Chapter 24

*Changes on the Horizon*

"Vinnie is dead?" Dawn repeated the words slowly. Her fingers clutched the cross her dear friend had only just given her. Her other hand caressed her swollen abdomen. Inside, the baby moved in protest. As if the unborn child knew the Italian lullabies that were once sung to it were to be no more. Dawn shook her head. "It cannot be. Vinnie is not dead."

The priest joined her on the pew. His hand closed around the fist, which held the cross. "I'm sorry, but he is. Do you have anyone to call?"

Nikolai.

Dawn swallowed hard. Salty tears stung her eyes. He wasn't hers to call. She couldn't lean on him for support. She shook her head. "No, there isn't anyone. My hotel suite is a few blocks away. I'll be fine."

Dawn rose to stand. Father Michael helped her to her feet.

"Is that wise?" The priest asked.

"I'm sorry, miss, but you can't leave."

"Who are you?" she asked, staring up into a pair of dark chocolate brown eyes. The man stood well over six feet tall. Thick, lustrous black hair covered his head. His skin tone was a shade darker than her mother's and denoted his mixed heritage. He was handsome, Dawn decided, but that didn't mitigate his imposing demeanor.

"I'm Detective Curtis of the two-seventh Precinct." He produced a badge and photo ID.

She peered at the identification, but the images blurred. The tears made focusing difficult. Dawn blinked and rubbed her eyes. The name and police documentation matched. She gave him a brief nod.

He leaned toward her. His hand touched her elbow. "You don't look well. You should sit."

"She should rest," Father Michael interjected. "Your questioning can wait until morning."

The Detective shook his head. "No, it cannot. Miss? Your name?"

"Dawn Christofides-Hunter," she stated as calmly as she could muster.

His eyebrows shot up. "The classical pianist?" She nodded. He gave her a faint smile. "I thought you looked familiar." He helped her return to the pew and sat beside her. After he flipped open a notepad, he said, "Can you tell me what happened?"

Flashes of sharp teeth, the smell of blood and the ice cold fingertips of fear returned to her. Dawn shuddered, wrapping her arms protectively around her. "No, I can't," she said mournfully as she sniffled. Her gaze connected with his through a cloudy haze of tears. "Please, do not ask that of me."

"Can't you see she's distraught?" Father Michael cut in.

Det. Curtis nodded. "I can. My apologies Ms. Christofides-Hunter, but there are a few questions that we need answers to. The circumstances of Mr. Terranova's death are unusual to say the least, and since you are the only witness to the attack, you may be in danger. We need to put you in protective custody."

"What does that mean? I have a hotel suite only a few blocks away. Vincent found no fault with the hotel's security. I'm sure I'll be safe there."

"I'm not." He stood and pulled out his cell phone. "I need to contact my lieutenant, and then we'll be on our way."

"She can't go with you," the priest stated. "She's safest within this church. If you take her away, you'll guarantee that the animal who harmed her friend will come after her."

Rey turned to the priest. "Father, my faith is strong, but--"

"No," Father Michael interrupted forcefully. "You can stay with her if you wish, but you will not take her away. Not this night. I won't allow it."

~*~

"I can't thank you enough," Katherine said as she and Mac took the elevator to the fifteenth floor of the Port Charles Hotel. They had a breakfast meeting with her attorneys in the conference room. The upcoming court battle made her anxious, but Mac's presence was a calming influence. She slipped her hand around his arm as the elevator doors opened and they moved down the hall.

He gently patted her hand. "Don't, Katherine. No thanks is needed. You shouldn't have to go through this alone."

They paused at the doorway. She smiled at him, searching his sea green eyes for answers. "You're a good man to care so much about me."

He hesitated for a moment. "I'm your friend."

"Dara must be a confident woman to let you out of her sight for so long," she commented.

Mac stiffened. Shadows darkened his ruggedly handsome face. "Yes, she is." He grabbed the doorknob and turned. His hand fell to the small of her back. "Shall we?"

~*~

Bobby and Rebecca stayed up most of the night reviewing their newest client's case file. Well, some of the time was spent working on the case. The most productive time was devoted to working on each other. Bobby felt the familiar throb in his pants as he watched Bec cross the room to shake the hands of Katherine Bell and Mac Scorpio. Although petite in stature, Rebecca Washington's legs appeared unbelievably long as they extended from the hem of her gray pinstripe business suit. The color of the finest dark chocolate and sinfully silky to the touch...

The client, Bobby, a firm voice scolded. Remember the client.

Reluctantly, he dragged his gaze from his lover's delectable backside to meet the slightly frowning stare of the object of his close scrutiny. He winked and blushing, she directed her attention to their client. As she invited them to sit and offered coffee, Bobby stood, remembering to adjust the jacket of Armani suit as he did so.

"Good morning," he said, moving around the table to sit beside Rebecca.

"I was hoping you'd say that," Katherine replied. "If it's good, that means you have good news for me."

"We have news," Rebecca replied, "or rather information."

Mac sat forward. "What kind of information?"

Rebecca looked to Bobby to answer Scorpio's question. Bobby knew why. She was against this tactic, but Bobby always relied on having a Plan A as well as a Plan B. The strategy worked well for him in the past and he wasn't about to stop using it now. Even if it meant his lover gave him dirty looks.

"We're investigating the backgrounds of Cassadine and his wife."

A dissatisfied frown creased Katherine's brow. "How will that help me?"

Bobby answered her honestly. "I don't know, but it can't hurt."

~*~

"No, I know what I'm doing." A brief pause. "Mother, my decision is final. This is who I am now. Grandfather is..."

Dara glanced at Brenda as she paused in the doorway to the suite the other woman shared with Ned, who was obviously having an intense telephone conversation. "Is this a bad time?"

Brenda looked over her shoulder at her lover before turning to face Dara. "This is normal. Tracy's been nagging him to death. Let's go to the balcony. We'll be able to hear ourselves over the yelling."

"Yelling?" Dara asked as she followed Brenda outside. The two women sat, facing the dazzling Chicago skyline. Dara leaned back and relaxed.

Brenda leaned forward, looking through the glass doors. "Ned tolerates his mother for so long and then the dam breaks. He reminds me of Edward. Loud but with a big heart." She directed her attention to Dara and smiled. "Are you enjoying Chicago? I'm sorry that Mac wasn't able to stay long."

Dara stiffened. Just the mention of her husband's name caused her heart to constrict with mixed emotions. She subconsciously turned her wedding band around her finger. "He had obligations in Port Charles that required his attention."

Brenda frowned. "Want to talk about it?"

"Not really." Dara gave the petite former model a tight smile. "So, what's up? Your message sounded urgent. Are we staying longer in Chicago?"

An excited smile brightened Brenda's face. "We could, but Ned and I'd rather not wear out our welcome."

"Leave them wanting more," Dara added. "I like that."

"I hope you'll like this even more...a trip to Hawaii. A friend of Ned's just opened a club and asked if we knew any acts who could draw the crowd in. Our first thought was you. What do you think?"

Tropical breezes, sweet pineapples and the sensation of Sonny Corinthos' strong arms around her... Dara shuddered. She'd promised herself that Hawaii was off limits. Permanently. Hawaii was where she lost all reason. She wasn't keen on going down that road again or being reminded of it.

"Dara?" Brenda prompted. "I thought you'd be excited. This is exposure. If you're worried about Mac, of course he can come with you. L&B will cover his expenses."

"It's not that," Dara said. She averted her gaze from Brenda's searching eyes. It wasn't like she could tell the woman that Dara's fears were based on a man. A man that both women had been intimate with. God, how messy was that. She swallowed hard. "I'm just stunned. Another city and more people to share my music with."

"It doesn't get any better than that," Brenda said. "If you need time to think about it--"

"I don't need time. I'll do it. Let's go."

Since Mac chose to focus on holding Katherine's hand during the trial, Dara decided to focus on her career. Wasn't marriage supposed to be a partnership? She blinked away the salty tears that suddenly stung her eyes and gave Brenda a smile filled with confidence.

~*~

Sonny tried to forget about the run-in with Jason, but it was hard. The steely blue eyes that stared at him unflinchingly were the exact same as his best friend's, yet, this time instead of trust, anger and resentment reflected in them. The former mob boss pinched the bridge of his nose before running his hand through his hair.

He pushed away from his desk and moved to his office window, staring sightlessly at Port Charles. Just seeing the younger man in his office reminded him of how much he missed Jason. He hadn't cared about what the Quartermaines went through they lost Jason Q in the car accident. Their grief and denial meant nothing to him. He turned his back to their pain. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to do the same to his own.

His private line rang. Sonny went to his desk and answered the phone. A business associate was on the other line.

"Sonny, I hated to make this call," said Joe Carpenter, an exporter of Kona coffee beans.

Sonny released a low breath. "What's wrong?"

"I'm having some problems with the locals. They're refusing to return to the fields."

Joe was one tight sonuvabitch when it came to money. Sonny groaned. "Give them the extra dough."

"It's more to it than that," Joe hedged.

"What?"

"I'd rather not go into this over the phone," Joe replied.

"You want me to come to Hawai'i," Sonny stated.

"Yeah," Joe said after a brief pause. "I know it's an inconvenience..."

"It's business," Sonny responded. "I'll leave tonight."

As Sonny ended the call, he decided that the change in scenery was what he needed to bring his life into perspective. And when his heart raced as memories of becoming one with Dara Jensen came to mind, he ignored them.

~*~

"Did you hate Jason Morgan?"

Jason's question stunned Keesha. Their breathing had just returned to normal after an explosive lovemaking session. Frowning, she rolled onto her side to look into his eyes. His head faced the window. Placing two fingers under his chin, she turned his head toward her. The vacant expression on his face reminded her of another Jason. The one who pushed her away.

"Will you answer me?" he asked, his voice hoarse. "Or just stare at me instead?"

His bottom lip trembled slightly and Keesha knew that the harsh question was merely a facade.

"I like staring at you," she answered. "You're a handsome man."

He didn't respond. His gaze held hers.

She sighed. "I didn't hate him. He wasn't you. What I hated was losing Granny Mae and then losing you. I hated myself for loving you when Jason Morgan made it clear that he didn't want me or my love."

"I'm sorry."

"You don't have to apologize for him. I don't blame you for what he did."

"He is me," he said with a slight catch in his voice. "I am to blame. I hurt you. I hurt everyone."

"You don't have to keep apologizing to us," she said, trying desperately to reassure him. "Jason Morgan was--"

"Not was," he interrupted. "Jason Morgan is a part of me." He flattened his palm against his chest. "I can feel him here, and I don't know what to do about it. I'm wandering, Keesha and I have no idea what my destination is."

"You have to give yourself time. No one's rushing you. Be patient."

He shook his head. His other hand caressed her bare back. "I'm not a patient man. You know that."

"I don't know what else to tell you," Keesha said. "I want you to be happy. Knowing that you're not breaks my heart."

Jason pulled her close. His mouth claimed hers in a deep, thorough kiss. His manhood stirred, brushing her thigh. He rolled Keesha onto her back. His body covered hers. His hardness penetrated her softness. Keesha moaned into his mouth. He broke the kiss.

"You make me happy," he growled against her ear. "Hearing that moan makes me ecstatic." He slid in deeper. "That spot right there makes me delirious."

"Oh, Jasssssson!" Keesha's fingers dug into his back as his pelvis ground into her.

"This is the solution," he panted, driving into you. "You and me. No turning back for either of us."

"Yes!" she cried as her passion threatened to consume her. "Together forever."

"No, matter what," Jason added, increasing the pace.

Her agreement came with the shrill cry of release.

[Author's Note: Father Michael is from the NBC soap Santa Barbara, Detective Reynaldo Curtis is from NBC's Law & Order.]

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