Part Six

(Disclaimer: The following contains sexual situations of a semi-graphic nature. Do not proceed unless you are of an age to do so.)

Flashback

"Where are we going?" Dara asked, laughing as she clutched Michael's hand. He pulled her off the train and raced up the stairs to the busy midtown sidewalk. "Michael!"

"Just trust me," he said, not even breathless from his exertion.

Excitement and anticipation pumped inside him. Since he started working for Joe Scully, doing a little this and that, he'd been stashing some cash away. He gave most of it to his mother. She didn't want to take it because of the asshole, but she would. If only to be polite and not hurt his feelings. Michael didn't really care what her reasons were. He just hoped she saved it so that when she was finally tired of being beaten to a pulp, she'd have the cash to split without having to look back.

He glanced at Dara. The happiness that glowed around her was breathtaking. Racing through the streets of Manhattan was a little silly. He could have borrowed some wheels from Joe or one of his boys, but he decided not to. Dara would probably start in on the questions again and he didn't want to answer them. She'd given him enough of a hassle when she found out he wasn't living at home anymore. Her concern was sweet and was one of the few things that made him smile. That and hearing her sing. One day, when he had it made, he planned to open up a nice little club just so Dara could sing. It would be theirs. Their paradise on earth.

"We're almost there," he said as they neared Times Square. "Just a couple of more blocks now. Do you think you can make it?"

She laughed. "I don't have a choice! I'm dying to see what my surprise is."

The hotel came into view. Michael abruptly moved in front of her. "Close your eyes!"

She did and her fingers tightened around his. Carefully, he guided her down the sidewalk and to the entrance to La Chateau Grande. The doorman gave them a quizzical glance. Michael handed the man a wad of cash and the doorman's curiosity switched to elegant servitude.

Michael had checked in earlier that day so there was no need to stop for a key. He already had it.

Leading her through the lobby, he headed straight to the elevators. Luckily for him, they had a car all to themselves. Michael hated enclosed spaces but this wasn't so bad, not with Dara's hand holding his. The elevator moved at top speed and soon, the doors opened on the 32nd floor. They stepped out and he steered her toward their suite.

"Can I open my eyes now?" she asked.

"Not yet." He reached inside his pocket for the key. He opened the door and pushed it open. Then, he said, "Okay. You can open them." A soft gasp escaped her. "Michael, what is this?"

"It's our suite," he said, giving her a dimpled smile. "Go ahead. Walk in."

She gave him a look that was filled with uncertainty, so he gave her a little nudge. Moving slowly, she crossed the threshold. Her eyes were round and huge as she stared at the room. A roaring fireplace stood off to their left, a huge four-poster king-sized bed was on their right, and in the middle was a plush, ivory sofa that curved toward the fireplace. Nearby, a bottle of champagne chilled and two flute glasses rested beside it.

"This is...how did you..." She stammered until she found the right words. "Michael, what is all this?"

"It's a celebration," he said. He closed the door and went to her. His hands gently held her face.

"For what?" she asked, uncertain.

He hunched his shoulders. "For us."

"But I don't understand," she said. "How can you afford all this?"

Michael sighed. He had expected this. "You know I work full time and I save. I've been saving to surprise you. I wanted to do something to show you how special you are to me."

"You didn't have to break the bank for me," she said, blushing. "I know that you care about me."

"Yeah, but this shows you how much." His arms encircled her, one hand at the small of her back. "Let's not talk anymore. Let's just enjoy this night together. Nothing else matters but the people inside this room."

"Just the two of us," she agreed in a husky whisper.

Tenderly, he brushed his lips across hers. Then, he pulled away for just a moment to make everything perfect. He dimmed the lighting and turned on the stereo. The voices of Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack filled the room. Michael turned away to pour the bubbling champagne into glasses for them.

Dara came up behind him, her arms locking around his waist. The mere touch of her breasts against his back sent him aflame. She sang softly with the song and her voice vibrated through him. He forgot how to pour. He forgot how to think. All he could do was feel.

"I wanna do what the song says, Michael," she whispered. "I wanna celebrate us. I'm ready for us to make love...if you are. Are you?"

He shifted in her arms until he faced her. His fingers brushed dark brown tendrils from her cheeks. He didn't reserve the room to pressure her into sex. The ratty old building just wasn't good enough for her and what they shared. He just wanted her to know she was special. He wasn't expecting anything in return.

"I want to..." he said slowly, "but I don't want you to think you have to."

Smiling, she put her arms around his neck. "I don't think that."

That was all the convincing Michael needed. His mouth closed over hers in a kiss that was slow and deliberate. His tongue traced the soft fullness of her lips before exploring the sweetness of her mouth. Dara trembled in his arms and released a low moan. Michael crushed her to him and seconds later, they were on the bed.

Taking their time, they undressed each other. Kisses and caresses slowed them down. Michael cherished each moment, reveling in her openness and desire for him. He'd heard Joe and the guys laughing about sex. But this moment with Dara wasn't a laughing matter. This was serious and special. So very special.

Finally, they both lay nude on the bed. Dara's dark brown tresses fanned across the ivory pillowcase. Michael brushed his knuckles down her cheek and across her full lips. Her mouth parted and she kissed his hand.

"You know...I've never done this before," she whispered.

He'd be her first. Michael swallowed hard. She'd be his.

"I'll be gentle," he said with a teasing smile. She returned the gesture and then his mouth covered his again.

Her lips were warm and sweet beneath his. Shivers coursed through him from head to toe as the kiss ended and she began a thorough exploration of his body. Gently, she pressed her palm against his shoulder and pressed him onto his back. She rolled onto her side and covered his chest with kisses. Her tongue licked his hard, tiny nipples. Michael yelped as her teeth nibbled his sensitive flesh. His hands squeezed her upper arms.

"Maybe you should be gentle with me, too," he teasingly suggested.

"I'm trying," she murmured.

Her mouth trailed the thin line of hair that ran down the center of his chest. He released a tormented groan as her breath caressed his thick, aroused flesh. Her hand closed around him. Her fingers squeezed and relaxed. When her mouth pressed against his inner thigh, Michael feared he'd meet his release too soon.

"Dara," he moaned.

He decided he couldn't take any more of her sweet torture. He lifted her on top of him. Her thighs parted. His hands slid up and down her smooth, perspiration-slick back. Their lips locked. She overpowered him with the thrusting of her demanding tongue. Michael couldn't take much more. His fingers dug into her hips and positioned her over his pulsing erection.

Sliding in a little at a time, he discovered that her body was warm, wet and ready for him. He held his breath as his thick shaft impaled her. She tensed and he pulled out completely. Her fingers closed around him and guided him back inside again. With tiny thrusts that made them both shudder, they became one.

End of Flashback

# # #

Their eyes met across the crowded squad room. In one second, the memory of their first time hit Dara like a ton of bricks. Staring into his dark eyes, she was reminded of how young and innocent they used to be. And just how much they cared about each other. She stepped toward him, ignoring the people around him, and said without hesitation, "We need to talk."

"You don't have anything to talk about," Carly said. "The charges have been dropped! He's leaving now! If you want to talk to him, here's Alexis. Talk to her!"

"Carly, please," Sonny said, bringing an end to her tirade. Without breaking eye contact with Dara, he spoke to Jason, "Take them home."

"How will you get back?" Jason asked. "Who will protect you?"

"I'll be alright," Sonny said. "Get them out of here."

"Sonny!" Carly refused to budge. "I'm not going anywhere. I demand to know what's going on right now!"

"Carly, go home," he said with more force. "I'll tell you everything, but not now."

Dara felt the younger woman's eyes glare at her. But that didn't matter to Dara right now. She needed to talk to Sonny and it had to be done now.

Finally, Jason was able to drag the two women away. Alex stepped forward and said, "You can use my office. Take as long as you need."

He lightly squeezed Dara's shoulder before he left them alone.

"Let's use his office," Dara said.

Sonny nodded. "After you."

# # #

Keesha's eyes met Jason's for a brief moment as he escorted Carly and Alexis from the station. There was something different in how he looked at her. Something stronger and bordering on possessive. Frowning, Keesha looked away. She and Jason didn't socialize outside of the Starlight Inn. Seeing him on her territory in her squad room made her feel weird and unsettled.

"The Neo-Nazi and his two screaming banshees," the handsome young man at her side declared. "This station has more action than the one I just left in Llanview."

Keesha shrugged. "Port Charles isn't a quaint little town no matter what the brochures say. By the way, that guy isn't a Neo-Nazi. Don't let the buzz cut fool you."

"And the women?" he prompted. "Was my assessment right there?"

She smiled. "I find no fault with her observation skills in that area."

Further conversation was interrupted as Alex joined them. "Good. You've met."

"Not really, Commissioner," Keesha said. "We were just talking. I know he's the transfer from Llanview, but not much else."

"Then, allow me," Alex said. "Keesha, meet Detective Frank Hubbard. He'll be your new partner."

"Originally, I'm a Pine Valley native, but that's old news." Frank's dark brown eyes lit up with pleasure. A broad smile spread across his handsome face. His hand, warm and smooth, closed around Keesha's and shook. He held it for a second too long before reluctantly releasing it. "I wasn't expecting good news on the first day here. Thank you, Commissioner."

"What happened to my other partner?" Keesha asked, after tearing her gaze away from Frank's affable grin. "What's going on with Marcus?"

"He's been suspended," Alex answered. "I've reserved a conference room so that we can discuss your new case assignments. Follow me."

Keesha paused and waited for Frank to move into place. He hung back. His six-foot frame towered over Keesha. Massive shoulders filled the coat he wore, and he stood as if he was fully aware of his stunning good looks. As he smiled again, a dimple flashed at his cheek. Upon Keesha's hard stare, his nut-brown skin seemed to transform to a faint, dusty rose.

"I see that look in your eyes, Detective," she said. "We're partners on the job. Not anywhere else."

His blush faded and his grin broadened. "Of course, Detective. Wouldn't think differently."

Yeah, right, Keesha thought. She didn't believe that for a second, but he'd learn. And it would probably have to be the hard way.

# # #

Sonny folded his arms across his chest and watched Dara as she paced the floor in front of him. It was an old habit of hers. One she used when her mind was working so fast that her body had to move just to keep up with it. Back in the old days, he teased her about it. Looking at her, more memories from the old days kept seeping in. He swallowed hard and focused on the present. He worked hard to forget the past...losing her...losing their child. He wouldn't be sucked in again.

"Taggert arrested me because he found out about us," he commented quietly. "He accused me of raping you. Is that what you told him? That I forced myself on you?"

Her footsteps faltered. Her back faced him and it stiffened in response. "I didn't tell Marcus you raped me." She slowly turned around to face him. "He came to that conclusion on his own. I guess. I don't know. I haven't spoken to him since early this morning. Lois saw what happened on the news. We put two and two together and I came here. I'm sorry."

Sonny shook his head. "Don't apologize for him."

She stepped closer. Sonny read things in her eyes that confused him. Answers and questions jumbled together. The past became entwined with the present. He inhaled a deep breath and looked away. "Why did you tell him? For years, I've been waiting for him to show up on my doorstep, intent on fighting for your honor. When it didn't happen, I assumed you buried what happened between us. With your wedding only days away, why tell him now, Dara? Guilty conscience?"

"Guilty? Because of what happened between two kids half a lifetime ago?" Dara sighed. "I don't feel guilty about that. I told him because--"

"No," he said, resting his gaze on her again. "Don't tell me. What happens between you and him is none of my business."

"Hope is alive."

"I told you. I don't want to--" Sonny stopped mid sentence and moved to stand just in front of her. Without realizing it, his hands closed around her upper arms. "What did you say?"

"You heard me," she said quietly. "Our daughter wasn't stillborn. She's alive."

# # #

Hope watched Michael and his nanny play for as long as she dared. He was such a beautiful little boy, so happy and loving. Tearing herself away from him was hard, but she had to. His bodyguards kept giving her dirty looks.

She had half a mind to go down to the police station. To see if she could get a glimpse of her big bad daddy there. Or maybe it would be better if she called. She dug inside her pocket for change and pulled out two pennies. Not enough for anything let alone a phone call. She shoved the change back inside her pocket and shuffled down the street.

That big breakfast she had at the Oak Street homeless shelter rested inside her stomach and made her sleepy. The abandoned railroad car was on the other side of town. She didn't feel up to walking that far and end up missing the big man's return. Besides, sleeping in broad daylight could be scary. All sorts of creeps lurked the street. She shuddered. Just thinking about half the sleazeballs that she'd been lucky to avoid made her skin crawl. She needed to lay low for awhile and come up with a new plan.

"There you are!"

Hope stopped. The creep from before stood in front of her, grinning from ear to ear like the cat who ate the canary. Oh, hell no! She spun on her heel.

"No, wait!" He fell into step beside her. "Look, I know you think I'm a weirdo, but I'm not. I have a real job with one of the biggest cosmetic firms on the East Coast!"

"Yeah, I bet you do," she grumbled. "What's it call? Teen-Porn-R-Us?"

He laughed. "You have a sense of humor. You'll need that in this business."

"Listen you!" she said, stopping to face him and jabbing her finger into his chest. "If you don't leave me alone, I'm gonna scream and I won't stop until the cops throw your creepy ass behind bars!"

"Whoa!" The man held up his hands and took in a deep breath. "The attitude will take you far, too. I'm serious, Dimples. I'm legit. I have a business card and can prove it."

"Prove it."

He dug into the inside pocket of his jacket. He pulled out a card and handed it to her. "I'm Griffin Stewart. See, my name's right there. I pull double duty as the Executive Assistant of the head honchos at Deception. Right now, they're looking for a Face to sell their new line of Fresh Face cosmetics. I'm not kidding around when I say you could be that Face."

Hope stared at the card. She'd heard of Deception. Even wore their lip-gloss a few times. Pretty good stuff and was nicely priced, too. She read the info. Laura Webber and Carly Corinthos were the head honchos. Hope's heart skipped a beat. This Carly chick was married to her father. Hope smiled. This could be her way in.

She shoved the card into the pocket with her pennies. She looked at Griffin and shrugged. "I'll check it out."

# # #

Sonny released Dara so quickly that she stumbled. He turned his back and Dara stared at it, wondering what he was thinking. If he cared. Why it mattered to her if he did or didn't? She shook her head at that thought. Of course, it didn't matter. r Silence echoed in the room. Sonny's lack of response agitated her. She should have known he'd react this way.

"Look," she said, her voice cold and biting, "I just told you because I thought you'd like to know. I don't expect anything from you."

"You never did," he said, whipping around to face her. "Or when you did expect something, it was always the worse."

She didn't need him throwing their past back into her face. She made mistakes. They both did. Besides, that wasn't important right now. Hope was.

"This isn't about you," she said.

"You're right. Tell me about my d-daughter," he said, his voice demanding and husky with emotion. "Where is she? I want to see her. You can't keep me from her, Dara."

"I wouldn't try to." She took a moment to control her emotions. Not knowing where her daughter was hurt. Ignorance wasn't bliss. It was terrifying. "I don't know where she is. She came to me last night and then ran away. Lois is helping me look for her."

"Wait a minute," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. His voice grew edgier and harder with each word he spoke. "She came to you last night? Why are just telling me about this? Tell the truth, Dara. Have you always known she was alive?"

"Fuck you, Michael!" Her breath came in spurts. "You saw how messed up I was after I gave birth to her and thought she was dead! You know what that did to me and you're standing here asking me if all that was a lie? You can go straight to hell!"

She stormed to the door. Sonny caught her wrist and spun her around. Tears blurred her vision. All she could see was the outline of his head. His hands cupped her face. She tried to break free of him, but he wouldn't let her. Sobs shook her. Suddenly, she was in his arms and crying on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he murmured. "I didn't mean it."

Dara sniffled and backed out of his arms. "Fighting is useless and wasted energy. I just want to find her and make it up to her. She thinks I gave her away, abandoned her for my career. I have to make things right. Hope has to know how much I love her."

"How much we both did," he added, "and do. I have to tell Carly. Then, I'm putting my men on the street. We'll find her before nightfall. We have to."

He handed her a folded kerchief from his pocket. She took it and dabbed at her eyes. While she dried her cheeks, he said, "I'm assigning one of my guards to protect you."

She shook her head. "No, I don't want that."

"It's too late," Sonny said. "Sorel had one of his men watching your place last night. We caught another of his men at the penthouse. I don't know what it means, but I don't like it."

"I'll tell Alex. He'll give me a police officer."

"I'd rather you didn't," he said. "I can't trust the safety of the mother of my child to just anyone. Let my men guard you. I guarantee you'll be safe."

She bit her lip. She wanted to refuse his offer, but knew it would be futile. He wouldn't listen. Not when he had that relentless gleam in his eyes. She opened her purse and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. She opened it and handed it to him.

"What's this?" he asked, his eyes devouring the page as if a part of him already knew her answer.

"It's a drawing of Hope," Dara said. "V drew it for me. Lois and I are using it in our search. I thought you'd like to see our baby girl."

His eyes became glassy. Dara watched him blink the tears away, but that didn't help. Two rolled down his cheeks anyway.

"She's beautiful," he said quietly. "Your eyes, my dimples...we created a beautiful child." His hand shook as he folded the sheet and put it in the breast pocket of his shirt. When he looked at Dara, he said, "We'll find her. I promise."

[Author's Note: Frank aka Frankie Hubbard is the son of Dr. Angie and Jessie Hubbard from All My Children, and to my knowledge this character has never appeared on One Life to Live.]

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