For Now and Forever
EPISODE #151 (Monday,
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - TERRACE
"Burt, I never want this night to end," Janet Lamont sighed softly as she basked in the warmth and comfort of his arms. "Tonight has been so wonderful. We're married, now, and everyone knows and...." Her voice caught in her throat.
"What is it?" Burt Lamont asked his wife with concern as he looked down at her.
"I just...." She paused and inhaled deeply. "I hope that we're always just as happy as we are right now. Promise me that, will you? Promise me that you'll always love me as much as you do tonight and that you'll never let anything come between us?"
"I promised you that the night we got married." He turned her to face him and placed his index finger under her chin so that he could lift her face and look deeply into her eyes. "I meant it then and I mean it now. I'll always mean it. Nothing can and nothing will ever separate us."
Then, at just that moment, Judith Linford appeared in the doorway of the terrace, a fire of determination blazing in her eyes. She was on a mission and she had her target in her sights.
Burt had made a promise that he might never be able to keep.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Randy, are you and Maggie enjoying yourselves?" Corinne Campbell casually asked her daughter's date. "You two have been awfully quiet."
"Yes, ma'am," Randy Lamont replied, slightly uncomfortable with making small talk with Eliza's mother. He reached up and tugged at his collar. "This penguin suit is a little tight, but other than that...."
"I see." She nodded silently as she continued to watch him and then turned to her daughter. "Eliza, would you please go and get me another glass of wine?"
"Oh, alright," Eliza Campbell muttered, less than thrilled about the prospect of leaving her boyfriend alone under her mother's overly watchful eye.
Corinne and Randy stood in silence as Eliza trudged away, leaving them alone to chat. Once Eliza was a safe distance away, her mother took a deep breath before speaking.
"You and my daughter have been dating for several months now, I believe?"
"Yes, ma'am," Randy muttered, not quite able to bring himself to look up at her.
"I take it that you two have gotten serious?"
"We're just...dating." Randy shuffled his feet on the floor. He'd never really talked to Eliza's mother before outside of a few passing "hello"s. He was quickly beginning to understand why.
"Well, from what my daughter says, it's serious." Corinne lifted her head slightly and looked at him directly. "You haven't been leading her on, have you?"
Corinne paused for a moment, evaluating his response and reaction. "You're a couple of years older than Eliza. You just graduated high school, didn't you?"
"Um...yes, ma'am," he nodded and then looked away, silently praying for Eliza to hurry back and pull him away from the interrogation.
"You must be looking forward to college in the fall."
"I'm...um...." He swallowed hard. "I'm not going to college."
"I...um...really can't afford it." He looked down at his feet. "I mean, my brother offered to pay for it, but I...um...don't want him to use the money Mr. Callison gave him from my brother's real father."
"I see." Corinne's eyes narrowed and she tapped her chin with her index finger. "Then I assume that you've been working? What kind of work do you do?"
"Well...." Gosh, why did Eliza have to run off and leave him alone with her? "I've been...um...helping my brother Burt around the stables and stuff."
"So you don't actually have a real job."
"I...um...." Randy looked down at his watch. It'd only been a few minutes, but his time with Mrs. Campbell had seemed like an eternity. "Jobs aren't exactly easy to come by. I mean...I mean I've looked around a bit, but I...um...haven't really found anything."
"So what you're saying is that you've just graduated from high school, you're not going to college, you don't have a job, and you honestly don't have any job prospects on your horizon?" Corinne nodded with each statement as if she were punctuating a point. "And you're dating my daughter?"
"I see." She inhaled deeply as she evaluated the information. Then she shook her head. No, this would most definitely not do. "Now, look, Randy, I'm sure you're a very nice young man, but I honestly don't think that you're the type of boy my daughter should be getting serious about."
"Excuse me?" Randy felt his face flush. Was she telling him that he wasn't good enough for Eliza?
"Let me explain myself better." She folded her arms across her chest and all but glared at him. "I don't think a directionless young man with absolutely no goals in life has any business being involved with my daughter. And, whether you realize it or not, it's obvious that Eliza is very serious about you. I don't think those kind of feelings are appropriate given the circumstances. She's barely sixteen and you're, what, eighteen?"
"Yes, ma'am, but..."
"I'm sorry, Randy, but I don't think I can permit my daughter to continue seeing you. I don't think it's in her best interests."
"Mother!" Eliza shouted in anger, having walked up on them in mid-conversation, hearing practically every word Corinne had said. "How dare you say things like that to Randy!"
"Eliza, dear, I'm only looking out for you," Corinne casually commented. "You're too young to be serious about anyone, let alone some poor farm boy with no prospects in life. I can't in good conscience permit this relationship to continue."
Eliza stood with her mouth hanging open in disbelief. She was mortified. How could her mother say such things? How could she treat Randy like that? To say that Eliza was furious beyond all belief would have been an understatement.
Dr. Fred Rutherford hurriedly pushed his way through the crowd. He'd recovered from his earlier shock of learning the identity of his nefarious blackmailer and, with a newfound resolve, had only one goal in mind. Seeing the object of his pursuit, he shoved his way past a partygoer, nearly knocking them to the floor, and lunged towards Joyce Preston. In one swift movement, he reached out and grabbed her forcibly by the arm.
"I want to talk to you," he said angrily, giving her arm a violent jerk. "You can't just leave me hanging like this. What do you want? Why are you doing this?"
"Not here," Joyce said sternly, trying to maintain her composure under the eyes of those nearby who were witnessing the exchange. "Do you want someone to see us? Do you want someone to overhear and know what you're guilty of?"
Fred considered what she'd said and realized that she was right. He couldn't risk anyone discovering the horrible deeds of his past. After all, that's surely one of the reasons why Joyce had pegged him as a target of her blackmail. Weighing his options, he came up with an idea.
"Follow me," he ordered sternly, motioning for her to follow him.
With a dignified style and grace, she nodded to those around them and casually walked with him towards the doors of the lounge. It was deserted and hardly used and Fred knew that it would afford them just the right amount of privacy so that they could continue their little "chat."
"Do we really have to continue this conversation tonight?" Joyce asked as the doors to the lounge swung closed. The moonlight streaming in through the large windows in the back cast eerie shadows on the floor. "You know the information I have on you -- the file that Stephen Lake had on you that you mistakenly thought had been destroyed. I've already sent you a copy of every page in that file, so you know I'm telling you the truth."
"How did you get your hands on that file?" It was more of an order than a question.
"Oh, come now, doctor," she fluttered her eyelashes coyly. "A lady has to have her secrets. Besides, how I got it isn't really important, now, is it? The fact is I do have it." She paused and leveled her gaze at him. "And if you don't do as I ask, everyone you don't want to see it will have it, too."
"This isn't just about money, is it?" Fred felt beads of perspiration begin to dot his brow. He had a very bad feeling about all of this.
"Well, it is partly about money," she nodded. "You will have to pay me for my discretion."
"I don't have any money! I'm just a poor doctor who...."
"I'm not a fool, Dr. Rutherford. Everyone in this town knows about your marriage to the wealthy Widow Stokes. You've done quite well for yourself -- living the good life in that big mansion. I'm sure you're able to get your hands on several large fistfuls of money."
She was right in her assessment and he knew it. He did have access to his wife Leticia's personal bank accounts. He also knew that he had to play his cards carefully when dipping into that financial pool so as not to stir up too much suspicion.
"You said 'partly.'"
"Very astute of you, doctor," Joyce smiled. "You see, it is all about money, after all -- just not all about yours." She paused momentarily and considered the best way to detail what she required of him and exactly how much to tell him. "My dear late husband was a very successful and noted author. When he died, he left a rather sizable estate. Unfortunately, thanks to my wretched and conniving daughter, he didn't leave it to me. She lied and schemed her way into an inheritance that rightfully belongs to me and I intend on righting that wrong."
"What does that have to do with me?" Fred eyed her suspiciously. She was only giving him bits and pieces of her plans for him and he knew it. "What do I have to do with your late husband's estate?"
"Nothing." She stopped and inhaled deeply. "Originally, I had only planned to allow you to help me continue to live in the manner to which I've grown accustomed. However, once I finally managed to sit down and thoroughly review that file, there was a small tid-bit of information about you and my former sister-in-law that stood out to me and it got me thinking."
"Yes. I'm sure you remember Annabelle Lake."
Fred nearly choked at the mention of Annabelle's name. He hadn't given her much thought since her untimely murder several months before and to hear her name brought up now -- especially in this context -- made him more uneasy.
"What does Annabelle have to do with this?"
"Nothing specifically. But because of your history with her, I have a plan for you to help me take my husband's estate back from my daughter."
"I'll fill you in when you need to know." Joyce smiled slyly.
"And if I refuse to help you?"
"Well, let's just say that your wife will start receiving a copy of that file, page by page. I'm sure that it'll make for rather interesting reading -- a real page turner, if you will." She paused. "And don't think that this will let you off the hook as far as your own financial obligations go, either. I'll be expecting another payment from you shortly. I do have expenditures to take care of, you know."
The more Fred heard, the more he realized that he was in even bigger trouble than he'd originally thought. His cushy dream-life was quickly turning into a nightmare and Joyce Preston wasn't about to let him wake up from it anytime soon.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - TERRACE
"You!" Judith shouted angrily, her hand extended and pointed directly at her sister Janet Lamont. "You!"
Instinctively, Burt Lamont stepped in front of his wife. He'd had more than enough dealings with Judith to know how she could be and he wasn't about to let her upset Janet.
"W-what?" Janet asked as she clung to Burt's arm tightly. "What is it?"
Judith strode confidently out onto the terrace, her shoulders thrown back and her head held high. Her eyes were ablaze with fury and the mere sight of her struck terror into Janet without her even really knowing why.
"What do you want, Judith?" Burt asked, still trying to shelter Janet from her. Not even counting his own history with Judith, he was well aware of the animosity that had long existed between the two sisters. "If you think I'm going to let you walk out here and deliberately try to upset Janet, then..."
"Upset Janet? You're worried about Janet?" Judith nearly spat the words. "This little deceitful twit manages to pull the wool over your eyes -- all of our eyes -- and tricks you into running off to get married and you're worried about her?"
"Judith, please...." Janet felt her hands begin to tremble. There was something about the tone in her sister's voice that led her to believe that this wasn't one of Judith's traditional tirades.
"If you think you're going to come out here and badmouth my wife, then...."
"Oh, yes, I forgot," Judith laughed. "You've been deceived into thinking little Janet, here, is some sweet, demure flower, bending and swaying with the light of the spring sun." She stopped and looked directly at Janet, practically burning a hole through her with her eyes. "Well, I'm here to tell you that you don't know my darling sister nearly as well as you think you do!"
"Stop it, Judith!" Burt ordered as he reached out to place his free hand between her and Janet. "Can't you see that you're upsetting her? We're all having a wonderful night. We're celebrating our marriage. Why do you have to be petty like this and try to ruin things for us?"
"Petty? You think I'm being petty?" Judith's eyes grew wild and she felt every muscle in her body tighten. "Why don't you ask your darling wife about being petty? Go ahead! Ask her! She wrote the book on petty."
"That's it. We've had enough of this." He felt his blood begin to boil and his blood pressure rise. He grasped Janet's hand firmly and pulled her past Judith and towards the doors. "We're not going to stand here and let you spew your venom."
"Burt! There are things you have to know! There's something very important I have to tell you!"
"No, Judith!" Every muscle in Burt's body tightened. All these months of Judith's near obsession over him and their past had gotten to him and he'd had enough. "There's nothing you could say to me that would make me change the way I feel about Janet or the way I feel about you!"
"Burt!" Judith's tone quickly changed to one of maddened desperation. "Please! You have to listen to me!"
"I said 'no!'" He grabbed a stunned and frightened Janet's wrist even tighter and pulled her forward. "C'mon, Janet. We're going home -- as far away from your sister as we can get."
Instinctively, Judith reached out and grabbed Janet's other arm, practically trapping the petrified young woman between them.
"You've really got him brainwashed, don't you, sister dear?" Judith hissed quietly so that only Janet could hear. "He hasn't got a clue."
"I...I don't know what you're talking about," Janet stammered awkwardly as she tried to pull herself out of her sister's grasp.
"The sweet and innocent act doesn't work anymore, Janet." Judith leaned in closer. "I know." She paused for a moment to allow the words to sink in. "I remember everything! I know what you did -- to me and my baby. Burt's baby."
"Janet, I don't know what she's saying to you, but don't listen to her," Burt spoke up, completely unaware of Judith's whispered hate-filled words. "Because I'm certainly not."
Stunned and nearly paralyzed with fear, Janet wasn't certain what to do. She looked towards Burt and then back towards Judith -- towards happiness and despair -- and she was trapped between them. Finally, Judith's grip on Janet's arm loosened and Burt pulled her away and back into the main ballroom, leaving Judith to stand alone out on the terrace.
"You've got him fooled, don't you," Judith thought to herself as she watched Burt and Janet through the doors as the disappeared into the crowd of guests. "Well, have it your way. Enjoy your happiness -- however false it might be. Enjoy your shallow victory. It won't last. Once I tell Burt the truth, it'll all be over. You know that now, don't you? You think you've had the last word, but you don't. That honor will belong to me and when the time is right, I'm going to tell Burt everything about you if it's the last thing I do."
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Just look at them," Lorraine Davis muttered, her eyes fixed on Patterson and Stephanie Monroe as they talked with Dane and Sara Manchester across the room. "Stephanie sure looks like she's on top of the world."
"As she should," her husband, Douglas Davis, commented. "She and Paddy are having a baby. Why shouldn't she be on top of the world?"
"I guess she's pretty much trapped Paddy into this marriage now. There's no way he can get out of it." She shook her head in disappointment.
"Lorraine, I don't think Paddy feels trapped by anything." He took a long swig of his bourbon as he, too, watched the two other couples. "He loves Stephanie. That's pretty obvious. I don't know why you can't see that."
"He's just too trusting. He's too good of a human being." Lorraine's shoulders slumped as she exhaled slowly. "Anyone who knows Paddy knows that. Stephanie knows that, too. That's why she set out to sink her claws into him. She saw him as an easy target. Poor Paddy."
"And what, pray tell, do you assume her reasons were?" He folded his arms across his chest almost as if to dare Lorraine to come up with some logic behind her statements.
"Isn't it obvious? After everything that Stephanie pulled, she knew her name wasn't worth one red cent in this town. No one would have crossed the street to spit on her let alone talk to her -- well, no one but Paddy, but that's just the type of guy he is." She shook her head again in disbelief. "The Monroe name is well-respected in this town because of Paddy's father. And then there's Paddy's trust fund...."
"Lorraine, honey, I think you're reading too much into all of this." Douglas gently put his hands on her shoulders and turned her towards him and away from Patterson and Stephanie. "I'll admit that Stephanie did some pretty nasty things to Reginald and Jillian, but she really seems to want to make up for all of that. She's the one responsible for clearing Reginald's mother of killing Annabelle, remember?"
"Yes, I know that, but that's not the point. It wasn't just Reginald and Jillian, Douglas! What about you? What about how she used you to get to them?"
"That was a long time ago," he reminded. "Besides, she couldn't have used me if I hadn't allowed her to. I was so dumbstruck by her at the time that she could have told me the clouds were made of ice cream and I would've believed it."
"Darling, you're one of the strongest men that I've ever known." She looked up into his eyes. "If you could've been so easily swayed by the flutter of her eyelashes and her pitiful pout, what makes you think that someone like Paddy couldn't be even more so?" She paused and looked past Douglas and towards Patterson and Stephanie again. "And to think that poor Todd's the one caught in the middle of all of this."
"Honey, why can't you just leave all of this alone? Why is it even any of your business what Patterson or Stephanie do?"
"Because it involves Todd, that's why! You know how much that little boy means to me!"
"And we have a little boy of our own at home. Why don't you let Paddy worry about his wife and family and we can worry about ours. Besides," Douglas paused and chuckled as he followed Lorraine's gaze over towards the happy couple, "from what I hear, Paddy's pretty much de-clawed Stephanie. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen one person change so much, so quickly, as I've seen Stephanie change."
Lorraine grimaced and looked up at Douglas. "I wouldn't be too sure about that," she muttered under her breath. "I wouldn't be too sure."
"Where are Paddy and Steph going?" Dane Manchester asked his wife Sara.
"I think she's trying to find someone else to tell about the baby," she laughed as she took Dane's arm. "I swear, she's absolutely glowing. I'm so happy for them." She paused and looked up at her husband. "So...Dane...have you ever thought about us having children?"
"Thought about it?" He cocked his head sideways as he considered the idea. "Well, sure, I've thought about it, but...well...we've got plenty of time. I'm not even in law school yet. I think it's better if we wait."
"It's not like we can't afford it," she reminded. "I mean, we've got the inheritance Mr. Preston left us. I'm not working or going to school...."
"I said we should wait." His tone was firm and solid. "When it's time for us to have children, it'll happen. Besides, I don't think either one of us is quite ready to be a parent yet." He looked past Sara towards where Patterson and Stephanie were standing, talking to Sara's mother Joyce Preston. "Of course, I don't really think Steph's ready to be a mother yet, either."
"Let's forget about Paddy and Steph." Sara glanced upward as the orchestra began to play one of her favorite songs. "I want to dance."
"Then dance, we shall." Dane took her by the hand and led her to the dance floor where he wrapped his arms around her and began to twirl her around. However, mid-twirl, he looked up and caught sight of Jasper St. John, maitre 'd of the Grand Sunset Room, heading directly towards them.
"Mr. Manchester," Jasper spoke up, tapping him on the shoulder, "I hate to interrupt, but this was left for you." He handed Dane an envelope.
"For me?" Dane furrowed his brow as he examined the package that was now in his hands. It was a plain envelope -- no writing on it other than his name. "Who left this for me?"
"I don't know, sir," Jasper replied, his hand out-stretched. "Ahem."
"Oh. Oh, yes. I'm sorry." Dane dug into his pocket and pulled out a tip which he then pressed into Jasper's hand.
"Thank you, sir," Jasper nodded and then hurried away.
"Dane, what is it?"
"I...I don't know." he muttered. Then, almost instinctively, he turned away from her. He didn't know what was inside the envelope, but something in his gut told him that it was something his wife didn't need to see. With anxious hands, he ripped it open and pulled out a typed note and a photograph -- a photograph of him in a very compromising position with one Kitty Benedict, former lounge hostess. The note simply read "Keep your affairs secret."
"Dane?" Sara tried to look over his should so that she could see the contents of the envelope, but he turned just enough to keep the photo and note out of view as he shoved it back into the envelope and quickly tucked it away inside his jacket pocket. "Dane, what is it? What's in the envelope?"
"N-nothing," he muttered nervously. "Nothing for you to worry about. Just some...notes a guy at school was supposed to give to me to help me study for a test for that class I'm taking this summer." Putting on a happy face, he turned to her and smiled, taking her into his arms. "But enough about that. I thought you wanted to dance."
"Oh, I do!"
As Dane resumed spinning his wife around the dance floor -- she having already forgotten about the envelope, he unable to get it off of his mind -- neither one of them were aware that, across the room, Sara's mother Joyce was still standing and chatting with Patterson and Stephanie, but not paying the least bit of attention. Joyce's entire focus was on her daughter and son-in-law and she was grinning ever so slyly.
TO BE CONTINUED
Jillian is put through the wringer as she attempts to become a typical housewife.
For Now and Forever
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