Chapter One

~Chance Encounters~

Damned in I do and damned if I don’t, thought Nikolas Cassadine, as he drove away from the Hardy home. A courtesy visit to Elizabeth Webber had turned into, yet another confrontation with his younger half-brother, Lucky Spencer. And, Nikolas was tired of it. He was tired of the constant bickering, the animosity, and the threats. Lucky for all his grand gestures—leaving the Spencer nest—was still his father’s son. Still a pain in the a-.

Well, to hell with him, thought Nikolas. He reached down and turned on the radio. As he relaxed and allowed the classical music soothe him, he thought of his baby sister, Leslie Lu. When she looked at him, she didn’t see a Cassadine. She saw her older brother. She saw Nickie. Nikolas smiled.

Lost in his thoughts, Nikolas almost missed the lone figure standing on the side of the road. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. She had a tan, leather backpack and was wearing the shortest shorts Nikolas had ever seen. His Uncle Stefan had always warned him to be wary of strangers, but there was no way he could simply drive past her. A rapist was out there somewhere and the less victims he had access to, the better.

The black Jaguar rolled to a stop in front of the teenage girl. Now, that he was closer, Nikolas mentally accessed her. She was tall, maybe 5’7 or thereabouts. Her skin was the color of dark chocolate. Her hair was styled in what appeared to be tiny braids, kind of like that singer, Brandy. She had incredible, toned legs, which seemed to go on forever. Nice.

Nikolas exited the car and faced the girl.

“Hello, there. My name’s Nikolas. Would you like a ride somewhere?”

The girl looked at Nikolas and then looked at the car. A wry smile came across her face.

"Is this your ride?" she asked.

Nikolas frowned, "Excuse me."

"Is this your ri-?" She stopped when she noticed the blank expression on his face. "You don't understand, so this must be yours. Nice."

"Oh. You meant if this was mine," said Nikolas as he motioned towards the Jag. "Yes. This car belongs to me."

"Mm…" She gave Nikolas the once over. Her eyes looked him up and down, taking in the dark hair and eyes, muscular body, and expensive clothes. When she was done, she smiled. "Nice."

He felt the heat rush to his face. Silently, he thanked God that it was too dark for her to see his flushed face.

"Now, about the ride… I don't think you should be out here alone."

"I agree," she said as she walked towards the Jaguar.

Dara couldn't believe what was happening. A perfectly good day, well actually an excellent one, had just gotten worse.

After getting one over on the high and mighty sneaky Alexis and after having a rather nice time with Taggert, she was stranded at a traffic light on the seamy side of town with a car that refused to move. Of all the rotten luck, the damn thing had just shut itself off.

Dara turned the key in the ignition again. Who knows? Maybe she did it wrong the first time. Or maybe she didn't. The engine made a few gagging noises and it died. Again.

"Damn!" she said aloud. "And with my luck, the cell phone won't work, either."

She reached into her purse and pulled out her trusted flip phone. She pressed the send button and held the phone to her ear. Sure enough. The phone was dead, too.

"Well, I'll be damned," she muttered as she threw the phone back into her purse.

"This is what I get for meeting Marcus at some hole in the wall pool hall," Dara grumbled.

Glancing out at her surroundings, she noticed several men looking in her direction. Her heart skipped a beat as they headed toward her car. She quickly doubled checked her windows and doors to reassure herself that they were locked.

She decided to try the ignition one last time. Please, God help me out here, she prayed as she turned the key. Nothing. Not even the gagging noise. She nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard the tap at her window.


Dara turned when she heard the familiar voice. She couldn't help but smile. Her prayer had been answered.

"Alex. What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing. Actually, I was looking for someone… What are you doing out here? This is no place for a woman alone."

"I was on my way from… I was on my way home when I stopped for a red light. My car decided the stop was permanent. I can't get it to restart," she said as she took a really good look at Garcia.

He seemed different tonight. Maybe it was his attire. He had on a pair of faded Levis, a snug black t-shirt, and a denim jacket which didn't do a good job of his concealing his weapon. Alex Garcia looked as good after hours, as he did on the job, she decided.

"Have you called a tow truck? I'd be more than happy to wait with you until one arrives," he volunteered.

"No, I haven't. My cell phone is having problems, too."

"What happened? Did you pass a family of black cats tonight?" he laughed.

"No," she said as she began to laugh, too. "You know, I didn't know you were the superstitious type, Alex."

"Well, Miss Jensen, there are a lot of things you don't know about me. One thing I'm sure you don't know is that I have a very good friend who owns a towing service. I'll give him a call."

Audrey pulled into the driveway. She didn’t bother with the putting the car into the garage. The Benz wouldn't suffer too much from braving one night among the elements. Besides, she needed to get into the house as soon as possible. Her sixth sense compelled her to not delay a moment longer.

She opened the front door and almost tripped over Gatsby as she made her way into the house. Preoccupied with the feline, she didn't notice the dark figure on the sofa.

"Gatsby! You are always underfoot," Audrey scolded.

"I see some things never change." Audrey gasped at the sound of the masculine voice.

"It's okay, Grandmother. It's me."

The flick of a light switch revealed a sight for her tired eyes.

"Tommy," she smiled and opened her arms for her long lost grandson.

Chapter Two