chapter twenty-seven


Frisco and Nikolas had just sat down at the breakfast table when the sound of a car rolling across the gravel-covered drive interrupted their conversation. The senior WSB agent grabbed his firearm and went to the window. He quickly holstered the weapon after peering through the curtains. He unlocked the door and called out to Nikolas, "The others have arrived."

Nikolas breathed a sigh of relief as he rushed out the door past Frisco. The rear door of the nondescript white van opened. He ran to the back and his jaw dropped as he saw his father and his brother slowly exit the vehicle. In the back of his mind, he noticed Andrèsj's weight loss and the injuries on Stefan's face, but none of that mattered. Not yet. The three Cassadine men's arms locked around each other in an embrace that resembled an unbreakable circle of love.

Later when they were all inside, the details were given to Nikolas. Andrèsj had been kidnapped from boarding school and tortured. The haunted look in his younger brother's eyes wounded Nikolas' heart. Always, Andrèsj had looked at the world from behind the eyes of innocence and mischief. Because of traitors in their family, Andrèsj would no longer be the carefree young man he once was. It wasn't fair.

And there was Stefan. The burns on his face weren't as extensive as Nikolas had imagined them to be, but still, that didn't mean the injuries were painless. His family risked their lives to preserve his title and no one ever asked him if he even wanted it. The very idea of so much senseless violence infuriated Nikolas and to see it enacted on his family made him see red. This had to stop and it had to stop now.

He pounded his fist hard on the table and the room echoed with silence. "Enough!" he said. "No more. If it's the title they want, it's the title they may have. It isn't mine to keep anyway. It belongs to Stavros' son and I'm not his child-"

"Nikolas, no!" Stefan interrupted.

"Father, how many must die for this? I was willing to fight for it, but I cannot. Not after seeing what they've done to you and Andrèsj."

"What have they done to us?" Andrèsj demanded to know. "We are alive, Nikolas. Don't give into Philana and Zarek. If you do, they win."

"And what?" Nikolas asked. "We lose? It's not that simple, and who gives a damn about winning and losing when lives are at stake?"

"I do!" Andrèsj said, pounding his fist once for emphasis. "I give a damn! Look at what they did to me and to Papa! They killed Alexis, Nikolas, and they even killed Grandmother, too. I know she wasn't the most wonderful woman in the world, but she never harmed either of us. Never! We cannot allow them to be victorious!"

Nikolas heart thudded wildly in his chest. Andrèsj was young, wild and impetuous, but Nikolas couldn't ignore the fact that he felt the same as his younger brother. God help him, but he wanted vengeance, too.

"You know I speak the truth," Andrèsj said softly. "I can see it on your face and I can feel it, too." He grabbed Nikolas' hand and squeezed it. "There is no other way, brother."

"There isn't," Nikolas agreed, looking down at their hands. He squeezed back and a smile cracked across his younger brother's stoic face. They both smiled and then released their hands. He looked around at the silent WSB agents. "I suppose you will try to stop us."

Frisco shook his head. "No, we're here to help bring Philana DiMitri to her knees and her son, too, if necessary."

"You will not interfere with our plans then," Stefan stated.

"I didn't say that," Frisco corrected. "It will depend on the plan. You're all civilians and we cannot willingly allow any of you to put yourselves in harm's way. If there's a way DiMitri and her son can be neutralized without danger, then we will go that route."

"There's no way," Andrèsj said. "She will not rest until Zarek has everything."

Stefan agreed. "What he says is true. Philana DiMitri can be likened to a lioness protecting her cub. Anyone or anything perceived as a threat to Zarek is in danger."

"I'm surprised your family didn't do anything about her before now," Jagger said. "No disrespect intended, of course."

Stefan's mouth twitched. "Of course not. None taken. Philana is a patient woman. She waited and positioned her pawns into place. She believed that Nikolas was killed in that car accident and inserted her impostor to take his place. After that, she went after the rest of us. Her plan was dealt a horrible blow once she learned that Nikolas is indeed alive."

"She is no doubt waiting for me to reveal myself and confront the Impostor," Nikolas said, "so that she can kill me for certain."

"No doubt," Stefan said, "and we will not give her that opportunity."

Nikolas shook his head. "I will not stay here."

"Where will you go?" Steve Jensen asked. "You cannot go back to the loft and endanger my daughter because I won't let you. Walking through the streets of Port Charles will make you an easy target. This safehouse is where you should stay put for the time being."

"I don't agree," Keesha said. "I hope I'm not speaking out of turn. I know Jagger and I are still considered rookies, but keeping Nikolas hidden seems like a waste of time to me. We want DiMitri and we know she wants Nikolas. He's the best chance we have at getting her and bringing an end to all this."

"But who's to say what she'll do?" Frisco asked. "She's a sociopath. I'm not sure about bringing Nikolas into the line of fire."

"Well, maybe you should ask me," Nikolas told him. "I am not made of glass. I will not break. And most importantly, I am not afraid of her. Keesha, it seems like you've thought about this. Tell us more."

She gave them a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry, but that's all I have right now. I'd have to know more about her in order to offer a viable solution."

"What about the Impostor?" Jagger asked. "We know he's working for Philana. Maybe he's our ticket."

"Yes," Nikolas said, nodding. "Perhaps, he is. He's pretending to be me, but he has no idea what I'm capable of. I think it's about time I showed him."

Stefan frowned. "Nikolas, what do you mean by that?"

Nikolas gave his father a tight smile. "He's about to learn that there's more to Nikolas Cassadine than just using the name or riding my horse. He will learn that and so much more!"


"Hey, there," Dawn said with a smile as she closed the door behind her.

"Hi, yourself," Lucky greeted her. He stopped playing with the remote control and sat up straight on the hospital bed. "What's shaking?"

She shrugged. "Not much. I just stopped by to see how you are."

"I'm fine...well, at least, I feel fine." He smiled at her as she sat down in a guest chair. "I heard you drove me hear that day. Thanks. I appreciate that. I'm sorry for freaking out all over you. I heard about that, too."

"It's no big deal," she said. "I'm glad I was able to help calm you down. I've been thinking about that and I can't help but wonder why I had that effect on you. Do you have any ideas?"

He gave her a wide smile. "You're a beautiful woman. Why wouldn't I wanna crawl into your arms?"

She blushed and wagged a finger at him. "That's not fair. You're trying to change the subject."

"I'm being honest. Sure, you hide it all behind those baseball caps and coveralls, but real men can see the truth."

Her smile faded and she reached inside her shirt to touch the Nikolas' medallion. She remembered the first night they met and he said almost the exact words to her. It made her wonder if he was in danger or needed her somehow.

"What's wrong?" Lucky said. "You're not embarrassed or upset by what I said, are you? I'm not kidding around. You're great, Dawn, that's why my cousin... Um, forget that last part. I shouldn't have said that."

She released her hold of the Cassadine heirloom and gave Lucky a faint smile. "Forget about it. Sly and I have worked things out. Do you know how long you'll be here?"

"I'm hoping not very long, but Luke wants me in here for as long as it takes them to find out what was wrong with me. He thinks I'm safer in here. I'm ready to go."

"I'd go crazy in here," she said, "but I imagine now, you'd want to be with your family. I hope you'll be released soon. I should have said it when I first came in. I'm sorry about what happened to your cousin's little boy."

Lucky nodded. "So am I. He was a good little kid, but that's the life Carly chose for him, you know. Both times around. Times like this makes me appreciate the sacrifices my mom made for me and my sister."

"What about for your brother?" Dawn said before she could stop the words. He looked at her in surprise and she tried to change the subject. He wouldn't let her.

"What do you mean by that?" he asked, staring at her with a quizzical expression in his dark blue eyes. "I didn't know that you and Nikolas were so close."

"Just forget I said it," Dawn said quickly. "It's none of my business and I shouldn't have mentioned it. Look, I'd better get going before the nurse comes and kicks me out. I hope you're out soon. I'll see you later."

"Dawn, wait!"

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

Close call, she thought, moving briskly towards the elevator. She shouldn't have mentioned Nikolas at all. What was she thinking? Lucky still believed the Impostor was his brother. He had no idea that his true brother was alive and well and had promised to marry her.

"Oh, God," she groaned.

She was looking down at the floor when someone bumped into her. "I'm sorry," she apologized as she looked at the strikingly beautiful brunette whom she had walked into.

The older woman shrugged and smiled. "It happens. Have a good day."

"You, too," Dawn replied, subconsciously rubbing her arm. She continued to the elevator and didn't turn around again.

Philana watched as Dawn stepped inside the elevator car and the doors closed behind her. She pushed the cover onto the hypodermic needle she'd just used on Dawn and dropped them into her bag. She smiled at her success. The dose albeit small could prove to be lethal if the antidote wasn't given in a timely manner. If Nikolas loved the girl as much as Philana sensed, he'd waste no time in coming out of hiding. And when he did, Philana would be ready for him.


Zarek couldn't stop staring at Dara. She was such a beautiful woman. Intelligent, vibrant and gorgeous. Sitting there across from him on the blanket in the park, he couldn't resist brushing his fingers against her full rounded cheek.

"Was there a crumb or something?" she asked, her fingers touching the spot he just caressed.

"No, just your beautiful, soft skin," he said. "I suppose you should know that I find you irresistible. I hope this won't affect our working relationship."

"What if I say it does?"

He smiled and poured more wine into her goblet. "Then, I suppose I would have to find myself another attorney." He handed the glass to her. "I'm never been more serious about anyone in my life, Dara. I swear this to you on my father's grave. I've never been in love before-"

"Zarek," she interrupted quietly. "You don't have to say that."

"I'm speaking as honestly as I know how," he said, setting the bottle of wine down. He moved closer to her and cupped her face between the palms of his hand. "I was struck by lightning when I saw you. It was love at first sight. I know that I haven't been the same since the day we met. If you don't feel the same, tell me now. I promise not to cry or cause a scene."

Dara returned his smile. "I can't tell you that. I almost wish I could because this scares me, but I think I've fallen, too."

He bent towards her. His mouth claimed hers in a slow, sensual kiss. His tongue traced the outline of her full mouth before slipping between her parted lips. Her response set him aflame. Her arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him to her. Soon after, she settled on his lap. His manhood stirred from the pleasure they found in each other's arms. If the sound of a car backfiring hadn't roared at that moment, Zarek was sure he would have taken her right there in the public park.

"Oh, my," he murmured after the kiss ended. "Your kisses should come with a warning. Dangerous, proceed with caution and never in a public place."

She laughed softly. "I think you should come with that label, too. Look at you. Your mouth is covered with lipstick." She grabbed a napkin and began to wipe his mouth.

"I'd rather it was cover with your mouth again," he growled in low voice. "I want you, Dara, but not just for one night, a few months or several years. I want you for the rest of my life."

The napkin fell from her fingers. Her dark eyes widened in surprise. "I'm not sure I understand..."

"I'm sure you do," he said, never taking his eyes from her. "I'm asking you to marry me, Dara Jensen. Will you? Will you be my wife?"

She swallowed hard and slowly bobbed her head in a nod. "Yes, Zarek, I will."

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