No turning back
Far from home
Steffy Forrester emerged from the dancefloor in a tiny black, halter-neck playsuit, smiling her killer smile. Her lean, bronzed limbs moved effortlessly as if a self-conscious thought had never crossed her mind. After a few steps, she turned back to her friends, still in the crowd, and struck a pose. They cheered approvingly and Steffy threw her head back and laughed her trademark throaty laugh.
Seeing the line for the bathrooms though, she groaned.
Fine beads of sweat glittered on her forehead. Even for a veteran party-goer like Steffy, who enjoyed nothing more than working up a sweat, the heat in the club was getting to her. Thoughts of the lovely Paris night outside were tempting her to call it a night…
Just a few more songs.
Joining the queue, Steffy swept up her thick, black hair in one hand and held it above her head, enjoying the feeling of air on her long, slim neck. With her eyes closed she let her thoughts drift away in the throbbing beat of the music...
When she opened them she saw that a guy, a few people ahead in the line, had turned and was watching her with undisguised appreciation. She let her hair fall back over her bare shoulders and shot him a quick, no-nonsense smile which she dropped just as quickly. Without making eye contact again, she pulled out her phone from her back pocket.
Look busy. Best way to avoid awkward pick up attempts…
She was a little surprised to see she had a missed call from her dad. Much as she loved him, she was the first to admit that correspondence wasn't Ridge's strong suit. Weeks would go by between phone calls and when he did reach out, he would often sound harassed. Steffy was always careful not to add to his stress, keeping their conversation on safe ground – updates on the International Office, their shared love of Paris…basically doing her best to avoid the 'L' word. Their catch ups were usually brief. Once Ridge was reassured she was fine, he was usually in a hurry to get back to something else, some 'problem' he had to deal with.
Steffy didn't want to be one of his problems. It was hard enough trying not to be one of her mom's 'patients'.
Seeing his missed call, in the middle of the night, didn't concern her too much. Ridge's insistence on 'living in the moment' meant that it was not uncommon for him to contact her at strange times, seemingly oblivious of the time difference between L.A. and Paris.
The line was moving slowly forward.
Living in the moment was something Steffy had inherited from her dad. But as soon as the moment passed, she would hear her mom's voice in her head (what Thomas called her 'psych voice') and see her mother looking worriedly at her only daughter…
Instantly, Steffy would be filled with sadness. Not regret, but a sadness that threatened to swallow her up.
This was Phoebe's legacy. Steffy told people – and told herself - that Phoebe's death had taught her to live life to the full because she knew it could be taken away in an instant. But sometimes, in her darkest moments, she wondered if she was really just running as fast as she could from the pain that always there.
Her eyes began to smart. Steffy looked straight ahead, without blinking, a look of defiance on her face. Her eyes met her unwanted admirer's again and this time Steffy stared him down till he turned away.
Bill was looking down at the lights of L.A. when his phone rang. It was Brooke.
"You saw the press conference?"
Her voice was fragile. She was trying to be strong but he could tell that every word might be her breaking point.
"I did. Liam was here with me."
Bill paused, uncertain whether he should bring up the subject of Hope leaving. The city lights winked up at him. If he wanted to, he could buy everything that he could see.
Bill inhaled deeply. He would say the words so that she wouldn't have to.
"He told me Hope already left."
Brooke broke down. Soft, rhythmic sobs. Bill hated the sound of it. The world outside his window kept moving though, kept turning its wheels. Mocking him.
"Tell me what I can do to help."
"I wish it were that simple. I wish you could just pull some strings and bring her back."
"After all this time, you still doubt the extent of my powers?"
She didn't laugh but her tone lightened.
"No, I don't. But some things are beyond our control, even for the mighty Bill Spencer."
But what if Liam was right? What if crazy Quinn had something to do with this?
Bill clenched his fist.
Brooke continued, sounding calmer.
"She's a young woman, trying to decide which man she wants to spend her life with…But she's grown up with so much drama and scandal, thanks to me. I don't want that for her. And I don't trust Deacon."
"Of course you don't, no one should."
Brooke was quiet. Something was off. He knew he should say more. He should know exactly the right words to soothe her, to make her feel safe.
But Bill was a man of action, not words.
He suspected that what she wanted to hear was that she could trust Hope. But he couldn't bring himself to say that. Hope was headstrong, sure. More defiant and confident than he had realised but she was still the flighty girl that stood in the way of Liam being with the woman he deserved.
And her faith in Deacon only proved Bill's suspicions.
"I'll just tie up a few things here at Forrester and I'll be home."
"I'll be waiting."
Deacon pulled up outside the Plains Motor Inn. Even to his eye, the place was a dump. He felt an old familiar feeling creeping over him.
He looked over at Hope. She was staring into the distance. Her head was somewhere else even though her blue eyes – his eyes - were taking in the scene ahead. She was waiting to be told what to do next, too tired and too confused to care anymore. She had placed her trust in him.
He had to keep it together. He had to be the strong one.
Deacon looked back at the motel. It was typical of places along the highway - two storey, one long communal balcony. The kind of place that rents rooms for one night. Four walls and a bed. Somewhere for interstate drivers to clean up and get some sleep. It would do for one night. His eyes were quick to reconcile what he saw. It wasn't so bad really.
You've just been in the rich hills of Hollywood too long.
On the other side of the highway there was a petrol station and a diner, some trucks and a few cars pulled up outside. The sort of place people might arrange to meet and talk business away from prying eyes.
Deacon watched two men exit the diner, lighting cigarettes as they walked slowly back to their cars.
He knew the type. He had done deals in places like this before. Come up with plans, discussed his share. Dropped things off and picked things up. He was familiar with these places on the outskirts of towns.
He was comfortable out here, at home in places that weren't home to anyone.
But this time was different. This time he had Hope with him. Deacon watched as the two men shook hands and got in their cars, driving off in different directions.
That's right, keep driving. We don't need any trouble.
"Well?" Hope's voice startled him. She was watching him intently, her piercing blue eyes fixed solely on him.
What did she see when she looked at him?
"Well, it's no mansion but it will have to do. Next one could be miles away and you look tired."
"I am. You must be too." Hope cast a quick glance at the motel, this time taking it all in. "I'm sure it's fine."
She sounded calm and resolute. Strong.
There it was again, that old familiar feeling.
The woman behind the counter was around Hope's age. She had short, dyed blonde hair, pulled up in a pony-tail, exposing dark roots. Spikey bits of hair had fallen loose, framing a pretty, pixie-like face. She was around Hope's age.
In the past, Deacon would have hit on her.
"We need a room for the night. A twin." He had never felt awkward talking to women. Until now.
"Two rooms." Hope interjected, standing by the lobby's noticeboard.
"Yes." Hope smiled over at them. "I'm not a kid Dad."
"Right. Two rooms."
"I can put you in 16 and 17. That's on the second floor. Okay?" The woman's accent was unfamiliar. She wasn't from L.A.
She gave Deacon a form to fill in and moved away to give him some privacy.
When he was done he snuck a glance over at her. She was slim, not very tall, wearing tight black jeans and an over-sized t-shirt that fell off one shoulder, a shirt tied around her waist. She was watching Hope, who was flipping through the bits of paper pinned to the noticeboard and tapping her phone – still switched off – nervously against her leg. There was both curiosity and contempt in her expression.
She was entirely oblivious to Deacon. He didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
Inside the toilet cubicle, Steffy listened to Ridge's message.
"Call me when you've seen the press conference. We need to talk."
Steffy bristled at his tone. He was angry. Of course he wasn't angry with her, she knew that. But still, she was reminded of a comment Thomas had made recently about how their dad always sounded angry, and how talking to his children was no exception.
She opened the Forrester website and watched as Rick announced that Hope would be taking a leave of absence to plan her wedding to Liam.
Steffy's thoughts began to race. She knew this was coming but to hear that it was actually happening…
It made her feel dizzy and sick.
Liam was going to marry Hope. The life they had shared was in the past now. The life they had planned, a family…he was planning this with Hope now.
Her heart was pounding, drowning out the sound of the music. The tears were coming. She could feel herself giving in to grief when anger took over.
Why would her dad want her to see this when he knew how hurtful it would be? He knew she had gone to Paris because she couldn't bear to be around Liam and Hope. And why would Hope need to step down from her role as spokesperson just to plan a wedding? As if the Logans didn't have enough practice to put one together in a heartbeat!
It was publicity gold, surely Hope was canny enough to know that.
It didn't make sense. Something was off.
And why the hell was Rick making the announcement?
All of a sudden, her thoughts cleared and the answer was plain.
Because there was no smooth sailing when it came to Liam and Hope. There never had been and there never would be. There was always something more to the story.
Steffy wiped her eyes and took a deep breath.
As she walked out of the club, she looked determined.
Liam and Hope could have each other and all the drama that would come with it. But she would get to the bottom of this, whatever this latest Logan drama might be, and she would protect her family and their company from the fallout.
This would be the last time Liam and Hope brought tears to her eyes.
Brooke was picking up her handbag to leave Forrester Creations for the night when Ridge stormed into her office.
"What a mess. That press conference was a circus."
He was just a touch dishevelled. His shirt, his hair, everything was just a little out of place. But he was still as handsome as always. In fact, more so. He was energised by the situation, moving with renewed confidence and determination.
A fire in his eyes.
It struck Brooke that this was the sort of energy Ridge thrived on. These moments where everything hung in the balance, when change was in the air and you just had to reach up and seize your opportunity.
That was the real difference between Ridge and Bill. Bill knew how to be happy in the moments in between, those times when you had to wait for what you wanted. And Bill knew how to be happy when he got what he wanted.
Ridge would always be fighting for something. He would never be satisfied.
"It's been a long day, Ridge. I'm going home. You should too."
"Hope has appearances booked, we have a show in a few weeks…Will she be back for that? Do you even know where she is?"
Brooke sighed. She was every bit as worried…but for Hope, not the company.
"Appearances can be rescheduled and the show isn't for another month. You should listen to your father. Forrester has been through much worse than this."
Brooke started to walk out when Ridge grabbed her arm.
She pulled away, a little more abruptly than she had intended.
"Don't. Don't touch me like that, like you have a right to…"
Ridge stepped back.
How dare he be so cold, so unfeeling, toward Hope and then behave as if he had the right to touch her with such familiarity. She should just keep walking, leave…
Her whole body was tingling with anger as she stared hard at him, daring him to test her patience further.
But he was silent, his hands in his pockets and eyes downcast. When he did speak, his voice was completely different.
"Logan, I'm sorry. I don't want this for you or Hope. Or for the company. Whatever is going on, if Deacon is involved, it's bad news for everyone. Especially for you and Hope."
Brooke couldn't look him in the eye.
"I know, because I was there, when it happened. Bill wasn't. He doesn't know the damage Deacon has done to this family. To you."
Tears fell down Brooke's cheeks.
"I'm sorry if I'm going about this the wrong way, but you know I just want to protect us all from this, from him. You especially."
She was as much to blame for what had happened in the past as Deacon. Maybe more. She knew it, in her heart, she knew it and it tore her up…
But he had said the right words, the words that would soothe that terrible pain.
It was Deacon's fault. Deacon was the dangerous one, the reckless one, not Brooke.
Brooke needed to be protected from Deacon.
"You know that, right?"
It wasn't true, but it didn't matter. He had told her what she needed to hear.
And hadn't she paid, every day for her mistake? Every time she saw Hope, the daughter that she loved so much, who was so good and pure, she was reminded of the awful, unforgivable thing that she had done.
Brooke nodded slowly and wiped her eyes, then turned and left.
Standing outside room 16, Hope turned to Deacon. "Well this is me."
"So that must be me."
The rooms were close but he still felt uneasy.
He handed her the key but lingered with his hand in hers.
"I still don't feel right about you staying on your own…"
Hope took the key from him and put her hand on his shoulder.
"Thanks for being concerned, but I'll be fine. I'm sure these walls are paper thin. I'd just have to call out and you'd hear me."
"Just call out and I'll be there."
Suddenly she looked serious. "I can pay for the rooms if that's…"
Deacon's heart sank. She was taking pity on him. Her own father.
"I got it, its fine."
He knew his voice had a tone as he said it. He couldn't talk about money with the ease that she could, that relaxed attitude that comes with the privilege of never having to worry about it.
She could tell she had touched a nerve and backed off quickly, changing the subject.
"What should we do about dinner?"
"There's a diner across the road. That's probably our only option…or there's a junk food dispenser down the hall."
"Well, as tempting as that sounds, I guess it will have to be the diner."
This is good. Me and her, father and daughter, cracking jokes.
Hope picked up her bag, looking awkward for a moment.
"Just give me twenty minutes to get cleaned up?"
She opened her door and walked inside. Deacon waited until she had turned the lights on then walked down to his room.
Inside, he dropped his bag on the bed. Four walls and a bed alright. But he would be glad of sleep tonight. It had been a long day and he still couldn't quite believe he had pulled it off.
He took out his phone. Quinn had insisted he let her know where they were at all times. Out of concern for Hope, she said. Deacon had a reputation after all, and Quinn couldn't put Wyatt's love in danger. She had mapped out the first 48 hours of their trip, including their accommodation, the Plains Motor Inn.
Deacon suspected she was gambling on Hope making her decision – Wyatt, of course - sooner rather than later. If that was the case, she wanted to know exactly where Hope was so she could send Wyatt - like a good little boy – after her.
Deacon shook his head, smiling. He sent Quinn a short txt letting her know they had checked in. He knew Hope would make up her own mind so Quinn's interference, though a little extreme, seemed harmless enough. As far as Deacon could tell there was a good chance Hope would choose Wyatt. As good a chance as her choosing Liam anyway. And in the meantime, he was finally spending quality time with his daughter.
Except maybe for Liam. Deacon had to admit, it was a raw deal for him. But his history with Steffy, complicated though it was, was a mark against him in Deacon's mind.
There was a light rap on the door, which Deacon had left ajar.
Hope was standing in the doorway. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail and she had changed into jeans and a loose jumper. She looked different. Still as beautiful as the glamourous model and spokesperson but this was a very different version that stood before him.
There was a calm and quiet strength about her, a resilience.
"Hey, would it be okay if we just got some take-out and ate in your room? I'm pretty beat."
"Of course. I'll pick something up."
She cast a glance at the small tv in the room.
"We can watch tv together."
"I'd like that."
She smiled and headed back to her room.
They could watch tv together and talk. There's was so much more he wanted to say and so much he still didn't know about her.
But he had to be careful. Careful not to slip up and give anything away about Quinn's plan. Careful not to seem too pro-Wyatt.
Careful not to say anything that would make her think less of him.
His body felt tense all over. One minute ago he was so pleased with himself, so looking forward to getting to know her and her getting to know him. And now…
Now he felt sick thinking about her knowing anything about him.
"You saw the press conference?"
Steffy looked out at the river Seine, the lovely lights of Paris winking over its soft rippling surface.
"I guess it was only a matter of time."
"I have to be. It's what Liam wants. It's what I wanted for him."
Want. It's what I want for him.
"What people want and what they do aren't always the same…"
For the hundredth time, Steffy went back over her reasons for leaving Liam. Had she been too impulsive? Ridge and Taylor thought so. But it was done. What was the point wondering now if she had made the right choice?
"…and sometimes what people say, especially to the press, isn't the whole truth."
"What do you mean?"
"He was covering for Hope. He shouldn't have been giving the conference at all but…"
"What do you men covering? What's going on?"
Steffy felt her heart begin to race.
"I want you to know that I'm telling you this because I need your help. The company needs you."
"Dad, you're freaking me out. Just tell me what's going on."
"I'm not the type of father who interferes, you know that. You've been happy there and that's all that matters…"
He was stalling.
A strange feeling came over her. For the first time in a long time, she felt like she was in the wrong place, that Paris was not where she was meant to be.
"…but you should know that Hope has left Liam."
The world stopped spinning.
The weight that she had been carrying for so long suddenly evaporated. All the regret, the sadness, the awful suspicion that she had made the wrong decision…She could accept it now, she had made the wrong decision! She could finally breathe.
"…so that's it. I haven't seen Liam or Wyatt…"
"What does Wyatt have to do with this?"
"He's the reason Hope called off the engagement. She has feelings for him."
Steffy was stunned. She'd never met Wyatt but she had seen photos of him. He was good looking, she noticed that, but very different to Liam. Tales of his confidence and charm had become somewhat legendary in Forrester office gossip, making it all the way across the Atlantic to their Paris office.
But for Hope to leave Liam for Wyatt? She'd heard rumours, especially when Wyatt had first appeared on the scene. But it had always seemed a strange attraction, a flirtation more than anything else.
Must be the bad boy thing. Opposites attract.
Steffy almost felt disappointed in Hope. It was such a cliché. What about her great love for Liam? The young star crossed lovers. What a joke.
And poor Liam. Still chasing after his dream girl, who was nothing more than that, a dream.
"There's something else. Hope left town with Deacon."
"Deacon Sharpe? That's insane. Why would she do that?"
"I don't know, because she's messed up…Look, I don't want you to worry about all that. We need to figure out how to get the company through this."
"This could cause real damage to Hope's line. To the company."
"Exactly. I knew you would understand."
"Of course. What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to come home."
Hope walked in to Deacon's room. The bed was strewn with snacks and bottles of drink. On the little coffee table were sandwiches, a salad, two slices of pie.
"Sure you got enough?"
"I wasn't sure what you'd want…"
Deacon looked up. Hope was smiling.
"Okay, I might have gone overboard."
"No, no, this should get us through the Bachelorette marathon that's starting."
Hope turned the television on and settled on the floor, leaning against the end of the bed.
"Right…well you might have fill me in as I'm not up to speed on that one."
Hope turned to him, a look of disbelief on her face.
"I'm kidding! As if I don't have enough drama in my own love life…"
Deacon handed her a sandwich and a bottle of water.
"Want to talk about it?"
"I guess I should. I'm meant to be figuring it out…"
"Only if you want to."
Hope took a bite of her sandwich, chewing mechanically.
"They both seem like good guys."
"Both good guys, huh? You're not helping!"
"Well, I can't say I like what I've heard about Liam and Steffy…" Hope's face tensed at the mention of her rival. "…but then Wyatt seems more like his dad."
"He's not really. I guess he is more so than Liam, but that's not saying much. Those two are oil and water."
"So what is Wyatt like?"
"Loyal. True to his word." Hope smiled, more warmly than he had seen since they left L.A. "Fun."
"And Liam isn't?"
"He is, sure. And he always wants to do what's right, which is honourable but, it's complicated…"
"Because of Steffy?"
"Maybe. No matter what he did in the past though, I always believed in my heart that what we shared was deeper. More real, or something."
"And maybe that's all it is, but I don't think I'll ever stop loving him. Maybe it's for the wrong reasons…but what are the right reasons?"
"I'm the wrong person to ask but you know, you defended Wyatt, when I said he was like his dad. You didn't defend Liam, about Steffy. Maybe that says something."
Hope looked thoughtful.
"Liam is committed to doing what's right but a lot of times that's not what's right for me, for us. With Wyatt it's different. He's completely committed to me. Selfish, huh?"
"No. You deserve to be treated like a princess."
"Not that you're biased…"
"I'm totally objective."
"Wyatt sees me differently to Liam, and so I'm different with him."
"In what way?"
"I'm more confident, more free. And he just wants to be with me and make me happy. That's hard to turn down."
"Whereas Liam wants to make the world a better place."
"And I respect that, truly. But I can't help but wonder, if Steffy came back and he thought it was the right thing to do, where would that leave us?"
Steffy looked at Liam's number in her phone. She hadn't called him in so long, hadn't heard his voice. If she thought too long about this, she would lose her nerve.
And there was no time to waste. Not now.
It was ringing.
He sounded surprised, and distracted. Instantly, she wished she hadn't called. Sure, they shared a past but right now he was heartbroken over Hope. Again. What had she expected?
She wanted him to say her name how he used to. She wanted to hear the deep connection they shared in his voice and hear relief that she had called him, finally…
Get a grip girl.
"Hi. I'm probably the last person you expected to be talking to."
"Kinda. Is everything okay? It must be really late there…or really early, I can't…"
He sounded like he was moving around.
"I'm fine, good actually. But I'm calling to see how you are."
"That was fast. My dad?"
"Mine, actually. He's worried about the ramifications for the company."
"Sure, yeah. I mean, hopefully Hope will be home soon though."
It was the wrong thing to do. She should have just hopped a plane and surprised him. If she could just talk to him in person, if they could see each other…she knew it would be different.
"Of course. But, in the meantime, my dad has asked me to come home. To help out. Damage control, you know."
"Yeah, I think that's a great idea."
He didn't sound excited though.
Why did she do this to herself, get her hopes up when she knew he would always be hung up on Hope?
"I just wanted to let you know, and to see if you were okay."
She paused. She remembered his eyes when he smiled, his smell when he was close. The way his hands felt on her body…
"I've missed you Liam."
The words were out of her mouth before she time to think. She could have kicked herself.
But he stopped. She could hear that he had stopped doing whatever it was he doing. He was paying attention to her now.
"I've missed you too. L. A. isn't the same without you…"
Steffy closed her eyes and smiled, tears running down her cheeks.
"So you're really coming home?"
Pull yourself together. Don't let him hear you cry.
"Uh-huh. Back in the morning. L. A. better be ready baby."
Liam laughed. Just a little, but she heard it. She knew she could make him happy. She would never lose her faith in them again.
Quinn had just stepped out of the shower when she noticed that her phone was flashing.
"It's about time."
Checked in. Rooms 16 and 17.
That was it. Deacon didn't say which room Hope was in. Quinn wondered if this would be a problem.
So much was riding on this plan but she had to keep her distance. It was too dangerous for her to get too close. She might be recognised. She would just have to trust that Deacon, Hope and Wyatt would all unwittingly play the parts as she predicted.
But there was so much that could go wrong…
And there was something else, someone else that she had to trust – a stranger - and this made her uneasy. The plan might fail. Hope and Wyatt might not return to L. A. a couple. But what if she was putting Hope and Wyatt in real danger?
She couldn't doubt herself now though.
She had been very clear to him that no one should actually get hurt. It was just the threat of danger that was needed. And he was a petty criminal anyway. Small time, like Deacon. Perhaps not as easy to manipulate, but then, who was?
Half of the money upfront and the other half on successful completion of the job. She had made it very clear that if he went against her wishes, if he didn't follow her plan to the letter, if Hope or Wyatt were hurt in any way, she would be his worst nightmare come to life.
Quinn smiled. Sure, he made light of this, even tried to imply it was a turn on, but she could see him squirm. She had made sure he knew who he was dealing with.
Everything was under control.
Quinn picked up her phone and composed a short txt.
They're in rooms 16 and 17. I'll call in the morning.
The sound of a door opening, then voices, woke Wyatt. It was dark in the carpark but the second floor walkway of the motel was lit up enough that he could see Deacon walking Hope back to her room.
At her door, Hope hugged Deacon then went inside. Deacon lingered a minute, looking down the other end of the walkway, then turned and walked back to his room.
Hope was alone.
And she was right there.
Wyatt imagined going up to her room. He imagined explaining to her why he had to follow her, pleading that he had to see her again, that he couldn't spend another night without her.
That he had to try, one more time, to convince her that they belonged together.
He imagined her face, her lovely cheek bones and clear blue eyes, the smell of her hair and the feel of her skin against his.
But he didn't move.
He pushed his seat as far back as it would go and pulled his jacket over him, still watching Hope's door. He was oblivious to his body's discomfort, having been stuck in the car for most of the day. All his energy, all of his thoughts, were focussed on being in that room with her. Imagining, fantasising, wishing.
He played out every scenario of how she might respond if he went up and knocked on her door…
Just as sleep was about to put an end to his daydreaming, he noticed a man climbing the stairs to the second floor rooms.
The man looked out over the parking lot as he reached the top of the stairs then walked along the balcony, checking the room numbers as he went.
When he got to Hope's room he slowed, turning to look through the window but not stopping. The lights were still on but the curtains were pulled. He passed Deacon's room at the same pace, casting a quick glance through the window. Deacon's curtains were open. The room was dark but flashes of light indicated the tv was still on.
The man passed the other rooms at a normal pace and walked down the stairs at the other end, disappearing into the night.
What should he do? Go after him, demand to know what he was doing? Maybe he just worked at the motel. Maybe he was just checking on things. Should he go to Hope, tell her some man might have been looking through her window?
Her first question would be, why was Wyatt following her, camped outside her room like some kind of creepy…
He would stay where he was. There was probably a reasonable explanation. But he would try to stay awake.
Just in case.