Chapter 21

*Lean on Me*

The patrons of the Port Charles Grille enjoyed an early dinner. Snatches of conversation drifted back to the secluded corner where Bobbie dined with Justus. In the back of her mind, the muffled words filtered to her. She paid them no heed; the food on her plate went untouched. Something else had captured her attention and unfortunately for her dinner companion, it wasn't him.

"What's wrong?" Justus' hand was warm and strong as it closed over Bobbie's. His fingertips caressed her gently. "You've been miles away all night."

"I should be miles away," she answered, ruefully, "that's what's wrong."

He nodded in understanding. "Carly or Lucas?"

"These days, take your pick," Bobbie said. She glanced at the romantic setting: flowers, candles and wine. He went to a lot of trouble to make the night special and she was ruining it. "I'm sorry. I should have taken a rain check for tonight."

"No." He deftly laced their fingers together. "You needed a break. A pregnant daughter and a willful teenage son. No one could blame you for being distracted. Not even me."

So understanding, Bobbie thought, looking into Justus' warm brown eyes. And with the expertly cut goatee and sexy locks, so handsome, too. She sighed. Her last relationship had been rushed and ended in divorce. She wanted to take things slowly with Justus. The more time they spent together, the more she cared. He was such a caring man. How could she not? But loading him down with her problems wouldn't be fair and her mind couldn't seem to focus on anything else. Maybe it would be better to call it a night.

She reluctantly began to tug her hand free, but his grip tightened. Her wide eyes flew to his.

"Oh, no you don't," he said. "You're not escaping that easily. Tonight is yours, Bobbie. Just relax. Talk about what's going on at home or the hospital, or even the weather. Just talk to me. I'm a good listener…or so I've been told."

"You're excellent. It's just that…"

"What?" he asked, his stare wide and open. "You don't trust me."

"Of course, I trust you," she argued. "I wouldn't be here otherwise. I don't want to burden you with talk about my kids."

"You're a single mother. I knew that coming in. It's not a burden. I want to know."

Her shrug was a gesture of defeat. How could she argue against such warm, caring logic. "I'm not sure who I worry about more. Carly's pregnancy came as a surprise, but her attitude is something I'm used to. She's always been somewhat difficult." Justus covered a chuckle with a cough. Bobbie gave him a faint smile. "Okay, that was an understatement."

"A small one," he said, indicating with his thumb and forefinger. "Tell me about Lucas."

"I know I keep saying this, but he's changed completely." Sudden tears filled Bobbie's eyes as she spoke about her youngest child. "He used to be so loving and agreeable, but now… He's distant, and I think he's lying to me. The school called today. He ditched class. They say that if it happens again, he'll be expelled."

"Expelled?" Justus repeated. "Isn't that a bit harsh? Just for ditching?"

She shook her head. "Not to them. He's mouthed off to teachers and he's not doing his assignments. I thought the suspension would have opened his eyes. He had plans to be a doctor, and I told him that it's not gonna happen if he doesn't shape up. He has to have discipline. He mumbled something about how he'd try harder when he was back in school. Apparently, that was just a lie to appease me. I don't know what to do. I used to be a better parent than this."

"You still are," he assured her. "Kids go through cycles. Maybe this is Lucas' moment of rebellion. He has been through a lot."

"I suppose having a father who's a patient at a mental institution can't be easy. Do you think that's the problem?"

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe he should see a therapist."

Bobbie sighed. Her once bright child who was so eager to study medicine had turned into a slob who liked to sleep all day and wander around at night. Therapy had to help. She was at the breaking point and didn't know what else to do.

**

Caleb smiled as he watched Lucas escort Gia to his new dwelling, an old, forgotten two-story farmhouse on the outskirts of town. He and his crew had made the move from the catacombs a few weeks before. The old caves were relatively hidden, but there was something off about the scent. He felt that entrapment would be easy there. Maybe someone was on to him. Besides, whenever he got the urge to move, he acted on it. So far, his inner vibe hadn't been wrong.

As they moved closer to him, Caleb thought about his goals for the pair who came toward him. Adding Lucas to the family had been a spur of the moment decision. Actually, it had been a split second decision. The boy was to be a meal. Plain and simple. But when Gia said he was a friend, Caleb had a second thought. If guided properly, the boy could be useful. So, Caleb changed his mind and became the boy's sire instead.

Oh, the offerings Lucas brought him were spectacular. In over a hundred years, Caleb had never fed so well. He rubbed his flat abdomen in remembrance of past meals. Simply, delicious.

Then, there was his Gia. The girl was a spitfire to the world, but for Caleb, she was sweet as a little lamb. Of course, he hadn't converted her. The time for that would come later. For now, he would delight in having her under his spell. Besides, the time for her transformation had yet to arrive and until that night came, he would have to continue with the formation of their family.

"Caleb," his dear one greeted, slipping her hand into his. He encircled her within his arms and she trembled. "I've missed you."

"As I have you," he murmured against her ear. He released her and turned to Lucas. The boy warmly embraced him and Caleb returned the hug. "I trust that nothing has been amiss in my absence."

"Of course not, Sire," Lucas responded after their hug ended. "How was your trip? Was it successful?"

Gia curved her arm around Caleb's waist and the trio moved inside the dark house. Lucas closed the door behind him and they drew close to the glowing fireplace. Caleb sat on a blood red cushioned loveseat with Gia at his side. Lucas chose a spot on the floor near their feet.

"It was better than a success," Caleb confided. "Everything is falling into place perfectly."

"Our family will be complete soon?" Gia asked.

"No, my pet," he said, leaning forward to brush his lips across her cheek. "We still have a ways to go, but tonight we will be a step closer."

"Will you make me one with you?" she asked.

He shook his head. "The time isn't right. But soon."

"But Lucas--"

"Yes," he interrupted, "Lucas is a part of me, but that isn't something you should concern yourself with."

"What about the baby?" she asked. "How will I be a proper mother if…?"

"Ssh." He pressed his finger to her lips. "Everything will fall into place as it should. The prophecies never lie."

A flash of disappointment shone in Gia's eyes. Caleb waited for further protests, but none were stated. He didn't think there would be. She was learning who was Master. He liked that.

"Tell us about tonight," Lucas said, as eager as a young pup. "What happens?"

"I make another journey. I'll push a domino that will force the others to fall into place."

Caleb's smile deepened into laughter. Lucas and Gia joined in.

**

Under Arturo's tutelage, V worked her butt off. She knew vampire lore backwards and forward, and best of all, she knew how to slay them. Wooden stakes, crucifixes, Holy water, sunlight. She knew it all, but had yet to use any of it. The deaths were continuing and so were the strange disappearances. Just the other night, five bodies disappeared from the morgue. Her inability to put a stop to the craziness left her frustrated. Why were she and Art always just a few minutes too late? What were they doing wrong?

"It's this way," Art said, pushing through the foliage. "I remember those trees from my visions. I wish it hadn't taken me this long to find it."

V trusted Art's visions. To her chagrin, they always came true. Lately, he'd been moving with a sense of urgency. His feelings that his daughter's life hung on a wire tore through her. The meeting he had with her didn't go well and now, his determination had intensified. One night, he and V even staked out the apartment she shared with Marcus. They watched in silence as the teenager slipped out and headed for parts unknown. V believed with full certainty that they'd find the bastard's nest, but somehow, Gia gave them the slip. Art's cry of anguish matched the one that roared inside V's chest. Once again, so close.

Art stepped out onto the clearing and V was right behind him. Before them lay one of the oldest natural relics in Port Charles. The catacombs.

He moved hurriedly toward the entrance. "Don't you feel it, V? The energy? The evil that lingers still."

She shivered. When he put it that way, heck yeah she felt it! "Yeah, something isn't right here."

V followed him inside. The wavering beam of his flashlight guided their path. It was dark and dank. But the smell was worst. The stench of blood and death weighed heavily in the air.

"They're gone," Art muttered after they completed examining the site. "We missed them. Again."

"Yeah, I see," V said. "But they're not gone. Otherwise, your daughter would be gone. It's her, he wants, right?"

"Yeah, he wants her." He sighed and looked down at the ground. "What's the point of these visions if they don't help me save her? I'm gonna be too late."

"No," she said, gripping his arm. "The visions are making us stronger, but maybe we just need a little help."

Art tugged free and stalked outside the cave. "I told you no. Marcus's cop intellect would make him a hindrance."

"Not when it comes to his sister," V argued. "He loves her. He wouldn't put her in jeopardy."

"It's a risk I don't want to take."

"It's one you can't afford not to take." She moved around him to face him. "You said you've seen him in your visions. Stop fighting it. Let me talk to him."

"You've become his personal cheerleader," Art commented. "You want him."

V felt heat flood her cheeks. She hated to blush more than anything, but she wouldn't let that get her down. "I want him to help us."

"Personal desires aside?" Art asked with sarcasm.

"My personal desires are none of your business," she snapped. "Look, he already knows they're vampires. He's convinced. I know because he told me. If you want, I'll take responsibility for him. Come on, Art. We need him. We need all the help we can get."

"Fine," he said, throwing up his hands dramatically. "Bring him in, but if he prevents us from getting this bastard, the blood of the slaughtered will be on your hands."

"It already is."

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