"Well, here we are...'alone at last'," Dawn repeated softly, her voice laden with contempt, "say it and be done with it."
Unable to look at him, she kept her eyes on the busy cobbled-stone streets, which were on the other side of Dynamic's iron gates. Her spine was rigid and her arms were folded across her chest. The flimsy silk material of her black tank dress stretched taut across her chest as she breathed heavily. She felt him move closer behind her. Subconsciously, she took a step away from him.
"Dammit, Dawn!" Lorenzo ground out, "Cut it out!"
"No! You cut it out!" she said, spinning around to face him. She pointed her finger at him. "You," she said with strong emphasis, "are the one who needs to cut it out. Not me!"
"What did I do?" he said, his sapphire blue eyes flashing angrily.
"Don't give me that shit!" she said. "You know exactly what you did."
"What I did three years ago?" he asked quietly. "Are you talking about the kiss?"
"Don't say it like that," she said angrily. "Don't try to act as if it didn't matter to you. We both know it did. We both know where you wanted it to lead."
Lorenzo couldn't prevent the flush that colored his cheeks. Drawing a harsh breath, he responded, "No..."
"Don't lie to yourself," she said with quiet conviction. "If I hadn't pulled away, you would have...you would have taken me to bed." He lowered his eyes to the ground, refusing to look at her. In the ensuing silence, Dawn continued. "See. You say you want to talk. I can't hear you or anything you have to say unless you can come to me with honesty. I'm tired of the bullshit, Spencer. I told you that three years ago and I still mean it."
Rubbing his hand through his hair, he turned his back on her. A decorative wooden bench was barely hidden behind the bushes in the courtyard; he went to it and sat down. His eyes remained on the ground as he spoke to her in a hoarse voice. "You want honesty? Are you sure about that?"
Having watched his retreat, Dawn was surprised by his words. She was silent for a moment and stood still. When he raised his head, revealing watery eyes, she found the words to speak. "Yes," she said firmly. She moved toward him. Wrapping her arms around herself, she sat down on the edge of the bench, leaving a good deal of space between them. "I want the truth. I want to believe that you are truly in love with Elizabeth and not playing a game with her. I want to believe that you respect Nikolas, me, and our family. I want to feel that I don't have to question your motives when you talk to me...or come close to me. I want us to be friends again. Simply, Lorenzo, I want to know that it's safe for me to trust you. So, yeah, honesty is what I need from you."
"Wow," he breathed. "You want a lot." He laughed softly, but it was void of humor. He leaned his back against the hard bench. Turning his head to face her, he said, "In all honesty, I was in love with you." He stared at her, waiting for her reaction...preparing himself for a slap across his face. None came. He continued to speak to her. "I'm not sure why or how it happened. In a moment, you went from this beautiful stranger, sitting in Nikolas' Jag-Remember the first time we met?"
"Yeah," she answered softly. "It was the night you and Nikky helped Tommy get his mother back."
"Yeah, that was it," he said, nodding. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "Back then, I hated Nikolas. He was the cause of everything wrong in my life-"
"He saved Leslie Lu's life," she said, unable to prevent the interruption. "If there were no Nikolas, your baby sister might have died. But, you hated him anyway..."
"Because he saved her and I couldn't...because he was my mother's first child, and I wasn't-"
"So, you told yourself that you were in love with me as some form of vengeance...? Because you were no longer Laura's first born? So, your goal was to hurt him because of that?"
"No!" he whispered in anguish. "You...me-My feelings for you...have nothing to do with that."
"I don't believe you. You wouldn't have mentioned it if-"
"I needed a point of reference, Dawn," he explained. "In order to have you trust me again, I needed to start at the beginning. Before you pass judgement on me and how I feel about my brother, hear me out first, okay? It's taking me a while, but I will get there."
She nodded. She hugged her arms closer around her. "Okay."
"Are you cold?" he asked as she began to shiver slightly. He quickly shrugged out of his calf-length leather jacket. He handed it to her. "Here. Put it around you. Nikolas would kill me if you caught a cold out here."
She slid her arms into the jacket and pulled it close around her. "Thanks. Please. Go on."
"Sure. Okay, where was I?" He whispered to himself. "Oh, yeah. I was at the beginning...relieving the miserable asshole I used to be to your wonderful husband-"
"See!" she said, moving to stand. "I knew it wouldn't work."
"Dawn, wait," he said, plaintively. "I wasn't being sarcastic. I was being...honest. Please, don't go. Hear me out, okay? Three years without you have been eye opening. I think you'll understand what I mean if you will give me a chance. Please?"
"Okay," she mumbled, sitting back down on the bench. "Just watch what you say about Nikolas. I know that you don't think much of him, but I do-"
"Ah, there's where you're wrong," he said, interrupting her. "I think very highly of Master Cassadine. Very highly indeed, and I mean that with all seriousness. The beginning...the night in the catacombs when we rescued Tommy's mom, Gina, Keesha and all of those other women...I learned a lot about my older brother. He wasn't the pampered priss that I had led myself to believe. That night, I learned that he and I were more alike that I had ever imagined. And, when he went after the guy who had attacked you...the hate in his eyes...the pain... I saw myself in him. I also saw something else. I saw that he was in love and that threw me."
"Why?" she asked, pulling the jacket even tighter around her as a night breeze drifted over them. "You had seen us together... You knew about him and Sarah. You didn't think he was capable?"
"I-I...um..." Helpless, Lorenzo shrugged. "I'm not sure what I thought. Flashes hit me in a weird way. I saw you together in the car. Close and familiar. I wasn't sure what to think at first. I thought you were cute and just based on looks, I could understand why Nikolas would be with you-"
"But based on something else...perhaps my skin color, you couldn't understand it?" she asked slowly.
"No!" he said quickly. He paused and then swallowed hard before he quietly answered, "Yes...but not in the way that you think-"
"What? That he and I were together because he knew he could get 'some' from a black girl? Is that what you think I think?" she asked, folding her arms across her chest. She raised an eyebrow as she watched Lorenzo squirm as he fought to regain his bearings.
"Dammit!" he said, laughing softly. Smiling, he looked at her. "How do you do it? Okay, yeah, in the split second, that I first saw you together in his car, I thought that was it. I knew he and Sarah hadn't done much of anything sexually speaking, so when I saw him with you...I being the jackass that I am...assumed that...well..." He reached for her hand. She gave it to him. "I'm sorry, Dawn. It was more of a knock against him than against you. But it was still wrong and I apologize."
"Accepted," she responded, giving his hand a gentle squeeze before she released it. "Keep going."
"Anyway, Tommy set me straight real quick. Remember how quiet he used to be back then? He spoke up real fast to let me know how special you are. I soon discovered that he was right as usual. Nikolas had that guy in a death grip. I don't doubt that he would have killed him. I pleaded with him and nothing could make him let go until I said your name. The change in him...the side of him-Dawn, I saw tears in his eyes. The arrogant, deceitful bastard, that I had known him to be, completely evaporated before my eyes. This boy, whom I hated with a passion, had a soul and I saw it...as soon as I called out your name. I was floored."
"So you repay him by thinking yourself in love with me?" Dawn asked. "I don't get it."
"It's not that simple, Dawn," he told her. "My feelings for you were not born as a means of revenge. By the time, I realized how I felt about you, he and I were better. I began to understand him...because of you. The fights we had...how you made me understand what his life was like... Your fierceness and the determination that were so you while you defended him and pretty much threatened me... Those things attracted me to you. I guess it started because of Nikolas, but my loving you continued because of you. The young woman who could be a hellcat in one moment and vulnerable the next intrigued me.
"It began with me as being fun to get you riled up just for the hell of it...to just wanting your attention directed onto me. Only me. I didn't realize it at first...I mean the reasons for egging you on... I just liked doing it for fun, but over time, I looked forward to it. It was our time. When your smile was mine...you were focused on me... You challenged me in ways that no one had ever attempted. You touched parts of me that I never knew existed. I wanted you in a way that I had never wanted another woman...not even Lizzie. I burned for you. I thought about you...ached for you. Fighting with you appeased me for a while and made me not think about what was happening, but when we kissed for that video-"
She shifted uncomfortably on the bench. "Lorenzo, I was married to Nikolas by then. You knew that I was pregnant. You had to have known that our fighting and stuff was like play for me. I didn't mean anything by it. It wasn't an attempt to intrigue you. I wish I had known then..."
"No, don't," he said, softly. He took her hand. Covering her hand with his, he said, "It wasn't anything that you did. I may have read some things into it then, but looking back on it now, I know that you never gave me reason to assume that you didn't love Nikolas. Well, except for the kiss... You responded to it; I responded to it. We both felt it-"
"Yes, but I loved Nikolas!" she said, fiercely. "I still do! I always have. Nothing will change that."
"I know that!" he said with tenderness. "I have never doubted what you feel for him, but the kiss and our responses to it... I knew that if things had been different, we could have explored the attraction between us-"
"Dawn! Please, hear me out," he said. "You can be attracted to someone and still love someone else without betraying your love. Greedy, you have never betrayed Nikolas with me...by being momentarily attracted to me. I have my moments, but I am not a complete fool. There were times when I let my feelings for you overwhelm me... My father picked up on what I felt for you! Because of me, he put your life and Dom's life in danger. If I had controlled myself better, the abduction wouldn't have happened."
"You can't blame yourself for that," she said, shaking her head. "Your father was sick. If he hadn't put us together like that, he would found some other twisted way to hurt Nikolas and Father." She placed her hand against his cheek, patting his softly. "I was very comforted to have you with me. I doubt if I showed it much, but because of you, I wasn't as afraid as I might have been otherwise. Those months were the worst of my entire life. I had never been so afraid-not even when I was abducted in the park-I was afraid for my baby. But, you were strong. You let me lean on you. You protected me and took care of me." She paused as tears clouded her vision and made her voice hoarse. Sniffling, she added, "I thank you for that. I owe you for that."
"No," he said, shaking his head. "You don't owe me anything."
In a move that surprised him, Dawn opened her arms to him. He accepted her offer of embrace, wrapping his arms around her. He was even more surprised by what she said next.
"I don't want to fight with you anymore. Just tell me that you're not in love with me. Tell me that you truly love Lizzie and we can put it all behind us. I miss having you in my life. Tell me that's okay to trust that it's safe to be friends with you again," she asked of him again and again.
"It is," he murmured against her ear. "It's safe, Dawn. I swear that it's safe. I love Elizabeth. I can make her happy and I will make her happy."
"That's what I needed to hear," she said. Their hug ended and she gave him a soft smile. "Congratulations. I wish that you and Elizabeth are as happy as Nikky and I are. You deserve to be happy, Selfish. That's all I've ever wanted for you."
"Thank you," he said, crushing her against his chest one last time before he released her. He rose from the bench and held out his hand. She took and stood beside him. "Come on. Let's go back inside and celebrate."
To be continued...again...*g*