“What the hell, Morgan?” Amanda demanded after Lorna had taken off, eager to avoid any further discussion of her marriage to Jamie or any other details of this alleged past she couldn’t remember. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see Lorna.”
“Why?” he double-checked, incredulous.
“You’re nothing to her.”
“The same goes for your brother, and I’ll just bet he’ll be coming around.”
“Stay away from Lorna,” Amanda warned.
Now it was Morgan’s turn to ask, “Why?”
“Because she’s Jamie’s wife.”
“Oh, please.” He flopped backwards into a chair, amused. “Are you honestly trying to tell me this over-the-top concern of yours has anything to do with Jamie?”
“I remember what happened the last time you tried to get in his way where Lorna was concerned.”
“Didn’t stop you from sleeping with me.”
“What does one thing have to do with….”
“I’m just pointing out that if you were truly concerned about your brother’s feelings…”
“Like you are!”
“You’re jealous,” Morgan accused, eyes twinkling. “Of Lorna and me.”
“There is no Lorna and you.”
“Then why the histrionics? Is it simply that you prefer to be the only married woman in my life?”
“There’s no you and me, either.”
“Are you and Kevin having sex?” Morgan asked.
“Dude just got out of jail. I can imagine fresh air and home cooking isn’t the only thing he’s missed. In fact, if I had to rank…”
“Yes. Of course, we are. He’s my husband.”
“Okay. So you and your husband are having sex, but I’m not allowed to share a laugh with an old friend?”
“She’s your ex-wife.”
“Not that she remembers that, either.”
“Do you still love her?” Amanda challenged.
And for that, Morgan suddenly didn’t have a smart-ass answer.
Which didn’t go unnoticed by Amanda. “You do,” she tried to sound accusatory. But, it mostly came off as sad.
“I’ll always love her,” Morgan said finally, sounding equally despondent. Then, as if trying to escape the full consequences of his answer, pulled Amanda into a desperate kiss.
Which she returned, equally desperately.
“How are we going to do this?” Frankie asked Cass as they sat around the breakfast table, Lori Ann between them, scooping cereal into her mouth with only a little help from her mother, who was mostly there to catch what otherwise would have ended up in her lap. “Can we do this?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “The best times of my life were when you and I worked cases together. I was never happier.”
“But, after what happened last time….”
“Charlie and Lori Ann need us.”
“So does Lucas. And Felicia and Lorna, too. If we could help them find out the truth about what really happened all those years she was gone. We could rebuild their family.”
“What about our family?”
“Charlie is doing a lot better.”
“That’s what we thought the last time we jetted off for an exotic adventure.”
“You heard Lucas. We wouldn’t have to go anywhere. We could just coordinate from here, let someone else do the legwork.”
“It would still require hours upon hours of our time. We’d be distracted, you know that. No matter how often we’d tell ourselves we have it all under control – “
Frankie cut to the chase. “You still blame me for Charlie breakdown, don’t you?”
Cass hesitated, answering carefully. “It’s useless to point fingers.”
“I knew it,” Frankie said.
“I never hid my feelings about that, Mary Frances. Just like I never hid my willingness to move past it.”
“You’re afraid it could happen again. If we get distracted by Lucas’ case.”
“I’m not afraid,” Cass corrected. “I’m terrified.”
“We can do this,” Frankie assured, doing a 180 from her initial question, the more Cass protested, the more adamant she became. “We can do the work we love, and we can be good parents.”
“How?” Cass gave in… up to a point. “How do you visualize our getting to the bottom of what looks like a labyrinth of lies and plots among potentially dozens of people spread out over God knows how many continents, from right here at the kitchen table?”
“Well, I’d say we start close to home.” Frankie couldn’t help smiling, thrilled to be back in the game, no matter how limited the capacity… or how unconvinced Cass still appeared. “We need to talk to Lorna. And to Carl.”
“Should I start calling her Mommy Dearest?”
“Please, Olivia,” Russ winced.
“Because, you know, we’ve already done the Mommy-In-Law – kind of – thing. And that was fun and a half.”
“I realize that you and Iris aren’t the best of friends.”
“I used to be able to say the same about you, Daddy. A couple of days ago, as a matter of fact.”
“Relationships change rather quickly in Bay City. I’d have thought you’d be used to it by now.”
“I get that you feel totally screwed by Rachel.”
“That’s putting it mildly.” Hoping to change the subject, Russ asked, “How is Jamie handling the latest developments?”
“Well, unlike you, he isn’t drowning his sorrows in the nearest pair of sympathetic female arms.”
Russ raised an eyebrow. “Would you have objected if he had, sweetheart?”
Olivia blushed, understanding what he was asking, and what kind of trap she’d walked into. “We were talking about you and Iris. You marrying Iris. You really think it’s worth a lifetime of being tethered to that bitch, just to cause Rachel a split second of shock – maybe even less? It’s not like she hasn’t got her hands full right now. Do you think your marrying Iris will even rate?”
“That’s not why I did it.”
“Well, it wasn’t because you’re in love with Iris, I’m pretty sure about that.”
“No,” Russ conceded.
“So what’s going on, Daddy?”
Russ sighed. “I… I don’t expect any better from Iris. I expected better from Rachel. I didn’t expect Rachel to betray me the way she did. With Iris… I honestly don’t think anything could surprise – or disappoint – me about Iris. And that’s a rather comforting feeling at my age.”
“What if Carl is telling the truth? What if she really did put out a contract on Elizabeth and Cory and Lorna’s lives?”
“Does Jamie believe that?”
“Why does this conversation keep coming back to Jamie?”
“Because you never answered my original question.”
“No.” Olivia deliberately chose the lesser of two evils. “No, he doesn’t believe Carl’s version of events.”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant, after everything that’s happened, were you expecting for Jamie to fall into your arms? And were you disappointed when he didn’t?”
“He will,” Olivia predicted with a certainty she didn’t exactly feel, but was currently working on. “Eventually, he will.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because, don’t you see? This is great for me.”
“Lorna coming back is….”
“Lorna coming back having no memory of Jamie – it sure is. Before, Daddy… before I was fighting a ghost. I was fighting Jamie’s memory of his perfect, saintly, irreplaceable wife – as if Lorna were ever any of those things, even on her best days. It’s impossible to compete against a paragon of virtue. But, a real-life, unrepentant bitch who doesn’t want anything to do with Jamie or his kids? I can take that. Boy, can I take that. And I can win, too. You just watch.”
“Save it,” Rachel snapped, the moment Amanda opened her mouth. “Whatever prepared diatribe you came in here with, I don’t want to hear about it.”
“What? Only Carl is allowed to make flowery speeches now? Alice told me he was in his element earlier. The multi-syllable words were flowing like wine.”
“That must have been a thoroughly unbiased version of events you received.”
“There are two sides to the story of Carl kidnapping your children and your daughter-in-law?”
“Did Alice mention that Carl did it in order to save their lives from an organization her husband was a member of?”
“Spencer died almost a year before any of this happened.”
“That doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for bringing the compound to Bay City.”
“That was Donna. And she did it to protect herself from your husband – Spencer had nothing to do with it.”
“Actually, Spencer used his inside information about Donna to try and blackmail Jamie into signing away custody of Kirkland to Grant. And Donna’s motive was to keep Carl from his own child.”
“You mean, the way Carl kept you from Cory and Elizabeth?”
“He had my blessing.”
“Then why the tears, Mom? Why the mourning and the grieving and the memorial service.”
“We had to make Iris believe that her plan had worked. Surely, Amanda, surely you’re not here to defend Iris?”
“And you couldn’t have filled us all in? Matt and I, we mourned our brother and sister, too. And poor Jasmine was broken up over it.”
“That couldn’t be helped. I didn’t enjoy putting you through that, but the fewer people who knew, the better.”
“What about Jamie and Lorna?”
“I am not going to keep on explaining myself, Amanda. I did what I needed to do.”
“You mean, what Carl told you to do.”
“My husband and I are a team. We make decisions together regarding what’s best for our family. If that’s a concept you can’t understand, my darling, then I suggest you look to your own farce of a marriage in order to figure out why.”
“Hi,” Jamie offered as if he were genuinely surprised to be running into Lorna as she wandered the Cory gardens, attempting to figure out exactly how big the place was.
“What do you want?” The wall that instantly went up between them was nearly visible.
“To see you,” Jamie smiled to indicate he had nothing to hide. Not from her.
“I thought you and your mother were done.”
Jamie’s face darkened briefly at the memory, and he confirmed stiffly, “We are.”
“So what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to see you,” Jamie repeated, in case she’d missed it the first time. “If this is where you’re staying, then this is where I intend to be. I don’t give a damn who else lives here.”
“I’m not interested,” Lorna wanted to take a step back, but was afraid he’d take it as a sign of weakness. The one thing she couldn’t afford was to show any sign of weakness.
“So take the hint and get lost.”
“No,” Jamie said.
“Look, I…” Lorna threw her hands up in the air. “I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry I don’t remember you. Or your kids.”
“Whatever. You can talk all you want, and you can show me documents and pictures and tell me a million times that you and I were….whatever.”
“Happy. You and I were happy, Lorna.”
“Right, yeah. Those are just words to me. Do you get that? I look at you and… Nothing. Zip. There’s nothing there. You’re not even my type, you know?”
“I mean, I guess you’re okay looking…”
“Thank you,” Jamie took no offense at the qualifier.
“But, I usually go for men with a little more… edge.”
“And how did that work out for you?” Jamie wondered.
“How the hell should I know?!” Lorna couldn’t help laughing, more in frustration than anything else. She said, “Morgan – is that his name? Morgan? – he said I dumped him for you.”
Jamie nodded. “It was a little more complicated than that, but yes.”
“I read about the two of you going to court. Over the kid.”
“Devon. Her name is Devon. And our other daughter’s name is Mackenzie. Mackenzie Helen Frame.”
“Helen?” Lorna startled.
“After your grandmother.”
“How do you know about….”
“You told me, Lorna. You told me all about her. How much she loved you. How horrible you felt leaving her the way you did. How you tried to make up for breaking her heart by taking care of her when she got older, finding the best retirement home you could for her, then riding the nurses to make sure she got the care she deserved.”
Lorna shook her head defensively. “I never told anyone about that. Even Carl, all he knew was that I put my grandmother in a home, I never told him…”
“How much she meant to you? No, you didn’t. But, the day we got married, you started crying, thinking about how happy your grandmother would have been. You said it was everything she ever wanted for you, a man you loved, a baby on the way. You wished so desperately she could have been there to see you. And I told you that she was here. That she was looking over you.”
Lorna snorted. “And I bought that crap?”
“Hook, line and sinker.”
“My God, Frame, what the hell did you do to me?”
“I loved you, Lorna.”
“Well, you can cut it out now,” she ordered, struggling to hide how much his words affected her.
“No. Sorry. That’s one thing I can never, ever do.”
“Suit yourself,” she shrugged. “Though I’m not sure what you expect me to do about it.”
“I expect you to fall in love with me,” Jamie informed Lorna with a confidence that deftly managed to avoid arrogance. “All over again.”
“Oh, good,” Rachel snarked upon encountering Donna in the Cory Library. “We can make it three for three.” She looked around. “Where’s Matt?”
“At work,” Donna answered slowly, unsure what Rachel was referring to.
“That’s a surprise. I presumed he’d want to be next in line to excoriate me about Carl, same as his brother and sister.”
“Actually,” Donna explained. “Matthew is doing his best to avoid you, particularly for that reason.”
That took the wind out of Rachel’s sails. She’d been so prepared for yet another fight that she wasn’t sure what to do with her excess energy once it failed to materialize.
“I encouraged him keeping his distance,” Donna went on. “Matthew’s heart doesn’t need the unnecessary stress.”
“Talking to his mother is stressful?”
“In this case, it most certainly is. Nobody wants a repeat of his cardiac incident. I am doing everything in my power to keep Matthew healthy.”
Rachel smirked. “I hear he isn’t exactly ecstatic regarding some of your methods.”
Donna blushed, grasping what Rachel was referring to, and informed her mother-in-law with as much dignity as she could summon under the circumstances. “That’s been… resolved.” And then she couldn’t help adding – or would that be, rubbing it in? – “Your son told me I’m worth risking dying for. Isn’t that the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard?”
Rachel’s expression suggested she found it more nausea-inducing.
“In any case,” Donna continued. “I’m happy I ran into you. The reason Matthew is at the office is because he’s tying up some loose ends. He and I are off for a luxury vacation on the Continent.”
“Matt couldn’t fill me in himself?”
“I told you, Rachel, Matthew doesn’t want a scene. For both your sakes.”
“I see. So may I presume then that you and my son are firmly in the Carl is the Devil Incarnate camp?”
“I was in residence there long before any of you knew it existed,” Donna reminded her bitterly. “I remember a time when you were right there with me.”
“And I remember a woman who pleaded with me to believe that people can change. I guess your positive outlook only flows one way.”
“He kidnapped your children, Rachel, and made you believe they were dead. Now do you see why I couldn’t let him know about Jenna’s existence?”
“Jenna is dead because of you,” Rachel reminded. “While Cory and Elizabeth are back home safely. I’d advise you not to throw stones, but these are downright boulders.”
“So you believe Carl?”
“That’s why you went along with his plan?”
“Yes. Yes, that’s why I did it.”
“If Carl’s mission was so noble, why does Lucas deny any knowledge of a threat to Cory, Elizabeth and Lorna’s lives? You’d think he’d be eager to take his share of the credit.”
“You’re taking Lucas’ word over Carl’s?” The gears in Rachel’s head began visibly turning.
“Can you offer me a reason not to?”
Rachel smiled grimly, not an ounce of joy in her expression as she offered, “How about trying this on for size? Remember Marley’s suicide attempt? The one she claimed was actually attempted murder?”
“Marley wasn’t well then,” Donna stressed. “And what does that have to do with – “
“Marley was right. Her ending up in that carbon monoxide filled garage was all a part of Carl, Spencer and Lucas’ plot to make you think the compound had come after your daughter, so you’d release the file you had on them.”
“I never – “
“Exactly. That’s why Carl, Spencer and Lucas went ahead and faked the one that eventually ended up exposing their operations.”
“I knew that,” Donna said. “I knew all that already.”
“But, did you know that the man who put your daughter’s life in danger, the one who didn’t give a damn if she lived or died, as long as it fulfilled his objective – it was just dumb luck that you ended up arriving in time to save Marley; Did you know that man wasn’t Carl – that man was Lucas!”
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