Her ears wouldn't stop ringing. Her mother had just given her one of the worst tongue-lashings imaginable and Dawn was momentarily stunned. Blinking back hot, salty tears, she excused herself from her mother's quarters and moved slowly down the hallway to her suite of rooms.

She was not a perfect child, as her various scrapes could attest to. She had made her share of mistakes and had suffered her mother's wrath before. Usually, Dawn faced her mother's stern disapproval with half an ear. Verbally, she would vow never to do the deed again, while mentally, she thought of another way around it. Not once had she ever shed tears or even came close to crying, but never before had her mother chastised her so thoroughly about something so close to her heart.


Carlotta had, in no uncertain terms, reminded her of Nikolas' condition and how Dawn's neglect of him was reprehensible. Her dear godfather, Stefan, had called them for their assistance in bringing Nikolas out of his depression. Nikolas needed their love, patience and understanding. He also needed their attention. How dare Dawn traipse all over Port Charles with hardly a backwards glance at her childhood sweetheart? Whatever had happened between she and Nikolas did not matter. What mattered was that Nikolas had had a stroke and he needed them! And Dawn had best remember that in the days to follow.

Nikolas needed her… A sharp pain jabbed her chest. Her mother was wrong! Deep inside the secret places of her heart, she wanted him to need her. She couldn't deny that, nor could she deny that her heart's desire was lost to her. He needed someone else. He loved someone else. With that thought foremost in her mind, she felt constricted and suddenly, Wyndemere was too confining. She needed something more than Nikolas' to return her affections. She needed escape.

She slipped inside her suite rooms and closed the door. She made quick work of changing her clothes and washing the tears from her face. There was nothing she could do about the redness of her eyes and the puffiness of her cheeks so decided to leave those be. The black jeans she wore were so form fitting that no one would pay attention to her face anyway. She slipped her feet inside a pair of black leather ankle boots, grabbed her matching jacket and left the room.

In an attempt to lighten her dark disposition, she skipped down the hallway and down the steps. On the last step, she lost her balance and tripped. Her fall was softened as she fell into a pair of strong, masculine arms. "Sorry," she murmured. She raised her head to thank her savior and stumbled again when she saw that it was Nikolas. "Nikolai…"

Nikolas' hands slid from her arms to wrap around her waist. His brown eyes darkened, as they searched her dark brown orbs. He looked as if there was something he wanted to say. His mouth parted and an intelligible sound came from his throat. A frown creased his brow and tried again. There was no change. Sadness and frustration shone clearly in his eyes before he closed them tightly shut.

Once again her heart was drawn to him. The need to help him was strong and she didn't even think before she offered her assistance and her comfort. "Nikolas," she murmured. Her trembling hand cupped his smooth cheek. Her thumb brushed along his jaw line. "It's okay. You'll get the words out. Just take your time."

"Time…have…" Nikolas emitted a low grumble. His eyes opened and he stared back her. Shaking his head, he pointed to his throat. "Argh."

Nikolas released her. He spun on his heel and strode to a nearby darkened alcove. Dawn followed him. Her senses heightened immediately upon being alone with him in the tiny space. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and her heart pounded a steady beat. She did her best to brush her excitement aside and went to him.

"You're frustrated." He stiffened at the sound of her voice, but otherwise, he did not move. His back was rigid as he used it as a buffer between them. His hands clenched into fists at his side. Dawn took of his hands in hers and held fast to it, even as he tried to pull himself free. In the end, he gave up and allowed her to hold it.

"You have every right to be," she continued. "I know that I would be. But you have to know that we are all here to help you be-because…we love you."

He faced her then. This time, he didn't try to speak. He simply looked at her. His lips turned upwards in a half smile and then he walked away, leaving her alone in the alcove.


Jax steered his prized black Porsche to a stop on the gravel driveway. With a flip of his wrist, he shut the engine off. Shifting in his seat, he moved so that he could look at his passenger. To Jax, Brenda, with her hair in a ponytail and her fingers tightly clasped in her lap, appeared childlike. As his eyes roamed over her, he searched for a glimpse of the woman he knew her to be. He wasn't sure if there was any trace of her left. "Brenda," he said, reaching to cover her hand with his own, "are you sure about this?"

She nodded. "I'm sure." She looked at him and smiled.

"The cottage is so isolated. I'm not sure if this much solitude is good for you. You should be around your friends…people who care about you," he pressed.

"I will be," she said. She opened her door and left the car. Jax followed suit on the driver's side. From over the roof of the small car, he stared at her. She returned his gaze, an odd light shining in her eyes. "I won't be alone out here. Robin is coming."

Jax breathed a sigh of relief. He strode around to the back of the Porsche. The trunk opened with a faint squeak and he retrieved her suitcase and overnight bag. By the time he was done, Brenda had already entered the cottage. He followed her inside and closed the door behind him. "Where should I put these?"

"You can leave them there," she told him. "I'll unpack later." She wandered around the room, picking up the different odds and ends. Her gait was slow and the not the erratic pace she once used. She came to the sofa and sat down. Looking over her shoulder at him, she beckoned to him. "Come and sit for a moment."

"Okay," Jax agreed. He set the luggage down on the floor near the staircase. Taking his time, he stepped down from the platform and crossed into the living room. He eased his tall frame into an overstuffed easy chair and found his gaze drawn to her again. Her stay in the sanitarium had changed her. The differences were there even if he couldn't pinpoint each of them. He noticed little things, and again, he wondered if leaving her alone was the right thing to do. "When is Robin coming? How soon will she be here? I'll wait until she gets here."

Brenda laughed softly. "You'll have a long wait. She won't be here for another 2 days. You're welcome to stay if you want, but I'd rather be alone."

"Two days?" he repeated, frowning. "Are you sure you want to be out here alone for that long? You know that you're more than welcome to stay with me at the penthouse. If you'd rather not stay with me, I'm sure the Quartermaines would love to have you as a guest."

"I know," she said, nodding. "Lila has been an angel, but having someone hover over me is not what I need right now."

"And what is it that you need?" he questioned. He was curious as to what her answer would be. If she had one, maybe she really was getting better.

"I need some time to get my head together. A couple days out here alone without anyone watching my every move…where I can rely on myself instead of someone else is what I need." When he continued to stare at her unconvinced, she added, "Trust me, Jax. I'm not planning to rip the place to shreds, okay? I appreciate your finding it for me, and although I'm not too keen on the interior decorating, I appreciate that, too."

"Okay, then," he said. "You seem to have all the answers. The refrigerator and cupboards are well stocked. I entered my cell phone as number 1 on the speed dial. Please, don't hesitate to use it." He stood up and went to her. Bending at the waist, he leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. When the kiss was over, he stood up straight and went to the front door. She followed him and he turned around to face her. "Don't hesitate to call me."

"I won't," she assured him. "Thank you…for everything."


Maui at night was a sight to behold. An endless array of flaming torches lit the back courtyard of the resort. Delicious aromas of roasted pork, grilled vegetables and sweet pineapples wafted in the air. Dara was mesmerized by the atmosphere and was very happy that she had accepted the invitation to the luau. The next chapter of "A Time to Kill" couldn't even compare.

Dara handed her invitation to the server and was instructed to a table that sat 8. Her seat was in the middle and she smiled at the others who had arrived before her. After making introductions, she realized that the seat beside her was empty. For a fleeting moment, she wondered if the man from the beach would be there. A tingle of excitement coursed through her and she reached for her glass of cold water in an effort to douse the flames that had began to ignite within her.

The waiters came and went with their first course. Still, the seat beside her remained empty. Thoughts of the mystery man soon evaporated as Dara got to know the people around her. Most of them were Americans on vacation. Many of them were from the East Coast, too. Laughter exploded around the table as jokes about familiar New England locales were recounted.

"I hope I'm not too late to join the party."

Dara bristled. Her fork fell to her plate in a tinny clatter. The man from the beach had arrived. His spicy cologne overpowered the aroma of the food on her plate. His soft, husky voice drowned out the other voices at the table. Within seconds of his arrival, Dara found her senses consumed with him. With so many heady emotions filling her senses, she took the coward's way out and refused to look at him.

"No, it's not too late," John, the boisterous restaurateur from Boston, told him. "We've been holding that seat just for you! Come on and join us."

The others, except for Dara, wished the man a hearty welcome. He chuckled softly and thanked them graciously. Dara shivered when his arm brushed hers as he sat down beside her. "Excuse me," he murmured against her ear as he righted himself in his chair.

She nodded her head. The appeal of the food faded and as much as she tried to ignore it, her awareness of the man grew. A feeling of apprehension formed in the pit of her belly. She swallowed her trepidation down with another sip of water. With her nerves less rattled and her libido under some control, she turned to look at the man beside her.

She gasped in surprise. She knew him! In a hoarse whisper, she said his name, "Sonny Corinthos."

This time, he dropped his fork. His face held a combination of shock and anxiety. His dark eyes pleaded with her to not say his name again. "Ms. Jenkins…" he murmured, acknowledging that he recognized her, too. "Aloha."

Disturbed that one of the Port Charles' most nefarious citizens had intrigued her so, she pushed herself from the table and ran down a dark path back to her bungalow. Footsteps sounded behind her and she knew that he had followed her. Taking a gulp of air, she turned around to face him.
"Aloha, Mr. Corinthos."

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