Episode #550

- Lauren began dating photographer Philip Ragan.
- Tim gave his family copies of Ryan’s book to read.
- Distraught over having been fired by Jason, Sabrina came to see Seth.



Seth Ashby scrambles back into his T-shirt. “I know you’re bummed about getting fired,” he tells Sabrina Gage. “Like I said, I’m here if you wanna talk--”

“I don’t want to fucking talk!” She rises from the ground, adjusting her clothes. “Why does everybody always want to talk?”

Her outburst stuns Seth silent. It also confirms that he was right to stop what was about to happen between them, no matter how good it felt. Sabrina is, at the very least, on edge right now. He might like sex, but not enough to enjoy it with someone who is falling apart in front of him.

“Have fun with your hand,” she snaps, storming out of the apartment.

Seth chases her out to the landing and desperately hopes that none of his neighbors can hear this. “Are you sure you should be driving like this?”

“I’m fucking fine! Leave me alone!” she yells, as her hand juts out to thwack him in the chest.

He backs off in defeat. “Whatever.” He glances out the window and realizes that his car is blocking hers in. “I’ll go move my car.”

Sabrina turns her back to him, apparently not even interested in following him outside. She remains on the landing as he goes out to the driveway. It’d be nice if she came out so that he could let her out and then pull into the space, but he would rather not push her right now. He’ll park on the street and move into the driveway later or something.

As he gets behind the wheel, he can see her through the window, standing at the top of the staircase with her arms folded. Something about that chick is off. Very off.

He is still watching her when he starts the car and steps on the gas and--

“Shit!” he says to himself as the car lurches forward instead of backward, bumping into Sabrina’s fender. The trunk pops open, as if needing to underline his screw-up.

He looks immediately to the window and holds up his hands in apology, then backs the car up and gets out to survey the damage. There doesn’t appear to be any--it was only a tap. He raises the trunk to build some force to close it.

And that’s when he sees it.

A big bag, tucked toward the back of the trunk, blanketed by the dark of night but illuminated just enough by the streetlight. His eyes catch the word on the bag right off the bat, but then he has to squint to locate it, to confirm he really saw it. Rodenticide.

The entire world slides into slow-motion as Seth takes this in. Sabrina poisoned Courtney. He doesn’t know how or why, but it all fits together. It makes sense. He glances back up to find Sabrina watching the scene, standing there in the window beside that stupid vase that the landlord put on display... but he can’t tell if she recognizes his discovery or is simply watching to make sure her car is okay.

He hurriedly shuts the trunk and makes an exaggerated gesture to tell her that the car is fine. Numbness courses through his body as he tries to act as normal as possible and returns to his car. His hands and feet tremble as he starts the car, backs it out of the driveway, and parks on the street.

As he returns to the house, his brain fires off instructions about how to walk, how to keep his arms at his sides and act normally. It even gives him the idea to look at Sabrina’s bumper once more, just to make sure it is unblemished--as if he cares about that now. All he wants is to get her the hell out of here so that he can call Jason and Courtney and the police.

Climbing the stairs back to his apartment is an extraordinary effort. His heart feels ready to explode from his chest. He wonders if Sabrina will be able to hear it pounding.

“Sorry about that,” he says. Every syllable feels like running a marathon. “Doesn’t look like there’s a mark on your car. But if you see anything, just let me know...”

“I’m sure it’s fine.” She folds her arms in front of her. “But I think there’s something else that you and I need to discuss.”



“Thanks for dinner,” Lauren Brooks says as she and Philip Ragan exit the hotel’s restaurant.

“Thanks for meeting me at such an abominable hour,” Philip says. “I almost didn’t call you when I left Objection because I thought it would be too late.”

Lauren smiles at him. “Well, I’m glad you did.”

Philip takes her hand as they stroll through the lobby. Lauren sneaks a sideways glance at him and, as usual, is taken aback by how handsome he is. Tonight he wears a black cashmere sweater and designer jeans; the outfit is nothing out of the ordinary, but Philip manages to look like a model even now.

In the middle of the elegant lobby, Philip stops walking. It takes Lauren another two steps to realize that he is no longer in step beside her.

“Now,” he says, “the question of the night becomes: what next?”

Slick as he is... he isn’t that slick. Lauren understands exactly what he is asking. Or thinks she does. “What are my choices?” she asks innocently.

“Seeing as how it’s practically the middle of the night, I was going to invite you up to see my room. Have a drink, you know...”

“I do know.” She pushes her mouth out into what she hopes is a casual, amused grin, though behind it, her mouth is dry and her heart is pounding. They have been out a few times now, and Philip has kissed her, but it has never gone beyond that.

“I’m open to other suggestions,” he says, probably catching sight of her trepidation.

“I think most of King’s Bay has been closed for hours,” she says, “and my parents are back at the house for a few weeks...” She feels like such a loser admitting that. She’s how old and still lives at her parents’ house? Even if they are always off traveling and never there, it is still their house. And here is Philip, staying in this expensive hotel, traveling back and forth to New York all the time. They aren’t even in the same league.

“Then what you’re saying is, up to my room we go?”

She nods, and Philip leads the way toward the elevator bank. Lauren hopes that this is the right thing to do.



Courtney Chase lifts her head from her pillow. As soon as Jason Fisher notices the movement out of the corner of his eye, he sets his book aside. “Do you need anything?” he asks.

“More water,” she says as she pulls herself to a sitting position.

He springs out of his chair. “I’ll get it.”

“No, I’ve got it.” She picks up the empty bottle and stands. “Seriously. I’m fine.”

Jason eyes her suspiciously. Since returning home from the hospital, she has spent most of her time on the couch or in bed. Jason is more than happy to do as much as she needs him to do, if it means that her recovery will be swift and complete.

“I don’t want you to wear yourself out,” he says, still on his feet.

Courtney moves toward the kitchen. “I think I can handle this. Just keep an ear out for the baby.”

He watches her exit the room and, finally, with his ears attuned to the baby monitor resting on the coffee table, returns to his reading. He turns the page just as Courtney returns with her refilled bottle.

“How is it?” she asks, gesturing at the book.

“It’s...” Jason folds the book closed, holding his page with his index finger. “It’s interesting. Like, I read this and it sounds like the Ryan I remember talking to every day, when he worked at the arena and everything was normal.”

“And pretty much that whole time, he was planning to let Tim go to jail for a murder that Ryan thought he committed.”

“Yeah.” As many times as Jason ping-pongs between the two sides of this issue, he never manages to land in the middle. Maybe there is no reconciling the Ryan he thought he knew with the man he turned out to be. “I guess I just thought this thing would be gross, like him blaming all of us or saying it wasn’t his fault or something. But it’s not like that.”

Courtney lies back down on the couch. “He didn’t magically become a hundred percent evil on the day you found out what he’d done.”

“I know. And I feel like... yeah, he screwed up. Epically. But I read this and I feel like a jackass for holding it over his head for so long.”

“Don’t. You’re entitled to feel however you feel. And no matter how well he writes--”

“Or how well Cassandra writes--”

“Or that. No matter how good it is, he still did all that stuff.”

“Yeah.” He falls silent, thoughts swimming through his head nonstop. “I don’t even know. This thing is too confusing to read so late at night.” He closes the book and tosses it onto the coffee table. “Think you have the energy to make it upstairs?”

Courtney sits up and grabs the baby monitor. “I think I can manage that much. Unless you want to give me a piggyback ride...”

He shakes his head but then moves over to the couch so that she can climb aboard. “You are so lucky you got poisoned,” he says as he carries her toward the stairs.



Sabrina’s eyes burn into Seth. “There’s something else you and I need to discuss,” she says.

“Like I said, if you want to talk about the job thing,” Seth says, forcing out every word and trying his hardest not to run into the apartment and lock the door behind him, “I’m here. But maybe you should go home and rest.”

He moves for his apartment, ready to get the hell away from her. But she grabs him by the arm.

“I said we need to talk.”


“What did you see down there?”

Seth chokes on whatever excuse his brain pumps out first. He jerks his arm out of her grasp. “I--I told you there aren’t even any marks on your car. If you find anything--”

“You know what I’m talking about.” Teeth gritted, she stares right through him.

“No, I don’t.”

“Do not fuck with me, Seth.”

He doesn’t know how he managed not to see it until now: she is completely out of her mind. He half-expects her head to burst into flames.

“Why did you do it?” he asks, throwing all pretense to the wind. “Why do you hate Courtney so much?”

“How could you not?” The most terrifying laugh gurgles out of her throat. “Are you people blind? She has everyone snowed, and I don’t know how.”

Seth cannot even believe this is happening. This woman with whom he has worked for more than a year---he had sex with her--she has been completely off her rocker this whole time.

“You’re sick,” he spits, too stunned to move.

She turns her back to him. When she speaks, her voice is quieter, sadder. “I know. But you don’t understand. You couldn’t.”

No shit, he thinks. He reaches into his pocket and feels his cell phone. He has to call Jason, has to let him know what’s going on. Without bothering to say anything else to this lunatic, he breaks for his apartment door-

And Sabrina swings around. Seth catches sight of a flash of color--that damn vase in her hands--before it collides with his face. The force knocks him to the ground. The whole world looks like broken glass, and his face feels like--God, his face--

“You are a fucking maniac!” he yells, but the words are too big for his mouth. Through the blood, he can see Sabrina grinning down at him.

His hands fumble for something, anything, to help him up. He grabs hold of the end of the banister and struggles to his feet.

“Don’t even think about it,” Sabrina says, and the next thing Seth knows, her shoe is slamming into his face.

The world spins around him, and he feels himself tumbling backward, but there is nothing he can do to stop it. The ground gives out from under him, and he vaguely remembers that there are stairs here, but his feet cannot find them--

And then everything goes black.



Philip’s room is only a few steps from the elevators. He swiftly opens the door with the card key and holds it open so that Lauren can enter first. She thanks him as she steps into the ornate room where he has been staying while he is in King’s Bay for business.

“I’ve lived here for so many years, and I’ve eaten downstairs so many times, and I’ve never seen the inside of these rooms,” she says. “Isn’t that weird?”

“You aren’t missing too much,” Philip says with a shrug. He strides over to the minibar. “Care for a drink?”

Please.” She worries that it comes out too fast, too desperate. “Whatever you have is fine.”

She watches him pour their vodka-sodas. His back is broad, or at least his shoulders are, and his form tapers down toward the waist. Lauren admires his form and decides that she most certainly wants to sample it if given the chance. She is not sure how she wound up in the hotel room of a man who looks like this, but she is a lucky girl.

Philip turns and hands her a drink. Thanking him, she takes the glass and holds it aloft. “To new friends,” she toasts.

“Friends, hmm?” he says with a glint in his eye.

“That is what we are, isn’t it?” she asks with exaggerated naïveté.

“You tell me.” He wraps his arms around her waist. “Do friends do this?”

“Some friends do...”

“Or this?” He plants a kiss upon her lips. It is little more than a touch, but something about it electrifies Lauren, sending a current through her body.

“Some friends are weird,” she says with a smile.

Philip takes a sip of his drink. “I don’t know what kind of friends you have, Lauren Brooks.”

“Very friendly, obviously.”

With a little laugh, he moves back in toward her. “If they do this, then I think they’re lying to you.” This time, when he kisses her, it is much more than a touch. His mouth presses into hers, parting her lips and making it clear what his intention was in inviting her up to his room.

His hands begin to travel over her body. She tries not to flinch or feel awkward under his touch. She does want to do this... looking at him, feeling him against her, she has no doubt that this is something she wants. But is it something that she should do? She has not slept with very many guys, and she suspects that Philip is fairly experienced. She is probably small time compared to the women he has been with.

Philip eases her toward the bed. She doesn’t resist. But as he settles on top of her, Lauren wonders if this is something she really wants to do. Could she see herself being with him? She hasn’t made a habit of sleeping with just anyone up to this point in her life, and she doesn’t see that changing.

But it isn’t as if Philip is some guy she just met in a bar tonight. And she wants to do this. Shouldn’t that be enough? So she kisses him back, hard, enough to make him aware that she does want this.



The body crashes down the stairs. With each slap of flesh and bone against wood, Shannon Parish’s panic escalates. She freezes, too shocked by what she has done even to move. She expects one of the neighbors’ doors to open any second, bringing someone out to catch her.

But after Seth hits the ground at the bottom, it is quiet. Dead silent. No doors open, no one comes rushing out. Maybe they are out or asleep or just assholes.

She has to get out of here. She thinks of tiptoeing down the stairs, but a quick escape seems even more crucial, and if she is caught, at least it would seem like she were rushing toward Seth. She rockets down the stairs, her legs quivering beneath her.

He lies there, unmoving, battered. Guilt swells within her. She never wanted him to get hurt. He has been nice to her, certainly a fun distraction from her troubles. He even cared enough to want to talk about Sabrina’s firing. He might be her only friend.

But a friend wouldn’t turn on her. A friend wouldn’t sell her out. A friend would understand why she did what she did to Courtney.

After another glance at the neighbors’ closed doors, she kneels down and lowers her ear to his mouth. She hears a shallow exhale, followed by a soft intake of breath. At such close range, she can see the subtle rising and falling of his chest. He is alive.

She considers putting an end to that. Then he will not be able to sell her out. She couldn’t-- No. She couldn’t do that to him. She will have to leave it to nature. Let it take its course. In the meantime, she will have to act fast. If Seth becomes a problem, she will handle him later.

Her whole body weak from the onslaught of adrenaline, she rushes out of the building and into her car. She speeds off into the night, not sure what she should be praying for.


Will Seth be the undoing of Shannon’s plans?
Can Lauren and Philip have a future together?
Will Jason ever accept Ryan back into his life?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to discuss!

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