A LITTLE LATER, IN CHARLES' OFFICE

Charles CallisonCallison Publications"I don't care what he said!"  Charles all but shouted into the phone before slamming his fist down on the desk.  "He promised me that The Manhattan Conflict would be finished!  We have to have that book run through the editing department before we can hit the presses with it.  We've already sent out publicity notices stating that that book is going to hit the stands in September.  I don't care if he's tied up with Cecil B. DeMille working on the screenplay for Tainted Woman, he signed a contract with us for Conflict and he told us that book would be ready!"  He looked up from his desk in time to see Annabelle walk into the room.  Great, just what I need he thought wearily to himself.  He motioned for her to sit down and went back to his business on the phone.  "Well, you handle it!  You tell Thornton Preston that if he can't follow through on his contract for that book, he can go back to McBride Publishing for all I care!"  Charles hung up the phone and stopped to catch his breath.

"I hope I haven't come at a bad time."  Annabelle watched him cautiously.  He always seemed to get so fired up when dealing with troublesome authors.

"No, everything's fine.  Thornton Preston is late delivering that book he told us was finished."  Charles got up from his desk and walked over to his private cabinet to pour himself a mid-afternoon martini.  "What are you doing here, anyway?"

Annabelle Lake"I came to see you, of course."  She walked over to him and put her hand on his arm.  "And from the looks of things, you need to blow off a little steam."  She began to gently massage his shoulders as she leaned in close to him.  Her actions had the opposite effect as Charles tensed up when he felt her warm breath on the back of his neck.

"Annabelle, I think you need to leave."  He turned around and pushed her hands away.

"So, have you given any more thought to getting rid of that stuffy wife of yours and finally living a little?"

"Don't you know when to quit?"  He looked at her with surprise.  He knew she was a very persistent woman, but he had hoped  she'd gotten the hint.  "I love my wife very much.  We have children together and the best life we could ever hope for.  Why would I risk throwing it all away for you?"

She looked him in the eyes and smirked slightly.  Slowly, she raised her hand and traced the outline of his lips.  She took the martini away from him and sat it down before moving closer. "That all sounds so wonderfully boring, Charles."  Her voice was so low it was almost a purr.  "It's not nearly as exciting as being with me would be.  Don't you crave some kind of excitement in your life?  Don't you crave me?"

Charles tried to pull away from her, but her words had a note of truth to them.  He did miss the carefree days of his youth.  He missed the days before his brother died and he had to become heir to the Callison legacy.  He missed how his life might have turned out if he hadn't had to become the responsible one.  He swallowed hard.  "Y-you really need to go."  His voice became softer as he felt his pulse begin to quicken.  She moved closer still and he felt her body press tightly against his.  Their lips met.  He tried to pull away, but Annabelle would not be denied any longer.  Charles' mind fought against his body, but he soon found himself meeting her kisses with equal passion.  He truly didn't want to do it.  He didn't want to kiss her.  He didn't want to want her.  He loved Francis, but he couldn't resist the passion and excitement that Annabelle had come to represent.  Caught up in the moment, neither Charles nor Annabelle saw Reginald standing in the doorway.


MEANWHILE, AT THE GARDENS RESTAURANT

Lorraine BlakeThe Gardens Restaurant"I am so glad that you got me out of the apartment."  Lorraine smiled at Patterson they walked into the restaurant.  "I've been cooped up in there all day.  I was beginning to get a little crazy!"

"Well, at least you're feeling better."  Patterson held her hand tightly and looked around for the maître d'.  "Both physically and emotionally.  You can't let this situation with Trevor get to you.  You're a better person than that."

"Two?" the suave gentleman asked Patterson as he walked up to the couple.  Patterson nodded in response and they were soon led across the room to a table.  Lorraine casually scanned the room and quickly became uncomfortable when she saw Francis and Jillian seated at a table by the gardens.

"Um...maybe we should go somewhere else."  She tried to hide behind Patterson as they walked.  Francis had never been anything but kind to Lorraine, but considering her tenuous relationship with Trevor, she didn't feel like dealing with his mother.  She discreetly motioned in the direction of Francis and Jillian's table.  Patterson was quick to catch her meaning.

Patterson Monroe"Then let's get out of here before they spot us."  Too late.  Francis threw up a hand to wave at them and quickly called them over.  Lorraine realized that she had no choice but to speak to her.  She looked desperately at Patterson and he squeezed her hand in reassurance as they walked over to the table.

"Lorraine, honey, what are you doing out of bed?" Francis asked with concern.  "Charles told me you'd missed work today because you weren't feeling well."

"It must have been a 24 hour bug.  I started feeling much better as the morning wore on.  Patterson stopped by to bring me some soup and decided that I needed to get some fresh air."  She smiled at Jillian.  There were stacks of magazines and brochures sitting on the table.  Lorraine realized that they were planning Jillian and Reginald's engagement party.

Francis Callison"Well, I'm so glad that you're feeling better.  I've been concerned about you.  It seems like you and Trevor haven't been spending a lot of time together lately."  Francis really wasn't one to meddle in her children's lives, but she'd always been so fond of Lorraine.  Secretly, she'd hoped that they would have the next big Callison wedding.

"W-well...." Lorraine stammered and looked to Patterson for support.  He nodded slightly and gave her hand another squeeze.  Oh, how she was glad that she had him to lean on.  "Well, Trevor has been really busy at The Post.  You know how he gets about his reporting."  Francis laughed and nodded.  She knew exactly what Lorraine meant.  If Trevor had a big article due, he could lock himself in the study for hours...if not days.  "And I hate to bother him when he's so busy."

Jillian Stokes"Bother him, Lorraine," Jillian spoke up.  "I'm sure he'd appreciate the diversion from work.  Besides, it's not good for a couple to spend too much time apart."

"This is true."  Lorraine looked at Patterson and then back at Francis.  This situation was getting increasingly uncomfortable.  "I-I just hate to bother him while he's working."

"So, how's the party planning coming?"  Patterson spoke up quickly in hopes of changing the topic.  Jillian knew exactly what he was doing and shot him an inquisitive look.  He pretended not to notice.  "I bet with the two of you in charge, this'll be one party that Albanyville will never forget."

"We're hoping!"  Francis smiled at Jillian.  "This will be the first Callison wedding this town has seen in years.  Jillian and I have been working on it all afternoon.  Finally, we had to come for a bite to eat."

"Well, we don't want to disturb your planning."  Patterson gave Lorraine's hand a slight tug.  "Lorraine, let's get to our table and leave them alone.  I'm sure they has lots of work to do."

As Patterson and Lorraine walked away, Francis watched them closely.  She couldn't explain it, but something just didn't seem right between Lorraine and Trevor.  They were always so close, but lately...  And what exactly was going on between Lorraine and Patterson?  Francis hadn't failed to notice all of their poorly disguised looks and glances.  She knew that something was up, but what?  She silently prayed that Lorraine wouldn't do anything to hurt Trevor.  He loved her so much.


A LITTLE LATER, AT THE WELL

Sara SummersThe Wishing Well Soda Shoppe"So, are you ready for graduation?"  Sara sipped on her cherry soda and carefully thumbed through the latest issue of Movie Star Magazine.  She just had to see what fabulous clothes Jean Harlow was wearing.  "It's only a couple of weeks away."

"I'm ready to get it over and done with.  I'm ready to write the epilogue to my high school career.  I'm so tired of hanging around with the kiddie set."  Stephanie played with her hair and checked her makeup in her mirror.  Sure, she'd thought high school was exciting once.  All the dances and boys had been thrilling for her.  Now, however, she was ready to finally take her roll as an adult.  She'd turned 18 in January and it seemed like, overnight, the rest of Albanyville High had become so childish.  She had grown tired of the boys she'd once found so thrilling.  Now, she didn't want a boy...she wanted a man!  A man like Reginald.  "Once I walk down that isle for the last time and toss my cap into the air, I'm done.  Good-bye, Albanyville High, hello, world!"

"So...how many of your future plans include Reginald Callison?"  Sara looked up from her magazine to see what Stephanie's reaction to the mention of his name would be.

"All of them."  Stephanie grinned widely.  "Except, he's so caught up in the idea of a perfect little life with Jillian that I'm not having the best of luck."  She looked at Sara as her face grew serious.  "You don't think I'm losing my looks in my old age, do you?"

"Never!"  Sara broke down into giggles.  She didn't think that Stephanie would ever get too old to use her looks and charm.  Heck, Annabelle was over 40 and still knew how to use what god had given her to get what she wanted.  Sara smiled when she realized that, surely, that skill must run in their family.  "Steph, I don't think there's any danger of that!  Reginald just doesn't know what's good for him."

Stephanie Lake"I honestly don't understand what he sees in that frosty Jillian.  That whole high-and-might attitude of hers makes me sick.  She thinks that just because she's from Manhattan and was raised in society, then she's better than everybody else.  Well, she's not!  I might not have come from anything, but I'm still somebody.  I'm a million times better than Jillian will ever be.  She's been handed everything her entire life.  She doesn't know how to fight to get what she wants."

"And I've got to say, you're working very hard to get Reginald.  But, you've got to admit, she's got him wrapped around her little finger.  He thinks the sun rises and sets because of her.  I honestly don't think he'll ever clear his head enough to dump her."  Sara paused to think.  She knew that, although Stephanie had the beauty, she had the brains.  Sara managed to bail her cousin out of trouble on more than one occasion with her quick thinking and accurate planning.  "Steph, what if Jillian were the one to dump him?"

"Oh, she wouldn't do that.  She's got her hooks into a good thing and she knows it!"

"Look, I know you never really told me about it, but you've said enough that I know what happened between you and Reginald."  Sara confirmed Stephanie's suspicions.  Sara did know about her affair with Reginald.  "And, unless I'm mistaken, you were seeing him after he and Jillian got together.  I bet she doesn't know anything about it, does she?"

Stephanie's eyes grew wide with realization.  Of course, she didn't.  Reginald made sure to keep their affair a secret.  The only people who knew about it besides Stephanie and Reginald were Sara, Dane, and Reginald's best friend Patterson.  She knew Patterson wouldn't have said anything.  What if Jillian found out?  Stephanie knew how self-righteous she could be.  "Sara, I'm must be the densest person in the world!  Why I didn't think of this before, I don't know!"

"What are you thinking?"  Sara knew exactly what she was thinking.  She was finally realizing exactly what she needed to do to separate Reginald and Jillian.  Sara smiled to herself.  Sometimes Stephanie just needed a little push.

"You've hit the nail on the head."  Stephanie smiled and heaved a huge sigh of relief.  "I have a plan.  I know just how to ensure that those two don't make it to the alter.  Then he'll have to turn to me to mend his broken heart."  She smiled at Sara.  "I have something very important I have to tell Jillian...tonight!"