Ned smiled at Dara and Jolie as he held his cell phone to his ear. He found his wife and daughter irresistible as he lightly caressed both of their cheeks with the tips of his fingers. A broad grin deepened his dimples as Jolie smiled in response.
"Look at that smile," he whispered. "I can't believe she's smiling already."
"She wants the world to know that she has her daddy's dimples," Dara told him. She loosened her gown and offered Jolie her breast. The infant suckled greedily and Dara's eyes misted in happiness. She tore her eyes away from her daughter to look at Ned. She wasn't surprised to see the same joy, radiating in his eyes as well. "Was she taking a nap?"
"No," he shook his head, brushing back strands of Jolie's hair with his index finger. "She was playing. Lois is getting he r now."
"Do you think she'll be excited?" Dara asked, anxious over her stepdaughter's reaction to the addition to their family.
"I'm sure she will be. Who wouldn't be? Look at that face! She has her mama's nose and my dimples. What's not to like?"
Dara chuckled softly at Ned's exuberance. Then her eyes drifted back down to her hungry child.
"Hi, Angel." He spoke gently into the phone. "I have some good news."
"What, Daddy?" she asked, happy and excited by the sound of his voice.
"Well, you have a baby sister now. She was born last night, and her name is Jolie."
"Oh," she said, her voice indifferent.
Ned took a deep breath. He had hoped for excitement and happiness, but instead, he got 'oh.' He didn't know how to react to her softly spoken word or to the curious look in Dara's eyes. He rose from his seated position on the bed and turning away from Dara and Jolie, he spoke softly into the telephone. "Brook Lynn, honey, I just said that you have a baby sister now. Aren't you excited about meeting her?"
"No," she answered.
"No, Daddy! I don't wanna meet her! I don't wanna!" A dial tone soon replaced the sound of her voice.
Ned was a little surprised by her reaction, but not much. He had hoped that her misgivings about the baby would have disappeared by now, but instead, they had grown stronger. He decided that as soon as Dara and Jolie were able, they would take a trip to Brooklyn and see if a face-to-face meeting between the two siblings would change Brook Lynn's mind.
If he were to think back on the first thing he noticed as he entered the apartment, he would have been at a loss to name just one thing. Nikolas noticed everything at once. The loud music filled his ears. The cold, frigid air from the open windows chilled his body. The sight of Dawn with her arms wrapped her, slowly rocking back and forth as she sat on the floor in the middle of the room, rendered him speechless.
Nikolas was everywhere at once. He unplugged the CD player and the room echoed with silence. After he closed the windows, a slight warmth began to envelop him and suddenly hot, he shrugged out of his coat.
Crouching down, he slowly moved to her. Her beautiful brown eyes were glassy as she looked past him, through him to a place where he knew he would have to invade to save her. Tenderly, his hand caressed her face, turning her head so that she faced him. His voice was hoarse as he said her name. "Dawn, it's me. Nikolas. I'm with you now and everything will be okay. Do you hear me?"
She felt his warm hand on her cold cheek and his other arm wrap around her. She heard his soft voice as he spoke to her. She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat closed shut. Her eyes shone with unshed tears as she looked at him. She couldn't bear the questions and the concern in his eyes. She'd failed him in the worst way possible. She was the reason their unborn child was taken from them. How could she speak to him? What could say? A low guttural sound of pain and anguish escaped her and she buried her face in her hands.
"Dawn? Sweetheart, it's okay," Nikolas told her, gathering her close into his arms. "Whatever is wrong, I can fix it…we can fix it." He rocked her gently, burying his face in her hair.
"No," she moaned against his chest. "It's too late to be fixed."
"It's never too late." His hands rubbed her back. He pulled her closer to him. He felt her tremble in his arms and then her shoulders began to shake. A thousand questions formed in his mind. He didn't know whether to force her to tell him what happened or to simply hold her. His need to know won out. "What's too late?" he asked.
"Don't make me say it out loud," she pleaded. Dawn raised her head from his chest and stared at him. Her eyes had grown dull with the pain that continued to torment her. "I'm sorry, Nikolas. You have to believe me. I would never, ever hurt our…"
"Hurt our…?" he repeated, his voice as soft as a whisper. With her head buried in his chest again, Nikolas briefly wondered if he would find the answer in her eyes. But, with the thought came the realization that she had already given him the answer to the question that burned inside of him as he had burst through the door.
She was sorry. She would never, ever hurt our…baby.
What happened to their baby?
Alone. He was always alone. Well, not always. There were times when Maxie would just materialize and there the two of them would be. She would gab nonstop while he wondered what Emily was doing and possibly doing it with. Then he would envision the two of them together and a broad smile would spread across his face. Of course, Maxie would think the smile was for her and her eyelashes would bat even harder and her voice would become so much softer. Lucas shook his at the memory.
The winter air moved freely through his blonde hair as he rode his bike down the tree lined street to the brownstone he shared with his mother and stepfather. A satisfied little smile played across his lips as he recalled the look of disgust on Emily's face as Tommy's fist pounded into him. The pain had been more than the worth the pleasure of seeing that look on Emily's face. He didn't wonder if he would be called a coward or a punk for not fighting back. His classmates were a fickle bunch and he didn't give a damn as to how they saw him. Besides, his not fighting back was a conscious decision. He wanted Tommy to hit him. He wanted Emily to see of him and Tommy, which of them was the truly violent one. And, Tommy did not fail him. Not one little bit.
He wished he could have stayed around to see the aftermath as later Nikolas and Tommy got into it. But tonight his mom worked the late shift, and if he weren't at home when she called, there would be hell to pay. A chill coursed through him at the thought of facing Bobbie Spencer Drake's wrath. He'd rather be drop kicked than face her after he'd been less than perfect in her eyes, which was why he was and would continue to be, a perfect angel in his mother's eyes.
The soft-spoken voice barely registered as Lucas eased his bike to a stop at the Elm and Fallbrook Road intersection. He almost thought he'd imagined it until he heard his name called again. Much harsher, this time.
Lucas glanced to his right. The light from the winter sun was fading fast as he tried to make out the figure in the bushes. Squinting, he quickly recognized the person. Fear gripped him and just as he began to pedal off, a pair of hands grabbed him from the left. A muffled cry was all he was allowed as he and his bike were pulled into the bushes.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Quartermaine."
Emily jumped at the sound of Reginald's voice as he accosted her as soon as she entered the foyer. She didn't have to wonder if he had been spying on her. He had been, of course. She wondered if he would be so bold as to offer his opinion or would he do his usual and pump her for information.
"Hi, Reginald." She nodded and gave him a faint smile. Her hand dropped her book bag on the floor and then she pulled off her coat. She offered Reginald another brief smile of gratitude as he pulled the coat from her shoulders. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. So…" he began, raising his eyebrows in silent encouragement for her to continue and feed his curiosity.
"So?" she repeated, not giving him an inch.
"So, um," he shrugged, "are you and Tommy giving it another go?" Emily's eyes widened in shock and he quickly continued. "Of course, I wasn't watching you. I saw the car and I wondered who it could be and then I saw you and I saw you hug and… Come on, help me out here. Inquiring minds need to know."
"You don't need to know." She corrected him. "You want to know."
"Need…want… What's the difference? And, if I may be so bold, may I?" he asked, following her into the den.
"You're asking if you can offer your two cents? Wow, that's a switch. Okay, Reginald, you may be so bold." She ended her sentence with a flourish of her hand.
"I don't think you and Tommy should return for a repeat performance."
"Oh, no?" She was amazed that she was able to keep a straight face. She plopped down onto the sofa and kept her eyes trained on Reginald in rapt attention.
"No," he shook his head, decisively. "I've seen you with Nikolas, and although I never would have thought so a few years ago, I firmly believe that you two are meant for each other."
"You think so, huh?" she asked, quietly. She wasn't as enthralled with the idea of humoring Reginald as she had been. His opinion hit her closer to home than she had anticipated and it made her wonder just what Nikolas was doing at that moment…if she'd lost him.
"Emily?" Reginald asked softly, instantly concerned by the sadness he saw in her chocolate brown eyes. "Is there anything the matter? Did I speak out of turn?"
"No, you were fine," she reassured him. "Today was extraordinary and now, I'm feeling it."
"Perhaps, I should excuse myself then. I hope you'll feel better soon."
"Thanks," she smiled.
Just as Reginald was a step away from the door, the telephone rang. "I'll get that. If it's for you, should I take a message?"
"Yes, please." She rubbed her temples to ease the pain, which had just started to pound.
"Yes, Miss Quartermaine is here," Reginald was saying, "but she's unable to take your call. I apologize for the inconvenience, Mr. Cassadine, but I-"
"Reginald!" Emily materialized before him, her hand outstretched. "I'll take *this* call."
"Very well, then." Reginald handed the telephone to her, smiled and left her alone.
Emily waited until the click told her that the door was closed and then she began to speak. "Nikolas! What's going on? Are you okay?"
"That's why I'm calling," he said. He drew a long breath, almost as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. He spoke again. "Nothing is okay. Not me, not Dawn…nothing."
"I-I…is there anything I can do?" she offered, moving to stand before the French doors. A brief glimpse of a late night snowball attack entered her mind as she waited for Nikolas to accept her offer.
"No, there's not. I wish there was, but this is something… Well, I need to take care of…"
The despondent note in his voice worried her and she was almost afraid to ask. "Take care of? How? What are you going to do?" she asked moving away from the doors.
"Em, this is why I'm calling…" The rest of his words were muffled as a static-like noise drowned his voice out.
"What was that? Nikolas, where are you?" Emily asked, her voice frantic as her worry over his sadness increased.
"I'm sorry about that, Em. I'm on a jet. Em, I can't go into detail, but Dawn needs to get away for awhile and so do I. I would appreciate it…if anyone asks, you won't say anything. I plan to inform our family as soon as we're settled."
"Nikolas? You're going away with her? I don't understand." She sat down hard on the edge of the Princess Anne chair. She felt like the wind had been knocked out of her, liked she'd been sucker punched. Wow, she sure as hell wasn't expecting this.
"I wish I could explain, but right now, I can't. But, believe me, Em, I'm coming back. To you. I have to go. Take care."
"Take care," she whispered just before the dial tone sounded in her ear.
So, he was leaving with his ex-girlfriend and she was supposed to believe that he was coming back to her. She wanted to believe him, but now she wasn't so sure what to believe.
She placed the telephone of the end table and rested her back against the chair. She closed her eyes tightly shut to ward off the tears that threatened to fall. "Hurry back, Nikolas. Just hurry back."