Chapter 79

"No more," Lizzie begged as she stumbled off the dance floor. Trying to catch her breath, she laughed at her cousin's reaction. The puppy dog eyes and the pout might work on some, namely Gina, but they didn't change Lizzie's opinion at all.

"Aw, Lizabeth! They're playing a good one now!" Tommy pleaded, pulling on her hand. He found himself invigorated by the gyrating beat and would have danced the entire night if he could find a willing partner. His mother had told him that he wore her out and she'd danced her last dance for at least two weeks. Gina had wandered off to go to the ladies' room and, now, Lizabeth was begging off. Maybe if she had a teeny, tiny break, she'd changed her mind-

"No, Tommy!" Lizzie said, firmly. "I'm too pooped. Maybe you could sit this one out-"

"I'll dance with you," offered a light feminine voice.

Tommy turned to face the gracious person who wouldn't force him to sit on his sudden burst of restless energy. Smiling at Lark, he said, "Thanks! Let's go."

"Good luck, Lark," Lizzie called as she waved them away.

Lark nodded in acknowledgment of Lizzie's voice, but she hadn't heard a word she said. Her concentration was on the handsome young man in the black tux with the shining green eyes. She knew he had no idea that she had feelings for him, but she couldn't allow herself to give up the hope that one day, maybe he'd see past Gina and notice her. But until that day came, she'd spend time with Sly...unless opportunities to spend time with Tommy presented themselves.

The band burst forth with their upbeat and an almost-as-good-as-the-original version of Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" and Tommy started moving. Lark watched him for a second, amazed by his agility, and then she began to move to the music, too.

"How did you do on the test?" Tommy asked, not even winded despite the exertion of the dance movements.

"I did okay. You?" Lark asked, smiling as she bobbed her head to the music.

"Fine, I guess," he said with a shrug.

Lark smiled at the shrug. She knew him well enough to know that if he simply shrugged he did more than just 'fine.' He'd aced it as he had most of his classes. She wondered again how such a cute guy could have such an awesome personality, fabulous bod, and be good in school, too. Why on earth would he waste his time on Gina Cates, she asked herself, shaking her head.

"Is something wrong?" Tommy asked, with a frown. Lark's expression had changed and he hoped that he hadn't worn her out, too.

"No, everything's perfect!" she said, smiling back at him.

"Cool!" he said with a grin.


Emily held out her hand to Jordan as he and his partner in crime ambled towards her. He and Sly had broad grins on their faces which immediately alerted her that they had been up to their typical antics...annoying or irritating some poor unfortunate soul. Giving Jordan's hand a gentle squeeze and moving her eyes from one to the other, she began her interrogation. "Okay, you two, where have you been?"

Jordan's attention was captured by the slight pressure of Emily's hand on his, which left the answer to Emily's question up to Sly. With a mischievous glint in his eye, he said, "Wishing the Prince and his Princess well."

"Mm..sure you were," Emily said. When the two young men began to laugh at her skepticism, she added, "Okay, spill it. What were you really doing? You didn't spike the punch or anything, did you?"

"Of course not," Jordan said, "we'd never do anything like that. We were with Nik and Dawn just like Sly said. Lucky was there, too."

Jordan and Sly nodded in unison, but again their giggling gave them away as they remembered how they pestered Dawn about her hair.

"Okay, you two are getting on my nerves. When you're ready to tell me the truth, I'll be over there." She turned to go, but Jordan's tug on her hand stopped her.

"No, seriously, Em. We were with them. We just had a little fun with Dawn about her hair," Jordan quickly replied. He knew that teasing Emily could be fun, but if he took it too far for too long, she might get upset with him. And considering their new relationship, the last thing he wanted to deal with at a party was an angry girlfriend.

"Thanks," Emily said with a bright smile. "That's all you had to say in the first place."

Jordan smiled back at her, basking in her good graces. Sly watched both of them through annoyed eyes. Shaking his head, he mumbled, "And, I thought Nikolas was whipped." Jordan, knowing that his good buddy was referring to him, shrugged the comment off. Instead of being defensive, he took the offensive. With a sweet smile on his face, he said, ", what's up with Lark? I haven't seen her in a while. Did her old man come and take her away?"

"Aw, man, that was cold," Sly said as Jordan began to laugh. "You know how weird that dude is. One minute he's pissed and the next he's cool. I've told Lark that it doesn't make any sense for a thirty-year-old guy to adopt a seventeen-year-old girl. It's just not right and then, her stupid curfew. I tell you-"

"Okay, man. Stop!" Jordan said, raising a hand to silence his friend. "I did *not* mean to get you started. Just talk to him. Show him you're an upstanding, scratch that. He'd never believe you, anyway."

When Jordan began to laugh at his friend's expense again, Emily silenced him with a subtle pinch on his arm. "Don't tease him. You remember how Grandfather was with you."

"Yeah, and AJ and your mom and that Reginald jerk-" Jordan continued where she left off.

"Hey! Reggie likes you now," Emily said, interrupting him.

"Yeah, that's cause he wants free passes to Jacks!" Jordan replied.

"No, that's not tru-"

"Listen, I'd hate to break up this tender moment between you two 'exclusives'," Sly replied with a grin at the surprised expressions on their faces, "but I see Lark over there, and it's time for us to jet. See ya tomorrow night."

"'Bye Sly," Emily said with a wave.

"See ya, man," Jordan said as his friend walked away. When they were alone, Jordan took hold of Emily's hands and said, "Let's not talk about that other stuff now. Wanna stay a little while longer or are you ready to leave?"

Emily scanned the crowd and then rested her eyes on Jordan. With a happy smile on her face, she interlaced her fingers with his and said, "Let's go."


'The first time
I looked into your eyes, I cried
Do you remember
The first time
When we fell in love...'

Jason smiled down into Keesha's smiling eyes as they slow danced to one of their favorite songs. "I love this song," he said softly as he held her closer to him.

"So do I," she agreed, resting her head on his broad shoulder. "This band is great. They're almost as good as the kids."

"Yeah," he said. His hands moved from the middle of her back to rest low around her waist. Her hands began to move on him conjuring up vivid images to his mind. He wanted to leave and he wanted to leave now. They'd said their hellos and given their well wishes. They'd done their duty. Surely, they could leave now...right?

"You're kinda quiet. What's going on?" Keesha asked, moving her head so that she could look into his sparkling blue eyes.

"Just thinking is all," he replied, sliding his hands up her back to cup her face.

"About?" she asked with a teasing grin. The smoldering look on his face gave her an answer, but she wanted to hear the words from his own lips.

"This." Jason lowered his mouth to hers. Keeping in mind the crowd around them, he kept his passion for her in check, but just barely. When he raised his head, he left Keesha in no doubt as to what would happen between them as soon as they went home. "Are you ready to go?" he asked as he gently rubbed his thumb across her kiss swollen lips.

Taking a deep breath to regulate her breathing, Keesha nodded her head. Jason took her hand and they headed for the large double doors. Maneuvering through the dancers who were swinging their limbs through an upbeat tune proved to be a somewhat difficult task. Jason took the lead and began to gently push his way through the crowd.

He came to abrupt halt when he came face to face with his older brother. Keesha could feel the tension as it coursed through his body and passed on to her by the tightened grip of his hand around hers. She moved to stand beside him and a sharp gasp escaped her as she saw AJ and Eve staring back at them. The moment seemed endless as the two couples glared at each other in anger, surprise, disappointment and sadness. Finally, the moment ended as AJ, followed by Eve, walked away.

Jason's chest heaved and he made a sudden move as if he wanted to go after them. Keesha placed a firm hand on his arm and gave him a gentle, but meaningful squeeze. "Don't. Let's just go home, okay?"

Jason wanted to go after AJ and confront him, but one look in Keesha's eyes stopped him. Her eyes looked at him with love. Her love for him. She had chosen him because she wanted to be with him. Inside, he realized that going after AJ would only tarnish her feelings for him and that was the last thing he wanted to do. Ever.

He gave her a slight nod and a reassuring smile. "Okay, sweetheart. Let's go."


"Hey, we don't have to do this," Eve said, patting AJ on his arm to get his attention.

"Eve, really, I'm okay!" AJ said a little more forcefully than he intended. He saw the startled look in her eyes and he was immediately apologetic. Using softer tones, he said, "I'm sorry. I guess I'm not as okay as I'm pretending to be."

Eve nodded in acceptance of his apology. "You don't have to pretend with me, AJ. I thought you knew that."

"I know," he agreed. She smiled at him again and he found himself comforted by the small gesture. He still hurt from seeing Keesha with Jason, but the pain wasn't as bad as it had been, but still...

"We can leave now. I'll see Dawn tomorrow night. I can ask her if they liked the gift then. Let's go now," she said, not wanting him to have to mask his hurt on her account. She'd had enough broken hearts to know that there were times that a party wasn't the answer. Sometimes, being alone was the only thing that would work.

"Thanks, Eve," AJ replied, his voice hoarse from emotion. He'd almost forgotten what it felt like to have someone care about him. He was thankful that Eve reminded him that someone did.

"No thanks needed. C'mon, let's go," Eve said with a gentle smile. She linked her arms through his, and they left the party.

[Song credit: "The First Time" by Surface]

Chapter 80

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