"Mommy, where are we going?"
The trusting innocence in Noelle's voice brought Dawn up short. She and Nikolas had decided to present Noelle with as normal a life as possible. They didn't want her to know that everything had been turned upside down in a few short hours. She would not have been able to understand that Dominik was gone to whereabouts unknown. She could not possibly comprehend that there was a chance she'd never see her dear, older brother again. They didn't have the time or the heart to explain to her that her Mommy and Papa were to become people she did not know in order to make things right again.
The urgency of the situation dictated that Dawn should ignore her daughter's question. She needed to finish dressing Noelle and then get her the hell out of Wyndemere! Answers to feed her baby's inquisitiveness would have to come later. But Dawn made a mistake. She looked into Noelle's big, beautiful aquamarine eyes. The warrior inside of her softened as her maternal being assumed dominance. She finished tugging Noelle's arm through the soft, fuzzy pink sweater and then she set the child on her lap.
"We're going on a little trip," Dawn said, forcing herself to smile. She could only hope that her voice didn't give anything away to Noelle.
Noelle countered her mother with a thoughtful expression on her face. "Everybody's going?"
Dawn frowned. Her throat constricted tightly. Swallowing hard, she shook her head. "No, Sunshine."
"Am I going with Dommie?" Noelle asked. "I miss him."
"Uh…" Dawn's eyes watered and she sniffled back the sudden tears.
Behind her, Nikolas entered the room and she had never been so grateful for his presence. She looked back over her shoulder at him. Their eyes connected, and she knew that he had heard their daughter's question. Faint lines of tension etched outward from his eyes, and his face was still ashen. Shaking his head at the questions that must have read in her eyes, he gave his two females a smile. The bed dipped as he sat beside them and pulled them close to him.
"Papa! We're going a trip!" The little girl chirped happily. She promptly removed herself from her mother's lap to assume control over her father's. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close to his heart.
"I know," he said, starting off with a shaky voice. He coughed and began again. "Are you all packed? We should be leaving soon."
"Mommy's not coming with us?" she asked. She raised her head to look at him. "I don't wanna go without Mommy and Dommie."
"Mommy is coming with us, and Dommie will join us soon," he calmly reassured her. He kissed the top of her head. He set her on the floor and reached for Dawn's hand. Rising and pulling Dawn with him, he looked down at Noelle. "Gather your favorite toys. Mommy and I need to discuss the trip."
Nikolas began to lead them from Noelle's room. He didn't make much progress as Dawn tugged on his hand. "I can't leave her alone," Dawn whispered to him.
"We won't," he responded gently. "We'll be in the doorway. We can watch her without her hearing us. Okay?"
"Of course," Dawn murmured.
They moved as one to stand in the doorway of Noelle's room. When they reached their designated discussion spot, their arms closed around each other. The embrace was fierce, brief, and desperately needed by both of them. When it was over, their hands clung together and Dawn looked up into Nikolas' eyes expectantly. He responded immediately.
"We can't send her away." He placed a finger against Dawn's lips when she opened her mouth to protest. "I watched the two of you. I don't think she could bear be parted from you any more than you could. Another separation no matter how necessary it may seem to us wouldn't be good for her."
Dawn released deep sigh. He was right, but there was more to consider. "I can't let you do this alone. I've been aware of their presence far longer than you have. I think I know how their mind works…well, sort of. Dammit, Nikolas! You need me!"
He gave her a faint smile. "Have I said otherwise? I can't let either of you go. We will fight this fight together."
"What about Noelle?" Dawn's voice almost broke with the enormity of her emotions. She looked inside the room and she came close to weeping. Noelle moved happily about the room, gathering her favorite toys and giggling happy to herself. A tear slipped down Dawn's cheek as she tore her gaze away from her daughter. Pressing her head against Nikolas' chest, she murmured, "If something happened to her, too, I would die."
His arms closed around her again in an iron grip. "Nothing will. While you were busy with her, I was going over a few things. You do remember that this island is riddled with endless tunnels and hiding places?"
"Yes," she said, after collecting herself. She had to be strong, she fiercely reminded herself. With dry eyes and a dangerous light glittering in her eyes, she lifted her head from his chest. "I'm sure that's how they took Dominik without being detected."
"So, am I," Nikolas said hoarsely. He took a deep breath before he spoke again. "A few weeks before Noelle's party, Tommy and I went through the tunnels. We were planning to have them sealed… Anyway, he and I came across an older opening, one, which hadn't been used in years. Tommy doubted that anyone could have known about that section considering its appearance. Well, to make a long story short, we followed the tunnel and I don't think you'll believe where we ended up."
"Not on the mainland," Dawn said, disbelief evident in her voice. "It couldn't have gone that far."
"It didn't," he answered her. "It led to what must have been a hideaway or someone's home. There were separated rooms and it felt…safe."
"Will this be our new destination?" Dawn asked, understanding how his mind worked. "You're planning to tuck Noelle and I in the little tunnel?"
He shook his head. "Not just the two of you. I'm going, too. There is one problem, however."
"What's the problem?" Dawn bristled, preparing herself for the worse.
"Who will watch over Noelle when we're out looking for our son?"
Lorenzo's hand shook as he dumped the packet sugar into the cup of coffee. After Nikolas left, the possibility of sleep had been a joke. He had spent the following minutes reminding himself that he should have been thankful that his brother hadn't killed him. He knew that if the situation had been reversed, he wouldn't have been able to walk away without giving Nikolas at least one swift punch in the gut.
After counting his blessings, he had turned his attention to FortuneHunter's weird departure. The invisible buddy had always been a little out there, but never had he…or she…ended a conversation so quickly before. Lorenzo wondered if he was the biggest fool for trusting someone sight unseen. He hoped that his leap of faith wouldn't result in mass destruction all around.
And mass destruction… Lorenzo still shuddered when he thought of it and couldn't shake the feeling. A chill had gone through him a little before dawn. Something had happened. Something bad. He fought the urge to sail out to Wyndemere to see what was what, but he couldn't fight the anxiety that gripped him. He needed to know what was going on, but he couldn't waste time either. Remembering that time was always a fighter that he was powerless against, Lorenzo had left the suite and headed for the street. His footsteps had taken to a small café that was a block away from Tommy's office. After buying the coffee, he had left the café and headed for his former friend's place of business. With any luck, Tommy or maybe Lynn would be there and he could pick up where he left off yesterday.
An immediate silence descended upon the office as the man in black closed the door behind him. He moved through the stylishly decorated reception area as if he owned the place. The open-mouthed stares didn't affect him at all. Bestowing the gawking young receptionist with a hard stare, Stefan voiced his demand in a gravelly whisper. "Dr. Graham. Which is her office?"
"I-I…It's at the end of the hall. The very last office," the curly redhead stammered.
"Is she with a patient?" Stefan further questioned.
The young woman shook her head.
"Very well." Stefan turned in the direction of the offices. "See that we are not disturbed."
He moved down the hallway with quick, graceful strides. He thought briefly of Carlotta's earlier telephone call. The knowledge that the doctors' lab had been destroyed brought the bitter taste of unease into his mouth. The doctors believed that destruction had been intentional. The faint flutters in his abdomen signified that he felt the same. The dread in Carlotta's voice had stung him. Her fears had intensified in his absence. With miles between them and ignorance bearing down upon him, he felt powerless. It was feeling that he did not relish and one that he would extinguish immediately.
He pushed the fertility specialist's door opened with barely constrained temper. The woman jumped at his entrance. Stefan's emerald eyes glittered. A response such as hers brought no doubts to her innocence in his mind. She was as guilty as sin itself. He slid the door closed behind and pounced.
Under Stefan's rapid-fire interrogation, Dr. Graham never had a chance. Stefan left the office in triumph. Control was his once again.
Tommy wasn't sure what had brought him to Wyndemere so early in the morning. He had tossed and turned in the early hours, waking Gina in the process. Sleepily, she had questioned him, but no exact answers were forthcoming. He had muttered something about Nikolas and other unintelligible words. Gina had suggested that maybe he should call his friend and set his mind at ease.
The incessant ringing of Nikolas' unanswered telephone had put Tommy more on edge. Just as he slammed the receiver down, Gina had walked into the room to check on him. Taking note of his agitated state, she told him to go to Wyndemere. He had protested at first. They had decided to keep Ciarda at home with them. He wanted to make sure that Ciarda knew how important both she and her sister were to their father. Gina had gently reminded him that his girls already knew that and with a shove she had pushed him out the door. Now, he stood outside his best friend's front door rattled and wishing furiously that someone would hurry up and answer the damn thing!
"Mr. Hardy," Mrs. Landsbury greeted with a strained smile. "Please come in. I'll inform Mr. Cassadine of your arrival."
"Thank you," Tommy murmured. He moved to the center of the room, watching intently as the older woman left him. Her eyes had been red and her voice hoarse. She had been crying, Tommy surmised. The realization didn't make him feel any better.
"What are you doing here?"
Tommy stiffened at the emotions he heard in Nikolas' voice. There were relief, anger and fear. The strongest of the three was fear. What would Nikolas have to fear from him?
"I couldn't help myself," Tommy answered. Nikolas stood on the peripheral of the room. He glanced around the room, refusing to make eye contact. Tommy went to him and grasped his shoulders. "What's wrong?"
"You shouldn't be here," Nikolas said tightly. "You should go."
Tommy dropped his hands and shoved them into his pockets. "What did you do?"
Nikolas bristled. "Why would you ask me that?"
"I don't know," Tommy shrugged. "Something's not right here. I don't want to leave until you tell me. I feel like I can help you. I know that I can. Just tell me what's wrong and I'll help you fix it."
"Tommy…" Nikolas frowned, shaking his head. "What do you think I did?"
"Lorenzo…? I don't know." Tommy shrugged again. "I don't want to guess."
"I didn't kill my brother!" Nikolas whispered harshly.
"I didn't say that," Tommy said calmly when he felt anything but. The heat coming from Nikolas took him back ten years and a few months. The memory of Dawn's disappearance on her birthday came to him and he couldn't shake it off. "Has something happened to Dawn again? Mrs. Landsbury has been crying-"
"Dammit!" Nikolas interjected. "I knew we shouldn't have told her."
Nikolas' hands clenched at his sides. Tommy reached for the older man's upper arm. He applied enough pressure to bring Nikolas' mind back into the room with him. "Tell me what happened. I swear that it won't go any further than me."
Nikolas closed his hand over Tommy's. He didn't remove the hand. He held on for dear life. Swallowing a gulp of air, he whispered, "My son has been taken."
"The same people who tried to take Dawn away from me-"
Tommy came close to shouting. "Helena and Luke?!"
"What about Helena and Luke?" Stefan's quiet voice insisted as he interrupted the two friends. "I demand to know!"
"Father, please," Nikolas begged, looking from Tommy to Stefan. "Nothing. They have nothing to do with anything. Tommy and I are having a private discussion. Would you please-"
Dawn's cry brought an end to the men's conversation. Three pairs of eyes flew to her as she, holding Noelle in her arms, raced down the staircase. She reached Nikolas' side in record timing. After giving the two men a polite smile, she turned to her husband. "What are you doing? Don't!" She whispered frantically and despite her best efforts, the words carried to Tommy and Stefan.
"We can't do this alone," Nikolas said. He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand.
"Do what alone?" Stefan repeated. The hoarseness of his voice conveyed that his patience was at the breaking point.
Tommy nodded his agreement. Seeing that the tension was getting to Noelle, he held his hands out to her. The girl went to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She said quietly, "Dommie went away."
"Dominik," Stefan repeated. "I understand now." He pulled Nikolas and Dawn to him. Wrapping his arms around them both, he held them close to him. "You aren't alone in this. Your family is here, and your family will bring him back."
"We will do whatever it takes," Tommy vowed, joining them as Stefan extended the embrace to include the quiet young man.