Chapter 53

The young man toweled off the last few beads of water that clung to his body and critically considered his reflection in the mirror. It was not immodest to think himself a handsome man, Andresj’ observed. There had been enough occasions in his life where members of the opposite sex had told him that it was so.

A daily regimen of t’ai chi and horseback riding had honed Andresj’s body into a taut collection of muscle and sinew. His shoulders and arms were well proportioned, his chest aesthetically developed and his abdomen flat and defined. His thighs were lean and powerful and his calves strong. It was the flawless kind of body, Andresj’ assessed correctly, generally seen on the ads for exercise equipment.

He padded naked from the bathroom and began to dress. As he slipped on a pair of royal blue silk boxers, Andresj’ paused to adjust himself to the left. He was not, the young man observed objectively, at all lacking in the endowment department either.

Had any of the family’s personal servants been privy to Andresj’s thoughts at that particular instant, they would have smiled knowingly. Oh, yes, the young man was very much a Cassadine! And at the moment, far more like his deceased Uncle Stavros than his father, Stefan.

Andresj’ pulled on a pair of immaculately tailored gray slacks. Pleated and sharply creased, the pants were loose enough to suit propriety, and just snug enough to accentuate a firm backside sculpted through years of riding horses.

He stepped into the walk-in closet and surveyed the rows of clothing there. Andresj’s gaze fell upon a deep burgundy button down shirt hanging on a rack to his left. The shirt, a Helmut Lang original, was a gift from his Thea Alexis after one of her recent trips to Manhattan.

It was a mature Andresj’ Cassadine whose reflection presented itself in the floor-length mirror. All he needed to do, the young man nodded, was to comb his hair and he would be all set to begin.

His short, serious haircut was no longer foreign to him. Andresj’ could not, in all honesty, say that he cared for the severe cut of his hair, but he realized that it was actually perfect for the goal that he had recently begun to work toward.

The mere thought of his goal brought a smile to Andresj’s face. His perfect, white teeth gleamed brilliantly against his skin and drew attention to the mischievous dimples that framed the young man’s smile. If all went well with this initial phase, then it would not be long before everything Andresj’ desired was within his grasp.

Justus, Faith and Tommy rounded the corner, bringing the third floor nurses’ station into view. A slender blonde nurse and a dark-haired volunteer stood there muttering and staring intently at something on their computer monitor.

“Come on,” Justus urged Faith and Tommy, “Audrey must not be on duty quite yet. We will catch the elevators at the other end of the hall and surprise her in her office.” He nodded toward the nurses’ station and Amy Vining. “The less we involve Amy, the better. Otherwise your grandmother will know the whole story before we even make it down the hall.”

Faith gave her brother a little push. “You guys go on. I want to see what’s going on over there.”

She waited until the two men disappeared from sight down the brightly lit corridor before indulging her curiosity. Faith stepped quietly to the nurses’ desk and watched the two young women take turns jiggling and tapping the computer monitor. It was the repeat of a scene she had witnessed at the hospital’s reception desk.

After watching for several moments, Faith could not resist asking, “Do you mind if I ask what it is that you are doing?”

Amy stepped in front of the monitor, shielding it from Faith’s view. “It is just a part of standard hospital operating procedure, ma’am.” She put on her most helpful voice. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“No,” Faith replied, stifling a smile. “I was just curious.” She pointed toward a group of chairs nearby. “Is it alright if I waited for someone right here?”

“Of course,” Amy replied, losing interest in Faith as several buttons lit up a nearby panel.

Faith watched Amy exchange a few sharp words with someone over the phone. Obviously irritated, the blonde nurse stalked away from the desk, grumbling beneath her breath with each step.

Faith seized the opportunity to return to the desk. A closer examination of the dark-haired volunteer showed her to be very young, barely out of her teens. “So, what is wrong with your computer?” Faith asked, nodding toward the blank screen.

“I dunno,” the young woman shrugged. “It’s been acting up for two days now. One minute it is okay, then the next it’s blank. And it is really making everybody have to do twice the work. Having to go collect all their patients’ written medical records every time the computer acts up, I mean.”

“Let me take a look.”

Uncertainly the young girl stepped aside as Faith came around the desk. “I don’t think that you should be back here…”

“Don’t worry.” Faith gave her a reassuring smile. “It’s okay. Fixing computers is my job.”

Keesha laid the sleeping toddler in the crib and covered him tenderly with a handmade blanket crafted by one of the neighborhood grandmothers. A sudden commotion from downstairs reached her ears and threatened to awaken the sleeping child.

The noisy din distilled itself into a variety of youthful voices that Keesha easily recognized. Curious about just what had excited the youths so, she made her way downstairs. Midway down the staircase Keesha froze. Her breath caught in her throat for a moment and she gaped in surprise.

“Hello, Keesha.” Andresj’s lips curved in a slow, sensual smile. His voice seemed deeper and richer than the last time Keesha had seen him. Or perhaps it was the young man’s style of dress and new haircut that gave him every appearance of a man several years older than Andresj’s seventeen years.

Keesha shook herself and continued shakily down the remainder of the stairs. “Andresj…” She fought the unexpected tremors in her voice. “Welcome home.”

The day’s quota of surprises had not yet been filled for Keesha. Andresj’ threw open his arms for what she assumed was a friendly embrace. To Keesha’s absolute shock she felt the warm press of Andresj’s lips against her own.

“Mmm…” Keesha attempted to protest the action, but the sound that emanated from deep within her throat sounded suspiciously like a hungry moan.

Andresj’s tongue had just begun an insistent foray into the warmth of her mouth when the hoots and catcalls of the watching ten-year-olds penetrated her consciousness. Keesha jerked out of Andresj’s embrace and angled slightly away from him. She placed a trembling hand against her tingling lips and tried to regain her composure.

“Way to go, Mr. Andresj!”

Andresj’ turned to the group of youths and smiled. The formal address between them that his father had originally insisted the Ward House inhabitants maintain had always bothered him. The children had no problem referring to Andresj so formally. For them it only added to the fairytale-like aspect of knowing that someone among them had a brother who was once a real live Prince. For Andresj’, however, it seemed as though his father was determined to reinforce to the Ward House children that there was an insurmountable, impenetrable barrier of superiority that surrounded his son.

But now it felt right having the young people address him as they did the other adults. As of his seventeenth birthday, Andresj’ was a man in the eyes of his family and friends. And if hearing Andresj’ constantly addressed as ‘Mister’ emphasized to Keesha that Andresj’ was no longer a boy, then so much the better.

“You forget that I am European. Such a greeting between dear friends is not unusual in my homeland,” Andresj’ lied smoothly.

“Well, I sure as heck want to live there!” several boys responded.

Keesha’s cool voice interrupted their amusement. “Okay, everyone. You have had your fun.” She waved them toward the back door. She did not miss the knowing looks the young girls shared. “I need a few moments to speak with Mr. Cassadine.”

“Exactly who are you and why are you tampering with hospital property?” The precisely enunciated demand came just as Faith prepared to execute the final series of keystrokes needed to correct the computer’s malfunctioning software.

Faith glanced briefly away from the computer monitor. The owner of the imperious voice was an elegantly attired man with dark sandy locks and brilliant green eyes; eyes that, at the moment, were trained suspiciously on her.

Her eyes dropped down to his hands. They were smooth and uncallused, and the nails were short and even. They were the hands of a surgeon or an artist.

“Did you not understand the question?” he demanded.

Faith revised her estimate. Based on attitude alone, this stranger had to be a part of the hospital’s administration. “Yes,” she responded, turning her back to him, “I understood it.” She had never taken too kindly to authority figures or condescension, and the arrogant little arch of the man’s brow had managed to tick Faith off.

Her brow creased in concentration as she turned her total attention back to the computers. The demanding stranger was instantly forgotten.

When it became obvious that the young woman seated before the monitor had no intention of supplying the answers he required, Stefan turned his attention to the petrified young volunteer. He raised his voice slightly to be heard over the rapid-fire click of the keys as Faith’s fingers flew across them. “Who is this person?” His voice was icy.

“Sh-she said she could fix the computer.”

Stefan was incredulous. “You allowed a complete stranger access to the hospital’s medical database? Are you aware that it is not merely a violation of privacy, but an act for which General Hospital could be held financially liable?” He did not allow the young woman to respond. “I trust that you have no plans at some point for a future here at General Hospital-”

“Your computers are fixed,” Faith interrupted angrily. She hit the ‘enter’ key with a bit of force and the computer monitor lit up with its familiar hospital interface. She rose stiffly from her seat. “There’s no need to thank me.” Her voice dripped with sarcasm.

Faith moved from behind the nurses’ station and took several steps toward the elevator before pausing to stare directly at Stefan. “Next time,” she glanced over at the young volunteer, who was near tears, ”try picking on someone your own size.”

The elevator announced its arrival with a single chime. Stefan watched the presumptuous young woman step inside. His brows rose as he deciphered the parting shot she mouthed his way.

‘Arrogant jackass’.

“Do you have any idea what kind of message your little performance sent to those kids in there?”

Andresj’ smiled indulgently. Keesha’s anger only served to make her more attractive to him. He wondered if she had any idea just how much. “Actually, I hope it sent the message that I have made up my mind to have you in my life.” He cocked a brow. “I hope that you received my other message as well. That I have made up my mind to also have you in my bed.”

His bold statement left Keesha speechless. “You’re, you-,” she sputtered incoherently.

Andresj’ silenced Keesha with a gesture. “Pardon me for a moment,” he said. He reached into his shirt’s breast pocket and pulled out the smallest cellular phone that Keesha had ever seen. “Yes, operator,” he spoke into the phone, “please, put me through.”

“I have been awaiting this call,” Andresj’ said by way of explanation. He began an animated conversation in what Keesha assumed was his native tongue. And as it always seemed to do, watching Andresj’ in action left Keesha amazed. It was times like these that he seemed so much older than he was. So much older and so very…different from anything she had known.

<“…I do not believe that I was included among those Sabrina has chosen not to speak with.”> Andresj’ was at his most imperious. Unconsciously he adopted a pose eerily like his father’s. <”Perhaps you should ask her and not make such assumptions on your own. I do not believe that Sabrina requires the judgment of her employees. Only their service.”

<“I will relay your message.”> The amused male voice on the other end of the line responded in fluent Russian. <“If Sabrina wishes to contact you, she will.”> Abruptly the unknown male severed the connection, leaving Andresj’ staring at the phone.

“Is something wrong?” Keesha asked hesitantly. She had no idea what Andresj’s phone conversation had just been, but it was apparent that things had not gone as he’d desired.

Andresj’ shrugged off his frustration. “Nothing that cannot be rectified shortly. Now, you wished to speak with me?”

Keesha prepared to launch into the speech she had mentally rehearsed while Andresj’ was on the phone. “Let me save you the time,” Andresj’ interrupted. “You are flattered at my attention, and you think that I am a very nice boy, but you are far too old for a relationship between us. Is that the sum of what you were about to say?”

“Yes. But-”

“Now hear what I am about to say, Keesha Ward.” Andresj’ moved closer until their bodies were nearly touching. “One. My interest in you has gone far beyond mere attention. Two. The difference in our ages matters only to you. And three… and most importantly, I intend to prove to you in the most pleasurable of ways that I am neither nice… nor a boy.”

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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.*