Chapter 22: Wonder What Will the End Be

The encounter with Jason left Dawn shaken. Between remorse over Dara's new lifestyle and anxiety of running into Jason again, Dawn was on pins and needle. Her ability to concentrate wavered as proven by the results of her latest exam. Her fingers clenched around the test paper. Red-marks littered the essay. A large, glaring "D" adorned the top left corner. School and music had always been her saving grace. She always made top marks. This new humiliation was just another reminder of how off course her life had fallen.

She considered going home but the apartment wasn't the same without Dara. Jamal's erratic behavior set her even more edge. She sensed that the sight of her reminded him of Dara. Then, his driving need to defend his family's honor would fill him with blazing anger. She couldn't take another encounter with her cousin. She hoped a long walk would clear her mind and calm her nerves.

As usual, her footsteps took a familiar path. Before she knew it, she stood on the dock. The Paradise Lounge was only a short distance away. She looked in that direction and found a pair of dazzling blue eyes staring back at her. Her heart skipped a beat. Fear tugged the hairs on the back of her neck. Her first instinct was to run, but her legs wouldn't move.

"Hi, there." The rich, masculine voice was too warm and welcoming to be Jason.

She blinked. Oh, God. It wasn't Jason at all! Relief left her breathless. Her legs buckled. She toppled to the wooden bench. Everything suddenly became too much.

The heavy thud of footsteps pounded the platform. A moment later, strong hands tilted her chin. Linc Madison's handsome features swam before her eyes. He stared at her with concern.

"Are you sick? You don't feel warm." He pressed his bare hand against her forehead and cheek. "Let's get you out of the cold."

"I'm fine." She tried to tug free of his hold, but he wouldn't release her.

"I don't think so. You almost fainted at my feet. When was your last meal?"

She frowned. "I don't remember. I had an exam this morning. I don't think I had time for anything more than coffee."

"I passed a diner a few blocks from here. Chili is the special today." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "Let me take you there."

She released a humorless laugh. "I know that diner. They wouldn't let me in the front door."

"Oh." A frown creased his brow. "I hadn't thought of that. There must be somewhere I can take you where we can sit together."

"Not on this side of town. Port Charles has strict rules about that sort of thing."

"The Paradise Lounge seems to be more open minded."

She stiffened. "Have you been there?"

"Yes, have you?"

"You can't live here and not know of it." She didn't feel comfortable answering his question. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm feeling better already. I should head home."

"I'll escort you there."

"Ió"

"I won't take no for an answer. My car is right up those steps."

Dawn succumbed to the warmth of his guiding hand as he pulled her to her feet and walked her to his automobile. The vehicle was top of the line and had a beautiful shine. She remembered the ride in Jason's Model-A. A shudder went through her. Why did he always creep back into her thoughts?

"Are you cold?" Linc asked. "I have a blanket in the back." He opened the passenger door and reached into the back for the cover. After he retrieved the blanket, he draped it around her shoulders. "Is that better?"

Dawn drew in a deep breath. The blanket smelled like him. Warm, clean and manly. She gave him a faint smile. "Yes. Thank you."

Genuine pleasure lit up his ruggedly handsome face. "You're welcome."

Soon, they were headed toward Maywood. A few curious gazes locked onto them. Dawn imagined what her neighbors were thinking. First a gangster and now a matinee idol. The Jensen sisters' reputation was beyond repair.

"Should we stop for groceries?" he asked. His gaze darted all around. He seemed just as curious about the neighborhood as the neighbors were about him. "What store do you go to?"

"I have food," she said, unsure about being on display with her new acquaintance. "I just forgot to eat it." She pointed toward the stop sign. "Make a right. My place is on the corner."

"Is there a back entrance?"

"Yes. It's through the alley."

He guided the vehicle inside and parked against the brick wall. They went inside through the back door and to Dawn's relief didn't encounter anyone on the walk to her apartment.

"Thank you," she said after unlocking the door. She folded the blanket and handed it back to him.

"You're welcome." He looked disappointed, but he accepted the blanket with a smile.

"You want to come in, don't you?" The words came out before she could stop them.

"I would like to, but only if you want me to. I like talking to you. I promise to treat you as the lady that you are."

"That's a big promise." She stepped aside. "Come in. I'll make us coffee and see what's on hand for lunch."

"Allow me. I enjoy cooking and it's been awhile."

She chose not to argue. As the afternoon progressed and the aroma of Linc's meal filled her tiny home, Dawn relaxed for the first time in days.

- - -

"So, she's doing well?" Dara clutched the telephone receiver to her ear. She hated getting information about her sister second hand, but after her last visit to Maywood, she was hesitant about going back. And heaven forbid, she should run into Jamal. She truly appreciated Missy Reeves willingness to answer her questions. The older lady who lived on the first floor was kind enough to respond without question.

"As well as I can see," Miss Missy said. "She left for school early this morning and she's been home at a respectable hour every night. Your little sister is doing just fine."

"What about Jamal?"

"He comes and goes as he pleases, but that's a young man for you." The old woman laughed. "His taxi service keeps him busy."

"That's good." Dara breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you. Please go ahead and call in your grocery order for delivery. Everything is already taken care of."

"Oh, thank you, child. You are a sweet girl. Call me again anytime."

"Yes, ma'am," Dara said. "Please don't let them know I'm asking about them."

"Of course not. I'll talk to you again real soon. Be careful now."

"I will."

Dara hung up. Her heart raced. She drew in deep breaths to calm her nerves. The phone calls to Mrs. Reeves always left her shaken. In a big way, it reminded her of the changes she'd made. She never imagined being anyone's mistress. But here she was, sleeping in Sonny Corinthos' bed, wearing his expensive jewelry and missing her family. This was an uncommon situation.

Since moving in with Sonny, Dara found herself with hours of free time. Her poetry notebook slowly filled with emotional passages. The bursts of creativity reinvigorated her after hours in Sonny's arms left her exhausted. She poured her soul onto the pages, working toward the goal of submitting her best work for publication.

After an hour of polishing her latest poem, her stomach emitted a low growl. She glanced at the clock. Tonight, she and Sonny made plans to have an early supper. She bathed and dressed in a shimmering lavender dress. Silk hose and matching heels completed the ensemble. She dusted her face with powder and added color to her lips. Then, she headed downstairs to his office.

Through the cracked door, she heard Sonny and Jason. She almost went back upstairs, but Sonny's tone stopped her. A deadly edge sent a chill down her spine. She froze.

"Gannon's overstepping himself," he said.

"Black Bottom was filled," Jason said. "I couldn't get in. He has a new singer. She's beautiful and talented. That's the draw."

"What's her name?" Dara heard Sonny ask.

"Evangeline Williamson. She's not from around here."

"What else do you know about her?"

Jason's voice hardened. "She's friends with Keesha."

A terse silence followed. Dara held her breath, waiting. Everyone knew about Jason's failed romance with Keesha Ward. How she got away from him was legendary. Dara dreaded to think what her connection to Evangeline Williamson would mean to the singer.

"What else do you know?" Sonny asked.

"Not much. I can find out more."

"Do it."

"What are we doing in the mean time? Gannon can't get away with this."

"He won't," Sonny said. "We'll get his hooch supplier first. Handle that. I have a dinner date with Dara. Let me know what happens, but don't interrupt."

Sensing that the meeting was over, Dara raced on tiptoe back to the staircase. A few moments later, she heard Jason walk away. Her hand clutched the railing. She shook from head to toe. Why did she have to hear that conversation? What should she do now? Could she warn RJ Gannon without Sonny finding out? Ignoring Sonny's threat wasn't an option. She had to do something. But what?

- - -

Marcus finished the last batch of hospital sheets. He wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced at the clock. His night shift at Black Bottom started in less than two hours. That would give him just enough time to wash up, change clothes and grab some food.

Footsteps sounded behind him. He turned and found the commissioner coming toward him.

"Taggert, you're a hard man to track down."

"You found me." Marcus shrugged. "How can I help you?"

"That's funny you should say that." Scorpio leaned against the folding table. "I wanted to know if you need help."

"With what?"

"You're alone at Black Bottom. How is that going?" Mac asked. "What does Gannon think of you?"

"He doesn't suspect a thing." Marcus frowned. "I know what I'm doing. When I get something, I'll report in. I know the procedure."

"I'm not here about procedure. I know you know that. I'm a worrier. I'd hate for you to get hurt because you're working for the police. Men like Gannon don't take snitches lightly."

"I'm not worried," Marcus said. "I can handle myself."

"I heard Jason Morgan was at Black Bottom last night."

"I know." Marcus nodded. "I saw him. He couldn't get in, but he hung outside for awhile. The new singer has been drawing them in. It was only a matter of time before Corinthos got wind of it. He won't stand for the competition."

"No, he won't," Mac said. He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a firearm. "This is for you. It's registered in my name. Things will get heated before too long. Protect yourself at all costs."

Marcus hesitated taking the weapon. "What will happen if I do use this? What will I be accused of?"

Mac shook his head. "Nothing. You're working for me. I'll take care of whatever happens."


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