“Is that why you tried to murder my husband in cold blood?” An incensed Rachel demanded of Donna.
Who merely laughed and swiped aside Rachel’s accusatory finger, both metaphorical and literal.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“The police have evidence that the attack on Carl came from inside this house!”
“I am hardly the only person who lives here.”
“You’re the only one who fears for her life where Carl is concerned.”
Donna snorted in a most unladylike manner. “If it helps you to sleep better at night, you go on telling yourself that, Rachel.”
“It makes perfect sense. You hold four decades worth of grudges towards Carl.”
Donna sighed, “I realize this is difficult for you to comprehend, since you are under the impression the rest of us are as obsessed with your husband as you are. But, rest assured, no matter how much I may loath Carl and hold him responsible for a plethora of tragedies in my life, all of it put together doesn’t come close to how much I love Matthew.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Why would I risk spending the rest of my life in jail and away from my husband, in exchange for ridding the earth of a monster already tottering on his last legs?”
“Because you are malicious and spiteful.”
“I am also ridiculously self-absorbed, wouldn’t you agree?” Donna smiled at Rachel’s confusion. “Much, much too self-absorbed to risk a prison term, for any reason.”
“You were willing to, once. You wanted to take the blame for shooting Jake when you thought Marley – “
“Your husband,” Donna spat through clenched teeth. “Is not Marley. I would not cross the street to offer him so much as a tap on the back if he were choking, and I wouldn’t exert comparable effort to end his life, either. If you are so keen on producing yet another suspect now that it looks like your attempts to railroad Lorna have come to naught, I suggest you compile your list from amongst those with nothing left to lose.”
“You sound like you have someone in mind?”
Donna shrugged innocently.
“You know something,” Rachel accused.
“Only that, unlike me, there happens to be someone with a much greater axe to grind.”
Rachel’s eyes narrowed. “And who would that be?”
Her daughter-in-law smiled and laid out the obvious. “Why, Lucas, of course. Carl has cost him Fanny’s love and Lorna’s trust. Because of Carl, one granddaughter is being raised by Cass and Frankie – who are hardly Lucas’ biggest fans going on twenty years now. And the other two are under Jamie’s roof. Jamie – the man whose wife Carl claims Lucas helped him kidnap. So I doubt any invitations for Sunday dinner are coming from out of that neck of the woods, either. Thanks to your husband, Lucas has absolutely nothing left. What reason would he have not to pull the trigger?”
The moment Alice finally opened the door to Grant’s hospital room and let Sarah inside, she shifted Daisy onto Kirkland’s hip and flew across the floor to throw her arms around Grant’s neck.
He seemed surprised, though infinitely pleased by her reaction. Not to mention the fact that Kirkland was there, too.
“I should have a stroke more often,” Grant murmured into Sarah’s hair.
Prompting her to pull away angrily. “Don’t say that! Don’t you dare say that!”
“I’m sorry,” Grant looked, confused, from Sarah to Kirkland and back again. “I – I didn’t realize you’d be this upset. Didn’t Alice tell you it was just a minor stroke?”
“There is nothing minor about finding my husband unconscious!”
“I’m sorry,” Grant repeated. “Truly, I am. I guess I didn’t think about how horrible it must have been for you. But, I’m fine, really, look.”
Grant attempted to stand up out of bed and demonstrate. He only managed a single step in Sarah’s direction before an unexpected wave of dizziness nearly brought him to his knees. He would have, in fact, hit the floor, if Sarah hadn’t grabbed him by one arm and Kirkland, awkwardly shifting Daisy, hadn’t caught him by the other.
“Get back into bed,” Kirkland barked. “Right now. Damn it, Grant, when are you going to stop with the macho crap? This is exactly the same stunt you tried to pull after giving blood to me, and Dad said you nearly killed yourself!”
“Jamie… is… an old… woman,” Grant huffed even as Sarah helped him to lay back down again. He’d broken out in a cold sweat and couldn’t seem to open his eyes without being engulfed by nausea. But he’d be damned if he’d let either of them see it.
Grant’s act wasn’t fooling anyone. Not even Daisy, who observed, “Daddy sick.”
“Yes, he is,” Sarah agreed, despite Grant’s attempt to deny. “But we’re going to help him get all better, not to worry.”
Grant mulishly forced his rebellious lids open and swallowed hard to keep his stomach contents in place. He looked not at Sarah but at Kirkland as he asked, suspecting he was pushing his luck but, as usual, unable to resist temptation, “You too, son?”
The boy shifted awkwardly, mumbling, “Yeah, sure, I can help out – I guess. If Sarah and Daisy need me.”
“We all need you,” Sarah said firmly. “Thank you, Kirkland.” She turned to Grant. “No more stupid stunts, okay?”
“Okay,” he attempted a smile.
But Sarah wasn’t having any of it. “Promise me. Promise me you’ll take this seriously, Grant. I can’t lose you.” Her voice cracked on the last word.
Stunned – and humbled – by the depth of her feelings, Grant only managed to nod mutely.
“I love you,” she reminded him. “Daisy and I need you. Please, Grant.”
“Anything,” he swore, meaning every word of it now, even as her own obvious panic triggered the same in him for the first time since Grant had collapsed. “I’ll do anything for you.”
No matter how many times she’d been to the Cory Mansion, Charlie still couldn’t make it from Elizabeth’s room to the front door unescorted without getting lost at least once.
This time around, she turned a corner and ran smack straight into Cory.
Who didn’t seem thrilled to see her.
“Uh – hi,” Charlie offered awkwardly. “Fancy bumping into you here. Literally.”
“Hello,” he said calmly.
“I – I was just leaving.”
He didn’t say anything. He just continued watching her. When they were all younger, Cory’s tendency to stare silently had been unnerving. Now that they were adults, it was unnerving… and something more. Charlie felt as if he were staring straight into her. Which felt weird. And… something more.
“I guess you know,” she said, out of a burning need to say something – anything. “About Elizabeth and me.”
“And you’re… okay with it?”
“It’s none of my business,” Cory noted.
“Well, yeah, right. I know. But, you guys – you and Elizabeth are super-close. I wouldn’t want to be… a problem.”
“Too late,” he said, his voice strangely lacking inflection.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You don’t love my sister,” Cory said; not a judgment, a simple statement of fact.
“How the hell would you know?”
He simply continued staring at her, not feeling a need to expand or defend his statement.
Charlie attempted to glare back at him defiantly. But she was in over her head (eyeballs?) – and they both knew it.
“Okay, fine,” she backed down, hoping to at least save face by insisting, “But, I – I like her. And what’s that lame crap about needing to be in love?” she raised her fingers in air quotes. “Why can’t two people just have a good time? Why does everyone have to stick stupid feelings into it and throw shade at you for not doing things the way other people think you should?”
Cory said, “Elizabeth is a… complicated person.”
“So am I,” Charlie shot back. It was either that or “Says you!” She wondered why Cory, who was technically more than three years younger than her, could still make Charlie feel like such a dumb kid.
He shrugged, to indicate that didn’t matter one way or the other. “I know some might not agree, but Elizabeth deserves more than just being used.”
“What am I using Elizabeth for? And don’t say sex. Because, not that it’s any of your business, but she’s not exactly all that in – “
“You are using her to get information on Father that you can take back to your parents,” Cory said so calmly and certainly that Charlie’s mouth first opened, then closed, then opened again, all without a single sound coming out in the interim.
She thought she was going to deny everything. But, instead, Charlie asked, “Did you – did you tell your sister that?”
“It’s none of my business.” Cory’s voice finally had inflection. Because he was echoing Charlie’s earlier tone.
“I – I did,” she admitted. “At first. But now… things have changed.”
“Yes,” Cory agreed. “Now you’re trying to prove a point to your parents.”
“I – “
“Your reasons may have changed, but the basic truth hasn’t. You are using my sister. And she deserves better than that.”
He was right. Of course, he was right. And the realization triggered a single emotion in Charlie: Pure, unadulterated anger.
She lunged at Cory, both arms raised and curled into fists, smacking him furiously in the chest. “What do you know? You don’t know anything? You don’t know how I feel!”
“I do,” he grabbed Charlie by both wrists, halting her assault and holding her still. “I know that you’re not interested in girls. Not really.”
“And how would you know that, smart guy?”
Cory didn’t answer. He merely kissed Charlie instead.
And then he let her go, turning on his heel and disappearing back down the corridor.
“You’re still thinking about Olivia, aren’t you?” Marley asked Dennis cautiously, despite their having come back home, and him not having said a word about his hospitalized ex.
“I… Yeah,” he winced apologetically.
“It’s okay,” Marley sat on Dennis’ lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and resting her head on his shoulder. “I understand. It’s hard to see someone you once cared about in pain – no matter how long it’s been.”
Dennis nodded thoughtfully. “That’s all it is between you and Jamie, right? You guys were friends for so long – you were in love once – that’s all it is now. You… care about him. Nothing more than that.”
Marley slowly sat up, looking Dennis in the eye. “Do you actually believe what Olivia said?”
“No!” He insisted, shaking his head emphatically. “No, no, of course not! I just meant, I understood what you were saying. About me and Olivia. Because you feel the same way about Jamie.”
“What did Olivia tell you?” Marley wanted to know. “When you went in to see her?”
“She said… She said that Jamie wants nothing to do with her. Now that the baby is gone, he wants her out of the house and out of his life.”
Marley frowned. “That doesn’t sound like Jamie.”
“Olivia was an impediment to him and Lorna. You, of all people, should know how ruthless Jamie can be when it comes to those.”
“But he and Lorna aren’t even living together anymore. She’s at Rachel and Carl’s.”
“It doesn’t matter. Jamie is a one-woman man. Even when the woman in question treats him like crap.”
“That,” Marley conceded. “Does sound like Jamie.”
“She also said…” Dennis took a deep breath. “She said the baby was…”
“What? The baby was what?”
“… A boy,” Dennis finished, unable to confess the truth, even though he’d felt certain he was going to only a moment earlier.
“She’s just guessing,” Marley dismissed.
“No. She said she asked Morgan to check.”
“Oh.” Marley took a deep breath then impotently repeated, “I’m sorry.”
“She really wanted him. This wasn’t like Sarah. With Sarah, Olivia was just making the best of things, and we both knew it. Sarah, too, unfortunately. But, Olivia really wanted this baby.”
“I know what that’s like,” Marley reminded softly. “I know exactly what that’s like.”
Dennis nodded absently, but Marley got the sense he wasn’t really listening to her.
Trying to redirect his attention and get Dennis off this seemingly morbid train of thought, Marley offered brightly, “Well, I guess we have another wedding to plan! Though I was thinking maybe something smaller, this time. Just you, me and – “
“Maybe,” Dennis interrupted abruptly, as if suddenly woken from a trance. “Maybe we should… wait a while.”
“Well, everything is still so unsettled… with Olivia… and everything.”
“What’s there to settle with Olivia?” Marley demanded.
“She – “
“Got to you!” Marley finished for him. “She actually got to you! She made you believe – Do you believe her? Do you believe I pushed Olivia on purpose in order to make her lose the baby?”
Lorna’s plan was simple. Her solitary objective while living under Carl’s roof was to make herself indispensable to the man – the way she’d been during the two years they’d spent together, Lorna suffering from memory loss, and Carl taking full advantage of it.
He’d trusted her once, then lost that trust after she’d turned on him the first time. Back then, Lorna thought she’d made the right choice. Everyone in Bay City had been used and abused by Carl in one way or another, and everyone wanted him gone. She thought she’d been doing the right thing. Who could have predicted that, within a decade, the tables would have turned and Carl was suddenly a saint who could do no wrong, while Lorna was a pariah for daring to remember some of his pasts wrongs – especially where she was concerned.
These past two years, she’d won him back – without trying to. And Lorna would be damned if she’d give up that advantage now; not when she actually needed it.
Rachel was out for Lorna’s blood. Lorna wasn’t sure why exactly, but now wasn’t the time to wonder about it. Now was the time to fight back with everything she had.
And everything Lorna had… was Carl.
He was already dependant on her for his business dealings. She’d kept the ship afloat ever since Thanksgiving, giving him only the information he needed, putting out the other fires on her own.
When he came back home and reviewed everything she’d done for him,, he was grateful. Very, very grateful.
He even stood up to Rachel and insisted on continuing to work with Lorna. Rachel had acquiesced.
It was only natural that Carl should lean on Lorna while he was recovering. And it was only natural that they should spent entire days together behind closed doors, going over Carl’s holdings and deciding what action should be taken.
It was equally natural that, after all this time, with only the other to count on and confide in and feeling like they were the only two people in the world who understood what they’d been through, that Lorna would impulsively lean over and kiss Carl as if the last twenty years had never happened.
And for Carl to kiss her back….
“Thank you for coming,” Amanda let Jen and Steven into the Harrison house, where Kevin sat waiting. “I have something important to talk to you about.”
Steven shot a nervous look at Kevin, who shook his head surreptitiously, indicating that Steven shouldn’t worry, it wasn’t what he thought. The younger man let out a barely perceptible sigh of relief.
“Sure,” Jen said cautiously, also shooting her father a confused glance as she followed Amanda into the parlor, taking a seat across from her and Kevin, with Steven right next to her. “What can we do for you?”
“It’s about Allie,” Amanda said.
“Any luck on getting her out of prison?” Steven asked.
“It would help if Allie wanted to get out.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your cousin has decided to be a martyr for Zeno’s cause. She thinks that staying in jail will help Zeno prove that the county had no right to be on his property, or serving him with Eminent Domain papers.”
“He has a solid case,” Kevin noted.
“All the more reason for Allie to withdraw herself from the situation. Zeno doesn’t need her, she’s just deluded herself into thinking that he does. Or,” Amanda hesitated. “Zeno has bullied her into it.”
“You think that’s what’s going on?” Steven over-protective Frame instincts kicked into over-drive.
“It’s been brought to my attention,” Amanda hedged, knowing that introducing GQ’s name would hardly help her agenda. “That Allie may be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a condition where – “
“We know what Stockholm Syndrome is,” Steven dismissed, his tendency to patronize equally as overdeveloped.
Amanda fought the impulse to smack the side of her arrogant nephew’s head. But, that wouldn’t exactly help her agenda, either. “Well then you know that Allie and Zeno fit the profile perfectly. He’s isolated her on that farm of his – which is practically a cult, the way the people who live there talk about it. He’s convinced her that his cause is her cause to the point where she’s willing to throw her life away, put his needs ahead of hers and feel utterly justified in doing it.”
“Have you had a psychologist in to evaluate Allie?” Jen wondered.
“She won’t let me bring in a private doctor,” Amanda admitted, embarrassed. “And the prison psychiatrist claims she doesn’t seen any evidence of Stockholm Syndrome.”
“Well, then – “
“But, what do you expect her to say? She works for the state, and it’s in the state’s best interest to classify Allie as perfectly fit to stand trial.”
“What do you think Steven and I can do to help?”
“You’re a cognitive scientist. You must have done some research that could tangibly prove Allie’s brain has been tampered with and she doesn’t know what she’s doing or saying.”
“Uhm,” Jen hedged. “I – That’s not exactly my field.”
“And Steven,” Amanda went on as if Jen hadn’t spoken. “Maybe you could a – what do you call it? – computer simulation to show how – “
“That’s definitely not my field. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“Well, figure it out,” Amanda snapped, looking from one to the other. “You both claim to be so smart. Genius level, isn’t it? How about employing some of that genius toward the good of your family, for a change? How about doing something productive?”
“I want to help Allie,” Steven told his aunt firmly. “And I know Jen does, too. But what you’re asking, it’s not what we do. It wouldn’t be right.”
“No,” Amanda exploded, furious that what she’d pinned her hopes on as Allie’s last, best chance was turning out so wrong, and all because Steven and Jen were too stubborn to see things her way and just do what she said for once, without asking questions. “What you do, Steven, is you sit back and let other, innocent people pay for your crimes. How is that right?”
“Amanda!” Kevin interjected, impotently leaning forward, as if he could physically block the remainder of his wife’s words.
But Amanda was on too far of a tear to notice – or care. “Did you know that, Jen?” She demanded of her stepdaughter. “Did you know what your genius of a husband here did?”
“Stop it,” Steven snapped. “Leave her out of this!”
“Why should I? Why should Jen bask in her happy little bubble of ignorance while my daughter rots in jail? The same way that my husband did – and all because of you!”
“What are you talking about, Amanda?” Jen looked from Kevin to Steven.
“I am talking about Steven being the one to get your father killed. And Kevin deciding to go to prison in his place!”
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