chapter twenty-nine

***carom aka rebound***

Jason didn't know why he broke down at the sight of Keesha at AJ's grave. All he knew was that after tearing out of the hospital and breaking into a high-speed run, the rush of energy began to slow down as he neared the wrought-iron gates of the cemetery.

On a whim, he walked inside and soon his footsteps led him to the Quartermaine family plot. Standing in the shadows, he listened to her one-sided conversation and the next thing he knew he was overcome with emotion. Michael was dead, and so was Sonny. None of it made any sense and now even though his eyes were dry, he wanted to burst into tears again. With a harsh moan, he turned away and slammed his fist into the palm of his hand.

"It's okay to grieve, Jason," Keesha said from behind him. "Holding your emotions inside doesn't help-"

"It won't bring them back so what does it matter?" he asked. He heard her sigh and the bench creak as she stood up. He flinched and moved away. "Don't. I'm fine."

"No, you're not." Her voice was sad and caring. "I guess you don't want to talk, so I won't stay-"

"Wait," he interrupted again. He turned to face her. Shoving his balled fists into the front pockets of his jeans, he stepped out of the shadows toward her. Once they were so close that he could read the truth and the pain in her eyes, he stopped. "Why do you still care?"

She reared back as if she'd been struck. Her jaw tightened and her dark brown eyes flashed with anger. Jason didn't understand her reaction at first, but then it dawned on him. He quickly shook his head.

"Not about me," he clarified. "About AJ. You left and he didn't come after you. He should have, but he didn't. Then he married Carly. He should have married you."

Keesha shook her head. "It wasn't meant to be between me and him. I don't think Carly was right for him either, but it's all moot now. He's gone. I care about him because he was a good man, but like the rest of us, he was flawed." She paused for a moment and then asked, "What brought you out here?"

Jason stared at her, digesting her words. He never thought of AJ as being good. The words good and bad were used to judge and he didn't like them. But then again, he'd judged others, too. Years ago, he decided that AJ wasn't good enough to be Michael's father and he helped to see that it never happened. In his eyes, Sonny was the better man, but now, Jason could see that he had misjudged. AJ often brought up the organization and its deadly side effects. Jason believed Michael was protected with Sonny and that was wrong. Because of the organization both Michael and Sonny were gone and neither would ever come back again.

He moved past her to AJ's headstone. Squatting in front of the cold granite slab, he rested one hand on the smooth surface. "I don't know. Bobbie told me about Michael and Sonny. I didn't believe her. I didn't want to and the next thing I knew I was running. I ended up here. I don't know why."

She joined him at the headstone. Her slender fingers traced the outline of AJ's name. Jason watched her fingers...small brown and pretty, so unlike his own. Without thinking about it, he reached out and took her hand. Slowly, they stood. "Thank you."

She squeezed his hand before she let go. "You're welcome. I'm leaving now. If you'd like a ride..."

"Yeah," he said, quietly, "I would. Carly needs me and I should be there for her."

She nodded. "Yes, you should."


"I killed them, Mama," Carly cried over and over. She and Bobbie sat on the sofa of Bobbie's living room. Her head was buried in the crook of her mother's shoulder and her hands dug into Bobbie's back, holding on for dear life. "I killed my baby and Sonny."

"Ssh," Bobbie cooed. Her hands brushed Carly's hair as she rocked her. "It wasn't your fault. It wasn't."

"You don't know what I did," Carly mumbled. "I was only trying to help, b-but now they're both g-gone..."

"Lucas is spending the night with Tony. You can have his room for tonight or however long you need it. Come on. Let's go upstairs. You can take a nice warm bath and rest."

Carly pulled away. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she stood and crossed the room to the fireplace. She kicked at the poker and the logs that rested inside. "It won't help. It won't change what I did."

"You keep talking about what you did!" Bobbie exclaimed in exasperation. "What did you do? Carly, I hate to sound callous, but this goes with the life you chose when you married Sonny. If anyone did this, it was Sonny! Not you!"

"No!" she all but screamed. "I know what you mean, but it's not fair to him. Not this time. I paid a man to k-kill Sorel, but he d-didn't. He didn't, Mama! He killed Michael and Sonny instead! So, don't you see? This is my fault!"

Bobbie's mouth had dropped open during Carly's confession. She closed it and rose from the sofa. "No, I don't believe that, Carly. You've done some thoughtless things in the past, but I can't believe you'd do something dangerous!"

"Well, I did!" Carly said, sniffling as fresh tears clouded her eyes. She wiped, but the tears fell anyway. "I eavesdropped on one of Sonny's conversations and when he refused to deal with the man, I went behind his back and did it! I wanted Sorel out of our lives! I thought hiring someone would take care of that and then we'd be safe!"

Bobbie grabbed Carly's upper arms and shook her hard. "My God, Carly! No! It doesn't end with one killing! Haven't you learned that? Even if that animal had killed Sorel, there would have been someone else! There's always someone else! Dammit!"

Bobbie burst into tears. Carly wrapped her arms around her. "I'm sorry, Mama. I messed up and my innocent little boy... I gotta make it right. I have to find a way to make it all right."


Lucky heard the buzz around the hospital. Both Sonny Corinthos and his little cousin, Michael were dead. Victims of mob violence. The thought of it made Lucky sick to his stomach. He and his family had spent most of his life on the run because of Frank Smith, a head honcho in the organization. He wondered if the craziness would ever end.

Tired of hanging out in his room like an invalid, Lucky pulled on a robe and shuffled out of his room. He hung out by the nurses' station for a few minutes and heard a nurse mention Emily Quartermaine. His ears perked up and a few minutes later, he had her room number. Trying to appear nonchalant, he sauntered to her room and went inside.

With her long chestnut brown hair surrounding her sleeping face, she resembled an angel. He gently pulled the door closed behind him and went to her bedside. Careful not to wake her, he brought a chair close to her bed and sat down. He reached for her hand and just held it.

The nurses mentioned that she had been in a car accident in New York. He wondered what had taken her so far from home and just where the hell Zander had been when it happened. Didn't he know that although Emily appeared tough, parts of her were as fragile as a child? She should be handled with tender care and not jerked around like a ragdoll. His former best pal deserved better than that. A lot better.

She stirred in her sleep, her fingers flexing against his. Long, curled eyelashes fanned her pale cheeks before her eyes fluttered open. She blinked a few times until she appeared to recognize him. Then, she smiled. "Lucky. Hi."

He returned her smiled and scooted his chair closer to the bed. "Hi. How are you?"

She frowned and shook her head. "I've been better. My head hurts like you wouldn't believe."

"Let me get the nurse for you-"

"No!" she said quickly. "She'll just pump me up with something. I wanna be lucid for a little while."

"If it hurts bad, let me know."

She smiled. "I will." Her eyes looked him up and down. "What are you doing here dressed in a robe? Are you a patient, too?"

He nodded. "Unfortunately. I've been out of it and they're running tests to find out why. So far, they don't know and if they don't come up with something soon, I'm outta here."

"Could you spring me, too?" she asked. "I hate hospitals."

"I know." He reached out and brushed a few wavy tendrils from her face. "But you'll be better soon. You'll see."

As his fingers brushed her cheek, a sharp electric jolt charged through him. He glanced at Emily to see if she'd felt it, too. From the way her eyes had widened, he knew that she had. Shaken by this reaction to her, he pulled back and stood. "I'd better get back before they call out the dogs on me." He scribbled his room number on a nearby notepad and handed it to her. "Here's my number. If you need anything or wanna talk, give me a call."

She nodded. "Okay. Take care, Lucky."

"You, too, Em. You, too."


After the real Nikolas Cassadine left the cottage, Nick Cassidy wasted no time in following the true Prince's orders. As his hands shook, he grabbed his cell phone and punched in Philana's number. His luck was off. Way off. And she didn't answer. He cursed loudly and set to work on the second half of Prince Nikolas' orders. While he packed, he continued to try to reach Philana.

A door slammed downstairs and Nick's heart raced. Gia's voice called out for him and he drew in a deep breath. Damn, that was close. Grabbing a stuffed suitcase, he bounced down the staircase. "Gia, we gotta get out of here!"

"What are you talking about?" she asked, frowning at him as she threw off her sweater and tossed her purse onto the sofa. "What's wrong with you? Your face is flushed and you're shaking like a leaf. What's in that bag?"

"I don't have time to play twenty questions with you!" He dropped the suitcase by the front door and headed for the stairs. "He came here today and if I'm not outta here before the break of dawn, I'm dead-"

"Nick, stop playing. That's not funny."

He stared at her. "Am I laughing? Do you see a smile on my face? No! I'm serious, Gia. The gig is up, and I'm out." He drew in another breath and willed himself to calm down enough to ask, "And the question is, are you coming with me or staying?"

She was silent for a moment and then quietly, she said, "You're serious."

"As a heart attack." He ran his hand over his face and groaned. "He was unbelievable. I don't know how I thought I could pull him off. We look nothing alike and he has this thing about him. This air of royalty... Damn! It was only a matter of time before I was busted."

Gia went to him and caressed his jaw. "What happened? What did he do?"

"He walked in and told me he knew everything. He said that if I wanted to live I had to get my ass out of here tonight! He said you could come with me if you want... Do you want to?"

She nodded. "Of course, but Nick, you're not thinking, baby. He can't just order us around like this. We have the goods on him. Not vice versa."

"You don't understand. You weren't here. He meant what he said. He would kill me!"

"You forget my brother's a cop, Nick. He can protect you-"

"No!" he said, holding up his hand. "The sooner we're away from these crazy Cassadines the better. I just have to make one call to Philana and then we're gone. Meanwhile, pack your stuff and hurry."

She threw up her hands. "So, just like that you're gonna leave? What about Lucky? He's still in the hospital. Lesley Lu thinks you're her big brother. What about Laura? I don't care much for her, but I thought you did."

"I do!" he said, "but Gia, listen to me! You know how Philana is. She's nuts! Once she knows that the Prince was here, we won't have just him to worry about. She'll be after us, too. I care about them, sure, and I pray to God that Lucky is okay, but I am not about to stay around here to find out. Please, Gia. If you're coming with me, pack your stuff and do it now!"

She blew out a loud breath of air. "Okay, fine! I'm packing, but I still think there's another way."

As she ran up the staircase, he reached for his cell phone. "There is no other way," he said to himself. "It's either this or death."

The telephone on the other end was finally answered. He drew in a deep breath and said, "Hello, Philana..."


The adrenaline rush of confronting his Impostor flowed through Nikolas' veins even after everyone at the safehouse had fallen asleep. Restless energy kept him far from slumber. He kept remembering the Impostor's ashen face and the shaky tone of his voice. There was some pleasure in being the victor in one small battle of one helluva war.

He rolled over in the bed and glanced at the clock. It was well past midnight. Wasting time in bed started to irritate him. And the longing to see Dawn again made his heart hurt. He didn't want to spend another moment in senseless agony. He quickly dressed, donning his disguise of beard and glasses and quietly escaped from the safehouse.

Nikolas was careful and reached the loft without anyone following him. Using the key she'd given him, he accessed the elevator and was soon standing in front of the door to Dawn's apartment. He didn't want to startle her so he rang the doorbell. She didn't answer so he wondered if she was asleep.


The thought of her wrapped in sheets made of silk brought wanton thoughts to his mind and a smile to his face. He unlocked the front door and stepped inside. A single lamp beside the futon glowed and he immediately thought that she was awake. Maybe she had been busy in the bath and hadn't heard him. He moved towards her room. Softly, calling her name.

"Dawn... Angel..."

He passed her bedroom and noticed that the bed was perfectly made up. He then reached the bathroom. He knocked and said her name again. "Dawn. It's me, Nikky."

There was no sound so he tried the doorknob. The door easily opened and he found that it was as empty as the rest of the apartment. Frowning, he glanced at his wristwatch as he went back to the living area. It was much too late for her to be out, and she simply wouldn't be. She wasn't a party girl. So, where the hell was she?

The telephone rang and he jumped at the sudden sound. He wanted to answer it, but thought better of it. The answer machine clicked on after the second ring anyway, so he paused for a moment and listened.

"Nikolas, I know you're there. Would you please pick up? I hate the sound of my voice on these damnable things."

He wrenched the cordless phone from its base. The blood in his veins pounded with rage and fear. "Dammit, Philana! What have you done?"

She released her trademark wicked cackled. The sound made the hairs on the back of Nikolas' neck stand on end, but her words affected him more. They chilled him to the bone.

"Your virgin maiden," she told him, "is deathly ill. She's somewhere growing sicker by the moment... Actually, she's dying."

"Where is she?" he demanded.

"Ah, now that's a good question," she said. "Obviously, she's not at the loft or you would have found her. You know, you're not a dullard after all. I often wondered, considering your lineage. That American woman who bore you-"

"I don't have time for your wordplay," he ground out. "Tell me where she is! Tell me what you did to her!"

"I haven't done anything to her," Philana replied. "It will be you who kills her. Not me. Give up and she will be healthy. Hide and she will die."

"Where and when?" he asked, his only thought was saving Dawn. If it meant giving himself to Philana, he would. He'd do anything to save his beloved angel's life.

"My, my, my. That was rather quick, wasn't it? I wasn't expecting such a fast response. I believe I will have to give it some thought. Your urgency has given me cause for concern-"


The whir of the dial tone hummed in Nikolas' ear. The one thing he never wanted to happen had transpired and there was nothing he could do except surrender. Silently, he prayed for Dawn, as he left the loft. He was careful and no one followed him back to the safehouse. He went straight to Stefan's dark bedroom. Kneeling at his father's bedside, he grabbed Stefan's hand. The older man woke up and turned on a light. Questions burned in his eyes. Nikolas' eyes filled with moisture.

"Father, help me."

Stefan squeezed his hand. "I will."

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