Chapter 17

AJ had been waiting in the hallway outside of his apartment for Keesha to arrive. As soon as she stepped out of the elevator, he pounced. "Hello, lovely lady. I thought you'd never get here. Let's go."

He took her arm, intent on entering the elevator before the doors closed. Keesha stood firm and gave him a quizzical glance. "What's the big hurry? I thought you were cooking dinner for me?"

"It didn't quite turn out the way it was supposed to," he admitted with a sheepish grin. "I made reservations for us at the Grille instead."

"Are you sure?" she asked, thinking of his salary and how expensive the restaurant was. "Maybe we could salvage what's left of the food or we could order in?"

AJ shook his head. "Once the smoke cleared, there was nothing left. I usually live off take-out. I wanna take you to the Grille, Keesha. Let's go."

"Okay!" She laughed as AJ pulled her inside the elevator car and they descended down to the garage.

"We can take my car," he said, holding her hand as he led her to the silver Mercedes. "I had the chains put on the tires this afternoon. "

He opened the passenger door for her and she sat down. He closed her door and as he walked around to the driver's side and slid in, she adjusted the seatbelt around her. "So you believe the weathermen? I think all this talk about a big blizzard coming is just a hoax. They love to make mountains out of molehills."

AJ revved the engine and cocked an eyebrow as he glanced at her. "When did you become such a cynic, Ms. Ward?" He chuckled as she shook her finger at him. "I don't necessarily believe every word they say, but the clouds don't lie." He pointed towards the sky as the Mercedes roared out of the garage. "Just look at how dark it is. You can't even see the moon. Something is brewing."

Keesha's gaze followed the direction of his finger. "I suppose you're right."

Frowning, AJ gave her a hard stare before focusing his attention on the road again. "How are things? Did something happen today? You seem down."

"Nothing much," she said after releasing a deep sigh. "Working undercover is not what it's cracked up to be. I hate lying. I have to keep reminding myself that the ends will justify the means. I'm having a hard time convincing myself that it's true."

He reached for her hand. Her fingers were cold but soon became warm from the heat of his larger hand. For a while, they rode in silence. AJ kept a watchful eye at the sky while paying close attention to the road. As they neared the Grille, he said, "You can always leave this special task group, Keesha. You don't have anything to prove to anyone. If it's causing you to doubt yourself, maybe it's not the place for you. Some people have no problem living a lie and that may be okay for them. I've always known that it wouldn't be for you. Just think about that, okay?"

"I am thinking," she assured him. "Today, she revealed more of herself to me than she had in any of our other meetings. I think she's going after Jason, too, but I'm not sure why. I'm afraid that she's over her head."

"Have you said anything to Taggert?" AJ asked.

"I've tried paging him, but he's not returning them. I may call Mac. Maybe he can help."

AJ guided the Mercedes to a stop in front of the restaurant. The eager valets opened the doors for him and Keesha. She waited for him at the doorway and he slipped his hand around her waist. "That sounds like a good plan, my dear," he said as they entered the restaurant. "Now, we will enjoy our dinner and our evening together."


"Where's Sonny?" Jason asked as soon as he entered the penthouse. He tossed his leather jacket onto the chair near the door and strode towards the staircase. He stopped when Carly regarded him with a glare. "What?"

"You could at least say hello," she muttered. Tossing her textbooks aside, she rose from the sofa and went to the bar. As she poured Scotch into a shot glass, she said, "He's not here. He went out a while ago, I think. I'm not sure. Like you, he doesn't clear his schedule with me."

After having spent a nice afternoon with Dawn, the thought of arguing with Carly didn't sit well with him. He wanted things to be better than civil between them. He knew that it was necessary for Michael's sake and for his own peace of mind. And maybe for Carly's, too. He turned away from the staircase to go to her. "Sorry about that. How are you? How was school today?"

"Great!" she grumbled after tossing back a shot. She winced as the fiery liquid scalded her throat and then she poured another shot.

Jason's eyes narrowed as he watched her drown her sorrows, but he didn't say anything to her about that. Instead, he tried another tactic. "How's Michael?"

"Ask Leticia."

This time, he couldn't prevent himself from stiffening. Her cavalier attitude about her child irritated him. He had read a little about new mothers, but Carly's behavior puzzled him. If she didn't want to have anything to do with the baby, why did she come back in the first place?

"I'm asking you," he said, fighting to keep the edge out of his voice.

"Well, I don't know," she sarcastically informed him.

"Fine," he bit out before turning on his heel.

As his footsteps pounded up the carpeted staircase, Carly whipped around to watch him ascent. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going upstairs. I'm giving Leticia the rest of the night off and I'm taking Michael out for dinner at the Grille. You are welcome to join us, of course, but I'm sure you won't."

"I didn't want to come anyway!" she shouted as he turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. "I just wanted you," she whispered miserably to herself.


Mac watched Dara fidget about the room behind heavy lidded eyes. While drifting in and out his nap, he vaguely remembered hearing the telephone ring. Had someone called to upset her? Struggling with the disorientation that came with an impromptu nap, he moved into a sitting position and focused on her. "Dara? Is everything okay?"

She dropped the albums that she had just grabbed from the shelf and laughed nervously as she bent to retrieve them. As he knelt beside her, she answered him, "I'm fine."

They reshelved the albums in silence. Mac glanced at Dara a few times, but her composure appeared to be the same as usual. Whatever had upset her was a thing of the past now. Maybe there hadn't been anything at all.

"We could watch the next one," she said suddenly as she handed Mac the second video that he had rented. It was another one of their favorites, 'High Noon.' "I'll get the next batch of popcorn started."

"Sounds good," he mumbled, watching her retreating back. She was in a peculiar mood, all right. He had half a mind to push until she told him, but he didn't. From past experience, he knew that browbeating wouldn't work with her. If she wanted him to know, she'd tell him. Loving her as much as he did, he just wanted her to confide in him. If something bothered her, it bothered him, too. Even if he didn't know what it was.

"Would you like extra butter?" she called out from the kitchen.

"Nah," he said as he ejected 'Love Story' from the VCR and replaced it with 'High Noon.' "I'd like another beer if there's one in there."

"Sure!" A few seconds later, she appeared with a fresh bowl of hot popcorn and a cold bottle of beer. As she crossed the room to give Mac his treats, she paused to look outside the windows in the dining area of her apartment. Her brows drew together in a frown and she whispered, "Oh, no."

"What is it?" Mac was at her side in an instant. Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he looked out of the window to see the rear door of a black luxury car pull close before the car drove away. Squinting, he tried to make out the license plates, but snow flurries blurred his vision. He gave Dara's shoulder a warm squeeze. "Who was that? Is someone bothering you?"

She stared outside for a while before answering him. When she did, she looked at him with a bright smile and said, "It was nothing. A squirrel ran out and I thought he was a gonner. The little fella was faster than I gave him credit for. Come on. The popcorn is getting cold."


Sonny released a low breath as Johnny guided the black Lincoln Town Car down the block. He took a big risk in going out and under normal circumstances he wouldn't have been so careless. But these weren't normal circumstances. He needed to see her. He had to see her! Be close to her. Even if it was just a glimpse, it would be enough to last him until he saw her the following afternoon.

"Where to?"

Johnny's question jarred Sonny from his reverie. Startled, he sat up straight and resumed his cool façade. "Let's just drive around for a while. See what new sights Port Charles has to offer."


The soundproof window slid up, separating the driver from his employer. And once again as Sonny settled back against the leather interior, his thoughts drifted to Dara and what would happen at their meeting on the following day.


A slow night at the ER was not a good thing, Ellen thought. It gave her too much time to think and reconsider her conversation with her cousin. She was sure that Dara didn't mean any harm, but her flippant attitude about marriage hurt Ellen deeply. She had given up everything to be with the man she loved…her family and putting her career on hold. When Sam died, it was true that she had decided that she would never love anyone so completely again, but she didn't understand why Dara would miss the opportunity to have that feeling once. If only, once.

Time moved on at a snail's pace. Glancing at her watch, Ellen decided that it was time to call it quits. She'd been there long enough and they had her pager if anything important happened. Turning away to sign out on the dry erase board, Ellen jumped in surprise when someone tapped her shoulder.


"Grace, you nearly gave me a heart attack," Ellen scolded. "Why did you sneak up on me like that?

"I didn't mean to," Grace whispered back. She seemed jumpy and nervous. Her behavior piqued Ellen's curiosity and she gave the other woman a hard stare. "I need to talk to you," Grace whispered off Ellen's look. "Somewhere private."

Ellen rolled her eyes and shook her head. "This cloak and dagger stuff is for kids, Grace," she mumbled as she grabbed her coat and purse and followed the brunette to the parking lot. When they reached Ellen's car, she stopped. "This is private. What's going on?"

Grace's dark eyes scanned the parking lot. They were the only two people standing in the lot as the cold, snow flurries trickled down onto them. "It's Matt. He needs your help. He made me promise not to tell anyone, but I can't take care of him the way you can. I have the supplies here in my bag. Please come with me to help him."

At the mention of Matt being in danger, Ellen's heart raced. She grabbed Grace's arm in an iron grip. "Where is he?"

"He's at his place."

"We'll go in separate cars," Ellen said as she unlocked the driver's side of her Toyota Camry. "I'll meet you there."

"Ellen," Grace said quietly before the other woman had started her car, "you can't tell anyone."

"I won't."


Power. Control. Obedience.

All three of those things were important to the head of the Mancusi family. But they were everything to his heir. Bobby was a bundle of kinetic energy as he paced the floor of his Philadelphia penthouse. Things were unraveling and he didn't like how things could turn out if somebody didn't a grasp on things and soon.

Pounding his palm with his fist, he reviewed the latest happenings that turned his carefully constructed world upside down. First, the hints dropped to his little brother didn't make a dent in that thick head of his. Eric was stupid and believed that the Federal Marshals could protect them. Okay, the bomb at the hotel didn't quite do the job and Eric was on the lam again, but it was only a matter of time before Bobby found him. The bullet that nailed Eric's spine would feel like a teasing pinch in comparison to what Bobbie had in store for him.

Second, the girl!

Bobbie pounded his fist three times when he thought of her. His gut instinct had told him to take control of her a long time ago. Long before she signed up for that volunteer Peace Corp crap that sent her halfway across the world. She had always been a little flighty. A firm hand was what she needed to keep her in control. She needed to learn how to obey. He would be the one in charge in their necessary little marriage of convenience. Their joining as planned by his dad and her uncle had been about control of the Eastern seaboard and a power so great that everyone would tremble in fear whenever the Mancusi name was even whispered let alone said aloud.

And she wanted to throw it all away for some half-breed brat, the product of do-gooder doctors. Hell no!

So he sent her a little reminder—a wedding invitation via email with instructions on what was expected of her on their wedding night. And did she thank him for forgiving her indiscretion with that kid? Hell no!

She upped and ran. The kid was left crying after her and he, Bobby Mancusi, was left holding the bag.

He didn't think so, Bobby thought, halting his pacing to gulp a shot of Jack Daniels. She could run, but she couldn't hide. That Hardy kid had hired investigators to look for her and when she was found, Bobby's men would be right there to take her away. Lynn O'Rourke would soon learn that her intended was a man to be reckoned with. And then all of it would be his.

Power, control and obedience.

General Hospital & Port Charles ©ABC
Magnum, P.I. © Universal Studios
Spenser: For Hire © ABC
The Right Way(and all original characters) ©2000 niklovr
All Rights Reserved

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