Chapter 9

Keesha wove her way through the elegantly dressed crowd. She was happy to see a room filled with smiling faces and hopefully bottomless wallets. Of course, the sole purpose of the event wasn't to raise money. The entire night was a celebration for CSF and the many who worked hard to see that the Foundation continued to be a success.

She accepted a warm hug from Edward and a kiss on the cheek from Alan. For once, Alan appeared lucid. She hoped he remained that way for the rest of the evening. Justus stood near the bar. He waved and Keesha returned the gesture. He began to beckon over, but then Bobbie appeared. As usual, the flaming haired nurse captured his complete attention. Keesha chuckled to herself. Finally, the love bug had taken a huge bite out of her cousin.

Her gaze danced across the room. She spotted Lila and Monica stood at the older woman's side. Something was wrong with the picture. Keesha frowned. Where was her daughter?

Three-inch heels did not hinder Keesha's movement. She headed to Monica with urgency. It wasn't that she didn't trust her mother-in-law with her child…but where was Maya?

Panic threatened to consume Keesha. Smiling guests tried to engage her in conversation, but she pushed on. As she moved between a couple, she noticed a familiar shape of spiked blonde hair. Her gaze glanced down and saw that Jason held a little girl's hand. Maya's hand. Their daughter.

Her pace quickened. When she reached them, she snatched Maya's hand and moved to leave a dumbstruck Jason alone. He grabbed her upper arm before she could take a step.

"Keesha."

"Let go of me," she said through clenched teeth. "Don't ever touch me or my daughter again."

She lifted Maya from the floor and with the tenacity of mother bear protecting her cub, strode from the ballroom.

* * *

"I don't understand it."

Nikolas handed Emily a glass of white wine and took a sip of Vodka. "Understand what?" he asked.

She shook her head and waves of dark brown locks framed her face. "How Keesha and AJ treat Jason so badly. Did you see what just happened? She pulled Maya away as if touching Jason would give Maya cooties or something."

"Cooties?" Nikolas arched an eyebrow. He witnessed the scene but hadn't analyzed it the way Emily obviously had. From an outsider's viewpoint, he could certainly understand Keesha's reluctance in letting her child associate with Jason Morgan. The man knowingly consorted with criminals. Keesha would be remiss in her duties as a mother to simply ignore that fact. The other Quartermaine women regarded Jason with a blind eye. It was obvious that Keesha did not suffer the same affliction.

"You know what I mean. Like he has an infectious disease or something." She nursed her glass of wine and then added, "I wish my family could be as peaceful as yours."

He nearly choked. Peaceful? Nikolas hadn't known a moment's peace since returning home and finding 'the one who got away' sharing his father's bed.

Their dance burned him. Years had passed, but every time he thought of that night, his blood boiled with need. The biggest mistake of his life had been to walk away from her. At the time, Lucky's death was too fresh. Grief over his brother left him lifeless and without emotion. Until that dance. Her soft pliant body molded perfectly against him. She felt right within his arms. But like a fool, he walked away.

"You, your father and Alexis have reunited. Your Grandmother has sailed away." Emily regarded Nikolas with a warm smile. "It must be nice to be you." She linked her arm through his. "I'm so glad you came back home. You were missed."

It wasn't nice to be him, Nikolas thought. Not yet, but once it was, his home certainly wouldn't be peaceful.

Movement near the ballroom entrance caught his eye. He turned. There stood Dawn, her hand locked with Stefan's. Then, Stefan's gaze connected with his. And Nikolas knew that the battle lines had been drawn.

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