Chapter 90

Simone smiled as the waiter placed steaming bowls of soup in front of her and John. After a pleasant walk where they had engaged in light-hearted conversation and occasional window shopping, she had agreed to have dinner with her charming, attractive companion. As she lifted her spoon to sample the soup du jour, she thought how relaxing it was to dine with someone who didn't know her past and wasn't intimidated by it or her. Justus was a caring man and a wonderful friend, but outings with him drained her. The look in his gentle brown eyes was a little too sympathetic for her liking, and maybe a wee bit pitying, too. To be fair, she didn't mind the sympathy, but she didn't want anyone's pity. Even if the person was once very dear to her heart.

"Delicious?" John asked. He'd sat quietly, as Simone tasted her soup. He sensed that her thoughts had taken a personal turn. The thought that another might be the subject of her deep reflection bothered him, and he was determined to bring the conversation back to him and perhaps the friendship they were forming.

"Very," she smiled. "But, I wouldn't expect anything less. The Port Charles Grill is a four-star establishment."

"Do you dine here often?" he asked, bristling slightly at the possibility that she might have been entertained here by another man.

"I have in the past, but I haven't had the opportunity to visit my old haunts," she said as she spooned another mouthful of the steaming concoction into her mouth.

"Old haunts? I'm afraid I do not understand," he said, touching the corners of his mouth with his napkin as he waited for response.

"I'm sorry. I keep forgetting that you may not be familiar with our slang. The best definition I can give you for 'old haunts' is that it refers to the places I once frequented."

"Oh, I see." He nodded slowly. He dipped his spoon into the bowl and began to stir the clear soup. His gray eyes followed the movement as the vegetables and the tiny pieces of chicken swirled around. He remained deep in thought as he contemplated her response. Was her memories fond ones of things in the past or was there longing in her voice? "So, why don't you visit your…how did you say…'old haunts'?"

She shrugged. "I just don't. Being a single parent with a teenage son is a full-time responsibility. The time for the rest will come later."

"Ah, tsk, tsk, tsk, Simone," he said, shaking his head as he shook his finger at her. His eyes twinkled with teasing disapproval.

"What?" she asked, a tiny smile playing around the corner of her full lips as she looked at him.

"There is one American saying of which I am fully aware," he began, "all worry and no play makes Simone an unhappy woman-"

Simone's laughter interrupted him. "That's not *quite* how it goes, but I'll give you a few points for being close. Don't misunderstand, John. I'm not unhappy. Actually, it's the opposite. I love my son and spending time with him makes me very happy. And, believe it or not, I get my fair share of play. I'm doing okay."

"Well, there's okay…and then there's *okay*," he said. "I think I'm doing okay, but there are times when I wish… Well, I would not want to bore you."

The melancholy note in his voice concerned Simone. She set her spoon down and rested her back against the chair. Softly, she asked, "Would you care to talk about it?"

"I cannot. Not at this time," he said with a shake of his head. Juan's facial expression was sorrowful as he lowered his spoon to the table, too. But, inwardly, he grinned from ear to ear. She cared. The sheer pleasure of knowing that he was getting to her delighted him and one phrase began to repeat itself over and over in his head. Soon, mi querida. Soon.

"Dinner was delicious," Carrie said to fill the silence which had taken residence in the back of the limousine as she and Stefan were whisked to Jacks. "Thank you."

"You are more than welcome," he said with a smile. As he looked into her brown eyes, he was met with an overwhelming need to voice what was on his mind and in his heart. He had never considered himself a coward, but tonight he had been afraid…of her, and the growing feelings he was no longer able to deny.

The purpose of his impromptu visit to her showroom had been to invite her to dinner so that they could discuss their moment of passion. There was nothing he would like more than for it to repeat itself, but he had to proceed with caution. Helena was about, and if she was aware of how deeply he cared for Carrie, of how thoughts of her exhausted him and inspired him to seek her out… Well, Carrie would undoubtedly be added to his mother's list of possible casualties of war. The idea that Dawn's name was already on Helena's list pained his heart, and if Carrie was added because of him… He'd lost too many times in the art of love and happiness. He wasn't willing to suffer the same again.

"Stefan, I think we should talk," Carrie tentatively began. She held her breath as she waited for him to speak, but no words came. After he indicated that she should continue with a slight nod of his head, she released the air she had been holding and followed his silent bidding. "I've enjoyed the time we've spent together over the last few weeks. I've enjoyed getting to know you and I've looked forward to seeing you…"

"But?" he asked, softly. He didn't want to hear what was next, but since it was inevitable, he really had no choice. He only hoped that she would voice her decision quickly.

"Excuse me?" she asked with a small frown. Her thoughts had taken her deep inside herself as she had begun to reveal her innermost feelings to the man who sat so very still beside her. She hadn't anticipated hearing his voice until after her thoughts were spoken. She hadn't even really been aware that she had stopped speaking until he had prompted her with the softly spoken word.

"You were in the processing of voicing your concerns in regards to our…ah…liaison " he prompted her. "You were about to tell me that you had no interest in pursuing a relationship, correct?"

"Incorrect," she said, shifting on the expansive back seat so that her eyes held his. Carrie gently cupped Stefan's face as her thumbs lightly caressed his moist, sensual lips. His mouth parted at her gentle touch and the feel of his breath sent shivers up her spine. An overwhelming need to cover his lips with her own and taste his minty sweetness swept through her, but she pushed the urge away. There were still a few more things she needed to say first. "I am very much interested in pursuing a relationship with you, Stefan Cassadine. It was not my intention to give you the brush off. I haven't…done this…said these words to a man in a very long time. I want to tell you how I feel, yet, I don't want you to feel that you have to reciprocate either."

"I do not feel that there's a need for reciprocation. I will gladly offer you my thoughts and feelings on the matter," came his husky response. "I care very deeply for you, Carlotta. So much so that I can not and I shall not put you at risk."

"What do you mean? 'At risk?'" Carrie asked, removing her hand from his face.

Stefan grasped her hands and held on to them, gently stroking them as he did so. "My mother will no doubt go to great lengths to make us painstakingly aware of her presence. I have no wish for you to encounter her because of me, and I would understand if you decide to forgo any future encounters with me."

"Your mother is of no consequence to me. I don't care what she thinks about me and I'm not afraid of her. After the way she tormented Dawn last night, I look forward to meeting her," Carrie said fiercely. "But, this isn't about Helena and me. This is about you and me. You've said that you care about me, and I know that you're physically attracted me. What I want to know now is how far are you willing to take this attraction. Am I making a fool out of myself by asking you this? Is what’s happening between us one-sided or do you feel it, too? Please, be honest with me. I think we're both a little too old for childish games. The least we can do is be straightforward, don't you agree?"

"Completely," he nodded. "You're not making a fool of yourself. This," he said, cupping her face between his two palms and bringing her face closer to his, "is real, and it is not one-sided. Not at all."

Stefan claimed her lips in a searing kiss. His fingers became tangled in her dark curls as he angled her head to deepen the kiss. Tongues collided, probed and tasted, wanting more and demanding satisfaction. Both were anxious to pursue their endeavor but the signaling of the driver that they had reached their destination reminded them of their surroundings. As they slowly separated themselves and ended the ardent embrace with teasing close-mouthed pecks, they silently decided that the time for satisfaction was close at hand. Very close.


Jason calmed the rapid pounding of his heart by taking steady, deep breaths. Inhaled through the nose and exhaled through the mouth. He did it several times and was relieved when the small relaxation technique worked.

He felt claustrophobic in the small cramped visiting room as he waited for Carly. The sterile environment with only a table and three small chairs, mixed with the bars-protected windows brought a side in him that he thought he was immune to. Nervousness and anxiety. The really awful kind where every scenario you pictured was a bad one.

During the ride from the Ward House to Ferncliff, he'd reminded himself that he was the holder of the cards and not Carly. She didn't have the power. He did. But then as he shifted his Harley into another gear, he'd see Keesha's beautiful face or hear Michael's gentle laughter and then he'd begin to panic. They were his family. He couldn't lose them. He wouldn't lose them.

He balled his hands into fists as the cold, steely veneer of the Morgan personality dropped into place. In his sudden transition from Quartermaine to Morgan, he abruptly rose from the hard, wooden chair, knocking it over in the process. Regardless of what *information* Carly had or what stupid trick she'd try to pull, he would be the victor in this, and he'd do whatever he had to do to make it so. She'd manipulated him in the past. Now, it was his turn.

The door creaked open and Jason quickly moved to upright the chair. His body, his entire being, was relaxed as he rested his hands on the chair and waited.

Carly's eyes were drawn to Jason as she entered the room. The reality of where they were was pushed to the back of her mind as she looked at him. The snug blue jeans, the tight, black T-shirt and the calf-length leather jacket fit him very well. Perhaps too well, she thought as she subconsciously licked her lips. She had convinced herself that the carnal need she felt for him was a thing of the past, but now as she looked at him, she realized that a part of her would always want him and crave those heated encounters above Jake's from so long ago.

The roving eyes and the coarse smacking of her lips told him everything he needed to know. She still wanted him. That was something to work with, he thought as he moved around the chair to stand before her. He opened his arms to her and said, "Carly."

"Jase?" she asked, tentatively. She wasn't expecting an embrace from him, but she wasn't so foolish that she'd turn one down. She wrapped her arms around his hard torso and held on, wishing the moment could last forever. The harsh cough of her escort, Dr. Pembroke, reminded her that they were not alone and after an extra second of immense physical pleasure, she released him.

Dr. Pembroke frowned at Carly and then turned his attention to Jason. "This visit will be kept short. Miss Benson has shown some progression, and we wouldn't want to do anything that would affect that, now would we?"

"No, we wouldn't," Jason replied, mimicking the doctor with his tone of voice. He stole a glance at Carly and saw that she was trying her best not to respond to the doctor's condescending words.

"Miss Benson has requested that this meeting with you be a private one. This goes against my wishes, however, I will comply as you are the father of her son and she has expressed a desire to know more about his wellbeing. A nurse is right outside the door and when your time is up, he will come and retrieve Miss Benson. Have a pleasant visit and remember what I told you. Miss Benson has come a long way, but there are certain aspects of her psyche which are still fragile. Be mindful of that, and if she shows any signs of distress, please alert the nurse at once."

Jason nodded and stood still as a statue as he waited for the doctor to leave. Once they were alone, he turned to her. "Is he always like that?"

"Yes," she said simply. During Pembroke's speech, she had taken the time to control her libidinous nature. Jason was attractive and he was without a doubt the man she wanted, but she had to make sense of the stories she'd been hearing about him. "We don't have much time."

"No, we don't," he replied. "Want to sit?" He held the chair out for her. He saw the way her eyes flew to his, but he chose to ignore it. She liked the attention. He knew it, but he wouldn't let her know he knew it. The stoic expression remained intact.

"How are you?" he asked, as he lowered himself into the chair across from her. He shrugged out of his bulky jacket and when he was free, he rested his forearms against the table. He felt her eyes travel across his chest and arms and he had to fight himself to keep from laughing out loud.

"Mm…" she said, distracted. "What?"

"I asked how you were. Other than that idiot, are they treating you okay?"

"No! They're not treating me okay!" she said, instantly charged by the question. "How would you like to be watched every second of every minute of the day? Having your every thought and action scrutinized? It's awful, Jason. Everything about this place is awful."

"I can imagine it is…" he said, his voice low.

"No, you can't!" she told him. "I want out of here, Jason, and I want it now!"

"It's not that simple."

"I don't care how simple or complicated it is! You promised me that you'd get me out of here!"

"I know what I promised you," he said, miraculously maintaining a neutral tone. "And, I intend to make good on it. There's just a few details I need to iron out first."

"What kind of details?" she asked.

"The kind you don't have to concern yourself with," he answered.

"Oh, but I do," she countered as she rose from the chair and moved to stand by the window. She stared out into the night sky, but the images weren't clear. The bars prevented her from receiving any enjoyment from the midnight blue sky or the sparkling stars which littered it. Instead, the bars screamed at her that she was a prisoner and that the pleasure of simply looking at the moon without any hindrances was not hers to be had.

She turned from the window to face him. "You have absolutely no idea of what it's like to be in here. The hell and the torture of being alive, but having no life! Tell me, Jason, exactly how do you intend to get me out here when the connections you once had don't even exist anymore?!"

"What are you talking about?" he asked, keeping his gaze steady on her.

"I'm talking about the organization, Jase!" she whispered as she moved back to the table. "I hear things. I may be in isolation, but I'm not completely isolated! The nurses think we're zombies so they talk about all sorts of things. Like how you split from Saint Robin, quit the mob and shacked up with Keesha Ward with *my* son! Without your mob ties, how the hell do you expect to get me out of here? Bribe a social services worker? Puh-leeze!"

The relaxation technique came in handy once again as Jason stared at her. He inhaled and exhaled, slowly and quietly, before he stood and moved to face her. He didn't care how she spoke about Robin or your derisive comments about his present career choice, but the way she said Keesha's name and the emphasis she put on "my" got to him. He needed to make a few things clear and he needed to do it now.

"Carly," he began, his voice deadly quiet in the harsh silence of the room. He gently cupped the side of her face and he wasn't the least bit surprised when she subconsciously leaned into his hand. "I made you a promise. I'll get you out of here, but there's one thing you need to understand and you need to understand it right now. Keesha *is* a part of my life and she will be whether you like it or not."

Her eyes narrowed at the mention of her nemesis' name and she opened her mouth to speak. Jason silenced her with a shake of his head and with the stroke of his finger as he trailed it down her cheek. "There's another thing you need to understand. Michael is my son, too. His best interest is and will always be my main concern. Never forget that."

As Jason stepped away from her and Carly took a shallow breath in an attempt to recover from the storm which raged inside of her from his proximity and gentle caresses. She was beginning to feel as though she'd lost, but she quickly reminded herself that she still held one very important card. She took another deep breath before she allowed herself to look at him.

As he pushed his arms into his leather jacket, she quietly said, "I won't forget it. And, don't you forget that *I* am Michael's mother. No one else, but me. There's nothing you or anyone else can do to change that. And the sooner you get me out of here, the better. It wouldn't do for our son to one day know that his mother was once locked away in an institution and his father had the means to get her out and didn't. Hmm…come to think of it, make that 'fathers' plural. If you can't do your fatherly duty, there is another who can."

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