Episode #471

- Brian surprised Diane with Thanksgiving dinner. She was annoyed when she realized it was a romantic gesture, but when Brian lashed out at her, she changed her mind and invited him to her bed.
- Diane decided to have Ryan write his account of the ordeal involving Nick’s murder, resurrection, and revenge.
- Jason hired Seth as Ryan’s replacement at the arena, but he hesitated to tell Alex about the move.
- Alex struggled to complete his second novel, while his relationship with Trevor remained stalled.
- Josh, frustrated after Lauren ran out on him, met Sabrina at a bar.
- After discovering a lump in her breast, Lauren scheduled a doctor’s appointment, though she kept the situation to herself.
- Courtney discovered that she was pregnant.


Flex. Relax. Flex. Relax. Flex. Relax.

Alex Marshall repeats this pattern over and over, tensing the muscles in his thigh and then releasing them. It is a trick that he taught himself in college, when he would be called on to share his work with a writing class. During his sophomore year, a professor reprimanded him in front of the entire class for his distracting shifting from foot to foot and scratching of his nose and head. It was then that Alex devised this trick. He was no less nervous the next time he had to present his work, but behind the podium, no one could see him flexing his thigh. Now it is his go-to trick whenever he finds himself in a situation where he does not want to show how nervous he is.

This is certainly one of those situations. He sits across a boardroom table from Diane Bishop and several of her people from Vision Publishing. The pages of Alex’s latest draft of his second novel are spread between them, marked up in red like a patient being prepped for plastic surgery. In some ways, that’s exactly what this is.

“It isn’t that the story can’t work,” one of Diane’s sidekicks says, “but it seems that we need to do some more digging to find it.”

“It?” Alex asks.

“The thing that sings.”

Well, that’s helpful, Alex thinks. It hadn’t occurred to me to try and find something good to write. But he nods along dutifully, keeping his sarcasm on the inside.

“The romance element is way too overpowering,” Diane says. “It feels like a subplot at best, but it’s all over this thing.” She waves her hands over the scattered papers to make her point.

“That’s how I envisioned it,” Alex says. “A drama that’s heavy on romance and plays the crime element in the background.”

“It’s coming across as a reheated version of your first book. Same story, characters a decade older. Do you want to be branded as a one-hit wonder?”

“No. Of course not.” Alex flexes his thigh faster now. He doesn’t know what else to say. He has poured every bit of energy he has of late into this book, and their reaction is this crappy?

“Then we’ve got to find something in here that really works,” Diane says. She gathers up the loose pages. “I’ll have Larissa make you a copy of my notes. Go home, look them over, see what comes to you.”

Alex watches in a stupor as Diane hands the stack to one of the junior executives. He knows that this book isn’t up to muster; it doesn’t feel the same way that his first one did. But he doesn’t know what to do, either. All his efforts thus far haven’t made it any more than a competent draft, and competent is a far cry from exciting.

“Think it over this weekend,” Diane says, “and get me a revised outline next Monday.”

“Will do,” Alex says, but as he rises from his seat, all he can think is that next Monday seems awfully close, and anything resembling a fresh idea seems impossibly far away.


After Diane exits the conference room, Brian Hamilton catches her in the hallway.

“Kind of ugly in there?” he asks, falling into step with her.

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“I heard you were a little rough on Alex Marshall.”

“Rough? He’s a kid whose first novel hit the bestseller lists. If this is the hard part of the second book, before it goes to press, we’re doing him a big favor.”

Brian has to admit that she has a point. They turn a corner, and he dives right into the real reason that he waited outside the meeting for her.

“Do you want to have lunch?” he asks. “Just the two of us?”

“I’m meeting Sarah,” she says, not missing a beat. “I’m going to try and find out a little more about Ryan before we go after him.”

“You still think that’s a good idea?” He knows that there is likely to be great public interest in Ryan Moriani’s story, but having experienced the fallout of the whole mess personally, Brian would rather not relive it. He wonders if pursuing this project will lead Vision down a tawdry path it would be best served by avoiding.

“It’s what they want. Big books with big stories behind them. Things that will market themselves.”

They arrive at Diane’s office. She sets down her Alex Marshall-related files and begins gathering her things for lunch.

“Dinner, then?” he proposes.

Diane stops organizing her things and looks up at him, her gaze razor-sharp. “Are you trying to ask me out?”

“I guess.” He cringes. He sounds like a stupid eighteen-year-old. “Yes. A date. The two of us.”

“It was--” She drops her voice. “--sex. That’s it.”

“Very good sex.”

“Yeah. I still don’t know where you get that from,” she says, and Brian can see her looking him over, as if seeing him in a completely different light all over again. It fills him with hope.

“It doesn’t have to be just sex,” he says. “Although that’s nice. If we can work together, be friends, and do that, doesn’t that kind of add up to--”

Diane holds up a finger. “Don’t. Do not even go there.”

She slings her purse over her shoulder and brushes past him. “I have a lunch to get to.”

“Yeah, great,” Brian mutters as Diane disappears back around the corner. What does it take to get to this woman? It’s clear that she is interested in him in at least one way. Why can’t they just go the extra step?


Lauren Brooks is in a haze as she heads for the hospital’s elevators. She expected to feel great relief after the appointment with her doctor--or, in the absence of that, at least have something concrete to be worried about. Neither is the case. All she knows is that the doctor tossed out a lot of scary-sounding language in a voice that tried to make it sound like those words shouldn’t be scary. She walked out of there with an appointment for a biopsy and… not much more information than she had before.


She hears her name, distant at first and then growing closer. It takes a few seconds to whip her out of her trance. Her heartbeat intensifies as she sees Courtney Chase approaching her.

“This is a weird place for a run-in,” Courtney says as she settles in to wait for the elevator.

“Seriously.” Lauren fidgets, moving her purse from one shoulder to the other.

“How are you? Everything okay?”

“Just a check-up,” Lauren rushes to say. “Nothing big.”

They stand quietly, waiting for the elevator. Lauren finds Courtney’s presence both alarming and comforting. She does not want Courtney to know what she was here for, but at the same time, the familiarity of her former friend brings a certain ease to the situation.

“How about you?” Lauren asks.

“Fine, yeah. Just had an appointment with my OB/GYN.”

“Fun lunchtime activity.”

“Yeah, really a relaxing break from work,” Courtney says, widening her eyes only a smidge in that subtly sarcastic way that she has.

The silence returns, thick with awkwardness. Lauren cannot believe how long it has been since she last saw Courtney. She and Josh ran into Courtney and Jason at Windmills last year, but that was months and months ago. This is someone she used to see nearly every day.

All of a sudden, Courtney turns sharply to her. “You know what? I’m going to throw this out there, and if the answer is ‘No,’ just say so.”

The proposition alarms Lauren. There is no way that Courtney could know what is going on with her. She has not told anyone, not even her own family.

“Do you have time to grab a cup of coffee?” Courtney asks.

Lauren relaxes, and her response is instant and natural. “Yeah. I’d like that.”


Face buried in Sabrina Gage’s neck, Josh Taylor loses himself in his thrusting. When he comes to and opens his eyes, he sees Sabrina staring up at him… and, judging by the sleepy expression on her face, it was as good for her as it was for him.

“God, I needed that,” he mutters as he rolls onto his back.

Sabrina brushes her blonde hair out of her face. “That’ll make an afternoon at the office a little easier to bear.”

Josh laughs with her. Damn right. Since the night of the blackout, when he met her at the bar at 322, they have fallen into a perfect rhythm. He calls or texts her, they meet up, and he gets what he wants. They both do.

It’s perfect. No muss, no fuss, definitely none of the bullshit he had to put up with from Lauren.

Still breathing hard, Josh sits up in his bed. He grabs his dress shirt but becomes aware of the sweat covering his chest, stomach, and back. Maybe a shower would be in order before he heads back to work.

“What are you doing Friday night?” Sabrina asks, out of nowhere.

Crap, Josh thinks. And so it begins. Or ends. Whatever. It was bound to happen eventually. They do it a few times and she gets attached. Of course.

Deciding that a shower would be wise, Josh moves toward the bathroom, not bothering to cover his nakedness.

“Listen,” he begins. “This is fun, and seriously, if I were up for a relationship, you’d be--”

“Relationship?” Sabrina laughs.

“That’s what this is, isn’t it? The end of the booty call period? I guess it can’t last forever.”

“Oh my God, don’t have such a high opinion of yourself,” Sabrina says, and though she says it playfully, it stings Josh just a little bit. “I’m going to have a crappy day at work on Friday, that’s all. We have these two big meetings, and--anyway, I think I’m going to need to blow off some steam.”

“Really? That’s it?”

“I promise. I’m not looking for anything besides what we’ve been doing.”

He shoots her a skeptical look. As much as he would like to believe that, she is a woman. He knows this routine.

“Dead serious,” she says. “If we’re being honest--and I know you don’t want too much of that, but I feel like it’s necessary here--I might be getting back together with my ex. But he’s still breaking things off with this other girl, so while I wait, I might as well…”

“…enjoy yourself.”

Sabrina nods and reaches for her panties, dropped beside the bed. She slips her long, lean legs into them, and the sight alone is enough to make Josh okay with a little reprimand for taking too long a lunch break.

“Wanna jump in the shower?” he asks.

Panties half-on, Sabrina pauses.

“Only thing is, I can’t promise you’ll actually get clean,” Josh says.

She tosses the panties aside. “I think I’m okay with that.”


Diane sits at a table in the center of the restaurant with Sarah Gray. They munch on the complimentary bread as they await their lunch salads.

“Good Thanksgiving, then?” Diane asks.

“It was a real blast,” Sarah says, her tone dry, as it has often been lately.

The change in her friend alarms Diane. Ever since Sarah lost the baby, she has hardly seemed like the woman with whom Diane became friends. She would have expected Sarah to get mad, yell, rant and rave, cook up a plot. This Sarah has turned quiet and morose, however. Diane can only imagine how devastating it must be to lose a child the way that Sarah did, but she also has little clue of how to relate to this woman as a friend.

“I mean, it must be hard for everyone, knowing that you have to leave Ryan out of things now. Just when you were all getting used to having him around.”

“It’s a little strange,” Sarah admits, “but there’s really no other way. After what he did to Tim…”

“And to you.”

“To a lot of us.” Sarah diverts her gaze, busying herself with a piece of bread.

“What’s he even doing now?” Diane asks. “Do you have any idea?”

“Ryan? I don’t really know. I ran into him at the mall, of all places, a few months ago, but I don’t know if anyone has seen him since then.”

Diane pauses for a drink, attempting to pace herself. She doesn’t want to seem too pushy or eager, but she needs to know something about Ryan’s current state. If she’s going to go after his story, she needs to know where to hit him--what his weaknesses are.

“I can’t imagine that lunatic of a father left him much money,” she muses. “Especially after Ryan tried to kill him.”

“Yeah, that’ll get you cut out of the will,” Sarah says, sounding more like the Sarah she knows than she has in recent months.

Diane laughs, as much at the humor of the comment as at the glimpse of her old friend.

“Did he have a lot of business interests besides his thing with Jason?” Diane asks.

“I don’t know. What’s with all the interest in Ryan?”

With a shrug, Diane decides to back off. Maybe Sarah will not be as bountiful a source of information as she’d hoped.

“How about you? How was your Thanksgiving?” Sarah asks.

“Fine. Quiet. Nothing big.”

“You just hung out by yourself?”

“Yep,” Diane says, not even wanting to start down this road. “All by myself.”


“So, you and Jason,” Lauren says over a paper cup of coffee in the hospital’s cafeteria. “What’s going on there?”

Courtney shakes her head. “Who knows?”

“It seemed like you guys were getting pretty close again when we saw you out to dinner. And now you’re working together… definitely seems like something.”

“Oh, it’s something. A big mess, maybe.”

Courtney draws a long sip of coffee. There is something pensive about the act--perhaps the way that she watches Lauren over the rim of the cup, like she is weighing pros and cons.

“I wasn’t just here for a routine visit,” Courtney blurts out.


“Seeing my OB. I came because… this whole thing with Jason…”

Lauren thinks she knows where this is going, but there is no way she is going to believe it until Courtney actually says it. Even then, she might not.

“I’m pregnant,” Courtney says, finally.

“Wow.” Lauren doesn’t know what the appropriate reaction is, and Courtney’s demeanor offers no clues. “Congratulations?”

“Thanks. I think. I’m still trying to process it.”

“You’re going to be a mom,” Lauren says, trying to wrap her own brain around the idea.

“That seems to be where this is headed, yeah.”

“Is that why things are weird with Jason?”

Courtney groans. “Things are weird with Jason independent of this. This is just another layer of weirdness. The ultimate layer of weirdness, maybe.”

“Yeah, it’s… pretty ultimate. So where do you guys stand? He doesn’t know yet?”

“He doesn’t know. I don’t even know if we’re dating, or friends with benefits, or what. He’s being a little crazy whenever I try to pin him down.”

“He’s Jason. He is a little crazy.”

They share a laugh. Somehow, the ease between them--even after a few years of little contact--supercedes the bizarreness of talking about a guy with whom they’ve both been very seriously involved.

“He’ll be a good dad,” Lauren says.

“I’d like to think so. But him being a good dad doesn’t get me any closer to figuring out where he and I stand.”

Lauren slugs down a bit more of the less-than-optimum hospital coffee.

“What about you and Josh?” Courtney asks.

“It’s over. Done.”


“Really. It has to be,” Lauren says. She wishes that she had more confidence in her own words.

Perhaps Courtney senses that there is more to the story, something that Lauren doesn’t want to discuss, but she backs off rather than forcing the issue.

“I’m glad you suggested this,” Lauren says. “It’s nice to talk to you.”

“It really is.”

A comfortable grin spreads over Courtney’s face, and despite the troubles weighing on her, Lauren finds herself sharing it. It has been too long since they had a chat like this, and Lauren realizes how much she has missed it. She has a lot to worry about, but having her friend back might be the bright spot that she needs.


Still absorbed in thoughts of his meeting and his book, Alex climbs the stairs that lead to Jason Fisher’s second-floor office. On his way over here, he hoped that some time with Jason might take his mind off the whole situation; now that he is here, he suspects that is not even possible.

He makes his way down the hallway toward the open office door. He tries to tell himself that he needs this time to think--that, after a few days of turning things over in his head, it will come together, and he will have something concrete to show for all his worrying. But that is little comfort now.

When he was struggling most with his last novel, Trevor came along. It was sharing his story with Trevor that gave him that extra push and forced him to find the truth in what he was writing. It helped him to elevate that novel beyond “just a story.”

He wishes that he could turn to Trevor now, but that seems a remote option, given how strained things have become between them. They have gone weeks without contact now. Alex wonders, as he often does, if he could just go to Trevor and have everything go back to the way it was. It seems simple enough. But he knows that, without resolving the enormous issue hanging between them, that that would be impossible.

He turns into Jason’s office… and sees that giant issue sitting at a desk.

At first he thinks it must be some sort of hallucination. He got caught up thinking about his book, and Trevor, and Seth as a natural extension of it all. But then he realizes that Seth Ashby really is sitting there, working at a desk across from Jason.

“Alex,” Jason says as soon as he spots him. His mouth hangs open, his guilt clear. “What are you doing here?”

“I think the question is, what are you doing here?” Alex counters. “Both of you.”

Jason and Seth stare back at him, and Alex awaits their explanation.


How will Alex react to finding out that Jason hired Seth?
Will Lauren confide in Courtney about her health problem?
How will Diane gain access to Ryan?
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