"You..." Felicia looked from Cass to Frankie, overwhelmed. "You two would be willing to adopt Lori Ann..."
"It's perfect," Frankie gushed. "I'm even a blood relative. Didn't you say Kevin threw that in your face, too? I practically raised Dean. Who else should have his little girl?"
"And we wouldn't be willing to do it," Cass told Felicia. "We want to."
"But," Felicia stammered. "The two of you, you've just found each other again after so long. This is your time to be together. A newborn... especially one who could still develop so many health problems damn him, but Kevin Fowler was right about that, we have no idea what kinds of challenges Lori Ann will face down the road... Do you really want to take on responsibility for a newborn? Now? You should be on your honeymoon, practically. Or whatever one calls it when it's death itself you've beaten."
"Actually, death is a piece of cake compared to who we're up against," Cass mumbled. "Death, at least, takes a holiday once in a while. Or so black and white movies have led me to believe."
Before Felicia could ask for clarification, Frankie interrupted to say, "Cass and I have already had our honeymoon. We've had several, as a matter of fact. What we haven't had is the chance to raise a child together. I lost so much time with Charlie. She's practically an adult "
"She certainly has an adult-sized attitude, that's for sure," Cass shook his head. "We really need to do something about that."
Frankie told Felicia, "Adopting Lori Ann would give Cass and I a chance to rebuild the family we lost. The family that was stolen from us. It would be a fresh start for me, Cass, Charlie and Lori Ann. We'd be normal."
"Well, I wouldn't go that far," Cass teased.
Frankie grinned at him. "And if when Dean comes back, well, we're all family. We'll make it work."
Cass wagered, "Kevin Fowler won't be able to say no to us. With your backing and Frankie being a relative, plus we are what he said he wanted in adoptive parents; we're younger, we're married... "
"Wait a minute," Frankie said. She looked at Cass with a quizzical expression on her face. "Are we?"
Alice wanted nothing more than to believe that she was reading too much into the sight of Jamie sitting alone in his car in the Bay City Hospital parking lot.
But the longer she watched him, the bigger that prickle of fear grew, because she could quickly discern from the all too familiar, faraway look on his face that things weren't getting better for him, but worse.
He was beginning to retreat inside himself again. And she couldn't let that happen.
"May I join you?" Alice firmly tapped on the passenger side window. Jamie blinked at her, hesitating a moment before unlocking the door.
"No answers are found sitting in a cold car," she gently admonished, nodding towards the ignition. "Start her up." After he quietly did so, she turned to him and asked, "How did the hearing go today?"
He let out a derisive snort. "The hearing? I wish that had been the only pain in my ass today."
That certainly came out of nowhere. Alice clarified, "Your cousin, Frankie? From Thanksgiving?"
"Remember when I was in the hospital, and there was that woman, Mary, who reminded me so much of my dead cousin Frankie? Guess what?"
It took Alice a moment, but then all the pieces clicked into places. "Oh, God," she said.
"Yeah. Turns out Frankie was there, her memory wiped away by drugs, courtesy of Cecile. How's that for an ironic coincidence?"
"So Frankie knows..."
"Everything," Jamie said simply. "She may not have remembered that she was a private eye, but she all but took notes during group therapy as if she still was one. And, unfortunately for me, when she regained her memories of being Frankie, she didn't forget her time as Mary. More unfortunately for me, she now would like me to testify to the police that I saw Cecile with her at the sanitarium that one time. Frankie thinks it's the only way to put Cecile in prison for what she did to her."
"You were very heavily medicated then, Jamie. A judge would easily dismiss anything you saw or thought you saw at that time. Your doctors and I were doing everything we could to convince you that you didn't see Cecile with Mary or Frankie or whoever she was. That it was a symptom of your psychosis. That you were seeing her everywhere."
"Cecile is threatening to kill Frankie's daughter," Jamie dropped. "Frankie's looking for anything and everything she can to put Cecile away. Even if it's my half-cracked, overly drugged recollections."
"Even if it puts you in the position of having to publicly relive one of the hardest things you've ever gone through? If and when you decide to tell your family what happened to you, it should be on your own timetable."
"Frankie doesn't seem to think so. Either I go to the police to testify for her or..."
"Or she'll expose me," he said quietly. "It's over, Alice. I'm done."
"No," Alice rubbed her forehead with two fingers. "Let me think. There has to be... What if... What if I testify instead? What if I go to the police and tell them that I was visiting the hospital on some medical matter and I saw Cecile with Frankie?"
"I'm not going to have you commit perjury and risk going to jail for me. You've covered my ass more than enough over the past few years. Besides, even if Frankie went along with it, it'd still be your word against Cecile's. If your testimony didn't convince the police, Cecile would still be free to hurt Charlie, and Frankie would still expect me to come forward. If your testimony did convince them, they'd still want to certify that you were at the asylum "
"And why I was there," she finished. "Everything about you could still come out."
"Yeah," he nodded, his voice strained. "There's really no stopping it now."
Lucas waited outside in the cold, in the shadows, until he saw Felicia leave Cass and Frankie's home.
It took all his self-control not to call out to her, not to raise one gloved hand and signal Here! I'm over here. Look at me, Fanny. I'm here.
Was it possible she was even more beautiful now than the last time he'd seen her? Even after all these years when he'd built her image up in his head from fragments of memories, from equal portions of Fanny Grady and Felicia Gallant and the woman who was all of them and neither, the one who was Mrs. Luke Castigliano, the one that was known only by him. Even after all that, the sight of her in the flesh blew sixteen years of fantasies out of the water.
Look at me, Fanny. Please. Look at me.
She drove away. About a half hour later, Frankie also left. Lucas waited until the street was deserted, and then he rang Cass' doorbell.
He informed the man who could potentially ruin everything for him, "I'm going to tell Fanny I'm alive."
"Okay," Cass said as he waited for Lucas to come in before shutting the door. "Since I obviously can't stop you, why the preview of Coming Attractions?"
"Because. You can make things very difficult for Fanny and me."
"I think you've got that part pretty well taken care of yourself."
"You know, considering the gift you just got with Frankie, I'm thinking maybe you should be a little more supportive of what I've been through."
"My wife didn't spend her missing years as a hit-man for an international crime cartel. Have you stopped to give any thought to what kind of danger you'll be putting Felicia in with your return?"
"It's under control. The only thing standing between Fanny and me now, is you deciding to give her some friendly advice and suggesting she kick me to the curb."
"Felicia knows her own mind. I don't tell her what to do."
"Tell her, no. You'd be a fool to try it. But you do make some pretty strong suggestions. If there is anyone she will listen to speaking against me, it's you."
"So you're here to ask me to play nice?"
"For Fanny's sake. Let's not make my return any harder for her than it has to be."
"If she asks my opinion, I'll give it to her. I didn't think you were trustworthy twenty years ago, and that goes double triple now."
"There's one more thing," Lucas said.
"Oh, right, because we've already reached consensus on the first issue."
"Lorna," Lucas said.
"What about Lorna? She knows you're alive, you don't need to spring it on her."
"Don't tell Fanny that Lorna knew before she did."
"Again, I presume, this is for Felicia's sake?" Cass mocked.
"It is. Listen, everything between them looks fine now, but their relationship, it's still shaky at times. One wrong move and... That was a lot of years Felicia and Lorna missed when she was growing up. They'll never have that mother/daughter rhythm exactly right. There's always going to be issues. Someone is always going to be almost saying the wrong thing and taking offense and getting hurt. We can't help that. We can't get that time back for them. The best we can do is not set them off."
Cass thought of Frankie and Charlie, and of his daughter's overt hostility ever since her mother had moved back in. He nodded slightly, to show that he conceded Lucas' point.
"Okay," Cass said. "I'll keep yours and Lorna's secret. But, in exchange, you're going to do a favor for me...."
Just as he hadn't been genuinely surprised to find Frankie in his office earlier, the woman waiting for Jamie now was equally expected.
Sooner or later, he'd known she'd come.
"Hello, Jamie," Cecile cooed from her perch on his desk. "It's been a long time."
He turned back towards the door, the initial instinct to run practically shoving him out and down the hall.
But, then again, Jamie knew he couldn't get away. He had been trying for the past ten years to no avail.
"What?" he asked from the doorway, unwilling to take even a step near her.
"Now, is that any way to greet your "
"What the hell do you want from me now?"
"To talk," she smiled sweetly, even as her eyes flickered over him predatorily. "Close the door."
"I prefer it open, thanks."
"Trust me," she chuckled over his adorable attempt at refusing her. "You'll want it closed."
Marley kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. A dig from Grant about trouble in paradise after witnessing her and Jamie's fight at the courthouse. A deftly dropped barb to prick her with regarding the judge's decision. Perhaps a poke to her ribs via a request for advice about where he should hang the painting he'd wormed away from her earlier.
But there was none of that from Grant tonight.
Instead, to Marley's confusion and unease, Grant Harrison was acting the perfect, respectful gentleman. From pulling out her chair, to ordering their wine, to engaging her in a discussion of the floral paintings of the Italian Renaissance, he was essaying the part of bearable human being to perfection.
And it was beginning to get on Marley's nerves. Because she was beginning to find herself enjoying his company way too much. (Really, whom else did she have to discuss floral paintings with? Bridget and Michele?)
Marley placed her wine glass on the table with a decisive thump. "Can we get on with it, already?"
"Get on with what?" he blinked at her curiously.
"Whatever it is you want to discuss about Kirkland. I highly doubt that you brought me here for an in-depth review of your art collection."
"On the contrary," Grant sipped from his own glass. "I haven't had such a pleasant evening in the company of a woman for a very long time."
"I wouldn't let Lila hear you say that."
"Lila and I are merely friends," Grant laughed. "Not that I didn't toy with the idea of more. She is a most unique personality."
"She doesn't really seem to be your type."
"Do I detect the head of a little green monster?" Grant studied her from across the table.
"You think I'm jealous?" Marley laughed. "Of you and Lila? Please, Grant. I'm simply thinking of Kirkland. As his legal guardian, any trollop you decide to spend your time with is my concern."
She waited for an attack, but was surprised when he responded with, "You're quite right."
"I said that you are quite right. As Kirkland's guardian, anything I do is up for discussion. As is everything that you and Jamie do."
"Meaning that Kirkland has... well, he's seemed distracted... a little off. How are things at home? With you and Jamie? I noticed at the courthouse "
"And here it comes," Marley seethed. "You know what, Grant? You have some nerve."
"You opened this door, Marley, with your insistence that my life be up for your examination. I'm simply doing what any good father would do and insisting that you extend me the same courtesy. So...about Kirkland?"
"Everything's fine, Grant. Jamie's been busy at the hospital, that's all. Between Jenna and Lori Ann "
"Which happened months ago," Grant countered. "As did your marriage. And yet you and Jamie are still living in separate residences."
"I don't see how that's any "
"It is certainly my business when I see that my son's home is in perpetual flux. And that it's bothering him a great deal more than he may be letting on."
"You're the one upsetting things by trying to take him away from the stable home he's lived in for ten years. Do not put Kirkland having issues on Jamie or me. He was fine before you came back!"
Again, Grant surprised Marley by leaning back in his chair and looking at her calmly. "Cards on the table?"
"Oh, sure. Of course. Hit me."
"As I have said before, I do not discount that both you and Jamie have done a wonderful job with Kirkland. He's an amazing young man and given how... eventful... his life has been, things could have turned out very differently. But I'm here, now. And I am his father. There's no reason why he shouldn't be living with me. Especially in lieu of how up in the air everything currently is between you and Jamie. For goodness' sake, Marley, I would think you'd welcome the reprieve. Do a pair of newlyweds really need an angry teen-age boy underfoot at all hours of the day and night?"
Marley opened her mouth to rebut, but Grant continued, "Has he been any worse in these past few months since I've been back? Have you seen any negative influence from our spending time together? Honestly, now?"
Marley hesitated, then finally conceded with a shake of her head. "No. But "
"Have I attempted to whisk him off to parts unknown or to turn him against you or Jamie? Aside from yes, I realize that one particular incident which I have apologized and Kirkland has forgiven me for?"
"No," she shook her head again. "But I know you, Grant. Sooner or later you won't be able to help yourself and start trying to secure your position in Kirkland's life. You'll want him all to yourself, all of his time and all of his attention and love for yourself, not giving a damn about what or whom he wants in his life. If you couldn't turn him against us, you'd try to figure out a way to remove us from his life by any means necessary. And don't try to laugh this one off, because you've attempted to do it before. We've all seen it."
"I won't deny that I have done some things I am not proud of. That I wish I could take back for Kirkland's sake, if not my own. But please believe me when I say: I know better now. I know how to love my son, and all I want is the chance to do so."
She could almost believe him, the way he was looking at her now. What was it with the way he was looking at her now...
Marley glanced away in attempt to remain strong. "I believe that you want to. I just don't believe that you're capable of that kind of love. The unselfish kind."
"Then show me how." His request caused her head to snap back in his direction. "Show me how to be a parent to him, teach me how to be the kind of father you think Kirkland deserves."
She pulled her hand from his when did that happen? and crammed it into her lap. "Kirkland already has exactly the kind of father that he deserves. Why can't you see that it's best for him to stay with the family he knows?"
"He knows me too, now. These past few weeks, he and I have grown closer. We've developed a bond "
"Then why not just continue with the way things have been going? Kirkland stays with me and Jamie, and he visits you whenever he wants."
"Or... Kirkland can stay with me, and visit you and Jamie. I would never limit his access to the people he loves. And yes, I concede, that includes Jamie Frame."
Marley scoffed, "I will never believe that Kirkland living with you could be for the best."
Once again, Grant did the unexpected. He met her with eyes devoid of anger or contempt. "I'll take that as a challenge. I will prove you wrong."
"I doubt it."
"You're just fueling my fire," he laughed. "To that end, I would like to extend an invitation to you, the girls, Steven, and Jamie for Christmas lunch at my house. Bring Donna too, if you'd like. She and I used to get along quite well at one time. I think it would do Kirkland a world of good to see that we are all trying to get along. And you can see for yourself what I'm capable of."
"I think I already have a pretty good idea of what you're capable of."
"I don't think you do," he shook his head.
"Christmas should be spent with one's family."
"And we are all family, are we not? An unconventional one..."
"You think Christmas lunch would show me something about you I don't already know?"
"Come and find out for yourself."
"I know what this is." Marley smiled at having finally figured it out. "I say no, you tell Kirkland, and then, what a surprise, he's upset with me."
"That thought never crossed my mind."
"Fine. We'll come to your house. For a little while. And then we'll spend our real Christmas with our real families."
"Fair enough," Grant chuckled, raising his glass. "To proving to you that I can be a better man."
She lifted her glass in answer. "To seeing you fall flat on your face."
"Oh, Marley," Grant sighed at her with a startlingly sweet and charming smile. "I do enjoy your humor."
She gave in to the temptation and smiled back at him, which only made his smile widen. For a moment, Marley forgot who the man sitting across from her was, and just allowed herself to enjoy the attention of a man who'd made her, and her alone, the recipient of that dazzling smile.
Until, out of the corner of her eye, Marley saw Lorna Devon standing at the bar, staring at her at her and at Grant with that steely, suspicious, accusatory look of hers.
Quickly, Marley dropped her eyes to the table, smile gone, her face now burning as an unexpected, but unmistakable feeling washed over.
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