Keeping an eye on Jason had its rewards. Luke's eye was caught by the
stunning dark eyed beauty in deep green standing at the bar near him. His
taste usually ran to blondes, but he could make an exception in this one
case. Jason excused himself to her and went to speak with Sonny.
Serendipity. Luke grabbed a bowl of beer nuts and made his way over.

"Well, hello, what can I get for you?" Luke leaned over the bar, putting on
his best smile.

She turned to him, "Hennessy on ice, please."

"Coming right up." Luke liked a woman with good taste in liquor. No fruit and
paper umbrellas for this one. His attention was piqued even more. He quickly
poured the expensive brandy into a snifter and set it before her. "So tell
me, what brings you here to our little establishment? Besides your obvious
good taste."

She took a swallow and smiled slowly back at him. "Deception business of
course. And my obvious good taste." She looked around. "Nice décor."

"Yeah, bordello antique. But I like it." Luke said.

"And that's what counts. It goes with the music, by the way." She laughed; a
throaty chuckle full and rich bodied like her brandy.

"Luke said. "You like?"

"I like."

"Well, darlin', since you like the blues, maybe I could persuade you into a
dance before the night is over?"

"Well, darlin'," Luke grinned appreciatively as she tossed his own phrase
right back at him. "I don't know if I can promise that. I am here working,
after all" she smiled to take the sting of her almost refusal out of her
words. That didn't faze Luke too much. After all, she hadn't said no. Give
him a minute to work that Spencer charm, and well, this night might not be a
total bust after all.
Luke was only a little annoyed as he saw his niece heading his way. Maybe
he'd spoken too soon.

"Hello, Uncle Luke." She drawled. He knew that she knew he wasn't too fond
of the title. Which is exactly why she'd said it, of course.

"Hello niece." He bit out.

"So, you're Uncle Luke." The woman in green said.

"Why am I not liking the sound of this, Sweet Caroline?"

"This is Eliana Salazar, head designer of Deception. And my very good
Luke looked from one woman to the other. Caroline. And a woman friend. A very
good woman friend. How the hell did that happen?

Both of them laughed at his expression.

A reporter and photographer descended on them. "Ms. Corinthos, Ms. Salazar,
Johnston of Avante Magazine." He re-introduced himself. "You both were kind
enough to give me a brief interview earlier. Perhaps we can continue it, for
the benefit of our many readers?" Obviously looking for a fresh angle, he'd
pounced on the tail end of their conversation. "Did I hear you say Uncle

"Yes, I did." Carly said. "This is Luke Spencer, owner of Luke's Place. Best
blues joint in Port Charles. And he's my uncle."

Luke really wasn't taking this all too well. He hadn't wanted Laura to throw
the damned party here anyway, and now it looked like he was piggy backing on
the tail of his ex-wife's and his niece's success. Plus he still hadn't had
a chance to talk to the Latin beauty, friend of Caroline's or no. He scowled
and lit up a cigar.

"Really?" the reporter motioned for his photographer to continue to snap
pictures of the three of them. "So you're Laura Spencer's ex-husband, and
your niece is in business with her. And isn't her son one of Deception's
photographers? My, my. isn't this all just soclannish..."

"Well," Carly shot a glance at Eliana. "Nothing like keeping it all in the

Luke wondered why that swept the two of them into another gale of laughter.


While all the attention of the party was on Laura, Carly and Gia, Sonny and
Jason moved off to one side to talk.

"Everything has been quiet since I got here." Jason told him. "None of
Sorel's men have been seen in the area all night."

"Good looking out." Sonny told him. They hadn't expected any problems since
Sorel was safely back in jail. His organization was in a shambles. Some of
his men were deserting, the rest fighting for the spoils. But it was better
to be prepared for anything. Just in case.

Sonny told Jason about Taggert and Ford's visit.

"Do you think it could lead to trouble?" Jason asked.

"Nah," Sonny answered. "I'm pretty sure it was just a fishing expedition.
They just wanted to see if they could hook anything. Ford knows as well as I
do that they can't touch me."

"Just the man I wanted to see." They both turned around as Luke walked up to
them. He'd obviously picked up on the tail end of their conversation. "Feds
looking to reach out and touch someone?

"Hello Luke." Sonny greeted him carefully. They had been wary around each
other since the time when Lucky had been thought to be dead in a fire that
happened in the building he owned and Jason operated. It had turned out not
to be the case. But Luke had blamed Sonny and the breach between them had
never really healed after that. "It's nothing that I can't handle."

"That's reassuring." Luke nodded. "I won't keep you two from the festivities.
Just thought I'd share a little news flash with you, just in case the boys in
blue have been keeping you otherwise occupied lately. The Cassidines have
been in my face lately. Pushing me."

"And you're about to push back?" Sonny asked.

"Something like that. Helena has got somethin' going on, and I'm sure it
means no good for the Spencers. Seeing that the little woman you've set up
house with is a Spencer, I thought I'd tell you to watch your back - and
hers. Her mother wouldn't appreciate it if somethin' happened to her baby

"Warning received and understood, Luke." Sonny paused. "And thanks. Need any

"I can handle Hells. And I can take care of my family. You take care of
yours." Without waiting for Sonny's reply, Luke turned and walked away.

Jason spoke first. "If he's right, we'd better put more protection around
Carly and Michael."

"If Helena decides to make Carly a target, then she may not stop at her, but
everyone around her. That means you, me, maybe even Eliana."

"We can get moving on upgrading our protective measures tonight. The
Cassidines are powerful enough to cause trouble if they want. But nothing we
can't handle. Johnny is handling the security detail tonight. I'll check with
him and get things started." Jason said.

He made his way outside and to Sonny's Limo. Johnny wasn't driving tonight
but was there with the driver. Jason gave him a quick run down on this newest
possible threat. Johnny assured him that he would handle it by calling up
more men to sweep the area and agreed that they would discuss new security
precautions tomorrow.

Jason satisfied his own concerns by walking the perimeter of the club,
checking in with each of their men personally. So far, it had been quiet,
without even a hint of trouble, but Jason felt better after he'd talked to
them all. He didn't want anything to spoil this night for either Carly or


Liz had watched Jason from the corner of her eye all evening, marking his
movement around the room. When she saw him step outside, she saw her chance.
Lucky was across the room, talking with some of Deception's other
photographers and Gia was too busy enjoying her triumph. No one would notice
if she slipped out for a moment of fresh air.

She saw him in the parking lot, talking to Johnny, Sonny's bodyguard. As he
headed back to the club's entrance, he saw her standing there.

"How are you, Elizabeth?" he asked. Jason knew she had to be feeling very
conflicted right now. On one hand, she hadn't wanted the FOD job; on the
other hand, she had lost out to Gia Campbell.

"I'm fine, Jason." Liz said, thrilled by the note of concern in his voice.
"All I need is some time, and I know that everything is going to work itself
out." Everything will, you just wait and see. Now that I don't have this
FOD thing hanging over my head, I'll get the proof I need to prove that
Eliana is not what you think she is.

"I'm glad of that, Elizabeth. I don't want you to be hurt."

He still cared, she thought to herself. Just like she knew he did. "Thank
you, Jason." Elizabeth moved closer to him and rested her hand on his arm.

Jason patted her hand briefly, then gently disentangled himself from her.
"Maybe you should go back inside now. I'm sure people are looking for you."

"Aren't you coming back in?"

"I don't think we should go in together. Lucky is probably looking for you. I
don't want him getting the wrong idea. And I don't want this night to be
spoiled for anyone; especially not any more than it's already been for you."

For me, she thought as she smiled up at Jason. He was still thinking about
me. I bet he can't get me out of his mind. Maybe he's just using Eliana to
wipe me from his memories. But he can't; I know he can't. We both know that
our friendship is special. And nothing or no one can change that.

Jason looked across the street as two cars pulled up alongside the limo.
More of Sonny's men emerged. It was time he got back to taking care of
business. He was glad to see that Elizabeth was dealing with the whole
Deception thing, but he had other things on his mind. "Go inside, Elizabeth."
His voice had changed, became abrupt; and before she could reply, he was
walking away.

He'd dismissed her. Why did he insist on treating her so coldly in public
now, when it was obvious that he still cared about her?
Even though she told herself that Jason's mind had been preoccupied on
business; the rest of the night passed in an irritable haze. She smiled at
all the right times and somehow said all the right things, taking everyone's
commiserations with seemingly good grace. She even managed to congratulate
Gia and mean it.

"I guess the best woman won, after all." She said to her. Gia, as usual,
accepted with her usual lack of grace or humility.

"Remember Elizabeth, you said it, I didn't." Gia smoothed a single strand of
braid into place, conscious of the photographers still eager to catch her
picture. Nikolas gave her a warning glance, but she only shrugged and looked
around for the next photo-op. "Isn't that Emily's brother, Jason?"
The three of them, her, Gia and Nikolas, were standing around sipping at
their champagne. Gia looked appreciatively at Jason, who had re-entered the
club twenty minutes later. "He gives bad boys a whole new meaning. If I
weren't otherwise occupied," and she shot a mischievous glance at Nikolas. "I
could definitely be interested."

"Yes, but would he be interested in you?" Nikolas countered smoothly.

"If I wanted his attention, I'm sure I could get itbut then again from the
looks of it, not likely." Gia said. "He's definitely got someone else on his

Elizabeth turned in time to see Eliana rest her hand on Jason's arm. It was
just for a moment, but it didn't matter. There might as well have been nobody
else present in the club, the way the two of them were focused on one
"Looks like he's got somebody else in mind already. Or somebody's got him."
Gia commented, her eyes coming back to study Elizabeth.

Elizabeth shrugged and turned away. Gia was watching her carefully now, so
she kept her features schooled and pretended like it didn't matter. After
all, they were in public. Jason had business to take care of. That was the
only reason he was so short with her earlier. She had to remember, Jason
wasn't free to show his heart, not that he would anyway. He just wasn't that
type of man.

"Remember when Carly and Laura called that big meeting to announce Eliana's
appointment and the creation of the design department? Remember how we all
wondered where that huge bouquet came from? I guess we don't have to wonder
anymore." Gia was saying, nodding her head in the direction of the bar. "We
thought they were from Carly; but now, I'm not too sure."

Elizabeth felt her face grow hot as she listened to Gia's words. God, would
she shut up about Eliana already? She was smart, she was talented, great to
work with. Blah blah blah. So what? It didn't change anything. Underneath it
all, she was just another scheming, conniving witch, just like Carly.
Elizabeth had had enough of having to be in the same room with her. She
couldn't wait until she got out of there. But Lucky was still deep in
discussion with some other photographers, and besides, if she left too early,
it would look like she was a sore loser. Elizabeth pasted what she called her
'model face' on, and drank champagne and chatted like nothing mattered and
she couldn't be any happier.

Even so, her internal radar kept tabs on Jason and that witch Eliana through
the rest of the evening, and she was aware of, much later, exactly when
Jason, Sonny, Carly and Eliana left, the four of them together.
He was mine's first, she thought to herself. Her eyes narrowed as she
watched Jason bend towards the other woman, saying something that sets her
laughing as they walked out the door. Play all the tricks you want. In the
end, Jason will come back to me. He always does.