Chapter 7

~ Come Back to Me ~

My abandoned heart just doesn’t understand my undying love for you

Block heels clicked loudly on the marble-top floor. Gilly rushed through the Grille's foyer to the ladies' room. She quickly reapplied berry-colored gloss to her lips and adjusted her clothing. After inhaling two quick breaths, she headed for the dining area.

Her gaze scanned the crowded restaurant for the familiar cap of shiny brown hair. She found him. Alan-Michael sat at a secluded table near the open window. A slight frown creased his brow as he glanced at his watch. His fingers drummed the table. A slight flush colored his cheeks. No doubt he was upset. Of course, he had every right to be. She was late.

Gilly declined assistance from the maître d and wove her way through the restaurant to reach her husband. Alan-Michael looked up as she approached. His gaze quickly assessed her appearance before staring deeply into her eyes. "You're late."

"I know."

He stood and pulled out her chair. She sat. Her breath caught as he leaned in close. His lips caressed her cheek for a brief moment. Then, the sensation was gone and he was sitting across from her.

As if on queue, a waiter arrived and offered more coffee to Alan-Michael and a fresh cup for Gilly. He took their orders and left.

"This is becoming a habit." Alan-Michael regarded her with disappointment in his chocolate brown eyes. "I almost left."

"Didn't you get my message?" she asked. "I sent it to your palm pilot and your voice mail. The meeting ran over. I couldn't just leave."

He slowly nodded. "Right."

"You say that like you don't believe me."

"I don't know what to believe," he replied. "I believed you wanted to start a family--"

"I do!"

Nearby patrons gave them a curious stare. Gilly promptly lowered her voice. Her hand shot out across the table to cover his. "That's what I want."

He glanced down at their hands. "It's what you say you want. It appears that there is something else you want more."

She flinched. She released his hand. "No, there isn't."

"You spend more time at work and with Nikolas Cassadine than you ever do at home or with me. Work has always been important to you, but never like this."

The waiter returned with their first course of vegetable soup. Gilly stirred soup, watching the pieces of carrots, corn and beans bob in the flavorful broth. She felt his stare. She owed him a response. But what? She'd never felt like this before. Nikolas Cassadine was unlike any man she'd ever met. Her attraction grew with every conversation they had. It wasn't something she planned, but it was there. And considering what happened after the meeting, she didn't know what to do!

"We made it ten years," he said, his voice husky. "Your mother and my father didn't give us six months."

"Don't, Alan-Michael," she pleaded. "I just need a little time."

"A little time for what?" he asked.

The truth refused to budge from her lips. "I don't know. To get it all together."

~*~

The leer jet soared through the clouds. The white puffs reminded Dawn of her days before Port Charles. Back when the clouds were her closest friends and often, she'd lay flat on her back, looking at them. She would imagine taking flight and joining them on their adventures. Anywhere was better than home. A place that was anything but because she and her father just couldn't get along.

"Yuck."

"What?" Lorenzo jutted his chin toward the slice of untouched barbecue chicken pizza on her plate. He frowned. "You haven't even touched it, and if you don't want it..."

He reached for the food. Dawn slapped his hand and he quickly pulled his hand back. "Keep your hands in your own plate. This one is off limits."

He grinned. "Now, who's being selfish."

She gave him a half smile. Absently, she picked a piece of chicken and raised it to her lips. As she chewed, she felt him watching her. Normally, she'd make a smart-ass comment. But at the moment, her life felt far from normal.

"We kicked ass and gave Traci what she needed," he said, "from us. We're going home. Shouldn't you be happy about that?"

Her fingers tugged on the pizza's crust. "What makes you think I'm not happy?" She gave him a wide smile that hurt her cheeks. He shook his head, so she stopped smiling. "Okay, you got me. I'm in a weird place right now."

"Nikolas will clear that up in a hurry."

She shook her head. Her voice caught. "Not if he's clearing up for someone else first."

"My brother wouldn't cheat on you!" Disbelief radiated from him. "He loves you. A lot. You just celebrated twenty years of marriage."

She shrugged.

"Greedy, come on. Why would you think that? After everything you've been through?"

"I don't know. Maybe I'm being paranoid." She set the plate on the table in front of them and stood. "Ignore me."

Lorenzo caught her wrist. "Is that what's wrong? You think Nikolas is cheating? Or is it something else?"

She hesitated. Her method of problem-solving was always to crack a joke. Laugh away your problems. Laugh away your cares. But their eyes locked. And she couldn't lie to him or play it off. "It's something else."

"What?"

She looked down at where his hand circled her wrist and then she raised her eyes to meet his. "Our past."

~*~

"Papa, may we go to the stables?" Adrik tugged excitedly on Nikolas' hand. "I want to show JE my other pets!"

Nikolas squeezed his son's hand. "JE is quite familiar with your collection, but yes, you may." He directed a pointed look to Grigori, Adrik's personal bodyguard. "Watch them."

"Yes, sir."

Adrik threw his arms around Nikolas for a quick embrace. Then, like a shot, he and JE raced from Wyndemere. Grigori moved briskly to keep up.

"This is a surprise." Stefan strode into the sitting room. He hugged his son and smiled. "Carlotta and I have had dinner. If you and the children would like, Ms. Landsbury is available. I shall ring her…"

"No, Father." Nikolas briefly touched Stefan's shoulder. "The boys and I ate before we came. Adrik and JE are at the stables."

"How is JE?" Stefan sat and indicated for Nikolas to join him.

Nikolas shook his head and moved to the fireplace. He rested his arm on the mantle and stared at the row of framed photographs that Carrie collected. Photos of their family stared back at him. Happy glimpses of their past.

"Nikolas?" Stefan prompted when he didn't respond. "Has there been a problem? Morgan James hasn't approached you, has he?"

"No. I spoke with Keesha earlier today. She wants JE to stay with us for a few more days. I agreed. JE hasn't been a problem. He and Adrik are having a wonderful time together."

"Is he aware of what is transpiring at his home?"

"Yes, but he's more interested in riding horses and attacking aliens." Nikolas' gaze rested on an old photo of him and Dawn taken at an amusement park. It was an image that he had given Stefan. He reached for the photo and held it reverently in his hands.

They were so young. Happy. In love. They were one. An unbreakable bond joined them together. He never imagined the bond would crack. Or that he would walk to the line of loyalty and fidelity and be tempted to cross it.

Nikolas grunted. Tempted to cross? He stepped right over it today. If Dawn knew what he did, would she have the power to forgive him? Did he even want forgiveness? He could only find relief in the knowledge that she was in Wisconsin. Far away from him and the confusion that threatened their marriage.

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