Darkest Before the Dawn

PROLOGUE


Dawn woke with a start. She was cold and alone. Her body shivered without Nikolas' warm body pressed against her. She raised a trembling hand to her face. She felt wetness there and she wasn't the least bit surprised. Tears. She hurriedly brushed them away.

The bedroom was dark except for the small glow from the flames in the fireplace. The drapes were drawn tightly shut and if she hadn't glanced at the bedside clock she would have thought it was still night. But, it wasn't. The day had arrived and with it had come troubling thoughts born from troubling dreams. Her subconscious had presented her with a world where she and Nikolas were no longer together. Her emotions were overwrought with the fear that she had seen a premonition.

Sitting straight up in the bed, she grabbed Nikolas' pillow and hugged it close to her breast. She held herself very still as she listened for any telltale signs that she wasn't alone. Rushing water from the shower. Padded footsteps across the carpeted floor. Anything that would set her racing heart at ease. She almost shouted for joy when she heard a faint voice drifting through the crack in the door. A little off key, but definitely heart-filled, Nikolas' soft singing voice reassured her. She rose from the bed and without bothering with her dressing gown, she moved to join him.

Needing a moment to collect herself, she stood still in the doorway as she watched him. His head bobbed to in time to the lyrics. His dark brown hair was sexily mussed on his forehead. A beautiful smile was on his face, and she couldn't stop staring at him.

With full certainty, she knew. She would never grow tired of looking at him. She would never stop loving him or being in love with him. And, as long as she drew breath, he would always hold the key to her heart and possess her soul. For her, there would never be anyone else. Nikolas Cassadine was her true love. To him she willingly pledged eternal devotion. And only with him would she live happily ever after…

Tear-filled brown eyes stared sightlessly as Dawn Cassadine indulged in her memories for one brief moment. She rarely allowed herself to remember that morning from so many years ago. She didn't like to think about the naļve beliefs of a seventeen-year-old girl who had believed in happily ever after. The twenty-eight-year-old woman who stood alone on the docks knew that fairy tale endings didn't come true. Well, they didn't for her.

Taking a deep breath, she glanced around her surroundings. Port Charles. The docks. She hadn't stepped foot on that platform for almost a decade, but it seemed like time had stood still. Upstairs behind her, the florist shop where she had bought roses for him was still open for business. The bench where they had received the call, confirming her pregnancy was still just as sturdy as it had been then. And across the lake, her former home, Wyndemere, still stood.

Slowly, her high-heeled black boots took her closer to the edge of the dock. In the distance, she could just barely make out a figure on the launch. A bittersweet smile came to her lips as she wondered if the figure was Windors. And if so, would he remember her?

A strong gust of wind chilled her and she shivered. She backed away from the dock's edge, and suddenly, another memory struck her. The memory of the last time she had set foot on the dock came back to her in violent clarity. The dense fog…the fear…the booming explosion…the silence…and then the screams. And, then complete darkness coupled with the scary feeling of suspension when she didn't know if he were alive or dead, or even if she was.

Haunting images of her eighteenth birthday continued to flash before her eyes. Shaken, she muffled a sob. Footsteps shuffled on the platform and a pair of strong arms wrapped around her, calming her as they pressed her against the chest of a warm, strong body. "Ssh," the warm voice cooed against her ear.

"I'm okay," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "Really."

"You don't have to do this-"

"Yes, I do," she said firmly. She added with a small laugh, "I'm a mommy, and no matter what, mommies don't miss their babies' birthdays."

"Dawn-" he began. He drew a long breath and tried another tactic…a tactic that he had tried before. It hadn't worked the first time, but maybe… "At least, let me go with you. You shouldn't have to do this alone."

"I won't be alone," she said, her voice shaking a little. With another half-hearted attempt at humor, she added, "My family will be there."

"You know what I mean," he said, somewhat exasperated. "He'll be there. Are you sure you want to face him without me?"

Fresh tears stung Dawn's eyes. His concern for her and oftentimes infuriating determination to protect her touched her deeply. He had lost just as much as she had, but still his primary thoughts were focused on her. She didn't feel as though she deserved so much loyalty. In spite of everything, her feelings hadn't changed. She was still very much in love with his brother. Surely, he knew that.

Uncertain as to what to say, but knowing that she had to say something, Dawn turned around in his arms. Sapphire blue eyes stared deeply into her eyes, and the intense emotion that they held made her wish that maybe…just maybe… "Lucky, I-"

Smiling, he placed a finger to her lips to silence her. "Lorenzo," he said with an infectious grin. "How many times do I have to remind you?"

"A thousand," she said, unable to do anything but laugh in response to his smile. "And maybe a thousand times more. I'll never get used to it. Maybe I should just stick to Selfish instead."

"That would be more than fine with me…Greedy," he said.

Her proximity and shiny brown eyes affected him. A single step towards her changed the atmosphere. All laughter ceased between them as his eyes bored into hers. His hands tenderly cupped her face. Her mouth opened in protest and his thumb lightly ran across her full lips. In the next moment, his mouth was on hers.

Lorenzo's full lips brushed against Dawn's in tender, sensuous strokes. In response to his soft insistence, her lips parted and the kiss became more passionate. His tongue laved her bottom lip before slipping inside her mouth. He moaned deep in the back of his throat when her tongue lightly touched his and then quickly withdrew. His mouth widened on hers as his tongue went in search of hers. His quest came close to being successful. Until Dawn pulled away and stepped back.

"Dawn, I-"

"The launch is coming," she said, brushing past him to wait near the dock's edge again. With her back to him, she raised a trembling hand to her mouth. Confusion and desire rattled her senses. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath.

Lorenzo shoved his hands inside the front pockets of his jeans. Even when she closed herself off from him, he still wanted to touch her. Pathetic, he silently berated himself. He took a step closer to her, but not too close. His eyes stared at her long, dark brown hair, aching to run his fingers through it. His hands clenched into his fists in his pocket. He shook his head and then directed his eyes towards the approaching launch. "I can still go with you-"

"No," she said firmly. "You can not show up there, Luc-Lorenzo. M-Maybe one day, but definitely not today." She turned away from the waters and the launch to look at him. Her eyes pleaded and demanded that he should listen to her. "I mean it. Don't go. Please. You can't."

He shrugged and slowly nodded. "Okay, if that's the way you want it."

"It is."

"What about later?" he asked, softly. "What time should I meet you here?"

"You don't have to," she replied, turning away from him again. "I remember where the Port Charles Hotel is. I'm sure I won't get lost from here to there."

The launch signaled its arrival with a bell. Without another word to him, she walked towards it.

~*~

A light tap sounded on the solid, wooden door. A gruff response accepted admittance. The young man entered the dark room. Seth's gray eyes narrowed as he searched for his employer. He glanced over the room several times before he noticed that the older man was standing in front of the window. Seth corrected his posture and cleared his throat before he delivered his news. "She's on the dock-"

"Very well."

"Mr. Cassadine, is there anything else I can do?" Seth asked, eager to please. "Should I bring her back here-"

"NO." Nikolas stepped away from the window as he bit out his reply. "You are not to go near her. Am I understood?"

"Yes, sir," Seth immediately replied. "Is there anything else I could do?"

"You've done enough," Nikolas murmured. Speaking louder the next time, he said, "Thank you, Seth, but that will be all."

The door closed with a quiet click behind the teenager. The sound barely registered in Nikolas' mind. She's on the dock, the boy had said. Dawn was only a launch ride away. His treacherous heart raced in anticipation of her arrival. He imagined that she wasn't alone, and to his credit, Seth was tactful enough not to tell him. Nikolas supposed the boy had sensed that despite his wife's betrayal, he was still possessed by her.

Damn her! His fist pounded into his palm. Damn her for shattering his illusions and destroying their marriage. And, damn her for showing him just how thin the line between love and hate really was.

Drawing a long breath, he dulled his agitated emotions. He forced himself to think and not feel…to act instead of react. He would survive her re-admittance into their lives. And, in the end, she would curse the day she had crawled into bed with his brother. She would curse it just as thoroughly as he did. He would make certain of it.

General Hospital ©ABC
Dawn Cassadine & Seth©1999 niklovr
All Rights Reserved

< Homebutt

Mailbox
6