Tropical breezes, blue waves and a cloudless sky had beckoned to Dara
Jenkins, and she had heeded their call. She hadn't realized how desperately she
needed a vacation until she stepped out of the airport and Maui's afternoon sun had
hit her full in the face. Then, the weight of being Port Charles' Assistant District
Attorney had lifted from her shoulders, leaving her with a feeling of weightlessness.
And it had felt good!
Day two of her three-week vacation began when she woke up in the middle of the afternoon. At first, guilt consumed her at having slept the morning away. The sound of crashing waves distracted her from the accusing clock. One look at the beautiful water had washed her remorse away. Allowing herself to feel nothing but relaxed, Dara rose from the bed and headed to the shower.
When she returned from the bath dressed in a pale yellow bikini, matching wrap around cover up and wide-brimmed straw hat, an hour had passed and she was ready to hit the beach. A mesh bag filled with the essentials-sunscreen, walkman, paperback and wallet-slapped against her thigh. With a pair of dark Ray Bans on the bridge of her nose and an enigmatic smile on her lips, she presented a mysterious image to the other tourists she passed…in particular, the men. She paid attention to none of them and continued on with her lazy stroll to the beach. She was there to relax and that was what she intended to do.
She reached her destination in due time. She stood on the edge of the beach for only a moment before she found the perfect spot. The vacant space was in the shade. She would be close enough to be noticed by the waiter, servicing the area, and far enough away from the crowd to enjoy her solitude.
After she had adjusted the overhanging umbrella to her liking and had settled down on the settee, the waiter appeared. She ordered a fruit plate and a glass of pineapple juice. He took the order and left her to retrieve it. She was midway through chapter one of John Grisham's "A Time to Kill" when he returned. "Excellent," she said with a broad smile.
The young waiter blushed and rushed on to assist another patron. Dara chuckled softly to herself and divided her attention between the fruit plate and Grisham's written word. As she became engrossed in the story and cleaned her plate, a shadow crossed her legs. Then, a vaguely familiar voice spoke. "The movie is just as good."
"Excuse me?" she said without looking up. He sounded sexy enough and the familiarity of his voice intrigued her, but she really wasn't in the mood to meet anyone. That wasn't what she came there for.
"The book, 'A Time to Kill,' is one of Grisham's best. 'The Firm' isn't so bad either." The nearby settee squeaked as the man sat down. A soft sigh drifted in the island breeze as he soundly settled himself on the settee. "If you haven't read that one, I highly recommend it."
The urge to look at him, to see if he was as alluring as his voice suggested, hit her full force. It took all her strength, but she resisted. She gave him a curt nod and said, "Thanks."
"Well, I'll leave you to your book," he said after a brief pause. The settee creaked again as he turned on his side away from her. After a few moments, a faint snore could be heard.
The time for escape had arrived, Dara decided. She marked her place in her book and shoved it inside her bag. She stood up and was about to hightail it out of there when she could resist no longer. She had to get a glimpse of him.
Slowly, she turned around. Her brown-eyed gaze fell to a pair of bare feet. She soon encountered a pair of tan legs that were lightly dusted with black hair. Well-developed thighs greeted her next. Her heart pounded as she encountered a firm backside that his shorts only emphasized instead of hid. She swallowed the lump in her throat as she drank in his bare, muscular back. A cap of short, black hair covered his head, and fearful that he would turn over and find her gawking at him, she spun on her heel and left.
Two weeks on the task force had proved to be an eye-opener for Keesha. She had never known that she was capable of learning so much information at once. There were so many different things to look out for and so many different procedures to follow. She was left feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at once.
"Hello, stranger," a raspy voice whispered against her ear.
In surprise, Keesha nearly jumped a foot. She turned around to greet her friend with an accusing smile. "You scared me."
"Sorry," AJ grinned back her. "I didn't mean to."
"Hmm…" she said even as a smile parted her lips. "How are you?"
"I was about to ask you the same," he said, placing her hand on his arm. He guided them through the mall's food court area and to a secluded table. They both sat and he added, "I feel like I haven't seen you in months. Are you still on the force?"
"Yes," she said. "I still am. Are you still at the hospital?"
"Yes, I am," he answered. "How is everything going? Please, tell me that you're sitting safely behind a desk."
Keesha shook her head. "No can do. I'm out on the street, serving and protecting-"
"Oh, Keesha," he groaned. He briskly rubbed his face. "Why?"
"Because it's my job," she said with a very bright smile.
His eyes narrowed in disapproval. "I don't like it."
"I know," she replied. His hand rested on the table and she placed her hand on top of his. "I'm careful. My partner is a seasoned vet and I'm learning the ropes from the best. Don't believe what you see on 'Cops.' The job is not as scary as it seems. Honest."
AJ expelled a loud sigh, but kept his opinion to himself. His hazel eyes lit up as they gave her the once over. His face broke out into a charming grin. "You're looking beautiful, as usual."
"Flattery," Keesha smirked. "Some things will never change."
"I'm being sincere!" he said in mock outrage. "Since I can't encourage you to make a career change, please allow me to compliment you."
The puppy dog eyes he turned on her were endearing. Keesha giggled. "Okay. Just this once."
"Thank you," he said, leaning back against the wooden chair to get a broader view of her.
Keesha grew warm under the heat of his gaze and lowered her eyes to the table and their joined hands. Her fingers drew a pattern on the table as she interrupted his appraisal with a question. "Have things settled down at the mansion? I saw Emily a while ago and she told me about her birthday surprise. I won't ask why you did it. I just hope that you are learning how to let go."
"I let go," AJ said quietly. "I don't know what Em told you, but we did it with the best intentions. The penthouse is a time bomb. It isn't fair for a baby to grow up in that environment."
"And the mansion is better?" Keesha asked. AJ's fingers clenched and gently caressed them with the soft stroke of her thumb. "There's so much bickering and unhappiness there. Are you sure that's what you would want for a defenseless baby? Would you want your child to grow up the way you did?"
"Hell no!" he cried. Leaning forward, he rested his elbows against on the table. He fixed his gaze on her. "I wouldn't want that for any child…my nephew or my own. It's just that Jason's world scares me. It isn't safe, and it's not fair to raise a child that way. Granted, we weren't thinking clearly when we tried to take the baby, but we couldn't just sit back and not do anything. Can you blame us?"
A lump lodged in her throat and Keesha shook her head. "I don't blame you. I'm not sure if what you did was the right thing, but the thought behind it…I can't find fault with wanting to protect an innocent life." She cupped his cheek in the palm of her hand. "I'm sorry that it didn't work out."
"Me, too," AJ agreed.
"Welcome to Port Charles."
A faint Australian accent colored the man's softly spoken words. A catch in his throat made his voice husky and he quickly coughed to clear it. He couldn't believe it. After years of dreaming it, the moment had finally arrived. He really was free.
His foot slowly lifted from the gas pedal. He guided the small compact car to the side of the road, coming to a stop right in from of the welcome sign. The passing cars, natural scenery and everything else faded away as he stared at the sign.
For years, he had fantasized about this moment. The fantasies had given him hope and had fortified him when his captor had aimed to torment him. In his mind's eye, the prison cell was a replica of the home he had once shared with his wife and daughter. The guards' barrage of insults had been replaced by the sound of his daughter's voice or his wife's laughter. No, he hadn't been defeated. He had refused to be.
He shifted in the driver's seat and his image appeared in the rearview mirror. His eyes widened as he took a long, hard look at the man he had become. He was older now. Strands of gray mixed in with his brown locks. There were lines on his face and wisdom in his eyes. Yeah, he was not the man he was when he left.
"Robert Scorpio," he murmured to himself, "welcome back to the land of the living."