The doorbell sounded with an angry insistence. Bleary-eyed, Justus Ward stumbled to the front door and threw it open. He did not bother to see just who rang his doorbell, but simply turned away and headed back toward his bedroom.
“What were you thinking?!”
Justus grabbed his head and moaned loudly. “Not so loud. Please!”
“What's the matter with- Are you hung over?” Keesha Ward peered intently at her cousin's face. Justus was a peculiar shade of gray and his eyes were red and bloodshot. “You are hung over!”
“Lil Bit,” Justus waved feebly, “stop screaming. Please.”
Keesha shook her head in disgust. She placed a hand in the center of her cousin's back and pushed him toward his bedroom. Or more specifically, the shower. “You go and shower,” she commanded. “I'll fix you some breakfast.”
The phone chose that moment to peal loudly. Mercifully, Keesha grabbed the offending object and silenced its strident noise on the second ring. “Hello.”
“Yes! This is a most pleasant surprise.” The happiness in the young man's voice was evident. “I had given up any hope of hearing your voice while I was here in Greece.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have dialed your phone number several times a day since leaving Port Charles.” Andresj' gave a small chuckle. “I began to believe you did not wish to speak with me.”
Keesha listened as Andresj' spoke. His accent, which had grown faint over his time in Port Charles, was once again noticeable. Hearing it, Keesha was struck anew by the realization that the young man was from a reality far removed from her own.
“Oh, that was your number that kept appearing as ‘private' on my caller i.d. box,” Keesha realized. “If I'd only known . . . Andresj', I am so sorry!”
“Do not apologize. The sound of your voice now makes up for all the missed opportunities.” His cultured voice deepened. “I have missed you, you know.”
Keesha was flustered. She, too, had missed Andresj's presence in Port Charles. But she did not want to mislead him regarding her feelings for him. “How has your trip been?” she asked, choosing to ignore the young man's declaration.
Andresj' was not fooled. “It has been all business.” If Keesha wished to hide behind the distance that separated them, then he would allow her to – for now. “I hope that you will be pleased to hear that Papa and I are soon to return home.”
Mmmmm… Sabrina DeLane inhaled deeply of the smorgasbord of smells just below her nose. Wyndemere's breakfast table was set with more dishes than was humanly possible to consume.
“This is too much,” she protested weakly as she continued to savor the heavenly variety of aromas.
“Nonsense.” Mrs. Landsbury, the longtime Cassadine family housekeeper, shook her head and added yet another covered dish to the table. “Miss Sabrina, you are as skinny as a rail.”
The young woman gave the loyal housekeeper a brilliant smile. “Mrs. Landsbury, you are a treasure!” Contrary to the housekeeper's observation, Sabrina's figure was virtually flawless. She took great pride in the frequent attention it garnered.
“You will eat well then?”
The woman's hopeful expression defeated all Sabrina's resolve. “For you, Mrs. Landsbury, I will do my best.”
Mrs. Landsbury left beaming. Sabrina knew that alone she would not be able to make any kind of significant dent in the abundance of food on the table. But she also knew that a sincere effort on her part would bring immense pleasure to the kind and thoughtful housekeeper. The longtime Cassadine employee seemed lost without her favorite men in residence. She took great pleasure in spoiling not only Stefan's two young sons, but Stefan himself. Currently Stefan and Andresj' were in Greece, and Nikolas was virtually non-existent of late.
Sabrina had a moment of disquiet regarding Nikolas. Ever since she had prompted Laura to act more like Nikolas' mother, he had spent nearly every waking hour with Laura. Had her angry impulse been a mistake, Sabrina wondered? Perhaps his situation was a thing she should alert Stefan to.
But first, Sabrina thought as she surveyed the multitude of silver dishes before her, she had some food to try and eat.
Justus stood beneath the spray of hot water and let it cascade down his naked body. Tall and athletically built, he was a study in long limbs and sculpted muscles.
At the moment those muscles were protesting both painfully and vigorously. Justus shut his eyes, leaned his forehead against the cold bathroom tiles and tried to remember why his body ached so. He had no trouble figuring out why his head ached so. Even if he ignored the empty bottles of Bacardi Rum that he stumbled over on his way to answer the door earlier, he could still check off the symptoms of his hangover as though they were written on a chart before him. He had overindulged in alcohol a time or two before. But his body never hurt this way.
Groaning, Justus forced his mind back to the events of the previous day, and the debacle with his family. After telling off Edward and the rest of the Quartermaines, he had stormed from the boardroom. He had driven aimlessly about Port Charles for about fifteen minutes and then found himself parked in front of the health club he frequented.
He had changed from the dark imported suit he wore into an equally expensive warm-up suit. For the next two hours Justus had run upon the treadmill with all the fervor of a man being chased by demons. As he ran, his mind reviewed both the events of the ELQ board meeting and his own reaction to Edward's unexpected announcement.
Eventually, one of the health club's personal trainers had come over and switched the treadmill to cool-down mode. The action startled Justus out of the haze he'd resided in since the meeting. Only then did he realize how hard he had pushed his body during his attempt to escape his emotions – emotions that had surprised him deeply.
There had been quite a few reactions to Edward Quartermaine's announcement that Justus was to be granted voting shares of ELQ, the family business. Michael ‘Sonny' Corinthos had reacted with an involuntary widening of his eyes. Experience had taught Justus that such a reaction indicated the mob boss' deep surprise.
Jasper Jacks had immediately gotten a speculative expression on his face. The tall blond Aussie's thoughts were evident to Justus. Jax saw an opportunity in him to strengthen his position within ELQ. The only question would be just which approach he would take, to befriend Justus or merely attempt to acquire his voting shares.
The silence of the Quartermaine board members had been the most telling non-reaction. Justus correctly read their lack of comments as an indicator that Edward's announcement had not come as a surprise to them. What had come as a surprise to them, Justus admitted, was his reaction. It had come as a surprise to him as well.
“Sabrina?” Stefan's brow rose slightly. “Is something amiss in Port Charles?”
“No. Well… When are you coming home?” Sabrina evaded Stefan's question with one of her own.
“Andresj' and I are to leave Greece tomorrow.”
“How is ‘Dre?”
Stefan heard the note of concern in Sabrina's voice. She and Andresj' shared an especially close relationship. At times Stefan believed Sabrina's love for his younger son went deeper than any previous relationship in her life. And that included-
“Stefan? Did you hear me?” Sabrina's sharp voice jolted him from his musings. “How is Andresj?”
“He is fine,” Stefan reassured her.
Her sigh could be heard over the tiny phone he held against his ear. “I am glad. Have you been able to spend some time together like I suggested?” Stefan's silence on the other end of the line was her answer. “Oh, Stefan, why not?”
“There has been no time, Sabrina.” The terse response would have sufficient to deter further conversation in anyone else. But Stefan's beautiful young cousin was not intimidated.
“Have you even talked? About Andresj's mother? His feelings about everything?” Sabrina paused for emphasis. “His feelings about you ?”
The question left Stefan a little bewildered. “His feelings about me? What feelings regarding me, or our relationship for that matter, would my son need to discuss? Yes, Andresj' has been dealt a shock in discovering that he is my true son, but-”
“That! ” Sabrina interrupted him. “That is what you need to discuss!”
Stefan was now truly confused. And becoming angry. “You make no sense, Sabrina. What is it that you feel my son and I need to discuss?”
“You don't even realize it, do you?” Her voice softened. “Stefan, ever since you discovered the truth about ‘Dre's paternity, you keep referring to him as your ‘true' son. It is as if you are discounting all those other years he spent with you as your son.”
“That is nonsense!” Though his voice remained calm, Stefan's anger could be heard in each word. “And if I did refer to him as such, I have confidence that Andresj' understood my intent.”
“I can't wait until you get here.”
Justus strode gracefully into the kitchen just as Keesha uttered the heartfelt statement into the phone. She quickly became aware of his presence and summarily ended the call. It seemed as though she did so guiltily, but Justus was in no mood to pry. Whoever it was that she could not wait to see would remain a mystery to him. And at the moment, that was just fine.
Curiously Justus glanced over at the stove. The burners were all empty and there were no cooking utensils anywhere in sight.
Keesha followed his gaze and hastened to explain. “I haven't cooked anything yet,” she apologized. “I was talking on the phone and …”
“I can wait, if your offer still stands,” Justus hinted. “Besides, I think my system is a little more receptive to the idea of food now,” he joked.
Keesha did not return his smile. “My offer comes with a condition,” she said.
“That you explain what in the world you were thinking when you turned down the ELQ shares Edward Quartermaine gave you.”
Justus was not surprised at Keesha's demand for an explanation. He knew that eventually the details of the ELQ board meeting would reach her ears. He was, however, a little surprised at her reaction. Keesha had been adamantly against Justus forming anything more than a superficial relationship with his Quartermaine family. He would have thought that she would be turning cartwheels at his decision.
He was saved from responding by the sound of an imperious knock against his front door. “Someone is at the door,” Justus said by way of apology for the interruption.
Keesha shrugged. “Answer it,” she ordered. “I will wait.”
Justus took one look at her angry, set face and felt a twinge of headache return. Their impending discussion would not be a pleasant one, and frankly, though he loved his young cousin, he wasn't up to another round of her judgmental scoldings.
“Just a moment!” he yelled, as the knocking became more insistent. Justus' long stride brought him quickly to the door and he threw it open just to silence the knocks. “Yeah?”
Diane Jennings angrily poked him in the chest with her forefinger. “Just what the hell were you thinking?! ”
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*