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"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."
"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."
"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."
"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...
"Well, if you would be still and stop wiggling."
"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.
"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...
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.
"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.
"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?
"Can you believe how incredibly rude that man was!"
"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..."
"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.
"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.
"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..."
"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...
"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?"
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?"
"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.
"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.
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...
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...
" 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."
"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...
"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.
"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."
"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..."
"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..."
"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..."
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...
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..."
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.
"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..."
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...."