THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

The Grand Sunset RoomMark Linford"Well, hello," Mark Linford smiled when he noticed Sara standing next to him.  "Are you enjoying this happy little party?"

"It is quite thrilling."  Sara watched all the couples dancing in their fanciest clothes.  "I've never been to such a glamorous affair before."

"I find that hard to believe.  Surely a girl as beautiful as you gets asked to all the classiest events."

She blushed and lowered her head slightly.  "Actually, no.  I'm just a poor student.  I'm only here because my aunt knows the Callisons."  Sara inspected him closely.  He was very handsome.  His dark eyes sparkled with a secret mischievousness.

"Well, a girl as lovely as you should be asked to all the finest parties.  You should be in the presence of royalty."  He downed yet another scotch and soda and turned to the bartender to request another.  "So....as beautiful as you are, you surely must have a date.  Where is he?"

"Um, I'm not sure."  She quickly looked around for Dane and frowned when she couldn't see him.  "Actually, he hasn't been around much tonight."

"What a shame."  Mark reached over and stroked her cheek.  "I can't believe he'd be foolish enough to leave you alone.  Isn't he afraid someone might come along and steal you away?"

Sara Summers"There's no danger of that."  Sara flinched at his touch.  She'd found his attention quite flattering, but she was quickly becoming uncomfortable under his gaze.  "I am very committed to my boyfriend and he knows that."

"But what he doesn't know..."

"Stop!"  She pushed his hand away and turned her back to him.  "I think it's best if you leave me alone."

"Ah, you've got spirit.  I like that."  Mark moved closer to her and leaned in to press his lips against her ear.  "I like that very much."

"What's going on here?" the woman's voice interrupted.  "Mark, answer me!"

Judith LinfordMark and Sara turned to find themselves the focus of Judith's fiery gaze.


Annabelle Lake"Hello, Charles," Annabelle cooed as she approached him.  She quickly looked for Francis and was pleased to see her nowhere in site.

"I thought I told you to keep your distance from me."  He looked at her coldly and turned to walk away.

"Why?  What are you so afraid of?"  She smiled smugly.  "If what you claim is true...that you really don't want me...then why are you so determined to stay away from me?"

Charles swallowed hard.  It was true that he found her deeply attractive.  However, he loved his wife and had to remain true to that.

"That's what I thought."  Annabelle moved closer and laid a hand on his chest.  "Don't fight it, Charles.  Give in to what you feel.  No one will ever have to know."

Charles Callison"I'll know."  He gritted his teeth and pushed her hand away.  "Keep your distance from me, Annabelle.  I gave you that invitation against my better judgment.  Don't make me regret that decision."  He turned and quickly walked away.

Annabelle smiled.  "Oh, I'm sure you will regret it," she muttered under her breath.


Mark Linford"Oh, it's you."  Mark sighed deeply and rolled his eyes as he stepped away from Sara.  "You do have the ability to sneak up on a person."

"And, apparently, that's a good thing."  Judith stood with her arms crossed and glared at her husband with Sara.  "I see you've been busy carousing with the locals.  So, sweetie, what has my charming husband been saying?  Probably how beautiful you are and how you belong with royalty."

Mark flinched at his wife's words and looked to see Sara's reaction.

"I-I think I better go."  Sara turned to walked away, but Judith grabbed her arm and held her back.

Judith Linford"Let's get one thing straight, shall we?  Don't get any ideas about my husband.  He's an incurable flirt.  He doesn't mean anything by it."  She shot Mark a hateful look.  "Besides, what would a man of his social standing want with someone like you?  Well...beyond the obvious."

Sara Summers"I'll assure you that nothing is going on here."  Sara's blood began to boil.  "But it appears to me that if you were able to take care of all your husband's needs, he wouldn't be looking elsewhere!"

Judith gasped as her hand flew up to her mouth, releasing Sara's arm.

"She really is a smart girl, isn't she?" Mark laughed as Sara quickly walked away.

"You're treading on very thin ice!"  Judith was seething.  "Don't press your luck."


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

The Grand Sunset RoomReginald Callison"Jillian, wait!" Reginald called out as he grabbed her arm.  "Please let me explain."

"There's nothing to explain!  I saw everything!  I saw you and Stephanie kissing."  She turned away from him to hide her tears.  "I thought you loved me."

"I do!  I do love you!"  He pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her.  "I didn't want to kiss her.  That wasn't what was happening.  She told me she wanted to apologize for everything.  She told me she wanted to clear her conscience and get on with her life.  I thought if I gave her that chance, she would leave you...us...alone."

"And you believed her?" she snapped.  "After what she's tried to pull, you believed her?  Stephanie Lake wouldn't know the truth if it slapped her in the face.  I warned you what would happen if I found out you were lying to me about her!  I told you it would be over!"

"No!  You can't mean that!  Jillian, I love you.  You're my life."  He hung his head and ran his hands through his hair.  "She told me she wanted to beg for my forgiveness in private.  She said she didn't want it to be a public spectacle.  Once we got alone, she started to cry and I felt so sorry for her.  I had been so wrong to use her like I did."

"And, of course, you just had to comfort her!"  Jillian's eyes blazed as she stared at him.  "Reginald, don't play me for a fool."

"I'm not."  His voice grew softer as he looked deep into her eyes and reached out to brush away a wisp of hair from her forehead.  "I felt so sorry for her that I held her to comfort her.  I thought it was the least I could do, but...but she started to talk about how much she loved me and how she knew that we were meant to be together."  He took a deep breath.  "She was trying to seduce me, but I refused to let her.  I didn't expect her to kiss me like that."

Jillian watched him closely and saw the earnestness on his face.  Oh, how she wanted to believe him.

"I'm sure she wanted you to catch us like that.  She knew how you'd react."  He lifted his hand to his chin and began to think.  "It must have all been planned.  But how did she know you'd walk in when you did?  How did she know you'd find us?"

Jillian StokesDane! Jillian thought to herself.  Of course!  Stephanie and Dane had been working together.  Dane made sure I saw Reginald leave with Stephanie.  "I-I don't know," she muttered.

"I told her she was a fool to think I'd ever love her the way I love you."  He took her in his arms again as she began to sob softly.  "I told her I hated her for hurting you...for trying to ruin what we have together."

"Oh, Reginald, how can I be sure you're telling me the truth?"

"Look at me."  He lifted her chin so that their eyes met.  "Look in my eyes.  Can't you see all the love that I have for you?  Can't you see that you're my world?"  He swallowed hard and thought again about what Stephanie had said...

"Jillian had an affair with Dane!  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!"

"B-but she said something I find hard to believe."  He suddenly grew nervous.  "Something about you."

"What?  What did she say?"

"It was about you and Dane Manchester."

Jillian's eyes grew wide with horror.

"Tell me, Jillian...tell me about your affair with Dane!"  He looked down at her sternly.  "Tell me!  Are you in love with Dane Manchester?"


Stephanie Lake"Oh, Dane!" Stephanie sobbed as she ran up behind him.  "Oh, Dane, it's all gone wrong!"

"What do you mean?" he snapped as he grabbed her by the arm and led her away from the crowd.  "What have you done now?  What have you done to ruin my chances with Jillian?"

"Dane, everything was going just the way we'd planned."  She began to cry harder as she tried to wipe the tears away from her eyes.  "Jillian followed us to the lounge just like you knew she would.  I-I heard her at the door so I grabbed Reginald and kissed him just as she came in.  She was furious with him.  She accused him of lying to her the entire time!  She really believed that he was still being unfaithful to her!"

"That's what was supposed to happen!"  He stared at her coldly.  "Where is she now?  I have to go comfort her."  He turned to hurry away.

"No!" Stephanie called out.  "Reginald was furious with me.  He realized it had all been a set up.  H-he told me he hated me and didn't want anything to do with me ever again!"  She dropped her head into her hands.  "Oh, Dane, I was so upset!  I was furious that he couldn't let go of her!  I-I..."

"What?  What did you do, Stephanie?"

"I told him that she had no right to judge him!  Not...not when she had her own secrets!"  She looked at him pleadingly.  "I-I told him about her past with you."

"You idiot!"  He grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to him.  "That changes everything!  My past with Jillian was my trump card!  It was my way of holding on to her.  She didn't want anyone to discover what happened between us."

"But maybe..."  She paused.  "But maybe he'll be so angry with her for judging him when she had no right to that he'll completely reject her!  Maybe he can't forgive her own deception."

Dane Manchester"Maybe you're right."  Dane quickly began to formulate a new plan.  "And since I'm not the one who blabbed the truth, maybe I can use that to my advantage.  If I can convince Jillian that it was all you, I still could have a shot."

"You can't do that!"  She began to grow angry.  "It wasn't all me!  You were behind this entire mess.  How can you leave me to take all the responsibility for this?"

"Sweetheart, your ship is sinking fast," he smirked.  "And I'm not about to go down with you.  There's still a chance I can repair the damage you've caused, but not tonight.  I have to give them a chance to cool off.  Once Jillian discovers that everything's all out in the open, she's gonna come looking for me.  I think it's best if I'm no where to be found."

"But what about me?"

"What about you?"  He laughed coldly.  "You've ruined your chances...now deal with it!"  He stopped and hurriedly began to scan the crowd.  "Now, I've got to find Sara and get out of here before this entire mess blows up in my face."

"You can't leave me to deal with this alone!"

He laughed at her again.  "Watch me," he said as he quickly walked away.


Jillian Stokes"Oh, god," Jillian gasped.  "Reginald, I can explain!"

"So it's true?"  He shook his head in disbelief.  "How dare you criticize my past with Stephanie when you've been keeping your own past with Dane a secret!"

"But that's just it!  Dane Manchester is in the past!"  She looked at him pleadingly as she clung to his arm.  "I was a fool for ever getting involved with him.  I was young and naive.  I was so embarrassed that I believed all of his charms.  When I finally saw him for what he is, I refused to have anything to do with him!  Dane means nothing to me!  I loathe him!"

"That's a pretty strong emotion to direct at someone who doesn't matter."  He watched her cautiously as he listened to her story.  "Were you in love with him?"

"Yes...well...I thought I was."  She lowered her head to hide her embarrassment.  "B-but I realized that everything I loved about him was nothing more than a lie!  He's a liar and a cheat!  He's nothing at all like you.  Reginald, you are who I love.  I've waited for someone like you my entire life."

"It sounds like we've both been fools."  He held her securely in his arms and kissed her on the forehead.  "I suspect that Dane and Stephanie have been working together for some time to destroy what we have together.  I refuse to let that happen!  I refuse to let go of the only true love I've ever known!"

"Oh, Reginald, please forgive me?  Please say that you'll forgive me for keeping my past with Dane a secret?"

Reginald Callison"How can I not?"  He held her even tighter.  "After everything you've forgiven me, who am I to cast judgment?  I love you, Jillian, that hasn't changed."  Their eyes met and they knew that their love was stronger than any stone thrown in their direction.  "Jillian, please say that you still want to marry me?  Please tell me that you still want to be my wife?"

"Oh, yes, Reginald, yes!"

"But..."  He pulled away from her and gave her a look of warning.  "If we have any hope of our marriage succeeding, we have to promise that we'll have no secrets from each other ever again.  We have to be completely honest with each other about everything!"

"Yes!  We have to be honest.  I was so wrong to hide things from you.  I never what to keep anything from you again!"

"Good."  His look grew cold as he turned to look out into the room.  "Now, there's a little matter I have to take care of."  He clinched his teeth and thought about Dane and Stephanie's schemes.

"W-what do you mean?"

"There's a little score I need to settle with Dane."  He tried to walk away, but Jillian grabbed his arm and tried to hold him back.

"No, Reginald, just let it all go!" she pleaded.  "Let's forget about Dane and Stephanie!  Let's just think about us!"

"I am thinking about us."  He snatched his arm away.  "I need to make sure that those two never do anything to interfere with our lives again!"


The Grand Sunset RoomLeticia Stokes"I had a very interesting talk with Annabelle Lake," Leticia said wearily as she stood beside Nelson.

"Who's that?"

"Apparently, she's a friend of the Callison family."  She nervously twisted her long strand of pearls.  "Seems she's known Reginald for a long time."

"Oh, really?"  He was quite intrigued by what information he could learn about Reginald's past.  "Well, what did she have to say about our future son-in-law?"

Leticia swallowed hard.  "Well, it looks like the man Jillian is in love with has a reputation of no good.  I-I hate to admit this, but maybe he isn't the right man for our daughter."

"I knew it!"  Nelson slammed his fist down into his hand.  "That young man is going to hurt my daughter and I will not stand for it!  Exactly what did this Lake woman say?"

"Well, she told me that her own daughter was involved with Reginald at one time."  She watched as her husband nodded as he listened to her every word.  "And that he was seeing Jillian at the same time."

Nelson Stokes"I'll rip him apart!"

"N-no, wait!"  She put her hand on his shoulder to calm him down.  "From what Annabelle said, Reginald callously broke her daughter's heart because Jillian was a better social match.  The young girl tried to get over the pain he'd caused her, but he began to pursue her again...even though he was supposedly committed to Jillian!  I fear he's been deceiving her this entire time."

"We have to put a stop to this!"  Nelson burned with fury.  He would not allow some reckless playboy to break his daughter's heart.  "I need to find Reginald Callison and inform him that he will not marry my daughter!"


Annabelle Lake"Stephanie, dear, what's wrong?" Annabelle asked as she saw her daughter's distressed state.  "You look like your entire world has come to an end."

"Oh, Momma, it has!"  Stephanie broke down in tears.  "I've ruined everything!  My plan to breakup Reginald and Jillian was disastrous!"

"What?" Annabelle gasped.  "What happened?"

"I-I fixed it so that Jillian would find us together.  S-she saw us kissing...well, rather me kissing him.  Oh, she was furious and ran out on him."

"Well, that's good!"  Annabelle put her arms around her daughter.  "Now he can start to get over that little snot and appreciate you for the wonderful young woman you are."

"No!" Stephanie wailed.  "He figured out it was all rigged!  He hates me!  He doesn't want anything to do with me and he...he..."  She caught herself.  She couldn't tell Annabelle about Dane's involvement.  Stephanie was afraid that her mother wouldn't be able to keep the truth from Sara.  She couldn't bear for her cousin to learn what they'd been up to.

"He what, dear?"

Stephanie Lake"He hates me!  Oh, Momma, I've destroyed any chance I've ever had to be happy!"

"Dear, you're just over reacting."  Annabelle sighed and patted Stephanie on the shoulder.  "Honey, we'll come up with some other way to get Reginald back for you."

"No!  There is no other way!  He won't have anything to do with me, now!  He won't even speak to me!"  She sniffled and tried to wipe her eyes.  "Besides, why do I have to plot and scheme to be happy?  Why can't happiness just come on its own?"

"Don't be ridiculous!"  Annabelle laughed slightly.  "Remember...the good Lord helps those who help themselves...and you're gonna help yourself to Reginald!  Now listen, this is what we have to do...."


Leticia Stokes"No, Nelson!" Leticia cried out.  "Not here.  You can't ruin Jillian's party.  She would never forgive you."

"But it's for her own good!"

"I know that."  Leticia lowered her voice and gently stroked his back.  "But you know how she is.  Our daughter doesn't deserve that kind of public embarrassment.  You have to wait and tell her privately.  You have to wait to tell her what kind of man Reginald Callison truly is.  Please don't do it here."

"You're right."  Nelson nodded his head in agreement.  "Even if this is for her own good, she's far too young to understand.  She'd just see it as meddling.  We've got to get her alone later to explain to her what kind of mistake she's making.  She has to know the truth about that boy before it's too late."

"I agree, but just not here.  Not now."

Nelson Stokes"Oh, why can't she find some nice respectable boy like Mark."  Nelson thought about how proud he was of his son-in-law and his many achievements.  "Now that is the kind of man she needs to marry."

"Mark has been a wonderful addition to the family."

"You know, Leticia, I met a young man earlier that reminded me a great deal of Mark."  He rubbed his chin as he thought.  "He said his name was Dane Manchester.  Now that is the exact type of man Jillian should marry!  Not a rouge like Reginald Callison!"