chapter twenty-one

Steve couldn't help but smirk at Cassadine's arrogance. He was a smart one, but he had no idea how international intrigues really worked. Lucky for him that Steve was more than schooled in that area.

"You must confront them head on," Cassadine continued, "and as soon as possible. For Andrčsj to be alive this long is a miracle, but miracles do not last forever. I want my son out of that prison, and I want it to happen now."

"Of course you do," Steve said without sarcasm. "I want the same. You don't realize this, but our goals are in sync. I will see that your son is freed, but I will do it my way."

"My uncle's wife is out of your league, Jensen," Stefan retorted. "You must listen to me."

"You have no idea what league I'm in," Steve said calmly. "I'm only informing you of the plan because you will need to be ready to roll once Andrčsj is free. We won't have time to collect so it's important that you tell us the truth about your injuries. Are you fit for fast, possibly rocky travel?"

Stefan's mouth tightened. "Yes."

"Good!" Steve grunted. He glanced at his watch and moved to the window. "Ward and Cates should arrive soon. Once they do, we can get the ball rolling."

Stefan's eyes narrowed, but he kept whatever comeback he had to himself. Steve was grateful for that. He had just about enough of Stefan's lip that he was gonna take. It was true that he admired the man, but Cassadine's pompous behavior got on his nerves. Steve was there to do a job—to get the youngest Cassadine away from his captors safely—putting up with verbal abuse from the older Cassadine was not a part of the bargain.

A few minutes later, the front door opened and voices carried down the long hallway to the two men in the living room. An attractive couple entered and Steve immediately recognized them from the reports that Frisco had given him. He nodded and smiled at the two agents. "Cates and Ward. I'm Steve Jensen. Frisco was called back to the states, but he's already briefed me. With the introductions out of the way, we can get down to business."

They discussed the pros and cons of going in and getting Andrčsj out of there as soon as possible. In light of the recent investigation into Keesha's background, it was mutually agreed that delaying the rescue further was risky. They decided to sneak onto the compound and take Andrčsj that night.


Philana made herself comfortable in the back of her limo. Absently, she touched one of her favorite crystals that dangled from a chain around her neck. After instructing the driver to take her to Carrie's Creations, she closed her eyes and started to meditate. Just as she was finishing her favorite prayers, the telephone rang. She answered, "This had better be important."

"Following orders, Mrs. DiMitri," O'Reilly replied. "I've been watching the Spencer kid's apartment and thought you'd be interested to know that Dawn Jensen and an unidentified male with a beard picked the lock this morning."

"Describe the male," Philana demanded. Her earlier calm manner evaporated in light the news.

"He was almost six feet…dark hair down to the top collar of his shirt. Olive skin tone. The beard and glasses covered most of his face."

"Is it possible that he's my nephew?" she asked.

"Anything is possible, but I can't say for sure. The guy seemed older," O'Reilly answered.

"Is he still at the Spencer apartment?"

"No, he left about 5 or 10 minutes ago. I didn't follow him. Should I put someone on it?"

Philana rubbed her palms together as she thought. No vibrations came to her. She couldn't be sure if the bearded man was Nikolas or not, nor did she want to take the chance that he was. "Put someone on the Jensen girl," she decided. "If she arrived with him that early in the morning, they are undoubtedly close. I'm sure she will lead us to him and we can find out exactly who this unidentified man is."

She ended the call and then pushed the button to alert her driver. "There's been a change in plans. We'll go to the boutique later. Take me to the cottage."

The ride to Nik's cottage was quick and uneventful. The driver opened the door for her and she promptly left the car. From the silence that settled over the woods, she knew that the quaint home was empty. Her sixth sense spoke in a tiny voice inside her head, instructing her to go inside and investigate.

She removed the master key she'd secretly made and unlocked the door. The atmosphere of the cottage was thick with uneasy vibrations, and as she ascended the staircase, they grew stronger. She moved past two perfectly made-up bedrooms to the end of the hallway. As she drew closer to the last bedroom, the vibrations seemed to hum. She pushed opened the door and found the source of the chaos.

Objects were strewn all over the floor. The contents of the dresser drawer had been dumped onto the carpet, and room just looked like it had imploded. She knew immediately what had happened. Lucky Spencer had spent the night there and it was clear that he had snapped.

A smile was on her face as she left the cottage. The plan was coming together perfectly. Now, they would have to move quickly to uncover the identity of the bearded man so that nothing would prevent them from achieving their goals.

She slid into the back seat and spoke to her driver. "To Carrie's Creations."


The ER at General Hospital hummed with frenetic energy. Nik paced as he and Sly waited for Bobbie to return with information on Lucky. The wait seemed endless and both were becoming agitated the longer the wait. Sly grabbed his crutches and rose from the sofa. "I can't take this much more. I'm gonna make a run to the vending machine. Want some coffee?"

Nik shook his head and ran his head through his short black hair. "Coffee would make me nuts. Want me to get it instead? I don't mind."

"Sure." Sly dug inside his pocket for change, but Nik waved his money away.

"I got it. I'll be right back," Nik said.

Sly eased down onto the sofa again. His hands clutched the crutches, making his knuckles raw. Footsteps skimmed across the floor and a worried voice called out to him. "Sly! What's going on? Bobbie called me. Where's Lucky?"

He pointed to the closed curtains. "He's in there with Bobbie and some doctors. I don't know what's wrong with him."

Luke raced to the curtain, but a security guard refused to allow him entry. Luke glared at the formidable guard before turning back to Sly. He rubbed his hand across his face and inhaled a ragged breath. "Tell me what you know. What was he doing? Do you think it's drugs? I know he and Elizabeth are having problems. Could that be it?"

"I don't know, Luke," Sly said. "We went out a few nights ago. He was down, but he was okay, you know. Then, the next day he tells me that he trashed his place and didn't remember doing it. Nik let him stay with him last night-"

"What?" Luke gritted out. "He was at Cassadine's?"

His eyes blazed with rage and Sly groaned. Not this Spencer/Cassadine crap again. "Nik is cool-"

"He's a Cassadine!"

Then at that moment, Nik returned with Sly's coffee. He handed it to Sly and glanced at Luke. "Has there been any word?"

Without warning, Luke lunged. His hands closed around Nik's throat and he shook him. "You did this! What did you do to my son? What? Tell them so they can help him and then stay the hell away from him!"

The color drained from Nik's face and he clawed at Luke's hands. He couldn't pry them loose. Sly struggled to his feet and grabbed Luke. Wrapping his arm around Luke's neck, Sly squeezed until the older man released Nik.

"This is stupid, Luke!" Sly whispered furiously. He looked back and forth at the wheezing men and became infuriated. "Nik didn't do a damn thing to Lucky! Get it through that thick skull! He cares about him. They're brothers, man! Don't turn this into something it isn't. Lucky needs us to be there for him, and this fighting doesn't help him."

Luke glared at Sly. "Has Laura been called?"

"I didn't call her," Sly answered.

"I did," Nik answered. "She's on her way."

Luke didn't spare Nik a glance as he stormed towards the closed curtains again.


Sly shrugged. "You didn't deserve it. Believe me, if I thought you were behind this, I'd get you myself. Something is off with Lucky and it has been for a long time. I just want him to be well again."

Nik rubbed his neck and nodded. "So do I," he agreed in a hoarse voice.


Nothing was right and Nikolas was frustrated. Blood pumped wildly in his veins and he was consumed by restless energy. He needed to do something, but what? He couldn't sit still and after a while, the walls of the loft seemed to wrap around him and squeeze. He needed to get out. Now! He strode to the elevator doors, but stopped short when they opened and Dawn stood before him.

She gave him a tight smile and reached for his hand. "I have some news for you," she said, pulling him towards the futon. She sat and frowned when he didn't move to join her. "There's plenty of room."

He swallowed to ease his parched throat and nodded. "Yes, but I don't have time right now. I have to go-"

"Go where?" she asked, her eyes wide with concern. "You can't leave now."

"Not leave you!" he came close to shouting. "I have to check on Sheba. She's scared without me. I'm going to the cottage."

He spun on his heel. He didn't get very far as Dawn grabbed him around the waist and swung him around. "What?" he bit out.

Her hands clutched his face. Standing on tiptoe, she peered into his eyes. He didn't like it so he tried to free himself from her grasp. He couldn't. Her fingers tightened like a vise. "Dawn, release me now!"

"You're sweating," she said, staring at him, "and your eyes are glassy." She gripped his wrist and looked at her watch. "Your pulse is erratic."

"I'm worried and you're not helping me," he said. The impulse to grip her arms until she backed away from him almost overcame him. He closed his eyes tight and shook his head. "Get away from me."

"Something isn't right, Nikolas," she said in low voice. "Please, sit down. Please."

He didn't want to, but the sound of her voice overrode his wants. His love for her heightened his senses with concern for her and she sounded worried. With his eyes still closed, he allowed her to lead him to the futon. He leaned back and listened as she told him to concentrate on breathing. He could feel her fingers tugging on the buttons of his shirt and pulling them free from his hot body. The cool air soothed him the same as her voice. Gradually, he started to calm down and then he opened his eyes.

"What was wrong with me?" he asked, alarmed by the fright he saw on her face.

"I'm not sure, but I would say you were drugged." She balled up his shirt and used it to wipe the perspiration from his brow.

His hand closed over hers and brought an end to her ministrations. "That's impossible. I haven't been anywhere. I haven't had anything since breakfast this morning."

"You were at Lucky's this morning. Where did you go after that?"

"I came straight here," he answered slowly. "I didn't go anywhere else."

Dawn frowned. "How long did you stay there? Did you leave soon after me? You didn't, did you?"

He looked down as he shook his head. "How did you know? I stayed for a few hours."

She cupped his face and tilted it until he looked at her. "You can't go back there. Neither of us can. It's too dangerous."

"What's happened?"

"We had to rush Lucky to the hospital today. He was tripping, sweating, and crying. We couldn’t get him to calm down. He had a glazed look in his eyes that was similar to the one you just had. I think it's connected. I think there's something wrong with his apartment and you have to promise me that you won't go back."

Nikolas' mouth dropped open. "Lucky's at the hospital? How is he? I want to go…but I can't. He's not alone, is he?"

"No," she answered, clutching his hands. "Sly and Nik are there. Bobbie is on duty, too."

He shook his head. "We have to go back to his apartment. We have to know who did this to him and why."

"And risk flipping out like he did?" she asked. "No, Nikky. There has to be another way. Please, don't go there. I don't want anything to happen to you."

He opened his arms. When she went to him, he pulled her onto his lap. Pressing a kiss to her temples, he murmured, "I don't want anything to happen to either of us. We have to take what happened today as a warning. I'm leaving in the morning. Staying here isn't safe for you."


"No," he interrupted. "This is for the best. Let's not spend this night arguing. Hold me for a little while," he requested, as her arms closed around him and her head rested on his shoulder, "and make a delicious dinner for me."

"Only for you."

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