"Did you have a good time tonight?" Keesha tucked Maya's Barbie sheets and comforter in tight. Then, she sat on the edge of the little girl's canopy bed.
"I liked seeing everyone look nice," Maya said. "I especially liked seeing Mr. Jason. He's handsome and he's nice, too."
A chill rippled through Keesha. She remembered the way his shoulders filled out the tuxedo jacket and how his blue eyes scrutinized her. She had lashed out without thinking. Her emotions hung on a tight rope whenever he was around. Why did he have to come back? Things were going fine, but now her little girl was becoming attached to him. She and AJ couldn't let that happen.
"He said that Michael wanted to come, but he had a fever. I wish Michael could have been there, too. He could have sat with us," Maya continued, unaware of her mother's turmoil. "But why was Mr. Jason sitting with Grandma Lila? I could tell she really likes him. He likes her, too. Don't you think so, Mommy?"
So many questions! Keesha inhaled a sharp breath. She hoped to remain calm, but that proved to be a difficult task. Especially considering how the more her daughter spoke, the more her blue eyes mirrored her father's.
"He has a motorcycle and he's been to a lot of places. Michael has a box of postcards and Mr. Jasonó"
"Maya," Keesha interrupted, "settle down. It's time for sleep."
The little girl's mouth closed, but excitement still lurked in her sapphire eyes. She curled onto her side and hugged her teddy bear close to her chest. "Okay. Goodnight, Mommy."
Keesha gently kissed Maya's cheek. "Goodnight baby."
A few minutes later, Keesha crawled into bed beside AJ. He set his paperwork aside and wrapped an arm around her. She settled close against his bare, muscled chest. She willed herself to match his even breathing.
But AJ was not fooled. He rolled onto his side and closed his other arm around her. His pale blue eyes assessed her closely. "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"I had a run-in with Jason," she confided. "I may have overacted."
He squeezed her close. "What happened?"
She shrugged. "Nothing specific. I just don't like him."
"Didn't I tell you a long time ago that you'll never have anything to fear from him? Trust me." His words and tone implored her.
"I do trust you. I just wish he'd never come back."
"He'll leave again." AJ kissed her forehead. "You'll see."
"You're staying around this time?" Sonny asked.
Jason moved to the fireplace. He'd just come from tucking Michael in. The youngster's temperature was close to normal. The boy had many questions for Jason and apparently, Sonny overheard the last one.
"I don't know," he finally answered.
"That's not what you told Michael."
Jason met Sonny's stare. "I told him what he needed to hear."
"But you never lie," his best friend countered.
"I didn't. I told him I don't plan to leave anytime soon. That's the truth."
The hint of a smirk played at the corner of Sonny's mouth. "And why is that?"
Jason headed to the sofa and sat. He rested his forearms on top of his thighs and stared unseeingly in front of him. "The road only goes so far, Sonny. Sooner or later, you turn around and start over. That's what I'm doing."
Jason nodded. There was more, but he couldn't put it into words. He doubted if Sonny would understand his draw to Maya and her mother. Hell, he didn't even understand it himself. He just knew that his running days had come to an end.