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- Molly ran into Philip, who was with a woman named Adrienne. He revealed that he and Adrienne are now dating.
- Spencer used his Thanksgiving break to fly back east and visit Loretta in prison. She reinforced his hatred of Claire.
- Helen pleaded with Jason to let her see her granddaughter, but the court had already issued a restraining order while she faces kidnapping charges.
- Lauren’s suspicions about Josh grew when she saw a text from a woman named Allison on his phone.


Sweat beads on Philip Ragan’s forehead as he thrusts into the woman beneath him. Her cries fill the large, open industrial space of his loft until they reach a crescendo, and minutes pass before either of them has actual words to say.

“Oh my God,” Adrienne says, gasping for air, as they lie side-by-side on Philip’s bed.

“Absolutely.” He clasps his hands behind his head, his bare chest and arms exposed to the air that now carries a recognizable winter chill.

Adrienne turns onto her side, her chestnut brown hair tumbling over her shoulders and breasts as she strokes a finger over Philip’s firm chest. “You’re amazing.”

“I believe you’re the amazing one,” he says. With every second that passes, his head is becoming a little less cloudy, his thoughts and words clearer.

Silence hovers over them for a long moment.

“So what are your plans for Christmas?” she asks.

“I haven’t thought much about it, to be honest. Things are… up in the air, as you know.”

“What about your brother?”

“I’m sure I’ll have to corral him into celebrating, which should prove to be far more work than it needs to be,” he says. “Other than that, though, I don’t know.” Then, to be polite, he adds, “What about you?”

  Philip Ragan

“I decided not to fly home this year.” Her finger traces its way down his toned abdominals. “Flights are expensive, and it’s such a pain to travel then if you can only be there for two or three days.”

“Agreed.” He feels his stomach tightening and hopes that Adrienne does not sense his discomfort--which, of course, she must.

Nevertheless, she pushes onward. “Well, if you want to have some kind of get-together, let me know. It might be a fun way to spend the holiday. And I can cook.”

“Yeah,” he says, turning toward her long enough to flash a disingenuous smile. Guilt continues to churn in the pit of his stomach. There are plenty of times when he plainly enjoys being with her--and not just when they are having sex. She is caring and kind. But when she says things like this, indicating that she would like to become more serious… Philip’s mind always travels to one place.

The stalled conversation is brought to a final halt by the ringing of his cell phone. Eagerly, he reaches toward the nightstand and grabs it.

“This is Philip Ragan,” he says, answering the call from an unknown number. He listens long enough to hear the phrase King’s Bay Police Department.

“He what?” Philip says as he flies off the bed in search of his clothing.

Edge of Winter Arena

Chilly as it is outside, it is a whole different level of cold inside the ice arena. Despite having been best friends with a figure skater, Lauren Brooks never adjusted to the temperature the way that Courtney and Jason seemed to do naturally. She pulls her plaid coat tightly around herself as she climbs the stairs up to Jason’s office on the second floor.

She finds Alex Marshall there, too, engaged in conversation with Jason while Sophie plays on the floor with two dolls.

“Hey,” Lauren says as she steps inside and gives each of the men a hug. “Gathering night at the arena, huh?”

“I just had a totally not-productive meeting at Vision,” Alex says, barely suppressing a groan. 

Lauren removes a small Santa Claus lollipop from her purse. “Can I give this to her?”

Jason gives it a look. “Sure. Thanks. Let’s just keep an eye on her while she eats it.”

Lollipop in hand, Lauren goes over to Sophie and kneels down. “How’s my little monster?”

“I’m not a monster!” Sophie proclaims, eliciting laughter from all the adults.

“Of course you’re not. Look, I brought you a special treat.”

Sophie takes the lollipop with wide eyes. “A lolly?”

“Yeah! Here, let me help you.” Lauren unwraps the candy for her and warns her to be careful before going back over to the men.

“What was so urgent that it warranted a post-work drop-by?” Jason asks.

“Yeah,” Alex says. “Where’s the fire?”

“In my pants.” Lauren reaches for her pocket, then stops. “Wait. That came out wrong.” As the other two snicker, she pulls a receipt from her pocket. “This is the problem.”

They get a look at the receipt. “You… overspent on dinner?” Jason asks.

“This is from when Josh said he was flying back to San Diego with his dad after Thanksgiving,” she explains. “To help him clean out the garage. Except this is from a restaurant in L.A. And unless Bob is really into watermelon martinis…”

“So you think Josh went to L.A. and had a secret dinner with someone,” Alex says, his tone now serious.

“I don’t think. I know. Probably that Allison person who was texting him.”

It takes Jason a long moment to suggest, “Maybe it really is for work.”

“He didn’t expense it. And Willis doesn’t have either of us on any accounts that would require him to go to L.A.” She studies the receipt again in disbelief. “The question is, what do I do now?”


“A charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping carries the same potential penalty as the kidnapping charge itself,” Ellen Kim says from behind her large, mahogany desk.

“And what is that?” Don Chase asks the attorney, though he is not sure he wants to know the answer.

“Twenty years in prison.”

Sensing his wife’s reaction even before she lets it out, Don reaches for her hand. Sure enough, Helen gasps. She sounds a step away from tears, and her hand is trembling when he takes it.

“But you’re a first-time offender, Mrs. Chase, and while Mr. Westin and the man he hired are being charged with first-degree kidnapping, you have a number of things in your favor,” Ms. Kim continues. “Chief among them is that you were not privy to the details of the kidnapping. Mr. Westin has admitted to devising the plan and taking charge of its execution. That could go a long way toward helping you.”

“All right,” Helen says numbly. Her voice is as flat and dull as she has seemed of late, like she is merely going through the motions, unwilling or unable to invest more than the most basic of energy into anything.

“Aside from that, you are a relative of Sophie’s,” Ms. Kim says. “By definition, that could exempt you from even a second-degree kidnapping charge--although this is a rather unique scenario we’re dealing with.”

For as robotic as Helen is being, Don feels wired and frantic. He has been awaiting this appointment with her attorney as though it would bring them closure, but in fact, it is only bringing more questions and sketching distinguishable faces for their fears.

“What can you do for my wife?” he asks, leaning forward. “She’s a good woman who made a poor decision. When we lost our daughter--”

  Helen Chase

“I understand,” Ms. Kim says. She folds her hands on the desk. “My goal is to minimize the punishments leveled on you, Mrs. Chase. I don’t believe that the District Attorney’s office has any interest in making an example of you. Mr. Westin is far more interesting to them in that regard. With that in mind, I’ve prepared a plea bargain that, with your approval, I’d like to take to the D.A.”

“What is it?” Don asks.

“I’m hoping to have the charge reduced to endangering a minor child. It could wind up being any number of charges, really. It depends on what the D.A. feels is most appropriate. What’s more relevant is what I hope to negotiate for your sentence, provided you plead guilty to whatever that new charge winds up being.”

Helen simply nods to tell her to go on.

“I’m confident that we can avoid jail time altogether. I’m going to suggest two years’ probation. The D.A. will likely negotiate that up, but whether it’s two or five, the point is that you will not go to jail, provided you don’t incur any further serious infractions in that time.”

“My wife is not a law-breaker,” Don says. He knows that this doesn’t even matter to the attorney, but he has to stand up for her somehow.

Ms. Kim’s manner becomes more grave, and Don senses that something worse is coming. A moment later, it does.

“I can almost guarantee that, as a provision of this plea, you will be banned from having any contact whatsoever with your granddaughter,” the attorney says.

Helen’s response is tight and overly controlled. “I see.”

“For how long?” Don demands.

“Years. Five, possibly more. If they really want to push, they could restrict you until she reaches eighteen years of age.”

Don expects some kind of emotional reaction out of Helen, but there is none. She sits there like a statue, presumably taking this in. He can’t be sure that she has, though, until she speaks up:

“What about my husband?”

“Legally, he cannot be restricted from seeing Sophie, since he is not being charged with any crime,” Ms. Kim says. “However, Sophie’s father holds the power here. As long as you are barred from having contact with your granddaughter, Mr. Chase has virtually no legal recourse as far as seeing Sophie.”

“Because he’s married to me,” Helen says.

“Yes.” Ms. Kim offers them a sympathetic look. “I’m going to do everything I can to win the most favorable outcome possible for you.”

Helen nods. “Thank you.”

Don tries to do the same, but he feels like he has been punched in the head. He knew that it would become logistically tricky to see Sophie in the wake of this, but if there is nothing at all that he can do… They have all but lost Sophie entirely.


When Philip finishes up at the cashier’s window, he waits for his brother to be brought out to him. It takes a good ten minutes for a guard to show Spencer through a door and deposit him in the waiting area.

“Vandalism? Seriously?” Philip questions him immediately.

“It’s going to be a misdemeanor. They base it on the dollar amount of the damage,” Spencer says casually. His eyes look glassy, his features a little loose. “That’s what my friend’s dad said. He’s an attorney.”

“Great. As long as it’s a nice, holiday misdemeanor, I suppose I won’t care.” Philip shakes his head. “Why would you even begin to throw cement blocks into the fountain at school?”

“It was a Sigma Chi thing. I wasn’t even doing it! The pledges were.”

“Oh, and I wonder who encouraged them to do that.” He is suddenly very aware of the other people in the waiting area paying attention to them, trying to evaluate what kind of personal troubles have brought the two of them to this place tonight. “Come on,” he tells Spencer, and he leads the way down a corridor and out of the police department.

Outside, the nighttime chill stings his fingers and ears. He turns back to his brother. “You cannot go around getting arrested and then acting like it’s an insignificant blip on the radar. These things stay with you, Spencer.”

“Fine. I get it.”

“Do you?”

“Yes!” Spencer throws up his arms and turns away from Philip. “You’re the one who made me go to KBU. Now I’m actually liking it, and you’re pissed?”

“That is so far from the issue,” Philip says sternly.

“No, it’s not.”

Philip lets out a heavy sigh. “I wanted you to move here with me because I wanted us to have a fresh start--away from all the damage that Mother did. Away from all that poison we grew up with.”

“Bullshit. You moved us here because you wanted to be close to Molly.”

“No.” Despite the denial, Philip feels himself hesitating as he answers. He can tell, from the look on Spencer’s face, that he knows he has hit close to home.

“I wanted us to be able to get to know our sister,” Philip adds.

“Wow, and that’s going so well. Maybe we can get to know her really well so she can toss us into a big vat of acid, just like she did to Father!”


His brother refuses to look at him. Philip does not know what else to say or do. Spencer is right: trying to forge a relationship with Claire has been a colossal bust. She is not interested, and neither is Spencer.

“Perhaps it’s time for us to consider moving elsewhere, then,” Philip says, unable to keep the defeat from his voice.

“No. I like it here now. I like the friends I’ve made. You can go wherever the hell you want, but I’m not going with you.”

Spencer begins walking into the parking lot, without any idea where Philip’s car is parked. Philip waits a moment and then tails him.


“You have to talk to him,” Alex says without hesitation.

Lauren’s reluctance is apparent in the way she draws back from them and looks at the ground. “I don’t know…”

“Seriously, you have to,” Alex persists. “Take it from me. Secrets and suspicion in a relationship--that’s not going to end well.”

“He’s right,” Jason says.

Glancing over the receipt again, even though she has looked at it so many times that she has it memorized, Lauren says, “I don’t want him to think I’ve been snooping. I don’t know. Am I nuts for even worrying about this? Maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation.”

“Yeah, maybe he’s going to propose to you, but Allison is an illegal blood-diamond trader, and he had to fly to L.A. to convince her to sell him a special stone,” Alex says.

“You think?” Lauren asks.

“No! I think you need to ask Josh what’s going on with the secretive trips.”

  Lauren Brooks

“Something is obviously up,” Jason says. “And you aren’t going to be happy until you find out one way or the other.”

She watches Sophie diligently work at the Santa lollipop. “I hate feeling this way, all suspicious and crazy, but I wish I could put this off and just enjoy Christmas with him.”

“Remember when your brother wanted to ignore what was bothering him and just enjoy Christmas?” Alex says. “And you and me and your parents all wound up--” He lowers his voice because of Sophie, who is too engaged with her dolls and her lollipop to care what the adults are saying. “--seeing a porn that he was in?”

Lauren’s hands fly up. “Do not remind me of that. I had almost blocked it out.”

“I’m just saying--this is there, whether you pretend otherwise or not. So ask him and get it over with.”

She puts the receipt away. “You know what I hate?”

“What?” Jason asks.

“That you guys are right.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the trouble with being friends with us,” Alex says as he wraps an arm around her. “We always are.”


How can Lauren best confront Josh?
Will Jason ever allow Don to see Sophie?
What should Philip do about Spencer?
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Friday, Dec. 09, 2011

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