Amanda didn’t know precisely where she intended to go upon flying out of the Harrison house after Kevin told her he didn’t think he’d be able to forgive her deliberately hurting Jen.
Truth was, Amanda hadn’t meant to hurt Jen. She’d meant to hurt Steven. And Kevin. And everyone else who refused to help her deal with Allie’s latest stunt. Hurting Jen had merely been a side-effect.
And it’s not as if much came of it, anyway. According to Kevin, his daughter had forgiven both her father and her husband. So what was the big harm?
Amanda wondered where Kevin got off being so self-righteous, especially after he’d lied to her, too. Where was her apology? Where was the guilt about her being hurt?
Amanda drove around aimlessly. Well, she told herself she was driving around aimlessly.
And it just so happened that driving around aimlessly prompted Amanda to arrive in front of Morgan’s apartment.
And then at his front door.
And then Amanda barely waited for Morgan to answer the door before blurting out, “You were right.”
Morgan smiled sheepishly.
Amanda waited for him to make some kind of crack about always being right, or about how it was about time she’d figured it out or… anything.
Instead, he merely stood there, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot and not saying a word.
Amanda opened her mouth to tell him why he’d been right. Yes, Kevin wasn’t good enough for her. Yes, she deserved a man who accepted her for who she was, not for who he wanted her to be. Yes, she’d been wrong to go back to Kevin, especially in light of the lies he’d told.
But Amanda never got the chance to say any of that.
Because, a moment later, she spied, over Morgan’s shoulder, Lila sitting on the couch in his living room. Looking – Amanda swore it – smug and superior and even more full of herself than usual.
Anything Amanda wanted to say died in that moment. She glared accusingly at Morgan.
Who merely shrugged in return, part apologetic, part defiant.
Neither expression was good enough for Amanda who, for the second time that night, turned on her heel and stormed off without a word.
“Ready?” Jamie, fully dressed now, asked Lorna, who was almost done buttoning up her blouse, before they left her room to confront Rachel and Carl – once and for all.
“As I’ll ever be.” She hesitated, asking, “Are you okay?”
“As I’ll ever be.” He’d been trying to make her smile. It didn’t quite work. “Why?”
She winced. “It’s one thing, me telling you about Cory and… what I did. It’s another thing hearing it from your mother. And Carl.”
“Nothing has changed,” Jamie stressed to his wife.
Lorna didn’t look convinced. “I guess we know now why your mother is so eager to see me behind bars.”
“That won’t happen.”
“That. Won’t. Happen,” he reiterated. “It doesn’t matter if she hires her own forensic teams to dig up fingerprints and hair follicles and sworn, notarized affidavits, for all I care. You are not going to jail for a crime you didn’t commit. You’re not going to jail for anything. Not on my watch.”
“You’re welcome,” he dismissed.
“No,” she couldn’t let it go. Not until he understood completely. “Thank you, Jamie, for believing in me. Nobody has ever believed in me the way that you do. First about Morgan and Devon. Then about Cory. Now this… Having you in my corner – no matter what – it… it almost makes me…”
“What?” Jamie prompted gently.
“It almost makes me… believe in myself.”
He smiled as if it were the biggest compliment she could have given him, following up with, “Make me a promise, Lorna.”
“Anything, you know that.”
“No matter what happens downstairs, you and I – we are walking out of this house tonight, together.” He held out his hand to her. “Deal?”
She took it, squeezing tightly. “Deal.”
“Olivia’s baby might have been… yours?” Marley choked out to a horrified Dennis. “I – How?”
“It was only one time,” he swore. “Just one time. Which means the baby was probably Jamie’s. The odds of it – “
“One time is all it takes,” Marley snapped. “Remember Sarah? You and Olivia have a hell of a batting average.”
“It didn’t mean anything. Olivia – she was upset. Jamie had just dumped her.”
“Exactly!” Dennis attempted to play on Marley’s sympathies. “That’s exactly right. The guy really did a number on her. You know what he’s like. He threw you over for Lorna, too, didn’t he? Olivia was crushed. She was feeling worthless. She asked me what was wrong with her, that she was never any man’s first choice.”
“So you decided – what? – to demonstrate what was right with her?”
“No! Damn it, Marley, you were still married to Grant. You were sleeping with him while you and I – “
“You were supposed to be different!” Marley accused. “You were supposed to be the nice guy who would never hurt me. You were supposed to be my reward for all the crap I’ve had to put up with my entire life.”
“I love you, Marley,” Dennis said.
“You have a hell of a way of proving it!”
“But, let’s be honest here, you haven’t exactly been fair to me in this relationship.”
“Excuse me?” Marley exploded. “How dare you try changing the subject?”
“It’s the truth.” He attempted to match his calm to Marley’s fury, in the hope of talking her down. And, frankly, making a few points that had been a long-time coming, too. “First, you refused to leave Grant, even though I begged you to.”
“I did leave him.”
“Not until after he admitted to still being in love with Sarah.”
“You swore you wouldn’t bring that up again!”
“And then, there was always Jamie.”
Marley shook her head, furiously. “You’re out of your mind.”
“You hated seeing him with Olivia.”
“I would hate to see any man caught in that bitch’s talons.”
“But especially Jamie,” Dennis prompted.
Marley shrugged. “He’s a good person. He deserves better.”
“So you won’t admit that some part of you is still in love with him?”
“Will you admit that a part of you still loves Olivia?” Marley shot back.
Dennis considered her accusation.
He considered it for a beat longer than Marley considered necessary.
“You’re in love with her!”
“Were the two of you laughing behind my back? Poor, dumb, oblivious Marley – again. Were you making plans to raise this baby together, same way that you did Sarah? After all, that turned out so well. She really is a credit to you, your daughter. Getting knocked up by a married man old enough to be her grandpa. You and Olivia must be so proud.”
“Leave Sarah out of this,” Dennis sighed tiredly.
“Were you and Olivia hoping for a boy this time? What were the two of you going to name him?”
“Elliot,” Dennis blurted out without thinking.
And Marley saw red. “You two discussed names?”
“Only after Olivia lost the baby. She told me she was sure it was going to be a boy, and that she’d planned to name him after my dad. She knew how much I regretted changing my last name, and she thought this might help make up for it.”
“You never told me that,” Marley noted.
“No. If it was so important to you, why didn’t you ever share it with me? Why did you only tell Olivia?”
“It’s not important,” Dennis insisted. “It was years ago. Something I said to Olivia when we were picking Sarah’s last name. I considered putting Carrington down on her birth certificate, but it would have been too much of a hassle, because it wasn’t my legal name anymore. That’s why I brought it up in the first place. It wasn’t relevant with you and me.”
“You mean, because we could never have children?”
“No! Because it was something that happened twenty years ago. I’ve made my peace with it.”
“You said you were okay with my not being able to have a baby.”
“I am. I’m more than okay. You think I’d want to have another child? At my age? Look at Grant. Chasing a toddler around gave him a stroke! Why would I want that?”
“You’re Jamie’s age,” Marley reminded. “He and Lorna seem over the moon about their little girls.”
“Jamie, again,” Dennis sighed.
“At least I didn’t sleep with him!” Marley roared. “Whatever my feelings might be for Jamie, I kept my distance. I was faithful to you. I loved you!”
“I love you, too, Marley,” Dennis pleaded, taking a step forward.
“Stay away from me,” she warned.
He refused to heed her warning, convinced that if he could just get Marley into his arms again, everything would be resolved.
“Marley, please, you know how much I love you. I’d do anything for you.”
“Except stop screwing Olivia.”
“No!” She screamed, grabbing a nearby lamp and swinging it in Dennis’ direction. She caught him on the side of the head, knocking Dennis off his feet and continuing to hit him in a rage, until Dennis finally stopped trying to get up again.
Until he stopped trying to do much of anything.
“Real interesting visitor you had there,” Lila observed after Morgan watched Amanda take off down the hallway. He closed the door to return to Lila on the couch.
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“What’s going on between the two of you?”
“Wow, you really don’t beat around the bush, do you?”
“I know it’s none of my business.”
“But, I’m asking anyway. Because Kevin is my friend.”
“Is that all he is?” Morgan turned, newly curious.
“What might you be insinuating?”
“You visited him in prison.”
“A hell of a lot more often than his wife did.”
“Exactly,” Morgan said.
Lila shook her head. “There is nothing going on between Kevin and me save friendship. Now say the same thing about you and Kevin’s wife.”
“I don’t even think Amanda and I are friends,” Morgan admitted.
“What about the benefits?”
He laughed, “You’re funny.”
“You’re not the first man to say that. Especially to avoid answering a direct question.”
Morgan thought about it. “I thought we were friends. At one time. But, that was before she asked me to do some things I wasn’t exactly comfortable with.”
“Lot of that going around,” Lila sympathized.
“Never mind.” She tried to forget the look on Grant’s face while he was begging her to help fake his death – for Sarah and Daisy’s sake. She tried to concentrate on the issue at hand. It wasn’t easy. Especially considering the turn their chat had taken.
“Being friends with Amanda. I – it… it lead me to doing a lot of wrong things. For what I thought were the right reasons.”
“Did you change your mind about them?”
“Not exactly. More like, the circumstances changed, and something that once felt like the right thing to do, no longer does.” He rubbed his face with both palms. “Then again, I’ve done things I could have sworn were wrong, that turned out to be right in the long run. So who the hell knows?”
“Did doing the wrong thing ever end up… helping somebody?” Lila prodded.
“Yeah. I mean, it was still the wrong thing for me, but it was the right thing for them. Look at what happened with Lorna and Devon. I was so sure aborting the baby would give her a better chance to live. But, Jamie overruled me. And everything turned out okay in the end. Turned out he really knew what Lorna would have wanted. And Lorna really knew what was best for her.”
“But you lost your best friend.”
“Yeah. And I miss her every day. But, she has what she wants. So, if I was ever really her friend, I should have been thinking about her all along – instead of myself, which is what Jamie accused me of doing. And maybe he was right.”
“Yeah,” Lila said, more to herself than Morgan. “Maybe he was….”
“Level with me, Carl,” Rachel ordered as they waited downstairs in the library for Jamie and Lorna to arrive and finish their earlier conversation. “If I am to have any chance of defending you, I have to know everything, right from the beginning.”
“You would defend me?” Carl seemed to be having trouble believing Rachel’s claims. “You would choose me over your own son?”
“I already have,” Rachel told him, firmly.
For a moment, Rachel thought Carl might actually tear up. Did he really not realize that, for past several years, Rachel had done nothing but choose him over every single other person in her life. Apparently not. He murmured, “I didn’t expect…”
“But you can’t leave me in the dark any longer. Tell me the truth, Carl: Did you or did you not take Lorna against her will?”
He swallowed hard, nodding his head several times before collecting himself enough to speak. “Yes. But, it was the only way. I understood that Lorna would never go with me willingly, and I didn’t have the time to explain the danger we were in. Not to mention, she wouldn’t have believed it, coming from me. I needed to get her, Elizabeth and Cory out of the country that very afternoon. I didn’t have time for subtleties.”
“So you brought goons with guns? And you pointed them at my grandchildren?”
“Regretfully, yes,” he said.
When no more was forthcoming, Rachel moved on. “This danger that Lorna was in – it came from Iris?”
“You said before it was Iris.”
“Iris is a part of the compound.”
“So it wasn’t specifically her, then?”
“She was aware of it.”
“How about Lucas? Did he really approve of you taking Lorna?”
A deep breath. And then, “No….”
Rachel visibly deflated. “So he’s been telling the truth all along?”
“I told you, Rachel, there was no time to assemble a quorum. Action needed to be taken immediately. Would you have preferred I risked our children’s lives in order to debate my resolution in committee?”
“You might have told me, Carl.”
“Or me,” Jamie entered, still holding Lorna’s hand. “It might have been nice for Mom and I to know that the people we loved weren’t, you know, dead.” He looked at Rachel. “Now do you believe that your husband is a kidnapper?”
“As soon as you believe that your wife is a murderess. And a child molester.”
“Okay,” he let go of Lorna’s hands to clap his palms together decisively. “Let’s get a couple of things straight. One) No matter how many times you throw Cory and Lorna in my face, my stance isn’t going to change. What Lorna did wasn’t illegal. The age of consent in Switzerland – you know, the place where she was being kept prisoner – is 16.”
“She took advantage of an innocent, vulnerable child!”
“Because your husband gave her no choice in the matter.”
“I’m sorry,” Lorna interrupted, her voice shaking. “I am so, so sorry for what I did to Cory. He is an amazing kid – no, he is an amazing young man. He took a huge risk in helping me. After I fell, he could have just left me there and kept going. But, he didn’t. He took an even bigger risk, coming back to where he knew Carl was waiting.”
Rachel asked her husband, “Was that really Cory who called me on the cell?”
Lorna answered for him. “He was trying to get me help without having to turn to Carl. When you didn’t answer, he had no choice in the matter.”
“But, I did answer. I heard his voice! I heard him say your name. Steven said that call was faked.”
“No,” Jamie said. “The faked call was faked. Steven proved that, too.”
Rachel looked accusingly at Carl, who remained silent.
“You want to know something, Mom?” Jamie abruptly changed the subject. “I don’t blame you.”
“Am I supposed to be grateful?”
“No,” he said simply. “I don’t blame you for siding with Carl over me and Lorna and pretty much everybody else. He’s your husband. You love him. You need to believe that there is good in that man.”
“You don’t know anything about it,” Rachel said.
“Actually, I do. Because the way you feel about Carl, that’s how I feel about Lorna.” He thought he was saying the obvious. But, judging from the look on Rachel’s face, she’d never thought of it that way. “I love her as much as you love Carl. And I believe in her as much as you believe in Carl. I don’t blame you for choosing him over me. Because, Mom, I’ve chosen Lorna over you.”
Rachel gasped. In all of her back-and-forths with Jamie, he’d never phrased it so bluntly before. And never before had Jamie put Rachel in the position of being utterly unable to fight back. After all, how could she rebuke him for putting a spouse before family when, like he’d so aptly pointed out, she’d just done the exact same thing?
“Well, now that that’s settled,” Lorna spoke up abruptly, mostly to change the subject and keep both Rachel and Jamie from dissolving into tears at the realization of just how irrevocably shattered their lifetime bond currently was. She figured the best way to distract them was by being rude and obnoxious. She was good at that. “Let’s move on to something else. I have an idea! How about: I didn’t shoot you, Carl. No matter what your wife says, I didn’t. And you know it.”
“I know no such thing,” he bristled. “Granted, I did not see who pulled the trigger, but, if Rachel says she bore witness, I have no reason to doubt her.”
“She said it in the heat of the moment after Elizabeth blabbed about Cory and I. Isn’t that right?” Lorna demanded of her mother-in-law.
“I…” Rachel began, when her words were cut off by the insistent ringing of the doorbell.
“Who could it possibly be at this hour?” Carl appeared stymied. Nevertheless, he, along with Rachel, Jamie and Lorna all head for the foyer, where the open door revealed Chase Hamilton – and Toni Burrell.
“Oh, good,” Chase smiled greedily. “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!”
“What do you want, Hamilton?” Carl demanded.
But it was Toni who answered, “Mr. Hutchings, Mrs. Hutchins. We received a phone call down at the station. It was a confession of attempted murder. Your attempted murder, sir. And it came from this house.”
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