Chapter 6

"What's the best time for you?" Dawn lingered in the doorway of AJ's office. They were at the midway point of a hectic day. The City Council called an emergency meeting on the same day of the Charles Street Foundation's fifth annual benefit.

AJ rubbed his temple. "It doesn't matter. I don't know what this meeting is about or how long it will last. I hate leaving you like this." He rose from his desk and shoved papers into his briefcase before closing it. "I left a voicemail for Keesha. I should try her again."

Dawn stepped into the office. "AJ, just go. Keesha won't be late. I'll be okay."

"You're right." He grabbed the briefcase and crossed the room. When he reached Dawn, he placed a brief kiss on her forehead. "I don't know what I'll do without you."

"Tell me something I don't know," she said with a smile. She followed him into the lobby. "Now, are you sure you don't want to present the plaque?"

"You know I want to, but I may not be able to. Line up someone else just in case I'm late."

"Anyone I choose?" she asked.

He nodded. "Anybody. I trust your judgment."

AJ left. Dawn returned to her desk and reviewed the list of CSF's board members. She couldn't think of any who knew the recipient well enough to give a convincing presentation. She released a low groan of frustration.

"Anything I can do?"

Tingles rippled through her. Stefan's seductive gravel-like voice did that to her every time. She released a sigh of relief at seeing him and held out her hand. He came to her desk, perched on the end and covered her hand with both of his.

"My poor love, what is the matter?" Concern glittered in his emerald eyes.

"The benefit was planned to the minute, but now there's a glitch."

His eyebrows rose. "A glitch?"

Dawn stared. She could have sworn she saw his mouth twitch and if he so much as laughed or in his case chuckled...

"Stefan, you know what I mean."

He smiled. "I'm learning. What is this glitch you speak of?"

"An emergency Council meeting. The awards and dedications are always presented at the beginning, but AJ doubts if he'll be back in time to make the presentation."

"You do it," he said.

Dawn shook her head. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"You must be a board member and I'm not."

"That's absurd," he scoffed.

She shrugged. "You know how necessary protocol is. After all, you come from royalty."

His eyes narrowed, but the light of amusement failed to diminish. She often teased him about his royal lineage. It was a private joke between them.

"I have a solution for you."

She squeezed his hands. "I never doubted you would, but you're not a board member either."

"Have I suggested myself?" His eyebrows lifted.

"No."

He nodded once. "Nikolas is a board member. He would enjoy making the presentation."

A shiver of anticipation and dread rippled through her. She directed her attention to the board member list. Of course, her gaze drifted straight to Nikolas' name. She swallowed hard. "I can't make that assumption. Dr. Baldwin has always been approachable. I'll ask her."

"Nonsense." Stefan pulled his cell phone from his pocket. "I'll telephone Nikolas."

Dawn opened her mouth to protest, but Stefan had already greeted Nikolas. Inwardly, she groaned. She still hadn't confessed that she 'knew' Nikolas and neither had he said a word. At least not yet. There was no doubt in her mind and heart that she'd tell Stefan. It was just a matter of when.

"Yes, she's here. One moment." Stefan handed the cell to Dawn. "He has a few questions for you."

She released a loud, dramatic sigh. Stefan grinned. She rolled her eyes and put the phone to her ear. "Hello…Nikolas."

"Dawn." His voice was a husky murmur. "You need my help?"

"Um, no. The Foundation needs a backup presenter, but I believe that AJ will make it in time."

A brief pause followed. "And if he doesn't."

"We'll improvise," she responded.

"That wouldn't be good enough for you and you know it," Nikolas replied. "Would it really be so difficult if I agreed to make the presentation?"

She stiffened. "I never said it would be."

"No, you haven't…have you? I'll do it, but I'll need information about the recipient. I can meet you at the Port Charles Hotel. Just tell me the time."

"Keesha and I have planned to meet the volunteers in an hour," she said, feeling defeated.

The smile in his voice was unmistakable. "I'll see you then."

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