Massey thought he had some kind of relationship or friendship with Robyn, and the stories about
Josh dumping her for me…that really pissed the guy off, insulted her and by extension, him. So
that anger had been building up for weeks, and when he saw her with me, the supposed reason
Josh had dumped her, he just…snapped"
She blew on her cup absently and nodded, her eyes flicking from my face to my splinted wrist. I
had done a lot of healing since leaving the hospital - my face had returned to its normal size and
shape, the welts from the cuts on my face had gone down and lost the angry, swollen red of a
new injury, the large metal and bandage splint on my wrist had been downsized to an easily
removable light-weight vinyl and canvas splint, and most of the bruising had faded to a faint,
slightly jaundiced yellow - but evidence of Todd Massey's 'snap' was still very visible.
"And they're just going to ship him off to some loony bin? No trial for what he did?" She
wrapped both hands around the mug, tapping gently with one long, blood-red nail.
"It's not official yet, but that's what it sounds like since they doubt he's fit to go to trial. And he's
continued to be violent in custody, attacking two cell mates before they transferred him to a
mental health facility that deals with that kind of thing." I delivered the information
dispassionately, suppressing the churn of emotions that talking about Todd Massey and the
attack brought on.
"And how do you feel about that?" Liz said carefully, watching me with concern.
I sighed and rolled the tension out of my shoulders. "To be perfectly honest, I'm relieved. The
detectives and the DA think that with the violence of the assault and his behavior since the arrest,
it will be a long, long time before anyone has to worry about him walking the streets; longer,
they think, than what he might get if he actually went to trial."
"Maybe that is better, then."
I shrugged. "I think so…I wasn't looking forward to living through it again, and the media
attention a trial would have brought…" I shuddered for emphasis. "I'm finally starting to be a
non-entity again with the press - I'd like to keep it that way for a while."
I had thought the amount of attention I garnered for 'dating' Josh Riley had been intense, but I'd
learned being attacked by a clinically insane erotomanic delusional with narcissistic linking
fantasies ranked much higher on the scale of newsworthy things a celebrity could do to get
attention. And add the extra titillation factor that the object of the attacker's fantasies and
obsession was Robyn Ward, whose boyfriend I had recently stolen, and who I had been spending
the weekend with when I was attacked…the fervor had been insane, and the speculation, mind-
boggling. Rumors of a lesbian affair between Robyn and I had surfaced, but seemed to stem from
previous rumors fueled by the season finale kiss and not by any new information. With nothing
new to keep them alive, they never gained a good foothold, and although they never disappeared
altogether, there was far less speculation in that area than I had expected, and I was glad to be
proven wrong about the Monroe County Sheriff's Office's capacity for discretion.
"Yes, things do seem to be calming down," Liz mused. "Paula said you two swung by your house
yesterday when you were out, and it was relatively press-free."
I nodded. "Nary a photog in site. My hydrangeas are decimated, and the front landscaping is a
mess, but it was a beautifully empty mess."
"And the rest of the trip?" she asked casually, "everything go alright?"
Yesterday's trip with Paula was only the second time in twenty-three days that I'd left the fenced
confines of Liz's estate. I knew Liz was concerned by my reclusiveness, but she hadn't pushed,
and for that I was grateful. Last week, I'd finally forced myself to leave the property,
accompanying Risa on a brief trip to the grocery store, and yesterday I'd tagged along with Paula
as she ran some errands for Liz at a crowded shopping center, just trying to get accustomed to
being surrounded by strangers again.
"Everything went fine…better than fine, really. I'm still a little jumpy, but it wasn't as bad as I
expected, once I got over the initial weirdness of having people in my space. I'm actually
thinking that I should move my ass home and stop hiding out here, especially now that my house
is press-free. I've taken advantage of your generosity for long enough. I was thinking of moving
early next week."
Liz paused in mid-sip and lowered her cup, reaching out with one hand to touch my arm. "Caid,
you're not taking advantage of anything. You know you're welcome to stay as long as you want."
She pulled her hand away and returned it to her cup. "I've enjoyed having you around, actually."
She smiled. "The only other person who stays in this cottage is Mama, and you're much easier to
"Liz, I've met your mama. Being easier to deal with than her isn't much of a feat."
She gave me a mock frown. "Are you bad-mouthing my mama?"
I laughed. "No, ma'am. I'd never do that." We shared a smile and I reached out and tapped her
cup gently with mine. "And I've enjoyed being here, Liz. Thank you again."
"Caid, you've already thanked me a hundred times…"
"So now it's a hundred and one." We were quiet for a moment. "Speaking of Mama Stokley," I
asked curiously, "how'd she take the news?"
Two weeks ago, in an announcement that had surprised pretty much everyone, Liz and Danny
not only went public with their relationship, but also announced their engagement. The resulting
media flurry had done just as much, if not more, than my seclusion to get stories of my attack out
of the lime-light, and despite Liz assurances to the contrary, I still wasn't convinced that the
timing wasn't deliberate.
Liz laughed. "Oh, she's a little concerned that he's Italian, and Catholic, and that I'm rushing into
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things, but she's already talking to caterers and florists and bugging us to set a date."
"Well, it was kind of quick," I said absently, remembering my own surprise at the news, even
though I knew Liz and Danny were together. Liz looked annoyed at my comment and I hastily
amended, "I'm not saying it's good or bad, Liz…I'm just saying things happened very quickly,
and you surprised a lot of people."
"God, if I had a dollar for every time someone's told me we're rushing…" She shook her head
and looked out over the lawn, and then back at me. "I've been with a lot of men, Caid…a lot,"
she said matter-of-factly. "I knew right away it was different with Danny, and he knew it too,
and we figured, why wait? Because other people think we should?"
I held up a hand in apology. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I think you're making a
mistake - I don't. I've seen you two together, and I think it's good, Liz. Really good."
She contemplated my apology while she poured herself more coffee, and finding it satisfactory,
moved on to other topics. "So, when is Robyn getting back?"
Robyn's filming had taken her to New York for sound stage work the day before my release from
the hospital. We talked daily, but she hadn't been able to make it back even for a quick visit and I
missed her intensely. To say I was looking forward to her return to LA would be something of an
understatement; I'd been thinking of little else for the past several days.
"She's not positive yet, but sometime this weekend if everything stays on schedule." I nodded my
thanks as she filled my mug.
"Bet you're looking forward to that, hmm?" she asked.
"You could say that," I said dryly.
"Uh-huh." She laughed. "Well, I don't know what y'all's plans are when she gets in," she raised
her eyebrows suggestively, "but please make sure she knows she's welcome here any time - I've
told Risa to expect her."
I blushed, but managed a smiled at her thoughtfulness. "Thanks, Liz."
She laughed again, and patted my hand. "Of course, sugar."
Liz left a little while later, and I passed the morning with a light free-weight workout and nearly
an hour and a half of careful stretching, followed by lunch, some business-related phone calls,
and another walk. It was late afternoon before I grabbed a book and settled into a large
overstuffed armchair in the cottage's living room, tucked in sideways with one leg draped over a
padded arm and the other stretched out along the floor, easing the pressure on my still tender
I'd become completely engrossed in the story when the shrill jangle of a phone sounded, tearing
through the silence of the house and scaring the crap out of me.
"Shit…" The initial jolt of surprise brought a lance of pain from my lower back, but after taking
a few calming breaths, the pain eased and I carefully lifted my leg from where it was draped over
the arm of the chair and pushed slowly to my feet. I straightened with a wince and dropped the
book onto the chair before crossing to the table where the phone sat in the foyer.
"Yes?" I answered curtly, trying and failing to hide my annoyance both at the pain the intrusion
had brought and the interruption to my lazy afternoon.
"Hi." Liz's melodic voice came over the line, "sorry to interrupt your busy day, sugar, but your
girlfriend's here, and I'm going to assume she's here to see you and not me."
"My wha…?" I blinked.
"Your girlfriend. Robyn. Remember her? Tall, dark and broody? The one you haven't seen in
three weeks? I just told Risa to let her in…so I hope you've showered today, and please tell me
you're not wearing those atrocious holey sweat-pant things I saw you in earlier today…if you
are, you have about 3 minutes to change into something that doesn't make you look like a reject
from the cast of Rent."
"Robyn's here?" I repeated dumbly and looked down at my clothes, even though I knew that, yes
indeed, I was wearing those holey sweat-pant things - once black bleach-spattered cotton sweats
raggedly cut off at mid-thigh - along with a faded t-shirt with the neck and arms ripped out.
"You are wearing those things, aren't you?" I could hear the amusement in her tone, and scowled.
"And I was wrong about the three minutes - the woman must be in one hell of a hurry, 'cause I
can see her car already. I give you about 30 seconds. Maybe you've got time to brush that rats
nest you call a hairdo?"
"Liz, you're a shit." I told her and hung up, smiling slightly when I heard her laughter as I put the
I thought about trying to change quickly but dismissed the idea, since my body wasn't able to do
anything quickly at the moment. I used the hall mirror to try and put hair into some kind of order,
and then opened the front door and leaned against the frame with my arms crossed, watching the
green Range Rover roll past the main house and start down the narrow gravel lane to the guest
She pulled up twenty feet from the door and turned off the ignition, pausing for a moment to
stare at me before slowly climbing out of the car and walking up the short path to the door, a grin
building on her face that I knew was mirrored in my own. A moment later I was engulfed in her
arms, surrounded by her scent and drowning in feel of her body against mine.
"Hi," she whispered into my hair.
"Mmmm…hi." I melted into her with a groan of pleasure. "You're early."
One of her hands went to the base of my neck and kneaded gently. "There was some screw-up
with the scheduling of one of the studios, and we're not going to be able to get in until Saturday.
Lynne gave everyone a couple of days. I have to fly back Friday night, but I wanted to see you."
"I'm so glad you're here…" I kissed the side of her neck and snuggled in closer. "God, I missed
"I missed you, too," she said in a husky whisper, and tightened her arms around me. It caused a
twinge from my back but I didn't care. I could have stood right there, in her arms, for days.
And we did stand that way for several minutes, gently rocking back and forth, just soaking each
other in. My good hand crept under the hem of her soft cotton tank-top and splayed across the
heated skin of her back, pulling her closer, and she let out a sigh and buried her face in my neck.
At the sound of footsteps on gravel, we finally pulled apart, but to my surprise and pleasure,
Robyn didn't pull back very far, keeping one arm draped over my shoulder as we turned to face
Liz who was walking up the drive with a smirky grin on her face.
"Looks like your early arrival was well received," Liz called to Robyn as she approached.
Robyn glanced over at me with a smile and I wrapped an arm around her waist and squeezed,
returning the smile. "Looks like."
When she looked back at Liz, the two shared a grin, and I sensed some kind of collusion.
"You knew she was coming?" I asked Liz curiously as she walked up.
"She called this morning when you were on one of your little hikes…it was my idea to surprise
you. You would have been a basket-case all day if you'd have known."
She was right, of course, and right now I was too damn happy to make a fuss.
Liz stopped in front of us and slipped her hands into the pockets of her long shorts. "Danny's
coming over for dinner in a little bit…I was coming by to invite you to join us."
I felt Robyn stiffen slightly, and she looked at me and then at Liz. "I…uh…actually brought
some dinner for us…I thought…"
I looked at her in surprise. "You did?"
"I love Indian," I told her and smiled.
She grinned back. "I thought you might."
We kept smiling at each other, and probably would have continued to do so indefinitely, if Liz
hadn't pulled her hands from her pockets and clapped happily.
"Great! We'll be over as soon as Danny shows up. Do you have any wine, or should we bring
I knew Liz well, and recognized the playful glint in her eye, but Robyn had obviously not been
exposed to Liz's more… mischievous side, and look on her face was priceless. I bit my lip to
keep from laughing but Liz had no such compunction, and let out delighted peals of laughter.
"Liz, you're a shit," I told her good naturedly, and gave Robyn's waist a squeeze. "Don't worry,
Rob, she's joking. She abhors Indian food, and I'm sure she and Danny have something much
more interesting planned than dinner in with us."
Robyn looked between the two of us in consternation, and Liz finally stopped laughing, wiping
the moisture from the corner of her eyes delicately. "She's right, Robyn, I was kidding." She
favored her with a friendly smile. "I wouldn't dream of horning in on y'all's reunion. Actually,
Danny's taking me to Matteo's, and then we're going to see what kind of trouble we can get into."
"Watch out, LA," I murmured, and Liz laughed.
Robyn regained her equilibrium and smiled along with us. "Congratulations, by the way, Liz. On
the engagement. Danny's a good guy."
Liz smile softened. "I think so, too. Thanks." She glanced over at me, and back at Robyn,
smiling slyly. "Congratulations to you, too."
I glanced furtively at Robyn, wondering how she'd react to our relationship being compared to
Liz and Danny's engagement. All I could do was grin stupidly when Robyn gave me an adoring
look, kissed me on the cheek, and then flashed a dazzling smile at Liz. "Thank you."
She kissed me again, this time on the temple, letting her lips linger and breathing in with a gentle
huff of air, as though she were inhaling me. I closed my eyes and wrapped my other arm
awkwardly around her waist as tightly as I could.
"I think that's my cue to leave," Liz said with a chuckle, and my eyes popped open guiltily.
"Oh, don't be." She waved my apology away. "Welcome back, Robyn. You two have fun
tonight." As she walked away, she called over her shoulder, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
I let her walk a few more steps, and then said in a loud stage whisper, "Don't worry, babe, that
covers just about everything."
Liz's laughter floated back to us, and she waved without turning around. I smiled and watched
her for another few yards before turning back to Robyn.
"She's a lot…different off the set, isn't she?" Robyn asked, still watching Liz's progress
thoughtfully. "I always kind of wondered why you two were such good friends - you seem so
different - but now I guess I can see why."
I glanced affectionately at Liz's retreating figure and then back at Robyn. "Yeah, she just doesn't
let many people see it."
She turned and draped both arms over my shoulders. "I look forward to getting to know her
better, then," she told me, and kissed me briefly on the nose. As she pulled back, she paused and
looked at my face with concerned eyes. She brought a hand to my cheek and slowly traced just
below the two scars with gentle fingers. "Do these still hurt?"
I turned my head and kissed her hand. "A little tender still, but not too bad. I have to rub this
scar-be-gone goop into them every day, and that hurts like hell, but most of the time they don't
"They're kinda sexy, now that the stitches are out," she told me, tracing the lines again and
quirking a grin. "Especially in this outfit. Very tough."
I gave her a dubious look.
"I'm serious." She leaned in and kissed the scars lightly. "Very hot. And the rest of you? How's
your back today?" She paused, and stepped back from me quickly. "Ah, shit, I nearly crushed
you when I hugged you…that had to hurt. Damn, I'm sorry, Caid, I wasn't thinking."
I stepped close again and put my arms around her waist, pulling our bodies back together. "It
didn't hurt much, and it was well worth it. Honest," I assured her when she looked unconvinced.
"Now, what was this I heard about dinner?"
"Ah," she said, tentatively returning her arms to my shoulders and running a hand through my
hair. "Dinner is in the car. And a few movies to choose from, if you want…"
"You brought movies, too?"
"Yeah…" She looked almost shy. "I thought a night in with you, dinner and a movie,
"It sounds better than nice." I smiled and let my hand drift under her shirt again, scratching
gently across her back. "It sounds perfect."
She sucked in a breath and blinked rapidly, then dropped another kiss on my nose and stepped
out of my arms. "Good," she said briskly, "The stuff's in the car. I brought some beer, too. Indian
is always better with beer, I never could find a wine that went with it…are you still on pain
meds? You shouldn't drink if you are…I didn't know what kind of movies you liked, so I got a
mix…some action, some drama, and a foreign flick…"
I shook my head, bemused by what I realized was nervousness. I watched her walk to the car and
fumble around with a few bags and a six pack of beer. "Need any help?"
"No, thanks…" She straightened quickly and hit her head on the inside of the car door. "Shit…"
I walked to the car and wordlessly took the beer from her. She gave me a sheepish look and
immediately used the newly freed hand to rub her head. "Ow…damn, that hurt."
"Poor baby." I stepped in close. "Let me see." She stopped rubbing and with a slight pout, bent
her head. I inspected the spot for a moment, and stood on my tip toes to kiss it. "There. All
"Thank you." She smiled, the nervousness of before gone.
I stepped back and tilted my head, gesturing towards the cottage. "Come on, Ward, I'm starving."
The cottage was a modified loft, with the large living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bath on
the lower level, and the master bedroom and bath on the upper level overlooking the living room.
Robyn glanced around curiously, pausing in the foyer while I continued on to the kitchen.
"This is the guest cottage?" she asked with a laugh. "She must like her guests a hell of a lot."
I smiled as I put the beer in the fridge and walked back to join her. "She said, way back when,
that it used to be a barn, but I think that's a load of crap." She was still gazing around in
appreciation, and I took the bag of food from her unresisting hand and went back into the
"Well, whatever it was way back when, it's damn nice now."
"Uh-huh…why do you think I agreed to stay here? This place is way nicer than my house." I
started unpacking different containers of food and placing them on the counter.
"I like your house. It's cute."
I glanced over to see she'd finished her perusal and was leaning in the entryway of the kitchen,
"I like it too," I said, and turned back to the food, "although I think I'm going to look for
something else soon…my neighbors are ready to lynch me." I popped one of the containers open,
breathing in the exotic spices. "God, Rob, this smells great. Where'd you…ohhh…" My voice
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