THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN CAME RIDING PAST
ON A SNOW BLUE WINTER'S DAY
HE ASKED TO DRINK BY OUR FIRE AND
I WAS PLEASED TO LET HIM STAY
HE DRANK THERE QUIETLY FOR A WHILE
AND THEN HE TURNED AND SAID TO ME...
Andrew Carpenter stood before his congregation and smiled beginning his Christmas Eve sermon. "In this busy time, when we rush to and from stores buying, wrapping, deciding we need to look back to that small manger in a cave in the city of David and remember a child who was born there. There was no crib for him, only the manager a feeding trough for animals. Yet there he lay and to the woman who gave birth to him he was more than the Son of God." Andrew beamed as a few parishioners moved about puzzling what could mean more than the Son of God. "He was her own child. A baby who needed protection it didn't matter to Mary that this was the Lamb of God or the Prince of Peace. The child in that manager blinking his just opened eyes was her son."
Blair continued to look at Starr who Tea was holding in a near death grip. She waved and Starr seeing her mother smiled, lighting up her small perfect face. Blair blew her a kiss and only wished she could be the one holding her Christmas blessing. Starr's birthday was in less than two weeks and she wouldn't be there to help her little girl blow out her candles.
"Jesus was her child. Perhaps that is the real truth of Christmas. It is the story of the birth of a child, the celebration of the birth of a child. Christmas is the story of the joy children bring to our lives."
Tea looked over at Blair and switched Starr to her other arm blocking Blair's view of her daughter. Blair's heart constricted in her heart. She hadn't wanted to come to mass, but Judith had called her and told her that Tea was making Todd go to mass and they were bringing Starr. Judith had told Blair that she thought it was wrong to separate a mother from her child on Christmas Eve. "After all that's the reason for our ..."
"Season." Said Andrew. "The child and his birth, the love of a mother, mortal like any one of us felt for her child."
The choir began to sign Silent Night and Blair felt the tears that had been threatening to fall begin to course down her face. She couldn't stay. Blair took her purse and coat and slid out of the pew. Andrew looked straight at her from the pulpit and mouthed "Merry Christmas" as the choir continued. Blair nodded and had to check her stride so that she didn't appear to be running from church.
Andrew sighed. God has a, plan he mused, I just wish he'd let us in on it. "As you go home tonight remember the best gifts we give one another is the gift of ourselves.
Todd Manning almost jumped. The gift of ourselves. The gift of herself. What Blair had given to him for Christmas. How long ago could that have really been? He did the math. Four Christmas Eve's from the Christmas Eve when she had asked him to dance with her in that hole of a room he'd had at the motel hell.
He opened the door to her frantic pounding. She looked behind him into his hotel room that was a huge mess as usual. "You alone?" She asked him. The red dress she was wearing clung to every perfect line of her body.
Act calm Manning, don't show her how glad you are to see her. "No, I got a bunch of people in here, as usual."
She smiled at him suggestively "How'd you like to have a real party? For two?" She winked.
The present day Todd Manning sitting listening to preachy Carpenter could only vaguely remember what else they had talked about. His inheritance from his dad or lack thereof and Blair trying to tell Cassie about the Right Rev and Marty the Martyr. Then out of no where she had turned on the radio and told him "I wanna dance."
"With me?" he asked nervously
"I'm a big girl. I know what I want. And I wanna dance with you. Right here. Right now. How 'bout it Todd?" he crossed to her, obviously nervous and moves to her. She strokes his hair as they begin to dance." I don't feel like being alone tonight.
Todd let himself bare "Me either"
Blair moved the lock of hair that always hung down away from his face. I was hoping you'd say that. Their lips approach but Todd pulls back. Blair looked at him and gently put her hands on either side of his face. Their eyes met and when he didn't pull away Blair leaned forward and kissed him lightly. He pulled back for a minute, but then he pulled her closer and their kiss grew passionate, fuelled with longing and promise of things to come.
Everyone around him stood and Todd followed suit. He got too forceful. She pulled back and pushed him away. Todd closed his eyes against the memory; he nearly scared her away, grabbing her wrist... Blair pulled away "Todd, Todd! Let's just...look, sweetie, let's just slow down a little. Its alright...let's just slow down.
Todd looked down at her beneath him on the bed. "I'm scaring you, aren't I? Come on, I'm scaring you, why can't you just admit it? I'm scaring you!"
Blair pushed him back and sat up. "I'm not afraid of you! I'll admit it, I used to be, every time I'd run into you I'd think, well, you know, I'm lucky to get away alive.
He swallowed deeply. "Its funny, you know, I mean, I never saw that fear in you."
She looked down at her oval shaped nails. "Why? Because I acted tough?" Blair rose and crossed the room. "What can I say? We're alike: steel on the outside, but on the inside...
"Not steel." No way, he knew there was a soft side to Blair that she covered because she had been hurt too much in her life. "There...are a lot of things about myself that I wouldn't mind forgetting."
Blair came back to the bed and sat next to him. "Alright. Well, then let us make a pact, okay? There are no rules except one." She held up a finger "There are no rules except...no love. No love, all right? No love."
Todd laughed aloud. Several Llanview churchgoers turned to glare at Todd. He couldn't help laughing. They had promised each other that they would never love each other. They would have no rules and no expectations. Todd looked down at Starr. They had loved each other though. Starr was proof of that. No matter what he said aloud, Todd knew in his heart that at one time he had loved Blair and would have given her anything her heart might have desired. Starr had been conceived in love. Not lust or the need for a quick screw. No way, Starr had been conceived in love.
They had run out of booze and Blair told him they were going to the penthouse. He pulled the car keys out of her hand. She was hardly able to walk, like he was going to let her drive that T-Bird of hers while she was this messed up. In his ear he heard her voice like a whisper on the
"You are going to love the penthouse! And it is going to love you, I can promise you that! Come on!"
At Dorian's penthouse, Blair led him by the hand into the bedroom.
Blair let go and dropped down on the bed. "This is the room of rooms! You can say whatever you want about my Aunt Dorian, but she had great taste. In bed and out. So, take off your coat and stay a while."
Todd walked over to the window contemplating the view. "Funny, when I was in prep school, I used to tell everybody that I was gonna live in a penthouse. And I was gonna drive a black sports car that did 0-60 in, like, six seconds." He turned to look at her, where she still sat on the bed. "Here you are; you got both of them.
"So what else did you dream about, Todd?"
He shrugged "I wasn't much of a dreamer." He paused thoughtfully before beginning to speak again. "My father used to say that dreamers were time-wasters. That the only people that counted in life were the do-ers.
She smiled wistfully. "Your daddy sure would've hated me, then"
"Join the club."
"When I was a little girl, that's all I ever did was dream, and I had nothing, absolutely nothing. And I wanted everything; cars, money, furs, jewelry, views--you name it, I wanted it!" She laughed, but it was tinged with sadness. "But it wasn't until I got older and people started telling me how pretty I was that I was able to start getting what I wanted, for a while anyway. I even married me a millionaire. But, of course, in doing so, I threw away everything that really matters. I guess I didn't really end up with anything, did I? Oh well, no need to dig up these old memories. The past is the past."
They studied each other Blair on the bed and Todd standing in the shadows by the window. The phone rang jerking them out of their moment of vulnerability.
Todd smirked "Gonna get that?"
"I'm sick of dealing with the real world. My day's over. My night on the other hand..." She approached him.
"Look, Blair, it seems to me you got everything back." He met her in the middle of the bedroom. "I mean, the penthouse and the car part. What else could you want?"
"Respect, I'm so tired of being on the outside all the time, hoping someone will reach out and take care of me, make me feel safe, you know? Respect.
"I could go for a little bit of that myself."
Tea was still fussing with Starr making little noises like cooing and stuff. She was making more noise than Starr had during the whole service.
"Merry Christmas. Tidings of comfort and joy. These things we wish each other at this time of year. Should we not keep these thoughts year round." continued Andrew.
Todd blew an exasperated breath out his nose. The Rev loved the sound of his own voice.
No one wished him a Merry Christmas like Blair did that was for sure.
They were on the bed in Dorian's penthouse. He told her if she wanted it to stop just tell him.
She smiled and reached out to touch his face. "Merry Christmas Todd."
He took her hand and rubbed his thumb against her palm. He slowly moved toward her wanting to give her ample time to pull away, then she leaned forward to met him. They constantly met each other never wanting to leave the other waiting or wanting. Their lips meet, in a kiss that became more and more passionate.
Then he ran off. Got dressed as fast as he could and instead of telling her I love you and I want to kick Cord Buchanan's ass he told her to remember that they were just friend's, that this was just for fun. Todd discreetly turned his head to look over at Blair and see what she was doing. Usually just by looking at Blair he could come up with what she was thinking.
Blair was gone. There was just an empty place. Where the hell did that Crazy Cramer get to now? She thinks she can come her and bug him the whole time through mass with memories and then leave. Todd stood up "I'll show her." Todd stood.
"Where are you going," Tea whispered sharply.
"Cell's ringing, gotta take it. Get Vicki to drop you off I might have to go to the Sun." Todd walked out of the church in pursuit mod. Blair couldn't have been gone long.
Andrew watched Todd make his way out of the church and smiled bring his sermon to an end with a heart felt "AMEN."
Todd searched the parking lot and say Blair pulling her mustang toward the front exit. The mustang was such a low slung car that Blair usually had to let it warm up for a minute or two. It was that minute or two that had allowed Todd to catch up. He hurried to his Jag and started the car. At a discreet distance Todd began to follow Blair.
She maneuvered the older car carefully through the streets of Llanview. Why had she gone to church in the first place? Todd and Tea would have been bad enough but they had her baby, her Christmas Starr and she couldn't even hold her and mouth the words to Silent night. Dorian was out of town, Kelly was with Ian and Cassie's house would be unbearable. Cassie's happy mommy and wife routine was something Blair knew she couldn't deal with.
Blair let her thoughts drift to the Christmas years ago when she had given herself to Todd. She hadn't had anyone to be with on that night either, but then she went to Todd and his presence chased away the loneliness and the fear. He had wanted her. He didn't care what her past was like, he accepted her as herself.
Blair nearly forgot her blinker but the glow of headlights behind her reminded her to let the driver behind her know that she was turning. She flicked on the left blinker and pulled into the Llanview Motor Inn.
Todd pulled to the curb and watched Blair pull into the designated spot for room 42. He fingered the fob on his dangling key chain. The paint-etched numbers had been worn off but a faint shadow of the number 4 and 2 still remained. Why was she at their...HIS old room. Was she meeting someone? That had to be it, who'd go to the motel hell on Christmas eve for any reason except for some dirty little hook up. It had to be some married guy otherwise she'd go to the Palace. That bitch. She was Starr's mother, she had kept whining about wanting to have a chance to be Starr's mother and now she's meeting some jackass in a seedy motel.
He started up the car and swung into the parking lot pulling into the space next to her car. He was going to tell her just exactly what he thought of her.
Todd pounded on the door. He heard her rustling around in the hotel room. He pounded again. He could hear her coming to the door. She was expecting someone; well wait till she got a load of who was here to see her.
Blair opened the hotel room door. There, looking like an avenging angel stood Todd Manning. She froze unable to say a word.
Blair was just standing there at the door in his old Llanview U jersey. He had wondered if Blair had thrown it away after he had died since he hadn't been able to find it but there it was. There she was. There they were.
Blair's lips drew into a hard line "What ever you're selling little boy, I'm not interested." She started to close the door but he leaned against it slipping into her room.
"You should look before you open the door Blair, you never know when a psycho will knock on your door."
Blair leaned against the wall. "You're proof of that. Why aren't you with my daughter? Did you leave her with the weekend rental?"
Todd's temper reared it's head. "My daughter is with my wife."
Blair shrugged "Whatever, why don't you head home to your Stepford Family?"
Todd took a further step toward Blair effectively sandwiching her between the wall and him. "That's my wife you're insulting."
Blair laughed "More like your trade in. Your old model was in the shop so you upgraded."
"You're the one who wanted the divorce Blair. You're the one who wanted to believe the worst of me. You're the one who got what you wanted. A divorce from the monster of Llanview."
"You're not a monster," retorted Blair hotly. Her mouth snapped shut and she glared at him silently chastising herself for defending him.
He moved closer to her and smiled like a animal might at its dinner. "Who are you meeting Blair?"
She looked at him in confusion "Meeting?"
"Yeah, as in someone's dropping by."
"I'm not meeting anyone."
Todd snorted in disgust "Right you're just at this dump on Christmas Eve checking out pay per view."
Blair looked down watching the light catch the pearl undertones in her toenail polish "Go home to your family Todd."
The need to humiliate her was slipping away. He could feel it wearing away. There was something wrong. He believed her she wasn't meeting someone. But then why was she here? "Why aren't you with Dorian?"
Blair couldn't look up, she just couldn't. "She went away on business."
Todd could sense where this was going but he had to ask. "What about the rest of the coven?"
Blair shrugged "Which, Cassie and her perfect family or Kelly the baby killer?"
"Blair, look at me," he instructed her.
And to his surprise she did.
YOUR EYES ARE GREEN
LIKE SUMMER GRASS
YOUR LIPS ARE RED
LIKE A FRESH CUT ROSE
YOUR HAIR IS SOFT
LIKE AN IRISH STREAM
AND YOUR VOICE IS FILLED WITH SWEET BEAUTY
"You were going to be alone on Christmas so you decided to come here?"
Blair tried to blink away her gathering tears. "I just didn't want to stay in that big empty house so I figured I could stay at the Most Pathetic clubhouse."
AND THE LAST WORDS I HEARD HIM SAY
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Todd leaned forward and for an instant Blair held her breath, then she felt the soft caress of his lips against her forehead.
"Come by the penthouse tomorrow and you can see Starr. Around noon, okay."
Blair nodded elated at the thought of seeing Starr and yet their was a small twinge of sadness. He opened the door and then the both caught the chorus of the song on the radio
WHEN THE NIGHT FALLS ON YOU, BABY
YOU'RE FEELING ALL ALONE
YOU WON'T BE ON YOUR OWN
I'LL STAND BY YOU
I'LL STAND BY YOU
WON'T LET NOBODY HURT YOU
He crossed to her and their lips met. He slid his hands down her back and cupped her buttocks lifting her into his arms as they devoured one another's warm waiting mouths. Todd pushed her against the room door closing it.
"Tell me if you want me to sto..." Todd tried to give her an out, tried to stop the fire he felt consuming him but Blair covered his mouth with her own and he could feel her hands running through his hair. He kissed her back with a passion equal to her's and carried her to the bed.
There was no ceremony between them, no prelude of soft touching and tender words. They had been separated for too long to dwell on touching and soft words. Todd felt her nails scrap down his back and in response he lowered his mouth to her neck biting her, leaving his mark on her for anyone who wanted to look.
She moaned his name and he used his knee to nudge her thighs apart. She opened her translucent green eyes and met his without fear. "Blair, what do you want?"
She smiled "I wanna dance."
Todd thrust down into her welcoming warmth. She was always so tight around him. She encased him and for a moment he paused savoring the feeling of her familiar warmth and tightness around him.
His hands ran down her arms, feeling the goose bumps that were rising at the feeling of his touch.
AND THE NIGHT'S WILL COME BUT I WON'T SLEEP
AS I WATCH THE STARS THAT LEAD HIM
His hands cupped her face and he kissed her possessively, wanting to show her though his actions who she belonged to, but Blair couldn't be owned. She kissed him back winding her arms around his neck holding his lips against hers as she met his inquiring tongue with her own.
I CAN NOT PLACE WHERE HE IS
BUT STILL MY HEART GOES WITH HIM
I'M SAVING ALL MY CLOTHES FOR THE DAY
THAT I'LL BE LEAVING
MY SISTER KNOWS
Away from her face slid his hands pausing for an instant to feel the beat of her heart. He marveled at it's rapid beats, knowing that his own beat to match. Steadily he thrust into her trying to put off his climax wanting to see and feel Blair's. His hands stopped again on her breasts and his caresses brought another moan from her lips.
AND MY FRIENDS
THEY'RE HAPPY FOR ME
AND THE PRIEST HE SAYS
YOU SHOULD THANK GOD
FOR THE BLESSING OF SUCH SWEET BEAUTY
Blair couldn't hide how he was making her feel. All this time while she had lingered on the sweetness of her's and Todd's love making she had been doing her a disservice by forgetting this side of them. The side filled with lust and the passion they felt for one another. She raked her nails down his back, for a brief second she feared that she had left marks but then scratched harder. Let his wife know where he's been, serves her right if she couldn't keep him at home.
Blair could feel herself slipping over the edge as she wrapped her legs even tighter around Todd's waist to keep him from fully pulling out and away from her. "Please Todd...please," she begged breathlessly.
Todd pushed her hair away from her face "What do you want Blair?" He was slipping now, his self control almost gone
She met his hard thrusts by rising up to met him again and again. "You."
Todd quickened the tempo of his thrusts causing Blair to draw in a sharp breath, but she still kept up, meeting each of his thrusts and then rising up to take another. Neither could say who it started with but moments later they lay in one another's arms panting slightly out of breath and temporally satisfied.
Todd pulled her into his arms and looked at the digital alarm clock on the nightstand. It was 12:25am lit in red numerals. "Merry Christmas Blair."
It was barely audible but he heard her say softly "No rules."
AND THE LAST WORDS I HEARD HIM SAY
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
ON CHRISTMAS DAY I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU
AND THE LAST WORDS I HEARD HIM SAY
WERE THE LAST WORDS I EVER HEARD HIM SAY
They lay there, next to each other. Blair had drifted off leaving Todd awake to wonder at the fact that sat in front of him. He had just made love to his ex wife on Christmas eve. Not even had sex, no can't just dismiss it as some quickie, no he had wanted to satisfy Blair before himself. Wanted her to feel passion and desire before he came. The only time a man puts the woman first is when he loves her.
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
I SAID I WILL RETURN ON CHRISTMAS DAY
AND YES, I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE
I WILL RETURN ON CHRISTMAS DAY
I SHALL RETURN FOR YOU MY LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY
ON CHRISTMAS DAY
From his pile of clothes on the floor he heard the buzz of his cell phone vibrating, he laughed silently not wanting to wake Blair. He knew who it had to be. Tea was trying to track him down. By now she probably had called his office and discovered he wasn't there. Now she was going to try his cell. "Tea, Tea, Tea." he muttered, in his head he added 'now you're acting like a real wife. That's not in our deal.'
Todd yawned and closed his eyes. Time enough in the morning for him and Blair to talk about what comes next. With that in mind Todd drifted off to sleep.
Blair's tears soaked the pillow beneath her head. She should have known. Just because Todd wanted a quickie with her didn't mean anything. Just a minute ago he had said Tea's name just before he fell asleep. He didn't want her he wanted Tea. Carefully Blair got out of bed and gathered her things together.
Five minutes later Blair backed the Mustang out of it's spot and headed back to Dorian's. She would need a few things for her trip.
The beam of sunlight caught Todd in the eye and he rolled on to his side pulling the pillow over his eyes. A second later he shot up in the middle of the bed. The sounds, the surroundings, the furniture. He was in his room in the motel hell. It had all been a dream. His marriage to Blair, his penthouse, his newspaper...Starr. His beautiful daughter, his and Blair's beautiful daughter had just been a dream. Then he laughed.
Todd felt like the old guy in that movie a Christmas carol. He had seen what a crappy life he would lead without Blair. He laughed again. Defiantly the worst part of that nightmare was the whiny Latino lawyer. Where the hell had he gotten her from? Oh second thought she looked kind of like that waitress that use to hang around the frat house.
Todd rolled off the bed and reached to pick up his discarded clothes. It was, to the best of his knowledge, Christmas day and time to beat up a cowboy and tell Blair how he really felt.
On closer examination, however; Todd saw the familiar Armani label in his pants. Pants that had set him back $500.00. For a split second Todd was disappointed. He thought that he had gotten a Christmas miracle, a second chance with Blair. Then as the long furrows on his back tinged when he moved he smirked. Maybe he had gotten a second chance with Blair. 'Just as well, Todd mused thoughtfully "I would have hated listening to Vicki's speeches on family again.'
He pulled on his boxers and looked toward the partially closed bathroom door and smiled. It appeared some things had changed. The last time he and Blair had been together he had been the early riser. 'She must be in the bathroom putting on her war paint, he thought. Where else could she be after all there wasn't a visible trace of her in the whole room.
Blair lugged her suitcase down the majestic curling stairs at Dorian's. She was traveling light.
At least foster care taught me something. Always pack just what you'd need or miss the most. Blair remembered one house where the wife had dumped everything Blair had owned in the whole world in a bar-b-que pit in the backyard and set it ablaze citing Blair might have bugs as her reason. As she reflected on that long ago bonfire Blair shrugged. Any man who had ever thought he could break her by taking away possessions had been sadly mistaken. Foster care had destroyed, early on, any urge she might have ever had to get truly attached to objects. It was when Blair lost people that she wanted to fall apart.
Starr. Starr was the only thing that could have paused Blair and kept her from just cutting her loses and walking away. Starr who was being raised by that bitch and pod Todd.
Blair sat on the stairs and began to take stock. Todd Manning, enemy of the law married to a lawyer. Todd Manning who had once told her lawyers are like cars, they're damn expensive but it's always good to have more than you need because you can't ever depend on them. Todd who could have only barely known Tea when she'd had the accident that had crippled her and killed Brendan. How did Todd who had nothing in common with Tea end up with her? Something wasn't right about that marriage.
Blair let out a noise that could have been a laugh or a sob. "You're just trying to justify him saying her name last night," Blair told herself. "Tea Delgado is his wife, you were a one night stand. Like you were to Max and Cord and even that old bastard Asa who went back to Renee afterwards. The list of men who had screwed her in more ways than one only to go back to their wives was rapidly growing.
TAP TAP TAP. Someone was at the door. SOMEONE WAS AT THE DOOR! Blair made her way down the stairs and slowly with hope in her heart opened the door.
She open the door to find Ian Armataige smiling shyly. "Merry Christmas Blair. I hope I haven't caught you at a bad time"
Blair opted for the straightforward approach. "Kelly's not here."
"I know, she's at Llanfair." He stood expectantly waiting for Blair to invite him in but she showed no sign of being so inclined. He gestured past her to the inside of the house "May I come in."
Blair's lips curled into her lazy on the prowl smile. "I'm sorry, how rude of me, Please come in."
Ian walked past her and familiar with Dorian's house crossed the foyer into the living room. He sat on one of the two loveseats waiting for Blair to sit before he spoke.
"Blair, I have a proposition for you."
"I hear Kelly have a few positions for you." remarked Blair leaning back.
Ian cleared his throat. "Go ahead and tell me I told you so."
"What did I tell you I told you so about Ian?"
Ian leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees. "You warned me that Kelly was still a child, still fickle.."
Llanfair, Christmas, and Kelly. Blair's mind made the connection. "Does Joey Buchanan have anything to do with this."
"Joey" said Ian rolling his eyes "has everything to do with this."
Blair smiled "Tell me what happened and we'll see about that I told you so."
"Nothing to tell really, Last night after mass, I looked for you but you were gone."
Blair flashed for a moment to the image of Todd mounting her against the hotel room door and shivered with remembered pleasure.
"Cold?" questioned Ian.
Blair flushed a soft rose. "No," she needed a second to pull herself together "Well a little. Would you be a dear and get some wood from the pile outside so I can start a fire. It'll make the house seem so much more Christmassy."
"Your wish is my command." Ian went to the French doors and let himself out.
"I bear that in mind," remarked Blair to the empty house...
BANG BANG BANG
Blair bolted upright from her perch on the loveseat. Who ever was banging on the door sounded like they were trying to take it off the hinges.
BANG BANG BANG
Shooting a quick look to the partially opened French doors Blair rushed to the front door. Whoever was there would have to go...
Blair opened the door to a surly looking Todd holding a dozing Starr in his arms. "Merry Christmas Blair. Who the hell does that car out front belong to." With that Todd strode past her.
Blair was so overjoyed to see Starr that she couldn't speak. She held out her arms to receive the best Christmas present she could have even dreamed of.
Todd wanted to deny her. HE wanted to know who the hell was here with her on Christmas driving a Duelsenburg he wouldn't mind adding to his collection. He wanted to know why the hell she had left this morning. He wanted...HE wanted her to never stop smiling at him the way she was right now. He gently placed their sleeping daughter in her arms.
"Hey baby girl," cooed Blair softly "Mommy's missed you so much." She smiled at Todd. "Thank you."
He shrugged. "Yeah well I didn't know what time you planned on coming over so I figured I try to catch you now so you wouldn't miss us."
Blair stroked her baby's face gently "Are you going somewhere," she asked
"Vicki's cavalcade of Lord fun. My sister's idea of a fun Christmas is putting a bunch of people who hate each other 364 days out of the year together in a room without liquor and asking them to behave for one day."
Blair nodded absently "I'm just going to take her upstairs real quick I have a present for her, you too actually. I'll be right back." Blair hurried up the stairs leaving Todd in the foyer. He drifted into the living room.
Picking up the decanter he poured himself a straight scotch. Long ago Vicki had outlawed blunt objects and alcohol at all Lord family gatherings.
Ian came in holding a pile of firewood. He didn't immediately notice Todd as he piled the wood into the fireplace. Todd watched the Limey publishing bastard with narrowed eyes. "You're out of kindling Blair, do you have some newspa..."
"The Cramer chicks aren't really all that interchangeable," commented Todd.
Ian turned. "Manning. To what do we owe this...Christmas surprise."
Todd shrugged. "It's Christmas, My kid needed to see her mom. The fluffy bunny is at my sister's house...with my nephew," added Todd with a smirk.
"I'm not here to see Kelly."
Todd advanced holding his glass. "If you're trading in Kelly for another Cramer, Blair isn't the model I'd recommend."
"Oh really," queried Ian "Why not?"
"Because," said Todd with an even larger smirk "Kelly's a little girl, Blair a woman. She needs a man whose use to handling woman."
Ian snorted, "I'm sure my technique doesn't really compare to yours."
"Blair would chew you up and spit you and half your wallet out," said Todd smiling nastily. His face darkened wondering what this jerk was doing at Blair's building cozy little fires. "Listen, You're new in town so I'll spell it out for you real slow, Blair and I are meant to be together. We will be until one of us dies." Todd threw back his drink, swallowed and sneered at Ian. "Hell even the death thing really couldn't keep us apart."
"No, but your new Mrs. Manning may."
"Don't bet on it.."began Todd.
"Don't bet on what?" asked Blair observing the scene from the living room doorway. She approached Todd "Bet on what?" she repeated after receiving no answer.
Todd shot a warning glare at Ian before answering "Football."
Blair laughed "Men and sports. I'll never really get the interest." Blair offered Todd a small envelope. "Merry Christmas."
Todd opened the envelope to find a small black and white photo."
Todd looked at her and smiled in slight confusion "Thanks I think."
Blair smiled in response. "Read the top of it."
Todd looked at the small print at the top of the photo. It read Baby Manning/2nd trimester. He studied it closer and realized it was an ultrasound of Starr. He looked up from the photo. It was a weird present and normally he would have said so but he decided the best present would be sticking it to that British moron.
"Thank you. Why would you give me this, I've never seen any of these before so why now?"
Blair re-arranged Starr's tiny sweater. "I've always felt bad that you weren't there for any of the visits to Dr. Conklin when she let me see Starr. That's why I wanted you to have the picture of the ultrasound. You know to sort of help make up for what you missed."
She was giving him the gift of the time he had missed, and he didn't have a damn thing for her. What could he do to try and equal...Starr stirred slightly. "Listen Starr really would like it if you came with us to Vicki's,"
Blair began to answer only to be interrupted by Ian. "Don't you think your wife might mind? Besides," he said gesturing toward the fire "We have plans."
Blair's face fell at the mention of Tea. "Yeah, something tells me Christmas or not Tea's not going to want to sit across from me at dinner and make small talk." She looked regretfully at Starr "Thank you though."
Todd took Starr from Blair's arms. "Well then we need to get a move on. Starr just wanted to come by and say Merry Christmas but since she can't talk yet I guess this was a waste of time."
Todd turned and left the living room. Blair followed him leaving Ian behind. "Wait, Todd."
"What? We have to get going."
Blair put her hand on his arm. "I appreciated you coming over. I really wanted to see Starr."
He touch caused his groin area to suddenly tighten. Don't look at her Manning; think unsexy thoughts...Tea naked, Tea on a bear skin rug..."Whatever."
Blair looked over her shoulder toward the living room and lowered her voice "Listen about last night..."
Todd followed where she was looking toward and his whole body stiffened "Look let's not turn it into anything okay. Don't worry I won't tell anyone...I wouldn't want to ruin your chances at a third millionaire. Merry Christmas Blair."
Todd opened the door and left Blair to sadly watch his retreating back. "Merry Christmas Todd." she said softly. With a resigned sigh she closed the door and returned to the living room. She looked at her suitcase, standing forlorn on the landing of the stairs. She lifted her head and walked calmly into the living room, a plan of action already forming in her head.
Todd sat tapping his fingers on the armrest in the back of the limo. That stupid Brit prancing around Dorian's like he owned the place. Acting like he had some kind of right to be there on Christmas day. He kept having visions of Blair over and over lowering her voice so that meathead wouldn't hear them talking about LAST NIGHT. Damn it what was he going to do now. Of course they had to turn last night into something. It was unbelievable. One minute he was going to just walk away from Blair and the next he was pounding her against the wall.
Starr squirmed slightly and Todd stroked her hair gently. "I know I promised you your mom was going to come to Aunt Vicki's with us, but that fell through. Listen I promise you and I will always be together your mom just has to accept that for her to be with you, well I'm part of the package."
Blair sat down across from Ian.
"Your ex husband is...interesting. It's a wonder that your little girl is so wonderful." Ian smiled "She must take after her mother."
Blair's mind was racing a mile a minute, Ian expected her to try and seduce him. He probably was just trying to use her to make Kelly jealous. And the surest way to turn him around was also the most obvious.
"Ian, we're friends, right?" asked Blair trying to look slightly concerned about that fact.
'Yes, of course." Ian's expression registered a small trace of confusion. He wondered where she was going with this.
Blair leaned forward and drew her legs under herself Indian style. Slowly through body language she was putting Ian at ease. "I don't think I have a single person in this whole town I can count as a friend that isn't related to me by blood."
Ian frowned. "I'm sure that isn't true..."
Blair threw back her head and laughed. Ian watched appreciatively. He had never really noticed before how long and elegant Blair's neck was. "No, it's true. I've never really been good at making or keeping friends. That's why I don't want to ruin this with you. It's nice to finally have someone I can just...well talk to." Blair tried not to smirk, by telling him she only wanted his friendship Ian like all men would feel the instinctive need to steer her toward something else.
Ian nodded. "Blair of course I'm you friend, now friend to friend explain the suit case and the delightful visit Todd Manning just paid you."
Blair sat back and told him everything that had happened the night before. She spun a few things but otherwise told the complete truth. She was building a trap for another millionaire and this time it would be as close to full disclosure as she could come.
Finally she concluded with Todd's exit just a few minutes before. "So that's it."
Ian nodded slowly. "That would explain Manning's warning me to stay away."
Blair shrugged. "That would be fine except he has a wife," and now the tears "I can't believe I slept with yet another married man. Everyone in this stupid town is right," Blair ducked her head "I'm just a home wrecking slut. No wonder no one decent wants me."
Ian immediately came over to comfort her. Blair relaxed into his arms waiting for what she knew was coming. "You're a wonderful woman Blair, I wish I had seen how wonderful before I got involved with Kel," he raised her chin and kissed her passionately.
'YES," Blair's mind hissed now three...two...one..., she pulled away as though she had been burned. "NO, Ian don't..."
"Blair I just..' he began
"No, I was serious, I need a friend, please I'm sorry..." With those words echoing in the silence Blair darted from the room and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She smiled to herself; it was only a matter of time before he came upstairs to check on her. Blair kicked off her shoes and took off her clothes. Clad in her bra and underwear she began to root through her bureau draws till she found a plain terry cloth robe. She threw it over her undergarments and pulled her hair down.
She lay down on the silk cover of her massive four-poster bed and forced herself to think of every horrible thing that had ever happened to her. Finally she focused on the voice of the police officer that had told her there had been an accident and Todd was gone forever. When she had cried for a while Blair curled up around one of Starr's stuffed toys.
She wanted to look vulnerable when Ian came to check on her. Sexy wouldn't cut it with this man. With Todd it had been about equals and passion. With Ian it was protection and warmth. Blair Cramer smiled if there was one thing she knew in life it was how to please the flavor of her month.
Todd stormed into Llanfair carrying Starr. The maid, Rochelle closed the double doors behind him. Hard to believe that the angel in his arms and the sainted Mrs. Buchanan were in fact related to this man.
Vicki came from the dinning room to greet her late brother. Jessica followed her mother.
Todd gave Starr over to Jessica who beamed at her. "I'm going to take her into look at the tree, okay Uncle Todd?"
Todd nodded "Sure go ahead."
Vicki's forehead furrowed slightly "You've missed dinner, nearly everyone's gone home."
Todd snapped his fingers "My loss. I need some advice."
Vicki's forehead rose further as she raised one finely plucked eyebrow "My advice, whatever about."
Todd sat on the stairs and gestured for his sister to do the same.
Vicki had learned to never expect when it came to her brother but she had to admit she was intrigued. She sat next to him and waited knowing that Todd would start whenever he was ready.
Todd took a deep breath "Last night when I said I had to go to the Sun I went to the Llanview motor inn and well there's this woman and we..."
Vicki looked at her brother in stupefied amazement "You cheated on your wife on Christmas eve. Todd how could..."
But Todd cut her off "I followed Blair because I thought she was meeting some guy and I don't know why but that pissed me off, well," he added sheepishly "I know why it pissed me off but that's not the point..."
"I can not wait to see what the point is," responded Vicki dryly.
"Anyway she was there in the room that I use to stay in before I knew about the money and being a Lord. We started talking and then we argued, then our song came on an then I, we, we," he met his sister's inquisitive gaze "I made love to Blair. It wasn't just a good time, well it was, but I mean it was way more I wanted her so badly last night and the day after I know I still do. I love her Vicki, I just always have and I always will."
Vicki sat silenced by her brother's out pouring of his emotions. Todd who kept everything bottled up inside him until it drove him crazy. "Does Tea know?"
Todd shrugged "Why would Tea need to know?"
"Because she's your wife."
Todd looked at his sister "Well mostly."
"How are you someone's wife, mostly?" Vicki asked suspiciously.
Todd braced himself "I bought her for five million dollars."
Vicki gapped "I don't think I'm following," horrified understanding struck her and she sighed deeply "I hope I'm not following."
"Let me tell you what happened" Todd began to relate the events of the last few months starting with Brendan's death and Dorian going after Starr to his and Tea's marriage contract and finishing with Ian hanging around Dorian's.
"You are living a Greek tragedy," said Vicki as she digested all the information that had just come to her.
"Can you translate that comment for the classically challenged?"
Vicki kneaded her forehead with her hand "Can't you just tell Blair what you just told me?"
"That I paid a woman to keep her child from her and basically torture her, hmm let me see NO!"
"There is no need for sarcasm." retorted Vicki.
"I asked for your help," responded Todd clearly irked.
"Todd, I cannot wave the relationship wand and get you out of this mess, at some point you are going to have to start telling the truth. Whatever you may feel for or about Tea she is falling in love with you, she's already in love with Starr. You are doing her a great disservice by letting her think she has a chance with you."
"I've told her, this marriage was a business agreement."
"I'm only telling you what I see, do you want my advice or not?"
"Yeah," said Todd sulking
"Fine. Why don't you go back over to Blair's and tell her how you feel. Let her know that you're still in love with her, tell her that you'll ask Tea for a separation or better yet an annulment."
Todd stood "Watch Starr for me?"
Vicki followed her brother's example and stood as well "Of course, Jessie and I both love having her here."
Todd turned and bounded down the two steps and out the door. Vicki sighed he could have at least said Merry...
Todd came back in and quickly pecked his sister on the cheek and then shoved a heavy square package into her hands "Merry Christmas sis, and thanks." Then just as quickly as he had reappeared Todd disappeared out the front door.
Vicki sat back down on the stairs embarrassed at herself for thinking so poorly of her brother. That just shows me never under estimate Todd. She undid the wrapping paper to find a high school yearbook. A tasseled bookmark held a page. Intrigued Vicki flipped forward to find herself in the G's. From the second column Megan's beautiful face beamed. Beneath her name were her honor's, her club memberships, her quote and goal.
Her quote could do nothing else but make Vicki smile "This above all to thy known self, be true." Future goal: award-winning actress.
A folded square of Todd's letterhead was also with the bookmark. In his hurried script it contained few words but spoke volumes about her brother's true character. "Thought you didn't really have a lot of stuff of Megan's so I bought this. (or stole it from her old high school's guidance office, I'm a busy man I can't remember everything I do) Love your brother Todd.
Vicki sat for a long time paging through the yearbook, smiling whenever she caught another glimpse of Megan, one's that she previously had never had before. Her thought's strayed to her brother so determined to be bad but unable to be consistent. God Bless you Todd, she thought warmly.
Todd turned into Dorian's circular drive way and what to his wondering eyes did appear but a silver Dulsenburg that looked like it hadn't been moved in a year. The snow had covered all of it's tracks, proof the Armataige had been here continuously since Todd had left that afternoon. Todd left his car and walked to the front door with one purpose in mind. Sneak around to the back and see what was really going on.
Ian opened the door to Blair's bedroom after gently rapping on it. He was truth be told a little embarrassed at what had occurred between them downstairs. He had been so sure that all of Blair's talk of friendship had been a ploy to attract him. However that changed when she had fled the room in tears. Now he was embarrassed at acting in such an ungentlemanly fashion.
"Blair?" said Ian softly entering her room. From Kelly's tour of the house he knew Blair occupied the room that had once been Kelly's mother when she had been well enough to visit.
Looking like an innocent child Blair lay sprawled across her bed on top of the coverlet. Her hair was down and cascading around her face, which, Ian noticed with no small amount of regret, was puffy from a recent bout of tears. He smiled gently again at how much he had misjudged Blair. A part of him had fully been expecting to find her lying in wait for him wearing some scanty outfit. Instead she was clad in a soft fluffy off white bathrobe.
He crossed the room and gently shook her. "Blair? Blair are you alright?"
Blair rolled over onto her back and yawned a little, then her emerald eyes opened and looked at Ian in surprised bewilderment. ""You shouldn't be here."
Ian sat next to her "Why not?"
Blair sat up and stretched, moving herself deftly so that the side of her breast was just nearly exposed. To her great delight she noticed Ian noticing and staring awestruck for a spilt second before trying to nonchalantly drag his eyes above her shoulders.
"Because I don't want you to have the wrong idea about me, about us, our Friendship."
Ian nodded "I think I may have had the wrong idea downstairs but that's changed."
Blair nodded "Good."
Todd peered through the French doors on the patio. Where were they? The fire was dying down meaning they had both probably been gone for a little while. Digging out his key ring, Todd found the curved skeleton key for Dorian's house that he had gotten from the realtor and slipped down to the kitchen door.
Quickly clearing the coast he tried the door and found it locked. Smiling to himself he unlocked the door and slipped into the house. He slid his shoes off. It wouldn't do him any good with Blair to be caught skulking around her house. 'Although'. he thought in retrospect as he crept down the hall 'when she caught me tailing her last night fireworks went off.'
"So do you want to hear my proposition?" asked Ian with a small note of excitement in his voice.
Blair nodded "Sure."
Ian smiled at her. "I have looked in to your background Blair. I know that when Mr. Manning disappeared you took control of The Sun. You kept the business going and circulation up. You've run your own business and you have a knack for creativity."
Blair laughed "You're reeling off my stats like I'm a racehorse."
"Purebred talent with the moxie and need to win of a mix breed."
"Nay." teased Blair with a wicked gleam in her eye.
Todd hid in Dorian's bathroom, which adjoined the two main bedrooms. He had heard Blair's laugh coming from her bedroom and hurried up the stairs to investigate. One quick peek was enough to work him up to a steady boil. Blair and the Brit twit were sitting on her bed and Blair was wearing some horrible bathrobe. If that's what Ian had got her for Christmas then he had a lot to learn about pleasing Blair Mann... Cramer.
Ian reclined back against her pillows after discarding his shoes. "I want you to come on board at Armataige World Media."
Blair turned and stared at him "What, doing what?"
Ian grinned, "I want you to become general manager of Channel WKSH Pennsylvania."
"Do you own KSH?" asked Blair her mental calculator figuring in another couple million that had been unaccounted for. Ian it was beginning to appear might just have more money than Asa and Todd put together. For a moment just the thought of Todd caused her eye's to sting with unshed tears.
"I do." Ian noticed a single tear run down Blair's face. "Blair about what happened downstairs..."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Well I do."
'Yeah Blair he wants to talk about it', thought Todd. 'What the hell had happened downstairs? Was that why Blair was in her bathrobe? If they had done anything though why was Armataige still in his clothes? Unless he had forced Blair to... Todd's hands curled into fists. If that jerk moved the wrong way angry Blair or not he would kill him.
"Ian, you apologized. I told you no and you took it to mean something else. Besides I guess I could have stopped you if I had really wanted to but maybe a part of me was curious."
Blair had sex with that jerk, willingly. Todd felt sick, physically ill. Last night had really been nothing. Just a couple of losers rebounding. Todd quietly walked through Dorian's room, retrieved his shoes and left the way he had come in. For a few minutes as he walked through the house to the kitchen he had thought about bursting through the door, beating up Armataige and dragging Blair into another room to force her to love him again. But the idea that she and her new lover might laugh at him had stopped him completely.
"If you're sure we're alright Blair?"
"Ian it was just a kiss, it's not the end of civilization as we know it. Now that that's straightened up, tell me more about this general manager job?"
Ian smiled in relief. Blair was turning out to be completely different from how he had ever seen her to be. "Blair, I know that you and television are a match made in ratings heaven."
Roaring toward Llanfair, Todd punched the number three on his cell phone and waited.
"Merry Christmas Briggs's residence," answered Charlie Briggs happily.
"Crachet, it's Scrooge."
"Todd," asked Briggs uncertainly
"Yeah. Listen when you come in tomorrow I want you to have a complete background on WKSH."
Briggs covered the receiver for a minute, as his wife inquired rather loudly "Is that that nut you work for? Charlie tell him to go ruin someone else's Christmas this year."
"Briggs? You there?"
Briggs shot a warning look at his wife before uncovering the mouthpiece "Still here, WKSH the TV station? Anything else?"
"Yeah." Todd grinned, "See if there are any other stations in the same market up for grabs." So Blair was going to run a TV station to show Armataige how terrific she was. Not if he had a station that was twice as good.
The next morning Briggs laid out the performance stats for WKSH on Todd's desk and began his lengthy explanation.
"As you can see KSH has never been a top performer in it's market usually 4 or 5 it does have some rights to broadcasting original shows airing on WABC. Of course the current management team is hoping that since Armataige World Media purchased the station three weeks ago..."
Todd looked up from the picture he was doodling of Armataige being pecked to death by the NBC peacock. "Three weeks? No way Briggs he has to have had it longer."
Briggs flipped through his notebook "Nope, the sale went through on December 3rd."
Todd sat absorbing the new information. Kelly starts hanging on Joey and suddenly Armataige buys a floundering TV station with its central station in Llanview. Then he shows up at Blair's on Christmas Day and offers her the position of General Manager, a power player position...if she what...slept with him. Would Blair really sleep with some rich British guy just to get her own TV network?
Todd jumped up from his desk. "I'll be back."
"Where are you going," asked Briggs nervously pushing his glasses up his nose.
"I found another network, the old WROX channel 9."
Todd stopped thoughtfully at the door. "Isn't that the station that shows all the old horror movies at 2 a.m."
"Yes, although what kind of perso..." Briggs paused and wisely decided to keep his mouth shut. He had his answer to his question right before him. What kind of a person is up at 2 a.m. watching horror movies.
Todd nodded "Buy it. I don't care what it takes. It's a third rate station, bargain."
"How high are you willing to go?"
"Don't get me screwed out of money, but I want that station."
Todd left Briggs alone to ponder what his boss was up too. He gathered together the papers on the desk relating to WKSH. Out of the corner of his eye Briggs caught sight of Todd's doodle. Besides the macabre image of Ian Armataige being pecked to death there was a sketch of a woman who could only be Blair. Blair wearing a pointy witches hat, but still Blair. Briggs sighed; Todd's sudden lust to be Ted Turner was becoming clearer and clearer.
Ian helped himself to another cup of coffee. "I am still terribly embarrassed Blair."
Blair shrugged "It's not your fault your car wouldn't start."
"Even so you've been quite a good sport about everything. I have an idea, get your coat, my limo pulled up while you were in the kitchen; let's go and look at the station and get you settled in."
Blair smiled. She had a few apprehensions about the station, but the thought of actually having something to do with her day excited her beyond words. Her days were so empty without Starr and Melador and the Sun to keep her occupied. With Kelly the enemy and Cassie throwing herself into perfect wife mode to save her marriage Blair hadn't really had anyone.
"You're on, lead the way Mr. Armataige."
Ian laughed and stood offering her his arm "My pleasure Ms. Cramer."
Ian walked her into the foyer and helped her slid into her coat. He followed suit by pulling on his own and together they head out the door.
Todd sat in his car watching them leave Blair's house. Blair was laughing at something that jackass was saying and he was holding onto her arm as though he owned her. Todd watched the limo pull away.
"I am going to bury you Blair. By the time I'm done with you the only job you'll be able to get in television is hostess of an infomercial."
Todd picked up his car phone and dialed Briggs "Well," he asked impatiently
"Four million, Todd."
Todd grinned "Great, have finance cut a check, I'm going to go see what I just bought."
Vicki folded the morning edition of the banner and put it next to her plate. She moved a strip of bacon around with the prongs of her fork but Clint could tell she wasn't paying attention.
"Hmm?" she asked absentmindedly
"Are you alright, you've barely touched you're food."
Vicki looked at him and smiled wanly. "I could have done without that scene this morning."
Clint added some more sugar to his black coffee. "Tea did make a fuss didn't she?"
An hour earlier while Vicki was laying out her planner for the day Tea had waltzed into the parlor wanting to pick up Starr. For the first time Vicki really looked at Tea. How could she have believed her brother when he had said they were in love? Tea was nothing at all like the type of woman Vicki saw Todd with.
"She's still asleep, would you like some coffee?" Vicki asked politely.
Tea sat. "No I just want to pick up my daughter."
The use of the word daughter raked at Vicki as well as Tea's haughty overall demeanor. "Well I don't want to wake her. If you like Jessie and I can keep her till you or Todd finish work tonight."
Tea frowned "Who knows when Todd will get out of work. He worked Christmas Eve, then he sent me over to abaulita's on Christmas day and now Briggs says that he's out of the office on business."
Vicki choked back a laugh. She then allowed herself a very un-Vicki like thought, With any luck Todd and Blair were currently working on another niece or nephew for her to spoil. "Well Tea, surely you know how dedicated Todd is to his paper." And his ex wife, she added to herself.
Tea looked offended "Of course I realize, but his family should be important to."
"Starr is very important to my brother." As is her mother.
"I'm his family too Vicki."
Vicki thought back to her brother's confession last night, of how he had paid Tea to marry him to hurt Blair. "Tea, why don't you come back around 5 o'clock? I had told Todd that Jessie and I wanted to spend some time with Starr."
"But I'm her mother," whined Tea "Just go wake her."
Not by the hairs on your chinny chin chin, thought Vicki.
"Tea, I'm sorry my brother didn't mention our plans to you but I've already made them." Vicki stood and Tea followed. "Why don't you go and get some work done, I'll call if we're going to be late."
Tea flounced out of the house with an offended air.
Vicki stood next to the picture window in the foyer and watched Tea gun the engine of her Lexus and swerve out of the driveway. This was going to get worse before it got better, she thought regretfully. Todd had gotten himself into a hell of a mess this time.
Clint laid his spoon down in his saucer. "So what exactly is going on with your brother," he asked.
Vicki shrugged and picked up the Banner again "I wish I knew Clint, I wish I knew."
Todd walked into the business office of WROX. A portly man of about 60 stood and came around his desk to offer Todd his hand. Todd rolled his eyes and offered his own
"Milton Hershey, and you're Todd Manning, right."
"Please have a seat Mr. Manning." Hershey smiled jovially "Have mine in fact. It belongs to you, or it will come 9 a.m. tomorrow when your check clears."
Todd sat on a small hand tooled leather couch. "Hershey, your station is one of the lowest rated in its market."
Milton Hershey perched on the edge of his desk. He was a small portly man, Todd felt silly for even seeing the resemblance, maybe it was the time of year, but Milton Hershey looked a lot like Santa Claus.
"So it is," Hershey agreed pleasantly enough. "It's been losing money for years, but it was also the first station my father owned so it's a sentimental thing. I remember when I was a boy on Saturday Mornings my brothers and I would watch the Bozo the Clown show on WROX..."
"Very interesting, thanks for sharing. About the station what kind of shape is it in, does it have anything, outstanding repairs, unpaid bills?"
Hershey smiled "No, nothing like that. I'm afraid that the rating slump around here is my fault. I was never very good at the TV game, but father good rest his soul, insisted that since I liked to watch it so much I could run a network."
"How long have you been in charge here?"
"Thirty years this October."
"How did you manage to keep the station running all these years if you were so bad at it."
His smile broadened "Son, I discovered what every successful, but stupid man knows."
Todd waited till it became apparent he was supposed to ask "What's that Milt?"
Milton smiled "I married a very intelligent very beautiful woman who helped me run everything. She was a receptionist at one of my father's factories but I knew the first time I met her that Maggie was something special. She was so smart and she never begrudged me any of the help she gave me." His smile shrank "She died last fall, since then my heart hasn't been in running the station."
"Why didn't you just shut it down?" asked Todd ever practical.
"Because a number of fine people work for me and I didn't want to see them out of jobs. I'm a wealthy man Mr. Manning, but I will say that when your Mr. Briggs called this morning inquiring as to whether or not the station was for sale I was relieved to take your money and drop out of the game."
"How do you know I'm not going to put a bunch of people out of work?"
"Mr. Briggs said you were looking for a television station in this specific market. You're adding on to your media holdings?"
Todd smiled "Not even close."
Hershey tilted his head to an inquisitive angle "Then, and excuse me for asking, Why buy a television station?"
Hershey slid off his desk and walked across his office to the door "Sounds a valid enough reason. Come on, I'll take you on a tour."
Todd followed the bearded wonder out into the hall. "So how long till your out of my office Milt?"
Hershey laughed a deep booming belly laugh "I can be out tomorrow and across the hall."
"Why would you be across the hall?"
"That's part of the deal, until I go senile or crazy I'm staying on as a consultant."
Todd snorted, "I thought you sucked at running a TV station."
"I did, but at least I know how to fake it, I've been doing that for thirty years. You, on the other hand are a babe in the woods."
Todd rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Whatever it takes so long as this is my station."
Kelly rolled over and curled into Joey "Joey?"
"Hmm," answered Joey half asleep.
"We should get up soon.""
Joey rolled over onto one elbow "You're right we should."
Kelly giggled, "Are we going to?"
Joey pulled her into his arms. Last night they had just lain in his bed together discussing the past few years and how much they had missed each other. No sex, not even what Kevin would call second base, but it had been just incredible to fall asleep next to the woman he loved. "No I don't want to get up, what if this is a dream?"
"It's not a dream."
Joey mustered up enough nerve to ask the question he had been dying to ask for the past few days. "Are you and Armataige involved?"
"Involved in what?" asked Kelly innocently.
"Are you together," asked Joey impatiently
"No, we were seeing each other, but I love you Joey, I've missed you so much. I know I acted like a moron I don't know what got into me."
"My knucklehead cousin Drew messing with your mind couldn't have helped either."
"Not really," Kelly sighed, "I thought he was my friend."
Joey kissed the top of her head marveling at the feel of her silky hair under his lips once more. "I almost don't blame him, you're so...you. What guy wouldn't want to take a chance at getting together with you."
"I only know that I'm lucky Joey, you and I are getting a second chance. Most people don't they just go through life wondering about the what could have been's."
Joey kissed her lips gently and then got up. "How about I take a quick shower, and you go into the next room and borrow a pair of Jessica's jeans and a sweater and we'll go swing by Dorian's to grab you some clothes."
Joey laughed "More like lunch."
"I think it's to late for brunch," replied Joey as he pulled a few things from his dresser.
Kelly winged a pillow at him "It is never to late, Buchanan, for brunch."
Joey threw the pillow back at her. "Spoken like a true Cramer."
About twenty minutes later Joey emerged from the bathroom to find Kelly doodling on a spare scratch pad he kept near the bed.
"How do you think Dorian's going to take us seeing each other again," asked Joey
Kelly put the pad back on the nightstand "I don't think she'll care. She's seeing someone, but Cassie and I don't know who. Blair is going to be thrilled though."
"Are you two finally getting along again?" asked Joey praying that the Cramer feud was finally dying down. He knew how much it was hurting Kelly that Blair hated her because of Brendan's death.
"Nope, she still wishes me dead, but if I'm seeing you again that leaves Ian and his piles of money all alone, just how Blair likes her millionaire's." said Kelly wryly.
Joey climbed onto the bed and hugged Kelly "She'll come around."
Kelly felt her eyes tearing up "I hope so Joey, I really do."
Ian escorted Blair out of the station into the waiting limo. "So what do we think of our station?"
Blair got in the limo. "It's going to need a complete revamp. There are a couple of shows that will have to go. Listen I have an idea I want to run past you."
Ian reclined back. "Driver the Palace hotel," the partition rolled back up "GO ahead Blair."
"What if we turned the station into a News network, like CNN but fewer stuffed shirts? We could add a human interest show and maybe an entertainment show. We're licensed to show Siskle and Ebert. We also have the right to carry the Cutting Edge."
Ian searched his memory for a minute "I'm not familiar with the Cutting Edge."
Blair smirked slightly "You probably are, it's the show that Erica Kane hosted before she did time for stabbing her husband. Tad Martin hosts it now."
Ian thought for a moment "I remember reading about some of it. The stabbing part, not Tad Martin."
"He's your typical good enough boy trying to be bad, but he does capture a good share of his time slot, which is our main interest."
Ian watched Blair's face aglow with excitement. She was so beautiful when she smiled, or talked or laughed. God she was beautiful anytime. How could he have missed her beauty and chased after Kelly. Manning was right about one thing, Kelly was a girl while Blair was a woman.
Ian smiled "Yes Blair."
"We're at the Palace."
Ian waited to Geoff to pull up to the front door. The chauffer opened the limo door and extended a hand to Blair and helped her alight from the limo. Ian watched her trim body from the back. Breath taking, he thought, simply breath taking.
Whether she knew it or not this woman was going to be Mrs. Ian Armataige by this time next year.
Todd pulled the Jag into his reserved spot at the Palace. He knew how much it burned Renee that he had his own spot but he had gotten it along with the Lord Millions. He owned a small share in the Palace. Not enough to do any real damage to Renee on a day to day basis but a free membership and a parking spot still came in handy.
Hershey touched the dashboard reverently. "This is a beautiful car Mr. Manning."
"Thanks, listen don't call me Mr. Manning. The only time anyone does is when I'm being arrested or in court, Call me Todd."
Hershey was a little disturbed by that statement but he swallowed it admirably. "Todd, you may call me Red if you like."
Hershey nodded gesturing to his white hair "On account of my hair color."
"Right," said Todd.
Together they walked into the Palace.