Chapter 82

"I'm sorry about what happened, Gina," Tommy said, holding her hand as they sat in her car in the Hardy driveway.

"Don't be. We had a feeling Simone would react that way, right?" Gina replied, angling her head as tried to read the expression in his eyes by the light of the street lamp.

"Yeah, but I guess deep down inside, I hoped she wouldn't. I hated seeing how hurt she was. She was really upset. It surprised me."

"It surprised me, too, but only a little bit. When your mother doesn't like something, she doesn't necessarily hold her feelings back."

"Yeah, that's true," he said, his voice sad.

"Hey, there," Gina said, lightly cupping his face and turning his head towards her. "It'll be okay."

"You sound like you know what you're talking about," he said with a smile, enjoying the feel of her hand on his face.

"I do. I know Simone. She's my best friend. Once we talk to her and be honest with her, she'll be okay. I know she will."

"That sounds like a promise," he said, leaning closer to her as his fingers lost themselves in her flaxen hair.

"It is."

"I read somewhere that you're supposed to seal promises with a kiss," Tommy said in a husky voice. "Is that true?"

"Yes," she smiled. Her eyes closed in anticipation of his kiss and her lips parted as he brushed his against hers. They savored each other's taste and touch for several endless moments, finding pleasure and reassurance in their intimate embrace.


Keesha brushed past Jason as he opened the front door and went into their bedroom without saying a word. Jason closed and locked the door behind him, followed her into the bedroom, and as he sank unto the bed, he sighed. She was upset with him. That much he figured out on the ride from the docks to their humble abode. As he watched her move back and forth around the room, gathering her...what? not the flannel pajamas, he silently groaned...well, Jason knew he would be in for a long night.

"Don't forget to set the alarm," she called to him before she slammed the bathroom door shut behind her.

"Of course not, dear," he mumbled as he shrugged out of his overcoat. He had half a mind to just toss it on the floor or throw it over a chair, just to irritate her, but he thought better of it. If he knew her as well as he thought, he knew that she wouldn't say a word about it. She'd walk into the room, spot the offending article of clothing immediately, look at him, and then shrug. Meanwhile, her blood would boil at an alarming level and he'd pay for his misdeed later. Of course, eventually, they'd make up, but until that happened... Irritating her, just for the sake of it, just wasn't worth it.

The spray of the shower did little to ease Keesha's mind as she allowed the water to beat down on her back. She was upset, but not necessarily Jason. Well, it was not to say, she wasn't upset with him either, but she was more upset with her self.

She'd tried to hide it, but seeing AJ again really threw her. She knew that sooner or later, they'd meet. She'd hoped that it would be just the two of them. No Jason and no...Eve Lambert? When did he start going out with Dr. Eve Lambert, she asked herself, as she picked up her lavender shower gel and squeezed the fragrant soap unto her sponge. As she began to vigorously lather herself, she remembered how close AJ and Eve were standing next to each and she realized that she didn't like it. Not one little bit.

"Okay, Keesha Ward, get a grip," she scolded herself as she rinsed the soap from her body. "You're not the kind of woman to begrudge your ex some happiness. Other women are like that. Not you."

Yeah, right, her inner child sarcastically replied. Keesha turned off the water and reached for her towel. As she stepped out of the shower, she began to dry herself and her thoughts began to wander again. She *wanted* AJ to be happy. She really and truly did. He deserved to be loved. Completely and with a full heart. She'd loved him, but her heart hadn't fully belonged to him the way it should have. Before she wouldn't have been able to face it, but a part of her heart had still belonged to Jason even while she was loving AJ, which brings her to another subject. Jason!

As if on cue, the bathroom door opened and he appeared. Wearing little more than a pair of black boxer briefs and a contrite expression, he lingered in the doorway a second before he edged in front of her and grabbed his toothbrush and a tube of Crest.

"Jason, do you mind?" Keesha said, squeezing past him to reach her undies which had been placed on the lid of the toilet.

"Nope. Go right ahead," he said, before he shoved his loaded toothbrush into his mouth and began to scrub his teeth and gums. His eyes followed her every movement as she ignored him and went about her business. His blue eyes darkened and he most probably swallowed a mouthful of toothpaste when she dropped her towel and her eyes connected with his in the mirror.

As his eyes continued to roam over her reflection, she narrowed her eyes at him, hoping he'd get the hint and stop staring. He didn't, so she grabbed her stuff and went back into the bedroom.

Jason chuckled softly to himself as she stormed out. He was getting to her. He could feel it. He glanced down at himself and silently added, "Oh, how, he could feel it."

When Keesha went back into the bedroom, she changed her mind about the flannel and decided to go for a t-shirt and a pair of Jason's boxers instead. This time, she didn't allow herself to admit the reasoning behind her sudden change in sleep attire. She didn't want to acknowledge...even to herself...that Jason's meandering sapphire orbs had gotten to her, and she was kinda hoping that maybe well... He'd explain his reaction to AJ, they'd get over it, and the lovin' could begin. Maybe.

Of course, Jason had no clue that his reaction to AJ was the catalyst for her 'less than chipper' mood. So, after he'd tended to his personal business in the bathroom and joined her on the bed, he didn't know that in order for what he desired to happen between them, he'd have to offer a little explanation first. What he *did* know was that Keesha looked pretty enticing that in his clothes and she'd probably look even *more* enticing out of them!

Inching himself closer to her, Jason murmured, "Keesha..."

"Don't," she said, shaking her head as his fingers began to trail a path from her knee up to her thigh and back down again.

"Okay," he replied as he removed his hand and placed it his lap. His eyes held hers as he said, "You want to tell me what this is all about? You've been upset for quite some time now. Do you plan on telling me why or am I supposed to guess?"

"Excuse me?" she said as her mouth dropped open.

"That's right. You heard me. Am I supposed to guess? Read your mind? Just automatically know what's got your beautiful head spinning cartwheels?" he asked. And, before she could speak, he quickly added, "Well, sweetheart, I don't know, and I won't know until you tell me. So, tell me. What did I do that caused the silent treatment?"

"I haven't given you the silent treatment," she quickly denied. "I've spoken to you..."

"When spoken to. And your replies were brief and to the point," he replied. "I'm waiting, Keesha. What gives?"

"Okay, fine! I'll tell you. Why were you so mean to AJ?"

"What?!" he asked, certain that he'd heard her wrong.

"You heard me!" she said, throwing his own words back at him. "You acted as if you wanted to pound on him. Why, Jason? I thought we agreed that...that..."

"That what? He was off limits? Is that it?" he asked, pushing himself off the bed. He moved to the window and turned his back to her, his arms folded across his bare chest. Staring sightlessly out of the window, he was amazed that *AJ* was the reason behind her agitation. What on earth did *that* mean, he wondered.

"Well, yeah!" Keesha said, wishing she was talking to his face and not to his broad back. "Jason... Baby, I don't understand why you suddenly became so angry at seeing him. I really just don't get it-"

"And, why don't you get it? Why is it hard for you to understand, Keesha?" he asked, turning to face her with confusion clouding his blue eyes. "You want to know what I don't understand?" he asked as he moved away from the window to sit beside her on the bed. "I don't understand why my reaction to AJ bothers you. You know how I feel about it. You can't possibly expect that to change even though we're together now. I just can't help feeling this way, and I doubt if my feelings will ever change."

"But, Jason, don't you see? You're hurting yourself by being so rigid-"

"Hurting myself by being rigid?" he repeated, amazed at her choice in words once again. "I'm not hurting anyone, especially not myself."

"You may not want to admit to it now, but you are," she said, reaching for his hand. He gave it to her and she held it as she continued to speak. "He's your brother and nothing will ever change that. All of this animosity and anger towards him... Jason, he's changed *so* much, and if you gave him half a chance-"

"A chance?!" he asked, his voice rising as he too rose from the bed and moved away from her. "I gave him half a chance and even more chances after that and look where it got me! It got me dead! For two years, Keesha, I was dead. To you, to the rest of my friends and family and all because of the chances I gave him. Don't expect me to give him any more because I can't and I won't!"

Keesha sat on the bed in silence. She was unable to offer a counter-offer as she was stunned and no words would come to her. She was surprised by this rigid, unforgiving side of him. It reminded her of Jason Morgan and it frightened her. She'd heard him say that he wouldn't forgive AJ, period, but never with such vengeance in his voice. Averting her eyes from him, she nodded and rose from the bed. She'd made approximately two steps towards the door when he stopped her by wrapping his arms around her from behind.

Having seen the frightened look in her eyes, Jason began apologetic and his touch was gentle as he held her. His voice was soft against her ear as he said, "Keesha, I'm sorry for yelling. Good thing Mikey's not here tonight and is with Mom instead, huh?" He chuckled softly, hoping she'd become less stiff as he held her. She didn't, and so he continued. "Baby, really. I really am sorry for the way I spoke to you. I didn't mean to frighten you. I just wanted you to understand how I felt about him and how I'll always feel. I know you mean well and I understand how important family is to you, but... Well, my feelings are firm on this and they're not about to change. I need you to understand and accept that. Please. For me."

Keesha did understand him, but she found it impossible to accept. She hoped and prayed that in time, he'd find it unacceptable, too, and reconnect with his brother. Until that day came, she'd continue to wish for it, but she might not say anything aloud. But, then again, she just might.

"Keesha?" he prompted. Even though he felt a change in her stance, her body now leaned against him instead of away from him, he wanted her to say something. He needed her to.

"Okay, Jason," she nodded before she turned to face him. Her hands rested on his chest as he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her waist. "Okay." Silently, she added, for now.


"Not only a ride from the docks, but also an escort to my door," Carrie said, turning around on the stoop of her brownstone to face Stefan. Folding her arms across her chest, she eyed her silent companion. Her voice was strong as she said, "Enough with the secrecy, Stefan. What's going on?"

"I don't understand what you mean," came his smooth reply. "It's customary for me to-"

"Oh, please," she cut him off. "Customary? I mean, really."

"I assure you, Carrie, that my seeing you home was..." Stefan stopped speaking as Carrie's eyes narrowed at him. He drew a long breath. Confiding in someone, even if it was for her own good, was not something Stefan was accustomed to. As a loner, he kept his innermost thoughts to himself. The only time, he revealed a part of himself was almost twenty years ago... Maybe now, the time had come for him to change.

"It was...what?" she prompted.

"Necessary," he replied after a short silence. "Mother made her presence known tonight."

"When...where?" Her voice rose as her concern grew, and without thinking, her hands reached for him, holding on tightly to his hands.

"She approached Dawn in the library-"

"What?! Is Dawn alright? What happened?!" she demanded.

Stefan's hands cupped Carrie's face in an effort to calm her. "Carrie, listen to me. Dawn is fine. I promise you no harm will come to her. Nikolas and I have taken every precaution and she is well protected."

"If she was so well protected, why was Helena able to get next to her? You told me that Wyndemere would be secure!" Carrie exclaimed, her eyes shone with unshed tears as she considered her daughter's reaction at meeting the matriarch of the Cassadines. From various conversations, Carrie knew that Dawn was afraid of Helena. For Nikolas' sake, she tried to pretend otherwise, but deep down inside, Helena reminded Dawn too much of Robert for her to feel otherwise.

"I have no explanation for you, but I will get to the bottom of it. You're right. Mother should never have gotten close to Dawn and I accept full responsibility. I will not allow it to happen again. You have my word, Carlotta," he vowed, his voice a hoarse whisper as his green eyes bore into her brown ones.

Carrie's breath caught in her throat as Stefan whispered her given name. Her hands covered his, as she replied, "I believe you. I know you'll protect of her."

"And, you. I won't allow Helena to harm either you or Dara."

Carrie opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. She held her breath as Stefan slowly lowered his head to hers. As if unsure, he lips hovered above hers until she closed the breath of space which separated them. Her full lips brushed across his, momentarily surprising them both with her boldness.

Stefan's hands left her face to grasp her waist, pulling her closer to him. Deepening the kiss, his lips parted, allowing his tongue to trace the outline of her lips, moving back and forth. A small gasp escaped her and Stefan's tongue quickly moved inside. He tantalized and teased her, coaxing her tongue to join his. He didn't have to coax her too much as Carrie soon drew him deeper into her mouth, reveling in the minty taste of him.


"Not too close, dear. We wouldn't want the weakling to see us and then embarrass himself in an effort to prove his masculinity. Mm...well, maybe we would," Helena laughed softly to herself. Her smiled broadened when her driver...assistant...lover, Ari, joined in with her.

Upon leaving Wyndemere, she and Ari had waited patiently at the docks. Familiarizing herself with the few remaining guests as they left the launch was an arduous task, but extremely necessary. Her investigators were good, but she didn't trust them completely. There were some things one could not rely on someone else's eyes for. Her powers of observation were strong and she doubted if her man was as astute as she. In fact, she was certain that he was not. He would not have foreseen Stefan's desire to see Dawn's mother to her door. He would have erroneously assumed that Stefan would remain at Wyndemere, but she knew differently. Before slipping into the library, she had taken a peek into the ballroom. Stefan's tete-a-tete with Nikolas' mother-in-law was amusing and very telling. He was enamored and that would prove to be his downfall.

"Madam?" Ari prompted when Helena became silent. Her silences unnerved him. They usually signaled deviant behavior, and although he was loyal, he didn't take anything for granted. He knew that there was no guarantee that her deviance wouldn't be directed towards him for whatever reason...or for no reason at all.

"Yes, dearest?" Helena asked, coming out of her reverie.

"Stefan is leaving. Should I follow him or will you meet with Mrs. Jensen tonight?"

"No, love, not tonight. I'll save it for another time. Sharing a part of Nikolas' eighteenth birthday with him has left me in a benevolent mood. I'll grant her this night to savor Stefan's sloppy, wet kisses. She and I will come face to face another time," Helena decided.

"And, Stefan?"

"I've seen enough of him tonight as well. To the yacht, my dear Ari. I'm sure we can find something to do there to occupy our minds. Wouldn't you agree?" she asked, her voice purring as softly as a contented kitten.

"I do," he smiled at her reflection in the rearview mirror. She might be a terror in day to day life, but she was a very talented lover. He could hardly wait for the night's festivities to begin.

Chapter 83

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