Outrage that lingered on the border of violence coursed through Nikolas' veins. The girl—he was sure he'd heard her give her name as Francesca—twirled Dawn's ring around her finger as if it had been made for her. Nikolas seethed with anger every time she touched the precious memento. The belief that she would lead him to his beloved wife was the only thing that kept him from confronting her and ripping the ring off her finger.
Since leaving the coffee shop, she had taken him on a mini-tour of Atlanta before leading him to a bus terminal. Her movements were slow and dreamy as she wandered around the bus station. Without much trouble at all, Nikolas was able to surmise where she was headed. He bought a ticket for the same destination and called Tommy to fill him in on his whereabouts. Tommy told him that Stefan and the others had arrived and that they would continue on with Spiros. He would head for the bus station. Maybe he'd make it in time to join Nikolas and maybe he wouldn't. Either way, he'd catch up to Nikolas as soon as he could.
Francesca glanced over her shoulder and encountered the unwavering brown-eyed stare of the handsome young stranger. She quickly looked away. His intense gaze set her on edge and it reminded her of another young man. She looked over her shoulder again to see if he bore a resemblance to Lucky, but she found that he had turned away. Unease settled over her and she shivered slightly. Ginnie and her ranting and ravings frightened Francesca at times, but it didn't compare to what she felt when she had looked into the man's hard brown eyes. She looked up at the wall clock and hoped that time would pass quickly. She longed for the security of the island.
The Island is off the coast of the Carolinas. Be careful, my love, and hurry. Please, hurry.
Dawn's voice had called to Nikolas and he paused in his surveillance of Francesca to listen. He moved past the waiting travelers to stand before a window. He wrapped his arms around himself, as he closed his eyes and sent a reply back to her.
Hold on, sweetheart. I'm almost there.
He concentrated on his message until he was certain that she had received it. He opened his eyes and chuckled softly to himself. If anyone had suggested the power of telepathy to him, he never would have believed it. But the connection he and Dawn shared made him a believer in a lot of things. True love, telepathy, and eternal devotion…and happily ever after. They would be together soon. He could feel it.
Thoughts of Dawn lessened his rage towards Francesca. Now as he kept his eyes on her, he did so with the knowledge that the reunion he craved was close at hand.
He turned at the sound of Carrie's voice. His emerald green eyes were bright with an intensity that some men even twice his age had never possessed. Placing a tight hold on his impatience, he waited for her and said, "Yes, Mrs. Jensen?"
"I'm going with you-"
"Mama, what do you think you're doing?" Dara asked, following her mother. They both came to a stop in front of the yellow taxicab that was parked at the curb beside Tommy.
Carrie exhaled a long breath before she turned to face her oldest child. Calmly, she said, "I thought you were inside with Alex. What are you doing out here?"
"Don't change the subject-"
"Don't forget your manners," her mother reminded her.
Dara's mouth opened to release a well-mannered retort, but Tommy spoke up before she could think of one. "Ladies, please. Not to be rude, but I don't have time for this. Mrs. Jensen, you don't have to come with me. Nikolas and I will be fine. Maybe it will be better if you stayed with Mr. Cassadine and Alex."
"I didn't ask you if I could go with you, Tommy," she said not unkindly. She placed a hand on his shoulder and said, "I am going with you."
"Mama, is Stefan aware of this?"
"Dara, please." Carrie rolled her eyes. With her free hand, she pointed towards the historical Pascal Hotel. "Go back before Alex forms a search party for you. Tommy, Nikolas, and I will be just fine. I'll meet up with all you later, including Stefan."
Dara's mouth opened again, but when Carrie gave her "The Look" that every child knows must be obeyed, she promptly closed it. Dara nodded and before Carrie could move, she grabbed her mother in a fierce hug. "Be careful, okay? Please. Promise me."
"I promise." Carrie blew her daughter a kiss and moved into the backseat of the cab. Tommy climbed in beside her and the cab pulled away.
A chill crept up Dara's spine in the heat of the March afternoon. Shivering, she wrapped her arms around herself. She stood on the sidewalk until the cab was out of site and then she went back up the walk towards the hotel. She was almost at the entrance when Alex came outside. His expression was solemn and she became immediately consumed with fear. "What's wrong?" she demanded as he placed his strong arm around her shoulders.
"I just got a call from Mac," he said softly.
"Mac?" she questioned, confusion on her face. As Alex led her away, she looked back towards the hotel. "What about Spiros and Stefan? What's going on with them? Why aren't we in there with them?"
"Because we need to talk, and we can't talk in there," he told her gently. The parking lot was the best-secluded spot that Alex could find and he took her there. His fingers grasped her shoulders in a firm, but gentle grip, and his brown eyes bore into hers. "It's about your father."
Fearing the worse, Dara's legs became weak. Alex's hands rested at her waist, pulling her against him. "Is he dead?" was her choked cry. "How did it happen?"
"No, mi vida. He's not dead. I'm sorry for making you think that." Alex's hands stroked her back and his warm voice stroked her heart.
"Then, what is it? Was he in an accident? How did you find out? I thought you couldn't locate him."
"I couldn't," he said, "but the WSB could. Your father has been arrested in connection to that hellhole Tommy and Simone lived through. Mac received word this morning. He wanted to tell you himself, but I told him that I'd do it."
"Wh-what?" she asked, disbelief etched on her face. "My father would never be involved with something like that. He's a plastic surgeon, Alex! He's not some sick, sadistic animal-"
"Bright Eyes might disagree with you," Alex murmured.
"That's not fair, Alex!" Dara exclaimed, pushing away from him. "They had their problems, but he's not… Well, he's not the type of man who'd allow something as horrible as that to happen. If my father knew about it, he'd do something! He's being set up!"
"Dara," Alex said, moving to stand before her. Her anger with him struck out at him like daggers. He met them head on. He moved his head so that their eyes met. "Before you decide this is a conspiracy, there's something you should know."
"What?" she bit out, brown eyes flashing.
"He was found in Paris, and he wasn't alone-"
"She set him up!" she said with conviction.
Alex shook his head and released a deep sigh. "Sweetheart, he wasn't with a 'she.' He was found with Tracy Quartermaine's youngest son, Dillon. And, if you will recall, Tracy is the woman that Simone named as one of her assailants-"
"That doesn't prove anything!" she denied. "We don't know why Tracy's kid was with Daddy. There could be a number of reasons."
"Well, what's the reason behind him using several carats of the same precious stones that were mined in the catacombs as currency?" He closed his hands over hers. "Dara, listen to me. Your father was involved-"
"How was he found? Why did the WSB arrest him?" she asked, tugging on her hands. Alex held firm and she ended her struggle. Her eyes were downcast as she waited.
"The WSB had an agent planted in Port Charles who was placed there by Frisco Jones. She heard that he was missing, and she went in search of him. She and Frisco nailed him in Paris."
"Who is she?"
Alex paused for the briefest moment and then he answered her. "Lisa, Carrie's assistant. She wasn't the teenybopper we thought she was. She was undercover and she'd been on your father's trail for a year or two. Her job with Carrie was a cover. She used it to further investigate Robert and protect your mother."
"Daddy would never hurt Mama," Dara said, quietly. The anger and the fight left her. Defeated, she closed her eyes and went into Alex's arms. "I can't believe this. I don’t want to."
"Maybe it's not as bad as it seems. We don't know how deeply he was involved."
"It doesn't matter. He was involved. That's all that matters." Her voice had lowered to almost a whisper and he had to strain to hear her. His arms tightened around her and Dara welcomed the strength he willingly gave her.
"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. If there's anything I can do, just tell me. I'd like to continue on with the search, but we can go back to Port Charles… Just tell me."
She slowly shook her head. "First, just hold me. Then, we'll look for my baby sister. Daddy made his choices. Dawn's were taken away from her. Hold me for a little while, Alex, and then let's go back inside. Maybe Spiros has seen the error of his ways."
He rested his chin on top of her dark, brown tresses. "Do you want me to tell Carrie? Where is she by the way? I thought she came outside for some air."
"She left with Tommy," Dara mumbled against his chest. "She's got that look in her eyes, and if I don't want both of my parents behind bars, we'd better get to Helena before she does."
"We will," Alex said softly. "But first, I'll hold you a little while longer."
"Thanks," she murmured.
Stefan's green eyes glittered with the hurt of his betrayal. His surveillance of Spiros had been in silence, but inside, he seethed. He wanted answers. He wanted to pound them out of his former closest confidante. He wanted to know how a lifetime of loyalty could disappear after a night in his mother's bed. He shuddered as an image threatened to flash before his eyes. He blinked it back before it could form.
Spiros glanced behind him as he entered the dining area. He was certain that he wouldn't be discovered in the historical hotel on King Blvd., but he had learned long ago that there were no certainties when it pertained to the Cassadines.
He took a seat beside an open window. His back was to the wall, and once again, he quickly scanned the patrons. A sigh of relief escaped him as he saw that Nikolas and Tommy where no longer with him. Then, a look of dismay entered his eyes. He had made a grievous mistake in his alliance with Helena. Her bed had been warm, but it hadn't been worth the pain and torment he saw in the boy's eyes. His Dawn meant more to him than Helena had acknowledged. He felt like a fool for believing her. He should have known better than to trust himself after a night of decadent passion. He should have known that she would use his weakness against him.
Spiros was lost in his thoughts when coldness swept over him. He sat up straight. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He looked up from the white envelope that he had yet to open and glanced in the doorway. The hatred in Stefan's eyes took his breath away. He slumped in his seat and waited for Fate to have her say.
"Spiros," Stefan's hoarse voice bit the word out. He swept a hand towards the vacant chair and softly, asked, "May I?"
Spiros indicated his consent with a slight nod of his head. It wasn't like he had a choice. He swallowed hard as he waited. No words were sufficient in explanation for his betrayal, so none were uttered. The silence grew.
"Is that from…my mother?" Stefan jutted his chin towards the white envelope that rested on the table before Spiros.
The muscles in Stefan's jaw worked as he strained to control his need to go for Spiros' throat. Strangers paid no attention to him and were oblivious to his turmoil, but not Spiros. He saw the rage in his former childhood playmate's eyes and he knew that it was just barely controlled. He opened his mouth to speak, but Stefan's raised hand silenced him. "No. The time for words, explanations and pleadings for your life have long since passed. In that envelope, lies your death certificate. She harbors no loyalty to you."
"No words, Spiros," Stefan softly warned him. "No words can save you from my mother's wrath nor from mine. For weeks, you've allowed my mother to imprison a young pregnant woman and you've watched in silence as Nikolas' turmoil hardened him. There are no words that can change your role in my mother's sadistic game…in her punishment of me. I would not waste a breath on you except to ask you this. The Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas…is this where she's holding Dawn, or has Nikolas been led astray again?"
Spiros vigorously nodded his head. "She is there."
Stefan pushed his chair away from the table and rose to stand. He walked away from Spiros, knowing that he would never see the man alive again. Stefan didn't care.
Golden locks in disarray, her hair shone underneath the fluorescent lights like a halo. Gesturing wildly, her arms swept outward like wings. As Luke leaned in the doorway, he noted how worry had drawn tiny lines at the corner of her cornflower blue eyes, but even that couldn't diminish her ethereal beauty. Laura Webber Spencer would always be an angel.
Oblivious to her husband's scrutiny, Laura grabbed the ringing telephone and listened intently as another caller phoned in with sympathy regarding Lucky's disappearance rather than information to his whereabouts. She graciously accepted the heartfelt words and with a strained voice, thanked the caller and hung up the telephone. The second den at the Ward House had been converted into the headquarters for any information regarding the disappearances of Lucky and Dawn. A few crank callers had enjoyed brief moments of fun, but on the whole, the citizens of Port Charles had taken Laura's efforts seriously and had responded accordingly.
"Anything new?" Bobbie asked her sister-in-law. The two women could never be considered as friends, but they were family. And despite numerous differences between the two women, the concern in Bobbie's eyes was sincere. She placed a hand on Laura's shoulders when the other woman shook her head. "Maybe you should take a break. Go outside for some air…"
Laura patted Bobbie's hand as she shook her head. "No, I can't take a break. I have a feeling about today, Bobbie. There's something in the air."
Bobbie offered Laura a brief smile and a faint frown. She didn't quite know how to respond to Laura's sentiment, so she said nothing. The telephone rang again, and Bobbie quickly reached for it. She waved her hand, silently telling Laura that she would handle the call.
Laura nodded and moved to another table in search of something to do. She had to keep busy. She couldn't be idle, for idleness returned her memories of her own abduction to the forefront of her mind. And, with those memories came the possibility that The Chatterbox and those other news rags weren't so off the mark: that maybe Lucky and Dawn were together. But unlike the tabloids, Laura knew that if it were true, their disappearance wasn't about two lovebirds running away, but more along the lines of a psychopath having entirely too much time on her hands. She released a deep, agitated sigh and hoped that Stefan would call her soon with news of their progress.
Laura smiled as Lizzie interrupted her thoughts. "Yes?"
"I saw Mr. Spencer in here earlier. Did he have any news?"
Laura frowned. "What do you mean? You saw Luke here? When? Where?"
"Just a few minutes ago. He was standing in the door, right over there." She pointed towards the backdoor. "You didn't see him?"
"No," Laura said softly, "I didn't." Luke's silence surprised her, but she didn't want to alarm Lizzie. She placed her arm around the younger woman's shoulder. "I'm sure he was stopping by. Have you taken a break? Had lunch?"
Lizzie offered Laura a faint smile. "It's well past lunch time. It's almost time for dinner. The guys were thinking about ordering pizza."
"Dinnertime?" Laura asked with a frown. "Time goes by so quickly these days, doesn't it?"
Lizzie swallowed hard. She nodded. "Yes, it does."
Laura kissed the top of Lizzie's forehead. She couldn't find the words to offer comfort. She held her breath as the brown-eyed girl embraced her and then moved away to join her friends. Looking at the group of teenagers, tears sprang to Laura's eyes. She blindly wiped them away and when the phone rang again, she answered it.
"What did she say?" Sly asked as soon as Lizzie rejoined them. Lark's hand tightened on his, and he accepted it with a slight squeeze. "Did Luke have a lead or something?"
Afraid that speaking would lead to tears, Lizzie shook her head. She leaned against Emily as the other girl's arms wrapped around her. She closed her eyes tight to prevent any tears from escaping.
Jordan patted Lizzie on the back and said, "It's okay to let it out, Elizabeth."
"Yeah, Liz," Lark added.
Lizzie lifted her head from Emily's shoulder. "I'm okay. It's just hard, you know? Of course, you know. What am I saying? We're all scared for them, too."
The others all nodded in response. As the days grew into weeks, they all began to realize just how much their missing friends meant to them. Dawn's pregnancy added extra concerns and worries for them. They had all anticipated the baby's birth, and now, they wondered if they would ever even see the baby or Dawn again.
"There's gotta be something more that we can do, right?" Emily asked, holding on to Jordan's hand for support.
"What more, Emmie?" Jordan asked softly. "We've done interviews, sent out flyers, called people… Your family has hired investigators and offered a reward, and still nothing. What more is there?"
Gina's enthusiastic greeting and smile caused a scowl to darken Sly's face. "Why are you so happy?" he asked with a grimace.
His scowl and grimace did nothing to remove Gina's smile. She gently patted his hand. Taking the time to look each one of them in the eye, she said, "Tommy called me a little while ago. They're back in the States, and he's positive that they're close to finding Dawn."
"Yeah, they were positive when they went to Greece weeks ago," Sly said. He wanted to believe in Gina's news, but he was too afraid to. He turned away from them and headed towards the backdoor. The door opened just as he got there, and Jason entered with Gracie and Georgie on his heels. The children squealed when they saw Sly. Brother and sister took a hand each and pulled Sly from the room.
"I'm sorry about that," Lark said softly. "He's scared and he's trying to…"
Gina shook her head. "It's okay. You don't have to apologize for him. I shouldn't have been too happy, I guess."
"I think my cousin's voice and proximity had that effect on you," Lizzie suggested with a faint smile.
Gina blushed and nodded.
"So, tell us, Gina," Jordan said, his need to know what was going on making his voice hoarse. "Is this for real or another wild goose chase?"
"He couldn't go into too much detail, but Nikolas saw a girl wearing Dawn's ring. They're following her now." She smiled again. "So, yeah, I think it's for real this time."
"Where are they?" Jordan asked. "Maybe they could use some help."
Gina shook her head. "I don't know. They're on the East Coast, I think. He didn't really say."
"Why not?" Lizzie questioned. "That's not like Tommy."
"He was pressed for time," Gina explained. "He promised to call as soon as he had more information."
"Now, that sounds like him," Emily said with a smile. She looked at Jordan and pointed her finger at him. "And, you are staying right here. I'm sure that Det. Garcia and Mr. Cassadine will provide plenty of backup for Nikolas and Tommy."
"I guess so," Jordan mumbled. "I just hate feeling so useless."
"You're not," Emily reassured him. She was about to say more when Jason beckoned for her to come to him. She excused herself and went to her brother. Meanwhile, the conversation continued.
"What about Lucky?" Lizzie asked. "Did Tommy mention him?"
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth." Gina reached for her friend's hand. "But, I know we'll hear something about him soon."
"I hope so," she said sadly.
Jordan wrapped his arm around Lizzie's shoulders. "We all do."
"What's up?" Emily asked as she approached her older brother. He had led her into the hallway and now, they stood facing each other.
"I was just at the mansion, and I have some new info for you," Jason said softly. The sound of footsteps prevented him from saying more and he smiled as Keesha came towards them. In her arms, she carried a sleeping Benjamin. Jason kissed them both hello.
"What's going on?" Keesha asked. "Why did Edward demand your presence?"
"What?" Emily asked, looking from Keesha to Jason. "There was a family meeting and no one called me?"
Jason sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "They knew you were busy over here, Em. Besides, I told them I'd tell you whatever and that's what I'm about to do."
"Go ahead," Emily said, dryly. "I hope Grandfather hasn't changed his mind about the reward because if he did-"
"He didn't. It had nothing to do with the reward. It seems that we're going to have an addition to the family."
"Mom can't be pregnant!" Emily blurted out. Her eyes were as huge as Keesha's.
"Isn't it a little dangerous for Monica to get pregnant at this age?" Keesha asked gently. She shifted her arms as Benjamin stirred, and when Jason moved to the baby from her, she happily handed him over. "Well, isn't it?"
"Mom's not pregnant," Jason told them. "It's Tracy. Her son Dillon wasn't hidden away in an exclusive boarding school like we thought. He's been in Paris with, and you're not gonna believe this-"
"Who?" Keesha prompted, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"Dawn and Dara's father, Robert Jensen. Apparently, he was in on Tracy's scheme and he had taken Dillon away. Anyway, they're all going over there to welcome Dillon back into the family."
"I can't go," Emily said quietly. "Dawn and Lucky are still missing. I can't believe they'd expect me to just leave-"
"They don't," Jason said quietly. "I told them that you could stay with me while they're gone. AJ offered to put you up, too. So, you have your choice."
"Choice?" Emily asked. "It's like comparing apples and oranges-"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jason asked, frowning. "One is nothing like the other-"
"Jason, Benjamin is asleep. Let's keep it that way," Keesha teasingly suggested as the baby cooed softly in his sleep. "And, Em, for the sake of peace, please don't mention those two fruits. Your brother has the weirdest aversion to apples-"
"It's just that oranges are better," Jason said with a smile. With Benjamin still in his arms, he left the two women alone.
"Now, that was bizarre," Emily murmured. She looked at Keesha and said, "Thanks for the warning. I'll be sure to remember that."
Anticipation shivered up and down Helena's spine like electric currents as she waited for Ginnie to answer her question. She knew the response would have to be in the affirmative, but she had to hear the other woman say it.
Ginnie's mouth twitched as she noted the glee sparkling in the pale emerald eyes. Amusement and revulsion were at war inside her, and she shook her head to ward them both off. She was paid money to do a job. Her personal opinions really didn't matter. "You could have the child tonight," she said, reaffirming what Helena already knew. "But it would be a little early."
Helena waved Ginnie's warning away with her bejeweled hand. "Never mind that. A premature birth wouldn't harm the infant."
Ginnie shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not." She placed her hand on the doorknob, preparing to leave.
"How long will I have to wait?" Helena asked. She bit out the question. Time was essential. Spiros had proven himself to be ill prepared to face his disloyalty to Stefan. She couldn't be certain that he hadn't broken his word to her, and her son could be rather intelligent and intuitive when he chose to be. She dared not risk the chance of being discovered. She wanted her revenge and she wanted it nicely wrapped and cooing in her arms, as soon as humanly possible.
"I'll begin as soon as I get back there to her," Ginnie replied.
"See that you do. And, remember, Virginia dear, she mustn't know that the child is alive," Helena reminded her dutiful employee.
"Stillborn," was Ginnie's brusque reply. "She already thinks something is wrong. Me and Doc will tell her that it was stillborn. She'll believe it."
"And, Lucky, we mustn't forget about him. Keep him well occupied until his father returns."
Ginnie nodded and left Helena. Clouds had rolled in during her time with Helena. The night had darkened quickly and its darkness now enveloped her as she walked back to the main house. Ding-dong, sang the bell as Hera floated back to the dock. The sight of Helena's yacht brought a sense of finality to Ginnie, and she welcomed it. Her feet trudged on through the sand and thoughts of Helena vanished as she thought of what the night had in store for her: a premature birth. She released a deep sigh as she hoped that her niece had delivered Dawn's meal to her as scheduled. Ginnie's magical ingredients would insure that the young mother wouldn't be aware of a thing…until it was too late.
"You got everything?"
"Are you okay?" Lucky asked softly. Dawn's hand clutched his in a powerful grip and he could feel tension radiating from her body. His footsteps halted in the dark hallway. He whispered softly against her ear. "We don't have to go tonight. If you're not feeling up to it-"
"I'm up to it." Dawn said, cutting him off. The humidity in the air in addition to her nervousness had caused tiny beads of perspiration to glisten on her forehead. With her free hand, she absently wiped them away. Her other hand remained firmly inside Lucky's. Her unborn child stirred within her and the movement startled her. She squeezed Lucky's hand again.
"What's wrong?" he whispered. He had resume leading them toward his escape route—the kitchen's pantry which housed a cellar—but as she gripped his hand again, he paused. "Dawn?"
"Nothing!" she whispered back furiously. "Come on, let's go!"
"Fine!" he said, slightly irritated. He became quiet again as they began to move. Behind him, Dawn breathed deeply. He believed that fear was the cause of her labored breathing and he ached to pull her into his arms, reassuring her that he would see them to safety. But, he didn't make a move towards her. He ignored his ache and as they came to stand on the outside of the kitchen's swinging doors, he motioned for her to stop.
He released her hand and used both hands to lightly push the door inward, checking for movement on the other side. He swallowed a gallon of air as her hand fell to his waist and she held on to him. Her trust in him frightened him and empowered him, too. He would see them out of there. There was no question about it.
"It's dark enough. I say we go now," Nikolas whispered to Tommy. The two were crouched a few feet away from Carrie. The large white frame house had become a looming shadow as the clouds darkened the night sky. Nikolas' eyes had been trained on it from the moment Francesca had unknowingly led them there. He felt drawn to it and now that the night would provide their cover, he was ready to go to it.
"What about your father?" Tommy asked. He glanced behind them towards Carrie. "And, Mrs. Jensen? We can't just leave her here."
"I wasn't planning to. She's coming with us." His eyes drifted back towards Carrie. He could see that something had caught her attention and he moved towards her. "What did you see?"
Carrie pointed towards the western side of the island. "Over there. I saw a flashing light and heard bells ringing. What is that? Is it a boat?"
Nikolas squinted as he looked towards the west. The bells' toll was familiar to him and he answered her. "It's a boat. It's Helena's."
"What do you want to do now?" Tommy asked as he crouched next to his friend. "The house or the boat?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Nikolas replied, "The house. Dawn's in the house."
"Okay," Tommy answered him. He looked at first his friend and then at Carrie. "Are we waiting for the others or what?"
A faint smile touched Carrie's lips at Tommy's no nonsense attitude. She said, "We can't wait for the others. Helena's yacht virtually disappeared and now, it suddenly returns. Something is up. I think now is the time for us to split up-"
"No, Carrie," Nikolas replied. He shook his head in firm denial. "You're coming with us. Father and Dawn would never forgive me if something happened to you. I'd never forgive myself."
"I'm not a child who needs a babysitter, Nikolas," Carrie told him. She spoke softly in a tone that would accept no argument. "I can take care of myself. I wasn't asleep during your father's very thorough Tai Chi lessons, and although I'm a novice, I know what to do. I'll be okay. You and Tommy can check out the house, and I'll go to her yacht. If all goes well, one of us will meet up with Stefan and the others-"
"But, Mrs. Jensen," Tommy interjected, "Nikolas' grandmother won't be alone. If she's on the yacht-"
"Tommy, I know you mean well, but I'm not afraid of her." Carrie gently patted the cheeks of both of the young men. "We're wasting time. We don't know where Dawn is. She could be on the boat or in the house. With us splitting up, we can half the time and maybe get to her before it's too late."
Nikolas took Carrie's hand inside his own. "Okay. We'll split up, but Carrie, please, don’t underestimate her."
Carrie squeezed her son-in-law's hand. "I won't."
"This is crazy," Tommy replied, still not convinced. "I don't feel right about you going alone. Nikolas, I'll go with her. Will you be okay alone?"
Nikolas breathed a sigh of relief at his friend's quick thinking. "Thanks. I'll be fine. You two be careful."
"We will be," Carrie promised. She kissed Nikolas' cheek and against his ear whispered. "That was for you and my daughter. We will be reunited tonight. I love you."
"I love you, too, Carrie," Nikolas replied, his voice hoarse with emotion. "Please, be careful."
Carrie nodded. She touched Tommy's shoulder and soon, the two were gone. The clouds rolled away from the moon, allowing Nikolas to watch as the tall grass marked their passage. When the cloud rolled back again, he turned away and headed for the house.
"Mother's yacht," Stefan whispered.
Two pairs of brown eyes followed the direction of his gaze. Dara's hand instinctively reached for Alex's. He squeezed her hand, silently reassuring her that he was right there with her. He spoke softly as he asked, "We have two choices. The house or the yacht."
Dara and Stefan answered simultaneously. Alex looked from one to the other. He said, "So, we split up."
"I don't think we should," Dara said. "There are safety in numbers. We don't know what's out here."
"My mother is out here," Stefan replied softly. "Nothing else matters."
"Everything matters," Dara told him. "My sister may be out here somewhere. We don't even know where Mama, Nikolas and Tommy are. We have to move cautiously."
"My intention wasn't to suggest otherwise. With Mother's whereabouts unknown, caution isn't a choice. It's a necessity."
"Which is why we shouldn't split up," Dara reasoned.
"We have no choice. We must separate," Stefan said.
"Mi vida, he's right," Alex responded. "It's now or never. We don't have time to go back and forth with first checking the house and later checking the boat. We must make the move now."
"But, what about Mama? We don't know where she is."
"And, standing here hiding behind a pile of rocks won't help us find her either," Alex said. "She's with Nikolas and Tommy. She's safe."
"Dara," Stefan said gently, "your mother's whereabouts is a concern of mine as well. Therefore, the sooner we separate the better. I'll go to the yacht. You and Alex can search the house. I am certain that Carlotta will be found at one place or the other."
Dara swallowed hard. She hated to admit that Stefan could be right, but he was. She nodded her head in acceptance. "Okay."
"Very well, then," Stefan replied, preparing to leave them behind as he headed back towards the dock.
"Stefan," Dara called out softly before he could move too far away from them.
Stefan turned to face the eldest daughter of the woman he loved. Softly, he said, "Yes, Dara?"
"Be careful," she quietly advised him.
"I shall, and you do the same."
The sound of waves crashing interrupted the following silence. Stefan took his leave, and so did Dara and Alex. The search had begun.
[Author's note: Thanks, Dee, for suggesting the Pascals Hotel! –D.]