Chapter 44

In the ensuing silence, Tommy volunteered to buy the hair dye and quickly left the couple alone to settle the latest disagreement. The door closed shut with a soft click. Dawn glanced at the spot that was now vacant because of Tommy's absence and then she looked at her husband. Unwavering, she refused to budge an inch and waited.

Nikolas returned her stare. The veins in his neck bulged. His face was flushed and beads of perspiration dampened his upper lip. He blinked only once and quietly, casually asked, "You couldn't wait to bring him into this, could you?"

The words stung, but Dawn didn't flinch. She tilted her head up. Just as quietly, she answered him. "He's been in this since the beginning. Don't make this something it isn't. Despite everything, your brother cares about our son. He wants him to be returned to us just as much as we do. And regardless of all the other mess, I trust him to watch out for me because he has and because I would do the same for him."

"That's very touching-"

"Please don't be an ass about this," she begged. "If I am willing to let you get next to Sarah, you can at least not give me an attitude about asking Lorenzo to back me up with his cousin."

Nikolas shook his head. "It's not the same thing."

Dawn sighed. Without thinking, she sat down on the bed. The mattress springs creaked and moaned as they adjusted to her weight. She frowned slightly as the noise somehow slipped through her conscious. Feeling Nikolas' gaze on her, she focused on him again. So much pain and distrust shone in his brown eyes. Her heart ached to see those emotions there again so soon after they had come to some sort of understanding about the past. They loved each other, but would things ever be perfect between them again?

"You can trust me," she said, her voice husky with emotions. "I can't make you see that this is true. I can only hope that you will. I don't know what to say-"

"Don't say anything." He cut her off harshly. Spinning on his heel, he turned his back to her.

The rollercoaster ride had gotten out of hand. Dawn wanted off. Immediately! The tears that she had been holding back fell freely down her cheeks. Having held in her emotions for so long, she now found it nearly impossible to keep them at bay. She covered her mouth with her hand in an effort to muffle the sobs, but somehow, Nikolas heard them. He went to her and knelt at her feet. His hands cupped her face and his thumbs wiped the tears away.

"We can't keep going back and forth like this," she sniffled. "W-We have to work t-together. Please?"

"I don't enjoy this, Dawn," he whispered to her. "I find no pleasure in knowing that my brother is always there for you when I cannot be. I hate the envy that grips my soul whenever I hear his name come from your lips or imagine him with you…or you trusting him more than you trust me. I know you're friends, but those pictures burn in my mind."

Dawn shook her head. "They weren't real! We made love you know that I haven't been with anyone else except for you! I've never wanted anyone else the way I want you."

"I want to believe that-"

Dawn pushed away from him. "Then do!" She rubbed her face dry with the edge of the shirt she wore. "Tommy will be here with the dyes in any minute now. When he comes back, I'm calling Lorenzo. I don't want to do this without your acceptance, but I will."

He drew in a ragged breath. "So, it does matter."

"You just told me that you loved me. I guess loving me and trusting me don't go hand in hand any more."

"I do love you, but I never said the rest!" He pointed his finger at her. "Don't put words into my mouth!"

"And don't point at me!" She grabbed the hand of the pointing finger and held onto it. "We're gonna be apart again for God knows how long and I don't want this to be the last thing I remember! Dammit, Nikky!"

He pulled her roughly against him. His arms encircled her waist and he lifted her until they were eye level. "What would you rather the last memory be?"

"Until we meet again?" she asked quietly. Her arms had wrapped around his neck. Her mouth was just inches from his.

He nodded. "Until then."

"I want to remember the sound of your voice, telling me you love me, you trust me and we will all be a family again. I want to remember the smell of that spicy scent that is all yours. I want to remember the beautiful vision of you as a blonde." He rolled his eyes, which caused her to smile. Her expression sobered quickly as she added, "I want to remember the feel of your arms as you hold me closely. Finally, I want to remember the taste of your mouth as you kiss me."

Low and husky, he murmured, "My dearest love, I love you and trust you. I have a peculiar way of showing it, but I do trust you. Don't ever doubt it and never, ever doubt that we will be a family again."

His mouth descended on hers in a kiss that left her breathless and in no doubt that he meant every word he said.

~*~

"I'm sorry about that." Lorenzo shifted nervously on the balls of his feet. He ran his hand through his curls of blonde hair. Shrugging, he continued to look at Lynn. "Their intentions are good, but Sly and Jordan have a way of forgetting their manners."

Lynn laughed. "You don't have to apologize for them. I've been working here long enough to have gotten used to them a long time ago. I know the trick to handling them."

He smiled. "Care to fill me in?"

Eyeing him suspiciously, she raised one eyebrow. "You won't give my secret away?"

The smile broadened into a grin. He extended his pinky finger towards her. "I pinky swear."

"You are definitely related to Sly!" She laughed again and extended her pinky finger. Their two fingers locked together and where their flesh connected, a tingling sensation was born. Heat flooded Lynn's face and she didn't need a mirror to know that her cheeks were pink. Trying to ignore her embarrassment, she smiled brightly. "Mentioning their wives usually puts both of them in their places fairly quickly."

"I'll remember that," he murmured softly as they ended the swearing ritual. He moved away from her desk and headed towards the printer that rested on its stand in the far corner of the office. The machine was the latest model of its kind and pages were printing at a rapid speed. No sound came from it and Lorenzo admired the mechanism before he spoke again. "Have you heard from Tommy today?"

Behind hooded eyelids, Lynn had watched him closely. The attraction between them grew stronger each day. She felt the pull and knew that he did, too. Knowing a little about his history with Elizabeth and Dawn, she understood his hesitation. He still needed time to recover. She could accept that…for now.

With the help of the mouse, Lynn double-clicked on Outlook icon. Her mail program sprang to life and she opened an encrypted message that she knew was from her employer. After sliding on her stylish wire-rimmed glasses, she scanned the message and just as quickly deciphered the code. She then deleted the email and minimized the program. Removing her glasses from her face, she swiveled around in her chair to look at Lorenzo whose attention was still devoted to the printer. "He sent an email. Everything he found out last night is printing now. He made a few backup copies and they are all encrypted. He'll contact you if anything else comes up."

"So, this is all the stuff that he cross-referenced last night?" He asked, pointing at the stack of paper that kept growing. "Amazing."

"Tommy is very thorough." She was unable to hide the respect she felt for the man. A smile curved her lips. "He's the best."

Nodding, Lorenzo agreed. "He's a good friend." The printer came to a stop and Lorenzo picked up the papers. As was his current custom, he sat down behind Emily's desk and began to peruse the documents. He and Lynn worked in silence until his cell phone rang. "Yeah?"

Lynn looked away from pile of invoices she was going through to glance at Lorenzo. Concern darkened his blue eyes and she frowned. What had gone wrong now?

"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked again. Lorenzo felt Lynn's curious stare and he gave her brief smile that didn't reassure either of them. Pressing the receiver hard against his ear, he held his breath as he waited for Dawn to respond.

"I'm fine," she said. "There's been a break and I wanted to know where I can meet you."

"Meet me?" he repeated. "You want to meet with me? I-I don't understand."

"I'll explain everything when I see you. Just give me a time and place."

Lorenzo swallowed hard. He didn't know what to think of the sudden turn in events. "Public or private?"

There was a pause then she said, "It doesn't matter."

"With someone shooting at you, I think it does matter," he said, his voice firm. "Private would be better. I'll meet you at the suite. You should be safe there. Now, are you sure you don't want me to come and get you?"

"I'm positive. I can get there on my own. I'll see you soo-"

"On your own?! Wait a minute!" Excited, he abruptly stood up, knocking over the chair as he did so. "Dawn!"

She was too fast for him and hung up. Lorenzo cursed and slapped the cell phone against the palm of his hand. He looked at Lynn. "I have no idea what's going on. None."

"I take it that Dawn wants to meet with you," she said, resting her back against the soft leather of her office chair. "Did she seem agitated?"

He shrugged. "She sounded out of breath, but I think she was okay. If Tommy calls, could you mention it to him? In code, of course."

Lynn hid a smile and nodded. "Of course."

Lorenzo smiled his thanks. He turned away from her and began to gather his things. The papers were neatly stacked and in his hands when her telephone rang. He paused on his way to the door to wait for her to answer it.

"HQ. This is Lynn speaking. How may I—oh, hello, Liz. How are you?"

"Liz?" Lorenzo lost all color in his face. He sat down on the edge of Lynn's desk and listened to her end of the conversation.

"You're right. He's not here, but he's fine." Lynn nodded her head. Subconsciously, she picked up a pencil and began to draw circles on her notepad. Occasionally, she glanced at Lorenzo. His reaction spoke volumes. He definitely wasn't ready to move on.

"Were they hurt?" Elizabeth asked Lynn. Her voice was raw and edgy. "I heard about the shooting in the park. I know that Tommy would know and I haven't been able to reach him. I don't expect you to go into detail, but Noelle is my goddaughter… I just want to know if she's okay, that's all."

Lynn understood. "Neither of them was hurt," she said softly. "I'm sorry but that's all I know."

"I understand. Thanks, Lynn. If you see my cousin, please tell him to be safe. Goodbye."

"I will. Goodbye." She hung up the telephone and looked at the quiet man who sat on the edge of her desk. "Are you okay?"

He averted his eyes from her sympathetic gaze. "I'm fine. How's she doing?"

"She's worried about Tommy and the others," Lynn answered. She let the pencil fall from her fingers and interlaced her hands. "Are you sure you're okay?'

Crimson colored his cheeks. Suddenly, he grinned at her. "I'm sure." His hand closed over hers for just a moment. "Thank you for worrying about me." Then he was gone.

~*~

AJ paced in front of Eve's desk and she threw a pen at him. "Will you please stop that?"

"What did I do?" He tossed the pen back onto her desk. "You didn't have to throw that at me!"

Eve imitated his pout, which caused him to roll his eyes. "I did so! I've been asking you what's wrong ever since you walked in here. You haven't answered, but you sure have put a hole in my carpet!"

He looked down at his feet. "I'll buy you a new carpet."

"That's not what I want." She closed the manila folder that was opened on her desk. Leaning back in her chair, her brown-eyed gaze bore into him until he looked at her again. "I want you to tell me why you're so upset."

He shrugged sheepishly. "I saw Carly today."

Eve nodded. "That would do it."

"That's not it," he said, knowing that she misunderstood him to some degree. "Well, it is and it isn't." He sat down in one of the guest chairs in front of her desk. "I said some things that I'm not especially proud of."

She snorted in disbelief. "I doubt that. Whatever you said, I'm sure the shrew had it coming."

"Maybe so," he said. He reached for the frame photo of their family, looking at the happy, smiling faces of his wife and his son. "But it still doesn't make it right."

"AJ, please, tell me you're not letting her manipulate you again." Eve grabbed the frame from him and placed it back on her desk. "Don't fall for her bag of tricks. Michael is a happy, well-adjusted kid. Carly would change all of that just like this." She snapped her fingers.

Sighing heavily, he rubbed his hands across his face. "This wasn't a trick. She's changed and she doesn't even realize it."

Eve rolled her eyes. "Changed? How?"

AJ laughed softly at the frown of disbelief that creased his wife's forehead. He leaned towards her, resting his forearms on the edge of her desk. "You wouldn't give her an inch, would you?"

"If it was a rope to hang her, yes. I'd give her an inch and then some. Otherwise, no."

The laughter disappeared. He gave her a sad smile. "I used to feel that way, but after seeing her today… I can't say the same."

"What kind of spell did she put on you?" Eve questioned. She rose from her chair and moved briskly around her desk to reach him. Her hands felt his forehead and his cheeks. "Your temperature feels normal, but that doesn't mean anything. I may have to take some blood."

AJ laughed in spite of himself. He took her hands. "Sweetheart, stop it. I'm serious. Carly's problems run deeper than ever. She was drunk when I went over there. It wasn't even noon, yet she could barely stand up."

"And?" Eve gestured with her hands for him to go on. "Did you pour more booze down her throat? Maybe dump her into a cart and then leave her in an alley? What happened, AJ? Did you do any of that?"

Ashamed, he looked down at his feet. "I did something worse. I made fun of her."

"AJ-"

"No, Eve." He moved away from her and began pacing again. "I know what it's like to be so low that hiding myself in a bottle of vodka seems like the only way out."

"You didn't pour it down her throat. She chose the path-"

"The same could be said for me and the man I was back before Michael was born," he interjected. "I chose a destructive path, too. I had no right to make fun of her. I'm not any better than she is-"

"Oh, you stop it right there, AJ Quartermaine!" Eve threw another pen at him. "You've never done the things she's done."

He looked straight at her. "I killed my brother."

"Jason is very much alive," Eve reminded him. "And sober, Jason made the choice to get into the car with you. Both of you are responsible for what happened to him. Besides, he's okay now and your relationship is better than ever."

AJ picked up the pen that she had thrown at him again. This time, he pocketed it. "I'm not so sure he is okay…"

"What do you mean?" Eve sat down on the plush red sofa that was in the middle of her office. She beckoned for AJ to join her. He did and she asked again, "What's going on with him?"

"I'm not so sure." AJ slid down on the sofa so that his head rested on the top of the sofa. He closed his eyes and his face scrunched up as he thought about the night before when he had last seen his brother. "He seemed a little distant."

"Do you think he was upset with you?"

"No, nothing like that. He was cordial and he was concerned about Michael and everything… It was just that there was an edge about him that hadn't been there for years. He was like the Jason who was head of the mob, you know? Cold."

"Are you sure?" Eve questioned. "Maybe he was just tired."

AJ opened his eyes and looked at her. "That's just it. I'm not sure. He was cold and distant then he wasn't. It was the strangest thing. I've been tempted to call Keesha and ask her what's going. Do you think that's a good idea? I don't want to upset her. Maybe I won't call her."

"My!" She grabbed his hand and squeezed. "You sure are indecisive today. Are you sure that you're fine?"

"I'm not," he said, answering her honestly. "I won't be until I deal with this Carly thing that's hanging over my head. I was wrong to speak to her like that. I need to make it up somehow."

Eve frowned. "How?"

He laughed and pulled her into his arms. "Don't worry. I won't invite her to stay in the guestroom. I plan to stop by the hospital and talk to Bobbie. Then I'm picking up Michael and spending the day with my son."

"Whew! You scared me there. I feel much better now that I know the details."

AJ laughed and nuzzled her neck until she giggled. Worries about Carly and Jason went to the back of his mind as he focused on pleasing his wife.

~*~

Another shot rang out and Carly winced at the sound. Her husband and his business partner patted each other on the back like young boys on a football field after a touchdown. She frowned. How could they get so much enjoyment out of shooting at a target? Her head hurt dammit! Didn’t anyone care?

Vincent set his practice gun down and pulled his headphones down to rest around his neck. He went to Carly and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Gently, he pulled the headphones away from her ear. "Did you take the aspirin? The headache should be gone by now." His fingers massage her temple as he spoke.

Carly moaned softly. Vincent was the most stubborn, insufferable man she had ever known, but he also gave one helluva massage. A tiny sigh followed the moan. Closing her eyes, she rested her head on his shoulder. "Aspirin isn't strong enough to compete with this place," she complained. "How much longer must we stay here?"

His fingers ceased their movement. He lightly kissed her brow as he whispered against her cheek. "Until I say it's time to leave. Remember to behave yourself. We need Dillon just as much as he needs us. Don't forget that."

"Yessir!" She gave him a mock salute. Vincent pursed his lips in response but didn't scold her further. Carly breathed another sigh, this time one of relief. The constant badgering about her behavior was nearly as irritating as the sudden blast of gunfire. Pulling the tan suede jacket closer around her, she shivered. Guns made her nervous.

"Carly." Dillon approached her with a smile. In his palm, rested a gun. He extended his hand toward her. "Care to join us?"

Blonde strands of hair fluttered against her cheeks as she shook her head. Backing away from him, she said, "No thanks."

His smile broadened, displaying even white teeth. "It's not nearly as scary as it looks. We've come here a number of times over the weeks. Aren't you curious? Wouldn't you like to try it just once?"

Slightly disturbed by his persistence, she looked to Vincent for direction. He shrugged and said, "You could try it once." He took the gun from Dillon and put it inside Carly's hand. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her, his hands covering hers. "You just pull the trigger and squeeze. It's simple."

She looked at him over her shoulder. In a hoarse whisper, she muttered, "I don't like guns."

The smile on Dillon's face disappeared. In a sudden move, he took the gun from them and said, "That's fine. I appreciate your honesty, Carly. I imagine you find this boring…watching your husband and I amuse ourselves."

"I don't find it boring," she clarified, responding to the tension that began to fill the air. Vincent removed his arms from around her waist. His hand rested on her waist and squeezed her so gently, that it was almost a caress. Confused by the gesture, she wasn't sure if she should try to change Dillon's mind or let things stand the way they were.

"It's okay, dear," Vincent replied. "Dillon's teasing you." He dropped his hands from her and took the gun from Dillon. He loaded the firearm with blanks and then tested its weight. "Of course, you'd find this boring. It's a pastime that doesn't interest most women, but unlike most women, you like to spend time with your husband even if his activity bores you. This husband appreciates that."

He smiled at her and then prepared to aim at the latest target. Stunned, Carly stared at his back. There had been no pretense in his eyes or his voice. He meant every word he said. Frowning, she wondered what it meant.

"The love of a good woman is a remarkable thing," Dillon commented. "My apologies if I have upset you, Carly. That was not my intention. I was concerned about you. You're so quiet. Is there something that I can assist you with? You seemed agitated when you arrived."

Carly glanced at Vincent. With his concentration on the inanimate target before him, he hadn't heard a word that Dillon had said to her. She wasn't sure how he'd want her to proceed. Whether Vincent realized it or not, she understood how important Dillon was to them. She didn't want to say anything that would cause problems in the future.

Directing her gaze at Dillon, she noted how closely he watched her. He wanted something from her and she wasn't sure what. Maybe a little honesty mixed with a lie would satisfy him until she had a chance to talk things over with Vincent. "I spoke to my son's father before I came over. We don't get along, so the conversation was tiresome."

"I hope everything is well with your son." His brows drew together as concern darkened his eyes. "His name is Michael, correct?"

She nodded. "Yes, his name is Michael. He's 14."

"I find that so hard to believe," Dillon said, shaking his head. "You couldn't have been more than 14 when you had him."

A blush colored her cheeks. Was he flirting with her? "I was older than 14. Time passes quickly when it comes to children, it seems."

"Yes. They grow up quickly."

His cell phone rang and he excused himself to answer it. Carly moved closer to Vincent and watched him hit the center of each target that appeared before him. With his focus elsewhere, she was overcome with an urge to take a closer look at the man she had married.

A broad back, tightly muscled arms and a beautiful smile were the physical attributes that had captured her attention. But behind the model-like features lay an analytical mind that moved at a rapid pace. He wasn't just intelligent. He was a genius. It was his mind that had earned him the Port Charles territory. The Sorel family had tried to respond to his interest in their domain with force. Vincent had countered their attack with force, of course, but he also hit them more closely to home than that. He bankrupted them. Penniless, Sorel had vowed vengeance. The threat was an idle one, though. With no money and no allies, he would never be a bother to them again.

"Why are you staring at me?" Vincent had set the gun down on the counter and was now resting his backside against it. His arms folded across his chest, bringing attention to just how powerful his body was built.

Carly closed her hand over his arm. "I wasn't staring." She squeezed his arm and then trailed her hand down to his. He caught it and held it up between them.

"Feeling amorous?" he asked her. "Very strange, Caroline. One moment you're bitching because we're here and the next, you're trying to get me into bed. Do you have any idea of what you really want?"

Irritated by his words, she pulled her hand free. Vincent's laugh was hollow as it played softly against her ear. "Oh, my sweet Caroline. I think it's obvious what you don't want, don't you?"

"I'm sorry about the interruption," Dillon announced as he joined them. "The call was from my friend, Elizabeth. She will be joining us after all."

"I take from your smile that's a good thing," Vincent said, his tone teasing. "I look forward to meeting her."

"Elizabeth?" Carly questioned, frowning as she tried to remember why the name sounded familiar to her. "Is she from Port Charles?"

Dillon nodded. "Yes, she's lived here since she was a teenager, I think. She's the granddaughter of one of General Hospital's administrators, I think. Surely, you've heard of her. She's making a name in the art world and has showings in galleries worldwide. Elizabeth Webber?"

Carly shrugged. "The name sounds familiar, but it's not exactly ringing a bell with me. Sorry."

"It's no problem. You can become reacquainted when she arrives later."

"I look forward to it."

~*~

"Did I get it all out?" Nikolas asked Tommy over the sound of rushing water. "The blonde is all gone, right?"

Tommy looked at Nikolas as he bent over the sink, rinsing out his hair. The image his friend presented was amusing, but Tommy hid it well. "Yeah, I don't see any. I wish I had taken a picture of you two before you dyed it back. I won't be able to describe you as accurately as a picture would."

"Very funny," Nikolas mumbled. He turned off the water and grabbed the towel that Tommy handed him. Rubbing his hair briskly, he stood up straight. "Thanks for getting this for us…for everything."

"You'd do the same for me." Tommy picked up the empty box of Dark and Lovelyš dye and crushed it before tossing it inside the wastebasket. "You already have."

Something about Tommy's tone brought Nikolas up short. He stopped drying his hair to give Tommy a long, hard look. "How's everything going? Are Gina and the girls okay? No one has threatened them, right?"

Tommy struck a match against the wooden cabinet door. A flame ignited immediately. He tossed it inside the wastebasket, watching as the flames consumed the discarded box and slowly died down. "They haven't been threatened, but I am thinking about them." He looked at Nikolas and shrugged. "I sent them to be with Noelle just in case. Jason is sending Keesha and their kids there, too."

Nikolas set the damp towel on the counter and reached for a brush. He ran it through his hair. "Sonny's men can handle it. They will be safe there."

"I know," Tommy said. "I'm not worried about them being there. I guess I just worry in general. Ciarda is… Never mind."

"No wait." Nikolas stopped brushing his hair and grabbed Tommy's shoulder. "Tell me."

Tommy shook his head. "You have enough to worry about. We should talk about how we're going to do this. Dawn will be done with her hair soon, too. We should be prepared to move then."

"The water is still running. We have some time before she comes out." Nikolas pointed to a chair. "Sit and talk to me. How is the little angel? I remember Dominik mentioning that she was a little upset at Noelle's party. I meant to say something to you or Gina, but then life became crazy. I'm sorry that I didn't say something before. Is she sick?"

Tommy sat down and sighed heavily as he did so. "She's not physically ill. At least, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure that Gina will ask Mama to look at her to be sure. Lately, she's changed. She's becoming withdrawn. We can draw her out, but it's not always easy. And she's concerned about her looks…"

"She's six!"

"Tell me about it!" Tommy ran his hand over his short waves of dark brown hair. "She doesn't think she's pretty; not like Alanna and her mother. She believes that no one will play with her because she's not pretty enough."

Nikolas frowned. Ciarda had always been a happy, playful little girl. Alanna was the quiet one. Neither of them had ever had any problems with playmates, especially not among their circle of friends with children. "What does being pretty have to do with this? She's beautiful. Both of your daughters are. Where is Ciarda getting this crap?"

"I don't know!" Tommy abruptly rose from the chair. It screeched across the floor behind him and nearly topped over. Tommy righted the chair before it could fall. His hands remained on the back of it, gripping it in his frustration. "I was having her school investigated. I'll have to check with Lynn to see if anything has come up, yet."

"Let me know what you find," Nikolas said. "I don't like the sound of this."

The bathroom door pushed opened. With a towel wrapped around her head, Dawn joined them. "You don't like the sound of what?"

"Ciarda is having some self-esteem problems. We're working on figuring out why and how we can help her," Tommy explained.

"I'm sorry about that," Dawn said softly. "If you and Gina need any help, let us know, okay?"

Tommy smiled. "Thanks, but I think you have enough to worry about."

"We do," Dawn agreed, "but never forget that we care, Tommy. You don't have to keep your problems to yourself, not with us. We will always be here for you…"

"I know that." Tommy opened his arms and said, "Come here." He hugged them both. Nikolas stepped from the embrace and excused himself, leaving them to go to the bathroom.

"I want to apologize for before," Dawn said as she removed the towel from her head. She set it on the table and reached for Tommy's hands. "I was upset and failed to respect that Sarah is your cousin. Now, I'm not saying I don't think she's behind this. I do. I believe it with all of my heart, but I shouldn't have said the things I said in front of you."

"You don't have to apologize for that," Tommy replied. "I can understand why you believe what you do. And as far as us being cousins…well, we're not related by blood. Her father is my grandfather's son. Grandpa Steve adopted my dad when he married Grandmother. I've never felt close to her anyway; not like I am with Lizabeth. Growing up the way I did, I learned that family is important, but family isn't dictated by bloodlines. I care about Sarah, of course, but I don't consider her as family. You, Nikolas, your kids…you are family to me." He squeezed her hands. "If Sarah is behind what's happened, I will help you in getting Dominik back."

Dawn's eyes filled with tears. She blinked them away. "I'm sorry. I'm so emotional lately. I guess you said it all right then. I knew from the moment I saw you on that I had found someone special."

"Thanks, Dawn." He blushed slightly and smiled. "But I think you have your facts wrong. I found you, remember?"

She laughed. "Maybe so. Maybe my facts are slightly off. Could you do something for me?"

"Anything," he said.

Her expression became serious. "Watch out for him. Nikky doesn't believe that she'd hurt him. He may drop his guard. If you can, please don't let her hurt him."

Tommy embraced her again. "If she betrayed him like this, Nik will hurt, but I won't let her take him away from you. We'll all come out of this alive. I promise."

~*~

Dominik left the tray untouched and crawled back onto the bed. He drew his knees up to his chest, rocking himself as the tears fell down his cheeks. The nameless woman who had been attending to him left the tray on the table. She looked at the sad child and shook her head. Then she left him alone, locking the door upon her exit.

She went to the dark office that was next door to the boy's room. Standing in the doorway, she gave her report to the person who sat in the shadows, waiting. "He's still refusing to eat."

"Did you include his favorites? He likes fried chicken and mashed potatoes. His favorite beverage is lemonade and fudge brownies are his favorite dessert."

The middle-aged woman nodded emphatically. Wringing her hands, she said, "It was all there and he refused to touch it. He's a very sad little bo-"

"I have not asked you about his emotional state," the voice interrupted her. "You are dismissed."

The woman clamped her mouth shut. She was paid quite well for her services, as peculiar as they were and had no intentions of upsetting her boss further. Backing out the room, she closed the door shut behind her and went about her business. Inside the office, the telephone rang. "Yes," the figure in the shadows said into the receiver.

"What's the status?" asked the deep voice on the other end.

"About the same. Is there any word? Have you been able to locate his parents and his sister?"

Static muffled the voice for a moment. "Unfortunately, no. It's up to you now. Are you up to the task?"

With a soft click, light flooded the room. An angry scowl creased her brow and Sarah bristled at the insinuation. "Of course, I'm up to it. We've gotten this far, haven't we?"

Male laughter trickled over the telephone wire. "Touchy, aren't we? Just see that you find them and quickly. Everything is falling into place. I'd rather not have it all fall apart now."

"It won't!"

The call met its conclusion when Sarah slammed down the receiver. Her heart pounded in her chest. He was right and that infuriated her! Everything she wanted was within reach and then he just disappeared. Where was Nikolas? Why hadn't he come to her when his son disappeared? Why the hell did he have to run off with that brainless wife of his?

Tapping the palm of her hand with her fist, she paced the length of the wall. There had to be something she had overlooked. Was there something he said that could now be used? She had to find him and convince him that she was there for him. He refused to understand that all those years ago when he was shot. He would understand now. She was determined to make sure of it.

General Hospital ©ABC
Darkest Before the Dawn (and all original characters) ©1998 niklovr
All Rights Reserved.

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