AJ entered the ballroom just as Nikolas stepped to the podium. The younger man delivered a remarkable speech and on short notice, too. While the crowd applauded and the award recipient responded, AJ moved to join his family.
"Hi!" Keesha greeted him in an excited whisper. "You made it."
"Nothing could keep me away." He kissed Keesha's cheek and pulled Maya onto his lap. "How's my little princess? What a beautiful dress with so many pretty roses."
Maya giggled. "I like the roses, too. I picked the dress out all by myself."
AJ nodded. "I know."
Maya smiled and returned to her chair. AJ directed his attention to his wife. His gaze feasted on her. He could never get over her beauty. No matter the occasion, Keesha was stunning. From head to toe and back again, AJ took in everything. Blood rushed through him. He could hardly wait until they were alone.
His hungry stare caught her eye. A sudden embarrassed smile rose to her lips. "AJ, behave!"
He moved closer to her. His lips pressed against her ear. "I haven't done anything. Yet."
Her chest heaved. She moistened her lips. Her brown eyes sparkled. "Promises, promises."
"I always keep my promises." He took her hand and laced their fingers together. With his other hand, he grabbed a glass of water and sipped. His libido burned hotly. He'd better cool off before it became obvious to everyone.
While he drank, he looked around the room. The turnout was better than last year. With a thousand dollars a plate, CSF would be able to help many. His gaze encountered Dawn. She sat beside Stefan Cassadine. That sure surprised the hell out of him. Their eyes locked. She smiled and he returned the gesture. He hoped that she knew what she was doing, involving herself with that family.
Oh, God, he silently groaned. He was beginning to think like his grandfather. He laughed to himself. Keesha gave him a questioning look. He shrugged and she seemed to be satisfied and returned to her conversation with Justus.
AJ resumed his perusal of the room. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. He frowned and turned fully around in his seat. His gaze struck the emotionless stare of his younger brother. What the hell was Jason doing there? He wondered. And why was Jason staring at him? There was only one way to find out.
"I'll be right back," he told Keesha.
He stood, took a moment to tweak Maya's nose and then headed for Jason's table. The sullen stare remained the same. After all this time, AJ wondered if Jason would ever experience any emotion besides anger. A twinge of guilt went through him. If it wasn't for the accident… AJ expelled a low breath. What ifs couldn't turn back the hands of time. The old Jason was dead and buried. Nothing would bring him back. Ever.
"Jason," he said in greeting.
His brother didn't respond immediately. He unfolded his arms from across his chest. "AJ."
"What brings you here?" AJ asked.
"Lila asked me to come."
Shit! AJ looked at Jason, wondering how to approach him. And then he wondered why should he bother. He was about to leave when he felt a small hand take hold of his.
"Daddy, he's my friend," Maya chirped.
AJ started to look down at his daughter, but something about Jason caught his eye. The other man sat up straight and his eyes darkened, locking onto the little girl.
Dread rose inside AJ like a tidal wave. Anxiety rose to his throat and he feared he'd drown in it. This wasn't happening. The look in Jason's eyes screamed of longing, but Maya was AJ's little girl.
He squatted down until he and Maya were eye to eye. "That's nice, sweetheart. Let's say hi to everyone else. Come on."
He swept Maya into his arms and stood. He kept a firm hold on his daughter as he looked at his brother. "Jason."