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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Todd's Saga 12: Full Disclosure

        Viki looked at her brother.  Everything about his posture and tone told her that Todd’s secret was wearing him down.  She noticed the dark circles under his eyes, indicative of short nights.  Whatever it was, it was something he’d been hiding for a while.  “Maybe you should just start at the beginning.”

       Todd sighed and got up and walked to his desk.  He opened a locked drawer and removed a note and walked back to his sister.  “This is the reason I’m here.  That and others like it.” He handed it to her.

Viki took the note. She saw the outside and opened it to read it.  There was nothing on it but an address.  “I don’t understand.   What is this, and what do you mean, others like it?”

  “I received my first note in Port Charles.  I had no idea who it was from, but it told me Victor was alive and that I needed to finish what I started.”

“You mean you knew Victor was alive before coming home?”

He nodded, “I knew, but I didn’t believe it.  I thought someone was playing with me.  Then after getting those calls from Dani, I decided to go home and check on her.   You know what happened next.”

Viki was stunned, she looked at the note again.  There was nothing on it to say where it came from.  There was only the design on the front.  “The first note told you about Victor.  You said others.  Tell me what was on the others.”

“Viki, you need to understand.  Once I was home all I wanted to do was stay there.  Sure, I was shocked to see my brother alive and well.  But I never for a moment wanted to kill him again.  I just wanted to connect with my kids.”

        “And Blair?”

         “Of course Blair.  I love Blair and always have.  She made me see what a fool I’d been for months, but she held me at arm's length, refusing to let me close. Then a second note arrived, and everything changed.” 

        “When did the note arrive?” 

        “It was after Victor’s attempt to kill me.  There’s more.  Victor has a tattoo on his left wrist.  That is the tattoo.” He pointed to the design on the note.  “That tattoo also showed up on the man they pulled out of the river, I overheard Bo talking about it with Tea.”

         Viki frowned.  “Yes, I know something about that.  I don’t know what to think about Victor.  I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact he tried to kill you twice and then Natalie tells me he’s suspected of killing that man.  What happened to him in the last year and a half?”

        “If I were to take a guess, I’d say they messed with his mind the way my mother tried to mess with mine.”

        “They?  Who are you talking about?”  

         “The Tattoo Organization.  It’s what I’ve taken to calling it.  After I got the second note, I decided to tell Blair what was going on, but before I could do that, someone tried to kill her.”

        “Wait a minute.  I thought those shots fired were from a gang who wanted Blair’s club shut down.  Are you saying that’s not the case?”

        “That’s exactly what I’m saying.  Someone is targeting my family.  Dani was first.  She didn’t overdose.  Someone gave her toxic pills.  Those shots were for Blair, they were trying to force my hand to get Victor, but he had already disappeared.  The second note contained a list. Everyone I love is on that list including you and Natalie.”

        Viki paled upon hearing that and Todd stopped, concerned for her.  “Are you alright?  Do you want some more tea?’

        Viki looked at her teacup and managed a weak laugh.  “I still haven’t drunk the first, Todd.” 

        Todd looked over and grinned ruefully. “Oh, yeah.  I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

         “I’m fine, go on with your story.  What happened after they tried to shoot Blair?”

         “Blair and I decided the best thing to do was find Victor, so we went to Tea.  She gave me an idea where to locate him, but he disappeared from there before I could reach him.  After that, he cut off all communication with Tea.  We thought if the organization believed he was dead, at least Victor could stop running, and they would leave us all alone.  Unfortunately, that plan was never completed.”

        “Why didn’t you go to Bo?”

        “You know why.  Bo doesn’t trust me.  He never has and he never will.  He thought I strangled myself, remember.  I can’t work like that.  Besides, I had no idea who was keeping tabs on me.  The notes kept appearing from out of nowhere.  Viki, all of you were threatened, and Dani and Blair were proof they meant it.  Damn it!” Todd slapped his leg and stood up, walking away from his sister to stare out the window.  “I have no idea who these people are.  Yet they want Victor dead and me to do it.  Why do things like this keep happening to me? ” 

        Viki got up and went to her brother’s side. “I’m not sure Todd, I asked myself that very same question right before I decided to call Tony Butler.  I’m not giving up.  That’s why I came here.  I think you feel the same.  I haven’t heard your whole story yet, but I have a feeling you haven’t given up either.”

        He gazed out the window and realized the sun had set below the horizon.  He hadn’t even noticed how dark his office was getting.  Lights were beginning to go on around the city.  He glanced at the Buckner mansion and saw that the lights were on there, too.  Blair had arrived.  His anger and frustration melted away, and he turned to Viki. “One good thing has come out of this.  Blair has let me back into her life.  She’s here this weekend.   Let’s take this discussion to my temporary home, and we’ll fill you in on the rest.”


        Baker strolled down the hallway like he owned the place.  For years he had walked these same corridors as he performed his duties as Irene Manning’s second in command.  Today seemed like just another one of those days.  He was on his way to the new Director’s office.  He had yet to meet the person, but if his employer was correct, he had a suspicion he was about to come face to face with a madwoman.

        Reaching her office, Baker knocked. Seeing another woman sitting in Irene’s chair was strange.  She looked up and smiled.  It was disquieting, the look on the new Director’s face was almost maniacal.

        “Come in, Mr. Baker,” Alison said over cheerily.  “I’m glad to finally meet you.  Please take a seat.”

          Baker walked in and seated himself opposite her.

         “I understand you worked for Irene Manning, and of course, were at one time a member of the CIA.  I’m glad you decided to give us a try.  According to my brother, you’re quite skilled in several areas.  In particular, I understand you have intimate knowledge of certain persuasive techniques.”

        “I have many talents, Madame Director.  I wasn’t aware you would need those particular ones when I signed on.” Baker replied.  He knew exactly what skills she was talking about.  

        “You may call me, Alison.  You and I are going to be working very closely together.  We have several guests here requiring your skills.  My brother and I would be most appreciative if you would be so inclined to help us out.  Believe me, it would be worth your while.”

        Stall, Baker.  She’s talking about paying you.  Besides, you need to get on her good side.  Manning will want to know more about this unknown brother.  “I see, when you say worth my while, am I to understand there would be some monetary gain involved in this?” 

        “Of course.  Everyone is entitled to what they are worth and if you succeed in helping us with our endeavor, you’ll be well paid.”

       “Let me understand you completely.  You wish me to use my skills of persuasion with your guests.” She nodded.  “I’m quite willing to do that, but with one provision.  I won’t kill them.  I quite like my freedom, and if anything goes wrong, I won’t go down for murder.”

        This time Alison cackled with glee.  “Hahahahaha!  Mr. Baker, you have no need to worry on that front.  We don’t want them dead.  They’ve been bad boys, and it looks like they need the proper persuasion to come home to the fold.  Everyone must ‘Heed the Messenger’.  So, are you on board?  I’ll give you a moment to think about it.” Her tone suddenly turned serious. “But know, if you turn me down, I’m afraid the consequences won’t be to your liking.”

         Baker met her gaze even though it chilled him to the bone.  There it is Baker.  The woman is nuts.  She’ll make you one of her guests if you don’t go along with her.  Speaking distinctly, he said. “I’ll be glad to assist you any way I can.”

         “Excellent, come with me and I’ll introduce you to your first guest.  Actually, it’s possible you already know him.  He is Irene’s son after all.”  She walked past him and out the door.


Todd turned to her and offered his hand. “No protests.  You’re coming with me.  You let me stay in your home even when you weren’t sure I was your brother.  I’m not letting you spend a night in a hotel, especially here in New Orleans.  We’ll pick up your things on the way to the house.  Besides, we still have business to discuss.”

Viki knew when Todd took on that tone there was no talking him out of anything. She accepted his hand.  “What do you mean business to discuss?”

Tucking her hand into his elbow, he guided her out of the office.  “Did you forget?  You called me with a business proposition I believe.  Something about a new venture.”

 The moment she had seen that Todd was Tony Butler, all thoughts of doing business with him had gone out the window.  “Todd, that was before I knew you were Tony Butler.  I can’t go into business with you.”

        They entered the elevator.  Todd turned to his sister.  “Why not?  You told me The Banner was my legacy as well as yours.  I think it’s time I helped keep it around.  Look, we’ll talk about it over dinner.” He smiled at her and led her out to his Limo, completely ignoring any further attempts on her part to talk about it. 

        Viki was impressed when the Limo pulled into the driveway of a large mansion.  “Todd, I’m surprised at you.  I didn’t think this was your style.”

        “Only the best for Blair.  I rented it to give her memories to hold onto when we have to be apart.   It gives us the feeling of home.  The only ones missing are Jack and Sam.”  Todd stared out of the window wondering what the boys would have felt about such a place.  “Do you know it even comes with Ghosts on Demand?”

          Viki smiled at the wistful note in Todd’s voice.  “I bet Jack would love it.  He’s a lot like his father.”

          Todd turned and smiled at his sister. “So Blair keeps telling me.  I guess that’s why we’re having such a hard time reconnecting.  He keeps his hurts close to his heart, like me.  It’s hard to let them go.  You know what I mean, you saw me after my Ireland return.  I made a mess of that because I couldn’t let go of the hurt I felt when I saw Blair and Patrick.”

          “I remember.” Viki reached and put her hand on top of his. “But you’ve changed and now you’re making an effort to rectify all of that.  Never stop trying with Jack.  He loves you.  He’s just afraid.”

         “Of me?”  

         “No, Todd.  He’s afraid he’s like you and Victor both, and he doesn’t want to make the mistakes you both made.  Give him time.  When this is all over you’ll have another chance with him, I guarantee it.”

        Todd gulped and looked out the window.  Blair was patiently waiting on the back veranda. “Come on, I’m starved.  Let’s get you settled.  You’ll like this place.”  

       Viki watched quietly as Todd greeted Blair with a kiss.  He had changed so much since his ordeal with Irene.  She took a deep breath. You took a chance and made a call. Who knew you would find your brother?  Things are definitely looking up.  She embraced Blair and the three of them entered the house.

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A Letter to the Readers of Spidey Sam

Dear Readers
I want to thank everyone who read and commented on my book Spidey Sam.  I hope that everyone enjoyed reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And to those who took the time to comment on the chapters, I thank you for your comments.  I enjoyed reading them all.  I used them as a source of encouragement to continue writing.  I'm unsure at this time as to whether I will be writing another book but, if I do decide to write another book, I will definitely be posting it here.  Once again, thank you all for reading and commenting on Spidey Sam.  The last chapter will be Chapter 32, soon to be released.

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R.E.M. Part 10

The next few weeks were the happiest of Todd’s life. Blair’s company was two years old, and she could run it from Cincinnati at least for a little while. In the mornings, while Todd was at practice, Blair would go around to the local stores and spas and push them to stock Melador products-- or to use more of them, if they already did.

The afternoons they spent mostly in bed.

At night they’d go out to one of the exclusive, wild places that was always open to a professional athlete, even one who’d barely ever played.

It was basically the perfect life.

Todd couldn’t help being convinced that it would all collapse, and he wasn’t wrong.

The last preseason game of the year generally meant less than nothing. Todd expected to play for once because the stars would all be rested in preparation for the regular season. The team wasn’t going to risk an injury to a player who mattered in a game that didn’t.

The locker room was filled with nerves of rookies who hoped to prove themselves and guffaws of veterans who had nothing better to do today than make fun of the quarterback for having banged a cheerleader that everyone knew had once been engaged to the opposing team’s star tight end.

Todd was half-ready for the game-- taped and wrapped, but not yet into his pads-- when the scuffle broke out in the hall between the home and visiting locker rooms. From what he could hear, it was all about the stupid girl, who certainly wasn’t worth it. (It wasn’t like she was Blair.)

Coach threw open the door and Todd could see the years being scared off the man’s life when he saw his quarterback, unprotected, backed against the wall by a flurry of punches. The quarterback took an elbow to the throat; his eyes rolled back in his head. “Get him out of there!” Coach barked at Todd and a few of the rookies who were close by.

Despite the fact that football basically consisted of hitting people, it had been quite a long time since Todd had been in a real fight. In college, all he’d had to do was threaten and everyone else had backed down. In the pros, he’d mostly known his place and stayed out of the way. Almost every fight that happened in the locker room was really a lot of posturing and shoving while the combattants waited to be pulled apart so they could shout at each other from across the room that they would have beaten the shit out of each other if only they hadn’t been restrained.

It never occurred to him to disobey Coach’s order. Half naked or not, Todd ran into the fray. It was always, always the other players’ job to protect the quarterback. In this case, the quarterback wasn’t a bad guy, either; he wasn’t into humiliating the younger or less talented players. He just happened to have at least one woman in every city they passed through.

Todd landed a few punches in between trying to rip bodies away from his teammate. He took a few more punches than he landed, but he knew how to play through it. He didn’t like to expose his back and be surrounded by enemy combatants on all sides, but there was no other way…

Everything flashed white as something hard hit him behind his right ear and his head bounced off the wall. The brawl was forgotten as Todd gripped his head with both hands, feeling blood and trying to stay conscious. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain and fell to his knees. He attempted to crawl back to the locker room but he never found out whether he made it there.


The next thing Todd knew, he was in a bed and Peter was yelling. Disconcerted, he tried to figure out what he’d done wrong around the pounding in his head. The pain was almost unbearable.

“You stay away from my son!” Peter was bellowing. “You have no business being this close to him after what happened. I ought to have you arrested!”

“For what? Loving your son?” Todd’s whole body shivered. That was Blair. The last time Blair and Peter had gone at it, Todd had ended up standing there like a fool while Peter called Blair names. It wasn’t going to happen this time, not now when he and Blair were as close as they always should have been.

“You do not love my son. You want to hitch your wagon to my son, you want to exploit my son, you don’t give a damn that because of you my son just had emergency surgery to correct a subdural hematoma!”

Todd didn’t know what that meant, but he supposed it explained his headache and why he was finding it impossible to sit up.

“I had nothing to do with it! I wasn’t even there!” Blair objected. “There was a fight and he got hit over the head with something heavy and I came to the hospital just as soon as the locker room attendant called me.”

“There was a fight over a woman,” Peter corrected. “I hadn’t thought there was any particular woman in Todd’s life-- which is just as it should be for a man of his age and station-- and then I came here and saw you and it all made sense. What happened? You worked your way through the entire team and then convinced Todd to defend your honor? He’s had a blind spot for you since he was in college. But the joke’s on you, Lady-- and I use that term loosely-- because he’ll never play football again.”

“Who cares?” asked Blair. “I bet Todd doesn’t. He only kept playing to please you.”

“Oh, so you don’t care about him losing the career he worked for his whole life. That’s the most honest thing you’ve ever said. I suppose you don’t care about him being deaf in one ear, either, or the scarring on his face that the plastic surgeon doesn’t think he’ll be able to fix!”

Todd’s hand flew to his face. For the first time, he realized that it was swathed in bandages. Peter and Blair were both yelling, and between that and his headache he hadn’t noticed that he’d heard everything through his uncovered left ear and nothing at all through his cotton-wrapped right.

“I care that he’s in pain,” said Blair. “But he can do more than play football and I know that. That’s more than I can say for you, since you’re the one who got him convinced that he’s stupid and that everyone’s out to get him.”

“Not everyone. Just gold-digging little homewreckers. Oh, don’t look so surprised. I heard what you did to that woman when her husband wouldn’t leave her for you.”

“That was an accident!” Blair snapped.

“Accidents just follow you around, don’t they? What happened to that Luna person was an accident. What happened to my son was an accident.”

“I had nothing to do with what happened to Todd! If you want to blame someone for that, look in the mirror and remember who bullied him into playing football in the first place. Some day, Todd will realize exactly what you did to him, exactly what you took from him!”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Peter thundered, but his voice trailed off shakily.

“Can’t handle the truth, old man?” Blair asked. “Have to fake a heart attack?”

That was when Todd summoned everything he had to throw himself out of bed despite the tubes and wires meant to keep him in place. It wasn’t far to the door, and he opened it to see his father writhing on the floor, clearly in the throes of a heart attack. Blair had backed away and was screaming for help, which came quickly in the form of a team of nurses who whisked Peter into a wheelchair and out of sight.

Two more nurses and a doctor came to put Todd back in bed. He stumbled and swore; pain aside, his sense of balance had deserted him.

“That’s the damage to your ear,” one of the nurses said gently. “They help you balance and some of that’s gone. You’ll learn to compensate for it, but you can’t get up on your own for now, not so soon after surgery.”

“My dad?”  Todd asked, temporarily too terrified to care about his own pain.

“If you’re going to have a heart attack, the place to have one is when you’re already in the hospital,” the doctor answered. “They’ll take good care of him. He’ll have every chance because he received treatment immediately. But you’ve just come out of surgery yourself, and you need rest. Under the circumstances, I’m going to add a little something to your IV to help you along. All right?”

It was clear that Todd was going to be dosed with a sedative whether he said it was all right or not. The world went white again.


The next time Todd revived, there was an orderly in the room with him. “Hey,” he said, hoping to get painkillers for his head or at least an update on his father’s status. It wasn’t until she turned around that he saw that it wasn’t an orderly at all. It was Blair, who had somehow commandeered a hospital uniform.

Even driven to the edge of madness with pain, wondering whether his father had lived or died, and with a face full of bandages, Todd noticed that Blair looked hot. If all this hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have minded playing the naughty patient and the even naughtier nurse. No, he would not have minded that at all.

“New career, Blair?” he asked instead. “Melador not working out after all?”

She started hard at the sound of his voice and crumbled at the side of his bed. “It was the only way I could get in to see you. I had to see you, Todd. I had to see for myself that you were going to be okay.” She gently stroked the few strands of hair that weren’t covered by his bandage.

“My dad?” he asked.

“Stable. He came through the surgery. It sounded like this wasn’t his first heart attack?”

“No,” said Todd. “It wasn’t.”

“I’m sorry,” said Blair. “If I’d known, I wouldn’t have-- well, I meant everything I said to him but I didn’t want to do anything to make this harder on you than it already is.” She grabbed his hand and kissed it. “Do you need anything? Should I call the doctor?”

“Not yet.” His mind churned through the insurmountable list of problems before him. One was that he didn’t know the extent of his own injuries. They’d told him about the damage to his ear and that that alone was enough to mean he would never play football again, but they hadn’t explained why his whole face was bandaged. “Do you have a hand mirror? Like a compact or something?” He knew she always did.

Blair paled, realizing why he was asking. She pulled her bag from its hiding place under a chair and removed a thick plastic rectangle, emblazoned, naturally, with the Melador logo. She held it just out of his reach. “You’ll get better, you know,” she said. “A lot of what you see now is just swelling.”

He had no patience for her attempt to soften the blow. “Give me the mirror, Blair.”

She did.

It was worse than he could have imagined. He looked like Freddy Krueger.

He sank back against the pillow and let the mirror fall from his hand. Peach-colored powder exploded from behind it when it hit the floor. He closed his eyes, but all he could see was his distorted, damaged face.

“Get out,” he told Blair.

“Not until you tell me you know the swelling will go down, and you’ll look better then.”

“I’m deformed, all right? My football career is over, I’m deaf in one ear, and my father is down the hall dying. That’s enough. I don’t need you to go around pretending that it’s sunshine and roses and that you always secretly wanted to screw the Elephant Man. I’m not stupid.”

“You’re not stupid and you do not look like the Elephant Man,” said Blair.

Todd glared at her. She looked casually back at him, but he saw that she was faking it. He’d always had a way of knowing with her. “I scare you, don’t I?” he asked.

She bent down to put the shattered compact back together. “No,” she said.

“I know when you’re lying, Blair.”

She looked him full in his ruined face again. “Then you know I’m not lying when I tell you that the only reason I don’t like looking at you right now is that I don’t like to see you hurting. And I regret my part in that.”

“What did you do?”

“If I hadn’t fought with your father--”

Todd almost laughed, but stopped himself when he realized how painful that would be. “Arguments don’t cause heart conditions. If you sped it along, that probably helped him because it happened here and not in his hotel room.”

“Are you sure?” Her big green eyes were brimming with tears.

“I heard the whole argument, Blair. I’m sure. I’m not going to lose the only thing I have left. The only thing that was ever really mine, not his.”

He reached for her hand and held on.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 28

The crowd at the opening was larger than expected, and Todd put in several calls to the food warehouses to be on call with more.  Champagne was flowing freely, and the milling about seemed friendly and not too pretentious.  He was glad about that.

For his tuxedo, he had chosen black, as he always did, with red buttons and piping.  "Something different," he'd told himself.  He had a satin red vest and an open-collared white, crisp shirt.  He'd chosen red, because he knew what she was going to do.

Late that morning, when he awoke after the passionate night with her, she was gone again.  She'd left, and put a small note on the side table.  "I might be pathetic when it comes to loving you, but I'm not budging this time.  I can't do this again.  I won't."  He'd taken the note and crumpled it in his fist, slamming his fingers into the headboard, and obtaining a nasty set of peeled knuckles.  Tina had treated them with antiseptic, and then bandaged them.  He still had abrasions on his palms, so the new injuries just blended in.  He tried to imagine a life with phone sex and midnight visits, and he seethed.  

Mrs. Manning, you're testing me, I know you are.  I expect to see you this evening looking completely edible.  He surveyed the room; everything was going along perfectly.  One very large painting was covered, off to the left.  That was the unveiling.  And if Blair showed up, he'd make sure she was front in center for that one.  It was thirty minutes into the opening, and Blair was nowhere to be found.

Dorian was in a royal blue dress with sequinned lapels, and he caught her attention.  Meeting up in the center of the room, she said, "Nothing from Blair?"

"Not yet."

"I saw her this morning," Dorian started.  "She was coming in the door, in her pajamas.  At the time, I thought it was odd."  Looking at his face, she said, "She went to you last night, didn't she?"

"The good it did me," he said.  "She was gone when I woke up.  She wore me out."

"Spare me that kind of detail, Todd," Dorian said, searching the room for her niece.  "Where in the world is she?"

"Planning an entrance," he said, "where else?"

Dorian was summoned and went off, discussing the purchase of one of Jenna's pieces.  Todd had eaten two plates of food already, and somehow was losing his interest in the event.

Starr approached him.  "Dad, this is beautiful.  Good luck and congratulations.  Where's Grandma Bitsy, Dad?"

"She . . . couldn't make it.  She's in a place in her therapy where she couldn't handle the crowd and strangers."

Starr looked stricken.  "I'm sorry.  Is it hard for you, Dad?"

"The hardest thing for me right now is not having your mother on my arm.  But, yeah, it's hard, I guess.  She has so much to overcome.  It's just . . . hopefully she'll get well."

"Where is Mom?"

"I don't know," he said, hoping his plan wouldn't be spoiled by her not attending.  

He started to doubt, when Starr said, "Oh, there she is.  She just came in."

He turned quickly and double-took her presence into his soul.  She was wearing an off-the-shoulder red dress, covered in small rhinestones at the bottom edges and across the bodice.  She wore a white stole across her arms.  She waved and greeted Dorian, who went to her, kissing her cheeks, one at a time. 

Starr said, "Dad?  Dad!"

"Yeah, Starr," he said, not taking his eyes off his wife.

"Go talk to her."

He started toward her, and then thought better of it.  She had left him, not once, but twice.  The second time was after declarations of their love and deep, sensual lovemaking that spent both of them like rag dolls.  No.  Let her make the first move.  She left me.

He wasn't sure how he did it, but he literally turned his face from her, and went to greet some guests.  This, of course, infuriated her, and she began flitting around the room, greeting people and paying special attention to how the men in the room reacted to her.  He drank champagne, viewing her exploits over the rim of a flute.  Starr said, "Dad, this is kind of stupid.  The two of you have four and one half children together, a dog, and years of unbelievable history, and you're playing this game?"

He paused, to think, then smiled into Starr's eyes.  "Hell, yeah," and he walked off, extending a hand to a prospective buyer.


The nurse said, "Bea, I am going to turn the television on to the coverage of the opening, so you can see what's going on.  Todd will be there, and Blair, and your sketches."

She nodded, but seemed disinterested.

"Unless you don't want to see it."

She shrugged.

"Shall I leave it on for you?"

She nodded, hesitantly.  She was drawing, but then looked up when she heard Todd's voice.  "Yes, we're very excited about The Diamond Gallery.  It's a special evening.  I want to send love to my mother, who couldn't be here this evening, because she's under the weather.  I love you, Momma.  Your art looks beautiful," he said, into the camera.

Her eyes filled with tears.  She continued to watch, as he lifted a glass in toast, and she spotted Starr in the crowd, as well as Jack.  No Sam.  Where is Blair?

She continued watching, and listening to the commentary from the crowd.  She recognized Dorian and Addie, and the Irishman, Timothy, who had legally adopted Todd.  

Where is Blair?  She is not near Todd.


At nine o'clock, Todd called attention of all of the guests and they gathered around.  Timothy took Blair by the elbow and lead her over to the congregation.  She, Starr, Jack, and Dorian were toward the front, as were Jenna and Lynnette.  Todd started by saying, "Welcome to The Diamond Gallery."

The crowd applauded.

"Everyone here knows, I usually have something up my sleeve at events like these, but today, it's going to be personal.  I'd first like to thank resident artist, Jenna Winfield, for sharing her amazing work with us."  The crowd again clapped.

Blair's expression was not one of happiness, as she still had not been approached by him the entire evening.  She stood next to Timothy, and waited to see what was next.  He'd better not have some scheme set up.

"I'd like to unveil Jenna's first commissioned piece, it's of Courtown Demesne."

Dorian stepped forward and pulled the satin covering off the painting.  It was beautiful, and in fine detail, represented a sprawling, beautiful castle-type manor, that was breathtaking to the eye.  Blair could see a huge, elaborate main building, and next to it, rows of stables, on acres of land spotted with small cottages.  It was breathtaking, and Todd was sure to show the photograph, in the corner, that Jenna had used to create it from.  The audience was stunned, and he said, "If I may have your attention a moment longer.  This piece was commissioned by me, as a gift for my wife, Blair Manning."

The crowd erupted into applause again, and Blair, looking quite confused, stepped forward, awkwardly.  As beautiful as it was, she could not find any meaning in it.  He put his hand out to her, and she reluctantly took it, and just looked at him, nervous but also anticipating his next move with excitement that she struggled to contain.

"Blair, tell everyone what this painting means to us," he prompted.

She smiled, and she said, "I don't know!  It's the most beautiful painting, but I have no idea."  Light laughs all around.

"Ya must have forgotten to tell her," Timothy said, from the crowd.  The guests were murmuring in anticipation.

Dorian shot him a look, as if to say, this had better work.

"I commissioned the painting, because I bought it."

Blair said, "Yes, well, that's what commissioning, is, My Love," and the crowd laughed softly.

"No, I bought it."

Blair realized what he meant, and she looked at him, stunned.  "You bought it?  The castle?"

He said, "Yes.  I bought it, for you, for us.  A home away from home, sort of."

Someone from the crowd yelled out, "It's in Kildare, in Ireland."

Her face was priceless to him; she was both moved and curious about what he'd done.  Todd stepped toward her, and as the crowd applauded and dissipated back to the festivities, he took both her hands.  Turning her to him, he said, "I bought it.  All three hundred and eighty-six acres of it.  It has stables, and I know how much you love horses.  Sheik has already been shipped there, though I know you can't ride much right now.  You should know by now I'd never go anywhere without you.  When I said I wanted to go to Ireland, I didn't ever mean without our family."

She didn't respond, she was still speechless, and her eyes sparkled with tears.

"And before you say anything, I just want you to know that if you don't want us to go, I'll just sell it back, or turn it into a hotel.  It was always your call, you just didn't trust me.  You didn't give me a chance."

"Oh, Todd," she said, breaking down.  He took her into his arms.

"That's okay, Babe.  Nothing lost but a few hours apart and a big phone bill."

She laughed, pulling back from him.  "You mean this?"

"Of course I do.  I figured the whole family, plus guards and helpers, can go out there while we solve this Patrick thing.  I won't even hang with the big guns.  I'll just consult.  Meanwhile, we won't be apart.  I hired tutors for the kids for school, Sam can recover there.  I'll bring Sister Rebecca Katherine 
and Tina both.  Timothy's going, he's leaving in the morning with a team of FBI agents and John McBain.  I wanted to tell you all this, but you flipped out.  Then, I was scared, about the baby.  I didn't want to upset you more, so I let you go."

"I left you."

"Yeah, you left me."

"You did all this, for us?"

"Yep.  I did it all for us.  But you can still say no.  If you don't want us there, in Ireland, then we stay.  But I promise, no one is going to get hurt.  Not our babies, not either of us."

She turned to look at the painting again.  "My God, it's huge.  It's so beautiful."

"Well, would you expect me to pick some ugly castle?"

"No, I guess not."

"Well, think it over."  Todd said.

"How much did this place cost you?"  Blair asked.

"In excess of ten million.  But it will make that back in three months when it becomes a resort hotel.  That's after we leave.  Unless you don't want that, and you want to live there."

"In Ireland?  No, I think I'm fine at Unforgettable, thanks," she said, "and Llanview is our home."

"I thought you'd say that.  It's a good investment and serves two purposes.  So, think it over, and let me know what you want to do, okay?"  He started to walk away from her.

She said, "Todd," and he turned.  She used her index finger and curled it to summon him back.  When he got close enough to her, she whispered, "Let's go home."


"Dr. Martino, I'm sorry, she just was frantic."  The nurse stepped aside as Ray walked into Bea's room.

Bea handed Ray a note.  
Blair is not with Todd.  Why?  Did she leave him?  Did something happen to her?

Ray was cautious.  "I am sure everything is all right, Bea.  Would you like me to call Todd?"

She nodded.

Todd and Blair were walking, arm in arm, down the sidewalk toward the limo, when Todd heard his phone.  Taking it out, he mouthed to Blair, "It's Ray," and answered.  "Hello?"

"Todd, your mother is with me.  She's frantic because she saw the broadcast from the opening and she didn't see Blair with you."

Todd repeated what Ray said aloud, and Blair took the phone, "I'll speak to her Ray."  She waited.  "Momma, it's Blair.  I'm right here, by Todd's side.  Everything is all right."

Bea smiled, and nodded.  Ray took the phone back and said, "She's smiling.  She feels better now.  And to tell the truth, so do I, Blair.  Whatever it is that's frightening you, trust Todd.  You two fought too hard to be together to be apart now.  That's my advice off the clock, Blair."

Blair said, "Thank you," and the line disconnected.  She looked at Todd.  "You mother was upset we were apart."

"She's not the only one."

"I'm sorry, I was so . . ."

"Afraid.  I know.  I could see it."

"Do you know we're right where we were when you disappeared in Ireland?  The day after our wedding.  We were expecting Starr, I was this far along.  We were having a baby girl, like we are now."  She put his hand on her belly.  "You left me to help Marty.  Patrick was missing.  We had everything.  The mirror had broken. . ."

"And we lost it all.  I know.  I'm sorry it scared you so much."

"It scared me, but I knew it was my fault.  Don't you see?  I refused to go with you that day.  I chose that stupid meeting over going to Ireland with you.  I could have kept you in line, stopped you from taking risks.  And I didn't.  I stayed, for Melador.  And then, I lost you.  I guess I just felt like I was better off leaving than dealing with it again.  I just couldn't face it.  With all the pressure from Sam's accident and thinking about . . ." she took in extra air, "losing the baby, I just wasn't thinking straight."

He gently rubbed her stomach.  "It's all different now."


"We're older, we're wiser.  We're together.  Nothing will stop us or hurt us.  I won't let it."

She searched his eyes.  "Take me home, Todd."

"No problem, Mrs. Manning."

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