Chapter 19

'I don't know how many ways I can say I'm sorry. I... I was only trying to help...'

'You had no right to interfere, Mum.' Bo finally turned to look at Caroline, his eyes glinting with cold anger. Adrienne had spared no detail about his mother's unwanted visit and Carly's fury when she came over to the station. He had the uncomfortable feeling almost every cop heard his former cousin-in-law's angry tirade about how his family kept sticking a knife into Carly on his behalf. 'Like the one you stuck into her wasn't deep enough!' she'd added, glaring at him and he needed no hint to know what she meant.

...when she watched you and Hope together, down at the docks. She saw and heard everything.

'Alright, maybe I could've handled it better but I felt I had to say something to her instead of watching you wallow more and more in guilt.'

'How did accusing her of keeping our children away a way of punishing me help in any way?'

Caroline bit her lip. 'It just came out, I never meant to upset her.'

'You shouldn't have gone over there at all Mum! This is between Carly and me, no one else. With this stunt you pulled, how the hell am I supposed to get her to listen to me now? You just had to go and make this even more difficult, as if she doesn't hate me enough already.'

'Again, I'm sorry. But I'm your mother, what affects you affects me, I was taking your feelings to account...'

'But not Carly's though. You've never taken Carly's feelings to account the moment she came back to Salem.'

'Because I felt I owed her nothing... at the time.' she added, wincing at Bo's narrowed eyes. 'I'm sorry to say this now but you're already so mad at me I might as well go ahead. I felt she had no right to come back after the way she left, not just you but the rest of us. Not so much as a goodbye to Shawn Douglas! Not a single letter or a phone call, she left us all behind to be with that monster and their son... and then to come back and plant her problems on you and complicate your life further. She had no right to come back after all this time. And finding out she had an affair with Daniel and giving up their baby, well... it was the last straw for me. I didn't want anything to do with her and yes... I hated her for taking up with you again and blamed her for so many things, including your problems with Hope.' Dashing tears from her eyes, Caroline took a deep breath and continued. 'You don't have to spell out what you're obviously thinking... that I of all people had no right to judge her and I should have found out what happened to her all those years and listen to her own side of the story... I chose not to do all that. Just like I chose to forget the terrible things Vivian did to Carly and what that girl gave to this family while she was still here. I felt especially responsible for her attitude towards you and Melanie, that's why I went over to Adrienne's, you have to believe me. But she was just so cold and unbending that I snapped. Honey... I'm really sorry.'

Sighing deeply, Bo turned away, unable to say anything.

'I can only imagine how Carly feels about us right now, but we can't let it go on.'

'And would that be because you actually want to make amends or for two specific reasons?' Bo asked, unable to keep the bitter cynicism from his voice.

'Aren't they the reason you want Carly to forgive you?'

'You've got no right to ask me that.'

'I think I do, Bo. You made yourself perfectly clear five years ago. You can't have both Hope and Carly in your life. This time, you'll be complicating Carly's life besides yours.'

Bo turned to face his mother. 'I will handle things between Carly and me from now on. No one and I mean no one in the family should go anywhere near her and that includes Victor.'

'I did what I did because I love you honey. That's the only reason.'

'Well it damned well didn't help me at all, Mum.' he said flatly. He knew he was being harsh but Bo refused to soften, his mind only on Carly; and what he needed to say and explain to her. Things were now going to be even more difficult but he couldn't let that stop him. His phone rang and he answered it. It was Roman.

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'Who's that?'

'I have no idea.' Carly replied, staring at the young woman seated at Nicky's bedside, holding his hand. Her face was half-hidden under long curly black hair and her clothes, a cream sweater and black jeans were obviously not of the local boutique variety. The visitor suddenly raised her head, rising from her chair as they entered the room. Yowza…Marcus couldn't help thinking appreciatively. Except for the deep blue almond-shaped eyes, she could almost pass off as Meghan Markle's doppelganger.

'Dr Manning.' she said softly, and Carly's interest in the girl rose further at the polished French accent.

'Yes.'

'I'm Emma Villiers.' The faint smile failed to disguise the worry on her beautiful face. 'I really thought we would meet in happier circumstances.'

Carly accepted the proffered hand. 'You and Nicky are dating?'

'We're engaged actually.' Emma held up her left hand, where an exquisitely cut diamond ring flashed.

Nicholas was getting married. She shouldn't feel surprised, Nicholas was an adult, but it further hit her how long she and Nicholas have been estranged 'Wow, that's wonderful. I'm happy to meet you Emma.'

'And I'm very happy to meet you, Dr Manning.' Emma said earnestly, holding on to Carly's hand.

'But how did you find out about Nicky?'

'I was worried when Nicholas didn't call me again, so I called his mobile and your daughter answered it, she told me what happened.' Emma sniffled, wiping a tear with a slim finger.

Remembering her manners, Carly introduced Emma to Marcus. Emma nodded, shaking his hand firmly. 'My pleasure, Dr Hunter.'

'Hi.'

Emma turned back to Carly, 'I've been dying to see you since I arrived, and I have so much to tell you.'

'Why don't you both head over to the cafeteria, I'll stay with Nicky.' Marcus suggested. 'If there's any change, I'll have you paged.'

'Yes, you could use something to eat, come with me Emma.'

Picking up a leather shoulder bag, Emma followed Carly out of the room. 'I still don't understand how this could have happened, it seems like a very bad dream to me.'

'Do your parents know?' Carly asked quietly.

Emma nodded, wiping her eyes again, this time with a hanky. 'They're shocked of course. I promised to keep them updated on Nicholas' progress after I convinced Maman not to come with me. We have to move up the wedding date of course.'

'I'm really sorry about this, Emma.'

'What I'm more concerned about is that my beloved gets through this, and whoever did this to him be punished.'

As they stepped out of the elevator, Emma turned to Carly. 'Melanie told me you were at a medical conference when it happened.'

'That's right.'

'Nicholas must have been disappointed on finding you were away. He badly wants to reconcile with you.'

Carly swallowed, struggling not to cry herself. 'He really said that?'

'I promise you, Dr Manning, he does. After his father's death, he was so angry, I've never seen him like that, and it frightened me. And listening to that woman poisoning his mind about you…'

'Vivian?' Carly watched as Emma flinched at the name, her face filled with revulsion.

'She's evil, Dr Manning, Evil personified. I knew it the moment Nicholas introduced me to her when she came back to Paris. She acted in a pleasant, charming manner but her eyes… I knew I was looking at a person my beloved couldn't see at the time.' Emma rubbed her arms as though cold, an exaggerated gesture to those who didn't see through Vivian Alamain. Bo had swiftly seen through her, had warned Carly to be on her guard.

Why can't you see her for what she is?

And she'd refused to listen to him…until the day Lawrence revealed that Nicholas was their son and what Vivian had done years ago, adding that Lisanne Gardner was dead.

At the cafeteria, the two women got coffee, Carly pressing Emma to add a strudel to hers before finding a table where they could talk.

'Nicholas was anxious for Vivian and me to get along, she was the only family he had left according to him. And I knew there was no way it was possible. Everything about her repulsed me. When we were alone, she was condescending, talking about how Nicholas was a huge catch and how the Alamain line needed to be maintained with the right lineage. I kept this from Nicholas because I felt I could handle it. After she kept talking about how you were a cold-blooded killer, I begged him to find you and at least hear your own side of it, he refused. His mind was made up, he wanted nothing to do with you. I let the matter rest and didn't speak of it with him again but I hoped he would eventually come round. Then, one day, Vivian send for me.'

'She didn't mince words, she wanted me out of Nicholas' life. I wasn't the right match for him according to her and she offered me a check of 10 million euros and some stock she would transfer to me if I never saw nor spoke to him again. I told her to go to the devil.'

'And what did Nicky say?'

'I suspected he would either not believe me or she would manipulate him into thinking I was a liar. So when I went to her penthouse, I was prepared. I turned on the sound recorder app on my mobile and recorded our conversation.' She smiled grimly and Carly silently applauded her future daughter in law.

'I went over to his apartment and I found him crying in his study.'

Carly blinked, shocked.

'He was surrounded by books, journals actually. I went to him, asking him what was wrong. But he just held on to me and cried harder, rambling. I waited for him to tell me what had upset him so much but he wouldn't. I felt it was best to let him tell me in his own time. But when Vivian added 5 million to her offer a week later, I played him the recording. He was furious and said he was going over to her place, that he had a lot of other things he wanted to discuss with "that bitch" anyway. I stayed in the apartment and waited for him.'

'He came back in the evening, held me in his arms and said I was not to worry about Vivian again. That he was done with her for good and if she ever came near me he would protect me by every means necessary. I begged him to tell me what happened, asking if it also had something to do with those journals I saw him crying over. He said yes, that he discovered a lot of things about Vivian and his father… the journals were his. There were a lot of things he refused to speak of, but he did tell me about the abuse you suffered at Mr Alamain's hands for years, about the baby daughter he forced you to give up and… and…' her voice now trembling, 'how Vivian admitted when he confronted her, that she stole him from you the day he was born and… she was the reason you were buried alive.'

'My God…' Carly pressed a hand to her mouth, painfully reliving that terrible, haunting experience. The silk-covered walls closing in… screaming for Bo but only hearing Vivian's taunting voice… losing oxygen…

'He broke down in my arms and cried again and I finally gave him a pill, he was so distraught. When he woke up the next morning, he was calmer. We talked about us, and he finally proposed.' She smiled faintly and Carly smiled back. 'But that didn't stop me from scolding him for believing that woman's lies about you and he admitted he was wrong the whole time and apologised to me. I said to him, "I'm not the one you should apologise to but your mother. Make amends and bring her to Paris to attend our wedding."'

Nicky had truly come back to reconcile with her… and had finally seen Vivian for what she is. If only he wasn't breathing through a tube right now. For the first time in years, Carly felt vindicated.

'I'm very glad you told me all this Emma.' Carly said at last, her words coming out slowly. 'I needed to hear this and you've done me a service I can never repay.'

'No repay necessary, Dr Manning. I was happy to. At least we have a lot to look forward to when he wakes up.'

Carly nodded, warming towards this sweet girl. 'We're family, honey. Please call me Carly.'

'Carly it is then.' Emma's smile lit up her whole face.

Just then, Carly was paged.

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Roman, Rafe and his partner- Detective Alejandra Ruiz, rose to their feet as Carly and Emma entered Roman's office. Roman's eyes went over Carly's still beautiful face which was cool and aloof, putting him off from giving her a more personal greeting. Instead, he shook her hand and Emma's when she was introduced to him.

'Just as well you're here, Miss Villiers. You recognise this watch?' he handed Emma a plastic evidence bag.

'Of course. I gave this watch to Nicholas on his birthday last year, I had it engraved. See… From E to N at the back.'

Roman nodded.

'Where did you find this?' Carly demanded.

'Some homeless guy, Eddie Hill, was trying to hock it to a pawnbroker.' Rafe replied.

'And did you arrest him? Did he confess to shooting my Nicholas?' Emma asked, raising her voice.

'He's in custody but swears he didn't shoot Nicholas.'

'Rubbish, I don't believe that!'

Carly laid placating hands on Emma's shoulders. 'Do you believe him?' she asked Rafe quietly.

'He claims he was on the sidewalk just opposite the Salem Inn that night, he saw Nicholas walking up the steps. Then out of nowhere, according to him, the shooter came out of nowhere and fired. Once he was gone, Eddie ran to him and-assuming he was dead- swiped the Rolex and took off.'

'He lied to you, detective. He shot my fiancé, he's just trying to talk his way out of a charge of attempted murder.'

'We would agree with you on that, Miss Villiers, if his hands didn't come up empty. Even if he got rid of the gun used on Mr Alamain, his hands showed no signs of gun powder residue.' Alejandra said. 'We even thought he was protecting an accomplice but he passed the polygraph test.'

'Wait… what does this mean exactly?' Carly asked in disbelief. 'That my son was simply a victim of a random shooting?'

'We're still investigating Carly, the case isn't closed yet. We will definitely keep you posted.'

'Can I at least have Nicholas' watch back?' Emma asked.

'I don't see why not, but you need to sign for it down at Evidence. Alejandra, take care of it will you?'

'Yes sir. Come with me, please.'

'Rafe, leave us alone.'

Rafe obeyed, albeit reluctantly, a puzzled look on his face.

'Is there something else you want to tell me?'

'In a matter of speaking, yes. But you need to hear it from Bo. No no… Carly, don't go.' Roman added as she made for the door. 'Hear him out. It involves this case.'

'What can you tell me that you can't say in front of Rafe?'

Roman stared at her. 'Carly, how much do you remember about the day you were attacked?'

Carly stiffened. 'What has that got to do with Nicky's case?'

'It's really best to wait and hear what he has to say. No matter what happened between you two Carly, your best interest's important to him.'

'Right… my best interest. Playing your little brother's advocate just comes so easy from you, doesn't it?'

Roman winced that the bitter tone in Carly's voice. 'I'm not blind to his faults, Carly, if that's what you're insinuating. What happened five years ago wasn't the least bit fair to you and I'm not just talking about your attack.'

'An attack I've put behind me.' Carly replied coldly. 'Which I refuse to revisit with you or Bo. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my son.'

As she spoke, the door opened and against her will, her eyes met the familiar piercing hazel eyes. Shrewd as ever, Roman watched Carly and his brother closely. If there was a couple he really felt really for, it was them. Carly wasn't out of his brother's system, not with the guilt he'd been carrying on his shoulders and what he still felt for her, his love for Hope regardless. And Carly, the look in those beautiful green eyes gave the clear message there was no shot of forgiveness for Bo or the family for the way she was treated.

'Hi,' Bo managed to say stiffly. Just as stiffly, Carly inclined her head. 'Roman said you have something to say to me about the case.'

She was always a tough cookie, Roman thought, seeing Carly was determined to maintain her dignity.

'Roman and Rafe must have already told you about the suspect we have in custody.' Bo said, in turn, determined to maintain some equanimity.

'And he's not the shooter, I was told. And then Roman asked me about the attack at my apartment, why?'

'Because…' Bo glanced at Roman then back at Carly. 'I think Nicky's shooting is related to what happened to you.'

The cold mask was replaced with a confused look. 'Excuse me?'

'I think you should sit down.'

'No thank you. What do you mean by this?'

'I believe Nicky was shot on purpose… to lure you back to Salem.' Bo said quietly.

'What? That's insane!' Carly exclaimed. 'Who would do that?'

'The same person who attacked you. Who probably has unfinished business with you.'

'That's really far fetched.'

'So I told him,' Roman said dryly behind her, earning a nasty glare from his brother.

'And yet, you seem so sure about this. Why?' Carly turned back to Bo. There was something ominous in his voice during his revelation.

'Nicky's shooting obviously wasn't a mugging, and he doesn't have enemies, does he?'

'Not that I know of but…'

'You're in danger, princess. Trust me on this.'

Roman saw the way Carly flinched at the blatant use of her old nickname and the cold hard mask was back in place.

'Trust you? You're joking right?'

Bo exhaled, exasperated. 'If you could just get past what happened…'

'How dare you. How dare you ask that of me?'

'Roman, give us some privacy will you?'

'Roman, stay where you are. We're done here.'

Bo grabbed her arms. 'Will you listen to me for a moment?' he said angrily.

'Bo, let her go, you can't treat her like this.' Roman ordered, wrenching Carly away from his grip. 'The hell's the matter with you?'

'That's how it is Carly, we can't have a normal conversation as adults?' Bo snapped, ignoring his brother.

'Oh, I can.' Carly replied, simmering with anger. 'I simply don't want to. Outside my son's case, I have nothing to say to you and I would much rather not see your face again for the rest of my time in this cursed town.'

Roman winced again, this time at the hatred in her voice, while Bo was rendered speechless. Carly made it to the door and was about to turn the handle when his words stopped her. 'What about our children, Carly? I have the right to know about them at least.'

Roman now felt it was time to leave them alone. Briefly touching Carly's shoulder, he went out, closing the door behind him.

It wasn't the way Bo planned on asking about them but it was the only way he could keep her in the room before she found ways to avoid him.

'You've really got some nerve.'

'Maybe. But it's been five years Carly. Of regret, of worry, of self- loathing for what I did to you. You've every right to angry but no matter how you feel about me right now, they are a part of me- we made them together.'

'I still remember… telling you over the phone while you were on the run, that I loved you very much and getting only silence. I still remember lying on the floor, almost dying, while you were at home with Hope, after you make it clear you never loved me. You forfeited your right that day, so don't give me any sob story of how you feel.' Carly replied, her voice shaking with anger.

Bo wisely kept his hands to himself, her balled fists warning him what would come next if he tried to touch her. 'I honestly wish things turned out different…'

Another stinging slap across his face stopped him. Angry tears filled Carly's eyes as she glared at him, her face deathly white. 'You lying son of a bitch.' She whispered savagely. 'They're mine, my children, do you understand me? Mine! And as for your stupid theory, it's way too late to play the hero.'

Bo made no move to stop her as she stormed out of the office. It's way too late to play the hero.

'I made a decision today.'

'What decision?'

'I'm going to become a cop.'

Other than her eyes widening, Carly made no response to his bombshell.

'When I saw what happened to Mum and Pop,' he went on, painfully reliving the moment he walked into the vandalised Fish Market, his beloved father felled by the robber's bullet before he could stop it. 'I knew I had to make a difference. And maybe I can do that by becoming a cop.'

Carly sighed then gave him a faint smile, shrugging her shoulders. 'Well. Didn't I always tell you you were a hero?'

'Are you sure you're okay with this?' Roman had criticised him for making the decision to join the force without discussing it with Carly first but he had assured his big brother Carly would support him. Stroking her cheek, his love for her burned deep.

'Look… I'm going to be worried about you but I'm not going to try and stop you, I know it means too much.' Carly replied softly, eyes fixed on him.

'Yeah, it does. And so does your support.' He said, drawing her into his arms, feeling her lips press against his neck. He knew he could always count on his princess.

A real hero would've protected the woman he loved when she really needed him. More than ever, Bo was reminded how much he'd failed her... the woman he still loved. The woman he was now going to protect from the unknown attacker, the beginning of his atonement.