Hours after speaking with Tommy, Lynn's mind was still on his words. He'd said that someone had set fire to the Jakarta warehouse and that he was going to investigate. There was something else he had said that had reminded her of something that she couldn't quite put her finger on. Frowning, Lynn closed the romantic mystery novel she was reading and rose from her bed to go to her desktop computer.
Her PC clicked on with a quiet hum. Lynn always found the noise irritating, so she turned on the radio to drown out the pesky sound. "My Guy" an oldies tune played in the background as Lynn went to work, looking for something...anything that would make the nagging worries disappear.
Subconsciously, Lynn hummed the tunes as her eyes scanned file after file. As Tommy's trusted assistant, she had access to everything. There were times when she worked at home and so her home computer was as equipped with information as her office computer.
She first searched through the research she had compiled for Tommy when Nikolas had asked him to investigate the other investors. Privately, Lynn had thought it was odd that Nikolas would be so thorough as to inquire into his colleagues' personal affairs. Tommy must have sensed her trepidation because he had nicely explained to her that his close friend wasn't paranoid, just cautious. To some Cassadine Enterprises wasn't just a business, but an empire. Nikolas was young and had a lot at stake. He couldn't afford to take chances. He'd learned that lesson the hard way and he would never leave anything to chance again. Never.
Lynn had thanked Tommy for being so frank with her and now, as she found what had been nagging her, she thanked him again. She quickly printed out the data and as she stacked the pages into a neat pile, her hand reached for the telephone. She had to call Tommy and alert him. She punched in six of the seven digits of his telephone number and then the DJ announced the time. Two in the morning. She couldn't call him now.
She placed the phone back down on her desk. The neat pile of papers was placed inside a manila folder and then set on top of her nightstand. Exhausted, Lynn yawned as she crawled back into bed. Before she turned off the bedside lamp, she set her alarm for six. She would meet Tommy at his house before he left for the plane, she decided as she dropped off to sleep.
Vincent watched behind fingers that formed a perfect steeple as his business associates filed out of his home. One by one, they marched. Vincent resisted the urge to smirk as they shuffled out, heads hanging downward in deference to him. Did they really think him a fool? He wondered. He knew that they resented his youth and how quickly he had obtained his position. He didn't trust any of them as far as he could throw them. His benefactor had taught him that and it was something that he always remembered.
A soft click of the front door and then there was gentle knock on his study door. "You may come in," Vincent said, a faint smile on his face. He hadn't expected Caroline to wait up for him. Surprises could be good, he surmised with a grin.
The grin faded as the door opened and Elsa entered. "Mr. Santiago, your guests have left. Is there anything else I can do for you this evening?"
"This morning, you mean," he corrected with an affable smile. He rose from behind his desk and went to her. "You should have been in bed long ago. I don't expect you to stay up to all hours of the morning, Elsa. I understand that you have a life, too."
The older woman's cheeks became pink under the warm gaze of his toffee colored eyes. Smiling, she shrugged and said, "It was no trouble. I thought you might have needed-"
"Ah," Vincent said, interrupting her with a gentle voice, "staying up to all hours of the morning needlessly is trouble and you are not to do it again unless expressly requested by either myself or my wife. And in the event that either of us do so, you must make sure that we both have very good reasons! Am I understood?"
Another blush colored her cheeks. "You're understood," she replied.
"Very well, then. I bid you a good night and I shall see you in the morning...or late afternoon," he added with a grin.
Vincent left Elsa staring after him. He strode down the hallway and when he came to the staircase, he took the steps two at a time. By the time he reached the master bedroom he shared with his wife, he began to realize how tired he was. Stifling a yawn, he pushed the door open and walked inside.
The sight and smell that greeted him shoved any thoughts of slumber from his mind. He found Carly sprawled on the bed with a scrapbook on her chest and an empty bottle in her arms. He took the scrapbook and placed it in on the chaise at the foot of the bed. The bottle was headed for the wastebasket, but as Vincent came near it, the smell of vomit took his breath away. Holding the offending receptacle far away from his face, he took it and placed it outside on the terrace to be dealt with later. On his way back inside the room, he tossed the bottle into the wastebasket that was beside the cherry oak desk.
In her sleep, Carly stirred and murmured unintelligible words. Vincent paused as he removed his clothing to look at her. Disgust and pity filled his eyes. The urge to shake some sense into her or to wrap her tightly within his arms warred within him. He shrugged the urges off him just as he went to her. Quietly and gently so as not to wake her, he removed her clothes and carefully placed her between the sheets. When he was done, he bent over her to brush her lips with his. The smell of Vodka on her lips filled his nostrils and he left her alone.
Later, after he had taken a shower and crawled into bed, he rolled onto his side to look at her. In sleep, she was innocent and sweet. Her sharp tongue was silent without the threat of stinging barbs. Her mouth was soft and pliant, making him almost forget how her lips could curl into a sneer at a moment's notice. And, her golden hair framed a face that could be beautiful if she didn't allow the bitterness and self-pity to mar it.
He reached out to her and lightly brushed his knuckles along her cheek. "Ah, my sweet Caroline. You make things harder than they have to be," he whispered softly to her.
He blew her a kiss before he rolled onto his side away from her and fell into a dreamless sleep.
"The number on the clock is of no importance to me," Stefan softly remarked, holding the telephone receiver against his ear. "Hearing your voice is all that matters, Carlotta. Tell me, how is Dara?"
Carrie sighed softly into the telephone before she answered her husband. "Dara is receiving the best treatment possible. She's upset that she missed Noelle's birthday party and seeing Dawn. Alex and I tried to reassure her that they would understand, but you know how hardheaded she can be."
"Strong and willful like her mother and sister. Yes, I know," Stefan said with a smile. Barefoot and clad in black silk pajama bottoms and matching dressing gown, he padded around his suite of rooms until he reached his wife's favorite spot, the bay window that faced bottomless pools of Spoon Lake. He sat down on the window seat and envisioned Carrie's face as he spoke to her. "Has there been an improvement in her condition? Does Dr. DeBrisson know for certain that her ailment is lupus or is he hypothesizing the same as the specialists here?"
"He hasn't said. He's running more tests in a couple of days. He hopes to have a diagnosis by the middle of next week," Carrie said, her voice tight with strain.
Stefan heard the tension and wished he had accompanied her to Paris. "Perhaps, I shall take the next flight-"
"No!" Carrie said with a force that surprised her husband. "I'm sorry, love, but Dara wants you to stay in Port Charles-"
"I'm aware that she still doesn't think I'm the appropriate choice for you, but I feel that my place is with you and with her. Whether she understands this is or not, I care about her!" he said unable to mask the pain he felt at his stepdaughter's wishes.
"Stefan, she knows that," his wife told him gently. "She doesn't want you to come here because she knows that Nikolas will be alerted and soon after, so would Dawn. She doesn't want them to focus on her when they have bigger issues to focus on."
"Well, I do not agree with her," he replied gruffly.
"Neither do I," she softly agreed. Carrie paused, then she continued. "How are they? Were there fireworks?"
Stefan thought back to how Nikolas spoke of Dawn while she was upstairs with Noelle and then how the younger man had blocked his path when he moved to join Dawn and Noelle. A smile came to Stefan's face. "Oh, yes. There were fireworks."
A smile was in Carrie's voice as she said, "I think I like the sound of that. Tell me more. Is she still there? Did Dawn spend the night?"
"Unfortunately, no. I think that-"
A sharp rap sounded on the door right before Dominik burst into the room. "Grandfather!"
"Carlotta, hold on," Stefan said before he muted the telephone and turned to Dominik. "What is it? What's agitated you so?"
"It's Noelle, Grandfather!" Dominik said running to Stefan. Stefan rose and Dominik took his hand, pulling him out of the room. "She's had a nightmare and she won't stop crying. I went to Papa's room, but he's not there. She won't stop crying, Grandfather!"
Stefan gave Dominik's hand a reassuring squeeze. He released the mute button on the telephone and put it against his ear again. "Carlotta, I must telephone you later."
"What's happened? Was that Dominik? Is he okay?"
"Sweetheart, everything is fine. Noelle has had some trouble sleeping again. We'll help her settle down again. I must go to her now..."
"I know. Call me when everything calms down. I love you," Carrie said softly.
"I love you, too," Stefan said, finding the truth so easy to say. He listened for the click of her dial tone before he disconnected and set the phone down on his bed. He then allowed Dominik to lead him to Noelle's room.
Stefan's heart tightened when he saw his little granddaughter's face wet with tears. Dominik released his grandfather's hand and ran to sit beside his sister on the bed. He patted her back and murmured comforting words to her. When his words didn't help, tears began to glisten his eyes as well.
"Noelle," Stefan said gently as he approached the other side of her bed, "Sunshine, don't cry. Your brother and I are here. You can fall asleep again. We'll stay with you until you do."
"No," she hiccuped. She balled her little hands into fist and rubbed her eyes. Tears continued to stream down her face. "No, sleep, Grandpa. No sleep."
Stefan stroked her light brown curls away from her damp forehead. Her unceasing agitation concerned him. Her night traumas had become a thing of the past, Stefan thought. He was frightened to see her so upset and knowing that he couldn't comfort her. The powerless feeling was not to his liking.
Stefan placed a kissed on her forehead. He rose from the bed and looked at Dominik. "Stay with her until I come back with your father. You can do that for me, can't you?"
Sniffling, Dominik nodded. "Yes, Grandfather." He placed his arm around Noelle and held her as she cried against his chest. He patted her shoulder and gently rocked her back and forth. To his grandfather, he mouthed, "Hurry."
Stefan nodded before he left them and went in search of Nikolas.
"You don't have to do a thing," Sarah promised in a caressing whisper. She reassured Nikolas with a kiss and smile. Her hands trailed downward from his broad shoulders, sinewy arms to his strong, gentle hands. Holding on to him, she guided him until he sat down in the chair before the dying fireplace.
"Sarah," Nikolas began his protest as she dropped down to her knees before him. She placed a thin, slender finger against his lips, silencing him.
"No, more," she said softly. "Tonight is for you. This is all about you."
Once again, her hands moved over him. His body was rock hard and her hands trembled as she touched him. Her breath caught in her throat as she released the buttons of his shirt. The forest green silk parted to reveal a lightly tan and well-formed abdomen. Her fingers grazed his flesh and soon after, her lips followed suit.
Her darting tongue slid over his exposed chest, licking his hot flesh as her teeth nibbled gently. Her hands stroked his thighs and she continued to move downward. Her mouth and tongue laved his navel and Sarah moaned with pleasure. She had suspected that Nikolas would be delicious, and she was not disappointed. She longed to have him completely under her control as she—
With trembling hands, Sarah tugged on Nikolas' belt buckle. He pushed her away and abruptly rose from the chair. "No," he told her. He held out his hand to her to help her stand up. "I'm sorry, Sarah, but not like this. I can't use you-"
"Nikolas?" The door swung open just as his name fell from his father's lips.
"Father, surely, you know how to knock!" Nikolas ground out. Moving to stand in front of Sarah, he forgot about his state of undress until Stefan's eyes narrowed at him. Nikolas' face grew hot and he hurriedly buttoned his shirt and buckled his pants. "I trust this is important!"
"Noelle," Stefan said her name loudly and with emphasis, "is upstairs crying. She's had another nightmare and refuses to sleep. Is she a good enough reason for an intrusion upon your...?"
"Never mind about that!" Nikolas said, rushing for the door. "How long ago did she wake up?"
"About five minutes," Stefan said, moving aside to allow Nikolas to exit.
"Why didn't you come and get me?" Nikolas asked as he moved quickly past his father and headed toward the staircase that would lead to Noelle's room.
"I did," Stefan said softly as he knew that Nikolas was too far away to hear him. Nikolas' footsteps were heavy as he ran to his daughter and as those footsteps began to fade, Stefan directed his attention to Sarah. "Goodnight, Miss Webber."
"I-I'm going upstairs to help Nikolas with Noelle," she proclaimed. She pulled her blouse close around her and held her head high. But she didn't make a move to leave the middle of the room.
Stefan folded his arms across his chest as he looked at her. His emerald green eyes glittered as dangerously as any alley cat's as he stared at her. "Apparently, you misunderstood me. I said, 'Goodnight, Miss Webber.' Seth will escort you to the launch as well as take you back across the lake."
Sarah tried to contradict Stefan, but underneath his steely glare, she was frozen. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and strode past him.
"Papa, she won't stop crying," Dominik announced mournfully as his father came into the room.
Nikolas patted his son's head and then held out his arms to Noelle. She crawled across the bed and into his arms. Nikolas hugged her to him, murmuring, "Sunshine, it's okay. Papa is here and I'll be here with you all night. Baby, you don't have to cry."
"No, sleep, Papa," Noelle cried. Her hold on him was tight. "I don't want to go to sleep. I see bad things when I sleep."
"Oh, baby, I'm so sorry," Nikolas cooed, walking the floor with her in his arms. He felt her tremble against him as more tears fell from her eyes. He searched his brain and heart for words that would soothe her. "We'll think of good things for you to dream about, okay? Dominik, get a book from her shelf. Nothing with dragons or anything like that."
"Okay, Papa," Dominik rose from the bed to do his father's bidding.
"No story, Papa," Noelle said.
"No story?" Nikolas repeated. "Well, what would you like?"
"I want my Mommy!" Noelle cried. "I saw Mommy!"
"When I sleep, I see Mommy and bad things hurt her!" Noelle cried and buried her face in Nikolas' neck. "Mommy...Mommy...Mommy..."
Nikolas heart ached each time Noelle called for Dawn. What could he say to his four-year-old daughter that would make her understand? How did he tell her that her Mommy couldn't come? And, that what she saw in her nightmares weren't real, but figments of her imagination? He believed himself a failure when he couldn't find the answers.
"Papa?" Dominik said, interrupting his father's thoughts. "Can't you go get Mommy and bring her back here? Please?"
"Dominik, I-I..." Nikolas suddenly found himself speechless as he stared down into the eyes that were so like his own.
"I want Mommy," Noelle whispered, hoarsely. The tears hadn't subsided, but her words were clearly spoken.
"Nikolas," Stefan said from the doorway, "listen to your children." He came inside the room. He deftly removed Noelle from Nikolas' arms and hugged her to him. "I'll stay here with them. Go. Now."
Lorenzo's eyes burned from the hazy glare of the laptop's screen. His Internet searches had ceased making sense long ago and he soon realized that he was only going through the motions. He switched off the computer and removed it from his lap. He placed it on the nearby coffee table and then pushed it far away out of his reach.
He rose from the comfort of the sofa and stretched. Several deep yawns overtook him and he did nothing to defend himself. Once the yawning had ceased, a frown creased his brow as he realized that he was hot. The T-shirt that he had planned to sleep in was soon torn off his body and tossed onto the floor. Cool air caressed his bare chest, causing him to breathe a sigh of relief. Now curious about the temperature of the suite, Lorenzo padded to the wall thermostat. He gasped when he saw that it read 74F. He went to the bedroom door and knocked. "Dawn!"
"What?" she called out through the door.
"Did you mess with the air? It's burning up out here!" he complained.
"It's not hot," she said, not really giving him an answer.
"I'm dying!" he told her.
"Well, your voice certainly carries very well for a dying man," she said with a chuckle.
"Cute," he muttered. "You know, if you're cold, put some blankets on. I'm readjusting this thing!"
"Don't you dare, Spencer!" she said. "You had it freezing in here before and I'm not sleeping in a Frigidaire! Leave it alone!"
"Oh, yeah?" he challenged her.
"Yeah!" she called out through the door. Her tone of voice told him that she meant business.
"All right then!" he said, walking away from her door. He padded to the kitchen and flipped on the lights. He grabbed a glass from the cupboard and opened the freezer. He loaded the glass with crushed ice, flipped off the lights and then padded back to the sofa. Mumbling to himself about cold-blooded women, he plopped down onto the sofa and began to munch on ice.
Lorenzo's eyes began to droop and he lowered the glass onto the table beside the laptop. He fell back onto the sofa, shifting until he had a comfortable position on the sofa. Within a few seconds, he fell asleep.
Cool and wet. Something pleasant touched his forehead and cheeks. He allowed the sensation to continue a few moments longer before he slowly opened his eyes.
"Hey, Spencer. Are you asleep?"
Amusement flickered in Dawn's brown eyes as she gazed down at him. Lorenzo blinked in surprise and pushed himself into a sitting position. "I am now. What do you want?" he asked her as suspicion darkened his blue eyes.
"I came out to apologize, but if you're gonna look at me like that..." She turned to go back into her room.
He stood up to stop her and was rendered speechless. The light from her bedroom crept into the dark living room and created a spotlight for her. The full curves of her breasts and hips were outlined through the thin nightshirt she wore. Her sensual beauty entranced him. His need for her became great and he feared his inability to ignore it. He drew a harsh breath and lowered his eyes to the floor.
Soft, tentative fingers tipped his chin upwards until his eyes met hers again. She said in a voice that seemed to come from far away, "I'm sorry about everything, Lorenzo. I've been-"
"No, Dawn, stop it!" He bit out harshly, afraid of the words that would fall from her lips.
"Selfish, please," she implored in a husky whisper, "allow me to tell you that you're right. You and I both know how extremely difficult that is for me. Let me say it now so I'll never have to say it again."
"I was right about what?" he asked with deceptive calm. "Greedy, what are you talking about?"
Her eyes lowered shyly at first and then with her usual boldness, she looked him full in the face again. "Us, Lorenzo. I'm talking about you and me."
"What about us?" he asked in a broken whisper. His breath caught in his lungs as her other hand gently cupped his face. His face was now trapped between her warm palms and dimly wondered if she had any idea of how that simple touch affected him.
Dawn's footsteps brought her closer to Lorenzo. She brought her arms around his neck. Liquid, brown eyes stared into his. A little breathless, she said, "This."
He couldn't move. Her fingers were in his hair and grazing the back of his neck. And he couldn't move. The hard tips of her breasts pressed against the solid wall of his chest and he still didn't move. Only when she whispered, "Kiss me," did he find the ability.
His arms encircled her, crushing her to him. Quickly, without give her a moment for second chances, he hungrily covered her mouth with his. Years of restraint caused him to tremble as he held her to him. Lorenzo put his heart and soul into his kiss. His tongue traced the soft fullness of her lips, before slipping inside to explore her sweetness.
As his mouth discovered how intoxicating her kisses could be, his hands explored the lush, soft curves of her body. He touched her everywhere. The cotton fabric became hindrance and his fingers gripped the hem. He raised it to her hips and then slid his hands inside. Strong, gentle hands skimmed her midriff and she gasped. The soft sound set a thousand fires aflame inside of Lorenzo and he had to know for sure before he caressed her again.
He tore his mouth from her pliant lips. "Are you sure?" he whispered harshly in the quiet living room of their suite.
"Yes!" she reassured him. "Oh, yes!"
[Author's note: Do you wanna read more? *g* If you do (and you're of age, of course), click on the little mailbox and let me know! –D.]