chapter eighteen

***transgressions***

Carly checked the time on her watch again. Patroni had agreed to meet her in the park during lunchtime. She couldn't imagine him being late, but then again she knew nothing about how mob assassins worked. Maybe there was a secret code that she knew nothing about. What if twelve noon meant two hours after that. She drew in harsh breath. She was imagining things. Of course noon meant noon. It would be stupid to translate simple hours into some ridiculous code. Besides, with the amount of cash Patroni would get today, she doubted if he'd be late. Nobody could be that stupid.

"Mrs. Corinthos."

Carly turned at the raspy voice so close to her ear. The man who stood before her gave her an immediate shock. He wasn't want she expected at all. He stood about six feet tall. His eyes were such a pale blue that almost appeared colorless. His face was chiseled and if she didn't know better, she would have thought he was a model. He wasn't just handsome. He was striking. She gasped in surprise. "Patroni?"

He inclined his head in a slight nod. A lock of jet-black hair fell across his forehead. He gave her a humorless smile. "No other. Do you have the package?"

"Of course," she mumbled, digging into her purse. She pulled out a nondescript envelope that was filled with fifty thousand dollars in cash. She thrust the envelope at him. He took it and counted the bills.

"You're short."

"I-I know," she stammered. "I couldn't get the rest on such short notice. I'll give you the rest later."

"When?" he demanded. "I don't work on a layaway plan, Mrs. Corinthos. It's either all or nothing."

"I understand that," she said, tilting her chin up. "I wouldn't ask you to. I can have the rest for you by the end of the week. Is that good enough?"

His mouth thinned. He stuffed the envelope inside his expensive jacket. "I suppose it will have to."

"Will you do...the job before or after I give you the rest?"

He smirked. "I will do the job at my discretion, Mrs. Corinthos, but don't worry. It will be quick and almost painless."

"And it won't come back to my husband or me, right? I mean, no one will know I hired you."

He shook his head. "This will be between us. I'll call you later about the remainder due."

He turned on his heel before Carly could question him further.

~*~

Sonny finally completed his review of the latest coffee samples from Colombia. The packaging was well done and the taste was beyond compare. The legit side of his business affairs would continue to be profitable. He called for Johnny and his assistant arrived without delay.

"It's fine," Sonny told him. "Send a crate to Mike at the Recovery Room."

"Anything else, boss?" Johnny asked while he grabbed the box of samples and prepared to remove them from the room.

Sonny shook his head. "Has there been any word from Jason?"

"Nothing, sir. He said he'd call when he found them. Would you like for me to send someone to help him?"

"Nah. Jason can do it on his own." Sonny waved Johnny away. "Thanks, and see that I'm not disturbed for the rest of the day."

"Yes, sir."

Johnny took the box with him as he went out the front door. Sonny went to his desk and pulled out a manila envelope. Inside were documents that had been entrusted to him. He probably should have hid them away in a safe, but sometimes, hiding things in plain view were easier. With a wife like Carly, he had to second-guess her thoughts and actions. If she saw him messing around with the safe, the next time she was alone, she'd try to crack it. He laughed and shook his head. She was something else.

He opened the folder and made his way to the sofa. Sitting down, he soon became lost in the words on the page. The letter from Alexis was detailed and precise. It reminded him of her, and the disagreement between Carly about her. He shook his head and closed the folder. Little did Carly know just how close on the mark her suspicions were and with Alexis dead, she would never have to know the truth.

***Flashback***

A frown creased Sonny's brow as he watched Alexis pace back and forth. She was working up a sweat and he hated seeing her so frazzled. He knew that telling her the truth could ease her worries, but he also knew that being straight with her could put her job on the line. He couldn't do that to her. Not when she'd already given up so many other things for him.

"Lexis," he murmured, bringing an end to her pacing by blocking her path. His hands grasped her shoulders and squeezed. "You gotta get a grip. You have to calm down."

She shook her head. "I can't. You don't understand. We have to find Zander. The longer he's missing... God, Sonny," she choked near tears. "Nothing else can happen to him."

"Come here," he said. His arms closed around her waist and she crumbled against him. Her head rested in the curve of his neck and shoulder. His hands stroked the long brunette strands of hair and a streak of desire flashed through him. Unable to stop himself, his lips brushed against her forehead and he cooed, "We'll find Zander. Nothing will happen to him, but you have to calm down. Can you do that for me?"

"I'm sorry, Sonny," she whispered, sniffling. "I don't know what came over me. I don't usually break down like this."

She pulled away, but Sonny reached for her before she could move too far. His hands cupped her face and his thumbs brushed away her tears. "Everyone has a breaking point," he said tenderly. "Don't apologize for being human."

She smiled for a brief moment and their eyes locked. It seemed like an eternity passed between them in the silence that followed. Then she moistened her lips and Sonny's head lowered to hers like a moth to a flame.

The first kiss was tentative, but she didn't back away. That gave Sonny all the incentive he needed. Hungrily, his mouth claimed hers and she responded with the same amount of urgency. Their clothes fell from them and they made love right there on her living room floor. When it was over, she pulled on her shirt and panties while Sonny watched her from his reclining position on the floor.

"This shouldn't have happened," she said, without looking at him.

"But it did," he told her, "and I wouldn't change a thing. It was inevitable and you know it."

Alexis shook her head. "It doesn't make it right. You're married, and this was wrong. We can't do this again."

"If that's the way you wanna play it," he said, shrugging.

"It is."

***End of Flashback***

But it didn't quite end up being the last time they were together. It happened again a few weeks later. He went to her for advice on a legitimate legal matter and he found her crying again. He took her in his arms and guided her upstairs to her bedroom. After laying her on the bed, he stood at the foot of her bed and asked her what was wrong.

After only a moment's hesitation, she told him. Zander was her son. She hadn't been sure at first, but something happened and she found out for sure. Sonny couldn't believe it and questioned her further.

Tearfully, she admitted that on her eighteenth birthday, Stavros decided it was his duty to initiate her into the wonders of sex. He forced himself on her against her will. Helena walked in on the hateful act and pulled Stavros off her. The mother protected her son by sending him on a tour of Africa. She sent Alexis to relatives in St. Petersburg. Ashamed and confused, Alexis spent the next nine months in seclusion. When she discovered she was pregnant, she believed it was her just punishment for sins she hadn't realized she had committed.

She told Sonny that the doctors told her the baby was stillborn and it was just as well. A part of her had never believed it to be true, but the rest of her was relieved. It was bad enough carrying her cousin's child. She couldn't imagine raising it and loving it. Her welfare was at the mercy of family. She couldn't ask them to care for her illegitimate child too even if their son had raped her. The sense of duty was strange in her family, but she was bound by it. No matter how unforgiving it was.

Sonny held her again as she started to cry. One thing led to another, and they found each other impossible to resist. They made love again and that was the second and last time they did. Alexis became adamant about finding her son and building a life with him. Sonny pulled away as he knew exactly where Zander was. He cared a great deal about Alexis, but he could risk his family's welfare to reunite her with her son. Once Sorel was behind bars because of Zander's testimony he would play family matchmaker. But that was not to be.

Alexis was dead. Sorel was free. And Zander was gone.

Sonny shook his head. He really made of mess of things this time.

~*~

"What do you mean he has a friend?" The blood in Zarek's ears boiled as he listened to his informant's report. "Who is she?"

"Her name is Keesha," Cadmus told him. "She's an American."

"An American?" Zarek repeated. "And her name is Keesha? What's her last name? I want a detailed report about this woman faxed to me immediately!"

"Yes, Mr. Cassadine," Cadmus replied. "Is there anything else, sir?"

"Yes!" Zarek bit out. His knuckles ached from his grip on the telephone. He couldn't believe the incompetence of his mother's employees sometimes. That was his reward for allowing her to assist him. Next time, he would be in charge of everything from beginning to end! "I want Andrèsj to be quickly reminded that he is not on holiday! My family's villa is not a resort for him to involve himself with beautiful young servant girls. He is a prisoner and he should not forget himself!"

"What would you have us do?" Cadmus asked.

"What you do best!" Zarek told him as he slammed down the telephone.

His breath came in loud puffs. He hated giving the instructions, but he had no choice! If his young cousin had any idea he was held by family, he would prove himself to be too dangerous to manage. Andrèsj had to be kept on guard at all times. He couldn't be allowed a moment's rest. Removing him from the dungeon had been an error, but Zarek couldn't give the word to return him to those dire conditions. Perhaps, a small reminder would suffice in jolting Andrèsj would fear. Maybe it would render him with him so much fear that he wouldn't confide his situation to this Keesha Ward.

He slowly calmed down. Everything was going according to plan. They had only to find the real Nikolas and all their worries would be quashed. He released a deep breath and reached for the telephone again. In the meantime, there was nothing wrong with finding a few moments of enjoyment with Ms. Jensen.

~*~

"You are a fast learner," Andrèsj complimented with a smile. "I am unsure whether I, the teacher, should accept the credit or if it is all yours to enjoy."

Keesha laughed softly. "I think we can share it."

"Hmm," he said, tilting his head to the side as he was considering the idea. "Share. I fear that the word is not in my vocabulary. Could you define it for me?"

She shook her head. "Very funny. I think you are very aware of what the word means. I am under the impression that you like to tease."

He laughed in spite of himself. "Who? I would never do such a thing. I am too rigid for such foolery."

Keesha shook her head again. "I beg to differ. I think you would find great enjoyment in tormenting someone. Didn't you just admit that you have been enrolled in a number of schools due to a penchant for mischief? Teasing and mischievous behavior often go hand in hand, Drè. Don't try to deny it."

He leaned towards her. He wanted to take her hand, but he found the strength to not make such a disastrous move. Instead, he allowed his eyes and voice to say the things his touch could not. "I would deny you nothing, Keesha. All I have would be yours...if I had it to give. Unfortunately, I do not, but should the circumstances change...you would not be found wanting for anything."

She quickly broke the spell by looking down at the chessboard. She pointed to the pieces. "Pawn...Rook...Bishop...Knight...Queen...King... The King must be protected at all times. I love how the Queen has her own special maneuvers."

He nodded. "So do I. She's unlike the others in so many ways. She's cunning, secretive and imaginative."

"Tricky," Keesha agreed softly, giving a sly, pointed glance at her notepad. She scribbled another note down and then looked at him. "It's getting late. I have to leave now."

"Please, don't go," he said. "Can't you stay for a few minutes longer? I have a book I'd like to share with you."

He went to the shelf and was about to remove "Anna Karenina" when a sharp jolt attacked him. The electric charge surprised him and brought him to his knees. He cried out in pain.

"Andrèsj!" She ran to him, but stopped when he held up his hand.

"No further. Do not come any closer," he warned her.

"But you're in pain. Let me help you."

"No," he ground out through gritted teeth. "I am fine. It is best if you leave now. Go to attend to your duties. Perhaps we can play another game of chess later."

"Are you sure?" she asked softly. Her eyes begged him to allow her to come to him. He shook his head and she stepped back. "Very well. I will bring your tray to you later. Thank you for the lesson."

"You are welcome. Good day, Keesha."

"Good day," she said before she quietly departed.

Curses welled in his throat, but he didn't dare utter one. With Keesha gone, he allowed his eyes to fill with tears. Biting his tongue, he pulled himself to his feet and limped across the room to his bed. As he lay down, he vowed that his days as prisoner would come to a quick end. He was not fodder for someone's sadistic hunger for torture. He was a man!

~*~

The old railroad car called to him on days like this one. He couldn't stay at the cottage with Nikolas' searching eyes staring at him. He needed to be alone to sort things out. He needed his sanctuary.

He crossed the tracks, moving mindlessly through the high grass until he reached his destination. Pulling himself into the car, he inhaled and slowly released the air. Peace washed over him and he smiled. He turned away from the opening and moved further inside the car. Elizabeth's face smiled at him from the hundreds of pictures he'd glued to the wall. He reached out his hand and his fingers traced her laughing smile. Even though she had pushed him from her life, they were still together. She could still ground him.

He lowered himself to the floor and drew his knees to his chin. Rocking back and forth, he hummed the old song he wrote for her and lost himself in the memories.

*~*

Nikolas and Dawn parted company early that morning. She hated to leave him, but she had to go back to work. Her income depended on it. He didn't want her to go. He felt her job was too dangerous for her, but he didn't voice his thoughts out loud. Wrapping his arms tightly around her, he crushed her to him. She made him promise to be careful. He guessed she knew he wouldn't stay at the loft all day and then she left. The kiss before she slid between the elevator doors made him decide they'd have to choose a wedding date soon and he found relief underneath the spray of the cold shower.

He dressed in jeans and a sweater. The disguise was expertly fitted to his face. Grabbing the extra set of keys she gave him, he left the loft, intent on reacquainting himself with Port Charles again. He longed for the easy transport that his Jaguar afforded him, but he knew better than to go in search of it. His legs appreciated the walk and his lungs loved the fresh air of the New England town.

He had no particular destination in mind. He wanted to see everything and get a feel of the space. Dawn had been an excellent guide and guardian, but this time alone helped him. His Angel distracted him and he didn't fault her for it. In fact, he loved the distractions she represented. In short, he loved her, but there were times when he needed his faculties to be focused. He needed to make move and he needed to do it soon.

Years ago, his sanctuary had been the catacombs. The first time he ran away from Stefan he ran there. Now, he didn't feel right about the place. The same feeling that drew him to Dawn pulled him away from the ancient caves. He turned and headed in another direction.

He wouldn't go to his former cottage again and he wasn't ready to see the ruins of Wyndemere. A desire to check on Laura, Leslie Lu and his grandmother Leslie burned inside him, but he didn't give into it. It would be too disastrous. Sabrina warned him that Philana and Zarek knew he was out there somewhere. He wouldn't tempt fate by trying to see his mother. Instead, he allowed his footsteps to take him on a different path. To an old abandoned railroad car...to the space he escaped to when he mourned Lucky's passing.

The railroad car had deteriorated in his two year absence and it didn't surprise Nikolas at all. The old car had been Lucky's home and when he was gone, no one had a use for it. Nikolas pulled himself into the car and looked around. A few beams of sunlight slid into the opening and he could clearly see where Elizabeth painted the furniture that decorated Lucky's home.

Smiling at the memories, Nikolas slowly turned around and looked at the rest of the car. A gasp escaped him as he discovered the many photographs of Elizabeth taped to the wall. He moved slowly towards the shrine and found himself in awe. Who would do such a thing, and why?

He wanted to rip the photos from the wall, but a noise alerted him that he wasn't alone. Standing in the shadows, he looked out the opening and saw Lucky coming toward the car. He only had one choice and that was to jump out the other side. Quickly he made his move and held his breath as Lucky climbed through the opposite opening.

Hidden from Lucky's view, he watched his brother sit before Elizabeth's photos and smile. Rocking back and forth, Lucky hummed softly to himself. The image of his brother in such a state scared Nikolas and enraged him at once.

Lucky needed him, but to go to him now but all their lives in danger. Now more than ever, Nikolas was determined to reclaim his life and help his both sides of his family. The Cassadines and the Spencers.

 

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