chapter sixteen


"I can't believe he did that!"

Jagger laughed again as Keesha glared at him. "What? It's a great story!"

"No, it is not! He made a pass at me!" she whispered furiously. "I'm in love with his father and that insolent little boy tried to play footsie with me! What is wrong with him?"

He shrugged. "It sounds like he's a healthy, young man with good taste. I wouldn't sweat it," Jagger advised. "Who knows? Maybe we can use his attraction to our advantage-"

"I will not lead Stefan's son on!" she said, growing hot with anger. "This isn't a game, Jago, and it's not just another assignment-"

"Well, if you can't show some objectivity, maybe you should transfer out."

Her mouth thinned into a firm line. Her arms folded across her chest and she gave him a hard stare. "I am being very objective and you know it. You're joking like this is funny. It isn't. His little games can complicate everything."

"How do you know it's just a game?" Jagger asked, his expression serious. "He's never had a real relationship before although many young socialites have tried. What if he really is beginning to have feelings for you and due to his lack of experience, he put his foot in to speak. You're not responsible for how he views you, Keesha. We both know you haven't led him on or anything like that. Like I said, you can't sweat it. We have a job to do and we have to do it. Whatever Andrèsj feels for you can be handled later. Okay?"

Jagger's words rang with wisdom. She knew that everything he said was true. She hadn't led the young Cassadine on, but that didn't ease her conscience. She and his father were lovers, for goodness' sakes! And Stefan. What would he think if he knew of Drè's interest in her?

Jagger pulled Keesha into a hug. "Come on, Ward. You can do this. Your priorities are intact and our objectives haven't been compromised. Maybe wait a day before you go back and see how it goes."

"Thanks, Cates," she said with a half-smile as their embraced ended. "I have to buck up. Besides, I can't wait a day. Phase 2 is already in action. Once I get my answers from him, we'll be able to proceed." She glanced at her watch. "I have to go back."

"I'll come with you," he said, taking her hand. "Who knows? Maybe he'll see us together and change his mind about you?"

Keesha crossed her fingers and held them up for Jagger to see. "From your mouth to God's ears."


Andrèsj paced the length of the window, deep in thought. Had he moved too fast? Her reaction had been priceless, but was it what he hoped for? He wanted her to take him seriously, but what if he scared her away? Keesha was a beautiful young woman. He was certain she'd had her share of gentleman callers. His slight stab at flirtation shouldn't have caught her unawares. Surely, she knew he found her exquisite and captivating.

Shaking his head, he groaned. Being in captivity certainly didn't help matters. He looked around the room. He knew where all the hidden cameras and recording devices lay. On many sleepless nights, he'd studied the layout of the room. The darkness concealed his exploration and he was able to find every last one. His first inclination had been to remove them, but the shackle about his ankle reminded him to be cautious. Besides, the monitors were so deeply imbedded in the walls that he could not remove them by sheer strength of will alone. He needed leverage...

Something clicked in his mind. Their game of Chess! Keesha took notes and she used a pencil to do so. Perhaps, she left the writing utensil behind. Trying to appear casual, Drè moved around the room until he stopped at the table where the game still lay.

He put the pieces on their appropriate spot as his eyes searched frantically for the pencil. He found it sticking underneath her notepad. He started to reach for it and then he noticed the words on the paper. They weren't notes for Chess at all! They were instructions.

For him!

His eyes quickly scanned the message and as he digested the words, a small speck of hope filled him. He wasn't alone anymore. His imprisonment was not a secret. He would be helped.

He would be free.


Liz applied the finishing touches to the canvas. "Wind and Rain" was coming together just as her mind's eye envisioned it. She couldn't be more pleased. Flexing her creative muscles made her happy and grounded her. In her topsy turvy world, she needed all the grounding she could get.

The ringing telephone interrupted her musings and she took her time in answering it. "Hello."

"What's up, Lizabeth," Tommy greeted. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" she asked.

"Oh, maybe because you and Lucky broke up. I dunno. You tell me."

"We broke up days ago," she said. "It took you long enough to call."

"I wanted to see if you'd call me. We are cousins, you know."

She grimaced. "It's not like I could forget. It's that why you called? To lecture me?"

"Nope," he said after a brief silence. "I worry about you. I just wanna make sure you're hanging in there and if you wanted to talk to somebody, well..."

Now, she felt like crap. When everyone else failed her—her parents, Gram, Sarah and Steven Lars—Tommy had always been there. He saw through her immaturity and realized that her defensiveness was her shield to mask her insecurity, and when she was raped...he and Lucky were her rocks. Brushing Tommy off was worse than mean. It was cruel.

"I'm sorry, cuz," she said. "Thanks for calling. I'm okay. Really. Painting has helped."

"And Morgan, too, no doubt," he muttered.

"Jason's not that bad," she defended. "You just have to get to know him-"

"I do know him," Tommy interrupted. "He turned his back on his fiancée and his family to be the errand boy for a mobster."

"That was years ago. Besides, he was in a car accident. It wasn't his fault that he didn't remember Keesha or the Qs. Anyway, he's changed. He's nicer now."

"Elizabeth," he said, "you weren't even here then. I saw how he treated them with my own eyes. He didn't have to be so heartless, and no one deserves to be dissed the way he dissed Keesha. But whatever, Liz. He's still Corinthos' errand boy and that means he's living outside the law. I don't want him dragging you down with him. Just be careful, okay?"

"I will be. What are you doing later? Wanna go out for BBQ?" she offered, wanting to bring some levity back to their conversation.

Tommy sighed. "I'd love to, but I can't. I'm leaving for Russia in a little while-"

"Thanks for telling me!"

"Hey!" he said. "Everything was only just finalized. I'm working on a case. It's not vacation."

"How long will you be gone?" she asked.

"I have no idea. I hope not that long. I hear their food sucks." He laughed.

"Be careful, okay? And let me know when you come back. As much as I complain, I'm gonna miss hearing you tell me what to do on a daily basis," Liz told him.

"I know you will," he said. "Listen, I gotta go. I'll try to bring you back some funky Russian souvenir. Try to use your brain while I'm gone. Peace!"

"ARGH!" Liz screamed in joking frustration. He always got the last word in and he always hung up fast! One day, she'd beat him at his own game and boy, was she gonna gloat!

"You okay?"

Her eyes flew to the door. "Jason! You almost gave me a heart attack."

"I'm sorry," he said, his stare unwavering. "I heard you cry out. I used my key. If I shouldn't have..."

"No," she said, shaking her head as she went to him. "I'm glad you did. I was just talking to Tommy on the phone. He was being his usual self and I was reacting in my usual way."

Jason grunted. "He's telling you to stay away from me because I'm nothing but a thug."

She gave him a tight smile. "Those weren't his exact words this time. Actually, the conversation wasn't really about that. He's going out of town for a few days. He was letting me know."

"He really cares about you," Jason commented, lightly running his index finger down her cheek. "I can't fault him for warning you about me."

"It's because he doesn't know you," she said quietly. "He doesn't know the real you. I do and I have no complaints." She took his hand and led him to the small loveseat. They sat quietly until she asked, "Did you find Zander? Are you leaving again?"

He shook his head. "I didn't find him, and now, Emily's missing, too. I have to go on the road again. This time, I don't know when I'll be back."

"It hasn't been that long. They can't be too far, right?" Elizabeth asked. "What is Emily thinking about? Running off with him? Sorel is after Zander!"

Jason shrugged. "She's in love. When people are in love, they do crazy things." He kissed her cheek and stood. "I can't stay. I have to go. I just wanted you to know-"

"Let me go with you," Elizabeth blurted out. "I can help."

Frowning, he said, "I can't. It's too risky."

She rose and grabbed his hands. "I can handle the risks. I'm not a little girl, Jason. You're gonna need someone watching your back. Let me be that someone. Please."

His blue eyes darkened. His usually stoic expression softened and she saw the longing there. She latched on to it as she added, "You shouldn't have to do this alone and I want to help you. Besides, I care about Emily, too. Maybe she'll listen to me, her friend instead of you, her big brother. Come on, Jason. Please."

"This is wrong, Elizabeth, " he murmured, "but I can't tell you no again. Pack a bag. We're traveling light and we have to leave now."


Nik entered Lucky's apartment without any problems, but the chaos he found as he opened the door made him pause in shock. The small studio looked like a tornado had swept through it and purposely destroyed everything in its wake. If Lucky did that, something was seriously wrong.

He closed the door behind him and locked it. After cleaning up the room as much as he could, he grabbed a backpack from the closet and started stuffing clothes and other necessities inside it. When he got everything he thought Lucky needed, he headed for the door. He couldn't wait to get out of there. The vibe was overpowering it and it throbbed with violence and destruction.

A shudder went through him, and he quickly left, locking it behind him.


Gia slammed into the cottage with Nik's name on the tip of her tongue. She stopped short when she saw Lucky lounging on the sofa, leafing through a magazine. "Hey, Clucky Lucky. What's up?"

"Gia," he greeted with a faint smile. "Not much. Nikolas isn't here."

"Where is he?" she asked, stepping down into the living room. She reviewed the mail while she waited for Lucky's answer.

"He's at my place. He's getting some stuff for me."

She tossed the mail on to the coffee table and perched at the edge. Leaning forward, she rested her elbows on her thighs. "Why? What's going on?"

His face became flushed and he looked away. "He invited me to stay over a few days. My place is a wreck, so here I am. If you'd rather I didn't stay, I can crash with Sly again. I don't mind."

Nik offered Lucky a bed? The idea was absurd, Gia thought, yet there was Lucky. Actually, she wasn't surprised by the offer. Nik had a good soul, but what was going on? Was he starting to believe that this kid was actually his brother? Maybe the role of Prince Nikolas Cassadine meant more to him than just the money. Maybe Nik liked the familial ties that came with it.

"Gia?" Lucky said quietly. "You're not saying anything. I guess that's my answer, right."

"No!" she said. Something was definitely off with Lucky. His eyes were glassy and his moods changed like the wind. If Nik thought he shouldn't be alone, she for damn sure wouldn't send him to Sly. Staying with him had to be worse than being alone. It just had to be.

"It's cool, Lucky," she said, patting his hand. "There's enough room, but don't expect me to cook for you. I don't cook for Nik, so I'm not about to start cooking for you. If you want food, it's in the kitchen. If you dirty something, wash it. Got it?"

He saluted and smiled. "Got it. Thanks."

"No problem."


"I can't talk long," Sabrina began as soon as Nikolas' voice came on the line. "I just wanted you to know that I'm going to St. Petersburg for a few days. I will call upon my arrival."

"Why are you going there?" he asked. "Is it Andrèsj-"

"No," she said, cutting him off because the hope in his voice tore at her heartstrings. "No, dear one. This is about Helena and Alexis. They went there shortly before their demise. We're going to unravel the mystery behind their journey."

"Don't go," he said quickly. "What if it's a trap?"

"It's not a trap with them dead," she said quietly. "I'll be safe. Women can master Tai Chi as well as men. Besides, I will not be alone. Justus and a detective will be with me."

"You hired a private detective?" Nikolas questioned. "Is that wise?"

She laughed. "I'm sorry. He's not private. He works for the Port Charles Arson Strike Force. We've become...rather attached to each other lately. I invited him along for his sharp mind and possibly for his firm backside."

Nikolas groaned and she could imagine the blush on his handsome face. She laughed again.

"Who is this detective?" he questioned, sounding remarkably like his father. "If you will be distracted, it would be prudent for you to refrain from making this journey-"

She interjected with an expletive. "I am old enough to take care of myself, Master Cassadine. You become more and more like your father with each passing day."

There was a brief pause and then he said, "Thank you. I won't argue with you. Have a safe trip. Come back soon."

"I will," she promised. "You be safe, too."


After picking Carrie up at the boutique, Steve spent most of the evening in his office in the garage. While his wife worked on her designs, he called half a dozen contacts around the world until he reached the man he was looking for.

"Jones, here."

"You're a hard man to find," Steve began. "I've called so many places Alexander Graham Bell is rolling over in his grave!"

"Jensen!" Frisco said, the smile coming through in his voice. "Long time no hear. I hope you're calling me with some good news about Dawn. She finally said yes."

"Wrong," Steve said. "If only it was that simple. She's gotten mixed up in something that I wanna tie up real fast."

"Did that Eckertt kid-"

"Nah," Steve said, cutting him off. "For once, it's not him. It's a Cassadine."

The line hummed with silence before Frisco asked, "A Cassadine? As in freeze the world Cassadine? I can't see Bright Eyes getting mixed up with one of them."

Steve ran a hand through his long, golden locks. "I wish I hadn't seen it, but it's true. She's mixed up in a bad way and with the Prince of all things. What can we do to get her out of it?"

"Give me the details."

Steve repeated the story Nikolas and Dawn told him. He didn't leave anything out, including the vibes he got from them. The sexual heat the couple generated made him blush and pissed him off simultaneously. He always wanted her to find the love he and her mother shared, but not with someone like a Cassadine. Not for either of his stepdaughters.

"And if that's not bad enough, Dara is seeing Zarek, too. I can't tell Porcupine a damn thing. She's as stubborn as her mother, but Dawn's younger. I can protect her and I don't want her involved any longer than she has to be," he said. "What can you do to help me?"

"Are you telling me that you're signing up again?" Frisco asked. "The WSB isn't just waiting for you to call us with personal favors. You know I love your family and all, but this is world security we're talking about. Are you coming back in from the cold?"

Steve's jaw clenched. He and Frisco had been singing the same song and repeating the same dance for years. Steve left the Bureau when he married Carrie, promising that international intrigue was his past and she was his future. And for almost twenty years, he hadn't lied.

He had half a mind to tell Frisco what he could do with his offer to return to the WSB. He liked his life the way it was, but there were moments when he missed the thrill of the chase. And dammit! His little girl's safety was on the line. It wasn't like he could leave that up to chance. Swallowing hard, he said the words without pausing. "Sure. I'm back in."

To Frisco's credit, he didn't release a loud whoop of joy, but his enthusiasm was very loud and clear. "This is great, Jensen. How soon can you be in Greece?"

"How soon do you want me there?"

"Yesterday, but I'll settle for a couple of days. We're happy to have you back, man. See you soon."

Steve hung up the phone, locked the garage and slowly made his way to the house. Sure, the WSB would be happy with his return, but Carrie wouldn't. He'd have to find the right words, and pray to God that she'd understand.


Dawn and Nikolas stood outside of Jake's. The pool hall was loud, boisterous and rocked with a KISS beat. The smell of alcohol and sweat poured from the doorway and they stepped back as two inebriated guys stumbled past them.

"I don't like this," Nikolas bit out.

"I know," Dawn said, sighing. "That's why I asked you to stay at the loft. This is something I need to do alone and if I know Sly, this is the most alone he's gonna be for awhile."

"I would never wait while you came to a place such as this." Even with the disguise of beard and glasses, he still managed to turn up his nose. "The stench is foul and the decor disgusting. I would rather you spoke with him in a better atmosphere."

She held in her smile. He was so cute when he got worked up and spoke with such indignant eloquence. If they weren't in a public place, she'd want to-

Get a grip, girlfriend.

"Look, Nikky. There is no better place. This is it. Now, please, just stay out here. If he sees you, it will only make it worse. Talking to him now will be bad enough..."

"If you anticipate disaster, then let's go home," he suggested in a low, coaxing voice. His hand brushed her cheek. "I would rather we went back to the loft."

His voice dropped to a seductive whisper and Dawn felt it all the way to her toes. His dark eyes smoldered with indescribable emotion. Her knees almost weakened and she came close to saying yes, but then she remembered the look on Sly's face when she refused to invite him inside her home. Before her relationship with Nikolas could progress, she had to make things right with him. He deserved that much.

"Wait here," she said to which he frowned. "Please, Nikky. Just wait. And wish me luck."

He grasped her upper arms and pulled her to him. The fake beard tickled her nose as his lips closed over hers. After a swift dose of passion, he raised his head and murmured, "Good luck."

Dawn nodded and went towards the doorway. After a kiss like that, she'd need more than good luck. She needed a cold shower!

The barrage of sounds and smells hit her full force as Dawn stepped inside. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, smoky room and she spotted Sly at the rear pool table. Leaning on his crutch, he was sizing up the situation before he grabbed his cue stick. Not wanting to disturb his concentration, she waited just behind him.

Suddenly, he stood up and his back became rigid. Without turning around, he said, "Dawn. Why are you here?"

She shivered. She hated how he could do that! "I was looking for you. You know finding you isn't always easy."

"Then you shouldn't do it," he ground out. "Do what I do," he muttered, grabbing the bottle of beer from the passing waitress, "always take the easy way out. It makes life less of a hassle."

"You don't always take the easy way out," she said, stepping beside him. "You and I both know that."

"Why are you here?" he asked, finally looking at her. "I didn't invite you, so you're not welcome."

Dawn flinched. "I deserved that. I'm sorry about before-"

"Save it," he said. "It doesn't matter."

"Yeah, it does," she said softly, watching him for his reaction. He appeared to be closed off, but she knew that was his buffer. He was really listening to every word she said. It pained her heart to break his. "I never really knew for sure...until today. Hurting you... God, Sly. I never want to hurt you. I never expected to fall for anyone and then there's Nikky... You never said anything-"

"So it's all my fault," he laughed humorlessly. "I'm here the whole time, but you swoon at some loser's line at the drop of a hat. I suppose it is my fault. Everything else is."

"Dammit!" she pounded the pool table with her fist and the balls rolled in different directions.

"Look at what you did!" he complained. "You've ruined the game now."

"Forget that stupid game!" she said, grabbing the pool stick from him. "This is important! Stop it with the self-pity and the freaking indifference! I know how you feel about me and I'm sorry I don't feel the same way. Do you hear me!" She grabbed his face and forced him to look at her. The tears in her eyes surprised her, but she pressed on.

"Things would make a lot more sense if I felt the same way...if I was in love with you, too. Right now, my life is complicated and being with you... But that's not how it is. I love someone else and he loves me back. I wish this didn't hurt you. If I could take the pain away, I would, but not at the expense of this guy. My world was black and white, but since I've known him, I've discovered Technicolor. I know it sounds corny, but that's how I feel. I want you to feel that. I want you to be happy, Sly and I don't want you to hate me..." she faltered and tears filled her voice.

His hands fell to her waist and he pulled her to him. "I don't hate you. I'd probably feel better if I did, but I don't."

"Really?" she asked, stepping back to look at him. "Honest?"

He tapped her nose with his finger. "Honest. Technicolor, huh? It's that good?"

She nodded. "Yeah. It's gonna happen for you. I know it will."

"Yeah, maybe," he said, his face falling. "Well, I'd better get back to my game. I'll see you around at the j-o-b."

"How are you getting home?" she asked. He held his liquor well, but not well enough to drive. Especially with that cast still on his leg. "Do you need a ride?"

"Nah. Jake will call a cab for me or I can stay upstairs. I'll be okay. You don't have to watch out over me. Go back to your man. I'm sure he's missing you. I would be."

Dawn didn't know what to say to that, so she said nothing. She went back outside to Nikolas who went to her as soon as she stepped from the doorway. His hand locked with hers, and he fell into step beside her. Neither said a word, but his presence comforted her more than she could express.


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