Darkest Before the Dawn - 31
Chapter 31

Tommy left Wyndemere with a heavy heart. His godson was missing and He didn't have one clue as to how to find him. He was familiar with being a participant in circumstances where the odds weren't stacked in his favor. Leaving Juan's underground prison…rescuing his mother from the catacombs and later from Juan's clutches…helping Nikolas get Dawn back… He had gone into each of those situations blind, and each time, he had been victorious in the end. He prayed that this time, he would know victory again.

Oblivious to the chill in the air, Tommy stepped from the launch to the dock. His breath was visible as he exhaled. He was oblivious to that, too. Distracted, he waved good-bye to Windors and strode through the dark night to his parked car.

Due to the late hour, Port Charles' streets were practically empty. Tommy arrived at his home without really being cognizant of how he got there. The backdoor squeaked open and Gina appeared. One glance into his wife's loving eyes, the faint glow of hope began to warm him again. Offering her a tentative smile, he left the car and went to her. Her arms closed around him before he could reach the door. The airy scent of jasmine enveloped him and thrilled his senses. Squeezing her to him, he murmured, "I love you, woman."

"I love you, too," she told him.

The screen door slammed shut behind them. Instinctively, both of their hands shot out to lock the doors behind them. The action brought a chuckle to Tommy. It erupted from him and as soon as the sound registered, he sobered. He felt hope, but the thought of laughing left a sour taste in his mouth. His godson was missing.

A look of puzzlement flashed across Gina's features. "What's wrong?"

Tommy shrugged out of his overcoat and tossed it onto a nearby stool. Taking his wife's hand, he led them from their kitchen and up the staircase. The door to the twin's bedroom was opened. Tommy looked inside. His two little girls were curled up in their beds, fast asleep. His little sister lay in the same bed as Ciarda. Her arm firmly tucked around her niece. A shuddering sigh escaped him. Unable to tear his gaze away from them, he asked, "Are they okay? Is Shana settling in okay? Ciarda…?"

"They're fine. I called Keesha about Ciarda and she's agreed to talk with her." Gina placed her hand on the side of Tommy's face. Tilting his head so that he looked at her, she asked him, "Are you okay?"

He shook his head. "Not really," he whispered. "We'll leave their door open tonight."

"Okay," she mumbled as he slowly led them to their bedroom.

"There's no easy way to say this," Tommy began after he and Gina sat cuddled together in the window seat of their bedroom. "I've been at Wyndemere-"

"Sweetheart, I know that," she said, squeezing his trembling hands between hers. "I don't need you to sugarcoat anything for me. Just tell me."

"Dominik is missing." The words tumbled out in a hoarse whisper. "Dawn and Nikolas' separation wasn't the real deal. Dawn was blackmailed into leaving him. They told her that if she didn't leave her family, something horrible would happen to Nikolas and the kids. For six months, she stayed away because she knew that being around Nikolas and her children protected them."

"W-Well, where is Dominik?" Gina stammered. "What's going on?"

"Nikolas convinced Dawn that she had to come back home and she did. They had one night together as a family and then it was all taken away. The bastards who threatened her made good on their promise and somehow, removed Dom from his bedroom early this morning."

"How?" Gina shifted in Tommy's arms to look at him. Her eyes were wet with unshed tears of anger and frustration. "Wyndemere is a fortress. You made sure of that! How could anyone sneak in there?"

Releasing a weary sigh, Tommy searched his mind for the answers that continue to elude him. He shook his head. "I don't know. We reviewed the security tapes, swept the place for prints and found nothing. Dom's room was as clean as a whistle. There was no sign of a struggle. Nothing was disturbed except for his bed. None of this makes any sense, and I don't know how to tell my best friends… Gina, I don't know what to do. I've always trusted my instincts, but this time… There's hope, but-"

"Hope," she repeated. Her fingers pressed against his mouth, gently silencing him. "Where there's hope, there's a way. You're exhausted, mentally and emotionally. You have to rejuvenate before you can expect your instincts to take over. You also have to forgive yourself. Apparently, these assholes were determined to hurt Dawn. There were no precautions that you could have taken that would have changed that."

"Oh, Gina." Tommy wrapped his arms around her, crushing her to him. "If only…"

"Thomas Hardy, Jr., why won't you listen to me?" Gina removed herself from his embrace to lean back and give him a hard stare. "You are a smart man with a stubborn streak that's at least a mile long. Sweetheart, nothing would have stopped these psychos. Remember Juan? That sadistic jackal went so far as to get plastic surgery! People bent on evil have no obstacles."

"How do we stop them?" he asked, searching her eyes for the answers. "Tell me, Gina. Show me how to find Dominik. Tell me what to do take Ciarda's pain away. What are the answers so that we can all have a happy ending?"

"To get Dominik back, you must fight on their level. There are no obstacles. You've never seen any before, and you won't start seeing any now." A tear rolled down Tommy's bronze cheek and Gina caught it with her thumb. Leaning towards him, she kissed his cheeks and placed a lingering kiss on his lips. When she pulled away from him, her love sparkled in her eyes. Softly, she said, "I'll take care of Ciarda. Our little girl will be okay-"

"I'm here for our daughter, too," Tommy interrupted with a frown. "I don't want her to believe that I don't care about her. I-"

"Ciarda knows that her daddy loves her," Gina reassured him. "Nikolas and Dawn need you now. There is no one else they trust more in helping them get their son back. There is no one else out there who's better equipped at getting their son back. You know that as well as I do. A day will not past that Ciarda isn't reminded of how much Daddy loves her. Right now, you have to stay focused. I can help Ciarda."

"This feels so wrong," Tommy said sadly.

"For now," Gina said. She rose from the window seat and held her hand out to him. He closed his hand over hers and she guided him towards their bed. As she pulled him down on top of her, she made him a promise. "Things will be made right again. Love will set things back the way they're supposed to be. Love did before; it will again. Okay?"

"Okay," Tommy murmured. Gina's body moved against his, loving him and comforting him. Their lovemaking strengthened him and restored his hope.


A bed shaped like a race car, a Hot Wheels race track in one corner with a rainbow of cars lined up, rock star posters on the walls, and a bookshelf filled with a vast assortment of Hardy Boys mysteries reminded Dominik of his room at Wyndemere. Everything was the same. The sheets on the bed were exactly like the sheets at home and the clothes in the closet were the same as the ones he'd left behind. But appearances were deceiving. Things were the same as home, but he wasn't home.

Home was the smell of Isis after a run on the beach. Home was the sweet, buttery taste of Mrs. Landsbury's freshly baked scones. Home was the sound of his little sister pestering him to play with her. Home was the sight of his parents kissing each other when they thought no one was around. Home was the gentleness of their kisses on his forehead before he fell asleep at night.

Tears flowed from the little boy's cheeks as he remembered Wyndemere, his home. He wished he were back there. Even though the strangers told him that he was safe, he didn't feel it. He felt safe at home. Sitting in the corner of the fake bedroom, sobs began to wrack Dominik's body. He lowered his wet face to his raised knees, wrapping his arms around his legs. Unable to console himself, he cried and prayed that they would take him back home.

"Mommy and Papa…I'm sorry. Please come get me. Please take me back home…"


"Mommy and Papa…I'm sorry. Please come get me. Please take me back home…"

Sitting between Nikolas' legs and her back pressed his chest, Dawn woke with a start. "Dommie!"

Nikolas' arms closed around her waist before she could move away from him. Pulling her back against him, he murmured, "Ssh… It's okay."

"It's not okay," Dawn choked out. "He's not here. We don't know where he is, and he's calling out for us. Don't you hear him?"

She twisted in his arms, moving around to look at the man she loved. Worry lines spread from the corners of his handsome face, nearly overpowering the laugh lines that she had helped to put there. Her fingers traced the lines. Pressing his face into her caress, Nikolas closed his eyes. He whispered, "I hear him. Dear God, I hear him. He's so…"

"…sorry," Dawn finished for him when he was unable to say the word. "He's apologizing to us. He thinks he did something wrong."

"Children always blame themselves," Nikolas said quietly. He opened his eyes, staring back at Dawn. "I wanted their childhood to be happier than ours. When we get him back, we're disappearing. Forever."

"Okay," she murmured, agreeing with him. She moved so that she knelt before him. Behind him, Noelle lay asleep. Not wanting to disturb her, Dawn grabbed his hands and pulled until they both were standing. Nikolas' arm wrapped around her waist and together, they left the small space to go into the living room area. After lowering themselves to the sofa, Dawn rested her head on Nikolas' shoulder. His hand never left her waist. "We should call Lorenzo-"

"We don't need him," Nikolas said. "Unless you do…"

"It's not like that," Dawn said, patiently. He had stiffened slightly when she mentioned Lorenzo's name, but he hadn't released his hold of her. She took that as a good sign. "He's been trying to track these people since it all began. We both have, but his leads have always proven to be better than mine. Besides, he loves Dominik. He can help us. Don't let something that isn't even real keep you away from your brother-"

"It was real enough for them to use it against us," Nikolas interjected. "I'd say it was real enough."

"I can't fight with you about this," Dawn said, moving away from him. She stood with her back to him. Her arms wrapped around her waist. Her back trembled with unreleased sobs. "I won't fight with you about this. It's too much-"

"I don't want to fight either," Nikolas broke in again. He rose from the sofa, reaching her in two steps. His hands fell to her shoulders, massaging the hard, tense flesh.

"Oh, Nikky," she murmured, enjoying the heat from his hands. Her body tingled where he touched her. Guilt consumed her in response to the liquid warmth that suddenly boiled inside of her. Her desire for Nikolas was heady and threatened to overpower her with its intensity. "Why can't you see how much I love you?"

"I can," he said. The huskiness of his voice revealed that the desire to be one was mutual. Stepping closer to her, his body hardened in response to her softness. His hands left her shoulders. His arms folded around her waist and he buried his head in the hollow between her neck and shoulder. "My medieval tendencies are a cross that I have to bear. I hate the thought of you loving someone other than me…even when I know that I'm The One and always will be."

His warm, moist breath tickled her cheek. Her knees grew weak and she lagged against him for support. Her fingers dug into his corded forearms. And she fought hard to maintain her senses. The time for making love would have to come later. But feeling him like that against her… "Nikky, would you think me a bad mother if I told you…?"

"Told me what?" he prompted when she grew silent.

"How much I want…" She swallowed hard and then continued in a voice that was barely audible. "…that even while I'm so scared for Dominik, I want you."

"I don't see how that would make you a bad mother."

"I should be focusing on him. He's crying out to us in pain and he's scared. I should be thinking about what we're gonna do to get him back instead of… Nikky, sometimes the effect you have on me scares the hell out of me."

"The same here," he acknowledged. He moved so that he faced her. Framing her face between his palms, he stared down into her eyes that were marred by so many emotions. Anger…frustration…love… desire. "The bastards who've tried to tear this family apart want you to believe that all of this is your fault. Even though I wish that a part of you wasn't attracted to Spencer, I do not fault you for it. I don't fault you for what's happened to Dominik. Nor do I fault you for wanting to make love with me. They want you to believe that our being together in whatever form is wrong. It's not wrong, my sweet love. How can this," he placed his hand over her breast and rapidly beating heart, "be wrong? We created Dominik and Noelle from our love. Our love brought us back together again. What we feel for each other could never be wrong. Don't let those wretches who are trying to destroy us win."

"I won't let them win," she said, shaking her head. Nikolas took her hand and let her to the space that served as their sleeping quarters. Their coupling was loving and quiet. Their souls cried out in ecstasy when their release overpowered them. Panting, they fell back to earth. Sated by their union, they lay together. Their limbs were entwined just as their thoughts were connected. Dimly aware of the spiritual link, Dawn spoke first.

"I'm not scared any more."

"Good," he said, sliding his hands across her bare back. "Neither am I." They grew quiet for a moment, and then Nikolas spoke again. "Father and Tommy believe that whoever's behind everything hates the Cassadines. I don't think that's right."

"Lorenzo thought the same when he and I were first blackmailed. I wasn't sure what to believe." She rested her chin on his smooth, warm chest. "Since they came to me… The first contact was made to me. It was aimed at me. They wanted me to hurt you, and hurting you was the worst feeling that I've ever known. Until Dominik was t- taken away."

"I know." He held her close to him. "We have to think this thing through. It all seems so anonymous, but none of this is a coincidence. My gut tells me that we know who's doing this. For them to get into Wyndemere…this person is close."

"A business associate, maybe?" she asked.

"Maybe. It's possible…"


A frown of deep concentration creased Nikolas' brow. "The attack on our marriage was personal. The taking of Dominik is personal. A business associate wouldn't attack us on a personal level. Kidnapping a child for ransom is something that's done, but destroying a marriage… No, that's out of the ordinary."

"This is someone who hates us," Dawn stated quietly. "That's it, isn't it?"

"Yeah. I think hate is the motivating force." "And what does that mean for our little boy?" she asked, tears gathering in her eyes. "Do they hate us so much that they'd kill him?"

Nikolas drew in a raspy breath. All color faded from his face, leaving him ashen. His brown eyes darkened to black. "Maybe."

"But we'll get him back in time," Dawn said, trying to give them encouragement with quiet assurance. "We will."

"We have to."

Chapter 32