Nikolas knocked once and entered the room serving as Stefan's office. "Father, do you have a moment?"
Stefan's face broke into a smile the way it always did when one of his sons was around. He beckoned to Nikolas with his hand. "Come in."
The two men hugged. The power of his father's loving embrace charged Nikolas. Despite the passionate night he spent with Dawn, his spirit remained restless. Of course, holding her in his arms and bringing her to release soothed his soul in countless ways. If he could spend more time with her, he felt that the rest of his disjointed life would fall into place. But he knew that was out of the question. She had her training and whether he wanted to or not, he had to shake off the feeling of limbo that cloaked his every thought and movement.
So, he came to his father for advice. Stefan was a man who always had the solution to any problem. Nikolas hoped it would be the same in this circumstance, too.
"This is a pleasant surprise," Stefan said as their hug ended. He pulled his eyeglasses off and held them loosely in his hands. "I spoke with Andrèsj earlier. He told me that you, he, and Zander were reviewing our enemies' financial reports."
"We finished." Nikolas handed the compiled data to Stefan. "They are listed in order of wealth. There are few who have more than enough resources to finance Aunt's disappearance."
Stefan's eyes narrowed as he put the glasses back on and glanced at the list. "I see the Melbournes are at the top of the list. I wouldn't have considered them an enemy. Who listed them?"
"I did," Nikolas replied. "I remember they weren't pleased when we left Greece. Their disapproval was recounted in several of the society pages."
Stefan frowned. "You remember that? That was almost six years ago. You were so young."
Nikolas' mouth curved to a faint smile. "You taught me to always be informed. Youth is a condition. It isn't an excuse."
"You listened," Stefan said, a pleased expression on his face.
"I listened to everything. Even though I wanted to pursue other interests, I knew that as the future leader of our family I had responsibilities." He swallowed hard and looked away from his father's piercing stare. Shoving his balled hands into his front pockets, he moved the picture window and looked down at downtown Port Charles. "Neither of us knew my studies would be a waste of time."
"They were anything but that."
Nikolas heard Stefan move behind him. He felt his father come and stand just to his left. Stefan's energy reached out to him, offering comfort that Nikolas wasn't sure he should accept.
"I am not fit to do or be anything but the prince."
A hand closed over his shoulder and squeezed until Nikolas met his father's eyes. Stefan's voice was low and determined. "You can do or be anything you wish. Zander hasn't made his decision. He may choose to relinquish the throne to you. "
Nikolas shook his head. "He won't do that."
"Has he said as much to you?"
"He doesn't have to," Nikolas replied. "I can see it in his eyes. The idea of all that power… It's getting to him. He wants it and he knows he can have it. He'd be a fool to give that up. Zander is no fool."
"Perhaps, I can reason with him--"
"No, Father," Nikolas said, shaking his head. He closed his hand over Stefan's and held it tightly for a moment. "I am not the rightful heir and it would not be fair to drive Zander out. My path…isn't clear to me now. I suppose it will be revealed to me in time."
"Son, I am sorry. What can I do to help?"
"Guide me to my destiny," Nikolas said. "Dawn is the only right thing in my life right now, but I need more. Show me what that is."
Stefan drew Nikolas into another hug. "I will, my son. I will."
"I want it all!"
Zarek bit back a smile as he regarded his newest relation. Zander stood before him, face red and eyes blazing. The young man had finally been hit by the enormity of his situation and just made his declaration to Zarek, who loved every minute of it.
"Did you hear me?" Zander questioned. "I want the throne and all that comes with it. It's mine and I want it!"
"I heard you," Zarek commented. "I think the entire Atlantic Coast heard you. If you say it again perhaps the entire continent will be informed."
Zander's eyes narrowed. "You're making fun of me."
Zarek shrugged. "To a small degree." He stood and patted his cousin's shoulder. They were in Zarek and Dara's condo. Zander had called, asking to speak with Zarek so the older man invited him over. In hindsight, Zarek was glad this conversation was taking place at the condo instead of at the Hotel. There were far too many prying ears for what the advice he had for Zander.
"Would you like a drink?" Zarek asked, pouring himself a scotch and water. "Are you old enough to drink?"
"Very funny," his cousin muttered. "A whisky neat would be nice."
"Coming straightaway," Zarek replied. He prepared the drink and handed the glass to Zander. "So, you want to be the prince?"
"I am the prince," Zander corrected, an edge in his voice. "The rest of them… They say the title is mine if I want it, but I know they don't mean it. I was all set to give it back to Nikolas, but… Nah, I've been pissed on enough around here. I want it all."
"And you've come to me with this revelation because…?"
Zander gulped the whisky before replying, "Because there's no love lost between you and them. You tolerate Nikolas because of your wife's sister, but Stefan, the doctor and the kid…"
Zarek smirked. He tasted his drink. The kick wasn't as strong as he liked so he added more scotch. "So you're drafting for your home team and I was your first pick. I'm honored."
"Enough with the cracks."
Zarek laughed out loud then. "You are a hotheaded piece of work. I suppose we were getting rather staid."
Zander poured himself another drink. "Will you help me or not?"
Zarek's amusement at the situation faded. He planted the glass onto the counter with a loud thud. "I am in no position to aid you."
"Your loyalty to me would change that," Zander said.
"You said, and I know for a fact, that Stefan has not challenged your entitlement to the throne. Why do you believe there will be opposition?"
"Who says I'm drafting my team because I fear opposition? There are things I don't know. Things I will need to learn. In order to have it all, I'm gonna need a teacher."
"Me?" Zarek asked.
"I don't want Stefan," Zander said, his voice cutting like a knife. "I don't want to be like him. He was almost killed. He let my mother die. An impostor came and he was none the wiser. No, I want to learn from someone who's smart and ruthless. A man who's willing to get the job done regardless the costs."
Zarek frowned. "There are costs to everything. I will not cause any pain, physical or otherwise, to come to my wife."
"Understood." Zander nodded. "While Dawn and Nikolas are still together, Nikolas is off limits--"
"Excuse me?" Zarek cut in. "They are engaged to be married."
"Yes, but engaged and married are two different things."
Zarek shook his head. "I can't let you use Dawn either."
"I won't use her," Zander said. "She will be a willing participant."
All air left Dawn's lungs as she landed on the mat again. Frisco loomed over her, his face a contorted mask of disappointment. She rolled over onto her side and slowly stood. His hand caught hers and helped her up.
"You're slipping today," he commented.
"I'm not trying to." She rubbed a particularly sore spot on her hip. "Let's try it again."
"No, you need a break." Frisco went to the radio and turned it off. They listened to music while they worked because it represented the distractions that Dawn would encounter on the field. But for breaks, the volume was always reduced. He tossed her a towel and grabbed an ice pack from the ice chest. "Put this on."
She wrapped the ice inside the towel and pressed it against her hip. A lecture was coming on. She could just feel it. Frisco would want to know where her focus was and she didn't know what to tell him. It was there and then it wasn't. Maybe staying up most of the night with Nikolas didn't help, but when he touched her… This was corny, but fireworks seemed to explode inside her. He knew how to take her places she'd only read about in Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins' novels and they hadn't even had intercourse, yet! Okay, maybe she shouldn't indulge in physical pleasure during her training… But Nikolas had the art of persuasion—or was it seduction?—down to a science.
"Your focus is off and it isn't like you," Frisco said, his gaze not seeming to miss anything as he stared at her. "You wanna tell me what's going on?"
The heat of a blush crept up Dawn's neck to her face. She hated the response and could only thank God that her skin tone hid most of the embarrassing reaction. "Nothing's going on. I guess I'm just a little distracted."
"Would yesterday's surprise have anything to do with that?" he countered.
"Um…" Dawn's mouth opened and closed like a guppy. Blood began to pound in her temples. "Do you mean Nikolas?"
Frisco grunted. "Coyness doesn't suit you."
"I'm not… That's not… Frisco, come on!"
"No, you come on!" He moved like lightning to stand just inches from her.
His heady masculine scent filled her nostrils. His dark, blue eyes reflected glimmers of light. His nearness made her senses spin. This wasn't right her mind screamed. Too bad her body was too busy reacting. As their gazes remained locked, she felt an unwelcome surge of excitement. Her breasts tingled and her pulses quickened. Just like with Nikolas, but different--
This was wrong!
Dawn took a quick step back and landed wrong. "Ow!" Tears welled in her eyes at the sudden jolt of pain to her hip.
"Sit down," Frisco said, helping her as he made his demand.
She found herself on the mat. He kneeled at her side. His hands pushed her hand and the towel aside. Before she could protest, he slid her workout pants down and inspected her hip. As his fingers probed and flicked across her flesh, Dawn tried to ignore how his touch made her tingle.
"I don't think you pulled anything," he said, his voice lower and huskier than usual. "You're off the rest of the day."
He adjusted her clothing and stepped back. His face was flushed and he seemed unable to look her in the eyes. "Come back in tomorrow. We'll discuss your living arrangements then."
"What?" she sputtered, accepting his assistance to help her stand. "My living arrangements? I stay at my loft."
Frisco leveled his gaze at her. His normally warm eyes were as cool as ice. "Not anymore. Until your training is over, you'll be staying here at headquarters. With me."