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A sharp knock hit the door.

Alexis glanced at her watch and muttered to herself. "Good grief, you're impatient today. Well, I said fifteen minutes and that's exactly how long you're going to have to wait, Mr. Dimples."

She turned to the door and called out. "I said fifteen minutes!"

She returned to the task of gathering a mass of papers into orderly piles and stuffing them into her briefcase. Another knock sang through the room. The briefcase was slapped against the coffee table and Alexis tromped to the door, grumbling loudly as she went.

"You know, I think you need another lesson in patience, because the last lesson seems to have worn…"

The door was flung open and her voice trailed off as Alexis stood unexpectedly face to face with the ghost of Valentine's Day past. "Off."

"Hi." Ned stared at her with a crooked smile on his face and a bouquet of blood red roses laced with baby's breath in his hand.

At least the flower was different.

"Hi." Alexis pushed the glasses up on her nose.

"I…take it I'm not who you thought?"

Her mind reeled, and she couldn't stop the sharp, wry laugh that sprang from her throat at his innocently loaded question. Alexis quickly brought a hand up to her mouth, fingers gently tapping against her lips as if to hold back whatever ungracious words might escape. She'd set her path upon the high road and had no desire to change course. Alexis cleared her throat and closed her eyes as she pulled the glasses from her face.

"No, Ned, you aren't."

The language of her face and body were no stranger to him. Alexis was clearly in self-censor mode, but the calm, measured delivery of her words sent a message. Ned frowned as she took a step back and made a silent, sweeping gesture with her arm to invite him in from the hallway.

"Kristina's not here. She had a dry cleaning emergency, but she should be back soon."

Alexis returned to the couch and picked up her eyeglass case, slipping the dark wire frames away. Ned hovered by the desk, where he laid the cellophane wrapped roses down. He watched Alexis's back as she fussed with the legal papers strewn across the couch, arranging one proper stack at a time before it disappeared into her briefcase. With each lean forward, a thick lock of hair fell in front of her shoulders, and with each turn of her body, Alexis flipped it back. She was a creature of habit, her physical gestures as predictable to him as his own. And it bothered him that she kept her back turned. He knew that was a message too. Alexis glanced at her watch, then stuffed the last of the papers away and snapped the lock shut. Her head suddenly turned and Alexis glanced at him over her shoulder.

"Feel free to sit, if you like. Or not." She set the briefcase back down on the table and finally turned to fully face him. "But the couch won't bite…and neither will I."

Ned shrugged and moved toward her, but didn't take a seat. Instead, he stood not more than two feet in front of her, his gaze drifting down from her expressionless eyes to the exposed triangle of skin between her throat and the collar of her ivory silk blouse.

"Still working late, I see."

She gave him a showy smile. "Yes, Ned, I'm still working late. But don't worry. My legal briefs and I will be leaving shortly, so you and Kristina will have both the couch and the apartment all to yourselves. Is it a new thing for you to prefer standing to sitting?"


She tried to move past him, but Ned reached out for her arm. His hand lit upon the familiar feel of cool silk covering warm skin, a sensation that would always speak to him of Alexis. But the unanticipated feel of Ned's touch made her flinch, and her arm quickly jerked away from it. He saw the look on her face - her reaction had been a physical reflex, and it stunned Alexis almost as much as it stunned him. But it still felt like a kick in the stomach.

"My God." He whispered dryly, taking a step back from her.

She couldn't look at him. "I have to go. I'm going to be late for my appointment." Alexis roughly pushed the hair from her eyes and again moved to pass by him.

"What the hell was that about?"

She bit her lip and tilted her head as she turned her face to his confused expression. "You just startled me."

"No, I didn't."

"No…you didn't."

Ned waited for more - for the truth. Alexis stayed silent. He huffed as he lowered himself onto the couch. "Fine, don't tell me what's really going on with you. Why start now, anyway?"

"Why indeed." She took a deep breath and straightened her spine as she looked down at him, and gave him exactly what he wanted in a calm and dispassionate voice. "And actually, I'm not sorry. In fact, I think I'm done apologizing to you for anything and everything. Consider yourself paid in full for whatever emotional debt I owed you for leaving you at the altar. I've mea'd my last culpa and I've taken my last verbal bullet from you as well. Just don't make my sister pay off you think is left of my tab." Alexis slowly nodded to herself as her eyes drifted away from him and a small smiled graced her face. "Yeah. I'm done." The smile grew, and Ned beheld a satisfied display of dimples as she looked him in the eye. "Have a nice life. I mean…evening."

She reached for her black coat that lay across the arm of the couch, and Ned quickly rose to his feet. This time, his hand upon her arm was firm, deliberate, and it froze her in her tracks. His intent confused her, and she stared down at the back of his hand. "Please don't do that."

"Don't do what, Alexis? Touch you?" There was an incredulous offense living in his harsh tone, and he defiantly failed to withdraw his hand.

"Yes." Alexis reached past him to pick up her coat, and folded it over her arm.

"Well finally, some truth!" He dropped his hand, and Alexis resisted the urge to rub the lingering feel of it away. "If you really had this big a problem with me and Kristina, all you had to do was…"

"I don't care what you do, Ned, or with whom. We're over, it's not my business, and I simply don't care. But in keeping with your incessant desire to know my truths, I still don't want you touching me because it…pretty much makes my skin crawl."

Ned looked like he'd been hit.

"Yeah. I don't like this particular truth very much myself, but what did you expect? That Kristina and I would share and compare intimate Ned-details over our morning coffee? That's hardly the kind of bonding experience I was hoping for with my long lost sister. And as a side note, I do hope that you'll refrain from sharing any intimate sisterly comparisons with anyone else - besides yourself, of course."

Ned grimaced. "For God's sake, Alexis! Must you be so…crass?"

Alexis laughed out loud at the absurdity. "Well, I'm glad you at least recognize it - I think. But it's interesting that you only find my speaking of it offensive, not the doing of it. Given our history together, I find your sexual pursuit of my sister to be vulgar, Ned. And that's a word that I never thought I'd associate with you. But I thought wrong. I may have thought wrong about a lot of things with us."

"Don't start taking cheap shots at my commitment to you, because I'm not the one who bailed!"

"I don't take cheap shots, Ned. That's YOUR specialty. And I know I'm partly to blame for that because I did bail. But that wasn't a hurt I set out to cause, and I did everything I could to try and make it up to you. You didn't want to let me make it up to you. You seemed to prefer hurting me back, and I allowed it because I thought it was owed, and I deserved it. And because I did love you."

"Do you think that always coming in second to your work told me you loved me? Do you think I preferred to be shut out by you while you poured your heart out to the local crime lord?"

"My work was always an important part of my life, and you knew that from day one. And it certainly never bothered you when my legal skills were of benefit to your family or your family business, neither of which can boast a legally or morally spotless record any more than certain other people I've chosen to represent. But we've gone that round before and it's quite irrelevant at this point."


"What is relevant is why I poured my heart out to the so-called local crime lord instead of you. Is that a truth you want to hear?"

"Why you trusted a man who almost got you killed instead of the man who loved you and wanted to spend the rest of his life with you? Sure, why not? Sing me the virtues of Sonny Corinthos…again."

"It's really got nothing to do with Sonny, and everything to do with us. I did trust you, Ned. You know things about me that are the source of my deepest fears, and self-doubt, and very old pain. But when I did something that hurt you, you took the things I entrusted to you and you used them like weapons to hurt me back. I understand that at first, you lashed out in an angry reflex, but there came a point when it felt…calculated. You, more than anyone except for Stefan, knew that I'd spent my whole life being afraid, and you knew why. It's not an easy thing for me to let go of it and trust, but I did that with you. I thought you were my safe haven...remember? And I thought you wanted to be." Alexis shrugged and reached down to pick up her briefcase from the coffee table. "Things change. People change. You kept telling me that I did, and now I'm saying the same thing to you, for what it's worth. Take it or leave it - but please take care with my sister. She hasn't had reason to develop the thick, protective hide that so many of the rest of have had to develop. Including you."

Ned was rendered mute, staring in aching silence as her uncensored expressions rang in his ears. He was confused, trying to think back to things he had done…things he had said. There were so many angry times and so much hurt. And the awful year of loss had grown into a blur. A flash of black caught his eye and he looked up in time to see Alexis pulling open the door.


She stopped and turned, preparing for final parting barb.

"Why couldn't you have told me all this before; when it could have mattered?"

"It still matters, Ned. To me, at least." Her eyes landed on the deep red roses lying unattended in cellophane on her desk. "You should put those in some water. You wouldn't want them to wilt before they can be enjoyed."

He was at the door before the second rap. He was nervous, excited, and for one split second, afraid that Alexis' wacky sister might be, in fact, deluded.


Sonny smiled wide as Alexis swept into the living room, wearing a creamy silk blouse and a straight black skirt that ended just below her knees. He closed the door behind her and caught the light floral scent of her hair lingering in the air between them

"Hi." She set her briefcase down on desk and her coat on top of it, then turned to him with her hands clasped in front of her. "I'm sorry I'm late. I know I said fifteen minutes but I got distracted by…well, let's just say that this particular distraction was the last of its kind.


"So - what can I do for you?" The formality in her bearing took him aback. "Is there a problem with Courtney?"


"Is it Jax and his newfound penchant for coffee warehouse condemnation?"


"Has Carly started making noises about changing her mind on the…"

"Uh…no." Sonny squinted at her.

"Has Mike borrowed more money from a…"


"Taggert came by and…"


She sighed and lifted both arms up in the air in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, I'm out. Your turn."

He gave his head a quick shake and stared at her for a moment. Alexis folded her arms across her chest and stared back, waiting.

"Would you…spend the night with me?"

One eyebrow rose in amusement. "Excuse me?"

"EVENING. Would you spend the evening - have dinner with me?"



"No, thank you."


The signature dimples went to work, but were met with a simple shake of her head and the gaze of weary eyes. The dimples disappeared and his shoulders slightly fell.

"But I said the magic word."

The weary eyes shifted away from his face and toward the closed door. "Maybe some other night, but not this one." She smiled lightly as she looked into his face once more.

"Oh…right. You probably already have plans." He wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Just tell me they're not with Scott Baldwin again."

"No, I don't have plans with Scott Baldwin again. I will NEVER have plans with Scott Baldwin again outside of a courtroom, in which case we'll definitely be on opposite sides, because our one attempt at a social whatever it was, was just wrong. It was stupid, absurd, and very ill-conceived, because the idea of Scott Baldwin and me as anything even remotely…you know, is just plain…"


Alexis inhaled deeply and sighed it out with a large smile. "Right."


She watched him shifted his weight as he bowed his head and fixed his gaze on the floor. Alexis regarded him with and curious look. "So, was that all you wanted to…"

His head abruptly snapped up. "You've got plans with someone else then?"

"N-no." She tilted her head as a restless hand began to fidget with her bracelet. "I no longer have a standing reservation for Valentine's Day. I haven't for over a year now." Alexis gave him a wry laugh as her eyes quickly widened. "But I DO still have some standing reservations in general."

He smiled softly, his eyes casting a cursory squint at the closed door. His instincts told him that what Kristina said was true, but he had to know for sure. He had to know if Alexis had taken him into her heart, and if Ashton had left it for good.


His airy whisper moved her a step closer to him, and Sonny focused on those big brown eyes that always told him the truth, even when the ramblings of her nervous mouth would have him thrown off track. Alexis stared back, a quizzical expression on her face.

"It's not my business, and I have no right to even ask. But I'm going to ask anyway because…"


"Because I want to know. Are you still in love with Ashton?"

Her mouth opened, then closed again. Alexis squinted at him looking truly stunned at the question that he'd asked. Sonny began to regret having asked it - he might not like the answer.

"I'm sorry. Forget I asked that."


"No? No what?"

"No, I'm not. I do still have love FOR him, and I suppose I always will. But I'm not…in love…with him." Alexis stammered as she frowned in vague confusion. She'd never actually said it out loud until that very moment, and she felt her heaviness lifting as she spoke. "It's not easy for me to let myself…love like that. What I felt for Ned mattered to me, and it was real." Her gaze drifted, as did her voice. "I just wish I knew for sure that it was as real for him. Doubting hurts."

"What do mean, you doubt that it was real for him?"

"Nothing. Never mind."

"No, don't "never mind" me. You know I'm not going to let something like that slide."

"Let it slide, Sonny. Your days of being burdened with my ongoing romantic crisis are over, so be grateful for small favors. You'll never have to hand me another paper bag again, because clearly, both my character judgment AND my ability to comprise one half of a normal, committed relationship are seriously lacking, and I just think it's best for me to stick to being a workaholic because that's something I AM good at."

Sonny stared for a long moment. "Ned Ashton has always been a grade A-1 ass in my book, and that's no secret to anyone - including him."

"Do tell? And in case there was any question, the feeling is mutual."

He blinked slowly through a soft smile. "But you were as real for him as he was for you. He saw the brass ring in you, and he grabbed it, and it was the one checkmark I could put in the non-ass side of his column. And while I can't fathom what made you chose him, choosing you was the one thing I've seen Ashton do that was right."

Alexis felt her face beginning to flush. She swallowed and turned her head, giving Sonny a sideways glace and a sly grin. "Oh my. I hate to tell you this Sonny, but you just channeled Jasper Jacks."

"Aghh…" Sonny grimaced and quickly pressed two fingers against her mouth. "I'll have none of that kind of filthy talk in my home."

Alexis smiled against the feel of his fingertips. His skin was soft, and she remembered how his hands felt against her flushed face the morning after her unspeakable, unforgettable dream. She could have sworn that he knew somehow, though that was purely impossible. But he'd never touched her face before - not that she could remember. And every time she turned around, he was within an arm's length of her. It had to be all in her head - her inappropriate, embarrassing head. But now, Sonny's fingers stayed unmoving upon her lips, the warmth of them fueling her self-conscious blush.

He hesitated, wanting to be truthful but not wanting to push her away. "He loved you while you were together…and I think he still loves you now."

"Sonny, that just not true. And I don't even want it to…"

He firmed his touch against her mouth just briefly, then let his hand fall away. Her skin was hit with cool air where his heat had been, and Alexis ran her tongue across her bottom lip as she stared at him in obedient silence.

"What Ashton's doing that's WRONG, is he's letting his wounded pride overrule his heart. I mean no disrespect to Kristina, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's really going on."

"N-Ned likes her. Why wouldn't he? Everyone likes her."

"I'm sure he does. But I don't think this is about Kristina as much as it's about you. Come on, Alexis. He's doing everything he can to keep himself close to you. Do you think that it was just a coincidence that he decided to jump back into the dating scene the minute your sister shows up in town? Which, if I'm not mistaken, also happened around the anniversary of your non-wedding. Another coincidence? And since your sister happens to live with you, he'll have to run into you almost every time he goes to see her."

"All the better to throw in my face that I lack certain qualities he now decided he requires in a woman. Qualities Kristina does have."

Sonny winced at the words coming from her mouth, and the lack of emotion in the voice that carried them. He could have cut Ashton's tongue from his mouth with the skill of Helena Cassadine.

"That was when I knew for sure that any "in love" feelings for him had died in me. And it happened on the exact anniversary of the day I ran away from him. Ned felt the need to remind me of it…again. And since I was the one who committed the act of betrayal, I took it…again. Alexis has fears - bad thing. Kristina is free and open - good thing. Alexis can't commit - bad thing. Kristina embraces all life has to offer - good thing. As if these things about me were news to him. As if I chose to be this way just to piss him off. But there I stood, in the living room of my own home, and listened as the man I loved for four years told me how I stack up against my own sister."

Alexis turned her eyes back to Sonny's face and saw his forehead creased with an angry frown. She smiled and gave him a quick shrug of her shoulders. "And I accused YOU of not knowing how to forgive. I take it back."

Sonny took a step closer to her, and then another. "You didn't want to get married, Alexis. You had the right. Besides, it's not like you turned him into the FBI or anything."

She laughed and shook her head. "I might as well have. He is a proud man - you're right. But he's also become petty and mean, and I feel like I don't even know who he is anymore. That hurts. And it makes me angry, and sad. And involving my sister, no matter what his real motives are toward her…well, I guess that's her business now. I just don't want her to get hurt."

"She loves you too."

Her eyes met his once more and Alexis saw something swimming in them that she hadn't seen before. It was a deep, penetrating study, is if Sonny was trying to see inside of her. And she wondered what he was looking for.

"I understand the hurt…and the anger and sadness. It's hard to let go of what's no longer good and right for you, and letting yourself feel anger makes it easier, I think. But you know what? When you do let go, you open the way for what IS good and right." Sonny's gaze drifted down from her attentive eyes to that soft mouth that his fingertips wanted to feel once more. "And you can suddenly see things more clearly - things that were there all along…"

He faltered as her lips parted, just so, and the tip of her tongue quickly darted between them - a prologue to her teeth capturing one half of that tempting lower lip in their grasp. And he watched, enraptured, as it slowly slipped free again to the sound of Alexis releasing a deeply held breath. Sonny looked back up to her large, soulful eyes and felt the heat spreading through his face. She'd caught him staring. He pretended not to notice, and tried not to be afraid as he threw all rational caution to the wind.

"You… see things that you've taken for granted, but that you cherish with all your heart…and couldn't bear to lose."

Alexis swallowed hard, squinting as Sonny's dark eyes held fast to hers. His whisper filled her head, the rough, smoky timbre of it making her brain begin to buzz. Or was it the look in his eyes as they'd latched onto her mouth? Or the sudden awareness of how little physical distance was left between them? OR had she simply forgotten to breath yet again?

Sonny advanced, taking another small step closer to her. "Because they speak to the part of you that's good and right…the part that wants to be worthy. I want to be worthy, Alexis. I want to…do this."

His mouth reached for hers as his last words of desire washed over her. She waited, unmoving, and her heavy lids lowered at the first feel of Sonny's soft, warm mouth pressing gently into hers. His hands found the sides of her face, fingers threading through her hair in a motion as delicate as air. Alexis was still, neither making an advance of her own nor rejecting his. She was too focused on the primal feeling of contact between her sensitive flesh and Sonny's. It was the innocent beginning of discovery as their lips barely moved against each other, content in the sensation and instinctually, carefully, testing the bounds.

And just as tenderly as he'd claimed her mouth, Sonny let it go. His hands still held their place against her face, feeding their soothing warmth into her skin. Alexis slowly blinked her eyes open and saw that Sonny's lids still lay closed, as if he'd traveled somewhere private and far away. But a small smile began to grace his face, and the twinkling of two deep brown eyes was suddenly filling her gaze from just inches away. Alexis ran her tongue across her taunted lips and took a deep, cleansing breath as she furrowed her brow.

"W-what the hell was that?"

Sonny's eyebrows arched as his eyes widened. He flashed a quick and broad display of dimples, which disappeared as abruptly as they came. The expression on her face was one he'd seen before, and he knew exactly what was going on inside that over-thinking head of hers. She was giving them both an out, but Sonny wanted in. And he was sure that she did too, since his face had yet to be slapped.

"If you have to ask, I must not have done it very well. I'd better try it again."

His hands firmed, fingers sliding back into her hair as he recaptured the beautiful pink mouth, still slightly open in surprise. The pressure of his kiss strengthened as he fastened his mouth around her lower lip, his tongue gently grazing it until he heard an involuntary moan buried within the depths of her throat. But still, Alexis neither gave nor took away. Sonny smiled at her fierce control as his mouth released its sweet captive, and he bowed his head to direct a warm exhale of breath across her throat. He slowly breathed in again, inhaling the scent of her hair, her skin…and wanting to bury his face into her neck to fill his senses even more. But he held himself back, waiting for her to respond. And soon, her eyes opened halfway, giving her face a languid, erotic expression that sent a current shooting into his groin.

"Why did you do that?" She murmured.

"Because I wanted to."

"Oh." She blinked slowly, distracted by the quickening pace of her heartbeat.

Sonny cocked his head and pulled his hands from their tangle within her hair. Her eyes darted to the feel of him as the back of his fingers began to glide down the side of her face.

"And you know what?" His tone deepened seductively as his hand repeated its path along her cheek.

Alexis felt a slight shiver run through her body, and her head tilted into the feel the feathery stroking of her skin. "W-what?"

His fingers slid under her chin to tilt it upward. "I want to do it again."

Her eyes grew bigger. "Oh?"

"Only this time…" His fingers slid under her chin to tilt it upward, and Sonny locked his eyes into hers. "I want you to help."

She stared back at him, trying to force a sound from her throat. And when she did, it was blessed leap of faith. "Okay."

Sonny smiled at the shy hesitance in the woman who had never held back a truth from him. But this was a new kind of truth she was confessing, and he knew she was scared - so was he. And he felt a bit guilty to have the unfair advantage of already knowing her heart, while Alexis was just now beginning to know his. It pounded furiously in Sonny's chest, that wanton heart of his. He wanted to feel her, to taste her, to begin to learn her body as he knew her mind. He wanted all of it…all of her. And as he slowly moved his face closer, Alexis lowered her eyes to his mouth and reached for it with her own. The second they found each other, Sonny's hands clasped the back of her neck and pulled her into him with a quick burst of abandon.

She whimpered with surprise at the possessive crushing of his mouth into hers, and her arms reflexively rose, hovering mid-air by the sides of his body. Sonny's strong force suddenly released and his lips softened, pulling back from her before touching down again and planting a tender kiss against her top lip, and then the bottom. Alexis set her hands down upon his body, moving her firm palms up his ribcage and circling them around his back. The unexpected feel of her hands through his thin cotton shirt made Sonny gasp into her mouth, and his passion was further stoked. Alexis could feel it…his hips pressed into hers and her mouth opened further, meeting his demand with her own, his insistent tongue slipping inside the wet heat of her mouth in search of the secrets that lay within. And search he did - feeling, tasting, roaming and exploring every mystery with a greedy hunger. She welcomed him, meeting each sweet invasion of his tongue with her own as they teased and tangled until his invasion became hers.

Sonny turned the tables, coaxing her inside of him and inviting her to know the feel and taste of him. Her shy hesitation was no more, and Alexis crushed her mouth into his with a greedy hunger to rival his. She tightened her arms around him as Sonny moved one hand from her neck and down the cool silk covering the warmth of her back. The gap between their bodies closed, her soft breasts melding into the solid musculature of his chest. And as his palm flattened against her hip and pulled her lower body against him, Alexis felt more than just Sonny's desire for her - she felt the hot awakening of things that had lain dormant inside of her for far too long.

Sonny suddenly groaned into her mouth as her pelvis moved against his, and he felt his head begin to spin. A trail of fire blazed a path between his mouth and his groin, and he knew that Alexis had felt her effect on him. But she was still there - he hadn't scared her away. He pulled his own hips back as his hand let go of hers. A vague sense of disorientation began to cloud his brain, and he found himself lost within the fusion of their mouths. Sonny released the tension in his jaw, as did she, and they abruptly tore themselves apart with shared, shallow gasp. Two chests heaved in time with each other as the room was filled with a panting echo. They were breathless and spent, and reeling from the impossible possibilities that lay ahead of them.

Alexis relaxed her hold around his body, arms trembling as they dropped down to rest at her sides. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut as Sonny's forehead came to rest against hers, and his own hand slipped away from the damp heat of the back of her neck. A welcome shock of cool air hit her now bare flesh, and she pulled her numb and swollen lower lip between her teeth. He blinked his eyes open and rubbed the end of her nose with his. Her dimples etched into her cheeks and Alexis slowly opened her eyes. Sonny smiled back and whispered against her full, blushing lips.

"She kisses."

Alexis slowly lifted her head, a move that finally broke all contact between their bodies. "What?"

Sonny grinned as he drew a light finger along her jaw. "And you made me work so hard…pain in the butt."

His quick wink sent a renewed flush through her cheeks, and it proved impossible to hold back the smile that his teasing inspired. But Alexis could give as good as she got.

"You know what? Your eyes have gotten all big."

"So have yours."

"And the pulse in your neck is going all fast."

"So is yours."

She frowned. "I'm not going to win this one, am I?"

"That's up to you. Alexis, would you do me the honor of spending the night…evening, with me?"

"That's some Freudian slip you've got going there, isn't it?"

"I'm pleading the fifth."

Alexis gave him a sly grin. "You do your attorney proud."

"I don't want you to be my attorney."

"What?" Her eyes grew large again.

"Not tonight. I don't want to spend Valentine's Day with my attorney, or even my friend. I want to spend it with a woman…who's on a proper date with a man."

"Oh. Well…" Her hand wandered up to fidget with the placket of his shirt. She tilted her head as her eyes studied the movement of her fingers. "If I do agree to this proper date, I have a few conditions."


Her hand froze as her eyes snapped up to his. "Very poor choice of words."

He grinned from ear to ear. "Sorry."

Sonny returned her gesture of a small touch with a slip of his hand around her waist. Alexis found herself relaxing into it. It felt nice. It felt good, and right.

"If I'm not going to be your attorney tonight, then there will be no distractions for business issues."

"What business?"

"There you go! And if I'm not going to be your friend, there will be no distractions for family issues."

"Family who?"

"You catch on quickly!" Her smile faded as Alexis cleared her throat. "But here comes the biggie…and it's a deal breaker. If I AM going to be a woman on a proper date with a man, there will be no distractions for issues concerning a former significant other."

Sonny knew better than to joke about this particular concern. She was willing to take a risk, but not foolishly. Neither was he - and Alexis was the most wise risk he could take. He smiled and brushed the bangs away from her eyes.

"My only distraction is YOU. And that's a done deal."

Alexis flattened her palm against his chest. "We may have started our date in the way that most people traditionally END it…but I hope we're far from done."

"Not if I have anything to say about it. And speaking of far…come here."

He gave the hand around her waist a quick pull. The sudden jolt knocked her off balance, and Alexis fell into him. Their faces were inches apart, and Sonny wrapped both arms around her to hold her firmly in place. "There, that's better."

His dimples popped and Alexis sighed as she looked him straight in the eye. "You're still a pain in the butt."

"Shut up and kiss me."

"Hey! Don't tell me to shut up." She admonished. "For one thing, it's just not nice. I mean if you're going to get in the good habit of saying "please" when it's appropriate, you're just going to negate it if you go around telling people to shut up. And for another thing, I talk a lot. I ramble, actually - it's what I do."

Her eyes were nervously flitting from his face to nowhere specific in the room, and Sonny ran a lustful tongue across his lips in anticipation.

"And aside from the fact that you should be really, really used to it by now, you are not the boss of my rambling, Mister Dimples, any more than you're the boss of my hyperventila…"

Sonny's lustful tongue had suddenly, blissfully, shut Alexis up.