Mrs. Spaneas, the head of household, entered his study with the afternoon post delivery in her hand. As was her custom, she placed the bundle in the basket that sat at the edge of his desk and quietly left the room without uttering a word that would disturb. So deep in concentration, Nikolas was unaware that he had been visited until he noticed that the misshapen basket that Noelle had made him for Father's Day was no longer empty but full. Setting spreadsheets and other miscellaneous reports aside, Nikolas reached for the basket and began to peruse his most recent correspondence.
One by one, he looked at each letter, stacking them all in order of importance. The largest envelope, an 8x11 manila envelope, he set aside to look at last. Well, he tried to, but soon his curiosity got the better of him. Without a return address, he couldn't help but wonder what was inside. Dawn was scheduled to be home soon and he thought that maybe she had sent him a special surprise as a precursor to her return.
Aggressively and with the expectancy of a child, Nikolas ripped into the envelope. He wasn't sure what he had anticipated, but it definitely wasn't the 8x10 color images of his wife and his brother performing the ultimate act of betrayal.
Too stunned to be upset, Nikolas looked at each photograph. Once he was done, he shook the envelope. His first thought was that maybe it was a joke and that the punchline would be included in the package. He shook very hard, but nothing came out.
The feeling that the photos were a joke soon left him after a few minutes. He became concerned that the photos were sent as a warning and that Dawn was in danger. He quickly grabbed his phone and made the international call to his best friend's cellular.
"Tommy!" he cried into the mouthpiece as soon as the phone was answered. "Dawn. What's happened to her?"
"Wh-what?" Tommy asked, his confusion spreading across the Atlantic. "Nikolas? She's fine. Why do you think she wouldn't be?"
"Are you sure?" Nikolas said, his tone anxious.
"Yeah, I'm sure. She just boarded your plane-"
"NO!" the frantic man screamed. "Get her off! Don't let her fly!"
"Nikolas, wait!" Tommy said, sharply. "I've had our best people check the plane. It's fine. Antonio and Lorenzo are with her and Dawn is okay. Maybe you should tell me what's going on."
"She's okay?" Nikolas asked, wanting to believe, but afraid to. "Antonio has been with her the entire time? There haven't been any problems? Right, Tommy?"
"Of course not. I would have told you. She's had the best protection over these past 4 weeks. When Antonio took a break, Lorenzo and I were there to watch over her-"
"Lorenzo?" Nikolas repeated quietly. "He's been her bodyguard, too, as well as her bandmate?"
After a brief pause, Nikolas continued. "And he's on the plane with her now? Why the change in plans? Wasn't he staying in Port Charles to begin planning the wedding?"
"Look, Nik, you're asking the wrong man," Tommy said with a soft laugh. "After the Jacks concert, they told me that they were leaving then and were riding together. I'd ask them for you, but the plan is preparing to take off. Do you still want me to stop it? If you do..."
"No," Nikolas said, shaking his head and speaking softly. "That's fine. If Antonio and my brother are with her, I'm sure that I can rest easy, right?"
"Of course," Tommy said. A moment passed and Nikolas didn't say anything more. Tommy softly asked, "Are you okay? Did something happen on your end? Want me to come over?"
"No," Nikolas said, "It's fine. Stay there with Gina and the girls."
"Are you sure?" Tommy asked with concern. "You sound...I don't know...upset for lack of a better word. Are you sure you don't need me?"
"Thanks," Nikolas responded with a faint smile which quickly evaporated, "but I have it under control. Listen, I have to go. Give my love to my goddaughters, okay?"
Nikolas quickly hung up the telephone before another word could be said. As he lowered the receiver to its base with one hand, the other hand reached for the pile of photographs. He looked at each one, studying the images thoroughly. The face, the body and the rapturous expressions were clearly those of his wife's. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman in the photograph was his wife. The image hadn't been digitally enhanced or faked.
The woman was Dawn.
He drew a ragged breath and looked at the man who held her in his arms. The curly hair and muscular body clearly belonged to his brother. Nikolas squinted and held the photos up to the light, but the images remained the same: Dawn and Lorenzo were holding, kissing and loving each other.
Nikolas studied the pictures one last time before he carefully slid them inside the envelope again. Holding the envelope in his hand, he rose from his desk and went to the safe behind a frame still life that Elizabeth had given to them. Quickly, he unlocked the safe and set the envelope inside. He closed the small metal door and turned the combination before hiding the safe behind the frame again. He then left the study in search of his children. He found that he needed to surround himself in their youthful innocence and unconditional love for a few moments before he began to worry again about Dawn and what the illicit photographs truly meant.
Nikolas rolled over onto his side and reached for the bedside lamp. Since leaving Dawn and Noelle's sleeping forms, he had crawled into his own large, lonely bed and attempted to join them in slumber. He had failed miserably and sleep wouldn't come. Instead, he had been kept awake with memories of the day his life fell apart. He had promised himself that he wouldn't think upon that day again, but it was promise that wouldn't keep. He released a low moan and surrendered himself to the most painful memory of all...
"I find this hard to believe," Nikolas said. He held the disputable
photographs in his hands as his gaze remained fixated on Dawn's rigid back. "Dawn,"
he said, moving to stand just behind her, "I didn't show this to you because
I expected an explanation. I just wanted you to know what was going on."
Dawn's barely audible response was to suck in her breath. She edged further away from him and he watched her movements with a look of incredulous wonder.
"Sweetheart?" he asked softly. "Say something. You've been so quiet. It's not like you." He laughed softly, hoping that she would join in. She didn't. "Dawn? Please."
She stopped her movement upon his soft plea. Her back straightened and she said, "What's there to say? A picture is worth a thousand words, right? I doubt if I could top that right now."
"Wh-what?" he asked as a chill swept through him. "I-I don't understand. These pictures aren't real... They can't be..."
"I didn't want you to find out this way," she said in a raspy, hoarse voice. "Looks like someone beat me to it."
"Dawn? No..." he murmured over and over. "No! I don't believe it!"
"Lower your voice! The children!" she said, her voice cracking slightly.
"NO!" Nikolas bellowed. He threw the photographs down onto the pale green, plush carpet and strode towards her. He stood just behind her again, but this time, his position made it impossible for her to move around him again. Breathing heavily, he cried, "Turn around! Look me in the eyes and tell me to my face that you and my brother-"
"You've seen the pictures!" she exclaimed. "Do I have to give you the full details?"
"I don't believe you!" he said, grabbing her shoulders in a viselike grip. "You love me! You would never betray me with him. I know you wouldn't!"
"Well, you don't know me as well as you thought you did," Dawn said quietly. She pulled his hands from her shoulders before she slowly turned around. Her eyes were downcast for a moment and then, taking her time, she leveled her gaze onto his. "I didn't intend for it to be a betrayal. I just... He doesn't hover over me the way you do. He allows me to be free."
"I-I just wanted to protect you," Nikolas murmured. "I don't hover over you. Dawn, I love you!" Tears blinded him for a second before they began to spill down his cheeks. "I'm sorry that I held on too tightly. I won't any more. I promise. I won't hold whatever happened with Lucky against you. I forgive you. We can work through this." He reached for her hands as he whispered, "Okay?"
Dawn roughly pushed his hands away. Refusing to look at him, she brushed past him and kept her back to him. After a lengthy silent pause, she spoke. "It's n-not okay. I want out! I don't want to be your tr-trophy anymore. I don't want to live in a glass cage where I have to beg you for seconds of freedom. I just want to put all of this behind me-"
"NO!" he cried again. He went to her and roughly spun her around. His hands dug into her upper arms like claws. Violently, he shook her. "You don't mean it! I don't believe you! If this is a joke, you've gone too far! It's not funny anymore, Dawn!"
"I'm not laughing-"
"Damn you!" he cried. He threw her away from him so that she landed on their bed. He stood over her. Their eyes connected. Neither moved. Nikolas soft, tear-filled voice echoed in the stillness of their bedroom. "We made love right there in that bed the night before you left and again the next morning! I was inside of you, Dawn, just like I've always been since the very first time. You were inside of me! I could feel you! I still...feel...you! How can you tell me that those fucking pictures are real when there is no way in hell they can be! We made love, Dawn!" he said, beginning to cry again. "You can't fake that. I know," he said pointing to his heart, "that you didn't fake it. You were with me and only me. Never anyone else. Don't you think I would know."
"Nikolas, stop it!" she said, brushing at tears that had begun to fall down her cheeks. She pushed herself across the bed away from him. She slowly rose from the bed. "It's no use talking about the past. I'm talking about my future here! I don't want to be your little puppet anymore! I don't want to be your w-wife. I want a divorce, Nikolas."
His heart and soul lay bare before her. He was exposed and raw, but she didn't seem to care. He had never hurt so deeply before as when Dawn said to him that she didn't want to be his wife.
He responded with the first word that came to him. She protested, but her words fell on deaf ears. He suddenly felt like ice. From the outside in. As she continued to tell him that she would accept nothing less, he cut her off in a voice that was dead and emotionless.
"No divorce, Dawn. Not now or ever. I won't keep you chained inside your glass cage. You are now free to go. But remember this, you will never be free from me."
"The children will remain with me. They are too young to understand why Mommy sleeps with Uncle now instead of Papa. I don't wish to explain it to them and I forbid you to do it. Until I feel that they are ready, the explanation will simply be that you don't live with us anymore. You will see them on my terms and at my discretion. Any attempts otherwise will be unacceptable. Do I make myself clear?"
"I'm their mother, Nikolas!" she said, spinning around to face him. "I won't be kept away from them! That's unacceptable!"
"What's unacceptable is discovering that my wife and brother are lovers," he ground out in a low, cold voice. He fought and won against the urge to say more. The vengeful part of him longed to humiliate her with words that would degrade her, but the part of him that still loved her refused to let the words pass from his lips. He turned away from her and headed to the door. "Pack your things and say good-bye to the children. You have an hour."
Then, he was gone.
Nikolas pushed the covers away from him and rose from the bed. The moonlight
guided him to the window. He sat down on the window seat and gazed upon the dark
waters of Spoon Lake which were far below. His face was wet with tears and they
continued to stream down his face. He didn't bother to wipe them away. He simply
allowed them to fall.
Looking down into the hidden depths of the water, he wondered about the right course to take. He still loved Dawn, but he hated that his trust in her had been destroyed. He knew with full certainty that he wanted her back-in his life and in his bed, but how? Should he woo her away from her lover or should he seduce her and use it against her? He wasn't a man who believed in playing games, but he wasn't above it.
No, Nikolas thought to himself, he didn't like to play games, but he would do whatever it takes to make Dawn realize that despite everything she still wanted him. Maybe she still loved him, too.