Life After Dark – Chapter 121, Part 3

Chapter 121, Part 3

~ And, So It Begins…~

"Welcome back, Carlotta."

A slight tremor coursed through Carrie as Stefan's throaty voice whispered softly in her ear. Her previous thoughts of simply unlocking her front door were forgotten in one breathless moment. Her resolve to keep her and Stefan's relationship strictly platonic weakened as his breath tickled in her ear again. "Carlotta?" he asked, softly.

"Thanks, Stefan," she said when her voice returned to her. She looked over her shoulder intending to give him a courteous smile, but one look into his mesmerizing green eyes weakened her even more. With a decisive shake of her head, she forced herself to get a grip. She turned away from. She unlocked the door and pushed it open. She wasn't surprised when he removed her bag from her shoulder as he followed her inside. After they were both inside and the door was closed behind them, she said again, "Thanks. I wasn't expecting you to be here, you know."

"I know," he said with a tiny smile on his lips. He allowed his eyes to shamelessly wander over her. Her face radiated a healthy glow and her brown eyes still held that familiar sparkle. The concern for her close friend that prompted her journey had clearly been replaced with contentment in knowing that Simone was well. He smiled at her and said, "I trust that your trip proved uneventful."

Carrie laughed. "You couldn't just ask if I had a nice trip, could you?"

"Didn't I?" he asked, teasing her. When her hands moved to unbutton her coat, he was right behind her to help her remove it. Entranced by being close to her again, he took his time with his task. His hands lingered on first her shoulders and then trailed slowly down her arms. He heard her sharp intake of breath and that was all it took for him to push the coat to the floor and turn her around so that she faced him. He allowed her the briefest moment to read the intent in his smoldering green eyes and then he lowered his head to hers and kissed her.

Carrie knew that she should have walked away from him as soon as he moved behind her. She berated herself for not having the willpower to resist his proximity, for trembling at his touch, and for just plain old fashioned wanting him. She had known that he would test the waters upon her return. She should have been prepared, but how? She still wanted him. Regardless of the status of their relationship, he affected her. That was something she couldn't deny…not to herself and obviously not to him either.

Carrie's initial response to Stefan's kiss was slow. Slightly amused, Stefan decided to test her. Sensuously, his mouth moved across hers, enticing her lips apart. As soon as she opened for him, his tongue was inside…tasting and tormenting her. In the end, Carrie was unable to ignore her wanton instincts and soon, her tongue was returning the favor. The shrill ringing of his cell phone was an annoying intrusion that separated them far sooner than either wanted.

"Yes?" Stefan bit out.

"Stefan?" Laura asked. "Did I call at a bad time? I wanted to ask you about Nikolas."

"No, of course not, Laura," Stefan asked. He offered Carrie a faint smile before she turned away from him and left to put away her coat and luggage. "You wished to speak of Nikolas?"

"Um, yes," she said, brightly. "Have you spoken with him? Dawn's party is tonight and I thought that maybe this would be a good time for you to make amends."

"Laura, you know as well as I do that Nikolas would resent my using Dawn's birthday as an excuse to meet. He would not take kindly to it. Not at all," Stefan said softly.

"Well, how much longer will this go on?" she asked. "He and I were finally connecting and now, it feels like I've lost him all over again. I-I just don't know what to do anymore."

Stefan sighed. He recognized the despair in her voice. It matched what he felt in his heart. He wanted to offer comfort to her and assure her that Nikolas would forgive them, but he wasn't sure. Nikolas had a forgiving soul, but even he had a breaking point. Perhaps, he should have come forward with the truth, but knowing Helena, he was still certain that somehow she would have found a way to punish Stefan for his deceit. And, Stefan knew the only punishment that she would serve on him would have been to the detriment of Nikolas, and chancing Nikolas' life was not a risk that he was or would ever be willing to take.

"Stefan?" Carrie asked softly. The forlorn look on his face and in the way he held himself alarmed her and she had to see if everything was okay. She placed a hand on his arm and asked, "Is something wrong? Is it Nikolas?"

"No," he said with a smile. "Nikolas is fine."

"Is someone else there?" Laura asked him. "Did I interrupt you? I'm sorry."

"I'm at Carlotta's brownstone," Stefan said, smiling as he said her name and as his eyes held hers. "She returned today."

"Oh," Laura responded, "I didn't realize that you were with Carrie. I apologize for interrupting. I should let you get back to…whatever you were doing. Give her my regards. Don't forget what I said about Nikolas."

The dull note of the dial tone signaled the end of their conversation. A frown creased Stefan's brow as he folded his phone and placed it back inside his jacket. He was almost positive that there was tinge of envy in Laura's voice as she ended their conversation. He had sensed a renewed interest in him, and as he and Carrie had wavered between romance and friendship, he had almost considered what the possibilities might have had in store for him and Lasha. But a single kiss… A single kiss changed things and gave him hope. His frown disappeared and a smile brightened his face as Carrie took his hands in hers. The second chance he saw in her beautiful brown eyes changed things considerably, and he realized that the only second chance he wanted was with the woman before him and not the one from his past. He then pulled Carrie into his arms and without speaking, simply held her close to him.


Laura stood before the roaring fireplace. With her hands clasped behind her back, she stared into the flickering flames. In her mind, the flames began to take shape and she saw images of the past dancing before her. Memories of the times she'd spent with Stefan: in captivity on the Island and freely in Port Charles. For years, she had pushed her feelings for him aside. She had made her life with Luke and they had created a family.

But that family was gone, she thought with a deep sigh. Lucky had moved out and Luke had moved on. Their marriage was non-existent, and now her thoughts drifted to the man who had fathered her firstborn. The same man whom she had loved but had never told…who had called her 'Lasha' with the same joy he now said 'Carlotta.' Another sigh escaped her and she softly asked herself, "Why did it take me so long?"

"So long for what?"

Laura drew a long breath before she turned around to face her husband. His blue eyes stared straight into her almost as if he could see her very soul. She brushed past him and went to the end table. Her hands were restless as she reached for the stack of mail. Shrugging, she looked at him and said, "It's not important. I thought you left."

"I came back," Luke replied in an offhand manner. He watched her as she placed the junk mail back onto the table. She refused to make eye contact with him and it bothered him. He opened his mouth to tell her so, but he stopped himself. What could he possibly say to her now? There was a time when he knew the right words, but that time had long since past. The woman who stood before him looked, moved and sounded like the woman who loved him. But that woman was gone; he slowly came to realize. The Laura who loved him was now the Lasha who loved Stefan Cassadine. Feeling sickened, he rushed to the door.

"Luke?" Her soft call stopped him before he could step out into the February afternoon. She found the courage to look at him and ask, "Why did you come back?"

"It's too late, Laura," he told her in a harsh whisper. "That's what happens when it takes you so long."

"What are you talking about?" she asked. Her eyes narrowed as she took in his rigid back and the hand that clutched the doorknob. "What's wrong with you?"

"They call it the blues, baby, and the thrill is gone," he said before he rushed through the door.

Laura stared at the closed door. So, just like that and once again, he was gone. Words that only he fully understood had surrounded him like a shroud and off he went. She shook her head, not fully knowing what she should feel. She should have gone after him, she told herself, but she hadn't wanted to. She was tired of running after Luke and the thought of doing it again no longer interested her. He no longer interested her. The acknowledgement saddened her. She never thought they'd part ways, and she had never thought she'd ever love another man. It was strange how life had a way of doing things was her fleeting thought as she answered her daughter's call and went upstairs to see to her.


"Did you hear that?" Dawn's face wore a frown as she clutched Nikolas' arm. The movement startled Nikolas and he wrapped his arm around her waist. "Nikky, there it is again!"

"There's what?" he asked, holding on to her. He guided her down the path to the ice skating area. As they stood near the railing, he looked at her and asked, "What did you hear?"

"A rustling sound," she said. Her eyes narrowed, making her appear deep in thought. "It was a distinctive sound. One I'm sure I've heard before."

"Oh, yeah?" he asked. "Are you sure you're not imagining things? I didn't hear anything."

"That's an unlikely story," she mumbled under her breath.

"What did you just say?" he asked. "Honest, I didn't hear-"

"Then, what's this?" she asked after swiftly sliding her hand into his coat pocket to reveal the culprit. She waved the offending object in front of his face. "Did you honestly think you could hide this from me?"

Nikolas coughed back a chuckle. The ire in her brown eyes and all in response to a candy bar amused him. "Dawn…" he began, trying desperately not to succumb to his mirth.

"No, Nikky," she said, shaking her head as she waved the small brown bag of M&Ms in his face. "How could you do this to me? You know how I feel about chocolate!" "I know, sweetheart," he said, "and that's why they were safe and sound in my pocket."

"So, what were you gonna do with it?" she asked. She eyed the bag with longing. Her mouth watered and her fingers gripped the bag to open. But Nikolas was too quick for her. "Nikky," she whined when he took the package away from her. "Come on. One bite won't hurt."

"A single bite?" he asked, laughing. "You wouldn't eat just one and we both know that."

"Is this any way to treat me on my birthday?" she asked with a pout.

Biting back more laughter, Nikolas shrugged and looked away from her. He found the pout effect adorable and she knew that. He'd have to remain firm or maybe not look at her at all in order to resist her charms. "No chocolate for you, sweetheart," he said, his eyes on the ice skaters. "It can over stimulate the baby."

Undaunted, she rested her head on his shoulder and said softly, "But chocolate is my friend and I miss my friend. Baby, I'm sure one little tiny, teeny weenie piece won't hurt."

"One little piece?" he said, thoughtfully. "You're probably right. One little piece wouldn't hurt at all."

Dawn all but clapped her hands when he agreed with her. Her happiness soon disappeared when he popped a small green M&M into his mouth and moaned at its chocolate deliciousness. "Nikky!" she said, "that's foul-"

Nikolas' mouth closed over hers and silenced her outraged. His mouth, which was always sweet in Dawn's opinion, now hinted of chocolate and to Nikolas' delight, she couldn't get enough.

Their soft sounds of pleasure carried through the bushes and along the beaten path. Running late, Lucky had been afraid that he wouldn't be able to find them. Nikolas had asked him to meet them there and against his better judgment, Lucky had willingly obliged. He and Nikolas had made the effort to become brothers, and both were pleased with the results. They talked, argued and bickered almost like they had grown up together. Lucky had no qualms admitting that Nikolas was his brother, so when he asked him for a favor, there was no way Lucky would say no.

But then there was Dawn. Despite his best efforts and her growing pregnancy, he still cared for her. Deeply. He prided himself on respecting her and her marriage. While recording DJLS' debut CD, he had made no effort to be near her any more than he had to be. In his own way, he had come to terms with how he felt about her. He loved her. He wasn't sure if that meant he was in love with her or not. What he was sure about was that he cared enough about her to keep his feelings to himself. Seeing Nikolas and Dawn together might stab him straight in his heart, but it was something he could live with. He had to.

Swallowing hard, he approached them. To his relief, their kiss ended before he was too close to them. He offered a faint smile as Nikolas waved him over. "Hey. What's up?"

"Not much," Nikolas said. "Thanks for coming."

Dawn folded her arms across her ample mid-section and asked, "What's going on?"

"Lucky's agreed to keep you out of trouble for me while I run a few errands," Nikolas explained.

"What errands?" she asked. "I thought we were spending the day together."

"I know, but remember what you asked me to do last night?" he gently reminded her.

"You're going to see Stefan?" she asked, her eyes wide with an anticipation.

Nikolas nodded. "For you."

"So, what's he doing here?" she asked. She grinned as she pointed at Lucky. "I don't need Selfish to watch over me. I'll be good."

"I've heard that one before," Nikolas said. He kissed the tip of her nose and then her cheek. "Behave yourself, Mrs. Cassadine. And, Lucky, no matter what she says or how she pouts, no chocolate. Not even a teeny, tiny little piece."

Lucky looked away as Nikolas and Dawn shared their private joke. When he turned around again, Nikolas was walking away from them and they were alone. He moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue as he searched for something to say. He was a little surprised when Dawn's hand connected with his upper arm. "What was that for?" he asked, playfully glaring at her.

"Because I felt like it," she said.

"Definitely no chocolate for you," he mumbled to himself. She rolled her eyes and he laughed. "So, what would you like to do?"

"I'm not a little girl, Lucky. You don't have to entertain me. If you have things to do, you can go for it. I won't tear up Port Charles trying to find out what he's got planned for tonight."

Lucky frowned. "Is something special happening tonight?" he asked, feigning ignorance. "What's going on tonight? Are you guys throwing a party and didn't invite me?"

"Shut up," she told him before hitting him again. "And don't think my feelings aren't hurt. I mean, the indignities I've suffered…"

"Oh, please," he groaned, knowing exactly what she referred to. He reached inside his coat pocket and handed her a nicely wrapped box. As he handed the box to her, he softly said, "Happy birthday…Greedy."

Dawn smiled. On occasion she called him by her name for him, but over the last few months, he never used his name for her. She was very pleased to hear him say it again. Taking the box from him, she smiled again. Her brown eyes danced with curiosity. "Should I wait to open it?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Open it now."

His tone concerned her. Her eyes left the box to look at him. "Aren't you coming to…whatever?"

Lucky shook his head.

"Why not?"

He shrugged. "I'd rather not say. Just open it and don't worry about it."

"Does Nikolas know that you're not coming?" she asked, unable to leave it alone.

"He knows," Lucky nodded. "I told him."

"Did you tell him why?"

"Dawn," he spoke quietly, "I'd never tell him why."

"Lucky, please," she said, shaking her head. She turned away from him. One hand still held onto the gift and the other rested on the railing. Most of the skaters had left and she suddenly wished that she had gone with them. She wished that she were anywhere but there…with Lucky's blue eyes staring at her and making her sad. "I thought we were okay. I thought that whatever you thought you felt was gone. Lucky, you gotta make it go away."

"I've tried to," he said. "I've wanted it to, but it's still here. It won't leave me. It won't go away."

"But it has to," she said, hoarsely. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. She cared about him so much and the last thing she'd ever want to do was hurt him, but the words had to be said. She had to make him understand. She turned to face him. His eyes were instantly on hers—electric blue and fiery hot. She felt dual urges. Both wanted her to run, but in opposite directions. One said to him and the other one screamed for her to run away from him. One of the urges was heeded.

She took a step towards him. Gently, she cupped his cheek. Her voice was tender and affectionate as she spoke softly to him. "I don't know how to say this without hurting you. I'm not even sure of the right words or even if I'm gonna make sense, but… I love Nikolas. I really and truly do. If I've done or said anything to make you believe otherwise-"

"Never," he said, covering the hand that cupped his face. "You've never said or did anything. It's me-"

"No," she said, "it can't be. It's not just you, and I shouldn't have said if. 'If' was a bad choice. I don't know what's the best way to do this. There is something between us. For me to pretend otherwise is a lie, but for me to give you false hope is worse than that. Lucky, there can never be anything more between us than friendship. You do understand that, right?"

He nodded as her hand left his face. "Of course, I do."

"Well, you know that you've got to get over these feelings that you have. For Nikolas, the baby, and for you, too. I don't like seeing you like this and I miss how we used to be." Her voice cracked, but she continued on. "God, Lucky, I miss you so much. Please, promise me that you'll try."

"Before I make any promises, I need you…" He took a deep breath. He had no right to ask, but he needed to know. He had to know. "If there were no other factors…nothing else at all… You wouldn't push me away, would you?"

"What good will answering this do?" she asked. "Lucky, what difference does it make?!"

"Does it have to make a difference?" he asked. "And the good is that it would help me! You want me to stop loving you, and I want you to answer a simple question. Why can't you do that?"

"Because it doesn't matter!"

"It does! It matters to me!" he whispered furiously. "Stop being so damned selfish! That's my role remember?" He gave her a faint smile and lightly caressed her cheek. "Please, it's not going anywhere but here. It won't live a second outside of this moment and I swear to you that I'll never mention it again. Just be honest with me and give me this one thing."

"And if I give this to you, what will it mean for Nikolas? I'll be taking something away from him and I can't do that."

"You won't be," he said, shaking his head. "It won't go any further than this. I swear it to you. I just need to know. A chance, Dawn. Not that it would have been a sure thing. Just a chance…"

"Maybe," she told him. "That's your answer. Maybe. So, is this officially over now?"

Lucky released the air he had been holding. He nodded and said, "It's done."

"Okay. Now, could we go someplace else? I'm freezing my butt off out here."

"Your wish is my command, Mrs. Cassadine," he said.

With a flourish, he extended his arm and with a flourish, she took it. Their footsteps took them back down the path with Arman and Serguei following at a discreet distance behind them. The retreating quartet had no idea that they had not been alone. A pair of inquisitive ears had heard the words that the bodyguards had not. A pair of eyes had seen everything. And a decision had been made.

Go to Chapter 122.

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Dawn Cassadine, Carlotta "Carrie" Jensen, Arman & Serguei ©1998 niklovr
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