Chapter 26

Ellen glanced quickly at her reflection in the mirror before leaving her bedroom to answer the front doorbell ring. Not since she was a teenager did Ellen remember spending this much time to choose an outfit for a dinner. In the end she opted for her original choice, a burgundy v-neck cashmere sweater and a mid-thigh length, black pleated skirt. For the last two days Ellen contemplated her relationship with Kevin and questioned if she had inadvertently sent him signals that she was interested in a romantic relationship with him. She concluded she hadn't given him any such signals, until unfortunately that day outside of Alan Quartermaine's office. Even now she had no idea what came over her or why she reacted as she did to Kevin's admission. However, she intended to clear up any misunderstanding tonight. For a few minutes that day, she was taken by surprise and temporarily loss leave of her senses. Now she was sane and she and Kevin would calmly and briefly talk about what happened between them before heading over to Dara's apartment. Nodding her head as a physical confirmation that this was a good plan, Ellen opened the door just as the doorbell rang for a second time. Her prepared greeting froze on Ellen's lips. Kevin Collins stood in the hallway holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers - larkspur, carnations, lilies, and roses from what Ellen could see. They definitely weren't something he just picked up at the local grocery store.

"Hi Ellen, I'm sorry I'm late." Seeing her dumbfounded stare at the flowers, Kevin held them out and said, "These are for you. I hope that you like them."

Tentatively, Ellen reached out and accepted the flowers. Slowly she looked up to see Kevin give her somewhat shy smile, and she belatedly asked him to come into the apartment. Upon closing the door Ellen said, "Kevin, these flowers are lovely, very lovely, but I can't accept them from you."

Having anticipated this response, Kevin urged Ellen to accept the flowers. "You like them. I could see it immediately that you liked them. They're just flowers Ellen and I just wanted to get you something. Please keep them."

Refusing the flowers made Ellen feel ungracious and a bit on the defensive. To turn the tables she asked, "My friend, are you in the habit of giving flowers to women who are engaged to be married?"

Hanging his head somewhat, Kevin wasn't particularly proud of his pursuit of Ellen. But slowly he raised his eyes looking directly into Ellen's and said, "No. I've never done anything like this before. You are the exception Ellen."

Not at all pleased she was starting to become more nervous as Kevin stood in front of her, Ellen started her prepared speech, "Kevin, we need to talk...."

Kevin deftly interrupted her, "I agree. But can we talk after dinner with Mac and Dara tonight? I know that it's my fault but we're already late. And I'd feel more comfortable talking after dinner tonight."

"Well, I'd feel 'safer' talking now before we go to dinner," Ellen shot back silently. Mulling over her thoughts for a few seconds, Ellen proposed, "Let's compromise. I am taking a bottle of wine to Dara's since she and Mac are providing us a free meal. Let's take the flowers too, o.k.? And we'll talk after the dinner tonight as you suggest."

Knowing that he needed to choose his battles carefully with Ellen, Kevin agreed to her suggestion and with wine and flowers in hand, they headed for Dara's apartment.


Ellen and Kevin were due to arrive at the apartment any minute. Mac finished preparing the fresh Italian salad dressing while Dara stirred the simmering marinara sauce. "I'm sorry that I didn't get to see you make your closing argument earlier this week. I heard you were great." Both Mac and Dara had been incredibly busy with work during the past week and Mac had made a special effort to spend more time with Maxie and Georgie. That left very little time for them to spend time alone together and Mac was grateful that Friday had arrived. "What time did the jury start deliberating today?"

Dara gingerly tasted the sauce and added a few more bay leaves to the pot. "They really didn't start deliberating today. The judge didn't finish giving his instructions to the jury until almost 5:30 tonight so they won't start deliberating until tomorrow morning. We really don't expect a verdict in Moreno's trial this weekend but you never know."

Snaking his arms around Dara's waist as she stood at the stove, Mac kissed her neck and whispered, "I'm just glad that it's almost over. You've done a great job A.D.A. Jensen and you should be proud of yourself."

Dara turned to face Mac and wrapped her arms around Mac's neck. "We did a great job. The trial's outcome would be much less certain if Bannion never testified." She loved how it felt when she ran her hand through Mac's hair. After kissing him lightly Dara smiled, commenting, "We make a pretty good team."

"The best." Mac agreed as he captured Dara's lips in an unexpectedly sensual kiss. The sound of the doorbell ringing made them break their kiss and burst into a fit of laughter.

"Kevin has always had lousy timing," Mac groaned as he released Dara and headed for the door.

"Kevin has great timing. He probably saved the garlic bread from being burned!" Dara quickly removed the bread and meatballs from the oven and joined everyone in the living room just as Kevin and Ellen finished removing their heavy coats. Dara thanked their guests for the wine and she exclaimed how colorful and beautiful the flowers were. "Where did you guys find these type of flowers in the middle of winter?" she queried. "You must have searched the ends of the earth for them."

Responding first to Dara's question, Kevin looked at Ellen and said, "They took some time to find; that's why we're late. But they were well worth getting, don't you agree Ellen?"

"They are lovely. Dara, let's put them in water and a vase," Ellen said, speedily heading for the kitchen.

Once Mac and Kevin finished setting the dinner table, Ellen and Dara brought the meal to the table. As Mac helped Dara into her seat, Kevin pulled out a chair for Ellen. She briefly froze but quickly recovered and she thanked Kevin as she took her seat. The back of Ellen's hair pressed against Kevin's shirt and his hand lightly brushed against Ellen's arm as he pushed in the chair. Ellen shivered and glanced at Kevin's face to see him swallowing hard. That was the first physical contact between them that evening and it was clear that the brief contact affected them both. This is going to be one LONG evening, she thought nervously. Kevin took his seat between Dara and Ellen and asked, "Hey. My ears were burning when we walked in tonight. What was that comment about me having great timing all about?" Dara blushed and Mac grinned, explaining, "Dara was defending you. I had just remarked that you never had great timing."

Kevin pondered Mac last statement. "That's probably true. My timing has been terrible at times. Some things would certainly have been better if I had done them earlier, but I don't regret doing them," Kevin said glancing at Ellen and locking eyes with her for a brief second. "Instead I would have sincerely regretted not doing them."

Puzzled by Kevin's statements, Mac asked, "What are you talking about?"

Kevin shook his head ruefully and said, "Nothing. I'm rambling. What I mean to say is that I hopefully will have better timing in the future."

"Whatever," Mac said hungrily eyeing the spaghetti. "Let's eat."

The two couples talked about their week, carefully avoiding discussion of the T.V. report. Mac had discussed it with Kevin earlier in the week and no one felt inclined to put a damper on the evening by mentioning it again. They instead spoke of politics, Moreno's trial, and General Hospital gossip. Dara tried to talk a bit about Matt and Ellen's upcoming wedding but strangely the mood of the party became less light-hearted and even, to Dara's surprise, more strained when the wedding was discussed. She couldn't put her finger on what was wrong but she was going to ask Ellen about it in the future when they were alone. The meal of pasta, sautéed spinach with garlic, salad, and bread was enjoyed by all. Mac felt that Ellen and Kevin seemed somewhat tense when they first walked in the apartment, but now as the meal ended, everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. After dinner the foursome played a fun game of Pictionary, with Mac and Dara forming one team and Kevin and Ellen forming the other team. Kevin got the biggest laugh when he drew the picture of a molar tooth wearing a graduation cap to represent 'wisdom tooth'. In the end Mac and Dara won the game. They went to the kitchen to get dessert and coffee, and once again the atmosphere became somewhat awkward between Kevin and Ellen, who were sitting alone in the living room on the couch. Hoping to ease the tension, Kevin rose from the couch and looked at some of the photos near the stereo. Throughout the evening rhythm and blues music had played pleasantly and lightly in the background on the digital stereo system. The lack of conversation in the living room made the music more noticeable and as the first few bars of the new song played, Ellen murmured to herself, "Oh, no." Even though she had barely whispered her dismay, Kevin looked at Ellen and saw her staring intensely at the stereo, which was next to him. The tune of the song was good but because of Ellen's reaction he began to listen to the lyrics -


What's it gonna be
Cuz I can't pretend
Don't you wanna be more than friends
Hold me tight and don't let go
Don't let go
Have the right to lose control
Don't let go

I often tell myself
That we could be more than just friends
I know you think that if we move too soon
It would all end
I live in misery when you're not around
And I won't be satisfied 'till we're taking those vows
There'll be some lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking
Oh, lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking


Ellen rose from the couch and attempted to change the radio station when Kevin halted her movement by grasping her outstretched hand. "No, I want to hear the rest of the song," he said, still holding her hand and staring at her. Her heart pumping wildly, Ellen stood silently and listened to the rest of the song with Kevin.


I often fantasize
The stars above are watching you
They know my heart and speak to yours
Like only lovers do
If I could wear your clothes
I'd pretend I was you and lose control
There'll be some lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking
Oh lovemaking, heartbreaking, soul shaking, oh yeah

Running in and out my life has got me so confused
You gotta make the sacrifice
Somebody's got to choose
We can make it if we try for the sake of you and I
Together we can make it right


Unnoticed by Kevin and Ellen as they stood listening to the song, Mac had walked back into the living room to ask Ellen if she'd prefer tea to coffee. He was struck dumb and his mouth gaped open by the sight before him; it was clear to him now the cause of the tense moments encountered earlier in the evening. "What in the world...?" Mac immediately turned abruptly on his heels and quietly returned to the kitchen.

"Kevin, please," Ellen gasped finally removing her hand from Kevin's. She turned off the stereo. "If I didn't know better and this wasn't one of those digital stereo broadcasts, I would have said that you arranged for that song to be played."

"It was the first time that I've heard that song," Kevin admitted, "but obviously you recognized it. It is ironic that it was played, just now, isn't it?"

Ellen knew it would be impossible to sit over coffee with Dara and Mac and continue as if nothing was go on. "But nothing is going on," Ellen reminded herself. However it was now time for her to discuss 'nothing' with Kevin. Aloud she said, "We have to go now Kevin and talk."

Kevin couldn't agree more. His façade was quickly slipping and Mac, who knew him well, might pick up on something. "I agree. Let's say goodnight."

Ellen went into the kitchen to give their apologies for leaving early, and within a moment, Kevin joined them. He had already put on his coat and he helped Ellen into hers. In another minute they were gone from the apartment. "What in the world happened?" Dara asked, perplexed by Kevin and Ellen's sudden departure.

Mac didn't want to lie to Dara. However, he didn't want to say anything about what he had witnessed or what Kevin said at the gym until he spoke to Kevin again. Instead of responding directly he asked, "Has Ellen mentioned any problems or anything that's troubling her?"

"No, but we haven't spoken much this week. I'll try to check with her later this weekend."

"You should do that Dara" Mac encouraged her, adding, "She might need a friend right about now.?

Credit - Don't Let Go (Love), Sung by En Vogue, written by Organized Noise, Andrea Martin, Ivan Matias

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