The Morning After

Late the next day, Sonny listened with interest as his man reported the day's
events of Sorel's trial. He would have liked to have been there himself for
the day by day account, but it was more prudent to content himself with
getting the news second hand. He'd promised himself that he would see the end
of it, but for now, this would have to do. No matter, this time, it looked as
though Dara and the PCPD had an airtight case against Sorel. The evidence
against him was damning, and the fact that he had jumped bail equally so.

Sorel wasn't getting out of this one.

He listened with pleasure as Pauly recounted the details of Sorel's last
court date. This time, it looked as though the  D.A.'s office was going to
win one. Just like he had foreseen, Zander Smith's testimony had been one of
the last nails in Sorel's coffin.  Sonny allowed himself a smile as Pauly
closed the office door behind him. It was almost all over. He reached for the
paper and began to leaf through it. He turned the page and smiled as he saw
Carly's face smiling back up at him.


Carly smiled as she walked into Laura's office. Laura looked up as the
younger woman holding a stack of magazines and newspapers took a seat across
from her as she sat at her desk. Carly began flipping the magazines onto
Laura's desk. "Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Women's Wear Daily. The reviews are
in, Laura. Deception…and Gia… are a hit."

"A small intimate gathering took place in upstate New York, this week; Port
Charles to be exact, to launch the new Face of Deception." Laura read. "Once
a powerhouse in the fragrance industry, Deception appears like the phoenix
rising from the ashes. And it appears to have done so, wrapped in the
beautiful plumage of its new Face, Gia Campbell...she has a beauty that is
exotic and unique and yet approachable, all at once. Brava to the new owners
of Deception, Laura Spencer and Caroline Corinthos."

"Well," Carly said.

Laura studied the newspaper before her. "Carly, none of this changes the fact
that you went behind my back to set this up."

"Laura, you wouldn't listen to me. I didn't go behind your back. I did
exactly what you did. Made decisions for the good of the company." Carly shot
back. "You wanted Liz, and you were deaf and blind to anything I had to say.
Tell the truth, did you ever really give Gia a chance?"

Laura was silent for a long, long moment. Had she been so determined to have
her way, to be in control of Deception, because it was something that was
hers...that she had totally negated any hint or suggestion that she had made
a wrong choice? "What am I supposed to say to that, Carly? It doesn't excuse
what you've done? Can you imagine the damage you might have done? I thought
we were partners."

"I thought so, too, Laura. But you keep using your one percent to force me to
back down to you. Partners? Why don't you try treating me like one? Just
because your senior partner, doesn't mean that every decision you make is
going to be the correct one. " Carly shot back.

"That goes both ways, Carly!" Laura said. "So what do you suggest we do about
that? The fact remains, someone has to make final decisions around here, and
I do have the one percent that means that it's my word counts for something!
I am the boss."

"And what am I?" Carly asked angrily.

Laura looked closely at Carly for a long moment. Something she saw made her
gentle her voice when she replied. "You are my very capable, very creative
junior partner. But Carly, you've got to accept that. You are the junior
partner in this business arrangement."

Carly started to argue then visibly backed down. "I could do that, if you
would take my opinions seriously. Can you tell me why you never liked Gia for
the FOD? What made Elizabeth Webber the automatic choice? Did you even take a
single look at the marketability studies that I researched and wrote up? Did
you compare the trial studio shots of the Gia and Liz with an objective eye?
Or did you see just what you wanted to see?"

"You did marketability studies?" Laura asked, surprised.

"Yes, I worked up the preliminaries, then I refined them, with Elton's help.
I put them in your in-box weeks ago. But you ignored them. I won't be ignored
in this company, Laura. You may be senior partner with your one percent, but
I am still a partner in this!"

"The studies…they're in my briefcase…" Laura said slowly. "I took them with
me on that last trip to Paris, but I never got a chance to look at them."

"I thought you did look at them. And ignored them."

That explained a lot, Laura realized. They had been working at
cross-purposes, all because each of them had thought the other was
disrespecting the other. "I think we let our egos get in the way, Carly."

"And so what do we do about it?" Carly said. "You won't give me the respect I
deserve. Remember what you said to me in front of Elizabeth Webber?"

"I apologized for that, Carly." Laura said.

"Yes, you did…but the problem is that you did it at all!" Carly said hotly.
"When are you going to take me and my opinions seriously? You knew I was
going out of town, but you waited until then to make the decisions for the
Deception launch party. Were you going to announce Elizabeth for the new FOD
without even discussing the pros and cons, or allowing yourself to see my
point of view, even for a moment? Her heart wasn't in it…it never was, and it
showed in every test shot she took. You didn't see that? Is it too much to
ask for a little respect from my partner? A little faith?"

Laura was silent for a long moment after that. Could Carly, of all people be
right? She had thought that her rejection of Elizabeth Webber had been one
based on personal reasons, not the least of which that the two younger women
had never liked each other. She hadn't thought Carly capable of making a
rational decision where Liz was concerned. But in the light of her own
discoveries, maybe Carly had been right all along. Laura looked at Carly and
a small, rueful smile came over her face. "Sit down, Carly. We need to talk."
When Carly hesitated, angry eyes still flashing, Laura looked at her
patiently. "Please."

Carly sat. "So, let's talk."


 It was late in the evening when Sonny came by Deception offices, a huge
bouquet of flowers in his arms. It took him a minute to remember the name of
the executive assistant sitting at his station.

"Excuse me, Elton, isn't it?"

The man took a long look at him, obviously pleased by what he saw. "My
goodness, it most certainly is Elton. At your service, your beck and
call…call me whatever you want…"

Sonny held back from answering that last remark. "I'm looking for Caroline
Corinthos. My wife."

Elton checked himself as recognition flooded into his face. "Of course you
are… Mr. Corinthos, how could have I not recognized you? I've seen your
picture in the papers a hundred times…." He caught himself, realizing what
he'd just said. "I mean, you are one of Port Charles more famous citizens.."

"Don't you mean infamous?" Sonny couldn't resist.

 "As long as they spell the name right, honey, what does it matter? But I
suppose, in your line of business, you'd rather they not spell your name
right or wrong either way." He rose from his desk and came around, taking the
bouquet from Sonny's arms, still talking all the while. "I'm assuming that
those are for Mrs. C? Well, they are definitely something else. No run of the
mill bouquet. And I should know; in design school, I minored in florals."

There were so many ways a person could answer that. Sonny restrained himself
from all of them. He went ahead into Carly's office while Elton went off to
fetch a vase.

"I'll just go ahead and pop these in some water for you. I know there's some
Lalique around here somewhere." Elton said as he bustled into the room. He
paused, studying the flowers. "My, my, we are one for the passionate blooms
aren't we? Orchids, lilies, amaryllis and jasmine? The things I could tell
you about these…" Elton gave a small laugh. "I hope Mrs. C can appreciate
what kind of man she has, to go through the trouble to create such an
intimate bouquet. That's one more reason that I adore Latin men….I mean, you
all are usually so intense. And I just adore intense men."

"Elton, where is my wife?" Sonny managed to get out.

"Oh, she's down in the design department. Shall I buzz her for you, Mr. C.?"

"That won't be necessary, I'd rather surprise her. She is coming back to her
office, isn't she?"

"That was the plan. I just put some papers on her desk from accounting. I was
here waiting for some figures to messengered in for her from NYC. They've
just come in, so I'm so out of here."

You certainly are.  Sonny thought to himself.

Sonny waited  in Carly's office, while Elton arranged the bouquet in a
flawless crystal vase and then said his good-nights. Sonny shook his head and
laughed to himself softly once the other man had left the room.
Killing time, Sonny wandered around the office. He paused by one of the
pedestal and sampled some of the fragrances arranged on the glass top tables,
then moving on, smiled at the play corner set up in the corner nearest
Carly's desk for Michael. The sound of voices caught his ear. Sonny walked
out into the hallway.

The voices were coming from Laura's office across the hall.

"Are you always such an inhospitable hostess, Laura? I suppose it's your
lowly upbringing that accounts for your boorish behavior."

"I'm perfectly capable of dealing with my welcome guests. You're an unwelcome
one. I wouldn't waste any grace or manners on you." Sonny heard Laura reply.
He moved closer to the door.

"You could at least make an attempt to be civil, Laura. My ill-will is
something you don't want to incur."

"Isn't it a little too late for that?"
"Perhaps, my dear, I only wanted to congratulate you on your success. Surely
I am someone who understands how hard it is to build an empire as a woman
alone." There was a pause and Sonny could hear the vicious smile that was
surely gracing Cassidine's face. "Ah...but you're not quite alone. There's
the matter of your junior partner. Caroline Benson Spencer Quatermaine
Corinthos." The emphasis on the Spencer was very evident. And so was the
unspoken threat. Sonny had had enough.
"It seems you Spencers are becoming quite the little powerhouse." she was
saying as Sonny stepped into the room. He knocked on the open door to make
his presence known. Laura was standing behind her desk and an elegant matron
was facing her across it. Everything about her said money. And power. She
wore it as naturally as Sonny wore his, as easily as the sapphire and diamond
necklace that graced her still slender throat; each stone perfectly matched
to the deep blue tailored suit ensemble that graced her still- regal frame. 
Helena Cassidine.

"Hello, Laura." Sonny stepped into the room.

Laura looked at him. She covered it well, but the relief was obvious in her
eyes. "Sonny. How are you?"

The other woman turned to look at him and Sonny felt her gaze crawl over him.
She barely bothered to conceal her avaricious, almost predatory gaze and
Sonny found he didn't like the sensation at all. He resisted the temptation
to wipe his hands together, as though something dirty and foul had slimed
their way across them and left some sort of viscous yet invisible residue.

"Mr. Corinthos, I believe." Helena said. "I've heard so much about you from
the newspapers." She held out one hand elegantly.

Never let your enemy see your thoughts. A lesson Sonny had learned long ago.
And without a doubt, this woman was an enemy. Carly's name had passed her
lips. It was enough.

Two could play at her game. Sonny came forward and took her hand, nodded
briefly over it. "Helena Cassidine. Sorry I can't say the same. What I've
heard about you hasn't been printed."

    "Really? I wonder what tales you've heard. Very interesting ones, I'm
sure." Her eyes slid to Laura, who was watching the exchange intensely.

    "Very." Sonny replied. He turned to Laura and glanced at his watch. "I
hope I'm not early for our meeting."

    Laura was quick to pick up on his lead. "Not at all; you're right on
time, in fact.  And Helena was just leaving."

    "Was I?" She was openly amused.

    "I guess you are, Mrs. Cassidine. After all, I'm expected. I'm guessing
you're not?"

    "Well, I do have other matters to attend to." She paused, then switched
to flawless Castellan Spanish. "Quizás yo'll lo ve otra vez en circunstancias
más agradables y privadas? Podríamos explorar la posibilidad de… los
intereses mutuos. Perhaps I'll see you again in more pleasant, and private
circumstances? We could explore the possibility of… mutual interests."

    Dudo que tanto. "I doubt that very much." Sonny replied in the same
tongue, before switching back to English for Laura's benefit. "You're an
uninvited guest. So I don't expect to see you here again. I have a vested
interest in Deception and its continued well-being." This time, he let a
silken thread of threat enter into his words. "And I always protect my
    Helena Cassidine smiled at the challenge. "Nonetheless, I look forward to
our next meeting, Mr. Corinthos…."

    "Next time, I may not be as...polite. My lowly upbringing and all."

    "Now now, Mr. Corinthos. Sometimes a man can have the bearing of a
prince. From what I've observed, you've certainly exhibited the potential.
But this is hardly the time or place to discuss any mutual interests. Another
time, perhaps? In more private circumstances?"

    "Again, I doubt it."

    "Well, we'll see. That's what I love about life. It's unexpectedness…otra
vez entonces --  another time, Mr. Corinthos." Helena gave one last chilled
smile to Laura. "And you too, dear. We will definitely continue this another
time." She swept out of the office, leaving nothing more that the smell of
expensive perfume in her wake.

    "That woman!" Laura exclaimed as soon as she had gone. Her eyes were
bright with anger. And fear, as much as she tried to hide it, Sonny saw it in
the way she held herself, and he heard it in her voice.

    "Are you all right?" Sonny asked, looking at her closely.

    "I'm fine, now that she's gone." Laura sat back in her chair. "Thank you
for coming in when you did."

    "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I thought you could use some help."
Sonny said.

    "When it comes to Helena Cassidine, I'll take any and all help I can
get." She paused then looked up at him apologetically. "I'm sorry, that
didn't come out quite the way I meant it to. She knows well enough to steer
clear of you. I just hope she doesn't mean to include you in her vendetta
against the Spencers. Up until now, she's ignored Carly. I hope this doesn't
change that. I wouldn't want to be responsible for that."

    "I'm already on it." He told her, remembering his conversation with Luke
the at the club the other night. "I'll take care of Carly. And Michael."

    "You always do, Sonny." Both of them turned to see Carly at the doorway.
"Did I miss something?"

    "Not a thing," Laura said. "Sonny was just keeping me company until you
got back. We were just exchanging parental advice." As Carly crossed the room
to give her husband a hug, Laura caught his eye and shook her head slightly.
Sonny understood. Whatever it was with the Cassidine, this was her fight.

    Sonny enveloped Carly in his arms and hugged her tight. "Well, if you're
ready to go,  we can pick up your things from your office and get going." He
turned to Laura. "I hope our talk helped some?"

    She returned his serious gaze with one of her own. "I can't tell you how
much. Thank you, Sonny."

    "You're welcome. Anytime." Sonny nodded once. "Like I said earlier, I
protect my interests."