Chapter 14: When You Smile

Dawn's footsteps slowed as the college came into view. The tizzy with Dara and Jason scattered her thoughts. Concentrating on schoolwork was impossible. She couldn't bear facing her classmates or the professor. She needed time to think and to plan.

Time alone on the docks always eased her mind. She hugged her satchel of books close to her chest and headed toward a secluded section on the platform. As she sank onto a bench, she considered her options.

Jason's surprise visit left no doubt in her mind that Dara was right. He'd journey to the center of the earth to find her if she ran. He wanted her. Until he had her, he wouldn't let go. What had she been thinking, trusting him and believing him? He was handsome, but his eyes could be so cold. Frighteningly so. But when they heated with passion… He was even more dangerous. A shudder swept through her.

"It's too cold to linger in the shadows."

The rich masculine voice startled her to the core. She jumped. Her satchel fell from her lap with a loud thud. Before she could take a good look at him, the man knelt at her feet and grabbed her bag.

"Here. It's pretty heavy."

Their fingers brushed as she accepted the bag. Excitement skittered down her spine. She swallowed hard. Liquid sapphire eyes assessed her from head to toe. Wavy brown hair was slicked back, revealing a perfect forehead and a ruggedly handsome face. Full lips spread into a generous smile. In that moment, she recognized him.

"You're Linc Madison!"

"Yes, I am" His voice rumbled seductively. "Who are you?"

"Dawn Jensen," she replied without thinking. "I've seen all your movies. 'The Forgotten Sheik' was so romantic. The sword fight at the end took my breath away."

"Mine, too." He gestured toward the bench. "May I join you?"

"You're asking? Um, no. Please, go ahead."

They sat in silence for several minutes. Going to the cinema was a guilty pleasure that she and Dara eagerly indulged. Inside a darkened room with their eyes on the screen, they escaped the repetition of their lives. They saw 'The Forgotten Sheik' before Christmas as an early gift.

Funny, since Jason and Sonny entered their lives, neither sister had so much as mentioned a movie.

He shifted, shrugging out of his overcoat. She watched in surprise as he draped the coat around her shoulders. His heady, masculine scent surrounded her. She glanced over her shoulder and into his eyes. Awareness charged the air. She was no stranger to male interest. Jason's determination to have her left her breathless. Returning Linc's stare left her gasping, but this was unlike her interactions with Jason. Somehow, this was very, very different.

"I didn't know you lived in Port Charles," she said in effort to break the strange pull.

"I don't." He glanced away toward the flowing waters of Spoon Lake. "I'm here on business and maybe a little rest and relaxation."

"Making movies must keep you busy."

He nodded. "It does. Sometimes too busy. I welcome the break."

"I would love a break." And a chance to make things right for Dara and for herself. Why did everything have to get so mixed up?

"Take one. Are you busy now?"

She laughed. "Not exactly."

"I didn't think so, but I wanted to be sure. Walk with me. Show me around Port Charles."

"I don't know."

He lightly patted her arm. "I think it will be fine. We're just two people walking."

"Maybe a short walk." If Jason spotted her with another man, she dreaded to think what he'd do.

"Perfect. A short walk is better than none at all." He stood and carefully took her elbow. "Let's go."

---

Twice a week, Keesha shopped at the corner market. Skye's account at Liberto's Groceries allowed Keesha to pick and choose different food items she never would have discovered otherwise. Getting away from the Chandler Home for Women provided a much needed break. The women weren't as raucous as one would expect. However, their chosen way of life strained Keesha's sensibilities. She never dared pass judgement on them. God knew, her relationship with Jason Morgan was not Divinely inspired. Passion threw them together. Possessiveness tore them apart. Yet, Jason never paid for the use of her body. She gave it to him willingly.

"Oh, boy," she muttered under her breath. Every day, thoughts of Jason faded from her mind. Today, she refused to go backwards. He was the past. The future was uncertain.

She crossed off the last item on her list and moved to the register to sign the bill. Four full crates waited at the counter. She loaded three onto her cart. The last simply would not fit.

"All my delivery boys are out," said Papa Liberto before she even asked for assistance.

"Thank you. I think I can manage." She was about to set the final crate onto the handle. Maneuvering the cart like this wouldn't be easy. But her life had never been about easy.

"I got it." Strong male hands took the crate from her.

She turned in surprise. Warm brown eyes smiled down at her. "Sto--Mr. Cates, thank you."

Stone's mouth quirked. "It's my pleasure, Miss Ward. Are you ready?"

"What about your groceries?" She glanced at the empty counter and then back at him.

"I can get it later."

He followed her outside the store and onto the sidewalk. As he fell into step beside her, she wondered about his timely arrival. Lately, it seemed he just appeared and always at the right moment. After Jason, she vowed no more white men. Loving them only led to heartache. All she had to do was look in the mirror or at Evangeline to know that. Maybe in another place in time love between the races worked. But not now and definitely not here.

"Before you say anything," he said, "I'm not following you. I'm all out of coffee and Liberto's has the kind I like. Strong but without the bite."

"What kind? If it's Golden Jenny's, I bought the last canister today. I can give you some at home."

"Thanks."

They covered two blocks. She noticed he neither shifted the crate nor grunted because of its weight. He carried it effortlessly. Beneath the heavy coat, his muscles worked. Her fingers twitched with the desire to skim along his arm. She shook the craving off and kept her eyes focused straight ahead.

"Did RJ hire Evangeline?" he asked. "She had the joint jumping last night. I can't remember the last time a singer roused them. Once the word gets out, Black Bottom will be packed."

A sudden thought occurred to her, one she hadn't considered. "Will that affect the Paradise Lounge?"

"I don't know. It could."

They reached the back door of the Chandler Home for Women. Stone held the door open for her and then followed her inside. He set the crate on a chair and began unloading it.

She reached for the sack of flour. "I can do it. Thanks for your help."

"I want to help." He refused to release the flour. "I will help. You work too hard."

"Everyone has to pull her weight. Even me." She pulled off her coat and gloves and hung them on a hook near the pantry. "I can't let you help. I can't let you stay. It's no good."

He crossed the room. His hands gently cupped her face, tilting it up so that their eyes met. "I'm not Jason. I don't want to hurt you."

"What do you want? Me in your bed? I can't…that's not… I need more."

"I want to take care of you, Keesha. I know Jason hurt you. That's the last thing I want to do."

"Hurt is the only future for us."

He gave her a half smile. Then, he brushed his lips across her forehead. "I think our future has better things ahead. Never mind about the coffee. I'll be seeing you."

As the door shut after him, she lightly pressed a finger to where he kissed her. Would it be too much to hope?

---

A business meeting with Jason pulled Sonny away. Dara used the opportunity to leave. She wasn't running. Where could she go that he wouldn't find her? Nowhere on earth. She was under his skin and until his itch was scratched, her life belonged to him.

God, how she hated the very idea of belonging to another person! Her first marriage was smooth and sweet. He made no demands on her and accepted her for who she was. They got along like two peas in a pod. Easy and companionable. Passion didn't flare between them, not the all-consuming kind. But he was gentle and considerate. She grew comfortable with the physical intimacy they shared. Instinctively, she knew that when Sonny laid her down, he wouldn’t want her comfortable. Hot and excited and yearning. He wanted more than just her body. He'd want her soul, too.

She pulled her coat closer around her as she walked along the dock's edge. The chill of the February morning pierced through her new woolen overcoat, but it didn't bother her. The cold invigorated her. Poetic lines came to mind. She wished for a pen and paper to jot them down. Later, she decided. Returning to Paradise to make notes held little appeal. She craved just a few more minutes of solitude.

"Ms. Jensen."

She stiffened. Had one of Sonny's men come to drag her back? What would they do if she refused to oblige?

"Don't worry, I'm not here to cause problems." Police Commissioner Mac Scorpio stepped from the shadows. "How are you?"

"It's cold out," she answered. Vibrant green eyes regarded her behind wireless spectacles. Hunger loomed in those expressive orbs. She shivered and turned away from the intensity of his gaze. Not him, too.

"I didn't mean the weather," he said with a step closer. "How is Corinthos treating you? If you want to leave, I can make it happen."

"He's treating me just fine." She spread her arms and forced a false bravado into her tone. "Look at this coat. It's heavy, warm and better than any I ever had. I eat well and my pillows are stuffed with feathers. And the food is to die for--"

"So, in other words, you like it there." His voice hardened. "You enjoy the comforts of being his lover."

"I'm sorry, Commissioner, but what I enjoy is no concern of yours." She walked away before his offer gained merit. The police couldn't save her from Sonny Corinthos. No one could.

"Anytime, Ms. Jensen," he called after her. "Just let me know and I'll be there."

His promise carried on the wind, but Dara moved farther away. The deal with Sonny would have to play out and then she'd have to see what part of her was left…and if any of her would be worth saving.

---

John left Taggert at Black Bottom. They agreed to meet later to discuss their plans. For now, they decided to keep Mac out of their ruse. Taggert admitted that Mac liked to play big brother. Knowing that Marcus was getting in with Gannon would only force Mac to put extra eyes on him and that could backfire on them later.

John drove slowly through Maywood. He needed to know every aspect of Port Charles. Skin color didn't matter. The more he knew, the better he could serve and protect. A few pedestrians peered at the black Model-A, no doubt wondering who was behind the steering wheel. He leaned back, protected by the darkness of the auto's interior. White faces in big cars cast suspicion. He didn't need any unnecessary attention just yet.

He stopped for a mother and a toddler crossing the road. While he waited, he glanced at the series of shops along the side. A tall slender woman sashayed down the street. Her legs moved with purpose while the swaying of her hips reminded him…

"Evangeline."

His hands gripped the wheel until his knuckles were white. He swallowed hard and willed himself to think it through. She left him. Once, she mentioned a friend in upstate New York. Was it Port Charles? Has she run here to rid herself of him? Had he actually found her so easily?

The road cleared. He shifted the gears and pressed on the accelerator. Everything inside him urged him to floor it. But he overrode the urgency. Instead, he moved at a snail's pace, following the woman. Following Evangeline.

If she was aware of him, she never showed it. A few times, she paused in front of stores, looking in windows. It was then he spotted her profile and his suspicions were proved correct.

His Evangeline. Right there with him in Port Charles.

Driving as casually as he could muster, he followed her to the Chandler Home for Women. He watched her slip inside the back door. His thoughts immediately spun impossible stories. A whorehouse? Evangeline Williamson would never stoop so low as to make money on her back. There had to be a logical answer. And he intended to find it.


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