The excitement of going back to school to get a degree in Interior Design had begun to wear off. Trudging out of the elevator, Carly grumbled as she looked at the graded paper of her most recent exam. She hadn't done as well as she wanted and she was irritated. Her ideas had been good ones. She didn't understand why her instructor didn't appreciate her effort. It wasn't fair.
"Johnny," she grunted at the guard as he stepped aside to allow her entry into the penthouse. He closed the door behind her and she barely noticed. Shoving the barely passing test into her bag, she stood still in her tracks as Jason stormed down the staircase. The tote fell from her hands and her eyes widened. "Oh, my God! Jase! What happened to you? Sonny said that you weren't hurt."
His blue eyes darkened to the same hue as the bruise that covered his jaw. He glared at her for a moment before brushing past her to go to the desk. Anger consumed him and spilled out into the room.
Throwing caution to the wind, she went to him anyway. Quietly, she asked again, "Jason? Who did that to you? Did you see a doctor?"
"I'm fine, Carly," he bit out through swollen lips. His voice was slightly muffled and the fire in his eyes added the rest. It screamed for her to leave him alone.
Of course, she didn't listen.
"Can I get you anything? Some ice maybe to help with the swelling," she suggested.
"I told you I'm fine!" He spun on his heel, whirling away from her.
"Why won't you let me help you?" she asked him, watching as he went back up the staircase.
"I don't want it, Carly," he answered her without malice. "I'm fine. Just leave it at that."
"Fine!" she hurled at him. Her face flushed with humiliation and anger. Her hands trembled at her sides and she balled them into fists to still the embarrassing movement. She needed to get out of there and away from him. She turned towards the door and almost slammed out of it, but then she saw one of Michael's small toys on the floor beneath the coat rack. An idea hit her like a flash of lightning. If she walked out, she was taking Michael with her and maybe...just maybe, neither of them would come back.
By the time she had turned around to go back to get her son, Jason had long vacated the stairway and had hidden himself somewhere in the penthouse. Too infuriated to care, Carly grabbed Michael, a few of his things and bolted for the door. She had no idea where she was going and at that point, she didn't care. Inside, her heart pounded because she knew that Jason didn't care either.
Monica looked up with half a smile when AJ entered her office. "Hi, there. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"
"I wanted to talk to you," he answered. "Would you mind if I close the door?"
"Of course not," she said. Her brows knitted into a frown. "This sounds serious."
AJ inhaled sharply as he sat down in the chair in front of her desk. "It is serious, but before I get into it, I wanted to ask you about the girl who was stabbed yesterday. Will she be okay?"
"She'll be fine. Why are you asking about her? Do you know her?"
He shook his head. "Keesha does. She's worried and upset. I wanted to be able to give her good news the next time I see her. "Thanks."
"No problem," Monica replied. She tapped a pen against the palm of her hand while she gave her son a long, hard look. "What's on your mind?"
AJ had no idea why this was so difficult. He had made up his mind and it wasn't like she could dissuade him. He would like a support team, but if one wasn't forthcoming, he'd survive. But he couldn't deny even to himself that it would be nice to have someone other than Keesha or his lawyer in his corner. Just this once. He took another deep breath and the words rushed out. "I wanted you to hear it from me first. I've hired an attorney to petition the court to have a DNA test done on Michael."
"Whatever for?" she asked, her eyes large with surprise.
"I need to know if he's my son-"
"Haven't you been through this before?" she asked. She rose from her chair and moved to face the window. "Why are you putting everyone through this again?"
"What everyone?" he asked, mildly annoyed. "I was the only person who went through anything the last time. I did it all alone and... Look, that's not why I'm telling you this. If the papers find out, I wanted you to hear it from me first. That's all. I'd better go. I have another stop to make."
"AJ, wait." Monica turned around. Her eyes pleaded with him to be patient with her. "Why? That's all I wanna know. Why now?"
"Because of the lies, Mom," he answered. "Michael deserves the truth. A DNA test will guarantee that he gets it."
"I deserve the truth, too. I looked at that medical report, but I didn't know what I was looking at. For all I know, Carly's little friend Lorraine could have done something or somebody else could have changed something. With the court involved, the answer can't be tampered with."
She nodded never taking her eyes from him. "And have you considered what this test could mean to Michael? Or to Jason? Or to the rest of the family? The papers will have a field day with this and you know it. Are you prepared for that? The scandal and the speculation will follow Michael the rest of his life. Is this DNA test worth that to you? Michael's conception will be on display for the whole world to scrutinize."
AJ rubbed his hands over his face in gesture that displayed his weariness. "I've thought about that and that's what stopped me from pursuing this the last time. I won't let it stop me again, and to be frank, I don't care what the world thinks or how this will effect the family or Jason. I care about Michael! If I am his father, he and I deserve the chance to be together! Carly's lies have ruined enough people's lives. I won't let them ruin another."
Without waiting for her response, AJ left Monica's office. His conversation with her almost took everything he had, but not all. He needed the rest for Tony. When the DNA test became public knowledge, the older man deserved to know the truth about what happened between him and Carly. AJ had made the decision to turn his life around and he was determined to do it one step at a time.
"This is bad," Dara announced even as her body quivered from the touch of Mac's strong, insistent hands and warm, sensual lips. "On the front porch and in broad daylight. Have you no shame, Commissioner?"
"No," he murmured pausing in his assault on her neck to answer her. "Where you are concerned, I am a shameless rogue."
In his aroused state, his Australian brogue was more pronounced. Just the sound of the accent sent shivers up and down Dara's spine. As his teeth nibbled her earlobe, she came damn close to pulling him back inside the house. Instead, she strengthened her resolve as she best she could and pressed her hands against his chest and pushed. "Mac Scorpio."
"Yes?" His bright blue eyes shone with desire and mischief. "How may I best serve you?"
"Oh, if only I had the time to answer that question," she countered as she wiped her lipstick from his mouth. "I have a lunch date and rehearsal after that. You have work! It's time to go. Now."
He pouted. "We should cancel everything and continue with our celebration."
"My cousin would kill me and my boss would fire me," she reminded him. She grabbed his briefcase and handed it to him. Pulling the door closed behind her, she locked it. Mac then took her hand and they walked to their cars.
"Ellen wouldn't kill you if you canceled nicely and I know your boss wouldn't fire you," Mac countered. "I happen to know that the guy adores you and thinks you're the best thing that happened to the Outback in a lifetime. I'm sure if you explained to him the situation in detail, he'd give you the night off."
Dara laughed. "In detail, huh? Mac, you are a very naughty man."
"And when I become your husband, I'll be even naughtier." He kissed her deeply, taking his time to savor her. When it was over, she sighed and his eyes gleamed with satisfaction. "I thought you'd like that. Have a good time with Ellen and think of me when you perform your first set. I'll try to be there by then, but I can't say for sure if I'll make it."
"I understand," she said with a nod. He opened the driver's door for her and she slid inside. As he closed the door, she smiled up at him. "Have a good day."
"It won't be half as good as its beginning," he said with a wolfish grin. He lightly tapped her nose with the tip of finger. As he headed to his car, he called out, "I love you, Dara Jensen."
"I love you, too," she returned before firing her ignition and backing out of the drive.
A silly grin settled itself on her face and wouldn't leave. She couldn't help it. Dara was deliriously happy. With a few failed relationships under her belt and her career in law over, she hadn't believed she'd ever feel so content. Boy, was she glad she was wrong! This was grand. The happiness in Mac's eyes when she told him that she'd marry him and the elation she felt when she said the words... Nothing could compare to that. Not even music.
The front parking lot of the Outback was filling up so Dara steered towards the back entrance. With her mind still on Mac and their engagement, she didn't notice the Porsche that parked beside her or the angry man who slammed out of it until he stood just inches from her. The joy she felt faded and irritation replaced it. "Are you following me?"
"Are you marrying him?" Sonny demanded.
"That's hardly any of your business!" she snapped. She moved to brush past him, but his hand shot out. His hold on her upper arm made her unable to move. Her voice grated as hard as a rock. "Let go of me."
He unhanded her and stepped back. His dark eyes glittered with confusion before becoming cloudy and unreadable. "Are you marrying Scorpio?" he asked again.
Bristling, she had half a mind to ignore him, but she fought the urge. Maybe now, once and for all, he'd get it and leave her alone. She could only hope. "Yes."
"I never thought you'd settle, Dara."
"I'm not," she retorted.
His laugh was brittle and humorless. "You're a fool if you don't see it. You'll never be happy with him."
"No, Sonny," she said quietly. "I'll never be happy without him." She stepped past him. When she was at the entrance to the Outback's back door, she said, "I mean it. I don't want to see you again. Hawaii happened and its over. Go away-"
"What do you think the Commissioner would say about our week in Hawaii?" Sonny asked in low, thoughtful voice. "Would he still want to marry you if he thought you had a wild week of hot passion with me? What do you think?"
Panic surged through her. Breathing normally became difficult. "You wouldn't dare," she croaked.
Sonny shrugged as he went back to his Porsche. "I never said I would. It's just something to think about, isn't it? Enjoy yourself." He smiled before he disappeared inside his expensive toy and roared out of the parking lot.
Dara stood there staring after him, wondering what she had gotten herself into when she allowed Sonny Corinthos to share her bed.