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Friends and Lovers

Brenda Barrett walked into her hotel room and collapsed into a chair. Jaxís words kept haunting her: "You were afraid to tell me you loved him." Him being mob-king Sonny Corinthos, of course. She buried her face into the soft cushions of the chair. Was it true? Did she really love Sonny? She had been telling herself what to feel and for whom for so long, she didnít know how she really felt anymore. She heard a knock on her door and perked up. Maybe it was Jax. Then she sighed. Probably not. But it was worth a shot, wasnít it?

"Who is it?" she called out.

"Itís me, babe," came the responding call.

Brendaís shoulders slumped. It was Sonny. "One second," she called back, without any enthusiasm. She opened the door and greeted him. He leaned over and gave her a hug, which she stiffly returned.

"Well, babe," he drawled, "does Jaxxy-boy know about us?"

She walked away from him and sat on her chair again. "First of all," she informed him, "his name is Jax, not Jaxxy-boy. And second, he already knew, so there was nothing to tell." As she spoke, Jaxís words reverberated through her head: "You love him...You love him...You love him..."

Sonnyís voice broke though her thoughts. "Well, thatís great! Weíre all set, then. Nothing can stop us now, right babe?" He grinned happily at her.

"Stop calling me that!" Brenda snapped, rubbing her forehead to clear her head. "You know I hate being called Ďbabeí."

Sonny felt like he had been slapped. "Whoa," he said, holding his hands up in defense. "Iím sorry. I didnít know." He looked at Brenda, his one true love, sitting in the chair looking miserable. "Maybe I should leave, Bren." When he got no reply denying that, he turned and walked out the door. Before closing it behind him, he told her heíd call her later. She held up her arm, acknowledging his comment, and he left. Brenda felt like crying. In less than two hours, she had managed to alienate both the men she thought she loved.

Jax couldnít believe what he had done. He had made a calculated move, telling Brenda that she still loved Sonny, to make her realize that didnít anymore, that she loved him, and it had backfired. She had just agreed with him, and left. All he had to console him was the fact that she had lasted longer than Miranda, and Brenda hadnít even really been his wife. He laughed bitterly. Both of his marriages had completely failed. He was no longer sure if he kept falling in love with the wrong women, or if he was doing something wrong. He looked at his watch with a sigh. It was only 6:30, and there was nothing to do and nowhere to do it. He brightened suddenly when he remembered receiving a letter from an old friend who was coming to Port Charles for a visit. He walked over to the drawer where he stored his mail.

"Bill, bill, bill, Jerry, charity, business, and....Kristine. Great!" He opened the envelope to see where she was staying. With a grin on his face, he dialed room 425.

1 hour later

Jax sat at a table in the PC Grille, waiting for his friend, Kristine Locatis, to show up. Theyíd met through a mutual friend five years ago, and had become close, but platonic, friends very quickly. Although theyíd kept in touch via letters and phone calls, they hadnít seen each other in nearly two years.

Hearing the murmurings of the guests grow louder, he looked up towards the door. There stood a gorgeous brunette in a form-fitting pale green dress that showed off the red highlights in her curly hair. Jax squinted at the woman. It couldnít be. But here she was, coming towards his table with a big smile. He stood, stunned.

"Kristine?" he asked, doubtfully.

"Jax!" she said happily, giving him a hug. "You look great! You havenít changed at all."

He pulled her chair out and seated her before sitting again. "Well, I definitely canít say the same about you!" he exclaimed. "You look amazing!"

"Thanks. Howís Brenda? I havenít heard much lately." Jaxís face had become like a mask the minute she mentioned Brendaís name. "Uh-oh. More trouble in paradise?"

"Letís not get into that right now, Lady K. Howís college? One more year and youíll be done, huh?"

She blinked at the sudden change of subject. "Oh no you donít, Jasper," she grinned. "You donít get off that easy!" When he didnít respond, she added, "Come on, Jax. You know youíll feel better. You always do." She often teased him, saying that he thought of her more as a diary than a friend.

He sighed. "Fine. You want to know, here it is." He told her about the incident in the cave, about Miranda "snitching" on Brenda, and finally what had happened that day. Kristine gave a low whistle when he was through.

"Ouch. Boy, that doesnít sound good, does it?"

"No, it doesnít," Jax agreed. There was a pause as Kristine tried to find the right words to end that conversation, but Jax changed the subject. "So, what brings you to Port Charles? Itís pretty far from Washington, you know.

Kristine grinned at him. "Yes, I am aware of that. Iím here on business."

"Business?" Jax repeated. "What business can a 21 year old college junior have across the entire country?"

"Well, you know I have an account on AOL, right?" Jax nodded. "Well, last summer I met a girl named Rina. We became friends quickly, and discovered that we both thought that being a wedding coordinator would be a fun job. So, we started our own company, HR Wedding Consultants."

Jax looked at her as if she were crazy, blue eyes wide with disbelief. "You started a business with a person youíve never even seen?"

"Yep. And weíre having fun, too," she laughed. "Our first client is here in PC. She found us on the Internet."

"Well, good luck," Jax said.

Their talk drifted to other topics, and before they knew it, it was already eleven. Kristine looked at her watch and gasped.

"Oh, my gosh! I canít believe how late it is. I have an early meeting with our client." Jax jumped up as Kristine pushed her chair back and stood. She leaned over and up and kissed his cheek. "Iíll be in town for awhile. I hope we can meet again."

"Same here," Jax replied, and waved as he watched her leave the restaurant.

Brenda woke up from her dreamless sleep when the phone rang the next morning. She groaned as she stretched and rubbed her sore neck. It was not a good idea to sleep in a chair, she decided. The phone rang again. She grabbed for the phone, realizing that this must have been what had woken her. "Hello?" All she heard in return, though, was the dial tone. She swore and glanced at the clock. 7Am. Way too early to be awake, but she knew she wouldnít be able to fall asleep again. She went to the closet and selected a pair of stone-washed denim cut-offs, fire-engine red bikini top, and a gauzy white blouse to wear over it, the perfect outfit for the sweltering mid-90s heat wave Port Charles was currently experiencing. She took a short shower, got dressed, put her make-up on, and left, successfully avoiding Ruby, so she didnít have to eat breakfast. Once in her car, she had no idea where to go. All of a sudden, she had an urge to see Jax again. A huge grin lit her face. She decided to have breakfast at the PC Grille. Jax often ate there and would probably be there for breakfast. She laughed with delight as she turned the radio on full blast and zoomed off.

She arrived at the posh restaurant twenty minutes later, a new record even with her wild driving. Walking in, she didnít see Jax, so she decided to have a seat. It was, after all, a Saturday, and he may have decided to come later. She ordered a cup of coffee, and looked around. She saw Ned Ashton and Alexis Davis talking at a corner table, and made a face. How could he be with a Cassadine after Lois? How much different could you possibly get? The only other person in the place was a young woman with curly brown hair at the table next to her. She was surrounded by paperwork as she talked on her cell phone and looked frazzled. Brenda strained to hear her conversation.

"Yes. Hello. My name is Kristine Locatis. Iím looking for Rebecca Chase." She listened for a moment and frowned. "No! No, donít do that. They just-" she stopped and sighed. "Connected me to you." She rolled her eyes and tried again. "Hello. This is Kristine Locatis for the third time. Please connect me to someone who knows something about Rebecca Chase!....Thank you!" She rubbed her hand over her eyes. This was getting ridiculous. "Yes! Please help me, and donít transfer me anywhere, okay? My name is Kristine Locatis. Iím looking for Rebecca Chase. We had a meeting nearly 45 minutes ago, and she never showed." She listened to the nurse on the other end. "Okay. Wait! One second. Thereís someone else, um......." She rifled through a stack of papers. "Here we go. How about a Dr. Pierce Dorman?" She listened again and her mouth dropped open. "Beg Pardon, maíam?...Heís dead?!...What do you mean, what business did I have with him, Nurse Vining?....Drug dealing? MURDERER?....No, I had no idea...Ms. Chase hired my company to plan hers and Dr. Dormanís wedding....*Yes*, Iím sure thatís who hired me...OK. Thanks for your help."

Kristine clicked her phone off and dropped it on to the table in shock. Great. Their first job, and the groom, a drug dealing murderer, was dead. She sighed as she stacked all of her papers and put them in her briefcase. She signaled the waiter over and glanced at his nametag. "Michael, Iíd like to add to my order." She ordered Belgian Waffles with strawberries, bacon, sausage, and hash browns in addition to the cereal and muffins she had already ordered.

Brenda blinked as she listened to all of this. This girl was not having a good day, and it was only 10 to 8. She picked up the paper she had bought and searched for the comics. Just hearing about this Kristineís plight had made her want to read something light. Since she had the paper in front of her face, she didnít see Jax appear in the doorway and head towards the table next to hersóKristineís. But she definitely heard his sexy voice. How could anyone miss that Australian accent?

"Kristine!" he said, genuinely happy to see her. "Itís great to see you again so soon, Lady K. Last night was a lot of fun." He kissed her cheek. "Hey, didnít you have a business meeting this morning?"

"Morning, Jax," Kristine said absently. "Have a seat."

Brenda couldnít believe it. Her eyes filled with tears, and she followed her first instinct, to run out of there are fast as she could. By the time she reached her car, she was crying so hard, all she could do was sit there. He had told her he knew she loved Sonny, and she had believed him, but now she knew he was wrong. It was Jax she loved, and it looked like Jax loved that other woman, Kristine. This was nothing like she had felt when she had seen Sonny and Lily. That had been more of an ego thing, wanting revenge because Sonny had wounded her pride. Now, though, she could almost hear her heart as it shattered.

Back in the restaurant, Jax hadnít noticed Brenda at all, forget seeing her run out in tears. His attention was focused on Kristine, who looked ready to cry.

"Kris, Hon, whatís wrong? Are you okay?" Jax asked gently.

"Okay? Okay?! How can I be okay? I just found out why my client didnít show up. Sheís in mourning! Her fiancee was murdered!"

"Murdered?" Jax was surprised. "I canít believe I didnít hear about it. Who was it?"

"Some doctor named Pierce Dorman."

"Dorman? My God, who would marry him? He killed little kids, for crying out loud!"

At this point, Kristine wasnít really surprised, but she was shocked. "Little kids? Oh, my word. I hadnít heard that, just that he was a murderer. His fiancťe was a nurse, Rebecca Chase. Their story sounded so romantic when she told us about them. After a couple months of working together, they fell in love. But now heís dead and accused of being a drug dealing murderer and Rina and I are out a lot of money," she sighed. "Oh! Rina! I have to call her," she said, grabbing her phone, but Jax stopped her from dialing.

"Wait. Are you sure it was Rebecca Chase?"

She stared at him like he was crazy. "Of course I know it for sure! She hired me. You know, youíre the second person to ask me that. Why?"

He explained how Rebecca had been Dormanís star witness at Monicaís trial, about the drugs, and how he had become a decoy.

"I see. You think Dorman convinced Rebecca to cover for him at the trial, and may have been in on the drug scheme," Kristine said. "Weíll stop at the police station later, okay? First, I really do have to call Rina."

"Absolutely," Jax told her.

She smiled briefly as she dialed.

A preoccupied voice answered the phone. "Yeah? I mean, hello? Um, HR Wedding Consultants, Rina speaking."

Kristine heard a decidedly male laugh at the other end of the line. "Rina? Whoís with you?" Kristine demanded suspiciously, since the phone was in Rinaís bedroom.

"Oh, Krissy! Hi! Um, no oneís here."

"Hey!" the guy exclaimed.

"Just John," Rina finished, motioning for John to keep quiet.

"Just John?! Not the same John that youíve been trying to get the attention of for the past year and had just given up on? *That John?!"

"Um, yeah, that would be the one," Rina laughed.

"Since Iím sure it will be a long story, Iíll ask you later what John is doing in your bedroom at ten to eight in the morning."

"Actually, itís nearly seven here, and Iíll try to come up with a good story for later," Rina grinned. "So, whatís up? How did the meeting go with Becky Chase?"

"Well, it didnít go," Kristine said. She told Rina the whole story about the drugs and murder of Pierce Dorman.

"No way," Rina said. "No, I refuse to believe that. Uh-uh," she shook her head emphatically.

Kristine sighed. She wanted to feel the same way. "Believe it, doll, because itís the truth. Where does this leave us money-wise?"

"Let me check. But I can tell you right now, not good. Not good at all." Kristine could hear Rina asking John to grab her calculator and gave him a long list of figures. Rina gasped when she heard the result. "John, did you do that right? Are you sure?"

"Yeah, Iím sure. Sorry, Rina," John told her sympathetically.

Kristine could hear Rina swearing in German, but hadnít heard why yet.

"Rina? What is it?" she asked, very nervous. When she heard the answer, she felt like crying. "Okay. Well, Rina, Iíll call you later, okay?ÖAll right. Bye now." Kristine snapped her phone shut and met Jaxís sympathetic gaze.

"Not good, huh?" he asked.

"No, not good at all," she replied. "This plane ticket to Port Charles really took a lot."

"I wish I could help," Jax told her, taking her hand.

She smiled. "Well, if you run across any engaged couples, give them our card," she said, as she handed him a stack. Just then, Ned walked over.

"Jax. Do you know where Brenda went? She was here earlier, but flew out of here when you sat down here." He turned to Kristine. "Ned Ashton."

She smiled at took his hand. "Kristine Locatis. Nice to meet you."

He smiled back and turned again to Jax. "So, since when do you have breakfast dates with women who are not your wife while your wife is at the table next to you?" he asked conversationally, but with daggers shooting out of his eyes.

Jax was still digesting what Ned had just told him. "Brenda was here?" He turned to Kristine. "Krissy, what did I say when I came here?"

She thought back and paled. "You said that,"

"Last night was a lot of fun," he finished. "Damn." He pushed back his chair and turned to Ned. "Iím going to try Rubyís and the gatehouse first. Let me know if you hear from her," he told him. "Krissy, take care, and Iíll call you. Tell them to charge this to my room." With that, he left the restaurant.

Kristine turned to Ned. "Do you think she came here looking for him?"

He regarded her thoughtfully. "Yes, I do. How do you feel about that?" She looked at him quizzically. "I mean," he explained, "do you want Jax?"

Kristineís eyes flew wide open in surprise. "ME?" she laughed. "No. Jax and I are friends, and have been for years. Besides, I already have a boyfriend, Eric." She turned serious. "I just want Jax to be happy. And I think he will be with Brenda."

By now, Jax had parked in front of the gatehouse. He could see Brenda inside, talking with Sonny. He walked over to the open window and listened to their conversation.

"Iím sorry, Sonny, I just donít think this is going to work," she was saying. "I think weíve changed too much to be good for each other," she said gently.

Sonny was stunned. "Thatís it?" he asked incredulously. "Thatís how you end a five year relationship? With two sentences?"

Brenda sighed. He wasnít making this any easier. "First of all, it hasnít been five years. It was over a long time ago, and you know that. And if you had given me time instead of following me here, I could have planned it better." She looked him straight in the eye. "Itís over, Sonny," she said as firmly as she could. "Now I think you better go."

Sonny looked at her for a moment before telling her, "Itíll never be over, Brenda. You may think so, but you never get over your first love. When you come back to your senses, drop by the penthouse. Maybe Iíll still take you back." With that, he left the gatehouse.

Jax ducked behind a bush to hide, but it wasnít necessary. Sonny was so blind with a mixture of rage and sadness that he couldnít see anything except images of Brenda and himself through the years. He really had loved her, and thought that she loved him, too. He thought he could trust her. Last time he made that mistake. He left the Quartermaine estate, tires squealing.

Jax came out of the bushes, brushing the leaves from his blonde hair, and looked inside the gatehouse window. Brenda sat on he couch rubbing her eyes. Even so sad, she looked beautiful. Jax walked in the open door and waited for Brenda to notice him, which didn't take long.

"Jax!" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"

He ignored her question. "Brenda, we have to talk. I love you, Brenda Barrett. I have since the first day we met, and I always will. I hear what you said to Sonny just now. Do you think we have a chance?"

Brenda wiped the tears from her eyes and gave him a shaky smile. "I love you, too, Jax. But what about the woman you were with earlier? Kristine?"

He gently wiped the rest of her tears away. "Kristine's just an old friend, sweetheart. She's an old friend who's here on business."

She looked down at the ground. "I guess I really over reacted, huh? I'm sorry."

He tenderly raised her face so that their eyes locked. "Hey. There's nothing to be sorry about, honey. I probably would have reacted the same way."

"Yeah?" she said with a sexy grin. "Awww, that is so sweet." They both laughed. "I want to meet her," Brenda said suddenly.

Jax blinked. "Kristine?" he asked.

"Yeah, Kristine. I was listening to her conversations before you came, and she seemed really nice. Honey, call her now," she said, bouncing on the couch.

"Now? Brenda, I have a much better idea of what we can do," he said seductively, drawing her into a standing position, with her arms up and around his neck. She jumped and threw her legs around his waist so their faces were level with each other's.

"Oh, really?" Brenda asked. "Well, why don't you take me home and show me, then?"

He kissed her long and hard. Then he surprised her by twirling her around in a circle, causing her to squeal with laughter. "Home it is, Brenda. Home for good."

*Three months later*

Brenda and Jax were having a romantic dinner at their Malibu beach house. Jax had surprised her once again by flying her to California, where he had dinner ready and waiting for them. While she was watching the ocean sunset, he slipped something into her champagne glass. She turned around to face him.

"Jax, these have been the most wonderful, romantic three months of my life. Thank you so much."

He walked over to her and caught her up in his arms, kissing her. "Thank you, Brenda. I've been so happy, and it's all because of you. You make me this happy."

They kissed again, and Jax led her to the table where he gave her her glass.

"To us," he toasted.

"To us," Brenda repeated happily. She took a sip, but stopped when she felt something clink against her teeth. "Jax? What's this?" She fished it out and gasped. "A ring?" She couldn't take her eyes off of it. It was a full carat diamond with amethyst sunbursts surrounding it.

Jax walked over and knelt by her side, taking the ring. "Brenda, I've loved you ever since I saw you walk into my office that cold February day. That's what the amethysts are for. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of our lives together." By now, tears were running down Brenda's face, and even Jax had tears in his eyes. "Brenda, will you be my wife?"

She nodded through her tears. "Yes, Jax. Oh, Jax, yes!" He slipped the ring on her finger before throwing her into the air in excitement and catching her. She looked at her ring in awe. "Where did you ever find this? It's beautiful."

Jax grinned. "Well, Kristine's friend Rina designed it on the condition that we hire HR Wedding Coordinators to plan our wedding."

Brenda laughed and kissed him again. He carried her upstairs, their mouths never breaking contact. The next morning, Brenda got up early and stood at the window watching the sun come up. Jax shifted slightly in his sleep, and realized that Brenda was not next to him any longer, causing him to immediately waken. He sat up, and seeing her at the window, smiled. He walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her. She smiled contentedly and snuggled back against him.

"Are you ready for what's next?" he said softly into her ear.

"Yes," she replied. "I'm ready to spend forever with you." They kissed passionately as the sun rose on a new day.

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