Monday, 29 August 2011

CHAPTER 6.7: The truth will set you free

Morgan sat on the edge of her bed and allowed the weight of her decision to flow over her, letting it sink fully into her mind.  Every time she had reached this point over the past few months she had been met with resistance, her heart had over-ruled her head and she had retracted her decision.  But not this time. 

Now she knew what she had to do and she would not be dissuaded again.

Settling back against the soft cool pillow, she breathed in his familiar scent.  This had always been Declan's side of the bed, and she had truly believed that it would always remain that way.  But how could it now?  How could it when everything she had ever believed about him was a lie?

Closing her eyes she tried to fight off the flash-backs but she knew it was futile.  They would come to her whether she wanted them or not.  It was unavoidable, and so she allowed them access.
That night when she had retreated to the warmth of her kitchen from the chill of the front porch and her visitors words, Morgan had wanted so badly to just bury all of the accusations and worries that had formed in her mind over Declan's behaviour.  She had wanted to force them back into the deepest, darkest corner of her memory where she hoped they would gather dust and eventually be forgotten, like her childhood toys which were stacked in the back of the garage. 

But she realised that she could not run from the feelings of betrayal, that they could no longer stay hidden from her.  Not her fathers betrayal and not her husbands either.  She knew that she must confront him, then perhaps the truth would set her free.
When she entered their bedroom she found Declan working at his computer typing away, no doubt perfecting his article, and the sound of his fingers against the keypad made her sick.  How could he be so blatant in his deception?

"Can you stop for a minute, we need to talk?"  She asked, swallowing her fears as far down as she could.

"Babe i really gotta finish, the paper's deadline is tomorrow and we print on Friday."  He replied, not looking at her.

"There's not going to be a story Declan."  She replied, calmly.  This stopped his fingers typing and he finally looked up, instantly seeing the seriousness behind her words.

"Honey, we talked about this."  He reminded her, taking both of her slender arms in his hands and squeezing them firmly to reinforce his point, "This story will clear your name."

Morgan looked into his pale jade eyes and saw not one hint of doubt behind them.  He truly believed in his plan, but was that only because he thought she did not know the truth?

"That's not all this story will do is it?"  She asked, watching carefully to see if he would give anything away.

Declan squinted and stepped back, apparently shocked by her questioning, "What do you mean?"  he asked.

Turning from him, afraid to see the lie when it finally registered Morgan replied, "This story is a big deal for you."  She stated, "But then you always knew it would be didn't you?"

"Baby, please.  You're not making any sense."  Declan pleaded, "Where is this coming from?"

"How did you know about the journalists well placed source for his article?"  She questioned, "And why didn't you know that the article about my Dad was being published in the first place?  I mean you work at the paper for God's sake!"

"I write a small section of that paper, they don't tell me everything!"  He replied angrily,  "And ask for that reporter i gave him a piece of my mind, i demanded to know where he got this information from."

"And?  What did he tell you?"  She demanded, unwilling to allow him to continue his deception.

"He told me that a guard at the prison gave him the information."  Declan replied, straight faced.
Her head turned towards him at this admission while her heart leaped at the glimmer of hope he had given her.  Maybe she was wrong after all, maybe he hadn't lied to her.  But then her head spoke up and reminded her of the other loose end, the journal.

Walking over to the desk she removed it from its hiding place and threw it down onto the floor.  "And this?"  She asked, "How do you explain it?"

Declan returned her glare and pointed to the notebook, "You've been snooping through my things?"  He demanded.

"I've been snooping?"  She shot back, incredulous at his accusation.  "What do you call keeping a journal full of information on my father and me?  Why do you have all of this?"

Declan let his head sink, apparently in defeat.  But when his head snapped back up Morgan saw no hint of remorse there, it reminded her of Robson.  "I'm a writer Morgan."  Declan replied, "And you, you have this amazing story.  How could i not be interested in it?"  He shook his head as though he couldn't comprehend her viewpoint.

"How long have you been keeping that journal?"  She asked, her voice wavering at the implications his answer may bring.

"For a very long time."  Came his infuriating reply.

"So the whole time we've known each other, you've been compiling the details of my life's story?"  She asked.
"You make it sound like such a bad thing."  He shrugged, "So i was interested in you, what does it matter now?"

"What does it matter?"  She repeated in horror, "The first day you came to book club and you sat next to me, what was that?  Were you just looking for a way to get more information?  Or did you actually want to know me?  Which is it Declan me or my story?"  She cried as every moment which had ever passed between them flashed before her eyes.  Although the memories were the same they seemed now tinged with darkness and lies.

"I admit that day yes i wanted to find out more about you."  He replied, "I was curious.  It's not like i was alone in that the whole school talked about who your Dad was and what he did."

"So what, you just waited for the right moment to get close to me?  Oh my God!"  She cried remembering the day she had fought with Liz and he had comforted her, "That day in the library when i was crying you were there.  And i thought you were so sweet listening to me complain about everything, but that was all part of your plan wasn't it?  To make me think that you were this great guy that i could talk to?"
"My God Morgan, you're acting like i held a gun to your head or something!"  He accused, "I didn't force you to tell me anything, you needed a shoulder to cry on and i was there for you.  And yes i wanted to hear your story of course i did but i didn't make you do or say anything."

"So when i was trying to decide if i should visit my Dad or not and you told me to go and find out about him for myself, was that for my benefit or all just so you could get the juicy details?"  She asked, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"I was trying to help you."  He replied, his jaw set in determination.

"YOU were trying to help yourself!"  She shouted, the anger suddenly flooding to the fore and bursting free, "But why?  Why did you pretend to love me?  Why not just get your information and sell your story?"

"Morgan i wasn't pretending.  Our relationship may have been founded from my curiosity but our love, my love is real."  He pleaded.

"So real that you sold me out to the paper?"  She asked quietly, "You wrote that article didn't you?  So that you could force my hand into letting you write your story, the story you've been writing since the day we met?"

"Do you have any idea what it's like for me?  I mean have ever even given my career a second thought?"  He demanded.  "Of course not, because it's always been about you and what you wanted hasn't it?  You wanted to wait until we were married and so we did.  You wanted to know what to do about your father and so i helped you!"  He yelled, "But what about me Morgan?  What about what i wanted?"

"I don't understand?"  She replied, afraid his raised voice would wake the children.

"Before i met you i had dreams, big dreams."  He replied, "I was going to be a star reporter, the kind that uncovers gross miscarriages of justice and rights wrongs.  I was all set to win an internship at The Sim City Herald, all i had to do was write the perfect piece, show them that they should pick me over all the other budding writers out there.  So yes i wanted your story, because i knew that it would win me the job i had always dreamed of."  He said, tears showing in his eyes as he admitted the truth, "But i couldn't do it.  I fell in love with you Morgan and i couldn't leave you, not even for my dream job."
"Then why did you do this to me now?"  She asked, shocked by his admission yet still torn between her love for him and her anger.

"Do you know why i write the births deaths and marriages section?"  He asked, wryly.  "Because my colleagues think I'm a joke.  Here i am sitting on the biggest story that Bridgeport has ever had, superstar turned murderer and his kidnapped daughter.  It's right here."  He said grabbing her arms and shaking her firmly, "Right within my reach but i ignore it, like it's not even there.  So my boss put me in the writers graveyard, the place where creativity goes to die.  Nobody wants to write the section i write, it's humiliating.  But I've done it every day since i left school so that i could be with you, so that i can feed our children and keep this roof over our heads."

"So you sold me out because your colleagues pick on you?"  Morgan spat the ridiculous words from her mouth, her fury returning.
"Morgan we needed the money, what they're paying me for this article it's huge.  We can send the kids to private school if we want."

She jerked away from his grasp wiping the tears from her cheeks hurriedly.  "We were doing just fine until you wrote that article, my business was taking off we would have been fine!"  She yelled no longer caring if the children were woken. 

"Morgan please, i need this, we need this."  He begged.

"No!  That story will never be printed do you hear me? Never."  She threatened.

"You don't mean that."  He replied, reeling from the venom in her words.

"Don't YOU tell me what i mean."  She said, forcing the words out slowly through her rage, "You have lied to me for our entire relationship, you have tainted every memory that i have, but you will not humiliate me and my family for money or for your pride."

"If i take away this story now my career is over."  He shook his head, "My boss will never take me seriously."

"I don't care about your career or your boss!"  She screamed, "This is my life that you have played with and I'm telling you that your game is over.  We are over!"

Declan stepped back from her and looked at her as a wounded bird looks up at a cat about to strike, "You're leaving me over this?"  He asked.

"Our marriage is nothing but a lie."  She replied, "I want you to leave now."

"No."  He shook his head adamantly, "I'm not going anywhere, you're angry right now and you're upset but we will work this out Morgan.  We have to for the children."  He pleaded.

"Just get away from me Declan."  She answered holding up the palms of her hands to fend off his apologies, "I can't even stand to be in the same room as you right now."

He hadn't argued further that night.  Declan had walked away, retreated to the couch where he stayed every night since.

The pair had lived a separate existence.  Avoiding each other where possible, treading on eggshells to preserve the scrap of love that remained between them.  But it faded with each day that passed and Morgan knew that their silent treaty could not last.  A choice had to made, she must either forgive him or leave him, for there could be no middle ground, no compromise to speak of.

But a decision of this magnitude was not easy to make.  Morgan's heart was still filled with love for her husband, yet her head told her it was all false, never a real love to begin with. 

But her heart told her to remember what a great father he was.  He loved his kids with every fibre of his being and there was not a scrap of deceit in that.  How could she in all good conscious rip them away from the happy family unit they had always known?
How could she ever explain to them why Mommy and Daddy weren't together any more?  How could she bear to see their little faces wrinkled in confusion?

Yet equally, how could she take him back into her heart and into her bed knowing that he had betrayed her in the most cruel of ways?  Taking her deepest most secret thoughts and attempting to use them for his own personal gain was unforgivable.  Morgan sat up in bed that night knowing what she must do. 

She had to divorce her husband.

Telling him would not be easy, she knew this of course, but she couldn't prolong the inevitable any longer.

"We can't go on like this."  She began, choosing her words carefully.

"Thank God, Morgan."  He exclaimed, "I've been waiting for you to come round, i didn't want to rush you."  He explained, the relief filling his face as he assumed that she was ready to forgive him.

"No, Declan you misunderstand."  She answered, cutting him off, "I've given this a lot of thought believe me I've thought of nothing else, but there is just no way back to where we were before."  She explained.

"Are you ending this?"  He asked, suddenly catching her tone.

Morgan stared into his gorgeous face, seeing the hurt and disbelief registered clearly there.  Her heart lunged once more begging her to reconsider, but her head was in control now and she refused to listen. 

"Yes."  She replied, "I can't forgive what you did."  She added quietly.

"What about the kids?"  He asked, tears welling in his eyes now.

"You'll always be their father, i can't take that from you.  I wouldn't want to."  She clarified, "I think it's best that they stay with me at least until they start school, then maybe we can share custody?"  She surprised herself at how calm she was being, whilst inside she felt anything but.  Her heart was racing and her legs were shaking so badly that she was certain at any minute she would collapse.

"Is this really what you want Morgan?"  He asked.

"Yes."  She nodded slightly, hoping that he would not press her too hard and force her heart back into it's powerful position.

"You know I'm sorry right?  For everything."  He added, "I would never hurt you or the kids."

"It's too late."  She whispered, "I can't forget what you did."
Declan took in a shuddering deep breath and Morgan prayed that he would not break down and cry in front of her.  She knew there was no way she could watch that impassively, her heart would surely melt.  But instead he said, "I'll move out.  I can get a place down town somewhere.  I'll still send you money though, I'll make sure you and the kids are alright."

"I know you will."  She smiled sadly as her heart strings tugged once more.

"Is it really the end?"  He asked, searching her eyes for the truth.

She hesitated at this, returning his gaze, seeing that he was deflated and broken by her words.  Could she really do this?  Could she really walk away from their life together?

"It has to be."  She said finally.

It had not been easy for her to rebuild herself or her life after Declan left.  In truth all Morgan had wanted was to curl into a ball and hide away.  But she knew if she gave into her depression she may never come out from under it and so she threw herself into rebuilding her business. 

She contacted the paper and made them print a retraction of the article which had smoothed the way for her to contact the parents who had been her client base previously.  Most of them had returned and eventually the article was forgotten.

Throughout the darkest of her days there was one constant that had kept her from sinking, Howie.

He had been there to make sure she got up out of bed on a morning.
And to make sure she remembered to eat.  Again she found herself wondering how she had allowed their friendship to fade into the background, when now she couldn't imagine life without him.

The triplets adored their uncle Howie too, and although Declan visited often the children soon formed a strong bond with Howie which Morgan thanked her lucky stars for.

On the day of the triplets birthday their bond with Howie was plain for all to see.
Yet some found it harder to swallow than others.

Morgan had expected this day to be difficult.  She hadn't really spoken much to Declan since their divorce was finalised, other than when he picked up the kids or dropped them back off again and even then it was only the briefest of courtesies.  But today was their children's birthday and she knew that she had to make the best of the situation for them at least.

However as Declan surveyed the happy scene it seemed that he was set on ruining the day for everyone.

"I'll take MY son."  He snapped, seeing Howie playing with an excited Oscar.

"Of course."  Howie smiled, trying to avoid the anger in Declan's voice by handing the boy right over.

"Don't think i don't know what you're trying to do."  Declan whispered as Howie passed the boy to him.  Howie gave him the briefest of shocked looks but kept his lips pressed shut.
The mood shifted as Declan got his way and he proudly introduced Oscar to his cake, assisting him in blowing out the candles on the rainbow coloured treat.

As the eldest of the triplets clapped, his eyes wide with joy everyone gathered around to take at look at his new appearance.

His soft emerald eyes, were his fathers yet the hair was still all Morgan.

Morgan swiftly scooped up Olivia and presented her with the delectable lilac frosted cake helping her middle child to extinguish the flames from her candles.

Then she happily gazed down at her newly acquired form.  Her bright auburn hair  was all her fathers yet her aquamarine eyes were her mothers proving that Olivia was still the exact opposite of her brother.
And finally Odette's turn came.  She blew out her own candles with such determination that Morgan had to laugh, Odd was ever to do things in her own unique way.  She grew up as different from her brother and sister as could be, with a flourish of white blond hair and the palest pastel green eyes Morgan had ever seen.

As Morgan saved the last of the cake into the fridge for later she sensed Declan behind her, turning to see him gathering the plates and stacking them familiarly into the dish washer.

"I'm glad we could share today."  He said softly, "I've missed you."

Morgan turned to see the hope in his face, could he really still believe there was a chance between them?  She had hoped the divorce would help him realised that it would never happen.

"We're apart for a reason Declan."  She replied, crushing his hope.  "Or have you forgotten what you did?"

She turned and walked away immediately not wanting to prolong the awkwardness a moment longer.

Declan closed his eyes and listened to Morgans footsteps grow gradually further from him.  It was difficult for him to be in the house they once shared, seeing her and his children so obviously happy without him around.  It felt like a knife in his heart. 

Sighing he swallowed the pain and headed for the triplets bedroom hoping to say goodnight before he left.

But once again he found an unwelcome guest taking his place.

"I should have known you'd be here."  He spat unkindly, "But then you never could wait to take my place could you?"

"Declan please this isn't the time or the place."  Howie cried holding up his hands to implore for peace between them.

"You know Morgan hates me because she thinks i played a game with her, that I'm not who she thinks i am.  If she only knew just who the biggest fraud in her life was."  He gestured to Howie in frustration.

"I understand you're upset but please think about the kids, they don't need to see you like this."  Howie reasoned.

"Maybe it's time everyone saw you for what you are Howie.  why don't you just come clean?"
"Declan!"  Morgan warned, walking in on the little scene, "Leave Howie out of this, our problems are nothing to do with him."

"Oh i think they're everything to do with him."  Declan countered, his confidence growing now.  "You still don't see it do you?  I may not have always been straight up with you but he."  Declan spat pointing animatedly at Howie, "He has lied to you your whole life."

"That's enough Declan, just get out!"  Morgan snapped.

"What!  You don't want to know the truth Morgan?  I thought that was what you wanted."  Declan laughed, "Well let me help you out since Howie here still can't man up."

"Your best friend, your brother."  He spat the word distastefully, "Your saint Howie is in love with you."  Declan finished.

"Don't be ridiculous!"  Morgan snorted, shaking her head at Declan's outburst.

"You don't believe me?"  Declan crowed, "Ask him!"  He challenged.

"Howie?"  Morgan looked at him the laughter preparing to fall from her mouth, but the look on Howie's face told her that this was no laughing matter.  His face told her that Declan was telling her the truth now.


The cakes in this chapter were made by the ever so talented Scones ~ find them at her blog HERE

Thursday, 25 August 2011

CHAPTER 6.6: The tangled web we weave

Morgan's child minding service had taken off after her first client had spread the word that she was such a natural with kids, and soon she found a queue of parents lining her front lawn each day.

Her most recent client was Mrs Hemlock who's daughter Bellisima was a real handful.  It was obvious to Morgan that the family were vampires, their tell tale eyes shone advertising the fact to all and sundry.  Not that it mattered to Morgan, she was well aware that most vampires were friendly and subsisted on a diet of plasma juice rather than the real stuff

Yet Oscar and Olivia avoided Bellisima at all costs, apparently afraid of her rather fierce temper and scary outward appearance.
The best part of working from home was that Morgan could keep an eye on Odd and could devote more time to helping her youngest learn to speak.  She had made some small improvements, Odette could now say "Ga" and "Jo", not exactly fully formed words but a start never the less.

Odd, unlike her brother and sister didn't show any fear when faced with Bellisima.
As the vampire child angrily forced a square peg into a round hole, Morgan watched as Odd toddled over to her and plonked herself down.  Bellisima regarded her warily, the child obviously wasn't used to being approached, no doubt a downfall of her scary disposition.  Odd picked up a rectangle and slotted it into the correct hole as Bellisima watched with interest, taking the square and placing it in the correct gap.

Morgan watched on in awe of her tiny daughter, although her fears remained over her inability to speak she realised in that moment that Odd had many other qualities her other two children did not yet possess.

When Declan arrived home that evening Morgan told him all about Odds day and the partial words she had almost uttered.  Swooping her up from the floor he began tickling her, "Who's my clever girl?"

"See i told you, she's just taking her time that's all."  Declan told Morgan, "Can you say Dada?"  He asked Odette.
Odd opened her mouth and an expression of concentration passed across her face.  Morgan and Declan held their breath in unison as their baby tried to form her first word.

Odd let out a breath of air and said "George".  Declan frowned and looked at Morgan mouthing "Who's George?" to which she shrugged in response.  "Say Mama"  Declan tried, but Odd had seemingly had enough of speaking for one day and instead just pointed to the floor and giggled.  "Well George is a good start i suppose."  Declan laughed, kissing Odds forehead and putting her to bed.

"I think she'll be just fine."  Morgan smiled as Declan nestled close to her that night, "So what if she hasn't picked it up just yet!  You know Odd's kinda fearless and i love that about her."

"Me too."  Declan replied placing a kiss on Morgans cheek.

One week later.........................

Morgan waited on the porch step for the parents to show up.  Impatiently she checked her watch, it was already a quarter after nine and not a single one had shown.  It just didn't make sense, she had gotten nothing but positive feedback from them, why would they not show up now?

Sighing she paced the front porch for another twenty minutes before giving up and heading back to the nursery.  She checked her phone but not one single parent had called to cancel.

As she was about to put the phone back in her pocket the caller ID flashed up showing that Howie was calling her, strange since his work at the lab usually began early.

"Hey?"  She answered, worry tinging her voice from his unexpected call.

"Hi."  His voice came, soft and calm revealing no panic whatsoever, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, except none of my kids showed up today.  Can you believe not one parent called to let me know?"  She grumbled.

"I guess they all saw it then."  Howie replied.

"Saw what?"

"Oh Morgan, I'm sorry i just assumed you'd read it."  Howie apologised.

"Read what Howie, will you tell me what's going on!"  She demanded, her patience wearing thin.

"There's a story about Robson on the front page of today's newspaper.  I think you should go and read it."  Howie said quietly.

Morgan snapped the phone shut and rushed to the front porch snatching up the paper and taking in the front page story.

There it was in bold print;

Robson Colt eligible for parole!

Murderer Robson Colt has now served his minimum sentence and will apply to the parole board for release as soon as next month.  His case will no doubt be supported by his daughter Morgan Traytor who was spotted visiting her killer dad just last week.  A source tells us that she has become a regular at Bridgeport Penitentiary and that she plans to speak on his behalf in the hope that her testimony will secure his release.  If they get their way this despicable Sim could be walking the streets of our fair City by Christmas.

Morgan tossed the paper aside, unable to read more.  How could they print such lies?  She had no intention of helping her father gain his freedom, in fact she had been toying with the idea of speaking against his release at the parole hearing instead.  But how did the reporter get this information?  How did he know she had visited Robson at all?

And then it struck her the woman who blackmailed her!  She had been there when Morgan visited and she would have heard about Robson's parole from her jail bird boyfriend.  She had warned Morgan that she would be sorry if she didn't pay up but Morgan never imagined she meant this and now her fledgling business was ruined because of the article.

Morgan felt the sting of bitter tears prick her eyes, things had just began to get on track, the families head was just above water with the extra money coming in and now it was ruined.

The next call to flash up on her cell was from Declan,  "Honey I just saw the front page, how are you holding up?"  He asked, his voice laced with fear and worry.

"How can they print these lies?"  She sobbed.

Declan remained silent, apparently conflicted between his devotion to the press and his wife, "Morgan don't worry, we can get a retraction printed if we make enough noise, actually....."  He fell silent again and Morgan could hear him tapping his pen rapidly on the side of the phone evidently forming a plan, "I have an idea, but let's talk later okay?"

"Okay."  She agreed, dejectedly.

Declan's plan was that he would write an article, refuting the claim that Morgan would support her fathers bid for freedom and telling her story of how growing up with Robson for a father had been.

"Do you really think it's a good idea?"  She asked, biting her lip in concern, "What if it makes things worse?"

"It won't."  He dismissed her concerns off hand, "This is a great opportunity Morgan.  You can finally tell your side of the story and everyone will see that you are not your father."

"It may be a great story Declan, but it's still my life."  She replied.

"And who better to write it than me?  Your husband who loves you and knows you better than anyone?"  he cajoled.  "I promise you won't regret this.  We'll have all your customers back soon."

Morgan smiled at his words of encouragement, but she couldn't shake the feeling that Declan was rather more excited over how writing this story may boost his career not reinstate hers.  She soon put these thoughts from her mind when she realised that not only had her customers read the story but her family had too, she needed to make a phone call to her Mom pronto.

The phone call had been tense to say the least, however Morgan had convinced Kaya, Jackson, Howie and Noah to attend a family dinner where she would set them straight on her relationship with Robson and get their opinion on the article which Declan had already begun writing.
The first to arrive was Noah, fresh from his graduation ceremony at the military academy he was just about to commence his four year stint in the army but before that he had four weeks R&R back at home.

"Hey what's with the hair little bro'"  Morgan teased lightly, greeting him with a great big hug.

"It's standard army issue."  he grinned, "You like it?"

"I'm sure you'd be gorgeous no matter what."  She laughed playfully brushing his cropped mane.

"So you think i could stay here while I'm at home?"  He asked awkwardly, "I really don't want to stay with Mom and Dad."

Morgan furrowed her brow, she had assumed that their little feud was behind them since Noah had seemingly loved his time at the academy according to the letters he sent her.  "It's kinda crazy around here what with the babies and all."  She replied.

"Believe me I'd take three babies over bunking with twenty sweaty grunts any day."  He joked, "I'd be no trouble if that's what you were thinking."

"Of course i wasn't.  It's okay with me if you want to stay but I'm afraid i had to sell your bed so it'll have to be the couch."  She said.

"Hey no worries i always travel prepared."  He winked nodding to the sleeping bag that was strapped to his army kit bag, "This baby goes everywhere i go."

At that point Kaya breezed into the house and made a bee-line for Noah, enveloping him in a big hug, "Sweetheart it's so lovely to see you."  She exclaimed, "How long will you be home for?"

"Um, four weeks but if it's okay with you and Dad I'm gonna stay with Morgan."  He admitted.

"He wants to get to know his nieces and nephew better, don't you Noah?"  Morgan prompted, not wishing to antagonise her mother more than necessary.

"That's a wonderful idea."  Kaya replied, sweeping Morgan into a hug. 

As she made her way to the dining room Noah whispered, "Think she's been drinking?" before breaking into a laugh.  Morgan nudged him in warning but the smile on her face told Noah that she found him funny.

"I think this story is an excellent idea."  Jackson said, after Declan had talked up the piece he was writing.

"I have to agree with him."  Kaya nodded, "You shouldn't have to pay for what some hack has written."

"It's not necessarily the writers fault."  Declan cut in, "Apparently he had a well placed source."  Morgan shot him a look, she had not told anyone about the woman's threats or of her suspicions that she had sold the information to the paper, so how had Declan found out about her?  He seemed to have read Morgan's body language and said nothing further about it.

"Well i suppose if it's what you all think is best then I'll tell my story."  Morgan submitted.  She realised that what her family were saying was true, the article would put the fears about her involvement with her Dad to bed and hopefully restore the parents faith in her, but she disliked the idea of turning the article into a full blown story on her life.  She didn't really want the whole City to know her deepest, darkest shame that she still loved Robson despite his crimes, he was her father how could she not? 

Yet the love she bore him did not erase the fact that he belonged in jail, of this she was certain.  In the brief times that she had visited him his intense stare and emotionless voice had convinced her that no good would come from his release.

As she cleared the plates while the rest of the family cooed over the triplets Howie caught Morgan alone, "Are you sure this is what you want?"  He asked her.  It was typical of Howie to know her true thoughts, he always had been a mind reader as far as Morgan was concerned.

"It's the right time i suppose."  She answered him, avoiding his question.

"If you don't want Declan to publish the story then tell him, he will understand."  Howie replied.  Morgan smiled but didn't reply, she didn't want to reveal to Howie that she suspected Declan would be anything but understanding, he had made it clear that this story was his big break and Morgan knew that he would be angry if she took it away.

"Hey i don't suppose you kept any of my old files when you sold my desk did you?"  Howie asked, changing the subject expertly, "It's just i was working on something yesterday when i realised i had already outlined a formula back in my school days."  he chuckled.

"Yeah i kept a bunch of papers and notepads, they're upstairs in the desk drawers in my bedroom."  She replied, "You'll have to go look yourself Howie, my hands are kinda full."  She sighed gesturing to the stack of plates she was carrying.

Howie rifled through the desk drawers searching for his notepads when something else caught his eye.  He fished it out from it's hiding place and began to peruse it.  It looked like someone had been compiling information on Robson Colt for a very long time as the journal was filled with clippings from back as far as the time of his arrest and to well before hand when he had been a famous actor. 

Howie knew that the writing in the journal did not belong to Morgan, he would recognise her girlish scrawl anywhere.  He could only assume that the research belonged to Declan.

"Did you find what you were looking for?"  Morgan asked, popping her head around the door.

"Have you seen this?"  Howie asked, gesturing to the journal on the desk, "It's a bunch of information on your father."

"Well it's probably Declan's research for his article."  She replied, dismissing his concerns.

"It can't be.  Some of this stuff looks old, like it was written years ago."  Howie replied.

"So what are you saying Howie?"  Morgan snapped.

"Just that it seems strange that he has all of this information."  Howie replied, unwilling to back down.

"So what?  You shouldn't be snooping through his things."  She yelled.

"I wasn't snooping you told me to come up here."  he pointed out, "Look it was Declan's idea to do this story right?  Well what if that was his plan all along, before this article came out."  Howie added.

"So what he orchestrated the whole thing huh?"  She snapped, angry now, "I suppose he told the woman to threaten me too?"

"What woman?  What aren't you telling me?"  Howie asked, concern shadowing his pale blue eyes.

"A woman, a visitor at the prison she tried to get money out of me.  She said if i didn't pay her I'd be sorry."  Morgan explained, "Don't you see it was her who gave the reporter the information on me.  Declan is just trying to help me."

"What makes you think it was this woman who talked to the reporter?  You said she wanted money not to humiliate you."  Howie pointed out.

"So i guess she got paid for her information."  Morgan replied.

"Maybe."  Howie agreed, "Or maybe she had nothing to do with it.  Think about it Morgan, Declan works for the Tribune why didn't he know about the story sooner?  And why didn't the reporter contact you to get a quote before the story was published it doesn't make sense."

"That's enough Howie!"  Morgan yelled, "All of this has been hard enough without you trying to create another problem."

"Morgan i....."

"No!  Just leave Howie."  Morgan ordered, folding her arms across her chest.

"I'm sorry i......i just thought you should know about this."  Howie gestured to the journal which he placed back in the drawer before leaving Morgan alone.

Morgan flopped onto the bed and pulled a pillow over her face trying to block out Howie's words.  He had never liked Declan, she had always known that.  Not that he ever spoke his feelings but she could see the way he tensed up whenever Declan was with her, if he held her hand or brushed her cheek Howie seemed to cringe as though Declan was somehow not good enough for her.  But his accusations were ridiculous, it had to of been the woman she was behind the story, Morgan just knew it.

Noah woke up and stretched out his back from his nights sleep on the floor.  His first thoughts were of Shay.  It had been months since he had seen her last but the attraction he felt towards her hadn't dampened whatsoever.  Flipping open his cell phone he dialled her number, she answered swiftly sounding pleased to hear his voice and agreed to come right over.
When he first clapped eyes on the young adult version of Shay his breath was almost taken completely away.  She had always been pretty but now she was simply stunning as she stood in the doorway giving him her trade mark flirty look.

"Hey handsome."  She purred, "Nice hair cut."

Noah's hand flew instantly to his cropped do rubbing it self consciously as he walked over to her.  Just as he was about to reach out and stroke her cheek the door opened and his cousin Travis walked in.
"Whoa, what's up with your hair man?"  He exclaimed, reaching to Noah and scruffing his hair roughly, "So i guess you're a proper soldier boy now huh?"  Travis laughed.

"Hey man."  Noah replied, confused at his sudden arrival, "My Mom tell you i was back?"

"Nah, Shay told me you called her up, so i figured I'd come see ya."  It was then that Noah realised that Travis had his hand pressed against Shay's hip.
Then he noticed the way Travis was staring at her, the familiar look of a couple in a relationship.  They were here together!

"Hey can i go check out the triplets?"  Travis asked, "Last time i saw 'em they were just babies."

"Sure go on up, Morgan should be up there with them."  Noah managed to reply.
As soon as Travis was out of ear shot Noah turned on Shay, "What the hell are you playing at?"  He hissed.

"Oh Noah relax."  Shay said, acting as though turning up with one of his friends was no big deal.

"Relax!"  He yelled, "What are you doing with Travis?"

"I'm seeing him."  Shay replied flippantly.
"Come on Noah, don't be mad.  You didn't expect me to just amuse myself while you were gone did you?"

"What about the last time i was home, were you with him too?"  Noah demanded.  Shay shrugged her reply indicating that she may have been with Travis, maybe with someone else.  "I can't believe you!"  He yelled.

"It's not a big deal unless you make it one."  She purred, siding up closer to him.
"I thought you liked to live dangerously."  She whispered in his ear seductively.

"This isn't some kind of game Shay!"  Noah replied, "You're supposed to be my girl."

"I'll still be yours."  She soothed, "I came right over didn't I?  Next time I'll make sure Travis doesn't tag along."  She began running her finger across his chest, "You look so sexy in that shirt."  She purred.

Noah ground his teeth and set his jaw, this girl was so infuriating.  On the one hand he wanted to slap her face for the way she was treating both him and Travis, keeping them both on her lure.  But on the other her playful seductive hints were intoxicating, goading the danger loving junkie within, and he found that this was the side that won out.

Shay leaned in to kiss him and he didn't turn away.  Noah kissed her with the fierce passion that brewed inside him, he knew it was wrong but he could not resist her.

While Declan was holed up working for hours on end perfecting his article Morgan tried to keep herself busy.  Any time she let her hands become idle she found that Howie's comments would play unbearably on her mind making her doubt everything.  She busied herself in the kitchen clearing the dishes and scrubbing the worktops until an overwhelming feeling that she was being watched came over her.
Looking up she dropped her dish cloth in horror as she spied the woman who had threatened her standing right outside on her porch.

Furiously Morgan stormed to the door and stepped into the crisp night air.
"What the hell are you doing here?"  She demanded, seething, "Haven't you caused enough damage?"

"Huh?  Look i want my money."  The woman replied, she seemed on edge and Morgan noticed that her clothes were thread bare and filthy.

"Well you're not getting a penny from me.  Why don't you go spend the money you made selling your lies."  She countered.
"You better pay up!"  The woman shouted, her hands balled into fists.  Morgan flinched expecting the woman to take a swing at her but when she looked again the woman had started to sob, "I gotta have that money."  She wept.

Morgan regarded her warily, what kind of stunt was she trying to pull?  "What about the money from the story?"  She asked, swallowing hard as she anticipated the woman's reply.

"What story?  I don't know what you're talking 'bout." 

Morgan realised instantly that this woman had nothing to do with the article that had been printed, looking at her here and now it was obvious that she wouldn't have had the foresight to plan something like that.  Her demand for money had been born from desperation at her own situation.
"Look i know i was outta line the other day but you don't know how it is trying to raise a baby all by myself.  An' i tried ya know?  I moved in with my friend but Garcia found out and made me leave, he gets jealous ya know?"

"Look slow down."  Morgan replied, "Just tell me why you asked me for money?"

"I jus' figured you had a rich daddy an' you live in this swanky place."  She gestured to the house.

"And you didn't talk to the reporter from the paper?"  Morgan clarified.

"It's got nuttin' ta do with me."  The woman confirmed.
It was then that Morgan heard a baby crying, instinctively she turned toward the house thinking it was one of the triplets but then she realised the sound was coming from the porch.  Rounding the corner she spotted the toddler, unsuitably dressed for a cool evening and sitting on the cold wood floor.  "Is this your son?"  She asked.

"Uh huh, little Rocco."  The woman answered, scooping the boy up, "You see i can't get no money of my own, i got ta take care of him all day."  She whined.

"That doesn't give you the right to threaten me."  Morgan pointed out.

"I'm sorry."  The woman replied, "I just got desperate."
Morgans heart went out to the woman and her poor child.  She couldn't imagine how she would cope with a baby all alone if Declan was in prison.  It couldn't be easy for her.

"I suppose i could help you out."  Morgan offered.

"Really?  Just a couple a hundred to tide me over."  The woman perked up.

"That's not what i meant."  Morgan shook her head, "I run, well i did run a child minding service.  I could take little Rocco here for you if you think you could find some work."

"Oh i can get a job over at the diner, I know the bus boy over there."  She answered, "But it don't pay much."

"That's OK, you don't have to pay me."  Morgan replied, "I'll take Rocco free of charge until you get back on your feet."
"You'd really do that for me?"  The woman exclaimed, "Why?"

"Looks to me like you just need a helping hand.  Look I'm a mother too i understand how tough it gets."  Morgan replied.

"T-Thanks."  The woman replied seeming unsure.  Morgan figured it must have been a while since someone did something just out of kindness for her, probably because the hardened exterior she showed the rest of the world scared them off!  Morgan couldn't help but think of Bellisima and Odd and the unlikely friendship they had formed and was once again touched by the sweet nature of her youngest child.  Who knew that a toddler's actions could be an inspiration to her mother?
When the woman had finally left, agreeing to return with Rocco once she had her job in place Morgan remained on the porch allowing the implications of her visit to sink in.  If she hadn't been the reporters informant then that left the number of suspects at just one.  Declan. 

But how could she believe that her own husband would betray her in such a way?  Could it all have been a means to an end for him?  Having the negative story published had meant that he could force his own article into the paper, boosting his career by exposing Morgan.

She couldn't believe it was true, but no other alternative came to mind and the evidence had begun to stack up.  She stayed out on the porch until the chilly air caused goose bumps to appear on her skin, shivering she went back into the warmth of the kitchen, yet the chill remained.  It would stay with her until she got to the truth.