Chapter 51 /

“What do you want me to do?”

Nikolas hated feeling helpless and inept. He contained the impulse to pace Kevin Collins’ office by clenching his hands together in his lap. Dawn lay before him on the doctor’s leather recliner. Tiny lines stretched from the corner of her eyes. Her delectable mouth drooped in an uncharacteristic frown. She appeared on the brink of exhaustion. In a minute, she’d be under hypnosis and he hadn’t clue as to what was expected of him.

“You’re here for support,” Kevin said.

“I know that, but...”

She extended her hand. “Ground me. Hold my hand.” Her voice softened to a whisper. “Please?”

That’s all?

He took her hand and held it between both of his. As if they had a mind of their own, his fingers stroked her soft flesh. She sighed. The lines at her eyes softened. Her lips parted into a faint smile. Then, she looked at Kevin.

“I’m ready now.”

Kevin dimmed the lights in the room. He grabbed a small device from his desk. “I’d like to record this session.”

“Would that be beneficial?” Nikolas asked.

“Yes, in case we miss anything,” Kevin answered. “Dawn, would you mind?”

“It’s fine with me. I’m a little nervous so if we could get started.”

“Of course.” Kevin pulled a chair close to the recliner and sat. “Relax. There’s no reason to be nervous. Nikolas and I are here. You’re safe.”

“I know. It’s just that I don’t know where I’m going. These dreams scare me.”

Nikolas’ gut clenched. She rarely admitted to fear. Usually, she hid her insecurities behind humor. He should have recognized how lost she’d become instead of focusing on the past.

He squeezed his wife’s hand. “Kevin will wake you up if they become too much. Whatever happens in your subconscious won’t hurt you. I won’t let it. I promise.”

Her expressive brown eyes connected with his. “You promise?”

She sounded so surprised. There once was a time she’d believe him without batting an eye. They had to get back to that place.

“I do.”

“Okay,” she said, “let’s do this.”

~* * *~

“What the hell is that?”

Ciarda jumped at the sound of angry disbelief in Shana’s voice. Despite the girls’ close age, her aunt was a lot like Ciarda’s grandfather, Sonny. When their emotions took over, little things like volume ceased to matter. They didn’t care if the whole world heard them.

“Alana, get out here.” Shana gave the bathroom door a single pound with her fist before she turned to Ciarda. “What happened?”

Ciarda tugged her nightgown but it failed to go past her knees. She snatched a blanket from the foot of the bed and quickly wrapped it around her waist. “It’s nothing.”

“Liar,” Shana said. “I’m getting Mom!”

“No!”

The bathroom door creaked open. With a towel wrapped around her head, Alana joined them. “What’s all the yelling about? Grandma Simone will be here any minute if you keep it up.”

“It’s nothing,” Ciarda said as she curled onto the closest chair. “Shana’s just being melodramatic.”

“Her legs are black and blue. That’s hardly nothing to me.” Shana stormed to the door. “I don’t care what you say. I’m telling Mom!”

Shana bolted before Ciarda could stop her. The pain in her bruises hadn’t subsided and only served to slow her down. She held her breath and waited for the fallout.

Alana closed the door to the hallway. The look she gave Ciarda reminded her of their mom. Tears stung the back of Ciarda’s eyes. She wished her mom was there to tell her what to do.

“Loud mouth is gone. Tell me what’s going on.” Alana pulled the towel from her hair. Long blonde locks clung to her scalp. She brushed the wet hair back and focused her full attention on Ciarda. “Let me see what she’s talking about.”

Ciarda hesitated. One look at her legs and Alana would know the truth. Ciarda wasn’t ready to face the censure in her twin’s eyes.

“It’s nothing.” Her grip on the blanket tightened. “You know how Shana gets.”

“Grandma will be here in a minute. She won’t take no for an answer.”

“Okay. Fine,” Ciarda bit out.

She unwrapped the blanket from around her legs. Alana’s responding gasp made Ciarda want to bolt. She squeezed her eyes closed against the censure on her twin’s face.

“Nothing?” Alana lightly pressed her hand to Ciarda’s leg. “Does it hurt as bad as it looks?”

Ciarda shrugged.

“Look at me.”

She released a deep sigh and opened her eyes. “What?”

“Seth did this,” Alana said. “I know he did, so don’t deny it.”

“I wasn’t going to.” Ciarda grabbed Alana’s hands. “Please don’t tell anyone. I’m going to fix this, but you have to let me do it.”

“He hurt you!”

“Alana, please. I’m going to take care of it. Promise me you won’t tell.”

“I don’t feel right about this.”

“But you’ll do it,” Ciarda pleaded.

“Yeah, but don’t make me regret this.”

~* * *~

“What will we do if they’re not here?” Gina grabbed Tommy’s arm as their Jeep rolled across the sand dunes.

The African landscape was more impressive than Gina ever imagined. A bright blue sky loomed overhead while an infinite spread of desert sand lay before them. In the distance, a herd of camels trampled across the sand. They passed a family of elephants several miles back. She wished that she and Tommy weren’t there on a mission but could stop and really explore the region. Maybe one they could bring their children back with them.

“I’ll keep looking,” Tommy said, “and you’ll go back home. You’re worried about the girls. You should be with them.”

“I know they’re safe with Simone and Sonny. I just feel that they need us, Tommy.”

His jaw tightened. “I know. I feel it, too, but we’re so close to finding Matt and Ellen. If they’re not here... I promised Nikolas I’d find them.”

“I know.”

They drove in silence. The search for Matt and Ellen had become more grueling than either of them had anticipated. Gina knew Tommy hid his frustration behind a stoic veneer of patience. Dominik meant the world to them. He was growing into a fine young man. They didn’t want to imagine a world without him.

“Look.” Tommy’s sharp command cut into Gina’s thoughts. He pointed toward a speck in the distance. “We’re almost there.”

“The pictures from the satellite were right,” she said.

“They usually are. Call Lynn and let her know how close we are. She’ll know what to do from there.”

The Jeep lurched forward with speed. Dust billowed around them. Gina pulled her kerchief over her mouth and did the same for Tommy. As she ended the call with Lynn, they reached the village of tents. Tommy braked fast, took Gina’s hand and they rushed inside the largest tent.

“We’re looking for the Harmons!”

Before the young man who stood closest to them could speak, two familiar faces appeared. Matt leaned heavily on his cane while Ellen walked beside him.

“Tommy?” Matt said. “Gina? Why are you here?”

“What’s wrong?” Ellen asked. Her trademark bluntness came through loud and clear.

“Nikolas and Dawn need you,” Tommy said.

“Dominik is very sick and no one in Port Charles knows what to do,” Gina added.

“Is it the same problem as Dara’s?” Matt asked.

“No,” Tommy said, “it’s worse.”

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