Nikolas and Dawn walked hand in hand along the shoreline. Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, he saw a change in her. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something different about her. She seemed more at peace somehow. He wondered if she'd tell him willingly or if he'd have to resort to drastic measures.
''It's impolite to stare,'' Dawn said as she smiled at Nikolas.
''I wasn't staring,'' he denied with a straight face and teasing eyes.
''Right,'' he agreed. He smiled at her and then turned his attention to the length of sand that was before them. He made mental notes with every step they took. Just as she said, her limp had disappeared, but the bruise remained. Against his wishes and her better judgment, she had rehearsal later that afternoon. He didn't want her to tire herself out before then.
Dawn glanced at Nikolas out of the corner of her eye as he remained quiet. His eyes were serene and his body was relaxed, but she had feeling that something more was going on behind those beautiful brown eyes of his. Should she ask or should she wait? Maybe she should push him into the sand and land on top of him. Hmm...
Nikolas was laying flat on his back on the sand before he knew it. The jolt of being suddenly pushed onto the ground surprised him, but the warmth of Dawn's body on his thrilled him. His arms pulled her in closer to him and his lips parted under hers as she kissed him. Deeply, thoroughly, and lovingly. ''Mm...'' he moaned as she pulled away.
''Sorry about your fall. My hands slipped,'' she sighed as positioned herself so that most of her body touched his and her eyes could alternate between resting on his eyes and on his mouth.
''Your hands slipped and accidentally pushed me down? Is that it?'' Nikolas asked, running his hands up and down her back. Feeling her tremble beneath his touch brought images to his mind of what they could do later. Upstairs, behind closed doors.
''Precisely. My hands have a mind of their own. Similar to your hands,'' she said with her trademark teasing grin.
He smiled at her and whispered softly, ''I love you.''
''Yes, really!'' he said as he rolled her onto her back. He positioned himself between her legs as he rested himself on his elbows. He lowered his lips to hers and kissed her as deeply, thoroughly and lovingly as she had kissed him. He felt her hands move down his back and lower to press him closer against. Not wanting to start something he didn't want the entire world to see, he raised his head. ''Not so fast, Mrs. Cassadine.''
''Tease,'' Dawn muttered with a pout.
Nikolas laughed softly and rolled off of her. Resting his back against the rocks, he pulled her onto his lap. Her head rested in the crook of his neck while her hand rested against his chest. He forced his hand to remain still on her thigh as he spoke. ''There's something different about you today. I noticed it at breakfast.''
''Oh, yeah?'' Dawn asked.
''Yeah. Care to share?''
''Maybe. Maybe not,'' she said with a chuckle. She refused to look at him, knowing that one look would cause her to spill it or double over in laughter. She preferred to let him ponder a little bit more.
''Maybe not? Hmm...maybe not,'' he repeated. His hand which had rested on her thigh found its way to her side. He gave her no warning as to his plan of attack. He tickled her.
Dawn shrieked with laughter. She squirmed and moved, but Nikolas held her firmly and carefully. When the tears began to fall down her cheek, she screamed, ''Uncle!''
Nikolas immediately stopped and asked, ''Where?''
Wiping her eyes and trying to recover, she asked, ''Huh?''
''You said 'Uncle.' Where is he? I don't see him,'' Nikolas replied.
''What are you tal-'' Dawn stopped mid-question. She smiled brightly as she explained. ''I screamed 'uncle' to get you to stop. Screaming uncle means that the other person gives in. You win because I asked for mercy.''
''Oh,'' Nikolas said as realization dawned on him. ''Why 'uncle'? Why not 'mercy'?''
Dawn shrugged in reply. She then added, ''We talked last night.''
''You and who?'' Nikolas asked, cradling her in his arms as she rested against him again.
''Me and Stefan, silly,'' she smiled. ''You're right. He's not as bad as I thought he was.''
''What happened?'' Nikolas asked, trying to keep his voice as emotionless as possible. He wasn't thrilled that Stefan had sought her out, and whether or Dawn realized it, that was exactly what Stefan did. But why, Nikolas wondered.
''I couldn't sleep so I went into that den that's in the West wing. Anyway, I found an X-Files marathon and Stefan joined me. I may make an X-Phile out of him one day,'' she said, lifting her head so that she could see his face.
Nikolas looked at her in disbelief. ''My uncle, Stefan Cassadine, watched The X-Files?''
''Yes! I'm not teasing you. I'm serious! Ask him. We watched quite a few episodes. I think the 'Jose Chung' one was his favorite.''
Nikolas exploded with laughter. Stefan and little green men didn't mix. He could almost forgive him for seeking her out as the thought of Stefan watching not only television, but the X-Files caused him to laugh even more. His wife was a big fan and now that she had a partner... Uncle had no idea what he was getting into, Nikolas thought as the waves of laughter began to drift away from him.
''You are incredible, my love,'' he said, pulling her close for a warm embrace.
''Please, have a seat,'' Stefan offered as he smiled at the guest.
''Thank you. I will,'' Carrie replied as she took a seat on the sofa. Mrs. Landsbury had taken the garment bag, containing Dawn's costume, but she left Carrie with her purse which she placed at her feet as she watched Stefan move from the fireplace to take a sit across from her.
''Nikolas and Dawn left for a walk. They should return momentarily.''
''Thank you,'' Carrie smiled at him. Her eyes drifted around the room. She wondered if Mr. Cassadine realized that her daughter's touch was beginning to uplift and add life to the gloomy, mausoleum known as Wyndemere. Bouquets of wild flowers adorned the fireplace, the top of the piano and the table by the door. Dawn loved Gerbera Daisies and every bouquet had at least one. Her baby girl was trying to turn this place into a home, Carrie thought.
Stefan's eyes followed hers as she looked across the room. He saw the faint smile briefly touch her lips and one touched his as well. She noticed the changes. The thought pleased him in a way he couldn't fathom. He decided to ignore it and began to speak. ''You have a remarkable daughter.''
''Thank you again. Nikolas is a good, young man, too. I couldn't have asked for a finer husband for her,'' Carrie said, her gaze resting on Stefan once again.
''Nor I, a wife for him. They compliment each other quite well. Mrs. Jensen?'' he asked softly.
''Please, call me Carrie. Yes?'' she asked, curious as to his change in demeanor. He seemed rather hesitant. He didn't seem to be the type of man who would hesitate for any reason. She wondered why he did so now.
''Carrie,'' he said with a slight nod, ''your daughter is safe here. I, nor Nikolas will allow no harm to come to her. What happened at the hospital was unfortunate, but it will never happen again.''
''What happened at the hospital?'' Carrie asked, her eyes narrowed and she moved to the sofa's edge.
''She fell. You didn't know?'' Stefan asked with a slight frown. Causing dissension between mother and daughter was not his intention.
''No, I didn't. When did this happen? You said she and Nikolas are taking a walk, so she must be okay, correct?'' she asked.
''Dawn is bruised, but other than that, she's fine. There's no cause for alarm. She and the child she carries are in perfect health,'' Stefan reassured her.
''If she's in perfect health, why did you mention the fall to me?'' Carrie asked. She closed her eyes as she considered her own question and an answer came to her. Opening her eyes, she asked, ''You think your mother is behind this, don't you?''
Stefan didn't answer her immediately. He stood and went to the bar. Asking over his shoulder, he said, ''Would you care for a refreshment? Water? Something stronger?''
''No, thank you. Water will do.'' Carrie accepted the glass from and took a sip. Her patience was nearly gone by the time he answered her question.
''I won't deceive you, Carrie. I believe Mother might have made an attempt on Dawn.''
''Attempt? Do you mean she tried to have her killed?'' Carrie asked, barely able to voice her fears, but desperately needing to know. Her hand shook as she held the glass and she was relieved when Stefan took it away from her. Their hands grazed for a brief moment. The sensation was electric, but both chose to ignore it. They had more pressing matters to attend to.
''I don't think the attempt was on her life, but one can never tell when it comes to my mother,'' he said softly, hating to say the words, but knowing they had to be said.
''Does Dawn know?'' Carrie asked still visibly shaken.
''Yes, Nikolas spoke with her last night. Your daughter is refusing to be intimidated by the prospect of Helena's illwill. Dawn has a strong will,'' Stefan said, choosing his words carefully.
''You mean she's foolish?'' Carrie asked, again noticing the change in him. ''Has she refused to stay put? I know she's performing tomorrow night. Is that what bothers you?''
Stefan frowned at her question. She knew what was on his mind? Was he so easy to read, he wondered. ''I worry about her. Nikolas and I have assigned guards to protect her, but the performance could be dangerous.''
''I can't talk her out of performing, Mr. Cassadine. She loves it too much. But, I will have a talk with her. I take it she doesn't know about the guards?'' Carrie asked with a faint smile.
''Stefan, please.'' He smiled as he answered her question. ''No, she doesn't.''
''Stefan,'' she acknowledged. ''Maybe we should keep it that way,'' Carrie suggested.