The kiss was gentle at first, but it quickly changed to something more demanding. Reaching around, Jason pulled Sam from behind him, never breaking the kiss, so she was now lying in his lap. He deepened the kiss, parting her lips with his tongue as he sought to taste her fully. The small sigh that escaped her lips as he did this sang through Jason’s blood.
Sam reached up, one hand cupping Jason’s cheek as she let him take control of the kiss. She hadn’t planned on taking it this far just yet, but apparently it was something he needed, something he was holding back. His fatigue and the stress he was under had brought down his own inner walls. The walls he kept up when it came to the two of them.
The need for air came much too quickly as Jason pulled back, looking down at her. “Wow, that’s some thank you,” she said with a smile.
“And I know you want to say it’s about time,” Jason said, seeing the amusement in her expressive brown eyes. Whatever he needed to know about Sam, what she was feeling, what she was thinking, what she was planning, it was all in her eyes. He didn’t know if they were like that all the time, or just when they were alone together.
“I was trying to be nice,” Sam said as she sat up. She turned to face Jason and cupped both of his cheeks with her hands. “But I am not going to push you into something you’re not ready for . . . or want.”
Jason swallowed. He needed to be honest with her – with himself. “Actually, I do want this . . . you . . . me . . . us,” he said, taking her hands from his face and holding them in his. “I’ve been thinking about things for a while Sam . . . and I think it is time for me to move on. When you said Jessica wouldn’t want me to stay in one place, hanging onto the past – you were right. I know she would want me to find love again, to love again.”
Sam swallowed back the tears that sprang to her eyes at his words. “We don’t have to rush anything Jason . . .”
“I know,” Jason said. “But I’ve learned the hard way that waiting too long for something you want . . . you could end up losing it instead. I treasure the time I had with Jessica and wish with all of my heart that we had more . . . but I know that’s not possible. Sam, the day you came into my life, the day you made me start living again – I will always be grateful for that. For you. Without you in my life – and in Elaina’s – I don’t know if I would have been able to pull myself together. I want more between us Sam . . . and all it comes with.”
Lorenzo laughed. “If you’re looking for some pearl of wisdom when it comes to women and what goes on in their heads . . . I’m afraid I don’t have it.”
Diego sighed. “I don’t think it’s possible to even begin to understand them,” he admitted. “I do want more with Lulu . . . but if I tell her that and she doesn’t feel the same way, I risk losing her as a friend and I can’t do that Pop.”
“You and Lulu have been strong for the last couple of years Diego. She stood by you with your breakup with BrookLynn and Georgie. She supported you through Jessica’s death. And she accepts you for who you are Diego. If she doesn’t have deeper feelings for you, I think your friendship will still be intact.”
Diego thought it over and nodded. “I think you’re right Pop,” he said. “I just have to sit her down and talk to her – lay it all out on the table for her and see where it goes.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lorenzo said, then cleared his throat. He was sure it was beyond too late to really sit his son down and talk about the birds and the bees, but Lorenzo knew he had to be a responsible parent – especially in the face of his and Skye’s unborn child – to at least talk to his son. “But there is something else we need to discuss.”
“Business?” Diego asked, sitting back in his chair.
“No . . . it’s more personal in nature,” Lorenzo said, not sure where or how to start. “I know you’re getting older and I am sure I don’t need to bring this up . . . but if you and Lulu do decide to explore a deeper relationship . . . maybe a more physical one . . .”
Trying not to laugh, Diego held up his hand, stopping his father. “Pop . . . I do not have plans to jump into bed with Lulu any time soon. And if we do . . . I know what precautions to take.”
Lorenzo let out a sigh of relief. “Good,” he said. “I know we missed out on that kind of conversation . . .” He looked at his son. “Am I to assume that you’re . . . experienced?”
Diego fidgeted in his chair and nodded. “But I’ve always been careful Pop. There is no way I am ready to be a father yet.”
Letting out another sigh of relief that practically sagged his body, Lorenzo nodded. He already had enough to deal with.
Picking up the phone, Manny barked into it, “Get me information on the Mendoza Family. NOW!” With that said, he slammed the phone back down, a plan starting to formulate. It might be his only chance.
Diego ran his hands through his hair as he paced his room, his cell phone clutched in his hands. The conversation with his father had gotten a little uncomfortable toward the end – for both of them – but Diego understood where his father was coming from.
Getting up his nerve, Diego flipped open his phone and dialed Lulu’s number before he could talk himself out of it.
“You’re awake,” Lorenzo said as he walked into his and Skye’s bedroom to see her sitting up in bed.
“I was about to go and check on Elaina,” Skye said, moving to slide off of the bed.
“She’s fine,” Lorenzo said, blocking her path. “I just looked in on her and she’s still sleeping.”
Skye nodded and got back into bed. “So, what have you been up to?” she asked as she watched him move around the room, getting ready for bed himself.
“Having some coffee, talking to Diego,” Lorenzo answered, unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it off. He was about to toss it onto the nearby chair when he heard Skye clear her throat. Smiling, Lorenzo headed to the closet and put the shirt where it belonged.
“What were you two talking about? I mean, you looked pretty preoccupied when you came in here,” Skye said as she continued to watch him. She loved to watch how Lorenzo moved, in and out of his clothes. His body was so powerful, as was his presence. And it had a lot more to do with the kind of man he was as opposed to the kind of work he did.
Lorenzo finished getting ready for bed and slipped in beside Skye, pulling her into his arms. “Guy stuff,” he answered.
Skye looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Is that so?”
Thinking about it a moment Lorenzo decided to confide in her. After all, she cared about Diego and if things went the way they were hoping, she would be his stepmother as well. “From what I’ve been able to put together, Diego’s feelings for Lulu are changing to something more.”
Skye sat up and looked at him. “Are you serious?” she asked.
“Why?” Lorenzo asked, picking up on Skye’s surprise and pleasure. “Do you know something about this?”
“Yes, I do,” Skye said excitedly. “When we were at the safe house, Lulu talked to me about her changing feelings for Diego and what to do about it.”
“What did you tell her?” Lorenzo asked. He hoped he had given his son some reasonable advice.
“I just told her to feel him out and go with her feelings. She was more concerned with him not feelings the same and their friendship suffering.”
Lorenzo had to laugh at this. “Diego feels the same way.”
“Then they’re on the right track,” Skye said in satisfaction.
“You seem pretty proud of yourself,” Lorenzo commented.
“I am! Diego and Lulu are well suited for each other on a number of levels.” At Lorenzo’s perplexed look, Skye sighed and continued on. “Okay, for example, they accept each other for who they are and try not to change that. They keep each other grounded.”
Lorenzo agreed on those points. “Well, I advised Diego not to rush things. And if he and Lulu want to become more . . . serious . . . that they take necessary . . . precautions.”
Skye’s eyes widened as she tried not to laugh. “You had a sex talk with Diego?”
“Not exactly. He cut me off and assured me he is always safe.”
“Always?” Skye asked. “So he’s . . . experienced?”
“I am assuming so,” Lorenzo said. “But I am not going to get into the details of my son’s sex life and he won’t get into mine.”
Skye thought that sounded fair enough. She enjoyed her sex life with Lorenzo but was not too keen on that being discussed between father and son.
“Do not come in here if you don’t have information for me,” Manny barked at his head of security, Antonio Vega.
“Actually, sir, I think I have found something,” Antonio said as he ventured into the room. Antonio was a big man, close to six feet tall and 250 pounds, but all of that height and weight didn’t matter when Manny Ruiz was staring at you and demanding results. It was a little unsettling, the way he stared at you with those cold, dark eyes. And then there was that smile. A smile that never really reached his eyes. A smile that meant a bullet was soon going to be lodged in your head.
Manny held out his hand for the information. Once it was in his hand, he turned his back on Antonio. Antonio took that as his cue to leave. He knew Manny would call for him if he was needed.
“Hey Lu, its Diego.”
Lulu felt a smile come to her lips at Diego’s voice. “Hey,” she said, lying back on her bed, her legs dangling off the side. “What’s up?”
“What do you have planned for tomorrow night? After your last class?” Diego asked. He would have preferred to talk to her tonight, but he didn’t want to leave his father and Skye alone with Elaina if there was a problem.
“Nothing so far,” Lulu said. “Did you have something in mind?”
“Dinner? Metro-Court?” Diego wanted to do this right.
Lulu’s eyebrows went up. “Metro-Court? That’s pretty fancy. What’s the occasion?” she asked curiously.
“No occasion,” said Diego. “Just thought you’d like a nice dinner. Something a little different than Kelly’s all the time.”
Lulu didn’t have to think for long. “Sounds great. I would love to go to dinner with you tomorrow night.”
“Great,” said Diego. “I’ll pick you up at seven.”
After they finalized plans, Lulu flipped her phone closed and held it against her chest.
Having convinced Jason that he needed to rest, that they could talk about the path of their relationship later – when he was able to keep his eyes open – Sam left him on the couch and went into the kitchen.
Slipping her hand into her pocket, she pulled out the sleeping pills she had gotten from Skye.
Skye had informed Sam that she had used them on Lorenzo after he had been shot a couple of years ago and needed to rest. All Sam had to do was crush them up and put them into his tea. It was dissolve instantly and he wouldn’t know anything about it.
Sam bit her lip. She didn’t want to trick Jason, but she knew he would force himself to stay alert – thereby negating the whole purpose of sending Elaina to Lorenzo’s for the night. It had to be done.
She tipped the bottle and poured out a handful of pills. She had forgotten to ask Skye how much she had used on Lorenzo or how strong they were. Oh well. Sam figure three would do the trick. Putting the rest back into the bottle and slipping it back into her pocket, Sam found the small dish and pestle they used to crush up baby aspirin for Elaina.
Manny smiled that smile that sent shivers down most people’s spines. Leaning back in his chair, Manny folded his hands over his stomach, his plan formulating in his mind. If this was going to work, he was going to have to look at it from all angles. There could be no room for mistakes. Once this got rolling, there was no stopping. He had to see it to the end.
Javier, his brother, had been the planner. A smooth talker, a man with the ability to see the loop holes and what would or wouldn’t work. But Javier was no longer there, having been shot in cold blood by Jason Morgan. And Manny was going to make sure Morgan paid for what he did.
Pulling his thoughts back to the task at hand, Manny leaned over and picked up the folder again. The Mendoza family. The patriarch, Alberto Mendoza, was weak and might be harder to influence to turn against the Alcazar/Morgan organization. His lieutenant, Johnny Mendoza, Alberto’s oldest son, on the other hand, would be a better choice. He was a lot smarter and more determined than his father. Manny knew Johnny personally, knew it wouldn’t take a lot to turn the man against his father. Johnny was itching for the chance to take over, to try and wrest some of that power from Alcazar and Morgan. Manny was going to give him that chance.
Calling for Antonio, Manny instructed the man to set up a private meeting with Johnny Mendoza only and to make it clear that he was not interested in talking with Alberto.
As his plans were being put in place, Manny leaned back in his chair, his hands again folded over his stomach and that smile gracing his lips. This was going to work. It was his one and last chance.
She heard Daddy’s voice telling the Ugly Man to leave them alone . . . there was a loud bang . . . Daddy was hurt . . .the Ugly Man had hurt him . . . Mommy Sam was angry at the Ugly Man . . . he hurt Mommy . . . he was going to hurt her too . . . he said her Daddy was dead . . . he was never coming back . . .
Elaina woke up, sweaty and breathing heavily from her nightmare. She sat up, clutching her teddy to her chest, looking around with wide eyes. She couldn’t stay here. She needed to be with her Daddy. Slipping out of bed, still holding onto her teddy, Elaina scampered over to her door. She pulled it open and peeked out into the hallway. Her Poppi and Skye’s room was across the hall and Deego’s was down the other end. It was quiet. Moving out into the hallway, Elaina walked quietly in her bare feet to the stairs. Looking over her shoulder to make sure no one was in the hallway behind her, she gripped the rails as best as she could and started to walk down the stairs.
The blood curdling scream had Lorenzo bolting up in bed. Skye sat up beside him and watched as he got out of bed, pulling his gun from the night table drawer.
“Lorenzo . . .”
“Stay here,” Lorenzo said as he went to the door. He ran into Diego in the hallway.
“Elaina’s room is empty,” Diego said, his own gun drawn.
The two men moved down the stairs, the screams continuing. They were coming from the living room.
As they cleared the bottom of the stairs, Lorenzo and Diego looked at each and then at the scene before them. Elaina was screaming her head off while Max was trying to calm her and deflect her little swinging fists.
“What’s going on here?” Lorenzo asked, reengaging the safety and passing his gun to his son. He walked over to Max and Elaina.
Max looked up at his boss, dressed only in a pair of silk pajama bottoms, his hair rumpled. “We caught her outside, Boss,” he said. “She was on her way back to Jason’s.” Max turned his head to the side to avoid Elaina’s fists. She was sure strong for a little girl.
Lorenzo sat on the coffee table in front of the couch and took Elaina from Max. She was still screaming and crying. “ELAINA!” he said loudly over her screams. Lorenzo had never raised his voice to her before.
Elaina stopped and looked at her Poppi. He had the same look on his face like her Daddy got when he didn’t like something she did. She knew she was in trouble.
Seeing his had his granddaughter’s attention, Lorenzo continued in a softer voice. “Elaina, you cannot go outside in the dark like that,” he said. “It’s not safe.”
“Ugly Man hurt Daddy!” Elaina said stubbornly, trying to slide off of his lap.
Lorenzo tightened his hold on her and looked at Max for confirmation.
“I’ve sent men to check on things,” he said. “There’s no one here and Jason and Sam are fine.”
Lorenzo nodded and looked back down at Elaina. “See? Daddy is fine. No one is going to hurt him again.”
Elaina didn’t buy it. “Wanna see Daddy!” she said loudly, getting ready to start screaming again. She didn’t care if she got into trouble. She just wanted to go home. “NO! Wanna go home!” she yelled.
“Elaina, it is the middle of the night. The only place you are going is back to bed,” Lorenzo said, not wanting to lose his patience.
“NO BED!” Elaina screamed, hitting him on the chest so he would let her go. “WANNA GO HOME!”
Lorenzo was able to get a hold of her little fists and made her look at him. It broke his heart to see her like this and he wasn’t sure what to do to help.
“Boss? Maybe we should just take her home,” Max suggested gently.
“No. Jason’s needs some rest, Max. He won’t be able to function if he keeps this up. Elaina is staying here tonight as planned and she is going back to bed,” he added, looking at her sternly. “And there will be no more sneaking out.”
Elaina pulled her hands free and slid off of his lap. “POPPI MEAN!” she yelled as she ran to the stairs. When Diego tried to stop her, she slipped past him, stuck out her tongue and went up the stairs.
“I have someone on the back door,” Max said. “She won’t get out that way.”
Lorenzo nodded and rubbed his face as Max got up and left.
“Was that like a sneak peek at what to expect when she’s a teenager?” Diego asked, joining his father on the couch.
Lorenzo groaned. “I don’t even want to think about that,” he said. He looked at his son. “Let’s try and get back to bed.” He wanted to check on Elaina and hoped he didn’t cause another screaming session with her.
Skye stepped out into the hallway just as Elaina reached the top of the stairs.
“Sye! Sye!” Elaina wailed as she ran to her. “Poppi mean!”
Bending down, Skye scooped the little girl into her arms and carried her into hers and Lorenzo’s room. Having noticed Elaina’s dirty feet, sweaty nightgown and tear streaked cheeks, Skye brought her into the bathroom and sat her on the counter. “Tell me what happened,” she said gently as she ran a wash cloth under warm water.
“Poppi yell at me,” Elaina sniffled as Skye cleaned off her face and then her feet.
“Why did Poppi yell at you?” Skye asked casually. She had actually heard everything but figured if she let Elaina talk it out she would calm down. Making sure Elaina didn’t move off of the counter, Skye started the water in the deep, ornate bathtub. A small smile graced her lips as she poured some of her scented bubble bath in, remembering times she and Lorenzo spent in the tub . . . not to mention the shower. Keeping an eye on the water level, Skye went back to Elaina, helped her to undress and put her into the tub.
While all of this was going on, Elaina had remained quiet, her eyes drooping. As Skye kneeled on the floor beside the tub, Elaina looked at her. “Poppi no more like me,” she said, her lower lips trembling.
“Sweetie, your Poppi likes you – in fact, he loved you very much,” Skye said as she used a soft loofa sponge to clean Elaina’s arms and back. She had chosen a scented bubble bath that would hopefully help the little girl relax.
“But he yell at me,” Elaina said, fighting to keep her eyes open.
“He still loved you,” Skye said as she grabbed a large fluffy towel, lifted Elaina out of the tub and wrapped her in it. “He was just worried about you. He was scared something could have happened to you.” Getting no response, Skye looked down and saw Elaina had fallen asleep.
Skye carried Elaina to her room across the hall, put her into a clean pair of pajamas and then went back to her room. Climbing into bed, Skye tucked Elaina in beside her. Lying down, she wrapped her arms around Elaina and closed her eyes.
Sam handed Jason his cup of tea and sat beside him on the couch, tucking her legs under herself.
Jason looked down into the cup. “Tea?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. He wasn’t really a big tea drinker, and Sam knew that.
“Yes Jason, that’s tea,” Sam said with a shake of her head. “You must be more tired that I thought.”
“Funny,” Jason said. “I meant, I don’t usually drink tea.”
“I know,” said Sam with a shrug. “But it’s the best thing to help you relax.” She drank again from her own cup as she watched him.
Shrugging, Jason lifted the cup to his lips and drank. “You know, I can think of a few other things that would help me relax.”
Sam smiled. “I’m sure you could,” she commented.
Jason finished his tea, took Sam’s cup from her hands, put it onto the table and then moved over her.
“Uh . . . Jason? What are you doing?” Sam asked.
“Relaxing,” Jason said, bringing his mouth down to hers.
Sam didn’t know how long it would take for the pills to take effect, but she gave into the kiss anyway. She didn’t want to make him suspicious – and besides, there was no way she was not going to kiss him.
Her lips were so soft under his – and the way she responded to him . . . Jason still couldn’t believe she had waited so long for him.
The kiss deepened as Jason gently settled his weight on her. He was finding it difficult to focus and support his weight above Sam. His mind was becoming fuzzy. He knew he was stressed and tired, but this was ridiculous.
Sam felt more of Jason’s weight settling on her – and it was getting uncomfortable. The intensity of the kiss also lessened. The sleeping pills she had crushed into his tea were working. And fast. Breaking the kiss, Sam managed to get out from under him before his final strength gave out and he collapsed onto the couch.
“Is he sleeping?” Lorenzo asked his sister over the phone. He figured he should check in on Jason and let Sam know what was going on.
“Yup,” Sam said, looking over at Jason. She had managed to turn him onto his back so his face was not buried in the cushions. “Out like a light.”
“Good,” Lorenzo said. Then he told Sam about Elaina’s antics that night.
“Do you want me to come over?” Sam asked.
“No, Skye has everything under control,” Lorenzo said with a smile. He had gone upstairs to check on Elaina and found her and Skye asleep in the big bed in their room.
“Okay,” Sam said. “I’m hoping Jason sleeps late in the morning, so if you want me to come and help out with Elaina, I’ll be there.” In fact, she could almost guarantee Jason would be sleeping late in the morning.
“Skye and I will hold onto her for the day. Spend the time with Jason. She’ll be fine with us.” After hanging up, Lorenzo headed back into the bedroom. Skye had done wonderfully with Elaina – and he wasn’t sure how she had done it. Slipping into bed with Skye and Elaina, Lorenzo was careful to not disturb either of them. Elaina was curled into Skye, her thumb in her mouth. Getting comfortable, Lorenzo was just about to doze off when he felt a sharp kick to his solar plexus. Biting his lip to keep from crying out, Lorenzo rolled off the bed before getting kicked again. Walking bent over and breathing through the pain, Lorenzo decided sleeping on the couch on the other side of the room would be safer.
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