chapter fourteen


Jason climbed to the second story of the Quartermaine mansion. Carefully, he moved across the landing to his younger sister's bedroom. He peered inside, but the drawn curtains made it impossible for him to see anything. He tugged on the window, pulled it open and crawled inside.

The room was a strange combination of neat and messy. Only Emily could make it look comfortable and cute, Jason thought, looking around. It had been a while since he was last there, so he wasn't sure if anything was amiss.

He moved to her closet and looked around inside. It was neater than the bedroom, and judging by the empty hangers, a lot of items were missing. He checked the hamper. It was empty.

"Little sister, what are you up to?" he murmured as he backed out of the closet.

He was headed towards the window when a knock sounded on her bedroom door and then it opened. There was no way he could escape so he just stood and waited.

"If it isn't the devil's helper himself!" Edward announced in his typical loud, blustering way. "REGINALD!!! Call the police! I've found the intruder!"

"Dammit Edward!" Jason said through gritted teeth. "Don't waste Reginald's time. I'll be gone long before they get here."

"What are you doing?" his grandfather demanded. "Why are you skulking about here? You've denounced us and we no longer want you, so why don't you leave!"

"I will," Jason said, oddly affected by Edward's pronouncement. "I'm leaving just as soon as you tell me how long Em's been gone."

"Emily hasn't gone anywhere! She may be with a few friends from school-"

"Look in the closet." Jason pointed to the closet. "A lot of her clothes are missing. I'm guessing she's run away."

Edward rushed to the closet and shoved everything around while he searched through it. "I can't believe this! We've got to find her!"

"Don't do anything," Jason instructed. "Calling the police will only make her run farther and faster. I'll look for her."

"You'd better bring her home, young man!" Edward ordered. "She's too young to be on the streets. She's fragile and used to privilege. She'd never last out there without her family."

Jason rolled his eyes. "It was the family that drove her away, but do what I said. Leave the police out of it. I'll find her and make sure she's okay."

"You'll bring her home, too," Edward called out to Jason's retreating back.

Jason paused in the doorway. Looking over his shoulder, he said, "I'll think about it."


The bright lights of the red-light district of Center City shone brightly in the dark sky. Emily clung to Zander's hand as they pushed through the crowded streets to his friend's place. Her eyes were large as she took in the sights and got a close-up view of Zander's world.

Scantily clad women strolled up and down the street, asking lone men if they wanted a date. Sleazy looking men looked her over with glazed expression in their eyes. Dirty kids lingered in alleys and in the doorways of various stores. They appeared hungry and mean. Emily's grip on Zander's hand tightened.

He glanced down at her. "Are you okay?"

Emily tried to shake off her worries with a faint smile. "I'm fine. How much farther?"

"We're almost there," he reassured her. "Don't worry. We won't be staying here tonight. We're just grabbing our stuff and heading out. If we lucky, he may even have a car waiting for us."

"A car?" she repeated. "We don't have enough to buy a car."

Zander laughed. "Who said anything about paying for it? Here it is," he said, stopping in front of a rundown hotel. He held the door open and Emily went inside. Zander followed her. He took her hand again. Bypassing the desk clerk, they went straight up the staircase to the second floor.

He rapped a series of knocks on the door. The sounds of bolts and chains being removed came through the wooden door and then it opened. A guy about Zander's height and build with white-blonde hair and steely gray eyes stared back at them. He appeared dazed at first until a smile parted his lips.

"Z-man!" he grabbed Zander's arm and pulled him inside. "It's been a while. We heard you'd been wasted, man."

"I'm still breathing," Zander replied. He beckoned for Emily to join them. Once she entered, he closed the door behind them. "This is my girl."

"Nice." The gray eyes lit up into a smile. "You're doing something right, Z!"

Emily gave him a tight smile. The two men started to discuss what Zander wanted meanwhile Emily's eyes darted around the room. It wasn't what she expected. The space was neat and contained some extensive equipment. A laptop with all sorts of gadgets attached to it sat on a table in the kitchen area. Other machinery whirred in the small room, which barely gave enough room for the full-size bed, projection TV and recliner, which fought for space, too. Everything in the room screamed expense and she couldn't help but wonder how he could afford all those items.

"Em," Zander called, "could you come here? We need to decide on a name for you. Here's a list."

Emily went to them and Zander's friend read the list to her.

"You can choose from the following: Ana, Jo, Shelley or Bambi."

"Those are my choices?" she asked. "Why can't I just keep my own name?"

Zander shook his head. "You can't. We have to disappear. We can't do that if we're using our names. I've already chosen Alex. It's your turn now."

Emily shrugged. "Okay. I'll go with Ana. We can be the double A's."

Zander smiled. "It works for me. How soon can you fix the licenses and credit cards?"

"Give me a couple of hours. There's food in the fridge and about 100 DVDs to choose from. Help yourself."

Zander saw the hesitation on Emily's face and hugged her to him. "This is step in the right direction. Just two hours, Em. You can do it."

"Sure I can," she said, nodding. "I'm not about to back out now."


"Well, well, well," Sorel said, his dark eyes dancing with glee. "What do we have here?"

Joe Patroni cracked a smile and shrugged. "Magic Fingers, at your service."

"Got anything for me?" Sorel asked. Patroni's giddiness intrigued him. The seasoned hit man rarely showed any expression on his face, neither humor nor displeasure. For him to do so now, something interesting was in the works.

"I have some information I think would prove helpful to you."

Sorel gestured towards the chair that faced him. "Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink? Whiskey? Brandy?"

"Nothing for me, but thanks," Patroni said.

"Okay," Sorel said, the pleasantries over, "what could help me?"

"Knowing that someone hired me to hit you," Patroni replied. "I got the call today."

Sorel's eyes narrowed. "Someone wants you to whack me. Who?"

"Corinthos," Patroni answered. "He got his bitch to make the call. Coward."

"You don't say," Sorel said, smiling. "So, the chump is scared of me and his little woman is handling his affairs. If this don't beat all." Sorel started to shake with silent laughter until it erupted from him in a loud roar. He became so amused that tears fell from his eyes. It took several minutes for him to contain himself and once he did, he continued to smile. "You're a gem, Magic Fingers. You'll get something extra for your loyalty. Never doubt it."

"How would you like for me to handle this?" Patroni answered. "I accepted the job, but of course, I ain't gonna go through with it."

"Of course not," Sorel replied. He and Joe were distant cousins on his mother's side. They had grown up in the same streets, fighting each other in public and getting drunk together in private. Many in the organization suspected their affiliation but none were certain of it. Sorel and Patroni worked hard to keep it that way.

Leaning back against his chair, Sorel briskly rubbed his hands together. "This has to be handled just so. Did the broad pay you, yet?"

"Not yet."

"Okay, here's what you do," Sorel advised. "Arrange a meeting for payment. Follow her and get to know her schedule. When the time is right, and you will make that decision, take her out."



Carly moved around the penthouse with a bounce in her step. A smile was never far from her lips and whenever she spoke, there was a lilting tone to her voice. When she joined him downstairs after tucking Michael in, Sonny couldn't help but be suspicious by the way she skipped down the staircase.

He threw up his hands then and gave her a dimpled smile. "Okay, you got me. What is it?"

"What's what?" she asked, wrapping her arms around his slim waist.

"You're running around here like a schoolgirl," he commented as his arms closed around her. "Care to tell me why, or do you just plan to drive me crazy?"

Grinning at him, she shrugged. "I'm just happy. That's all."

He returned her wide grin and hugged her to him. "I like seeing that beautiful smile on your face."

"It feels good to have something to smile about," she told him. "Do you know that for the first time in my life, I'm happy? I've never felt like this before. Thank you, Sonny."

"You're thanking me?" he asked, slowly bringing their embrace to an end. "Okay, I'll take the credit, but with the way we've been arguing lately-"

"Let's not talk about that." She took his hand and led him to the sofa. They sat down and she curled against him. "We're good together, you know. You, me and Michael make a good family. I've been thinking that we should do something about Michael being an only child. What do you think?"

Sonny stiffened. He'd already lost two unborn children. The pain had been unbearable. He doubted if he could go through it again. Carly looked at him with a frown. He gave her a faint smile. "I'm not sure what to think. Are you pregnant?"

"No," she said slowly. "I wanted us to make this decision together."

"That's a first," he muttered under his breath.

Hurt darkened her brown eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Not what you're thinking," he murmured. "Come here." He pulled her against him again. Kissing her forehead, he whispered, "I didn't mean anything by that. I'm sorry. It's just that you're so impulsive that I thought you were asking me after the fact. Before we make a decision about a child, I'd like to think about it some more."

"Sure," she mumbled.

"I'm serious," he said upon her unenthusiastic response. "There are a lot of things to consider. The most important one is our family's protection. Sorel will have to be handled first. Once he is, then we can decide. Okay?"

Suddenly, a beautiful smile replaced her previous pout. Nodding, she beamed at him. "Okay, Sonny, but let's say we practice the baby making process."

He grinned at her. "You read my mind."


Nikolas held the paper high over Dawn's head and narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you peeking at my list?"

She couldn't help but giggle. Since returning to the loft, his rage disappeared and he became almost playful. A smile curved at his full lips, and she was torn between wanting to kiss him and snatching the paper from his hands.

He stood up and quickly shoved the sheet of paper inside the front pocket of his jeans. Folding his arms across his chest, he stood with his legs wide apart and a daring challenge in his dark eyes. One eyebrow arched and a smirk replaced his teasing smile. "I guess you won't see what's on it now."

She laughed. "Do you think that putting it in your pocket will prevent me from looking at that little slip of paper? If I want it, I will grab it."

"Oh really?" His eyes remained locked on hers as he raised his hands to rest at the base of his neck. "Try."

Sensual flames smoldered in the small space that separated his standing form from her sitting one. Her gaze slid over his denim-clad muscular thighs, past the rising bulge in his pants, up his lean torso to his corded biceps and then finally to the primitive heat in his eyes. She swallowed hard to give her suddenly parched throat some relief.

"That sounds like a dare, Nikky," she said, her voice husky with growing desire. "Is it? Are you daring me?"

Nikolas thrust his lower body towards her. "If you want it, my Angel, take it."


That's what she got for teasing him. Dawn sucked in air and stood. She wouldn't default on his little challenge. Nikolas Cassadine would quickly learn that Dawn Elyse Jensen could play his game and win!

He smiled as their eyes locked again. "Well?" he murmured in a low growl.

Dawn's hand shot out and slid inside his pocket. Nikolas closed his fingers around her wrist and prevented her from removing her hand. His other hand circled around her waist. Twisting them around quickly, he landed on the futon and pulled her on top of him. When both his hands fell to her waist, she pulled out the paper in triumph.

"I did it!"

"Yes, you did," he agreed, positioning her so that she became fully aware of his aroused state. "Now, here's a question for you. What do you plan to do about it?"

"The list...?" she mumbled.

He shook his head. His lower body pressed hard against hers and Dawn moaned. "The list can wait."


As if in a trance, Dawn lowered her head to his. Her tongue traced the soft fullness of his lips, and this time, he moaned. Taking control again, Nikolas turned them so that she lay beneath him. Instinctively, her thighs parted and he rested between them in a perfect fit. His lips possessed hers and sent spirals of ecstasy through her.

His fingers became intertwined with hers as he pressed them into the futon. With him fully on top of her and holding her hands above her head, Dawn was completely under Nikolas' power. And it didn't matter. She trusted him completely, wanting him more and more with each moment they shared together. Her legs closed around his waist and Nikolas moaned again.

He trailed kisses along her jaw line to her ear. "This has to stop," he murmured. He pulled himself off her and stood. "After a quick shower, I'll make dinner-"

"You don't have to make dinner," she said, sitting up. "I can do it or we can order in."

He shook his head. "I like cooking. It helps me think. I'll be back in about fifteen minutes. Behave yourself."

"I'll try," she said, watching him disappear into the bathroom. "Oh, God help me," she prayed.

The idea of compiling separate lists of the pros and cons of involving her father had been a good one. They would go over it and make the final decision based on their lists. There wasn't anything even remotely erotic about it. But then without warning, passion flared between them again. He was right. It had to stop. They had to remain focused on reuniting his family and reclaiming his birthright.

Get a grip, girlfriend!

Nerve endings still tingled when Dawn rose from the futon. A cold shower would do her a world of good, she decided. A brief image of Nikolas' nude form came to mind and she shuddered. "Stop it!" she whispered furiously to herself.

"I know what I can do!" she realized. She could review his list. Now, where was it? She searched her pockets, the futon and the floor. It didn't turn up anywhere. She was about to get on her knees to look when the buzzer for the door sounded.

She straightened her clothing and shook out her braids to make herself as presentable as possible. Standing on tiptoe, she looked through the peephole. She recognized her surprise guest and opened the door part way.

"What's up?"

"Aren't you gonna invite me in?" Sly asked, looking past her into the loft.

"I'm kinda busy right now," she said. "Besides, I wasn't expecting you."

"So, you get a boyfriend and I can't come over uninvited any more?" he asked, his expression hurt. "Is that it?"

"No, that's not it. You're my friend. You don't need an invitation-"

"Then, let me in."

Dawn hated to say the words, but they had to be said. "I can't. This is a bad time. Who dropped you off? Maybe I can catch them before they pull away."

"Nobody dropped me off. I drove myself. I can deal with this stupid cast."

His dark blue eyes blazed with anger. Dawn could read him like a book and she knew he was close to going off. She couldn't risk him catching a glimpse of Nikolas no matter how much it bothered her to hurt her close friend. She reached out her hand to Sly. He flinched like her touch scalded him.

Backing away, he shrugged. "Never mind. I'll see you at the job if you ever remember you have one."

"Sly, wait!"

He didn't turn around at her call. His cast and cane echoed down the hallway. He stopped at the elevator and didn't turn around once before he stepped inside and left. Behind her, she heard Nikolas' footsteps and then felt his hands on her shoulder.

"Who was that?"

"Sly... He's my partner. I wouldn't invite him in and now, he's mad at me."

"That's not all," Nikolas said, taking her hand after she closed and locked the door. "He's in love with you, too."

"No," she denied. "He's used to having his way, coming over whenever he wants to. He's not in love with me. Besides, you didn't even see him. How would you know?"

"I could hear him," he said. "It was in his voice. Maybe I should find some place else to stay so that you and he can-"

"No!" She squeezed his hand. "I don't want you to go. I'll talk to Sly, but you can't leave. Okay?"

Nikolas drew her into the circle of his arms. "I'll stay...for a little while longer." He kissed her forehead and ended their embrace. "While I start dinner, could you call your father? I changed my mind about not wanting to involve him. He'll have the WSB contacts we'll need to find Andrèsj and to return my father safely to Port Charles."

Dawn breathed a sight of relief. "I need to shower, but I'll call him as soon as I'm done!"


Tommy's quick decision to take over the investigation into Dr. DeLane's background hadn't been based on professional ambition. He tried to tell himself that it had been, but the words didn't gel. He couldn't lie to himself. His decision was based on a strong desire to delve into Sabrina's world. He needed to know how a woman could stir him with a simple touch ticked.

He guided his truck to her condo. Pulling up to the curb, he turned off the ignition and sat there for a few minutes. If he ventured to her front door, what would be his excuse? Could he proclaim official business or just bluster his way inside with some spontaneous reasons? What words could he use to get to a worldly woman like her? What could he do that would make her want him?

"Dammit," Tommy groaned. Make her want him? Is that what he really wanted?

"No!" he contradicted. "The fire. I gotta find out about the fire."

He slammed out of the truck and strode to her front door. His finger pressed the bell with more force than needed, but once he was pumped up, he couldn't make himself stop. Three lives were lost in that blaze. He was one of the few who were designated to solving the mystery and bringing the guilty persons to justice. And dammit he would do just that!

"Yes?" Sabrina said, opening the door to greet him. "Why are you here, Detective Hardy?"

"I need to speak with you. May I?"

She rolled her eyes as she stepped aside. "Sure, you're here. Come in. Next time, please call. I do not appreciate guests coming to my home uninvited and unannounced."

"My apologies," he said with sincerity. "I don't wish to disturb you." He glanced around her living room and saw the luggage at the bottom of the staircase. "Going somewhere?"


Tommy's eyebrow arched. "May I ask where?" he inquired, facing her again.

"To Russia."

He reared back in surprise. "Russia? Why?"

"That's personal, Hardy," she said, smirking.

He smiled back at her. "So it is. Will you answer me despite that?"

Sabrina laughed. "You never give up, do you? How old are you?"

Tommy's smile faded. "What does my age have to do with anything? I'm good at my job."

"Don't be so defensive," she said softly. "I was thinking of paying you a compliment."

His smile returned. "Well, in that case, I'm twenty-five."

She gasped. "Oh, my! I thought you were a little older than that. Well, I really owe you a few kind words. For someone so young, you're tenacious and a credit to the department. The other officers I've spoken with have been rude. You're more or less pushy and very handsome, too."

Heat flooded his cheeks. "You're an impossible riddle, Dr. DeLane. One moment, you're as mean as a snake and now, you're playing nice with me. You must be hiding something."

"I have nothing to hide," she replied. "Like you, I'm good at my job."

"Which is?"

She crossed past him. Sitting leisurely on the sofa, she said, "I'm a healer."

"Yes, you are. Do you mind if I sit?"

She shook her head.

"This is a nice place you have. I share an apartment with my best friend. It's getting cramped," he commented, looking around her nice decor. "There's a nice vibe here, too. My parents wanted me to be a doctor, too. Looking at your place, I almost wish I had listened."

"Why didn't you?"

"I can't the sight of blood, but worse than that I can't stand corpses," he said, shuddering without realizing it.

"You chose an odd career to pursue," she commented, staring at him. "You will encounter your fair share of both in your occupation."

"True," he acknowledged. "I'm learning to adjust to it. Was it difficult for you to identify the bodies?"

"I've learned how to become detached."

Tommy smiled. "I should learn that trick. Detachment. Interesting concept. Thank you, Dr. DeLane."

"You're welcome."

He glanced at her luggage again. "Where in Russia, if you don't mind my asking?"

"It wouldn't matter if I did mind and you know it," she remarked. "The trip is to St. Petersburg. Have you ever been there?"

"No. I've lived in Port Charles most of my life and when we traveled, I was too young to notice anything."

"That's too bad. Would you like to St. Petersburg...with me?"

His jaw dropped. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. Answer quickly before I change my mind."

"Yes, I'd love to go."


Dara's day with Zarek had been amazing. He knew how to entertain a woman and he wasn't shy about his interest in her. She thrived on his attention and looked forward to their business lunch the following day.

"Like anyone worthy...I am flattered by your fascination with me..."

She sung the old Alanis Morissette tune while she prepared for bed. Once she was done with her shower and changing into a short nightgown, she padded into the living room and curled on the sofa.

"Like any uncharted territory, I must seem greatly intriguing..."

The lyrics made Dara pause. Is that why Zarek was interested in her? Did he view her as uncharted...? He was a Cassadine. His family was infamous for their worldliness. Surely, he'd known women far more intriguing than Dara Jensen. Not that Dara was selling herself short. No, far from it, but she wouldn't delude herself.

Like today on the yacht. He had owned Ares for years. Dara couldn't imagine purchasing something so elaborate just for play. Well, other than her BMW, she hadn't splurged on anything too expensive ever. What would it be to live in a world where trips to foreign locales could be done at whim? To go to any country with the ability to speak the language and know its customs? Zarek's life was a far cry from hers, but never in any moment spent with him had she been aware of it. So, why after spending such a wonderful day with him did the doubts have to creep in?

Someone tapped on her door and Dara eyes darted to the clock on her VCR. It was well past visiting hours. Only family would be so bold as to come calling now. She had half a mind to ignore the knock, but the thoughts of mischief changed her mind. Slipping into the matching silk, peach-colored dressing gown, she went to the door and looked into the peephole.

She gasped in surprised. Pulling the door open, she stared at Mac. "Mac? Is something wrong?"

His green eyes looked her over from head to toe as a deep blush crept across his cheeks. His Australian accent was heavy as he said, "May I come in?"

"Of course." She stepped to allow him entry. She quickly closed and locked the door before turning to face him.

"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing here this time of night," he began.

"You could say that. You look flushed. Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thanks, Dara. This won't take long. Could we sit?" he asked.

"Sure." He seemed to be waiting for her, so Dara sat on the soft and he joined her. "Are you sure you're okay?"

He drew in a ragged breath as he slowly shook his head. "I'm not sure of many things except one... I spent most of the day thinking about how blind I've been. I can't believe how I missed this."

"What? A case? You could call Marcus..."

"No," he said, reaching her hand. "This isn't about work. Well, not exactly. I mean, I enjoyed working with you. I always did even when I didn't always act like it. Your beautiful smile brightened many a dull morning for me. Your friendship always meant so much."

Dara squeezed his hand. "Your friendship meant a lot to me, too-"

"But there's more," he interrupted gently. "I tried to pretend like it wasn't there. I told myself I had a family with Felicia and the girls, and even when she ran off with Luke... Well, that doesn't matter now. I've had time to think. I've missed your beautiful smile, Dara. I missed sharing coffee with you in the morning and lunch sometimes, too. Do you know what I'm getting at?"

She looked down at their joined hands before looking into his mesmerizing gaze again. Her heart started to hammer against her ribs. She had a very good idea of what he was trying to say. But what if she was wrong?

"I-I'm not sure," she stammered. "Why don't you tell me?"

"I'd like to take you out on a date, Dara," he said in his quiet Australian brogue. "Complete with flowers, dinner and dancing. Springing this on you out of the blue isn't fair, but I... I felt something the other day when we hugged and if I'm not mistaken, you felt it, too. Would you like to explore the possibilities with me?"

"I-I don't know what to say," she said. "This is kinda sudden."

"I know," he agreed. "It hit me like a ton of bricks today. Of course, you'll need some time to think about it. You don't have to give me an answer now. Just think about it." He leaned forward and lightly brushed his lips against her cheeks. "I'll show myself out."

"Goodnight, Mac..." she whispered hoarsely, long after he had closed the door after him.

I don't think you unworthy...

I need a moment to deliberate...

[Author's note: Song credit goes to Alanis Morissette for "Uninvited" from the City of Angels soundtrack.]

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