Chapter 2: Adjustments

Company whirred with the energy of the lunch time crowd. Buzz Cooper gallantly showed Felicia Boudreaux and her friend, Reva Lewis to a booth in the back. The women thanked him with a smile. He bowed, produced two menus and left, promising to return with two iced cafe mochas.

"Okay, talk to me," Reva said after Buzz left. "I'm all ears."

Felicia gave the vivacious blonde a wan smile. Her fingers absently stirred a spoon inside her glass of iced coffee. "I didn't invite you to have lunch with me to burden you with my problems--"

"It's not a burden to listen to a friend," Reva cut in. "Besides, you were there for my tales of time travel. You listened and you didn't try to have me committed."

Felicia laughed. "I thought about it."

"But you didn't act on it." Reva patted Felicia's hand. "What is it?"

"Tonight we're having dinner with my god-daughter and her husband. Mel's excited about it," Felicia confessed. "She thinks that the dinner will be an eye-opener for Clayton and Remy. I'm hoping it won't backfire."

"They're still giving her grief about Rick?" Reva asked, surprise shining her blue eyes. "Why? Rick is a great guy. His family has been here forever."

"I know and Clayton knows it, too," Felicia said. "To be honest, this side of Clayton is one I've never seen before. We've rarely disagreed where the kids are concerned, but in this, we've agreed to not discuss it."

"Maybe that's the best thing. Probably advice that Josh and I should have taken about two or three marriages ago."

Marina, Buzz's granddaughter, appeared and took their orders for soup and salad. She promptly returned with the food and Reva dug in. Felicia's mind was too preoccupied to eat.

"Mel has always been Clayton's little girl. He doesn't want to see her grow up."

Reva nodded. "Daddy's never do."

*~*

"It's simple. You're not ready for her to grow up."

Clayton perched on the edge of Ross Marler's desk and swung his leg. He didn't want to hear what his friend was telling him. It wasn't that he disagreed with the attorney's assessment. He simply didn't want to hear it.

Ross grabbed chalk and began to write notes for the day's lecture for his legal students on the board. As he wrote, he chuckled. "You're quiet, Clayton. I can't remember you ever being this quiet."

"Yeah," Clayton grumbled. "You've been through this with Dinah, but it's the not the same. I have only one daughter. You have two."

"Which makes it harder," Ross said, turning away from the board. "Trust me, it doesn't get any easier just because there are two. They're still my little girls. I still want to protect them and tuck them in at night. Letting go is a hard adjustment, but we have to do it."

"Who says?" Clayton stood and moved around the classroom. "You're right. It's an adjustment. Too bad I'm not ready to make it."

"None of us are." Ross finished writing on the board. He dusted his hands off and reached inside his briefcase. "Talk to Mel. Remind her that you love her."

"She knows that." He took in a deep breath and slowly released it. "If I could find the perfect man for her, everything would be fine."

"Rick isn't perfect," Ross said, "but he's not the worst man out there. He'll take good care of her. For the first time in his life, he's happy. We're all entitled to a little happiness."

Clayton didn't respond. Ross was right. The problem was that he didn't want Rick with his daughter. Sure, they were happy now, but they weren't being realistic. They weren't looking to the future.

He roughly ran his hand over his face. The conversation weighed heavily on his soul. He couldn't ignore his daughter's need for love and happiness. But the outside world won't care about that.

"So, you think it's okay for different races to become romantically involved?" Clayton asked.

Ross met Clayton's stare. "I don't have a problem with it. We're lucky to find love wherever we can. Color shouldn't matter."

"But it does," Clayton said. "Glass ceilings exist in corporate America and racial profiling is a common occurrence. I don't want my daughter to get hurt, physically or emotionally."

"That can happen in any situation," Ross commented. "Not only in an interracial relationship. You've given both Mel and Remy firm foundations. Give them the credit they deserve. They're both strong enough to weather the storms."

"Maybe so," Clayton agreed, "but some storms can be avoided."

*~*

Dawn wiped the sweat from her brow as she perused the kitchen. Before her outing with Mel, there were about half a dozen boxes that needed to be unpacked. Considering the dinner party that was scheduled for that night, Dawn rushed to finish the kitchen. Now, that everything was in its proper place, she could relax. For a moment.

"Have you finished?"

Her heart jumped to her throat. She placed her hand over her pounding heart and leaned against the counter.

"You scared me."

Her husband strolled inside the kitchen. "I didn't mean to." He reached her and gave her a slow, deliberate kiss. "You weren't supposed to start without me," he scolded in a husky voice. "What will I do with you?"

"Hold that thought," she murmured as he tried to pull her into an embrace.

"We're having a dinner party," she said. "Mel, her boyfriend and her parents are coming over tonight. Didn't you get the message I left on your voice mail?"

"No," he said, frowning. "A dinner party? Why?"

Dawn planted her hands on her hips. "Because Mel needs our help, and we're gonna give it to her."

Nikolas' gaze roamed her from head to toe. "I'd rather give you something else. Mr. Nikky is lonely."

After three years of marriage, he could still make her blush. Dawn giggled. "Mr. Nikky can't be that lonely. I saw him this morning."

She grabbed a box and began to break it down. Nikolas took the box from her hands. "Enough, Mrs. Cassadine. You've done enough today. Go upstairs, take a nice, long bath. I'll take care of the rest."

Dawn taught Nikolas the basics of cooking during their first year of marriage. He was by no means in Emeril's league or even Julia Childs. He did okay for just the two of them, but preparing for a dinner party? She didn't think so.

"Baby, it's okay. I'm not even tired."

Nikolas rolled his eyes. "You're a bad liar. Don't worry. I don't plan to cook." He kissed her cheek. "Take a bath, relax and let me take care of everything."

When he gave her those puppy dog eyes, she couldn't argue with him. She went upstairs, added extra bubbles to her bath and slipped into the foamy, warm liquid. The hot water soothed her tired muscles. Her eyelids drooped close. She must have fallen asleep because the next thing she heard was the sound of splashing as Nikolas moved in behind her.

She shifted to accommodate him and then leaned back against his bare chest. "Was that quick?"

"I have skills," he said, his breath caressing her cheek.

"I won't ask," she said with a smile. "I'll let myself be pleasantly surprised."

"Thank you." He lathered a sponge with soap and began to wash her back and arms. "How is Melisande? What do you think of Cedars?"

"She's the same. The hospital is nice."

"Better than General Hospital?" he asked.

"There's a different vibe there. It seems to be less political and more about the patients. I'll know more after I start." Her skin tingled wherever he touched her. She didn't want to succumb to his expert touch, but feared it was a battle she'd lose. Her hand closed over his as it headed for her inner thigh. "How was your meeting with Joshua Lewis?"

He shrugged. "Business is business."

"It's more than that this time. This business is yours without any influence from the rest of your family. It's a big step. Don't shrug it off."

"Correction. This business is ours, and I'm not shrugging it off. I'm more concerned about you adjusting to Springfield and Cedars. You moved for me, because of me. I don't want you to ever regret coming here."

She turned and straddled his lap. Her hands cupped his face. "I won't. Home is wherever you are."

"Same here," he said, pulling her to him.

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