Part Seven

"So you're telling me you don't know anything?" Carly asked, returning Jason's steely-eyed stare. She planted her hands on her hips and tossed her head, sending strands of blonde hair flying. "You're full of shit! You and Sonny are thick as thieves. He tells you everything."

Jason refused to budge. "Not this."

He grabbed a ledger from Sonny's desk. As he did so, he glanced at his watch. This was the fifth time by Carly's count and the slight action grated on her nerves.

"Do you have somewhere to be? Someplace that Sonny doesn't want me to know about?" she asked.

Jason's mouth thinned into a firm, straight line. His lips barely moved as he said to her, "Can it, Carly! He said he'd tell you everything when he gets back! Get your answers from him, not me!" He strode to the front door and whipped it open. "When he gets back, tell him to call me." Then, he slammed the door shut.

The echo of the slamming door went on forever inside Carly's head. It sounded so final and increased her agitation. Maybe she went too far in pushing Jason. Maybe Sonny didn't tell him why speaking with Dara was so urgent. She supposed she could have asked Alexis.

Ugh.

Carly wouldn't give that vulture the time of day. Alexis thought she was slick, but Carly saw through her. The lady lawyer had it bad for Sonny and there was no way in hell, Carly'd let her know that Sonny kept things from her. That was leverage that snob wouldn't get from Carly.

While she waited for her husband's return, she called in to Deception. Laura said that Griffin returned with the girl. Laura thought she would make the perfect Face, but she wasn't sure. Lucky was taking test shots of her and Laura would have a messenger deliver them to the penthouse for Carly to review. Carly grumbled her thanks and ended the call.

After that, Leticia returned with a sleepy Michael. Carly kissed her little boy and the nanny took him upstairs for his nap. The front door opened again and the grandparent patrol burst in. Carly slumped onto the sofa. She wasn't in the mood to deal with Mike and Bobbie. Not right now. Not when she didn't know what was so important that Sonny would order her home and stay behind and talk to Dara Jensen. Of all people! Dara Jensen!

# # #

"Where are you from?"

Hope glared at the cute blonde behind the large camera. He was the other boss's son. A little older, but not too bad on the eyes. But damn, if he didn't ask a million questions.

"Are we playing twenty questions or are you taking my picture?" "Relax," he said with a faint chuckle. "Just making small talk. Most of these shots will contain that cute glare of yours. Why not smile for a few of them to break up the monotony."

"Ha ha." Her voice dripped of sarcasm, but when he grinned, she couldn't help but curve her mouth a little.

"That's it," he said. Light bulbs flashed repeatedly. He continued to coax her. "Let's give them a lot to choose from. Toss your head. Yeah, okay. That's great. Keep it coming, Hope. You're a natural at this."

Her cheeks became warm. She knew a ridiculous blush covered her face. Hope stared at Lucky, waiting for him to mock her. To her surprise, he didn't. He kept snapping shots like nobody's business. Instead of pretending to relax, she really began to.

"These will be great," he said as he set the camera down onto his worktable.

"Is that it?" Hope asked. "We're done?"

He nodded. "I was instructed to shoot a roll. I did. Now, all I have to do is develop it."

"How long will that take?" she asked, moving to join him at the table. "Can I watch?"

"I don't mind," he said. "I'd better clear it with the boss lady first. Hold on."

He grabbed the telephone and made a quick call. Hope's chest constricted when he said, 'Mom' and smiled. Hearing the effortless camaraderie of mother and son made her heart hurt. She hadn't experienced anything like it since her adoptive mother died ten years ago. Witnessing it again so close and personal was too much to bear.

With Lucky still chatting with Laura, Hope backed out of the room and escaped the confining walls of Deception.

# # #

Sonny's mind still spun with the knowledge that his daughter was alive and out there somewhere. He walked as if in a trance from the elevator to his penthouse, wondering if she had paid him a visit the same as she'd done Dara. God, this was crazy, he thought. Why would anyone want to rob him and Dara of their child?

Johnny met him at the doorway. "Jason's at his place. He wanted me to tell you."

"Thanks, Johnny."

The bodyguard moved to open the door. Sonny shook his head, and Johnny dropped his hand from the doorknob. Carly and her questions waited on the other side. Telling her everything would take awhile. He knew Carly wouldn't understand and making her understand wouldn't be easy. In the meantime, he wanted his men out on the street, looking for his daughter.

"I'll be right back," Sonny told Johnny. Then, he turned and headed to Jason's penthouse.

His second in command opened the door on the second knock. "Sonny."

"Jason." Sonny stepped inside. "I have something that's top priority."

Jason frowned. "What is it?"

Sonny reached inside his breast pocket and pulled out the folded sketch of Hope. He handed the drawing to Jason without looking at it. He'd already memorized her face. It was the same he'd always imagined for her.

"Who's this?" Jason asked. He stared at the paper. A faint blush crept across his cheeks and then he looked at Sonny. "She's your daughter. Yours and the ADA."

Sonny nodded. "She looks like us, doesn't she?"

Jason nodded. "The resemblance is unmistakable. What do you need me to do?"

"Find her and bring her back here."

"Me personally?" Jason asked. "Is assistance allowed?"

"I'm not hiding her, Jason," Sonny said. "She's my daughter. I don't care who knows it just as long as she's protected."

Jason's brow knitted into a frown. "Sorel knows."

Sonny hadn't thought of that. But of course, that made sense. That's why the bastard put a guy on Dara and on him. Alarm bells sounded inside his head. "Find her fast, Jason!"

# # #

"So, tell me about this cat, Sorel."

Keesha accepted the cup of coffee Frank handed to her. Alex informed them that their new caseload would center around the growing feud between Joseph Sorel and Sonny Corinthos. He gave them all the information he had and left them to review it. He'd return after his meeting with the mayor.

"It's all there," Keesha said, pointing to the folders Alex left. "He has one end of the docks and Corinthos has the other."

"I plan to read it," he said, waving at the folders in a dismissive gesture. "I'd like to get your impression. You live here. This is your turf. What do you know about them? What's their angle?"

She leaned back against the hard wooden chair and thought about Frank's question. Having worked with exclusively with Marcus since Alex's promotion to Commissioner, her opinion of the two gangsters had begun to meld with Taggert's. She knew that he and Sonny had issues, personal issues. But she also knew that Marcus was a good cop. Personal issues aside, he abhorred Sonny's profession more than he disliked the man. Ugh, she groaned. Why did Frank have to start off with the deep stuff so fast?

"Is the question that hard to answer?" he asked, staring at her.

Keesha shook her head. "No, it's just complicated." She sat up straight and rested her elbows on the edge of the conference table. "Sorel is in the arms trade. Corinthos is into money: casinos, loan sharking."

"Hmm...muscle versus money. Both are deadly," Frank said. "How close is the department to nailing them?"

"Not nearly as close as we'd like to be," she replied. "Remember those screaming banshees? The brunette is Alexis Davis, Corinthos' attorney. She knows how to twist the law to suit her client. The other screaming banshee is Corinthos' wife. My gut tells me that when we nail Corinthos, it will be because of something Carly has done. She has a habit of acting first and thinking later."

# # #

Sonny went back to his penthouse. Realizing that Sorel knew about his daughter set him on edge. He'd tell Carly about her, but he didn't have time to coddle her. If she blew off the handle--he was praying she wouldn't--he wouldn't have time to calm her down.

"You just missed the tag team duo," she said, rising from the sofa. "Mike and Bobbie just left. I told them the charges were dropped. They wanted particulars, but I didn't have any to give them. They were surprised that as your wife, I was so ignorant of the facts."

"That's about to end," he said. "Where's Michael?"

"He's napping upstairs. Leticia is with him," she answered. "What does this have to do with Michael? Don't change the subject, Sonny. What did you talk to Dara Jensen about and why couldn't I stick around to hear it? Dammit, I'm your wife! I resent being ordered to go home like a child! Michael is the only child in this family. Not me!"

"That's where you're wrong," he said quietly. "There's another child." Her mouth opened to speak, but Sonny's eyes narrowed. She closed her mouth and he continued, "I have a daughter. She's fifteen years old. Her name is Hope."

"WHAT?" Carly's face turned beet red as she sputtered with anger. "You have a kid and you never told me? What else haven't you told me? This is bullshit, Sonny. How dare you keep something like this from me!"

"I thought she was dead!" His curt voice lashed at her. "We were told she was stillborn. That's why I never told you. I buried her in my heart a long time ago and opening that up again wasn't something I was prepared to do."

"How can you say that?" Carly asked. "Didn't you think I'd understand? No matter what other people think, you of all people should know that I'm not a cold-hearted bitch. I love you, Sonny. Keeping this from me makes me wonder if you ever loved me."

"It always comes back to you," he said, his temper flaring. "I'm telling you that the daughter I've believed was dead isn't and you're wondering if I ever loved you. Right now, I'm wondering why I do."

He turned away. He heard Carly's footsteps brush across the floor as she went to him. Her hand touched his arm and he shrugged it off. "Don't, Carly. There's more. You haven't asked me who Hope's mother is. Are you too busy thinking about yourself to care?"

"That's cold," she said. She paused for a moment. "You were a kid then. Unless Lois is the mother, I doubt if I'd know the woman anyway."

"Wrong," he said, turning to face her. In order to know if Carly could be a part of his daughter's life when he found Hope (and he would find her), he had to see her reaction when he said the ADA's name. "Hope's mother is Dara Jensen."

"But she's bl--" Carly stopped speaking as Sonny inhaled sharply. "That's not what I meant!"

"It's what you said," he said quietly. "The first thing to come to your mind was Dara's skin tone. I don't want to think how you'd react to my daughter."

"Sonny, please!" She raced after him as he headed for the staircase. "It's not what you think! I was just surprised! You gotta admit that came from left field! You and Dara Jensen? I mean, she's the ADA for Pete's sake!"

He whipped around to face her. He moved so suddenly that she almost lost her balance. His hand shot out to steady her and then he quickly released her. "But that wasn't the first thing that came to your mind. That she's the ADA and I am who I am. Was it?!"

"No!" She backed up. "It wasn't, okay? That doesn't mean I'm a bigot! It just shocked me and I spoke without thinking."

"Well, you'd better start thinking first," Sonny warned. "Hope will be a part of my life. I won't allow you to make her feel unwelcome."

"What are you saying?" Carly asked. "What are you telling me? Where is she? Is that why Taggert arrested you? Because of Dara? You're up in my face telling me how I'm supposed to react and you're not giving me anything to work with! Stop lying to me and tell me the truth, dammit!"

Sonny glanced at his watch. This was taking too long. He knew it would. Inhaling a deep breath to somehow curb his anger, he said in a deadly quiet voice, "The truth is Dara and I were led to believe Hope died at birth. The truth is our daughter has been in and out of foster homes for the last ten years believing that her parents didn't want her. The truth is she's out there on the streets somewhere all alone. The truth is Joseph Sorel knows all about her.

"And the truth is I've wasted enough time talking about this! I'm going upstairs to kiss my son and then I'm leaving to look for my daughter! While I'm gone, I suggest you deal with what I've told you and decide if you can handle being a stepmother to Dara Jensen's daughter!"

# # #

Marcus pulled into his uncle's drive and just sat in the car, staring at the large frame house and its endless porch and matching swing. He leaned back and just sat there, thinking about the home he and Dara had wanted to build. And the children they'd wanted to fill the rooms. He was saddened to think that it might not happen.

The screen door flapped open. Bryan Phillips, acclaimed author and intentional recluse, stepped onto his porch, rifle in hand and glared down at his nephew. "You almost got shot! Don't sit in your car all day. Come in!"

Marcus grabbed his packed duffel bag and climbed out of his car. He followed his uncle inside the house and dropped the bag in the foyer. "Do you always shoot at guests?"

"Only the uninvited ones," Bryan countered. "I saw the news. Arresting Sonny Corinthos for rape. Did he do it?"

Marcus followed Bryan into the den and fell onto the leather recliner. "Let's not talk about that."

Bryan shrugged. He reached inside the fridge and pulled out two beers. He handed one to Marcus. "Since you're here with suitcase in hand, I'm guessing you're not on the clock right now."

"Never could get anything past you."

Bryan took a swig of beer before he continued. "So, what's up? Talk to me. You shouldn't have spare time on your hands with a wedding only days away. Unless... Did Dara dump you?"

Marcus winced. His uncle was blunt. Too damn blunt. That was the one quality that took Marcus some getting used to after his mother sent him to live with Bryan after Deke Woods' murder shook him up pretty bad. That summer, he thought he'd never be the same again, but Bryan helped him defeat the blues and encouraged him when he decided to join the Police Academy.

"She hasn't dumped me...yet." Marcus twirled the cold bottle in his hands. The mindless movement gave him something to do while he summoned the courage to tell his uncle how stupidly he'd behaved.

Once he was done, he leaned back and waited for Bryan to speak his words of wisdom. Bryan, as usual, didn't disappoint.

"That was a dumb move," Bryan said without the sugar coating. "Arresting the man for raping her. Damn. You get that from your daddy's side. The Phillips are crazy, but we're not nuts."

"Okay, okay," Marcus grumbled. "I know it was dumb, but what do I do now?"

"Let's see, you've got two major crisis to deal with: unemployment and a pissed off fiancée. Which do you want to tackle first?"

"Dara," Marcus said. "I wanna make things right with Dara. I love her and I don't want to lose her."

Bryan shook his head and laughed softly. "I should have known you'd go for the hard one first." He gently patted his nephew's shoulder. "You'll have your work cut out for you. You hate Sonny. He's the father of Dara's child. Before you go after Dara with your apologies, roses and chocolate, you need to decide if you can live with knowing that Dara and Sonny were tight. And that they have a child. You can't half ass this, Marcus. An innocent kid is involved. She's not a part of your vendetta against Sonny Corinthos."

# # #

Dara met up with Lois at the shelter on Oak Street. A girl fitting Hope's description had been there earlier. One of the volunteers remembered her and told the women she'd give them a call if she saw the girl again.

"It's getting late," Dara said. "Where can she be? Port Charles isn't that big."

"No," Lois said, loping her arm around Dara's, "it isn't, but there are plenty of hiding places. Kids are smart and can find them."

"I'm getting worried," Dara said pointedly. "Michael...I mean Sonny said that Sorel has been watching me. That guy walking a few spaces behind us is one of Sonny's guards. What if Sorel has Hope?"

Lois shook her head. "You can't think like that. Besides, if he had her, he'd want you or Sonny to know. You haven't heard from that creep, so no news is good news."

A car screeched to a halt beside them. Sonny jumped from the passenger seat of the vehicle. He opened the back door. "Get in."

The women climbed into the car. Sonny joined them in the back. Dara's guard took Sonny's seat in the front.

"What's going on?" Dara asked. "Have you found her?"

"No, but we're getting close," Sonny said. "Leticia remembered seeing Hope in front of my building today. Hope followed Leticia and Michael to the park and hung around for awhile."

"She came to see you," Dara said softly.

"Yeah!" Sonny's dark eyes danced with excitement. "We're close, Dara. If she came once, she'll come again."

"So, where are you taking us?" Lois asked.

Sonny's dimples flashed as he said, "Back to my penthouse to wait."

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