Keesha glanced at her watch and wondered what could be keeping Dawn. They had set a date to go shopping together and the few times they had hung out, the younger woman had never been late. From the moment Keesha initiated contact with Dawn and began to form a friendship with her, the thought of her true intentions being discovered tore at her insides. Even now, as she looked at the passersby on the sidewalk, anxiety gripped her. This was her first real assignment since graduating from the police academy and she didn't want to fail. She didn't want the sacrifice of her principles to be for nothing. It was hard enough looking at her reflection in the mirror with the present deception without adding failure to the mix, too.
The small 8 ounce cell phone in her pocket vibrated. Keesha palmed the tiny device and turned it on, bringing it to her ear. Keeping an eye out for Dawn, she answered the call. Happiness brought a smile to her face as she recognized the excited the caller.
"Keesha, the meeting was incredible,' A] said, speaking rapidly to her. "I'm sure you're busy and don't have time to listen to me ramble-"
"I have time, AJ,"' she said, interrupting his self-deprecating words. "I'm waiting for someone. When she comes, I'll have to go, but until then I wanna hear what was so incredible about meeting with Stefan Cassadine."
A] released a slightly embarrassed chuckle before quickly responding to her inquiry. "He actually listened to me, Keesha. I can't get my dad to do that, but this man did. I gotta admit that I was a little intimidated by him at first."
"Who wouldn't be? He's so proper and reserved. He doesn't seem to care what others think of him."
He agreed. "I don't blame him either. That's a trick I'm learning, but anyway ... he liked my suggestions for the therapy room. He wants me to create a budget and then meet with him again. I'm still on cloud nine about this. I have to do some research later this afternoon. After that, I was wondering if we could meet for dinner. I know it's late notice..."
"It most certainly is," Keesha teased, "but I'm willing to let you off the hook just this once."
His warm chuckle drifted to her again. "I am eternally grateful."
"As you should be." This time, she laughed as well.
"Meet me at my place around 7. I'll cook us dinner."
"Will there be dessert?" she asked.
AJ's voice was filled with husky warmth when he replied. "Of course. Apple pie ala mode. I'll see you tonight Be safe."
The call ended and she slid the phone back inside her pocket. Since she had become a police officer, AJ often ended their conversations with an order for her to be safe. It warmed her heart that he cared so much, but then again, he always had.
"Please, forgive me. I lost track of time."
Keesha greeted Dawn with a smile and a friendly hug. "I was being to wonder if you had gotten a better offer."
"Something better than shopping?" the younger woman questioned in her lilting accent. "There aren't too many things that can compare."
"'I don't know about that," Keesha admitted as the two entered Wyndham's department store. "I could think of a couple of things that are better."
"Oh, yeah?" Dawn linked her arm through Keesha's and guided them through the store to the Calvin Klein section. "I bet I can guess."
"Okay. Go for it," Keesha advised.
"Chocolate," Dawn said with an impish smile, "and men."
Both women burst into a fit of giggles. A graying middle-aged saleswoman gave them an admonishing look which only caused the two to laugh even more.
"May I help you?"
Dawn recovered enough to answer. "No, thank you, madam. We are proceeding quite nicely but your assistance has been duly noted and appreciated. Good day to you."
Pale blue eyes widened in surprise and the saleswoman spun on her heel in a huff. Dawn shrugged and turned her attention to a rack of short black dresses. Keesha moved to the rack beside her and began rifling through a various assortment of sheer white blouses.
"You handled her very well," she complimented Dawn.
The younger woman shrugged again. "I learned that trick at my mother's knee. Her credo is that shopping is an extraordinary experience which can be ruined only by the interference of shopping clerks. We are to treat them well, of course, but they are to leave us be. The darker hue of our skin oftentimes make the latter more difficult than it should be."
Keesha nodded. "Well, said." A silk plum t-shirt caught her attention and she reached for the hanger. She held the t-shirt against her and looked in the mirror. Beside her, Dawn nodded approvingly.
'The color suits you."
Keesha glanced at the price tag and sighed. 'it is very pretty, but I couldn't." She put the shirt back on the rack and joined Dawn at the accessories table.
Their time at the department store passed in companionable silence with a few comments about the merchandise thrown in from time to time. Two hours passed and with bags in hand, the two exhausted women left the store to rejuvenate themselves at a corner coffeehouse. On the second floor, they sat far enough away from the caffeine affected crowd to have a quiet conversation.
"I was late because I was out soul searching again," Dawn admitted after their steaming cups of Earl Grey tea had been served. "it put me in a somber mood and I almost abandoned our get
together. I'm glad that I changed my mind."
Keesha added sugar to her tea and stirred. Before she raised the steaming brew to her lips, she said, "You've mentioned these soul searching escapades before. Is there anything you'd like to talk about? I'm a pretty good listener."
Dawn lowered her cup to its saucer. She then lightly dabbed the corners of her mouth with a napkin. Her friendship with Keesha was new and she rarely divulged her problems acquaintances. But there was something about Keesha that comforted her. The older woman had compassionate eyes and Dawn trusted her.
"If you'd rather not-"
"No," Dawn interjected. "I was collecting my thoughts. Thank you for offering to listen. I don't have many female friends and this is rather new to me."
Keesha nodded. "I understand. I haven't had many female friends either. I had one close one and we still talk but it's not the same as it once was."
"I'm sorry," Dawn said quietly, responding to the sadness that had darkened the other woman's chocolate brown eyes. "Can it be repaired?"
"I'm not sure." Keesha looked away and stared downstairs at the first floor for a moment. When she looked at Dawn again, the sadness was nearly gone from her eyes. "Besides, we're not talking about me. We were discussing your soul searching journeys. Have they helped?"
Dawn frowned. She wanted to know more about Keesha and the female friend who had hurt her. But judging from the woman's face, she knew that the time for such inquiries had past Keesha had buried the pain and Dawn respected that. Perhaps, later they would discuss it.
She frowned again when she remembered that the conversation had turned to her soul searching, such that it was. Dawn could use a different perspective on things. Maybe Keesha would offer a viewpoint that she hadn't considered.
"I don't know. just when I come to a resolution, another possibility comes to mind," Dawn admitted. 'I've never be so indecisive before."
"Indecisiveness?' Keesha questioned. "Something tells me that a man is involved."
A rueful smile formed on Dawn's lips. "Actually, there are two."
Keesha's eyebrows arched in surprise. "Wow."
Dawn watched as Keesha sipped more tea. Shaking her head, she said, "I'm not as adventurous as all that. One was once very dear to me and the other is ... Well, I don't know. I feel things with him. He's not like any man I've ever known before. He has an almost childlike quality about him, but he also exudes danger. Time spent with him is often quite thrilling."
"And the other" Keesha prompted when Dawn became silent. "He must still be a factor otherwise you wouldn't have mentioned him."
"Otherwise, indeed." Biting her lip, she looked away. "The other broke my heart and whenever I'm near him, it resuscitates and beats powerfully in my chest I thought I had cured myself of him. I foolishly believed that I could be near him and not be affected. I was wrong. His effect on me is stronger than it ever was before. I hate feeling this way because I don't want to accept what it means. If anyone has the power to hurt me, he does and I swore that no one would ever hurt me so deeply again. Am I making any sense?"
Keesha's eyes suddenly appeared to be wet. She blinked once or twice. " You are making perfect sense."
"My predicament is not foreign to your ears? You've experienced the same, haven't you?"
"I have," Keesha acknowledged. "There are no easy answers when it comes to love. I learned that one at my grandmother's knee. What will you do? Is the former man a means to forget the latter?"
Dawn shook her head. "No, but he is tied to him in a way that I can't explain. When I became involved with him, I had no idea that I would be attracted to him. He cares about me and I don't wish to hurt him..."
"But? Will you pursue the one you love?"
The one she loved? Despite their heated kiss, Dawn doubted if Nikolas would ever be hers. She shook her head. "I will avenge him and then I will leave."
Sonny quickly memorized Dara's telephone number before tossing the scrap of paper that it was scribbled on into the blazing fire. He had obtained her private digits by calling on a favor from a former business associate. The old man whose daughter worked for the telephone company had been very eager to assist No doubt, he believed that a favor for Corinthos would serve him later in the future. Sonny didn't feel the need to apprise him of his recent change in career.
It was madness that had possessed him to ask for her number in the first place. He couldn't call her. He had never crawled to a woman in his life. He wasn't about to start now, but dammit, his hand betrayed him. It reached for the telephone and before he could think twice, his forefinger had punched in the first four digits. He was just about to push the number two when the baby's cry interrupted the quiet and scared the hell out of him.
He waited in limbo for his namesake to become quiet. When the infant's wails grew louder, Sonny threw the telephone onto his bed and stormed down the hall to the nursery.
His shouts seemed to echo through the penthouse. Except for Michael's cries, there was no response. Sonny rubbed a hand over his face and opened the nursery door. Flipping on the light switch, he strode towards the crib. The baby's small face was as red as the tufts of hair that covered his head. Sonny's experience with babies was limited, but he'd be damned if he did nothing while one cried.
With hands that trembled slightly, he scooped the baby out of the crib. The tiny scrunched up face slowly relaxed. Watery brown eyes stared at Sonny and a small fist waved wildly in the
air. Sonny slid his finger into the baby's hand as he held him close to his heart. Whispering soft words to calm the child, he left the nursery and went to the first floor of the penthouse.
Graciela appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. She held a bottle in her hand. Her dark eyes were apologetic as she took the baby from Sonny. "I'm sorry about that. I went downstairs for his bottle. I didn't think he'd wake up so soon."
"It's not a problem," Sonny assured her. He patted Michael's head and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Do you know where his mother is? Did she have a class this afternoon or something?"
Graciela paused as she ascended the staircase. "I don't know her schedule. I think Mr. Morgan gave her a pager. The number should be in the address book on the desk. I can get it for you..."
Sonny waved her assistance away. "No, thanks. I think Michael needs that bottle more than anything."
Graciela nodded her agreement and continued up the staircase. Sonny's thoughts drifted back to Dara. He wondered what occupied her time now that she no longer worked in the DA's
office. Would she open a private practice? Or would she leave Port Charles? Except for her cousin, Ellen, she had no ties there. She was a free agent. The same as Sonny. If he offered her a means of escape this time around, would she turn her back on him again?
He was a fool. Wondering about a woman. He gave her a week of ecstasy. He was certain of that. If she was too stubborn to stay with him, well, the loss was hers. Not his.
"Give it up, man," he whispered aloud to himself. "She's in your system and you can't get her out"
It was true. Dara Jensen had gotten to him. He couldn't forget the sight, smell and taste of her. She was inside him, running in his veins and pumping into his heart. He wanted her. At least, just one more time and he couldn't deny it to himself a moment longer. So, quickly before he lost his nerve, he reached for the telephone.
Pages of the L&B recording contract were strewn across the antique cherrywood dining table. Dara stacked the pages she had gone through into a neat pile before setting bowls of tortilla chips and salsa down onto the tabletop. Curling a leg underneath her, she reached for the last ten pages of the document.
So far, what Dara had read of the contract seemed fair. With a few nips and tucks, she might even sign it. If she could decide whether or not a record deal was what she wanted. Once upon a time, she loved the idea of putting away the bad guys. She pictured herself as a crusader, righting the wrongs for society. She had never dreamed that the picture could be tarnished and that the thought of entering another courtroom would set her teeth on edge. Music was another love. What if farther down the road, she'd come to hate that, too? Songs had always been her source of peace. She didn't want to lose that.
The telephone interrupted her thoughts with a shrill ring. Her nerves tensed immediately. She didn't understand, but over the last few days, anxiety gripped her whenever the phone rang. Anticipation twisted her stomach into knots and the agonizing possibility of a particular voice
on the other end filled her with dread.
The phone rang again. Dara pushed aside her fears as best she could and picked up the
"Aren't you chipper this morning?" came the teasing voice on the other end.
"Sorry about that," Dara apologized, "Why are you calling me when you have lives to save and
interns to terrify?"
Ellen laughed. "The ER is fairly slow today. I may go shopping during my lunch break and I was wondering if I needed to pick up something special for a wedding."
Dara grunted. "Shut up."
"I take it you haven't made a decision then," Ellen said amidst her chuckles.
"No, I haven't."
Ellen's deep sigh spoke volumes. "Mac Scorpio is a good man, but if you don't love him-"
"Who said I didn't love him?" Dara interrupted. "Marriage is a big decision. Right?"
"I want to make sure I'm making the right decision and this isn't something that can be rushed into. I only plan to do this once. Mac is being patient and I wish that you'd stop harping on it. I wish that I had never mentioned it to you now."
"You don't have to get an attitude about it, Dara," Ellen told her. The tightness of her voice conveyed how upset she had become. "Believe me. I know all about planning to marry someone and being with him for the rest of your life. I know how important that decision is. So, take your time. I have to go. I'll talk to you later."
The call ended with a swift firm click. Dara muttered, "Dammit!" underneath her breath and replaced the receiver.
Ellen's marriage to Sam had been idyllic and had ended abruptly when he died. Dara should have remembered that and chosen her words more carefully. Now, her cousin would bear the grief of losing him all over again. Calling her back now would only piss her off more, Dara reasoned. She'd wait a few days and invite Ellen over for dinner. She'd apologize, Ellen would bite her head off and by the time, she pulled out the sweet potato pie, all would be right between the cousins again. She hoped.
Reviewing the contract was scratched off the list until later. Since Ellen brought up Mac and his proposal, her head was too scattered to focus on legalize. She needed a break. Maybe a soak in the bath ... or an old movie would do the trick. Before she could make up her mind, a firm knock sounded at the door. What now?
"Who is it?"
A slight pause and then a masculine voice answered, "Your knight in shining armor. Will you let me in?"
Her earlier irritation disappeared and Dara was smiling when she opened the door. " Mac Scorpio, what are you doing?"
"I come bearing gifts," he said as he crossed the threshold and kicked the door closed behind him. He handed her a huge bouquet of red and white roses. In the basket he held, he opened
the lid to reveal a bottle of Chardonnay, a box of bon bons, a box of microwaveable popcorn, and two video tapes.
"That doesn't answer my question," she called over her shoulder, heading towards the kitchen. When the door swung behind her, she inhaled the scent of the roses. Their fragrance was heavenly. She quickly located a vase, filled it with just enough water and arranged the roses inside it.
With the vase in her hands, she paused in the doorway of the kitchen and admired the view. Mac's backside was perfectly molded to the pair of faded blue jeans that he wore. His black turtleneck sweater stretched taut across the broad expanse of his back. Wavy brown hair curled against the nape of his neck and she was overcome with an overpowering urge to run her fingers through his hair.
Mac turned around at that moment The longing he saw in her brown eyes inflamed him. 'Patience, Mac,' he silently warned himself. 'Patience.' He sat down on the floor and rested his back against the sofa and extended his hand to her. "I'm wooing you. Come."
She moved as if she floated on air as she set the vase on the counter and then joined him on the floor. Mac wasted no time in wrapping his arms around her. A shiver rippled down his spine as her arms closed around him and she rested her head on his chest. He didn't know why, but he felt as if he had just won a major battle in some nameless war. Unable to resist, he pressed his lips against her soft forehead and tightened his embrace.
"You're wooing me?" she asked. "Why?"
"Because you deserve it," he murmured before he kissed her again. "I brought over some goodies, but right now, all I want to do is hold you. Is that okay with you?"
She raised her head from his chest and fixed him with an unwavering stare. "Is this an attempt to get me to give you an answer?"
Mac shook his head. Lightly cupping her face, he brushed his thumb across her cheek. "No, I want you to be sure and I'm not pressuring you to answer. I give you my word on that. I just want to be near you. Would you rather I leave?"
"No, of course not." Parting her lips, she raised herself to cover his mouth with hers.
Her kiss was surprisingly gentle and ended faster than Mac wanted it to. But the smile on her face when she pulled away managed to leave him content. For now.
With their arms locked around each other, they sat together on the floor. After a while, they moved to the sofa and indulged in the goodies that Mac brought over. He popped in one of their favorite movies, 'Love Story' and pulled her into his arms again.
As the credits rolled after the movie's sad ending, Dara wiped tears from her eyes. She sat up and was about to ask Mac if he wanted to order in when she saw that he had drifted off to sleep. She placed a soft kiss upon his lips and then rose from the sofa.
After covering his sleeping form with a blanket, she began to clean up the room. Just as she placed the bon bons in the freezer, the telephone rang. This time, there was no accompanying anxiety. She simply answered the phone without a second thought.
The familiar twinge of anxiety swept over her when a soft raspy voice asked her…
"So, lady, is it true? Does absence make the heart grow fonder?"
Dara recognized the voice immediately.