Chapter 97

Stefan met the morning with a warm feeling of contentment. The sleeping beauty who lay peacefully in his arms filled him completely and made him fill whole. No words of love had been spoken between them during their night together. The meaningless sentiments and hollow declarations of eternal devotion were not and would not be a factor in what the future held for them. However, that didn't mean the emotion would not play a role in their…dare he even think it…relationship.

He sighed deeply at the thought. Would it be possible for him to finally find himself in a real relationship? Not one, which was complicated and was born of supreme duress like the one he had shared with Lasha. Nor one, which was formed as a strategic maneuver such as his ill-fated marriage to Barbara. And never again, would he lose sight of himself as he had with Katherine. No, Stefan thought with a shake of his head, this time, he would relate differently with the woman he so tenderly held in his arms. This time, he would have a happily ever after.

"Good morning," Carrie whispered against his bare chest. She smiled as she opened her eyes and looked at him.

"I agree," he said, "it is a good morning. One of the best, I've ever encountered."

"Me, too," she agreed. She lightly traced the curve of his lips with her index finger, caressing his lower lip until he parted his lips. A low moan of pleasure was the only sound in the room as Stefan pulled her finger into his mouth.

"Stefan…," she breathed. Carrie's eyelids fluttered closed, as she surrendered to his tiny bites and kisses. She was amazed that at the slightest touch, he stirred emotions and longings in her that had lain dormant for so long that she had almost forgotten they existed. As he released his hold on her finger, his mouth and tongue tormented the palm of her hand. Unable to stand any more, she grasped his face with both hands and roughly brought his face to hers.

After a slow, sensual night of lovemaking, by silent agreement, their early morning coupling was fevered, rushed and deeply satisfying. They came together in a passionate moment, which left them both feeling spent and breathless. Later, after they had regained the ability to speak, Carrie said, "How would you feel about breakfast in bed?"

Stefan frowned slightly. "What about Lucky?"

"He's not invited." She laughed as she rose from the bed.

Stefan watched her as she retrieved her dressing gown from the floor and wrapped it around her. After a quick glance at the door, he asked, "What if he should discover us together? I should take my leave now."

"You don't have to leave," Carrie said, turning away from her dresser. With her silver-plated brush in her hand, she went back to the bed and sat beside Stefan. "You don't have to leave…unless you want to?"

"But, my being here could prove awkward for you. He respects you, and I would rather not do anything to jeopardize that."

"That's sweet of you," she said, covering her hand with his, "but it's unnecessary. Lucky spent the night with Sly last night. Besides, they're taping the Tiffany Hill Sunday Morning Hour, remember?"

"Oh," he slow smile crept across his face, "I see."

"I know what you 'see'," she laughed softly, "but you'll have to 'see' it later. We don't have much time before the program is on, and if you don't mind, I'd like a shower and some breakfast as I watch my baby's first television interview."

"So, would I." His green eyes sparkled with desire as images of a shared shower came to mind.

"Next time," she told him as she perfectly understood his intentions. She smiled as he pouted, but she remained firm.


"Hey! I didn't know you could cook."

AJ turned and greeted Eve with a smile as she entered his kitchen. She looked good in his T-shirt and sweats. Damn good! He grinned as he made a show of removing the toast from the toaster. "Is that the way to greet your chef?"

"Chef?" She laughed as she took the plate he offered her. Her eyes darted from the plate, which held only two slices of toast and a red, delicious apple to his smiling face. "*This* is the work of a chef? Emeril had better watch out for you, huh?"

AJ grabbed his plate and followed her back into his living room. Eve sat down on the sofa and he joined her. The television was on, but muted, and as she reached for the remote to increase the volume, he said, "I'll have you know that Emeril consults with *me* on all of his finer culinary creations."

Eve, who had just taken a bite of her apple, almost choked with laughter. She chewed and quickly swallowed the sweet, crunchy fruit. "Yeah, right!" she said, after it was safe for her to speak.

"Damn, right!" he said, as he took a bite of his apple.

Chuckling softly, Eve shook her head at him as she increased the volume on the remote. The early morning cartoons weren't as good as she had remembered and she lowered the volume to a low hum.

AJ, who had been busy eating, watched her and wondered what she thought of the night before. He wondered if she had really meant what she'd said about a woman using a man. Then and now, he thought she didn't mean it. They'd been friends long enough and she'd shared enough about her past relationships with Scott Baldwin and Bennett Devlin that told him that casual was not her kind of thing. Nor was it his. Sure, it had been once upon a time, but after having shared his body and soul with someone, he knew that he didn't want casual. Slow, maybe, but definitely not casual. He hoped she wanted the same, and he also knew that there was only one way to find out.

"Eve…" he began, placing his plate on the coffee table. He shifted on the sofa to face her.

"Yeah?" she asked, removing the crust from her toast. She raised her chocolate brown eyes to his and found that his eyes were unreadable. She had felt his eyes on her for the last few minutes. She sensed that he had something serious on his mind. She was half-afraid of what he would say to her. The morning after could make or break a relationship. She hoped for the former, but prepared herself for the latter. "What is it?" she asked again.

"About last night…" He swallowed the lump, which had decided to lodge itself in his throat. He could do this. He just had to word it right, was all. He tried again. "Eve, last night was…incredible and unexpected. I didn't plan for it to happen."

"I know," she said, lowering her eyes to her plate. She could take the let down, but she didn't want to see it his eyes.

"But, you know what they say about the best laid plans…" He took her plate from her and placed it beside his. He then placed his fingers under her chin and raised her head so that she looked him in his eyes. "I care about you, Eve-"

Eve moved away from him and stood. With her back to him, she said, "But let's stay friends, right? Or better still, don't call me. I'll call you. Right? That's what you were planning to say, right?"

"Wrong!" he rose from the sofa and moved to stand in front of her. He cupped her face with both hands and said, "You couldn't be more wrong, Doctor Eve Lambert. Last night, you gave me something that I thought I'd lost forever…the ability to care about someone. I never thought I'd connect with someone on that level. You," he smiled at the memory of their night together, "showed me in so many wonderful, passionate ways that I can…with you. I don't want to lose that connection now that we've found it. Talk to me, Eve. Do you know what I'm talking about? Did you feel it, or was it just sex with you?"

Were her ears deceiving her, she wondered. Was he truly talking about a day after the morning after? Did he want more than a one stand between friends? She wasn't sure if her voice would co-operate, but she would answer him. "Yeah…I felt it, too, but AJ… I don't want to be Keesha's stand-in. I want you to want *me*. I care about you, you've got to know that, but I won't be her substitute."

"You're not and you could never be. She was…a part of my life that's gone forever now. I won't lie to you and say that I don't love her. I do love her. A part of me will always love her, but I'm moving on Eve. And, I'd like to see if you're that someone I can move on with."

His hazel eyes were hypnotizing her and she felt herself slipping away. She had to think about what he was offering and if it was acceptable to her. She stepped away from his touch and his eyes and moved to stand behind the sofa. She wanted to move on with him, but… "Isn't this kinda fast? I would love to take what you're offering and run with it, but I'm scared, AJ. I've been burned. Not once, but twice, and I'll be damned if I allow myself to be burned like that again."

"I'm not those men, Eve," he said. "Just like you're not Keesha, I'm not Scott or Bennett. I'm the man you befriended and badgered and laughed with. I'm the man who you made love to last night. And, I'm the man who's asking you to give him a chance to be more. I don't want to rush into anything, but I don't want what's happening between us to slip away either." He moved from in front of the sofa to join her. He reached for her hands and tenderly held them. "Will you give it a chance?"

She looked down at their joined hands and nodded. Raising her eyes to his again, "Yeah. I'll give us a chance."


"This is nice," Keesha said, breaking the silence, which had filled the room as she had rocked Michael gently in her arms. The baby had awoken from his sleep with a loud cry. When Jason had moved to tend to the infant's needs, Keesha stopped him and went instead. She brought the fussy baby back into their bedroom and lulled him back to sleep with a soft lullaby and her warm touch.

Jason, who sat beside her on the bed, glanced from the television screen to look at her. He smiled at her and said, "What is?"

"This," she said. "You, Michael and me. I like this, Jason. This feels good."

Jason felt a twinge of guilt as he looked into her shining, love-filled eyes. He should tell her, (NOW!), the Quartermaine side of his brain screamed, but just as he opened his mouth to speak, the Morgan side stopped him and offered other words instead. "Keesha, let's set a date."

"Jason," she said with an exasperated sigh. "Not that again. You've been going on about setting a date most of the morning. Can't it wait? What's the hurry? We have a lifetime to love each other."

She rose from the bed and began to pad back to Michael's nursery. Jason was right behind her, as he said, "No, it can't wait. No one knows better than I do that there is no guarantee on there being a lifetime to love."

Keesha placed Michael back into his crib. He made himself comfortable and she put his favorite toy just within his reach, just in case. She beckoned for Jason to follow her back into their bedroom and when he did, she said, "I know you know about that, but Jason, you just asked me last night to marry you! And, now, you want me to set a date. Why do you want to go so fast?"

Jason pulled her into his arms. His piercing blue eyes never wavered from hers as he said, "Because I love you, and I want you as my wife. I don't want to lose you again, Keesha. Can you fault me for being afraid that I would?"

"Baby, you're not gonna lose me." She wrapped her arms around his waist and held him tightly against her. "You'll never lose me. I love you…and I intend to love you for better or for worse for the rest of our lives."


"Cross my heart," she smiled up at him. Her eyes closed in anticipation of his kiss. His lips, when they closed over hers, were soft and wet. He drew her in with subtle movements until her breath became ragged with longing.

Jason ended the kiss with a contented sigh. He rested his chin on the top of her head as he rubbed her back. He wanted to love her with his body, but he needed a date. He weighed the option of using passion and her need for him to sway her to choosing something, but he opted to just ask her again. Just one more time.

"Keesha, baby," he began, his voice low and husky. "Will you marry me?"

"I already told you yes," she said.

He could hear the smile in her voice and he asked again, "Will you marry me next week?"

She couldn't stay mad at him, she realized as she laughed and said, "No, four weeks tops."

Mm…a month, he thought. Earlier that morning, she had mentioned three months. He was getting somewhere.

His hands continued to caress her back. "Will you marry me in two weeks?"

Keesha groaned. His soothing voice and strong hands were telling her to say yes, but her mind was screaming the opposite. "Two weeks is too soon. I'm only doing this once, sweetie, and I want it to be the most wonderful moment of our lives. It has to be planned just right. I can't plan a wedding in two weeks."

"Your being there will make it wonderful," he said to her. "We don't need a big, fancy wedding to pledge our love, Keesha."

"I don't want a big, fancy wedding," she said, raising her head from his chest. She looked up at him. "I want an intimate, perfect wedding. I want us to share this moment with our friends and family, and two weeks is not enough of a notice."

"I'm sure our young friends would disagree," he said, slowly swaying her in the circle of his arms.

"What young friends?" she asked.

"The Cassadines. Tommy told me that Nikolas asked Dawn to marry him and that night, she did. According to Tommy, and Gina, too, I might add, the wedding was romantic and wonderful."

"But, they're kids!" she said, trying to remain firm in her stance as she could feel it slowly slipping away. Jason shrugged as if to say, 'so?' She quickly added, "And they're rich."

"We're rich. I have my trust fund. We can do this, baby. Trust me, okay. We can have a perfect wedding in front of our friends and family. Two weeks, love. Please say yes."

She looked into his crystal blue eyes. She trusted him. They could do it, but still... "Two and a half," she offered.

Jason smiled and swung her around in his arms. In two and a half weeks, she would be his wife. And, he knew that deep within his heart, with Keesha Morgan-Quartermaine by his side, nothing would hurt them. Not Carly, not the lies, not anything, because as soon as she was his wife, he would tell her…everything. And, together, they would face the future. She loved him. She would stand by him. He knew she would.

Chapter 98

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