Chapter 7: Ain't Nobody's Business

"Dancing all the way to the bank," Skye murmured under her breath as she counted the day's cash flow. Business usually increased at nightfall, but this day had been nothing to sneeze at. Valentine's day wasn't good for some--obviously--but it had certainly been for her. She folded the bills and stuffed them in her bosom. Later, she'd secure her rising fortune inside the safe hidden in the wall of her bedroom.

"Miss Skye."

She turned at the haunting voice. Oh, Lord. What now?

"Gina," she said, rising from her desk. "What is it?"

"I'd like to speak with you," the young blonde said. "May I come in?"

Skye ushered the younger woman into the parlor and closed the door. For the past few weeks, Gina had been making a spectacle of herself. Getting drunk and passing out. Her love for Jason Morgan glowed on her face like an embarrassing beacon. Like most men, he didn't appreciate the girl's affection and cast it aside. Never in all her days would Skye allow any man to make her a fool. She simply had too much pride and Gina didn't have any at all.

"Okay, you're here. What is it? I'm a busy woman. Out with it quickly."

"Yes'm." Color drained from Gina's face. She looked as white as fresh fallen snow. Her eyes grew large and her hands trembled. But in the midst of her nervousness, her back straightened and she returned Skye's stare. "I want a job, ma'am."

"Keesha is my cook and she's a good one," Skye replied. "She's staying."

"No, I don't want her job," Gina explained. "I want to work for you. Really work for you. Be one of your girls."

Skye's mouth dropped open. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me correctly, Miss Skye. I need to make good money and I can't do that anywhere else in town."

"What do you need this money for? Are you in trouble?"

"No, ma'am. I want a better life."

"Oh, really." Skye poured a shot of hootch from her secret stash into a dainty china cup. Her mouth quirked with rising humor. "And you think you'll get that life on your back as one of my girls?"

Gina jutted her chin in an age-old gesture of defiance. "I can do it. I'm not some innocent school girl."

Skye leaned against her desk with one hand on her hip. Her gaze took in the blonde's knee-length skirt and short bob. All decked out in the flapper-style. As if that was enough. She shook her head and sipped her drink

"Obviously, not. You can make a good living here. I see to it that none of my girls want for anything. As long as my rules are followed, we can get along just fine. But I have to warn you, it's not as easy as it looks. Some of my clientele have special needs or wants. There are some things that I don't allow, but I am a businesswoman. I can't prohibit everything. Before you agree to work here, you have to decide just how far you're willing to go."

She went to the door and opened it. Gina understood the hint and followed Skye.

"You don't have to decide right this minute, but the next time, I see you here, I'll expect you to be an employee. No more laying up in Keesha's room and recovering from a binge. If you work here, no drinking until you can prove to me you can handle it. You won't embarrass me or yourself while under my roof. Do we understand each other?"

Gina swallowed hard. Nodding, she said, "Yes, ma'am."

"Good."

*/*

Curiosity got the best of Mac. After leaving Paradise Lounge, he found himself heading toward Maywood. Unlike his predecessors, he wasn't a stranger to this side of town. He kept an eye on crime and on its citizens. When the Jensen sisters moved in, he did a little investigation.

The information he gathered did little to convey the beauty of the elder sister. Dara Jensen. With those large brown eyes, wide, generous mouth and creamy coffee-hued skin, she undoubtedly caused excitement wherever she went. To his surprise, he found himself completely enthralled.

He parked his Ford at the curb and strolled up the sidewalk to her brownstone. Some acknowledged his presence with a nod, but most looked away. Was it fear, he wondered. He supposed the past law enforcement regime wrecked havoc. The former police commissioner was a menace. Mac worked hard to overturn the negative image that resided in so many minds.

Voices carried down the hall. He gripped his pistol and hurried to the source. A man and a woman engaged in a heated discussion. Mac hesitated before charging in.

"No, Dara! I won't let you do it."

"You can't stop me," she replied in a sharp tone. "I don't have a choice."

"You're not her mama. If she wants to play with Jason Morgan, let her."

"And what kind of future would she have?" Dara asked. "I want her to have a respectable life, become a teacher and marry a fine, good man. She won't have any of that if she's fooling around in a speak easy."

"But that's what she wants and becoming Sonny Corinthos' whore won't stop her."

A loud crack echoed and a muffled oath followed. Mac grabbed the doorknob and turned.

"I'm nobody's whore."

Mac opened the door. Both pairs of eyes flew to his. The man held his jaw while Dara's chest heaved. Mac lingered in the doorway. "I heard shouting. What's going on in here?"

"Nothing, sir. Just a family disagreement."

Mac looked to Dara for confirmation.

She nodded. "That's all it is, Commissioner. Jamal is my cousin and we don't always see things eye to eye. We apologize if we disturbed anyone."

"As long as you're sure that's all it is," he said.

"I am."

Mac searched his mind for reasons to stay but found none. He couldn't understand it, but this woman truly fascinated him. As the silence lengthened, he knew that he was an intruder. So, he left them with a warning.

Driving across town to the police headquarters, he considered their argument. Her cousin accused her of becoming Corinthos' whore. So that's what he walked in on at the club. They were making the arrangements.

Damn. Didn't Dara Jensen realize she deserved so much better than a man like Michael 'Sonny' Corinthos?

*/*

Keesha liked the docks. Despite the chill of the cold February day, the sight of iced over Spoon Lake provided solace. She moved to a wooden bench and sat. After pulling her scarf close around her neck and shoving her gloved hands into her pockets, she allowed herself to simply enjoy the view.

Memories of life before countless bad choices came to mind. Her world before moving to Port Charles and before falling into Jason's bed hadn't been so bad. She had a roof over her head, food to eat and a family who loved her. A faint smile crossed her lips as she remembered the hours spent with her best friend, Evangeline Williamson. The two became fast friends when they met a church social at the young age of five. Many years were spent sharing daydreams and making plans for a wonderful future.

Sadness rolled over Keesha. Her future didn't quite turn out the way she planned. She only ever wanted a family. A house filled with children and a good man who loved her. Never once did she delude herself into thinking Jason Morgan could fulfil her dreams. So why in the hell did she become his lover?

That answer was simple really. She loved him. The coldness in his blue eyes burned with warmth in her presence. Others saw it and so did she. But she was clearly a fool in believing he'd ever change for her. His life made him hard and the end, she knew life with him was not meant to be.

What about Stone Cates?

Warmth crept up her spine at the mere thought of the quiet saxophone player. His dislike of Jason was so strong Keesha could almost taste it. She never once allowed herself to believe she was the cause until now. The way Stone looked at her. His tone. His words. So sweet and poetic. She almost lost herself, but she vowed never to be so foolhardy again.

"Miss Ward, it's getting late. It's not safe for a beautiful woman such as yourself to be out here all alone."

Keesha resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Woody's outrageous flattery. "I'm fine."

His full lips curved into a pleased smile. "That you are. Do you mind if I sit?"

"I couldn't stop you."

He chose a discreet distance and sat at the far end. "It's good to see you doing well. Considering what happened…well, I was worried."

"I find that hard to believe," she said, shaking her head. "You wouldn't dare risk your business arrangement because of me."

"You'd be worth the risk."

"I'm not interested," she stated quietly.

His eyebrows rose. "A hardworking colored man ain't good enough for you."

"That's not what I said."

"What are you saying?" He tilted his head to the side. His voice deepened. "You came here from Philadelphia all high and mighty, almost looking your nose down at the rest of us. Then, the slick white man shows up and you're his woman. Just like that." Woody snapped his fingers for emphasis.

She stiffened. "That's not true, but if that's the way you want to see it… What happened between him and me is no one else's business." She stood and moved to leave. The dock was no longer a safe haven. Her sanctuary had been invaded.

"Word is you cut him. Right on his stomach. The boss man wanted you taken care of but your slick daddy said no. You must have put it on him real good."

Keesha glanced once over her shoulder at him. "You'll never know." Then, she all but ran back to her room at the Chandler Home for Women. It may be a den for whores, but at least it was safe.


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