The door's slam was in unison with Keesha's cry of frustration. She glanced at her watch and winced. It was too late for such outbursts, but she couldn't help it. Jason Morgan worked her last nerve.
Stefan appeared in the doorway. He wore a black silk dressing gown and his feet were bare. Light bounced on his medallion and illuminated the hard, planes of his chest and abs. Keesha's breath caught and held in her throat. Desire shot through her like a wildfire. The man was the epitome of sexual chocolate, and she desperately needed a sugar fix.
He crossed the room and gently cupped her cheek. "What happened?"
She pressed a kiss into the palm of his hand. He inhaled sharply and when her tongue traced the path of his lifeline, he emitted a low groan. "Let's not talk about it."
He didn't say another word. Instead, he crushed her to him. His kisses made her dizzy and his hands burned her like an inferno. Stefan swept her into his arms and carried her to his bed where he loved her until she cried. As their crescendo of passion subsided and they returned to earth, he pulled the sheet over their nude, perspiration slick bodies and molded her to his side. Pushing damp tendrils of hair from her eyes, he asked, "All better now?"
The question reminded her just how well he knew her. She was almost embarrassed by the all-knowing statement, but chose to welcome it for what it was and to answer him honestly. "Yes."
"Good," he murmured, rolling onto his side to face her. "Now, tell me what happened. Did Morgan fail to appear?"
"Oh, no," she grunted. "He showed up. He was late because they took Carly to Ferncliff."
"That trip was overdue," Stefan stated. "Did he mention Barbara's state? Did she accompany him and Caroline to Ferncliff?"
Keesha nodded. "Yeah, she was there. He said she's upset about leaving Carly there, but knows it's for the best." She paused for a moment before adding, "He wants to know who set the bomb. I told him I didn't know."
"You couldn't very well tell him the truth." Stefan gave her a hard stare. "But you wanted to."
"A part of me did, and I don't know why."
He shrugged. "You share a past. You loved him. It would be hard to deny a request from someone you care about."
"Cared." She rolled away from him and folded her arms across her chest. "Past tense."
* * *
Lucky left his mother's home without a destination in mind. It didn't matter. He just needed to get out of there. Luke's uninvited arrival and typical tirade grated his nerves. And brought back memories.
Wooden planks creaked beneath his boots. He stomped to the docks' edge and sat. His feet hung over the side and swung over the choppy waves of Spoon Lake. He stared out sightlessly and thought of the night's dinner.
Nikolas was back. The real one. Not the fake. Lucky grunted. The impostor duped him. He always thought he was smarter than that. Talk about a frigging wake up call.
Small hands closed over his shoulders. He jumped. His hand closed over the small wrists in a death grip.
"Ouch! Lucky, c'mon! Let go."
He twisted until his eyes locked on the brown orbs of his little sister. "Sorry, kiddo," he said, releasing her. "Don't go sneaking up on folks."
"What folks?" she asked, as she sat beside him. "You're my brother."
"No shit? Really?"
She elbowed him. Hard. "Not funny."
Lucky chuckled as he rubbed his side. "Those bony things are lethal. Be careful with that. What are you doing out this time of night?"
"I need air. Don't worry. Mom knows I'm out. I told her I was taking a walk."
"And she just let you go? It's too late for you to be out here alone."
"Lucky, I'm fine."
"What happened to common sense, Lu? Do you know what could happen to a girl out here all alone in the middle of the night?"
"Nothing's gonna happen. What am I supposed to do? Never go anywhere?"
Lucky grunted and silently cursed their mother for her negligence. "You're supposed to be smart. The next time you want to go out in the middle of the night, you call me."
He swallowed hard. "Yeah, or him, too." Lucky felt her stare and turned to face it. "What?"
"You're mad at Nikolas."
Lucky snorted. "Why would I be at the Prince?"
"Don't do that," she said. "Don't act like Dad. I know you're upset because of what happened, but Nikolas didn't do it on purpose. That Nick Cassidy guy tricked us all. That's not Nikolas' fault."
"I'm not blaming him. Did he tell you I'm blaming him?"
Lesley Lu shook her head. "He hasn't said anything. He doesn't have to. I see the way you treat him. You're pissed."
"No. I want us to be a family, Lucky. I finally have both brothers. Please, don't push him away."
She started to cry, and Lucky closed his arm around her. He held her until she stopped and then he took her home.
* * *
Dara mumbled in her sleep and Zarek's arms closed around her automatically. The dinner with her parents went a lot better than he thought it would, but it reminded him of how much he missed Philana.
He shifted deeper underneath the covers and turned his head toward the open window. The curtains fluttered as a breeze blew in and he was able to make out the constellation, Orion. Three shining stars in a row. It was the first constellation his mother ever showed him. She held him in her lap and pointed to the sky. Her voice sang with delight as she spoke of the stars and later of astrology. He grew up reading astrological charts while other boys his age were reading Mark Twain.
His lips curved into a faint smile. Philana wasn't like other mothers. She read auras and chanted. Conventional was not a word she was familiar with. She didn't want to be ordinary and nobody could use that word to describe her. Sometimes, her distinct behavior embarrassed him. Later, he just got used to it. Now, he had to get used to having a mother in jail.
"Zarek?" Dara's hand skimmed across his chest. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he assured her. "Just thinking."
"Steve wasn't too bad tonight, was he? I talked to Mama and she promised he would behave. What happened when she and I were in the kitchen? What did he say?"
He laughed softly. "Jensen was fine, but I can't believe you talked to Carrie about me. Why?"
"Because I look out for my man." She claimed his mouth in a sleepy, sensual kiss. "Do you have a problem with that?"
He pulled her on top him. "No problems. . . unless you're too sleepy to fulfill your wifely duties."
She giggled. "Nah. I could never be too tired for that."
* * *
Nikolas couldn't sleep. Lying in the same bed as Dawn was a powerful temptation. His pajama bottoms felt tight so he shifted his legs. She stirred in her sleep and his gaze was drawn to her. He groaned. Her lips were parted, the thin straps of her nightgown slipped off her shoulders, and her breasts nearly spilled from the lace with every breath she took.
"Oh, God," he moaned.
"Nikky?" She slowly awakened with a fluttering of her eyelids. "Can't you sleep?"
"Not with the show you're putting on."
She sat up and frowned. "I told you before. I don't snore."
"Yeah, right," he teased.
She reached over him to turn on the light. Her thigh brushed against his throbbing member and they both became still. Her eyes widened as she looked at him. "Is that why you can't sleep?"
His finger hooked one of the straps and pulled it up. "That nightgown is killing me."
She leaned off him and rested on her side to look at him. "I'm sorry."
"Don't," he said, planting a kiss on her forehead. "Just hurry up and marry me."
She laughed. "You're silly! I'll marry you."
"But not until you're a WSB agent."
She poked his chest. "Don't start."
"I just don't understand why we have to wait to get married. Maybe if you would explain it to me . . ."
She laughed again. "We've been over this a zillion times. Enough already!"
He tugged on a braid and brushed the end against her cheek. "You're always so happy. Can you tell me your secret?"
Her laughter stopped. "You're not happy?"
"You make me happy," he quickly assured her. "It's just that sometimes I wish that . . . I'm whining. Sorry, Angel. Go back to sleep. I promise to try to keep my hands to myself while you sleep."
He laughed, but the expression on her face told him that she wasn't convinced. "You're not whining. Talk to me."
Nikolas cocked an eyebrow. "As my betrothed or as my therapist?"
"Whichever will help you." She sat up, crossed her legs underneath her and waited. "Out with it."
"My parents were never married. They didn't live together, and Father is the only parent I've ever known and even then he was pretending to be my uncle. How can I be sure I'll be a good husband to you and a good father to our children?"
"Because you're a wonderful man."
He rolled his eyes and looked away.
"You are," she said. "The fact that you're worried about it speaks volumes, baby. Nobody's perfect and you shouldn't try to be. I like you the way you are. My sexy Captain Caveman-"
"You can be a little possessive."
He frowned. "I thought you hated that."
"I like it to a degree, but don't overdo it."
"I don't want to make a mistake, sweetheart."
Dawn took his hand and held it to her chest. "Mistakes are inevitable, but you won't be alone. I'll be right there beside you."
"Do you promise? I don't want to be alone anymore. I've felt so alone for so long. . . I want this to work, Dawn. I really do."
She hugged him. "Baby, we're meant to be. You won't be alone. I promise."