Part One

Port Charles' ADA Dara Jensen sat in the middle of the festivities, marveling at the crowd of friends who surrounded her. After the day she had in court, this impromptu bridal shower came as a complete and welcomed surprise. Facing all the knowing grins that stared back at her, she wondered if her fiancÚ, Marcus Taggert, had a hand in this joyous celebration.

"Uh oh!" Felicia Scorpio declared, holding up a bottle of champagne. "Your glass is half empty. Let me fill it up for you."

"Oh, no you don't!" Dara covered her glass with her hand and stood. "I have work to do tonight. Half full is enough for me."

Felicia pouted, and Dara wouldn't have been surprised if her friend stamped her foot, too. The blonde seemed to be on the verge to do just that when she suddenly laughed and handed the bottle to Dr. Ellen Harmon.

"I don't want it," Ellen said, as she rose to her feet. "I'm on call tonight. In fact, I should be leaving." Her gaze drifted around Dara's living room. She wrinkled her nose. "This place looks like an explosion hit it. Want some help cleaning up?"

Dara didn't have to think twice. She quickly nodded and the group of ladies--Felicia, Ellen, Keesha, Robin, Eve, Simone, Lois--moved into action. The endless gifts of lingerie were pulled from the boxes, folded, and placed on her bed. The empty boxes were discarded. The remaining full bottle of champagne was stored inside her fridge. The picked over food was dumped. And less than thirty minutes later, the apartment was clean again.

"Thanks," Dara said, pulling each of her friends into a tight hug. "I really appreciate this. The wedding is less than a week away and I completely forgot all about having a bridal shower."

"That's what best friends are for," Keesha reminded her. "To look out for the important stuff when you become too preoccupied with your fione, bald-headed husband-to-be."

Laughing, Dara said, "Hey, now! What's this business about him being fione. You're not supposed to notice that. Just because you're his partner and all...don't get any ideas."

Keesha raised her hands in mock defense. "I promise I only peeked once. I haven't touched ever."

"I think we all are guilty of taking a quick peek," Robin chimed in. "When he strutted his stuff at the Bachelor Auction, who could ignore that beautiful smile?"

Simone nodded. "I know I couldn't. I almost went blind."

"Not me," Lois said, presenting an innocent face. "When Justus crossed the stage, all I could see was his beautiful smile."

Keesha rubbed her stomach. "I think I'm gonna be sick." Lois nudged her arm and they laughed. "You and my cousin are too starry-eyed for me."

"The love bug will take a big chunk out of you," Lois declared. "Just you wait and see."

Keesha shrugged and didn't reply.

"This was a great party. Marcus kept his mouth shut for once and didn't spoil the surprise," Eve said. "Let's call it a night and give Dara her apartment back."

The women filed out the door and Dara sighed with contentment. Fifteen years ago, she never would have believed she could be this happy. She had good friends who cared about her, a man who loved her, and family who didn't bother her too much. Except for one day of despair that rolled around once a year, she had no complaints.

A knock sounded at her door and freed her from her thoughts. Thinking that one of the women had returned, she just opened the door. To her surprise, a teenager stood on her doorstep.

"May I help you?" Dara asked, concerned.

"Are you Dara Jensen?"

The voice was tough, accusatory, and definitely feminine. Dara's curiosity overrode common sense. She nodded. "Yeah."

"Did you live in Brooklyn in 1986?"

A knot formed in Dara's lower belly. She tried to ignore it by pressing her hand against her abdomen. A sense of foreboding cloaked her.

"Yeah, why? Who are you? Why are you asking me this?"

"My name is Hope. Are you sure you don't recognize me?" the girl asked. "That's weird because I have your eyes." The girl held up a recent photo of Dara taken from the newspaper. "And my daddy's dimples. See?"

Hope produced another photo and this one made Dara's jaw drop. The black and white image of Sonny Corinthos smiled back at her. Her gaze slowly returned to the girl. Sure enough, the child was the perfect blended creation of the two of them. Dara could hardly believe it. All the time she spent mourning her dead child had been in vain, for Hope had been alive all the time.

"Oh, my God."

# # #

Sonny Corinthos looked out at the Port Charles skyline as he listened intently to Jason Morgan's report. According to Jason's sources, Sorel had banded an army. The tension between the Corinthos faction and Sorel's had heated to a fever pitch. The two regimes had controlled Port Charles' docks for too long. It was time for one leader to rise to power. Sonny determined that he be that man.

"What do you want us to do, Sonny?" Jason asked. "Reynaldo is ready to assemble our men. Give me the word and it's done."

Sonny nodded. His thoughts worked at a rapid pace, but silence was his response. A well-thought plan was always better than going off half-cocked. When he finally made his decision, he turned away from the starlit sky and looked Jason straight in the eyes.

"Do it quietly."

Jason's stoic expression slipped into a frown. "You still think we have a snitch."

"I can feel it right here." Sonny pointed to his heart. "You choose the men and give Reynaldo the order. No one else knows about this."

"What about Carly and Michael?" Jason asked. "Do want me to take them to the safe house?"

Sonny shook his head. "They're safe here. Sorel knows if he tries anything on my family, he's a dead man."

"If there's nothing else, I'll leave now."

Sonny bit back a smile. He knew Jason had something or someone on the side, and for months, he'd been wondering who the special lady was. One thing about his second in command, Jason certainly knew how to keep his mouth shut.

The door closed with a click behind Jason. Sonny heard the pitter patter of his three-year-old son's feet as he toddled down the staircase. Sonny squatted at the bottom step and as was their custom, Michael threw himself into Sonny's arms. Carly joined them a few seconds later.

"You're spoiling him," she commented, tossing Sonny the towel their naked son had escaped.

Sonny wrapped the terrycloth around Michael's wet body and dried the child. "He's my son. There's nothing wrong with showing him love."

She shrugged and glanced toward the door. "Was that Jason? What was he doing here at this hour?"

He gave her a hard look. "You know I can't answer that."

Carly folded her arms across her chest and perched on the edge of the arm of the easy chair. "If you're talking business, I wanna know about it."

"That's none of your concern," he said, an edge coming into his voice. "I don't harass you about Deception, do I?"

"This isn't harassment." Her brown eyes flashed. "We're supposed to be working things out. That's what you said when I agreed to come back. Don't make me change my mind."

"And don't make idle threats," he warned. Michael began to squirm in his arms. Sonny set the child on the floor and watched as Carly dressed the little boy. "You know I can't talk about that stuff. When you came back, you agreed not to get involved with my business."

"I know what I said." She finished dressing Michael and kissed his cheek. "Go to your room. We'll be right up to tuck you in."

Michael raced from the room. Sonny's heart swelled as he watched the boy who was a miniature version of himself, complete with wavy black hair and dimples. He loved his son and despite how hard she made it, he loved his wife. If he could just keep the business separate from his family, his life would be just about perfect.

He crossed the room and closed his arms around Carly's waist. "We can make this work. We have a son, and he deserves the best. Fighting isn't giving him our best."

She rested her hands on his shoulders. "I don't wanna fight. I just want you to be safe. Why can't we just leave and let Jason run things?"

Sonny shook his head. "That's not the way things are done. This territory is mine. I'm not giving it up. Not to Jason or anyone else." He released her and took her hand. "Let's go read our son a bedtime story."

"Whatever you say, Sonny," she mumbled, squeezing his hand. "Whatever you say."

# # #

"What's this?" Joseph Sorel grumbled when his second in command tossed a file folder onto the table beside his dinner plate. "I'm eating here!"

"Just read it, boss," Luigi Petrillo advised. "I guarantee it will be tastier than my Momma's linguini and clams."

Sorel wasn't convinced, but he opened the folder anyway. As he perused the documents, a wide grin spread across his face. Damn it all if Luigi wasn't right! This info made Momma Petrillo's dish taste like boiled onions...provided that everything listed there was true.

"Who gave you this?"

Luigi frowned. "Come on, boss. You know my sources are legit. That's not fabricated. That's usable stuff."

"So, Corinthos and ADA Jensen have a secret love child named Hope?" Sorel cackled until his sides ached. "That's too good to be true."

"It's all true. Complete with DNA," Luigi said. "And believe you me, getting those DNA samples wasn't exactly a piece of cake."

Sorel sat back and read the documents again. Seventeen-year-old Dara Jensen ran with the wrong crowd in Brooklyn. She got knocked up by Michael 'Sonny' Corinthos, and her parents sent her away to have the kid. The Jensens decided that Dara was too young to be a mother so they put the baby, little Hope, up for adoption and convinced the doctor and nurse, with a few well placed bucks, to tell Dara the child was stillborn. Dara went on to become the ADA of Port Charles and Sonny acquired a piece of territory in the very same city.

Now, a lot of things suddenly fell into place, Sorel thought. No wonder Corinthos had never landed in jail!

"This is leverage, mi amico," Sorel said, holding up the folder. "With this, we have the ADA and Corinthos right where we want them!"


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