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Chapter 20, Part 1

With electric blue eyes blazing with anger and other emotions that Dawn couldn't define, Vinnie stood in the doorway of the solarium and beckoned to her. "Come."

The heat of his anger exploded into her private den on the first floor of the East Wing. With so much already on her mind, Dawn didn't feel up to encountering his wrath, too. She shook her head and said, "No. It's a bloody blizzard out there. If the world is still standing in the morning, I'll go wherever with you then."

He refused to be put off so easily. "No, ragazzina. You will come with me now."

She bristled at being called a little girl. "Vinnie…"

"I'm not above dragging you out here," he warned, his Jersey accent suddenly coming in loud and clear.

Dawn wanted to bolt but instead she left her dark hiding spot on the window seat and slowly went to him. Instinctively she knew that whatever was on his mind was something that she wanted to avoid. And instinctively, she knew that he knew it, too. Damn their friendship and his ability to read her so well.

As soon as she stepped outside, Vinnie pushed the patio doors closed, wrapped her inside his warm leather jacket and pulled her down the cobblestone path. Intrigue mingled with her irritation and her curiosity got the best of her. But still, she had to get a few gripes in. "Dammit, Vincenzo! Slow down. If I break my neck out here, you'll have to answer to my mum and I don't think you'd like that."

His pace slowed a bit, but hardly enough to satisfy her. Luckily, they reached their destination soon and he none to gently shoved her inside a wooden building and bolted the door. The room was warm so she knew immediately that this rendezvous had been planned ahead of time. With the click of switches, the dark space was flooded in light. Looking about her, Dawn realized that the room must have been used as a workout chamber as part of the floor was covered with blue padding and the walls were covered with mirrors. Frowning, she gave Vinnie a questioning look. What was so urgent that they must meet there?

Before she could ask, he whipped his jacket from around her and tossed it onto the floor behind him. Pacing in front of her, he finally began to speak. "You are one of the most stubborn females I've ever known. I've half a mind to tell your mum what you're up to, but I promised I wouldn't. So, I won't."

She had never seen him so frazzled that he rambled. The sight was endearing and made her forget how he had bullied her into accompanying them to this unlikely spot. Humor tickled her throat and she fought hard to keep it out of her voice. "So, I'm stubborn. You've known that for months now. Did it take a blizzard for you to tell me?"

"Cut the cute crap, ragazzina-"

"Stop calling me a little girl!" she interjected, stamping her foot for emphasis. "I am not a child and you will not treat me like one! Why are we out here?"

"We're out here because you're not a little girl!" He told her. His pacing came to an abrupt halt as he towered over her. His large hands grabbed her shoulders with surprising gentleness. His voice softened and his eyes pleaded with her. "You're a beautiful young woman and you're playing a deadly game. I'm scared for you and I brought you here to help you."

"You want me to quit," she said, chewing nervously on her lower lip. Fear fluttered in the pit of her belly and she pressed her hand against her flat stomach, hoping that the small movement would help. Somehow.

Vinnie shrugged. "I've been informed on enough occasions to know that what the hired help's wants aren't at issue-"

"I never meant it that way," she quickly said. "I apologize for speaking so harshly. I think of you as more than hired help. Sometimes, I get irritated and I speak without thinking. I'm so sorry."

"I know." His faint smile told her that her apology, although unnecessary, was accepted. A dark frown slipped the smile from his face and he gave her shoulders a quick squeeze as he began again, "I want you to open your eyes, Dawn. Every day, the ice you're walking on gets thinner and thinner. I don't want you to fall in-"

"It will be over soon. I'm sure of it. Jason trusts me-"

"He more than trusts you!" Vinnie ground out. "He's falling in love with you."

Dawn shook her head. Vinnie's admission was the last thing she wanted to hear. It was something that she didn't want to even consider. "He fancies me. I would hardly call it love. He's attracted to me, I guess. And judging from what he said today, he wants… Well, maybe he wants to…sl-sleep with me, but I'd hardly equate lust with love. He's not in love with me."

His expression darkened even more and then he asked, "What about Nikolas?"

She shrugged out of his grasp then. Turning her back to him, she mumbled, "What about him?"

"Are you gonna tell me that he's not in love with you either?"

"He's not!" She whipped around to yell at him. "You drag me out here for this? I'm going back!"

"Wait!" He grabbed her arm before she reached the door. "I didn't bring you out here to yell at you. I'm trying to talk some sense into that thick head of yours. You're smart enough, but geez, it's like reasoning with a brick wall! Just listen to me, dammit!"

"What?" she demanded, wrenching her arm free. She stalked away from him again, her footsteps leading her to the center of the room. "What is it?"

"Today in the park, I saw how he was with you. I'm a man and I know the signs. And now, he's telling you that he wants sex-"

"That's not what he said," Dawn interjected. "I just think that's what he meant, that's all."

Vinnie was silent for several moments and Dawn turned to look at him. When she did, he said quietly, "That's enough. You have to be careful with that. With him and with this whole fucking game. It can turn on you just like that." He snapped his fingers for emphasis. "I'm watching out for you, but I'm not nearly as fast as I'd like to be. As I'd want to be. I brought you out here to make sure that you know what to do just in case I can't get to you fast enough."

He raised his leg and reached underneath his pants leg. He pulled out a small silver handgun and held it in the palm of his hand. "This is a .22. Tiny, but it can get the job done. It's better at close range, but a shot is a shot."

Her eyes were drawn to the tiny firearm. Revulsion rippled through her and she backed up a step. "I won't need to use that on Jason. He wouldn't force me."

"You never know what a person is capable of," he corrected her. "You never know what may happen. Besides, remember that dossier? Jason isn't the only one you have to worry about. The more you're around him, the more people associate you with him. You can't take any chances or forget that someone may use you to get to him. You can't be that nave."

"I'm not nave!" she quickly denied. Her gaze locked onto Vinnie's piercing blue eyes. "I have that dossier memorized. I know this isn't a game and that protecting myself is im-important." Tentatively, her hand closed over the cold steel. "Show me what to do."

Vinnie closed his hand over hers. Her trembling fingers became still as his warmth enveloped her hand. "I know this is scary," he said softly. "But with fear, will come caution. I'll show you how to work the .22 at the end. First, I wanna make sure that you're up for hand to hand."

"I know Tai Chi," she said. "Is that good enough?"

Vinnie shrugged. "It's a start, but street combat can be helpful, too."

"Show me."

*~*

Bobbie had driven down the icy streets as if in a dream with the wings of Angels guiding their path. One minor incident caused a brief delay, but she and Carly made it to the Grille without a scratch. A ray of hope had warmed Bobbie when the younger woman had called out to her in her desperation to see her tiny son. The past would never be forgotten, but in that moment and during the drive, Bobbie had felt as if they were on the verge of forming a truce. And that their future would hold less barbs and civility would be restored.

By the time, she guided the snow-covered car into the Grille's parking lot, the street lights had begun to flicker. Holding on to each other so that neither would slip on the ice, they made it inside the lobby of the grand hotel. As soon as her feet crossed the threshold, Bobbie's sixth sense kicked in and she knew that somehow, her life would change forever.

What happened after they entered the Grille would stay with Barbara Jean and replay again and again in her mind. The moment when Jason placed Michael within her arms and she then handed the baby to Carly was breathtaking and beautiful in its own quiet way. Tears even stung Bobbie's eyes as she watched the young mother and tiny infant connect for the first time. This had been long overdue and it wasn't a disappointment to watch.

Bobbie should have known that it wouldn't last. Moments like that were the stuff of fairy tales. Not real life.

And then true to form, reality crash-landed on her and Carly said the unthinkable. Before the avid stares of the Quartermaine clan and countless others, Carly announced to Bobbie and Port Charles that she was Bobbie's precious, Caroline. Her beautiful baby that had been given up for adoption. The child that Bobbie had longed to find only to discover from her brother that she had died in a horrible car crash. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. And worst of all it was the truth.

The look on Virginia Benson's face had confirmed it, but Bobbie wasn't ready to accept it. Well, she was, but she needed further proof. There were a couple of people she needed to see that night. Two men who had played games with her life and her emotions needed to face her and admit their callous behavior.

The first man on her list was Stefan. Braving the forbidding weather, she crossed over on the launch to land at Spoon Island. Nothing had changed since she'd last lived there she noted as she moved briskly up the wooden platform to Wyndemere's gates. The place was still dark, cold and ominous.

"Are you mad?" Stefan questioned as he, clad in nothing more than a black and gold silk robe and matching pajama pants, sauntered down the staircase to stand before her. "Nature is raging a war outside, and you have risked life and limb to come here in the middle of the night. Why?"

"I ask the questions tonight, Stefan," Bobbie quickly informed him, lifting her chin slightly in a defiant gesture.

A glimmer of amusement lit his emerald eyes before it was masked behind his trademark bland regard. Shrugging, he pushed his hands inside the front pockets of his robe. "Ask your questions and be gone. I have guests here and I do not wish for them to be disturbed."

Bobbie felt a flash of annoyance. Her mouth curled in distaste. "Your precious Katherine won't miss a moment of beauty rest."

Stefan's mouth twitched. "The names of my guests are not your concern, Barbara. Please, proceed with your inquiries."

He was right. She didn't care who he entertained. Her involvement in his personal affairs ended with their divorce. She'd do best to remember that. With a shake of her head, she centered her thoughts to attend to the matter at hand. "When we were married, you knew the truth about my daughter. Didn't you? You knew that she was alive and you know who she was."

"Yes."

"You bastard!" she bit out, her hand itching to sting his pride with a slap across his face. She balled her hand into a fist and tried to maintain her control. Hitting him would solve nothing. The pleasure would last for only a moment and then the pain would still be there. "Why didn't you tell me?"

He took a small step towards her and his voice dipped to a gravelly whisper. "I had no wish to harm you. The masquerade that she had orchestrated and the pain she had already caused… Well, I saw no need to add to that. Another had told the lie to you, and it was his duty to make it right. Not mine."

"You mean Luke," she stated calmly, hoping that the bitterness of her own brother's betrayal hadn't seeped into her voice.

"Yes," he murmured. "Does this end the interrogation?"

An overwhelming feeling of exhaustion tired her and she simply nodded, turning on her heel to leave her former husband, his home and his unnamed guests.

*~*

"Was she your wife?"

Carlotta's voice rang softly in the alcove behind him. Nodding, Stefan held out his hand to her. She took it and they moved to sit together near the fireplace. "She and I were married for a short time. Were you in attendance for the entire conversation or just the end?"

She squeezed his hand and pulled it onto her lap. "I think I arrived in the middle. My intention was not to eavesdrop, but somehow, I did. I guess I should apologize."

"You should," he teasingly reprimanded, "but the words are not necessary. I trust you."

"And, I you," she told him. She twisted on the sofa so that she faced him. "How are you? Had you prepared yourself for that one?"

"I am always prepared," he scoffed with a smile. He rose from the sofa to stoke the fires, sending embers flying about the stone fireplace in wild abandon. "Although it is none of my affair, I am curious as to how she discovered the ruse. Her brother is not man enough to admit the truth and the expression on her face proved that."

"Curious?" she questioned. "Should I take your curiosity to mean that you still harbor some affection for your former wife."

"No." He set the poker in its holder and turned to face her again. "Not the kind that you mean, at least. I know that Barbara's search for her child was a personal one. I can sympathize with her situation. My affections do not go any further than sympathy. Now, my dear guest, what is the meaning of returning here at this late hour and in the middle of a blizzard no less? I left word at your office that you were to spend the night at the Port Charles Hotel at my expense. Why did my orders go unheeded?"

"Because I don't take orders from you," she said. Her eyes flashed at him in a manner that reminded him of their youth. He laughed and shook his finger at her. Reaching for her hands, he pulled her to her feet and guided her to the staircase. "Very well then. To bed with you!"

Carlotta released a laugh that was loud and melodious in the otherwise quiet room. "Won't it be crowded? And what would Katherine think?"

Shaking his head, Stefan couldn't help but laugh. "My, but you are a saucy wench. Behave yourself, Carlotta Christofides, and mind your manners."

She released an audible sigh that was filled with merriment. "I shall try, Stefan Cassadine, but I won't make promises as to my success."

General Hospital & Port Charles ABC
Wiseguy Stephen J. Cannell Productions
Magnum, P.I. Universal Studios
Spenser: For Hire ABC
The Right Way(and all original characters) 2000 niklovr
All Rights Reserved

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