~Facing the Past~
The early morning sun beamed through the parted curtains and Mac slowly awakened. Dara lay curled against him and he allowed himself to enjoy her warmth for a few moments longer. Before he left the bed, he kissed her forehead and whispered, "Good morning, love."
She smiled in her sleep. He pulled the covers over her and padded downstairs to the kitchen. He started a pot of coffee and while it brewed he grabbed the cordless phone from the wall. He dialed an old number he memorized years ago and waited. It was answered on the third ring.
"Hello," Mac greeted. "How's it going?"
"Good until you called," his buddy, Mitch replied. "What gives you calling after all this time? What trouble are you in?"
"Now, that's a nice way to greet a friend," Mac said with a laugh. "Can't a guy call his old pal up once in a while?"
"It's been a long while for you, Scorpio," the other man answered, "and you were never one for idle chitchat. Do I have to ask you again?"
"You sound like you don't want to talk to me," Mac complained.
"I'm sorry, pally," Mitch said. "I'm having a bad one. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"
"I'm looking to get back in."
There was a pause. "You can't be serious. You're a respectable man now. The top dog at the police from what I hear. Why would you want to come back now?"
"It's personal," Mac responded.
"Come now, Scorpio, this is Mitch Hardcastle you're talking to. You can tell me."
Mac sighed. During his mercenary days Mitch was his closest friend. He trusted him as much as he trusted himself. Years of apart wouldn't change the depth of their friendship. "I'm having problems with someone. He's making threats against my family and I need to put a stop to it."
"That sounds very personal," Mitch answered. "What do you need?"
"Contacts, dates, places and the means of getting to him," Mac answered. "I can't go through the proper channels with this. They've botched things up more times than I want to admit. Do you think you can help me?"
"I can help you. Run it down for me and I'll get back to you within six hours."
Mac released a sigh of relief. "Thanks."
"No thanks needed, pally," Mitch responded with a smile in his voice.
Stefan returned to Wyndemere alone. Carlotta, Terranova and the children boarded the private jet without incident and for that, Stefan was relieved. Since learning of his biological mother, he feared for his family's safety more than he cared to admit. They were his weakness and with them safely transported to Carlotta's family's compound, they would be free from Helena's wrath.
Stefan informed Mrs. Landsbury of his return and went to his study. Flipping on his laptop, he removed his eyeglasses and rubbed his tired eyes. He spent most of the previous night, reviewing the latest reports on Helena's habits. Nothing seemed amiss, but with her, he couldn't be certain. In order to win, he would have to stay at least twenty steps ahead of her.
A soft knock sounded at his study door and he called out, "Come in."
The door creaked open and his mouth dropped open. "Wh-What are you doing here?" he stammered in disbelief.
"What do you think?" Carlotta asked. "I'm here to help you."
"You were to go to Greece!" he yelled, rising quickly from his chair. "You should not be here. Do you realize how dangerous it is for you to remain here with me?"
"Yes," she answered, "I know, but I do not fear Helena. I fear for you. I will not allow you to face her alone-"
"Allow me?" he repeated. "Dammit, Carlotta! I cannot allow you to stay!"
"You cannot make me leave," she said, going to him. Her hands cupped his face and she gave him a tender smile. "I love you, Stefan and I can help you defeat that old witch once and for all."
"You should not risk your life to help me," he choked. "If something happens to me, the children will need you. Nikolas will need your guidance and your love."
"He will always have that," she answered. "From both of us… I'm not the little five-year-old who needs you to hold her hand, Stefan. I'm a woman now. I am stronger and smarter than you realize."
Shaking his head, he frowned. His arms closed around her and drew her close to him. "I never doubted your strength nor your intelligence, however, right now, I find myself doubting your sanity. Helena has a diabolical mind, Carlotta. I will need to confront her on her level. Are you prepared to sink to those depths?"
She nodded. "To keep you alive, I will. You were right before. You said that my daughter is like me. She did what she thought was best to help the man she loves and I'm here to do the same. We can defeat Helena together."
She admitted she loved him twice! Joy coursed through him and he embraced her. Against her ear, he said, "I believe we will. I love you, Carlotta. Thank you."
"Are you comfortable?" Nikolas asked, as he tucked the blankets around Dawn. "Do you need another pillow?"
"I'm fine," she told him. "The flight to Grandfather's will be long. I do wish you would relax."
"I'm relaxed!" he said, averting his eyes.
She touched his cheek until he looked at her. "You're a bundle of nerves. I'm sure that Uncle will be fine. Mother will see to that."
"I know," he said. "I don't like how they shipped us away so easily. If I didn't think you could use the time away, I would have protested."
"I would have, too," she agreed, "but I think we could both do with a visit home. Are you certain nothing is wrong? Every day you seem to grow more bruises. Where do they all come from?"
She lightly pressed her fingertips against the purple spot underneath his eye. He sat still and allowed her to stroke his face, enjoying the softness of her touch. He hadn't told her about his scuffle with Morgan. Her reaction was unpredictable and he would rather wait until they were on Greek soil. Leaning forward, he caressed her lips in a gentle kiss. "I need to speak with Vincent. Are you sure you do not require anything further?"
"I have my magazines. I'll be fine."
He kissed her again and then went downstairs to the first floor of the jet. He found Vinnie there watching a movie and he coughed once to announce his presence. Vinnie turned around and beckoned for him to join him.
"Is she asleep already?" Vinnie asked, as Nikolas sat on the sofa across from him.
"No, she's reading. I see that you have settled in."
Vinnie shrugged. "It's a long flight." He gave Nikolas a long look. "Are you okay? You look like crap."
"What happened with Morgan?" Nikolas asked. "How did you handle it?"
"I did what I said I would. I called 911. They came and they took him to the hospital," Vinnie explained.
"What did you say to the authorities?"
"Nothing!" Vinnie told him. "I didn't stay around that long. I watched until they arrived and then I left. They never saw me. You're okay, Nikolas. You didn't kill him. Morgan will survive this ass whipping. From what I hear, he was long overdue for one anyway. Don't worry about it anymore."
"I can't help it-"
"Think about it this way, the more agitated you are, the more it affects Dawn," Vinnie advised. "She's asked me about your odd behavior twice already. Don't give her a reason to ask again. You're together. Enjoy it. Morgan won't die because of you. Capisce?"
Nikolas nodded. "I understand." He patted Vinnie's shoulder as he stood. "Thanks. I'm glad you're coming with us."
"Me, too." Vinnie smiled. "Now, go back up there, and enjoy the ride. You're interrupting the movie."
Nikolas laughed and went back upstairs to Dawn.
Something beeped every few seconds. There was a distant whirring noise, too. His head ached like an anvil had fallen on him. The rest of him just plain felt sore. "Ugh," Jason groaned as he slowly awakened.
A soft gasp alerted him that he wasn't alone. He looked to his left and saw Monica standing over him. Her face was pale and her eyes were red. She looked worried and scared. He tried to smile and croaked, "Mom, what happened?"
Her eyes widened in surprise and she stepped closer to him. She took his outstretched hand and said, "What did you just say?"
"What happened to me?" he asked. He tried to speak louder, but the effort hurt too much. He squeezed her fingers and whispered, "Why am I in the hospital?"
"You were hurt," she explained. "I have to get someone else to examine you. I'll be right back."
"Okay," he said. "Mom, wait."
"Yes, Jason?" she said, pausing at the door.
"Can you let Keesha know I'm okay?" he asked. "I don't want her to worry."
"Keesha?" Monica repeated.
"Yeah," Jason said, frowning at her reaction. "Tell her I'll be fine…and that I love her and I'm not upset about AJ. I understand why she didn't tell me. Could you do that for me, Mom?"
"Sure, Jason," she said, nodding slowly. "I can do that. I'll be right back with Dr. Lewis. Rest quietly, okay?"
"Okay, Mom," he whispered, closing his eyes. "Hurry back and bring Keesha with you, too. It feels like forever since I've seen her beautiful face."