With one final glance at her reflection in the mirror, Simone took a deep breath. Closing her eyes as she released the air, she reminded herself that that six years of hell would finally put to rights when she walked out of that bathroom. Everything she, Tommy, Gina and the other women had gone through would not have been in vain. In the next few minutes, Juan Valdez, and later, Tracy Quartermaine, would pay for their crimes, and the vengeance would be hers.
Simone left the bathroom with grace and confidence. A charming smile was upon her lips, as she glided back into the living room to join Juan. For the briefest second, the smile faltered and the rage she could just barely keep in check glittered in her brown eyes. In her absence, the room had been converted into a predator's den—complete with candles, Sinatra, and champagne. He sat on the floor in the midst of it all with his back to her. His audacity at creating such a setting fueled her, making her anger burned at a white-hot level. Her heart beat wildly in her chest and she took an additional second before she could trust herself to keep it together. Once she was certain that she would not give herself away, the charming smile reappeared and Simone announced her presence.
"Well, well, well," she said, keeping her tone light. "You've certainly been busy."
"Who me?" Juan asked with a teasing grin. He rose from his seated position on the floor and went to her. His gray eyes slid over her from head to toe and back up again. His grin broadened. "I could say the same of you. In the time you've been in there, you've become even more beautiful. How do you do it?"
Simone laughed, maybe a little too loudly, and she quickly lowered it to a coy titter. "You flatter me too much. My looks have not changed one iota since I've been in there. Have you been sampling the bubbly?"
"Of course, not," he replied, with a dismissive wave of his hand. He gave a hard, unwavering stare. His eyes narrowed just a tiny bit as his perusal intensified. "There is something… You seem to be a different woman to me."
She shrugged and when she thought he'd extend a hand to her, she carefully sidestepped him and moved away. "I'm the same ole me. My trip to your beautiful powder room has given me some relief, if you know what I mean." She giggled softly. "But other than that, I'm the same Simone Hardy that I've always been."
"Hmm…" he murmured, thoughtfully.
The sound he made brought a chill to Simone's spine. She wondered if he was on to her, but she rejected the thought as quickly as it was formed. He didn't know that her memories had returned. There was no way that he could know. He was a manipulative, maniacal, egotistical bastard, but he was no mind reader. Of that, she was certain.
She went to the fireplace and sat down on the soft, red and black pillows he had strategically placed on the floor. With a dazzling smile, she looked from the bottle of chilled champagne to his reflective handsome face. "Will you pour or shall I?"
Cat and mouse, indeed, Juan thought, as he crossed the room to do her bidding. Well, my beautiful lady, let the games begin…
Should he have been offended by Sonny's parting words, Tommy wondered. He laughed softly as he palmed the small brass key that the older man had given him. The laughter calmed his nerves and removed any feelings of having been slighted. He and Sonny were alike in very many ways, Tommy had come to realize, and Tommy respected him. They both shared the same quiet demeanor, uncompromising attention to detail and unyielding bluntness. There weren't many that Tommy trusted, but Corinthos had quickly been added to his short list.
As he passed under a flashing neon light that advertised 'Houlihan's', his emerald green eyes rested on the brass key. He didn't have to question how Sonny had obtained the key. He knew. Last summer, he had quickly learned what a mob was and that they had their own way of doing things. He was grateful for the help and their resources, but he couldn't ignore their way of life. Months before, when Lucky had warned him about working for them, he had brushed his friend's worries aside, but now, he was glad that his career in the mob had never taken place. In his opinion, they were parasites in almost the same way the people who had held them had been. He was relieved that Jason had found a better career choice for both of them and now that Sonny was a friend, he was glad that he was no longer a part of The Organization, too. But, he'd be a hypocrite if he denied that he wasn't pleased that Sonny had held on to a few of his connections—one connection, in particular, that had given both him and Corinthos passkeys to Juan's hang-outs.
Bile lodged in Tommy's throat and it took a moment of deep concentration for him to force it back down. Even after his numerous sessions with Dr. Baldwin, Tommy had known that he would always hate the people responsible for their imprisonment. He had made his peace with it…was content with his hatred. He had decided that he wouldn't allow it to control his every day life. He had friends, his family…Gina… But, his past—the life he had been forced to live from the tender age of ten until sixteen—would never be forgiven or forgotten. He had never confessed his feelings to the patient psychiatrist, but they were there and they both knew it. He sensed that she felt in time he'd come to terms with it, and to be honest, he had felt the same. And, now, on this night, he knew he had come to terms with his feelings. Well, in his way, he had. He knew…felt…believed that before the New Year was too many hours old, Juan Valdez would be dead, and that knowledge…feeling…belief suited his unyielding hatred just fine.
With a hard look on his young face, Tommy flipped the key up in the air and caught it. As it landed on his large palm, he promised himself that once Juan was dealt with, whoever had been in the room with his mother when he had set the explosives to free her, would be dealt with as well. Maybe not that night, but one day. He was confident that it would all come full circle in time.
"Wow," Simone commented after she took a sip of the sparkling champagne. "That's the good stuff."
"Nothing but the best," Juan smiled. He swallowed his glass and poured another. He extended the bottle to her in silent offering, but with a shake of her head, she declined. "Come on, Simone. Drink up. A New Year is on the horizon. It is cause for celebration."
"And, so it will be," she murmured, raising the glass to her lips. She feigned taking a sip as her eyes followed his every move. She was surprised when he downed another glass and poured another. So much for his control, she thought, with silent amusement. Good, Juan, drink up. Drink it all up.
"What will be?" he asked. He lowered himself to the floor, resting on one elbow as he looked at her. His eyes had grown dim as the alcohol began to take affect. He wasn't drunk…far from it…but what he was, or rather thought he was, was mellow. Very, very mellow. A mellow cat who would easily draw his mouse into his trap. Very easily.
"A celebration," Simone said, setting her barely touched glass on the hearth. She kept her hands on the glass. Her fingers trailed the rim and the stem aimlessly. She sensed his eyes following the movement and she bit her tongue from laughing at him. He would never change, and that was good. He would put himself right where she wanted him. Raising her eyes to his, she smiled.
The small key rested inside of Sonny's front pocket. It clicked against his loose change and the sound was loud to his agitated ears. Fearful that he would lose it, he shoved his hands inside and closed his fist around it. This was the trump card, Sonny thought. The key, the 38 mm he carried and the element of surprise. All were trump cards and if Simone and Juan were at the penthouse, all would aid in bringing Tommy's mother safe from harm's way-
Corinthos, man, you're a liar.
Okay, Sonny, silently corrected himself after his sub-conscious mocked him, he wanted to help Simone for more reasons than just returning her to her son. He was interested in her. Maybe too interested in her, he reasoned. During Jason's six-week visit to Sonny's island, the younger man had often spoken of the rescue mission in the catacombs. The tale had been almost romantic to Sonny. Jason's returned memory and his love for Keesha had a tragic love story quality to it, but that wasn't the only one. Jason had spoken of Tommy's dogged determination in getting his mother back and risking his life for hers. The boy loved his mother and Sonny could definitely relate to that, but…there was more…
The mother, the woman behind the fearless son… Simone Hardy intrigued Sonny long before he had ever seen her. He vaguely remembered her from her stint at GH. They had moved in different circles then. Their paths had never crossed, and thinking back on it now, Sonny almost wished they had. Her fire, grace, intelligence and even her venom fascinated him. He gave himself a moment to wonder just how differently her life and Tommy's life might have been had he and the good Dr. Hardy had connected back then.
Think bullet riddled shower, Corinthos. Or if that's not good enough, how about an exploding limo?
Deep in thought, the lone, briskly walking man nodded. The life Sonny had back then would have been a death warrant for Simone and her son. He didn't know her well, but he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't have given him any more play back then than what she gave him now. But his life in The Organization was over, he reminded himself. He was an upstanding casino owner on a small island in the Atlantic. It wasn't much, but it was a better life than what he had before. Maybe after this night was over, and the good Simone Hardy was safe and by some miracle didn't notice the resemblance between him and Juan, he could offer her…
Something. Not much, but maybe there was something…a getaway, a vacation… Friendship. Sonny wasn't a man who put his hopes on anything. Life. Death. Those were the things he trusted and believed in, but as Juan's penthouse apartment came into his sight, he allowed himself to hope. It was free, and it wouldn't hurt too much if it were never realized. Well, not too much, right?
Ten glasses or eleven? Simone had lost count. Her mind raced as she mentally calculated what the effects of that much alcohol would have on a man his size. The muscle mass could burn off of some of it, but not all. How much, Simone, she asked herself. The bottle was empty and she could see that he had his eye on another. Would one more bottle be enough? She hoped it would be-
"You're thinking too much."
"Excuse me?" Simone asked, warring with herself to keep her tone light.
"You heard me," he said, softly. The gray contact lenses made his brown eyes unreadable in the warmth of the firelight. "You're thinking too much. I want you to stop it."
Inwardly, she bristled, but the teasing smile on her face never gave her away. "Well, I can't change who I am. I know there are many who can…and would. But, I'm not one of them. Maybe it's time for me to leave. If Elizabeth's awakened from her nap, she's gonna need some company-"
"Elizabeth is fine," he said. He smiled to soften the clipped tone he had used. "She's asleep and we should leave her to that."
Simone found herself staring him and she quickly averted her eyes lest she gave her knowledge away. That sonuvabitch had drugged her niece. She should have realized that when she recognized him for the asshole that he was. Rage boiled inside her at the thought of another innocent child being used as a pawn in his psychotic game. No more waiting, she told herself. Her time for vengeance had come.
Without warning, Simone jerked her arm and the small switchblade slid from underneath her long sleeve to fall into the palm of her hand. She flicked the switch, and the swooshing of the blade was loud in the Sinatra serenaded room. With arm raised, she pounced.
Go to Part 4.