Darkest Before the Dawn

Chapter 9


"Yes. Oh, yes."

Dawn's voice and those words echoed in Lorenzo's mind. Moaning with pleasure, he shifted on the sofa. In his slumber, he reached for her. His hands encountered empty space. He patted the sofa, searching for her again. Still, nothing.

Slowly, he began to wake up. He opened his eyes and called out for her. "Dawn."

There was no response. He sat up on the sofa. The sheet fell from his chest and dropped to his lap. His eyes followed the movement. He was surprised to see that he still wore his pajama bottoms. He glanced around the room and saw that everything was the same as right before he closed his eyes. The laptop was still closed on the coffee table. There were no clothes discarded about the floor. He was alone on the sofa in the living room and Dawn was not beside him. With a self-pitying groan, he admitted the truth to himself. It had all been a dream.

"Dammit!" he cursed, flinging the sheet off him. He jumped up from the sofa. Running his hands through his hair, he began to pace the length of the room. He cursed himself and his dreams. He had no business thinking of her in that way. He had no business wanting her. She trusted him, for goodness' sakes! And what does he do? He silently questioned himself. "Betray her," he murmured in reply.

His pacing brought him to the closed door of her bedroom. Just on the other side she slept, believing that with him she was safe. She couldn't have been more wrong, he thought grimly. He placed his trembling hand against the door. Flashes of her silhouette as she stood in the door in his dream came to him. He fought the images and after a vicious battle, he won. As he came to himself, he saw that his hand was on the doorknob. "Damn you, Spencer!" he ground out, snatching his hand away.

Lorenzo backed away from the bedroom door. All of a sudden, he felt trapped. He had to get out of there! Now! Because if he didn't...he wasn't so sure that he'd win the next battle.

Fresh air and a long walk were the solution, he decided. Careful not to wake her, he slipped inside the bedroom. He grabbed a pair of jeans and his sneakers from the closet. He paused long enough to glance at her, as she lay asleep in the large king-size bed. The moonlight cast warm shadows on her tawny skin. Her parted lips trembled slightly with each breath she took. The longing to be with her gripped him. He fought the urge and stalked out of the room. He closed the door quietly behind him. He then quickly dressed and left the suite. In his heart, he hoped that he'd find an end to the agony of loving a woman who didn't love him back.

~*~

Weary, Nikolas ran his hands across tired eyes. His heart ached. He wasn't prepared for seeing Dawn so soon after the party. If Noelle hadn't called out for her, there was no way, he'd be outside the door to the suite that she shared with his brother.

His brother!

Just the thought of Lucky...Lorenzo...whatever! Just thinking of the man whom he loved dearly, his own brother, was enough to rev up his tired body and mind. His hands balled into fists at his side. He might not be ready to see Dawn again, but he sure as hell was ready to see his brother. Clenching his jaw tight, he raised his fist and began to pound on the door. It was a poor substitute for the younger man, but until he opened the door, the wood would have to do.

~*~

Sleep. For the first time in months, Dawn was able to sleep. A deep sleep had fallen over her as soon as her head hit the pillow and had carried her to wondrous dreams on happily ever after. Asleep, she and Nikolas were together. They were still very much in love and the conflicted crap that kept her apart from him never existed. Dominik and Noelle thrived under their parents' love and devotion. No one could have asked for a more idyllic life because none existed. Nothing was better than their home. Love and trust dwelled there forever and ever.

Pounding. Dawn heard the loud banging just as in her dreams Nikolas lowered his body onto hers. Still asleep, she shook her head in an effort to drown out the noise. The banging wouldn't stop. She became instantly awake. She covered her hand with her ears and shouted, "Selfish, cut it out!"

The banging continued. A dark scowl on her face, Dawn flung from the sheet and blanket from her. She swung her legs over the side of the bed. Barefoot, she rose from the bed and marched to her door. Angry and convinced that Lorenzo was playing a game of payback with her because of the room temperature, a nasty retort was on the tip of her tongue as she crossed into the living room. She was surprised to find it empty and that the pounding was coming from the main door.

The insistent banging fired up her temper. Still convinced that maybe Lorenzo was up to something, she stormed to the door and wrenched it open. Her mouth dropped open when she found herself staring at Nikolas' clenched fist.

His hand slowly dropped to his side as they stared at each other. His eyes drifted from her face and raked down over her partially clad body. On their own volition, her body instantly reacted to Nikolas' perusal. Two peaks stood out from her nightshirt and held Nikolas' attention for several seconds. The tip of his tongue moistened his full lips and his eyes drifted lower. Chocolate thighs and scarlet red toenails greeted his wandering gaze. He then slowly repeated his perusal, this time starting from the bottom.

As the two pair of brown eyes met and held, Dawn found the ability to speak first. "What-" Her first attempt came out husky and needy. She cleared her throat and tried again. "What do you want, Nikolas? Why are you here?"

"I'm here for you," he said, brushing past her. He slammed the door closed as he entered the suite and stood before her. "Get dressed. You're coming with me."

Dawn folded her arms across her chest, unintentionally causing the material to flatten across her full breasts. Nikolas coughed and his eyes moved to the spot just left of her forehead. Ignorant as to his dilemma, Dawn became angry. "You have a lot of nerve coming over here at this time! Giving me orders and you won't even look at me... Just who the hell do you think you are?"

"Whether you remember it or not, I'm your husband-"

"Don't give me that," she argued. "Why are you here?"

"I told you. You're getting dressed and you're coming with me," Nikolas answered.

Shaking her head, Dawn grabbed the doorknob. Her intention had been to open it, but Nikolas was too quick for her. He kept the door closed by pressing down on it with the palm of his hand. His eyes bore into hers with a fiery glint. He bit out in anger and frustration, "I'm not here to play games with you, Dawn. Get dressed and do it now."

"Why?" she asked through clenched teeth. Her eyes were narrowed as she looked at him. She was sleepy and tired. All she wanted to do was to crawl back into bed...with him. But the one thing in the world she couldn't do was let him know that. The stress was beginning to get to her.

"Noelle needs you," he answered. He drew a long breath and slowly expelled it. "She has nightmares. She was fine and then tonight, it started again. She woke up crying and she refuses to go to sleep unless you're there. Now, will you please get dressed and come with me?"

"She was crying for me?" Dawn asked, salty tears glistening her eyes.

Nikolas nodded. "Yes. She dreamed that you were hurt. You're the only one who can show her that you're okay. Will you come with me?"

"Of course," she hoarsely whispered. She blinked away the tears as she backed away from him. "Just give me a moment and I'll be ready."

~*~

They had traveled in silence. After the initial sparring contest was over, their thoughts had been on their young daughter and the best way to help her. During the drive from the hotel and on the ride to Wyndemere, Dawn's mind had been riddled with questions. She'd asked Nikolas for detailed information about Noelle's night traumas. Her heart had broken with each of his responses. Her baby had needed her and she hadn't been there. Dawn's absence was supposed to protect her children, but instead, they had still been hurt. As the tears swam down her cheeks, she swore that Noelle's pain would not be in vain. She made herself a solid vow to fight the unknown forces that kept her away from her family...and win!

"She may be asleep," Nikolas said softly as he and Dawn reached Noelle's door.

Dawn placed her hand on the doorknob. Her voice was soft, too, as she whispered, "If she is, I won't wake her, but I will be here when she wakes up."

Nikolas offered her a tight smile. "Did your lover give you approval for an overnight visit?"

"Nikolas, cut it out," she demanded. "We're not doing this now."

"Doing what?" he asked innocently. He placed his hand on top of hers, holding it so that she couldn't open the door nor could she move. "I have to make sure that he won't come storming over looking for you. I didn't hear him at the suite, but I'm not surprised. The Spencers prefer to sneak around and work in the dark. Silly me had expected him to come out and face me like a man for once. I should have known that he'd hide in the be-bedroom."

Tell him the truth! Her heart urged her, but her mind disagreed. Tell him and he'll be lost to you forever. They all will...your babies, too. Don't risk it, her mind argued. Tell him a half-truth instead, it urged. She listened.

"He wasn't there," she told him. She glanced down at their hands and then she raised her eyes to his.

Nikolas took the hint and removed his hand. She opened the door. He was behind her as she walked through. To Dawn's surprise, Noelle was wide-awake in Stefan's arms. Dominik slept at the foot of her bed, curled up into a ball. Noelle looked up as the door creaked open. With a squeal, she leapt from her grandfather's arms and ran to her mother.

Dawn bent down and scooped her precious daughter into her arms. "Ah, Sunshine, I'm here now, baby."

"Mommy, I had a bad dream," Noelle explained. "They were hurting you."

Dawn carried Noelle across to the room. She slid down into the rocking chair and cradled her child against her. "Baby, I'm not hurt." She smiled and kissed Noelle's forehead. "No one is hurting me and it was just a dream. It wasn't real."

"But I was scared," Noelle said, sniffling as she remembered the feelings that her dream had evoked. "It made me cry. I wanted you, Mommy."

"Oh, sweetie," Dawn said as tears clouded her own eyes. "I know. Your Papa told me. I'm sorry that I wasn't here. I'm so sorry. I'm here now, and everything will be just fine."

Noelle slowly nodded. Dawn patted her back and soon, the child lay with her head against her mother's breast. Dawn rocked them back and forth, softly singing an old lullaby. Noelle's breathing became even, signaling that she had fallen asleep. Dawn kissed her forehead and whispered, "I love you, my precious baby. And, I'm promising you that everything will be just fine."

After making her vow, Dawn glanced around the room. She discovered that the Cassadine men had left them alone. She cradled Noelle closer to her and rose from the rocking chair. She carried the sleeping child to her large canopy bed and gently laid her down. Noelle stirred but didn't wake up. Unable to leave her child, Dawn slid off her shoes, socks and sweats. Clad in a T-shirt and underwear, she slipped into the bed beside her sleeping daughter. She wrapped her arms around Noelle and the child snuggled against her. Soon, mother and daughter were sound asleep.

A few minutes later, the door creaked open. Nikolas peeked inside the room. An overwhelming feeling of love swept over him as he watched the two sleeping females. He stepped inside the room and stood over them. He simply watched them, breathing and sleeping. The simple action wasn't boring to him. He was mesmerized.

A yawn escaped from him. He didn't want to stop watching them, but with the problems in Jakarta looming over his head, he knew that he needed to rest. He moved closer to the bed and pulled the sheet and blanket up over them. He kissed Noelle's dewy soft cheek. A dimpled-smile was his reward. He then looked at Dawn. He shouldn't, he told himself, but he didn't listen. He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her lips. He stood up and stretched out a hand to turn off the bedside lamp. A faint whisper carried to him and he held himself still. He looked down at Dawn as in her sleep she whispered his reward. "Nikolas."

His name on her lips in slumber...there was no better reward, Nikolas thought. None at all. He turned off the lights and then quietly left the room. As he reached his bedroom and closed the door behind him, he made a decision. Dawn would stay with them at Wyndemere. He wouldn't allow her to leave. And they would be a family again. Soon.

Flashback 4

General Hospital ©ABC
Dawn, Dominik and Noelle Cassadine ©1998 niklovr
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