“So,” Lorna began casually after Jamie had gotten home from work, eaten dinner with her and the girls, and put Devon and Zee to bed (they still weren’t too keen on Lorna doing it alone). “Olivia dropped by to see me today.”
Jamie let out a low whistle under his breath. “Sorry. I was hoping to… intercept that conversation.”
“Are you okay?” Lorna asked him.
He blinked in surprise. “That’s an interesting opening question.”
“Considering it’s the only thing I care about, yeah, I’m going to lead with it.”
“The baby isn’t mine,” Jamie said.
“Really?” He didn’t appear thoroughly convinced.
“You told me you never slept with her. I figured that meant you’d never slept with her. I know my memory is still a but fuzzy in places, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.”
“I never slept with her,” Jamie confirmed. “I just thought… I guess I didn’t expect you to believe me in light of….”
“I’ll always believe you,” Lorna said simply. “I know it’s not the Bay City way, but how about we try something radical for a change? Set a good example for the kids?”
“Thank you,” Jamie said, nearly collapsing with relief.
“No sweat.” She grinned, then turned serious to wonder, “I am curious what Olivia thinks she’s doing? Once you deny – “
“I’m not going to,” Jamie cut her off. “Deny, that is.”
“Okay…” Lorna’s head slowly bobbed up and down, guessing it was just a matter of time before she figured all this out. “That’s… interesting.”
“She knows you have your memory back.”
“Right. She said that. Marley told her. I tried playing dumb, but I don’t think she bought it.”
“Olivia threatened to tell Carl, unless I went along and claimed to be her baby’s father.”
Lorna inhaled sharply. “That bitch!”
Jamie winced. “She’s not. Not really. She’s just… volatile.”
“You really have a type, don’t you, Frame?”
He smiled weakly. “Guilty.”
“So you think she’d really do it?”
“I have no intention of risking your life to find out.”
“Who’s the real father, then?”
“Dennis. She says.”
“You don’t believe her?”
“I’m not feeling particularly charitable towards Olivia at the moment.”
“I am,” Lorna said.
“Oh, I still stand by my bitch assessment. But, I kind of get it. Olivia’s in love with you.”
“She – “
“It’s not her fault. And it’s not your fault. She thought I was dead and she expected you to eventually realize it, too. I want to hate her for it, but I can’t. Well… this last stunt is making it easier. But, what I really hate is the situation. And Olivia didn’t cause it.”
“Olivia is going to tell everyone the baby is mine. That’s a situation she did cause. And everyone will believe her. I mean, why wouldn’t everyone believe her? She and I were supposedly together for years.”
“We’ll deal with it,” Lorna predicted.
“Really? Just like that? That’s all you have to say?”
“We’ve been through worse,” she reminded. “Much, much worse. If Olivia thinks I’d let something like this get between you and me, she has no idea what she’s in for.”
“Thank you for agreeing to perform the ceremony,” Grant told Chase as they waited in the Mayor’s office for Sarah to make her grand entrance.
“Lila asked me to. I’d do anything for Lila.”
“Me, too,” Grant said.
The two men stood in silence for a moment before Chase asked, “Do you think she’s happy?”
Grant considered the question, then answered honestly, “I don’t know.”
“I worry about her,” Chase confessed. “After the way I jerked her around – “
“Yes,” Grant began.
Only for Chase to cut him off, “I wouldn’t cast stones if I were you.”
“Anyway, after the way I jerked her around, I really want her to be happy. And not just to assuage my guilt, either. She’s an incredible woman; she deserves to be with someone worthy of her.”
“You know anybody?” Grant asked.
“I work in politics,” Chase reminded. “How could I possibly know anybody worthy of Lila?”
Grant smirked. “Most of us in politics at least pretend to believe in what we’re doing.”
“I think the key word there, is pretend.”
“Anytime you’re ready to retire, I’d be happy to step up to the Mayor’s mansion.”
“No, thanks. The main reason I run for office is to keep people like you out of office.”
“You know,” Grant said. “I can see why Lila likes you.”
“I can see why she likes you, too.”
Grant offered, “Maybe that means we’re not so bad, after all.”
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Chase sighed.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Matt asked Donna as they stood outside the door of the thug the lab tech had fingered – for a price – as someone equally as interested in the results of the doctor’s autopsy as they had been. “This guy… this – what’s his name?” Matt checked the slip of paper with the address on it. “This Laurent Tijani, we don’t know anything about him. He could be dangerous. If he works for Iris – “
“That’s even worse! If he works for either Iris or Carl, he could be extremely dangerous. In fact, those are the only type of people Iris or Carl hire – the extremely dangerous!”
Donna made a great show of listening to her husband’s concern. What kind of loyal wife wouldn’t? But then, she pointed out, “I’ve already rung the bell, Matthew.”
And, a moment later, it was answered. By a kid.
Well, not a child, exactly. But most definitely a kid. He might have been Steven’s age, only not as tall, scrawnier, his painfully blond, nearly white, hair pulled back into a pony-tail, his pasty skin dotted with crimson acne accented by an angry, swollen welt at the tip.
He looked Donna and Matt up and down, barely hiding his scorn, then announced in a voice still showing traces of adolescent splinter, “You are the rich Americans.”
How nice. Their lab tech had called ahead.
“May we speak with you for a moment?” Donna asked, seemingly unperturbed by the fact that their dreaded informer turned out to be much different than expected.
The boy shrugged and stepped aside, ushering the Corys into his basement apartment, where everything smelled vaguely damp, and the dim lighting from a pair of computer screens was not the sort that brought out the best in anyone.
Donna looked about in vain for a spot to sit down. The apartment did not appear ideal for entertaining company.
It was Matt who spoke first. He said, “Laurent. Hi. I – uh – we were told that, like us, you’d also gone looking into Doctor – “
“Yes.” Their friend didn’t seem particularly big on small talk, either.
“May we inquire as to why?” Donna asked.
A shrug. “Job.”
“You were hired to do the job.”
A nod. No follow up.
“Hired by whom?”
He stared pointedly at Donna’s purse. Matt’s wife handed him a wad of bills as if it were the most natural transaction in the world.
He counted it slowly. Twice. And then he said, “Iris.”
“Iris Wheeler?” Matt felt he had to be sure.
Laurent looked at Matt as if he were a complete idiot. And then he nodded bruskly.
“Not Carl Hutchins,” Donna clarified, visibly disappointed.
Suddenly, Laurent, was newly alert. “You know Carl Hutchins?”
“No,” Donna assured.
Even as Matt said, “He’s my stepfather.” Just before realizing that probably hadn’t been what Donna was going for.
The look of disdain on Laurent’s face instantly turned to fear, as he glanced from Matt to Donna, then shoved the bills back in her hands. He stammered, “It was not my idea. She paid me to do it. I am not responsible. You tell Carl Hutchins, you tell him I am not responsible. I was just doing what I was paid to do. I did not know – I would have never… not if I had known. You tell him that.”
“You wouldn’t have done what?” Matt asked.
“It was Iris Wheeler,” he repeated adamantly. “She did not explain to me exactly what we were doing. Not until it was too late.”
“May I come in?” Rachel knocked timidly on Elizabeth’s bedroom door, chastising herself instantly for the timidity, yet unwilling to risk upsetting her daughter. Not yet, anyway.
“Okay,” Elizabeth said warily, closing the book she’d been reading and pushing it aside.
Rachel passed awkwardly through the doorway, not sure whether to sit or stand, not sure what to say or what it was acceptable to say. She cursed herself for feeling this was. She cursed herself for not being able to stop feeling that way.
“Don’t worry,” Elizabeth seemed to be taking distinctive pleasure in her mother’s discomfort. “I wasn’t doing anything gay.”
“What? It’s what you were thinking.”
“I was thinking nothing of the kind.”
“You haven’t said a word to me since Frankie blabbed the other night.”
“You haven’t given me a chance,” Rachel pointed out. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were the one avoiding me.”
“Why would I do that?” Elizabeth inadvertently proved Rachel’s point by looking away from her mother and addressing a spot somewhere to the left of them both.
“Maybe,” Rachel ventured. “Because you’re not as happy about this new relationship of yours as you would like us to believe.”
“It’s none of your business,” Elizabeth bristled. Not addressing Rachel’s point in the slightest.
“I know what a confusing time this must be for you.”
“You mean, I must be confused, since it turns out I’m into girls?”
“No,” Rachel fought to keep her tone civil, when what she wanted to do most of all was just take Elizabeth into her arms and reassure her that everything was going to be okay, that she had nothing to be afraid of, that this was all normal, that it happened to everyone. “I think you’re confused because, for the past few years, you’ve lived a life of secrets and insecurity. You never knew who you could trust or who you could count on, and now it’s happening again.”
“I’m not confused,” Elizabeth insisted. “Not about Charlie, anyway. I don’t know about other girls and… stuff. But, Charlie… I’m not confused.”
“You don’t think all of this is a little… convenient?”
“You sure don’t look like you find it convenient.”
“I meant that the timing, in particular, was convenient.”
“You realize that Charlie’s parents are investigating your father for Lucas, right? That he’s claiming Carl is a liar, that Lucas wasn’t involved in rescuing Lorna, you and your brother from Iris.”
Elizabeth hadn’t known that. So naturally she said, “Of course, I knew that.”
Rachel didn’t believe her for a moment. But, she let it go. “How did Charlie get your phone?”
“I gave it to her,” Elizabeth lied.
“That’s none of your business, either.”
“And why did Frankie return it instead of Charlie? What was she doing in this house, cross-examining your brother?”
“Nobody cross-examines Cory, Mom. You’d know that if you’d been around the last few years.”
“I’m sorry, darling,” Rachel told her sincerely. “I am so, so sorry that I couldn’t be with you these last few years.”
“You chose them,” Elizabeth accused. “Father gave you a choice – your new family or your old one. And you chose them.”
“Actually, Jamie, Amanda and Matt were the ones who made me choose.”
“Doesn’t matter. You still chose them.”
“That was a mistake,” Rachel admitted. “One that I am trying to rectify now, by leaving the country with you and your father like I should have done in the first place.”
“It’s too late,” Elizabeth turned her back on Rachel. “I’m not going anywhere with the two of you. That’s something I’m not confused about at all.”
“What the hell was that all about?” Dennis burst in on Olivia in much the same way she had on him and Marley earlier. Only this time, Dennis was alone and could speak freely. “What’s all that crap about Jamie being your baby’s father?”
“That was your first guess when I told you.”
“You claimed it wasn’t possible. That the two of you never slept together.”
Olivia shrugged. “What’s an immaculate conception between friends?”
“So were you lying to me then, or are you lying to me now?”
“I don’t have any reason to be discussing this with you at all.”
“Is this or is this not my baby?”
“I thought you wanted nothing to do with us,” Olivia challenged. “You wouldn’t step up, so Jamie did.”
“And how the hell did you make that happen?”
“Jamie is my friend,” Olivia told Dennis how it should have gone down, instead of how it actually did. “He wanted to help me out.”
“So you’re just going to let him raise my kid?”
“What choice do I have?” Olivia wallowed in the fleeting satisfaction of finally getting a rise out of her ex. “Did you want me to tell Marley the truth? Tell her you’d knocked me up – again – just as the two of you were finally going to get your star-crossed happily ever after? You know how nuts she is on the subject of babies. I’d have to start sleeping with one eye open. Ask Lorna.”
“You had no right to go off on her the way that you did,” Dennis said. Then noted, “And speaking of Lorna, you think she’s just going to sit by while you – “
“She doesn’t have a choice in the matter.” Olivia offered him a partial truth. “It’s Jamie’s call.”
Dennis shook his head. “You’ve got to give me some time to think about this. Figure things out.”
“What’s there to figure out? You either want our baby or you don’t. You either grow a pair and own up to your little… slip up – speak now or forever hold your peace.”
“I can’t do this to Marley,” Dennis pleaded.
“Then don’t. I couldn’t care less. Jamie is a better father, human being, man than you could ever hope be. Why would I fight for a role you can play in my baby’s life when I could have him, instead?”
“Hey,” Jasmine came bounding up to Kirkland, all nervous energy and teen exuberance, as they waited for Sarah in Chase’s office.
“Hey,” he smiled back, genuinely happy to see her, if still a bit wary.
“It’s okay,” she whispered. “You don’t have to worry about me jumping you right here in front of everyone.”
“That’s good,” Kirkland deadpanned.
“Not that you don’t look good. You look good.”
“But, I kind of wanted to apologize. You know, about the whole thing… in the car.”
“Wow, thanks for that. Should I be flattered?”
“Girls don’t throw themselves at me all that often.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Okay,” he amended. “How about girls I’ve known since they were in Kindergarten?”
“I’m not in Kindergarten anymore…”
“No,” he agreed, appreciative in spite of himself. “You’re not.”
“I’m sorry I came on so strong, okay?” Jasmine would have chewed on her lower lip, except she didn’t want to smear her lipstick. “You were really nice about it. A lot of guys would have made me feel bad about myself.”
“You’ve tried it with other guys?”
“No…” She admitted with an eye-roll. “I listened to your whole little speech. Don’t throw yourself away on someone you don’t care about or on someone who doesn’t care about you, blah, blah, blah…”
“I don’t remember that last part.”
“You were right,” she conceded. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” His tone matched hers, prompting them both to burst out laughing.
Only to sober up quickly when the door opened and first Allie, then Sarah, made their entrances.
Grant’s eyes lit up and he instinctively moved to meet her halfway. It took Lila grabbing him by the arm and shaking her head, frowning, looking both chastising and infinitely amused, to indicate that no, traditionally speaking, Grant needed to wait for Sarah to come to him.
He grinned ruefully, apologetic, accepted the resulting laughter with grace, and dutifully took a step back, returning to his spot next to Chase, who mouthed “thank you” in Lila’s direction, with a wink.
Lila’s next move was to gesture for Kirkland to assume his Best Man position.
Grant’s son nodded to indicate he was on it but, before he did so, he took one last look at Sarah, who wasn’t glancing Kirkland’s way at all, and, under his breath, asked Jasmine, “So, you want to go out with me again?”
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