up. “Why are you so surprised? He cheated on me with Sarah before we were married, he cheated on me after we were married. That’s just the kind of man Grant is.”
“No,” he sputtered. “That’s not what I meant. What I meant was, you told me you left him for me. But now Sarah says it was the other way around. Grant left you.”
She looked at Dennis in mock confusion. “What difference does it make? We’re together now, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes. And… no.”
“I thought you were happy about this.” Marley narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“I am. Very happy. I’m thrilled this is happening. You… me…”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“You… lied to me, Marley.”
She had this way of asking questions that made every logical, concrete and reasonable point Dennis previously thought he’d assembled fly straight out of his head. This was one of those times. “Well, you made it sound like leaving Grant and coming to me was your choice. But, if he left you first – “
“Are you saying you’d prefer it if I was the one hurt rather than me being the one doing the hurting?”
“No, that’s not what I mean at all.”
“Really, because it certainly sounds like – “
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything important.” Olivia – there was no other word for it – interrupted Dennis and Marley’s conversation by first ringing the doorbell insistently, then simply waltzing into his apartment without invitation and in spite of his repeated insistence that now wasn’t a good time. “I’ll be brief. And, oh, good, Marley is here, too. She might as well know.”
“Know what?” Marley asked, as Dennis’ stomach hit the ground and decided to stay there.
“I’m pregnant,” Olivia blurted out before he could pull himself together enough to think of a way to head her off.
“Marley…” Dennis began, ready to explain himself, to beg her forgiveness, to –
“And Jamie is the father,” Olivia said.
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