Chapter 12

"Thanks, Reginald," Tommy said, as Reginald ended his conversation with Emily.

"No problem," Reginald said with a brief smile before he moved to leave Tommy alone in the living room.

Tommy rose from the sofa and said, "Um, wait a sec."

"Yes?" Reginald asked with arched brow.

"I need to ask you for a favor. Well, actually it's a favor for Em."

"What do you need? For me to put in a good word for you?" Reginald smirked.

Tommy's voice was smug as he said, "I don't need you put in a good word for me with Em."

"That's what you think," Reginald replied, a wry smile on his face.

"No, that's what I know. She and I are friends. I don't need your help with that. We have it covered. Look, Reg, this isn't what I came here for. Would you just listen for a sec and keep the sarcasm to yourself?" Tommy asked, folding his arms across his chest.

"For a second I can, so you better make it quick," came Reginald's quick retort.

Tommy drew a long breath before he began speaking. "Last night as I was leaving, I found Lucas Jones roaming around outside. He's got this fixation with Em. I've warned her about him, but it probably wouldn't hurt if everyone else knew what was up, too."

"Gotcha. You took longer than a second, but I'll let you slide this time."

"Reginald, I'm serious-"

"I understand," Reginald said, without a trace of sarcasm. "Thanks. I'll alert the household."

"Thanks, man."


Dara was silent as she watched Brook Lynn chew on her lower lip. She and her little step-daughter had shared an amiable relationship in the beginning, but since Dara's pregnancy, Dara had noticed a distance in how the little girl related to her. She'd mentioned it to Ned, but he said that Brook Lynn had to get used to the idea of having a baby brother or sister and that she would get better in time. Dara had listened to Ned's advice, but now, she wished she hadn't. There had to be something she could do that would make Brook Lynn less resentful of her and the baby she carried.

"Brook..." Dara said, coaxingly.

"My name is Brook Lynn," came the petulant reply.

"Okay...Brook Lynn. Why didn't you tell me that Michael was here? You know that he's not supposed to wander off alone. He's still little and not really able to take care of himself."

"I dunno," Brook Lynn said with a shrug.

"That answer can work for some things, but not for everything. You know why. Come on. Tell me," Dara said softly.

"I don't know what you want me to say," Brook Lynn said, her bottom lip quivering.

"I just want you to tell me the truth, sweetheart," Dara said.

"Don't call me that! My Mommy calls me that and you're not my Mommy!"

Dara was taken aback at her outburst and immediately tried to placate the child. "I know that I'm not your mother, but even so, you will not raise your voice to me. Do you understand?"

"Understand what? What's going on in here? I could hear Brook Lynn downstairs," Ned said as he entered the room.

"Daddy!" Brook Lynn said, flinging herself in to his arms. She began to sob as he picked her up and stroked her back.

Ned gave Dara a questioning glance to which she shrugged in reply. "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"

"Dara's mad at me," she said as her sobs became hiccups.

"No, I'm not," Dara said, struggling to stand up. The rocking chair refused to cooperate and Dara became more and more frustrated in her attempts.

"Stay here," Ned said, setting Brook Lynn back down. He went over to the rocking chair and helped Dara to her feet. "Don't tire yourself. I'll handle this."

"Ned, we both should handle this."

"Later we will. Let me talk to her first. Who knows maybe I can fix it?" Ned said with a smile, using his dimples to convince his wife to listen to him.

"You and those dam-...darn dimples, again," Dara grumbled. "Okay. You go first, but we *will* talk to her later. Together."

"Yes, ma'am!" Ned said with a mock salute. He kissed her on the cheek and whispered against her ear, "We will work this out. I promise."

"I know we will," Dara said, caressing his cheek. She could feel Brook Lynn's eyes boring into her and she added, "I think your first round is up."


"Um, where are you leading me?" Dawn asked as Michael's tiny hand pulled her down a long hallway.

Michael giggled and kept pulling her. Dawn grimaced in reply, but allowed Michael to continue with his game. She made note of the turns and hallways they encountered just in case they became lost. She knew that she must be crazy to allow a three-year-old to lead her around a huge mansion, but she had been infected by his happy nature and couldn't resist him at the time. Now, she almost wished she had resisted him, but in a way, she was glad that she hadn't. The adventure had taken her mind off of disappearing pajama pants.

"I know where we are now!" Dawn said with a laugh. She picked Michael up and swung him around. "This one's your room."

"Yay!!" Michael said, laughing. He began to squirm in an effort to get down on the floor and when he Dawn released him, he ran into his bedroom. "Come in!" he called out to Dawn as he began to take his toys out of his toy chest.

Dawn laughed as she followed him inside. When they came back to the main house, she had informed Cook that she and Michael were going upstairs in case anyone was looking for them. Cook nodded in her typical gruff manner and Dawn and Michael had taken off on their adventure. So far, Dawn and Michael hadn't encountered anyone who seemed to be in a frantic search for a missing pre-schooler and the knowledge worried Dawn. What if no one knew he had wandered off? Where was his nanny? And better still, where was A.J.?

"Look, Dawnie," Michael said, shoving his favorite book under Dawn's nose as she sat, cross-legged, on the floor beside him. He sat on her legging covered thigh and waited for her to begin.

Dawn raised an eyebrow and regarded her little friend. He's so sure of himself, she thought. Well, she'd show him, Dawn decided. She placed the book on the floor and in one fluid motion began to tickle him.

Michael squealed and kicked in delight, causing Dawn to laugh and tickle him even more.

"What's going on in here?"

Dawn released her hold on Michael and looked at A.J. as he stood in the doorway.

"Daddy!!" Michael screamed as he struggled to get out of Dawn's grasp. When she let him go, he charged at A.J. who caught him effortlessly.

"Dawn," AJ said her name in his trademark husky voice.

Dawn felt herself shiver at the sound of her name coming from his lips. She wondered briefly if he sounded that sexy in normal conversation what on earth would he sound like when he was in the throes of passion. She shook herself at the thought. She had no business thinking of him in those terms, especially after what might have happened between her and Nikolas.

"Dawn?" A.J. asked again as he came further into the room. He set Michael back on the floor and squatted in front of her. His voice was soft and just as husky as he asked, "Are you okay?"

Dawn self-consciously smoothed her hair back down and nodded. "I'm fine. How are you doing, A.J.?"

"," he said, obviously flirting with her as he allowed his eyes to roam over her. During her play with Michael, her long black tunic sweater had risen up to reveal her firm thighs which were just barely covered by her leggings. A.J. enjoyed the vision she presented and he took his time in returning his gaze to her eyes.

While A.J. blatantly ogled her, Dawn decided to return the favor. He appeared very relaxed on the first day of the New Year. The faded blue Calvin Klein jeans he wore fit him like a second skin, especially in the thigh area, she noticed as he continued to squat in front of her. His snow-white tee shirt peeked at her from underneath his blue denim workshirt. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing strong forearms which were lightly covered with fine, black hair. After looking their fill, her eyes drifted back up to his amused, hazel eyes.

"See anything you like?" he asked, just low enough for only her to hear.

"The same could be asked of you," she countered, with a jut of her chin as she challenged him.

"Hmm," he mumbled, his eyes twinkling at her in merriment. He looked at away from her to look at his son who had been watching them with the curiosity of a child.

Michael knew something was going on between his daddy and his friend, but he wasn't mature enough to label it as flirting. When he felt his father's eyes on him, he giggled and ran to jump on his back.

A.J.'s hands moved behind him to hold his son in place as he asked, "What do you think, Mikey? Do you think I should accept her challenge or should we just tickle her instead?"

"Tickle, tickle!!" Michael shrieked, flexing his fingers to imitate the movement.

"Tickle, it is!" A.J. agreed.

"Oh, no, you don't!" Dawn squealed, moving to a crawling position in an effort to get away from the father and son tickling tag-team duo.


Nikolas glanced at his watch. Again. Emily had been gone for less than ten minutes, but it felt much longer to him. He wanted her back with him now instead of downstairs doing who-knows-what with her ex-boyfriend. Or, was that current boyfriend, a pesky voice silently asked him. Nikolas shook his head at the thought. In time, he'd have an answer for that question, but until that time came, he refused to speculate.

He rose from her bed and began to examine her little knick knacks and keepsakes. She had quite a collection, he thought, as he moved around her room. There was a part of her wall which had the framed covers of magazines from her modeling days. Another part of her wall were posters of music groups, most of whom, Nikolas had never heard of. He continued on and noticed a bouquet of dried roses and a twinge of envy seeped in as he muttered, "The jerk could have given her a dozen instead of a skant six."

He moved away from the wall to take a peak at her book collection which was housed on her antique book shelf. His hands admired the woodwork as his eyes scanned the titles. He was pleased to see that they shared a common interest, Stephen King. He absently wondered if she'd read "The Stand" as many times as he had.

He lowered himself to his haunches to inspect a book whose title he couldn't read. His curiosity got the better of him and he pulled the book from the shelf. He opened and it was surprised to see that it contained photographs. He stood up and moved to her window seat where he sat down. He flipped through the pages, smiling at the images of Emily when she was still a youngster. A woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Emily were in most of those photographs and Nikolas assumed she was her mother, who passed away to breast cancer many years ago. Very pretty, he thought, as he kept going.

He stopped flipping through the pages when he recognized a few familiar faces. There was a picture of Emily and Lucky with their pets, Raoul and Foster. He turned a few more pages and saw a pic of him and Emily which was taken at the Bacchanalia. She was enchanting in her white dress and brown curls. Looking back now, Nikolas didn't understand how he missed it. He kept going and he saw a picture of the four of them, him, Emily, Lucky and Lizzie. Seeing another photo of Lucky reminded that he hadn't spoken to his brother or his young bride since they moved to San Francisco ages ago. He'd call them as soon as he had a chance, he decided.

Nikolas stood and moved back to the book shelf, ready to return the photo album. Something caught his eye before he could close it and quickly flipped through it to find the page. He found it easily. A single pressed rose marked it for him. He wondered who gave it to her when he a piece of paper slipped from between the pages and fell to the ground. He picked it up and read it. "Port Charles High School Junior Prom."

He was about to slip the program back into the album when another picture caught his eye. A picture of Emily and Tommy beamed back at him. Tommy, dressed in a white tux with a gray cummerbund and tie, had his arm firmly around Emily's waist. Emily wore a lavender slip of a dress with small straps and a modest neckline which gave a hint of her ripening busom. Her head rested against his shoulder as her hand rested at his waist. They were the perfect picture of a couple in love and this time, Nikolas didn't push the thought from his mind as he wondered if they still were.

Chapter 13