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THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Reginald CallisonThe Grand Sunset Room"Tonight, Jillian and I have had the supreme misfortune of having our relationship come under attack by Dane Manchester and Stephanie Lake!"  Reginald shot a hateful look at Stephanie.

"Reginald, don't," Jillian muttered.

"I'm tired of these games.  It's time for the entire truth to come out!"  He turned to Dane and looked at him coldly.  "This man...Dane Manchester...has been hell bent on coming between me and Jillian.  He thinks that just because he and Jillian were once together...because Jillian was once foolish enough to believe his lies and fall prey to his charms...that he has the right to torment her unjustly.  He has been obsessed with destroying the love she and I share.  He has schemed with Stephanie to cause misunderstanding and conflict between us.  These two are the lowest excuses for human beings I've ever encountered."

"WhyWhy do have to do this to me?" Stephanie wailed as she grabbed his arm in an effort to halt the truth.

"Why?  Stephanie, I really did care about you once.  I felt sorry for you because of what happened between us.  I don't feel sorry for you anymore!"  He turned again to address the crowd.  "Yes, it's true!  I was unfaithful to Jillian with Stephanie.  I was afraid to accept the love that Jillian so readily offered me.  When I realized that, yes, I did truly love Jillian, I immediately told Stephanie the truth and ended things with her.  However, she couldn't accept that!  She fought tooth and nail to use our past against me.  She held it over my head like a guillotine!  She went to Jillian and told her everything hoping that Jillian would abandon me so she could have me all to herself.  That didn't work!  Our love was too strong and Jillian forgave me for my mistakes.  Likewise, Dane tried to use his past with Jillian to confuse her about her love for me.  Again, that didn't work!"

Dane ManchesterStephanie Lake"You have no idea what you're talking about," Dane sneered.

"Don't I?"  Reginald continued with his verbal attack.  "When none of Dane's attempts worked to dissuade Jillian away from me, he and Stephanie decided to use this party to their advantage!  Stephanie conned Douglas into bringing her and Dane wormed an invitation out of Annabelle so they could act out their vicious plans!"

"Stephanie?"  Douglas looked at her with shock.

"They tried to get Jillian to believe a lie!  They tried to convince Jillian that Stephanie and I were still involved."  He glanced over to Jillian and smiled warmly.  "It almost worked, but again, our love was too strong.  Jillian knows I wouldn't have anything to do with such an evil girl as Stephanie just as I know that she would never again lower herself to fall prey to Dane's lies and charms."

Jillian looked away uncomfortably.

"I am here to tell you all of this so that you know not to trust these two people....ever!  They are users and liars and cheats!  They will use you in a heartbeat if it will advance their malicious plans!"

Sara Summers"Dane?"  Sara looked at him as he still lay in her arms.  "H-have you been using me all this time?"

"No." he muttered in response.  His eyes darted from Reginald to Stephanie to Jillian.  Slowly he began to rise to his feet.  "No!  You have this all wrong, Reginald.  I don't know where you've gotten your information, but these are all slanderous assumptions on your part.  There is not one hint of truth to any of it!"

"Are you trying to say that I'm wrong?"  Reginald looked at him in disbelief.  "Are you trying to deny that you're in love with Jillian and have been trying to destroy our relationship?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying!"  Dane stood straight up and turned to the crowd.  "It is true that Jillian and I were once involved.  It is true that I hurt her terribly.  I betrayed her and she couldn't forgive me for that.  It is not true that I've been plotting to destroy her happiness with you!  All I have been trying to do is make amends to her for the pain that I've caused.  I want to reconcile so that there are no hard feelings.  I want to begin a new relationship with her...as friends!"

Jillian StokesJillian shook her head at Dane's audacity.

"Do you want to know who's really responsible for causing trouble between you two?"  Dane's eyes burned with anger.  "Do you?  I'll tell you who's been behind the entire thing!  I'll tell you who tried to use what they knew about my past with Jillian to their own wicked advantage."  He pause to scan the crowd and sneered when his eyes found their desired target.  "I'll tell you who!  It was her!"  He stretched out his and to point at his intended target.  "It was Stephanie Lake!  She's the one who's truly behind everything.  She's been behind this entire thing!"

Stephanie's eyes grew wide in fear.  He really was going to blame everything on her!


Judith Linford"I cannot believe you!"  Judith sneered as she looked at her husband who was propped precariously against the balcony railing.  "You've gotten so drunk you can barely stand!  How dare you embarrass me in front of my family!  You look like a fool."

"If I look like a fool, it's because you made me look like one."  Mark glared at her through glassy eyes.

"Me?  I haven't got the vaguest idea how I've made you look like a fool."  She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  "If I recall correctly, I'm the one who brought you into this family.  Because of me, you've made all your wonderful business contacts!  If it weren't for me, you'd have nothing and you'd be nothing!"

"And to think I loved you once!"

"You wouldn't know love if it slapped you in the face!"  She folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.  "I'm the foolish one for believing all of your lies.  I must have been really stupid to have fallen in love with you.  Thank god I wised up!"

"My lies?"  He grabbed her by the arm and jerked her closer.  "I don't think I need to remind you of that little affair of yours that you worked to keep so hidden!"

Judith's hand flew up to her mouth in shock.  "H-how?  How did you know?"

Mark Linford"Because I'm not a fool, Judith!  I know a lot more about you than you think I do!"  He smirked as his voice grew cold.  "And for all I know, that baby isn't even mine.  You're right, my marriage to you has brought me a lot of success.  I think we'll stay married."

"Why on earth would I want to stay married to you?"

"Because you'll have me to pin that baby on."  He laughed.  "I don't think your high and mighty society friends would look too fondly on you or your bastard child if we were to get divorced.  I'd have to make sure everyone knew about what kind of tramp you really are."

"You wouldn't!"

"Oh, Judith," he smirked.  "You know I would."


Jillian StokesStephanie Lake"No!  He's lying!" Stephanie cried out.  "Dane was in on the whole thing!  I-I tried to move on, but he kept telling me I had to help him keep you apart so he could win back Jillian's heart!"

"Don't listen to her, Reginald!" Dane spoke up.  "You know what kind of lying, deceitful wretch she really is.  You know all about what kind of schemes she's pulled.  Why should you believe her?"

"Yes, why should I believe you, Stephanie?"  Reginald looked her in the eyes, his face stern and severe.

"Because it's the truth!"  She began to cry again.  "Yes, it's true I tried to come between you and Jillian.  I only did it because I thought you still loved me!  I thought she was just clouding your mind.  I knew if I got you to see that, you'd realize you still loved me!"

Reginald Callison"I never loved you!" Reginald spat.

Sara Summers"I-I know that now."  Stephanie lowered her head and swallowed back her tears.  "I-I wanted out of Dane's schemes, but he wouldn't let me.  I told him I wouldn't be part of a plan that would hurt Sara, but he told me I'd regret backing out on him!"

"But to betray your own cousin, Stephanie?" Reginald questioned.

"No!  I didn't do it to betray Sara!"  Stephanie's eyes locked with a disbelieving Sara's.  "I realized that I had to get Dane away from her before he hurt her!  I knew how he was...how he is!  I couldn't let him break her heart.  I knew I could save her from him if I could get him back with Jillian.  You have to believe me!  I'm guilty of everything you've claimed, but Dane is just as guilty!"

Dane Manchester"She's lying!"  Dane glared at her with a wicked fire in his eyes.

"You have to believe me!"  Stephanie grabbed onto Reginald's arm, but found no hint of understanding.  She turned slowly to the cousin she had tried so hard to protect.  "Sara?"

"I-I don't know what to think."  Sara muttered and quickly looked away.

Douglas Davis"Douglas!"  Stephanie blurted out as she saw the man she'd hoped would be her future.  "Y-you believe me don't you?"

Douglas met her pleas with a slow shaking of his head before he turned and silently walked back into the crowd.

"No!  No!" Stephanie wailed as she ran from the room.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

The Grand Sunset RoomSara Summers"Dane, honey, are you all right?" Sara asked as the crowd started to dissipate.

"I-I'm fine."  He looked at her cautiously.  He didn't know what thoughts were racing through her mind.  He hoped she didn't believe everything Reginald had said.  "I'm a little shaken up and bruised, but that's all.  You are the one I'm worried about.  I-I can't believe that Reginald would cause such a scene like that!"

"Quit dancing around the subject."  She spoke pointedly without mincing words.  "He said some very disturbing things about you...Stephanie, too.  I-I need to know.  Is any of what he said true?"

"No!  None of it!  You heard me.  Everything was Stephanie's fault.  She's the one who wanted Reginald and Stephanie apart!  She's the one who tried to cause trouble."

Sara watched his actions and had a difficult time believing him.  She'd known for some time about his womanizing past.  She'd hoped that her love could change that part of him, but she had to accept the truth.  Dane had been seeing other women and not just flirtatiously.  "Tell me the truth about you and Jillian," she finally spoke.

Dane ManchesterDane took a deep breath and swallowed hard as he slowly rubbed his aching jaw.  "The truth is...Jillian and I were seeing one another when you and I met.  I cheated on her with you.  She found out and ended things on the spot.  I-I felt badly for the way everything happened.  She didn't deserve the pain I brought her."  He paused for a moment to see how Sara was reacting to his explanation.

"So, Jillian left you and you were stuck with me."  Sara's words were matter-of-fact.  She stood with her hands on her hips and inspected him closely.  Could she possibly believe a word that came out of his mouth?

"No!  That's not how it was!  You know how I feel about you!"

"Yes, I do know how you feel about me."  Sara's attitude began to soften, but she quickly caught herself.  "What I don't know is how you feel about Jillian."

"W-what do you mean?"

"What I mean is...what feelings do you have for Jillian right now?"  Sara kept her eyes locked on his.  "Are you still in love with her?"

Dane inhaled deeply and quickly looked away.


Nelson Stokes"See! This all proves that I was right about that boy!"  Nelson fumed as he paced back in forth.  "I can't believe he had the gall to air this scandal in public!  Thank god we're here in this town and not back in Manhattan!  The society pages would have a field day with this!"

"Calm down, dear."  Leticia reached out her hand to catch her husband as he walked by.  "I-I'm forced to agree with you.  This is not the kind of man I always dreamed of for Jillian.  She can do so much better.  However, I can't say that I agree with your original assessment of that Manchester boy.  After everything we've learned about  him, I don't think he's fit for out daughter, either."

"You can't possibly believe everything that Reginald said!  Why, with what we know about him, how can we believe a word that comes out of his mouth?"

Leticia Stokes"Well, I do like him better than that Don boy Jillian dated."  Leticia tapped her finger against her lip.  "Oh, I just don't want my baby to be hurt.  How could we have let her get mixed up in a situation like this?"

"We should never have let her leave home for college."  Nelson shot his comment straight at his wife.  He'd never wanted to allow Jillian to attend school away from New York, but Leticia insisted they allow her to go to Albanyville University.  "If we'd just kept her home, none of this would have happened."

"But, Nelson, it has happened!  What on earth can we do now?"

"I'll tell you what we can do!"  His scrunched his eyes in determination.  "We can do everything in our power to make sure that Jillian does not marry Reginald.  I can guarantee you that this wedding will not happen!"


Dane Manchester"No, Sara, I'm not in love with Jillian."  Dane carefully placed his hands on her shoulders and gazed into her eyes.  "You are the only woman I truly love."

"Oh, Dane, do you mean it?"  Her face flooded with joy and she threw herself into his arms.  "Oh, Dane, I was so worried.  I was so afraid that I was going to lose you.  I love you so much."

Sara Summers"I know, Sara, I know."  He stroked her dark hair as she began to sob softly on his shoulder.  "I had only hoped that I could make amends to Jillian for the pain I caused her.  I truly hoped we could be friends."

"That is so noble of you."  She pulled away and smiled sweetly at him.  "I-I was a fool for ever having doubted you.  I just don't understand how Reginald could have gotten those horrible ideas about you."

"I was wondering the same thing," Dane grinned slyly, "but I do have a suspicion."


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Nelson StokesThe Grand Sunset Room"Charles, you and I need to talk!" Nelson bellowed as he approached him.

"I agree."  Charles replied and nodded.

"Then I take it you also agree on this situation our children have gotten themselves into?"  Nelson looked at him closely.

"I find it very unfortunate, but I'm sure that Reginald and Jillian can put Dane and Stephanie's machinations behind them.  They love each other enough that they can make it through this."

"I don't think so!"  Nelson was shocked that Charles had even the slightest idea that this wedding was a good idea.  "I have no intention of allowing my daughter to marry that vile son of yours!"

"Now wait a second..." Charles cautioned.  "I'll have you know that Reginald is one of the most respected young men in this town!"

"I don't know how this town can respect a man who cheats and lies!"

Charles Callison"If I'm not mistaken, you're own daughter wasn't exactly forthcoming about her past with Dane Manchester!"  Charles glared.  "Why, she's as much responsible for bringing Dane into this mess as Reginald is for Stephanie."

"Surely you can't believe what Reginald said about Dane!"  Nelson's eyes grew wide with shock.  "After all the lies Reginald's told to cover up his tawdry past with this Lake girl, how can you believe he's telling the truth about Dane?"

"How in the world can you believe Dane?  You heard him admit how he hurt Jillian by cheating on her!"

"The boy made a mistake.  Yes, he hurt Jillian, but he had the decency to let her move on.  I'm sure that he was just trying to make amends to her!"  Nelson stood firm in his opinion.  "Besides, I can't believe that a boy with the background that Dane has can be capable of such horrible things.  Why, his family is one of the most respected in Chicago!"

"You've got some nerve...."

"I refuse to allow my daughter to marry your son!  It will not happen.  Dane Manchester is socially a much better match for her!"

Charles quietly fumed as he thought about how to defend his son's honor.


Stephanie Lake"Oh, Mamma, see!  I told you everything had gone wrong!"  Stephanie fell into Annabelle's arms as her mother patted her gently on the back.  "A-and Dane!  He's as much to blame as I am for all this, but he told everyone it was all me!"

"Yes, dear, I know."  She let out a heavy sigh and comforted her daughter.  "I was there.  I saw the entire, horrendous scene that Reginald caused.  You should have known not to get mixed up with Dane.  I've said all along he was no good for Sara.  This just proves it."

"I-I was only trying to get Dane away from her."  Still with tears in her eyes, Stephanie looked up at her mother.  "I-I knew Reginald would never leave Jillian for me, but I had to get Dane back with Jillian before he hurt Sara."

Annabelle LakeAnnabelle grabbed a handkerchief and gently blotted her daughter's eyes.  "Well, I guess you've ruined any chance you might have had at Reginald."

"And now, I'm sure I don't even have Douglas."  Stephanie's lower lip began to quiver as she felt the tears coming back on.  "You should have seen the way he looked at me, Mamma!  I thought we could have had something, but I've ruined that, too!"

"Oh, there, there,"  Annabelle again took her daughter in her arms.  Silently, Annabelle prayed that Stephanie's antics hadn't ruined her chances with Charles as well.


Charles CallisonNelson Stokes"If you think Dane is innocent in all of this, then you're a fool, Nelson!"  Charles began to fume.  "That rat is as mixed up in all of this as Stephanie is!"

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think the Callisons are the type of family I want my daughter involved with!"

"And you think I'm thrilled with the prospect of my son marrying into a family as uptight, arrogant, and self-righteous as yours?"  Charles' fists clinched in anger at the condescension towards his family.  "How such a sweet and lovely girl as Jillian could have been produced by someone like you is beyond me!"

"Why, how dare you!"  Nelson prepared to draw back his fist.  "Apparently, you have no idea who you're speaking to!"

"Charles, Nelson, that will be enough!"

Both men turned slowly to find themselves on the receiving end of stern looks from their respective wives.

Francis CallisonLeticia Stokes"Mr. Stokes, I think every thing that needs to be said has been said," Francis spoke up as she took her husbands arm.  "I have to agree with my husband that our son is a most responsible and upstanding member of this community.  We love your daughter as if she were our own.  However, I cannot stand idly by while you insult my family!  If you cannot conduct yourself in a manner appropriate for this situation, then maybe you should excuse yourself."

"I should..."

"Nelson!" Leticia chastised.  "This is neither the time nor the place.  Both you and Mr. Callison are extremely upset over a difficult situation.  With tensions running the way they are, I really don't think now is the time to discuss this."

Silently, Francis and Leticia nodded civilly toward one another and led their husbands in opposite directions.