~ Complications ~
Mac opened the front door and the delicious aroma of dinner hit him full force. Smiling, he closed the door and inhaled. The kitchen door swung open and Katherine appeared with a bottle of Amstel and a smile.
"Hi." She handed him the cold bottle and took his jacket from him. As she hung his coat in the closet, she asked, "Did you have a good day?"
"I can't complain," he said, stepping down into the living room. He crossed into the dining area and set the bottle on the table. Three place settings had been prepared and he frowned. "You've been busy. You're supposed to take it easy. I didn't invite you here to cook for me."
"I know," she said, moving toward him. "This is my way of saying thanks."
"Just say it," Mac said. He briefly patted her shoulder. "I want you well. You won't be if you're running around in the kitchen and trying to clean up after me."
"I like doing it," she said with a shrug. "I used to run from the kitchen. I swore I'd never be like my mother, a lowly slave to a stove, but I see now I was wrong. Cooking can be cathartic. It's certainly helping me."
"Have your memories returned?"
She shook her head. "It's cathartic, but not a miracle worker." She pointed to the third plate. "Kevin called. I invited him for dinner. I hope you don't mind."
"No. That's great. Just give me a moment to wash up. In the meantime, sit!" Mac smiled to soften his demand. "I'll be right back."
He waited until she obeyed his command. Then, he raced up the staircase and quickly freshened up. As he dried his hands, he thought about the information he and Robert found about Katherine's mysterious disappearance before the Bacchanalia. She flew to London and that's where the trail ended. It's like she vanished until she appeared on the parapet.
What happened during those short weeks? Where did she go and how did she just disappear like that? Mac shuddered. It gave him the creeps just to think about it. There had to be an explanation. He and Robert were good investigators, but they were overlooking something. What was it?
Mac went back downstairs. She sat just where he left her. The television was tuned to a ballet and she gazed intently at the screen. Awareness of her beauty struck him like a sharp jab to his stomach. He drew in a deep breath and tried to ignore the chaotic emotions that coursed through him.
She glanced over her shoulder and smiled. "I thought I heard you. If you would rather watch something else, I don't mind."
He shrugged and hoped she hadn't noticed his stare. "The ballet is fine. What time will Kevin be here?"
"Any moment now."
As if on queue, the doorbell chimed. Mac answered it and warmly greeted his best friend. "Long time, no see."
Kevin laughed. "Whose fault is that?" He entered the house and made a beeline to Katherine. "Hi, Katherine. You're looking well."
"I'm getting better every day. It's because of Mac. He's been wonderful."
Kevin cocked an eyebrow and looked at his friend. "Wonderful?"
Heat crept up Mac's neck. He grimaced. God, how he hated blushing. A change in conversation was definitely needed. "Is dinner almost ready?"
"It's ready," Katherine said, turning off the television. She stood. "I'll have it on the table in no time."
"No you won't," Mac said. "You'll sit. Kevin and I can do the honors."
The two friends moved into the kitchen. Kevin helped Mac dish up the baked chicken, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. While they worked, they talked.
"She seems to be settling in quite nicely," Kevin commented.
"Spit it out," Mac said without preamble.
Kevin shrugged. "Not that I'm trying to butt in, but what's going between you two? She looks at you like you're the captain of the football team and she's the prom queen."
Mac felt the blush return. He turned away and put the rolls into a basket. "She does not. She's just a little grateful."
"I've seen grateful. That's not gratitude," Kevin said. "That's adulation. Do you know what you're doing?"
Mac gave up. Kevin was his best friend. If he couldn't talk to him, who could he talk to?
"I have no idea anymore. Everything made sense before Dara left. With her gone... It's getting jumbled."
"Have you spoken to her?"
Mac nodded. "A few times. The tour is going well. The Boston crowd has been great and she's looking forward to seeing how the rest of New England will react. If all goes well, the tour will be extended."
Kevin leaned against the counter and folded his arms across his chest. "And how do you feel about that?"
"I'm not one of your patients!"
Kevin released a short laugh. "Sorry. It just comes out like that. You're still obligated to answer the question. Do you miss her?"
Mac glanced down at his wedding band. Absently, he twisted it around his finger. "I know I should, and sometimes, I do. But it's not like I should. Trying to find out what happened to Katherine has taken up so much time..."
Mac sighed. "Okay, that's not necessarily true. I've been thinking about Dara and our marriage. Sometimes, I wonder if we rushed into it. And then, there are times when I know that marrying her was the best thing that ever happened to me."
"Maybe you should join her on tour," Kevin suggested. "Surprise her. Spend a few days together and get that old magic back."
"I can't. Christofides is coming down hard and since Katherine is better, time is running out. He wants her under lock and key before his daughter's wedding day. Leaving now wouldn't be good."
Kevin nodded. He grabbed two serving dishes and headed for the swinging door. "You gotta do something. You're tempting fate by keeping her here."
"Don't I know it," Mac mumbled. "I'll figure something out. She's a beautiful woman and I cared about her once. That doesn't mean she'll come between Dara and me."
"Maybe," Kevin said. "Maybe not."
The first week of the tour was everything Dara hoped for and more. The audience response broke records according to Brenda and Ned. They claimed they'd never seen anything like it. Not even when Mary Mae or Eddie Maine was the headliner. The words of encouragement fueled Dara's determination to put on the best show possible, yet, whenever she wasn't on stage, her life seemed to swirl in a sea of indecision. She hated the sense of confusion that gripped her and didn't know what to do to make things right.
After her final set, she declined Ned and Brenda's offer to roam the streets of Boston. She went back to her hotel room, soaked for awhile in the tub and then curled in bed. She turned on the boob tube, sat back and stared at the television screen. A "new" classic, 'When Harry Met Sally,' played and she half listened as Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal denied their attraction.
During a commercial break, the telephone rang. She grabbed it. "Hello."
Dara smiled. Ellen's voice was happy and excited. Just hearing her made Dara's dull night burn a little brighter. "What's up? How's Matt?"
"Wonderful. He says hello," Ellen said. "Nothing much is happening here. We just wanted to know how the tour is going. Was the Beantown crowd receptive to you?"
Dara relaxed against the pillows. She muted the television and gave Ellen her full attention. "Boston has been kind to me. I have no complaints. The club owner asked that I extend my stay. I'm playing again tomorrow night."
"That's great! I bet the CD is really selling, too."
"Like hotcakes," Dara said, a little embarrassed. "The tour is off to a great start. Brenda and Ned really know what they're doing."
"I'm glad," Ellen replied. There was a slight pause and then, she added, "So how are other things? Have you spoken to Mac?"
"A few times," Dara said. "He's well."
"How's Katherine?" Ellen asked.
Dara sighed. "Not that again. I told you I don't mind him helping a friend. She doesn't have anyone else."
"They were involved! Aren't you concerned a little bit?"
Dara rubbed her temple. A headache was forming and something shifted inside her stomach. Ellen hadn't changed since childhood. She was always ready with the hard-hitting questions and unasked for advice. Having family around was great, but not when they wouldn't mind their own business.
"In all honesty, I don't know how I feel," Dara said. "I'm not ecstatic that she's living with Mac, but it's not because I don't trust him. I do trust him."
"But?" Ellen prompted. "I sense a 'but' in there somewhere."
"You sense too damn much," Dara grumbled. She rolled onto her side and picked imaginary lint off the sheet. "Marriage isn't easy, Ellen. Sometimes I wonder if I moved too fast."
"Like you were running away from something?"
Dara rolled her eyes. Obviously, Ellen had been thinking about this. "Out with it. You have something to say."
"You probably don't want to hear this," Ellen began, "but do you ever think about Corinthos? Do you regret marrying Mac?"
Damn. The nail was hit on the head the very first time. She hugged one of the pillows to her chest. "Regret is a harsh word. I just think we moved too fast. I love Mac."
"But what about Sonny Corinthos?" Ellen asked. "He's free now. Do you ever wonder what might have been?"
"No," Dara answered honestly. "I wonder why it happened in the first place. Being with him was so out of character for me, but for that week, it felt so right. It wasn't love, but it wasn't just sex either. He kept coming back after it was over and that freaked me out. I feel so confused, Ellen. What should I do?"
"I wish I knew," Ellen said softly. "You should go with your heart. Listen to it. The answer is there."
The following night, Dara performed another perfect set. The crowd enjoyed her mix of jazz, blues, and adult contemporary. They gave her a standing ovation and she returned the favor by giving them an encore. When she stepped off the stage and went to her dressing room, she felt like she was on Cloud 9 and nothing could bring her down.
Ned and Brenda left her alone while she showered and dressed. She had agreed to meet with them in an hour at a little coffee shop at the end of the block. As she stepped into her flats, she glanced at her watch. If she left within the next ten minutes, she'd be on time.
A knock tapped on the dressing room door. "Come in! It's open!"
"Do you always welcome visitors without knowing who's at your door?"
That low, gravelly murmur belonged to only one man. Butterflies danced inside her. She turned to face him with his name on her lips. "Sonny."
Dimples flashed as his mouth curved into a smile. He held a single, perfect white rose between his thumb and forefinger. As he crossed the threshold, he extended the flower to her. "This is for you. Your show was amazing."
Against her better judgment, she accepted the rose. "Thank you. I didn't know you moved to Boston."
"I haven't," he said. "I'm here on business."
She nodded. "Well, I'm late. I'd better go."
"Okay," he said, taking a step back. "Would you mind if I walked you out?"
"That may not be a good idea," she warned, grabbing her jacket and purse. "Brenda is here."
He shrugged. "She's with Ned, and from the looks of it, they're happy. I doubt if seeing me will change that."
She had no argument for that. Sonny stood aside as she moved out of the dressing room. He followed and closed the door.
"Shouldn't you lock it?" he asked.
"I have an assistant," Dara said. "She'll take care of my personal effects."
He made no move to take her elbow, but he stood close behind her as they wove their way through the mingling crowd. The heady scent of his cologne drifted to her. Her flesh tingled as if he'd caressed her. She didn't appreciate her body's betrayal, but there was nothing she could do to thwart it. As long as he didn't know, she thought, it didn't matter.
Hell, yeah, it mattered. Shame on her for thinking it didn't.
They stepped onto the sidewalk and Dara stopped. "Okay, you walked me out."
"You're dismissing me." He laughed softly. "I knew that was coming, but before I walk away, tell me this. Are you happy?"
"What does my happiness have to do with anything?"
His gaze left her for a moment and he looked down at the sidewalk. When he looked at her again, his eyes reflected his uncertainty. "It's none of my business, but I can't help wondering about you and if you're happy. I'm glad to be free, but I feel restless...as if I'm missing something. I came to the club tonight, heard you sing and felt almost whole.
"Your voice is revealing, Dara," he continued quietly. "Your songs were beautiful, but they were sad and filled with longing. You're not happy. Not the way you're supposed to be. Wouldn't you like to know what happiness feels like?"
"I suppose you can show me," she answered, ignoring her racing heart and damp palms. This conversation was ridiculous. Why didn't she just walk away?
"Maybe," he said after a short pause. "I can't give you any guarantees, but I'd like to try."
Dr. Larry Wolek smiled at Dawn as she took the seat across from him. "You didn't have to come in," he said. "I could have given you the results over the telephone."
Her mouth quirked into a half-smile. "I was ordered to get some fresh air. Coming in was better than getting the news over the telephone. Are the results as I suspected?"
Larry nodded and sat behind his desk. "You're pregnant."
Elation soared through her at the thought of carrying Nikolas' child. She often dreamed of giving him a son. She and Nikolas would have the perfect family that neither experienced as children. Love, laughter and happiness would fill their home. Their child wouldn't be without either parent or have to be shuffled between homes. It would be perfect.
Tears caught in her throat. That dream might not ever become reality. Four weeks passed and Nikolas still hadn't mentioned his dalliance with Carly Benson. Unspeakable pain tore through her. She might have been able to forgive him had he told her. Now with so much time past, she doubted if she ever could.
Oh, Nikolai, how could you?
"You said you would be returning to Port Charles soon," Larry said, interrupting her dismal thoughts. "Do you have a physician there? If not, I could recommend an excellent obstetrician. Dr. Lorraine May is one of the best. She has a private practice, as well as, an office at General Hospital. If you'd like, I could call her and make the introductions for you."
Dawn shook her head. "That won't be necessary. I won't be going to Port Charles to stay. My mother is getting married. I'll only be there a few days."
Larry frowned. "Will you be returning here?"
"No," she answered. "My next destination will be New York. I have an engagement at Carnegie Hall."
Larry hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. "How could I forget!"
"I'm sure you have plenty of patients to keep up with," she said. "It's understandable."
"I hope you don't think I'm overstepping myself, but as your present physician, I feel the need to ask," he said. "Do you have a support system? You're four weeks along and you're not without choices—"
"I won't abort this pregnancy," Dawn said, closing her hand over her still flat abdomen. Regardless the present circumstances, her child was created out of love. Nothing could stop her from giving birth to her baby. "I can support myself. I have a sizeable trust fund not to mention the payment I'll receive for my performances. After Carnegie Hall, Maestro Renaldi has scheduled concerts for me in Vienna, Stockholm, and Amsterdam."
"You shouldn't overextend yourself," Larry said. "You're young and healthy, but carrying a child can and will tax your strength." He grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. He then handed the sheet to her. "This is a prescription for vitamins. You should begin taking them immediately."
Dawn stood. She held on tightly to the scrap of paper. "I will. Is there anything else I should do?"
"Obtain a physician. One you can trust. As I said before, I'd be more than happy to recommend someone."
She hurried from his office before he could say anything else. Dawn didn't want him to ask if she had the support of the child's father. She knew she wouldn't be able to answer that question without bursting into tears.
Vinnie stood as soon as she entered the waiting area. He glanced at her face and then wrapped his arms around her. "What are you gonna do?"
She pulled back and gave him a watery smile. "What do you think?"
Vinnie's blue eyes darkened with understanding. "Are you gonna tell him?"
Dawn wiped the stray tear that rolled down her cheek. She whispered in a hoarse voice, "What do you think?"
Vinnie nodded and took her hand. As they headed for the elevator, he said, "You won't be able to hide the pregnancy forever. He's gonna find out."
Dawn didn't answer. She just hoped and prayed that soon, Nikolas would speak up. Despite the pain and uncertainty of the last four weeks, she loved him and she wanted desperately to raise their child together.
A cool breeze blew across the waters of Spoon Lake. Nikolas pulled his jacket tight around him and continued to wait for the launch. Windors should return soon, and Nikolas was in a hurry. The mystery of what happened between him and Carly was slowly being solved in bits and pieces. It sickened him to think that she drugged and forced herself on him. But there was no other explanation. He was determined to learn the truth from her and wouldn't leave until he got it.
"Nikolas," Stefan greeted as he joined the younger man on Wyndemere's dock. "Are you waiting for the launch?"
Stefan smiled. "Good, we can travel together. I feel that I've been neglecting you these past few weeks. This will give us time to become reacquainted."
"You haven't neglected me," Nikolas said. "Planning a wedding is consuming. I understand that."
"Have you and Dawn finalized the plans for yours?"
Dawn. Nikolas warmed at the sound of her name. He hadn't seen her since his unexpected visit to Llanview, but they had spoken a few times on the telephone. She would return for the upcoming wedding, and he anticipated claiming all of her time. He missed her so much.
"We haven't had time. Carnegie Hall follows your wedding and then, she'll be in Europe for a few weeks," Nikolas answered. "We'll conclude our arrangements when she returns."
Windors arrived. The men boarded the launch. Stefan sat while Nikolas stood in front of the windows. He loved watching the rippling waves. They represented freedom and beauty. Two qualities that reminded him of his betrothed. Of course, she possessed more than that, but those claimed Nikolas' thoughts at that moment. Once he confronted Carly and obtained the truth from her, he would be free of the torment that ravaged his soul and Dawn's beauty would cleanse him. Her beauty and her love.
God, how he missed her.
The launch docked. Stefan and Nikolas parted ways. During the ride, Nikolas felt Stefan's stare. His uncle's concern was as tangible as the wooden planks that made up the dock. Soon, all would be well again, Nikolas wanted to tell Stefan, and there would no longer be any cause for worry.
Traffic was light and Nikolas arrived at Bobbie's brownstone in minutes. He raced up the steps and jabbed the doorbell with his finger. He hoped no one other than Carly would be there, but it didn't matter. He wanted and needed everything out in the open. The sooner he confronted her, the sooner it would all be in the past.
The door opened. Carly stared back at him. She wore a pink terrycloth robe and matching slippers. Her hair was pulled back in a haphazard ponytail and she looked deathly ill. Nikolas couldn't help but feel a small bit of satisfaction at her appearance. She deserved to be sick considering what she did to him. Only a sick person would do the things she did. Only a depraved mind would consider it.
"Come in," she said. Nikolas entered and Carly slammed the door shut. She plopped onto the sofa and curled her legs underneath her. "What do you want and why are you here? I haven't spoken to your precious Dawn, so I assume you're not here to kill me."
"I know what you did," he said. Facing her fired up the rage inside him. He wanted to strike out, but he could never hit a woman. He'd have to be satisfied with what he came to tell her. "I don't know what drug you used, but I know you did something. I could have you locked away in a dungeon where rodents wouldn't even dare to tread."
"But you won't," she said, not looking at him. "If you planned to do that, you wouldn't be here. What do you want?"
He reached inside his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. Half a million dollars. He tossed the cash at her. "I want you gone! Far away, where I'll never have to set eyes on you again! I don't care were you go as long as you don't come into contact with me or my family!"
Carly picked up the cash. Her dark eyes suddenly appeared glassy. She threw the money at him. "I won't be able to live up to my end of the bargain."
His hands clenched into fists. He stepped toward her. She flinched. "You will not use what happened against me! You won't destroy what I have with Dawn!"
"I never said I would!" She hopped from the sofa and shuffled away, turning her back to him. "You warned me. I haven't spoken to your darling girlfriend. She has no idea that I'm..."
He grabbed her arm and roughly turned her around to face him. His chest tightened with dread. She couldn't be. He hadn't even been a willing participant. It couldn't be possible.
Nikolas looked down at where he touched her. He flung his hand off her as if he'd been scorched. "No idea that you're what?"
"Take a wild guess, Prince," she said. Her chin jutted out in open defiance, as if she was daring him to say the words aloud.
His stomach rumbled. The bitter taste of bile settled on his tongue. Shaking his head, he stepped back. "I don't believe you."
"Believe it," she said. "I'm pregnant and the kid is yours. You can't pay me off because I plan to keep it, and there's nothing you can do about it! Not. One. Damn. Thing!"