“Mrs. C?” Max the bodyguard stuck his head in the doorway.

“Yes, Max?”

“Just wanted to let you know that Mrs. WC is on her way up.”

Dara smiled at the big guard. “Thank you, Max.” She knew that Max's genial personality often drove Michael crazy. She, on the other hand, welcomed the genuine affection Max never failed to show her. It made the penthouse feel less like unfamiliar territory.

“Max,” Faith Ward Cassadine announced, “I do believe that you are looking more menacing than ever.” She waited for the bodyguard to step aside and allow her entrance into the penthouse.

“Thanks.” Max flexed dramatically. “I've been working at it.”

Faith bit back a smile. “It shows. Hello, dear heart.”

Dara hugged the woman she loved like a sister. “Hello, Faith. Your timing is wonderful.” Almost on cue, childish laughter rang out from the kitchen. “Michael is visiting his father this evening. They're in the kitchen cooking dinner together.”

“Is this the same man who will not allow you in his kitchen?” Faith paused in the act of removing a pair of buttery soft leather gloves that perfectly matched her Armani Prive suit.

“Apparently,” Dara made a face, “certain rules don't apply to his sons. Well,” she corrected, “to one in particular.”

Faith raised a brow. “Would one of those exceptions be the rule that requires Michael to be respectful of you?”

“He's getting better.” Dara hastened to distract Faith from that particular subject. Faith was reared by a grandmother that did not tolerate disrespect from children. Michael's behavior toward Dara tended to try Faith's patience. “I just take comfort,” Dara said, “in the knowledge that my children with Michael will have better manners. And, of course, I am counting on you to help put them in check if they don't. It's all a part of your Godmother-slash-Aunt duties.”

“You and Michael have decided to start a family?” Faith asked carefully.

Dara shrugged. “We haven't talked about it. But I've been thinking about it. I know,” she hastened to add, “that Michael and I have only been married for three months now. But it's not like I haven't jumped into this marriage with both feet. What?” Dara noticed Faith's sudden stillness. “You think it's too soon to think about children?”

“There is no timetable for such things,” Faith replied absently. “My beloved's twins are proof of that.”

“Then what's wrong?”

Dara was uncomfortable with the way Faith's absent gaze sudden sharpened. Faith examined Dara's face with an intensity that frightened the young attorney. “For most of last night I considered and reconsidered my visit to you today. I was torn,” Faith smiled wryly, “between truth and silence. As you can see by my presence here,” she said, “I have chosen truth.”

“You've lost me, Faith. I don't understand what you're trying to say.”

“I asked Stefan to handle your situation with the Federal authorities.”

Dara frowned. “After I asked you not to?”

Faith was not ruffled by the younger woman's anger. “It was to be a wedding gift to you. I asked Stefan to make the investigation of Michael's criminal activities disappear. That is a gesture I have not made for Jason, nor Justus when he lived.”

“Thank you.” Dara softened at the knowledge of the lengths her friend was willing to go on behalf of her happiness with Michael. “But you still should have respected my wishes.”

“I wish now that I had,” Faith replied. She leaned forward and took Dara's hands in hers. “Stefan's operatives discovered that there is no ongoing investigation of Michael or his activities. There has been none recently; nor are there plans to initiate one.”

Dara was numb. “You're saying…”

“Yes,” Faith nodded sadly. “Michael lied to you in order to maneuver you into marriage.”