Hearts Asunder by Mourning Starre

Chapter 15

"So, Justus, have you heard from Keesha today?"

Jason stopped short at the sound of AJís voice. He peeked into the living room to find his brother pacing the floor with the telephone jammed to his ear. Jason shook his head, dismayed. For one so willing to give Keesha the space she needed, AJ practically harassed every member of her family, on a daily basis, for information on her welfare and whereabouts. Sliding against the wall, Jason kept his eyes on AJ and listened to the rest of the conversation.

"Yes, Justus, I know she wanted some time alone, but itís been five days. Iím just wondering where she is. If sheís okay." AJ moved to the couch and pinched the bridge of his nose. Frustration. Jason sighed. He could definitely relate to that, but he was feeling frustrated long before Keesha left town to think. "Yes, I know sheíll call if she wants to talk to me," AJ said. "Right. Thanks anyway. Bye."

AJ muttered something and tossed the cordless phone to the other side of the couch. Jason smiled, getting a twisted pleasure from his brotherís unhappiness. AJ did act differently, but fundamentally, he was still the same. A guy who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, and when he didnít get it, look out.

Since misery loved company, Jason thought now was a good time to make his presence known, and maybe stoke AJís good cheer while he was at it. Clearing his throat, he made his way into the living room. "Whatís going on, AJ?" he asked, heading to the bar and dropping three ice cubes in a crystal tumbler before twisting open a bottle of club soda. "You seem a bit troubled."

AJ closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the couch. "Itís nothing."

"I thought I heard you on the phone. Who was it?"

"None of your business," AJ answered, his tone short, edgy. "Look, donít you have class or something to keep you busy?"

Jason shrugged, enjoying the rise he got out of his big brother. "No, finals were last week." He poured the sparkling drink into the glass and took several swallows. "Considering how itís your priority to be on top of everything of importance in Keeshaís life, I thought youíd know that. You donít think sheíd leave Port Charles if she had a full load of classes, do you?"

AJ frowned. "I donít want to talk about Keesha with you."

"No? But you want to talk about her with any member of her family you can track down, right?"

"Youíre eavesdropping now?" Incredulous laughter followed AJís words. "My, that halo of yours is losing its luster, Jason."

"Oh, AJ, my halo lost its luster the minute you woke up from your coma and decided you wanted Keesha for yourself."

AJ grinned and joined Jason at the bar. "Sound a little tense there, bro. Might want to try something a little stronger. Loosen you up a bit," he said, lifting the vodka decanter and holding it over Jasonís glass.

Jason covered his tumbler. "No thanks, bro, I leave the boozing to you. You are aware youíre an alcoholic, right?"

"Dr. Jones told me."

"You think itís wise to be so close to temptation?" Jason eyed the various spirits on the well-stocked bar, before settling his gaze on the container of clear liquid AJ grasped. "Youíre holding on to that bottle like itís Keeshaís hand." He poured the remainder of the soda into his glass. "I guess thatís you projecting again. But just like you canít have that vodka, you canít have Keesha." He took another big gulp of his drink. "Ah, thatís good," he said, more about the intimation about Keesha than the refreshment of the soda.

AJ lowered the bottle and met Jasonís gaze. Neither man blinked. Now it begins.

"You always seem so sure of yourself when you talk about her," AJ said. "But if you ask me, I think itís all just hopeful wishing. Youíre scared to death youíre going to lose her, and with good reason. She loves me, and that kills you."

"Keesha loves baby birds and puppies, too, thatís just her nature. Sheís compassionate. What kills me is how youíre manipulating her with the guilt she feels over your accident."

"I donít have to manipulate Keesha. She loves me. She always has."

Jason wasnít blind to the closeness Keesha always shared with AJ, but did she label that closeness as something more in light of her Ďconfusioní? AJ was always more interested in her than need be, but Keesha never thought of AJ as more than a good friend until after his accident. Uneasiness shot through Jasonís body like a lightening bolt. He rubbed his hand against his neck in an attempt to alleviate the tension that threatened to settle.

"Did she tell you that?"

"She didnít have to. You and your caveman possessiveness left her too scared to say anything. I sensed it from the moment you walked into my hospital room and you kindly offered her a ride home. You had a chip on your shoulder with me then, but I was too confused and scared to know what it was."

"Is that right?" Jason clipped.

"Yes. Then, after a while, all the pieces started to come together. You were the golden boy and I was the black sheep brother. Keesha couldnít possibly want to be with me when perfection stood right there in all its glorious splendor, but she did want me. I could tell how she felt in the way she touched me; in the way she kisses me." AJ brushed his fingertips against his lips. Confidence danced in his bright eyes. "See, her words say sheís torn, but her actions tell me Iím the one she wants. The one she really loves."

The desire to pounce was strong, but Jason fought the urge. He wouldnít give his brother the satisfaction of watching him lose control, that wasnít the plan when he walked in here. Disguising his boiling rage behind a pleasant smile, Jason met his brotherís gaze. The shine in AJís eyes dimmed. A scowl turned his lips. Jasonís smile grew. He was back in control.

"So, Keesha kissing you has you convinced she loves you? A kiss? Hmm?" Still holding his glass, Jason moved around AJ and sat on the couch. "I donít know why I didnít see this sooner. Keesha kissed you, so itís evident her heart must only belong to you." He smacked his forehead. "How could I be so dense?"

"You should hold off on the sarcasm, Jason, itís a bit stifling. I know what Iím talking about."

"Do you?" Jason settled into the chair and fixed a pointed glare at his brother. "Last year, Keesha and I spent our spring break in Paris. And let me tell you, we shared a lot more than kisses when we were there. A whole lot more." He thought to raise his glass but sensed his brother got the picture without adding an exclamation point.

AJ turned to the bar and picked up a bottle of water. "You swap these stories in the locker room after soccer games, too?" he asked, scorn dripping from his words as he discarded the cap and downed half the contents of the bottle.

"Nope. I have way too much respect for Keesha to do that."

"And this is a show of respect?" AJ slammed the bottle to the bar, the force splashing water and knocking over glasses. He turned around with a jerk, wiping his wet hand on the side of his slacks. "I guess this aspect of respect is one I havenít learned yet."

"Then let me enlighten you!" Jason fired back, his tone as harsh as AJís. His cheeks burned hot. So much for not losing his cool. "Youíre spouting Keeshaís undying love for you after a couple of kisses. Well, Keesha and I have been as close as two people can be. Weíve shared something you couldnít begin to understand, because itís love, AJ! True love. Based on honesty, trust, and genuine feelings."

"Because youíve slept with Keesha, you think youíre the only man she can care about?"

"No, itís because of a lot more than that. You are so quick to mention you saw Keesha first. Even before your accident, you threw that in my face every chance you could. ĎI saw her first!í So what? What you saw in Keesha and what I see in her are two different things. Thatís why it didnít work out for you two, and why it never will."

"Give it a rest, Jason. We both see the same thing when we look at Keesha, and thatís an incredibly beautiful woman. A woman whoís smart, kind, gentle andÖ"

"Black," Jason added. "Did you notice that when you woke from coma? You did back then."

AJís face paled, as if dusted by a fine white powder. "What are you saying?"

"What do you think Iím saying?" Jason joined AJ at the bar. "Iím sure youíve wondered why things didnít work out for you and Keesha in the beginning. Well, now you know." He dropped his glass on the bar with a resounding thud and headed for the door. Before he got too far, AJ grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

"Youíre a lying bastard if youíre saying I was a racist!" AJ practically snarled.

Jason snatched his arm away. "A racist? Oh, no, you werenít a racist, just a coward. You were always attracted to Keesha. Who wouldnít be? She is a gorgeous woman with endless appealing qualities, but sheís also Black. You played tennis with her here, and then you took her out for lunch. I donít know what happened at that lunch, but something did. You still kept your eye on Keesha, that was a constant, but you never asked her out again. At least, not until I started seeing her."

"And youíre saying thatís because of her race?"

"I think you were too concerned with how things looked and what people would think. You were anxious to win favor with Grandfather and his business cronies back then. Dating Keesha wouldnít have won you any points."

"But it would you?"

"I wasnít in to the business game, AJ, but thatís beside the point. The night I met Keesha, my life changed. It was like I was living in darkness and she was the light that illuminated my world. I fell in love with her the moment our eyes met."

AJ grunted and moved over to the couch. "So Iíve heard."

"You heard?" Jason shook his head. He did not just hear that. "You knew this andÖ"

"And what? Went after Keesha anyway?" AJ nodded. "Yes, I did. Didnít you do the same?"

Jason balled his fists into two tight knots, as he quietly recited all the reasons he shouldnít deck his brother right now. "Were you not listening to me?" he said through gritted teeth. "You stopped seeing Keesha. I didnít steal her from you!"

"Thatís your story."

"Thatís the story! When Keesha and I met, and she told me she had a tennis date scheduled with you, I felt like Iíd been kicked in the gut. I was jealous as hell and I was pissed, because you met her first. I knew I couldnít go after a woman my brother was interested in."

AJ laughed. "But you did just that."

"Yes, I did, after you stopped seeing her! You knew I was interested in Keesha, but I backed off out of respect for you. Even when it killed me to do it, I did, because you were my brother, and I loved you."

"You loved me?"

"Yes! We had our problems, AJ, but I wanted you to be happy. Even at the expense of my own happiness."


"Thatís right. I think your biggest problem was in that, unlike you, I didnít let what people think or how they would react influence my decision to be with Keesha. You had the chance to be with her, and you let it go out of fear. And when I went for it, you resented me, and you wanted back the chance with Keesha you threw away."

Jason stared at his brother, attempting to read the strange expression on his face. His furrowed brows suggested deep thought, but the slight smirk on his face hinted at amusement. Once again, the desire to deck him burned strong in Jasonís veins.

"My, thatís some tale." AJ crossed his legs and clasped his hands behind his head. "Am I really supposed to believe it? I thought you would change it up, especially after that bit about loving me, but you stayed the course. If there was any truth to this, Keesha would have told me."

"Keesha wouldnít have said a word, because she doesnít want to hurt you. Thatís how all this started. With Keesha not wanting to see you hurt!"

AJ unfolded is limbs and expelled a long, weary breath. "What are you talking about now?"

"The need Keesha has to protect you, your knowledge of that, and the way you use it against her. Keesha knew you were drinking, and you pitied her into keeping quiet. ĎOh, the family wouldnít understand. Theyíll turn on me. I have it under control, Keesha, I promise.í Humph! And like the trusting soul she is, she believed you. You had your drinking so under control, you proceeded to get hammered and embedded your head into a tree! Guilt rained down on Keesha like a monsoon, and here we are," Jason said, waving his hand about the room, "waiting for Keesha to announce which of us has her heart. If you think about this, youíll realize thereís no real decision to be made."

AJ rose from the couch and clapped his hands. "Finally, something we can agree on. It seems Keesha would do anything for me, and that tells me everything I need to know."

Jason rolled his eyes. AJís word spinning made him dizzy. Why did he even bother talking to him in the first place? God, he wanted to knock that damn smirk off his face. He sucked in a breath. He needed to get rid of this pent up emotion and fast. "I think Iím gonna go to the gym now."

"Before you run off, Jason, Iíd like to remind you of something. Perhaps, the AJ of old was a coward, but this one isnít. I go after what I want, regardless of who it hurts. I want Keesha, and I will have her. You can count on it."

The ringing phone sidelined the scathing retort burning the tip of Jasonís tongue.

AJ gave him a quick smile. "Iíll get that. Hello," he said. "Yes, this is AJ Quartermaine. Really? Could you hold one second? Thanks." He covered the mouthpiece and turned to Jason. "I need to take this."

"Then take it!" Jason snapped, now in no hurry to leave after AJís attempt at dismissing him. He sat on the couch and crossed his arms and legs, his attention fixed on his brother. If looks could kill, the one AJ shot him as he stomped over to the desk would have put him six feet under. What was so important about this phone call that AJ wanted him to leave the room?

"Go ahead." AJ picked up a pen and began scribbling something. "Okay. And youíre sure about this?" He paused for a second and nodded. "Good. Thank you." AJ ended the call and ripped the written page from the notepad.

"What was that about?" Jason asked, knowing full well he wouldnít get a straight answer, but tossing it out there anyway.

The response to his question came in the form of AJ tucking the sheet in his shirt pocket and leaving the room. After waiting a few minutes, Jason sauntered over to the desk and retrieved the pad and a pencil. Smoothing the pencil lead against the top page, he was able to make out some letters and discovered why his brother was so tightlipped. Heíd found Keesha.

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