MEANWHILE, AT JILLIAN'S APARTMENT

Reginald CallisonSunset Hotel, Suite #2, Albanyville, IL"Are you getting nervous about this party?" Reginald asked as he lightly rubbed Jillian's shoulders.  "You and my mother have put a lot of work into all of this?"

"Well, it's not so much as nervousness about the party itself.  My entire family is going to be there.  You've never met my father.  He can be a little, well..."  She thought about how to describe the man in an accurate, yet flattering way.  "My father can be very domineering and opinionated.  If he doesn't like something or he doesn't approve, he won't hesitate to make his voice known.  And Judith...well...my sister has always been the perfect little daddy's girl.  She never got into trouble.  Well, at least none that my parents found out about."

"Honey, I'm sure your family's fine."  He wrapped his arms around her and laughed at her misguided nervousness.  "I'm sure they'll be a complete joy.  I can't wait to meet them."  Jillian looked up at him a grimaced.

"I wonder if Judith's husband is coming with her."  She rested her head on Reginald's shoulder and enjoyed the comfort that his arms brought.  "Father thinks he hung the moon, but he can be quite difficult.  I never really cared for him despite the glowing approval he gets from my parents.  He can be so crass when they're not around.  Honestly, I don't understand how Judith can stand to be married to him."  Jillian thought for a minute and realized how much Dane Manchester reminded her of her brother-in-law.  "Now, she's expecting his baby!  I'm not sure I'll ever understand her."

"Don't worry, honey, everything will be fine."  He pulled away and looked at her reassuringly.  "Now, we've got to get to the Grand Sunset Room to meet with Jasper about those last minute details.  I really don't want to keep him waiting.  I'm sure you know how particular that man can be."

Jillian StokesJillian laughed as she thought of prim Jasper St. John.  He was always putting on airs of being way more important than he actually was.  Although he ran The Gardens and, consequently, the Grand Sunset Room, it didn't mean he was part of the upper echelon the community.  However, it was impossible to convince him that he wasn't one of the main members of Albanyville's elite.  "I really don't feel like dealing with him.  He can be so...so..."

"Yes, I know," Reginald laughed.  "But since this party's going to be in the Sunset Room, we have to deal with him.  Now, we better get going.  We don't want to keep him waiting."  Jillian's shoulders slumped in dread as they headed for the door.  She silently prayed that Jasper didn't wear on her last nerve before the evening was over.


MEANWHILE, AT THE WELL

Dane ManchesterThe Wishing Well Soda Shoppe"So, what have you been doing to get Reginald away from Jillian?" Dane asked before taking a large bite out of his sandwich.  "Surely you've been working over time lately trying to insinuate yourself into his life."

"Um, actually, no."  Stephanie sipped on her cherry soda and slumped down into her seat.  "I've been way too busy with graduation and everything."

"How does it feel to be out of that slum of a high school?"  As he talked to her, he casually flirted with an attractive blonde who was sitting across the room.  The blonde smiled at him coyly and he greeted her glances with his own smug grin.

"Dane, it really wasn't that bad.  Actually, I think I might really miss it."  She thought for a moment of all the dances and parties she'd attended during her senior year.  Now that she was finally out, she realized that adulthood was going to be a lot more complicated than high school ever was.

"What?  All I've heard about for months now is how you couldn't wait to get out of there!"  The blonde strolled by him and he turned his head to follow her with his eyes.

"Well, people can change their minds about things, you know?"

"Okay, whatever you say."  Dane turned back to face Stephanie and stared at her with eyes full of seriousness and determination.  "Now, what have you been doing to worm your way between Reginald and Jillian?"

Stephanie Lake"Dane, I've been thinking about that.  I've tried to get him back and nothing's worked.  I-I've been thinking that maybe this is all a lost cause.  Why should I be wasting my time on him when he's made it perfectly clear that he doesn't want me?"  She began to nervously drum her fingers on the table.  "Look, I've been seeing Douglas Davis for a few weeks now.  Maybe I should just cut my losses with Reginald and try to work on something more serious with Douglas."

"You will not back out of this!"  Dane leaned across the table and glared at her.  "I have worked too hard to get Jillian back for you to just give up.  I need you to get through to him so I can get her!"

"And what about Sara?" Stephanie snapped back.  "What about her?  She loves you with all of her heart and you just want to throw her away like garbage!  If you manage to get Jillian back, and that's a pretty big 'if', what do you plan on doing with Sara?"

"Look, Steph, your cousin's a big girl and can take care of herself.  No matter what happens between us, she'll be okay.  She's a tough girl."

"If you have no plans for a future with her, you better tell her now before she gets any ideas about having some kind of life with you."

"Sara knows that we have no future!  I've told her that.  I've told her that I'm not the type to settle down with one girl.  She knows she's not the only one!"  Dane began to lower his voice when he realized that a few of the other patrons were looking their direction.  "She knows."

Stephanie watched him as he leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest.  She began to think about all the talks she'd shared with Sara.  Sara was always talking about how she planned on marrying Dane someday.  To listen to Sara, it was pretty much a done deal.  She truly believed that a marriage to Dane would eventually happen.  Stephanie began to realize that she had to get Dane away from Sara before he hurt her.  If that meant fixing it so Dane could get back with Jillian, than so be it.  Whether Stephanie managed to win back Reginald or not no longer seem quite as important.  Now, Stephanie had to separate Reginald and Jillian to protect her cousin from the eventual heartbreak that loving Dane would most definitely cause.

"You will not back out on me!"  Dane reached across the table and grabbed her arm forcefully.  She flinched at the pain caused by his grip and glared back at him.

"I'm not backing out on you," she muttered.  "Trust me, I think I want you with Jillian more than you do."  Silently, Stephanie began to wonder if getting involved with Dane Manchester had been a good idea.


MEANWHILE, AT JOE'S CAFE

Joe's CafeGrace Davis"Hi, Trevor," Grace called out as she saw him sitting alone at a corner table.  "I just got my break and thought I'd come over for a bite to eat.  Since school's been out, they seem to want to work me all the time.  That's okay, though, I need the money for school in the fall...."  Her ramblings trailed off as she noticed Trevor's silence and solemn expression.  "Hey, are you okay?"

"I don't know." he muttered.  His head began to hang even lower as he re-twisted his straw into yet another knot.  He let out a deep sigh and pitched the mangled straw across the table.  "Well, I did it."  He raised his head slightly to see her reaction.

"Did what?"  She sat down in the empty chair and slid over next to him.  "Trevor, what's wrong?"

"I told Lorraine.  I-I told her that I wasn't in love with her and we couldn't see each other any more."  He rested his head in his hands and rubbed his forehead as if he were trying to erase the memory of Lorraine's anguished face from his mind.  "Oh, god, I feel so bad.  You know I really didn't want to hurt her."

"I know, I know."  She gently laid a hand on his arm in a silent show of support.  "I really can't picture you ever wanting to hurt anyone.  I know you really care about her...even if you're not in love with her.  That's just the kind of man you are."

"A-and that's not the reason I feel so bad.  I'm actually relieved that the truth is finally out.  I feel horrible that I've caused her so much pain, but I still feel like a huge weight's been lifted off my shoulders.  I'm glad it's over, but I feel terrible because of it."

"Look, it was for the best.  If you couldn't love her the way she needed to be loved, you had to set her free.  You had to do it to keep her from being hurt even worse.  Now she can find someone who can be everything she needs them to be.  You did the right thing."  Suddenly, he looked up at her again and their eyes met.  An uncomfortable Grace swallowed hard and quickly turned away.

Trevor Callison"I know you're right, but I still feel bad for her."  Seeing Grace's discomfort, Trevor decided he needed to change the subject.  Too many of their recent conversations had been about Lorraine.  Now that that part of his life was over, he needed to focus on winning Grace's heart.  Dwelling on the sorrows of the past would not be the way to accomplish that goal.  "Um....so...are you going to my brother Reginald's engagement party?"

"Well, actually, no.  Of course, Douglas is going, but I wasn't invited.  I'm just the kid sister after all."  She laughed softly as she nervously played with the tiny locket that hung around her neck.

"Well...would you like to go?"  He shuffled his feet on the floor under the table as he gnawed on his lower lip.  "Since your brother is going it won't be like you won't know anyone there.  Patterson will be there and I think I heard Father say that Annabelle is going.  He said that she was bringing her niece Sara."

Sara Summers is going to be there? Grace thought to herself.  If Sara's going to be at the party, surely Dane will be there, too!  She quietly remembered her vivid dream of a grand ball where she danced under the stars with Dane and he professed his love for her.  Had it been a premonition?

"I-I don't know," she finally answered.  She found herself again struck by Trevor's eyes.  She really wanted to go to this party, but was uncertain whether she should go with Trevor considering his feelings for her.  She didn't want to lead him on.

"I...well...since I'm not with Lorraine anymore, I'm kinda stuck without a date. But, it won't be like a real date.  I promise!  We can just go as friends."  His hands once again found the stray straw and he began to awkwardly untie and re-knot it.

"Well...if it's just going to be as friends..."  She thought again of Dane and what a great opportunity the party would be to see him.  "I guess I could be your date.  Yes, Trevor, I'll go to the engagement party with you."

Trevor exhaled slowly and smiled.  "This is going to be the greatest night Albanyville has ever seen.  This will be a night we'll never forget."  He reached out and held her hand.  He knew this party would be the beginning of something wonderful between them.