Episode #592

- Travis requested Ryan’s help in reuniting Danielle and Elly so that Elly would attend college in King’s Bay, but Ryan advised him not to try and manipulate the situation.
- Philip brought Molly to his family home in New Hampshire for his mother’s annual masked ball for charity, and his feelings for her grew deeper.
- Brent and Claire flew to New Hampshire, determined to confront Loretta about her vendetta against the Fishers once and for all.


The sun sits high in the afternoon sky, a proud, glowing majesty overseeing the intricate preparations below. Down on the grounds of the Ragan estate, vans slide in and out of the driveway and workers parade in and out of the house, executing an expert routine that will transform the already grand home into an opulent party hall.

The wild clamor of dogs barking cuts through the air. It brings Loretta Ragan surging out the front door.

“Will someone please put the dogs in the pen out back?” she demands, looking to the pair of American Pit Bull Terriers, one black and one fawn, chained up in the front of the house.

A member of the grounds crew obliges, but not before another series of barks shreds at Loretta’s consciousness. She certainly appreciates having the dogs around for security purposes, but at times like this, when she has so many logistics to consider with tonight’s function on the horizon, she has no tolerance for obnoxious distractions like these canines’ indiscriminant barking.

She surveys the activity around her just in time to see a florist’s assistant carrying an arrangement toward her.

“What in the name of God is that?” Loretta asks.

“These are the centerpiece flowers,” the assistant says, already recoiling but maintaining a pleasant smile with some difficulty.

Those are the bearded irises?” Loretta looks at the flowers from several angles. “I insisted upon the black ones. These are--they’re practically red!”

“There are no true black bearded irises, ma’am. They all reflect some degree of red or purple--”

“And I requested ones that reflect as little red as possible! These are practically soaked in blood.” She gives the arrangement another look, then waves it away with her hand. “Just bring it inside. It’s too late now to change anything. I hope my guests will enjoy enough champagne not to care.”

With a scowl, she sends the assistant on his way.

“That was surprisingly tame of you,” Philip Ragan says as he emerges from around the corner of the house.

Loretta turns to greet her son, clad in a brilliantly white polo shirt and a pair of madras shorts.

“I would’ve thought you would send the flowers back,” he says.

“There isn’t time.” She sighs. “And I have greater things with which to concern myself.”

Philip eyes her curiously. “Such as?”

“Being certain that everything comes off as planned, that’s all. This ball becomes a bigger and bigger undertaking every year, I swear.”

“And whose doing is that?”

He has always loved to challenge her this way. Loretta simply opts to change the subject.

“What have you and Molly been up to today?” she asks.

“I took her down to the stables, and we did a bit of riding. It’s been a wonderful trip so far.”

He is so stricken with this woman that he might as well have cartoon hearts revolving around his head. Normally, Loretta would be pleased to see her son happy, but not under these circumstances.

“You need to extract yourself from this situation,” she says. “Molly is a very nice woman, but this is absolutely wrong for you.”

Philip’s response is weak, drowned somehow. “We’re friends. Business associates.”

“It’s more than that, and we both know it. Philip, she’s a married woman.”

He cracks under her gaze. “Her marriage is on its last legs. And so far--” His tongue trips over whatever half-baked thought he is about to spew at her.

“I don’t want you involved with her.”

“Why, Mother? What do you have against Molly?”

Perfectly valid reasons flare inside Loretta’s head: Because of what her family has done to us. Because she’s far too close to us now. Because those people... She forces the thoughts aside and offers a genteel smile instead.

“It’s unseemly,” she says. “And you can do far better. Enjoy your weekend with her, but when you return to King’s Bay, you’d be wise to break things off with her. For that matter, why have you even stayed in that horrid little town?”

Again, he struggles to answer.

“That’s what I thought.” Loretta turns to head back inside the house. “If you’ll excuse me, I have plenty to do before the party gets underway. I trust that you’ll be ready by seven.”

“Of course,” he says, dipping his head slightly in a show of respect as she disappears back into the house.


Through the sliding glass door, Ryan Moriani watches Danielle Taylor walk back and forth over the same small area of the deck, phone pressed to her ear. Finally she hangs up and reenters the house.

“I didn’t want her to hear the boys, if they came running in or something,” Danielle says.

“You just told her they were with Brent?” Ryan asks.

Danielle nods. “She was wondering why she couldn’t get him on the phone. I told her I’d have him call later. I’ll figure it out.”

“That’s a pretty shitty position for your brother to put you in.”

“I won’t disagree. But this is incredibly important to him, and he’s trying to protect Molly. He’s protecting all of us, really.” She flips her blonde hair from one side of her head to the other. He can tell that lying to Molly was far more stressful than she is letting on. “Molly will understand once it’s over. It isn’t like Brent dumped the boys on me so he could go live it up in Vegas.”


Ryan’s mind floods with thoughts of Brent and Claire’s mission. He still does not know this Loretta person could have been around for so many years without his knowledge; she obviously had some connection to his father that Nick went to great lengths to conceal. But why?

“It’s just odd to see them fall apart this way,” Danielle continues. “When I moved back here, Brent and Molly seemed rock-solid. I never, ever thought they’d split up. It makes me think, if even they couldn’t make it...”

“Maybe they will,” he says, though he knows how unlikely that is, given all that has happened. “Regardless, don’t project what happened in your brother’s life onto your own. They’re two entirely separate things.”

“I know.” She takes a seat at the kitchen table. Even in a sweatshirt and jeans, with no makeup on, her beauty stuns Ryan. There is something so refreshing and unlabored about it, about her, and it impresses him even more knowing what she has been through. He hates the idea that she might decide not to be with him just because her brother’s marriage didn’t work out.

“So, here’s a question,” Ryan says, a knot growing tighter in his stomach with every millisecond. It has always been like this: he cannot resist the urge to say these things once they occur to him, but the act of doing so--and the fear of what comes next--is so painful that it almost overrides that urge. Almost. “Since we’re talking about Molly and Brent and their relationship. What do you see for yourself, down the road?”

“In terms of relationships?”


“I’d like to be in one, obviously.” She smiles at him.

“What about... marriage?” He feels crazy even speaking the word, but right now, he needs to know where she stands on the issue. He’d be lying if he told himself he had not entertained the thought a time or ten.

She narrows her eyes at him, suspicion dancing inside them, but she does not vocalize it. “It’s not something I would rule out. If it were the right time, the right circumstances...”

“I’m not trying to propose to you, let’s be clear on that.” They both laugh, and he is suddenly able to breathe a bit more. “But it is something I’ve thought about--where I want to end up, in what way, and all that.”

“You do want to get married, then.”

“Absolutely. I mean... I would have married Claire, if I’d had my way.”

Danielle seems engaged with the conversation, which Ryan takes to be a very good sign. She asks, “What about your marriage that didn’t work out? Does it scare you at all that history could repeat itself?”

For once, he is one hundred percent confident in his answer: “No. Because I got married just to get married. If I’m honest with myself, it was as much about Claire as anything. I missed her and I wanted to fill the void. Now all of that is behind me.”

“I wonder if Andy and I would still be together,” she says, her voice all of a sudden distant. “I guess I knew it wasn’t right to marry him in the first place.”

He takes a seat kitty-corner from her and covers her hand with one of his. “Someday we’ll be grown-ups and figure this stuff out.”

“Yeah. Someday.” She squeezes his hand. “To be honest, I’m glad you don’t have it in your head to propose right now.”

Ryan makes an exaggerated wince. “Ouch.”

“No, no. I mean, too much about my life is up in the air to make a decision of that magnitude. I can’t be a nanny for my brother’s kids forever. And this situation with Elly... If I were to get married, I wouldn’t want to do it until she could be there. Until she would be there, and be my maid of honor, really.”

“I think that makes perfect sense,” Ryan says, and while it does, on a logical level, some deeper part of him still feels hurt or insulted that the progression of their relationship is contingent upon a third party. But he is well aware of that irrational dimension of himself, so he brushes it aside and squeezes her hand back.


“I’m so glad you’re okay,” Claire Fisher says into her cell phone. In truth, the words do not begin to describe how she feels. The entire story of what happened to Tempest and Samantha is surreal to her, like something out of a movie. If she had been in King’s Bay when Tempest decided not to leave town, she would have picked her up, and the poor girl never would have been in that car, and...

“Call me if you need anything at all,” Claire says. “I can get on a plane and--”

Tempest cuts her off with another repetition of the stock line that she is fine and Claire should do whatever she has to do in New Hampshire. Claire would not believe her had she not spoken to Tim and Samantha, both of whom confirmed that both girls are somehow, miraculously, healthy and safe even after the horror they endured.

The call concludes just as there is a knock on the door. Claire checks through the peephole before opening up; there is only one person it could realistically be, and yet, given what they have come to New Hampshire to do, it is best to be on her guard at all times.

But it is Brent Taylor at her door, as expected. “Everything okay back home?” he asks.

“The girls are fine.” She shakes her head in disbelief. “I should be there. I never should have left in the first place.”

There is a pause--a pause that sounds like agreement--before Brent manages to counter her. “You thought she was gone. Tempest left. You didn’t know--”

“What am I even doing? This is insane, Brent.”

“Can’t disagree with that.” He notices the black dress lying on top of the bed. “Is that for tonight?”

“Yeah. It’s what I wore to--” She catches herself at the last moment. “Just reusing something old.”

“Where’d you wear it before?” he asks with his typical policeman’s suspicion.

She waits a beat before answering. “Your wedding.”

Brent’s gaze flickers over the dress again, taking in not only the garment but likely memories of the grand party at which he married Molly, as well.

“I need to book a flight back to King’s Bay,” she says, clutching her cell phone in her palm. “This is... it’s selfish. And insane. I took Tempest in. I need to be there for her.”

There is yet more silent hesitation on Brent’s part. Claire looks in her purse for her flight information, poised to make the phone call. And then Brent speaks up:

“Isn’t that why we’re doing this?”

Her immediate instinct is to disagree with him, but as the words make their way from her brain to her mouth, something clicks in her head. She looks to him, urging him to go on.

He obliges: “Tim trusted Cassandra, and that brought her ex-husband into their lives, and then this happened. If we’re this close to Loretta and turn back now...”

Claire’s head bobs up and down with understanding. “This just keeps happening.”

“Tempest is with Bill and Paula. She’s all right. We’ll fly back tomorrow, and everything will be fine. But tonight--tonight we need to do this. Once and for all.”

In spite of the compelling instinct tugging at her conscience, Claire closes her phone. It might be insane, but he is right, at least for the two of them and where they are in their lives at the moment. They have to do this, or there will never be any moving forward.


Philip knocks on the guest room door and waits for word from within. Molly Taylor opens the door in an instant and waves Philip inside, though she has her cell phone pressed to her ear. Philip enters the room but busies himself with his own Blackberry, determined not to listen in on her conversation.

“If you talk to Brent, have him call me,” Molly is saying. “I just wanted to check on the boys...”

A moment later, the call is over, and Molly flashes a strained smile at Philip. “Hi.”

“Hi.” He tucks his Blackberry back into his pocket. “Everything all right?”

“Yes.” She does not quite seem to buy her own answer, though. “I mean, it is. I couldn’t get Brent on the phone. Danielle assured me everything is fine.”

“He’s probably busy with the twins. Enjoying his time alone with them and all that.”

“Yeah.” With another forced smile, she sets her phone down on the bureau.

“I just wanted to be sure you were all ready for tonight,” Philip says, feeling foolish for having stopped in. Truth be told, there was no reason at all for him to check on her; some force simply compelled him to do so, and he was powerless to resist it. He does not particularly enjoy that lack of control over his own actions.

“I’m great. Thanks. I’m going to shower in a bit, and then get dressed. Everything downstairs looks... incredible. Your mother really knows how to put together a party. I hope the dress I brought is nice enough. It’s a Chanel--”

He holds up a hand to cut her off and, he hopes, calm her. “I’m sure it’s perfect. This is not something for you to worry yourself over.” He takes a step back toward the door. “At any rate, I’ll let you get ready. If you need anything, just call for me.”


He takes a step through the door, then turns back. “And Molly? I’m sure everything is perfectly all right back at home.”

“I’m sure it is,” she says bashfully, apparently aware of the tricks that her overactive imagination and guilt are playing on her.

Philip closes the door behind himself, but instead of making his way to his own room, he lingers in the hallway for a moment, bogged down by the dense, swirling fog of his thoughts. As much as he would like to deny it, as much as it would simplify things, he felt an irresistible urge to see Molly just now, and he could not fight it. He knows what that means.

Perhaps tonight will be the night that Molly knows it, too.


Loretta stands at the dressing table in her elegant bedroom suite, analyzing her reflection in the mirror. Her nasolabial folds are more pronounced, more deeply creased, than she would like; she needs another round of Restylane soon, but makeup will have to do for tonight. Of course, the lighting during the party will be much more flattering than that at her mirror. She prefers to see herself in the harshest light in private so that she can plan accordingly for more public settings.

A knock on the door draws her away from her musings.

“Come in!” she calls out.

The door creaks open, as if the house itself is intimidated of her. Tony DeMaio pokes his head through the slight opening. “Mrs. Ragan. There’s something you need to know about.”

“Make it quick. I have a party for which to dress.” She continues to evaluate her reflection. “And I know it might not look like it, but that preparation becomes a bit more arduous every year.”

“I’m sure you’re gonna look fantastic tonight,” Tony says.

“Thank you.” It is a tired, rote routine, but it lifts her spirits nevertheless. “Now what is it that I simply needed to know this very instant?”

“They’re here.”

“Who?” She knows before he can answer. “Claire Robbins?”

“And the man. Brent Taylor. They’re in the area. Flew in last night.”

The news certainly comes as a surprise to Loretta. For all their skulking around and investigating, she never expected that duo to turn up on her doorstep. It occurs to her that they must have finally drawn a connection between Philip and her.

“Perhaps some good will come of Molly Taylor’s presence after all,” she says, sifting through one of her jewelry boxes even though she is already certain of what earrings she will wear tonight.

Tony soaks that up and awaits further instruction.

“I have an idea,” Loretta says. “I want you to listen very carefully. If it’s a confrontation they want, then a confrontation they shall have. Whatever those two have planned, we will make certain that it ends tonight.”


What does Loretta have in store for Brent and Claire?
How will Molly react to Brent’s spontaneous trip?
Are Ryan and Danielle truly on the same page regarding their future?
Discuss this episode in the Footprints Forum!

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