Chapter 23

"Mm…good morning." The words purred from the blonde's lips as she stretched from her lover's embrace. An unrestrained yawn came from her parted lips and the young man turned away from her. "What's wrong?" she asked, moving to a sitting position as he hid his nude form inside of his royal blue silk robe.

"It's hardly morning," he returned in a crisp British accent. "You've slept most of it away."

"Don't pout," she said, a smile coloring her voice. "It's not as if you weren't beside me the entire. Besides, if you weren't so skilled, I wouldn't have been so tired."

"Oh, bother," he said, rolling his eyes. He padded across the carpeted floor to the walk-in closet. Flinging the door open, he stood still. He contemplated his wardrobe carefully. Mentally, he went through every article of clothing until he settled on just the right pieces that would portray just the right look. Behind him, his companion left the bed. Her crystal blue eyes watched every move he made and he was very much aware of her. "You have a suggestion?" he prompted.

"Me?" she asked with a derisive laugh. "Surely, not I. I'm enjoying the view."

He laughed with faint humor. Turning around to face her, he carried a pair of faded blue jeans and a gray cashmere crew neck sweater over one arm. In the other, he carried a pair of black Doc Martens. He held the items up for her inspection. "Do you approve?"

Pale shoulders rose upwards as she shrugged. Her mouth twisted in disapproval and her tongue clucked against the roof of her. "It's a shame that you're covering up the better parts."

"Oh, Sarah, if I were a vain man, I'd believe that line." He chuckled as she threw a pillow at him. "Come now. Surely, you didn't think I'd believe you. I know that I'm a mere substitute for your greater desire."

Sarah turned her back on him, directing her attention to collecting the lingerie that had been carelessly tossed to the floor during their passionate scuttle. In a tight voice, she asked, "As I am a substitute for you?"

Dillon stopped as he reached the bathroom door. In a low, emotionless voice, he answered her. "You could never be a substitute for me, Miss Webber." He moved away from the door to go to her. Swiftly, he pulled her into his arms. "You are my lifeline, dearest, as I am yours. Nothing will ever change that."


Lorenzo felt like death warmed over. The first night without her had been torture. Deep inside, he had always had an idea of the pain his brother must have felt. Now, he was certain of it. Being without her was awful. It was the worst feeling he had felt in ten years when their fate was uncertain and risks were around every corner. A chill tingled down his spine, instantly reminding him of the raging storm. He closed his eyes for a brief moment and once again, he was in the cave…holding her hand and praying to God for a miracle that would save them all.

"Snap out of, Spencer!"

"Are you okay?"

Startled, Lorenzo's eyes flew opened. He was momentarily speechless, and when he spoke again, he stammered. "I…um… I'm fine. Sorry about that."

"No problem. Sometimes the best conversation you can have is with the face in the mirror. Were you coming in?" the young woman asked, pointing towards the office. "I'm running a little late this morning, and I'm sor- Wait a minute. I believe I know you."

"You do," Lorenzo responded, surprised again by the heat that flooded his face. "I'm a friend of Tommy's, and I believe you are his extremely efficient assistant, Lynn."

She laughed softly. "I'm Lynn alright and sure, I'll agree to the complimentary adjectives, too. Thanks."

Smiling, he raised his hands in defense. "I can't take credit for the compliments. Tommy has been very vocal in his praise of your abilities."

"He has?" she asked softly. Her gaze fell to the key in her hand as she directed it to the lock. She missed on the first attempt and Lorenzo quickly moved to help her.

"Please, allow me." He opened the door. Holding it open for her, he stepped aside to allow her entry. Once they were both inside, he handed her the key. "I can see that he's not here. Do you have any idea when he's coming in?"

"I'm not sure," she told him. She shrugged out of her coat and hung it on the coat rack before crossing to a large oak desk. She set her purse and briefcase on the leather chair. Reaching for the telephone, she turned to Lorenzo and said, "Hold on and I'll check for you. There may be a message from him."

"Okay. Thanks." While Lynn checked her voicemail, Lorenzo moved around the cozy office. He smiled with proud as he acknowledged his friend's accomplishments. The wall was covered with plaques and framed newspaper accounts of Tommy's contributions to society. My, how far he has come, Lorenzo thought. Sometimes, it was impossible to imagine how Tommy had spent most of his life when everything in his life was now golden. "And you more than deserve it, my friend."

"Um…excuse me."

Blushing furiously, Lorenzo laughed to downplay his embarrassment. "You caught me again."

Lynn shrugged. "It happens. Well, I have some news for you."

"Okay. I'm listening."

"Tommy is working on a case, but he said that he will come in later today," Lynn said.

"Did he say when?" Lorenzo asked. "I'm kinda in a crunch and I… Well, I guess I could come back later."

"Lorenzo!" Lynn called as he moved towards the door. "I'm not trying to pry, but if your visit is a professional one instead of personal, I would be more than happy to help you. Well, try to help."

Sweeping a hand through his golden curls, Lorenzo frowned with indecision. "It's a mixture of both. I appreciate your offer, but I'm not sure…"

"If you're concerned about discretion, you needn't be," she assured him.

"It's not that," he said, realizing that she probably knew all about his supposed affair with his sister-in-law. Small town gossip would never disappear. Never. Trying to come to a decision, he found himself staring at her. She stared back with confidence. He sensed her sincerity and his resolve began to weaken. "I have a list of names that I need checked out-"

"I can do that."

"Without anyone being the wiser?" he asked, taking the necessary steps to stand before her. "No one can know about this. It could prove dangerous."

"I'm not afraid of danger," she said with a jut of her chin. "And, I can look this up for you without getting caught. But there is something I need to ask before I begin."

"You're assuming that you're hired for the job," he said, his blue eyes twinkling but his expression serious.

"I'm 'extremely efficient' remember?" she countered. "Of course, I'm hired."

He cocked an eyebrow as if to say 'Touché.' "Your conditions, oh efficient one?"

"These aren't conditions. I just want to make sure that this is all on the up and up. No drugs or anything like that."

Lorenzo offered her a self-deprecating smile. "I'm sure that my reputation has reached legendary status, but please let me assure you. I may as bad as they say, but I'm no drug addict or dealer. Is that all or will there be 19 more questions?"

"No," she said, tossing her auburn mane against her cheeks as she shook her head. "That will be all. For now. Give me the list."

"As you wish, madam," he said, reaching inside his pocket.


"So, it was arson?" Nikolas asked, shuffling through the papers that Tommy had given to him. "But it was made to look like an accident. Correct?"

"Correct," Tommy said, distracted. He rose from the chair he had been sitting in and went to his friend's desk. He picked up the small white walkie talkie that rested on the edge of the desk. Silence echoed in the room as he looked first at the desk and then at his friend.

Having been watching Tommy, Nikolas set the papers aside and prepared himself for the questions.

"I heard Dawn's voice coming through this thing," Tommy began. He fixated Nikolas with a hard stare. "She's here, isn't she?"

Nikolas nodded. "Yeah, she's upstairs."

"What are you doing?" Tommy folded his arms across his chest in a no nonsense gesture. Nikolas chuckled in response, causing Tommy to clench his jaw. "This is serious. You have children to consider."

"Yes, I do," Nikolas agreed. He rose from the chair and moved across the room to make sure that the door was closed. When he was certain of their privacy, he turned back to his friend. "I appreciate your concern."

Tommy groaned. "Nikolas, please-"

"Wait," Nikolas said, raising his hand to silence his friend, "hear me out."

Not fully convinced, but determined to be fair, Tommy nodded his head. "I'm listening."

"Dawn's back. Permanently. We're a family again," Nikolas explained.

"Just like that?" Tommy snapped his fingers for emphasis. "I was barely gone a couple of days and in that time, you and she just make up. Everything is all nice and perfect like it was before. And it doesn't matter to you that she and Lorenzo-"

"It doesn't matter," Nikolas said, cutting his friend off.

"It does matter!" Tommy cried out. He moved to stand in front of Nikolas, his flashing green eyes boring into the older man's calm brown orbs. "I don't want to hurt you or talk bad against Dawn. You know that I love her…you and the kids, but man… Nikolas, the affair hurt you! I can't believe that you could forget about it so easily."

"I'm not forgetting about anything," Nikolas hedged. He dropped Tommy's stare as he moved away from him. Nikolas crossed the room. His footsteps to the fireplace and his eyes were drawn to the framed photos on the mantle. So many memories stared back at him. Times spent with his friends, his children and his wife. The happy life that he thought would be lost to him forever had been returned in the strangest way. He knew that Tommy's outburst was born of their deep friendship and Nikolas appreciated the love behind it. He also wished that he could set his friend's mind at ease and tell him the truth. But he couldn't risk it. "I haven't forgotten a thing," Nikolas said, turning to face Tommy again.

"Well, there's something you're not telling me," Tommy said with deadly assurance.

"No," Nikolas said, trying hard to maintain his friend's stare. "My children need their mother. After a little convincing, Dawn agreed. She loves them. You know that."

"Yeah," the younger man admitted, "but even you aren't that forgiving."

"Thanks. I'm touched by your confidence in me and my parenting abilities."

"Turn it around and twist it up," Tommy muttered, as he moved to stand in front of the fireplace and photograph memories. "I know you and know that there's more to her being here again. I won't ask you anymore questions, but I will be watching you. Both of you-"

Nikolas spoke out in protest. "Tommy-"

"And at the first sign of trouble, you know that you can count on me to back you up." Tommy pulled Nikolas into a hug, which was warmly returned by the other man. As they released each other, Tommy added, "There may not be any blood to tie us together, but you're like a brother to me. If you need me, you know where to find me."

"I know," Nikolas said, touched by Tommy's words. "And it works both ways. Never forget that."

"I won't," Tommy replied, as he grabbed his jacket and briefcase in preparation for his exit. "And don't forget what I said either. I'm keeping my eyes on all three of you. I'll call you later with a follow-up. Give her and the kids my regards."

"Whew!" Nikolas expelled a quiet breath as the door closed behind Tommy. The man could be as relentless as a bulldog with a bone. Moments like these, Nikolas did not doubt why they were best friends.

Later, as he was engrossed in the arson report, a cold chill crept across his neck as a draft blew into the room. Shivering slightly, he made a move to add more kindling to the fire. He never left the sofa as a warm body threw herself into his lap.

"Oh, yeah," Nikolas murmured. Crushing Dawn to him, he closed his lips over hers in a searing hot kiss. With roaming hands and a teasing tongue, she moaned and squirmed in his arms. He pulled her closer against him, never tiring of making up for lost time.

"Nikky…" she whimpered as released her mouth. His hand slid underneath her sweater. His thumb rolled across her hardened peaks causing her to tremble. "I didn't…close…the door…"

"So?" he asked, lifting his head so that he could get a better view of the dizzy desire that shone in her eyes.

"Anyone could come in!" She shrieked as he ground his lower body up against hers. "I came in here to talk. Not make out."

"Why can't we do both?" he asked, a wolfish grin on his face. "I want you, Mrs. Cassadine. How can you deny me when I'm in this state?"

"Nikky, please…"

Taking her response as a yes, he lowered her back onto the sofa. He followed and positioned himself on top of her. His wandering mouth trailed kisses along her cheeks, jaw and neck. His hands tugged on the hem of her skirt, pulling it up to her waist. A delightful squeal escaped her as she wrapped her thighs around his waist.

"It's been too long," he complained, moving against her.

"This morning before breakfast and after your morning ride…" she reminded him.

"Yeah," he agreed. "Hours ago."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"Nikolas?" a voice called out from the doorway. A light tap and the click of heels on the hardwood floor soon followed the feminine voice.

The lovemaking on the sofa ceased instantly. Dawn's eyes were wide as she looked at Nikolas. Who is that, she silently asked him.

Sarah, he mouthed, she's here for our date.