“Jamie,” Rachel said, facing her son for the first time since Chase Hamilton broke the news that Rachel had gotten a phone call from Cory about Lorna… and kept it a secret.
Jamie only nodded in return, swallowing hard, as if not trusting himself to speak.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she told him. “When I first heard Cory’s voice… I couldn’t even be sure it was really him; that I wasn’t dreaming. I’d been forcing myself to believe that my husband and my children were gone. That they were never coming back. And then I heard his voice…. There was so much static. I couldn’t be sure.”
“Who else calls you Mom?” Jamie asked through clenched teeth, visibly struggling to keep his anger in check, to make himself to listen to everything Rachel had to say before making any judgments.
“No one except my children,” she agreed. “And I knew it wasn’t you or Amanda or Matt. I recognized Cory’s voice. I didn’t know where he was or how he was, but I recognized my son.”
“And you heard what he said?” Jamie pressed relentlessly.
“I heard him say… Lorna.”
“Lorna,” Jamie repeated. And then he reminded, “You didn’t believe she was with them. You didn’t think Lorna’s disappearance – even though it happened on the exact same day – you didn’t believe it had anything to do with Carl.”
“There was no evidence to suggest that it did,” Rachel stuck to the facts as they’d known them last July.
“Why would Cory mention Lorna, then, if there was no connection – “
“Not now!” Rachel interrupted. “Obviously I believe it now!”
“Your husband kidnapped my wife!” Jamie couldn’t keep back the obvious any longer. “I warned you, Mom. I warned you. Lorna was terrified of that man. And in the weeks before she disappeared, he threatened her….”
“What if Carl took Lorna to protect her?”
Jamie snorted, shaking his head.
“We don’t know, do we, Jamie? We don’t know anything, except that Cory and Lorna, and likely Elizabeth and Carl are still alive. That’s good news, darling! That’s the most wonderful news of all!”
“Then why didn’t you feel like sharing it with me two months?” He finally got to the crux of the issue.
“Because I was terrified!” The desperation in Rachel’s tone matched his. “Haven’t you ever found yourself in a place where you no longer knew left from right, up from down, right from wrong? Where everything you’d once believed in suddenly made no sense, and you can’t see a single way out that wouldn’t end up making matters worse?”
Jamie hesitated, once again silent.
“I don’t know why Carl left. I don’t know why he took Elizabeth and Cory… and Lorna. And if I didn’t know that, then how could I know how I should be reacting? Hamilton is out for blood where Carl is concerned. His most recent actions should prove that to you, if nothing else will. What if my going public with Cory’s call would have put everyone’s lives in danger?”
“What if it had brought them home?”
“Don’t you think, that if Carl and the rest could be here right now, they would be?”
“Depends on whether or not Carl’s done punishing us yet.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rachel snapped.
“It means that, before he left town, Carl blamed Lorna and I for turning you against him, driving him away, and keeping him from his children. And he blamed you for not siding with him against Amanda, Matt and I.”
“I did,” Rachel insisted. “I made it clear the three of you couldn’t run my life.”
“But you didn’t run off with Carl like he wanted.”
“That was as much for Elizabeth and Cory’s – and my own – sakes, as for yours. I was the one who couldn’t leave. I wasn’t willing to permanently sever my family.”
“Clearly, Carl didn’t see it that way.”
“You think Carl is punishing me…”
“I think he’s punishing both of us.”
“And what if he’s not? What if he is looking out for both of our families? Think of all the people who could be after him – “
“That’s precisely what Amanda, Matt and I were thinking about when we said we didn’t want Carl and his litany of pissed off former associates around our kids. Kirkland was already almost killed because of it; I wasn’t about to risk anything like that happening again. At the time, you told us we were being foolish. And selfish. That Carl had changed and he was no danger to anyone anymore.”
“You want me to believe that Lorna’s changed,” Rachel challenged. “And it’s just as possible that the threat is against her.”
Jamie’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?”
“Lorna did a lot of business for Carl. What if the threat is aimed at her, not him? And what if Carl is keeping your wife safe by getting her out of the line of fire?”
“For God’s sake, Mom! How many pretzels are you going to try twisting this story into before you accept the fact that – “
“I am doing my best, Jamie,” Rachel swore. “I am doing my best to – “
“To keep from going out of my mind, that’s what,” she told her son the truth, the fight draining out of Rachel as she pleaded with him to understand. “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to turn, I don’t know whom to trust. Whatever I decide, someone is going to get hurt: You, Carl, Lorna, the twins…. Do you have any idea what that feels like? Knowing that I have let down absolutely everyone who has ever counted on me, and that I don’t have the slightest idea how to fix any of it? I am at the end of my rope I have never, ever felt so alone. Haven’t you ever felt like that? And even if you haven’t, do you think you could at least try to see this from my point of view? Haven’t I earned, if not your compassion, at least the benefit of your doubt after all these years?”
Zeno was circling the farmhouse, trying to assess exactly how much damage had been done by the fire and water, when he saw Cass approaching.
Zeno stopped what he was doing, acknowledging Cass and raising a hand to shield his eyes from the sun, but otherwise didn’t say anything.
“Hello, Zeno,” Cass offered, his tone neutral.
“Frankie send you?”
Cass shook his head. “I came on my own. I wanted to see for myself.”
“It was on the news.”
Cass cranked his neck to evaluate the side of the building. “How bad is it?”
“Not sure. A lot of it looks superficial, but there might be structural damage we can’t see yet. I’ve got an engineer coming in later today.”
“Will your insurance cover it?”
Zeno shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll qualify your daughter as an act of God, you never know with those guys.”
“I’m sorry this happened.”
“I’ve talked to Frankie… there won’t be a repeat. We’re putting Charlie on some serious medication, and we’ll make sure she takes it. You have my word.”
“I don’t want anything from you. Or Frankie.”
“I realize that. But, I’d still like to help you.”
“I’m sorry, what did I just say?”
“Let me pay for the restoration. It’s the least we owe you.”
“Sure,” Zeno said. “Fine.”
Cass blinked in surprise – he’d been expecting more of a fight.
“You want to buy me off,” Zeno summarized. “I won’t stop you. My pride isn’t worth a dozen people going homeless. I’m responsible for all of them. It’s what my mom would have wanted.”
“I’m sure your mother would have been very proud of you.”
“How about you and I don’t talk about my mother?”
“Alright,” Cass could certainly understand Zeno’s position. Instead, he reiterated, “I want to take responsibility for what happened.”
“Then how about you take responsibility for your daughter? I’ll handle the rest.”
“Sarah,” Grant forced himself to step into her path, forced himself to call her name before he lost his nerve. Or gained it.
Her head jerked up and she looked around in a bit of a panic, recognizing Grant’s voice prior to spotting him.
“Hello, Sarah,” he repeated softly, not wanting to scare or upset her.
She stared at him for a long beat before asking, her expression betraying nothing. “Did Allie tell you where to find me?”
Grant hadn’t expected her to be so matter of fact. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected. No, that wasn’t true. Grant had expected for Sarah to be happy to see him.
“No,” Grant said. “I hired Frankie to track you down.”
“Why?” Sarah asked.
“Because… Because, the way you left….”
“Is Daisy alright?” Sarah demanded.
“She’s fine. She’s wonderful,” he reassured.
“Do you have any pictures?” Sarah asked hungrily.
“What? Oh, yes, yes, I do.” Grant reached for his phone, turning it on and passing it over to her.
She grabbed it, first holding her breath, then seemingly inhaling each precious shot before Sarah quickly swiped on to the next one. “Does she miss me?”
“I – I think so,” Grant said. And then he added, “I miss you, Sarah.”
She didn’t seem to hear, still mesmerized by the photos of her daughter. She said, “You know, I asked Allie once if she missed Hudson. Allie said she didn’t. She said that when she looked at the pictures his parents send, it’s like looking at a cousin or something. A kids that she knows and is kind of interested in, but no more than that. I thought it would be the same with me. I kept waiting. I kept praying that this would be the morning I wake up, and Daisy isn’t the first thing I think about. And it doesn’t hurt quite as much. But, it hasn’t happened. It’s gotten worse. I think about her all the time now. I can’t turn it off.”
“Then come home,” Grant pressed, tossing the carefully prepared speech he’d spent the entire trip to Canada composing out the window and, instead, saying the first thing that came to his mind. “Come home to Daisy. And to me.”
At that, Sarah actually looked up from the phone. “You mean, come home to you and Marley?”
“No,” Grant swore.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve had time to think, Sarah. Ever since you left, it’s like you said, I can’t turn it off, I can’t think about anything but you. I miss you. I love you.”
He’d never uttered the words before. This wasn’t how he’d intended or where or under what circumstances. But, Grant wasn’t sorry, either. He’d said it. He’d finally said it. And it was the truth.
Sarah, however, looked anything but convinced.
“Don’t play me, Grant,” she warned. “I’m not sure what you want – I thought I gave you what you wanted already; you and Marley raising Daisy. But, still, it’s too late. I’m not that naive little girl who once believed every word that came out of your mouth. You told me to grow up. And I did. As soon as I decided to leave Bay City, I grew up a hell of a lot.”
“I’m not playing you,” he swore. “I’m not. I – I realized something, Sarah. I realized that I care about Marley and Michele and Bridget. I love Kirkland and Daisy. But, Sarah, I can’t live without you.”
“What are you doing here?” Amanda demanded upon catching Olivia coming out of the Cory Mansion.
“Actually, I was looking for Allie,” Olivia said. “I wanted to know if she’d heard from Sarah.”
“Right,” Amanda rolled her eyes. “And the fact that Matt also lives here….”
“Matt’s at work. So is Donna. That’s why I came now. I wasn’t interested in a scene.”
“You really are pathetic,” Amanda advised, though she hadn’t been asked. “Still throwing yourself at men who are pretty obviously in love with other women….”
“They all sure do have a funny way of showing it, “ Olivia mused. “I may be the one doing the throwing, but they sure are catching. Interesting how that works.”
“Sam didn’t want you twenty years ago. And Matt doesn’t want you now.”
“You might check with your brother about that.”
“Alright,” Amanda conceded. “There is one thing you’re good for.”
“And I’m obviously better at it than whatever they’re getting at home. What’s that thing about going out for hamburger…”
Amanda cut her off. “You know, I thought Donna was about as low as Matt could go, but you….”
“Like you’ve ever given your brother’s happiness a moment’s thought. Either brother’s.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Jamie,” Olivia said. “Your other brother just got evidence that his wife is alive, that she’s somewhere with a guy who scares the living daylights out of her, and that his mom – your mom – has known about it for months, but just never got around to mentioning it. Instead of checking if Jamie is okay or if there’s anything he needs, you’re here, picking fights with me. Classy.”
“If Jamie needs anything, he knows where to find me,” Amanda defended, a nerve struck, nonetheless.
“Right. Because you’ve been such a support to him in the past. Between sleeping with the guy who tried to get his daughter aborted, and marrying the one who wanted to take his son away from him – “
“Kevin was just doing his job!” Amanda interjected, declining to address the other point.
“ – I doubt you’re the first one Jamie thinks of when he needs a shoulder to cry on.”
“But, that’s where you come in, isn’t it?” Amanda attacked, knowing that offense beat defense any day of the week. “Don’t think I didn’t see you at Kirkland’s birthday party, hanging all over Jamie. Bet you were really upset when you heard Lorna might still be alive. There goes your next victim. Oh, I’m sorry – conquest.”
“Jamie is not interested in me.”
“Finally! A man with smidgeon of sense!”
“He loves his wife. He made that clear from the start.”
“Like that’s ever stopped you.”
“No,” Olivia agreed. “But, Jamie stopped me. And that got the job done. Which is more than I can say for Matt. Or Sam.”
“Did you know about this?” Lucas demanded of Felicia, neither one needing to clarify precisely what Lorna’s father was talking about.
“No,” she swore. “Not until after Hamilton’s press conference.”
“So all that time you spent in Europe, Rachel never gave you any inkling that – “
“Rachel wasn’t sure herself. She thought the caller might have been Cory, and that he might have said Lorna, but she couldn’t be certain.”
“And you believe her?”
“Yes,” Felicia said. “I believe that Rachel wants to bring Lorna home as much as we do.”
“She has a hell of a way of showing it. If Rachel had gone public back in March, we could have traced the call…”
“If that were possible,” Felicia noted. “Don’t you think Hamilton would have done it? He’s clearly just as stumped as we are. That press conference was about sticking it to Rachel, not about catching Carl.”
“And that wild goose-chase with the vintner….”
“Rachel thought he might lead her to Carl. And to Lorna.”
“At least now she admits Carl took her.”
“She admits that they’re together.”
Lucas’ mouth dropped open. “You think our daughter would have voluntarily gone off with that monster…”
“We don’t know what happened,” Felicia attempted to soothe him, adding. “At least I’m glad now that I never filed those kidnapping charges against Carl like Hamilton was pushing me to do.”
“What kidnapping charges?” It was the first Lucas was hearing of any charges.
“Hamilton went to Jamie and asked him to press kidnapping charges against Carl. He said that would make it legally easier for him to launch an investigation. Jamie wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it to Rachel.”
“So Hamilton came to me. I – I wouldn’t do it, either.”
“Why the hell not, Fanny?”
“The same as Jamie. For Rachel’s sake.”
“I don’t believe this,” Lucas mumbled to himself. “I don’t believe this!”
“She’s my friend!”
“And Lorna is your daughter. Your daughter that’s been alive for months, only Rachel didn’t see fit to fill you in.”
“She couldn’t be certain!”
“No?” Lucas asked. “Well, I am.” He reached for his phone.
“Luke! Wait! What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer Felicia question. Instead, Lucas merely told the person on the other end of the line. “I’d like to speak to Mayor Hamilton, please. Tell him it’s Lorna Frame’s father.”
“Hey, Grandma,” Steven poked his head into the art studio where Rachel sat working her frustrations out on a very well worn piece of clay.
“Steven!” She reached for a towel to wipe of her hands in order to give him a hug. “This is an unexpected surprise.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry I haven’t been by in a while. I’ve been busy. It’s – I – I’m engaged, Grandma.”
“Yeah….” Was that Rachel’s perennially cool grandson… actually blushing?
“Jen,” Steven said, as if there could be no possible other answer.
“Oh. I see. That’s… how long have the two of you been going together?”
“Since she got out of the hospital,” Steven said.
“That’s not a very long time.”
“It’s long enough,” Steven dismissed, switching to the real reason for his visit. He said, “I watched the press conference Hamilton had. About you.”
Rachel nodded. “I suspected that’s why you came.”
She expected Steven to prove yet another in a long line of friends and family arriving to berate her for not coming forward earlier. But, much to Rachel’s surprise, what Steven actually said was, “That recording he played? It didn’t sound right to me.”
“What do you mean?” Rachel startled.
“I mean, it sounded… off. Like it might have been faked.”
Rachel’s breath caught in her throat. “You don’t think the call from Cory was genuine?”
“It sounded like the tone had been manipulated. It’s not obvious, but if you spend as much time with computers as I do…”
“How can you be sure?”
“I’m not,” Steven admitted. “It’s just a hunch. I could dive in, take it apart and try to prove the sound had been messed with. But, I wanted to check if it was alright with you, first, Grandma.”
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