Chapter 16

The flashing blue lights appeared from nowhere. Remy's brow drew into a frown as he remembered. He'd never been pulled over before and shouldn't have been pulled over then! He pounded his fist hard on the diner tabletop. The movement immediately skyrocketed to his head in a razor sharp pain. He winced.

Marah patted his forearm. "Remy? Everything will be okay."

He glanced at her hand. It appeared alabaster against his dark gray wool sweater. He squeezed his eyes shut. "No, it won't."

"Yes, it will. It's over. You can forget about it."

"That's easy for you to say," he grumbled his breath. She didn't know what it was like to dread the boys in blue. For her, they meant service and protection. For a black man, young or old, policemen were the complete opposite.

All his life, Remy heard stories from his dad about how things were in the sixties. Even now, he knew about racial profiling and tonight he'd been a victim of it. He opened his eyes and looked at Marah. She had no idea what just happened.

"Okay, forget was the wrong word," she amended. "That jerk should have his badge taken from him! We can report him to the department."

Remy would have rolled his eyes, but he feared more pain from his head. "Nothing will happen to him."

"You're wrong!" She flung strands of blonde locks from her face. "He had no business putting his hands on you. You did everything he asked. I'm a witness. I won't let him get away with hurting you."

Remy's chest tightened at her heartfelt declaration. He turned his hand over so that his palm was up. She placed her hand in his. Their fingers laced together. The beginning of a smile rumbled inside him.

~*~

Nikolas swung leg over Sheba's rump and joined Josh on the prairie. The endless valley carpeted by green grass and blue skies was breathtaking. He wished again that Dawn could have joined them. She would have loved this view.

"It's something, isn't it?" Josh commented. "When the city becomes congested, this is my escape. Reva, the kids and I come home. What do you think of it?"

"It's beautiful," Nikolas simply stated. "Like Greece."

Josh tossed his head back and laughed. "There's never any place like home. Do you think you'll return to Greece? Would Dawn like it?"

"She likes Greece. Our home is wherever we are together. Geography doesn't matter." Nikolas looked at Josh. "Would you leave Springfield to come back here?"

"Not yet." Josh patted the mane of his ebony Arabian. The horse neighed in response. The beast's master sighed. "The atmosphere is different. I'm different when I'm here. I'm reminded of my place in the family. No matter how many years past, someone will acknowledge me as H.B's little boy or Billy's younger brother."

Nikolas nodded. He understood. Whenever he and Dawn visit Russia or Greece, they received the royal treatment. He didn't enjoy the pomp and circumstance. He often wondered if he ever did. His former subjects refused to accept that he was no longer the heir. The obligation he felt whenever he looked into their eyes overwhelmed him. Just thinking about it, he shuddered.

"Cold?" Josh frowned with concern. "We can head back."

Nikolas shook the mood off. "I'm not cold. Just thinking."

He smoothed his hand along Sheba's mane. Having the horse join him on the trip comforted him, but it was nothing compared to having his wife beside him. The last few days, he thought of Mel and Rick. Their family rallied around them and became a mountain of support.

There was a time when the Cassadines presented a united front to the world and were a source of strength to each other. By the time Nikolas was born, that union had ceased to exist, but there was the bond between him and Stefan. Involuntarily, his muscles tensed. Dawn was his family, but he could not deny that he missed his father, too.

"How do you respond when you are greeted as H.B.'s little boy and Billy's younger brother?" he asked after moments of silence.

Josh shrugged. "I smile and nod. It's not as if it isn't true. I am my father's son and Billy is my older brother. I can't ignore the hand I was dealt. It helps to be able to reshuffle the deck every now and then."

"Reshuffle?" Nikolas frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Make sure my priorities are in place and that I know who I am. I love my family. I wouldn't be who I am without them."

"I suppose that's true."

Josh moved to Nikolas. He patted the younger man's shoulder. "Family. In some ways they are a wonderful gift and others a curse. You have to find the balance for yourself. No one else can do it for you."

~*~

"I wish there was something more I could do." Dawn sat across from Mel. They lingered over a late lunch at Cedar's cafeteria. "Lillian and I spent most of the morning online and on the telephone in search of a donor. Rick's name is near the top of the list. I wish it was at the top."

Mel reached out and patted Dawn's hand. "I know you're trying."

"Thanks, but that's not enough. When I return to the office, it's back to the phone." Dawn held her best friend's gaze. "We will find a donor."

"I believe she means that." Philip set a styrofoam cup of coffee on the table. "Mind if I join you?"

"No, not at all." Mel pointed to the empty table beside theirs. "Grab a chair."

Philip set the chair between the two women. He nodded at both in greeting. Dawn noticed that fresh worry lines had formed near his eyes. His cheekbones appeared more pronounced than usual. He'd lost some weight. Mel had, too. They both loved Rick so much.

"I stopped by Rick's room, but he was asleep. I didn't want to disturb him. One of the nurses told me you were here. I hope you don't mind," Philip said, dividing his attention between Mel and Dawn.

"No." Mel absently swirled her spoon around inside her bowl of soup. "I'm glad to see you. Dawn was telling me about her and Lillian's efforts. They're doing everything they can. It's good positive news."

"But it's not the right news," he commented.

"It isn't," Dawn agreed. "The best news would be that a heart has been found."

"We have to believe that we'll get that news," Mel said. "All of us have to believe it." She abruptly stood. "I'd better get back. I'll see you both later."

She rushed from the table. Philip watched her hasty exit and said, "She puts on a good show. I guess we all are. We have to. To do otherwise would mean we give up." His voice became hushed. "And we'd lose…"

Sudden tears blurred Dawn's vision. She was quiet as Philip regained his composure. She didn't know what to say. Mere words of encouragement weren't enough. Rick's survival depended upon the death of another. It was a sad situation all the way 'round.

She placed her hand over Philip's larger one and squeezed. Philip's intense blue eyes connected with hers. He mouthed, 'Thank you.'

~*~

(AM thinks about Philip's visit and news about Gilly. Alan enters at the end.)

Alan-Michael stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Free of bandages, he barely recognized his own face. The doctors swore there would be minor damage once the swelling went down. Not that his looks mattered to him. Only one thing did and thanks to his brother he had what he needed.

Keeping an eye out for unwelcome medical personnel, Alan-Michael quickly dressed in a pair of jeans and a black sweater. He returned to his bed, sat and pulled on socks and shoes. He placed his hospital ID bracelet on the bedside table. He wouldn't need it where he was going.

Philip told him that Gilly was last seen near the Illinois-Missouri border in Quincy. That was a few days after the explosion. The trail ended there. But he was not deterred. She made it that far. Gilly was alive! That gave Alan-Michael hope.

He shoved the pillows underneath the covers into the shape of a body. Then, he pulled the blanket up. The decoy should buy him some time.

He headed for the door. It pushed toward him. He stepped back.

"Where are you going?"

Rage erupted inside Alan-Michael. He'd been in Springfield for weeks without seeing his father. He should have known that his luck wouldn't last forever. "None of your damn business," he said through clenched teeth.

"Don't," Alan hissed. He entered the room, slamming the door closed after him. "I know you're angry. I would have been here sooner, but I was in Europe. Philip didn't have the decency to call--"

"I told him not to."

A flash of hurt lit Alan's eyes. "Why?"

"Cut the bullshit, Alan!" Alan-Michael drew in a ragged breath. "You're the reason why I'm in here in the first place. And if Gilly is hurt or worse, you'll have no place to hide. I'll hunt you down and kill you myself!"

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