Chapter 27


…shouldn't be so complicated…

"The thing about motorcycle engines is that you have to listen to them. Are you paying attention?"

"Yes, Dad." The boy hunched down and turned his head toward the purring chrome.

Ben stood on the other side of the kitchen door, watching Morgan's caring interaction with JE. A sandwich made with leftover meatballs lured him to the kitchen. Ben hadn't planned to eavesdrop, but when the opportunity presented itself, he found it impossible to resist.

JE reached out and Morgan caught his hand. "No! It's hot because it's running."

"But you touch it," the boy protested.

Morgan's granite features cracked into a tender smile. "That's because I'm used to it. Look at my hands. See these calluses? Nothing can penetrate them. Not even heat."

JE rubbed his father's hands. "Your hands are hard. How can I get mine like that?"

"Hard work, son."

Emotions choked in Ben's throat. He coughed to ease the constriction. To his dismay, both father and son turned to look at him.

"Hey, Ben!" JE waved excitedly with a broad grin. "Come here. Dad's showing me how to fix motorcycles. He can teach you, too."

Ben hesitated. A quick glance into Morgan's cobalt blue eyes searched for affirmation. But the tenderness that warmed the older man's conversation with JE was absent from his stare. Ben directed his attention back to his little brother's eager face. "Nah, little bro--"

"Come on," Morgan said, cutting him off. "JE says you're thinking about getting a bike. You should know how to it works."

"I know how they work," Ben said, unable to stop an edge from creeping into his voice. "George has Dad's old bike. I'm planning to get a 850 Norton Commando."

"They're not bad, but nothing beats a Harley," Morgan stated. "That's what you should get."

"Dad can help you pick it out," JE said as he came to open the back door. He grabbed Ben's wrist and pulled until Ben left the comfort of the kitchen. "Dad's bike is a Harley Davidson like George's."

Ben gritted his teeth as he allowed his younger brother to lead him. His stomach clenched into knots with agonizing outrage. The similarities between Morgan and his father were oftentimes too powerful to ignore and constantly reminded him of what he missed. George had Jason's knowledge and love. JE was receiving the same. All Ben ever had was memories that didn't quite compare to his brothers' experiences.

"George has Jason's old bike," Morgan repeated in low voice. "How does it run?"

"Like a dream," JE said as if he was old enough to know. "It purrs like a kitten and runs like a dream."

His brother's words seeped into the hollow pit of his heart. Ben slowly allowed himself to relax. He ruffled JE's close cropped curls. "As if you've ever been on it."

Morgan looked him dead in the eyes. "Have you?"

Ben nodded once. "Yeah."

"Then you know what I'm talking about." The older man turned back to the bike. He began pointing out various parts that comprised the hog and spoke in a way that included Ben.

Ben listened, but he refused to get his hopes up. Well, not so much.

…you're breaking me in…

Returning to boarding school had its disadvantages. Ciarda missed her family and friends. She missed her bedroom and her mother's cooking. She missed staying up late at night with her twin. She missed the company of Dominik and Ben. But with all that she missed, she didn't want to trade what she'd gained by moving away. Finally, a boy truly cared about her and wanted to be with her.

The touch of Seth's hand on hers sent her senses reeling. His attention and affection almost made up for everything she left behind in Port Charles.

She completed the finishing touches on her hair and unplugged the flat iron. "Be careful, Buffy, it's still hot."

"I liked your hair the way it was. Those curls were amazing. I have to sit for hours at the salon to get my hair like that." Buffy shook her head. "I don't understand you sometimes."

Ciarda ran a hand through her smooth, flat locks. "It looks better this way."

Her roommate chuckled. "Is that you talking or my brother?"

Ciarda frowned. The girl had a valid point, but it wasn't one Ciarda wanted to admit to. "He likes it and suggested the change. But I'm keeping it this way--for now--because I like it."

"If you say so." Buffy rolled onto a sitting a position and beckoned for Ciarda to join her. Once the roommates were side by side on the bed, Buffy said, "Look at these shots. I still can't believe I met DJLS, took pictures with them and touched Lorenzo Spencer's guitar!!! I'll never forget that concert as long as I live. And watching Dominik perform! He's a Prince and I saw him in what will probably be his first and last performance. Totally amazing! I don't know how you stand it!" Buffy all but shrieked. "Ties to Royalty. There's no way I'd be here with him in my hometown and one of my closest friends. You're nuts, Ciarda Hardy."

Her friend's words rolled off her. Buffy couldn't understand the agony of her past living situation. Ciarda was moving past it, but some wounds took longer to heal.

Buffy continued in a rush, "And then there are Ben Morgan-Quartermaine and Brad Ward. Talk about hot! Those guys are babes. Way cuter than my knucklehead brother."

"What are you talking about? Seth is adorable. Girls are always checking him out."

Buffy gave her a knowing smile. "But he's with you."

Ciarda nodded. "Yeah. He's with me." She handed the photos back without looking at them. Then, she said in a hushed whisper, "He's my first boyfriend. It's all kinda weird, you know. I never thought…this would happen."

"The first one always make you feel real special," Buffy said. "I dated a guy from his school last fall before you came. The things I did for him." She released a short laugh. "You wouldn't believe how silly I acted."

"What do you mean?"

Buffy shrugged. "Goofy stuff. I did his laundry, typed his papers…I even wrote a couple. Things I swore I'd never do for a guy. You're hanging in there pretty good with my bro, but don't lose sight of yourself. Okay?"

"Okay," she mumbled.

…started out clean but I'm jaded…

Dominik closed the closet door and headed for the living room. He'd just finished hanging the last of his clothes into his bedroom closet. He'd already unpacked his books and CDs. Moving back into the apartment he and Ben shared was his only option. Continuing to live under the same roof as his father was unimaginable. The confrontation at Nikolas' office brought an immediate change to their relationship. Repairing the damage was definitely not on Dominik's list of priorities.

A key clicked and then the doorknob turned. Ben, carrying a duffel bag and a box, filled the doorway. He stared at Dominik for a millisecond before crossing the threshold and kicking the door closed. "You're back."

"So are you," Dominik said as he plopped onto the sofa. "Can we do this?"

Ben shrugged the bag from his shoulder and set the box onto a chair. "I don't know why not. Hell, I don't even know why we moved out in the first place. How long have you been here?"

"A couple of hours. Do you need help or is that it?"

"That's it." Ben jutted his head toward his stuff. "I travel light."

"I couldn't decide between ordering something from Kelley's or having a dinner sent over from the Grille."

"I was opting for a pizza. George said he might come over. I think he wants to check up on me."

"Why?" Dominik asked. "What happened?"

"Reality." Ben grabbed his belongings and trekked to his bedroom. Dominik followed.

"Let me guess."

Ben unzipped his bag, turned it upside down and dumped its contents onto his bed. "You don't have to. We were all excited about our dad being found, but that guy isn't our Dad. He just looks like him and sounds like him. I can't live there right now. My Mom wasn't happy that I left, but she understood."

"My Mom doesn't know I'm gone, but when she finds out…"

Ben shoved a handful of t-shirts into the middle drawer of his dresser. "What's going on at your house? You have the perfect family."

"Things aren't always what they seem." His jaw tight, Dominik folded his arms across his chest and looked at the floor. "I believed my family was as close to that word as they come. I was wrong."

Ben grunted. "It must be contagious."

…just touch me and then…

George reached his car without any other major interruptions. Keesha called him, upset about Ben's sudden departure and he promised to look into it. Having left work and miraculously dodging his boss's weird mood change, he fully intended to make good on his word to his mom. However, he should have anticipated one final delay.

He tossed the keys from one hand to the other as he assessed the ripe teenager, blocking his car door. "Noelle, what are you doing?"

"I need a ride."

"Your father is upstairs. Ask him."

"I'd rather ride with you," she said, complete with a pretty pout.

"Where's your driver?" he asked, looking around the garage complex. It made no sense for her to be there. Nikolas would have a fit if he knew his only daughter lurked around parking garages, stalking older men. "Call him and get him back here."

"Silly, he's the one who dropped me off." She planted her hands on her slim hips and cocked her head to the side. "Come on, George. If you don't drive me, God knows who will. Do you really want that on your conscience?"

He mumbled a series of colorful expletives. Then, he grabbed her arm and pulled her around to the passenger side. After unlocking the door, he shoved her inside. "Don't try this again!"

"Are you really mad at me?" she asked after he settled in the driver seat. Her voice dropped to a low, tremulous whisper. "I don't know any other way to see you."

"You shouldn't try to see me at all. There are a million guys out there your age. See them." He fired the ignition and screeched from his reserved space.

"They don't understand me," she said. "Besides, I don't want to see them. I want to see you."

"It's just a game for you," he said, guiding the car without pausing once to look at her. One glance would be his undoing. He knew that instinctively.

"No. Please, don't turn your back on me, too."

The sleek black BMW cruised onto rush hour traffic. He selected a jazz station and willed himself to relax. As the soulful sound of Dianne Reeves poured over him, he quietly said, "All I can offer you is friendship, Noelle and I'm taking a huge risk in offering that."

"I'll take it."

"No, you won't," he said, "because it won't be enough. Not for either of us."

"So, why make either of us suffer?" she asked. She rubbed her arm. "I can still feel where you took my arm. My skin tingles. My senses reel." She held out her hand, palm up. "Just touch me, George. I know it will be the same for you."

He glanced at her extended hand. Wouldn't it be so easy to accept? But he was twenty-four and she was only sixteen. He cared about her too much to steal her childhood.

He shook his head and gripped the steering wheel. "I can't. I'm taking you home."

…just touch me again…

Keesha stood at the entrance to Ben's bedroom. He hadn't been gone but half a day, returned to his apartment only a few miles away. Yet, the emptiness lingered. Ever since the first day she held him in her arms, a tiny little newborn, her heart lurched for him. While Grace and George were curious and Marisa was boisterous, Ben was her sensitive soldier. Caring and concerned, he became her shadow in the days after Jason's disappearance. Without saying a word, he showed her he loved her and wanted nothing more than for her to recover. As long as she lived, she'd never forget his solemn, brown eyes watching her and accessing her every mood.

She went through the motions of straightening his bed and repositioning his old hockey sticks that adorned the wall. A deep sigh escaped her and mist threatened to blur her vision. She blinked away the tears and turned to leave the room.

Morgan blocked her exit. "He chose to leave."

"You helped that decision," she said, mustering to keep accusation from her tone. "I don't know what happened between you two outside today--"

"We talked about motorcycles," he said. "That's all."

She shook her head. "There has to be more than that. Soon after, he told me he was moving back to his apartment."

Morgan's cold blue-eyed stare remained fixed on her. "JE included him and I didn't object. Ben wants more than I can give him."

"Because you refuse to try," she said. "All he wants is your love. Is that so hard to understand? I see you with JE and how you respond to him. Ben just wants a piece of that. He's so easy to love. You only have to give him half a chance."

Like a panther, he lurched further into the room, looming over her. "What about you? What do you want? Are you easy to love?"

Without a second thought, she recoiled to strike him hard across the face. But with frightening speed, he caught her wrist and held fast. When she moved to counter with her other hand, he quickly deflected that blow, too.

Ragged breathing filled the room as they both drew in harsh breaths. Keesha pulled, trying to get free. His grip remained firm.

"Unhand me," she said through gritted teeth.

His fingertips pressed the inside of her wrist. "Your pulse is racing. You're excited. Does my touch excite you?"

"No. It sickens me." Her contempt unleashed itself from her soul. "You're a twisted man, Morgan James."

He released her and stepped back. "Don't get bent out of shape, Keesha. Curiosity doesn't make me twisted."

"Just don't ever touch me again." She shoved past him and held the door open. "Get out."

"Eventually, your curiosity will get the better of you, too," he murmured in a low growl. Then, he left Keesha burning with anger and frustration.

Back | Next