Chapter Twenty-five

*Baby Steps*

The overhead bell rang loudly as the garage door swung open. Sly glanced away from the mess Lucky had made of his desk to gape at the brown-eyed beauty's approach. Her gorgeous eyes blazed with fury and Sly knew there was cause for concern. Yet, he couldn't help but admire how beautiful Allyson looked when she was angry.

"You went behind my back." She tossed her keys onto his desk and planted both hands on her ample hips.

He nodded. "I did. I don't like being a secret." He took her keys and twirled them around his index finger. "Besides, your dad would have found out sooner or later. It was better that he heard it from me."

"No!" She wagged her finger just inches from his nose. "I should have told him. Do you know he spent half the night--"

"Screaming and shouting?"

A warning cloud settled on her features. Her voiced dropped to a near whisper. "He expressed how disappointed he was in me. Not once did he scream or shout. He was hurt that I didn't tell him myself. You shouldn't have gone over there."

He stopped swinging the keys and clutched them in the palm of his hand. "He doesn't think I'm good enough for you, Allyson. What was I supposed to do? Hide behind your skirt while you fought this battle for me."

"This isn't your battle. It's ours." She slumped onto the chair across from his desk. "Why are you so pigheaded to see that?"

"I don't have the best reputation," he stated quietly. "Most people think I'm worthless and destined to kill or be killed. Talking to your dad was one way to prove them wrong. I'm not the punk most people assume I am. I sincerely care about you. The only way this is can work is if people understand that."

"By people you mean Bryan Philips," she murmured.

"For starters."

She rose, came around the desk and squatted in front of him. Her fingers raked across the stubble on his jaw. Her thumb did crazy things to his bottom lip. "You're not worthless. True, your rep sucks, but I don't care about that as much as I used to. In fact, I don't care about it at all because after all these years, I'm finally getting to know the real you."

He hitched a breath and mumbled, "Oh, boy."

Her gentle laugh rippled through the air. "I dig the real you."

"I dig you, too." He pulled her onto his lap, careful to settle her on his uninjured leg. His fingers drew tiny circles on her bare midriff. Was that a belly ring peeking out? His eyes widened then he met her gaze for confirmation.

She grinned. "Daddy doesn't control me, Sly. His opinion matters, but I'm not a kid anymore. I know a good thing when I see it."

"So do I." He pressed his lips against hers, then gently covered her mouth. The taste of her soothed his restless spirit. The kiss deepened. The tip of her tongue caressed his. Sly released a groan. Her eager response gave promise to their future.

~*~

Emily laughed as Lucky hopped from the tow truck and jogged toward her. He graced her with an irresistibly devastating grin. He plopped onto the wrought iron chair and grimaced as he rubbed his hip.

"Ow. I need to talk to Aunt Bobbie or LuLu about these chairs," he said. "Mm, are those chili cheese fries?" He grabbed a couple from her plate. "I've been to a lot of places, but Kelly's has the best chili on the planet."

"What are you doing in that truck? I thought you had a lunch break."

"I do," he said between bites of her food. "Sly asked me to keep the truck just in case there's a call. You don't mind, do you?" He glanced over his shoulder. "I guess it is an eyesore, but Sly's proud of it. He did the detail himself. I told him to think about adding that as a side business."

Her mouth broke into a wide, open smile.

Dots of pink flushed his cheeks. "What?"

"You're having fun working over there, aren't you? I thought only Dawn could put up with that cousin of yours, but you manage quite well."

Lucky paused to sip her water. "He's got insecurities like the rest of us, but when he trusts you, you see another side of him. A while back, he really helped me out. You know he and Allyson are dating."

"No way! The way they bicker? That must have been some kind of sexual tension."

"That's the best kind," he murmured as he bent forward to kiss her.

"That took you long enough. You seemed more interested in my food than me."

"Never," he assured her. "But I am starving. Who's working in there? I'm ready to place my order. I'll be right back."

A soft sigh escaped her lips as she watched him walk inside the diner. Sensitive, discerning and playful, he was the perfect man. And those blue eyes set her soul on afire. It shouldn't have taken her so long to realize there was much more than friendship between them. She hated that Zander was hurt in the process, but kismet opened her eyes to her real true love.

Moments later, Lucky rushed out the restaurant in a whirlwind. He miscalculated a step and went sprawling across the brick patio. Emily wheeled her chair around and tried to get to him.

"Lucky?" She touched his forehead. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. One of the bricks was loose." He pushed a finger through the new hole in his pants. "Great. I just bought these."

Red liquid oozed from the opening. Emily shifted the edge of her wheelchair. "You're bleeding."

"Em, be careful!" Lucky reached out for her, but it was too late.

She caught the arm of the chair and to her surprise didn't land on the ground beside him. Her legs, a little weak and kinda shaky, managed to support her weight. "Oh, my God," she said in a hushed whisper. "Is this real? Am I standing? Tell me this isn't a dream, Lucky."

"Sweetheart, this is no dream." He pushed himself to a standing position. "How do you feel? What should I do?"

"Nothing. Just stand there. Let me see if I can walk to you."

"Em? Are you sure?" Worry creased his brow. "Maybe we should go to GH or call Bobbie."

"I don't need Bobbie. All I need is you," she said. "If I fall, you'll catch me. Right?"

He nodded. He took one step back and extended his hands. "Take it easy, baby. One step at a time. Baby steps."

"I'll save the dancing for later," she murmured. Droplets of perspiration gathered on her top lip. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. Then, she leveled her gaze on her blue-eyed lover. Following his instructions, she willed her legs to move. Baby steps. One step at a time.

When she reached him, she flung her arms around his neck and collapsed against him. She did it!

~*~

"This is a pleasant surprise." Justus stood aside to allow Laura entry into his home. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

She brushed wayward strands of hair from her cheek. "I come bearing gifts." She dropped a wicker basket onto his coffee table. "Nikolas told me that Stefan left the country. I guessed that you were probably worried about what he'd find, so I'm here to make sure you don't worry too much."

He closed and locked the door. As he came toward her, he said, "You didn't have to go to all this trouble for me."

"What trouble?" She knelt beside the table and began removing plates and food. "You're one of my dearest friends. Where else would I be?"

Throwing up his hands, he sighed. "I give up. Do you need anything? Something to drink? Napkins?"

She smiled up at him, captivated by his darkly handsome features. "Everything we need is in this basket. Just have a seat and enjoy."

His voice dropped to a husky murmur as he sat beside her. "I already am."

~*~

The final bell rang. The student body of Port Charles High burst outside, eager to get down to the business of fun.

"Come on, girl." Georgie nudged Lesley Lu's arm. "Lucas and I are going to the arcade and then the park. It will be a blast."

LuLu appreciated her friend's invitation, but she wasn't in the mood. Days had passed since she spoke to Andrèsj. Her phone messages went unanswered. She questioned Nikolas, but he didn't have any answers. He promised to speak to Drè. So far, nothing.

"I'm gonna study this afternoon," she said. The girls parted ways at the sidewalk. Her friends headed toward the arcade and LuLu headed home.

"Lesley Lu."

She stopped inside the gate of her yard. He stood on the steps. His bodyguard hovered on the porch a discreet distance away. Drè's presence surprised her. She hadn't expected him to just appear.

"Hi." She brushed past him to unlock the door and drop her backpack on the floor. She thought of inviting him inside, but decided against it. If he came to dump her, it would happen outside.

"Want to go out back?" She shoved her hands inside her pockets to give herself something to do. Besides, she didn't want him to see how badly she was shaking.

With only a nod, he followed her to the backyard. She sat on the steps of the porch. He loomed over her. His mouth opened and closed several times before he finally spoke.

"I received your messages."

Hope sparked within her. "You were too busy to call me back."

"No, I didn't want to talk to you."

She fought the sudden tears that welled in her throat. "Why not?"

"I do not relish being made a fool of. Your friendship was important to me--"

"Was?" she repeated. "I am your friend. I don't understand what you're talking about."

His expression darkened. The words seemed forced. "A Spencer and a Cassadine can never be friends."

Anger flashed through her. "Why would you say something like that? It's not true."

"Your father disagrees."

She frowned, not wanting to believe. "What does he have to do with this?"

"Everything," Andrèsj said quietly. "We've spoken. He attempted to deceive me. He said you were pretending to care for me. Almost as if you were acting on his behalf."

"He's a liar."

He nodded. "I know that now."

"Well, if you know that, you know not to believe him. We can be friends. We can be more than that."

"We cannot." He gently took her hand. "He will not allow it."

"I don't care about him."

"He's your father and you are his daughter. His young daughter. Defying him in this is not in your best interest."

Pain squeezed her heart. "Are you afraid of him?"

Drè laughed. It was a hollow, empty sound. "Of course not."

"Then, why are you willing to let him win?" She squeezed his hand. "I don't want to lose you."

"You won't." He squatted so that they were eye level. "We will simply put our friendship on hold until you are older; otherwise, he will only continue to try to part us."

She gulped hard, tears slipping down her cheeks. He kissed them away. Then, he left.

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