Life After Dark
Chapter 25

Dawn stepped onto the upper deck of The Aphrodite and breathed in the salty fresh air. She inhaled deeply and then slowly exhaled. She laughed to herself when she thought of what she just did. She exhaled. Terry*, I finally know what you mean, she thought with a small chuckle.

She raised her left hand and looked at her wedding band and engagement ring which rested on her third finger. Married and pregnant, she thought, as she rubbed her still flat abdomen. When she left home less than two months ago, she never would have guessed that so many changes would happen so soon. So many wonderful changes, she smiled.

She glanced around at the remains of their wedding ceremony. Before their friends left, they had chipped in and helped the newlyweds clean up. The candles still stood in their holders and the torch still stood at the makeshift altar, but the rose petals had been swept away. When they came back from her mother's, she and Nikolas would decide what they wanted to do with their sources of light from the night before. Right now, she was content to leave it.

A piece of white material on the floor caught her eye as she moved around the deck. She picked it up and blushed when she remembered how her panties were carelessly left there. Oh, Nickie, she thought with a sensual smile.

With panties in hand, she went down below to the lower deck. She called, "Nickie, baby, aren't you ready to go, yet?"

"Just a minute!" he replied.

"Where are you?" she asked as she moved down the corridor.

"I'll be there in a second!"

Dawn frowned as she went into their bedroom. The bed was still made, just the way she left it, but everything else was a mess. The closet looked like it had been ransacked and the dresser drawers were opened. What little items they had in there had been thrown about the floor.

"Nikolas, why is this room a mess?" she called out to him as she began to move about the room, putting things back into their rightful place.

Nikolas grimaced as he stood in the door way. 'Nikolas' again, he thought. He'd make it up. She would enjoy the way he made it up, and so would he, he thought with a smile.

He moved quietly until he stood right behind her. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and laughed softly when she yelped and dropped the shirts she had been holding.

"Nickie! You scared me," she said, as she turned to face him.

"Sorry," he said with a mischievous grin, pulling her closer against him.

"No, you're not," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You enjoyed it."

He didnít answer her. Instead, he allowed his lips to do the talking for him as he lowered them to hers and kissed her deeply.

She returned his embrace with equal fervor. Her hands moved to his silky, soft brown hair and pulled him closer to her. When he hands moved to cup her behind, she ended the kiss and said breathlessly, "Later."

Nikolas pouted and gave her his best sad look which had worked for him on countless occasions in the past. Dawn smiled and shook her head. Stepping out of his arms, she reached for his hand and tried to pull him to the door. When he wouldn't budge, she gave him a fake glare and said, "Nickie, come on. We only have a few hours before all hell breaks loose. If we hurry and pick up my stuff now, we'll have enough time later. I promise."

She tugged on his hand again and this time he followed her. Hand in hand, they moved down the corridor and made their way to the upper deck. Nikolas smiled when he breathed in the fresh air and remembered the last time he stood there. Last night, he married the woman he loved and he couldn't remember a time when he had felt happier.

When they reached the middle of the deck, he stopped and changed their direction. Instead of leaving the boat, he led her to the opposite end where they stood beside the railing.

"What are you doing, now?" she asked with a grin.

He cupped her face and lightly ran his thumb across her cheek. "Something I should have done last night," he said huskily.

Dawn was about to speak, but her reply was cut short when Nikolas placed a tender finger to her lips. She watched him as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a chain with a round medallion. Her eyes moved from him to the medallion as he began to speak.

"This is the Cassadine medallion," he said as he carefully held it in the palm of his hand.

"It's very beautiful," she murmured. She lowered her eyes to take in the intricate emblems which covered it. With a tentative finger, she traced the ancient symbols.

Nikolas watched her for a moment. Her mouth was slightly parted and her eyes were aglow with curiosity. His voice filled with emotion as he began to speak again. "This medallion and others like it have been passed down in my family for centuries. This is our greatest legacy. There is nothing else like it in all the world."

Dawn raised her eyes to his and said, "It's truly amazing. You must be very proud to own something which has so much personal history."

"This isn't mine," he said hoarsely.

"It's not?" she asked confused. Her eyes widened when he held the chain up and then gently lowered it over her head.

"It's yours, my darling wife," he whispered before he tenderly brushed her lips with his. When he raised his head and looked her eyes which were bright with unshed tears, he said, "I should have given it to you on our wedding night, but my mind was enraptured with other thoughts. Will you forgive me?"

"Of course," she said, as a tear slid down her cheek. Their wedding ceremony was beautiful and the memory of it would live with her forever, but somehow, it didn't compare to what she and Nikolas just shared. With the Cassadine medallion around her neck, she truly felt like she and he were one.

"I'll cherish it always," she said as she moved into his arms.

Nikolas stroked her back as he held her close to his heart. He lightly brushed her forehead with his lips and then he moved away from their embrace. He reached his hand into his other pocket and pulled out another medallion. He handed it to her. "Will you do me the honor?" he asked as he bent his head forward.

Dawn carefully placed the chain around his neck. Her fingers trailed the chain down to the medallion where it rested against his heart. She rested her palm against the medallion and his steady heartbeat. When she looked into his eyes, she saw that he gazed at her with eyes that glistened with unshed tears. Her other hand moved to gently caress his cheek and her thumb captured the tear that found its way down his face. "I love you," she whispered.

He smiled and said, "I love you, too. Forever and always."

~*~

"Home at last," Carrie said, as she stepped into her home. Dara followed her and Alex, carrying Carrie's garment bag, was close behind.

"Alex, you can give me that," Carrie said as he moved to go up the stairs.

"No, I can't," Alex said with a smile as he continued up the stairs to leave her bag in her bedroom.

"He's a good one," Carrie told Dara with a smile.

Dara returned her smile and said, "Oh, yes, he is."

"I wonder where your sister could be. She usually sleeps in on Sunday," Carrie said with a frown.

"Do you have Nikolas' cell phone number?" Dara asked as she plopped down on the sofa.

"Dara, drop it. She probably decided to visit Simone earlier than usual or something," Carrie replied. "Will you and Alex stay for a couple of minutes?"

"Sure, Mama," Dara said with a yawn.

"Sure, Carrie," Alex said as he entered the room. He moved to sit next to Dara on the sofa and asked, "What's going on?"

"Nothing, I just don't feel like being alone, I guess," she said with a laugh.

"Aw, Mama, we'll keep you company," Dara said with a smile. "Won't we, Alex?"

"Of course, I can never spend enough time with the Jensen women. By the way, where's the youngest Jensen woman. I haven't seen her all weekend. I heard that DJLS won and I stopped to congratulate her, but she wasn't here," Alex said.

"So, you haven't seen her since we've been gone?" Carrie asked concerned.

"No, I haven't," he said with a frown. "Why? Is something wrong?"

"I'm not sure," Carrie said, moving to the stairs.

"Mama, where are you going?" Dara asked, moving to sit up straight.

"I just want to check on something. I'll be right back," Carrie said as she quickly moved up the stairs. She headed straight for Dawn's room. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that everything was where it was supposed to be. Her closets were full and everything was undisturbed. Carrie was about to shut the door when something beside the bed caught her attention. She moved to pick it up and her eyes widened when she read the title, 'Your Baby and You.'

Oh, my God, she thought as she sank onto Dawn's bed.

~*~

Stefan's eyes were ablaze with anger as he parked his 500 SL in front of the Jensen home. He never noticed that Nikolas' Jaguar wasn't there as he raced to the door and angrily pushed the doorbell.

The door opened and he came face to face with Detective Garcia. Garcia opened the door wide and said, "Fancy meeting you here."

Stefan brushed past him and entered the house. His eyes flew around the room as he asked, "Where is he? Nikolas!"

"Are you crazy?" Dara asked as she swiftly move from the sofa to face him. "You have no right to come into my mother's home shouting and screaming."

"Where is my nephew?" Stefan asked.

"The better question is where is my sister!" Dara countered as Alex moved to stand beside her.

"I don't have the time nor the inclination to play word games with you, Miss Jensen! Now, if you'll excuse me," he said as he moved to go up the stairs.

"Now, hold it right there, Cassadine," Alex said in his authoritative law enforcement voice. "If you donít want to be arrested for trespassing, I suggest you move away from those stairs."

Stefan paused for a moment and was about to speak when Carrie said, "They're not here, Mr. Cassadine."

"Where are they?" he asked, not able to keep the worry from his voice.

"I don't know. The only thing I know is-"

She was interrupted by the opening of the front door when the two missing teenagers in question entered the house. Hand in hand, they stood in the foyer as they faced their family for the first time as husband and wife.

[Author's Note: Terry is Terry McMillan, the author of Waiting to Exhale.]

Chapter 26

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