Part Eight

"This is great, Lucky," Laura said, as she perused the black and white shots of Hope. "I never expected them to turn out this well. Unbelievable!"

"It's great," he said, his expression ho hum. He sat on the edge of her desk and faced her. "Too bad I let her get away."

She patted his hand. "Don't worry about it. Griffin found her once. We'll find her again. What did she put on the application?"

"What application?" he asked, staring at his mother. "According to Carmen, she didn't complete an application."

"Well, it's still not a problem. Where did Griffin find her?"

Lucky groaned and stood. "He found her on the street! Come on, Mom. Admit it. I blew it."

"You didn't blow anything. You've been down in the dumps since Elizabeth left." He moved away when she said that, turning his back to her. Laura sighed. "Sweetie, I know that break-ups are hard, but it's time to stop blaming yourself. Elizabeth wanted marriage. You didn't. It's better that you didn't do something you weren't ready for."

"This isn't about Elizabeth." Lucky had made his peace with that a long time ago. Something else was bothering him. Restlessness.

And there was something about Hope. She was edgy, wary and vulnerable. He read all the signs in her eyes and they reminded him of himself and the kid he used to be. She needed help and she was too proud to admit it. He was worried about her, scared that she'd run away from Deception and straight into trouble. And worse of all, he could have helped her.

"Whatever you say," Laura replied.

Lucky glanced at her. She was just humoring him. He decided not to correct her. She'd only try to make that better, too.

"If you haven't called the messenger yet, I can take these over to Carly," Lucky offered.

"Thanks, hon." Laura slid the black & white contact sheet inside an envelope and handed it to Lucky. "Tell her Hope's my number one choice."

"Will do." Lucky saluted and then, he left.

# # #

"What's our next move?" Luigi asked, watching Sorel as the man sat quiet and pensive at his desk. "Corinthos' got the ADA holed up at his place."

"You said his wife is there, too?" A wicked light gleamed in Sorel's eyes. "We may not have to do anything. That Carly is a wildcat and she won't be especially friendly to Corinthos' former lover or to him for bringing the woman into her home. We could just sit back and let nature take its course."

Luigi grinned. "Hell hath no fury and all that."

"Exactly." A moment passed and all humor left Sorel's face. Quick as lightning, he was deadly cold and all business. "But that's unpredictable. Corinthos has a way with women. We can't put our money on his wife doing the natural thing. No word on the kid, huh? On Hope?"

Luigi shook his head. "Our men are still looking. I could put more out on the street."

Sorel nodded. "Do that. Put as many as we can spare, and keep someone at HarborView Towers. But this time, put somebody good. The next guy gets his ass kicked liked that will wish Corinthos' guys had killed him."

Luigi made a mental note and headed for the door. Once he was there, he paused. "When we get the girl, want us to let Corinthos and Jensen know?"

Sorel shook his head. "Nah. Bring her here to me."

# # #

Sunlight was fading. Keesha glanced at her watch and looked back toward the wharf. She and Frank had spent most of the day in-house, discussing OC, organized crime, and how deeply it infested Port Charles. As the time for them to part ways for the day came near, Frank asked if she'd show him the territory. He just wanted to see it and get a feel for his new domain. She shrugged. If they were discreet about it, things should be fine. But they'd better vest up just in case.

Now, she leaned against her car and waited for Frank to return. She could see him clearly and knew that he wasn't in any danger. He was just looking.

His large frame moved gracefully along the dock and even from the distance that separated them, Keesha felt the pent up energy coursing through him. It reminded her of Marcus, but in a different way. Frank's energy wasn't as single-sighted as Marcus'. Frank seemed to burn with an inner light and seemed to soak up everything around him. He wasn't shy either. In the short time, they'd spent together she already knew that his father was a cop and had died in the line of duty when Frank was a kid. His mother was a doctor and so was his stepfather. But neither seemed disappointed when he chose his father's path. They encouraged him and Keesha recognized that his upbringing was his true guiding force. Just like hers had been and still was.

The air shifted. A breeze blew from across the water and Keesha shivered. Seconds later, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Her breath quickened and she knew without turning around who stood behind her.

"What are you doing here?" Jason asked without wasting breath on an insignificant greeting.

He didn't waste time with trivialities. At first, that bugged the hell out of Keesha. Now, she grudgingly admitted that she liked it.

"I don't have to explain my actions to you," she replied without turning around.

"You shouldn't be out here." He paused, inhaled a sharp breath and added, "It's dangerous. You could get hurt."

Her eyebrow arched and she looked over her shoulder at him. "Is that some kind of veiled threat?"

His cheeks reddened. His hand reached out, hovered in the air between them, and closed around her forearm. He brought her closer to him and dropped his hand. "You know it isn't. Sorel's men... I don't want you to get hurt."

Keesha stared at Jason. This outburst surprised the hell out of her. This was the longest conversation they'd had in quite awhile where heavy breathing wasn't involved. There was definitely something going on with Jason. She noticed it at the station when their eyes connected and she felt it again now. Strong and forceful between them. His eyes darkened the longer she stared and then it hit her.

Emotion.

Emotions swirled around Jason and filled the space between them. She stepped back and looked away toward Frank. Hoping he hadn't seen them. Hating herself for the lie she would have to tell him if he had.

"Keesha..."

"No," she said. "We'll leave--"

"We?" Jason repeated, his voice edged with steel. "Who's with you?"

She took in a deep breath. That was wrong she quickly decided. His sweet spicy scent filled her senses. It made her body burn for him. Becoming lovers was such a stupid thing to do. She thought they could handle it. That it was just sex. She wasn't so sure about that anymore.

She moved further away from him, using her back as a buffer. "He's my new partner."

"The guy at the station," Jason grumbled. "The one who couldn't take his eyes off of you."

"Don't, Jason." She didn't want to hear the jealousy in his voice. She didn't want to analyze what it meant. Dammit! Coming to the dock had been a huge mistake, too.

"Tonight..."

She shook her head. "I can't make it."

"Neither can I," he said, "but tomorrow. Tomorrow be there."

She glanced over her shoulder. It was too late. He was already gone. What would he do if she didn't show up? Would she have the strength not to? Another breeze blew. She pulled her coat tight around her.

You should have known better.

Granny Mae's voice drifted to her. Keesha nodded. Her Granny Mae was always right.

# # #

Flashback

Pouring rain beat down upon their shoulders. Both men had neglected to bring an umbrella. Marcus rarely carried one and Alex was too shaken up to think of one. Marcus pulled his raincoat closer around him. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at the tombstone at their feet.

Here lies Lily Rivera Corinthos the marker said. It listed her dates of birth and death. The words at the bottom were loving, but felt empty to Marcus. He glanced at his partner. All color had drained from Alex's face. His despair at Lily's loss was so strong and wrapped around him, maybe even protecting him from the cold rain.

Alex knelt at the soft mound of dirt that covered her casket. Oblivious to the mud, he sunk his knees in deep and quietly began to speak to her in Spanish.

Marcus could speak the language, but he chose not to listen. This was a private moment between Alex and the woman he loved and could never have. Marcus accompanied his friend for emotional support and he gave it willingly, silently.

As Alex continued to whisper to Lily, Marcus stepped back. He looked across the endless slabs of granite and shuddered. He hated cemeteries. He hated the sense of loss he felt, but more than that he hated the memories that came to him.

He and his mother buried his father when he was ten. A few years after that, he saw his surrogate father buried, too.

Marcus squeezed his eyes shut. He didn't like to look back on those times. He was younger then and dealing with death wasn't easy. Hell. When was it ever easy?

"Vaya con Dios, mi bonita Lily." Alex stood and turned to Marcus. His eyes were bloodshot with tears. "I'm ready now."

"Okay."

The two men strode across the graveyard to their parked car. Alex took the passenger seat while Marcus claimed the driver side. Just as Marcus started the engine, a long, black limo pulled up. Both men stiffened. A large, hulking man climbed out of the car carrying an umbrella and moved to open the back door. He held the umbrella high and his passenger, Sonny Corinthos, stepped out. Alex's hand shot out to grab the door handle.

Marcus grabbed Alex's left upper arm. "Don't, man. Just leave him be."

"He did this to her," Alex said, rage and hatred strong in voice. "He shouldn't be allowed to visit her grave."

"I know," Marcus said, "but this is all wrong. You can't disrespect her final resting place by confronting him there. Wait. We'll get him."

Marcus pulled away from the curb. As they drove past, Sonny's men glared at them. Marcus and Alex glared back. When the car reached the end of the drive and pulled onto the street, Alex muttered, "It's not fair!"

"I know it isn't," Marcus said, feeling it far deeply than his voice conveyed. "Men like him do their little dirt while other people have to pay for it. They keep winning and hurting. Hurting and winning."

"Can we stop it?" Alex asked as he slumped back against his seat. "Maybe we're fighting a losing battle. Maybe it's time to give up."

"You can't give up," Marcus said. He glanced at his partner. The sorrow on Alex's face touched him and mirrored the pain that had been stored in his heart long ago. "We may lose a few battles, but eventually, we'll win the war. You have to believe that."

"Do you?" Alex asked. "Do you really believe that justice will be served?"

Marcus nodded. "In the end it will have to be."

End of Flashback

# # #

"Leticia, could you pack up a bag for Michael?" Carly asked as she stood in the doorway to her son's room. "Include his favorite toys. Pack enough for a week or so."

"Of course." Leticia nodded and began to pack.

Carly looked down on the floor where he little boy played with his favorite Tonka dump truck. He smiled as she joined him on the floor.

"Hi, Mommy. Look. The truck goes BOOM!"

He laughed and Carly sighed. His black hair, dark and shiny, and his dimples flashing. He looked so much like his father that it almost hurt. Carly kissed his forehead and hugged him until he squirmed. She stood and asked Leticia, "Come to my room when you're done."

"Yes, ma'am."

Carly went to the master bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. The faint sounds of voices from below drifted up to her. She frowned and held herself still, trying to decipher them.

Sonny's rumble was clear, but there were two females with him. She thought one of them sounded like Lois. She wasn't sure about that, though. The other one she didn't recognize.

"Carly!" Sonny's voice boomed down the hall. He entered their bedroom and just stood in the doorway, looking at her.

She didn't like the way he stared at her. As if he expected an apology or something from her. She didn't owe him anything. He sprung one helluva surprise on her and thought she should just take it! Life didn't work that way.

She stood and went to the closet. She tossed clothes and shoes onto the bed and the floor behind her.

"You're leaving," he said.

"I need some air," she replied. "Ultimatums suffocate me."

"That wasn't an ultimatum, Carly," he said, as he closed the door behind him. "Dara and Lois are downstairs. Hope's been here. She's coming back."

"How nice for you," she said, dragging a suitcase from the closet. "You can be a big happy family when she gets here."

"You don't want to be a part of that family," he stated more than asked. "It's because her mother's black--"

"No!" Carly slammed the closet door shut. She set the suitcase on the floor, opened it and threw her clothes inside.

"Then, what is it?" he asked. "What's your problem?"

"You!" she said. "I don't like the way you sprung this on me! And now, you're thinking I'm supposed to bake cookies for you, your ex-lover and your love child! I won't!"

"I see," he said, just staring at her. "So this is it? You leave because I'm not exclusively yours and Michael's. The biggest moment of my life and you're walking out. Hmm... Makes me wonder if you ever loved me."

He turned and left, leaving the door wide open. She stormed across the room and slammed it. Tears flowed down her cheeks and she slid down onto the floor. Carly loved him, but playing second best...and that's what would happen would Hope arrived. Carly had played that part for too many years. She couldn't do it anymore and she wouldn't put her son through it. She just couldn't.

# # #

Dara sat on the edge of the sofa. Her fingers clenched together in her lap. When a slam shook the house, she shot to her feet. "I swear, Lois, if I hear another door slam, I'm outta here."

"It's okay," Lois said, glancing nervously over her shoulder toward the staircase. "Just a lot of wind."

"More like hot air," Dara countered.

She looked around the penthouse. She'd never been there and had never imagined she'd have reason to be. This wasn't the type of home she imagined Michael--er, Sonny would make for himself. It was too showroom floor-ish. No emotion. No depth. A professional decorator chose the furnishings and left the place bland without a heart and a soul.

"Well, you know, Carly. She's the demonstrative type." Lois stood and went to Dara, wrapping her arm around her friend's shoulder. "Everything will work out fine."

"Hope doesn't need the extra tension," Dara said. "This place is filled with it."

"And yours isn't?" Lois asked as she released Dara. "What's gonna happen with Marcus?"

Dara shrugged. She began to pace as she spoke quietly. "I don't know. I wish I did. I still love him, but Hope is my daughter. She has to be in my life. If Marcus can't understand that..."

Lois nodded. She opened her mouth to say more, but movement on the staircase caught her attention. "Sonny."

"Ladies," he said. "Can I offer you anything to eat or drink?"

The women declined. Dara continued to pace and he went to her. "Wearing a hole in my carpet won't get her here any faster. Sit down and relax."

"That's easier said than done." She nodded toward the staircase. "What's going up there?"

He looked away, but not before she saw the hurt in his eyes. "Carly and Michael are going away for a few days. Are you sure I can't get you some coffee or brandy or something?"

Dara ignored his offer. "She's leaving because of Hope? She doesn't have to. Hope is gonna stay with me."

Sonny shook his head. "Hope has to stay here. My place is safer than yours."

"I won't let her be guarded like a dog, Michael!" Dara fired back.

"It's to protect her!"

Breathing hard and eyes blazing, mother and father stared at each other. Lois jumped in before round two could start. "Yelling isn't gonna solve anything. Let's get her back first and then you can make sleeping arrangements."

"We don't have to do that," Dara said. "It's solved. She's staying with me."

"Hope's staying here!"

A knock sounded on the door before it opened. Lucky stood in the doorway, clutching an envelope in his hands. He looked curiously at the trio in the room. His gaze settled on Dara and Sonny. Then his jaw dropped. He quickly tried to recover by asking, "Is Carly here? I have something from Deception for her."

"She's upstairs," Sonny said. He reached for the envelope. "I can give it to her."

"Yeah, sure." Lucky moved to hand the envelope over but paused. Instead, he opened the flap and pulled out the black and white glossy. "I heard you mention Hope. Is this the girl?"

Sonny grabbed the photo from Lucky and Dara rushed to his side. "That's her," Dara said, her voice hoarse and shaky. "That's our Hope!"

"She came in to Deception today. Mom wants her to be the Face."

"Where is she?" Sonny asked. He looked behind Lucky as if he expected the girl to just appear in the doorway.

"I don't know," Lucky said. "She took off. Mom's assistant is out looking for her again."

"What did she say?" Sonny asked. He appeared greedy for any information about her. The photos in his hand were the closest he'd been to her. It wasn't nearly close enough. "How is she? Did she look okay?"

"Had she eaten?" Dara asked. "Was she upset?"

"She's not shaken up," Lucky said, shoving his balled fists into his pockets. "She's okay. Has a definite attitude. I'm sorry she got away. If I had known..."

"It's not your fault," Lois said.

"Can I help?" Lucky asked. "You don't know where she is. Maybe I can help find her."

"People are looking for us, but we won't turn down an extra pair of eyes," Dara said, thanking him with her smile.

"Okay. I know a few places that grown-ups often miss." Lucky went to the door. "I'll let you know."

"Thanks."

Impulsively, Sonny wrapped his arm around Dara's shoulder and squeezed. "This is close, Dara! Very, very close!"

He hugged her. She returned the embrace. When it was over, they sat on the sofa and huddled over the photo, overcome by the images of their daughter.

None of them notice Carly on the staircase, looking down at them with tears in her eyes.

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