Chapter 4

"What did you get?"

Keesha pulled her paper away from Sly's inquiring hands. When she re-enrolled at PCU, she did so knowing that she had a few factors working against her. She was older and as a wife and mother, had more responsibilities than most of her classmates could imagine. Keesha knew she could handle it, but unlike the first go 'round, more than likely she'd go through it all without forging friendships. She was wrong about that one.

On the first day, Sly Eckertt spotted her in the Abnormal Psychology lecture and had been her pal ever since. AJ thought the teenager had a crush on her. Keesha didn't believe it. Sly had his hands pretty full with Lark Madison, who was enrolled in PCU's nursing program.

"Come on, Keesha. Let me see."

"No, wait." She shoved her textbook and notebook into her leather satchel. "Give me a sec. What did you get?"

He pulled his assignment from the back pocket of his jeans. "Observation of adults in a social environment. Not bad. I overheard some other kid gripe about having to observe his roommate for a week."

"That should be a piece of cake," Keesha said as they headed from the lecture hall and off campus. "How easy is that?"

"You don't know his roommate. The dude's got serious issues."

She laughed. Sly wasn't one to pull punches.

They chatted as they headed for the waterfront. After their Ab Psyche lecture, they usually headed for Kelly's. Sly worked there part-time and Keesha grabbed a bite to eat before going to work at CSF.

While Sly went inside to clock-in, Keesha grabbed an outside table. A waitress took her order and Keesha opened her date book. As she began to jot down her latest assignment, a shadow fell across the table.

"You're a tease, Keesha." With an apron tied around his waist, Sly looked down at her with feigned disapproval glittering in his gray eyes. "Share and share alike."

"Oh, brother." Keesha groaned, causing her younger friend to laugh. She pulled her assignment out and handed it to him. "Here. Happy now?"

His eyes roamed the page and then, a smile came to his face. "Cool. We got the same assignment. Wanna do it together?"

"Sure, why not?" She shrugged. "When?"

"I'll see if Bobbie will cut me a break and we can do it now. Be right back."

Keesha took out her cell phone and dialed the CSF office. "Hi, Dawn. Is AJ there?"

"Hi, Keesha. No, he's still at the City Council budget meeting," Dawn replied. "Should I leave a message that you called?"

"Sure, could you tell him that I may not come in today? I'm working on an assignment. I'll pick up Maya from school, though."

"No problem. I'll let him know."

"Thanks," Keesha said. "I'll talk to you later."

Keesha decided that while she waited for Sly and for her order, she might as well work on her assignment. She positioned her chair so that she had a good view of the other Kelly's diners. An older couple had a table near the door. Instead of having a wide-range of test subjects, Keesha chose to use those two as her guinea pigs. She grabbed her notes and pen and began to take notes.

The couple's body language signaled that they were more than casual acquaintances. The man leaned in close. The woman edged away slightly. More happened and Keesha became so focused on them that she didn't immediately notice that someone stood beside her table.

"Keesha."

Startled, Keesha jerked. "Well, it took you long enough."

Silence.

She looked up. It wasn't Sly at her table. She frowned. Her internal defense kicked into high gear.

"Jason? What?"

He jutted his chin toward the chair in front of her. "Do you mind?"

Against her better judgment… "I guess not. Have a sit."

He sat. Keesha noted his set face, his clamped mouth and fixed eyes. Her stomach lurched. She didn't want to imagine what this unexpected visit meant.

"What is it?" she asked, impatiently.

"You were watching them." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder.

"So?"

The lines of concentration deepened along his brows and under his eyes. "Why?"

Keesha sighed. She'd forgotten that conversations with Jason Morgan weren't the same as with other people. He responded on a different level. One that she wasn't familiar with.

"It's homework," she answered. "What do you want?"

"Maya."

She inhaled a sharp, quick breath. Blood roared in her ears. Subconsciously, she gripped the table. "What?" she asked hoarsely.

Jason rested his forearms on the table and leaned forward. "Michael talks about her all the time. He wants to play with her after school."

"You want me to say it's okay," Keesha said. Slowly, she managed to control her fears. She released her hold on the table and carefully folded her hands in her lap. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"Because of me?" he asked, as he sat back.

Yes!

"No," she said aloud.

"Why not?"

"They come from two different worlds. Maya isn't used to having men with guns around. It would scare her."

Jason shook his head. "I told Sonny that I'd watch over Michael."

"Is that what you're doing?" she asked before she could stop herself.

A muscle flicked at his jaw. "Does it matter?"

Keesha didn't like where this conversation was headed. Old wounds were in danger of being reopened. It could prove that time didn't heal everything. Certainly not the ache in her heart whenever she looked at her little girl and thought of the child's father. And here he was sitting across from her. But it wasn't him. Just the shell.

She swallowed hard. "I suppose it doesn't."

"Well?"

"I don't know, Jason. AJ and I will discuss it and we'll let you know."

"I know. " His jaw tightened. "He'll agree with you. He'll say no, too."

He suddenly scraped his chair across the cobblestones, rose and stormed away.

"You okay?" Sly appeared with a tray of food and drinks. "What's up with him?"

She shrugged and tried to give him a smile. "You know how he is. It could be anything."

Sly set the tray down. As he sat, he rolled his eyes. "He's a moron. I don't know what half the folks in this town see in him." He reached out and lightly touched her hand. "Don't let him get to you."

She nodded, but it was a lie. It was too late for that. Jason Morgan got to her the instant he said her daughter's name. The look in his eyes…his tone of voice. God, it was the first time she heard her child's father say their daughter's name. It ripped her in two. In that moment, Jason Morgan sounded exactly like Jason Quartermaine.

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