Chapter 16

Ask For More

And its voice will bring passion…As I taste you in your silence

Carly stormed into AJ's office. "Are you completely useless?"

"Not as much as you are. No."

Bentley, AJ's secretary appeared at his door. "I'm sorry. She came right past me. I tried to stop her."

"I know," he said. "It's okay."

"Should I call security?"

AJ smiled. Oh, wasn't that a tempting idea. But he promised himself that he'd get along with his son's biological mother for his son's sake. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Michael. Including putting up with the shrew who gave birth to him.

"No, that won't be necessary. Just close the door, please."

Bentley did as he asked. As soon as the door clicked close, Carly's mouth flew open. "My, she's efficient. Too bad she's not running things other places."

AJ decided to take the bait. "What other places might that be?"

"You are useless." She planted her hands on her hips. "I'm talking about your fiancee and my future husband."

"Oh. That other place."

Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes.

Tension knotted inside his gut. He knew what he wanted to do about Morgan James living under the same roof as Keesha, but what he wanted didn't compare to what Keesha asked of him. Once again, he put the needs of loved ones above his own. Maybe he'd grown up after all.

"He's been there long enough," Carly said. "Renewing their marriage vows was a bad idea from the start. Why can't they just share custody?"

"First of all," he said, standing up, "they did not renew their vows. They're following the judge's orders. Second, JE is a special little boy who shouldn't be subjected to your future husband's bigotry."

Her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared. "Morgan is not a bigot. His ideas are just a little outdated."

"Is that all? Outdated?" AJ pointed to the door as he sat. "Goodbye, Carly."

"No, AJ! We have to do something."

He simply looked at her, refusing to be dragged down to her level.

"Fine. If you won't help me, I'll do it by myself."

~*~

Nikolas passed Gilly's office. The open door displayed an empty room. He swallowed hard. She hadn't bothered to call him. That duty was given to her secretary. For a week, she'd be gone. Would that be enough time for her to get things in perspective? Would it be enough for him?

"Hold my calls," he instructed his secretary as he entered his office. He strode to the wall-sized window that gave him a panoramic view of Port Charles.

More than twenty years had passed since he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to save his baby sister's life. His time in Greece seemed so distant since Port Charles was where he became a man. Where he found his mother. Met his best friend. Where he fell in love.

God, how he loved her. She stood on the side of the road. A vision of bravado, beauty and brains. He always dreaded to think of how their lives would have been different if someone else had come along instead of him.

"Nikolas."

Nikolas stiffened. That voice. The tone. That man could have been the one to pick her up that summer night in 1998. Would she have born his children instead? Nikolas ignored the other questions that came to mind. He turned and faced his brother.

"Lorenzo. What brings you here? I thought you had rehearsals or was it a photo shoot."

"Both," Lorenzo said. He closed the door before he strode to Nikolas' desk. "What's going on, bro?"

Nikolas shrugged. "What are you talking about?"

"Dawn looks like hell and so do you. That's what I'm talking about."

Twenty years passed and some things never changed. "It's none of your concern."

"You won't get rid of me that easily." Frustration echoed in Lorenzo's voice. "She's upset."

"And that matters to you because?"

Lorenzo visibly bristled. "Because I care about her."

"You're in love with her," Nikolas said, his voice a little more than a whisper. "Still."

"No."

"Really?" Nikolas lifted an eyebrow, unconvinced. "Go home to your wife, bro. I'll take care of mine. You take care of yours."

"She's hurting, man," Lorenzo said as he reached the door. "Fix it."

Nikolas clenched his jaw and turned his back on his brother. After the door closed, he said, "I'm hurting, too."

~*~

"You can't avoid me forever."

Stefan glanced briefly at his wife. She looked as beautiful as ever. He still loved her. But her betrayal hurt. Maybe it wouldn't take forever for him to rid himself of the pain. One could never be sure, though. "I'm not avoiding you. I have business which requires my attention."

"You're not a good liar."

"'Tis pity the same couldn't be said of you." The words came without hesitation. In the past, he would have kept the thought to himself.

"I didn't lie to you."

"An omission is the same as a lie." He removed his glasses and began to polish the lenses. Looking at her shouldn't hurt him as much as it did.

"Please, stop throwing that back in my face," Carrie pleaded. "I was wrong. I'm sorry. To the depths of my soul, I am so sorry. We can work through this, baby. Don't shut me out now. You need me."

He nodded. "I do. Very much. But at this time, I cannot stand the sight of you."

Her gasp slammed into his chest. The sob that escaped her lips made him want to hold her. But his feet refused to budge.

"I knew you were capable of cruelty," she said in a low, hoarse voice, "but I never thought you'd use it on me."

He folded his glasses and slipped them inside his pocket. "It is not my intention to hurt you, Carlotta."

"Are you sure?"

He thought for a moment and then released a deep sigh. "No. I need time."

"To decide whether or not you can forgive me?" she asked.

He shook his head. "To know if I can live with myself."

~*~

The photo shoot and following rehearsal drained her. Dawn welcomed the physical exhaustion. Sleep should come without difficulty or the intrusion of frightening images. She just wanted to slip away into complete oblivion and remain there until her life made sense.

Before she disappeared into the sanctuary of her studio, she climbed the staircase to the second floor of the farmhouse. Noelle and Adrik slept peacefully in their beds. She regretted missing dinner. Despite the pain of sharing the meal with Nikolas, the joy of being with her babies never left her. She'd make it up to them and to herself in the morning at breakfast.

She moved back into the hallway. Light filtered from underneath the door of the master bedroom into the hall. His Jaguar was parked in the garage left her no doubt that he was home. It looked like he was awake, too. She resisted the urge to go inside the room. The pain of being near him did not compare to the agony of being away from him. Only a few things hurt worse. Being led to believe he was dead was one. Having Dominik stolen was another. The torture Nikolas went through at Sarah's hands was the third. Sudden tears blurred her vision. She blinked them away and ran down the staircase before she made another mistake.

She showered and climbed onto her bed. Words had been playing in her mind lately. Lyrics for a song. She decided to jot them down before they disappeared.

"I don't wanna hold you back. I don't wanna slow you down…"

"Is that new?"

Caught up in the song and its emotions, Dawn jumped at the sound of Nikolas' voice. She looked up. There, he stood in the middle of the room. Just a few feet away from her. She didn't even hear him come in.

"Yeah, it's been on my mind." Her hand gripped the notepad. "Did I wake you?"

He shook his head. "I was waiting for you…to come home."

"I've been here for at least an hour." She frowned. "Is something wrong?"

"Yes." He moved to her, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. Stubble lined his jaw. He appeared wild, untamed. Sexy enough to make her mouth water.

She looked away to regain her bearings. He couldn't know how much she still wanted him. Would always want him. "What is it? The kids?"

"No. They missed you at dinner. I told them you'd have breakfast with them."

"I will." Slowly, she met his gaze. Raw energy radiated around him. She drew her knees to her chest. "What is it?"

"Lorenzo."

He said his brother's name as if it was a curse. She groaned. Why couldn't he leave well enough alone?

"So you told him. Confided in him," Nikolas continued. "Cried on his shoulder. Again. You went to him again and confessed all."

"No!" She rose to her feet. "I didn't!"

"You accuse me, but you're guilty of the same thing," he fired back.

She folded her arms across her chest. Her thigh length t-shirt clung to her. Nikolas' gaze dropped to her heaving bosom. A muscle flicked at his jaw.

"Put on a robe!" he ground out.

"No!" She shouted the first thing that came to her mind. So, her nipples were hard. Big deal. Let him deal with it. She had more important things to address. "I am not guilty of anything, dammit! I didn't cry on Lorenzo's shoulder. I cry alone. Down here all by myself. Each and every night. Just me."

"He still wants you," he accused.

"No," she denied. "He cares about me. That's all it is. Brotherly concern."

"You're lying to yourself."

"Why do you care?"

Fire blazed in his eyes. He stepped toward her. She backed up. Her legs brushed against the bed. Her breaths came in ragged spurts as she held her ground.

"He wants you," he repeated, towering over her.

"No," she said, "he doesn’t. He's just worried."

"You don't believe that any more than I do. Do you want him, too?"

It would feel so good to get his goat. To piss him off.

"Well?"

She took a deep breath and opted for maturity. "What I want is for you to go upstairs and cool off. You're about ready to explode. Any second now, something will happen that we'll both regret."

She backed onto the bed and crawled backwards under the covers. Her notepad lay where she left it and she grabbed it and her pen. The words continued to flow. Moments passed. Nikolas finally left. It never crossed her mind that she didn't deny his accusation because she could never want Lorenzo Spencer half as much as she wanted Nikolas Cassadine.

Never.

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