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- After Spencer crashed his car into Molly's living room, Philip covered up and pretended that he was the one driving in order to keep Spencer out of trouble. 
- Natalie tried to talk to Jason about their near-encounter at the hotel, but the conversation turned into an argument. When Natalie kept prodding him, Jason insisted that he doesn't want to sleep with her and claimed that she doesn't measure up to his late wife, Courtney. 
- An angry Natalie went out for a drink… and hit it off with another bar patron: Spencer. 


It has been a long time since Natalie Bishop stayed up through an entire night like this. They do try to go to sleep, she and the younger man she brought home from the bar--Spencer, she recalls his name is while he is on top of her--but the sleep is fitful, and their entwined bodies keep growing closer, more and more aroused, until the night winds up passing in a haze of tangled sheets and sweaty limbs. Finally, with the clock telling Natalie that the sunrise is dangerously close, they manage to close their eyes, and their exhausted bodies fall asleep.

Natalie is awoken far too soon by an otherworldly beeping, which her scrambled brain takes several seconds to realize is a cell phone's alarm clock.

"What the hell is that?" she asks as she rolls over to face Spencer, who is already sitting up in the bed.

"My alarm." His voice is craggy and strained, like sleep is trying to pull it back into its dark vortex. "I've gotta go to work."

"Oh my god." She flops onto her back but keeps her eyes open, staring up at the smooth white paint on the ceiling. "We did not sleep enough."

"No. But it was worth it, right?" 

She can hear the self-satisfied grin through his words. 

"It was fun," she says. Her head lolls to the side as he kicks his legs off the side of the bed and scans the floor for his clothes. It gives her a moment to drink in the sight of him. His back, like the rest of him, is muscular but lithe, with just the right amount of definition. He stands to slip on his boxer briefs, and she admires his firm, round backside, which looks almost as good once he has the underwear on.

Spencer shakes his head. "You have any aspirin?"

"Yeah. In the bathroom. Second shelf in the medicine cabinet." 

He disappears into the bathroom, and Natalie closes her eyelids again until she hears him returning.

"Can I have two of those?" she asks.

Spencer shakes two out of the bottle, and she sits up to take them from him. She pops them into her mouth and washes them down with the glass of water sitting on the nightstand. When she offers Spencer the water, he shakes his head and swallows the pills dry.

  Natalie Bishop

"Oh my god," Natalie repeats as she feels the tightness in her head. "I'm definitely going to need a nap later."

"At least you don't have to work," he says as he buttons his jeans.

"Yeah." She props herself up on her elbow to watch him finish getting dressed, and then something occurs to her. "Work? That means you're out of college?"

"Yeah." He smirks. "I'm legal. Don't worry."

He pulls out his phone and stares at the screen for a few seconds, after which he shakes it.

"Do you have wifi?" he asks. "I have, like, no reception."

"Uh, yeah. Hang on, let me see what the network is." She grabs her own phone off the nightstand. "What, you have super-important work e-mails to check?"

"No. I'm gonna call an Uber or something."

"Oh. Your car. Yeah." Last night is a haze of the drinks they consumed at the bar--including the shots Spencer bought them--and the wine they drank when they returned to her place. But she does remember them taking a taxi back here. "I'll drive you."

He almost recoils with surprise. "You don't have to do that."

"It's fine. Really. I don't mind." She knows she won't be able to fall back asleep right away, anyway, and her car is here. She drags herself out of the bed, holding the bedsheet close to her body.

"You're seriously gonna do that?" Spencer says with a laugh. "Not like I didn't see it all a few hours ago…"

Natalie pauses, but she is all too aware of the light pouring in through the sheer white drapes. There was a time when she would have paraded around naked without a second thought in front of a guy--and that time was when she was Spencer's age. 

"Shut up," she says, "unless you don't want that ride after all." 

Clutching the sheet, she makes her way over to the closet.

Edge of Winter Arena

Ryan Moriani is already seated behind his desk when Jason Fisher arrives at the office on the second floor of the arena. 

"Morning," Jason says as he heads straight for his own desk and sets down his leather messenger bag. "How's it going?"

"Great. I wanted to get in here early and knock out some of these invoices we owe."

Jason notes the wild layer of papers covering Ryan's desk; for as good as his brother's work winds up being, his process is an indecipherable mess. 

"How about you?" Ryan asks as he turns away from his computer.

Jason shrugs. "Fine. Nothing big going on."

Ryan taps away at his keyboard for a few more seconds as Jason gets settled at his desk. While Jason waits for his own computer to power up, Ryan crosses the room to the water cooler.

"There's something I was wondering," Ryan says as he fills his water bottle, "but I know it's probably not my business…"

"Well, what is it?"

"That thing with Natalie yesterday. When she came in here kind of acting like a normal person and wanted to talk to you. What was that about?"

Jason feels his entire body stiffen. He barely knows what to make of his conversation with Natalie yesterday, let alone how to explain it to another person.

"She didn't behave like a normal person for long," he says, trying to will the discomfort out of his body. "She was her usual raving lunatic self within seconds of you leaving."

"Really? That's strange."

"Yeah. Who knows with her?" Jason gives an exaggerated shrug and looks down to his desk for something to focus on.

"As long as everything's okay." Ryan starts back toward his desk, then stops and wheels back around. "I just got the vibe…"

Jason swallows hard and tries to maintain his cool. "What vibe?"

"Did something happen between the two of you in Spokane?" 


Philip Ragan's hands clutch the steering wheel a little tighter as he guides his BMW into the driveway. He gets out, locks the car, and takes a deep breath to compose himself--and as he starts up the walkway, the front door opens.

"Where's Molly?" Brent Taylor asks as he steps outside. His tone is accusatory, and Philip reminds himself to keep his own emotions in check.

"She got pulled into the office early for an emergency," he explains. "And she knew Danielle was giving lessons this morning, so she asked if I'd pick up the boys. She said she was going to let you know."

"Well, she didn't." But Brent already has his phone out of his pocket, and even from a distance of several feet, Philip can see that there's an alert on the screen.

"Crap. I had it on silent," Brent says as he opens the message. 

"It happens. Are the boys ready?"

Brent's mouth opens to speak, then closes without pushing out any words. 

  Brent Taylor

"What's the matter?" Philip asks.

Again Brent glances at his phone. "You know what? I don't have to be at the station for 40 minutes or so. I can probably take the boys to Bill and Paula's--"

"Brent. I'm here. It's no trouble."

"Honestly?" Brent looks back toward the open front door. "I'm not too hot on the idea of Caleb and Christian getting in the car with you right now. I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but…"

"Because of the accident?"

"Philip. You drove a car into the living room. That's not exactly a 'whoops, won't happen again.'" Brent eyes the black BMW in the driveway. "Looks like your car fended better than the house did, though."

"Oh. I was actually driving Spencer's car."

"You were driving Spencer's car? Why?"

Philip's heart thumps a little harder against the inside of his chest. Brent's policeman stare is trained right on him, and it makes it strangely difficult to play it cool.

"We had swapped for the afternoon. It's a manual, and I got disoriented." He feels like a fool, blathering on about something that didn't even happen, trying to make it seem like an insignificant mishap. He knows it was a serious mistake, one that could have easily turned into a tragedy if anyone had been in the house. That's precisely why he decided to take the fall for Spencer. Everyone--aside from Brent--has been far more charitable to Philip about it than they would be to his brother. 

"I'm incredibly sorry about what happened," he continues. "I know how it must look--and I understand if the thought of the boys driving with me at the moment makes you uncomfortable."

Brent nods. Philip can tell that he's defused his anger somewhat.

"Why don't you go to work, and I'll stay here with the twins until Danielle gets back?" Philip says. "You can call Danielle and let them know. I'll call Paula."

"I appreciate that," Brent says. "Let me go tell the boys what's happening."


Philip begins to follow him to the house, then pauses midway.

"Brent?" he calls out.

The other man, already passing through the doorframe, turns back.

"I promise I'm going to take good care of your boys and of Molly," Philip says. "You have nothing to worry about."

Brent absorbs that silently and, with another nod, disappears into the house. Philip follows as he takes out his iPhone to call the Fishers. 


Natalie pulls her car up to the curb outside the restaurant. There are only two vehicles in the small lot beside 322: a white compact car and a sedan that could kindly be described as a "beater," its paint chipping off and its bumpers riddled with dents.

"For the record, that is not me," Spencer says, pointing to the beat-up car.

"No judgment here."

"I'm serious. I don't want you to think I'm some kid who drives a piece of shit." He undoes his seatbelt. "The white one's a rental, actually."


"My real car's in the shop. I have a Beemer."

Natalie waits a second before reacting. She actually is impressed; a guy this age driving a BMW isn't exactly typical. But she can tell he's waiting for her to fawn over him... so she doesn't.

"So you're a kid with a nice car who gets into accidents?" she says, grinning.

"No. I just backed it into something--I mean, my brother did, but it was my car--"

"That sounds like an accident to me."

"Shut up." He starts to open his door. "So, like, usually I would just say find me on Facebook…"

"Yeah. I don't really use Facebook."

"Wanna give me your number?" He already has his phone in his hand. "That was pretty hot, honestly."

Natalie wasn't really planning on making this an ongoing thing, but the kid does look pretty sexy even with his hair askew and his clothes all rumpled. And it was a lot of fun.

"Yeah, what the hell?" she says. Spencer puts her number into his phone and then calls it so she will have his. There is a definite morning chill blowing in through the open passenger door.

"Now get out before I freeze to death," Natalie says, half-joking.

"Thanks for the ride." Spencer swings his legs outward and steps out of the car. He ducks back down to add, "I'll call you sometime."

"Sounds good. Good luck at work."

"Yeah. Thanks."

He closes the door, and she puts the car in drive, but she lingers there and watches him cross the lot and hop into the white car. Not bad work at all, she thinks to herself before driving away.


Jason pushes his weight back, causing the chair to let out a metallic yawn as it leans backward. He feels his cheeks growing hot.

"Why would you say that?" he asks Ryan, who is watching him intently.

"Like I said, there was a vibe in here," Ryan says. "The two of you seemed… different than you usually are."

"Because I didn't feel compelled to strangle her within thirty seconds of her walking in here?"

"Kind of. Yeah. It was awkward between the two of you. Why do you think I got the hell out of dodge?"

  Jason Fisher

"Well, nothing happened in Spokane." Jason lets the chair spring forward again and focuses on entering his password into the computer.

"Okay. Just asking." Ryan returns to his desk.

But the conversation sticks in Jason's brain, the same way the argument he had with Natalie yesterday has been spinning in there ever since it happened. Suddenly he hears himself blurting it out:

"Something almost happened. Kind of. I don't know."

Ryan swings around. "Excuse me?"

"I got locked out of my room in a towel--"

"How did you manage that?"

"Long story. But Natalie was in the room next to mine, so I knocked on her door to see if I could get in through the adjoining door…"

Ryan grins and sits on the edge of his desk. "Uh-huh."

"She sort of… made a move on me."

"Were you into it?"


"Not at all?"

Jason hesitates and lets out a heavy sigh. "I mean…"

"You can admit it," Ryan says, his grin still standing strong.

"Do you want me with Natalie? I thought you hated her."

"I'm not a huge fan, on account of the time she ruined my wedding by falling into the cake and ratting me to Danielle. I didn't say you have to marry her."


"But there's clearly some kind of tension between you guys," Ryan says. "I don't think it would be a crime if you wanted to enjoy yourself a little. She's into you, too."

"I am not into her!" Jason exclaims.

"If you say so." Ryan takes a swig from his water bottle and crosses back around to the other side of his desk. "But if you decide you are, it isn't a crime, Jason."

"What do you mean?"

"I know you miss Courtney. But she wouldn't expect you to be a monk for the rest of your life."

"Yeah. Thanks." Jason attempts to turn his attention back to his computer, where far too many e-mails await him, but he cannot get this conversation out of his head, either.


Should Jason give Natalie a chance?
Is there potential for Spencer and Natalie?
Was Brent wrong to put his foot down with Philip?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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