Chapter 31

There was a lot to be said for doing one's job well.

Arman peered up ahead to where his young charge sat in conversation with his employer. For fourteen years the Cassadine family had employed him. Twelve of those years had been spent as bodyguard to Stefan Cassadine's younger son Andresj'.

It was a wonderful job, despite its inherent dangers. Arman had traveled to areas of the world he never even knew existed. Mr. Cassadine compensated him handsomely for his services, and Master Andresj' was generally a joy to guard.

The young master was a happy, mischievous lad who had brought a much-needed spark of light to the Cassadine family. Andresj's bouts of mischief, while always corrected by his father, were looked upon with indulgence. Arman had several occasions to observe Stefan Cassadine's reactions upon being told of his son's latest exploits. The Cassadine Regent was quite often hard-pressed to maintain the stern demeanor that was his normal facial expression.

Arman did not think Mister Cassadine would be so lenient if he were aware of all the young master's deeds while at Swithern Academy. He had no proof that it was so, but on several occasions Master Andresj' had presented the headmasters at Swithern signed documents which allowed him to leave the campus on weekends and travel about Europe freely. The weekend jaunts were invariably to the home of Doctor Sabrina DeLane or to the home of his friend and roommate Javier Monteros.

Despite Master Andresj's sincere assurances that the documents were legitimate, Arman sometimes had his doubts. But on the random occasions when he challenged the young master, Andresj' had proven successfully the truth of his words.

Oh yes, he was a very fitting addition to the Cassadine family, Arman mused. It did not take much inspection to realize that Stefan and Nikolas Cassadine were the most influential factors in Andresj's life. Smart and handsome, educated and refined, the young master reflected well upon his father. And his brother Nikolas.

Arman's chest swelled with pride. Today they returned to Greece. Not only would he have a chance to see his family, but also they would have the chance to meet Andresj'. They would see face-to-face the young man he spoke of with such pride.

Why not?
The words echoed sarcastically in her mind. The only parking spot available in the whole place was at least eight doors down. Normally, Keesha wouldn't have given the walk a second thought, but the combination of the pelting rain and the morning's bad luck just pushed her over the line.

She sighed in resignation and carefully eased the metallic blue Camry to a stop between the white lines. The rain gave no sign of easing so she began to gather up her things, determined to carry everything inside in one trip. One arm clutched several items to her chest while the other held a brightly colored umbrella the size of a small flashlight. Keesha took a deep breath and threw open the car's door. The umbrella opened and she made a careful dash toward her apartment.

For what it was worth, Keesha realized that she could have left the umbrella unopened in the car. It barely slowed the steady barrage of raindrops that fell. It definitely did not stop them. As she reached her door, Keesha realized that her keys were in her pocket. With both hands occupied, something would have to give.

Arrgggh! The tiny yell of irritation escaped through gritted teeth. It was just another example of how the day had started. Keesha propped the open umbrella against the door and fumbled for her door key. She was in a hurry to escape the rain and her ability to unlock the door seemed suddenly nonexistent.

The key scraped repeatedly against the lock as she hastened to let herself in. Without the meager protection of the umbrella, the rain threatened to soak the neatly wrapped package she carried.

After much effort, she was finally able to open the door. Keesha gave a little shiver and began to shake the water from her hair. Somehow it seemed fitting that the weather add to her miserable morning.

Methodically Arman counted off his responsibilities for the Cassadines' impending stay in Greece. He knew them by heart because they did not vary much from trip to trip. But this was different. This was his home. His family's perception of his success or failure would be judged by this trip.

It did not matter that due to Mr. Cassadine's generous salary his brothers and sisters all lived comfortably on the money he regularly sent. There were those relatives who had frowned upon his decision to leave his job in the village as an enforcement officer in order to take a position among the Cassadine staff. Despite their lofty standing and royal bloodlines, a great deal of danger was involved with everyone bearing the Cassadine name.

His family had just begun to reconcile his decision when, two years later, Stefan Cassadine made him another offer - one to act as bodyguard to the young orphan fostered by the Cassadine Regent. The private outcry of Arman's brothers and sisters was fierce. Working for the Cassadine family was one thing. Placing himself directly in the line of fire was another.

Leonides, his elder brother, argued that it would be different if Stefan Cassadine had offered him the job of protecting Prince Nikolas, next ruler of the Cassadine Family. ‘ That would be a great honor,' Leonides railed, ‘to know that the future of an empire was entrusted into your hands. I could even see if you had chosen to protect a child of their blood. But to endanger your life for a foundling? Truly, you must be thick!' He tapped his forefinger against his younger brother's temple for emphasis.

Arman never forgot the words. He watched the blue waters of the Mediterranean flash past and smiled broadly. In mere hours Leonides would remember them as well.

She had set her alarm clock for daybreak in order to deliver a small gift the Ward House children had made for Andresj' Cassadine. He was scheduled to leave for Greece and Keesha had every intention of seeing the young man off. But when she had driven up to the private airstrip that Stefan Cassadine maintained at the Port Charles Airport, the guard promptly informed her that the jet had departed hours ago.

Oh, well. Keesha continued to towel dry her damp hair. Her wet clothes had been dropped into the hamper and were now replaced with a comfortable pair of sweatpants and matching shirt. Plush white socks made a stark contrast to the faded black of the pants.

Keesha picked up Andresj's gift from the table near the door, intending to put it away until he returned. A blinking yellow light caught her eye and she depressed the incoming calls button of her caller i.d. box. The blurry digital display showed that she had received three calls that morning from the same unknown caller. During her cousin Justus' association with the underworld Keesha had grown accustomed to not answering calls from unidentified sources. Whoever it was would either call again or not.

With a shrug, she reset the box and moved into the kitchen. She had gotten out so early that breakfast had been sacrificed. Keesha decided to just grab a bowl of fruit. Since the rain didn't seem to be slacking up, she would sit by her window, watch the rain and relax. Perhaps the unexpected melancholy that gripped her would pass.

The sadness she felt as she watched raindrops race down her window confirmed for her that it was the rainy weather that caused her current mood. Keesha's mind flashed back unexpectedly to a rainy day several years earlier.

Like some giant tinted pane of glass, the dark waters of the lake reflected the overhead flock of birds. As far as the eye could see, there was no one else. It was as if she and Jason were the only people left on earth.

Keesha smiled at her handsome boyfriend as he maneuvered the boat through the water. Jason's blond hair was a spot of brightness against the overcast horizon. His strong arms guided the wheel with ease; forcing the boat to follow a path only he could see.

She watched as the muscles in his thighs flexed. It was his body's instinctive search for balance against the movement of the waves. At that moment, with his back to her and his legs spread and braced upon the deck, Jason looked like some ancient Nordic explorer setting forth for untamed lands.

Keesha lifted her face to the skies. A fine mist had begun to fall, so she rose from her place at the stern of the boat. With the mist had come a little breeze, which caused Keesha's gauzy white shirt to mold itself to her form. Silently she crossed the deck to where Jason stood and wrapped her arms about him. Keesha could sense his pleasure at her nearness. Jason's stance softened and he gave a deep sigh of contentment which Keesha felt all the way to her toes.

Suddenly Jason stepped away, and with a quick turn of the key cut the engine. He flipped a switch and watched the sonar image of the anchor being lowered. The gears created nothing more than a quiet metallic hum which soon ceased.

Then there was only nature. The soft sound of the water lapping against the sides of the boat, the strident cry of an overhead bird, and Jason's indrawn breath as he turned.

Keesha winced as if she'd been hit. The memory of that day was so clear. Her heart was beset by a pain so real that she was forced to curl up just to escape its grip. She struggled against the tears that threatened to spill from the corners of her tightly closed eyelids.

Keesha had promised herself long ago that she would never shed another tear for Jason Quartermaine - or the love that they lost. "Four years of grieving is enough!" she chided herself. "I have to move on."

On the heel of her thought, a mental image of Andresj' Cassadine crossed Keesha's mind.


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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*