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- On the eve of his wedding to Danielle, Ryan traveled across the state with Diane to pursue a possible subject for Vision Publishing. When their target refused the offer, however, Diane was let go from her job at Vision.
- A roadblock in the Pass forced Ryan and Diane to spend the night in a motel.
- Helen’s scheme with Eric Westin--to have Sophie kidnapped under Jason’s watch so that he would look like an unfit parent--was exposed. Sophie was rescued, and Helen and Eric were arrested.


The last time Danielle Taylor woke up on her wedding day, it was with a colossal knot in her stomach. At the time, she told herself that it was borne of nerves, of a fear that Katherine Fitch would try to disrupt Danielle and Andy’s special day. As it turned out, though, that was not the reason at all--and when she fled from the church, leaving behind a note to tell Andy that she could not marry him, she had to admit that to herself. Her body knew, even before her mind would admit it, that marrying Andy Fitch would have been the wrong move for her.

This morning, there is no evidence of a knot. She has a bit of a tough wake-up, since her sleep came in fits and starts all night, as she worried about whether Ryan would make it back in time from whatever mission he is on. But she feels good, excited, optimistic.

She is cradling a mug of coffee between her hands in the living room, flipping through the morning talk shows on the TV while she runs through a mental list of how to set about her day, when she hears a key in the front door. Ryan’s footsteps precede his physical presence.

“I’m in the living room!” she calls out, leaping to her feet. A moment later, Ryan comes rushing in, and she has just enough time to set down her coffee before he sweeps her up into a hug.

“It’s so good to see you.” Ryan pulls back to look her over. “Wait. Am I supposed to be seeing you? Or is that…”

“You’re not supposed to see me in my wedding dress,” she says, “but I think we’re a little beyond all those superstitions. Don’t you? It’s not like this is either of our first time at the rodeo.”

Ryan cocks an eyebrow. “We’re not ninety years old, either.”

“I know, I know.” She plants a quick peck on his lips. “So tell me: how was your trip? What was this secret mission you were on?”

“It was nothing. Really. I’m just happy to be home.”

“I’m serious.” Now it is her turn to take a step backward and give him the once-over. “Why did you have to go all the way across the state at the last minute?”


Diane Bishop’s body tenses as she sticks her key in the front door of her condo. After hours on the road, she should finally be able to relax now that she is at home--but she knows what awaits her on the other side of the door.

Sure enough, her sister sits on the plush sofa, picking at a bagel with cream cheese as she watches television.

“Where the hell have you been?” Natalie asks.

“We had to stay overnight in the Pass because there were some trees down,” Diane says wearily. She drops her purse onto a side table. “Where’s Samantha?”

“She went over to her grandparents’ to get ready for that wedding.” Suddenly Natalie brightens with a devious glow and leans forward. “You and Ryan got stuck together overnight?”

  Diane Bishop

“Wipe that smirk off your face. We had separate beds. Ryan is--” She swats at the air. “Ew.”

Natalie sets down her plate with a clink. “You did marry the guy.”

“Never happened. Eric filed the annulment papers. And Ryan’s marrying that idiot Danielle today.” She moves into the kitchen and pours herself a glass of water. The bottle that she picked up on the drive home was not nearly enough to wash away the fuzziness left behind by the bottle of cheap wine that she downed last night at the motel.

She can feel Natalie eyeing her as she drinks the water.

“You’re sure nothing happened?” Natalie finally presses.

“No!” Diane snaps. “If you really want to know, the guy Ryan met with refused to consider our offer, and when I didn’t have anything to hand over to Vision, they kindly told me they were letting me go. Years and years of busting my ass for those people, and they drop me just like that. And then I had to spend the damn night in some disgusting motel in the middle of the mountains. So no, getting it on with Ryan Moriani, of all people, was not especially high on my priority list last night.”

“Jeez. Bite my head off, why don’t you?” Natalie recoils and sinks back into the couch. She chomps on her bagel for a minute before continuing, “This is all Ryan’s fault, you know. Because he had to steal Julian and his book away from Vision. You lost your job, and I lost my fiancée.”

“And that guy was such a prize. What a shame,” Diane mutters before downing the rest of her water and refilling the glass.

“We should make Ryan pay for this.”

“I need a long nap before I can even think about getting revenge on anyone,” Diane says. “That should tell you a lot about how worn out I am.”


Diane’s exhaustion is bone-deep, and now that she is out from behind the wheel, her body seems to want nothing more than to shut down for a good long while. She allows her tired feet to carry her toward the bedroom without another word to her sister.


“Pancakes or eggs?” Jason Fisher asks over the kitchen counter that looks out into the family room.

“Both! With chocolate chips in the pancakes!” Sophie exclaims, throwing up her arms. She sits on the floor in the middle of the family room, a veritable toy store of items spread out around her.

On any other day, he would tell her to choose one option or the other. This morning, however, he cannot conceive of denying her a single thing. If she were to demand a ride to the moon on a unicorn’s back, he would probably kill himself trying to make it happen.

As Jason sets about pulling out the necessary pan and skillet, Alex Marshall enters the kitchen. His hair is still wet from the shower, and he wears a slim-fitting t-shirt and black sweatpants.

“She looks happy,” Alex says quietly. “She’s going to be fine, Jason.”

“She’s happy because she just conned me into cooking her two breakfasts,” he answers with an amused grin.

“What are you making?”

“Scrambled eggs and pancakes.”

“Chocolate chip pancakes!” Sophie calls out from the family room.

“Chocolate chip pancakes,” Jason corrects himself. Wordlessly, Alex moves to the refrigerator and takes out many of the necessary ingredients. He turns on one of the stove’s front burners and waits for the pan to heat up.

“Thanks,” Jason says. He cannot stop glancing at his daughter, as if he needs to reassure himself that she is home and safe. He does need to reassure himself of those things. What happened yesterday might seem like a horrible nightmare, but he knows all too well that it really happened.

He goes to the pantry to retrieve the chocolate chips and the pancake mix. When he is standing next to Alex at the counter again, he says, half under his breath, “I still can’t believe any of this.”

“Neither can I.” Alex’s voice drops to a mere whisper. “I know Helen is grieving, but I didn’t ever think she’d be capable of something like… like having her own granddaughter kidnapped.”

“I don’t care if she’s grieving. We’re all grieving. It’s no excuse for what happened. And if she thinks she’s ever going to see Sophie again--”

“Jason.” Alex’s tone is calm but very firm. “Have some compassion. She’s an old woman, and after what happened to Courtney--she isn’t herself.”

“Still. She put Sophie’s life in danger. End of story.”

Alex falls quiet as he begins breaking the eggs into a bowl. The tension between them is thick. Jason moves to the other side of the counter as he starts to mix the batter.

“I need to iron a shirt for the wedding, so if you need anything ironed, give it to me,” Alex says after a spell of strained silence.

“I have to give my shirt a look. Thanks.”

“No problem. It still seems a little weird that I’m invited to this wedding, but whatever.”

“They’re including you. It’s nice,” Jason says, repressing the urge to talk about the Helen situation any further. “Besides, you’re… sort of family.”

Your sister is married to my dad, so I’m sort of your step-nephew. I think. Does that even make sense?”

Jason shrugs. “Who knows? Lauren and Josh will be there, too, so you’ll have someone to sit with while I play best man.”

“It’s insane that we’re going to a wedding after yesterday,” Alex says, whisking the eggs.

Jason looks up from the pancake batter. “It’s my family. When is a wedding day ever normal?”


The cold, hard slam of the car door echoes throughout the neighborhood. It sounds cruel to Don Chase, just as the hum of silence sounded for the entire drive home, and he nearly apologizes. However, then he reminds himself of what his wife put him and the Fishers through in the past 24 hours, and his resolve renews.

“You can’t keep ignoring me forever,” Helen says from behind him as he unlocks the front door.

Don pushes open the door and stands in the threshold to their home. “You’re in no position to lecture me on what I can or cannot do.”

He enters the house, the place where they have lived for almost the entirety of their marriage, the home in which they raised Courtney. He knew that her death would challenge them in unexpected, painful ways, but he never saw this coming. He never thought that it would eventually pit them against one another.

Helen trails him into the living room. “I can keep apologizing until I’m blue in the face, but if you aren’t willing to listen--”

“I just bailed you out of jail. I’m not in much of a mood to listen.”

That gets her to stop pressing, and that almost irritates him more. Makes him angrier. She should be begging and pleading for forgiveness. She had their granddaughter kidnapped. She should never stop trying to win back his trust.

He knows that it is all irrational, but sensible thought escapes him at the moment. All he has is emotion.

He picks up a framed photo of the three of them--him, Helen, and Courtney--from the day of Courtney and Jason’s final skating test. Their beautiful daughter has one arm around each of her parents, her infectious smile so full of life and energy. Looking into it now, he finds it impossible to reconcile the fact that it is gone. That he will never see that smile live and in action again.

And now Helen had to go and do something so utterly insane.

“I don’t know what happened to our family,” Don says. Helen does not offer anything, and when he sets down the photo and turns around, he sees that she is gone.


“Why did you have to go all the way across the state at the last minute?”

Danielle’s question hangs in the air, and every millisecond that ticks away feels like an hour to Ryan. He has his cover story, or rather, his sanitized version of events, but it all feels so artificial now that he is caught under her gaze.

“It was another publishing thing,” he says. “I had to go interview someone in the prison--”

Danielle’s alarm is clear. “What?!”

“Someone my father was involved with. At any rate, it didn’t pan out, but it was a last-minute thing, and I felt it was worth pursuing.”

  Ryan Moriani

“Is this something you’re pursuing now? I thought you were going to focus on working at the arena with Jason.” Her tone is merely curious, interested in his life, not accusatory; it makes Ryan feel even guiltier for keeping so many things from her.

“It was just something that came up,” he says, trying hard not to stammer.

Blessedly, the doorbell rings. Grateful for the interruption, Ryan darts to the door and opens it to find Danielle’s father carrying a bakery box.

“Good morning,” Ryan says, taking the box from him. “What’s all this?”

“I called Danielle earlier. Didn’t want either of you to worry about breakfast on a day like this, so I picked something up on my way from the hotel.”

“Dad!” Danielle calls out, rushing into the entryway. She throws her arms around her father. “It’s so good to see you.”

“It’s so good to see you,” Bob says. “How are you feeling?”

“Great.” Danielle casts a smile in Ryan’s direction. “Let me take that stuff into the kitchen and get everything set up. Have you heard from Josh?”

“He and Brent are on their way over now.”

Danielle takes the box and disappears into the kitchen.

Ryan turns to his future father-in-law. “I’m so glad you could be with us today.”

“Thrilled to be here,” Bob says. “You make her very happy, Ryan.”

“I hope so.” Ryan’s stomach flip-flops.

“Just be good to her. That’s all I ask. She’s been through a lot, and she deserves nothing short of the best.”

“I’m well aware. I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that every day of Danielle’s life is better than the last.”

“Good--or you’ll have me to answer to.” The older man speaks the words with an easygoing grin, but they nevertheless cause Ryan’s panic to surge. All he has to do is get through today. This thing with Diane is over. She--somewhat surprisingly--seems to understand that he did everything he could to help her with Camacho and is ready to let him off the hook. Once the day is over and he is married to Danielle, Ryan might finally be able to breathe a little easier.


While Diane is passed out in the master bedroom, Natalie grows tired of sitting around the condo and decides to head out for some coffee. She is waiting in an annoyingly long line at Cassie’s, behind some old woman with an ugly bob haircut, when she spies a familiar-looking man across the shop. By the time she makes it to the counter and places her order, she has figured out who he is. As she waits for her drink to be called, Natalie makes her way over to him.

Eric, right?” she asks.

He looks up from whatever paperwork he is currently doing. He is an incredibly handsome man, with naturally tanned skin and black hair that looks sexy even when it is as unruly as it is right now. His face looks exceptionally tired, as though he did not sleep last night, but he is still very good-looking.

It would really stick it to Diane if I landed this one, she thinks.

“Yes,” he says warily. “I’m afraid I don’t--”


“Natalie Bishop. Diane’s sister.”

“Ah. Pleasure to meet you.” He offers her a half-hearted handshake and attempts to return to his work.

“Rough night?” she asks.

Those exhausted eyes glance up at her. “You have no idea.”

She hears the barista call out her soy latté and turns toward the counter. “Be right back,” she tells Eric before hustling over to grab her drink.

When she returns to the table, he is packing up his things. “I should really get going,” he explains.

“Sure you don’t want to stay and chat?”

He gestures at the paperwork that he is shoveling into his designer leather briefcase. “I’m sure I don’t have the time.” He bends over to unplug his Blackberry charger from the wall and, in swinging back around, knocks the briefcase to the floor. Papers scatter.

“Let me help you with those,” she says, dropping to her knees. Within moments, she has gathered the papers, stuffed them into the briefcase, and secured it shut. She hands it over to him. “Here you go.”

“Thank you… Natalie, is it?”


“I really do have to be going. You have a nice day.”

A little surprised by his insistence, Natalie simply watches him leave. “You, too.” She takes his place at the table, not sure what to do with herself now that she has her drink. He could really be a catch, but he certainly was not having it today. Maybe he’s distracted by a big case or something.

Her foot slides over something on the floor, and when she looks down, she spots a document that she must have missed in her haste to gather Eric’s things. Still in her seat, she bends down and manages to grasp the document in her fingers. She picks it up and gives it a passing glance, thinking how fortuitous it is that she will have to return this to Eric’s office in the near future.

Only then do the words on the page catch her attention.

“This is too good,” Natalie says to herself, clutching the papers tightly in her hand.


What has Natalie discovered?
Will Ryan and Danielle make it to marriage?
Can Don and Helen repair their marriage?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

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