Chapter 21

Sitting in the passenger seat of the jet black Jaguar, Dawn was a bundle of nerves. Unable to control herself, she jumped at every bump in the road and every honk of a horn. Constantly, she looked behind them through the tinted, bulletproof rear window. When a car moved in too close, her hand automatically reached for Nikolas. Her fingers clawed into his thigh and she called out, "Nikky!"

Nikolas raised his hand from the clutch to cover his hand with hers. Squeezing her gently, he said, "Sweetheart, she's at least 90 years old. She may be a little near-sighted, but I don't think she's an assassin. It's okay. Relax."

Dawn twisted back around in the passenger seat. She laced her fingers together with her husband's, drawing comfort from him. "I'm trying to, but…"

He glanced away from the road for a moment to look at her. His unwavering glance was strong and soon, she tilted her head to look at him. "Would you like for me to take you back to Wyndemere?"

"Only if you agree to stay with me."

He shook his head and directed his gaze to the road again. "You know I can't do that."

"Too much testosterone," she mumbled under breath.

Chuckling softly, he raised her hand to his lips. After he kissed her hand, he said, "You never seemed to have a problem with it before."

"Being a stud in the bedroom is one thing, Nikolas Cassadine," she said tartly. "The macho act outside of the bedroom scares me."

"Don't be scared," he said with confidence. "No harm will come to you or Lucky."

She released a deep sigh, but did not comment any further. She too turned her attention to the road before them. Within a few more miles, the Port Charles Hotel came into view. Her breath quickened and subconsciously, her fingers dug into the back of Nikolas' hand. He didn't utter a word of protest.

"Slow down, Nikky, please," she asked softly as he pulled into the circular drive. "I just need another moment."

"Okay," he agreed.

The Jaguar slowed to a crawl, easing along the brick paved driveway. Dawn's breathing evened out and she released his hand. Nikolas took his silent queue and pulled up to the waiting valet. A practiced look of anger and irritation darkened his face as Dawn hopped from the car before he had put it in park. "Dawn!" he growled. Leaping from the car, he tossed the keys to the valet and ran into the hotel after her.

Her stride was long and determined as she moved across the marble floor. Counting to ten, she braced herself for Nikolas' firm hand that would clasp her upper arm and swirl her around. "Stop man-handling me!" she bit out. "When will you get it, Cassadine? I'm not one of your possessions! I am a woman-"

"That's right, Dawn Cassadine," he ground out, saying their rehearsed lines with the talent of a true thespian, "You are a woman." He pulled her to him for effect-for their audience and for his own personal pleasure. "You are my woman, and like all of my possessions, you are mine forever."

Amid the stares and gasps of the Hotel's patrons, Nikolas pulled Dawn inside the elevator car whose doors had just opened. "This one is occupied," he told a nosy busybody who had hoped to follow them inside. Pushing the close button, the doors closed in the older woman's face, leaving the married couple alone for a few moments to celebrate their performance.

"It worked," Dawn breathed, after releasing deep breath.

"I hate to tell you I told you so…" he teased.

"But this is far from over, baby," she said.

"I know," he agreed. "This is only the beginning."

~*~

Lorenzo looked through Dawn's closets again. Everything was there. Nothing had been disturbed. He left the closet, slamming the door shut behind him and went inside her bathroom. Her toothbrush and other toiletries were still there, too. Picking up each item one by one, he searched his brain for answers. None came. Where was she? And most important, was she okay?

The door to their suite creaked open and in a flash, he was in the outer room. His sapphire eyes blazed with determination as he waited for faces to appear. In the next second, she walked through the door and his pent-up anxiety flew out to greet her.

"Where the hell were you?"

"At Wyndemere-"

"What in blazes were you thinking?" he began. "Why won't you listen to me?"

"Because I convinced her not to," Nikolas answered, walking in behind Dawn and closing the door behind them. "Spencer."

Lorenzo's eyes darted from Dawn to Nikolas and back to Dawn again. Silently, he asked her how much did Nikolas know. Silently, she answered him. Everything.

"I don't believe it," he mumbled, running his hand through his curly blond locks. "I go away for one day… I just don't fucking believe it, Dawn."

"Well, you had better start to believe," Nikolas advised him. He looked at Dawn. "Go get your things. We want to do this as quickly as possible."

Dawn stood still between the two brothers. "Maybe we should… Nikolas, maybe this is wrong. I told you before that I'd die if something happened to you or the children. Maybe I should just stay here for a little while longer."

"No."

"Listen to her, man," Lorenzo demanded. "We don't even know what we're up against-"

"You're right," Nikolas agreed. "We don't know who's doing this to us, but there is one thing that I do know."

"And what's that?" Lorenzo asked, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice.

Shaking his head, a faint smile came to Nikolas' lips. "Same ole Luc-Lorenzo… What I know is that my family can't survive another night apart. Dominik and Noelle need their mother. I need my wife. And she needs us. She's coming back with me."

Lorenzo groaned. Hoping that Dawn would see reason, he quickly looked at her. Another groan escaped him as he took note of the way her eyes adored his older brother. Envy boiled like bile in the pit of his stomach. Turning away from the couple, he went to the sofa and sat down.

Behind him the bedroom door closed with a click, without turning around he knew that only he and Nikolas remained in the room. Silence filled the space. And guilt consumed Lorenzo's soul. He wanted to keep Dawn with him to protect her, but also to keep her close to him. He didn't want to let her go. She meant too much to him. Rubbing his stomach, he shifted uncomfortably on the seat. Would Nikolas sense the depth of his feelings for his wife? What would happen between the two brothers now?

"Lorenzo."

The younger man stiffened. Rising to his feet, he turned to face his brother. "Nikolas, I-"

Nikolas raised a hand to silence him. "Allow me, first."

Lorenzo grudgingly agreed with a slight nod of his head.

"Thanks. Dawn's told me what you've down for her and our family. I can't begin to thank you. You've sacrificed so much to protect her."

"I'd do anything for her," Lorenzo admitted quietly. "I don't see anything I've done as a sacrifice. I'm not a martyr. Not by a long shot."

"Very well then," Nikolas said with a shrug. "Whatever your reasons, I thank you."

"I wish you wouldn't…"

Nikolas expelled a loud breath. "Why can't you just accept my gratitude? A Cassadine thanks a Spencer. Isn't this something for the history books?"

"Because I don't want your gratitude," Lorenzo explained.

"Well, what is it that you want?" Nikolas asked, taking a step closer to his brother. "I would give you the world to express how much what you've done means to me. What would you have I give you?"

"Dawn…"

With her packed luggage at her feet, she appeared in the bedroom doorway. Lorenzo moved to help her, but when Nikolas reached her side first, he took a step back. His eyes dropped to the floor and he thrust his clenched fists inside the pockets of his jeans. "Did you get everything?" he mumbled.

"It certainly feels like it," Nikolas joked as he lifted her suitcase. "I can't imagine there being anything left in there."

"There are a few things…" Dawn said quietly. Even from across the room, Lorenzo knew that her eyes were on him. His breath lodged in his throat as she came towards him. Her soft hand warmed his arm as she took hold of him. "Will you be okay here without me?"

"I'll manage."

"Greedy, talk to me," she said. "I'm scared for you-"

"Don't be," he quickly responded as he extricated his arm from her. He moved towards the window and turned his back towards it. He held her gaze as he added, "I'll be fine on my own. Take care of yourself."

"But, Lorenzo… Maybe there's a way you could come back with us…"

"No," he said, firmly shaking his head. "It wouldn't work."

"But-"

"Sweetheart," Nikolas said, "he won't come."

"Well, make him!" she said, turning around to look at Nikolas. "The show we put on downstairs may work for a little while, but it won't in the long run. We can't just leave him here alone. Only God knows what they'll do to him."

"It would be safer for all of us if I stayed here," Lorenzo quietly advised. "Besides, there is no man on earth who would allow his wife's reputed lover to live with her under his roof. If you go back without me, it would look as if he forced you. If I came back with you, it would look suspicious and we don't have to guess at what the outcome would be. Go, Selfish. I'll be fine here on my own." He held up two fingers. "Scout's honor," he offered with a smile.

~*~

Hours later, after night had fallen and their children lay sleeping snug in their beds, Nikolas and Dawn lay entwined in each other's arms. His head rested on her bare breasts and his arms held her close to him. He listened to her breathing, knowing that despite their passionate joining she was not ready for slumber. "He'll be okay," he whispered to her. "You don't have to worry."

"I can't help it," she said, threading her fingers through his silky, brown hair. "He doesn't like to admit it, but he gets lonely and he's not as fearless as he likes to put on. I wish…"

"I wish he would have come, too," Nikolas admitted. He lifted his head from her breast and moved on the bed until she lay with her head on his bare chest. His hands slid up and down her back, bringing her closer to him. "But nothing we could have said would have changed his mind. My brother is as stubborn as they come."

"Yeah…"

"Yeah," he repeated. "But remember my promise. We will get them in the end. No harm will come to any of us. Lorenzo included."

"When?" she sighed. "Nikky, when will all of this be over?"

"I don't know, sweetheart. Soon is what I believe. And, don't forget what they say."

"What is that?" she asked raising her head to look at him.

"That it is always the darkest before the dawn." He bent his head to kiss the tip of her nose. "And when the dawn comes, it will be the most glorious of days."

"And then we will live happily ever after…"

"I promise," he vowed, shifting on the bed as desire began to stir within him once more.

"You'd better," she told him, wrapping her arms and legs around him. "Because I am holding you to it."

General Hospital ©ABC
Dawn, Dominik and Noelle ©2000 niklovr
All Rights Reserved

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