All the King's Horses
Part I: Chapter 21

Valerie shivered, pulling on her robe as she padded across the room barefoot. The morning air was chilly, and she couldn’t seem to remember with the cobwebs still in her brain where the thermostat was to turn up the heat. And anyway, she had more important things to do right now. Like answer the phone.

“Hello,” she answered groggily, picking up the cordless as she made her way across the room to see if her roommate was still sleeping. She was.

“Valerie? Hey… This is Livvie. Can I talk to Alison?”

“Um… Is it important? She’s still asleep…”

“Oh, well then don’t wake her up. It’s not life or death or anything. I figured she’d be up though. She has the opening shift.”

“Should I wake her up?”

“No. Don’t! She actually went to sleep? What did you have to do? Drug her?”

Laughing, Valerie sat herself on the sofa, she made sure to keep her voice low. “Nope. I thought about it, but I didn’t get the chance. I came in last night and she was asleep on the couch all curled up on her angel.”


Valerie held the phone away from her ear while the other girl shrieked. Once it sounded clear, she continued the conversation. “Yeah, her head was in Rafe’s lap, and she was out. And neither one of them seemed to like the idea of moving much. I don’t know what he did, I just know that she hadn’t been up since then. You know how she was when you were here, she’s been like that for at least two weeks, so she needs the sleep.”

“Yeah, I could tell that she did… I can’t believe that she went to sleep in his lap after the way we found them outside the hospital… I would have thought sleeping was the last thing on her mind,” Livvie giggled.

“You know, I don’t think I want to know.”

“Oh, yes you do. But I can’t tell you just yet. I’ve got to go really quick. Are you up?”

“I am now.”

“Good. I’ll call you back after Jack goes to the bike shop. It shouldn’t be very long. Why don’t you turn off the ringer on the phone by the bed. If we’re going to plot we need to do it while she’s asleep right?”

“Yeah… I’ll do that, but what are we plotting?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you that right now either. I’ll talk to you in a few minutes.”

“Alright… I’ll talk to you later then.” Hanging up the phone, she sighed. What was going on here? Why were they suddenly being nice to her? Including her?

Shaking her head, Valerie sighed. Nope, she wasn’t going to screw it up anymore. She’s just roll with it. If Alison was going to be nice to her, she could be nice to Alison. And if Livvie wanted her help with some plot, then she might as well lend a hand. Right? Doesn’t everyone need a friend?

She trudged silently to follow the instructions left by Livvie and turn off the ringer of the phone beside Alison’s bed. She really did need sleep anyway. Her blond hair was spread across her pillow, and she was snoring softly. What was it about this woman that had two men head over heels in love with her?

The ringer was off, and so she went off in search of coffee and the thermostat. It was way too cold in this place, and way to early to do anything thinking without caffeine in her system.

It wasn’t until the heater was on that she allowed herself to start looking for the coffee. After checking all the cabinets twice, she decided that Alison obviously wasn’t a big coffee drinker. She sighed again and decided to settle for orange juice.

But she paused with her hand on the handle to open the door, her attention was more caught on the finger painting hanging there. It was obviously done by a child, a small child, just four or five. Something done with love and more concentration than more children that age were capable of. Simple, little flowers were drawn across the paper, red and green marks. Not to mention the grass. It was unimaginably cute.

And it was hanging on Alison’s refrigerator. Like a picture from her daughter would never be hanging on hers.

Valerie let out a shaky breath. She wasn’t going to get Hope back, and she wasn’t going to keep trying. It hurt like hell to let go, but she’d made the right choice when she gave her up for adoption. The Hartman’s would take great care of her. And they were the only parents her little girl knew. Alison was right about that.

It was also becoming increasingly clear that Alison wasn’t joking. If she wanted Jamal, the blond wouldn’t put up a fight. But did she want him by default? Did she want him at all?

The phone rang, and she answered it before it had a chance to ring again. “Hello?”

“Valerie, it’s me again. Listen, do you want to help or not?”

“Help with what, Livvie? I don’t understand.”

“Rafe and Alison, of course! Oh… You know… You aren’t going to go running to tell Jamal are you?”

“No. I’m not. I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of talking to Jamal at all if I can help it.”

“Right. I knew you weren’t very happy with him either after he used your daughter to hit on you. I’m sure he’s just going through some rough stuff right now, but that’s not what we’re talking about! I think you can help us, you’re living with Alison now, you know?”

“Yeah… Sure. Just tell me what to do. I assume it’s not going to be as easy as just hitting them upside the head until the open their eyes?”

“Unfortunately, no. We tried that last night.”

“Who is we? You and Jack?”

“Jack? No! No, Jack can’t know. Jack will try to stop us. Jack and Jamal are way too tight. Lucy actually has a plan. I’m still not sure what it is, but three heads are better than two right?”

“Yeah. Besides, they’d be a lot less suspicious of me trying to play matchmaker than the two of you.”

“Which is exactly what I told Lucy. Alison is still asleep?”

“Oh yeah, very asleep.”

“Ok, let her stay that way. I’ll call Frank and tell him she’s not coming in… Oh! I just got a brilliant idea. Can you meet me and Lucy for breakfast someplace in an hour?”

“Sure,” Valerie shrugged. “I don’t have anything better to do. What’s the plan?”

“I’ll tell you later. Right now, I just want you to turn the ringer back on her phone and trust me. Alright? I’ll make sure she doesn’t think I’m setting anything up. We can go over what we’re going to do at breakfast. Is that ok?”

“Yeah, that’s fine… I’ll just turn the ringer back on her phone then.”

“Good! Meet us at Kelly’s around nine. This is going to be so great!”

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