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- Brent confronted Danielle about her drinking. She blurted out the news of his relationship with Claire — just as Molly walked in. Once they were alone, Molly lashed out at Brent. 
- Danielle insisted she would go to a meeting, but when she didn’t have the strength to go in and face the people she knows, she instead left and went to the liquor store. 
- Sarah received a threat demanding $100,000 by the time Molly’s trial begins — or the video of Paula shooting Philip will be released. 

KB Memorial Hospital

After only a few hours of sleep, Brent Taylor is well aware of the early morning hour. In the cafeteria of King’s Bay Memorial Hospital, however, it could be any time of day at all. The space is neither full nor empty, loud nor quiet; even the color scheme is the definition of neutral. Brent waits in a plastic chair with a cup of coffee and a Danish that holds very little appeal despite the fact that he hasn’t eaten since he choked down a sandwich for dinner last night.
He takes a bite of the Danish, which tastes as plastic as it looks, and sets it down on his napkin as he sees Claire Fisher enter the cafeteria in her light-blue scrubs. Brent raises a hand to get her attention, and Claire makes her way toward his table.
“Is everything okay?” she asks as she lingers above him. Her dark brown hair is pulled back into a ponytail, and her face wears the exhaustion of her overnight shift.
“Yeah. Sit down.”
With an uneasy look, Claire slides into the chair opposite Brent.
“Can I get you anything?” he asks. “Coffee? Bagel?”
“No, I’m going to try and sleep as soon as I get home. Brent, what’s going on? I get the impression this isn’t just a romantic drop-by. Is it about Tempest?”
“No. Why? What about Tempest?”
Claire hesitates. “I just thought it might be—I’m still on edge from the robbery at the arena, that’s all.”
“Oh. No, it’s not. It’s about… I wanted to give you a heads-up about something in person.”
“Okay, you’re making me nervous.”
Brent swallows hard. “Molly knows.”
“What?” Claire’s eyes widen. “About us? You told her? I thought we said—”
“I didn’t. Danielle did.”
“What is wrong with her? She knows how sensitive this is—”
“She fell off the wagon,” Brent says quietly.
“Oh, no.” She processes this for a moment of quiet shock. “That poor woman. I know she hasn’t had the easiest time of things lately…”

“Please keep this to yourself.”
“Of course. Is she okay? I mean—did something happen? How did you find out?”
“No, there wasn’t an accident or anything. Molly found a bottle in her closet, and some of her behavior lately…” He shakes his head, though it does little to free him of the swirling thoughts that have been consuming him. “We’re going to get her help. But she got really angry at me when I brought it up with her, and she blurted something out right as Molly walked in.”

  Brent Taylor

Claire brings her hands to her mouth as a gasp escapes. “What did Molly do?”
“Nothing, at first. But it was pretty obvious that it threw her for a loop, and when I tried to explain, she kind of lashed out at me.”
“Lashed out how?”
“Hurt. A little irrational. She asked if we’d been sleeping together back when she and I were still married.”
Claire jolts forward. “What? She can’t think—”
“She doesn’t. I told her that was ridiculous. I don’t think she believes it. But you know how Molly doesn’t do so well with finding out information after the fact.”
“The Fishers are going to hate me,” she says. “Again. I thought we could feel things out, find the best way to break the news…”
“So did I. That’s why I wanted to tell you. We have no way of knowing how people will react.”
“No.” She sighs. “I need to talk to Travis. I want him to hear this from me.”
“Okay. Good.” He reaches over the table and takes her hand. “We’ll figure this out.”
Claire nods, though she does not look entirely convinced.
“We will,” Brent says. “This isn’t the end of the world. We might not be able to control how people react, but we can make them understand that this is more than some casual rebound.”
A hint of a smile appears on her face. “I’m glad to hear you say that.”
He caresses her hand. “Really?”
“You never really know what someone else is thinking.”
“Well, what I’m thinking,” he says, “is that I’m glad this is happening, and people are going to think what they want to think. But we’re two adults who have been single for a long time, and it’s up to us to decide what makes us happy.”
That hint broadens into a full smile. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”


Molly Taylor’s car pulls up beside the curb outside Bayside Middle School. The car hasn’t even reached a full stop before the passenger door flies open.

“Wait a second,” Molly says, reaching across to block her son from leaping out. “I’m going to stick around, so don’t go making plans to go to someone’s house afterward."

“I thought you were going back to get Christian,” Caleb says.

“Your practice will be done before his play rehearsal. So I’ll wait here. I have some calls to make for work, anyway."

Caleb scrunches up his face. “Didn’t you get fired?"

“I didn’t get fired. I’m on leave."

The boy shrugs. “Okay. See you in a little bit.” He hops out of the car, grabs his equipment bag from the trunk, and races to meet his friends on the baseball diamond. 

Once he has gone, Molly maneuvers the car toward the back of the parking lot, as instructed. She waits, sipping on her coffee and checking her phone, until there is a knock at the window. Startled even though she has been expecting it, she settles her nerves — as much as she can — and then reaches over to unlock the passenger door. 

“What’s with the cloak-and-dagger stuff?” Molly asks as her sister gets into the car. “I could’ve come to the house—"

Sarah Fisher Gray frowns at her. “Oh, and that wouldn’t have seemed weird to Mom. We aren’t exactly the kind of sisters who drop in for Saturday morning visits."

Molly knows that she has a point. “What’s so important that you couldn’t tell me over the phone? Was there another note?"

“No. Not yet.” Sarah pulls out her phone and scrolls to a note. “But I’m 99% sure that security guard, Denise Campbell, has nothing to do with it. So I went through and made a list of employees in that building who could’ve had access to the security camera footage. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but anyone in the IT Department could’ve accessed those feeds, so I managed to pull the logs of anyone who was working that day…"

She trails off as she watches Molly stare straight ahead, through the windshield.

“Earth to Molly,” she says. “This is kind of important, considering that you’re about to go on trial for murder—"

“I’m well aware!” Molly snaps as she whips around toward Sarah. “How did this whole thing get so bad?"

Sarah shakes her head. “I have no idea."

“I almost married him. I was going to marry him, even after I called it off,” Molly says. “A man who killed all those people. Our brother and our father. And I was too stupid to see it."

“No one knew."

“I should’ve. If I’d seen it sooner, Dad would still be alive."

“Molly, don’t go down that road."

“And Ryan might be alive— and Danielle would be okay—"

“What happened to Danielle?"

“She—" Finally Molly pauses and focuses on Sarah. “This is not to be repeated, but she fell off the wagon. She went to her meeting last night, though. But she worked so hard on her sobriety, and to lose it like this…"

“Yeah. Wow."

“And get this: Brent is shacking up with Claire."

Sarah does a double-take. “What?"

“Yeah. I overheard that little nugget last night. Can you believe it?"

Sarah leans against the window as she thinks it over. “I mean, they’ve been close friends for a while."

“But Claire! What is she doing, working her way through this family? Who’s next? Jason?"

“You sound like Mom.” Sarah sets her jaw. “And where is this coming from? Are you still in love with Brent? You divorced him."

“I know! It’s weird, that’s all."

“Yeah, well, it’s also weird to be sitting here talking about the man I was married to once who left me for you, but…"

“I’m sorry. I’m ranting, that’s all,” Molly says. "I’m not thinking clearly. Everything is so out-of-order. I can’t go to jail—"

“You won’t go to jail,” Sarah says, resetting in her seat as she holds up her phone again. “And I’m sure as hell not going, either. So let’s figure out what to do about this blackmailer, okay?"


Gauzy morning light, filtered by the thin white curtain, drifts into the hotel room. Danielle Taylor opens her eyes and flinches against the visual assault. Grimacing, she rolls over and curses herself for not remembering to pull the blackout curtains before she went to sleep last night.

When she turns over, her gaze falls upon the bright digital numbers on the bedside alarm clock. She had no intention of sleeping this late; in fact, she wanted to be up early so that she could get back to the house before dawn. But the way her head feels right now, she isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.

A bottle of vodka, with only an inch or so of the liquor remaining inside it, and an empty plastic bottle of club soda sit on the nightstand beside a used glass. Even the sight makes her cringe, and not just because of her hangover. Shame floods her body as she remembers how she couldn’t get out of the car last night at her AA meeting; instead, she drove right for the liquor store, checked into the hotel, and spent the night drinking and watching TV. 

  Danielle Taylor

“What am I doing?” she says to no one but herself. The dryness of her mouth is so uncomfortable that she is driven to sit up in hopes of getting out of bed and finding some water, but even that small bit of movement sends a wave of nausea through her — and that only makes the shame worse.

She takes a few deep breaths, hoping to settle her system, and reaches for her cell phone. She lifts it off the nightstand and immediately sees the slew of alerts on the screen. Missed Call. Text Message. Missed Call. Text Message. All from Brent and Molly. 

In spite of the throbbing in her head, she pulls herself from the bed to begin her day.


When Jason Fisher opens his eyes, his immediate instinct is to clamp them shut again and go back to sleep. But he can tell from the light outside that it is later than he would normally sleep, and when he reaches for his cell phone on the nightstand, its display confirms that. As tired as he is after a night of oft-interrupted sleep, he carefully pulls himself out of bed, trying to shift the mattress as little as possible.

Standing beside the bed, he grabs the olive-colored t-shirt that he slung over the nearby chair last night. He watches Natalie Bishop, curled up inside the large, U-shaped pregnancy pillow on the other side of the bed. She has been waking up to use the restroom frequently during the night, and her tossing and turning tends to wake Jason. She finally seems to be peacefully asleep, though, and he knows that she needs the rest, so the last thing he wants is to wake her.

He can hear Sophie and Bree downstairs watching TV. His weary brain thinks about the coffee in the pot downstairs, already brewed thanks to the timer that he set last night. Knowing that caffeine will help him ease into the day, even as unrested as he feels, he pulls on the t-shirt.

Before leaving the room, however, he stops to watch Natalie for another few seconds. Never did he think when they went on their first official date, a year and a half ago, that she would be living in his house — the house he and Courtney bought together — and sleeping in his bed, growing more and more pregnant by the day. That they would be building a real life together. Their daughters are becoming sisters, and in a few short months, they will welcome their own child into the world. Everything has happened so quickly that sometimes it doesn’t seem real to him. 

But it is real. They’re having a baby. And Natalie — hilarious, melodramatic Natalie, who has brought a light to his life that he was terrified he’d never see again, no matter how hard he clung to Sophie or to his family — is here to stay.

With one last look at the pregnant woman sleeping in his bed, Jason slips out of the room, the need for caffeine overtaking his brain.

Cassie's Coffee House

When Sarah arrives at Cassie’s Coffee House, Diane Bishop is already waiting at a small table by the window. Sarah quickly places her order with the barista and then goes over to join her friend.

“Thanks for meeting me,” Sarah says as Diane stands to hug her.

“Of course. I’m up before the crack of dawn even on weekends now because of my damn work schedule. And we’re overdue for a catch-up."

“I know.” Sarah hangs her purse on the back of one of the wooden chairs. “So get this."

“What?” Diane examines her for a moment. “You have gossip. I can see it in your eyes."

“Oh, do I ever.” Sarah slips into the chair, and Diane takes her seat again. “I just saw Molly, and she was flipping out."

“At this hour on a Saturday? That seems like a stressful way to start a weekend."

Sarah bites her lip. As much as she would like to confide in someone — especially her best friend — about what she and Molly are dealing with, she knows that it’s an absolute non-starter. There is too much on the line.

Luckily, Diane barely seems to notice. “Come on!” she urges. “Spill."

Sarah opens her mouth to speak but then hears her name being called at the counter. She excuses herself, grabs her latté, and then returns to the table.

“Molly overheard something last night,” Sarah says, choosing to conceal the information about how Molly heard, for the sake of Danielle’s privacy, “about who Brent is seeing."

“Who is it? Wait, let me guess. Umm… Dammit. Why can’t I think of anyone good?"

Sarah lets the suspense hang in the air for a moment before blurting out, “Claire."

“No!” Diane leans forward, mouth agape. “I guess it makes some sense. They were spending a lot of time together when they were trying to find Loretta Ragan."

“I can’t say I’m shocked, now that I know. But it’s still, like… wow."

“What right does Molly have to be pissed, though? Didn’t she divorce Brent?"

“Yes! I told her that.” Sarah pauses to test the temperature of the latté, which is as piping-hot as she expected. “And I let her know that it probably wasn’t the smoothest move to be venting to the woman she stole Brent from in the first place."

Diane lets out a chuckle. “Um, yeah. I’ll never understand what all these men see in Claire, though. For such a stuck-up bitch, she sure pulls a lot of guys."

“I have nothing against Claire, but it’s hilarious to me how off-balance it’s thrown Molly,” Sarah says. “After all the hell she gave me about how she and Brent were meant-to-be and how they couldn’t help themselves…"

“Yeah, it’s a little funny."

Sarah grins. “I knew you’d see it this way. This is why we’re friends."

“To friendship,” Diane says as she holds up her coffee cup. 

Sarah lifts her own. “To friendship."


Even though the spring air is finally exhibiting hints of warmth, Claire shudders as she presses the doorbell. She doesn’t exactly want to do this, but after her conversation with Brent, adrenaline is surging through her body, and she figures that she might as well ride the wave and attempt to gain some control of the situation.

“Hi,” Molly says as she opens the door. 

Claire is all too aware of the absence of an invitation to come inside. “Thanks for responding to my text. I thought it might be good if we talked."

“I don’t know if there’s much to say."

“I think it’s worth a shot.” Claire folds her arms. “Can I come in?"

Molly nods and steps aside. Claire enters the house and removes her coat and shoes. 

“Are the boys home?” she asks.

“They’re upstairs. They just finished baseball practice and play rehearsal, so they’re cleaning up."

  Claire Fisher

“Okay. I just want to talk for a few minutes,” Claire says.

Molly silently leads the way into the kitchen. 

“Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea?” she asks, her voice oddly distant.

“No. Thank you.” Claire takes a seat at the kitchen table and watches as Molly bustles around for a long moment, straightening up. “Molly, I didn’t want you to find out this way."

Molly turns back from an upper cupboard, where she is putting away glasses. “I’m sure you didn’t. Brent said the two of you were biding your time."

“I want you to understand that this wasn’t… I don’t know, premeditated. It’s something that happened. Brent and I have been friends for a long time."

“Because he was married to me, and you were married to my brother. That doesn’t strike me as the best dating pool."

“That’s a little glib,” Claire says, as she warns herself not to get defensive or hostile. That won’t solve anything. “A lot has happened since that was the case."

“Still… doesn’t it feel a little close to home?"

“Of course it does! Do you think I'm coming at this like it’s no big deal? Or that Brent is?"

Molly sets a mug down on the counter a little too roughly, and the sound jolts Claire. 

“I don’t know! The entire thing is strange,” Molly says. “I still think of you as my sister-in-law, and to think of my husband dating you—"

“Ex-husband,” Claire says, allowing her tone to become sterner for just that phrase. She reminds herself to soften before continuing: “I’ve thought of you as family for all these years, even after Tim and I got divorced, even after Ryan and I broke up. And I would never do something to hurt you intentionally. This was not how I wanted you to find out."

Molly’s mouth tightens into a thin line. Claire decides that she has said her part and stands. But then one final thought hits her.

“I know you’re going through a really difficult time,” she says. “For what it’s worth, I would never hold shooting Philip against you. I only knew him as my brother for a short time, and it turned out he wasn’t even who I thought he was. If I could do anything to bring your father back…” She feels herself getting choked up at the thought of Bill, who often acted as more of a father to her than her own biological father ever did. “I’ll do whatever I can to make sure that no jury ever holds you responsible for killing Philip. And I mean that."

Molly stares at her for a few seconds. Uncomfortable, Claire moves toward the doorway.

“Thank you,” Molly says. 

Claire turns back, offers her a nod, and then continues into the foyer, where she quickly retrieves her coat and shoes before exiting the house.


“I’ve been worried sick,” Brent says as he yanks open his front door. “Where have you been?"

Danielle stands on his front porch. She feels him scanning her, analyzing her. She is sure that he can somehow tell exactly where she has been and how she spent her night. 

“I needed some time alone,” she says. 

Brent nods. “Come on in."

Still holding her purse straps with both hands, Danielle stands in the narrow entryway as Brent closes the door. 

“How was the meeting?” he asks as he slides the deadbolt into place.

“It was fine.” Her grip on the purse tightens as she looks at him. “I owe you an apology. And Molly and Claire, too. I never meant to say what I said in front of Molly last night. It wasn’t my business—"

He holds up a hand. “It’s okay. Accidents happen. I just want to know you’re all right."

Even in the face of his reassurance, her stomach roils with the memory of blurting out his and Claire’s news in front of Molly and the twins. Her cheeks grow hot as the moment plays vividly for what has to be the hundredth time on the screen in her mind. 

“I didn’t go to the meeting,” she says suddenly.

“What? Where have you been?"

Her hands shake as they clutch the straps. “I drank. I got drunk. I checked into a hotel and drank myself stupid.” The hot rush of tears races up behind her eyes. “I didn’t even want to. I just didn’t know what else to do."

The genuine sadness in Brent’s face is apparent. He opens his arms wide. “Come here."

Danielle hesitates. He is being so understanding, so welcoming, even after what she has admitted. Even after what the mess she caused for him last night. 

And then she sets the purse on the floor and throws herself into his embrace.

“I need help,” she says, as the tears begin to flow freely and she presses against her brother. “I need help, Brent."


Is Danielle ready to turn her life around?
Will Molly be able to accept Brent and Claire?
What will Sarah do about the blackmailer?
Talk about all this and more in the Footprints Forum!

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

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