"But Simone, I'm here." He lightly brushed hair from her cheek. "If you ever need someone, I'll be right here. For you."
Steven Lars regretted the words the second they came from his mouth. Simone had a way of shielding herself behind walls. Making his intentions known would only cause her to retreat further and faster. He held his breath waiting for the inevitable.
"What you think you want is just an illusion," she said softly. "Let's go home."
He guided his car through the Port Charles night. While he drove, she said, "Tommy and Liz may be home. They're both working so hard. I wish Elizabeth had gone to college instead of joining Lucky Spencer's garage band. Nothing Jeff and I said got through to her."
"She has dreams. Dad warned me about Rwanda, but I wouldn't listen."
They reached the cold, dark, lonely Webber home. He unlocked the door and allowed her entry first. After they hung up their coats in the closet, he expected her to hide upstairs. To his surprise, she joined him on the den. He claimed the center of the sofa and she settled onto Steve Hardy's old recliner.
"Do you want to watch the news or something?" he asked, balancing the remote control on the palm of his hand.
She shook her head. "I'd rather hear the Jazz station. It's channel 333, I believe."
Etta James crooned the heartfelt lyrics of 'At Last.' Simone sighed and hugged a pillow to her chest. Her eyes drifted closed and Steven Lars wondered what places her thoughts carried her.
Seconds passed and she didn't move. Only the slight movement of her lips signaled that she hadn't fallen asleep. With her unaware, he had free reign to admire her flawless mocha skin tone. He ached at the sight of her full, parted mouth. She had curves in all the right places. Every morning, she and Liz endured a mother-daughter jog around the neighborhood. He stood at his window and enjoyed the way her sweats clung to her backside. If he woke every morning with her in his bed, there was no way in hell he'd let her out to jog. At least not without showing her how much she was appreciated. His dad didn't have a clue.
The song ended. Simone's eyes opened, but she didn't look in his direction. "Now, that's a classic. The music, the lyrics and her voice… I could listen all night long."
"Do you have any of her music?"
"Yeah." She curled onto her side. Dark, silky locks fanned her cheeks. "You never talk much about Rwanda. I suppose you'd rather not."
His heart lurched. Did she want to know?
"I'm sorry for prying--"
"You're not," he said. "Tommy and I talked about it some. It wasn't easy."
"Do you regret going?"
He shook his head. "No. Not a minute. We saved lives. Many lives were lost, but… We tried."
"I was surprised when you volunteered. Joining GH would have been so much easier. Your grandfather, father and uncle created a distinguished hierarchy. From birth, you had a right to that legacy."
"You expected me to live off my family's good name."
She shrugged. "You were a wild child in college and med school."
"Finally, your true opinion of me is revealed." An easy, no holds barred conversation with her reawakened the low burning flame inside his gut. When she stared at him with warm, open eyes, he wanted nothing more than to hold her close and make her forget his father and think only of him, Steven Lars.
"Well, are you denying the allegations of parties and numerous girlfriends?"
"The parties were nothing more than friendly get-togethers and there haven't been numerous girlfriends. Just a few who are better left forgotten."
She arched a brow. "I find that hard to believe."
"It's true. I'm a patient man. I opt for quality over quantity."
Nikolas couldn't believe how wonderfully the Fates smiled on him. Were his eyes deceiving him? Or was Dawn Jensen actually in his home seeking shelter and security? The familiar ache returned to his crotch. He adjusted his pants and directed his attention back to the bar where he was pouring three glasses of brandy.
Unable to stop himself, Nikolas lightly brushed his fingers against hers as she took the snifter. A frown darkened her brow. She cut a quick glance to Lucky, but his brother missed it. Nikolas offered her a faint smile before offering Lucky the other snifter.
"Thanks, Nikolas. I don't usually drink this stuff but I don't see how it can hurt."
"No thanks necessary." Nikolas lingered near the fireplace as his guests sat. "Back to the matter at hand, I will do whatever is necessary to guarantee Dawn's safety. I appreciate you coming to me. It means a lot."
His brother shrugged. "Who else could I turn to? Helena's threats can't be ignored. I would go after her myself, but how? I don't know where to start."
"Leave my grandmother to me." Nikolas' jaw tightened. "She had no reason to say those things to you, Dawn. I will handle her."
"I don't want her handled," Dawn said, speaking for the first time.
When she first entered Wyndemere, her brown eyes looked haunted. She clung to Lucky, forcing Nikolas to ponder the status of their relationship. Noticing the ring finger on her left hand was still bare, he breathed a sigh of relief. All was night lost. She would still be his.
"She will not leave you alone otherwise," he advised. "Trust me."
Her flinch was slight and only noticeable to Nikolas because he hadn't been able to tear his eyes from her. Such exquisite perfection. She wasted time as an artist, behind the canvas. She was made to be put on display, a beautiful model for the ages. Lucky was a fool. He had her but didn't have a clue as to what to do with her…for her…to her.
"I do," Lucky said. "That's why I brought her. After what happened with Stefan, I know Helena won't come here. Besides, Wyndemere is the last place she'd look."
"You're right on all counts."
Lucky turned to Dawn. His hand cupped her cheek. "You look tired. I want you to sleep and not worry about anything."
Frowning, she reared back. "You're not leaving."
"I hadn't planned to stay--"
"There's plenty of room," she said. "I wouldn't feel safe without you. I need you, Lucky."
"Okay." He turned to smile at his brother. "Do you have room for one more?"
Seething on the inside, Nikolas forced a benign expression onto his face. "Of course, you're my brother. What's mine is yours and vice versa, I presume."
"Allow me to show you to your quarters." Without giving her a second to react, Nikolas took Dawn's hand and settled it on the crook of his arm. He lowered his voice so that his whisper only reached her ears. "Were you listening? Definitely, you're already mine."