Chapter 7

Across a Crowded Room

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean…

Jason gripped the leather jacket draped across his lap and stared sightlessly out the window. The other passengers in the first class section of the plane were quiet. For most, the long flight meant an extended nap. For Jason, it was quite the opposite. The lull in activity gave him time to think. About the past. About the present. And about the future.

Seeing Keesha at the penthouse had come as a shock, and her reaction to him… That was expected. Despite his best efforts, things ended badly between them. He hadn't wanted to hurt her. After bumping into her in Philadelphia, they talked. Really talked. And then he felt something. A spark? Attraction? Whatever it was, it drew him to her again and again. His cross-country trek came to a halt. He stayed in Philadelphia to be with her and it was good between them. And then, it wasn't. So, he said goodbye. That was almost two years ago.

Then came Emily's graduation from high school. He couldn't miss that, wouldn't miss it. She was so happy and excited. A faint smile came to his mouth as he thought of her. His little sister--not yet a woman, but definitely not a little girl. There was a party for her at the Port Charles Grille. She begged him to go and as usual, he couldn't resist.

The entire family was there, and a new almost member: Lucky Spencer. Luke's kid clung to Emily like a second skin. When she later confided that their friendship had grown into something deeper, Jason hadn't been surprised.

For most of the celebration, the Qs left him alone. Lila was happy to see him as he was her. Alan and Monica fawned over him, thanking him for showing up. Smug and sober, AJ ignored him. Ned spent most of his time at the bar. And when Edward got in his face, a vision caught his full attention. From the across the room, he watched Emily coax a friend onto the dance floor with her. Their eyes connected. From the moment his and Dawn's gazes locked, everything clicked into place for him.

They didn't say anything to each other that night. He knew she was married. Her husband was one of Emily's closest friends. Whatever struck him when their eyes locked could be ignored. Or so he thought. The next time he saw her, he knew he'd only lied to himself.

The impromptu meeting happened a few weeks later. Jason was only still in town for Sonny's sake. His divorce from Carly wasn't pretty. Jason served as mediator between the couple. Both listened to him. And when that was done, he needed a break. His first thought was Jake's. But when Emily invited him to late night picnic, he changed his mind. He could never spend too much time with his kid sister.

To Jason's relief, the gathering was small. Emily and of course, Lucky were there. And to the side sitting alone was Dawn. From the slump of her shoulders and dim light in her eyes, he knew she was sad. While Emily and Lucky toasted marshmallows and whispered to each other, Jason squatted in front of Dawn. She smiled and invited him to sit with her. He did, and he experienced something he never had before: nervousness. His palms became damp. His breathing changed. He grew hot. Nothing ever rattled him this way. Sure, he had a temper, but he'd never been nervous. He didn't know what the word meant until he looked it up in the dictionary later that night. If she noticed, she didn't show it. They talked about nothing in particular. But it was one of the best conversations he ever had. As the time grew later, he hated the idea of parting.

"Do you have plans for tomorrow?" she asked, unexpectedly.

He swallowed hard. If he could see her tomorrow… "No, I don't. Why?"

She blushed. "Um… Well, I'm singing tomorrow night at Jax's new club. You could come as my special guest."

"What about your husband?" Jason asked. "Would he mind?"

Her eyes became dull as she shook her head. "He doesn't care. Besides, he won't be there. He's away on business. Emily and Lucky will be there. Does that sway you?"

"You don't need them to sway me," he replied. "All you had to do was ask. I'll be there."

Her performance at Jacks was met with a standing ovation. He didn't know it at the time, but that was the launch of her latest CD. When he later learned the significance, he was surprised that Cassadine hadn't shared the occasion with her. As their friendship grew, he began to understand why the prince hadn't been there and why she seemed so sad. Well, she was sad at first. The more time they spent together, the sadness faded. And as they fell in love, it disappeared completely.

Their relationship progressed by accident. He wasn't looking for love. After Keesha, he didn't want to become emotionally involved with someone. But with Dawn, he couldn't help himself. She taught him how to joke and laugh. He taught her how to breathe. Not in the literal sense, but how to relax. The first time he took her on a ride on his Harley, her arms wrapped him around him so tightly, he thought she'd crack his ribs. Then, she started to enjoy the ride. She threw her hands in the air and screamed with joy. It was in that moment, that he knew he loved her.

But nothing happened. Not physically. The emotions just grew between them. It was like a third person had joined them on their outings. An invisible entity whose presence was strong. They ignored it for as long as they could. Then, they couldn't. His arms closed around her. Her face tilted up for his kiss. When they made love for the first time a few months later, he felt like he'd been born again. She told him that she had been. With Jason, she felt hopeful.

"I don't want to take you back there," he said, holding her close one night. "Stay with me."

"He'll look for me," she said quietly. "If he finds me here… I don't want him to hurt you. He has the power to make your life miserable. Maybe we shouldn't see each other anymore. At least for a little while."

"No. I'm not afraid of him. He can't keep me from you. Only you can do that. Do you want to stop seeing me?"

Her eyes filled with tears. "No. Never." She rolled onto her side. Her chin rested on his chest. Her fingers laced with his. "I think he knows…about us. He hasn't said anything specific, but I can tell something…I don't know. I'm gonna tell him I want a divorce. I don't want to sneak around with you like I'm ashamed. I'm not ashamed of loving you, Jason Morgan."

They made love again, and afterwards, he didn't hear from her for four weeks. By this time, Emily knew about their relationship. She begged him not to go to Wyndemere. To wait for Dawn to contact him. He didn't want to listen. Then, Emily warned him that he had to be careful. If Dawn asked him not to approach Nikolas, he had to honor her wishes. Emily volunteered to be their go between. She went to Wyndemere and when she returned, Dawn was with her. After Emily left them alone, Dawn told him that she was pregnant and the baby was his. She also said that she and Nikolas had agreed that if she wanted to go, he wouldn't stop her. They left that night.

The following sixteen months were bliss until Jason came home from a trip to the corner market with Faith to find their loft empty. The instant he stepped inside, he knew Dawn was gone and he'd known who had broken his promise to leave her in peace.

Tears welled in his eyes at the memory. His throat ached from swallowing the tears down. He prayed constantly that Nikolas didn't harm her.

The upcoming showdown in Greece wouldn't be pretty. He would have to fight Nikolas on his own turf. A prince wouldn't be without resources. For all Jason knew, the entire setup could be a trap. But he had no choice. He had to go. He had to fight for her. Dawn was his baby's mother. Faith needed Dawn. Jason needed her, too.

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