Chapter 9

Special

...we have to deal with our past, I know it's painful but there you will find

specialness...

Nikolas watched Dawn’s retreat with mixed emotions. Half of him wanted to run after her. Hold her. Tell her that everything would be fine. But the other half refused to budge. Wouldn’t lie to her. Because he didn’t know how it would end. If they would be fine. Better than before.

He stood still. It was 'the other half' that he listened to.

His heart thudded painfully. He ran a hand over his chest. Cold and hard, his medallion touched him through the silk material of his shirt. A flash of pain shot through him in remembrance of Dawn ripping her medallion from her neck and flinging it at him. He looked down at his feet. The cherished heirloom still lay on the ground. Slowly, he knelt to retrieve of it. Did she know, he wondered, that in the old days her actions were akin to divorce?

Nikolas held her medallion in the palm of his hand. He remembered placing it around her neck. How brilliantly her brown eyes shined. And the overwhelming love he felt in his heart for her. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt her. He drew in a deep a breath and exhaled. Later--he wasn't sure how much time had passed--he went inside.

As was his habit, he looked in on the children. Adrik and his guest, JE, slept peacefully. Noelle lay on her side, curled into a ball. She faced the window and he hoped that she didn't bear witness to what transpired between him and her mother. He considered speaking with her. But what if she hadn't heard? He didn't want to cause his daughter alarm. Prematurely.

Nikolas closed her door and continued down the hall. A dim ray of light shone at the crack between carpet and door of his and Dawn's bedroom. He wasn't sure if she was in there or not. He took in a quick breath. He squeezed the medallion once. The door opened easily when he turned the knob and in he went.

Silence filled the air. Her suitcase stood at the foot of the bed. He was about to call out to her when she stepped from the bathroom. Her cheeks were stained with tears. She avoided looking at him as she crossed the room to the closet.

"Would you prefer that I slept in another room tonight?"

She returned from the closet dressed in sweats with socks covering her feet. "That won't be necessary," she said in a scratchy, hoarse voice. "I'll sleep somewhere else."

He hated that she wouldn't make eye contact. "You don't have to."

"Yes, I do." She headed for the door and made her exit before he could think of something more to say.

Dawn bypassed the guest bedroom. It would be pointless. She doubted if she'd be able to sleep. And even if she could... She shuddered. Lately, her subconscious wasn't her friend. It had turned on her the same as her husband had. Swiftly.

A tear rolled down her cheek. She wiped it and padded downstairs to her music room. The sight of her baby grand piano did nothing for her. The usual surge of excitement of stroking the keys was dormant. She went to the stool anyway. Maybe something would come to her.

Who was she kidding? A time like this called for chocolate.

Dawn padded to the kitchen. She found cookie dough in the freezer. With a spoon in hand, she dug in.

Nikolas couldn't just let it go. He looked at their bed. Cold and empty. He turned away. Leaving things as they were was unacceptable. He and Dawn had to talk again.

He didn't bother to look in the music room. Something told him she wasn't there anyway. He found her in the kitchen with her face buried in a roll of chocolate chip cookie dough. "That's bad for you."

She shrugged and moved to sit at the table. He stepped forward and went behind her. Refusing to take a chance on possible flight, he quickly lowered the gold chain around her neck. The Cassadine medallion rested on her chest like it belonged there. Because it did.

"You forgot this."

She lowered the cookie dough and spoon to the table. Both hands raised and clasped the heirloom. Nikolas moved in front of her to see her face. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears and her bottom lip trembled. He held his breath as her lips parted.

"I shouldn't have thrown it at you."

Nikolas nodded. "You shouldn't have."

Her fingertips traced the lines of the medallion. She finally met his gaze. "Are you in love with her?"

He swallowed hard. He should have expected this question. They'd already had one argument about the truth so he wouldn't insult either of them with a lie. "I don't know."

She folded her arms across her chest. "How can you not know if you're in love with her?"

"I think you would know the answer to that better than I."

"What is that supposed to mean?" A low flame burned in her eyes.

He spaced the words evenly. "You know exactly to what I refer." Recognition flashed in her brown eyes while the pain of knowing that his wife cared for his brother stabbed his heart. He looked away from her and strode to the window. But the moonlight and starry sky were no comfort. Not against the steely edge of tension that sliced through the air between them.

"Lorenzo," she said quietly. The chair scraped the floor as she stood. "You're referring to him. I thought we were past that. Years ago. But for you to bring it up now… This thing with Gilly? Is it your way of getting back at me? Is it payback for something that never happened between your brother and me?"

"Never?" There was an edge to his voice. He turned quickly to face her again. "You talk about truth, but you don't mean it."

"What are you talking about?" She roughly pushed the chair aside to storm across the room to him. "What are you accusing me of?"

"I haven't made any accusation."

"Now, who's lying?" she asked.

"You're angry with me because I admitted to being attracted to another woman--"

"A mere attraction I could handle!" She drew in a quick breath. "But you admitted to more than just that. You want her, Nikolas. That kicks it up a notch, don't you think?"

"So self-righteous," he muttered. "As if you never wanted him."

"I never have."

"I don't believe you."

Her tone was chilly even though there were tears in her voice. "I can see that."

"This is pointless." He sighed with exasperation. "Emotions are overwrought. Words may be said that can never be taken back."

"It's too late for that." She stepped back, but her eyes didn't waver from his. "You think I wanted to make love with your brother…have him inside me. Well, it's not true. Not once have I ever considered betraying my love for you by giving myself to him.

"During the six months that he and I pretended to be lovers, it could have been so easy, Nikolas," she said in a choked voice. "So easy, to invite Lorenzo into my bed. You have no idea. At that time, all I would have had to do was leave the door open and he would have been there. I didn't realize that until a few years ago. It never crossed my mind to accept the comfort he desperately wanted to give me. All my thoughts were of you and our children. Nothing and nobody else has ever mattered to me as much as you and our three kids."

She choked on a sob and turned away.

"Dawn…"

"No, Nikolas, you think I'm overreacting. I should 'get over it,' right? After all, you didn't make love to Gilly. You only 'wanted' to." She wrapped her arms around her middle. "I can't get over it. If this had happened ten years ago, I'd be in a better place to accept it. But not now. We were so…happy. Everything was finally good. No more weird, crazy bullshit messing up our lives and putting our family in danger. I don't know. I supposed you're thinking turnabout is fair play."

Nikolas couldn't respond. The thought had crossed his mind. It wasn't as if he intentionally wanted something to develop between he and Gilly. Something happened. Things clicked. Hadn't that always been her reasoning for her relationship with his brother?

"Your silence speaks volumes." She faced him. Tears still shone brightly in her eyes. None had fallen, but they were close. "I don't know what happens now. I'm tired of… I love you, Nikky. I always have. I always will. Everything I've ever done has been proof of that."

"I know."

She shook her head. "You don't know the half of it, or if you do, you don't understand it. I thought you did. Obviously, I was wrong." She released a self-mocking chuckle.

He hated that sound. Moving to her, he placed his hands on her shoulders and squeezed. "Let's stop this now."

"The rollercoaster ride can't be stopped until it goes through all the loops," she whispered. She didn't pull away from him. She let him hold her. "Lorenzo's world was familiar to me. No judgmental Russian bodyguards looking over my shoulders. No foreign dignitaries assessing my worthiness. No lessons in deportment or becoming multi-lingual. I wouldn't have had to do any of that. I wouldn't have had to suffer the humiliation of wondering if I was actually good enough to be the wife of a prince, your wife. If I had chosen Lorenzo. But I didn't choose him. I chose you."

She stepped out of his grasp then. "I don't know what all of this means for us and that scares me. All I've ever wanted was for us to be happy." She sniffled. "I won't rant and rave over what you feel for Gilly. She's a beautiful, intelligent woman who's married to a handsome, intelligent man. Just like me. I don't want you want her. I wish you had hugged and kissed me when I stepped out of the limo. I wish this night had never happened. But it did. And everything happens for a reason. I know one thing. I'm not fighting anymore. No more battles and wars. You do what you think is right."

She headed for the door.

"So, that's it?" Nikolas asked. "You don't care what happens."

Her footsteps came to a halt as she reached the door. "I care."

"I don't know what I feel, Dawn," he said, his voice hollow. "This isn't revenge or payback. I need…"

"Someone other than me," she said, finishing for him.

She left just as he softly said, "No, I'll always need you."

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