THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM

The Grand Sunset Room"Stephanie, there's so much we've got to do," Sara Manchester exclaimed, her face full of excitement.  "We've got to go to Lerner's and pick out a crib and we've got to get you some maternity clothes and...."

"Slow down," Stephanie Monroe laughed, more than a little amused by her cousin's impetuousness.  It almost seemed as if Sara were more excited about Stephanie expecting a baby than Stephanie was.  "Paddy and I just found out today!  We've got months and months left to do all of this.  We don't have to plan everything right this very second."

"I know," Sara sighed.  "But you're having a baby!  Oh, Steph, do you have any idea what a big deal this is?"

"I think I might have an idea."

"You know what I mean!"  Sara clasped her hands together as her mind began to go a mile a minute.  "Have you decided which room you're going to turn into the nursery?  Or are you going to put the baby in Todd's room?"

"I'm definitely not doing that," Stephanie replied flatly.  "That boy can be an absolute terror as it is.  I'm not sure I want him sleeping in the same room with a little baby."

Sara Manchester"I can see your point."  Sara paused and tilted her head slightly as she considered what Stephanie had said.  "How did Todd react to the news?  Surely, he's excited, too.  I mean, yes, he's really going to be the baby's uncle, but for all intents and purposes, Todd's going to a big brother since you and Paddy are raising him."

"I know," Stephanie nodded.  "I'm hoping he's okay with this.  The last thing I want is a battle."

"You haven't told him, yet?"

"Sara, we just found out today!  We haven't had a chance to break the news to Todd."  Stephanie bit her lower lip as she thought about everything that could possibly go wrong when she and Patterson told his little brother about the new baby.  Just then, Stephanie spotted Patterson across the room -- talking to Douglas and Lorraine Davis.  In an instant, Stephanie rushed to her husband's side.  She knew how Lorraine could be and wasn't about to give her a chance to bad mouth her to Patterson.

Patterson Monroe"Stephanie, there you are," Patterson Monroe smiled as he put his arm around her.  "Have you and Sara been busy making plans for the baby?"

"You could say that," Stephanie replied, her eyes focused on Lorraine.  "Paddy and I are very excited about this little bundle of joy we're expecting."

"I can see that," Douglas laughed.  "Paddy's been telling us how you've practically been on cloud nine all day long.  Lorraine and I wish only the best for you both."

"You do, Lorraine?"  Stephanie turned to her and raised a suspicious eyebrow.  "How kind of you."

"I'm only thinking of Paddy's happiness, after all," Lorraine said coolly as she looked directly at Stephanie.  "And I know how happy this baby is going to make him.  Douglas and I think of Mikey as the most wonderful blessing that we could've ever hoped for and we only hope the same blessings for you both."

Stephanie Monroe"Thank you, Lorraine."  In spite of herself, Stephanie smiled.  The news of her impending motherhood made her so happy that even Lorraine couldn't bring her down.

"But I know exactly how much work a new baby can be.  I just hope that you don't find yourself neglecting Todd."

"Lorraine...."  Douglas's tone was cautionary.  He wasn't sure where his wife was taking the conversation, but he wasn't oblivious to the tension and antagonism that had long existed between her and Stephanie.  He didn't want his wife to overstep her bounds.

"Douglas, I'm only thinking of Todd."  Lorraine was intent on using her sweetest voice as she laid her hand on his shoulder.  "It hasn't been that long since we brought Mikey home from the hospital.  We're still dealing with 2 a.m. feedings, cries in the night, diapers....  Honestly, I don't think I'd be able to deal with all of that and another young child.  I can only imagine how it's going to be for you.  Thank goodness we've had Momma here this summer to help us out or I don't think I would've been able to manage."

"Well, we do have Mrs. Oliver to help," Patterson reminded, only to have his wife shoot him a very stern and disapproving look.

"Lorraine, I really don't think you've got a reason to concern yourself."  Stephanie's tone was getting colder by the minute.  "I think I'll be able to handle my family just fine, thank you."  She reached out and grabbed her husband by the arm, practically digging her nails into him.  "Paddy, c'mon!  I want to go talk to Reginald and Jillian.  Maybe we can plan a joint baby shower."

Douglas DavisAs Stephanie literally drug Patterson off, Lorraine folded her arms tightly across her chest and glared at the happy couple, walking away and aware.

"Lorraine, what the devil do you think you were doing?" Douglas snapped angrily.  "Why did you have to talk to her like that?"

Lorraine Davis"Excuse me?"

"This is going to be a very anxious and happy time for Paddy and Steph.  You know that as well as anyone.  Why did you have to go out of your way to make her even more nervous and anxious than you have know she already is?"

"Honey, I'm only concerned about Todd!"  Lorraine's eyes were wide with shock.  She couldn't believe the tone he was using with her.  "That little boy's been through more than any child his age should have to go through.  You've got to know that the idea of having a new baby in the house is going to be upsetting for him and I'm not blind to the fact that Todd can be a handful.  Stephanie can't go into this blindly.  She has to realize that it's going to a chore and a half.  It's not going to be all hearts and flowers twenty-four hours a day.  Having one baby is hard enough work, but also having another small child in the home...."

"Drop it, Lorraine," he ordered sternly.  "This is none of your business.  Let those two deal with their own family."

She shook her head in stunned silence.  How could Douglas stand there and all but defend Stephanie after everything she'd done, not just to him, but to nearly everyone they loved and respected.  Lorraine knew that she had every right to be concerned.  She'd made a promise to Todd to always be there for him and look after him and she wasn't about to let anyone force her to break that promise -- not even her own husband.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BAR

The Grand Sunset Room"I'll have another one," Fred said to the bartender as he approached the bar, still nervously looking back and forth throughout the crowd.

"But...sir...."  The bartender looked down at the practically full drink still in Fred's hand.  "You haven't finished that one, yet."

Fred looked down at the full glass and grimaced before turning it up and downing the entire drink in one gulp.  "There!"  He slammed the glass down onto the bar.  "Happy now?  Fix me another."

"Yes, sir," the bartender replied and then rushed off to honor the request.

"You keep drinking like that and your wife will have to carry you out of here," came a soft female voice from off to the side.  "I'm sure you wouldn't want to make a scene."

Fred looked up in time to see Joyce Preston move closer, motioning for another bartender to replace her empty glass with another glass of Chardonnay.  They stood for a few moments in silence as the bartender set both of the now full glasses in front of them.

"Well, aren't you going to say something?" Joyce asked in a low and sultry voice.  "Surely you don't have anything better to do with your time."

Dr. Fred Rutherford"What do you want?" he snapped without turning to look at her.  "I'm a little preoccupied at the moment and I'm not in the mood to...."

"Too preoccupied for a little conversation?"  She brought the wine glass up to her lips and brushed it against them for a moment before taking a slow sip.  "You know, doctor, I've been watching you.  You're quite the ladies man."

"I'm afraid you've been misinformed.  I'm a very happily married man and I intend on staying that way."

A smirk spread across Joyce's face and she let out a low chuckle.  She stood silently, her eyes locked on Fred, and then leaned closer to him, placing her hand lightly on his arm as it rested on the bar.  "I'm sure Arlene would disagree with that.  Well, that is if she were still around to disagree."

Joyce's mention of Arlene Donaldson, his former and long-missing lover, prompted him to jerk his head upright and look directly at her.

"What was it?  $10,000 you managed to get out of her?"  She leaned even closer.  "But, then again, I suppose she doesn't really need it now at the bottom of the river.  The fish don't charge rent.  I do have to hand it to you, you did a remarkable job making sure her body was never found."

Fred's eyes grew wide.  His mouth hung open.  Joyce lifted her hand and pressed her index finger against his lips, a symbolic act of silencing him.

Joyce Preston"So, tell me, did you ever manage to pay off those gambling debts you racked up over in Riverside?"  She paused for a moment and then let out a laugh as if she'd realized she'd made a joke.  "I suppose you didn't since you've managed to snag yourself a rich wife.  Exactly how much are you taking the old bag for?"

"You!" he blurted out, realizing fully who he was talking to.  "It's you!"

"Shhh.  I'm sure you don't want the entire world to know how you killed Arlene when she found out what you were up to.  Lucky for you that the police in this town were too stupid to find out all of her background or they might've put it all together.  Perhaps I should send them your employment history?"

"You...."

"Tell me, Dr. Rutherford, are you going to do to your wife what you did to Arlene if she finds out what you've been up to, too?"  Joyce smiled smugly.  She knew she had him exactly where she wanted him.  "Of course, if certain files find their way into the hands of the police beforehand...."

"W-what do you want?"  Fred swallowed hard.  He knew she had him.

"We'll get to that later."  She pulled back and took another sip of her wine.  "Right now, I have some mingling to do.  This is a party, after all.  We'll talk later."

As Joyce walked away.  Fred let out a slow exhale.  He was trapped and feeling desperate and she knew it.  But what did she want?  Money?  He wasn't sure, but he had a sinking feeling that his mysterious blackmailer was out for much more than a simple payoff.  After making that realization, he quickly downed his drink and lifted his hand to order another.


THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - DANCE FLOOR

The Grand Sunset Room"Honey, are you sure you're all right?" Janet Lamont asked as she rested her head on her husband Burt's shoulder while they danced to the music.  "You never told me what Reginald said that upset you."

"Don't worry about it," Burt Lamont grumbled.  "But you have to know that I think your sister's husband is a jerk."

"Reginald?"  She let out a laugh.  "Burt, he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met.  Besides, he's your family."

"Not to hear him tell it," he muttered under his breath so that she couldn't hear.  "Look, I'm done worrying about him and anyone else.  Tonight is supposed to be just for us, celebrating our wonderful marriage."  He pulled back slightly and looked down into her eyes.  "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Oh, not in about fifteen minutes or so," she grinned broadly, "but I wouldn't mind it if you told me again."

Burt Lamont"I love you.  I love you.  I love you."  Burt leaned in and kissed her on the lips, lightly at first but then with a growing intensity.  At just that moment, the fireworks celebrating the birth of our nation began to explode in the sky over the river and above the hotel.  "See, they love you, too."

"Oh, Burt!" she giggled.

"C'mon.  Let's go outside and watch the show."  He took her by the hand and lead her off the dance floor and out through the large doors to the terrace where they could watch the full display in the sky.

As they stood at the railing, facing in the direction of the river, they gasped and smiled at the colorful explosions and lights in the nighttime sky.

"Burt, I never want this night to end," Janet sighed softly as she basked in the warmth and comfort of his arms.  "Tonight has been so wonderful.  We're married, now, and everyone knows and...."  Her voice caught in her throat.

"What is it?" he asked with concern as he looked down at her.

Janet Lamont"I just...."  She paused and inhaled deeply.  "I hope that we're always just as happy as we are right now.  Promise me that, will you?  Promise me that you'll always love me as much as you do tonight and that you'll never let anything come between us?"

"I promised you that the night we got married."  He turned her to face him and placed his index finger under her chin so that he could lift her face and look deeply into her eyes.  "I meant it then and I mean it now.  I'll always mean it.  Nothing can and nothing will ever separate us."

Then, at just that moment, Judith appeared in the doorway of the terrace, a fire of determination blazing in her eyes.  She was on a mission and she had her target in her sights.

Burt had made a promise that he might never be able to keep.




NEXT TIME

Can Janet keep Judith from telling Burt everything?





produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions