“You’re angry with me,” Nikolas said as he watched Dawn rip open her suitcase.
“No, I’m not angry with you,” Dawn said as she focused on removing the contents of the suitcase to place them on the bed.
“You haven’t said much since we left your mother’s,” Nikolas said as he leaned against the dresser so that he could have a better view of her.
“I haven’t had much to say,” she said quietly as she closed her empty suitcase. She placed it on the floor beside the bed she and Nikolas would share. She then moved to lift her other suitcase which rested beside the foot of the bed.
Nikolas was too quick for her and he grabbed the case before she could. He placed it on their bed and then moved to sit beside it. His eyes caressed her face as he said, “You don’t have to do that. We have servants for that.”
Dawn stiffened at the word ‘servants’ and said, “I can do this myself. I don’t need anyone else to unpack my things for me.”
Dawn picked up an armful of clothes and headed for the closet. She stopped when she heard Nikolas speak.
“I can see I’m saying all the wrong things. Would you prefer if I left you alone for a while?” he asked.
“No. I don’t want you to leave me,” Dawn said softly as she turned to face him. She placed the clothes on the chaise and went back to sit next to Nikolas on the bed. She picked up his left hand and placed it on top of her own. She rubbed his wedding band with her finger. Resting her head on his shoulder, she said, “I’m not angry with you.”
“Well, what’s wrong? I know I promised we wouldn’t live here but here we are. I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I know you tried,” she sighed.
Nikolas moved behind her so that his back rested against the pillows. He opened his arms and watched with a small smile as Dawn crawled into them. She straddled his lap and rested her head against his chest as her arms wrapped around his back. His arms pulled her closer to him as he said, “Life won’t be that bad here, I promise. We have this entire wing to ourselves and you can decorate it any way you please.”
“That could be fun…” she began.
“But?” he asked when she let her sentence hang.
“But that isn’t what truly concerns me,” she said.
“What your uncle said. About your grandmother,” Dawn said.
“I won’t let her near you,” Nikolas promised fiercely.
Dawn raised herself so that she could look into his eyes. As her hand caressed his face, she said, “I know you won’t. Actually, it’s not me I’m concerned about when it comes to her. It’s you. I heard what Stefan said, but is there more? There has to be more, right?”
“What do you mean by more?” Nikolas asked with a small frown.
“Why would she want to hurt you? Or our baby?” Dawn asked. “She doesn’t have enough money to take care of herself? Stefan said she was crazy. Is that really true?”
Nikolas laughed softly. “You really meant ‘more’, didn’t you?”
“Nickie, don’t make light of it. I need to know what I’m dealing with here,” Dawn said, her eyes dead serious.
“I’m not,” Nikolas said, his eyes as serious as his wife’s. “Besides, you’re not dealing with her alone. We’re in this together. Never forget that.”
“I won’t, but still. I need to know what WE’re dealing with here.”
Nikolas sighed and leaned forward to brush her forehead with a kiss. As he leaned back to rest his head against the pillows again, he playfully tugged on one of her braids. He softly said, “Do you really want to know everything?”
“Yes,” she said as she readjusted her position to so that she sat straight up on his lap. Her hands held his and she waited for him to find the words.
“My grandmother is obsessed with me.”
“Because of the money?”
“No, not entirely. That’s only part of it. She adored my father. Stavros. He was her oldest son and she worshipped the ground he walked on. I think that in me, she sees him and that may be the main reason why she’s made so much of an effort to insinuate herself into my life.”
“There’s something that I don’t understand… How did Stefan become your guardian if Helena was there? Why not her?”
“My uncle moved quickly to procure documents which will make him my regent. When he learned of my father’s death, he knew that Helena would attempt to act quickly and keep me away from him-“
“Away from Stefan?” she asked, interrupting him.
“But why? He’s your uncle. Why wouldn’t she want him in your life? It’s obvious that he loves you very much. He’s done such a wonderful job raising you, “ she said with a smile.
Nikolas smiled. He brought her hands to his lips and said, “Thank you. Now, Helena and Stefan… Their relationship reminds me of what you’ve described yours and your father's to be.”
“Oh, boy,” Dawn said as she released a long breath.
Nikolas watched her for a moment before he quietly asked his own question. “What was the flinch about at your mother’s? Did you think Uncle would hit you, or where you remembering something that happened between you and your father?”
Dawn lowered her eyes and looked away. She swallowed hard as she said, “I'd really rather not talk about that. It was embarrassing enough to react like that in front of everyone. I don’t want to think about it now.”
Nikolas cupped her face and turned her head so that her eyes rested on his. He said, “You don’t ever have to feel embarrassed in front of me. Ever. I know that you don’t want to talk about this, but I have to know. Did your father beat you?”
“Of course not!”
“Why the flinch? Something happened. Tell me.”
Dawn wanted to fight Nikolas’ gentle prodding, but she found she couldn’t. After releasing a long sigh, she said, “He slapped me.”
Nikolas felt himself become furious with his unknown father-in-law. The constant verbal abuse against his beautiful daughter wasn’t enough for him and he had to make it physical. Nikolas hoped that one day he would meet Robert Jensen so that he could demonstrate to him exactly what he thought of his child-rearing techniques.
He forced himself to concentrate on the young woman before him and with love-filled eyes he said, “I’m sorry for all the pain your father put you through. And, I promise, he will never hurt you again.”
“I know,” she said with a smile. “He can’t. Nothing can hurt me as long as I have you.”
Nikolas smiled. He lost his fingers in her braided hair as he pulled her closer to him. He bent his head to hers to capture her lips in a gentle kiss. When he moved to deepen the kiss, she gently, but firmly pushed him away.
“Not so fast,” she said with a smile. Desire lit her brown eyes, but she wasn’t about to give in to it. Not yet.
“I wasn’t planning on going fast,” Nikolas said with a seductive grin. His fingers caressed her neck as his thumb moved to rest on her pulse. His grin broadened as he felt its rapid beating.
“I’m holding you to that,” Dawn said as she removed his hand from her neck to hold it in her hands. “Later. Now, I have a few more questions.”
Nikolas rolled his eyes and released an exaggerated sigh. He smiled at her and said, “Okay. What are your questions?”
"So, do you think Helena would want our child because the baby would be the grandchild of your father?"
"Yes," he answered quietly. He saw the fear in her eyes and he immediately added, "I won't let that happen. She will never get her hands on our child. Never."
"Oh, I know she won't," Dawn said with fierce determination. If Helena was anything like her father, there was no way Dawn would ever let her near their child, she decided. She hadn't even given birth, yet, but her motherly bond was strong and unbreakable. As she thought of her connection to her unborn child, she frowned as she thought of something else.
Nikolas grew concerned when he saw the frown crease her brow. His hand moved to gently caress her cheek and he said, "What 's wrong? Why the frown? I promise she'll never come near you or the baby."
"I know. Actually, I wasn’t thinking about Helena. I was thinking about someone else."
"Who?" he asked.
"Your mother," Dawn said quietly.
"What were you thinking?" he asked.
"You grew up in Greece without her, right?"
Nikolas nodded and waited for her to continue. Deep inside he was afraid of her questions because he was sure they would mirror his own. All of the doubts and the pain that he was able to keep at bay would resurface all over again. He wanted to be strong for Dawn. He didn't want her to see that vulnerable part of him. He didn't want to see it in himself.
"Why?" Dawn asked. She tried to keep the anger from her voice, but she couldn't. She decided to not mask her feelings from him and continue with her thought. "You and Lucky are barely a year a part. How could she leave you on that island with a lunatic grandmother and then run off and have someone else's baby?"
"Dawn…" Nikolas began as he shifted his legs and averted his eyes. Dawn noticed his discomfort and moved to sit on the bed. She watched with worried eyes as he rose from the bed to stand in front of the window. With his back to her to hide the tears which shone brightly in his eyes, he said, "Because she chose to."
Dawn knew he was upset and she hated herself for being the cause of it. She felt that she and he had to discuss Laura. Too many times, they had broached the subject, but Nikolas always had a way of changing it, distracting her and leaving her questions unanswered. This time, Dawn wanted to know the truth. She had told him everything about Robert and now, it was time for him to confide in her about his mother.
Dawn watched him for a few moments. His back rigid as he tried to keep his feeling at bay. Slowly, she left the bed and moved behind him. She wrapped her arms around his chest and rested her cheek on his back. With all of the love she had for him coming through in her voice, she said, "I'm sorry, baby. I don't want to hurt you, but your mother… I need to know what the deal is between you. You've listened to me about my dad, so many times. Will you let me listen to you? Please?"
Nikolas relaxed as he listened to her quiet plea. Her effect on him, never ceased to surprise and amaze him. He was certain that if she asked him to move a mountain, he could, or he would die trying. His love for her was that strong and so was her belief in him.
In the dark corners of his mind, he knew this day would come. The day he would have to confess to Dawn his deepest feelings about his mother. Stefan had raised him to believe that he owed no one any answers, but for him, he believed that he owed Dawn everything. As his best friend, his lover, his wife and the mother of their unborn child, he found he could deny her nothing, no matter how painful it may be.
He covered her hands with his own and took a deep breath before he answered. "Okay. I'll tell you. She married my father when she thought Lucky's father was dead. She had me and when I was a small child…a baby really…she learned that Luke was alive. She left me in the care of my Uncle and fled our island in Greece. My father followed her here and in the end, he was killed by Luke. She and Luke reunited and lived happily ever after," he finished sadly, unable to keep the hurt and the bitterness from his voice.
"She never came back for you?" Dawn asked, as the tears welled in her eyes.
"She said that she wanted to, but Helena threatened to hurt her family. Actually, she tried once to come for me," he said softly, his fingers touching Dawn's as if they had a mind of their own.
"Just once?" Dawn asked with a frown.
"Yeah. Helena learned of it and tried to kill my other grandmother, Leslie. She would have succeeded had Uncle not learned of her plan. At the last minute, he saved Leslie and hid her. For years, everyone thought she was dead, but Uncle hid her away to protect her. He was about to reveal her whereabouts to Laura on the night Laura died."
Dawn released her hold on Nikolas so that she could stand before him. With tears in her eyes, she asked, "Before she died? I thought your mother was in North Carolina. Oh, Nickie, I'm so sorry. I would never have…"
"Shh. It's okay," Nikolas said as he pulled her into his arms. "She's not dead."
"I'm confused. I thought you said she died."
"She led me and everyone else to believe she was dead," Nikolas said softly. As he watched the anger seep into Dawn's eyes, he wished he could take his last sentence back. But, on the other hand, having lived a life where secrets were the rule, he didn't want that for his family. He knew that the rage he saw in Dawn's eyes was because she loved him.
"She let you think she was dead?" Dawn asked. "Why? Not that it matters, but how could she? No, how dare she? How dare she do that to you? Why did she?"
"Her husband told her to," Nikolas said, as he swallowed back the tears which always came whenever he thought back to that time in his life.
"Lucky's father? What an asshole!" Dawn said, furiously.
"Mrs. Cassadine, your language!" Nikolas said with a sad smile. She was right, though. Lucas Lorenzo Spencer was an asshole.
"In my family, we call a spade a spade. Why would he have her pretend that she was dead? What purpose did it serve? She came back, so why even pretend in the first place?"
"She wasn't supposed to come back," Nikolas said, softly.
"So she was gonna allow you to think she was dead?" Dawn asked as fresh tears came to her eyes. "You said that everyone thought she was dead. Did Lucky think so, too?"
"No, he knew our mother was alive," Nikolas said.
Dawn moved away from him and reached for his hand. "I've got to sit down, " she said as she led him back to the bed. After they both were seated, she pulled him into her arms and rocked him, as she continued. "I'm so very sorry, Nickie. I didn’t know."
"Now, that you do, want to call it quits?" he asked, teasingly but dead serious, too. His life story wasn't for the faint of the heart. He had always been a little terrified to tell her everything because he was afraid of what her reaction might be. Now, that she knew the truth, he hoped that it wouldn’t scare her away.
"Hell no," she said, with a small laugh. She pulled him closer to her, so that their faces were only inches apart and whispered, "Never."
Nikolas repeated the word in his head. Never. Looking into her devoted brown eyes, he knew she meant it. She would never leave him. She would never leave their child. Their bond was real and it was forever. When he realized it all, he felt something break inside of him. The ocean of tears that he had always kept at bay whenever he remembered how alone and how unloved he always felt burst from behind his eyes. As he roughly pulled her into his arms and cried on her shoulder as she rocked him and crooned her love for him, he knew that he would never be alone again and the he would always be loved.
Dawn gently caressed her sleeping husband's face. The pain and torment of growing up without his mother had finally taken its toll on him. The tears he had cried on her shoulder had been filled with sadness and regret. Nikolas had never said the words, but Dawn knew from experience that he felt that Laura's abandonment of him had somehow been his fault. It was his fault that she didn't choose to be with him. And it was his fault that she didn't love enough. "But, it's not your fault," Dawn whispered softly as she kissed his cheek.
She moved away from the bed and quickly finished putting her clothes away. After she was done, she took a quick shower and put her nightgown on. She intended to go lay down beside Nikolas and succumb to slumber as he had, but as she neared the bed, she knew that sleep would allude her. She crept to the bed and as quickly as she could, she removed Nikolas' shoes and socks. A small smile softened her features as she unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned the top button of his pants. She then moved to the foot of the bed where she grabbed the quilt her mother had given them and covered him with it. She placed another gentle kiss on his forehead, grabbed her dressing gown and then, quietly left the room.
She wrapped arms around herself as she made her way down the dark hallway. This would be her home now and she had to get used to it. She couldn't be afraid. She had lived her first seventeen years of life in fear, and now that she had been released from that, she was determined to never feel that kind of fear again.
She reached the top of the staircase which led to main room of the house. She paused for a moment. She made herself stand still as she listened for any movement. She knew that she would have to face her uncle-in-law at some point, but after the emotional scene with Nikolas, she wasn't ready. She needed some time alone to come to terms with everything that had happened over the weekend. "Just two days!" she laughed to herself as she thought of how much had changed in a mere forty-eight hours.
The quietness of the grand mansion echoed in the stairwell. Confident that she was indeed alone, Dawn made her way down the steps. She breathed a sigh of relief as she moved to the Baby Grand piano. Her fingers trailed lovingly across the solid oak as she imagined herself playing. After a few moments of daydreaming, she decided to lift the cover to get a closer look at the ebony and ivory keys. Her fingers gently stroked them as a familiar tune came to her mind. Years of piano lessons never faded away. They simply waited for their moment to strike. And strike they did, as against her will, Dawn began to softly play.
The music flowed from her fingertips and she closed her eyes as she gave into it. Her music had always been her saving grace and even now, as she feared for the life of her unborn child, it still had the ability to calm her. She gave into it and allowed her upper torso to flow with the sweet melody.
Stefan stared sightlessly out of the window in the library. The day had proved to be extraordinary. He had gained a daughter-in-law and a grandchild within a scant twelve hours.
A faint smile crossed his lips as he thought of the latest addition to the Cassadine fold. She was a strong one and would need to be in order to survive his family. He thought of her possessiveness where Nikolas was concerned and decided that his son had done well in choosing her.
He felt a twinge of guilt when he remembered his conversation with Nikolas regarding the exotic, curiosity, and wild oats. His words had merely been a test. He was curious as to what Nikolas' reaction would be. After it was over, he wondered if he had gone too far, but now, he was certain that he had not. He wanted to be sure and he wanted Nikolas to be sure that his feelings for the young Miss Jensen was real. Apparently, they were. The bond they shared was imperishable.
Stefan replaced his well-worn copy of "War and Peace" back on the shelf. Reading was too stifling on a night such of this. He left the library and walked down the hallway. He had changed into his silk pajamas and dressing gown hours before, when he realized that the two newlyweds would not be joining him for the rest of the evening. As he stuffed his hands into his pockets, he felt himself being inexplicably drawn to the main room.
Once he reached the doorway, he paused. He found himself holding his breath as he watched Nikolas' young bride creep down the staircase. She was as graceful and beautiful as she was willful, Stefan thought to himself. He then crossed his arms as she made a beeline for the piano. Her hands loving caressed the oak before her curiosity overtook her and she raised the lid. He released the air he had been holding as she began to play Beethoven's "For Elise."
Her musical selection had always been one of his favorite pieces and he found himself in awe as she gave herself to it. As he watched her, he wanted to go to her and welcome her into the family and tell her of his joy at the prospect of a new life, but something held him back.
Her time at the piano was hers. Their time to become acquainted would happen later. He decided to stand in the shadows as the music moved his soul.
As she neared the end, he changed his mind. Maybe now would be a good time for them to speak. He had one foot out of the shadows when he heard the soft masculine voice of his son. He stepped back, intending to leave them to their interchange, but found he couldn't move as they began to speak.
"Hi," Nikolas said as he sat beside his wife on the stool.
"Hi yourself," Dawn said as she stopped playing. "I hope I didn’t wake you."
Nikolas' hand moved to caress her neck as he said, "You weren't there. That's what woke me. 'For Elise.' I didn't know you liked classical music."
"I like all music," Dawn said with a smile.
"I learn something new about you everyday," Nikolas said, bending forward to kiss the tip of her nose. His lips moved to her cheek and then across to capture her lips. Their tongues raked across each other's as the kiss deepened. Nikolas reluctantly ended the kiss and stood. He held out his hand to her as an invitation for her to join him. Once she was standing, he swept her into his arms and carried her up the staircase.
Stefan moved from the shadows as the young lovers went back to their quarters. Witnessing their devotion to each other, reaffirmed his conviction that his mother would never harm them. Never.