If five years ago, anyone had told Keesha she would engage in a clandestine affair with her first love's new persona, she wouldn't have believed them. In fact, she would have slapped the person silly and stormed off in a huff. But that was then and this was now. A person could change a lot in five years.
Thinking back on it now, she wasn't sure how it happened. After a day spent in the courtroom explaining arrests, Keesha needed a break. She went home, changed into jeans and hit the streets. For some strange reason, her footsteps took her to Jake's. Guzzling beer wasn't her style, but she loved a game of pool. She played game after game and then Jason walked in.
Their eyes met. Excitement rippled through her. Primal sexual attraction struck like lightning. He came to her. They played a game that was charged with electric heat. Everything he did seemed to arouse her further. The way his hand curved around the ball as he positioned it on the green felt. How is fingers slowly stroked the cuestick before it hit the ball.
After a while, the tension seemed to get to him, too. He arched a brow and jutted his chin to the back. She responded with a slight nod. They slipped out into the alley. As was Jason's custom, he didn't say too much. He only gave her directions to a motel on the outskirts of town. The Starlight Inn. He hopped on his motorcycle and Keesha slid behind the driver's seat of her car. The next three hours blew her mind and left her craving for more.
So now, she waited for him in their usual Room 23. Gravel sputtered outside and the beam of a single headlight swam into the room. She heard the engine cut off and then there was a single tap on the door. Keesha didn't bother to use the peephole. She knew it was Jason on the other side.
A small trace of a smile curved his firm, sensual lips. He closed the door with his foot while reaching for her. His mouth covered hers hungrily. His tongue pushed between her lips and sent shivers of desire racing through her. A sudden ache to be joined with him coursed through her. As if sensing that, Jason lifted her and her thighs closed around his hips. Continuing to possess her with his mouth and tongue, Jason carried her to the bed with the covers already pulled back and lowered her onto the crisp, cool sheets.
He tore off their clothes without preamble. Then, he slid over her. Usually, their joining was quick, hot and wild. On this night, Jason slowed the pace. He rained kisses over her face, down her throat and up again to her earlobe. His teeth nibbled and his mouth suckled.
Keesha groaned deep in her throat. She wanted more. Her hand closed around his growing arousal. Her caresses made him shudder. His teeth sunk into her quivering flesh. Stroking and squeezing, she brought him to a rock hard erection. Now, that he was ready, she positioned him into place.
Jason grabbed her wrists and raised them over her head. Keesha writhed in protest, but her urgent need went unheeded. His hand outlined the circle of her full breast. Her senses reeled as he tongue swirled around her hardened nipple. When his mouth finally took possession, she cried out.
"Easy," he murmured, his breath hot against her already heated flesh.
His free hand left her breast. It took its time, sliding down her belly and onto her thigh. His palm, rough and callused, massaged her with exquisite tenderness. Her legs parted. Jason responded to her silent invitation.
Lowering his mouth against her ear, he whispered what he was doing to her. His fingers threaded her moist curls before venturing further south. His whisper and the first touch of his fingertip on her swollen bud of pleasure nearly sent her over the edge. Her pelvis bucked against him, and Jason whispered, "One or two?"
His fingers eased into her silken folds. His thumb continued to caress her swollen bud. The stroking of his fingers left her mindless. He created a rhythm and she moved to its beat.
Jason's expert touch propelled her to ecstasy. Keesha's body tensed and seconds later, she shattered into a million pieces. As her release overtook her, she cried out.
Jason claimed her cries with a crushing, possessive kiss. He paused for a second to slide on a condom before his knee parted her thighs. His rigid heat filled her. Fevered and wild, he pumped inside her. His hips ground against hers and Keesha lost control again.
"YES!" His cry of fulfillment roared in her ears.
Later, they shared a shower, dressed, and went their separate ways.
Dara ushered the girl--her daughter--inside her apartment. Hope entered with a swagger of her hips. The teenager made no attempt to hide her curiosity. She looked over Dara's home as if she had every right. Dara offered no protest. She used the moments of silence to watch the girl and to think.
Hope was definitely the right age to be her child. She had Dara's build, petite with a hint of feminine curves coming into place. Her hair was dark and wavy--like Sonny's, and her eyes were a piercing brown--like Dara's.
While Hope perused the framed photos of Dara's family and friends that covered the mantel, Dara wondered how this could have happened. The doctor told her the baby was stillborn. The baby hadn't cried out at childbirth so Dara had no choice but to believe him. But looking at this real-life version of her precious baby...Dara couldn't help but wonder what really happened fifteen years ago.
"You've done well for yourself," Hope commented once her inspection ended. "A big shot lawyer with a cute boyfriend. I guess having a kid would have interfered with that."
"You guess wrong," Dara said quietly. She gestured to the sofa. "Have a seat. Would you like anything to eat or drink?"
Hope snorted. "It's a little late to try the Mommy stuff now, dontcha think?"
Dara stiffened. The girl had every right to be angry, but her reappearance sent Dara's world off balance. Responding to sarcasm would only cloud the issues. She couldn't allow Hope's cynicism to get to her.
"Okay, so you don't want anything." Dara sat on the edge of her plush, ivory easy chair and waited until Hope sat before she spoke again. "I don't know where to begin. I never expected..."
"You thought you left your bastard behind," Hope said. "I've read a lot about you. The article in Essence was quite revealing, Mommy Dear. You never let obstacles stand in your way of what you really want. I was an obstacle so you got rid of me. Too bad for you. I'm not so easily gotten rid of."
"That's not how it was," Dara said, flinching as her words were thrown back at her. "I never thought of you as obstacle. I wanted you--"
"You have a funny way of showing it!"
"Be quiet!" Dara said, more harshly than she intended.
Hope's brown eyes flickered with pain, but the emotion showed for only a brief moment. Then, it was gone. Dara almost apologized, but thought better of it. She doubted if Hope would have accepted it anyway.
Dara stood and began to pace the floor like she did at trial. The movement was subconscious. She wasn't even aware that she was doing it.
"I wanted my baby. I was told that she was stillborn. I didn't know..." Dara swallowed hard as tears lodged in her throat. "If I had known, nothing would have prevented me from being a mother."
"I almost believe you."
"Well, you should," Dara said, pausing to look at the teenager. "Where have you been? How did you find out about me?"
"You don't want to hear about me."
"Yes," Dara said, "I do."
Hope broke free of Dara's penetrating stare and looked down at the floor. Her voice was a quiet mumble, as she said, "A family adopted me. They were killed in a car crash when I was five. I've been in and out of foster homes ever since."
She raised her head to glare at Dara. "See, it looks like we have a lot in common. Despite those obstacles, I found you."
Dara nodded. "You certainly did. Where are you living now?"
"Getting rid me again?" Hope accused.
"No. It's getting late. You should call your foster parents to let them know you're okay."
Hope stood abruptly. "I don't think so. Daddy Phil has a taste for jailbait. I'm gonna pass on that."
The girl raced to the door before Dara could stop her. "I'll be seeing you, Mommy Dear."
The door slammed shut. Dara grabbed her house keys and stormed out after Hope. The girl was too fast for her. By the time Dara reached the sidewalk, Hope was long gone. Dara sighed and returned to her apartment.
The phone rang seconds after she closed the door. She checked the caller id and saw that Marcus was on the other end. The thought of him usually brought a smile to her face. Not, this time.
"Hi, Marcus," she said, her voice distant and weary.
"How's my bubblin' brown sugar?" he asked, using the nickname that was really a secret joke between them. "Dara? Weren't you happy about the party?"
"The party was great," she said. A headache suddenly gripped her. She rubbed her fingertips across her temple. "Are you at work or at home?"
"I'm on my way home."
"Could you stop by here?" she asked. "We need to talk."
There was silence on the other end, and then he said, "This sounds bad."
"It is," Dara said. Hope's face came to mind and the possibility of getting to know her daughter beamed like a beacon of good fortune. A faint smile came to Dara's mouth. "And it isn't. I'll explain everything when you get here."
"I'll be there in ten minutes."
After the loss of her mother, Carrie, to cancer, Dara's home became a very dismal place. It didn't help that her father, Robert, remarried less than a year later. Things went from bad to worse. His new wife, Cynthia, had been one of Carrie's best friends. Dara couldn't handle watching her father and Cynthia sweep her mother's memory under the rug. She began to spend less time at home and more time on the street, alone and mourning.
One day, she met a girl named Lois Cerullo who introduced her to a group of kids who hated their home life as much as she hated hers. Dara hung with them and found there were ways to forget the pain. One kid in particular took her under his wing and over time, they began to hang out alone.
Michael Corinthos wasn't like the other boys their age. He was quiet, pensive, and ambitious. He had goals and Dara was drawn to him.
They started out as friends. She confided how much she hated her home life and he told her about his. His stepfather was a complete asshole and had weakened his mother's resolve. Michael hated Deke and swore he'd never be anything like him. And if he had his way, one day he'd kill him.
"You shouldn't talk like that," Dara warned.
They sat in an abandoned building blocks away from their friends' hang out. This place was her and Michael's private spot. With a sofa they confiscated from the curb and a few strategically placed odds and ends, they'd turn the old musty room into a comforting home away from home.
Michael turned away from the window and stared at Dara with his penetrating dark eyes. "But I mean it. He's a sorry bastard. He's gotta pay for the hell he's put us through."
"Just call the police."
"You know I can't do that. He's one of them. They won't help us."
"If you called another precinct--"
"No," he said, lightly pressing his finger to her lips. "Let's talk about something else. You took the SATs today. How did it go?"
Her mouth tingled from where he touched her. She tried to ignore the surprising sensations and looked away from him. "It was okay. I won't get the score back for weeks. I still say you should take it."
Michael laughed. "The college life isn't the one for me. But don't you worry," he added when she opened her mouth to protest, "things will happen for me. Just you watch."
Dara didn't say anything. She slowly smiled as she glanced at him. The room was dark, but that didn't diminish how attractive he was. Jet black hair and those dimples... Dara's stomach clenched as he suddenly grinned and the dimples sunk deep into his cheeks. She felt hot with embarrassment and averted her gaze.
Michael lightly cupped her cheek and turned her head to face him again. "You're so pretty when you blush," he murmured. "But you're pretty anyway."
"You think so?" she asked, mesmerized by his husky voice and glassy-eyed stare.
"I do. Really."
Her vision blurred as his head moved closer. His lips touched hers in a surprisingly gentle kiss. All too soon, their kiss ended and they stared at each other in surprise. Unexpected desire had rendered them speechless.
Moonlight streamed through the curtains of the penthouse's master bedroom. Carly's sleeping body warmed Sonny's side. After a session of passionate lovemaking, she usually fell into a deep sleep. The same wasn't always true for Sonny.
Fifteen-year-old memories returned at the oddest times. He should have been asleep, but he couldn't shake his thoughts of the past. Back when he answered to the name of Michael, he was a different man. Young, a little naive, but determined. That hadn't changed. He was always determined.
And then, there was Dara. Groaning, he rolled onto his side, his back facing Carly. Dara happened when they were both in desperate need of comfort and love. He wouldn't trade anything for the time they had together and often wished that things had ended differently between them. Although now, they rarely spoke and communicated as strangers when they did, he'd always look back on their past with fondness. There was a lot of good in their relationship and the bad strengthened him.
"A penny for your thoughts." Carly's voice swept over him like a gentle caress. Her fingers were cold as they trailed the length of his arm and lightly grasped his hand.
Sonny rolled onto his back, draped his arm around her shoulders, and pulled her against him. "I can't be sure who's cheating who with that deal."
He felt her cheeks curve into a smile against his bare chest. "Tell me," she said, "and I'll be the judge."
Sonny shrugged. "Just thoughts of the past. Back when I was a kid and thought I knew everything."
"You mean there was a time when you didn't?"
He chuckled softly. "There was a time when I knew a little less than what I know now. I've always pretty much known everything. Well, everything that's important to me."
She flattened her hand on his chest and rested her chin on top. "You have any deep, dark secrets in your past?"
He tucked the thoughts of Dara and their dead child into the far recesses of his mind. An impenetrable door locked the memories away. He tilted his head down and met Carly's unwavering stare. "Nothing important."
She smiled. Leaning forward, her lips brushed his, and they made love again.