Kate stepped aside to let Hope and Wyatt into her house the next day. "Welcome to the party."
"Thanks for inviting me."
"You're Will's brother, of course I'd invite you. Please, make yourself at home." Spotting the box wrapped in puppy-checkered paper, she directed him to the kitchen. "Gifts go in the kitchen. There's punch. Help yourselves."
Hope and Wyatt trooped off, cooing behind the toddlers waddling about the house in their primary-colored rompers and foil birthday hats.
Donna walked up juggling a cup of cherry punch for each of them. They were on a ginger path to mending their relationship now that Katie had declared discussion of her romance with Ridge verboten. Katie and Ridge were not up for negotiation. Less so with each new day.
After Katie briefly made the rounds of the other parents from Will's working moms playgroup, she and Donna took a breather near the fireplace.
"Liam and Wyatt at the same party?"
Katie lifted her free hand in disavowal. "They're both Will's brothers, I couldn't not invite either of them. Think of it as a peace offering." She checked her watch. "Bill should be here soon." Bill had dropped Will off after breakfast, as promised.
"Odds on whether he'll bring Quinn or Brooke?"
"It's a nightmare, right? But it's not my nightmare anymore, so I don't care. As long as they don't ruin Will's party, he can bring the Duchess of Cambridge if he can get her to answer his calls."
Hope was the one to open the door on Bill arrival an hour into the party. Katie was enjoying a reprieve from her hosting duties on the couch.
"Quinn Fuller and Brooke," Katie exclaimed, grabbing Donna's leg and pointing.
Donna blanched. Katie had told her about her encounter with Bill and Quinn in August.
"What do we do? We should tell her, shouldn't we?"
Katie necked her punch, wishing it were wine. "I've tried, but she isn't listening to me anymore. You tell her."
"I should tell her now, right? Sooner is better. Just rip the Band-Aid right off." Donna grabbed Katie's arm in a vice grip. "Give me another idea, Katie. This is a terrible idea, Katie."
"Take her out by the driveway and tell her. Give her a chance to leave before they can make a scene."
"Maybe she won't mind," Donna posited, her smile a rictus of forced optimism.
"Maybe she won't mind? Donna…"
Her older sister shut her eyes. "What am I thinking, of course she'll mind! Not minding is not Brooke."
The two younger Logan sisters trepidatiously watched the guests putter around Katie's house in overwhelmed camaraderie.
Katie made to stand. "I should mingle."
"What about Will?"
"Liam is looking after him and the other kids from group. Everyone's talking. The games don't get under way for another half an hour. The magician is scheduled for a half-hour after that. This party should be over in two hours." Katie was fervently counting the seconds.
"That's not too bad," Donna reassured her and, from the pinched expression she was assuming, herself. Katie desperately wished Ridge would hurry back from his afternoon conference call with Fabrice in New York.
"We're rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. My son's second birthday is going to be Chernobyl but with more cake." Katie resolved to defuse this situation before it imploded. "Okay, here's the plan. I'll take Quinn and you take Brooke."
"Why do you get Quinn?"
"Because we have Bill in common and not long ago you wanted to kill her."
"I didn't want to kill her."
Katie tapped her toe until Donna relented.
"Maim, not kill. Just so Eric wouldn't look at her twice."
"Just an FYI, Eric isn't looking at her anymore. He's only got eyes for you."
Donna fretted, "We both know that's not true."
Katie couldn't lie to her. "One hurdle at a time, Donna."
Katie approached Quinn with punch, which the women took graciously enough. They hadn't had reason enough to butt heads for things to be awkward between them. Well, aside for them having an ex in common and Katie was making it a point not to hold poor taste in men against anybody else these days. Glass houses.
"You have a lovely home."
"Thank you. It used to be Ridge's. Small world." Never had Katie imagined that Ridge would make this house his home again, but here they were.
"Speaking of slightly unbelievable coincidences…You came with Bill and Brooke. That seems like it must have been an interesting car ride."
"It was illuminating," Quinn quipped, sipping her drink. Quinn Fuller had the gift for understatement and the face of a stage actress; her expression told the tale. Lingering incredulity. Not a little pain. Bitterness. Watching Bill and Brooke work the room like a king and queen with no idea their kingdom was set to burn.
"I don't envy you being in love with him."
Quinn froze in place, her blue eyes the flashing silver dollars, for once caught out instead of in on the joke. "I'm not."
"You're doing a savvy impression of someone who is. I guess you could say I'm an expert."
Quinn looked away from the couple. "I don't know what I'm doing with him. He treated me like I was easy when we were younger. That's still how he treats me. There's just something about him."
"If he wants you, there must be something about you he can't resist, which means there's something about you somebody else wouldn't be able to resist."
"I'm the last person to be talking another woman down from the Dollar Bill ledge of ruining your life and your self-esteem. He totaled mine. I let him. The difference between me and most women who get caught in his web is that I made him regret it. I make him regret it every day and I will never as long as he reminds me how little he thought of me."
Quinn raised an eyebrow. "You're harder than I thought."
"Life will do that to you. I don't have to tell you that, do I?"
Quinn swallowed, lips pinched. "Some part of me thinks if I can win him over it will be worth it. I can leave him like he left me." She scoffed at herself. "It's idiotic, I know that."
"Feelings and logic don't really go together. Throw in a dash of wounded ego and you'll find yourself the fool in any scenario. Just remember, if you keep fighting a fool, eventually onlookers won't know the difference." Her piece said, Katie left Quinn to her contemplations. She wanted no further part in this. Her son was waiting. It was time for the party games to begin.
A few hours later than planned, Ridge stepped out of the kitchen into the middle of Quinn and Brooke's confrontation. He ducked behind Bill to edge out the crowd and reach Katie. There wasn't time enough for greetings before the fur flew anew.
Bill stepped between the two women, hands raised.
"Ladies, let's keep cool. It's just a little misunderstanding, all right. Brooke, you know I'm in love with you. I've been all about you for months. Quinn doesn't mean anything. She was just something to pass the time."
Quinn narrowed her eyes dangerously. Katie swore under her breath, grabbing Ridge to pull him farther from the fray toward the verandah. This wasn't going to be pretty. "You certainly passed a lot of time with me, Bill."
"Is that true?" Brooke pushed at his shoulder. "Bill, is that true? You and Quinn have been having an affair?"
" 'Affair' is a loaded word. I prefer 'fling.'"
Ridge groaned and covered his face. He could have guessed this was how it would all end.
"So do I," Quinn acquiesced. "We had a fling, nothing more or less."
Brooke glared between the two who were busy glaring heatedly at each other. The air crackled with the chemistry between them. Katie wondered if Brooke wasn't half as angry as she was because she could see it.
"You didn't think this fling was something I should know about?"
Bill put a hand in his pocket, chin raised, legs apart. He was about to dig in his heels. "Well, no. Seeing as you and I weren't together when she and I…got it together, I don't think it should matter."
Brooke rocked back on her heels. Her jaw dropped. "No? All your declarations of loyalty were just convenient lies?"
"We weren't together!"
She slapped his chest. "You claimed you wanted us to be."
Quinn took a step back to let them at each other. A smirk played at the corner of her mouth. One looked much less foolish when they stopped talking.
"I did, Brooke! I want that. I want us."
"So what was Quinn?"
Quinn scoffed, crossing her arms. "Can't say I haven't heard that from you before."
Katie determined that now was the time to intervene before the hostilities kicked up again. Ridge squeezed her hand for luck. "Oh…kay, it's time for the birthday boy to get some sleep." Never mind that it was five in the afternoon. Katie wanted this scene and every one of its gawking spectators out of her house. "Thank you for coming, drive carefully. I'll see you all later. Donna, Liam, Wyatt, Hope, please help everyone find their coats."
Katie faced a wrecked but empty house with only Ridge for company once she'd seen all the guests on their way. Will was already down for an impromptu nap, all the excitement from the party having worn him out. He wasn't the only one. Katie decided she'd clean tomorrow. Better yet, she'd call the cleaning service in the morning and let somebody else worry about the red solo cups floating in her pool. She needed a nap after that melodrama staged in her very own living room.
"That was—that was about what I expected." Ridge met her with a glass of white wine, which she took gratefully.
"Welcome back to the family where dysfunction is our middle name."
"And your married name," he chimed in.
"My former one, thankfully. I have higher hopes for the next one I take on."
Ridge pulled her to his side as the crossed the living room to reach the couch.
"What's that again? Refresh my memory."
She cuddled up to his side. "It sounds like 'forest.' It's a bit earthy for me, but I think the man makes up for it." He rubbed her back, gentle and strong.
"That could be all right. He anybody I know?"
"Mmm, maybe. The name's Thorne and I hear he's single."
Ridge's grin deflated into a confounded glower.
Katie's leaned up to kiss his offended confusion away.
"Kidding. There's only one Forrester for me and he happens to be the sexiest one in the bunch."
"I like where this is going, but then I liked where the last one was going until…"
"You can't take a joke."
"Not about losing you to Thorne. I've seen how he looks at you."
"We have history. It's ancient, boring, not like what we have."
"Let me know when hearing how much I love you gets boring."
"Don't hold your breath."
They kissed. The cleaning and the melodrama, they could definitely wait till tomorrow. They had other things to celebrate tonight.