Chapter 9


"You have a very...um...interesting home," Dawn said as she and Nikolas stood on the second floor landing. She looked over the railing and was about to comment further when Nikolas took her hand and pulled her into the shadows.

"What are you doing?" she asked, surprised by both the breathless quality of her voice and the intent look in his eyes.

"I don't know," he replied. He took a step closer to her. His other hand rested at her waist. She trembled underneath the slight pressure of his touch, and he moved closer to her.

"Nikolas," she said, watching him closely. "I...um...I..."

"Ssh," he said, "you don't have to say anything unless you want me to slow down."

"No," Dawn whispered with a shake of her head, "I don't want you to slow down."

She raised her hand to gently press against his cheek. Her thumb brushed againt his full mouth. His lips parted and he kissed her soft flesh. A sigh passed from her and then in the next moment, his lips covered hers.

Her lips parted, allowing his tongue to slip inside her mouth. He moved cautiously at first, as if he were afraid that she would protest his invasion. She didn't. Her mouth opened even more and her tongue slipped inside his mouth.

Their tongues collided as their kiss deepened. They became lost in each other as the attraction they felt was passionately revealed.

"Nikolas?"

The couple hurriedly sprang apart. Nikolas moved in front of Dawn, blocking her from his uncle's view. Behind him, he heard the quiet rustling of her clothing as she adjusted her dress. A low moan escaped him as he remembered the feel of her lips on his. Taking a deep breath, he willed himself to concentrate on their interruption. "Yes, Uncle."

"What are you doing up here?" Stefan asked, crossing to his nephew. "Our guests have arrived. Dinner has not be served because no one knew your whereabouts."

"I will apologize to our guests," he responded, tightly. He moved aside and said, "I was giving one of our guests a tour. I lost track of the time." He smiled at Dawn as she moved out of the shadows to stand beside him. He placed his hand at her elbow. "Uncle, you know Dr. Jensen, don't you?"

Stefan gave a slight nod of his head. His mouth twitched into a smile. "Yes, I do. I've heard excellent reports about your bedside manner, Dr. Jensen. I welcome you into our home."

"Thank you, Mr. Cassadine," she said.

Stefan nodded his head in reply. "Nikolas, may I have a brief word with you?"

Nikolas released Dawn's elbow and moved to his uncle's side. Frowning, he could barely restrain himself from allowing his irriation from coming through. "Uncle-"

Stefan raised his hand. "I will be brief." He paused as he waited for Nikolas to accept his statement. When he was certain that Nikolas would not interrupt, he said softly, "Before you join us downstairs, I suggest you rid your mouth of the doctor's lip color. It's fetching on her, but the hue doesn't suit you."

With a smirk on his face, Stefan turned and walked away. Nikolas frantically wiped at his mouth. He stopped when he heard Dawn's soft laughter just behind him.

"He busted us, didn't he?" Dawn asked as she moved closer to Nikolas.

"Yeah," Nikolas said, cringing as heat flooded his face.

"Think I'll get fired?"

"Of course not!" Nikolas exclaimed. "He wouldn't terminate your employment over this! I wouldn't let him."

"Okay, okay," she said with a smile. "I didn't think he would. I guess we'd better go downstairs before he comes looking for us again."

"Dawn," Nikolas said, softly. She paused on the step and looked at him. He reached for her hand and held it gently in his. "Thank you for being my guest tonight."

"Thank you for inviting me."

Nikolas resisted the urge to lower his mouth to hers for another kiss. Instead, he laced their fingers together and held onto her as they moved down the large staircase. Their descent was made in silence as during the small tour, they had discovered that they could communicate without any words being spoken. When they reached the drawing room, they saw that Stefan's words had been true. Everyone had arrived. Neither Dawn nor Nikolas displayed any outward signs of discomfort in regards to their tardiness. Just as he had been trained to do, Nikolas handled the situation with style. He smiled at the dinner guests and said, "My apologies. I was giving Dr. Jensen a tour and lost track of the time."

"It's not a problem," replied a rich masculine voice.

Dawn turned her head to the sound of the familiar voice. She smiled when he came forward and pulled her into a warm, brief embrace. "Thomas Hardy, Jr., what are you doing here?" she asked against his ear.

"I could ask you the same," he said, teasing her. He brushed her cheeks with a kiss before he released her. As he moved away from her, he saw the territorial gleam in Nikolas' eyes. Smiling at the younger man, he shook his head. "She's a dear friend and nothing more," he said softly.

"Nikolas, Thomas is-"

"Please allow me, Dr. Jensen," Stefan said in a warm manner. "Nikolas, I'd like for you to meet Thomas Hardy. He's the newest member of Cassadine Industries. He will work closely with me on the engineering details for the Japanese negotiations."

"He's rather young, isn't he?" Nikolas blurted out without thinking.

Thomas laughed. Shrugging, he said, "Yeah, I guess I am, but then so is Dr. Jensen. She hasn't let that stop her and neither will I."

"I doubt if you'd allow anything to stop you once you set your mind on something," Dawn said, smiling at one of her dearest friends.

"Ah, don't give all of my secrets away," he said in a loud conspiratorial whisper. "This is only my first dinner with the boss. I want to make sure that there will be more."

"I assure you there will be," Stefan said.

"Well, that's good to know," replied a soft voice.

Prone to being a flirt, Thomas gave her a brilliant smile and went towards the woman with the shoulder-length auburn hair. He held out his hand to her. As she took his hand, he said, "I don't believe we've met."

"We haven't," she said, responding to his advances with a sparkle in her blue eyes. "My name is Lynn Peters. I'm in charge of Marketing, and my newest pet project is the Japanese deal. As with Mr. Cassadine, you and I will be working closely together, too."

"Well, that's good to know," he said softly, his green eyes twinkling with interest and sincerity.

*~*~*~*

'I GET UP
AND NOTHING GETS ME DOWN
YOU GOTTA JUMP-'

Grumbling to himself, Frank grabbed the dial to his radio and lowered the volume of the old Van Halen cassette until David Lee Roth's voice was nothing more than a whisper. Since storming out of his mother's house, he had driven around aimlessly. The time alone should have answered the questions that tore at him, but instead he was more confused than ever.

He couldn't possibly be in love with little Dawn Jensen, could he?

Just the thought made him feel like a pedophile, and yet he couldn't ignore how beautiful she had become over the last few years. She was not awkward and gangly like the kid she used to be. She was as graceful as a swan and as self-assured as any woman of the nineties should be. And, then there was that way her brown eyes flashed when she was angry with him. Also there were her soft, full kissable lips... He wondered how she would respond to his touch. Would she be the passionate spitfire who told him off earlier or would she melt in his arms like butter? What he would do to find out!

"Dammit, Scanlon!" he cried, yelling at himself as he pounded his fist on his steering wheel. If he were gonna be attracted to a Jensen sister, why not Dara? She was just as spirited and just as beautiful.

But she wasn't Dawn, a distant voice reminded him.

"Shit!"

A stop sign brought Frank to a stop at the next intersection. Hours ago he had driven aimlessly, but as he looked across the street, he discovered that his subconscious had a particular destination in mind. Pushing feelings of guilt and anger at himself aside, Frank pressed down on the accelerator and guided his truck across the street. He parked on the other side of the street from the condo where Dawn lived with her roommates. Not sure as to what he would do, Frank decided to just sit there and wait until something came to mind.

*~*~*

"My man has fallen hard," Dawn said laughing softly. She became silent as Nikolas didn't join in her laughter. She looked at him as he came to her building and parked his Jaguar at the curb. "Is something wrong? You seem...upset."

"I'm not upset," he said, his tone curt.

"You're definitely something," Dawn told him. "Look, you can either give me the silent treatment or you can tell me. But whatever you do, you need to do it now. I have things to do."

Nikolas remained silent until Dawn opened her door and stepped out. Just as she slammed the door, he moved quickly to get out the car and run to join her on the sidewalk. "You're leaving?"

"Yes," she said, not bothering to mask her irritation. "I live here, remember."

"I know, but...I thought we could..."

"What?" she asked when the words took too long to come out of his mouth. "Look, Nikolas, I'm not quite sure what kind of woman you think I am... Just because we kissed... Listen, I'm the kind of person who sleeps around, okay?"

"Excuse me!" he said, taking a step backwards. "I never gave you the impression that I thought that of you."

"You could have fooled me," she said, planting her hands on her hips. "You seemed to become awfully quiet when I told you that I wanted to come straight home instead of stopping for...um, what did you call it? Oh, yeah. Coffee."

"I meant what I said!" he said, folding his arms across his chest. "I know that I haven't mastered American slang, but I am pretty damn sure that coffee means just that! Coffee!"

"Right, Nikolas," she muttered, rolling her eyes.

She moved to walk away from him. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. His next action was thwarted as he was roughly pushed away from her.

"KEEP YOUR DAMN HANDS OFF OF HER!"

"Frank?!" Dawn cried.

Ignoring her, Frank balled his hand into a fist and was about to hit Nikolas with everything he had, when Dawn grabbed his arm. The softness of her touch made him pause and instead of hitting Nikolas, he glowered at the younger man. "Get out of here!"

"No!" Nikolas said, his hands balling into fists.

"No?!" Frank repeated. His green eyes flashed with Irish ire and without batting an eye, his right fist connected with Nikolas' jaw.

"Frank!" Dawn said, pulling him away from Nikolas as he moved to strike again. "No! Stop it! Stop it, right now!"

"So, are you leaving or do you want some more?" Frank called out to Nikolas.

"Some more of what?" Nikolas asked, pushing up his sleeves. "My baby sister hits harder than that."

"Nikolas, cut it out, okay?" Dawn said, becoming frightened by the anger she felt between the two men. "Just go home, please. Just go."

"What?" Nikolas said, looking at her with surprise. "You want me to just leave?"

"Yes," Dawn said. "Please."

"Okay, fine." Nikolas ground out. "Have a goodnight!" He tossed over his shoulder as he stormed around the front of his car. He slammed the door shut once he was inside and screeched off into the night.

After Nikolas' exit, Dawn turned to Frank. He opened his mouth to speak, but she stopped him by pressing her hand against his mouth. "No, Frank. I don't want to hear it. Go home."

"But, Dawn," he said after she had removed her hand. "I want to make sure that you're-"

"I'm not fine or okay or whatever you were gonna ask me," she told him after drawing a long breath. "I'm bone-tired and I don't want to deal with your ranting and raving right now. Go home."

"If that's the way you want it," he said, his voice a little sad.

She nodded her head and before he could tell her goodnight, she had disappeared inside her condo.

Chapter 10

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