'Stand back, miss. Stand back!'
'I tell you she's my mother!'
Tears pooled in Dawn's eyes yet her attention never wavered from the television screen. Beside her, Fox released a loud, dramatic sigh and snatched a tissue from the box. Sniffling, Dawn managed a hoarse, "Thank you" as he dabbed her face.
"Don't start." She grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. "I love this movie."
"You've seen it a million times and cry buckets every time." He squeezed his arm around her shoulders. His hand lightly stroked her upper arm. "You have the stupid thing memorized."
"There is nothing stupid about Imitation of Life. It's a classic," she said. "If we're gonna talk about movie collections, we can start with yours. You know, what you have hidden in the bottom drawer of your filing cabinet like a dirty little secret."
"Those are art films."
As the treasured videotape faded to black, Dawn became comfortable on Fox's lap. "That art film defense went out after one glimpse of the cover. There's nothing artsy about those tapes."
"You want me to throw them away?"
Her heart nearly stopped at the suggestion. For years, she hinted and he deftly ignored. But here he was offering to trash them. There had to be a catch. "What if I said yes?"
He slid his hand under the hem of her shirt. His palm skimmed her stomach. His fingertips grazed the underside of her breasts. He smiled as her breath caught. "I'd do it. I'd do whatever you ask."
"Tell me why your writing partner was acting so weird. What did you do to her?"
His brows furrowed into a frown. "Why is it always my fault?"
"I'm sorry." She cupped his cheek, running her thumb along his bottom lip. "What's her deal? Other than the obvious?"
"I caught her snooping. She didn't like getting busted." He cocked his head to the side. "What obvious?"
"Like you don't know."
She stared at him. Did he really have no clue? "Dana Scully has the hots for you. She wants you."
He rolled his eyes. "No."
"Yes." She nodded. "You honestly didn't have a clue?"
He looked away. "Well…"
"Uh huh. Just as I suspected. So, I'm gonna have to mark my territory. I can see the headlines now: Catfight in the Newsroom."
"Your territory's marked," he said, nuzzling her neck.
"Um…ooh, that feels so good." Dawn moaned as his tongue swiped her collarbone. "But what are you gonna do about Dana?"
"I'm in the middle of a seduction and you want to talk about another woman," he complained. "Should I be concerned?"
"Hush, Fox. Stop trying to distract me. We have to get to the bottom of this."
"Right now?" His thumbs circled her hardened peaks. "I suffered through watching you sob over an old movie. Where's my reward?"
With more moves to plead his case, Dawn soon surrendered to his demands.
"I'm staring. I apologize." Dara pressed a hand to her face.
Alex caught her wrist and gently tugged. Since their arrival at his apartment, she'd scrutinized his décor and furniture with such intensity that he wondered if she studied Feng Shui. Her curiosity pleased him. He liked that she wanted to know more about him.
"Don't apologize. Is everything in order? Have any suggestions?"
"No." She accepted the glass of wine he extended. "It's all wonderful. How does a financial advisor find the time or did you hire a decorator?"
"My home is my sanctuary," he said. "A stranger wouldn't have a clue as to what I need."
He grabbed the stereo's remote control. A pre-programmed selection of soothing music echoed from the wall speakers. He took her hand and led her to the sofa. A few, strategically placed candles flickered with light. They sat amidst the warm glow. Their thighs touched. Alex enjoyed the sensation and noted Dara's sharp intake of air.
"I was expecting you to cancel," he admitted. "Your case against Rx Limited is making headlines. I understand the extra security measures now. I hear Rx can be ruthless. You'll tell me if they threaten you, won't you? I care about you, Dara. I don't want you to get hurt."
She slid her hand under his. Their fingers laced together. Her soft flesh and slender hands felt so delicate within his grasp. Alex swallowed a low groan. How much longer could he continue this game of cloak and dagger? She was under his skin. He hated pretending to be something he wasn't. If he could, he'd take her away from this madness and they'd be able to truly discover each other, woman to man and man to woman.
"There's nothing to worry about." She set her glass on the end table and turned to him. Her other hand covered his. "You've been so tense. I thought it was work related. I had no idea you were this worried about me. You don't have to."
"I can't help myself." He shifted his position to fully face her. "I have this strange desire to protect you."
"Ah, a savior complex." Her smile and tone gently teased him.
He laughed. "Not exactly. I've never seen myself in that context."
"Maybe you should. I think there's more to you than either of us are aware of."
"You could be right about that," he murmured.
Then, he leaned forward and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of her lips.
"This is Jason." Keesha handed Jian a printout from an online news source. After Jacob verbalized his wish, she decided to come clean with Jian about everything. He knew bits and pieces, but keeping him in the dark wasn't fair. Although he never asked for a more detailed explanation, he was owed that. At least.
He held her gaze for a moment before directing his attention to the page. She sat on the arm of the sofa just beside him. Down the hall, Jacob was fast asleep tucked inside his bed. Keesha waited until late to begin the discussion and provide full disclosure. She dreaded the possibility of Jacob of ever learning the truth about his biological father.
Keesha's attention returned to Jian. He became still as he deciphered the article. The information contained a brief outline of Jason's conviction with commentary on his life as Sonny Corinthos' second in command.
"No wonder you kept Jacob a secret from him," Jian said. He folded the paper and set it on the coffee table. Turning, he rested his arm across her thighs. "Did he ever threaten to hurt you?"
"No, our relationship was clear. It was separate from his work, but I couldn't forget about it," she confessed. "So many things reminded me of the Jason Quartermaine I fell in love with. There were times when I convinced myself that Jason Morgan still possessed the qualities of my first love. But then reality set in. AJ agreed to be the father of my child no questions asked."
"You shouldn't regret that decision. Jacob's mentioned AJ to me. They shared a good relationship."
She sighed. Tears threatened. "But I ruined that. I should have considered everything when I began that lie. Staying in Port Charles was stupid. I should have left and never looked back."
He drew her onto the sofa. His arms curved around her trembling frame. "You did what you thought was best. Don't second guess yourself now."
"But look at our lives. We have a new identity and living miles away from our family. God…my family…they all think we're dead. I want to come out of hiding. Justus says that may never happen."
"Because Jason has connections even behind bars," he added softly. "I agree with your cousin."
"In truth, so do I. If Jason ever thought for a second that we were alive, nothing would stop him from coming after us," she said. "Losing Michael hurt him deeply. The few times he saw Jacob, I was terrified he'd realize the truth. He seemed to sense it. He always went out of his way to talk to Jacob and be around him. AJ told him to back off, but Jason never listened to AJ. The more AJ played interference, the more Jason came around. I couldn't stand it."
"Is that why you faked your deaths?" He stroked his fingers across her cheek.
"Yes. I didn't want to, but I didn't see any other way." Emotions welled inside her. Her voice broke. "Jian, I don't know what I'll do if he ever discovers the truth. Jason knows his way around the law. The only reason he's serving a life sentence now is because he didn't think he had anything to live for. Jacob is everything to me. Jason knows that and if he knows I lied to him, he'll stop at nothing to take my son away from me."
"He's locked tight in a maximum security prison," Jian said. "He'll never break out, but if he does, he'll have me to deal with. I won't let him hurt you or Jacob. I love you, Keesha, and if it's okay with you, I'll never leave your side again."
"It's perfect with me, but I don't want you to feel obligated. My life isn't ordinary."
He smiled and caressed her lips with his. "Since Tianamen Square neither is mine."
Soft footsteps skimmed along the hardwood floor. "Can I have some water?"
Keesha moved at the sound of Jacob's drowsy request. Jian stopped her. He kissed her cheek and stood. He crossed the room and lifted Jacob into the crook of his arm. "Come on, Little Man. I'll get it for you."
"Shawshank Redemption…Escape from Alcatraz…those were the good ones."
Jason ignored Tony Alaska's rambling and continued drawing his diagram of what he knew of the prison. He worked night and day on a plan of escape. With a few ideas in place, he planned to call in favors. A number of families on the outside owed him one. Now was the best time to collect.
"But those movies were set forty years ago. Before computers and wired fences and automatic weapons. Jumping ship will be hard as hell, but Magic Fingers and I aren't dumb asses. We can get you through the gates and on the other side." Tony hopped down from his top bunk and squatted beside Jason's bed. "Whaddaya say? Are we in or are we out?"
"You don't need me to get out of here if you and Patroni are so smart," Jason said. "Go."
"This is the thanks we get?" Tony paced the small length of the cell. His voice dropped to a low, hoarse whisper. "Proof that your kid and your woman are alive oughta be worth more than a smartass comment."
"Who's being a smartass?" Jason asked. "Why are you two my friends all of a sudden?"
"It's not sudden. We've been watching your back since you got in this place."
"I never asked. I have plenty of friends in here."
"They're not your friends," Tony argued. "They're just scared shitless of you."
"Why aren't you?"
"I'm scared of nothing and nobody," Tony said.
"Magic Fingers?" Tony laughed and ran a hand over his bald head. "Joey's just crazy. He's down for anything. Getting out of here will require a fearless 'tude. Magic Finger's got it in spades. He's been in and out this joint for the past twenty years. He knows the ins and outs."
"What if I just go past you and hook up with Patroni?" Jason asked.
"It wouldn't be wise. I'm not without resources. A few guards here and there. I know where they store the weapons and the extra uniforms. I may even have a few stored up just for a occasion such as this."
"So, I ask," Jason said, "why me? You have it figured out. You don't need me."
"That's where you're wrong. You're the key to it all, Morgan." Tony crawled back onto his bunk. "But you don't know what doors you can open. Lucky for you, Magic Fingers and I do. You think about our offer. Let us know."
Jason rolled onto his back and stared at the photo of Keesha and Jacob that he stuck in the mattress board over his head. Talk about incentive staring him in the face. He expelled a low, weary breath. Tony and Joey presented an offer he couldn't easily turn down. He wanted out of there and now.