Episode #322

Previously ...
- Jason traveled to British Columbia to audition with a potential new skating partner. The audition was successful, so Kelsey Barker decided to move to King's Bay to train with Jason.
- Brent's brother, Josh, arrived in King's Bay and moved in with his old friend, Scotty Young.
- Lauren returned from her trip with Jason very excited about their new romance. She stopped by the office and met her new coworker -- Josh Taylor.
- Claire and Ryan each received cut-up pieces of a dress that had been stolen from Claire's closet. Together, they wondered if Nick might be behind the scheme.


The rink's surface is filled with skaters during this late morning session. Paths intersect, bodies flying by one another, as skaters practice footwork sequences and execute tricks. Sandy James stands out as out of the way as she can get, beside the boards, nodding her head in approval.

"That looked really good, actually," she says as Jason Fisher and Kelsey Barker skate over to her.

"Thanks," Kelsey says, growing a smile that appears more relieved than appreciative.

Jason grabs his water bottle off the rail. "Everything feels really together. We're in a really good rhythm."

Sandy's head keeps moving up and down, agreeing. "Absolutely. Do you guys think you're ready to try some spins?"

Jason looks to Kelsey, who, despite seeming a bit tentative, answers, "Sure."

"Just try an upright one, facing each other," Sandy says. "Something easy to start out."

Taking Kelsey's hand, Jason leads the way to center ice, where they wait for a little girl to clear out of the way. They set up for the warmup spin, and before Jason knows it, the move is over.

"Good, good!" Sandy calls out. "Try something a little more complex now. Kelsey, you do a camel. Jason, do a sit."

Jason and Kelsey exchange a look--not necessarily one of apprehension or strategizing or anything, really. It's something Jason has noticed about skating with someone new: the moments of indecision, almost deference to the other person, as if each skater is trying to prove that he or she doesn't need to be in total control and wants to make sure that the other person is ready for what comes next. It's strange, because in a normal practice situation, he would consider it annoying. In this context, though, it is somehow reassuring, a sign that Kelsey has the same considerations as he does.

They set up for the next spin, but Jason can feel as they go into it that it is going to be off-kilter. He struggles to pull into a better sit spin position, but something isn't right and the spin dies.

"Jason, just get that right shoulder around a little faster," Sandy says. "It's pulling you off your circle."

Of course. He's heard the advice a million times, but the correction has never clicked for him. He focuses extra-hard on his right shoulder as they try the spin again, and this time, it works.

More nodding as they head back over to Sandy. "Nicely done, guys. Why don't we try a pair camel?"

Once again, Jason and Kelsey head to the middle of the ice. As he turns backward to set up for the spin, Jason's gaze passes momentarily over that of another skater--Courtney.

He knew that she would be watching his first practice with Kelsey; pretty much everyone in the rink is at least keeping an eye on them, out of sheer curiosity. But Courtney's expression reveals much more than casual interest; she looks flat-out disturbed.

It bothers him for a moment, but then a thought hits him: I wouldn't even be looking for a new partner if you hadn't been so unforgiving. His eyes lock with Courtney's, and he hopes that she gets the message.

And a second later, he is pressing his edge deep into the ice, locking his arms into position on Kelsey's body, and trying to forget about Courtney.


The photo shoot for Objection Designs has ostensibly gone on a half-hour break, but there are still people bustling about everywhere, taking care of loose ends and overlooked details. Toward the back of the studio, Lauren Brooks hovers over a table, hands pressed firmly against its surface as her eyes jump back and forth from one test shot to the next.

"I really think we should go with the third one," a voice says from right behind her.

Over the course of the day, she has become familiar with the voice, and she is already nearing the end of her rope with both the voice and its owner.

"I really don't think the third one is our best bet," she says as professionally as she can, turning to face Julian St. John.

"I don't see why not. There's something about it--something sexy, a little more explosive--"

She can't help but cut him off, though she does her best to maintain an even tone. "There's too much of a difference in levels between the models. It isn't going to translate well to magazine pages."

"That third one really just grabs me," Julian says. He focuses on the shot, not on Lauren, as if so transfixed by the photo that he cannot even pay attention to her.

She is attempting to figure out how to get rid of him without screaming at him when one of her coworkers intercedes.

"We'll have to discuss these with the photographer," Josh Taylor says. He flashes Lauren a look of understanding as he swoops in beside Julian at the table.

"For what reason?" Julian asks. "He set them up, so obviously they're what he wants. He wouldn't have called for a shot that wasn't going to work." He picks up the third shot and studies it some more, not even bothering to look at Josh or Lauren.

"There are a lot of factors to consider," Josh says, "Mr. St. John. I'll be glad to pass along your feedback, though."

Before Julian can respond, Josh snatches the photo away from him.

He then grabs Lauren by the hand. "Now if you'll excuse us, we have to consult with the rest of the ad team."

Lauren follows Josh across the studio, toward where the rest of the Willis crew is gathered, but they stop several feet short of the others.

"Thanks," she says, sighing heavily. "I was about two steps away from strangling that man."

Josh chuckles. "I could tell. I figured a little bit of backup might help."

"I appreciate it. He doesn't even have any business being here--he's one of their financial guys. But he has to have his fingers in everything."

"Well, you're safe for now. We'll just have to get some other people to reinforce what a bad choice that shot would be."

"I'm sure pretty much all the ad people will agree, so I'm not too concerned about it," she says.

A grin settles on Josh's face, revealing two perfect rows of white teeth. "I have to say, I'm glad there's someone else my age working on this project. I was a little worried about being thrown in with a bunch of middle-agers."

"They're a good group, though." There is something about his expression, something that was there the first time they met, that is distracting her.

"Oh, they seem like, yeah. It's just nice to have someone I can relate to a little better around." The grin intensifies, and she sees those blue eyes rest on her. It isn't creepy--it's actually almost charming, as though a mischievous twelve-year-old boy has been merged with this handsome, older individual.

"Would you be interested in grabbing lunch together later today?" Josh asks, his gaze not moving from her.

She has to look away, for some reason. She isn't sure if the question is implying what she thinks it is, but it seems like it, and before she can rein it in, her response bursts out: "I have a boyfriend."

"Oh." The shift in Josh's demeanor tells her that the question was exactly what she thought it was, and that sends a flood of relief through her body. At least she didn't just make an idiot of herself.

"Well, that aside," he says, "I'd still love to sit down and get to know you a little better. We are gonna be working together a lot."

"Yeah," she agrees, though she isn't exactly sure what she is agreeing with or to.

"So, lunch later?"

"Sure," she says. "But right now, let's get to that photographer before Mr. St. John over there does."


Claire Fisher taps lightly on the opened door, but even as she is knocking, Brent Taylor looks up from his work and motions for her to come in.

"Sorry if I kept you waiting. It took me longer than I expected it would to get here," she says as she approaches his desk. "There was some miserable traffic on 202."

"Not a problem. I'm here all day," Brent says with mock cheer.

Claire reaches into her sizable purse and feels around for the piece of fabric. As she pulls it out of the purse, she explains, "This is what I needed to see you about."

She holds up the shapeless material that used to be a dress. Brent studies it for a few seconds.

"Did that used to be clothing?" he asks.

"Yeah. Now it's more of--drapes, maybe."

"So how does this involve me? Did someone come after you with a pair of scissors while you were wearing it?"

She knows that he is simply trying to keep things light, so she laughs. Still, she feels a hint of frustration. This is a big deal, and it has her very nervous.

"I found it outside Bill and Paula's front door," she says. "And the other half was left for Ryan at his father's house."

Brent's features tighten with alarm. "Where was the dress the last time you saw it, before ... this?"

"As far as I remember, in my closet. Which means ..."

"... someone got into the house to take it." He springs to his feet. "Was there a note or anything?"

"No, but Ryan's half was left for him at Nick's house, and there was a slip of paper that said Ryan's name with the dress."

"We need to get that piece of paper from Ryan, for starters," Brent says. He brings a hand to his chin and holds it there in thought. "There's something really strange about Ryan's piece being left at Nick's, don't you think?"

"Yeah. That's why Ryan and I were thinking that maybe Nick had something to do with this."

Brent mulls that over silently for a moment, then looks sharply at her. "I hate to bring this up, Claire, but have you considered the possibility that Ryan might've had something to do with this? I know you two have been on the outs since we found out he's Paula's son, and he does have some amount of access to the house--"

She shakes her head. "I really don't think he did this. I confronted him about it, and I could just tell. It wasn't Ryan."

Brent doesn't quite seem to accept that, but he doesn't argue with her, either.

"I just hope you won't rule out any possibilities," he says. He then lowers his voice. "There's something I think you should know."

She waits for him to explain further, but first he crosses the room and shuts the door.

"This stays between us. As in, does not leave this room," Brent says firmly.

Claire nods.

Brent pauses, as if still considering whether to proceed, but he does go on. "There have been some breaks recently regarding a crime family--the Espositos--who we believe might be connected to Nick Moriani in some way. Now, I don't know where this is leading, but be prepared. This could finally give us the whole truth about Nick ... and maybe Ryan, too."

Claire's grip on the tattered dress tightens. She knows this should be good news; she has wanted to see Nick punished for so long. But the possibility that Ryan really might have been involved in the same things ...

Part of her doesn't even want to consider it. But another part of her, a part that grows with every passing second, just wants this mess to come to an end. And for that to happen, some pieces will have to start fitting together.

She just hopes this isn't a puzzle that is going to blow her entire reality apart once again.


Out of the corner of her eye, Courtney watches Jason and Kelsey skate around the corner of the rink. They begin gliding diagonally down the ice, each on two feet for a mere instant before their arms connect and Jason boosts Kelsey into the air. They don't hold the position for very long, but nonetheless, it is a nice lift, considering this is their first real practice together.

"Come on, triple toes," Sandy orders from the side of the rink. Her voice carries an undercurrent of annoyance.

Courtney and Dylan skate down to one end of the ice, get in synch with one another, and then begin their side-by-side approaches. As they pass by Jason and Kelsey, Courtney makes sure to add a little flair to her skating, pulling her chin up and her shoulders back for a more finished look.

She makes the quick turn backward, plants her left toe in the ice, and springs her body into the air. Her arms pull in tightly against her torso, and when her right blade hits the ice, she presses her arms flat to ensure her balance. Nice jump.

As she is gliding out of it, though, she spots Dylan to her right, sprawled on the ice. She tries to muffle her groan behind gritted teeth, but it slips out anyway.

"Take it easy," he grumbles as he pulls himself to his feet.

Without waiting for him, Courtney skates back toward Sandy. It's the same jump he missed in their short program at Nationals. He needs to start attacking it a lot more aggressively.

"Dylan, we've got to start hitting that more consistently," Sandy says.

At least someone gets to say it, Courtney thinks.

Dylan exhales heavily. "I know. My timing is just off on it lately. Why don't we try the triple Sal?"

"We're not doing triple Salchows in the program," Courtney says. "It's not as hard, and it's a weird entry to do side-by-side."

"I just meant--"

"Besides, we have the throw triple Sal in there, like, thirty seconds later. It would be ridiculous."

"I understand!" Dylan snaps. "I'm just saying--"

"Quiet down, both of you," Sandy interrupts. "This is not an argument you need to be having."

Courtney clamps her lips together and skates around in a tiny circle, eyes on the light tracings that her blades create on the ice.

"I know you guys are frustrated with the way things went at Nationals," Sandy says, "but bickering over it isn't going to change anything. So you didn't place as well as you would have liked. It happens."

"We would've done really well if we hadn't made so many stupid mistakes," Courtney says.

Sandy ignores the comment. "Look, Dylan, I need you to work on getting that triple toe more solid. Spend some time by yourself on it every session. Let's move on."

A minute later, they are headed back toward the end of the ice. This time, they join hands and power around the corner. Courtney moves toward Dylan, sets her arms, and pops into the lift position.

But as soon as she gets in the air, before she even has a chance to stabilize, her hand slips. She feels herself tumbling and, an instant later, her leg collides hard with the ice.

"Dammit," she mutters. Dylan extends a hand to help her up, but she does it without his assistance.

They return to the boards where Sandy is standing.

"What happened there?" Sandy asks.

Dylan speaks first. "Her hand slipped off mine--"

"Because you didn't even have me balanced!" Courtney says. "It would've been fine if you'd just gotten me in the right position faster!"

"Your position was fine!"

"Cut it out!" Sandy says, firmly, her voice just a step below a yell now. "You two both need to cool down, because we are not getting a damn thing accomplished here. Get off the ice, practice on your own, do whatever you like. I'm not going to waste my time working with you when you're both acting like this." She glides away from them.

Courtney plants her hands on her hips. She wants to tell Sandy to come back, that they'll work better, but considering the way she feels toward Dylan right now ...

"Jesus, Courtney," he says as soon as Sandy is out of earshot.

"Oh, me, huh? I'm not the one missing moves left and right."

She can tell that Dylan is gearing up for a full-fledged argument, but she doesn't want to deal with it.

"I'm going home," she says.


She skates quickly away from him and off the ice. She doesn't have to deal with this crap today.


"That's great!" the photographer says, snapping a final shot. "Thanks, guys. Can we get the next set of models up here?"

As soon as the request is made, three more models are waiting right beside the photo area for their turn in front of the camera. Trevor Brooks and his female counterpart step out of the lights. Trevor grabs a bottle of water from a nearby table and walks toward his sister, who is standing by herself, observing the proceedings.

"Nice job up there," Lauren says. "You guys look really good."

"Thanks." Trevor takes a long slug of water. "You having fun?"

"This is such a crazy process. It's amazing to watch how fast everything moves."

"You're telling me." Trevor pauses just long enough to change the subject. "Hey, question for you."

Lauren folds her arms in front of her. "Go ahead."

"That guy," he says, pointing toward the young man with spiky blond hair, "you've been talking to. Who is he?"

"Oh, Josh. He just got hired at Willis." A grin breaks on her face. "Why, you interested?"

"I'm thinking that I wouldn't have such a great shot there, considering that he seems to be very into you. What's that all about?"

"Don't worry. I told him I have a boyfriend. I made it very clear. It's fine."

"If you say so," Trevor says. He noticed Josh following Lauren around, continually finding reasons to talk to her, with that very interested gleam in his eye the entire time. "As long as he's not bothering you or anything."

"No, seriously, it's fine," she says. "And you know how happy I am with Jason. It's not even an issue."

"Yeah, you've been even more bubbly than usual lately. I was thinking it might be time for some drama."

"Not even close. I plan on avoiding that at all costs." She leans closer to him, so that their arms are touching, and lowers her voice. "What about you? You have anyone on your radar?"

Trevor chuckles. "What am I, a hitman?"

"You know what I mean. Is there anyone you're interested in?"

He glances around, just to make sure that no one is listening. As much as he knows that he shouldn't feel obligated to keep his sexuality quiet, it seems as if being too open about it might become an issue professionally, and he doesn't need that.

Not that it matters, based on what he says: "No, there's no one."

"Really? No one you're even a little intrigued by?"

"No one worth mentioning," he says. He feels a sudden need to change the subject. This is not something he can discuss with her, considering what's happened in the past.

And that's all the more reason to push all thoughts of Alex Marshall out of his mind.


Will Josh give up on Lauren that easily?
Is there a shot for Trevor and Alex, considering Alex's past with Lauren?
Are the police finally going to crack open the secrets of Nick's business dealings?
And can the two teams coexist peacefully at the rink?
Come share your thoughts and see what others are saying in the Footprints Forum!

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