The Bed You Make
~ The Art of the deal ~
"You told me, back in the beginning, that this suite could be a place where I was free to let my guard down around you. Is that possible, Stefan? Are we capable of genuine friendship and regard between us?" Dara took a deep breath. "I've admitted that I am physically attracted to you. And I believe you feel the same. Can we manage a physical relationship within this business arrangement of ours?"
Stefan regarded Dara curiously. "What, I wonder, brought this conversation on?"
Dara took so long to answer that Stefan was almost tempted to prompt her for a response. Almost . Instead he watched her worry the inside of her cheek as she sought for the words to properly express what she was trying to say. "It was something your cousin Philip said to me," she finally replied. "He knows we didn't marry for love. But even he could see the physical attraction between us. And he pointed out, rightly, that I will be Mrs. Stefan Cassadine for the next couple of years. That's a long time for the two of us to lie beside each other and pretend we don't feel that physical pull." Her next words were so softly spoken that Stefan had to lean forward to hear them. "I just thought that maybe if we both put our cards on the table we might find a way to enjoy the mutual attraction we feel."
"Become," Stefan offered, " friends with benefits ?"
Dara gaped. "Where did you learn that expression?"
"That is a discourse for another time," Stefan countered, amused by his wife's dumbfounded expression at his use of the phrase. "I will assume, however, that the idiom was correct and what you propose is an intimate physical relationship between us."
Stefan could tell from the rigid set of her shoulders that despite her obvious discomfort with the subject, Dara was determined to see the conversation through to its conclusion, whatever she believed that to be. Much to his surprise, he decided to reward that determination with a bit of openness. "I have, over the years, enjoyed mutually satisfying sexual arrangements with several carefully chosen female acquaintances. They were not partners, as they held no right to weigh in on the details of my life outside the bedroom. Nor were they mistresses. During my brief marriage to Barbara Spencer, I remained faithful."
"Because you were in love with Bobbie? Hey," Dara explained wryly, "you're answering my questions. I'd be a fool not to take advantage and push the envelope."
"I remained true to my vows to Barbara because I desired not to be as countless Cassadine men before me - unable to practice marital fidelity. And whatever our reasons for deciding to wed, Barbara and I would have been better suited to a less binding arrangement. It seems neither of us were capable of shedding the familial ties we bear."
Dara offered up a soft smile. "I'm sorry things didn't work out for you and Bobbie. I always thought the two of you had a real chance together."
"What of you and Detective Garcia?" Stefan deftly shifted the conversation.
"Alex and I were enjoying the moment." Dara grimaced as soon as the words left her mouth. Perhaps, Stefan mused, she realized how trite her response seemed. "I guess that's just a polite way of saying we were friends with benefits."
Stefan pushed aside the now-cold cup of tea. "I believe you underestimate the depth of the detective's feelings for you."
"Alex loves me... as a friend," Dara declared quietly. "Once he gets past his anger and the way that I hurt him, he'll remember that."