CHAPTER 1

August, 2013

The envelope was marked "MS. BLAIR CRAMER AND MR. JOHN CRAMER MANNING". It was large and fat and was delivered by courier service. No return address was evident. When Blair took it from the deliveryman, a chill ran down her spine. She took it into her room and opened it.

Inside the one large, legal-sized envelope were four smaller ones. Two were addressed to Blair, the large one and a smaller one. Surprisingly, a smaller one was marked for Viki Lord and the remaining two were addressed to Jack, one marked confidential. Blair opened the letter-sized one for her and read it in silence.

Not surprising to her, it was from Todd.

Dear Mrs. Manning,

I'm sending you some papers I should have had prepared before I left town, but as it was a rush job and I had other things I needed to do that were more important, I had them done now and sent to you. The large envelope contains papers I had drawn up for the running of The Sun in my absence. I know you took it as an insult, but I really think the club is a stupid idea. You shouldn't be tending to a small corner of Llanview, populated by kids, some younger than our daughter. You should be commanding an empire, one we dreamed of ruling together years ago. As such, the paper is yours while I'm away. Then, when I do return (and I will be, when I figure out who's behind this mess) you and I will rule it together, the rest of the town be damned.

I'm also sending a note to Viki, but only give it to her if you think she should know what's been happening. She knows something is up and that the excuse I gave her for leaving was bullshit. I'm sure she'll be haranguing you for information, if she hasn't already. But I also know that she's kept secrets about me from you and you have every right not to tell her anything. I trust you in all things.

I have two notes for Jack. One I'd like for you to be there for him to read, the other is strictly confidential. If he's open to the first one, give him the second. If not, hold it until he is open to it. Viki said I was getting through to him and I hope I finally have, although I doubt it, with my sudden exit. (What can I say? He's definitely a chip off the old blockhead.)

I know our marriage was supposed to be a secret, but I get the feeling that won't be for long. Just don't tell Delgado. Or Dorian, for that matter. With her husband's MIA, and her suspicious of every breath I take, I doubt she'll be very supportive of anything related to you and I. And Dorian would prefer you kill me and dump the body in the Llantano River. If you give Jack and Viki the notes, they'll know too, but Jack should and Viki will be there for you, more than Tea or the Head Witch.

And burn this note when you've finished reading it. I addressed it to Mrs. Manning and I don't want certain people under your roof to know anything. And Dorian is liable to snoop around and find it.

I miss you every day.

I love you,

Todd

Blair had a hard time reading the last line. The ink was getting smudged by the tear running down her cheek and hitting the paper. She reached for the large envelope and, as promised, it had the legal paperwork that gave her control of The Sun. She looked at the clock. It was too late in the day to go there and make the announcement, so she decided to wait till the next day to take charge. She picked up Todd's note and laughed a bit. He specifically told her not to tell Tea about their marriage and her sister-in-law had been the first person she had run to. Not that she had actually said the words, "Todd and I got married". Tea had deduced the sex and Blair's silent confession just followed, almost naturally. And Todd had been right. Tea hadn't been supportive…at first. But she replayed the memory of Tea reaching out to her at the Man of the Year dinner after Carl Peterson's speech about sacrifice and reassuring her that Todd would come back. She knew Tea wasn't even sure if Victor would return home to her.

Blair held the other three envelopes, to Viki and her son, when she heard Jack come into the house. He called to her and she asked him to come into her room. When he appeared in the door, she told him to close the door.

"I received a package today," she informed him, holding up the envelope. "It's from…it's from your father." She saw Jack's intake of breath and braced herself for his normal protestation of Victor as his father. Surprisingly, none came. She took that as a good sign. "There were a number of letters in it, as well as legal papers giving me control of The Sun."

"You, running The Sun?" came Jack's incredulous response. He sounded so much like Todd in that tone of voice, it made her miss her husband even more.

"I will have you know, I've run it a number of times over the years. And while pregnant, mind you," she retorted, making Jack break into a smile. "There's two notes here for you. Todd asked that you read this one," she handed him the small envelope, "with me here."

Jack looked at her hand and took it from her. He opened the envelope, took out the note card and took a deep breath as he began to read. After a few minutes, he looked back up at his mother. Blair grew so anxious she asked, "What does it say?"

Jack handed the letter to his mother.

Jack,

I know you still can't stand me, but let me get this out first.

I love you. I haven't said it enough to you from the minute your mom found out she was pregnant with you. And, I'll admit, Viki was right. I'd have loved you even if you were Holden's kid.

Too much time lost. And now, so much more. But in my absence, I'm leaving you an important job. You need to look out for our family. Your mother, your brother, Dani, Tea, Viki, hell, even any of your cousin who are around (okay, maybe not Kevin). We're all in danger. I'm trying to figure a way out of it, but there are people that are pulling my strings and using the people that I love to get me to do it. Your mother will fill you in when you're done with this. But keep an eye out. Be wary of anyone who comes into your orbit. Do I sound paranoid? Good, it's not such a bad thing.

Also, I've given over control of The Sun, in my absence, to my wife. If this is being read with who I am hoping there, you know who I'm talking about. And don't get mad at me. She insisted we get married. I was afraid, I still am afraid, of her being in more danger because of this. Protect her above everyone. I know she can live without me, I just can't live without her.

Since I'm leaving her in control of the paper, I would love it if you would work beside her. You were doing some great stuff, even if it was aimed at me and I want to see it nurtured more. If you do decide to do that, read the other note I sent you. If not, she's gonna hold onto it if you change your mind, she'll give it to you.

I love you, Jack. Take care.

Your Father.

Blair looked up at her son, who was leaning against the dresser in silence. He looked back at her. "When was the wedding?" Jack asked at last.

"We went down to City Hall after you and Sam left that last day," she answered him.

He nodded once. "Why were you crying that night?"

"The keynote speaker was talking about the sacrifices soldiers make, being away from their family, to protect them. Now, Todd's about the furthest thing from a soldier, but the analogy fit and his absences was still fresh that it upset me."

"Is that what you meant by secrets? That you and he got married?" Blair only nodded. Jack shook his head. "You two…you can't stay apart from one another, even though it always ends in disaster. Why do you keep doing that to yourselves?"

"Because we love each other. Despite what your father said, I can't live without him." She patted a spot next to her on the bed and Jack sat there. "If I hadn't been pregnant with your sister when we thought Todd had died in Ireland, I would have flung myself into the ocean to be with him. Just because I have lived without him doesn't mean I actually can," Blair explained. When Jack gave her an incredulous look, she went on. "That was what I meant that night you came home to find me in tears. That kind of love, it's all consuming. I hope you do find love, maybe even that kind, but it comes with great pain too."

Jack decided to let it drop as he took the note from her again. "What kind of danger is he talking about?"

That was explained over the next hour and Jack's mind was reeling. It sounded crazy, but then Blair showed him copies of the notes Todd had received over the past few months. When Blair had explained everything, she told him about Todd's note for Viki. "He's left it up to me to decide if Viki should be let in. What do you think?"

Jack was a bit stunned that he was being asked a question like that. He'd never been let in on secrets, much less big ones like this. A petty part of him wanted it to remain such between him and his mother. But then he thought about the talk he'd had with his aunt about Todd and Victor. He knew how much she loved them both and how much she worried about them. Jack had never really noticed that closeness between Viki and Victor, but it was very clear with Todd. "Does Aunt Viki love Todd more?"

Blair was a little surprised by the question. Her first instinct was to say no, but she shifted through the memories of the three Lord siblings and she realized that Todd and Victor's relationships with Viki were very different, mostly because they were very different. "I don't think it's a matter of loving one more than the other. Todd came into Viki's life at a time she was going through a breakdown. When she came out of it, Todd was there to try and help her and in helping her, she helped him." Blair paused for a minute to collect her thoughts. "The night before we got married for the second time, Todd learned what had been done to Viki when she was a child."

"Victor Lord molested her, right?" Jack asked.

She nodded. "Just before we separated for the night, we had a doctor's appointment and after that, I told Todd I thought I was having a girl. He then dropped me off here and went on to Llanfair to tell the family about the wedding. He also asked Viki about his father…and Viki told him what he had done to her." Jack could see her mother lost in thought. "He was horrified by it and coupled with what he had done to Marty…He also believed that it was in him to do the same thing to his own daughter. He took off and no one knew where he had gone. But Viki eventually did and talked him off the proverbial ledge. Since then, they had a connection."

"But Victor had his memories, right? Wouldn't he have felt that connection too?" Jack asked, trying to sort things out.

Blair sighed. She could see her son trying to understand the odd family dynamics but the Lord tree was so twisted, even she had a hard time with it. "It's just a different relationship. I think, in her heart, Viki sensed the differences in them and that's why she reacts differently to them."

Jack nodded at that. "She's worried about Todd more though." It was a statement and one that Blair couldn't deny. As she nodded, Jack stood up. "Then I think Aunt Viki should know. I mean, I'd want Starr to know if I were in danger, even if after she got me out of it, she never let me live it down."

Blair stood up and hugged Jack. "I agree with that." Then she held up the second note for Jack. "Do you want this?"

Jack looked at the envelope in his mother's hand but shook his head. "Not right now, but soon. I need…I need to think some things over."

She understood what he was saying and nodded to the door. "Come on, let's see your aunt." With that, they left.