Darkest Before the Dawn - 33
Chapter 33

"So has the dust settled?" Ellen asked upon joining Simone and Carrie in Sonny's office. The two women glanced at her with eyes so filled with worry and pain that she felt bad for her attempt at dry humor. Crossing the room to join them, she looked at the two women and asked, "What's wrong now?"

"My grandson is missing," Carrie answered quietly.

"Oh, no!" Ellen cried. She placed a comforting hand on Carrie's shoulder. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know."

"I know," Carrie said, after taking a gulp of air. "I only told Simone and Sonny at first. I asked them not to say anything. I didn't want to trouble you and Matt. I'd rather you focused on helping Dara."

Ellen patted Carrie's shoulder before she removed her hand. "We can focus on Dara while being concerned for your grandson. If there is anything we can do, please tell us."

Carrie offered the younger woman a tremulous smile. "Thank you. If I can think of anything, I'll be sure to let you know. I'd rather Dara not know about this. I don't want it to affect her treatment."

"No one would dream of telling her," Simone said. "We'll get her well first."

"And maybe Dominik will be found by then," Ellen added.

"Two miracles," Carrie said softly. "Definitely something to look forward to."


"You again?"

Lorenzo couldn't help but grin. The look Lynn gave him was one of annoyance with a hint of mirth. Trying to balance an armload of file folders and a steaming cup of coffee, she fished inside her bottomless purse. Lorenzo watched the struggle for a millisecond before he gallantly offered his assistance. "I missed you, too," he said, smiling as he took the folders and cup from her.

"Sure you did," she said. After one last shove into her purse, a smile graced her face and she pulled out the key. She slid it inside the lock and in the next moment, the office door was opened. Lorenzo followed her and after he had crossed the threshold, she locked the door behind him.

"I hope you got overtime for this," Lorenzo groused as he placed her paperwork on her desk. Hearing her approach behind him, he turned to find her right behind him. Suddenly, a heady aroma of Irish Cream and Chanel No. 5 and a dose of sparkling blue eyes overpowered his senses. Confusion brought a frown to his forehead and without thinking, he thrust the cup at her. Fortunate for them both, the hot liquid didn't spill but the heat of their brushing fingers nearly burned them. Unwilling to face her, he sidestepped her and plopped himself down on the guest chair in front of her desk.

"Thanks," Lynn murmured as she settled herself behind her desk. Keeping her eyes glued to her desk, she rearranged the folders and sipped her coffee. After she set the cup back down onto her desk, she flipped her computer on. The machine whirred to life, filling the silence that had grown uncomfortable.

"Um…" Watching her, Lorenzo felt something akin to regret gnaw at his belly. Her flaming red hair enticed him. Her vibrant blue eyes intrigued him, and her warm, giving nature made him want to come back for more. A hundred scenarios crossed his mind, but he pushed them all away. He wasn't ready, and she deserved a man who was. Clearing his throat, he reined his wayward thoughts in and focused on the matter at hand. "Thanks for your help. Those leads you gave me led me to a few more interesting things."

"Oh, yeah?" she asked, tentatively raising her eyes to his.

"Yeah," he answered after swallowing down a lump that had lodged in his throat. "But it's not anything that I can really go into."

A brief frown wrinkled her brow. "So, is that why you were here this morning? To tell me thanks?"

"Yes and no," he said slowly. Lorenzo leaned forward. His elbows bent and rested on his thighs. An air of grave importance settled around him. With Lynn's help, he had found the store where the photograph paper had been bought. The day before, he had visited the shop and nosed around a bit. The store manager hadn't recognized him as the Lorenzo Spencer from DJLS, but when he did…his entire persona changed. He became edgy, tense, and tried to hurry Lorenzo out of the store. Being the crafty fellow that he was, Lorenzo had played along with the man and before he left, had gotten his fingerprints. Lorenzo now needed those prints scanned for further information. He hoped that Lynn would oblige.

She sighed. "What do you need?"

He reached inside his pocket and handed her the Ziploc incased pen. "Can this be dusted for prints?"

"Sure. Anything else?"

Lorenzo drew in a long breath. He hated asking for help, but he had no choice. "And then cross referenced with every law enforcement agency that you can think of?"

"Will do," she said as she reached in her drawer and pulled out a pair of white gloves. She slid them onto her hands and nodded towards Emily's vacant desk. "You're welcome to use it again if you want."

"Thanks." He smiled and their eyes locked. Lynn held her own in the stare and Lorenzo looked away first. Inwardly, he groaned as a quiet hiss came from her. He had that one coming, he thought, as he rose from the guest chair and went to Emily's desk.

After sitting down, he flipped the appropriate switches and the computer buzzed to life. He decided to check his e-mail for messages, but before he could log on, his cell phone rang. "Yeah," he answered.

"I can't talk long."

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end at the edge in Dawn's voice. Without thinking, he stood up. "What's wrong?"

"My son is missing."

"I'll be right there," he bit out.

"No!" She exclaimed. The next words rushed out of her and wrapped around Lorenzo's heart. "I'm sorry, but Nikolas doesn't even want you to know."

"Even after…?"

"I'm sorry." The hollow tone of her voice gave depth to the two words.

"You know that I'll do what I can," Lorenzo whispered. "Everything I can."

"I know. Thank you."

The conversation ended with the abrupt hum of the dial tone, leaving Lorenzo stunned and filled with dread.


There was so much more she wanted to say, but footsteps approached from behind. Dawn flipped her cell phone closed and stuffed it inside her pocket. She exhaled slowly and then turned to face the doorway. Stefan stood there staring back at her. From the expression on his face, she knew that he had heard her. His emerald eyes glowed with wisdom and she braced herself for his response.

Stefan stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him. He did not speak as he crossed the room to her. When he reached her, he grasped her shoulders. His eyes bored into hers. "You need never fear me. Never!" he whispered with emotion. "Have you not learned by now that you are mine as much as Nikolas is mine? You are my daughter and I love you."

"I-I…" she stammered until she could catch her breath. His love for her illuminated his eyes. How could she have ever doubted him? He was the father she had always wanted, but had never had. Bittersweet tears sprang to her eyes. "Father, I'm s-sorry. I don't know what to say. I was afraid that you thought I… That you would misunderstand… I-I.."

"You had to tell him," Stefan answered. He nodded. "Yes, I understand that. There was a time when I would have seen it as betrayal, but that time has passed. I understand, and I believe that my son would, too."

She shook her head and blinked her tears away. With firm belief, she stated, "You're wrong. Nikolas wouldn't understand."

"You don't give him enough credit," he gently chided her. He pulled her inside the warm circle of his arms. "My son loves you and trusts you."

"There's so much that you don't know," she whispered against the soft fabric of his button down jacket.

"Enlighten me," he suggested. "Tell me and I shall do what I can to help. However, I must say that you only see things from one perspective. Thomas and I see you both clearly, and we both agree that your bond is stronger than ever. My dear child, please do not create walls, which should not be built. Do not underestimate Nikolas' love for you."

"I know that he loves me, but trust is something that I'll have to earn again." She ended their hug and reached for his hands. She squeezed before she released his hands. "Promise me that you won't worry about us. Okay? I think that we have bigger things to worry about anyway. Nikolas and I will be fine in the end. I have already resolved myself to that."

"Very well, then," Stefan said. He slapped the palms of his hands together. Immediate energy buzzed around him. It electrified the room and spread to Dawn, racing her pulses. "Let's get to work!" he said, slapping his hands one more time.



Jason, who was busy washing the breakfast dishes, turned off the running water at the sound of his daughter's voice. He shifted so that he could look at her. She chewed on her lip nervously and he offered her a comforting smile to calm her. "Yes, Gracie?"

"I…um…" she began with hesitation, "Well, Mama told me that she spoke to you about Michael."

Jason nodded. "She did."

"What are you gonna do about it? Do you plan to do anything about it?"

He dried his hands and then placed his arm around Grace's shoulders. "I know that you don't want Michael to know that you spoke to your mother and that she spoke to me. Believe me, I understand that and I wouldn't let him know that you're a snitch-"

"Daddy!" she shrieked in horror.

Jason chuckled. "I'm kidding, sweetie. Of course you're no snitch! You're concerned about him and I'm very proud of you. I'm glad that you told Keesha what was going on. You did the right thing."

"Thanks," she said, smiling shyly. "What's gonna happen now, though? It's not like Michael has actually seen her. He's just got a feeling, you know. I'd hate for him to be worried for no reason, but after what happened last time…"

The teenager shuddered and Jason pulled her into a hug. "You have nothing to worry about," he promised. "I'll look into it and take care of everything. Carly won't take Michael away again."

"You'll be careful?" she asked after their embrace had ended.

"I will." Jason reached for her backpack and jacket that were lying on one of the kitchen chairs. He handed the items to her and gave her another smile. "Now, stop your worrying and go to school. If you read your bike fast enough, you may be able to catch up with your brothers."

"Joy," she murmured under her breath. Having heard her, Jason chuckled and she joined in. As she reached the backdoor, she turned back to her father. "Please tell Mama that I'll be praying for her while she's at the doctor's today."

"I will. You have a good day at school and behave yourself with Michael!"

"Oh, Daddy!" Heat inflamed Grace's porcelain cheeks and colored them red colored. She glared at her father and he shrugged, laughing. "Shame on you!" she told him. Shaking her head, she plowed through the backdoor and ran smack into, "Uncle Tommy! Oops. Sorry."

"That's fine, Grace," Tommy said. Distracted, he patted her shoulder as he entered the house. Grace left and the door slammed after her. Tommy barely noticed as he went straight to the Mr. Coffee and poured himself a mug of the steaming brew.

"I would say good morning, but looking at you, I'm not so sure," Jason said while his friend added milk and sugar to the coffee. "What's up? Did somebody die?"

"I hope not," Tommy said. He gulped down a swallow of the hot beverage. Closing his eyes, he waited for the caffeine to kick in before he opened his eyes and spoke again.

"What it is?" Jason bit out through clenched teeth. "Does this have something to do with Simone and Sonny?"

"They're fine," Tommy said quietly. He set the almost empty cup of coffee down onto the counter. His dark green eyes settled on Jason. He read concern and anxiety there, and something else that bothered on the fringes. He saw another emotion that he couldn't name and one that he didn't have the energy to decipher. Ignoring it, he filled Jason in on as many details as he could. "I can't go into too many details and I'm only coming to you because I trust you."

"Go on. I'm listening."

"Dominik has been missing for 24 hours," Tommy explained.

"Oh, my God. I assume the authorities weren't notified. Do you need any help? My connections aren't as tight as they used to be, but I still know a few people who know people…"

The other man shook his head. "Thanks, but no. We want to keep this as quiet as possible. Besides, that's not why I'm here."

Jason's eyes narrowed. He folded his arms across his chest as he held his friend's stare. "Do you want me to look out for Gina and the girls? You know it's not a problem. If you want, they can stay here while you're helping Nikolas. It may even be easier considering… Well, since Keesha is gonna start hanging out with Ciarda…"

A sigh of remorse passed from Tommy's lips at the mention of his young daughter. He knew that Gina was right and that even though he wasn't there, Ciarda would still know that he loved her. That both of his girls would. But he couldn't help but feel some stabs of guilt for not being there when things were so confusing for the six-year-old girl.

"Yeah," he said, answering Jason after his thoughts had finished having their way with him. "I'd like for you to look for them. I'm not sure about them staying here."

"Why not?" Jason asked. "Have they been threatened, too? Is that why Shana was sent here?"

"Mama and Sonny had to go to Europe and couldn't take Shana. I don't know the particulars, but I don't think their sending her here was anything serious."

"That's good to know," Jason said. "Now, as for Gina and the girls, have they been threatened or are you running on gut instinct again?"

"Gut instinct," Tommy stated. "What's happened with Dominik doesn't feel right. Ciarda's problems aren't making any sense either. No one's actively threatened them, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. You know what I mean?"

"Completely." Jason looked at the wall clock that hung about the swinging kitchen door. Turning back to Tommy, he said, "Keesha has a doctor's appointment with Dr. Graham in a little while. I'm going with her. We should be back in about two hours or so. Gina has an extra key and she knows the codes. Have her bring the girls over and some clothes for a few nights-"

"Jason-," Tommy's protest was abruptly cut off.

"I rely on my gut, too. I think it'd be better if they were here…at least for a few days. Listen to your elders for once, Hardy."

"I'm listening," Tommy ground out. His disagreeable tone was softened by years of friendship the men shared and the mutual admiration they felt for each other. "I'll tell Gina."

"And, Tommy," Jason called out as his friend stood in the doorway of the backdoor, "we should keep this quiet. No one needs to know they're here."

"I hadn't intended to tell anyone," Tommy said. "If my gut is right and an attack is attempted, someone will find a very fast shortcut to hell."

Chapter 34