Episode #517

- Molly was upset that Brent lied to her about his trip to Brazil with Claire.
- Brent told Claire that Clayton Holdings appeared to be based in Chicago, where her father and Nick Moriani once did business.
- Claire suspected that Ryan might know something about James and Nick’s business associates and possibly “Mr. Clayton.”
- Seth brought Alex to dinner with his parents but put Alex in an awkward position by pretending they were merely friends.


It takes Alex Marshall several seconds of gathering his wits before he lifts his hand and knocks on the door. He is not greeted by the familiar “Come in!”, but rather by the sound of footsteps and the unlocking of the door. Like any stranger would be. Once Seth Ashby opens the door, he looks Alex over uncertainly.

“Hey,” Seth says. “I tried calling you after you dropped me off last night…”

“I know. I needed time to think.” Alex feels like a jerk being so dismissive, but the truth is that he had no idea what to say after their dinner with Seth’s parents last night. He still has little idea.

“You slept at your place?” Seth asks.

“Yeah.” Standing in the doorway like this is too awkward for Alex. “Can I come in?”

Seth steps aside. “Oh, yeah, of course.”

As Seth closes the door, Alex moves around, gathering the things he has left here and there over the past few weeks.

“I really am sorry if I put you on the spot at dinner,” Seth says.

“Put me on the spot? I had to lie about, like, my entire life.”

Seth seems prepared to argue that point, but when no sufficient defense presents itself, he switches tacks. “I just wanted my parents to get to know you. As a friend and a person, before I introduce you as my--whatever. Because then, that’s all they’re going to see.” A slight laugh trills from his throat as he adds, “The way things went, I think they like you better than me, so mission accomplished.”

Alex has no idea how to respond to that. He understands Seth’s logic; that is why he agreed to go to dinner in the first place. He knew what he was in for, in terms of not being completely open about their relationship. But he saw something at that dinner table, something that he thought was in the past--something that he is not sure he can go through all over again.

He makes his way to the bedroom, where he has accumulated a few items of clothing of late. Seth follows him.

“What are you doing?” Seth asks.

“Bringing my stuff home.”

“For real? Dude, this is not--it’s not that big a deal. I’m sorry, I really am. It’s just going to take time to tell my parents everything.”

Alex grabs a hooded sweatshirt from a hanger in the closet. “I get that, Seth. And I don’t have any right trying to force you to move faster than you’re comfortable moving. This is your process, not mine.”

“I’m doing it because of you!”

“You should be doing it because of you.” Alex allows that thought to land on Seth. “I’m too old to do this anymore. I’m sorry if that’s a jerky way to feel, but all the anxiety and the covering-up--I’ve put them in the past.”

“And I’m getting there.”

“Good. If you want to get there, you will,” Alex says. “But unless you’re ready to make this a real relationship, I don’t think I can go there with you.”


A chill passes through Claire Fisher’s body as she pilots her car into the familiar driveway. She never expected to come to this place again, and she certainly had no desire to do so. The address didn’t register with her, so it wasn’t until she was a few blocks away that she realized where she was going. She almost turned the car around, convinced it had to be some kind of cruel joke, but as she puts the car in park, Ryan Moriani opens the front door and emerges from his late father’s house.

“I have to say, I’m surprised you called,” he says as Claire steps out of the car.

“Like I said, it’s important.” Her gaze tracks up and across the house where Nick Moriani was shot. “I can’t believe you live here.”

“I haven’t had much choice. They haven’t been able to sell this place because of the market, so it was the only option I had after the bank took the loft.”

“I know how much you loved that loft,” Claire says absently, too caught up in her amazement at where she is to realize how compassionate the statement sounds.

“Yeah, well… sometimes we have to pay for our mistakes by giving up the things we love.”

Pain flickers across Ryan’s face, and Claire catches him staring mournfully at her. She wishes him no ill will, but she receives a jolt of satisfaction from the realization that he has suffered, is still suffering.

Ryan leads the way into the house. Claire hesitates at the entrance, as if suspicious that she might suffer a terrible fate simply by crossing the threshold.

“Does anyone know you’re living here?” she asks.

“Like the Fishers, you mean?” Ryan closes and locks the door behind them. “They haven’t really been checking in regularly, you know?”

They move to the living room. Ryan takes a seat in one of the high-backed chairs, clearly having made his peace with this place. Claire lingers on her feet.

“You’re welcome to have a seat,” he says.

“Thanks, but I think I’m all right.” The house feels full of ghosts. Nick didn’t even die here, but nevertheless, a gloom hangs over the property. She cannot imagine how Ryan spends his days and nights here. “Didn’t Diane pay you well for the book you’re writing? I’m sure you could afford to live somewhere less… eerie.”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Ryan says, with just enough edge that Claire sees a side of him she hasn’t thought about in a long time, “but my advance has been enough to live off of. I’ve only just handed in a full draft, so it’ll be quite a while before I see any more money. It would be shortsighted to sink it all into a place to live.”

She decides not to continue the discussion. Maybe Ryan likes this--likes punishing himself by living under the specter of Nick’s misdeeds, and of his own. Maybe he feels like it is a sort of penance for having shot Nick, for having let Tim take the blame for it. To Claire, the whole business is flat-out creepy.

“Like I said on the phone, I need your help,” she explains. “You’re the only person I know who has a chance of being able to answer this for me.”

“What is it? What do you need to know?”

“It’s about my father,” she says, “and yours. They had a third associate--someone who’s still out there, pulling strings, working to avenge both of their deaths. Do you have any idea who that person could be?”


Molly Taylor waits for her assistant to put the call through to her line. “Brent?” she asks as she holds the phone to her ear.

Her husband’s voice comes over the line. “Hey, beautiful.”

“Is everything all right?” she asks. She and Brent usually exchange text messages or quick e-mails throughout the day, little things to keep them up-to-date on household logistics or what the twins are up to. Sometimes they catch each other on their cell phones for a minute here or there. A phone call to her office line seems so formal.

“Everything’s fine,” Brent says. “I just needed to let you know something.”

“Okay…” Molly waits for whatever the piece of information might be, wondering why it requires such buildup.

“I’m hopping on a plane tonight. For Chicago. I should be back tomorrow night, maybe the day after.”

She tries to keep herself from leaping to assumptions. “For work?”

Brent hesitates before answering. “No. It’s personal.”

Molly knows what that means. She thought she made her feelings on this matter clear, but apparently that is not the case.

“I don’t understand why you’re still doing this,” she says. “Claire’s father is dead. Nick is dead. We have to put this to rest.”

“How can I do that? There’s still some maniac out there who’s gone out of his way to terrorize our family!”

“And what if you make it worse by keeping up this investigation? Can’t we just let it be? Since Nick died, there hasn’t been any indication that this person is still up to something.”

Silence dangles on the line, both of them too willful to make a concession to the other.

“I have to do this,” Brent says. It almost sounds like a plea. “I’m going to live the rest of my life with one leg. I can never forget what happened at that restaurant. I have to know who did it.”

“Can’t you just be grateful that you’re still alive, one leg or not?” Molly counters. Her office door is open, and she tries her best to keep her voice down, but Brent seems resistant to calm logic at the moment. “I don’t want to lose you. We’re lucky in a lot of ways--let’s not push it.”

Another bout of silence hangs between them.

“I’ll send you a text to let you know I got in safely,” Brent finally says. “Danielle has everything covered with the boys. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” As she hears Brent hang up, Molly wishes that were enough to make him understand her point of view.


Alex waits for Seth to respond, make a move, do something to indicate that he wants to work past this impasse between them. But it does not come.

This is what Seth does, Alex recognizes. When something becomes too difficult, he shuts down. He does not face it. When their relationship grew too complicated and confusing, Seth transferred to another school without so much as a letter to tell Alex what was going on. When he realized that he could not marry Miriam, he slipped away from the church without facing his fiancée. It’s what he does.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Seth finally pipes up.

Alex shakes his head. “Honestly? Neither do I.”

“Look, I’m sorry.” Seth moves swiftly to him, places his hands on Alex’s shoulder and chest. “I put you in a shitty position. I won’t do it again. But I can’t do this without you.”

Sadly, Alex realizes that this part is familiar, too. Seth does something inconsiderate or thoughtless, lets it stew, and then grows remorseful and pleads for a second chance.

“We need each other,” Seth says. “There’s a reason we came back together after all that time.”

Alex wants to believe that. He gave up on a relationship with Trevor--a relationship that he once believed would be the last one he ever entered--largely because of Seth’s return. He would like to believe that this is it. But these days, that is so far from the truth that it isn’t even funny.

Seth’s hand curves over Alex’s pectoral muscle. Alex jerks away. It isn’t that he is no longer vulnerable to Seth’s pattern; the fact that he is vulnerable to it is what makes a change necessary.

“I’m going to spend some time at my own place,” he says, holding the armful of his belongings out in front of him. “It’ll give you some time to think.”

“Think about what? I know everything I need to know. I want to do this--with you.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s true.”

Alex returns to the front door and struggles to open it. Seth wedges through and turns the knob for him.

“Let me help you carry that stuff,” Seth says.

Alex pushes past him and out of the apartment. “I can do it myself.”


“Not that I know of,” Ryan says, though Claire can see his mind in gear as he speaks.

“Think about it,” Claire presses. Ryan has to know more than her. He was not only Nick’s son, but his business associate.

“What is this about? What makes you think there’s someone else?”

“Someone got Nick out of the hospital alive,” she says. “Someone hired those guards who held us at the restaurant. And the same person posed as Tim’s father when he was checked into that clinic as Tom Clayton.”

Ryan absorbs this information but says nothing. Claire’s body tenses. He owes them this, after the way he lied to her and allowed Tim to suffer. If not for Ryan’s lies, Nick might never have exacted his final revenge scheme, and Brent would still have his leg, and Sarah’s baby would have been born healthy…

She snaps. “Dammit, Ryan! Tell me what you know. It’s the least you can do for all the people whose lives you damaged so badly.”

“I don’t know anything.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes! Claire, if there were someone out there who could hurt my family even worse than they’ve already been hurt, and I knew who that person was, don’t you think I would do my best to stop them?”

She would like to think so. But after last year’s events, she doesn’t even know who he is. Unsure of what else to do, she paces over the carpet.

“There are a thousand people it could be,” Ryan says. “It’s just… none of them really seem like they’d have enough of a stake in any of this to care, let alone do the things that this person has done.”

“Who are they?”

“People my father did business with. All kinds of people. Claire, it’s not any of them.”

“Then who is it?” She stops pacing and stares him dead in the eyes. “This goes far back. Someone helped Nick put Tim in that clinic. The same person owned--or was at least involved with--my father’s compound in Brazil. Ryan, we thought my father might still be out there at first…”


“I know.” Her eyes plead with him but produce no results. Maybe he really doesn’t know anything concrete or useful.

“I barely ever knew anything beyond the immediate work I was doing,” Ryan says. “Nick was willing to drag me into his business, but he never trusted me enough to let me in on the big picture.”

If that is truly the case, there is no point to her being here. Claire moves for the door without another word.

“I’m sorry. I wish I could help,” Ryan calls out from the living room.

“So do I,” she says as she opens the front door and walks briskly away from Nick’s house.


Should Brent respect Molly’s wishes and stop the investigation?
Does Ryan really not know anything?
Should Alex give Seth another chance?
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