"So, how should I dress for my party?" Dawn asked. A bright smile was on her face and in her eyes as she looked up at her husband. A giggle escaped from her lips as he flushed and shook his head at her.
"What party?" Nikolas asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"My party," Dawn said, giggling. She reached for his hands and he gave them to her willingly. "I know that something is going on because you just told me that Stefan would be there. So, I'm guessing that it's a party. Am I right?"
Smiling at her, Nikolas was very tempted to tease her with a negative response, but he couldn’t. Besides, she was right. He had all but given himself away when he admitted that Stefan would be there. He nodded. "You're right, and that's all I'm telling you."
"But, you have to tell me how to dress," she said. She held on tightly to his hands as he helped her rise from the window seat. "I can't just show up in any old thing. I'm the guest of honor, for goodness' sakes!"
Nikolas laughed. "You're incorrigible is what you are." He kissed the tip of her nose and said, "Stay right here. I have something for you."
"Okay!" Dawn beamed. The earlier melancholy had left her and now she was filled with giddy anticipation. As Nikolas left the room, she grabbed Winnie-the-Pooh and took him to the baby's crib. She set the stuffed animal down inside the crib and took a step back. In her mind, she saw a dark haired newborn sleeping peacefully and she was trying to imagine if Winnie was good enough to stand watch. "Mm…I dunno," she mumbled.
"What don't you know?" Nikolas asked as he returned to the nursery. In his hands, he held a nicely decorated box. "Is Winnie not good enough for our baby?"
"I'm not sure," she answered before turning to face him. Her eyes sparkled as she saw the large box and to her credit, she didn't grab it from him. Instead, she sweetly asked, "Is that for me?"
"Why, yes, it is," Nikolas said, grinning. He positioned the box in his hands so that she could open it while he still held it. "Go ahead. Inside is the answer to your question."
"Cool!" she said before she ripped into the box. She tore off the lid and rifled through the tissue paper. A look of awe came into her eyes as the dark lavender dress was revealed to her. Carefully, she pulled the dress from the box. The dress was a floor-length ballgown. It had an off the shoulder cut with velvet trim. She held the dress up and admired it with a smile. She whispered, "This is beautiful. Thank you, Nikky."
The tears he saw brimming in her eyes touched Nikolas. He tossed the box to the floor and pulled her into his arms. "Sweetheart, you're crying."
"I know," she said through her sniffles. "Those blasted hormones are at it again. It really is beautiful."
"Well, you have Carrie to thank for that," he told her. "I suggested the color and she did the rest. She did a wonderful job, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on you."
"Should I get dressed now?" she asked. She moved out of Nikolas' arms and carefully folded the dress over her arm. "What about shoes? Did you get shoes for me, too?"
Nikolas laughed. "Lucky's right. You are greedy. Yes, there are shoes for you, too, courtesy of Dara. And, there's hose, too." He laughed again as Dawn smiled. As she reached the door, he added, "The hose are the kind that require a garter…courtesy of yours truly."
She shook her finger at him. "You have a one-track mind."
Nikolas placed his right hand over his heart. Grinning at her, he said, "Guilty as charged."
Dawn's voice drifted back to him as she sung "Happy Birthday to Me." He laughed again. He glanced at his watch and decided that he had better start to get dressed, too. He picked up the empty gift box and carried it into their bedroom. He placed it on the floor beside the wastebasket. His fingers were in the process of unbuttoning his shirt as the telephone rang. Fully capable of doing more than one thing at a time, Nikolas continued to unbutton his shirt as he answered the phone. "Hello."
"Hey, Nikolas," came Tommy's voice across the telephone wire.
"What's up?" Nikolas asked, sensing that his good friend was tense. "Everything is okay at the Grille, right?"
"No, everything isn't okay," Tommy told him. "I went there to double check things just like you asked, and man, you're not gonna believe what happened."
Nikolas' shirt fell to the floor and he grew still. "What happened?" he asked quietly, keeping one eye on the closed bathroom door.
"The Grille has been closed to the public. The party can't be held there. The manager is flipping out and everything is kinda crazy."
"What do you mean closed to the public? Tommy, I paid to have it closed to the public-"
"Nikolas, listen to me. I know that you paid for it, but the place has been shut down. There's a sign on the door and everything. And, there's…well, there's mice all over the place."
"Mice?!" Nikolas exclaimed.
"Nikky, is something wrong?" Dawn called out from the bathroom. The shower had stopped and she heard his raised voice.
"No, sweetheart," Nikolas told her. "Everything is fine." As she called out okay, Nikolas decided that the bedroom was not the best place for him to converse with Tommy. He left and went into the guest bedroom. "Mice? I never saw any rodents there. Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure!" Tommy said. "You can see them. They're all over the place. I wouldn't be surprised if they close the entire hotel because of this."
Nikolas drew a long breath. Rubbing his free hand across his face, he muttered, "Well, that's just great! What am I gonna do now?"
"I could ask my grandma. I'm sure she wouldn't mind."
"Her house is too small and I wouldn't want to impose on her," Nikolas said.
"Well, there's the Ward House. I'm sure Jason and Keesha wouldn't mind if the party was held there," Tommy offered.
Again, Nikolas responded in the negative. "I wouldn't feel right asking them. They have a newborn there and it just wouldn’t work."
"So, what's the plan?" Tommy asked. "People are starting to show up and I wanna tell them something. I can think of another place that's big enough, but I'm not sure if you'd go for it."
"Wyndemere," Nikolas said. He released a deep sigh. He didn't want to move the party there, but there was no way that he'd cancel Dawn's party. "Listen, I'll call and see what I can arrange. I'll call you back in five minutes. Are you on Gina's phone?"
"Yeah, do you have the number?" Tommy asked.
"Yeah," Nikolas said, releasing another long sigh. "Thanks, Tommy, for all your help."
Wearily, Nikolas sank down onto the queen-size bed. He took a deep breath and then he punched in the familiar seven digits. The telephone was answered on the first ring. "Hello, Mrs. Landsbury," he said as the woman greeted him. "Is he there?"
"Just one moment, Master Nikolas," she said.
Nikolas held his breath as he waited for Stefan to come on the line. His mind was in turmoil. What would he do if Stefan refused? He had no other options and he couldn't disappoint her. She was so happy with anticipation, and her happiness was his main priority.
"Nikolas?" Stefan asked, as he picked up the telephone. "What's wrong?"
"I need to ask a favor of you."
"Anything," Stefan told him.
"Dawn's party…is it possible for it to be held at Wyndemere? I know it's last minute, but the Grille has been shut down due to rodents."
"Rodents?" Stefan repeated, his voice filled with disgust.
"Yes. Mice," Nikolas replied, equally disgusted. "Would it be okay to direct everyone there?"
"It would be fine. I'll alert Mrs. Landsbury and everything will be taken care of," Stefan told him.
Nikolas released the breath he had been holding. "Thank you," he said.
Stefan smiled. "You're welcome."
Once their conversation was over, Nikolas quickly telephoned Tommy with the information. Tommy told him that he would inform everyone of the new location and that Nikolas wouldn't have to worry about a thing. Hoping that nothing else would go wrong, Nikolas padded back into the bedroom he shared with Dawn. He smiled as he saw her standing in front of the window. The dark purple hue complimented her milk chocolate skin and her dark brown hair fell to her shoulders in waves. She was perfection. "Tu sei bella. (You are beautiful.)"
She turned from the window with a smile upon her lips. "Grazie." Her eyes roamed over his bare chest and her smile broadened. "Tu sei delizioso ma hai bosogno di una camicia. (You are delicious, but you need a shirt.)"
Nikolas blushed and said, "Indeed, I do." He went to her and asked, "What were you looking at?"
"The weather has changed. Remember how nice it was when we were at the park? Look at now. It looks like a fog is rolling in," she said, pulling back the curtains so that Nikolas could see the night sky.
"It looks that way," he commented. As she frowned, he kissed her brow. "Don't worry. I'll protect you from the monsters in the dark."
She smiled at him and playfully swatted his backside as he went past her. "You'd better," she told with a laugh.
"Mice?!" Lucky exclaimed, doubling over with laughter. "No, way!"
"Yes, way," Carrie said, laughing along with him. "Now, hush! It's not funny. I bet poor Nikolas was traumatized when he heard."
"I can imagine," Lucky said, slowing sobering as he imagined his brother's immediate response. "He put a lot of work into her little surprise shindig. It must have sucked to find out that mice had crashed the party."
Carrie laughed and shook her finger at him as he joined in. "You're bad. No more." And, true to her word, Carrie wiped the tears from her eyes and stopped laughing. She left her stance in Lucky's doorway and went into the room. "So, did you change your mind? I think you should come. Dawn would love to see you there."
Lucky shook his head. "Nah. I saw her today and wished her a good one. I'll stay here and make sure that no mic-"
"I told you to stop!" Carrie said, laughing. She smiled at him. "You're smiling again. I like that."
"Thanks," Lucky said as a flush made his cheeks pink.
"So, is everything okay with you now?" Carrie asked, folding her arms across her chest as she looked at her housemate. "No more blues."
"Blues?" Lucky asked. His blue eyes held a faraway look as if he was remembering the past. He shook his head on his memories and gave Carrie a reassuring smile. "Nah. No more blues. I'm fine now."
Carrie had often wondered what had made him so quiet over the last few months, but she had never pried. Well, she had, but she had known when to back off. She was happy to see a genuine smile on his face and sparkle in his blue eyes. She went towards him and kissed him on his forehead. "Good, I'm glad to hear it." She moved to exit his room. As she reached the doorway, she turned towards him again, and said, "If you change your mind, you know the way to Wyndemere."
"Yeah, I know," he told her. He waved as she left his room. He heard the doorbell ring and he rose from his bed to stand his doorway. He looked down the staircase and watched as Carrie greeted Stefan. The kiss they shared wasn't exactly chaste and Lucky had to bite his tongue to hold back a teasing comment. When the door closed behind Carrie and Stefan, Lucky returned to his room.
He grabbed his acoustic guitar and bounced back onto his bed. With the wall supporting his back, he began to strum out a song. As his fingers played, he thought about his day. The time spent with Dawn had been good. He was reminded of how things had been between them before the confusion set in and without his permission, his heart had begun to look at her differently.
He wasn’t sure when it happened or how it happened, but he knew that he loved her. And, he only wanted the best for her and he knew that she had the best…with Nikolas. He refused to lie to himself. He knew that even though she was attracted to him—and that was something he didn't doubt—there was no future for them together. He wasn't even sure if he wanted a future with her. Maybe if she wasn't pregnant and married, sure, he could definitely see them together. Her response of 'maybe' to his question was bullshit. She knew it and he knew it. But, he had chosen to let it stand and not press her about it. He had meant it when he told her that it was done. It was done. Maybe not the love he felt for her, but everything else. He hadn't found it yet, but he was determined that he would find a way to not long for her. It would be hard, but he'd find a way.
Lucky was about to begin another song when he heard a noise. He set his guitar on the bed and left his bedroom to investigate. Thinking that Carrie might have returned, he called out her name. He wasn't prepared for the pair of arms that grabbed him and shoved a chloroformed handkerchief to his face. Within seconds, Lucky was out like a light, and he was tossed onto the intruder's shoulders like a sack of potatoes and carried out of the Jensen brownstone.
The fog had become so thick that visibility was almost non-existent. As they left the garage and headed towards the docks to take the launch to Wyndemere, Dawn's hand held onto Nikolas' in a tight grip. Nikolas didn't mind the pressure, but her anxiety concerned him. "Sweetheart, it's okay. We're almost there."
"I'm sorry for being such a baby," she told him. "I saw a movie about a fog once and since then, it's given me the creeps. I'll be okay as long as I have your hand to hold."
"You'll be fine then," he told her, "because you'll always have that."
She smiled and her grip on his hand lessened. She looked at Arman and Sergei who walked on the outside of her and Nikolas. She was comforted by their presence.
Nikolas felt her unease begin to slip away and smiled. The low moan of the foghorn sounded and he laughed softly, as her grip became tight again. "Sweetheart, it's a foghorn."
"I know what it is!" she said. "I just wasn't expecting it, that's all." They took a few more steps in silence before she stopped and tugged on his hand. "Nikky!"
"What is it?" he asked, instantly alarmed.
"We left the sonogram in the car. We have to go back and get it."
"Please," she said, softly. "Tonight, we'll see Stefan together and it would mean a lot to me if we gave him his copy tonight. Please, let's go back. It won't take more than five minutes at the most."
"Okay," he said. "I'll go back for it. Wait for me at the dock. I'll be right back. Sergei, Arman: keep your eyes on her."
"Nikky, it's too dark. I don't want you to go back alone. Take Sergei with you."
Nikolas shrugged. He didn't feel the need for a bodyguard, but he didn't want her to worry. He gently cupped her cheek and kissed it. "We'll be right back."
"We'll be waiting," she told him. She squinted in the darkness as she watched him and Sergei walk away from her and Arman. She looked towards Arman and said, "Let's wait right here for them."
"Very well, Mrs. Cassadine," was his brusque reply.
Dawn ignored his tone and turned her back to him. The fog still left her with a feeling of unease so she didn't move away from him. Crossing arms over her swollen abdomen, she silently prayed for Nikky and Sergei to hurry up.
Nikolas and Sergei reached the garage in record time. Thinking he heard Dawn call him, Nikolas stopped and turned back. In the background, he heard Sergei open the door to the garage. Later, he would remember seeing a streak of light before the deafening roar of the exploding garage roared into the quiet February night.
The force of the explosion knocked Nikolas to the ground, but he never lost consciousness. Scrambling to his feet, he left the burning garage behind him as he ran towards the sound of his wife's screams. As he ran, he called out to her, "DAWN!! I'M COMING!"
The fog was murky and thick, but Nikolas continued on. He ran back to the dock, screaming Dawn's name as he did so. Soon, his feet took him to where he had last seen her, but she was nowhere to be found. Frantically looking around, he screamed again. "DAWN!!"
Walking aimlessly up and down the dock, he nearly fell to the ground when his feet brushed against a hard object. Kneeling to the ground, Nikolas' eyes searched for whatever it was that had caused him to stumble. His brown eyes widened in shock and a bloodcurdling scream rose from deep within him as the lifeless eyes of Arman stared back at him. He screamed again.