“I am talking about Steven being the one to get your father killed,” Amanda took some measure of satisfaction in telling Jen. After the way both she and her high and mighty husband had refused to help Allie, it was the least they deserved. “And Kevin deciding to go to prison in his place!”
“Damn it, Amanda!” Kevin barked, while Steven chose to ignore his aunt completely, focusing instead on what Jen’s reaction might be to her bombshell.
However, Jen didn’t seem to know what Jen’s reaction was to her bombshell. At least not right away. Jen looked at Steven. She looked at Kevin, and then she looked at Amanda. She asked her stepmother, “What are you talking about?”
Her husband was looking at Amanda with an expression part rage and part pleading. But Amanda realized she’d gone way too far to back down now.
She told Jen, “Didn’t it ever seem odd to you that your father was suddenly enough of a computer expert to set up such an elaborate deception that even the police couldn’t figure out how it had been done?”
“I assumed he hired someone.”
“So you never considered Steven? Not even for a minute?”
“Daddy confessed,” Jen said stiffly.
“He lied. He lied to protect Steven.”
“Why?” Jen aimed her question at Kevin.
Her father shrugged, prepared finally to tell the whole truth. “Because you were in love with him.”
“But, I wasn’t… not then….”
“You hadn’t admitted it yet. But it was obvious. Just as it was obvious that he loved you. Damn it, Jen, Steven saved your life.”
“By getting Horace killed!”
“I’m sorry,” Steven said. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. I just wanted him in police custody so you could get your bone marrow.”
“You were in love with Steven,” Kevin repeated. “You needed him in order to get better. I couldn’t help you when you needed a transplant. Because I wasn’t your real father.”
“You think I blamed you for that?” Jen demanded.
“I blamed me,” Kevin said. “I couldn’t make you well. That required Horace. And Steven. The one thing I could do was give you a future with the man you loved.”
“And you let him?” Jen turned to her husband.
“I begged him to,” Kevin said. “I ordered him to. For your sake.”
“And when were either of you going to fill me in about these decisions you were so busy running around making about my life?”
“Never,” Kevin said calmly.
“So you see what I mean, Jen,” Amanda couldn’t stop herself from driving the point home. “Steven is perfectly happy to break the law when it comes to something he wants, but when I ask for a favor for Allie – “
“Shut up, Amanda,” her nephew snapped, never particularly good with words, especially under stress.
“How dare you speak to me like that?”
But Steven was no longer interested in speaking to her at all. He pleaded with Jen, “I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry Kevin talked me into letting him take the fall for something I did. And I’m sorry that Horace had to die, that was never my intention. The one thing I’m not sorry about, though, is you getting your transplant and you being alive today. No matter what happens because of this, I will never, ever be sorry about that.”
Jen stood up. She said, “Excuse me.” She grabbed her coat and her purse, and then she walked out the door without so much a word – or a look back – at any of them.
Although Grant’s discharge from the hospital had been scheduled for first thing the next morning, by the time all the paperwork was filled out and he’d received his instructions on how to take care of himself, it was nearly noon. Kirkland had been baby-sitting Daisy and she fell asleep in front of the DVD they’d been watching, bored of waiting for Daddy to come home (and, Kirkland suspected, of his attempt to introduce her to Star Wars, when she learned that this particular tale only featured one princess. And that she wasn’t even sparkly).
Kirkland carried Daisy upstairs to her bed and, as a result, was the only one in the living room when Grant and Sarah walked through the front door. Grant still somewhat unsteady, needing support from Sarah and gratefully sinking into the first chair he encountered.
“Take it easy,” Kirkland reminded. “Remember what Alice said. You could have another stroke. A worse one, this time.”
“That’s what I keep telling him,” Sarah sat down herself, visibly winded from having needed to help Grant up the driveway and into the house, but determined not to show it.
“Can I get you anything?” Kirkland asked. “Either of you?”
“We’re fine,” Sarah insisted. “I’ve got everything under control. Where’s Daisy? She was so excited to welcome Grant home.”
“She’s asleep,” Kirkland reassured.
“I’m sorry we were so late,” Grant said.
“It’s no big deal.”
“Thank you for your help, son. I really appreciate it. I know Sarah does, too.”
“Yes,” she said briskly, standing up as if having heard some imaginary starting shot go off. “Thanks a lot, Kirkland. But, we’re good now. You can go.”
“Yes,” she said firmly.
“I don’t mind hanging around. Giving you a hand.”
“I can take care of Grant just fine,” Sarah insisted.
“No one doubts that,” Grant assured softly, sensing that something more was going on beneath the surface than met the eye. “But if Kirkland can remove some of the burden off you – “
“You’re not a burden! You’re my husband.”
“I want to help,” Kirkland said.
“Why?” she challenged. “You don’t give a damn about Grant. You forced him to sign a piece of paper saying he wasn’t your dad anymore, and you’ve been treating him like an afterthought ever since.”
Kirkland looked guiltily at his father. “I – “
“I know you didn’t mean it, son,” Grant said, attempting to put on a brave face despite feeling pretty certain that Kirkland, in fact, did.
“He’s just feeling sorry for you now,” Sarah said. “And you don’t need his sympathy. None of us do. What you need is to be surrounded by people who love you so you can get better. And that doesn’t include Kirkland. So, like I said earlier, thanks for watching Daisy – but you can go now, Kirk.”
“Mom.” Jamie awkwardly stood up from his desk at the sight of her in the hospital office doorway. “What – I – Come in.”
“Thank you. I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome.”
Jamie didn’t know how to respond to that. So he said nothing at all.
Realizing that would be the extend of any welcome she could hope to receive, Rachel pressed on, “How have you been? How are the girls?”
“I heard about Olivia and…”
“Yeah, I – I really don’t want to talk about that.”
“Neither does Russ,” Rachel observed. “Except to tell me that, if I saw you, I should pass on a message from him. Russ says he’s sorry for what he said the last time you two spoke. That he apparently leapt to some erroneous conclusions without first finding out all the details of your situation.”
Jamie nodded thoughtfully, trying to discern what Russ might have meant by that and coming up empty. Would Olivia have told him Jamie wasn’t her baby’s father? There really was no way to ask without inviting even more trouble. Nonetheless, he offered, “Thanks, Mom.” Followed, after an even more awkward pause, by, “Was that what you stopped by to tell me?”
“No,” Rachel admitted.
“What is it, then?”
“I wanted to see how you and the girls were, and I wanted to tell you that I – Jamie, I think you did the right thing, asking Lorna to move out of the house.”
“I see,” her son’s tone frosted into ice.
“Yes,” she plugged on, nonetheless. “You did what was best for Devon and Mackenzie. Lorna is in no shape now to be their mother.”
“Is something wrong with Lorna?” Jamie’s entire body tensed.
“No! No. I mean, not anything new. I mean that between the ongoing memory loss and the erratic behavior… if she does turn out to be the one who shot Carl, it’s better that the girls don’t get too attached to her. It would be awful for them to lose her… again.”
“If she does turn out to be… You don’t sound as sure anymore.”
“I meant, if she’s convicted.”
Despite his best attempt to remain detached, Jamie couldn’t help seeing how much stress his mother was obviously under and asking, “Are you okay? Having her at the house?”
“Not really,” Rachel admitted. “But Carl insists he wouldn’t be able to function without her. She’s been quite indispensable to him, or so I’m told.”
“Well, their relationship does go a lot further back than hers and mine. Or yours and Carl’s, even.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rachel snapped.
“Nothing,” Jamie took a step back, as if slapped by his mother’s words.
“Are you insinuating – “
“I’m not insinuating anything.”
“Is that why you threw Lorna out? Because you thought she and Carl – “
“I don’t know what’s going on between them, okay?” Jamie all but kicked his chair in frustration. “I haven’t since the moment Lorna reappeared in Bay City, calling him her savior. All I know is, whatever their relationship is, I couldn’t put up with it anymore. And, frankly, Mom, I don’t understand how you can, either.”
“My mom must really be calling in the Marines if she asked you to come see me,” Allie observed upon finding GQ in the prison waiting area.
“Amanda didn’t send me,” GQ promised. “I came on my own.”
“I wanted to talk to you. About Hudson.”
“Is he okay?”
“Sure. He’s great. I drove up and saw him between Christmas and New Year’s. Had to tear him away from all his new toys. It wasn’t easy.”
“Bet he must have loved that.” Allie asked, “Does he know who you are?”
“Rick and Mindy explained it to him. The whole where babies come from thing, and how sometimes the Mommy and Daddy that made you aren’t the ones who end up being your parents.”
“What does he think of it?”
“He thinks it’s normal. Mindy said he walked up to a pregnant woman on the playground and asked her: Are you going to keep your baby or give it up for adoption?”
Allie smiled, then quickly tried to hide it. “I guess it’s not funny.”
“Well, not to the woman he asked, no. But Mindy says it proves how comfortable he is with the whole concept.”
“That’s… good, right? I mean you probably don’t think so, because you never wanted to give him away in the first place.”
“I’m happy he’s not upset about it.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“He’s asking about you, Allie. He wants to know if he has a Birth Mommy as well as a Birth Daddy.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him he did. He wants to meet you.”
“Well, I’m a little busy at the moment.”
“He doesn’t understand that.”
“He’s going to have to.”
“Come on,” GQ shook his head, unable to believe how obstinate she was being. “He’s a little kid. He’s trying to make sense of something very, very complicated. We screw this up, we could mess him up for life.”
“This is why I didn’t want to do the open adoption thing,” Allie said. “None of this would have happened if you hadn’t insisted on having a relationship with him.”
“I’m not sorry about that.”
“Okay. Then you deal with it.”
“He’s our son. We owe him this.”
“I’m busy,” Allie repeated tersely, indicating her current residence.
“Your mom says all you need is to flip on Zeno and you can walk out of here tomorrow. You can come with me to see Hudson and answer his questions. Unless, of course, your boyfriend means more to you than your son does.”
“Making yourself comfortable?” Iris inquired of Olivia, whom Russ had brought home from the hospital to stay with them, then promptly abandoned, as if the sight of his daughter made her husband physically ill.
“I’m… good,” Olivia answered cautiously, sitting on the edge of the bed in the guest-room, unsure of just how much Russ had told Iris about what was really going on.
“It must have been a horrific experience for you, Dennis and Marley’s almost-wedding. I know it left me feeling battered and bruised, and I didn’t even conclude the afternoon at the bottom of a staircase.”
“I’m feeling better,” Olivia lied.
“That’s a shame.”
“In my day,” Iris said. “When we set up a woman for attempted murder, we made a point of appearing debilitated for a much greater period of time.”
Olivia stared at her stepmother in confusion. “What are you saying?”
“I am saying that I expected better of you, my dear.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you. Even if I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”
“I doubt that very much. Tell me something, which man is it that you really want, Jamie or Dennis?”
“Jamie, of course,” Olivia blurted without thinking through the full implication of Iris’ question.
“And yet the poor, put-upon, brave, little me number didn’t send him rushing to your side?”
“No,” Olivia admitted.
“How very unlike Jamie. Traditionally, downtrodden, pitiful waifs are his specialty. But perhaps that is exclusively when his mother is the one doing the aforementioned trodding downward. Maybe, under these circumstances, you need to try a different approach.”
“What?” Olivia gave up trying to outsmart Iris and now simply struggled to keep up with her.
“Really, darling, a tumble down that stairs that opportunely no one but the victim and the alleged perpetrator happened to see? How convenient! Not to mention, tell me true now, was there ever even a baby to begin with?”
Olivia’s hesitation told Iris everything she needed to know.
“Men are such idiots,” Iris sighed.
“Daddy figured it out!” Olivia felt compelled to defend her father.
“Of course, he did. My Russ was always a clever one. And what did he do about it?”
“He – he told me to stay away from Jamie. And his girls. And Lorna.”
Iris did her best to refrain from rolling her eyes at the banality of it all. “Clever, yes. Visionary… not exactly. All our Russ can see is the inconvenience this might cause his unworthy golden boy, Jamie.”
“What else is there to see?”
Iris smiled. “How you and I are going to use this situation to bring down Marley. Once and for all.”
“They’re gorgeous, aren’t they?” Felicia beamed to Rachel as the two of them looked at their mutual granddaughters while both girls sat at the dining room table, playing with the paper-doll set Rachel had brought them.
“More beautiful every time I see them,” Rachel agreed. She snuck a peek at her friend, who was doing pretty much everything she could to avoid meeting Rachel’s gaze head-on. Finally, Rachel said, “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”
“Is that so?” Felicia observed blithely.
“Not since I identified Lorna as the one who shot Carl.”
Felicia stiffened, then inquired, “So we’re hopping right to it, then? No more small talk?”
“I never meant to hurt you. Or Jamie. Or the girls.”
“Then why – “
“Because my husband almost died. And because I’m terrified of it happening again.”
“Carl, obviously, can’t feel the same way. Or else why would he ever have invited Lorna to move in with you?”
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” Rachel quoted.
“So it’s a set up?” Felicia finally turned to face Rachel, shocked.
“No. Carl doesn’t think she’s guilty.”
“But you still do.”
“I’m beginning to have my doubts,” Rachel admitted. “I – I’m starting to have some other suspicions.”
“Then why haven’t you told the police?”
Rachel shrugged. “Because suspicions without physical evidence are pointless. I admit, I may have leapt to conclusions with Lorna. I’m afraid to do it again. The witness who cried wolf, you know?”
“At least tell Jamie that you’ve changed your mind. He asked Lorna to leave because he thought she might be a danger to Devon and Mackenzie.”
“I still think that part might be true.”
“What? But you just said – “
“Lorna may not be Carl’s shooter. But she is not the woman who left Bay City. No matter how much you and Jamie try to pretend otherwise… she’s a different person. Colder. Harder. She’s more like…”
“The old Lorna?” Felicia guessed.
“I’ll take it,” Felicia said. “I’ll take my daughter any way I can get her.”
“Even if she’s not the Lorna you loved?”
“My love for my children is unconditional.”
“Of course, it is,” Rachel backpedaled. “What I mean is, though – is she ready to be a mother to Devon and Mackenzie? Can Jamie risk having a woman like that around his children?”
“She’ll get her memory back,” Felicia predicted.
“What if she doesn’t? What if Lorna is stuck forever as the woman she used to be? What if she wants it that way?”
“But, if that’s the case,” Felicia pointed out reasonably. “Then she would have no reason to shoot Carl, would she?”
“No,” Rachel agreed. “She wouldn’t. But,” and now it was time to get to the real reason she’d come to speak with her friend. “What if I knew someone else who did?”
Rachel took a deep breath. “Lucas.”
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