Episode #413

Previously ...
- Katherine's bachelor auction looked as though it might be a failure, but when her band of ladies caught sight of the bachelors in the dressing room, they started making phone calls to bring people to the event.
- Jason tried to avoid a confrontation with Josh, but when Josh goaded him about Lauren, Jason shoved him. Josh tried to play innocent.
- Brian arrived, having agreed to go on the auction block, and had a tense confrontation with Diane.
- Nick showed up at the auction. Ryan confronted him and intimidated him into leaving.


Clinking cocktail glasses and laughter ring through the hall, filling whatever space is not already occupied by people in dazzling eveningwear. Katherine Fitch swirls through the crowd, stopping here and there to say hello or to accept compliments on how marvelous the hall looks.

She stops near Claire Fisher, who is talking with Sarah and Paula.

"This is more like it!" Katherine proclaims, tapping her glass against Claire's in an impromptu toast.

"You did it," Claire says, smiling back at her. After seeing how troubled Katherine and Ryan were an hour ago, she finds herself sharing in their joy now.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The auction hasn't even begun." But Katherine cannot wipe the smile from her face.

"We're going to begin in fifteen minutes or so," she says before sweeping away to greet another circle of acquaintances.

"She certainly seems to be enjoying herself," Paula comments once Katherine is gone.

Claire's expression turns serious. "After the hell that Nick put her through, she deserves to have some fun."

Halfway across the hall, Molly Taylor sits at a table with Camille Lemieux.

"It's so nice to see you out and dressed up," Camille says. "You look wonderful."

"I think a night away from the boys might have been what I needed," Molly says. "I feel like such a bad mother for saying that, but..."

"You're a human being, Molly. Just because you have children doesn't mean that you need to be tied to them every minute."

Molly sighs. "You sound like Brent."

"He's a smart man, then," Camille says with a smile.

At their own table, Courtney Chase and Alex Marshall are huddled over a copy of the evening's program. They are looking over the brief biographies of the bachelors being auctioned off -- specifically, Jason's biography.

"'Professional figure skating instructor'... This makes him sound like such a grown-up," Courtney says.

"Don't worry," Alex says. "It's all smoke and mirrors." He flips the page. "Maybe we should just let some crazy old lady buy him up."

Courtney's eyes widen. "He'll kill you!" But then she breaks into a crazed laugh.

"Hey, look," Alex says, tapping her on the arm. He points toward the entryway, where Lauren Brooks has just entered the hall with a sizable group of people, all of whom appear to be several years older than her, at the least.

Courtney watches Lauren for several seconds before commenting, "This should be interesting."


Most of the guests have been corralled into seats, but conversation buzzes at the same volume as before. Katherine stands to the side of the stage, taking in the scene. This is just how she dreamed the event would be: lively, joyous, and--most of all--someplace for people to see and be seen.

If an evening like this doesn't succeed in winning back her social status, nothing will.

Tenille, Marj, and Dar bustle up to her. Their drinks slosh around in the martini glasses, flying precariously close to the glasses' rims. Katherine takes it as a sign that they are fully enjoying themselves.

"I've got a lot of money burning a hole in this Gucci clutch!" Dar proclaims. "When do we get to buy some men?"

"We'll begin in a few minutes," Katherine says, as calm and composed as could be, even though the voice inside of her is shouting with joy.

"Didn't think you had it in you," Tenille says, her voice a low, throaty rumble, "but you proved me wrong, Kath!"

In the bachelors' dressing room, the men mill around in their tuxedos. They check their watches and the clock on the wall, waiting for the time to pass but partly hoping that it never will.

"Is it almost time to get this show on the road?" Jason asks Ryan.

"Should be," Ryan says, "but I bet Katherine wants to let everyone enjoy the cocktail hour."

"Because the drunker these ladies get, the more money they'll throw down for us."

"Hey, after that little peep show you gave them before, you might be the top earner tonight."

Off to the side, Tim Fisher sits on a bench, watching his younger brother converse with their half-brother. He has gotten accustomed to seeing Claire on Ryan's arm, and to seeing Paula treat Ryan with her usual maternal warmth, but seeing Jason act so relaxed around Ryan--this is a new wrinkle, and it throws Tim for a bit of a loop.

Just one more example of how Ryan has practically usurped his life, Tim figures as he glances once again at the clock.

Claire holds the door for Molly as the ladies step out into the chilly spring night.

"Thanks for coming with me," Molly says. "I just needed to get some fresh air before this thing gets going."

"Are you going to be one of those ladies who bids on her own husband?" Claire asks as they walk along the front of the building.

Molly shrugs. "We'll see. It might be fun to throw him to the wolves and see what happens."

She digs in her tiny purse and pulls out an appropriately tiny cell phone. "While we're out here, I might as well check in with the babysitter."

"I'm sure everything's fine."

"It can't hurt to check."

They continue strolling as Molly dials the number, and when they turn the corner, they nearly walk right into Nick Moriani.

For a moment there is nothing but silence between the three.

"Oh, Ali, hi," Molly says, stepping away--but only a few feet, and with a worried look at Claire--to take the call.

"What are you still doing here?" Claire asks the silver-haired man.

"Just enjoying the night," Nick says.

"There are plenty of other places to enjoy the night."

"Oh, but this promises to be such a fun event, don't you think?"

Claire's hands ball into fists. "Haven't you caused enough trouble for all of us?"

"You're going to fight me off?" He laughs. "If I were you, I'd be careful about the fights you pick. Wouldn't it be a shame if, say, your beloved son were somehow caught in the middle?"

Claire isn't sure how to take the statement. Is that a threat? An empty statement meant to unnerve her? As she reels, Nick brushes past her and walks toward the building's entrance.

Molly ends her call and rejoins Claire.

"I thought Ryan told him to leave," Molly says, watching Nick re-enter the building.

"He's determined to make tonight as difficult as possible for everyone," Claire says.

"Do you think he's up to something?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe all he wants to do is bother Katherine."

"Maybe," Molly says, though she doesn't sound particularly convinced.



Katherine brushes through the curtains and across the stage. The time has come to get this show underway, and she can only hope that the bachelors will be as cooperative and enthusiastic as the potential buyers seem to be.

She is en route to the dressing room to round them up when a man rushes toward her. She recognizes him from the brief informational meeting that she held for the bachelors earlier in the week, but she cannot attach a name or any details to the face.

"Mrs. Fitch! Ryan asked me to see if we're ready to get going yet," he says.

"As a matter of fact," she says, pausing to enjoy the sight of this younger man in his tuxedo, "I was just on my way to collect all of you."

"Oh, okay." He turns to head back to the dressing room but then, realizing that she is headed for the same place, slows his stride so that they can walk together.

An awkward silence hovers around them. Finally the man asks, "The turnout is as good as you'd hoped?"

"Yes, thank goodness." She pauses, then adds, "I must admit, I was a bit concerned for a while."

"I'm sure it'll be a success. Your friends seemed, uh, pretty excited before."

Katherine hesitates, but something about him tells her that it is okay to go on. "Those fools get excited by a good deal less than a room full of handsome young men. Now that we've got them here, the rest should be a breeze."

The man cracks a smile. "I didn't want to be the one to say it."

"It's certainly the truth, and I consider anything less a waste of breath," she says. "I'm afraid I've forgotten your name."

"Brian Hamilton." He shakes her hand.

"A pleasure to meet you, Brian."

Alex taps Lauren on the shoulder, and she turns to look at him with surprise.

"Oh, hey!" she exclaims, half-rising out of her seat to hug him. "How are you?"

"I'm good. How about you?"

"Fine. Good." She gestures at her tablemates, the same group of older people with whom Alex and Courtney saw her enter. "A bunch of people from work wanted to come and support Josh, so I thought I'd come along."

"It should be fun," Alex says, but the mention of Josh Taylor has cast an awkward tension over their conversation.

Lauren seems to notice it, too, because she switches topics: "Have you talked to Trevor?"

"No, but I figure he's busy doing... whatever it is models do when they're working in New York."

She makes a comical face. "Then maybe I don't want to talk to him 'til he gets back."

"I'm sure everything's fine," Alex says. "It sounded like he was gonna be pretty busy."

"So, um..." Lauren brushes a stray strand of her dark blonde hair back behind her ear. "Jason's here, too, right?"

He nods. "Yeah. He's backstage, I guess."

"Maybe I can talk to him later," she says, but it sounds like a distant possibility, not something that she plans to make happen right away.

Alex doesn't know how to respond. As much as he cares about Jason, and as much as he cares about Lauren, he really believes that it might be best if they both were to move on.


Minutes later, Claire and Molly return to their seats at the table where Paula, Bill, and Camille are already seated. There are also two empty spots at the table, saved for Ryan and Brent after the show.

"I think they're almost ready to begin," Paula informs the women.

Molly looks at Bill. "You know, Dad, you could be up there, too."

"I don't think I would pull the kind of money that they're looking for," Bill says, though he doesn't appear too upset about it.

Paula sets her hand on top of her husband's. "I might consider paying for you, dear... if you played your cards right."

They spar for a few seconds before Paula's attention is drawn elsewhere.

"Is everything all right, Claire?" she asks.

"Everything is fine," Claire says, but she sounds a little too eager to reassure them.

The din of the crowd mellows into silence when a voice booms over the PA system:

"If I could have everyone's attention..."

Sarah Gray stops jabbering to Diane Bishop across the empty seat between them. The two women turn their attention to the stage, as the other heads in the large hall are doing.

Onstage is a man of impressive proportions: barrel-chested, well over six feet tall, with a pouf of silvery hair that adds several more inches to his height. He must be in his late fifties or sixties, and he speaks with a voice from a bygone era.

"Welcome to tonight's charity bachelor auction," he says, his voice filling the hall. "I'm Jackson Braun, and I'll be running the show tonight. The proceeds of tonight's event will benefit the American Cancer Society, a cause that is near and dear to the heart of our hostess. She'll speak a few words about that cause later in the evening, but for now, don't be stingy with those dollars--and most of all, enjoy yourselves!"

Diane holds her program open as she leans over to Sarah. "Are you going to bid on him?"

"I don't know," Sarah says. "Let's see what these women do."

The auctioneer finishes explaining the procedure and proclaims, "Let's get this show on the road! Our first bachelor is Matt Gray--"

Sarah and Diane make as much noise as they can, and Matt walks onstage already looking embarrassed.

"--who is a chef at local restaurant The Fisherman's Pier. Matt was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and he has also worked in construction. You know what that means, ladies! He's good with his hands!"

An excited shout goes up from the crowd.

"The lucky lady who wins Matt tonight will have the opportunity to enjoy a hand-cooked meal, prepared by Matt himself, followed by a carriage ride through the park. Let's start the bidding at 50 dollars," Jackson says. A flurry of hands holding numbered cards fly up.

"You've got a popular one," Diane says. Sarah shrugs and puts her card in the air, too.

"How about 100 dollars? Let's see 100 for Matt!"

A few of the cards go down. Sarah stays in the game.

"One hundred and fifty! Come on, ladies, you aren't going to give up that easily, are you?"

A few more drop out, and Jackson teases them: "I did mention that the man knows how to cook, didn't I?"

When he calls for 175, Sarah realizes that there are only two cards besides hers in the air. Matt flashes her a look from the stage, but she just smiles back--a big, cheesy grin, a reminder for him to maintain his own. He looks so awkward up there on the stage, overwhelmed by all the attention, but she has to admit that he looks terrific in his tux.

"How about 200? Two hundred dollars?"

One of the other cards goes down. The other one seems to rise even further, and its owner even shouts, "Here! Over here!"

"Looks like you've got some competition," Diane comments.

"I'm about at my limit," Sarah says, still holding up her card. "Matt will kill me if I spend this much money just to hang out with him."

"Look at him right now. He might appreciate it."

Sarah stays in the bidding up to 225 dollars, but when the call goes out for 250, the other woman flips around to stare at her. It is one of Katherine's cronies, an older woman with a wild swirl of red hair.

Sarah tries not to laugh, but when the auctioneer calls for 250, she puts down her card. The other woman strains even harder, hovering out of her seat, until Jackson calls the bidding.

"Sold, to the stunning redhead in front!" Jackson announces.

"You go, Dar!" comes a shout from her table as one of the auction volunteers comes to collect her information. Matt casts a slightly horrified look at Sarah as he makes his way offstage.

Next up is Brian, who appears only slightly less mortified than Matt to be here. Diane is still gossiping with Sarah when Brian takes the stage, and she doesn't even notice that he is up there until the announcer says his name.

She looks up just in time to see that Brian is looking at her.

"He's got to be crazy," Diane mutters.

Sarah leans over. "What?"

"Brian. If he thinks I'm going to buy him."

"Why would he think that?"

Diane manages a quick shake of the head and a mumbled excuse as she turns back to focus on the action. The bidding picks up at about the same pace as it did for Matt.

"Come on, you ladies should be warmed up by now!" Jackson antagonizes them. "Do I have 250?"

Diane folds her arms in front of her and does her best to look as casual as she can, but the whole time, she feels Brian glancing back at her. Even worse is the fact that he seems to be enjoying himself and all the attention that he is receiving.

When the bidding ends, a whoop of joy flies up from the front of the room. The buyer is none other than Katherine Fitch herself, and her cheeks grow slightly rosy when she realizes that she let out a gasp of excitement.

"That should be one hell of a date," Diane says to Sarah as she picks up her drink.


Several bachelors go on and off the auction block before it is Jason's turn. As soon as he steps onstage, the table of women in front goes wild.

The auctioneer speaks over them as he introduces Jason: "Our next bachelor is Jason Fisher. If you watched the Olympics this past winter, then you know what those figure skaters look like in their tight pants..."

In the audience, Alex and Courtney snicker to each other.

"This is the cheesiest thing ever," Alex whispers.

"Just think of all the material we're gonna get out of it," Courtney says. "Get your card ready, buddy."

Alex lets the card sit on the table as the bidding gets underway. When it hits the $300 mark, Courtney turns to him.

"Are you ready to jump in?" she asks.

"He said only if it looks bad."

The bidding escalates to $350, and contenders drop out accordingly. Courtney surveys the crowd and sees only one card still in the air.

"Alex, it's one of those women," she whispers. Sure enough, it is another of the women at Katherine's table.

"Show us that chest again!" she shouts in a surprisingly husky voice.

Courtney hands Alex the card. "You promised him."

"Do I have 375 dollars?" the auctioneer asks.


But he doesn't take the card. "I can't jump in now."

"Why not?"

"Because." He doesn't seem to have a reason aside from general embarrassment.

"No takers?" Jackson booms. "Then this man is going..."

Courtney glances a few tables over. Lauren's interest is intent upon the stage, but she doesn't appear at all ready to bid.


Courtney's arm shoots up.

Backstage, the other bachelors mill around, either awaiting their turns or grateful to be done for the evening.

"Do I look okay?" Josh asks Brent.

"You look fine," his brother tells him. "This is just for fun, anyway."

"We've gotta bring in the big bucks, bro. Don't you wanna be the top earner?"

"What I want is to get through this without making an idiot of myself," Brent says.

The other bachelors are engaged in similar conversations, and so none of them notice the figure slipping between the curtains.


"And we have 375!" Jackson announces. The woman in front whips around and catches sight of Courtney. "Can I have 400? Four hundred dollars?"

The other card stays in the air, so Courtney's does, too. She looks to Jason and sees the grateful look upon his face.

"Take it off!" the woman in front cries.

Soon the bidding hits 500 dollars. Courtney stays in it, but she turns to Alex.

"I don't have 500 dollars to blow," she whispers.

"So let him go," Alex says after a moment of deliberation.

"I can't!"

Jackson's voice echoes through the hall: "Do I have 550 dollars?"

Courtney glances again at Lauren, who is now watching her intently. She looks away as soon as Courtney looks at her.

"Six hundred!" the deep-voiced woman in front yells, even though the auctioneer hasn't called for it.

"We have 600!" Jackson says. "Do I have 650?"

Courtney makes eye contact with Jason long enough to shrug her shoulders in apology, then drops her card.

"Sold to the lady in front!"

"Don't feel bad," Alex says as Courtney exhales heavily. "We'll get good stories out of this."

The next bachelor to take the stage is Josh. Now the crowd is even more fired up, thanks to the frenzied bidding between Courtney and Tenille. Josh appears eager to soak up the cheers and whistles as Jackson introduces him.

"Who wouldn't want a night on the town with this young stud?" Jackson asks, getting into the act and riling up the audience even further.

The bidding begins in a frenzy and soon escalates to $400.

"Do I hear 450?" Jackson asks.

A flurry of cards go up in the air, but Josh leans over and grabs the microphone. "I know you can do better than that!" he calls out. "How about 500?"

Just like that, the bidding soars to 500. From her seat, Lauren watches with her coworkers, who seem to be alternately amused and appalled by Josh's show.

"Take it off!" comes the same voice from the front that purchased Jason -- Tenille. Instead of grinning shyly like Jason did, however, Josh looks over at Katherine. When she shrugs, Josh whips off his jacket and hands it to the auctioneer.

As Josh unbuttons his shirt, Jackson goads the crowd: "This has got to be worth at least an extra hundred. How about 600 dollars?"

Josh pulls off the tuxedo shirt and swings it over his head. He dances around to the generic poppy music playing in the background. The women hoot and holler.

Lauren sees Josh's sister-in-law, Molly, laughing and cheering him along, and some of the people at the Willis Advertising table are doing the same. To her other side, Alex and Courtney huddle together and watch Josh; they don't seem particularly impressed with Josh's behavior.

"Do I have 650? Six hundred and fifty dollars?"

Barely aware of what she is doing, Lauren grabs the card in front of her and raises it. At first, no one at her table even notices; then their heads turn, one by one, shocked expressions on their faces.

The next few minutes are a blur, and before she knows it, Lauren has her hand up in the air as Jackson calls out, "Eight hundred dollars! We've got one card standing... That's it? This bachelor is going, going, gone! Sold to the young lady in black!"

A volunteer hurries to her side to take her information, but Lauren glances to the stage. Josh, shirtless, covered in sweat, and a giant smile on his face, is staring right at her.

The bachelors who follow are nowhere near as wild, but they still are sold amidst a storm of excitement: Tim, to Diane, who has fun outbidding the other women; Brent, to a rather demure-looking woman who almost seems embarrassed to be doing this; and several other men to various overexcited ladies in the crowd.

Finally, Jackson announces, "Before we get to the final bachelor of the night, it's time to bring our host, Mrs. Katherine Fitch, up here to say a few words."

Applause fills the hall as Katherine makes her way onto the stage. She takes the microphone from Jackson and soaks up all the attention for a long moment before she begins.

"I'd like to thank all of you for being here with us tonight," she says, "and for all your enthusiasm. These bachelors have volunteered themselves, quite literally, and it's so wonderful to see them received so warmly."

Behind her, the curtain rustles slightly, but all eyes are too focused on Katherine to notice.

"As much fun as tonight has been, however, there is a more serious side to this evening," she continues. "Nearly fifteen years ago, I lost my beloved husband, Raymond, to colon cancer. The American Cancer Society is on the cutting edge of research for treatment and preventation of all types of cancer, and it is a cause to which I have given regularly over the years. Tonight, the money that you have so generously contributed will go--in whole--to the American Cancer Society's research efforts."

Applause breaks out, and Katherine basks in the crowd's adoration before continuing once more. She speaks more about the charity, about how much she appreciates the guests' attendance and donations, and how grateful she is to Jackson for performing the auctioneer's duties tonight.

"And finally," she says, "I would like to bring out our final bachelor of the evening: Ryan Moriani!" Ryan joins her onstage, to much applause. "But before the bidding begins, I'd like to thank Ryan, as well. Without his help, tonight would not have been possible. He has been instrumental in every aspect of organizing this event, and Ryan, I offer you my heartfelt thanks for all your aid. You have truly made a difference."

As she gives Ryan a kiss on the cheek, Jackson returns to take back the microphone.

But before he can, the curtains rustle again--this time much more noticeably. A figure emerges onto the stage: Nick.

"What are you doing here?" Katherine demands.

Nick grabs the microphone. "Please, I'd just like to say a few words."

"Get out of here. Now," Ryan threatens, his fists balling up. Several of the other bachelors appear at the back of the stage, apparently ready to assist.

"When Katherine mentioned her late husband," Nick says into the microphone, "she apparently forgot to mention that she eventually remarried. Sure, things might not have worked out between us, Katherine, but I hardly think I'm worth forgetting."

Ryan lunges for the microphone, but Nick jerks away and keeps talking.

"That's why I wanted to be here tonight to support you," he says. "So you can imagine my shock when I innocently decided to check with the American Cancer Society and learned that they hadn't so much as heard of this event."

A gasp flies up from the crowd.

"That's how I felt," Nick says, hamming it up now.

"That's not true!" Katherine cries.

"Unfortunately, my dear wife, we're both correct. You see, enlisting my criminal of a son to help you was not the lifesaver you'd like to think it was. It was actually your undoing."

"You bastard!" Ryan makes another grab for the mic, and this time he gets it.

"Please, everyone, there's no truth to what this man is saying," Ryan tries to assure the attendees.

"He's planning to keep all the money for himself!" Nick yells. "Cancel your donations before it's too late!"

Brent and Tim rush onstage and grab Nick. As they restrain him, Ryan tries to talk to the crowd.

"We're sorry for this interruption," he says. "None of what he's saying is true. We've promised to give this money to ACS, and we will."

But the guests are on their feet now, muttering with outrage and shock.


Has Nick succeeded in ruining Katherine's night?
Will the bachelors still go on their dates?
Is Josh finally going to get what he wants?
Come on over to the Footprints Forum to discuss it all!

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