Chapter 19

~ Rhythm Nation ~

No struggle…No progress…

"Everything that has a beginning has an end."

Nikolas glanced at the profile of the woman who sat half on the floor of the bedroom and the other half in the closet. For the last thirty minutes, he pretended she wasn't there. The paperwork littered across the huge bed was infinitely more interesting than his wife.

He grunted at the lie. Not by a long shot.

When she first appeared at the bedroom door, he simply stared. After the bad moment in her studio, he'd been waiting for her to move out. The sexual energy that ignited between them was strong, unrelenting and violent. Sheer will power forced him out of the room. Gut instinct demanded him to take her. But he knew better. Yes, they both wanted it--mindblowing joining of their flesh--but the anger behind it would have been the downfall of their marriage. He wasn't ready for that, yet.

He couldn't ignore her forever. He jostled the papers on his lap, pretending disinterest. "What?"

"I came in here looking for a pair of boots, and found this instead." Dawn turned to face him. Her old leather backpack lay across her lap. She stared at the relic with a strange expression on her face. Reverently, she stroked the worn material. Her chest rose and fell with each caress.

He remembered the touch of her hand and envied the bag.

Nikolas rose from the bed. He crossed the room and squatted beside her. In the back of his mind, he noticed her sharp intake of breath and how her gaze locked on his thighs. He clenched his jaw. Those large brown eyes worked him over as seductively as if she'd touched him. Knowing he still had an effect on her empowered him more than it should have.

He tugged on one of the straps. "Is this the same one?"

Of course, he knew it was.

"Yeah. I stuffed everything that was important to me in it before I left home." She frowned. "Funny, I hadn't thought of that place as home since I left."

"Why did you say what you did?" He sat across from her on the floor. They weren't touching, but oddly enough, he felt closer to her than he had in quite awhile. Peace was a welcome sensation.

"Everything that has a beginning has an end." She gave him a half smile. "One because it's true."

"Finding that bag was enlightening."

She actually laughed. "Yeah."

He reached for the backpack. "How does it relate to this?"

"Coming to Port Charles was a new beginning. I thought I could get help at Dara's. Instead, I got so much more, and an end to my old life. A lot of things ended, including my parents' marriage. And my youth. I became a woman that summer. You helped in that."

"You were a woman before we made love."

Her brown eyes glowed with warmth and humor as she shook her head. "I wasn't talking about that."

"Oh."

She drew her knees to her chest and released a long sigh. "I've missed this. Talking. Listening. Sharing." Sudden tears watered her eyes. "I told you things that summer I never told a living soul. I trusted you when I didn't know what the word meant."

"You took a big risk getting into the Jag with me."

"Like you didn't when you brought me to Wyndemere? You were tense, but you fought it and Stefan."

His eyes narrowed. "You remember that night well."

"I remember everything."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Everything?"

"I've drawn the crisscross of the scars on your back from memory. I think about when Sara took you…how you were when we found you. I remember how I would have done anything to turn back time. Do you want to know what's changed between then and now?"

He nodded, half-afraid of hearing her answer. Progress hung in the balance.

She stood and took the backpack from him. "Nothing."

The single word floated in the air before it kicked him full in the chest. As she headed toward the door, he hurried to his feet and called out, "Wait."

She stopped with her back to him. "Yeah?"

"You're leaving for Switzerland after the concert."

She nodded.

"Would you like a guest?"

~*~

"What in the world are you doing?"

Ciarda's hand jerked. Heat brushed her cheek. She flinched. "Doggone it, Alanna! I almost branded my face. Thanks a lot."

"Don't blame me." The kitchen door swung shut behind Alanna. She padded across the tile floor to stand just inches from her twin. "Doesn't that belong to Grandma Simone?"

"Yes," Ciarda hissed.

"What are you doing with it?" Alanna stared at the offending object as if it was poised for attack.

"I'm using it."

"A hot comb? You can't use a hot comb in your hair. It will burn your hair off. Are you nuts?"

A wave of apprehension swept through Ciarda. She wrapped a towel around the comb and rubbed the way she'd seen her grandmother do. As she walked to the table and sat before the mirror, she considered her sister's warning. "Are you sure? It'll burn?"

"Of course, I'm sure." Alanna moved behind Ciarda. She released the hair clip that held Ciarda's curls in place. "Besides, you have great hair. I wish mine was this curly."

"Yeah, right."

"I'm serious. Why do you wanna mess it up?"

"I'm trying to fix it. You can wear your hair in a million styles. There's not much I can do with this mess. If I can't use Grandma's comb, what can I use?"

"You're determined, aren't you?"

Ciarda nodded. Since Seth suggested a hairstyle change, she hadn't thought of much else. Maybe she'd look good with straight hair. There was only one way to find out. "Can you help me?"

"I think Shana has a flat iron."

Ciarda grabbed her cell phone and punched in her aunt's number. "Hey, Auntie. What's up?"

"Not much, trying not to be grounded. We'd better make this quick. Your Grandma is on the warpath."

"What's she saying?" Alanna asked as she slid onto the counter.

"Grandma Simone is mad," Ciarda answered. Her brow knitted into a frown. She'd taken the hot comb without asking. If Shana was in trouble because of her… "What happened?"

"I ditched Art History. She got a call from the principal today. Poppy isn't thrilled with me either. I may not make the concert tomorrow night."

"That sucks," Ciarda said, relieved that her sticky fingers weren't the cause of her aunt's troubles.

"Yeah, but if that's all they'll do to me, I can live with it. What gives? It's after midnight."

"Alanna says you have a flat iron. Can I borrow it?"

"Yeah, come by in the morning. I'll hook you up," Shana offered. "Look, I can hear them. If they catch me on the phone, I'm dead. I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye."

"What did she say?" Alanna asked after Ciarda turned off the cell phone.

"She's gonna do it for me."

Alanna released a loud sigh of relief. "Good! Now, can we go to bed?"

Ciarda laughed. Boarding school was fun, but she missed nights like this. "Yeah."

~*~

Golden rays with hints of pink and orange appeared in the East. The sun peeked its glowing head over the horizon. Robin sucked in a breath as she stood on the dock's edge. She pulled her jacket close around her, protecting herself from the cool breezes of Spoon Lake. This was missed. Mornings in Port Charles. On the dock. She'd traveled the world, but nothing quite compared to this sunrise.

Her return wasn't exactly what she thought it would be. Of course, she didn't expect a red carpet to be rolled out for her. Mac left years ago. Her old, close friends had moved on. Well, most of them except for Nikolas. Her mind froze for a moment. He was attractive in his youth, but now that he was a full grown man… Now, that was a missed opportunity.

But there was Dominik. The boy was his father all over again. Same dark handsome features and the same deep, sexy brooding. Looking at Dominik, she could easily pretend that his mother was someone else. Until she heard him play the piano. That talent wasn't a gift from his Cassadine lineage. Yet, Robin forgave him for it.

Tonight, Jacks celebrated twenty years of existence. Out of sympathy, old loyalty or whatever, Jax extended an invitation to Robin. She considered spitting on it and sending the lovely invite back to him. What happened at that club twenty years ago was no cause for celebration. She lost Jason that night and almost Nikolas.

Of course, none of that was Jax's fault. Besides, she had plans. The party would make up for its predecessor. For tonight, she would progress to the next stage.

Smiling, she blew a kiss to the rising sun and walked away.

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