Dawn moved restlessly around their suite of rooms. After a quick shower and mumbled conversation, Nikolas had left her alone. He had told her he owed Sheba a ride and he'd left the room without even looking at her.
Thinking back on his hasty exit, she was glad that he was angry with her. She deserved it, she reasoned. She should have told him about the kiss. As soon as they'd shot the scene, she should have searched Wyndemere high and low until she found him. Once she had found him, she should have told him how Ivan suggested it and how she and Lucky had grudgingly gone along with it.
But, what did she do, she asked herself.
Instead of being honest with him, she came home and pretended like nothing had ever happened. She surprised, seduced and loved him with all of her might in an effort to forget the feel of Lucky's lips on hers. She had lost herself in Nikolas' arms as she pushed the feel of Lucky's arms around her from her mind. She hadn't wanted to question the odd sensations of being held by Lucky had brought to her. But, now that Nikolas was gone and she was alone with her thoughts, maybe now would be a good time to ask herself a few pertinent questions.
Was kissing Lucky better than kissing Nikolas?
No. No one was better at kissing than Nikolas. He knew her and he knew the secret approaches that could send her reeling with a quick peck or a deep, exploring kiss.
Were Lucky's arms better than Nikolas' arms?
No. No one had better arms than Nikolas, and she had never felt as safe and secure as when he held her. It didn't matter if his touch was sexual or not, being in Nikolas' arms was where she wanted to be. It was where she had to be…forever and always.
But, would she be, she wondered.
Their entire relationship was built on trust. In less than an hour of knowing him, she had trusted him enough to help her and hide her away in his home. Later, he had shown that he'd trusted her enough to share the secrets of his heart. She knew that he needed to know that he was a priority with her, and that he wasn't second best. He wasn't and he never would be…but…how could she convince him otherwise now?
She had been stupid and thoughtless, she told herself as she moved to the window. Her brown eyes ignored the breathtaking view of the full moon's reflection on Spoon Lake as she stared sightlessly into the midnight blue sky and down below to the whispering waves. She wrapped her arms around herself and found comfort in the proof of their everlasting love for each other. "I'm sorry, baby," she cooed, caressing the slight swell of their unborn child through the satiny softness of her French nightgown. "I'm sorry for hurting your daddy, but I promise…I'll make it up to him."
But how, she wondered. She couldn't take the kiss back. She couldn't turn back time to tell him. Or better still, she couldn't wring Robin's neck for using Ivan to come up with the suggestion in the first place.
"Dammit, Dawn!" she muttered as she turned away from the window. She stomped her bare feet on the thick, plush carpet as she moved to the chaise. She sat down hard, and clutching a decorative pillow to her chest, she swung her legs up and rested her back on the chaise. Blaming Robin for breaking Nikky's heart wouldn't get her anywhere. Sure, it was fun to imagine ways to torture the treacherous little wench, but in the end, what would it matter if she'd already lost him?
She couldn't lose him, she sobbed as she held the pillow up to her face. She just couldn't.
Nikolas closed his eyes and inhaled the salty fresh sea air. Sheba kicked her feet in the sand and the sudden movement almost caused Nikolas to lose his balance. His hand tightened his grip on the reins while the other gently stroked the horse's mane. "It's okay, girl. Ssh…relax."
Sheba whinnied in reply. Her master's former melancholy disposition had all but abandoned him, until tonight. If the horse had a mind to wonder, she would have asked herself what had caused Master Nikolas' normal exuberance to disappear on this beautiful night. Just the night before, he had been light-hearted and his voice had carried full and strong on the wind, but not so tonight. Tonight, he kept the horse at a slow pace as he kept the rich, timbre of his voice to himself. If Sheba had a voice to speak, she would have asked, 'what's wrong?'
"Oh, Sheba," Nikolas sighed. "I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know what."
He's talking, the horse recognized. Anxious to hear the sound of her master's voice again, she raised her head and whinnied again.
"See. Even you've noticed it," Nikolas commented. "I thought everything was perfect between us. Things moved faster than either of us had anticipated. Falling in love, finding out about the baby and getting married happened faster than I could blink an eye, but do you want to know something, Sheba?"
Sheba gave a slight nod. Of course, she wanted to know.
"I wouldn't change a thing," Nikolas replied softly. His voice was soothing and loving as he spoke to his horse, and his hand absently patted the horse's head. "Fate brought me to that road that night, Sheba. I shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn't crossed paths, but really, there is no need for me to think of it, is there? Destiny…fate intervened and there we were."
"I knew it almost immediately," he confided to the ambling horse. "And by 'it', I mean that I knew I loved her, or would love her. She teases me about when she felt it, too, but I have my suspicions. I don't think she knew it as early as I did. The physical attraction on both of our parts was unmistakable, but the deeper attraction…the love… I knew I loved her the night I brought her home to Wyndemere, but I think her realization came later…when I held her in the catacombs."
Sheba's hooves took them to the water's edge, as Nikolas grew silent. She wanted him to speak again, to right himself so that the fun, happy, content master would come back to her. Nikolas must have sensed the horse's need because his voice was a little louder, a little stronger as he spoke again.
"She trusted me, Sheba. She confided in me what that bastard had tried to do to her. She showed me her bruises and she let me hold her and rock her to sleep. She trusted me enough to know that I wouldn't hurt her. I only wish she'd trusted me enough to tell me that she had kissed my brother…"
"Oh, Sheba, is it my fault she couldn't tell me? Is it my need for constant reassurances that she loves me…that she's happy with me and that *I* make her happy… Is that what caused her to keep it a secret? Is my neediness and fear of abandonment closing her off from me? Is that why she looked so comfortable and desirable in Lucky's arms? Is he giving her the things I can't? Is he loving her better than I can?"
Sheba shook her head violently in response. Her feet stamped and she reared back. Nikolas gripped the reins again and tried to right the horse. After much cooing and gentle patting, the horse calmed herself. Nikolas gave the horse another gentle pat and made a decision.
Tugging on the reins, he said, "Come on, Sheba. We're going back."
"Thanks, Sly," Dawn said with a relieved sigh. "I really appreciate this, and don't worry about a thing. We'll go over the song again before the taping and you'll be okay. Promise. See you tomorrow."
"Making promises with Lucky now?" Nikolas asked as he watched her hang up the phone.
"No," she said, her voice trembling as she mumbled the word. She breathed deeply. "I was talking to Sly. We're switching parts. He's singing the lead while I take on the keyboards."
"Oh, really?" he asked, closing the bedroom door behind him as he entered their bedroom. He noticed her red, swollen eyes and the way her bottom lip trembled as she looked at him. He ached to comfort her, but he wasn't sure if he should…or even if he could. He made a move to go to her, but she involuntarily shrank from him, he changed his mind and went into his closet instead.
Why did she do that?! What was she thinking about, she wondered. He wasn't her father. Nikolas was hurting, but even in that pain, he would never strike her. She knew that. She abruptly rose from the bed and followed him inside the closet, closing the door behind them.
His upper body was bare and he was working on baring his lower half as she came in behind him. Even if he hadn't heard the click of the door, he would have known she was there. Her presence intoxicated him and left him woozy, even when he didn't know what the future held for them. He drew a long breath, and with his back to her, continued to unbutton his riding pants.
His broad back glistened with perspiration, and his spicy scent permeated the small room. She inhaled deeply, loving the smell of him…loving him. She had to tell him. She had to tell him that they had to face this and go forward. They would make it. They had to, and it wasn't because they were having a child together. They would make it because they were supposed to. No matter what, he was her Prince and they would have a happily ever after.
She opened her mouth to tell him so. "Nikky, I-"
"Dawn, what are you doing?" he asked, his back still to her. His pants dropped and his form fitting boxer briefs soon followed. He heard her sharp intake of air at the sight of his bare backside. Any other time and on any other night, he would have teased her and told her that she had seen it before and there were no need for gasps. Any other night, he would have said it, but not tonight.
Even facing another direction, he could feel her eyes rove over him. He pictured her full lips slightly parted as a teasing, sensual smile hinted at the corners of her lips. Her brown eyes would appear glassy as the seductress began to take control over her. The tip of her pink, delicious tongue would lightly moisten her lips, preparing them for his insistent, hungry kisses. His breathing became labored as his remembered their numerous nights of passion. His member twitched in anticipation.
"What are you doing?" he repeated, his voice harsh.
"I…I… We should talk," she told him after stammering through her words as she recovered from his tone. "We can't let what happened tonight stand between us."
"You're right. We can't," he agreed. Nikolas reached for one of his terry cloth robes and pushed his arms inside. He kept his back to her until the knot secured the front. He knew she knew how her presence affected him, but he was in no mood to admit to it.
"Well…" he said with outstretched hand.
"What?" she asked, confused by his motioning.
"Let's go out there. There's not enough air in here."
"The air is fine," she said. She took a deep breath to prove her point, reveling in the male scent of him.
"If you say so," he mumbled. Why did she have to be so beautiful, he thought. With her eyes closed as she inhaled, she was a vision. He fought the urge to take her in his arms. He turned from her and went deeper into the closet.
"Nikky?" she called, opening her eyes. She moved deeper into the closet, too. She called to him again. "Where did you go?"
"I'm here," he said, stepping from behind his row of jackets to surprise her with a small bench. "Here you can sit on this. I'll sit on the floor."
"Are you sure? Maybe we should go back in there-"
"I'm sure. The floor won't hurt me. Go ahead. Sit."
She sat and waited for Nikolas to do the same. She wanted to laugh or maybe smile when he tried to hide his obvious 'interest' in her from her, but she didn't. She averted her eyes and was patient as he positioned himself on the floor. A slight cough signaled to her that he was ready, and she faced him to find that he'd placed his soiled riding clothes in his lap. Oh, Nikky, she sighed, how, I love you.
"I've thought about a lot of things while you were gone and I-"
"No, wait. I need to go first," he interrupted her.
"Okay," she said after a slight pause. "Go ahead."
"Thanks." He took a deep breath. "I learned something tonight during my ride with Sheba."
"And, what was that?" she asked, quietly. Her hands smoothed her dressing gown over her thighs as she waited for the bomb to drop…the shoe to fall…
"Sheba's a good listener."
"I always knew she could be. Did she offer her opinion?"
"In her own way, yeah, she did. She neighed at all the right times," he laughed softly. Dawn's lips lifted in a faint smile and gave him the encouragement to speak from his heart. "I'm sorry about tonight. I'm sorry you felt you couldn't tell me."
"No, I'm sorry for not telling you. I should have… I'm so sorry, Nikky. I love you so much. I can't lose you over this. It's not worth it, and if you want me to, I'll quit the band. I won't sing with them anymore. I'll concentrate on us and on making a life for you, the baby and me. It may be hard at first. I may need to get used to it, but I can do it. If it's between you and the other stuff, baby, you have to know I choose you." She covered her face with her hands as she began to sob.
Nikolas rose from the floor. He straddled the bench and pulled her to him. "Oh, love," he murmured, holding her shaking body to his sturdy frame, "no, that's not what I want. I'd never want you to sacrifice anything for me. Oh, Dawn, never. I love you too much for that. I'm not that selfish. Sweetheart, really I'm not."
"I don't think you're selfish," she reassured him as the tears began to subside. She wrapped her arms around him, drawing strength from him. "I…I just want you to know that you mean everything to me."
"But not at the expense of you. Never that," he told her. "I love you too much to let you give up something that means so much to you for me. I know that you love me, sweetheart. You don't have to prove it to me, and I won't keep asking you to."
"You don't ask me to." She sniffled. She sat up and as she did so, Nikolas began to thumb the tears off her cheeks. She leaned into his gentle caresses, enjoying the feel of him as he touched her once more.
"Not in the literal sense, but that doesn't mean it's not there. I'm sorry about that. I guess I can't believe that you won't leave, and that's why I need so much reassurance. But, I don't need it anymore. I trust you. I know you'll never leave me."
"I won't," she vehemently promised. "Never. But, now it's my turn to apologize. I should have told you. Not telling you makes it seem dirty and like I had something to hide. I don't, baby-"
"Will you be quiet and let me finish?" she asked, the sparkle finally coming back to her eyes.
"Yes, Mrs. Cassadine. You were saying," he said, teasing her.
"I care about Lucky. There's no mistaking that. I hope you take this the right way, but I have to tell you that I find him attractive, too." When Nikolas didn't react, her eyes widened in shock.
"What?" he asked, indignant. "You told me to be quiet."
"So, I did," she smiled. "He's great and one of my closet friends, but when I told you he wasn't you…well, that's key. That's the most important thing to remember. He's cute, funny, caring and he can go from sweet to infuriating at the drop of a dime. But none of that matters because, sweetie, he's not you and he never will be. I didn't believe in love at first sight until I met you. Nothing will ever change what I feel for you."
"Nor, I you."
Nikolas held her against and rocked her gently within his strong arms until simply holding her wasn't enough. Their lips met, their tongues explored and they inflamed each other. Nikolas tried to pull away as the embrace became more heated.
"I smell awful," he moaned as she trailed kisses down his neck and along his chest. She sat up straight as she slid his robe from his shoulders. "You smell as delicious as you look."
"No, really," he protested. "I smell like a…oh, Dawn," he groaned as she pressed her full breasts against his chest. Her hardened tips, straining against the delicate French satin, incited him further as she moved against him to take his earlobe into her mouth. "Oh, my sweet love…"
"Yes?" she asked, moving away from him to discard her dressing gown and negligee. He watched her in silent awe. A wicked grin appeared on her loving face and she held her hands out to him. "You know, Nikky, I don't think we ever christened the closet."
"I think you're right."