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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Todd's Saga 14: Deep Passions (Adult)


Blair walked up to her front door and stopped to search for her key.  She smiled as she pulled the ticket and note from her purse. She reopened the note to read it again.

Use the ticket, and take the Limousine that will be waiting for you.  He’ll bring you to the next leg of your journey and from there you’ll be brought to me. Hurry, I need you. T.

She couldn’t help but laugh at how mysterious Todd was being.  The ticket was for Miami, so she was going to pack for the warmer temps.  Since the weather in Llanview had turned cold just after she had returned from New Orleans, Blair found herself looking forward to some warm fun in the sun.  She breezed into the house, coming to a stop as she saw a beautiful bouquet of flowers sitting on the foyer table.  She turned when she heard footsteps.  It was Dorian coming out of the kitchen.  “My goodness, Dorian, it looks like you’ve snagged another one.  Carl must have really enjoyed your evening.”

Dorian glanced at the flowers.  “That’s what I thought, but they aren’t mine.  They’re yours. There was no card, perhaps they’re from a secret admirer.  Although this one seems to have a bizarre taste.  Really, twelve red roses and a black one, a bit dramatic don’t you think?

“A secret admirer?  I don’t think so.” Blair moved to the table and looked around the bouquet.  “I don’t understand why you call it bizarre.  I think they’re lovely, and Tony probably sent them.  He loves things ‘dramatic.’  The card must have just gotten lost.”

“Whatever, Blair.  Umm, you’re home awfully early.  I thought you were going to stay at the club tonight?”

“My plans have changed.  I have to go out of town a few days ahead of my scheduled trip.  Please forgive me.  I know it’s short notice and you have your own life to live, but will you watch over the boys for me?”

“Blair, of course I will, but your Mr. Butler is starting to get on my nerves.  Why doesn’t he fly in here sometimes?  I’d really like to meet the man who’s taken Todd’s place in your heart.”

Blair chose to ignore Dorian’s comment about Todd and said, “Dorian, I already explained that.  He’s very busy and does a great deal of traveling during the weeks.  He knows I work hard here to maintain the club, and he figures it’s a good escape for me to come to him.  He likes to give me a chance to rest from everything in my life.  I love his concern and I don’t mind taking the trips to meet him.  He always makes me feel so special.  Just like sending these flowers.  It’s his little touches, I love the most.”

“Hmmph. In my book if he really cared for you, he wouldn’t let you fly anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“No matter how you try to hide it, I know you’re pregnant.  I haven’t pushed because I’m afraid I already know the answer to my question.  You’re too far along to be carrying Mr. Butler’s child, so you have to be carrying that devil’s spawn.  I warned you not to get involved with him again, but you didn’t heed my warning.  I must say, your Mr. Butler is definitely the better man if he loves you even though you’re pregnant with another man’s child.”

Blair’s anger flared at Dorian’s words.  “Shut up!”

Dorian was stunned into silence by Blair’s words.

Blair couldn’t stop herself, as everything she had held in for months came flowing out.  “You’re right, I’m pregnant with Todd’s baby and I won’t have you say another word against him.  You have no idea what went down before he disappeared.  Todd loved me, and our children and he also would have loved this baby, and he would have given anything just to be here with us right now.  I didn’t tell you because I knew how you felt.  Tony’s been nothing but supportive.  He knows all about Todd and he’s been helping me without all the “I told you sos”  I just got from you.”

“Blair, calm down.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.  I was just concerned about all this travel in your condition.  You’re right, I shouldn’t have mentioned Todd.  You know I love you, and I’m tickled that another Cramer is on the way.”

“Stop, Dorian.  This baby, like Starr and Jack, isn’t just a Cramer.  He or she is also a Manning, and when the time comes, Todd’s name will be right alongside mine on the birth certificate.  I’m going to go pack.  Now more than ever, I need to see to get away from here.”  Blair moved up the stairs without looking back.

Dorian watched as Blair walked away.  She had hurt Blair and knew she needed to give her niece space.  Looking up the stairs, she said quietly to herself. “Todd Manning never knew what he had, or he wouldn’t have left you once again.  I know you loved him Blair, but I’m glad he  disappeared and this time I pray it’s for good.”  She shook her head sorrowfully and returned to the kitchen.

Blair stood at the top of the stairs just out of sight, where she had paused to regain her composure.   She heard Dorian’s last words, and it hurt her deeply.  Her aunt would never come around where Todd was concerned.  “You’re wrong, Dorian.  He knows exactly what he has and whether you want him back or not, he will return.”  She rubbed her stomach to reassure the child beginning to stir a little bit.  “Daddy needs us.  We’re off on another trip.”

****
Todd’s day had been hectic.  After making sure Blair’s surprise was to be delivered, his chartered flight had taken him to South Dakota where he had met with the foreman at the drilling site and been caught up on the recent find of natural gas.  His little venture away from publishing concerns was turning out to be quite profitable.   It was a little after 3:00 pm, that his chartered flight took off and headed south to his final destination.

Todd stepped out of the bungalow and made his way down to the beach.   It was already dark and the moon was full, shining brightly above the ocean as the waves lazily lapped up on the beach.   In the distance, he heard the sound.   There, like a star low in the night sky, was a light, then its shape became silhouetted against the moon, and he could see the copter.   He back away as it landed, but once the blades stopped, he eagerly ran to the door and opened it.

She was a vision.  Her eyes were sparkling with excitement and her beautiful smile lit up her face when she saw him.  “Welcome to your final destination, Mrs. Manning.  How was the ride?”  He reached into the copter and offered her his hand.

Blair laughed as she took his hand and stepped out into his arms.  She was exhilarated.  When she had gotten off the plane in Miami, she had met the limo as Todd had specified.  Little did she realize what was in store next.   She flung her arms around his neck. “Oh My God, Todd, I never dreamed I‘d be riding in a helicopter.  When the pilot took off over the ocean it was beautiful.  I felt like a part of the heavens, flying between the dark ocean and the star-filled sky.”

Todd couldn’t resist her joy and he kissed her. All of his pent up desire flowed through him as she returned his kiss.   Passion ignited between them and they were lost in each other. Suddenly, they were interrupted by a loud cough.

“Umm, right sorry to stop your reunion, but I need to take off.  If you’ll move away, I’ll get out of here and let you folks continue.”

Todd and Blair looked at each other and laughed.  Grabbing Blair’s hand, Todd gathered her bag and they moved further up the beach, stopping to watch as the copter lifted off and flew away.  Todd dropped the bag and turned back to Blair.  “Where were we?  Oh, yes.”  His hand went to her face moving the strands of hair that had fallen down across it.  Her eyes were clear and bright in the moonlight and her lips were moist and full from their recent kiss.  “You are so beautiful.  You came into my life and changed it forever.  I love you, and when you’re not around, I ache until you’re with me again.”  She reached for his face and he caught her hand and kissed it. Then he lowered his head and gently began kissing her, deepening it as she responded and melted into him.

Todd slowly broke the kiss. He smiled at Blair’s puzzled look.

“Why are you stopping?’ she inquired.

“Because I have another surprise for you.  Come on.”  He wrapped an arm around her waist and led her down the beach and over the top of a dune.  There in front of them was a lovely canopy put up and lit on all sides by torches.   Underneath, the ground was covered in lovely blankets and pillows, and off to one side was a table laden with food.

Blair was enchanted.  “It’s like something out of an Arabian nights tale.”  She turned to her husband and gave him a squeeze. “First a magic carpet ride, and now this.  I wonder what you’ll do next.”

Todd looked at her, his eyes smoldering, he smiled wickedly. “The only thing I want to do next is get you on those blankets and show you how much I’ve missed you.”

Blair felt the heat begin to rise in her.  “Show me, Todd. Please!”

He led her to the tent and helped her get settled comfortably then dropped beside her and began to slowly unbutton her blouse.  When she wanted to help he covered her hands with his. “No, I want to savor everything.”

Blair quivered under his touch as he got the last of the buttons undone, and his hand came in contact with her skin. He slipped the blouse off and lowered his lips to her neck then trailed his kisses down, all the while expertly unclasping and removing her bra.  She shivered slightly as a breeze drifted through the tent blowing across her exposed flesh, but then gasped as his lips and teeth found her nipple. His tongue flicked out as he tasted her.  Blair was immersed in feelings as he worked his magic.

Todd paused his ministrations to her breast, to take the time to slip her skirt off.  She looked dreamily at him and lifted her hips eagerly, anxious for him to continue. The only article of clothing she still retained were her dainty lace panties and Todd wasted no time removing them.  His babe lay in front of him, fully revealed.  To him she was Beauty personified.  Mother, Wife, Lover, all rolled into one gorgeous package, and she was his, all his.  To the mother, he paid homage by leaning forward and planting a gentle kiss on her belly.  As he caressed Blair softly, he felt his child move under his fingertips.

From her vantage point, Blair had been watching Todd’s face, as he had finished undressing her.  Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the love for her in his eyes.   He was so intense and focused.  When he gently kissed her belly and the baby moved, she saw the awe written all over his face.  It was the same look he had given her when he felt their first child move.  It never got old, seeing that look of wonder on his face.  She waited eagerly for his next move and was touched when he took her left hand and kissed her ring finger.   From there he kissed her inside wrist, then stood and got rid of his clothes.  Now it was her turn to admire her lover and husband. She loved his body.  Although it was scarred, like his face, it was also beautiful and lean. There wasn’t an ounce of fat on him and his work the past couple of months had toned and sculpted him to perfection.

Todd laid down beside Blair and ran his fingers lightly up and down her body, delighting in her little responses when he touched a sensitive spot.   One hand found her breast and fondled it.  His mouth lowered, and he began sucking and working her nipple. Her breaths were fast and her sighs of pleasure were building.  He started licking and kissing her body.

Blair was lost. Todd’s tongue was working wonders and soon her whole body was tingling. She wanted him so badly, but he was into sweet torture, determined to bring every ounce of pleasure to her before taking her.  Blair cried out suddenly as Todd’s tongue reached her center.  It was exquisite, she began pleading. ”Please, Todd… Oh God…” He entered her and her legs wrapped around him as she clutched his shoulders.  Their passion flowed, building in momentum as Todd began moving..  Blair was overwhelmed, sensations rising with each stroke until she thought she couldn’t take anymore.   Her body reached its limit as Todd exploded within her and her cries joined his.   Spent, he collapsed beside her, and she curled up into his arms.

Todd held Blair close to his heart, as his breathing returned to normal. Her soft breath against his chest indicated that she had fallen into a light sleep.  She would awake soon, and they would talk as they were used to doing, but for now, he reveled in the joy he felt just holding her.  The night enveloped them, the torches had gone out, and the moon was the only light in the sky.  Blair shivered a little in his arms and Todd grabbed a throw and gently covered her.  He felt relaxed for the first time in days.  His fingers played with her hair and he kissed the top of her head.

 He thought back to the events that had taken place nineteen years earlier. She had been his salvation from the moment he met her.  Of course, it wasn’t until the night of her Christmas present to him that he realized just how important she had become to him.  He had been terrified at first and had quickly left her apartment, while he tried to gathered his confused thoughts.  Then she had tried to distance herself, and he knew he couldn’t let that happen.  He had insisted on remaining her friend and soon they had begun leaning on each other more and more.  Try as he might, she had been convinced she was in love with Cord Roberts, and he had cut his losses and headed out of town alone.  He had been surprised when she tracked him down a few days later.  A soft hand moved across his chest, and  his thoughts were interrupted as he looked down into sleepy emerald eyes.  “Hi Blair.”

She lovingly played with the hair on his chest and smiled. “Hi Todd.   What are you doing?’

“Thinking.  About you, about us.  I had to get away from Louisiana.  Here came to mind, so I arranged the trip.”

Blair looked out at the calm ocean.  She saw the moon providing it’s gentle light over them.  “Where is here,Todd?”

“We’re on the beach, just steps away from where we first got married.”

Blair sat up and looked around.  “We’re in Key West?  What made you think of here?”      
She was surprised.  For years she had felt Todd would steer clear of Key West because it was where she had lied to snag him.  The fact that he had chosen it made her a little uneasy.

Todd heard the worry in her voice, and he quickly spoke to reassure her. “Relax Babe.  I didn’t bring us here to go over past mistakes.  This is where we became man and wife for the first time, but it was all wrong.  I brought us here to wipe out that memory.  This is our fresh start.  What do you say?”

Blair let out a sigh of relief at his words and dropped back into the arms he was holding open.   “I say yes.  I think it’s high time we let go of the past, and starting fresh here works for me.”  Todd didn’t give her a chance to say anymore.   Instead, he whispered something into her ear.  She giggled as his lips captured hers.   Mmmm, new memories, here we come.                


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 33

"They have him?  Like, he's rescued?"  Todd asked, hopeful.

"No.  They believe they know where he is."

"Where?"

"Todd, I think it's best that . . ."

"Where?" he demanded.

"They believe he's being held where ya were.  In the catacombs."  A damp feeling of dread came over Todd as he flashed back to the dank, clammy cell with rock for walls.  He saw Leona, lying dead next to him, staring into his face as he lay on his back, powerless.  

He squeezed his eyes shut, and said, "The same place."

"They believe.  It was vacated for a long while, after you were saved.  They seem to have gravitated back to it."

"They went to a lot of trouble to create that place," his voice was hollow.

"It doesn't seem right, that they would continue to house their operation in a place that was already discovered."

"They might, if they thought that very fact would throw everyone off.  Besides, they . . . " his voice trailed.

"Todd?  Todd?  Are ya there?"

"Yeah, yeah I'm here.  They took pride in the place.  Believe me."

"I just wanted ya to know that they think they have a lead.  Problem is, the entire place is overrun with traps and explosives.  They don't want intruders.  That's clear."

"Of course.  Why would they?  You just . . . the RA21 can't waste time, you know why. . ."  his voice again trailed off.

"I do.  I realize the urgency, and I realize as well, that ya know this first hand.  I'm just telling ya, as y'ar new Pappy, don't stay with this, Todd.  Don't let it seep into y'ar mind."

"You want me to let it go, Old Man?  Is that what you mean?"  He regretted his tone, the moment it left his lips.

"Yes.  And I know it's a lot to ask ya, but yes.  Don't go into that place.  We will find him, and get him out.  Just let it go and let John do his job."

They hung up, and Todd sat, looking off into space.  He took his cell phone, and hauled back, letting it fly and smashing it against the far wall.  It was a few minutes before he noticed his sister, Tina, standing in the doorway.

***

"Good morning, Bea.  How are you today?"  Ray Martino said.

She shrugged.  This was different from her customary thumbs up, or thumbs down.

"Something bothering you?"

She shook her head "no" and moved toward him, pulling her chair with her.  She planted her notepad and her pen on the top of the desk.  The pad said, Where is Todd? and she pointed to it.

"He's in Ireland."

She squinted her eyes, questioning.

"He's helping a friend."

She wrote.  Where is Blair?  Where are the children?

"He took them with him.  He doesn't want to be apart from them again."

She nodded.  

Ray said, "Bea, I was thinking about the other day, when you were telling me about Peter, and Todd, and Todd's rage.  How you felt responsible.  I was wondering what you are thinking about that now?"

She took the pad.  The same thing I thought then.

"All right.  I wondered, who bears responsibility for your injuries that resulted in you not being able to speak?"

She looked down.

He said, "Bea?"

She did not respond to him, except to avoid his face and slightly rock.

"Bea, is it hard for you to think about that?  The Time of Black?"

Her rocking increased, the pace heightening.  He waited. 

Without warning, she covered her ears and opened her mouth in a silent scream.  Ray got up and went to her chair and knelt in front of it.  He attempted to get her eyes to meet his.  "Bea, focus on my face."

She didn't oblige.  Instead, she began to weep. . . and still covered her ears, as if to block out the sound of something that terrified her. 

Ray gently said, "Bea, listen to me."  He tried to remove her hands from her ears, "Bea, it's all right," he said, carefully pulling her hands away from her head.  "It's not happening now, it's over."

Her face covered in tears, Bea finally let her arms drop, her hands falling to her lap.  She began to sob to the point of shaking, and he kindly put his hands on her shoulders, and said, "Oh, Bea," and she looked up slowly.  He said, "I'm very sorry."  

Small whimpers came from in her throat, as she leaned toward him, and he held her.  "It's going to be all right.  You're going to face this, and you will get better.  This I can promise.  You will."

She finally left his embrace, and he still watched her face, as she looked into his, and shook her head "no."  

He said, "Yes.  Yes you will.  You will.  You didn't think you would remember everything, and you're starting to.  And, you never thought you'd see your son again, and you did."

She sniffled, and appeared to be considering what he said.  She reached past him and took her pad.  Scribbling on it hastily, he paused, still in front of her chair.  

It's so hard to think of it.  Peter was a bad man.  So very bad.  I can't think of it.  Please don't make me.

"No.  I won't make you.  I am sorry I pushed you.  I believe it will help you to face it.  Todd faced things.  It helped him."

Todd is strong.  I am not.  I am weak.  I did not run away.  I did not save him. I did not tell.  Peter punished me for my weakness!  God does not love me.

Ray thought of how much this interaction with Bea reminded him of Todd's fatalistic attitude.  "Doesn't God love everyone?  That is how God is, right?  God loves Todd, doesn't He?  Sister Rebecca Katherine has told you that.  Peter did those things to you because he was sick, Bea.  Not because you deserved them."

He did terrible things.  I can't think about it.

"Then don't today.   Don't think of it right now.  But I am telling you that it will help you, when you can."

What did Todd face?  What things?

"The  things that happened when he was held captive.  The things that happened with Peter, to him, and to you.  The things he had done that were motivated by his rage."

He is brave, my son.  Braver than me.

"You are brave also, Bea.  You are brave for trying to get well."

She didn't answer, she just hugged herself with her hands, while crying, and looking to the ceiling.

"Are you looking for the sparrows, Bea?"  Ray asked, becoming concerned.

She wrote, No.  I am looking for God and asking Him to make it stop.  I am asking Him to love me.

"He does.  And He will help you, Bea," Ray said, relieved.  He smiled softly.  "When you are ready."

***

"Todd?"

"Leave it be, Tina."

"Todd," she said softly, as if speaking to a child.

"Just, leave me alone, please."

She walked closer, and he avoided her gaze, struggling to keep his composure.  She reached one hand out, and slowly lowered it to his shoulder.  He looked at her hand, then gradually made his way up her arm to her face.  She slightly tilted her head, and said, "I'm sorry, whatever it is."

It wasn't clear to either of them which came first, but in the next moment, she was sitting beside him, pulling him compassionately into her arms, and he was letting her, leaning in.  He closed his eyes, and she said, "It's okay.  You'll get past it."  

He finally left her embrace, and she said, "Do you want to tell me about it?"

"No.  No one who didn't live it needs these details running around in their heads."

"Try me.  You'd be surprised."

He shook his head.  "It's not what you think.  You don't want to know."

"How do you know that?  You're my brother."

He looked at her, as if he had almost forgotten.  In fact, she was his whole sister; they both had the same pervert father and young mother.  He said, "Look at us.  Victor's kids."

"That's right.  Which makes me capable of handling whatever you have to say."

"Thornhart. . ."  He said.  She waited, and he cleared his throat.  "He's . . . I know what he's facing.  They think they know where he is being held, and it's the same place they held me when I was here two years ago.  I barely made it out alive.  My . . . handler was particularly sick."  

Tina didn't flinch.  She had purposely told herself not to, for his sake.  He continued, "I have the scars to remind me.  He had worked me over, and was ready to, well, finish the job.  I overpowered him and killed him.  If they have someone like that holding Thornhart, I mean, could there be more of them?  It's supposedly the same place I was.  What if there are more Leona's out there?"

"I doubt it.  He sounds like a rare bird."

"He was farmed.  At an orphanage in Greece.  They could have made more like him.  But believe me, I know he was an individual."  He subconsciously rubbed his shoulder.


"Is that where he hurt you, or worked you over, you said?"

"It's one place, yeah."

"What did he do?  Did you ever talk about it?  Do you want to?"

"I'm not really into reliving it, if that's what you mean."  He hiked his shirt sleeve up.  "See?  That's his handiwork."

"It's . . .perfectly rectangular."

"Yep."

She sighed, and then said, "So, you got past that."

"Yeah, I guess I did."

"So, you're healing.  And just like these scars, it's fading.  But you can't expect it to be totally gone.  So what if you slip, and feel something?  God, Todd, give yourself a damn break."

He looked at her and said, "Where did you get so smart all of the sudden?"

"I always was, you just never bothered to notice."

"Yeah, right," he said, as she rose off the bed, and went to the door.  

"Todd, if you need anything, or just to talk, you can count on me.  I know it's hard right now, with Blair, to really depend on her.  A lot is going on.  The baby, the past, your mother, you.  It's a lot to deal with."

"I'll remember that," he said, and she went on her way.  "Who was that?" he said aloud.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 32

"Dad, where can we get a good pizza around here?"  Jack said.

"That one I don't know the answer to, Son.  I might have to get those caterer style ones from home shipped out.  Or something like it.  This is Ireland."

"Well, for a first dinner, this wasn't half bad."  

"Well, we were all hungry, and tired from the flight.  I think you'll be wanting to see that pillow early tonight."

Jack yawned.  "Probably."

"I love Ireland," Sam said.  "Sister Rebecca Katherine said I am Irish."

"Ya are.  At least a little."  The nun said.

"The mom who had me in her stomach and my first dad.  They were Irish."

"Yep, at least some Irish."  Blair said.

"So I might be Irish, too."

"You are, you're a leprechaun.  See how small you are, Puny?"  Jack teased.

"So?  I can run faster than you, and I can fit in small places," he looked down sadly.  "When I can run."

"You will Sam, it just takes time," Tina said.  The little boy was frowning.

Todd said, "Yep, your aunt's right.  It won't be long."

"How come Aunt Dorian didn't come to dinner?"  Jack asked.

"She wasn't up to it, I think she's in there feeling sorry for herself," Blair said.  "She misses Timothy."

"Aunt Dorian and Grandpa, sitting in a tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G."  Sam said.

"All right, Sam."  Blair said.

"Come on, we're going up to the bedroom," Todd said.  "It's time to read some books or do something quiet before bed.  Mom and I are really tired."  He lifted Sam off the chair, and carried him up the oak staircase.  

Jack followed.  "Hey  Dad?  How much would it cost to build our own pizza oven in here?"  Their voices faded as they turned the corner at the top of the stairs, and disappeared into the top level of the castle.

Blair looked at the women.  "I love him, so much."

"Ay, it's clear ya both do.  So grateful that we're here in Ireland, and he's got his life."  Sister Rebecca Katherine started to help clear dishes.

"You were here before, recently," Tina said, more like a question.  Ray was feeding himself the last of his Cheerios. 

"Yes."  Blair said, then she turned.  "When we got off that plane, I felt almost sick.  I could only think of the previous times I'd been here.  First, looking for Todd when he was presumed dead, the day after our wedding.  The one with the gold balloons.  Then, coming back to try and find him when . . . Leona tried to . . ." she choked up.

Tina said, "I didn't mean to start anything . . ."

"She's just emotional, Lass.  Leona had tried to take Blair and Ray with him.  Todd traded his life.  He was taken, kidnapped and  . . . well, mistreated.  We found him just before it was too late.  It was Patrick Thornhart who found him, in actuality."  The nun gave a brief history lesson.

"What do you mean, mistreated?"  Tina asked.

"He was . . . almost killed."  Blair said.  "And Tina, I can't explain more.  It's too much, and I'll be sick."

Tina did not say much more.  She noticed how green Blair looked, so she just swallowed, and put her hand on Blair's arm.  "What was the third time?"

"It was not long ago.  Timothy was dying of cancer.  Todd and I went to Ireland to say goodbye, which turned into Todd deciding that Timothy could be saved.  Sister Rebecca Katherine gave part of her liver, Todd paid for everything, Timothy was cured.  Todd was going through something really painful, and they gave each other reason to keep trying.  Timothy gave up drinking, and then adopted Todd.  He needed a father, so much."

"That one I like," Tina said.  "I like that a lot."

***

"All right, night, Sam O'Hearlihey."  Todd said.

"What's that?"

"It's Irish."

"Okay, night, Dad O'Hearlihey."

"I don't think I'm Irish."

"Well, then good night, Dad.  I love you."

"Love you, too."

"Dad?"

"Yes, Sam."

"Mom said you've been here before.  Was it when I was alive?"

"Yeah, remember?  I was here when Grandpa was really sick."

"Oh yeah.  That's right.  I almost forgot that.  And Dad, weren't you here when you were missing?  When you were taken away?"


"Don't get me wrong, it's not like I'm rushing to off you."

"I know.  You want to keep me around.  I'm your fun."

"You have been, yeah.  It's been a while.  Quite a ride."  Leona said with a very straight face.

"Dad, was that when?"  Sam repeated, interrupting Todd's memory.

"Yeah, that was it, Sam."

"Is that true, that I saved you, and Jack did?"

Jack walked in from the hallway.  "That's enough of that, Squirt.  Time for Dad to get some rest, too.  I'll beat you up if you don't go to sleep."

"Go ahead and try, Giant of the Dumbness."

"Oh, yeah?  Want some of this, eh?"  Jack said, holding up his fists as if boxing.

Todd said, "Thanks, Jack, for being a good brother, and son.  Anyway, night Sam, we've already said our goodnights."

"Okay, Dad," Sam said, picking up his book.  "I'm not tired so I'll read a little."

"Night, Runt," Jack said, bending down to kiss his little brother.  Todd looked gray, as he and Jack left the room together.  Jack looked at him.  "Dad?  You all right?"

"Yeah, sure."  He appeared sick.  "I think you got that conversation going in a better direction."

"You okay, I mean really, Dad?"

"Yeah, Son, I'm okay.  Really," he said, and Jack hugged him, patting him once or twice on the back, and headed for his room.

Todd went toward the master bedroom, hoping to find Blair there.  When she wasn't he sat, on the bed, and went through his phone messages.  

Todd.  Call me.  I've got news.  ~Dad

"Here we go," Todd said aloud.  He held the cell phone in his hand, and closed his eyes.  Picking up the phone, he dialed.  "Dad?"

"Ah, Todd.  Good evening."

"You said you have news."

"I do.  They believe they've found Thornhart."

***

"I'll bring Ray up," Tina said.  

"Thanks, Tina."   Blair was puttering in the kitchen.

"Bridgette, how have you been feeling?"  The clergywoman said.

"All right, I guess.  I'm just really afraid, still."

"Of what, Dear Heart?"

"Of losing what we have.  Ireland's been a place of loss for us."

"If ya look at it the other way, ya'd see not.  He returned to ya after the first time.  He was found the second.  The third, he saved Timothy and himself."

"I suppose all that is true."

"Of course it is, Dear.  It's all about how ya look at things."

"Maybe it's just what I'm expecting   I'm so afraid I'm going to lose the baby, and now, I'm scared I'll lose Todd."

"Ya have to stop that,  it's just not good for ya, or the tyke."

"I'm not sure how to stop it.  It just happens, Sister.  It starts right here, in the pit of my stomach."

"Have ya prayed?"

"No.  I haven't."

"Ya can try to pray, when ya get the feeling, or just remember how far ya both have come.  Look at all he's done to make it safe for everyone.  Think of everything he went through to get back to ya."

"I know.  I just can't shake it.  Especially this feeling of dread, like we're destined to have tragedy when we're here in Ireland.  Actually, when we're anywhere."

"Maybe that will change this time.  Maybe ya'll find something different here.  Maybe this visit is intended to bring joy, or success and break the mold, so to speak, eh?"

Blair didn't answer.  Sister Rebecca Katherine saw her hand resting on the small bump in her middle.  "I so want this child," she said wistfully.

"Ya will have her, if ya calm y'arself down.  No more anxiety.  Ya need to start to get y'ar head into the positives.  Stay away from the negativity.  The devil is hard at work on earth, ya know.  He moves in mysterious ways.  Trust in the Lord, Dear."

Blair wasn't sure she could exactly understand or utilize those words, but somehow, the last sentence was comforting to her.  "I'm trying."

"I know ya are.  And so is he."

"Todd?  I worry about him sometimes.  Like, he might be trying to keep me happy, and not telling me everything he's feeling."

"I'm sure that's the case, but he'll be all right.  Just let him know ya want to be there for him."

"Maybe I should just stop talking about myself and my worries all the time."

"No.  This is about both of ya.  Ya went that road before, being separate, but the same soul.  Now, it's time for ya to be together, always."

Blair wrung her hands.  "I don't know what to do, Sister.  I don't know how to stop this panic in my heart."

"Dear, you just must believe.  That is all.  And trust.  Trust him, and share everything with him.  The rest will fall in to place.  Trust, Dear Heart."

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Coming soon!!!! MEMORIES UNLOCKED by Karena

Coming soon!!!  What exactly HAPPENED to TODD when he left that island somewhere in the south pacific and paddled home to his true love and family?

Find out when MEMORIES UNLOCKED chapters begin to be released....SOON!  Watch your twitter and the blog for updates!!

In other words:


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Friday, November 15, 2013

Todd's Saga 13: Plans

        Todd struggled to get his muscles back under control.  His tongue hurt where he had bitten it, and his wrists were chafed and raw from the straps.   There were blisters where the metal had come into contact with his skin burning him when the current hit him.  They added to the pain radiating up his arms.  His eyes were blurry, but he heard the door open.  He could make out the black shoes of his tormentor.

         “Ah good, you’re awake.  It’s time for more lessons.”  Baker reached and lifted Todd’s head.  He grinned, “Now you’re going to be a good boy and repeat after me, aren’t you?”  He forcibly shook Todd’s head in the affirmative. “That’s right.”   Letting Todd’s head drop, he patted the top of it. 

        Todd was unable to say anything.  Try as he might, he couldn’t get his thoughts together.  He needed to remember something.  ‘What was it?’

        Baker took the chair and slammed it hard on the floor in front of his prisoner.

        Todd jumped from the noise and attempted to lift his head. 

        “Good, that got your attention.  Let’s begin where we left off yesterday, shall we.  My name is Todd,” Baker  snapped his finger in Todd’s face. “Repeat that please.”

       Todd’s vision was clearing.  He stared at the man transfixed, he tried to resist, but found himself repeating the man’s words “ My….name….is ….Todd.”  Yes, he was Todd but something wasn’t right. 

       “That’s very good.  Now, it's so easy, the next line please...  I support the cause.” Baker continued.  

       Todd closed his eyes for a moment to avoid Baker’s stare.  ‘Can’t think.  No, don’t do it,  don’t listen to him.’                                                                                                    

        Baker watched Todd and saw him close his eyes. “Now, Todd, don’t be a bad boy.  It’s impolite to stop looking at the person you’re having a conversation with.” He reached over and clamped his hand down hard on Todd’s wrist.

        Todd jerked and hissed as the pain intensified, but he was grateful.  Baker had unknowingly provided what he needed to clear his head.  He opened his eyes, blinking away the tears.  He remembered everything now.  He had to find the strength to fight off the urge to give Baker what he wanted.  If he gave in, the pain would stop, but he would end up like Victor, another tool for Irene.

        For his part, Baker smiled as he once again had Todd’s attention. “That’s better.  Now where were we?  Ah yes.  Repeat please.  I support the cause. I will heed the Messenger.”  To get his point across, Baker squeezed the wrist once again.

        To Todd, it felt like someone had just clamped a molten cuff to his wrist.  He moaned and struggled to get the words out. “I...I..supp...I..” He bit his lip.  “I....hope you go straight to hell.”  he said through clenched teeth.  The room began to spin, and Todd stared in horror at Baker.  The hand on his wrist became skeletal, with flesh and sinew hanging in pieces from it.  Baker’s visage  turned pasty white and began to decay, red hair erupted from his head as he turned into the grotesque image of Irene.  With a gaping red maw where her mouth used to be, she started laughing.

        “Son, we’re already there.“   

        Todd screamed as everything around him dissolved, and he was standing chained to the ground with fire all around him and his mother cackling in front of him.”

       He awoke abruptly. His chest hurt and he couldn’t catch his breath.  He was drenched in sweat.   He rolled over and grabbed Blair’s negligee where it lay next to him on the bed.  He had taken to keeping it close to him as he slept.  He buried his face in it, taking in her scent  and used it to dispel the lingering effects of the nightmare.  His breathing settle down, and his heart rate slowed, easing the pain in his chest.

         He lay on the bed staring into the darkness unable to forget the dream.  He had hoped the move to New Orleans would have tempered the effects that Irene’s Compound still had on him, but in truth nothing seemed to help.  The nightmares were happening with greater frequency and talking to Baker the night before had only exacerbated the problem.

****

        Twelve hours earlier

         It had been a little over a week since Blair and Viki had returned to Llanview. Todd sat at his desk looking at a copy of The Banner on the internet.   It was an article on Clint Buchanan.  It had been written in response to The Sun’s editorial exposing some of Clint’s shady deals that had come to light since his breakdown.  It appeared that Viki was still very much in love with Clint.  She was defending him.  He thought back to the conversation they had the night before Viki returned to Llanview.

        “You mean to say you haven’t seen Clint since the Gala?”

        “You need to understand.  Clint was completely out of his mind that night.  Natalie insisted on going and checking on him, but she came home saying he was screaming foul things and didn’t even recognize her.  She was heartbroken.  That was the last she saw of him.  The hospital has insisted that the family stays away because we seem to set him off.”

       “Doesn’t that bother you?   What about Bo?  Surely they’ve let him see Clint?” 

       “They’ve especially requested that Bo stay away.  Much of Clint’s anger is directed at Bo and me right now.”  Viki’s voice trembled. She was obviously not as calm about the whole thing as she was trying to sound.

        Blair reached across the couch to touch her hand. “Viki, he’s not well.  You know he loves you.”

        Viki clasped Blair’s hand then straightened her shoulders and smiled at her brother. “Todd, don’t worry about Clint.  They’ll let us visit him when he’s better.  I’m sure they know what they’re doing.  He really wasn’t well the night of the Gala, and if we have to wait, we wait.”

        Seeing her resolve not to worry, Todd had let the subject drop that night..  Now as he looked at the article he felt uneasy.  Clint was still being isolated from his family.  Something didn’t make sense.  The only reason they would keep the family away, was if he was dangerous.  He might have fallen off the rails, but Todd couldn’t see him ever hurting Viki or anyone else in his family. What are you going to do, Todd?  He made a decision and called his assistant. “Phil, call it a night.  I just talked to Rogers in Dakota, he’s sending a progress report.  I want it on my desk by ten in the morning.  I might have to go out of town.” 

         “Yes Sir, I’ll make sure you have it.  Goodnight Mr. Butler.”

         Todd got up and walked to the window.  He didn’t even register the sunset, he was so deep in thought.  “Why are they keeping you isolated, Buchanan?  Have you completely lost it or is something else going on?”  Suddenly he found himself remembering something that happened just before he called it quits as Tony Lord.  He saw again the car pulling up outside a building in the Compound.  He recalled the three men exiting the car, the third man being aided inside by the other two.  What was it Baker had said?  

        “There was one thing more.  We picked up our own shipment.  A man was given into our care.   Several of my colleagues handled the exchange.  I was unable to find out who the man was, but he was delivered to the compound this morning.”

        “Shit! They’ve got him.  The organization has Buchanan.”  Todd wanted to kick himself.  Viki and everyone thought Clint had gone off his rocker.  “I’ll bet everything I own, you were dosed, Buchanan, and now they have you the same way they have Victor.”

        He walked to his desk and closed down his computer.  He unlocked his top desk drawer and grabbed Tony Lord’s burner phone.  There were no missed calls.  “Damn it, Baker, why haven’t you called?”  He almost drop the phone when it began to ring. 

        “Well if it isn’t the devil himself, it’s about time.  What the hell is going on?” Todd gritted his teeth. Talking to Baker lately, put him on edge. 

        “My, my, a little testy today aren’t we.  I must apologize for the lack of contact.  The new Director has had me working steadily.  And in answer to your next question.  Yes, Mr. Manning, Ms. Perkins is in charge.  I can’t stay on long, but I’ve been made aware that there are several guests in the compound who are now receiving some extra special treatment, if you get my drift.  I felt you might like to know.” 

        Baker paused and Todd got the distinct impression that Baker had deliberately inferred back to his own special treatment, just to get a rise out of him. The man was a sadist.   What was he up to?  Before Todd could say anything, Baker continued. 

       “I also called to give you another bit of information.  It appears our Ms. Perkins has a brother and from what I gather, he’s probably the head of this organization.  I’m sorry, that’s all I can give you at this time.”

        “Baker, I think I know who they’re holding but I need confirmation.  Do whatever you have to, but get me that information.  I’ll get someone else to work on tracking down the brother.” That uneasy feeling that had raised it’s ugly head as Baker talked, prompted Todd to add, “One other thing, and it’s just a reminder, but you work for me.  I trust you’ll think carefully about that and all it entails.” Todd hung up.  He had entered a pact with the devil, and now he was beginning to regret it.
  
****

         The rising sun cast light into the room where Todd lay.  He stared at the ceiling, letting Blair’s silky gown slide in and out of his fingers. After the nightmare, it had given him a sense of peace, as if she was there, keeping him anchored.  Now in the light of day, he found his thoughts going over the parts of his dream that had remained etched in his brain. The room, the torture, and his tormentor Baker; they were the constants in every nightmare. Was Blair right?  Had he put his trust in someone he should have stayed far away from.  Was his subconscious trying to warn him?

         Todd rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed.  You know what you need to do, but Blair will kill you if she finds out you’re even thinking about it.  He could call her, but that wouldn’t solve his problem.  Danger be damned, go for it.  His decision made, he got up and prepared to go into the office.  

         Phil was hard at work when he entered the OTB premises.  He walked up to her desk. “Did you get the fax from Rogers?”

         “Yes, Sir.  I’m compiling the information and should have it ready for you shortly.” Phil replied.

         “Good, bring it in when it's finished, and get me Sam Vance on the phone.”

         “Mr. Butler, it’s five in the morning in California.”

         Todd held up a hand to stop any further conversation. “I don’t care.  I don’t pay her to sleep.  Wake her, it’s important.”  He walked into his office.  Phil had proven to be quite a find.  Not only was she efficient, but she made great coffee and today was no exception.  He walked to the carafe on his bar that had just finished brewing and poured himself a large mug.  After the night he had had, he needed it.  Taking a quick sip, he walked to his desk.  If he was going to do what he had planned, he needed to take some steps to insure nothing went wrong.  Before he got too far along with his plans, Phil interrupted him.

          “I have Sam Vance on the line, Sir”

          “Put her through….Sam, what the hell kind of operatives do you have working for you?  Why didn’t you tell me Alison Perkins had a brother?  What? …..I don’t want to hear excuses.  No information about that nutcase is unimportant.  Find out more about the brother?  He might be the man in charge and I need his name.”  He hung up and reach for his coffee.  Sam would get the answer he wanted, of that he was sure.  She had a little soft spot for him, in her mercenary heart, and he intended to take advantage of it.

        Getting back on his private phone, Todd made his final plans and was finishing up when Phil entered.  Holding out his hand he accepted the papers she had prepared. He studied them for a moment , then looked at Phil.   “I’m headed out of town.  I should be back tomorrow or the next day.  Don’t worry about reaching me, where I’m going doesn’t really have cell activity.  I’ll reach you if I need anything.  If Ms. Vance calls back, I’ll get her information on my return. Understood?”

        “Yes, Mr. Butler.  Any messages for Ms. Cramer if she calls?”

        Todd smiled, “Just tell her I’m out of town and I’ll call her back later.  That’s all.  Hold down the fort.”  With that he headed out the door.  If everything went as planned he’d be contacting Blair sooner rather than later.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hope from the Ocean: 31

Timothy opened the door to his flat, and entered, putting his keys on the nearby table and letting the door close and grab the lock behind him with a loud click.  He hadn't sold the flat when he left Ireland the last time; having grown up as an Irishman made him hesitant to close all ties.

Sitting in the old, leather chair that was worn perfectly the way he loved it, he sank back.  He realized the place was a bit dusty, and told himself he would go over it again with a feather duster before bed.  The first thing he had done when he returned to it two days prior was empty all of the alcohol into the toilet and flush.  This included every bottle, every flask and every stash.  Following that, he had dug out a few torn photographs of Erin and Eric, and glanced over them.  Returning them to the spot he always kept them in, he turned his attention to his book, and began to read in the dim, soft light of the early evening.


He heard a familiar rapping at the door.  It was Jimmy, using a tell-tale knock he was familiar with.  He answered the door, and Jimmy rushed in.  Timothy said, "Were ya followed, Mate?"


"No.  I wasn't.  I have information, Timothy.  I believe it's what ya wanted."


"All right, what is it?"


"Ya know the expression of finding things right under your nose?"


"Yes, I know it well."


"Well, hold on to y'ar hat, they've found Thornhart."


***


"Shaun, you've arrived?"


"Yeah, John, we just landed.  We're getting into the copter now.  Devon and I are assigned to protect the family.  Seems we have our own little cabin on the grounds."


"Good.  Do me a favor, will ya?"


"If I can."


"Keep Manning out of Dublin."


"He's a grown man, and believe me, if he wants to be in Dublin, he will be."


"Well, the least you can do is try for me.  I want him out of this.  He's got too much emotion tied up in it all, and it won't be good with how this is panning out."


"What, it's bad?"


"I don't think I have to remind you what we're dealing with."


Shaun stopped.  "I still remember Todd, when they found him.  I've never seen a man look that way and live."


"Exactly why he needs to stay out of this."


"Thornhart, you going to find him?"


"I plan to."


"I'll do what I can.  But you know Todd.  He does what he wants.  Like it or not."


"I know.  Familiar with the guy.  Spent a lot of time with him in Greece."


"Again, I'll try.  I might have to get Blair involved.  That's the only person he even thinks about listening to once his mind is made up."


John thought.  "My money is on the nun," he said.


***


"Seems they believe Patrick is in the catacombs.  Somewhere underground in Rialto."  Jimmy offered.  Come to think of it, Thornart is probably being kept in the same place the American was, a few years back.  The one ya adopted, what's his name?  It's escaped me."


"Todd."


"Ay.  We call him The American here, or sometimes, The American with the Scar.  He's become part of the RA21 folklore.  Somewhat of a folk hero, or a type of deity.  The locals are amazed by the stories of what he endured."


"Hmf.  A deity.  Todd would laugh at this."


"Well, signs point to the fact that Thornhart is being held in the same catacombs under Rialto.  They had vacated that area when they were caught before.  Seems they liked their set up too much to let it go."


"Possibly.  Ya have the proof?"


"Some of the younger set found out.  They have every entrance guarded by armed henchmen, bombs, booby traps, the works.  They're reluctant to break into this without being fully prepared."


"I'll ask Todd about this, but I know what he will say.  He will tell us to move quickly.  Thornhart probably won't have much time."


"I'll agree.  I just wanted ya to know the next bit.  At least they have found his whereabouts."


"I'll let John McBain know.  I thank ya for getting back to me."


"Just remember, Timothy, ya know what they are capable of.  Watch your back.  It wasn't long ago that ya were their main target, My Friend."


Jimmy left, and the door clicked quietly behind him, the lock automatically catching.  Timothy sat back in the chair and closed his eyes.  In his mind, he remembered being in the cemetery, on a hill outside Dublin.  The voice in his head was still as clear in his mind as it was that day, 31 years ago:



Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

R.E.M. Part 12

I still got this dream that you just can’t shake
I love you to the point you can no longer take
Well, all right, okay
So be that way
I hope and pray
That there’s something left to say

He woke abruptly, furious that Blair wasn’t beside him. The last thing she’d said was that they might not have ended up together if their lives had been different, and he wasn’t going to let that garbage go unchallenged.

The second phone was shaking in his hands as he called Blair’s second phone.
It rang three or four times. She must have fallen asleep. He couldn’t blame her; he had managed to sleep despite the party that had spilled into the street not far below his window.

But you
Why you wanna give me a runaround?
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down…

He squinted out the window again, ignoring the party and looking toward the hospital where Peter Manning had died. Thoughts of Peter always made him want to crawl out of his skin.
“Todd?” she whispered halfway through the fourth ring.

His need shifted to anger at the sound of her voice. “You shouldn’t answer that way,” he scolded. “What if they catch me with one of these phones on me and call the number in the memory to check? Don’t talk like you’re expecting me until you’re sure it really is me.”

“Well, we won’t have to worry about that if you use all of our phones in one night!” she snapped back.

“I can get more phones. I can’t get more you if they decide I’ve told you something and try to torture it out of you.”

“You can’t get more phones if you end up searching for Victor or these people in the middle of nowhere.”

“Where I am right now, I can get more,” he told her. He decided it wasn’t that much of a violation of their own personal don’t ask, don’t tell policy. She had figured out that he wasn’t currently in the middle of nowhere the minute she’d heard the music in the background. “If I don’t call tomorrow, that won’t be why.”

He heard her swallow hard.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “During those eight years, there were so many times when just hearing your voice would have been the most amazing gift. I stopped wishing for most things because they seemed so far away. But your voice…” He trailed off, not sure where he’d even meant to go with this.

“I love you,” she said, and he wasted precious seconds trying to speak around the lump in his throat.

“I wanted you to know that you’re wrong,” he rasped out at last.

“That’s so sweet of you, Todd!” she said with false joviality. “Out of all the things I’ve missed about you, you telling me I’m wrong has got to be in the top thirty or forty thousand.”

“Well, you were wrong,” he told her, unapologetic. “You said that you and I might not have ended up together if our lives had been different. It’s not true. We were always going to find each other. Even if the head witch had started brainwashing you before you could talk. You would have figured it out eventually and I would have waited.  There is no alternate reality out there where you and I don’t end up together. So you need to take back what you said.”

“I take it back,” she obliged.

“Good,” he said.

“And I wouldn’t have made you wait. I never could hold out that long against you.”

“You made me wait pretty long this last time,” Todd said, in observation rather than accusation.

“Too long. I thought you… well, I thought you changed your mind.”

“Never.”

“I didn’t have any right to be jealous,” Blair said. “We weren’t together and I was the one who ended it. But when I thought about you and her… God, it killed me every time.”

It was hard not to be annoyed at the thought of yet more time lost when they’d already lost so much. “If you’d given me any encouragement at all, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“You never needed encouragement before.”

“You never decided to marry a man who put me in a hole to keep me away from our children for eight years before.”

“I know,” said Blair. No argument. No justification. No Tomas thought he was serving his country.  “That was the idea. I came up with the worst thing I could think of, the thing that would hurt the most. I didn’t ever really intend to marry him, you know.”

“No,” said Todd, his heart soaring with unexpected glee. “I didn’t know that.”

“Well, I didn’t. I have too much respect for our children. He took you away from them even if it wasn’t something he meant to do. He didn’t do anything to fix it when he realized he’d been wrong, either. That wasn’t his decision to make for Starr or Jack or anyone else.”

Todd’s smile widened. He hadn’t had much to smile about in the past few days. “Tell me that again.”

“Tell you what?”

“That you were never going to marry Tea’s brother with the stupid name.”

“I was never going to marry Tea’s brother with the stupid name.”

“You just wanted to make me so hopeless that I’d lose my mind and agree to crawl through the rest of my life without you so you could be mad at me for being hopeless and losing my mind and crawling through the rest of my life without you.” Anger followed delight too quickly. The situation sucked to begin with, and the dream had left Todd feeling like an exposed nerve.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Blair hesitantly.

“Like that good idea to tell me you were pregnant when you weren’t,” Todd suggested. “Or the good idea to tell me Jack wasn’t my son. Or the good idea to—”

“Oh, shut up!”

“Then you talk. By all means, Blair, enlighten me. Why did it seem like a good idea to tell me that
you were going to marry the man who made sure I was tortured every day for eight years?”

“Because sometimes the only way to break a cycle of lies is with one more lie!”

The scary thing was that that kind of made sense to Todd. “How is that?”

“I loved you so much. I always have. I always will. Once you’ve forgiven a man for telling you that your son is dead, you know there’s no hope for anything other than loving that man until you die. And you swore to me that you’d changed, that you weren’t going to lie to me or the kids like that again. But you pulled the rug out from us when you lied about shooting Victor. I would have forgiven you like that for shooting Victor.” She snapped her fingers. “My problem has never been the stupid crap you do. It’s the way you lie to me. That’s why it meant so much to me when you showed me those notes and the surveillance cameras. That’s when I knew I could be with you. But two years ago, Jack was so fragile. He’s not like Starr. Things don’t roll off his back. I couldn’t put him through another round of trusting someone and finding out that that person had lied to him like his feelings didn’t even matter. And the only way to make sure that didn’t happen would be to make sure I had an excuse for not melting into you the minute I saw you. Because my willpower is obviously non-existent when it comes to you.”

“I tried to make it up to Jack.”

“I know you did. You were wonderful. You were patient. You were tenacious.”

“I wish I’d had more time.”

“You’ll have it. I believe you’ll have it. Jack knows that this time you’re not leaving because you want to.”

“I didn’t want to leave last time. Jack wouldn’t even look at me after I was arrested for killing the father he actually wanted.”

“It wasn’t just that, Todd. It was that you lied about it and then you didn’t want to face the consequences. Jack had a right to be angry.”

“I know that.”

“I know you do. But back then, it seemed to Jack like you’d just chosen Starr over him because she always lets you get away with anything. Then we saw the stories coming out of Port Charles about how you begged Carly for forgiveness, how you promised her that you would spend the rest of your life fighting for her. But you weren’t going to spend the rest of your life fighting for Jack and his forgiveness.”

“Fighting for Jack and the rest of the people on that list is what I’m doing right now. That’s why I’m sitting here trying to figure out who these people are who sent the notes. I could have gone back to Port Charles and gotten together with her again, you know. Carly Jacks is an idiot.”

“I liked her.”

“She’s an idiot,” Todd repeated. “If she wasn’t, she never would have divorced her husband. Did you meet Jax? No, I don’t think you did. If you had, you would have chased him to Australia and tried to mend his broken heart or something.”

“Todd!”

“I’m just saying, Jasper Jacks gave me the best handshake I’ve ever had in my life. For real, it was like a warm chocolate chip cookie.”

“Maybe I should be worried about you leaving me for him instead of for Carly.”

Even though he knew Blair was joking, he answered seriously. “The last thing you have to worry about is me leaving you for anyone. I know I said I’d fight for her for the rest of my life. You know why I could say that? I could say that because I knew it wouldn’t take my whole life. It would have been easy because she’s a fool and because we didn’t really care about each other. You matter. Jack matters. When it was so clear that nothing I did was ever going to get either of you to forgive me… I wasn’t like I used to be. When you were married to Max and I wanted to be married to you, I just decided to destroy your marriage.”

“No kidding.”

“You would have destroyed things yourselves, anyway,” Todd pointed out. “And you know no one deserves to be stuck with Max for the rest of her life. I think even Skye mentioned that she was happy that she dodged that bullet.”

Blair ignored the tangent. “But this time, after you went to Port Charles, it was different because Tomas was the one who turned you over to Irene’s organization.”

“Eight years is a long time. Everyone gives Victor a pass for poisoning me and dumping his kid and never washing his hoodie because he was tortured for one year, right?”

“I don’t give him a pass for any of that.”

“Good. But everyone else does. And no one… no one cared what happened to me for eight years and even though I screwed up I was tired. I couldn’t do it again.”

“I’m sorry I let you think I didn’t care.”

“I’m not telling you this so you can apologize. I’m telling you this because you’re right. You and me, we’re always better when we’re honest with each other even though that goes against our usual instincts.”

He could feel her smile. “I’m glad you called back.”

“Me too. I had this dream.” He shuddered. “Peter Manning was in it. But it was okay, because so were you.”

“I hope I kicked his ass.”

“Don’t worry. You did.”

“Then I’m glad you got some sleep, even if it was only a few hours.”

“I’m sorry for waking you up, though.”

“Don’t be. The only reason I can sleep at all is that I imagine that you’re in the corner of the room, sitting in a chair watching me. Doing that stalker thing you do that would be creepy on any other man.”

“Blair, it’s creepy when I do that, too. You just happen to like creepy.”

“Like we said before you left. We don’t do normal.”

“No.” Todd glanced at the latest note instructing him to return to the house at 10:00 that night.

“But I wouldn’t mind if we got a little bit closer to normal when this mess is over. Just a little bit.”

“You have a deal, Todd,” she said, as their phones beeped a warning and separated them once more.

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