The Glamorous Life

by Nicole & Rob

Standard Disclaimer: This story is a complete work of fiction. The authors do not know any of the celebrities mentioned in this story, their sexual preferences, or any other such things that are quite frankly no one's business but their own. This story may contain descriptions of sex between consenting adults of both genders, so if you are under the age of eighteen, depictions of such acts are illegal in your area or are contrary to your beliefs, this is as far as you go. Don't say you weren't warned. Now, with that said, on with the show!

Chapter Two: The Game of Love

After Cassidy had fed and watered Taylor's cats and dog, she straightened up the mess he'd managed to leave his house in, made sure to lock the place up, and made her way to her Black Mercedes for the thirty minute drive back to her own house in Beverly Hills. As she drove, she couldn't help but to agonize over this date she'd effectively forced Taylor to go on, wondering how things were going for her friend. She almost pulled over to the side of the road and called, but managed to contain herself at the last moment, certain that Taylor would have called her already himself if things were not going well. Cassidy prayed silently that this wasn't just some rich whack job fan who had somehow managed to slip through the more stringent security and fan mail filtering system that the studio and the network had insisted on since Orlando had taken it upon himself to out Taylor in front of a live audience. In spite of Taylor's words, she couldn't help but to feel at least partly responsible for what had happened.

She remembered how Taylor had fretted over how viewers would react to him now that they knew he was homosexual, but in the end all his fears had been mostly unfounded. Granted there had been the usual hateful diatribes from the "all fags must die" crowd whenever she or Taylor made a public appearance, with some even threatening to boycott the show unless Taylor was fired, but the outpouring of love and support from fan and non-fan alike had both startled and humbled most, if not all, of the cast and crew. The show had even climbed from number three to number one in the ratings, overtaking the all-powerful Young & the Restless as the most popular show in the daytime lineup, much to the surprise and amazement of studio and network execs alike, and to the never-ending amusement of Cassidy and Taylor, whom the studio had insisted continue to be seen together as often as possible, giving further credence to the never-ending round of gossip that Orlando outing Taylor had been nothing more than a ploy to get fans to watch.

As she drove, Cassidy wondered for the millionth time since that night how her bastard of an ex had managed to finagle his way into being a presenter, let alone for the Best Actress category. Everyone involved in the production of the show would have known better than to put Orlando Bloom down as the presenter for that category given the acrimonious nature of their divorce. Cassidy had her suspicions, but until she had real proof, she would keep said suspicions to herself. She pulled up to a busy intersection, her mind wandering as she tried to come up with anyone who might want to hurt Taylor like that, but again she came up empty-handed. Sure, daytime could be a cutthroat industry, with the constant jockeying for favor and leveraged plays for top billing that were the norm for all aspects of Hollywood life, but Cassidy was friends with most, if not all, of her former co-stars, many of whom had come out vocally to support Taylor.

There were the select few, however, who had tried to attack her, be it professionally or personally, both in person and through the media, over the years, but those unfortunate souls had learned quickly that Cassidy was not a woman to be trifled with. One particularly vocal foe had even gone so far as to try to threaten Cassidy's four-year-old daughter Abigail, at which point she was quickly made to understand how Cass had earned the nickname "The Pit Bull of Daytime." Cassidy had made it her personal mission in life to destroy the woman's creditability in the industry, not stopping until the woman was unable to get a job anywhere on any of the major shows on daytime television, and even some of the shows in the primetime lineup. After that, Cassidy had quickly become known as the one person in daytime that you did not cross if you hoped to continue to work in television.

She looked up in surprise as the people in the car next to her began to scream her name, blowing their horn and waving furiously, obviously trying to get her attention. This was the one aspect of celebrity that Cassidy could never get used to, this constantly having to be on her best behavior for fear that one bad word from one disgruntled fan would ruin the reputation that she had fought so hard to build over the past seven years. The fans could be wonderful, as evidenced when she was pregnant with Abby. Several of her fans had crocheted beautiful baby gifts, many of which Cassidy had kept for Abby to use when she had her own children, but there were other times when she asked herself why she even did this to herself day after day. She'd tolerated a lot during her meteoric rise to the top of the daytime mountain, mostly at the hands of critics who had labeled her "a flash in the pan, two bit actress who couldn't hope to equal the success of Susan Lucci and Erika Slezak," but she had simply brushed the haters off, and in her own inestimable way, gone on to prove each and every one of them wrong. She had worked tirelessly to hone her craft, making herself a household name in the process, and garnering herself five Emmy nominations, three of which she'd won.

And that's two more than Miss Lucci has, baby! Cassidy thought cattily as she smiled at the other cars occupants, of which all happened to be male.

The professional attacks were one thing, and she could take those for what they were: jealousy on behalf of insecure older divas at someone perceived as a threat to their status, but the personal attacks had become something completely different. From the moment news of her relationship with Orlando had become the talk of Tinseltown, the press had taken great pleasure in raking her over the coals, her every word and action scrutinized, her every decision second-guessed. It had quickly gotten to the point where she had threatened to break up with Orlando, who had cried and begged her to reconsider, and as much as not having him in her life anymore would have killed her, she'd reached a point where she just could not handle the pressure anymore. When the press had found out that she was pregnant, they had taken to stalking her when she went to the doctor, reporting on her every move with gleeful maliciousness, especially once she had begun to show. The catty comments about her weight gain had triggered a mild bout of anorexia, which in turn had made Orlando so furious that he had called a press conference, begging everyone to allow his wife to have their baby in peace, but to no avail.

The pictures of her when she had been released from the hospital, looking tired and sick from having had an emergency cesarean section after one of the paparazzi, in his zeal to get a photo of her while she was out shopping, had run her car into a light pole on Santa Monica Boulevard, had turned out to be the breaking point, even for the fans. They had demanded that the tabloids leave Cassidy alone, even boycotting magazines like Star and The Enquirer to get their point across. It had worked for a while, as the press had left her pretty much alone until Abby had turned two, but then the feeding frenzy began anew, her every move again being catalogued and critiqued. God forbid she should ever come out of the house looking anything less than spectacular—every hair in place, makeup flawless. Those seemed to be the pictures that everyone wanted to see, her looking less than her best. The hellcat in her wanted to scratch the eyes out of every paparazzi she came in contact with, but she had learned her lesson quickly after the one and only time she had allowed her temper to run away unchecked resulted in her being fired, for breach of the ethics clause in her contract no less, from the top rated daytime series where she had just been moved up to front burner status. Since then, Cassidy had learned to swallow every biting comment and backhanded compliment with a smile and a dismissive wave. Swallowing her irritation now, she waved and blew kisses at the men in the car next to her, peeling away with screeching tires as soon as the light changed.

When she finally arrived at the luxurious seven-bedroom house that had been Orlando's "gift" to her in the divorce settlement, Cassidy groaned when she saw that his car was in its usual spot in front of the garage. He wasn't scheduled to see Abby until the following Friday, and since today was just Wednesday, she automatically went on high alert. Ever since the debacle at the Emmys, Orlando had become persona non grata in her life, and Cassidy had gone out of her way to avoid any kind of confrontation with him, minus the occasional telephoned screaming match that had become par for the course over the past few months. She'd even gone so far as to not be there when he showed up on Fridays to take their daughter for his regularly scheduled visitation to cut down on the amount of residual anger she harbored for his little Emmy stunt, but that didn't meant that the resentment she'd felt toward him for almost ruining Taylor's career, and her friendship with him, hadn't been festering inside her.

She pulled into own her parking spot, checking her emotions before she got out to face whatever Orlando might have in store for her. Abby was home and not feeling well, and she knew that, no matter what, she wouldn't allow her own contentious feelings towards Orlando ruin his relationship with their only child. She looked into the rearview mirror, smiling at the distinctive emerald green eyes with their frame of sooty colored lashes that had become her trademark.

Orlando had said time and time again that her eyes were what he'd fallen in love with first, followed by her keen wit, intelligence, and her self assured smile. She had always been described as "exotic;" her Latin heritage evident in her honey-brown complexion and multifaceted brown hair, but her eyes, with their distinctive jade coloring, thick dark lashes and slightly tilted almond shape, had come courtesy of her Caucasian father. Orlando told her that combined, all of these traits gave her the kind of enigmatic sensuality that most men found hard to resist, and Cassidy had learned to play to that early in her career, starting in her days as a bit player on a now defunct soap. There, she had quickly been moved to front burner status because of what everyone believed to be her talent and tenaciousness, but in reality it was because the producers of that show had realized what a real treasure they had in the young woman with the catlike green eyes. It was those very same traits that found her now, some eleven years since her first appearance on that soap, heralded by some as one of the best actresses on daytime.

I wonder what my father would think of his little girl now? She thought with a sad smile of the father who had passed away when she was barely old enough to remember him. The loss of her father, and the resultant void in her life, had made her almost fanatical in her desire to ensure that Orlando and Abby had a good relationship, no matter how rancorous Cassidy's own feelings remained towards him. Thoughts of Orlando flooded her mind, and Cassidy's mind was drawn back in time to the day, almost six years ago now, that she had met the young up and coming actor who had quickly stolen her heart, and whom she still carried a torch for.


Cassidy and Taylor had gone with several of their cast mates to the 500 th episode party for their series, which had taken the world of daytime television by storm. Even now, over two years since its premiere, Temptations still had critics and fans alike raving, and it seemed most of the women in the country had fallen head over heels in love with Taylor's chiseled good looks, boy next door charm, and rugged sexuality from day one. The men on the other hand, fantasized about the naughty, and not so naughty, things they would do to Cassidy to make her smile the smile that sent many a male's heart a-racing, and had those men scrambling to do her bidding, both in real life and on screen.

The dynamics and chemistry between Cassidy and Taylor also had a lot to do with the enormous popularity of the show. The sexual tension between their characters sent pulses racing, and even though they were portraying brother and sister, albeit by adoption, that had done nothing to stop the rampant flirting that had begun between their characters onscreen, and which turned the thermometer up a notch every time the two of them entered the room. That sizzle had been apparent from the first day of shooting—their personalities meshing perfectly. Cassidy became the loving, if somewhat bossy, older sister, and Taylor assumed the role of rabid protector of Cassidy, and later Abby, and soon the two of them were joined at the hip, which had led to endless speculation about the true nature of their friendship. Cassidy and Taylor were both uncharacteristically mum on the subject, preferring to allow people to think whatever they wanted, and as neither was willing to divulge the true nature of their relationship, this only succeeded in adding fuel to the fire.

Of course, all of this was a moot point since Cassidy had been under no illusions about Taylor's preference of partners since the night when they had been working late at the studio on a love scene between Taylor's character Dylan and his wife Rebecca, for whom Cassidy was acting as a stand-in. Taylor had been having a difficult time concentrating all evening, something that hadn't escaped Cassidy's attention as she'd fast reached the point where she was threatening to slug him if he didn't take his head out of his ass and hit his marks. He'd glared at her in anger, frustration leading him to snap angrily, "Well I'm sorry Miss Saunders, but you don't have the right equipment to get me off!" before storming off in a huff, leaving Cassidy to stare after him with her secret suspicion now confirmed. She had gone in search of him, and the two of them had talked long into the night, after which Taylor made Cassidy swear not to breathe a word of his secret to another living soul. She had promised, but not before she had given him something to think about first.

"You need to get your fine ass out of the closet Taylor!" she snapped, smiling to take the sting out of her words. "Because sooner or later, something or someone is gonna come along that's going to drag you out kicking and screaming regardless of whether you want to or not. At least this way it would be on your own terms."

"I will soon... just not yet," was his answer every single time Cassidy had tried to get him to come out, and things had gone on that way for several years. Taylor dated whenever he could, and he was always careful not to get caught with his man of the moment. The night Cassidy met Orlando, Taylor was still firmly in the closet, and had shown up with one of their costars, Christina Darrien, on his arm.

The cream of the crop of daytime television had shown up to congratulate Cassidy on her latest endeavor, so she had definitely not been lacking for male attention for the majority of the evening. The fact that she attended these functions with Taylor often worked to her advantage, since he would disappear as soon as they got through the doors and would not resurface again until it was time to leave. At times it seemed she could barely turn around before another of her former co-stars, each hoping to attract and hold her attention, had come up to offer their congratulations. Most of the time the ease with which she could get her way with men amused Cassidy, a fact that was usually never more apparent than at industry parties, but tonight it just reinforced for her the vapid and shallow nature of life in the tiny segment of American pop culture known as soap operas.

Cassidy had been on her way to the bar, having used her empty glass as an excuse to disentangle herself from the latest of her admirers, or rather potential suitors—one of the older leading men who had a penchant for indulging just a little too much in the plethora of liquid refreshments available at these parties—when she felt someone watching her. She stopped where she stood, smiling absently at this and that person who came up to greet her, eyes scanning the crowd. Orlando stood off to one side, holding a martini in one hand and a small plate of cocktail shrimp in the other, watching her progress as he tried to extricate himself as painlessly as possible from the clutches of a notoriously outspoken and equally outlandish actress from one of the primetime shows, who also had a thing for younger men. He deftly excused himself, smiling politely but declining when she propositioned him outright. He made his way to where Cassidy stood still surveying the crowd, slipping up behind her as she sipped her drink.

"I do so hope you're looking for me," he said softly, smiling at her. Cassidy had blushed to the roots of her hair, but being the artfully seductive temptress that she was, decided to play dumb and see what happened.

"Well hello...but I have no idea what you're talking about," she said coyly, smiling at the man with the beautiful hazel eyes and dark brown hair, her fingers itching to run through the mass of unruly curls. His smile spread, revealing dimples in both of his cheeks.

"I think you do," he stated, offering her a hand. "My name is Orlando Bloom, and you are the famous, or infamous depending on whom you ask, Cassidy Saunders. No need to smile at me beautiful lady. You had me from hello."

Cassidy had almost spilled her drink because of that comment, which had gone far towards piquing her interest in him, but she'd also found herself laughing at his fairly accurate summing up of her status among her soap opera acting peers. They had spent the rest of the evening enjoying themselves, laughing and chatting as they got to know each other better. When Orlando had asked her out for the following weekend, she had accepted, but only with the stipulation that her friend Taylor should be allowed to chaperone. Orlando had agreed, rather amused at the prospect of having to be chaperoned at this late stage of his life, and the date had gone off without a hitch, even if Taylor had seemed standoffish with Orlando at first. Looking back, Cassidy wondered if maybe her friend had seen something that she herself hadn't wanted to see.

She and Orlando had dated for about nine months before marrying in an intimate ceremony in the backyard of the house she still lived in, attended only by a handful of friends and family, followed by a blowout reception at the Beverly Hilton where the crème de la crème of Hollywood and daytime had come to wish the happy couple well. Abby was born eight and a half months later, thanks in part to the paparazzi, but in spite of the accident, Cassie was convinced that her life couldn't get any better. That is, until Orlando began to show signs that he wasn't really of the mindset to settle into the kind of sedate family life that Cassie craved for herself and Abby, and their house of cards had begun to crumble. When word of their divorce hit the newsstand, Cassidy had received a letter from a fan that said in part, "...Even though your marriage didn't work, you shouldn't blame yourself for it. Sometimes life has a way of moving out what shouldn't be there to make room for the blessings that are to follow." Those words had stuck with her through the worst of the divorce proceedings and had helped her to realize that, no matter how much it batters and bruises your heart and your spirit, life does, in deed, go on.

***End Flashback***

Realizing that she'd stalled long enough, Cassidy gathered her things and prepared to enter the lion's den, so to speak. She was under no illusions that this was a social visit, as Orlando was currently riding high atop her list of people she'd like to have killed, so she was prepared to wage whatever kind of battle she needed to get him out of her house with the least amount of muss and fuss. Seeing as how Orli had long been known for his astounding ability to annoy the hell out of her just by being in the same room, she knew tonight would be no exception to the all-out warfare that they had been engaged in since the demise of their marriage.

Cassidy was aware that the fact that she had been dodging his phone calls since the night of the Emmys had not gone unnoticed by her ex, and that this evening's festivities could have the makings of the final showdown between herself and Orli. She only prayed that Nina would be able to distract Abby from seeing, or hearing, whatever ugliness went on between her and Orlando, but since Nina had been with the family since shortly after Abby's birth, and had herself broken them up when the fighting was threatening to become physical, she was well aware of the true nature of the relationship between her employers and had always done everything in her power to shield Abby's innocent eyes from the harsh reality that her parents often fought like cats and dogs, thus far having managed to keep Abigail out of the crossfire.

"Mommy!" a flying blue blur shrieked, followed closely by a smaller brown and white one. Abigail Callista Bloom, or Abby for short, flung herself into Cassidy's waiting arms, smothering her mother with kisses while her new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, Blue, barked himself into a frenzy, running in circles around Cassidy's feet. "Daddy come see me Mommy!"

"So I see, but how was your day, baby? You feeling any better?" Cassidy asked as she carried her daughter back inside the luxurious house that, up until a few months ago they had shared, sometimes happily and sometimes not, as a family. She placed Abby on her feet, looking around cautiously, not wanting to run into Lando before she'd had a chance to get Abby back to her bedroom. "Where are you?" she mused under her breath, unaware that she had actually spoken aloud until Abby answered her.

"Daddy in the livin' room Mommy," Abby replied sweetly, smiling up at Cassidy. Cassie returned the smile, leaning down to pick her daughter up again and carrying her back up the stairs to her bedroom.

"Come on baby, let's get you back into bed," she said softly, kissing Abby's still feverish forehead. Nina waited in the hall, silently assessing her employer as she waited for Cassidy to bring Abby back upstairs. She and Nina had become fast friends when Nina had come to work for them right after Abby was born, and Cassie valued her friendship more than words could say. Cassidy knew that she would never have survived the past seven months' ordeal if it hadn't been for the constant love and support that Nina and Taylor had given so freely. "Nina..."

"Yeah, I know. Already taken care of Boss Lady," Nina stated. The look that passed between the two of them reassured Cassidy that Nina had already made arrangements to keep Abby occupied, so Cassidy felt confident in leaving her child in Nina's capable hands so that she could go deal with Orlando.

"Hey Cookie, Mommy needs to go downstairs and have a talk with Daddy. Nina's gonna stay up here with you, and once Daddy leaves, I'll come back and tuck you in, okay?" she stated, kissing Abby again, and then watching as Nina led her back into her bedroom, closing the door firmly behind them. Cassidy sighed, clearly not in the mood to deal with her ex, but knowing that he would not leave until he'd said whatever it was that he felt was so all-fired important. She made her way back downstairs, pausing briefly outside the gigantic sunken living room to marshal the forces, so to speak, but Orlando's voice called out to her, letting her know that he was well aware of her presence.

"You might as well come in Cassie. I'm not going to bite you," he said, sounding remarkably civil compared to what Cassidy had been prepared to deal with. Cassidy still went back on high alert; knowing as she did just how malicious her husband could be, especially when he was sounding almost human. She said a silent prayer and then entered the room, standing face to face with her now ex-husband.

Even though it had only been six weeks since the Daytime Emmys, Cassidy was struck anew at just how little Orlando's look had changed over the last few years, even given his penchant for hard drinking and hard living. His dark brown, wavy hair was badly in need of a cut, but then, she'd always preferred him with longer hair, saying it gave him an air of masculinity that was very becoming. When he'd come home from Tahiti, where'd he had been filming Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Cassie had taken great pleasure in running her fingers through his then shoulder length hair, and had even taken to washing it for him. His hazel brown eyes, which millions of women would have given their eye teeth to have staring into theirs, now regarded her warily, as if afraid of how she would react to his being there uninvited. In the beginning, Cassidy had been as mesmerized by those flashing eyes as the rest of his legions of fans, but that was before the tarnish had worn off their relationship. Back then, all he'd had to do was glance at her longingly and she was on fire for him, but she'd learned quickly that those beautiful brown eyes could turn the coldest shade of black in an instant, usually when he had been drinking, and those were the times that she had learned the hard way just how difficult loving Orlando could be.

"How have you been?" he said finally, breaking their silent truce. She watched him, still wary, but slowly relaxing as she went to sit on the sofa.

"I've been fine Orli, but why are you here?" she asked in her usual forthright manner, which made Orlando chuckle in spite of himself.

"Always the impatient one Cassie...but that's one of the things I always loved about you," he replied. When she seemed about to say something, he continued, "I came by because Nina told me Abby was ill earlier when I called, and I was worried. I am still allowed to be concerned about our daughter's welfare, aren't I?"

"Of course you are. I wasn't trying to imply that you weren't," Cassidy stated evenly. "You know that you're always welcome to see Abby, but I'm just curious as to why you're still here now that I'm home."

"Damn it Cass, I just wanted to see you and talk to you, and this is the only way I could, since you obviously aren't accepting my calls anymore," he replied bitterly. Cassidy had the decency to blush, averting her gaze as Orlando continued to scrutinize her carefully as he knelt on the floor in front of her. "I-I know you probably won't believe this, but I miss our family."

"You're right Orli. I don't believe you," Cassidy replied coolly, her gaze now assessing. "Now why are you really here? Were you hoping that Taylor would be here too so you could see firsthand what kind of damage your little pronouncement caused?"

"I know what I did was wrong Cassidy, but damn it, I was hurting too you know!" he replied, frowning when Cassidy snorted incredulously. "It's true! I know I hurt you and Taylor, but I was angry because you always seemed to put him before me. Whenever anything good happened to you, you ran to tell Taylor first, and that hurt! Everything was Taylor this and Taylor that!" Softening a little, he said, "And God help me, I realized that the day I let you go was the biggest mistake of my life. I had just lost the only two people in the world who meant anything to me..."

"You sure as hell have a funny way of showing how much you missed me," Cassidy retorted, "but I must say, you did a bang up job of hiding your so called heartache. Hell, the ink was barely dry on our divorce decree before you were seen all over town hanging onto whatever bimbette or wannabe starlet you could get your hands on! And don't give me that crap about always turning to Taylor either, because you checked out of this marriage long before I did!"

Orlando stood up, frustrated and angry, but knowing nonetheless that they needed to get these things out into the open. "That's not true and you know it! I loved you Cassidy, but you just seemed to want to get farther and farther away from me as time went on, and I just don't understand why. Why didn't you love me anymore?"

"Oh Orli, I never stopped loving you. I just stopped showing you because you didn't seem to care one way or the other how I felt," Cassidy replied, sighing deeply as the walls surrounding her pain began to crumble and the truth began to spill forth. "You and I used to be a force to be reckoned with. When we first got together, you made me feel like I was the most important thing in your world, and then when Abby was born, you were so happy... I don't think I've ever seen you as content as you were when you held her in your arms for the first time. So I deluded myself into believing that you were actually ready to settle down with us and be a real family, but then you changed. It was like you were rebelling against everything Abby and I stood for. You started partying, staying out all night... Sometimes you didn't even come home at all, and when you did finally decide to grace us with your presence, I could smell the women on you, and Orli, that was what hurt most of all; knowing that you were cheating on me. I could deal with the boozing and partying, because hell, I did it too, but your infidelity was what drove me to kick you out more than anything. The fight with Taylor that last night was just the final straw. So excuse me if I didn't seem to want to be here anymore, but I knew I could never stay with someone I couldn't trust."

"I didn't know. God, I'm sorry Cassie...about everything," he said softly, pulling her up and hugging her fiercely. "And just so that you know, I did care... I still care," he added softly after an interminable silence. He kissed her gently, caressing her cheek as his lips lingered on hers for a moment before releasing her and moving away, going to the doorway but Cassidy's voice stopped him.

"I still love you too Orlando Bloom, and I probably always will," Cassidy stated, her eyes shining with mischief. "After all, I could never stay angry with the man my daughter believes can slay dragons just for her."

The first real smile of the evening lit Orlando's face at the mention of his daughter, the one bright spot in the mess he'd made of his marriage to the woman he still loved. "Is it okay if I go say goodnight to Abby before I go?"

"Of course silly. She's still your daughter too, you know," Cassidy replied, settling down on the couch with her copy of the next day's shooting script open on her lap to study once he'd disappeared upstairs. She said a quick prayer of gratitude for things having gone as well as they had, knowing that it could have quickly disintegrated into a shouting match the likes of which would have been fodder for the grist mill for weeks to come. She finally felt at peace about how things had gone in her marriage, and having the truth out in the open about her knowledge of his infidelities had gone a long way toward cleansing her heart of the malice and animosity she'd carried towards Orli for some time. She knew it would be a while, but she knew that now they were both on the road to finding forgiveness.

Maybe now I can start rebuilding my life, Cassidy thought with a smile. Shaking off her thoughts of him, she quickly returned her thoughts to her script, trying to concentrate, but instead allowed herself the chance to relax, and soon she was sound asleep.

Orlando came back down a few minutes later, peeking into the room with the intention of telling Cassidy good night, but he paused when he saw her, a gentle smile blossoming. She sat slightly slumped over on the couch, her reading glasses askew, and her daily script in serious danger of being eaten alive by the sofa. Her hair had begun to creep free of the topknot that she usually wore around the house and had fallen over her closed eyes, giving her a sweetly angelic look in repose. He rescued her script, laying it on the coffee table in front of her still open to the page where she had left off reading, and then caressed her cheek, his heart fluttering just like it had done every single time he'd touched her from the very first moment that he'd met Cassidy all those years ago at the anniversary party for her show. He watched her sleep a little while longer, his fingers pushing a stray strand of hair from her cheek, and then pressing a tender kiss on her forehead, he turned her around to lie flat on the couch, covering her with the afghan from the back of the reclining chair before kissing her one final time.

"I take it you two finally talked," Nina said from the doorway, smiling as she watched the scene unfold in front of her. Orlando turned to her with a small smile playing around the corners of his lips; truly content with the way his life was going for the first time in a very long while.

"Yes we did... and thank you Nina for all the advice you gave me about how to talk to Cassie," Orlando said, moving over to stand in front of the woman his ex-wife counted among her best friends. "I really appreciate your not shutting me out after the divorce was finalized, even though I know you probably hate me, and I especially appreciate how much you love my wife and daughter. Will you take care of them for me while I'm gone?" he asked, referring to his upcoming plans to be out of the country for at least the next four months working on his newest project, the sequel to the immensely popular Pirates of the Caribbean.

"You don't even have to ask," Nina replied, smiling at her former employer as she walked him to the door. Just as he was about to walk out, she put out a hand to stop him, smiling gently at the obviously love-struck young man. "All you have to do is be patient Orlando. Cassidy does still love you, but I think underneath all the anger and hostility, she's trying to reconcile herself to wanting someone who has hurt her so badly. You just need to keep showing her that you believe having her and Abby back in your life is as important as you say it is, and she'll come around. Maybe by the time you come back she'll be ready to consider letting you back into her heart, but be warned: I won't stand for you hurting her again. It broke my heart to have to hold her and listen to her crying herself sick every night over the hell you were putting her through during the divorce, and even more so before then, and I refuse to let you hurt her and Abby like that anymore. So if you're even the tiniest bit unsure about wanting your family back, please, just let them go so they can find some happiness."

"Nina, you know as well as I do that I screwed up in some ways that I will never be able to forgive myself for, but my family means everything to me, and if I have to fight for them, then bring it on," Orlando said, his eyes glinting with steely resolve. "I love my wife more than I can say, and my little girl is the only perfect thing I ever did, so I'll do whatever it takes to get back into Cassidy's life... and into her heart."

"Well you certainly have your work cut out for you. Right now Cassidy doesn't trust you as far as she can throw you, and that's your biggest obstacle. You need to help her rebuild that, but know that if you hurt her, you will answer to me—and that won't be pretty," Nina said just as resolutely. Even though she had been a witness to many, many fights between her employers, she knew that the main reason they'd fought so much was because Cassidy loved Orlando with all her heart, without rhyme or reason or room for anything or anyone else, save Abby, and Cassidy had been in an almost desperate battle to save her marriage while having to appear to the whole world as if her life was not falling apart around her.

"Yes ma'am!" Orlando said, saluting smartly before he kissed her quickly on the cheek and headed out into the night, bound for his home in the San Fernando Valley. For the first time in several months he felt the weight of loneliness and indecisiveness lifting, and the prospect of getting his family back buoyed his spirits considerably. While he had never been the most patient of men, for the chance at having Cassidy in his arms again he would show the patience of a saint if need be. One thing was certain; no matter how much he loved Cassidy and wanted all to be as it had been before, the road ahead would not be an easy one. Too much time and too much water had flowed under their bridge for them to ever go back to what they had been at the beginning. They would have to build something new out of the ashes of their former life, but he was ready for the battles ahead of him. Now all he had to do was begin the slow and arduous process of winning back his ex-wife's trust.

On the other side of the city, Taylor was slowly allowing himself to have a good time. He had been incredibly apprehensive about coming in the first place; had it not been for Cassie nearly dragging him here herself, he wouldn't have come at all. It's not that he was afraid of meeting new people, especially new guys, but ever since the explosion at the Emmys he had been even more cautious with how he handled his life. He had been the target of many people's hate since that night, as had Cassie to a lesser extent, which pissed him off royally, but Cassie consistently told him not to worry about how it might affect her. She knew as well as he did that their names had been synonymously linked to one another in the eyes of the world not long after the premiere of the show; one could hardly mention Taylor or Cassie in a conversation without mentioning the other. Taylor tried hard to take the comments in stride, but his resolve was slowly weakening.

Going out in public these days always seemed to be nightmarish. Everywhere he went, it seemed the paparazzi were on his tail. There was constant speculation about who his new boyfriend would be, or whether the entire thing was just a publicity stunt in order to mask the secret relationship between him and Cassie. So, it went without saying that having dinner at a restaurant, especially one as prestigious and upscale as Luca's, with another guy made him nervous. What made him more nervous was that his dinner date was as famous, if not more so, than he was. Taylor seemed fairly certain that he had not been followed, but he couldn't be completely sure of that nowadays. If anyone got wind of this, and especially who his dinner companion was, it would be tabloid fodder for months.

"You okay?" his dinner date asked, concern evident on his face. "You got quiet all of a sudden."

"Yeah, I'm fine," Taylor said with a smile. "I just got lost for a moment in my thoughts."

"Oh, okay. You know, I'm really glad you came. I was starting to think you weren't going to show. My agent said that Cassidy Saunders forced you to come."

Taylor looked a little guilty. "Sorry. I hope I haven't offended you by that. It was nothing personal against you, it's just that being seen around me right now isn't exactly the smartest of moves for anyone," Taylor said, lowering his voice, "especially if they are still hiding in the closet."

Taylor's rich baritone made shivers run up and down his date's spine. "Well, if anyone says anything, then I just have to make up an excuse. Besides, who would ever think of suggesting that Justin Timberlake was gay?" Justin said with a sly grin. "Any paper that printed that would be bombarded with hate mail."

"It's too bad that didn't work for me," Taylor said, and then grinned. "Cassie said it should have been obvious to the world that I was batting for the other side because I was too sexy to be straight."

"She's right, you know," Justin said quietly, which caused Taylor to blush. "I take it you work out?" he asked, eyeing Taylor carefully, trying to imprint the man's physique into his mind.

"Every day," Taylor said, subconsciously flexing his muscles. "'Soap stars don't have to just look good; they have to look beyond perfect,'" he continued, mimicking Alex's favorite rant. "My director says that all the time. He likes to fuss at me over my hair, but I've told him time and again that no matter how much the stylists work on it, as soon as they're done, I'm going to fix it to the way I like it. So far, there have been no complaints from the rest of the world about that..."

Justin noticed that Taylor had drifted off again, so he asked, "So how are things going for Cassie now that her divorce is final?" Ever since Justin had made up his mind to go after Taylor, he had read everything he could get his hands on to find out as much information as he could about the man. He knew just about everything, down to Taylor's shoe size. To say that he was just a little obsessed with knowing every little detail about Taylor would have been an understatement. Of course, to find out all about Taylor meant doing double research duty—he had to find out a lot about Cassie as well.

Taylor looked up in surprise. "She seems to be doing fine, especially since the bastard hasn't shown his face in a long time," Taylor growled, which startled Justin a little. Taylor's brown eyes, Justin noticed, normally had a playful sparkle to them, but the moment he'd mentioned Orlando Bloom, Taylor's eyes quickly become cold and angry.

"That's a good thing though, right? From what I read in some of the news reports of the divorce proceedings, it sounds like the guy was pretty harsh to her."

"Her, me, whomever got in his way. Aside from Abby, no one was immune," Taylor responded thoughtfully.

"Abby. That's their daughter, right?" Justin asked.

"Yeah. She's a sweet little four-year-old girl. Speaking of which," Taylor said, a thought occurring to him, "would you excuse me a second? I'm going to call Cassie and check on her. Abby's been sick in bed all day."

"No, not at all. Go right ahead," Justin said with a big smile, "as long as you promise to come back."

"I will," Taylor said as he stood up. "I'll be back shortly." Taylor left the table and went outside to call Cassie so he wouldn't disturb anyone else's dinner.

Dialing her home number, the phone rang a couple of times before he heard Nina's voice come on the line. "Hello, Saunders residence."

"Hey Neen," Taylor said with a laugh. "I'm still trying to get used to you saying that now."

"Taylor, how are you?" Nina said joyfully. While she was also one of Cassie's best friends, forty-six year old Nina Villarreal often regarded both Cassie and Taylor as the children she was never able to have. She loved them both dearly and was always concerned about their welfare. When the Emmy debacle occurred, Taylor was mortified, Cassie was pissed, but Nina was almost out for blood. In the beginning, she had liked Orlando well enough, but her opinion of the man quickly changed over the years, and there were times where she had tolerated him only for Cassie and Abby's sake. If Orlando had been serious in his desire to change and get his family back, she hoped she would be able to learn to like him again.

"I'm doing well, but more importantly, how's Abby?"

"Why don't you ask her yourself? The little monster won't go to bed!" Nina teased as she handed the phone to Abby who, despite being sick, seemed to be a bundle of energy.

"Taylor!" Abby screamed into the phone, so loud that Taylor had to pull the phone away from his ear. "Taylor, guess what? Guess what? Guess what?"

"What? What? What?" Taylor replied, mimicking the child's exuberance.

"Daddy come to see me today!" Abby said excitedly. Taylor quickly felt a pit forming in his stomach, unsure of what to say. The words foremost on his mind were inappropriate to be said to Abby, and he was startled when Abby said, "Taylor? Taylor! Where you go?"

"Sorry Sugar," Taylor said, calling Abby by his pet name for her. "That's wonderful," he continued slowly, trying hard to mask his disdain for the man.

"Yeah, an' he said that if I feel better on Friday, he's gonna take me on a pony ride!" Abby shrieked with glee.

"That's great!" Taylor said, trying hard to be happy for Abby. While he hated Orlando with a passion, he did have to give the man credit for trying to do right by his little girl. "How long did you get to visit with him?"

"A coupla hours," Abby said, "an' then Mommy came home an' made me go back ta bed."

Taylor could almost hear her pouting on the other side. "Abby, your mommy wants you to get better, and sick little girls need their rest. Well, I need to go, Sugar. Give Nina a kiss for me and give her back the phone, okay?"

"Okie Taylor. G'night," Abby said before handing the phone to Nina.

"Hi Taylor, I'm back," Nina said, "and I know what you're going to say. Give me a second." Taylor waited patiently while he envisioned Nina leaving Abby's room and walking down the hallway to get out of earshot. "I didn't expect him to show up today, but when he called and I told him Abby wasn't feeling well, he insisted on coming to see her."

"Did he and Cassie talk to each other?" Taylor asked.

"Actually, they did, and it went quite amicably. I was rather surprised."

"What is that man up to?" Taylor mused quietly, his suspicions on high alert.

"What makes you think he's up to something?" Nina asked lightly. She knew that this was an extremely touchy subject for Taylor, so she knew that telling him about her conversation with Orlando would be a bad idea.

"Because he's always up to something," Taylor said in a hostile tone. "Sorry Nina, but you know how I feel about him."

"And I don't fault you one bit, cariño," Nina said quietly. Changing the subject, she said, "So, is everything okay on your end?"

"Yeah, I was just calling to check on Abby and tell Cassie that if this dinner continues as well as it has gone so far, I might not kill her in the morning," Taylor chuckled. "Is she around?"

"Last I saw her, she was asleep on the couch. Do you want me to wake her?"

"No, no," Taylor said. "That's okay. When she wakes up, let her know that I called and that I'll see her in the morning."

"Are you not coming over tonight to run through the script for tomorrow?" Nina asked.

"No. Cassie's been working too hard lately, and she needs a little break. Besides, I have no idea how long I'm going to be, and don't want her to wait up for me."

"So who's the mystery man?" Nina asked.

"I'm not telling!" Taylor said in a singsong voice. "Besides, if Cass were to ever find out that I told you before her, I'd never hear the end of it!"

"All right, all right. Point taken. I'm thinking you should get back to your dinner, so I'm going to let you go. Take care Taylor, and please be careful," Nina said, worry evident in her voice.

"I will be," Taylor said. "Good night Nina."

"Good night Taylor," Nina said, and then the two hung up.

Leaning against the wall of the restaurant, Taylor turned and looked through the window of the restaurant where he spotted the waiter delivering the food to their table. Shaking his head, he said quietly, "Cassie, what have you gotten me into?" Taking a deep breath, he stowed his phone inside of his pocket and went back inside.

After the food had been placed on the tables, Justin scanned the restaurant continuously, watching for signs of Taylor. The six-foot-two, well-built man made Justin's heart skip, and there were times it was all Justin could do to restrain himself from jumping over the table and attacking him there in the restaurant. Finally spotting Taylor heading his direction, he watched as Taylor turned his back to him to say hello to someone, giving Justin a moment to check out Taylor's backside. "Mmmmm. Hello. What do we have here?" Justin murmured as he checked out Taylor's ass. "I would love to get my hands on that." Justin chuckled as he shook his head. He was starting to realize that many of his fans probably had the same exact thoughts about him!

Taylor finally returned and took his seat across from Justin. "Sorry about that," he apologized as he looked at the great food in front of him.

"No worries," Justin said. "It's sweet that you care so much about her. How is she?"

"She's still sick, but you'd never know considering how much energy she has," Taylor said with a grin. "I do care a lot about her. There are times where I almost feel like she's my own kid. Considering that the chances of me ever having children are dwindling toward zero, if I can't have my own, I might as well live vicariously through Cassie and Abby."

"You don't know that," Justin said. "You still might have a child someday."

"With these hips?" Taylor joked. "Not any time soon I'm not."

"Now you're being facetious," Justin said.

"I know," Taylor said with a sigh, "but it's kind of hard to have children when your partner has the wrong equipment to do the job."

"There's always adoption, or a surrogate mother. Think about it. What woman in America wouldn't want to hop in the sack with Taylor Jeffries?"

Taylor began to blush heavily. "Justin, stop it," Taylor hissed, but smiling in spite of himself.

"And there's that award-winning smile!" Justin said gleefully.

"Yeah, even though Cassie was the one who had to accept it when I fled for the hills in a panic," Taylor grumbled. Like Cassie, he'd won his category for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, but since his category had come after hers, he had not been around to accept it. Therefore, Cassie went up and accepted it for him, and left the audience with a few choice words as well.

"I'm sorry my partner in crime had to leave early, but I'm honored to accept this award for him on his behalf," she had said. "I've already thanked everyone on the show when I accepted my award, and they know they're loved, so excuse me if I don't take an hour to thank them again. Taylor is one of the best people I know, and whether some accusations made by certain people are true or not, I know the kind of character this man possesses; that alone is worth its weight in gold. I also know there are some people in this world who would like nothing more than to bring Taylor down, but remember that messing with him means messing with the 'Pit Bull of Daytime.' Think about that. Anyway, congratulations best friend. You deserve this every bit as much as I did." She then thanked a few people Taylor would have wanted mentioned and left the stage to thunderous applause.

"I saw the replay of that," Justin said before taking a bite of his food, "and that girl is kind of scary."

"She's more bark than bite, but I find it's one of her more admirable qualities. She's also fiercely loyal, and she'd bend over backward to help a friend."

"Including forcing them to go out and have a good time?" Justin said slyly.

Man, she is going to pay for that later! Taylor thought. "She was trying to help, and I've had a good time so far. It's kind of nice to talk with someone who has at least some sort of inkling as to what it's like to be me right now."

"The only difference is that your news is public and mine isn't..." Justin trailed off and had kind of a faraway look in his eyes.

"You're worried about what would happen if everyone found out," Taylor said, noting the sad look in Justin's eyes, "yet the having to hide who you are is eating at you inside."

Justin nodded. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to think. I'm sick of lying, sick of hiding... sick of everything really. There are times where I wish I had never been famous."

"I think we've all had that moment," Taylor said quietly. "I've been like that all month. It would be nice to go one day and not have someone rub my sexuality in my face. The tabloids are having a field day, the news media can't seem to harp on it enough, and my incoming mail has tripled. The show has had to hire two extra people just to handle it, and a third of it is hate mail from every fanatical gay-hating group in America."

Justin didn't know how to respond. Taylor was very much living the nightmare Justin had always envisioned would happen if he announced himself to the world, but he wasn't sure if there was a silver lining in there as well. At least Taylor would be able to date openly with whomever he wanted, as long as his date wasn't like him who wanted to stay in the closet. I've got to do something, Justin thought. He's such a great guy, and damn he is ever hot, but there's no way he's going to hook up with me if I can't open up.

The conversation soon turned to things a little more mundane: Justin's life, Taylor's life, their interests, their hobbies, and so forth. Taylor was having a great time, and he decided he really liked the guy, even though he knew that Justin was five years his junior. He's pretty cute, Taylor thought, but he's a bit on the skinny side. Oh well, can't have everything.

As the evening drew to a close, Taylor decided that he really ought to thank Cassie for making him go—whether or not he actually told her remained to be seen. Justin paid the check, and the two were chatting over a couple cups of coffee when Taylor noted the time on his watch. "Wow, it's gotten late. I should probably head out."

"Leaving so soon?" Justin asked with a bit of a whine, his face falling.

"It's starting to get late, and I'm shooting early tomorrow."

"Oh. Well, I kind of hate for the night to end," Justin began. "Maybe we could, you know, continue this conversation at...your house?"

Taylor's mind whirled as he wondered where Justin was going with this, and then it him like a ton of bricks. "No offense Justin, but I really do have an early morning tomorrow," he said lightly, trying not to crush the singer.

"Are you sure? We could still have a lot of fun tonight," Justin said coyly.

"It's possible my definition of fun and yours are completely different, and at the moment I think they are, but either way, it's not happening tonight." Taylor stood up and handed Justin a card with his cell phone number written on the back. "I did have a good time tonight. Maybe we should get together again soon."

Justin looked at the card and then up at Taylor's smiling face. "Yeah, that would be good. I'd like that. I'll give you a call, okay?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," Taylor replied as he leaned over to shake the young man's hand. "I'll catch you later." Taylor then turned and started to walk out of the restaurant.

Justin leaned back and stared at Taylor's ass as he walked out, and wished that the man had taken him up on his offer. "You can play hard to get Taylor, " Justin said quietly to himself, "but just like the police, I always get my man."

Taylor was driving home, a bit lost in thought. If he didn't know any better, he would say that Justin was trying to proposition him, and on the first date nonetheless! Even if Taylor wanted to, and there was a large part of him that kind of did, his sense of propriety and common decency would never permit that. After all, his mama taught him the rules of proper dating, and those rules didn't change just because his date was the same gender.

While the dinner had gone well, the chaos afterward was not only unexpected, but maddening as well. Taylor had barely stepped five feet out of the restaurant when the paparazzi was on him, barraging him with questions. They always seemed to be on his tail these days, and it was becoming a major nuisance. He ignored them as he waited for the valet to bring his car around. It was a momentary annoyance, as his car was brought quickly, but every second he had to withstand it was sometimes more than he could bear. He was thankful that he didn't walk out of the restaurant with Justin, for that would have created w whole other set of problems Taylor wasn't sure he was equal to tackling. Taylor wasn't kidding when he said that hanging around him was bad; any male friends of his that were seen in public with him were instantly linked to him romantically in the press, that is, when they weren't still speculating about him and Cassie.

Taylor tried to clear his mind as he turned on the radio and flipped the dial to his favorite station. Humming along with the song, he continued along the freeway and made his way home. Upon arriving at the house, he pulled into the driveway and turned off the ignition. Heaving a heavy sigh, he got out of the car and went about four steps when he heard a noise behind him. Spinning around, he scanned for the source of the noise, but couldn't see anything in the dark. Shrugging it off, Taylor turned to walk inside his house when a young woman, maybe twenty or so, appeared in his path.

"Uh, hi," Taylor said. "Can I help you?"

The woman seemed to be awestruck by Taylor, and she finally mumbled, "Are you Taylor Jeffries? The guy who plays Dylan Baxter on Temptations?"

Taylor relaxed a little. He wasn't sure how this woman had found his address, but if she was just a fan, he could handle that. It wouldn't be the first time a fan had shown up on his doorstep. "Yeah, I am," Taylor said with a smile. "Are you a fan of the show?"

The woman giggled a little and nodded. "I didn't realize you were this attractive and nice in person," the woman said. Taylor beamed at her, and the woman giggled again. "It was nice meeting you. Maybe I should go."

This surprised Taylor a little. Most people would have at least wanted an autograph. "Hey, I'm assuming you came all the way out here for a reason. Did you want an autograph, or picture, or something?"

The woman seemed to hesitate a bit, which confused Taylor even more. "No, that's okay. I really should go. It was lovely meeting you!"

Taylor was now even more confused, but who understood fans anyway? "Okay, well, good-bye then."

Taylor started to go inside when he felt something strike him hard in the back. He landed on his front lawn face down, his back throbbing in agony. "Jimmy, no!" he heard the woman's voice yell.

Trying to find some way to get some leverage against his attacker, whom he now knew only as 'Jimmy,' Taylor tried to crawl away from where he was, but he felt another blow soon come to his back. "Stupid fag!" he heard the man above him spit. "You wanna be a fag? This is what you get." Taylor yelled as he felt two more blows to his back and sides. "If you know what's good for you, I suggest you stay away from Cassidy Saunders and her little girl before something bad happens to them too!"

"Jimmy, don't!" the woman shrieked again.

"Madeleine, shut up!" Jimmy barked as he brought the bat down on Taylor's head. As Taylor's body slumped to the ground, Jimmy said, "Serves you right, you sick perv."

Taylor was fading in and out of consciousness as he watched the man flee toward the car parked across the street from his house. Through slightly blurred vision, he was able to discern the color of the car and a couple letters in the license plate, but that was about all. Realizing that he needed help, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He heard the screeching tires of the car carrying his attackers leaving the scene, and he prayed that someone—anyone—had seen the events unfold. Fumbling with the phone, his vision had begun to blur even more, and he could barely make out the numbers on the phone. Fortunately, he could speed dial Cassie blindfolded if necessary, and he quickly had the phone dialing her number.

Cassie was jolted awake by the sound of her phone ringing next to her on the couch. "Who on earth could that be?" she wondered aloud as she sat up. "Oh, I must have dozed off." Looking down at the afghan covering her, she smiled warmly. Shaking her head, she said, "Nina. Always looking out for me." Picking up the phone, she said sleepily, "Saunders residence."

"Cassie, help!" Taylor said weakly.

The adrenaline rush in Cassie's body shocked her fully awake. "Taylor? What is it? What's wrong?"

"Cassie, help me please! much pain," Taylor pleaded, his voice starting to fade out.

"Where are you?" Cassie yelled, flying off the couch and running for the kitchen table where she had set her keys and purse.

"H-h-home. Hurry Cass..." Taylor trailed off.

"I'm coming Taylor!" Cassie yelled. "Taylor? Are you still there? Answer me Taylor!" Cassie continued to yell into the phone, but there was no response. "Taylor? Taylor!!!!"

To be continued...

Will Cassidy make it to Taylor's side in time, or will the mysterious 'Jimmy' decide to come back and finish the job he started? Was Orlando's declaration to Nina sincere, or merely a means to mask his real intentions? What will Justin do when he finds out about what happened to Taylor? Drop Rob or Nicole a line and let us know your thoughts.

Want to know when this story is updated? Click here.

Rob's website
Nicole's website