Chapter 5: Bargains Are Cheaper by the Dozen

Evangeline Williamson dug through her cigar box of keepsakes for the letter from her childhood best friend. She pushed aside little mementos that no longer held meaning. A bottle top from a soda pop bottle. Pieces of costume jewelry. The dried flowers from a long forgotten suitor. Just old junk that weighed her down. She needed to let go and move on.

"Aha!" She pulled the letter from the bottom of the box and sat on the floor beside the bed in her one room home.

Dear Vangie,

How are you? I know it's been a long while. Port Charles took me by surprise and I lost track of everyone. Girl, you should come here! The freedoms will set your soul on fire. I know some people at a jazz club here. I can put in a good word for you. With your voice, you wouldn't need my help. They'd love you. Please, come. I miss you.

Your forever friend,

Keesha

Evangeline glanced at the date. Keesha sent that to her almost a year ago. She never replied. Life in Llanview, Pennysylvania didn't seem so bad until recently. Now, she needed to leave.

She folded the letter and stuck it in her purse. Then, she began to clean up. Setting fire to her past in the metal trash can. After that, she sorted through her clothes. So many things weren't more than rags. Except for his gifts--

"No," she muttered through gritted teeth. She wouldn't think about him. He was the root of her problems. Thinking passion was the same of happiness. He touched her in ways no man ever had, but that didn't mean they would survive the long haul. Not with the world being the way it was.

A key jangled in the door lock. It creaked open and John McBain filled the doorway. His hooded blue eyes bored into her as he closed the door and slowly strolled into the room.

"Evangeline." Her voice sounded like a husky plea on his lips.

She quickly scanned the room, hoping there weren't any signs of her plans to leave. There weren't. Releasing a deep sigh, she closed the curtain to the closet and tried to regard him with indifference. Having had him inside her, this might be the greatest lie known to man.

"John." She brushed her hair aside in an offhand manner. "You said you wouldn't come here anymore. Did you get lost?"

"No. Yes. Maybe. " He crossed the tiny room in a few steps. His body loomed over her. His heady masculine scent filled her senses. He reached out and stroked her hair. "I shouldn't be here."

"Then, leave."

He roughly pulled her into his arms. As his mouth hovered about hers, he murmured, "You know I can't do that."

~*~

Stone kept his mouth shut when he saw the Jensen woman go upstairs. He kept his mouth shut when he watched Keesha with Jason, falling for her from afar. No words came from him on the night she and Jason had their final disagreement. Their argument shook the walls, and the fear and determination in her voice shook Stone. Despite Jason's power and control, she took a stand and refused to back down. All of it made Stone love her even more. And his dislike of Jason Morgan grew from that day on.

He didn't know what Gina saw in the cold, sullen man. Jason rarely cracked a smile. He didn't ooze charm the way Sonny did. Yet, women flocked to him and Stone didn't understand.

Why did his little sister continue to run after Jason? He treated her like dirt and flaunted his interest in other women right in front of her face. Jason's behavior with Keesha wasn't as callous, but in his way, he was just bad. How could a woman like Keesha allow herself to be Jason Morgan's plaything? Look at where it got her! A cook for a brothel. Stone bit back a curse. She was so much better than that.

Rinaldo returned without the woman. Sonny's charm struck again.

"We're opening up later than usual tonight," Rinaldo announced. "I'll get the word out to the band."

Stone nodded his thanks. As Rinaldo left him alone, he grabbed his sax. He raised the instrument to his lips and began to play a sorrowful, hypnotic tune.

He didn't know how long he played. The next thing he noticed was a shadow falling over his shoulders. The haunting song came to a stop. He laid the saxophone across his lap and said, "Gina, what are you doing here?"

"How do you know it's me?" she asking, coming from behind him to lean against the piano.

"Your perfume is your calling card." He detached the mouthpiece from the sax and inspected the reed. It was fine. He glanced at her. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be at home sleeping off the shine."

"I couldn't sleep." She moved to sit on the bench. Her skirt rose to just below her knee in typical flapper fashion. Stone frowned, unable to keep his disapproval to himself. Gina tugged on the hem. "Is that better?"

"It would be better if you were at home," he said. "And before you ask, Jason isn't here."

Her bottom lip quivered. "Where is he?"

"He's on business for Sonny. You don't need to know where he is and you don't need to be here."

"You're here," she responded petulantly.

"I work here."

She never had a comeback for that. "When is he coming back?"

"Why do you care? If he wanted you to know, he would have told you. Leave him alone, Gina. He doesn't want you anymore."

Her face turned beet red. "That's not true!"

"Open your eyes, little sister. He's moving on. Let him go before he hurts you more than he already has. He's heartless and he'll destroy you without halfway trying."

"He didn't destroy Keesha."

"She's different--"

"You want her and you don't want me with Jason because you hate him! You're jealous of him because he had her and she never glanced your way! You're jealous, Stone!" she cried, wild with anger. "Admit it!"

He moved quickly. His hands shot out and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Shut up!"

"The truth hurts, doesn't it?" she asked in a choked whisper. A single tear rolled down her cheek. "It hurts bad. Let go, Stone. I wanna go home."

"Go home and stay there." He said upon releasing her.

She wrapped her arms around her waist. "Are you mad?"

Stone shook his head. He was disappointed and sad, but he wasn't mad.

~*~

New York City. The hustle and bustle of the famous landmark sent chills coursing through Dawn's body. Air pushed from her lungs. Pressing a hand to her chest, she sat on the edge of the seat of the intimate Ford Model-A. From the corner of her eye, she noticed Jason watching her. The dapper man and the vibrant city excited her beyond words. For just a fleeting moment, she second-guessed her decision to accompany him. What had she set herself in for?

"It's a fast town," Jason said. His large hand circled her back. She shivered upon contact. He dropped his hand and his voice became husky. "Bright lights and plenty of sights. I have business, but we'll take care of your needs first."

Butterflies created a frenzy in her stomach. She slowly turned to face him. "My needs?"

He smiled and the small gesture heightened the sky blue of his eyes. "The finery for the Paradise Lounge. I know a place in Harlem. Not too far from the Cotton Club."

She slid back against the seat. Dazzling images flashed before her eyes. "The Cotton Club? Have you been there?"

"Lots of times. The best shows in town are right there. They may even give the Paradise Lounge competition, but of course, not after you sing there."

Heat flooded her cheeks. His flattery set her soul on her fire, but she was determined to keep her head. "You've never heard me sing."

"You'd be surprised by what I've heard." His gaze trailed over her from head to toe before finally returning to her eyes. "I know you have talent. I'm not pulling your leg, Dawn. You will sing there."

They became quiet as he guided the Ford to the Colored section of the busy city. He parked the Model A in an alley and came around to open her door. His hand took hers. The underlying power of his grip made her body tingle. She'd never reacted so strongly to a man before. Uncertainty and anticipation filled her as she returned his stare and joined him on the street.

Silently, they headed the side of the building. He rapped an interesting beat on the door. A burly, hulking man cracked the door. The color of his skin reminded Dawn of fresh brewed coffee. His dark, emotionless gaze flickered over her for a second before he acknowledged Jason.

"Mr. Morgan." He opened the door and stepped aside. "Welcome back. Miss Sadie has been missing you."

Jason released a humorless chuckle. "Missing my money is more like it." He entered the building and pulled Dawn behind him. "Where's Sadie?"

"I'm here." A petite older woman appeared in the hallway. Snow-white hair framed a café au lait complexion. Ruby colored lips twitched with humor. "Don't even think of bad mouthing me, Jason Morgan."

"I wouldn't." He took Dawn's hand and brought her forward. "Sadie, this is Dawn. She's the most passionate singer in the world. She needs dresses, shoes and other accessories to make her so." His hands went to her hair. He removed the pins that kept her curls in place. Stepping closer to her, his body brushed hers as he rearranged her hair until it flowed across her shoulders. "Make her hair sexy, but don't cut an inch of it. She's debuting at a club. Make her look like the star she is."

"Mr. Morgan… Jason…" Dawn could barely breathe as she attempted to speak on her behalf. "I don't need…"

"Ssh." He placed a brief kiss on her earlobe. "Sadie will take good care of you. I'll be back in a few hours." He moved to stand between her and the seamstress. "This will take of everything. Food, drink and the trimmings. Be good to her, Sadie. She's special."

The older woman's voice softened "Oh, I can see that."

~*~

Have I lost my damn mind? Dara's chest tightened as she watched Sonny watch her. His wandering eyes left nothing to the imagination. Protecting her sister from Jason Morgan would come at a high cost. Her body and quite possibly her soul, too.

"So, do we have a…" His mouth curved into a sensual smile. "A deal?"

"You drive a hard bargain." She stood, turning her back to him. Her hands clenched together. Was she prepared to do this? Tremors went through her at the mere thought his olive skin and silky black hair. How would those well-manicured hands feel on her inner thighs? Would her satisfaction matter or was he selfish? Oh dear, I can't believe I'm considering this.

"It's not so hard." His chair scraped across the floor. Then, he was behind her. His heat scorched her back. "The choice is yours. Your sister is beautiful, fresh, innocent. Resisting her will be difficult, but Jason will follow my advice. However, there must be something in it for me--"

"All right," she ground out, her body shaking. "I'll do it. I'll be your mistress."


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