Tommy drew a long breath as Gina finished speaking and looked at him with a challenge in her hazel eyes, daring him to tell her that she couldn't accompany him and Sonny to New York. He couldn't argue with her words or the determination in her beautiful eyes. Slowly, he nodded, and as a triumphant gleam shone brightly in her eyes, he quickly added, "But not dressed like that." His eyes wandered over the vision her petite frame presented in her new short black dress. The fabric clung to her in all the right places without revealing too much, and the length was just short enough to emphasis her well-toned legs. Exhaling, his eyes went back to hers. "The dress is beautiful and it looks good on you, but you can't wear that with us."
"I wasn't planning to," she told him haughtily. She looked at Sonny and smiled. "Come in. I'll only be a minute. If you're hungry, feel free to dig in. There's plenty."
"Thanks, Gina," Sonny murmured as he crossed the threshold into her apartment. He took in the décor and he felt at ease by the homey quality of the furnishings. To his right, he heard a door close and looked around, expecting to find himself alone. He wasn't. Tommy still stood near the door. His expression was pensive and screamed of disappointment. Sonny was drawn to both. "There's no way you could have known. We'll get to them in time. He won't hurt either of them."
"You sound so sure. The last time, I barely made it in time. What if I'm not so fortunate this time?" Tommy slammed a clenched fist into the palm of his hand. His green eyes blazed with a slowly burning fury. "I should have known, Sonny! I felt weird around him from the very beginning. I knew something wasn't right about him and I should have done something about it!"
"Like what?" Sonny asked. He folded his arms across his chest as he looked at the younger man. "What could you have done? Your mother likes him-"
"She doesn't even know who he is!"
"No, she doesn't which could be to her advantage," Sonny told him.
"How can you say that?" Tommy asked, surprised. "She trusts him, man! He's obsessed with her and she trusts him. That can't be an advantage. I refuse to believe it." He glanced at the clock and silently screamed at Gina to hurry up. Time was moving way too quickly for his piece of mind.
"We'll get there," Sonny repeated, as if he knew what Tommy was thinking. "And, as I was saying, her trust in him can protect her from him."
"That doesn't make any sense," Tommy told him as he headed towards Gina's closed bedroom door. He knocked once and said, "Gina, come on!"
"Tone it down a little. Gina's fine," Sonny said, using a soft, soothing tone. "If John, Juan whatever the hell his name is, thinks he's still in control, she'll be okay. Think about it. He went to a lot of trouble to change his appearance—most likely to be near her—and I don't see him messing that up, do you?"
Grudgingly, Tommy nodded. "I guess not, but that doesn't make me feel any better. And it doesn't guarantee that Mama and Lizabeth are safe."
"Tommy, I found out a long time ago that there are no guarantees. You have to take life as it comes and fight like a bastard to make it go your way." He gave Tommy an encouraging smile. "We'll get to her. John doesn't know that we know. He thinks he's winning-"
"But, he's not," Tommy said softly. His eyes glowed with certainty. He rested his eyes on Sonny and frowned. He moved away from Gina's door to stand toe to toe with the older man. Narrowing his eyes, he stared at Sonny. "I never noticed it before…"
"Noticed what?" Sonny asked, returning Tommy's stare. He had a strong urge to respond in a defensive manner, but the look in Tommy's eyes stopped him before he could utter another word. He decided to wait for an answer.
"You," Tommy said. "Mama disliked you on sight and I couldn't figure it out. But now… I think I get it. Yeah," he said softly, "it makes perfect sense now."
Gina re-entered the room as Tommy finished his sentence. Seeing the two men quietly staring at each other both intrigued and frightened her. Moving to Tommy's side, she took his hand and asked, "What makes perfect sense?"
"Look at him, Gina," Tommy said, gently squeezing her hand. "Remember how Mama couldn't stand him on sight-"
"-can't stand me," Sonny interrupted. "She still doesn’t like me."
"-remember?" Tommy continued as if Sonny hadn't spoken a word. "Remember how I told you that she grabbed me when she saw him? Like she was protecting me? Look at him. Don't you see it? Can’t you see why she did that? I can't believe I missed it."
Upon Tommy's instruction, Gina took the opportunity to stare at Sonny, too. Her eyes widened as the realization hit her and her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "Why didn't we notice it before? No wonder…"
"What?" Sonny asked, a frown of irritation on his brow.
"You, man," Tommy said. "You don't exactly look like Juan, but there are a few similarities. That's what my mom was reacting to when she first met you only she didn't know it."
"I reminded her of Juan?" he asked. A feeling of dismay washed over him at the thought. She would never see him in a different light, of that he was certain. Shaking his head, he said, "Well, as long as she's not consciously aware of it, she should still be okay. Do you both have everything? Let's go-"
"Yeah, let's get out of here!" Still holding Gina's hand, Tommy led her to the door. He shrugged into his coat and then the trio left the apartment. As they hurried down the stairs, Tommy felt an odd sensation pass over him. He didn't mention it to the others and instead, kept the feeling to himself.
As they settled themselves in the back of Sonny's limousine, Gina voiced a concern, which had formed at Sonny's last words. "Would it be bad if she remembered Juan? What you said to Tommy about her being consciously aware…well, it scared me. What if she is remembering? Why would that be bad?"
"Because she could endanger herself. Valdez has gone through a lot to disguise his true identity. If she figured it out…" Sonny shrugged as the words hung in the air between them. "I don't know the man, but from what I've heard about the operation he had going on down there…I get the feeling that he wouldn't respond well if he knew that his secret wasn't one anymore. In an odd way, his obsession with Simone protects her from him, too, but if he thought she knew… I don't want to scare you," he said, even though all three of them knew that fear ran rampant in the backseat of the limousine, "but she's better off not knowing and she'll be better off still if we get there before it all comes back to her."
"You're right," Tommy choked. He swallowed hard to clear his throat. With his usual quiet strength, he responded again, "You're right." Gina's sudden silence caused him to look at her. He closed his lightly bronze hand over her small, pale one and smiled at her. "She's gonna be fine, Gina. She hasn't really remembered anything and that will keep her safe. We'll get to her in time."
Gina gave him a faint smile in response to his reassurances, but she didn't contradict with what she knew to be true. That his mother was remembering…and that she had remembered…and that in one of those memories was Juan. Gina shifted her hand so that her fingers were laced with Tommy's and silently, she prayed that her dear friend's memories would stay hidden from her until she was safe. Please, God, Gina silently begged.
"Thanks for bringing me here," Dillon said, as the waiter moved away from the table he shared with Robert. "This must be a horrible way to spend your holiday. Babysitting me."
"It's not so bad," Robert reassured him. He unfolded his napkin and placed it in his lap. "And, at thirteen, you're hardly a baby. Consider it as two bachelors out on the town. That should help, right?"
"I guess," the young boy mumbled. He bit his lower lip as his fingers strayed to the centerpiece. Without even making a conscious decision, his forefinger darted into the heart of the candle's flame. Robert's sharp intake of breath was loud at the table and reminded Dillon that he was not alone. Taking his time, he placed his tingling finger into the palm of his other hand, pressing down on it hard. Resting an intent stare on Robert, he rested his back against the chair. "I didn't know you were a bachelor. I thought you were married."
A bit on edge from Dillon's act with the candle, Robert's reply was brusque. "What makes you think that?"
"Your finger," Dillon said, pointing to the telltale tan line on Robert's ring finger, "looks like a wedding ban used to be there, and then there are the three women-"
"What three women?" Robert asked, as he slid his left hand under the table. The kid's keen observation unnerved Robert and he began to wonder what had possessed him to extend the dinner invitation in the first place.
"There's a photo in your wallet. There's an older woman, maybe a little bit younger than you, and there are two other women. One looks a little like you and the other one looks like the older woman-"
"When did you see this photo?" Robert asked, his voice soft as he regarded the teenager.
"When you paid the cab driver," Dillon replied. He continued on as if he was unaware that his words had effected Robert. He knew that they had, but he stored that information for later. Later, he would return to Robert's reaction and question it until he understood it. Now, he would continue with his observations. "The younger one is pretty. I've seen her before-"
"Where?" Robert bit out. If Juan had made another attempt on Dawn again-"
"On television. She's in a band. I've seen her video," Dillon said, oddly fascinated by the array of emotions, which danced in Robert's eyes and held his body tense. Smiling, he continued, "She is your daughter, right? I'm not wrong in my assumption?"
Robert released a relieved sigh. She was safe. He shook his head as he scolded himself. Of course, she was safe. The Cassadines lived in a fortress and besides, Juan's hobby of abducting women for financial and sadistic gain was over. He had nothing to fear for either of his children or his ex. He became relaxed as he spoke to the child again. "Yeah, she's my youngest."
"You must be proud of her."
"Sure," Robert shrugged. His reply didn't convince him any more than it did Dillon, who looked as if he was on the verge of commenting on Robert's answer. Robert quickly spoke again. "You know you don't sound like any thirteen-year-old kid I've ever known. Loosen up a little."
"I don't know how," the boy told him. "The Walford Greene Academy for Boys doesn't instruct us in how to be 'loose'."
"Well, that's a shame-"
"John," Dillon said, sitting up straight as he interrupted Robert. The smile on his face was bright and eager. He glanced at Robert and said, "You didn't tell me that he was having dinner with us."
"He isn't," Robert said, frowning. He shifted in his seat so that he could follow the direction of Dillon's gaze. His frown increased as he recognized the woman with him as one of his previous captives. The young lady was no one he had ever seen before, and Robert couldn't help but wonder what Juan was up to now.
"Oh?" Dillon's frown was evident in his voice. His hopeful eyes remained on John's frame as the man conversed and laughed with his female companions. "Do you know who they are? I thought he and my mother were…close."
"They are close," Robert reassured him. "He cares deeply for Tracy. You know that. I'm sure that the woman and the girl are just acquaintances."
"Sure," Dillon said, giving John's table one last glance before he turned his eyes back to Robert, "of course, they are. Now, what were we saying? Oh, yes, my boarding school prides itself on producing young men who will rule the world."
"Oh, really?" Robert said a hint of a smile on his face. "Is that in the brochure?"
"Yes," Dillon said, laughing softly. "Actually, it is."
The remainder of their dinner was filled with light-hearted banter as both masked their interest in the happenings at the table across the room…
"I can't eat another bite," Lizzie pronounced as she released a dramatic sigh. Her hands rested on her flat abdomen as her large brown eyes rested on the half-eaten slice of German Chocolate cake.
"Oh, sure you can," Simone teased. "You've only attacked the icing. You still have the cake to devour."
"I'm not sure if I can," Lizzie said. She glanced at Simone and shook her head at her. "You haven't made a dent in your half."
"Oh, sure I have," Simone said, "but now, I'm waiting for you. You wanted to go for the dessert first. I can't believe you're stopping before you've even eaten half of it."
"Aunt Simone…" Lizzie moaned. She reached for her fork again and made a half-hearted stab at the cake. Unable to do more than play with the crumbs, she let the fork fall to the plate with a clatter. "I just can't. Will you ever forgive me?"
"Of course, she will," John said, unable to refrain from participating in the conversation for another moment. "She forgives you already."
"That's what you say," Lizzie said, teasing him, "but it won't be true until my dear Auntie says it herself."
John bristled at Elizabeth's dismissal of him. He inhaled sharply and said, "So, speaking for Simone is not allowed?"
"Not by you or me or anyone," Lizzie told him, unaware that she was adding fuel to his fire. She smiled at him and Simone. "Isn't that right?"
"You're exactly right, sweetie!" Simone said, grinning at her. "Now, how would you like to take a trip with me to the powder room? Everyone knows that women go in pairs."
"So, that is the rule?" John replied, bestowing them both with a smile, which grudgingly extended to his eyes. "I often wondered."
"So, now you know the truth!" Simone laughed softly as he rose from the table to help she and Lizzie rise from their chairs. Her laughter lowered to silence as John placed his hand at the small of her back. She became surprised at how quickly her body responded to his touch as subconsciously, she shivered. Her eyes flew to his and she offered him a shy smile.
John responded to her smile with a smile of his own and whispery soft caress of her cheek. Against her ear, he breathed, "Hurry back."
Elizabeth's soft giggle brought Simone back down to earth, and blindly she reached for her niece's hand. Holding on to each other like two schoolgirls, they left John behind and headed for the ladies' room.
With a self-satisfied smile on his face, John reclaimed his seat. Her body's reaction to his very innocent touch hadn't gone unnoticed by him. The shiver thrilled and excited him, and encouraged his decision to make him and Simone one that night. As he glanced around at the other expensively dressed patrons, John reached into the inside pocket of his Armani jacket. His long tapered fingers closed over the small bottle of pills that he had taken from Robert's office. Carefully, he went about his task of opening the bottle and shaking a couple of pills into his hand. Earlier he had studied the effects of the drug and had memorized the proper dosage for what he had in mind. Two of the small white tablets should be sufficient, he thought, but perhaps a third would really do the trick. He bit back the soft chuckle as he released another pill into the palm of his hand. After he had stored the bottle back inside his jacket, he squeezed his hand into a fist, effectively crushing the tablets into a fine, indistinguishable powder. Another quick glance around the room told him that his actions were not being observed, and in one subtle movement, he dropped the powder into the tall glass of iced tea. He picked the glass up and gave it a swirl before he placed it back down onto the table.
"There now," he said softly, his gray eyes shining in the candlelight, "that should do the trick. Tonight, mi querida, we will ring in the New Year…and what a New Year it will be for just you and me."
Go to Chapter 116.