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Gregory was drunk. Even he couldn't deny it. Everyone wanted to buy him a drink. Trying to get close right from the start, he thought. He didn't mind. He thrived on the attention. And even drunk his mind worked well enough to realize that he would need many of these people in the future. Felicity clung to him possesively and he didn't care. She was popular and atractive, and extremly attentive... He smiled when she whispered something into his ear...
"To a party. The bar exam results were released today and there's a celebration downtown."
"And why were we invited?"
"We weren't... But why should that stop us?"
Olivia smiled in response.
"I was just thinking how formal and correct you are. Makes me wonder..."
Gregory looked at her, "I believe in being the best at whatever I choose to involve myself in. Answer your question?"
She let her eyes travel down his body, "Completely..."
"How long exactly have you been in Sunset Beach, Ms. Blake?"
"May I get you another drink, Ms. Blake?"
"Olivia, you don't mind if I call you Olivia, do you...?"
Her head was spinning and she felt as if the smile would never again leave her face. After a month of not going out for more than a quick lunch with Bette and Elaine, Olivia was delighted by all the attention. She could have kissed Del for bringing her here. And he was being wonderful, introducing her to everyone, acting like the big brother he proffessed to consider himself. She wasn't sure at first what that had been about. They both knew Del no more thought of her as a sister than did any of these other men. But she had quickly realized that Del's plans were far more long range than whether he would ever convince her to sleep with him. Yes, he wanted her, but he wasn't in love with her. And his own ambitions for the future were more important. Fortunatly for her, he saw there was some advantage in aiding her in her own quest for a place in the social elite. As for herself, she would be delighted to help him, so long as it served her own purposes.
"I'm sorry, Darling.. " she'd crooned. "I'm afraid I have been terribly spoiled. I forget you live here all alone with no one to tka ecare of you."
Gregory frowned. He was glad he hadn't eaten. If he had he certainly would be throwing up by now. Couldn't she tell how patronizingly annoying she was. Annoying.. There was no othe word to describe her. Her parents shouldn't have named her Felicity because she was making him anything but happy at the moment. "If you are so hungry, Dear.." The word was obviously meant sarcastically. "Why don't you go out and get something. I am certain there are any number of cafes just waiting to serve you."
Felicity was tactful enough not to push her luck too far. She kissed him gently on the lips and smiled, "I suppose you are right... You must have so much you need to do. I'll call you." She left quickly before he could say anything.
"I had such a wonderful time. The cabin was right off the lake and isolated..."
Olivia really didn't care to hear anymore. She did love Elaine dearly, but listening to her go on and on about her weekend with AJ was unnerving. It should have been me up there with AJ instead of here with a bunch of legal eagle-wanna-bes, she thought. Her evening wasn't looking nearly so pleasant as it had this morning. She and Bette had gone to the Waffle Shop to get breakfast and compare notes. Elaine had come in just as they were about to leave so they'd sat back down. First Bette had told Elain all the latest on her and the intern and now Elaine was gushing over how perfect things had been. She tried to be happy for her friend, but the more she listened the more convinced she became that AJ and Elaine didn't belong together.
"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself." All three ladies jumped at the sound of AJ's voice. Elaine blushed. Bette laughed. Olivia smiled slightly, her eyes locking on AJ's. He hadn't seen her, even in passing, in about 3 weeks. He'd almost convinced himself he had imagined the color of her eyes. Now, facing her, he felt an incredible guilt over his trip. He shouldn't feel like that about someone else after spending the weekend with Elaine, she deserved better. Worse than that was the feeling he had somehow betrayed Olivia. He had rationalized that she wasn't interested, but something told him now that it was something else. It hadn't been her fault she'd had to work so many hours. If she had someone to take care of her then she wouldn't have to work so hard.
The look that went between them wasn't lost on Elaine. AJ hadn't mislead her about his feelings toward her but somehow she'd hoped, after their weekend together, that those feelings might change. It was obvious to her now that she couldn't compete with Olivia. She determined then and there not to let whatever happened affect her friendship with her young friend, or make her bitter toward AJ. He had, after all, been completly honest from the start.
"Hello, AJ." Bette spoke first, sensing a growing tension. "You are looking better than ever."
AJ grinned and turned to her, "And you, as always, are simply divine." he bowed and kissed her hand. "Looks like I missed lunch."
"Breakfast actually. I'm afraid we've wasted the morning and only just started." Answered Olivia.
"Then I suppose I'll have to settle for dinner. Are you available?" The invitation included them all even though he was wel aware that Elaine had other commitments.
Bette hesitated, knowing that Elaine couldn't go. Should she tag along as a chaperone to make sure Olivia didn't get in the way of Elaine's hopes? Where did her loyalties lie? Better yet, was it her business to get involved at all? She glanced from Elaine to Olivia. Better to go with the side that seems to have the best chance at victory and hope for the best. "I'm sorry, AJ. I'll have to bow out of this one."
Elaine forced a smile, "I need to go check on Paula. I've missed her so much this weekend." She hurried away before anyone could see the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.
"Olivia?" His eyes met hers. Her answer would tell him all he needed to know.
"I can't think of anything I would enjoy more?" She responded, forcing the memory of Elaine's hurt look from her mind.
"Because I happen to be a realist. I can see the way he looks at you. The only way Elaine has any chance at all is if you back off and make AJ see you differently than he does now. And I'm not sure that would give her much of a chance... I figure one of us should have a chance at the throne."
"What about you? You have your promising young doctor. I know Elaine will meet the right man..."
Bette decided not to get into the discussion. She knew just how vulnerable Elaine was. After the disasterous marriage it had taken forever for her to show any interest in anything not directly related to her little girl and the Waffle Shop. She wasn't likely to try again any time soon. "Here, borrow my pearls. They'll go perfect with that neckline."
The doorbell signaled AJ's arrival. Bette winked at Olivia, "So, go charm your prince..." Olivia grinned and moved gracefuly down the stairs.
"Would you like any dessert?" He asked as the waitor cleared away their dinner dishes.
"Not right away. I was thinking what a shame it was to be inside on such a lovely night. I don't suppose I could talk you into a walk along the beach?"
"I think that sounds perfect..." He stood and offered her his hand. "Perhaps later we can have dessert." He smiled.
Olivia leaned back in AJ's arms as they watched the stars. Dinner had turned into a walk on the park and then, neither of them particularly wanting the night to end, a time of sitting quietly, sometimes talking, and generally enjoying each other' company. "Do you know how long I've dreamed of holding you like this?" AJ asked finally. Olivia only smiled and rested her head against his chest. "I feel guilty about..."
"Shhh..." She didn't want him bringing Elaine into this now. Elaine would get over AJ soon enough. He was just a man, after all. And Elaine had Paula and the Waffle Shop to worry about. Olivia didn't want to feel guilty, or hear how badly AJ felt for her. Couldn't they just be happy to be together?
AJ kissed the top of her head softly. He had wanted all night to kiss her, to feel her lips on his, but he didn't want to seem as if he was only interested in her physically. She knew he'd gone away for the weekend and certainly understood what it implied. He's being here with her now was enough of a testemant to what a jerk he was without trying to seduce her, the very day he had returned. It never dawned on him that Olivia was making just as much a conceous descision to betray Elaine's feelings by being with him. To AJ, Olivia was a perfect, sweet, angel.
Meanwhile, across town in a small apartment, Elaine rocked her sleeping child in her arms and silently weeped. How could she have been so foolish? The weekend had been a dream, but there was no fairy godmother, no white horses, and no happily ever after. The dream may have lasted beyond midnight, but in the end the horses were still mice and she was left with no hope that a glass slipper would lead her back into the prince's arms.
"You will get all the training you need. They're expecting you." The head nurse walked off before she could protest further.
Everyone rose to their feet as the judge prepared to hand down his descision. As expected, it was in Gregory's favor. Not expected, however, was the speed in which the infuriated father lunged at the young lawyer. Gregory hit the ground and felt a sharp sting in his left shoulder as the bailiff pulled the man off of him. He looked and saw a small spot of blood rising on his shirt. He looked back, stunned, in time to see the bailiff wrestle a letter opener from the man's hand.
"Ms. Blake, get an ace bandage and sutures from the cabinet!"
She heard the order and looked up to see what she was missing. They were just bringing someone in, but he was walking and didn't seem terribly hurt. she went to do as she was told while they got him situated in a room. She was just starting to bring the nurse the items she'd asked for when they were taken from her and she was ordered to help with another patient that was just coming in. So much for peace and quiet...
Gregory wasn't hurt badly, but he did require three stitches. "War Wound," teased his coworkers when he returned to the office. Gregory smiled. He wondered what would happen to the man. Of course he couldn't be let to attack people when he didn't get his way, but Gregory still felt bad for him. He'd nearly lost his son and was trying desperately for a way to cover the hospital costs. Gregory didn't have much time to dwell on it. He was immediately rushed into a celebration party. He had won his first real case and earned the firm a great deal of money. In the revelry, he soon forgot his sorrow for the young father.
Bette listened patiently to her tell of the horrible day in the emergency room. When she was finished she smiled.
"What are you smiling about?" Snapped Olivia.
"Just go upstairs and change." Ordered Bette, which got her a rather hateful look from her friend. "AJ is coming to pick you up in an hour. He wished to apologize for asking so late, but he only just found out he would be attending himself."
"Attend what?" Asked Olivia, already on her way up the stairs, Bette right behind her.
"Only the biggest party in Sunset Beach. For a social climber you are terribly uninformed..."
This was exactly what she had dreamed of, planned for, but she was suddenly as nervous as she had ever been in her life. Painfully aware of her background and the fact these people would not have bothered to glance in her direction had they bumped into her on the street, Olivia was certain she was about to make a complete fool of herself. The only thing that made it at all bearable was the fact AJ had moved mountains to get both Bette and Del invited. Bette and Olivia had both pooled their savings accounts to get Bette a dress suitable for the occasion and the intern had rented a tux. Del hadn't bothered to look for a date, determined to woo one of the young heiresses at the party. He was much more confident than Olivia....
"She could have been if it weren't for you two meddling." Laughed Del. If looks could kill, both Olivia and Bette would have been in jail for his murder.......
"Sorry it took so long. Barkley Andrews is a windbag." Said AJ, walking up and lightly putting his arm around Olivia's waist. He noticed the looks between the others. "Did I miss something?"
"Not at all." Olivia smiled. "We were just saying how charming everything was."
"Not as charming as you." AJ answered, meeting her eyes. "You are going to be the perfect hostess to brighten what would other wise be the dullest gathering in town." He led her to the center of the room, to meet their guests...
Bette smiled proudly as she watched Olivia and AJ greet the guests as they arrived. Somehow she felt partially responsable for Olivia's success. Even Del seemed to be having a good night. He had been chatting for the last half hour with a Madeleine Mahaffey, a woman Bette would never have placed him with. They did seem to be gettnig along rather well though... She smiled and turned her attention back to her host and hostess just in time to see a dark look come over AJ's face. she followed his gaze and saw the reason for it. Gregory Richards and Felicity Ascot. Bette didn't know Gregory, but she knew AJ despised him, and Felicity was enough to make her skin crawl. No wonder AJ seemed suddenly unhappy. Olivia hadn't seemed to notice yet. She was being admired by a group of AJ's friends and seemed to be carrying herself pretty well.
Del glanced up in time to see Gregory walk in. He had already heard of the court case earlier and should have figured Richards would show up here. Not that AJ would be very happy about it. Well, if Del had to chose sides he would have chosen Gregory's, despite his business arrangement with the elder Deschenel. Gregory had a drive that AJ lacked, and Del respected that. AJ may be the crown prince of Sunset Beach, but Gregory was the man most likely to dethrone him. And Del was determined to be on the right side when the coup occured. He excused himself from Madeleine's side and made his way across the room.
Gregory had hardly made it in the door. Every step he took meant a new hand to shake, more congratulations to accept, more inquiries as to the extent of his injury. He stopped being embarressed over the incident and realized it was actually making him seem somehow heroic to a lot of the people around him. Public sympothy had been high on the side of the father, but his attack on Gregory, at least with this crowd, had greatly diminished that.
Felicity clung proudly to Gregory. Of course Preston had tried to talk her out of accepting. He had claimed accepting the last minute invitation made her look too available. But she would have been a fool to let the opportunity to attend this evening's party pass her by. The talk was boring her as Gregory was quized by one person after another about the case and the attack on him. She glanced around the room, noting who she knew that was there. She spotted AJ and an attractive young woman. She must be the one Prescott was drooling over after the celebration party. He hadn't been able to stop talking about her for weeks... Well, she was certainly a beauty. Felicity wondered if there was a brain in her head. Not that it mattered in this crowd. Most of these men were looking for trophy's to hang on their arms. If that's what AJ wanted, then he had definatly found one. And she seemed to be carrying herself well. Felicity wondered what her story was. Her background was a mystery, other than that she was currently staying with Bette Lakin and her her Del Douglas. She spotted Bette now, with Mario an intern at Cedar Oaks. From the looks of things, Bette had already found her fourth husband. Felicity turned away in disgust. she had been working on a conection with Charles Lakin before he hooked up with Bette. If it hadn't been for the cheap red head, she would have been out of this town, married to a successful attorney... And Bette had blown it. In less than two years she had let him get away. Well, Felicity wasn't concerned with her anymore. She had her hooks in Gregory now. And she would do whatever it took to keep them there. AJ slipped his arm around Olivia's waist. Gregory was getting closer to the center of the room and, like it or not, it was AJ's responsability to greet him. He eyed Felicity with distaste. The two of them deserved each other, he thought. He didn't like Felicity anymore than he did Gregory. He forced a smile as Gregory approached and held out his hand, "Congratulations on your victory." He said, keeping his hatred out of his voice.
"Thank you, but it was no more than I expected." Gregory answered coldly.
"Victory in what?" Olivia asked, trying to be polite. In answer she saw AJ's jaw twitch. Obviously he didn't care to prolong this discussion. She wondered why... The man seemed pleasant enough. Then it dawned on her. He was the man from the hospital! Thank God she had been called away before having to treat him. She would have died if it came out here that she was a lowly nursing assistant at the hospital!
Gregory turned to the voice, noticing the woman for the first time. AJ had certainly outdone himself. He smiled and started to answer, but Felicity, suddenly interested in the conversation, spoke before he could.
"Gregory won the biggest court case of the year today. He was brilliant. Don't be modest, Darling. Everyone knows it..." She cood. She had a terrible feeling about this. Gregory was being no more polite to the Brit than he had been to anyone else, but there was something in his eyes... Her brother's reaction and his description of the others' reactions to the woman came rushing back to her. This woman could be dangerous. Of course, she was with AJ... Perhaps it was nothing. But she couldn't be too careful. She tried to pull Gregory away. "Darling, there's Prestcott. We have to go over and say hello. He'll think we are shunning him and you know how sensative he is..."
Gregory tried not to look annoyed. He really couldn't stand Felicity. "Of course. We can't have Pres feeling shunned." He said and nodded his dismissal to AJ. He caught the eye of the young woman with AJ and she seemed to be barely supressing a grin. A slightly raised eyebrow as he turned away was confirmation of the fact she was laughing at him. He could have killed Felicity...
"I despise that man." AJ muttered as they walked off.
Olivia quickly turned away from the lawyer. "Who was he?" She asked innocently.
"Gregory Richards. An ambitious, ruthless, and very annoying upstart attorney. No one you should be concerned with." AJ assured her.
Olivia smiled at him. What did she care about a lawyer? She had AJ, the most eligible bachelor in Sunset Beach and the host of the grandest party. Still she glanced over her shoulder. As she did her eyes met his across the room. Felicity glared, a look that sent chills down Olivia's spine.
AJ didn't see the exchange, but two others in the room did. Del smiled knowingly. Perhaps there was hope for Olivia yet... Bette felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She sensed danger on the horizon and prayed Olivia would come out of it unscathed....
"Del.... Why does AJ hate Gregory Richards so badly?" The two were dancing and Olivia thought he was the person most likely to be able to answer that question without questioning her reasons for asking it.
"Probably because Gregory can't stand him and makes a point of showing it." "But why... Gregory just dislikes him for no reason?"
"No... I don't know what reasons Gregory would give, but I have my own theories, if you would like to hear them." Her look of complete interest told him she did. "I think it's because AJ has everything that Gregory is working to obtain. And not only has it, but was born with it. Everything AJ has was handed to him whereas Gregory has had to work for everything he's accomplished. I think it bothers him to see someone else get credit for something he hasn't worked for when he has to prove himself at every turn."
"Then it's just simple jealousy?"
"Jealousy? Yes. Simple? I don't think there's anything simple about it...."
Gregory laughed to, at ease with Bette. He'd taken his time aproaching her, not wanting to infuriate Felicity or make it seem as if he was purposefully seeking her out. But that is exactly what he had done. Aside from AJ, she was the person who had spent the most time with the young woman he now knew was called Olivia. He hadn't found an opportunity to speak with her directly yet. He doubted AJ would let him get close enough to have any sort of a meaningful conversation with her, but he was finding out a good deal from her friend. He had learned her name, that she had only been in Sunset Beach a short time, and that she lived with Del and Bette. For now, that's all he needed to know.
"I was wondering how long it would take you to come rescue me."
"You seemed to be enjoying yourself."
"With Del? I'd much rather be with you."
"Then I won't let anyone take you away from me again." He assured her and sealed it with a light kiss on her lips.
"I hope you aren't here to complain to me about the amount of time my sister is spending with your date." He answered.
"Not at all... I adore your sister and I have absolutely no reason to believe that my date won't be coming back to me soon enough. I merely wanted to take the opportunity of spending some time with you..."
They both knew what she wanted.. She wanted the scoop on Olivia and exactly how close she and AJ were. Del told her exactly what she wanted to hear. After all, why warn the competition? Felicity went away content with the knowledge that Olivia would not be a problem, that she was adored by AJ and his family, and that the two had been involved for sometime, the relationship finally coming to a point where he had flown her to Sunset Beach to be near him. Olivia was merely staying with Del as a favor, until they felt the time was right to announce their engagement. Del grinned as she walked off. It was always easier when the opponent was unaware they were in a war...
Gregory's head was already dancing with ideas on how to approach Olivia, Del was bored to tears with his heiress, and Olivia's mind kept drifting to other things. Not that she was bored. Not that she would ever admit. But she also would have been hard pressed to explain the feeling that swept over her when, entirely by chance, her eyes met Gregory's across the room. In response she turned her full attnention on AJ, smiling sweetly, and allowing him to hold her closer as the moved with the music. Watching the two of them together, Felicity had all the proof she needed that Olivia Blake was not a threat to her plans.