Despite a host of misgivings, Rachel realized she couldn’t stand it any longer. She had to know, once and for all, if something was going on between Carl and Lorna.
And so, when she heard the voices behind Lorna’s door; one male, one female, neither of them exactly having a dispassionate chat about the weather, Rachel threw common sense – not to mention pride – to the wind and burst in.
Only to find, as she’d suspected, Lorna in bed… with Jamie.
“What the hell is going on here?” Rachel blurted out. Apparently, being very obviously in the wrong only made her more self-righteous.
Jamie froze for a moment, his back to her. And then he exhaled, rolled over, sat up, and, hitching his blanket up to his waist, turned to sardonically address his mother. “Well, I was making love to my wife. I’m not precisely sure what you’re doing.”
“But… You and Lorna… You said…” Rachel stammered.
“I lied,” he informed her, too tired to play games, too angry to force Lorna to do the same.
It didn’t take Rachel long to grasp the entire picture.
“You’ve got your memory back,” she accused her daughter-in-law.
Who, taking her cue from Jamie, stared back defiantly to clip, “Yes.”
“So what the hell is the meaning of this?” Rachel didn’t even know where to begin listing all their transgressions against her.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Jamie indicated Rachel barging in on them.
“It’s my house,” she defended awkwardly.
“Were you looking for me?” Jamie wondered.
Rachel was about to lie when Carl appeared, quickly taking in the scene and putting tow and two together even faster than Rachel had.
He sighed, part disappointed, part pleased that at least some of the masquerade was now over. “So you have been attempting to pull the wool over my eyes, have you, my dear?” he asked Lorna almost pleasantly.
“I told you,” Rachel interjected. “I told you she was out to get you. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if her entire amnesia act was a scam from the beginning. An attempt to get you to lower your guard.”
“Oh, it was real,” Lorna promised. “I lost my memory from slipping and falling while running into the middle of a snowstorm, trying to get away from him.”
“Your husband wasn’t Lorna’s rescuer,” Jamie told his mother. “He was her kidnapper. He caught her at the falls where we found the stroller with Devon and Zee. He ordered her to come with him. He wanted her to bring the girls, too. He said it would serve me right, losing my family the way I’d made him lose his. He had thugs with him and a gun. He aimed it at my children. Lorna remembers everything now.”
Rachel’s head zipped in Carl’s direction. He opened his mouth, but there was very little he could say at this point.
Which was alright. Rachel had enough to say for both of them.
She whipped back to face Jamie and Lorna, furious beyond all comprehension. Not just about this. About all of it.
“Well, in that case,” Rachel snapped. “Perhaps Lorna also remembers how she arranged her ill-fated escape. Since she’s been so free with telling you everything that happened while she and Carl was gone, did she happen to mention seducing your sixteen year old brother?”
“Was that Steven?” Amanda asked Kevin after he came back upstairs and she heard the front door close.
Her husband nodded.
“Are he and Jen… okay?”
“I don’t know,” Kevin said. “She forgave him, but…”
“So everything is fine now,” Amanda prodded somewhat desperately. “Jen forgave Steven, and they’re going to be alright.”
“What were you hoping to accomplish?” he demanded. “Telling her the way that you did?”
“I was angry,” Amanda apologized. “And I was fighting for my daughter’s life.”
“Can it,” he snapped. “I understand that you were angry. I even understand why you were angry. But, please, do not sit there and, with a straight face, pretend that breaking my daughter’s heart was in any way helpful to yours.”
“I’m sorry,” Amanda said. “I got carried away. Did Jen… did she forgive you, too?”
Kevin nodded ruefully. “I was always knew she was better than I deserved. Guess this proves it, yet again.”
“So… no harm done,” Amanda said firmly, as if her certainty could settle the issue once and for all.
“Are you going to go to the police?” Kevin wondered.
“What? Why would I….”
“I don’t know. Maybe you’ve decided that putting Steven in jail will somehow help Allie, too.”
“I would never do that. He’s my nephew. And besides, what the two of you did… it was a public service, practically, not a crime.”
“What about the next time you get angry? Should I have a criminal lawyer on perennial stand-by?”
“I – There won’t be a next time.”
Kevin snorted. And then he said, “Do you remember when we first got married, and I told you how most of the cases I see in Family Law come from people not trusting each other the way that they should? I told you I intended to always trust you. I thought that could help avoid some of the pitfalls.”
“You didn’t trust me when you decided to go to jail on Steven’s behalf,” Amanda accused.
“You’re right.” He had no defense for that.
“So,” she tried to smile. “What do you say we call it even?”
Kevin gave some thought to her offer. And then he said, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“I always thought there was nothing you could do that I wouldn’t be able to forgive you for. But, it never crossed my mind that you would deliberately hurt my daughter. And for no good reason whatsoever.”
“I told you… Allie…”
“No. I don’t believe you. I’m sorry, Amanda, but I just don’t.”
They stared at each for a long, fraught beat. And then, without another word, Amanda turned and ran out of the room.
“You’re going to help me,” Grant ordered Lila after informing her of his plan to fake his death.
“Like hell I am!”
“It’s the best thing I can do for Sarah and Daisy. Withdraw now, before it’s too late and I’ve saddled them with an invalid who needs constant care for the rest of his life.”
“That child,” Lila said, seemingly lumping Grant’s wife in with his daughter. “Adores you. She is running herself ragged to get you back up on your feet – “
“Which is exactly what I don’t want to happen! Alice said I could have a second, more serious stroke at any moment. That’s why there isn’t any time to waste.”
“You’ve gone stark, raving mad, that’s what you have.”
“I love her, Lila,” Grant pleaded. “I have never loved anyone in my life as much as I love Sarah. And I will not hurt her the way I’ve hurt everyone else who’s had the bad judgment to love me back.”
“You think leaving her a widow – “
“Better now than ten years from now. She’s young. She can still have a life.”
“Not the one she wants. The life she wants is with you.”
Grant shrugged. “I’ve never been the self-sacrificing sort.”
“Hell of a time to start, Senator!”
“Give me this, Lila. Please. Let me die thinking I’ve done one, good, noble thing for the people I love.”
“Wait a minute. Back up, here. I thought you said you were plotting to fake your death, not go whole hog method actor.”
“I am,” he reassured. “I just need your assistance with the details.”
“I ain’t digging up a corpse and smuggling it into the morgue dressed in a Grant Harrison costume so I can switch your toe-tags at the last minute.”
Grant had to smile weakly in spite of himself. Lila did have such a colorful way of expressing herself. He’d miss that about her. There was so much he’d miss. About everyone. “That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
“Been thinking this out, have you?”
“As a matter of fact, I have. I have everything arranged. Just listen, and I’ll tell you what I need from you to pull this off.”
“Worried about Grant?” Jasmine asked Kirkland when they were back at his apartment after their latest date, Kirkland acting unusually quiet despite Jasmine’s most charming efforts to make conversation.
He shrugged. “Sarah, actually.”
“She must be so worried about him,” Jasmine offered sympathetically, taking Kirkland’s hand and easing him down to sit next to her on the couch. “I know Mama is. I asked if I could stop by and see him, but Mama said Grant isn’t up to having visitors.”
“I offered to help Sarah out. You know, take care of Daisy or…whatever.”
“That was very sweet of you.”
“She basically told me to take a hike. Said she could handle it herself. Sarah said Grant needs to be surrounded by people who love him right now. And I’m not one of them.”
“Oh,” Jasmine inhaled sharply.
“I don’t know why that bugs me so much,” Kirkland admitted. “I mean, she’s right, I’m not exactly Grant’s biggest fan.”
“Doesn’t mean you don’t love him.” Jasmine hesitated before venturing, “Mama doesn’t talk much about her own mother. I get the feeling things weren’t very good between them. You know her mom was a prostitute, right? Some of the stuff Mama saw when she was little… Well, it explains why she’s so overprotective with me, you know? I think she’s really, really angry at her mother for putting her in those kinds of situations.” Jasmine paused. “But it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her, too.”
“I guess I love Grant,” Kirkland admitted. “Not like I love my dad, but… Yeah, I guess.”
“Grant would be really happy to hear that,” Jasmine suggested. “I bet it would cheer him up, especially now.”
Kirkland snorted. “Not like Sarah would let me get anywhere near him. She’s… I don’t know why she’s acting the way she’s acting.”
“She’s probably afraid having you around will upset Grant while he’s recovering. Look, Kirk, we never talked about this, but, I was there all those years Grant was trying to reach out to you, and you kept smacking him down like a cat that doesn’t to stay off the couch. It broke his heart. Over and over again. But he never quit trying to have some kind of relationship with you. Even if it was less than what he wanted. He was willing to settle for any crumbs you’d throw his way, that’s how desperate he was. That’s how much he loves you. Sarah saw it, too. That’s probably why she’s being so overprotective now.”
“I’m just trying to help. Maybe I’m even trying to make up for some of that. And, well… other stuff,” he trailed of vaguely, feeling himself start to blush.
“Sarah will come around,” Jasmine reassured, leaning in to kiss Kirkland, her eyes dancing mischievously. “In the meantime, there must be something I can do to cheer you up.”
He kissed her back, chuckling as Jasmine climbed on top of him, pressing on Kirkland’s shoulders until he was almost parallel with the couch and her knees straddled either side of his hips. “Come on,” she teased. “How long are you going to make me wait, huh?”
“I’m not making…”
“Yes, you are. You know I’m ready.” She slipped one hand underneath his shirt, while the other tugged playfully at his belt. “You know I’ve been wanting to forever.”
“Forever?” Kirkland grabbed both her hands by the wrists, kissing first the back of one, then the other, pulling her closer until Jasmine’s face was inches from his. “You’re awfully young to be talking about forever, aren’t you?”
“I’m not that young,” she reminded, slowly, teasingly rubbing up and down against him. “In fact, I’m all grown up.”
Kirkland looked Jasmine in the eye, suddenly deadly serious. “I just… I want to make this special for you.”
“Being with you is special,” she insisted. “Come on, Kirk. You have to know that I’ve had a crush on you since I was, what? Ten years old?”
“A crush is… it’s nothing. Making love isn’t nothing.”
“I know. That’s why I want it to be you.” She buried her face in his neck, her tongue flicking in and out of the hollow in his throat as Kirkland groaned softly.
He slid his hand underneath her skirt, cupping her in his palm and feeling Jasmine gasp and shudder as if from an electric shock.
“I’ll take good care of you,” he promised, his free arm finally, resolutely wrapping around Jasmine’s shoulders and pulling her closer. “I won’t ever let you down.”
“You did what?” Carl’s roar echoed down the Cory Mansion corridor. He looked ready to lunge at Lorna and strangle her with his bare hands. To be honest, Lorna looked like she felt she deserved it.
But that wasn’t nearly enough for Rachel.
“She seduced our son,” Rachel reiterated the point for Carl, unable to rest until he was as disgusted by the revelation as she was. “All to get back at you.”
“How do you know that?” A part of Carl was noticeably still clinging to the possibility of Rachel’s bombshell being untrue. He appeared positively green at the prospect being otherwise.
“Elizabeth told me,” Rachel admitted. “It was while I was trying to convince her to leave town with us. She knew I disapproved of her relationship with Charlie, and so to either distract me or just to make some sort of point, she told me about Cory and Lorna.”
“And you kept it from me?”
“You were shot a few hours later, it was hardly the time.” Rachel turned, determined to at least see one positive result come from her being forced to cause Carl such heartbreak. She asked Jamie, “Did your wife tell you about that?”
“Actually, she did,” Jamie replied calmly.
It was the last thing Rachel had expected to hear. “And you just accepted it?”
“I told Lorna I would never judge anything she felt she needed to do in order to get away from your husband and back home to me and our girls. That didn’t change just because Cory is involved.”
“Your brother is a child! She took advantage of – “
“You amoral, revolting… slut!” The words tumbling from Carl’s lips were so far from his usual erudite vocabulary that they made the situation even more horrifying. His loss of control was inescapable. One arm raised, he advanced on Lorna, still in the bed, but Jamie sat up straighter, squaring his shoulders.
“You lay one finger on her, Carl, and so help me, I will rip you limb from limb, right here in front of my mother.”
Carl smirked. “Whatever happened to your oft-stated aversion to violence?”
“In your case – I got over it.”
Even Carl could tell Jamie wasn’t bluffing.
He slowly lowered his arm, still glaring daggers at Lorna, accusing, “So that is why you attempted to murder me. To keep the sordid truth about your grotesque violation of my son from coming to light.”
“I didn’t do anything to you, and you damn well know it,” Lorna fired back.
“And that’s why you…” Carl trailed off, composing himself enough at the last moment to realize that perhaps this part of their conversations shouldn’t be conducted in Rachel’s presence.
Lorna grasped his fear. And she ran with it. “You kissed me back, Carl. Don’t you even try to deny that.”
“Is there no end to how low you’ll stoop? First Cory, then Carl,” Rachel seethed. “Then again, with Matt and Jamie checked off your list, I suppose it was inevitable.” She turned towards her son again to ask, “Do you hear this? Do you understand the sort of woman you’ve chosen over your own family? Do you see now that there is no stunt she won’t pull to try and tear us all down?”
“My wife kissed your husband in order to keep the two of you from pinning a murder rap on her. What’s his excuse?”
“You will pay for this,” Carl promised, no longer yelling, now all but hissing. “Both of you will pay for what you’ve put Rachel through.”
“Fine,” Jamie said. “As soon as you pay for what you’ve put her through, which includes kidnapping Elizabeth and Cory, along with Lorna.”
“I had your mother’s permission for it!”
“Did he, Mom?” Jamie addressed Rachel, giving her one more chance to finally tell the truth now that so much more of it was out in the open. “Did you, really?”
She didn’t say anything. Which, frankly, was all Jamie needed to know.
Taking a deep breath, he said, “How about we table this discussion? Let Lorna and I get dressed, and we’ll meet you both downstairs to work this out, once and for all. Who did what to whom? Who kidnapped whom? Who shot whom?”
When neither Rachel nor Carl responded to his proposal, Jamie offered. “Or, we could do this while we’re naked.” He made a move as if to throw off his blanket. “That won’t make this quasi-incestuous quadrangle any weirder than it already is at all.”
“I’m the crazy one?” Marley demanded of Dennis, having worked herself up into a full lather on the drive over to his apartment. “I’m the one who deserves to be committed?”
“What are you talking about? Who – “
“Olivia, that’s who!”
Dennis scrunched up his face, confused. “Olivia thinks you should be committed?”
“Probably,” Marley dismissed. “But she’ll settle for seeing me locked up in jail.”
“I don’t understand.”
“She’s threatening to press charges against me. Attempted murder charges.”
Dennis felt like he’d been sucker-punched in the gut. “The baby…”
“No matter how much I may have wanted that woman gone from lives, I would never, ever, ever take it out on an innocent child.”
“I know that,” Dennis assured.
“And besides, I didn’t do a damn thing to her! I didn’t lay a finger on her! She slipped and fell all on her own. I didn’t ask her to climb those stairs and start yelling at me. Why would I do that? You and I were about to get married!”
“Olivia actually told you that she was planning to press charges?”
“Well, she did offer me a way out.”
“She did?” Dennis shook his head in a double-take. “What was it?”
Marley crossed her arms, taking some satisfaction in informing him, “Olivia offered to forget the whole thing… if I dumped you.”
“Yeah. Can you believe it? What does she think she’s doing?”
It took Dennis only a moment to put two and two together. “Mom,” he said with a sigh.
He nodded slowly. “Olivia is living with Mom and Russ now. They took her in after Jamie kicked her to the curb. What do you want to bet Mom put her up to this?”
Marley considered the possibility. “That would make sense. Iris hates me. Then again, she isn’t too crazy about Olivia, either.”
“The devil you know…” Dennis prompted. “Besides, Mom can manipulate Olivia in a way she never could you.”
Marley smirked. “You said it. She tried, you know. I set her straight.”
“She tried with me, too,” Dennis said. “Would you believe Mom actually tried to make me believe you’d confessed to her that you were stringing both Grant and I along just for kicks? Seriously, talk about barking up the wrong tree…”
“What I don’t understand,” Marley quickly changed the subject, eager to leave that part of her life in the past, where it belonged. “Is what Olivia is getting out of this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Iris may want us broken up, but since when does Olivia give a damn?”
“Well, she and I, we were together…”
“A million years ago! And it was hardly a great love match. You both agree it was just for Sarah’s sake. A one-night stand that went horribly, horribly wrong.”
“We… we had our moments.”
“If Olivia had any interest in getting you back, why would she have spent the last three years trying to worm her way into Jamie’s life?”
“Well, she knew you and I were together, so….”
“You and I being together is hardly stopping her now. Why would it have stopped her then?”
“Maybe she never really wanted Jamie,” Dennis voiced something he’d been suspecting for a while now. “What if – what if I was who she was really after all along?”
Marley couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. “Olivia hates you, Dennis.”
“Not necessarily.” For some reason, proving that to Marley had suddenly become very, very important to him. He just didn’t like the sound of her laugh. It reminded him of too many things about Marley that had been bothering him lately. Things he’d ignored in the hope that they’d soon stop bothering him.
It hadn’t happened so far.
“Of course, she does. All she ever talks about is how much of a better man Jamie is than you. How much of a better father he is.”
“Do you agree with her?” Dennis challenging, remembering even more of what he’d been suppressing.
“Where did that come from?”
“That’s how all this started, isn’t it? Olivia claims you pushed her down the stairs the same way you ran Lorna over with your car. You were jealous of another woman having Jamie’s baby.”
“I told you,” Marley’s voice turned steely. “That is absolutely ridiculous.”
“As ridiculous as Olivia still being in love with me?”
“Is it so hard to imagine? That a woman might prefer me to your precious Jamie?”
“I never said anything about Jamie! You’re the one who started in with – “
“Because for all your and Olivia’s big talk about what a great guy he is, what a great dad, Jamie didn’t want anything to do with Olivia and her baby. He left her all alone in the hospital while she was miscarrying. What a prince! I’m the one who sat with her, I’m the one who comforted her. I’m not as cold-hearted as Jamie. Who cares if I loved somebody else? I wouldn’t have walked out if I knew for sure that the baby was mine!”
The minute the words were out of Dennis’ mouth, he knew he’d gone too far.
Marley’s eyes widened and she inhaled sharply, stammering, “Olivia’s baby – Olivia’s baby might have been….”
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