Chapter 75

Dawn breathed a sigh of relief as she closed the door behind her. Wyndemere was abuzz as last minute preparations were taken care of, and she'd barely it upstairs without being seen. Of course, Serguei and Arman saw her and knew full well what her special surprise was, but they were sworn to secrecy, not that either of them would discuss her with Nikolas anyway, she thought with a shrug.

Dawn took off her coat and placed it on the chaise. She then went into the bedroom as she headed for the bathroom. She glanced at her bed and smiled a silent thank you to Mrs. Landsbury for setting out her evening gown. The dark red Carlotta Jensen original was sexy, yet elegant. The dress, with its stylish cut and long slit up the back, emphasized her assets without being clingy. She knew Nikolas would be speechless when he saw her in it, and with the addition of her surprise, he might never speak again. She giggled at the thought.

Upon reaching the bathroom, she quickly discarded her clothes. She placed them on the chair beside the door and grabbed her terry cloth robe which hung next to the shower stall. She pulled it on, but didn't bother to close it around her. She didn't have to. She was alone and she would be until the party. Unless Nikolas changed his mind about their agreement and sought her out before the party. He'd told her he would meet her on the second floor landing and they would go down the staircase together. She had a strong suspicion he would renege on their deal and if he did, she'd deal with it.

The bath water smelled heavenly and Dawn sank into the tub with a satisfied smile on her face. "Aah," she sighed as she allowed the water and the aroma to ease her nerves. Now that there was no turning back, she was a little nervous about her little surprise. What if Nikolas didn't like it, her doubts nagged at her. What if he hated it, she thought with a frown as she lathered her long, chocolate brown legs with her favorite soap. He won't hate it, she told herself. He'd better not!

A light tap at the door ended her debate and she called out, "Yes?"

"Dawn, it's me. Do you mind if I come in?"

"Nikky, didn't we agree that you'd wait until I was dressed before you saw me? I'm still in the bathtub, baby," she said, sitting up straight as she hugged her legs to her ample chest.

"I know, but I..."

"Yeah? Nikky, is something wrong?" Dawn asked when she heard the uncertainty in his voice.

"Not exactly," he said, his thoughts immediately drawn to the photos Robin had shown him. As soon as their lunch had ended, he'd wanted to go straight to Carrie's and... And, what? The what had stopped him. He didn't know what he would have done once he saw Dawn. Would he have begged her to declare her undying love for him? Or maybe he would have demanded that she never go near Lucky again, he wondered. A little common sense and a lot of pride prevented him from doing either. He knew she loved him, and he also knew that demanding her to do anything was out of the question. He trusted her, and she him. He could believe in that. Yet, when he saw her things in the sitting room and he heard her moving around in the bathroom, he couldn't help but want and need a little reassurance.

"What do you mean 'not exactly'?" Dawn asked, stepping out of the tub. She grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her as she moved closer to the closed door. "What's going on?"

"Nothing really. Forget I said anything. I'll see you after you're dressed," he said, turning to leave. He stopped when he heard the door open behind him.

Nikolas turned around and was silent as he watched her come towards him. He found himself dazzled by the sight of her. Nikolas eyes slowly drifted from her bare feet up to her smooth legs and thighs. He then took in the hint of her hourglass figure as it was so nicely outlined by the thick white towel which clung to her dripping wet body. He continued on until his eyes rested on the one thing that caught his attention from the very first moment he saw her. Her hair. His hand reached out and ran through what was only hours before an endless stream of braids, but was now, loose, glossy and so very beautiful. He'd never seen her without those tiny braids before, and he was enraptured by how breathtaking she looked without them.

"'s beautiful," he said softly as both of his hands were now lost in her soft waves of curls.

"Really?" she asked with a small hopeful smile as she watched him play with her hair.

"Really," he reassured her. "Is this the surprise?"

"Yeah," she said with a nod. "You really like it, right? You're not just saying that to make me feel good."

"No, love, I'm not just saying it. I love it," he said, smiling. His fingers stroked the nape of her neck as his eyes held hers. "I loved your hair before, but this... This is wonderful. I wondered what you would look like without those braids, and I have to admit that my imagination didn't even come close to the reality."

"I'm glad you like it," she said softly as she wrapped her arms around his waist. "Now, that I can breathe easier about your surprise, would you tell me what's bothering you? Lunch with Robin was awful, wasn't it?"

The teasingly sympathetic look in her eyes as she mentioned Robin amused him and surprisingly, set his fears to rest. If she harbored even a tiny bit of jealousy towards Robin, then he had nothing to worry about, he decided as he hugged her to him.

"It was, wasn't it?" she repeated, laughing against him.

He began to join in her laughter and pulled away from their embrace. His hands gently cupped her face as he teased her and said, "Yeah, it was. Absolutely horrendous."

"I knew i-"

Dawn's reply was lost as Nikolas claimed her lips in a deep, passionate kiss. His hands disappeared underneath her towel as he moved to cup and squeeze her firm, bare bottom, pressing her against him. When his caresses became more insistent and a little too pleasurable, she ended the kiss and pulled away from him. "Uh uh. Later. We have a party to get ready for and there will be no hanky panky until our guests leave."

"No what?" he asked, his brown eyes alight with humor and desire.

"Hush! You know what it means. You've had your fair share of it often enough," she said giving him a seductive smile before she grabbed her dress and with a provocative swivel of her hips, sauntered back into the bathroom.

Nikolas grinned to himself and shook his head. As he began to unbutton his shirt, he hoped for two things. The first was that their party would be enjoyable and would create wonderful memories for them. The second was that their party would end quickly, as he could hardly wait to indulge in a lot of hanky panky.


"This place is huge," Simone sighed as she followed Carrie behind the gates of Wyndemere. She'd been speechless since they'd left the launch and made the short trek up to the main house. Tommy and Gina had told her stories about the massive estate and the mysterious island, but her imagination was obviously impaired as she had never imagined how overwhelming it would be in person.

"Now, that's an understatement," Carrie laughed. She smiled at Mrs. Landsbury as she opened the door for them and told them that Mr. Cassadine had instructed her to show them to the rooms they could use for changing.

"Thank you, Mrs. Landsbury," Carrie said as the gentle woman left the two women alone in one of the guest quarters of the West wing of the second floor.

"Thanks again for coming with me so early," Carrie said as she watched Simone move about the room.

"These last minute things happen. I should thank you for allowing me to tag along. Does Mr. Cassadine know that I was coming with you? Hm, maybe I should have gone back to my place," Simone said with a frown as she contemplated the man she'd only met briefly.

Before she was released from the hospital, he had visited her and told her how brave and courageous her son was. He had also reinforced Monica's offer of a position at the hospital, which she had decided to think about. He was extremely formal, yet sincere. Despite the countless stories she'd heard about him, she was left feeling that he was nowhere near the ogre many had claimed him to be.

"Don't be silly, girl," Carrie replied, interrupting her friend from her thoughts. "Stefan knows you were coming with me. He's not the weirdo most proclaim him to be anyway."

Simone laughed as Carrie's words mirrored her thoughts. When Carrie shot her a questioning glance, Simone shrugged and smiled. "You and he seem to be on good terms."

"We are," Carrie said, unzipping her garment bang. She pulled out a shimmery pale green gown and placed it flat on the bed. She'd designed the gown herself and she was quite pleased with her creation.

"It's beautiful, Carrie," Simone said quietly as she admired her friend's talent. "You will look sensational in that little number."

"Well, I'd better," Carrie said with a secret smile. She turned away and began to pull out her shoes and set her toiletries on the dresser.

"I saw that smile," Simone said, teasing her. "Makes me wonder if the man of the house asked you to come over for an emergency which had nothing to do with this shindig the two of you put together."

"Whatever do you mean?" Carrie asked, feigning ignorance.

"Oh, you know what I mean," Simone said, as she ended her investigation of the room's opulence and began to remove her own Carlotta Jensen original from her garment bag. Her dress was a dark gold, floor-length number which revealed little, yet, hinted at plenty. She felt comfortable in the dress and doubted if any man would give her a second thought in it because that kind of attention was not something she was ready for. Simone continued with her teasing, "I saw your face when he called. Your eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and your smile showed all thirty-two!"

"Oh, please," Carrie said, dismissing her friend's observations. She knew Simone spoke the truth, but far be it for Carrie to admit it.

The two friends became silent as they took turns getting ready. After they were done and assisted each other with their hair, their conversation resumed.


"Hmm?" she asked, glancing at Simone's reflection in the mirror as she pulled Simone's dark, brown tresses into a French roll.

"This Tommy and Gina thing has me concerned, still. Do you think I'm being paranoid?" she asked with a frown.

Carrie carefully chose her words before she spoke. She didn't want to add to Simone's worries, but she also wanted to make sure her friend understood what she was about to say. "Well, your paranoia will depend on what 'thing' you're concerned about. Do you know for certain that they're involved or do you only suspect?"

"I haven't come out and asked either of them, but I have a very strong feeling that they're more than friends. She and I used to be really close, and of course, things have changed, but... Whenever we do talk, I feel like there's something she wants to tell me, but she's afraid to."

"And you think it has something to do with Tommy?"

"I think it has everything to do with Tommy. His behavior changes whenever she's around. It's like he goes out of his way to pretend like he doesn't notice her. Then, when they think I'm not paying attention, I see them grinning at each other. It's really ridiculous."

"Close your eyes," Carrie said as she began to spray the holding spray on Simone's hair. When she was done, she set the can on the vanity table and stepped back. "I'm done. Look, Simone, I really don't know what to tell you because I'm still not clear on what's bothering you. Is it that you think they're hiding their possible relationship from you? Is that what's ridiculous, or is it something else?"

"You want me to come on and out and say it, don't you?" Simone asked as she laughed softly at herself. She rose from the stool and motioned for Carrie to take her place. After Carrie was seated, Simone spoke again. "It's everything really. I don't want my son to feel like he has to hide anything from me..."

"You said ridiculous. Keep going, girl," Carrie prompted her as the other woman became silent.

"It's the age thing. Gina's twenty and he's sixteen. That's statutory rape, not to mention taking advantage of a minor."

"Do you think she's taking advantage of him?" Carrie asked, her motherly concern strong in her voice and in her body language as she sat up straight on the stool.

Simone shook her head as she removed the hot curlers from Carrie's hair. "Gina wouldn't purposely take advantage of him. I trust her, but if she is with him, why?"

"Tommy's attractive, Simone. Surely, you can see that."

"Hey! Have you been checking out my baby?" Simone laughed as she removed the last curler from Carrie's hair.

"Well, um... No! Of course not! Tommy is like another son to me. I started with none and now, I have seven," Carrie said, shaking her head. "I'm just saying that she and Tommy have spent a lot of time together. While you were in the coma, they were each other's strength. They established a deep bond, Simone. For me, it's understandable that they would gravitate toward one another."

"I know. It's understandable to me, too, but he's still my baby. I don't want to see him get hurt."

"I can understand that, too. I had plenty of misgivings when my girls told me about the men in their lives. Alex is a sweetheart, but I still worried about his intentions with Dara. Now, that I know him better, those fears are gone. And, Dawn..."

"How did you handle her involvement with Nikolas? From what you've told me, it happened very quickly."

"I handled it by being there for her. They progressed quickly. Much quicker than I would have liked, but I think it worked for them. The cultural differences scared me a little and I worried about his family and their money, but... They love each other. When I see them together, I know it's the real thing. I'd never seen my baby girl truly happy until I saw her with him. I couldn't argue with that. If anything, I thanked God for it. All I've ever wanted for both of my girls was their happiness and I know that they have it."

"When it you say it like that, I feel like a bitch for my doubts about Tommy and Gina," Simone said, sadly as she finger-combed Carrie's curls.

"Simone, don't. You're not a bitch for wanting what's best for your son. You're a wonderful mother and if I were you, I'd be concerned to. I think you should voice your concerns and take it from there. I'm sure it'll set your mind at ease."

"I think you're right."

"Well, of course, I am! Haven't you learned that by now?" Carrie asked, her voice sincere while her eyes sparkled with humor.

"Now, that sounds like something little Miss Dawn would say," Simone laughed as she finished styling Carrie's hair.

Carrie's eyes found Simone's in the mirror as she admired her look. She smirked, "Who do you think she gets it from?"


Stefan smiled as Mrs. Landsbury entered his study. "I trust Mrs. Jensen and Dr. Hardy have arrived."

"Yes, they have, Mr. Cassadine. They are in the guest quarters per your instruction," she said with a slight nod. "While you were otherwise engaged, Miss Davis called you. She asked me to inform you that she was airborne and would call you again."

"Thank you, Mrs. Landsbury," Stefan replied, dismissing her with a small nod. He glanced at his watch and saw that the time was drawing near for the party to begin. His ruse to have Carrie arrive earlier than she had intended worked and now he wanted to speak with her, but he knew that he must wait for Alexis' call. Her recent visit to Madrid to procure a priceless work of art was uppermost in his mind. He could not postpone learning of her findings until later. He wanted to know now. His tete-a-tete with Carrie would have to wait.

Through the closed door, he could hear the movements of the staff. He smiled as he thought of how he would make certain that the celebration in honor of his son's birth and marriage would be perfect. Only friends and family had been invited to this special occasion. Sure, a handful of reporters had been given invitations to attend, but only a few. The chosen few erroneously assumed their invitations meant they were special and had a special ear with Stefan, but little did they know that their invitation was given as a public warning to his mother.

He had no doubts that Helena had knowledge of her grandson's nuptials and unborn child. He even entertained the notion that she would barge in on the evening's festivities. If she did, she would be dealt with. Now that Dawn's place in the Cassadine fold was public knowledge, Stefan anticipated a move and as everything was going according to plan, he would be ready.

The telephone on his desk rang and expecting Alexis to be on the other end, he quickly answered on the first ring. "Stefan."

"Mr. Cassadine, this is Ivan," came the accented voice on the other end.

"Yes, Ivan," Stefan responded to his faithful employee.

"She's here."


As the woman stepped out of the cab and waited for the balding cab driver to retrieve her single suitcase from the trunk, the first thing she noticed as she stood on the sidewalk was the lawn It was littered with the colors of Fall. Gold, yellow, and brown leaves were scattered over the entire yard, making the unkempt, lonely house even more so. The yard looked as if it hadn't been raked in weeks, but her thought processes didn't venture to ask why. She took it at face value and as the cab pulled away, she began to move up the walk.

Her footsteps were even paced. Slow. She glided along the cracked cement as if she wasn't in a hurry and had no place to be, but that was far from the truth. She had a party to attend. There were new people in her life she had to meet, become acquainted with and maybe befriend. There were relationships she had to re-establish and set right.

When she reached the porch, she placed her key in the old, worn lock. An odd smile crossed her face as the key turned and the door opened. Taking a deep breath, she stepped over the threshold, halfway expecting an onslaught of affection, but there was none awaiting her. The house was quiet. Empty. Its loneliness swept down and enveloped her as soon as she came inside. She could feel it, and she didn't understand.

Her mind became inundated with questions. Where was her husband and son? Why wasn't there anyone there to greet her? Why was their dust all over the furniture? And, why did the house look so unlived in? As her curious blue eyes scanned the house which used to be a home, her hand relinquished its hold on her suitcase and fell to the floor in a loud thud. The sound echoed through the house, sounding as hollow as the old four walls felt.

Laura Spencer had come home.

Chapter 76

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