Note: This is the thirteenth in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
It’s a miracle!
Jack lives! Almost immediately after the wedding, Jack is well enough to leave the hospital, and he and Kayla move into a fancy house with Harper and Anjelica outside of town. But Jack isn’t happy. He has nothing to do, and he feels useless. (In fact, he truly has nothing to do, because he’s not well enough to give Kayla a wedding night—much to her ill-concealed relief.)
So Kayla has an idea. She asks Steve to work with Jack on that old riverfront housing project. In this, one of their first meetings since the wedding, Kayla’s manner is friendly but formal. She stonewalls any attempt by Steve to treat her as more than a common acquaintance. When he tries to say that Jack wouldn’t appreciate him hanging around, Kayla says blandly, “Why would he mind?”
Steve comes to their house that night to pitch the proposal to Jack, presenting it all as his own idea. Kayla and Steve play good cop/bad cop expertly off each other, with Steve implying that Jack fell down on the job, and Kayla urging him to think of his health and reconsider.
Steve is clearly enjoying colluding with Kayla, helping his brother but being one up on him too. Then he sees Jack gently touch Kayla’s cheek, and his smile fades. This gives him a taste of what working with Jack is going to be like.
Before the wedding, Steve did not anticipate how truly crazy it would make him to see Kayla married to another man, to see them interact, and—especially—to imagine them in bed together. Whenever Jack touches Kayla, or kisses her, or they walk up the stairs together, Steve watches, holding himself absolutely still, as if on the verge of throwing himself at them and yanking them apart.
Kayla knows it. She knows him, she senses his jealousy and desire. And, subtly, she rubs his face in it. He asks her how she is enjoying married life, and she gives him a composed, noncommittal response. He continues, “With Jack being sick and all … and you being the kind of woman you are …”
She raises her eyebrows, not coming anywhere near meeting him halfway.
He’s extremely uncomfortable, but he can’t stop. “You’ve got a lot of passion in you, baby,” he says. “I just wonder if you’re … satisfied.”
Kayla says coolly, “I’m perfectly satisfied with the way things are.”
Steve looks at her closely, but he can read the truth in her eyes. So he smiles a sickly smile and says, “Well, good,” and walks away.
After he leaves, Kayla’s expression of triumph dissolves, and we see the hurt behind it. She won that round, but what does it get her?
For Kayla, too, the theory—I’ll give Jack a reason to live!—was one thing, and the reality—having a live healthy husband who wants to have sex with her—is quite another. Here at first, I think she does intend to sleep with Jack someday. She just can’t help her body’s response, which is total recoil. Whenever Jack leans in for a kiss, she gives a little nervous laugh and looks uncomfortable, even queasy.
With Steve, it’s a different story. She’s angry with him, baffled and angry, but she can’t mask the desire in her eyes when she looks at him. Whenever their eyes meet the air fairly crackles.
She might be married, but the dynamic between them has changed only slightly. Now that the immediate pressing need has passed, Steve has as much trouble concealing his feelings as he ever did. And Kayla has the same instinct to ferret out those feelings—it’s just masked by a smooth surface manner, and mixed up with hurt and a desire for revenge. This dynamic comes to a head when Kayla and Steve are on their way to Washington DC for a meeting regarding the housing project, and their car goes off the road. They are forced to seek shelter in an abandoned cabin.
Kayla exploits this opportunity to the utmost. She slips out of her wet clothing and wraps a blanket loosely around herself, draping it artfully to show some skin. She encourages Steve to take his wet clothes off too. She reminisces about old times. She stops (just) short of an open invitation, but makes it very clear that all Steve has to do is make the first move.
She hopes to make Steve cave, or, barring that, to make him suffer.
Steve is dying from temptation and lust, and the strain of trying to hide it. “What do you want, Kayla?” he asks.
Kayla’s nonchalant pose cracks, and for a moment she sounds like the old Kayla. She says, “I want to know why you did it, why you pushed me away.” She tells him he’s a coward, that she would have made him happy, and he blew it.
Steve asks why she is talking about this. “What’s the point? You’re married now.”
Kayla shuts up. She knows she’s in the wrong.
But even though she’s wrong, she’s right. That night, Steve gently touches her face when he thinks she’s asleep. Kayla is more convinced than ever that he still loves her, and that just makes her more angry that he gave her up. When they get back to Salem, a delighted Jack takes her in his arms and kisses her. Here, in front of Steve, Kayla accepts the kiss willingly, allowing it to lengthen, and lengthen, giving Steve a chance to see what he gave up.
Jack and Kayla go upstairs together, and Steve is left to torture himself with visions of what they will do up there.
Soon after, Kayla begins to feel sick and have dizzy spells, which at first makes her—and Steve, separately—think she might be pregnant with Steve’s child. They both have the same reaction: a wild hope that it’s true. But she isn’t. She’s being slowly poisoned by Senator Deveraux, on the dubious motive that he thinks she has copies of Jack’s adoption papers.
Jack decides Kayla needs a change of scene, and they finally go on their long-delayed honeymoon. Harper gives Kayla some poison-laced medication to take along, but Kayla accidentally leaves it behind (Steve picks it up). Kayla’s health rapidly improves on her honeymoon, but her disinclination to sleep with Jack continues unabated. She puts him off with threadbare excuses.
Hearing how well Kayla is doing, a jealous Steve attributes her recovery to rest, relaxation, and plenty of sex. He can hardly contain his satisfaction when he has to call Jack back early because of the housing project. Steve meets them at the Deveraux mansion as soon as they get home. As he and Jack discuss business, Jack casually rests his hands on Kayla’s shoulders for a moment, and Kayla flinches slightly and seems to want to move away.
Steve’s antennae are as ever tuned in to Kayla’s every look and gesture, so this small movement doesn’t escape him. Up until now, he has believed that Kayla is basically content in her marriage to Jack. Seeing Kayla shy away from Jack’s touch opens up a new possibility: that Kayla isn’t happy, she doesn’t love Jack, in fact, she can barely stand to have him touch her.
Soon after, Steve is off to Greece for Justin and Adrienne’s wedding. Back on the poison again, Kayla’s condition quickly deteriorates. She overhears the doctor say she might die.
Facing death, delirious, Kayla hallucinates Steve coming to her and telling her he’ll never be able to let her go. Disturbed, she musters her strength to write him a letter designed to push him away for his own good. She says that Steve was right to break up with her, and that she’s found happiness with Jack. She gives the letter to Melissa to give to Steve.
Steve first learns from Melissa that Kayla is sick again. He’s just resolving to go see her when Melissa gives him the letter. Reading it, Steve looks like he’s been punched in the stomach. At the wedding reception Jo sees him with it, and he tells her what it says. Jo is launching into a comforting speech when he cuts her off, saying, “It’s a lie!”
It’s ironic, and rather wonderful, that what makes Steve aware that something is wrong is Kayla telling him what he always seemed to want to believe. Now we can sit back and enjoy the ride as Steve snaps into action. He puts the pieces together about her medication, gets the pills analyzed, arranges for an antidote and a safehouse, and breaks into the Deveraux mansion and carries Kayla out.
While she is sick and barely conscious, Kayla instinctively leans on Steve and accepts his help. But when she wakes up it is a different story. When he tries to tell her that someone was trying to kill her, she says she doesn’t believe him—because she doesn’t trust him. She’s afraid to. “You always told me I was so naive … that I saw the world through rose colored glasses,” she says. “But I don’t anymore.”
She tells him that she still loves him. But she’s not making a declaration, or issuing a challenge. She’s just stating a simple fact. And whether she loves him or not, she isn’t going to get sucked in to believing him or trusting him again. Not after he hurt her so badly the first time.
This is where Steve must finally reap what he sowed, more than the pain of losing her, more than the pain of seeing her married. Here he must face that he destroyed an important part of her, a part that he loved—her natural optimism and boundless faith.
He tries to apologize, but she brushes it aside. She says he shouldn’t worry about her, because she has someone else to count on now, someone who loves her—Jack.
Steve starts to say he loves her too, but then he chokes it back. What right has he to tell her he loves her? So he just asks her to wait, to let him find a way to prove he’s telling the truth.
She doesn’t. As soon as Steve leaves, Kayla sneaks out. But she trusts Steve more than she is willing to acknowledge, because though she goes back to the Deveraux house she doesn’t go in. She ends up collapsing on the pier, where she is found by a strange man who takes her back to his house.
In the meantime, a friend of Steve’s from the orphanage, Marcus, has just moved to Salem. He helps Steve in his search for Kayla, and after many twists and turns, they find themselves outside the crazy man’s house. Desperate to find Kayla and bring her to safety, Steve pours out his heart to Marcus.
Steve talks about how despite everything, despite the fact that he hurt her and she ran away from him, somewhere, deep down, Kayla is counting on him. Here, in what may be the darkest hour of their relationship, Steve finally fully accepts the connection he has with Kayla. There is something between them that cannot break.
The man holding Kayla, overhearing this speech, agrees to let Steve take Kayla away with him.
When Kayla wakes up for the second time in the safehouse, she remembers enough of what happened to know that Steve found her and brought her back, that he cared for her and told her he loves her. Steve doesn’t say much, but she can read in his expression and his body language that he isn’t trying to deny it or push it away. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The immediate crisis is past, but it’s still there.
Kayla smiles. She doesn’t press the issue. She’s healthy again, she’s with Steve, she knows he still loves her, and she can’t help but be happy. So without confronting any of the issues standing between them, without kissing each other, touching each other, or openly acknowledging their feelings, the sheer joy of just being in the same room bubbles up between them. It’s wonderful to see them be happy again.
Kayla is the first to venture over the line. When Steve says delicately, “if you want to call Jack …” she tells him, “You know what I want.”
But there’s a reason Steve keeps hanging back. This is a man who hesitated about proposing to Kayla just knowing his brother was also in love with her—and the stakes are much higher now. When he tries floating the idea that she should go back to Jack, Kayla is appalled. She says, “How do you expect me to go back to Jack after all of this?”
Confused, glancing involuntarily at the bed, Steve says, “What do you mean, all of this? We didn’t do anything.”
“Not yet we didn’t,” Kayla says. I love her sexual forthrightness, but this also accurately sums up their situation. They both know where this is headed. Deep down, Steve knows that everything important has been settled between him and Kayla. He doesn’t have the heart to pretend he doesn’t love her anymore. But he doesn’t want to face the implication: that being with Kayla means stealing away his brother’s wife.
So he keeps saying that Kayla should go back to Jack. He says it weakly, without heat, but he won’t stop saying it. Finally Kayla has to force the issue, buying two tickets to California. If Steve won’t go with her, that’s his problem, but Kayla is not going back to Jack.
It takes hearing this, that no matter what choice Steve makes, Jack will not benefit, to make Steve break down. But finally he does, and he tells Kayla the truth: “He’s my brother.”
He hardly needs to say anything else. It explains everything. She knows what Billy means to him. The pain he felt about losing his baby brother was one of the first things she knew about him, that hinted at the real Steve, the man lurking under the scary exterior. It was part of what made her pursue Steve as she did.
But even though she understands, she’s not letting him off the hook quite that easily. She forces him to acknowledge what he never wanted to face, how much pain he caused her in trying to save his brother. When Steve says he never wanted to hurt her, she says, “What did you think all those times you saw me after we had broken up? That I was happy?”
He says his brother was dying, and he didn’t know what to do. Kayla says if he had told her the truth, maybe they could have worked something out.
“How?” Steve says. And Kayla doesn’t have an answer. She knows the lengths he is willing to go to for his family. If he was willing to kill for his mother, and go to prison for Adrienne, then wouldn’t he give up the woman he loves for Billy?
Well, he tried. He put them both through hell. But the truth is he never really let her go, not completely. He couldn’t do it, not even for Billy.
That’s why they’re here. That’s why they’re having this conversation. So Steve boldly takes the final step. He says, “I love you, Kayla. I’ll never stop loving you.” He takes her face in his hands, and he kisses her, and he carries her to the bed. Slowly, they strip out of their clothing so there is nothing between them. No more secrets. No more holding back. It’s a beautiful moment of redemption and renewal.