Chapter 7a

"Daddy, may I stay over Stoneís house while you go get Mommy?" Michael asked, sitting on Sonny and Carlyís bed watching Sonny pack.

"No, Michael, I think itís better if you and Leticia stay here until I get back," Sonny replied looking up from the suitcase to see a frown on his sonís face. "But he can come over here and play with you," he added, although the frown still remained.

"Stone doesnít need a babysitter," Michael mumbled under his breath.

"Well, he is older than you." The frown didnít move. "Iím sure when his mommy goes out, she doesnít leave him alone," Sonny said, trying to appease his young son. He already felt bad enough leaving him with Leticia. Damn Carly, she should have stayed home like he asked her to.

"He doesnít live with his mommy, he stays with his aunt," Michael replied.

"His aunt, huh? Well, the same principle applies," Sonny said running his fingers through his hair.

"Can I spend at least one night with him, please?" His son pleaded.

"Iíll think about it after I meet and talk to his aunt."

A large smile appeared on Michaelís face as he jumped up and down on the bed. "Thank you, Daddy! Thank you!"

Sonny closed his suitcase and put it on the floor in time for his son to leap into his arms, showering him with kisses.

 

"Aunt Dara, Iím ready. Are you ready?" Stone asked from the doorway of her office.

Dara looked up from the mounds of paperwork on her desk. "Ready?"

"You didnít forget pizza/movie night?" He asked with worry lacing his voice.

Dara shook her head. Of course she had forgotten. She had been planning to ask either Maxie or Georgie to babysit for her tonight. One of the perks of sharing office space with Feliciaís PI business was the babysitting she had discovered since Stone had come into her life. At their first meeting, all of the Jones-Scorpio women had fallen hopelessly in love with him and had offered their services. Now one night a week, either or both of the girls babysat sometimes with the help of Lucas, so Dara could have one uninterrupted night of work.

"Let me pack my bag and weíll leave," Dara reassured him.

Clearing her desk, she saw on her calendar as big as day "Pizza/Movie night @ 6PM." She shook her head. Hopefully the roads would be accident free, so they could get there in less than the usual twenty minutes. She was really going to have to learn how to use her Outlook calendar program. It seemed she did need reminders from her computer about upcoming events. She shoved the rest of her files in her briefcase. How did Felicia do this with two kids and a full-time job?

"Okay, letís go," she announced to the fidgeting Stone.

After closing her office door, they walked through the small lobby before Dara came to an abrupt stop. She turned to Stone. "Did you go to the bathroom?"

Stone shook his head. "I donít need to go, Aunt Dara."

"Humor me, please."

Opening his mouth to argue, he thought better of it, took off his backpack and ran to the restroom.

Maybe she was finally getting the hang of this parenting thing, Dara thought.

"Is fluorescent lighting the best light to be reading important legal documents under?" A voice that was becoming more and more familiar to Dara questioned.

Why did she keep running in to him? Was it too late to switch schools? She could ignore him, but as she was thinking that she felt the booth shift as he took a seat. "Itís better than the light at my old offices," she replied continuing her work.

"The offices for my new lawyer have the best lighting in the world along with a leather chair so soft and comfortable it feels like youíre resting on pillows," Sonny said with a cocky grin.

"Yeah, and all he or she has to do is sell his or her soul to the devil," she whispered to Sonny.

"Iím the devil?" he asked, laughing. "You think Iím the devil. And the corporate raider Candyboy is what-- the tooth fairy?"

Something in his voice compelled her to look up into his smiling face. She tilted her head to the side. "True, well then, youíre a- -," Dara paused for a moment to think, "wolf in sheepís clothing definitely."

Sonny laughed out loud. "If Iím the wolf, are you Little Red Riding Hood?" he asked staring at her red hooded sweater jacket.

"Iím not that gullible. After the big eyes question, I would have been out the door."

"Tags couldnít have broken your heart so much that youíre mistrustful of the opposite sex."

How did this conversation turn personal all of a sudden, she wondered. "Itís the natural side effect of my profession."

"Ah, youíve let it make you cynical." He shook his head. "Thatís a shame."

"Not cynical, a realist."

"Thatís what all cynics say. Did you ever stop to think that maybe the guys on the opposite side of the courtroom are really innocent?"

"Occasionally, some are. They are just victims of circumstances and I try to help them as much as possible." Dara nailed Sonny with her intent look. "The ones that make me a realist," she emphasized the word, "are the ones who keep coming before the judge, but use the law in such a way that they are just beyond the reach of the law, time after time." Oh my gosh, did she know who she was talking to. Iím sure heís killed people for saying less offensive things to him. Well, maybe he didnít. He didnít seem like an insane mob boss. But she had to remember who he was.

"They, too, could be victims of bad timing, no?" He smirked.

She returned his smirk. "If you believe that, then I have a playground you can resurface."

Sonny laughed out loud. He hadnít had this much fun, since he didnít know when. Now that he thought about it, it was the last time he spoke to Dara. She provided a spark that he didnít realize was missing from his day. "I should have never told you that story, now youíre going to use it against me whenever itís handy. But this time youíre not distracting me from answering my question about who first broke your heart."

She rolled her eyes and went back to her paperwork.

"Or you can explain to me why a beautiful, single woman is at a pizza parlor working on a Friday night?"

Dara stomped her foot on the floor. Damn him, he knew she didnít want to answer that question. "Jack Forbes."

"Alden Enterprises, Jack Forbes?" Sonny asked in wonder.

Dara raised her eyebrow.

"What?! I canít get a daily subscription of the Wall Street Journal. I need to read about the competition." He paused. "Did he two time you?"

Dara shook her head. "No, Jack isnít a cheater. We were chem. Lab partners my sophomore year. We started dating and the Christmas of my senior year, I found my engagement ring in his apartment."

Sonny watched as Dara became lost in the past.

"Iíd been applying to law schools in the New England area. One weekend, we went to Corinth to visit his family. On Saturday afternoon, Jack helped with the youth group at St. Monicaís. I walked into the kitchen and saw him and a high school friend, Stacy, washing dishes together. I was stunned. I felt like I had walked in on an intimate moment and all they were doing were talking and washing dishes. Nothing shady, but I knew in that moment Jack and I never would have that connection." Dara chuckled. "He wasnít even aware of what they shared. But I wanted to marry and love someone who even washing dishes was a thrilling experience. And besides Stacy, there was Ava."

"And she was?" Sonny, asked caught up in the story.

"Ava was madly in love with Jack or rather thought she was. She worked 24-7 trying to get with Jack. He only saw Ava as a friend, thatís it. I knew he would never cheat with Stacy or Ava, but did I want to spend the rest of my life knowing what existed between him and Stacy and fight off Ava?" She tapped her pen on the table. "I decided in the door way of the kitchen that this wasnít the life for me. I left the church basement and left Jack that day."

"Jack gave you up that easily?" Sonny couldnít believe a man would just let Dara walk away and he wasnít going to examine his thoughts on why that was.

"No, he didnít. But it was our last semester and it was easy to avoid him, then I got into USC Law School and that was the end of that," Dara finished, avoiding looking in Sonnyís direction.

"What happened to Jack?"

"Ava was able to snag him one night and got pregnant. They got married, lost the baby, and got divorced. He and Stacy realized their feelings for each other, got married and now live in the house with the white picket fence, the dog, and 2.5 kids. We see each other at least twice a year. Iím actually better friends with Stacy and Ava than I am with Jack now." She smiled.

"Youíre friends with the woman who was trying to steal your man?" Sonny asked in disbelief.

"Ava has calmed down a lot, after a few marriages. She married Jackís uncle, Alex."

Sonny opened his mouth.

Dara raised her hand and shook her head. "Donít ask. Itís way too complicated. But sheís happy and they have six kids now. And while she and I are friends, she and Stacy wonít ever be." She laughed imagining a world where Ava and Stacy were friends. She looked at Sonny. "Who first broke your heart? Your first love?"

Looking deadly serious, Sonny simply answered, "Brenda."

"The wire." She said more to herself than to him.

He gave her a puzzled look.

"Best friends with Mac. But donít worry, I never told anyone."

Sonny nodded.

"He was just trying to protect his niece and her best friend," Dara told him as if justifying Brendaís actions.

Sonny snorted.

"But look you found love again with Carly. Where is she by the way?" She inquired to change the touchy subject, but from the look on his face she stepped into another one.

"Sheís in Florida."

"This late in her pregnancy!" Dara exclaimed.

Giving her "Donít you think I know" look, Sonny ran his fingers through his short dark brown locks. "Iím going down there to bring her back home." The frustration was evident in his voice.

Dara paused for a moment. "Her mom," she stated to Sonny.

"No, Bobbie didnít go with her. I would have felt better if she had."

She shook her head. "No, Carly is in Florida maybe to be closer to her mom, Mrs. Benson."

Sonny gave her his undivided attention.

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