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- Natalie made Jason promise that he would travel to Spokane with her and Bree for a competition.
- Diane left her job at the bookstore after stumbling upon Keith's criminal activity, but the police became suspicious of her involvement in the drug ring.
- Diane called a radio advice show and portrayed herself as a victim of the KBPD. The backlash caused Brent to announce that he was dropping his investigation of her. 


The din of excited voices and impatient footsteps fills the hotel's hallway. Jason Fisher stands in the open doorway of his room, watching as his star student basks in the adoration of her fellow skaters.

"You should wear it to dinner," one of the slightly younger girls is saying to Bree Halston.

"No way," Bree says, even as she continues fondling her newly won gold medal in her hands.

"Yeah, why don't you leave that with me?" Natalie Bishop says to her daughter. She takes the medal from Bree, but all four of the little girls' eyes remain transfixed on it. Jason chuckles at the sight of them, still wearing their competition hair and makeup with sweatsuits.

"Are you sure you can handle all of them?" Natalie says to Lydia, one of the other girls' moms. 

Lydia swats a hand through the air as if to bat away the concern. "Please. I have two boys at home. I can handle four girls at a pizza place."

"You guys have fun," Jason says. "And behave."

"And don't make a total pig of yourself," Natalie adds to Bree. Jason bites his tongue; a little pizza isn't going to hurt a girl who's as active as Bree is, but he knows there is no point getting into it with Natalie now.

"You're sure you don't want to come?" Bree asks, looking from Natalie to Jason. The two adults trade a look. Jason is sure that Natalie is as alarmed as he is to be regarded as any kind of unit.

  Jason Fisher

"I'm going to Skype with my daughter at home," Jason says.

"And I could use a little downtime," Natalie says as she opens the door to her own hotel room, next to Jason's. "You girls have fun. And thank you, Lydia." She bends down to give Bree a hug. "Mommy's really proud of you. You were amazing today."

Bree beams. "Thanks, Mommy."

Natalie goes into her room and closes the door. Jason reaches out a hand to Bree, which she enthusiastically meets with a high-five.

"You were awesome today," he says. "I'm really proud of the way you skated--and I would be regardless of whether or not you wound up with that gold medal."

"But I did!" Bree says.

"Yeah. You did. Enjoy your little pizza party, okay?"

"I will!" 

The four girls skip off down the hallway toward the elevator. Jason gives Lydia a wave goodbye and ducks into his own room. Once inside, he takes a moment to soak up the blessed peace and quiet. After an entire day inside the arena with Bree and a hundred other skaters, it is a treat to have nothing and no one to deal with but himself.

He checks the time on his phone and sees that he still has twenty minutes before he's supposed to Skype with Alex and Sophie. He doesn't even have to think about how he'll pass the time; he immediately goes into the bathroom and turns on the shower, cranking the water up hot. These whole days inside an ice rink can leave him with a chill that goes straight through to his bones, and a relaxing hot shower is the perfect antidote.

Jason strips out of his clothes and waits as the bathroom fills with steam. He breathes it in and closes his eyes, hoping the sense of calm will penetrate deep within him. Just as he is about to pull back the shower curtain and step inside, there is a knock at the door. He thinks of ignoring it, but then there is another knock and a pronouncement from outside:


Curiosity gets the better of him--he isn't expecting anything--so he wraps a towel around his waist and hurries to the door. There he finds a bellboy with a bucket of ice, a chilled bottle of champagne sticking out the top.

"Mr. Fisher, this is for you," the bellboy says, attempting to avert his eyes politely from Jason's half-naked state.

"Oh. Wow," Jason says as he takes the bucket. "Who's it…"

"It's from a Ms. Bishop in Room 323, next door." The bellboy hands him a card, which Jason accepts with his free hand. He flips it open and reads a brief note from Natalie, thanking him for his role in Bree's victory today.

"That was fast," Jason says to himself. Feeling self-unconscious with his arms full and a towel hanging around his waist, he thanks the bellboy and closes the door. The sound of the shower's steady stream beckons to him.

As soon as sets down the bucket, though, he realizes that he forgot to tip the bellboy. He digs through his wallet, finds a few singles, and rushes back to the door. He opens it and looks down the hallway, where the elevator doors are open.

"Here, wait!" he calls out, hurrying into the hallway, but the elevator doors slide closed before he is even halfway there--and then he hears something even more troubling: the sound of his own door slamming shut behind him.

Crumpled dollars in his hand, he scurries back to his room, but he finds exactly what he expected: the door is locked.


Diane Bishop curses under her breath when she hears the knock upon her front door. She is fairly certain who it must be, and she would prefer not to deal with this at all, but she has never been one to shy away from confrontation. She leaves the half-emptied dishwasher open and crosses through the living room to answer the door.

"Ms. Bishop," says the man who is waiting on the other side.

"Mr. Croft, I'm guessing." She folds her arms and stands firmly in the center of the doorway to make it clear that she w0n't be inviting him in. Warren Croft is not exactly what she pictured based on his voice, but then again, what she pictured was essentially a caricature based on the slight Southern twang: a portly, rosy-cheeked man in his 60s with a ten-gallon hat and an oversized mustache. The real Mr. Croft looks to be in his late 40s or early 50s, with salt-and-pepper hair and a white golf shirt tucked into tan slacks.

"I'm real glad I caught you," Croft says.

"I wish I felt the same way. Like I told you on the phone, I'm busy today."

Croft glances past her into the living room. "Where's that daughter of yours at?"

"She had to run out for supplies," Diane says. She didn't think much beyond the lie that she was helping her daughter with a school project; never mind the fact that Samantha is staying with Tim right now and that, even if she were here, she's a college student who hasn't made a diorama in years.

  Diane Bishop

"By herself?"

"Yes! Mr. Croft, what can I do for you?"

He folds his arms, as if mimicking her pose, and a hint of a grin plays at his mouth. Diane braces herself. She managed to escape the KBAY studios without too much trouble after her appearance on Reclaim Your Power, but she is sure that the station's Head of Programming must have some choice words for her if he's come all the way to her home--and she doesn't want to hear them.

"Y'know," he says, "your appearance on Reclaim Your Power was not at all what we expected."

"I wasn't really in the mood to bash the King's Bay PD after they actually laid off me. And I wasn't just gonna sit there and listen to that kook Penelope give a bunch of lame advice to people."

Croft simply eyes her and snickers.

"What's so funny?"

"You," he says. "You got a little fire going on in there, don't 'cha?"

"Okay. What is the point of this?"

"Like I said, your appearance was not what we were expecting--"

"No shit. What are you gonna do, fire me? Oh wait--I don't even work for you. So if you don't mind--"

She moves to close the door, but he deftly sticks out an arm to hold it open.

"Exactly the opposite," he says. "I'm gonna hire you."


When Natalie opens the door, she reacts first with shock and then, as she scans Jason up and down, with something more like enjoyment.

"I guess they brought you the champagne," she says with a smirk. "A simple 'thank you' would've sufficed…"

"I'm locked out," Jason says, holding onto the towel at his waist as he barges into the room.

"Well, I don't know what you expect me to do about that."

He goes to the door that allegedly adjoins their rooms and unlocks it.

"Did you leave it unlocked on your side?" Natalie asks.

"I don't know." He opens the door. "Maybe."

"Were you leaving it open in case I decided to creep in in the middle of the night?"

He spins around, irritated. He isn't sure why he expected anything resembling sympathy--anything besides an attitude--from her. 

"I just want to get into my room," he snaps. He tries the knob on the connecting door, but it doesn't budge.

"Why were you in the hallway in a towel in the first place?"

"Because I was trying to tip the bellboy who brought up the champagne, which--thank you." He keeps wriggling the knob, to no avail. 

"I'm pretty sure it's locked," Natalie says. "Why don't you just call the front desk?"

"Because--" He slams into the door with his shoulder, though it doesn't accomplish much of anything. "--I didn't really want to go down there like this."

"Especially not now," she says.

With a heavy sigh, he turns back. "What do you mean?"

Lips pursed, Natalie simply points--and Jason looks down to realize that, at some point during his efforts, the towel has slipped off his waist and fallen to the floor. 


Diane isn't sure whether she is supposed to laugh in Warren Croft's face or what.

"You have to be kidding me," she says. "What, you want me to be on Reclaim Your Power permanently?" She would never let him see it, but the idea is sort of exciting, if completely absurd.

"No, ma'am. That would be--frankly, Penelope was hopping mad about the way you hijacked her show, and I can't say I blame her. You were kind of a disaster on there."

Diane deflates a little but tries not to show it. "Then what's this about?"

"It's about you."

"Yeah, I got that. If you don't spit it out already--"

"I want you on our morning show."

Once again, Diane is stunned into silence. She feels her brain scrambling for a response, but it's as if she were trying to grab onto a handful of water; the words keep slipping away before she can get any kind of grip at all.

"You were pretty damn entertaining on that show," Croft says, "and it definitely isn't right for a self-help show, but our morning commute program--look, I'll be honest with you: it's needed an overhaul for a long time."

Diane vaguely knows the program. She's used to flipping past it whenever a song ends and the male and female co-hosts start blathering at one another.

"I've heard it a few times," she says casually.

"Well, one of the hosts has been there a long time. And he's great. But his co-star got swiped away from us by some big show out in San Francisco a couple years ago, and you know what kinda luck we've had finding someone good to take her place?" He pauses for a millisecond. "Nada."

"And you want me to…" She lets the question trail off, still trying to figure out if she's somehow misunderstanding this.

"I want to try you out with him and see how it goes," Croft says. "We need some fresh blood. We need someone with some sass--and I can tell you've got that in spades. You're terrific on the air… as long as you're not supposed to be counseling troubled folks, that is."

Diane's mind is racing. "This is… unexpected, I have to say."

Croft laughs and drums his hands on his slight belly. 

"So what do you say?" he asks. "Can I come in and talk specifics with you?"

"Sure. Why not?" Diane uncrosses her arms and steps aside, not sure what she is supposed to be thinking right now.


"Oh, jeez," Jason says as he scrambles to collect the towel from the floor.

"You don't have to rush. I didn't really mind," Natalie says.

"Ugh. Stop." He holds the towel around his waist, not even bothering to re-tie it. His cheeks sting with embarrassment.

"I'm serious. You have nothing to be shy about. And clearly you've been working out…"

He glances down at himself, as if he isn't sure whose torso he expects to see. 

"Are you blushing?" she asks.

  Natalie Bishop

"No!" But he bunches his fist tighter around the towel's rolled edge.

"Well, you shouldn't be. I saw what was under there."

A sudden, awkward tension dangles over them like a storm cloud, heavy and gray, that threatens to burst at any second.

"I should call the front desk," he says abruptly, breaking for the door.

Natalie stops him by grabbing his arm. He is all too aware of the flesh-on-flesh contact.

"First of all, you might as well use my phone," she says. 

"Good call." His head feels buzzy and light as he reverses course to head for the desk.

"Jason. Wait." She holds him by the arm. "If you're gonna call them to unlock your room, you might as well have them grab that bottle of champagne and bring it in here."

A thousand little surges of energy race through his body, tingling his fingers and toes and face. Natalie removes her hand from his arm… and places it on the front of his towel. Her knuckles brush against his bare stomach, and his breathing gets shallower.

"Come on," she says, her voice nearly a whisper. "It could be fun."

He stares down at her, unable to deny that his body is intrigued. Part of his brain tries to tell her, as if by telepathy, to tear off the towel, though he can't even begin to get the words out. He sees her rising on her toes, her mouth reaching up toward his…

"I'll just go down to the desk," he says, shaking away from her touch before she has the chance to react and stop him. 

"What the hell?"

"It's fine. Thanks again for the champagne." He darts out of the room, and this time, he is relieved at the sound of a door slamming closed behind him.


Why did Jason bolt so abruptly?
Was it wrong of Natalie to make a move?
Should Diane take a job at the radio station?
Join us in the Footprints Forum to talk about it all!

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Monday, Sept. 08, 2014

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