‘This one’s from...’ Melanie checked the card carefully before handing it over to Carly, ‘Maxine.’
Carly unwrapped the box, smiling at Maxine’s gift; scented candles and small bottles of massage oil. ‘Obviously for use on the wedding night,’ the plump, motherly Head Nurse said, winking. The other women present laughed.
‘Thank you, Maxine. I love them.’ Carly assured her, exchanging a hug with her. ‘And I’ll definitely put them to good use.’
That brought a loud and knowing hoot and Melanie, struggling to overcome her giggles, passed another wrapped box to Carly. ‘Now this one’s from… Chloe.’
Chloe, now heavy, shifted her back more comfortably on the cushioned arm chair. ‘It’s totally unconventional as gifts go but I figured you might get a kick out of it.’
Very curious, Carly unwrapped it and everyone yelled with laughter at the item. ‘Unconventional is right!’ Adrienne exclaimed, almost choking on her drink.
‘Oh…my God,’ Carly shook her head, laughing; running her hand over the black and red box, labeled XXXopoly.
‘What… what’s better to spice things up with your spouse than an adult board game?’ Chloe insisted. ‘Naughty but fun.’
Carly read from the back: ‘The game box contains board, dice, game pieces, money, sexual space cards, “Hot & Heavy” cards, Erotic chest cards and Time chips. Hmm…’
‘In the course of the game there will be many erotic activities such as massaging, licking…’
‘Ahem… I should like to point out that the mother; daughter, daughter in law and the sisters of the groom are present!’ Kayla raised her hand before Chloe could go on, making the women laugh again. Caroline was already blushing red.
‘Okay, I’m done.’ Chloe pretended to zip her mouth, her intensely blue eyes gleaming with mischief.
Making a mental note to buy the board game on Amazon, Melanie picked up the next box from the high pile of gifts. She had insisted on throwing Carly a wedding shower, refusing to listen to the bride’s protests that she didn’t need one. Present beside the Brady women- which also included Marlena, Chelsea, Sami and Belle- were Maxine, Lexie, Jennifer, Chloe, Maggie and Adrienne. Melanie had hesitantly invited Maggie and Julie as well, not sure if they would want to come. But Julie had to leave town with Doug at the last minute, but she sent her present; a box of beautiful china. And Maggie, while feeling slightly guilty over Hope, came because she was genuinely happy for Carly and Alice would have wanted her to. Besides, why should Carly be held accountable for something she had no hand in? Maggie vividly remembered Carly’s warning to Hope, a warning Hope ignored; despite everyone’s urging she squared things with Bo. That and the story of Carly’s traumatic past; no one had the right to criticize her or Bo.
As Carly opened more presents, surrounded by her old and new friends, she couldn’t help but think how things were so different. She was longer the embittered, broken woman of last year and was friends with Caroline and Kayla again. The two women were more than repentant and did all they could in many ways to make up for their past unkindness, even though she’d long forgiven them. The wedding was in a week’s time and she was excited about it. Bo adamantly refused to have a quick wedding at City Hall or elope when she suggested it. Their wedding wasn’t going to be a secret or a quick quiet affair as if they had anything to be ashamed of; it was going to be done the way she deserved, with family and friends. When he asked her where she would like to be married, Carly immediately knew where- The Blue Pearl; the floating restaurant Bo took her on their date. It was wide and big enough to hold the ceremony in and have the reception afterwards. ‘I lived with you on a boat; I might as well marry you on one.’ She added. ‘And exchanging vows at sea will somehow make it more memorable.’
‘Marrying you’s going to be memorable, no matter where we do it,’ was his tender reply before kissing her.
Victor wasn’t invited, by mutual agreement. Bo was still very angry with him and Carly didn’t want to see Victor’s cold eyes watching them as they exchanged their vows, marring the happy day entirely. Carly was also disinclined to invite Justin as well, yet to forgive him. As Adrienne was separated from Justin and ashamed of him for what he tried to do to Carly, didn’t protest when Carly said she didn’t want Justin at the wedding. However after much persuasion from Carly, Bo finally forgave Caroline.
Caroline’s gift was next and Carly was touched by it; a large Wedding Anniversary Photo Album. ‘Thank you Caroline.’
‘And I hope you’ll get to store several years’ worth of wedding anniversaries in it.’ Caroline smiled and Carly smiled back; seeing the warm sincerity in the older woman’s eyes.
Kayla’s was equally touching and Carly felt tears creep from her eyes as she held it in her hands, a leather bound illustrated first edition of Alice in Wonderland. ‘I remember Bo saying it was your favorite book when you were a little girl,’ Kayla explained, wiping her own eyes after she and Carly exchanged a tight hug. From Kimberly, Sami, Marlena, Adrienne and Lexie; lingerie made from sheer lace specially designed to appeal to a man’s sexual fantasies. Carly’s favorite was a short cream lace nightie, wondering whether to save it for the wedding night or ‘model’ it for Bo when he got back from his Stag party with the men.
From Jennifer was what she called a “Cuddle Kit”; a gift basket containing a fuzzy blue and white blanket, a bottle of expensive champagne, gourmet chocolates and an Andrea Bocelli CD. Belle got Carly a plush white robe, from Chelsea a personalized makeup bag and Melanie, the matron of honor; a pair of ornate silver photo frames. Carly thanked everyone for their generosity.
‘I would like to make a toast,’ Caroline raised her glass. ‘Carly, I hope you and Bo have many happy years together. When two people who are more than lucky enough to find each other again after so many years; one can only call it divine intervention and have no right to question it. You deserve happiness after what you went through in the past. We can’t turn back the clock, we can only move forwards. And I hope you’ll do that from now on dear. Because the future’s sunnier when we put the past firmly behind us. I’m more than proud to have you back in the family. To Bo and Carly.’
‘To Bo and Carly,’ the women raised their glasses, Carly too overwhelmed with emotion to speak.
Bo entered the loft after returning from his stag party. Wanting a clear head, he only had one glass of beer; impatient to be with his fiancée. He wasn’t fond of such parties but Roman, Steve, Abe, Daniel, Shawn Douglas, Shane and Max insisted, as it was traditional. Hence, he had to sweat it out, mentally counting the hours before he was allowed to go home to Carly.
Carly was just finishing clearing up the last scrap of wrapping paper when he came in. ‘Hey’, she straightened. ‘How was your party?’
‘So, so. Looks like yours was a huge success.’ He indicated the large pile of presents on the couch. ‘You look pretty by the way,’ admiring the wreath of flowers encircling the top of her head.
‘Prettier than the strippers you probably gawked all evening? Why Commissioner Brady, I’m really flattered.’
Bo kissed Carly deeply, running his hands over her shoulders. ‘You should be, you were on my mind the whole evening. These bachelor/ bachelorette parties are a pain.’
‘Come on, it couldn’t have been that bad for you.’
Still holding her hand, Bo sank into an armchair, pulling her onto her lap. ‘I’d rather spend the evening with you, not watching half naked women dancing around. Who happen to be half my age.’
‘You poor old thing.’ Carly murmured, pressing her face against his.
‘Seriously, how was your party; aside from the pile of presents over there?’
‘Really it was great. Caroline even made this lovely speech; she really wants us to be happy, Bo.’
‘I’m glad to hear that.’ Bo stroked her cheek. ‘It’s going to be okay like I promised, princess. I’m right where I want to be and we’re going to be together for a very long time, God Willing.’
‘God Willing.’ Carly repeated softly. ‘It was a long road for both of us.’
Bo’s arms tightened round her. ‘Especially for you; going through all that for so long. If only I’d known…’
‘Lawrence would’ve had you killed and I wouldn’t have wanted to go on living if he did. He probably hoped at some point Frankie would go to you and you would come after me; that would’ve been his ultimate way of getting his revenge on us both.’
Bo’s face was sad. ‘I would’ve done all I could to get you out of there, regardless.’
‘I know,’ Carly whispered, her eyes bright with tears. ‘I know. But he can never hurt us again, not him; not Vivian.’
‘Vivian Alamain ever comes back here, she’s a dead woman and that’s not even an idle threat.’ Bo vowed darkly. ‘She will never get another chance to hurt you, ever. Not while I’m here to protect you.’
Carly held him close for a few minutes, feeling safe and warm in his arms; his heart beating against hers. Bo then turned her head to face him, kissing her gently at first then with eager intensity , his hand moving under her top to caress her skin, aching for her. ‘Should we go to bed?’ Carly asked softly against his lips.
‘I got something else in mind,’ he whispered back.
They took a shower together, the water playing over them; their slick, wet hands all over each other. They kissed deeply and sensually; Bo running his hands over Carly’s scarred back before gently pinning her against the tiled wall and entered her, Carly frantically kissing his neck and holding on to him as they moved together in fiery unison until they slumped against each other, panting. The rest of the night was spent making tender passionate love, holding each other tightly afterwards.
Through the Brady Pub’s large glass window; Bo saw Frankie getting out of a car; followed closely by Nicholas Alamain. ‘Well… look what the cat dragged in.’
Shawn Douglas turned to see, his eyebrows rising at the sight of his soon to be stepbrother. Now that he was an adult, Nicky’s resemblance to his late father was more recognizable; all he had of Carly were her eyes, startling green like hers. And unlike Lawrence who spotted expensive business suits most of the time, Nicholas was dressed in a blazer over a dark blue shirt and black designer jeans.
‘Big Bro.’ Frankie smiled warmly at Bo, exchanging hugs with him and Shawn Douglas.
‘I was beginning to wonder if you would ever show up; everyone’s already here. Where’ve you been anyway, Carly said your secretary told her you were away.’
‘I had to take care of some business, us both actually.’ Frankie replied, indicating Nicholas.
Nicholas was astute enough to detect chilliness from Bo and Shawn Douglas, even though they willingly shook hands with him. ‘Look at you, man; I hear you’re married now, with a daughter.’ He said, attempting to break the awkwardness.
‘That’s right,’ Shawn Douglas confirmed. What he really wanted to do was ask Nicky a major question: where the hell was he when Carly was abused by his father.
‘Bo, something’s come up and you need to know about it. Shawn D can stay to hear if he likes.’ Frankie said.
Bo frowned. ‘Does it have to do with Carly?’
‘What’s going on?’ Shawn Douglas demanded.
‘Whatever it is, please tell me it’s not something that’s going to upset Carly; she’s recovering from what she went through and I don’t want any nasty surprises.’
‘Bo, calm down; it’s nothing like that.’ Frankie placated. ‘Let’s all sit.’
Bo sat down, eyeing Nicholas suspiciously. ‘So, what’s this all about?’
Nicholas also sat, placing the briefcase he was holding on the table.
‘First off, I know what you and Shawn D probably think of me, that I turned a blind eye when my father abused Mum. Uncle François here thought the same thing when he came to where she was hospitalized in the South of France. But I swear, I honestly didn’t know he was doing those things to her. He covered his tracks all too well and he completely had me fooled, you must believe me. I knew nothing, if I did, I would’ve put a stop to it.’ Nicholas said earnestly.
‘Go on.’ Bo said quietly.
‘After Mum moved back to Salem; not only did I take over the reins, I began reading Father’s journals.’
‘That sick bastard kept journals?’ Shawn Douglas asked, disgusted.
‘Yes and it's unsavory reading; I suppose I was trying to see it for myself, what he managed to hide from me for so many years. Every entry was detailed, talking about how he hated you and Mum for ‘betraying’ him and how leaving welts on her body and… violating her was his way of punishing you.’
Bo’s mouth tightened, feeling sick to his stomach.
‘Anyway, they were really distasteful; there were weeks I would leave off reading them but I continued. But after a while, I noticed some journals were missing; vital ones dated after my father killed… killed… the baby Mum was expecting. The first person I could think of who might have stolen the journals was Vivian. I forbade her from setting foot into the Alamain compound but it turned out she bribed one of the maids to burglarize my study and take those specific ones. After the chit admitted it, I flew over to Paris to demand them back from her. I was using the journals as leverage because Vivian was going to tell the press it was Mum who killed Father; twisting everything to make her appear a murdering psychopath. But on the way there, I kept wondering why Vivian didn’t have the maid take all the journals, just those ones.’
‘Did you get them back?’ Bo asked.
‘Yes, right after I almost choked her.’ Nicholas’ eyes flashed angrily. ‘This woman stole me and buried Mum alive, so I was done being diplomatic. Luckily for me, I got there on time because she was planning on burning them. On reading, I realized why she stole them. It took me a while to sink in what I discovered.’
Nicholas turned to Frankie. Frankie leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table. ‘The baby... survived.’
A stunned silence.
‘No… no way!’ Shawn Douglas exclaimed at last . ‘I don’t believe it!’
More than shocked, Bo shook his head, unable to believe it either. ‘How is that possible? A baby couldn’t possibly have survived after its mother was stabbed in the stomach, more than once.’
‘That’s what the journal revealed. It seems incredible but true.’ Nicholas went on with his story. Carly was stabbed, six times. When she started bleeding, the doctor Lawrence had on standby to clear up the mess; performed a caesarian operation, to get out the fetus and get rid of it immediately. But it turned out the baby was alive when brought out of Carly, who was unconscious the whole time. The reason, according to the doctor, whom Nicholas and Frankie spent a very long time tracking down; the baby survived because aside from Carly’s pregnancy fat protecting her vital organs, the baby was in the breech position- which had saved her life.
Lawrence first reaction was rage and disbelief, his first instinct to finish what he started. But instead, for his own reasons; decided to let the brat live but Carly will never know the baby survived. While Carly lay very ill from the operation and loss of blood, the baby was taken away and kept under intensive care in a private hospital. Once the child was strong enough, Lawrence’s lawyer arranged a private adoption of the child, a baby girl. Lawrence’s journals didn’t indicate who the adoptive parents were in the journal, so Nicholas had carried out his own investigations, with Frankie’s help.
‘ The girl was adopted by an American couple; a Trent Becker and his girlfriend Jane.’
‘Wait a minute, Trent Becker?’ Bo exclaimed, hoping he heard right.
Shawn Douglas frowned. ‘That name sounds familiar, where have I heard it from?’
‘It’s the alias Trent Robbins used for years before moving here.’ Bo explained, his heart racing, not daring to hope. ‘Trent Robbins was Max’s father, he was murdered a few years ago. And Max’s half-sister is… Melanie Layton.’
‘You mean Nathan’s wife?’ Shawn Douglas exclaimed.
‘Nathan’s wife, who used to date Phillip, a nurse at the same hospital Carly works and Carly’s matron of honor.’
‘‘You know this girl then!’ Nicholas exclaimed sharply. ‘Bo, this girl is your daughter, yours and Mum’s… my sister! And yours too, Shawn D!’
Bo went speechless, unable to believe it; still shocked and amazed. If it was true, then his child with Carly had been right under his nose the whole time.. Melanie Layton Horton was his daughter, their daughter.
‘It’s the truth Bo, Melanie is Carly’s daughter and yours.’ Frankie said. ‘I would call it divine providence that she ended up here in Salem and Carly coming back some time later. I wanted you to know about this first before we break it to Carly. It’s going to come as a shock to her of course, and Melanie.’
‘Papa… what do you reckon?’ Shawn Douglas asked, when Bo still didn’t say a word.
For Carly’s sake and his own, Bo wanted to believe this sudden and unexpected miracle. But he didn’t want Carly to embrace this joyous news only to be bitterly disappointed afterwards. ‘We need to be absolutely sure about this before we tell Carly anything.’ He said at last, his tone resolute.
‘I figured you would say that and I agree.’ Frankie replied. ‘Obviously you want to carry out a DNA test.’
‘Obviously.’ Bo said firmly. ‘Until we are positive, we don’t say a word to either of them.’
Lucky for them, obtaining DNA samples from Carly and Melanie was surprisingly easy. Returning from the bridal store; Carly, Melanie, Belle and Chelsea stopped by the Brady pub and Carly was delighted to see Nicholas and Frankie; introducing them to Melanie. When they were ready to go home, Bo discreetly took the spoons Carly and Melanie used to eat their ice-creams and took them to the police lab, handing the lab tech a sample of his as well. ‘I want the results ASAP, understand?’
‘Yes, sir.’ The young woman replied.
Bo was on edge the rest of the day and the next morning, much to Carly’s astonishment. By evening, the results were given to him.
He and Carly were Melanie Horton’s biological parents.