The Path to Power
Chapter Twenty Nine
"You look good enough to eat." Coleman growls in Skye's ear.
"Down, Big Guy." Skye says jokingly even though she is halfway serious. They were already late because Coleman had become fascinated with her undergarments and gone exploring every hook and ribbon. "We're late."
"The party doesn't start for another 45 minutes."
"Yes, but I really should make sure that everything is going smoothly." Skye protests. "I should have been here an hour ago."
Coleman sighs but his eyes promise more to come later. "Fine. You check the kitchen and dodads. I'll check the coats and then the bar."
"You're a lifesaver." Skye slides her coat over Coleman's arm and then stretching on her toes gives him a kiss on the cheek. "Teach the bartender that drink I like. I'll meet you there." She hurries off to check on all the last minute details.
Coleman goes over to the bar and instructs the bartender in the fine art of the nonalcoholic cocktail that Skye prefers.
"Is that one for Skye?" AJ comes up beside Coleman.
"Yep." Cole agrees with a nod.
"I'll have one of those. You might as well put it on the menu as a Q Special." AJ says wryly to the bartender. "My Dad was raving about it the last time I saw him. You're in with my Mother and Grandmother now mostly cause he didn't tell them about the Porterhouse. The place looks great. Skye really came thru."
"You expect differently?" Coleman's voice is low and he is focused on his drink. He might take Junior's money for a little stalking but it doesn't mean that he has a shred of respect for The Heir of All Quartermaine Dysfunction.
"Nope. The surprise was Faith doing the flowers. She and Dillon were leaving just as I arrived."
"Look AJ, You got to know something about Faith..." Cole says reluctantly. If anything happened to the little punk Skye would be upset.
"If you're about to tell me that she doesn't do anything without an agenda... don't worry I've already got that figured out. I get it. We don't have the same agenda; they just intersect in points, and then we go our separate ways. She's helping me out cause it furthers her goal of making Sonny Corinthos as miserable as possible. Great. That's an intersecting point I can get behind." AJ picks up the champagne glass that is filled with a mixture of passion orange nectar and tonic. "I have to check the band and make sure that the staff has instructions regarding the media."
Coleman watches him leave. "I hope you know what you're doing, Faith."
Stefan arrives at Dara's office in plenty of time to pick up his date to the fundraiser. He'd contemplated cancelling the evening based on the sighting of his mother in Europe but instead allowed himself to be satisfied with his cell phone in his formal wear jacket, and Lt. Taggart's presence at Wyndemere with Tasha. By no stretch of imagination would the good Lieutenant ever be what anyone pictured when they heard the phrase nanny or baby sitter. But then Tasha wasn't what one pictured when they thought of the conventional seven year old either. "Ms. Jensen?"
Dara comes out of her office. She is dressed in a conservative gown that is highlighted with a verging on funky scarf that is fastened to the front of her dress with a unique pin. This is a work function for her but also a cause she believes in all the way back to the days when MaryMae first vitalized the Ward House. "Almost ready." She grabs her coat.
Stefan takes it from her and holds it so that she can slide her arms into the sleeves. "I would have picked you up at your apartment."
"And we would have been late. Because I was working up until about twenty minutes ago." Dara says wryly.
"Ah yes. One of your afternoon appointments was Nikolas' friend." Stefan nods.
Normally Dara wouldn't have anything to say about one of her clients but she'd had access to all of the information that Stefan had put together for Penny. "The information you gathered for her was excellent... for both of us. Penny is so..."
"Understated?" Stefan suggests.
Dara shrugs. "That's one way of putting it. I believe people make the mistake of thinking she is a pushover. The financial planner realized his mistake early on in the conference call. Because of the prospective you put together for her... she really held the line with him." Dara grins up at Stefan. "Fact is I think she knocked him back on his heels.
"Good. How soon will your client be ready to collect her winnings?"
Dara winces. It's verging on being nobody's business but she suspects that the Cassadines will probably be giving Penny a lift down to Albany. "Today was the last of the paperwork. Could probably arrange for her to pick up the check and do the PR soon just to get it over with." Dara sees Stefan's flinch at the phrase PR. "It's big news."
"Hopefully soon to be old news."
Ned stands at Faith's back at the top of the stairs that go down to Club 101. The place is already hopping with people doing meet and greets all over the main floor. There's music playing in the background although nobody is dancing. The placards are up announcing the benefit and how much money has already been raised. Of course the posters make sure it appears to be about half of what is actually needed. There will be more fundraising done tonight. "Skye's good." Ned says in Faith's ear.
"She pulled it together." Faith sniffs. "Just make sure you mention AJ nicely if asked by the press."
Ned groans but it is quickly cut off by Faith's elbow in his gut. "Fine." Then he spots someone he'd hoped not to see if just to keep the sanity such as it was in the family. "Did you know he was going to be here?" Ned asks quietly.
"The rich boy?" Faith's eye automatically finds Ric Lansing across the room. He's there with his vapid bobble head, billing and cooing like the smarmy murdering two faced little shit that he is. And if she isn't mistaken.... Faith's eyes narrow as she observes Ric Lansing checking his watch while his date is playing nice with someone nearby. "He's up to something."
"Faith." Ned's tone is censorious. "If I have to be nice to AJ for the evening...."
"Fine." It doesn't stop Faith from reaching into her purse and pulling out her cell phone. "Bruno, Ric Lansing is waiting on something. I want to know where he goes. He's got plans somewhere else. Okay. How are things at the house?" Faith nods and then hangs up the phone.
"How are things going?"
"Alice and Dillon are playing You don't Know Jack-- The Movie Version at the cottage. Everything is locked down. And they all have a shoot on sight order."
"You're kidding right?"
Faith shrugs, she spots the place where the press is corralled. "You're on, Lover. If you can't say something nice about AJ make sure you don't say anything nasty. Make it all about whatever this thing is for."
"The Ward House."
"See. You've got it down already. I'll be at the bar." Faith smoothly glides down the stairs and across the floor to the bar. "Champagne." Faith requests of the bartender. Her glance meets the bartender's briefly but then it slides along the bar. She makes an abbreviated nod as she finds what she seeks.
Coleman is standing next to Skye who'd finished up her checklist and is finally ready to relax and enjoy the evening. He's got an arm along her back and the base of her waist and just waiting for the dancing to start. He nuzzles at her neck and looks over at Faith who is tracing along the rim of her glass with a red tipped nail. "So how long do we have to stay?"
"Cole!" Skye protests.
Faith laughs. "Sometimes it's good to be in public places. This is one of them. Just make sure that you don't leave before that one right over there."
Coleman presses a kiss on the back of Skye's neck and uses the opportunity to look over her shoulder in the direction that Faith has indicated with the tilt of her head. "Well, well look who the cat drug in."
Skye figures out who they are looking at. "Ric Lansing. So? He's got the bucks and the connections with the old money set in the Northeast. His father, Trevor has done deals with Chandler Industries. He's good press for the Ward House."
Faith snorts at that. "I guess you really were drunk off your ass when you were flipping your heels up for Luis Alcazar. That one was the perfect patsy for his murder before the wack job shoved him off the balcony at the point of a steak knife. I wonder if Daddy knows he was washing Alcazar's laundry and is now doing Sonny's?"
Skye blanches. "AJ doesn't need this. Nothing is going to screw this one up for him."
Faith pffts. "Lansing seems to cover his tracks well enough for all of his dirty deeds. Maybe Junior should take a few lessons." She picks up the champagne glass and moves in AJ's direction.
"Keep it frosty, babe." Cole tells a worried Skye.
She stiffens hearing the constrained fury in his voice "You too." Skye retorts. "Faith has an ugly way with words even if what she says is technically true."
"And with what she doesn't say as well." Cole reminds. "And if Faith is looking for an alibi then maybe we should be covering that base as well. Lets boogie." He sets their glasses on the bar and tucking Skye's arm thru his heads for the dance floor.
From the balcony up above, Jax watches as Coleman escorts Skye onto the dance floor.
"Don't push yourself to the front." Faith tells AJ quietly over the top of her champagne glass. "Everyone knows, or there are enough people who will tell about you putting this all together. Just make sure you're the one doing the introductions."
"I did run my share of political campaigns." AJ says wryly not making eye contact with his cousin's wife. "I know how to do PR."
"Fucking this up, AJ, won't mess with my plans but it would grease yours."
Taking a page out of his mother's book, AJ's retort is automatic. "Put a sock in it, Faith." AJ walks over to the manager of the Ward House and offers her his arm. "Lets get the speeches over with, feed the pack and then we can relax."
"Relaxing sounds good."
"I'll do a quick introduction. They have handouts for the details. You'll be fine." AJ tells the nervous woman reassuringly as he pats her hand. "Everyone believes in your work and I'll be right here."
"Thanks." The woman takes a deep breath and runs a hand over her hair. "Okay. I'm ready now."
It's just damn embarrassing. Who would ever accept him into film school when he'd just got his butt kicked two out of three by the Nanny in You Don't Know Jack- The Movie Edition?! Luckily Kristina woke up and distracted Alice leaving him to lick his wounds in private.
A grim faced Bruno comes into the living room. "We got a situation."
Dillon jumps to his feet. "What?"
"There is car at the end of the drive. Woman says she wants to see her Granddaughter."
Helena. Dillon blanches. "Why are you telling me?!"
"Cause she says she wants to see her sons too."
Dillon runs his hands thru his hair. "Oh Gawd. It's my Mother."
"Yeah. So what do you want to do?"
Dillon takes a deep breath and makes what he hopes is the right decision. "Turn her away. Tell her to call Ned... at the office... tomorrow."
"Faith doesn't like surprises and nobody likes my mother."
"You got it." Bruno pulls out a walky talky and relays the information to the guard at the gate. As soon as he does he turns back to Dillon. "Maybe you should warn your brother."
"Let them have just one night of fun. They'll find out soon enough." Dillon suggests fatalistically.
Bruno nods and shrugs. "So... how you do on that computer game you were playing with Big Alice."
"I don't want to talk about it."
The concierge at the hotel had been able to
make arrangements for the last minute addition to the fundraiser
at Club 101. It is the only thing going on in town, so it was
either this or vegetate in her room at the PC Hotel. And that is
no way to snag a husband. You'd have thought that the Cassadines
would have invited her to stay over at their place considering
all the times they'd visited the estate in Nice or used the
apartment in Monaco when they were on the Continent on business.
Nikolas had made his position clear so he is definitely going to
be a fall back position, but there isn't a whole lot of time to
Weddings took time to put on-- even quicky ones. Luckily the amount of single male millionaires per capita in this little berg didn't make it a total dry hole. Jasper Jacks is certain to be at tonight's function. And it wouldn't be the first time that he'd married a woman to help her gain her inheritance. Maybe even Stefan Cassadine, okay so he was old enough to be her father... just meant he was one step closer to making her a merry widow with nobody pulling her financial strings. And it isn't like the Cassadines are a particularly long lived family. They all seemed very accident prone, at least along the male line. Lydia hands over her ticket at the front door to the club and then crosses the threshold. It wasn't a party; it wasn't clubbing. But it didn't look as boring as some of the functions her Grandfather had always been trying to rope her into-- for one thing the band is better.
Down in a seemingly random gathering, Nikolas is checking in with his uncle. Dara and Penny take a half step away to give them a little bit of privacy. Who knows what Cassadine plot might be hatching. And maybe you were better off not knowing.
"I invited Penny to come stay on Spoon Island." Nik blurts out.
Stefan's brows go up at that. "Are you sure that's wise?"
"No." Nik's internal conflict is evident in his terse tone.
"Then why did you do it?"
"She's already been too... exposed. And the Summer House is too isolated."
"No, Uncle!" Nik says sternly. "I won't have the blood of another innocent on my hands! Pushing people away or keeping them in the dark has only resulted in them being used as pawns in Helena's or my father's games. You said it was my decision as head of the family and I'm making it!"
Stefan shakes his head. "I was merely going to suggest the hunting cabin on the island. It has privacy but also access to the main house. It would be more... discreet."
"You aren't going to fight me on this?" Nik asks hesitantly.
"No, your decision while difficult is well thought out, considering the current information. But it becomes all the more important, with Tasha and your friend on the island, that the security around Spoon Island is not compromised and that Helena's current location be ascertained."
Nikolas nods. "You'll take care of the security?" At his uncle's nod, Nikolas continues. "It's time to report the dower jewels stolen. Have all of the legitimate and... shady sources of revenue wired into the international police networks."
"I will inform Lt. Taggart this evening." Stefan gives a nod but it is not to Nikolas. "I believe your date is trying to get your attention."
"Nik, isn't that the woman who talked to you at the Grille?" Penny indicates the top of the stairs. "The one who told you about your grandmother?"
"... and then Lucas said..."
Dillon allows his mind to go blank, the little blonde's words wash over him. He'd love to listen to her... really. If she wasn't talking about another guy. If he hadn't just received word that his mother was in town and considering the ramifications of that.
"OHMYGAWD, I don't believe this! Mac is going to FREAK!"
"What? What happened?" Dillon is pulled right back into the conversation.
"I was getting information for some extra credit problems, not that I need extra credit but..."
"Georgie." Dillon interrupts.
"It's the high school website! There is a video of my sister doing it with Kyle Ratcliffe! I can't believe this! a VIDEO."
Dillon flips open his laptop and logs on to the Port Charles High School website. Sure enough it's been taken over by Maximum Maxie. "Where is Maxie now?"
"You think it's LIVE?! Oh Gawd. Oh Gawd. Mac is going to freak. FREAK. I gotta call you back." Georgie hangs up.
Dillon watches the screen. He can hear a phone ringing on his lap top. Maxie gives Kyle a quick smooch and holds her finger to his lips to remind him to be quiet and then she reaches into her purse that is on the floor by the bed. Then she looks over her shoulder with the phone still held to her ear. He can see her eyes go wide as she spots the webcam for the first time. Then the feed goes black.
The tables are set up around the edges of the dance floor. And unlike most functions the dancing started early thanks to Skye and Cole who'd barely been able to pull themselves off the dance floor and who had soon been joined by other couples who'd decided tonight is going to be fun, after all they'd paid enough for the privilege. AJ seeing the way things were going, reorganized on the fly to make sure serving dinner would correspond to a long break from the band. Then there would be dinner, short speech, a little more arm twisting, another collection for the Ward house, kick the press out, and then back to the dancing.
The Cassadines are at one table with their dates. Dara had excused herself at Stefan's urging to do some networking. "May I?" Stefan stands and offers his hand to Penny.
"Sure." Penny agrees and rises to her feet allowing herself to be lead onto the dance floor. Stefan is a smooth dancer and she relaxes just letting him take the lead.
"Dara indicates you purported yourself well with the Financial Planner." Stefan announces.
"Thanks to you and that research you did."
"We did." Stefan emphasizes. "I merely showed you where to look. This first year is going to be the most trying for you as you adjust to your new... situation."
"Mr. Cassadine, I don't know which way you're going here. Are you saying you think I need more lessons or are you saying fly birdy, be free?"
"Nikolas wants you to move to Spoon Island."
"And..." Penny doesn't know which way things are going to go and preps herself for a brush off.
"What?!" That was unexpected. "No offense, Mr. Cassadine, but I really wasn't expecting you to say that. You don't exactly have the reputation for being... nice."
"Nor have I ever strived for that goal. Pen..." Stefan exhales. "What is your real name? I find nicknames childish and overly familiar."
"It is my real name. Okay, my real name is spelled a little differently but it's pronounced the same-- Peni, P-e-n-i, Cuivre."
Stefan stops on the dance floor. "You're kidding."
"No. I guess that means you speak French."
"Of course." Stefan nods and then resumes dancing.
"What can I say? My father had a sense of humor. It gets worse; Okelani, my middle name, means of heaven in Hawaiian, my mother's contribution. I think I should just stick with Penny."
"Another sound decision." Stefan says wryly. "So you'll move to the island?"
Penny bites her lip. "I know there are all kinds of adages that would cover this situation. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth..."
"Be wary of Greeks baring gifts." Stefan suggests an alternative with a self mocking smile.
"Mr. Cassadine, I would really feel better about the decision if I knew why you are going along with this, even... encouraging it. Because you are, you're being nice."
"And you've been around my former wife enough to know how unlikely that is." Stefan nods but understands when Penny doesn't reply. "Very well. I am... using you. You have a good rapport with Natasha. But more than that, and this goes no further, I believe you have introduced an avenue to contacting Alexis." Stefan sees Penny's eyes go wide at that. "Just something I observed while we were sorting your mail that first day, and something I have yet to discuss with Tasha's doctor; it goes no further."
"I swear." Penny agrees with a serious nod.
"You are also very diligent in your studies, cognizant of the responsibility of this new wealth, it is positive modeling not only for Natasha but also Nikolas."
"While he has been prepared all of his life for the extreme wealth that goes along with his inheritance, I think he has always seen the pitfalls rather than the possibilities. My fault I'm afraid."
"Do you mind if I cut in?" Nikolas taps his uncle on the shoulder.
Stefan looks at Penny. "Thank you for the dance, Mr. Cassadine. I'll think about what you said."
Stefan nods and leaves the floor.
"What did my uncle say?" Nikolas asks suspiciously. It's well within Stefan's character to tell him one thing and Penny another.
"If that offer to stay on the island is still open... I'll take you up on it."
Skye and Coleman are on the dance floor when his cell phone starts vibrating. "Damn."
Coleman reaches into his pocket and grabs the cell phone. "This better be good."
"I didn't know you even had one of those." Skye jokes. "What's up?"
Coleman starts growling and then slaps the phone shut. "I got something I've got to take care of."
"Is the bar okay?"
"Yeah. It's a family thing."
"Family?" Skye looks over at Faith curiously.
"Not La Familia, an actual biological family thing."
"I didn't know you had any family... um... in town." Great Skye, why don't you just ask the guy if he hatched from under a rock.
"Yeah, well they don't like to remember either cept when they want something. I got to go, Babe."
"I'll go with you." Skye offers.
"No, it'll be ugly. I don't want you to worry about it."
"Please. Remember who you're talking to. Family, ugly. It's all kind of a given. And really everything is going so well here if I don't get some family dysfunction in I'll be waiting for the other shoe to drop here."
"Fine. But don't say I didn't warn you." Cole leads her off of the dance floor and to the coat check.
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