The line went dead. Rachel screamed with frustration, her voice returning too late to make contact with her son. Her son who was on the other side of the phone. Alive. Her son who was alive. And so was his sister. And so was their father. And so was… No. Rachel couldn’t be certain she’d heard Cory say the name Lorna. She could barely hear him. She could barely be certain that it had been him.
Except that it had been him.
Rachel shook her cell-phone, desperately trying to will their connection back to life. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, she frantically pressed the re-dial button, only to be reminded that the number had been blocked.
She waited. For literally hours, Rachel waited for the phone to ring again.
And, as she waited, she began to doubt herself.
Could that really have been Cory? She’d barely heard anything. She’d thought she’d recognized… but what if she was wrong? How, after all, could it have been Cory? Cory was dead. Elizabeth was dead. Carl was dead.
Because if they weren’t, then where in the world were they?
Was everybody wrong? Had Carl truly run off with Rachel’s children? And with her son’s wife? Was he in hiding somewhere? Hiding from whom? The authorities, yes. Chase Hamilton had made life unbearable for Carl in Bay City. He’d made it so her husband couldn’t remain in the States without the federal government hounding his every step. So Carl had gone into hiding. He’d told her he would. She’d urged him to go. Rachel didn’t want to see Carl in prison.
But she’d forbidden him for taking the children.
Had he disobeyed her?
And what about Lorna?
What use could Carl possibly have for Lorna?
Jamie thought it was revenge against him. Because Carl blamed Jamie for driving a wedge between his mother and her husband. What better way to make him pay than to inflict the same kind of separation on Jamie and his wife?
But, if Carl were alive, if his death truly had been nothing more than a plot to evade the authorities yet again, then why hadn’t he gotten in touch with Rachel since July? How could he have let her believe her family was dead? How could he have let her suffer like this?
Unless Carl had no choice in the matter.
What if he’d been taken prisoner? Carl, Elizabeth, Cory – and Lorna. That is, if Lorna were actually with him. Which no one had been able to prove up to this point.
Carl had a great many enemies. Ones who knew how painfully it would break his heart to think that Rachel was mourning his death, not to mention the children’s. What if all three of them had been snatched? What if all three of them were currently being held against their will?
But, that was impossible.
They were talking about Carl Hutchins. Carl Hutchins would never, ever allow anyone to outsmart him in such a manner. He would certainly never put his children in danger.
But, what if….
So how had Cory called her then? Surely, if Carl and the children had access to any sort of communication, Carl would have been the one to reach out. If it were even marginally possible to contact her, Carl would have done it. If he were alive.
How could Carl possibly be alive?
And how could that have been Cory on the phone?
And why would he have mentioned….
It couldn’t have been.
It couldn’t have been Cory.
Rachel was imagining it.
She’d heard a young boy’s voice on the phone and she’d allowed herself to hope… It couldn’t have been Cory.
It didn’t make any sense.
Cory was dead. Elizabeth was dead. Carl…
Rachel considered telling someone about what had happened. Getting their opinion. A cooler head and all that. But whom could she tell? Jamie, Amanda and Matt would simply leap on it as evidence that Carl was precisely the villain they’d always known him to be. Felicia… Rachel couldn’t risk raising Felicia’s hopes that way, especially when she couldn’t even be certain of what she’d heard. Russ… Russ would listen. Russ could offer her some sound advice. But Russ was with Iris now. And the last thing Rachel needed was Iris butting into her business. Iris would certainly go to Chase, and Chase would climb back on his sanctimonious high horse, use the law as a weapon, and proceed to make Rachel’s life even more miserable. He would proceed to taint her husband’s memory even further. If Chase Hamilton ever found out Rachel had harbored even a moment of doubt about her husband’s whereabouts, Rachel would never experience a moment’s peace again. He would see it as a weakness and he would use it to try and prove he’d been right all along about Carl. And that Rachel had been wrong.
She couldn’t risk it.
She couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Not until she'd figured it out for herself, first.
“Here we are.” Marley plucked the bottle out of the warmer and handed it over to Grant, who was looking frantic, jiggling a progressively more and more unhappy Daisy in his arms. When Grant looked at her helplessly, meaning to hand the baby over to Marley for her feeding, she laughed and shook her head. “Uh-uh. This is all on you.”
“I – I’m out of practice. I haven’t – “
Marley lead Grant over to the couch, plopped him down and arranged Daisy in his arms, her head in the crook of Grant’s elbow. “Just put the bottle in her mouth. She knows what to do.”
“I’m afraid of – “
“Don’t be. She’s tougher than she looks.” Marley sighed, “Growing up in this house, she’ll need to be.”
Grant gingerly did as Marley ordered, sighing in relief when Daisy hungrily latched onto the plastic nipple and proceeded to suck hungrily without either choking or doing anything else Grant felt grossly unprepared for. “Well,” his shoulders sagged with relief. “Would you look at that?”
“I am.” Marley sat down next to him. “I am looking at you feeding your daughter.”
Grant looked down at the infant with such naked adoration in his eyes, Marley almost reconsidered everything she’d decided to do. But she steeled herself, reminding that Marley had her reasons and that it would all work out in the end. As long as she didn’t lose her nerve. That’s where everything usually went wrong. Whenever Marley lost her nerve.
“Thank you, Marley,” Grant said. “Thank you for being so…” He trailed off. “I can’t even think of the word for it.”
“You deserve this,” she indicated Grant and his baby girl.
“So do you. Well, not this situation,” he faltered, realizing what he sounded like. “But, I mean….”
“I know what you mean.”
“I know if our situations were reversed, I could never….”
Marley pointed out, “When you and Vicky were together, you accepted Steven, even though he wasn’t yours. And you’ve been terrific with Bridget and Michele.”
“It’s not the same.”
“No. It’s not. But, this way, you have your daughter, and your daughter has you. And I have you. So everybody wins.”
Grant frowned. “I hate to admit it, but I’m a little bit concerned about Sarah not having brought enough milk for Daisy. If you hadn’t thought ahead and bought the formula…”
“Don’t blame Sarah. She’s young. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
“She’s lucky you were looking out for her.”
“Yes,” Marley said. “Don’t worry. I’m happy to teach Sarah a thing or two for as long as it takes.”
“Olivia, are you… interested in Jamie?” Matt blurted out after finding the woman he’d hired to take over for Lorna at C-Squared seemingly filling in for her at Jamie’s house, with Jamie’s kids. And who knows what else.
She raised both eyebrows in surprise. “What makes you say that?”
“I brought some of my old ballet outfits for Devon to play dress up in.”
“And then I stayed to show her a few dance steps. Your niece is having a very rough time right now. She misses her mom a lot.”
“I know. I mean, I should have known.”
“Do you think it was inappropriate of me?”
“No! No, I’m sure Devon had a blast.”
“Because the last thing I want to do is intrude.”
“I’m sorry,” Matt mumbled. “I didn’t mean it to sound like…”
“You were looking for me, Uncle Matt?” Kirkland, his T-shirt still damp from his work-out, exited the door leading from the basement, Jamie bringing up the rear.
“Kirk! Hey, man!”
“I just… I told your dad… I just stopped by to thank you for helping out with Jasmine. You know, before. I realize I’ve taken my sweet time about it…”
“That’s okay. I wasn’t looking for thanks.”
“No. And I bet you weren’t looking for trouble, either. But, you stepped up for Jazz, anyway. I really appreciate it.”
“I have a feeling she didn’t.”
“Yeah, well, her mother and I will be talking to her about that. Hopefully your services won’t be necessary in the future.” Matt turned to leave, addressing his last comment to Devon. “Anyway, I’m sorry I interrupted your show.”
“More show!” Devon gestured for Olivia to turn the CD back on.
Matt smiled wistfully and told Jamie, “She sounds just like…”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I know.”
Olivia, guessing whom they were referring to, quietly turned to do what Devon asked. On her way, she brushed by Matt, lowering her voice so that only he could hear and asking, “Would it matter to you if I was?”
“No,” Amanda said upon finding Morgan in her office. “Whatever it is you want, the answer is no.”
“I wanted to check if you were alright,” Morgan said, clearly unfamiliar with what entailed a clue to get lost.
“Well then you’re in luck. The answer, as I’ve already said, is no.”
“I’m sorry for you,” he stressed. “Kevin can rot for all I care.”
“I care,” she reminded.
“Your husband killed a guy and got off with less than a slap on the wrist. I figure he doesn’t need my goodwill on top of all the other gifts he already got.”
“He did it to save his daughter.”
“And Cass killed Cecile in order to save his wife and kids. I didn’t see anybody rolling out the red carpet for him.”
“Didn’t Cass end up serving something like six months? Kevin was sentenced to two and a half years.”
“He wasn’t the only one.”
“His sentence is your sentence. Unless, of course…”
“I’m not divorcing him.”
“Bet you’ve thought about it, though.”
“Actually, Kevin brought it up.”
“Wow, first smart move he’s made so far.”
“So you consider divorcing me a smart move?” Amanda crossed her arms.
“Yes. For you.”
“Why does everyone think I’m incapable of being loyal to my husband?”
“Because he hasn’t shown you the same courtesy. He never has. Kevin does what’s best for Kevin, and then expects you to just go along.”
“Just go away, would you, Morgan?”
“To quote a wise woman, the answer is no.”
Amanda pushed herself up from her chair. “What do you want from me?”
Morgan only smiled in reply.
“Everything go alright?” Sarah proved so eager to get back to Daisy that she blew by both Marley and Grant, sweeping the little girl up into her arms and visually examining her head to toe, as if she expected to see some evidence of what had gone on while she wasn’t around.
“Actually, no,” Grant ventured.
“What do you mean?” Sarah’s head shot up. “What happened?”
“Daisy was hungry.”
“I packed her a bottle. Two bottles. You should have had plenty. I told you they were in the diaper bag.”
“They weren’t enough,” Marley broke it to her gently. “She was still hungry after she’d finished them both.”
“What do you mean? So what did you do?”
“Marley had some formula ready – “
“No! I told you – “
“What did you expect us to do?” Grant asked reasonably. “She was crying. You weren’t here.”
“I could have been. You could have called.”
“It would have taken you too long to get here,” Marley continued to speak in a soft, soothing voice. “But no harm done. She had no trouble with the formula.”
“Breast milk is better,” Sarah insisted. “Everyone says so.”
“Not when there isn’t any available. It’s alright, Sarah, don’t blame yourself. You had no way of knowing how much milk she’d need. That’s actually one of the main drawbacks to breast-feeding. You never know how much they’ve drunk, do you?”
“But, it’s still better for her,” Sarah faltered, visibly second-guessing herself.
“She’s perfectly fine,” Marley cooed. “Better than fine, as a matter of fact. She really loved her bath.”
“You and Grant gave her a bath?”
“We wanted to help you out. So you wouldn’t have to worry about doing it alone.”
“I told you I was fine.”
“I’m sure you are,” Marley said. “And I’m absolutely sure you’ll get the hang of everything. Eventually. Until then, we’re here.”
First Charlie’s eyes flickered open, her pupils hazy. Then they began darting frantically from left to right, taking in the surroundings, searching anxiously for some kind of explanation, before settling on Frankie and Cass sitting by her bedside.
“Charlie!” The pair of them practically leaped from their seats. After days and weeks of horrifying silence, her one word came like a thunderclap.
“Where…” she continued looking around in confusion.
“You’re in the hospital,” Cass said.
“But, you’re okay,” Frankie interrupted. “You’re going to be okay.”
“Why…” she struggled to croak out, her voice hoarse from disuse.
“You were in an accident,” Frankie said. “A car accident. With Allie. Do you… remember?”
“Allie,” Charlie repeated the name dully.
“It was during a storm. It was snowing. Both your cars ended up in a snow-bank.”
“Where’s Allie?” Charlie wanted to know.
“Allie is fine,” Cass said, his voice level. “She fell through a hole in the ice, but Kirkland and GQ showed up in time to pull her out.”
“He was out there looking for you. He’s the one who found you, too.”
“You were lost in the storm,” Frankie said. “After the accident. You and Allie both got out of your cars and – “
“And then we’re not exactly sure what happened,” Cass deliberately kept Frankie from finishing. “Can you tell us what happened, Charlie?”
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