Chapter 1: New Beginnings

from Port Charles to Springfield

The decision to leave Port Charles and move to the middle American town of Springfield, Illinois had been based on necessity. Port Charles had too many memories, mostly bad and Nikolas Cassadine had to leave. To his relief, his wife supported him. And here they were, starting over.

He finished reading the contract that Joshua Lewis had given him to review. Josh's nephew, Billy, sat behind the older man. His gaze was dark, petulant. Nikolas supposed that Billy resented the Cassadine presence. Or rather, Nikolas' presence. The Lewises didn't mind using the Cassadine funds, and when Stefan was the acting head of the family... Nikolas inhaled a sharp breath. He didn't want to think about Stefan. Not yet. He wasn't ready.

"I trust nothing is amiss," Josh said. "Everything we agreed upon is there. Nothing has been added or changed since our conversation."

Nikolas refrained from rebuking Josh's condescending tone. His wife warned him that his arrogance could be overwhelming at times. She made him promise to 'keep it in check' until they were firmly settled in their new home.

"I noticed." Nikolas tried, but once a prince always a prince.

Josh nodded once. "My apologies. I'm used to dealing with Stefan--"

"I know," Nikolas cut in, "but now, I sign the contracts." He reached inside his breast pocket and pulled out a pen.

"Yes, you do," Josh agreed. After Nikolas signed the paperwork and handed it over, Josh extended his hand and added, "Welcome to Lewis Oil, Nikolas, and welcome to Springfield."

Nikolas shook the offered hand and gave his new business partner a tight smile. "Thank you."

*~*

"When I told you I needed a friend to talk to, I didn't expect you to move to Springfield!"

Dawn Jensen-Cassadine laughed, causing a few doctors and nurses to look as she and her good friend, Melissande Boudreau walked the halls of Cedars Hospital. Dawn hadn't told Mel about her and Nikolas' plans to leave Port Charles. She wanted it to be a surprise. And it was! Mel's exuberance lessened the worries that the move had weighed on Dawn's heart. She and Nikolas wouldn't be completely alone in Springfield. In addition to each other, they had Mel and her family.

"Well, what are friends for?" Dawn asked, linking her arm through Mel's. "You called. Here I am. Let the games begin. Better yet, introduce me to the infamous Dr. Rick Bauer. Show me the man who's made my level-headed friend giddy with lust and love."

Mel's dark eyes widened. Pink dots colored her caramel cheeks. "Ssh! I work here!"

Dawn spotted French doors that led to a balcony. She quickly dragged Mel outside and closed the door behind them. "What's going on, Melissande Boudreau? Are you and Rick sneaking around?"

Mel looked away. "Not exactly."

Dawn leaned against the railing, her arms folded across her chest. "What does that mean? I thought you were serious."

"We are and we're not keeping it a secret...it's just that we work here. He's my supervisor. It could get complicated."

"Has it?" Dawn asked. She'd known Mel for years. Their fathers belonged to the same fraternity and their mothers were bridesmaids at each other's weddings. Dawn's older sister, Dara, often baby-sat Mel and her younger brother, Remy, whenever the Boudreaux family came for a visit. Mel and Dawn would stay up for hours, talking and making plans for their future. They were as close as sisters and knew each other well. So, Dawn was surprised at how stressed Mel had become.

"Not here," Mel said. "We don't always agree, but we respect each other's opinion. Actually, it's not work that's complicated."

"I bet I can guess," Dawn said, shifting slightly as Mel joined her at the railing. "Daddy Clayton is giving you fits, right?"

Mel nodded. "He's known Rick for years and respects him--as a doctor. But now, that we're seeing each other... Daddy's lost it and Remy is right behind him."

Dawn's eyebrows shot up. "Remy, too? What's his problem? Doesn't he have enough to do as a sophomore at Springfield University?"

"You'd think both of them would have enough to do there," Mel replied.

"I don't get what the big deal is," Dawn said. "Is it because he's older and has a baby?"

Mel shook her head. "That's some of it, but they're mostly upset because he's white."

"Oh," Dawn said, understanding because she and Nikolas faced a lot of stupidity when they became involved. "What can I do to help?"

Mel smiled. "I'm glad you asked that."

*~*

"Dinner with your friends?" Rick repeated, balancing the receiver against his ear as he placed his infant son, Jude, onto the changing table. "I can do that, but since they just moved here, let's have them over at my place."

"Um," Mel said after a brief pause, "I was hoping for neutral ground."

Rick deftly removed his son's wet diaper. The baby squirmed as the cold air touched him. Rick cooed and Jude smiled. "Why do we need neutral ground? Should I prepare for an ambush?"

"Of course not, we'll be the ambushers. Daddy and Remy are the ambushees," Mel explained.

"Oh, boy." The last dinner with the Boudreau family was not without its problems. Clayton and Remy made it clear exactly how much they disliked the idea of Rick being with Mel. His age and his skin color weren't suitable for Mel, according to her father and her brother. Their disapproval hadn't prevented he and Mel from growing closer, but he'd be lying if he didn't admit that he had concerns. Big concerns that Mel's love for her family would outweigh what they felt for each other, and fear that they wouldn't be together in the end.

"World War III and a welcome to Springfield dinner all rolled up into one, huh?" Rick asked as he wiped and applied powder to Jude's bottom. "Are you sure you want to drag your friends into this?"

"They're not being dragged," Mel clarified. "They want to help, and when you meet them tonight, you'll see why."

"Ooh, sounds ominous," Rick joked. "Maybe I should invite Philip to join us. I may need back up."

"Invite him. The more the merrier."

Rick finished with Jude's diaper and lifted the wiggling six month old into his arms. "Will do."

"Good." Her voice softened as she added, "I can't wait until tonight. Things will be different. You'll see."

"From your mouth to God's ears."

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