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Friday, July 31, 2015


A week after New Year’s day Bo found himself walking to the pier, where The Fancy Face was once docked. That boat held a lot of memories for him and Bo missed it with a sailor’s passion. Hands in his coat pockets, Bo stared at the water, deep in thought about the two women in his life. Hope had come into his life when she was 17 and he’d known she was the one from the moment he laid eyes on her. For over five years she was thought dead and when she came back, their love managed to overcame all odds and hurdles thrown their way. Looking back at their life together, Bo was beginning to think they’ve simply outgrown each other. It was a sad thought because Bo knew he still loved her, missing her and Ciara every day.
Then he thought about Carly; about 24 years old when she first came to Salem. Even though he was irritable the night they met, he was immediately taken in by her, but reluctantly. Not only because she was beautiful but her feisty personality which enabled her stand up to him. Both qualities had lit a flame in him. It was only later he found out their first real encounter was at a café in Alamainia, where he saved her from Lawrence; she was a mere girl of 18 at the time. He’d loved her with a passion and vice versa; never imagining for a moment  things could change between them. But they did and he lost her. He’d sadly thrown her engagement ring in this very river.
Carly was back from her trip but was now avoiding him. She was hardly at home and the few times he went to the hospital, was too busy to see him. Texts sent were unanswered and she didn’t return his calls. The current situation was probably getting to her but Bo was really hurt by her behavior all the same. Aside from his feelings for her, she was the only one he could really talk to. She didn’t think like Hope, assuring him he did the right thing during Ciara’s abduction. Bo found himself wondering if he would be feeling this way about her if things were alright with him and Hope when she came back. He simply couldn’t stop thinking about her. He needed to see her.
‘Why does he want to sell it?’ Carly asked.
‘It’s an inheritance from his grandfather but the countryside’s never been Alan’s scene. He was ready to dance a jig when I told him what you were looking for.’
If she was going to get any peace and stop the vicious talk about her, Carly felt it was best to avoid Bo as much as she could. It was for her own sake too, if she was going to avoid temptation as well. That would mean having a place to escape to on weekends and vacations.
‘It’s just by the lake and it’s furnished, along with appliances. He’s been paying a caretaker to look after the place so it’s in great condition. When you’re ready to, he’ll call the guy to meet you there and you can look it over. It’s four  hours away from Salem but you’ll get there faster if you take the train.’
‘Thanks so much for this; I’ll check it out first chance I get.’
‘At least I’ll rest easy knowing you’re there having the peace and quiet you deserve and not in the middle of Bo and Hope’s drama. I wish you’d let me come over to have it out with them like I wanted. It’s not right you’re being treated that way.’
‘I don’t like it either but you already know how I feel. Hopefully, this arrangement of mine will work out. I’ll call you when I’m ready to go out there.’
‘It’s all good sis. Take care of yourself. Love you.’
‘I love you too.’ Carly hung up, turning round to meet the contemptuous gaze of Melanie Layton; who was nearby listening to her conversation. Carly knew what she was thinking; she thought she was talking to Bo. She’d heard from Daniel that Melanie lived with Maggie and Mickey Horton, which explained her hostility towards her. After their second encounter, Melanie hardly spoke to her unless she had to and even then, was always curt or rude. But Carly wasn’t about to explain herself to the irascible young woman. Let her think what she liked, along with the rest of the Salemites. Hence, she merely put her cell phone in her pocket and walked past her.
Bitch, thought Melanie balefully. For some reason, that woman was able to push her buttons and she was still smarting over Phillip’s warning about not getting herself fired. She wasn’t in Bo’s good books, like there was a time she was and according to Phillip, Bo wasn’t going to tolerate any more rudeness towards Carly. She obviously had him completely under his thumb and poor Hope was suffering for it. Carly Manning deserved to be run out of town for what she’s doing. And she didn’t care what Phillip said, she’ll continue to be as rude as she liked to the home wrecker. Just let her dare try to get her fired. With a scowl, she went on with her duties.
Carly made a mental note to see the cabin on her next day off. A lakeside cabin was ideal; she’ll be able to do some fishing. It belonged to a client of Frankie’s and from what he said, was more than anxious to sell it. She’ll look it over and make an offer. Feeling happier and forgetting Melanie Layton, Carly pressed a button and entered the elevator, its doors closing. But half way up, it make a curious noise and stopped. Worse still, the lights went off.
No… Lord no; Carly moaned as instant terror set in. She banged on the doors frantically with her fists. ‘Help, somebody help!’ she screamed to no avail. Gasping for air Carly slid to the floor, hugging her knees. This can’t be happening, not again. Locked in a dark, enclosed place; the walls closing in on her. The coffin… she was buried alive and locked in a coffin… Vivian’s mocking words in her ears… agonizingly hoping and praying Bo will eventually come for her…
Carly trembled, tears pouring down her cheeks; gripped by claustrophobia as the horrors of that terrible moment came back to her. Enclosed in that tight, dark place with no way of escaping, the walls closing in on her… suddenly she can’t breathe.  
Crawling to the doors, she again pounded on the doors with her fists. ‘Somebody help me! Somebody get me out of here!’ she screamed hysterically.
‘I think she’s coming round.’
The oxygen mask was removed from Carly’s nose and she blinked, trying to focus. She was on her back, a hand gently rubbing her forehead. Carly blinked until everything came to focus. Several pair of eyes were staring down at her anxiously.
‘Carly, are you alright?’
‘Are you okay, Dr. Manning?’
‘Easy now…’
‘What…?’ Carly whispered, trying to sit up. A pair of hands steadied her by the shoulders. ‘What happened?’
‘You got stuck in the elevator. By the time maintenance arrived, you’d fainted.’ Daniel explained. ‘Bo got you out of there.’  
Carly turned to see it was Bo holding her, warm brown eyes fixed on her face. ‘How do you feel?’ he asked, one hand brushing back strands of hair from her damp face.
‘I… I’m fine now.’ Carly struggled to get up and several hands helped her  to her feet. Bo kept his arms round her as she was led into an examination room; Daniel dismissing the nurses.
‘Still, you need to be checked out,’ Daniel said briskly. ‘The nurse who heard you said you sounded hysterical. Lord knows how long you were up there before she happened to walk by.’
‘I’m fine, I don’t need…’
‘Shut it, Carly.’ Bo said firmly. ‘You had a big scare so just let Daniel check you.’
Bo had run into Daniel on the way looking for Carly and was chatting with him when a nurse had hurried up to Daniel to tell him she distinctly heard banging up the elevator shaft. He’d felt his heart clench when the maintenance man’s flashlight revealed her passed out and without hesitation climbed down to get her, clasping her in his arms. He watched as she allowed Daniel check her heart and blood pressure. She was deathly pale and her eyes were red.
‘Your heart rate and blood pressure’s high, Carly.’ Daniel removed the blood pressure cuff from her arm. ‘What happened up there? Are you claustrophobic?’
Carly nodded.
‘Since when? I didn’t know you were.’
‘She was once buried alive,’ Bo replied, his voice shaking with anger.
‘What?’ Daniel exclaimed, not believing he heard correctly. ‘Buried alive? Who would do such a thing to her?’
‘I don’t want to talk about it,’ Carly moaned, covering her face with her hands.
‘It’s okay now…’ Bo soothed, hugging her against him.
‘Bo, take her home.’ Daniel said, still in shock at what Bo said but determined to know the whole story later.
Carly would’ve protested but she was still trembling so much to say anything. Daniel went to her office to get her overcoat and purse. Bo took her arm and she followed him in silence. She remained silent during the drive to the loft and after Bo led her inside. Only when she sat down on the couch that she burst into tears. Upset, Bo drew her into his arms again; stroking her hair as she clung to him. Her ordeal was something they never talked about but Bo could only imagine how it must have greatly traumatized her. Who wouldn’t be,  locked for hours in a buried coffin. Silently, he again cursed Vivian Alamain for the horrible harm she inflicted on Carly.
‘It’s okay,’ he said softly, tightening his hold on her. ‘It’s okay… shh…’
Carly’s sobs subsided and she found herself trembling less. ‘You must think I’m such a weakling…’ she whispered.
‘No… never. I’ll never think that of you.’ Bo kept stroking her hair. ‘What happened to you should never have happened at all. I’ll never forgive that bitch for what she did to you.’
Carly sniffled, accepting the hanky Bo fished out of his pocket and wiped her eyes. ‘After all these years and yet… yet it seems it happened yesterday. Waking up to find myself in there, deep in the ground…’ she shivered. ‘Vivian took such delight tormenting me, trying to break me. In the elevator I could almost hear her voice, taunting me… laughing at me…’ more tears rolled down her cheeks.
‘She can never hurt you again. If she ever comes back here, I’ll protect you.  No matter what.’ Bo promised.
 ‘I hate what she did to me, Bo. I hate what it’s done to me. I used to be able to stand on my own, confident and independent!’ Carly covered her face.
‘You’re still that same person!’ Bo insisted, pulling her hands off her face. ‘You’re strong, confident and courageous.’ He raised her chin, staring deep into her eyes. ‘You’re still the same woman I fell in love with.’
Carly stared back at him for a few seconds then lowered her eyes. ‘I’m not that woman anymore.’
‘That’s not true.’
‘It is.  Don’t put me on a pedestal, Bo. I’m just not.’ Wiping her eyes, she tried to rise but Bo held on to her arm.
‘You’re still that woman; whether you think so or not. I know you more than anyone else, Carly Manning.  I know why I fell in love with you.’ Bo said, emotion in his face.
Carly’s face was impassive as she stared at him. Then a sad expression appeared as she nodded. ‘And I know why I fell in love with you too. Then why exactly did things turn out wrong between us? Even before what Vivian did to me, we were always fighting and not just over Nicky. Would we still be together if Vivian hadn’t drugged me or if Hope never came back?’
Bo held on to her hand, their fingers entwined. He felt emotionally closer to her and the desire to kiss her was stronger. ‘We’re together now, princess.’ He said softly, calling Carly by his old pet name for her. ‘That’s what’s really important.’
Carly touched his face with her free hand, green eyes suddenly alive and that was his undoing. Pulling her to him, he kissed her with the passion he’d long held back. He felt her arms go round his neck and she kissed him back fiercely. Bo ran kisses all over her face then returned to her mouth; passion and longing at its peak as he kissed her deeply. She tasted the same, felt the same in his arms and he wanted to make her his. Eagerly, he caressed and explored the familiar body.
Carly clung to him, feeling his hands over her. She loved him and Lord help her, wanted him. She clung to him as he lowered her on the couch. Then she felt his hardness against her thigh and Carly found herself freezing in sheer terror. Lawrence forcing himself on her….
  ‘No… no…’ she frantically pushed his chest, desperately wanting him off her. Snapping out of his present state, Bo sat up; stunned as Carly leaped from the couch as though to get far away from him. ‘Princess,’ he said, getting up and walking over to her. ‘What’s wrong? Did I hurt you ? Please talk to me.’ He placed his hands on her shoulders.
Carly moved away from his touch, her heart beating fast and hands trembling.  
‘We can’t, Bo.’ She covered her face with her hands again. ‘What we were about to do, we just can’t.’
‘I’m… I’m sorry for coming on to you like that. You must think I’m a jerk.’ Bo muttered, sorry she’d changed her mind.
Carly lowered her hands, struggling to control herself before he suspected the real reason why she pulled away. ‘No, you’re not.’ She said quietly, turning to face him. ‘We’re both adults. And we  have a history, so somehow it makes this inevitable. But it would be wrong. It’s very easy to get carried away and make love  but afterwards we’ll end up regretting it; especially you. The next time you face Hope, it has to be with a clean conscience. And I can face the people who still think I came back to steal you away from her.’
‘We both know that’s not true.’ Bo held her face with both hands.
‘They’re too busy protecting your wife to care about the truth.’ She pushed his hands away. ‘Obviously we can’t go on this way.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Bo demanded. ‘You’re just going to keep avoiding me like you’ve been doing? Is that why you’ve been doing it, because you’ve been afraid this might happen?’
Carly turned away, her heart breaking at what she was going to say. But she had to; for both their sakes. ‘Yes. It’s bad enough that people refuse to believe we’re just friends and now, look  at what just happened.’
‘Something else is bothering you,’ Bo said. ‘it can’t be just about Hope and the family. You’re still trying to get over Larry. Carly, he’s dead!’
‘He may be dead but you’re married.’  
‘What exactly do you want from me?’ Bo snapped, wondering if Carly  was asking in a veiled way if  he was going to end his marriage for good.
‘I am not asking you for anything!’ Carly snapped. ‘I will mourn my husband as long as I want and you have no right to assume I’d want to be “the other woman”. In the end, this just about you wanting to fill the void Hope left behind but you’re still waiting for her to come home.’ Her cold green eyes challenged him.
Bo opened his mouth to then shut it; more confused than ever. He couldn’t deny nor confirm her statement.
‘I can’t be around you right now.’ She walked to the door, sliding it back. ‘Please leave.’
‘I never meant to upset you, Carly. I’m sorry.’
‘Just go, Bo. Before we both say or do something we’ll regret. Go.’
Frustrated and angry, Bo left ; feeling a huge sense of loneliness as the door slid shut behind him. What happened hadn’t been premeditated and now he’d succeeded in upsetting Carly. And yet she called what nearly happened inevitable, which means she’s been  nursing the same feelings. But why then did she pull away?  It was almost like she was… repulsed. But she’d kissed him back and with so much passion too. Was it truly because she didn’t want him to cheat on Hope and justify the family’s suspicions?  Bo couldn’t shake the feeling her sudden change of heart was more than that, more than guilt she was cheating on Lawrence. In the meantime, he’ll leave her to cool off.
Carly took several breathes after washing her face, resting her hands on the sink before staring at the mirror. She was even more damaged than she thought. Classic PTSD… thanks to Lawrence’s repeated rapes. Lawrence rising from the grave and coming between her and Bo; preventing them from making love. Carly felt like weeping and screaming at the unfairness of it all. Even if Bo knew the truth about Lawrence’s death and still wanted a lasting relationship with her; how could a vibrant, passionate man like him be happy with a woman both physically and emotionally damaged like she was?
I’m not the same woman. And I’ll never be again.
Wiping her damp face, Carly got into bed. She fell asleep but the nightmare came back.
The cellar… the knife… her screams.
Rolling and kicking out, Carly woke up, gasping and shivering in fright. Her cell, lying on the table beside the bed, rang; making her jump. The caller ID told her it was Daniel. Composing herself, she answered it. ‘Hi.’
‘Hey, Carly.  How do you feel, better I hope?’
‘Uh.. yes.  I was actually asleep.’ Carly rubbed her throbbing head.
‘I’m sorry I woke you, I wanted to see how you were. By the way, something’s happened. Mickey Horton’s dead.’
‘Oh no!’ Carly sat up, shocked. ‘What happened?’
‘Nathan got a call from Maggie, it seems Mickey had a heart attack. And they were going out of town today, to go on a cruise.’
‘Oh, poor Maggie.’ Carly murmured. Mickey had helped her and Bo during their big trouble with Victor. He had been their lawyer and staunch friend. He’ll be greatly missed. She thought of Maggie and then Alice… this would break her heart. Alice Horton loved all her children dearly.
‘I’m planning on going over there when I can. Will you go?’
‘Yes, of course. Thanks for telling me, Daniel.’
Carly hung up and slid out of bed, walking to the closet to get a fresh blouse.
Maggie and Mickey’s living room was full of people and Carly had to scan the crowd to find Maggie. She found her quietly talking to a man in his late sixties. Carly surmised he must be Doug Williams, Hope’s father. She weaved her way through the crowd, reaching them. Ignoring Doug’s quizzical expression, Carly firmly focused on Maggie, taking her hand. ‘I’m so sorry about Mickey. So sorry, Maggie; he was such a great guy.’
Maggie nodded, squeezing Carly’s fingers, her eyes red. ‘Thank you. How did you find out?’
‘Daniel called to tell me. If there’s anything I can do for you; anything at all, just name it. But what about Alice? Does she know?’
‘Yes,’ Maggie nodded again. ‘She’s really upset, as you can imagine. She’s at her house with Julie right now.’
Carly could easily imagine the agony of a mother, particularly a woman of Mrs. Horton’s age, over the death of one of her children. She will stop by and pay her a visit. ‘Again, I’m really sorry.’
Maggie returned the hug Carly gave her. ‘The funeral’s day after tomorrow, if… if you want to come, Carly.’
Doug, who hardly knew Carly except what he was told about her, looked at her shrewdly. So this is Bo’s ex; he thought. There was no trace of guile on that beautiful face; only concern and sympathy.
‘Yes, come.’ He found himself saying. ‘We would be glad if you can.’
‘I will,  Mr. Williams.’
‘Heavens Carly, it’s Doug. Doug, ’ He emphasized, shaking hands with her.
‘Of course, Doug,’ Carly nodded to him. Kissing Maggie on the cheek, she turned to take her leave. She walked towards the door, almost colliding with Justin, who was astonished to see her. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I came to pay my respects. Is that suddenly a crime?’
‘You’ve got to be kidding. I would think you of all people would think twice than show your face where you’re not welcome. Haven’t you upset Hope enough?’
‘Exactly, how is consoling Hope’s aunt upsetting her in any way?’ Carly demanded. ‘How am I any different from everyone who knew and respected Mickey?’
‘You’re neither friend nor family, that’s the difference.’ Justin said cruelly.
‘You forfeited that right when you came back here to cause trouble.’
Carly’s heart tightened with pain as she listened to the words coming from a man who was once her friend. But she wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of watching her crumble or cause a verbal fracas in the middle of  Mickey’s wake.  Instead she gave him a cold, disdainful look as she side stepped him, only to face Hope  who was looking absolutely furious.
‘What are you doing in my uncle’s house? You thought you would score more points with Bo this way?’ she snapped. ‘You really got some nerve coming here.’
Carly forced herself to be civil, a difficult task because she found Hope Brady utterly infuriating and unreasonable. ‘I’m not after Bo. And you’re being very unfair to him.’
‘And since when have I allowed you to tell me what’s fair and what’s not?’ Hope shouted. ‘Who do you think you are, attempting to preach to me about my husband?’
Carly glared at her, hurt and anger finally at boiling point. ‘Years ago, when I saw firsthand what your ‘death’ did to Bo, I kept having this image of a woman who must have been really amazing to be loved as deeply as he loved you. Where's that woman now exactly?’
Hope went red with mortification at the candid words, seeing it as a barely veiled insult. ‘How dare you!’ she hissed.
Justin jumped in the fray. ‘Carly, leave now.’ He ordered.
‘Shut up, messenger boy!’ Carly shouted at him, infuriated. ‘I don’t take orders from you, so back off!’ Her tone was so fierce that Justin was stunned to silence.
‘Don’t you talk to Justin like that!’
‘I’ll say what I want to him! And as for you Hope Brady, you’re going to lose Bo eventually. But I’m not going to be the reason,  it’s going to be your jealousy and this… this idiotic, childish  game you’re  playing with him! And if your family and your so-called friends,’ darting a disgusted look at Justin, ‘don’t have the balls to tell you this, then they’re sure as hell not acting on your  best interest!’ With that off her chest, Carly left, her heels clicking angrily. Infuriated and  rendered speechless, Hope was suddenly aware her family, who had stood silently during their exchange of words, were watching her.  
Justin hurried after Carly. ‘Carly, wait a second…’ he caught up with her, laying a hand on her arm. But Carly, still very angry, couldn’t bear to be touched. She surprised Justin  with a  backhand slap and walked on, leaving him rubbing his stinging cheek.
By the time Carly got back to the loft, she had such a blinding headache, she could hardly stand. Taking off her clothes, she  showered, took some aspirin and  crawled back into bed but couldn’t  sleep. The door buzzer sounded and reluctantly, she got out of bed to see who it was; slipping on a Chinese silk robe over the old T shirt she had on. It was Bo.
‘What do you want?’ Carly asked wearily.
‘I  came to see if you were okay.’ He touched her forehead. ‘You’re burning up.’
She removed his hand. ‘It’s just a headache. I’ll be fine in the morning.’
 ‘You’re still mad at me about before.’ Bo guessed, seeing she made no move to let him in. When he got to Maggie’s, only  Nathan was willing to give a full, unbiased account of what went on between Carly and Hope. On hearing Justin’s role in the argument, Bo found him in the kitchen and gave him the long promised punch, on the jaw. On her part, Hope was far too angry and humiliated to talk to him. For once Bo didn’t care, more worried about Carly.
 ‘I’m not mad at you, Bo. But to be honest, this is just not working at all. Things are now worse. If your marriage stands a chance at all, you shouldn’t be hanging around me. Both your families see me as their enemy, more than ever now. And I can’t handle this unreasonable hatred  everybody has for me.’
‘Carly don’t do this, please.’ Bo moved closer to her. ‘You can’t make such a  decision and expect me to go with it. You’re a part of my life.’ 
‘I’m your past and if you have any regard for your wife, you will respect my decision. I hate what she’s doing to you but I also know how much you love her. I can take care of myself. For both our sakes, don’t come here or the hospital anymore.’
‘Carly, let’s talk about this!’  
‘There’s nothing to talk about. Just leave me alone.’ She slid the door shut, locked it and went back to the bedroom to cry herself to sleep. 
‘Forgive me, sailor.’ She wept. ‘Forgive me, my love. It’s  best this way.’

Monday, July 20, 2015


Bo mingled through the guests, smiling and nodding but inwardly seething with anger and frustration. Anger towards Hope who was yet to let him know of her final decision- whether or not she’ll finally move back in with Ciara. He was really sick and tired of the whole deal. Fuelling his anger was most of the Hortons blatantly siding with Hope, hinting he should put in more effort to save his marriage. The trouble was Hope’s was such a favorite of the family; they were completely blind to her faults. He’d almost snarled at Julie earlier but because Mrs. Horton was present, forced himself not to make a scene. And there was the frustration over Carly’s absence. She was spending Christmas with her family at Chamonix, no doubt having more fun than he was and won’t be back until after New Year’s day.Was she thinking about him at all? Feeling the need to be alone, he wandered out outside, staring up at the night sky.
‘Is something wrong, honey?’ Caroline asked, appearing at his elbow.
‘Nothing Mum,’ was Bo’s gruff answer.
Caroline knew that was a lie, she was well aware of her son’s moods. She glanced at Hope who was chatting with Roman. She wasn’t the only one to notice that Bo and Hope had barely spoken to each other all evening. Where they were headed, no one knew and all efforts to intervene proved fruitless. Was Bo upset at the  current strain between him and his wife or was there something else weighing his mind? Or rather, someone else? There’s been more talk about him and Carly lately; ever since they were spotted having dinner at The Neptune. ‘Have you seen Carly lately?’ she blurted out.
‘Mum, leave Carly out of this; she has nothing to do with what’s going on. Can’t you just lay off her?’ Bo snapped.
 ‘I was just asking a question, that’s all.’ Caroline protested.
‘She’s at Chamonix with Nicky and Frankie.’
Bo saw the way his mother’s expression changed at the mention of Frankie. She  was now looking very uncomfortable. ‘Are you worried about  how he’s going to feel when she tells him what’s been going on?’ he asked, his voice heavy with contempt. He was usually very deferential towards his mother but she had this coming.
‘Bo…’ Caroline murmured in weak protest.
‘Why not? it’s not like whatever she tells him would be a lie. And I hope she does tell him and he calls you up to remind you that Carly’s his sister and what he  thinks  about  his sister’s been treated like an outsider. I won’t be surprised if he decided he wants nothing to do with the family, because even you can’t expect him to side with Hope.’
‘Of course I don’t expect him to side with Hope!’ Caroline snapped back, goaded.
‘Then why, why does his sister have to put with this crap?’
Because she came back!’ Caroline cried out. ‘You probably think I’ve been mean and irrational  and maybe I’ve been and I’m sorry about it. Of course Carly’s not the reason things are strained between you and Hope. I remember who she is and lately I’ve been feeling guilty about it. I also remember how much you loved her and how she hurt  you…’
‘You’ll not say that to me, Mum,’ Bo said darkly.  Ever again. You don’t know what happened and it wasn’t even Carly’s fault.’
‘That’s neither here nor there. You and Hope have been together for 25 years; even with the rough patches. Carly coming back to Salem is complicating things with you and Hope and I don’t want to see your marriage fail.’
‘Carly will never do what Billie did to us and you’re being unfair to even think that way about her.’
Caroline shook her head, wishing he would understand. ‘It would be best if Carly left town.’ Before you fall in love with her all over again.
Bo shook his head. ‘Here am I thinking you’ve realized you’ve been wrong about her. All that talk about feeling guilty, that wasn’t true, was it?’
‘No… it’s true!’ Caroline protested.
 ‘I don’t want to talk about this anymore with you,’ Bo said abruptly, walking back into the house.
Caroline felt upset, she had handled it all wrong. Deep down she knew very well Carly was unchanged, that was the real reason why Bo could fall in love with her again and end his marriage. But Carly was Frankie’s sister and Caroline  envisaged Frankie’s anger once he heard how the family was treating her. By harming her, they were harming him. Why did she have to come back, and at this time?
She thought about Carly’s odd behavior a few weeks back. She contemplated telling Bo about it but then changed her mind; it would only make him even more protective of her. But Carly’s tears haunted her and she wished she knew why she reacted to Ciara the way she did.
The traditional Christmas balls bearing names of the family were on the tree, including the family members who weren’t able to fly over; Shawn Douglas, Chelsea, Belle, Claire, Jennifer, Jack, Bill, Laura, Melissa, Mike. And of those who weren’t there to spend it with them; Tom, Addie and… Zack. Bo stared at the last one sadly.At this time, he and Hope would be consoling each as they remembered their dead son. Glancing at Hope, he again wondered what he stood with her. And he thought of Carly, painfully missing her comforting presence. He caught Alice Horton’s eye, immediately hurrying over to her when she beckoned. ‘How are you bearing up, darling?’ she asked, sliding her hand into his.
Bo shrugged. ‘As well as I can, Mrs. H. Are you going to give me a lecture about putting in more work to save my marriage too?’
‘Of course not,’ Alice admonished. ‘And frankly, I feel it would be wiser to just let Hope work it out for herself, rather than everybody taking sides. But I hope she won’t take too much time to realize how much she’s hurting you.’
‘I hope so too.’
‘By the way… how is Carly? Has she been settling in well?’
‘Yeah, she has. But she’s not in town right now, Nicky invited her and Frankie to spend the holidays with him.’
‘I see.’ Alice murmured. Bo had been the one to inform her of Carly’s return but Carly was yet to pay her a visit. And Alice really wanted to see her again. ‘When she gets back, will you please tell her I would love to see her.’
Bo was pleased to hear that. Alice Horton was the most wonderful woman he knew. There was no “side” to her, she was everything loving, fair and kind. Obviously she still had deep regard for Carly, who was after all, her granddaughter’s best friend. ‘I’ll tell her.’ he promised. Carly too will be very glad to know Mrs. Horton was still her friend.

Frankie observed his sister as she stood in front of the large window, looking at the  magnificent  view. In her black ski pants and  red and white patterned sweater, she was exceptionally beautiful. Frankie wasn’t being biased, it was the truth. She was lovely as a little girl and now in her forties, still in the height of her beauty. The bruises and cuts on her face were long gone but he knew about the scars; on her body and within her soul. He was glad she made the trip; he would’ve changed his mind to come if she hadn’t.
The chalet was bigger than he and Carly expected. It had three spacious bedrooms, a huge open plan living room with a log fire and though old fashioned in ambience, the place was full of modern comforts. A huge game room with gym equipment, pool and air hockey tables, an elaborate music system and satellite T.V, high speed Wi-Fi and a  fully stocked fridge in the kitchen. The chalet was one of several in a luxury winter resort and not far from the ski lifts and Chamonix’s historical town.At the moment, Nicholas was on the slopes so the siblings were alone. Their wrapped presents lay under the gaily decorated eight foot Christmas tree, its multicolored lights blinking and carols played softly through hidden speakers.
Frankie  walked up to Carly, handing her a mug of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows.
‘Thanks, love,’ Carly smiled, taking a sip. ‘Remember when Cora would fix us this every night?’ Cora was their nanny when they were kids, who they saw more than their parents. ‘We would always tell her when she sent us to bed, “don’t forget the marshmallows.”’
Frankie grinned. ‘I remember. She never forgot.’
‘But she always put a little extra on yours.’ Carly pouted.
‘Well, maybe it’s because you were worried about getting zits on your pretty nose,’ Frankie tweaked it.
‘Oh those days… so long ago.’ Carly walked across the room in her fluffy Snoopy slippers, sinking into one of the cushioned couches. ‘Who would’ve thought we would eventually leave our home to follow our own paths.’
‘It wasn’t much of a home and Mother and Father didn’t exactly give us much of a choice, did they?’ Frankie said dryly, sitting beside her. ‘We’ve come a long way, you and I. You especially.’
Carly nodded, her expression sober.
‘How is it been so far?’
‘I still have nightmares,’ Carly confessed. ‘Work keeps my mind off things and I’ve really been busy at the hospital since I started. And Bo’s been a great friend to me.’
Frankie eyed his sister as she sipped  her cocoa. ‘Is there something else you aren’t telling me, Katarina?’ he asked, detecting an odd tone in her voice.
The only person she tolerated calling her by her birth name was her brother because his way of addressing her was genuinely affectionate; just like when they were children.
‘Why do you think so?’ she asked.                 
‘Don’t do that.’ Frankie’s expression was now stern. ‘What with the years apart and what you went through, you can’t keep anything from me.’
Carly sighed deeply. ‘I wasn’t expecting the family to welcome me back with open arms but I didn’t expect downright hostility either…’
Hostility?’ Frankie asked sharply, sitting up.  ‘What’s this? Have they been treating you badly?’
Quietly and reluctantly, Carly explained in detail everyone’s behavior towards her, including what Justin did, but not the anonymous note she received. It would alarm him and Nicholas.  Frankie’s face went red with anger as he listened. He had asked Bo to look after Carly. What the hell has he really been doing; allowing both families to slander her?
‘From what Bo told me, Hope sort of accused him of gambling with Ciara’s life, because he convinced her not to pay the ransom but offer a reward instead.’
‘Oh no…’ Frankie was shocked but felt Bo did the right thing.
‘So she moved out with Ciara; they’ve staying with Victor at the moment. Bo’s really torn up about it.’
‘So what… everyone now thinks you want to make a move on Bo? Are you kidding me?’
‘How was I to even know there was trouble between Bo and Hope in the first place?’ Carly was glad to let out her hurt and frustration at last. ‘The family’s probably still very angry for me for leaving in the first place.’
‘It’s not like they don’t know why!’
‘I don’t think they know the whole story. But what does it matter anyhow? Bo moved on with his life ages ago.’
‘It still doesn’t give them the right to treat you like this. Have they forgotten you’re my sister?’
‘Right now, I think they’re too busy protecting Hope from the interloper to remember that, or anything else about me for that matter.’
‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this.’ Frankie growled. ‘I’m going to go back to Salem with you and straighten them all out, Justin especially. He’s going to pay for attempting to sabotage you.’
‘You’ll do no such thing. The family still has regard for you, at least I hope so, and I’ll just get the blame if this turns into a feud.’
‘A feud of their own making. Why would they treat you like this in the first place and expect me to take it lying down? And you should’ve sued Justin.’
‘I don’t want any trouble, Francois and I can take care of myself. At least I got the job and once they see I’m not trying to get Bo back, they’ll probably change their minds about me. And it’s not like I’ll be drawing attention to myself or forcing myself on them.’ Carly told him of her plan and he nodded approvingly.
‘Does Bo know what Lawrence did to you?’
Carly lowered her head. ‘No, he doesn’t know about… that.’
Frankie stared at her in disbelief and Carly went on, ‘I can’t tell him; not with what he’s going through right now. I just can’t.’
‘You’re in love with him.’ Frankie guessed correctly.
Carly’s eyes filled with tears and her brother’s arm went round her. ‘ I am, it’s impossible not to be. Especially after…’ she sniffled, her heart filled with sheer pain. ‘But what we had is in the past. I know he hopes to sort things out with Hope and he will, I want him to. If there’s anyone who deserves love and stability, it’s Bo. In time, everyone will realize I didn’t come back to ruin his marriage. So please… don’t do anything that would only make things worse. Please.’
Frankie reluctantly nodded and held his sister tightly in his arms, consoling her; wishing she’d taken his advice about not moving back to Salem. He was very angry at what he just heard from her but she’d made him promise not to take action. But her plan she revealed to him was a good one. He was prepared to help her with it if she ran into difficulties. ‘I promise. In the meantime, please cheer up. It’s Christmas. Don’t let Nick come back to find your eyes all red.’
Carly agreed, pulling herself together and went to the bathroom to bathe her eyes.
Nicholas came back from skiing later, his cheeks red from the rigorous sport. He too was pleased Carly had come to Chamonix and seemed to be recovering from her ordeal. He knew she was yet to fully recover but he was glad at what he saw so far. Reading his father’s journals was a very unpleasant experience, each entry making him ill and making him ask himself yet again how could he have allowed his father to fool him. He was yet to be done with them but in the meantime, giving his mother a wonderful Christmas was more important. Vivian had called from Madrid hoping he would fly over to spend the holidays with her. He’d basically told her to go to hell and never call him again.
While Nicholas and Frankie shot pool in the game room, Carly contemplated phoning Bo to wish him a merry Christmas; her hand hovering over the phone. Despite her resolve to avoid him more, she missed him terribly. The holidays were probably hard for him and Hope, their poor little Zack not being there to celebrate it with them. She wondered if Bo’s other daughter flew in to spend Christmas with them.  Carly’s lips tightened. He and Billie never got to raise Chelsea from a baby but she was his first born daughter all the same…. a child she never got to give him. Life just wasn’t fair.
You can’t turn back the clock, Carly.
Carly didn’t call Bo. She called Daniel instead and also spoke with his fiancée, Chloe Lane. She had a delicious dinner with Frankie and Nicky, afterwards they bundled up against the cold and walked down to the town to attend Mass, wishing one another merry Christmas and exchanging kisses at midnight.
On Christmas morning, they exchanged gifts. Nicholas went skiing again and Frankie, who was also an avid skier, joined him. Carly however preferred ice skating; taking it up quickly even though she hadn’t skated in years. They had lunch at one of the cafes and later in the evening, enjoyed a hearty Christmas dinner. For the first time in years, Carly was happy. Her wounds were yet to fully heal but she was with her family, spending a lovely Christmas with them. That was her real Christmas present and she was grateful for it.