“Are you in love with Sarah?” Jasmine asked Kirkland as they sat in the front seat of his car in the Cory driveway.
Kirkland opened his mouth, fully intending to answer – just not sure what he intended to say, but the sound that came out instead was more of a strangled squeak.
Jasmine didn’t pay it any mind, instead adding, “I think you are.”
“No, Jazz, I – I – “
“You’re in love with her. I saw it in the way you looked at her today. And all the times before. You were so happy she got Daisy back.”
“Well, yeah, sure,” he sputtered. “But so were you!”
“Not the same,” Jasmine shrugged, then sighed. “I know you tried your best.”
“What? What did I do now?”
“You tried your best not to love her, but to love me. Am I right?”
There was no judgment in Jasmine’s voice, only sincerity and understanding. Kirkland gave up the ghost. He nodded.
She smiled. “I thought so. Thank you for being honest with me.”
“I – I’m sorry, Jazz.”
“I know you are,” she rested her hand on his shoulder, unexpectedly consoling him when Kirkland thought it should be the other way around. “I could see you trying. You were so sweet with me. The perfect boyfriend. You always said the right thing and did the right thing. But, your heart wasn’t in it, was it?”
“I do love you,” he insisted.
“I know you do. But you’re in love with Sarah. There’s a difference.”
“I didn’t want – “
“Me neither. I wish you could have fallen in love with me. I think I’ve been in love with you
since I was twelve years old. You were my idea of the perfect man. I never thought you’d so much as look in my direction, and when you did… it was a dream come true.”
“I kind of bullied you into it,” she admitted. “You never said you loved me. I noticed how you danced around the subject, but I kept telling myself I could make you love me. Pretty stupid, huh?”
“No. You’re not stupid. You’re amazing.”
“Thank you for trying,” she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. “But you can stop now.”
“W-What?” Kirkland felt like his head was about to explode. Not only did he not expect this to happen, he certainly hadn’t expected it to happen in this way.
“I’m breaking up with you,” she told him sweetly.
“Be strong,” Jasmine squeezed his shoulder, intoning. “It’s not you, it’s me. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. But, if you love Sarah, then you should be with her. I learned my lesson when Mama left Cass after Frankie came back. I’ve got my pride. I don’t need a man whose heart is with someone else.”
“Sarah and I… It’s… No. She’s my father’s wife. She loves Grant.”
“Grant is dead,” Jasmine reminded.
She shrugged. “Your call.”
“I’m sorry, Jasmine,” he couldn’t keep himself from repeating.
“It’s okay, Kirk, really. I’ll get over it,” she assured him. “Not so sure about you and Sarah, though….”
“What? Are you following me?” Allie demanded when her grabbing a drink in a pub on the BCU campus after storming out of Zeno’s house was interrupted by GQ pulling up a chair and sitting across the table from her. “I work here, remember?” He showed her his university ID. “Lecturer. Computer department.”
“Congratulations,” she snarked.
“Thank you.” He took no offense. “Surprised I found a job before Steven did. He’s the resident genius. I’m just your run-of-the-mill code monkey.”
“With a PhD.”
“Well, okay, I’m Dr. Code Monkey.”
“And, last I heard, Steven wasn’t looking for a job. He’s too buy following Jen all around the country like a lovesick puppy.”
“Dr. Lovesick Puppy,” GQ said, then pounced, “Was that a smile I saw?”
“Don’t take it personally.” Allie hefted a shot of vodka and downed it one gulp. “I’ve been drinking.”
“Yeah… I can see that.”
“It’s all your fault,” Allie informed him.
“I’m sure it is.”
His patronizing tone only served to make her angrier. “You’re the reason I fought with Zeno.”
“You guys had a fight about me?”
“No. We had a fight because of you. He thinks you’re right. He thinks I should go see Hudson, like you keep nagging me to.”
“Your husband is a smart man.”
“He doesn’t understand!”
“No,” GQ said, the condescension gone from his voice, replaced by sympathy. “Of course, he doesn’t. Zeno doesn’t understand how scared you are to see Hudson and get attached to him and – “ “No!” Allie yelled so loudly she drew the attention of groups sitting at other tables. She lowered her voice and leaned in so that GQ would be sure to hear every word. “That’s not it at all. I’m not afraid of getting attached to Hudson. That’s impossible. Whenever I think of him, all I remember is how miserable I was the whole time I was pregnant. How mad I was at you, and how if it weren’t for Gregory…. He reminds me of Gregory, okay? How he was the best person I ever knew, and how he stood by me and how… how he got screwed over by life.”
“Oh,” GQ said awkwardly. “I – I didn’t realize that.”
“Of course not. Everyone think they know what I’m about, but nobody really does. You came the closest, actually, when you said I didn’t want to see Hudson because I was selfish. It’s true. He reminds me of the worst time in my life. And the best….”
“I’m sorry, Allie. I’ll – I’ll stop. I promise. I won’t pressure you anymore.”
Allie shrugged. “You don’t have to. I’ve got Zeno on my case now.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“No!” Again, her shout made a few people look over. “Stay away from Zeno, okay? I don’t want you anywhere near him.”
“Because it’s bad enough I….” She trailed off and reached for another shot.
“You what, Allie?” GQ rested his hand on her wrist and guided her to set the glass back down.
“Leave me alone.” She wriggled out of his grip and drank it anyway.
“Bad enough you… still love me?”
“What is it, baby doll? What’s happened?” Lila’s maternal instinct kicked into overdrive at the sight of Jasmine blinking back tears as she raced into the house, hoping no one would notice her distraught state.
Unluckily for Jasmine, Lila wasn’t that kind of mother. “Nothing, Mama,” her daughter wiped her cheek with the back of one hand and attempted to put on a happy face. “Everything is fine.”
“Was that Kirkland I heard peeling out of the driveway? Why didn’t he come in and say hello?”
“He… had somewhere to be.”
Lila’s eyes narrowed. “Did you two have a fight?”
“No, Mama. We – we broke up.”
“It’s okay. I’m fine.”
Lila grabbed Jasmine’s arm. “What did he do to you?”
“Nothing!” She pulled away. “Really, nothing at all.”
“Did he pressure you or – “
“No! Honestly, if anything, I pressured him.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m the one who pushed Kirkland… I pushed him further in our relationship than he wanted to go.”
“Did the two of you…”
“Yes,” Jasmine told her mother defiantly. “But it wasn’t Kirkland’s – “
“And then, as soon as he got what he wanted, he dropped you!” Lila didn’t need to be told the rest. It was the oldest story in the book. And Lila had written it.
“You’re not listening. I’m the one who – Kirkland is in love with Sarah.”
“Kirkland is what?” Lila all but roared.
“It just happened, okay? And I thought about how it was with you and Cass when Frankie came back – “
“Cass and Frankie? This is like Cass and Frankie?”
“Well, not exactly, but, yeah, sort of. See, I remembered what you – “
“I will not have Kirkland Harrison treating my baby girl the way Cass treated me.”
“He didn’t. He – I was the one – “
“Let’s go.” Lila reached for her purse, digging out her car keys and dragging Jasmine out the door. “Come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“To teach Kirkland and Sarah a lesson,” Lila said.
“What can I do for you, Donna?” Jamie asked in surprise at the sight of his sister-in-law standing on his doorstep. Briefly, Jamie wondered where Lorna was. And whether he should be hiding the matches.
“Is this a bad time?” Donna seemed to be wondering the same thing.
“No,” Jamie said. “Come in. What’s on your mind?”
“Matthew,” she told him, too anxious to sit when he offered.
“Is it his heart, again?”
“In a matter of speaking.”
“Has he seen the cardiologist?”
“I’m afraid it’s not that sort of heart problem. Your brother… Your brother has decided that it’s his duty to be there for Rachel now that you, Amanda and Cory have more or less turned your backs on her.”
“I heard about Amanda laying claim to Mom’s Cory stock.”
“I don’t blame her. Carl can’t be trusted.” Donna shook her head to indicate they’d gotten off track. “Anyway, the point is, Matthew has… he – he’s taken your place.” “Beg your pardon?”
“With Rachel. At the little homecoming party we threw for her, she all but crowned him her new favorite and, ever since then, he’s been at her beck and call. He’s driving her to doctors’ appointments, he’s hovering over her to make sure she takes her pills and eats right and doesn’t overexert herself. She’s become his top priority.”
“And you don’t like that,” Jamie surmised.
“Well, naturally, I’m sympathetic to Rachel’s position, she’s been through a terrible physical trauma, not to mention the psychological trauma Carl’s put her through over the past, well, twenty years or so; an obvious case of Stockholm Syndrome, if I’ve even seen one. But, I’m afraid Rachel is now doing the same to Matthew. She’s turning him into – she’s turning him into – “
“Exactly! And I won’t have it, Jamie, I won’t.”
“What do you propose I do about it, Donna?”
“Would you speak to him?”
“And tell him what?”
“The truth! Tell him the truth about how Rachel ran your life, how she manipulated you and used you, the same way she’s using Matthew now.”
“What doesn’t Matt have to say about all of this?”
“He – he likes it. He told me he likes the idea of Rachel finally needing him, after years of favoring you and Amanda.”
“Then, honestly, I don’t see the problem.”
“The problem,” Donna snarled. “Is we all know it’s only a matter of time before you and your mother kiss and make up yet again, leaving poor Matthew out in the cold. He’s merely a place-holder, keeping your space in Rachel’s heart warm. And, quite frankly, my husband deserves better than that, don’t you think?”
Jamie sighed, “You know, Donna, I realize you’ve always lacked confidence in my ability to walk and chew gum simultaneously, but I do have enough sense to be able to tell when I’m
“What reason could I possibly have for – “
“I don’t think you’re afraid of Mom pushing Matt aside when I come back. I think you’re afraid that’s never going to happen. And that you’ll end up the one pushed aside.”
“What’s going on, Mama? What are you doing?” Jasmine demanded as Lila broke the speed-limit driving to Sarah’s house, smirking when she discovered Kirkland already there.
“Get in the car,” she ordered Grant’s alleged widow, his son, and even Daisy, refusing to answer any of their questions, either.
“Where are you taking us?” Jasmine pleaded for answers, sitting in the front seat, next to Lila, while Sarah and Kirkland exchanged puzzled glances over Daisy’s head in the back.
Lila looked up into the rearview mirror, meeting Kirkland’s eyes. “This will teach you to break my baby’s heart.” She turned her attention to Sarah. “And it will teach you to keep your legs closed, especially trolling the same family.”
“What are you talking about?” Kirkland demanded, realizing, after a few desperate glances Jasmine’s way, that she was as much in the dark as they were.
“I told you not to be mad at Kirkland, Mama,” Jasmine attempted to Lila down. “I’m the one who broke up with him.”
“You two broke up?” Sarah asked in surprise. Kirkland had come over to tell her, but hadn’t gotten the chance before Hurricane Lila blew in.
“Cut the innocent act,” Lila ordered. “Both of you. Nobody gets to hurt my daughter and walk away, scott-free.”
“They didn’t…” Jasmine began, then changed tactics once Lila pulled into the parking lot of a motel that had seen better days on the outskirts of town. “Where are we?”
“Get out,” Lila ordered, cutting the engine and leading the way, Jasmine, Kirkland, and Sarah holding Daisy’s hand bringing up the rear.
She made a fist and knocked on the door furthest from the entrance. Turning and smiling triumphantly at Sarah and Kirkland as Grant stepped outside.
“It’s lovely to see you, my dear,” Carl told Rachel from the other side of the glass, their sole means of communication now that he’d been remanded to prison after weeks of biding his time at the BCPD station. “How are you feeling?”
“The doctors say I’m making good progress.”
“I am most pleased to hear it.” He quoted, “To glance up in some face that proved me dear/With the look of its eyes. I miss the clear/Fond voices which, being drawn and reconciled/Into the music of Heaven's undefiled/Call me no longer.”
“Not now, Carl,” Rachel snapped. “We have problems poetry won’t cure.”
He started a bit at her tone. “I am sorry, I – “
“The Justice Department has finally released your Cory Publishing stock.”
“They’ve released it to Amanda. They’ve also, just to be safe, given her mine.”
He blinked in shock. “Bollocks!”
“Precisely,” Rachel agreed dryly.
“They have no right!”
“They seem to think they do.”
“I shall fix this for you, Rachel,” Carl swore, that familiar fire back in his eyes. “Simply say the word, and I shall fix this for you. I will not allow you to suffer. I will take care of Amanda. Once and for all.”
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