chapter twenty

***complications***

Keesha stood before Cadmus and wondered what was going on inside his head. Upon her arrival to the kitchen that morning, she'd felt eyes on her all day. Now that it was almost time for the evening meal, he'd summoned her to his office. She doubted he knew her real identity. Earlier, Jagger discreetly informed her that someone had run a check on her background and discovered the records the WSB had so strategically left behind in a number of databases. Frisco discovered that the search was conducted from Port Charles and Jagger relayed that information to her with the suggestion that a little extra caution wouldn't hurt. She agreed.

Feigning shyness, she looked down at the floor and wrung her hands. Chewing on her bottom lip, she waited for him to bring an end to his attempt at intimidation and to get on with it. A minute later, her wait came to an end.

"Miss Warner, it has come to my attention that you have been spending a great deal of time with one of the guests here. Is there a reason for this?" he asked, peering at her over his fingertips that pressed together to form a steeple.

"No, sir," she said, shaking her head. "Master Andrèsj has been kind enough to offer to teach me how to play Chess. I accepted his offer. I apologize if this was against protocol. I hope that this will not cause me to be dismissed. It has been difficult for me to find a position here and I do love Greece."

Cadmus frowned. "Are you here for one of the exchange programs?"

"No, sir," Keesha replied. She carefully recited the bio the WSB had created for this assignment. "I left the States because I wanted to see the world. It hasn't been easy. In some countries, the reception hasn't been kind, but Greece has been different. Your country is beautiful as are the people."

His chest puffed with pride. "Yes, Greece is the birthplace of knowledge. I am not surprised that you have found comfort here." He smiled. "You may return to your duties."

Keesha hesitated and then asked, "Do I have permission to continue with the Chess lessons? If not, I will need to reclaim the game. I wouldn't want it to clutter his quarters."

He sat for a few moments and appeared as if he was contemplating the situation. Finally, his features relaxed and he nodded. "I suppose the Chess lessons are harmful enough, but you may not share meals with him. Good day."

"Good day, sir," she murmured as she left his office. Inside, she whooped with joy. Her visits with Drè hadn't been ordered to cease and that would give her the opportunity to pick up his response to her most recent note.

Feeling as renewed sense of purpose, she went to the kitchen and helped with the evening meal. When it was done, she took a tray and went to Drè's room. The guard unlocked the door and held it opened for her. Her gaze immediately flew to Drè as she stepped inside. He sat as still as a statue on the window seat. His face was pale and drawn, but a sparkle lit his eyes as she stepped over the threshold. A faint smile curved his full mouth and he whispered her name, "Keesha."

"Good evening," she said. Happiness he was well coursed through her and made her voice warm and husky. His smile brightened and she cursed herself. Giving him false hope was cruel. She loved his father. She'd have to pay attention to his growing interest and find a way to curb it somehow.

She set the tray on the small table and arranged the dishes into a suitable display. In a sly move, she grabbed her notepad, slipped it inside the folds of her skirt and then stepped away from the table. "I hope that you will enjoy your dinner. If it's acceptable to you, I will return later for another lesson in Chess."

He remained perched at the edge of the window seat, but his entire being leaned towards her. Nodding, he said, "That will be fine with me. I will anticipate your return. Thank you, Keesha."

"You are welcome. I will see you later."

She slipped down the back staircase and found solace in the servants' restroom. Quickly, she pulled the notepad out and reviewed the note he left for her. The diagram he drew of the surveillance equipment that monitored him was excellent. It was a little shaky in parts, which made her wonder how he was able to write it at all without being discovered. Like his father, he must be one ingenious man, she decided.

The sketch was clear and told her that freeing Andrèsj would be a challenge. Finding the monitoring hub would be essential. If they could find it and disable it, rescuing him would be simple. Before their Chess lesson, she would drop by the bakery and give Jagger the notepad. He could forward it to Frisco who would advise them on the best way to proceed. Satisfied with that plan, Keesha hid the notepad inside the folds of her skirt again and went back to the kitchen.

~*~

Nikolas rapped impatiently on the door to Lucky's apartment. There was no sound on the other side. He balled his hand into a fist and Dawn grabbed his arm. She understood his frustration, but it was early. They didn't need to draw attention to themselves if they could help it.

"Let me," she said. "Stand there and lean against the door like that."

He gave her a frown. "You have a key?"

"Um, no," she said, tightly as she squatted. She pulled out a bobby pin from her braids and bent it backwards. "I'm gonna try to pick the lock. I think he has a deadbolt so this may not work."

He watched her. "How do you know how to do that?"

She looked up at him and smiled. "I can't give away all my secrets."

He returned her smile. "Yes, you can, but only to me."

Laughing softly, she continued to work the lock with the pin as she answered him, "My Mama always said that a woman should retain an air of mystery."

"Mystery is appealing," he murmured. His fingers slid underneath the braids that fell down her back to brush against her neck. She shivered from the slight caress and he stroked her again. "But in many cases, it's unnecessary. Mystery isn't why I love you."

Dawn's throat became dry and a funny feeling fluttered in the pit of her stomach. Nikolas Cassadine certainly had a way of getting to her. She accused Dara of being sprung, but what Nikolas did to her was far worse than that. She was whipped and to be completely honest with herself, she didn't mind it at all.

The chambers inside the deadbolt clicked and unlocked. She twisted the knob and pushed. Smiling, she said, "I did it."

"Yes, you did," he complimented with a smile. His fingers flexed against her neck in a tender caress once more before his hand settled at the small of her back. He was right on her heels as they walked inside and quickly closed the door behind them. "This is where he lives?"

"Yeah," Dawn replied, shrugging. She walked around the studio apartment. She'd been there a few times with Sly. The space had always seemed weird to her, but now, it felt worse. Like something was off kilter. The room vibrated with its own energy and it gave her chills. She turned to Nikolas for his reaction, but his back was to her.

"This is so small. This isn't enough room for him," he complained, walking around the room. "And look at it. Lucky's room above the garage was better than this. At least, he kept it neat. Sheba's stall is even cleaner than this place."

"You're right. It's not tidy," she agreed, "and he's obviously not here. We should go now."

"You can go," he said, his voice oddly distant. "I want to look around some more."

His suggestion unnerved her. She went to him and closed her hand around his. "I don't think you should stay. Let me drop you off at the loft before I go to the garage-"

"There's nothing for me to do at the loft," he interrupted. "I saw my brother yesterday and I can see that he needs me. My other brother needs me, too, but I can't help Andrèsj. I can help Lucky."

"But this is risky," she protested. "I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving you here alone."

His expression softened as he smiled at her. With his free hand, he tweaked her nose. "I promise not to do anything rash, and I won't stay long. I'll only be here for a few minutes more."

"Well, maybe I should wait for you."

"No," he said, firmly. "You shouldn't be late for work. I'll be fine. I know you're my guardian angel, but trust me on this one. I won't do anything that will require my Angel's protection. I just want to look around and I can do that better if I were alone."

She sighed and shrugged her shoulders in defeat. "Okay, you win. I'll go to work. What are you doing later?"

"Nothing that would cause you to worry about me," he attempted to assure her.

Dawn didn't believe him, but knew that arguing with him would be pointless. He was as stubborn as she. She hugged him and titled her face up for his kiss. He didn't disappoint and planted one on her lips that nearly blew her mind. Still tingling from his full mouth and exploring tongue, she stepped out of his embrace. Shaking a warning finger at him, she said, "Behave yourself. If work isn't too busy, I'll leave early and start dinner."

He gave her devastating smile. "Definitely something to look forward to. Be careful in that truck. I love you."

"I know," she said, heading towards the door. "I'll see you later."

~*~

Nik cornered Gia at the door. His hands planted on both sides of her and his body trapped her against the door. "How long will you be gone today?" he asked, pouting.

"It's just a shoot in the park," she explained again. "I think it will be a full work day. Why?"

He shrugged as he lowered his mouth to hers. "I was thinking that we should have a romantic dinner for two at the Grille." He kissed her slow and deep. When he lifted his head, he stared into her large dark eyes. "Would you like a romantic dinner for two at the Grille?"

"It sounds interesting," she murmured. "I think I'd like that, but what about Lucky?"

"I think he'll be okay sitting this one out," Nik replied as he stepped back. "Don't be late for your shoot. I'll make reservations for 8."

"Sounds good to me," she said. "If the shoot starts to run late, I'll call you."

"Okay. Bye, Sparky."

"Bye," she said, slipping out the door.

Nik closed and locked the door upon her exit. Taking a deep breath, he rested his forehead against the door and exhaled. When he stood up, a goofy grin was plastered on his face. He couldn't help it. Gia made him happy, and as soon as the Grille opened, he would call and make those reservations! They were a little overdue for some romance. Especially with all the crazy happenings...the fire, Philana's visit, the true Prince's return and now Lucky's bizarre behavior. In addition to romance, they needed a break. Maybe he'd reserve a room for them, too.

He stepped down into the living room and was about to grab his day planner when Lucky came racing down the stairs. "Good morning," he said, turning to look at him.

"What?" Lucky bit out.

The smile on Nik's face vanished. A worried frown creased his brow. "I just said 'good morning'. What's wrong? Didn't you sleep well?"

Lucky muttered something unintelligible and spun around. He moved like he intended to ascend the staircase, but then he stopped abruptly. Turning around, he ran his hands wildly thru his hair and started to pace. All the while, he muttered words that didn't make any sense and his breathing became loud and ragged.

"Lucky," Nik said, slowly edging towards him. When he reached him, he tried to put his hands on Lucky's shoulders, but the younger man jerked free. "What's wrong with you, man? What do you need? Talk to me."

More unintelligible words erupted from his mouth. He stopped pacing and sat on the floor. Wrapping his arms around his head, he rocked back and forth. His blue eyes were glazed and he seemed like he was in a trance. Nik didn't know what to do for him. He grabbed the cordless from end table and punched in Sly's number. The other man answered on the fourth ring.

"Yeah."

"This is Nik. I need your help."

Sly's sharp intake of air could be heard through the receiver. "What's wrong? Is it Lucky?"

"Yeah," Nik replied, his voice shaky. "He's not making any sense. I don't know what to do for him."

"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I can."

The call ended and Nik went back to Lucky. He knelt in front of him, unsure of what to do. He reached out his hand to pat Lucky's shoulder, but drew it back. In a quiet voice, he said, "Lucky. Can you hear me?"

"There are so many lights flashing, man," Lucky whispered. "They're everywhere, you know? Just flashing back and forth. All in front of my face. If I could just grab one..." He extended his hand and moved his fingers like he was closing them around a ball. Then, suddenly he cried out and dropped his hand. "Ow! It burns!"

Lucky jumped up and nearly knocked Nik down. Thrashing around, he shook his hand. "Dammit! That bitch burned me! The witch! You can't trust them, you know. They'll burn you every time."

Nik rushed to him and tried to grab him. "Calm down! You're not burned. Nothing burned you-"

"How would you know?" Lucky asked, sweat beginning to break out on his face. "She's never burned you! She wouldn't burn you." He shook his hand again. "Ow! It hurts, man!" Then he started to cry. "Make it stop hurting. Make it all stop. The lights are blinding me and I can't see. I can't see." He crumpled to the floor and started sobbing.

Nik couldn't believe what he was seeing. He didn't know what to do and seeing Lucky in that condition terrified him. He grabbed the phone again, but as he started to punch in the numbers 9-1-1, Lucky flinched. Nik didn't finish the call. He tossed the phone down and crouched in front of Lucky. He wasn't sure if his 'brother' was aware of him or not, but Nik wanted him to know that he wasn't alone. A few minutes later, there was a pounding on the door. He ran to it and found Sly on the threshold.

Sly leaned heavily on his crutch as he pushed past him. "What's wrong with him?"

"I don't know," Nik said, running a worried hand through his hair. "He just started freaking out. Maybe we should call 9-1-1."

"You're not too far from GH. We can just take him-"

"What's going on?" Dawn asked as she entered the cottage.

"What is she doing here?" Nik asked.

Sly gave him a hard look. "She drove me."

Dawn noticed Lucky and went to him. She knelt before him and asked, "Lucky, are you okay?"

His sobs intensified and he wrapped his arms around her, clutching her as if his life depended on it. She patted his back and looked to Sly and Nik for answers. "What's wrong with him?" she whispered. "He's shaking like a leaf and his shirt is soaked."

Lucky's reaction to Dawn shocked Nik. Lucky wouldn't let him touch him, but he clung to her. He swallowed hard and shook his head. "I don't know. He started hallucinating and crying and sweating."

"Is he on any medication?" Dawn asked. "Maybe he took too much-"

"Lucky's not into drugs," Sly said, his face ashen as he looked at his cousin. "He doesn't have a reason to take medication. You're the one with a degree in head shrinking. What should we do for him?"

"We have to get him to the hospital," Dawn told them. "Now. Can you guys help me? He's got a tight hold on me."

Sly and Nik pulled Lucky off her. His sobs faded into dry heaves as he allowed the two men to lead him from the cottage to Dawn's car. She slid behind the wheel and the three men climbed into the back. Once they were all settled, she roared from the cottage straight to General Hospital.

~*~

Zarek joined his mother for breakfast on the patio. The previous night wasn't restful. Thoughts of Dara kept him awake most of the night, and if that wasn't bad enough, even his morning jog failed to invigorate him. What was happening to him, Zarek wondered? He'd always been able to keep a tight rein over his emotions, but this time his emotions threatened to spin him out of control. He didn't like that sensation at all.

"Zarek," Philana said, "you look awful. I don't believe I like the effect this Jensen woman has over you."

He stiffened. "What are talking about, Mother? Dara hasn't affected me."

She shook her head. "Men are such fools when it comes to the heart. She has more than affected you. I fear that she may have interfered with our plans. Perhaps, you shouldn't see her again."

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I will continue to see Dara and you will not interfere with my time with her."

"My, that was forceful," she replied. "Have you fallen in love with her?"

He frowned. The thought entered his mind while he jogged, but he pushed it aside. But hearing the words aloud made him pause. What if it was true? He hadn't been playing a game with Dara when he said that he was serious about her. He was serious, but he just hadn't realized how serious. Love? Was it possible for it to grow so quickly? He wasn't sure. He never felt the emotion before. Lust, of course, but never love.

"I am not sure," he answered honestly. "Maybe I am. She's a remarkable woman. Her dossier doesn't do her justice. I fear that she's often been underestimated and that has been a grievous error."

Philana nodded as she sipped her mineral water. As she set the glass on the table, she said, "Yes, my only son has fallen in love. What do you propose to do about it?"

"Do?" he asked, slathering a section of toast with blackberry preserves. "I shall continue to see her and allow things to proceed naturally. And Mother, please do not worry about my focus. Nothing will interfere with our goals. I've wanted what's rightfully mine for too long to give up now."

"Just in case, I will stay here in Port Charles until most of our goals are met. When will you see this Jensen woman again? I would like to meet her."

Zarek laughed and shook his head. "That will happen soon enough, but if you are curious, her mother owns an interesting boutique in the midtown area. It's called Carrie's Creations. I bought your bracelet there."

She held up her wrist and admired her newest bauble. It had become a favorite rather quickly. She smiled. "Well, if her mother's taste is this exquisite, I'm sure the daughter shouldn't be too disappointing. I'd like to visit this boutique. Will you come with me?"

He shook his head. "I wish I could, but I have to talk to Cadmus again. I gave him permission to allow this Keesha Warner access to Andrèsj again. I want to know how that's playing out."

"Put him in the dungeon again," she clipped. "That's where he belongs."

"No one belongs there," he returned almost angrily. "He should never have been put there in the first place. We don't even need them. I will order them closed up-"

"You will not!" she said, pounding the table. "They are to remain open. You never know when we'll need to dispose of an enemy-"

"Oh?" he countered. "Such as how you disposed of Sorel?"

"How did you know about that?" she asked, surprised.

"I have my ways," he remarked. "I was told how he died and I knew immediately it was you. Mother, you didn't have to kill him. He wouldn't have harmed me."

"He threatened you," she said, rising. "That was enough." She went to him and gently caressed his face. "You are my son. One day when you are a father you'll understand how precious a child is to his parent. Try to get some rest. You're too young to have lines marring your handsome face." She kissed his cheek and left.

Zarek continued to eat his breakfast and his thoughts once again drifted to Dara.

~*~

The path along the waterfront was mostly empty. Dara liked that. It gave her freedom to jog at her own pace and the time to contemplate the men in her life.

Men.

The very idea that two incredible men were vying for attention almost made her life. After things ended with first Justus Ward and then Marcus Taggert, she was almost ready to throw in the towel on a love life. And then all of a sudden, Cupid entered and brought her Zarek Cassadine and Mac Scorpio.

She slowed down to a walk as she neared a water fountain. The water was cool and clear and tasted wonderful to her parched throat. She tried not to drink it too quickly and just enjoyed the sensation of the liquid soothing her hot, tired body. As she left the fountain, she closed her eyes for a second and that was just long enough for her to bump into someone.

Her eyes fluttered opened and apologies fell from her. "I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," the familiar voice replied. "Are you?"

She looked into a pair of laughing green eyes and chuckled. "I'm fine, Mac. I'm sorry about that. My eyes were closed."

"Well, I was changing my radio station and I wasn't looking either," he said, smiling at her. "Let's call it even. I didn't know you jogged here."

"I haven't in a while. I usually go to the park, but I wanted a change of pace. You?"

He nodded. "I've been jogging here for about 2 years now. The park can be a little crowded. Not too many people know about this path."

She pressed a finger to her lips. "The secret is safe. My lips are sealed."

His eyes darkened as he looked at her mouth. He moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue and his eyes captured hers. Desire shone vividly there and it took Dara's breath away. She knew she should look away, but dammit, she couldn't.

Her mother and sister's words came back to her haunt her. He was one helluva man and definitely very well put together. Her gaze roamed over his perspiration soaked t-shirt and how the cotton clung to his muscled chest, broad shoulders and bulging biceps. She caught herself before her perusal could venture farther down. She wasn't quite ready to appreciate what else his body had to offer.

The silence inched along and became charged with erotic undertones. Mac broke the silence first with a small cough. A couple of joggers went past them. Mac lightly grasped her elbow and steered her off the path and towards the railing that overlooked the water. "I know I said I'd give you time to think," he murmured, his Australian brogue thick with emotion, "and I meant what I said, but... I'd like to have dinner with you tonight. It can be fancy or casual whatever you want. Can we?"

Mac's effect on her surprised Dara. She found herself drawn to him and she wanted to spend time with him. "I'd like that," she answered. "If you don't mind, I'd prefer casual."

He face broke into a broad, sexy grin. "I like casual, too. Would a movie and dinner at my place be too casual?" he asked, in a teasing manner.

She blushed. "No, it wouldn't be too casual. I'd like that. What time should I come by?"

"Be ready at 7," he told her, "and I'll pick you up, if you don't mind. Now, I'd better go home and start straightening up. If you have a movie preference, leave it on my machine." He lightly brushed his knuckles against her cheek. "This will be great, Dara. I'll see you tonight."

He jogged away before she could say anything more and left a pleasantly stunned Dara staring after him.

~*~

Steve hadn't visited Greece in years, but he found that nothing had changed. The people were still warm and friendly and the weather was still perfect. The water that surrounded the country was just as blue and clear as it had been on his last visit almost twenty years ago. He got a good vibe when he landed. The assignment would go off without a hitch, and his little girl would be free of the Cassadines.

"How was your flight?" Frisco asked, as Steve slid beside him into the backseat of the car.

"The bird landed," Steve remarked. "The flight was good. Tell me what's going on."

"After I debrief you, I'm gone," Frisco told him. "You will be the Agent in Charge."

Steve reared back in surprise. "Man, you're kidding. I haven't done this in years. Are you crazy? Putting me in charge? Who are the other agents on the team? Maybe one of them..."

"They're still a little wet behind the ears," Frisco said. "They're two of the best. Don't get me wrong, but they don't have the skills you have. You know what they say about old dogs. They don't forget tricks. I have faith in you, Jensen. Your instincts have never failed you. They won't fail you now."

"Right," Steve quipped. "You're laying it on a little thick. Scrape some of that off and tell me the truth. How difficult is this?"

"On a scale of 1-10, I'd rate it a 9.5. Nothing's impossible, but getting that kid out of there won't be a walk in the park. Victor Cassadine designed a fortress when he built that place. Tunnels, dungeons, and lots of rooms. The security system is extensive and the surveillance equipment is top of the line. Keesha dropped this off to Jagger earlier." He handed Steve a notepad. "The kid sketched a diagram of his room. See the camera equipment they have on him. They're leaving nothing to chance."

Steve studied the drawing. It wasn't a work of art, but it was clear. "Good. What about the control room? Where's that?"

"Keesha hasn't been able to find it," Frisco said. "They stopped her visits to Andrèsj for short while and someone dug into her background. We're gonna have to move fast."

"And you're running out," Steve commented.

Frisco shook his head. "I'm not running. I have to go to the States. I'll return."

"Tell me about the Agents. Keesha and Jagger. The names sound familiar."

"They should," Frisco said with a smile. "They're both from Port Charles. Keesha is Keesha Ward and Jagger is John Cates. They both spent some time in Port Charles a few years back. You won't be disappointed with either of them. Jagger was a cop for a while and Keesha was at the top of her class at the Bureau."

Steve smiled. "I like knowing that I'll have a good team on my side. I still can't believe you're leaving me in charge, but whatever." He smiled faded and he turned to Frisco. "Tell me about the Cassadines. Bright Eyes is involved with the Prince and I don't like it. There's too much crap here. She could get hurt."

"This is coming from the man who wants her to become an agent with the WSB?"

Steve grunted. "I think she would be good at it...as a profiler. I don't want her running around out here like us. Carrie would kill me. I'm serious, Jones. What gives?"

The driver stopped at the edge of a small village. Frisco gestured for Steve to exit the car. He got out and Frisco joined him on the street. They began to move briskly past the villagers and Frisco took his time in answering Steve's question.

"We're going to Jagger's place which is where you'll be staying, too. The driver will bring your bags later. Stefan Cassadine is here and he's recuperating from the fire. I would answer you, but I'll let him do it."

"Is he as arrogant as his son?"

Frisco laughed. "I've heard about the real Nikolas, and I'm positive that Stefan is one hundred times worse."

"Great," Steve muttered.

Frisco laughed again. "He can be a real pain in the ass, but he's smart. Actually, he reminds me a lot of you. Stubborn as hell when it comes to family with an iron strength of will to match. You may not get along with Cassadine, but you will admire him," Frisco said. "I guarantee it."

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