~ Possibilities ~
After returning to find his apartment empty and his sister nowhere to be found, Marcus jumped back inside his car and hit the streets, intent on finding her. Hours later, his search produced nothing but a lot of irritation. He directed the car back to the squad and in a haze of annoyance, returned to his desk and tried to focus on work.
"Are you ready for this?" Keesha asked, claiming the seat behind her nearby desk. "Carly and Bobbie are working as nurses at Wyndemere."
"Oh yeah?" he grunted.
"Yeah," she replied. She handed him her notes from the meeting and asked, "What's up with you? The talk with your kid sister didn't go as planned?"
"What talk?" Marcus asked. "The little brat skipped out as soon as I turned my back."
"She ran away again?"
He shook his head. "Nah, her stuff is still there. She took off and didn't leave a note. Tonight she's gonna learn that if she's sticking around Port Charles, there will be rules. Now, that's enough about me. What happened at the Cassadines? I'll read your report, but I wanna hear what you have to say first."
Keesha shrugged. "I spoke to Stefan. He was a lot nicer than I thought he'd be. He says that he ended his relationship with Katherine Bell months ago and hadn't heard anything from her since then. Her attack at the Bacchanalia was a complete surprise."
"Any comments on what happened to the parapet?" Marcus asked. "The railing was loosened. There is no doubt about that. Someone loosened it on purposed. Did he have any culprits?"
"He has plenty of enemies, but none that would have access to his home is what he told me. The security system is extensive and I asked him if we could review the surveillance tapes."
Marcus was sure the aristocrat wouldn't like that idea. He chuckled. "How long did it take for him to tell you no?"
Keesha smiled. "He didn't. He said that his security personnel is looking at them now and when they were done, he would have someone deliver them to me. I think he will be very cooperative in this investigation."
His jaw dropped. "Sounds like you have him eating out of the palm of your hand! How?"
"His goddaughter and future stepdaughter and I are friends. I guess he trusts me."
Marcus remembered how deceiving Dawn in their previous investigation bothered Keesha. He noticed how her voice changed as she mentioned the younger woman. He wondered if something happened that he needed to know about. "Are you and Dawn still cool? You said that you're friends. Is that still true?"
Keesha nodded. "Yeah, she understood about the other case."
"So why the long face?" he asked. He thought of Keesha as a younger sister as well as a competent partner. If he couldn't help Gia, why not see what he could do for Keesha, he reasoned.
"Carly," she pronounced the name like it was a curse. "She's working at Wyndemere for a couple of days, looking after Carlotta. Somehow, I don't think that's all she's doing."
"What else could she be up to?" Marcus asked. "After losing her son, you'd think she'd work on getting her life back together. You know, learn from stupid mistakes."
Keesha guffawed. "Yeah, right. We're talking about Carly here. Dawn mentioned something about Carly making a play for Nikolas. Before Dawn came into the room, Carly and I had a little chat. She's feeling very comfortable in that house. I think she's up to something."
"Did you warn Dawn?" he asked. "You know what Carly is capable of. Maybe you should give your friend some advice on how to handle her."
"I think I will." Keesha reached out and patted his hand. "Thanks, Marcus. Now, it's my turn. As soon as you can, talk to Gia and your mom. Again. You haven't lived with either of them in years. Family dynamics change and you need to get up to speed."
"When you say it, it almost sounds easy," he cracked. "The women in my family are anything but easy, but I'll take your advice. I think it's time for Mama to visit and for us all to have a little sit down."
Up and down. Back and forth. Agile, slender fingers moved across ebony and ivory keys with finesse and skill. Leaning against the doorjamb and having never made a sound, Nikolas watched Dawn as she practiced on the massive Steinway piano. Her instructor, the Maestro David Renaldi stood just behind her with his eyes closed. The older man seemed lost in the masterpiece and Nikolas smiled. Dawn's music meant a great deal to her and as long as the Maestro was pleased, so was she. Quietly, Nikolas stepped back and left the pair alone to continue their work.
Preparations for the Bacchanalia had taken up so much of the family's time, especially Nikolas'. He wanted the celebration to be spectacular and a festive occasion. Until Katherine's unexpected arrival, the party was everything Nikolas could have hoped for and more. But now that it was all over, Nikolas was left with very little to do. His and Dawn's wedding wasn't planned for another twelve months so that gave them plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements.
Classes for the Fall semester of Port Charles University were still several weeks off and he had already reviewed the materials. He supposed he could engage in one of his hobbies—chess, fencing or Tai Chi—but the thought didn't intrigue him at all. Unlike Dawn, he didn't have an interest that fulfilled him the way her music fulfilled her. Being the heir apparent left him with little time to pursue anything that didn't pertain to his responsibilities in that role. Since he wouldn't assume the role for several more years, he decided that it was time for him to find something that he could call as his own.
Once upon a time, he fostered a strong interest in photography. Many of his photographs decorated Stefan's study and there were even a few that he presented as gifts to close friends and family. Perhaps, he discarded the pastime prematurely. Spoon Island possessed many fascinating subjects. He could retrieve his camera from his quarters and discover what the Island had to offer.
A couple of hours later, Nikolas left his darkroom with several samples from his experiment. He spread them across the expansive table in the library and took his time, reviewing them. Some of the shots were embarrassing, but on the whole, Nikolas was quite pleased with himself and his effort.
"Where did buy those?"
Nikolas started at the sound of Carly's voice. He looked over his shoulder and there she was. She gave him a sheepish grin and moved closer to the table. "I didn't purchase them," he replied.
"So where did you get them?" she asked, picking up a black and white photo of Wyndemere. "Oh, my God! This is your house. Don't tell me you shot this yourself? Wow. I didn't know you were an artist."
Her compliment pleased him, but embarrassed him, too. Heat infused his cheeks and he looked away. "I wouldn't call these photos a work of art. But, yes. I shot these photographs."
"They're impressive, Nikolas," she said warmly. She smiled and tilted her face to look at him. "You should be proud of your accomplishment. I would be."
The earlier episode still left him leery of her. He returned her smile but refused to acknowledge her compliment. His instinct told him to proceed with caution and fully intended to obey.
Carly didn't seem to notice his silence and continued speaking. "Before I went back to nursing school, I studied interior design at PCU. I took a class on the use of photography to enhance a space. Most of these would enhance the hell out of this old house."
Nikolas hid his chuckle with a cough. "Perhaps," he murmured.
"I've always been interested in visual stimulation," she said with an innocent expression on her face. "The next time you go out, I want to go with you. I think you could teach me a lot."
Alarms sounded inside Nikolas' head. Her aggressiveness came as no surprise to him, and now, he was certain that she wanted to be with him alone and away from Wyndemere. He gave no indication of his suspicions, but gave her a wan smile instead. He nodded. "We'll see."
Carlotta watched the expression on Bobbie's face as the nurse took her blood pressure. She gave nothing away when she made a notation on her chart. Carlotta could feel Stefan stiffen with tension and feared he would overreact. Quickly, she reached out and lightly placed her hand on Bobbie's forearm. "How is the baby?"
Bobbie's face relaxed to a warm smile. "You're both doing fine. I would recommend another day of bed rest, but we'll see what Dr. Hardy says when she examines you."
"If she is fine, why does she require another day of rest?" Stefan asked.
His reaction didn't surprise Carlotta. She wanted to calm him before his fears became her own. "I'm sure it's just a precaution. After all, I'm not as young as I used to be. I'm older and older women have to take care with their pregnancies. Isn't that correct, Bobbie?"
"Absolutely." Bobbie smiled at Carlotta again, but that smile faded as she looked at Stefan. "Unnecessary strain is to be avoided. That means you shouldn't worry her."
"I don't require your advice in how to relate to Carlotta," he said tightly. "You are here for your medical knowledge and not to-"
"Stefan," Carlotta said through clenched teeth. She grabbed his hand and squeezed. "Please."
His expression remained unyielding for several seconds and then he relaxed a small fraction. He returned the pressure to her hand before raising it to his lips. "My apologies. I will leave the two of you alone."
"Will you have dinner with me later?" she asked, hoping he wasn't too upset. She loved him dearly, but there were times when tried her patience. This pregnancy meant the world to both of them. But she sensed that he was afraid of it, too. She so desperately wanted him to feel the joy and forget about the rest. They were destined for happiness. Nothing could ever change that.
He smiled. "Of course." He nodded his head once to Bobbie and then he left.
Bobbie finished putting away her equipment. "He cares for you very deeply. He's only ever been that edgy when Nikolas was in the hospital."
"He's not a hard man," Carlotta said, looking at the other woman. "I'm suppose I don't have to tell you that. You were married to him."
Bobbie gave her a wry smile. "Briefly. But yes, I know that he's not made of stone. I would never say he loved me the way he loves you. Our marriage was a game. A means to an end."
She shook her head. "You don't know him very well then if you believe that," Carlotta said not unkindly. "He would never take marriage so lightly. I admit he's a complicated man, but he's not without feeling. In his own way, he cared for you. I wouldn't dare to say whether or not loved was involved, but I know him well enough to know that he would never have married you out of spite or some ploy in the ridiculous war against your family."
Bobbie stiffened. "I would rather not discuss the legitimacy of the feud between my family and the Cassadines."
"I suppose you wouldn't," Carlotta commented, "but it's there and shouldn't be ignored. I've known Stefan since I was five years old. I am as aware of his faults as I am his worth. He's capable of unwavering loyalty and inflexible apathy. He's a good man, Bobbie."
The nurse shrugged and looked down at her clenched hands. Her voice was strained as she asked, "Why are you defending him to me? I have no relationship with Stefan. Nor do I want one."
Carlotta laughed. "If I thought you wanted one, you wouldn't be here. No, I say this because I like you and I'd like to get to know you better. I feel you have a good heart and one can never have too many friends with good hearts."
Bobbie's eyebrows arched in surprise. "You want to be friends with me? Why?"
"I have no idea." Carlotta laughed again and Bobbie joined in. When the chuckles faded, Carlotta asked, "Does it matter? I have no ulterior motive. I have no part in this so-called feud with your family and won't take part in it unless I am forced."
"You mean if Stefan or Nikolas comes under attack," Bobbie commented.
"Yes," she answered. "Do you think it's possible for us to become friends?"
Bobbie nodded and then smiled. "Sure. Anything is possible."