Home for the Holidays
"Dreams come true all the time," Dawn Jensen-Cassadine whispered. Nikolas lay with his head on her lap, but the words were more for her benefit than his. Besides, with the even rise and fall of his chest, he'd succumb to slumber and hadn't heard her murmured musings.
The rumbled hum of the Cassadine jet threatened to lull her to sleep, too. If her mind hadn't been wired and her body still on alert, the Sandman's skills would have been promising. But after everything she went through, finding Nikolas and rescuing him from Sarah Webber's demented clutches, she doubted if she'd ever be able to sleep again. Not that she minded. Her gaze dropped to his sleeping form. Her hand stroked his silky hair. Sleeping only took her eyes off Nikolas and she never wanted him out of her sight again.
Christmas was a favorite time of year. She loved the peace and joy the occasion always brought. The look of wonder in her children's eyes at the first lighting of the tree or as they opened gifts filled her heart and gave her the sense of nothing ever going wrong again.
But that was before Nikolas' abduction. When Sarah first took Dominik, Dawn's heart shattered into a million pieces. Then, she, Nikolas and their friends got the little boy back. Determination to keep her family intact strengthened. However, they underestimated Sarah, and the other woman dodged their radars, removing Nikolas like a thief in the night.
As the search progressed from weeks to months, thoughts of Christmas and its joy and peace felt foreign. As much as she loved their children, she couldn't imagine celebrating Christmas without their father. Didn't want to wake up Christmas morning without his arms around her, his heat warming her. But then a miracle happened. They found him. Bruised and battered, scars crisscrossed his back in horrific patterns.
Nikolas cried out in his sleep. The anguished howl ripped through her and brought a quick end to her reverie.
"Ssh…" With gentle movements, she stroked his jaw. Tears blurred her vision. She blinked them away. The outside wounds would heal. How could she help him repair the inside?
"I love you," he said, rolling onto his back. He pressed her hand to his cheek and slid it across his mouth, gracing her palm with a sensual kiss. "Stop worrying."
"I can't help it. A part of me is afraid this is a dream. I'm gonna wake up and you won't be here and I'll have to tell our babies…" She choked up. She hadn't meant to say that much and certainly didn't want him to know how deep her fears ran.
He slowly straightened. Moving carefully, he wrapped his arm around her and held her close to his chest. "I'm here."
She nodded and inhaled a deep breath. God, it felt so good to smell him again. The sexy, masculine scent that was all Nikolas Cassadine and no one else. The tears returned, this time in earnest and without any hopes of being held at bay. Her shoulders shook. His hold tightened. He moved to pull her onto his lap, but she refused the silent invitation. In Sarah's wretched captivity, he'd lost weight. The muscles that promised strength and delivered passion were weakened. In time, he'd regain his physical prowess. Time vowed many things.
"I wish you wouldn't cry," he said in a strangled voice. "I wish I could erase what happened. We've lost so much time. Circumstances have kept us apart, looming over us like a hateful judge."
"I know." The words sounded small, but they carried weight. To the depths of her soul, she understood.
"While Sarah taunted and tortured, I wondered what had I ever done to deserve being separated from you and our children," he said. "Again. I survived Laura abandoning me and discovering that Stefan was my father was a true, rare reward. But falling in love with you…and creating two beautiful children were gifts from God. I had been blessed. Then all the separations came down like reprehensible curses. It ends now. If I have to sell my soul, no more--"
"Don't say that." She sat up to look into his eyes. His liquid brown eyes were darkened with pain and other countless emotions. "It's Christmas and we have been saved. We're together and as soon as this plane lands in Greece, we'll be a family again. Father, Mama, Dara and Alex are waiting for us with Dominik and Noelle."
He released her and rose to his feet. His balance wavered. She reached out to right him, but he stepped away. Each step, he moved with purpose, walking around the airplane suite. He headed to the mirror behind the bar. His hands gripped the counter. He drew in a harsh, ragged breath.
"Look at me. Our children won't recognize me, and if they do, I'll scare them. I resemble a Halloween phantom more than a Christmas surprise."
She went to him and wrapped her arms around him from behind. Standing on tiptoe, she peered over his shoulder to see their reflection. "You're handsome."
He laughed. "You're biased." He rubbed his hands were they rested over his sunken abdomen.
"And you're sexy." She kissed his shoulder. "You're not a phantom. You're real and you're mine. Don't ever forget it."
"How could I? It's the thought that kept me alive and infuriated Sarah." He turned away from the mirror. His hands settled at her waist before dipping down to cup her backside. He squeezed and she shuddered. "You still like that."
"I'm not complaining."
He lowered his head, claiming her mouth in a slow, thorough kiss. His tongue took possession. A delirious exploration left her weak. Need hit her full force like a tidal wave. Her body trembled with desire from head to toe. She caressed his back, saddened by the weakened state of his body yet thrilled to be holding him again.
Eventually, the kiss ended. He rested his forehead to hers. He took in deep breaths and said, "I would love nothing more than to make love to you."
"We can," she assured him. "We have many hours before we land."
He ran his hands down his chest and shook his head. "I don't want you to see me like this. I'm not what you remembered--"
"You're the man I love and that's all that matters." She took his hand and led him back to the leather sofa. "We'll make new memories."
Later, as they lay spent in each other's arms, he rested his head on her breast. "Now, it really does feel like I'm home for the holidays."
She stroked his arms and rested her chin on top of his head. "Yes, we truly are."