Part 8

"At least let me walk you upstairs."

Shadows hid part of Alex's face from her view. She heard sincerity in his tone, but something hinted just below the surface. Was it sexual tension? She tingled at the thought. The man exuded primal male sex appeal. Of course, women disrobed at the mere chance of being alone with him. Dara didn't dare invite him upstairs. Even if Jerry wasn't waiting to pounce the minute she opened the door, she knew better than to allow a man like Alex Krycek inside. Well, not until she was ready to assume the risk.

She pressed her hand against his chest. "I'm fine. The building has the best security in Manhattan if not all of New York."

Half of his mouth curved into a smile. "Are you concerned that I may ravish you?"

Laughter bubbled forth, unhindered and pure. "Not exactly."

"I know when not to push my luck." He cupped her face and held it gently as his mouth caressed her cheek. "I enjoyed tonight, Dara. I hope we'll do it again real soon."

She answered honestly. "So, do I."

She unlocked the outer door and stepped inside. They waved through the glass window. With a twist of his hand, he gestured for her to go. She gave him one last smile before turning on her heels and heading to her former sanctuary.

Home.

Not too long ago the word held a deeper meaning. It was her fortress of solitude. Jerry's presence definitely changed things. Like an animal of the wild, he marked his territory everywhere. Once the threat was over, she didn't know how she'd rid her walls of the Aussie's brand. And now that she'd come to her door, she had no idea how to sneak inside.

He knew of her escape. She enjoyed two wonderfully engaging hours with Alex. In all that time, Jerry no doubt hunted high and low for her. As she curved her hand around the doorknob, the heat of his anger scorched her. Dammit. There really was no way around it. Besides, Dara Jensen might be a lot of things but she wasn't a coward.

She turned the knob and entered. Dead silence greeted her. Don't get your hopes up, girlfriend. He's not asleep. Not by a long shot. She locked the door and set the alarm. After the red light flickered on, she slipped out of her heels and padded into the living room on stocking covered feet.

"Was it good for you?"

His tone was soft, mocking.

She scanned the room and found him sitting in her favorite chair. One leg crossed over his knee. A single lamp burned beside him, casting his face in a warm glow that belied the murderous expression on his face.

Dara tossed her shoes on the floor and the rest of her belongings landed on the sofa. She folded her arms across her chest and regarded her sullen protector. Fury had been expected, but not this disquieting calm. Jerry Jacks simply did not accept disobedience.

"Look, Jerry, I didn't have a choice--"

"A good fuck or personal safety," he cut in. "I can see where you'd have problems."

"Excuse me!" Sudden anger overtook her.

"There are no excuses!" He ground out. With the shocking speed of a panther, he leapt from the chair and advanced on her. "Justus hired me to keep you safe. If you don't give a damn about your life, why the hell should I?"

"You can always leave." She stepped back. "I can take care of myself. I have before."

"When I take a job, I see it through to the end." He stalked past her to the security panel. His fingers pressed keys and noises beeped. When he finished, he turned around. "The code's been changed. If you try to leave again, I'll know immediately. Good night, Dara. Sleep tight."

"Damn you, Jerry!"

He saluted once and left her there fuming in silence.

*/*

"Hey, Morgan."

The hoarse whisper broke into the endless whir of the fluorescent lights that continued to glow even after the lights were officially out. Jason's thoughts about Magic Finger's suggestion came to abrupt halt. He lay still as he addressed his cellmate.

"Yeah."

"I know people who know people," Tony Alaska said from the top bunk. The springs creaked as he shifted. Then his slick bald head appeared over the side.

"So."

"So," Tony spoke with extreme patience, "Magic Fingers says you may be needing a connection on the outside. I'm just letting you know I'm available."

"Right." Jason ran a hand through his buzz cut. This endless buffet of friendly help unnerved him. What if he was being set up? There wasn't much that could happen to him. His jail sentence was open and shut: life without possibility for parole.

But if Keesha and his son were alive…

No prison in the world could keep him from them.

"What do you say, Morgan?"

"I'll let you know."

*/*

"You stay later and later every day." Keesha touched Jian's arm. "Why?"

He glanced at his watch. Sure enough, the midnight hour was upon them. He met the questioning gaze of her dark, brown eyes. Stubborn and willful were among the many words that described the beautiful woman in front of him. Lying seemed to be the best recourse, but that simply wasn't him.

"Because I worry about you and Jacob all alone here late at night." He leaned against the door and cast a glance through the closed mini-blinds. The street glistened with the sheen of light rainfall. Otherwise nothing had stirred since she put the little boy to bed. But that didn't lessen the unease that crept up Jian's spine. "You just moved here. Getting used to a new place is never easy. I like being around in case of pitfalls."

A frown creased her brow. Worry marred the gentleness of her features. She sat on the edge of the sofa. "I appreciate your concern."

"But."

The sudden smile lit up her face. "You think you know me so well."

He couldn't resist the grin that pulled at him. "I know you fairly well. No one can ever completely know anyone."

"After I returned to Port Charles, my life changed. For so long, I felt pressure to be what everyone wanted me to be…my parents, my cousin, my boyfriends," she explained. "I never got to be a wild child, so when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it."

She paused, like she was waiting for his approval or dismay. When he provided neither, she continued.

"Jacob's father is someone from my past. We met at a weird point in my life so when he offered a world without regret, I jumped at the chance. "

The bastard. Jian cursed the man he hadn't met. "What happened? Why isn't he here?"

"I learned you can't run away from who you are," she said, "and Jason lived a life that I couldn't accept. We broke things off. I reconnected with old acquaintances. Soon after, I realized I was pregnant. Jason's brother offered to be my baby's father and I let him."

Shock pulsed through Jian. This turn of events hadn't been expected. This wasn't like the Keesha he knew.

"What?" she asked as the silence lengthened. "You think I was wrong about keeping Jason's child from him."

"What I think doesn't matter," he answered slowly. "Besides, you had your reasons."

"Jason is a dangerous man. I made a mistake in getting involved with him, but Jacob is the best thing that ever happened to me."

Jian covered her hands with his. "Keesha, I'm not judging you. You don't have to defend yourself to me. I've made my share of mistakes, too. Trusting the wrong people. Running when I should have stayed and fought. None of that matters now. You're running from Jason. Do you think he's tracked you down here?"

"He shouldn't be able to. He's in jail for a very long time. Anyway, he thinks Jacob and I are dead." Her fingers suddenly dug into his. "That's why you cannot repeat any of this. He knows so many people, but this place is nothing like the world he's lived in. Jacob and I should be safe here. Don't you think so?"

Without pausing to consider the consequences, Jian joined her on the sofa and pulled her into his arms. She trembled from head to toe. His hands moved over her arms, back and hair, stroking and keeping her close. "You will be safe. I guarantee it."

*/*

Insatiable.

Fox rolled off Dawn and fell against the pillows. The word was the only one that aptly described his need for her. Several times that night, they rode the waves to ecstasy. Each coupling came more intense than the other. His entire body tingled. He swore he felt like a newborn. Fresh, new and gloriously alive.

Perspiration trickled down her neck and over her collarbone. He followed the trail with the tip of his index finger. When she trembled, his manhood stirred. Again? Fox grinned. He hadn't revived this quickly since college.

"Peaches, you are the most amazing I've ever known." He pressed his hand over her thudding heart. In the dim lighting, he marveled at the contrast of his light to her dark. A beautiful contrast. A contrast that didn't matter, but made him love her even more all the same. Then, his hand slid slower to her flat abdomen. The dip of her navel beckoned.

Like a shot, she latched her hand around his. "Fox…we need to talk."

"You're getting sore." He rested his upper torso on his forearm and elbow. "I'm sorry. I didn't think about it."

She rolled onto her side. Her fingers raked through the stubble on his jaw. God, he loved it when she did that. He sighed.

"I'm a little sore, but that's not it. There's something I need to tell you. It's not something I'm especially proud of and I'm terrified you'll take it the wrong way."

"You faked--"

"No!" She sat, not bothering to cover herself with the sheet. "Tonight has been the best… Fox, it was beautiful. Every moment. I felt more connected to you than ever before. I love you so much and that makes what I need to tell you…h-hard." Her voice cracked. Unshed tears welled within her eyes. She rubbed them away with the back of her hand.

Suspicion reared its ugly little head. He sat and shifted his body to fully face her. Instinct told him he didn't want to know whatever tortured her. Lying in the afterglow of their lovemaking and the ignorance of bliss seemed to be his best option. But her face held that determined set. Once started, she wouldn't back down. He knew better than to stop her.

"What is it?" he asked, trying his damnedest to remain calm. "Just spill it. I'm already imagining the worst. Put me out of my misery."

She released a long breath. "I'm probably making a mountain out of a mole hill. For all I know, you probably…" She stopped and frowned. Her mouth parted, and then she shook her head. "Um, during the separation, I became involved with someone."

Fucking a.

He swallowed hard and willed himself not to overreact. "By involved, you mean you slept with him."

The tears returned. As she held his stare, one rolled down her cheek. "Yeah, we had sex. It was safe. It only lasted a few weeks."

"Are you in love with him? Is that why you're telling me this…now?"

"No! Love him? No, Fox. I love you. I've only ever loved you. After what happened, I needed someone to make me feel…special…like I was worth the effort. He did that."

Great. Another result of his all-time greatest catastrophe. Would the fallout ever end?

"Who?" He searched her eyes for the answer. Then, it dawned on him. "It's your new partner, isn't it? Pretty boy Curtis. I be damned!"

He lurched from the bed. She came after him.

"No, it's not him. I don't even know him."

"Is it a cop?"

She nodded. "It was Elliott. "

Fuck. He turned away. "And now, you'll be working with him every day. That's just perfect. So what was all this? A warning? If I don't watch it, he's there to pick up the pieces."

She grabbed his upper arm and pulled until he turned around. "It was laying it on the line and being honest. I don't want there to be any secrets between us. Elliott and I are finished. It ended before you and I even got back together. I'm telling you because you deserve to know."

"Well thanks, hon, I appreciate that." He removed her hand from his arm. "And since we're being completely honest, you should know that while we were apart there was no one else. There hasn't been anyone else for me since the day we met. I just thought you deserved to know."

With that said, he stormed from the bedroom, slamming the door after him.

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