Before Sunset
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Before Sunset

Chapter 14
"Thank you for coming... Drive safely... Yes, we absolutely must get together soon..." Olivia was exhausted by the time the last guest left. She had been terribly bored for the last two hours, ever since Bette had left claiming she was about to make a scandal by falling asleep at the buffet table. Olivia had only wished she could have gone with her. Being the hostess was not so much fun as she had expected it to be. Now she leaned on AJ, certain he was the only thing keeping her on her feet. And she had to work the next morning... She glanced at the clock on the wall and moaned as she realized just how soon her shift would be starting.

"My poor angel... You did wonderful this evening. Everyone adored you." AJ wrapped his arms around her. "Did you enjoy yourself?"

"Uh-hmm, it was perfect.. Like being Cinderella." It wasn't a lie.. she had felt like a princess. Only now she was back to being the one who had to go home and scrub floors, or in her case to the hospital and change baby diapers.

"Do you think you will be up to dinner at my parent's house this weekend?"

Olivia felt the room spin and then any sign of tiredness was swept away in a rush of adrenaline. Dinner? With his parents? "Yes.. Absolutely. It sounds wonderful and I can't wait to meet your parents." She smiled.

"Good... I know you will love each other."

Right.. What aristocratic, wealthy, founding father of his own town didn't want his only son to be involved with a nurse's assistant from the wrong side of London? They'd adore her. Olivia smiled brightly, "I'm certain of it."

"Maybe I can call and tell them I'm sick..."

"Olivia Blake, you are the biggest coward I have ever met in my life."

"And...? Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Bette rolled her eyes, "Just sit still, I'm almost done with your hair."

"I should have bought a new dress..."

"This dress is new. What does it matter? They wouldn't know if you'd never worn it or had it on yesterday. The only thing they know about you is what AJ has told them and what they read in the social page after the benefit. All good things..."

"I think I am sick..."

"I think you are pathetic. Now hold still."

"What do we know about this girl, Armando?" "Not very much. I have people looking into it, but right now all I can tell you is what Franklin Reynolds said. She's attractive, charming, and the perfect hostess.. She mixed with the crowd, but was suitably attentive to AJ. showing some obvious affection, but not making a public specticle. I think we can give her the benefit of the doubt."

"You give her the benefit; I'll make sure she isn't some trashy little social climber." Of course that was what Julianna Deschanel thought. She would never have actually said it. What she actually said was, "Yes, I'm sure she is a perfectly lovely girl. We'll have to do what we can to make her feel comfortable. It must be difficult for her to be so far from her home and family."

AJ rang the doorbell and it was opened almost immediately by Del, "You might as well come in and sit down. Can I get you something to drink? Bette and Olivia have been locked away in the bathroom for the last hour and a half."

"What are they doing in there?" AJ asked, accepting the glass Del offered.

"Who knows what women do when they get alone in there?" AJ nodded and frowned. He hoped Olivia wouldn't be too long. His parents were expecting them...

"Bette! You are burned my ear!"

"Well, if you would be still and stop wiggling."

"I'm nervous..."

"Olivia.. Sweety.. I've been married three times.. That means I have met the parents of at least three different men. You will live..."

"He didn't say anything about getting married..."

Bette threatened her with the curling iron.

"I understand you are doing some business with my father?"

"Nothing big. I've just agreed to do some research for him on other business deals while he looks over a proposal I made to him."

"Well if there is anything I can do to help him with that decision..."

"Thank you, AJ... I'll keep that in mind... Ah... Looks like they're finally ready."

AJ turned to see Bette and Olivia coming down the stairs. The two made a dramatic contrast... Bette's hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore sweats and an oversized t-shirt. Olivia... Olivia was stunning. Her dress was modest, yet elegant and the pearls around her neck added a sophisicated touch. her hair had grown out some and curled softly around her face. He smiled and held out his hand.

As they approached the door Olivia was convinced she would pass out as soon as Armando Deschanel spoke to her. She had heard he was a descent man, fairly easy to get alog with, but she was convinced that was for everyone except the girl who was dating his son.

AJ patted Olivia's hand before opening the door. He was sure he'd have a bruise on his arm tomorrow where she was clutching him and he wished she would just relax. He adored her and he knew his parents would see that...

"Oh, Bette, it was horrible!" Olivia threw herself across the bed and buried her face in the pillow. "His mother would have slit my throat and buried me in the back yard if she didn't think it would ruin her manicure..."

Bette laughed, "I'm sure it wasn't that bad."

"Not that bad? Not that bad! Bette, they HATED me... I'm certain they knew the dress wasn't new and that the pearls were borrowed.. He probably has a file of my life history hidden in his desk to threaten me with should I ever show any sign of getting seriously involved with his precious son..."

Bette just shook her head. It was pointless to argue with Olivia when she was like this. The only thing to do was to get her mind off of it. "Come on.. Let's go..."

"Where are we going? I don't want to go anywhere.. I want to stay here and die..."

"Get over it, Toots..." Bette pulled her off the bed and pushed her out the door.

Gregory just stopped to get a cup of coffee before going home, but the idea that Felicity would show up almost as soon as he got home convinced him to stay a little longer. He didn't pay any attention when the door opened until he heard some guys making wise cracks and an unmistakable voice cracking right back. Bette... It couldn't be anyone else. He smiled as he turned to speak to her but the words stuck in his throat. "Greggy!" Bette exclaimed, seeing him as soon as he turned around. "How's it going over in the land of convictions and plea bargains?" Gregory regained composure quickly, "Excellent. Although I don't practice criminal law... May I buy you ladies a drink?"

"Alright, but you have to promise to get lost if anyone cuter comes in." Bette flirted.

Olivia only smiled, that same feeling she'd gotten at the benefit party intensified by the closeness of the bar.

An hour later the three were still sitting, talking about everything from Gregory's last case to the color of Bette's shoes. Olivia had relaxed and was enjoying herself, although she had to constantly fight the feeling she was being disloyal to AJ.

"So what are you doing with a creep like that anyway?" Gregory's voice broke into her thoughts just as she was telling herself there was nothing wrong with having drinks with Gregory.

"Excuse me? I don't think you have the right..."

"Okay! Neutral corners... Gregory.. That was uncalled for. AJ is a very dear friend of mine and regardless of your differences I will not sit here and have you insult him, all right?"

Gregory watched Olivia closely. His comment hadn't been meant to insult AJ or to upset Bette. It had been to gage a reaction... And Olivia's eyes told him all he needed to know. AJ Deschanel was history.. If it was the last thing he did, he would see to that. "Of course... My apologies. To you both..." He smiled.

"Right.. Good. As long as we all understand each other...."

Olivia glared at Gregory. Her loyalty was to AJ. Wasn't it?

Chapter 15
"Can you believe how incredibly rude that man was!"

"Olivia, he.."

"How dare he! Who does he think he is anyway? I can't believe you just sat there and chatted with him. We should have asked him to leave immediatly. We should never haev let him sit down. What if AJ had come in and seen us with him?"

"Olivia, shut up..."

"Excuse me?"

"Sorry... Look, Gregory and AJ don't get along. I accept that. But I do not let AJ Deschanel determine who my friends are and are not. I happen to think that Gregory is charming, fun to be around, and amusing once he lets his guard down. That does not mean I am any less AJ's friend than I was yesterday or two weeks ago."

"You like him don't you? You like Gregory Richards..."

"I do not. I am seeing Mario and you know it."

"For now..." Olivia laughed as she went upstairs to her room.

Bette shook her head, "No, Toots.. But I'm afraid you do..." She said to herself before going to her own room.

The next morning the doorbell rang while Olivia and Bette were arguing over the last bagel. "Who could that be?"

"Could be anyone. Best way to find out is to answer the door." Bette let Olivia have the bagel as she went to see who their early guest was. "Greggy..."

"Good morning, Bette... I hope I'm not too early. I was on my way back from an early morning appointment and I passed a bakery. The smell of these was just too much to pass up.. And, since I couldn't possibly eat them by myself..." Gregory held up a bag of hot, freshly backed muffins.

Bette couldn't help but smile. What timing. She hoped Olivia was choking on that boring old bagel.

"You must really like muffins..." Gregory was a bit confused by the look on Bette's face.

"Oh.. What? Yes, yes I do.. Come on in. I'll share my margerine..." She winked at him and led him into the kitchen. "I'm afraid Olivia has already had her breakfast. You wouldn't want to join us. Would you, Liv?"

Olivia looked at the bagle in her hand and then at the muffins Gregory had bought. "Bette, sometimes I despise you." She said and walked out. Bette just laughed.

Gregory found many reasons to stop by Bette's house over the next few weeks. Sometimes it was to bring Bette a small gift, others to talk over a business opportunity with Del. Olivia even came to stop being openly hostile even if she wasn't overly friendly. Occasionally AJ would be there when Gregory showed up and the air would be filled with tension and unspoken hatred. Bette always seemed to be able to keep it together. She knew just when to cut Gregory off or to distract AJ with some trivia from the days news. Olivia always drew closer to AJ at those times, as if she needed to show him that she was on his side should any difficulties arise.
Gregory across the table from his former classmate, Kyle Bowers. Kyle had gone into corporate law and was one of the few people Gregory had respected and kept in touch with since the bar exam. Now he listened to him discuss his latest investigation over lunch. And Gregory was listening intently...

"We know there had to be someone on the inside. Someone feeding information... There's no way a two-bit crook like Rodgers could pull off an embezzlement scheme like this on his own."

Someone was stealing from the Deschanels... Gregory looked over the papers again. "And Armando Deschanel, Jr. was in charge of this department?" "Yes. That's why it's so shocking. Literally right under their noses."

"Have you considered that he might have been involved himself? Pulling a little scam on the old man?"

"It's a possibility.. But you don't think...?"

Gregory spent the next two hours going over the facts and interpretting evidence. He knew AJ and he knew he would never do what he was suggesting. But the evidence was there... Gregory wasn't setting him up exactly.. He hadn't fabricated anything... He just used his powers of persuasion.. By the time they payed for dinner Kyle was no longer looking for an inside man in the scandal. He was looking for a way to protect the boss's son and keep this information out of the press. As he walked off Gregory smiled, "That was almost too easy..."

"You know I didn't do it!"

"Of course we do, Son, but if this information gets picked up by the newspapers... We can't afford this type of scandal right now. Too many of our associations are weak as it is..."

"What do you want me to do?" "Just take a break. Get out of Sunset Beach for awhile. Run one of the European divisions."

"I'll need to talk to Olivia..."

"Son, your plane leaves in an hour. She'll understand..."

And so AJ Deschanel left Sunset Beach...

"Bette, did AJ call?"

"No.. I'm sorry, Livie.. No one's called. Why don't you call his house?"

"I can't do that..."

"Would you like me to?"

"Could you?"

Bette dialed the number and waited. Julianna Deschanel herself answered. "Hello, Mrs. Deschanel. This is Bette Lakin. I'm a friend of AJ's... Yes, well could you.. I understand.. Yes, Ma'am..." She hung up the phone and turned to Olivia. "He's out of town. Indefinitely... He's taken over one of the European offices..."

"But... Why didn't he tell me?"

Elaine felt fine when she woke up. She stretched and yawned and was amazed that Paula hadn;t woken her up yet. She walked down the hall and found her daughter quietly playing with her dolls. "Want some breakfast, Paula?" The little girl followed her down the hall. "How about some bacon and eggs? Sound good?" She helped Paula into her booster seat and threw some bacon in the frying pan. Normally the smell was one of her favorites. But not today... Today the smell made her stomach do a flip flop and sent her running to the restroom to loose what little bit of last nights dinner remained undigested. She trembled as she walked back to the kitchen and assured Paula that she was okay.
"Livie, can you get the door?"

"I can't.. My nails are wet..."

"Oh for Pete's sake, I'll get it." Del threw the paper on the table. Sometimes living with those two was enough to drive him crazy. He swung the door open and found Elaine standing there. "They're upstairs." He told her and walked off.

Elaine made her way upstairs. How could she tell them. How could she tell Olivia? She hadn't even spoken to Olivia in almost two weeks, since she first began to suspect... The first one of her friends she found was Bette and the relief was too much. She burst into tears.

"Honey.. What is it? What's wrong?"

"Bette... I.. I'm pregnant..."

Olivia stepped out of her room just in time. Her mouth dropped open and for a moment she couldn't breath. Elaine pulled away from Bette and started to dry her eyes when she saw Olivia standing there. "Olivia... I... I'm sorry..."

Olivia shook her head.. She was sorry? She was carrying AJ's child and she was sorry? "No.. No, no, no.. Elaine.. I'm.. I..." Elaine hugged Olivia and the two cried silently, not needing to say anything else. Bete just stood there, feeling as if everything had just started to fall apart and the fairy tale was spinning out of control.

Chapter 16
"What do you mean he's gone?" Elaine couldn't believe what she was hearing, refused to believe it.

"He left last week."

"Apparently he's taken over one of his father's European companies." Bette explained.

"But he calls you. He has to call..." Olivia just shook her head. "No...? But, Olivia, he loves you!"

Olivia fought hard not to cry again, "He didn't even tell me he was leaving."

"Oh, Olivia... How could he do this to you?" Elaine hugged her tightly.

Olivia immediately shoved her away, "To me? To me! How could he do this to you?"

"I knew how he felt. I always knew. Never, not once did he ever..."

"But he did! He knew how you felt and he took advantage of you. And the day you returned, that same evening, he was out with me. What sort of man is that?" Olivia asked with growing anger. "What else could I have expected from him? He probably met another woman who was more interesting and this was the easiest way he could find to get rid of me."

They all knew it wasn't true. But, for now, while the wounds were still fresh, it seemed easier to believe that it was. It seemed that, if they could convince themselves tht AJ was left than they knew him to be, that they would have somehow lost less than they had.

Gregory was in and out of Bette's house during the next few months. Sometimes only Bette was there and they shared a laugh. Sometimes Elaine was there and he was extra polite. When he had learned she was pregnant he had sincerly offered any assistance he could provide. Everytime he saw her he went out of his way to make her smile. Being at least partially responsable for AJ's absence bothered him at such times and he sought ways to relieve that guilt.

But it was Olivia he came to see; Olivia, who was still leery of him, that caused him to schedule late meetings so that his lunches would be free for quick visits to Bette's; Olivia who very slowly seemed to be coming around; Olivia who had even graced him with an occasional smile or a laugh; Olivia who had so completly captured his heart, whether or not he was ready to reveal it, or even admit it to himself...

He was just returning from one such visit to Bette's when he heard someone call for him to hold the elevator. He was revealing in victory over the fact that Olivia had agreed to have dinner with him. Of course Bette, Maria, Del, and Elaine would all be there as well, but that didn't take away from his accomplishment. She'd agreed, even before the others had been completly acertained.

"Good, good.. Glad I caught you, Richards. I was just on my way to your office." Vincint Rustwieler was a senior partner at the firm and was rumoured to be the true power behind it. Gregory waited patiently for him to catch up and enter the elevator before pressing the button for his floor.

"I've got a job for you, young man. I'd send someone older, more experienced, but I have been assured that you are up to it, the only man for the job they say..."

Gregory looked at him expectantly. He wasn't concerned. Whatever task old man Rustwieler had for him would be nothing to the challange he had just overcome. When he heard the details however, all his hard work at Bette's seemed wasted...

Bette smiled and fought back tears as he kissed her cheek. Then he hugged Elaine and bowed slightly to Olivia who remained across the room, watching with an air of indifference.

He wished desperately he could have found her alone... Perhaps then she would have been less guarded, less aloof and withdrawn. He wanted to hold her, to tell her he would miss her, to be assured she would miss him as well. Despite his fantasy he knew it wouldn't have been the case. The few times he had found Olivia alone at home she had been especially cold to him. He feared it was only Bette's fondness for him that kept her from being completly rude and ordering him never to return to the house.

So, instead of declaring what he had only just begun to admit to himself, he smiled to everyone and said good-bye, assuring them all he would return soon, bearing gifts and tall tales. He admonished Elaine to take care of herself and not to even consider delivering her child until he returned. Then he was gone...

The door hadn't even shut before Olivia shuddered, as if a cool breeze had suddenly blown through the room. It seemed quieter, colder, emptier... What was it about Europe? She had grown up there, left it happily, and had no desire to ever live there again. But within months she had lost two men to it. Not that Gregory was in the same catagory as AJ, not that she would admit... But she had grown accustomed to his being there. She felt her throat tightening for reasons she couldn't explain, "Well, if you will excuse me, I have to..." Bette and Elaine watched silently as she went upstairs. Once they were positive she was gone they looked at each other with knowing expressions. "Do you think she will be alright?

" Bette nodded, "She'll get by, as long as she doesn't admit it to herself..."

"And if she does?"

"Then AJ's leaving will have seemed like a very minor occurance indeed."

"Do you really think so? I know she did honestly care for AJ."

"Yes.. She cared for him very much. She even loved him. But, Elaine, she was never in love with him."

"I wish I could do something... I know how she feels... To be in love with someone and not see any hope of their returning those feelings."

Bette sighed, "I'm not so sure there isn't a chance. I think they may both be just to proud to ever admit it to one another. And if they ever do it could be the most beautiful romance... or the greatest tragedy."

Chapter 17
"There's no way we can pull this off!"

"Would you calm down? I told you I have it under control... You are still her doctor?"

"Yes, of course I am.. She trusts me.."

"Good. Then tell her what we discussed, make sure Olivia is on duty, and we won't have any problems..."

"They are closer than ever.. She'll never agree."

"Olivia's a smart woman, and an ambitious one. When she sees it's in her best interests, she'll do what I ask..."

"How can you be so sure, Del?"

"Mario.. We're family now so I'm going to share a little something with." Del pulls a newspaper from his briefcase.

"The society page?"

"Sometimes, all you need to know is in the society page." Del smiles and indicates a certain column.

Mario looks at it, confused for a moment, not understanding. Then he sees the name. He raises his eyes to meet Del's. The coldly confident look he sees there sends a chill down his spine...

Olivia glared at her new apartment. It was a constant reminder of her failure to accomplish any of the goals she had set for herself when she came to Sunset Beach. Not that it wasn't a nice apartment, just small. And the rent meant extra hours at the hospital. She had been so happy for Bette when she had announced that she and Mario had decided to elope, but that was before it dawned on her what the situation meant for her. She couldn't stay at Del's with Bette moving out. Only when faced with the apartment classifieds had she truly realized how inadequate her paycheck was.She sank into the couch with a sigh, "I have to do something..."
"Good morning, Elaine. How are you feeling today?" Friendly, trustworthy, Caring... The perfect friend and doctor.

"Good. I can't believe how easily this pregnancy has gone compared to when I had Paula. I am ready to meet this little guy, or girl, though..."

An understanding smile, "Let's just check and see what the baby thinks about that..." Mario begins the examination. Slowly the smile fades and is replaced by a worried look as he reaches for Elaine's chart.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing.. Nothing serious." Reassuring. Elaine, the baby's heartbeat indicates that it might be under some stress. I'd like to induce labor just to avoid any problems.

"Of course.. I... I have to find someone to keep Paula."

"Okay, relax... Trey not to worry. I'll schedule you for tomorrow and you should plan on staying at least overnight. Maybe Bette and Olivia can help out."

"Of course we'll help. I have to work tomorrow night, but I'll be free all day."

"And Paula can stay at my house overnight. Don't worry, Elaine. Everything will be fine." Bette reached over to pat her friend's hand reassuringly.

"I knew I could count on you two." Elaine smiles. "I am so lucky to have friends like you..."


"It's done."

"Good..." An evil smile.

"What about your part?"

"I'm working on it..."

"We're running out of time."

"Mario, trust me..."

"Del, you are the last person on Earth I would ever trust..."

The next day. Paula was napping and Olivia was doing some last minute dusting. The knock at the door surprised her, but not as much as the sight of Del standing there. "What are you doing?" She ask, suspicious, glancing into the bags he was carried.

"I thought you might appreciate a little adult companionship at lunch."

"Did you bring an adult with you?"

"Very funny. I brought food... No cooking involved."

Smiling, "Great. I'm starving. I fed Paula but I just couldn't bring myself to eat canned spaghetti."

"I've come to save you from that fate." Del laughs and places the food on the table. "I trust you have forks?"

"Of course..." She rolls her eyes and gets two from the drawer.

A few minutes of silence pass as they eat and Del pulls the paper from his briefcase. "Are you going to the benefit next week?"

"Right... I get invitations to those things all the time."

"I managed to get a couple. Was just trying to decide if I should call Madeleine or not."

"Why? Do you have someone else in mind?"

"I thought you might like to go..."

"With you?"

Laughing, "Excuse me. I didn't know I was so repulsive."

"I didn't mean..."

"I know... Olivia, I'm going to be honest with you..."

"There's a change." The look he gives her stops further comment.

Del tosses the paper to her. "Olivia, your grand plans are going down the drain. We both know it. At this rate you are going to be stuck at the hospital, working crappy shifts until you are too old to care anymore. You need to get back out there... And this should be a big deal, lots of people. And with Gregory back in town just in time too..." Watching closely, judging her reaction.

She glances at the paper, her heart involuntarily beating faster. "I didn't know he was back." Her voice betraying the calm expression on her face.

"No.. Felicity did. She's making big plans. Plans that might have been yours..."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about. Don't play games, Olivia, not with me. I know you far too well for that. Gregory Richards is exactly what you've been looking, exactly why you came to Sunset Beach in the first place. But you are just going to sit back and change diapers for other people's brats for the rest of your life while Felicity attends benefit galas on Gregory's arms."

"He isn't interested..."

"No, he isn't. And he isn't going to be. Not anymore than AJ was." A hand up, stopping her from speaking. "AJ didn't care about you. If he had he wouldn't have left without so much as a good-bye. How many times have you heard from him? Not once! Face it, Olivia, in the state you 're in right now even I'm too good for you. You want more? Then do something about!"

Tears, angry and hurt, "What am I supposed to do? I'm broke, Del. This apartment costs almost my whole paycheck."

Calm, soothing, playing his cards one at a time. "Relax... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I just care about you, Olivia. I always have. I want to help..." Her eyes search his. He's almost got her and he knows it. "Come with me to the benefit. I'll buy you a dress. No.. No questions. There aren't any strings attached and I'm not hitting on you. We both have ambitions, Olivia. We should help each other. I'll help you get Gregory... Before he or Felicity even knows what happened. Do you trust me?" A hesitant nod from Olivia before he continues. "Good..." He smiles, warm, reassuring...

Mario swallows hard, unable to stop his hands from shaking. This was insane. An insane day. A dream. He smiles and places the baby in Elaine's arms. "Congratulations. It's a boy..." She smiles and he turns away. He can't look. Not at her. Not at the baby. The nurses can handle it from here. Bette waits for him in the hall, excited. His wife. Her friend. "A boy. He seems okay, but I have a few concerns..." His voice low, conspiratorial, confiding in his wife.

Bette takes his hand and squeezes, "He'll be alright, won't he? Is Elaine okay?"

"Fine..." He forces a smile. "They'll both be fine. I'm sure of it..."

"A boy! Oh I can't wait to see him. Can I tell Paula? Yes, yes... Of course. I'll see him when I get to work. Give Elaine a hug for me. I'll see you when you come to pick her up." Olivia hangs up the phone and can't seem to stand still. A little boy. Elain's son. AJ's son... She pushes the thought away. He was the past, a lost dream for both herself and Elaine.

Paula comes in from the other room, her doll tucked under her arm. "Is my mommy okay?"

"Yes, precious. Your mommy is just fine. And you have a baby brother!" She hugs the little girl as they share their excitement over the new life.

On the phone in his office, his voice low, afraid of being overheard. "Did you talk to her? Will she do it?" A pause for the person on the other end to answer. A sigh and a shake of the head. "We're running out of time here... Yes, I have the paperwork. It's all filled out. Alright... But..." A nod as he hangs up the phone. He reaches in his desk drawer and pulls out a bottle. He's still on duty, shouldnm't be drinking. He needs it. He can't do this without it, isn't sure he can do it even with the added strength...
Olivia was pale, her heart racing. She'd just gotten to work, running late already only to be stopped by Del. The new dress was perfect, beautiful, too much... She knew he wanted something, tried hard to figure out what it might be. She didn't need to ask.

"It's the answer to all your problems, Olivia. $10,000 where else are you going to get that much money? How many months would you have to work?" Taking her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. "Gregory Richards is no longer an up and coming lawyer, Olivia. He's a successful one. One envied by men who have been in the field for years. In the last year he's become the prince of Sunset Beach, everything AJ was never cut out to be. You think he'd look twice at some nurses aide from the wrong side of London? Think again. No matter how many times you bat those eyes at him... He'll need a wife who can offer him something, help him in his social climb not hold him back. He'll need Felicity... Can you compete with that?" She shakes her head, trying to pull away. "I'm offering you that chance, Olivia. Not only to compete but to win. $10,000 for five minutes... Just take your break early..."

"What are you going to do?" Her voice a whisper, barely escaping her tightening throat. "You wouldn't hurt him..."

Gentle, his hands brushing against her face, "No.. Of course not. I'd never hurt a baby, Olivia..."

Maria was keeping her busy. She didn't understand.. She hadn't even had a chance to see Elaine. She needed to see Elaine... She had seen him though. The tiny baby in the nursery. She'd held him, washed him... He seemed so perfect, so strong and healthy, but Mario had demanded tests. His heart didn't sound right or something. He was sleeping now, his breathing deep in the small crib. She glanced at the clock and felt ill, Del's words echoing in her voice. $10,000 How many hours would she have to work to earn that kind of money? Eyes back to the clock, a movement down the hall. It was so quiet... Where had Mario gone? Five minutes. Her break was supposed to be in five minutes. $10,000... She glanced towards the nursery. He wouldn't hurt a baby... Would he? No.. Not even Del would do that. Why? What was he planning. Five minutes.. $10,000... She had to think. She couldn't think. Picking up her purse, turning quickly before she could change her mind, she made her way to the breakroom. Hands trembling as she dropped the change into the machine and waited for her coffee. Was that a door closing? Where was Mario?

She heard nothing else. No voices, no footsteps, nothing. Watching the clock. A 15 minute break. She couldn't sit still that long. She had to know what was going on, didn't want to know. Only 5 minutes left. Five minutes... $10,000... She closed her eyes and jumped at the sound of footsteps. "Mario...?" He looked as shaken as she felt as he slid into the chair next to her. "He's gone... You'd better go to Elaine. She'll need you..."

"Gone?" Her head spinning. Who was gone? Gone where?

"There was nothing I could do..."

No... The baby... She was out of her chair and down the hall to the nursery. A nurse, tears in her eyes, was changing the sheets on the crib. "The doctor's given permission for you to clock out. He said she would need a friend."

Olivia nodded dumbly and made the note on her chart. Passing the window she saw a car pull out of the parking lot. A familiar car. Del's car. She hesitated at the door, hearing Elaine's sobs. Slowly she pushed the door open and then rushed to her, wrapping her arms around her. "I'm sorry.. " She cried, her tears falling with those of her grieving friend. "I'm so sorry...."

Bette was stunned, unable to believe it was happening. It was only a nightmare, a nightmare they would all wake up from. She'd taken Paula out to get something to eat, unable to even think of heating something for the child. How do you explain to a four year old? How do you tell her about babies dying? The call from Mario still echoed in her head as she came back intothe house with the sleeping child. He was home now, asleep at the table. She carried Paula upstairs to the guestroom and tucked her in before going to him. He'd been drinking. Drinking heavily, especially for Mario who hardly touched alcohol at all. She saw the papers, spread out before him. The birth certificate and the death certificate. Another paper, torn into pieces nearby. She picked it up, placed the edges together, frowned, confused. Another death certificate, different from the other. Baby Stevens, the time was wrong. He must have messed up. She knew he was hurtnig. She dropped the torn papers into the trash and gathered the other. He wouldn't need the reminders when he woke up. Placing them in the briefcase and stopping, her hand on the lid, not closing it. Trembling fingers reach for the envelope. Del's handwriting... A time and an affirmation. It's a go. I've taken care of her... Opening the envelope slowly. Mouth open... Where had the cash come from? She dropped it into the briefcase, answers ringing in her ears, answers she didn't want to hear. She looked at him, seeing him differently now. Quietly, not disturbing him, she set the briefcase down and pulled the torn document out of the trash. In the kitchen, at the stove, paper going up in flames. No evidence... There could never be any evidence. What had he done.....?

Chapter 18