"What do you mean she hasn't come out yet?" Brady gestured for Philip to enter his office while he snapped into the phone, "Are you sure she's okay?"

"Nicole's still talking to EJ?" Perching on the edge of the desk Philip said mildly, "Well maybe that's a good thing."

Brady listened to Nathaniel for a few more minutes before hanging up the phone and turning to Philip to say, "EJ's not going to let her leave. I was afraid that this would happen when I let her go back into that place."

"Look breakups can take some time. And they've got to work out custody issues too right? I mean they have a kid together, maybe this is just them trying to get that part hashed out. I'm sure he still wants to see his daughter."

"She's not his daughter." Brady massaged his temples with one hand while he pounded the other on the desk, "Shit, I'm not sure I was supposed to tell you about that part."

"Wait, she's not EJ's daughter?" Philip frowned, "Who was Nicole with? You weren't back in town yet and I didn't think she was fooling around with anyone else."

"She wasn't." Brady grimaced, "You can't tell anyone about this until she's out of that house."

"Scout's honor." Philip raised his right hand, "I'll keep her secret."

"She had a miscarriage. A really really late one." Staring at his desk Brady continued, "It almost killed her. Not just losing the baby, but there was so much blood and she was...it almost killed her. EJ was out of town, and by the time he came back she'd gotten it into her head to adopt a baby and never tell him. She found this girl through her doctor, some teenager that wanted to give up her child and with a little...sleight of hand she pulled it off."

"Oh. Oh shit." Philip got up and walked to the window, "Please tell me that she's not planning to tell him about that today."

When Brady remained silent Philip said caustically, "You might as well send Brandon a condolence card right now. EJ's going to kill her when he finds out. And that's a kindness compared to what he'll do to you."

"Shut up Philip." Glancing at the clock Brady said tersely, "If she doesn't call me in ten minutes I'm going over there."

"No you're not." Philip sighed, "If you show up it'll just set him off. I'll go. He won't be expecting me. With any luck I'll be able to get him to let her walk out without a problem."

"Philip, if you get hurt...Chloe will kill me." Brady let out a heavy sigh, "But you're right, if he sees me I'll just make him angry. At least take Nathaniel inside the house with you."

"Yeah, that and a bazooka should help." Turning toward the door Philip asked, "Where were you two planning to live? I know you weren't taking her back to the house."

"The penthouse. My Dad made some new security arrangements when I told him what was going on."

"Okay. We'll meet you there." He paused to stare Brady down, "Do not go anywhere alone. I'm going to let Sebastian know that you two will need a security detail. Try not to get kidnapped, chipped, brainwashed, or turned into a frog while I'm gone."

"Very funny." As Philip stepped over the threshold Brady grimaced and hurried after him saying, "I can't just sit around waiting to find out if she's okay. I'm coming with you."

"Didn't we already discuss why that's a bad idea?"

"I'll sit in the car." When Philip's right eyebrow winged upward, Brady added "This way no one can turn me into a frog."

Shaking his head and chuckling Philip led the way to the garage. As they split up to get into their respective vehicles Philip muttered to himself, "I hope your Princess is worth it."

At the DiMera estate, Nicole edged backwards out of EJ's reach as she blurted "I had a miscarriage and I didn't know how to tell you. I found this girl, a teenager with a pregnancy she didn't want and couldn't afford. I offered to take the baby, raise her as my own. She's..."

"You're lying." EJ snapped, "Spinning this ludicrous story so I'll let you leave, but I can see right through it. See right through you. This is about your "friend" Brady isn't it? Let me guess, he's been more than happy to devote his full attention to you."

"Brady has nothing to do with this. EJ, I'm telling you the truth." Hugging herself tightly Nicole whispered, "She's not your daughter. She's mine. Legally and emotionally if not biologically. But she's not really a DiMera."

EJ surged to his feet, his hands flying up to rest on the door; pinning Nicole in place as he spoke, "I know you're lying. And I can even understand why to some extent. You're so scared you're trembling and now you think that you need to protect her from me. I would never intentionally hurt either of you, but I know you don't believe that right now."

"EJ..." She broke off when he raised his hand away from the wall, her eyes welling up with moisture.

He smiled ruefully as he stroked his thumb across her cheek, "Dry your tears Nicole. I'll let you leave today, and I'll even let you take the baby with you. For now. But we're not done with each other. I plan to see my daughter every day."

As he stepped away Nicole opened her mouth, but before she could force out a response the doorbell rang. She fumbled at the knob, nerveless fingers refusing to cooperate. Finally EJ stepped close enough to pull it open to reveal Philip and Nathaniel.

"Nicole?" Philip's concerned gaze skated over her pale face, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." her eyes cut sideways to EJ, "Now. I have to get the baby and we can go. I'm all packed."

"I'll help you with her." He smiled blandly at EJ, "Nathaniel will be happy to help you take their bags out."

"Don't think I'm threatened...or fooled by your presence Philip. Brady too afraid to face me like a man?"

"I'm not afraid of anything." Brady drawled from the shadows, "I just don't see a point in talking to you. In fact I was going to wait in the car, but then I decided Nicole could use a friendly face while she escapes this snake pit."

EJ's lips tightened before he said coldly, "So melodramatic. I have no idea what women see in you. Then again, by all accounts it doesn't take them long to figure out that they could do better. Right Philip?"

"I'm not playing this game with you." He glanced at Nicole, "Get your daughter so we can get out of here."

Nicole managed a quick nod as she turned to hurry up the stairs. Brady started after her, and EJ sneered "So eager. They are my family and they will be coming back home to me."

"Do they teach that voice in evil villain school or something?" Nathaniel cocked his head to the side, "All you're missing is a monocle or a hairless cat to really complete the picture."

"Don't forget the smoking jacket. Something in crushed velvet or brocade." Brady commented as Nicole came into view with the baby cradled against her shoulder. "I'll take her."

"It's fine, I've got her." She replied, nervously glancing at EJ's face she added softly "You weren't supposed to be here. This is just going to make him angry."

"Angrier." Brady said with a grin, "Pretty sure he knows that you're never coming back to this hellhole again and he's pouting about being lonely."

"This is their home." EJ smiled tenderly, "My girls will be back here before you know it." He stepped forward, "Can I at least say goodbye?"

"Of course." She bared her teeth in a quick nervous smile, "This is for the best. You'll see."

He brushed a kiss across Nicole's knuckles where they rested on the baby's back before pressing a kiss to the child's head, "I know you believe that right now. Hopefully when we talk tomorrow you'll see reason."

"This is the first time in months she's seen reason. Stay away from them." Brady reached out to steer Nicole away, his fingers coming to rest on her bicep. She flinched away from the touch, almost losing her grip on the baby and Brady's grip tightened reflexively in an effort to steady them both. Seeing the pained grimace shoot across her face, he said "I'm sorry I didn't realize I'd grabbed you so hard. Are you okay?"

Philip and Nathaniel exchanged a look, and Philip gestured for him to escort Nicole and Brady out. Once they were out of earshot he asked "What happened before we got here?"

"That's none of your concern." EJ replied crisply out as Philip stepped between him and the door.

"You know, ordinarily I'd agree with you. But, Nicole and I have gotten to be friends. And I have a bad feeling that when she takes off that shirt tonight, Brady's going to see bruises." When EJ's eyes flicked away, Philip let out a heavy sigh "Ordinarily I'd kick your ass myself, but I don't want to deprive him of the pleasure. Unless you want to wind up in a hospital bed tonight, I'd suggest you find some business to do out of town. Way out of town."

"I messed up, but that's not going to make me run away." He squared his shoulders, staring Philip in the eye as he said "It was an accident. Nicole knows that. We'll work it out."

"You never met Paul, but I got to see some of his handiwork up close and personal. She's not coming back." Philip shook his head, "And even if she did, how long before you had another accident?"


"Keep telling yourself that one. But don't expect anyone else to believe it." Philip walked out, slamming the door behind him.

Alone with the silence and his guilt EJ's bravado crumpled. He pressed his hand against the door, before turning to make his way to the bar. He poured himself drink after drink, gulping them down frantically before abandoning the glass in favor of drinking directly from the bottle.