“Wow.  The Cassadines don’t do anything halfway,” Keesha Ward murmured to herself.  The entire Palace Restaurant had been reserved for a private dinner two nights before Nikolas Cassadine’s wedding to Gia Campbell.  There were overflowing platters of food dishes from every country.  Rare vintage champagne flowed like water.

Keesha’s eyes skimmed the room.  She recognized several of Gia’s supermodel friends, two of Hollywood’s hottest young actors, a computer magnate and various others she was certain were millionaires many times over.

“If you are this awestruck now, what will you be on tomorrow?”

Andresj’ Cassadine leaned down and bussed Keesha gently on the cheek.  “Hello, Keesha.”  He took a seat opposite her at the table.  “It is good to see you.”

“’Dre!  Where did you come from?  I’ve been watching the door for you and –”  Keesha stopped abruptly.  She realized how revealing her words were.  “I’ve been watching for your family,” Keesha clarified.  “For the wedding party.”

“Of course.”

Keesha ignored the amusement that turned up one corner of Andresj’s mouth.  But she could not ignore him.  Stefan Cassadine’s younger son was now twenty-one years old.  For twenty-six year old Keesha, those four years somehow made all the difference in the world.  Maybe it was the severe haircut that left Andresj’ dark hair like a close cap against his skull.  Or maybe it was the elegant mohair tuxedo he wore with such ease.  Or maybe, Keesha admitted, it was just the knowledge that by American standards Andresj’ Cassadine was legally now a man.

“You look different,” Keesha observed truthfully.  “Are you trying to grow a beard?”

“You mean this?”  Andresj’ stroked the dark stubble that covered his cheeks and chin.  “No, this is merely an indulgence I have made for the Countess.  She has a particular weakness for its feel against her skin.”

Keesha, Andresj', the Countess

“The Countess?”

Andresj’ nodded.  “The Countess Leonides.  Our families are longtime friends and business associates.  I have known her all my life.”  Andresj’ rose.  “I will be certain to introduce the two of you before the night is over,” he promised.  “And now I must return to my preparations before the others arrive.”

Keesha watched Andresj’ work the room.  Before long, a buzz of anticipation near the entrance alerted the guests that the bride, groom and wedding party had arrived.  Andresj’ formally greeted his older brother and then did the same to Gia.  The assembled guests applauded as the intended couple were announced.

The noise and the flashing camera strobes were lost on Keesha.  She could not tear her eyes away from the stunning woman who clung possessively to Andresj’s arm.  The Countess Leonides was at least forty years old if she were a day.  The couple followed Nikolas and Gia into the throng of guests and disappeared from Keesha’s view.

“There you are, Lil Bit!”  Keesha’s cousin Justus took a seat beside her.  He did not miss her distracted greeting.  “Earth to Keesha,” he teased.  “Where were you just now?”

Keesha gave Justus a weak smile.  “I was just thinking about some things.”

“Anything I can help you with?”

“No.”  Keesha shook her head.  “It is probably too late.”

~ Also At the Party ~