Chapter 3

"So, this is Wyndemere." Dawn's eyes were wide as Stefan gave her a tour of the mansion. His hand rested comfortably at the small of her back. She welcomed the familiar warmth of his touch. "It's what I pictured."

He released a low, throaty chuckle. "Mmm."

"I didn't mean it in a bad way."

His laughter increased. "I'm sure you did not."

"Stefan!" She gasped when he pulled her into his arms. "All I'm saying is the décor doesn't come as a surprise. It's dark, mysterious, and attractive. Like you."

"I suppose I will accept your words as a compliment." His emerald eyes twinkled with mischief.

She gave him a smile. "I would be in your debt if you would."

Stefan lightly kissed her lips before he released her. He took her hand and her through the rest of the mansion. When they returned to the second floor, Stefan led her to the expansive library. His hand reverently caressed the leather bound work of Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky. "This is Alexis' home now. I'm surprised that she hasn't made any changes to it."

"Do you think she's here?" Dawn asked. She wasn't sure how she felt about meeting the infamous Alexis Davis. It wasn't too long ago that Dara and Alexis engaged in battle in court. Dawn wasn't in Port Charles at the time, but she remembered conversations where her sister vented--loudly--how much she disliked the other attorney and her tactics, which often bordered on illegal.

"If she were here, she would have greeted us by now." He trailed a finger down her cheek. "Are you having second thoughts?"

She was amazed by how easily he read her. It was uncanny. "Not exactly," she said. "You know there is no love lost between our siblings."

He lowered his head to hers. His goatee tickled her. His breath against her ear excited her. "Only if we allow them, will they have the power to affect us."

Dawn tilted her head so that their mouths were less than an inch apart. "We won't let them."

Settling into Wyndemere wasn't overly difficult. The home was large enough that Stefan and she maintained their cozy privacy. If she didn't notice the servants or the expensive antique furniture, Dawn could easily pretend that they were still at her loft in San Francisco.

There were times they left their hideaway, the East Wing of the estate, and joined Alexis for dinner. Mrs. Landsbury was always sure to include Stefan's favorites and his obvious delight brought a smile to Dawn's face. Not so for his sister. A puzzled frown would darken her brow. She'd stare and then blush when he caught her. Later, Stefan explained to Dawn that Alexis hadn't seen this relaxed side of him for many years. His sister's surprise was to be expected.

As Alexis' waist widened with Sonny Corinthos' child, her attitude mellowed. The initial tension between the two women faded. Dawn had anticipated Alexis' reaction to Dawn's relationship with her brother. Honoring her promise to Stefan, Dawn refused to let the animosity come between her and him. And now, the two women related on an almost friendly level.

The first three months back in Port Charles passed quickly. With Keesha re-enrolling at Port Charles University for a BS in Sociology, the bulk of her responsibilities fell to Dawn. Dawn enjoyed spending time with the citizens of Charles Street and AJ conveyed that she was doing an excellent job.

So, Dawn's days at work fulfilled her and her nights with Stefan... The man possessed the stamina of someone twenty years younger. Dawn enjoyed every moment with him and fell deeper in love with every day they shared together. They encouraged each other's artistic endeavors. In addition for having an ear for poetry, Stefan's ability with a paintbrush or pencil was truly inspired.

She became the subject for several works and with a sitting scheduled on their sixth month anniversary, Dawn planned to give him a little surprise. After work, she rushed to Wyndemere to set her plan in motion. Stefan had a meeting with a publisher so she had plenty of time to do what needed to be done.

First, she took a long, leisurely bath. The aroma of jasmine filled the room and heightened her senses. She toweled off and pulled on a robe. The box of goodies were right where she hid them. With an ear out for Stefan's return, she quickly removed a matching set of lacy underwear. The ivory bra and panty set accentuated her bronze, toned body perfectly. She piled her shoulder-length curls into a French roll and dabbed Allure strategically all over her body. The cabernet-colored lip gloss was applied and then a moment later, the outer door to their quarters squeaked open. Dawn's breath caught. Had she done everything in time?

Mentally, she retraced her steps. She thought so. Either way, she couldn't turn back the hands of time now. He was home!

Slipping into the closet that was connected to the bathroom, she reached for the final item in her little surprise. She draped the white fur coat seductively around her shoulders and sashayed into the sitting room.

Candlelight flickered. Shadows danced against the walls. Dawn glanced at the chair in front of the settee where she usually posed for him. Neither the sketchpad nor the pencil had been disturbed. A strange sensation of untamed excitement hung in the air. Perhaps, Stefan had special plans for this evening, too.

She moved to stand in front of the settee. The candlelight provided the stage lighting for the show she had planned for him. Her gaze searched the room. Then, she saw movement in the shadows near the door to the bedroom. She performed her show for that lone audience member.

Excitement rippled through her. Anticipation always made for an incredibly heady, erotic outcome. She expected no less for tonight's performance and was thankful she didn't have to work the next day.

Her voice was husky with desire as she said, "Welcome home…lover."

With a tiny shrug of her shoulders, the coat fell to the settee. She curled her legs underneath her and positioned herself on top of the fur. Slowly, she licked her lips and waited.

"You're certainly someone worth coming home to."

The rich, masculine timbre did not belong to Stefan. Alarmed, Dawn rose and wrapped the coat around her.

"Do not be afraid." The man stepped from the shadows. His dark eyes assessed her from head to toe and back. His tongue swiped his full bottom lip and he spoke again. "I am--"

Dawn gasped. He was no stranger. Well, not exactly. Not after what transpired between them one night over two years ago. She still remembered. Would no doubt ever forget. Oh, God. He was Stefan's--

"Nikolas." He made no move to touch her. His gaze had done enough of that already. "And I see that you haven't forgotten me. Nor I, you. Welcome to the family."

He left without saying another word. Dawn dropped to the settee and wrapped the fur coat tightly around her. When she and Nikolas shared a dance all those years ago, they didn't exchange names. The man who held her close in his arms seemed worldlier and older than the pictures that Stefan displayed of his son. The dark stubble and the darkened night club kept the younger Cassadine's secret from her. They shared every dance and at the end of the night, they went their separate ways. Always in the back of her mind, she wondered what if… Then, she met Stefan and the 'what if' didn't matter any more. Until now.

I'm cold and I am shamed

Lying naked on the floor
Illusion never changed
Into something real
I'm wide awake
And I can see
The perfect sky is torn

(Lyrics are from "Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.)

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