Sneaking onto Wyndemere wasn't as easy as it used to be. Guards blocked Luke's every tried and true path. Eventually he gave up and returned to the mainland. He sat on the docks, sulking at his rotten luck. Sea gulls cried overhead and gentle breezes blew from the lake. None of that mattered. Luke Spencer had been duped and he didn't like that feeling at all.
The sound of a motor broke through his pity party. He looked up and saw the launch headed toward the dock. He lit a cigar and waited. Maybe it'd be a lot more fun with them coming to him for a change.
A mop of blonde hair appeared in the opening. Then, his niece stepped into view. With the help of the launch assistant, she stepped onto the platform and waddled up the dock. Luke joined her before she reached the stairs.
"Where are you off to, Mama?" He blew a cloud of smoke into the air.
She waved her hand wildly in front of her face. "Get that filthy thing away from me. That's disgusting."
He held the cigar away from her. "Where are you going? I heard you were on lock down at the mausoleum. What gives?"
"They can't keep me cooped up in there forever. I'm going shopping. The doctor says I should remain stress free. Shopping relieves my stress."
Luke laughed. The girl was a spitfire. That was for sure. "When's the big wedding day? I've been checking the paper for the announcement. Nothing."
The light dimmed in her round brown eyes. A dark blush crept across her full cheeks. "The date hasn't been set, yet. When will I get Michael back? Don't ask me about Nikolas until you put my baby into my arms."
"Now, listen, little darling, don't take that tone with me. You may be carrying the Cassadine bastard, but that doesn't make you one of them."
"Luke, you're such a--" Her face contorted into an angry snarl. She grabbed his arm and squeezed. "Oh, my God! It's happening again."
"What?" he asked, holding onto her to prevent her fall.
"The pain! LUKE! Help me, it's awful. It's worse than before." She then collapsed into his arms.
V and her two faithful helpers waited until nightfall before they went on the hunt. The vampires were growing in number and becoming bolder. V couldn't stand the thought of them killing or converting more of her friends. She told them whether or not Marcus and Art agreed with her methods, the beasts would know the true meaning of the word, slayer.
Marcus and Art offered no argument. Armed with holy water, backpacks loaded with wooden stakes and gold crosses around their necks, they fell into line behind her. So far, the three of them had taken out six bloodsuckers. Before morning rose, they hoped to have them all. Including their leader, Caleb.
"What the hell is this?" Marcus pulled a piece of paper from their latest conquest, the former Chris Ramsey. "Look. Is this a list?"
V took the paper from him. Art looked over her shoulder. Using light from a street lamp, she read aloud a list of names. "Everyone on here is either missing or confirmed dead. It's like they had a plan. None of the victims are random. What do you make of that, Art?"
"I sensed that Caleb has a plan. Gia is a part of it. So is another, but I don't know who that is."
"Maybe she'll tell us when we find her," Marcus said. He gripped a stake. "I don't want to use this on her, but I will if I have to."
"It's possible we can save her," Art said. "We'll have to see."
V flipped the paper. Pencil markings resembled chicken scratch until closer inspection. "It's a map."
The trio followed the directions to the outskirts of Port Charles. The ambling path led to a secluded two-story mansion. A hazy fog seemed to drape over it. No less determined, V squinted and kept going.
"Evil is all around here," Art said, "but we can't stop." He nudged Marcus. "She's in there. I can feel her."
A small army of vamps appeared from nowhere. V staked six while the men took down two apiece. They raced up the steps to the porch.
"We have to hurry," V said. "More will come."
Art said a short prayer as they burst into the house. An eerie silence greeted them.
"We have to stay together." V slipped more stakes into her palm in preparation.
She led them on a search of the first floor and came up empty.
"This way." Art took the lead as they climbed the staircase. He led them down a maze of hallways.
Finally, they reached a large, open room. Two teenagers--one male, the other female--stood together, hand in hand.
"Gia," Art and Marcus said in unison, but neither made a move toward her.
"We're here to help you, little sis," Marcus said. "Don't give us a reason to kill you."
The girl shook her head. "You can't help me. It's too late. Caleb warned me this would happen. Go ahead. Make it quick."
"That's not what you really want," Art said softly. "Your soul can be returned, but you have to truly want it. Don't let fear of Caleb stop you. I know how to give it back. You, too, Lucas. You can get your soul, too. Just tell me."
The muscles in V's arms flinched as they waited. One wrong move and she'd stake them both.
Then, Gia and Lucas nodded. "We want them back. We want to be human again."
"Very well," Art said. "Let's begin."
After speaking with Magnum, Nikolas contacted his family's pilot and had a jet prepared within an hour. He left without speaking to anyone. Only Magnum knew of his destination. The private investigator insisted that speed was of the utmost importance. Nikolas didn't argue. He left with the clothes on his back and the wild anticipation of seeing Dawn again for the first time in over six months.
Thomas Magnum met him at the airstrip. He led Nikolas to the waiting car. The former Naval officer guided the vehicle through the European countryside as if he'd been born there. Nikolas made a mental note to double the man's fee.
"This is it," Magnum said as they rolled up a winding brick drive. "She's on the North wing on the first floor. Her new bodyguard doesn't know we're coming."
"You spoke to him?" Nikolas spoke the first words he'd uttered in hours.
The older man nodded. "I had to be sure of the circumstances of your search."
"You wanted to make sure I didn't wish to harm her," Nikolas stated.
Magnum dipped his head once.
Nikolas decided then to triple his fee.
"Do you want me to go with you?" Magnum asked as Nikolas left the car.
"No, thank you. I can do this on my own."
"Prepare yourself. She's not the same as when you last saw her. She's experienced things… She's changed."
Nikolas understood. It was his fault those changes occurred.
The layout of the house wasn't difficult. He found her room just as the sun began to set. She sat behind a baby grand piano. Part of her face was hidden in shadows, but what he did see caused his heart to thud. How was it possible…? God, was she glowing? He willed his heart to return to a normal pace as he hurried to her.
"Dawn," he said.
"I've dreamed about this moment," she said, sitting still as a statue. "You shouldn't have come. You promised."
"I won't apologize. When I heard about Vincent's death, I couldn't think straight. I had to see for myself that you were unharmed." He took a tentative step toward her. "I needed to see you again. Just once."
He moved around the piano. Touching her would be his downfall. She had every right to hate him for pushing her away. But he couldn't come this far with knowing her flesh was still soft and supple. When he reached her, shock caused him to stop in his tracks.
Gone was her flat abdomen. The swell of an unborn child lay inside. He knew without asking. The child was his.
"You should have told me." He dropped onto the piano bench beside her.
"You'd already made your choice," she said in a choked whisper. "I thought it'd be easier this way."
He rested his hand against her face. His thumb caught the fat tears that rolled down her cheeks. "Easier for whom?"
He drew her against him. She trembled within his embrace. He fought to hold back tears of joy and of regret. "I was wrong. Marry me. You, our unborn child and I will be a family."
She shook her head. "You mustn't let Carly Roberts raise your baby." She pulled free of him. "Leave, Nikolai. Forget about us."
"I tried to forget about you, but I couldn't. I'm sick of trying." He took her hand. From his pocket, he retrieved a dazzling diamond ring. "When I boarded the jet, I knew that I wouldn't return to Port Charles without you. I love you, Dawn. I always have. If you can forgive me, you must marry me. We needn't live in misery another moment longer."
"I dreamed you'd say that, too." She looked down as Nikolas slid the ring onto her finger.
"And what did you say in your dreams?" He curved his fingers under her chin, drawing her gaze to his.
"I said yes."
Relief swept through him in an instant. His mouth claimed hers in the next. Unhurried, he probed her, tasting and sucking. She filled his senses, allowing nothing else to break through. Her soft sighs and the feel of her hand on him---everywhere--set his soul on his fire. He burned to be inside her again. Becoming her husband would be one of the happiest days of his life.
Then, unease pressed against his spine. They broke apart at the same time. No doubt, she sensed the same. Something unholy…
Reacting on instinct, he covered her body with his as a feral screech reverberated around them.174