Episode #403

Previously ...
- At his book signing in Portland, Alex came face-to-face with Seth, the college roommate who inspired his novel. They had a tense confrontation that ended when Seth's fiancee showed up.
- On Christmas Day, Jason confronted Josh about his intentions regarding Lauren. The two wound up in a brawl that ruined the Fishers' Christmas celebration.
- Desperate to make amends for his fight with Josh, Jason showed Lauren the ring he'd bought for her and proposed. She turned him down.
- Nick was released on bail after supplying the police with the name of the inside source in the Objection drug ring: Julian St. John.
- Katherine moved forward with divorce proceedings. She moved into a hotel after Nick kicked her out of the house, which is still in his name.


On the eighteenth floor of Winston Tower in downtown King's Bay, Molly Taylor steps into her office for the first time in many weeks. When she left work for maternity leave, she never expected that she would be able to go so long without setting foot in this place a single time. But the days and weeks passed as things got hectic with Caleb and Christian, and already she is back at work.

She takes one look at the massive piles of papers, folders, and magazines on her desk and feels her resolve threaten to crumble. There is so much work to catch up on--and so much more waiting for her at home--that she hardly knows how to go about tackling it.

She sets down her briefcase and switches on the computer. Before the Windows XP logo even materializes on the screen, Camille Lemieux appears in the doorway.

"Molly! Dear! It's so good to have you back!" the older lady exclaims. She moves into the office with her characteristic elegance, carrying a magazine. "Have you seen the newest ads?"

"No," Molly says, casting a weary glance at the mounds of material awaiting her on the desk. "I'm sure it's in here somewhere."

"Have a look." Camille folds the magazine open and hands it to Molly. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Molly studies the ad, an impressive full-page piece featuring Trevor Brooks and a female model. It certainly is amazing exposure for their brand.

"This is terrific," Molly says. "I feel like I missed so much while I was on maternity leave."

"You'll be caught up in no time at all. And really, you should be grateful for the time off. Since you've been gone, I've been dealing with the fallout of Nick Moriani's foolishness, and this latest piece of news about Julian--"

"I still can't believe that. Why would he do something so stupid?"

"Greed, I suppose. The worst seems to have passed. Now that he has been exposed, I hope that things will settle down. I've had my fill of damage control."

"I bet." Molly sinks into her desk chair. "Is there anything you'd like me to do now?"

"Take as much time as you need to get up-to-speed on things. Let me know if you have questions. How are the twins doing?"

"Getting bigger every day. They're with my mother today, God bless her. I hope she's all right with them."

"I'm sure everything will be fine," Camille says, her voice soft and reassuring. She moves for the door. "Relax and get settled in. I'll check in with you later."

Molly nods and forces her lips into a smile as Camille leaves the office. But as she focuses on the stacks of documents in front of her, all she can think is that she will never get caught up. And just thinking about the boys and wondering how they are doing...

She takes a deep breath and picks up a folder. She has to start somewhere.


"No, no, no! You can't put those away like that!"

Katherine Fitch Moriani stands in the center of the room, hands on her hips as she barks orders at the young volunteers. The Christmas decorations set up in the hospital's lobby for the sick children are now a sad shadow of their previous splendor, as they slowly come down and return the space to its former institutional plainness.

"No need to be so snippy," Katherine's friend, Marj, chides her with a light slap on the arm. She calls out to the two teenaged boys, "Please be careful folding up those lights! We'd like to be able to use them again next year!"

"Can we use them again next year, too?" Tenille asks. She stands beside the other two ladies, fingering her oversized necklace as she stares lasciviously at the pair of volunteers.

"Tenille! Those boys are young enough to be your--" Marj clams up as Tenille shoots her a stern glare. "... poolboys."

"There isn't any harm in looking," Tenille says defiantly. She continues to enjoy the view.

"But there is harm in the way they're packing those ornaments!" Katherine exclaims, shifting her attention to another set of kids, who are stripping the Christmas tree and wrapping the ornaments in newspaper. She storms over to the teens. "Have some respect for what we're doing here! Those are not bargain bin throwaways!"

One boy, a wiry teen in a hooded sweatshirt, stops and looks at her. "Hey, aren't you the lady with the mobster husband?"

Katherine's cheeks grow warm. "That's none of your business."

"That's awesome," the kid says, apparently having taken her rebuke as confirmation.

One of the boy's friends, a shorter kid with hair that Katherine would love to take a pair of hedgeclippers to, pipes in, "We better be careful, or she's gonna send him down here to shoot us up."

"No way!" the wiry boy says. "Mob bosses don't have to do their own dirty work. They have, like, hitmen and stuff."

The steam building inside Katherine's head is about to hit a boil and blow when she hears snickering from behind her. She turns to find Marj, Tenille, and Dar, who is freshly returned from the restroom, huddled together and snickering.

She redirects her radar at them. "What do you three think you're doing?"

"Lighten up, Katherine," Dar says. "It's funny." Her tongue seems a little too large and loose for her mouth, leaving little doubt about what she was doing during her restroom break.

"It most certainly is not funny!"

But the ladies continue chuckling, and Katherine moves away from them. She's a laughingstock--and all because of Nick. There has to be some way to take the focus away from her errant husband's crimes...

"Where did that one come from?" Dar asks Tenille and Marj, pointing at a volunteer who cannot be older than 17, his jeans hanging perilously low.

Katherine opens her mouth to make a crack about what a bunch of pathetic old biddies they are, but she freezes before the words come out. That's it! She knows precisely how to get back in the good graces of the King's Bay elite.


In the rink's warming room, Jason Fisher pulls off his skates. He flexes his feet; the stretch is a relief after having been bound inside the boots for two hours.

The teenage girl sitting on the bench across from him zips up her bag and walks to the door. "Bye, Jason," she says shyly, opening the door.

"Bye, Kassee," he says, letting a hint of a smile peek through, as she leaves the room.

The door remains open as Courtney Chase moves past Kassee and into the room. "Bye, Jason," she teases once the door closes.

"Shut up." He pulls a towel from his bag and dries off his skate blades.

"It's good to see you smiling, at least," Courtney says, taking a seat beside him. "You looked miserable for that entire practice."

"The smile is a side effect of being done with practice. It'll be gone soon enough."

Courtney unlaces her skates with care. "Not that it's much consolation about what's going on with Lauren, but that was a good practice. I feel really ready for this test."

"Me too." Jason sighs heavily as he drops one skate into his equipment bag. "I just wish she would, you know, answer one of my phone calls or something."

"She'll come to her senses," Courtney says, though to Jason's ears, she doesn't sound all that confident of that fact.

Jason stops toweling off his skate. "There's something I didn't tell you about my fight with Lauren."

Courtney looks up from her own skate-drying. "What?"

"I didn't just go over there to apologize," he says. "I wanted to... give her the present I'd bought her."

"That seems normal enough."

"It was an engagement ring," he blurts out.

The words seem to bounce off the walls of the empty, spacious room and fly through his ears over and over. He watches Courtney's reaction: first, unrestrained shock; then, concern takes over and she reins in her surprise.

"You proposed to her?" Courtney asks.

"Yeah. I--I'd been thinking about it for a long time. I had planned to give her the ring on Christmas. And then Josh showed up, and..." He doesn't even know why he felt compelled to tell her any of this. It isn't her problem. He stuffs his skate into the bag.

"I'm really sorry, Jason."

He looks up, surprised. After all that they've been through, he never could have predicted that it would wind up this way, with Courtney offering consolation over his wrecked relationship with Lauren. It hardly seems real. But right now, he's simply grateful for the support--for someone who isn't treating him like the villain in all this.

"Thanks, Court," he says as he zips up his bag.


Lauren Brooks looks up from her computer screen just in time to see Josh Taylor discretely slide a thin manila folder onto her desk. She offers a meager smile, but he does not reciprocate.

"Those are for you," he says tersely. "Look 'em over when you get a chance."

"Thanks," she replies, retrieving the folder and setting it atop a pile of papers that has been mounting since before the holiday season.

"Sure." Their gaze locks for a second, and something accusatory in his eyes upsets her, though she's not sure why.

"Josh?" He starts to walk away but stops in his tracks. She continues. "Are you upset with me?"

Now, he turns to face her. "Well, let's put it this way: I didn't particularly appreciate your boyfriend assaulting me. So--"

"Listen," she cuts in. "I'm really sorry about that. Jason was way out of line."

His expression softens for a moment. "It's okay. I mean, I guess I'll live, so... apology accepted." A lopsided grin crawls across his face, and he takes a few steps back toward her desk. "He's just lucky I didn't kick his ass. Unless that's what he wanted."

"Nah. Jason's got his flaws, but I don't think getting into a drunken brawl with you was one of his goals for the night."

"So, what gives?"

Lauren sighs visibly and, to her surprise, hears herself launch into a quiet recapitulation of the night's later events: Jason's visit to her house, his admission of guilt and nervousness -- and the marriage proposal she couldn't accept.

"Wow. That's a heavy night. Have you talked to him since then?"

"No," she says. Her lips part as though they have more to say, but little else comes out. "No, I haven't."

He stands in silence for a moment, clearly mulling this over before his eyes become inquisitive again. "So, wait. I still don't get it: why did he flip out at me?"

"Um." She chews on her lower lip for a moment before answering with reluctance. "He... that there might be something going on. Between us."

A bolt of silence strikes, and it hangs over them until Josh lets out a slight snigger. "Well, he must've been really drunk."

"Hey!" Lauren flashes an overly-indignant expression and smiles. "In your dreams, Josh. Get back to work."


Alex Marshall and Trevor Brooks sit at a small table in the nearly empty coffeehouse. The place is quiet around them, save for the music playing lightly over the stereo system and the occasional customer ordering a drink.

Trevor flips through the pages of the men's magazine in front of them.

"Dammit. I know it's right around here," he mutters, flipping forward and then back a few pages.

"This magazine is, like, 80 percent ads!" Alex says as he watches Trevor move through the glossy pages.

"Don't knock the ads. If they weren't there, I'd have to, like, get a real job or something." A smirk plays across Trevor's lips as he finds the page for which he has been looking. "Here we go."

He spins the magazine around so that Alex can check out the ad. Sure enough, there is a full-page advertisement for Objection, complete with a sultry-faced Trevor in an open shirt with a scantily clad young woman hanging off him.

"I like how she's barely wearing any clothes, but she made sure to put on some huge boots," Alex notes.

"I learned long ago not to question the logic of fashion ads. Isn't that awesome, though? Like, I'm front-and-center in this ad. It's huge."

"It's amazing."

Trevor reaches over and places a hand on Alex's leg. "It looks like 2006 is shaping up to be a really good year for us."

"Very good." Alex picks up his empty coffee cup and then sets it back on the table. "I feel so bad for Jason and Lauren. What a crappy way to ring in a new year."

"I know. I tried to get her to talk a little bit about it, but she keeps avoiding the subject."

"Jason's been walking around like a zombie. He's a mess."

"This thing with them," Trevor says, "it's going to pass, right? If Jason feels strongly enough about her to propose, then there's got to be something there worth working on."

"I'd like to think so," Alex says, but the tail of his statement is drowned out by the chirping of Trevor's cell phone.

Trevor glances at the screen and, looking puzzled, jumps out of his seat. "Let me take this. I'll be right back."

He steps off to the side as he answers the call: "Hello?"


"This is him. Who's this?"

There is a sharp inhalation of breath on the other end of the line, and then the male voice, husky, maybe rough from too many cigarettes, croaks, "What? Don't tell me you don't remember me."

Trevor is about to apologize and say that he doesn't--and then it hits him.


Who could be calling Trevor?
Did Lauren's reaction toward Josh surprise you?
What plan does Katherine have in mind?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to talk about it!

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