Chapter 12

~ Got "Til It's Gone~

…love you the right way…no games

Dominik approached his parents several times over the last couple of weeks, but their distant responses unnerved him. They had always been open, but it seemed like an impenetrable wall had closed around them. For his and his siblings' sakes, their parents went through the motions of being a happy family. However, Dominik saw the truth. After all, he'd been through this with them before. But this time felt much worse than the last.

"I don't know what to do," he explained for the umpteenth time. "Maybe there's nothing we can do!"

"That's unacceptable," his sister fired back.

Her sharp voice screeched through the telephone and he reared back to protect his eardrum. Even with the phone a good couple of inches from his ear, the chill of her anxiety coursed through him. He counted to ten before he rested the receiver against his ear.

"Noelle, come on," he pleaded. "What happens between a husband and wife is private. Mama and Papa have always taught us that. We have to respect them."

"While we're respecting them, our family is falling apart. That's not fair."

Dominik ran his hand through his hair. "Nothing in life is."

"You promised you'd talk to them," she said.

"You don't have to remind me. I will," he stated, fully intending to honor his word. "The anniversary show is next week. Mama's been busy with that and Papa's busy at the studio. After the craziness settles, I'll think of something."

"Okay. Thanks, Dom. I'll talk to you later."

Their call ended and Dominik breathed a sigh of relief. Noelle had been on his case day and night. He wasn't sure what she expected him to do. Obviously, this was a situation their father had tried to prepare him for...carrying the weight of his familial obligations on his shoulder. God, Dominik groaned, what he would give to be an ordinary guy. Just for a day.

He glanced at his watch. If he left now, he'd make it in time for his Econ class. Judging from his grade on the midterm, Econ wasn't a class he could afford to miss. Dominik hesitated. He imagined himself walking into class and struggling to stay awake during another long, boring lecture. He shook his head. He couldn't put himself through it.

So instead, Dominik climbed behind the wheel of his Jag and drove. The sleek, jet black sports car took him far before finally pausing at a familiar two story home. He turned off the engine and leaned back in his car. His gaze drifted over the meticulously kept lawn, the squeaky front porch swing and then to the upstairs bedroom windows. He remembered one Halloween how he and Ben threw pebbles at those windows until the twins climbed down and joined them trick-or-treating. His mouth curved into a winsome smile. That was a fun night. The good feelings the four of them shared...

The fluttering curtains caught his attention. His thoughts returned to the present. He cocked his head, trying to determine what caused the curtain's movement. A shadow passed the window. Ah, he thought, so she was home.

A few moments later, a screen door slammed and Alanna strode toward him. She folded her arms across her chest and regarded him with suspicion. "What are you doing here?"

He shrugged. He couldn't very well tell her it was an accident. Of course, that wouldn't be true. He was there because he wanted to see her. He missed her.

"How are you?"

"Fine," she responded in curt tone. "Why are you here?"

"Do you question all of your friends like this?" he asked, moving to stand beside her on the sidewalk.

"Not my friends," she said, pointedly.

That cut him to the quick. "We're not friends?"

Hurt flashed briefly in her emerald orbs. "I don't know what we are and neither do you." She took a step back and said in a hoarse whisper, "Go home, Dominik."

He called out to her, but she ignored him and continued to run. Away from him.

~*~

 

The breeze from the river was warm despite the time of year. Ciarda brushed unruly curls from her cheek as she descended the wooden staircase. Seth's rowing team had practice and she promised to stop by. She set her backpack on a wooden bench before climbing up to get a better view of the flock of rowers. Shading her eyes from the sun, she spotted the familiar cap of dark, brown hair. He looked up and their gazes connected. She waved. He smiled. Her heart sped up its pace.

A few minutes later, the boys docked their boats. After a quick meeting with the coach and his teammates, Seth joined Ciarda at the bench.

"Hi, there." His gaze swept over her, missing nothing. "You made it."

"The lecture ended earlier than expected."

He nodded. Using the hem of his shirt, he wiped sweat from his face neck. His lightly tanned abs rippled from the exertion. Ciarda watched his muscles contract, unable to tear her gaze away. Her face became hot. When another warm breeze blew, she welcomed it.

"How's it going?" he asked as he righted his shirt.

She shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Buffy's excited about coming home with me next weekend."

He laughed. "She loves hanging out with you in Port Charles. I'm glad you're friends."

"Me, too."

He squatted in front of her. His eyes danced with happiness and another emotion she couldn't name. He fingered a curl and pulled. It bounced against her cheek and sprang back into place.

"You have beautiful hair, but it hides your pretty face. Have you ever thought about straightening it?" he asked.

"No," she answered, "do you think I should?"

"Why not?" He smiled and rose to his full height. "The coach only gives us a few minutes for a break. I'd better head back. I'm glad you stopped by. I've been thinking about next weekend. My sister can't wait to see DJLS live." He leaned forward and whispered against her ear. "I can't wait to spend time with you."

~*~

The couple strolled along the waterfront, pausing every now and then to stop at a shop. They appeared oblivious to almost everything except for each other. The man's tan hand stayed locked on his partner's toffee-colored hand. She gazed at him with adoration. Even from across the street, Tom noted that Sonny Corinthos returned his former wife's affection.

Tom sipped his coffee and continued his perusal of his ex-wife. Simone really was an extraordinary woman, he realized. Not only beautiful, she was intelligent and compassionate. The articles about her underground ordeal described her as a saint. She was a pillar of strength for her son and the other captives. Of course, there was no mention of the former husband who was nowhere to be found when the story broke. Tom silently cursed himself. He should have been there.

Sonny and Simone's excursion continued and Tom picked up the pace to follow. He had no idea what his intentions were. Observing them started out as a game. A way to idle the time while he decided how best to re-insert himself into his son's life. But his priorities changed after the confrontation with Simone. The passionate fire in her eyes excited him. He had forgotten how explosive she could be. But then the memories returned.

The feel of her soft, moist lips pressing against his and opening for him. The liquid warmth that enveloped him whenever he thrust inside her. Their sweat-slick bodies slid together in perfect unison. Unlike all of the other women he'd been with, his union with Simone was always perfect.

And then there was Tommy. His son's big green eyes matched his own. He was a smart little boy and had grown into a smart man with a tenacity that Tom marveled at. He was proud of the man his son had become and hated himself for being no part of that transformation.

Tom's self-induced exiled left his wife and son open to the demons who took them, but they'd survived. Looking back on the past, he couldn't help but wonder how differently their lives would have been. And how he would be the man walking beside Simone instead of Sonny Corinthos.

~*~

Standing on the empty stage at Jacks, Dawn almost felt like she was seventeen again. She grabbed the microphone from center stage and moved to the edge. Her body swayed to silent music: the beat of Jordan's drum, the strum of Lorenzo's guitar and the rhythm of Sly's keyboards. She began to sing without realizing it.

"Do I ever cross your mind, anytime? Do you ever wake up reaching out for me?"

"Yeah, baby, all the time!"

"Oh, my God!" She pressed her hand to her chest and gave the grinning man a hard look. "Justin, you nearly scared me half to death! How did you get in here?"

The close-cropped blonde with the sparkling blue eyes pointed a thumb over his shoulder as he hopped onto the stage. "Jordan let me in. He and the guys are trailing in. Right on time." He moved to her and pulled her into a warm hug. "Don't play mad. You know you're happy to see me."

"You're right," she said, relaxing in his embrace. As they parted, she patted his forearm. "But how can we keep our special guest, Justin Timberlake, a secret when he's out running around?"

"Running around?" He feigned hurt. "Honey, I'm doing DJLS a favor and this is the thanks I get."

"You've wanted to perform with us for years," she said with a faint laugh. "Cry me a river, why don't you? Or better yet, run that game with some other nut. I'm not falling for it."

He laughed. "Oh, it's like that, huh?"

"You're not supposed to rehearse with us until tomorrow," she said. "What are you doing here?"

"Lorenzo told me that Elizabeth won't be able to take the publicity shots so I called a friend of mine. His name is Griffin Stiles. I'm sure you've heard of him."

Dawn nodded. "I have. He's excellent. Will he be able to get here on such short notice? I hear he's in demand and after seeing his work, I can understand why."

Justin grinned and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "For me, he'll do it."

She rolled her eyes. "Who are you pretending to be? The Don of publicity?"

"Despite that smart mouth, I know you love me." He kissed her soundly on the cheek before releasing her. "I have a few calls to make. I'll check you lata."

"Okay."

She watched him exit through the back. As his footsteps echoed down the hall, she returned center stage. Being on the platform rejuvenated her spirit. She could pretend that all was right in her world. When deep in her heart, she knew it wasn't. One look in her children's eyes made her heart ached. They knew something was off between their parents. Sooner or later, they'd want answers. She wasn't ready for that.

The curtain at the front of the club parted. Sunlight streamed into the darkness. A form came into view. Dawn shaded her eyes to get a better look. Her stomach lurched. This was not the day to deal with him. She closed both hands around the microphone stand, gripping the cold steel for support.

"We need to talk."

She stiffened and met his cool stare with all the determination she could muster. "We don't have anything to discuss."

Alan-Michael shook his head. "I disagree." He stood on the floor directly before the stage. "Is your marriage worth fighting for?"

Her eyes narrowed. Her tone snapped. "What do you think?"

"Honestly?" He asked, pausing a moment for her reaction. Upon her nod, he said, "That you've all but given up. I admit that I don't know you that well, but from what I've heard, you're a fighter. I have yet to see evidence of this."

"I don't have anything to prove to you." She turned her back to him, dismissing his accusations with a single gesture.

"I love my wife," Alan-Michael stated softly, but firmly. "I won't let your husband take her from me. Either you will help me and keep your husband or you won't. Either way, I don't plan to lose."

"You'd stay with a person who doesn't want you?"

"Gilly loves me," he said in a voice that made her turn to face him. "It's as simple as that."

~*~

Nikolas stared at the contract, but the ability to concentrate escaped him. Every nerve ending was focused on the quiet woman beside him. The exotic floral scent of Gilly's perfume enveloped him. The heady fragrance was sexy and understated. So like the woman who wore it.

"You haven't read a line of it, have you?" she asked.

He looked into her round, brown eyes and smiled. "How did you know?"

"Because I'm having the same problem." She pushed away from the table and rose. She moved to the picture window that provided a view of the Port Charles waterfront. "I can't do this much longer. This isn't right. I thought I was strong enough to resist what I'm feeling, but I'm not."

He followed her to the window. His hands balled at his sides in effort to prevent himself from touching her. "I know. There is no easy solution."

She turned to face him. "I'll resign."

"No!" His hands shot out and he grasped her shoulders. "Gilly, don't. I need you."

She tentatively placed a hand on his waist. "I need you, too."

He bent forward and covered her lips with his. Their second kiss proved to be as sweet and passionate as their first.

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