“Thank you, Mrs. Landsbury,” Nikolas replied with a polite smile. “Have our dinner guests arrived?”
“No, sir,” she answered with a shake of her head.
“Thank you,” Nikolas said. “That will be all.”
“Very good, sir,” the older woman murmured before she made her exit.
“She seems very efficient,” Dawn commented once she and Nikolas were alone. She avoided his eyes and moved towards the antique sofa. Her eyes appeared drawn to the ornate claw feet while inside she concentrated on breathing.
The dress she wore was on loan from her very petite sister. She and Dara shared the same measurements, but for some reason, the bustline of the silver gray tank dress was snugger on her. Her cleavage pushed against the fabric. She was certain that if she took a deep breath to calm her frazzled nerves, she would fall out of the dress.
The hemline stopped at mid-thigh and she fought the urge to pull it down with each step she took. Moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue, she realized that she had never felt as nervous as she did at that moment. She wasn’t foolish enough to trick herself. She knew that her nervousness stemmed from the quiet, young man behind her. It’s only dinner, she silently reminded herself. Everything would be just fine.
“She is,” Nikolas said, in reference to Dawn’s earlier comment. With her back to him, he indulged his racing hormones and allowed his eyes to rake over her. Nikolas had never seen her look so feminine before. The dress clung to her curves and her thick dark brown hair curled softly against her neck, making his fingers ache to touch it. His eyes lowered down to her long, silken legs. The high heels she wore made him completely forget about the sneakers he usually saw her in. Swallowing hard, he took a step toward her. “Dawn,” he said, reaching for her hand, “shall we go on a tour?”
Her breath caught with the feel of his hand on hers. Their fingers laced together perfectly. She glanced down at their woven hands and then slowly raised her eyes to his. Her voice was husky as she said, “Are you sure? Won’t we be late?”
Nikolas gave her a smile that nearly stopped her heart. “I’ll give you the short version.” His voice was low and deep as he added against her ear, “The longer version can come later.”
Her stomach did a somersault. His magnetism mesmerized her and all she could do was nod in response. Nikolas didn’t need more than that. Still holding her hand, he led her out of the drawing room and began his special tour just for her.
After leaving Keesha, Jason couldn’t bear to go back to the mansion. Although the couple had seemed to come to some sort of understanding, things didn’t feel quite right to him. He needed to sort out her reaction to him and what it all meant. He knew that finding the quiet and the peace he’d need wouldn’t come from his family’s home. Things were just always a little too off center for him. Usually, he could find a way to focus, but Keesha was his heart. He couldn’t rest with ‘finding’ a way to focus. He had to focus! Period. And, so instead of driving home, he went to the park and walked around for a while.
He walked aimlessly. His thoughts lingered on his relationship with Keesha. He wondered if there was something that he wasn’t doing right. Maybe he was around too much or not enough. Or maybe it was medical school. He didn’t have the answers and for a man, who always had an answer, his ignorance scared him. He didn’t want to her lose her, but he couldn’t help but fear that he would.
Jason paused as he heard the soft voice call his name. He moved off the path and headed toward the fountain. “Gina,” he said, recognizing the dark-haired younger woman. “What are you doing out here so late?”
“I could ask the same of you,” she laughed, humorlessly. “I’m just thinking.”
“Oh, yeah?” he asked, moving to sit beside her on the cold, hard stones.
“Yeah,” she said with a nod. She brushed her hair from her face and looked into Jason’s calm, blue eyes. “I suppose you know that my brother woke up.”
“Yeah, I haven’t seen him, but he’s the talk of the hospital. I hear that he can’t remember anything. I can’t imagine how that would be...to wake up and not know my family...Keesha. He must feel so alone,” Jason said with feeling.
“I guess so,” she said in a hoarse voice.
Jason looked at her. Something about the tone of her voice made him pay closer attention to her. “Have you seen him?”
“There’s no point, right?” she asked, shrugging her shoulders. “He didn’t know me before so he for damn sure wouldn’t know me now. I suppose we’re a lost cause.” She rose to stand.
“Gina, wait.” Jason stopped her by placing his hand on her arm. “Don’t give up on him. He only just woke up. He’s your brother-“
“You don’t know what it’s like,” Gina told him, pulling her arm away. She shook her head. “You and A.J. have each other. I never had Michael in that way. Jagger and I are okay, but it’s not the same. I don’t know how to not give up on him.”
“Gina, maybe you could just try,” Jason softly suggested.
“Yeah,” she agreed, nodding. “I would if I knew how. I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”
Jason watched her leave, realizing that his wasn’t the only tortured soul out there. There were others just as confused as him. So much for cheery holiday spirits this year, he thought with a sigh.
Sonny slipped inside Stone’s room without being noticed. His bodyguard was stationed at the end of the hall just in case a nurse became suspicious of him standing just outside Stone’s door. Sonny pushed the door closed behind and then moved to quickly close the curtains. When the duty nurse came back from making her rounds, he didn’t want her to see him and try to have him thrown out. He knew that his time to leave would come, but not before he saw how Stone was doing with his own eyes. Dr. Jones’ prognosis left much to be desired and Sonny wouldn’t believe it. He couldn’t allow himself to.
The black Armani shoes whispered across the shiny linoleum floor without making a sound. Sonny reached the bed. He stood silently beside the bed as his ebony black eyes glided over his close friend’s sleeping form.
He took everything in. The dark black peach fuzz of Stone’s hair was slowly growing back after having been shaved off for surgery. Gone was the ashen pallor of Stone’s face. His cheeks were pink with color and life. Instead of being still and lifeless, his eyelids twitched as the younger man was captured in a dream. A faint smile turned his lips upwards as his dream brought him happiness.
Watching his friend, Sonny was finally able to accept that Stone was truly alive. For weeks, he wondered if God would be kind enough to let Stone stay with them for just a little while. Of course, the final decision belonged to the Man above, but Sonny couldn’t help but pray for a little mercy. He was glad to see that his prayers had been answered.
His hand reached down and covered Stone’s hand. He squeezed gently and whispered, “Goodnight, my friend.”
He then quietly left Stone to continue on with his dreams.
He walked in a field, lush with green grass and blossoming flowers. The sky overhead was a pale blue and cotton-white clouds floated by, creating pictures in the sky. Cool breezes blew and tickled his bare arms and face. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the fresh air and freedom of the land before him.
He glided about aimlessly. Nothing was familiar to him yet everything felt just right. He had no fear of this unknown world. It felt far better to him than the rigid confines of what met him in his awakened state. He reached out and touched the soft petals of the colorful flowers. A bee escaped from the folds with the riches of sweet nectar clinging to it. Stone held out his finger and the bee accepted his invitation. Together, the two continued about the garden until eventually the bee flew away.
Alone, Stone continued on. He missed the bee, but he was unable to put a word to the feeling of loneliness that gripped him. He closed his mind to it. A new wonder captured his attention for the moment, the emptiness faded away.
The time in the field was soothing. He breathed deeply and took the passing moments in stride. Butterflies flittered around him. Birds soared above him. The heavenly creatures were comfortable in his presence, as he was comfortable in theirs. Their companionship filled up the emptiness and soothed him.
A voice called out. He turned to face the owner. There she was again. The woman who had visited him before now came to him again. She had sparkling brown eyes, full generous lips and the softest voice. He smiled as he held out his hand to her.
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