Lucas turned his back on the woman who'd held his heart for most of his life, feeling his resolve crumble at the anguish in her eyes, the pain on her face, and the words that, if he were honest, sounded less paranoid and more truthful that he would like to admit.
"You know I'm right, Luke," Felicia pressed. "If you really want to fix things, to repair the damage to our family, you'll stay, you'll fight for us, you won't run away again."
It was the "again" that did it. Hadn't he told Alice only recently his biggest regret was abandoning Fanny and Lorna the first time? If only he'd stayed. If only he'd fought... Everything, everything would have been so different.
"Nothing could ever change the way I feel about you," Felicia asserted, sensing she'd gotten to him. "Or how much you mean to me, or how much I need and want you in my life. Are you telling me you don't feel the same way?"
"If you'd gotten your way, Lorna's daughter would be dead right now," Lucas clung to the one thing he knew he might possibly never forgive. The one thing he knew Fanny would never summon up the arguments to dismiss.
"But... She... The baby is fine. They're both fine, thank God."
"Only by the whim of a judge. You were willing to dismiss what you knew was the truth no, don't deny it, please; you knew Morgan wasn't the father. But, you were willing to hurt Jamie, hurt me, hurt Lorna..."
"To save Lorna," Felicia corrected.
"As happy as I am that everything seems to have worked out, I am still incensed over what you did, what you almost allowed to happen, what you would have let happen... And if you were honest with yourself, you'd admit you're angry, too. That the totality of how I've hurt you... it may have changed the way you really feel about me."
"I've already admitted it," she reminded stiffly. "And I told you I would let it go."
"Like you let go of your grief over Jenna? Here we are, two years later "
"That's because Donna never paid for what she did!"
"So instead you took it out on the people you claim to love?"
"Yes," Felicia confirmed tearfully, with no further defense.
"Don't you see? Holding it all in, pretending like everything we've been through doesn't matter, like it hasn't affected us, that's only going to make everything worse. There's so much anger and hurt in our heads and hearts we can't get to what's underneath, to what we both really feel about each other."
"At least wait until Lorna's baby is born," Felicia pleaded. "You heard what Jamie told us. She doesn't need any extra stress right now."
"Lorna isn't stupid, Fanny. She'll figure out something is wrong."
"We'll tell her the truth. That we're dealing with issues we've been ignoring. That we're working on forgiving each other so we can be the best grandparents her little girl could hope for. If, after the baby is born, you still feel like you need space to regroup and figure out what you feel... what you need... so be it. I won't fight you. I promise."
"Liar," Lucas scoffed gently, his heart breaking at the flicker of a smile ghosting across Felicia's lips before turning serious, hesitant, desperate. "When have you ever not fought me over anything?
Felicia drew on every bit of strength to stay calm, jovial even, to will him into answering her next question with a 'yes' so she could breathe again. "Do we have a deal? Will you wait? Will you stay with me for now? For our family's sake?"
"What?" Lila snapped into the receiver after being informed that Mr. Chase Hamilton was on the phone for her. "Have you thought of yet another way to mess with my life?"
"That all depends on your interpretation," he proffered, sounding much more chipper at the end of the day than anyone should really have a right to be.
"I know you don't have any new evidence against me."
"And how would you know that, pray tell?"
"Because I asked my ex-husband to look into the case for me after your Keystone Cops managed to botch the assignment," Lila most certainly did not reply, settling instead for, "If you had, you'd be talking to my lawyer, or bringing out the cuffs. The fact that you called me personally means you're just... twisted. Or sadistic. Or bored."
"Actually, what I am is short-handed."
"Was I supposed to get that metaphor?"
"I meant it literally. I desperately need some fresh talent to join my image development team. And since I'm aware you're no longer in Grant Harrison's employee..."
"Are you offering me a job?"
"Yes," Chase said. "Don't sound so surprised. I told you back when we were all still running for Mayor that I was very impressed with the work you did for Grant."
"What's the catch?"
"Well, to start, I can't pay nearly as well as he did. Public servant, and all."
"How do you know what I made working for Grant?"
"It's quite possible your tax returns may have landed on my desk recently."
"So now you're threatening me?"
"No!" He sounded genuinely insulted. "Goodness, you are paranoid."
"Yeah, well, people have been out to get me lately."
"I promise you, my offer is on the up and up. At least come in and speak to me about it. Let me show you around, explain what I have in mind."
"You're up to something," Lila accused.
"In which case, this would be your chance to find out precisely what."
Having helped Lorna up the stairs, Jamie got her into bed, despite Lorna's protests that the less he coddled her, the quicker she'd get back to doing things for herself.
"It's not only that your muscles are weak from disuse," Jamie reminded sternly, sitting on the edge of the mattress to keep Lorna from escaping and, for all he knew, leaping onto a treadmill in her steely resolve to get back to normal, preferably yesterday. "You've also got a whole new center of gravity to get used to," he rested his hand on the no-longer indiscernible swell of her abdomen. "Remember?"
"It's still a little hard to believe," she admitted. "As far as I'm concerned, I only found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago."
"Will you let me take care of you? Please? Of both of you?" Jamie stood up. "Since you're on bed-rest for the foreseeable future, tell me what you think you'll need and I'll do my best to get it."
"You," Lorna said.
He paused on his way to the door. "Say that again?"
"You asked what I needed. I need you."
"You've got me."
"If I wanted to sleep alone, Frame, I could have stayed at the hospital." She patted the empty spot on the bed next to her. "Climb in. Make yourself at home."
He hesitated. Then, figuring acquiescence would be easier than argument, did as she directed, lifting up the blanket.
"If I wanted to sleep with someone clothed, I could have stayed at the hospital, too."
"That's somewhat disturbing."
"Strip," she ordered, doing the same with the nightgown he'd earlier helped her put on.
Again, it was simpler than objecting.
Jamie slipped under the covers, Lorna rolling over onto her side and into his arms. For a moment, Jamie lay there, holding her awkwardly, immobile... and then he slowly let out a breath he'd apparently been holding since early November 2010.
"I never allowed myself to fantasize this far," he admitted. "When I did daydream, I'd only let myself visualize you waking up, you being healthy. Imagining being able to hold you again, it was too much. It was tempting fate. I couldn't risk it."
"You're not imagining it," Lorna reassured him, lowering her head to kiss Jamie's chest. "I'm here. I'm really here. With you. Right where we're both supposed to be."
"Lorna, don't, please..." He tried to shift away.
"You know why not. I told you already. At the hospital."
"If you weren't in bed with me right now," she challenged. "If I was just your patient, who had a coincidentally similar medical history; and if I came to you, asking what was and wasn't okay, what would you tell me?"
"I'd tell you..."
"Yes?" Her hand trailed down the length of his stomach.
"I'd tell you to do as much or as little as you felt comfortable with."
"Well, then, it just so happens," Lorna cupped him in her palm, running her thumb up and down languidly. "That pleasuring the man I love makes me very, very comfortable."
Jamie groaned, utterly lacking the strength or any trace of desire now to move away and, panting, asked, "How do you... how do you know just where to touch me?"
"Well," Lorna considered his query with utmost seriousness. "For one thing, let's agree that we're talking about a pretty target-rich environment here."
Jamie had to squelch his snort of laughter against Lorna's shoulder, whimpering, "God, I've missed you."
"Second of all," she continued with her discourse while discreetly changing from an up and down to a circular motion that appeared equally well received. "I pay attention to feedback."
"That you certainly do..."
"And finally, I have been doing nothing for the past few days but thinking about how I am going to make all this up to you once we get home."
At that, Jamie roused himself enough to grasp her wrist, stopping what Lorna was doing and forcing her to look at him. "You have nothing to make up to me. You were in an accident. It wasn't your fault."
"You know what I'm talking about, Jamie. You know exactly what was my fault."
"I do. And if you want to talk it out, I'm here. I'll listen as long as you need. Believe me, though, no matter what you think you did, my having a mind-blowing orgasm isn't worth your mind being blown. Literally. Nothing is worth that."
"And just what makes you think you're so great, huh?" She talked quickly, lest his utterly unmerited understanding drive her to tears damn pregnancy hormones and ruin everything she was trying to accomplish. "I intend to just lay back, casual and apathetic, thinking of England or whatever one does when one is totally blase about the entire experience. Trust me, my brain will be in no danger at any time. My blood pressure, pulse, and heart-rate will remain so steady; you'll think I'm dead. No. Wait. Sorry, bad example," she backtracked quickly.
"It's not that I don't want to make love you," he protested feebly.
Lorna raised herself first up on one elbow, kissing Jamie while she shifted the rest of the way, sliding her knee across his hips, straddling him, and pushing herself back up, hands splayed against his chest.
"I love you so much," she whispered. "Let me show you."
"I love you, too, but..." Jamie moaned, beginning to move inside her almost in spite of himself. "I don't know if I'll be able to stop..."
"You don't need to stop," she reassured him. "Don't stop, Jamie, please, don't." Lorna stroked his face, his cheek, his hair in encouragement.
He moved his head to kiss her palm, but didn't quite make it as he gasped, shuddering then allowing himself to go limp, his breath ragged and hoarse.
"I..." Jamie opened his eyes, meeting hers, smiling just a little while trying to regain his composure. "I obviously needed that a lot more than I thought."
Lorna smiled back at him, relieved and grateful. She took Jamie's hand, moving it to her waistline so he could feel what she'd been told by experts were kicks but, to Lorna, felt like nothing so much as tiny kernels of popcorn bursting.
Jamie waited until he could feel it, too. He blinked, less surprised than awed. "Wow...."
"Wow," Lorna agreed.
"Should I be expecting that call from the Better Business Bureau?" Morgan sleepily inquired upon rolling over in bed the next morning and opening his eyes to find Amanda standing in front of his mirror, brushing her hair after having scrounged up a comb from atop the dresser.
She hesitated for a moment, forcing him to wake up fully thanks to the unexpected jolt of adrenalin before putting Morgan out of his misery. "I think you're safe. For now."
"Does that mean a reassessment down the line isn't outside the realm of possibility?"
"You never know." Amanda turned around to face him. "Demonstrated consistency is key to receiving a permanent, satisfactory judgment. After all, anyone can have a single good night."
"Single?" Morgan sat up. "Now, see, I could have sworn I counted "
"You're good for a furlong, I'll give you that." She sat on the edge of the bed to pull on her discarded boots. "But, how well can you go the distance?"
"Triple Crown," Morgan assured her, even as Amanda laughed. "Minimum."
"You've peaked my curiosity," she confessed. "Though, Triple Crown? Isn't that the opposite of a totally noncommittal living in the moment?"
"You don't see me opening an appointment book, do you? You feel like it, you give me a call. If not," he punched her playfully in the shoulder, as if they were both back in the third grade. "It's been fun."
"No tedious discussions about where this relationship is/isn't/could/couldn't be going?"
"Especially not that."
Amanda smiled broadly. "I think I'm going to like this."
"Uh-oh," Charlie warily put the spoon back in her cereal bowl at the sight of a solemn Frankie and Cass entering the kitchen and each taking a seat on either side of her around the table. "This is it, isn't it? You've finally reached consensus on a punishment and you're here to let me have it about sneaking out during the Valentine's Day Dance."
"No," Cass said.
"In a way," Frankie hedged.
"Okay. I take that back about reaching consensus. Maybe you two want to regroup in committee. It's cool. I can wait."
"You're seventeen years old," Frankie said. "Naturally you're going to start testing your limits and exploring your... options. It's perfectly normal."
"We just really want you to be careful," Cass wasn't quite as ready as Frankie to sing a medley of Born Free and Sunrise, Sunset at this time. "There are a lot of bad choices to be made out there. For instance, drinking and driving..."
"I didn't do that," Charlie said sharply. "None of us did that. This isn't your generation. We know what's what. We're not idiots."
"Of course not. Your father and I realize you're smart and responsible. So is Kirkland "
"Kirkland?" Charlie interrupted. "What does Kirkland have to do with anything?"
"Wasn't he the boy you went out to meet during the dance?"
"Kirkland was there; so were a bunch of other guys. But, I certainly didn't go out to meet him. He doesn't want anything to do with me these days."
Frankie and Cass exchanged looks. "Did the two of you have a fight?"
"Is something wrong with Kirkland?"
"Yes," Charlie answered one, then the other. "And you'd better believe it."
"Beats me. He's been acting totally weird last couple of months. I was over at his house around Christmastime, we had that history project to do, remember? Out of the blue, he just starts going off on me, ranting about snooping and invading people's privacy. Like I care what Lorna "
"Lorna?" Frankie and Cass asked in unison.
"Yeah..." Charlie looked curiously from one parent to the next. "That's what set him off. Lorna. Suddenly, he's, like, her biggest defender. She tries to steal Lori Ann from us, she screws over Uncle Morgan, but I'm not even allowed to mention her name or Kirk will go mental."
"Do you think," Frankie tread gently. "This might have something to do with Lorna's accident?"
"Who cares? Maybe he's feeling all guilty or whatever. It's so lame."
Kevin was the only one in the courtroom when Amanda came in. He turned around to smile at her and, for a moment, Amanda allowed herself to imagine he actually noticed and was curious about the fact that she was wearing the same clothes this morning as she had the night before.
But then she reminded herself that he probably had more important things to worry about.
"How's Jen?" Amanda asked, taking a seat in the pew behind the defense table.
"I don't know," Kevin admitted. "She asked me to leave her alone with GQ yesterday, so I did. By the time I'd finished up here and went looking for her again; see if she was okay, she was gone. I tried calling but, you know, I don't want to be that dad."
"You mean the kind that cares about his kid?"
"The kind that won't let his adult daughter handle her own affairs. No matter how much I may be dying to interfere, I'm not going to make her feel like she isn't capable of taking care of herself."
"Allie would have loved to have a dad like you. Instead of the one I saddled her with."
"Speaking of our adult kids and their affairs. What's going on with Allie?"
Amanda shrugged. "She's not answering her phone, either. Sarah sent me a text saying Allie was okay, she just doesn't want to talk to anyone right now, but.... "
"The guy who invents a machine so that parents can suck up their kids' pain physical, emotional, what have you and transfer it to themselves, he's going to make a fortune," Kevin predicted.
"What's going to happen?" Amanda asked Kevin helplessly. "If Rick and Mindy lose Hudson and it looks that way, doesn't it? GQ can come in here waving whatever the comparable equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan's flag is, and that still won't be enough to prove him an unfit parent "
"What would happen in this country," Kevin postulated, happier to dwell in law school theoreticals than in his current reality. "If our government began taking away the children of all those people whose opinions they didn't agree with? There goes free speech."
"If Rick and Mindy lose, they're going to be looking for someone to blame. And that's going to be Allie. She admitted she lied. She committed fraud."
"It was for the best. The last thing Allie needs is a perjury charge on top of everything else."
"She could go to jail, couldn't she?"
"One thing at a time," Kevin pleaded. "I still have a trick or two up my sleeve." He looked up at the sound of the rest of the participants filing into the courtroom. "Let's give it a try. See what happens."
Kevin waited until everyone had taken their seats and the judge called the court to order before announcing, "I have a last-minute addition to the witness list, Your Honor." He handed the proper paperwork around and was about to make his announcement when Mel, skimming it quickly, interrupted.
"Leah Bauer?" she demanded, wielding the document as if she intended to decapitate Kevin with it. But, the bulk of her ire was reserved for Rick. "What reason could you possibly have to "
"Ms. Boudreau presented a first-hand witness regarding Black children being raised by White parents. I'm countering by calling a biracial child to speak about her experiences."
"In other words, I cross-examine your daughter, so you're going after mine?"
"A coincidence," Kevin reassured the court. "Nothing more."
"You've got some nerve, Mr. Fowler," Her Honor noted, part pissed, part impressed.
"What he doesn't have is the right," Mel snapped. "My daughter is a minor. Mr. Fowler cannot put her on the stand without parental permission."
"But, I do have parental permission." Kevin managed to look genuinely confused as he reminded Mel. "Leah's father approved her participation. And seeing as you have joint custody, I only need the one."
Mel spun around, this time glaring at both Rick and Mindy in tandem. "How can you two do this to her?"
They declined to answer. Or look Mel in the eye.
"May I call my witness, Your Honor?" Kevin asked.
"She was bluffing," Lucas informed Carl over the phone. "I've looked everywhere, checked with all my sources. That file of Donna's? The one supposedly keeping her safe? It doesn't exist. The bitch played us all."
"I suspected as much," Carl nodded thoughtfully. "Thank you for the information, Lucas. I shall be in touch regarding our next step."
He hung up and, with barely a breath in between, dialed another number.
"Harrison?" Carl filled Spencer in regarding Lucas' conclusion. "You're up. If Donna does not, in fact, possess a dossier capable of blowing the compound out of the water, we shall, out of necessity, create one of our own. Fortunately, we are blessed with your manifold years of inside access as a resource. You had best work quickly, though. I presently have Marley exactly where I want her."
Slipping the drug into her coffee had been easy. And his chemist always did a marvelous job of preparing the sedative to work exactly how Carl wanted, when he wanted, so that Marley only first felt its effects once she was safely inside the gallery, just waiting for Carl to stroll up and play hero as well as add an... enhancement to the water he handed her, making the original drug untraceable..
He did the poor child a favor, Carl rationalized. His warning should serve to keep Marley on her guard. These were dangerous times; he'd told the Lord's truth about that. Especially in light of the company Marley was currently keeping.
And if, along the way, he planted a seed of suspicion that Marley's own inherent issues and insecurities flowered into a healthy hostility towards Donna and Grant. Well, that was him doing her a favor, too.
Carl told Spencer, "We shan't want to miss our window of opportunity."
"Grandma?" Jasmine peeked timidly into Rachel's studio, just her face around the door, the rest of her safely outside lest it become necessary to flee at a moment's notice.
"Jasmine, darling!" Rachel beamed, grabbing a towel to wipe the clay off her hands and opening her arms wide, inviting her granddaughter in for a hug. "Where have you been? I feel like I haven't seen you in ages."
Jasmine returned the hug with some trepidation, mumbling, "I've been... thinking," into Rachel's smock.
"Well, I'm glad you've taken a break to pay me a visit. Would you like me to set you up with some clay and a potter's wheel? Or are you more in the mood for painting, today?"
"Actually, I really I just wanted to talk with you."
"Well. That's lovely, too." Rachel grabbed a chair, pulling it besides hers and waiting for Jasmine to settle down into it. "What's on your mind?"
"I Cory told me something."
"Not really," she admitted.
"Something that upset you? That doesn't really sound like Cory. But, if you'd like me to speak to him, I'd be happy to "
"He told me something about... about you, Grandma."
"About me?" The endless possibilities swarmed through Rachel's mind chronologically and in order of magnitude. She couldn't imagine what Cory had decided to share with Jasmine or why? But, she also understood the day was bound to come sooner or later. Unlike Carl, she realized the children in her family couldn't be kept in the dark about their relatives' respective misdeeds forever. "What did he say, Jazz?"
"He said that it was you. He said you were the one who called the police to arrest Dr. Frame right when she was getting married. And that you're letting my mama take the blame."
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