“Marley!” Dennis all but dropped Olivia into the sand as he leapt to his feet and went running across the beach. “Oh, my God, Marley!”
He swept her up in his arms, barely giving Iris, who was standing next to her, a second glance.
Marley accepted Dennis’ embrace somewhat stiffly. But then she gave in, resting her hands on his back and pulling him closer.
“How did you find us?” Dennis wanted to know.
“Your mother… made some calls.”
“Actually, I called in several favors,” Iris corrected. “Several rather large ones,” she stressed, to make sure Dennis understood just how far and above she’d gone for her beloved only son.
“I am so happy to see.” Dennis hugged Marley again, grinning from ear to ear. “I was worried maybe they’d done something to you, too.”
“Who?” Marley wondered. “Who did this? And why?”
“I have my suspicions,” Olivia finally spoke up, looking accusingly from Marley to Iris as she sauntered up to join them, like a late guest to a cocktail party.
Dennis’ mother laughed. “Surely, you’re joking. Why in the world would I – “
“You’re a control freak, Iris. Your son was dating someone you didn’t like.”
“Hardly a novel development.”
“We’ve been alone for weeks, and suddenly, just when things are getting – suddenly you show up. How damn convenient.”
“I am happy to leave you to your solitude,” Iris offered magnanimously. “But I suspect Dennis, for one, is eager to get home and resume his life.”
“And since when are the two of you best buddies?” Olivia demanded of Marley.
“I needed help locating Dennis. I would have worked with the Devil, himself.”
“How lucky he was able to send a representative.”
“Is Daisy alright?” Dennis remembered to ask. Mostly in a desperate bid to cut this particular conversation off at the knees.
“She’s fine,” Marley reassured. “She’s back home with Sarah…. And Grant.”
“Grant is alive?” Dennis sputtered.
“Yup. Lazarus: Take Two.”
“Was he the one behind this? Was he after Daisy?”
“If he was, why return her to Sarah?” Marley asked reasonably.
“Why does Grant do anything?” Iris snapped. “I certainly haven’t removed him off the suspect’s list.”
“You found us,” Dennis said. “So you must know who took us.”
“I’m afraid not, darling. I simply asked some people I once associated with – “
“Criminals,” Olivia helped translate.
“ – What they’d heard, and the chatter helped lead me to you. But as for who is ultimately responsible, I’m afraid I’m as much in the dark as ever.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Dennis decided. “Just as long as I can finally come home to Marley.” He beamed in her direction.
Her smile was a touch less enthused. “What did we…” she waved her hand vaguely in between Dennis and Olivia. “Walk in on?”
“Nothing,” he swore. “Absolutely nothing.”
“Really, Dennis?” Olivia rolled her eyes. “Twenty-five years and you still haven’t come up with any new material?”
“It was a stressful situation,” he struggled to explain. “We… you know, like soldiers in a fox-hole.”
“I think the army has rules against that sort of thing,” Olivia drawled.
“It was nothing,” Dennis reiterated. “Please, let’s just go home. I can explain everything.”
“You owe this to Zeno, Allie,” Frankie insisted. “You’ve treated him horribly.”
“You think I don’t know that? Why do you think I told him the truth, instead of lying about it like anybody else would have?”
“I think it’s because you wanted to appease your own conscience. I don’t think you gave a damn what it would do to him,” Frankie said harshly.
Allie considered her words. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“Well, you’ve broken his heart. How is he supposed to feel when the girl he’s been married to for only a few months cheats on him with the man she had a baby with?”
“I explained why I did it!”
“Not good enough, Allie. Not nearly good enough.”
“Fine. But how will me charging GQ with rape – “
“He did rape you. You were drunk, which means you were in no position to give consent. He should have known that and not taken advantage of you.”
“But he’d been drinking, too.” This was one thing Allie failed to understand, no matter how many times Frankie repeated it. “If I can’t be held responsible for my actions because I was drunk, why can he be held responsible for his?”
“It’s different,” she insisted firmly. “And it’s a problem on college campuses all across America. You have a chance to be part of the solution. And to help Zeno.”
“Well, I spoke to BCU’s President, and she’s willing to convene a special student – “
“No. I mean, how will this help Zeno?”
“If you were raped, Allie, it means you didn’t cheat on him. Don’t you think Zeno would be happy to know that?”
“But I told him what happened as soon as I came home.”
“You didn’t fully understand it yourself. It’s a very complicated issue. A lot of girls in your position blame themselves. Society sends such mixed messages.”
“This will ruin GQ’s life,” Allie said. “He wants to be a college professor, for Pete’s sake. A charge like this – he’ll never get another job.”
“So what?” Frankie zeroed in. “When it come right down to it, who would you rather hurt? GQ… or Zeno?”
“You’re being weird again,” Elizabeth advised Charlie as the two of them flopped on Elizabeth’s bed, ostensibly watching TV. “Geez, what’s the matter with you? Last couple of days, every time I look in your direction, you’re just staring off into space, like you’re trying to beam your thoughts to Mars or something.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind,” Charlie defended.
“School and… stuff.”
“You hate school.”
“Which gives me a lot to think about.”
“So quit. Who cares?”
“My parents will care.”
“What’s the point of going if you’re not into it? It’s not like you need to get a job or something?”
“Oh, yeah? Am I going to spend my whole life living with Mommy and Daddy?”
“Your parents are rich. Same as mine. You can do whatever you want with your life. That’s the point of having a trust fund.”
“Maybe you’ve got one. I don’t.”
“Donna gave your parents all her money!”
“That was for Lori Ann, not me.”
“Well, then,” Elizabeth found this entire conversation boring. And gauche. Father had made it clear to her that sophisticated people never discussed money. It was vulgar. “I’ve got enough for both of us. So don’t worry about it.”
Charlie rolled over on her side, propping her head up with one hand. “Are you offering to, what, “keep” me?”
“Sure. Whatever. Why not?” Elizabeth’s confidence evaporated, but she struggled to keep up the façade.
“Why? I have money, you don’t. Why shouldn’t I share it?”
“In exchange for what?”
“What do you mean?”
“Usually, the way these arrangements work… I mean, think your dad and… you know, Lorna.”
“I’d rather not,” Elizabeth said primly.
“She was his concubine, or whatever.”
“She was his whore.”
“Okay, fine. So is that what you want to make me?”
“Stop being stupid!”
“You know, you don’t have to pay me to hang out with me. I’m not like that.”
“I know. And I’m not. I mean, I don’t. I wouldn’t. This is dumb, why are we even talking about this?”
“You said I was acting weird. What about you?”
“Forget it, okay? Forget I ever said anything.”
“Okay,” Charlie agreed magnanimously. Which was what she’d wanted all along.
“Am I interrupting anything?” Jasmine hovered on the periphery of Sarah’s doorway, as unsure about wanting to be there as she was about telling Sarah what she’d come for. Her fervent hope was that Kirkland’s new girlfriend would tell Jasmine to come back later.
No such luck.
“It’s fine,” Sarah beckoned Jasmine inside. “I’m not busy. Daisy is already in bed.”
“Where’s Kirkland?” Jasmine looked around.
“I don’t know. He isn’t here.”
“But, I thought – I thought the two of you were… together… now.”
“Oh, we totally are,” Sarah remembered her earlier lie. “But not every minute of the day. I don’t own him. And he’s very busy. The restaurant and everything.”
“Is it open already?”
“It is. And it looks great.”
“Good. I’m happy for him. I know how excited he was about it when we were…”
“You know, Jazz, Kirkland cares a lot about you.”
“I know.” She really didn’t want to talk about this right now. “He’s a nice guy. You – I’m happy for the two of you.”
“Then why do you look so nervous?” Sarah prompted gently.
“Because. I found out something. Something I think you should probably know.”
“No. About Grant. And my mom.”
“Grant and… your mom?”
“They’re… involved. She told me so herself. She said it started after she helped him fake his death. They were both lonely, I guess, and…”
“Oh,” Sarah said. “I see.”
“I don’t know if you were considering getting back together with him.”
“I wasn’t. Absolutely not. No.”
“I didn’t think so. But. Just in case…”
“Are they happy? Grant and Lila?”
Jasmine shrugged. “They’ve been friends for a long time. Mama always said it would never go any further.”
“Yeah, well, people often change their minds about things like that.”
“I don’t get it. I thought Grant loved you.”
“People often change their minds about things like that, too.”
“Well, they shouldn’t.” Despite her diligent attempts at maturity, Jasmine was suddenly coming off like a little girl again. “It isn’t fair. When you say you love somebody, it shouldn’t be just for a little while. It should be for good.”
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Sarah mused wistfully.
“What’s the point, otherwise?”
“You are a wonderful person, Jasmine,” Sarah swore. “When you finally find the guy who deserves you, it will be for the long haul, I promise you that.”
“Did you think Grant was that for you?” Jasmine challenged.
Sarah hesitated. And then she softly admitted, “Yes.”
“Well, there goes that theory, then.”
“Pretty cool,” Amanda couldn’t stop herself from grabbing Kirkland by the arm and spontaneously kissing him on the cheek as soon as she and Morgan entered Victoria’s, the restaurant he’d named after his mother. No matter how Amanda may have felt about Vicky while she was alive, it was still a thrill to see her nephew doing so well. “Look at you! The next Chef Wolfgang Puck!”
“I’ll settle for Chef Boy Ardee, at this point,” Kirkland self-consciously wiped Amanda’s lipstick from his cheek while, nevertheless, grinning at the compliment. “Thanks for coming to check us out. Welcome!”
“It looks great,” Morgan chimed in.
“You might want to wait until you try the food before you dish out the compliments,” Kirkland advised. “Though, I can honestly say that Alice and her friend have been here for over an hour. And they’re still alive.” He gestured in the direction of the couple.
Amanda gulped. Alice. The two of them hadn’t really spoken since Amanda’s divorce from Kevin became finalized and Amanda moved out of the Harrison house. She wasn’t sure if interrupting Alice on her date with Eduardo Rivera was the best time to hash out the issues between them.
Unfortunately, Amanda didn’t get much of a choice in the matter, as her ex-grandmother-in-law spotted Amanda across the room and waved her and Morgan over.
“Good evening.” Eduardo stood up as they approached the table.
“Do you know Amanda Cory and Dr. Morgan Winthrop?” Alice asked Eduardo.
“We met,” he said. “When her mother was in the hospital.”
“Yes. Of course, I’m sorry.”
“How is Rachel?” Eduardo asked courteously.
“She’s doing great. Right, Morgan?”
“As well as can be expected, yes. She’ll need to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life, but she is well on her way to making a complete recovery.”
“Douglas will be happy to hear that,” Eduardo said. “It wasn’t for nothing.”
“How is he?” Amanda asked, wincing. As if there could be more than one answer to such a question.
“Grieving,” Eduardo said simply. “Broken. Lost.”
Look at that. Three answers. Each worse than the one before.
“My whole family is so appreciative,” Amanda began.
Only for Alice to gently cut her off with a slight shake of the head, indicating that Eduardo didn’t want to hear about it. “And how are you, darling?”
“Me? I’m – I’m fine.”
“You know,” Alice said. “You don’t need to keep your distance. We’re still friends. Aren’t we?”
“Yes!” Amanda practically exploded in gratitude. “We – we are. Definitely. Thank you.”
“I only want what’s best for you. I always have.” Alice looked Morgan up and down coolly. “It was nice seeing you, Dr. Winthrop.”
“Is something wrong, Mom?” Jamie wondered upon finding her in the library. “Are you feeling alright?”
“Fine. I’m feeling fine. Does something have to be wrong in order for me to want to see you?”
He hesitated. “Please, lets not start this again. I made it clear to you that as long as you remained married to the man who kidnapped my wife, I wasn’t going to smile and pretend like everything is okay between us. It’s not my idea of a good time to keep repeating that over and over, and I doubt it’s yours to hear it.”
“Carl is in jail. What more can you ask of him? Or me?”
“How about admitting that what he did was wrong?”
“He pled guilty,” Rachel reminded.
“How about you? What do you plead?”
“Please don’t do this to me, Jamie.”
“Then why did you call me?”
“Because I am doing the best I can to keep my family together. I saw Carl in prison a few days ago. He’s a broken man. He has nothing left. How can you ask me to – “
“I’m not asking you to do anything. Not anymore.”
“If only you’d accept that I love him.”
“I do. I accept it completely. That’s why I can’t be around you anymore.”
“You think I wanted things to be like this? You think I did it on purpose?”
“I think you made your choice. And I made my peace with it. If anyone else on Earth had hurt me and your granddaughters the way that Carl did, you would have been on the war-path. You would have taken your pound of flesh and left nothing behind but scorched ground. Tell me that isn’t true.”
“It’s not that simple, Jamie. I should think, being married to Lorna, you’d understand that. How many people has she hurt?”
“Well, then, why – “
“You know why, Mom.”
Jamie was turning to leave, when the phone rang. He was getting his jacket as Rachel answered it and confirmed that yes, she was Mrs. Carl Hutchins.
And then he heard his mother scream.
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