A week later...

Adjusting to his new family proved to be a frustrating endeavor for Zander Smith. As a kid growing up in foster homes and later on the streets, he often wondered about his birth parents and if he had any siblings. Did they know about him? Did his parents think about him? Never in a million years did he consider his parents were Russian Royalty.

Russian Royalty? Damn. He was the only son of the oldest son. He was the Prince, but did he really want the title? He found the idea of it too much and refused to think about it. So, he couldn't be sure... Prince Zander... Damn.

"Zander?" Stefan repeated his name, interrupting the young man's reverie. "The offer is sincere and we hope you will consider it."

"I have considered it," Zander said, turning away from the window in living area of the hotel suite to face his Uncle, "but I'm fine at the room above Kelly's. Once Emily is discharged from the hospital, I'll look for something else, but until then..."

"She would be welcomed, too."

Zander nodded. He'd seen the plans for the home that would replace Wyndemere. The place was gonna be huge with plenty of room for all the Cassadines. He figured he and Em could get lost in there and not see anyone for weeks, but still... "I know, but I don't want to... Look, I appreciate what you're doing, but I just need some more time to get used to everything. You know what I'm saying?"

Stefan's mouth twitched into a faint smile. "Take all the time you need," he advised, "but don't forget that destiny waits for no one."


Mending a broken heart was not an easy task. Andrèsj wondered if there was a book somewhere on the subject that would make the pain more bearable. He thought of Keesha's smile and decided that no book could take the pain away. Seeing her so frequently with his father and watching the two so happy together was enough to make him want to choke with envy. He hated the feeling! Jealousy was a wasted emotion. His father had taught him that and he knew it to be true. And, yet, he couldn't help but twinge at the sound of Keesha speaking softly to his father and saying his name with such love and tenderness.

It wasn't fair!

Lost in anguish, he didn't see the person coming toward him until he bumped into her. His hands shot out to steady her. "My apologies," he said, looking into the deepest chocolate brown eyes he'd ever seen. His voice was husky as he added, "I did not see you there."

"I know. You were in another zone," the petite brunette commented. "Are you okay?"

Drè shook his head in embarrassment. "I should have asked that of you. I trust I did not injure you."

She smiled. "Um, no. I'm fine. The footprint on my Keds is kinda cool." She extended her leg for his inspection of her shoe. "Doncha think?"

"I suppose," he said. Her leg was tan and the skin looked silky smooth. Heat flooded his cheeks as he wondered if her flesh was soft and supple or firm and taut. Feeling her gaze boring into him, he tore his eyes from her leg to look at her. Something about her seemed familiar, but he couldn't place her.

"What's your name?" the girl asked, lowering her leg and moving to sit on the edge of the fountain. "I'm starting high school in the fall, but I don't think I've seen you around before. Did you just move here?"

"Yes, I did. My name is Andrèsj."

She frowned. "What kind of name is that?"

"It's Russian," he informed her. "I suppose it's similar to Andrew."

"Well, I can't call you that," she decided. "Do you have another name?"

"Some of my friends and family call me Drè. You may call me that if you wish, and what should I call you."

"I'm Lesley Lu. My family calls me LuLu, but I don't like it."

Drè released a low, deep chuckle. "Very well, then I shan't call you that... Lesley Lu? As in Lesley Lu Spencer?"

"Yes." She stood up and moved to stand just inches from him. "You know you look kinda familiar. Are you sure you're not from around here?"

"I should look familiar. We met many years ago, but you were quite young then. I am Nikolas' brother. Do you not remember me?"

Through narrowed eyes, she peered closely at him. Then, she slapped her forehead. "Oh, I feel silly now. I can totally see the resemblance. This is great! I can't wait to tell Mom that I ran into you. Grandma Lesley and I just came in from visiting Grandpa Rick in Los Angeles. We're supposed to have some big family dinner tonight with Nikolas and his fiancée. Will you be there?"

Drè shrugged. "I wasn't invited."

She gave him a smile filled with warmth and interest. "You have been now. I would like for you to come. Please, say you will."

He returned her smile. "How could I refuse an invitation from such a beautiful young woman? Yes, I will come."


Nikolas stared out the window of Dawn's former bedroom at her parents' home. She sat behind him on her bed. He could feel her brown eyes staring daggers into his back, but he refused to relent. He knew what was best even if she refused to agree with him.

"I'm well enough to go to dinner tonight," she said. "Your Aunt examined me and agrees. I've traveled down the road to recovery and I'm at the exit."

He rolled his eyes. "I don't find any of this amusing."

She groaned and threw a pillow at him. "Neither do I!"

Nikolas rubbed the back of his head from where the pillow struck him. He turned around and retrieved the offending object from the floor. He threw it back at her, smiling grudgingly when she caught it without any effort. "This isn't just about the dinner and you know it. This is about the WSB and their training program. I don't care what Aunt Sabrina says. You've only been out of hospital for a short number of days. Time will be needed to regain your strength-"

"Nikky," she murmured his name in her usual way. "Come here."

He went to her and sat on the edge of her bed. His fingers laced with hers and he couldn't help but admire the perfect fit. Or the calm that settled over him from a single touch of her flesh on his. With his other hand, he brushed tiny braids from her cheek.

"I don't blame you or your family for what that woman did to me," she said, staring into his eyes. "You don't have to be so protective. I really am better now."

"But not well enough for WSB training," he persisted. "It's too soon."

She drew in a deep breath and slowly released it. "You're working my patience, but how about this? What if I waited a couple of more weeks before I go to training?"

"What about our wedding plans? Do you no longer wish to be my wife?"

She pulled the chain that held his medallion from underneath her shirt. Holding the medallion up, she asked, "Would I wear this if I didn't want to be married to you? I love you. Nothing will change that. What about you? Are you having second thoughts?"

He shook his head. "Of course not."

"Well then, are you sure this grouchiness about the training isn't in regards to something else? Has Daddy been giving you a hard time? If he has, I'll talk to him."

"Your father and I have called a truce. We both agree to love you." He brushed his lips across the swell of her cheek. "There is nothing else. I suppose I worry too much."

"Are you worried about the dinner at your mother's tonight? I'm sure it will be okay."

He shrugged. "I suppose it will be. Returning to my family has been rather awkward. I suppose I was naive to assume that upon my return everything would be the same as it was before."

"It wasn't naive," she assured him. "It's a readjustment period for all of us. We'll just have to be patient and things will work out the way they're supposed to. You'll see."

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