Chapter 28

Two weeks of searching produced zero results. Nikolas returned to Port Charles dejected and angry. True, New York City was large, but its vastness should have been no competition for his and Petrukas' resources. He should have found Dawn. Nikolas grunted in self-disgust. He should never have let her go in the first place.

To his relief Caroline was on a shopping expedition when he entered Wyndemere. Mrs. Landsbury informed him that Stefan was at General Hospital. He found Carlotta at her home office. She sat behind her desk. Her gaze directed to the monitor in front of her, but her eyes appeared unfocused. Her hands rubbed her swollen abdomen in a circular motion. When he coughed to announce his presence, her movements ceased and she looked at him.

"Nikolas!" She moved to stand.

He entered the room quickly. "No, Aunt. Rest yourself. I have failed. Dawn's whereabouts are still unknown."

Carlotta pressed her hand to her mouth. "No. When we didn't hear from you, I hoped… She's alone. Where can she be?"

"I do not know." He hated those four words more than any other. "Your father refuses to give up. I should have stayed with him. I don't know why I'm here."

She extended her hand to him. He took it and perched at the edge of her desk. As he stared into her eyes, he was immediately reminded of Dawn. Carlotta's classic beauty was passed onto her daughter. The quick wit was also a trait of the Christofides women. He squeezed Carlotta's hand. God, would he ever hear Dawn's voice again? Was she even alive?

He shuddered.

Carlotta closed her other hand over his. "Don't, Nikolas. None of this is your fault. You came home to rest and that's what you should do. Father has friends all over New York. He'll bring her home."

Nikolas swallowed hard. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't have left in the first place. "What if she won't come?"

She smiled. "Do you honestly think her stubbornness outweighs her grandfather's? She'll come."

Later, after reuniting with Sheba and taking a long bath, Nikolas took the launch to Port Charles. While he was away, Tommy called and expressed his concern. Nikolas remembered that Tommy had experience with searching for a lost loved one. Tommy's quest eventually met with success. Nikolas hoped that his friend could offer insight for his own search.

They met at a coffee shop at PCU's student union. Nikolas sat while Tommy placed their orders at the counter. Nikolas watched as the other man wove his way through the crowd to reach their table in the darkened corner.

Tommy placed the coffees on the table and sat. "No chance of being interrupted back here. Good choice."

Nikolas nodded. He wrapped his hand around the styrofoam cup. The heat seeped into his hand and spread through him. He hadn't realized how cold he'd been. Ever since he heard of Vincent Terranova's death and realized that Dawn was completely alone, a chill had come over him.

"You okay?" Tommy asked and then frowned. "Of course not. You don't know where she is. Do you have any leads?"

He shook his head. "Not one. She's vanished into thin air."

"No," Tommy said. "It just seems like she has. I know someone who can help. You can trust him." He handed Nikolas a slip of paper.

Nikolas read the scribbling aloud. "Thomas Magnum. Private investigator. He's in Hawaii. Did he help you find Lynn?"

"Yes, he's good, Nikolas. Call him. He doesn't usually take missing persons cases, but if you tell him it's a favor for me, he'll do it. I would have called him on your behalf, but I hoped you'd come back with her."

"So did I." Nikolas pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and punched in the eleven digits.

~*~

"Regrets?"

Dawn lowered the skein of pastel yawn onto her lap. She fully understood the words that Roger left out. "It would have been dangerous if Nikolai found me. I don't regret keeping him safe."

Her bodyguard chuckled. "No one's that noble."

Her jaw tightened. "There is no need to insult me."

"I wasn't trying to insult you. Aren't you a little young to be such a prima donna?" He resumed to roll the yarn into a ball. Dawn picked up the other end but refrained from speaking. "The silent treatment, eh?" he asked.

"Is that what Vincenzo said about me?" she asked softly. "That I am a prima donna?"

Roger's teasing expression sobered. "No, he said that you were spoiled and had the potential to be a brat. He also said that he loved you like a sister and if you had been a little older… He liked you, kid. He never had a bad word for you."

"I miss him."

"That won't ever change. The pain will fade a little, but the hollow pit in the middle of your gut… that's for life."

"We never had a warning," she said, repeating what she already told him. "Vinnie heard it coming, but everything happened so fast. If I hadn't wanted to walk home…"

"What ifs are a bitch," Roger advised. "It's better not to give in to them. Vinnie protected you. He knew the risks when he took the job. There's always a chance you won't see the mission to the end."

"Why did you come?" Dawn asked. "Please, don't say it's because you promised Vinnie. You have no idea what you're getting yourself in to. You didn't see…it! It was inhuman, crazed." She looked around the old church that served as their hideout. "Even behind these sacred walls, I can still feel it. Out there looking for me. Father Michael thinks we're protected here, but for how long? What if he's wrong?"

"Then we'll go someplace else," he said. "I know about fighting evil. You have to sink to the level. Sometimes a little lower."

She chewed on her bottom lip. "Should I be afraid of you?"

He brushed her cheek with his knuckles. She was ever bit as beautiful and smart as Quentin told him, and of course Vinnie confirmed. He hated lying to her, but he made a promise to her dad. He and Quentin went way back. Like his relationship with Vinnie, ties weren't always born of blood. The past made him loyal to Quentin Hunter. Vinnie's premature death made him determined to keep his charge safe. Roger gave Dawn a half smile to ease the frightened glimmer in her eyes. "No. I'm talking too much."

"Keep talking. Tell me that we'll get out of this alive."

Roger smiled. His voice was confident and cocky. "We'll get out here alive. Scout's honor."

~*~

Frustration boiled in his veins! Caleb had been so close. The girl was within his grasp. The burly bodyguard lay dead at his feet and she ran! Into the church!

Of all places. A church.

It should have been easy to get her. And that lovely child within her womb. His child. The child he wanted to make the perfect family for him and Gia, but the girl. She kept running and every time he got close enough to take her…

Caleb returned to Port Charles in a whirlwind. His impatience ruined everything. He should have simply waited for her to have the child. Then, he could have taken it without any problems. But he wanted the child now! He wanted to make Gia his. And he couldn't do that until the family was complete. The baby would make them whole.

He stormed into the house. All was quiet. The silence proved to enrage Caleb further.

"You're back."

Her voice was an untold melody of relief and happiness. A balm to his tortured ego. He craved to feel it inside of him and there seemed to be only one way to make that possible. He had to possess her.

Gia placed her hand on Caleb's shoulder. "What happ--"

He turned swiftly. His kiss took her breath away. As she lay limp within his arms, his mouth trailed more kisses along her jaw and down to her neck. He bared his teeth and bit into her supple flesh.

Since he couldn't have the child, he would make do with her. For now.

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