Chapter Eleven

***Choices***

A few days passed before Andrèsj saw Leslie Lu. He wasn't sure if the meeting was intentional. He and Nikolas had decided to spend some time away from the Hotel and Nikolas' cottage was the best choice. Stefan knew where to find them if he wanted them and open air would help the brothers focus. Besides, the waiting was driving them crazy and Nikolas was becoming more agitated. Andrèsj worried and hoped that on this outing, Nikolas would trust him enough to confide whatever bothered him.

Andrèsj went upstairs to relieve himself and when he came back down, he found Leslie Lu on the sofa with her back to him. Silky brown hair rested on her shoulders. She sat with her back straight, an air of sophistication surrounded her. He could stand like that for hours, just watching her. Taking that first step would make her real. And her rejection of him a cold, biting reality.

Her head turn and in the next moment, she stood and faced him. A faint smile came to her rosy lips. "Hi."

"Good day," he said, hoping for polite reservation. "Nikolas is here somewhere…"

She shook her head. "When I came in, he was heading for the stables. I tried to get him to talk, but he said that he had to tend to Sheba first. He told me to wait for him here."

"Did he tell you I was here?"

She plucked at the hem of her pink blouse. Her lashes lowered, fanning her porcelain cheeks. "Yeah. He told me."

Andrèsj didn't know what to say to that. Women were an enigma. Never would he understand them, and right now, he didn't even want to try. He averted his gaze and stepped down into the living area. Moving around the room, he looked at various pieces of art and books. He felt her stare, but didn't want to face it.

"I'm sorry about the other day," she said as the silence wore on. "I was at the park, but then my dad showed up… We argued and I left. I should have apologized by now, but everything else happened… Drè, please forgive me."

The ice around his heart began to melt. He slowly turned to face her. "Your father would not be pleased to hear you ask me for forgiveness."

"I don't care about what pleases my father," Leslie Lu said. "I do care that I may have hurt you, and I'm sorry if I did."

Something caught in his throat. He swallowed hard. "I am fine as you can see."

"I'd like to make up for it," she said quickly. "I know this is a bad time because of your aunt… We don't have to do anything huge. Maybe grab something to eat or watch videos at my place."

Drè frowned. "Would your father be there?"

"He doesn't live with us anymore," she answered. "And if I ask my mom to give us some privacy, she will. Would you like to…hang out with me?"

A faint smile came to his lips. "I suppose I would."

***

"This is a pleasant surprise." Dara smiled as Mac entered her office. He carried a huge bouquet of flowers and gallantly handed them to her. "The flowers are beautiful. You didn't have to, but I like them so I guess I'll keep them. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Did I come at a bad time?" he asked, nodding toward the numerous files on her desk.

Dara's law practice had just opened, but clients in search of legal assistance had beaten a path to her door. She loved having so much business and especially relished the necessity to refuse a few cases. Since everything was in the beginning stages, there weren't too many deadlines she had to worry about. She closed the open files and pointed to a guest chair. "Have a seat."

"Thanks." Mac settled on the chair and grinned back at her.

"What?" she said, blushing under his intense stare. "Did I grow a third eye?"

"No, I'm just looking at you and thinking how right this is for you," he said.

She raised an eyebrow. "Oh, is that your polite way of saying that I wasn't cut out to be a prosecutor?"

"No." He shook his head. "Just my way of saying that I'm happy for you. This career change seems to be working for you."

"It is."

His expression became serious and he leaned forward. "I know that Dr. DeLane is a relative of your husband's. How is the investigation going? Have there been any leads?"

"No, there haven't been."

"I noticed the guards. Is that enough to keep you safe?"

His interest was sweet at first, but now, she was beginning to feel uncomfortable. "It's more than enough. Zarek is attentive and over protective. I'm fine."

Mac's jaw tightened. "I can't help but think that if it wasn't for Zarek, you wouldn't need the guards in the first place."

"Mac," she said firmly. "That's none of your business."

"I care about you, Dara," he said, leaning toward her. "I don't want to see you get hurt."

"You don't have to worry about that. Zarek would never hurt me."

"You're not sure about that." His emerald eyes flashed and he quickly stood. "I see the doubt in your eyes."

"I think it's time for you to go."

He held up his hands in mock defense and stepped back. "I'll leave, but not for good. If you ever need me, you know where to look."

***

Emily breathed a loud sigh of relief as Edward, Alan, Monica and Ned filed out of her room. The hospital discharged her that morning. Instead of enjoying the peace and quiet of her own space, she'd been subjected to her family offering their words of wisdom and telling her that she would walk again. She knew that she would, but their harping on it chipped away at her confidence. She supposed they would never understand that too much of something was never a good thing.

Through it all, Zander had been with her. Lucky had called, wanting to come over. She glanced at Zander who smiled and knew that she'd have to decline Lucky's invitation. The soft kiss her old friend placed on her lips still caused her to tingle. She hadn't processed the gentle caress, but reliving it in her mind became a habit. Of course, it was wrong. Zander was her boyfriend. He didn't deserve to be cheated on even if it was a mental diversion. She should tell him, but how?

"Quiet," Zander said, looking toward the closed bedroom door. "It's amazing how quiet a room gets after your family leaves it."

She gave him a faint smile. "It's a gift they have." She patted to the empty space on her bed. "Sit down."

He accepted her invitation. His hand reached for hers. "Will you be okay here?"

"They love me," Emily said. "They have a weird way of showing it, but they do. Besides, they've hired the best physical therapist in the United States to help me walk again. Yeah, I'll be fine here."

"They blame me for what happened."

She squeezed his hand. "No they don't."

"Do you?"

She frowned. "Zander, why would you…think that?"

"Something is changing between us," he said. "I can feel it. If it's because you blame me…"

"It wasn't your fault. I followed you because I wanted to. You didn't force me. Now, I have to face this…being paralyzed." She swallowed hard. "I know it won't last forever."

"I'll help. I'll do whatever I can. I suppose I'm rich now, too," he said. "If this therapist doesn't work out, I can get you someone else. I can pay for everything."

"Zander, don't worry about it."

"I want to do something!" he said. "I don't like seeing you like this. You should be up, moving around…dancing and having fun. Not stuck in a bed."

"I don't think of it that way," she argued. "It's just a momentary set back."

A knock sounded and the door creaked open. Lucky walked in. His knowing blue eyes zeroed in their joined hands. Emily jerked her hand free of Zander's. A hot blush filled her cheeks.

"I told you now wasn't a good time," Emily said to Lucky.

"I know," he said, "but I had to see for myself that you'd settled in okay." He looked away from her for a second to say, "Zander."

"Spencer," Zander responded. There was a thoughtful expression on his face. Then, he frowned. "If she didn't want you to come, you shouldn't have."

Lucky's mouth thinned into a line. "She didn't say she didn't want me here. She said it wasn't a good time."

Tension crept into the room. It hung over and around them. Lucky edged closer to the bed. He bent forward and kissed her cheek. Emily's eyes closed as she savored the moment. When his lips pressed against her for several seconds longer than necessary, her eyes opened and she pulled away. She glanced at Zander. His face was ashen. His nostrils flared. He knew.

"I see," Zander said slowly. "I'll leave you two alone then!"

He slammed from the room. Emily called out, "Zander!"

There was nothing but silence in reply. She looked at Lucky. "Why did you come? Why did you kiss me? Lucky, do you have any idea what you just did!"

"Yes!" he said, sitting beside her on the bed. "I stopped pretending and hiding behind the wall of friendship. Zander took off because he knows…"

Her irritation died. His husky voice and sapphire eyes mesmerized her. "He knows what?"

"He knows that you made your choice."

***

"Will you ever talk to me again?" Keesha asked, staring at Jagger's back. "Or is this it? The silent treatment unless we're talking about a case or something?"

Conscious of the other agents in the London office with them, Jagger kept his tone even. "I talk to you."

"Not much," Keesha complained. "You're my partner, Cates. If I did something to piss you off this much, I think I deserve… I don't know… You telling me what I did so we can move past this."

He dropped the file he'd been reading onto the table and leaned toward her. "Do you really wanna know?"

She nodded. "Of course."

"Fine." He stood. "Let's go for a walk."

She stood and followed him outside. The mid day sun was actually showing its face for a change. Keesha hoped this meant the predictable rainfall would be absent today. The dreary weather only made the sad circumstances of the case that much worse.

Jagger headed toward a garden adjacent to their office building. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his trench coat and seemed to almost explode with his irritation.

"Jason Morgan!"

Keesha sighed. She should have known. "What about him?"

"He's a jackass and you were talking to him! Why would you have anything to do with him?" Jagger questioned. "I thought that stuff that happened between you and him was ancient history."

Now, that made her mad. She jabbed a finger into his chest. "First of all, my relationship with Jason Quartermaine can't and won't be described as 'stuff'! We loved each other. Yes, Jason Morgan is nothing like the man I loved, but even so, you will not stand here and talk about my past like that! Yes, it's ancient history, but it's my history."

Jagger nodded woodenly. "I was out of line. I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted." She inhaled a deep breath and slowly released it. "I know you don't like Jason Morgan. I don't like him either."

"So why did he see you off at the airport?" he asked. "And yeah, I know it's none of my business. Humor me."

"There's nothing romantic happening between us if that's what you're worried about," Keesha explained. She pointed to a bench and they both sat. "A little while ago, I saw him and we talked. It was a real conversation about real things: death. Since then, he's gravitated toward me. He wants me to help get the people who killed Sonny and Michael—"

"NO!" Jagger abruptly stood. "That bastard got exactly what he deserved. I'm sorry about the little kid. He shouldn't have been there, but that's the way Corinthos wanted it and that's what happened. Whoever set that bomb—"

"Needs to be found," she interjected, "and brought to justice."

He folded his arms across his chest and stared down at her. "Will you help him?"

Keesha shrugged. "I told him I would, but I just said that to get him off my back."

Jagger nodded. He held his hand out and pulled her to her feet. "If he continues to bother you, let me know."

"I don't need you to fight my battles," she argued.

He smiled and dimples flashed. "I know, but this is one I really wanna fight. Please, Keesha?"

"We'll see," she said, refraining from giving him a yes or a no. "We'll see."

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