Part Ten

"I want to know who lost her!"

The walls shook as Joseph Sorel slammed his fist down. Luigi conveyed no outward show of fear or discomfort. He stood tall and answered his boss.

"Cordova and Francini. Cordy was driving."

Sorel paced the floor. "Where is she?"

"She's at the penthouse. Morgan took her there."

"Shit!" Sorel stopped pacing and turned toward the window. The beauty of the skyline was lost on him. All he could think about was the recent failure and how he could make things right. "Where are Cordy and Frank, now?"

"They're at the penthouse," Luigi answered. "I told them to wait until they got word."

Sorel nodded. Luigi was always a good, thinking man. His smarts would serve him well one day. "Here's the word. Don't leave the penthouse. Sooner or later, Corinthos will slip up. When he does, grab the girl!"

# # #

Jason waited for a break in the hugging, crying and kissing to approach Sonny. Dara and Lois steered Hope toward the sofa and Jason asked to speak with Sonny alone.

"I can't thank you enough," Sonny said. "You found her. Thank God, you found her."

"Yeah," Jason said. The sentiments of gratitude made him uncomfortable. He shrugged and said, "Lucky and Jamal found her, and I found the three of them. Sorel's men were right on them."

Sonny's eyes narrowed. "What? That sonuvabitch actually did it!"

Jason nodded. "Almost. The guys protected her. Sorel's men didn't touch her. Listen, if Dara is planning to go home, it would be a good idea to change her mind. Sorel missed tonight, but that doesn't mean he'll give up."

"I know." Sonny glanced away for a moment to look at the women on the sofa. When he looked at Jason again, he seemed tired. "I've been trying to tell her, but she won't listen. I offered her a room here."

Jason's brow drew together in a frown. "Are you sure? Carly wouldn't like that."

Sonny snorted. "I didn't know you and Carly were so chummy."

"We're not," Jason said firmly. "When she gets crazy, you get crazy. Sorel's on the brink of starting a war. This is the worst time for you to lose it."

"You're right," Sonny sighed. "I want Carly to come home...letting Dara stay here... It makes sense, but Carly wouldn't understand. But I can't let her go home and I have to think about Hope, too."

"They can stay at my place."

Surprise registered in Sonny's dark eyes. "Are you sure about that?"

Jason shrugged. "I don't mind. There's plenty of room. You have a key. Bring 'em over whenever."

"Are you going out?"

Jason nodded. "Yeah, for awhile."

"Okay. I'll have someone stay with them until you get back," Sonny said. "Thanks."

"No problem."

# # #

Lucky enjoyed his part in the family reunion. Even without all the details, he knew he had done something important that night. Sonny tried to offer him and Jamal money, but both declined. Sonny countered with the promise of a favor. Anything they needed, all they had to do was call him. Lucky and Jamal shrugged their acceptance. Sonny was adamant. What else could they do?

He was about to leave when Hope caught his eye. Their gazes locked and he just stood there. She said something to Dara and Lois and crossed the room to him.

"They're saying you saved my life."

"I had some help," Lucky replied. "Jamal and Jason were there, too."

"Yeah, they were."

Her brown eyes were luminous and held Lucky transfixed. He felt like a fool for staring at her. Hell, she was at least five years younger than him! Sonny would change his mind about that favor and put a hit out on him instead.

"I'd better get going--"

"Wait," she said.

Lucky looked past her at the others who watched her with such longing. The time had come for him to leave. "I'd better get going. Your folks are dying to talk to you."

She swallowed hard and looked down at the floor. "That's what I'm afraid of," she mumbled. "Why can't you stay for a little longer? You and Jamal?"

A strand of wavy dark hair brushed her full cheek. He pushed the tendril behind her ear and promptly dropped his hand. "You can't keep running away. They want you here. Don't be afraid."

"I'm not afraid."

Her lips curved into a delectable pout. His stomach clenched in reaction. He'd better get his ass out of there and soon!

"That's good." He gave her a faint smile and turned on his heel.

She grabbed his sleeve and tugged. He stopped and looked at her. "Will I see you again?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Anytime you want."

She smiled, killer dimples flashing. "Okay, Lucky. See you later."

"See ya," he mumbled and then bolted out the door.

# # #

"Okay, cuz," Jamal said as he pulled Dara away from Lois. "Talk."

"What?"

"Don't play stupid with me," he said. "You're too smart for that. What's the deal here? How come I never knew you had a kid and with Sonny Corinthos, no less?"

"Because some things are none of your business," she said. "Besides, they told me she was stillborn." Her eyes shone with sudden tears. "That's not something you talk about at family reunions."

Jamal closed his hand over her shoulder and squeezed. "I didn't know and... Well, I wish you would have told me."

"You know now. That's the important thing, right?" Dara glanced at Hope. Her heart swelled. There was so much she wanted to know and needed to say. She looked at Jamal again and said, "I'm sorry, but can we have this conversation later? I just... She's here now and I don't want to... Well..."

He nodded and smiled. "I know. You don't want to waste a moment talking to me." He pulled her into a quick hug. "Call me."

"I will." She took his hands and squeezed. "Thank you. Thank you so much for helping her tonight."

He shrugged. "That's what families do, right?"

# # #

"Are you hungry?" Sonny blurted out. He winced at his abrupt tone, but he didn't know what he else to say. Or how to respond. But she was his kid, so he'd learn. And he'd learn soon.

"Um..." Hope's uncertain gaze danced between him and Dara. "I don't know."

Sonny sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of her. His hands rested on his knees. "You can have anything you want. Just tell me. I have a cook, and I'm not so bad in the kitchen. Let me know what you want and I'll make it for you."

She glanced at Dara. "Are you hungry?"

Dara released an embarrassed chuckle. "I can't even think about food. I'm just so relieved..." She extended her hands. When Hope didn't move away, she took Hope's hand between both of hers. "We were so worried about you. Food never crossed my mind."

"Me either," Sonny said, "but I'm starving like crazy now. It's okay if you want something to eat. Anything, just tell me."

She slowly tugged her hand free. "I wanna know what you and her plan to do with me. You didn't want me before. Why are you all worried about me now?"

"We've always wanted you," Sonny said.

"Always," Dara added. "They told me you died at birth. If I had known the truth--"

"If we had known the truth," Sonny interrupted, "nobody could have kept us from you. We loved you before you were born."

"We love you now," Dara said.

"Did you two practice this little speech, or what?"

Sonny and Dara looked at each other. The reality of actually talking to their daughter seemed to hit them simultaneously. They laughed and looked at her. "No," they said in unison.

"Yeah, right," Hope mumbled. "So what's the drill? When the novelty wears off, where are you gonna dump me? Tell me now, so I can be prepared."

Sonny moved to sit beside her on the sofa. "We're not gonna dump you. You're ours and even if you wanted to get rid of us, you can't. We're not about to let you go."

She looked like she wanted to believe, but Sonny sensed that her walls were still intact. He searched his mind for something to say that would put her at ease or make her trust them. But he knew from his own life that trust never came that easily. All they could do was show her.

"Dara and I are trying to decide where you'll stay. I want you here because it's safer," he said, "but she doesn't feel comfortable staying here because of my wife."

"That's understandable," Hope mumbled. She craned her neck, looking around the room. "Where is she?"

"She's not here right now," he said quietly. Her eyes flashed with pain and she looked away from him. Sonny's insides ached. That was what he'd been afraid of. He sighed and decided to shift the focus away from Carly. Coaxing her with his voice, he said, "But there is an alternative."

"What?" Dara and Hope asked.

"Jason," Sonny said. "His penthouse is across the hall. He says you can stay there. Both of you."

"And he doesn't mind?" Dara asked. "Are you sure about that?"

He nodded. "He made the offer."

"Okay," she said. "Hope?"

"It's fine with me, I guess," the girl answered, "but I don't have anything fancy. I mean this is it. I don't have any change of clothes with me."

"Neither do I," Dara said. "I may have something that will fit you. You and Sonny decide on dinner while I run over to my place to grab something."

"Can I come, too?" Hope asked.

Dara's eyes cut to Sonny. He smiled and shrugged. "Sure, I'd love for you to join me."

"I'll come with you," Sonny said, standing up.

"No," Dara said quickly. "It's better if you didn't. My neighbors... Look, you know what I mean. Can't one of your guards come with us?"

Sonny nodded. He knew exactly what she meant. How would it look if the ADA came home in the middle of the night with one of Port Charles' well-known crime bosses? It wouldn't look good at all.

"Yeah, I'll put Johnny on it. Listen to him. Sorel isn't above playing dirty to get what he wants."

"Is that the guy who was following me?" Hope asked. "Why was he after me? I don't know him."

Sonny lightly cupped Hope's cheek. "Because of me, Hope. But you're safe now. I won't lock you away here, but you'll always need someone to guard you. You're precious to me and men like Sorel know that, but they also know that if they touched you," he paused to glance at Dara, "or your mother...the fires of hell wouldn't keep me from them. Don't be scared, okay?"

"Okay."

# # #

Memories of the past bombarded Marcus all day. His Uncle Bryan's blunt words of wisdom opened a place inside him that he rarely visited. His hatred of Sonny had been a part of him for a long time. Deke's execution, Lily's murder and zillion other things the man had his hand in was a source of contention inside Marcus. But in order to keep the woman he loved, he'd have to get past it. He'd have to let his hatred of Michael "Sonny" Corinthos, Jr. go.

"Marc!" Bryan called out as he bounded down the stairs. "Where are you?"

"I'm out here, Unc!" Marcus said.

Bryan joined him on the porch. Huffing and puffing, he said, "Are you crazy? It's freezing out here. Come on back inside before you catch something and give it to me."

Marcus laughed in spite of his saddened spirit. "I'm alright."

"No, you're not," Bryan declared. "Back inside now."

Marcus rolled his eyes and grumbled. But he didn't come back with a retort. He learned the hard way years ago that his uncle wouldn't take his mouth. Taking a deep breath, he stood and followed his uncle inside the house.

"I left you alone most of the day, but all bets are off now," Bryan said after they made themselves comfortable in the den. "Have you figured it out, yet?"

"Figured what out?"

"That if you want Dara, you'd better get off your ass and get her," Bryan countered. "A woman like her won't wait around forever for a man like you. You're damn lucky to have her. If you want her, stop moping around my place and go tell her."

Marcus didn't move. He sat there and let his uncle's words seep in. Bryan seemed so sure that his showing up and telling her that he loved her would be enough. Marcus had his doubts.

"Move, Marcus!" Bryan said. "Move now, or lose her!"

# # #

"Hi, Sonny."

His back stiffened at the first sound of her voice. Slowly, he turned around to face her and Carly's wasn't sure what she read in his eyes. He seemed so distant. As if the last day had erased everything they'd meant to each other.

"Carly." He glanced behind her and then gave her a hard look. "Where's my son?"

She took in a deep breath. This was harder than she thought it'd be. He should be glad to see her. Why wasn't he? "He's with Bobbie. I asked her to keep him for a few days. Reynaldo is with them."

Sonny frowned. "You came back alone?"

A spark. Carly smiled inside. If he didn't care, his cheeks wouldn't have reddened and his eyes wouldn't blaze. "No, Tomasino was with me."

He nodded. "Good."

Okay, back to the one word responses. What the fuck? She released a faint, humorless chuckle. "Come on, Sonny. What's going on here?"

He moved to the bar and poured brandy into a tumbler. Silently, he offered her a glass, but she shook her head. He took a drink before he answered her. "My daughter came home today. I saw her. I talked to her. I even got to touch her. You know, it's true. Her dimples are just like mine."

"Sonny..."

He held up his hand. "No, you wanna know what's going on. I'm about to tell you. Hope is not the dead baby I've been mourning for all these years. She's not like the boy Lily and I would have had. She's not buried away six feet under. She's alive and well, and she needs me. I won't be like Mike. I won't turn my back on my child."

"I know."

He set the tumbler down hard on the counter and stared at her. "What do you know? Do you know that Sorel came thisclose to getting her?! Do you know how scared that made me? Do you know how I felt when I saw the questions in her eyes when I mentioned my wife? Do you know how sad her eyes were when she looked around and you weren't here? She's lived her entire life thinking she wasn't wanted. I'm putting an end to that today!"

"Sonny, I didn't come back here to fight with you." Her voice broke miserably. "I don't wanna lose you or what we have together."

"But what, Carly?" he said. "I sense a 'but' in there. You're gonna give me an ultimatum?"

"You gave me one!" she fired back. "It doesn't have to be like this. So, you have another child. Okay. I think I can deal with that."

"You think?" he asked. "That's not good enough, Carly."

"I'm willing to try," she said. "Can't we do that? Try? I don't want Michael to have to be tossed back and forth between us."

"I don't want Hope to think I don't care about her."

Carly's temper flared. "So, your child with Dara Jensen is more important the child you have with me?!"

"Is that what I said?" he asked, his tone deadly quiet. "Dammit to hell, Carly! I love both of my children and I love you, too! But I know that Hope is gonna need extra from me. I missed so many years of her life! I'm gonna have to make that up to her."

"At Michael's expense?"

He muttered an expletive in Spanish. "No! Why can't you get it? This isn't a battle of you and Michael versus Hope! I can love all of you, but Hope needs more from me! From me and from Dara! I'm not a shrink, but just being around her five minutes, I know this. I know it with my gut, Carly. And I know I cannot half-ass being a father to her! I've been given a second chance and I'm not about to fuck that up! Do you get it now? Why won't you understand?"

She took a tentative step toward him. "I do understand. It's just that..."

Carly inhaled sharply. This is what Bobbie told her at the brownstone. Everything she didn't want to hear and what she feared the most. How could she give in to Sonny and watch him pull away from her and Michael? How could she live through losing him? Instinctively, she knew there would be no second chances for her. Sonny was it. All she ever wanted.

"It's what, Carly?" he asked. "Hope is coming back soon and I want the air clear for her. What's it gonna be?"

"Are you leaving it up to me?" she asked. "It's all my decision?"

He ran a hand through his hair and nodded. "God help me, yes, I am leaving it up to you."

"I don't know, Sonny," she said. "I don't wanna lose you, but I don't know what to do."

She went to him, kissed his cheek, and left.

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