"You can do it." Matt encouraged Ellen with a smile and tender kiss
upon her cheek. As she pressed the telephone receiver to her ear, he directed his
wheelchair towards the bedroom and left her alone.
The door closed behind him with a soft thud. Ellen swallowed down the words to call him back to her. He was right. She can do it. She can find the words that would reconnect her to her family again.
The hollow sound of ringing was interrupted by a deep, masculine voice. "Hello."
"Winston?" Ellen asked. "This is Ellen." Her breath caught in her throat as she waited for her brother to answer.
"Hi," he mumbled.
Hi. Silently, she repeated the word to herself. What did the monosyllable mean? Was he or wasn't he happy to hear from her? Would her mother react the same way?
"Is everything okay?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts. "That woman hasn't been released on bail, has she?"
"No, she's locked up tight. I...um... How are you?"
"I'm fine," Winston reassured her. "Mama's doing well, too. She was talking about calling you, but it looks like you beat her... Listen, El, you sound strange. Are you sure that everything is fine?"
The old, familiar nickname brought a smile to Ellen's face. The tension that had surrounded her disappeared. She began to feel completely at ease. "I'm fine. Really, I am. I just needed to hear your voice and Mama's. I have some good news to tell you both."
"I bet I can guess." The smile he wore could be heard in his voice. "Harmon's making an honest woman you. Finally."
"What do you mean by finally?" she asked with a surprised laugh. "And, yes. Matt and I are getting married."
"Congratulations. It's about time. I'm really happy for you, sis," Winston said softly. "I know that Mama will be, too."
"Thanks, Winston. It means so much to me to hear you say that. Would it be okay if I spoke with Mama now?" she asked with confidence.
Winston laughed softly. "Sure thing. Just cast me aside for Mom. I'm just teasing. Hold on and I'll get her for you."
Ellen rose from the sofa and began to bounce around Matt's apartment. She never would have dreamed that opening up to her family could be so easy. In the back of her mind, a small voice reminded her to calm down. She still had her mother to speak with, but the conversation with Winston had been so positive. Her gut told her that the conversation to come could be as equally rewarding.
"Ellen?" Alice Burgess questioned. "Winston just told me that you're marrying Matt. Congratulations, honey."
"Oh, Mama!" Ellen burst into tears. How could she have doubted her mother?
"Baby, don't cry," Alice said with a few sniffles of her own. "You'll get me started... Wait a minute. These are happy tears, right?"
"Yes," Ellen said, reaching for a box of tissues. "The happiest. I'm just so relieved."
"Why? Of course, Matt loves you. How could you doubt that?"
Ellen drew in a long breath before she blew her nose. "It wasn't Matt who I doubted. I wasn't sure how you and Winston would react. I was scared to tell you."
"Ellen, I don't understand," Alice responded. "We adore Matt. I couldn't think of anyone that I'd rather you share your life with."
"My fears weren't about Matt, Mama," Ellen said slowly. "Right now, I couldn't even tell you what I was afraid of. I just knew that I was scared. I'm not making sense..."
"Take your time with it," Alice suggested. "I need to know why you were afraid to share this news with your family. I know that we've had ups and downs, but I never thought it had gotten so bad that you'd be afraid to tell us that you were getting married. Have we grown that far apart?"
"I don't think so, but I was still scared. I just kept remembering what happened with Sam. How we ended up then kept coming back to me. I was afraid that it would happen again. I told you that it didn't make any sense." Ellen's voice drifted.
Alice's soft sigh was like a gentle breeze, cool and comforting. "My strong-willed daughter, why is it that you...? Ellen, you were a young girl then. Your running off scared me because I wasn't sure how you'd end up. I was wrong in not trusting you. I should have, and I hope that you'll forgive me. But, Ellen, you're a woman now. You're a strong, beautiful and intelligent woman and I'm proud to call my child. I thought that the past was behind us, but I see that we didn't resolved everything. Sweetheart, let's set the record straight right now. I love you. I always have and I always will. And nothing on this planet will ever separate me from you again. Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal, Mama," Ellen whispered. Her voice was raspy with unspent emotion and she was nearly speechless. But there was one thing that she had to say. "I love you, Mama."
A tense silence fell upon the small dinner party. The two brothers hadn't spoken in nearly five minutes and Dawn had grown tired of chattering to fill in the gap. Her fork clattered onto her plate as she tossed it down in disgust. Looking from Nikolas to Lucky, she said, "What is wrong with you?"
"Me?" Lucky asked, pointing to himself. "Or him?" he asked, indicating Nikolas.
"Both," she answered. Her flashing brown eyes rested on Nikolas. "Why did you invite us to dinner? You shouldn't have if you didn't plan to attempt reconciliation with him. It wasn't fair."
"I'm not being fair?" Nikolas asked. He rested his forearms on the table's edge as he leaned forward to glare at her. "Don't you think you're being biased here? He's your lover. Of course, you'll blame me."
"Hold it, Cassadine!" Lucky ground out. "You don't know anything about our relationship and you for damn sure won't lay anything on her. This is between you and me."
"It's okay, Lucky," Dawn reassured him. "He's pissed. Let him yell at me if he thinks that'll make him feel better."
"I'm not yelling," Nikolas said through clenched teeth. Ignoring Lucky, he continued to stare at Dawn. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't patronize me. I am not a child, nor am I an idiot."
Dawn bit back a chuckle. "I never said you were an idiot, but I do think you're being rather childish-"
Dawn raised a hand to silence him. "Let me finish. Thank you. I can understand your pain, Nikolas. I really can. I don't begrudge you for it and I'm sure that Lucky doesn't either. You believed that your brother is dead, and I'm sure that hurt. But, Nikolas, it's not just about you, okay? Faison put him through hell. Coming back to life for his friends and family seems like it should be easy, but have you thought about it from his point of view?"
"I've tried to," Nikolas whispered harshly. He glanced at Lucky whose eyes were downcast and then he looked at the woman beside his brother. Her calm assurance was soothing and the way her eyes sparkled with her convictions intrigued him. She was blunt which definitely suited his brother. Nikolas sensed that she bewitched Lucky. He sensed that unless he paid closer attention, she'd bewitch him as well.
She leaned across the table to whisper. "Try harder. You're brothers. Make it work. He's alive. Isn't that so much better than before? I was there, Nikolas. I saw the pain in your eyes at his memorial service. You don't have to feel that anymore. He's here, sitting right next to you-"
"Dawn, sweetheart, don't." Lucky tried to silence her by placing his hand on top of hers. "I'm sure Nikolas is capable of making up his mind without your tough love tactics."
She laughed. "'Tough love tactics'? You get five points for that one."
"'Tough love tactics'?" Nikolas repeated. Despite his efforts to do otherwise, a smile came to his face. The smile was soon followed by a low, deep chuckle. "You've always had a way with words, little brother."
"I'll take both as a compliment, big brother," Lucky said with a smile. He extended his right hand to Nikolas. "We begin again?"
Nikolas took Lucky's hand. "We begin again."
Lucky's fingers tightened around Dawn's as they reached her condo's door. When she moved to slide the key inside the lock, he tugged on her hand. She moved inside his arms in one, fluid motion. His lips were soon on hers, kissing her deeply. Shivers ran up his spine, as the kiss became even more passionate. Minutes later, he reluctantly pulled away.
"Stay tonight," she whispered in a husky voice. "I want you to stay."
"I'm not sure," he answered. His sapphire eyes darkened to midnight blue as her need for him twinkled in her eyes. "I want to, but..."
"There won't be any interruptions this time," she promised. "I'll put the phone off the hook and put an out to lunch sign on the door." She stepped closer to him and crossed her wrists behind his neck. "Besides, I want to celebrate. Don't make me celebrate alone."
Lucky's hands pressed against her lower back, pushing her closer to him. Grinning at her, he asked, "Celebrate what?"
"You and Nikolas," she answered brightly. "And Mama and John-"
Playfully, he shook his head at her. "You don't know that she said yes."
Dawn shrugged. "If she didn't tonight, she will. John loves her and she loves him. He won't leave until he has her. In fact, I'm following his lead..."
"Oh, yeah?" he asked with raised brow. "How is that?"
"I'm not letting go until I have you."
Completely serious, he said, "You already have me."
"All of you?" she asked, her gaze centered on him.
"All of me," he assured her. "But I suppose you want my body, too, huh?"
She answered with a giggle.
He placed a soft kiss onto the tip of her nose. "Are you sure about this? I haven't... Well, I don't want us to rush..."
"I've never been more certain about anything in my life...other than writing your story," she added with a grin. Her expression softened as she added, "I want to be with you, but if you're not ready to go to that next level... We don't have to rush this. I just thought I'd ask."
Lucky's laugh was rich and loud in the quiet hallway. "Thanks for asking."
"You're welcome," she chuckled. She glanced up and down the hallway. Then in a conspiratorial whisper, she said, "Let's talk about this inside. My neighbors are nosy."
"Okay." He took the key chain from her and unlocked the door. She went inside first and he followed her. After the tossing the keys onto a table, he moved to help her with her coat. "Dawn, I hope you don't think that my reluctance means that I don't want you. I do."
"I know you do," she said, turning around to face him. She took the coat from him and hung it up in the closet. She held her hand out for his coat and after he handed it to her, she put it in the closet, too. "I didn't exactly bring us back to my condo to ravish you. I wanted to talk to you privately and I didn't think we'd feel comfortable talking about this at my mother's place."
"What are we talking about?" he asked, taking her hand to lead her to the sofa. They sat side by side and he shifted to face her. "What's on your mind?"
"You," she said. She looked down at their linked fingers. Lightly, she caressed the knuckles on his hand. He trembled lightly and she smiled. "I think I know why we haven't made love, and... Well, I want you to know that it's okay."
"I'm lost," he answered after swallowing hard. "Care to fill me in?"
"I hate to be blunt, but..." She drew in a long breath. "Are you a virgin?"
"Dawn!" he blurted out. His face turned a dark crimson and he suddenly felt hot all over. "Why would you... What makes you think..."
"Lucky, it's okay if you are," she quickly reassured him. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. I've only ever been with one other person-"
"Your fiancÚ?" Lucky bit out. "That Alemaine jerk?"
She smiled with faint humor. "Yeah, him. And, you're trying to change the subject. Are you? Are my suspicions correct?"
He swallowed hard again. "Yeah, your suspicions are correct. I've never made love with anyone. Not even Elizabeth."
"Are you afraid to?" she asked gently.
He shrugged. "I'm not sure. I just don't want to disappoint you, I guess."
"You couldn't," she assured him. "I'm not that demanding in bed. Well, I'm not too bad."
He laughed and his tension slowly faded. "When Nikolas said that we were lovers... It got to me. I want to be your lover, but I'm not sure if I'm ready."
"You handled yourself well with him," she told him. "I don't think he has a clue-"
"I gathered as much."
They laughed softly and when the laughter died, Dawn drew Lucky into a warm embrace. "I'll be here when you're ready. You're worth the wait, Spencer."
"I love you, Jensen," he said, squeezing his arms around her. "So very much and I promise, the wait won't be for very long. I promise."
"It wasn't so bad, was it?" Matt wrapped his arms around Ellen and pulled her closer to him. The comforter fell a few inches, revealing her warm, mocha skin. The pale silver of her negligee sparkled in the dimly lit room, inviting Matt to lower the straps from her shoulders.
"It was great," Ellen murmured. As the straps fell from her shoulders, she looked up at Matt. "Should I guess at what's on your mind?"
"You don't have to guess," he said with a wolfish grin. He leaned forward and captured her mouth in a kiss that sent their senses reeling. A slow, tantalizing joining of their bodies and souls followed the passionate kiss. As they came back down to earth, they lay face to face. With thoughts of how fortunate they were to find happiness together again, Matt's thoughts returned to their earlier conversation. "So, when did they say they'd be here?"
"Mama wants in on planning the wedding," Ellen said with a smile. "She promises not to be overbearing, but she does want to help."
"Alice is an amazing woman," he said softly. "Like mother, like daughter."
"Oh, I love it when my man tells me the truth," she said, grinning at him.
"I'll always be honest with you," he said seriously.
"I know, baby," she replied. "And I with you. I have good feelings swimming around inside of me. I used to be so afraid that something would come along and mess everything up. Those fears are disappearing."
"I'm happy to hear that." He lightly stroked her cheeks with the pads of his fingertips. "I was bitter when you disappeared, but that's all gone now. I think what we're feeling is the purity of love. It's cleansing us and making us whole again."
"Oh, Matt, that's so beautiful." She brushed away the tears that suddenly shone in her eyes. "I feel so fresh when I'm with you. Almost like I'm a new person. I am a new person. The old Ellen is gone and she's been replaced by the woman who's with you now."
Matt smiled lovingly at her. "Describe this woman for me."
"She's confident on all levels and not just professionally. She's loved by her man, by her family and by her friends. And she loves them back. She's not afraid of love anymore."
"Come here," he growled, opening his arms for her. She slipped inside and he wrapped her up tightly within his hold. "This is the best I've ever felt in my life. I've never felt so happy before."
"Hold on," she whispered. "It will get better..."
"Every day of our lives together," he agreed, "will be just like this one."
Encircled within each other's arms, they soon drifted off to sleep. Their dreams were filled with what was to come for them...a very happy life together.