“Marley….” Dennis’ mouth opened and closed not unlike a goldfish’s at the sight of her standing on his doorstep, looking positively ready to burst. He hadn’t seen or so much as spoken to her since the… slip-up… with Olivia, and Dennis had been hoping for more time to pull himself together, wipe off the last remnants of guilt, and make sure he could face her without risk of inadvertently revealing something he didn’t intend to.
Marley, on the other hand, clearly had different plans. She flung her arms around Dennis’ neck, kissed him fully on the lips, then dragged him inside his own apartment, telling him, “I have the most amazing news.”
“I’m listening,” Dennis said, figuring that, in this case, listening definitely beat talking.
“I’ve left Grant,” Marley announced triumphantly. “For you!”
“W-what?” Dennis wondered if he’d entered some bizarre-world – or traveled back in time.
“You were right. Enough is enough. I don’t love him, I love you. I always have. We should be together. We shouldn’t waste another minute!”
“But… what about Daisy?”
“She’s still your granddaughter. I’ll still be a part of her life. And it will be even better now, since I won’t need to pretend to care about Grant when I’m around her. We can have a more honest relationship.”
“Have you told Grant?”
“How did he react?”
Marley grinned. “He didn’t know how to react. He didn’t know what hit him.”
“Did you tell him about… us?”
“Not yet,” Marley stood on her toes to give Dennis a quick peck on the lips. “I want to spread out the fun. I say, let Grant start getting used to the idea of my dumping him, then blindside him with the news that I’m not just leaving him… I’m leaving him for another man. A better man.”
“But, Michele and Bridget… where will the three of you live?” Dennis looked helplessly around his apartment, conveying the very clear, if sheepish message, that it couldn’t possibly be here.
“I’ll get my own place,” Marley shrugged. “It’s about time. Seems like my entire life, I either lived in my mother’s house, or some man’s house… it’s about time I stood on my own two feet, don’t you think?”
“If that’s what you want, Marley, of course.”
“What I want,” she moved to begin peeling off Dennis’ shirt. “Is you.”
“What brought this on?” he continued to wonder, dumbfounded.
“I always want you,” she reminded. “I didn’t think you had any problem with that.”
“I mean,” Dennis managed to laugh, undress, and still feel somewhat confused all at the same time. “What brought on this sudden change of… perspective?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Marley promised. And proceeded to make sure Dennis didn’t ask any more questions.
“You are such a lucky girl,” Iris informed her sister as the two of them skulked around Kevin’s office, hurrying to get everything into place before her husband returned. “So much progress has been made in the field of surveillance technology since my day.”
“Don’t tell me,” Amanda guessed. “In your day, you walked uphill in the snow in order to eavesdrop via seashells and dinosaur bones.”
“Something like that,” Iris responded dryly. “I merely wanted you to be aware of your good fortune. And to take full advantage of it.”
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”
“I didn’t talk you into anything, Amanda,” Iris arched an eyebrow. “I merely offered you the benefit of my experience.”
“It’s not like all this cloak and dagger stuff ever helped you hang on to a man,” Amanda challenged, less and less convinced this was a good idea.
“This isn’t about hanging on to a man,” Iris corrected with as much dignity as she could muster. “It’s about collecting information so that you can make an informed decision as to what you want and what you don’t want out of life.”
“Have you figured it out?” Amanda asked unexpectedly, the sentence having started off as flip but, by the end, somehow turning sincere. She really wanted to know.
“What kind of question is that?” Iris attempted to dismiss.
But, Amanda wasn’t about to let her off the hook that easily. “I know you finally got Russ to marry you.“
“It was hardly a case of my dragging the man, bound and gagged, to the altar. As a matter of fact, it was his idea.”
“After he found out Mom had known Carl was alive all these years.”
“That,” Iris snapped. “Is neither here nor there.”
“The point is, yes, you finally have Russ – but is he even what you wanted?”
“Is Kevin?” Iris shot back.
“Of course, he is. I love him.”
“I love Russ,” her sister was quick to confirm.
“But do they love us?” Amanda asked the question both had previously been too nervous to broach.
“Does it matter?”
“Are you serious?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. Think about it, Amanda, most of us have a difficult enough time getting a firm grasp on our own feelings, much less attempting to untangle the true feelings and motivations of others. The only issues worth focusing on are those which you control directly. Ask yourself what you want, and then go after it, full steam ahead.”
“Regardless of the other person’s wishes?”
“Is your husband so helpless that he is incapable of expressing his own desires and then acting on them like an adult?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Why worry about what Kevin is really feeling, when you should be concentrating on your own needs? If you want him, then you should be doing absolutely everything within your power to get him. Trust me, my darling, if he disagrees, he’ll let you know.”
“Is that really how you live your life, Iris? It’s so…”
“Don’t judge me, Amanda,” Iris advised, surprisingly not unkindly. “Don’t judge me until you’ve spent an adequate amount of time walking about in my shoes,” her sister said, and gestured for Amanda to plant the last of the bugs they’d brought, then set the frequency so that, once turned on, Amanda would be able to hear every word uttered by her husband – and anyone else he happened to be talking to.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Lorna informed Jamie when he stopped by the Cory Mansion.
“Okay,” he nodded his head slowly.
“I don’t want to go out with you.”
“You’d rather stay in?”
“I don’t want to see you anymore. Period. Not tonight. Not ever.”
“That’s certainly a change,” Jamie agreed amiably, though seemingly making to move to accept the message and get lost. “Can I ask what prompted it?”
“You…” Lorna stammered. “Guys like you… you’re too needy. Sleep with a woman once and you think you owe her.”
“Did I give you that impression?” Jamie’s voice remained infuriatingly un-infuriated.
“You were about to,” she predicted.
“I’m sorry if you feel that way. I’m doing my best not to pressure you.”
He shrugged. “Happens to the best of us.”
“I can’t give you what you need,” Lorna insisted. “You want your wife back. And I’m… not her.”
“I want you,” Jamie corrected. “You and I, Lorna, we’ve always accepted each other for who we were, warts and all. That hasn’t changed.”
“I have,” she reminded.
“Not really. The circumstances may have changed. But, you’re still the woman I fell in love with.”
“And maybe you’re still the guy you say I fell in love with. So what? I don’t remember him, either.”
“Okay. I accept that. In that case, we start over.”
“No.” She all but pushed him to the door. “I’m not interested.”
“Is it because I kissed you the other day?”
“Don’t be an idiot. It’s like I said, we’d already gone a hell of a lot further than that. What’s a stupid kiss compared to us screwing each other’s brains out?”
“A kiss is different,” Jamie said. “It’s almost more intimate, wouldn’t you say?”
“Hell, no,” she snorted.
“And besides, I had no right to do it the way that I did. You didn’t know I was there. You weren’t expecting it. I’m sorry if I upset you.”
“Would you stop apologizing already? I’m not upset. I’m…” she searched frantically for just the right word, failed to find it and settled for, “Annoyed. This is what I meant about needy guys. We sleep together, and now you want to discuss it ad infinitum.”
“I just wanted to spend some time with you.”
“You mean you wanted to sleep with me again.”
“I mean I wanted to spend time with you,” Jamie stuck to his story, even if he did smile as he added, “And then, if we happened to end up back in bed…”
“But, I am also willing to take this as fast or as slow as you want, Lorna.”
“I don’t want! Why can’t you get that through your thick, stubborn, romantic, moony skull? Look, I was curious, okay? All that crap you laid on me about how in love we were and how great we were together? I wanted to see for myself. Satisfy my curiosity, you know? Well, now I have. And it’s done. We’re done.”
“Would you just get the hell out of here? Unless you’re, what? Going to force yourself on me? Like you did back in the garden? Is that how you like to play things?”
Jamie hesitated for a long, fraught, agonizing moment, only wavering slightly, as if it were taking a Herculean effort on his part just to remain standing in response to the blow of her words.
Finally, he shook his head, not a speck of amusement left in his entire countenance, and turned towards the door, exiting hurriedly, and without another word.
“Yes,” Sarah told Grant.
“Yes?” He looked up at her with such hope in his eyes, that she nearly winced from the raw emotion of it.
“Yes,” Sarah said. “I’ll marry you.”
“Oh,” Grant said.
He’d been expecting it. And he hadn’t. He’d wanted it, and yet he’d never imagined he would get it.
She smiled faintly. “That’s all you have to say?”
Grant considered her question. And then he said, “Yes,” sweeping Sarah into his arms instead, kissing her as if they’d been apart forever. And as if no time had passed at all. “How’s that for something to say?” he asked.
“Pretty good,” she had to admit, the tentative smile from earlier growing broader as it began to dawn on Sarah, too, that this was actually happening.
“You won’t regret it,” Grant swore, cupping her face in his hands. “I am going to do everything I can to make you happy. No, forget that. I am going to do more than I can. I am going to do anything necessary. I am going to do this right, Sarah. For the first time in my life, I am going to get it all right.”
“What are you talking about?” Sarah kissed Grant back, the both of them struggling to make themselves understood in the frantic seconds when their lips weren’t touching.
“All of it. You, me, us, Daisy, life, love, marriage, relationships, everything. I’m not going to make any mistakes. Hell, I don’t think there are any left to make. I’ve done it all. I’ve screwed up my life and the life of God knows how many other women, all so I can get it right with you. I love you so much. I am going to make you so happy. You’ve made me so happy, Sarah.”
“I love you, too,” she assured him, even as the more practical part of Sarah couldn’t help asking. “But, what about…. Grant, what about… Marley?”
“Why did you do that?” Elizabeth demanded of Charlie as the pair of them sat in her bedroom at the Cory Mansion. “The other night. Why did you kiss me the way that you did?”
Charlie shrugged, nonchalant. “I just wanted to help you.”
“Help me do what?”
“Help you relax,” Charlie explained. “You were so freaked out about the club and the dancing and the guy grabbing your ass… I figured you needed, I don’t know, sexual training wheels.”
Elizabeth blushed at Charlie’s words, even as she struggled to explain, “It’s just, I’d never been anyplace like that before, I never had anybody do… that… to me before. I didn’t know how to react.”
“Here’s a tip: Kicking a guy in the balls shouldn’t usually be your opening move.”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth looked down at the bedspread, fingering it aimlessly, avoiding Charlie’s eyes. “I kind of figured as much.”
“It’s okay,” Charlie reassured, ducking her head to meet Elizabeth’s eyes. “Nobody is born knowing this stuff. It takes practice. That’s what I meant about training wheels. We need to ease you into this.”
“So… that’s why you kissed me?” Elizabeth squirmed. “Charlie, I… I’m not like that. I mean, I’m normal, right? Just because I didn’t know what to do, that doesn’t mean I’m like… that? Does it?”
“Sure.” Charlie didn’t seem particularly interested in the question, but if it mattered to Elizabeth, she was happy to go along. Especially since Charlie was here working on a completely different agenda. “Here’s the thing: When I first started sleeping with Kirk, it was kind of… blah, you know? It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was just something I did because, well, I was tired of not doing it. Do you understand?”
“It took me a while before I figured out that the reason I didn’t know how to have better sex with Kirk, was because I didn’t understand what I liked or what I wanted or what it could be. You’re probably the same way.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth considered the implications. “So… what did you do about it?”
“I slept with someone who knew what they were doing,” Charlie said. And leaned over to give Elizabeth another kiss.
Only this time, she didn’t stop there. This time, Charlie raised her hand and brushed Elizabeth’s nipple with her thumb, prompting the other girl to recoil back and look at her in a combination of surprise and fascination.
“No,” she began.
“Come on,” Charlie cajoled. “How are you ever going to stop being scared of sex, unless you let go and actually try and enjoy it?”
“But… you… not with…”
“You’ve got someone better in mind?” Charlie asked, cupping Elizabeth’s breast in one palm while she slipped the other up her skirt.
“What are you…” Too stunned to finish her sentence, Elizabeth froze.
Which Charlie took as permission to venture further. Slowly, teasingly, she proceeded to caress Elizabeth with her fingers, exactly as Zeno had once done in order to show Charlie just what she was missing.
“Stop it,” Elizabeth insisted, even as she gasped and shuddered involuntarily.
“Are you sure?” Charlie wondered, applying just enough pressure to make Elizabeth bite her lip and move against her, the other girl’s face flushed, her thighs pressing along Charlie’s hand, driving her in deeper even as she insisted on continuing to shake her head.
“Charlie…. Come on…. Stop.”
“You don’t want me to stop,” Charlie corrected, picking up the pace to match Elizabeth’s heartbeat, which she could feel pulsing through every vein. She changed her stroke from up and down to gradually tightening circles, slipping her free fingers inside Elizabeth and urging, “Tell me to keep going.”
“Keep going,” the sound Elizabeth made was more of a sob, but its meaning was crystal clear. “Please keep going.”
“Tell me it feel good.”
Elizabeth nodded fervently, opening her mouth to do as Charlie commanded, but bursting out with a stunned cry instead.
“Good,” Charlie cooed. “That’s a good start.”
“You were right,” Rachel told Carl.
He smiled, “Ah, the words every husband longs to hear.” The smile died on his lips when he realized Rachel was solemnly, deathly serious.
She said, “You were right to leave the way that you did three years ago. These people are relentless. Nothing you do could ever satisfy their bloodlust, not even your own death, I suspect.”
He leaned forward grimly. “While I can find no fault with your conclusion, I must admit to a burning curiosity regarding what finally prompted you to see the light.”
“Eduardo Rivera is the Federal Agent who’s been after you for decades. He’s the one who first put Hamilton on your tail in Bay City. He cozied up to Felicia and I in Paris hoping we might lead you to him. I confronted him about it. He confessed all.”
“Interesting,” Carl said, tapping his fingertips together, deep in thought. “I did believe I recognized him from before, though the circumstances escaped me.”
“He says it’s not him you recognized, but his father. Someone named Diego Rivera? From Cuba back in the 50s?” Rachel took a deep breath. “Eduardo claims you turned his entire family over to Castro’s secret police in exchange for getting your own money out. He says they were all murdered in prison because of you.”
Carl continued nodding wordlessly. Rachel could practically see the gears in his head turning, even as his facial expression remained utterly neutral.
She went on, “That’s how I know they’ll keep hounding you no matter what. I went to Hamilton. I offered to have you plead guilty to the current charges against you, if only he would arrest Iris before she goes after you and the children again.”
“Rachel!” Carl gasped, her admission finally shocking him out of his forced tranquility.
“He wanted nothing to do with it.” Rachel cut Carl off before her husband could offer his opinion on her going behind his back and attempting to swing a deal. “Hamilton and Eduardo aren’t on a hunt for justice. If they were, he’d have taken the offer. This is a vendetta, pure and simple. Either they get you, or Iris does. But, neither of them will lift a finger to help us.”
“I’m sorry, my darling,” Carl stroked her face. “I am sorry you have been forced to see this ugly side of your so-called law and order society. I had hoped to protect you from the knowledge that when it comes to dealing with people like Iris, victims like us are tragically and irrevocably on our own.”
“We don’t have to be. We don’t have to spin here like sitting ducks, wondering which one of those bastards will get us first. We can go, Carl. Just like you wanted to three years ago. You, Elizabeth, Cory… and me.”
“You?” Carl’s eyes widened. “But, you told me….”
“I know what I told you. But, that was when I still thought we could straighten things out; that the truth would prevail, you’d be exonerated and we could go on with our lives. I wouldn’t listen when you tried to explain just how many knives had been drawn, and what serious danger we were all in. You called me sentimental. You were right.”
“It’s a noble quality, your loyalty to those you love.”
“Maybe. But, not here and not now. Yes, I love Bay City. Yes, my mother is buried here. And Mac. Yes, my grandchildren are here, all of them, especially little Mackenzie. But, then again, my children have made it clear that I’m not welcome to be a part of their lives, as long as I’m with you. And you’re the one who’s life is in danger. Yours and Cory’s and Elizabeth’s. So you have to become my priority. And that means we all need to leave. The sooner the better.”
“You are an extraordinary woman, my love.”
“When I have to be.” Rachel nodded her head, as if all had been decided. “Just let me get a few things in order, and we can be on our way.”
“Do you have a destination in mind?”
“No. I trust you.”
“Thank you,” he bowed his head, as though in prayer. “You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“Not nearly as much as you mean to me,” Rachel advised, kissing Carl before turning to leave the room. She had so many plans to make.
“Rachel,” Carl called after her.
“Yes?” She paused in the doorway.
“You haven’t asked me whether Eduardo Rivera told the truth.”
She hesitated. “I don’t want to know, Carl.”
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