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THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

The Grand Sunset RoomJillian Stokes"Oh, my god!" Jillian gasped as her hand flew up to her mouth.  "Reginald, no!  How could you do this to me?  I believed you!"

Reginald pulled away from Stephanie who was desperate to hide her excitement.  "Jillian, this is not what you think!  You've completely misunderstood everything!"

"The only thing I misunderstood was your profession of love for me!"  Her emotions grew more intense as she tried unsuccessfully to fight back her tears.  "Apparently that was all a lie!  What kind of fool have I been?"

"Jillian, this isn't what it looks like!"

"I-I was late for my own engagement party that I've planned months for so I could pick up a present for you."  She reached into her handbag and pulled out a velvet box.  "Well, you can have it!  I don't want it or anything to do with you!"  With one mighty swing, she threw the present at Reginald and ran from the room.

"Jillian!  Wait!"  He tried to follow her, but Stephanie clung to his arm and held him back.  "Let go of me!" he spat as he tried to shake her off.

"Let her go," she cooed softly.  "Let her at least calm down before you try to talk to her.  If you try to say anything now, she won't listen to you."

Reginald CallisonReginald knelt down and picked the velvet box off the floor.  His hands shook as he opened it and discovered an expensive gold watch inside.  He gently turned the watch over and read the inscription....all my love, for now and forever.  He tried to swallow his tears, but found them to be too much to overcome.

"Reginald," Stephanie muttered as she put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Get away from me!"  He pushed her away and turned to face her with fire in his eyes.  "This was all a set up!  You had this  planned from the moment you arrived.  You played on my sympathies to get me alone and then you crawled all over me trying to get me to sleep with you again!  I wouldn't touch you if you were the last girl on earth!"

Stephanie cringed at his verbal beating.  She looked up at him and tilted her head slightly.  "But, Reginald, she never believed in you like I do.  She can't love you the way I do.  Surely you can see that now."

"All I see is a spiteful little girl playing games with other peoples lives!  How in the world can you possibly think that I'd have anything to do with you after this?  I could never love you!  In fact, I-I hate you!  I despise the sight of you!"

Stephanie Lake"R-Reginald, y-you can't mean that!"  Her lip quivered as she felt her eyes begin to flood with tears.  "I-I love you."

"Well, I hate you!"  He turned and quickly began to walk away.  "I'm going to find the woman I truly love."

"I don't know how she can act so innocent and self-righteous!"  Stephanie threw her shoulders back and swallowed her tears.  "She acts like she's perfect.  She's not!  She has her own secrets!  She has things that she's never told you!  How can she judge you and your past with me when she won't even be honest with herself?"

Reginald spun around and glared at her.  "What are you talking about?  What past?"

"Why don't you ask her!"  She smirked slightly.  "Why don't you ask her about her affair with Dane?"


Mary Albany"Okay, Francis, when are you going to tell me what's going on?"  Mary Albany carefully analyzed her daughter as Francis glared at Annabelle across the room.  "Every time that woman is within eyeshot, you look like you could wring her neck!"

"Don't give me any ideas," Francis muttered coolly.

"Well, what gives?"

"Nothing.  I just don't care for her very much."  Francis pulled her eyes away from Annabelle Francis Callison and refocused them on her husband as he stood and talked with one of his editors.  "I wished Charles felt the same way."

"You're not trying to tell me that he's seeing that woman behind your back, are you?"  Mary's eyes darted back and forth from Charles to Annabelle.  "But she's so...so...brazen looking."

"Yes, I know."

"Honey, is Charles having an affair?"

"I-I don't know."  Francis shook her head and took a deep breath.  "I-I'm not discussing this with you!  This is none of your business!"  She shook her head again as she quickly hurried away.

Mary pursed her lips together and began to think.  She needed to find out what was really going on between Francis and Charles before her daughter got hurt.


Reginald Callison"What do you mean her 'affair' with Dane'?"  Reginald grabbed Stephanie's arm forcefully and began to shake her.  "Tell me!  Tell me, you little wretch, before I wring your neck!"

"Jillian had an affair with Dane!" she blurted out as he released his grip.  "It was before you two ever met.  She was in love with him, but she discovered he was cheating on her with Sara.  She was so devastated that she ran back to Manhattan.  She only came back to town to prove to him that he didn't matter to her.  Then she met you.  Dane's wanted her back ever since!"

"And you two have been working together to separate me and Jillian," he muttered as all the pieces began to fit together.  "You really are sad.  You'd betray your own cousin to get to me?  Why, she's been almost like a sister to you!"

"I have to get Dane away from her!"  Stephanie grabbed his arm and began to cry again.  "He's no good for her!  I have to get him back with Jillian so he'll leave Sara alone!  I have to protect her from him!"

"You'd stab your own cousin in the back..."  He shook his head in disbelief.  "You know, you and Dane ought to run off together!  You're both two disgusting peas in a pod."  He tried to yank his arm away from her, but she held on tight.

Stephanie Lake"No!  You can't do this!"

"I have to find Jillian."  He said firmly as he pushed Stephanie away.

As she stumbled backwards, she tripped over the hem of her long dress and went crashing to the floor.  "No!" she sobbed as she lay in a heap on the cold tile.  She watched him run toward the door and her mind cleared enough to realize one very important thing.  Reginald was going to find Jillian and he was going to tell her he knew everything about her and Dane.  Dane was going to find out that she'd blabbed everything!  He was going to know that everything was ruined and he'd never have Jillian...and it was all Stephanie's fault!  This knowledge forced her to wail uncontrollably as she banged her fists against the floor.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Leticia StokesThe Grand Sunset Room"You must tell me exactly what you know about this Reginald Callison boy."  Leticia was all ears as Annabelle led her to a quiet corner.  "His family seems to be rather nice.  I know he runs the local newspaper.  Jillian loves him very much."

"Well, I've known Reginald for quite a few years now."  Annabelle smiled sweetly as she allowed her voice to take on the tone of concerned friend and confidante.  "But, I've never felt that he was the right man for Jillian.  She's so sophisticated and classy.  He's...well..."

"What are you trying to say?"

Annabelle sighed and leaned in closer to Leticia.  "You see, he's had quite a reputation as a womanizer."

"What?  I haven't been given that impression at all!  He seems so devoted to Jillian."

"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing."  Annabelle quickly looked around the room for Stephanie.  She frowned slightly when she realized her daughter was no where to be seen.  "But he's been known to have a way with girls."

"Let me ask you something."  Leticia pulled away from her and examined her closely.  "How do you know so much about Reginald and his romantic past?"

Annabelle Lake"Um, well, I don't know if I should mention this," Annabelle lowered her head slightly in mock apprehension, "but he used to be involved with my daughter Stephanie."

"I see, but we all have a past, dear."

"Yes, this is true."  Annabelle softened her voice to a whisper.  "But they were involved while Reginald was seeing Jillian."

Leticia's hand flew up to her mouth as she gasped.  "Oh, my lord!"


Janet Stokes"So, what do you think of Reginald?" Janet asked as she stood next to Judith.

"He's very attractive," Judith admitted.  "He and Jillian make a very handsome couple.  I'm not sure he's in the right social class for her, though."

"He seems just perfect for her, to me!  Besides, how can you be so high and mighty about social class?  Mark wasn't exactly one of the top names on the social register when you met him!  His rise to prominence only happened after you were married.  He's ridden along on your coat tails!"

"I beg your pardon?"  Judith snapped her head around and glared at her younger sister.  "I'll have you know that Mark had already begun to develop quite a name for himself before we ever began to date.  His family is very respected.  Anything that my husband has achieved, he's achieved on his own merits!"

"I can't understand you."  Janet sighed as she watched Judith closely.  "One minute you're talking about how horrible Mark is and how much you wished you never married him.  The next, you're defending his honor and acting as if you have the most perfect marriage on the planet!  Which is it, Judith?"

Judith Linford"My marriage is none of your business!" she snapped.  "And how dare you pretend that you know anything?  All you do is hide yourself away at home and paint!  How in the world do you ever hope to find yourself a husband if you refuse to get out and live a little?  There's more to life than just your brushes and canvases, Janet."

Janet felt the tears start to fill the corners of her eyes.  She quickly lowered her head to hide her hurt and embarrassment.  "I love my painting, Judith.  I'm sorry I don't feel like I have to have a man to prove my worth."

"Maybe if you had a man in your life, you'd stop worrying so much about everyone else's!"  Judith turned on her heel and quickly stormed away leaving Janet alone...as usual.


Annabelle Lake"You see, Reginald was involved with my daughter while he was dating Jillian." Annabelle confided.  "Stephanie fell very much in love with him.  She was devastated when he callously threw her aside for Jillian.  My daughter didn't know how she could compete with her.  She felt Jillian was far more sophisticated."

"B-but that's all something in the past."  Leticia carefully analyzed Annabelle's words.

"Well, not exactly."  Annabelle fought to suppress the glee that her revelation was about to bring her.  "Stephanie vowed to get over Reginald and the pain he'd caused her, but he wouldn't leave her alone.  He kept trying to see her, but she refused to have anything to do with him."  She casually glanced around the room to see if anyone was close enough to hear their conversation. "She found it harder to resist his charms.  Now, I don't know for sure, but I suspect that he's managed to worm his way back into her heart.  I think he and my daughter are still seeing one another behind Jillian's back."

"Why are you telling me all of this?"

Annabelle patted her reassuringly on the shoulder.  "Like I said, Jillian is a wonderful girl.  I love my daughter very much.  She's the most important thing in my life to me."  It was the most truthful thing she'd said in the conversation.  "I know you feel the same way about your daughters.  I'm not the least bit happy about Stephanie's involvement with him.  He's hurt her once and I know he'll hurt her again.  I-I don't want to see Jillian suffer the same kind of pain."

Leticia Stokes"O-of course not."  Leticia slowly absorbed the revelation.  How could she have been so wrong in her assessments of Reginald?  She'd truly thought he was a fine and upstanding young man.

"My daughter is very stubborn.  I have a very difficult time getting her to listen to reason.  I've tried to convince her what a cad Reginald is, but he's got her so enthralled that she can't see the truth."  Annabelle smiled warmly as she flashed Leticia a look of false concern.  "Maybe you'll have better luck with Jillian.  Maybe you can spare her the heartbreak that I know my daughter is destined for."  She slowly lifted the hem of her gown and casually strolled away leaving Leticia to worry about Jillian's future.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Trevor CallisonGrand Sunset Room"Um, how are you doing, Lorraine," Trevor asked tentatively.  "Patterson, good to see you again."

"I'm fine," Lorraine replied coolly.  "All things considered."

Patterson glanced back and forth between the former couple.  He casually slipped his arm around Lorraine's waist and pulled her closer.

"Lorraine, you know Grace, but I don't think they've met."  Trevor motioned to Patterson and Grace.

Lorraine Blake"Yes, I've met Grace."  Lorraine glared at the girl on Trevor's arm.

Grace DavisGrace began to feel more than a little uncomfortable and quickly looked away.

"Dear, I think we need to go get a drink."  Patterson spoke up as he attempted to lead Lorraine off the dance floor.

"Wait!"

"What, Trevor?" Lorraine asked.

Patterson Monroe"I...I just want to apologize again for the way everything happened,"  He nervously played with the buttons on his jacket.  "I wish things could have been different.  Hurting you was the last thing I..."

"Save it, Trevor!"  Patterson glared at him.  "Your hollow attempts at atonement don't mean anything!"

Trevor's eyes grew wide at Patterson's sudden outburst.


Dane Manchester"Good evening, Mr. Stokes," Dane spoke up as he approached Nelson.  "It's so good to finally meet Jillian's father."

"Are you and Jillian friends?"  Nelson reached out to shake hands and began to inspect Dane closely.

"You could say that."  He smirked.  "So, I'm sure that her entire family is very excited about this upcoming wedding."

"The word 'excited' probably doesn't accurately describe our feelings.  So, do you know Reginald Callison very well?"

"Why, yes, I do."  Dane took a sip of his scotch and soda.

"And your opinion of him?"

Dane smiled to himself.  "Well, Reginald is a nice enough fellow and the Callisons are a very upstanding family."  He paused for a second.  "But I'm not sure if he's from the right social class for Jillian."

"Oh, really?"  Nelson's interest was definitely peaked.

"I mean, not to take anything away from their standing in the community, but my father is a very prominent attorney in Chicago.  You actually might be familiar with him---Nigel Manchester."

Nelson Stokes"Yes, actually, I am."  Nelson's eyes lit up.  "I had some dealings with him a few years ago over some business matters.  I do have to say, your father throws some of the best parties.  Your parents are very prominent members of Chicago society."

"I happen to share my father's belief that to get anywhere in life, it's all in who you know."  Dane smiled.  "All it takes is one misstep to completely ruin a person's standing in society.  I hope Jillian isn't making that mistake."

"You have reservations about her planned marriage?"

"You could say that."  Dane tried to hide the grin that was forming on his face.


Trevor Callison"Patterson, I'll have you know that I am very, very sorry for the way things turned out between Lorraine and me."  Trevor replied as he began to grow uncomfortable with Patterson's allegations.  "I honestly wish things could have been different, but I cannot help how I feel!"

"Of course, to hell with how Lorraine feels!" Patterson snapped.

Lorraine Blake"Patterson..."  Lorraine put her hand on his shoulder and tried to calm him down.  However, he could not be silenced..

"That's not the way it was and you know it!"  Trevor shouted.

"I know she loved you with all of her heart and that didn't matter to you!  All you thought about was yourself!  How could you use her like you did?"

"I didn't use her!  That was never my intention!"

Grace DavisGrace nervously looked around the room and prayed for a way to escape the scene that was developing.

"You never deserved Lorraine!"

"That's the first thing you've said that I agree with."  Trevor looked at Lorraine with pleading eyes.  "Lorraine, I can't tell you enough how sorry I am for all of this.  I never wanted to hurt you, but I can't deny the way that I feel."

"I know," she replied softly and lowered her head.  "Some things just weren't meant to be."

"I-I'll leave you two alone."  Trevor took Grace's arm and began to walk away, but he stopped and turned to face her again.  "I wish you and Patterson all the best.  Maybe he can be the man you really need."

Lorraine watched Trevor and Grace disappear into the crowd and began to think wistfully of things that might have been.  Suddenly, she snapped her head around to face Patterson.

Patterson Monroe"How could you?" she questioned through clenched teeth.  "How could you embarrass me like that?"

"Lorraine, I was just..."

"You were just taking up a cause that isn't even yours to begin with!  Mine and Trevor's relationship is between us.  It has nothing to do with you!"  She glared at him.  "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need some air!"  Lorraine stormed away leaving Patterson to wonder exactly what he did wrong.