Episode #621

- Matt arrived in time to stop Sarah’s wedding to Graham, but reason got the best of him, and he left without interrupting. Tori spotted him through the window.
- Elly was concerned when her roommate, Georgia, did not return any of her messages over winter break, after mysteriously packing up and leaving campus during finals week. Unbeknownst to anyone, Georgia had an encounter with Spencer earlier that night.
- Ryan learned that Julian’s contract with Vision Publishing was not yet finalized.


The taxi makes a broad arc around the complex’s half-full parking lot before arriving in front of the correct building. Matt Gray hands the driver some cash for his fare and then looks out the back window. This apartment complex has been home for so long, the sight of it so routine, that he is not often able to see it more objectively. Since he went to see his brother’s family for the holidays, though, it has been over a week since he saw this place, and it looks… well, dull. The assortment of two-story buildings could definitely use a new coat of paint, maybe something outside the bland blue-gray range.

“Here you go,” the driver says, handing back his change. Matt passes him a few bills for a tip and exits the cab with his one large duffel bag, the only piece of luggage he needed for his trip.

When he reaches the door to his apartment, he sticks his key in the lock--and alarm floods his system. It’s already unlocked. Slowly he withdraws the key and presses down on the handle. The door opens a crack. If someone is--


Tori comes bounding at the door. Matt breathes a sigh of relief, sets his bag down beside the door, and hugs her.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I told Mom that you were getting in this morning,” she says. “I just wanted to hang out alone for a while.”

Knowing her, Matt inspects the premises for any immediate signs of a problem. But everything seems to be in order: her cell phone lying on the couch, that “Teen Mom” show blaring from the TV, no friends--or boys--in evidence.

“It’s great to see you,” Matt says, giving her another, tighter squeeze. He moves his bag against the wall and closes the front door.

“How are Uncle Jake and Aunt Mia? And Marcus? I bet he got so big.”

“Yeah, he’s not a baby anymore. He talks all the time. And that kid runs around the house all day long, I swear.”

“He sounded so cute on the phone,” she says. “I wish I could’ve gone with you.”

“Maybe next year.” Matt knew it was important to Sarah that Tori be with her and Graham for their first Christmas as a married couple, so he didn’t even put up much of a fight about bringing her to Pennsylvania.

She returns to the couch and checks a text message or something.

“Everything was good?” Matt asks. “You like that iPod thing I got you?”

“The iPod Touch? So much better than my old Nano. Thank you!”

“Glad you like it. Get anything else good?”

“Mom got me a bunch of clothes. She actually did a really good job.”

“Good. I missed you, kid.”

“I missed you, too.”

He goes to the kitchen for a glass of water. When he returns, his daughter is watching him intently, studying him hard, as if trying to figure something out.

“What?” he says.

“Why didn’t you come inside the wedding?” she blurts out.

Matt’s adrenaline spikes all over again. “What do you mean?”

“At Mom’s wedding. Why didn’t you come inside?”

“I--I wasn’t--”

“I saw you,” she says, doing that thing where she suddenly sounds mature beyond her years. “I saw you outside the window. Did you come to stop Mom from marrying Graham?”


The suit-clad man confidently strolls across the marble floors of the office building’s lobby. He waits in the elevator bank and then, without having to check the list on the wall, selects the eleventh floor as his destination. When he arrives there, he bypasses the reception desk with a breezy smile and heads toward the bustling floor, where assistants, editors, copywriters, and more are catching up on work after the holiday.

Once he reaches that point, though, the man stops and waits. His gaze focuses on an office all the way at the other end, its door barely visible over all the cubicle walls and heads. Minutes pass before he spots his target. He notes which way she is walking and thus moves along the other wall, missing her entirely.

“Is she in?” he asks the blonde assistant at the desk in front of his target’s office.

“You just missed her,” says the young woman, whom he cannot recall whether he has met before. Diane Bishop goes through assistants like most people go through lattés. “She left the building for a meeting.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.” He decides to take a gamble and extends his hand. “Ryan Moriani. We haven’t met, have we?”

Her dainty hand shakes his. “No. I just started this week. I’m April.”

“Pleasure to meet you, April. Mind if I go in and leave a note on Diane’s desk?”

He can see her fighting an internal battle over whether to allow it.

“I’m one of her authors,” he adds. “My book was published last year.”

“I know who you are,” April says with a surprisingly aggressive grin. “She gave me orders not to let anyone in her office, ever. Not even deliveries.”

“I’ll just be a minute.” He starts into the office, but her voice stops him in his path.

“Wait. You can’t do that.”

“Why? What’s she hiding in there?”

“Nothing… I don’t think.”

“Come on, April. I’m family. Diane’s daughter is my niece. If you just--”

“Maybe there is something you could do to change my mind,” she says, pressing her breasts together and onto the desk.

No wonder she goes through assistants so quickly, Ryan thinks. This girl is an idiot.

He tries to speak and cannot help but stammer. “I--April, I’m not--I’m not sure I understand what you’re suggesting.”

“All my life I’ve been good,” she says, “and now, I’m thinking, what the hell? Might as well have some fun, right?” Her eyes grab hold of his with laser-sharp precision, and Ryan knows that he is reading the signs correctly: if he wants to get into that office--and he needs to get into that office badly--then he has to go in there with April.


The dorm is abuzz with activity when Elly Vanderbilt arrives with her suitcase. She expected it to be more of a ghost town, but as she walks down the hall, she can tell that most of the students have already returned from winter break. Songs by Ke$ha and Drake vie for attention from opposite ends of the hall, and a group of guys sit on the floor with a bag of chips. She says hello to them--she only knows them in passing--and then makes her way to her own room.

The whiteboard on the door is exactly as it was left, with “Elly and Georgia” written at the top in blue marker that has faded since finals week. The cat with a sandwich that Landon drew in the lower corner with permanent marker is also still there, unfortunately. Elly pulls out her keys and unlocks the door, wondering when--or if--Georgia will be back.

She doesn’t have to wait long for the answer. She finds her roommate standing over her bed, unpacking clothing from a suitcase. Their eyes lock for a long, silent moment.

“I didn’t know if you’d be back already,” Elly says.

“Yeah, I…” Georgia finishes folding a sweater and sets it on the bed. “Sorry I didn’t answer your texts or anything.”

Elly is relieved by the lack of aggression; she spent most of break alternating between worry for Georgia and fear that she did something to anger her. “Is everything okay?” she asks.

“I’m okay. Yeah.” But she doesn’t look fine. She seems shaky and timid.

Elly closes the door, both for privacy and in hopes of drowning out the ruckus out in the hall. She sets her suitcase beside her bed and then sits down to focus her attention on her roommate.

“What happened before break?” she asks. “I woke up the morning of my last final and you were just gone.”

“Um… I just had to get out of here.”

Elly isn’t sure what that means. “Did something happen? You seemed fine when we left you at that party, and Landon said he was with you until you guys all left and he took Travis’s cousin home.”

Georgia sits down on her own bed. “You mean he didn’t tell you?”

“What? Who? Landon? What would he have told us?”

“No. That guy Spencer. I just figured since he’s Travis’s uncle or whatever, he probably told you guys--”

“They’re not exactly close.” What the heck does Spencer have to do with any of this?

“Oh.” Georgia drops her head into her hands and digs her fingertips into her thick blonde hair. “It’s not even… I just needed to go home and think.”

“Georgia, you’re freaking me out. Are you okay?”

She nods, but it is dutiful and not especially convincing.

“What happened? Did Spencer do something to you?”

After a long pause, Georgia lifts her eyes. “Yeah.”

“You can tell me about it,” Elly says, moving to join Georgia on the other bed. She places an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Finally, Georgia glances sideways at her. “Okay. But you have to promise not to tell anyone.”


Ryan certainly did not anticipate this complication. He thought he would have to trick Diane’s assistant into letting him into her office so that he can go through her computer; instead, the assistant is trying to take advantage of him.

“As enticing as that sounds,” he says, laying it on thick, “I’m afraid I’m spoken for. I got engaged at Christmas.”


“So I love my fiancée very much and would hate to do anything to hurt her.”

“Oh.” April straightens her posture quickly, clearly offended. “Too bad.”

He allows a moment to pass before returning to the true issue at hand. “About that note…”

“I’ll tell her you came by.”

“I’d rather write her a note myself.”

She thrusts a Post-it pad and a pen at him. “Here.”

He has to think fast to make this work. “You know what? I’ll let you leave her that message for me. As long as you promise to put it on her desk for me.”

“Fine. I’ll put it on her desk.” She takes back the Post-its and pen.

“Could you do it now?” Ryan presses. “I just want to make sure she gets it.”

“She’ll get it, okay?”

“Please?” He takes a deep breath before continuing, “It isn’t that I don’t want to take you up on your offer. Believe me. But I can’t--it wouldn’t be right, that’s all. If I were a single man…”

She studies him for several seconds before she relaxes. “What do you want the note to say?” she asks, rising from her chair.

“Just that Ryan stopped by and is sorry he missed her. Oh, and that I have a surprise for her next time I see her.”

“Okay. Whatever.” She takes the Post-its into Diane’s office.

Ryan does not waste a moment. He scrambles in front of April’s computer and, grateful that her e-mail is already open, does a quick search for what he is looking for. The results come up almost instantaneously. Jackpot.

He is in the process of forwarding the e-mail, complete with attachment, to his own address when a familiar voice catches him off-guard.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Ryan pauses and, doing his best not to appear guilty, looks up. “Hey, Tim.”

“Hi, Ryan. I asked what you’re doing.” Tim does not wait for an answer before he adds, “Although I have a pretty good idea what’s going on here.”


Matt never expected that he would have to explain this to his teenage daughter. The entire point of leaving Graham’s house that day was so that no one would he was there--because he realized how crazy it would have been to interrupt Sarah’s wedding.

“Why didn’t you come in?” Tori asks again.

“’Cuz I…” He doesn’t even know how to begin explaining this. “Your mom looked happy.”

“But you didn’t want her to marry Graham.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You don’t have to.” Again, she throws him one of those looks that makes him wonder when she became such a grown-up. He used to be able to outsmart her a lot more easily than this.

“Diane knew you were gonna come back,” Tori says. “She told me.”

“Diane has a big mouth.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Listen, kiddo.” He drapes his arms over her shoulders. “Your mom is married to Graham. Things between the two of us--I wish they’d worked out. But they didn’t. Remember how bad things felt that last year or so?”

She nods slowly.

“That part had nothing to do with Graham. It was Mom and me.”


“None of us can change that,” he says. He pulls back and picks up his bag. “I’m gonna go take a shower. I was on that plane for too long.” He has to get out of this situation before he says something he can’t take back, something that Tori will cling to.

When he goes into the master bedroom, she slumps onto the couch, checks her phone, and tries to focus on the TV. But the scene with her father keeps running through her head. She envisioned it going a lot differently; she thought maybe she could convince him to tell her mom how he feels, and she would realize that marrying Graham was a big mistake.

She doesn’t even know where the tears come from. They sneak up on her and begin trickling out. She mostly manages to hold them back, but she is still drying her face when there is a knock on the door. She gets up, looks through the peephole, and then yanks the door open in annoyance.

“Oh God. What are you doing here?” she asks Landon Esco.

“I was packing up my car to head back to campus, and I found this.” He holds up a tube of M.A.C. lip gloss. “Gonna guess it’s yours. I don’t know if you noticed, but my lips are pretty naturally shiny.”

She grabs the tube from him. “Yeah, it’s mine. Thanks. Haven’t you ever heard of texting?”

“I don’t have your number.”

“Travis does.”

“Well, I was on my way back to campus.”

“Okay, well, thanks. I guess.”

For some insane reason, he does not read that as his cue to leave. Instead he lingers there in the doorway.

“Are you okay?” he finally asks.

“What? Yeah. I’m fine.”

“It looks like you were crying.”

“I’m fine, Landon.”

“Tori, if you--”

“I said I’m fine.” Her nose decides to exhibit the worst possible timing, and she has to sniffle before adding, “Thanks again for the lip gloss. Bye.”

She closes the door before he can grill her any further.


Ryan tries not to melt under his half-brother’s accusing gaze. I guess that’s what you get when you frame someone for murder, he thinks. Acting fast, he finishes forwarding the e-mail to himself.

“You’re snooping through Diane’s files for info on Julian’s book,” Tim says.

“I’m just waiting for her assistant to leave her a note,” Ryan says. “And I need directions to a restaurant where I’m meeting Danielle.” He hurriedly deletes the forwarded message from April’s Sent folder and moves out from behind the desk.

Tim continues staring him down as April emerges from the office.

“All done,” she says, slipping back into her chair.

“Thank you, April. It was a pleasure meeting you.” Ryan moves away from the desk, and Tim follows.

“What are you up to?” Tim persists.

“I’m not up to anything.” Ryan realizes that Tim is not going to drop it so easily, so he decides to tell half the truth. “I came here to talk to Diane. If she publishes this book…” He falls quiet. “I asked Danielle to marry me on Christmas. And she accepted.”

He allows a moment for Tim’s silent reaction.

“I haven’t told the family yet,” Ryan continues, “because we want to tell them together. But I don’t want Danielle to feel like she’s marrying a criminal. And that’s how this book is going to make me look.”

“Um, you are a criminal.”

“Was. I know I’ve done some shitty things to you, Tim, but I have turned my life around.”

Tim concedes as much with a grudging shrug.

“The point is, I don’t want this book published,” Ryan says. “Neither does Sarah, and neither does Molly. Don’t you have any weight to throw around here? Can’t you get Diane to change her mind?”

“I tried. She’s… she’s Diane. Besides, the contract is going to be finalized any day now, and then it’s full speed ahead with this thing.”

Not if I have anything to say about it, Ryan thinks. He checks his watch. “I have to go meet Danielle. Good seeing you.”

He travels past the reception desk, takes the elevator back to the lobby, and returns to his car. He uses his Blackberry to confirm that the forwarded message is in his e-mail and then places a call.

“It’s Ryan Moriani,” he says, unable to keep a smirk from emerging across his face. “How would you like to pull one over on Diane Bishop?” He listens to the expected enthusiastic response. “Check your e-mail in the next few minutes.”


What is Ryan up to now?
What happened between Spencer and Georgia?
Will Tori be able to accept her mom’s remarriage?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it!

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