Chapter 77

They stood, hand in hand, behind the closed doors. Both were excited and anxious as they prepared to make their first real public appearance as husband and wife. Dawn's fingers tightened around Nikolas' as she waited for him to push the doors open. As the seconds passed and he still hadn't moved, she looked at him and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing is with me, but are you sure you're okay?" he asked. "You seem nervous."

"I'm not nervous," she replied with a shrug. When a look of disbelief crossed Nikolas' eyes, she quickly clarified her statement. "Well, not a lot."

"Why are you nervous? This is a party. We're here to have fun. To dance, drink and be merry," he said with a smile.

"I know, but...those people from Greece...I know they're your friends... I just want to make a good impression," she said quietly. Her eyes moved to the floor as she mumbled, "I don't want to embarrass you or Stefan."

Nikolas took her hand and led her away from the doors. Cupping her round face between his gentle hands, his eyes were steady on hers as he said, "You could never do that. Never. Would you believe it if I told you that they're just as concerned about making a mistake in front of you as you are of them?"

Her dark brown, wavy locks swayed as she shook her head in reply. "I don't believe it. You're trying to reassure me and I love you for it, but I saw the way they looked at me at dinner."

"And, what way was that?" he asked, afraid that he might have missed something in their reaction to her. If so, he'd see to it that they reconciled the error of their ways.

"Not anything bad," she said, noticing the hardness which had seeped into his eyes. She covered his hands with hers and caressed them lightly, enjoying the tenderness of his touch and the strength he always kept in check whenever he held her. "I'm sure it was just my insecurities."

"Don't do that, sweetheart. Don't dismiss your feelings like that. If they've slighted you in any way, tell me," he said, trying to maintain an even tone. When he feared that she was still apprehensive about coming forth with her feelings, he added with a small chuckle, "I promise not to have them beheaded until morning. Promise."

His change in tone worked and she giggled softly. "Oh, Nikky. I'll be okay. As long as you're by my side, I'll be just fine."

"I'll always be here," he said softly. He took her hand again and led her to the doors. Glancing down at her, he asked, "Ready?"

"Yep! Let's do it."

Nikolas laughed softly in response to her sudden enthusiasm. He pushed the doors opened with one hand and a bashful grin spread across his face as everyone began to belt out a hearty rendition of Stevie Wonder's version of "Happy Birthday."


"Happy birthday, Nikolas
Happy birthday..."

Laura groaned as she ascended the stone staircase. The strong voices which sung loudly and somewhat offkey reminded her of what she wished with all of her heart was not true. She was late. She'd missed the opportunity to sing "Happy Birthday" to her oldest son...again.

Dressed in a long, flowing emerald green gown and with her flaxen hair flowing down onto her shoulders, Laura was beautiful. She hardly looked old enough to have a son of legal age, not to mention a grandchild. A faint smile graced her features as she thought of the surprising news Stefan had telephoned her about a few short months ago. At first, she had reacted as any mother would when she learned that her son had eloped and was expecting a child. She was shocked. The young man whose eyes sometimes radiated with an innocence that was close to a young child's would soon be a father. How could that be, she wondered. How could Father Time be so cruel as to pass so quickly that she'd missed seeing so much of her son's life, including watching him fall in love and pledging himself to another?

Walking quickly and quietly down the long corridor, Laura wondered about the young woman who had won her son's heart. Stefan had told her very little, except to say that she was beautiful, as well as, headstrong. He'd also told her that she was Dara Jensen's younger sister. When she had pressed him for details as to how they met, Stefan had said that story was better left for another time. His non-disclosure infuriated her, of course, but she had accepted it. Then. But now that she was back with the full intention of taking an active role in her son's life and her soon-to-be grandchild's, she would no longer be so agreeable. Judging from the emptiness of the nondescript clapwood she called home, Stefan Cassadine wasn't the only man who owed her some answers in regards to one of her sons. Obviously, she and Luke were long overdue for a talk...when and if she could find him...and their son.

As Laura slipped quietly into the back of the ballroom, she decided that she would face Father Time and she would win. Never again would she allow herself to be separated from her son and the rest of her children while time passed them by. She would be there for them. Nothing would stop her.


Alexis nodded at Stefan as she caught his eye. They shared a secret smile. Their nephew had reached yet another year where he had been safe from harm from his wicked grandmother. A definite cause for celebration.

One of the many servers materialized before her and offered her a glass of champagne. Alexis smiled her thanks, took the proffered glass and began to move across the room. Through narrowed eyes, she scanned the room, searching for her companion. A sudden flash of green caught her eye and she grimaced as she recognized the person as Laura. Alexis shook her head in disdain as she watched Laura's pathetic attempt to slip in unnoticed as she was now beyond fashionably late and for her own son's birthday/wedding bash, no less.

Her eyes drifted again and soon they rested on the birthday boy- No, that was no longer an accurate description of Nikolas, the Prince. He was now a man. A man with a beautiful, devoted wife and a no doubt beautiful baby on the way. She chuckled softly as she watched Stefan show a rare public display of affection and place his hand on his new niece's shoulder. She was certain that if questioned, he would deny that he ever had any misgivings about her, she thought laughing softly to herself.

"Ah, so you didn't miss me."

Alexis turned at the sound of the seductively low, masculine voice to face the most beautiful pair of gray eyes she'd ever seen. He was truly an amazing specimen and she appreciated every inch of him. When she met him on her recent trip to Spain, she'd felt as if the gods had finally smiled down on her. Since her relationship with Ned ended without hardly a second thought from either of them, she'd come to realize that she needed and missed the warmth of a hard body next to hers in bed. Now that she'd met Giovanni Montega, she had a very strong feeling that her bed would be warm for quite some time. Linking her arm through his, she smiled at him and said, "Now, Giovanni, you know that's far from the truth."

"I've told you before. Call me John," he replied, smoothly correcting her. When she gave a slight nod in answer to his reply, he continued to speak. "Your nephew's party seems to have an odd assortment of guests."

"Those would be his wife's friends," she said, her voice void of condescension as she noticed Nikolas, Dawn, Tommy and Gina engaging in conversation. "I suppose they're his friends, too."

"You suppose? Doesn't he have friends?" he questioned, his curiosity piqued.

"He does now. The Cassadines are reared to be an island unto themselves. We don't befriend easily," she said, honestly.

"I hope this isn't the case with me," he said, bestowing her with a smile which lit his gray eyes with secrets to be revealed later when they were alone.

"Of course not, Gio- John. Come. I'd like for you to meet my family," she offered with a bright smile.

Juan smiled down at her and allowed her to lead the way. Meeting Alexis in Madrid and subsequently bedding her had been one coup he was very proud of. With a smile and a thoughtful word or two, he had perfectly positioned himself to be rid of the last few precious stones which could tie him to his former career and it has also brought him closer to his Simone, whose bastard had apparently become a close confidant of the young Prince. Perfect.

Chapter 77

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