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- Natalie picked up some papers that Eric Westin dropped. She was intrigued by what they said. 
- Ryan and Danielle’s wedding ceremony began.
- Diane realized that Natalie was up to something and raced to the wedding site. She and Natalie tussled outside the hall where the wedding was behind held, and the sisters went slamming into the wedding cake.
- As everyone came out of the wedding to see what was going on, Natalie revealed not only that Diane and Ryan got married--but that their marriage was not annulled!


Danielle Taylor doesn’t understand how any of this could be happening. She doesn’t understand how Diane Bishop and her sister could be lying in a pile of what used to be her wedding cake. She doesn’t understand the words that Diane’s sister just said. She certainly doesn’t understand how Ryan could possibly be married to Diane Bishop. All she knows is that, a minute ago, she and Ryan were standing in front of a justice of the peace, about to be married, and now they are not. So she turns to her groom, who is right by her side.

“What is she talking about?”

“I have no idea,” Ryan says. He directs his attention to Natalie. “What the hell are you doing?”

Natalie lets out a booming laugh and struggles to pull herself to her feet. Cake and frosting cover her jeans and loose, colorfully printed top. When she speaks, it is not so much a response to Ryan as an announcement to everyone present:

“You set Julian up with that publisher in Vegas because you wanted control over what he could write in his book. And then when it turned into a big, drunken fiasco, you and my sister got married.”

  Danielle Taylor

Danielle does not know how to process this. Ryan and Diane loathe each other. Why would they get married?

Ryan is already nodding his head up and down in an exaggerated motion. “Now I see what this is about. You blame me for ruining your relationship with Julian, so you’re, what, trying to ruin my relationship? My life?”

“I told you she was insane,” Diane comments from her spot on the floor, sprawled in a mess of destroyed cake.

Ryan turns to Danielle. He wraps both his hands around one of hers. “There were some things that Julian St. John wanted to write about--things I didn’t want dragged back to the surface. About when I was working with my father all those years ago. I used a connection in publishing to get him a new contract and make sure he couldn’t write those things about me. And now Natalie is angry because Julian dumped her once he no longer needed her to get to Vision Publishing.”

“Look at the papers!” Natalie lunges forward, thrusting the papers at Danielle. “Annulment papers from the state of Nevada. Look whose names are on them.”

Danielle takes the papers without moving her gaze off Ryan. Sure enough, there are their names. Ryan and Diane. Spouses.

Eric Westin never got around to filing them,” Natalie says, like a prosecutor wrapping up her closing statement.

“You have to believe me,” Ryan says. “Why would I marry Diane? That’s insane. This woman is insane. She wants to ruin our wedding day. Danielle, I love you. I want to marry you.”

Suddenly his words feel too claustrophobic, closing in around her, pressuring her. She breaks her eyes off him and looks around. Their families and friends are all staring at them, waiting for Danielle to render a verdict. Waiting to see if Ryan has made a complete and total fool of her.

“Diane,” she says, snapping around. “Did you and Ryan get married in Las Vegas?”

“I--” Diane sputters as she sits up and pulls a piece of cake from her hair. “We--no! That’s ridiculous!”

But that hesitation tells Danielle everything she needs to know. She slams the papers against Ryan’s chest, then grabs them back.

“Maybe you won’t need these after all,” she spits, clutching the document in her fist as she storms away from this humiliating scene.


Elly and Brent tail Danielle back to wherever she goes. The rest of the guests whisper among themselves, unable to believe the scene they have just witnessed. Diane finally manages to pull herself off the floor. She goes over to her sister, who is standing there with her arms crossed, taking it all in.

“You bitch,” Diane says.

Natalie turns with a sneer. “Me? I’m not the one who married some other woman’s fiancé.”

“Is that what this is about? Getting revenge on me, too?”

“Diane, I have anything to ‘get revenge’ on you for. But Ryan deserved this. He ruined my life, and he ruined yours, too.”

“I can look out for myself, thank you very much.” Diane brushes another chunk of cake from her t-shirt, but it smears, leaving a wide white streak on the fabric. “Having everyone know that--” She lowers her voice. “--I married Ryan Moriani is not doing me any favors.”

“Well, I’m sorry about that.”

“I’ll give you something else to be sorry about.” She draws her arm back and then lets it go. Her palm collides with Natalie’s face, producing a loud cracking sound.

Natalie gasps and brings a hand to her freshly smacked cheek. She shakes her head with disdain. “You can blame me for your mistakes all you want, Diane. It’s not going to fix your mess of a life.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“So it’s true?” a voice asks from a few feet away. Both women turn to see Sarah Colville standing there, eyeing them carefully.

“You really married my brother?” she asks.


Ryan cannot take all of the guests watching him, no doubt thinking about what a screw-up he is and how he ruins everything that he touches. He retreats back into the banquet hall, which minutes ago held such promise for his future. Now it is just the sad, decaying corpse of a wedding.

He hears the door open and close behind him. The sound echoes through the empty, silent hall. He whips around, fully intending to tell whoever it is to leave him alone, but he softens as soon as he sees her.

“What’s this all about?” his mother asks.

Ryan raises his hands and lets them drop to his sides in defeat. “I made a mistake. We were drinking… I was trying to make sure that Diane didn’t publish Julian’s manuscript the way it was. She had it out for me then.”

She narrows her brow. “What could have been so awful about that book that you couldn’t bear to see it published?”

“It wasn’t even that,” he says, fully aware of how horrible it is to be lying even now. “I didn’t want all of that dirt about me having worked with Nick to be dredged up again-especially not when my life was finally coming back together. So I found a publisher who would give Julian a better deal and cut out the part that bothered me--which wasn’t even necessary, anyway.”

  Paula Fisher

He feels the irony of it all dropping down on him like a five-hundred pound weight. He managed to squash the book and the revelation that he was the one who set the Objection drug ring in motion for Nick… and in the process, he might have lost Danielle.

“Why do I keep screwing up like this?” he asks.

Instead of offering any kind of answer, Paula draws him into an embrace.

“I’m so sorry,” she says.

He wraps his arms around her back. “You don’t hate me?”

“No, Ryan. I don’t hate you. I think you made an incredibly stupid decision, and I wish you could learn to stop being your own worst enemy. But this is what family does: support one another.”

He remains in her hold for several more seconds, surprised by the intense security of simply knowing that someone is there for him even in the wake of Natalie’s revelation.

“I need to talk to Danielle,” he says. “I need to make her see that this was nothing more than a mistake, that it has nothing to do with our relationship or how I feel about her.”

“For your sake, I hope she does see it that way,” Paula says.


“I didn’t marry him,” Diane says to Sarah.

“Yes, you did,” Natalie butts in.

Diane throws a stern warning glance at her and lifts up her right hand for effect. Natalie slinks backward.

“We were drunk and competing over Julian’s book,” Diane explains. “One of us or both of us or--I don’t know--somehow it seemed like eloping was the trick to one-upping each other. It’s not like we fell in love. Or slept together.” Her eyes widen. “We did not sleep together, for the record.”

“Well, that’s something,” Sarah says, almost to herself, as she mulls over the situation. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because Ryan was engaged to Danielle! And it wasn’t exactly something to be proud of. I had Eric draw up the annulment papers. It was supposed to be taken care of by now.”

“But he was too busy getting arrested.”

“He what?”

“Oh. Wow. You don’t even know. I have a story-and-a-half for you.”

Samantha approaches them, in a simple black dress with capped sleeves. “Mom? What’s going on?”

“This is all being blown way out of proportion,” Diane says. “I’ll explain when you and I are alone, okay?”

“But you really married Uncle Ryan?”

“We technically got married. But that is all. We’re not… real-married.”

Samantha takes that in and gives her mother another once-over, absorbing the site of her covered in wedding cake. “This is really weird.”

“I know, kiddo.” Diane lets out a sigh as she watches Ryan storm out of the banquet hall and around the corner. “I know.”


Ryan knocks on the door of the designated bridal room and waits. He hears shuffling from within, but nothing concrete. Around the corner, the chatter of the wedding guests--people who are now appalled by what he has done to Danielle--haunts him.

He has to make this right.

When the door opens, it is only a crack, and only enough to reveal Brent.

“What do you want?” Brent asks, not very kindly.

“A minute to speak with Danielle. That’s all. This is--it’s an enormous misunderstanding.”

“Get out of here,” Brent says. He moves to close the door.

“Let him in.”

Danielle’s voice causes Brent to freeze mid-movement.

“I’ll talk to him,” she says as she appears behind Brent. She lays stony eyes upon Ryan. She has not been crying, from what he can tell, but she looks hard, angry.

“I’ll stay right here,” Brent says, opening the door just enough to let Ryan in.

“Alone,” Danielle insists.

  Ryan Moriani

“Then I’ll wait right outside. Shout if you need anything.” With a look that falls somewhere between warning and threatening, Brent leaves the room. Elly trails behind him.

Danielle closes the door, and then the two of them are alone.

“I didn’t sleep with her. I want to put that out there right this second,” Ryan says.

“Great. That’s the reassurance every woman dreams of hearing on her wedding day.”

Her coldness gives him pause. She feels like a completely different woman than the one with whom he spent the morning.

“It was a stupid move,” he says, determined to change that expression on her face. “I didn’t marry her. Not really. It was a completely different thing than what you and I are doing today.”

“But you’re her husband. I was standing there about to exchange wedding vows with someone else’s husband! How do you think that makes me feel?”

“Horrible. Of course it makes you feel horrible. And I am so, so sorry for that. Hurting you is the last thing in the world that I want.”

Danielle remains tight-lipped.

“You have to believe me,” he says. “It was one wild night that ended in two of us in a chapel, being egged on by Natalie. We started the annulment proceedings the next morning. It was a terrible, idiotic mistake, but it was so far from an actual marriage, or--or anything that has to do with you and me.”

He holds his stare firmly on her. Finally, blessedly, she makes eye contact with him.

“Please, Danielle. You have to believe me. We can have the paperwork taken care of. Just marry me today.”


Will Ryan succeed in winning Danielle’s forgiveness?
What should Danielle do?
How will everyone else react to the secret marriage?
Discuss it now in the Footprints Forum!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

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