Zarek consulted his Rolex for what Stefan counted as the tenth time in less than five minutes. Granting his young nephew with a hard stare, Stefan folded his hands behind his back and said, "Your concern for the time requires a good amount of concentration, does it not?"
"Excuse me?" Zarek asked.
"Do you find this meeting boring or do you have other more pressing matters to attend to?"
Zarek met Stefan's hard stare with one of his own. "My wife and I are dining with her parents tonight. I'd rather not be late if I can help it."
"You won't be," Stefan assured him. He pointed at the documents that lay strewn on the table in front of Zarek. "I trust you have reviewed the agreement and have not affixed your signature in haste."
The younger man expelled a loud breath. "I am not an imbecile, Stefan and my wife is an attorney. We found the contracts to be in order and were even surprised by Nikolas' generosity. I suppose I have Dara's sister to thank for that."
Stefan lifted his shoulders in a noncommittal gesture. "Nikolas' reasons are his own."
"Will his reign be a short one now that Stavros' son has been found?" Zarek asked. He lowered his gaze to the paperwork in front of him. A muscle flicked at his jaw, but there was no other outward display of displeasure upon the mention of the new addition to the Cassadine fold.
"That has yet to be decided," Stefan advised.
"Will I be notified once the decision has been made?"
Stefan nodded. "Of course. You are a Cassadine." He returned to the chair he had vacated during Zarek's concern for the time. Once his backside was settled comfortably on the cushioned chair, he said, "The tension among us has become a nuisance. I harbor no ill will towards you. I know how the will of a mentally challenged mother can be overpowering. I am and the rest of the family is willing to put the past behind us and move on into the future. Are you agreeable?"
Color drained from Zarek's face upon the mention of his mother but slowly returned upon the end of Stefan's brief speech. He nodded his head in agreement. "I am. I'm starting over and I prefer to do so with as the Americans say, 'a clean slate.'"
Stefan extended his hand and gave Zarek a firm handshake. "We will make it so."
"I'm sorry about this-"
"Tommy," Sabrina interrupted, "it's okay. I understand. There will be other nights. Are you sure that there isn't anything I can do for Sly?"
"I'm sure. Dr. Marshak is setting his arm now. We should be leaving soon. I don't know how he broke his arm when he still has a cast on his leg. The way his mind works doesn't make any sense to me."
Sabrina smiled. Despite his annoyance, Tommy's concern for his friend came through loud and clear in his voice. "I'm sure that Jake will do an excellent job with Sly's arm. Don't worry, okay?"
"I'm trying not to," Tommy admitted. "He's my best friend and sometimes, I can't help it. Listen, the nurse is waving at me. I'd better see what's going on. I'll call you later."
"I'll be looking forward to it."
The call ended and Sabrina began reversing the preparations she'd made for their late supper. She blew out the candles, returned the unopened bottle of wine to the rack and cleaned up the kitchen. Just as she was finishing up, the doorbell resonated with a vibrating chime. She refused to hope that Tommy was on her doorstep so she was a little curious about who would come to her home announced at such an odd hour.
After peering through the peephole, her curiosity heightened. She unlocked and opened the door. "Hello, Justus."
"Sabrina," he murmured with his charismatic smile. "I hope I'm not intruding."
"You're not. Come in."
He entered and she closed the door behind him. "I don't usually invite myself to the home of beautiful women, but tonight I couldn't resist."
She bit back a smile and gave him the sternest look she could muster. "What's so irresistible about this night?"
"The Rock is in town."
She laughed. "Are you talking about that wrestler? Justus Ward, are you a WWF fan?"
He smiled. "Guilty as charge. There's a Smackdown tonight at the Coliseum. I happen to have an extra ticket and thought that maybe you'd like to come with me."
"This is late notice, Justus. I had plans."
He held up his hands in defense. "I apologize for waiting until the last minute. I bought the tickets with the intention of taking my cousin, Emily, but she's still in the hospital."
"And I was your second choice?"
He grinned. "Actually, you were my fourth." He laughed at the expression on her face. "Come on now, Dr. DeLane, remember the oath you took. I know a woman doesn't want to hear she's not the first choice, but I had Keesha to consider and Lesley Lu."
"Lesley Lu? Is she another cousin?"
Justus almost roared with laughter as he tried to explain. "No, she's the daughter of a friend. She has plans with your nephew-"
Sabrina nodded. "I know who Lesley Lu is. She's Laura and Luke's daughter. Believe me, I am familiar with that clan. I must say that it pleases me to know that you're not related to them."
"Ouch," he said. "There was venom in that bite. Um, as far as I know I'm not related to them. I think the Quartermaine bloodline is more than enough for me to handle. So, what do you say? I know you said you had plans, but I don't see you in a rush to kick me out so…"
"My plans fell through," she said.
"I'm not sorry to hear that," Justus replied. "Would you consider the Smackdown with me?"
She nodded before realizing it. "Sure. I think this will be fun."
"Well, well, well…I'll be damned."
Nikolas clutched Dawn's hand underneath the table as Luke Spencer entered his former wife's dining room with a voice dripping of sarcasm. The dinner, which had been overly polite at best, became instantly suffocating with tension. She gently rubbed the back of Nikolas' hand as his fingers dug into her all the while watching Luke and preparing to confront him on Nikolas' behalf should the need arose.
"The dead has arisen," Luke smirked. He stood behind Lesley Lu's chair and squeezed the back of it until his knuckles became chalk white. His blue eyed-gaze rested on everyone in attendance—Laura, Lesley Lu, Lucky, Andrèsj —before finally settling on alternating between Nikolas and Dawn. "Me oh my, with a braided beauty on his arm, it's hard to tell who's the fake and who's the real deal."
"Daddy, don't," Lesley Lu pleaded. "You promised you wouldn't come. I'm sorry I mentioned it."
"Don't be, little darling," he said, patting his daughter's shoulder. "I tried to stay away, but this was too good to pass up." He spared a glance in Andrèsj's direction. "Who are you?"
"Luke!" Laura spat.
"There's no need for alarm," Andrèsj said in an even tone. "I am Nikolas' brother. I take it you are Luke Spencer."
Luke smiled without humor. "Your family talks about me. I'm sure I've reached legendary proportions, but I assure you…it's all true. I rid the world of evil vermin."
Nikolas' grip on Dawn tightened just as she burst out laughing. She laughed so hard that tears streamed down her cheeks. At first, the others stared at her in surprise but then suddenly, Nikolas, Lucky and Andrèsj joined in. Luke's face reddened with anger and Dawn felt bad. Her laughter died and she stared up at him. "I apologize for laughing. It was rude. Extremely so. Almost as rude as interrupting an special dinner without an invitation."
"He won't hear you," Nikolas said, looking at his mother's former husband. "His ears will be deaf to you. I learned that during my two years away from this place and certain people. No matter how obvious the answer is, they will continue to be dumbfounded by the riddle. Before I left, I was dumbfounded by his constant immature attempts at hurting me. I didn't understand how a man who had a loving family would begrudge a young man who didn't have the same-"
"Somebody start up the violin-"
"Stop it!" Lucky said. His chair screeched across the hardwood floor as he quickly stood to face his father. "Why don't you get it? Why don't you stop it?"
Luke grabbed Lucky's upper arms. "You're getting sucked in again-"
Lucky shrugged free. "I'm not! This has nothing to do with brainwashing or Helena or any of that. This is about my and Lesley Lu's brother…your ex-wife's son. Get over it, man. He exists. Deal with it and move on. Nikolas is right. The answer is right there. Face it and stop being such a jackass to someone who never did a damn thing to you!"
Lucky brushed past Luke, heading towards the door. He paused briefly by Dawn and said, "Welcome to the family." Then he left.
"Daddy, please go," Lesley Lu said tearfully in the quiet aftermath of Lucky's departure. "Please."
"Fine!" he grumbled. He stormed from the house without looking back.
"I'm sorry about that," Laura apologized.
"You don't have to apologize for him," Nikolas said quietly. "I would say he livened things up, wouldn't you?" He stood up and helped Dawn from her seat. "It's getting late. We'd better go. Andrèsj?"
"Nikolas, please don't go. Dessert hasn't been served and you barely touched your dinner."
His mouth twisted into a faint smile. "Laura, perhaps another time. Thank you for the dinner."
"Will you come back?" Lesley Lu asked, going to her oldest brother. She clutched his hand. "Please."
He kissed her cheek. "I will. Do not be alarmed by this night. You're my little sister. Nothing will change that."
"Goodnight and thank you again," Dawn said.
"I really do want to get to know you. I wasn't overly fond of Gia-"
"I'm not Gia," Dawn stated.
"I know that," Laura quickly replied. "I didn't mean anything by it. Forget I said it. I hope that we can spend some time together and that you'll let me help with the wedding."
Dawn nodded. "I'll call you and we can schedule a lunch date or something."
"It sounds good to me."
Later when Dawn and Nikolas were alone at her loft, she and Nikolas sat quietly on the futon. The living area was blanketed in darkness. Electric light from the street lamps beamed in through the parted curtains and she could see a glimmer of anguish in his eyes. She pulled his head down to her breast and tenderly stroked his face.
"I should be comforting you," he said quietly. "It's really not as bad as it seems."
"No," she whispered, kissing the top of his head. "I would bet that it's worse."
He shifted until his head was on her lap. His fingers laced with hers. "How did you know?"
"I wish there was something I could do to make it hurt less, Nikky."
"You already do," he whispered, guiding her face down to his. He gave her a deep, tantalizing kiss and when it was over their ragged breathing echoed in the room. "May I stay with you tonight?"
"I was hoping you would," she replied. "But no hanky panky. I still want to wait until the wedding night."
He released a low groan. "I know. I'll be on my best behavior."
"Make that semi-best," she said, planting kisses on his forehead, nose and chin.
As her mouth came close to his, Nikolas murmured, "Yes…my semi-best."