Darkest Before the Dawn – Chapter 37
Chapter 37

Words, jumbled explanations and excuses, raced through Carly's mind, as she wheeled the Mercedes up to the curb and set the car in park. Her fingers shook slightly when she turned the key and killed the engine. Bloodshot eyes stared out from behind a pair of jet, black sunglasses. Across the street, the school bell rang, signaling the end of another school day. Inside the car, Carly jumped in surprise. Her heart raced as the students started pouring out of the brick building and she saw that her son was among them.

Today was it, she thought. The temptation to reach for the flask she kept in her purse was strong. Her nerves were on edge and she could almost convince herself that the burning liquid could calm her. But the smell would linger on her breath, she realized. "Damn" she muttered. She'd have to do this on her own.

Slamming the car door behind her, Carly lingered beside the car. Michael and his companions, Jason's adopted kids, were coming towards her. "Now or never." Clutching her car keys like that they were a lifeline, she set off across the street.

"Michael," she called. The teenagers stopped in their tracks, and the world seemed to stand still. With her pounding like a drum in her chest, she said his name again. "Michael. I'm-"

"I know who you are," the boy answered her. He took a step back and the twins moved closer to him. The trio stared back at her accusingly. "Go away," Michael bit out, "leave me alone."

"Please, just hear me out." Carly took a step towards him and he backed up again. She swallowed her apprehension as best she could and added, "I just want to talk to you. That's all."

"But I don't want to talk to you!" Michael cried. "I know enough about to know that it's always about you. Always! Well, you're not getting what you want this time! I won't talk to you. I don't want to have anything to do with you! Ever!" He turned to his companions. "Come let's go!"

The kids brushed past her as if she wasn't there. Suddenly, a blinding fury overtook and she saw red. "Michael! You will not talk to me like that! I am your mother and you will obey me!"

"My mother?" he repeated, stopping in his tracks. In a blur, he whirled around to face her. "My mother is Dr. Eve Quartermaine! Not you! Now, for the last time, leave me alone!"

Stunned, Carly's mouth dropped open. All words left her and the little speech that she had memorized disappeared from her mind. He and Jason's children left without giving her backwards glance. She stared after them and after a few moments, she stumbled back to her car and cried.


"You've been hovering over me all afternoon," Keesha commented as Jason followed her down the hallway to the guest bedroom that Gina was to use. The double bunk beds had already been made and now, Keesha had turned her attention to the adjoining bathroom. She carried four sets of towels and Jason was fast on her heels with additional toiletries. "I am not overworking myself. I'm sure that Dr. Graham would approve."

Jason dropped the extra bars of soap and tubes of toothpaste on the shelf. Planting his hands on his hips, he stared down at her. "What does Dr. Graham have to do with this?"

Keesha laughed and poked him in the chest. "Well, she is my obstetrician. Remember? We saw her this morning?" She patted Jason's hip, silently instructing him to get out of her way. He barely budged and she had to squeeze past him to get through the doorway. "Really, Jason," she said, turning back to look at him. "What's wrong with you?"

His brows knitted together in a frown. "There's nothing wrong with me."

Her brown eyes widened disbelief. She stared at him, searching for the truth of his words in his blue eyes. Nothing was revealed. Growing frustrated, she released a deep sigh and turned to walk away. Before she could reach the door, Jason grabbed her hand. "What now?" she asked, unable to keep the exasperation from her voice. "Would you please tell me what is going on with you?"

"I just…" He fumbled for the words at first. Then he took a deep breath and said, "I need to ask you something."

"Well?" she asked, when he stopped speaking and simply stared at her.

"Keesha," he began, as his thumb stroked the back of her hand, "about this baby… How did we get pregnant?"

She pulled her hand free from his. "What?" she asked, her eyes glowing with her outrage. "How do you think we got pregnant?"

"Calm down, please." He tried to pull her into his arms, but she backed away from him. "Keesha, c'mon. Why are you getting so mad?"

"Because I feel like you're accusing me of something that you should already know that I would never do," she told him. "I get the feeling that you don't think this baby is yours and if that's what you believe, I'd love to know who you think the father is!"

"Whoa!" he said, waving his hands in defense. "Of course, the baby is mine! I don't doubt that."

"So, what are you asking me? In plain English, please."

Jason expelled a low breath. "Did you take anything to get pregnant?"

"Do you mean fertility drugs?" she asked, a quizzical frown marking her brow. "Where would I get some?"

"From Dr. Graham. Did she prescribe anything for you to take? Did you see her before the pregnancy?" he questioned.

"Why are you asking me this?" she countered.

"Keesha, please!" he said, his voice becoming loud in the otherwise quiet house. "Just answer the damned question!"

She thrust her forefinger under nose. "Don't curse at me, Jason!"

His eyes darkened and his jaw tightened. He turned away from her and drew in long, deep breaths. After a moment, he faced her again. His voice was low and eerily calm. "I'm sorry, Keesha. I didn't mean it. I just want to know."

"But you can't tell me why?" she asked him after slowly accepting his apology with a nod. She folded her arms across her chest and waited for his answer.

"No," he said, returning her stare, "Not, yet."

"Not until I answer you, right?" she said. He stared back at her, but didn't say a word. He had given his ultimatum. She could accept it or not. Dammit, she hated when he got like that! "Okay, Jason, I'll play along. No, I didn't take any drugs. We got pregnant the old fashioned way. And other than the prenatal vitamins, Dr. Graham hasn't given me anything. Is that enough?"

"And you never saw her before the pregnancy?" he asked, quietly.

Keesha shook her head. "No, never."

"Thank God," he said. He pulled her into his, crushing her questions and her body against his hard chest. Burying his face into the curve of her neck, he trembled as he held her.

"Jason, what-"

"Dad! Mom!"

The twins called to them simultaneously, cutting off Keesha's questions. Grace and George continued to call for their parents as they bounded up the stairs. Jason called out to them. "We're in the guest room."

The twins entered and their words came out in rush. Jason instructed them to calm down and start over.

Gracie obeyed her father. "Daddy, Carly came after Michael today."

"What?" Jason asked.

"Is Michael okay?" Keesha questioned.

"He's okay," George explained, after giving his sister a dirty look. "He's mad, but he's okay."

"When you say she came after him, what do you mean?" Jason asked. "Where were you?"

"It was after school," Grace answered. "We got early today and she was already there."

"She must have been waiting for him," George added.

"What did she do?"

"She wanted to talk to him, but he told her to leave him alone," Grace said.

"And then what happened?" Jason asked.

"We left," George said, looking at both of his parents. "We walked Michael home just in case she tried to follow him, but she never did. Uncle AJ was home, so we figured he would be okay."

Jason squeezed George's shoulder and gave both children a warm smile. "You did good today. I'm proud of both of you. I'm gonna go check on Michael and pick up Gina and the girls. Don't let your mother do anything and see that dinner is taken care of. I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Jason!" Keesha reached the bedroom door just as he got to the top of the stairs. He paused at the top step. "What was all of that about Dr. Graham?"

He looked over his shoulder at her. "I'll explain when I get back. I love you."

"I know. Hurry back."


Nikolas and Stefan took off at breakneck speed. A small entourage of bodyguards followed them and the remaining men in black closed in around Dawn and Noelle. The little girl squeezed her mother's hand and began to whimper. Dawn swung her daughter into her arms and whispered, "It's okay. Don't be scared. Mommy is here."

Noelle's fingers dug into Dawn's neck. Trembles shook her tiny body and Dawn's arms tightened around her. "Sunshine, we're fine. Ssh, baby. Papa and Grandpa will-"

A flash of light drew Dawn's attention. The barrel of a gun glittered in the afternoon sun. Maternal instinct took over. Dawn screamed, "Gun!" And at a speed that rivaled her husband's, she ran for cover.

Behind her, bursts of gunfire exploded in the air. She wasn't sure if she and Noelle were the target and she didn't intend to turn around for clarification. With Noelle held tightly against her, she ran harder and faster than she ever had in her life. Footsteps came hard and fast behind her, but she didn't turn around. She just kept running.

The path soon ended and she found that she was at the park's entrance. A bullet whizzed past her ear and flew into a nearby overhanging branch. The limb hit the ground like a thud. She gasped in surprise and ran like mad for the Jaguar. Her arms had grown tired from holding onto Noelle so tightly, but she only tightened her grasped. She had no intentions of letting her baby go no matter how her arms ached.

On instinct, her fingers glided across the panel, keying in the code to unlock the driver door. As another bullet sailed past her, she wrenched the door open. She tossed Noelle inside and slid into the driver's seat. She pulled the door shut and locked the door. Outside, more shots were fired and bullets hit the sports car. Noelle cried out, "Mommy!"

"You're okay, sweetie," Dawn said, praying that her voice sounded calm enough to comfort her daughter. All the while she spoke to Noelle, her hands searched frantically for the spare key. She released a sigh of relief when she found one in the ashtray. "Lay down in the back, baby. And be very still and quiet. Okay, sweetie? Say, 'okay' for Mommy."

"Okay," the little girl responded amid hiccups and sniffles. She crawled into the small space behind the passenger seat.

"Keep your head, down," Dawn instructed her. Another bullet hit Nikolas' prized car. Dawn winced and bit back a scream. She was terrified, but she would not let her fear control her. She had already lost one child. She would not lose another one!

Dawn inserted the key into the ignition. The engine fired up in an angry roar. Escape was close. Dawn floored the accelerator. The Jaguar screeched from the curb, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.


A blur appeared beside the passenger window. Her heart was a loud thud in her ears, but it wasn't so loud that she didn't recognize Nikolas' voice. "Nikky!"

She released the lock on the passenger door, and suddenly, Nikolas was there beside her. "Noelle?" he asked. His hands were everywhere at once. Touching her to make sure she was okay and adjusting her seatbelt around her.

"She's back there," Dawn whispered. The adrenaline rush that had fueled her so completely before was beginning to dwindle. As it disappeared, fear began to seep in at full force. Tears gathered in her eyes and flowed down her face. "Nikky…" she cried.

Nikolas pulled Noelle into his lap and adjusted the seatbelt around them both. He kept a protective arm around his frightened daughter. His other hand rested on Dawn's shoulder. "You're doing fine, Sweetheart. Just keep driving."

"Where?" she asked. She took her eyes away from the road to look at him. His hand moved from her shoulder to wipe the tears from her face. When he was done, he lightly stroked her face. She turned her attention back to the streets. She was relieved when Nikolas didn't remove his hand. She needed to feel him, and obviously, he needed to touch her, too.

"South and then when we get to the docks, I'll take over."


"Ssh." He brushed his fingers against her mouth. He let it linger there for just a moment. Then he lowered his hand to her thigh where it rested. "We're safe for now. Just keep driving."

Chapter Index.