Chapter 32

Busted

~*~…oh how I wish I was somebody else, baby…~*~

 

He tapped her office door once. She softly called out an invitation. Her almond shaped eyes rounded in surprise. A warm smile claimed her full lips.

"Hi. I didn't expect to see you today. Did you get the script?"

Nikolas nodded. "I did. Thank you, Gilly." His footsteps carried him to the window behind her desk. He glanced at the framed photos of her and Alan-Michael. Memories of their happy past displayed for the world. Photos of the same existed in his office and all over his home. The images weren't lies, but now, they felt so distant. Almost as if they happened to a different man. He wondered if Gilly could relate to that sentiment.

She swiveled in her chair. Her gaze sought his. Awareness rippled between them on a steady wave intent on making it to shore. She stood and joined him at the window. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for answers," he said.

His hands twitched, wanting to touch her. Would he compare her skin to Dawn's? Did it matter? After leaving Wyndemere, he drove for hours. His wife's plea hadn't fallen on deaf ears. He heard every word. Years ago, the underlying attraction she and Lorenzo shared reached a breaking point. She forced his brother from her life and chose Nikolas instead. For many years, he was grateful for her decision. Now, he didn't know how he felt about it. He loved her and their children, but would that love sustain him or them? Obviously, it wasn't enough. Otherwise, these moments with Gilly wouldn't mean so much.

She looked toward the skyline. Her bottom lip trembled as she asked, "And you thought you'd find them here?"

"I hoped. At this point, I don't know what to expect anymore."

"What do you want from me?"

That was an excellent question. It was unfortunate that the answer eluded him. "What is the status of your marriage? You said that Alan-Michael agreed to let you return to work here. Why is that?"

"I haven't given my husband any reason to mistrust me."

He released a short, humorless laugh. "Gilly, we kissed. That alone is cause for concern."

She moved briskly, putting the desk between them. "I'd rather we didn't have this discussion."

"Why not? Isn't it time we addressed this...whatever it is…between us. Avoiding the discussion won't lessen my desire for you nor yours for me--"

"I--"

"Don't try to deny it," Nikolas said. "I can feel it whenever we're in the same room."

"So, I ask again. What do you want from me?" She threw up her hands. "I don't believe in casual affairs and I care about Alan-Michael too much to hurt him."

"It's too late for that. Both he and Dawn have been hurt. My children are hurting. And for what? A couple of kisses and long looks," he said. "We've already caused them pain. Why not see if we can find some justification in all this?"

Her mouth dropped open. "Do you really believe that?"

He drew in a harsh breath. "No, not all of it." He fell onto her chair and picked up one of the photos. "I don't know what I believe anymore. Dawn and the children left the farmhouse. I'm there in a two-story house filled with memories of a past that seems too good to be true."

Gilly moved to sit on the edge of her desk. "What about your marriage? Hadn't you and Dawn decided to work things out? From reading that script, I feel like the worst homewrecker. An almost fairytale meeting and then marriage. It has to be worth saving."

"Oh, I wanted to."

"So, what are you doing here?" she persisted.

"Trying to find out why if my marriage and life was so wonderful why I'm drawn to you."

~*~…don't try to understand me…~*~

"Is it too late to call off your dogs?" Keesha sat with her hands clenched together in her lap. She and Alexis were having a late lunch at Café Matisse. The French restaurant provided the soothing atmosphere Keesha desperately needed. Watching JE grow closer to Morgan filled her with unease. What would her little boy do if Morgan suddenly disappeared? Would she be able to live with the guilt?

Alexis tore off a piece of croissant. "What do you mean?"

"What I said," Keesha replied. Rising steam from her creamy bowl of soup turned her stomach. She pushed the bowl aside and leaned back.

"It's not too late," her cousin-in-law answered, "but I'd like to understand why. You were pretty clear the last time we talked. You wanted the problem solved. Has there been a change of heart?"

Keesha balked. "A change of heart?" As in an attraction to Morgan James? Had Alexis Davis-Ward suddenly lost her mind? Keesha shook her head, blocking recent events from her mind. "No, definitely not that."

"Then what? You came in as fierce as a tigress protecting her young--"

"I still am. My children's security is my utmost concern."

Alexis gestured with her spoon before she dipped into her soup. "Then, what is it? I'm asking as family. You can confide in me."

"I know." She shrugged and looked outside the window at the passing pedestrians. "Don't try to understand. I can't fully grasp it myself. I want him gone from my home, my family and my life. But what we had planned… It goes against everything I believe in. Usually the boundary of right and wrong is so clear, but when I see him with JE, I'm not so sure. And then there's Ben… You know he moved out."

Alexis nodded. "Brad told me." She reached across the table and patted Keesha's hand. "Morgan James is tearing your family apart. You've worked too hard to create a happy, healthy home. I cannot stand to see what his presence is doing. He has no one's best interest at heart except his own. Let me do what I do best."

The Cassadine quest for vengeance burned brightly in Alexis' eyes. Keesha recognized that fire and drive. She longed to reconnect to that. After years of being afraid, she finally embraced AJ and her love for him. Now, Morgan prevented them from moving on. It simply wasn't fair.

"Okay." She inhaled a deep breath. "Do what you have to. Just don't take his life."

Alexis smirked. "I won't, but when I'm done, he'll wish I had."

~*~…I need such amazing grace…~*~

Ciarda sat on the steps to the library. A stack of books for her research paper on the Brontë sisters rested beside her. She anticipated studying the women and their era. Their books captured her heart and imagination. Heathcliff. Jane. The sisters' characters came to life and she identified with their turmoil. Feelings of rejection were never easy to swallow.

Poor Ben.

She reread the email saved to her cell phone. He only sent a few sentences but each one tore her heart. Returning to the apartment with Dominik prevented him from facing Morgan's disinterest. The truth wasn't laid out as plainly as that. Ciarda knew Ben enough to read between the lines.

She vaguely remembered Jason Morgan. He and her dad were good friends. Her Mom and Aunt Keesha were like sisters. Naturally, the two families blended together. They shared holidays and plenty of good times. A collection of dvds recorded the moments. Jason laughed, smiled and clearly adored his kids. A few times, she and Ben watched the old moments. He confessed that other than the dvds and videos, he didn't have real memories of his dad. He'd give anything to change that.

Emotion filled her at the thought of his sadness. She searched for the right words to soothe him. Her dad never showed special treatment between her and Alanna. He and her mother loved them both equally. It was the outside world that tampered with her self-esteem. Being ignored did not boost a person's feelings of self-worth.

She clicked the reply button. Her fingers tapped the appropriate message.

'I understand. Call me or come visit. -CH'

A shadow fell over her. She sent the message and then shaded her eyes from the sun. Squinting, she said, "Seth?"

"Yeah." He fell beside her on the steps. His arm draped over her shoulders, pulling her close as he kissed her cheek. "What are you doing? Whatever it was had your full attention. I was jealous."

"Jealous?" She frowned. "Why? I was just checking my messages. No big deal."

He reached for her phone. "Let me see."

"No." She smiled to soften the blow. Then, she shoved the phone into her pocket.

"Why not?" He removed his arm and stood, towering over her. "Do you have something to hide?"

"Of course not!" She stared. His behavior mystified her. Why was he acting this way? She'd never given him a reason to be jealous. She straightened her hair for him!

He folded his arms across his chest. "Then, let me see it."

"No, Seth." She gathered her books to her chest and stood. "It's personal."

His eyes narrowed to slits. "Personal? You're my girlfriend. What's more personal than that?"

She moved to go down the steps. Seth blocked her no matter what direction she took. Irritation spiked. "What are you doing? Will you move?"

A vein throbbed at the center of his forehead. His face turned beet red. "You want me to move. Fine. I'm gone and you can keep your little secrets. I don't care anyway!"

He turned and stormed across the quad. Ciarda called after him, "Seth! Wait!"

Her cries fell on deaf ears. She considered going after him, but the books weighed her down. Besides, his anger scared her a little. She'd never seen that side of him and she didn't really like it. Going back to her room presented the better offer.

As she headed toward the dorm, her cell phone rang. She answered it. "Hello."

"Hey there. It's Ben. Is this a bad time?"

His voice, a mixture of pleasure and hesitation, calmed her. She smiled despite the unpleasant moment with Seth. "No, I'm on my way back to my room. Wanna walk with me?"

He laughed softly. "Sure."

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