Chapter 20

Wonderfully warm, Nikolas' body pressed against Dawn. Sinfully sweet was his breath against her neck. Dawn awakened slowly, greeting the new day with a small twinge of fear. Nikolas had spent most of the day before, reassuring the children that Mommy was truly back and reassuring Dawn that her fears would never be realized. After his persuasive argument, she had believed him, but with the birth of a new day, the old fears returned. For twenty-four hours, she and her family had known complete joy and happiness. She couldn't help but be afraid that she would be punished for experiencing the pleasure of so much bliss.

"No," Nikolas growled into her ear.

She turned within the circle of his arms to face him. "What's wrong? Nikky?"

Nikolas tightened his hold on her until her soft breasts were almost crushed against his hard chest. A tantalizing mixture of sleep, love, and desire shone in his chestnut brown eyes. Upon Dawn's gasp, he lowered his head. His mouth claimed her lips in a slow, deep kiss. As she moaned low in her throat, he rolled onto his back and pulled her on top of him. When he slowly released her mouth, he pressed his head back against the pillows. His lips curled in a devilish smile of satisfaction.

"Smugness doesn't suit you," she murmured, resting her chin on his chest so that she could look at him. His smile broadened into a grin and she shook her head at him. "I love you."

"Even though I'm smug?" he asked, raising his eyebrow.

"Even though," she whispered. Companionable silence echoed in the room, as their eyes remained locked. His love surrounded her. Just like always. She wanted to lose herself in him and their love, but her mind started spinning.

There was so much at stake. How could she believe that they would have a happily ever after? Every time they came close, something would come along and take it away again. She would not survive in a world without her husband or her precious children. She was certain of it.

"No!" Nikolas repeated forcefully. His fingers brushed away the tears that fell from her eyes. "Sweetheart, why can't you trust me?"

"I do trust you," Dawn said amid sniffles. "I'm just so scared that they-"

"Ssh," he whispered. He pressed his fingers against her lips. "No more tears and no more doubts. Everything will be just fine."

"You're not taking this seriously," she said. "It's not that easy! Lorenzo and I have been trying to find out who's behind this and only now, have we gotten a lead. Baby, these people have connections that our money can't cut through. How can you lay there and tell me that everything will be just fine? You don't know that."

Nikolas responded with a deep sigh. He rolled his eyes and took his time answering her. "What I know is that you've been worrying about this for too long. You can let go and let me take care of it."

Dawn shook her head. "I can't do that."

"And, why not?" he asked, shifting on the bed so that they lay on their sides, facing each other. His elbow was bent and he rested his head in his hand. His other hand danced across her, touching her hair, her face and her lips. Tenderly, his fingertips caressed her mouth. "Just let me take care of you," he softly pleaded.

"I wish it was that easy," she quietly answered. "I just can't let go, Nikky. For months, fighting them and fighting for us has been such a big part of my life. Letting go isn’t an option for me. I have to be a part of bringing them down. Besides, you're forgetting something. We're a partnership. You need me, and I need you. Got it?"

"Got it," he said in a hoarse voice. He opened his arms and she fell into them. His hands caressed her back in large strokes. "I've missed you so much, and I don't want anything to happen to you."

Dawn's hair brushed against him as she nodded her head in agreement. The constant motion of his hands on her back soothed her. The thumping of his heart provided a rhythmic beat that almost lulled her to sleep. She never felt as safe as when she was in his arms. She promised herself that she'd never take any of it for granted.

"Are you asleep?" Nikolas murmured in a rich voice.

"Not quite," she answered. "I was just thinking."

"About?" he asked. Sliding his hands into her hair, he angled her head so that he could place a soft kiss on her forehead. When she smiled, he lowered his head and placed another kiss onto her lips. "Tell me your thoughts, Mrs. Cassadine," he said after he raised his head.

"I don't have anything to wear."

His eyes sparkled with mischief. "I don't see this as a problem. Do you?"

"Nikky!" she said with a laugh. "I can't wear your clothes and I can't walk around in what I'm wearing now-"

"I see nothing wrong with what you're wearing…Well, not wearing," he growled. "I think your present ensemble works well with your present location. I know that it works well with me."

"Ooh." Nikolas' assault on her throat sent shivers up her spine. "Nikky," she moaned. "This is serious. I really need some clothes. Mmm…Nikky…"

His mouth slid down her neck to pause at her collarbone. Tiny bites and gentle kisses caused Dawn to twitch in his arms. A smile was in his voice as he asked, "Clothes? Are you sure that's what you really need right now?"

"I have lots of needs-"

"And I'm trying to take care of a few of them," he interrupted.

Dawn giggled as Nikolas' warm hands skimmed her sides. "I want you to, but later."

"Later?" he croaked in disbelief. "You're kidding, right?"

Slowly and sadly, she shook her head. "No, baby, I need to go back to the suite and get my clothes and other things. I also need to find out what's going on with Lorenzo. I haven't spoken with him in days and it's worrying me."

"Argh!" Nikolas groaned as Dawn slipped from his grasp and left the bed. His eyes hungrily followed her as she pulled on his robe and padded to the windows. Another groan escaped him as she flung open the drapes. Yellow golden rays streamed inside the room and headed straight for him. Covering his eyes, he leapt from the bed and followed her as she disappeared inside the bathroom.

"Oh!" Dawn jumped as Nikolas closed the bathroom door with a sharp click. "I didn't see you get up."

"You probably didn't feel it either," he mumbled to himself.

"What did you say?" Dawn asked over the rush of water that spurted out as Nikolas began to draw a bath.

"Nothing," he shrugged. Sitting on the edge of the tub, he poured in lavender scented bath oils and bath beads. His gaze was glued to her, watching her as she brushed her teeth. Then, later his eyes darkened in fascination as she brushed her hair back and rolled the dark waves into a bun. A few wispy strands of hair fell from the bun and bounced against her cheeks. Nikolas' fingers twitched, anticipating the feel of her soft hair on his fingertips.

Oblivious to Nikolas' perusal, Dawn spoke to him as she grabbed towels from the nearby shelf. "I'll only be gone for a little while. I don't think it will take me too long to pick up my things. If Lorenzo's there, I may be there a little longer. I'm not sure how he'll react-"

"What are you talking about?" He reached over and turned off the rushing water. "You're not going back to the hotel," he told her.

"How else will I get my things?" she asked. She tossed their hand towels into the tub before shrugging off his robe. It fell to the floor in a heap and she moved towards the bathtub. As she reached him, she met his gaze head on. "I have to go back."

"I'll go," he bit out.

"Nikolas," she said after a long sigh. "I'm not arguing with you about this. I have to go. I haven't been there in two days-"

"-Which is exactly why I won't allow you to leave Wyndemere," he fired back. Dawn slid into the bathtub and he slid in after her. "I'm not arguing about this either. I'll go. You're staying here. Period."

Dawn raised her hands in the time-out gesture. "Compromise. We'll have someone send my things here. I don't want you going there alone. Nothing can happen to you!"

Bath bubbles popped and water sloshed as Nikolas pulled Dawn into his arms. Her water slick back glided against his wet chest. He laced his fingers together at her waist. "I'll be fine. I'm not a child. I can take care of myself."

"You don't know what you're up against," she said quietly. "None of us knows what's out there. It's hard fighting an invisible man in the dark, Nikky. Please, don't try to pull rank on me. Let me go. They punish me through you and the kids. It's safer for me. Until we figure out a game plan, just stay here. Father has made sure that Wyndemere is a fortress. I know that you and the babies are safe here. That gives me a peace of mind."

"Oh, my sweet warrior," he murmured. During her heartfelt speech, Dawn had trembled with her convictions and with her fear. Nikolas had felt both. No matter how fiercely she spoke, he couldn't allow her to go out there alone. His heart wouldn't let him. Neither would his common sense. "You suggested a compromise before. Are you still game?"

"Yeah," she said, squeezing her fingers against his. "What's the compromise?"

"We go together. The children will be safe here and we can both be assured that the other is out of danger."

"I don't know about this," she said, shaking her head.

"Either we go together or I go alone," he said. He didn't say anything further. Knowing that she needed a few minutes to think it over, he reached for a bar of soap. After building up a rich lather, he set the bar back down and then placed his hands on her shoulders. His fingers kneaded her silken flesh with the fragrant lather. A small smile played across his lips as a subconscious moan escaped her lips.

"Okay," she murmured, pressing herself into his capable, gentle hands. "We can go together."

"Not exactly what I wanted to hear," he breathed against her ear, "but I can live with it."

"We go later. There's something I'd rather you take care of first." She turned around in the water and straddled his lap. Her wet hands captured his face and he smiled back at her.

"And that would be?" he asked. His knees bent, sending her closer to him. He sunk lower into the water as she came towards him. Soap bubbles and water wet his hair, plastering it to his head and neck.

"Me, lover," she said in a throaty whisper. "You have to take care of me."

"With pleasure," he assured her. "Always with pleasure."