Chapter 35

The Difference (Part 2)

~*~…Feeling wide open and waiting for… Something warm and tender…~*~

For weeks, Ciarda battled with indecision. Seth's blow up confused her. She thought they had a good, trusting relationship. Of course, she didn't envision wedding bells, rings and flowers, but she believed they had something she'd always silently longed for.

Moping became second nature. Several times, she reached for the phone to call her mom or Alanna. Each time, a little voice reminded her that she left home to learn how to deal with life on her own terms. But the last few times, she came so close to telling that little voice to go to hell.

"You're about to drive me nuts," Buffy, her roommate, announced from her bed across the room.

Ciarda looked up from her research paper. "What am I doing? I'm just sitting here."

"It's not what you're doing. It's what you're thinking."

"And you can sense my thoughts from silence?"

"Ha, ha. Sarcasm. Very funny."

Ciarda groaned and returned to her homework. Since boarding school, her grades had picked up. Another something to be proud of.

"You can't tune me out." Buffy tossed a pillow, missing Ciarda's head by a couple of inches. "I know something happened with my stupid brother, but neither of you are talking."

Ciarda gave up. She closed the program and turned off her laptop. "I don't know what happened. He just got mad and stormed off."

"Have you heard from him?"

"Not a word."

"Sounds like you miss him a little," Buffy said. "I guess he's worth that. I saw him the other day after practice. If it's any consolation, he looked like crap."

"Do you think I should call him?" Ciarda frowned. That was another thought that plagued her. Should she make the first move? Refusing to let him see a private message shouldn't have caused this screaming silence between them. What gave him the right to know every inch of her life?

"Do you want to?"

Ciarda clammed up. That was a helluva question. Did she want to call Seth? The truth was, she wasn't sure what she wanted.

After a lengthy silence, Ciarda glanced at Buffy. The other girl had curled onto her side, fast asleep. Ciarda wished she had the ability to nap at will. With a sigh, she slumped onto her bed. Homework no longer had any appeal. It was Friday afternoon and the weekend loomed ahead, long and dull. Restlessness claimed her. She grabbed change from her desk and headed downstairs for the vending machine. Munching on chips and chocolate wouldn't solve her problems, but they couldn't hurt.

As she reached the lobby, she noticed a bunch of kids staring outside. Curiosity replaced indifference and boldness propelled her through the doors. The tail end of a black sportscar looked very familiar. An electric surge zapped her heart. She knew that car.

The driver door opened. Dominik stepped out. Aristocratic sophistication wrapped around him like a protective halo. As he closed the door and headed toward her dorm, he seemed oblivious to the stares and gasps. She knew he often escaped the confines of his bodyguards, but she was shocked to see him move so calmly among these strangers. Then, their eyes locked and he smiled.

"Hi," he said, pulling her into a quick hug. "Surprise."

She laughed. "What are you doing here?"

"I started driving and the next thing I knew I was here," he answered. "Is that okay?"

"It's fine if you don't mind the stares."

A playful frown creased his brow. "What stares?"

They laughed together. People parted as they entered the lobby. Ciarda felt a little self-conscious. She led him toward her room and he followed without question. Upon their arrival, she was relieved to see that Buffy still napped.

"I hope this is okay," he whispered as they sat on her bed. "I know our friendship has its boundaries. I don't want to cross any."

"You haven't. I'm glad you're here. Ben told me that you and he are working things out. That's good."

He nodded. "We are. He's my best friend. You and Ben talk a lot. He's going through a tough time right now, but I can always tell when he's heard from you."

Heat burned Ciarda's cheeks. She enjoyed talking to Ben, too. She hadn't confided the problems with Seth, but they shared just about everything else. In many ways, Ben kept her grounded and tied to Port Charles.

"What are you doing this weekend?" Dominik asked.

"Nothing," she said, a little embarrassed by the admission. "What about you?"

"The same. There's supposed to be a family dinner at Wyndemere. I'm trying not to think about it."

"So this trip wasn't a spur of the moment thing. You're running away."

A dusty rose colored his olive-toned cheeks. "Not exactly. I bribed Ben into going with me. I came to see if you'd come, too."

"But it's a family dinner," she said.

"You've been family since the day you were born," he said. "I've asked Alanna, too. She's thinking about it. I hope you won't have to. Besides, if you say yes, I may let you drive my Jag."

"May?" She grinned. "That's some good incentive right there."

"So you're saying yes."

She nodded. "Yeah, I could use a trip home. I'll only need a minute to pack."

He lowered himself onto her bed and folded his hands across his flat abdomen. "Take your time. I need to mentally prepare myself for the ride back and you destroying my clutch."

She slammed his chest with a pillow. He laughed and she joined in. The sound warmed her.

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