"I need a favor," Keesha said upon entering Frisco's office.
"What kind of favor?" he asked. He pointed to a vacant chair in silent invitation for her to sit. "Is this work related?"
She shrugged. "More or less. Mostly, it's personal."
Frisco leaned back in his chair and waited.
Using the Bureau for personal crusades was a big no-no, but Keesha couldn't see another way around it. Stefan needed her, and although he hadn't asked, she thought this was the best way to help him.
"Have you seen the news?" she asked.
"Not since this morning before I came here," he answered. "I had the meeting with Dawn and the rest of the time has spent reviewing case files and boring paperwork." He leaned forward. "You're clearly agitated. Just tell me what you need. I'll try to help if I can."
"Sabrina DeLane has been abducted from her home," Keesha began. "Stefan is beside himself and the police don't have a clue. I thought maybe we could help."
"We, as in the WSB?"
She nodded. "I know this highly irregular, and I may be out of line in asking this because of my relationship with Stefan, but Frisco… They tore up her apartment and poured pig and cow blood all over the place! We have to do something!"
A frown creased his brow. "Pig and cow blood? Was it found in the bedroom?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
Frisco didn't answer immediately. He turned to his computer and tapped the keyboard in rapid strokes. His eyes scanned the screen and then almost abruptly, he turned his attention back to her. "Cases with the same MO have been cropping up in Europe. Come look at this."
Keesha moved behind his desk and squatted beside his chair. The monitor presented a plethora of data. There were ten abductions listed and each of them mentioned animal blood found in the bedroom. The list had been compiled over the last ten months. Sabrina's abduction marked the eleventh in so many months. What did it all mean?
"It looks like some serial psycho is out there. What do the victims have in common?"
"Nothing, so far," Frisco replied. "The England office was lending their services to the investigation. Now, that we've had the same occurrence on American soil, I can't see how there'd be a problem with us offering our assistance over here."
Keesha stood. "Thanks."
Frisco shook his head. "There's no need for thanks. Just find the asshole." He pushed a button and his printer buzzed to life. In less than thirty seconds, a stack of documents filled the paper tray. He grabbed them and handed the stack to Keesha. "This will get you up to speed. Jagger had been assigned to be Dawn's instructor. I'll pull him from that. You and he can partner up again."
Keesha hugged the papers to her chest. "What about Dawn's training? I prefer to work with Jagger, but if he's teaching her…"
"Don't worry about it. I'll take care of Dawn."
Her eyes widened. "You? I thought you had your fill of playing teacher."
Averting his gaze to his desk, he shrugged. "When I find a worthy applicant, I make the time. I'll notify Jagger and you both can get started immediately."
Dawn heard the news about Sabrina's abduction while driving home from the WSB warehouse. She grabbed her cellular and punched in Nikolas' number. When he didn't answer after the sixth time she pushed redial, she became very worried. There were a number of places he could be, but she took a chance on going to his cottage. He loved his horse. Maybe he'd been riding all morning and forgot to take his phone. It happened before. As she pulled down the long road that led to the two-story hideaway, she hoped it had happened again.
She used her key to unlock the door. The smell of hamburgers and fries greeted her. Her stomach grumbled, reminding her she hadn't eaten. She patted her tummy in an absent-minded gesture. Food wasn't important right now. Making sure that Nikolas was okay was the number one priority.
After checking the kitchen and finding it empty, she ran upstairs. She heard the shower turn off as she entered the master bedroom. He emerged seconds later with only a towel hanging around his shoulders. Their eyes locked. Sexual tension crackled like fire in the room. Against her permission, her gaze dropped from his eyes to his chest, still glistening with moisture, and beyond. Her mouth became dry, and embarrassment at her complete perusal gripped her. She spun on her heel and faced the far wall.
"You don't have to apologize," he responded in a husky murmur. She heard rustling noises and then, he said, "It's safe to turn around."
She moved to face him. A loving smile graced his full lips and the sparkle of desire shone brightly in his brown eyes. Her embarrassment slowly faded. "I should have knocked first."
"That's not necessary," he said, padding across the floor to her. He bent forward and branded her with a slow, drugging wet kiss. "This is a pleasant surprise," he said after the kiss ended. "How did you know I was here?"
"I guessed." She glanced at the inviting bed and back at him. "Let's go downstairs. We need to talk."
Nikolas followed her down the staircase. "That wasn't an attempt at seduction, Angel. That was a welcome back kiss. I missed you and that was my way of showing it."
"Am I complaining?" she asked as they reached the first floor. "Or accusing you?"
"Um, no, but you ran down those stairs like you were afraid I'd swing you over my shoulder and have my way with you," he replied. "I respect your decision to wait until we're married. I consider it a challenge and it's one I fully intend to master!"
"I know you do." She closed her arms around his neck, and standing on tiptoe, kissed his cheek. "I trust you, and I know it's not your fault that my knees weaken and sometimes I can hardly speak at the sight of you. Bear with me. We'll be married before you know it."
His arms squeezed around her waist. "And then, I will have my way with you."
Dawn indulged in the wonderful feel of his hard, muscular body against hers before reality set in. She didn't look for him to engage in a make out session. She came to offer comfort and from what she could see, he had no idea he needed it.
"I tried to call you," she said, taking his hand and leading him to the sofa. He sat and she perched on the coffee table in front of him. "Why didn't you pick up?"
"I left my cellular at your place, and you know I haven't had the phone service reinstated here." He took her hand and played with her fingers. "Why were you calling? Checking up on me?"
"In a way," she said, quietly. "I heard some bad news, and I was worried about you."
He frowned. "What bad news?"
"It's about Sabrina," she said after taking a deep breath. "She's been abducted. Right now, the police have no suspects."
"Abducted?" he repeated. Abruptly, he stood. "I must go. Father needs me."
He strode to the door and Dawn went after him. She grabbed his arm. "You should get dressed first."
Nikolas looked down at his attire and then gave her a sad smile. "I suppose showing up in only a pair of denim pants would give Father cause for alarm. I'll return shortly." He moved to the staircase and paused on the bottom step. "You will go with me…won't you?"
"Of course," she said. "I'm at your disposal for as long as you need me."
"Consider yourself forewarned. I will need you forever."
She smiled. "And I'll be here."
Dara was taking a break by flipping on the boob tube when Zarek entered her office. She dropped the remote control on her desk and crossed the room to hug him. "Hi! You came!"
"I said I would." He took his time kissing her. When they later came up for air, he held up a large plastic bag. "Here's lunch. I stopped at that Italian place you like. I hope you're hungry."
"I'm starving." She went to her desk and cleared a space for them. "We can have a picnic here."
Zarek helped her lay out their lunch. As they sat down to eat, he looked around the office. "This is nice. When does your secretary start?"
"Tomorrow. I wanted a few more days to myself."
He laughed. "Maybe I should leave. I'd hate to intrude on your solitude."
"Hush!" She dipped her garlic bread into Luigi's signature marinara sauce. "You have my permission to intrude any time you like."
Her television sounded with a loud beep. Their banter ceased as they both looked at the set. The regularly scheduled program of "Chico and the Man" had been interrupted with late-breaking news. The local Port Charles newscaster announced that prominent physician Sabrina DeLane had been abducted from her home. The situation surrounding her disappearance was cloaked with mystery and the newscaster promised more information on the evening news.
Zarek took her remote, pointed it at the television and the screen became black. Dara gave him a questioning look. "Why did you do that?"
"I don't know." He shrugged. "They won't have more to report until later."
"Maybe," she said. "Sometimes, they come back on with more info. Turn it back on."
"Dara, please," Zarek said. "I doubt if it's serious. Sabrina has a penchant for mischief. She's always been that way. I'm sure her disappearance is simply another of her pranks."
"You should call Stefan to be sure."
He tossed his fork onto his plate and gave her a hard look. "You're not gonna let this go, are you?"
She shook her head. "Not until I know what's going on. Zarek, she's your cousin. Aren't you concerned at all?"
"I would be concerned if this was legitimate." He pulled out his cellular and pushed a button. "I'm sure this is all a ruse."
He raised the phone to his ear. "Hello. Stefan, Zarek here. Dara and I just saw the news—"
Dara witnessed the expression on his face change from him annoyance to worry. By the time the call ended, his face was ashen.
"What did Stefan say?"
"It's all true." Zarek stood. "I have to go. Will you be okay here? Should I see you home first?"
"I'm fine. Do you need me to come with you? It will only take a sec to clean up—"
"I'm not going to Stefan's suite." He glanced down at their picnic. "I should help you clean up."
"You seem distracted," she commented. "Just go. I'll be fine."
He leaned across the table and kissed her. "Be careful going home. Perhaps, I should take you home first… "
"I have some work to do before I can leave. Really, it's fine. I'll leave here within two hours and I'll call."
"I'll take you at your word." He kissed her again. "I'll see you later."
WGHQ-TV returned to its regularly scheduled program. Emily glanced at Zander for his reaction. His expression was stoic, his face pale. She knew that Sabrina DeLane was his aunt. He and Sabrina hadn't become especially close since their familial revelations were revealed, but she expected more of a reaction to her disappearance. She barely knew Sabrina and she was on the brink of tears!
"That's deep," he commented, staring at the screen.
"I wasn't sure if you cared," Emily said, inhaling a shaky breath. "The news report was so ominous. Why can't they just tell us everything now?"
"Because they want to keep us on edge." Zander lifted the remote from her nightstand. "Do you mind if I turn this off? I'm not in the mood for 'Different Strokes' right now."
"Please, turn it off." She pulled her covers up around her and grabbed the stuffed animal that had been a gift from Lucky. As she hugged the soft toy, she said, "Maybe you should call Stefan or Nikolas."
Her mouth dropped open in surprise. "Because they're your family! Family should be together in a time like this."
He turned away and went to the window. With his back to her, he said, "We're not family. I'm just a mistake. They don't need me there."
"You're not a mistake. If you give them a chance, you'll see that they want you to be a part of them. Zander, don't be such a hard case!"
"Ugh!" His hands balled into fists and he whipped around. "What do you want me to do? Go over there and hold their hands? It's not gonna happen. They are family. I'm not a part of them."
"Yes, you are!"
The telephone on her nightstand rang. Emily hated the interruption, but she answered the call anyway. "Hello."
"Emily, this is Nikolas. How are you?"
"I'm fine," she said. "How are you? I saw the news. I'm so sorry."
"Thanks, Emily." He paused for a second and asked, "Is Zander there?"
"Yes, he is." She glanced at him, still stoic as ever as he pretended not to listen to her conversation. "Would you like to speak with him?"
Emily covered the mouthpiece with her hand. "This call is for you."
Mild curiosity hinted around the corners of his eyes as he took the receiver from her. "Zander here."
Emily watched Zander. She didn't listen to him. His face told more than words would. He seemed surprised and then kinda pleased that Nikolas called. When the call ended, he hung up the phone and stared at it.
"They want me to come to the hotel suite." He looked at Emily. "I can't figure out why."
"Did he say?"
Zander nodded and swallowed hard. "The family is meeting there."
She smiled. "You should get going."
"Yeah." He bent forward and kissed her. "I'll see you later. Take it easy."
"I will," she said to herself as he left, "and you do the same. "