Chapter 23

Tommy watched as the young couple walked past the outdoor table. They were hand-in-hand and oblivious to the rest of the world. Judging by their kiss, Tommy's initial assessment was correct. She was already interested in the other guy. It wasn’t like I had a chance anyway, he thought, and released a sigh.

"Honey, is everything all right?" Audrey asked. She didn’t mean to coddle him, but she couldn't stop herself from being concerned.

"Fine, Grandmother," he replied. He turned his gaze onto his cousin, who had decided at Audrey's insistence, to lunch with them. Her eyes were downcast and she fiddled with her food. She looked as unhappy as he always felt.

"My goodness, between the two of you… Well, neither of you have hardly spoken more than two words to each other," Audrey said. "You're cousins. Aren't you curious about each other?"

The first thought in both of the teenagers' minds was no, they weren't curious about each other. If Audrey hadn't insisted, neither of them would have been within two feet of the other. But despite that, somebody had to make the first move.

"So, Tommy," Lizzie began. "Where have you been all this time?"

Tommy immediately bristled at her question. Deep down inside he knew that she had no idea about his past, but he couldn't prevent his instant reaction. He hoped no one else noticed.

"Away," he mumbled. "Excuse me, I need to use the…um…you know."

After Tommy rushed into Kelly's, Lizzie turned to Audrey. She did notice Tommy's reactions and she wanted to know why he reacted that way. He seemed weird before, but there had to be something more to that.

"Gram, what's wrong with him?"

"Honey, now that's not a nice way to refer to your cousin," Audrey hedged. She knew the questions would start, but she hoped she'd have some answers.

"Gram, c'mon. You know, as well as, I do. He's weird. Look at his clothes. Did you notice the way he was eating? You'd think someone was going to take his food away from him or something," Lizzie replied. She had a feeling Audrey was hiding something. If she knew something about Tommy, Lizzie wanted to know it, too. Otherwise, there was no way she'd sleep another night in the house with him there. She had enough problems falling asleep without worrying about him, too.

"He's not weird, Elizabeth. He's had some problems at home and he's come to stay with us for a little while. He's just trying to get his bearings that all."

"But, Gram…" Lizzie began.

"Not another word," Audrey interrupted her. "Tommy needs us and I will not turn my back on him. There will be no further discussion."

Tommy returned to the table and sat. Lizzie and Audrey were all smiles and conversation resumed, but Tommy felt that he wasn’t truly wanted there. Not that it really mattered to him. Well, not really, he told himself. He had things to do which did not include bonding with a family that didn’t want him.


"Justus, wait."

Justus paused at the sound of his cousin's voice. He hoped this would be quick. After thinking about Tommy's tale all night long, he had made a decision. One, he wanted to act on immediately.

"I'm in a hurry, AJ. This had better be quick," Justus said, looking at his watch to emphasize his words. "and if this has anything to do with Michael…"

"This doesn't have anything to do with Michael. This has to do with Keesha," AJ said with a frown. He didn’t like being rushed, especially when it was something as important as this.

"What about Lil Bit? Look, if you're in the doghouse, don't come to me to bail you out," Justus replied with the hint of a smile. Keesha could be a handful when angry, and he had no intentions of getting involved.

"She's missing Justus," AJ said, his voice catching as his words brought up horrible images to his mind.

"What do you mean 'missing'? She's in Philly. She grew up there and knows the place like the back of her hand," Justus said. AJ was wrong because there was no way his little cousin was missing. No way.

"She's not in Philly. She should be in Port Charles," AJ said. "Look, she left Philadelphia last night. She didn't know I knew because she was planning to surprise me…"

"Well, there you have it," Justus interrupted. "She changed her mind about surprising you and went home. Listen, AJ, call her in Philly. Apologize. Send her some flowers. I'm in a hurry. I don’t have time for this…"

"Well, you'd better make time," AJ interjected. "There's more. I decided to surprise her at her place. When she didn't show up, I called her parents to make sure she hadn't changed her mind. They told me that she took a later flight. I checked the second flight's itinerary and she was on that plane. But she never made it to her place and she didn't stop by the mansion either. She's disappeared."

Justus' features changed from annoyance to fear at AJ's ominous words. He didn't want to consider it, but what if Keesha's disappearance was similar to what Tommy had described. Oh, my God, he thought. He'd have to find Tommy. And quick!


Keesha had never felt so humiliated in her entire life. The 'inspection' felt more like a violation. She had been probed from head to toe. Her hair had been checked for lice, her teeth for cavities, and she refused to consider what the other examination was for.

On the walk back to her 'cell' as she called it, her mind was running rampant. She was determined that she would remain strong. She would not let them destroy her, she vowed. Somehow, she was getting out of this hell, and they would pay for what they put her through tonight. She'd make damn sure of that.


The time had passed by quickly. The young couple were trying not to think of the lateness of the hour as they continued to reveal more of themselves to each other through deep conversation, teasing and laughter.

The park was nice and peaceful, but the time refused to be ignored any longer. After a glance at his Rolex, Nikolas grabbed Dawn's hand and rose from the bench.

"No more stalling," he said, as he swung her hand back and forth.

When she continued to be glued to the bench, he grabbed her other hand and pulled her to her feet. After she stood, he released her hands and encircled her within her arms. Her hands rested on his hard chest.

"Nickie, this has to go just right. What if Dara won't listen?" she asked. Her fierce determination had been wavering more and more as the time for her to meet with her older sister drew closer. She wasn’t used to this type of anxiety. So much was riding on Dara agreeing to her suggestion. So much, she thought, as she looked into Nikolas' soft, brown eyes.

"She will listen. I won't take no for an answer," he smiled. As his face leaned closer to hers, neither of them were aware that they were being watched. The only thing that mattered to either of them was the sweet sensation their lips brought to the other. The thought of prying eyes didn’t enter either of their minds.

Chapter 24