Chapter 22

Nick and Brooke was kissing passionately. Nick could feel that Brooke was willing to go further this time. She kissed him with a need of letting go of sorrow and move to happiness. Nick grabbed Brookeīs jaw in his hand and broke the kiss. They looked deep in each others eyes. Nick tipped Brooke over in his arms and carried her upstairs to her bedroom. He laid her down and kissed her as he laid down on top of her. Brooke caressed his back with firm hands as her breath got heavier and heart started beating faster. Nick let his hand glide up her thigh and up over her blouse. As she felt his hand on her bare stomach, she started getting nervous. She had never been this intimate with Nick before. It felt like the first time she ever had sex and how things were going a little too fast.
"Wait" Brooke whispered. Nick stopped kissing her.
"Wait?" Nick asked disappointed.
"This is going to fast" Brooke admitted.
"You donīt want to do this?"
"Itīs not that. I... I... Iīm sorry, Nick. Its just so overwhelming. I want you. I just think that maybe weīre moving too fast. I just broke up with Ridge and..."
"Itīs still about Forrester?"
"No. Itīs about me. I think that we should move a little slower, thatīs all".
"Fine" Nick said and stood up, frustrated.
"Nick, donīt feel like that. I do want you."
"Itīs fine, Brooke. Weīll go slower. Now if you donīt mind, I have to go take a cold shower".

"You sure youīre okay, Eric?" Pam Douglas asked as the family returned to the mansion after a long day in court.
"Yeah, Iīm fine"
"It doesnīt look very good, does it, Russell?" Ridge asked the lawyer who had come with them home.
"I wish I had more to go on" Russell admitted.
"What happens next?" Kristen asked.
"I have to finish up on the closing arguments and then we just have to wait for a verdict".
"How can there not be more evidence? Mother didnīt commit murder. I donīt care for whatever proof the DA think he has. There should be a way for us to prove she didnīt kill Tim" Ridge said.
"Itīs not that easy. But I have to tell you that the gunpowder residue that was found on Stephanieīs hand does make things an awful lot harder for us. If it hadnīt been for that, I may have had a good theory to go on by now. But there is just no way around that fact. I donīt know how to explain that away when we donīt even know how it ended up there."
"What are you thinking?" Ridge asked.
"Are you absolutely sure you never fired a gun or came in contact with gunpowder residue before or after you found Tim Cameron in that pool?" Russell asked Stephanie.
"I am absolutely sure" Stephanie replied a little unconcentrated.
"So then the options are that either you are lying to us, or someone in the lab mixed with the test, which I donīt believe either since they have a habit of doublechecking and never work alone."
"I am not lying" Stephanie said.
"Then there is only one other possibility".
"And that is?"
"I am not quite sure if itīs possible, but I guess it should be..." Russell muttered to himself.
"What?" Kristen asked impatiently.
"If whoever it is that is trying to frame you for the murder somehow smeared gunpowder residue on the gun before leaving it on the ground for you to find" Russell speculated.
"What?" Ridge asked confused.
"What other possibility can there be?" Russell asked.
"Letīs say that is possible, then who is clever enough and devious enough and wants to frame Stephanie for murder to go though with this plan?" Eric asked.
"Sheila" Ridge said without hesitation.
"But she is in prison and hasnīt seemed like she was up to something according to the guards. And hasnīt had visitors in months" Eric said in return.
"Maybe someone of her cellmates was released?" Kristen speculated.
"No, I have checked that already" Russell said.
"Then weīre back on square one" Pam sighed.
"If only Thorne could wake up and talk to us" Eric said.
"Thorne?" Kristen asked surprised.
"We think he may know something. He was in the house when the murder took place and he did seem very anxious about saying something to us when he heard us talking about it. We donīt know for sure, but itīs possible." Eric informed his daughter.
"So he may hold the key to everything?" Kristen asked.
"Itīs possible".
"How is he doing?" Russell asked.
"Still very little change" Ridge said.
"You were there before, mom" Kristen said as she looked around for Stephanie. "Mom?" The others turned their backs and found that Stephanie was no longer standing with them. "Stephanie?"
"Iīm over here" Stephanieīs voice said from the balcony.
"We were just asking if there was any change in Thorneīs status?"
"No, not yet" Stephanie said distracted.
"Whatīs the matter?" Ridge asked.
"Nothing. I just need to get out of here for a while. Iīll see you later" Stephanie said as she went towards the front door.
"Where are you going?" Pam asked.
"I donīt know" Stephanie said and left them in the living room exchanging looks.

"Shannon, what brings you by?" Connor asked as his niece walked into his office.
"The truth. I want it. Now" Shannon said.
"I thought I already told you the truth"
"That you loaned my parents money for a house? That wasnīt the truth. I investigated the matter. Remember I now have access to my mothers bankpapers? And they told me you lied to me."
"Maybe there is a reason why I lied to you."
"Of course there is. I want to know what that reason is, and I want the real truth. What did you give my mother that my father never could know about?" Shannon asked. But Connor didnīt seem eagered to tell her.
"Look, uncle Connor. I am an adult now. I donīt need to be protected from the truth. Besides, donīt you think there is some kind of sign that my mother held on to that letter for me to find one day? Maybe she wanted me to know the truth?"
"I donīt know..."
"I am getting very frustrated here. I hate it when people keep things from me thinking they are protecting me. I donīt appreciate it. You are the only living relative I have left. I want to keep you in my life. But that will only happen if you are straight with me. Please, Connor! Whatever it is, I can handle it. I have survived much worse."
"We never planned to tell anyone."
"Did you have an affair with my mother, is that it?"
"It wasnīt like that..."
"So you did. Thatīs the big secret?"
"Thatīs only part of it. When I wrote that theyīre hers now and forever, I was talking about you".
"You and your sister".
"What? Wait... youīre not telling me....?"
"I am your biological father" Connor told her gently.
"Thatīs not possible."
"Your father couldnīt have children."
"Is this a joke?" Shannon asked shocked.
"I wish it was. Your parents tried to get pregnant but it didnīt work. Your mother turned to me and asked me for a favor"
"You got my mother pregnant and my father was fine with it?"
"He didnīt know."
"How could he not know?"
"He was suspecting something was wrong when your mother didnīt get pregnant. But then she did become pregnant. But with my child. Your mother never told your father that he wasnīt the father. She couldnīt break his heart. All she ever wanted was to have a baby with him."
"So Kelly and I were yours."
"Only biologically."
"Is that why you left town, and us?"
"Part of it, yes. I started getting too attached to you and your sister. I had to distance myself."
"Oh my God...." Shannon cried.
"Iīm sorry. I never wanted you to know."
"I wanted to know. For so many years, I could have had a father! When my father died, you should have told me!"
"No. I couldnīt do that. You loved him, I didnīt want to take that away".
"I need to get out of here"
"Shannon, wait!"
"No, I need to be alone".

Stephanie sat in the backseat of the Forrester limousin.
"Can you drive to Café Russe, please?" Stephanie asked as she leaned back and stared out of the shaded window. "No wait, go to that place... Las Olas, instead" Stephanie told the driver. "No one knows me there", she whispered to herself.
Stephanie didnīt feel like bumping into anyone she knew. Sheīd probably just have all eyes on her and that was the last thing she wanted now.

"Lucinda, hi" Brooke greeted as she welcomed Lucinda inside her house.
"Hereīs the papers you wanted"
"Thank you for bringing them over. I thought I should work from home tomorrow. I had a big fight with both Eric and Ridge recently. Things may get a bit tense at the office."
"Sorry to hear that"
"Do you want to stay for dinner? I am having dinner catered"
"Sounds wonderful, thank you"
Brooke headed to the phone and placed an order from Mannequins.
"Itīs been tense at the office for quite some time now. Is it always like that?" Lucinda asked.
"Pretty much, yes. Itīs wearing me out sometimes, I have to tell you. Sometimes I wonder if itīs even worth it to stay."
"But I have to. I have a legacy to protect there".
"Would it not be better to just sell and start a new company?"
"Believe me, that thought has crossed my mind many times."
"Then whatīs holding you back?"
"Before it was always Ridge."
"And now?"
"Now? Canīt think of anything" Brooke admitted.
"Then do it. Go for it!" Lucinda said spontaniously.

Massimo was on his way to see Connor but saw a distraught young woman sitting on a bench. He recognized her from his office a few days earlier. He sat down next to her.
"Whatīs the matter?" he asked.
"Why do you care?" Shannon asked annoyed to be bothered.
"I donīt. Call me curious"
"Okay, curious. I just got some heavy news"
"I can see that. Anything I can do to help?"
"Why would you help me? You donīt even know me."
"That is true. But we did have a bad start. I would like to correct that".
"You have. Thank you for caring".
"Youīre welcome. Now, is there something I could do to help you?"
"I wish there was. But how do you help someone who has just found out her life started with a huge lie that continued up until 5 minutes ago?"
"You tell her that life is hard, but she still have the future to look forward to".
"The future... What kind of future can I have? My sister committed suicide. My mother just died. My father died year ago, although he wasnīt really my father. My father is my uncle."
"Connor Davis is your father?"
"What would you say about chokolade ice-cream?"
"What?" Shannon was confused.
"It may not heal your wounds, but at least you will have the comfort of chokolade".
"You know, that is an excellent idea" Shannon said and got up from the bench. "Are you joining me?" she asked.
"I would love to".

"Here you go" Eric said as he handed his sister-in-law a cup of coffee.
"Thank you" Pam said while Eric sat down next to her on the sofa in the Forrester living room.
"How are you doing?"
"Iīm fine" Pam smiled.
"You sure? You seemed like you were on another planet just now".
"Iīm just thinking."
"Hard not to, huh"
"My sister may be a lot of things, but a cold blooded murderer she is not. I wish there was something I could do".
"There is. Your support and you being here means so much"
Pam looked down in her mug.
"You sure youīre alright?" Eric asked.
"Okay. Howīs Drew?"
"Heīs great. Heīs just finished studying leadership"
"He was in businesschool, wasnīt he?"
"Yes, graduated 2 years ago now."
"Maybe we should get him to work for us" Eric suggested.
"Heīs a catch, and I am not saying that because I am his mother!" Pam said with a laugh.
"I didnīt think so for a second" Eric assured with a smile.
"So where do you think Stephanie went?"
"I donīt know. But she obviously wanted some time alone."
"Thatīs my sister. Always at hand when someone else has problems, but when she gets into touble herself ..."
"...she backs away from everyone, refusing to be any kind of burden" Eric filled in.

Rick returned home and found Brooke and Lucinda chatting on the sofa.
"Hi honey" Brooke greeted.
"Mom, Lucinda" Rick said and started walking to the stairs.
"Rick, wait. I have something I need to talk to you about" Brooke said.
"I should get going now. Iīll talk to you later. Bye" Lucinda said as she left.
"What is it?" Rick asked as he sat down across from his mother.
"I have a proposition and I need to hear how you feel about it before I make the final decision."
"Is it about Forrester?"
"Yes. What would you say if I sold my shares in the company?"
"What? Are you out of your mind? Why would you sell?"
"Because of the constant tention over there. Frankly, I am sick of it. And it is just not getting any better, especially now when I have Ridge and Eric against me."
"But itīs my legacy. And Bridgetīs."
"I know. And that is why I am asking you about this, because it is about your future too. I want only the best for you and your sister. And lately, I have started to think that the atmosphere at Forrester may not be the ideal place for you either. Eric and Stephanie will divide their shares among there children, and eventually, we will have so many shareholders that it will be destructive for everyone involved."
"But still. Itīs a legacy."
"I know. And you will still have a legacy. We can build up a new company. You, me and Bridget. A whole new legacy, and we will own 100%. If I sell my stocks in Forrester to a reasonable price, I will have what I need for a new company. And the experience and connections I have gathered since I took over as CEO will help us tremendously. I donīt expect you to make a decision about this now. But could you at least consider it?"
"A whole new company. Itīs risky."
"I know."
"Thatīs why I am glad to have you in charge."
"Are you saying....?"
"I am saying that I think itīs a wonderful idea. Look out Forrester, here we come!" Rick stated. Brooke laughed and hugged her son.
"Youīre absolutely sure?"
"I think this may be the most exciting new things I have ever done".
"But I will have to talk to Bridget first."
"Of course. But if I know her right, I am sure she will give us her fullest support".

Stephanie was sitting by a table at Las Olas with a martini. Her mind drifted back to memories of old times. Happier times that seemed so far away now.
"I didnīt know you were a fan of Las Olas" a familiar voice spoke as Stephanie looked up.
"Neither did I" Stephanie replied.
"May I join you?"
"Actually, I came here to be alone..."
"But what the hell. Sit down, Clarke" Stephanie told her former son-in-law. "I hope you didnīt bring along Sally"
"Good" Stephanie said and took a sip of her drink.
"I am sorry if you think we revel in your problems"
"Arenīt you?"
"Not really, although I canīt speak for Sally" Clarke said and took a sip of his scotch.
"She probably want to see me hang"
"I wouldnīt bet on it. Sheīd kill me if she heard me say it, but she actually have this admiration for you. Always has".
"She has a funny way of showing that" Stephanie chuckled.
"She wouldnīt admit it herself, but she is jealous of you. Itīs true"
"Whatīs there to be jealous of?" Stephanie asked.
"Well, for instance, the respect people have of you".
"Had, as in the past" Stephanie corrected.
"And your influence"
"Which is fading away very quickly"
"Your fighting spirit"
"Gone too"
"Your husband"
"Ericīs gonna be single soon. You can give her that message, sheīll be thrilled"
"I donīt know about that. She does care what happens to you. Why else would she be right there in the coartroom?"
"Why are you trying to butter me up, Clarke?"
"Believe it or not, but I donīt enjoy kicking on someone whoīs down"
"Thanks" Stephanie said, reminded of how down she really was. "You donīt believe Iīm guilty, do you?"
"Why do you say that?"
"People usually donīt approach murderers"
"No, I donīt think you are a murderer. Iīm still alive, arenīt I?" Clarke said to lift up the mood. Stephanie couldnīt help but smile.
"Yes you are".
"Youīve got the Spectra support"
"Hard to understand"
"Not really. We are dependant on good competition for inspiration, and we couldnīt ask for a better opponant"
"No, you couldnīt, could you?"
"And we wouldnīt want to trade you for anything. The Spectra-Forrester rivalry is legendary. Wouldnīt be the same without you"
"Thank you, Clarke."
"But donīt tell Sally I said this."
"I promise. What about you? Youīre here alone?"
"Just socialising"
"No girlfriend?"
"Iīm free as a bird"
"And lonely I bet. Why donīt you hook up with someone?"
"Itīs a lot easier said than done"
"But itīs not too late. I am sure lots of women would be interested"
"You flatter me"
"Well, it was my turn..."
"Want a re-fill?" Clarke asked pointing to her empty martini glass.
"No, I should get back home" Stephanie said and they stood up. "Thanks for the company"
"It was my pleassure" Clarke said and gave Stephanie a quick peck on the cheek before she headed back to the waiting car outside.

"So who would you sell your stock to? Dad?" Rick asked.
"I thought about that, but I donīt think so. Not after the way he and Ridge treated me earlier. I know he is your father, and I will always love him for that. But this is business."
"Then who?"
"I have a name in mind."
"I canīt imagine who"
"Lucinda Freeman".
"Lucinda?" Rick asked surprised.
"Sheīs very bright and I agree with her style"
"What does she know about running a company?"
"Sheīs worked for years with some of the best people in the business. She knows the business as well as I do."
"I hear she doesnīt get along with Stephanie"
"I think that has been worked out. I donīt know the details though. She works well with both Eric and Ridge. I think she is the best alternative."
"Sheīs not part of the family. Dad will have something to say about that".
"Let him. Itīs not his legacy I am selling. Itīs mine, and yours."
"Does Lucinda have children?"
"No. So maybe they can reach some kind of an agreement later on. But that wonīt be my problem anymore. Iīve got to tell you Rick. I am really looking forward to this."

Shannon sat in Massimoīs office finishing her ice-cream when Massimo entered.
"Feeling better?" he wondered.
"This thing works miracles"
"Good. Maybe now you realize this isnīt the end of the world?"
"No, itīs not. Iīve gained a father. Maybe not the ideal situation, but itīs my situation."
"Youīre not alone in the world"
"No, I am not. And you, Massimo, is a lifesaver. I donīt care about all the rumors about the ruthless tycoon Marone. I know the truth now. And you are nothing but a sweet ole teddybear"
"A teddybear? Donīt say that out loud again. Youīll ruin my image"
"Of course not. Your secret is safe with me."
"Thatīs assuring to hear."
"Iīll see you around"
"I hope so. Come on, Iīll drive you back to your car"

Eric and Pam headed out on the balcony.
"Stephanie should be home soon" Pam said.
"She already is" Eric said as he spotted his wife sitting on the furniture by the pool below.
"Why donīt you go down there? I am heading to bed. Good night, Eric" Pam said and hugged Eric.
"Good night" Eric replied. He stayed behind on the balcony for a while, looking down on Stephanie. She was staring up in the sky, not noticing Eric. She was concentrating on the strongest shining star on the sky. The angelic star she had given Angela all those years ago.
"A penny for your thoughts" Eric said as he walked out to the pool area.
"I was thinking about Angela" Stephanie confessed.
"Yeah. Thatīs her" Stephanie said as she pointed to the star.
Eric looked up to the star.
"Sheīs looking down on us" he said.
Stephanie was silent.
"How are you?"
"Iīm fine" Stephanie said peacefully, not taking her eyes off the star.
"Are you coming inside?"
"Not yet"
Eric sat down on the other chair next to her and leaned back.
"Itīs amazing, isnīt it? So far away, but still so close."
They sat quiet looking up on the clear sky in the silent evening. Not saying a word, Eric reached out his hand to Stephanieīs. She squeezed it gently and took a deep breath as they continued to look up at spectacular diamonds.