"I can't believe she has the nerve to show her face in here. You'd think she'd have the decency to just leave town." Stephanie muttered angrily, watching as Chloe stepped hesitantly into the Pub.
"She hasn't been in for a few weeks. I guess her show is done." Chelsea shrugged, "What's she going to do? Run away? She lives here."
"Ugh, I guess that's true. It's not like her family is here though, you'd think after everything that's happened she'd want to live someplace that wasn't full of her exes."
Chelsea's gaze slid to Max's face as he showed Chloe to a seat, noting his arched eyebrow she said calmly "Salem's really the only home she ever had from what I've heard. I guess she's determined to stay. She's still got some friends here."
Not giving Stephanie a chance to respond, Chelsea slid out of her chair and walked over to the table where Chloe sat alone with a book and a glass of wine. She stopped a foot away and waited for the other woman to lift her head. When she met Chelsea's gaze Chloe said wearily, "Can we skip the part where you call me a slut? I get it. You hate me, I'm the worst woman on the planet and you hope I rot in Hell. Did I miss anything?"
"You missed the part where I say that I'm sorry. I was angry and I said a bunch of dumb stuff." She gestured at a chair, "Mind if I sit down?"
"Go for it." Closing her book, she shifted uncomfortably, her tone suspicious as she said, "To what do I owe this outburst of forgiveness? I seem to remember you leading the charge to have me run out of town on a rail."
"I talked to Daniel. He made a few points about choices and mistakes." She leaned forward and sighed, "And then Max and I talked. A lot. He pointed out that it wasn't like you'd killed someone. I never should have said those things to you. I've done things that were much worse, and people still stood by me."
"Ah. So, my sins were put into context. Thank you for the apology, but I deserved every word." Staring blindly at the cover of her book she said softly, "I'm the one that ruined everything and I don't even know why."
"So you and Daniel aren't together?" Chelsea frowned, "The way he talks about you I just assumed..."
"That we were going to run off into the sunset together? Yeah...no." She shook her head bemusedly, "I don't know what we thought we were doing, but I'm done jumping into relationships."
"So what are you going to do?" Chelsea let her eyes drift around the room, taking in the stares directed at their table, "Are you heading back to Europe to work?"
Smiling grimly Chloe replied, "And leave all my friends in Salem? Never." She shot a disdainful look around the room, smirking at the sight of Stephanie glaring at her, "This isn't the first time I've been less than popular. I got through it then, and I'll get through it now."
"You'll do more than get through it." Nicole plopped into a chair and leveled a cold stare at Chelsea as she spoke, "All of these people sitting on their high horses in judgment of you might want to remember that they've committed their own sins."
Meeting Nicole's gaze Chelsea said firmly, "We were just discussing life after making a mistake. I was just about to invite Chloe to go shopping with me, would you like to join us?"
Nicole smirked, "I'm sure we could all have a fabulous time. Let me know when and where." She ran a critical eye over Chelsea's hair, "We can make a day of it. Get makeovers, maybe even have lunch?"
Chelsea's smile didn't quite reach her eyes as she replied, "How about tomorrow? I don't have class. We can meet here around 11:00?"
"Sounds perfect." Nicole kept a smile pasted on her face while Chelsea waved a quick goodbye to Chloe before returning to her table. "Three generations and I don't like any of them. That's amazing."
Hiding her face behind her book, Chloe snickered before asking "If you don't like Chelsea why did you agree to go shopping with her?"
"I just wanted to see if she was serious about her invitation. We can always ditch her, though she really needs to see a new hairdresser, those streaks are just terrible." She tapped the table, "Enough about her. How are you? I was starting to think you were never going to come back."
"I told you it was a traveling show. 8 cities in 6 weeks." Her eyes dulled, "It would have been so easy to stay gone, but I'm tired of running away. It feels like that's all I've done for years."
Nicole laughed dryly, "So you're at the point of digging in your heels and making a stand? I love it."
"Enough about me, where's the baby? I figured you'd be parading her up and down the streets of Salem."
"Elizabeth is with her father. He said something about them having their own special day out before I left." She smiled wistfully, "They do that occasionally, he'll take her to the park and tell her stories."
"At least someone has managed to get it right. So, when is the wedding?" Smiling at the look on Nicole's face Chloe continued, "I'm shocked you aren't dragging me out the door right now to pick out a dress."
"That can be part of tomorrow's festivities. So, do you have a place to stay? Or are you at the Inn?"
"I'm subletting a condo near Salem Place." She glanced at her watch, "Speaking of which I need to get over there. I'm having some furniture delivered this afternoon. You want to come help me decorate?"
"Sure. As long as I'm not stuck listening to opera all afternoon." She gathered her things while Chloe paid the check. As they headed for the door she said "So, no Lucas, no Daniel, and for the moment you're less popular than me. Hmm, want to sing at the wedding? I promise to make sure there are no tomatoes."
"You just want your guests to have somewhere else to shoot those dirty looks. But since I'll be getting those either way, I might as well get to do something fun while they're going on." Laughing, they walked out of the Pub together leaving unknowingly leaving chaos in their wake.
"What do you mean you invited her to go shopping? Lucas is your uncle. And we're supposed to be hanging out tomorrow. I don't want to spend all day with those two." Stephanie shook her head angrily, her earrings bouncing against her cheeks "I thought you were mad at her too."
"I was for a while, but she saved my grandmother's life. Besides, Lucas is already trying to patch things up with Sami. I don't think they were going to work even without her relationship with Daniel. I didn't have any problems with her before this happened, and I know what it's like to be the one everyone thinks is worthless."
Max pulled out a chair, spinning it so that he could rest his chin on the back once he sat down. He toyed with Chelsea's hand as he spoke, "I saw you guys talking. That was nice of you."
"We're all," She stressed the word as she looked at Stephanie, "going to go shopping tomorrow. You want to come along and help carry our bags?"
"Did I lose a bet?"
"Then why would I want to do that?" He glanced up, nodding at Philip as he approached the table "Maybe you can talk him into it."
"Talk me into what?" Dropping a quick kiss on Stephanie's cheek he took the last chair at the table. Examining their faces he said cautiously, "Why do I get the feeling I should say no now?"
"Because you should." He drummed his fingers on the table, "Unless you like playing pack mule. Or have a particular affinity for walking 20 miles in search of the perfect pair of sandals."
"Ah, shopping as an Olympic sport." He lifted an eyebrow, "Did I lose a bet?"
Max burst out laughing just as Chelsea's hand flashed toward him. Dodging her effort to swat him he nearly fell out of his chair as he gasped, "I told you. No one is going to want to schlep around while four women buy 40 bags of shoes."
"Four women?" Philip shook his head, "I am not following you and your sorority sisters all over the place."
"It's not any of our sisters." Chelsea hesitated, staring at the floor she mumbled, "It's Chloe and Nicole."
Philip's jaw tightened, and Stephanie babbled hastily, "I wasn't going to go with them. I know how you feel about her after what she did to Lucas."
"I'm sure Philip is fine with you going," Chelsea replied caustically, "he knows all about making huge mistakes and being forgiven."
Philip's eyes snapped to meet Chelsea's stern gaze and he forced a smile onto his face as he bit out the words "I suppose you have a point. After all, it's your ex-boyfriend that set out to ruin my brother's life."
Chelsea smiled brightly, "At least Lucas didn't have to worry about his daughter's safety."
His lips skinned back from his teeth as he growled, "Do you really want to play this game with me?"
"You started it."
"And I'm finishing it." Max laid a restraining hand on her arm, glaring at Philip as he said "We're all friends here. No need to rub salt in old wounds."
Stephanie smiled at him gratefully, "Right. You guys are friends. Don't do this to each other, especially not over those two. They're not worth it."
"Whatever." Philip stood abruptly, "I've got some work to do. I'll see you later."
Shooting Chelsea an angry look, Stephanie scrambled after him exclaiming, "Do you need some help? You know you shouldn't work so much."
He didn't reply, stalking out of the Pub before she could catch up to him. As she walked back to the table, Chelsea said sharply, "Well, isn't he a ball of sunshine today?"
"Well, how did you expect him to react?" Stephanie's face was forlorn as she slammed her bag back on the table, "You went out of your way to piss him off."
Chelsea rolled her eyes, "After what he did to Shawn and Belle? He has no room to talk about Daniel or Chloe."