Chapter 7

During the next few days, Mac and Dara agreed to attend the New Year's Eve party at the Port Charles Hotel. It would definitely be the place to be and been seen on New Year's Eve. It would also be the first time that Mac and Dara would be publicly going out as a couple. The thought of this filled Dara with excitement and trepidation as she got dressed for the party that evening. She couldn't think of a better way to spend New Year's Eve than being with Mac. But a lot of people at the party will be friends of Mac and Felicia's and no doubt some of them may think of her
as an interloper moving in on Felicia's husband. "Well, they better darn well get over it," thought
Dara. "Felicia treated Mac terribly. I have a great time with Mac and he seems to be happy with me. The party will be a good opportunity to put people on notice that he has moved on...with me." Dara had just applied the last spray of Donna Karan's perfume to her neck when the doorbell to her apartment rang. She went to open the door.

"Hi beautiful," Mac greeted her as she opened the door. "You look great," he said as he gazed over the red spaghetti strapped tank dress, which fit her perfectly.

"So do you," she replied. "I'm ready to go." Mac helped her into her coat and they left for the Port Charles Hotel.

After they entered the hotel and checked their coats, they headed to the Grand Ballroom of the hotel where the party was to be held. Many people had already arrived at the party. Virtually all members of the Quartermaine family were in attendance, as were practically most of the people who worked at General Hospital. Mac suggested a table and they walked over to the table that was filled except for two empty seats. Already seated at the table for six were Scott Baldwin, Laura Spencer, Matt Harmon, and Ellen Burgess.

"Are these two seats taken?" Mac asked pointing to the empty seats.

"No, please join us," Scott said as he rose from the table. Mac sat in the empty chair next to Laura and Dara sat in the empty chair next to Ellen. After ordering drinks from the waiter, everyone started talking.

"This is really a great party," Scott said. "No matter what you can say about them, the Quartermaines do know how to throw a great party."

"Yes," said Laura. "In addition to celebrating New Year's Eve, Scott & I are also celebrating the new launch of the Deception cosmetics line. The year is ending on a really fantastic note, considering..."

"...things that went on earlier this year" Mac finished the statement for Laura. "I know what you
mean. But you know, I really do think that everything that happened was for a reason, to lead to something better." He looked at Dara as he made that comment.

"I can't agree more," Scott said as he squeezed Laura hand.

Laura continued talking about her work at Deception but stopped in mid-speech as she stared at the entrance to the ballroom. Mac turned to follow the direction of Laura's gaze. Standing in the doorway was Felicia on the arm of Kevin Collins.

Felicia saw Mac at the table with Laura and Dara and thought, "Great, this is going to be one hell of a evening. It's bad enough for Mac to be at the table with Dara, as I expected, but with Laura too?" Felicia remembered a few evenings ago when Maxie came home extremely upset after seeing Mac and Dara at the ice-rink. Felicia tried to assure Maxie that couldn't be serious about Dara and that it was inevitable that Mac would come back home.

But Maxie was unconvinced. "You didn't see him Mom. He looked really happy, happier than anything I've seen in the last 6 months. He's not coming back because of you. I'm beginning to face that fact and maybe you should too. You didn't just mess up your life when you went off with Luke Spencer. You messed up my and Georgie's lives also and we all have to deal with the

"Thank goodness that Lucy had to run out of town to take care of some emergency," Felicia thought. "I couldn't have come here alone and Kevin is the perfect escort for me. Plus, he might even be able to convince Mac to spend a bit of time with me tonight."

She looked at Kevin and said "Thanks again Kevin for agreeing to come with me here tonight."

Kevin smiled and said, "No problem Felicia. I certainly wasn't looking forward to spending New
Year's Eve alone now that Eve and I have broken up. Plus, it never hurt to be at a party thrown by the Quartermaines, who essentially run GH." Looking around the room he saw that the table where Mac was sitting was filled and he thought that it was just as well. It would be a pretty tense night if Felicia, Mac, and Dara sat at the same table all evening. "Where would you like to sit?" he asked. "There seem to be two seats open at the table where Bobbie and Roy are
sitting." Sonny Corinthos and Carly were also sitting at the table with Bobbie and Roy.

"I asked Bobbie to save those two seats for us. Let's go over there." Felicia grabbed Kevin's hand as they walked towards the table to be seated. They did not pass immediately by the table where Mac & Dara were seated but did glance in that direction as they walked within a few yards of the table.

Dara reached and placed her right hand on top of Mac's left hand and gave it a light squeeze. He looked at her and smiled. "It's O.K.," he whispered. Mac glanced down to his jacket pocket and reached in to retrieve his cellphone. "I have it on vibrate mode," he explained. "Excuse me for a minute while I go outside to take this call."

With Mac away from the table, Dara took an opportunity to reflect on the other people at the table. She really didn't know any of them well, but Dara was aware that Scott and Laura were previously married. "I think that Luke Spencer had a hand in wrecking their marriage also," she thought silently. "Both Scott and Laura seemed to be having a good time. It would be
interesting if they got together again; this is really a second chance for both of them." Second chance, in a way it was a second chance for Mac and Dara also. Not that they made much of a move towards each other before Mac and Felicia married. Something originally held both Mac and Dara back from making a first move. But now that they've started seeing each other, Dara
vowed to always be open and honest with Mac. They've wasted some time by being too reticent but what mattered was the present and future, not the past. She then glanced and Matt and Ellen, who had just returned from the dance floor. Talk about overcoming obstacles. And they seemed to be very much in love. Dara remembered briefly meeting Ellen at the Nurse's Ball and seeing how disappointed they were when Matt didn't win the Quartermaine fellowship. She also heard that Ellen lost a supervisory position due to her relationship with Matt. But they couldn't look any happier than they were tonight. Dara's thoughts were interrupted when she realized that Ellen was speaking to her.

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Dara asked.

"I said that I've seen you on several occasions previously but this is the first time we've really had a chance to speak.

"I know. I'm really not in General Hospital that often."

"And I'm not in a courtroom that often. So that's good news for both of us!" Ellen said with a laugh.

Matt and Ellen explained that in addition to celebrating the New Year, they were celebrating
becoming recently engaged. They were planning a March wedding. Dara told them congratulations and offered to help Ellen if she needed any help with the wedding. When asked if she and Mac had been dating long, Dara replied no and steered the conversation back to other
people at the table. She wasn't quite sure herself where Mac and she were headed in their relationship and she discovered that she wasn't ready to talk a lot about it publicly yet. As they talked, Ellen and Dara found that they enjoyed each other's company and they promised to meet for lunch the following week.

"Well, that's it for work tonight," Mac announced to Dara as he returned to the table. "Unless it's World War III we won't be disturbed the rest of the evening. Come on," he said as he grabbed her hand. "Let's dance."

Mac led her to the dance floor and he held her closely as they started to move to the music. Dara held her cheek next to Mac's and closed her eyes for a few seconds and just concentrated on being with Mac. Their bodies moved together in perfect synchronization with the music. After a minute Mac whispered in her ear, "You dance beautifully".

"Thanks," she said as she pulled her face back a bit so that she could look directly in his eyes. "It's easy when you have a good partner."

"I know what you mean," agreed Mac as he pulled her closer again. The song ended and they stood holding each other trying to decide whether to have another dance when Mac felt a tap on his shoulder and heard a voice say, "Hi. How about the next dance?"

Mac turned to see Felicia standing behind him. Kevin was walking swiftly to catch up to Felicia, who apparently had left him at the table. Felicia glanced briefly at Dara and gave her a look that could definitely be interpreted as a challenge.

Mac looked back at Dara whom he was still holding and was ready to tell Felicia no thanks when Dara smiled and said, "Go ahead Mac. We have the rest of the evening to be together."

Mac smiled also and gave her a brief squeeze as he said O.K. but he insisted on walking her back to the table. Felicia did a slow burn as she thought that Dara had a lot of nerve to give Mac permission to dance with her. She told Kevin that she would return to the table after she danced with Mac and Kevin returned to their table alone. Mac returned just as the next song started and they began dancing. Felicia tried to dance as close as possible to Mac but he definitely was holding her at arm's length ? literally - and was watching Felicia's face as they danced.

"Mac, I know that the past year has been rough on all of us but I want for us to start the New Year off well. Can't we please at least be friends?"

"Felicia, it's going to take some work for us to even be just friends after what you put us through the last year. I told you that I'm willing to try, especially for the sake of the girls. Why are you going on about this?"

"You continue to be distant Mac. I'm not the only person who's noticed it. Maxie has said that you are moving out of our lives."

"I'll talk to Maxie," Mac said. "I love the girls and they know that I will always be a part of their lives, no matter what Maxie is saying now. But Maxie has to understand that my life is different now and she'll have to accept it."

"Your life doesn't have to be different Mac if you don't want it to be," Felicia told Mac. "That's your choice. It's not my choice. And not the girls' choice."

Mac recognized manipulation when he saw it and he didn't like it at all. "You are so right Felicia. It s my choice and I'm glad that you agree. Thanks for the dance." He led the stunned Felicia back to her table even though the song hadn't finished. He then returned to his table and asked Dara to go to the buffet with him so that they could have dinner. They enjoyed the rest of the evening and toasted in the New Year with a clink of champagne glasses, a hug, and a brief kiss.

Felicia continued to watch Mac and Dara from her table all evening and excused herself shortly after midnight to make a telephone call. She dialed the international number from her cellphone. She waited almost a minute before someone answered "Yeah" in a disturbed voice on the other end of the call. "Luke, Happy New Year! I just had to call you and let you know that you are the
first person I thought of in 2001."

"That's great darling but you know it is 6 a.m. here in France, right?" Luke said with a deep yawn.

"I know Luke," Felicia said as she bit her bottom lip. "I just wanted to be the first person to wish you Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year to you too Felicia. I have to go now. I'll call you later," Luke said as he hung up.

The blonde in the bed next to him had been awaken by the call and asked in her native language who was it. Luke replied in French, "C'etait rien. C'etait persone d'important," as he leaned over to kiss her. (English translation - It was nothing. It was no one important.)

Mac and Dara returned to her apartment around 1:30 a.m. They kissed and Dara looked at him with conflicting emotions as she draped her arms around his neck.

"I'm not going to ask you to come in tonight Mac because I think that we need a little more time. Do you know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean." Mac kissed her again and deepened the kiss. He held Dara until she moaned and he gently broke the kiss. He leaned his head against her forehead and with his eyes still closed he asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes," she replied as she looked at him. "I want for us to be comfortable in each other's lives before we move on to the next level. O.K.?"

Mac gazed at her and agreed, "I want the same thing too." His right hand cupped her chin and his thumb stroked her cheek. I'll call you later today," he murmured as he said goodnight to her and left.