Chapter 14

Black Cat

It's a mistake...You won't realize 'til it's too late...

"I'm sorry."

Sheets rustled. The bed shifted. He moved. Dawn flinched, gripping the sheet around her. She sat up and swung her legs over the bed. "Don't. It doesn't matter."

"Yes, it does," Nikolas said quietly. "You're upset. We should talk."

"We've done enough," she said. Through the flickering candlelight, she saw a glimpse of her and Nikolas in the mirror. They both wore devastated expressions. Physical release came with an emotional price. Sex wasn't the answer. It only cheapened everything they ever meant to each other.

He stood and strode to the closet. When he returned, a silk robe covered his naked form. He flipped the lamp on nightstand and crouched in front of her. The steely glint of determination flickered in his brown eyes. She looked at the floor. Shame washed over her. She couldn't bear to meet his gaze.

He placed his hand on the bed beside her thigh. She edged away from him. "Dawn, please."

"What?" she asked with difficulty. If only she could turn back the hands of time. Their relationship had already taken a serious decline. Feeling him inside her...every thrust pierced her innermost core, puncturing her heart.

"Talk to me," he pleaded. "Look at me."

Tears blurred her vision. She shook her head. "I can't," she choked. "I don't know what I was thinking. So stupid."

"No." He moved to sit behind her. "Don't cry."

She inhaled a deep breath. "I wish I could stop. I wish I could make this night never happen. You know it was a mistake! Why don't you feel bad?"

"Regret serves no purpose--"

"Nikolas, don't say that. Don't say anything." She rose from the bed. Her gaze carefully and intentionally avoided the mirrors.

"Where are you going?" He moved behind her. "You can't run away! We have to find a way to fix this."

"I don't know what to do!" She cried, whipping around to face him. "I think that's obvious. Look at this room! Candles and rose petals. Look at the bed. Take a deep breath. Sex. That's all it was."

"That's not all we've ever had," he countered.

"No, we had more than that, but it's falling apart." She wiped the tears that were falling down her cheeks. "You said you want to fix it. Do you mean it?"

A sea of emotions crossed his face. Dawn tried to read them all, but gave up. Her strength rested on a tight cord. If jolted, she had no doubt that she'd fall. She looked away and waited.

Finally, he spoke. "I meant it. We have a family."

"Our children are important, but they can't be the sole reason for us to stay together," she said. "You have feelings for Gilly and she has feelings for you. Alan-Michael is willing to fight for his wife. I thought I could fight for you, but I can't. Not until I understand what all this means."

"I don't want to lose you," he said in a gruff, forceful whisper.

"You can't have both of us," she stated.

"That's not what I want."

"Right." She released a short, humorless laugh. "I love you and for what it's worth, I don't want to lose you. But... What we did tonight has made it clear to me that I need time, and so do you."

"Time for what?" he asked. "You asked me if I wanted our marriage. I do! You believe I don't love you. Well, you're wrong. I do love you. I don't need time to know that. You said before that you wouldn't fight for our marriage. Perhaps it is you who doesn't love me."

"You can believe that if you want to."

"I don't want to. I didn't want to believe that you'd leave me for my brother, but you did. I know it wasn't your choosing, but that was the picture I was presented. That didn't stop me from loving you and fighting for our marriage.

"I know that my attraction to Gilly hurts you. It was not my nor her intent. Before I knew I could stop myself... That's no excuse. But I can't believe you'd give up on us so easily! How, Dawn? Haven't you learned that running away never solves anything?"

"I'm not running! How can you equate time with escape? There's no place on this earth that I could run to that would make me forget you. I don't want to hate you. There's something hanging over my head and I can't think straight here. And I'm afraid that if we don't take time to figure this thing out, we won't have anything left in the end."

Moments passed. Tension vibrated between them. He released a harsh breath. "Do you wish for me to leave?"

"No, I'll move into the studio."

"For how long?"

"I don't know." She hunched her shoulders. "I don't know."

~*~

The Sweet Adella's lights glittered like diamonds. The casino riverboat had become a Port Charles landmark since Sonny docked it several years ago. The Corinthos Corporation owned and operated many casinos worldwide, but the Sweet Adella was Sonny's favorite. His personal touch was evident from one end of the boat to the other. The casino was an understatement in class without the usual glitz associated with Las Vegas and Atlantic City's land based gambling houses. When a patron stepped from the docked onto the Sweet Adella, he knew that he was about to undergo a once in a lifetime experience.

"Hello, Tommy," Sonny greeted as he opened the door to his private suite.

"Sonny." Tommy replied in a gruff tone. He headed for cabinet that housed Sonny's mini-fridge. After grabbing a bottle of club soda, he ripped off the cap and took a long swallow.

"Your message sounded urgent. You look like hell," Sonny observed. "Tom still hassling you?"

Shaking his head, Tommy set the bottle on a counter. "I got a call this afternoon. Someone knows what we did. I swore I'd never tell. Did you?"

Sonny didn't need ESP to know what was on Tommy's mind. The disposal of Giovanni Montega aka Juan Valdez's body was gruesome. For years, Sonny had nightmares about that night. The nightmares came to an end once he and Simone made love. From then on, the act was simplified as a part of his past. It wasn't as if he hadn't killed someone before.

But Sonny knew that for Tommy, what happened with Juan was different. Juan reminded Sonny of Deke. Too miserable bastards who enjoyed making everyone else's life miserable. Sonny would never forget Deke. The same would be true for Tommy when it came to Juan.

"No." Sonny folded his arms across his chest. "You trace the call?"

Tommy grunted. "I tried. The signal was scrambled."

"What about the voice?"

"I don't know," Tommy rumbled, "just that it belonged to a female. But with the today's technology, it could not be. Are you sure you never mentioned it...?"

"Positive," Sonny affirmed. "I've kept nothing from your mother except for this. You?"

"Not a word to anyone." Tommy paced across the plush carpet. "Somebody out there knows what we did. They're planning to use it against me."

"You're not alone in this. Besides, you were a ki-- a minor. I take full responsibility."

"No, I knew what I was doing." Tommy stopped and looked Sonny dead in the eyes. "I might have been under eighteen, but I wasn't a kid. My childhood had ended long before that."

Sonny nodded. "I'll put some men on the family to watch them just in case. Ciarda will be home soon?"

"Yeah, she's coming for the party at Jacks. She's bringing a couple of friends with her."

"I'll send Ricardo to her school. He looks like a kid. She won't notice him."

"Thanks," Tommy said. "I don't want any of them to know. Mama, Gina or the girls. Ever."

"They won't."

~*~

"You're Dominik Cassadine, right?"

The young man's footsteps faltered. A faint frown darkened across his brows. An aura of caution surrounded him. "Yes."

Robin took in a quick breath. The son's resemblance to his father was simply breathtaking. She felt as if she'd gone back in time twenty years. Even at the tender age of eighteen, Nikolas Cassadine exuded sensuality. His son definitely carried his father's genes.

"You may not remember me," she said with a smile. "We met briefly at your aunt's club. You were playing the piano..."

"You were friends with my parents."

Not likely, she thought, thinking of his mother. "No, actually your father and I were quite close. I helped him through a difficult period and we became fast friends. Let me introduce myself again. I'm Robin Scorpio."

"Nice to meet you, Ms. Scorpio. Forgive my forgetfulness."

"Please, call me Robin. No forgiveness necessary."

His frown softened into an open, close-mouthed smile. He moved to the edge of the dock. A breeze ruffled his dark brown hair. He openly inhaled the unseasonably warm night. "I'm usually alone. What I mean to say is I rarely encounter anyone this time of night. The Sweet Adella attracts most of the dock traffic. I suppose you were headed in that direction."

Robin shook her head. Too many years had passed between her and Sonny. She wouldn't willingly cross his path anymore than he would hers. Their old friendship was now only a cherished memory. "No, I'm not into the glitz of casinos. What about you?"

"Me?" He laughed. "No."

She gave him a quizzical smile. "What's funny?"

She stepped closer. The glow of the electric light shone down over him. She noted that pink tinged his cheeks. He was embarrassed. How sweet.

"I am not of legal age," he admitted.

"You're not missing anything."

"I know," he said with a sly grin. "My friends and I enjoyed a discreet visit a few years ago."

"Oh, so you snuck in." She deliberately dropped her voice to a sultry purr. "Naughty."

Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. He cleared his throat and coughed once. "It was nice meeting you again."

Visibly shaken, the young man strode away. Robin smiled to herself. She had gotten to him. It was only a matter of time now.

~*~

Carrie rolled onto her side. She faced the wall and pretended to be asleep. Stefan's footsteps padded across the carpet. She heard his even breathing and the rustle of clothing as he removed his robe and climbed into bed beside her.

Her breath caught for just a moment. His unique spicy scent washed over her. Then, the covers moved. His arm closed around her waist. His bare chest pressed against her. She willed herself to maintain the deep breathing of sleep. For awhile, the ruse had worked to keep the secret in the deepest recesses of her mind. Just a little more time was all she needed. For twenty years, the horror of his conception was buried deep in her mind. Once she made herself forget again, everything would return to normal.

His hand slid across the flat plane of her silk-covered abdomen. A moment later, his palm curved to the shape of her breast. His fingertips teased her nipple to hardness. His warm breath tickled her ear. His gravely voice whispered seductively against her ear. "I know you are awake, my Carlotta."

"How can I sleep when you touch me like that?" she asked. Her hand closed over his, pressing him close against her.

He moved his thigh between hers. "My touch causes you to feign sleep? I am not flattered. Should I be?"

The hurt in his voice was impossible to ignore. She searched for words to soothe him. None came to mind.

"You have no response," he quietly stated.

"Not one you'd want to hear," she answered.

"Allow me to serve as the judge of that."

Carrie didn't give herself time to think. The words just poured out. "I don't know what to say. The truth won't be easy to face."

"A lie would be worse," he said. He pulled away from her and sat against the pillows.

She moved into place beside him. "You're right, of course. But to say nothing would be better. We can turn off the lights, lay down and sleep. In the morning, we can forget this night ever happened."

He shook his head. "No."

She met his eyes. "Are you sure? Think about it before you answer. The last thing I want to do is hurt you."

"The truth, Carlotta, please."

She took his hand and held on tight. "It's about Helena...and you. Something I discovered years ago. Back when she and Luke Spencer kidnapped Dawn and Lorenzo."

"Go on."

"I found her diary. I learned things about her that I'm sure she never wanted anyone to know. Things about her upbringing. Her deepest desires and regrets. She loved another man and gave birth to his son. Stavros was not Mikkos' heir. You are. She never wanted you to know."

Stefan's face remained stoic. He simply squeezed her hand. "Is there more?"

She hesitated. What she'd already disclosed was more than enough. But what was worse? She did not want to tell him the truth. Why did she keep the diary? She should have burned it. When she first found it.

"Carlotta?" he prompted. "Your silence answers for you. There is more. Tell me."

"I don't know..."

"Your hesitation provides sufficient warning. Whatever you say will not be pleasant," he said. "I understand. My love, just tell me."

"Like I said, you were always the true prince. Mikkos is your father. Helena... He discovered your mother's involvement with the other man and forced himself on her. She conceived you...that night."

Silence weighed heavily in the air. Carrie cursed herself for having said anything. She should have gone to her grave with this knowledge. It was too late to take it back now. He knew the truth.

"You've known this," he finally asked, "all this time?"

"Yes," she hurriedly responded, "I didn't want you to know. Helena knew I knew. She almost told you, but I stopped her. She only wanted to hurt you."

"Now, I know why." Stefan extricated his hand from hers and rose. "You once told me that an omission is the same as a lie. Do you remember? I do. You were hurt and angry when I didn't tell you that I am Nikolas' father. I told you that I kept the secret to protect my son... But in a relationship, you said, there should be no omissions. Do you recall any of this?"

This response wasn't what she expected. "Yes, I do. I'm sorry. I was afraid of hurting you."

"I know and I understand," he said as he reached for his robe.

"Where are you going?"

"To my study." He paused at the bed. He placed a chaste kiss upon her brow. "Do not lay in wait for me."

The door closed. She stared at the dark mahogany wood for quite some time. Telling him had not been the mistake, she thought. Waiting twenty years to do so had been her error.

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