Chapter 24

"Don't overdo it."

Matt raised an eyebrow as he looked at his wife. Repositioning a slide from Dara's latest series of tests, he murmured, "Ellen, please."

"Please, what?" she countered. She rose from behind her desk and moved to stand behind him. Her hands fell to his shoulders and she began to gently massage the hard, corded muscles that she found there. "We want this operation to be a success, right?"

Tension caused him to stiffen. "Ellen-"

"Matt, please," she interrupted, "just listen, okay? All I'm saying is that you have to take care of yourself."

Closing his hands over hers, he leaned back so that he could look at her. "What makes you think that I'm not? Because I'm focused on helping Dara? Honey, someone has to."

"Of course, we have to," she said mildly irritated. "I wish that you wouldn't try to twist my words around…"

She took a step away from him. Matt moved quickly to grab her hand and pull her close to him. With his arms around her waist, he held her close to him. "I'm not trying to twist your words around. I listened to you. Will you listen to me, now?"

Ellen lowered her head to the curve of his neck before she nodded her head in agreement.

"Thank you," he said, a teasing tone in his voice. "I appreciate that you're looking out for me. To be honest, I expect nothing less, but sweetheart… I know when I've had enough. Believe nobody, not even you, wants this operation to be a success more than me. Already, I'm progressing more than I did with the other attempts. My body isn't rejecting the procedure. I won't overdo it. I'll rest when the time is right."

"The time is now," she told him. "Have you checked your watch? It's bedtime."

Chuckling softly at the stern note in her voice, he asked, "Are you propositioning me or berating me?"

Unable to be too tough with him, she laughed. After placing a loud peck on his cheek and then a lingering kiss on his lips, she answered him. "Whichever it takes to get you to come back to the hotel with me. Now. I want to save Dara's life as much as you do, but we can't be any good to her without some rest. You got me?"

"I got you." He smiled warmly at her as he reluctantly released his hold of her. He gathered the slides and his notes and began to pack up.

Behind him, Ellen saved her documentation to her computer's hard-drive. The computer buzzed as it finished its task and Ellen turned to Matt. "Dr. Harmon, do you by any chance have an extra disk?"

"Why, Dr. Harmon," he answered her, "I most certainly do. What's wrong? You don't trust the hardware?"

Frowning in contemplation, she took the proffered disk from his outstretched hand. "No, it's not that. Just covering the bases."

She turned back to the computer, inserted the disk and saved the information again. Matt watched for a moment and then reconsidered his own actions. He had intended to leave his notes and Dara's slides in the desk drawer, assuming that they would be safe behind the locked office door. Now, he thought better of it and began to put everything inside his briefcase.

"All set?" Ellen asked him after she had shut down the computer and came to stand beside him.

"Yeah," he responded. Then arm in arm, they left the office, locking the doors behind them.


Liz waited until Audrey had backed out of the garage before she stepped out into the backyard. Stepping lightly like a child with a secret, she tiptoed down to the end of the carport. She smiled to herself as her grandmother turned off their block and then she made a mad dash back to the house.

Her art supplies-canvas, brushes, easel and paint-had all been hidden away from Audrey's curious eyes. With the older woman gone for the day, Liz knew that she was now safe to work on her surprise Christmas gift. Liz moved back and forth from the house to the yard as she set up her impromptu studio. In record time, the materials were in place and she was ready to begin. She positioned herself behind the easel and got to work.

As usual, whenever Liz stepped behind a canvas, the outside world disappeared. A few strokes of her brush brought her vision to life. Proud of herself, she couldn't stop smiling.

"Now, that's a beautiful sight to see."

The masculine British accent interrupted the artist's quiet haven. Startled by another's presence, Liz jumped and nearly ruined the painting. With a contrite expression on his face, Dillon took a step back from her. "I shouldn't have intruded. I apologize."

"How did you know where I live?" Liz asked him. Her unwavering stare made it nearly impossible for him to move. She slid her hand inside her smock's pockets and closed her fingers over her cell phone. Cautiously, she moved so that the easel was between them. "I didn't tell you that the other night."

"No, you didn't," Dillon said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and took another step backwards. "I asked around. I suppose that I shouldn't have. Please forgive me."

He made a move to leave and Liz stopped him by calling out. "Wh-Why did you ask about me? Who did you ask about me?"

"I was intrigued by you," he said with a shrug that was made in a helpless gesture. "I wanted to know more. Earlier today, I stopped by Jake's. She saw us together that night and wanted to know if I had the good fortune of seeing you again. I told her that I would if the gods would allow it. She laughed and gave me a point in the right direction, so to speak. I'm sure that she didn't mean any harm by it. I certainly didn't imagine that… Well, I didn't mean to scare you."

Liz's hold on the cell phone loosened. Her heartbeat decreased to normal and she moved from behind the easel. "You didn't scare me," she told him with a toss of her head. "I was startled that's all. I wasn't expecting anyone."

He offered her a warm smile. Taking a few steps towards her, he said, "I suppose that next time, I should call first?"

Dillon's eyes sparkled with tenderness and compassion. Drawn to him, she moved forward and said, "Yes. Next time call first."

A glimmer of triumph shone in his eyes for a single moment. Then as quickly as it appeared, the glimmer disappeared. Continuing to smile at her, he murmured, "Next time, I will."


"A virus?" Carrie questioned while lying securely within Stefan's arms. "How could Dara contract a virus as deadly as this one? None of what Simone said made sense."

"Do you doubt her?" he asked, shifting on the bed as he pulled the covers closer around them.

His wife shook her head. "No. Her diagnosis certainly makes more sense than what the other doctors have been telling us, but still… I just wish that they knew more."

"In time, they will," he said with calm assurance.

"But time isn't something that we have," Carrie reminded him almost on the verge of tears.

"Oh, Carlotta," Stefan murmured. He wrapped both arms around her. His strong, lean hands caressed her back in sweeping strokes as he comforted her. "We have come too far to surrender now. I have confidence that Simone and the Doctors Harmon will prevail."

Sniffling through her words, Carrie asked, "You had them investigated, didn't you?"

A smile warmed his confession. "Thoroughly. Matt and Ellen are making much progress in the field of medical research. Their articles are the most sought after in the top journals and they have turned down countless offers to head various facilities throughout the world. I wish I had thought of contacting them."

"You thought to bring her here," Carrie said as she shifted so that she could look at him. Moonlight cast a warm glow on his handsome face. She became breathless at the love she saw shining in his green eyes. "Thank you."

"No," he quickly responded, shaking his head. He trailed a fingertip down her cheek before he cupped her face. "I would do anything for our family. You never have to thank me."

"There is no wonder why I love you so much," Carrie whispered. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight.

They lay wrapped in each other's arms for several moments without a word spoken between them. The silence was comforting to them both, but still Dara's illness weighed heavily on their minds. The need to do something to help her consumed them both.

"Viruses are contracted," Carrie said quietly. "A person catches a virus. You don't just wake up with it and you aren't born with it either."

"No, you're not," Stefan agreed. He paused for a second and then added, "Before she took ill, Dara had not ventured from the States in months."

"Not since she retired from the bench and decided to focus on starting a family with Alex."

"Her fertility specialist…what did she have to say about Dara's condition?" Stefan asked.

"I don't believe Dara saw Dr. Graham again after the initial visits. And when she became bedridden, I think we all forgot about all that." Carrie moved to rest on her forearms. Staring at her husband, she asked, "What are you thinking?"

"Perhaps, I should go back to Port Charles for a couple of days and have a few words with Dr. Graham. There is a chance that she could give us some insight into Dara's condition."

"I should come with you."

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Dara needs you here. She can feel you fighting for her. I shan't be gone long."

"I'll miss you," she admitted.

"As I shall miss you," he murmured before pulling her into his arms again.


'Your date?!'

Dawn's eyes blazed with anger and she looked as if she would explode. Nikolas bit back a chuckle and quickly pressed his finger to her lips. 'Stay here,' he mouthed back to her.

She responded with a glare and promptly folded her arms across her chest. Nikolas knew that he might have to spend all night making this up to her. Images crossed his mind and he knew that he would relish every moment of it.

"I'm here, Sarah," he said as he removed himself from his wife's prone body. Adjusting his clothing, he moved around the sofa to face his guest. He finished tucking his shirt into his pants as he gave her a warm smile. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his wife shift on the sofa. He didn't have to look down at her to know that she was on the brink of outrage. There was not a trace of guilt inside of him as he enjoyed her jealous reaction.

Another chuckle almost escaped him, but he masked it with a cough. "How are you doing?" he asked.

"Great," Sarah said, leaving the doorway to come towards him. He met her halfway and a concerned smile spread across her face. "Are you okay? You look flushed." She reached out a hand to touch his forehead. "You feel warm. Were you taking a nap?"

"Uh… Um, yes," he said with an innocent shrug as he removed her hand from his face. "One minute I'm working and the next, I'm prone on the sofa."

"Oh, you poor thing," she said with syrupy sweet sympathy. "Come with me," she said, linking her arm through his. "I'll help you get settled in bed-"

"NO!" he cried. Upon her startled look, he quickly lowered his voice. "Um, no thank you, Sarah. I'll be fine. I just need to slow down some."

"I suppose…" Shaking her head, she looked him up and down. "There's something that's been on my mind and seeing you like this makes me realize that I shouldn't keep quiet any longer. Would you hear me out?"

Red warning flags flashed before his eyes. His mind screamed for him to answer in the negative, but judging from the determination in her eyes, he knew that his response would fall on deaf ears. "Sure, Sarah," he said, regretting the words as soon as they passed his lips.

"This isn't easy for me to say, but I feel that it must be said," she began. "I hope that you understand that I'm only saying this because I care about you and the children."

Nikolas nodded. "Of course," he murmured, stepping past her to go sit behind his desk. With his hand, he beckoned for her to come closer. Inside, he hoped that maybe her words wouldn't carry to Dawn.

"I think that it's commendable of you to allow Dawn to come to Noelle's birthday party, but you have to realize that if you allow her to have any more contact with the children… Well, this will only hurt them in the end-"


"They're young enough now that can easily forgive her for the affair, but what will happen when she disappoints them again? Dom-"

Nikolas tried again. "Sarah-"

"He's a young boy who's at an impressionable age. Dawn's behavior with Lucky could warp his view about women for the rest of his life. I know that you wouldn't want that to happen. And, Noelle-"

"Sarah, please," Nikolas said in a low voice, which silenced her immediately. "I appreciate your concern. I really do, but it's unnecessary."

"On the contrary-"

"Sarah!" he said. He took a deep breath as he moved from the chair and went around the desk. "Things have changed since you were last here."

"You filed for divorce?" she asked, a spark of hope dancing in her blue eyes.

Nikolas looked away from her eagerness. She had been a good friend when he had desperately needed one, but she could never be more than that to him. Breaking her heart all those years ago wasn't easy and he found it just as difficult to disappoint her now. He expelled a low breath as he looked at her again. "No, I haven't filed for a divorce."

"Oh, Nikolas…"

"The children need their mother, and Dawn is here at Wyndemere again."

"For how long?" Sarah asked.

"Forever," he answered.

Sarah's response was cold and unemotional. "I see. Be careful, Nikolas. Don't let that deceitful bitch pull you into her web again. I don't think you could survive another betrayal."

The words hung in the air as Nikolas stared at her. Words that would defend Dawn rose to his throat, but he kept them at bay. Sarah waited another moment and when he didn't speak, she left.

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