The Party, 4

There was no point bemoaning something that would never change. Dara Jensen Corinthos gazed around the elegantly decorated room and sighed. Though she was hardly the only unescorted guest, the majority of tonight's partygoers had brought along a 'plus 1'. The few that hadn't were clustered in small groups, laughing and imbibing the Cassadines' vintage brut.

Anyone glancing her way would think the same of her, Dara allowed. She sat at a table with Marcus and Alexis and Jack and Sabrina. Both couples were currently on the dance floor, leaving Dara painfully aware of her status as fifth wheel of the group. Her husband Michael had chosen not to be a part of the Cassadine celebration. When Dara showed him the handwritten invitation to the yearly gala, the powerful mobster simply shrugged his shoulders and replied, " You go."

She had expected that response. There was no love lost between Sonny and Stefan Cassadine. Stefan's son Nikolas had once been struck by a bullet intended for Jason Morgan. Jason...Sonny's right hand man and deadly enforcer. In Stefan's eyes, Jason was the Organization's instrument of chaos. But Jason's employer and friend was the architect. Sonny's career choice was draped in violence, violence that far too often affected innocent victims like Nikolas, who had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Because of that admitted violence, Sonny regularly traveled with a full contingent of bodyguards. These were loyal men hand-chosen by Jason. Dara knew that they were prepared to die - and kill - for her husband. As such, Stefan would not even consider allowing them to step foot on Spoon Island. Without his guards, Michael would not consider placing his safety into Stefan Cassadine's hands.

Still, with or without him there was no question that Dara would attend the lavish celebration. How many opportunities in a lifetime did a person get to celebrate on such a grand scale? Or to wear a dress so elegant that it sat in the closet the rest of the year because it was too fine to wear at normal functions? And how many times these days, a small voice added, did she get to relax with a group of people, none of whom cared about her choice in husbands or his line of work?

That was Dara's greatest reason for attending tonight. It was her chance to say 'Thank you' for the unflagging support she had received from this group of people in the wake of her decision to marry Mob boss Michael Corinthos. Dara wasn't na ï ve enough to think that any of them actually approved of her choice. But to a man, they respected her enough to accept what she had decided. Not that there hadn't been 'discussion' on the subject. Marcus had confronted her one afternoon at the courthouse about 'the thug' she was throwing her life away for. He was afraid that by the time Dara came to her senses, everything she worked for would be lost.

Dara had allowed the handsome detective his say. She knew that choosing to be with Sonny would invite a replay of this same conversation with virtually all of the people in her life. As she expected, at some point in the weeks leading up to her marriage to Michael, she had been waylaid by Robert Rogan, her former boss in the Port Charles Judicial Division; Mac Scorpio, the Port Charles Police Commissioner; and New York District Attorney Jack McCoy, her mentor .

The women in Dara's life had not tried to persuade her against marrying Michael. Instead, Faith, Sabrina, and Alexis had each asked the same simple question...Was Michael Corinthos worthy of the enormous sacrifice Dara was prepared to make on his behalf? Her answer was the same each time - a resounding 'yes'.

Dara was drawn from her thoughts by a subtle hitch in the music as the pianist abruptly modulated to another key. She doubted very many of those in attendance heard the change, but for a musical ear such as hers, it was jarring to hear such an awkward transition. She glanced up to see a ripple among the guests on the dance floor. Couple by couple they ceased dancing and began to drift back toward their respective tables. As the floor cleared, Dara realized that Stefan and Faith were preparing for the solo dance that had become a traditional part of the annual celebration.

The tradition had begun at the 'command' of the Prince. Tired of Faith and Stefan serving strictly as hosts of the yearly gathering, Nikolas ordered that the couple break from their roles in order to share a moment together as simply man and wife. Andresj quickly seconded the royal edict and quietly directed that the dancing area be cleared for his father and mother. Stefan and Faith slid easily into a measured embrace and danced to a song with a piano-driven melody and lazy beat. Their faces were still and unrevealing, but for anyone that knew the couple, their body language screamed of attraction.

For distant kin who were seeing the couple for perhaps the first time, watching Stefan and Faith dance answered no questions about the nature of their marriage and the depth of their feelings for one another. It only created more questions. Tonight's dance, however, left nothing unanswered, Dara thought. Faith's body was pressed against Stefan's more closely than she'd ever seen. At one point the beautiful software designer reached up and tenderly traced her husband's lips. The gesture was so overtly sensual that Dara felt like she'd been given a glimpse into the couple's bedroom. It was both uncomfortable and fascinating all at once.

"Did you see that?" Sabrina and Jack and Marcus and Alexis all returned to their seats. "Did you just see that?" Sabrina asked the table in general.

Dara answered. "I did. I wasn't sure I had, though." The conversation ceased. Like the other guests present, those seated at the table gaped at the sight of Stefan and Faith abruptly departing the Great Hall. The couple was the very epitome of etiquette. It was no small breach of protocol for them to leave the guests to their own devices.

"Uh-uh. Something is going on," Sabrina said. "I'm going to go and find out what it is."

"You'll have to tell me about it later, Babe." Jack caught his wife by the arm. He leaned in and bussed Sabrina on the cheek. "I've got to go." He angled his smartphone so that she could see the display screen. "I've been summoned to the New York office. There's a helicopter waiting."

 

 

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