Episode #586

- Molly and Philip arrived at his mother Loretta’s estate in advance of her charity masquerade ball.
- Upon learning that Molly went away with Philip, Brent decided to go to New Hampshire and confront Loretta. He tried to persuade Claire to come with him, but because of her obligations to Tempest, she declined.
- Feeling pressured by all Claire’s plans for her, Tempest left a note and ran away.
- Cassandra informed her ex, JD, that Tim was asking questions about the Equinox diamond ring. JD’s response was to show up in King’s Bay, corner Tim in a dark parking garage, and threaten his children. Tim left Cassandra a message telling her what happened, then decided to fill in Brent and the police, as well.


“Wake up...”

The words drift into Philip Ragan’s unconscious and carry him, bit by bit, to the land of the waking.

“Philip... wake up...”

When he opens his eyes, they are nearly burned out by the sharpest burst of sunlight he has ever encountered. It cascades in through the open blinds of his bedroom window, filling the room like a flash flood.

“I couldn’t sleep,” the voice says from somewhere above him.

Philip strains to gather his wits. “Isn’t it morning?”

“It’s really early.”

His vision adjusts enough to make out the form of Molly Taylor, standing over his bed. Whatever words his brain have been toying with turn to dust at the sight of her. She wears a light green negligee, trimmed with darker lace, that hits the middle of her thighs; her mane of almost-black hair looks as though it has spent the last few hours tossing and turning in bed.

“Are you, um, are you going to get up for the day?” he asks, tripping over every syllable.

“I don’t know.” She seats herself on the bed, and the negligee creeps up, revealing millimeter after millimeter of tanned, firm skin. “I just want to... hang out for a while.”

“Okay.” Philip knows that he is staring, but he cannot stop.

“Maybe I’ll just lie down,” Molly says. “I am still tired.”

Before Philip can process what is going on, she is stretching out beside him, the barest minimum of inches separating their bodies. Philip lies on his side, attempting to be a gentleman and keep his focus on her face.

“Why are you being so weird?” she asks. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“What? No. Why would I be--” He stops talking when he feels her hand on his hip.

Her eyes trace their way downward, over his covered body. “You know you want to do this.”

He cannot stop gawking at the way her arms push her breasts together, accentuating the cleavage. “Do what?” he croaks out.

Molly simply smiles and runs her hand further down his leg, then back up past his hip and over the side of his torso. Even through the comforter, her touch is electric.

She’s still married, he reminds himself. And she’s hurting right now. “Are you sure you want to?” he forces himself to ask.

“Yes.” Her fingers reach up and pull back the comforter. “Absolutely. Yes.”

Philip rolls his head back, waiting for the inevitable touch--

And when his eyes open again, all he sees is that damned sunlight.

He is lying on his back and breathing hard. No Molly. No... anything. Except for the feverish current pulsing through his body. The rest might have been a dream, but that--that is very real.

He closes his eyes, both to block out the aggressive light and to try and escape back into his dream. He knows that he is not supposed to be thinking these things, that Molly is married and that she trusts him as a friend, but his body does not care about any of that at the moment. He allows the images of the dream to wash over him--Molly in that negligee, the morning sunlight caressing every inch of her exposed skin... He remembers how alive it felt when she stroked her hand over his leg.

Philip’s fingertips graze over his bare chest. His brain and his body are screaming all sorts of things at him. Underneath the comforter, his hand moves lower. His thumb hooks under the waistband of his boxer briefs and yanks them down. He groans at the mere act of wrapping his fist--

The bedroom door flies open. Philip pulls his hand back and flips onto his side.

The young man who enters the room snickers. “What are you doing in here, bro?” Spencer Ragan asks with a knowing smirk.


“Uh-huh.” Spencer levels a gaze on him, just lets it linger there, as if he knows something and is relishing every second that he has a leg up on Philip. It is something their father used to do, too. Even though seventeen-year-old Spencer is not old enough to remember the man, it is amazing how the trait managed to be passed on.

“Did you just arrive?” Philip asks, eager to turn the subject to anything other than what he was doing when his brother walked in.

“A few minutes ago. Mother told me to come say hello. I think that was her passive-aggressive way of saying you should get the hell up already.”

“I will.” Philip clutches his pillow tightly. “I’m on vacation.”

Spencer wanders through the room with the careful attention of a first-time visitor, despite having been in here countless times. Brown eyes peek out from beneath his head of shaggy, dark hair, which Loretta will no doubt insist that he cut before the ball.

“So who’s the broad?” Spencer asks.

“I told you, I was--”

“The one sitting on the veranda having coffee. I met her when I came in.” The teenager lets out a cruel little laugh. “So she was the one you were thinking about--”

“She’s a friend. A coworker.”

“She’s hot.” The smirk returns. “I’d ask if you were hitting that, but based on what you were--”

“Enough.” Philip shoots to a sitting position. “I’ll be downstairs in a few minutes. Try not to scare Molly off before then.”

“Can’t promise anything,” Spencer says as he turns and exits the room.

Philip sits on the edge of the bed, trying to center his thoughts--and will his body into behaving so that he can go downstairs and begin the day.


The knock on the door sends dueling shivers through Cassandra Ward’s body: one of relief, that she can finally deal with this, and another of terror, because God only knows how this is going to go.

She yanks open the door to find, as expected, JD Robinson standing there. “Get in here,” she snaps, checking to make sure the hallway is clear behind him.

“Morning,” JD says as she deftly closes the door. “You look like hell.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t sleep much. It’s kind of difficult when you’re worried about your entire life falling apart around you.”

“The hell are you talking about?”

Cassandra catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror above the desk where her laptop sits. Her hair is a mess of volume and curls; her eyes are puffy and lifeless. She wears a pair of champagne-colored silk pajamas, but no matter how comfortable they might be, she was hardly able to get any rest all night long.

“What are you even doing here? In King’s Bay?” she asks.

“Just a quick trip. I had something to take care of.”

“Let me guess: you had to threaten Tim and his children. Great. Good work, genius.” The words fly out of her with abandon. How could he be so stupid as to jeopardize both of them this way?

She reminds herself what an animal JD is--how this mess happened in the first place. She would have told him to meet her in the hotel’s restaurant, but she would prefer not to be seen with him. Besides, he has enough to lose here that she doesn’t think he will try anything crazy. Still, she needs to remember not to agitate him any further.

“He told you.” JD nods his head as he processes this information. “Stupid son of a bitch told you? He really is an idiot.”

“JD! That is enough. This has to stop. We can’t have Tim talking to anyone about this--especially not the police. His brother-in-law is the police commander! If anyone digs into this--”

Another knock on the door cuts her off mid-sentence. They both freeze, mouths agape, limbs in the middle of movement.

Cassandra gathers her wits enough to hold up a finger, telling JD to remain quiet, and then creeps over to the door to look through the peephole. And if she thought things were bad before she looked, they are even worse now: because standing outside her door are two police officers.


No matter how many times Claire Fisher re-reads the note, it never tells her anything new. It never answers any of the thousand questions surging through her mind.

“We’ll do everything we can to find her,” Brent Taylor tells her as he puts away his cell phone.

Claire sets down the index card bearing Tempest’s note on the kitchen table. She pulls her robe tighter around her body and looks idly out the window; the half-light of early morning is finally giving way to what looks like it might be a nice spring day. “Did you file a Missing Persons Report? Or put out an APB, or whatever it is you’re supposed to do in situations like this?”

“She’s being looked for,” Brent says. “It’s a little tricky because she’s a minor and not in your custody, but...”

The thought has been nagging at Claire, but to hear him vocalize it crystallizes her fears. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No. I mean...” He trails off, and she can see him searching for just the right words. “I have people looking for her. We can’t force her to come back here if she doesn’t want to, though.”

Claire sinks onto the couch and drops her head into her hands. She keeps replaying last night in her head, attempting to understand what she said or did that drove Tempest to run away.

“All I wanted to do was help her,” she says, as much to herself as to Brent. “Give her some stability.”

“And that’s admirable. But you have no idea what this girl has been through, or what kind of life she comes from.”

“Not a very good one.”

“Exactly. You can’t fix seventeen years of shit with a few weeks of kindness and some meals.”

“I know. And she wouldn’t tell me much. If I had just been able to get her to open up...” She recalls how bedraggled Tempest looked the night Claire picked her up at that diner, and how little she spoke even as they became accustomed to one another. “I just hope she’s okay. That’s it. As long as she’s safe...”

Brent sits down beside her and places a comforting hand on her back. Someone without his experience in law enforcement might offer words of encouragement or even optimism. Brent does none of that. He simply gives her his presence.

They are jolted from their silent contemplation when his cell phone rings. He grabs it from his pocket, checks the screen, and quickly answers.

“This is Commander Taylor.” He listens, the lines in his brow deepening with every second that passes. “Are you sure? There’s nothing they can do? It isn’t even--”

Whoever is on the other end cuts him off. And when he throws a sideways glance at Claire, it confirms her worst fears.


The grounds spread out enticingly before Philip as he exits one of the house’s back doors. It is already a gorgeous morning, and his sunglasses help with the vibrant sting of the relentless sunlight. He finds Molly sitting on the veranda, as Spencer said, reading a newspaper. She smiles when she spots him.

“I was beginning to wonder where you were,” she says. “Sleeping late strikes me as uncharacteristic for you.”

“I suppose my body had some catching up to do. I’m sorry. Have you been up long?”

She waves off his concerns. “A few hours. I’ve been enjoying my coffee and the newspaper. Your mother gave me everything I needed. She went for a walk, I think.”

Philip takes in the sight of her. She wears a fitted white polo shirt and a navy tennis skirt that shows off her legs, which look quite similar to how they did in his dream. Philip attempts to shake off the distracting association.

“You met my brother, I heard,” he says.

“Briefly, yeah. He was very polite.”

“Spencer is nothing if not well-mannered when necessary. What would you like to do today?”

“I was hoping we could play some tennis, actually.” She stands, picking up her coffee cup. “I’ll go put this in the kitchen, and then maybe we could try that? I haven’t played in years.”

“I’ll go easy on you,” he says with a smile.

“You’ll need to.” Molly stares out over the grounds, at the rich green grass and the well-maintained tennis court in the distance. “You know, I could get used to this. What a morning.”

Philip tries not to take the words to heart. She just means she’s enjoying her morning, he reminds himself. Not anything else.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” she says before disappearing into the house with her empty cup.

“I could get used to this,” a voice mimes from behind Philip. He turns around to see Spencer’s sneering face.  

“Leave it alone,” he tells his brother.

“Are you sure she’s married? ‘Cause if you don’t want her, I’ll--”

“Spencer. Cut it out.” Philip pushes past him and goes into the house. The last thing he needs right now is a devil sitting on his shoulder, encouraging his most unseemly urges.


“I’m so sorry about that,” Cassandra says as she admits the two uniformed officers into her suite. “I was just getting up for the day.”

“Sorry about the hour,” the female officer says. “We have a few questions for you, Ms. Ward.”

Cassandra ties the robe closed over her pajamas. “Of course. Do you mind me asking what this is about?”

The male officer takes out a notepad. “Has your ex-husband contacted you recently?”

“I last spoke to him a few days ago. It was very quick. But not since then.”

“He’s in King’s Bay,” the man says as he jots something down with a pencil. “You should be careful.”

“Why? What happened?” Cassandra thinks she pulls off the shock fairly convincingly. Her anxiety is already running rampant, so it is not that difficult to conjure the rest.

The officers exchange a look but offer no details. Cassandra does her best not to glance at the hallway closet, where JD is hiding.

“Would you be able to give us his phone number?” the female officer asks.

“Um... I suppose so.” Cassandra retrieves her phone and pulls up JD’s number. She reads it to the officers, who note it. “That’s his cell number. He changes it a lot, so I hope it’s still good.”

“Thanks,” the male officer says. “What about this... Equinox ring? Is that something you own? We’ve been led to believe that it has something to do with your ex-husband’s actions.”

“What did JD do?” she asks, again not having to fake that hard--because there is no telling what Tim didn’t mention, or what JD did after that call.

Another look passes between the officers. “He issued some threats,” the woman says. “About the ring: where is it? Is that what JD is after?”

Cassandra hesitates but knows that she has to tell the truth. “It’s in a safe deposit box in Houston.”

They ask her a few more questions, nothing too probing. She cannot shake the feeling that they are here more to read her than for information--as if they hope to learn something about JD simply by seeing how she reacts. She thinks that she does a fairly good job of maintaining her cool and not giving anything away until they are gone.

When they finally leave, she counts to ten before she opens the closet door. Thankfully, JD seems to be thinking the same way, and he waits for her to open the door rather than bursting out.

“Your boyfriend called the damn police?” he says. “Are you kidding?”

“I told you his brother-in-law is the police commander. That’s why we need to let this go. It doesn’t matter. Tim and I are... we’re done, I think.”

JD shakes his head, but the next words out of his mouth have nothing to do with Tim: “So that’s where the ring is, huh?”

“I told you I hadn’t sold it yet,” she says. “It would’ve looked too suspicious if I turned around and sold it right after my mother... Just go, okay? And stay away from Tim. This is only going to get us into trouble.”

JD strolls toward the door. “I think it’s about time you sold the ring. And gave me my cut of it.”

“For what? JD, I’ve given you more than enough--”

“Just wanna make sure I don’t accidentally say something. You know how I get with money. I see enough of it, I can’t hardly think about anything else. Only way to shut me up.”

She wants to smack him for being so stupid and transparent--or smack herself for ever having married him in the first place--but instead she just opens the door. “Go. Get out of King’s Bay, leave Tim alone, and don’t make any more trouble.”

He crosses the threshold but then turns back. “I’m gonna give you a call about that ring.”

“You’re not getting the ring. Or the money,” she says as she closes the door in his face.


Claire cannot even breathe as she waits for Brent to finish his call.

“Thanks for trying,” he says dejectedly before ending the call. He keeps the phone clutched in his hand.

“What is it?” she asks. “Did they find Tempest?” There are a million other thoughts she wants to add to that, but she cannot bring herself to verbalize any of them.

Brent shakes his head. “It was my contact in New Hampshire. I was trying to see if they could have a few officers at least back me up at Loretta’s, in case anything goes wrong.”

While she is relieved that it was not bad news about Tempest, this newest information is not exactly welcome, either. “You’re really going to go? What are you even going to do?”

“I’m going to confront her. Force her to confess.” He bounces the cell phone up and down in his palm. “Let’s face it: for all the things Loretta has pulled, she’s not expecting to come face-to-face with any of us.”

Claire does not know how to respond. In isolation, the plan makes some kind of twisted sense, but there also seems to be an incredibly wide margin for error. Especially if Brent goes in there alone.

“I’m coming with you,” she blurts out.

Brent leans back and stares at her in shock. “What?”

“I can’t just sit here waiting for news. I need to--I need to do something. And I can’t let you go after Loretta alone.”

“Are you sure?”

“You wanted me to come originally, didn’t you? If we hear anything about Tempest, I can fly back. But I can’t keep sitting here, wondering and thinking...” She doesn’t even know where this declaration has come from, but now that it is out, she is convinced that it is the right thing to do. “I’m going with you, and we’re going to figure out what the hell Loretta is up to, once and for all.”

“If you’re sure,” Brent says, his acceptance still tentative. “Go pack a bag.”

Claire stands up to go do exactly that.


Will Philip be able to resist Molly for the rest of their trip?
Are Brent and Claire asking for trouble going to Loretta’s?
Will the police interruption scare JD into backing off?
Discuss this episode and more in the Footprints Forum!

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