~ Unbridled Passion ~
Ned sat at the console and played back the recording of Dara's demo. Her voice vibrated with passion and perfection. He couldn't get over just how natural she sounded. She was made to record music. Thank God she realized her calling, he reasoned.
"Hi, baby." Brenda came behind him. Her hands rested on his shoulders as she brushed her mouth against his cheek. "How's it going?"
"It's been incredible," he answered, resting back against her. His hands closed over hers and held them gently. "Dara's due in a little later. I thought we needed to record the last verse again, but listening to it now... I don't think it's needed. Would you like to listen?"
"Of course!" She took the empty seat beside him. Her gaze swept over the instrument panel and she remarked, "I'm sitting in on the next session. I should know what this is all about."
"You will," he encouraged. "You and Robin will both get the hang of it. It may take a little while, but it will happen."
"How did you learn so much about music?" she asked. "We've talked about so many things lately, but I don't think you ever mentioned this one. Somehow, I can't see Tracy teaching you."
Ned laughed. "That's because my mother is tone deaf. She couldn't hold a tune to save her life. I learned this from my father's mother. She taught me an appreciation for music."
"Really?" Brenda smiled. "Tell me more. What did she teach you? What was her favorite type of music?"
"If you can believe this...she listened to the Grand Ole Opry," he admitted. "She had recordings of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and more. She taught me how to play the guitar and how to read music. I definitely preferred the education she gave me to the one I got at boarding school. I was singing 'Your Cheatin' Heart' when I was about this tall." He indicated with his hand. "If my parents had left me with her, I'm sure she would have showcased me at the Opry."
Brenda took his hand. "That's a wonderful story. How did she feel about Eddie Maine?"
"She never knew about him," Ned said quietly. "She passed away before I discovered Eddie. I wish she could have seen me perform...just once."
"I think she did," she said. "I'm sure she's still watching over you and listening to your beautiful voice."
"You think so?"
"Yeah," she said, nodding.
Ned smiled, "That's good. I like knowing that. I wouldn't want her to think the music died. It's still breathing."
"I know." Brenda pressed the palm of her hand against his chest. "I can feel it."
The feel of Robert's hand closing over hers warmed Alexis all over. The quiet, enigmatic man thrilled her with his calming presence. He didn't ask for anything, but she discovered that he gave so much in return. He listened to her. She hadn't realized how the small occurrence was lacking in her life. Other than Jax, no one listened to her in a long while. For this new friend to do so meant more to her than she found herself able to express.
Their afternoon walk through the park was spent in companionable silence. The quiet didn't bother her. It was the pensive expression on his face, which caused her concern. She didn't feel she should question him, but it lasted too long. She wanted him to know he could trust her if he needed to talk. She'd learn her lesson when it came to betrayal. She wouldn't do it again.
"What's wrong, Robert?" she asked, bringing an end to the silence. "You've been very quiet."
"Oh? I'm a regular chatterbox, am I?" he asked with humor. He released her hand and wrapped his arm around her waist. Hugging her to him, he said, "I've been thinking. I need to make some changes."
"Change can be good," she answered. "What kind of changes, if you don't mind my asking."
"I don't mind," he reassured her. "I've been apart from some family members...in particular, my younger brother. My daughter has giving me a severe tongue lashing about this and I'm starting to believe she's right. I can't stop thinking about him and getting the feeling that he needs me. I was able to ignore it all until today. I have to call him, but I'm not sure how to make that first step. It's been quite some time."
"I'm sure it won't matter," Alexis told him. "If he needs you, he won't care about how long it's been since you last saw him. I think you should contact him as soon as possible."
Robert stopped to look at her. Smiling, he drew her into the circle of his arms. "I think I will listen to the advice of the two loveliest women in my life. Thank you, Alexis."
"You're welcome," she murmured just before his lips closed over hers.
Stefan sat as quietly and patient as he could as he waited for Alexis to return to her office. Before he could confront Helena, he needed to know one thing and Alexis was the only person with the answer. The outer office door opened and he stood. Their eyes locked as she paused in the doorway. "Stefan."
"Alexis. It's imperative that I speak with you."
She nodded. "Yes." Glancing at her secretary, she said, "Hold all my calls. Right this way, Stefan."
He followed her inside the nice office she had procured for herself. A momentary sense of pride surged through him before he could cast it aside. His younger cousin had done well for herself. He wasn't surprised. She had the capability within her all along.
"I take it you read the report," she said, sitting behind her desk. "Did you believe it?"
"Yes," he replied in the affirmative. "It offered explanations for Helena's peculiar behavior and mine towards her. Those questions have been answered now."
"I take it you have more questions."
Stefan nodded. "Who gave you the information? How did you find everything? Was it Spencer?"
Her face turned ashen at the accusation. Stefan read it as guilt, but he would wait. There was more. He could just sense it.
"Some of it. Not all," she answered. "Luke led me to believe that I was Natasha and that my mother was killed by Helena. I wasn't sure if I should believe him so I went to Jax-"
"Jasper Jacks?" he questioned. "You requested his help?"
"I had no one else to turn to!" she said, her voice rising in her obvious agitation. "He helped me with no questions asked. He returned with the documentation that proved you were not Helena's child."
"And what was his reward in return? He will no doubt use this against the family-"
"He won't!" Alexis cried. "I know you don't think much of me, but Jax won't use this. He gave me his word and I believe him. He's my friend. I trust him."
Stefan drew in a harsh breath. It did little to steady his nerves, but it did give him the time he needed to collect his thoughts. "I will not argue that point with you. Who else knows of this?"
"No one," she answered. "Just the three of us: Jax, you and me. Not even Helena is suspicious."
"What of Spencer?" he asked. "Are you certain he has no knowledge of Emilia and Mikkos' affair?"
Frowning, she slowly shook her head. "I don't think so. He believes that I am the product of Mikkos' affair. Not you."
"Correction," he said, quietly. "That is what he led you to believe. I think he knew all along. Thank you for your time, Alexis-"
"Stefan!" she called. "What are planning? Let me help you."
"Thank you for the offer," he said with a sincerity, "but this is a battle where the fewer the participants, the better. Be safe, Alexis."
"You, too, Stefan," she said, just before he closed the door behind him.
Helena accepted Ari's note with a smile. He lingered beside her, waiting for further instruction. Emerald eyes gleamed with desire as she took in his form. There was no time for a moment of passion, unfortunately. She patted his hand. "That will be all for today. I shall ring for you later should I find myself in need of your services."
"Very well, madam." He nodded his dark head once and then left her alone to peruse her note.
She rose from the chaise lounge as she carefully read the paper. It appeared that Stefan spirited Nikolas and Dawn off to parts unknown. Three Cassadine jets left at the same time yesterday morning and there was no way for her to know which held her dear grandson and his betrothed. Well, there was no way for her to know now. Her spies were talented. They would find them for her and report back straight-away. She could wait. In the meantime, she would direct her attention to Mikkos' bastard-
The intruder entered her private chambers without any alarms being disarmed. Anger and admiration came to her swiftly as she looked over her uninvited guest. "To what do I owe this honor, Carlotta? Have you come to ask for my blessing on the upcoming nuptials? I wish to assure that I have always believed that your beautiful daughter would make a suitable mate for Nikolas. He needs a young woman with regal bearing and you and your father have certainly seen that she would be perfect for the Prince."
Carlotta gave her a faint smile. "My visit does not pertain to my daughter and Nikolas. This is about you, and bringing an end to your tyranny."
She pulled out a small firearm and aimed it at Helena's head. "If you have any last words, you should say them now."
Helena stared at the sleek, metal barrel. Her heart lodged in her throat. She should have been prepared for this turn of events. Damn Stefan for finding a woman whose strength matched hers.
Damn him to hell.
Although the hour was late, almost midnight, sleep refused to come. Dawn's mind was too preoccupied for sleep. The return to her first home brought her life into perspective for her. She loved Nikolas too much to wait until they were man and wife. Her birthday was only minutes away and she wanted nothing more than to greet that special day in his arms, loving him completely.
Since their arrival at her grandfather Petrukas' home, she had been the dutiful grandchild. She listened to her grandfather's words of wisdom and corrected him when he attempted to browbeat Nikolas for ending their prior engagement. In Greek society, it wasn't customary for a woman to speak with too much forcefulness to the men in her family. It was too her grandmother Hattie's credit that Petrukas had long been acclimated to the women's willfulness in his family. He didn't put up too much of a fuss, but ended with a warning to Nikolas. Hurt her again and he'd suffer the Christofides wrath. Of that, the young Cassadine could depend!
"Oh, Grandpapa!" Dawn moaned. "I hope your threats won't scare Nikolai away. I so want him to come to me tonight. If he comes, I will know that tonight is the right night for our lives together to officially begin."
The bell tolled in the square so many miles away, marking the arrival of the midnight hour. February 23rd had arrived and Dawn was eighteen years of age. She rose from the bed and pushed open the balcony doors. A cool, soothing breeze blew against her just as a knock sounded at her door. Her heart pounded erratically in her chest and she moved as quickly as she dared across the floor to answer the door.
"Nikolai!" she gasped in delight, taking his hand and drawing him inside. "I hoped you would come."
He hugged her and tenderly kissed her cheek. "I couldn't sleep. My mind and body is still on Port Charles' time. I was hoping I wouldn't disturb you."
"You didn't. I was awake."
She tugged on his hand and he offered no protest as she led him to her large bed. She sat and he stood at the bedpost, looking down at her. His fingers brushed against her soft cheek and Dawn shivered. He smiled and murmured in a low voice, "You were waiting for your birthday, no doubt. I suppose some things will never change."
She untied the belt of her dressing gown and slipped it from her shoulders. The pale moon beams came through the parted curtains and shone down upon her bare, smooth flesh. Nikolas sucked in a harsh breath as he stared at her. Dawn moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. "Some things can change tonight. If you want them to."
"I want to," he admitted, sitting on the edge of the bed. His gaze raked boldly over her nude form before his eyes locked with hers. "I want you. Are you sure? What about your wound?"
"If...we're not too rough," she said shyly, feeling the heat flood her cheeks, "I suppose, the wound will not be affected. I want to be with you this night...at this moment. Will you make love to me, Nikolas?"
He swallowed hard and nodded. Reaching for her, he murmured against her lips, "Yes. I will."